Friday, 21 December 2012

Tho thith ith Chrithmath

'Hail Mary, full of Grathe,' lisped the archangel Gabriel. 'Blethed art thou amongtht women, you thall bear a tthild and itth name thall be dthethuth.' 'But how can that be?' Mary asked, amazed, 'for I am Not Married!' 'You thall be filled with the Holy Thpirit, that's how,' he thaid said, helpfully, and we all nodded sagely. The nativity play was acted out by the sweetest year sevens I've seen in a while, led by the truly angelic P, as the Archangel Himself. No sheep though, which was disappointing.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


The tree has been waiting patiently for us to decorate it for nearly a week, ahemming tactfully at me every time I go into the room. Too busy, I say apologetically - and it's true, I have been. But today's the day, and Buster will at last have his annual treat. These are toys he really likes to play with. The tree decorations are to be snuck up on, patted slyly as he walks past, and chased under the sofa the minute he gets them off their branches. And it is for that reason that I spurned the magnificent baubles, snowmen, firebirds and santas going for £20 a throw in the Conran shop. That cat is not to be trusted, no matter what he promises. He can't help himself.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


The alarm went off and the whole school ran  slumped, walked in an orderly fashion outside into the freezing playground to wait for the all-clear. We gathered in our respective meeting places, to be counted and ticked off the list. It was a drill, it turned out, and after about ten minutes of roll-call and lecturing for poor performance, 1000 people grumpily trooped back in again to resume lessons. Twenty minutes later, as I got down to a promising and productive art lesson with my VI student (of which, more anon), the alarm went off again. I had no coat, and neither did she. 1000 people left the building for the second time that day, back out into the brittle winter weather. It was serious this time, clearly - we have never had two drills one after the other. We waited, trying Not To Talk. Those in charge wore grave expressions, and muttered with solemnity amongst themselves as the cause of the alarm was investigated. Suffice to say, the three beautiful RE teachers are now strictly forbidden to make toast without opening the window first. That'll teach them to get hangovers on a Friday morning.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

En route

I finally have enough empty time to take stock of our house. Every room has goods in transit…

… a bag waiting to be posted back to my mum… 

… thread on the way to the thread box…

…a shawl on its way to being darned…

…clothes on the way to the charity shop…

junk treasure for the car boot sale (if I ever get round to it)…

…to the loft …

…to the coat cupboard…

…well, that's a start… 
…(the black thing in the background is a router on its way to the tool cupboard)…

Saturday, 21 July 2012

sleep like a baby

In the 'thank you' prayer, at the start of an RE lesson, L, a badass yr7, chose to thank God for his onesie. 'What's a onesie?' someone asked. The teacher helpfully explained that a onesie is like a babygro, but bigger. A titter ran round the room. Think L may have lost his street cred - for good.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

all my own work

I made these labels to restock my Etsy shop. I love making them - they look so simple although they are quite fiddly to make. They use feed sack, vintage embroidery thread and imagination. They are a lovely way to send a message - 'happy birthday', 'thank you' or simply 'I love you'. If you like them please let me know!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Champing at the bit…

They can sense the finish line, and like nervy race horses they are champing at the bit, tossing their fringes and dancing sideways, while they wait for the off. Some spectacularly silly behaviour may end up in disqualification for a couple of them, which will be a shame. Summer holidays are 1 week away!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Left over right? Or right over left?

Last Friday was a Holy Day of Obligation. Two masses were given, one for upper and one for lower school, which I attended with my VI student. It ended 20 minutes early - exactly the amount of time needed for a shaming from the Head. Some people did not know how to approach the priest correctly to receive the host, and did not say amen! Others did not genuflect in the correct direction (my VI student's genuflection is a sort of abstract Jackson Pollock affair)! And the lack of audible responses! Sir was embarrassed and ashamed.

As a result we are to devote a lesson to 'how to attend mass properly'. Which is marvelous, because I seriously have no clue, never having attended mass till I came here. It's all been a wild stab in the dark. I did manage to mutter amen as I received my blessing from scary Miss NoSmiles, and as it turns out that is the correct response. Phew.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

A Matter of Opinion

I am an old woman. I'm a darling woman. I am cool and my clothes are unexpected and cool. I am batty, and like Nanny McPhee (before or after? I'm not sure). I am butters (ugly, just in case I was unsure what it meant). I have beautiful eyes, and am like a mum and a sister. I'm wasted as a teaching assistant, and I'm very, very annoying, especially at the top of the Down Stairs. I'm posh. And also weird because I don't have a car. Everyone who rides a bike is weird, especially me. I have sweet little hands, also the hands of a small monkey (not sure if these are the same hands but I guess so, otherwise I would have four hands). I can do everything.

That's me sorted then. Thanks to all at school for that, sometimes we need to be told!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

We are parents!

taken with a mobile phone
For the past four days the science department has been looking after an incubator full of eggs. On Tuesday, one of the eggs began to shudder and tremble, and by lunchtime it had hatched into a chick, a sorry, wet, brown creature,  which was so exhausted by the whole effort it lay motionless on the floor for what seemed ages, before finally forcing itself upright.

This morning I visited to find a few eggs trembling in unison, like something in a Looney Tunes cartoon (I hadn't realised eggs really did that - I thought it was a visual metaphor). This evening they have all hatched and the chicks are wobbling around the incubator like impossibly yellow powder-puffs.  Each visiting student emerges from the room excited, shiny and as proud as any new parent. I of course have resisted pointing out the connection between their sweet little newbies and the chicken-and-rice which is served up in the school canteen daily, without fail.

I suggested we might keep them, thinking the experience would be very useful for all sorts of students (the bolshy and the bullied). But apparently we have foxes which would give them all heart attacks, even if they didn't catch and eat them. And who would feed them? (me). Where would we put them (in all the school's grounds)? I honestly can't be bothered to press the issue, having lost the frogs and newts we once had to the newly emergent sixth-form block. Another wasted opportunity - but perhaps better suited to the touchy-feely-ness of a primary school, where grades, although important, are seen as part of a child's development.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

school exchange

On the way to school, I passed a very short year 7 boy and a tall, skinny year 9 boy walking to school. I was pushing my bike up the (very steep, okay!) hill, and I overtook them. Year 7 was saying to year 9, " 'course, I never give a girl my actual, real address," and the year 9 was nodding seriously as if to agree that to do so would be absolute folly.

I found myself wondering what possible scenario the year 7 had conjured up for himself which would necessitate such secrecy. Was he already a baby father? At 11? Or was he so devilish attractive that girls would queue for hours at the Very Bus Stop He Had Stood At, in the possible hope of bumping into him? Or maybe he only mugs girls because they're easier to push over, and he's worried they'll send their big brothers round for revenge? I turned back after I'd passed them, searching for a clue to the answer. No. No. and Possibly. Their uniforms were a shambles, their blazers being very similar in size despite the 7 being a dwarf and the 9 being a lanky bean - the 7 was swallowed up by his blazer, and the 9 was having to hunch his shoulders together, his being so tight.

In Edinburgh, when I was growing up, there was a brilliant shop called the School Exchange, where Mum used to take us for a second-hand replacement blazer/skirt/shirt etc. (Now I come to think of it, I have worn second-hand clothes my entire life). It was a mysterious place, with shelf after shelf of uniforms for all the different Edinburgh schools (except the very posh - I can't imagine Tony Blair's mum going to the school exchange for his Fettes finery). The shop was shadowy, owing to the very high shelf units and small, dirty windows, and it had an air of Olivanders about it. Perhaps that was the inspiration behind the wand-shop. I loved to go there, and it is my earnest hope to find an old-style school mac like the one Mum bought me there, and which I wore for many years after I had left school, I was so fond of it. Y' hear me, Ebay? That's what I want for Christmas! Sort it out, please!

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Periodic Table

Yesterday I met my old designer friend for a catch up. I hadn't seen her for over 2 years although we have kept in touch. She and I had suffered similar fates during the early recession days, and had been able to compare notes, her chirpy, quirky, wry humour acting as an antidote to any sense of disappointment when the cupboard was bare, and she has just ended a maternity cover gig at a major publishing house, which I was able to pass on to her because of school. Very satisfying, because she has passed work to me on many occasions.

We met at the Royal Institution in the middle of town. I hadn't been there before, and was surprised at the quiet ambiance. Imagine the Science Museum, or the V&A, sans visitors. The enormous marble entrance hall was empty, except for me, and the receptionist seemed surprised to have any visitors at all. We ate in the quiet, comfortable cafe, well-attended to by the waitress and the maitre de, who restrained themselves from over-enthusiasm remarkably well. The food was lovely. Above us the rain splashed onto the glass ceiling, and we caught up on news.

My friend offered the Chief Executive of another major publishing house her business card at a party, but he declined, explaining aloofly that he doesn't get involved in that sort of thing. He was commenting on the computer skills in India, which have become so fine they match those of designers in UK or USA. Consequently, there has been little work for us to do. She told him that his decision to outsource to Asia had spelt the death of many small businesses here. The Chief Executive made some glib comment about it and she got quite cross with him, she said. At the end of the evening, though, he asked her for her card after all.

After lunch my friend took me downstairs where an enormous electronic wall was laid out with the periodic table. To a recording  of Gilbert and Sullivans' 'Major General' song the object is to touch the element as it is named. Impossible unless you are an octopus. I'd like to see someone who knows the song well have a go.

My friend was right, and brave to argue so energetically with someone who might (or might not) influence future offers of work. But as technology advances and the accompanying skill sets across the ever-shrinking globe compete, some people will benefit and others lose out. UK typesetters were thrown to the wolves with the adoption of computer technology as a layout tool, and printers had to adapt very quickly or go under. Asians have long been exploited as cheap labour. At least it will be cleaner and more comfortable in a design house than it would be in more traditional sweat-shop type labour. That is how business works.

And I ended up with a job I genuinely love. I still flex my design muscles in all sorts of unexpected ways which I would never have investigated had my design work not become so scarce. I'm currently thinking of enamel-work. I'd like to try that somehow, without having to out-lay huge amounts of non-existent capitol. Any ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

All my own work

We started this long weekend with such good intentions - there are a couple of things that really need attending to, and we were definitely going to sort them out. One was to take the roof off the shed, clean it, re-roof it and paint it. But then it started raining, and these chores need fine weather. So I had a reprieve and have spent the days doing the things I love the most - socialising with some really great friends, hanging out with Himself and Number One Child, watching detective shows on telly and sewing. Here's what I made - oyster card holders - pictured back and front. They have been made using a lot of vintage textiles and imagery - old scraps collected by myself as a child, an old map, a vintage tape measure, a lovely old hand-written recipe I found in a household book from 1940, and some wonderful vintage feed-sack rescued from a fragile old quilt. I've created these montages using some antique table linen as backing, and have added a lot of hand-embroidery. The final touch is a lovely old button from my mother-of-pearl vintage button collection. They each have a little loop on the side to allow you to attach them to your bag - I do this so I don't lose mine!

The first one is a rural scene with a sweet little milk-maid and her pony, the second one has more of a WW11 Old Blighty feel, with a cute little puppy, a forties washing-day scene and a Union Jack flag. I'll be posting them in my Etsy shop soon!



Thursday, 31 May 2012

That'll teach me…

Well I was showing off, wasn't I. In the playground, swinging my Primark brolly by the handle so that it shot out of  'telescopic contraction mode' into 'full-handle' mode, and back again. I was really enjoying it too. And then the brolly bit shot out - and kept going, and plopped onto the tarmac, separate from its handle. A group of concerned Yr 7 boys gathered round, and a couple kindly tried to fix it back on. One was semi-successful (clever boy, must give him a house point). But hey, it was from Primarni, and cost a pound, so…

As I said, that'll teach me. (It won't). Better not rain tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I know a marvelous woman who once had a few cats. They were collected as strays. She cared for them and loved them all, but she couldn't bear to touch them, not even to stroke. The sensation disgusted her.

Eventually the numbers grew until she was looking after twenty two. 22.  Her mother said to her "enough's enough!' and she gave them away. Now she has none. But she feeds all the neighbourhood cats, including mine. Wonder what she feeds him. He's very picky.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Growl like a bear

It's the end of an era for me. M, my lovely year 11 student who is on the autistic spectrum, came in to finish his ICT course work. We have worked on it together since he was in year 9, and at times it has been a real struggle. Once he refused to talk to me for a whole week, because I had shown appreciation of another students music. Why were they playing music in an ICT class? Because sometimes it's the only way the teacher can get any work out of them. They put on their headphones and behave themselves! M has a hatred of all the other students in his year. He has thought for quite a while that they were out to get him. And perhaps they were, in a way. The noise level the created was certainly a big reason I found it hard to get work out of M. He himself, had to put on headphones very often, just to drown out the racket they made, and to find some peace, his ASD making him very sensitive to noise. Sometimes his own music was too loud. 'Turn it down,' I would mouth to him. His response was often to growl like a bear and turn it down…a bit.

So today we sat and finished off a little bit of writing. Three weeks ago the teacher told me that M was heading for a D, which is a fail. But today, although M growled at me (to show me that he didn't want to work), he completed the tasks and came with me downstairs to show the teacher, who on the spot told us M had achieved a C. Enough to pass.

At the end of the day I found him waiting for me to shake my hand - a line drawn under that particular episode of his life, and an acknowledgement that our mutual respect had allowed us to bob along together to get the work done.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Brixton Hillbillies

I've got those front-garden blues, sho'nuff. I chopped off a lot of wisteria, disturbing Mrs Blackbird by accident (her nest was well-hidden). Then I chopped up a hedge-type plant I once knew the name of. I now have a huge pile of choppings (and no-where to put them),  and a bald, sticky thing bereft of leaves, sticking up out of the ground, frowning at me for exposing its under-branches for all and sundry to see.

I have no transport except my bicycle, so I can't drive the choppings to the dump, and the compost bin is full-to-bursting, having consumed more than was good for it last weekend, greedy thing. The choppings will reside in black bags in the front, making our house ever-more Clampett-like, till I can conceive a plan. The wisteria looks better though.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Goodbye Donna Summer

Poor Donna Summer - she went too soon. Love to Love You Baby was the soundtrack to many nights out, even though it was a record for boys really - I have certainly never sounded like that when I *%^@ed. I don't think I was even *%^@ing when it was released in 1975. And by the time I did, I was disappointed in the sound which escaped my lips during said activity - more of a coital grunt than a seductive gasp. Donna, you misled me! Never mind, I loved that record anyway.

Meanwhile, the wonderful sun in shining down and I am going to fake being a good neighbour and attack the front garden with shears. Our house is like the Clampetts' and lets the rest of the street down in terms of upkeep. That's partly because I didn't plant roses, but instead some fast-growing and madly verdant plants which, like triffids, are a bit too enthusiastic in their habits.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Social isolation for the visually impaired

My VI student O has been very ill. She has missed five days of school, straddling a weekend, and so many important lessons have gone by that my colleague, who supports O in the hefty subjects of geography and maths is very concerned about helping her to catch up once she is back up to speed. O came back to work last Tuesday but as she was doing some catch-up work on maths, she fell asleep, so intoxicating are the drugs which keep her condition under control. O's mum came to pick her up and we didn't see her again till Friday.

Her lack of volume continues to be a major problem. Since O never speaks above a whisper it's difficult to try to converse with her. She doesn't often volunteer information, and in the time I have worked with her she has not once asked me anything about myself. O's peers, who began the year showing interest in her, have tailed off and she has become very isolated socially.

The support staff have talked over some interventions. The Senco asked whether, in fact, this school is the best place for O. Is there a specialist school which would cater better for the needs of a bright visually impaired student? Yes, replied the VI specialist teacher (who comes in three times a week), there is one such school. But it's in Warrington, a long way from here. Ah.

We have a number of interventions available to us, and we will work through these with O in the hopes of reaching some solution. It may be that one very simple action has results, but it's more likely to be a combination of various ideas, and may take some time. Ideas, anyone?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Treading where I trod before…

Yesterday I went to see my friend Kinny Gardner and watch his production of 'Pied Piper' at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. I should explain here that Krazy Kat Theatre Company are the only company in the UK to sign throughout using BSL to translate the dialogue for a young deaf audience. They are trained signers, and their terrific skill is to make the signing a part of the show, beautifully choreographed. The effect is to seamlessly reinforce the story. It must be seen to appreciate it, and if you ever get the chance, go see!

The Pied Piper was signed throughout, as ever, by the two actors as they skillfully manipulated the puppets and the set to created the story and make us all laugh, gasp, cheer and clap all the way through. Jim changed hats, and accents, to become the town baker, toy-shop owner, shoe-maker and milliner in turn. And the rats themselves were very rat-like, with thick black fur and rather horribly muscular tails. The Hamelin children became blue, ghost-like creatures as they were led away during the night by the piper, and Tinca's Mayoress was gracious in her apology for her bad behaviour in order to secure the safe return of the children, her deaf son being the only child who was not lured away by the piper's music. An autistic child in the audience got very upset and ran up and down the auditorium looking for his favourite seat, crying loudly, while his mum anxiously made sure he was safe (the seating is on three levels). But Jim and Tinca, the actors, kept it all flowing smoothly, outwardly relaxed, and sustained our interest despite the distraction. I loved it. I earnestly hope the current grant applications secure enough money for Krazy Kat to continue to wow us with their incredible, magical and inclusive theatrical experience, as what they offer their hearing and deaf audience is absolutely unique and therefore incredibly important to support.

I remember the Tricycle when it opened in the early eighties. I was living in a huge shared house in Kilburn, with two of the acting McGann brothers (Paul and Stephen), Helen McCookerybook, and my cat, Patta. The Tricycle was a friendly, innovative space, with a feel of the Traverse in Edinburgh, but small. The local cinema was a small ramshackle affair, which often showed cheap all-night horror films (the prices were cheap and the horror was 70s). The patrons thought (charmingly) that they were either in their own sitting-room or perhaps visiting a very relaxed friend, because they would talk loudly throughout the film, and if they identified a friend in another row, climb over in a very informal way to catch up on the latest goss. Nowadays I would find that annoying, but at the time I found it refreshing and nice that people thought connecting was more important than viewing. That cinema is long gone and perhaps the Tricycle has soaked up its custom, as it now has an inbuilt cinema (apparently, though I haven't seen it), a bar and a restaurant. The theatre itself books a lot of very interesting productions.

I retrod my old stomping ground and saw the big old house. It hasn't changed very much. Still divided, though the flats now are bigger. Still a bit ramshackle and tacky. Minus us, though, so front door firmly locked (it was always open when we lived there). Ah well.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Leaving home

I am getting a taster of what it'll be like when Number One Child goes off to Uni (or something else). Our house guest has gone home to New Zealand, and the house feels strangely empty. There are still three of us here, but all the same there is an empty space, and I feel proud and a little sad.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Using your hands to talk

I've mentioned how thin money is on the ground at school for things like training, especially for teaching assistants, who are so undervalued. There is currently a scholarship for teaching assistants at a certain grade. It allows them to claim half of any tuition fees, (up to £2000 towards the cost of a course) which will add to their CPD (Continued Professional Development). So even though I am now officially on my Grade 2 brailling course (it hasn't begun yet), I am going to apply, as one of my other interests is sign language. It is a beautiful language to watch. It can be as varied as the many accents one might hear in the course of a day spent in a big city. It can be done well or badly. And it can change lives and make the difference between isolation and inclusion. Getting the scholarship will be a matter of timing, skill, popularity and luck. It's going to be extremely competitive. One TA wanted me to keep my mouth shut about it to increase our chances. But I have experience of the kind of seething resentment that sort of secrecy can cause, and I'm spreading the word. We can all compete for it together. It's quite likely none of us will be chosen. But who knows, perhaps someone will be lucky!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Religious Instruction

One of the most fun classes I assist in is the Year 7 RE class. The teacher, Miss C, is one of three beautiful young Irish RE teachers. She has milky white skin, lovely black hair, and a wry wit. The naughty chatterboxes laugh, argue, and occasionally shout at each other, but boy, do they know their stuff. She is a very good teacher, and her students respect her. We are currently studying the sacrament of reconciliation. To illustrate this we have been watching selected parts of the film 'Bruce Almighty'. Unorthodox? Possibly, but the divine Miss C has a point…it holds their attention and sticks in their minds. RE can be a very difficult subject to teach, particularly just after break, when they have been running around in the playground, or last thing on a Friday afternoon, when they are straining at the leash to get out and run around. At these times quiet reflection seems a million miles away, and it takes a generous and skilled teacher to bring the students 'back into the room'. Hats off to Miss C.

All Quiet on the Rags Front

A friend from my younger days has died, in very sad circumstances. Another friend is returning from overseas for the funeral. It will be both happy and sad to see him. He is staying with us, so this room, where the computer is, will be difficult to access for a couple of weeks. So if there are no posts for a while, that's why.

Monday, 30 April 2012

…drought? What drought?

made from antique quilting, part of a UK map, a 1940s recipe for Empire Nut bread, victorian scrap, hand embroidery, feed sack
This is what I've been working on recently. It's just the right size for a UK Oyster card (which allows cashless travel - you top it up with money at the underground station). Or you could use it for an ID card. I made it from part of an old map from the 30s, a recipe I found tucked into a WW11 book (for Empire Nut Bread), a couple of Victorian scraps, some ancient feedsack from a vintage quilt, a lot of pretty hand embroidery and I lined it with part of a Victorian quilt. When Number One Child saw it, she said, 'That's lovely, can I have one?' So now I have to make myself another one. It was fun to make, and it's lovely that she liked it, so I'm happy!

The cough has come back. On Sunday there was no tra-la laaing up and down the stairs, and no running anywhere, and not too much laughing, and then virtually no sleeping Sunday night, and yesterday couldn't face an hour today in the playground shouting and getting wet, and was worried my chest infection had returned, so I took my cough to the docs. Surprisingly the doctor said, no, she couldn't hear the death-rattle this time. So I feel stoopid now, and I'll have to have a 'back to work' interview with my line manager today, which'll be embarrassing - but I'll wave my prescription for antibiotics at him and hope he doesn't sense my humiliation. At least the rain has let up…

…oops, spoke too soon!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Ahem, Ahem

Bit of a cough today. The rain continues to pour, the telly continues to be quite dreadful, and I continue to watch old films on YouTube (Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner today, in The Great Sinner, 1949), and to sew on my wonderful machine. These are what I made today. They are in my Etsy shop now.

Today I built an ark

I didn't really build an ark. But I probably should have. It's been raining all day. Pelting down on the loft window, which slants with the roof and makes a loud splish splash. Lovely.

Instead of woodwork I have been indulging my sweet little cold by watching telly on my computer. First I watched Dirk Bogard in A Tale of Two Cities - what a very handsome and charismatic man. I wonder if he was likeable, his life was a bit complicated. Then I watched Spencer Tracy, as I said in my last post. Now I'm watching a chick flick, not something that often happens in our house - Jennifer Anniston is caught in a kind of 1930s scenario where she and a man have to pretend to be engaged etc etc. J.A. is not beautiful to me. But she has real charisma and nice legs. Also the Hair, of course.

And as I have watched I've sewn. A bit of darning to the lovely quilt I bought. And some new brooches. One of them is above. I love this little guy, with his cute stockings, his hat, his waistcoat and his jaunty hip. He's in my Etsy shop now.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Venerable Miss F

Yesterday I saw the lovely T, one of our former pupils. She has a statement for autism. She's quite high on the spectrum, but despite some students being wary of her rather peculiar behaviour, she was popular at school for her cheery nature, her charm and her very sweet friendliness. She has gone on to study at a local college but she still comes back to see us by arrangement, as she misses her old school and many of her teachers.

She arrived during the pouring rain, and I took her upstairs to the SEN department and draped her sodden coat and bag on a chair next to the heater to dry out. As we chatted, she was able to remember my birthday, the birthday, name and age of my daughter, who she has never met, and the names and birthdays of many staff, some of whom have been gone for a couple of years. She could also relate verbatim parts of a science class she had attended three years ago, describing text-book style what a hypothesis is, and the experiments her class had done to illustrate this.

T was also telling me about Miss F, her favourite science teacher. She described her hair style, her lessons, how Miss F had told T about burning the ironing (this is one of T's favourite stories and she loves to retell it) and some other sweet and funny incidents told to T by Miss F. I realised how very fond of her science teacher T was.

Later I described T's visit to one of our long-standing teaching assistants, and said I was sorry not to have met Miss F. 'She doesn't exist,' I was told. 'But all those details…the ironing incident, the rainy day when Miss F was expecting her first child, the discussion on hypotheses…?' 'No, all made up!' T has constructed Miss F, her funny and charming stories, her son, her birthday and even her lessons all from real experiences and has brought them together in the perfect teacher. Who says she's not real? She is to T.

I got soaked in the playground five days in a row this week. So now I have yet another cold, and instead of vising my friend, watching his latest show and taking photos for his new publicity flyer, I am sitting comfy-cosy at my desk, sniffing, snuffling and sewing while I watch 'The Old Man and the Sea' with Spencer Tracy on YouTube. Even those rain-clouds have a silver lining if you look for it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Sulks

What do you do when an ASD student gets the teenage sulks? How do you know they are sulking? Depending on patterns of behaviour you might imagine they are sulking at you when actually they are sulking about something that happened at home last weekend. Or sulking about something that happened at school three years ago. Which is not to say all ASD students sulk. But one of mine does, and this behaviour is very difficult to penetrate. Yesterday was a sulky day. It was the third day in a row he grunted at me, instead of using words. I knew we were in trouble. How to 'break the spell'? I asked questions - how's everything at home? how have your lessons been today?, is there a problem?, all resulting in a growl. Finally, I reminded him that 'You are the Captain, I am the…?'. 'Cabin boy?' he answered, in his normal voice. It's something I used to say to him 2 years ago when we started working together. I was touched that he had remembered the response. He was fine after that - I think it perhaps gave him back a sense of being in control of his life - so much of what he has to do at school is irksome to him, and annoying, and ASD students often find it very difficult to accept circumstances they are not comfortable with.

I hand-washed my beautiful quilt last night, and it's hanging on the pulley above the bath to dry. It'll need a bit of darning and maybe a replacement here and there. Meanwhile, this is a picture of a beautiful cotton shirt I bought from eBay. It's French, and from the 40s. The collar, cuffs and pocket trims are a lovely duck-egg blue, and it has been extremely well-made with neat little darts at the waist to shape it, and beautiful button-holes (but no buttons). I had bought it intending to wear it as a light summer jacket over a dress, but when it came I found it was just tiny - child-sized. I considered cutting it up for my sewing projects, but it's so lovely, I think I'll hang on to it and use it to display my brooches. What do you think? Should I be ruthless?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

All the way from the Ewe Ess Aaai

I saw a lovely quilt on Ebay. She was an American seller, and she had some lovely quilts for sale. I ummed and aah'ed - it wasn't expensive, but the shipping to UK… well, in the end I was actually at work when the auction closed, and it didn't sell. So I contacted her to ask about it, and she said that yes, in fact it had sold. Never mind. Then she got back in touch to say that there was another quilt very similar made by the same quilter, and was I interested? Yes! She would post it BIN on Ebay when I was sure to be around and would hope I won it. I waited. She posted. I bid…and won! It arrived yesterday at school - I knew I would be out if it was posted to my house. I was so excited, and luckily I had a lesson free yesterday so I took the box downstairs to our brailling room to open it. Inside, there was a lovely note from the seller, and a really wonderful quilt. It has a lot of feed-sack panels, very faded, soft colours, and a soft green backing, with a scalloped edge. A few of the quilt pieces have worn through to the batting, which makes it fragile and beautiful. I love it, and even though I bought it to cut up and use to make things, I hesitated. Thankfully, when Number One Child saw it, she asked me to Please Not cut it up, so it has had a reprieve, while I think about whether I can afford to invest in another cutter for sewing purposes only!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

C'mon, boys, we'll head 'em off at the pass!

So I did it, and it's clean…(ish). Everywhere except Number One Child's bedroom, which is stereotypical in its messiness, and which has a suspiciously sweet sticky scent on opening the door, (which I do twice a day - once to wake her up for school, and again to Wake Her UP FOR SCHOOL ten minutes later). And here - the window sill in the lavatory. I don't like to disturb the boys. The Mohicans (Blackfeet? Sioux?) look sagely on as the cowboys fight it out over some cattle. They are very small cows - in fact, the (sheep)dog is as big as they are. I have pointed out to the lads that perhaps they aren't worth it, and maybe we should all go and have a nice cup of tea, especially as a couple of them no longer have pistols, or, in fact, hands. But two in particular seem insistent - the leaning cowboy at the back, on the left is from the 70s and may even be Charles Coburn (Champion the Wonder Horse is his mate), and the crawling cowboy centre stage is 30s (I think) and a bit of a drama queen. I left them to it - I have a potato salad to put together, which is as complicated as my cooking really ever gets. The cows don't seem very concerned.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

To Do

This is my today's to do list.

1. Tidy up house
2. pack all car boots sale items so I can clean dining room
3. Clean house
4. Do boring internet  shopping
5. Decide what food to serve to family tomorrow and buy it
6. Mow lawn and tackle jungle-out-there
7. 1 hour's braille practise

So here I am at the computer on the internet catching up on all my favourite blogs. I'm wondering how to avoid doing all the above in order to do what soothes me and gives me joy - making something lovely. The thing is, it was Number One Child's birthday last week and she did what a fourteen year old girl would want to do - hang out with her friends. So it's family celebrations tomorrow, and there's quite a few of them. They are pretty wonderful people, and I can't wait to see them, but I have a Saturday morning hangover, and my sewing machine and I haven't seen each other since I went back to work after Easter. Plus I am a terrible hostess…I hate cooking with a passion, my house is never very clean, I get tipsy too quickly and I'm quite long-sighted so I make mistakes (famously served the brandy butter instead of the pate for Christmas starters). My Good Self is saying, 'Come on Mrs, get yerself up and on, let's get this party sorted!' My Bad Self, on the other hand, is saying, 'Plenty of time for all that housework Later! Let's not turn into a drudge! We've worked hard all week, c'mon! Let's sit around for a while and make something!'
So I'll keep you posted…

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Mad scientists

It's true - the science department are full of crazy people. Yesterday on our way upstairs my v.i. student O, and I, met one of the science teachers who was coming down. On seeing O, he stretched both arms the width of the stairwell, and moved from side to side jokingly blocking her way. O sometimes has some vision when the conditions are right, and she could see a shape in front of her but she of course didn't know who he was because her vision impairment is severe. Then he put his face right up to hers, and loudly said 'Boo!' He thought it was funny but it wasn't, and I said so. Just before O started at our school, the staff had some training on visual impairment, including being led around school wearing a blindfold, and doing a bit of role play. Yesterday's scenario might have been included under the heading 'What Not To Do'. Clearly some of us need something more in the way of training.

On a positive note, I have finally had confirmation that my braille course has been signed off by the powers that be, just 2 days before the deadline for application. (as purse strings are drawn ever-tighter formal training for teaching assistants is becoming rare). So I will be getting formal tutoring and guidance, rather than just teaching myself (which is what I have had to do - possible, but very difficult). An hour a day for three months, with a test to follow, during which only three mistakes are allowed. I'm scared but excited.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


My vision-impaired pupil has a birthday today.

She is very 'zipped up'. Her face shows no emotion most of the time, and it's hard to get her to 'let go'. This is partly a result of her impairment, as she hasn't had the visual clues a young child needs to learn how to express herself physically. And partly as a result of a difficult family background. It can make working with her quite challenging (is she engaged, interested, comfortable, 'present'?). The trick is to get her to laugh - tell her a joke, take the mickey out of a school situation, say something she's not expecting to hear. Then she opens up like a flower.

I've made her a lavender bird from an antique damask table napkin. The other side is lovely soft vintage feed-sack quilting. He has a red wing and some hand-embroidery. My student will be able to feel the shape, and to enjoy the scent of lavender. The embroidery will add texture, and it will be interesting to find out whether the feed-sack side feels different to her from the damask side.

In science today a student (year 7) asked a question about sleep. Is the reason we sleep at night because the sun has gone and so we don't get any energy from it to keep us awake. "No,' said the teacher. 'When it's dark it's time for you to rest, and time for the sun to rest too!' What? From a science teacher? He did go on to explain about the solar system … but I'm afraid the damage was done by then. Teachers must be  be so careful what they say!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

seven deadly sins

Overheard in the park, two middle aged men walking their dogs…
Man 1: Lust is the one I worry about least…at least if two people with lust meet up they can do something about it.
Man 2 (nodding agreement): Mmmm. (Looks into the middle distance…)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

My Little Pony

I realise that if I list my products on Etsy, I can't wear 'em! So I'm not listing this one. I love this little pony, and I'll make another to list in my Etsy shop.

Fourteen Years

The Bad Stuff
Terrible pain
Shouting at Himself
Vomiting all over myself
A bit of seepage from the wound
The nurse telling Himself he had to go
The Good Stuff
The other nurse telling Himself where he could hide, so he could stay
The morphine (lovely)
Himself not minding I shouted at him
The moment when my perfect baby was handed to me and I could see she had all her fingers and toes (and in all the right places)
What was to come…
The last fourteen years have been the absolute best - Happy Birthday Number One Child!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Big Knitter

In my younger days when I was a knitter (much to the irritation of Himself, who didn't like the clack lack of my needles when he was watching Murder One) I knitted a sweater from Rowan wool so thick that it stood up on its own. It was colossally heavy to wear, as it was not only very thick but also over-sized, I wish I had a photo of it. My mum thought it was very funny as she thought I had miscalculated. In fact it was my fashion statement. These days sweaters are either teeny-tiny doll-sized things or over-sized like your dad's. I was ahead of my time!

I now knit with bamboo needles, when I have them as they are much quieter and don't interrupt Himself's programmes.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter treats

my Easter treat
The fabric I used to make this little brooch had another life before it came to me - but probably not as exciting as the one it looks forward to now! It was a piece of ancient quilt block, and I love the faded stripes against the old watch. The little plastic chicken charm is vintage too!

Saturday, 7 April 2012


made from an antique traycloth and a vintage lace doily
Now in my Etsy shop

antique calico, linen, feedsack and Victorian quilt cotton

The scent starts halfway up the stairs and as the door is opened the overpowering and glorious smell of lavender fills the air. I have been making more lavender bags, and I'll be listing some in my Etsy shop soon. I'd love to hear what you think of these! Thanks for visiting!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Pearly Buttons

This is the Pearly King of Upminster. The pearly royal family are very devout and hold an annual thanksgiving service at harvest festival time.
My Lewes Pearlies

In Lewes, East Sussex, yesterday to see my Mum and Dad and treat them to birthday lunch. Afterwards we went on a bargain hunt round the antique markets. I found a stall specialising in buttons and bought a bag of beautiful vintage pearly buttons… enough to make a Pearly costume, but only for a doll! The other bargains we came home with were a lovely umbrella and a vintage nurses hat. I've researched the hat and come up with nothing but little white numbers. This one is black felt, with a little brim and a badge on the front. Inside the maker is 'by appointment to His Majesty, King George', so we know it's quite a find. I love these buttons, and will use them for all sorts of sewing projects. And next time in Lewes I'll be sure to take a little more spending money so I can stock up!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Delicious parcels

It's my mum's birthday next week and I am going to Lewes, taking my family with me, to treat her to lunch. What do you give to the girl who has everything she wants already? She loves reading so I often get her books - her wonderful house is full of books. This time I found her a rather beautiful scarf, and made this little lavender bag out of my absolutely favourite fabric of all time - an ancient 30s quilt block. It came from America, and is really soft and slightly fragile. I unpicked some seams, and you can see the stronger original colours contrasting against the faded fabric which was exposed. I've added two sweet little vintage buttons which were taken from a 1940s theatrical costume. The white fabric is part of a dressing table cloth which came with the huge lot of linen I wrote about the other day. And the lavender was from a lady who imports it from France. The opening of that parcel was so delicious, the scent was so strong, and I hope my mum's experience will be similar when she receives this present. Next time I visit her house I'll see where she decided to hang it.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A truly lucky discovery!

I bought on Ebay a 'boxful of antique linen'. The listing picture was not very clear, so perhaps others weren't keen to take a chance. It was offered as collection only, because the contents were very heavy, and the seller offered collection from a London address, so I put in a bid - the only bid - and won!

She suggested collection by car, but as I don't drive I went by tube and took a big suitcase on wheels. By the time we met, in Pimlico, it was getting dark. I met the seller by her car outside a huge and exclusive block of purpose built flats. She was very nice and as she emptied the contents of her llarge cardboard box into my case, she gave me advice on washing the contents, as she had not yet managed to do this. It was the last part of her parents' estate, she said, having divided the rest among her surviving family.

I travelled home, itching to open the case and see what I had bought. I had expected some wastage, and was mainly interested in the table linens I knew to be a part of the lot, for sewing projects I have in mind. When I got home I wheeled my booty into the dining room and opened up the case. A powerful smell of musty damp immediately filled the room. Horrible! But it didn't put me off, and I waded through the heavy contents, discovering some wonderful items - antique linen, damask, vintage cotton, lots of tablecloths and napkins, a couple of beautiful antique sheets - which I shall be sharing here as I wash and iron them, taking stock of my purchases. No real wastage, though I am having to soak some items and wash them twice to remove storage stains.

Here, then, is the first discovered treasure - a delicate and beautiful Victorian baby's nightgown, one of three wrapped in tissue paper. Wonderfully clean it features some lovely embroidery, pin-tucks and lace. I don't have a baby, and I couldn't cut it up …so what to do with it? All suggestions welcome!

Some lovely broderie anglaise and lace on the bodice

Lovely detailing on the little cuff
Pretty hem