Friday, 23 October 2020

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Another freakin' makeover

Mezzanine floor, supported by scaffolding (expensive) and original Victorian cast iron drain pipes (cheap, from the scrap yard).

Copper tank, thank you Peepah!

Column, painted up, waiting for the place of its abode (watch that space, literally, in the pit).

Beautiful little window on the upper floor, with shutter, overdesigned in Steampunk style. Metal framed window rescued from a pile destined for the tip. Little lock works beautifully. I'm told it came from an outhouse. (Freecycle at its best, I'd say.)

Rrrraaahhh! With many thanks to Mr M and Mr R for sharing ideas, creative processes, thoughts, whimsies, and everyday laughter. I've not taken a welding course and have not yet had a go with the angle grinder, so much yet to learn. 

Still to come: more painting, table, sink, suspended bed, suspended sofa, swing (possibly), toilet, Belfast sink (thank you Freecycle), copper tank table, shower, lighting, solar heated water store, stove, outdoor dining area...

Friday, 25 September 2020

From dump space to work shop

I want to be in a place which tells me what it is to be human. A place which is made up, unique, bolted together; a place which shows its resourcefulness, wit and craft. 

I want to feel a playfulness at every point. I want to be invited to linger here, to touch, be curious, laugh. Flick a switch and see what happens. I want a space which is for ever a wondering space. What is this for? What could be?

I need a place which is honest, true to itself, unashamed of rough edges, scars, slips of the saw and wobbly location of the drill. I need to track the bone structure and neural pathway; I want to know how one thing connects to another along textures, threads, lengths, lines of light.

I want to reject the fancy layers that conceal and deceive. I need to know how my place does not disguise how it is held together. I want to see it revealed, straightforward in its declaration of itself, unconcerned with superficial coverings of smooth walls and oh-so-very nice floors.

I want a place that uses what we have, the material objects buried in the ground, scavenged and scrounged. The chains pulled from the earth and the metal walkway discarded in a pile of scrap; the door thrown away and the wood salvaged from the tip.

I want a place which uses all of itself, from top to bottom, side to side. Let no place be hidden from exploration. Let no corner be a place that we hurry from, or neglect, or draw over a curtain and shudder. I want to see it all.

I want a space for day and night to come to play. Where the light arrives, suddenly, strongly and sharply. But departs in a snap. You wonder what happened to fade and shadow. You can find those curving shapes in grey tones and slips of drawn grey, but then you'll be startled with the black and white, sharp and bright, so you'll need to keep your curiosity alive as you examine every part.

I want a place that stitches together our connections to the past to the present-day maker's marks filled with thoughts of the future. People made this place happen before, using hard tools and rough hands and steady thought; their respect and care for the day's work and what could be made in the future. And we make it happen, each day we pick up a sanding block, a power tool, a cloth rag to wipe away the dust.

And this space must be raw-edged, but warm: I want the cold wind to shoot through, but I want heavy fabric drapes and rough, warm textures too. I want the tingling chill of cold water and the luxury of hot water at the dip of your toes.

We're keeping those design values as we go. And slowly, bit by bit, day by day, it's taking shape.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

My first thought is to serve a legal notice

I'm clearing out the garage.

From a heavy lump of metal I peel back layers of a newspaper. The Evening Standard, Wednesday, 8 March 1972.

On Page 10 is the article for London News. A rap for both the boss and secretary

Britains's secretaries are given a rap across the knuckles today for a decline in the standard of their work.

But their bosses come in for a few criticisms as well, from a man who should know what he's talking about - Mr Lance Secretan, managing director of Manpower, which supplies more than 10,000 office workers to firms throughout the country.

[...] Mr Secretan has written a book called How to be an Effective Secretary, to be published on Friday.

[...] The traditional pitfall for a secretary, the amorous pass from the boss, produces 'few complaints' coming back to Manpower from its girls.

'The intelligent ones deal with it and stay in their jobs. The unintelligent ones resign, or something.' said Mr Secretan.

But his book warns secretaries not to get involved in the boss's private life unless 'you are sure it is in both his and the company's best interests.'

Thursday, 23 July 2020


That's what happened to the garden, then.

The Border Force know where I live

My left knee is bigger than my right knee.

My left knee is bigger than my right knee after I fell off a mountain bike in the French Alps, having run away in June at the first sniff of a lifted-lockdown travel restriction, (I just said it was to join the circus) but definitely in the company of Mr X whom I met (before lockdown) at a comedy club.

I know it sounds unlikely. Tiger pointed out (quite rightly) I had known Mr X for less time than she had known a bag of lentils.

My only reply was that I also carry a Best Before date so I had better get moving.

Maybe my tribe could mark my death date with reminiscences of that time Mother threw back the front door, shouting, I'm going to France. Don't ask me where, but I'll be back in about a month. Please water the lobelia.

Anyway, I have returned home. I have had a jolly good time and the Border Force know where I live.

Also, Knicker Drawers is getting back to business.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Old tank gets trashed

A day from which all other days can flow; the 6x4x2 tank in the garage, which has been an eyesore, impediment and a hated old lump of metal just asking for a recycling centre, finally gets lifted up by a crane and taken out of my house.

Good riddance you bastard and I hope you get crushed and beaten up before being made into something more useful to society.

Got that off my chest. Can get on with building an artist's studio now.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Nice Arse, Aunt Fanny and Lovely Jugs

I don't know about all you single people out there, but Grit is not doing so well in these times of LOOK DON'T TOUCH.

I sorely miss all the hugging and handing of my normal days, when connecting with friends through welcome clasps with kisses, hello and goodbye, was happily normal.

And that's before I get onto the subject of missing out on the Pensioner Sex.*

I can't wait for this horrible LOOK DON'T TOUCH phase of lockup to be over.

But the British are supposed to be so repressed about touch and intimacy, aren't we, that maybe we're accustomed to this new lockdown code, LOOK DON'T TOUCH.

Hmm. Right now I wish I could be Dutch. I read how one of their lockdown rights was a Bedroom Buddy. Imagine!

Yet of course we have a silver lining to this traditionally repressed British state. We are absolutely bloody brilliant pioneers in the language of nudge nudge wink wink.

In which spirit, I am delighted to launch my soon to be (unsuccessful) business line for this new phase of LOOK DON'T TOUCH lockdown. Where we single folks can regard a nice arse from a distance, no touching allowed.

My Nice Arse, Aunt Fanny and Lovely Jugs.


Suitably British LOOK DON'T TOUCH naughty words and thoughts with traditional lead print to stamp into your Knicker Drawer Note Book.

Or just hang it from your doorknob. It's up to you. The police aren't watching on this one.

On sale soon at the Knicker Drawer stand in Vintage Number 38, if you're local. And if you aren't, you'll have to make your own.

(Nice bum, by the way. I've been regarding it for quite a while and I just thought I'd mention it.)

*Sure to increase the blog statcounter by a few hundred readers, every one of them to be quickly disappointed.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Catch that, sister

You people here on earth, I love you. You set me going with your gauntlets and challenges.

Make a book for a woman who is her own power; her own force of nature, bold, dynamic, unstoppable.

I can only run after her as she blazes a direction to the future. I'll be very happy to hear of her triumphs. She has much to teach me.

So this is it. I have to find a book to match.

Then here is my thinking. Like you change the world, your book must change too: it is a fundamental design principle of the Knicker Drawer Note Books.

I make it so: Knicker Drawer books are blank - they aren't filled in for you - you must do the changing.

From the stitching of my curls, tucks, folds, the books want you to take an active, creative part of your wonderful changing process. It's you who changes as each page turns. Collect in them, jot your ideas, hold your weekly shopping lists, keep your inspirational sayings, save samples of your family's handwriting, build a time capsule of your hours, days, weeks - whatever you want to express. Sketch, doodle, draw, glue, pin, stitch, cut, tear, collect. Your book is reshaped with your hand. Take something beautiful and unique and, by your use, make it your own personal place of you.

Not just those pages - use your leather. Curl it, mark it, punch holes to hang objects, draw on it, paint it, do what you need to possess it. At the very least, your handling of your book - touching it daily - rolls and shapes your book, leaving your mark from the oils of your hand and the scents of you. What could be more intimate than a book which - in years to come - holds a part of you in its very structure?

Threads, I leave, hanging. With stitching errors, bare stitches, threads snarled, looped, coiled and entangled. I love those. They are the real scars of making, of life's making - you can eliminate them, but why would you in a personal, expressive and intimate book of your own making? I don't believe we should seek to cover scars as if they were not there. We should not want our lives to be unblemished paths of perfection, hyper corrected to remove stains, scars and faults, tweaked and adjusted to show only the best bits, the prettiest, or what we believe others to judge the most acceptable.

I want to hold and observe the scars I have made, because they are mine, my reward for being alive; it's up to me then what I do - I can use these imperfect patterns to learn, to think deeper, wider, to grow more tolerant of myself and others. I simply cannot eliminate sources of such strength.

Fragments, torn edges, breakages, discardings. I use all these too, in the stitchings of my books because I believe the broken things make us who we are.

We all harbour an inspirational saying or two - fortune cookie quotes for life - and I'm no different. Who doesn't love a turn of phrase that makes sense of everything - makes things whole - especially in times when no sense can be made of anything.

Bring together all the fragments, the broken things and discarded things and they make, together, a sort of gentle, quiet strength. Vulnerability gives way to durability; impermanence tends to permanence.

Sensory? Yes. The Knicker Drawer books are all about your senses - they ask you to connect with your touch, your smell, your ability to feel through your senses. How we can reach a wide emotional expression through our personal physical experience. I believe in that. The Knicker Drawer books are an expressive antidote to a plastic world where feeling is channelled by the tappings of a screen.

But maybe it's all about power and control - the power we have to shape our own stories, to take our narrator's voice and use it to sound out beliefs, ideas, opinions.

I have always admired independent people who are unafraid to speak their truths. They lead us all forward; they are the people who inspire me and who I respect.

It's a matter of real anguish to me when cowards, manipulators, boastful, shallow and deceitful people touch my life, which they have, professionally, personally, culturally. They are everything I want to reject for my life.

In a book which you make your own, there's no place for dishonesty; there's only the space for you to face your feelings and ideas, no matter how confrontational, obtuse, difficult or downright awkward for others. A book accepts you. It never judges you. Working there, thinking through how you feel, what you believe, your actions and desires, your personal statements for living - all your ideas which can change, too - a book endures and takes forward all of you.

But in the end, perhaps it is a personal book that is most quietly expressive of your beliefs and understandings about your culture and the political place which that culture takes. Then you have decisions to make! Who will you lend your voice to? What aspects of your culture have been given to you that you want to change? What of your truth do you want to become a political force for wider change in the world?

We need the things to help us achieve those political ends, and books have been those things that are fundamental to that process: the world changes because we fill it with books.

Always keep a note book, sketch book, mood book.

This book has to be red.

Red is passion drama love taking sides revolutions anger life blood heat strength stop decide make way, for here comes a Woman.

Your own, true, personal record of change; a product of time, yet timeless. Your Knicker Drawer book becomes what you need it to be. Your testament, your changes, your bearing witness to your times, your cultural voice, your physical echo of your passions and thoughts, your manifesto for politics, your wishes for a better world, your truths, your touch. You.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Surely not

Dear Mr Everitt

Thank you for your public statement regarding choices made by Mr Cummings during the national lock down.

Your statement conveys well your thoughts on the media, media management and the public mental health.

My thoughts are also tangential to the choices made by Mr Cummings.

Nevertheless, I would like to convey them to you.

I took my advanced driving course some time ago; I worked over several months to do that and it is an exacting test.

My motive in taking the advanced driving course was to contribute to our safer roads. I want to know that I am as safe to others as I possibly can be when I am in charge of a vehicle. My children and other citizens all share the public highways and I want to see no harm come to them.

I believed I did something that was responsible. I believed I was being 'a good citizen'.

But I now am being given to understand that my endeavours in this area were pretty much pointless. My desires - to see safer roads and to help bring about a place where we have more responsible, careful drivers - it appears are not equally shared by those who I would have expected to share them - people like yourself, in positions of influence and authority.

Sadly, I now take, following the support of choices made by Mr Cummings, the message that it's acceptable to be a driver who is unsure if they are medically ill-equipped for driving.

Indeed, maybe we can all now 'have a go' with our vehicles, whatever physical or mental condition we find ourselves in, as safety on the roads and responsibility to others is of a lesser priority.

Of course, there is another explanation. I could be mistaken. We could have many drivers who take their medical fitness and legal responsibilities very seriously before climbing into the driving seat of a potentially lethal vehicle on our public roads.

And Dominic Cummings, Michael Gove - and all those who are giving me to understand that we can treat driving as just another way to 'test your eyesight' - could be lying.

But that would be a terrible thought, would it not? People we have in positions of authority, able to lie so effortlessly and seamlessly in such a transparent way? It would suggest they took the voting public as such a lot of gullible fools. Surely not.

You are welcome to advise me on my thinking from this point.


I've amended this diary entry to include my MP's reply*, which is as follows:

I would like to thank you for your email and for your patience, my team and I have been handling high volumes of casework and enquiries during the Covid-19 outbreak.

I completely understand the frustration and anger that people are feeling right now. The country, our communities, our families, have all had to make difficult and often heart-wrenching sacrifices over the past few months. It hasn’t been easy for any of us to deal with the necessary lockdown measures and of course it feels awful when we see on the news that it looks like someone in a privileged position has bent the very rules we have all been sticking to.

MPs from all parties are working hard every day to help their constituents navigate this difficult crisis and communicating vital public health information. It is situations like this that take up a huge amount of time and attention, which is frustrating as I am of course keen to focus on supporting people who require dedicated and ongoing help during a difficult time.

After hearing Mr Cummings’ side of the story, I know that many people remained unsatisfied. Some people will never believe his account of the events, and some will think that it was too little too late. What I heard from Mr Cummings’ statement was a complex series of events that occurred under great pressure in a fast-moving situation.

I am glad that I didn’t rush to judgement over that weekend, and that I waited to hear both sides of the story.

Of course, public figures should be held to account, but this should be done in a measured and appropriate way. There should be no trial by media and I believe that public calls for resignations and firings only add to the noise that has distracted us all from the important task of tackling the coronavirus.

I acknowledge that you might not agree with my comments or my position that I set out in my statement on 27 May, and that you may be disappointed but be assured that I recognise your concerns and have relayed these to the Prime Minister.

My small team and I must now turn our focus to assisting my constituents who have urgent casework.

Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch and for sharing your concerns.

* I think it could be edited down to, 'Bugger off and stop wasting my time'.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Bloke fuels stereotype of being unable to look after a kid

Hey Dominic! I took my three kids to Dorset, camping, in a field and a wobbly tent when they were aged about six.

On the first night, I started to feel unwell.

It got worse. My head was buzzing, my limbs were folding, my temperature was rising. At dawn, I got the kids out the tent, packed up, bundled everything in the car and drove back home in one of the worst drives of my life. I knew what was coming for me was something that I would be unable to cope with in a field, in a wobbly tent, with three kids.

When I crashed through the front door I was in an alarmingly bad way. I fell over on my bed and fell asleep for hours.

I woke up late evening. I had no idea what the kids had done, how they'd eaten and what had happened. When I struggled to the kitchen, I saw they'd helped themselves to cereal, biscuits and any cupboard food they could raid, and they'd put themselves to bed. One of them had a raging temperature.

I looked after my three kids, on my own, for two weeks, until we were all well again.

I was one parent with three kids. No family near and, at that point, I would have no-one close by who could have helped.

And I'm lucky. By being sick, I didn't get sacked from a job. I had no imminent bills to pay. The father of the tribe would have come back if I had declined beyond worse. No-one did; we all just got sick together.

But there are so many single parents now who have it all much tougher than me.

You - well-connected to authority, disconnected from ordinary people - are one of two parents with one child, but you don't know what to do, nor how to cope.

Shame on you. And maybe you could take some time out to take lessons from the many blokes who know how to look after a child.

Saturday, 23 May 2020


It became very important to do this today: put some battery-operated fairy lights in a metal cage and find the best space to perch it. Two hours of amusement for which I probably need to thank lockdown.

Friday, 22 May 2020

That sorted that

Then I went beserk.

It all started on a simple walk. Once round the local park with a dispossessed Rambler.

Yes. Mostly 2 metres apart.

Except when navigating bicycles, trees, dogs, pushchairs, overgrown bushes (because no-one's trimming the paths), joggers, people of all shapes, ages, speeds... It's impossible, isn't it? Keeping 2 metres apart from anyone else in a busy park on a sunny day? To the photographers who snap away with the aim of public park shaming. We're all just doing our best.

But then the ranting started.

It was going so well! Until my co-walker mentioned a TV programme where the (male) chef, kneading a ciabatta, compared the experience to stroking a woman's thighs.

A TV programme where the audience are now positioned as tittering voyeurs. (Hey, maybe this is the prelude to a sex act where the chef goes full monty before penetrating his ciabatta*.) At the very least, watch to the end, because the presenter will sex talk when he gets out the olive oil. And it's all okay. We can sit happy on our sofas and next watch Nigella Lawson get out her licking spoon.

What? I sometimes feel - when I'm kicking off and finger pointing at the world - that the problem with opposition is that opposition simply reinforces the primacy of that which is being opposed.

As in, I'm arguing why it should not be okay that a woman's thigh is casually referred to as if it's a malleable lump of inanimate pasty dough, shaped under a man's hand, on wallpaper TV.

And I'm arguing about everything, taking my cue from norms: men/women, intimacy/exposure, touch/distance, cooking/eating, chefs/chefesses, women on TV/Radio, hand-made ciabatta/Warburton's from Lidl.

Ignoring how my fellow walker looks like he's been smashed around the face with a brick, I'm now in full oppositional territory and only really navigating other positions of shouting harridan, prude, closet lesbian, insane old woman, etc etc etc.

And all I did was reshape and reconfirm the whole stinking TV channelled system using a lens of opposition. What a waste of energy.

So I came home and wrote my non-oppositional statements of being.**

I aim to live my own ideas of beauty
I have grey hair. It's natural. I love it. I love the shades of blacks to greys. I love the way it changes, daily. I love the texture and the shape of my hair. I also love my own body. I like how it is shaped, how it moves and bends and how it works. It's brilliant! And I love my face! It's mine! It's very moveable! It expresses emotional states and ideas. Very useful. There's absolutely no point to comparison of my total being of face/hair/body to anyone else because, um, they don't have this lovely assemblage. I do! Yippee! Mine! All mine!

I aim to use my body and mind in a wide range of expression
This is a challenge everyday, but I enjoy the challenges expression brings. It's thrilling, isn't it, how to express yourself in a complex world. It's both freedom and responsibility. As in, I live in society, I want to be liked, I want to be a contributing person within it, and I want to express myself through/despite/because of all these hurdles and opportunities. It's my job to manage these competing desires and needs with respect to others. I don't look to anyone to define my challenges for me and generally I go about my own creative problem-solving on my own. When I do want help, I ask for it.

I have my own sexual identity
My sexual identity is mine, all mine, treasured and precious. I will be my own judgement, my own control, my own definition. To anyone with whom I choose to share my sexual expression, well, I think we're equally matched.

The TV chef has no place here; I can safely ignore him. Next time, I won't take the bait.

* I bet this blog entry overtakes my Sex With a Vacuum Cleaner post which rewards thousands of searches. 99% of viewers are disappointed when they read it.

**I shall go and think about this now.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

To the Post Office, which is not the point

Walked to the post office today.

I feel I should record it.

It's either 'Walked to the post office today', or 'I have consumed eight packets of chocolate biscuits during lockdown, which I am declaring is my contribution to the national economy in a time of crisis and you can send me a letter of thanks anytime from now, Boris'. That would do also.

But I prefer the diary update to be about the post office.

Thinking about it, it wasn't really the walk to the post office.

It is that my knowledge about social judgement has become a bit dimmed. I think this is largely because there is no social.

I set off down the street wearing the leggings I have slept in for two nights and worn for three days. They got a bit hot to wear, so rather than take them off - they are comfortable - this morning I took a pair of scissors and cut them off to the knee.

The tee-shirt I am wearing in no way complements the leggings colour, but even in bright purple it is serviceable, with its oil stain and some toothpaste dribble over one bosom.

The shoes, I changed. This year I found an old pair of flatties while clearing a cupboard. But the velcro fastenings were non-functional; the leather has stretched and the top and bottom velcro patches no longer meet. So I cut the leather, shortened it, got it under the sewing machine and voila! My velcro sticks! Add shoe repair to my list of talents!

The straw summer hat is essential, because I am sure it is the sun and not my kissing distance to 60 years that has wrinkled me (albeit attractively). As I leave the house in my bed and tee-shirt attire with my upcycled flatties, Squirrel casually says, 'You have a safety pin in your hat'.

Safety pins can come in very useful, I tell her. You never can find one when you want one, so I keep one in my hat just in case.

Regarding all other social niceties somehow expected of women - make up, smooth legs, fragrance of scents and perfumes, knickers, a functioning bra - I never thought about those at all until I got home.

I just set off with my set of brass rods wrapped in brown paper.

I'm not sure if I care if the look of me is in any way socially agreeable - perhaps lockdown relieved me of those responsibilities. Maybe we can all change completely the presence of ourselves on the High Street, if we ever take to it again.

I think I might re-emerge, when it is all done, wearing my favourite goth corset and super-comfy Fly London boots.* And my black top hat on which I have wound ribbons that flutter in the breeze. I rock that look. In my opinion. It will feel just fantastic.

* Not a sponsored post. They're just my favourite boots.

Monday, 18 May 2020

How Covid changed everything

I had a coughing fit at the dinner table this evening. Resembling a strangled red balloon, clawing at my throat and gasping for air. I continue like that for a good few minutes.

There is a terrible silence from my three household members while this goes on. They each stare at me intently, cutlery poised in mid-mouthful, barely making a sound and hardly daring to breathe themselves.

Then Tiger suddenly relaxes. With a relieved sigh she lays down her fork and says, 'Its alright. She's only choking.'

Sunday, 17 May 2020

File that

Not a pile of papers left in this house, I swear.

I've sifted, sorted, filed and reclassified: Items Pending, Stuff To Do, Must Do, Never Do, Revenge, Debts, Duties, Responsibilities, Plans, Electricity, Gas.

Fortunately, I identified the most excellent note books to accommodate Lists of all Lists. Probably not on sale near you, unless you live in Newport Pagnell or Stony Stratford where the shops remain closed. Hmm, Knicker Drawer Note Books remain focused on reopening.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Blue: Collect thoughts

I'm undecided whether it's causing me pain or pleasure, but lock down has certainly forced my slow down.

Instead of supplying my rented shelves in the shops with a new-stitched stock of note books, I'm watching a blue tit hop around a nest while waiting for wandering poppies to pop open yellow petals.

Planning, I'm more conscious of my process. I'm organising days around the best of the light, negotiating access to a washing machine and assessing how many mealworms I can leave out for a robin; we restock on Tuesdays.

And I'm trying to think the best - why I can't have what I want right now! Like jumping on the bike to visit a friend, or missing my trip to the cinema when I want to fly away with improbable stories about aliens, or transcendent journeys, or buildings with secrets.

Spontaneity, I didn't lose. But my impulsive wants are now bound. The impulses I'd like to follow - a sudden dance on my home-made dance floor, a random thought followed by action - are limited by the walls of my garden and the ceilings of my rooms.

But I can still wander off in my head. Note books, I'm making those, more slowly. Sometimes I feel the loss of creative resourcefulness that a deadline can force.

At other times, thinking I make a better job of note books and life, taking time to watch shades of blue as the day turns from morning to night.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Now, you only get to see the ceiling

This diary entry is for those people who stared inside our office 2010 to 2019.

Recall a dishevelled-looking bloke? He was maybe wearing his pants like men do in their sheds, with a barely buttoned shirt, pre-dribbled, topped by an old cardigan. The glass doors behind him? Faked on a green screen. In reality, one was smashed.

I loved my husband dearly, despite what you might have suspected (or been told), and certainly if you saw inside our office and came to a very definite conclusion - here was a sad man abandoned!

Nope. He was loved! Utterly. The landfill he made of the office was not loved.

Think yourself fortunate. You saw this chaos from your safe side of a plastic screen. There you could sigh and tut and do whatever before slipping back to your normality. I bet you felt sorry for him. Hmm. Misplaced sympathies. I lived with this state, powerless to do anything about it, too respectful of, 'don't touch my stuff'.

'It's my stuff!' covered the hole in the ceiling, piles of ancient papers, collections of magazines and manuscripts from 1974, a cellar full of computer equipment from the 1980s, peeling paint, 100kg of cabling, cassettes, floppy disks, piles of gadgets and a variety of indescribable items whose only redeeming feature was that they didn't have real hair.

And the smell. Let's call a spade a bloody shovel. If you have lived with a teenager who locks their bedroom door, closes the windows and draws the curtains, then you can imagine the smell coming from the office. It was very similar.

Did I mention that time my office colleague absent-mindedly threw a dead bird in the bin? That is not endearing. That is a health hazard.

Anyway, those days are gone! I no longer feel the need to put a bag over my head when I realise someone saw the office.

These days, my office / flat / rooms of elegance / hand-made kitchen is now transformed. And it is fecking amazing.

I threw open the doors and windows, scrubbed the carpet, hired the roofers, painted surfaces, dumped furniture, offered a ton of stuff to happy hands on freecycle, sent 50 metres of books to the charity shop, dismantled shelves, installed a Victorian overmantle above the fireplace previously blocked by a bookcase and seven blankets, enjoyed my repaired glass door and sold anything of value on ebay.

I'm happy to say - if you are one of many previous guests invited via video link to this office - you'll never see this wonderful space. Maybe you can look at the ceiling - the old office is transformed to my new rooms.

Enjoy your happy memories.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

The kids are alright

How are the happy home educators!

Not, obviously, those parents enduring daily pain and resentment in circumstances they feel obliged to repeat, ie Lockdown Homeschool. Possibly, Homeschool Extreme. As in, emulating actual institutional school practices in all hideous, grisly detail. I have heard of parents who take registers, ring bells and shout instructions about verbs. You know, in case, uh, the children 'forget'.

No, I mean us, the happy band of philosophic home educators. Guided by all idealistic, natural, free-ranging child philosophy, holding hands only with Romanticism and Rousseau. To me, the normal people! (Or the freak and weirdo hippy brigade if you're standing on the other side.)

These thoughts today, thanks to this article: kids co-operating to survive.

We quickly hit the basics. Are people evil bastards, screwing each other down in a miserable race to the gutter? Or are we kind and co-operative constructions, looking out for the weakest?

Even as a former home educator, I came over a bit told you so. I'm not the only one. We, the hairy weirdos, constructing lifestyles out of educational philosophies which involve tipping children out of doors into a horde of other kids, followed by the instruction, 'Don't come back unless you're bleeding from three places'.

It's based on much the same question. Really, what are the mini people about to do? Will they speedily return with a head wound, a grudge and a spear fashioned out of a tree branch? Or will they band together to create their own bizarre social game? I bet it's the latter.

The spirit guiding this freedom-to-roam, outdoor, hands-off education is simple. Look at those mini people. They're people, smaller in size than grown ups, but people all the same. Put them together and they'll draw on their innate people characteristics which we fundamentally believe to be, well, kind and cooperative.* In other words, alright.

Because we believe that people are essentially, er, alright, we basically trust them to be alright. And they are. In my experience, once unhindered by adults shouting verbs, the mini people quickly set about creating their own worlds. Somewhere in those play worlds will be a human instinct to survive. We have learned we have a better chance at survival by helping each other out, rather than bashing each other over the head with rocks. From that solid foundation, my bet is, children use those play worlds to experiment and test the moral and ethical principles encountered from birth.

Too right then, that play worlds are inscrutable to adult viewers. Why are those unicorns hanging from trees? But so what? Adults should stay the hell away. Let the mini people create their worlds. If the worlds take hours to build, then adults need only to get used to not being in control of stuff they don't need to be in control of.

Long live the free-roam, child-led, experiential, outdoors education! I hope the experience of Lockdown Homeschool is giving a lot of people a missed step in the routine grind - fill it with changed thinking.

Then maybe some parents take those next steps: junk the registers, ditch the bells, dump the test, fold down the desks and think What if before opening the doors to trust in each other.**

If it's headed that way, then go for it. Mini people need space and time and their own play worlds to engage with each other, fall out, make up, create things, break things, rebuild things, test theories or work together to build a space rocket from tin cans because it seems like a great thing to do until bedtime.

Sounds a lot like the adult world to me.

* The Hunger Games is the exception which proves the rule. It is a game that relies on kids betraying each other to survive. While it constructs the rules for physical conflict, it also constructs the framework for HOURS of discussion. We are still talking about the moral issues raised by the Hunger Games even now, years on.

**Take the fecking screens off them first.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Saturday cycle

The most splendid day!

Yup, just cycling to and from a local parkland.

Truly, getting on the bike makes the best day of lockdown it is possible to have, mostly on account of me not having a sense of locking down, but of having freedom.

I want to see a national day of cycling celebration when everyone should find a bike - even one that doesn't work - to take out onto the roads - where cars are banned - and possess the highways in a glorious celebration of two wobbly wheels and your own steaming pedal power.

I made a bike note book, but I gave it away to a worthy cause; then here's another page turning, while I muse on my next series of fantasy Steampunk bicycling books.

Friday, 8 May 2020

VE Day

Not that I recall VE Day being a big thing, growing up in Bash Street, but VE Day seems big now doesn't it?

I suppose it demonstrates how cultures change and move, shaping their triumphs and disasters as present politics require.

Anyway, anything anyday is a good excuse for something.

And I can be occupied by very little. I enjoy an hour trying to construct a 1940s turban. The retro-futuring gas mask is easier because I lifted it out the Steampunk props cupboard.

I put on Glenn Miller, but I usually do. And nothing stops me dancing, even in lockdown.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Think of the good things...

There are some positives about lockdown, huh?

Not the awful consequences of this horrendous virus; I can't go there without fear of being quickly overwhelmed into numbed silence.

Nor the daily challenge of frugal living thanks to a diminishing income. Not that either. Anyway, frugality is normal.

Nor the way I get to experiment with the limits of my personal hygiene! Although it has advantages. Three weeks and no shower! (And no running water in my little bolt-hole flat because I can't afford it).

And not being able to go out to find human company of my own interests and dispositions. That is Not Good. That is The Worst Thing Ever about lockdown.

But here is to count the good things!

Clear, clean air. Air that does not get in the way. Precisions of colours and shapes I can observe from my laying down flat-out position by the hedge where no-one can see me.

The garden robin, who is running a mealy worm protection racket. (I have seen The Birds.)

Time, that I cannot avoid, to do things I have long put off. Clean the hob, paint the ceiling, clear out the garage, scour the fridge, put up shelves, hoist out the overmantle etc etc.

Zoom, which I have used, once in terror and with the growing, horrible realisation that people can actually see me in my private space, so next time better tidy up a bit and put on a bra. But I am counting it as good (and not bad) because it is engaging me with the 21st century!

Reading, more consistently, for longer, and not just to page 11.

Making things, and not just a mess, but things with wire and glass and ribbons and hooks and bits you find at the backs of drawers to hold up and wonder, 'Can I use this instead?'

Taking longer to do anything and everything.

If I am going to hold onto one positive outcome from lockdown, it is this. To consciously think and interact and shape my environment in more deliberate ways; slower, with greater thought for ahead, than behind.

Making paths

A day clearing pathways in the garden. A bit like archaeology; discovering disused cooking equipment and old pots, possibly once used for ritual.

On the way, I found some of the old triumphs still there, which made me weep, frankly, because I had forgotten about the blue flag iris, but a single bud emerges to remind me that before, maybe 20 years ago, I loved it. It never went away. I did, because I could never clear the path to find it.

Gardens are all about the past, the future, memory, speculation, anticipation. Being in them is to recall joys and successes and lay down desires into the future. And artistically, they're a permanently changing canvas where the control is always out of your hands.

Then, these days, I am  happy to keep the planting around me free and wild. Grow as it will, let it make itself as it grows. I shall celebrate the rusty things I find, as works of art and their own creations set for themselves among green frames.

My job is just to luxuriate in it all.

And keep the pathways clearer than I did before.