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. 

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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.  

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!!

thoughts on these times – September 11

Dear friends

It’s been a while but trust me, I’ve been particularly good with daily personal journal writing this last month or so.  It’s been busy with the end of summer, results days, back to school and college for the children and new year out assistants at work.

Today is September 11th. The day when 15 years ago, for many of us, life changed as we knew it.  I’ve seen a few things on Facebook – it’s probably a date that, so far, has defined 21st century government responses to war, conflict and terrorism.

When I moved to London, five years before those aeroplane attacks, I was aware of bins and post boxes being sealed, I’d experienced bomb scares in the underground; the IRA was the primary organisation identified but then I recall other attacks that began in Brixton, London with a nail bomb outside Iceland supermarket one morning.  Brixton is one of the black areas of London with high proportion of Caribbean and African descent residents.  It was truly awful.  Then, a week or so later, another similar bombing on Brick Lane, heart of one of the Asian London communities.  And then, Soho, Central London was targeted, a bar and 3 people died.  The attacker was arrested not long after.  A lone attacker, apparently a Neo Nazi. Having just checked BBC news, his attacks all took place within 13 days.  Living in London at the time, it was terrifying, not knowing if your community would be next and trying to maintain your regular life.  

I’m recalling this and thinking that 15 years ago was truly awful – the scale of impact I’d not experienced before.  I was at work, lunchtime, and a colleague was on the phone to her daughter who worked for an investment bank in the City (of London). My colleague began telling us what her daughter was relaying that the New York office said a plane had gone into a tower, and there was another.  We began logging into the internet and soon after my dear husband phoned, he was home with our two children, asking if I knew what was happening, that he was watching the news.  We know the rest. 

Things were awful then. And before that event.  And since that event.  Since then we’ve had the 7 July 2005 bomb attacks on the London Underground, the Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall, the school girls in Nigeria, Charlie Hebdo office, Norway youth attacks, Paris and Nice, France, not to mention numerous individuals who have lost their lives in tragic and seemingly avoidable or random circumstances.

But despite all this, I don’t despair.  I do have a hope and I do believe that life can be great and wonderful and happy 🙂  We are not alone.  We never have been and the God of the universe knows us and stands ready and able to comfort and strengthen us through the craziest times and emotions that we may have to face.  

The Lord loves us.  Keep going! Strive!

This is a bit longer than I thought to write but hopefully this will be of help to you in some way and that you enjoy the video and the rest of your Sabbath day. 

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.  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.  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!! 🙂

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!!! 🙂

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!!

miracles

Dear friends

“Why don’t we see things like that now?  Why is it always a long time ago?”  These were questions our youngest, Son2, asked me a few evenings ago, as we were reading about Jesus visiting the people after his resurrection  (3 Nephi chapter 11) and how they heard the voice of heavenly Father introduce Jesus – ‘Behold, my Beloved Son…’ 

I think many of us have asked that question – do miracles still happen today?  I explained a couple of things to him. 

First, that miracles do happen today, in our family lives, everything is not coincidence. 

I reminded him of the door key incident.  We – the children and I – had all gone out one Saturday afternoon to the library and the market – this was when my dear husband was away studying.  As we headed back down the road towards the house I became aware that I did not have the house keys.  We checked all bags, pockets, hands. Nothing. I am not prone to forgetting things and our door is such that it won’t close properly without using the key.  So I was worried.  No neighbour has a spare key and no back door left open.  So I encouraged the children to pray as we approached the house.  I think Son1 and Daur2 ran on ahead and then quickly one of them ran back – a look of joyful shock on their face.  “They were in the door!!” they exclaimed.  The keys were in the lock.  The house was locked,  nothing disturbed outside or inside, after a quick check.  I offered thanks to Father and we discussed the many possibilities of the keys miracle – had I actually lost them outside but an angel put them in the door? were they made invisible so no passersby took them out the door?  I don’t know. But, for the older children and me, it’s a miracle.  Son2 would have been under 5 years so probably doesn’t remember everything about it. I reminded Son2 of other more personal miracles to him, such as when he has been healed.

Second, I reminded him that we live before the time that Jesus will come back, and that maybe we would be alive when He comes back.  If so, I’m fairly certain Heavenly Father will introduce Jesus and all the world will experience His return to Earth. 

Third and finally, I shared that first we need to trust Father and Jesus (have faith in Them) and then miracles and signs will follow, not the other way round. 

I was reminded of the verses in Moroni 7 where he quotes words from his father, Mormon, saying:

it is by faith that miracles are wrought… if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief,  and all is vain.

I hope I never stop believing. The truth is very simple to understand, and beautifully simple to live.  It does take effort, especially since we are not wrapped in cotton wool, but that is why Father does give us help and miracles.  He loves and will always love you, me, them, us.

happily tired

Dear friends
When our eldest daughter woke me up to go running this morning, it was from the strangest dream. One of my incisors fell out and the leader of the opposition (well, before parliament was dissolved ahead the election in two weeks) was visiting a school project that I’d worked on.  It was embarrassing, trying to stay unseen and toothless.
So when our youngest son said he’d also had a strange dream but he didn’t want to talk about it, I can respect that!
The run/ walk was great and it’s great to see buildings in a different daylight, the sun not so high in the sky, different reflections of different building faces, than we usually see during working hours. 
And although I usually start my days with some scripture readings to feed my spirit; the run was also a great start as I know I am taking care of my body. I did do scripture reading this evening – and I am very grateful for our Heavenly Father who loves all of us and allows us to all be different.
I know I’m rambling a bit, I’m tired, maybe that’s what I’ll title this post, but it’s a good tired, and I’m sure to sleep well 🙂