here we go again…

Dear friends

Last week, national lockdown 3.0 began. With over 80,000 people in the UK who have died from the virus we simply don’t know how tough things will get before things improve. Generally people are compliant with the rules; we’ve been told there may be more enforcement; and we’re grateful that the more vulnerable after being vaccinated. My own mother, who’s in her mid 80’s, received her first vaccination injection last week.

Last week, the children began home school again. It’s much more organised than lockdown 1.0 (schools were open during lockdown 2.0) and they seem to be getting on with the work. My Lenovo Chromebook is getting a daily workout with home studying!

Last week, some of the news was showing empty shop shelves in Northern Ireland. Not because of the pandemic, it’s because of Brexit. Those more cynical UK citizens might be saying the pandemic is convenient to keep Brexit/ EU/ border control issues out of the news. There’s definitely not been as much coverage as I thought there would be… but it’s there! Last week’s news was taken over by events at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, USA, last week.

And last week was back to work – I’m so glad I avoided starting on Monday – it made for a shorter first week back. It’s amazing how lazy I can become… so quickly. It’s a good thing I need to earn a living!

2020 happenings – part 4 of 4

Dear friends

And we’re almost finished… this is the last part! I don’t usually write this way but at least you’re up to date and ready for 2021 – which our children are saying will actually be 2020 2.0! What optimism!

10. Sewing machine Some weeks into England’s national lockdown it became mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport and in shops. Finally, a renewed use for the machine which we received many years back from a couple moving back to the USA. I found an online pattern and began making them for our family. The hardest thing was getting the elastic for the ears correct – we have small ears! After the first batch, which was made from scraps of fabric I’ve acquired over the years, and when non-essential shops re-opened I bought black cotton fabric to ensure the children had plain ones for returning to school in September. I thought at the start of the pandemic that everyone would be wearing home-made face coverings. The amount of disposable ones littering the streets, not to mention the creation of more plastic waste, is so sad.

11. Writing DM This is a work task which I started in earnest in January 2020. It was to write a Designers’ Manual (DM) to inform the delivery of new council homes for our city. I worked largely independently with my line manager reviewing, in fact he shared an example from a city council (in another country) he used to work for. However it was not a simple task to transform it to our city, particularly with legislation and our drivers, notably the green city agenda. The final document, ratified in July 2020, is over 100 pages and it will be reviewed annually. It’s not perfect but a great start at setting out where we need to be to address the needs of our vulnerable residents and the climate emergency.

12. Braces I’m talking about braces to teeth. Son2 was referred early in 2020 to the orthodontist by the dentist for to a missing adult tooth and all of teeth being out of line. Finally he received an appointment in September, he’s a young teenager so several of his school friends are wearing braces. I’ve always been very conscious of my top teeth being out in front and made some enquiries about a private (non-NHS) assessment. Several weeks later and I have Clarity braces or retainer fitted to my top teeth, at age 51! And it’s probably another 16 months more!! I never went to the dentist often as a child, I remember going around age 15 or 16 asking about braces and the dentist said that I didn’t need them. It’s expensive privately; I did think about it and even the orthodontist spoke with me about it – it being cosmetic surgery, why I wanted it etc. For me, it’s something that will help me feel more comfortable and confident in myself. And it has been painful and uncomfortable, mouthwash is sooooo soothing!

13. BHM Black History Month In September my local RIBA chapter invited me to be part of a national RIBA Instagram campaign for BHM October 2020 being organised by RIBA London with Paradigm Network. They asked for minority ethnic architects to share a book that had inspired them. When I first responded, I wrote to our local chapter person in a ‘by the way’ manner that actually I had been more inspired by one of my Mum’s records ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ than any book, but I suggested a book, Brian Lanker ‘I Dream A World’ Portraits of Black Women who changed America. (It’s out of print now but a fantastic book if you can find a copy). So then, RIBA London contact me and ask me to be on the panel of a lunchtime book club, by RIBA Bookshop, to speak about ‘Young Gifted and Black’. No problem but then I was shocked to see myself on the front page of RIBA Bookshop advertising the event https://images.app.goo.gl/adxbFKAfaitRe5zD7!!! It was really great and humbling as I heard of male black architects being stopped and searched in London almost routinely. For the first time in my professional career, I shared a particularly painful and shocking incident when I was working one summer for an architectural firm. One of the architect’s after looking out the window at some birds, turned back and looked straight at me and said (chuckling), “big, black, bird.” There has been much awareness raised in the last year to the ongoing racism and injustices faced by people of races other than caucasian, white. Like you, we’ve had many discussions in our home about this. And it was around this time that President Dallin H Oaks, a latter day Apostle of Jesus Christ stated:

Of course Black lives matter. That is an eternal truth all reasonable people should support.”

2020 happenings – part 3 of 4

Dear friends
Here we go, part 3!

7. No Books I’m definitely embarrassed to reveal but I didn’t read any books in full during 2020! Daur1 gave me a book last Christmas, I think, Four Walls and a Roof by Reinier de Graaf and I’ve read just 35 pages! It’s ridiculous I know given the additional time at home I’ve had! So I definitely need to change that in 2021 and read some books. I confess, during this same period I have taken full advantage of our family’s streaming subscriptions: X-Files seasons 1 to 9 on Prime (I found it too strange with older Mulder & Scully from season 10 but might still watch them); the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, in order, as found in Disney+; Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2 and 3 (Disney+); House, seasons 1 to 8 (Prime – I’ve almost finished season 8 but got sidetracked by seasons 1 and 2 of Homeland on Netflix); Mission Impossible 4, 5 and 6 (combination of Netflix and Prime). I did buy myself a Lenovo Chromebook C340 – it’s 11 inch touchscreen, converts from a laptop to a tablet with a fold, I love it! Son2 started using my Samsung tablet for home lessons when schools closed so I needed something for myself. It doesn’t have a huge memory but it’s fine for my needs and means that finally I have a larger screen for writing!

8. Indexing This is all about family history. As you may, or may not know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I’m a member, has a huge family history library (familysearch.org) One of it’s activities it’s to transcribe older written records into digital searchable data. Indexing is that transcribing process which anyone can volunteer to do. When lockdown started, with the extra time available on Sundays I decided to give to indexing. I felt this was something I could do to serve others. When I started, around April/ May 2020, I found there were a couple of Caribbean records needing transcribing and they became my focus, since that is my immediate heritage. I set myself an annual goal which I surpassed by a few hundred entries. So for 2021 I’m going to keep going and double my goal.

9. 156 Applicants That was how many applications we received for an architectural assistant post job vacancy within our team advertised in November 2020. We took 52 candidates each and three of us – the other senior architect, our manager et moi – shortlisted them down over a couple of days to seven for interview. I am going to do an actual post about this because it’s really important – you’ve got to know how to write a job application so you don’t annoy those that are shortlisting and so you get an interview. We read a lot of irrelevant, uninspiring, unprofessional nonsense!! It wasn’t difficult to get from 156 to less than 10!! Think about that!

2020 happenings – part 2 of 4

Dear friends

OK – we continue! I should say, these aren’t in any particular order, maybe subconsciously it’s in the order of the biggest impact on me but I’m not a psychologist. Mmmmm… but that would make an interesting experiment, what is the priority when we recall past events…

4. CONDENSED MILK During lockdown 1.0 I was released from serving in Pimary (with the children) at church and called to serve in Relief Society, the women’s organisation. And we have had Zoom Relief Society lessons and activities. One of these was on food storage and it seemed to me that each of my sisters had a little store of condensed milk plus a couple of treat recipes in hand. I set about to add condensed milk to our store cupboard and bought a couple of cans. The thing about food storage is that it needs to be things that you actually use. So the cans have have been in our cupboard for a few months and over Christmas I decided I would do something with them. One sister shared a two ingredient coconut balls/ truffles recipe – I tried that 2 days ago and discovered 1. Son2 loves condensed milk from the can but 2. Son2 and Daur2 really don’t like coconut and 3. Condensed milk must still contain lactose because some unpleasant effects on me! That tried, Son2 and Daur2 made chocolate fudge with the second can, lots of dark chocolate and a dash of vanilla essence – very tasty, like chocolate ice cream. Definitely worth trying but, come the revolution, I think there are other things I’d prefer in our store cupboard!

5. CHICKENS For a few years my dear husband has mentioned how he’d love to have chickens. This became a reality for our family this year. As lockdown began and with the furlough scheme in place – basically my husband got paid 80% of his earnings by not going to work – the dream became a reality as over the easter break we constructed a chicken coop and pen. In early May my husband received the call from Longdown Farm that four Warrens were ready for collection, they were about 16 weeks old and would start laying eggs in the next few weeks. My dear husband and children returned home with five chickens! Now I am not an animal lover, I wouldn’t harm animals, but I am not comfortable around them so this was a huge change for me. Son2 loves them – I have since learned that my father’s maternal grandfather was known for being very good with animals and looking after them back in St Vincent so maybe Son2 has that characteristic. Either way, it’s been a big change for us all. And then, at the end of July, as we began to feel comfortable that 5 was really enough, dear husband received a call that the seven – yes SEVEN – other chickens that he’s ordered we were ready for collection. And so in a few days, pen 2 was erected, coop 2 was already constructed as an outdoor coop, and 1 warren + 4 bluebells + 2 black chickens (we think they are australops but we’re not sure) joined our garden (which did have grass!). So we have 12 chickens, 2 flocks, keeping us busy; we’ve clipped wings, scooped poo, cleaned coops, scooped poo, purchased another composter, scooped poo, woken with the sun (we were so happy at the shorter days as the winter solstice arrived), scooped poo, and of course, collected (and sold and eaten) lots of eggs. My husband reminds us, this is our food storage and we did have a fantastic tomato harvest this summer! So, come the revolution, omelettes round at ours!

6. SAVINGS I feel this blogpost has a particular theme, not intentional, about storage and preparation, always important. So, financial savings is an area that I wanted to improve. Although we don’t live beyond our means, we also don’t have any substantial savings, apart from pensions and the house. So I, personally, wanted to save, properly, no dipping into, a financial reserve, somewhere. This is where I discovered a great investing app, early this year, MoneyBox. Initially I set it to save £3 per week – I knew I wouldn’t really notice that, with a payday boost of £25. I chose the medium risk investment option. And then the pandemic and markets crashing. However, I decided this was a good time to increase investing and put up my weekly savings to £5 and changed my investment options to adventurous. I stopped looking at it on a daily basis. And recently I decided to remove the payday boost – which I kept forgetting and it came as a shock a week after payday – and put up my weekly savings to £10 per week, which was essentially the same total amount per month. At the end of 2020 my investments have increased by about 5%, loads better than any regular savings account. We have a very low interest rate in the UK which is great for the mortgage repayments but not for savings. This is a long term thing, and I know there will be losses as well as gains but I’m in it for the long term and happy with my choice. It was easy to set up, easy to use, the hardest thing is I never quite know when money is going to be transferred from my main account into MoneyBox but that’s been okay since I don’t do that much shopping anymore.

More happenings this past year to come soon – it’s almost time to lock up the chickens!!

2020 happenings – part 1 of 4

Dear friends

I do hope you are keeping well! Lists are great, aren’t they? At this time of the year many of us can not help but reflect. We are poised to never use these four digits to denote a year, though maybe a decade, the 2020’s.

Formal new years resolutions are not really my thing but I do like to reflect on the previous year and see where improvements can be made – I guess that it a resolution by a different name. However, I don’t beat myself up for not achieving something.

So here’s my 2020 happenings – and I’m not being paid to advertise but I will be sharing some great products/ places/ business/ apps that I’ve come across. To be honest, each of these could be a blog in itself – I already have 26 draft blogs!! – so I’m going to have to keep this very factual and lose some of the fun details so as to not lose your interest! It’s also going to have to be published in parts since I keep thinking of things to add!!

  1. DRIVING On one day in April 2020, middle of UK lockdown 1.0, I drove approximately 550 miles between 0630h and 2200h. The round trip was Southampton to Heathrow (70 miles) to Manchester (195 miles) to Central London (205 miles) to Southampton (80 miles). The reason was to pick up Son1 who was re-patriated from his assignment in Vanuatu Port Vila Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and take him to his university town home. Heathrow Terminal 5 was very surreal in the middle of lockdown. It was a bittersweet occasion for us all – there had been no confirmed covid-19 cases in Vanuatu but he was still repatriated, although the only missionary returning to Europe (which was in full lockdown), along with those traveling back to the Americas or Asia, via Brisbane and Los Angeles – it was a very long 24 hours for him! He opted to be re-assigned for his concluding 3 months and served in the Birmingham England Mission until being released from full time missionary service in August 2020. Son1 was blessed and was offered a job within one week of finishing and is now studying and working in Manchester.
  2. EXERCISE Since last year I had joined a university gym close to work and was in the routine of attending at lunchtimes or after work. I had created my own rowing-weights-elliptical routine and was feeling the benefits as lockdown 1.0 started on 22 March. Within a few weeks I realised I needed to have some exercise back into my new working from home routine. So, I downloaded the BBC Couch to 5k app, chose former Olympian Michael Johnson as my trainer and began in the back garden. I reached week 9 as chickens began taking over the garden and the grass was disappearing. So as we entered autumn and I was not going to return to the gym. So I researched and I discovered a great YouTube channel Fabulous50s. Discovering how to create a playlist, I’ve added a 5 minute stretch, a 15 min cardio walk, and a 30 min cardio walk – it’s interval training (30 sec exercise + 30 sec walk or jog or dance) and so great; I love them! My aim is to keep my heart in good condition and I added the 30 min routine so I can build up to at least 150 minutes exercise per week. This has kept me going through lockdown 2.0 and I hope continue to do so as our area is in tier 4 restrictions, basically lockdown 3.0.
  3. CHURCH On Sunday 15 March 2020 we were due to attend stake conference (a large regional church meeting held twice yearly) but a couple of days before that all church meetings, worldwide, were suspended due to the pandemic; all members were encouraged to have home church, having the sacrament at home if there were a priesthood holder to administer it. It was September before sacrament meetings began again in our local unit, broadcast to those not attending in person. I have no doubt this is a huge weight on our bishop, our local congregational leader, who is always in attendance; he must feel he has no choice while the rest of us do make a choice, in person or at home. The wonderful, great thing is that the Lord had been preparing us with lessons etc. being home centred – church supported through the ‘Come Follow Me’ program of scripture study. 2020 was the Book of Mormon and it has been great to do this with our younger two children and to hear their thoughts on spiritual matters.

And here’s what else is coming up over the coming days before 2021:

  1. condensed milk
  2. chickens
  3. savings
  4. no books
  5. indexing
  6. 156 applicants
  7. sewing
  8. writing DM
  9. braces
  10. BHM

Mayflower 400

Dear friends

Growing up in Southampton means that you know about at least two famous historical ships – the Titanic and the Mayflower. And this year is 400 years since the Mayflower sailed from this port town.

The thing that impressed me most about hearing the story of the Mayflower is that it’s about a group of people that fled religious persecution. It’s essentially the story of a group of people who wanted to live and worship differently than the dominant religion at the time and were being persecuted for that. They gathered together, got a ship (the Speedwell), and sailed from Holland to Southampton where they met the Mayflower ship, which had set out from Rotherhithe, London. The Mayflower was carrying 102 passengers who wanted to build a new life, in peace, across the Atlantic Sea. Half of those passengers died within the first year in their new home (mainly from disease having arrived in November 1620). But essentially they were colonisers, settling where other people already lived. That always seems to end in pain for those who lose their land for no other reason than someone else wants to live there! This website gives a great in sight into the full story of the event and it’s position in terms of native Americans and the colonisers: https://www.mayflower400uk.org/education/the-mayflower-story/.

So, these past several months one of my work projects has been conservation work to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial (aka Mayflower Memorial) here in my hometown, originally constructed 1913. As it is literally a 5 minute walk from my former primary school, I can’t tell you how many times, over 40 years ago, I saw the memorial and heard the story of the Pilgrim Fathers.

The commemoration weekend here is in 2 weeks – 15 August 2020. Despite knowing about the commemoration date for the last, well, hundreds of years, the Culture team were a little slow to get going on the conservation work and had to be rescued (financially) by the Property team. An exemption request submitted to Procurement was eventually approved and a specialist main contractor was appointed in February. However with stone to be sourced and carved, completion of the works for the commemoration weekend was always ambitious. And then, the pandemic was declared!

The first half of the contract took place in the stonemasons yard with lots of photographs being sent showing the stonework progression. I really wanted to go to the mason’s yard so was rather disappointed that the pandemic meant this was too high a risk to take, especially with 5 of us at home, since the yard was in another town.

However, with site works commencing in May, I was finally able to visit site and hold external site meetings, rather than conference calls. And this past week, with copper Mayflower ship back atop facing West, the upper layer of scaffolding came down to reveal the refreshed mosaic dome, renewed stone work and, at night, a beacon light shining out from it’s quirky Art Nouveau/ Arts & Crafts style fire basket metalwork. The memorial isn’t the tallest of columns, about 15 metres or 50 foot. And it’s location means that most people in town probably will never see it, unless they make an effort.

But it is a story, an event that happened, 400 years ago and, like with any real event, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I am descended from people who, not wilfully, were transported across the Atlantic Sea from the African continent to work and effectively colonise islands of the sea. Many of them died within months of arrival, from disease, from hard labour, from abuse, from broken hearts. Though there is no specific monument with their specific name that I can definitely say they are my descendants, I still feel proud that somewhere in my family history, I am descended from survivors.

“Though today’s restrictions relate to a virulent virus,…

“… life’s personal trials stretch far beyond this pandemic. Future trials could result from an accident, a natural disaster, or an unexpected personal heartache.


“How can we endure such trials? The Lord has told us that “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”

“Of course, we can store our own reserves of food, water, and savings. But equally crucial is our need to fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony.”

Russell M Nelson, Prophet and Apostle, April 2020 General Conference

it’s never too late to…

Dear friends

I actually started writing this post more than a year ago! And I know it’s almost been as long since my last one but it really is never too late! And that applies even in the changing world that we’re now experiencing.

So, last year, I learnt that it’s never too late to… use a pumice stone.

As my 50th birthday approached last year, I really felt I ought to embrace it. I’m not seen as immature; I have life and professional experiences and, at church, I’m probably observed as a ‘seasoned’ member. Don’t you love that adjective – seasoned, well flavoured, marinated!

Anyway, my feet; they’re wider and longer than the average woman; shoe shopping has always caused me great anxiety. I have flat feet, my arches fell during my university days – with great pain – which probably contributed to developing a painful bunion during pregnancy with child 4, eventually leading to a bunionectomy (is that the word?) and six weeks on crutches with a toddler 😲.

My feet became neglected and my hidden secret. I hid them in shoes, behind socks and tights; and in the summer I hid them behind chunky man-sandles which are very comfortable but don’t look great with Sunday dress!

So as my 50th birthday approached, this was part of me that I knew I had to do something about. I thought about a pedicure but there’s no way I could let anyway see, let alone handle, my feet – such was my complex. Then as I was browsing through Primark, looking for chinos and treats to post to Son 1 (he was at the time serving as a missionary in Vanuatu), I found in the men’s toiletries section a pumice stone, only 75 pence!! And I knew this was for me 🙂

Back home I watched a few YouTube videos on technique and my feet rejuvenation journey began. It didn’t end with the pumice stone. A few weeks later, browsing in a shop, I spotted a pair of white, strapless, sandles, wide fit, size 8, knocked down in price! They fit; they were mine; I wore them to church with everything, even on the cooler summer days!

It’s a small thing, I know, and it probably sounds quite silly – I’m a 50 year old woman and I had neglected, ignored my feet. But I can tell you that the while experience made a big difference to me, and the relationship I have with my physical self.

That 75p pumice stone is a small thing but represents that I can change, and improve. And same principle can be applied to anything and anyone. Maybe your pumice stone is a book, a kind act, giving up something, or doing something different. It might involve walking towards someone.

Either way, it’s going to take some action on your part, on my part. And some belief that the action is going to bring about a change. Simply remember, it’s never too late.

chance meetings

Dear friends

If you’re part of any type of community, you will know the phrase, it’s a small world. That’s true but it doesn’t always feel like a small world when you live in big cities, visit new cities or when you’re taking a break.

Not long after I moved to London, 1996, big metropolitan city, home to approximately 6.5 million individuals, I was in an area of London, I think heading to an exhibition and coming out of Angel tube station during rush hour. And who do I pass entering the tube station, my little brother. Yes, I knew he was one of those 6.5 million people but he lived the other side of London, and had been in London for a few years. He was just as shocked and let out a jovial laugh of shock as we hugged and he explained he couldn’t really stop because he was on his way somewhere!!!

Same year, still in London, leaving another tube station (St James Park), middle of the day and I hear someone call my name. This time a lady who I really did not recognise. But she knew my name and then told me she hasn’t seen me since I was about 14 years old. We used to attend Sunday school together at the New Testament Church of God! As she told me her name, I was still in shock that she recognised me, then in my late 20s but I could barely recognise her. Clearly I hadn’t changed that much! We politely asked for each others parents, wished each other well and continued on our independent journeys.

Later that year, 1996, I travelled to Canada and USA on holiday, and I was in Salt Lake City, Utah, casually wandering through a shopping mall on my own. Across the atrium I see another black person, possibly the only black person that I saw in Salt Lake at that time :), so imagine my shock as he called my name! As I approached I recognise him from the stake (area of the church) in London – he had moved to live, or study, in Utah. We arranged to meet up later that day and that was the last I heard of him. I was already engaged, I think he was too as I recall. Remember, back then the Internet was rare, expensive, and the term social media had yet to be coined!

A couple weeks ago our family went to the London Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These are sacred places and this temple serves the southern half of the UK. We decided stay overnight so it wasn’t so rushed even though we are only a couple of hours drive from it. Saturday afternoon we prepare to head back home. Daur2 and I quickly head towards the accommodation for… something… (I forget what) and see two men; the tall black man recognises me, calls my name, and, lo and behold, it’s the same friend from Utah, now living back in England, in the Midlands, 200 miles from us! It has been nearly 23 years!!

Before we make it into the building we meet two more people that know me – well, one knows my husband – by which time Daur2 states: “You and Dad know ALOT of people!!” I don’t think we do, but that day, there certainly were lots of chance meetings. And it is more lovely to meet old friends at the Lord’s house and knowing that in our own party of the Lord’s vineyard we are each individually trying to remain true to the Lord.

The waiting game…

Dear friends

Waiting for a building to complete is like waiting for spontaneous labour to start.

I can say this because I’ve seen a few building projects complete and because I’ve waited for labour to start, four times.

My latest project is a small new block for a local school consisting of a kitchen, hall and a classroom. In fact, it has been under construction for about 38 weeks. The school will start moving in some furniture over the next few days as they need to decant out of half of their existing Victorian school into the new building for the rest of term so we can remain on programme and continue the major refurbishment of the Victorian building. It’s a great project but difficult for the school as they’ve had to deal with changes to the routine.

I thought you’d be interested in seeing some of my earliest sketches for this project from my personal sketchbook. I’m really pleased with the outcome for the new building visually and functionally. It’s a compact layout, minimising circulation space, optimising orientation (it’s long elevations face east & west so it’s not prone to overheating) and traditional materials complement the adjacent Victorian architecture. This sounds a bit like an architectural journal but that’s part of the architectural language which one develops to sell proposals, to clients, to planners.

I’ve surely stated this before but I do love being an architect 🙂 it is a very rewarding though humbling profession. Humbling because we are constantly learning from specialists around us – architects are the generalists of the construction industry. Rewarding because it is the images of our imaginations that can become reality and we have to share that, through drawings and words, with the specialists.

The phrase at the beginning I used today in an email to the headteacher to try and show empathy for how they are feeling, desperate to move in before end of half term this week, but it is my responsibility to confirm that if it’s safe and ready to handover to the school, that it’s complete. Right now, it’s not so I’ve told the contractor, as we agreed for the last 38 weeks that the school will begin to move in furniture. I had to tell the school that the furniture will have to stay in the middle of rooms until the contractor had finished some small aspects, like fitting skirting to a store room. Nothing too big but enough for the project manager to step in to the email conversation and suggest that plans were changing. I explained nothing was changing, the school can still set up their rooms by theend of the week. I’m sure all well be fine and I’ll visit tomorrow but as architect, I’m administering the building contract and I also have the role of principal designer (under UK health and safety legislation) so I’m going to deliver this baby when all are safe and ready!