Monday, 3 October 2011

Don't disable Mabel

Don't disable Mabel,
If you listened, she could tell
A lifetime raising children
The Peace Corps for a spell.

Don't disable Mabel,
For though her eyes are dim
The colours of her springtime
Are playing out within.

Don't disable Mabel,
Although her speech is blurred.
She knows she should be able
But her limbs are lemon curd

Don't disable Mabel,
She once was young like you.
It's not her fault she's aging
And can't reach to tie a shoe.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

My other life...

I originally started this blog to promote my little fledgling business, (proper website coming soon) but I seem to have failed spectacularly at that, because what I've been told you want to hear is the other side of my life, as a full time Care Worker.

Well, that's not all of me. I also work on a local Music Project as a Youth Worker. It's my favourite three hours of the week, because it feels like the bit where I truly help other people acheive - with visible results when, as last weekend, we put on a two day festival in the local park! We had a total of 14 hours of live music; bands already semi-pro at the age of 16; live DJ's and MC's (which I was particularly impressed with - the lads that performed are really shy, disengaged with education and "authority", blah blah, yet pulled in the biggest crowd of supporters for their two sets) right up to people who had never performed in public before yet leapt at the opportunity to sing a song accompanied by one of us staffie folk!

Anyway, I digress. At midnight tomorrow, I will be accompanying six of my Young People on a trip to Krakow for a week. I'm really looking forward to it, and will let you all know what it's like when I get back! I'll try and take some pics that don't involve other people - confidentiality, y'know ;)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Buggy vs Wheelchair

Have you ever noticed how many different ways there are to transport a small child? 4 wheels, 3 wheels, pivoting wheels, adjustable handles, plenty of space around the child in case of knocks and bumps, extra carrying space for your shopping...

Somebody somewhere (or, more likely lots of somebodies in lots of somewheres) has put in an awful lot of time, energy and money deciding how tiny children can be safely transported with the minimum of effort on the part of the carer.

Now look at a wheel chair:

2 bike tyres with no way to pump them up. No way to change them.

Shopping trolley front wheels.

More often than not, due to lack of mobillity, the person sitting in the chair is bigger than the chair itself.

Now, I'd like you to ponder something. How much time does a small child spend in a buggy? If the parents don't drive, possibly 2-3 hours a day, maybe less. How long does a wheelchair user spend in their chair? Dude I work with finds transferring difficult, so (apart from using the shower, going to the loo and sleeping) he's in it all day. Around 12 hours. Opinions on a postcard, please!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

"Disabled" toilets

Often when I'm out and about, I muse on the qualifications (and in particularly tight corners the parentage) of architects. I've met a couple of architects along the way, and they've been very pleasant people to chat to. However, when it comes to real life, I do wonder whether they live in it.

There are all sorts of legal requirements relating to disabled access in buildings. And, I'm sure, lots of architects and bureaucrats earning far more than me who are experts on designing said access. However, I'd love to meet one. Without exception, disabled toilets are not easily accessible to disabled people.

The first thing I would tell my new architect buddy is that a wheel chair user does not necessarily mean someone who has lost the use of their legs. They may have lost the use of one leg, or one side of their body, or simply not be strong enough to walk everywhere. This means that one bar on one side of the toilet is not enough. If a person can only use the right side of their body, then they need support on the right. The next person to use the facilities may only have the use of the left side. This means you need to put a fixed bar on both sides of the bathroom.

Next, do not waste your money on clever devices that move up and down and take a loo roll too. A person who is unsteady on their feet does not want to lean on something that feels like it's going to give way at any moment. Put a proper fixed hand rail in, they're cheaper so you can have more of them.

Then, my clever architect pal, remember that two, yes TWO people will be in this bathroom at any one time. One to use the toilet and one to push the wheelchair in and out, and to provide the physical support that your design lacks. That means I need space too, and as I have a fat arse I don't want to be setting the hand dryer off every time I move. It's very distracting!

While we're on the subject of moving around, please remember that there has been infinitely more funding and research done on your average £30 push chair than there has on your basic NHS wheelchair, which is all most people get. They do not maneouvre round corners on a sixpence. They do not have clever swivelly wheels in all four corners - only the front two, which have a tendency to jam in the wrong position. Also, unlike a buggy, the person is bigger than the chair. There is no pretty-coloured padded cushiony stuff in between the person I'm pushing and that cleverly designed concrete corner. People who don't move much don't heal well, so bashing them around when they urgently need a wee is not good.

Ha! Urgency, another bug bear. A person in a wheelchair doesn't necessarily have the best muscle control. That goes for everywhere, depending on their needs, but also affects bladder muscles. Putting the disabled loo at the back of the shop around a few neat concrete pillars and pot plants can and does make the difference between dignity and embarrassment. Especially when you've made the corridor barely wide enough to fit down - yes, I know the door is the right width...

So, the next time you see an exhausted person in an unflattering polo shirt hurtling towards you backwards, you know it'll be me trying to get someone out of the toilet and onto something more interesting!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Ooh, naughty!

I freely admit to a cheeky side, so I thought I'd share a cheeky pattern with anyone who's reading. Pasties [pay-stees] or nipple tassles <snigger> All I can say is that I've been inspired by watching Miss Cherry Pop ( and her troupe of Burlesque dancers when they appeared at my local Pub recently!

Ch2, 7htc in 2nd ch from hook, sl st to join (7sts)
Ch 1, dc in each st around, sl st to join (7sts)
Ch 1, 2htc in each st around, sl st to join (14sts)
Ch 1, *2htc in next st, htc in next st* repeat around, sl st to join (21sts)
Ch 1, *2htc in next st, htc in next 2 sts* repeat around, sl st to join (28sts)
Ch 1, *2htc in next st, htc in next 3 sts* repear around, sl st to join (35sts)

Make 2, and if they're a bit small just add another row or two of increases.

I finished mine with tassles and handmade buttons (£1.50 for 3, available from me!).

To make tassles:

Swear at the TV/cat/husband with two fingers. Wrap wool around the outside of your fingers 20 or so times.

Cut off from ball of wool and cut through the thickness at one end, keeping the wool folded. Then cut a long length (9" or so) of wool and tie it about half an inch from the fold.

Tie in a reef knot then sew to your pastie. Or use to try and impress Little Miss Too-Much-Effort...

I'd love to see if you make some, I got hours of hilarity out of posting pictures of mine on FaceBook!

Monday, 20 June 2011

How To Speak To Wheelchair Users

DO give them personal space. Standing over someone who is sitting down is very aggressive and intimidating. Remember the scary teacher at school?

DON'T treat them like a child. Just because a person's legs don't work doesn't mean their brain broke too. They don't give DLA to the hard of thinking (or the country would be bankrupt in a week...)

DO say please and thank you. How would you like to be bossed about?

DON'T expect the person pushing the chair to move it out of your way. If I'm going uphill, I've got my head down so I can use my bodyweight to move an inert weight twice mine against gravity. If we're going downhill, I'm desperately trying to grip slippery plastic handles before both person and contraption go hurtling into the traffic. Pavements are not flat.

DO smile, nod and say hi. Being stuck in a chair can be very isolating as you're dependant on others for pretty much everything. Small courtesies are important.

DON'T look at me like I'm mad for talking to what you think is a "spazzer" or "retard" like they have a brain. They do.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Cuddling cuties

Once upon a time, I had to go to school (it's sooooo un-fay-err) and now i'm a big girl, I'm still in touch with a couple of people I knew there.

I recently got back in touch with a friend who is now a proud mummy of four (I'm a mummy to a cat and a bunny, so four children inspires massive respect in me) Even better, she let me have a cuddle with Number Four, who is 8 weeks old (awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww)

We're both of the crafty persuasion, and I was very privileged to be able to test one of my favourite things to make, the Bandana Bib. And, lovely Number Four makes a spectacular model, very calm and likes to pose!

And, of course, the obligatory Winston-Churchill-Strokes-Beard baby pose...
...which I have to admit I thought had been invented purely for the amusement of LolCat enthusiasts!

PS the bootees were made by me too!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Why carers should work for supermarkets instead

Today I may have found the insult that added to the camel's broken back (to mash up a metaphor). So, I have compiled this list of why exactly I am wasting my time doing my job:

1) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, my basic starting hourly rate would be higher than it is currently.

2) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, I would be promoted once I had completed training.

3) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, I would not have to handle the bodily fluids of others.

4) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, I would get regular rest breaks.

5) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, I would have access to food during my shifts

6) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, I would have a choice over whether I worked evenings and weekends

7) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, I would get a discount on all products, making me significantly better off financially.

8) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, I would not be so emotionally wrung out that I cried on the walk home.

9) If I worked for a major supermarket chain, I would be at a significantly reduced risk of beong physically or verbally abused.

10) If I worked for a major supermarket chain and was physically or verbally assaulted there would be some legal comeback.

I love my job. I love making a difference. I love that chatting nonsense and laughing is the most important part of my job. But why do we live in a society where caring for those who can't care for themselves is so blatently disrespected?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Buttons, and playing with play dough...

When I was a little girl, I loved my play dough. When I was a bigger girl, I was allowed to have Fimo and Mum would bake it for me. I must've been pretty spectacularly crap at it because not one of these creations exists today!

Recently, a friend got in touch to tell me she was placing an order for polymer clay buttons, and was there anything I'd like so we could save on postage. That got me thinking about the "good old days" of making a mess with plasticine...

So, I collected myself a few little bits I'd need

as well as a few odd looks from the cat... Here we have a rolling pin, a teeny weeny cookie/icing cutter, and a 2mm crochet hook, all neatly on a tray so I can sit my fat backside on the sofa :D

I rolled out my polymer clay (Sculpey, in this instance) and cut out some flowers...

Then I make some holes to sew through with the crochet hook (there had to be a crochet hook) and popped my little proto-buttons onto a baking tray. Fifteen minutes later I have buttons! Now to make some stuff to sew them onto...

Mille the cat is, however, still thoroughly unimpressed...

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Diary of a carer who cares

Ok, so I was going to keep this to craft only stuff, and keep my personal issues private. It's taken me six whole weeks to change my mind, and that is because of the BBC Panorama investigation into the care of adults with learning difficulties. That's what I do for a living, so it's a bit "there but for the grace..."

I'll start by telling you a bit about me. I have worked with people with additional needs for nearly six years now and hold a nationally recognised qualification. I love my work, but I get extremely frustrated by the lack of social and financial respect it's given. Millionaires and politicians may have flash cars and posh foreign holidays, but one day soon enough some poor mug like me will be wiping their bums and helping them dress for barely above minimum wage.

6:30am my alarm goes off and I hit snooze for 5 more minutes. Then I get up and force myself to eat breakfast because my anti-depressants don't work unless taken with food. I surf the net and drink coffee before leaving at 7:30 for the ten minute walk to work.

8am my shift officially starts, although I'm usually about ten minutes early so that I can hand over with the night shift. I make a coffee and chat to the night carer, making sure my dudes (A who has physical, communication and learning difficulties and is in a wheelchair and B who has memory and communication problems) have slept well, and if they're up and dressed yet. Normally, they've chosen to get up and dressed and have breakfast, sometimes they like a lie in. I administer the medication (for which I have received extra training) then sign to say I've done so and assist A to the bathroom, encourage him to do his physio exercises and make him a cup of tea. B's cd has finished so I suggest a few until I work out which one he wants to listen to. I take a slurp of my tepid coffee.

By 9am, I've usually done the compulsory jobs - cleaned the bathrooms (4 - two ensuite and 2 used by staff and visitors), dusted the lads' rooms, recorded the fridge and freezer temperatures (don't forget, this is also a professional kitchen), and checked that the money is all correct (I am my dudes' accountant). If I get time I'll run the hoover round too. Today, I had also assisted A to the bathroom again and helped him change his clothes where they got a bit damp. I down the last of my now-cold coffee then chat to A about what he'd like to do today. I've noticed that he hasn't been out for a day or two so I ask him if he'd like to, suggest a couple of things and we decide on a plan.

By this time, the boss has arrived (technically non-contact but I have an amazing manager) so I make us both a coffee. There are two chances of either cup being drunk hot - slim and fat - but we chat about what A would like to do, plan what "big" trips we're able to offer and that would appeal to them both. Then I head out with A knowing that B will be well looked after until I get back.

A is in a wheelchair and we are supporting him to make healthy meal choices as he is putting on weight which is affecting what little independent mobility he has. As we're out, I'm pushing him and his wheelchair, a combined estimated weight of probably 19 or 20 stone. In total, I reckon we walk a couple of miles, and we try to get out every time I work, even just down the shop for a treat.

4pm we get back to the house and I assist A to the bathroom. B also needs the bathroom so I support him, returning to check on A when I can. I sign in the money, make the boss a coffee (the first one is still on the desk half drunk and stone cold), record what money I've spent and on what, put a load of clothes out to wash and hang out the previous lot. I wash my hands, support B to choose a new cd as the previous one has finished (he's in a musical mood today, sometimes he asks for a film and will probably choose that later), wash my hands again and put on an apron so I can cook dinner. Two courses - main with plenty of veg and pudding. I try and make sure this has some fruit in somewhere, but that's not always possible with what the dudes have chosen to eat.

I serve dinner as close to 5pm as I can. I don't like to risk institutionalising my guys, but a mealtime structure is important so they know what's happening when. Neither is particularly fussed about clocks so our days are divided by breakfast, lunch, dinner, sleep. A doesn't want his pudding so I cover it and put it away for later. He might fancy it for supper. I slurp my nearly-cold coffee as I go. I'm thirsty and haven't got time for a fresh one. Luckily today A wanted to go out for lunch, otherwise I'd have grabbed a couple of rice cakes or a bowl of cereal from whatever I've got stashed in a cupboard in between serving lunch to the lads.

I wash everything up, dry it and put it away and sanitise the kitchen, by which time it's half past 6. I make a coffee (which I finally get to drink hot!) and sit down with the recording. I need to record what each person has eaten, whether they've had their bowels open (so we know their digestion is working properly), whether they've been able to do everything they've asked, whether they've enjoyed the activities they've been offered, what their mood has been, and any behaviours that are unusual.

I finish work at 8pm. By this time, my feet, shoulders and back are aching. I'm so tired I want to cry, and have been since about 3pm. On top of this job, I support a family with two autistic children (direct payment work earns me nearly £2 more per hour) and I do youth work one evening a week.

Tomorrow, I'll rinse and repeat. Now tell me the governement pays too much for the care of our elderly and vulnerable.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Awesome uses for random fabric items...

This has to be my absolute favourite use for random household fabric evAr!! Take one pillowcase, cut a few bit off, sew a few bits up, and voila! A dress!

My friend Kryshees ( ) put me on to this incredibly talented lady and her efforts for "Dress A Girl Around The World"

Like most crafty folk, I hoard bits and bobs and recently found a bit of bargain Cath Kidston pillowcase in a discount shop. Being me, I bought it with the vague idea of using it for something and here it is. I really hope a little girl somewhere enjoys her "designer" frock...

As I don't know what age the girl who receives my dress will be, I've made it adjustable and used my new-found button-holing skills (see previous blog). I also loved the little hearts, so they had to go on... Hmm, maybe I should turn out the airing cupboard for plain ones so I can teach myself applique next...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Mumsnet Blankets

Once upon a time, not that far away, there was a place for mummies and daddies to talk about their lives. In this magical place, it was safe to discuss any issue under the sun, and children were the main topic that posters had in common.

Unfortunately, this happened in real life and not all stories have a happy ending. One poster lost her son to a brain tumour. Another lost her husband to cancer. The third lost her husband to the Black Dog of Depression, and the fourth lost her son to a heart condition called William's Syndrome.

To show their support for their internet friends, many people from the forum got together and decided to make something to comfort these families. Some had a little spare cash, others some time, and so they made blankets. Each person made as many 6" squares as they could from either Debbie Bliss Cashmerino or Rowan Cashshoft and sent them to me to be assembled. And so, here are some "work in progress" photos:

To crochet the heart border:
Htc until you get to the place you want the heart. I put them on the corners and the join between squares.

Dc, ch3, sl st in next st, sl st in previous st (quite a tricky maneouvre!)

Htc, HExTC, 2 ExTC, 2 Htc, picot, 2 Htc, 2 ExTC, HExTC, Htc, Dc in first sl st.

Carry on htc!

Now for my weird stitches! HExTC is Half Extended Triple Crochet. Yarn over twice, through stitch, yarn over, pull through, yarn over, through 2 loops, yarn over, through remaining loops.

ExTC is Extended Triple Crochet. Yo twice, through st, yo, pull through, yo, through 2 loops, yo through 2 loops, yo, through 2 loops.

Picot: Dc, ch 2, sl st in DC. Makes a neat little point!

Please let me know if it works for you ;)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Spring bunnies

I recently lost my cat to a car. He was a friendly fat ginger dude called Mango and he was part way through the process of registering as a Pets as Therapy cat. He truly loved people, and would put up with any amount of fuss.

My other cat (who is a very shy and nervy little lady) was still lonely after a month or so. You can tell because there's a bit of Siamese in her somewhere and she yowls! So into our lives came Santana.

Being a house rabbit, I feel it's a bit cruel to keep him cooped up at all times, so he's becoming a bit of a regular in my local park. He's on his second harness already because he worked out how to wriggle out of the first one. Not good, as I keep a very sharp lookout for dogs. A random rabbit is not something I think most people train their puppy to cope with!

So, to cope with his Houdini skills and also the fact that I have a feeling he's going to get an awful lot bigger when he grows up, I've been making his harnesses from whatever is left in the scrap pile! The first one (in the photo) was fleece but a bit easy to get out of. The latest one is a cat collar, a piece of 2" elastic, a popper and a 2"x4" strip of red cotton. Let me explain...

The cat collar will go round his neck, the elastic around his tummy. The cotton is to attach the two together so that if he wriggles out of one, he is still attached by the other and I can scoop him up for a cuddle before he gets himself in danger!

First I attached the poppers to each end of the elastic so it would lie flat around his tummy. I have a lovely pair of Prym pliers which do all the work for me!

Next, I looped one end of the cotton around the collar and sewed it down very firmly (back and forwards several times. I'm aiming for strong over neat here!) about an inch from the safety clip.

Then I sewed the other end of the cotton to the elastic, about an inch from the popper.

All done and ready to go to the park! The strip of cotton lies along his back, and I just clip a dog lead to the loop it makes with the cotton.

Now I'm wondering if I can train him to sit, down, fetch...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Crafting on the run!

I don't know if you'd noticed yet, but I'm rather fond of crochet! Obviously some projects are a bit big, but I'm often to be found with a ball of wool and a hook sat on a train merrily making hats, bootees, and onesies.

For the enthusistic (obsessed) crocheter, charity makes are an absolute dream. They use up all those little bits of yarn lying around. They're quick, but you can make them as complicated as you like with fancy stitching. And, best of all, you get to make something useful! My charity of choice is

Here's my version of a pattern for prem-sized bootees...

Ch4, join with sl st
htc 4 in ring, sl st to join
ch 1, htc in same, 2 htc in each st around, sl st to join
ch 1 htc around, join with sl st
ch 1 htc around, ch 1 turn
htc across (16 sts) 5 rows
Join the end of the 5th row to the beginning with sl st
Working in row ends, ch1, htc around, sl st to join to form cuff
Work 3 rows then finish for plain, or 6 rows to get a folded cuff.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Argh! Sunshine!

Well, this week MimaPants took part in her first craft show. Which was all very lovely and pretty. However a word of advice - if you live in a tourist area like the New Forest, do not do craft shows on sunny days. No bugger turns up! Ah, well. Off to the beach!

Here's a free crochet pattern to stop sand getting in your phone:

Hook size 6mm, chunky weight wool

Chain 31 or twice the width of the phone
TC in 2nd chain from hook and along. Ch1 turn

Keep going in rows of 30 TC until your work is twice the width and the same height as the phone (about 4"x 7" for the average Smartphone)

Fold in half and DC down the long side and across the bottom. Sl st and finish.

Decorate with hearts, flowers and motifs if you're feeling clever :)

Happy Easter

Friday, 15 April 2011

Buttonholes are scary!

I hate buttonholes. Fiddly little mushties that I'm convinced I'll mess up, meaning all my hard work has to be binned. Not worth the hassle, I say to myself. The last time I sewed a button hole I was fourteen and working on a dress for Textiles. Needless to say, despite producing a beautiful child's gingham school dress, I was given a C because I didn't write it up well enough...

Except, sometimes you have to confront these things. I work with adults with a range of additional needs, and my key resident needed his pyjamas fixed. So, after work the other day, I brought it home to tackle. I have no options. He wants buttons on his pyjamas. Not a zip (also a source of consternation for me). Not poppers, which I'm quite happy with and enjoy doing now I have my lovely pliers that do all the work for me. So, today, I tackled button holes.

Easy as pie! I don't know what I was worried about! The sewing machine did it all for me, I just had to tell it when to start and stop. I have defeated my horror of The Button Hole.