Last Tuesday I went to an art exhibition. I didn’t want to go actually, it was so cold, and I had been at work all day. But the facilitator of the exhibition was my friend Jacqui of Creative Solutions, a husband and wife team who run community based art projects. I felt like I should go along to support Jacqui, so I dragged myself out into freezing temperatures to Cheltenham’s Garden Gallery. And I am so glad I did. What I found was an inspiring exhibition of art by local teenagers.
The exhibition was called Our Common Ground, and bought together teenagers from two very diverse areas of the town. For a year they have been experimenting and collaborating on creative enterprises, exploring their own dreams and aspirations, and those of their communities. I tried to take some pictures, but they really don’t do the work justice.
I had the privilege of speaking to some of the young artists. They had a great time though found it challenging. One of them said he felt like he wanted to quit at times as things weren’t turning out how he wanted. It seems like they learned a lot about themselves and about each other. The artists come from very different backgrounds but ultimately they discovered that they really do have a lot in common. A good life lesson for us all.
UPDATE: if you want to see the lovely video made by the group check out this link
I was really excited to be contacted a few weeks ago by Dotcomgiftshop to tell me they had included my blog in an article on upcycled furniture. I was pleased to see I was in good company, along with some of my other favourite bloggers such as Mum Of All Trades and Meme Rose. They described my blog as “Honest, funny and real, this is a craft blog with a difference.” and with that I was sold!
They have asked me to be part of their blog network, and offered to send me things to review. This just gets better and better! In reality though, I’m not very good at that sort of thing, and dithered over asking to review something. Only when they sent me a prompting email basically saying “no really, pick something” did I finally bite the bullet.
For a long time now I have been planning to make a Happy Birthday banner. I’d really like to crochet one, but haven’t got round to it so far, and realistically never am. Ordinary bunting is actually really easy to make too, but again, it’s something I’ll never get round to doing, especially with the dawning realisation that <whispers> I like the idea of sewing more that I actually enjoy doing it. So, I picked out a Happy Birthday bunting banner, which arrived pretty speedily.
We didn’t have to wait long for a birthday to try it out. It was my birthday on Thursday, and with a gentle reminder, DH put the banner up for me ready for when I got up.
It looked fab (we’ve only just taken it down – I like to celebrate my birth-week!) and I am really pleased with it. It’ll be dragged out for every birthday for years to come. The only thing is it’s huge! Despite the dimensions being clearly stated on the website, I didn’t realise it would be so long! Still, I think it looks pretty cool, and far preferable to balloons as decorations .
With it’s immense length, at £12.95 it’s pretty reasonable. Yeah you could knock one up for cheaper with scraps of material, but really, are you going to?
I’m not usually one for making a fuss at Easter. The holiday usually passes me by. I’m grateful for the 2 days off, and for the chocolate eggs which I tend to buy cheaply after Easter when the supermarkets just want rid of them.
But having kids tends to make you see things in a new light, and Betty has cottoned onto all the supermarket crap and has embraced Easter as a holiday to be celebrated.
I must admit Easter brings a plethora of crafting opportunities, which this year I have actually taken advantage of. About time really, given this started out as a craft blog!
First up is this Easter chick, scratching about on my bird table. I had visions of making these in all kinds of pretty pastel colours, but, well, it didn’t happen. This one’s pretty cute anyway, and if you want to make one the pattern is a simple free one from Lion Brand
Next up are these chicken bean bags which I saw on Red Ted Art . They are so quick and easy to make, even by hand. One is destined for my mother in law (random, I know, but DH insisted she’d like one) and the other two are Easter gifts for Betty and Iris. Given that Iris is in a delightful throwing stage, hopefully this will be a pain free alternative to a plastic cup or the iPad.
If you want more grown up craft, this lovely wreath was made for a pound by Mum of All Trades!
On the nights when I put Iris to bed, which is most nights, as she prefers me and Betty prefers DH, after finishing her bottle of milk she turns to me and says “Can I have a cuddle?”. Pinned securely into a sleeping bag (a necessity as she is both a stripper and a climber) she turns to face me. Sometimes she doesn’t want to go to sleep or really have a cuddle, she just wants a chat, about the things we have done, the things we are going to do and the important things in her life, like Betty, Grandma and doggies. On the nights like tonight, when she is exhausted, she curls up on my lap, her head on my upper arm, knees tucked into her chest, and her tiny arms wrapped around my waist. These nights actually bode the worst, as infant logic dictates that the more tired they are the more unsettled their sleep will be.
Sometimes this tableau occurs at 7pm, sometimes 8, sometimes 3am. Even at 3am, tired, and anxious about getting up for work soon, I soon succumb to the star nightlight speckled darkness, and bury my face into the nape of her neck. I inhale the smell of sweat and jam sandwiches. I relish the weight of the heavy head in my arms. I feel the rise and fall of the little chest filling with air, and exhaling with faint snores. When I am feeling frustrated at this being our third visit of the night, or desperate to go downstairs and have some grown up time, I tell myself it won’t be long before she no longer wants cuddles, or is too big to curl up on my lap.
As I nuzzle the warm body on my lap I think about its future. I wonder what sort of woman she will become, I worry I am not doing a good enough job for her to reach her potential, I worry about the dangers of the world, and pray she will outlive me in it. I want to cry a little for the future me, who has no 2 year old to snuggle, and for the future Iris, and the time when a mother’s cuddle is no longer enough to make her feel secure.
Eventually, the draw of freedom and personal space force me to relinquish my charge and put her in her cot. Tonight she was out like the proverbial light, but most nights she drowsily clutches Luke, her bear, and turns over with a sleepy “Night night mummy”.
No longer weighed down with a warm infant, I step lightly out of the room and head downstairs where long-awaited freedom awaits. Earlier today, frustrated and exhausted, I wanted my house free of my children, or wished for them to be old enough to be more self-sufficient. Each night I sink on to the sofa with relief that I have survived another day. But for the few minutes after I have released the sleeping toddler from my arms I feel bereft.
I won’t lay claim to this genius idea; that credit goes to Something With The Kid. But this is definitely one worth stealing. Using shapes cut out from craft foam and a pot of water and a paint brush kids can make pictures on patio doors, or even bathroom tiles. Give the older ones some scissors and the foam and they can cut their own shapes out which extends the life of this activity. The foam sticks to the wet glass, and makes surprisingly little mess, assuming your patio doors are usually as smeared as mine anyway. This is a great rainy day activity and the shapes can be used over and over again.
Yes, those are my little darlings in the picture, and yes one of them is wearing pajamas, and the other a baggy bottomed leotard with a yellow cap. We’re a classy household.
So, Cardinal O’Brien has admitted that his behaviour over the years has “fallen beneath the standards expected of me”. It is unclear what this euphemism really means, as Catholic views on sexual standards don’t seem allied with those of the mainstream i.e. sex is not ok if you are not married, gay, or a member of the clergy. Suffice to say it is not clear that O’Brien has broken any laws, just some stupid internal rules, so I won’t dwell on the nature of the offences.
This blog post is not simply the rantings of a disinterested atheist. I have my own beef with the Catholic Church. Those who know me might be surprised to know I am actually a Catholic, at least I think I am, I’m a bit hazy on the rules. My parents are lapsed Catholics and both sets of grandparents were fervent Catholics. I was baptised in the Catholic Church. Apparently despite being an atheist now the event of my baptism makes me a Catholic for life, and beyond presumably. Like I said I’m not clear on the rules of membership, so I am happy to be corrected, but it seems to me that being a Catholic is a bit like being signed into to a spam newsletter, you don’t remember signing up, and despite looking around the website you can’t find the instructions for how to leave. They make it deliberately difficult, requiring a written request to take you off their mailing list, which quite frankly you are never going to get around to. You can put them in your spam folder but somehow they keep getting through the filter.
I said my grandparents were Catholics, so you can imagine how it went down when my 19 year old unwed parents announced my impending arrival. My paternal grandparents refused to acknowledge my existence until I was about 10 or 11. That is not the only negative impact the church has had on my life and that of my family. The Catholic Church and its hypocritical dogmatics have wronged my family in other devastating ways, so my disenchantment goes beyond my feminist and moral principles.
But I can’t really claim to be an insider in the Church. When insiders start to question the value and morals of their own long supported organisation it is a sign that institution is really in danger. Joanna Moorhead is a journalist and long time member of the Catholic Church, about as much an insider as a woman can get in the Church. She has written and edited religious publications, and today she has publicly professed her dissatisfaction with the leaders of her faith. You can read the full article here but I wanted to pick out some of what I think are the most important points:
…our church has come to be seen entirely in terms of the men who run it. That, of course, is understandable: not only do they hold resolutely on to the reins of power, but they are also the ones who have perpetrated the crimes. One of the more unsettling moments of the pope’s UK visit in 2010, for me, was when he called on “the whole church” to atone for its crimes. But those were not my crimes, Pope Benedict: I am not one of the ordained men who has abused children or helped cover up their abhorrent behaviour, and I resent being treated as one.
In fact, all around me I increasingly hear these words from my fellow Catholics: not in my name. These crimes that have been committed, this power that has been abused, this trust that has been betrayed: not in our name, Your Holiness, has it happened. Guilt has dogged my church through the centuries, and it’s a guilt that has often been planted most deeply among the lay people: every week at mass for many years I have heard the priest in the pulpit reminding and cajoling and persuading us to go to confession, to repent, to bathe in our guilt and be freed from it. Well, not this time: this guilt is not mine; this is the guilt of the hierarchy, the guilt of the priests, the guilt of the ordained men who run my church and who have been determined for centuries that they would not share the running of the church with anyone who was not one of them.
Lay women, the biggest group within the church, are the most silent of all silent majorities…They are also, I believe, its wisdom, its common sense and its conscience. If the Catholic church had done as most institutions have done over the last 30 or so years, and invited women to become its leaders alongside men, it would have discovered – as institution after institution has discovered, the world over – that it could not run itself properly without them.
There is not much left for me to say, Joanna has made her eloquent plea to the Church. I don’t expect them to listen to me but I can only hope they start listening to their members and make radical changes than mean that people’s lives are no longer devastated by the acts of men who abuse the power they hold.
When I was 18 I worked for a well known holiday camp. I was working 70 odd hours a week in 3 different departments to save for university. On Saturdays I worked in the sales department an my boss was a man who was at least 40, good looking in an oily sort of way. Fairly soon after I started work for him he nicknamed me Busty Bertha, Bertha for short, which he would use liberally including in front of colleagues and customers. When I would go into his office he would sit with his leg splayed and indicate using unsubtle gestures that I should sit in the vicinity of his crotch. There were verbal exchanges too. I tried to hold my own, giving a good game as I thought I should, when in reality I was a sexually naive teenager.
In the midst of trying to hold my own I took the decision to mention the behaviour to another manager. I was clear that I wasn’t making a complaint. In reality I didn’t have the language to articulate what the problem was, I wasn’t even sure there was a problem, beyond my feeling uncomfortable. This was a holiday park, sexual hotbeds full of people temporally living in close quarters, in a holiday atmosphere. This is how it was. I tried to hold my own in order to make people like me. The comments I made to my other manager were self preservation. I actually said to him that I wanted to mention the behaviour, in case anything untoward should happen; that if I made a complaint it wasn’t out of the blue.
I mention this because this morning I was listening to politicians on the Radio 4 Today Show, Gisela Stuart, Labour MP, Sheila Gunn, former press secretary to John Major, Jo Phillips, former press secretary for Paddy Ashdown. The discussion was in response to the allegations made about Lord Rennard, the former Liberal Democrat Chief Executive, or inappropriate behaviour towards at least 10 women. The extent of the argument went as follows: politics is a tough business, you know what it is like when you get into it and women need to toughen up. One of these women discussed tactics she used to get away from a particularly frisky colleague who was trying to get her to go to his room at a party conference. Another useful tactic is to just pretend to cry about a previous boyfriend, that soon puts a damper on proceedings. Apparently it is our sisterly duty to share these escape tactics with our colleagues.
If only at 18 some girlfriend had sat me down and shared some tips with me things would have been much better… No, no, NO. What my 18 year old self needed was for someone to sit me down and tell me that I did not have to put up with that sort of behaviour, and that they would support me in making a complaint.
It’s bad enough that women are still having to work in these environments, but what makes it even worse is that STILL we are being to to put up and shut up about it. Men in positions of authority and power are being allowed to treat women as sexual objects, and according to Sheila Gunn we should just consider them as “naughty boys”. This is belittling both to the female victims (or male victims as in the allegations against Cardinal O’Brien, leader of the Scottish Roman Catholic Church) and men, the ones who don’t perpetrate these actions. Men are not young children without control over their desires and actions. They are conscious actors who make choices, some men make good choices and some men make bad ones. Let’s not let the ones who make bad ones ruin it for the good ones.
And let’s get away from this resignation over the situation. Women need to know that they do not have to put up with this behaviour, there is no environment is which it is appropriate, no age or position that excuses men treating women as objects for their taking. We will stand next to these women in solidarity and say “enough is enough”.
I was very excited to have privilege of being taken to the Commissary on a nearby US manned RAF base. I say nearby, it was a 3 hour round trip (child free, thankfully) with my good friend and yarn bombing comrade Georgia. But it was worth it to stock up on all kinds of American snacks, mostly filled with high fructose corn syrup. I bought such delicacies as Cheetos, mac’n’cheese in a box, and Graham Crackers.
Anyhoo, the point of this post wasn’t to warn you of my impending massive weight gain as a result of eating to many Hershey’s Cookies’n’Cream eggs (the chocolate equivalent of crack by the way!). I wanted to share with you some yarn bombing that we spotted on our travels.
Chipping Norton is an Oxfordshire town better known for its association with David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks. I would like to see it more meritoriously reknowned for its yarn graffiti. Check out these lovely Valentine themed creations:
This is the first time we’ve seen yarn bombs that aren’t our own in the wild. Very exciting! And if these Chipping Norton yarn bombers want to join forces with our Gloucestershire crew any time we’d love to cook something up!
God, I love magazines. I know I shouldn’t but I really do. Even in the knowledge that most of them are simply vehicles for adverts, many with recycled content, I love them. I love the little nuggets of information, the aspirational photos, the smooth and shiny pages. I’ve loved them for as long as I remember, starting with my cousin’s Beano magazine, continuing with Quiz Kids and Fast Forward sent to me by my grandmother. If there is one thing better than a magazine, it’s a magazine that comes through the post.
My periodical love was nurtured by a two year stint in a newsagents, where not only could I read all the magazines for free, I got to keep all the free gifts off the unsold magazines before they were returned to the supplier. My choice then was Just Seventeen, Mizz, Smash Hits, oh and a dalliance with Chelsea Magazine, but that was really just to impress a boy.
I don’t really buy magazines any more, at least not in the volumes that I used to. I don’t go in for the glossy so called ‘women’s magazines’ that suckered me in during my teenage years and early twenties, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, nor the celebrity rags, Grazia, OK etc. The former prey on women’s insecurities to sell overpriced cosmetics, and the latter merely prey on vaguely famous people and their need for validation. And I have never gone in for the real magazines touting stories of rape, incest and murder, where voyeuristic vultures pick over the remnants of people’s shattered lives.
My bent nowadays tends more towards craft magazines, dream homes and design, and self improvement. The only magazine I now regularly buy, when I can justify it, is Psychologies Magazine. It’s full of pop psychology, and self improvement articles articles that just about hit that self development spot. Marginally more academic is Psychology Today, though it is American and therefore harder to get hold of. I have recently subscribed to Simply Crochet Magazine which I infinitely prefer to its sister magazine Mollie Makes, but I only for 3 issues on a 3 for £5 introductory offer. I just can’t justify £5 a go for a single magazine, especially when for a little more I could get a full on book.
However, since we are speaking about money for magazines, I thought I would mention a interesting blog article I saw on Twitter from News Stand. They note that it is hard to find a decent card for under £2.99 when it is someone’s birthday, or anniversary or <fill in your card industry invented occasion here>. With magazines costing only a little more than that why not try giving one instead of a card and give a couple of hours’ entertainment instead of a fleeting moment of pleasure. Sure, News Stand, an online magazine retailer, has a vested interest in presenting this view. But they have a point. I am fairly ambivalent about cards myself. I don’t send Christmas cards, and equally don’t get upset if people don’t send me one. DH and I don’t exchange Valentine’s or anniversary cards; it just seems quite a waste of money that could be better spent on chocolate. Or magazines. Cards get read once or twice, displayed for a few days, cluttering up the place. The odd really beautiful one might get a permanent position on a shelf or in a frame. A few with very special messages might get put away to be read again once or twice before getting lost in a move, but most have a fairly perfunctory message. In fact most of my in laws can barely spare more than a ‘To’ and a ‘From’ in their cards.
Wouldn’t a far more pleasurable and longer lasting product of the same money be a magazine? It doesn’t have to be offensive, anti-feminist, clap trap like Glamour or Company. What about The Week, for the busy person to keep up with current affairs? Or the Writers’ Forum for the wordsmith in your life? Always full of excellent recipes Good Food Magazine might be the perfect card substitute for the resident cook. And eclectic lifestyle magazine Oh Comely will inspires those with curious dispositions.
So next time you are in a paper shop looking for a last minute birthday cards, give the faux arty shots and lame jokes a miss and check out the news stand instead. You never know what you might find to delight that special friend or family member…
Yesterday I spent the day at home studying for my Master’s degree while kids went off to the child minder.
It was glorious, the sun was shining, and I was motivated to work. I spent the day analysing my husband’s response to my job analysis and writing it up.
It was absolutely silent, and I wasn’t even tempted to put the radio on as I usually would. There were no kids shrieking “I want the yellow bowl”, no colleagues discussing their weight loss, no phones ringing and people shouting down them. It was lovely.
I made myself a sandwich that hadn’t been sat around all morning, and for my afternoon break I made a cup of tea, wrapped myself in a blanket and sat on the garden swing in the sun. I could get used this. I always assumed I’d be really bad at home working, but a combination of factors motivated me yesterday, not least the fact that it didn’t feel like work. I always wondered what that felt like in a job, and this is it.
There are, however, a number of dependencies which made yesterday a success. One: the house was tidy. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to relax. Two: I was enjoying what I was doing. I’m not sure it would have felt so lovely were I wrestling with Excel spreadsheets. Three: there was no one else around. For some people, freelancing or working from home means fitting it around looking after children. I’ve also tried to study while they are around and I am nowhere near as productive.
My experience made me think of a book I bought DH for Christmas, My Cool Shed. Within are pictures of various sheds, hideaways and bolt holes where people work, play or just get away from it all. Admittedly some of these ‘sheds’ are bigger and more luxurious than my house, but DH and I fostering a dream where we could each have our own little place to go, somewhere you can put something down and know it will be in exactly that same place again, somewhere where your books and papers remain felt tip free. We both crave our own space, and at the moment we have to find it retiring to our tiny bedroom, using ear phones to block out the sounds of the children wrestling with each other. The beauty of the shed is that it needn’t be too expensive, nothing like to cost of a real extension. That said, even a shed is out of our price range at the moment, and living in a rental property I wouldn’t want to invest in anything that couldn’t be moved.
So I will continue to dream about my little white washed shed, with large windows, and crochet blankets aplenty. And maybe by the time I can afford it I will also have a home working job I can do it it.