Family

This tag is associated with 6 posts

Play Dough a Go Go!

Play dough is brilliant.  Practically free and endless possibilities.  Plus it lets kids do the whole messy play thing without actually making that much mess, which is always a good thing.Plus if you use the cheap home made version you don’t need to worry about mixing the colours.  I start off with a variety of basic colours (usually based on whatever colourings I have to hand) and then let the kids make further colours by mixing.


Child playing with multicoloured playdough made by an easy homemade recipe

There are a few recipes knocking about the internet, with various no cook options or ingredients, but this is the best one that I have used.  Where I say cup, use any cup, as long as you use the same one each time.  I use a little plastic beaker.Use your common sense and don’t play with playdough on your best tablecloth or tread it into your expensive persian rug, but then if you have that kind of thing in a house with small children then you are a braver (and possibly quite a bit richer) person than me…


Home Made Play Dough

  • 2 cups flour (any will do)
  • Half a cup of salt
  • 1 cup cold water
  • A big spoon (or small glug) of oil – any will do
  • Two big spoons of cream of tartar (you can leave this out if you like, but it makes the dough more springy and stretchy and only costs a few pence)
  • Food colouring, smelly oil (use food safe versions in case it gets nibbled…), glitter or whatever else you want to use to make it pretty and/or smelly

Chuck everything in a pan and put over a low heat.  Keep stirring until it looks like…dough.  Allow to cool before giving to children (obviously…)

You can also just add boiling water to the ingredients in a bowl and stir, to avoid having to put it on the hob.

I tend to leave out the colourings and flavourings, cook plain dough and then knead in the colours/flavours/glitter.  That way I only have to cook once but can make loads of colours.  Beware though that colourings can stain, and are much more likely to stain your worktop (and hands, and clothes, and children) before they are mixed in.

This recipe isn’t toxic, but isn’t exactly edible either, given that it will taste horrible and has loads of salt.  Hopefully inquisitive toddlers will just have one taste and then be put off.  Hopefully.

Keep your playdough in an air tight container and it should last at least six weeks.  Enjoy, and let me know if you come up with any cool ideas!

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Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves…

Life goes on. The world turns – civilisation evolves and adapts. For the travelling community, nomadism – that intrinsic need to roam – is as much a choice as it is a survival technique.

From traditional Yurt communities, to Bedouin tribes and the Eastern European Roma, the gadjo (non traveller) represent a confusing mix of authority and conflict.

Settlement acts passed from the early 1960’s in former Communist states which intended for travelling families to establish themselves and work in the oppressive Land regimes forbade the use of identification as a Roma or Gypsy and forced integration into a society which, for many at that point in time, they neither had a natural affiliation to or comprehension of. Even British legislation prevented ‘vagabondism’ in most forms – causing the outlawing of occluding public by-ways and roads. Yet none of these techniques worked to incorporate a transient and Travellers on the Glen Road, Belfast, 1980. Photo: Bobbie Hanveymobile nationhood of people into host populations. Constantly persecuted, frequently misunderstood and a mystery to both the non traveller and themselves, the history of these people is a fluid and inflammatory story of optimistic struggle and straggling survival. One to which no one is immune, nor alien to.

Current popular interest in the lifestyle of traveller families has highlighted the differences between the old notion of extended support networks – which many Roma enjoy – and the insular autonomy of host nations which prevent, to an extent, the ability to disengage and re-engage at will into everyday life. The majority of Roma have settled due to financial stability which a permanent residence encourages; those that choose to continue a mobile livelihood face prosecution and persecution. This is undeniable. Media fear mongering – the idea of the gypsy as sly, dishonest, dirty – still permeates in news reports which ostensibly serve to both integrate and isolate the traveller community.

No solutions are advanced, the traveller community ‘travels’ and therefore it is perfectly reasonable to expect them to move on when the local community feels that this time has come. No other migrant community has such an uncertain future. Two days, three weeks, four months in one place at the most. When land is acquired, not only do they have to navigate a planning process which is confusing even to gadjo but they face the added suspicion as to how this would impact on local population. But does it really matter, in the long term? Surely a settled community – even one which flouts planning laws, is better than one who is hounded and hindered.

And this can be violent in its extremes. France and Italy have progressively legislated against traveller input into their respective societies. In Romania and Balkans areas violent attacks on settled traveller camps have increased according to the ERRC. Very few of these attacks are prosecuted, out of court settlements are meagre and do not reflect the severity of these. For instance, retributive justice, whether real or imagined, often take the form of burnings. Whole communities set alight. Maimed and broken. Women, children and men – those who have been neighbours – are targeted as embodiments of criminality and treated as such.

Trawling the archives of the ERRC and social sciences departments throw up truly sickening accounts, each followed by interviews by both victims and offenders. Offenders here is loosely used, frequently they miss the justice system. And similar justifications occur throughout these: we don’t want them here. They bring nothing to society. They dress provocatively. They don’t want to work. They have no respect. They deserve everything they get – taking our jobs, our benefits. It is a tale as old as time. One to which no minority community has been exempt. A basic lack of understanding of culture clashing, simplistic, indeed, but sometimes a simple statement starts a debate rolling.

Traveller children are instilled in respect of older generations, often they live in close knit groups and they have a very real feeling of family. In many areas there is a complete innocence toward everyday living. Education is secondary – and this is understandable to an extent. If no one is willing to see the person, the potential to excel, why invest in a system which is geared toward ideals they do not hold. Education is a key to future, a key to employabTraditional Gypsy Caravanility, but if no one will employ a traveller above a menial position, why bother? Why bother sending a child to school to be ridiculed, put in special institutes (a common practice) because they do not conform to a pattern of life which is so skewed against them? Isn’t it better to have the children close, to teach them what has been tried and tested as useful?

Gender is also an issue in traveller communities. Women are often not valued as autonomous people, but as glue to the community. They are an amalgam of mother and nurturer – an old fashioned premise but one which is diffused between all the group. Traveller women are usually proud of this role – and if lack of ambition is to be reviled then they truly lack a feminist impulse. But this is a contentious statement. Feminists everywhere will argue for and against, and here is not the place to pull this apart.

In times of recession scapegoats are easily found. Be they Jewish, Islamic, poor or rich…Aushwitz was home to over half a million Traveller families; marked by a ‘Z’ on entry. Hardly any were liberated. Mengeles systematically medically tested traveller people seeing them as subhuman, denying them an identity and a history. Denying them culture, as the Nazi regime sought to do with most disenfranchised groups, minority ethnicities.

Yet it is only within the last 30 years that the loss of life has been acknowledged by governments. They are a sideline in history, and for most travellers’ this collective amnesia has worked to preserve them. A people with no past or future can glide through life, but they cannot enjoy it fully. They cannot step proudly and say who they are. The controversy that has surrounded recent documentaries, the sensationalistic reporting denotes a change, a change in perspective in the gadjo community – could this be a recognition of the freedom that Roma enjoy – but with an ignorance towards the cost that this represents? Now is the time to see the bigger picture.

Very Moving…

Buying a house is weird isn’t it? The whole system is unlike any other purchase you’ll make.

You get to see probably the biggest purchase of your life, aboSign  outside a house, reading "house for sale" in a shabby chic styleut twice, for about half an hour, before committing hundreds of thousands of pounds to it. Half an hour?  You spend a longer period of time deliberating over buying a puppy or trying on sunglasses (trying to hide that bloody tag behind one of the lenses so you don’t look mental). But 30 minutes for a house? Personally I’ve spent longer choosing pick’n’mix.

But if that’s weird then selling your house is a whole lot stranger. We really do just disengage our reason for that part of the process. Take, for example, the phenomenon of “dressing” your house for viewings. This normally involves two parts.

The first part is mainly just hiding all the shit. All the clutter of everyday life will be scooped up and concealed in cupboards or hidden guiltily in the car boot like a dead body. You’ll binbag the billions of shoes you’ve somehow accumulated in the porch. The post at the bottom of the stairs will be freed from the hump of coats that usually shroud it. The fridge will be stripped of magnets and kiddie art. Toys will be stacked into neat towers of plastic or dumped at your parent’s house. But you won’t bother trying to tidy the garage because let’s face it – life’s too short.

The second part is where you add things that aren’t normally there. You’ll set the dining table just in case potential buyers hadn’t figured out that this is where you eat food. Beds will overflow with carefully arranged scatter cushions. The coffee table will try it’s best to look natural with carefully fanned out magazines. You’ll buy flowers. Oh yes fresh cut flowers will spring up in your kitchen as if it’s perfectly normal. You might wait until the last moment before puncturing a few satsumas and let their aroma whisper “buy my zesty house you citrus-loving bastards!!”

But dressing is painfully transparent isn’t it? It’s a bit pointless unless you think that potential buyers have the following conversation after seeing your home.

“Darling, that house we viewed today was perfect wasn’t it”

“Yes, yes it was. A nice aspect in a beautiful area. I loved the kitchen/diner and those French windows onto the garden”

“And great schools nearby… ”

“and that third bedroom would make an adorable nursery”

“Oh yes such a lovely family home”

“…”

“What is it Darling?”

“It’s just a small thing really but …”Orange Gerbera on a green background

“Tell me Darling”

“Well it’s just the downstairs bathroom…”

“The downstairs bathroom?”

“Yes. It was fine and everything but it’s just that the vase on the window sill…”

“Go on”

“Well it didn’t have a single stem of Gerbera in it. I just don’t think I could bring myself to buy a house that didn’t have a single stem of Gerbera in the downstairs toilet”

“You’re right dear, now that I think about it. It just didn’t have a single stem of Gerbera in the downstairs toilet.”

“Oh well we have some more houses to view, we’ll just have to keep looking.”

“I quite agree. It’s better to be safe than sorry dear”

Clearly YOU don’t do that with houses you look at do you? YOU can see past the empty vases? Of course YOU can. And so can THEY. Because that’s not the house, that’s just the crap IN the house.

Then there are the awkward questions. The ones you happily lie about. Lets play multiple choice.

“Why are you moving?”

  1. “We want somewhere better than this shithole and we can afford it because we’re clearly richer than you”
  2. This place is haunted by the ghost of a dead peadophile and we hate the neighbours – their cats shit all over our garden.
  3. My husband’s work.

“Does the garden get the sun?”

  1. No it get’s the fucking Telegraph you bum diseased yokel.
  2. On midsummers day for about 10 minutes. Other than that it’s like an outside cave. Only darker.
  3. All the time. Oh yes we’re very lucky.

“Are the local schools good?”

  1. They’re good if you want to score drugs.
  2. Their metal detectors are good –  they have to be what with all the flick-knives…
  3. Very good. Certainly well up there in all the league tables.

If you answered mostly Cs you are a liar (and a perfectly normal person trying to sell their house).

Save Bill Quay Farm!

Goat looking over gate or fenceGateshead’s Bill Quay Community Farm, a beacon of natural heritage and community involvement, will close in April unless it can become self-financing, say Gateshead Council.

Savage cuts to services in the town have seen the Council announce two years worth of cost reductions, totalling £38m, with the loss of 450 jobs.

Day care centres, crime-reduction partnerships, libraries and community centres will all be cut to the quick, with no loss more keenly felt than that of the Bill Quay Farm.

The farm opened in 1986 as a partnership between the Bill Quay Community Farm Association and Gateshead Council.  A 25 acre industrial site was transformed into a thriving community leisure project, restoring the natural heritage of the area and creating one of the greenest banks on Tyneside.

The work has been carried out by volunteers from the local community and includes husbandry of endangered breeds of livestock.  The Farm is a Rare Breed Survival Trust Approved Conservation Farm Park, and breeds include Longhorn cattle and Hebridean sheep.  Ruby the Tamworth pig took Female Champion at the Royal Show in 2005.

Pigs at Bill Quay FarmThe landscape has been returned to its pre–industrial condition through the re-establishment of woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and hedgerows, and the Farm and its location, with panoramic views of the Tyne, has inspired many creative collaborations and there are striking and original artworks everywhere.

In addition, the the Farm’s Local Food Connection offers local and fair-trade refreshments, along with information environmental issues, renewable technology, freedom food and healthy eating, and in recent years they’ve concentrated much of their work on wellbeing and health with a dedicated arts and activity space which is home to The Farmyard Arts Studio.

The possible closure of the Farm has led to frustration throughout Gateshead, and an online petition has been launched at thepetitionsite.com.  Comments have been emotional.

“Bill Quay Farm has been a beacon of good practice in this region, an inspirational place” said Frances Hinton, a former Education Manager at Northumberland Wildlife Trust. “I urge [Gateshead Council] to give more time for the volunteers and Farm to find a sustainable way forward”.

“Please don’t close the farm” says another comment.  “It’s a vital part of the community.  I went there as a child with school to learn about animals and life. Everyday I walk through the farm with my dog; it’s such a beautiful place and also educational to the children”.

At the time of going to press, Gateshead Council were not responding to requests for a  statement.

A place of beauty, the Farm is a space where people of all ages can spend time with animals in their natural environment, a vital link for nearby schools, letting children experience rural life on their doorstep, and making them aware of the various environmental issues of the day.

All of this is in danger of being lost as Gateshead Council consider closing the farm due to the fearsome ‘budget cuts’, which seem to have affected everyone in the UK in some aspect, and once this farm is lost, it can never be brought back, which makes it more important for communities to fight for it to stay open.

Bill Quay are asking supporters to sign the petition to keep a vital part of our community open for everyone to enjoy!

 

More Than Just a Piece of Paper?

A fellow photographer recently shared a letter from one of her clients. The letter started talking about the price of photographs, and how it had put her off having them taken. But as we read on, we found out that this client had been diagnosed with cancer with just weeks to live and was filled with regret. She said how sad it was making her to think that she was leaving her husband and kids without a pile of amazing family photos. How her kids will only have few photos of their mum to remember her by. For her, the photographs were a way of leaving something behind for your loved ones that had only become so important when she had become ill.

But is the photograph really that powerful? For me it is. And not only because I’m a photographer – I have thousands of photos printed and framed on my walls at home. They remind me about all that happened and made me who I am now. When I come back from holidays there are always a few pictures that get printed and go on the wall. When people come to my house they straight away get an idea about me and my family, they see the places we visited, they see the photos of my daughter, they can see my and my husband’s home towns back in our separate home countries.

Years ago we went with my husband to Barcelona where my bag was stolen). What was gone was my brand new bag, my film camera (yes, back in 2005 I was a proud owner of a film Samsung;)), wallet with all my cards, money and…pocket size photos of my parents from the times they were teenagers, photo of baby-me with mum & dad and a photo of me and my best friend. Since then I have bought myself tons of new bags (my second hobby after photography), my camera is now a digital Nikon and I have new bank cards. But I will never be able to get those precious photos back.

So for me, photographs are more than just a piece of paper, more than just an image on the camera’s memory card. When it comes to my clients they are very excited while booking the session. But the next time I see them on location they are often stressed, shy and they seem to have an expression on their faces saying: “Uhm, overall I don’t think it was a good idea cause I’m not photogenic and my child is all over the place, etc, etc”.

But let me tell you, the excitement from the beginning is back the moment we meet up for photo viewing, that special moment they see the photo of their newborn, or of themselves being all glowing and happy. They start to understand what is important about photos, the smiles and love, not how much they weigh and if their makeup was all in place. Tears come to their eyes.

So once you finish reading this article, can I please ask you to switch your computers off and grab your camera, go and snap some cute photos of your kids (if you need some tips head over here) Go and book that family photo session that you always dreamt of at your local photographer.

And the next time people are taking photos near you, don’t hide behind the camera saying you will just take a picture, don’t hide behind the sofa (seriously, I’ve seen this happening once). I have a quote on my site which is very close to my heart: “A photograph is a pause button of life”

Oh, and before you switch your computer off, share your views on this topic in the comments below. Have you got a story showing the importance of photographs? Have you got a way of presenting your photos? Blog? Website? Frames in your house? Shoot that photography competition

Do you need inspiration to snap more photos? Then join me and Camel’s Hump in our Facebook photo fun Shoot That. Each month we will ask for photos on a selected theme, and the best will be showcased on the Facebook pages and here on Camel’s Hump.  This month the theme is “green”.  Come over to our facebook pages and join in today…

Vanilla Pie Photography on Facebook

Camel’s Hump on Facebook

The Vague Ghosts of Christmas Past

‘You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.’

Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

It is often said you can’t go home again. This Christmas I tried to do just that, and came to understand better exactly what is meant by the phrase.

Things change, and you can’t do anything about it. For the past few years I’d been trying to make my own Christmas traditions, away from the familiar ones of my childhood and adolescence, with my partner and my cats with whom I shared a house, in a different town, with different friends. There was a conscious effort to have as little as possible to remind me of the Christmases of old.

But things didn’t quite work out, as things often don’t, and with that life as lost as the receipts for the gifts you want to take back, this year I had a choice between Christmas alone and Christmas with my family. I make it sound like that was a choice between a rock and a hard place – nothing of the kind – but to go home to my family was the obvious and preferred choice, only I did so with caution in case I stir up the vague ghosts of Christmas past.

The Christmas of my childhood is a picture postcard, framed behind glass in the eye of my memory. It is an untouchable, perfect, magical time. It also varied very little. The routine was kept to year in, year out. We would have to wait until ‘he’ had been, although as the years passed it became apparent that ‘he’ did not exist and what we were waiting for was our grandmother and uncle’s arrival to watch us open our presents. When this was done with the excitement appropriate to children, we would get ready and go next door, where the adult neighbours would have a festive drink and the children – there were lots of children on my street where I grew up – would play. Early afternoon we would travel to our grandmother’s house to enjoy Christmas dinner with my uncles, aunties, cousins and occasionally my cousins’ boyfriends – my cousins were a bit older than me – followed by party and board games.

This time, we were more insular. Those children on my street are now also grown, and some have families of their own, as does a cousin, and are beginning traditions of their own. We went through some of the moves, like drinking with the neighbours, but otherwise it bore little resemblance to my sepia tinged memories.

My parents were never rich, and as children my sister and I were never spoiled, but at this time of year they made us feel special. Now I have a better appreciation of the value and cost of items, I understand how generous they were with us. I recall one year I had asked for a SEGA Master System – not a top of the range gaming system for the time, but one, I reasoned, within the possibilities of my parents budget – but when it came to Christmas day I found they had forked out for its better, more pricey big brother the Mega Drive. Another year I recall having opened all our presents and being thoroughly pleased with our haul, only to have, a little later, our dad wheel in a mountain bike each. Shallow and consumerist, you could accuse me, but you don’t understand anything else when you’re a child.

But what I am bemoaning the loss of isn’t the monetary value of Christmas, or the fact I’m now perceived to be of an age where moccasin slippers or Marks and Spencer aftershave seem an appropriate gift. Where it hit home most was at dinner, with only five people at the table. Five people whom I love and cherish, but it just highlights who isn’t there.

You can’t go home because you want everything to be as it was, as if you’d never been away, relatives had not passed, and you lived a simpler life, protected from your worries. And at Christmas it’s the hardest time of all to go home.

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