drafting skills

Dear friends

A few evenings ago, I helped Daur1 complete the first draft of her personal statement for medical school, reducing it from 6000+ characters to less than 4000 (the maximum allowable). At the end, at 2359h, she exclaimed to the rest of the awake household (Son1 and her father):

Mum has a superpower!! A gift!!

I know! replied her father, and they began discussing how I should do proofreading after retirement… in 20 years 🙂 I explained that it’s a bit too plain English for the academic environment!!

It took me a while to discover this skill and I do recognise it is a little unusual. It’s closely related to my other superpower, the ability to quickly assimilate large amounts of information and identify the salient points. I first realised I had these twin skills some years ago when I re-wrote and collated a submission for beacon council status following a rather inadequate draft from a private consultant which my boss was not too happy with. We were shortlisted and went on to win the status.

I’m actually quite a slow reader; with the statement last night (made worse because I was tired but then adrenaline kicked in…) it took me a good 15 mins to read the initial 6000+ words and understand what Daur1 was trying to write.

I’ve learnt that skills and abilities come in many, many ways, some hidden, some more obvious. I know all of us have a super power, probably several, something that makes you uniquely you and something that you can use to help others. Gifts, talents, skills, super powers, are not there for selfish reasons and I think rarely directly benefit the person who possesses them, except in a way that they can serve others. I’ll let scripture explain more eloquently what I’m trying to say, from Doctrine and Covenants section 46:

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

the value of time… 13 reasons

Dear friends

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

I’ve always taken great comfort in this passage of scripture (Ecclesiastes 3 verses 1 to 8). There’s time to be all I need to be, but maybe not I’m one day!

The list below is from a post, from one of my cousins, following a story about a young man who learns, from an older man, that the most valuable thing in the old man’s life was the younger man’s time. Hopefully there will be something in this list that encourages you. Thank you for taking the time to read 🙂

1. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way..

2 A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don’t like you.

3 Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.

4. You mean the world to someone.

5. If not for you, someone may not be living.

6. You are special and unique.

7. When you think you have no chance of getting what you want, you probably won’t get it, but if you trust God to do what’s best, and wait on His time, sooner or later, you will get it or something better.

8. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good can still come from it.

9. When you think the world has turned its back on you, take a look: you most likely turned your back on the world.

10. Someone that you don’t even know exists loves you.

11. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

12. Always tell someone how you feel about them; you will feel much better when they know and you’ll both be happy.

13. If you have a great friend, take the time to let them know that they are great.

hope in a rainy mood

Dear friends

It’s feeling like summer is almost over and somehow that was beginning to be reflected in my mood. My latest design project was handed over, issued with completion, even though there’s an outstanding item list of over 50 items with the main contractor (who appears to have not been paying their subcontractors, who are therefore not working…) Not my final decision and I’m glad I wasn’t part of it but I fear it doesn’t bode well for the school at the start of September….

The weather has also been quite wet and unsettled for the past several days. And there’s a fair amount of anxiety with exam results due in a little over two weeks.

Several days ago there was a massive thunderstorm literally right over the area we live (I say massive but I do acknowledge that other parts of the world have far more extreme weather than I’ve experienced, but this was massive for the UK south coast!) I had been explaining to Son2 how you can estimate how far away a storm is by counting in seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder – light travelling faster than sound etc – when there was a particularly bright flash with instantaneous thunder. Well, that’s virtually on top of us, I chuckled, giving a quick thought to the insurance job recently finished on our bedroom following a leaking roof.

Maybe our house will be struck by lightning? Son2 queried, a little nervously. Oh, I don’t think so, I reassured him, there’s taller buildings in the area (we live at the bottom of a small hill and I was rapidly thinking of a 90m diameter sphere rolling across the landscape – a rule of thumb I’ve heard somewhere in my architectural career), taller buildings like… the school! He was calmed.

The next morning as we waved goodbye to Daur2, a text message arrived, and visualise Son2’s sheer delight! Son2 & his school friends lost 3 days of school due to the school being struck by “lightening” and the fire alarm system needed to be replaced! Don’t you love spotting spelling errors in school correspondence 🙂

How oddly prophetic my words seemed to be!!! But we are grateful for the rain – it’s what stops southern England becoming a dessert and we’ve really not had much rain this year (I’m quite pleased that the water company rate our water usage equivalent to the average household with three people – there are six of us).

Our garden, though green, has been somewhat wet recently and the cherry tomatoes are ripening & bursting at the same time with the water deluge. However, through the rain yesterday I caught sight of a rainbow – this photo does no justice – and this evening is beautiful blue skies. A great reminder that we can always have hope, however grim, miserable and unexpected life’s journey feels.

Grenfell

Dear friends

Did you know that the history of current building regulations begins as a result of the Great Fire of London in 1665, Pudding Lane, etc.?

This week has seen the awful fire at Grenfell Tower in West London.  

I awoke to read the BBC news with a picture of the 24 storey residential tower looking like a burning candle and of residents not escaping.  It was horrific and clearly there was going to be significant loss of life.  I noticed in the article that the​block was recently re-clad.  I thought of the buildings where I’ve used rain screen cladding (all educational).

My thoughts very quickly turned to why the fire had spread this way as I thought of recent fire incidents in our area. 

Fires were contained within the flats​.  (Look carefully in the photo and you’ll see the boarded up window on the left side and very little external scarring, that fire was a couple months ago, no-one seriously injured).  And I know the policy is for other residents to stay within their own flats, they should be safe.  However, I am also aware that re-cladding works have recently begun on several tower blocks in town, procured some time ago, with little involvement from our team of property consultants.  

I haven’t read too many more articles since the day.  The words of the witnesses fills me with tears each time.  Last night my dear husband said l was upset, angry and flailing my arms in the night during my sleep.  I’m fairly certain it’s as a result of this weeks events.

There was no official comment from the new head of assets at work.  Finally yesterday, the head of our architectural team spoke vehemently on the incident with myself and a colleague expressing his concern that no-one in the authority is stating anything and acting as if it’s business as usual.  We discussed the technical issues and the principles of rain screen cladding and what fires need to thrive – fuel, oxygen, heat.  He had already downloaded photos and identified the type of cladding.  He noted that consultants involved had already taking down their websites.

We spoke of Ronan Point.  A tower block which collapsed in the 1960s following a relatively small gas explosion.  We all know that changed the building regulations, introducing regulations to guard against disproportionate collapse.  And this incident may lead to a similar change in regulations.  

The most vulnerable members of our community were living in those high rise dwellings, eideriy, migrants, young families, single persons.  As a designer of the built environment this incident is troubling.  And it has made me think on how often we are asked to compromise as designers, for time or money.  

Health and safety legislation in the UK (CDM 2015) now recognises the role of principal designer, and it seems that this is a responsibility which may soon come to me, as a named individual within the council.  This incident is troubling but I feel that we ought to stand up to pressures from non – designers in our project teams to do what is right, thinking of those people for whom​ we are designing.

For me personally, I am grateful for the Holy Ghost who will direct and guide all aspects of our lives, including design, if we trust Him. 

protecting our children

Dear friends

This morning I read the headline that Brady was dead and my mind went back to many years ago.

In 1994 I was serving as a full time missionary for the Lord, assigned to the England Manchester Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  One of my first areas was at the edge of the Pennines, a town named Oldham.

As we met people on the streets, a question was often raised concerning the nature of God and:

Why did He let that happen to those children?

I didn’t understand at first and then someone mentioned the names – Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.  I understood; I explained to my American companion.  This is where it happened, this was the town, our view to the hills was a view to the moors, Saddleworth Moor.  Five children, tortured and killed in the 1960s, buried on the moors.  I was not born but the murders were notorious and 30 years later, even with the guilty ones in jail the community still felt the pain and anger; no remorse was ever shown.

I have not come close to feeling what those parents and the community felt.  But there will be some people who sadly have.

Summer is approaching and growing up it seemed this was the time when children tragically featured in the news – Sara Payne, Milly Dowler, the Soham girls, Jamie Bulger.  This has made me cautious as a parent; I think it’s made many parents cautious and changed the way children play outside the home.  

Today the world has predators, games, social media and wrong influences in the form of images, music, films that can reach right into our homes, through modern technologies.  We can not let down our guard or let anyone else raise our children.  Our children are still vulnerable; they are our treasure – they need teaching, they need our protection.  Its difficult but not impossible.  As parents, I believe, that we must trust God, stay close to Him and His counsel, and everything will be alright.  

The world is incessantly pulled by a flood of enticing and seductive voices.  Overcoming the world is trusting in the one voice that warns, comforts, enlightens, and brings peace “not as the world giveth.” 

Elder Neil L Anderson, April 2017

having hope – it will be alright

Nothing really to do with post, but I was on a train while finishing this post so thought you might like a view!

Dear friends

It’s a month to go until the general election. 

It’s a couple days after the local elections – not in our area.

It’s great results for the government.

It’s dismal results for the opposition.

It’s concerning to me how the media can villify and how the public accept it – as if everything in the media is true! 
I work in local government and I live in an area with an opposition member of parliament and an area with majority vote remain rather than Brexit.

In this unfair society in which we live I’d be quite happy for high earners and high profit businesses to pay higher taxes to support publicly accessible and high standard education, health and social care services.  Hey, I’d pay more taxes if that were the guaranteed outcome!! 

But, in this unfair society, there are those who exploit, those who cheat, those who take advantage of others, and those who suffer.

I sat in a meeting this week to hear a headteacher say the school would have an £80k deficit within the next year, and there are others.

I sat in a meeting this week to hear a residential care home manager say they need more nursing care beds, needs of the elderly are increasing.

I sat in a meeting this week to hear my manager say that we may all be asked to do our jobs on less salary; we may have to apply for our jobs in the imminent restructure; he may be served a redundancy notice.

So much uncertainty. So many troubling issues.  

**(5 days pass…)**

But, I don’t feel hopeless.  I will keep hoping for a better world, because I know there is one.  

I read this verse in the scriptures (Moroni 9 verse 24) this morning: 

but I trust that I may see thee soon; for I have sacred records that I would deliver up unto thee.

This is a prophet writing to his son as they are separated and being hunted down by their enemies.  He did see his son and it occurred to me that his hope, his trust, was led by his understanding of a greater purpose, the bigger picture – which was the need for the sacred records to be safe.  

So even though I don’t know what to title this post which stayed as a draft, to a certain point, for nearly a week, I want it to be more hopeful than the way it starts​.

I know that we can have hope, when we know and understand the bigger picture.  We do not need to feel helpless nor hopeless.  There’s​ always someone who needs you and who only you can be  🙂  Take care! 

Why it will all work out!

Spring time…

Beautiful park scene in town, 18 April 2017

Dear friends

It’s most definitely spring and despite a chilly breeze – we’re on the coast – we’ve had some glorious sunshine the whole week and I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t done a good spring clean.  

Last year’s spring clean didn’t really happen and I resolved to make sure I took time off this year when everyone else is at school or work to take care of the house.  Though I’ve took days off in March they were spent doing my second job (reviewing student work experience log books) and only one day I managed to do some work in the garden.

But in the last few days… (the Easter weekend) … we’ve assembled two chests of drawers (to replace the one big one that we’ve had since not long after we married), stripped our sons’ bedroom of wallpaper (that’s been pending since the ceiling was filled in about 6 months ago), and I got my hair done (pick & drop, curly lion mane style – I’ll try taking a selfish and show you) and Friday opticians, I have permission from Daur1 to spend money on myself and get new spectacles, you deserve it she beamed having recently purchased a Chromebook for herself… even though I keep giving her bus fare to get to work because she never has change!!

Anyhow, it is a wonderful time of year! Sunshine yesterday, rained at night, sunshine today.  I took some tree photos and spotted a Norway Maple – I know this tree now because on my latest project the tree officer is objecting to a grade B1 Norway Maple being felled to make way for our development.  So we’re going to work on keeping it… 

Norway Maple – distinct red and cream colour during Spring

Anyhow, I’m rambling!!  Easter weekend was great – though I had an awful piano lesson (too little practice) and my teacher said my cuckoo sounded like it was on drugs – and as I tried to sit peacefully in sacrament meeting on Sunday, to focus on the speakers, the atonement of Christ, His love for us, my love for Him, I couldn’t help thinking which way would an intercontinental nuclear missile be launched from North Korea, east or west? And where would that be intercepted? Where would the fallout be if it exploded in the atmosphere? Over Africa? Over the Pacific? Would we, here in the UK, see pink skies?… troubling times.

And at the moment the BBC news app replaces North Korea and Trump headlines for some UK news on the royal family (Prince Harry coping, or not, with the loss of his mother at age 12 and the reality of mental health), it hits us.  We’re going to have a General Election in less than 2 months (7 weeks and 1 day from when I’m writing this).  

The media is going to be full of it!! But I suspect the electorate are full of apathy. 2014 Scottish independence referendum (phew, we’re all together); 2015 general election (conservative clear win, not a surprise), 2016 EU referendum – WHAT!? I’m still to openly meet more than one person that owns up to voting leave but, I’m told, they are there! Oh, and a new PM; (And 2016 US presidential election, which, although it’s own another country, let’s face it, the whole world got involved! WHAT!?…); 2017 Brexit notice really served – farewell to EU legislation et al 😦 

And now, bring it on, 2017 UK General Election!  Son1’s first opportunity to vote, a cohort unable to vote in the EU referendum and hugely affected by the outcome, gets to vote in a snap general election.  However, the context has changed: Article 50 notice has been served, the UK will leave the European Union; EU residents are openly made to feel unwelcome – sad but true in many places; and there will be changes to immigration laws, something which could have happened without leaving the EU but….  I suspect that whoever chants UK First the loudest will win.  

It’s Spring, Jesus did rise from the dead and is alive today, and one day will come back, meanwhile let the games begin… again.

And the prophet said…

Dear friends

This past weekend (first weekend in April) was General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which I am a member.  This happens twice a year, six months apart, and is when the general (world wide) leaders of the church address the general membership and the world.  With satellite and internet technology, wherever we are in the world, we can receive the messages, virtually instananeously, through live streaming, audio and/or video as the conference takes place at church HQ conference centre in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

As a Latter Day Saint I believe in living prophets and I trust that, for our spiritual safety, when they speak, we should listen and follow.  For me it’s​ no different to the trust the ancient Israelites had to have in Moses, that if they followed him, they would gain their freedom from the Egyptians where they were in a state of slavery.  Which ultimately is what happened.

So the conference actually all began last weekend with the women’s session where female church leaders spoke on trusting the Lord and not leaning (Proverbs 3:5-6), the beauty of holiness and being faithful, certain women, in the New Testament sense.  And then an Apostle (Henry B Eyring) spoke on the peace that we can only receive from the Lord Jesus Christ; it was sublime.

When you prepare yourself for conference, it’s as if the speakers are speaking to you, personally.  The words resonate within my spirit as I hear words of truth.  There were admonitions to be kind, charitable, true, faithful, how to recognise and follow the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, how to not live by fear, how to overcome the world. 

And the prophet, Thomas S Monson, in his Sunday morning address, asked: We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? And the answer: I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety.   And to develop and keep a strong testimony: read the Book of Mormon, each day 🙂  And the promise if we do this? 

As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.

I am very grateful for the simplicity which is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ – it is a the greatest blessing in my life and that of my family.  I love our Saviour, Jesus Christ; I’m grateful that He speaks still through living prophets, same as anciently – all things have been restored.  

me…  master builder

Dear friends

Did you know, and you probably do because you are into words :), that the origin of the word architect is Greek from 

arkhi – chief + tekton – builder

Literally meaning chief or master builder.

In the last month I’ve had several experiences which have reinforced my confidence as a master builder.  I’ll share one of the experiences.  Warning: if you are not into construction you may want to look up some of the technical terminology… but I promise to limit archi-speak. 

The builders were questioning my detail for the main external, upper wall, which is timber clad.  In particular, the position of the breather membrane, which as the name suggests, allows the building to breath.  This is typically positioned on the external side of insulation.  So we’re standing on the roof and the site manager states that the builders are saying they usually put it behind the insulation, otherwise you have to make good around all the brackets (which penetrate the insulation to help pick up the battens for the cladding).  Are you still with me?   How?  Why? He was questioning.  Knowing I had researched the detail and discussed with my own manager (who has 25+ years experience) I was reasonably confident and said words to the effect of, use double sided and single sided tape which are the accessories for the membrane.  I finally told them to contact the manufacturer, which a couple days later on the Friday afternoon, when no further progress had been made and the quantity surveyor was now getting concerned that they were going to have to re-do the insulation because they weren’t sure of the detail, was exactly what I did.  (I think builders, or is it men, lack humility)!  I explained the wall build up from inside to outside, the product on site and the query to the technical department of the breather membrane manufacturer.  Yeah, builders often want to put it behind the insulation but it should be in front, helps protect the insulation; they probably have concerns about workmanship; you could use a different product and staple to the battens but not with the one you have on site. Your detail is correct and they fix it with the double sided tape and make good around the brackets with the single sided tape.  What pleasure I had writing the email to confirm all that!!! Me – master builder! 🙂

In this last week I visited site and the carpenters called me to see them. Up two ladders and onto the flat roof and I stood as they explained a real size mock up of the detail with smaller brackets (another issue).  It’s still too far out I commented as they tried to rationalise but my detail asked for 10mm and this was 25mm.  I’d been doing more research on the brackets detail following an early morning text message from my colleague who is the contract administrator for the project asking me to visit site to see the brackets.  So I was prepared.  As I contemplated losing the counter battens and how to tell them I wanted the brackets closer (a bit exposed), the carpenters explained that wouldn’t work around the window jambs, and then it hit me. Smaller battens and closer brackets.  The carpenters found two battens same size, mocked it up, yes, 10mm space.  And they could deal with the jambs. A little discussion about the membrane well, we’re not paying more to change the membrane so you can staple; I was told the membrane is on site; you’ll have to discuss with the main contractor.  And that was that – I reported to the main contractor, who seemed relieved to not have to get another batch of brackets, and the carpenters could get on with it.  

I absolutely love being an architect, master builder 🙂

Primary role

Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19 verse 14

Dear friends

In recent weeks I have been called to serve in the Primary organisation of our church ward (local unit).  The Primary organisation is for the children, up to 12 years.  

It’s been about 10 years since I last served there – I recall because Son1 had not long been baptised (at age 8) when I was released. Daur1 and Daur2 were also there, but Daur2 was 3 years old so doesn’t remember.

You can imagine how excited Son2 has been since finding out that his Mum will be with him each Sunday:)!!  And I’ve been excited too.  I’ve already had a week in nursery (with children aged 18 months to 3 years) – I’d forgotten how delightfully stubborn a 2 year old can be! And this month I’ll be doing sharing time, with all the 3 to 11 year olds, about 12 of them so not too many.

Of course, I will miss the youth Sunday School class… not sure if the feeling is mutual 🙂 … and Daur1 did remind me they are little children!!  We had our first presidency meeting – I’m a counsellor -the secretary is the same, and filled us in on recent issues. With a couple of families moving out before summer we will lose several children in a short space of time. But things change quickly so we’re not relying on a small number of children to ease anything.  

This will take me out of my comfort zone, that’s always a good thing for me as it stops me becoming complacent. And I feel it’s so important to be able to share the gospel with children; the gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple, and simply beautiful (not my phrase… I think one of the modern day apostles) and so to be able to explain eternal concepts in a manner that a child can understand is important.  That’s the way the Saviour taught us 🙂