Category: The Family

Dream Diary – Mouse Aethelflaed (by )

I dreamed of the Anglo-Saxon Queen Aethelflaed, I dreamed of her in flowing linen in bold cuts with gold glinting and shield in hand, she was a warrior, she was strong with a purposeful stride and... she was a mouse. All those historical intrigues I had fallen asleep reading about where there with Danes and Viking hoards and ancient Iron Age earthworks cracked open for battle restbite. This was a nodal saga digging deep into the mythos of my mind with mist swirling to hide armies and lands that are firm grasslands now being mires and swamps with island towns between.

But everyone was a mouse or hedgehog or otter (especially the vikings though also they were ferrets) and Gloucester Cathedral loomed into view with a statue of it's founder on a plinth except it was again a mouse - and I realised I was in Loamhedge in the books of Redwall and things made much more sense - books I read again and again. Books my dad has read to me and then to my children, books I begged the scifi library at college to get. It was all mushed together and there was a quest and it was like the stories of knights but more like the thread of the story that those glittering escapades had been threaded onto. There was something of Robin of Loxley with his hood there and something Arthurian. Dragons even slept beneath the hills.

The quest involved a cure for a plague, a plague that had laid the Roman Empire bare and had and would again sink empires in despair, two roses I had to find with my own mousy paws and little whiskered noise but not just any rose - The Sister Roses that grew at Deep Poole. I knew the place - how could I not it was a fusion of Welsh lakes I have known - one found with my husband on the flanks of the mighty hill of Snowdonia, scarred and coloured with the metals of said hill. Beautiful blues that mark its taint and the cave that is barred in the mountain wall. The other was something from childhood - a half remembered place important to my family. A place I think of even in waking as Deep Poole though I do not know what it's name is.

It is the place where my nan insisted on traveling all the way from her new home in the outskirts of London to bring her children, as part of taking them home, to her real home though it no longer really existed, a little village lost to the damp and progress of the modern world. It was hidden in the hills of South Wales - in many ways a very different land from those of Snowdonia. She took us there when ever we were in Wales with her, the waters were still and quiet cupped in an almost circle and they were dark and deep and icy and they called, whispering to you.

The lake in my dream was a combination of these two, with a weir pummelling the escaping waters into white and deadly froth. An unnaturally seeming bank rose from the lake surrounding it's dark blueness, cupped within and hiding, up on the rise over looking it was a ruin, a window so moss covered that it could have been a brick build, or tin or hewn from the very mountain side. This was a sheep grassed grass land on the steps of the mountains, trees loomed at the edge and it was all concentric circles like a labyrinth with curves and twists and somehow I knew that this was a story and that it was looping in on itself. There were desperate men there that should have been guarding the lake, instead they had been drinking holy waters and had become soul sick.

One had appointed himself king and stood taller than us with a crown glinting on his head, it was a tarnished crown and the jewels had been acid etch to a dullness, his features showed a mouse like snout but upon his back where leathery wings and in his mouth sharp incisors like a predator. He howled at us and wanted to keep us for himself but we fought him until a tin thin corroded sword pierced his belly and he fell screaming into the lake. We tried to retrieve him whilst his soldiers flittered around in unease but though he swam to avoid being pulled down into the dark heart of the lake he refused our help and was pulled into the weir where we were sure he could not survive.

He emerged retched and bleeding the other side, his wings were lost and he shivered with spasms of pain, we nestled him and cooed to him in his dying day and his people flocked around us murmuring about the Christs Blood and the Goddesses Tears and how they could save though his wings had been been ripped from his back. Without them he really was just an over sized mouse and we felt a kinship for him now that we had not before - the waters had cleansed him. One of his men told us of the boxes of remnants or possibly a drum or was it a cup? What ever it was it had been hidden by the lake and it could save him.

We told them what we sort and they shrugged, there were many flowers that grew around the lake the trick was getting to them before the sheep did. We decided to help them look for the healing box or cup that was hidden around the lake, they looked at and dug at the banks of the draining river and went onto the grey stone beach that marked the only accessible shore of the lake, we however climbed, we climbed up the grassy slope to the moss covered building. If there was some sort of healing box it might be in the building, it might just be a first aid kit.

Two types of pale pink roses grew on the window so dilapidated and sorry looking, one was a domesticated bloom, large but not overly and elegant rather than bulbous as some over bred roses can become, the other was a series of smaller blooms, little more than blossom, they were wild but you could see that at some point they had been the same as the larger flower next to them. The sister Blooms. We carefully took one of each bloom and no more - for we would not need more than that and to destroy such a thing... a glorious testament to life itself, growing on decay, the bringer of a future and somehow also the guardian of the past - it seemed an unforgivable thing.

The blooms would cure the plague so we knew they would fix the poor broken bat king and so we took them to him and he smiled and smelled their fragrance and become still... we thought he had perish and that the bats would rip us apart instead they too went still as if waiting expectantly for something. He began to murmur a story... it told of Jesus walking the lands of Albion and of a well in Bristol now hidden beneath a house, it told of miracles and knights and of an object that was divided into four, one for each corner and the foundations of the Earth, of how those objects become different things - containing the maiming iron, or the flesh for the skin, or the piercing spear or a cup of ichor and blood caught so carefully.

To keep the items safe they had each ended up in vastly different places that had been designated before the dark death, hosted by very different people but with a connection and a core that connected them. The roses were planted so as their roots would slowly consume the blood and bring the healing into the world and they were watered with the Goddesses Tears just as she filled the lake, though she was known by some local saints name now, but she was the goddess of the hills and the vallies and she kept all her kindred of the land safe within the rocks and trees. And so it was with these two clashes of culture that the Sister Roses had grown one wild and one as it had always been and both perfect and sublime.

A bird screeched and called and pierced the dream which was sweet in my mouth by now and the morning pressed in on my lids as an alarm replaced the bird, a whirl wind of child eggar to know if was a school day appeared. The book on The Warrior Queen and the local Priory sat next to my pillow and my old hedgehog toy looked at me from a shelf, a glittering stone on a faux leather thong reminds me of games pretending to be princess adventures and fearocious fairies and of course the notes I'd made on holy relics a few weeks ago lay scattered around the room, a stake of Brian Jacques books await a re-read or three and I smile thinking of the old photos in yellow reds of Welsh holidays I got developed for my family and the annual holiday me and my husband would take on the slopes of Snowdon including our honeymoon and I think - that was a strong dream and it is not going to leave me alone and though I can see where it comes from the mystic feeling of it remains and I shall share and so I have.

Happy Day (by )

Yesterday was pretty varied - I went to Laptop Friday Gloucester which is a local business networking/co-working etc... thingy, they were setting up a great creative business workshop run by Louise Jenner, I made price tags out of colouring in sheets for my arty stuff and put it out on display in Cookes, Coffee & Curios including Wiggly Pets ๐Ÿ™‚ I took photos of yet more funky architectural features I found in Gloucester including the guano crying Hermes from the post office and the lovely concrete moulding and mosaic stuff behind Sainsburys, I then worked on some illustrations (sorry can't share they aren't for my own stuff so aren't mine to share!) and went to find/look at books - in the Medieval times books used to be so precious that they were chained down - the book I wanted to look at about medieval stuff is out of print... so was metaphorically chained down and I was very lucky to get a look at it ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks to my friend ๐Ÿ™‚ - also the books I requested had come through so I now have a little light reading to do! Then it was kids off to drama and Al making daal soup for me whilst I sorted out all the bits for my stained glass kids workshop idea (spoiler - it doesn't involve glass but did involve going to Office Outlet) <3

Ruins and Rain (by )

As part of Mothers Day Alaric took me for a walk around the ruins of St Oswald's Priory here in Gloucester - I realised that I had not explored it properly and he decided that that needed to change - in general I like exploring old buildings and plan to do it a bit more this year including more Cuddly Histories as well as the science. This was only part of our walk which also included the industrial run down bits but I've separated them out for now. These photos are not meant to be academic though I really do want to study them more as being a geologist I kind of want to know the full story of each and every stone!

If you want to know more about the history then go here (actually the lovely website I was going to link to seems to have disappeared so I will try and do a write up on the blog at some point), also this year is really important for the Priory and there are going to be all sorts of things happening in and around it this summer due to one of the founders Aethelflaed!

Serious check this woman out - warrior queen and all sorts!

Now to the photos - I am putting them up here as I know several people want to use them for art projects (me included), you are welcome to use them to draw from - if you use the actual photos this is fine for non profit works (though please still credit me) but could you please talk to me for anything else. ๐Ÿ™‚

You can see larger version of the photos by just clicking on them - there will also be a prose-poem type thing at some point but for now this is the photo dump for us artists to be getting on with ๐Ÿ™‚

St Mary's Gloucester (I think) The ruins of St Oswalds Priory Looking through the window St Oswalds Priory Remnants of rooms Gloucester History Wood in stone St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Structures in Stone St Oswalds Priory Clouds Through Stone Gloucester History Buildings within buildings St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Nature reclaiming ruins Gloucester Shapes in the stone St Oswalds Priory Striations in the stone St Oswalds Priory History and Geology Gloucester Roots of like on the decay of ages St Oswalds Gloucester Hidden features St Oswalds Priory Some arches are older than others St Oswalds Patterns and shapes St Oswalds Priory Accidental crenulation St Oswalds Priory Blocks and shapes St Oswolds An arch that was St Oswalds Priory Two ages envisioned St Oswalds Layers of History Gloucester Looking along the ruins St Oswalds Gloucester Regal Ruins St Oswalds Priory Which window is which St Oswalds Priory The angle of ruin St Oswalds Priory Tower through the window St Oswalds Priory Tree through ancient window St Oswalds Priory Alaric examining the stones St Oswalds Priory Gloucester A Little Nook St Oswalds Priory Shapes and Hidden Ages Amongst the Stones St Oswalds Priory Structures within and without St Oswalds Priory Colour and shape History Gloucester A view down the stones Gloucester St Oswalds Priory Shape and Space St Oswalds Priory Stone and structure St Oswalds Priory Ruins through the arch St Oswalds Priory The dark and the light Gloucester Through the arch more arches can be seen St Oswalds Ruins Gloucester St Oswalds Priory Brick and Stone Gloucester History Life's struggle Gloucester St Oswalds Priory St Oswalds through the Gate Graves shape curve and angle St Oswalds Priory Branch and Ruin St Oswalds Priory The Wall and the Branch St Oswalds Fragments of self eaten by time St Oswalds Priory Stone and shape and weathering St Oswalds Priory Shapes cut from stone St Oswalds Pillars and supports St Oswalds Priory Gloucester Rocks and rocks and different rocks St Oswalds Priory

p.s. it kept raining hence the title!

Form more images to draw from you can look through the archive on this blog or check out some of the stuff on my photo and images blog, or look at my Flickr.

A Struggle A Head (by )

Last night we had our worst parents evening yet... it was pretty much as we expected. Mary is lovely, bright, mischievous and struggling except in maths. She loves outdoor learning and has brilliant comprehension levels when things are read out to her.

The school have her as a focus kid for reading but due to cut backs and things they no longer have the teaching assistants and can't give her anymore without depriving the other kids. We are reading with her at home though I don't think the school actually believes that. We've had to stop Jean pointing out what books she was reading at the same age - our not so small little bookworm is struggling with just how different her sister is to her.

Mary also throws her books at me and gets in a rage and informs me that she has no homework and hides her spelling sheets.

She is 7 yrs old and the gap between her and her peers is starting to widen - this is where the self confidence drop could happen and it has taken us ages to get her settled in school because she is a high energy bouncy child. Also stupid bloody SATS is coming and the emphasis on exams and results and testing testing testing is there and it makes me so angry (with the system not the school).

Mary is often giving up her playtime to read - she gets distressed when I tell her at home that she should play in the garden why it is light before homework because she feels the pressure of it but again she is miss bounce so she needs to get ride of all that physical fizz in order to sit and focus. Neither me nor the teacher think giving up playtime is good as it's soul destroying - I was that child sat inside yearning to play.

I look at some of her work and I can't work out what is needed - I don't know what an imperative is... I have a degree from one of the best universities in THE WORLD. Does she really need to know that now? Wouldn't just getting her writing clearly and coherently be best? The curriculum is stifling.

Again the teacher suggested we do bedtime reading with her were we read to her but we already do that - or rather Al does that - due to the head injury I couldn't and so I tend to tell her stories. It's not every night because sometimes it gets too late but it is most nights.

I don't know how to help - she won't sit down to do the booklets like Jean did, she is not a bookworm though she is thirsty for knowledge though she has come to like books in a way that she hasn't before recently - I set up the indoor "fire circle" for stories and had some spoken/improvised and some read out stories over Christmas and we go to the library once a month to fortnightly where she spends ages with the picture books (yes the ones for toddlers). Sometimes she reads them to us, sometimes she makes stories up from the pictures - I was still doing this at 10 yrs of age - I couldn't read properly until I was 12 and already in secondary school and the social implications of that are... not nice.

But I am at a loss as to what to do? Teacher friends and family - suggests are appreciated.

Her teacher suggested that we get up earlier and doo reading then - but we are a) not morning people any of us and b) we already get up at 6 and Al is often struggling with tiredness so to be honest I think earlier mornings would probably make it unsafe for him to drive - Mary often has to have a run around before school and goes to breakfast club not for breakfast but so she can be brighter and more with it at school.

She has never been able to drink or eat cow milk so it's not like I can cut that out and I know that is something that often improves things for kids in her situation.

In her written work both numerical and letter based there are reversals and transportations and not just in one axis - there are Ps where there should be ds and her numbers are often mirror images.

I've asked the school to look into dyslexia - I have dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia where the dyslexia is extremely bad. She is still considered a bit young for the tests and things as dyslexic tendencies are thought to only become properly differentiated from general childhood learning mistakes etc... after 8 years of age - I am worried that the damage will already be done if we wait until 8. The school are being very supportive including Mary's odd take on clothing she will and will not wear :/

I debated about blogging this - but part of the problem with these situations is that they get hidden - I know people worry that it could harm a Childs future employability if this sort of thing is shared but really that comes down to something that needs to be drastically changed in our society. If just the suggestion that someone might have had learning difficulties is enough to stop them getting a job then this country really needs to look at itself. And if she does have dyslexia then hopefully she can be supported through the education system - though with the current government I am doubtful of how long there will be support for.

The biggest problem for kids with learning difficulties like this is the confidence crash - this is something I really really hope to avoid but she is in many ways a very shy child anyway. Being dyslexic myself I find it really hard to help her - I can't tell her how to spell a lot of things and we end up looking things up in the dictionary. I have already introduced Scrabble which was a big thing for me with spelling and we are still using the board that my nan gave me. She loves the game - I think she might actually have won the last family game - destroying Al's theory that I always win it. I've given her my little spell check machine that my cousin Ivan gave me when I was doing my GCSE's to help - it has some spelling games and things on it too. But again these are things I have already done - what else is there?

On the plus side she spent her last round of pocket money on an actual chapter book which she has been "reading" in bed - it's a sparkly kitten type book and is actually quiet thick - there are some pictures in it at the beginnings of chapters and things. I hope that the love and want of books will work the same magic on her as it did for me - she is a very clever little engineer and loves puzzles and designing and drawing and is always winning things for her ballet.

Alien (by )

It'd certainly be fair to call me a noncomformist; I'm hardly a slave to fashions, and my hobbies tend to revolve around meddling with the fundamental forces that bind the Universe together, science fiction, old technical books, and learning self-defence.

But... this isn't exactly a role I've chosen for myself. I haven't gone to some effort to step off the beaten track; I've not rejected the mainstream as an act of rebellion. The truth is, I've never really felt a part of the human race.

Why should being different be a problem, though? I love talking to people who are different to me - and I couldn't do that unless I was different from them. The diversity of human experience fascinates me; I love seeing how people's lives differ from mine. Monocultures are harmful and fragile: our diversity is a great strength.

Of course, for many, being different is hell because they experience explicit discrimination for it. LGBT folks, immigrants, minority ethnic groups are all explicitly targetted for their difference, by people who think that their being different makes them a threat. But I'm lucky; I've had very little of that in my life. At school I had some unwelcome attention from the bullies for being bookish and shy rather than sporty, but I'm pretty sure those folks were just looking for levers to mess with people rather than actually taking some kind of moral high ground over me; and I didn't have all that much trouble with them, as I didn't react much so they went after more interesting targets.

For me, the problem is more subtle: my experience is mainly of feeling left out, unwanted, or forgotten.

I was born with one eye, so "3D" films and magic-eye pictures were always things for normal people; and PE teachers at school never seemed to understand that I really had a problem with depth perception, and assumed that my pitiful performance at anything resembling catching a ball was me mucking around. I was given an unusual name, so those things in shops with keyrings/pens/mugs with a selection of common names on never had anything for me. I was raised vegetarian, so I always had to check if I could actually eat food I was given, and went hungry at my primary school's leaver's barbecue. I was the only child of an unemployed single parent, so normal family dynamics never applied, and I never had the expensive toys the other kids at school had. I learnt to read before I started school and read through books insatiably, so my experience of education was very different to that of the other children in my class; I can hardly complain about the fact that I found school and exams easy, but it meant I couldn't really relate to my friends' difficulties. We ate food we grew on our own allotment, and didn't have a car. For whatever reason, I've never liked hot drinks. Spectator sports hold little joy for me. I find pubs and parties distressing. The only mass media that featured people like me was the harder end of science fiction, so I was used to most stuff on the TV (and what the other kids raved about, in particular) as reinforcing the idea that "normal people aren't like me". I can certainly relate to the calls for better representation of different groups in mass media today!

I become irrationally touchy about any situation where somebody assumed that something which applied to most people would apply to all people: People describing bacon and coffee as delicious as if this was some objective truth, rather than just the fact that they find them delicious. Employers thinking that expensive coffee and free beer are a good way to reward the team. Each of these things is tiny in itself, not really worth making a fuss over, but the accumulated weight of them all became hard to bear. This makes me feel angry: I remember a dream I had when I was about ten years old. In this dream, there was a special event at school; the teachers had organised everyone into groups of three, each of which had a kit to assemble, but they'd forgotten about me when drawing the groups up. So I was sat with a couple of other kids who'd been explicitly excluded from the activity for being troublemakers, and we were given some leftovers from everyone else's kits to "just mess around with". I was furious - so recruited the two troublemakers into a plan: with the leftover parts we had, we built a high-powered catapult and, when everyone else had finished their kits, we opened fired and smashed them all. I woke from the dream seething with fury, almost in tears.

But I can't simply blame others for my situation; I am certainly complicit in my own invisibility. When somebody assumes something about me, I feel embarrassed about being different, and I freeze; the opportunity to interject passes, and I seem to have implicitly agreed to whatever it is. It's only when I look back and realise: that was the point where I could have gently avoided whatever catastrophe it turned into. For instance, a few years ago, some friends came to visit our house for New Year's Eve. This was great at first, but then one of them proudly produced a bottle of some strong spirit from their bag, and the others were pleased about this. I, however, wasn't; it made my stomach churn with fear, but my initial thoughts were just "Oh no, this is bad". I held on as long as I could, but they started showing signs of inebriation, then talking about their symptoms of inebriation, and after a few hours I couldn't cope any more and made excuses to go and hide away on my own elsewhere in the house, only reappearing when my help was needed with something. I was furious that I had been made to feel like this in my own house; some reptilian-hindbrain part of me was feeling like my home had been invaded; I was riding the stressful emotional rollercoaster of bitter fantasies of storming downstairs and kicking them out of my home (into the cold streets of an unfamiliar city at night when they'd be legally unable to drive themselves the 50-odd miles home), while rationally knowing I could do no such thing; history would certainly record me as the Bad Guy if I did that.

But what I should have done was say something at the beginning. My instinct was to freeze and think "Oh crap", and then enter into the vicious spiral of feeling bad, hiding my emotions, and then feeling worse because nobody's responding to how I feel.

I don't feel comfortable with drawing attention to my different-ness, particularly when it's something that's bad about me; but a big factor in my tendency to hide my pain was a nasty episode at a place I worked many years ago. I worked part-time while I was at University; I had been struggling with the alcohol culture amongst my university peers, so I had as little to do with university as possible, just turning up for the bare minimum of lectures, and focussing my attention on my workplace; it became a safe refuge for me. But the little software consultancy I worked for was growing, and started to hire non-technical people for roles such as HR and sales; and with those people came a drinking culture that quickly spread to dominate the company's social fabric, and became a significant topic of conversation during the days. I went to my boss and explained that the recent shift towards all company-organised social and celebratory functions being held in bars with drinks on the company was becoming a problem for me, and he asked the person who had been tasked with organising all that stuff (the new sales guy) to change it; but he took exception to that, did everything he could to work around the spirit of the restriction while staying just inside the letter of the ruling, pointedly rubbed my face in this, and privately told me that I had no right to dictate how other people lived their lives. Ever since then, I've tended to just grit my teeth and bear it, but I think the result of this has just been that I'm slowly filling up with resentment. I need to be a bit more open about my mental health issues (hence starting to blog about it), but I must also be careful about who I hand that power over me to. In hindsight, I have come to realise that a large fraction of people are alcoholics, probably without even realising; they will react, with aggressive defensiveness, to anything that might call their use of alcohol into question.

I don't think complaining to other people is the solution, anyway. Spending all my time suggesting that people offer nice smoothies as well as coffee as a reward for something because not everybody likes coffee gets tiring, and I don't want to be That Guy who complicates everything for everybody. I know I'm a minority, and I think there should be some kind of trade-off between the current situation and some hypothetical world where every decision has to take into account every possible weird edge case; I think I wouldn't mind being left out if I didn't feel like people were making assumptions. "We could only afford the time/money to organise one thing so we got coffee as most people like it, please give us suggestions for other stuff you might like in future" is fantastic. "We got a reward budget and we spent it all on coffee, isn't that fantastic?" isn't. But explaining that distinction to busy people every time this comes up would be rather tiring. What energy we have for changing the world needs to be diverted to fighting more pressing problems, like sexism, hompohobia, transphobia and xenophobia, or better disabled access; these are things that affect large groups of people, so effort spent there will have a greater improvement on the average quality of human life than worrying about weird edge cases such as myself.

Instead, I think we need to just broaden our minds in general. People like to make assumptions about other people. If we learn to stop doing that, then things will be a bit better for everyone who's a little bit different. I don't mind being weird in itself - life would be pretty boring if everyone was the same. It's just people making assumptions that hurts!

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