Friday, 10 November 2017

Being human time...

Hi all...

I need to write a quick word about what's been happening this year.

It started out fabulously, then went down from there...

First with a bit of a health scare (which I'm incredibly relieved to be able to say was not cancer – I've seen too many friends fighting that in recent years). Despite not being malignant, I did still have to have the symptoms dealt with (alongside a number of other problems that came to light as a result – I'll spare you the details) – and you've no idea how much medical stuff in your chest area impede your ability to sew!

Then there was an injury to my arm / thumb – be careful when you’re pulling needles through padding, people, or you have to have your arm strapped up for weeks to prevent further ligament strain.

And (if you've been reading my fb page, you should already be aware of this), I had to move studio for a period that was meant to be a couple of weeks, and actually became a couple of months. So since August, I've been split between 3 studios, and pretty much unable to find anything when I wanted it. I'm now back in my own studio completely, but only handed the keys to the other two back on Friday last week, so I'm still in abject chaos. And all because the building contractors made a mess of the ceilings first time around.

(And, of course, this hard on the heels of a flood at home the year before, which coincided with Nigel being hospitalised at an event and me being stranded in Warwickshire.)

So the upshot is, I'm behind with my work.

I'm slowly getting caught up, and now I'm back in my own studio, with everything in one place, the speed at which I get caught up should increase, especially because I'm also now back at work full time, although I have been strictly banned from working nights as well as days (I used to work 6 days and two night a week, I got very wrong off the doctors).

Sometimes you just have to admit that you're human, and understand that if you don't slow down you'll make thing much worse.

I'm in the process of writing to everybody with an open order to make sure they're aware of what's going on, and where they stand (and to make sure they're not worried I've done a flit), so if that describes you, and you don't hear from me in the next couple of weeks (by letter), let me know.

There are also a number of orders from recent years where the client has not returned emails, or not returned a toile, or not turned up for a scheduled fitting, etc, that are technically still open and in my order book. I'll be writing to all of those clients next, checking whether they want to go ahead with the order, or whether their intention was to cancel. That's in the way of a general spruce up and tidying of the order book, now I'm back in my own little room, so I can start again nice and fresh.

Above all, I want to say sorry for the mess of this year, and to thank all my lovely clients for bearing with me and being patient, and above all adorable, and for understanding that I'm one human being, not a giant conglomerate.

You lot are awesome!

Edit - and then I go and cap it all off by putting a sewing machine through my finger, for the first time ever, since I started using sewing machines when I was 7.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Studio Movingness

You might not be aware (I didn't shout that loudly, was too busy), but I had to move out of my lovely studio in The Art House, so that they could redo the ceilings. 
(Long drawn out story involving them not being done properly first time round, a building company gone bust, and the High Court...)

They had to put scaffolding up to reach my nice high ceiling, so I got booted out for the duration.
That was back in August (offhand), and I've been split between two smaller studios ever since, working in one, and storing stuff in the other. 
Which was somewhat chaotic, because the floor space in the two little studios didn't really match the floor space in my bigger studio, so the one used for storage was crammed with stuff (literally, just stuff... stuff everywhere), and the one I was working from was a bit of a tight squeeze for the cutting table and the sewing table to both fit.

But now I can move back in!  And the ceiling does now look spiffing - and apparently this time it's properly done, so no more cracky flaky paint!!
Replastered and repainted ceiling.  (Taken with the light off so it's not just glared out.)

This is what my studio looked like for the duration (my actual studio, not the ones I was working / storing stuff in).  Yay.

I did have a slight hitch when I couldn't move out of the working studio, because they put scaffolding up outside ahead of schedule, so my 'moving back window' disappeared. 
Though the most 'interesting' part of that was the day they'd put the scaffolding up while I was in there working while wearing noise cancelling headphones, and came out to discover scaffolding going straight across the door, at chest height.  (After I shimmied and crawled out, I went and reported to the office, and the lovely buildings manager had them shift it first thing the next morning.)
But it was strange being met with this on opening the door (that door on the left of the second picture - that's my temporary working studio, that is) :

BUT.... (drumroll, for drama), I'm now back in my own studio, and have handed the keys back in to the temporary studios!  Hurrah!!  (This post has taken me a couple of days to write, during breaks between shifting stuff.)

The hitch being (there's always a hitch) that my own studio looks like this:


Pickle, the purple millinery mascot is hiding, because it's all just too much for him...

So...  Nice to be back in my own studio, with my nice glazed doors and less traffic noise...  But oh my lord, the tidying (argh).

So that's what I'm off to get back to.  MORE tidying and sorting and putting away.  

Oh, and I'm told that in the rest of the building, the flooring has to be covered with an epoxy, because the scaffolders scratched it.  That'll be happening in the next few weeks.  Thankful to say I won't have to move again for it, since they took extra care on my parquet floor, though the floor going directly up to my door will have to be done.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017


My Nana, and me.
I'd like to introduce you to my Nana.

Her name was Trudie Lough. She was (and is) the bedrock that my whole life is built on.

She died 25 years ago tonight.

She was as close as I got to a real mother, and she was the strongest, and kindest, woman I've ever known, so I'd like to share some of her life with you. It's mostly a series of anecdotes she told me over the years.

She was born Gertrude Foster in Scarborough, on the Yorkshire coast, in 1920. She never knew her father. He disappeared from the family when she was young, having drained the family finances.
As a little girl, my Nana spent a lot of time at the beach, and danced and acted – one of my great grandmother's friends was Charles Laughton's mother.

Nana was always one of those annoying girls who could see a film on Friday night, knock up a copy of what the star was wearing on Saturday, then wear it on Saturday night. Eventually, it was natural that she became an apprentice tailoress.

Her mother became sick when Nana was still a teenager, and with all the family money gone, they had to take in laundry, including the Dr's shirts, to pay the medical bills. She finally lost her mother when she was 16. Her mother was 48 years old.

On her mother's death, Nana had to leave their rented rooms. Her job wasn't enough to pay the rent on her own, and her brother (Ronnie, two years older) had already joined the army.

She packed up her things in her trunk, including the books she and her mother had won as school prizes, and the oil paintings of her mother as a girl, and her grandmother, and moved in with the family of her best friend. All her life she considered them as her second family. She always called her friend's parents Mom and Pop Hume.

Eventually, Nana got a job in service as a trainee cook, and graduated to cook in her own right. She moved to London, and got engaged.
Then the Second World War started. Her fiancé joined the navy, and the family she was with decamped from London and moved to Hitchin in Hertfordshire.

In 1940 or 41, her fiancé, whose name she never told me, was killed. His ship had been somewhere near the coast of Italy, (or possibly between Spain and Italy), when it was sunk.

One day, while still with the family in Hitchin, she apparently became despondent because her brother, who she had not seen in several years, had one day of leave in Liverpool. The man of the house liked to hang around the kitchen, because he always had as a boy (his wife didn't approve). He asked Nana why she was so sad, and Nana explained she couldn't afford to go to see her brother, even if the leave had coincided with her day off. Her boss gave her the day off. He also gave her the money to get the train to Liverpool to see Ronnie. On that trip, she met a friend of Ronnie's, a tall thin soldier who also had a day of leave. He was called George.

She left the family she'd worked for, because she'd been called up to work in a munitions factory. Her walk home from the factory involved crossing a field, with a style, in the blackout. She heard somebody coming up behind her as she got to the style, and a man tried to grab her. She stabbed him in – er – a delicate place, with the tip of her umbrella. It was the same umbrella she had when I knew her, and it was sharp – that will have hurt a lot!

Nana and George got engaged. They had the wedding all planned. The church was booked, friends and Mom and Pop Hume donated their rations and got hold of some eggs for a cake, another friend had got a worn out parachute on the black market for a dress. George's leave was cancelled.

He managed to get a short leave a few months later, at hardly any notice, and they got married in a registry office – George in battledress, and Nana in a dark blue suit. Three months later, George jumped into Arnhem.

George always said he 'got out without a scratch', which he attributed to the good luck charm of my Nana's photo in his pocket. He wasn't killed, wounded or captured, so he became one of the survivors, known as evaders, who had to escape from occupied Europe. I don't know the story of how he did, but he made it home safely (lucky for me, since I called him Granda).

After the war, Nana found herself in the north east, and by 1951, with three kids under 7, and married to a fireman (Grandad). She wasn't content with that though, because through the 50s and 60s, she and Grandad fostered around a dozen other kids for varying lengths of time.
She used to take in animal waifs and strays too - she couldn't resist, hence my childhood preventing the cats chasing the budgies, and preventing the dog chasing the cats...

She also had double pneumonia three times and a major thyroid condition, but the woman was a force of nature, and nothing kept her down long.

Till in 1977, Grandad died, at 57, from lung cancer, and she never got over it. She couldn't even bear to hear his name. Little over a decade later, her youngest son, my Dad, died at 37. And four years later, without warning, at 9.02pm, she just stopped breathing. And everything I'd ever known was gone in front of my eyes

I try not to think of her that night though.

I remember us sitting by the fire watching Fred Astaire films together; of her cooking – baking with her, and her making mushy peas using tablets of bicarbonate of soda; of her teaching me to sew and forcing me to unpick it **again**; of the horror stories she told me about nearly sewing through her finger, as she was teaching me to machine sew using the same machine; of her taking me to Newcastle every Tuesday (pension day); of her teaching me to read, and taking me to the library every week; of how she used to tell me 'no you can't do that, because it's not appropriate, dear'; of her taking me to the beach; of her reading while she watched TV, and knowing exactly what was happening in the book and the show; of her dressing me up as Shirley Temple, because she always wanted a daughter of her own, and I happened to have natural blonde ringlet curls; of playing her Bing Crosby 78s; of how she had a summer wardrobe and a winter wardrobe, and they got swapped over every autumn and spring; of how her hat and coat ALWAYS matched; of us doing the Polka and the Charleston together round the kitchen like mad things...

It's hard to think it's been 25 years since I saw her last. In some ways it feels like yesterday; in others it feels like knowing her was a dream that never really happened.

So, Trudie Lough, 24.10.1920 – 29.8.1992, this is how I'll remember you, coat and hat matching, shoes matching collar... and with Grandad.