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)

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

158: butter side down

I made the rookie mistake the other day of saying how healthy I’d been since taking up the whole throwing-myself-in-icy-water thing (well, edging into icy water while cursing loudly and comprehensively, anyway). Even though I immediately knocked myself on the head and whistled, I appear to be coming down with something miserable, heralded by a sore throat and a headache. Oh joy – I haven’t got time for this, I really haven’t. This is the week where we are emptying the storage unit and taking kit back to the museum (it’s happening!), testing the last of the school sessions, and generally zipping about being busybusybusy.

Honestly, at nearly 50 I should know better than to invoke the Law of the Sod, I really should. There’s a whole list of things that trigger it, including (but not limited to):

  • saying, ‘Well, at least it’s not raining’
  • dressing my children in white
  • dressing me in white
  • leaving for anywhere with ‘enough time’ to spare
  • planning an outdoor event in August
  • washing the car under a clear blue sky

The basic premise is that fate is laughing at you, and that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. God laughs when man makes plans. Butter side down. That sort of thing. Anyway, I don’t feel well and it’s all my own fault.

Things not making me grumpy this week:

  • coffee and a wander with my bestie on Tuesday morning
  • working with the asylum seeking families and children with SEND at my local primary school
  • team board games afternoon – Cobra Paw was highly entertaining!
  • Finding a copy of Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting handbook in the charity shop yesterday
  • Daffodils popping up all over the place, and at least one of my unfortunate hydrangeas not being dead

And now I’m going to have a Lemsip and a nap.

Same time next week, but less germs,

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Bullet That Missed – Richard Osman

Peace Talks/Battle Front – Jim Butcher

Unnatural History – Jonathan Kellerman

The Truth – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

153: je suis revenu!

Well, here I am back on my sofa with freezing toes after a lake swim – the parents are probably basking in the post-grandchildren peace. Happy birthday to my Dad, who has been impressed by my afternoon nap skills for the last week although is now probably relieved to get his favoured sofa back. We’ve had a lovely week in France: the kids have put away their entire bodyweight in baguettes (daily), Aunty Tan has scienced at them, and the cupboard is stocked with Nutella.

Sunday: after a marathon sleep (even I crashed for the best part of ten hours) followed by an enormous breakfast we had a peaceful day, dragging the Horde out for a walk along the Blavet in the afternoon to stretch their legs a bit. We said ‘bonjour’ to everyone we met (because that’s what you do), saw cormorants and listened to the coypu shouting, and explored the little beach below the lock. I even managed to take some photos of the Horde where they aren’t pulling faces. We walked downstream to the little bar (closed) and back, which is around 5k. The Horde surprised me by wolfing down Dad’s coq au vin – anything in a sauce was unheard of a couple of years ago, so this is progress indeed.

Monday: after another marathon breakfast (I have never seen croissants disappear so fast) we headed for Pontivy to the Lantern Rouge, a buffet restaurant offering saveurs d’Asie. If there was a prawn in it, Thing 2 tried it. Over the week she also tried Patagonian garlic scallops, crab rillettes, galettes, camembert (she’s already hooked on Brie), Port Salut and pretty much anything else on offer. From a very early age she has always been my foodie child – if you took her eye off her in a restaurant she’d be peering solemnly at other people’s dinners over the edge of their table. Her Aunty compares her expression at these moments to the T-rex in Jurassic Park – “clever girl!” I think it’s more like the Velociraptors in the kitchen.

Later that day they explored a French clothes shop where they were spoiled by their granny, Decathlon where Thing 3 spent his birthday money on ‘cool trainers’, and they got to go to a supermarket where we were all overexcited by shelves with no gaps in them, fresh vegetables and the sheer variety on show.

Tuesday: saw the beginning of my vendetta against the angry cockerel over the road, who started crowing about 6am and just kept going. He was very lucky I didn’t turn him into a chicken casserole, quite frankly, as this anti-social behaviour continued all week. Dad described me as a little oasis of calm when he came down: audio book on and embroidery in hand while I enjoyed the peace before the chaos.

After breakfast Tan and I decided we’d get in a bit of training and headed off on a walk along the river – the plan was to do 90 minutes and then turn round and come back. We covered just over 10 miles, with a total elevation gain of a whole 6m, which of course is the joy of walking along a nice flat river. The return journey was downhill all the way…

We saw loads of cormorants, herons and various birds of prey, practised with our walking poles, snacked on Tribe bars and coffee, and bonjoured everyone we passed. The river was so still it was throwing off perfect reflections of the trees.

After a nap (me) we dragged Things 2 and 3 off for another walk to the lock and back, and were delighted to see the bridge lizards out enjoying the sunshine. Less fun was Thing 3, who appeared after his shower…

‘Aunty Tan, we have a….situation…’ This turned out to be a shower disaster, where he’d managed to create a waterfall with the shower curtain which flooded not only the bathroom but the sous-sol underneath, where water was pouring through the ceiling. It took many towels, mum, Tan and I to mop up and he was restricted to baths for the rest of the week.

Wednesday: the temperature hit 17 degrees and we – along with lots of French families – hit the beach at Port-Louis. Only one idiot went in the sea though. The kids explored rock pools and collected seaglass and shells, and we walked along by the fort to see the Resistance memorial.

In the evening we ate at the Vieux Bon Temps in Baud: galettes galore, and a burger for Thing 3. The kids were impressed with the flambe-ing of the dessert pancakes (grown ups only!).

Thursday: another early start thanks to that damned chicken, but I did get to finish the embroidery. Later on, abandoning the Horde to their grandpere, mum, Tan and I headed off to visit Barbara (hello Barbara!) who likes reading my blogs, and we put the world to rights over coffee before heading off to pick up dinner and other bits and bobs. UK Lidls always feel a bit grubby, but French ones are shiny and full of exciting biscuits so I stocked up. I also got some chouquettes for the Horde to try – not choucroute, which they would not have appreciated. The boulangerie was chaos, but the religieuse made it worth it, and the bread was amazing.

The rain set in over the afternoon so we stayed in and relaxed (I had a nap) and hoped for better weather the following day…

Friday: having asked the kids what they wanted to do (a choice of a visit to Vannes to see a historic town or Larmor-Plage for the beach). The decision was unanimous, so we headed off to Vannes where Thing 3 had a s Nutella crepe, Mum and I had kouign amman and Things 1 & 2 showed no interest whatsoever in the beautiful historic buildings. Sometimes I am not sure they are mine.

View from the Ramparts at Vannes

Saturday: I frogged all the crochet I had done over the week as it was too small, after another cockerel alarm woke me at 6am. Damn. The journey back to Calais was mainly uneventful apart from some patchy fog – and we even got put on a slightly earlier train much to the perturbation of the man in the car behind us who clocked that he was Z and we were A, and therefore why were we on the train ahead of him? The terminal was packed with post-half term returners, many of whom were sporting ski racks and snarfing down Burger King. It was reassuring to note that all teenagers in cars seem to sport the same stroppy faces as my own dear Horde….

The cats were pleased to see us, I think – Thing 3 was definitely pleased to see them…

Back to school/work tomorrow! See you next week…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Dead Beat/Proven Guilty – Jim Butcher

Jingo/The Fifth Elephant – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

Family favourite films watched – Young Frankenstein, City Slickers, The Princess Bride

152: a breath of French air

I have just woken up from the longest sleep I have had in what feels like FOREVER, probably aided by the fact that yesterday London sister (aka Aunty Tan), the Things and I waved off my Beloved at 5am and headed off to France to see my parents (aka Granny and Grandpere, depending on who you’re talking to). They’ve been living in Brittany for almost 20 years, enjoying retirement with the aid of good wine and excellent baked goods.

The view from the Pont in Pont Augan yesterday evening

Specifically, they are in the Blavet valley, in a tiny village bisected by the river which is currently not in flood so Tan and I have some walking planned this week. I have also rather optimistically brought my swimming kit – neoprene boots and gloves, a woolly hat and my bathers – in the hope that we’ll pop over to Port Louis, where there’s a restaurant serving excellent hot chocolate right on the beach.

The last time we were out here was when Thing 3 was about 2, and he turned 12 last weekend so it’s been a while – in the intervening years we have all gathered in West Wales with Irish sister and her family instead but thanks to Covid this is the first time we have seen my parents since 2018. Zoom and Skype just aren’t the same.

Things 1 and 2 now loom over their Granny and it won’t be long till Thing 3 joins them, especially if he keeps eating the way he is! He’s just had a growth spurt and is now taller than his aunty and catching me up fast. Soon only the cats will be shorter than me, as the Things like to tell me.

Anyway – we were on the 7.35 crossing from Folkestone to Calais, and arrived in Pont Augan about 4.30 after a picnic lunch just past Caen. Travel sickness pills meant the kids slept most of the way, waking up only to demand a sherbet lemon or chocolate lime (travel sweets of choice) and so Tan and I could sing along to the travel playlist and spot a LOT of birds of prey who were perching on posts all along the roadsides. Sparrowhawks, buzzards, kestrels, a merlin and a hobby, and even some harriers – the cloud and fog were keeping them at ground level but once we crossed into Brittany and the sun came out (justifying Tan wearing her sunglasses on her head since 5am) we started to see them soaring instead. The kids were supremely uninterested, but there we are.

The Things and I went for a quick walk to stretch our legs and see the goats before dinner (lasagne – a traditional welcome from Mum). Thing 2 made friends with the dog next door and we wandered over to the bridge and back to see the river. Bed was before 9pm for everyone… Today will be a quiet day, I think!

Seconds later the dog had all 4 paws in the air for tummy rubs

So, the out of office is on and I am looking forward to a week of downtime. I have brought a new crochet project and some embroidery, the kindle is stocked and no one is to ask me anything about storage, interactives or museums in general.

Thing 1 has just surfaced and informed me that she misses the cats, but unlike when her brother got homesick at Scout camp for the same reason I don’t think her dad will drive to collect her. Of 2 and 3 there is no sign as yet. Happy half term!

In the other direction…

What else?

DPD and Parcelfleet joined Evri on the list of couriers from hell – Addison Lee are on a last warning.

I did finish my crochet socks though. I love a crochet sock.

Pattern is Magdalen Sock by Vicki Brown, main yarn is Lovecrafts Paintbox Sock

Next week, what I did on my holidays.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Blood Rites/Dead Beat – Jim Butcher

Feet of Clay/Jingo – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

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