craft swap

Secret swappage

I thought it would be nice to arrange a secret swap type thing to introduce a little extra cheer into everyone’s lives at the moment and I’ve really enjoyed these things in the past.

So, these are my initial thoughts, if you’re interested in taking part, let me know and please suggest any amendments for how we can make it work better.

  • Everyone completes a short survey at the start with key information like any allergies (wool, nuts, other strange things), head circumference (if people want to make hats), shoe size (socks) etc, also address details (could be work or home depending on where is easiest to receive packages)
  • I’m envisioning multi part swappage. So perhaps one or two handmade items before Christmas, and one after. To extend how many people could get involved I was hoping to ask knitters, crocheters, jewellery makers, needle workers etc. to take part. Maybe even woodworkers too!
  • Do we need to set a price limit on each package?
  • Each swap parcel to contain a hand made item, plus some small lovelinesses (I was thinking books, nail varnish, chocolate type things)
  • Should people get just one partner for the whole swap, or different partners for each swappage?
  • Are people happy sending things abroad so we can potentially widen the pool of participants further?

Please let me know what you think, and I’ll get administrating!

Updated to add: swap sign up form here.


Fuck you cancer

My eldest sister is currently waiting to have a biopsy.

A few months ago, she finished a year of breast cancer treatment, treatment during which pretty much everything that could go wrong, did. She got shingles, she got infections. She had a mastectomy, the chemo gave her hideous side effects, including cataracts. She had panic attacks. She changed completely from a loud, bubbly, outgoing person to someone much quieter, much more timid, much more worried by the world.

But we were feeling positive. The treatment was over, she was back to work, she had booked herself a posh holiday and was generally much more like herself again. And now we’re back, waiting for a second biopsy which will tell us whether a tumour they’ve now found on her liver is related to the breast cancer or something new, and treatment can’t start until we know.

When it was “just” breast cancer it was much easier to stay positive. You hear so many success stories around breast cancer treatment. In 2005-2009, 85.1% of adult female breast cancer patients in England survived their cancer for five years or more. Those are quite good stats, she had a really good chance.

Right now we don’t know what we’re dealing with though, and we’re all a bit scared. More than a bit.

My sister is 14 years older than me, and due to life circumstances, we didn’t grow up together. When I was 5 my parents and I moved abroad to follow my dad’s job, and both my sisters stayed in the UK. When we came back 5 years later, we had to return to a different part of the country, and by this time my sisters had their own families.
So while my sisters are very close to each other, I feel like an outsider. It’s not deliberate on anyone’s part, it’s just the way things are.

What this means though, is that on top of the worry for my sister, I’ve got a huge guilt around us not knowing each other better, around how I’m feeling about the whole thing, around how I don’t know what to do, and I don’t know how to talk to her and I haven’t dropped everything to be there and and and….

The biopsy is on Wednesday. And all we can do is hope.

I think it goes without saying that cancer sucks.



Just over three months ago, I started running.

Slightly foolishly I found out about a five mile race that I wanted to take part in, signed myself and my partner up for it, and started training the next day. I had three months to train, three months to dedicate myself to learning to run, and only the small matter of my wedding and honeymoon in the middle that could possibly get in the way. Why this race? It was taking place at the Olympic Park, home to the events of London 2012, and would finish in the stadium itself. How could I not try for that?

Exercise and I haven’t been close friends. I’ve been fat (but healthy) for a long time.

I’ve been fat for most of my life. As a kid I wasn’t. I was a running, jumping, climbing trees, certified tomboy and I spent more time outside the house than in. But when I was about 10 we moved from a place where I had lots of friends and could cycle to school, and would go swimming most afternoons in the summer, to somewhere where I had no friends at all (at first) and then even as I made friends, had none within about 5 miles. The road to school was too dangerous so I had to take the bus. Oh, and I hit puberty. All of this contributed to a gradual ballooning in my weight.

There’s a vicious circle inherent in fatness: the fatter you are, the more difficult it is to find clothes that you can wear to exercise in, the more physical effort it requires to exercise, the more strain exercise puts on your body, and the more abuse you get when you do exercise. All things that are likely to make you fatter not fitter.

Despite this, this time I was determined. I pulled on the proper running shoes that I had invested in two years before and never made much use of, plugged in my iPod and started the C25k training programme. C25k is something of a phenomenon in beginners running circles, it’s a training programme designed to get people off their couch and up to running 5km through a very gradual approach. That first run I was supposed to run for a minute, walk for a minute and a half, and repeat eight times. I felt I was going to die, I had a hideous stitch after the first few minutes, I had to skip one of the running stages to have a longer walk instead. Including the five minute warm up and cool down walks I had completed only 28 1/2 minutes of exercise. But I did it, and it was a start, and improvements came quickly.

Well, I say quickly. My ability to keep running improved, my running speed is still slower than a good walking pace. But every second day, more or less, I would get up at half past five pull my shoes on, and go for a run around the roads at the back of my house. Half an hour to 40 minutes later I’d get home again, get showered and changed and get the bus to work. This has been one of my biggest challenges with running: time. I’m sure this is a problem that lots of people experience, for me it’s the work commute that takes up my time: 2 hours in, 2.5 hours back, if I’m lucky and there’s no traffic problems, and all the buses turn up on time. People who manage to find time to run and have kids have my undying respect.

But even the early morning runs are easier than weekends. Weekends when you want to have that well deserved lie in before you even contemplate leaving the house, so that when you do finally go out, you’re not faced with the quiet and deserted roads of the weekday, but other joggers who can make you feel terribly inferior when they comfortably disappear into the distance at twice the speed you can manage in your fastest sprint. Weekends when people have time on their hands, including the time to shout at the poor unfortunate runner who doesn’t conform to their aesthetic ideals. Or follow the unfortunate runner who does.

Eventually I made it up to running 30 minutes in a go, and covering just over two miles, with no walking. A huge achievement for me, but still not half the distance I would have to cover during the race. The support that I got from the lovely folk of twitter as I built up to this level was extremely motivational.

The day of the race I was as nervous as all hell, but when we got going I felt good, although I was soon overtaken by almost everyone. I had set myself three targets for the day: one main one: Finish, and two stretch targets: Don’t finish last and Complete in under 1 hour 30 minutes. I had to walk about a mile out of the 5, but yes I finished. There were still people behind me. And I completed in 1hr 28mins. Hat trick of success! Woohoo!

But now comes the difficult bit. I need to keep going. It’s been just over a week since the last race and I haven’t put my trainers on once. There’s a feeling like I’ve now done that, it’s finished, it’s over. But it isn’t. This isn’t about loosing weight, or being a runner, it’s just about being active and achieving something at a time in my life when other things are getting a bit out of control. So, this evening I’m going to find another race to enter, and I’m going to keep going.