148: customer disservice

This week I have been wrestling with the delivery company formerly known as Hermes – now rebranded as Evri, as presumably the god Hermes was too well known for actually delivering stuff. I expect deities have firm views on this sort of blasphemy and threatened them with a good smiting unless they changed their name. Usually, I have no issues with Evri as the local couriers are helpful, friendly and reliable.

The problem, it seems, lies further up the chain. Between Christmas and New Year two parcels were dispatched by two different companies – one arrived at the Evri local depot on New Year’s Eve and the second on 4 January. And there they stopped. ‘Sorry, your parcel has been delayed’ was the tracking update. ‘We’ll get it out to you on the next working day’. Readers, this was not the case. The courier said that there was a big backlog at the depot. Evri didn’t say anything, and continued to say nothing.

The ‘help’ pages – and I am using the term ‘help’ in the absolute loosest sense of the word here – said that if the parcel has been with them for seven days then to contact the sender. The sender, not the people who actually have the parcel in their possession and who are, therefore, presumably better placed to know where it is. So I contacted the senders, who then have to contact Evri. One sender responded within 24 hours to an email saying they couldn’t help till seven working days had passed (not what Evri’s site says, but there we are) since the last update. The other sender was also gatekept by a digital ‘assistant’ but eventually let me chat to a real person who said they could ‘urge’ Evri to deliver the parcel.

I tried Evri’s digital ‘assistant’, Holly. I am qualifying the word ‘assistant’ in the same way as the word ‘help’ above please note. Holly is able to ‘help’ with sending a parcel, receiving a parcel, or ‘something else’. Help with receiving a parcel allows Holly to tell you the same tracking info that you have already seen on the tracking page, which is what caused you to click on the chatbot in the first place. ‘Something else’ allows you to report damage to your house or vehicle and you get to upload photos. So I uploaded some photos of the tracking numbers and eventually got a reply saying they couldn’t see any damage in the photos. I emailed the ‘customer service’ (see previous disclaimer) email address that had emailed me, and received an auto response informing me that Evri didn’t do customer service by email and to use the digital assistant. It was all getting a bit circular by this point.

Eventually I received a response telling me they would see what they could find out. This felt promising. Evri could redeem themselves, I thought. Hope triumphant over experience!

Two hours later I received another response saying ‘after an extensive investigation we can tell you the parcels are lost’. They were sorry I was disappointed. Contact the senders who will be able to refund or replace the items. Not, mark you, sorry that they had disappointed me. No offer of compensation. No promises that this would not happen again and no suggestion that they might actually take steps to find out how these parcels got ‘lost’ in the local depot. The onus was placed on me to contact the sellers to tell them someone else had lost the goods they had dispatched in good faith. Clearly Evri don’t update the sellers either, as I had an automated email from them asking me to review the item I hadn’t received.

Another parcel, for which I had paid next day delivery on Thursday so I could use the item over the weekend, is at their hub and didn’t even make it to the local depot. As someone pointed out to me yesterday, Evri have won plaudits two years running for being the worst delivery company on the planet – which in an industry of terrible service really does take some doing.

Things making me happy this week

  • An online course run by the V&A Academy – visible mending with Restoration London, on sashiko and boro stitching.
  • Waltham Abbey Wool Show – we have a spinning workshop booked
  • Finishing the 2022 Temperature Galaxy cross stitch
  • Giving my 20-somethingth pint of blood
  • Seeing the face of my Whovian colleague when she found a crocheted TARDIS on her desk for her birthday
  • Making more daft crocheted items and some earrings
  • Plotting 50th birthday shenanigans (to be revealed soon)

And now I am off to Tesco to stave off starving teenagers

Kirsty x

Gardens/Favours – Benedict Jacka

Kill the Farmboy – Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne (struggling with this – I loved the Iron Druid series but this is amateurish)

Night Watch – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

Storm Front/The Law/Brief Cases – Jim Butcher

147: what the heck was that?

That was week one of 2023, apparently, which has passed in a blur of meetings, taking care of poorly child and cat (who have the same thing, it turns out) and getting back into staying awake all day. Cat had to go and have a sleepover at the vet on Thursday, where he made friends with all the staff, but they wouldn’t take Thing One. Shame, really, as getting a vet appointment is considerably easier than getting to see a doctor.

Hopefully you all heeded last week’s excellent advice and have spent the first week of 2023 thinking of nice things to do with your year. I have booked in a massage and am looking forward to next weekend’s woolly workshop and show, and to an online V&A Academy course on Tuesday.

I am not sure I managed to get the hang of last week before it was all over, quite honestly. I did manage to get as far as November in the temperature galaxy, which serves me right for not keeping up with it since August, and have finished the Mk II TARDIS (slightly bigger on the outside, at least). I made the roof more domed and outlined the windows as well as the panes, but I think I prefer the smaller one which has now gone off to a new home with a Whovian colleague who had a birthday this week. Hope she likes it!

Having said I definitely wasn’t going to do a temperature stitch this year, I went back to Climbing Goat Designs to just have a look and ended up buying this one and, after this year, I will use a larger range of colours in case of extreme temperatures again. I have also ordered some printed space fabric to stitch it on, for a change, and I might brave the glow-in-the-dark thread for the stars. I am definitely not doing one next year though.

I also did some work: planning a new session for schools and thinking about what we’re missing from the handling collection. Suddenly the six/three/one month before opening to-do lists are NOW and not a future countdown. This sense of ‘ARGH’ wasn’t helped by this Time Out article on things to do in 2023 – we are number 13. It’s all starting to get a bit real… there’s such a lot that needs to happen before we open the doors, including getting all our kit back out of the various storage spaces and catalogued, working out how to store it all in my shiny new learning centre cupboards, convincing schools that even though we’re not doing historic toy sessions any more there’s still a good reason to come and visit, and at the same time as business as usual we’re also working on the first of our paid exhibitions which opens in October.

The session I was planning this week is based on Rachel Whiteread’s Place (Villlage) installation which was one of my favourite objects in the museum, and which is being redisplayed in the new space – the problem here is that trying to create a gallery based session before the gallery is installed is a bit tricksy as it all may change down the line. I really dislike dolls*, but this collection of dolls houses is atmospheric and magical, and provides excellent potential for literacy sessions. I can’t wait to see the new installation.

We’re also planning game design sessions, architecture, storytelling, and more – it’s all very exciting, but the marketing to teachers is keeping me awake at night!

*yes, it’s been suggested that I may be in the wrong job. I am also scared of masks.

This week I am bored with…

  • All things royal. Every time I turn on the TV or open Google there is some new ‘revelation’ from Prince Harry’s book which was allegedly leaked this week. Enough already. Siblings fight and there’s no law that says you have to like your sibling’s choice of partner. The trick is not to tell them and hope they work it out for themselves. Also, no one likes someone who constantly whinges that it’s not fair and everyone is horrid. Grow up.
  • ‘Train cancellations’ on the Central Line. Which appears to be yet another excuse for constant delays.
  • Laundry. Where does it all come from?
  • Work. It is cutting into my nap time.

On that note, the washing machine has finished, so I will sign off!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Paper Magician/The Glass Magician/The Plastic Magician – Charlie N. Holmberg

Kill the Farm Boy – Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

Gardens – Benedict Jacka

Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

Watching: Black Spot (Netflix)

146: Practically perfect in every way

Not really, of course. I have a butterfly brain, a yarn habit that requires two sheds for storage and an insatiable urge to try all sorts of new crafts, an addiction to books and shoes, a callous disregard for excessive housework, and a very strange sense of humour.

Still, it’s that time of year again when we’re supposed to kick off a new go-round of the sun by finding fault with ourselves and making resolutions to stop this, to start that, to do more of x, less of y, to be better. A quick Google tells me that New Year’s resolutions have been around for about 4000 years, thanks to the Babylonians (though they made theirs in spring when the new farming year started) and presumably people have been failing to keep them for around the same, though they had the added incentive of falling out of favour with the gods if they didn’t keep theirs and not just feeling a bit guilty. Being held accountable by someone handy with a smite or with the power to have you eaten by crocodiles or something concentrates the mind wonderfully, I expect.*

January 1st is a terrible time to make resolutions, anyway. It’s cold and dark, it’s often raining, you’re suffering from terrible indigestion after eating your own bodyweight in cheese and Quality Street and quite possibly you have a hangover from ill-advised coffee tequila shots the night before. The inevitable return to work looms large in the diary (if you’re over 30 you’ll probably still have the hangover then too), the interminable round of meetings and the long wait for January payday is ahead of you, and there’s all this expectation to be all self-improving while you’re at it. There’s an actual date in January – the third Monday of the month – called Blue Monday which some bright spark of a professor calculated was the most depressing day of the year.

I have decided that this year we should have a New Year’s Revolution, not resolution. The adaptation of the very sweet (but a bit smug) The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy tells us (or the fox does, anyway) that ‘you are enough’. Let the revolution be to be moderate, not to give up or to change your whole life. To be a bit nicer to ourselves and the people and the world around us. None of us will ever be perfect, and let’s acknowledge that rather than making grand ‘THIS is the year I….’ statements that will be profoundly depressing by the 16th bowl of overnight oats with skim milk and no golden syrup.

If you have to make a resolution, make it something you’re excited about: a new adventure for 2023, take up a new hobby (I have booked a hand-spinning workshop at the Waltham Abbey Wool Show, for example – not that I plan to take it up, but why not have a go when it’s on offer?), make a plan with friends that’s realistic. I have two more of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries to visit, so they are on the list. Set a challenge for yourself but make it one that you want to do, not one you’ll hate the idea of: I want to do a long walk, either the Essex Way or the Race to the Stones. Resolve to treat yourself once a month, to a massage or a cinema trip. We are in the middle of an energy crisis, a cost of living crisis, strikes galore (which I support wholeheartedly) and the gloomiest part of the year – give yourself something to look forward to.

Have a Happy New Year instead.

*I may be mixing up Babylon and Djelibeybi at this point.

The long dark teatime of the year

Timeshare Teenager Two and her partner presented me with five metres of Moomin fabric as a Christmas present, so I spent a day sewing this week – at the stitch show in October I bought the Folia frock pattern by Sew Different and had been looking for the right fabric for it. I also made their Scoop Pinafore in a golden cord, and have started cutting out the Sunrise Jacket in a navy twill, using a Craft Cotton Co fat quarter bundle for the sunbursts. Activity has been slightly hampered by sewing through my fingernail and out the other side, but I am soldiering on….

On the hook this week has been this TARDIS by Army of Owls – which gave me the chance to muck about with shrink plastic for the first time since we used to shrink Wheat Crunchies packets on the heater outside room C2 at Monmouth Comp. I found the door sign image on Instructables, and used felt for the windows rather than embroidering. There will be some earrings as well, as I printed some extra door signs for that reason….

And now I am off for a walk with Miriam, Jill and the hounds. You’re getting this early so you can be saved from making any unnecessary resolutions….

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Bellweather Rhapsody – Kate Racculia

1989 – Val McDermid

Keeper of Enchanted Rooms – Charlie N. Holmberg

Juniper Wiles and the Ghost Girls – Charles de Lint

145: Why don’t you…

…go off and do something more festive instead? Stop reading these ramblings and go and open a present. Watch a film or the annual repeat of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special. The only reason I’m even here is because I seem to have broken out in teenagers and they’re all still asleep for the first time ever at 6.30am on Christmas morning.

Festive makes this week

Normal (ish) service will resume next week! In the meantime, I hope it’s a peaceful day and that Santa/Father Christmas/the Hogfather/Saint Nick/Kris Kringle/Sion Corn brings you joy and lots of pigs in blankets.

Merry Christmas, Nadolig Llawen, Bonne Noel…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

This Must Be The Place/Bellweather Rhapsody – Kate Racculia

Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

Hogfather – Terry Pratchett

Christmas is Murder – Val McDermid

144: baby, it’s cold outside

Bloody freezing, actually (my garden thermometer is currently reading -5.4) and this morning I am a strange blend of disappointed and mildly relieved as the lake is closed for the weekend. The closure is due to access, as you can’t get cars in and out of the site, rather than as a way to prevent a gang of bobble-hatted loons giving themselves mild hypothermia. The disappointment is because cold water swimming – or dipping, in this weather – is such a rush, and the relief is because the temperature has rarely made it above zero this week and that lake will be COLD.

Last week was the coldest water we have experienced at 0.5 degrees, and it was trying to snow when we got there. A large hole had been broken in the ice to enable dipping, but there was no chance of a proper swim. People were going in, having their picture taken by one of the long suffering Redricks team to prove we were complete idiots, paddling about a bit and then racing out swearing profusely. I still haven’t put my wetsuit on this year, so was in my bathers and bobble hat with socks and glove, and I lasted about two minutes. I was extremely glad I had brought thermals to go under my trousers and a lot of layers – and my trusty hot water bottle. Top tip here: stuff your pants inside the cover while you swim and wrap your towel round the outside. I may need two hot water bottles, just so I can do my socks as well – the worst part last week was the pain as my toes came slowly back to life which made me want to cry. I was wearing my 3mm socks as I knew I’d want to get them off quickly, and they were not enough!

Many articles have been written on the benefits of cold water swimming over the last couple of years (here’s one) and there’s lots of handy advice out there too. Please note I am not including Wim Hof in either of these two categories as he is clearly quite, quite bonkers. And that’s coming from me. What I get from it is a mental reset at the end of the week, time with friends both in the water and during what Jill calls the apres-swim, as we hop about trying to get dry, get our trousers on, and drink hot chocolate with marshmallows. It’s usually child-free, it’s early on a Sunday morning, and the rest of the day is still ahead of us. Redricks Lake, where we swim, is also a fishing lake so you’re sharing the environment with cormorants and kingfishers as well as the usual run of water birds (and fish); there’s lifeguards on hand and you don’t get to go in unless you’ve had your safety induction, which is reassuring. They will also rescue you, strip off your wetsuit (wear your bathers!) and warm you up if necessary.

Later in the day a few of us braved the cold again (fully clothed this time) to go and see the Light Fantastic train from Marconi Bridge at the top of North Weald Common. Thing 2 joined me, and we were out when the snow started. ‘Flurries’ were forecast, but what we ended up with was a good six inches of snow which meant a snow day on Monday and travel chaos for the rest of the week. Today is supposed to be a balmy 7 degrees and tomorrow – gasp! – double figures, so we might finally see the thaw.

The rest of the week has mostly been crochet, as I had a stack of pigs to make after selling out at the Christmas fairs – seven big pigs, eight little pigs, one fairy cake, a Highland Cow and I finally got round to making a jumper for my own tree. I have a few more bits I want to make and then I really, really need to catch up with the temperature galaxy which hasn’t been touched since August. Eek….

Other things making me happy this week

  • Secret Santa exchange at work – this year’s theme was ‘adventure’ and my gift was a gorgeous Doctor Who bag charm, which meant I knew exactly who my Santa was!
  • Girly gossip with Miriam and Edith on Wednesday, accompanied by baby snuggles – there’s nothing quite like a sleepy tiny cuddling into your neck
  • Stomping around the garden in the snow spotting the rabbit, cat and fox prints.
  • The latest Audible version of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, with Bill Nighy as the footnotes and Peter Serafinowicz as Death
  • Ben and Jerry’s Minter Wonderland
  • Thermal leggings

Less happy was discovering when we got to the work canteen on Thursday that due to supply issues there were burgers instead of lasagne. Shades of Shirley Valentine: ‘But it’s Thursday! Thursday is lasagne day!’ The gloom among the whole V&A staff was positively Dickensian.

Only another five days of work to go and I can stop for Christmas – now excuse me, I have a cake to marzipan.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Hogfather (Audible)

Don’t Cry For Me, Aberystwyth – Malcolm Pryce

This Must Be The Place – Kate Racculia

143: ho ho no

So, the tree is up (well, down from the attic) and decorated, the turkey and components for various trimmings are safely in the freezer, the lights are ready for my Beloved to put up today, the museum Christmas party is tomorrow, and the Secret Santa is organised. The charity for this year’s card money has been chosen (Trussell Trust, ICOI). I am still surrounded by the vast amounts of yarn I need to make the Christmas orders, having sold out of pretty much everything last weekend. Who knew that the children of North London would love cuddly pigs in blankets so much? I think my best moment was the frazzled parent who ran up to me shouting ‘I need a SPROUT!’, with the five year old who asked me ‘Do you take cards?’ in a close second place.

Cuddly pigs and other Christmas crochet adventures

Thing 2 has been asking searching (and knowing) questions about the existence – or not – of Father Christmas. From an early age, when her aunt and I would go off on increasingly ridiculous flights of fancy, she would ask ‘Are you telling me true, Mummy?’ or ‘Are you lying to me, Aunty Tan?’ So, for a child who was essentially born suspicious, this persistence in believing in all things Christmassy has always been a bit out of character. She is, however, a stickler for tradition and gets quite cross if Christmas films and songs make an appearance before December 1st. The tree goes up on the second weekend in December, which is the compromise reached over several years of negotiation.

This is the first year in several that she has not mentioned the elf on the shelf, which is a huge relief. Things 2 and 3 were quite insistent that we should have one of these abominations and I was secretly delighted when on December 1st I duly placed the elf on a shelf and the pair of them went into hysterics and demanded its immediate removal from the house. However, the following year they persuaded their father to buy another elf and the whole thing began again and of course the responsibility of the elf fell mainly to me.

Unlike my friend Jill who is very good with her elves, I was pretty hopeless at it. Possibly this is down to the very narrow window between putting the kids to bed and me falling asleep on the chair, or – more likely – because I just did not give a monkey’s. You can see my two best efforts (elforts?) below.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a Christmas tradition as much as the next person. There are films which must be watched while putting up the Christmas tree (the 1947 version of Miracle on 34th St, if you must know), films which must be watched early in the season (Elf, Muppet Christmas Carol) and there are films to watch nearer Christmas (It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooged). We have added the Christmas Chronicles to the list over the last couple of years, as Kurt Russell makes an excellent Santa. I look forward to the annual invasion by Cybermen and Daleks, and will continue to ignore all speeches by members of the royal family. I read Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and this year I will also listen to the new Audible version.

I have endeavoured to instil a healthy fear of robins into my children, in their role as Father Christmas’s all-year-round eyes on the ground. We have advent calendars. We leave snacks and something boozy out for FC and the gang on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day Thing 2 organises stocking opening with military precision, and all I can say is thank god they’re old enough to bring us cups of coffee while they do it. Thing 1 opens the stocking and goes back to bed.

Every year I buy the largest turkey possible in Tesco – they only had mediums yesterday, which feed 8-10 people, and I seriously considered buying a turkey crown as well even though there are only five people in the house. As it was, the medium only just fitted into the freezer with some creative rearranging. Whether I can get it out again is a different question. I am dutifully feeding (with rum) a Christmas cake which I will probably still be eating in February (a Mary Berry recipe, and without resorting to Mrs Beeton you can’t get much more trad than that). I never liked Christmas cake until I realised that if I made it myself I could leave out the nuts, the mixed peel and the glace cherries and replace them with things I like (like proper cherries, and rum, and fresh orange peel grated).

We open family presents between breakfast and lunch when everyone is dressed, and after Christmas dinner there is the ceremonial ‘eat as much chocolate as you like’ opening of the Quality Street. There may be a cold turkey and stuffing sandwich about 8pm, and on Boxing Day there will be further cold turkey and a ham. At some point I will do a jigsaw.

While I will be a little sad when all pretence at believing in Santa is abandoned (i.e. they stop humouring me), I am not sorry to see the back of the stupid elf.

Other things making me happy this week

  • Excellent co-curation session which I have to write an ‘official’ blog for
  • Seeing some of my wonderful ex-colleagues at the Museum of London reunion last Sunday
  • Hugh Grant’s reading of A Christmas Carol (included with your Audible subscription)
  • Rewatching Derry Girls with Thing 1
  • The chance to do proper ice swimming today

Same time next week then!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (Audible)

A Christmas Carol (Audible)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth – Malcolm Pryce

Don’t Need The Sunshine – John Osborne

141: more meetings than you can shake a stick at

Well, that was a week of highs and lows, it really was. One of those weeks (another one of those weeks) when you’re in so many meetings that you haven’t got time to do your job, but this week it got on top of me and sparked a meltdown panic attack on Wednesday which was definitely the low point.

The problem with not having a museum to do museum learning in is that every time you want to deliver a session – piloting new content – you need to take all the kit that in business-as-usual times would be in a handy cupboard, pack it in boxes and suitcases, seriously consider taking two 84 litre Really Useful Boxes and a massive wheelie suitcase on public transport to the school (in Ilford, in this case, on a train strike day) and then get real and book a cab. We had two sessions booked at a school where the DT department are up for almost anything, so we took the kit over on Monday – thanks to the aforementioned train strike and the seemingly interminable November weather, the journey took the best part of two hours to go 15 miles. Then, having delivered the kit to the school, I had another several hours in traffic to get home. Oh joy. What is described as ‘managed decline’ on the Central Line meant three out of four trains were terminating at Loughton, and there was an 18 minute wait for the first Epping train….which then waited five minutes at Loughton for the next terminating train as the changeover driver was on that one. I have decided every time I have to wait fifteen minutes for a train to Epping I am going to claim a refund. A faff, but the service is appalling at the moment: 42 minutes to do a 12 minute journey (four stops!) is unacceptable.

Tuesday – the day of the sessions – was amazing. I have been working with a designer called Lea Jagendorf to develop sessions which support two of the case studies in the new Design Gallery: ‘Design Can…’ is the starting point and these two sessions supported ‘Design makes things last longer’ and ‘Design responds to people’s needs’. It turned out Lea had been set as homework for the two classes, so she was confronted with 45 A3 posters all about herself…

We have built a learning collection of objects which will be in the new gallery, from the anti-hostile design DEFIANT by Hamzah Al Asadulloh to adaptive clothing by Tommy Hilfiger and Vans, alongside pieces by Petit Pli and Expandals. The sessions offer opportunities to brainstorm ideas, to try rapid prototyping with a variety of materials, and to collaborate on responding to briefs. Both classes had some amazing ideas and we’ll be seeing them again to do some co-curation for the same gallery in a couple of weeks. This week I am testing the final design session – ‘If the Shoe Fits’ – which explores user-centred design through our collection of historic and modern children’s shoes, with lots of practical making with a very varied set of materials. Support from my fabulous creative learning facilitator – who feels about materials the way I feel about shoes and books – has been invaluable.

The less said about Wednesday morning the better, but luckily the team around me are amazing and they got me through the rest of the day – which finished in Bethnal Green with a ‘sneak peek’ for local teachers. I overcatered, but the staffroom at the school benefited the next morning! It’s so good to be able to share what we’re doing behind the scenes and to ask teachers what they want from us. Miriam retrieved me from the station, fed me dinner and we played D&D which is always a high point of the week. Three of us brought lebkuchen as game snacks – it’s that time of year again!

Thursday was a day of actually achieving stuff (emails! work! planning!) which made me feel a lot better, and Friday was an adventure to Clerkenwell to meet the designer Sam Hecht of Industrial Facility who along with his partner Kim Colin made a collection of under-a-fiver objects from all over the world. They are loaning it to the new Design Gallery, and this is what we’ll be co-curating with the Ilford school the week after next. The collection is full of little oddities like magic potato peeling gloves and a terracotta foot scrubber: things designed for a specific purpose, some of which meet the need and others – like a combined craft knife and scissors – don’t. I’ve had fun tracking the objects down to create a handling collection, so my Amazon algorithms are a bit skewed at the moment. Clerkenwell is one of my favourite bits of London, all little courts and alleyways with a mix of new and ancient buildings. I also got to use the Elizabeth Line – the easiest change at Stratford and only three stops! It’s making my inner tube nerd very happy, that line, and I am looking forward to being able to hop onto it at Stratford and go all the way to Ealing to see London sister.

Other things making me happy this week…

  • Speaking of London sister – it was her birthday on Friday and despite postal strikes her present and card arrived, and she likes them.
  • The Christmas cake is baked and ready to be fed with rum for the next few weeks
  • Lots of crochet done in preparation for the Christmas Market next week
  • Dog walk with Miriam, Jill (who’s got up two days running!) and the house elves, followed by a mooch round the market, coffee, pastries and a good therapeutic giggle.
  • Tom Waits on Spotify
  • A glorious swim at 9 degrees with Jill this morning, with much swearing as we got in.

Now I must go and do the ironing, before spending some time with a glue gun and various other bits and bobs.

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Quite – Claudia Winkleman

Murder Before Evensong – Revd. Richard Coles

Don’t Need The Sunshine – John Osborne

139: Definitely (still) a cat person

Right up until this morning this was going to be a blog about how – after decades as a dedicated cat person – I was coming round to the idea of dogs making quite good pets really.

Over lockdown, like manymanymany other people, some of my friends became dog owners. 3.2 million pets were purchased during lockdown (how? I am not sure even Amazon were delivering gerbils and so on). As you all know, I love a good walk so am usually up for a good wander and a putting-the-world-to-rights session with friends, and the advent of furry fiends makes these even more enjoyable.

Bella, belonging to my neighbours, was the first: an adorable miniature poodle puppy who is guaranteed to be pleased to see me and is not afraid to show it. She loves to run after tennis balls and bring them back, adores other dogs and was utterly bemused when a new kitten entered their household this year. Watching her try and encourage the kitten to play by bringing it cat toys was funny to watch, especially as Ziggy was really not convinced. This week we have been watching Ziggy attempt friendly overtures to my three furry idiots through the fence – Lulu is predictably outraged and spends ages staring through to a spot where she once spotted Zig, in case he returns. Ted and Bailey treat him more as a form of entertainment.

Ziggy remains aloof.

Dobby and Kreacher then joined the gang: rescue dogs from Europe, they moved in and have proved resistant to the idea of all other dogs. They live with Miriam and Roy, where I occasionally take refuge when working from home and there is building work happening next door. (OK, I take refuge there when I’m not working as well – this is where I play D&D and drink a lot of coffee). Dobby is the original Heinz 57 mixture and Kreacher is a miniature pinscher with enormous bat ears and a pathological hatred of pigeons. They like to sit on my lap during online meetings and stare intently into the camera. They have Mark, another of the D&D party, so well-trained that with just one look he now opens the door for them to go outside and gives them their biscuit afterwards.

On Saturday mornings Miriam, Jill (when she gets up) and I often go for an early walk through the local fields, come back via the market with pastries and drink coffee. They have now banned dogs from the market as it’s getting busy again but we still walk the hounds. Kreacher barks at all pigeons and other birds just in case, tries to stalk pheasants and both of them go demented when they see another dog. This morning Miriam and I took them out again and Dobby managed to get away from me and went to bounce at another small dog, racing round it in circles and until we caught her again. We had taken Dobby and Kreacher into the middle of the field to give the lady lots of space, but she meandered her way along s-l-o-w-l-y by which time D & K were thoroughly overexcited. I got my adrenalin from that this morning rather than a cold dip… and yes Dobby, you are the reason I am still a cat person this morning!

Other dogs in my life include Marshall and Luna, who belong to my timeshare teenagers; Loki, who is a recent arrival to the gang and the world’s biggest puppy; and Jax, who belongs to a friend in London and who I get to join on the odd walk round Shoreditch when she’s on holiday. Another rescue dog, this one hates drug dealers and has happy memories of that time he saw a squirrel in the dog park. He always greets new arrivals to his home by bringing them his teddy bear, which is very sweet. Honourable mentions to Kalie and Barney – the bruise on my leg from Kalie’s head has just about gone!

Crochet, crochet and more crochet

I finally had confirmation that I have a stall at Epping Christmas Market (3 Dec, 10am – 4pm) this year again, so have been making new stock in preparation – the trick is not letting Jill buy all of it before the day as every time I post something new she puts in an order!

There will also be the usual range of earrings (including felted puddings) and other jewellery, crocheted baubles, shawls, and so on. I am particularly enjoying these little jumpers and will be making a mini clothes rail later to hang them on. The jumper pattern is by Blue Star Crochet if you want to have a go yourself.

Other things making me happy this week

  1. My first outing as one of the external advisors to Eton College Collections this week – a meeting, a short tour of their Natural History Museum and an excellent dinner. The occasion was made even better by the discovery that an ex-colleague is another advisor, so we had a good catch up.
  2. A visit to the Young V&A site – it’s starting to come together! This was followed by cuddles with gorgeous baby Rudi.
  3. The start of a friend’s 50th birthday celebrations in the pub last night – building up to a night away at a spa next weekend.
  4. Coffee out this afternoon with another friend
  5. The Elizabeth Line. 20 minutes from Paddington to Stratford!)

Things making me less happy this week

  1. Three hours at A&E/Urgent Care GP dept with Thing 1 yesterday – severe tonsillitis (which we were told would have been considerably worse had we waited till Monday
  2. Tube strikes (though I fully support their position, obvs.)
  3. Train strikes (called off but still chaos)

Right, the ironing is looking at me (though I will be watching Bruce Springsteen on Graham Norton’s show on catch-up while I do it). Same time next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Ramble Book – Adam Buxton

Fairy Tale – Stephen King

Last Tango in Aberystwyth – Malcolm Pryce

136: The out of office is ON

And that goes for this blog too…I’m typing this listening to the tide coming in over the beach at Llangrannog, West Wales, drinking a Tarquin’s Black Cherry gin and tonic. London sister, Things 2&3 and I are here for the week and my plan is to dip in the sea as much as I can, to sleep and not think about work (other than to think positive thoughts about the rest of the learning team in half term hell).

West Wales is my heart home, where I feel happiest in all the world. So I’m getting my fix!

Other things that have made me happy this week:

  • A day with a colleague at M-Shed in Bristol, where we spoke at the annual Dress and Textile Specialists conference
  • School assemblies with Really Big Pants Theatre, causing chaos with spacehoppers
  • Giving people handmade gifts
  • Trains. I like train journeys.

And now I’m signing off… Have a good week, all of you, and normal service will resume next Sunday.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Tuesday Mooney Wore Black – Kate Racculia

Doctor Who: Tales of Trenzalore/Twelfth Doctor Tales (Audible)

Straight Outta Crawley – Romesh Ranganathan

135: don’t come dancing

On Saturday afternoon I joined my lovely neighbour at the London Gymnastics Festival in Brentwood, where her daughter was performing with our local gymnastic troupe. Taking in tumbling, acrobatics and dance, it was like all my favourite bits of Olympic gymnastics but without the boring medally bits. I took my crochet with me in case I felt the urge to channel my inner Tom Daley but I didn’t even look at it. Brilliant choreography, no one got dropped on their heads (it was close a couple of times) and more spangles than you can shake a stick at – themed performances covered Harry Potter, Bugsy Malone, the Wizard of Oz, Snow White and Mamma Mia, as well as straight dance sets with music from Katy Perry to Queen. We were slightly bemused by the Royal themed one, which appeared to begin with her Maj being carried off dead, but we suspect it was a Jubilee show that was scuppered by the whole shuffling-off-the-mortal-coil thing. The final performance was by a mixed ability group, with a Greatest Showman theme, and that was amazing. The Epping troupe, who we’d come to see, were excellent – synchronised and well rehearsed.

I have always loved gymnastics, despite being completely hopeless at it. I like dance, too, and dabbled in Flamenco (very good for stressed teachers) pre-children. I like yoga but I don’t bend in any direction. I liked Zumba, too, but then we managed to move to possibly the only village in the UK in the early 2010s that didn’t have a Zumba class. Clubbercise – aerobics in a darkened room – is pretty much my limit. I like running but my knees don’t. I am pretty good at walking though, possibly as it requires very little in the way of co-ordination. That, I think, is where the problem lies.

As soon as the instructor tries to make me do something requiring moving arms and legs in different directions things start to go wrong. It can take weeks to embed a routine in my head/arms/legs – with flamenco, particularly, I had to go home and practise for ages after every lesson otherwise I had no hope of remembering it. When we did maypole dancing in primary schools and other forms of country dancing, my most enduring memory is that of our horrible teacher calling us a useless shower when we tangled ourselves in knots.

These days I like kitchen dancing when I am cooking, and have been known to break into a few steps in an empty office. I was even caught dancing in a field (to Joan Armatrading’s Drop the Pilot) by Wicksy from Eastenders early one Sunday morning while I was on a training walk and he was walking his French bulldog. It’s a song that’s impossible not to dance to, quite honestly, especially in the summer sunshine with no one else in sight (got that wrong).

Other songs that have to be danced to include:

  • Come on Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners
  • Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones
  • Just a Gigolo – David Lee Roth
  • Proud Mary/Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Waiting Room – Fugazi
  • Madison Blues – George Thorogood and the Destroyers
  • Add It Up – Violent Femmes
  • Dela – Johnny Clegg and Savuka (blame George of the Jungle)
  • Born This Way – Lady Gaga

There are more, and many of them feature on my walking/running playlist as they keep your feet going! The Things used to join in when they were smaller – Thing 3’s favourite car song was The Lion Sleeps Tonight, which he used to bob about too, and he used to get down to Uptown Funk at parties. They are less likely to dance with me in the kitchen now, but they do at least let me twirl them on occasion. One day they’ll have their own kitchens to dance in, and all I can hope for is that their taste in music improves.

Other things making me happy this week…

  • Last Sunday’s moonlight swim, with fairy lights on our heads. Winter swimming has started.
  • The new Rebus novel appearing on my Kindle
  • The autumn family day at Copped Hall, where I bought a bag of Adam’s Pearmain apples like the ones that grew in the orchard at Raglan Castle. They are sharp and crispy, and taste great even though we didn’t scrump them.
  • Catching up with an ex-colleague with a day in Eton, exploring their collections and seeing a session and having the world’s poshest school dinner. I could not manage the cheese course.
  • Crocheted Christmas decorations, including giant sprouts and big versions of the pigs in blankets

This week I am off to Bristol on Friday to present with a colleague at the Dress and Textiles Specialist conference; to the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Awards on Wednesday, and – bliss – have half term off and will be spending it in Wales.

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Believe Me! – Eddie Izzard

I Believe in Yesterday – Tim Moore

Elevation – Stephen King