Saturday 20th October – MathsJam / Celebration of the Mind / & Brighton Science Festival event

This is an event I am co-organising in Brightonmjlogo_rect

I can’t get all the images to paste in so please follow the links below. The text is below but not as well laid out as it should be

20 Oct 2018 Brighton SF, MJ, CoM poster v4


MathsJam Brighton in conjunction with Brighton Science Festival and Celebration of Mind

invite you to a day of

 Recreational mathematics, maths art and bite sized talks on Saturday 20th October


Brighton Maths Jam hosts Adam Atkinson and Louise Mabbs welcome you to a day of mathematical discovery and exploration

Morning                       A chance to explore a myriad of real and virtual puzzles, mathematical conundrums and an exhibition of artistic interpretations

Afternoon                     Short talks and presentations by local and national mathematicians, magicians, local geometrically inspired artists and puzzle geeks

Organisations involved

MathsJam                      Free gatherings for adults – meets at 7pm local time on penultimate Tuesdays of each month in various worldwide locations. Brighton MJ meets in the Ibis hotel bar just down from Brighton station

Celebration of Mind   Annual worldwide events to mark the birthday of Martin Gardner who helped spread a lot of recreational Gathering for Gardner maths and other things via his column in Scientific American magazine

Brighton Science Festival   Saturday 20th – Sunday 28th October, plus other events throughout the year   

Confirmed contributors

Adam Atkinson            Helping a Sculptor with Maths

Louise Mabbs               Fun With Fibonacci & Fabric Origami (maths in textile art)

Andrew Jeffrey             Noughts & Crosses

Stephen Miller              Explosive Forging (using explosives to change the material properties of steel)   www.LiveActionFX.Com

Johnathon Welton        Just So – number tricks

Tim Rowett                    From Grand Illusions with his new puzzles

Simon Bexfield             With his 3D printers

Jerry Sadowitz              TBA

Caspar Thomas                         Martin Gardner’s Magic

Donald Bell                  Checking out a Conjecture in Number Theory using a  Python program

Other contributors to be confirmed

  If there’s a 5 minute talk you’d like to give, please contact us!

Digital projection available please bring a computer or memory stick


The Brighthelm Centre  North Rd, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1YD

Hanover Room, 2nd floor (lift)

2 min walk                     From Brighton Station down Queen’s Road towards the sea

NCP carpark next door    But cheaper in the Churchill Centre one   Please contact Louise if you need to unload heavy equipment

Time, date and programme overview

Saturday 20th October
11.00am – 1.00pm          Exploring maths – dip into our hands on activities, puzzles, demonstrations and displays

1.00pm  – 1.30pm          Time for food or discussions

1.30pm  – 3.30pm          Understanding mathematical ideas – short talks and presentations by local and national professional and recreational maths practitioners

Age suitability  

While the sessions are geared towards adults, the morning session is suitable for responsible, accompanied secondary aged children / teens. Please contact us first if you need more information

Tickets will be available on We Got Tickets through Brighthelm

Free tickets                   But donations towards expenses and future events appreciated

Book at                  

Refreshments               Tea and coffee provided, bring lunch or buy it locally

Contact details

Louise Mabbs               Local MJ co-organiser         or

Adam Atkinson             Brighton MathsJam organiser

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Teaching updates – new Hove classes, a Sacred Maths Conference 21-22 October, London. Shows and work I’ve done & Sainsbury’s fake fairtrade…

Sorry it’s a very long post (read it in stages!) there’s ebb so much going on over the summer

Please see my updates on this link. If you are interested in Sacred Maths, please sign up straight away or it might not run. Register your interest with the organisers at the very least, so if it is rescheduled they can contact you again! See my post at

AE (Adult Education) classes didn’t subscribe again, I am getting so fed up with all the effort and admin involved, so I have finally made the last push on reorganising my home studio so I can teach in this house at last. Just got loads of paperwork to sort out in my son’s empty bedroom now!) Please contact me for details of the current class or see the events blog for details.

Other updates

The Great British Sewing Bee

It was a lovely show but didn’t work for me, I made a massive loss! I didn’t have enough chairs to go round the teaching table, so it wasn’t obvious I was offering drop in classes and only had 1 student who had to leave suddenly so didn’t end up doing the class on Saturday and 4 on Sunday!

Also sales were very poor – I think it being a dressmaking focussed event meant people were more interested in buying fabric. Talking of that almost everyone was touching my artwork on the walls. Generally at quilt or other sewing shows people understand things on the table can be touched but not on the walls. I think there need to be big notices in the catalogues and on the walls between stands about touching etiquette. One person came and really tugged on some of my origami pieces, with her headphones on, didn’t engage with me or my husband at all and walked off without even seeming to recognise what she was looking at!

Also regarding photography, I know many teachers who have No photo signs up, I choose to take a softer line and have notices up asking people to talk to Please ask the artist first. This is because I recognise the help and inspiration I have had from other artists in the past, but I don’t want students in particular, just taking shots, using my ideas and giving me no credit for stretching the boundaries in the techniques I am pioneering. I like to have a meaningful conversation with people and ask them to record my name on the photo, or give them my business card so they can remember what we talked about and how to contact me if they need more information.

Many years back at at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace I realised I was getting really bad headaches each day and wondered why I hadn’t before. I worked out it was all the students flashing their mobiles at me all day long. When I asked some of them who wanted to interview me, some questions about what they were having to do there, many of them had been told to interview 3 artists thy admired. Since my Fabric Origami was quite distinct and my stand very much more colourful than everyone elses that year, I was having more interest than I usually did at other shows, but it was very stressful. Thankfully mobiles can now photo well enough without the flash, but I stopped doing the show there for 3 reasons:

  • For almost 5 days I never got to see daylight despite staying at my sister in Law’s in Croydon it still took over 2 hours by trains, tubes and walking or bus at the end. (The following show they upped it to 5 days unexpectedly but I think it’s 4 again and on this week but I’m too tired to go)
  • I never ever covered my stall and transport costs (I do more kits now and usually do, but it means I have to take the car a lot now (undermining my environmental responsibilities and some of the places are really hard to park at. (Festival of Quilts is fine, AP is not, ExCel is expensive)
  • I got fed up with students taking furtive photos behind their friends, & teachers not telling their students about engaging with artists properly

At a more recent show a teacher came along with a load of older secondary students. Before I saw her I had just said to a girl taking a photo that it was courtesy to ask the artist first if you could take photos, the teacher glared at me as if I’d said something really vulgar, she then tried to get me to explain my whole technique in front of all the other students, the more she dug in the more I started to feel evasive and, on saying it was in the instruction kits she got huffy. I felt like saying ‘look you have a full time paid and satisfying job, you probably own your own house’ and ‘I have a very irregular income and a lot of frustration trying to get enough teaching and sales to cover my basics and I can’t even take a wage out of it. I might love what I do but I couldn’t live on on work at the moment if we didn’t live in tied accommodation and frugally on my husband’s small income, so the peanuts I manage to sell these for at expensive shows enable me to keep going and creatively sane, so no, I’m not going to give it all away for free!’

Having said that I always have some amazing and inspiring conversations with people, often bored men (bag carriers) will talk to me about the maths in some of my work and women maths teachers ask interesting questions which is great, others just go ‘wow’ when they see the colours. My sister in law always says she feels really ‘loved up’ when she sits on my stall! It helps me keep going when life is tough and when working on your own is hard going….

Pulborough United Reformed Church Banners

On Sunday Alex is preaching at PURC and dedicating an incredible banner project I have been working on with members of PURC. It’s taken about 2 years from my initial talk to inspire them with possibilities and to discuss possible design ideas, though drawing up plans, setting out 4 designs of base colour fabrics on which they could create an interpretation of the Sussex countryside including the River Arun, Pulborough Brooks nature sanctuary and the Downs.

We were in part inspired by a card one of them brought along by Rebecca Vincent of Northumberland countryside scenes Rebecca’s website. Years ago we used to holiday up there when the children were little, before we started doing the wonderful Clergy Family holiday’s at the Society of Martha & Mary’s Sheldon centre in Devon  where we were spoilt by the volunteer helpers and regular community with amazing food, no housework, sandwiches for our daytrips and activities of all sorts for the whole family in the evenings, with ministry job talk banned and till recently no internet or TV’s as such to wreck the peace.

One day when we were driving somewhere in Northumberland, I felt a great urge to start making some long thin appliqué-come-embroideries based on the beautiful scenery of layers of fields, farms and skies. Like most things it never happened, family events did – illnesses, hospitalisations, nearly loosing Alex twice, children’s needs, too many house moves and a load of interesting commissions in-between all this, but when I saw and then researched Rebecca’s work this year, it was like she had done my ideas only she’s a printmaker – not a textile artist. Imagine my surprise then when I saw the card and realised she was based in Northumberland and how much I liked her images. We decided to do a series of 4,  1x 3m banners based on the Sussex hills, one for each season, and to cover the basic underlay I had done, in lots of tactile stitching, couching and 3D flora and fauna.

Then we holidayed in Northumberland again this summer, since our eldest was finishing his MSc at Newcastle Uni and couldn’t get to Brighton till much later in the summer. We borrowed a fellow minister’s house in Whitley Bay and spent our 10 days shuttling between our son’s house & he ours, seeing Beamish (I last saw it decades ago at a Quilter’s Guild AGM weekend) and I made a trip to see Rebecca’s studio, but though she was due to be there according to her website she wasn’t. Her fellow artist was very helpful and I bought loads of her cards which the PURC ladies snapped up because they’d fallen in love with her work too. Maybe next year I’ll get to meet her?

Anyway when I saw what the amazing women at PURC had added to my foundations I was ‘gobsmacked’ as they say, it was so beautiful and far more intricate that I had imagined. I’ve been back to them for a few days of trimming, putting on hanging tubes, checking measurements etc and now they have finished them so I am really excited to see the finished result on Sunday. I’ll post pictures on the blog sometime.

Pauline Burbidge’s Open Studio

I met PB years ago when I returned to Derbyshire after doing a textile degree at Winchester School of Art (1982-5). She was living and working from a 30’s semi in Nottinghamshire very much like the one I live in now and I would have loved to have done work experience with her. She was gracious enough to let me visit and give me some useful advice and I visited her again when she moved into a huge warehouse type studio in more central Nottingham.

Then she got married and moved to Berwickshire. I saw her occasionally at shows and events and occasionally asked her for advice for things I hadn’t yet encountered myself and for which she answered kindly and made helpful suggestions. Every year I saw advertisements for her open house, but I was shocked that it had taken over 20 years to get there. It was well worth the wait and really interesting to see all the hard work she and Charlie have done to turn a run down farm and outbuildings into many incredible work an exhibitions spaces. While I was grappling with juggling children, ministry support and my own work they’ve built an incredibly beautiful place. I made sure I went knowing I was not going to get jealous, after all we have walked very different paths, and thankfully I was just really impressed and very inspired. If you get a chance do go, do. We saw a few other interesting local artist exhibitions while we were there nearby. How I would love to own my own house and build a beautiful art complex though! We are currently going through discussions on whether we can stay for the second term of Alex’s Special Category ministry job here or if we need to move on again (not another house pleeeeeease)….

What else ?

  • Conference for Creators (of Origami) in Lyon, France in July, incredibly positive and interesting ideas and pooling of ideas on drawing diagrams, getting commissions, pricing, writing and anything else related to being a professional paper creator (or in my case fabric origamist). Only drawback was it was too hot and there was no fan or AC in the bedroom and really, really scary fully opening low level huge windows (I was on the 2nd floor) which if I had been a sleepwalker I would have been worried I would have fallen out of. Just standing near them in daylight made me feel vertigo-ish and I’m a very short person! Clearly the French do not have the same safety ideas as we do and since this was a young person’s hostile primarily – it was a bit shocking!
  • Festival of Quilts in August at the NEC in Birmingham. The only show I always  pay to do each year. Fantastic exhibitions and I teach several classes there so have to design several new classes with their kits. I never have time to exhibit work in the judged competitions these days and when I did, the only thing I ever got a prize for was a huge project I did with Park Walk, a school in Chelsea and Westminster, for which they won a sewing machine and I couldn’t even afford to go to the gala dinner to collect the prize! Anyway it’s fun teaching international classes and I get my Mum to myself for 5 days as she minds my stand when I’m off teaching and we catch up in the evenings. Sadly the teachers demonstration stands are in the low level area between halls with dreadful low sodium yellow lighting and nowhere near any daylight. This year I had been moved along a bit and the overhead shadows would have ruined my display if I hadn’t held out for better lighting. It’s always a crush to fit into 2m square, but lots of lovely encounters and a huge range of traders and displays to be inspired by and grateful students to inspire, keep me going back.
  • The British Origami Society’s 50th Anniversary conference in Stratford Upon Avon in early September. I’d pushed for a fabric origami strand since so many of us are now doing it and had hoped to invite some other artists to show work who aren’t considered origami artists. Origami means folding (ori) + paper (gami) so Wendy Lowes my coauthor on my folded book commission refers to it as orinuno (folding + fabric). Eventually we had a reasonable sized exhibition space within a huge display area and I was able to hang two of my bed sized pieces, which are too big for normal conferences and a range of the square, equilateral triangle, hexagon and diamond samples I am developing with a view to doing some new books. Experience of my first book publishers knocked my confidence massively when they refused to reprint it as a paperback (why oh why, do British publishers insist on doing hardbacks first?) then put a load of our work in another encyclopaedia by our editor without proper accreditation to us (I have legal advice from two organisations to say we are in the right, but it is too expensive to argue the case for low earning impoverished artists). Anyway I did a short presentation and taught my basic square windmill unit to a twilight class of just 7 women (others said they would have come if it had been earlier in the day or weekend but they had trains to catch or jobs to get home for and long journeys ahead) and a husband, who refused, twice, though I politely asked him, to make one (I assume he thinks sewing is for sissies – it’s not as we all know, loads of ordinary men and male artists sew now, and most go right to the top bypassing all those incredible women artists who’ve been beavering away for years unnoticed – don’t even talk to me about another star I encountered recently who had every woman of every age fawning and shrieking over him, but didn’t acknowledge any of the other exhibitors around him). Funny how it doesn’t work the opposite way in male orientated art forms! only in sports reporting are women rushed to the top and we all know why that is – eye candy and softer voices no doubt…

Enough of the latent feminist ranting – actually I call myself an equalist – I don’t like men or women being put ahead of one another unfairly or being paid unbalanced wages for similar jobs, but sadly there are still loads of glass ceilings I am encountering in the arts and crafts worlds.

So I had a very busy and inspiring but tiring summer and am glad to be home based for a while, catching up on admin, commissions and planning new projects. My studio is more conducive to working in now and I’m trying not to dwell on house moves (a pointless 5 houses for 3 jobs in 2 places already). Christmas is getting closer so my fair-trade activities are hotting up, nights are drawing in and it’s time to quilt more, watch Strictly, Victoria (though husband has given up as it’s becoming too much of a soap opera – I am starting to agree) and the Bake Off (mostly on iplayer catch up as we don’t have a TV and are often out or working on the original days).

Keep warm, keep sewing or doing your crafts and see you at a show or class next year!

Finally, Fairtrade Matters

And if you can, please sign this petition Sainsburies fake ‘fairtrade’ tea and protest outside their stores on Saturday 28th October (or in other ways – one idea is to buy their new ‘fairtrade’ own label tea and then return it for a refund because they have to log any returns and it will make a huge impact if lots of people do it) – because they have pulled out of the internationally recognised Fairtrade Mark accreditation on their own label teas. This is a really retrograde step. I have been working with others for 40 years to get food grown and sold to fair and safe standards with honest wages and pricing, so it’s devastating to discover they have pulled out of this standard. They aim to do their own version which basically, I think, turns the whole equation back to ‘Aid not Trade’ to subvert Christian Aids’ fantastic ‘Trade Not Aid’ slogan. The community investment premium (see the first point below) is to be held in London and only given to groups who have applied for it for their projects and been accepted – white middle-aged men making decisions for developing countries again instead of letting the communities empower themselves.

FT has 4 criteria –

  • fair pay for the goods, agreed in advanced, raised if prices go up and not lowered if prices go down, so, say with coffee farmers, they know what they can budget on in advance and don’t loose out in poor harvests. This includes a premium which goes to the community to use on hospitals, water projects, schools or a worship place – whatever the community needs and wants
  • good working conditions for the makers/growers and no child labour
  • good environmental conditions as far as not damaging the land and not using harmful chemicals (many products are organic but not licensed because of the huge costs for accreditation on small producers) I found out at a fantastic Fairtrade Foundation day on Saturday that only a small fraction of the coffee that is grown to FT standards is sold as such due to the lack of investment from would be purchasing companies! So sad surely the goal is that all food and craft work will eventually be sold at far prices and developing countries will be able to educate and train their citizens out of poverty (and incidentally from unneccessary poverty immigration)
  • quality improvement – Traidcraft for example invest in a lot of training  producers to be more efficient and better trained to grow crops or make quality crafts that are saleable in western markets

None of the other food labels or models – direct farming (all the artisan coffee shops buying from farmers without a middle seller but with no recognised authority checking the authenticity of the scheme) or labels like Rainforest Alliance and others which only focus on one or two of these criteria come anywhere near the FT standard. Sadly if Sainsburies don’t revert, and Cadburies new owners have also undermined the Standard, so others will want to set up poor substitutes and we will have undermined years of really good developments and prevent many more people from driving rather than just surviving.

Crazy, selfish world, we must all do what we can where we are to share the riches we have for the good of the world overall. Enough pontificating – another early morning. I need to get some sleep!

I promise a much shorter update next time and some colourful photos!

Well done if you’ve made it this far and thank you very much!


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New classes at Portslade Academy & other things I’ve been up to

Here are the new classes planned for the next academic year in Portslade for PACA 17-18 PACA Louise Mabbs Patchwork course flyers

If you are interested in any of the first three, please sign up soon or they won’t run.

I think the documents are coming out a bit large, not sure why I couldn’t embed them into the text as usual!

So long since I last updated anything here! I have been incredibly busy with work, epecially planning for all the events I have been at.

Went to the Conference For Creators (Origami) in Lyon, France. Lovely inspiring time, but such hot nights, foam mattresses with plastic sheets on top and scary windows which opened so wide and so low I felt like I might fall out! One time when AC would have been nice. I usually hate it because it’s so bad for the environment and is often too cold, so I get chills going from outdoor to indoor temperatures all the time.

Anyway I learnt loads of new ideas about how to write diagrams, pack work for exhibitions – thanks to Robert Lang probably the foremost folder in the world outside of Japan, writing tips (for when I’ve got confidence again to work with a new publisher after my awful experience with my first one) and masses besides. Very inspiring and built my confidence up quite a lot for when some of my current projects are done and I can get on with some of the UFO’s (Unfinished Objects – a quilting term!) and NYO’s (Not Yet Objects – I just made that up!) in my head, of which there are many!

Had a lovely family holiday in Northumberland so we could see our eldest son who has a job lined up after his MSc now, though I had to write up all my classes for the Festival of Quilts, because a previous admin job had taken so long it had eaten into my planning time pre holiday. Highlights when I did get out were 1) Going to the Beamish Museum– many years ago I went there on a Quilter’s Guild trip from an AGM up there. Sadly I missed the quilting demo going on – there was so much to see and we couldn’t get everywhere in one day.

2) Going to see Rebecca Vincent’s Studio– she’s an amazing printer, and should have been there but probably wasn’t because it was the school holidays. Many years ago when we were on a previous Northumberland trip I had an inspirational thought that I should do some long thin landscapes in corduroy and other textures, of course things got busy and I never got round to them, but I’m currently doing a large banner project with Pulborough United Reformed Church in West Sussex and one of them brought along one of Rebecca’s cards, which she’d had for a birthday, to put in to the mix of ideas we were playing with. In the end we decided to do the 4 seasons and I had to draw up a design based on the local Sussex countryside and cut out the fabrics for the background, which the ladies in the banner group have been decorating for several months. Only recently I realised Rebecca’s prints are essentially the concept I was thinking about all those years ago, so yet another god-incidence as I call them, that I’m now involved in a huge version of the inspiration I had back then! Later on I sat in the car working on my classes on the computer for an hour or so while the rest of the family got wet viewing Hadrian’s Wall!

3) A little reckie into Scotland – I’ve been wanting to see top UK quilter Pauline Burbidge’s open house in Allendale for years I thought it was about 15 years since she married and moved up there from Nottingham, but it it was their 25th open studio and well worth the wait. I’d first visited her in her former Nottingham, front of a 30’s semi house studio, (like mine here) and then her warehouse one over a disused factory, when I had just started my own studio in Derbyshire, and she’s always been very gracious in giving me advice when I’ve needed to know stuff about things I haven’t come across, before but know she has. She is so blessed to have several studio spaces and a small gallery and to work along side her Artist sculptor husband Charlie. I did know about all the spaces from an article I’d seen somewhere so I was well prepared and determined not to be envious (given we are in a smaller house now and it is still affecting my work badly). However it was just so lovely to see how they have thrived and all the hard work they had to do to make it such an incredible space, including lovely stripey and patterned rooms in the house bit. Yes I’d love to live there and be able to work without all the distractions that my life & hubbies job entail, but I also realise I’ve had loads of great opportunities and I’ve still got loads of ideas bubbling away and am still loving living in Brighton & Hove (though we’re in the midst of discussions about whether we are going to be here just till the end of 2018, or for the next 5 year contract after that, unsettling, as none us want another house move – but trying not to think about it too much.

Had a lovely time at Festival Of Quilts despite not having all my kits ready before I got there and a horrendous journey up the M25 in fog like rain so having to put the stand together very late. I’ll write more later. I’m going to be at the Great British Sewing Bee at ExCel in London 21st – 24th September doing classes on my stand because I’ve got more room than I was expecting now.

Before that I’m at the British Origami Society 50th anniversary in Stratford on Avon, doing a talk/workshop and learning lots from some top Origami people.

But I’ve written so much already, so I need to write about them next time….

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Why are cars such a pain and why am I so little?

I am not a fan of cars these days, I cycle mostly around town or catch a bus if expensive parking is the only option. I really wish we didn’t have to have one for environmental, stress and financial reasons, though I quiet like driving when the roads are clear enough and we do need one to get to obscure preaching or teaching engagements, fairtrade events and having isolated holidays in the countryside. But I have just got back from doing a show in Glasgow where I was demonstrating my fabric origami and bonding technique kits. I’ve done loads of ICHF events before but not there. I accepted this one mainly because I wanted to visit friends in Scotland. This time though, I managed to drag my husband along to help me, originally suggesting we took 2 work-filled suitcases and a personal bag each on a sleeper train, which he wasn’t too keen on doing, having done it twice before and barely slept! & I didn’t fancy coping with the bunk and a strange room mate in such confined quarters, and anyway, I couldn’t take enough luggage on my own

Instead we decided to do a slow trip up there by car, half holiday which we really needed, staying with friends and family each way – with my mother/brother in Derbyshire, eldest son at Newcastle Uni and then we were due to stay with a minister friend in Inverclyde and visit another painter friend in Inverkip. But our car developed yet another fault on the way to my sister in law’s 50th birthday tea, on the Saturday before so we had to abandon the trip, return home and have the rear brakes fixed, which delayed us by a day. Kwikfit did a very speedy job and things seemed ok till we visited our Inverclyde friend one evening instead, after the show was up and then an intermmitent warning light which usually goes off if we stop and reset the engine, but decided to stay on all the way back to the hotel.

Yet more expensive explorations of digital faults after phoning Vauxhall in Hove and then going to the one in Glasgow for tests and, supposedly, it’s something to do with our air input to the engine. (Who knows it’s a different problem every time and still it returns). The choices amounted to getting it fixed in Glasgow for over £1000 and getting delayed by a couple of days with all the extra hotel nights and several meetings we’d have to abandon, or driving home with a dodgy car (praying we’d arrive in one piece) and buying a new car, since the warning light problem has happened far too many times now. So we have now decided to abandon Vauxhalls after three mostly pleasant experiences with a Nova, Zafira and Meriva, but knowing that these modern faults can be a problem to track down properly, now that the cars are so digitally complicated

So we spent an interesting but depressing afternoon today trying to locate a car that I can actually drive, at a price we can half find, before I have to do the Birmingham show next week. I have been getting a sort of sciatica pain due to the Meriva brake being so high off the floor and my poor little heel not being able to rest on the floor, so that my foot ends up in midair and my leg muscles in a very uncomfortable position which is affecting my lower back, such that sometimes, I can barely walk after a longish journey!

Anyway we found a really comfortable Honda Jazz in a lovely red (not so keen on the shape but it’s so nice inside and brilliant storage options), about a year old and ex showroom with hardly any mileage, but way beyond our achievable dreams, then a funky red and cream MG3 (reminds us of our jive shoes), which might be a bit too small and less reliable, but for a smaller budget though still out of reach, but on exceptionally good terms.

There was a beautiful mustardy green sparkly Ford Sierra but with such a long leg space that my legs just aren’t long enough to put the accelerator down properly, even with the seat adjusted to optimum height and closeness to the wheel. I have been shocked at how I just can’t reach the pedals of many of the vehicles I tried. We have bought through a Christian charity before who source the model you want and we haven’t even test driven them before, but we can’t wait that long to find the right car this time and it seems to me the car dimensions must have changed a lot in the 25 years we have been married if I can’t find many which ‘fit’ me!

Well tomorrow we just have to look a bit more, test drive the Jazz even though it’s unaffordable to compare with the MG3 on Thursday and heck whether we can get my quilting stand poles into any of them. Oh to be able to fly on wings to your destination like the Flower fairies, teleport like Spock and co in Startrek or to just own a horse and cart! Wish us success in finding something and quickly – there’s so much else we should be working on right now!

Maybe I’ll update when we’ve found something or maybe I’ll never write about stupid cars again!

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Teaching again

At last I have classes running again at Portslade Academy – Sampling the Quilt on a Monday morning and Focus On – Quilt As You Go on Thursday evenings.

You should be able to access info about the courses here  Portslade Academy classes

Three days of teaching some of my favourite techniques developed the past few years – Fabric origami and Fibonacci Spiral collages at the Royal Bridlington Hotel In Yorkshire which specialises in quilt and sewing retreats  Royal Bridlington classes with Louise Mabbs

I’m also going to be at the West Country Quilt Show, UWE Bristol West Country Quilt Show I have 6 different classes lined up so please check it out.

I had an exceedingly busy summer – a few days at the inlaws in Swanage, Dorset, followed by our annual clergy family holiday at the amazing Sheldon ministry support place in Devon (my annual treat is a trip to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey & the lovely open air pool as well) we get spoilt, the children get to meet others in the same situation and we’re not allowed to talk about ministry or do any housework, just go out and enjoy ourselves in the daytime, do great activities in the evenings and eat too much fab food.

A few days at home before the annual Festival Of Quilts show at the NEC in Birmingham. Amazing as always. I taught 4 classes and had double space in the teachers showcase area because we’re still trying to sell off the Tanzanian Quilt blocks – as soon as I’ve time I’ll update the Tanzania Mania blog & it so happened the next door teacher couldn’t come so we were able to hang it next door. It made looking after the stall a lot harder – we barely got to sit down especially when one of us (my Mother helps me) was off having lunch or comfort breaks, but great to have more space than usual.

A few days at home then the delayed Atomic jive weekend in Northamptonshire which we should have gone to in April but it was so waterlogged the ducks were swimming on the grass! (we did have a lovely weekend exploring Northampton but without our daughter because the hotel was booked and non refundable). Our youngest loves dancing and is far better than me, so I had to share Alex with her. It was very cold and windy so we were glad we’d rebooked the hotel!

A couple more days at home and then Alex & I went to Berlin for our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We met in Offenburg at an international evangelism conference with Operation Mobilisation and spent several weeks in Berlin while it was still in East Germany in the Wedding district (pronounced with a ‘v’ of course in German) but weirdly prophetic. So we went to see life now after the wall came down. We were there a couple of months before it fell and a hundred or more of us had spent every morning praying for it to come down and learning Turkish to work with the gastarbeiters (guest workers) there. We found our base church building, glad to see it’s still used for ministry even though it’s not a congregation any more, we had a lovely conversation with some new residents there. We walked for miles and miles, saw loads of museums and galleries, watchtowers and memorials. We even jived to a pop up band in the park by the Reichstag before we booked our trip round the dome – a well worth it experience and free too, so book it when you go.

I’ll try to write and add pictures sometime.

After that I went to the British Origami Society conference in Swansea and the following weekend to Wirksworth Arts Festival open house weekend in Derbyshire. It’s my home town and is an amazingly creative, caring and world ethics conscious place with tons of lead mining and well dressing history.

So basically I wasn’t at home for most of the summer and barely got to any church at all. We’ve been in transition for a couple of years with Alex’s new special category ecology/theology role. The first year we were preaching alternate weeks at Brighthelm in central Brighton where we’re now based and out at other URC’s all over Kent, Sussex & Surrey in the in-between weeks. This last year we closed our small, elderly Sunday congregation and have been visiting lots of local churches plus Alex has had his second Sabbatical which has been mostly about engaging with God and nature (links to follow) so we’ve been like Mr & Mrs Weathermen as have our children. We’ve finally settled on going to One Church while we’re in limbo and working out what sort of new congregation – along the lines of forest church (but I hope lots of creative art stuff too when whatever gets going , gets going!)

Lots of work to do, lots of blogs needing updating, quilts to finish, projects to write proposals for……. but happy and challenged, if a little too busy. Will post again when I can and try to find some pictures as there are far too many words here without relief again!

Till then, have a lovely creative time everyone

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Holidays & coaches!

Well summer is almost over and I’ve been here there & everywhere but not got much work done of course in-between and had to take stuff with me to do as it was, though a change of scene is as good as a rest for me and I get really bored when I can’t be doing some hand sewing at least!

We went to Zac’s B.Eng graduation in Newcastle University at the middle of July, got Megabus from London a very frustrating  8 hour plus experience. Hadn’t realised how cramped the seating is – even for a vertically challenged person like myself. The first very new coach – tall with most of the seats on a upper layer over the driver – had stand up edges on the back of the seat edges filled with some sort of rigid plastic which really dug into my rather wide backside and since we are so much fatter as a nation than we used to be, it’s a really bad idea. Also no fold down tables to read or sew on (I’ve not been on a coach for a long time but seem to remember having them like the trains do?) anyway the windows were so tinted, presumably to stop passengers overheating that it was difficult to do anything other than read black type on a white page, though everyone else was plugged into electronic media so I suppose it didn’t bother them. Anyway we had to leave the first coach due to it’s suspension being too bouncy (I hadn’t even noticed because apart from the edges, the seats were quiet comfortable). But what I noticed most is no-one talked to anyone and the lights were always on such low level or switched off as if we were expected to just sleep the whole way! So much for getting my sewing done.

Worst of all was the toilet situation. Always cramped, it’s difficult to use on the move because you’re thrown around so much, but the driver switched off the water supply when we stopped and of course lots of people needed the loo so it got bunged up and was useless for the rest of the journey! Also he never said we’ve got 10 minutes here if you want to use the station loos so judging how long you can wait and whether you can risk it was awful. I’m going to pay more for the train next time: loos are mostly available when you travel, people talk & you can go get a drink if you need to and the guard/driver or electronic screen tells you where you are and when you’re stopping.

On the way home we had an older normal coach with comfy wide seats but I was fed up with reading for so long by now. When we did have a pick up break I checked with the driver if I had time to go to the proper loos while he was dealing with lots of Chinese students tickets, ‘yes’, only to find that the bus was moving away as I came out. Obvious panic. I don’t know if he would have gone without me if it hadn’t been for my husband going downstairs to remind him I hadn’t got on board again. Apparently he’d moved along to let another coach get to the door & boardees but I couldn’t tell from his reply whether he was being dour in his humour or really would have left me behind. (I probably ought to make a complaint, but it’s such an effort and time consuming).

Anyway result was I won’t travel long distance with them again unless it’s absolutely dire!

I’ll post a photo when I can.

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Another year!

Well how does the time fly by so quickly and how easy to be so busy you don’t even notice what you haven’t done – like adding posts to a blog!  (even the whole format for that has changed again since my last post). I don’t really believe in New Years resolutions since they’re often impossible to keep, but I’ve been mulling over where things went and are going so maybe I should stick to some aims instead:

Finish tidying up my new studio – (and the dining room where I’ll have to teach now) so I can start home classes again. Moving to a smaller house has been a nightmare with so much fabric, buttons, beads, yarn and paperwork to deal with. Commissions, shows and exhibitions, plus teaching in Adult Education again, took up so much admin time and having to redraft worksheets and add extras to the web based learning platform took hours. Doesn’t help that our builders (after a year of being here) still haven’t finished the replacement window in my garage storage area and it’s been so wet the last two months I’ve barely been out there because I don’t want to let the damp in.

Do some more meaningful art pieces – while I’ve had lots of work to do it’s been a while since I did any of my more specialist maths/optical pieces. It’s all very well doing class samples and embroideries for local exhibitions but anyone can do those, it’s not what I really want to do and I still want to get some inspirational work into proper galleries, so I suspect I need to spend a lot more time getting some new pieces made and reviving some of my old ideas which got shelved due to the move – there’s always hundreds in my head just waiting to get made…..

Sort out my website & get my online presence up to date – Having grown up just before computers were introduced to schools, in 1980, only a few nerdy boys got to use them in the lower 6th –  it was all coding so didn’t make any sense to an upper 6th arty girl. (Interesting to see the emphasis is on everyone learning to code again now) At Art School in Winchester, when I was in the first and second year, only the third years got to use the computer looms and knitting machines. By the time I was in the third year younger students had got in first! Hence my first Apple was bought with the advanced anonymous payment for a Church banner commission while we we training at theology college in Manchester when I was around 30. My children have no concept of living pre computers, doing things manually and spending time on productive things, meeting real people and having hobbies rather than time wasting games and conversations with strangers you’ll never meet. Seriously, I have been trying to update my very old website for several years but all these house moves, family crisis and lack of paid work among all that, plus several false starts in trying to find the right person to do the job at a price I can justify while getting all my other work done has prevented it so far. So lets hope I can find the right person and a regular time slot to keep on top of digital things this year.

Keep motivated – I’ve worked for myself for over 30 years now and in common with many women of my age have begun to feel invisible. Younger people with an inbred bent for social media, all the confidence I once had (and more), time to kill pre family responsibilities and an unquestioning sense that everything they say is of interest to the whole wide world, seem to live in a cuddly ‘everything is possible’ and ‘every little idea is amazing’, bubble. So I have a love hate relationship with magazines like Mollie Makes – full of it’s over-enthusiastic ‘new’ ideas (many of which were popular in the 1970’s & 1980’s artwork textile/craft magazines my Mum subscribed to and which inspired me in my teens) and by other groups who think they’ve invented the world themselves. When did stitchers and crafters become ‘Sewists’ what a horrible word! I can understand ‘Sewers’, in English at least, has a different, unhelpful connotation. Whats wrong with ‘stitching’ or ’embroidering’. When did the heart symbol as in ‘I love New York’ become ‘I heart….’? It’s so cludgy and ugly. But I’ve got weary of trying to keep up and who’s interested in what I think anyway? Sometimes I think I could do with an agent or motivator but how do you find them and afford them even? It seems like so many of the art opportunities available are devised with newcomers or emerging artists in mind. Things for mid career people are so rare, highly competed for or too far away for practical purposes. I got tired of applying for amazing sounding opportunities and not even getting shortlisted or a response as to why you weren’t suitable (when did not even acknowledging applicants become the norm?). Computers were meant to make life easier, so at least as standard email with a tick box with why you weren’t successful ought to be easy enough, but instead it’s become an excuse to ignore people. Extremely time consuming and demoralising.

Two things I have started on at least – the desire to get out in the fresh air every day – especially if I’ve not got a meeting to cycle to, or gym class or a jive to go to (which we took up for my 50th Birthday party couple of years ago). This is in part due to the awful grey wet weather we seem to have had for months here, though I appreciate this is nothing in comparison to Northern parts and their awful floods. But I realised a few years ago, like many others I know, that I am a bit of a SAD’o (Seasonally Affected Disorder). I love colour, so grey and dull pastels really get me down. Rain puts you off cycling. I choose to cycle for the environment’s and all our worlds future children’s sakes.  Car drivers definitely drive more badly when it’s wet & it’s a pain putting on waterproof leggings and having to take lights on & off all the time…. but the beach is just a few yards away now and the huge waves and subtle moody sky and sea colours are amazing even in the rain. I also have a problem with sciatica at the moment so walking far or slowly, can be difficult. It started after a long drive to Newcastle to visit my oldest son at Uni – not used to driving far or long these days and with having an automatic car, my foot was in a bad position for too long and it keeps coming back at unhelpful times, though keeping a pair of platform sandals handy to drive distances in has helped reduce the extreme angle problem!

I managed to get to all but 2 of the Advent Beach Huts Beyond advent beach huts now we’re nearby, before I could only make 1 or 2. Engaging with the elements and braving the dark, each night people gathered to see how artists and groups had decorated the huts to represent Carols. Some nights there were also choirs (schools were popular this year), community groups, weird dancy performances, poems, music. Designs were amazing, some very thoughtful, some simple, others showcasing children’s art, others by professionals, all were worth seeing. Some nights huge crowds made it difficult to see inside, other times a few people braved the sometimes fierce winds or deluges, but most nights a good number enjoyed meeting up, supping mulled wine or warm juice and a mince pie. A few of us competed for the most attendances and the food hamper. I didn’t win, a young boy who’d dragged his parents out had. Only three people managed all 24 huts.

Secondly, I got so busy my Quiet Times had got left behind. Stupid really, as a Christian I know finding a quiet place to read the Bible, pray, meditate, ask forgiveness etc is vital for sanity, peace and hope. That’s not to say I don’t keep in touch with God throughout the day and at the Tuesday Group Bible studies/faith related talks and activities at local Anglican church. But today I spent the morning reading, praying, reviewing the hard year it’s been and trying to work out what I should be focussing on this year. Our own congregation at The Brighthelm Centre has closed on Sundays so it’s a weird prospect to be ‘churchless’ in the meeting together for a service sense. Alex’s role in ecology/theology and chaplain sense during the week continues, but we will be taking the year ahead to listen to what God has in store re new forms of worship. It’s extremely scary for an ENTJ (Myers Briggs) personality to be without goals or direction, despite lots of other people saying how exciting it will be for us!!! I’m not so sure, though it’s a chance to visit some unusual forms of church on the weeks between his fortnightly away from home preaching bookings to the wider church body.

In the midst of this Alex’s delayed 2nd sabbatical (another result of another stupid move) means he will be away here there and everywhere doing retreats, wild camping, volunteering for environmental organisations and otherwise engaging with more environmental issues away from his everyday work for 3 months in the summer, so it will be a rather weird time. Last time we went as a family to Canada saw friends & the amazing Niagara Falls & then New York and upstate America where we spent some time in a basic Christian community (but were booted out before time because I asked the ‘wrong’ questions, I think) but still don’t really understand why, other than while I tried hard to join in with the gender specific roles of the community, in spite of our shared roles at home, and not to undermine their values while being saddened by their seeming embaressment at appreciating the artistic skills in their community and the arbitrary jobs people did even if others were better trained for it.

As for Travel – When I was 25 I made a vow to visit every country in the world before I died do do something useful (i.e. a meaningful voluntary time training people in textile skills or teaching English or theology for a significant amount of time, rather than tourism till I realised that at 6 countries a year it would take me till I was in my late 70’s and many more countries exist today with all the demographic changes over recent years). But being a penniless sole trader, a mum and now more environmentally aware of the harms of air travel who knows if I’ll ever get abroad again. I went to Ghana for a very belated 40th Birthday textile tour trip, then went back to make a memorial quilt for the arts centre I stayed in but my 50th fund for a Guatemala textile trip might never happen, I raised barely half the air fare, have no idea who to go and work with and can’t speak the lingo – though on that at least I’m tapping into a free class I can do in Spanish at the Adult Education centre where I supposedly teach which will come in useful if I do ever go. And with that I ought to get on with trying to get some more students to sign up for the next terms classes…which is the main job I should have been doing today!

Other than that we have our 25th Wedding Anniversary this August and I’d love to go on a Mediterranean cruise – visit Venice again (my 50th) and other new places – though I’m sure there’re very wasteful for the planet too, or should we do a Jive party with the brilliant Anna Sin & the Juke Box Bandits who did my 40th and fundraise for or nephew’s charity Daniel Spargo Mabbs Foundation rather than presents at Brighthelm. Both of which will need me to earn some money….so back to work…..


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Starting 2015 on a more positive note!

So if you’ve just read the update from October 2014 you’ll be pleased to know that a few things in life have improved in the last couple of months.

We moved house just before Christmas, from my point of view it was a lot less stressful than previous moves because we asked our brilliant removers home2home (link to come) to move us slowly having had frustrating experiences with a large company who shall not be named here. This was our 5th move for 3 jobs (painful stories each) and we had to downsize a fair bit too losing 2 rooms & lots of other facilities in the process and I have way too much fabric, beads and files….. ‘She who dies with the most fabric wins’ as the American quote goes. (I was once proclaimed as the winner of this title at a London Region Quilter’s Guild day by the speaker I had hosted overnight!)

So we and 6 half loads of a 3/4 size van over 8 days with just the two owners moving us most of the time and a couple of younger helpers on the penultimate push before the weekend.  Our former drive was too steep – onto a main road so they couldn’t risk the van running into traffic, plus we wanted time in the evenings to unpack the bare bones before the next load came in, even so my studio is likely to be inoperable for at least another month because I have to find time and space to slot everything into a proper place…..

I also got the teaching job with PACA (Portslade Academy) (link to come) teaching beginners Patchwork classes & had a lovely first class last week doing English Template Patchwork along side loads of college admin, tomorrow is American Block Patchwork which I plan to teach the running stitch hand method and the machine version, so I need to get some samples finished tonight! But great to be stretched and having some oversight – no doubt more training and admin before too long too.  When my studio is functioning I will be starting more specialist home classes again too – sign into my events blog (link to come) for that if you’re in Sussex or can stay with friends for Saturday classes

After class tomorrow, we have the 1st anniversary memorial service at Tim & Fiona’s church for Daniel. We managed to raise over £300 for the foundation at our house cooling sale despite hardly anyone coming! (We’d invited 600 neighbouring households and 200 friends from elsewhere). However afterwards 2 church contacts took a load of household ornaments, equipment and books off our hands for their Christmas sales and lots more went to Oxfam, British Heart Foundation, Martletts (local hospice) and others. Our wonderful 1929 Encyclopaedia Brittanica went to a local man who remembered his Grandpa’s after an ad on Gumtree. My big old lovely illustrated Bible and some furniture went to a local auction house. We’ll still need to thin out stuff and I might have to have a book sale for my work books – art, textiles, origami etc or do ebay when I know what won’t fit in here.

The 7th bad thing that happened last year was my wonderful mother in law getting breast cancer. No doubt the stress of losing a grandson and their own downsizing house move last year didn’t help. Caught early though, acted on very quickly by the Dorset hospital but another op pending. (My mother is doing fine after hers 5 years ago.) So sad and we didn’t manage to meet up over Christmas or New Year so tomorrows gathering will be a weird celebration/mourning mix.

However are starting to enjoy the house now inspite of boggy gardens made worse by the builders finally doing the patio which should have been done before the move …what’s new… yet another builder I won’t be recommending though some of his subcontractors are great lack of supervision has caused a lot of stress and delays. Plus huge storms and winds now that we’re in spitting distance of the sea (precisely why we chose the other manse in the first place). But it’s a lovely sea ride to Alex’ new church, walkable to my brilliant all-women’s gym (Curves – link to come) and close to more shops and useful facilities plus a bus to our nearest train station instead of a long walk with heavy bags! Though further to the children’s school & college.

So I hope my future posts will be shorter, more positive & a bit more regular from now on. I’ll add some pictures in another blog sometime

If you are at the ICHF show Stitching Sewing & Hobbycrafts 6-8th February come and say Hi as I’m demonstrating there & catching up with my lovely friend Ann who took over my Manchester Adult Education classes when we moved to London.

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Life and death

I wrote this in October but didn’t feel ready to post it at the time, but tomorrow is the 1st anniversary service for my nephew and I want to mark it and then tell you what else has happened in the last couple of months… which will be in another post shortly

I have been unable to post anything for many months due to several personal crisis’ this year. We’re having what the Queen once called an ‘annus horribilis’. My emotional and physical energy has had to be focused on supporting the family and planning for the future while my work which has been slow the last couple of years anyway dried up even more. The final blow being my 7-year home based class collapsing for a number of reasons I had no control over!

10 months on we are still in the middle of the stress. This is going to be rather a long post – there’s a lot to fill in on but hopefully the next post will be a shorter and more positive one when I post some pictures of some banners I designed for one of the churches we used to look after.

Before I explain what’s been happening we are having a ‘house cooling’ sale at our house this weekend, selling lots of things we need to get rid of and serving refreshments plus a preview of the winter Fairtrade cards and catalogues for Traidcraft and Tearfund’s Created, hope you can come if you’re in the Brighton & Hove area

(Of course this has now passed)

Firstly my husband moved sideways in his job which comes with tied accommodation. We were assured we could stay in the same house, but when it came to it, local politics kicked in and the louder voices won, which meant we spent the already stressful pre Christmas period pleading with the people concerned to reconsider because it means a massive downsize and is the house we declined when given the choice eight years ago, when we knew this one would work for us in every way and that one wasn’t going to.

We were still reeling from this, the thought of having to go through a 5th move having had to move twice in both of our previous situations already and the knock on consequences of longer journeys to schools, colleges and work, when in January, our 16 year old nephew took MDMA (a powdered form of Ecstasy) for the first time as far as we were aware. Within 2 days, 11 out of the 12 adults capable of getting there were at his bedside in the emergency wards at Kings Hospital in London when all the life support systems had to be switched off. Absolutely everything in his body had closed down, he’d had 3 heart attacks, Kings and another hospital nearer Hayes where the rave took place had done as much as they could, operated to save his legs from clots, pumped him full of good drugs, put him on every conceivable life support machine. They couldn’t do anything more to support his body without damaging it further, so if his body couldn’t pick up from there we were going to lose him. We prayed, we wept, we hoped, we hugged, but in the end his body was so damaged he would have been extremely disabled that if he had lived it would have been a living hell. As we watched the life waves diminish on the monitors and listened to the beeps changing in tone, we held hands, we said farewell rites, their minister anointed him with oil and then we held our own counsel. It was both a tremendous privilege to be there Aunts & Uncles wouldn’t normally be able to say goodbye but a horrendous place to be, how could someone so vibrant and clever and outgoing take 5g of a drug and be dead two days later? Would God do a miracle for us or was he going to take him to a greater peace? And what were we to do with the outcome of his one stupid decision?

I hadn’t been able to go up to London the first day he was in treatment, I had to stay in Hove with our younger teens, so I was praying all day and kept hearing the phrase ‘make it count’ all the time while my heart was pleading with God to let him pull through. The next day was Monday, the children had school, so I went up with Alex (my husband). I went up hoping that things had improved overnight, but we met another brother in law on the stairs and he filled us in on how desperate it was. I still couldn’t believe it, but the amazing young male nurse very gently confirmed to me that we were as far as we could go now and so my focus changed to praying for support for his mum Fiona, dad Tim & brother Jacob and how we were all going to get through the next few hours, days, and months along with the other family members who were also there. After Daniel died his father, Tim said ‘I suppose it’s at times like this people set up a foundation’ and so the ‘make it count’ message I had kept hearing made sense

I lost my father about 4 years ago, he was getting more & more disabled and grumpy with life and in the end it was a blessing for him when he left for a more happy place. We had wonderfully positive celebration of his life after a private close family cremation, that’s not to diminish the pain and grief of everyone who loved him, but this a hundred times worse. It always seems so wrong when your children go before you, when they die after such a stupid decision it is even worse. We’ve been there over the months, trying to support and encourage through the awful things Tim & Fiona have endured. They very bravely agreed to talk to the Press from the beginning in spite of the often crass hassling and reporting by some parts of the press pack, (most have been very supportive and reported fairly) they’ve been incredibly gracious, non judgmental, open and faithful. They have talked on TV and radio, to newspapers and magazines all in the hope of preventing other youngsters from making the same mistake. They have had to wait ages for the funeral while inquests were opened and dealers arrested, through the trial of the runner, who got off on a technical mishap and the dealer, who got a sentence having admitted his guilt – we hope for restorative justice in time and pray he will find peace, forgiveness and a new life while he’s in prison.

Their lovely church, Emmanuel Church of England, cooked meals, did laundry, shopping, tidying before interviews and millions of other little acts of kindnesses for us all. The teens and staff at Daniels school – Archbishop Tennyson’s, have been incredibly supportive throughout. Friends have come along with special skills to help set up the Daniel Spargo Mabbs Foundation  (will link as soon as I can ) http:/, the school friends have supported with fundraising and going out to other local schools to talk about their loss and experience. They all pulled together in an amazing way for the extremely positive funeral. The most choking experience of all was as family cortege wound past the school on it’s way to the crematorium. It was pouring with rain, the whole sixth form stood outside, cold and wet under brollies as we passed between the line ups, my realization that stastically many of them will have their lives blighted by drugs whether addictive, recreational or through losing other friends was overwhelming, so much promise and so much evil in the culture we now live in that preditates on our youngsters for financial gain, without thought for people’s wellbeing or futures. Then a close family internment, still pouring, but somehow seeming right. A sense that God was not pleased, He was angry and the gloomy weather somehow expressed His and our grief over yet another too early death.

The church was packed, the presentations by friends and uncles positive while emotional, the press hovering outside like vultures, the singing, the memories, the stories and jokes rounding out an intelligent, challenging, teasing, lovely young man who we shouldn’t have lost; a colourful personality just like the clothes we’d been asked to wear.

But then the ongoing grief, pain, media interest. The setting up of the foundation, the healing and counselling, meeting with other drugs awareness organisations and other lost families. It’s been agonising being on the sidelines, seeing the ups and downs, the tears and the little rays of hope, the shocks and reality of the drugs world out there, and the ‘friends’ who drew him into taking that silly decision. I have felt helpless and useless much of the time, the little I can do in support is so small, but their friends who are nearby have been amazing and continue to bless us in many ways.

The foundation is up and running now, we’re all doing fundraising as we are able. About 20 friends and friends of friends did a Croydon to Brighton cycle ride, we met them in and hope to host their coming in more meaningfully next year. And so to our second sale, our first being on our drive in the summer, shared with our son’s school eco volunteer work trip to Tanzania – see my Tanzania Mania quilt blog for the project I’m doing to pay ¼ of his expenses for that. This time being likely to be cold and wet we’re doing it indoors and over three days.

So as for us after a long haul trying to work out how to fit in the new house, arguing for a few minor alterations so it will function for us and many delays before getting go aheads plus a lot of reorganising my work materials and equipment, getting stuff off to auctioneers and charities, recycling and swapping my loom for help on my website and media status… we are a month or so from the move.

In the middle of this I had a heart scare in the spring, lots of tests, cut out caffeine again (it worked), cut down, hopefully, on my fat, sugar and salt intake, lost weight, gained it, got cellulitis on my left ankle (week of antibiotics) fought off a kidney infection (another week of a different one), went to do my stall at the Festival of Quilts in August and got bitten by another insect so had cellulitis on my right leg! This time it wrapped completely round my calf and bubbled up into a nasty water balloon which painfully popped and took about five weeks to heal up with 3 lots of other oral antibiotics one of which I reacted badly to with immediate raging thrush on the top of my legs and shoulders and finally 4 days getting intravenous AB’s in the Sussex Royal Hospital, which meant Alex & I missed Greenbelt a really good Christian Art’s Festival, because he had to take me up there each day and I was on bed rest for a couple of weeks! In the midst of this we celebrated our 23rd Wedding Anniversary but it was a rather extreme way to get the time to ourself! Kind friends had offered to look after our younger teens if we put them on the train, so they were well looked after and we had the space to spend hours at the hospital waiting for authorization to have the shots. Having had a serious bout about 13 years ago in London I knew it was necessary but the 30 minute procedure took several hours each day as we waited for a doctor to be available to agree it. Alex missed working and networking for his new Ecology-Theology role. Maybe next year we will get to have a normal year for once!

I’m extremely grateful in all this that I haven’t got too SAD-o this year (Seasonally Affected Depression). Moving to Brighton 8 years ago I realised how much brighter the air and light is here, so grey days feel twice as bad as they did in London. I’m often exhausted by the end of November after all my Fairtrade events & three lots of every church service throughout December and Christmas itself leaves me cold with the excessive materialism of society around us, the twee representation of Baby Jesus in the community and the way He gets lost in the often frantic busyness of the church calendar. I much prefer Easter when we think about his life and death and why without it we would not have the hope, grace or experience of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

This year I hope to arrive at the end of the year quietly, having finally moved to our new home and worked out where everything will go and am looking forward to my new studio, this time downstairs, light and spacious, with a garage to store my fabric and junk modeling treasures -recycled/reclaimed ‘rubbish’ (Alex), which I have great plans for. In the new year I may finally be starting to teach at a local Adult Education centre – classes were undersubscribed in September but that gave me space to deal with moving issues – and once I’m up and running I have many projects to finish, start and hopefully get a new home class going too.

In the meantime I have my sale this weekend and then 13th – 15th November I am a guest artist/teacher at the West Country Quilt Show in Bristol a new venue for me. After which maybe we will finally be moving!

I hope if you are reading this, you have had a much better year and never have to face the loss of your loved ones to drugs of any form. Please visit their website to see what projects they’re working towards & our quilt fundraising project

I promise to talk about textiles and positive creativity next blog, but I needed to explain the long gap this time.

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Busy, Busy

I am having a most busy week trying to juggle getting ready for my annual big Fairtrade Event next week (see my Fairtrade blog) – lots of admin, ordering in stock, juggling bills, sticking invites into the cards we designed in last years competition and delivering them between showers of rain. However most of my time the past few weeks has been taken up with writing up documents and applications for 2 major Artist in Residency opportunities. Both look fantastic and just the sort of project I could take on in the New Year – one’s a week talking at and engaging with a maths/art conference in Europe, the other an amazing 3 month job in this country. I’ll write more when and if I have more substantial information to give you.

Meanwhile my eldest is back from Uni for part of a day tomorrow travelling on an overnight coach from Newcastle! then to a party in London. First term – everyone overdoes it! My daughter & I had a fleeting visit to him at half term (which feels weeks away already) sliced in half by the storms halting the trains. The rail companies were lovely about travelling the next day on the defunct ticket, shame about London Underground who didn’t show as much generosity despite proof of tickets and schedules. When I’ve a few moments spare next week (ha – in the throws of the Fairtrade event) I’ll try to contact them to challenge their ungallant attitudes. Did get to do the 2 days in Derbyshire, where  we were rushed off our feet by my mother planning lots of outings. Somewhere along the line I lost my computer lead, so have been having to charge up on Mr Mabbs on Seas’ – see his blog at – because it’ll take too long to get into Brighton for a new one, then again my glasses broke a couple of days ago and I’m struggling with an old pair which makes everything look like it’s ‘coining’ (distorting into tramline effects). I need to go soon though, maybe Saturday when I’ve done some more admin. Still the relief of getting my application in yesterday and my Artist In Residency blog online at last is huge. I wanted to do a brochure about them for a few years, but it’s an expensive business and now we’ve been superseded by technology a blog seemed like a better option. I just missed computers through my schooling, so it’s a steep but satisfying learning curve when I’ve finally achieved something, but I suspect the tweaking to perfection will take a little more experience!

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