Monday, 29 December 2014


#Nurture 1415
2014 saw some real highs for me as well as inevitably some low moments too.
1.       Tommy
The biggest highlight of the year was the birth of my grandson Tommy. I read a quote somewhere that said ‘I didn’t know how much love my heart could hold until I became a grandmother’ and that is so true. I have never been the natural ‘maternal type’ as I’m sure my son will testify – I loved him so much but he very quickly learnt to become independent – he’s a much better cook than I will ever be. BUT becoming a grandmother was amazing – I miss Tommy if I haven’t seen him for a couple of days and my heart literally contracts when he sees me and smiles.
We have seen several specialists from plastic surgeons to mobility experts all of whom are happy with him as he is learning to use his ‘little arm’. One of my proudest moments as a mum was when my son wrote this, explaining how Tommy came to be born with only one hand and how they would always support him.
Christmas this year was very sad for lots of reasons but for the first time in 27 years I managed to visit my eldest son’s grave without collapsing into a heap and this is due to the healing and love that Tommy has brought with him. I have a wonderful daughter in law who lets me have Tommy regularly – even for ‘sleepovers’ (yes there is a reason that ‘sleep’ is in inverted commas!) I cannot wait to spend more time with him next year – we have a pile of books everything from ‘Guess how much I love you’ to the ‘Tiger who came to tea’ complete with their corresponding toys. Tommy is probably the most photographed baby ever but he puts up with it with good grace.

2.       Family
Many of my blog posts this year have been under the heading of ‘Dementia Diaries’ and have chronicled the downward spiral of my mum and the toll that this has taken on us as a family. It has brought us together and we shared highlights such as my Dad’s 80th birthday but a lot of our celebrations are tinged with sadness as although mum is there physically she is not mum as we know her to really be.

3.       Working with the ITL family
It has been amazing to work with these wonderful people. From Big Days out, to trips to Brussels to planning sessions – all done with good humour lots of banter and a shared goal. To the new members I’ve met its been lovely to get to know you – to  many of the old hands, thank you for your support and total madness! Hywel I think we are jinxed whenever we go on journeys together – our track record can only improve!

4.       Photography
This year has seen the publication of my own book ‘Learning through a lens’ (thank you to all at Northern Rocks for allowing me to have my launch there)as well as books for which I provided most of the photographs ‘21st C Assemblies’ Will Ryan ‘Dirty Teaching’ Juliet Robertson and ‘Teaching with Flowers’ Julie Warburton. I am stunned that I have my images in books – I suffer from crippling self-doubt and always think that my work is not good enough – thank you to Crown House for believing in me.

5.       Dens
Dens has definitely got to be a highlight – my wonderful friend @cathy_cross has introduced me fully to the world of den building and I can now use cable ties like a professional! The moment we sat in the car (reminiscent of an Only Fools and Horses episode) after our first ‘official’ gig at MMU last January will stay with me forever J Many thanks to friends and schools who have helped us with this.

1.       Tommy has to head this list too – I have promised him ( we have lots of chats when we are on our own) that I will support him always and will not let his little arm hold him back – I am passionate that he understands he can be and do anything that he wants to be. I wish all children had a champion – someone to support and cheer them on however hard life gets. I’m working on a special project around children like our Tommy with @ArtBethan – watch this space J

2.       My personal goal is to realise that I can’t solve everyone’s problems, I’m not responsible for everything and it’s ok to ask for help. I worry about so much – I need to realise that some things aren’t worth worrying about. If I’m true to myself and my values it doesn’t matter what others think of me. I will try to have more self-confidence but this is hard!

3.       Photography – obviously this is my passion but I’m going to push myself this year – new projects, stop being lazy and shoot in manual mode more often! Develop different styles – my Instagram account is already stylised – I need to develop this.
I am thinking of opening an online store on Etsy to sell some of my images – just need a shop name now – thinking ‘Faded Images’ as I tend to shoot lots of things which are decaying – any ideas?
I have set up a new blog to work on a 365 project with a difference – no prompts just images I choose with quotes and other things thrown in!

4.       Making a difference
I’m involved in two major projects which will take me well out of my comfort zone – I’m excited but scared at the same time. In March I’m going to Kenya with @WWEP  and Debra Kidd to work at Kakuma Refugee camp and then bring this work back to Schools in the UK via ITL and WWEP

I’m also involved with the Pop Up Farm @popupfarm  and Paul Clarke with Lots of interesting projects such as the 30 year Dance in time and coffee projects beginning with a visit to their headquarters at the Chateau Millemont in Paris next month

5.       Continue to work with teachers and colleagues who have the same values that I do – when we are told – ‘no you can’t do that’ we find a way – I've had amazing times this year – throwing paint at pupils, building dens, building from scrap, using photography with pupils, working with famous artists…

Who knows what 2015 will bring but one thing is certain – it won’t be boring!
Oh I forgot!! Cathy we have that book deadline looming

Friday, 26 December 2014

Dementia Diaries - Christmas 2014

Last week was a bit of a turning point In dealing with mum's illness. We have been trying for months to get dad to agree to respite care for mum. He refused seeing this as a failing on his part  - his pride would not allow him to accept help and all we could do was watch him struggle. Last week social services took over and told him respite was no longer an 'option' it was a necessity and an emergency at that and booked mum into a care home the following day. It's hard seeing her as others must and walking Into the care home and seeing her as she now is shocked me. Out of her comfort zone the difficulties were more pronounced - physically she looks dreadful sallow skin, slumped, very overweight, hair plastered to her head - if my real mum could see this version of herself she would be horrified. She can no longer do anything for herself, not even feed herself. She did not know where she was or why she was there just that the others in there were ' barmy' Dad doesn't understand why they put her with people who are so bad - he doesn't seem to realise that she is actually worse than many of them.
It served to show dad how exhausted he was and he has now agreed to regular respite care. It can only be a matter of months before she has to go into a permanent care home.

We have visited today as it's Christmas - it's been hard - a sad reminder of Christmases when our kids were little but my brother and I as well as our families went for the morning to support dad. I showed him this photo I'd found and his response was 'that's when she was still with me' mum however didn't know who the photo was of.

 There were tears and hugs and lots of poignant moments. Fortunately our Tommy rescued us all. He never cries when we give him to Dad - he just looks at him - sometimes babies have more wisdom than the rest of us. Who knows what 2015 will bring but we know it will bring challenges. Enjoy your loved ones whilst you can and hope you all have a peaceful New Year x

Saturday, 13 December 2014


This is just a #fun challenge for the holiday period. Inspired by Mark Anderson @ictevangelist who has access to not one but two lego advent calendars and by articles such as Tiny Lego travels here we have decided to issue a challenge.
Basically use a lego figure (or figures) - I've just ordered a flower carrying hippy as I can't find my others! and make them the focus of your christmas photos - visiting relatives, out walking anything - there is only one rule and that is to have fun!
I suggest we use the hashtag #legoholidaychallenge and start now! No limit on posting no restrictions - doesn't have to be everyday - just as and when.
It's a mark of how well my husband knows me that he didn't bat and eye lid when he came back from his walk to find me hunting down lego figures and having to borrow - Abraham Lincoln :) (I'm only 55)

Look forward to sharing your Christmas with you and your lego person - hope my hippy arrives soon - now what shall I call him...:)

Brian the builder gets ready for a night out with friends.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Reasons to be thankful

It's a strange sort of day today - my wonderful cousin would have been 40 today. Sadly she died on Christmas day three years ago and is very much missed. 'Our Jo' was one of a kind in so many ways - she had Downs Syndrome but basically to us she was just Jo - a larger than life personality with a heart as big as a bucket! I still have the last Christmas present she bought me - in its bag - it's a bottle of red wine that I will treasure but never drink.

This week saw a milestone for a close friend and her family. If you read any of my blogs you will know that baby Harry was 'born asleep' and is very much missed. This week however, saw his parents and sister adopt a little girl - I know they have their own guardian angel and deserve happiness.

My mum is deteriorating - she is vacant most of the time, can no longer feed herself and is triggering all sorts of 'social service' visits and assessments. Dad is coping and too proud to accept help but seeing him nurse our Tommy who gazes at him adoringly makes it worthwhile.

Our own shining star is now 4 months old and developing his character - the Plastic surgeon declared that 'he is lovely just as he is' and I so agree - how can one little child bring so much joy?

I'm off to spend this evening with my cousin (Jo's brother) and his wonderful family - we have sparklers, sparkling wine and a heart full of love - Happy birthday Jo x

Monday, 24 November 2014

Itl twitter baton

This week I have the honour of holding the twitter baton for ITL. As a photographer I love the absolute amazement and joy on children's faces when they actually see something for the first time. By that I don't mean anything earth shattering - just something as simple as a pattern on a sign or a toadstool that they have walked passed everyday for weeks or even months. My favourite photography quote is the one by Thoreau - 'It's not what you look at that matters it's what you see.' This week I want to challenge you to SEE and celebrate rather than just LOOK.
Challenge one is to share a window into your world using the hashtag #windowmyworld. It can be taken anywhere your kitchen window,  classroom window a train or plane if you are travelling - your car in a traffic jam, your favourite coffee shop - let's share our views! Be creative. If you edit this photo and want to share the app you have used that's even better.

Challenge two will take you all week - take up to 9 images that sum up your week - nothing fancy just iPhone or iPad shots of highlights or moments are great and upload them to a grid - there are lots of collage apps around - my favourite is  'Moldiv' then upload them at the weekend using the hashtag 
#highlightsofmyweek tweet during the week and let me know if you are joining in with this challenge. 
I love doing this and often look back on these shots as a form of pictorial diary.
Look at the world through the eyes of a child and remember the magic that is out there.
Looking forward to seeing all of your images!
Here is a view from my kitchen window and the same view edited with 'waterlogue' app
Happy seeing!! Enjoy your week.

Apologies if any of this looks strange but I'm in a hotel in Bristol where the wifi is very hit and miss!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Halloween images

Thorp Perrow Arboretum sets up an amazing Halloween trail every year. Below are some images from the trail this year. They would make a great stimulus for writing this week - please feel free to download and use if they are useful x

These collages were put together using which is free and very easy to use.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Dementia diaries update

As the football season has begun again it means that we are once again sitting with mum whilst Dad goes to watch Barnsley. It is actually quite shocking how much she has deteriorated when you spend a few hours with her without dad being there. He covers for her and when he isn't there she is totally lost. It was my turn to sit with her on Saturday and Adam asked me to look after my grandson Tommy - obviously I jump at any chance to spend time with him so arrived carrying him in his chair. For the first time ever she looked at me completely blankly. I was early (so dad hadn't 'primed her') I had a baby with me - she has no idea who he is and so she was at a loss.
She struggled to keep awake, she had no idea if she wanted a drink, she got cross when I asked if she wanted to go to the toilet but then wets herself.
The whole afternoon was surreal
Mum - Who is that little girl?
Me - Its our Tommy mum , Adam's son, my grandson.
Mum - so you are a grandma then?
Me - yes its Tommy - he's lovely isn't he?
Mum - Is she your baby then? What do you call her?

This went on for several hours and she still has no idea who the baby was - nor will she remember today that we visited.
At one point they were both asleep - Tommy so calm and trusting in my arms and mum making frightening noises. I feel a whole range of emotions for this woman who isn't my mum - she would be horrified at the situation now if she could see it. We filled in forms for social services for dad, made mum a drink that she didn't have. Gave her a bun for tea which she didn't know how to eat and needed the raisins picking out of!
Dad looks poorly, he has lost so much weight it's worrying, he still cries easily but won't let anyone organise any more help - 'He can manage'. They are an accident waiting to happen, I don't know how much longer either of them can continue like this.

On Saturday I had the privilege of listening to Dr Andrew Curran talk about the brain and its functions to a group of ITL Associates. I found it fascinating. The 'Hippocampus' in dementia patients dies and has no plasticity. There is no cure.
On the positive side I asked him about prosthetic arms which are linked to the brain and the nerves in the arm as we had heard that these were being developed in America. He was positive about this as it is already happening. 
(Disclaimer - Tommy's dad dressed him in the above photo)

The brain is an amazing organ and I must reread his book as his talk was inspirational. 

I need to understand more - if ever you get chance to hear Andrew Curran then do - it's enlightening
There was an interesting interview with Ian Botham on the BBC website yesterday

in which he explains how it feels living with a parent with dementia and why he decided to stop visiting him. The quote 'Don't judge me unless you have been in my shoes' rings very true.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Notes from the front line - Debra Kidd

Once in a while a book comes along that stops you in your tracks and really makes you think about your own stance upon and your response to educational issues. I've been a teacher for 30 years and yet there are sections in this book where I found myself thinking ' I never knew that.' Debra has a way of distilling educational issues that makes them clear to understand without oversimplifying them. I think my favourite quote from the book would be ' It is hard to find breathing space in such systems to be your authentic teacher self. But there are pockets of air  - you just need to know how to find them and use them.' She may be a doctor and an academic but she 'gets teachers' as she is one too! I  love this book and have scribbled notes all over it, stuck post it notes in it and folded corners over. It's a book to be read and re read. If you are happy to be challenged then this is the book for you. 
> Thank you for helping me relocate my authentic teacher self.

That was the review that I wrote for Amazon but all I want to really say is 'BUY it, Read it and do what this amazing woman says!' 

Book available here

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

International Big Day Out in Brussels

I am fortunate to work with Independent Thinking Ltd and have been to several 'Big Days Out' and know how much fun they are as well as how much sharing and learning actually happens. So when the opportunity to take part in an International Big Day Out came along I jumped at the chance. It's not often you are surrounded completely by like minded colleagues. We may come from different backgrounds, different countries, be a whole range of ages but what we have in common is a love of learning and a desire to communicate that to others.
I laughed so much with the other associates my face hurt at times. I met people who were teachers of all age groups, parents and pupils who all wanted to learn. I loved the way everybody just threw themselves into the workshops with complete abandon. There is something magical about a group of adults lying on the floor arranging 'little people' for a photograph and shouting excitedly 'There's an ant - get the ant!!'

The school grounds were amazing but it's the people who make a 'Big Day Out' special.

There are other Big Days Out - planned
details can be found here

The next one is in Surrey on the 27th November - don't miss out!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Taking safe risks

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.’ GB Shaw

As a result of the changes in society many children now play in a ‘virtual world’ where they use computers to communicate, play games and explore the world. Consequently they are not involved in as many free play activities. Sue Palmer speaks of ‘Toxic Child Syndrome’ where ‘children are targeted by advertisers from birth ….they lure children from toddlerhood into a sedentary screen based experience.’[1] She argues that being ‘risk averse’ in both society and schools is a problem which is hindering the development of many children. Claiming that fear of litigation is an issue in schools and as a result, ‘the health and safety brigade now stalks the corridor, playground and sports field, attempting to eliminate all risks from children’s lives.’[2]

Whilst I fully understand that pupils need protecting and their safety must at all times be paramount I fear that we have gone too far the other way. It is claimed that childhood allergies such as asthma are on the increase because children are kept in sterile or very clean environments and therefore never build up any immunity(3) We are in danger of becoming a ‘cotton wool generation’

One of the ways in which schools can overcome a bland and risk free experience is to provide opportunities for managed risks or if it’s not too much of an oxymoron – ‘safe risk taking’. Children can be protected into working in an environment which is outside of their comfort zone, which allows them to make decisions as well as look at cause and effect

The reason for writing this blog post is because I had a wonderful day at Darton College in Barnsley on Friday working with GCSE art pupils. They were mature young people who were fully in control of their learning and happy to direct me, as a photographer, to get the shot they wanted. However, one of the shots we want was a 'Holi paint throwing image' -The pupils, the Head, the art teacher and parents were fully supportive but there was so much red tape to be unravelled - the origin of the paint, protective eye wear, not causing marks on the tarmac......all of which I fully understand but sometimes you just have to push on and say 'yes we are doing this'. The art teacher @Mrs_H11 did a sterling job and never wavered! The pupils response 'best lesson ever' - the results for their portfolios - amazing! 

Protection is needed but so is learning to manage your own risks! Thank you so much to the amazing staff and pupils at Darton - watch this space - we have other plans 

[1] Child Exploitation 21st Century Style.
[2] Sue Palmer Toxic Childhood page 58

Monday, 25 August 2014

A day out in Sheffield for photographers and creatives

Yesterday we visited Kelham Island in Sheffield - one of my favourite haunts. As a photographer there is so much to see from textures, to street art not to mention the lovely people and food that can be found there.
First stop as always is The Grind Cafe @THEGRIND_Cafe for breakfast - quirky - attention to detail and lovely poached eggs. This is part of the #collagechallenge on twitter - follow the # and feel free to join in.

A wander with my camera is lovely - I'm not going to upload many photos as these will form another #collagechallenge

Having wandered, we crossed over the road to the Nicholas building. This is like a sweetshop for photographers and anyone with an eye to the unusual! In the newly opened section for upcycling we met a wonderful young lady and spent some time just chatting and exploring - if you are at all creative and love looking at unusual objects, seeing how you could incorporate these into your home, garden, classroom then this is a must visit.

There are two floors of treasures to be explored - we will be returning