Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Ripple Effect

Whilst the snow covered the ground, the whole of the UK ground to a halt and we didn't receive any post for nearly 10 days.

This meant that I didn't receive my yarn orders, which in turn meant I couldn't start my crochet project.

This, in turn, meant that I rummaged around in my stash for something else to crochet and found several mohair/wool yarns to mix in with my recent sale bargains and so a ripple stitch afghan began.

See, cause and effect!

I also cast on Andrea's Shawl Ravelry link using some lovely purple mohair with a view to mixing it up with some lime green mohair left over from the Modern Quilt Wrap.

On a serious note, several knitwear designers have pledged to give a % of their pattern sales to help the aid effort in Haiti. Check out their patterns on Ravelry.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Wellcome Collection

On Thursday I had the honour of representing the Alzheimer's Research Trust at a lecture entitled Living with Dementia organised by the Wellcome Collection. It was part of a four part series on ageing.

The panel consisted of June Andrews Director (Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling), Clive Ballard (Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, King's College London), Fiona Phillips (TV broadcaster and journalist) and some unknown bod named Susie Hewer (Champion and carer, Alzheimer’s Research Trust)!!!! It was chaired by Claudia Hammond.

The stage is set. This was the calm before the storm.

When we went into the room I was quite shocked to see the room was full with no spare seats. Mike had managed to come with me even though he couldn't walk for long and it was reassuring to know he was in the audience.


Here we have Liz Winder in the foreground who organised the event and was very helpful in our arrangements and Claudia Hammond to the right.

I'm amazed to see that June (left) and Fiona (right) seem to be listening to what I'm saying as I'm sure I must have been talking jibberish at this stage!

We each had a 10 minute slot to talk about our chosen subject. I was first to speak and naturally I told mum's story. Each time I tell it I add or subtract different things and I am always conscious that sometimes a painful memory will surface and I'll cry. I'd made some notes to try and focus myself so that didn't happen but it was still very draining. People have asked me why I am still campaigning 5 years after her death. Is it perhaps to keep her memory alive? No, it is simply because I was so horrified by the disease and the effect it had on her that I just have to try to raise awareness and raise money for research to put an end to this dreadful disease.

I hope I got the salient points across - I did notice a lot of people nodding in agreement on occasion which is always a good sign.

Next to speak was Clive who spoke very eloquently about dementia research. He wasn't remotely nerdy and was very easy to understand as he spoke in layman's terms.

Then it was Fiona who has had a great deal of experience of Alzheimer's as not only did her mother suffer from it (starting in her mid 50s) but her father is currently gripped by the disease. Last year she made a documentary about her father's condition entitled Mum, Dad, Alzheimer's & Me - My Story which was very well presented and gave an excellent insight into the reality of living with the disease. Last week she updated the story in a further documentary entitled My Family and Alzheimer's in which she was clearly angry at the lack of progress made in support for carers and funding for research. She is vociferous in her campaign to improve the situation and is using her celebrity status to excellent effect to shame the government into action You Go Girl!.

Last but certainly not least was June and what a charismatic speaker she was. She had the whole audience spellbound.

She gave practical suggestions on how to improve the lives of carers and suffers alike. One thing she said that really struck a chord with me was that people in dementia homes rarely have access to the outside world. As exposure to daylight affects our natural body rhythms of sleep and wakefulness, it explains why so many people with dementia do not sleep at night. It was so glaringly obvious when it's pointed out that I wondered how on earth I hadn't thought of it before.

A tireless campaigner, she has been instrumental in producing a marvellous leaflet entitled '10 Helpful Hints for Carers'.

After we had all done our speeches Claudia opened the floor to questions and the staff went around with a roving microphone. Several people said that it had helped to hear from us as it is very isolating being a carer as I know only too well. It was a fantastic audience with a great mix of age groups - the Wellcome Collection in situated right in the heart of University land so attracts many students.

The session ended after 1.5 hours and we adjourned to the bar so that people could chat to us in an informal setting. I was amazed that several people wanted to speak to me specifically. One young lady in particular had been very brave in speaking at the meeting. Her father, who is severely demented, has just gone into respite care for a week and she spoke about feeling guilty about feeling relieved that she had a break from caring for him. She thanked me for raising this (I suffered from terrible bouts of guilt when mum finally went into a nursing home) and I remembered how much I would have liked to hear somebody tell me that it was a natural feeling. I gave her my email address in case she needed to talk to someone who understands.

Another lady thanked me and told me about her mum, again severely demented but really very young. She organises musical sessions involving people with dementia (including her mum) and students from the Royal College of Music and she has said she'll let me know when they are having an event so I can go along and see what they are doing.

An interesting request came from a young lady who is writing a screen play in which there is a character suffering from dementia and she asked if she might write to me to check the details. Although it is not a central character, she wanted to make sure she got the details correct.

I also had a nice surprise when Tim from the Alzheimer's Research Trust came and introduced himself at the end. Although we've spoken on the phone many times, we had never actually met before and it's lovely to put a face to the voice at last!

Although this sort of event is emotionally draining, I also found it very uplifting to think that by speaking out I might have helped someone.

Before the session, Mike and I had a chance to explore some of the current exhibitions, the most striking of which was entitled 'Medicine Man'.

What an amazing collection, all concerning medicine and health - Henry Wellcome's paintings, masks, prints, photographs, metal instruments, artificial limbs, votive offerings, skeletons and much, much more.

It was fascinating and horrifying at the same time. There was a warning outside that the exhibition contained human remains so I was prepared. I found the Chinese torture chair quite shocking and the mummified body with its hands and feet bound really upset me.

I would love to go back and spend time there to learn more about Henry Wellcome who was obviously a very interesting man.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Be careful what you wish for.......

The whole country has been gripped by the bad weather. I've even just heard on the News that our area is now officially 'cut-off'!

It looks so pretty though when you're on the inside.

The horses are tucked up in their winter rugs and mostly shelter in their field shelters but I've just watched them walk down the field, have a good roll and a shake and then walk back up again. They looked so sweet.

Kizzy took a nifty mouthful of hay from the barrow before I could open the gate.

Esther just wanted me to stop taking photos and get on with feeding them!

We even have icicles dangling from the eaves. I walked up to the village shop earlier and the snow was about 8" deep then and it's been snowing heavily ever since. There were cars abandoned on the steep slope up to the shop and the only vehicles moving about were 4x4s and they were going very, very slowly.

Tinker was whingeing to go out all morning so we decided to grant him his wish and see how long he really wanted to stay out..................

...........that would be 6 steps forward...........then 6 steps back.................................

.................and snuggle down in Mike's cardigan for the rest of the day!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Heron, a heron! My kingdom for a heron! (with apologies to Shakespeare)

I was just en-route to making a cup of tea before I went for a run when I saw something odd down by the oak tree. It's about 150' from the house and I couldn't make it out so I reached for the binoculars and low and behold it was the heron, sunning himself.

He looked absolutely magnificent and much larger than I had imagined. You can see hum better if you click on the photo and zoom in.

Later, as I cut across the fields on my way back from my run, I spotted him again but this time he was in with the horses, just sitting there: well, he was until he spotted me and then he took off so I just pointed the camera and clicked. He's the grey thing!

For my run today I headed out towards Salehurst and Robertsbridge along the footpaths as the lanes were rather slippery. We are blessed with a fantastic network of public footpaths and I use them whenever possible. It was a wonderful day for a cross-country run as it was sunny but cold and crisp. The ground was quite rutted and I had to be extra careful not to turn an ankle as I ran across the frozen fields. I spotted these beautiful pink catkins on the edge of a copse.

I love the sheep who are grazing our fields at the moment.

Their black stockings match their faces! As soon as I climbed into the field they came dashing towards me in the hope that I was bringing them their food. Sorry sheepies.

I've been playing around with some of the bargain yarn I bought recently. This is a crochet swatch for a Teva Durham design from Loop-d-Loop Crochet but I don't have a hook large enough to get the gauge at the moment. I like the stitch though.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year to everyone!

Wishing everyone who pops along to read about my exploits a very happy and healthy 2010.

I took this first photo to catch the moon as she was setting as it was looking absolutely wonderful. There was a blue moon last night but we didn't get to see it as it was very cloudy.

By the time I'd fed the horses the snow clouds had swept across the valley and started to deposit their magical flakes.

After lunch it was time for the first run of the year and I took the camera with me in case I spotted anything of interest for Mike. This one is a view into the woods near Strawberry Hole.

This part of the lane often appears in paintings by local artists as the light is wonderful and the colour of the tree trunks is simply beautiful.

This is a view taken from Lordine Lane. I love the undulations of the land.

My run was most enjoyable and done just for fun - no distance in mind and no speedwork. I covered about 7 miles in all which is fine at this stage in my marathon schedule.

With 17 marathons and a Guinness World Record for 'The Longest Scarf Knitted Whilst Running a Mararthon' under my belt in the past 4 years you'd think that I'd probably have had enough. Wrong! 17 is such a silly number and 20 sounds much better so here's what I have planned - a treble of marathons on consecutive weekends.

However, as usual, there's a twist: I wanted to link in with the Alzheimer's Research Trust's 'Memories Matter' campaign and so I thought about my knitting exploits and realised there was an obvious link - crochet! You see, there is a crochet stitch called a 'treble' and I will be running 3 marathons. Even better, I will be creating a series of crochet chain links, in the way that our brains make connections that are sadly damaged by dementia. QED!

The marathons I will be running are the Brighton Marathon on 18th April, the Virgin London Marathon on 25th April where I will be attempting another Guinness World Record but this time for the 'Longest Crochet Chain whilst running a marathon' and the Three Forts Marathon (which is actually an ultra marathon of 27 miles) on 3rd May.

I might need to do some serious training for that lot!