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.

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

returnee…

Dear friends 

I’ve returned to my blog – it’s been a while, I know.  After the surgery I was signed off work until Christmas Eve and then I already had annual leave booked for the last week in 2016.  Then a wait for the biopsy results – all OK for which I am grateful to Father πŸ™‚  So, unexpectedly, I was not at work for the whole of December 2016.

I returned to work on 3 January 2017, as many people.  And due to the transfer of the property business, I returned to my former and first ever employer, the city council.

I returned to my desk, with various trade literature and unopened post – after two days it’s still in my in box, unopened.

I returned to my projects – a little model completed for the feasibility study and several outstanding technical queries on the construction project (with a contractor stating the delay is due to ‘us’).

I returned to discover that such was the concern for me that they had approached a local company for costs to deliver the feasibility study!  I’ve had several colleagues welcome me back.  Since they are all predominantly male colleagues my stock answer is I’m fine – no point getting into a conversation about recovery after laparascopic surgery of a gynaecological nature! – and I swiftly move the conversation on to QS resources, retaining walls or the return to local government.

Back in the home, we’ve also been looking into returnees to Africa.  There’s lots on YouTube.  As the house in Africa is becomes bigger and our mortgage here becomes smaller (can something grow smaller?…) the prospect of going to Africa long term becomes more real.  It will be an adventure for me; it will be returning home for my dear husband. Some would say for me too, clearly, as my ancestry will include slaves taken from Africa to the plantations of the Caribbean islands.  I have many deeper thoughts on this.  I am grateful to Father to know that somewhere in my family, ancestors survived the ridiculous barbaric cruelty of slavery to have offspring and become free.  Free to grow and return. 

2nd stage assessment

Dear friends

A few weeks ago I received a letter in the post inviting me for mammogram, as part of a trial for screening younger women, those in the few years approaching 50y, which is the age breast cancer screening starts with the NHS.

So, I went. Ladies, if someone had only told me a fair amount of squashing was involved!  I could have mentally prepared myself πŸ™‚  :). 

Then, less than 2 weeks later, I was called back for 2nd stage screening.  The letter didn’t explain why, I would be told on the day. So, there were several days of anxious waiting.  I tried not to think on it.  We didn’t tell the children anything; though finally Daur1 heard my dear husband ask about the ‘hospital appointment’ and spoke with me.  We had a frank but brief discussion – if there’s anything I’ll be treated and I’m in reasonable good health so I’m sure it’ll be effective πŸ™‚  

Another two mammograms confirmed the findings of the first – an area of dense tissue on which the consultant wanted a biopsy done.  

Two hours later, an ultrasound scan plus several more mammograms – more unpleasant squashing! – and there was nothing identified to do a biopsy on!!  I was given a pink copy of a standard letter with the consultant circling her name saying, we’ll see you again in three years.

I am grateful for modern medicine and more particularly the National Health Service (NHS).  We pay into the NHS for as long as we work through national insurance contributions and taxes.  There may be lots that people moan about… Yes; I don’t particularly think it’s fair that I have to pay for eye tests and spectacles, which are not optional, I’m very short sighted… But I can’t fault that when you need help, or when investigations need doing, consultants are there and very thorough.  I’m grateful for the five women that handled me, most intimately, with care and concern.

the burning hut

Dear friends
One of my cousins passed this story to us, so I’m passing on, hoping it will encourage someone else πŸ™‚

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little
hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions.

One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, and soon there was nothing left. The worst had happened, and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. “God, how could you do this to me?” He cried.

Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” The weary man asked his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

In life it’s easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, when things are not going our way, but we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain, and suffering.

Remember this the next time your “hut” seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God. Please consider passing this message on, because “You Never Know Who Feels Like Their
Hut Is On Fire Today”

Tender mercies

Dear friends
This past weekend has seen some miracles in my life, not large scale like parting the Red Sea but equally meaningful to me and I know the hand of the Lord was involved.Β  A prophet (Thomas S. Monson) has said:

The Lord is in the detail of our lives

I truly believe that and these are the details where I saw Him in my life the past few days.  I encourage you to look out for the Lord and the Holy Ghost at work in your life – Father is always there.

1. Finding matches: Some weeks ago we noticed the match box (we use them for lighting the gas cooker) was low. They were on the shopping list but last week when we went shopping we couldn’t find them in the household goods section. None. This wasn’t critical until this weekend but my dear husband still didn’t buy them.Β  Yesterday, Sunday we used the last few and I checked with dear husband that he still had a lighter (he’d bought them to light to cooker but I find them difficult to use without lighting my thumb!) So early this morning, resigned to using a lighter, I went to my husband’s desk to find one. As I dug around the top drawer, lo and behold!, I find a small box of safety matches!! πŸ™‚

2. The conference talk: last Sunday, after sacrament meetwith as I was getting the classroom ready, for the youth Sunday School class that I teach, I was asked to give a 10-15 minute talk on the Saturday evening session of stake conference, in 6 days.  (For those of you who are not LDS, this is a large local area meeting for the church, the Saturday evening for all adults, so typically around 200 people in attendance).  The presiding area seventy had made some changes to the proposed programme and asked me to speak.  No topic – I was to be inspired, like general conference (from Salt Lake City, for everyone #LDSconf).  I looked at him and said “Me?” I was a little incredulous but was assured that this is what the Lord wants.  So last week I prepared a talk, completing it in the early hours of Saturday morning, the theme being who are we and what is our relationship with God and each other.  I timed it, 11m 30s, and practised reading it a few times.  When I was asked to sit on the stand, beside another speaker (who said she’d received her assignment some weeks ago, with a verse of scripture to base it on), I still has no idea when I was speaking or the other topics.  As the meeting began, I peered forward to check the programme held by the stake president.  I saw my name, after the intermediate hymn and right before the visiting seventy.  I was the penultimate speaker, eeekk!!  I did, however, feel a great calm as each speaker spoke. And by the time the stake president had finished, I knew that the talk I had prepared was in fact the perfect summary of the previous three – right down to the stake president using a phrase which I had written.  It was one of the most sublime experiences that I’ve had and I am humbled to know that the Lord knew that I had the personal views and experience that would meet the stake’s needs for that meeting. (I’ll post my talk separately).

3. My tablet – I have a Samsung 10.1inch Galaxy Tab 3 tablet and since a little after Easter it has not charged, at all.  I had bought some new cables, left it charging, returned from work, and nothing.  The children were interrogated. I’ve never understood the full story – “Son1 killed it” “Daur2 switched it off!” “I didn’t touch it!” You know how it goes!  I took the back off, back on, left it to rest, tried again but nothing. So, I reluctantly decided to take it to a fixer shop at the end of this month (payday!), dreading how much I’d be charged.  This morning, as I was about to go to work, I thought, let me try again, and I set it to charge.  I’ve already learnt to be patient with devices… seconds later, the screen lit up with the battery symbol, charging!!  Yeah!!! πŸ™‚

PS – when I told our daughters about the tablet charging again, they gave each other a knowing glance and Daur2, we thought it might – maybe Heavenly Father took it away so it wasn’t a distraction while you were writing your talk!!