19 years ago today I suffered one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever lived through. I woke up and found myself in the midst of a building fire. I was 19 and lived in a pub with my mum and 2 of my younger siblings (aged 6 and 4).
The morning of January 13th, 2001 my mum was sat in her office whilst my brother and sister played in another room, she had smelled burning and asked my 6 year old brother to pop upstairs to wake my boyfriend at the time (Mark) to ask him if he could see where the burning smell was coming from. Little did she know she was sending him to end up trapped with us as the fire spread rapidly up the first lot of stairs and engulfed the first floor, then quickly up the second set of stairs to my floor. I tried to get down but was beaten back by smoke. Mark then tried to get down and quickly realised we were now trapped and fighting for our lives.
I phoned 999 and the operator assured me help was already on its way, they’d had several phone calls already. As I hung up the phone and stood at the window there was a man who’d stopped his van and was also on his phone. I’ll never forget his face as he looked up and saw me stood at the window, he tried warning me the pub was on fire, i told him I already knew and that we couldn’t get out. There was a panicked look on his face as he told the person on the other end of the phone. I believe a 999 operater.
Around this time I heard sirens racing up the road behind the pub, the smoke had started entering my bedroom under the door, and from the blown out window underneath mine. We were being choked by thick black acrid smoke. I was screaming and trying to catch a breath of fresh air through the window but I couldn’t. I saw my mum being comforted by a lady from the local corner shop. She was visibly distraught but thankfully had got my 4 year old sister out. She thought she lost us that day.
The fire brigade quickly got a ladder and put it up to the window, unfortunately as I looked out desperate for help I saw they’d gone to the wrong window, they were at the window next door. I could hear the flames licking my door so there was no way we could get into that room. I made eye contact with a firefighter in BA who quickly got back down the ladder and it was quickly moved across to my window. By this point I’d accepted my fate. I accepted that that was how I was going to die. I sat down on the floor and an overwhelming sense of calm came over me. This was it. Then out of nowhere I got one last burst of energy to pull myself up to the window sill, and there was a masked face looking at me telling me to climb out quick. I have never moved as fast as I shot out that window 2 floors up (not bad for someone with a fear of heights), and he carried me down the ladder back into the fresh air. My brother had already been passed out to the second firefighter on the ladder. Mark was still inside shouting me, I shouted I was out and he climbed down above us in bare feet. As soon as my smoke filled lungs started to inhale fresh air again I started to go dizzy, I felt severely nauseous, at that moment I think my body had no idea what was going on. The firefighter ran to a waiting ambulance where I was treated for severe smoke inhalation symptoms. As I looked out the back of the open ambulance doors I watched a ball of fire fly out of one window and get sucked into my window where I’d stood just minutes earlier. I cried out. That would’ve killed me. The fire continued to burn as I was rushed on blue lights and sirens to the hospital.
I was taken to resus where I had blood tests and treatment for smoke inhalation. I was fortunate to be discharged later that day with a warning that I must return if I had any further symptoms. We later found out that thankfully our rescue dog, Lizzy, managed to escape the back door somehow. The back door was open which aided the spread of the fire but also helped our pet escape.
We had a brand new fire alarm system installed the week previous to our fire after ours started with a ‘fault’ which caused it to keep going off. We had the fire brigade out then to check for any hotspots in the walls etc but they found nothing. The same crew came to our actual fire which was later put down to an electrical fault.
It angers me that nowadays we still hear of people that do not have smoke alarms in their homes, especially when most, if not all, fire services will put them in higher risk homes free of charge, and if you don’t qualify for a freebie you can pick them up cheaply.
Don’t put your families lives at risk, have a smoke alarm at least on each floor, more if you can. Make a plan – I couldn’t believe the number of people I knew with children who had never discussed with their family what to do in the event of a fire. Tell your kids what to do, drill into them the escape route, and what to do it that’s blocked, teach them to stay low for cleaner air, tell them not to hide as my 4 year old sister did. You can find lots of fire plan tips on any fire service website – knowledge saves lives.
Be safe and I pray you never have to go through the trauma we did on January 13th, 2001.
I absolutely love the taste and texture of sweet potatoes. They make a slightly lighter but far more flavourful alternative to the regular potato and for that reason I think they’re much more versatile.
The sweet potato is high in fibre, nutritious and very filling, and they’re available year round.
This recipe is one of my favourite uses for sweet potato, it’s quick and easy and the result is a delicious and very filling soup.
It’s my go-to winter warmer in these cold Yorkshire winters, the chilli gives you a bit of a kick to help warm you from the inside. If you like spicy add a little more and if you’re not so keen then add less.
I serve mine with a sprinkling of grated cheese and a couple of slices of crusty bread with real butter.
It doesn’t usually last long in my house but I have found it’s still okay to eat 3 days after it’s been made if stored in airtight container in the fridge (allow to cool first). You could also freeze in individual portions. To reheat pop it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes depending on your portion size, or warm over a low/medium heat on the hob.
Over to the recipe.
Quick Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup Recipe
1 red chilli (or a pinch of dried)
1 tsb coriander
2 crushed garlic cloves (or a 2 tsp of garlic granules)
750g sweet potato, peeled and cubed (1-2 inch cubes are fine)
700ml of chicken stock (use vegetable stock for a vegetarian alternative)
Your favourite grated cheese (optional) – I used mozzarella in these pictures but I’ve also used cheddar and Gouda in the past, both of which were equally tasty.
1. Over a medium heat, soften the onion, chilli, coriander and garlic in a little butter for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add the sweet potato followed by the stock and bring to the boil.
3. Cover and allow to simmer for around 20 minutes.
4. Blend, add a sprinkling of grated cheese, serve and enjoy.
Go make this right now, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Spirit is our 6 year old blue-eyed sibe, he’s a typical husky – vocal, does as he pleases, thinks he’s the boss, but he’s loving and against our original expectations has become an important part of our family.
First signs that somethingwasn’t right
We first began to notice something wasn’t right a couple of months ago, he appeared to yelp when yawning but we weren’t sure if he was just making a yawny noise (if you know you know), then one day when my other half went to stroke him he panicked and bit him then cried and yelped. We realised something wasn’t right. The following day we booked an appointment with the vet. All day he was depressed, laid and ignored us, he even snubbed freshly cooked chicken. We knew he wasn’t well. Once the time came we got his lead out and he seemed to transform miraculously into an excited dog again. The vet couldn’t see any obvious signs of anything wrong and gave us a weeks supply of medication to see if it made any difference. It didn’t, except for making him drink lots and pee lots.
We took him back a week later and explained he didn’t seem much different. The vets explained they suspected MMM – Masticatory Muscle Myositis. They wanted to put him under sedation to try open his mouth though and have a look inside, something he wouldn’t allow anyone to do whilst he was awake. This was important so they could rule out anything dental. We booked the appointment for the following week. Spirit was sedated and when his mouth was opened he yelped and cried, the sedation wasn’t enough, he’d have to be put under a general anaesthetic. Under GA they were only able to open his mouth 4cms. The muscles were so wasted and worn. How hadn’t we noticed he couldn’t open his mouth much? Hindsight is a wonderful thing I guess.
Then came the diagnosis
The vets diagnosed Spirit with Masticatory Muscle Myositis that day, he was prescribed 60mgs of Prednisone/day, Tramadol and Omeprazole. We weren’t warned about the effect of Prednisone on his remaining muscle, but fortunately I’d found a Facebook group for other owners of dogs with MMM who told me that this would be likely, and boy did he just waste away in front of our eyes.
We started Spirit on his medication that very night (7 tablets on a night, 6 on a morning) – fortunately he’s a bit of a glutton who swallows certain snacks without even chewing so getting medication in isn’t a problem.
The following day I was already noticing improvement. We had gone out and on our return he was excited to see us, tail wagging, bum wagging, talking to us, and doing the funny excited run dogs so when they’re giddy! I realised I’d not seen him like that for a few weeks. The improvements came quick, he was back to stealing food from the table when you turned your back, stealing from bins given half a chance. Within 3 day’s he ate a crispy pizza crust, he had previously struggled to eat a slice of cheese which was why we originally suspected a dental issue. This was amazing. It’ll be 4 weeks in 2 day’s that he was diagnosed and he’s doing amazingly but the muscle wastage in his head, presumably as a result of the Prednisone, is very noticeable. He looks like a skeleton with skin on. He has noticeable dips in his skull area that weren’t obvious before. The vet said that had he not been a fluffy husky the damage would have been more obvious, but even now he is fluffy it’s very obvious. I hope that over time and with a good diet he will build some if not all of the muscle back up around his head and face, but if not as long as he can eat and is happy that’s all that really matters.
This year our littlest is 4. It’s his first year understanding the whole Santa/Christmas thing and so we wanted to make it a special one. We wanted an amazing experience that he/we would remember. He’s a typical boy – he loves all your stereotypical boy stuff including trains, so we just knew this would be perfect. We booked it at a price of £23pp. The eldest didn’t want to come, and he’s 17 so we didn’t force him.
We started the day with a delivery from the elves telling Toby he was going on a train ride to meet Santa. This caused so much excitement, he was bouncing happy. We knew straight away this was going to be a good day. We got ready and left. Very early. We’re usually late for everything and we absolutely did not want to miss this.
We arrived an hour before our train was due to leave, we managed to watch the steam engines moving around the platforms getting into position and we saw another ride return that had been out for afternoon tea.
There were lots of staff (volunteers I believe) to help out at the station. We were greeted by several friendly faces who directed us to the refreshments area where we could have a complimentary hot drink, juice, fruit, mince pie and a shot of Irish cream (for the hot chocolate of course).
By the time we’d finished eating/drinking the other guests were starting to arrive, we decided to free up a table and made our way onto the platform to have a look around whilst we awaited our time to get on the train.
Eventually it was time to take our seats. I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed that we were on the back carriage, it was the only seats available by the time I had booked so we took them. I felt that it’d be a little rubbish as we’d be so far away from the engine pulling us. I needn’t have worried though as the train stops halfway through the journey and the engine is turned around to pull it back the other way. So we did the return journey as the first carriage! Winner!
I went off on a tangent there, on the train we were met by Crackers the elf. “Crackers by name , crackers by nature” he said. He wasn’t wrong. His Irish accent was the perfect addition to his character. He was genuinely happy, outgoing and funny, everyone loved him.
He had the entire carriage laughing, singing and taking part in games. He picked on our daughter who refused to shout something out after him (she’s 11, a little shy and too grown up now for Santa/Elves, or so she thinks). He named her the grinch for the rest of the journey much to her embarrassment.
The first games he played he chose my partner and another unfortunate dad to take part in a race in our half of the carriage, and two from the other half. They had to race to the middle where Crackers was waiting, doing funny runs and then run back. The whole carriage was in fits of laughter. The game was then repeated with ladies and then children. There was no opportunity to get bored.
Santa arrived on our carriage around halfway through our journey. He seemed a genuinely happy guy with friendly, smiley eyes. He happily chatted with the kids and didn’t seem rushed. It was at this point that Toby surprised us by asking for a robot. One thing he doesn’t have. Panic! He sat and posed for pictures before moving on to the next bay. Crackers the elf followed with gifts, which all seem well thought about. No generic selection boxes which you find all too often.
Toby got an emergency vehicle set which he was delighted with, Kaesey (11) got a make your own jewellery set – it came with clay and stampers to shape it and bake it. It was brilliant. Zak (12) got a science kit. It was almost as if the people that chose the gifts knew our kids. We were very pleasantly surprised.
Once the unwrapping was finished, Crackers came around with some activity packs – these contained things like colouring sheets, pencils etc. By this point we were on our return journey. We played a game of ‘finish the lyrics to the Christmas song’ and then sung along to lots of Christmas songs. It was over before we knew it.
We were all beaming and buzzing from our amazing experience and couldn’t thank the volunteers/staff enough. The attention to detail and event they put on was perfect in every way. I think Toby will talk about it for a long time.
It’s probably too late for any last minute bookings now but if you had considered going but wasn’t sure it would be worth it then I would say go for it! It’s not a cheap day out, but does represent excellent value for money in my opinion, and there’s plenty of time to save for next year!
It’s nearly Christmas (18 days), our favourite time of the year! We love getting crafty and messy. We’re in the middle of decorating the living room at the moment so the telly is off the wall, and everything is piled in the middle of the room meaning no Christmas movies together and no chilling on the sofa with a hot chocolate under a duvet.
Earlier this year we made some chameleons (I’ll do a post about those later) and I had the idea of using the same idea for a Christmas tree with colour changing lights.
I wanted to try it at the school I work in first but couldn’t get hold of paper plates believe it or not so we made them at home!
Here’s how we made them:
Draw a simple Christmas tree design
Poke holes in for lights
Colour the lights
We did lots of different colours all over a second paper plate. Toby’s colouring his is in every single colour we have. He also has a moustache and part glasses after the elves drew on him through the night!
Attach the lights to the back of the tree with a split pin
And spin!! Watch your Christmas tree lights change colour!
These took us around 20-30 minutes which was perfect for Toby, he’s 4 and hasn’t the greatest attention span so any longer and he’d have soon got bored. You could do much more intricate trees using the same idea which would take longer and be ideal for older kids.
We used double tipped pens – they’re brushes on one end and normal pen tips at the other. I use them for bullet journaling. Paint would probably be good, if not better, but we’re all out for the first time in years! Time to top up.
On that note I’m away shopping now, Merry Christmas 🎄
We’ve done elf on the shelf now for a couple of years, not the official one but the cheaper mischievous elves! I know only too well how hard it can be to come up with new ideas year after year.
We actually considered making last year the final time, Toby, our youngest, is only 4 and wouldn’t remember, and the older children are now “too grown up” for silly elves that mum and dad obviously move, but they asked if we could carry on for Toby and if they could help. They were very excited about helping to make it magical for him, so continue we have.
We start with a North Pole breakfast and advent calendars. It’s a horrendous amount of sugar which our kids love the look of but in reality the majority of it ended up back in the cupboard to eat later as they couldn’t manage much! I have a few ideas up my sleeve for the next few weeks but here are some of my favourites from the past couple of years.
Chocolate covered Brussels sprouts!
Par boil your sprouts, allow to cool and cover with melted chocolate and sprinkles. You can do much tidier versions than I can but you get the idea!
Make sure you have plenty of ink for this one! Elves having fun with the photocopier is highly entertaining for the kids. It brought giggles in our house.
Elf selfie cookies
How much time do you want to dedicate to elf on a shelf? Ours (over) cooked up some biscuits and decorated them to look like themselves. There are literally loads of recipes to choose from online and lots of tutorials for piping the icing. It’s the first time I’d done anything like this but I don’t think they turned out too horrendously.
A packet of toilet rolls and a Nerf fun and you have a quick yet very effective result!
The Christmas tree is pants!
This had to have one of the best reactions from our children, cover your Christmas tree with their pants and socks, leave a note from the elves saying “your tree is pants, it really socks”, or similar.
One for the older ones!
Our elves stole a bottle of beer and they couldn’t handle it! This was the result. Vomit fest. Of course this isn’t for everyone and our kids didn’t really ‘get it’ so it’s probably one for the older ones.
Dry dog biscuits and bad jokes!
Ketchup & Squirty cream Santas.
So so quick and easy!! Sure to make the children smile.
There’s snow place like home.
This took two cans of spray snow, I could definitely have used more. It’s one I’ll be repeating this year as we get very little snow here. There’s snow place like home, there’s snow place like home, there’s snow place like home.
Single and ready to Pringle.
Save those empty Pringles tubs for a quick and easy idea! You could also use cereal packets such as Rice Krispies – snap crackle and pop!
I moustache you a question.
There are so many options for this idea – the kids faces, parents faces, elves faces, pen, eyeliner. How far is too far? That depends how naughty your elves are I guess!
This works well if you have a number of elves, failing that let the kids toys join in and help for an alternative.
Pose the elves in a similar style to your children’s photos and replace them. It’s fairly quick and easy and our kids found it hilarious when they realised what the elves had done! I realised after that the top photo wasn’t entirely accurate but it didn’t really matter all that much!
Green elf milk!
Food colouring and milk for a funny elf prank! Our children weren’t sure about green milk on their cereal though so was glad we only did a little bit.
We have tried to reduce our single-use plastic use and we made some eco bricks, the elves helped us one night by stuffing some bottles. Our daughter who had just taken part in a competition in which her and her team raised lots of awareness of the dangers of plastics in the sea was delighted by this.
Last week we didn’t get much done. I had so many ideas swimming around in my head that I overwhelmed myself with them and I decided that if our home education journey was to be a success then we needed a plan going forward. So I decided to return to bullet journaling. It’s a hobby I previously had and enjoyed and I hope that I will use it going forward now I have a real purpose for it. Bullet journaling is basically a DIY journal with no limits whatsoever. You can have anything in it that helps you, just unleash your creative side! Some popular pages in a bullet journal are weekly/monthly spreads, to do lists, mood trackers, exercise trackers and so much more.
I bought the Leuchtturm 1917 Slim which is an A4 journal and perfect for what I need it for. I previously had the same but in A5 instead.
My journal is obviously a work in progress but will be used to show our home education plan to officials, it will be used to organise ourselves and every aspect of our busy lives. It is a source of self-motivation.
I chose a double page monthly layout for my main plans, as you can see we don’t have a particularly busy November planned so far although it’s not complete. This style offers me plenty of room to add in plans for our family of 6. The little dragon in the bottom was added at the insistence of my daughter who was desperate for me to try draw one! I feel he ruins the page in one respect but then when I see him I think of her so he actually makes me smile :).
This is my plan for this week, in no particular order. The beauty of home education is there is no set timetable, if he wants to look at energy today that’s fine, if he doesn’t that’s also ok, as long as he does it this week. Monday we did some work on algebra, and the history of Christmas with History.com. His life revolves around coding so it’s a bit of a given that he’ll do that daily.
I found a great Christmas stocking pattern and tutorial at Bags of Love which we have printed off. The material is on order and we’ll make a start soon. The objectives for this will be to see that he can read and follow the pattern, use a number of different stitches (perhaps not on the sticking but certainly some practise pieces first), safely use a sewing machine, complete the stocking, and finally write up about the project.
We have lots of sources and resources for the other subjects, books, websites and materials. Home education doesn’t have to cost much, in fact many of ours were free or very cheap second hand!
Well what a week it has been! It has been a bumpy start and not the best first week, I had an interview to prepare for, dad was on days all week, the boys broke my brand new laptop screen and I’ve had horrendous pain from what I think is a pinched nerve in my shoulder, but nevertheless we have started.
I was sort of expecting a phone call from High School this week to see if they could work with us to encourage the boy to stay in school rather than take him out, and help with suggestions to help him want to be there. I got absolutely nothing. Not even an email. No acknowledgement at all. This to me shows how much they care about him attending their school. I feel like it was a relief to them that we took him out. I’ve never really complained about support before from them but this has made me wonder if we should probably have done this sooner!? Could this attitude have been picked up by him earlier and he just hasn’t realised? Is this why he would not go? I’ll never know but I will forever wonder, and when the time comes for him to (hopefully) return to mainstream education I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable sending him back there!
We have started slowly, investigating helpful websites that we can use, resources available, and I’ve been reading up on the curriculum which should be getting delivered to a child of his age. We’ve also rejoined the library.
He’s 12 and would be in Year 8, exceptionally clever with an amazing ability to learn and retain information when a subject is delivered to him in a way which grabs his attention, or even just if it’s something that interests him. He’s pretty closed minded unfortunately when it comes to learning, he doesn’t understand why he should have to learn geography and history for example, his interests lie purely in computing. I want him to realise that everything about our lives relates back to history and the world around us. I want to teach him to experience a taster of everything so he can see that it’s all a part of our bigger picture, and I don’t want him to be bored of it. I also think it’s important that he has some input into what he learns about! I don’t have any complaints whatsoever with his primary school but I do feel that he hasn’t learnt to love learning and that is a tragedy! This is most important to me.
So with all that in mind we have registered on Khan Academy, he’s currently working his way, slowly, through Algebra and coding. It’s a brilliant website, a non-profit organisation with the aims of delivering world class education for free to anyone, anywhere! I mean how amazing is that! We haven’t done much of it but what we have looked at is brilliant! We’ve got a number of workbooks and a bonus for me is I also work in a school so I also have access to Twinkl for supplies.
We used to read lots when he was little, his reading books after school and we would read a story before bed, every single night. It’s precious time and very very important. As he’s got older and been introduced to technology however his love for reading has ebbed away. Rather than jump straight into an English course we are trying to encourage a love of books again. It’s taken two visits to the library before one caught his eye and he’s still to start it, but he will I’m sure. He has a very strong vocabulary, often choosing words that you might expect to hear from someone very highly educated. He always uses them in the correct context and it amazes me that someone who has fallen out of love with learning can pick up and use language like that!
He’s always been interested in science, we’ve seen a number of websites offering science experiment kits containing everything you need to do them at home. This was an area I worried about as I thought, and school also reinforced previously, that he would never have the same hands-on science experience that he could get at school. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I’ve seen a number of places that offer scientific workshops to children who are home educated too. Whilst I probably won’t be able to make these with him his dad almost definitely will due to his 4 on 4 off working shift pattern.
I am currently looking into the sports opportunities for him. He hated PE and his high school agreed it was best not to push it in Y7, and dropped it from his timetable. However they insisted he do something in Y8 and he often got in trouble for not having his kit or for not joining in. They kindly offered for him to go to the gym instead which he was keen on, but unfortunately as we couldn’t get him to school that never materialised. As he’s not very active at all it’s going to be a priority of ours. He loves swimming and he also loves ice skating, although he doesn’t have a natural ability for it, so these are two potential areas we’ll look to utilise. Once he turns 14 we can register him at our local gym but that’s a way off yet.
We were told he wouldn’t get the same social opportunities if we took him out of school. I agree, he won’t be forced to sit in classes full of people he doesn’t really know or like, and he won’t walk around on his own anymore amongst hundreds of other children. Instead he’ll take advantage of the social opportunities that come from everyday life. Speaking to people he doesn’t know. He’ll join groups of other home educated children and make new friendships. We’re still in contact with friends he’s had for years who do go to his school but who he didn’t share lessons with, and they are wonderful families who won’t stop inviting us to events just because we’ve chosen a different path. I have no doubts that this will help his social skills in the long term.
We still have a million other things to think about but I believe whilst we haven’t done much in our first week, we’ve made a bloody good start! So far his sister (Y7) hasn’t played the “it’s not fair” card. It would simply be too much to get my head around home edding two, but I can honestly say that in the future if I still feel as positive as I do now it wouldn’t be out of the question to consider taking her out as an option too!
Our next big job is to begin to write our education philosophy for the education welfare dept as they’ll be writing to ask for it soon. I’ll be using this blog to catalogue the work we do – the exciting and the boring.