Hello-Kitty-6x6-album

Hello Kitty is a very popular brand – not sure why but there you go, each to his or her own. The thing is, I was thinking about how to make my own 12″x12″ scrap booking paper that would be substantial enough to use to make a mini-album.

I find 12″x12″ papers can be quite expensive and in any case, I quite like having something different to work with. You can create loads of your own 12″x12″ sheets out of one roll of wallpaper if you have the time, patience and desire to do it. The ‘desire to do it’ is the key here – so if you don’t have that may I suggest you move on because without it you will just get annoyed when you get to the part where the double-sided tape gets a bit tricky to work with. Projects involving heavy-duty double-sided carpet tape take commitment, as anyone who has ever had an argument with it will know.

The Hello Kitty wallpaper was on sale at my local B&M store and as I know someone who absolutely LOVES Hello Kitty stuff, I bought a roll to cover the boards of a full size album cum scrap-book for her. That leaves me with a practically  whole roll of the paper which I am unlikely to put on my walls because I don’t have daughters who go ga ga over a pretend cat.

Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty wallpaper works really well for ‘off the wall’ projects

So this week, when I got to thinking about experimenting with making my own 12″x12″ scrap booking paper, I decided to try it with the Hello Kitty wallpaper I have sitting here doing nothing. I wanted to make a folding mini album for someone I was sending a few photographs to.

The paper turned out to be a good choice. Actually, any high quality wallpaper would be a good choice because when it is stuck together in two layers to make it double-sided, it becomes heavy-duty enough to act almost like card stock.

So here is my Hello Kitty mini-album which took about 45 minutes to make from start to finish, and that included measuring, cutting and sticking the wallpaper back to back to make the 12″x12″ scrap book paper. You may notice that the pictures are of little boys but as our family is devoid of girls, I had no choice – but you get the picture anyway. I just use glue dots to attach them. You could go fancy and use photo corners so you can take the pictures in and out.

 

Hello Kitty

 

To see the full tutorial on how to make the Hello Kitty mini album, go to: http://www.instructables.com/id/Hello-Kitty-Mini-Album/

Hello Kitty

If you arrange your pictures specifically to be the right way up when the album is standing up, you can also use it as a display stand on a shelf or window sill. Makes a nice alternative to a birthday card, with a few surprises inside.

Amazingly, when I made this 12×12 paper, I didn’t have one double-sided tape ‘incident’ so the whole thing was stress-free. Makes a change from the last album I made when I accidentally laid one sticky surface down on the beautiful front cover I had just completed and found out the hard way just how stubborn carpet tape is. Oh how I swore.

Back to the Hello Kitty wallpaper – for those of you who sell crafts at fairs and online, I think using themed, branded wallpaper or wrapping paper such as Hello Kitty or Superman or Spiderman or Frozen etc would get you out of copyright troubles if you wanted to make ‘branded’ albums to sell. My understanding is, if you are simply taking the product and using it as it is and not scanning it to make copies, you can make and sell as many as you want.

But hey, don’t take my word for that, I’m not a solicitor and if you go to prison for selling products made with Disney wallpaper just don’t mention my name in court. Do your homework first. I really don’t see how anyone can stop you buying a roll of branded wallpaper and using it for crafts to sell, if there is no scanning involved.

Or is there a Misuse of Wallpaper Act? Wouldn’t surprise me in today’s world.

I bought my paper at B&M but I did find some (more expensive than what I paid!) on Amazon. It is slightly different from the design I bought but maybe even better because the images are smaller. Anyway, here is the link:

 

Hand Made Albums – fast and furious!

Hand Made Albums

Hand Made Album using Andrew Martin International designer wallpaper

Hand made albums are very popular at craft fairs, especially around Christmas time. I have been making albums for several years now using my own hand-painted papers to make the covers but some were taking me days to make so I began to look for ways to create unique attractive hand made albums in a fraction of the time. I started experimenting with cheap wallpaper and my own handmade embellishments but found cheap wasn’t so great.

Then I discovered Andrew Martin International one day when I was wandering round John Lewis watching rich people buy very expensive pointless things.

Andrew Martin International produces some amazing and unusual designer wallpapers and whilst my budget would not stretch far beyond wood-chip paper for decorating (yes I know, ugh!), I could easily buy one roll to test out for classy looking hand made albums.

And my goodness, what a joy this paper is to use for crafting! I will never know if it is just as good to hang on walls, because I have made it my life’s work never to get involved with anything so complicated but, I would guess it is a decorator’s dream.

The picture you see here of what I call my ‘John Lennon’ hand made album was made using Andrew Martin’s Pinboard design. It is available here on www.andrewmartin.co.uk/pinboard-wallpaper.php

The images he has used to create this design are very retro and the way it is put together make it look almost 3D. I absolutely LOVE it!

I am not being paid to write this or to direct you to the company – I was just so pleased with the way this paper handled, I wanted to tell everyone – I can’t wait to get more of the other designs.

Hand Made Albums tutorial

If you are interested in learning how I made the cover boards for this album, click here to go to my tutorial on instructables.com

I haven’t done a tutorial to explain how I do the binding because it is explained so well in the YouTube tutorial where I learned how to do Coptic binding. My early hand made albums looked very pretty but they would never open right up and lay flat because of the way I bound them. You can find the tutorial here at Sea Lemon.

Using the Coptic binding method means that your albums will open up completely at any page and lay flat, ideal for sketch books or scrap books. So click here to go to that tutorial.

I hope you enjoy making some hand made albums – do share what you make and send me some pictures. You can easily make one in a couple of hours.

The cover boards I use tend to be recycled grey board that I buy from a local paper company who cut them to size. They also cut my pages to size, double the width I need so I can fold them and stack them in sets of four to make up the ‘folios’ needed for Coptic binding.

But I have also used cereal boxes for many of my albums and that works just fine too. Once the boards are covered, no one is bothered what your hand made albums are made of.

So click over to my instructables.com tutorial and get working on your hand made albums asap. They really do make great presents because they are all unique and you can make them as embellished or plain as you want.

Happy album making!

Bottle cap pendants are fun to make and will give you endless hours of creativity – a great alternative to housework.

 

Bottle cap Pendants

A Collection of Bottle Cap Pendants

 

Bottle Cap Pendants

Eye See You Key-rings

 

Before you rush out to buy a case of beer – I will just tell you, it isn’t advisable to make bottle cap pendants from the caps you get off drink bottles.

There are three main reasons why you shouldn’t use beer bottle caps to make bottle cap pendants:

• They are bent from being prized off the bottle
• They have a plastic lining which is hard to get off
• Jewellery made while drinking beer is usually not your best work – be honest, it’s not is it?

But that’s OK because you can get some nice shiny bottle caps with no nasty plastic lining by clicking on the resource links at the end of this article.

So – what will you need to make the kind of fun bottle cap pendants I have been creating instead of being a good housewife?

You will need:

• Some heavy rock music to help you forget about the dust you should be moving around.
• A supply of bottle caps – the colour is your choice.
• A supply of 1 inch round images (If you do not have any of your own – go to https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/201707561/downloadable-images-for-scrapbooking? where you will find my downloadable designs at very low-cost).
• A 1 inch punch.
• Some double-sided sticky tape.
• A supply of 1 inch resin domes.
• A supply of 9mm split rings.
• A selection of small metal charms.
• A supply of silver/gold/black curb chains or leather thongs or 1mm black elastic.
• A small craft hammer.
• A rigid, clean cutting mat.
• A 1.8mm pair of hole punch pliers.
• A pair of split ring tweezers.

I will provide links below for most of the above items. The craft hammer and cutting mat I use are from the Dove crafting tool set listed in the resources below.

How to Make Bottle Cap Pendants

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 1

Bottle Cap Pendants

Bottle Cap Pendants Step 1

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 2

Take your bottle cap and use the 1.8mm punch pliers to make holes directly opposite each other. To make the first hole, turn the cap over so the fluted edge is pointing downwards and punch a tiny hole in one of the ‘dips’ in the fluted edge.

Bottle Cap Pendants

Punch Your Holes

Turn the bottle cap over so the fluted edge is pointing upwards and and count the ‘bumps’ in the fluted edge (see pic below) until you get to the tenth bump. Position your punching pliers in between bumps 10 and 11 and make another tiny hole. The two holes should be directly opposite each other.

 

Bottle Cap Pendants

Count the ‘bumps’ to align the holes

 

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 3

This is where you flatten down the fluted edge of the cap. You will need to use a rigid, clean cutting mat for this part. You need a firm surface on which to hammer the edge down but it must not scratch the back of the bottle cap. Using your fingers to  hold down one side of the bottle cap, firmly tap away at the other edge while gradually turning it. The idea is turn the edge down to make it flatter.

 

Bottle Cap Pendants

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 4

Cut a small piece of double sided sticky tape to fit inside the bottle cap and stick it in position.

 

Bottle Cap Pendants

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 5

Choose an image from a sheet of 1 inch round images and use the 1inch punch to carefully cut it out. (Click here to buy my downloadable 1 inch images https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/201707561/downloadable-images-for-scrapbooking? ) I always turn my punch upside down so I can line the circle up perfectly before cutting. I have also removed the little plastic cover from the bottom of my punch so I can see more easily.

Bottle Cap Pendants

 

Bottle Cap Pendants

 

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 6

Hold your circle with the image facing upwards and peel a resin dome off the plastic sheet. Very carefully line up the dome with the edges of the image and press down firmly. It should be a perfect fit with no overlap. It does take practice but becomes easier with experience.

Bottle Cap Pendants

 

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 7

Peel the backing paper off the sticky tape in the bottle cap. Making sure that the top of your image aligns with the top hole in the bottle cap, press the resin dome and image firmly into the bottle cap and smooth with your thumbs.

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 8

Using your split ring pliers, open the split rings and fit them into the top and bottom holes in the bottle cap edge. You can use your thumb nail to open the rings but if you make lots of these, you will find the pliers are better.

Step 9

Attach a metal charm to the bottom split ring.

Bottle Cap Pendants

Bottle Cap Pendants – Step 10

Add a leather thong with lobster clasp or, a length of 1mm black elastic tied in a knot and there you have you first piece of bottle cap jewellery to wear, sell at craft fairs or give away as presents.

Bottle Cap Pendant

Please use the contact form to ask questions.

To obtain most of the resources I have used in this tutorial – follow these links:-

Loom bands – love them or hate them, at least they are keeping children busy during the school holidays!

 

Loom Bands

Loom Band charm ideas for you

 

And it isn’t just kids who are going Loom Band crazy, it’s mums too and even dads, Grandmas and Grandads. Everyone is getting in on the act! So this is my spin on making Loom Bands slightly more personalized and different to plain bracelets with plastic S or C clips holding them together. I’ve been adding metal to mine by using split rings and Tibetan Silver charms.

I have been using two, three or four split rings on most Loom Band bracelets  to get them to hang nicely. I prefer split rings to jump rings because they can’t come part and fall off. And I use silver, gold or black depending on the main colors in the bracelet or necklace I am making.

Loom Bands

Charming Loom Bands

As I sporadically make all kinds of jewellery, I have hundreds of metal charms stashed away in my craft collection – so I had loads to choose from to add to my Loom Band bracelets and necklaces. You can find some brilliant metal charms for your Loom Bands creations by following the links below.

And for some great ideas on how to turn a pile of Loom Bands into funky creations to color co-ordinate with your wardrobe, check out this fantastic new book by Kat Roberts and Tessa Sillars-Powell which is due out on August 20th 2014. It is a brilliant resource for everyone from beginner to more advanced and even has tips for how to  make Loom Band jewellery on the move. Or these other super books to help you be the envy of your friends.

Loom Bands

Black Heart and Angel Wing Designs

Using split rings to attach your charms is the key to success as it is difficult to get the bands through some of the charms and they hang much better from split rings. You can get a variety of split rings by clicking on the links below.

 

I mainly use 9 or 10mm rings in my projects but the size you order depends on what look you want and how big your charms are. For help adding your split rings and charms to your Loom Bands, I have found the split ring tweezers above are a huge help and save your nails!

 

Loom Bands

Use split rings to attach metal charms to Loom Bands

 

Loom Bands

Matching hearts on bracelet and necklace Loom Bands

Have fun with Loom Bands!

 

Loom Bands – Exciting news!

Loom Bands

Some Loom Band charm ideas

Loom Band fans take note – on August 20th 2014 a new book is coming out to help you create the most awesome bracelets, charms and necklaces ever!

And you can get it the day after it comes out by following the link below and selecting First Class post at checkout stage.

Loom Bands are the latest craze —from the school yard and slumber parties to craft rooms and beyond, everyone can join in the fun.

Using a small and inexpensive plastic loom or simply just your fingers, it’s possible to create an infinite array of bright and colorful rings, bracelets, accessories, and gifts from nothing more than simple rubber bands known as Loom Bands. It’s the quick, easy and accessible craft that’s taking the world by storm.

Loom Band It provides step-by-step instructions for 60 original projects, using every color in the rainbow. Make a ring to match every outfit, swap bracelets with your friends and customize your handbags with bespoke rubber band straps. There’s even tutorials for super cool sandals and an eye-catching cell phone sleeve, too. What could be more rewarding than presenting friends, family and neighbors with a custom-made fun and funky rubber band gift.

Loom Bands have never been so popular and these tutorials give you all you need to make your own elaborate patterns and designs, as well as providing inspiration for customizing your crafts. Ping through these loom ideas, stretch your imagination, and you’ll become an accomplished Loomineer in no time!

And it isn’t only children who have been taken by Loom Bands madness – only yesterday I saw a newspaper feature about Mel Barron, an Ipswich woman who took up the craze while recovering from a serious operation. See the full color feature here.

Mel talks about how she found making bracelets and charms very relaxing, which was a great relief for me as I thought I was the only person over the age of 12 who leaves a trail of Loom Bands round the house!

As a newbie to this easy, fun and gentle craft, I will definitely be one of the first to get this fantastic little book when it comes out on August 20th. Order your copy now!

Hurricane Bertha blew herself into an ex-hurricane while sweeping through the Caribbean and then weakened into an Atlantic storm, according to one newspaper at the end of last week. But she confounded all the weather forecasters who on Saturday warned her off-spring storm may or may not hit the UK.

Hurricane Bertha

Were these storm clouds in Essex today anything to do with the remains of Hurricane Bertha?

After the Met Office’s chief forecaster Eddy Carroll warned there was ‘considerable uncertainty’ about the UK’s weather this weekend, I thought it was pointless hiding in the cupboard under the stairs any longer and decided to venture out.

After several bouts of torrential rain and high winds in our part of Suffolk over Saturday night into Sunday morning, the sun came out and all was good. Then the rain came back and everything went dark again and I decided the remains of Hurricane Bertha was in one of those moods where she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

During a prolonged period of sun, we decided to visit Harwich in Essex to walk on the beach. We hadn’t been there long when Bertha’s remains rose up again and tried to rip my hair off.

As I stood fighting with my hoodie, I heard my husband utter the words ‘holy shit, we need to get back to the car’. I turned round to follow his horror-struck gaze, the above scene is what I saw.

If this was indeed anything to do with Hurricane Bertha, I’d hate to have seen the real deal at the height of her power.

Nice one Hurricane Bertha, you did give us some interesting skies in Suffolk and Essex today. We were thankful that was all you gave us after the misery you caused elsewhere.

Hurricane Bertha

Queen Victoria was not amused by the threat of a storm overhead in Harwich.

Raspberry Ketone – why are people fighting over short supplies of these pills in shops?

Raspberry Ketone was a mystery to me until last week when I witnessed three women arguing over the one remaining bottle of the ‘wonder’ pills in a health food shop. Each was clearly desperate not to live another day without Raspberry Ketone.

Raspberry Ketone

Can these REALLY melt fat?

These three middle-aged, sensible looking, well-dressed women had flecks of foam round their mouths and were squaring up to each other when I left. I wondered what on earth was so important about a small pot of capsules that could make respectable women act like rival gang-members if they couldn’t get their fix of Raspberry Ketone.

The girl behind the counter said the pills were selling out as soon as they came in, so I rushed straight home to Google it. I found that Christina Aguilera and other such people who spend their lives trying to defy gravity, are shouting about a miracle weight loss product (yawn yawn) from the roof-tops. Or in Christina’s case from the Jay Leno show in the USA. The article then goes on to say she is referring to Raspberry Ketone.

On the website, we are shown how this ‘fat burning wonder’ transformed Christina Aguilera from a cuddly looking overweight Zsa Zsa Gabor into a stick-thin Barbie Doll without lifting a finger, apart from the ones, I assume, putting the Raspberry Ketone pills into her mouth. She claims, according to the website, to have lost 42lbs in six weeks with these pills. Oh, I nearly forgot, you also need to take another product with it called Aloe Cleanse.

Raspberry Ketone – can it reveal toned abs hiding under the fat once it has ‘melted’ away?

When I saw the ‘before’ image of Christina, (click here to see the webpage) I immediately had a flashback to an episode of Friends where they needed to make Monica look very fat. She was made ‘fat’ with the use of prosthetics. I am not saying that is what has been done here – it just reminded me of the pretend ‘fat’ Monica… that’s all.

You will see on the same page, there is an incredible array of stars such as Jennifer Anniston and Victoria Beckham alongside claims that they ‘confess’ to the use of Raspberry Ketone and Aloe Cleanse. Its use, apparently,  is the ‘secret to their incredible figures’. Oh – so it’s not all the exercise done under the tuition of an expert personal trainer then?

There are also before and after shots of more ordinary, podgy people who have shed loads of fat to reveal the beautifully toned tummies that were apparently hiding underneath. Hurrah!

So do we all have amazing abs hiding under layers of fat? Am I wasting my time working hard to keep my core muscles strong when all I need to do is take a pill?

Maybe Raspberry Ketone is a wonder pill for increasing metabolism, melting fat and increasing energy I can’t say one way or the other, but I don’t believe it will give you the body of a ‘star’ who spends several hours a day working out with or without a trainer, unless you work at it the way they do.

As far as I am aware, if you don’t work to tone and maintain muscle health, they will not become toned and strong on their own.

While there are no claims on the website that the pills will give you a toned body as well as melting fat, the images used on the page do make it look as if the podgy people in the pictures were delighted to magically find amazing, toned bodies under the fat.

But if you scroll to the bottom of the page, past all the glowing comments and claims of success from Joe public, you will see a disclaimer notice written in a dull colour on a black background. It is clearly not designed to stand out. Read it and then, go back to the top and read it all again with the disclaimer in mind.

It does make me wonder if you are more likely to lose £s rather than lbs – just saying…

Although I don’t want to lose weight, I would be quite happy to have my metabolism revved up a little more and I wouldn’t mind having my energy boosted to help me increase my running time on the treadmill. It isn’t a massive issue – I can manage 30 minutes at a good pace without a problem but it will be interesting to see if I can get into the next Olympics with these ‘wonder’ pills.

So I have obtained some Raspberry Ketone from Holland & Barratt and have taken the first two today. I will let you know if my metabolism goes into overdrive and whether or not I can run any harder or further than I could before.

However, if the amazing claims about weight loss really are true, I may just disappear.

I think it is only fair that I tell you though, I took my first pill after breakfast today and according to the thousands of ‘testimonials’ from people online, I should  be feeling full of energy by now. However, it is 4.15pm and I am flagging. This is because I need some water, an apple, some fresh air and a good long walk to pep me up just as I always do at this point in the day.

If you want a balanced view of Raspberry Ketone, click here to visit this site www.funintofit.com/raspberry-ketones-scam-miracle-weight-loss-supplement/.

And for information on more realistic ways to maintain a fit, healthy, slender body not to mention  a healthy mind, have a look at Leslie Kenton’s amazing book Age Power.

World War 1 – Thoughts on the 100 Year Anniversary

World War 1 Memorial
World War 1 – All those who fell during the unspeakable carnage of a war that was supposed to ‘end all wars’, are back in the public consciousness now that we have reached the 100 year milestone of Britain’s entry into the war.

It always moves me when I see the World War l graves both here and in France and am reminded of the tender ages many of the soldiers were.

Walking past each grave and seeing the ages of the men is always a sobering experience  but they would all, of course, be dead by now even if they had lived out their natural lives.

But many of the younger ones would have had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren  if war had not robbed them of the chance. The older ones who already had children left behind them a generation deprived of fathers whose lives were wiped out in the relentless hell of barbed wire, bullets and bombs they had no hope of beating.

Many of those who did return were not the same men who left to go to war and found it hard to fit back into normal life again.

The grim reality of trench warfare is way beyond the comprehension of most of us but if you click here you can go to Part 1 of a four-part series on shell-shock which gives a very good insight into what the soldiers suffered both on and off the battlefield. It isn’t for the faint-hearted so please do not follow this link if you  are adversely affected by graphic images of  mental suffering.

Shell-shocked is a term we all use in everyday life to describe some ‘catastrophe’ we have encountered as in ‘I was totally shell-shocked when I saw the price of Nike trainers’ but after seeing this film, I will never use that term again unless I am unfortunate enough to find myself with a nervous system shot to bits by a war.

It’s never a good thing to dwell on misery but I do think it is important to remember, from time to time, that World War 1 was touted as being ‘the war to end all wars’ and millions of people believed what they were told as they went off to be killed, maimed or to develop a serious, much misunderstood mental illness because the horrific reality of the war was too much to bear.

World War 1

Everlasting Rest

Maybe it would all have been worthwhile if it really had been ‘the war to end all wars’. Maybe if  the senseless deaths of young men and women of all nationalities were not still happening, we could say that the misery of World War 1 was worth it.

Am I missing something? But doesn’t war make millions for all those who rely on lengthy conflicts to keep their armaments factories turning a healthy profit?

Isn’t that why innocent people continue to die and adventurous young men and women  all over the world continue to  be seduced by the glorified call to join their country’s army?

It does seem pretty crazy to me that we are sitting here 100 years away from World War 1 saying how terrible it was while people are engaged in vicious fighting at this very minute and wealthy factory owners are churning out the means to keep it going. Not to mention the share-holders who live quite nicely off the proceeds.

It is all very well for the Great and the Good to lead public displays of emotion about a War that happened 100 years ago but it all seems a little hollow when you consider the roles our leaders are still playing in wars all over the world today.

We really are a strange bunch.

 

St. Pancras station in rush hour was the last place I expected to have an uplifting cultural experience with a complete stranger and a massive sculpture.

St. Pancras

Wandering around St. Pancras beats doing housework!

After leaving my sleepy little coastal town at silly o’clock in the morning to catch a London bound train, I found myself at St. Pancras in rush hour with  an hour to kill before meeting someone off another train.

My visits to London are sporadic enough to make main line train stations such as St. Pancras interesting. They make a change from watching the tide go in and out at home.

For me, being in a bustling place full of people rushing here and there is like watching a live play with no obvious plot or ending. The curtain always goes up once I find a place to sit on the edge of it all and cease to be a part of the center-stage action.

As a former press and PR photographer, I never go anywhere, (even to the corner shop), without a camera.

So on this day, I wandered up to the concourse at St. Pancras to see what I could see. It looks more like a shopping centre now of course and as I sussed out the best place to sit and watch ‘the play’ I noticed a blue piano sitting under a flight of stairs.

St Pancras

A Far Cry From London’s Hustle and Bustle – My Usual Habitat

I briefly mulled over the idea of giving passers-by a rendition of my only piano party-piece which is roughly the same as all other non-piano players’ party pieces but with the musical flair of Les Dawson playing deliberately badly .  I quickly decided that Chopsticks played out of tune in public could bring me the kind of notoriety I don’t want.

Enter a member of the commuting public who left Chopsticks behind a very long time ago. As I watched, he sat himself down at the piano and began to play. That was the moment the curtain went up and St. Pancras truly became a theatre for me.

Naturally, I began filming, as I do in these off-the-wall situations. As I filmed this mystery piano man, his fingers danced  with the keys to produce a surreal and beautiful soundtrack to the story of a St. Pancras morning.

This was the theatre of life at its best for me. I interspersed my filming with stills and watched, transfixed as most people just hurried past, faces already set with the stresses of their days. A few people stopped to listen; some turned their heads and looked his way as they sped past being chased by the hands of time. Michael , as I later learned the pianist was called, was the calm in the eye of the St. Pancras early morning storm.

St. Pancras Piano Comes To Life

St. Pancras Piano Man

Does anyone have time to stop and listen?

His music flowed from the blue upright piano to compete bravely with the rattle of delivery trolleys, the hubbub of chatter, the clatter of footsteps, the screeching of children, the scraping of suitcase wheels on stone and the disembodied, echoing voice of the station announcer.

Notes seemed to chase each other from the piano in perfect order, sent out with feeling by a man who was just on his way to work but, who stopped for a moment to share his talent with whoever was there.

St. Pancras Piano Man

Time to stand still

 

There was a moment of panic for me as Michael stopped playing and began to gather his sheets of music together. I had seconds in which to fight with my fears and simply walk over and tell him how much I enjoyed the performance and hopefully, find out who he was.

So this is where being more mature comes in handy; my irrational fears lost their battle and I went over to introduce myself to Michael who, as it happened was just a nervous as me but for different reasons.

There was very little time to talk. He was on his way to work and I had someone to meet in another part of St. Pancras before attending a seminar. We exchanged cards and agreed to chat via e-mail. I explained that I have a blog and would like to use the pictures I took.

He asked me what my blog was about and I couldn’t easily tell him because it is about ‘anything except housework’ – so take your pick! It also wasn’t live then. When we went our separate ways, back in the grooves of our conventional days, I still had half an hour to kill.  My conventional groove was spending the day in a nearby hotel conference room at the seminar, but I was spiritually uplifted by several notches, elevated by Michael’s micro-concert at St. Pancras.

I wandered away from the piano and went to see what else I could find at St. Pancras that may push my spirits even higher before disappearing into a windowless room in the basement of the Holiday Inn for the rest of the day.

St. Pancras Meeting Place

And I was not disappointed. I climbed the stairs to the platforms of St. Pancras Station and went through the arch where I was completely blown away by the gigantic bronze sculpture that is Paul Day’s ‘The Meeting Place’.

For those who don’t know, ‘The Meeting Place’ is a 9 metre tall sculpture of a couple in a warm embrace. The story of this sculpture and the incredible frieze that encircles the base is a fascinating one which cannot be covered here. More on Paul Day and the origins of The Meeting Place sculpture at St. Pancras can be found on the BBC website by clicking here.

 

St Pancras

The Meeting Place by Paul Day

The sheer size of the statue, along with the emotion of what it portrays brought a lump to my throat and yes, I was lifted even higher in the groove of my day.

City dwellers may think I am easily pleased by such simple things – the things that every-day commuters and cultured Londoners take for granted. But actually, I am glad that I live in a small coastal village where my biggest concern is not falling off the promenade into the sea when I walk there planning my day. I prefer that kind of challenge as opposed to not falling off the platform at Moorgate tube station as I fight to get to work.

St Pancras

The Beautiful Canopy at St Pancras Station.

It means that I don’t take a random pianist or a beautiful sculpture at St Pancras for granted when I chance to see them. It means that such things still get me right in the heart and instantly lift me. It means I don’t rush past them with a frown on my face with no time to stop and really enjoy them.

Having said that, I did run out of time before I discovered the nearby John Betjeman statue. I spent so long looking at The Meeting Place statue and taking pictures that I was almost late getting to my meeting place.

By the time my pre-arranged day began in the basement conference room of the Holiday Inn, I hardly cared about it any more. The random happenings during the spare, unstructured hour I had at St. Pancras were the highlight of my day.

I couldn’t wait to get home to research the public pianos that Michael told me were placed at various locations in London for anyone to play. I also couldn’t wait to research Paul Day and find out the story of his beautiful sculpture and frieze.

St Pancras

Detail around the base of the Paul Day Sculpture

Most of all, I wanted to get back and fire off questions to the mystery piano man of St. Pancras to find out his story. As I got to know him over the coming days, via our emails, I realised that if I had known the background of the mystery pianist, I may not have had the confidence to approach him.

Old insecurities do die-hard and I have never thought people with doctorates would have any truck with someone who left school with a 15 yard swimming certificate (university study came later for me, in my 40s).

I now know from my research, Michael, or Dr. Bull as he known professionally, is a highly respected scientist in his field. He works with complicated environmental issues regarding air quality, the likes of which I could not even begin to understand.

Thankfully my curiosity about the piano at St Pancras, and the man who was playing it, was strong enough to push me to speak to him. Otherwise, I would never have known that seemingly confident men have their vulnerabilities and fears and more importantly, are completely approachable.

St Pancras

Michael Bull Playing to Commuters

At the piano, Michael appeared supremely confident and sure of his ability as a performer. However, nothing could have been further from the truth. As his fingers slipped so easily over the keys, expertly teasing out pieces by Bach, Mendelssohn, Gershwin, Nyman and other eminent composers, he was actually pushing his own self-confidence boundaries in readiness for a diploma exam he was due to undertake in front of an audience within weeks. (See more recent news about the outcome at the end of this post.)

When I later asked about confidence, he told me he has no problem presenting data to a conference full of people, without any hint of nerves. But when it comes to playing the piano in public it is quite a different thing and he admits he suffers the fear of public humiliation just like anyone else, despite the easy manner I believed I saw at St. Pancras.

However, he pushes himself to face those fears and grow in confidence. We are worlds apart in many ways but when it comes to self-confidence, perhaps men and women aren’t so different.

St Pancras

One Little Girl With Time to Stand and Stare

One thing is for sure, I am so glad that my more mature years have allowed me to push the boundaries of my self-confidence comfort zone a little further or else I would never have spoken to the ‘piano man of St. Pancras’ and gained such a rich insight into his world. Especially as I was never likely to encounter  him in my everyday world at home.

And further, I am really thankful to have been one of the few people at St. Pancras that day with enough spare time to stand still while a stranger courageously performed to a fast-moving, suitcase dragging, briefcase toting, coffee guzzling audience at St Pancras station during rush hour.

Long may it go on – I really love wandering around in the world doing anything except housework.

If you would like to see the film clips and pictures of the St. Pancras Brief Encounter click here.

(Since I first wrote this post, Michael passed his diploma exam with flying colours. His tremendous focus, along with hour upon hour of study, practice and performance earned him a pass-mark of 87% at upper level. It is true what they say, the harder you work, the ‘luckier’ you get. Well done Michael!)

Anyone with a passion for architecture may be interested to know – since my visit to St. Pancras, I have discovered and ordered a book called The Transformation of St. Pancras Station.  I have provided a link below. It does look like an excellent read from what I saw on the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon.

Hair Dryer Break Down

Curly hair may not be high on the list of things to worry about in life – unless of course you are one of those women whose hair has a life of its own and the hair dryer has broken.

Hair Dryer Break Down

Bad Hair Day

When my hair dryer exploded yesterday, I had visions of having to go out in public with honest hair. Curly hair to be precise. That is not something I have done since I escaped the clutches of my mother. She always insisted that people only made fun of the gold frizz framing my tear-stained face because they were jealous.

I bought into that notion up until the age of seven when I became suspicious of this alleged jealousy. Why would anyone with beautiful sleek pigtail covet a head of hair that always appeared to be arguing with itself? Why would a little girl who could toss her hair around at will and casually flick it over her shoulder, want hair that just wobbled? Hair that grows outwards rather than downwards is never good news. Why would anyone want curly hair?

My life may have been easier if we’d had a hair dryer that went above 10 watts to actually dry hair rather than just  breathe on it gently.

Curly Hair Bites the Dust In Canada

Life change dramatically for me when I went to North America at 19 and discovered hair dryers that could blow your head off. Enter sleek, manageable hair for the first time in nearly 20 years. I loved it. Curly hair bit the dust. Once my hair looked like hair rather than a rusty pan scourer, I even started to like the color that had drawn incessant bullying in my younger years.

However, with relief comes paranoia. What if my hair dyer explodes half way through drying? What if I have to go out to buy a new one with half my hair looking socially acceptable and the other half as if it wants me to join a circus?

Hair-dryer

My honest hair – not seen very often since GHDs came along

To combat this ceaseless worry, I have always kept a second hairdryer as backup along with a selection of hats in case the backup lets me down as well. And this system has worked well for 38 years. My hair has not had its own way in all that time and has been forced, on a daily basis, to lie about its true nature.

It all worked well until yesterday when my current hair dryer exploded in my hand. When I say exploded, I mean it went phut and flashed orange before emitting a puff of smoke. Perhaps ‘exploded’ is a little dramatic. As the smoke dissipated, it dawned on my that for the first time in 38 years, I did not have a back up hair dryer in the house. I immediately went into OMG! mode. I did consider calling the emergency services but instead screamed for my husband to come upstairs and rescue me from the shame of honest hair.

Curly Hair

He didn’t get it; he just shrugged when I said the hair dryer had exploded. He commented that it couldn’t have exploded that much as it was still in one piece. I picked it up and frantically flicked the on/off switch to show him that it had indeed exploded somewhere inside because it wouldn’t work. Thankfully, the room still smelt of hair dryer smoke and he finally agreed that yes, it had exploded and could he please now get back to the World Cup news. I would like to point out here that my husband has no use for a hair dryer and does not understand their vital importance in life.

So I then hid indoors until my hair air-dried and I was able to use my GHDs to wrestle my hair into submission. We then went into town to wander the bookshops, as we do on a Saturday, and,  get a new hairdryer. Unfortunately, my attention got drawn away from the hair issue by the weather and the resulting empty beach. I could see the sea from the main street and the heavy skies above made me think camera rather than hair dryer. So that is where I went – down to the people-free, rain spattered beach where I lost track of time photographing waves (with my hoody over my precious smooth hair of course!). By the time I got tired of that, the shops were all closed.

Currly hair

I blame the photogenic seascape for sidetracking me that day.

Power Cord As Curly As My Hair!

The hair dryer situation didn’t enter my head again until this morning when I stepped out of the shower. I screamed. My husband shot up the stairs in response and I proceeded to explain why it was his fault that I forgot to buy a hairdryer yesterday. It wasn’t a very robust argument. We then sat down to study the exploded hair dryer. Since I first got it 18 months ago, the power cord has been a pain.

Curly hair

It has become more and more twisted despite frequently hanging it up all day to unwind. We decided that the constant twisting had broken the wires where they enter the handle and it was this that caused the ‘explosion’. So fix it then, I said, you know about wires. My husband pointed out that the hair dryer is a sealed unit with no screws anywhere.

So I shut him in the dining room with the hair dryer and his tool box and asked him not to come out until it was fixed. I hinted that I would probably have to report him to the local council for not being committed to keeping landfill to a minimum if he didn’t fix the hair dryer.

Meanwhile, I began to research the problem of twisted hair dryer leads on Google and found that I am not the only person frustrated by this problem.Hair Dryer lead

I studied the lead on my GHDs, which never twists, and found it rotates from the handle.

Hair Dryer

This swivel action stops the lead from twisting as you constantly turn it this way and that around your head day after day. So why don’t hair dryers have that feature? Particularly as twisted wires lead to broken wires and explosions that ultimately lead to curly hair.

During all my Googling, I discovered a hair dryer on Amazon called the Valera Professional Swiss Nano 6000. It has a cable called a Rotocord that is designed to combat the problem of twisted and tangled power cords.

Just as I was about to release my husband from the dining room, I heard the familiar sound of my hair dryer working once again. He wasn’t very impressed when I said I didn’t actually want the hair dryer anymore because it scared me and wouldn’t it be better if we just spent £36 on this lovely Swiss one that wouldn’t explode?

Anyway, once I had retrieved the hair dryer from the light fixture where it got caught as my husband threw it up in the air in frustration, I thought I would keep it until I save up for the more sensible one with a rotating cord.Then I went and thanked my husband for his endeavors and as a little show of appreciation, I promised to keep quiet during weekend sports on TV and not ask if I can watch mindless TV on catch-up instead.

The Valera Professional Swiss Nano 6000 (with the much safer power cord situation) has only one review on Amazon so far but, it is a glowing one.

There is another option that could work quite well since the cord is already curly and saves all the hassle of fighting with a straight one.

My plan is to give my husband a list of Health & Safety reasons as to why we should buy the Valera, without criticising the excellent job he did of fixing our unfixable exploding hair dryer and covering the join with a wodge of insulation tape. I will let you know what the new hair dryer is like because I am pretty sure I will have one sooner rather than later.

And yes, I do receive a teeny tiny commission if you click through and buy a hairdryer but that is not what my posts are about. My post is real – I really do have curly hair and my hairdryer really did explode – well sort of!

Just checked the hairdryer link and Amazon says it is out of stock now anyway – may never be back in either – damn!

#MidLifeLuv Linky