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!

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.  

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 🙂

next appointments…

Dear friends

The next appointments arrived at the weekend – pre-assessment and then an admissions appointment for surgery.  The latter under the care of Dr R, not the same consultant, and the procedures are not listed.  

I looked up Dr R.  He’s a gynaecological oncologist.

At least it’s only a few days to wait now.  I called to confirm the admission appointment, a week after the pre-assessment.  

I’m trying hard to not be anxious.  I’ve told my boss what’s happening – I don’t know if I’ll be in work towards the end of the month! And I’ve told a colleague I’m working with – our youngest son’s were born within days of each other. His son was diagnosed with retinal cancer months later.  We can talk.  He did say to me you’re religious, that will be a great help.  It is.  He understood that it’s the waiting for now; the not knowing what, if anything, is wrong; the silence from every health professional – we agreed that they must be trained not to mention cancer unless they’re fairly certain. The first medical professional to say it with their son was when they sat in Great Ormond Street hospital!  

So I’m hoping that next week they’ll be able to give some answers, let me know what will happen the week after, and what happens from there.  I’ll let you know 🙂

for the ladies… update

Dear friends

Not long after the last post about this, I received two appointments in the post; one for December and one more urgent one, for last Friday, for a hysteroscopy to rule out any more serious condition, such as cancer.

(I decided not to post about my feelings leading up to this appointment, in an effort to reduce anxiety and not appear alarmist. We all have different ways of dealing with anxiety and stress!. The idea is to help someone with my posts, not to create more stress!)

I went to the appointment on my own, my dear husband was working and the younger children needed picking up from school.  I’d met with my Mummy at lunchtime – hot chocolate (with a couple of ibuprofen for me!) – who was very pragmatic about everything – oh, there used to be a very nice gynaecologist at that hospital a few years ago…  it’s probably just a polyp or cyst or something…

A few minutes before my appointment time, Dr M called me into his office where I met Dr H and medical student G. After some banter on comparing lengths of training for doctors versus architects, and the salaries, I was asked to explain everything, in my own words, the situation, everything, and I mean everything.  It was like opening up the bedroom door when my dear husband and I are together.  I knew the consultant needed to understand but still… awkward!  Dr M did a hand drawing of a womb and lining – clearly he had done this many times – and explained the procedure and what he thought, from the ultrasound, the problem was, a 16mm polyp on the womb.  They would remove that during the hysteroscopy.

So then it was time for the procedure.  They were pleased I’d prepared myself with ibuprofen and then 2 nurses came in, screen pulled, strip of everything from waist down and have a seat, use the towel to cover yourself … and there I was, seated on a half chair with leg supports, in my socks (was that a hole in the toe?), when I made known I was ready and the screen was pulled back to reveal the 5 medic people.  I began to focus on ceiling as, with my legs in the supports, not a dignified position said the older nurse on my left, and Dr H began raising the seat up and tilting back (though I honestly couldn’t sense the back tilt).  Speculum….  (attempt 1) … can I have another, long speculum, gel again… (attempt 2 and I recalled a practice nurse telling me to always mention that a long speculum is needed for cervical smears) – let your knees drop down more… you have long legs… Dr M, there’s a polyp right by the cervix opening, you should come see?  So Mum was right, I think, as I hear Dr M come closer and I focus on the ceiling tiles (why are they so unattractive in hospitals when ceiling manufacturers have so many options for so many situations, it looks so dated…) OUCH!!! And I grip the hand rests.  That really felt like a needle went in!!  Ohhhh, I touched it with a cotton bud! (Dr M)  

The older nurse starts making conversation with me – were you at work? what do you do? what kind of buildings do you work on? at least you can go home after this! (Sympathetic smile!).   I join in knowing there’s a long way to go, they’ve not even given the local anaesthetic!! 

OUCH!!! That felt like a needle too!!! Ok, there’s no point continuing, we’ll do this under general anaesthetic. Said Dr M, and that was that! The screen was pulled, I could hear the room empty and when I emerged Dr M was alone, writing notes.  

Give me a minute and I’ll explain all.

Then back to his hand drawn womb to demonstrate what he saw – polyp at cervix opening and area of abnormal cells on the other side which started bleeding when I touched them. So, considering how uncomfortable you were I feel it best to do the hysteroscopy, biopsy and polypectomy under general anaesthetic. Any questions?

I had many but asked him only two.  1. Since these have to be done under general anaesthetic, can’t the right ovary situation be looked at at the same time – surely that’s more efficient? (He had explained earlier that a laparoscopy – small incision in abdomen plus camera – would be required to do investigate the right ovary).  So that’s the plan – he was a little concerned about the length of such a procedure but agreed it made sense. 2. was any of this related to age? Only the irregular, shortening of periods; not the womb thickening, bleeds in between or the pain. 

Dr M did say he’d try to get a date within the next month.  Older nurse came back with form to fill, writing the procedures as Dr M listed – she’s having an MOT – he drily said to the nurse. (MOT –Definition from the free dictionary online for my friends not familiar with UK terms. MOT. [not an acronym] (UK term for a full-body scan medical exam; derived from the Ministry of Transport test car inspection).   Pre assessment were closed that afternoon so it’ll probably be another visit before the procedure.  And then I was free to leave.  

That evening I read up on possible diagnoses (bad idea) … cancer survival rates seem to be measured in chance of living five years… in five years our youngest will be 13 years old…  I read up on how a laparoscopy is done… I also discovered that not all abnormal cells are malignant…  I think you can find anything you want to on the internet if you look hard enough!

Following a priesthood blessing a couple of days later, which my dear husband administered, I no longer feel so anxious! Heavenly Father knows me and I do trust Him that he’ll guide the doctors in all the investigations and procedures. Ultimately, I know everything will be alright.  For now, I need to learn to be patient and wait… 

perilous times

Dear friends

Family is who you die for

That’s the strap line of a billboard advertising an adult rated game showing several people holding guns. I was going to post a picture but that advertises the game!  So here’s a family stock photo!  

It seems to me that the advertisers have replaced the kill for die and therefore make the whole game seem more… honourable.  Literally glorifying violence! 😦 

It’s an(other) example of how we, and our children, are being bombarded with slightly false messaging.  After all, most people love their families enough that if it were asked of them, they would risk their own lives. But this false messaging seems symptomatic of the last days, these perilous times that Paul described (2 Timothy 3 vv1-5), particularly having a form of godliness.  

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come….

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,…

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:

I did listen to this wonderful talk from one of the female LDS church leaders, which speaks of these perilous times and how we, as women, need to rise up in strength.  I encourage you to listen and be uplifted 🙂

 Bonnie L. Oscarson – September 2016

seeing the good, tender mercies

Seeing the good and tender mercies can missed, like seeing the juxtaposition of old and older in this Normandy village

Dear friends

My last post – small things -set the scene of last week’s events – it was a difficult week! But I should say that during this, I did notice the Lord’s hand and his tender mercies, protecting our family – I especially felt this when the clutch on the car failed.  It could’ve been a lot worse!

It could’ve failed the day before, on our way to church (children and me in the car, we would have all missed partaking the sacrament), or on our way back home from church (all five of us again and none of us took coats – it wasn’t raining but it’s not mid summer!), and we live about an hour walk from church.

It could’ve failed on Saturday when I use it the most – Son2’s piano lessons, Daur1 work (drop off & pick up), Son1 pick up from late shift at fast food restaurant.    

It could’ve failed on Friday, the chauffeur evening, when the three older children were in the car and we were traveling on the motorway at 60 miles per hour on our way to or back from the stake centre in the next city.

It could’ve failed on Wednesday when I had the pelvic scan and in the afternoon I took my dear husband, down the motorway at 60 miles per hour, to an eye appointment at an out of town clinic, before coming home to take oldest siblings to evening Seminary.  

The leak could’ve been nearer the middle of our room, rather than the corner.

And the mouse, well, that could’ve gotten to the front room and scurried all over my dear husband and I during the night… nibbling toes…. eeewwwww….

From Apostle Elder David A Bednar (April 2005):

the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits “his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15).

small things…

Dear friends

Sometimes the smallest of things can make the biggest difference in our lives.  This last week has been full of that for me and our family.

Before that, after one of the big winter storms in the last few years, we noticed a leak on our bedroom ceiling, right in the corner above the bay window.  It really didn’t disrupt our daily lives and it was several months before we got a roofer out.  However the following winter, another big storm, same leaking, another small damp patch appears closer in, remote from the first leak.  After several attempts with the insurance company, they finally agreed to mend and repair, but not replace the valley flashing gutter (above bay window). 

Then several weeks back a roofer came out – did something from a ladder and despite rain we’ve had no further leaks. Yeah! – you may think.  So then the company turn to our bedroom interior.  The artex ceiling is tested for asbestos. It’s a positive result so they arrange for a specialist contractor to remove the ceiling.  This was scheduled for Monday morning.

Before that, a couple of weeks back, a friend spotted a piano being offered for free.  Dear husband and Daur2 looked it over – needs tuning and a couple of hammers fixing but would be good for practice – and we paid a man with a van to help bring it to our house.  It’s been left in the dining room, having come in through the garden, until we clear the front room (another one of those ongoing tasks!)

So, last Monday morning I wake early to start my usual routine of preparing packed lunches for the family – six of us.  As I start with mini baguettes in the oven I see a mouse come out and head back behind the fridge/freezer.  I shriek fairly quietly and gingerly continue, my feet shuffling on the kitchen floor – my theory was to make enough noise so it didn’t come out again.  That didn’t work and so when I saw it again I let out a mighty shriek.  Son1 was the first to reach me and as I stammer there’s a mouse behind the fridge, he says I thought you were being attacked by someone! And promptly turns and heads back to bed.  Daur1 reaches me and stays with me while we finish the lunches but then time has gone and she’s in danger of missing her train.  She begs me to drop her at the station.  

However, before that, over the weekend, my car had been very rumbly.  I knew my dear husband had put oil in (I had moaned to him the Sunday evening since the oil was in his car, rather than in the porch so I couldn’t add some earlier), so despite the strange burning rubber smell, I thought maybe I could make it to the station and back.  

As we sat in the car – me in my pyjamas and fleece – I mentioned maybe I should give you bus fare to get the fast bus to the station and not risk it.  But Daur1 gave her pleading eyes, I gave in and we headed out.  We reached station safely and Daur1 skipped to platforms!  I headed out the station and immediately the clutch pedal stuck – I was crossing the carriageway so was waiting.  I managed to kick it up, back in gear when I saw the traffic clear then as it stuck again at my gear change, I pulled the car over onto the pavement, so as not to block traffic, and stopped.  With the hazard lights on, I call the RAC (car recovery) – we’ll try and get someone out to you in the hour.  An hour! It’s 0730h, I’m in my pyjamas and fleece.  I call my dear husband but no answer… he’s clearly having to pick things up where I left things off… 

Two hours later, somewhat chilled on my part, my dear husband and I arrive back home, children all at school & college and I think, great, I’ll quickly shower, dress and get bus to work.  Don’t forget the asbestos guys are here, they arrived at 8h, when you were out; they’ve started taping things up.  Eeeeekk…. I head to our room to find our wardrobes fully taped up and plastic sheeting across the bedroom door.  All that was missing were the guys in white suits – I knew that was coming, they were in their van on break.  So, all I could do was work from home; take calls, write emails, give a truncated version of the morning’s events explaining my absence – clutch, pyjamas and asbestos.  I did feel quite ridiculous and humbled – if I had listened to the small voice and not taken our daughter to the station, the day would have been largely uneventful, except the mouse and the asbestos removal team.

Ohhhh, and the mouse.  In the 12 years we’ve lived here, we’ve never seen any mice – ants, mosquitoes and slugs but no mice (apart from a small family discovered in the lawn mower box in the garage one spring a long time ago).  So we were a little concerned – are there more?  Son1 admitted to seeing a ball of fluff scurry behind the piano late one night after it’s arrival but failed to mention it to anyone.  Dear husband bought fast action mouse killer traps – one went by the fridge and one in the kitchen.  We put a more traditional trap behind the piano, with peanut butter on cheese for bait!  We had no idea where mouse was.  We were on lockdown – all doors to be closed behind us on entering or exiting a room.  A few days later there was still no sign of mouse.  By now the family began teasing that maybe I imagined the whole thing!  But today, I entered the kitchen and there it was, lying, dead, between the washing machine and a cupboard.  All observed it – except Son1 who was out – before dear husband and Daur1 disposed of it.  Daur2 (& Daur1) seemed rather sad about the whole affair commenting it’s so small… It’s in heaven now… And similar as if I was being completely irrational about wanting to get rid of it!

Ohhhh and the leak. Once the ceiling came down, we spied up into the loft and the underside of the rafters and the water damage was apparent.  And above the valley rafter, in the flashing we could spy a pinpoint of daylight in the lead valley flashing gutter.  The insurance company weren’t interested – it looked to me as if a slate had punctured the lead.  So we’ll have to get some flexible roof sealant and apply from within the loft to make sure we don’t get a random drip onto the new ceiling, which is now in place.  

And the moral of this tale… deal immediately with a problem and listen to the small voice… or squeak…. or leak!

piano, mouse killer, my sock
Part stripped ceiling
Rafters in our loft, above the ceiling
The pinpoint of light!!