Helen’s Blog

Welcome to my blog. Please also click on my name above as that also has details of my work and related photographs.

The latest post will always be just under this one with preceding posts following on in date order. 

And a book was a good idea because.....?

Creating the book, not a problem. Printing the book – pain in the backside! Good job it’s just a mock up.  I honestly think it would have been easier to pay up and hand it over to someone else to sort. A lot of the problems, to be fair, was with our printer deciding to run out of every possible ink through the printing. I then did a stick it together job which was easier than I anticipated. However, I’m not folding it like a book as it’s meant to be a flat lying book so my pictures don’t have a break in the middle. And because if it went wrong, I’d have to lie on the floor and have a tantrum. I also haven’t trimmed it down to size.

Whilst it’s been a pain, I still think this is the right visual representation of my project.

Time for Bed

I wanted to show how the hot flushes affect me without showing my constantly sweaty face and hair line.

The best way to show this was photographing my bed each morning. From clean sheets through to the rumpled sheets were I’ve had night sweats. I’m pleased with the results of the pictures.  I have a looser bottom sheet which I should have used really, it would have given a much clearer picture of how these affect me.

The pictures also show that I sleep with a small fan at my side. It’s at the angle it is because Nik doesn’t like it blowing on him when it is on.

The nurse I see for my diabetes says I’m too young to be going through the change.  I know this isn’t true and I’m sure my mum went through it as this age.  I did ask her recently but she told me she thinks she’s still going through it.  She’ll be 80 on New Years Day! Another 30 years of this is not what I wanted to hear mother!

Crit Me

Today we had a crit at Uni.  I showed the group my book mock up.  I got some good feedback on the photos I had chosen to include. I agreed with all of it apart from one photo.  The black and white pill box photo.

This was a definite keeper but it there was a concern it was the only black and white picture in the book.

The consensus was that the red picture was the best but it wasn’t quite understood why it was red. I thought that some of these drugs are seen as something people don’t want to take so it’s red for danger. But if this is my story, I don’t see these as danger – I’m happy to take them. Maybe it’s me sticking two fingers up to the no-takers!

I decided to go with black and white because that would follow on from the other black and white I had included. But I preferred the red photo. I converted the red picture into b&w so I could get the best of both worlds.

Research, research and more research

I’ve enjoyed the research that I’ve done.  My usual suspects have been there Nan Goldin and Vivian Maier. Two of my favourite photographers.

There are a couple of new kids on the block though. Melissa Spitz and Haley Morris-Cafiero. Fairly unknown as far as I can see but both with excellent back stories to their work. Both have produced a set of prints that are thought provoking and very personal. Photography has been used to uncover a nasty side of society and also to heal previous wounds. I liked the way they presented the subjects they were covering and I have used this approach myself.  Probably a mixture of their approaches actually.  To cover subjects were people can be cruel, ie weight, differences but my project has helped me come to terms with getting older and putting past bothers to bed.

And the final decision is... A Book!

A book.  I’m going to display my work in a book.

On Rob’s recommendation I decided to try Bookwright which helps you layout your book design.  So I’ve been working on this. I want a draft to show tomorrow at uni.

Hot Hot Hot

I wanted to show the effect of the sodding hot flushes in photos apart from showing the sweat on my face. So I am going to take photos of my bed each morning to show how horrible it is when I’ve had a night sweat. So clean sheets on last night and first pictures taken last night and this morning. This is a work in progress.

Ideas...

I need to print my photos this week. I’ve been thinking about how I want to present my selfie pictures. I’ve decided to try and print them as a mosaic. I’ve found a program called Turbo Mosaic. Very easy to use. It provides you with a completed image but it has a watermark unless you buy the professional version.  As it doesn’t affect the quality of the photo to go professional, I’ve just cropped the watermark off.

I’ve created two mosaics, one of my face and one of the number 50.

I really love the results. It’s just mad that these pictures are made up of tiny pictures of me!

In the Trenches

We went to the National Arboretum today in Derby. When we got there it was packed because there was a Christmas fayre on.  Who has a Christmas fayre at an Arboretum??? We decided to give us a miss and go the Staffordshire Regiment Museum at all. What a great place.

And guess who didn’t take their camera? What an idiot. So all my pictures were taken on my phone.

Food for the Soul

Nik is working with old soldiers as part of my project. For the last few weeks we have been meeting up with them.  The Kings Head in Lichfield is where the Staffordshire Regiment was founded.  Once a month they put on a breakfast club for the old soldiers and they kindly invited us along today.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the company of these guys. They are so welcoming and listening to their banter makes me realise how close they are because of the experiences they have shared.

Our old soldiers (picture taken by Nik Andrews).

Family

I have a very complicated relationship with my family.  I am the youngest of four.  I was very close to my mum growing up. I as I grew up I realised that my mum is a very complicated person. My parents had their first three children quite fast. My dad worked and provided but I don’t think he was very emotionally supportive. I think that my mum had PND which wasn’t recognised then. So my mum just got on with it which meant that she’s now got a very hard shell and a very soft middle.  The hard shell shows up a lot more than the soft centre does. Over the years we’ve fallen out over the most stupid little things. She won’t give in. We’ve lost many years through to stupid arguments.

I miss her really badly but when we get together I remember how hard it is to be around her for any amount of time.  We are usually OK for the first day or so but then it’s like she’s had enough of us being there and it gets difficult.

We have been OK for the last few years but it’s become difficult with my eldest son planning on moving back down South and she had decided to tell me that she doesn’t really like my youngest son. I’m 49 years old, when do I get to be treated like a grown up?

This was taken at a family reunion. This is about a quarter of my family on my dad's side. He is one of nine children.
My boys
This is my immediate family (although not all are here). 2 brothers, 1 sister, 11 nephews/neices, 10 great nephew/neices
My mum and dad, 81 and 79. Married for over 60 years.

Pretty in Orange

This Monday we were asked to provide a PA for the above event.  The weather was absolutely awful, a lot of rain. I wore my orange scarf to support the event.

The event was due to start at 10am.  We were set up (and standing in the rain) for half an hour. When they finally came out, they didn’t actually use the mic! We’ll still get paid but that didn’t really sweeten the half an hour in the rain!

No rest for the wicked... ah I'm not wicked then!

We’ve had a rare work-free weekend. On the downside, no money but on the upside, a well needed rest.  The weather was a bit pants but we had a lovely weekend just chilling out and watching TV.

I’m trying to think about the next photo shoot I want to do for my project.  I have a few ideas but not sure how I’m going to present them yet.

My python Claudia is 5 years old now and approx 4ft long.  She is a beautifully placid girl. Her pattern is very impressive.  I got a close up photo of it – just wow.

So then I decided to get a close up of Nuzzle’s paw.

Lesson I never learn… don’t wash your hair before bed and then lie on it.  You end up looking like this! The most body my hair has ever had!

Realisation

I realised today that, emotion-wise, I’ve had a pretty good week.

I met up with my friend and she is what I call my round egg.  If we are struggling, we text Round Egg to the other one which says we need help.  She’s 20 years younger than me but we hit if off as soon as we met.

I saw another friend I haven’t seen for a while, Jade. She is so lovely and always makes me laugh. I’ve got a lot of work done which has helped me. And I cleared the wossiting ironing pile! It was so high, it was blocking out the light.

Nik and I got a lot more time together.  We get to spend a lot of time together normally but for the last week we’ve been busy with lots of things but we got to have a meal out together.

Jade – mental as they come!

Humbled

Today Nik and I went to a group where old soldiers meet every week.  It was so Nik could arrange to meet up with some of them for his own project. I thought I would just sit quietly whilst he did his thing.

Not at all. It was a privilege to meet with them. They were full of stories and so supportive of each other.  The picture above shows Cyril. Cyril was in the RAF.  He was conscripted. He had some great memories that he shared with me. He said that although men knew they were going to be conscripted they would often sign up.  Conscripted men had to be in the forces for 2 years but they got less pay than those who volunteered. However, volunteers had to serve for 3 years but it was at a higher pay.

It was also lovely to see a few of the soldiers that we see at the events we do throughout for the council.

These men fought for us. They get badly treated by the Government. They shouldn’t have to scrimp and save.  They shouldn’t have to sell their medals so they can have some heating throughout the winter.

We shall remember them

For about 7 years, Andrews Creative have been providing PA’s for the regular council outside events.  This include the Remembrance Parades which do not get any less heart wrenching as we go through the years. This year we worked at 3 parades.  The first being at Jeffcock cemetary where there are Dutch graves.  The dutch army come over each year and remember with representatives of all our armed forces.  On Sunday we had the large remembrance parade in Wolverhampton.

The forces, along with our old soldiers, parade through the town.  And as they come into the Civic Square, they are clapped in.  It makes me well up every time.  We are losing more of our old soldiers every year. These men should be remembered for all time.

It was an especially proud time for us because our 10 year old son is a Junior Sea Cadet and he got to welcome the Mayor to the parade. He looked so smart.  The few hours of having to keep quiet took it’s toll though, he was like a motor-mouth for the rest of the day!

On Monday, Wolverhampton had a smaller event in Civic Square as that was actually the 11th day of the 11th month. When we arrived, there were police everywhere and a sniffer dog. This had never happened before. The lady we deal with at the council looked more stressed than usual. We were told that several high up cabinet members were attending the parade as they were in the area but no-one is allowed to tell you exactly who it is.  From all the frenzied activity and a little snoop on my phone revealed that Boris Johnson was in the area. So Boris attended our small remembrance parade. Blimey, I would truly hate to live in a world where I couldn’t move around without the area being checked out, security men all over the place.  That’s no life in my opinion. Bet the man’s never been shopping on his own!

Can you see me?

I have had a lazy left eye since forever.  I remember going to the hospital and looking at pictures to try and strengthen my eye. I had an eye patch. I had glasses with a blocked lens.

I haven’t had any problems with my eye really apart from the fact that it looks crooked when I’m tired. I’ve been advised to wear glasses for some years now but they’ve always felt far too strong so I haven’t bothered.

In the last year, I’ve found that when I’ve been editing photos I’m struggling to see the detail.

I am so glad I did go to this appointment because he is the first optician that has given me some good advice and a pair of glasses I can actually wear.

He was a bit shirty with me at first because I said I wasn’t wearing my glasses.  I get that it’s his business and the client wearing the glasses is the main thing! He went on and on about it so I did tell him that he needed to stop as I had got the hint that I needed to wear the bloody glasses.

As the examination went on he realised that the glasses I had been given were far too strong for me. I told him that I needed them for my computer work. He then asked me how close I worked to the computer. I said closer than most as I’m editing pictures. So the glasses have been made and they are not too strong.

He also discovered that I cannot see 3D. This is because  my eyes work independently of each other. I only look through one eye at a time. When I told Nik this we tried a couple of experiments.

New specs! The guy knew what he was talking about, they are very good. Or would be if I remembered to wear them.

I don’t get this.  I still see 2 fingers because I don’t use both eyes together.

The second is to bring your finger up to your nose. As your finger gets close you see a second ‘ghost’ finger.  I don’t see this either.

It made me think do I actually see the world in the same way as everyone else? I’ll never know. Apparently having stereo blindness means you have little depth perception but I don’t know if I have or not!

Busy busy busy

This week my baby has turned 10. He is a very trying young man and a lot harder to parent than my elder son. He argues, answer back, pushes my buttons and, on occasions, has really made me ill depression-wise.  But he is bright, generally happy and has a great sense of humour. We tried for 5 years before falling with him.

We got him a PC for his birthday as he needs one now to do his homework.  He also loves taking films on a phone and then editing them.  Just like his dad! It’s something we want to encourage.

Take your pills

As part of my project, I wanted to take pictures of the pills I take.  I take a huge amount of tablets every day.  First thing I take 2 x antidepressants and the mini pill.  Before bed, I take 2 x metformin (for diabetes) and 1 x Canagliflozin (also for diabetes).

Dr Doolittle

Growing up we had dogs, chickens, ferrets but never cats.  The only time I had contact with a cat was my brother’s cat Purdy who bit me. So I was never keen.  When I moved out of home my boyfriend got me a kitten and it was love at first sight. Teacup was the first of many cats that I’ve had over the years. I did volunteer work in the 90s for the Cats Protection League and ended up with 7 of them because I couldn’t see them homeless.

All my cats have been great but there’s been 3 special ones.  Crimbo, a little girl I had from 4 weeks because she was the runt and was going to be killed. She had such a character.  We taught her to fetch a bell!  Then Elvis, a massive ginger tom who had a heart of gold. And finally, Peggy Sue – the little cat above.  Peggy was a stray.  A friend knocked on our door to see if she was ours as she was following her up our road towards the main road. We took her in and tried to find if she had an owner but no-one came forward and she wasn’t chipped. So she stayed.

People quite rightly say that cats aren’t that loyal.  They are happy with anyone that feeds them.  But this little lady is my cat.  She tolerates Nik, Samuel and Jamie but she adores me. If I sit down, she’s there laying on me. She’s my side kick.  She is the most amazing little cat.

Half Term

It’s been a lazy but nice half term.  The child has been hyped up because it’s his birthday the following Monday.

Nik had a disco Wednesday evening so Jamie came with me to uni.  He enjoyed it and mainly stayed quiet!

On Thursday we went to a friend’s house for a Halloween party.  The kids had a great time. My friend is such a natural when it comes to entertaining kids and I’m not.  Having typed this, I’ve just realised the irony of this sentence as I’m a children’s entertainer!  But with a small group of children, I prefer to take them to a play centre..  My house is far too small and far too full of animals to have kids everywhere.

So we played wrap up the mummy and carved pumpkins.

Pumpkin carving
The finished article!
Who's going to win?
Winner winner chicken dinner!
Stick on makeup. I could not move my face! Is this what Botox feels like?

After trick and treating where the tired kids bickered, we went to a local pub that was having a party of the children and we had some food. In my opinion, the disco was far too loud and not playing the right kind of music for children. Our lot only went in to get the sweets! It was a lovely afternoon/evening for us all. My little ghost prisoner does not do well being tired so we went home earlier than planned.

Class mates and friends
The girls!

I say that my anti depressants keep me on an even keel. And they do. But sometimes I think they dull me down.  I was having fun but it was like I can’t feel those emotions to the full. Almost like I’m on the outside looking in.

On Friday I provided a disco for a 12th birthday. It was a bit dull until we got nearer the end. They were too cool to dance at first! Mum was happy though.

Some years ago, I provided a last minute disco for a pub in Lechlade, Gloucs. It was just over an hour and half away and I did it fairly cheaply. But it was a fantastic gig and I’d been having a rough time with my gigs and they absolutely loved me! It was such a boost to my confidence. They booked me for some other gigs and although it wasn’t really profitable, I did them because they were such great gigs to do.

They booked me for Halloween this year. I wasn’t looking forward to going because it had been a year since I’d been done there, the weather was shocking and, with M5 roadworks, the journey was nearer 2 hours. But off I went…. I’d forgotten how good it is to work there!  They love such a different range of music – in fact they’ll sing to anything! They really enjoy the photos and they buy me chips! So I was buzzing when I left.

The view from behind my deck!

Then on the way home my poxy car decided not to start. Fortunately I had stopped for a coffee at the services.  The AA turned up and said the starter motor had gone but he did the technical thing and whacked it! It started long enough to get me home.

24 - 30 October 2019

Busy time this week.  I did a Halloween disco on Friday for a pre-school.  So cute. Love doing the little ones parties.

I have a very on/off relationship with my mum. A few months ago my eldest son said he would be moving back down South after he’s finished uni.  He’s lived the majority of his life up here.  My mum did not like us bringing him up here.  So I feel like she feels like she’s won him back now.  And I feel crappy about it.  It’s stopped me calling her, I’m just so angry.

On Friday night I saw some pictures of Facebook of my mum at a family party.  It hurts. So on Saturday I was so love.  I couldn’t get up on Saturday.  I pretty much stayed in bed all day.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been this low. I had to be up for a disco on the night

Then on Monday I get home to find my neighbour has a parcel for me. I recognised my mum’s handwriting.  She sent me 2 lavender bags that she’s made for me.  I love lavender, it really helps with my depression.  And a note giving some news and asking about us.  It floored me. It made my mood improve but now I have to ring which I’m struggling with.

And it’s half term. My child is home for a week.  I just want to say how much I love school. Best child care EVER! Jamie is a high maintenance child. He talks a lot and he talks a lot mainly to me.

23 October 2019

Uni today.  Morning session involved a lot of talking about photos which I enjoyed. I sometimes feel like I’m not as intelligent in how I come across in these classes but I’m working on that.  I need more confidence in myself.

The afternoon was saw some students talking to us about their work.  Interesting to listen to but I’m not sure I got the sea water processing one. I’d rather see a nice sea shot!

22 October 2019

Today we said goodbye to one of our old soldiers, Mick.  He was a lovely man who we’ve got to know well over the last 7 years.

His son lives in America and couldn’t get over for the funeral so Mick’s wife asked if we would video the funeral for her.

Seeing his wife cry broke my heart and started me crying.  I’m so emotional.  I come from a long line of emotional people.  My mum has a very hard outside but is very soft on the inside.  Trouble is it’s not always easy to get to that bit.

My maternal nan had a lot of mental problems.  I only remember her when she was much older and in a home.  She wasn’t in her right mind and didn’t really know who people were apart from my mum, dad and her other children.  One Christmas, probably mid 80’s she gave us £1 for Christmas.  That was for me and her 7 great-grandchildren!

My mum had my brother at 17, my sister at 19, my other brother at 21 (I came along when she was 30).  My dad worked hard and, in those days, the house and kids were the woman’s domain.  My mum was never diagnosed with depression but almost definitely had it.  My youngest brother was diagnosed with haemophilia aged 4.  The authorities thought she was hurting him because he was badly bruised.  It hadn’t been in our family line before. This then involved trips to St Thomas’s in London and Alex’s Hospital in Brighton.  My mum saw a lot of parents smacked of their heads on Valium. She then had a life long distrust of any antidepressant. When I got PND in 1997, my mum was right behind me but this was on the basis that I treated it with natural remedies such as St John’s Wort and lavender oil.  This worked to a certain extent.  In 2000, my husband moved out, my dad had throat cancer and I started having panic attacks.  The first one was in the middle of the night and I woke up and it happened.  I’ve never known fear like it.  I tried to tell my mum but she said she was dealing with my dad’s cancer, she couldn’t deal with my stuff too. I’ve never felt so lonely.  I would go to my mum’s after work because my panic happened in my flat.  One night my mum told me she was not cooking dinner for me one more time and to go home.

I was scared of not being able to look after my 4 year old son.  What if he woke up at night?  How would I cope? I wanted my sister to have him because he deserved a better mum than me. My son is now 23 and typing this still makes me cry.

When I was completely lost and not knowing where to turn next, I rang my Sue, my Health Visitor.  She was on leave and there was no-one else to talk to me.  Just after I put the phone down, it rang again.  Sue had just returned to the office by chance.  She came straight over to see me.  She stayed with me until I was feeling better.  She made an appointment with my GP the next day and came with me.  Anti-depressants were prescribed. This woman was my saviour.  I have recently caught up with her on Facebook and told her this.

21 October 2019

16 October 2019

I was asked what sort of photos I would be taking for my project, I said pictures of my medication, hair dye, damn spots (I’ve got more than I had as a teenager), rumpled bed – night sweats and selfies of me.  It was suggested that I use my phone to do this.  I hadn’t thought of it.  It was also suggested that I take a picture every day in the same place.  I started doing this but felt it didn’t really describe my day so decided to do them in different places with a description of what I was thinking/feeling/doing.

9 October 2019

My project proposoal presentation

Slide 1: Originally, I wanted to look at women approaching the menopause as this is a difficult stage in many women’s lives. However, having thought about it, I think I want to look at ageing and what it means to me.  How I felt about it through the years.  The positives and negatives of ageing.

Slide 2: Next year I will be the big 50.  It is an age that has crept up on me it seems.

I want to explore different ideas I had about the age I was at

Slide 3: How I thought I was fat and unattractive when I was 14 yet, looking back now, I was not at all and I wish I could be as fat and unattractive as that now! How people’s opinions and comments affected how I saw myself.

Slide 4: How a career was most important to me. And having fun with my friends.

Slide 5: Then marriage and children. My priorities changed.

Slide 6: Then came post natal depression, anxiety and panic attacks.  By 30 I was separated and a single mum.

Slide 7: Moving away from my hometown which was not the done thing in my family.  This caused a lot of upheaval and bad feeling with my lot.  Marrying again and being a mum again at 39.

Slide 8: Re-inventing myself career wise. Acceptance of medical conditions. More confident and acceptance of myself.

Slide 9: I am not very good at looking inwards. I’ll be looking at my past and my future so, as a very emotional person it will be very challenging for me. As you know, my love is animals and nature so doing something like this will stretch me.

Ideas for my project

These are some of the pictures I have taken and that lights my fire. Flora and fauna. This was the path I was planning on taking for my MA.

However, as a depression sufferer, I am interested in mental health and how we deal with it. But I didn’t want to talk to other people about depression.  I am an emotional sponge and I would take all their sadness on board. Selfish I know but I’ve learnt that sometimes I have to look after myself first.

I did joke with a friend that I was going to do something on the menopause as I am suffering with hot flushes. She didn’t laugh, she thought it was a good idea! So this became the road I was going down.

Then I thought that I could combine the two ideas.  I could look at ageing and how it’s affected my mental health and the way I think about myself.