58: head, shoulders, knees and toes

I came home from work on Wednesday and as the evening progressed, my foot began to hurt. I mean, it really hurt. So much so that I couldn’t put any weight on it – some of the time. And then sometimes it was fine. I hadn’t done anything to it that I knew of – no mis-steps, or ankle turns, or falling off or into anything. It just hurt. Scientific exploration (oh ok, poking at it till I discovered where it hurt most) revealed an area just between the top of my foot and the ankle bone where it was tender but not swollen but didn’t tell me why. I’d been on my feet all day – except when I’d been crawling on the floor cutting up plastazote for boxing the handling collection. I’d been wearing Converse (of course) rather than anything impractical – I wouldn’t walk a marathon in them but they’re pretty practical the rest of the time.

So, knowing I had an ankle support somewhere I went on a hunt for it. The ankle support dates from when I twisted my ankle at an Aerosmith gig. Don’t ask. Anyway.

Twenty five years ago I possessed a wrist support. That was it. I worked, mostly. This week, in the course of the hunt for the ankle bandage I discovered I now have:

  • the ankle support (phew)
  • multiple random lengths of tubigrip bandage for ankles and wrists (I assume)
  • two elbow supports
  • no less than eight knee supports ranging from pressure straps through to neoprene ones with carefully placed kneecap holes. Eight!
  • a selection of KT tape in interesting colours and patterns.

How does this even happen? I have never had a major injury other than a broken arm at the age of four. I am mostly kind to my body: I take it on walks, I feed it nice food, I submerge it in a lake a couple of times a week. There could probably be a lot less of it (it’s on the to-do list) but on the whole it’s pretty healthy so why do I possess enough stretchy bandaging to go to a party as a patchwork sports mummy? The pairing of the words ‘Kirsty’ and ‘sports injury’ would cause Miss Brooker and Miss Jones from the Comp PE department to collapse in hysteria, but here I am at 47 with enough joint supports to cause a physiotherapist to weep.

And let’s not even start on my back, neck and shoulders or the three pairs of glasses for very small, far away and middle distance. It turns out that people, unlike wine, do not improve with age.

Ice cream in the park

It’s been a pretty rough week, all in all, quite apart from the mystery ankle injury. On Monday we discovered that our little museum team was being restructured yet again (that’s three times in two years, for context). If it goes ahead, we stand to lose the person who has been the absolute heart of the team for the past two years: making sure we stayed connected through furlough and lockdown, establishing the birthday habit we now have, fighting for us and the project at high levels. When she joined the museum after the first, bruising restructure she made sure she met every single person for a one to one to find out our hopes and ambition for the new museum and for our roles within it: from the cleaning, catering and security teams to the heads of teams and those people from the other sites with responsibility for the project. When we were restructured again the following year she worked to find alternative roles within the museum for as many of those affected as she could. The grief and anger within the team has been palpable this week, though she was at pains to reassure us that we would be OK. We are a tight team who work cross-departmentally, who are generous with time and knowledge and who share a passion for the project we’re working on. We are also tired and demoralised, and fed up with being restructured. There’s only so many times you can rebuild something before the component parts become unstable: hence the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

I really felt I’d earned the sunset/full moon swim on Monday night, and pottered round the lake getting my head back on the right way round. The atmosphere was lovely, with candles and a fire pit, and the moon rising behind the trees as we were getting changed. This week’s cover photo is by me, as I finally managed to sort out my waterproof phone case!

By Friday we had earned a picnic in Victoria Park watching the puppy obedience class followed by an ice cream from ‘The Conefather’. Just getting off site as a team and being able to rant and let off steam was a relief – we are still mainly working remotely, so very much ships passing in the night (or the corridor), and online chats just aren’t the same.

This friendly bee came to join our picnic

There has been much therapeutic crafting going on: a gift I still can’t share but will be able to next week after it’s gone to its new home, the ongoing lacy socks and another cross stitch underway.

This week is a three day week for me, as it’s Bank Holiday and I’ve booked Friday off as a mental health day (and the dentist) as well. I’m off swimming shortly so I’d better go and get myself sorted!

Enjoy the long weekend!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

Library of the Dead – T.L. Huchu

The Stranger Times – C.K McDonnell

Juniper Wiles – Charles de Lint

Chocolat – Joanne Harris (Audible)

57: a cheese and pineapple hedgehog for sixty, please.

It’s 7am on Sunday morning and thanks to Thing 2 I have been awake for an hour. She has a habit of setting a 6am alarm (‘but Mu-ummm, it’s on silent‘) and leaving it on a shelf by her bed, where it’s magnified by the wall so it wakes all of us up. Last night she’d had a nightmare and crept into my bed….where she is still fast asleep in a cocoon of blankets, having managed to be the only person who slept through her alarm.

She did have an exciting day yesterday, at a birthday ‘pamper party’ where all the girls got their make up and hair done. She’s a fan of TikTok and YouTube, so she had a lovely time being made up properly. (I have absolutely no idea, to be honest – as far as I am concerned if I can get my eyeliner on both eyes to look almost the same I think I’m pretty much winning). I was doing some gardening while the party was going on two doors away and it sounded like they were having a good time. I think birthday parties are one of the things they have missed most over the lockdown: that permission to eat lots of party food and run around shrieking and giggling in the sunshine. I think we have all missed that, to be fair.

Bleeding heart flowers

Usually I’d have my own birthday party, which before last year was a (very) relaxed afternoon barbecue in the back garden. My birthday is in June so I can count on reasonably good weather, our back garden is made for kids with lots of space and a tree to climb so there’s no need for people to find sitters. I am much better at grown up birthday parties than I have ever been with the kids, sadly. The thought of 30 children running around screaming fills me with horror, as does the idea of entertaining them, so from quite early on I was a big fan of the pizza and pyjama party for the girls: order Dominoes, watch a film in your onesie, and let them entertain themselves. No washing up, apart from anything else, and who doesn’t love pizza? I can manage a reliable birthday cake, or Colin the Caterpillar* is always acceptable.

Ivy graffiti on the tree trunks we use as borders.

Kids’ parties these days are also very different to when I was a child. Way back in the seventies and eighties your parent would deposit you at the front door of the birthday child’s house and run away to do whatever parents did while their child was at a party. Probably shopping, or a quiet sit down with a deep sense of relief that someone else was in charge of the 30 kids hopped up on E-numbers. You knew what you were getting as a guest, too: a couple of rounds of pass the parcel, cheese and pineapple on sticks, sausages on sticks, chocolate fingers, jam sandwiches and crisps, sleeping lions and a piece of cake wrapped in kitchen roll on your way out of the door. Pizza and chicken nuggets were unheard of, and as for carrot sticks and hummus….

Now, especially when the children are younger, there’s an assumption that an invite to a child’s party is also an invite for the parent and all their younger siblings, which means – if you have the whole class invited – you’re suddenly feeding 60+ people on party food. If you’re a parent who does the daily pick-up, you probably know all these parents (or at least the childminder) and have some idea who they are. I, on the other hand, have really only started doing pick ups regularly in the last year or so, so when the kids were younger I had no idea who anyone was. Thing 2 was never a child who could be left at a party as she was so shy, so I always had to stay with her (usually with her physically attached to me like a limpet for most of the party). There was also a hardcore clique of parents at their original primary school and – as a working mum – I was never part of that so parties were an exercise in isolation. I really hated the idea of inviting 30 people to a party who would basically ignore me…so I didn’t. The primary school Thing 3 currently attends is much more welcoming, as are the parents! I still go down the small party route, and Thing 3 prefers a birthday treat like the cinema and a McDonalds. These days the request is usually to go to the fun session at the swimming pool with some friends, and one year I took Thing 1 and her best friend to HyperJapan for the day. You have no idea how much of a relief this is…

*Other caterpillars are currently available, at least until M&S win their case against Aldi.

Image by Aldi

Jab one done: the rest of the week

On Tuesday I had the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, at the centre in Loughton. It was incredibly well-organised, and I was in and out in less than an hour and on my way home. I had the AstraZeneca vaccine, which my beloved had had a few weeks earlier, and the side effects kicked in after 24 hours. I was fine all the first day, apart from feeling a bit dopier than normal, and then – bam!- it was like being hit by a tree. I spent most of Wednesday on the sofa asleep and then was fine on Thursday apart from a sore arm. Not much fun, but I’m halfway there now and hopefully it means at some point I’ll be able to visit my parents.

As usual, I got several rounds of my crochet done while I was waiting – I am making these lacy socks from Simply Crochet issue 108, in Marriner Yarns’ Cosy Toes sock yarn. It’s the first time I have used this merino blend yarn and it feels lovely and soft. I’m using the jellyfish colourway which is soft greens and pinks and I am trying to be good and measure the tension so they actually fit.

Toe-up

On Thursday night I went for an evening dip in glorious sunshine. I didn’t swim far as I was still feeling the last of the vaccine but just being submerged in the lake was enough. We were some of the last people out before the lake closed for the evening so were lucky enough to see the fish jumping for the gnats, and I also spotted a parakeet, a red kite, a cormorant and a heron.

Finally, last Sunday we dragged the children out of the house for a family walk (I do mean dragged) to the flood meadow and back. The meadow is currently covered in a carpet of cowslips and deadnettles. The children also managed a two whole minutes without arguing, which was nice.

So that’s it from me! Tomorrow night I am looking forward to the full moon swim at Redricks, and have managed to do the waterproof test on my underwater phone holder thingy so might manage to get some swimming pictures.

Same time next week! This week’s cover photo was taken from a prone position in Victoria Park, at a team picnic in the sunshine.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Another Time Another Place (Chronicles of St Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor

The Quantum Curators and the Faberge Egg – Eva St John

The Quantum Curators and the Enemy Within – Eva St John

Chocolat – Joanne Harris (Audible)

55: You never forget your first Doctor

Regular readers of my ramblings have probably noticed that I am a happy little nerd (and proud of it). My kids are resigned to the fact that if I am left alone with the TV remote and my latest project they will come back to find me watching M*A*S*H, an eighties movie, Monty Python or – most likely – Doctor Who. Over the past eighteen months or so I have worked my way back through from Nine to Twelve, with a festive break to watch all the Christmas specials. Clara Oswald is still in situ as companion, so I have Bill Potts to go before Thirteen makes her appearance.

While I love the reboot, my first Doctor was Tom Baker – Four – who is still the longest serving incarnation of the Doctor (1974-1981). He is probably the most recognisable with that wonderful scarf and the mad hair. I must have been very young when I first started watching the series, as I was only 8 in 1981. My dad, as I’ve mentioned previously, is an enormous fan of sci-fi and fantasy, so I suspect the Doctor was regular viewing. He also watched Day of the Triffids (the theme tune was more terrifying than the show), Blake’s Seven, The Adventure Game, Now Get Out of That, The Great Egg Race, Quantum Leap and more, so at least I was brought up with a good all-round TV grounding.

The special effects – for the time – were pretty good and the aliens were often quite scary so the old ‘watching from behind a cushion’ trope has some basis in reality. The writers were excellent, and I enjoyed the Terrance Dicks books when I used to get them out of the library. It’s no real surprise that I love Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch as writers: they cut their teeth on Doctor Who.

Nine is my favourite of the rebooted Doctors, and his story arc with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) broke my heart: he was so wonderfully mad and, I think, the most alien of the modern incarnations. The relationships with the companions have always been a huge part of the dynamic of the show. When Rose was replaced by Donna Noble – with Catherine Tate in the role – I stopped watching it quite so religiously: it was too soon after Tate’s own TV show where she played a series of very shouty characters for me to warm to her. However, on the rewatch, she was actually brilliant and the addition of the wonderful Bernard Cribbins as her dad was just genius. Clara Oswald is still too smug, but I rather liked the ‘fam’ that Thirteen collected and will be interested to see how John Bishop does in the new series.

Image from ‘The Parting of the Ways’

I’d like to see more of Captain Jack Harkness – both back in the TARDIS and a return of Torchwood please. I even liked Miracle Day, though I don’t think anyone else did. I love the fact that Ianto had a shrine down in Cardiff Docks! As for villains….the Daleks and the Cybermen are the classics (it’s not Christmas without one or the other), but some of the Masters have been archvillains indeed. The insane John Simm and the sociopathic Michelle Gomez have been properly scary at times: the tricky Doctor/Master relationship has been drawn so well here that you have to have sympathy for them.

My fondness for the Time Lord has spilled over into my crafting habits: I made a Tardis gift for a Whovian friend when he and his husband moved house, and one of my favourite work skirts was made from a Doctor Who duvet cover. I have enough fabric scraps left from that to put secret nerdy pockets into a lot of outfits! The last cross stitch I designed was a TARDIS in a bottle which is on the to-do pile, and once I have finished the Hobbit Hole I am currently working on and another gift for a friend, I think it will be next on the list.

Who’s your favourite Doctor?

The rest of the week…

…has been quite peaceful, which has been a relief after March’s frenzied union activities. The weather has been chilly but mainly sunny, so on Tuesday morning I went for a long solo ramble through the fields. In typical April fashion, it snowed later in the day.

There have been a few swims – the water has been warmer than the air on most days, but it’s so good to be back in the water regularly. The coots are building their nests in the reeds, so soon we’ll be sharing the lake with the noisy chicks. I can’t wait!

I finished the first of the Tunisian socks and got started on the second, and have also sorted out all my sock patterns from the various boxes in the shed. I think they may be my favourite thing to crochet, you know. I can also now share the latest gift to be given this week – a 40th birthday gift for a colleague who loves video games. The pattern can be found here, and I used the same string art tutorial as last time to do the back.

I also sent this floral wreath one off along with the Suffragette sashes, all the way to Northern Ireland – Royal Mail at least still admit that NI is in the UK! If you look closely you can see the tiny initials of the house’s new inhabitants. The final piece is a hobbit hole, which you can find here.

This week’s cover image was taken on Easter Monday at St Andrew’s Churchyard, where we went to plant spring flowers on my beloved’s mother’s grave. You aren’t allowed to leave pots, artificial flowers or plastic anything on the graves but many of them have been planted with daffodils and other spring flowers. It’s one of the most beautiful churchyards I have seen, with higgledy-piggledy gravestones, a covering of primroses and violets, riddled with rabbit holes and surrounded by fields. The church itself dates from about 1330. There is a small Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery and memorial in the churchyard as well, with the village war memorial in front of the church.

Thing Two is nagging me to go on a bike ride, so I had better leave this here and do some parenting!

Same time, same place next week then?

Kirsty

What I’ve been reading:

The Silk House/The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn

A Comedy of Terrors (Flavia Albia) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

Week thirty five: this week’s post is brought to you by the letter C

Stir Up Sunday is when families get together to prepare the Christmas pudding, and it’s the last Sunday before Advent*. I first heard about it from my original boss at the Museum of London Docklands – I don’t remember this being something we did when I was a child. I have a vague recollection that my grandma used to make the Christmas puddings and when she got too old we either had shop-bought ones (that were usually still in the cupboard in May – who has room for Christmas pud if dinner is done properly?) or no pudding at all. I confess to not liking Christmas pudding anyway.

There was always a Christmas cake though, mum-made and usually with a disaster story attached – my dad is partial to a fruit cake so she made them throughout the year, but the Christmas one always went a bit wrong. This year London sister has made one for the parents and sent it in the post to France, and all they have to do is feed and decorate it.

I didn’t like Christmas cake, either – I still don’t like shop-bought ones. I’m not a lover of candied peel, glace cherries in anything, or unexpected bits of nut. When I became a proper grown up, however, I decided that along with being able to stuff a turkey without wincing (I usually remember to take the neck and giblets out…) I ought to make Christmas cake too. I’d won a Mary Berry recipe book in a Christmas party raffle a few years earlier and found the Classic Victorian Christmas Cake, so thought I’d give that a go – OK, it was the only Christmas cake recipe in any of my books, so it was an easy choice! I think it’s also the only thing I have ever made from the book.

Mary Berry’s cake. Not mine.

I left out the glace cherries and almonds, replaced the cherries with more dried fruit, and rather than soaking the fruit in sherry I used rum. Then I fed the cake with more rum. Mary wasn’t clear on how often you should feed the cake, or on how much you should be feeding it, so I erred on the side of caution and that first cake was a) very moist and b) capable of putting you over the driving limit. So that’s been my go-to recipe since then – I didn’t make one last year, as I usually end up eating far too much of it myself, but this year my budding Heston Blumenthal (aka Thing 2) has been putting pressure on me to make one.

So yesterday Thing 2 and I set the fruit to soak (in the last of the cherry gin, due to a lack of rum in the house) and on Tuesday afternoon we will stir up and bake our 2020 cake. Just before Christmas we’ll decorate it – madam has very strong opinions on cake decorating so I may leave her in charge of that.

*Yes, I know Stir-Up Sunday is technically next weekend, but never mind. I’m sure there will come a time when Thing 2 doesn’t want to cook with me, so until then I’ll make the most of it.

Work is the curse of the crafting classes

This week I have been working from home – an online symposium on Monday about Creativity in Education Now, run by Creative Schools and Creative Colleges. Interesting stuff: the keynote speaker was Bill Lucas, author of Teaching Creative Thinking and my new hero. There was a poor OFSTED rep there, who was trying really hard to say that there were lots of opportunities for teaching creativity in schools as part of the new(ish) inspection framework, but she kept hammering home that everything had to start with knowledge acquisition. She wasn’t open to ‘split screen’ teaching, where creative skills are developed at the same time: as she was an ex-art teacher that surprised me.

The rest of the week was spent on meetings, and on developing a set of learning outcomes for one of the new galleries in the museum. It’s going to be an amazing space – as with the rest of the museum, focused on building creativity in children, young people and their families – and the deep dive back into our thinking over the past year or so has made me excited about the transformation project all over again. It’s been hard at times this year to remember what a brilliant thing we’re doing – losing six months to furlough meant it’s taken a while to get back to this point – but this task has reminded me.

On the subject of creativity – I love what the Natural History Museum have been doing to support audiences. This lovely free Dodo cross stitch pattern is available to download, and you can also make a giant squid or a whole set of nudibranches. The patterns come with really simple instructions, too, and are part of a suite of equally brilliant craft activities. Nice job, NHM.

You can find the V&A’s own offer here – less for kids but some gorgeous Mary Quant patterns remade by Alice and Co Patterns, as well as other projects inspired by exhibitions. You could also check out the #LetsMakeWednesdays posts on the V&A Blog.

Where was I? Oh yes, working at home – that means no progress at all has been made on the portable sock project, which has the heel flap done on sock 1 and is ready to turn when I get back on the tube tomorrow.

Sock bristling with stitch markers

The Hydrangea blanket has a few more stripes, and I have also been working on rainbow jewellery which will hopefully find their way into an experience hamper at some point. The rainbow pattern is by Ever Laughter and you can find it here. She used aran yarn to make her applique, I have used Perle no 8 for the necklace and Scheepjes Cotton 8 for the brooches. I like the pastel one just for a change up! The pile of squares is the Zoom blanket underway in Stylecraft Special DK.

I’ve managed to sew up both the dresses I cut out last weekend, too. Both were pretty quick makes and came together in just a couple of hours each, and both have proper pockets to put things in. You can’t underestimate the value of pockets!

Being at home all week – with Lulu on downstairs cat duty – has reminded me how much that cat loves my beloved. The first picture is when she heard him come through the back door – Thing 3 is currently complaining that she jumped off him as soon as her human came downstairs. She’s not a lap cat like the other two, but will lean on you or cuddle up if you’re sitting down and if my beloved is not in the room. If he is, you haven’t got a look-in….

I’ll leave you this week with a picture of a clematis in the garden still bravely struggling on. I love the colours of this one.

See you at the end of week 36, when we can see how the cake turns out! This week’s cover photo is the woods on Stonards Hill in Epping looking very autumnal.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

The Penguin Killer – Ste Sharp

Enemies at Home/Deadly Election (Flavia Albia) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

The Law of Innocence (Mickey Haller) – Michael Connelly

Gobbelino London and a Scourge of Pleasantries – Kim M. Watt