Saturday 20 August 2022


I made this whale a while ago. A while ago whale!  It is a miniature version of one I am going to make with the children at the beginning of the term. I rashly said that I could do an art project with the year six children instead of the art company they usually use, and, as a practice made two large totem poles last term to test my theory. They came out pretty well, but involved an awful lot of preparation work and the few afternoons over which we made them were busy to say the least. But I enjoyed it. It was a project done in the aftenoons following  the SATS tests in the mornings, so it was a stress relieving activity for them I hope. 

The animals are all British wildlife.

With that project I worked with the whole classes with the help of two teaching assistants. Working out the logistics is just as important as how to do the art, in fact it is the part I find the hardest! For this project with an ocean theme, and also an environmental one, I have planned a number of things to make. The whale is the biggest and will be made from withies (willow sticks) which I am just going to call 'sticks' as every adult I have told about them has said "Willies?" So I am going for sticks. You soak them for a few hours which makes them pliable. This whale is a scale model. The big one will be made in the same way, with three sections hooked together so that there is a little movement. 
After making the armature, you wrap it in cling film. This provides a surface to papier maché tissue paper onto. I am going to justify the use of plastic because it is an artwork and won't be thrown away. ( A bit dubious but I can't make it in another way.)  Another of the things we will make is a 'great garbage patch' as found in most of the world's oceans. This will be a (hopefully) spinning large mobile. I have been reading a lot about plastic pollution and it does not make happy reading. There is micro plastic in absolutely everything. I was reading about 'nurdles' tonight. They are tiny plastic pellets used to make a lot of different things. They keep being spilled into the sea because of ships sinking, catching fire, and careless practices. Although I am finding it all pretty depressing and hopeless, I don't want to engender that feeling in the children, so will obviously approach the subject in terms of finding out what the problem is, and thinking of ways that we as individuals an contribute to making things better. 
As the paper dries, it has a kind of shrink wrap effect on the plastic. In the small model that was fine. This week I had a go with the withies. I made a large fish. It is good to try things as I have found out the pitfalls now! First, the shrinkage is much more obvious. I like the bony look it gives, but the planned gaps on the big whale need to be much smaller. That is easy as we can just add more circles. The other problem was strength and stability. On the small model I used wire, which holds its shape and is quite strong. I just had circles and struts lengthways. On the fish, I found I needed crosses in the circles to provide strength. They can also be used to give the circles an oval shape.  I was trying to work out how to get the children to make circles of the right diameter. (They are all planned out in my scale drawing.) Once I realised I would need more than I thought, I decided that rather than giving them the measurements and expecting them to make the correct sizes, I would make one of each size needed then attach a piece of tape to say how many more we need. I also realised that using masking tape to fix the circles is much easier than using string!
I did a whole layer of light blue, then a top layer of dark blue with added paint details. 

He is hanging on a lovely piece of chain I found by the river. 
These pictures are awful but it gives an idea of how pretty the whale looked all lit up! I don't think I can do that with the big one though. 
As well as the whale and garbage patch, the children will make papier maché fish, lobsters from recycled computer packaging, and papier maché seaweed. I couldn't think how to make this easily as I wanted it to have some dimension to it. Then I came up with the idea of corrugated plastic (Which will be re-used!). I tried that yesterday too and it worked pretty well. I will show you the results when we have finished. I have done most of the preparation now, and just need to finalise how we are going to do it. This time I will be working with smaller groups so have more flexibility with how I organise things. 
I have enjoyed finding out a lot more than I knew before about all things related to the project, such as how lobsters can grow to around three and a half feet, shedding their exoskeletons regularly as they grow larger,  and the things that look like roots on seaweed aren't, but are anchors instead. The lobsters are going to have pipecleaner legs and feelers. I used a plastic lobster that came from Andy's parents, as a model for my prototype, and ordered a job lot of orange pipe cleaners. It was only after they arrived that I realised I don't want the children to make cooked lobsters, but live ones! Back to eBay for blue pipecleaners! 

Sunday 24 July 2022

An Adventure

 Today we went to Chilslehurst to visit the caves. I have been meaning to go there for years but haven't. Our niece works in Chislehurst and suggested it when we last saw her. We met her and her sister there for our tour...

Andy is looking like an intrepid explorer!
We parked in a local road as there seem to be no parking restrictions, and only realised how massive the carpark here is once we got there. The people in the distance are role players getting dressed up. Nothing to do with the tour of the caves but fun to see. I am not sure what they were role playing.
This fancy door is the entrance to the tour of the caves. They are not actually caves, but a mine. Druids, Romans and later miners dug out 22 miles of tunnels from the chalk and flint. Dr William Nicholls claimed, in 1903 that the tunnels were excavated by Saxons, Romans and Druids, although there is no evidence for Druid occupation. The mine was worked until the end of the 19th century. There is a part of the caves with a stage and musicians including David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix played there. They were used as a munitions store in WW1 and as air raid shelters in WW2. There were so many people using them that a kind of underground town developed. One baby was born down there during an air raid. She was christened in the chapel there. Her name was Cavena! She changed it to Rose when she reached 18 but kept it as her middle name. 

The guide was good, and we all carried paraffin lanterns which added to the spooky atmosphere. At one point we stopped at a large ledge at the end of a tunnel. It could have been part of the continued working of the chalk, or a Druid sacrificial altar. (I personally thought it was the first one!) The guide went away and turned on a soundtrack of some pretty convincing sounds of an air raid for us to experience. The atmosphere of the place is strange. I suppose because of the damp dark coolness of it but imagination adds its own flavour too I think.

We stopped at an underground pool, where the remains of a woman in a white dress were found. She is supposed to haunt the pool and there are meant to be other restless spirits and strange goings on. Our guide has worked there for 5 years and has spent a lot of time down there getting to know the place. He says he has never seen anything but has heard sounds. He didn't specify so I had to ask. Children's laughter, footsteps and jangling keys! There used to be a challenge that if you could spend the night in the part of the caves where the pool is, alone, that you would win £5. (When £5 was a lot) Only one person ever managed it-a local policeman and he said he would never do it again no matter how much you paid him.

Once back in the daylight and warmth, we went for a delicious Sunday lunch at the Bickley Arms. It was a lovely day and anything like that at the moment feels like a mini holiday as I just don't do much anymore!
Both the caves and the pub are well worth a visit.

Thursday 14 July 2022

More Bear, and Mouse Repairs and Return to Work

I went back to work yesterday as I tested negative and felt mainly better. It was a hard day though as once I got there I realised I didn't feel that great and it was also very hot so I was moving at a very slow pace! I feel much better today though and have almost returned to my normal level of activity. I didn't do much last week, apart from sewing-making little sampler type things with scraps and embroidery thread. They were relaxing to do and I like small projects. I also repaired the cardigan of my Mum's bear, and made her a little dress from some vintage Laura Ashley fabric I got for a pound in Greenwich recently. She looks really pretty in her new dress. The other repair is of Mickey, my companion since I was three. I did it a while ago now. He is sitting on the left below, next to charity shop floor rescued blue bear with no nose. He was face down on the dusty charity shop floor a while ago and I couldn't leave him there. I have a problem leaving bears on the floor! He was 50p! I still have not given him a nose though. 
Mickey has been repaired numerous times, by my Mum, Nan and Gran, and also by me. He has had a few recoverings and bears no resemblance to his original self. 
Once I had taken all the coverings off, what remained was a very threadbare body with no arms, and big holes everywhere. There were a few wisps of fur, and a little original foot fabric. The knitting is part of his repairs in the past. 
First of all I used cotton fabric ro fill the holes, and reconstruct his nose and arms. This meant I was able to stuff him. I used Kapok as it seemed more suitable than polyfill. He was originally stuffed with that horrid foam stuff in small pieces. I think it was the stuffing of choice in the 60s.
It took a long time to get around to this repair as I couldn't find the right fabric. Then I found a grey needlecord miniskirt in the charity shop which was a little stretchy and was perfect. I already had the mohair fur fabric. The red fabric is from Hobbycraft. 
The card on the right is from my parents' friends who I think gave me Mickey. It is hard to believe that he looked like that at one time! It was great to have a reference picture. I didn't recreate the hands and feet. 
Once he was stuffed I made each part of him separately then sewed him in. It is like a suit really! I like how he has turned out, and hopefully I won't need to repair him again!
Here is Mum's bear in her new dress and darned cardigan. You can see how lovely the fabric is. It has a lovely sheen to it. 

Tuesday 5 July 2022

Time on my Hands Due to Covid

I have let months go by without writing or sharing anything here. Somehow I just didn't feel like it and there is no point doing something if you don't feel like it. But tonight, with at least another five days of nothingness ahead of me, I suddenly feel like it! Andy had covid last week and is still testing positive today, and I now have it, starting from Sunday so cannot go to school for at least five days. I found out yesterday afternoon that my school have Ofsted this week so lucky timing of finally catching covid. I felt ok yesterday, but have felt worse today. Mainly aching, and a bad headache and headachey eyes. I took paracetamol which has helped. Also very tired. I had a long sleep in the middle of the day today as nothing else seemed viable. Anyway, have perked up slightly now. 
Eyeless (temporarily) bear from the floor of Deptford market. I was there at closing time one evening a couple of months ago and the stall holders just leave stuff behind on the ground. There were a couple of people searching through it for anything worth taking and at first I didn't join them, even though I wanted to. I was way too early to meet my friend so was walking circuits of the area, and twice walked past sad panda lying on the ground. I went back to my car to get a bag, then swooped in to rescue him. Only five minutes later the bin lorries were there scooping up all the stuff so he was saved from ending his furry days in a litter crusher. He was destuffed, machine washed, restuffed, combed and is now awaiting eyes. I have some, but have not yet sewn them on. Him and eyeless bear have been waiting a while. His fur came up pretty well and is very soft after washing. 
Large faced lady drawn with alcohol markers on a gessoed background in my current journal. It is made out of packaging paper and an Amazon cardboard envelope. I have made a few handmade books this year. Two of them were from old envelopes.
Polystyrene tile print based on large faced lady. 

This is the view from my storage container on the Isle of Sheppey. It is pretty full now. I don't honestly know where all the stuff fitted in the flat. And the flat is not at all empty looking. But it is better. And is allowing me some space to gradually do jobs. Gradually being the word. 

Poor ratty was nearby on one of my visits. The containers are hopefully rat proof. They seal pretty well. I guess he or she was a victim of poison. I had to get rid of a much smaller rat, but still a rat from the bedroom of one of my cat clients recently. They were away for three weeks and their house was being shown to potential buyers so lucky that I spotted the rat early in the morning!

This was a recent discovery whilst cat sitting in a different part of Greenwich. It is a really lovely little area with lots of hidden alleys and paths and some lovely buildings. The cats happened to be next door neighbours so that saved me some travelling time!
I moved a large piece of furniture out of the kitchen so can move the remaining things around more easily. There was detaching plaster coving around the room and peeling lining paper on the ceiling. Both of which came off much more easily than expected. I now need to remove paper residue and then paint the ceiling and whole room. Then do the flooring. 
It was fun peeling the paper off!
I am making a baby blanket for Sophie who I used to work with. Her baby is not due until September so I have a while. I am doing a wavy pattern and have done about four rows of colour. 
Deptford market painting that I quite liked but not enough to bring it home. 
Cat friend. He is not scratchning me here but saying hello!

Finally is this picture of Andy wearing a wig I got in Deptford market. I got it for mannequin head purposes but Andy tried it on and we laughed a lot at the change in appearance it brought about!


Thursday 20 January 2022


House Sparrows in the dogwood the other day. They kept flying off and coming back again like a little gang. There must have been insects in the branches though I didn't see them eating. We used to call them Spadgers at home. Andy used to call them Spuggies. I am from Kent and he is from Northumberland. Apparently they are called Spyng or Spurdie in the Orkneys, and Chummy, Craff and Hoosie in other places. They are the perfect LBB. (Little Brown Bird-I think that is a kind of twitcher joke for unidentified birds) A number of years ago there was quite a decline in their numbers, and I remember noticing there were not as many around. They are on the endangered species list in the UK I think but their numbers are gradually climbing. Another good excuse for being a fairly messy gardener!

They only weigh around 25-35 grams!


Saturday 15 January 2022

Foggy Muddiness

Lower Halstow at 2.30 this afternoon. Fog, bird calls, and thick clay mud, pushed up by machines into a large mud pie for a giant. Not sure what work they are doing there. We only popped by on the way back from Antony's. Unlike the first time we visited, the tide was low and the water wound through the mud until it disappeared into the fog.


Friday 14 January 2022

Danger Electricity

I would like to be one of those Mudlarks who finds tiny and precious thngs, which will all fit inside a shoebox, and not involve heavy bags dripping with stinking mud and river water on the long walk back to the car. I am not. I see big things and blue things. Blue glass stands out beautifully so can be tiny and I will see it. Bricks with lettering have a strange fascination and I have got a small collection. In this box are all my partial electricity cable bricks. I have one that is nearly whole, and I like the small piece that says CITY. The Ramsay brick is from Rotherhithe. I saw it on a gloomy winter afternoon and decided to be sensible, and leave it embedded where it was. Then I got all obsessive once I got home, and went back early one morning, possibly the next morning but I can't remember. That is one of only two times I have been on the foreshore in the dark. It was very early in the morning, about 5.30 or 6 and a bright full moon. It was a bit scary and spooky but magical at the same time. I knew exactly where it was buried so could go straight there and then home again. The piece of carved marble is from the foreshore at Woolwich. There are lots of pieces of lovely marble there. I still have not been to the foreshore properly for ages, but I did pop down there on the way to Esme the cat on Christmas day. I picked up one thing, a piece of china with a wing on it, possibly that of an angel.

Wednesday 12 January 2022


Another trip to the storage unit today, and time for a coffee on the beach! It was a beautiful day. I picked up pretty stones, strolled along for a while, then off home again. My storage unit is now very full. We are having some damp curing work done in the bedroom next week, so I have been trying to clear even more stuff. My routine is to go there, then to go on to Sheerness which is about two miles away, and get breakfast from Tesco's cafe, then go to the beach. Last time I went I didn't get to the beach as it was absolutely pouring down. Today was much better. 

 Hi Again! 

The last picture is the remains of a wooden post. So worn but still there! The small piers are called groynes and are there to limit coastal erosion, trap sediment and stop longshore drift.

Saturday 8 January 2022

Boaty McBoatface

It is not Boaty Mc Boatface, but the Sir David Attenborough. (I think some people voted to name it the first name but the more sensible choice was taken!) (Here is the story of Boaty McBoatface)It is owned by the British Antarctic Survey and is a polar exploration and research ship. It was in Greenwich in October, and I was there early one morning after a cat visit so went to have a look. The light was beautiful and I wanted to post some of the pictures I took, but never got around to it.            A much older ship, The Cutty Sark, and the dome is the Greenwich foot tunnel entrance. 
The Shard and the Post Office Tower, which are about six/seven miles away. Convoys Wharf can just be seen behind the ship. The foreshore there is one of the places I go sometimes, not that I have done that for a while. The site itself is the focus of a local campaign to get it developed into something good for the community, rather than yet another exclusive and expensive property development.
Some pretty hefty lifting equipment.

Happy New Year to anyone reading. I have had a long blogging gap but want to come back now!