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!

Light The World

Dear friends

Happy New Year 2019! This time of year, Christmas and New Year can be difficult times for many; loneliness, cold, reminders of darkness in our lives when light seems to surround. Here’s a story and a thought to encourage you to light the world, light your community, throughout the year. Seehttps://www.lds.org/church/news/2018-lighttheworld-asks-members-to-give-as-christ-gave?lang=eng

In recent years our town, city, has become home to the homeless. Tents in the city parks have appeared and a soup kitchen takes over at 6pm outside a coffee shop which serves as additional meeting rooms for nearby businesses during the day. As a local government worker, I’m aware that there are targets for building homes over the next few years. As an architect, I know what can be done to the physical structures that lie empty while someone sleeps on the ground in it’s shadow. As a Christian, a Latter Day Saint, my heart aches to do more.

And so it was a few weeks ago that on a rainy morning as I left the office for a morning site visit that I passed a motionless figure wrapped in a sleeping bag at the base of an advertising kiosk, in the open rain, on the pavement. The guilt engulfed me as I passed on to my site visit – how many times have I been in lessons and heard the parable of the good Samaritan. Site visit done, I headed back to the office and determined that if that figure was still there I would offer assistance. I prepared myself by visiting the bank first and purposefully walking back the same way. The figure still lay there but I could see movement and rain had stopped, the sleeping bag was, of course, sodden. I knelt and began speaking. Food and drinks were on the pavement for the person so I explained that before trying to persuade them to let me help them to a local launderette, to wash and dry the sleeping bag. As this offer was refused I realised that the person was a woman. I then decided to give her the money which I had withdrawn and asked her to put out her hand so she could receive it. And I pushed the note into the grey hand which emerged from the side of the sleeping bag. Our family has been blessed throughout this year, we’ve not struggled for food, managed to pay bills and debts and though I’m not in the habit of giving money away, I felt humbled to do so. I then headed into the warm dry office.

Whatever you may feel about homelessness and how a person finds themselves sleeping on a rainy pavement in a sleeping bag under some cardboard, I know that individual is known to God who is the Father of us all. And we can be His hands to bring comfort to each other. And as this life is a test, I remember the scripture (Hebrews 13 v2):

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers : for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

And, of course, this one (Matthew 25 v40):

… Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

student days… (a quick memoir)

Dear friends

30 years ago I was towards the end of my first year studying architecture. I may have mentioned before, I studied at University of Edinburgh – it had been my long time desire to study there and I was blessed to make it. I absolutely love my Edinburgh days; I made great friends and had great experiences. I loved studying architecture, that had been my long time desire since the age of about 14 years. However it was not a pleasant experience as generally I recall struggling with the large egos of tutors and fellow students, not all, but enough!

30 years later and I am traveling to a local university where I have been tutoring first year architecture students these past six months. How enlightening it has been for me to discuss architecture with these young people. And how difficult!!! And how sad as I see them not working and continually falling short of what I see so clearly in them. We recently did a hand drawing quiz, prepared by one of the full time lecturers, i.e. 1 minute to draw an internal wall with a door at scale 1 to 50. (This may sound technical but remember these students have been drawing and studying the topic since last September so it should not have been a difficult task). Only a few managed to correctly draw this in the minute given to them 😦

I’m now on my way to see the annual school exhibition. In my first year, my hand drawn sketch of a half onion was exhibited 🙂 I’m interested to see what the third years produce at the end of their degree since some of my first years will be there in two years. Hopefully this will also help me to understand the ethos of this school of architecture and current architectural education.

Much can happen in two years… not to mention thirty years…

I’ve been much more reflective about time in recent months as I approach the age of Kylie Minogue! I recently heard a radio journalist who invited two friends to live by a motto for a month, such as, live every day as if it’s your last. I was impressed by the attitude of the individual as they made the effort to contact extended relatives and even organise a simple family gathering.

The recent words of living prophets and apostles – #LDSconf – have also touched my heart. I keenly feel that we are living in the time of the parables specifically concerning the last days, like the parable of the ten virgins. These are wonderful but perilous times – we must prepare and that doesn’t happen overnight… two years?… thirty years?… a lifetime?…

You can judge for yourself 🙂

prayer

Dear friends

What have you prayed for?

While it is good to pray for and work for physical protection and healing during our mortal existence, our supreme focus should be on the spiritual miracles that are available to all of God’s children.

What do you pray for?

No matter our ethnicity, no matter our nationality, no matter what we have done if we repent, no matter what may have been done to us—all of us have equal access to these miracles.

What will you pray for?

We are living a miracle, and further miracles lie ahead.

(Quotes from Donald L Hallstrom, October 2017, #LDSconf)

perspective

Dear friends

I feel the last several weeks have been fairly unbalancing for me… as if my life is ever balanced but things were OK and we were coping. Things have tipped and I know that any balance regained will be different. This is on account of family fractions, fractures, whatever you want to call it. It’s difficult and painful.

I admit, one of these is my doing… I couldn’t keep my mouth shut when listening to my children being compared (negatively) to other grandchildren in the family. The other, I am right in the middle, between two close family members.

Outwardly, I’ve tried to keep going. Praying, fasting, reading scriptures, listening to uplifting talks, trying to get some calm in myself. I’ve delved into work – which isn’t difficult since we are currently at technical design stage so lots to do – but I’ve had some ridiculously scary dreams… car going over a cliff with my dear husband and I inside, me on a motorcycle being rammed by a car but left unharmed, the car was written off, and then alien raptors attacking the city as we hid out in an edge of town estate. Trust me, these were very scary, very vivid dreams.

There’s been other things happening too – some members at church have passed away, the husband of a friend, the youngest sister of some friends of our children and the son of some other family friends who has children.

Physically our home is not settled as my dear husband arranged to have the kitchen replastered, before we’d ordered a new kitchen… the result, we’ve been camping out in the garden for washing up and cooking in the dining room – since end of December. (The end is near – new kitchen is installed next week).

During this winter of discontent, shall we say, there have been moments of enlightenment which have helped me regain my perspective.

Daur2 (who wants to study architecture) was discussing with me, on the way to school, how she’d got 17/30 in yet another maths test whereas the rest of the class got 20+. As I reassured her that it would be OK, she exclaimed, but you can say that, your successful!! I was quite surprised by this and asked her if she ever remembered me not being an architect. Daur2 doesn’t remember and I explained that it was 14 years between me finishing university and successfully getting a job where I could finish training, and the week after I was offered the job, we discovered Son2 was on his way, and all this after failing my final project submission at university and having to resubmit in the autumn.

We all have our moments – some last 14 years but that doesn’t mean we give up on our dreams.

Son2 and I had a discussion recently about 3D vision, and how if you close one eye, you see things in 2D, with no sense of depth. Our brain uses the information from two slightly different angles to give us that depth that we see. Our students at university have also been exploring this as they’ve been to draw sections – some make the mistake of drawing the section as a perspective, showing depth.

I realised that in my life, I can choose to view it in 2D, in a very linear manner, dictated by time. This can be quite limiting and discouraging as it gives a sense of running out of time or not having enough time.

Or I can choose to see events in 3D, things past, present and future, wide-screen, full surround sound. A bit like Ebenezer Scrooge’s experience of Christmas Eve night in A Christmas Carol. Essentially that helped gain perspective in his life.

So I’m training myself to approach my life and trials with perspective, seeing events and people more holistically. This is the correct view – anything else is like having one eye closed!

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known

(1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 12)