Have I done something new if I don’t chose my new activity with purpose?

I decided that in Lent I would do something new each day, and I largely have.  But often I find myself retro-fitting my activities to the mould of newness. I’ll be busy all day then as the evening draws to a close, I’ll think about what I’ve done that day that’s new.  On Wednesday I tried a new spicy chicken thing from Wasabi for my lunch, so I decided that that counted.  Except I’m not sure that it really did.  I only chose the chicken because my usual lunch of teriyaki salmon had sold out, so it certainly wasn’t premeditated.  And more importantly, in no way did it challenge me.  #40NewThings doesn’t have to be hard, I’m no masochist, but I can’t see that there’s much point unless the trying of them provokes some sort of reaction in me.

Yesterday I was part of the team that ran the school quiz night.  Although I’d have done it anyway, it was definitely a properly new thing, something challenging, fun, different.  So that’s OK. But I’ve got nothing else planned for the remaining however long it is, and I think that perhaps I should.

What do you think I should do?

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I’ve always been drawn to art created from everyday objects, something that has no intrinsic value other than that imbued by the artist, so I love the Confiscation Cabinets exhibition at the Museum of Childhood. In the earlier cabinets, many of the items confiscated relate to crazes, which sweep through communities of children. I was inspired to make a necklace using my own children’s toys, a collection of some of the many crazes they’ve gone through over the years; a small, portable museum of their childhood.

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Each of the toys is attached to a sterling silver ring using a tube rivet, then hung from a 70cm silver snake chain, so it sits half way down the torso. It’s easy for the wearer to play with the toys, making it a tactile piece of jewellery. The rings the toys are attached to can be taken off the chain and switched around or worn on the finger, so it’s very versatile.  The clasp is a ring and bar fastening with a mini ring attached.  A tiny toy baby bottle is riveted to this mini ring to echo the larger rings on the necklace.


I’ve entered it into a competition, so fingers crossed!

I’ve never been a fan of Lent. I used to have to give up sweets and chocolate as a child, as part of a whole family exercise. Though now I think about it, my Dad seems to have been pretty good at slipping under the radar. I’ve not forgotten the embarrassment of having to tell a party host that I wasn’t allowed sweets, aged about nine, as everyone else was merrily tucking in, guilt free.  Actually, I seem to remember that I omitted to tell the party host and smuggled the party sweets into my bedroom.  I’m pretty sure it was a Swizzles lolly, two chalky pastel  layers, sweet and gently fizzy, eaten squashed under my bed with a torch, accompanied by the feeling of having let my mother down. As soon as I was old enough not to care, I stopped Lenten abstinence.

But some remnant of childhood guilt has clearly stayed with me, as I still like to mark Lent in some way.  Last week I saw tweet from someone saying that they were going to try something new every day in Lent and the idea sang to me.

I like doing new things, and I think I’m quite good at it.  But I’ve never consciously done something new every day or even really stopped to think about what I’ve learnt or done.  So that’s what I’m doing for Lent.  40 New Things.  So far I’ve had two sessions learning about working with acrylic, started a new book, seen the Lego Movie, done my first run of 2014, applied for a new passport, seen Grayson Perry talk at the Festival Hall and met some interesting new people.  It may start getting a little tenuous soon, but I’m thinking about trying new recipes and learning new words on days when I’m stuck.

What do you reckon? Want to join me?

When Dr . Johnson was talking about not being bored, he had it a lot easier than I do.  Museums were in their infancy, there were only a few theatres and cinema wasn’t a twinkle in its fathers eye.  Enough was going on to keep him entertained, but I’m guessing his brain wasn’t about to explode with options every Tuesday when Time Out was published.

My problem isn’t boredom, though my children claim to suffer pretty regularly, but too much choice.  Living in London I could literally do five things every single day and still not do everything I want to.  That’s before you factor in all the books I want to read, films I want to watch and family and friends I want to see. Add in kids who need to spend some time at home watching TV and fiddling with stuff and it’s hardly surprising that my head’s spinning.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been to a photo exhibition which made me laugh out loud, moved me, and has stayed with me ever since; been to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at the theatre, a thought provoking evening with some gasp moments, taken the kids to an exhibition of objects confiscated by a teacher which we’ve been talking about all week, seen breathtaking fire art at Kensington Palace, and frolicked in a  room literally half filled with balloons.  I’ve not been bored, far from it, but still there could have been more.

I could have attended the world thumb wresting championships, a taxidermy workshop, a punk science comedy show or a movement workshop inspired by the workings of the human body.  All of which I would have probably really enjoyed, except for possibly the last one, though I would like to be able to say that I stand corrected, if I had the time to try.  I could probably write about things to do in London all day every day and not run out. For ever.

Which leaves me feeling like time is slipping through my fingers, because there will simply never be enough. If I think too hard about it I get slightly panicky.

This, I guess, is why I don’t blog very often.

On Saturday, I did something completely new; I taught other people how to make things from silver. And it was a lovely and productive afternoon. I had three willing and able pupils who learnt how to saw, drill, file, sand and punch. They were fast learners, who didn’t break a single saw blade, which is very impressive for first timers.


You teach really well. I love the way you explained the origins of tools or the reasons behind certain skills.

They enjoyed a peaceful afternoon learning new skills, chatting and eating homemade cake.


My boys were all thoroughly impressed with my tags


Today was brilliant. My creative brain loves me!

Their finished results are beautiful, as I think you’ll agree.


It went so well that I’m going to do it again! I’ve decided to try doing two, one on Friday 28th March 10-1 and the second on Saturday 29th 1-4, keeping them small, with a maximum of four people each.  If you’re interested in these or future dates, leave a comment and I’ll send you a bit more info.

Exciting times!

*disclaimer* If you’re expecting a coherent blog post, look away now…

Half a lifetime ago, I lived in an airy, light-filled Victorian flat near Battersea Bridge.  It was built on the site of Sir Thomas More’s orchard.  The tree outside my bedroom window was the last remaining mulberry tree planted by More, a huge gnarled, many branched tree, heavy with sweet fragrant mulberries which exploded staining pink juice when I picked them every summer.  I don’t know if the tree is still standing, but I feel immensely privileged to have eaten Thomas More’s mulberries.

Our parish church, when we lived in that flat, was a not particularly attractive, red brick, mid-twentieth century building.  The building belies the history.  There’s been a church on the site for as long as there have been Christians in England.  It was flattened during WWII, the Bishop of London decided not to rebuild it as London is heavy with churches, but the parishioners wouldn’t countenance that, and rebuilt it themselves.  The outside of the church isn’t pretty, but the inside is rather lovely, filled with the tombstones and pieces of broken masonry.  My favourite fact about the church is that Anne Boleyn marries Henry VIII there.  I’m not sure why they were married in a church on Sir Thomas More’s land, maybe they were sticking two fingers up to him.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Epiphany service in the chapel at the Tower of London, the chapel where both Anne Boleyn and Thomas More are buried. Also at the service was the Lord Mayor  of London, wearing full regalia.  Around her neck was Sir Thomas More’s chain of office, the actual one that he wore in his portrait by Hans Holbein.  It’s the only time of the year that it’s allowed to leave Mansion House, to visit the site of More’s tomb.  I was close enough to her to touch it.  I didn’t obviously, but I could have.  Isn’t that more than a little bit amazing?



After a certain amount of umming and ahhing, I’ve pulled my finger out and organised this.   So on Saturday 8th February, I shall be teaching a workshop at my home in Battersea from 1-4pm.  Together we will make tags like these using traditional silversmithing techniques and tools.  We shall drink tea and eat homemade cake.  The cost, including sterling silver for the tags, is £65, plus £10 for a sterling silver snake chain, if you wish.  Want to join in?




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