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The Festival of Archaeology (by )

Cuddly Science Histories

This weekend on Sat 22nd of July I'll be at Gloucester Cathedrals Festival of Archaeology event with my workshop Awesome Archaeology and Fantastic Fossils. There will be a sand pit with sieves and tools to find things, panning for "gold", a little lab set up to sort out and label your finds, clay impressions, sediment bottles, stratigraphic logs, metal detecting, papier mache fossils, little ruins to piece together and colouring in sheets plus some actual rocks! 🙂

Here is a sneak peak at the sandpit we've made 🙂


And this is all just me! There are lots of other things going on for adults as well as kids 🙂 I'll be in the Cloisters Garden 🙂

My workshop shows the basic methods for finding and sorting specimens/finds as well as going over some basic geological processes!

Oh yeah and of course there will be the Cuddly Science puppets!

Can you tell I'm excited?

This is the undigitised version of one of the colouring sheets as is the picture at the top that I have been working on. Created by making studies of actual fossils and archaeological ruins!


Mary’s Hair :) (by )

Mary's hair is now long enough to be plaited... if you french braid it! I am still not quiet up to scratch on these things but she was happy with the result 🙂

Right hand side of Mary's hair Mary's Braid from the front no flash Mary's hair from the back Left side of Mary's hair

Yes it's not a full braid - she calls it her "Elsa Hair" as in the Frozen film. It is a special for when she goes swimming which the school are doing again 🙂 Here is the cheeky one more time 🙂

Mary's French plait front

2 Weeks Away and Back Again :) (by )

So we finally managed it!!! We went away as a family for 2 weeks! We went far away.... far far away to another hemishpere. We went to South Africa, first time out of the country with the kids, first uninterrupted holiday for me and Al EVER - even our honeymoon in Wales was punctuated by work stops to internet cafes!

I bought rocks...

Amethyst and Raw Tigers Eye

The girls bought rocks...

Tri-coloured Goldstone

Alaric bought rocks....

Raw Amethyst et Al

I took photos of and told everybody who would listen about rocks (lit. I have taken hundreds of photos of rocks!!!).

rock beads

The rocks were pretty...

Rainbow rocks

Really we did get alot of rocks...

Did I mention the rocks?

mineral chips

The girls came home with some new friends 🙂

South African Cuddlies

We all did!

Pretties from South Africa

Lots of trinkets 🙂

Holiday Table Centre

And clothes! We took very little with us so we could buy cloths and things... well we bought lots of cloths and books and rocks!

Stuff from South Africa

This was Mary's first buy 🙂 At Cape Point where the seas meet where there were baboons and rocks!

Lighthouse snowglobe

It was amazing!!! I was petrified on the way out, planes... terrorism, pilot error, blood clots, I knew it was stupid I knew the most risky bit was the bus journey from our house to the train station. But it was still there, as it was I'd checked the blood lot thing out (I had blood clot issues due to pregnancy and wasn't allowed to fly but I was unsure as to when that restriction was supposed to end). Then there was the Gluten Free thing - seriously me and Mary are hard to feed - add in that I also can not have bannanas and strawberries and what not...

Turns out South Africa is MUCH MUCH MUCH better at catering for this stuff and not cross contaminating you than the UK is!!! I think this is because they are already catering for a range of food needs so it was little hassle for the restuarants and cafes to add another variant. (There were multiple options for dairy free milks and gluten free pizza crusts!!!!).

And the flights were great and I caught up on films I'd missed in the cinema. Though big plane rides (which I find less stressful as turbulence tends to be less) result in me having seizures 🙁 To be fair on the way out there was a stress as the car to take us from the hotel to the airport in Amsterdam was delayed (we were over nighting). And lighting and patterns in the airport began to make me feel not great so I had like a mini seizure thing and so was struggling when I got on the plane (and made us even later so we were like the last in the queue but at least the queue was still there!). I switched off my little screen and stuff but everyone elses was on and the lighting on the plane and it kept switching back on for announcements etc...

So I went into a deeper/bigger siezure and was embarrassed and did not want to talk to anyone as my speech was slurred. But I slept and carefully watched films with the brightness on my screen turned down and looking away for bright flashy action and fight scenes - avoiding films that had caused past seizures.

On the way back I got to the end of the flight before having the seizure, as in I was getting off the plane - scared the poor flight attendants :/ They have a new LED lighting system on the plane and were still working out how to us it. This did mean I was then stuck at transfer in a bit of a state, unable to talk properly and standing and walking hard etc... people kept trying to help which was lovely and embarasing.

Seizure was bad enough that I got some sort of weird cramp, spasm thing with my leg and now 2 days on my leg still hurts. It also meant Alaric was looking after me and the girls and trying to get us on the right vechile at the right time. Hence we ended up stranded at Paddington on the way home for 4 and a bit hours so we had pizza hut and it was good.

This means the travel there and back was a little stressful - the way out was a mini adventure of it's own which I shall shortly relate 🙂 (allbeit in another post).

And I had little mini seizure things if I looked at the sea too much and when we drove at night in the city and when the sun was shining low etc... but each time I learn better ways to avoid and cope and yes I was scared about traveling with it, I don't want to hit my head again but I can now tell when things are going arey and falling down is actually pretty rare. Muscle spasm things have happened twice as far as I know. Lynn's friend has the same issues and finds a sun visor helps so I borrowed one of Lynn's and that was a real help!

Anyway yes innoculations were painfiul, yes we couldn't really afford a holiday, yes it was scary getting on that plane, and it was a time of political unrest for the country.

HOWEVER.... it was mind blowingly AMAZING!!!!

We got to see family we'd never met, Alaric got to spend good times with his dad, the girls got to see the grandparents they tend to physically see every 2 yrs approx. and the country is full of wonders!!!

We saw a whale giving birth, seals in the harbour, penguins feeding their babies and deciding to swim with Jean, Jean surfed, we rode in a cable car, Mary loves giraffes as in the cuddly she chose to take with her was her giraffe, she was kissed by a giraffe, we saw where the oceans meet, I scared Alaric by disappearing on the mounting, we went to the places of Granny Lynn's childhood and learnt about her parents struggle, she got an award whilst we were there, there was singing, there were cycads (the "trees" of the dinosaurs) and dolphins and art fairs and the Maker Station (a hackspace). I painted and sketched and wrote some stories, I watched humming birds that flashed in the sun and read speculative fiction written by people living just up the road. I met artists and was climbed on by a little bright yellow monkey, Jeany surfed and taught Alaric and Grandpa Lionel to body board, we had a party with some local kids who came to play with the girls, we got painted and our hands washed in rose water, I discovered that Zulu mythology holds the same elements at its heart that Celtic mythology and Greek mythology does.

I found I could still read a landscape, could still see the stories the rocks wanted to tell. Jean spent ages talking to the lion rescue lady and... and.... it was not as foreign as we were expecting, the urban areas had a... well Dagenham vibe to them. Seriously it was like the old docklands and surrounding areas but with palm trees and random creatures like mongooses and baboons appearing. I think it's a port thing... all ports are the same on many levels.

As I said I have a bizillion photos and plan to do proper little writes ups of it all. I noted what we did each day in my note book - filled up the one I bought with me and bought another 3 whilst out there including one that smells of mushrooms in a non-rotten way. I also plan to paint more pictures from my photos now I am back but will share the ones I did as quick sketched there in Africa.

Also there is the question of the curry. Turns out the curry Alaric always thought wasn't real curry, the sort of curry I grew up with, that I cooked for him... is Cape-Malay curry. I thought mum had been taught how to cook it by a friend but it turns out her father was in South Africa at various points I don't know if that was as a member of the Merchant navy or as a fisherman but either way he bought curry back with him so it is indeed South African curry which is just bizar!

We owe a big big thankyou to Alaric's parents for hosting us and encouraging us to get our bums out there!!! You will all now be bored stiff with holiday pics and vids!!! You have been warned!!!

Bathroom Laws (by )

I've been thinking about the bathroom law thingy in the US and I'm starting to think I actually wont be able to visit the US because as any who's known me for a while will know... I kind of sometimes end up in the mens loos - mainly due to being completely ditzy. We've tracked it down to the signs - it doesn't happen when there are written signs but does when there are the figures - I have to stop and think - I tend to not wear skirts. This started at nursery/pre-school because I remember getting into trouble over it and my little friend giving me a scooter and informing me it could be my willy so there wasn't a problem - it was the 80's I wore dungerees, my infant school had no uniform so skirts outside of party dresses came late though my track suits were often "girly".

I still get teased by family because I would cry as I didn't have tail-all (penis - I thought it was a tail you weed out of).

Roll forward to sixth form college where I spent a whole term using the boys toilets to be fair this is because I thought they were unisex loos because that made sense to me. University being male heavy had more boys loos than girls... car workshops had one loo for everyone which was frustratingly why I wasn't allowed to go and have work experience there because I'd have to share a loo with guys :/

There are countless examples the most recent being a pub here in Gloucester - I spent an entire arts festival using the guys loos without realising - everyone thought it was hilarious. And now because they are wedged in my mind as the loos to use I wonder in every flipping time I go to that pub... "oh I'm in the wrong loos again!" and general then turn and trip over the doorway step thing straight into confused looking drunk guy who then panic and check they are going in the right loos.

Of course having been a cleaner and a steward doesn't help - you shout you are going in and then you go in - to ALL bathrooms/toilets and you clean them or restrain the attacker or help the sick person depending. I'm kind of notorious for this now. But from what I understand this is now a crime in the US?

I don't really understand why - they are saying it's to stop attacks on girls?!

But as you may have caught above I have stewarded a lot of events and venues, I have been clubbing and...

a) as a teen/early 20's person I and my friends got barred from a series of clubs because the staff had a sex assault thing going on, they didn't care what loo was what - they drugged drinks and then followed the girls into the loos - we stopped this happening to one of us and had the audacity to call the police and take it further - bathroom laws are not going to protect from that, nor being dragged into a bathroom at random (in this case a female (me) being dragged into a college toilet people saw it happen so came and stopped what ever was about to happen however my left arm didn't like being squeezed so hard and took 3 months to heal)

b) most of the responses to the panic alarm I attended as staff where women attacking women, a few where men being the victims of sexual assualt and yes they were put in to stop rapes (as in unofficially they were called the rape alarms) but mainly we broke up fights and did first aid on drunk people who'd passed out and hit their head on the sink.

c) I've been told women wont be able to ask for period help if there are people who were born men in the bathroom... ???? you see this really makes no sense to me as someone who has had many many "womens problems" with bleeding etc... I will ask the nearest avalible person for help reguardless of gender.

One of the things working at the campsite taught me was that boys have period stuff mostly hidden from them - they are scared of it, it is foo, it is DARK MARGIC... the campsite was brilliant with this sort of thing and stamped out any notion of sani-bin emptying being a women only job, infact everyone had to clean everything and yes this means I was scrubbing urinals and clearing the poo-bergs but it also meant the boys had to empty-sani bins, deal with messes left by 8-18 yr old girls being caught out by their first periods whilst staying with us ie blood covered climbing harnesses, ruined matraces in the sleeping dorms, little girls complaining of stomach cramps.

And that's the way it should be, they in the most part have mothers and sisters and quiet a lot will end up with daughters and wives and... well ok transwomen do not have wombs so can't bleed but you know med tech is moving on and that is only a matter of time and even if they don't go for body alteration/modification/transition... where is the problem? Humans have this thing called empathy, humans help other humans out when they are in distress.

Menstruation is just one more thing used by society to make women feel dirty and isolated so breaking down that barrier is a good thing. Personally due to queuing etc... I would get rid of toilet gender completely, in fact when I was having gut issues the clinic told me... "if theres a cue for the women's use the disabled loo if there is no disabled loo just use the mens. Better that than pooing myself in public - I mean you weigh that one up and see what you would do!!!

So yeah America - I want to come and visit you and see your fab cities but I'm kind of concerned I'll get arrested for accidently wondering into the wrong loos.

Ada Lovelace Day 2015 (by )

Hot melt glue ada pendant

Ada Lovelace was a victorian lady who loved maths, she was also the astranged daughter of Lord Byron the poet, she has a computer programming language named after her and a day... the day is to celebrate women in science and technology. A chance to tell their stories.

Me and Alaric have written quiet a few stories of women who have inspired us or we feel are essential to where our current modern tech and meds are.

We have covered innovation, science, engineering, computing, medicine and technology. We love reading the stories that pour onto twitter each year.

But... that is not what I want to talk about today - not the successes but the struggles. As one of the most dangerous thing is not being allowed to fail.

If you are the role model, or figure head, or just in an environment where some aspect of you like gender or race or disability is highlighted continually and you are fighting to maintain your position... there is no room to fail, no space to just step back and go "you know I could use a little help here" because as soon as you do that it becomes because of that difference that marker, that things that makes you not one of the boys. And all those who have helped you and believed in you will be let down.

But if you can't fail, can't ask for help without undermining your own position then you can not progress as smoothly or easily and when the stakes are high it adds to the stress.

Because failure becomes not a little set back but a full blown retreat - a being chucked out the door.

When you can be a lousy scientist and it's just because you are lousy (or need more training) and not because of your gender, orientation, disability... - then equality isn't reached - until then it is just another stress to add to catastrophic collapses and retreats from the world of science and tech feeding the "leaky pipeline" we hear so much about i.e. why there are less and less women as you go higher and higher in science and tech even though the numbers are up and have been up for a decade or more at the lower ends like A'levels and undergrad degrees.

This is one of the reasons I actually hate quotas (I am not saying they are not needed) - I've seen good arguments for them but my personal experience of them has been being told I am not actually good enough - "you're only here because you tick three different boxes, you fill three quotas" this is crushing and if you are not careful it makes you feel that perhaps you really do not belong. You try and hide what subjects you are struggling with rather than just getting help with them and if you didn't "tick the boxes" then it would be fine to ask for that help - ask for it whilst being one of these groups and get told "this isn't the place for someone like you" and you end up having to threaten legal stuff and that just makes it all extra stressful. And how do you know you if you were good enough to get in?

Cheer yourself up with some of my puppet comedy involving Ada (not for kids this one!).

Also I made pendants, and key fobs and badges using the pictures of Ada I had drawn and hot melt glue straight from the gun! They are not the best - they were the first attempt at this technique but the girls loved them 🙂

Ada Lovelace picture cut out Ada lovelace picture flipped over and ready for hot melt glue Ada Lovelace drawing embedded half in hot melt glue resin Ada Lovelace beads and plaques made with hot melt glue

I was going to do cake but am saving that for the actual Bicentinnial in December.

Ada Lovelace pendent made with hot melt glue and fine liner

There is also a colouring in sheet people are welcome too, which I produced last year.

And yes I am grumpy - I never felt as if I'd left science, I felt like it was taken away from me and worse that I had let down those who had invested in me. I actually dread trying to talk to those people again but life is crock full sometimes. Maybe one day....

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