Ken's Many Musings PaR Events 2019 Contact

Jude Hanlon

Jude Hanlon, a trustee of Porridge and Rice, living in the north west and working in information technology


I am an atheist feminist IT manager working and living in the North West of England. My immediate family currently comprises me, my husband Steve, two teenagers and an unbelievably well behaved rescue cat. My non-working time is filled with reading, writing, knitting, exercising, gardening, cooking, and watching films and TV (not necessarily in that order).

Every now and then I feel an urge not to hamster-wheel towards retirement. That's when I have more interesting things to blog about.

I am a trustee of the charity Porridge and Rice which supports education in the slums of Nairobi, home to many of the poorest people of the world. I have visited Nairobi twice to work in the schools supported by the charity, and plan to be a regular visitor.

Jude Hanlon



KS Learning

KS Learning provides tuition for all ages inluding GCSE and A Level for a wide range of subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English, History, French, German, Spanish, and more, in the Boroughs of Richmond-Upon-Thames, Hounslow, Kingston-Upon-Thames, and surrounding areas.

Tuition for A level and GCSE for students at school or home schooled in subjects like maths and english



Porridge and Rice

Porridge and Rice combats poverty in the Nairobi slums, home to some of the poorest people in the world, by enabling pupils at partner schools to obtain a sound education.

Porridge and Rice is fighting poverty through education for the extreme poor of the Nairobi slums




Contact

If you have thoughts that you would like to share with the world, please submit them by email.

Note that the editor will decide whether to publish and/or edit emails before publication. No discussion will be entered into.


KS Learning

KS Learning provides tuition for all ages inluding GCSE and A Level for a wide range of subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English, History, French, German, Spanish, and more, in the Boroughs of Richmond-Upon-Thames, Hounslow, Kingston-Upon-Thames, and surrounding areas.

Tuition for A level and GCSE for students at school or home schooled in subjects like maths and english



Porridge and Rice

Porridge and Rice combats poverty in the Nairobi slums, home to some of the poorest people in the world, by enabling pupils at partner schools to obtain a sound education.

Porridge and Rice is fighting poverty through education for the extreme poor of the Nairobi slums




Contact

If you have thoughts that you would like to share with the world, please submit them by email.

Note that the editor will decide whether to publish and/or edit emails before publication. No discussion will be entered into.


Contact

If you have any thoughts that you would like to share, please feel free to email

Interests

Books Climbing Walking Cats Charity Kenya Nursing French Puzzles Craft Reading Craft Child Development French Nursing Hygiene Charity Cats Walking Climbing Books


Jude's Blog

Jude will blog on anything and everything. She has pledged to try to be interesting. Let go of any expectations, and you won't be disappointed.



When is an aubergine not an aubergine?

8 September 2019

I like moussaka. I especially like saying moussaka like I'm Vic Reeves addressing Ulrika Jonsson on Shooting Stars I don't make it super-often and crucially, these days, I tend to make it without any meat in it. I'm not sure what it should be called then, other than vegetarian moussaka (I'm trying to come up with something witty, but it's late and my muse is busy trying to ignore the sound of Monday hurtling towards me at high speed) but it does still always involve aubergine.

To this end, when we were deciding what to plant this spring, we agreed that aubergines would be a useful addition to the crops. We acquired, and duly planted a tray of aubergine seeds.

Only one sprouted. While disappointing, our experience with courgettes in previous years tells us that this might well be enough for us to, if not be inundated, at least have a couple of home-grown aubergines to call our own. We duly (once it seemed robust enough) planted it in the ground, and kept our fingers crossed.

A week or so later, my CEO came to a meeting eager to share a newly learned fact that aubergines are in fact a member of the blueberry family. His opening gambit of asking "is an aubergine a fruit or a vegetable" was met with the usual caginess inspired by this question (you're asking, and I'd think it's a vegetable, so it must be a fruit) and we all congratulated him on expanding his brain. I shared that I had a real life aubergine plant in my garden. Everyone (who has already been subjected to the long list of vegetables I'm growing) feigned interest, and we moved on. The meeting was the quarterly ISO management meeting (processes to comply with quality/security/environmental standards) so you can imagine that the aubergine fact was pretty much a dazzling highlight.

After I got home, I took a picture of the famous aubergine plant and shared it with those who had been at the meeting. This is the picture that I shared:

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I've never seen an aubergine plant before, however, it came out of a packet labelled "aubergine" and was planted in sterile compost, so I had no reason to think it was anything other than an aubergine.

I went away on holiday for 2 weeks (as all gardeners do at the height of the growing season, obvs) and came back to this.

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I'm reasonably new to this gardening malarkey, but even I can now tell that that is *not* an aubergine.

I'm quite disappointed. I was looking forward to having aubergines...

The crazy miracle of growing things

28 June 2019

I'm aware that things grow without human intervention. I'm aware that very often things grow *in spite of* human intervention (apologies for the spammy ads - it's worth scrolling down the the interesting picture though, honest guv). It's still a shock to me that I can make things grow *intentionally* in a place of my choosing with an ultimate target of eating them for my tea.

We've planted a ridiculous number of vegetables this year - if I were to list them, you'd get bored of listening before I finish. How do I know?

  friend/colleague: so, what veggies are you growing in your garden, then?
  me: lists vegetables, pauses for breath
  friend/colleague: that's *amazing*
  me: ...and continues listing vegetables
  friend/colleague: (in another slight pause) blimey!
  me: ...and continues listing vegetables
  former friend/colleague: walks off/insists we go ahead and start meeting even though Jude still listing vegetables

Even though most of the beds are rammed with All The Vegetables, I still want to plant more. I've got a row of radishes, and I'm concerned they won't be enough. A YouTube gardening expert I'm watching a lot (Charles Dowding (because we're doing No Dig - more on that another time) recommended growing radishes early or late in the season as they tend to be milder when grown in cooler weather.

"BUGGER THAT!" Thought I, and am purposely growing them through the hottest weeks of the year. I planted my "main crop" a few weeks ago, and ate some of the thinnings last week. They were like teeny tiny amazingly awesomely hot nearly-like-chillis, and I love them. I'm wondering whether next year I can plant even more and harvest them as micro-greens for pepping up salads.

In the meantime, in the spirit of succession planting, I've planted some more. Look! I planted these just 5 days ago, and already they are peeping up above ground. That's a row of basil on the right, which is also starting to emerge, but looks like it will take a bit longer unless it gets its skates on.

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A tale of two hostas

26 June 2019

This year we've got "back" into gardening - we have a large garden, having moved from That London to Up North, and sporadically I've grown vegetables and tried to make the patio look good with varying degrees of success. This year has been more successful than previous ones, possibly helped by the prolonged spell of rainy weather that has replaced First Summer (pre-end-of-exams-heatwave) this year.

Last year husband had a birthday involving a number divisible by 10, which was a catalyst for a lot of sorting out and tidying up - as part of this we put some plants in pots and dug out a dead hedge, thus significantly improving the state of the patio. Two of these pots house hostas. Hostas remind me of the angry plant that shook on 80s TV programme aspidistra. In my defence they look a *bit* similar. To this inexperienced gardener...

Anyone who has tried growing a hosta before will be aware that they are like catnip for slugs. Unless serious extreme measures are taken (and usually even when they are taken) hosta leaves end up looking like post-apocalyptic lace before you can say "get the f*ck off my hostas, please". One of my hostas spent the first few weeks of non-freezing weather in a gloomy corner next to a non-dead evergreen hedge. The other spent that same time at the corner of the patio, next to other plants. I noticed that gloomy-corner-hosta had been quite chewed, and that the other one hadn't been, so I moved gloomy-corner-hosta into a sunnier, more isolated location and although it has recovered a bit, it's still not looking what one would call perky.

Now that corner-of-patio hosta has started to flower, I feel doubly bad.

My top tips for growing leafy, healthy hostas:

  1. Plant in a square pot, it appears to confuse predators
  2. Slugs appear to be attracted by cobalt blue: use terracotta pots
  3. Do not place near grass
  4. Do not place grass in pot with hosta. Or other weeds.
  5. Look at them at least once every 3 days
  6. Locate near other plants, they like having friends
  7. Except bluebells - see above re. cobalt blue. It appears to be blue things in general
  8. Read poetry to them if you like. They quite like the war poets.

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Helping with your children's homework

29 April 2019

Let's face it, nobody loves homework. Well, nobody that I know, anyway. It's a means to an end, a necessity if you don't want to get in trouble. Oh, and yeah, do more learning and stuff. Even though I was reasonably academic as a child, I did only what I had to do until ... oh, it has to be University year 2 at least. And possibly later than that.

So, as a parent, you can imagine how delighted I am to be going through the joy of homework all over again.

It's fair to say that, when I was a parent of primary/junior school age children, I deeply resented having to supervise homework. I didn't get homework myself until year 3 of middle school, and certainly not from the get-go. Learning spellings with child 1 was utterly traumatic and even at 15 her spelling shows tendencies towards the - shall we say - creative side.

My biggest and scariest bête noir was the dreaded project book. Primary school's foray into self-guided learning was to give children the flexibility to choose their own topics and do questions from a selection of possibilities that drew on their interests & skillset over several weeks. Or, more accurately no doubt, their parents' interests & skillset. Over the years, I grew to hate project books with a passion. "Choose 2 from section A and 1 from section B" was a phrase that was uttered in my nightmares. Why, you ask, should this evoke such emotion?

Infants don't do so well with open-ended, and neither do parents who, quite frankly, would like to get back to housework or (more likely) sitting on their arse enjoying the weekend. On one occasion, it took me a good half hour just to get child 1 to decide on which question we were going to tackle.

Then, it turns out, these were about things that the children either hadn't been taught yet (a cunning way to get children to learn about Looking Things Up On The Internet) or, more likely, that child 1 hadn't absorbed, so claimed to have never been told anything about.

"Draw a Saxon hall and explain why you have included the people, animals and buildings you have shown."

"So, what does a Saxon hall look like?"

"Is it ... brown?"

And so, the long Sunday afternoon wears on.

I remember one particularly special occasion when "we" were doing The Vikings.

"Read a Viking saga, and retell it in your own words." After 3 hours of roars and screams (the bad kind) we had 3 sentences. My fourth sentence was something along the lines of "This is all you're getting, Miss D****, because frankly life is too short, my daughter is a gibbering wreck under the kitchen table, and I'm shaping up for an early flight to Valhalla, pass the gin, please."

Fast-forward to now (10 years later) and child 2 decides that for geography he wants to spray-paint a black display panel, then spray-paint a globe on it, and illustrate with key points about flooding in Bangladesh. Ever the enabler, I talk him down to an A1 sheet of black card and a globe painted in poster paints as a base. I agree to help make this dream a reality and, sure enough, we managed it in under 3 hours, we were still friends and spent all evening congratulating each other on how fab it looks. The bits of information about Bangladesh feel a bit of an intrusive distraction, but what can I say, he's got to make it informative and related to geography, apparently.

I'd like to think perseverance had something to do with this, but it was more than likely the passage of time.

And a change of child.

the african pygmy hedgehogs are popular at petting days run to raise money for Porridge and Rice
knitted hedgehogs made by Jude Hanlon for sale at fairs to generate income for the charity Porridge and Rice

Hedgehogs for Africa

30 January 2019

A fund-raising endeavour that has proven super-effective for Porridge and Rice is the sale of knitted hedgehogs. That's not a sentence I ever thought I'd write.

My name is Jude, and I am a knitter.

For the past 15 years or so, since I "came back" to knitting after a quite-lengthy hiatus, I've been a keen knitter. To the extent that, at one point, my son described me as "this is my mum, she just likes to knit". My knitting, generally, comprises sweaters, socks, accessories, at a push tea cosies, but generally useful and beautiful things. I'm technically adept, and occasionally am asked for advice on tricky instructions and on "can you sort this for me" occasions.

Up to about 2 years ago, I can't recall a single "toy" that I had knitted as an adult. I can not say this now.

I'm a trustee of Porridge and Rice, mercilessly ensnared by the chairman, Ken, who has been a friend of mine ever since he was my boss just over 20 years ago (yes, we were both employed as child labour). My family and I help out a couple of times a year with the stalls the charity runs at local fairs in west London, where we host a mini petting zoo populated by guinea pigs, chickens, rabbits and pygmy hedgehogs. We were looking for related "merch" to sell at the stall, and Ken asked if I'd have a go at making knitted hedgehogs.

If I'd known how successful this was to be, I'd have stalled for longer.

Initially I made them in a reasonably realistic colour, yarn kindly donated by a friend of mine, and they sold pretty well. I brought along ten to the first fair that year, and we sold a couple. The following fair we sold all but two. I "advertised" them at work and sold a few. Someone asked if I made ducks as well, so I had a go.

the african pygmy hedgehogs are popular at petting days run to raise money for Porridge and Rice
knitted hedgehogs made by Jude Hanlon for sale at fairs to generate income for the charity Porridge and Rice

It turned out OK, but it's not my best work. It was well received by the requester, mind, so I can't complain.

Then, another of my knitting friends mentioned that she had some tinsel yarn she was unlikely to use, and would I like it for my hedgehog production line? And so the phrase "nothing says Christmas like a knitted hedgehog" was born... When I put them on sale at work, I couldn't keep up with demand, and quite frankly got to the point where I didn't care if I ever saw another hog or ball of tinsel yarn ever again!

It turns out, however, that sparkly hedgehogs are (just like dogs) not just for Christmas, and these are now popular year-round best-sellers. So, at any point there are a stack of finished hogs and some in progress in my living room.

knitted hedgehogs using wool containing tinsel are sold by Porridge and Rice to raise money for schools in Kenya
knitted hedgehogs are sold by the charity at fairs in winter and summer to generate income for the charity

It's a craze that doesn't look like it's dying out anytime soon. If you know of anyone who has "spare" tinsel yarn or spare time and some knitting ability, please put them in touch. I'm starting to feel like I'm in purgatory... However, I've made and sold well over 100, and at £10 each my customers and I have paid for over 33300 breakfasts, so quite honestly as long a folk keep buying them I'm going to (have to) keep making them!

PS. My favourite, although it was the hardest to make, is Des, named for the spaceship stolen from Hotblack Desiato in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He now resides with one of my work colleagues, who has a similarly coloured cat...

Free solo

15 January 2019

This weekend the children and I went to watch Free Solo, a documentary covering Alex Honnold's mission to free solo climb the 3,200ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. I went because I have an unhealthy obsession with watching other people do dangerous climbing. The kids went as they go to climbing once a week, and this was "homework".

In the same way that Jaws isn't just a film about a shark, this isn't just a film about climbing. Yes, it's about climbing, but it's about a lot of other things as well. How does Alex rationalise doing something so dangerous? How should his mother feel about it? What is it about his relationships with other people and with himself that leads him to be so "reckless"? Is what he is doing accurately characterised as "reckless" given the years he spends preparing for the climb and consequently knows the whole face of the rock better than most people know the surface of the pavement outside their own homes?

I mentioned to my colleague the turn of phrase Alex uses - something like he doesn't currently feel an obligation to maximise his duration on earth - and his response was "so, he's suicidal?". He really isn't, he loves what he does, and feels driven to do more of it, but is fully aware of the risks and consequences. At one point during his preparation a climbing friend of his and the crew dies while climbing, and although it gives him pause, it's not a long pause.

Another interesting aspect is the change in dynamic when he starts a relationship. His partner is aware that she can't tell him to stop - she knew who he was and what he did when she met him - but clearly leaving him when she knows what he is planning to do is hard.

This is not a film for those who can't cope with heights - there are many vertiginous panoramas - and this is one of the reasons I wanted to see it in the cinema rather than waiting for it to come on the telly. I can't see it being as effective on the small screen.

On a lighter note, I get flashes of a link with my favourite Terry Pratchett book, Pyramids - the main character trains as a Ninja, and classifies walls that everyone else just considers to be walls in a series of micro-gradients according to their climb-ability.

"It's not that bad, he told himself. You've tackled worse. The hubward face of the Patrician's palace last winter, for example, when all the gutters had overflowed and the walls were solid ice. This isn't much more than a 3, maybe a 3.2."

You get the impression that El Cap' is something more like a 5, possibly a 6.

Joel climbs a wall at a local club for young people of all ages
Lily tries her hand at a climbing wall at her local climbing centre