Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A day in the woods

We had a lovely day in local woods with friends last weekend. There are rope swings strung up all over the woods as well as a couple of cool Dens too. Although we came as we were, our fabulously organised friends had bought a thermos of coffee and hot chocolate as well as a pack of biscuits. We all sat on a log and had a picnic between swinging!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Kathleen Cash nee Rudd

My beloved wonderful Nannah passed away today.  She was such an intelligent lady - innovative and hard working (at 60 she had around 5 different jobs!) and with a real thirst for knowledge. I have so many memories of her - making toys from cardboard boxes every saturday, orange jelly with satsuma pieces in them,  working with her pouring the sugar to make Grandad's parsnip wine, and buying junk from their bootsale stall. She was particularly amazing when it was time to do my GCSE's revising with me every night - bribing me with cake at just the right times and even practically doing my English homework for me at times! She made up rhymes to help me remember key points of History (The Treaty of Versailles I remember to this day .... King George Ran Around Clacton And Frinton - le - Soken = K. The Kaiser to be put on trial; G. Germany to be declared guilty of starting the war; etc etc etc!)

Nannah really came into her own when we were learning about WW2 and in particular the Evacuation. She was evacuated at 15 which effected so much of her life. When I was about fourteen I interviewed her about her evacuation experiences and this was her recollection:-

Kathleen Rudd pictured (circled) along with her fellow evacuees from Clacton. June 2nd 1940. 

On the second of July 1940, fifteen year old Kathleen Rudd stood along with three hundred and forty other pupils, clutching a small bag and a white panama hat (rarely seen on her head). She, as everyone else clad in the Clacton County High School navy and white uniforms, had no idea of the destination. The only part of the journey known being the quick march to Clacton Railway Station. They were being evacuated to escape the threat of German invasion or arial action along the south-east coast.
After a long, tiresome train journey the party of school children and teachers finally arrived at Kidderminster: a town in the Midlands well known for it’s carpet industry. However this was not their final stopping place. Instead they were to be sent to the surrounding villages. Kathleen was sent to Blakedown, a pretty fruit growing village with only three shops - basically just a stop on the main road to Birmingham. On the children’s arrival the receivers were in for a shock - they had been expecting toddlers! Kathleen remembers:-
“There were four of us put in the same room, the walls plastered in bright nursery rhyme characters. This we did not like!We were billeted with a well off elderly couple with a large house. They were very much the ‘aristocrat type’. We didn’t like it there as we felt locked up. We were expected to stay in the garden all the time and play on the croquet lawn. Eventually we could stand it no longer and decided to sneak out. This resulted in the decidedly nettled couple insisting we be moved elsewhere. This of course suited us just fine!
I was billeted alone the next time around with a middle class couple - a school teacher and her husband, an industrial chemist who commuted daily to Birmingham. They had quite a modern house with lovely china and ornaments of which I was terrified of breaking, and matching furniture. They were very kind and treated me very well. I learned to knit and was very proud of my first jumper. They even took me on holiday to Wales to a small seaside resort near Aberystwyth. We travelled by car, which was a novelty for me as my parents didn’t have one. The couple were very strict health freaks and while in their care I was fed lots of salads and fruits which I enjoyed very much as I would eat anything and everything in those days. The only food I couldn’t abide were the marmite sandwiches which appeared in my lunchbox every day without fail. Of course marmite was un-rationed and very nourishing, but I am sorry to say that these were disposed of in the bushes on the way to the bus. However I’m sure the birds were grateful!
It’s funny but I don’t really remember ever missing my parents. I used to look forward to their letters and wrote home regularly, but I didn’t get homesick and I was never afraid for their safety - even though they were in the front line. I suppose it just never occurred to me that anything could possibly happen to them. The one thing I did miss was the sea. Stuck in the wilds of the countryside I was a long way from the waves and sand, and I was glad to see it when we journeyed to Wales.
My social life in Blakedown was great, but I must admit it overpowered my schooling. Every evening my friends and I gathered at the local tennis club and we quickly made friends with the local children, especially the boys! I had my bicycle sent up from Clacton and I remember the fun we had going for long rides and picnics. The weather was so lovely that summer. The sun shone relentlessly from early morning till night and the evenings were warm and calm. Perfect tennis weather! There was certainly no incentive to stay in and revise for the exams that were looming in the very near future. It was the most important school year for me in that I was taking my School Certificate. School life was a joe. We were taught in a kind of art museum and I remember nude statues everywhere. This caused much amusement - especially amongst the males of the group. Traffic droned by outside of the building on the main road continuously and it was  almost impossible to settle to any proper work. Although I did get fairly good marks in my exams despite little revision, I’m sure I could have achieved much better results had I been at home.
For some reason I had to move again to another billet. I realise now that I must have been a big responsibility to my foster parents and they probably had had enough. I was sent to a remote village with another girl who I hated and the people I stayed with were elderly and very strict and conservative in their ways. I remember we were given our rations individually every week and it was torture trying to eke them out. In the end we made a competition out of it to see who could make them last the longest. There was a huge damson tree outside of my bedroom window smothered in fruit which was very usefully positioned from my point of view! I hated it there as there was nothing to do and regrettably the fact that I disliked it so much influenced my decision to return to Clacton instead of staying at school.
There is no doubt that evacuation effected both my exam results and my choice to leave school and abandon the idea of taking my Higher School Certificate. I have come to regret this very much as it has affected my whole life and would hve helped me to have a better career.

None the less, I enjoyed my experiences of evacuation and value the memories.

I loved hearing Nannah's stories of growing up and when she was younger. She used to take me to London regularly for a while and always gave her top tip when standing on the tube to stand with your legs apart and knees bent - learned from her bus conductor days during the war!
So many stories and so many more I wanted to hear.

I will miss you very much Nannah. xxx

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Biking in the kitchen

With all out new space in the kitchen shell it has turned into a bit of a makeshift bike track! Eden has been desperate to get on the bike like his big brother. It is still a bit small for him so I took off the seat and wrapped some foam around the frame as a makeshift seat. He finds it a bit confusing that it falls down if he lets go but he's getting the hang of it. It is a bit of a slow ride but he is moving along and feeling very proud of himself! He's even tried to push off and put feet up although not quite successfully yet! He can pretty much walk ride around the room now though. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Kitchen renovations

We are now at the half way stage with our new kitchen - i.e. the old one has been ripped out and we have nothing until the new one is put in! I thought I'd post a few pics of the work so far....

This was the old kitchen and dining room when we moved in.

Dan soon set to with making the arch between the rooms into a walkway. The radiators were moved from beneath the arch and the arch soon became a more practical floor length. We blocked the kitchen door with a larger more practical fridge and just used the dining room door for both rooms. 

A couple of years and rooms later it was time to properly renovate the kitchen. We decided to switch rooms and make the kitchen in the old dining room with an open plan feel. 

The wall was knocked out completely between the rooms and as it was a supporting wall a steel beam was put in. The dining room door was bricked up. Big sheets of plastic helped keep the dust from the rest of the house - it still got everywhere though!

The kitchen was still functional for a couple of days although we had to find a new dining room!

The next to go was the fireplace. Initially Dan checked to see if a steel beam was needed - luckily it wasn't supporting. The fireplace then came out along with the chimney. 

And today it was time for the whole kitchen to go .... all the boys set to work!

We now have a makeshift kitchen under the stairs!

A blank canvas awaits the next month!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Giant Bean Bag Tutorial

I have been wanting a big bean bag for ages!
I searched around for an easy pattern for a while and found this post on recycling t-shirts into beanbags helpful on Instructables.
I really wanted to make mine out of a nice cuddly fleece. The fabric I found was 150cm wide so I wanted to utilise the size in the best way. I ended up needing 4 and a half metres.
I used the beach ball idea of a beanbag pattern with 6 pieces fitting into each other.

This meant that each piece had to have a angle of 60 degrees at the top (360/6).
I made a pattern piece 60cm wide and 180cm high and cut 6 from my piece of 150cm X 450cm fabric. I found the best way to utilise the fabric was to stagger them  as shown:-


I cut them out by folding in half lengthways

They were then sewn together with sections fitting into each other at top and bottom. I double sewed each seam - I don't want an explosion of poly beads all over the house any time soon!

I recycled a zip from an old bag and positioned it across the points where the sections meet on the bottom. 

I initially made the bean bag out of a couple of old duvets and very roughly measured and cut without a pattern - the  result was huge - a bit too huge and my 21 cubic feet of polystyrene beads were lost inside it's  vastness! 

It made a great lining though which it definitely needed - again in case of any escaping beans. 
I made sure I kept to my paper pattern for the real fabric!
I love the end result and as a girl who generally prefers the floor to a chair, I'm sure I will have many a cosy  evening snuggled into it. It's the perfect size for cuddles too!!

Your comments make my day! Do let me know what you think!