Memories of a flu epidemic

I’m seeing a lot of stress lately from parents of school aged children who are being sent home packs of work from school that are unmanageable and are causing stress. I want to tell you about a flu epidemic in the early 90s, when I was in high school.

It’s in no way comparable with what’s happening now with COVID-19, but it was unsettling and difficult.

The school didn’t close but both students and teachers were dropping like flies. The school started teaching us in condensed classes, in the same year group, but as things got worse we moved into the big hall for “lessons”.

These lessons were literally everyone who needed supervision being lectured by whichever teacher had sufficient voice left to speak for 45 minutes.

The curriculum was out the window, but I remember those sessions so well.

I remember learning from Mr. Robertson that if you assume, you make “an ASS out of U and ME”. That was a very lively session!

But the one that made the greatest difference was one by the Headmaster.

Mr. Curtis was a tall, white haired man. Not scary, but he had a gravitas about him. I found it easy to respect him.

He was originally a geography teacher, and he pitched up with a discussion on geology, a subject I’d always been interested in, encouraged by mum and science in general.

He discussed plate tectonics and continental drift, if I remember rightly, he showed us how the theory was associated with the invention of the jigsaw puzzle.

For a kid like me, who learned so much more from anecdotes and storytelling than dry lectures, those sessions were some of the best I had at high school, and as it turned out, helped shape my career (although I didn’t know it at the time).

I know it’s not comparable, but I got a lot out of that period in my school history, and it didn’t affect my education, in fact it added to it.

I know the schools are preparing a lot of work for the kids while they are off, but please don’t stress over it. Use this time off to do all the things you were planning on doing, but never got round to, baking, cooking, gardening, spend time with your kids and they’ll learn important stuff without even realising it.

Remember you aren’t a teacher, and I would never try to replace a teacher. They have knowledge and techniques that we don’t have.

We’re parents, and we have a lot to offer our children, we can involve them in daily life, play with them and show them who we are. Do some school work, if they want it, but don’t stress about it, the last thing anyone needs right now is more stress!

So follow your child, and let’s get through this as best we can.


Sprouts and assorted vegetables…

I’m seeing a lot of ‘have I done/done enough’ type posts, so I thought I’d tell you a Christmas story. It’s deeply personal and 100% true. As parents we put a lot on ourselves to make Christmas perfect for our children, but we overlook the bits that as children we would have remembered. So here goes…

It had been a rough year for us all. My parents had separated and we’d moved from a very comfortable situation to one that was distinctly less well off. When we’d moved in, we had sat on deckchairs and birdwatched because we had no sofa and no telly. So we had little money spare for Christmas decorations.

But Mam was resourceful, if nothing else.

She bought strips of gummed paper, and glue sticks. We made paper chains that we draped over every possible surface. We cut up cereal boxes and stuck cotton wool to them to make snowman ornaments for the tree. We baked and crafted our hearts out.

I don’t remember what I got that year. Or many years from my childhood.

But I DO remember sitting cutting up cereal boxes and covering them in glue and cotton wool with my Mam and my siblings. We had so much fun that year.

We didn’t know how skint we were, we only knew how much fun we were having and how much love there was in that house.

Of course we want to do what’s best for our kids, but they won’t remember the money you spend on the latest game console or LOL doll, or whatever. Trust me, they’ll remember the time they spent with you, so make it count.

Merry Christmas everyone, now go enjoy your family 😘


Can you feel a pulse?

Hey you guys! Goodness, I can’t believe it’s been a whole year! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.. I’m back! This last year has been quite a journey and now I’m ready to share it with you all, and introduce Nana Sues Colourful Creations! https://m.facebook.com/groups/1663058387313548/?ref=browser

We create all manner of knitted, crocheted and sewn items, specialising in children’s clothing and reusable sanitary protection, but more that happy to discuss your individual needs!

We’re aiming to update the blog weekly, with our latest makes, ideas and thoughts, we hope you’ll join us on our journey!

Psoriasis and me

First things first: this is not a pity-post. This is simply my reality that I wish to share.

I was first diagnosed with psoriasis when I was 11 and I’ve been in and out of specialist care ever since. I’ll talk about treatments later on.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, which means that my immune system thinks there is something wrong and tries to fix it. Lots of other conditions work the same way, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease, you’ll rarely find it categorised with these though because the organ affected is the skin, and the effects are more subtle.

My body thinks my skin is damaged and that causes my skin to renew at an increased rate (typically 3-5 days rather than roughly 28days). That’s a lot of skin! The silvery scales you see on top of the red marks are actually the upper layer of skin, that has been pushed up by the over enthusiastic layers below.

Aside from the discomfort, itching, flaking, and bleeding, there’s the embarrassment factor. I once spent six months wearing camouflage make up after an ill-timed comment from a colleague impressed on me how easily women can be judged in the workplace.

So that’s the ‘science’.

But what can be done?

Well, like everything, there’s a sliding scale…

First up, topical treatments, these are generally creams and ointments with either a steroid or Vitamin D in them, sometimes both. You usually use these alongside emollients like E45 or aqueous cream.

The advantage of these is they are easy to use at home, and the newer creams don’t really smell, but they can be messy, sticky, and annoying. They do need to be used regularly, and they can be difficult to apply if you have lots of small patches. These don’t get to the root of the problem but if you only have a few small patches, they can really help.

Next up is light treatment. Dermatology departments have brilliant sun beds! UV light is well known to help psoriasis, and so patients are exposed to carefully controlled doses of either UVA or UVB light. This is often done in conjunction with either tablets or creams that sensitise the skin so that the treatment is more effective, and a lower dose is given.

These treatments need a high level of commitment though, because although they are short in duration, they are high in frequency, often two or three times a week, which can be disruptive if you need to work. You also need to avoid additional UV exposure, so have to keep fully covered while you’re outside, I have a lot of long skirts and light cotton shirts! I found that on stopping treatment, the patches of psoriasis came back quite quickly, so there was a loop effect.

If your psoriasis is really bad, then systemic treatment will be discussed. There are three different drugs in this category, and they can all have serious side effects, so they’re generally used sparingly.

Each has different side effects and you can read about my experience of them in later blogs.

Finally, there are the emerging biologics. These target the specific part of the immune system that is responsible or the psoriatic response. There are two main brands on the market, Stelara and Humira. I am currently receiving Stelara.

These drugs have been on the market around than ten years , they’re expensive and you are heavily monitored while you’re on them. The amazing thing is, you are almost completely clear, with very few side effects!

However, because I have young children, I am exposed to an awful lot of bugs… and having a suppressed immune system is… not ideal… Stelara is administered once every three months and to be honest, it tends to knock me for six for at least a week, with a couple of below-optimal weeks before I’m feeling ok.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I’m not giving up my current treatment regime for anything! So it’s me and Stelara – together forever!

So, combined with a long commute, and a requirement to be present in the office five days a week, it’s not ideal, but then, tell me which one is? With the exception of the topical treatments, I need to attend hospital and deal with side effects.

And so, I find myself here, facing the reality that, in order to keep my skin in a way that I can live with, I need to put myself through this every twelve weeks. This is a price I am genuinely willing to pay because having lived a life of constant worry and embarrassment for so long, I’m not prepared to give up the closest thing to a cure I’ve ever had.

Beginning again, for beginners

Life begins at 40, so the saying goes.

The last few years have certainly brought about a lot of changes for me.

I think the most important change has been my psoriasis treatment. In a few short years, I’ve gone from almost full coverage and a brutal, but flexible treatment regime, to effectively cured, thanks to Stelara at the cost of my reliability thanks to treatment side effects and frequent infections due to a suppressed immune system.

This has led to my second big change. For the first time in my life, I find myself without employment. This is a very odd feeling, for the last twenty odd years I’ve had a job, and a plan, a career. I’ve worked hard and done some great things, and now I have nothing.

Meanwhile my daughter is in the midst of assessment for ASD, so at least I have some space to support her.

The final blow though, was the loss of my local fabric store. I realise this sounds a little odd! But the store has been a part of my life since I was in my teens. I used to walk there from my nearby home and spend my pocket money on sewing kits. As I grew, I bought fabric for hundreds of different reasons over the years, from Star Wars outfits to wedding shoes, Dainty had it all.

And suddenly it was gone. Obviously, I’m not as affected as the staff, who I miss dearly but I feel like I’ve lost a safety net, a happy place where I could wander for hours in the rows and rows of sparkling tactile products. I took my daughters there and their eyes shone as if they were discovering an Aladdins Cave of wonders.

It’s frightening to undergo so much change in such a short space of time, but in some ways it’s also remarkably freeing. I can look at temporary work, and pay scales I couldn’t consider when I had a permanent contract. And then there alternative options, I could look at increasing my crafting skills and range, or retrain completely.

I know I should feel afraid, but I feel more like the world is my mollusc…

Baking for beginners

Public health opens your eyes in some very surprising ways.

When I was on maternity leave, I had a lot of contact with play workers, who looked after young families and identified gaps that could be filled to make life better.

They noticed that many families struggled to cook and make basic meals from scratch. So they organised a basic cookery course, provided ingredients and taught them to cook. The next week they asked the cohort if they had tried out any of the recipes at home, but not a single one had.

They did some investigation into why and discovered that many couldn’t read the recipes, for various reasons, lack of basic English and maths skills, practical difficulties and so on.

The basic problem was that they’d pitched too high and assumed basic knowledge.

As a parent, I’ve become used to breaking down complex ideas and explaining them to my children, who I know don’t have the skills to understand the high level, but can easily grasp a more basic concept.

Where the hell am I going with this? Read on, and trust me…

I come from a proud line of women who are highly skilled in the “gentle arts” sewing, yarn work and yes, cooking.

I will not raise children who cannot thread a needle, do basic repairs or cook a meal, but I know these are skills that won’t be learned in the classroom. Quite rightly, (or so I’m led to believe) the school concentrates on the three Rs, and knowledge gaining.

But there’s more to it than that, I enjoy spending time with my children, passing on skills and knowledge, and equally, they enjoy learning from me. We often go into the kitchen and knock up a batch of scones or fairy cakes, it’s a fun way to spend and hour or so, and we can enhance maths and English skills while we’re in there 😉

My mum and nana used to do the same for me, and I understand the reverse position and how much fun it is, playing in the kitchen getting messy!

One of my daughters is extremely anxious and this raises issues when we are baking because she needs to do everything “perfectly”.

Do you know how hard it is to measure 100g? Not 102g or 98g EXACTLY 100g? Almost impossible, especially when you have the fine motor skills of a five year old.

As a scientist, I’m a huge advocate of the metric system, it makes things so easy and I always know that reference points are exactly the same. I can calculate n to however many decimal places I need to give the correct advice.

As a mother, it’s a nightmare. The kids want to follow a recipe exactly, but it’s next to impossible to get perfectly weighed quantities. The result is stress and arguments with children who can’t understand that close is good enough.

Not to mention trying to get children who can barely count to ten to weigh out quantities of 100+.

I found a (controversial) solution in my old recipe book. I’ve had it since the early 90s, so not really that old (ok nearly 30 years 😂) but old enough to have an important difference to more recent ones.

It lists quantities in both metric and imperial measurements. Turns out little minds can weigh out 4oz (100g) quite easily, and little hands without the fine motor skills of someone used to weighing and measuring can achieve the required amount easily because the margin for error is so much greater. The recipe still works (of course it does, it was converted from imperial in the first place) but it’s so much less stressful for everyone involved.

My seven year old makes excellent cakes and I generally get booted out if the kitchen while she’s cooking these days, she uses a recipe older than I am, from a ‘Supercook’ collection. She shouts at me to “do the oven bit” but that’s all I’m needed for!

My nine year old has progressed to using metric now she’s more used to manipulating numbers and has better motor skills, she makes fabulous scones from a Be-Ro book recipe. But she’s equally at home using the old fashioned measurements too.

The point I’m making is that I think in our rush to convert to metric, we’ve discarded the advantages of an alternative system, just because it doesn’t fit with modern thinking.

Maybe the decline in home cooking is related to the conversion to metric, in line with the law of unintended consequences?

My weekend in 1984, by Lentilweaver, aged mid-40s…..

Yesterday was a very interesting day in many ways.

My husband took himself off to a gig in Glasgow, so I was in sole charge of our two WHILE THEY WERE AWAKE.  This resulted in us ‘customising’ some clothes and other crazy exploits, as I attempted to negotiate around various numbers of children whose stories adapted to whatever barrier I put in place and having no back up to double check with an actual adult!

I also witnessed the most bizarre behaviour in a Facebook group, I’ve been a member of for quite some time. It’s a networking group for people are in or have in interest in the charity sector. The people in the group all share the same protected characteristic, so are recognised as oppressed. The group doesn’t usually have discussion posts, mainly sticking to higher level strategy and job adverts.

I don’t wish to get embroiled in discussions over which characteristics are being discussed, as that will muddy the issue.  I have deliberately chosen to try and report the situation as objectively as possible.

On Friday, the group changed its name despite objections from some members (discussion was not allowed) to explicitly include a second protected characteristic. Some members did not want this fearing it would change the character of the group and mean that opinions could not be as freely expressed.

I would emphasise that the group has always welcomed this second characteristic, however it has not actively sought to attract them.  Any members of the group who have this characteristic have (from what I’ve seen) followed the rules of the group and participated in much the same way as any other group member.

Certainly, for me, this name change appeared to centre and promote the group to the second characteristic OVER AND ABOVE the original remit of the group.

New admins were recruited to enforce the change in group ethos.

On Sunday, our first new member with the second characteristic joined the group.

Within the first hour of their membership, they had posted three posts that were wholly inappropriate to the group.

Some existing members complained by various channels, including one who started a thread about how inappropriate the posts were to the group. (I admit they could have worded it in a slightly less inflammatory way, but I doubt that would have made a difference to the outcomes). I chose to report the offending threads to admin, I did not receive any sort of reply or see any action as a result of my report.

This post drew quite a bit of support from other members.

Eventually supporters of the change appeared on the thread and accused those who were objecting of bullying the new member.

They trawled through the original posters (admittedly public) Facebook and posted screenshots of various posts, to prove the members ‘bigotry’.  Apparently, this behaviour from a person who works in a senior role for an influential charity is entirely acceptable (such is the world we live in).

The new member posted on the thread, apologising for their behaviour and stating that they had not realised that this group was not that type of support group (later confirmed via PM to a member that they had got in contact with), but that every other group they had joined had welcomed them and been nice to them. They then deleted the offending posts and left the group voluntarily.

Supporters of the change then said that those objecting had bullied the new member from the page and should ‘consider if this was the right place for you’. This phrase was repeated several times to long standing members who even queried the change. This included trawling through their Facebook profile first to see if they ‘were on message’ with the newly-announced group.

From a personal perspective, seeing this behaviour towards other people who dare to express an opinion different to your own is abhorrent. I have no issue wit people, who do not wish to see my posts unfollowing, defriending or even blocking me. Personally, I prefer to talk through issues, and as a worst case, agree to disagree.

In this case, the people in the group must subscribe wholeheartedly to the expressed opinions of the group leaders, or, potentially miss out on opportunities and information that could be vital to their career, after all they joined the group to connect and network with others who were like them!

So, all in all, the group has disintegrated almost overnight.

A number of people I am acquainted with have been removed from the group, effectively for ‘wrongthink’.

It would appear George Orwell was writing an instruction manual.

View from the NE on Brexit.

This post was inspired by a friends Facebook post where she expressed a fear of the rising Far Right, in light of the extremely complex political chaos.

Obviously this is a difficult subject, fraught with problems when it’s being discussed.

In order to look properly at what’s happening, we need to disengage and look at bigger pictures.

Austerity was an EU policy. Whether the UK Parliament chose austerity or was pushed is a matter for debate, but the fact is that EU policy was to impose austerity on member states that needed help from the EU.

Speaking from a NE England perspective, austerity has been deadly, it’s decimated our society and the poverty here, comparatively, is at levels that haven’t been seen in living memory, and it’s only getting worse.

The NE has seen its own MPs vote with the government to impose measures, and despite two general elections we still had a conservative government that favoured austerity.

Then Cameron comes along and promises a vote. A real vote, a chance to decide (and possibly change) all of this. He offered, effectively, a far Right choice – Vote for this and we’ll make it better.

The vote was effectively:

a) ever closer ties with an institution that has imposed austerity on us


b) leave.

I’ve got to be honest, the mood in Sunderland lifted when the vote was announced. There was actual hope that there was a way out of this mess that had been forced on us to pay for mistakes the banks had made.

The mood immediately after the result was jubilant. There was optimism and hope that we were going to see an upturn in our fortunes. The politicians MUST see how much we are hurting and would protect and help us.

But both Left and Right turned on us. No-one had much interest in finding out WHY the vote went the way it did, only that we were wanting to leave, just that we were wrong.

I could go on all day about deeper more personal reasons, but it doesn’t matter to the end point.

The fact is that austerity continues, belts are so tight, we’re well out of extra notches, and the way out, Brexit probably isn’t going to happen.

The Left (well some of them) are still telling us we’re wrong. The Right don’t believe that austerity is harmful.

And along comes someone who listens to what’s been said, and promises change, a way out of the EU (cause of austerity) and what has to be better things.

We need to end this blame culture, stop arguing ‘finer points’ and technicalities, and start working together, before a truly charismatic leader comes along and offers a solution, any solution.

Give me my space

Excel Pope




bike parking sign



DAVE: You can’t park there, mate, that’s a ‘Bikes only’ space

TARQUIN: It’s OK. I’m a biker.

DAVE: What?


TARQUIN: See. I’m a biker.

DAVE: You might be a biker, but that [DAVE POINTS AT THE CAR] isn’t a bike.

TARQUIN: Don’t be like that!

DAVE: Like what?

TARQUIN: All angry with me. I thought us bikers were supposed to stick together.

DAVE: How is you taking my…

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The Parently Art of Lactation — Full Cream

When my fourth baby was born, a friend gifted me a vintage 2nd edition copy of ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’. First published by La Leche International in 1963, this book was revolutionary. At a time when breastfeeding was widely considered old-fashioned and distasteful in Western cultures, and mothers were persuaded by doctors to use […]

via The Parently Art of Lactation — Full Cream

On Brexit

Dear Readers (who I’m pretty sure DO exist),

I’m going there.  After three years of watching our country pull itself apart, I’m voicing an opinion.

I have absolutely no illusions, that, if people start commenting, they will tell me that I am wrong (whichever way this post goes). I want to make it crystal clear that this post is purely my opinion, based on my own observations.

I’m not going to tell you which way I voted, but I will say that my vote was on a knife’s edge, to the point where I was sorely tempted to simply spoil my ballot. This is something I have never done, and I have voted in every election I am eligible to vote in.

It is my sincere belief that this referendum should never have been put to the British people.

However, it was, and we cannot change that.

There was a result, and we cannot change that either.

What I believe has been missing in the whole debacle is the lack of critical analysis following the result. Yes, we have had statistic followed by statistic ‘proving’ that the result was not what it is. We have had claims of illegality on one side or the other.  We have seen insults thrown in echo chambers and life long friendships severed as a result of who voted how. We have seen the rise of new, inventive insults, most of which, I must be honest, confuse me as, I’m not entirely sure who they are aimed at anymore.

I have a thought which keeps returning to me.

Brexit is not the cause of our ‘broken’ society, it is merely a symptom.

Much like that last fight in a relationship, where one partner walks away, suitcase in hand, into the sunset, and both finally realise that it was never going nowhere.

However, I am not talking about the UK in Europe, I believe our problems are much closer to home, in our own governmental systems. Had we had a vote to disband Parliament and rebuild our national system from the ground up, I believe the vote would have been in favour.  Had we had the same vote in a Local Government setting, the result would be the same.

However, the Government went for one of the big guns, thinking that ‘common sense’ would prevail and ‘the people’ would rubber stamp our entire governing system. But that is not what happened.

In every governmental system, there are (necessarily) rivals. Whether it be Sunderland Council vs Newcastle Council, the North vs the South, East vs West, it is there, and it will always be there. It is human nature to look after those that are closest to you, and you can see the benefit of helping. This is not a judgement statement, this is a mere observation of human nature.

It is difficult to see beyond your own front door when you are struggling to feed your family.

It is hard to assign blame ‘correctly’ when you don’t have the opportunity to consider things philosophically.

I have thought long and hard about the results of the vote. I have looked in detail at the grants and funding that is provided by the EU to my local area.

I live in an area that voted predominately to Leave. The turnout was 64.9% in my area, compare that to 32% in the Local Government election in 2018. On Referendum Day, I personally (and literally) walked a man through the entire voting process, and polling staff commented on the number of people who had never voted before.

This indicates to me that people felt that they could actually make a difference in the Referendum vote. This is in direct contrast to ‘normal’ elections.

So, why was that? Why don’t people feel that they are heard in normal elections? Why do the majority feel that it’s ‘not worth voting’?

Now, let me be clear that I don’t have all the answers, but I do want to hear your ideas too.

I believe that the problem is the First Past the Post, two-party system that we currently use to decide who is in charge. This means that a very few people actually vote for their elected representative.

The elected representative has a duty to represent the people of the constituency that they are elected to. However, they also have an obligation to the Party which has supported and paid for their campaign. Sometimes these views are at odds and given the power of the Party system (and the fact that people often vote for a Party rather than a person), the representative is forced to toe the Party line, regardless of the views of their constituents.

This set-up which appears to be quite simple, becomes quite complicated when you look at it like that.

Who do our elected representatives work for?

Over the past few years, I have engaged more frequently with my local MP, I have called her to account and expressed views online in such forums as her own Facebook page and her Twitter account. I know of many others who have become more engaged too.

We speak in groups and forums and compare and contrast responses. We have found that, for the most part, responses are not that different between individual MPs. In fact, on many occasions, they are exactly the same. I understand that MPs are very busy people, but I also understand that this person is being paid to represent me in the corridors of power.

I don’t want to hear rhetoric or party lines, I want to hear the opinions and thoughts of the person that was elected to represent me. And I believe that many others feel the same way.

The rise of Social Media has afforded the ‘common people’ with more access to information than ever before. While the rise of abuse on Social Media is very concerning, we need to look at the other side of the coin. Our elected representatives are more accessible than ever before. This brings with it more accountability than ever before.

I’ve observed my local representatives on a few different platforms, and in some, there is a complete failure to engage.  Social media is not merely free advertising, it is a chance to engage with people on many different levels. But what I see is not an engagement, rather a promotional spiel, and defensive arguments rather than reasoned discussion.

I know social media is not the be all and end all, but used properly, it could be a very useful tool in engaging people in democracy. And I believe that there is a desire in many quarters to have better control over their lives.

I have also discovered that there is no formal feedback between MPs and local Councillors, which entirely baffles me.

For me, at least, the major victory that was won by the Brexit Referendum was the engagement of many in our countries democratic process. The turnout was unprecedented. This should not be allowed to whither but be celebrated. We CAN have a constructive conversation about the direction our country is headed in, but we MUST hear all voices, voices which have made themselves heard.

The Party Political system of First Past the Post it outdated and not fit for purpose, but we need to give as many people as possible a voice in our next great overhaul of our Parliamentary system. We’ve done it before, some even lost their heads over it, and we can do it again.

On Referendum Day, there was a real buzz, Leave or Remain, people CARED about the outcome. They felt they had to power to make a difference, lets find a way to show them they were right.

Open forum time.  How would YOU change our democratic process?

The Breast Book: Grooming, Gatekeeping and Gender Identity (part 2)

On the face of it this book looks fantastic and I would consider buying it for my daughters, but on further inspection, it’s quite worrying that it doesn’t cover breast cancer (too frightening) but does cover breast binding and cosmetic mastectomy.On the face of it this book looks fantastic and I would consider buying it for my daughters, but on further inspection, it’s quite worrying that it doesn’t cover breast cancer (too frightening) but does cover breast binding and cosmetic mastectomy.

Full Cream

This commentary on The Breast Book is a guest post from Eufemia Torres. Eufemia is a qualified teacher from the UK and a mother of two breastfed children. She has a keen interest in the politics and social issues.

This article is not intended to be a book review. The commentary is centred on chapter four with some references to other information within other sections, and the wider social context in which this book resides.

Part 1 here.

The qualifications, present, and past employment of the author confers a deep understanding of the nuances around
her duties of care in safeguarding in health care and education provisions. Duty of care is not a hat which safeguarding person can remove when writing a book.  As someone who will understand that information presented in a timely and age appropriate way is at the heart of protecting the right to give or withhold…

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