Big Sleeves

You never know what God has up his sleeve.

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Changes afoot

we have moved

In response to lots of friends telling me they find it really hard to comment on this blog, I have moved to a new site. Please remain calm and follow me to…..

…. and everything should get easier. You can click on a link on the right to stay in touch, or just pop in from time to time if you prefer. See you soon!

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Designer bags and mud fights

I have had a few weeks of extremes to kick off 2015. We brought the family out to Lesotho again, where we stayed two years ago. Seeing as my sister-in-law now lives in Dubai we decided to stop there on the way, so we left the UK on Boxing Day and headed to the craziness of the United Arab Emirates. Cinema trip? Why not book the 11.30 pm showing and have a reclining armchair that turns into a bed? Blankets provided, and food to order! Need to park your car? Just pay someone to pop it in between the Porsches and Lamborghinis under the mall until you’re ready to stagger back with your bags of designer goods! On New Years Eve I enjoyed a BBQ with guests, one of which was a lovely Lebanese friend who was wearing a pair of £1000 shoes from her husband which she had opened up on Christmas morning!

On New Years Day we had to get up at 6am and fly out of Abu Dhabi airport – not my favourite of the husband’s plans – and we headed to the other extreme. Dubai felt like a move set as we were now with people who didn’t have two pennies to rub together, let alone two Rand. We had left the desert and were firmly planted in rainy season, and boy did the rain gush down. It was great to see old friends and we have had a lot of fun of course. The friendliness of Lesotho is infectious, and sometimes disarming. For example when we crossed the border a huge man came over with a machine gun. He peered into our car, looked the three kids up and down with a frown, then broke into a broad grin and said ‘Can I be one of your children Ntati? (sir). He then burst into a huge belly laugh at his own joke so Colin grinned at him and told him to climb aboard. You never quite know what’s going to happen next, and I love that. We have chatted to neighbours for longer in Maseru in three days than the whole two years back home – sometimes it’s just silence whilst we enjoy the view, and sometimes it’s opinions about the upcoming elections…it’s easygoing and slow. Obviously there are challenges too – enormous electrical storms, Top Gear style moments of slipping around in the mud, electricity cuts, hailstones the size of mint imperials, and challenge-of-challenges for the Nichols children: very limited internet access! Worst of all for me: being violently ill whilst staying in a Rondevaal with a camping toilet up in the mountains. I was better in time for the mud-slinging match down at the Little Caledonian River which forms the border. Think about it – one team was in Lesotho, and one in South Africa! It all makes for great memories when you look back, and the main purpose was to see how the businesses are progressing in our church here, and to encourage our friends who are living here and working so hard. As well as Maseru, Colin has other places he works these days, so by the time we come home we will have stayed in nine different beds. I am writing from Bloemfontein – the capital of the Free State – which means “Fountain of flowers”. What a lovely name eh? See you soon, and until then, keep smiling:
By the way, I do recommend reclining chairs and two blankets when watching the marathon fantasy adventure that is ‘The Hobbit’.

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Unto us is given an office

And lo… they took the husband from the corner of Isaac’s bedroom, and laid him in a swivelly chair in an office in town. And three wise women came from the office next door and knelt before him, offering him Gold blend, filingcabinets and meringues (well not really but they did bring in filing cabinets).

And there was much rejoicing in Isaac’s room because it had been over 18 months of having your dad interrupting things whilst FIFA was being played. And wifey poured a big glass of ginger wine and sang unto the Lord a new song, “Hip hip hooray, I don’t have to bother tidying up anymore because meetings will be happening somewhere else” (Not that it had been very tidy anyway, especially in the latter months). And she stuck on some cheesy Christmas music and performed a short jig before her God.

And an angel came down in the form of a PA, and said “Fear not. I’m going to start managing husband’s whole life for him. No longer will people send emails and never get a reply. Husband shall start doing more of what he is best at, and less of what he is rubbish at”. And wifey stored these glad tidings in her heart. And so it came to pass that out in the fields some churchy types were watching their Facebook feeds and noticed that a prayer meeting was now happening every single Friday in the new office. They said to one another, “Come, let us go and see this thing that has been spoken of”. They travelled for ages because they got stuck at West Worthing Crossing but nevertheless there was much rejoicing. And wifey saw that it was good.

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Every now and then, three little words strike fear in to the heart of us mothers: “take away task“.

For the uninitiated, this means a bit of homework set for the CHILDREN (not you), but it’s given with around six week’s warning, so that the little ones can get really stuck in, maybe do some research, learn time management, enjoy the feeling of excelling and producing something of high value etc etc etc….

The trouble is, with certain types of children, this translates into sentences like this one, delivered around bedtime:

“Mum. I need to make a pigeon by Monday.”

Right. Too late for clay, it’ll never dry and he wants to paint it. Paper mache? Needs lots of layers, and he’s got football training on Saturday and a match on Sunday. Balloon modelling? No, that’s ridiculous. Hand it over to dad?!!! Don’t be silly, he’s away. Make a flat cut-out kind of pigeon – that’ll look cool surely? No, it needs to be 3D because the whole point is it’s for a pop-up museum about World War 2 when the pigeons took messages across enemy lines, so it has to have legs so that this can be demonstrated to the museum-goers, and anyway he needs it to be super-cool because he’s got to stand next to it for hours and he’s suddenly really into it and really really reeeeeally cares about it.

And so it is that a weekend can turn on a pin, and before you know it the whole family is involved in PIGEONGATE, which turned out to be a bit like childbirth. There was some panting, and a few tears, but at other times we were elated and saying how fantastic the experience was and we really must do it again some day. If you want to try, here’s the recipe:

Step one. Take some oversized foam feet left over from a charity walk at work (thank you genius Luke) and feel smug and excited:


Step two: Collect everything you own and put it all in the kitchen, e.g. paint, nerf gun bullets, hair grips, cardboard, more paint, lots of tiny bits of foam to cut up whilst thinking, a clothes peg, a googly eye, glue, a bit more paint, tin foil, siblings to boss around, and one mother to call you back because you’ve wandered off again and by the way the kitchen looks like this: (don’t even ask what the bread knife is doing there)


Step three: 48 hours later, calm is restored, and child B feels happy and confident. Phew.


The whole museum was incredible. I have never known such engaged children, all eager to chat about their rock cakes/ wartime make up/ homemade wooden gun/ letter to the unknown soldier, it was very impressive. One little pigeon was our contribution, and he has become part of the family. They call him Billy. I will always resent him for looking so spaced out.


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Notions and emotions


I’ve been learning some sewing skills recently at a class. It’s been entertaining, mainly because a few of us had very little knowledge coupled with the attention span of a flea. Saint Laura, our teacher, has been patiently walking us through the world of dressmaking. She has soldiered on, despite us being distracted at any moment by the gorgeous bolts of fabric surrounding us (“Look! Owls with EARMUFFS!!”) or the customers walking in asking for anything ranging from ‘something Christmassy’ to ‘somebody to fix their sewing machine’. We have been learning all the lingo, starting in week one when the pattern stated that we needed ‘notions’. Notions? Apparently this is the term describing the little things like buttons, thread, ribbon and suchlike. That was only the start – we were soon embracing ‘selvage’, ‘basting’ – not just for roast dinners – and also the thorny issue of NAP. No, not a designated time for a little lie down, but the direction in which different fabrics prefer to be stroked. Emotions have swung between extremes – one moment we could be swanning round with a tape measure around our neck as if we owned the shop; the next moment we could be slumped over the table unpicking stitching in weepy silence. Thankfully Saint Mark was always on hand with biscuits and tea to sustain us. My favourite moment was the unfortunately shaped seams around the bust which made pointy Madonna boobage. This hilarity has all taken place at More Sewing and it ends this week. I am not sure if the Mores will miss us, but who knows, maybe we have inspired them to try OUR methods: velcro, safety pins or even cellotape?


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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red


I saw the poppies in the early morning sun which was extra special. Each one was on a tall stalk, which I hadn’t expected. It made them seem more like individuals, just like the real people they represented. The day was beginning to buzz around me – cranes moving building blocks around, people scurrying to work with their take-out coffees, traffic forming queues… just a normal morning really and yet there was this spectacle in the centre of it all, demanding attention. I made sure I put my camera away for a while so I could take in the scale of what was before me. It angered me after a recent conflict when politicians talked of ‘drawing a line under the war’. Surely war isn’t hemmed in by a line – it seeps through and under and around.

A ‘sea of red’ indeed.

Home from home

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I started a new job this week at Guild Care, a charity that I’d say is one of the true treasures of Worthing. The phone lines went down on my first day, and the internet too for a while so can you believe it, I ended up folding up T shirts! They were from the recent ‘Walk to Remember’ raising money for those suffering with dementia. Picking up clothes, just like being at home… there was even a raucous game of Bingo going on downstairs so it was exactly like half term! Two little ducks? QUACK QUACK!!

There were several differences though, which turned the experience into a treat:

I was being PAID to fold T shirts. It was toasty warm. I had free cups of tea, and even the odd chocolate digestive. Nobody came in and asked “Where’s my T shirt?” requiring me to point it out in front of their face. I didn’t have to sew name tags into the T shirts, whilst knowing it would be pointless because they’d probably get lost anyway. Nobody came in, scrunched up the T shirts and left them on the floor, or shoved them in a wash basket because they couldn’t be bothered to put them away. My boss, Anna, at no point said ‘That’s not my T shirt, that’s Luke’s, I didn’t leave it there, it’s nothing to do with me’ etc etc. Neither did she randomly pop them under her pillow or in her PE kit or anywhere else and then forget and ask me to buy a new one to replace it. Once the T shirts were in piles, neither Luke nor Anna spilt drinks on them/ rolled all over them/ formed footballs with them or stuffed them up their tops to look like they were pregnant. Oh, or swing them round their heads of course

And best of all – I got THANKED!!!! Happy days!