Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple

I’ve always enjoyed taking photos and thought joining the weekly photo challenge was a great way of finding inspiration as an amateur photographer and blogger.

I know this photo appears in a previous post, ‘Our Garden’, but as soon as I read that this weeks photo challenge I thought of this image (which I’m quite proud of).


Felted Scarf

I made this scarf for a friends christmas present last November. I got into felting because my Mum started attending courses and so I got her to teach me how to felt as well. Now, I’m not as competent as she is and don’t have the confidence to make anything without her instruction but, I’m quite proud of this one 🙂

First, I laid out the wool and wetted it with soapy water before rubbing it to get it to felt together. Unfortunately, the wool didn’t want to felt on its own so we decided to add a black backing, hoping the colours would show up bright enough.

Using more warm, soapy water I spent ages rubbing until it was secure enough to roll. Everytime I do some felting I’m surprised at the amount of physical effort it takes but this had to be done quickly because I was using the dining room table and the family were getting hungry 😀

I was quite pleased with how the colour looked against the black, in fact I think it looks better than it would’ve done without the backing but it did mean it wasn’t as floaty as originally planned.

I almost didn’t want to give this away but giving something handmade as a present means more than just buying a mass-produced product 🙂

Single Mothers and Problem Families

In the 1980s Charles Murray, a new right thinker, stated poor educational attainment and an increase in crime rates was partly due to a decline in traditional family values and the rise of single mothers. Over the intervening thirty years the problems identified by Murray still exist.

It has been suggested some young girls choose to have children because they wish to experience the unconditional love they were denied in their own families. Others see children as a way to claim more benefits. Of course this doesn’t apply to all families or single mothers as the decreased stigma against lone-parent families allows parents to escape abusive partners without being excluded from society, as they would have been in the 1940s/50s.

Louise Casey, head of the Government troubled families unit, claims it is irresponsible for families to continue having children when they already can’t cope. She calls for harsher treatment to curb the habit of problem families having too many children (a fifth have more than five). Casey visited the country’s top 16 problem families who cost the tax payer £200,000 a year. She says that although we need to help these families, we shouldn’t use the “soft-touch” approach.

Louise Casey, head of the Government troubled families unit

Now, I don’t usually agree with the right-wing point of view, but in this case it makes sense. Obviously “soft-touch” policies haven’t made a difference, so a new, harder alternative must be found.

I remember a few months ago, I saw a TV programme about social care for children and there was one woman who had already had one child taken away from her (now in the care of the mother’s mother) and was fighting to keep a second child. She was allowed to see her baby girl three times a week under supervision and if she proved she, and her partner (not the father) could stay off drugs and find work they could have the baby back. It all seemed to be going very well, with both of them co-operating with the social workers. However, in the end the little girl went to live with her grandmother and sister. To make matters worse, the woman was pregnant again and was yet again preparing to fight for custody of this baby.

From what I saw she seemed to be a good person – not violent or anything – but she just couldn’t stay off drugs or find the motivation to find a better life with her children. Personally I can’t understand this. Casey is right, these parents need to think about the child they’re bringing into the world and not be so selfish.

Am I being to harsh? Are these families just stuck in a rut so deep they can’t see a more rewarding future? What can be done to stop problem families having more children, short of neutering them?

Being more strict on benefits could help. On the other hand, cutting benefits to single mothers is probably not going to deter these women from getting pregnant for purely selfish means. It will only punish the women who work hard to bring up their children and provide for them on their own. Also, there was talk in the papers about women having to pay to have the child’s father found and made to pay child care contributions themselves. This is not right, won’t it only encourage more unwilling fathers to disappear and leave their children without a backwards glance?

What’s the solution to this issue which has lingered for over thirty years?

Did you know Frogs rule the universe?

Falling Sideways by Tom Holt

Holt’s fiction is…befuddling. From the moment you start reading, you’re not sure whether to be amused or confused. Certainly bemused.

David Perkins bumbles his way into a police station, an outcome he is sure has been orchestrated by the band of clone brothers who seem to be just about everywhere. From there he accidentally stumbles onto the discovery that frogs rule, quite literally.

And why is he in the mess? Because of a painting, a lock of hair and a centuries-old love story of course!

After being forced to not only question his identity, species and his very existence David finds himself resigned to kissing 6000 frogs.

Holt is an imaginative, unique writer whose baffling logic scarily makes more sense than it ought. As long as you don’t try to think it through for too long, otherwise you’ll get a headache.

If you enjoyed ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ (and if you haven’t read it you should) you’ll enjoy Tom Holt’s style of twisted humour. Definitely a book which causes a dazed far-out smile to appear on your face every time you think of it or and try to unravel the riddle of the plot, its laugh-out-loud humour stays with you.


Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

After watching Jon Richardson’s programme on channel 4 about living with OCD I wondered how common it is. I mean, sometimes little things annoy me or something has to be done in a particular way. For instance, if the teaspoons aren’t all facing the same way in the drawer and I have to eat all the foam off the top of a mocha or cappuccino before drinking it (do you eat or drink foam?). But this isn’t OCD, sure I get annoyed if my morning routine is interrupted but I move on, I can forget about it and enjoy the rest of my day. For others though, this isn’t an option. It’s either their way or no way.

What surprised me is how much of an effect this has on people’s lives. Missing all the cracks on a pavement is livable, might slow you down a bit but that’s all. One teenager has to tap the door frame twice on both sides when he walks through a doorway. What does he do for lifts? Automatic doors? He’s 16, been doing this since he was six and it’s only getting worse with little habits appearing for every action most people would do without thinking, like pouring a drink.

Why doesn’t he just stop? I hear you ask. It has no real influence and he knows it’s irrational, but it has to be done.

Another woman is practically housebound due to an obsession with cleaning, when she’s not cleaning she’s planning on what to clean, how to clean it etc by making extensive, detailed lists.

OCD is ruining people’s lives, it’s a killer. It’s a real issue, not a joke or something to be taken lightly. Lots of people say “I have OCD about this”; “I have OCD about that”, when really it’s not OCD at all, not in the real sense.

People with OCD can move up and down the scale, usually it’s triggered by stress. Anxiety over career, bullying or other uncontrollable health issues. However, some believe it can be genetic. This could be both nature (biology) or nurture (growing up around it and developing you own ‘tics’ or ‘quirks’). One mother, unable to bring up her son due to OCD, has to live with the knowledge that OCD was passed onto her son, who committed suicide as he impulses stopped him from doing anything, all he could do was pace backwards and forwards.

Jon Richardson was told he does not have OCD by an expert at Bath University. For this he feels extremely lucky, he has obsessive compulsive order, not disorder. He knows his ‘quirks’ reassure him, give him a little control, but he does not become too distressed if things aren’t ‘right’.

Living with OCD must be hard, it affects people’s lives and those around them, just as much as any other illness. If someone has OCD telling them to stop won’t help, it might even make it worse as they worry about their compulsions and impulses. OCD is treatable and people can move down the scale as well as up, all is needed is support and guidance, and the end to the stigma this very real illness holds.

Phoenix Child – a review

Phoenix Child by Alica McKenna-Johnson

I came by this self-published author via hpfandom, where her story ‘Gypsy Caravan’ was one of the top ten. I’ve gone off fanfiction sites now but amongst the immature often cliche-in-a-roll-your-eyes sort of way a few gems hide. Alica is one of these rare authors who deserves recognition, ‘Gypsy Caravan’ was an original and captivating read. From there I came by Alica’s blog and saw she had an e-book so I downloaded it onto my kindle, from Amazon. A spontaneous buy really 🙂

Phoenix Child is a gentle tale with engaging characters from different cultures. Contains clear echoes of ‘Gypsy Caravan’s’ eclectic mix of original, diverse characterisations. On the surface some seem too perfect, images of dream-like people, but then, this adds to the magic of their gifts. Their interactions show they are just like us despite the flawless, beautiful exteriors Alica’s characters enjoy.

As well as the more super natural/fantasy elements Alica delicately and effectively depicts the struggles of a young teenager brought up in the care system and is reluctant to leave and face the uncertainty of family.

Since Phoenix Child is primarily a work of fantasy where a young girl strives to accept her ‘destiny’. As such, I see this book as one which would have enthralled me a few a years ago, more than it does today. I’m not certain what age group Alica planned to target but I feel this book is one teenaged children would enjoy more than their parents. The plot is very well-developed and is interspersed with cute messages from the girl’s mother. These are a great addition as they bring the story together and it is through these that the reader becomes more connected with the characters and gives the story a spiritual edge, enhancing the appeal I feel. A very good read.