Friday, 15 April 2011


How we feel after being hit by the GUEUL!
The dreaded Greenwich University Enquiry Unit Lurgy  (GUEUL) has struck and we are going down like flies!  I have been ill all week with no voice at all for two days.  Him at home found it a very peaceful experience – that is until I kept him awake all night with my coughing!
So I am back at my desk ready with my GUEUL-fighting tools all lined up; a large box of tissues – (why do they have to call them man size – my nose is just as big?), 2 packets of lockets and a large bottle of water.
Feeling so rotten all week has meant falling well behind my self-imposed schedule for course work so I decided not to worry about it and just rest.  I spent an enjoyable evening working on my stained glass restoration panel which seems to have taken forever up to this point but finally seems to be progressing.  I have now finished painting the two new replacement pieces. That was a long process because each paint layer had to be applied separately and the glass fired in a special kiln to set it in place before the next could be added..  It has been fired about 6 times in all so I was very pleased to be finally able to put them into the panel then complete the process of repairing the old lead and replacing bits too damaged to use.  I have just soldered it together and all I now have to do is cement the glass into place and finish cleaning off the 150 or so years of dirt.  I can’t wait to see it all finished with the light glowing through it.  What fascinates me about stained glass is that it looks so dead and flat until the light shines through it.  You never know exactly how it will look until you have completed it and installed it.  Then it changes through the day as the light changes. It is an amazing transformation.

My stained glass work becomes a metaphor for my client work in my counselling placement.  People come to us when they are finding life difficult, sometimes in a lot of emotional and psychological pain, wanting to change, sometimes so anxious overwhelmed or depressed they don’t know where to start.  As the weeks pass, wonderful things can happen as we work together to unfold their story and explore different ways of being, different choices and different ways of thinking.  Occasionally clients find it just too painful going through the process, scared that they will ‘open up a can of worms’ that they be unable to handle.  However, if a sufficiently a trusting relationship can be developed between counsellor and client, the unfolding transformation is a joy to behold – every bit as amazing as finally seeing a stained glass panel I have worked on for months glowing in the sunlight!

One of my favourite artists - Marc Chagal's stained glass is breathtakingly
beautiful - it transforms any space.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Chilling Out, Protesting and Stitching

Well dear reader, it has been totally impossible to write before now as I have needed a week to recover from my Mothers’ Day treat!
I caught the train down to west Sussex on Saturday to be greeted by my daughter Kate who lives in the most idyllic rural retreat.  At the moment her little village is filled with daffodils and blossom trees.  After a chilled out evening and morning she took me off for lunch in a lovely Tudor era hotel set in a beautiful country par.  After a digestive stroll around the grounds I was treated to a one and half hour deep tissue massage.  Well – after that I could hardly move!!  We had to sit by the pool and drink cups of tea for a couple of hours to recover before she poured me back on the train!
I had to work on the phones in the Enquiry Unit the next day.  I was soooo chilled out that nothing bothered me – not even the virus that invaded my computer causing all sorts of graphic pornographic images to pop up at the most unexpected times!  Katrina did not want to know about my blissful weekend having just had a far too hectic one! 
Luckily we have finished college for Easter so there is one less thing to do for a while, but I have so much stuff to do during the break I am going to have to pace myself quite carefully.  On Thursday I went to a consultation meeting about the  Adult Education Services plans to close the centre where I do my stained glass class.  We are at risk of losing a wonderful workshop space heavily used by people taking classes in jewellery, woodwork, and picture framing as well as the stained glass.
Government policy is geared towards supporting adult learning in accredited classes only and it only wants to support courses that lead directly to employment. Concession rates are being cut making courses much more expensive.  I am concerned that the original aims of adult education and locally based evening classes are being lost, which is so sad.  Learning new skills and crafts is so valuable for peoples’ mental health and wellbeing and the joy and confidence gained is transferable into other areas.  Having exam marks is not the only way to measure the success of a course. My other concern is the loss of access to arts and crafts for people who do not want to study at college or university – they just want to try a new skill in a supportive environment that does not cost too much.  Anyway that is my soapbox topic for today!!
Speaking of arts and craft, I am completing our latest fabric community art project.  Last year my placement was with an organisation that supported the families and friends of prisoners.  Last month I went back there with Chloe, my business partner, to run two collage workshops  for the women and their children.  We all had a wonderful time decorating triangles of colourful fabric to form into bunting.  Now I have to sew them all up and join them together ready to install in mid-May.  It is absolutely delightful to see these woman who have lead such difficult lives sitting together learning to enjoy the colours and textures of the fabric and, after some encouragement, realising that they are artistic  and creative, capable of making something beautiful.  The bunting will be used to cheer up their meeting room and to take out to their outdoor events and will represent all those women who helped to make it. …well time to get back to my sweat shop!!