Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Map wrap

I rescued a 1972 road atlas of Great Britain from the recycle bin at work a few months ago fully intending to use it for lots of crafty projects. I've done very little so far, although I've pinned lots of overly ambitious projects to pinterest and I have a pretty great Christmas gift idea.

Yesterday though was my boyfriends birthday and while I don't know how much he appreciated it, I was very impressed by the wrapping of his gift.

 Card and book

 Bow made from the amazing route maps at the front of the atlas (also it's hard to wrap a guitar)

Birthday fun

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Flat Pack Joy

When my parents were divorcing my Mum's new house was fully furnished from Ikea. While I loved building the furniture and the ingenious methods by which it fitted together I also hated the shop. And mostly because this advert constantly rubbing salt into my adolescent wounds.

I have now grown older and wiser and my hatred has abated. And although most of my furniture is from freecycle I do love a trip to Ikea. Plus even when furniture has been in storage for 7 years they will still send you replacement parts! We now have a reasonable size table in our flat and can eat facing each other rather than the window. Plus two new step parents and a pair of step siblings later they were probably right. Happier families all round and stylish Swedish furniture. Everyone's a winner.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Personal training

I recently joined a new gym. It's close to work, cheap, contract-free and has loads of classes incldung a lunchtime spin class that nearly killed me. Having trained all summer for my half marathon I'm determined not to let me new-found fitness go to waste while it's too dark in the evenings to run. Except every time I go to the gym I'm confronted with this poster and it makes my blood boil.

I know some of it is me being over-sensitive. That despite how much I like and embrace the Health at Every Size agenda I still feel insecure in my body. That even though I can now run 13 miles continuously I still feel fat and foolish going to do exercise. And every time I see this poster that's what I feel- fat and foolish. And it's no accident. The whole premise of the poster is women are all fat and unnatractive and inherently worthless without other people's approval. All Ladies! need to Lose the Fat! Not just the overweight women- the assumtion is that every single woman in that gym will feel she needs to lose weight. And why? Because Christmas is coming. You're going to go to parties and wear sexy clothes and eat nice food. And it's such a sad state of affairs that instead of that being a good thing it's a cause of anxiety. Here it's a veiled threat- how dare you celebrate and look good and, god forbid, eat, when you are so incredibly fat and hideous. People will judge you and mock you and you can't possibly enjoy any of those things without other people's approval which you will only get when you Lose the Fat! (and pay a trainer lots of money). This advert isn't saying those things explicitly but it's using a shared language of understanding- the way women are meant to talk about and think about themselves- I'm so ugly, I'll never look good, I shouldn't eat nice things. And while this advert isn't responsible for those codes or attitudes, it is perpetuating them. And every time I visit the gym, every time I do something positive for my health that makes me feel better about myself I'm confronted by this advert telling me I'm fat and worthless. And it makes me angry.

Maybe though that's how they market to everyone? This isn't really a sexist poster suggesting women's only motivation for going to the gym is to look good for other people, it's how they treat all their customers. Or maybe not.

Men who go to the gym aren't universally assumed to be fat. They are strong, lean and fit and could be even stronger, leaner and fitter. Men you are awesome and could be even awesomer. Why oh why can't women be told the same thing? 

Saturday, 3 November 2012


Earlier in the year the lovely people at Stitch Balham taught me how to knit. But I still haven't really made anything yet. It just takes sooooo long compared to crochet and it's so hard to correct if you make a mistake. And since I moved house and can no longer go to the group I've done so much less craft of any kind so I've not go very far. But this is the start of a scarf. Fingers crossed I can get in finished in time for when the cold weather really sets it.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Perry and Posters

Do you ever have that thing where you notice something, or hear about it and suddenly it's everywhere? That's been happening to me a lot lately. I visited my boyfriends family home and met his parents for the fist time last weekend. Only six months after we moved in together, you know, not overdue or anything. On his bedroom door he has a poster, placed there when he was twelve or so and hasn't been moved in over 20 years. A list of instructions for living, shine your shoes, say please and thank you, never refuse a brownie an other phrases and sayings that when you're 12 seem profound. Less than a week later I found exactly the same list, this time accredited to a 95 year old man bestowing advice to his grandchildren, as opposed to poster designers coming up with lists of what would sell to impressionable teenagers, pinned to someone's inspiration board on Pinterest. The same advice, the same cheesy but reassuring homilies that life will be ok- you just need to eat more cake and mind your manners.

Another one of those things that's been popping up everywhere in my life is the Perry Preschool Project. A trial from 1960s America where they gave half of the group of poor black children pre-school and half not. And found over the course of the next 40+ years that although the educational benefits weren't lasting the social ones were: kids with pre-school had better relationships, less drug and alcohol problems, less arrests, less time in prison, less unemployment and earned more money. This research, which I should have been aware of in my line of work for several years has recently been popping up all over the place, on the website for my new job, at an All Party Parliamentary Group meeting I was lucky enough to attend recently and today, walking home, on an episode of the podcast This American Life. It's reinforced something I did already know, although I didn't have as much evidence as I should to back it up- that early years is the most vital time for children and where so much more of our time and resources and support should be going. And not just through pre-school but through parental support too. What happens to a child between conception and five is can set the course for the rest of their lives and we need as a society to make sure that is the best experience possible. Not just through better parenting and supporting parents to know what they should be doing (although that's important) but by addressing structural inequalities in our society that mean parents with the least money often have the least opportunities for positive parenting because of the other very real issues they're facing.

Preschool and parents who have the ability to be engaged and involved in their child's learning and development can transform a child's life chance. Children who are securely attached to their care giver, who know there is someone who can care for them and soothe them and protect them, some one who can teach them life lessons and support them, have the best start in life. Not all of life's lessons are are cheesy as the ones in the poster, but supporting parents to pass them on to their children should be everyone's priority.

As an aside- I've read that advice three tmes now- apart from the trees and the sunsets it's getting more and more profound each time.