Just the norm

Tommy and LJ had a ‘sleepover’ yesterday ( the reason for the inverted commas will be obvious to any grandparents out there). I’ve watched Tommy develop and am struggling with being amazed at what he can do with his little arm and being cross with myself for being amazed, as to him this is just the norm.He was ‘decorating’ ( yes those inverted commas again) the Christmas tree and couldn’t get the bauble string to go over the branch. I never do things like that for him although the grandma in me often has to sit on her hands to stop herself! He held the bauble with his left hand and pushed his little arm Into the middle of the string to hold it open. Amazing he’s worked it out, but why wouldn’t he it’s normal for him?

We snuggled reading books and he had a bottle of juice with a stopper, he opened with his left arm whilst tucking the bottle under his little arm, he used his little arm to press it down, he opened it with his teeth. I watched in fascination. He is oblivious as this is his world. I have hundreds of examples of where he amazes me but then I make myself remember he’s an ordinary little boy learning to do things his way.

He climbed over his baby gate yesterday and found his advent bag – one book a day for December and a toy on Christmas Eve -really grandma?? – well at least he and LJ have lots of books to read and play with now – my poor son was distraught and was going to wrap them up again but it’s just Tommy being a 2 year old.

LJ is now one and is the most independent child I’ve ever met. She meets life on her own terms, cuddles when she wants, climbs, feeds herself potters happily and has been walking for ages! Having Tommy so close in age she just copies everything he does – they come as a pair and he greets her like he’s not seen her for months when you pick them up from nursery where she is in a different room – here she is and a hug.


I’m so proud of the pair of them, I know they will cope with whatever life brings them – they will both have their own challenges and I need to be amazed by them as the brilliant children they are. 

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For the love of books …

It’s advent soon and I’ve nearly completed the advent sacks for Tommy and LJ. This isn’t my idea or even a new idea but it is lovely and I decided a bit of positivity was called for today.

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Instead of chocolate I wrap up 24 different books and number them, then put them in a sack for my grandchildren to open one each day. It’s great that they love books, there is something so special about having a warm wriggly child snuggled next to you listening in awe or playing with the interactive books with a giggle. Seeing books as a treat and as something to associate spending time with someone you love is priceless. 

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It doesn’t have to cost a fortune – I bought a pack of 10 books in TKMaxx this morning that had a RRP of over £60 for £12.99. I add a couple of Christmas books but many of the classic children’s books too. There is a special one for Christmas Eve, I included  a personalised one and a beautifully illustrated one from YSP last year. 

Ps there are ideas on Pinterest if you want an alternate to using a sack.

Share your ideas for what books would be great in an advent sack?

 I love the ‘Feel Brave‘ series by  Avril McDonald

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This is hopefully going to be a family tradition that we do every year, I love being a grandma!

Taking air quality for granted

There was an interesting article published in the Guardian today saying that 300 million children live in areas of extreme pollution.

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It made me think about the little things I saw in Shanghai last week about how pollution is a part of a school’s daily life in China.

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On the front door every day is placed an update about the atmosphere that day with a green/amber/red rating and any additional measures that need to be taken. As you can see here this was a green day – lots of rain that week so the air was quite clear.

The school has ‘pollution days’ where it is not possible for children to attend in the same way that in the UK we sometimes have ‘snow days’ and the school has to close.

In the grounds there is a large white tented structure which is used on amber days to allow the pupils access to outdoors whilst still being protected.

It was a little strange to see people wearing masks around school and in workshops but it’s just an accepted fact of life.

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I’ve been for a beautiful autumnal walk this morning at my local RSPB and it did make me think how much we actually take for granted.

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Playing with light – Photography

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One of the things I remembered to pack last week was my sunglasses – they were not necessary! The light quality in Shanghai during the day was poor from a photography point of view, very grey, dull and overcast. If you google images of Shanghai most of them are at night when the lit buildings are really impressive.

We had several days of heavy rain ( including a typhoon warning) which meant that I had to try and be creative. Fortunately my room was on the 19th floor and had  a huge window so I could sit on the floor with a tripod and just play with the light.  Some images didn’t work but I was pleased with a couple – the one below is an abstract shot of the skyscrapers at night.

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Just a quick post to say whatever the conditions you can still work around them if you think creatively x

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#Shanghai in the rain

Out of my comfort zone

Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’, well last week I was terrified. The offer of presenting at The Festival of Education, Wellington College, Shanghai was too good an opportunity to miss. BUT and it’s a big but, I’ve never actually flown anywhere by myself, I’ve never visited China and as you know i’m just an ordinary person ‘A granny from Barnsley with a camera’ so why would anyone want to listen to me?

I DID it! I was scared but I did it and I’m proper proud of myself so I want to share a few of the things I learnt.

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  • Your comfort zone is good but the highs that can be yours if you step outside of it are worth the risk.
  • If you put on an act of being confident then gradually that will become real, even to yourself.
  • It’s OK to ask for help – people are only too willing to help you, you just have to ask.I couldn’t lift my camera bag at times so actually getting it into the luggage locker on the plane was beyond me.
  • There are some amazing people in the world who are just friends you haven’t met yet.
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  • Kids are kids are kids wherever they are in the world, curious, inquisitive, sparkly eyed early years, cautious teenagers – but all willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and have a go. Be yourself – kids can tell intuitively if you are genuine or not.
  •  Sometimes ‘ordinary’ is good. Some teachers are over awed by ‘academics’ and the down to earth approach is what they need, they can relax and ask questions without feeling stupid. It’s Ok to laugh and enjoy yourself even if you are a teacher.
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  • I use twitter far too much and felt completely lost when I realised it wasn’t possible to access it in China. (The kids did explain all about having a VPN but I was too jet lagged to take it in )
  • Chinese coffee is awful!!
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Hopefully I’m going back in March for the Arts festival and already have lots of ideas buzzing. I’m processing what I saw and will blog again later.

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Opening doors

I love my camera. I feel naked if I leave the house without it. I have a bad shoulder from its weight, I have a permanent red mark on my neck from the strap. I broke my coccyx falling down a set of concrete stairs whilst taking photos in the Outer Hebrides. I see life in rectangles. I have a constant crick in my neck from looking at different angles. I use a rucksack as a handbag as it’s the only bag that will fit my lenses so nothing fashionable for me. BUT I would not change anything – my camera has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.

I’ve written my own books, illustrated books for amazing educators who I admire greatly and from whom I’ve learnt so much. I’m an associate of Independent Thinking Ltd a group of the funniest, kindest most innovative people you could ever wish to meet.


I’ve run courses at places such as The Hepworth, Chatsworth, and YSP in the future, all places where real artists work.


I’ve been to Kakuma refugee camp which was a life changing experience and so far removed from our daily life here it’s indescribable – the photos I took have been instrumental in educating people about life there and inspiring others to become involved, in turn raising money for new classrooms. I’m spending 3 days a week this Summer blogging for my local RSPB site and learning so much along the way. I can now identify black tailed Godwits, Great Crested Grebes and fox poo!!


I love the fact that Tommy is already a keen photographer, always ready to use the compact camera I keep in my bag. He gleefully cries ‘cheese’ whenever he spots it – I will have to teach him to call it a camera but love the idea of it being a cheese.


I’ve had the privilege of working with the amazing Barnsley Youth Choir since 2009 and watched them grow into the world class choir they are now, as well as meeting the inspirational Laszlo and the Aurin girls. Edinburgh fringe next week.


That’s not forgetting the number of fantastic schools and children I’ve been invited to work with.

I’m going to Shanghai in October to work at the Festival of Education at Wellington College alongside Ian Gilbert and Paul Clarke ( I am beyond excited!)- all of this from being a #grannyfrombarnsleywithacamera 😃

I love my camera

2nd Aug just for fun

The 1st of August is Tommy’s birthday – proper little Yorkshire man. Where there’s a birthday there has to be cake. My granddaughter Layla-Jane loves food and the glee on her face when we just let them have the cake was priceless. Hence today’s prompt – ‘sometimes the only answer is …’


Just as a heads up – I’m off on holiday on Saturday so won’t be posting a challenge as I’m not sure how reliable wifi will be – happy for anyone to take over 😃

#Photochallengesummer 16 – Reflections

This post is for our challenge on Sunday 30th July but can obviously be attempted any time

http://webneel.com/reflection-photography-inspiration-tips

It’s all about ‘Reflections’ I’ve included a link to give you lots of ideas. It can obviously be straight forward reflection in water but think about other reflective surfaces too.

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For anyone interested in finding out more about using Photography with young people my book Learning Through a Lens can be found on Amazon HERE

#photochallengesummer16  26th July


Following a thwarted attempt to visit an RHS garden yesterday (it shuts on Mondays) We went to Bolsover castle. With my photo challenge head on I got lots of ideas. This room was just white and had nothing in it. It was strangely appealing. I could see groups of kids creating in here and turning this into an amazing space – but that’s teacher head and for another day…  

The challenge today is ‘Empty’ there as so many possibilities – although I suspect as it’s the holidays there may be several empty wine glasses by the end of the day. Hope you are having an amazing time. I’ve got a meeting at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park today so will be collecting ideas again J x