168: I ain’t superstitious

What is is about magpies? Three of my friends – all from various bits of Yorkshire, which may or may not be a coincidence – behave very oddly when they see one. One of them asks where its wife is, one asks after the health of its wife and children, and the third forks his fingers and spits between them as if warding off the evil eye. In all other ways this third one is possibly one of the most gentlemanly people I know, but when a magpie is foolish enough to come into his field of vision he gets all medieval.

It’s only solo magpies, apparently: more than one is absolutely fine. Jill even knows the numbers after seven in the one-for-sorrow, two-for-joy rhyme – it gets a bit post-watershed from eight onwards, it turns out. There’s more information here about it all, anyway, and it turns out some places even consider them to be lucky. In Sussex if a magpie sits on your roof it means your house won’t fall down, which I would find quite reassuring.

“There are many rhymes about magpies, but none of them is very reliable because they are not the ones that the magpies know themselves.

Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

You may wonder why magpies are on my mind this week. Previously I have waxed lyrical on how entertaining I find the baby magpies in the garden, as they’re scrappy and scruffy and play like children. I have felt sorry for the mama magpie, who comes and sits on next door’s roof for a bit of peace. There’s a nest at the end of the garden, so they’re a constant presence.

However, I do not love them quite as much as I did, as this year’s brood have taken to sitting on the guttering above our bedroom window at dawn every morning and starting their day with a noisy discussion about whatever it is magpies feel the need to debate at that hour of the day. I would go so far as to say that these six would be very unlucky indeed*, if I was able to fly.

(*not really, as long as they shut up.)

Things making me happy this week:

  • Still crocheting octopuses, although I did branch out into a hyperbolic coral thing
  • Baby horses spotted on my walk yesterday
  • A field full of hares on an early morning wander
  • Still my new job
  • Strawberries from the garden
  • The garden full of kids, grandkids, dogs, Timeshare Teenagers, and various extras, and my Beloved is in charge of the barbecue.

And on that note, I’ve done my walking for the weekend and there’s a bottle of Rattler with my name on it in the fridge.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Two for the Lions/One Virgin Too Many/Ode to a Banker – Lindsey Davies

That Mitchell and Webb Sound S1-5 (Audible)

Exploring The New River – Michael Essex-Lopresti

167: every which way but right

What is it about Clerkenwell and Farringdon? This week I have managed to get completely lost (twice) in the maze of streets surrounding them while trying to find my way back to the office. I think perhaps I get distracted by interesting alleyways and cut-throughs and – once – by a very beautifully executed sculpture of David Beckham’s naked torso, complete with tattoos. I had to go back and look twice, in fact, as it was so well done. Anyway. Where was I?

Oh yes, I didn’t know where I was, and that was my point. The first occasion was on Tuesday morning after having coffee with Amanda, who pointed in the general direction of Farringdon and I still managed to get lost. Eventually I found my way back with the aid of Google Maps, which is FINE if you can make it stay in the direction of travel. If not then you have to walk thisaway and thataway until you work out which way is the right one, and then reverse it in your head.

I got lost again on Friday afternoon after a visit to the Zaha Hadid Foundation and the ten minute walk back to the office on St John Street took half an hour. I didn’t realise how lost I was until I found the Mount Pleasant sorting office – I love that building but it was a long way down Farringdon Road from where I needed to be. It is a bit of a maze of narrow lanes and rookeries round there, and tucked away in all of them are lovely old Georgian squares, Victorian houses and funny little nooks.

I did, however, manage to walk successfully from the office to Bethnal Green and was only a bit distracted by Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium with its window full of furry friends.

This week we also had an ‘all-in’ day at work, when everyone comes on site. In the afternoon we had a workshop on class and class dynamics, run by Tonic Theatre, which was fascinating and uncomfortable in equal measures. From the reaction of our non-UK team members, the British concept of class is more than a bit weird. One exercise was around stereotyping: we were asked to give a working class/upper class sport, saying, food, art form, clothing and name. Another was to think about our own contexts in terms of education, economics, cultural capital and more – and about how that’s changed over generations. Turns out there’s a lot more to it that knowing which knife to use and not calling napkins serviettes or whatever.

Possibly one of my favourite aspects of the new job is being able to do a deep dive back into London history – especially the New River, which is neither new nor a river. The trouble as always is knowing when to surface…

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Long walks in the sunshine: this weekend I’ve covered 40k over two walks. The first was the Moreton and the Matchings walk I did in the rain on the coronation weekend, the second was a slow loop around Tawney Common.
  • On a related note, farmers who cut the public footpaths back in have made it to the list. You know who you are (well, I don’t). If you could see your way clear to hacking back the nettles too, that would be great. Nettles are not on the list.
  • Overhearing one of the trustees talking to ACTUAL QUENTIN BLAKE about ME.
  • Crochet octopi and a Totoro cross-stitch update

Now I’m off for a shower and a nap…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

A Dying Light in Corduba/Three Hands in the Fountain – Lindsey Davis

Zero Waste Patterns – Birgitta Helmersson

Exploring the New River – Michael Essex-Lopresti

That Mitchell & Webb Sound S1-5 (Audible)

166: careful K, your nerd is showing

Here I am at the end of my first week at my new job, which is pretty flipping exciting indeed.

You know sometimes when you start a new job that you spend the first few days feeling a bit lost, as everyone else is getting on with things and no one is quite sure what to do with you? Or they give you a whirlwind tour of the building and then you spend the next week trying to remember where the staff toilets are, what the coffee arrangements are and who that person is in the corner.

This week was not that week.

Tan and I flew back from Mallorca on Monday night – delayed by an hour, the M23/M25 junction was closed, so was the South Circular, so we had to detour through the wilds of south-west London (there are a lot of Specsavers and Boots stores there, I can tell you). The saving grace was that the loud idiot who had been on our flight out was not on our flight back, though the rest of the hen and stag parties were so we suspect he was either arrested or deported*. I was staying in Ealing, so I staggered into bed just after 2am (bless my brother-in-law for setting up the airbed for me before we got back!) and lurched out again at 6. The plan was to meet my bestie at 8am for a first day coffee, as we’re now working within a few minutes’ walk of each other.

The Elizabeth Line had other ideas – a 25 minute journey took more than an hour and a half, which was either due to a faulty train, someone on the track, an eddy in the space-time continuinuinuum, or possibly the software gremlin which has been causing the emergency braking system to engage randomly since they upgraded it in April. The Lizzie line starts running at full timetable this week, so let’s see how that works.

Anyway. Day one included a speedy tour of the building. We’re lodging temporarily in a comms company’s back office, while our own FABULOUS new site at New River Head is under development. It’s open and friendly, and we’re all in the same room. Hot desks again, so I’m still carrying a laptop around, but never mind. Here, the station to go home is closer than the Secretariat gate at the V&A was from the offices. Once logged in I had a whole pile of emails waiting for me, things to read, and in the afternoon we had a project team meeting at the new site. No time to feel lost! I do need to make a laptop bag though.

The rest of the week has been reading policies and strategies and plans, and delving into my London library (glad I kept that!) to find out more about the history of the New River – ah, you’re a nerd already!, said the Director. Little does she know…I’ve met my team, arranged some more meetings with various people to get up to speed on things, and generally felt useful.

*Our flight out was disturbed by him making downright offensive comments to and about the air staff, passing mothers-of-brides. He claimed he was ‘bringing the party’. I suspect someone else had dropped out and the groom had invited him to fill the numbers as they’d been at primary school together, as the rest of the stag party were nice and well-behaved. The man next to me had words with him. He made a comment about other people needing to wear headphones. I lost my cool (ha!) slightly. Yes, I called him sunshine. We were all friends by the end of the flight but still…

The rest of the week…

Our last day in Mallorca was Sal’s birthday, and we started off with an early swim at the tiny beach in Deia where we disappointed the local white van men delivering beer to the bar by keeping our tops on. We suspect they were waiting for the lithe blonde lady who appeared as we were leaving, who would have made them much happier. Breakfast on the balcony followed, with fresh pastries, oranges from the tree and Spanish hot chocolate. The ‘little stroll’ around Deia we’d decided on turned out to be just under 9k, taking in the beach again, a climb up the hill beyond the villa where we saw a black vulture circling, a wander round the town and finally tapas and a well-earned drink. We also saw a red kite or two, heard a nightingale, and discovered some really loud frogs.

On the Sunday we’d tackled a nice easy mountain (!) and scrambled over to very pretty Valdemossa, where we had well-deserved cake and a wander round the town while waiting for the bus back. The buses are a hair-raising experience at times, as the roads are long and windy and the buses are…not. They are bus-sized buses, as Jane said. The bus back from Valdemossa was slightly late, and the driver made a special effort to make up time on the way to Deia. We were sitting down but still felt the need to hold on!

Yesterday’s long walk was much less exotic, but also a lot less mountainous as it was in Essex – I did manage to find some hills to boost my elevation, though. I took the same footpath I used a few weeks ago but turned right instead of left at the bottom of the hill. I should have turned round after 6k, as a 12k was on the plan but I was enjoying the walk so I carried on. 24k later… the walk took me through Theydon Mount, Hobbs Cross, Theydon Garnon, Theydon Bois (as I’ve said before, Essex likes to make the most of a good name), past Ambresbury Banks and down into Epping, where I joined the Essex Way through Coopersale and Gernon Bushes back home. The sun was out, the glam rock playlist was on, and the pace was fine. Today there’s been a swim at the lake – the swans have one cygnet left and they are quite feisty. One bit an unwary swimmer’s foot, in fact.

There’s a 12k on the cards this afternoon, so I’d better go and fuel up!

As always, you can find out why we’re scrambling up mountains and wandering through forests at our JustGiving page. I’m £175 off my personal fundraising target, and it would be great to raise as much as we can for Parkinsons Research. Gwrachod Ar Daith translates roughly to ‘Witches on Tour’ – a long tour at 100km and now only 6 weeks or so away…

See you next week.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Last Act in Palmyra/Time to Depart – Lindsey Davis

That Mitchell &Webb Sound – Audible

165: the goat ate my homework

Next week I shall tell you all about my first day at work, but for now you’re getting some lovely photos of the view from the villa, our 8 mile walk from Deia to Port de Soller (including the sun/rain contrast taken two minutes apart), local wildlife, and breakfast picked fresh from the tree. Today apparently includes mountains and Valdemossa.

If you’re wondering why these four mad women are tackling mountains in Mallorca… Have a look here

And now it’s breakfast time…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Iron Hand of Mars/Poseidon’s Gold – Lindsey Davis

Maskerade – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

164: triangulate!

As I type this I am sitting down with my feet up, and this is where I plan to stay until the Horde require feeding again later. So far this weekend I have covered almost 29k, and I have definitely earned the afternoon nap I’m planning just as soon as I hit the publish button on this post.

Yesterday’s walk was 18k, and thanks to a combination of Google maps, the Ordnance Survey app* and my Walking in Essex book I mostly didn’t get lost (although I did take a wrong turn somewhere near Matching Green and had to reorient myself) and made it back to my start point successfully. I followed a route around Moreton and the Matchings, a set of pretty little Essex villages which didn’t even look too bad in yesterday’s persistent drizzle. One thing you can say about Essex is that when they land on a name they make the most of it – Matchings Tye and Green; Magdalen, High and Little Laver; a swathe of Rodings and a plethora of Woodfords.

The walk took four hours, give or take a minute or two, and enabled me not only to get some distance in and try out my new Injinji socks but also to avoid all the nonsense going on on the telly yesterday. It was great – wandering down green lanes and through fields in blissful peace. In 18k I only saw two other people, and a dog adopted me for the last mile or so and kept me company. I hope he found his way home. It was a lovely route, occasionally taking in sections of the Forest Way and Stort Valley Way, tracing the Cripsey Brook for a while, passing various little country churches and chapels, listening to the birds and saying hello to horses. It would have been better if my Strava and OS tracking hadn’t failed, but never mind.

Today’s walk was almost 11k, with my friend Rachel and her one-year-old Weimaraner Loki who bounced about so much that he must have covered twice the distance. I came back with soggy feet, pawprints and half of Essex on my boots thanks to the clayey soil. We saw a moat with ducks, a lot of long grass, pretty yellow wagtails and skylarks zipping about and then took a very long detour home!

The bacon butties I made for lunch were very well-deserved!

*the OS map also got a lot of use last Monday when Tan and I went for a walk in the Surrey Hills – being able to locate ourselves with map references when following directions like ‘turn right at a metal gate’ was useful. That walk had lots of pillboxes, bluebells and excellent views as well as some unexpected alpacas.

Other things making me happy this week:

  • A day with my new team and the luxury of a proper handover with my predecessor at the Quentin Blake Centre
  • A full moon swim followed by marshmallows and hot chocolate
  • Finishing my latest socks
  • Another long weekend, but I am not walking ANYWHERE tomorrow
  • A remnant fabric pack to experiment with

Next week I’ll be coming to you from sunny Majorca! It’s my last week at Young V&A, too…

And now it’s nap time…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Venus in Copper/The Iron Hand of Mars – Lindsey Davis

Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

163: just being friendly?

Back last November I opened the front door to a very distressed Thing 1, who – on her way back from walking her friend to their job in the pub round the corner – had been accosted by an adult who had tried to kiss her. Thing 1 is 16, she’s polite and friendly, and she answers when she’s spoken to which is how she’s been brought up. We live in a village, we see the same people on a regular basis and so you say hello, because that’s what you do in a small community. For the last couple of years this adult has been making comments which erred towards the inappropriate, but could be brushed off as just overly friendly.

Comments on appearance, on how she was growing up, asking if she was still at school. The sort of thing you’d laugh off as being a bit creepy, followed by ‘say hi to your mum and dad’. Innocuous. Then she turned 16, started at college, and the tone changed.

‘Have you got a boyfriend? I bet you’ve got lots of secret admirers. I know you’ve got at least one, you’re growing up nicely’. The sort of thing you need to keep an eye on, as it’s too creepy. She would come home and tell us when he’d spoken to her, so we knew what was going on but thought he was just sleazy as she’d laugh it off.

On this day in November she wasn’t very well, so wasn’t as alert as usual, and she was trying to get home. We spent the following day at the emergency GP, in fact, with severe tonsillitis. On this occasion he started with ‘was that your boyfriend? Have you got a boyfriend?’ and then he put his hands on her shoulders and went in to try and kiss her. She reacted by stepping back and came home in a state.

This is a married man, at least in his 30s. who clearly knows what he is doing is wrong – asking her if she’s 16 yet, for example, is a clear indicator that he is aware of the legality of the situation. He is a local business owner, who has been heard encouraging teenage boys to bring their girlfriends in as ‘he likes them young’.

After speaking to a friend in the police we reported the incident and luckily they took it seriously, sending someone to interview Thing 1 and I, taking video evidence from her – and doing everything they could to make it an easy experience for her – and eventually arresting him. He of course denies knowing her (and someone else who made a complaint against him) and is out on bail, and this week – as he’s denied it – she had to go and do an identity parade which is fortunately all digital these days. It wasn’t easy: she texted me after I checked in on how it had gone, and said,

‘Yeah it was fine it was weird though all the pictures were fine but as soon as I saw his it felt like his eyes were looking right at me it was so uncomfy.’

She’s been so brave, and I am so proud of her: she is clear that she doesn’t want this to happen to someone else, who may not be as speedy or as supported as she is. She has to walk past his business twice a day, three days a week to catch the bus to college, and his bail conditions state that he is not allowed to speak to her or approach her – as he hasn’t, I assume that he does actually know who she is, despite the denials. The police have been great, keeping us updated with any developments and taking her seriously.

I’m not under any illusions that anything will actually happen to this man as a result of my little girl being brave enough to step up and make her statement: much as I’d like to see him named and shamed and drummed out of the village, I’m quite realistic. I would like the parents of other teen girls in the village to warn their daughters away, or at least to make sure their daughters know that this behaviour is sexual harassment and they don’t have to put up with it. It’s not ‘cultural’, it’s not ‘being friendly’, it’s harassment and we now know that it won’t stop there.

What I’d like even more is to know that I won’t have to write yet another blog post next year calling out sexual assault, or harassment, or even inappropriate behaviour. I think we’ve all had enough.

Things making me less furious this week:

  • The safe arrival of my very gorgeous new grandson this week, two weeks early, courtesy of Timeshare Teenager 2 (she’s 25, but they’ll always be the TTs). I think Grandson 1 was hoping for a baby robot for a cousin but he’ll have to put up with a regular human baby.
  • A good 13.5k ramble in the sunshine this morning following a footpath I’ve been eyeing up for a while, seeing my first swifts of the years and a whole family of hares.
  • A day off midweek, with a lovely walk round Harlow Town Park with Sue and the Bella-Dog finished off with tea and an Eccles cake
  • The Gaslight Anthem’s new single with an album to follow
  • A catch-up with an ex-colleague about attracting secondary school teachers to the museums

Tomorrow I have a swim and a visit to the new arrival planned, a Long Walk on Monday with London sister, and then will be spending some time this week planning another Long Walk away from all media next Saturday.

Happy Long Weekend!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Desperate Undertaking/Fatal Legacy/The Silver Pigs – Lindsey Davis

Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

162: successful succession planning 101

(If this week’s post jumps about a bit it’s because I’m semi-watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer over the top of my laptop. Apologies in advance, but Angel keeps taking his jacket off.)

This week I was finally able to tell the rest of the team that I’m leaving Young V&A to join the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration as Head of Learning and Participation. It’s been a tough secret to keep as I am really excited about this role, but there was the tricky matter of getting some ducks in a row – we already have a jobshare role open as B has gone off on mat leave; YV&A is opening in July and the wheels of recruitment move slowly in a large organisation. My handover file is growing daily and there are things I really need to get sorted out in the next couple of weeks.

You’d think this might be things like who will become responsible for my direct report, and where we’re up to with various projects, and these things are indeed on my list. More importantly, however…

  • who will take over as Chief Elf at Secret Santa time?
  • who will I pass my Monday morning banana bread recipe to? (‘What sort of deviant puts Maltesers in banana br….oh my god, mmm’)
  • who will become responsible for the Futureplan Bingo card (featuring phrases like ‘across the piece’, ‘value engineering’, and ‘at pace’, among other things)

I mean, everyone has an official job description, right? But the unofficial things are just as important: making team meetings a little sweeter, for example.

I am very lucky to have been working in an amazing team for the last few years, and I’ll miss them – can’t wait to see the new Young V&A when it opens the doors in July.

Am I a tassel person?

As it turns out, yes, surprisingly.

On Tuesday most of the Learning team went to Aesthetic Laundry‘s studio at Bow Arts to take part in a workshop with Heidi and her team. A couple of us were already fans of the brand (not me) which was founded in 2014 to make size-inclusive, body positive clothing. Each piece is made to order so they’re not creating waste, they incorporate scraps into things like their tassels and confetti, as well as into their festival clothes, and their studio is a riot of colour and tactile textiles to squish. As you can imagine, I was in my happy place…

In the workshop you get to create your own jumper, learning some sewing and cutting skills as you go along, and then the AL team put it together and send it to you! Some of the team wanted to crop theirs, and Heidi was rocking one of their Phoenix cardis so they kindly worked with me to turn my jumper into a cardi. You get to choose your tassel colours (or no tassels at all!), cuff and collar ribs, where you want your initials, thread colour and the base colour. I have gone for a grey base, with burgundy, navy, white and grey tassels with dark pink ribs and thumbholes on the cuffs. Once I’d committed to the tassels there was no stopping me…

Finishing off with prosecco and biscuits was a bonus! Can’t wait to show off my creation…

Other things making me happy this week:

  • A walk with Thing 2 to see the baby cows yesterday morning – two so new they were still wobbly on their little legs
  • An afternoon with the KS2 LETTA trainees making games and inventions inspired by the Hero Arm. The ‘RAVE’ board game is definitely not one for the schoolkids.
  • A midweek training meander through the woods – sponsorship link here

And that’s been it! Same time next week…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Kate Shugak Investigations 18 – 23 – Dana Stabenow

Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

Desperate Undertaking – Lindsay Davies

161: no sense of direction

Yesterday I was suffering from a lack of motivation caused, I suspect, by the knowledge that to get to any good trails from my house would involve a ludicrous amount of sticky clay on my boots. I do not like mud, and living where I do at the edge of the London Clay Bed (that’s geology, that is) there is a lot of about, especially after the amount of rain last week. However, the training plan called for an 8k so I needed to do something.

(Why are we training? See here and please throw some pennies our way!)

With the promise of bara brith and a sausage roll London sister agreed to make the trek over to Essex and with the help of Peter Aylmer’s Walking in Essex we headed off to Hatfield Forest for a 10k ramble. It’s a handy little pocket sized book with 25 different walks as well as a good guide to the Essex Way. Thanks to a walk round Lea Valley Park one summer afternoon, Tan refers to Essex as a ‘flyblown wasteland’ which is a little unfair, as currently it’s more of a swamp.

We parked in the official car park near the cafe and lake, and the start of the walk was back in Takeley Street. I flummoxed Tan by being completely unable to relate where we were to the map in front of us. That was the point that she made me hand over the book and promise never to attempt a solo walk which wasn’t clearly waymarked. This is probably a good idea.

Anyway, thanks to Tan we found the start of the walk on the Flitch Way, a ‘linear nature reserve’ along a former railway line from Braintree to Bishop’s Stortford. After half a mile or so we turned off into fields along the Pincey Brook valley, stopping for a picnic on a handy tree trunk. The walk intersected in places with the Harcamlow Way and then looped back into Hatfield Forest, where we realised just how close we were to Stansted Airport’s runways.

Hatfield Forest was full of dog walkers and miniature swamps, as well as cowslips and primroses, and although we didn’t find the promised Iron Age remains at Portingbury Hills we didn’t get lost despite diversions off the route round Colin’s Coppice. Back at the lake we had a look at the Shell House, designed by a 15 year old who may never have seen a chicken or an eagle, and admired the ducks before sitting down for bara brith and hot drinks – coffee for Tan and hot chocolate for me – just as the weather started to turn. And turn it did – the rainstorm hit as we were on the M11 and visibility was almost nil as we were coming back into North Weald.

It was easier to find some motivation this morning so I was up and out by 7am, with a non-muddy route planned which took me up to North Weald Redoubt, Ongar Park Hall farm and Dial House, and across to Toot Hill where I got distracted by a road I hadn’t been down before (to Clatterford End) before remembering that I was going swimming at half past eight which meant racing home to sluice off and change into my bathers. I spotted my first hare of the year as well as three muntjacs and a whole lot of rabbits along the route.

And now I need a nap, but the ironing is looking at me…

Other things making me happy this week

  • Homemade bara brith
  • New Kate Shugak installation appearing on my Kindle
  • Being bounced at by the Bella-dog this morning
  • Hyacinths on the windowsill
  • The cherry tree at the end of the road in full blossom and smelling like marzipan
  • Sunday afternoon with time for a nap….

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Kate Shugak investigations 8-18 – Dana Stabenow

160: which way is Tring station?

Thursday found me in Ealing this week, for a work outing and then for a sleepover at London sister’s followed by a hike along a bit of the Ridgeway. Regular visitors to my little corner of t’Internet will know that we have signed up for Race to the Stones in July this year with two of our cousins, so a long weekend was an excellent excuse for a hike.

The work outing was to Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, originally Sir John Soane’s country retreat and now restored to former glory as an art space. Their current exhibition is of works by Anthony Caro, including the Child’s Tower Room over which the well-behaved children of Ealing were scampering while leaving the other sculptures alone. To Museum of Childhood veterans this was a source of wonder, as had these been at Bethnal Green the tower room would have been demolished and the gaps in the other sculptures would have been filled with crisps, sand and small children. No parents were sipping cappucino in the gallery, no one was changing a nappy/using a potty on the floor and there were no riots. Most odd. There was a lovely family craft activity happening with cardboard and tape, none of which was being applied to priceless artworks. I wonder what they’re doing wrong?

In the evening we went for dinner at Piccola Italia, where I indulged in lovely garlicky tiger prawns followed by sea bass ravioli and an affogato with rum and raisins. It was here I put forward my theory of how to train the little owls who live in the tree on Ealing Common, which I still think would have worked if only they were prepared to try. It would have taken patience and an inexhaustible supply of Russian dwarf hamsters but the end result would have been worth it.

On Friday morning we loaded up our backpacks with flasks and hiking necessities like Frazzles and KMC (Kendal Mint Cake’s rebrand – just cover it in dark chocolate and add an electrolyte or something and it immediately becomes a health food. Possibly.) and headed off towards the Ashridge Estate, a National Trust-managed area in Hertfordshire.

Starting at the Bridgewater Monument, we followed a route in one of Tan’s books of circular walks which would cover Ivinghoe Beacon and some excellent views. We headed downhill first into Aldbury and then across farmland and a golf course where we met a family who asked us if we’d just come from Tring station, as they had gone off course somewhere along the way. We professed ignorance, attempted to help, and then realised as we carried on the walk that Tring station was signposted everywhere for miles around.

Once we’d crossed the farmland and some golf course we were onto chalk downlands, where the red kites were out in force. Skylarks were shouting their heads off and we were even lucky enough to spot one. The whitethroats were in song in the trees, and the views were indeed excellent. A slight detour meant we added half a mile or so onto the walk but it was worth it.

We stopped for lunch on top of Ivinghoe Beacon – sausage rolls, Frazzles, KMC, coffee for Tan and hot chocolate for me – and watched the kites doing aerobatics overhead and a kestrel balancing on the air while we ate. The skies were HUGE, as you can see, and we had a great view of the Whipsnade Lion chalk figure in the distance.

Another slight detour while finding the path back to the monument meant we saw a herd of about 15 deer running across the path in front of us. Back on the right route, there were many little lambs, primroses, violets and early bluebells – spring was springing all over the place.

We covered about eight miles, appreciated our walking poles and the sunshine and are looking forward to next month’s hiking adventure in Majorca!

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Filling my Instagram feed with owls and baby Highland cows
  • Haagen Daz x Pierre Herme macaron ice cream
  • A skills sharing session with the learning team in the V&A cafe on Monday
  • A D&D field trip to the cinema this evening
  • Fixing the hole in my tights
  • March complete on the temperature supernova
  • Seeing my stepdaughters – one with child, one with imminent bump – yesterday, complete with mad dogs
  • Sock one done of a new pair

A Happy Easter to you all, whatever you’re up to!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Kate Shugak investigations 1-7 (so far) in anticipation of #23 coming out this week – Dana Stabenow

Asterix volume 2 – Goscinny & Uderzo

Agatha Raisin and the Witchs Tree – M. C. Beaton

159: you can’t go wrong with a good omelette

Last week’s bug continues fine, and is still rampaging merrily through my immune system. Having started with a sore throat it moved to my right ear and is causing raging tinnitus, a cold sore the size of Belgium on my face, and a migraine of mammoth proportions followed by severe post-migraine hangover yesterday. Next time I have the temerity to say how healthy I am, someone ssshhhh me. Please. It’s prevented me from going swimming today, that’s how miserable it is.

I am sure it was not helped by the persistence of couriers in making my life difficult on Tuesday, when I spent several parts of my day standing in the rain awaiting vans of various descriptions. The first company was an hour late as a driver had called in sick and no cover had been arranged, so we were an hour late to the museum. The second company arrived in a Luton complete with hoist and all our kit from the storage unit but first attempted to unload outside the museum gates, then reversed just inside, and then we finally got exasperated and ordered them to reverse up to the loading doors where they proceeded to unload a unit’s worth of kit at hoist height rather than making things easy for any of us.

By the time the Addison Lee courier started causing me grief my language had become…. Anglo-Saxon, to say the least. Despite being given an address he parked a ten minute walk away in a different street, didn’t phone the pick-up contact, and when he had finally picked up the boxes after she’d been standing in the rain for twenty minutes we watched him drive the weirdest route possible to Bethnal Green, then drive round the block five or six times (hurray for the tracking system). Finally I went outside next time he came round and shouted at him. Apparently he couldn’t find the gate. Yes, the gate. The gate with ‘Young V&A’ on it. And a phone number to call for access. I queried why he didn’t, perhaps, phone me for guidance as he had my phone number as the drop-off contact. This stumped him. Fortunately for his ears and my continued account with Addison Lee I decided to relieve him of the boxes (which he had unloaded into the road instead of onto the pavement where the dolly was) and refrain from further conversation. If they have the temerity to charge waiting time there will be words. They are rapidly sinking down my bottom ten courier list, creeping up behind Hermes/Evri and DPD.

We did go for a team lunch at The Full Monty on Globe Road, which made the world a sunnier place despite the rain. If you find yourself in East London in need of a big, reasonably priced lunch, try here. Especially try the omelettes.

Wednesday was a much better day, as I got to spend it out at my favourite secondary school in Ilford again, testing the last of the KS3 sessions for the Design gallery. Working once again with the very lovely Scott Ramsay Kyle on the ‘Design makes things last longer’ case study, we looked at different techniques for mending and embellishing fabrics using a range of materials. Starting with denim (not that we’re obsessed or anything) and encouraging them to work in threes, we encouraged them to think about how things could be added to make something different. All the Year 7s wanted to make bags (individually or as a group) and all the Year 9s wanted to annex the embroidery threads to make friendship bracelets, which wasn’t what we’d asked for but at least there was a lot of skill sharing going on! They were banned from wearing them in school but the teacher suspected that they were all going to say ‘we made them in DT sir!’ if challenged.

It was very clear which of the girls had previous experience with any kind of hand or machine sewing, but it was also evident that the others were mostly keen to learn. One thing that came across in the evaluations was that they valued just having time to sit and make, and wanted more lessons like that.

Scott had brought along a range of different embellishments like key tags, stickers and badges, cords and scraps of lace, and there was a very retro vibe about some of the outcomes, especially in Year 7. Lots of joining with big safety pins or acid house smiley faces, and tied on lace – you can see one of the bags above right. I also really liked the weave on the above left, which she joined with lots of pins and badges rather than sewing (below centre). Many of the girls (it’s a single-sex school) wanted to come back at lunch time and carry on working on their pieces, which I think I’ll take as a win! Although we’d planned this session as a 90-minute one, I think it’s going to end up as a full day option with lots of time for exploring and being inspired by the gallery collections.

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Progress on my Visit Tokorozawa cross stitch
  • Frogging half a sock as it wasn’t making me happy. Also deciding not to finish a book for the same reason. Life is too short.
  • Finding a hole in the foot of my woolly tights – now I can practise all those mending techniques!
  • Scoring eggs in the Co-op yesterday
  • Indira Varma narrating the latest audiobooks of the Discworld Witches series.

I am off to do useful things with my day! Till next week, then, when I’d quite like my ear to be working again.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Truth/Equal Rites/Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

Paper and Blood – Kevin Hearne

Asterix volume 1 – Goscinny & Uderzo

The Vesuvius Club – Mark Gatiss. (Gave up about a third in. Dreadful. Arch. Don’t.)

The Bridgerton series – Julia Quinn. To remove the previous listing from my brain.