Category: Family life

Doings x

 

The Sketchbook Revival has proved to be a family life line in this strange and weird time and has become a part of our routine, like furniture in a room.  In fact a few odd things have become a part of our routine: Over lunch we all do a number puzzle (this makes it sound easier than it is – some of them are real buggers) which over in North London my Father and Brother are also doing (It’s sent out in the morning..and I hear it’s being passed on to all manner of people who want to give their brain cells a beating).  Then after supper, when work is finished and the day is drawing to a close, we gather round the kitchen table to follow the sketchbook revival, never knowing what we’re going to be asked to do next.  This time together is not about comparison or competition, but connecting and just doing; Here’s a thought: if you don’t do art because you think everything you produce is sh*t, think about who’s made that decision?  Is it limiting? Why should you limit yourself? Now put it into perspective –  are you ever going to sell your art? No.  Will it be a fun thing to do? Possibly…but until you try with an open mind, you’ll never know…and let me tell you from experience..shit art has real comedy value.

 

 

But that’s now come to an end.  (Although you can still follow the series until April 26, link here) Sob. So what next??

 

My mother sent a link this morning to Firstsite and their Artist Activity Packs which can be downloaded for FREE. All manner of artists from Jeremy Deller to Annie Morris to Anthony Gormley and Grayson Perry have or are intending to contribute, offering projects, thoughts and inspiration, designed for children and adults alike  that can be explained or done on a sheet of A4. A quick look through – the first pack is 26 pages – reveals all sorts of gems from drawing a self portrait with your eyes closed to making a chain of people designed by Anthony Gormley. Can I underline – this is pure gold dust and  liquid star beams and basically the stuff dreams are made of: Can you imagine all these artist’s competing to come up with the best ideas..and then giving it out for free???

 

(All pics Firstsite and Pinterest)

Sorted. With a huge, happy smile.

Laters, Kate x

Ode, owed x

 

We lost Molly on Wednesday, just a few weeks before her 17 birthday.  We knew the end was coming, but we were hoping she’d hang out just long enough.  We got her as a tiny puppy, small enough to sit in my hand, when I was going through repeated miscarriages and then a long bout of infertility; she was our first baby.

 

 

And my, she was a character! There was the incident when we had an architect to visit, and quietly and silently she took every item out of her bag, from phone to keys to hankies and carried them downstairs to a pile in the sitting room.  Another time, when Bella was being potty trained and we were laying a patio in the garden so Molly couldn’t be let out – this was the time when she was very funny about where she did her business  – we took her for a walk, but nothing. So we closed all the doors and expected a disaster. In the morning we came down to find a perfect poo – in Bella’s potty! During one lot of building renovations we had to live in Brighton for two weeks – and ended up buying Molly a square of fake grass to persuade her to wee! Although her favourite thing to wee on was discarded cigarette wrappers…she’d scour the common for them, then perform a dextrous three legged expulsion of both satisfaction and disgust. She also had a deep held hatred of pigeons, particularly  in her garden – all we had to say was ‘is there?’ and she would hurl herself through the dog flap to charge out to see off the infernal infidels.

 

 

When I finally became pregnant with Bella, Pauline, a local elderly lady started walking her to help me out – in those months, my world became very small in an attempt to hold onto the pregnancy – Pauline and Molly became as thick as thieves – Pauline would drop in at any time saying, ‘I just wondered if Molly would like a walk,’ and very often, on a Sunday, they would get the bus to the London Oratory and go to High Latin Mass together.  One priest once made a fuss, but never again, the other Fathers rallied around and even the Bishop said no, God cared for all animals, and promptly blessed her!

In later years, when Pauline became housebound, I would walk the kids to school, drop Molly off at Paulines, so they could spend the day together, then do the reverse at the end of the day, taking Pauline her shopping. Pauline is in a home now, still going strong, she knows Molly hasn’t been in the best of health, but I haven’t broken the news to her yet. It’s something I dread.

 

 

Our hope was that she would pass away in the garden, under her favourite tree; we had reached the point where quite often we were checking to see if she was still breathing.  Then this week, she developed a bladder problem, and we knew the time had come.  It is such a horrible call to make, you know it is a greater act of love to make it.  But it doesn’t make it any easier.  Particularly, as she did with us – rally when she got to the vets, she even went for a little walk, had a good sniff around…except we never got to the vets as such because of Coronavirus; they had to come out to the car with us staying 2 metres away. They gave her a strong sedative, and John carried her in the street, with me stroking, until she slipped into a deep sleep. Then we laid her on her red towel on her bed in the boot of the car, still stroking her. The vet came back out, and very gently asked if it was OK if they took her now. She wrapped her up like a baby and carried her away to give her the final overdose of anaesthetic inside: The Coronavirus has long tentacles.

 

 

The house has felt very strange without her. We knew this was coming, but the end happened far quicker than I think I was prepared for. Her bed, her bowl, her collar, the sound she made across the floor, the constant bumping and tumbling as she made her way around. But somehow we are getting little messages and reminders. The above picture is a still from our online sketchbook art session last night – and there’s Molly on her shoulder.

 

This is a screen shot from my copy of The Times homes supplement today.

She’s gone. But not forgotten.

Laters, Kate x

Oh The Joys… x

 

 

This post has been pulled from the archives and edited from Summer holidays for Coronavirus especially for Abbi and Laura and all those working from home with young children. Just know, I know that you’re amazing.

  1. You’re watching a film, OK it’s Disney..but actually you’re involved in the story (sad but true)..at the crucial scene (long-lost Anastasia being re-introduced to her frail Grandmother..a real tear jerker. Promise)…there’s always a ‘Mum, mum, I need to tell you something RIGHT NOW.’  Without fail.  Truth be told, happens in all programmes..sport – just as they come to the finishing line, the news..the weather! They announce the weather you’ve waited 30 minutes to hear so you can plan the next day – picnic? no picnic? ….’Mum, MUM!…’
  2. This also relates to map-reading or any activity that requires your immediate attention…..major road junction and need to hear the sat nav? or need to talk to husband because not trusting the stat nav?… ‘Mum, MUM, MUUUUM!’…
  3. The phone..Mum talking on phone means I must talk to her extra loudly SO SHE CAN HEAR ME.
  4. ‘Please guys I need 30 minutes undisturbed’ equals at least six interruptions.  Because each one was only a small one…because they didn’t want to interrupt you…
  5. The call of ‘Mum, MUM!’ from another floor followed by silence…that chick-like cry translates to ‘Drop-everything-you’re-doing-even-if-it’s-saving-the-world-because-I-need-you-to-do-something-really-insignificant-because-if-it-was-important-I- would-actually-bother-to-come-and-find-you’.
  6. The other much heard cry: ‘Mum-MUM-I-need-a-wee NOW!’…guaranteed on a motorway but the worst time so far…Eight hours into a drive on Greek roads at 37 degrees of heat, crawling along on single track, snaking, moutainous road with a stream of lorries which we’d slowly and painfully over-taken without being killed.  We pulled over and had to watch as each and everyone passed us again..I cried. And Charlie was given an empty bottle for the rest of the journey..
  7. The ground-hog-day morning call of ‘Please can everyone have their shoes on and teeth brushed and everything ready so we can go as soon as I’ve finished this’.  You finish tidying the house, sorting the washing, putting the washing machine on, cleaning the fridge (delete/add as appropriate)..and nothing’s happened.  And now you’ll be late…
  8. You’re always late.
  9. The ground-hog-moment of reminding them to say please and thank you on loop throughout the day.  Like hitting you’re head against a permanent wall.  You can remember the date of your birthdays but this is too hard?? It’s the mum equivalent of chinese water torture. Results in No.15.
  10. I say ‘Please can you turn your ipod down’ and I get ‘Well that’s it..I’m just going to throw it in the bin and then you’ll be sorry’.  Like doh? Results in no.15.
  11. The more bored they get, the less I want to do with them, the less they are capable of doing except whining at me for being bored…and then I spout all the cliches: ‘In my day…’
  12. Then you book them on a camp or tennis club..and it’s ‘We don’t want to go because we want to stay with you..’ Why???
  13. The longer you take to cook their breakfast/lunch/supper the less it will be appreciated.  And cooking three meals a day stinks. Results in no.15…for me..
  14. So you have a picnic and where ever you are, whatever you’re doing, you’ll be handed all the rubbish as if you’re one giant dustbin.  Even if you’re driving.  Or getting ready to pilot a rocket to the moon..silently, the used lolly wrapper/empty drink carton, sandwich foil are passed over to you… Do I have ‘I am really a bin’ written in permanent ink on my forehead?  Results in no.15..
  15. I tell them a certain behaviour will result in a consequence.  They never believe I’ll carry it through.  But I do every time..and they’re still shocked.  Like??
  16. Because of no.15 the consequence usually means we don’t do something nice that gets us out of the house.…which means no.11 kicks in…and I’m bored too.
  17. Asking something to be done requires the order in triplicate.  And then no.15 kicks in, followed by no.16.  And then no.18
  18. The longer the school holidays last, the more I find my brain shrinks (see no.1)
  19. And then they’ll disappear and play beautifully together..
  20. Except the more fun they have…. the greater the mess…
  21. Till it reaches a tipping point of hysterical proportions and you say ‘This will all end in tears’.  And it does…
  22. 5 weeks down, three more to go

Yeah. Um. Well. Yep. When actually will it end? This is life now. gulp.

 

GOOD LUCK!!!!!

 

Laters, Kate x

Day 3


The hump day of the week, highlighted by a rebellion from Charlie over running this morning.  All I can think is, why wouldn’t you? The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the blossom is out.  But there’s that expectation to lash out at, the enforced decree.  I think it’s what Boris Johnson is so scared of hence his fudged message: Stay at home, unless you have to work at work, which you can only do safely, but your bosses will decide what that means. Certainly on run, there was very little difference, the main roads are the same, the residential roads are quiet except for builders, who were told to shut up shop, but now are considered able to work safely. A builder working safely? The niggling feeling is Boris is trying to blur the line between caring and the economy.  I wish he would just make a strong stand one way or the other.

Charlie did go for his run – the threat of losing time on Fortnite was a powerful motivator.  But we ran different routes.

The big success has been the daily sketchbook challenge.  On day one Carla Sonheim explained her daily page dump – drawing a box, dividing it up, filling each square with different subjects: day and date, a diary entry, an ideas section, a drawing and an anything goes box.  We’re all doing this every day so that by the end of this we’ll all have diaries of this bizarre, never known before time to look back on and remember.  Once that page is complete, there’s a different artist offering something new to do each day.

 

 

These were from blob drawing and looking at food.

 

 

The idea is not for perfection – and the random nature of the vintage-handmade-sketchbooks really helps with that.

 

 

The email of ideas comes in at 12.  I find myself looking forward to it.

Laters, Kate x

Day 1

 

This morning is the first test of the strength and endurance of our internet – all four of us are working at the same time.  So far, all good – the biggest concern is between those who can work quietly (me, John, Bella) and those who can’t (Charlie) and whether those who work quietly will influence  a dial down, or the constant nagging needs of one will dial it in the opposite way; I’ve only yelled once…

 

 

We’ve all kept to our normal times. Apart from Bella, who over slept so missed the newly installed 8.00 am run – we’ve each installed the couch to 5k app with the aim to run with it every day.  It’s a great programme especially for beginners; it tells you when to run and when to walk and is designed to progress you from a beginner to running a full 5k. There’s an option where you can choose your personal running coach – mine is Michael Johnson, because when he tells me I’m doing good, I really believe I’m doing good. He’s fast becoming a good friend. When we’re running as a group we look like a flock of birds, when with no obvious signal we all transform from walking to pounding the streets.  The streets today were probably two thirds down on traffic, but busier than expected.  I think everyone thinks their car is their own portable bubble. The thing is it’s what you do at either end of your journeys that can matter…there’s news that petrol pumps are sources of infection.  Just saying.

 

 

This weekend we prepped for the sketchbook revival 2020 challenge, buying nothing, but going through book shelves for old books, gathering dust that could do with a re-love, finding old sketchbooks, tearing out pages, old letters, cards, wrapping paper, tissue paper – anything that would make it interesting, then sewing it together…very satisfying.

 

 

Mine is done now.  Just waiting for the first email to drop in with instructions for the day – better check my spam folder…

 

 

Also redid our window boxes: ivy, trailing white geraniums, miniature daffodil bulbs and some white plant that looked pretty! They’re going to get a bit of love every day as well.

 

Something little, something often, something creative, something together.  This is could be more a blessing than a chore.

 

Laters, Kate x

Carrying on x

 

As this week comes to an end we have potentially the biggest change so far – I have Bella at home for the first time today and Charlie’s school will close at 3.50 pm.  Things to be grateful for:

 

  1. My children are older.
  2. We have a garden.
  3. I like my children.

 

I think it also helps that I am used to working from home and already have systems in place that I know work. My rules are pretty simple: Run a planner to prioritise what needs to be done, turn off all distractions apart from appropriate music, set a timer – 30 minutes max, focus till timer goes off, re-set with 10 minute timer, start a podcast, do a cleaning or admin job to tick off planner.  Repeat. There’s something about this system that means you’re always willing to re-start the 30 minutes because you stopped it just before you lost concentration. And you always look forward to the 10 minutes because you left the podcast at a critical stage…

I am hoping we’ll all be able to work in the mornings, and create in the afternoons.

 

Through Carla Sonheim’s amazing website, I have joined the sketchbook revival for daily drawing sessions.  What appeals  about this is the unleashing of creative freedom that is the opposite to perfection.  I received the first pre-event taster in my email box straight away – (so far all of this has been free) – a tutorial with Calylee Grey on making a junk art journal from an old vintage book.  Utterly delicious and a must to do: You don’t actually need anything to start, other than a willingness to experiment and a drive to do a little bit every day.

 

This is my heaven.

Every cloud.

Laters, Kate x

Be Prepared x

 

The news here in London is that the kids are still going to school, but things are very quiet; it’s like the calm before the storm.  Time button down the hatches and prepare.  I’m going to see what garden centres are still open, find seeds, little things that can grow into big things and be nurtured, things that will mark the passing of time in a positive way.

 

 

The other thing on my list is art supplies:  For those already stuck indoors, Carla Sondheim does a series of brilliant art courses that work if you want to invigorate your creative juices, or you’ve never painted or drawn before.  There are both pay for options and free, for adult and children alike.

 

 

Where I can, I’ll be getting all my supplies from independent shops, not Amazon:  If we don’t use them, we’ll lose them.

Laters, Kate x

Ice, ice baby!

 

We’re heading to the slopes. Can’t wait! Although this will be the year that the children will leave me trailing in their fast floating ice crystals.  But such is the natural way of the world – I will still fight them down the slope with good grace!

 

 

But of course, one considers all the cool outfits it’s possible to buy.

 

 

But the truth is, on the slopes, anything goes.  Because you’re not there as a fashion statement – we’re all effectively wearing portable eiderdowns – but to stay warm and have fun, fun, fun!


 

I’ve been pulling all our ski gear out of the cupboards in preparation: My Jacket and salopettes are a cast off from The Husband and are over thirty years old, we have ski socks and thermals of a similar vintage.  The Husband’s set marks thirty years.  The children are now in my discards at a youthful twenty years.  We’re given the message that technology has moved on and we need to move with the times, that this is progress…. but lets be honest, apart from when we were living in Italy, despite their age, none of these clothes has yet seen a years wear.  And we schlepped all this gear to Finland last year, skiing in minus eighteen, minus twenty…it can’t be that bad: It proves buy well, buy once.

 

 

So whilst the above pictures look great and dandy and represent my dreams. This is more the reality.

 

(All pics Pinterest)

As is this!

Laters, Kate x

Music and madness x

(A pic of my fantasy music room in Paris)

The only time I play the piano now is at Christmas. I have a battered old carol book that gets pulled out every year and the fingers get dusted off.  The violin does come out of it’s case occasionally – we got together with friends on the 4 Jan (should’ve been the 6, except that was a Monday) to celebrate an Armenian Christmas (none of us are Armenian) with gifts of traditional dress, food, music and dance. I was on the fiddle, the husband was singing, Charlie on the drums and Bella on the Tamborine: As is every parents right,The video will be used to mortify them on their eighteenth birthdays. Needless to say, it was a fabulous evening, of the type we need more of. For me, it was interesting in that it has always been the spontaneous music making that I have loved, not restricted by notes, rules and history. Neither of my children play instruments, they’ve been offered them, Bella even played the flute for a while, but it takes a lot of discipline to play an instrument well.  And the truth is, much of that discipline comes via parents who can see the end game.  Which does work to a certain extent.  But the real heart is when a child will sit down and play just because they want to.

 

This is something, particularly as an ex-professional musician, I have thought a lot about; I would like Bella and Charlie to be able to create music themselves – it is one of life’s great joys –  but maybe in a less formal way. And I think I’ve found the answer: I’ve come across Piano Note on Youtube. A series of piano lessons designed by song writer and recording artist Lisa Witt, where the manuscript is thrown out with the rule book, instead everything is taught through chords and chord progression. This means you progress much faster, develop your ears and learn to accompany yourself to your favourite songs. Who needs more?

 

 

Bella and I are playing for 15 minutes a day. We’re hoping to persuade Charlie to join us.  And who knows, maybe it’ll lead to more amazing evenings like this one.

 

I hope so.

Laters, Kate x