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