the fam

the fam

Friday, 30 September 2011

Lost In Music...

I've always been surrounded by music, it's one of my great pleasures in life. I have early memories of my dad playing his tape recorder (one of those old flat ones with the big chunky buttons) in the bathroom next door to my room. 'Blackberry Way' by The Move still reminds me of that house...makes me feel very nostalgic when I hear it and hearing 'Save Your Kisses For Me' still gets me teary-eyed!

I love the way certain songs make you feel and immediately conjure up a memory of that specific place in time.  I remember walking along a road near my house one hot Summer in the 70s and hearing 'You Make Me Feel Brand New' by The Stylistics blasting out of a kitchen window. Another random memory is a shopping trip (we did the Big Shop every Friday night) to Fine Fayre when my hamster had just died. I sat in the car park in floods of tears with 'Tie A Yellow Ribbon' by Dawn playing on the radio. Tony Orlando crooned along in the background whilst I cried over Hammy.
I was brought up on The Beatles, Abba and the K-Tel albums from Top Of The Pops (Unfortunately, I also remember a Max Boyce album lurking in the collection) but by the time I was 10, I began buying my own vinyl. My first single was 'Golden Brown' by The Stranglers...not a bad choice for a Primary School kid.

my first single
Sadly, my early musical tastes weren't always as cool as that first single and left a lot to be desired! Last weekend I uncovered some absolute horrors at my parents' house hidden (quite rightly) in a cardboard box. They included every hideous novelty hit from the 80s (remember Agadoo and The Frog Chorus...??)..oh the shame!! At the time I remember buying records from Boots and being so excited with my purchases, rushing off home to play them a hundred times in a row. I learnt the lyrics (thanks mainly to Smash Hits magazine..I still have some of them!), I learnt the dance moves and sometimes even came up with my own routines. My rollerskating routine to Green Door by Shakin' Stevens was a particular triumph (or so I thought at the age of 10)
horrific finds...the shame!
My early teenage years saw me buying top 40 bands of the 80s - Madonna, The Eurythmics, Culture Club, King, Bananarama, Dead or Alive. I was also a huge A-ha fan and collected all sorts of rubbish memorabilia including a pillowcase with the bands faces printed on it. (A-ha was my very first 'live' gig and I loved it!) I religiously taped the Top 40 on a Sunday evening with that same chunky tape recorder, desperately trying to cut out the DJs voice in between the records. Back then, it was exciting to find out who'd nabbed the Top Spot that week and it took a lot more than selling 4 records to make it to number one.

By 15 and feeling very grown up having discovered the pub (terrible at such a young age but one of the only places to meet up with friends at the time in a small town), my tastes changed again now that I was hanging out with a whole new 'older' (and I thought much 'cooler') crowd. Some of my new found friends were listening to Rock (sad as it sounds but 'Is This Love' by Whitesnake takes me right back to my sniffling teenage break ups), I also started listening to U2 - The Joshua Tree remains a favourite album of that era (With or Without You still gives me goosebumps), and 60s influenced bands like Voice Of The Beehive, The Bangles & Prince.
Sometimes, a song can also conjure up a person so clearly. I saw Voice Of The Beehive live at Nottingham's Rock City - a 17th birthday present from my boyfriend at the time. Sadly, many years later, he lost the fight against a 3rd brain tumour at the age of 24...'I Walk The Earth' will always remind me of him.

As I turned 18, I left home and went to Art College - it was a whole new chapter in my music journey. Lincoln, although a small city, had an amazing amount of live bands on throughout the year in tiny venues. I suddenly discovered Indie and Alternative bands and I was in my element! During that fantastic year I saw masses of bands from House of Love to Gaye Bykers On Acid and everything in between. Many bands played Lincoln before hitting the big time
By the early 90s I was at Uni in Manchester, just as the 'baggy' rave scene hit but it wasn't for me. I did go to The Hacienda once, but it left me cold. Thankfully 'grunge' came along and this was to be the start of a love affair with the whole Seattle sound.

I loved every minute of that time and watched hundreds of gigs - Manchester was THE best place for live music. By '93 I was virtually watching a band every night of the week, there was such a huge choice in small venues like The Boardwalk to the much larger Academy type venues. I saw Nirvana live twice and Jane's Addiction 3 times...I was having the time of my life! Other memorable gigs included Soundgarden, Rage Against The Machine, Fugazi and Mudhoney. I loved the whole grunge look - I dyed my hair shades of red, I wore massive 'para' boots and I had my nose pierced. All my friends had piercings and dreads and listened to the same type of music...I even had a boyfriend who had 10pence dropped into his cuppa by an old lady as he stood outside a shop waiting for me...she thought he was homeless!
Reading festival had to be the ultimate weekend for live music at the time though. 1992 was the year that the Heavens opened and saw Nirvana headlining on the main stage for the Sunday finale. Kurt dressed in a lab coat and blonde wig, we threw ourselves and our hair around into the early hours.

These days, having just turned 40 and with 2 small children and a business to run, I hardly get time to listen to the radio, let alone go to any gigs, but I do have my ipod. I love how eclectic my music tastes have become - from Laura Marling and The Guillemots to Elvis and Andre Rieu, Plan B and The Arctic Monkeys to Faith No More and Muse.
In the future, I'm hoping my kids will have fond memories of our music (Alfie is already a big Muse & Jack Penate fan!)but I promise I'll leave Agadoo in that cardboard box.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Bittersweet September

Autumn has always been my very favourite season. The colours, the fresh crisp days and those nostalgic feelings of starting a new term at school. I loved the first day of pencil case, new smelly rubber (I remember one smelled like swiss roll), new bag, new uniform...everything was exciting. I loved writing ever-so-neatly on the first page of my brand new exercise book (page 2 never quite matched up to that precision) Finding out who your new teacher was and who you got to sit next to..I loved every minute
My first class....I'm on the back row in the luminous orange jumper!
This year there was another brand new term but this time it was for my 4 year old son and my feelings weren't quite the same. We bought the new uniform, the new shoes and a brand new lunch box but there was no excitement on my part...I just felt so sad. My little boy is growing up and seeing him in his uniform for the first time pulled so hard on my heartstrings, I cried as he skipped off into his bedroom feeling so proud of himself. He just looked too little to be starting had it come around so quickly? "Don't be sad Mummy" he said looking at me with those beautiful big brown eyes "I'll come home again!"
new shirt and tie
His first week of half days eased him (and me) into school life gently but he took it all in his stride which I knew he would - he's such a confident little boy. This week he started full time and he loves it. He's making friends and is full of tales of floppy the dog and Mrs Anderson's magic bag. He's been rolling down hills and scuffing his new shoes. Every morning in his classroom, he puts his book bag away in his tray and he's off...I have to catch up with him to steal a hug before I go.
My big schoolboy
I still feel sad but I'm also immensely proud of my fabulous little boy and so happy that he has settled in so quickly. I hope he has the most amazing adventure at his new school and I'll try not to be sad...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

A Birth Story: The Baby Sunroof

I've thought long and hard about this post - I wasn't sure whether I should share my experience but I decided that it may give someone hope if they are going through something similar and that would be a good thing. (I should warn you now that there are going to be some quite graphic images, so if you're a little squeamish, do not read on!)

I finally got together with the love of my life in my late 20s but after spending several years building up our business, my thirties crept up on me very quickly. Before I knew it I was 35 and although we'd spoken often about having children, the time just never seemed right. All of a sudden, we realised it was now or never. Luckily, I conceived fairly quickly and we found out I was expecting our first baby in July 2006. So far so problems and the first few weeks of pregnancy were a breeze. The only slight worry was my size - I had to start wearing maternity clothes at 8 weeks because of the size of my bump. Had I got my dates wrong? How many babies were in there exactly??

At 12 weeks we went along to our first scan. We were excited but nervous at the same time...Was the baby OK? What if it was twins or more?! What came next was a shock but extra babies weren't the problem. The sonographer had found a 'mass' blood ran cold. What kind of a mass?? Thankfully our baby was fine but the 'mass' turned out to be a very large fibroid. I hadn't even known it was there and once I'd spoken to my consultant, he was amazed I even got pregnant in the first place.  For that I was extremely grateful as I've since found out how much trouble even very small fibroids can cause...many can't conceive if they're present in the womb.
safe and snug
As the pregnancy progressed, I grew rapidly but in my first-time-mummy mode, I didn't think about the fibroid too much. I knew it was there but I was in no pain and I was sure it wouldn't cause any problems. After having a tour of our local midwife-led unit, I was excited that maybe I could have a water birth - something I'd always quite fancied and the birthing pool was wonderful! Tra la la I went in my ignorance until a meeting with the consultant changed everything.

Apparently I was a bit of a medical consultant had only ever seen a fibroid this large once before in the whole of his long career as a surgeon. With the pregnancy hormones raging the fibroid grew and grew - no one was quite sure just how big it would get. The consultant explained that where the fibroid was sitting was my biggest problem, not just the size. If it had been above the baby, then maybe I would have had more choices, but the fibroid was low down and had basically blocked all available exits...the water birth was out. So was a 'natural birth' of any kind.Ok, I thought, so I have to prepare myself for a caesarean...I can handle that. The consultant shook his head...a normal caesarean was out of the question too as there was no way to reach the baby. I could feel tears beginning to prick at my on earth was this baby coming out?? I looked over at Steve - he looked as confused as me. The consultant said that the only option was for a 'classical' caesarean - a very rare and risky procedure that involves a midline longitudinal incision which allows a larger space to deliver the baby. Basically I was going to be cut open straight down from just below my ribs to about 2" below my belly button...I was terrified.

The fibroid carried on growing until it was bigger than the baby - I looked enormous and I was extremely uncomfortable. At 32 weeks I was measuring 48 weeks pregnant - I was the same shape as Mr Greedy!! The fibroid was now measuring 17cm x 15cm
Luckily, apart from now being the size of a small planet, there were no other problems in the pregnancy. The tricky part was still to come and noone knew exactly how it would all pan out as the procedure was so rare.
As my due date approached (8th March 2007) dreadful thoughts started to plague me day and night. I prayed that I wouldn't go into labour early as the thought of an emergency c-section of this kind would be very dangerous. I tried to stay calm for both our sakes but I was gripped with fear. I couldn't wait for this all to be over.
Mr Greedy
My consultant booked me in for the afternoon of February 28th as he was also concerned about premature labour but had to leave it as near as possible to the due date to give baby every chance. I remember travelling to the hospital that morning...a 40 minute drive and I hardly uttered a word. I watched the red arrows fly overhead, I watched sparrows in the hedges as we hit a traffic jam, I listened hard to the radio...anything to take my mind off the inevitable.

The preparation for theatre began including lots of form filling. At this point, my one happy thought was that at least Steve could be in the room with me and we could both see our baby being born. I was under the impression that a spinal was still possible. Then the anaesthetist came out of theatre looking very concerned. He explained to us both that he was very unhappy to perform a spinal and my only option was to be put under general anaesthetic. I burst into tears...half an hour before surgery and every birthing option had been crushed. I was shaking as we walked through to theatre. Steve kissed me goodbye and went to wait on the ward. Just then, something very odd happened.... I felt completely calm. I thought I'd been given a sedative but apparently not. I think my body had just accepted that this was what was happening and was just 'getting on with it' Once all of the canulas had been inserted (3 in one hand, 2 in the other and a morphine drip in my arm), I was put under.

I came round in the recovery ward with a mask over my face and a blood pressure monitor squeezing my arm at regular intervals. I was quite spaced out on enormous doses of morphine and my first words were 'do we have a baby?' Steve showed me a little white bundle - he looked like he was holding a bag of fish & chips! Our beautiful baby boy was here - 7lb 12oz of perfection. We were both OK and the relief was immense.
Huge relief...
Recovery was incredibly hard - the pain was intense and I couldn't leave the house for 6 weeks, but our little Alfie Luca was totally worth it.
Alfie Luca
A few years later and the conversation turned to siblings. Could I really put myself through all that again? It took me a long time to come to a decision. Then in September 2010, we discovered that I was pregnant again. We were overjoyed but obviously the fear was still there for me - after having spoken to the consultant before even trying for another baby, I was fully aware that I would have to go through the same procedure. But I didn't want Alfie to be an only child and so at 12 weeks, we found out that Alfie would be joined by a baby brother.This time, the pregnancy was much harder. I grew to enormous proportions again but this time my ankles were permanently swollen, I could hardly walk with the weight and pain in my pelvis, I had horrendous heartburn and sleep was out of the question!
Getting ready for an awards ceremony in London - 20 weeks
There were lots more tears and lots more tests this time around including a very unpleasant 45 minute MRI scan- so claustrophobic, hot and noisy but necessary to find out if I had a condition called Placenta Accreta where the placenta becomes embedded in previous scar tissue thus making it extremely difficult to remove without massive blood loss. Thankfully, I got the all clear but the MRI showed just how shockingly big the fibroid had become. I was around 24 weeks at this point and the fibroid was much bigger than the baby.
There was also a tearful visit to a new anaesthetist who desperately wanted to keep me awake during this next operation. However, once she had explained that the spinal may not work because of how high up the surgeon had to begin cutting and there was a possibility of discomfort (how do you define 'discomfort'??), I started to feel very uneasy. She also said that if anything went wrong, I would have to have a general anaesthetic anyway and I definitely couldn't put myself through that kind of terror. I wanted it all done quickly and safely under general anaesthetic again.
32 week bump

Measuring 48 weeks pregnant!
This time I was booked in for the 'classic' c-section just 4 days before my due date (6th June 2011) As the date got closer, I prayed once again that labour wouldn't start. I arrived at the hospital very early on June 2nd and baby no.2 was delivered safely at 9.46am weighing 9lb 1oz. Our beautiful second son, Charlie Noah was finally here and this time I couldn't describe the relief of waking up and seeing my was all over.
The second op somehow seemed much better, even though I had dreaded going through it all again, I wasn't in as much pain. Apparently, the anaesthetist had used a new method of pain relief - by using ultrasound to detect the nerve endings in my abdomen, painkiller was then injected into them.
recovery room...lots of morphine

Charlie Noah
I needed help once I returned home as I wasn't able to lift anything (including baby!) and my stitches took a long time to heal. Steve had to inject anti-bloodclotting drugs into my stomach once a day for the first week which was very painful but he did a better job than the nurse!
Our gorgeous baby boy is now 3 months old and thriving. My stitches have healed but I have a long recovery ahead of me. I'm trying to stay as active as I can and the fibroid is beginning to shrink.
The Baby Sunroof
The full horror!
There's no chance of the fibroid being removed without a full hysterectomy so I will just have to live with it. I look back at the photos and think about what I went through to get here but my little boys are my everything and I would do it all again for them.
On the road to recovery
Our 4 year old loves looking at Mummy's 'snitches' and hearing about how he and his baby brother came out of the Baby Sunroof. I feel incredibly lucky to have my sons

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Hello Duck! (The Gallery: Week 72)

I have only just discovered Tara Cain's Sticky Fingers blog. Each week she gives a prompt (for example this week is 'animals') to go out and use that prompt to take a photograph (or to use an image you already have) Since I am passionate about photography, discovering The Gallery was very exciting! I love to look at other's photographic interpretation of a word - it's a fabulous idea so I am now going to try and remember to join in each week.
As I said above, this week is 'Animals' and I'm hoping my bird photo counts as it's on of my favourites! 

On one of our many visits to the seaside, we made a new friend. My son Alfie, who was only around 2 and a half at the time, began feeding a duck that had sidled up to our bench. We were enjoying our fish and chips when Mrs Duck appeared from nowhere. She did several laps of the bench until Alfie gave in and decided to share his pieces of fish with her. That sealed the friendship and she rewarded us with a very lovely photograph...

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Seaside Special: Mablethorpe & the Plague of Ladybirds

Last weekend we awoke to a rare sight.....the sun was shining!! Since this has been a very rare occurence this Summer, we packed a picnic and headed to the coast. We chose Mablethorpe since it was definitely a 'beach' day - the weather was glorious and we couldn't wait to unpack the car (sun tent, windbreaks, buckets & spades...)
beautiful beach
As we arrived at the seaside car park, we noticed that the sky seemed to be filled with insects. There were millions of ladybirds everywhere! I hadn't seen this many since the blistering Summer of 1976, when I was 5 and collected jam jars full of ladybirds at my Grandparents house! They covered the car and when we got out, they covered us too!! 
one of many ladybirds!
Thankfully though, the minibeasts didn't spoil the day. The afternoon was scorching hot and we even had a dip in the sea.
wave jumping
Baby Charlie slept in the sun tent and Alfie had a whale of a time splashing around in the waves and making sandcastles.
Mablethorpe beach is a brilliant place to take the kids - miles of golden sand, cafe and toilets nearby (very important on days out!) and a sand train. 
The Sand Train
We finished the day with a round of Pirate Crazy Golf and a fish and chip supper. A grand day out!
Pirate Crazy Golf
Getting cold..Daddy's top is on the large side!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Riot Raffle : Giving Back To The Community

Like so many, I was shocked and appalled at the sheer level of violence and mindless vandalism during the recent riots in our major cities. I could not believe the selfish attitude of the rioters...this was not a revolution, this was opportunism and instant self-gratification. Stealing flat-screen TVs and trainers was not a was greed. There have been many excuses for the behaviour of the mainly teenage rioters...poverty & boredom being the main reasons. This actually makes me feel very angry. I grew up on a Council Estate and we had very little in terms of material goods. My Dad went out to work to pay the bills and my mum stayed at home to look after us. My mum made our clothes and we had to walk everywhere, but we were happy. Just because you are poor, doesn't mean you go and burn down someone else's home or have respect for others in the same situation as yourself. Something these rioters seem to have forgotten...they've ruined their own communities.

So when we heard that one of our twitter 'friends' was organising a raffle for those affected, we decided we'd like to help. We weren't able to join the wonderful Riot Cleanup group who did such a fantastic job so this seemed a good way to give something back and to show our support.
we are donating a mirror to the raffle
Zoe's idea of a Riot Raffle was brilliant. If the arts & crafts community could donate prizes, the money raised would help others with small businesses in association with the Retail Trust and hopefully go some way to rebuilding people's lives and livelihoods.

So far, the response has been amazing - over 80 independent small businesses have donated prizes. For your chance of winning one of these fabulous items, you can buy a ticket for just one pound.
For more information, to view prizes on offer and to buy a ticket, please see the Riot raffle website or Facebook page

Friday, 19 August 2011

I love.....


I am a complete novice when it comes to photography but I do feel I have an 'eye' for a good photo. Hopefully this is where my art training has come into play - learning about composition, lighting, colour theory etc has definitely helped. My personal opinion is that, just having a fancy camera doesn't necessarily produce a good photograph, there are so many other elements to consider.
Cromer Pier
I did dabble with photography at art college and my biggest regret is that I didn't persue it as a career. Whatever possessed me to study constructed textiles still baffles me to this day! The course was fine and there were many very talented textile artists on my course...I just felt I wasn't one of them!!

Hello Duck

Baby Blackbird
Clothes Line
I love spending time on Flickr - some of the photographs on there absolutely floor me! So much talent and creative subject matter on there along with brilliant use of effects and techniques. I love the work of Shana Rae (portrait/floral photographer) 
Perfect Rose

After The Rain

Pink Lily
I particularly love the current trend for 'vintage' style photography - the quirky shots and the slightly aged look to them. I'm a massive fan of wedding photography too - taking beautiful shots of someone's special day must be hugely rewarding. I'm not one for very formal shots (although I know a lot of Bride & Grooms still want exactly this style, it's just not for me) I much prefer the 'reportage' style where I feel the whole essence of the day is captured - everyone caught in natural poses, laughing and enjoying themselves to show how the day progressed.
I've yet to purchase my own DSLR - for the moment I use my trusty old point-and-shoot sony sureshot. My subject matter is fairly traditional, nature, textures, the seaside...the latter being my absolute favourite. I have had an obsession with everything 'seaside' since I was a little girl! I may still be learning the art of photography but I'm quite proud of some of the shots I've captured.
seashell on the seashore

beach hut reflections

bird watching

If you would like to join me on Flickr, I would love to see your photos too! 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

When I grow up...

When I was a little girl, I remember wanting to be an Ambulance driver. I have no idea why..think I just fancied driving fast! 
not quite an ambulance
I also wanted to be a Space Cadet for a while. They had lovely bright shiny lycra suits and could fly..what's not to like?! Then there was the palamino horse (I had to make do with a pretend one whose stable was behind the sofa) Not a career choice exactly, just thought I could own one along with a house by the was all going to be so easy!
Next, maybe a Police lady (forget your Police Officer, this was the 70s and the nice Police Lady wore a skirt and everything!) 
'ello 'ello 'ello
All of these fantasy lifestyles soon went out of the window when I started Ballet at the age of 6. A Ballerina! That's it!! So for the next 10 years I took 5 classes a week in Imperial and Classical Ballet, Modern, Tap and Acrobatics, took medal tests, taught baby ballet classes, took scary exams with very old severe-looking ballet examiners and danced to an actual person playing a piano and performed in stage shows (writing, producing and starring in two of them!) 
Angelina Ballerina
At the age of 16 after receiving the first ever Distinction for a Gold Medal test at my dancing school, I was invited to join a modern dance group in London.
me (far left) dancing to Summer Holiday
At this point I should have been ecstatic, but sadly by this age, my love of dance had waned and I had decided I wanted to go to Art College instead. I had won several National Art Competitions and always got good grades for my artwork.
the 'artist' at work
I often wonder what would have happened if I'd gone off to London - it all sounded very glamorous at the time. The reality of a life on the stage though is often very tough - dancers are notoriously poorly paid, often unhappy and always starving! Not the best career for a girl who likes her Sunday Roast!
I loved Art College - I took a 1 year Foundation course and had the best time of my life! Being creative every day was brilliant. I got to try out different fields of art and design - Graphics, Photography, Fine Art, Textiles and could opt for one of these to study further. I chose textiles as I enjoyed working with different textures and fabrics.
textile show..not quite sure what I was modelling!
The next step was a degree and I got an interview at Manchester Polytechnic (it changed to Manchester Metropolitan University in my final year!) to study Constructed Textiles. What a mistake that was! Looking back I hadn't been fully aware of what the course involved (my own fault) but with Manchester courses being extremely hard to get on to, I took the place. My first year was miserable. I loved the city and my social life was great but I hated the course and although I was getting good grades for each project, I wanted to leave. I was persuaded to stick it out and thought maybe it would get better. Sadly my second and third years were just as bad but mainly due to a tutor who for some reason had taken a dislike to me. Granted, my time-keeping was appalling but I always stayed late and finished every project on time. I was given ridiculously low marks for every project (ridiculous compared to my 1st year grades as nothing much had changed fact I thought I had improved!) The only time I was given really good marks was when we were given projects by external examiners. So, I persevered but almost gave up in my final year.
degree show
My tutor's parting gesture, after having been asked if she could check over my degree show stand and help with the last few details, was to go home early without even bothering to find me. I was deeply disappointed with my entire degree course and looking back, there was one field in particular I really wish I had
However, as in my earlier posts, I'm pretty happy with how things turned out..a wonderful OH, 2 beautiful boys, a lovely home and an ever-expanding business. I may not have made the best career choices along the way but I think my dreamy younger self would have been quite happy with her lot...there's even an imaginary horse behind the sofa.