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