119: fifty before fifty

Today it’s my birthday and I have reached the grand old age of 49. Most of me still works, after a fashion and in the case of my knees with a considerable amount of grumbling. The hair is probably a bit greyer under the various purple and red hues I apply to it, there’s a few more laugh lines and it takes longer for the sleep crease by my nose to disappear of a morning. I spoke to someone the other week on her 49th birthday and she’d made a list of 50 things to do before 50. One of them was to do a cold water swim minus the wetsuit, and I said I’d do that one with her, but 50 things in a year is an awful lot. That’s nearly one a week!

Rest assured, dear readers, I will not be making a list of things to do before I am 50 – well, I will inevitably be making innumerable lists before I am 50 but they will be things like:

  • make vet appointments for cats
  • order repeat prescriptions
  • find your glasses
  • don’t forget your lunch
  • tidy the shed

and other such prosaic things. I do not think those things would be on a bucket-list affair. Those probably have things like hot air balloons, sky dives, skipping up Mount Everest. Things that take a lot of organising.

I would like to:

  • swim in the sea
  • swim in a river!
  • make a dent in the shelf of shame
  • walk the Essex Way but not all at once – over a few weekends with friends would be my plan
  • hike up Yr Wyddfa
  • visit the rest of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries (four down, three to go)
  • tidy the shed (it has to be done.)

That’s seven, then – so lots of room for ideas.

I have celebrated so far with a relaxed barbecue in the back garden yesterday and I have been for a swim this morning with some friends. My gift from my beloved is a new second-hand shed that we collected the other day, which needed repainting, some patching with new planks, and general TLC. It’s now in its new home in the garden, waiting for me to hoover out the cobwebs and fill it with things, which means the original shed will have enough space to work in! What was lovely when we went to collect the shed was seeing the original owner’s daughter zipping round the garden on a bike that belonged to eldest stepdaughter originally, which we’d given away in lockdown – reduce, reuse, recycle in action! Literally, in this case.

London sister gave me an excellent Tilley hat for adventuring in (to go with the adventure pants) and broached the idea of doing an ultramarathon next year…apparently one isn’t actually expected to run the thing, and I love a good walk, so why not….

Other things making me happy this week:

  • finishing the stashbusting Summer Night shawl
  • starting the Satuko shawl in a gorgeous yellow colourway
  • evening swim on Thursday
  • the museum’s 150th birthday celebrations
  • the end of Thing 1’s GCSEs
  • new haircut
  • walking through sunny fields

Things making me really f*cking angry this week:

The Supreme Court of the United States. Welcome to the old world order: backstreet abortions, maternal mortality rates shooting up, desperate actions by desperate women who for whatever reason (and those reasons are f*ck all to do with a bunch of conservative men and one traitor to her sex) can’t carry a baby to term, don’t want to have a baby, aren’t ready for a baby, whose lives will be put at risk by pregnancy, who have been raped. Women who cannot afford a baby, let alone the hospital bills for having the baby in the first place.

This is not about babies or children and the right to life: if that was the case they’d do a lot more about gun ownership. Only weeks ago the same court struck down a New York state law requiring people to prove they have ‘proper cause’ to carry a concealed weapon. This, in a country where gun violence has overtaken motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents.

This is not about babies. This is not about children.

This is about power, who holds it and who doesn’t.

It ain’t women, and it ain’t kids. Guess who’s left.

Rant over, at least on here.

Kirsty x

The Sacred Bridge – Anne Hillerman

The Broken Cage – Sarah Painter

Ingathering: The Complete People Stories – Zenna Henderson

118: what do you want to be when you grow up?

This week I was invited to be part of an event at New City College’s Epping Forest campus, which is where Thing 1 is going in September to study Theatrical, Special Effects, Hair and Media Make-up. She has a plan: she wants to do this A-level equivalent qualification and then wants to be apprenticed to a tattoo artist. It’ll use her art skills, she enjoys it and there are a number of career routes she can go down after this. University is not for everyone, and if that’s the route she wants to take then my job is to support her (I may draw the line at being a tester for mad make up though). I had no clue what I wanted to do at 16 (I was 29 by the time I worked it out) so this sort of plan is pretty impressive.

The event was a business breakfast followed by a speed-dating style mock interview session with some of the students, which I always enjoy as I’m really nosy I like interviewing people. It was also an opportunity for me to network with the curriculum managers whose courses the museum could be supporting. We discussed cultural capital, which has slipped down the priority list even further since Covid. I have already been in to the college a few times to work with the childcare students about learning through play, and a few years back I spoke to the Skills for Life group about careers.

Organised by Jill, the Industry Placements and Work Experience Manager for the New City College group, the breakfast and interviews were a great event where I got to meet an adorable wedding and bespoke evening dress designer, a local policeman, people from the local secondary schools, people from a nursery franchise who have worked with my beloved for years, an ex-policeman now specialising in safeguarding and business development, and a transformational life coach (OK, this was my friend Miriam) as well as others.

I met lots of students, too – well, 12 of them, as we each saw three students in each ‘speed’ session. We’d been given a set of questions in three sections, and the plan was that with the first student we’d ask questions from the first section (the usual ‘why this role/why you’ queries); with the second question and student we’d ask them more about themselves; and the third student would be asked questions about career and ambition. None of the students had any idea they were about to be subjected to this, and had been dragged kicking and screaming (or at least slouching and mumbling) from their learning rooms.

We had a real mix of abilities and courses: childcare and cabin crew in the first session; drama and Skills for Life in session two; and business and IT in sessions three and four. Some of the students were clear, confident and launched into the spirit of things. One of the cabin crew students made me laugh (internally of course) when I asked her what she’d do if a customer arrived who was late for check in and was being quite forceful: her immediate reaction was ‘call security’ and if – and only if – the customer apologised to her properly then she’d talk to them. Then she told me that the most important skill needed in the cabin crew role was communication and customer service. Bless. The business students all wanted to do events management, as they’d clearly just had a module on this, and the IT students just wanted to lurk in a basement and solve people’s problems remotely (why yes, The IT Crowd was actually a documentary, didn’t you know?).

Based on a true story?

My favourite group were the Skills for Life students, many of whom needed a lot of encouragement to come and talk to us. Jill brought me a particularly anxious one with a ‘come and talk to my friend Kirsty, she’s lovely’. The student, A, was so clearly uncomfortable that I set aside the questions and we just had a chat: A told me that they didn’t know what they wanted to do, but they really loved video games and drawing. Their parents had told them that this was rubbish and they’d never get a job doing that, so we talked about all the different aspects of game design (storyboarding, writing, artwork, sound design etc) that weren’t coding and I told them about Rex Crowle and his career in game design. I asked them if they’d heard about Big Creative Education who do game design courses as well as other creative skills, and then at the end of the session I introduced them to another lovely person rather than leave them floundering. I made a point of speaking to them at the end of the session, giving them the web address of BCE, and suggesting they looked at the journey planner on TfL.

I spent some time after meeting A fuming quietly about people who don’t support their kids: it’s really hard to remember at times, but our dreams are not theirs.

Me.

Another student from this group, E, was also brought over to me. Her passion was drag shows, which she travels all over the country to see, and she wanted to be a make up artist because of this. She had no idea about the theatrical and special effects make up course, so I signposted that and suggested she spoke to her tutors about it. We didn’t do any interview questions, but both A and E went away feeling reassured and having broken through a barrier about talking to unknown adults.

Miriam and I debriefed over lunch at Fresko in Debden Broadway and put the world to rights before heading home for an afternoon of meetings, an evening mercy dash bearing coffee to Harlow, and ferrying the kids to Scouts where Thing 3 managed to get covered in tie dye despite wearing an apron.

Things making me happy this week:

  • the epilogue for the last D&D campaign
  • building my character for the next campaign
  • a cool pool on very hot days
  • fresh strawberries, loganberries and raspberries from the garden
  • watching the parakeets
  • the 11 degree drop in the bedroom temperature last night! The cats were also grateful (see a melted Lulu in this week’s cover image)
  • more excellent course feedback
  • making jewellery for the school fete
  • tiny coot chicks cheeping on the lake this morning

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

A Question of Identity/The Soul of Discretion/The Comforts of Home/The Benefit of Hindsight- Susan Hill

The Midnight Hour – Elly Griffiths

117: once upon a time

A long time ago when the world was young, a girl moved to a new city and fell, most unexpectedly, in love. Not with a person, as you might expect, but with the place. There were a few ill-judged flings along the way, but we all make mistakes.

This was not the plan. I had a perfectly good plan, which was to get a few years teaching experience under my belt in the Smoke and then move back to Wales. I had a term’s supply teaching in a school in Newham, so I’d found a flat in Forest Gate only a few streets away from where my grandparents had lived when they were first married. My parents drove me to London with all my worldly possessions, and as we headed further and further round the M25 my dad got very a bit grumpy and decided to come off a couple of junctions too early which led us down through the admittedly terrifying streets of Edmonton and Tottenham. He was not happy. It was not a civilised bit of London, compared to where London sister was living in leafy Ealing.

Eventually we made it to the right bit of London, which – being on the edge of Wanstead Flats – was at least much leafier and my flat was lovely. Each day I would hop on a bus down Green Street to the enormous school I was working in, travelling past shops full of glorious sari fabrics, vegetables I’d never even heard of before, Caribbean takeaways, Indian sweet shops, the West Ham stadium, noisy markets, multiple languages in my ears and people everywhere. It was chaotic and colourful and completely new to me.

I next lived in Plaistow, near an African church full of chattering families in bright wax print outfits; then Kersti and I moved to Whitechapel. Whitechapel was noisy and scary at times: if the wind was in the right direction we’d be woken up by the muezzin calling the local Muslims to prayer at the East London Mosque and the walk from the station in the dark was not pleasant. The kitchen tiles were held on by blu-tack, the heaters were broken downstairs and the radiators upstairs were rusting away, we had the worst letting agents in the world but the balcony looked out over a disused Jewish cemetery which was spooky and atmospheric and magical. The walk through Bethnal Green to our favourite pub took us through every sort of housing: post-war flats, streets of ‘Improved Industrial Dwellings’ built around the same time as the museum, shabbier (but gentrifying) Georgian streets, past a listed Brutalist block which was being turned into luxury flats that none of the previous council tenants could ever have afforded, an early tower block, past workers’ dwellings and Peabody Buildings. I wrote a tour of the area a couple of years back, taking in a circle around the museum and exploring the phases of social building and philanthropy over the past century or so.

I worked in Wapping, surrounded by evidence of the past in the shape of warehouse buildings, Execution Dock, historic pubs, cobbled streets and peeks through tall buildings to the river. Three years working in Chelsea at the National Army Museum showed me another part of London which was much shinier and elegant, but I never fell in love with it the way I had with the East End.

Holding forth on the Limehouse Cut

By the time I moved across to work at the Museum of London Docklands in 2005, there was no hope. I immersed myself in the history of the East End (and got paid for it!). My specialist subject was migration and diversity, even writing a unit for the London Curriculum on the subject. The move to my current role means I don’t have a much of an excuse for social history any more, so this week I jumped at the chance to deliver a training session for our local teaching alliance on local history and using museums. Over an hour and a half we took in London’s oldest stretch of canal, a lost river, a school which was bombed the the First World War, London’s original Chinatown, a Hawksmoor church, a couple of old pubs, wharves, the beginnings of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the East India Company, Ian McKellen’s pub and Canary Wharf before a visit to the museum. Luckily the sun stayed out for us, and it was great to see the trainees again – they’d all just got their PGCE results, and many were looking forward to starting their first teaching jobs in September. ITT has always been one of my favourite bits of working in museums, as they’re my visitors of the future. I’m looking forward to next year already!

Making me happy this week:

  • working at the Digital Accountancy Show at the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium for We are FTW. This year I got to be the voice of god and make all the announcements. I will also never run out of socks again.
  • The usual Sunday swim with J followed by the apres-swim hot choc and a bacon roll
  • Getting excellent feedback on the first part of my current course
  • Lunch with M, R and E with added babies
  • Saturday dog walks followed by coffee and enormous croissants
DAS 2022. Birds-eye view from the 4th floor, home to the NFL suite. Really I was scoping out the free notebooks.

This week I’m back in ‘proper’ work mode as we count down to the museum’s 150th birthday in a fortnight. I can tell you the history of it if you want!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Villager – Tom Cox

Attack and Decay – Andrew Cartmel

The Vows of Silence – Susan Hill

110: so what does a typical week look like?

This week our new learning facilitator joined the team, after a gap of five months since we broke the last one left us to go freelance. It’s a funny time to be recruiting for a museum team, as we don’t have a physical museum and we’re all working in interdisciplinary mode to support the different projects. This new one – we shall call her E – was a printmaker and an art teacher before she joined the gang this week.

A big museum welcome to our new starter

One of the questions several of the candidates asked us when we were interviewing for the role was ‘what does a typical week look like?’. Once we’d done the sage ‘oh yes, what a great question’ bit, followed by the slightly hysterical laughter bit, we were quite honestly able to tell them that at the moment there is no such thing. When we are back in the museum next year (from my lips to God’s ears, as the saying goes) things might settle down as we can set up a programme, but right now we’re all about R&D, testing new sessions, keeping ourselves on the radar and supporting each other’s programmes (formal, informal and creative). Formal, for me, means Early Years in formal settings right the way through to teachers – both serving and trainee – and post-grad students. Informal is families, early years informal settings, and pretty much everyone else. Creative is pop-ups, festivals, salons and everything else.

This week, for example, was only four days thanks to the Easter bank holiday but I like to think we packed enough in for five. E joined us on Tuesday morning and we introduced her around the museum, dragged her off for lunch in the staff canteen, made her sit in on Teams meetings about projects she knew nothing about (to be fair, they are in the development stage!) and abandoned her to the tender mercies of the IT team. Wednesday started at South Kensington and then ended in East London with a DT teacher training session for my favourite teaching alliance, including the bit where I didn’t have enough resources and challenged one team to find their own in the classroom (amazing result) – the outcome was a brilliant parrot house from the Think Small session, created from lunch bags and things they found around the room.

Students using their initiative

Thursday was a stay and play session for early years children with speech and language delays in Whitechapel, where we were testing a sensory play kit designed by Play Build Play, followed by more time at the museum. Friday was back at South Ken, where we had meetings, lunch in the garden and then spent a couple of hours prepping for a filming project, making fans and colour samples.

Cutting and sticking – yes, this is my job

Another week might have seen us out with the blue blocks at a pop-up, a play street or a school playground; running an afterschool club; delivering sessions in a classroom or hall; working at a youth centre with a designer; filming with various creatives; or any number of other things. Some weeks have a lot of meetings in, these days mainly on Teams or Zoom so we do get excited when we meet actual people. Sometimes we go and have brainstorm sessions at another museum, or go and see other galleries. Some weeks we get a day at a desk! I love the days when I’m out working with people of all sorts of ages, interacting, building, playing and making up stories and mad ideas. Equally I love being with the team, bouncing ideas around and problem solving, being creative and thinking about the potential for the new spaces we’ll be working in. I love researching and creating sessions, using museum objects to inspire. I consider a teacher training session to be a failure if at least one of the trainees doesn’t ask me how to get into museum learning, and this week it was a whole table of them.

But a typical week? There’s no such thing. Thank heavens.

See you after the next one!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Piece of my Heart/Friend of the Devil – Peter Robinson

Insidious Intent – Val McDermid

Amongst Our Weapons – Ben Aaronovitch

Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor Tales (Audible)

109: wake me up for tea

You find me at the end of a week off, in which I have done very little that was useful but a lot that was good for my soul: afternoon naps, long walks with friends, family and dogs, relaxed coffees, crafting, reading and a bit of cooking. My beloved claims that there is no such thing as a day off, but that is because he takes Monty Don’s ‘Jobs for the weekend’ section to heart as well as all the other things that a garden requires. I, on the other hand, am of the opinion that if you take a day off the jobs (and the garden) will still be there afterwards and the weeds probably won’t have taken over the world. Unless it’s sticky grass or wild garlic, in which case all bets are off.

On Sunday, post-blog, I met up with a friend in the wilds of Hackney to see Damien Jurado playing at EArtH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney), a gig which had been postponed at least once and possibly twice thanks to the pandemic but which was well worth the wait. Jurado plays small, interesting venues – we have seen him previously St John on Bethnal Green church, at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster and this time the venue was a reclaimed Art Deco cinema auditorium reached via a most unprepossessing doorway on Stoke Newington High Street. After a pint at the Brewdog bar a couple of doors along and up a few flights of stairs you arrive in the auditorium, which was locked up after the last film showed there in 1984 (Scarface, apparently) and left derelict while the rest of the building went through the usual ex-cinema permutations of snooker hall and community venue – not Bingo, for a change.

It’s a lovely space, still in need of a lot of restoration but the original Art Deco features remain and with simple bench seating and a wide stage the acoustics were wonderful. Add in an atmospheric setlist and good audience engagement and the result was a great evening. We particularly liked the young man at the end who begged for his favourite song, with plaintive pleases, and got his way – I liked the proper last song, too, with snatches of the Grateful Dead’s Morning Dew scattered through.

Damien Jurado (r) and Josh Gordon

On Wednesday my beloved and I dragged the Things out for a family walk. Thing 1 sulked all the way up the hill but was won over by the tiny calves in the field and the friendly pig – I think we all were, to be fair. We’ve been very lucky with the weather this week, and on Friday the garden was full of one of the Timeshare Teenagers and friends, painting henna tattoos on each other and recovering from what seemed to have been a pretty heavy night out. Other walks have been in the early morning, finishing with coffee and croissants at M’s house in the garden while fending off the muddy paws of Dobby and Kreacher, who assume all laps are for sitting. These are two rescue dogs, who are now so used to the sight of me that they have given up barking when I walk in to the house for D&D sessions. M and I also had a mooch around North Weald Market yesterday, where we marvelled at the sheer quantity of polyester neon on display, pondered the possibility of all the blingy pictures refracting sunlight and starting fires, and were bemused at the current fashion for wearing fluffy mule sliders out in public with socks.

Family walk – the return leg

I’ve also been messing around with making some very geeky earrings from D20s and meeples, am up to date on the Temperature Galaxy and ‘Travel by Tardis’ is halfway done. There’s half a simnel cake left (it was a most welcome apres-swim treat this morning!) and Thing 2 and I tried our hand at making macarons the other day as well. I did do some gardening, weeding the wild garlic out of my little patch and planting a couple of saxifraga and a Bleeding Heart. I can see the shoots of this year’s physalis coming up, hollyhocks are poking through, and I don’t seem to have killed the hydrangea so with any luck I’ll have a nice show this summer.

On Tuesday I am back to work, so I am off to top up my nap. I blame my father. I must also do my Easter bunny impression and distribute some eggs, as the natives are getting restless.

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

In a Dry Season/Cold is the Grave/Aftermath/The Summer That Never Was/Playing With Fire/Strange Affair – Peter Robinson

Insidious Intent – Val McDermid

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Novels vol 4 (Audible)

108: a couple of anniversaries

This week I celebrated not only the 4th anniversary since our stroppiest cat and this week’s cover star, Lulu, came to live with us, but also my 20th anniversary of working in museums – a long time, I agree, but a decision I have never regretted since making the leap out of the classroom way back in 2002.

One question I get asked a lot, usually by teacher training students who are already looking ahead in terms of their careers, is ‘how did you end up in museums?’ ‘By accident’ is my usual answer. Back in the heady days of properly funded Education Business Partnerships, when teachers not only got to go and do CPD but had supply cover paid for by the EBP as well, I went on a couple of training days – one at the Golden Hinde, where we got dressed up in Tudor sailor gear and spent the day doing the sort of thing children got to do on a school trip, and one at the National Army Museum where we experienced object handling and various other aspects of museum learning. I don’t think I had realised that working as an educator in museums was an actual career choice until the then head of education there, Andy Robertshaw, said that they were recruiting and on the off-chance I applied. I had just started an MA in Museums and Galleries in Education at what was then the Institute of Education (now gathered under the wider UCL umbrella) but not with any intention of moving out of teaching, more as a way to be a better humanities co-ordinator. I moved house a month later, and hadn’t heard anything, and a few months after that in February half term I had an irate phone call from the HR team there asking if I’d be attending the interview the following day. Somewhat bewildered and battered from OFSTED the week before and – quite honestly – out of my head on Benylin Day and Night tablets from the inevitable half term germs, I went for the interview. To this day I remember very little other than ranting about the marginalisation of history in the curriculum but something must have worked as they gave me the job.

I loved it. I got to teach the subject I loved but without parents evenings, PE or music lessons in the week, and on weekends and in the holidays we did family events, live interpretation, talks and conferences – in that team, we all did everything. Interminably, at times: if someone gave me the kit and the powerpoint I suspect I could still do the Florence Nightingale session, fondly known as the Mary and Flo Show, or the Civil War. I moved to Museum of London Docklands three years later, where I got to learn a lot about London (one of my other great loves) and create a lot of sessions, and then to the V&A Museum of Childhood in 2017 (now the Young V&A, of course) where I am helping create a new museum.

There have been tricky moments, I’m not denying that: the repeated restructures of the last few years and seeing the impact of these on colleagues has been really hard. Every so often I throw my toys out of the museum pram and declare that I can’t possibly work for them any more and last year that tantrum lasted about six months instead of a couple of weeks, but then I remembered that I actually do love my job and want to see the project through.

I still tell those teacher training students and serving teachers who ask me that it’s the best job ever, and happily attend careers sessions and work weeks to talk about what not only I do but all the other people who make a museum work: kids assume that the only staff are the ones they see, like the security, shop and front of house teams, and are amazed when they hear about the back of house team who make sure everything runs smoothly. Mine’s the best job, though.

As if by magic, the Shopkeeper appeared

This week the great shopkeeper in the sky appeared to take beloved author David McKee off back to reality. Those of us of a certain era will remember the bowler-hatted and suited Mr Benn and his visits to the fancy dress shop where he was cast into a series of costumed adventures before heading back to his peaceful existence on Festive Road. King Rollo was also his creation, and younger children will know Elmer the Elephant, the mischievous patchwork pachyderm.

My favourite, and one which I have read literally hundreds of times to both my own kids at bedtimes and to classes of children at storytime, is Not Now, Bernard, the story of a boy who finds a monster in the garden. He tries to tell his mum and dad about the monster but they’re too busy to listen. Poor Bernard gets eaten by the monster, who proceeds to go into the house and create chaos, but the parents don’t even notice their son has been eaten. The bemused monster finds himself tucked up with milk and a teddy bear.

This was a wonderful book to read aloud: the children recognised the distracted parents and gleefully acted out the repetitive ‘Not NOW, Bernard’ lines as we read through. I can still hear Thing 2’s baby croak as she joined in. Thank you, David McKee.

See you next week,

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Dry Bones That Dream/Innocent Graves/Wednesday’s Child/Dead Right – Peter Robinson

On the Bright Side – Hendrik Groen

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Novels vol 4 (Audible)

106: coming to you from sunny NI

This week’s blog is coming to you from a sunny Northern Ireland, where I’m on godmother duty for my adorable nephew’s first communion. And I’m feeling pretty sunny, too: it’s the first time I’ve seen my youngest sister and her family since 2018 thanks to Covid cancelling both our 2020 holiday and our trip over for the niece’s confirmation.

Clutching our shiny new passports, London sister and I met at Heathrow on Friday, planning to do the bag drop, get a nice lunch and relax… what actually happened was a queue for over an hour for the automated bag drop, a mad dash to grab a meal deal to eat on the plane and then we sat near the gate for another hour plus as the flight was delayed and delayed. Making faces at small children and chatting to elderly gents is only entertaining for so long. We finally took off just as we should have been landing at Belfast City, but we did get free crisps on the flight. Just as well as the flight attendant was about to get bitten, I was so hungry by then.

It’s so good to see my little sisters: we sat and chattered all evening, covering everything under the sun, decorating the house as a surprise for my nephew’s big day and blowing up balloons.

Balloons!

She promised me a field full of little lambs and sure enough they are skipping about and making me wonder if I can stash one in my suitcase to come back with. I have begun to make friends with them in preparation, lurking nonchalantly on our side of the hedge and smiling in a non-scary sort of way.

My nephew and niece have thrashed me at Harry Potter trivial pursuits, we’ve cried with laughter at S bouncing T off the bouncy castle (a first communion tradition!) and I did get a bit tearful watching my godson make his first communion.

Three sisters

First Communions are a huge event over here, with all the little boys in grown up suits and the girls in bridesmaid type dresses. They all got to do a reading or another part of the ceremony, and the church was full of proud families as well as many watching via the live feed. There’s a scrum afterwards to take photos on the altar, and the kids make a fortune from relatives.

I was slightly less fond when the combination of too many sausages and a bouncy castle had the inevitable messy result, but it’s been such a lovely day. He and I also had a long and philosophical discussion about confession and what happens if you’ve been really good all week and haven’t got anything to confess: do you make it up and then confess to lying the next week? He tells me he’s probably in credit as he only confessed to throwing a ball at his sister once but he’s actually done it a lot which should keep the priest busy for a few months to come. He’s a very curious child, so the priest will most likely have a lot of questions to answer, starting with ‘why does the Body of Christ taste like cardboard?’ and working up from there.

Hopefully we’ll manage a holiday together this summer so we can all spend more time together – I had the advantage of growing up near all my cousins, but these two and the Things don’t have that luxury.

This morning the new communicant has nagged his dad into taking him to mass again, so we are enjoying the peace and contemplating leftover cake for breakfast. Now excuse me, I’m off to make the most of being with my sisters before flying back later.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Henrik Groen – Henrik Groen

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Novels vol 3 (Audible)

The Hanging Valley/Past Reason Hated/Careless Love – Peter Robinson

105: Where did the sunshine go?

Here we are after a week of glorious sunshine, where South Kensington got all continental with people eating outside with no coats on, milk-white English ankles (other shades of ankle are available) were tentatively exposed to the air for the first time in months, and garden centres positively hummed with aged mothers being wheeled out for tea and cake on Mother’s Day weekend. We have woken up today with mist, cloud and a miserable forecast for the week ahead. not to mention losing an hour’s sleep. Typical. This being Britain, someone even mentioned snow in a cheerfully doomladen sort of way.

I, of course, chose this morning to eschew my wetsuit for my weekly dip and swim in skins (aka my mermaid two-piece, before there is general alarm and despondency). One of last week’s swimmers mentioned that not wearing a suit meant no disconcerting wetsuit creep as the cold water seeps up from your ankles to your nethers and beyond, and since this is the hardest bit of cold water swimming I thought I’d give it a go. Also, the water was back in double figures (just) after the aforementioned week of glorious sunshine. I left my wetsuit at home just so I didn’t chicken out when I got to the crunch, and I’m glad I did – the water felt amazing, and it was much easier getting in. I didn’t stay in long and the afterdrop was surprising but a couple of hot cross buns and cups of hot chocolate did the trick nicely.

10.9°c. No susnhine, no wetsuit, no sense.

It was definitely the best way to start Mother’s Day. I have continued the good work by doing some laundry and being whinged at by Thing 1 as there was ‘NO food in the house, Mum, NOTHING’. Not being some terrible Victorian parent, dear reader, there was food in the house but she didn’t like any of it and couldn’t possibly eat it, and could she go and explore the freezer in case there were any overlooked peas stuck in the ice. My beloved’s preparation for MD this year was ‘It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow? Alexa? Announce: kids, it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow’ so I bought myself some Ferrero Rocher at the Co-op when I went to rectify the parlous famine occurring in my kitchen.

Thing 2 gave me a bag of American Hard Gums and Thing 3’s school made sure that all the kids had three daffodils tied with hairy string to hand over, but I do miss the days when they would come home from nursery or school clutching a card covered in pastel tissue paper and still damp PVA which we weren’t allowed to look at till Sunday. I still have the little sticker-covered yoghurt bottles filled with bouquets of tissue paper flowers on their pipe cleaner stalks – a bit faded now but still sweet. I sent my mum a planter with spring flowers (forgot the card though, sorry Mum) and suggested we took some flowers up to my Beloved’s mum’s grave (which was what reminded him of Mother’s Day). I expect she too still misses the days when we came home with sticky paper cards and wonky daffodils.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there, and to all those aunties and friends who fill in when we need a helping hand. I’m sending you a virtual home made card, still sticky with PVA, and a handful of spring flowers tied with hairy string. You’re not sharing my Ferrero Rocher though.

See you next week, when I’ll be coming to you from (hopefully) sunny Northern Ireland – my godson celebrates his first communion and there are rumours of a bouncy castle.

Kirsty x

The Mangle Street Murders – M.R.C. Kasasian

Gallows View/A Dedicated Man/A Necessary End – Peter Robinson

On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Henrik Groen – Henrik Groen

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Novels vol 3 (Audible)

104: Happy second birthday, WKDN!

Well, here we are with post 104 and that means I’ve been knocking these weekly rambles out for a whole two years.

And what an odd two years they have been. I have just looked back at week one, where I made a list of projects I was going to finish and some of them did get done, but several didn’t. Let’s mark them as ongoing (all the best action lists do this) and move on to the next item. We are still in the grip of Covid-19, despite the prime idiot’s best efforts to convince us otherwise by throwing parties and stuff: once again, this week more of my friends and family have tested positive at the same time than at any other point. It’s the second time round for one friend’s daughter, and the first time was less than six weeks ago. The tube is ridiculously busy and so many people aren’t wearing masks (I forgot mine a week ago and felt quite reckless, but after the person I was with tested positive two days later I have remembered it every day). It almost feels as if Covid is ‘soooo 2021’ and now we have to get on with worrying about nuclear buttons and Putin’s ‘special military operations’ instead.

This week I worked at an awards event – a black tie do, hosted by the fabulous Robert Llewellyn (aka Kryten from Red Dwarf). He was very professional and a thoroughly nice chap, and I got to be a glamorous assistant and hand awards to the presenting sponsors as they came up to announce the winners. One of the speakers has since tested positive for Covid, so I am still testing daily as I’m out and about in schools a lot at the moment and I don’t really want to be the one that carries it back in with me! I wore a red velvet M&S dress that I had grabbed in a charity shop without even trying it on as the last time I had to dress up was for this same event in 2019, and – quite honestly – who still fits into anything from back then?? Luckily it fit like a dream, and for £6.50 it was definitely worth it.

I finally got home at just before 1am, in a cab with a lovely driver who talked to me all the way home which meant I at least stayed awake! Back in London for teaching the next morning, I was so tired that I had a proper senior moment with my brain on autopilot: I got off the DLR three stops early, and had to get on a bus to get to the school I was working at. The sessions – Imagine This, delivered by artist, writer, facilitator and all round fabulous person Julia Deering – were a good way to spend a morning. Designed to get kids thinking about set and costume design, they are an explosion of colour and imagination with the end result of amazing jungles, ice caves, castles, restaurants, game worlds and seasides peopled by heroes, magical characters and (on this occasion) Sonic the Hedgehog. I’m back at the school this week with the ‘Think Small’ session. I always think you get the measure of a school as you walk through the door, and this one is so welcoming and friendly. The pupils are confident and happy, and keen to share their ideas – we’ve really enjoyed spending time with them. I was at another school in the afternoon to cover a coding club session, and somehow I made it back home without falling asleep anywhere – two days later I’m still shattered, though I did make it out to swimming this morning and for a walk yesterday. If anything has proved I can no longer party like it’s my birthday, it’s a midweek late night….

The #8 bus to Bethnal Green, looking surprised I was still awake

And that’s been week 104 – here’s to year 3 and more weekly rambles through the life of a middle aged muddle.

Same time next week then, gang!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Influential Magic – Deanna Chase

The Mangle Street Murders – M.R.C. Kasasian

Children of the Revolution – Peter Robinson

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Novels vol 3 (Audible)

102: growing up isn’t easy…for the parent

This was secondary school week, when our year six kids find out which school they’ll be off to in September. For the lucky ones (including us) it’s your first choice school but others may not have fared so well. In our village, it’s a bit of a lottery – the majority of the children will have selected the school in Epping and will probably have got in, but if they’re in the half of the village that’s past the library they won’t be entitled to school transport as they’re closer geographically to the school in Ongar. Unfortunately as it’s so oversubscribed they haven’t got a chance of actually getting into Ongar – we got Thing 2 and 3 in on the sibling rule as Thing 1 started there when it wasn’t oversubscribed as Ongar parents didn’t want to send their darlings to a new school.

This is the first year the school has had a full cohort of students from Y7-Y13, as it’s been building year by year as a new academy. It has its issues (a severe shortage of maths teachers this year) and I shall be watching their options system with interest as it appears to be more focused than I’d like on the government’s EBacc targets than on the children’s own wishes, but we’ve been happy with it for all the kids. One of the reasons I chose Ongar was because it had more of a creative focus, and you all know creativity is one of my favourite things, but that does appear to be changing. Thing 2 will be making her GCSE options next year, so I will have my eye on it.

Still, that is not the subject of this week’s blog really – it’s more of a long-winded intro. This post is really about me, and Thing 3, and growing up and stuff. He wants to be allowed to walk home from school on his own which might not seem like a big thing in the grand scheme, but…

…one of the best things that’s come out of the pandemic is that I’m still working from home quite a lot and doing the school run a few afternoons a week. For me this is still a novelty. Apart from when I was on various maternity leaves, when school run was a pain as it meant wrestling the others into a buggy and coaxing a tired little one along the mile walk home up a big hill, this is the first time I’ve really had to do this. Our wonderful childminders did it for years, which I can’t complain about as we couldn’t have managed without them, but not me.

So, three afternoons a week I put the laptop to sleep and head off up to the school to collect Thing 3, and I get to brace myself as he hurls himself across the playground at me for a hug. I do the playground thing and chat to other parents, and I know which parents are attached to which child. I get to walk home and chat with my son as he tells me all about his day. This week we’ve compared secondary school notes. Sometimes I’m able to return the many favours my friends have done for me when the Central Line has failed or when I was ill last year, and pick up their children as well. It’s been easier to say yes to playdates. It sounds daft, but these are some of the things I missed as a working parent – once, when Thing 1 was in Year 4, my beloved and I both did school run and another parent did a double take and said ‘I didn’t realise you two were together‘. That was how often I wasn’t there…

And now he is into his last two terms at primary school and from September he’ll be on the bus with his sisters or my beloved will be picking up, and I won’t get to do it any more. So, sorry son, but I’m making the most of you while I still can.

A finish or two

This week I have a couple of days off as I didn’t have any time off in half term, and am plotting and planning what to do with that free time! I’m thinking the new Folkwear Basics jacket, and maybe an afternoon nap or two.

Until week 103 (wow!) then…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Library at the End of the World – Felicity Hayes-McCoy

The Innocents – Harlan Coben

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Novels vol 2 (Audible)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry/The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce