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!