Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing you all..................

............ a peaceful and happy Christmas and a healthy, prosperous and love-filled 2010

I promise I shall show my secret santa gifts from Chooky Blue and the two BQL ladies once I've opened them and taken some photos. Who knows on the same picture download you may even get a proper look at the few Christmassy things I've managed to stitch during the last few weeks

Best wishes for the holiday season to all my blogging friends near and far

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Time for smiles again

Thankfully the communications with Louise's school seem to have done the trick

The girls in question have backed off and whilst I don't think they will ever be bosom buddies at least they're leaving her alone to get on with settling into the school and making a good circle of friends

I don't know what the school said to them, I'm only grateful that things have improved dramatically

Long may it continue for my smiley little one here in the new school uniform - thank you to everyone for your massive support - most appreciated

Nick is bumbling along quietly - some days I think he's tiring of the implications of the diabetes as he seems to kick back about some of the rules and limitations - other days I think that maybe he's just being a normal teenager - they seem to kick back about something most of the time. He will be 14 on Friday - where did that little boy disappear to?

Sarah is studying hard and playing hard - nothing new there then

The other week she had the opportunity with the rest of her County squad mates to participate in a training session with two of the current England Ladies squad

She's the one with the huge grin in the centre of the picture - the ladies in red on the outside are England player Kim Oliver (right) and the England captain Catherine Spencer (left). Nigel will get to watch these two ladies in action as he's going to Twickenham on Saturday for the England v New Zealand match and the Ladies play directly after the Men's game. The way the guys are playing at the moment perhaps the girls can show them the way to go!

This is two days later after she had the honour of captaining the Somerset U18 squad against Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire - the attractive mud packs at either side of her face are a result of playing #8 and pushing her head between the muddy shorted derrieres of the two second row players in the scrum - the mud was very sandy and boy was her face sore once she cleaned up - the next best thing to dermabrasion I reckon!

Muddy but ecstatic as ever!!!

I've managed some stitching this last few days

Secret Santa gifts completed - a couple of sneak previews:

These are of the SSCS one organised by Elf Donna in Australia (but where will this one travel to I wonder?)

These are of the BQL 'made' one which will go a little nearer to home possibly - I haven't quite decided what to send for my other 'bought' gift yet

And finally I've made good progress on the Soft and Gentle quilt for Nigel's cousin

I've realised the arthritis pain in my hands has been irritated by drinking fresh orange juice so I've cut it out and noticed quite an improvement - missing the OJ though - nothing else gives your taste buds quite the same wake-up call in a morning I'm afraid!

A close up of the next round of hourglass blocks

And a 'done so far' view waiting for more flowers in each corner to complete this round - it measures 56" square so far

Think I might do sawtooth stars for the next round - if I can stomach the thought of all those flying geese components - we'll see..................

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Baptism of Fire

It saddened me greatly to read Tanya's posting the other day about bullying.
The whole concept that people of any age can be so slyly cruel to another is sickening.
The post came at a particularly poignant and pertinent time for me because this week has shown the worst and best of human nature.
The worst has come out in a girl who went to primary school with Louise two years ago and often made her life less than happy probably we think because of jealousy.
This girl, when she found out that Lou was transferring to her secondary school this week, organised the worst kind of welcoming committee for her.
Through the internet and word of mouth she convinced her friends, a group of undesirables at the school, that Louise had been trying to steal one of their boyfriends (all of them aged 12/13 - I ask you?)
She then sat back and slyly watched her carefully orchestrated scenario unfold at a distance with Louise as the unwitting victim
By the end of her first day Louise had endured them all levelling nasty accusations in stage whispers in two of her lessons and finally they tackled her off the premises when she was waiting for me to collect her at the end of the day
Her second day carried on in the same vein culminating with a session in the changing rooms for a PE lesson where Louise finally broke down in tears and rushed out of the room to get help
We should be thankful that all this was only verbal not physical abuse but nevertheless totally unnerving and very upsetting
At the end of the first day I had sent an email to her form teacher to make her aware of the situation - many years ago Sarah suffered at the hands of some of her peers just before she transferred to secondary school - not wanting to exascerbate the situation we adopted a 'suck it and see' tactic which turned out to be the wrong one and as a result I have always since stepped in at the first sign of trouble to endeavour to get things nipped in the bud
Fortunately, because of my job, I have access to the County Global email address list and could pen this missive promptly - other parents don't have that sort of access and would have had to resort to ringing the school and waiting call backs which would have further delayed the onset of any solution
Coincidentally Louise went to her teacher for help just after she had opened my email and the school sprang into action to sort out the situation
As you can imaging Louise had been even more nervous about going into school on the second day and I was like a cat on hot bricks all day
At 2.30pm I received a call from the school - they wanted me to go into school at the end of the day to talk to her Head of Year
To give credit to the school they were mortified that this had happened and massively apologetic
Mrs Matthews had sat patiently with Louise going through all the Year 8 pupils' photographs on the school management system so she could identify the girls, all of whom she'd only met the day before and of whose names she had no idea
We came to the conclusion that Louise had been a victim of cyber-bullying and the school would do all in their power to sort it out
Yesterday I had another call from Mrs Matthew's PA reassuring me that they knew which girls were involved include the back-room conductor of the band and they would be dealt with.
She also told me that she was amazed at how mature our 12 year old blonde baby had been in dealing with the situation by both keeping her composure under fire and also having the courage to contact a virtually unknown adult in a new environment to ask for help. They have identified a place of safety for her to go to if she ever feels exposed and she added that Louise was a real credit to her parents in being able to handle the situation in such a composed manner so I guess you could say the best of human nature has manifested itself in her
At least now the school are aware of the situation and dealing with it, and should it continue, sanctions will be set for these girls to hopefully avoid any recurrence
On the better side of human nature two girls in her class that she has befriended have been massively supportive and done their best to help her settle in
Of course the most ridiculous thing about the whole situation, if anything can make you raise a smile about such things, is that because these girls had jumped in with both feet immediately on Louise's arrival they couldn't even try to shift any of the blame for bad feeling onto her
Cleverer girls would have bided their time and then started trouble a few weeks later being careful to blame Louise for any animosity - nasty and not bright - not a good combination
Instead they were hoisted with their own petard
Things can only get better (please)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Keeping my head above water - just!

My life is generally busy

I run around after three kids, work part-time in an ever-changing job, keep a (not very tidy) house, look out for my elderly parents, try to squeeze in some time with my husband and occasionally manage to pull a little me time for stitching out of the hat like the proverbial magician's rabbit

I don't think I am alone with this number of conflicting demands on my time

I'm sure that many, many of you also only just manage to keep various balls in the air too

However at the moment life seems ever more complex and I have to say I'm struggling to keep my head above water

Our younger two children followed their big sister to our nearest senior school. It is a small school which is viewed in the eyes of most of the local residents to be the least desirable school in the town to attend

However we liked everything about it when we first moved here and all three of our children have each chosen it when their turn came and we've never regretted our decisions...
until now.....

Lately there have been changes afoot

The local council in conjunction with the local Church of England diocese have campaigned and been authorised to close our lovely school along with its nearest neighbour (a school we have never liked or considered sending our children to) in order to establish a brand new Academy on the site of this other school

In view of the alternatives (our school would have had to close anyway because of a falling roll) we have given these plans our full blown backing - I even appeared on local television and attended a County Council meeting speaking in support of it

it was announced that the existing Headteacher of the other school was to be appointed as Principal of the newly formed Academy

We have serious misgivings about this appointment and the knock on effects, we feel the appointing bodies have missed the opportunity to bring in a new dynamic leader for a state of the art new school and we suspect that there has been some sort of behind the scenes wheeling and dealing to get the other school on board - hidden agendas at every turn
So to cut a long story short after many family discussions and a great deal of heartsearching we came to our decision

Nick has opted to stay with his supportive group of friends and work his way through the transition period for the new Academy for his all important two GCSE exam years - with his newly diagnosed diabetes to cope with he needs less, not more, disruption and we support his decision

But Louise is to move school, in the middle of her second senior school year, to a different school again which is across town adjacent to the 6th Form College her elder sister attends

This will mean three kids at three different establishments and all the complex taxi driving that entails for me but it is manageable - just!

Today is Louise's first day at the new school

She is an outwardly confident, clever, happy kid who has been looking forward to this day since she made the decision

But sitting in the new school's reception area waiting to be collected by someone from her tutor group this morning her courage wavered - tears were perilously close to the brink - tissues were offered by the kindly receptionist and she just managed to hold it together until one of her peers came for her

Similar tears streamed down my face, held in until I was out of sight driving home

I just hope she comes out at 3.05pm with a smile and a desire to return tomorrow - I'm not sure quite how I can magic things better if she doesn't

Isn't it awful when powers beyond your control pull the rug from beneath your feet - I just hate that feeling of powerlessness

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unclean, Unclean - ding - a - ling..........

Well the two youngest and I have been holed up at home with the lurgy

I don't have it - I'm playing nursemaid

I did suspect swine flu especially in Louise on Tuesday and Nick was following in her wake

Obviously this raised the alarm for both of them but most especially him because of his diabetes

I rang the helpline and they authorised a course of Tamiflu for each of them - I have no idea if they actually have swine-flu - they've not been seen by a medic and the only true way of telling is a blood test apparently. They have been pretty ropey but who can tell?

I spoke to the Diabetes Nurse who gave me advice on what to watch out for with Nick's sugar levels and warned me about the side-effects of the Tamiflu often being worse than the Flu symptoms in youngsters

I took the executive decision to keep them off school for the rest of the week but not to give them the Tamiflu as we were coping with the symptoms

So far they are managing, unwell but not dying and the other three members of the household including myself are okay at the moment

I could definitely have done without the time out of work but it was unavoidable as Nigel is in Spain for work this week so can't share the nursemaid duties

Never mind whatever doesn't get done will no doubt be waiting for me next week and ultimately my kids are more important than the school finances

As an unexpected bonus I've managed to fit in some stitching while administering to the patients

I mentioned my friend Sue in last Thursday's Breast Cancer Awareness Month posting

She was actually on ITV's This Morning programme on Tuesday being interviewed by Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby about her diagnosis and how her blog has helped her cope

I started a lap quilt for her when she was first diagnosed and never got further than sandwiching it. Her favourite colour is cerise pink - very apt for a breast cancer patient. Lots of simple piecing and hand appliqued hearts

This week has given me chance to quilt and complete it just in time for her mastectomy next Monday. I've used cream fleece as the backing without wadding so it's not too heavy and the fleece has been brought over onto the front to make a soft binding too

I think she might like to snuggle under a quilt full of cuddles while she's recovering from surgery
The quilt is my PINK item for this Thursday of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Ladies, if you do nothing else of great importance today, start a regular regime of checking yourself and going for mammogrammes if you fall in the relevant age bracket - you owe it to yourselves and your loved ones.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

All is well

Time has been whizzing along and passed me by in a total haze

I can't believe I've not posted for over three weeks

Nick is doing well, not letting his diabetes get in the way of his life too much and we're all coping with his diagnosis in our own ways but coping well

Work is as busy as ever and getting ever more complex - how much more can my brain take I wonder!

And virtually no stitching is happening - my hands are extremely sore and my mind is elsewhere

In support of our dear friend Sue who lives firstly just up the road from us and secondly with her battle with breast cancer I'm posting a few completely random pink items this Thursday for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I may not remember next Thursday so you're getting a few to be going on with.

A happy picture of Louise playing the fool with an improvised pink hat - what a clown!
A smiley picture of me on Sark in a pink shirt - don't look too closely at the laughter lines

Pretty in pink - Hagley Hybrid - a favourite among my beloved clematis in the garden
And finally the two pink cot quilts I made for the births of Nigel's nieces a few years ago - both photos are taken at the old house - now that is a while ago!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Silver Linings

You know to every cloud there's usually a little bit of a silver lining if you search hard enough

This time last week, whilst I was keeping Nick company in hospital, in between playing games of scrabble and gleaning as much information as I could from the staff I used the time productively

There are countless leaves and berries to be stitched onto the outer border of Batik Baskets

With the unexpected time out of the usual hustle and bustle that is generally family life I have managed to get just over an eighth of the border completed - still a way to go but I keep chipping away at it, half watching Casino Royale on the tv last night gave me chance to add a few more

As for the Soft and Gentle quilt - this one really does need a better work in progress title - I've added the next round ready for more applique but have stalled at getting the bias tubing cut, stitched and pressed ready to start the handwork

The 6" corner blocks went together like a dream - all that jewel box and plaid quilt practicing obviously sharpened up my piecing skills - well something definitely needed to! :o)))

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We're Home!!!

Just a quick post to let you know that Nick was discharged from hospital this afternoon

I have been astounded by how grown up he has been over all this - my boy is really a man in teenager's clothing on the quiet

His attitude when asked how he feels is a shrug of the shoulders and the reply "I've got to do it so I'll just get on with it"

He has to administer his own insulin injections four times a day and prick his finger to carry out blood sugar level tests regularly - all this he has mastered quickly with no fuss and great competence

He's now desperate to get back to some semblance of normality so he returns to school tomorrow

As for me - I'm shall we say somewhat nervous especially now I'm away from the hospital safety net even though they are accessible 24/7 at the end of a phone

But I'm in total awe of the way he has coped and is looking forward to the future with his usual zest for life

Thank you to everyone who both commented or emailed me privately with your support, advice and good wishes.

You've given me more support than you can ever know

So now - onwards and upwards!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just as you thought it was safe to go back in the water....

Isn't that the famous line from Jaws?

We thought life was bumbling away nicely here at the moment

And then something comes along to turn the world upside down

Nick has been not his normal self since we returned from Sark

Perpetually thirsty

Never out of the bathroom

Generally under the weather

Starting to lose weight

Is this ringing any alarm bells with any of you?
Those alarm bells rang with me earlier this week when I quizzed him about these things - he's the sort of kid who always suffers in silence so it could have carried on for some while yet had I not interrogated him

So I booked him in with our doctor this afternoon - fortunately with the British National Health Service this is all free and we didn't have to worry whether we could afford the appointment

The long and the short of it is he has Type 1 Diabetes

It has come on suddenly as apparently it often does - he will have to live with it and manage it for the rest of his life

Lots of aspects of life in Chez Bebbs will have to change

Most particularly for my gorgeous, funny, crazy, clever boy

But we're looking on the bright side

He could have had something far worse
He's been admitted to the local hospital so they can stabilise things and will possibly be in there for several days - because it's the weekend the steep learning curve we'll have to climb won't really start until Monday when the specialist staff are back on duty but again thankfully we won't have any of this to pay for
He was more than happy for us to come home to sleep - I shall be back in with him first thing in the morning - think I'd better dig out some handstitching - and maybe a pack of cards :o))) As you can imagine posting may well be a little sporadic - bear with me

and then there were blue flowers....

Over the past couple of nights I've worked the nine flowers onto the cornerstones between the flying geese

I've merely transposed the colour placement of the wreath flowers and used slightly different fabrics

Now onto the next round................

I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do but knew that I didn't want to butt up more coloured piecing against those flying geese

But then I also didn't want to do a plain border all the way round with just applique..........


Pieced corners and appliqued sides...........

How does this look for the corner blocks? Most unlike me to start drafting out patterns on paper with coloured pencils being a cut it and wing it sort of a girl

And then although I said I didn't want coloured piecing next to the flying geese I don't have enough of any one cream to do all four sides so I think I just might piece the cream background panels for the applique

OK - Enthusiasm fired again - must dash, I've an appointment with the rotary cutter before I head into work at 9.30am

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Softly and gently does it................

Whilst we were on Sark, our hostess, Nigel's cousin Caroline, was very complimentary about Batik Baskets

Back in the late 70s and 80s she took an art/textile degree at Loughborough and subsequently she worked for Elizabeth Bradley Tapestries on Anglesey so she certainly knows her onions
She hinted that she'd love a quilt for her own bed but would never find the time to make one herself
I suggested that she might like me to make one for her and showing great delight at the prospect she also offered to pay me for it
To be honest she provided us with wonderful accommodation on holiday and would accept nothing in return so I reckon that any payment for a quilt has already been received
I did ask her what sort of colour scheme she would prefer
She intimated that, as her bedroom is all creams and beiges, a palette of soft subtle colours would suit it very well and she has a special fondness for lilacs and duck-egg blues in particular
So on our return I dug out some of my softest and gentlest fabrics to go with the creams and beiges
First a floral wreath with three tier flowers - I've made these flowers often over the years - given a considered colour placement they always look more than the simple shape they are
Also I'd rather like this quilt - which will be a large double bed square - to grow relatively quickly.
So as I'm also fond of Four Block designs, so I decided to work four of the wreaths for the centre
Then I interspaced them with scrappy flying geese - unusually for me there are no defining borders around the blocks - I'm not sure why I didn't bother because I virtually always do on a medallion quilt and I'm not totally convinced I'm happy with their absence, but I shall run with this as plenty of cream will give me open quilting spaces and help to keep the colour scheme light. The flying geese have worked out almost too randomly as there are some close neighbours in the same fabric but again I'm not going to change it - rather keep it as some naive cottagey charm
This is almost as much as I've done so far - the cream corner stones are now in the process of having similar single flowers but in different fabric stitched onto them
So what shall I do for the next round? - who knows, but again I'm resisting the temptation to add a coloured border before I work it

Monday, September 07, 2009

Projects old and new.............

................... have been worked on throughout the summer break and since our return.

'Batik Baskets' now sports a completely hand stitched vine all the way round the 10" border, all undertaken during some wonderful 'me' time on Sark when everyone else was off yomping round the island.
The major task of adding all the leaves and berries is now underway.
Plus a new project is ongoing - soft, gentle colours mixed with a variety of creams - hand appliqued wreaths surrounded by flying geese for starters.
Inspiration for the next round will no doubt come to me - probably at 4 o'clock in the morning.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

And back to normality

School restarted this morning - well for three of us anyway.

Nigel has been back at work over a week but Sarah doesn't return to 6th Form College until Monday 14th

However the two younger ones and I are back into everything that a new school year brings and steadily on the downhill slope to autumn and winter

The summer break this year seemed very short

We went away slightly later than we usually do which only left us one full week of holiday after our return and the house has been full of a succession of guests since then - maybe that contributed to this feeling - it's certainly my excuse for not getting round to blogging until now anyway

Our holiday saw Nigel, Sarah and I revisiting a place we last went to sixteen years ago although Nigel did manage a fleeting visit a couple of years ago for a funeral so not the best reason to visit the island. For the two youngest it was their first visit to one of Nigel's favourite places.
Sark is a small island making up one of the Channel Islands which belong to Britain but sit very close to the French coast

All the Channel Islands are beautiful but Sark has the peculiar quality of being a place with no cars

The only way to get around the island, which measures 3 miles by 1.5 miles, is either on your own two feet, by bicycle or in a horse-drawn carriage

There are a few tractors on the island for essential work but no other motorised transport (unless you include the couple of invalid scooters ridden by some of the more infirm and elderly residents)

Because there is little in the way of motorised traffic the island has a very laid back, sleepy feel to it and is a wonderfully relaxing place to visit to chill out and relax

Nigel's family have long had connections with the island. His mother and her siblings holidayed there regularly as children just after World War II. Grandpa retired to the island in 1961 and Nigel's aunt and subsequently her niece (one of his cousins) have run the island's post office for several decades

To whet your appetite here are a few shots of the island and its way of life

The island is a 300ft high block of granite raised up out of the English Channel which makes for stunning coastal views

There are two parts to the island, Sark and Little Sark which are joined by a 300ft high isthmus - La Coupee - with a walkway across the top. This permanent structure atop the ridge was only constructed by German prisoners of war at the end of World War II - can you imagine negotiating the crossing in a high wind prior to its construction - it was not unheard of for people to crawl across on all fours in the winter storms. Incidentally horse-drawn carriage passengers still have to get off and walk across letting the carriage cross separately

And a view of Grande Greve - the beach on the western side of La Coupee - all the beaches have a climb down and back up again

Just the place for gathering a jelly fish in a discarded childs beach toy

Havre Gosselin - one of the lesser used harbours on the west side of the island - usually only brought into service when the weather is too rough to land at the islands main jetty and harbour on the eastern side of the island. However some of the many yachts which drop anchor around the island will also use it to come ashore.
Nick high up on the cliffs above Havre Gosselin - who's the King of the Castle?

Sark is far closer to France than England and sadly the original Norman Patois language is dying out - however it still remains in the names of places around the island

We were so lucky with the weather - after a couple of days of misty sea fret at the start of the holiday the sun shone and temperatures soared. However you can tell from this tree that the winter storms have their own way of shaping the island
Sarah soaking up some of those rays on one of the cannons on the Eperquerie Common to the north of the island with the neighbouring islands of Guernsey, Herm and Jethou in the background
Sarah and Nick had the very priviledged opportunity to ride on the back of a driving carriage similar to the one the Duke of Edinburgh races. It's owned by one of the island's residents and Sarah said the speed the horses pulled it at was absolutely breathtaking
Lou spent a lot of her time fishing with her younger cousin and managed to even catch a few now and then
Everywhere was inundated with butterflies

And here's the stunningly beautiful Jersey Moth which has bright orange tips to its wings when extended
A view of the Seigneurie - the home of the Seigneur who is the island's ruler - from across the top of the maze at the end of the Seigneurie Gardens. The last time we were there they had just planted this maze - now we can only just see over the top

Our older two certainly found the centre - and are probably sharing a joke about their parents still struggling to reach the middle

The Seigneurie Gardens are open to the public and very beautiful - the hydrangeas had to be seen to be believed - the range of colours was amazing

My favourite - clematis - rambling through the dahlias (my least favourite! - harbourers of earwigs, yeauchhhh!!!!)

A busy bee unknowingly pollinating a stunning white passionflower
And another of my favourites - this Osteospermum Whirligig always reminds me of the Seigneurie Gardens - I loved it the minute I set eyes on it during our last visit - I have the cream version in my garden now and keep on the lookout for this pink one to join it. I think the Seigneur might have had something to say if I'd dug this one up to bring home :o)))

One of the smaller carriages available for hire to tour the island - all the drivers have to do an island version of The Knowledge to give visitors a comprehensive guide as they drive them round
Of course, on an island with no motor vehicles apart from tractors, how else would you pull the ambulance to take patients down to the harbour and across on The Flying Christine, the Channel Islands emergency boat, to the hospital on Guernsey about an hours journey away. Nigel's cousin's daughter was almost born on the boat on the way to the maternity unit.

The main church on the island - this day there was a visiting brass band playing outside in the sunshine
The island post office which is owned by Nigel's cousin with the distinctive blue pillar box for the mail outside

And here is the island prison with Alan, the current Constable in the doorway - the post of Constable is an elected role which changes each year and is held by one of the residents - there are two cells inside which are seldom used, usually only if someone is more than a bit worse for wear to drink
We thought it would be fun to lock Sarah up in one of the cells - fortunately Alan was happy to let her out

Here's Lou after a lovely meal out one evening at a local hostelry

And the two oldies taking a breather on the walk down to the harbour on our journey home
Finally a farewell to the island................. until the next time