Well, that was a week of unparalleled misery, quite frankly – topped off by Thing 3 testing positive for Covid on Thursday. Thing 2 was off with the dreaded corona the week before last, I was knocked for six by labyrinthitis (which is not, sadly, a surfeit of David Bowie’s startling trousers) and now Thing 3. Enough already!
Labyrinthitis is a definite -1,000,000/10, do not recommend. It was so horrible I didn’t pick up a crochet hook for a week, or even a book for several days. That bad. NHS 111 recommended taking something called Buccastem, which is supposed to relieve nausea and vomiting related to migraine, and other people recommended Stugeron which made things infinitely worse. A tweet from a lovely museum person crediting my blog from a few weeks ago with making her feel reassured about her upcoming colposcopy made me cry, but so did the lovely Norwegian postal system’s Christmas advert celebrating 50 years since Norway decriminalised same-sex relationships.
It was Wednesday before I started feeling semi-human again, and Friday before I felt safe to go out of the house. My Beloved did a most excellent job with laundry and keeping the Horde alive, and the furry fiends did an excellent job of keeping me warm. Friends were amazing at relaying Thing 3 home from school, which at least we don’t need to worry about this week as he’ll be off with me isolating.
Lack of new output does, however, mean I can share a piece I finished a while ago but which only got handed over this week – despite the fact that I have seen Heather several times. We were supposed to have a ‘Grumpy People’s Supporters Club’ night out on Friday (well, they did, I stayed on the sofa watching Cowboy Bebop): the last time we saw each other all together was on the hen night back in June! The pattern can be found here and the seller was kind enough to offer to chart the names for me to personalise it as well. I’m told the bride liked it – she loves Art Deco and had a 1920s car to take her to the service, so it should be a good reminder of the day.
When I did manage to pick up a book again, it was with the intention of working through some of the digital shelf of shame on the Kindle – in the mood for something easy, I chose Colin Watson’s Flaxborough novels which were published between 1958 and 1982. Police procedurals which would probably be tagged with the awful ‘cosy mystery’ label these days, these are witty and terribly British, featuring the Viking-like Inspector Purbright and the eastern town of Flaxborough. I had three on my Kindle already and luckily the rest were cheap as I quickly got addicted.
Lying in bed unable to do anything meant I had a lot of time to do mental crafting, which is at least cheaper than the normal kind. I have a head full of ideas and no way to get to them, as my crafting space (OK, the dining room) is still full of stuff we haven’t put back after the heating was put in. My beloved has taken the opportunity to do small jobs upstairs while the place is already in chaos. I’m not saying I’m getting itchy fingers here but I have things that need making! Things 2 and 3 want new pants and there’s Christmas making to be done. This Hobbit Hole piece needs finishing, too: the pattern is by Vetlanka on Etsy. It’s been a while since I’ve worked on such a high count fabric, but the effect is so delicate.
I’ve taken the opportunity to set up a Facebook page for this blog as well, where I can sell the various bits and bobs I make that aren’t destined for gifts, at least from me. You’ll be able to find it here and I really need to take some photos to get things online! Watch this space.
Anyway, I must head off – there’s PCR tests to do and a book to get back to.
What I’ve been reading:
Speaking in Bones – Kathy Reich
Coffin, Scarcely Used / Bump in the Night / Hopjoy Was Here / Lonelyheart 4122 / Charity Ends at Home / The Flaxborough Crab / Broomsticks over Flaxborough / The Naked Nuns / One Man’s Meat– Colin Watson (Flaxborough series)
An early start day as I was heading back to one of my regular schools, this time to deliver the Think Small sessions – a 9.30 session start, preceded by an 8.30am meeting at another school about the Kids in Museums Takeover Day happening on Friday. Takeover Day is, in terms of organisation and the level of buy-in from the rest of the team, the biggest day in the formal learning year. Also, to add to the fun, this year we are doing Museum Takeover Day with half the usual staff and – to make it really fun – no museum, If I’d had any sense at all I probably shouldn’t have booked in two days of teaching and the central heating fitting.
My house is in chaos. Only one person at a time can watch TV and all my craft kit is hidden behind a pile of god knows what. The company told us they’d be sending a moving team down on Monday to – you know – move things, but by the time the poor lads had arrived from darkest Yorkshire my beloved had moved everything possible and they were at a bit of a loose end. He had a lovely time over the weekend being all ‘but they won’t know how to empty a fish tank!’ and ‘they won’t know how to dismantle the railway/small nuclear reactor/quantum leap thingy’. Gentle suggestions of ‘well, perhaps you could do those bits and they could do the furniture’ were unwelcome, apparently, and he had a great time hurling things into boxes and piling them up.
Today’s sessions were great fun, though: we had started the school year here with the giant blue blocks, so it was lovely to see the kids again. The appearance of the museum team means fun, apparently, which isn’t a bad thing to be known for! It’s such a warm and friendly school to visit, and the children are kind to each other. The Y6 teacher and his teacher trainee clearly have something going which they probably need to keep a bit more to themselves in front of kids and visitors (it was reaching the ‘would you like to be alone?’ stage while I was setting up my session) but there we are.
Central heating day! No 8 is being dragged (kicking and screaming, naturally) into at least the mid-20th century! With two key Teams meetings scheduled for the morning which would almost certainly not be improved by background drilling! I decamped to Miriam and Roy’s house, round the corner, and where I can more usually be found on Thursday nights playing D&D. Dobby, one of their mad but adorable rescue dogs, took possession of my lap as soon as I sat down and stared intently at the screen till she was properly introduced. She kept my knees warm and her mistress passed me coffees to keep my spirits up. Two meetings and a visitation from their other lovely hound Kreacher later, I headed home to inspect the chaos. One radiator had been fitted and a lot more furniture had been moved as it is apparently not the done thing to put radiators under windows – also, they didn’t have any skinny radiators. The singing Yorkshiremen spent the day hammering and drilling under the watchful eye of my beloved, who was feeling a bit surplus to requirements as there was nothing much he could do. He did go and get them samosas for lunch from the bakery, which I think they enjoyed. The samosas are excellent but the owner is a bit creepy with the females of the species.
Technically, I had a block of time set up in the afternoon for prepping the Takeover Day session. I did manage some admin but failed utterly to do any of the resource prep: we do at least have an activity pack to distribute to the teachers and a timetable. Still, I now know what everyone wants for lunch and just how excited a museum team can get at the thought of fish fingers and chips (samosas again for the vegetarians) followed by school sponge and custard.
Two cats were shut in the kitchen and one in the extension so the fitters could work without interruption from furry fiends intent on homicide. Lulu was distinctly unimpressed, slashing my thumb when I attempted to move her from her perch and I remained unforgiven for the rest of the day. I eventually managed to feed everyone about 8pm, and then sent them to bed.
Up with the lark, or at least my beloved who was on an early shift. Yes, I had a bath and the kids and I revelled in the heating in much the same manner as the Aardman Animations tortoise in the electricity adverts. Yes, that was electric and we are now on gas central heating but it is, as they say, easily turn off and on-able. The bath was so good I almost forgot that I had three kids to get to school.
As it happened, there was an epic bus fail so I had to spend some time having words with the bus company about buses that either don’t turn up, turn up 15 minutes late and then don’t stop, or which just disappear off the tracker. I was late for my own meeting, the kids were an hour late for school but I did at least get the resource prep done.
True to form, just when you need the printer to behave itself it decides to throw a wobbler. Paper jams, communication breakdowns, random cancelling of jobs, refusal to print from powerpoint/word- or printed one and then not the rest. Much threatening of said printer with percussive maintenance, replacement with a pen and paper failed to do the trick Eventually I fooled it by printing to PDF, emailing them to myself and printing from the PC which was apparently acceptable.
And then the stapler gave up. Paper clips to the rescue!
My beloved was replacing plug sockets in the afternoon so no gadgets for the kids. Instead I bribed them with cold hard cash to help me cut up the t-shirts for the takeover day session into strips for rag rugging. My mistake was to give them the cash before the job was finished. I eventually finished about 8pm, with my shoulder frozen. My work table was still inaccessible so most of the work was done on the floor which probably didn’t help!
Started with a late bus, followed by a long gap between tubes so I was running late from the moment I left the house. The school emailed and asked for my DBS number at 9.15am, so of course I didn’t have it with me and had to be escorted everywhere. I missed the 12 o’clock meeting as I was still teaching (must remember to build in contingency time to my diary!). Thank heavens for my line manager who lives round the corner from the school and who fed me coffee and lunch afterwards and restored my sanity. You can’t beat a cheese bagel and salad with a friendly cat.
The electrician phoned on my way home: could he come and fit the spur for the boiler, which was currently plugged into an extension cable, in the next half hour. Nothing like a bit of notice, is there – we compromised on 45 minutes and when he arrived we couldn’t find where he was supposed to be connecting the thing to. I missed another meeting and was late for the next…but we made it to the end of the day.
Thursday is D&D night and as lots of us had an early start we kicked off early – it turned into a board games evening which was just what I needed. A couple of games of Bang! (during which I was forced to shoot both the kids several times – I refuse to sit between them again if we’re playing that!) and a couple of riotous rounds of Scrawl later I was a lot more relaxed. Dobby and Kreacher are very democratic and take turns climbing on everyone’s laps: I think they just like having their ears rubbed.
Awake at 4am once again, which has been a bit of a pattern this week – argh! Takeover Day and I haven’t done this, I haven’t got enough staff and I haven’t got a bloody museum to do it in! There will be an ‘official’ blog over on the V&A site at some point so I won’t go into it too much here.
I abandoned Thing 3 with wonderful Miriam to take to Breakfast Club so I’d be able to get to Bethnal Green on time – bless my lovely friends (like Toby, who also retrieves Thing 3 when I can’t get back in time!) – and headed off on the 7.13 bus which was mercifully on time. I treated myself to an almond milk hot chocolate (try it, it;s delicious) from Starbucks on the way past and headed to Globe where most of the team were there before me.
True to form, as the blue blocks were involved and I was due to be outside it rained, so we hijacked the hall for the morning. Helen the director and I worked with the nursery and reception classes all day and we had great fun building and adding in things from the mountain of recycling that parents had donated. I was given a new dress made from gold and bubble wrap, went on a road trip to Australia in a car, slept in a mermaid’s cave, watched a small child disguise herself as a sausage roll and was also treated to the sight of my director being a cloud. The other team’s sessions were equally successful and many, many parents were dragged upstairs to our ‘museum’ by their excited children at the end of the day. We ate school lunch with the kids, who were outraged that we got extra fish fingers and lots of chips.
The traditional debrief followed at The Florist Arms, where they do excellent pizzas and where some of the teachers were a bit bemused to see the museum team reviving themselves with a tequila slammer before 5pm. We were also saying goodbye to our creative practitioner, Fran, who was my first recruit after I joined and who is leaving us to be a freelancer. She’s brilliant and we will miss her very much – she’s kept me sane for the last few years, is wonderful with kids and adults alike, creative, and extremely accident prone. I was home by 9pm and blissfully unconscious on the sofa shortly afterwards.
Started with a positive Covid test handed to me by Thing 2, leading to LFTs all round and ordering PCRs for the family. If anyone wants me for the rest of the weekend I am in the bath (and thanks to Miriam for the bath bombs!) and I’m not getting out till Monday.
See you next week!
Windswept and Interesting- Billy Connolly (Audible)
Dreams Underfoot – Charles de Lint
London Bridge is Falling Down (Bryant and May) – Christopher Fowler
The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman
The Long and the Short of It – Jodi Taylor (Audible)
Saving Time – Jodi Taylor
The Quantum Curators and the Missing Codex – Eva St. John
Every three years a letter drops through the door.
It’s from the NHS and it reminds me that it’s time for a smear test – this year I had to wait a month for an available appointment, as the nurse is pretty busy. I have lost count of the number of tests I’ve had over the years but I never miss them. These days they won’t give you a smear till you’re 25, but back then you were advised to get one a year after becoming sexually active. Seems silly to me as HPV and cancer don’t wait but there we are.
In my early twenties, a routine test showed abnormal cells so I had to go back in six months for another. By then there were a lot of those abnormal little cells and they were aggressive little beasts, it turned out. What followed was colposcopy, a loop biopsy and laser cauterisation (what’s that smell of burning? Why, it’s me!). Six monthly tests for the next few years, followed by annual tests for several more, and then when I was given the all clear it was back to three yearly. Had I not had that smear test, those abnormal cells would have escalated into cervical cancer – that’s the one that killed Jade Goody at 27, leaving two small boys growing up without a mum.
About half a million extra smear tests were done between mid-2008 when Goody was diagnosed and mid-2009 when she died, many for women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (source). Called ‘The Jade Goody Effect’, it didn’t last and in 2018 smear testing hit a 20-year low – the introduction of the HPV vaccine in 2008 for 12-13 year old girls (and boys) is making women complacent. The vaccine, given in two doses while girls are at school, helps protect against invasive cervical cancer as well as pre-cancerous cell changes. Covid-19 has increased ‘vaccine hesitancy’ and disrupted vaccination programmes but hopefully they’ll be getting back up to speed soon: Thing 2 should have her first jab this year and Thing 1 her second. Thing 3 will also be offered it as a boy in England and I’ll be making sure he gets it, as it prevents all sorts of other cancers in men as well as women. I had HPV: it caused the cell changes and like other viruses it lurks in the body and can come back. It’s often symptomless, so I had no idea until I was part of a study later on. As I started to write this blog the radio news broadcast told me that cervical cancer rates are 87% lower in women who have had the HPV vaccine. There’s lots of helpful, sensible information on cervical cancer, smear tests, the vaccine and more here.
Smear tests are not fun. They can be uncomfortable. They’re undignified. Some strange person rummaging around ‘down there’ is never going to be the most fun five minutes of your life – but it is only five minutes, and then hopefully you’re done with it for another few years. If they catch a few cells misbehaving, then they can deal with them quickly – but if you don’t go, they won’t find them. They’ll offer you a chaperone if you want one, and a sheet to cover yourself with. My top tip is to wear something with a skirt, but believe me: those nurses have seen pretty much everything over the years and whatever you’ve got going on its all in a day’s work to them. You can also be glad of plastic speculums, because the metal ones were horrible even if you had a nice nurse who warmed it up under the hot tap.
I make jokes to relax, and chat to the nurse – this year the fact that I had to wear a mask during the test made me laugh, it seemed so ridiculous. If you’re worried, take your mum. Take your sister. Take a friend – hell, take two or three, make consecutive appointments and go for cocktails afterwards to reward yourselves for being both sensible and brave. You can go to your GP surgery or your local sexual health clinic, they’re free here in the UK and those five minutes might quite literally save your life. You don’t get a lollipop or a sticker afterwards (maybe we should start a campaign?) but you do get a letter in the post a few weeks later with your results.
However and wherever you do it – just do it, and keep doing it whenever they remind you. It’s worth it, I promise.
September, October and November are busy months for birthdays – especially when you’re still working remotely! I’ve been late with a few and some have been late collecting their presents but I’m all caught up now and there’s no more birthdays till next year! Secret Santa and a leaving gift are next up, followed by Christmas.
I also made a Totoro amigurumi, which has led to another one – as long as it doesn’t turn into the tinycorn plague all over again (27 of them…) it’ll be fine.
And this week I am gearing up for Museum Takeover Day – in the absence of a museum, we’re doing it inside out and taking over our local primary school. I keep telling myself it’s going to be all right on the night…otherwise I’m going to go full Macauley Culkin in Home Alone…
See you on the flipside! Mine will be a large G&T.
What I’ve been reading
Dreams Underfoot/Tapping the Dream Tree/Muse and Reverie – Charles de Lint
Windswept and Interesting – Billy Connolly (Audible)