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Monday, 30 March 2015

why I don't have a will (yet)

I've seen a few tweets and adverts lately about the importance of making a will, and how it's easier than you think, blah blah blah.  Now, I don't mean to undermine the importance of doing this - obviously it makes things easier for your family once you've gone, and having studied law for five years I also get the need for things to be clear, but, cards on the table - I don't have a will.  Neither does Mr Manley.  This is going to have to change, as soon we'll own a house and need to make things as straightforward as possible 'just in case', but it's not making decisions about the money that's been putting us off.  It isn't about facing our mortality or considering being without one another.  We've been together for fifteen years, married for almost thirteen, and we both know how it would work - if one of us died then the other gets everything.  And that is still the case.  The difficulty lies in what happens if we both die at the same time - what happens to the kids?


Sunday, 29 March 2015

everyday images 23/3

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Joining up with the fab Truly Madly Kids image of the week linky, and my image for this week is Friday, with Smiler showing just how resilient he is!  After being so ill earlier in the week he was back at school on Friday, performing with his school orchestra - I messed up the exposure but wanted to share the joy - I love that look of pride in his face.  

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

spoke too soon...


Having cautioned Noah and Petal repeatedly against getting too fixated on the house, it seems Mr Manley and I both neglected to take our own advice.  The phone call from the estate agent yesterday that began with "I'm afraid I've got some bad news..." was devastating.  

I understand that since the seller took four days to agree to our offer of the asking price then blew us off for a few thousand more (less than £5K, according to the agent) then it was unlikely that the rest of the process would go smoothly.  
I can come up with a couple of negative points about the house, to try and mitigate the distress of losing it, but they fade into insignificance when up against the much much longer list of positive attributes - otherwise we wouldn't have made an offer in the first place.  

What it comes down to is that we'd spent so much time looking at the photos on the website; so many conversations about the process - all new to us and a little intimidating; so much pondering how we'd arrange the downstairs to work for us - so much emotion invested in this house - this house that we thought was going to be our home.

But it's not.

So now we're back to the beginning, feeling all the more raw and empty because we scraped up against a place that seemed so perfect.  Back to scouring the Rightmove website, comparing every property against this idealised vision, knowing it took five months for that place to appear amongst the listings, and wondering if it will be another five months before there is another that ticks all our boxes.

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Friday, 27 March 2015

'this might be a problem' #1


We made an offer on the house.  It's actually very scary to do this kind of thing,  especially when you are very aware that you have no idea what you're doing,  and there's no one you can ask.  But we made an offer, they rejected it, we made another offer and it's been accepted.  I started looking at conveyancers and got my brain in a tangle, so Mr Manley is sorting that bit.  Filling in forms, scanning in various letters and bank statements and all that faffing around.  So far on the 'this might be a problem' list is the fact that I don't have photographic ID.  I haven't left the UK in seventeen years, and had to send my driving licence to the DVLA because the brain cloud means I can't drive, and I now seem to have become some kind of non person.   I have a copy of my birth certificate and a paper trail of name changes, bills in my name at this address, fifteen years of bank statements, blah blah blah, but you explain you have no photo ID and people suddenly raise an eyebrow and look at you suspiciously, as though this means you must be a big time drug dealer or wanted criminal of some other ilk.

My argument is that if I was involved in some kind of complex money laundering enterprise or part of a mafia like crime syndicate I would undoubtedly have fake photo ID.   

But it seems pointing this out to the form filling biro chewing people is not a good idea, FYI.

My mind leaps to mainland Europe in the 1930s and 40s, when everyone had a handful of precious documentation that they kept on their person at all times, so that if challenged they could prove their identity, and thus avoid being arrested or beaten or worse.  But although I have plenty of papers, none of them feature my face, so I'm a kind of non-person in the eyes of the conveyancers.  

Maybe I should get a passport.  Might be easier.

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Monday, 23 March 2015

Petal reviews The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone


Petal loves to read, and was thrilled to get the opportunity to review a book from a brand new children's author - Abi Elphinstone.  Petal kept the book in exchange for her review but understands the importance of being honest about her thoughts, and has promised to be truthful.  She devoured the book in a couple of days but wasn't sure where to start writing a review, so I copied some standard book review type questions from this wonderful web of ours and asked her to answer those instead.  Petal typed up her responses and I've cut and pasted them here, but they're her own answers in her own words.  

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Introduce your book.

I read The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone.  It is a fictional adventure story for old children and young adults.


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Summarize the book without giving away the ending.

There is a small gipsy girl called Moll. She has a best buddy (a wildcat) called Griff and they usually stick together. One day Moll wakes up in a different part of the forest and trespasses to get back Jinx, her horse. She has a dream about her dead parents and wants to find out more about her past. But first she must have at least ONE amulet.

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What did you think of the main character?

I really like Moll and I think it's good that she rescues a boy not a boy rescues her. She is a bit snappy sometimes but determined.  She doesn't care if she gets muddy or her hair is messy.

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Which character could you relate to best?

I think that I could understand Moll the best because we both like and dislike the same sort of things.  She is about the same age as me too.  I think if she was real and we knew each other and we went to the same school then we would be good friends.

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Petal dressed as Moll for World Book Day earlier this month...

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Sunday, 22 March 2015

everyday images 16/3

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My image of the week for the Truly Madly Kids #iotw link up is the perfectly spherical water droplets on the gorgeous fresh green foliage I snapped on Friday.  It's really started to look like spring out there this week!

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Saturday, 21 March 2015

the dreaded DLA forms

As the parent of a severely disabled child I've trained myself to notice the good days, the new skills, the positive experiences.  If I hadn't done so, I'd spend the majority of my time in a sobbing heap on the floor.  

All those who are familiar with the dreaded DLA forms know how heart wrenching it is to describe in great detail how much help is required to carry out ordinary everyday tasks such as getting dressed.  You tick the box, you start writing in the 'is there anything else you'd like to tell us about the help your child needs to get dressed' box, then realise you've run out of space and you've only explained half of it, and not yet even mentioned jumpers and shoes and coats...  

But we do it. We fill in these pages and pages of things our child can't do, because the DLA money pays for replacing the tshirts he chews holes in, the two pairs of jeans we purchase each week for him to reduce to shreds because he gets about on all fours, and the cost of washing every item of clothing after one wear because it will be filthy from food dropped down him or dribbling or a leaking pad.  

So you concentrate on what will hopefully be the end result while you fill in the forms, feeling with every sentence that you are betraying your own child.

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Thursday, 19 March 2015

photography at BFF {Improvers part 4}

We started off (after my house news, which turned out not to be very newsy - short version is offer followed by refusal followed by another offer followed by still waiting!) taking about why it's important not to look out of the window on a dull, grey day, and let that put you off of venturing out with your camera.  Because the light outside is effectively diffused by the clouds, it can be great for portraits, as well as macro (close up) shots.  The typical British spring showers can add an edge too - think dew on a cobweb, reflections in wet pavements, or even panning shots of people with bright umbrellas. 


To prove the point we decided to get out of the room, but as it was freezing we invaded Bristol Cathedral on College Green to get some practice with long exposures.  A quick refresher of the settings we were going to need to be fiddling with first :
 ●  aperture priority mode so you control the depth of field - a high number f stop (f/11 , or f/22 maybe) to capture the scale
 ●  set a low iso number (100 iso will give the best quality) as on auto the camera will default to a high number iso because of the low light
 ●  try out different white balance settings - inside the Cathedral on auto the white balance often sets to tungsten (incadescent) because of the internal lighting

Remember the basics - a high f/stop gives a small aperture, and setting the iso low means the sensitivity of the sensor is limited, so the camera will set long exposure times in order to get enough light.  Consider using a self timer and putting the camera down on a solid surface to avoid blur caused by camera shake.

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These were taken from the same position, with the camera on the ground to try and keep them as clear as possible.   The differences in colour are purely down to altering the white balance settings - the first is 'shade', the second 'incandescent' which is set to counteract the yellow tungsten lights.  I love the atmosphere in the second - very ethereal! 


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lightcatchers part three


The next stage of the lightcatcher plan was to partially fill the spaces between the shapes with frit - pieces of glass.  Graded according to size, frit can be purchased in a range of colours in coarse, medium or fine.  Because I wanted a mixture of sizes but pieces big enough to create the impression of bubbles I chose mostly coarse frit, though with a few spoonfuls of medium and even a bit of fine.  

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Please excuse the dodgy photos - again these were taken with my tablet when my camera was out of reach!  As you can see - I hope - I pretty much filled the gaps between the pieces with frit, as well as spreading a little over the top to add a bit more texture.  

Some glasses are categorised as striker glass, which means they may appear clear or pale initially, but strike or change on firing to a different colour.  If you look at the red, orange and yellow frit above you can see this - the red looks orange, and the orange and yellow are almost indistinguishable from one another prior to the piece returning to the kiln. 

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After firing you can see that the red, orange and yellow frit all struck as expected - they now match the main colour piece of rainbow that they were paired with.  The trickiest part of using striker glass is that you can't always tell the difference between two colours until after they're fused, so I ended up with two tubs of coarse frit in front of me, a teaspoon in my hand, and wasn't sure which was which!  As Warm Glass label their tubs clearly with the colour and grade of frit I only needed to look at the labels, but I'm sure at some point I'll mess up and end up with an unconventional rainbow!

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Petal reviews The Butterfly Club by Jacqueline Wilson


Petal loves to read, and was thrilled to get the opportunity to review a book from the hugely popular and prolific children's writer, Jacqueline Wilson.  Petal kept the book in exchange for her review and has promised to be truthful sharing her thoughts and opinions.  I copied some standard book review type questions from this wonderful web of ours and Petal typed up her responses.  I've cut and pasted them here, but they're her own answers in her own words (even though I was very tempted to edit them, I didn't.  Honest.)

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Introduce your book


The book I read is called The Butterfly Club and it's written by Jacqueline Wilson. It's not part of a series but Jacqueline Wilson has written lots of other books for children - this is her 101st! 

Summarize the book without giving away the ending.

There are three triplets and they go into year three with scary Miss Lovejoy. They try to sit together but Miss Lovejoy splits them apart and sits Tina (one of the triplets) right next to Selma, the huge, mean bully of year three! Tina hopes that one of her friends will sit on the same table as her but instead there is just loads of boys. Together, Selma and Tina make a beautiful butterfly garden! They become BEST buds! Tina discovers why Selma is always so mean......

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What did you think of the main character?

I really like Tina but I feel SO sorry for her. She has NEVER been climbing or climbed a tree! She also NEVER plays football!

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Which character could you relate to best?

I could probably relate best to Tina because she is the smallest and you think of her as the youngest even though she is a triplet. I am the youngest one in my family too. Tina enjoys doing things that I don't think are very interesting though, so in that way we are quite different, but maybe if she tried doing other stuff then she would realise how fun it is.

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Were there any other especially interesting characters?

I think that Selma (the other main character in the story) is a very interesting character. Everyone thinks she's really mean and she does behave in a really mean way at the start but as the story carries on you find out why so you sort of understand her more.

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From whose point of view is the story told?


It's told from Tina's point of view, and so it explains what she is thinking about everything that happens too.

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Were the characters and their problems believable?

The characters were believable because although triplets are very rare they still exist in real life. I don't know what it would be like to be a triplet but reading this has made me think about the sort of problems I would have extra if I was, as well as all the problems and difficulties that everyone has.  All the things that happen in the book could be real, there isn't any magic or anything like that.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

dream house weirdness


Weird thing happened today.  Actually, weird things.  We went to look at two houses - next door to each other as it happened, but one had a loft conversion and was more expensive.  From the pictures online Mr Manley and I both preferred the more expensive one,  but figured we might as well visit them both.  So we popped into the estate agent yesterday, (as the offer on Cyril and Pam's house has been accepted by the executors and they hope to complete within four weeks) and arranged to visit them this morning.  Got everyone to school,  and made our way to the road. 

First weird thing : Uncle Cyril always spoke of how many 30ths of the estate we would inherit.   Although the number we would get changed over the years, it was always about the 30ths.

The house is number 30.

Second weird thing : In the admittedly old fashioned thinking of the afore mentioned Uncle Cyril, when discussing the features of the house he wanted to one day provide for us, he insisted that Petal and Noah would need to have wash basins in their bedrooms.  We weren't sure about this, but he explained (several times in fact) that this reduced the pressure on the main bathroom and made daily life easier.

The rooms that would be Petal and Noah's bedrooms have wash hand basins in.

Third weird thing : Petal is not Petal's name - as I've explained before, I don't use her first name online and when we changed our family name to James she chose to change her middle name to Petal (even though she doesn't know I write this blog and call her Petal - slightly strange in itself).  Her first name is unusual, and we've never met or heard of anyone with the same first name.

The current owner of the house has the same first name.

And surname.

How weird is that?

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Monday, 16 March 2015

photography at BFP {Improvers part 3}

Recaping hdr

We briefly revisited the discussion from last week about hdr, including chatting about when you would and wouldn't want to combine pictures - it seems that much of the time this is down to personal preference.  I can see that using hdr can give you detail in the shadows that you can't otherwise see, but it often seems to be used to excess, with photos looking almost like cartoons.  It's also worth noting that many photo processing programmes have an hdr setting, which creates the effect artificially, which seems completely pointless to me but as I said, to a certain extent it's down to personal preference. 


I've found that the programme I use on my tablet can in fact combine the shots to create an hdr image, but apparently only when it feels like it.  These for example are from the session - the bottom right is the hdr image created by combining the other three, though of course a picture of my notes is not really the intended use...

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Exposure


Graham not-even-a-tiny-bit-sheepishly admitted he'd lied his pants off when he told us that the important things to know about were aperture and shutter speed, and if we understood these (and the relationship between them) then the world was our photographic oyster.  He has now amended this to include iso - the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light.  A change to any one of these impacts on the others, and it is the combination of these that define the exposure - how light or dark the image is.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

everyday images 9/3

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My image of the week for the Truly Madly Kids link up was another tricky choice - I love Friday's monotone keyboard, but it's going to have to be Sunday, with a close up of the cupcakes Petal made me (from scratch!) for breakfast on Mother's Day.  Yes, I shared, and yes, they were as tasty they looked!

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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

when looking on the bright side is a negative thing


Smiler's 'Child in Need' review is due this month, and his social worker emailed me asking whether there are any reviews or meetings pending in school that she could double up with to get the breadth of information needed.  He doesn't have anything else due, but even as I read her words my knee jerk response was to say no no matter what, and have it at home, because - and I know this sounds awful and goes against so much of what I say about Smiler - school are so positive.

Funding within social care in Bristol (and pretty much everywhere else in the UK) is tight, and - rightly in my opinion - focused on those with the highest level of need.

School look on the bright side.  They focus on the progress that he has made, the things he understands now that he didn't a year ago.  They look at him and see the laughter, the thoughtfulness, the desire to please.  They swell with pride when he correctly counts three apples; when he tells them it is the dentist who he is going to show his shiny teeth off to tomorrow; when he says his new jumper is green.  They don't look at his difficulty in holding a pencil and think of their thirteen year old sitting writing out her homework.  They don't support him to stand from his chair and note how unable he is to control his arms and legs, to balance.  They don't notice that while they understand what he's telling them the new school nurse isn't getting a single word of it.

And that is what he - and we - need from them.  We need the people around him to recognise his progress; to encourage him to develop his independence; to celebrate his achievements.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

lightcatchers part two

So here's how this started, and it looks like the kiln pixies have been kind - I opened it up and found three gorgeous lightcatcher bases...


... one rainbow and two seascapes.


This is the glass that I love - the sweeping curves, the smooth edges, the sparkle as it catches the light...


All ready for the next step.

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