From a Greek mama with love

Studying from home?

Nassi is starting university in September and will be leaving home. When universities moved online overnight during this pandemic, I had a glimpse of hope that Nassi would be staying with us next year and study from home. As a mum, especially a Greek mama, who feels a very strong bond with her children and finds it extremely hard to believe that her little boy is no little boy anymore (I actually had baby typed here originally…) and let go, this was a sweet thought, like μέλι (honey). One more year together. I could protect him from the big wild world and the hungry wolfs, from tiny deadly viruses too, I was hoping. Really? I soon started feeling guilty.

Of course, I also feel sad, very sad, that Nassi like so many thousand students like him will not be able to enjoy university life in the same way many thousands before him did. I hope that his university years will be special for him. Somehow. When he finally goes, I will constantly be thinking of him. I will be worrying. I don’t even know how I will be able to sleep at night. Yes, it is that bad. I remember when I took him to the nursery for the very first time and left him there, all these years ago. The memories are still fresh in my mind. I felt that I had abandoned him even if it was for a few hours. That was a frightening feeling, for a Greek mama especially.

I have to admit that I didn’t just like the idea of Nassi studying from home so that he can be with us, but I also felt that he would have an advantage. No, I didn’t make this up to find excuses. He would learn quickly what learning at university really means. I have been an online and remote learner and student myself for the majority of my education and have been supporting and facilitating online learning in a range of settings. My dad must have been one of the very early non-traditional students who did his undergraduate degree remotely in the DDR when he was working full-time and had a young family. I know from my own experiences that learning requires commitment, determination and discipline, routine and work, hard work. Learning online is not the easy option. So my thinking was, if Nassi can adjust to learning online with help and support, of course, and develop effective study habits, he will be able to learn anywhere, anytime, anyhow. He will become a responsible and confident student. Isn’t this what we want all our students to be? We talk about students’ autonomy but how do we help them get there? Taking responsibility for his own learning from the outset, will not only help him get through his university years and get the maximum out of these, but also prepare him for life. Actually, schools also need to rethink, radically I would say and stop being exam prep factories.

Then, I started thinking why, yes, why on earth are we not (more) systematic in our approach to learning and teaching and approach education as a part of lifelong learning that is seamlessly integrated into our lives. Systematic might be the wrong word. What I mean is integrating learning and education into the fabric of life. The whole education system as one, in harmony. Like a live organism. And moving away from our obsession for exams. I had to add this here. Also, this business with paying fees (there are more inclusive models to fund higher education!) and valuing some degrees more than others? Where does this come from? Why? Nobody is an island. We are social animals. Aristotle said, and he is right. We need each other and we all need to contribute in our unique ways to come together, to move forward together. Treviranus (2016, 7) says this beautifully “It is our variability that gives us collective strength.”

Why have we not adjusted our approaches to learning and teaching and often see technology as an add-on? There are a series of conceptual and empirical frameworks and models that have been developed years ago to scaffold and support learning using digital technologies. We still talk about lectures, and seminars and tutorials and struggle to move away from “delivery” and “content” or even worse “content delivery”. Don’t get me started. A lot has been written about the future of higher education and ambitious models and possible directions have been shared (recently Orr et al., 2020; Ehlers, 2020). It will be really interesting to see what is going to happen. Costa (2020),  for me it is Cristina, voices a much needed perspective and stands up for online learning and the opportunities that are opening up for all of us, if we are willing to un- and re-think and re-align our practices and expectations, as she says. Online education is not a deficit model. It isn’t, for me either.

Will anything change or are we going to go straight back to “lectures” full stop.  I hope not. Old habits die hard. We will see.

There is now an opportunity to be bold and I can sense an appetite for change. Jessop (2020) recognises the opportunities to re-imagine more effective pedagogical approaches. Now. Approaches that have been around for a while. Active learning in various shapes and forms supported and enabled by technologies that have the power to create seamless and connected learning experiences ( Scott, 2020). There is excitement in the air. I can feel it too. Finally, I think, we also seem to recognize (more) the value of creativity in learning and teaching. Maybe we just talk about it more… Maybe I am seeing things that are not there. Wishful thinking? Creative approaches are often pushed to the corner…  under the carpet. Innovators are ignored, excluded and ridiculed. And their innovations as well. Nelson (2018, 4) wrote “There is a strong pedagogical impulse to eliminate haphazard approaches to learning and sadly imagination and creativity are a casualty.” These are his words. Anybody who has pushed the boundaries knows if this is true or not. They will have felt it, experienced it. Are we moving from creativity as casualty as Nelson (2018), said, to creativity to the rescue? Crawford (2020, online) recognises that “… the creative vaccine can work its magic on all our minds at this dreadful time…”. He talks about art, but creativity is not just art. Resourcefulness is what many of my colleagues have shown during the pandemic. Many have become experimenters and explorers. Hungry for new ideas. There is a fresh air of excitement about teaching all around us, that I haven’t felt for a long time. Can anybody else feel this too? We do seem to be more open to ideas (than ever before?), to different ways of teaching tactics, to use Hammond’s (2017) words and supporting our students’ learning. Plato said that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Could it be adversity? I think change was needed for a long time but it just wasn’t happening. Were we sleepwalking? Chatzidamianos (for me Gerasimos) and Nerantzi (that is me) (2020) have come together and knitted the PPE for learning and teaching in higher education during the pandemic based on their observations from recent experiences: Positivity, People and Emotions.

When I started writing this piece, I didn’t plan to just share the fact that Nassi will be going to university and my feelings about it. I am of course excited about him starting university, which I haven’t mentioned yet, I think. But there was something else that has been occupying my mind for a little while.

So, here is my idea. Finally.

Couldn’t the first year of an undergraduate degree, of all undergraduate degrees, yes you read this correctly, be offered online by default? By all universities? Is anybody else seeing the advantages this would bring for our students, their university experience and their lives? But also communities and society as a whole? Wouldn’t such a re-structure of our programmes, help our students master learning how to learn? How to develop effective study habits, how to inquire? To take responsibility for their own learning? What difference would it make to the wider academic community? To inclusion, retention, progression and success at university and in life? Some would say this should happen before anybody starts university. Also true. Why isn’t it? We will of course, have to sort out access to networked technologies for all citizens first so that it doesn’t become another intervention for the privileged, for the few.

I know, universities are big ships and difficult to maneuver. It is however, not impossible to change direction.

From a Greek mama with love

 

References

Chatzidamianos, G. & Nerantzi, C. (2020) “Stripping the layers of the onion” in learning and teaching in HE: positive lessons learned from working during a pandemic, AdvanceHE, 3 June 2020, available at https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/news-and-views/stripping-layers-onion-learning-and-teaching-he

Costa, C. (2020) The limits of online education are assumed, not a given, 4 June 2020, Social Theory applied, available at https://socialtheoryapplied.com/2020/06/04/the-limits-of-online-education-are-assumed-not-a-given/?fbclid=IwAR063w7Xob6SzpyXTMQRkM5D_tnvwL0hdR26T33a5fLe8q41-y7_i2veHYM

Crawford, P. (2020) Coronavirus – an outbreak of creativity, Arts and Minds Blog, Arts and Humanities Research Council, 22 May 2020, available at https://ahrc-blog.com/2020/05/22/coronavirus-an-outbreak-of-creativity/?fbclid=IwAR0agQVM1X3MxHuQyoFzcm8X8htsNjGTglieoY_YP4-1PITVOwOxHA-5fQY

Ehlers, U-D. (2020) Future Skills. The future of learning and higher education, translated by Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, Patricia Bonaudo, Laura Eigbrecht Karlsruhe, available at https://nextskills.org/library/future-skills/

Hammond, C. (2017) Introduction: Critical pedagogies – horizons of possibility, In: Hammond, C. (ed) (2017) Hope, Utopia and Creativity in Higher Education. Pedagogical tactics for alternative futures, 1-19

Jessop, T. (2020) Let’s lose the deficit language about online education, 2 June 2020, WonkHE, available at  https://wonkhe.com/blogs/lets-lose-the-deficit-language-about-online-education/

Nelson, R. (2018) Creativity Crisis. Towards a post-constructivist educational future. Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Publishing

Orr, D.  Luebcke, M., Schmidt, J. P., Ebner, M. Wannemacher, K., Ebner, M. & Dohmen, D. (2020) Higher Education landscape 2030. A trend analysis based on the AHEAD International Horizon Scanning, available at https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-030-44897-4

Scott, G. (2020) Can we plan for a socially distanced campus?, WonkHE, 6 May 2020, available athttps://wonkhe.com/blogs/can-we-plan-for-a-socially-distanced-campus/

 

week 10 > in voluntary lockdown

Hundreds of people in the UK and thousands globally are still dying from this horrible virus. We have become impatient to go back to “normal” life. Apparently pigeon shooting and horse racing is starting again. Really? I guess we have different priorities. Human life seems not too matter. I despair. I worry. I am staying in lockdown.

At a time when everything feels like a race, a race against each other, the photo below gives me hope. A glimpse of hope for humanity. Watching the rocket launch and especially the warm welcome when the astronauts finally arrived at the International Space Station was heartwarming. It really showed what we can achieve together and make the impossible possible.

image taken from the live stream that was available at https://youtu.be/pyNl87mXOkc

We can work together and sustain such collaborations if there is commitment to each other, commitment to work together for the wider good. Ephemeral common interest motivated by personal gains as a driver for a collaboration is never a good sign and will not last. We see this again and again.

At the end of this week, we will be offering the open course FOS with colleagues from 10 institutions in the NW of England. We are grateful for their contributions and being part of this adventure. We hope that it will attract interest from the wider academic community and staff and students will join us to learn together. Especially now, during the pandemic where everything is changing rapidly, despite the stillness we may see, our minds and practices actually travel faster than ever before, change faster than ever before. Are we ready for September? This course will hopefully help us experience something different, something that will help us reflect on our own practice, a course that will help us experiment and learn with others. Something that will provide new ideas, something that will trigger changes in our thinking, actions, interactions and practices. The experimental nature of the course means that not everything will work. This is a given. We are not aiming to model perfection or excellence. Is any of this actually possible or desirable? Experiencing eureka moments, experiencing things going wrong, being there for each other, troubleshooting and recovering but also discovering new ways of solving old problems, we hope will make FOS attractive to all those who join us for 10 days in June. Often colleagues give up when they try using a technology and it doesn’t work. I have done it too. But every such experience is a learning opportunity that helps us re-think our own approach and the tactics we use. Tactics is a useful way of putting it, I feel, and Craig Hammonds thoughts relating to this has been an inspiration.

“To recognise and accommodate the expressive and meandering connections emergent from within the scripted worlds of liberated learners, practitioners must start to creatively and tactically manoeuvre pedagogical alterations within the stultifying rules of the academic monolith. Democratic practices and tactics should be experimented with, to ensure that serendipitous and subjective voices are afforded space to birth and grow towards meaningful explication.” (Hammond, 2017, 15)

The plan is to model real practices. Not perfection. Not everything will work. Things will go wrong. We know they will. But we will use these experiences to learn. To troubleshoot together. To move forward. We probably learn more from negative experiences if we allow it to happen. If we don’t ignore our own mistakes and shortcomings and do something about it. So easy, too easy to blame the technology or somebody else…

FOS has its roots in the final project of the MSc in Blended and Online Education I completed at Edinburgh Napier University. Like so many other ideas and concepts I developed later on. Looking back at this journey and what grew out of this experience, I can say that this course has been transformative for my practice as an academic developer. This project led to the postgraduate module FDOL at the University of Salford I developed and the open FDOL course with Lars Uhlin from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. After offering FDOL three times using PBL as a cross-institutional collaboration between our two institutions, two child courses were created that indicated two different directions of travel (ONL and FOS). My doctoral research and the discoveries I made as FDOL was one of the cases I investigated, took me to new places. FOS was born out of FDOL and some features are influenced by BYOD4L.

What else? I have continued crafting. Made two special masks this weekend. Just need to post them. I also love looking after our plants in the house and in the garden. Maybe we will even have some strawberries. Maybe.

I have been writing like mad on my final MA project. I have over 15,000 words already and still have a way to go. I know where the story is going. Just missing some of the details. I am really looking forward to my early mornings to make a little bit of progress every day. I know when I have ran out of creative steam and I stop. Thirty minutes is my max. I feel a sense of achievement every day. By the end of June, the very first draft will be complete. Maybe even sooner. I am getting there. Can’t wait to see it all coming together, also with the storydress, that is ready and waiting.

Stay safe and look after each other!

References

Hammond, G. A. (2017) Roland Barthes, Guy Debord and the Pedagogical Value of Creative Liberation. Prism: Casting New Light on Learning, Theory and Practice http://prism-journal.blackburn.ac.uk/ ISSN 2514-5347 Vol. 1 (2): pp. 8-24, Available at http://prism-journal.blackburn.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2.1-Hammond-PR2-1.pdf

week 9 diary > no longer paralysed

This week I have really enjoyed making progress with my story. It is over 12,000 words at the moment and I still have a way to go, probably a month. Not sure yet about the final length. I like that I know where I am going as this story develops from a picture book story, under 500 words. I have the story skeleton. While initially, I felt paralysed by the task, progressively I learnt to love the writing process linked to this story. Now, I feel a bit naughty mixing reality with imagination, a lot of it. Something I like doing anyway. But I wasn’t sure if it was right to do this, in this particular story. As it is based on real stories. I have let go. I feel the freedom now. The freedom to invent, to be playful with language and experiences, to trigger emotional reactions in my characters, hopefully also in my readers. There is so much I don’t know still and will never find out about my parents’ past. Maybe it is better that way, maybe. The gaps have been useful for me. They test me, they challenge me and create opportunities for invention. How would it be for them to read this story, one day? Would they recognise themselves in it? Would anybody get a sense what really happened and what is made up? My wish is that the story flows as a whole and would enable the reader to immerse themselves into it from the start to the end and live different realities. Realities they never experienced. Or maybe they did and the story brings it back to life for them. The other day I spoke to my mum and she was telling me that she was reading a book… as soon as she said that I knew what was coming. She was enjoying reading it and then looked at who the translator was. It was me, her daughter. She sounded really proud. She asked me how I did it. Well, with a lot of patience and commitment to quality and respect to the original and the author, of course. It is hard work and a craft at the same time. A labour of love. I did it for over ten years, mainly translating literature. Now I was trying to write my own pieces.

I am really looking forward to my early mornings. My 30 mins writing blocks, every day, even on  weekends. I seem to be really disciplined and get an energy booster for the whole day when I know that I have made a little bit more progress. Little by little the story is coming together. I feel that I am not just creative in my approach but also critical. I go back and forward, polish, change and connect, connect tighter. Simplify. Always little by little. My daily target is manageable and achievable. I did the same when I was translating books. Maybe I am transferring that practice to a new context. Maybe this way of working helps me believe that I can actually write longer stories and not just for children? Am I growing  as a writer? A tiny bit? Writing regularly definitely helps. My very first reader, except my supervisor who has seen it a few times already, read what I had written about 2 weeks ago. The feedback was really encouraging. Can’t wait to share with them the full story. I have also been thinking about how to link the storydress with the longer story (no title yet) and have found a way, I think, that could work and connect the two outputs naturally. We will see.

Ody went for a walk with me. It was the first time for him in 9 weeks. He was ok. We had a good time together while Nassi met his girlfriend from a distance. Dating in the time of physical distancing. My plants in the garden and in the house are doing well. Our rocket is yummy, we have flowers on our strawberry plants, the tomatoes seem to do really well and I am potting and repotting mint and flowers. Also drying some mint.

I continued my crafts. The silver clay was a disaster. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. Some things are better learnt with somebody showing you. Making the moulds was the easy part… The firing, needs more work so that I don’t ruin the designs. Will go back to YouTube as the written instructions didn’t help.

I finally decided to give the cabochon pendants a try. Even managed to do this following limited instructions. I am pleased that the pressed forget-me-nots worked really well. Need to press a few more before they are all gone.

My parents’ portrait is on the wall and our black and white outline family picture is also hanging.

Thinking about one more painting for the living room. Santorini came to mind, again as an outline, white on black. Will check our photos when we went last time. I wish I was there now. I wish we had that little house on the top of the hill. I wish we could swim in the deep blue sea. I have no idea how travelling will look like in the future. On a plane, a train, a ferry. All seems scary at the moment.

We are still in lockdown, sort of, at least some of us. Many seem to ignore the guidelines, even the ones writing them. So many have lost loved ones. So much pain. I wish this virus would disappear and never come back. I am praying for all those in pain. Stay safe!

week 8 diary > the masked shopper

I did overcome my fear and went into a shop, wearing a mask and gloves. I didn’t like that shopping experience but at least I got what was on my list, mainly cleaning stuff. Not that we didn’t have any… I was surprised that almost nobody was wearing a mask and/or gloves. I continued also making masks and have now find a way to make them bendy around the nose thanks to all the experimenters who share openly on YouTube. Just like this one.
This week, the Government’s message changed… apparently we have to be alert. But I am actually alarmed. Alarmed by how the pandemic seems to spread quietly around the country… We can now meet one person from another household. I had such a request and decided to be there to make sure distances were kept. Not that I didn’t trust, but my fear was bigger and guided my decision. A date with the mummy police watching.
Making further progress with my story writing (for the storydress). I have actually started enjoying injecting my imagination into the authentic experience as remembered and retold to me by my parents, in snippets. My mum’s side of the story is now ready, the first draft, I mean, and I can not only see my mum in there but also myself. I think at times I have been playful in my approach despite the fact that the story is traumatic. I like the ideas I have come up to tie things together and will be asking a friend soon, to read it and tell me their honest opinion. I noticed when I read the other day a section to Adam, that I was at the same time tidying up my sentences. I shared two paragraphs with him, one that made me smile and one that made me cry. Is this a sign of a good story? I definitely could and did connect with the story, but would other readers do as well?
Marking has began. And while I enjoy reading the FLEX submissions and providing feedback, I think it takes me longer to read as I find the work fascinating and can see how the module has been useful for my colleagues. I suggested to a few of them already to consider writing up their work, for publication, as there are some real gems in there worth sharing more widely. Many of the submissions are directly link to teaching during the pandemic and the sudden transition. Really interesting what they say and how they have dealt with the changes. I am collecting the key themes that are coming out of these… another reason why it takes me so long to mark this work… While I am still marking and will be for a while, our new FLEX iterations have started and today is our orientation session. Many colleagues have already posted their introductions in our Moodle area and also said hello in our community. I am grateful to our mentors, colleagues who have completed FLEX for helping this term. Let’s see how the redesign of Moodle also works.
I carry a story in my head for some weeks now. Not started writing it down. My priority is the longer story I am working on at the moment for my final MA project. I seem to have found a writing rhythm. Early in the morning, for just 30 mins maximum, before work, when my brain is fresh and has ideas. I had started writing about this earlier in the post. Now I seem to be back to this. I am looking forward to my early mornings and the writing surprises it will bring. As I am starting to write my dad’s side of the story, I need to give his character a unique voice, a personality, mannerism, and apply this throughout. My next challenge. Will I be able to do this? And will I be able to do this well?
Inspired by the above I decided to create a family picture on plywood. Looking at the outline on the black background, I can actually see it working, without faces, without colour. Just a few white lines. So I decided to use this approach.
20200519_090223
Less is more? Also in art? It will therefore be different from all my other colourful paintings that decorate our kitchen and dining area, which I made when the boys were little.
My plans are growing in the garden and indoors and we are trying our luck with silver clay. I have been avoiding this for some time as it seems too complicated. I have also started making my own creams.
Stay safe!

week 7 diary > partying in the streets so so close to each other… really?

Before I forget, again. We have been designing our meals using a weekly menu. For the last three weeks now. It helps prepare balanced meals and make sure that there is variety on a weekly basis. It also helps us to use what we have instead of always needing or wanting what we don’t have and go back to the shops. We have become more resourceful, try new combinations, often altering recipes we find online and creating colourful dishes with Nassi and Ody.

on one of our walks in Glossop

With Nassi we went on a few walks. One day we went into Glossop. Normally we go the other way towards the hills. I didn’t expect to see that many people. Distancing was not always possible. I became concerned. We crossed over a few times with a Nassi some other people did too, but not everybody seem to mind being that close to others. A group of teenagers past as too. They were not all from the same household, no way, and in the park people were sitting on benches. Oh no, what is happening to me. I turn into the lockdown police. We past the shop and we had gloves and a mask with us but didn’t go in. I normally would. I love shopping. I haven’t been in a physical shop for over 2 months now.
On Friday a street party. I understand it was V day. And nothing wrong with street parties, of course. But now? And without any sign of social distancing? I have never seen so much movement in our street, never. The kids were up and down the street playing together, not all from the same household… adults were sitting together and drinking not all from the same household. As time past they forgot more and more about physical distancing and came even closer together. We seemed to be the only ones not out there.
And then I had a nightmare. I was in a shop filling my basket and suddenly realised that I wasn’t wearing a mask and my gloves. I left everything behind ran out and woke up. Am I developing a phobia? There is a Greek word for this, I know and I know the word. But I am  not going to mention it here. How many people have had similar experiences/nightmares?
I made some further progress with Mami and Papi’s portrait and when I showed it to my parents on Skype the other day, Mami even recognised herself. She liked the hair which at the time was just an outline.

Mami saw it before I adde the chillies, lemons and hair

With Nassi we made some silicone moulds. That was much easier than I thought. The plan is to make some silver clay jewellery. When we went to the big Maker fair and I watched the demonstration it looked really easy but for a year now I have all the kits and haven’t done anything with it yet. I planned to do a course but this is not going to happen now. We started looking on YouTube and have so far made the moulds. Making some progress. Yeah. We will continue next weekend.
Work has been really busy again. All good and exciting developments and also preparing to re-run FOS, an open course that started as an MSc project back in 2009-10, developed then into a cross-institutional course in 2013 developed with Lars Uhlin from Karolinska and later into the child course FOS (also influenced by BYOD4L developed with Sue Beckingham) which was offered for the first time in 2015 and then again in 2017 with many colleagues. My research around FDOL when I did my doctoral studies and particularly the collaborative learning aspect really helped me inform my thinking, how FOS is offered and how it is keeps evolving. I am very excited as Neil Withnell (who has been there from the very beginning, initially as an FDOL participant, then as a facilitator multiple times) and I are organising a new iteration, the #FOS201 in collaboration with colleagues from 10 institutions in the North West of England over 10 days in June. We hope that it will be a useful experience, especially now, where we are all re-thinking how we teach and also un-think in these Covid-19 times. New-think is needed and this course will provide some stimulation, we hope. I am really grateful to all our lovely facilitators who volunteered to be part of #FOS201 and Neil for his ongoing support, friendship and commitment.

5-14 June, join us!

Stay safe! Apparently we need to be alert now. The stay at home message has gone now. But as my friend Helene said, I am alarmed!!!
Is the lockdown over (yet)? Is the question we seem to focus on. I would like to find out more about the research that is conducted, any new developments in treatment and the vaccine(s). Shouldn’t the news  say more about these?

Week 6 diary > we all had a haircut by now

… even Adam. I might actually need another one soon.
1588441668399_Attachment-1
After writing my last diary entry and saying that the weather was so lovely, and for so long… guess what… yes, it started raining. And hasn’t stopped much. Good for the plants, I was thinking. Our strawberry plants will grow. And the spinach, and the rocket. And they do. They have already. I enjoy saying hello to my plants every day and looking after them.
Work is super busy. Among others, I decided to restructure or redesign my Moodle areas to model what I feel could work for next year so that colleagues who join the units can experience it and consider similar approaches in their own teaching. And we are now almost ready to start. But first marking.
Really enjoyed the session I did this week about frameworks for learning and teaching and pleased I decided to use a hands-on approach to explain what we often do instead of telling people or just show them a flat picture. Experiencing something is so much more powerful and lasting.

… from the webinar… you can also see my mask template on the left… will need to make a few more soon

What else? Oh yes,I have become unstuck with my longer version of the storydress story. I have overcome my fear to inject imagined episodes to an authentic story of story and I have actually started enjoying coming up with ideas. I have still a lot of work to do and can’t wait to share this version with my first critical reader when ready.
We are making good use of our flour and I plan to learn how to make sourdough bread and am also thinking to get a pasta maker that looks like a German cookie maker. Seen it on eBay.
I have been thinking a lot about all my loved ones. When will I see my parents again? Bringing them somehow closer will give me some comfort and after the storydress that captures their life stories, I decided to start a portrait of them. Perhaps Grayson’s Perry Art Club on Channel 4 9(episode 1) inspired me last Monday. Very possible.

Mami and Papi started on the 3rd of May 2020

On purpose I will progress this slowly, to prolong the process, to work on it with care and love. I remember all the things they went through in their lives and my eyes fill up. Seeing them regularly via a webcam and not being able to hug them is painful. Very painful. At least I can see them from a distance.
I enjoyed my meeting with the illustration students this week and I am positive that we will continue working together on our project. Can’t wait to see this project coming together and I have done some more preparatory work on this in the last few days. Very exciting!
There are some good news regarding a Learn Greek app for all those Greeks abroad. Will share with the boys.
Also, Easter is officially over and has been replaced by spring and summer decorations around the house. Will take picture and share here.
Let’s hope the sun will shine again for all of us on this planet.

I had cut these wooden pieces a while ago… now, I am turning them into boats that will help us travel with our imaginations (yes, plural!)

week 5 diary > new routines

Got cooking, baking and gardening buddies. Nassi and Ody. We have developed new routines it seems and have become more experimental in the garden and in the kitchen. And I clean a lot!!!
The strawberry plants we bought on eBay arrived and we opened the massive bag of flour and started baking. Actually I do bake with Ody and cook meals with Nassi. Will we have some strawberries this year? Not sure as the plants were mainly  roots… we will see. Maybe we will have to wait until next year.
The weather has been lovely. We had another BBQ… on Sunday when it sort of started raining, a little bit. BBQ and rain seem to go together.
But mainly it has been sunny and warm for NW standards. I can’t remember another year like this. And I have been in the UK for over 20 years now. Drying clothes outside is another of my everyday little pleasures. Half of the garden is a construction site with a scaffold and everything. Yes, the builders working on an extension left it all behind just before lockdown. It would have been nice to have it finished but it wasn’t meant to be.
Work has been really busy. Time flies and I feel that we are now more needed than ever before. Existing relationships are strengthened and new ones are formed all the time that generate ideas for support and collaboration. Last week I participated in a session with our foundation year in art and design and I could really feel how connected my colleagues were with their students and how well they knew them and their work. I can’t wait for next week to see their first sketches, a respond to a live brief and a collaboration that is starting. Bigger plans are also emerging. I suspect things will be clearer in a few days. I am excited and motivated and also feel physically much better. It is all psychosomatic… as a dear friend and colleague keeps saying. Feeling almost normal, which is a little bit scary too, as I just don’t want to get worse again and ever experience that pain again.
No new story this week, but I slowly made some progress with a more detailed version of the storydress stories. While I use autobiographical details, I also free myself from the real experiences and inject my own details that will hopefully make the two stories interesting to a reader. Thinking of capturing these longer version, pure constructs of my imagination, on audio. Both stories together, spoken simultaneously, as they are lived in parallel. I have been thinking about the last feedback I got from my supervisor and am trying to address some of it, hopefully, but in a way that also works for me. I can’t see more text migrating onto the dress, so the above solution with the double layered audio story could work. I will need to finish writing them first and I have been slow… Almost avoiding it?
Coloured in some more of my plywood designs and have moved on to the ones for Christmas. Furthermore, I went back to sewing colourful bags. Working on four at the moment… as if one wasn’t enough. But they do make nice presents. And I love making them. Wanted to experiment with drawing with chlorine on jeans fabric… no, not injecting it. I couldn’t believe my ears this week. Many of the politicians bring me despair and I am not sure why this pandemic should be led by the government, one political party… what about a government of national unity?
The first vaccines were administered at Oxford University. And then fake news started circulating. Not going to repeat them here or link  to it. Why are people so mean?
Is time standing still? … all the Easter decorations are still up.
Stay safe!

There is light! And hope! There has to be…

week 4 diary > we got flour!!!

We got our second Easter this last Sunday. The orthodox one. And we got strong flour. A lot of it, 16 kg. Found it on eBay. It came from Germany. So much baking… is it therapeutic? It must have similar effects to crafting.

made in Germany… apparently

I wrote another story (5 in total now during lockdown) and am looking forward to discussing a specific creative writing project this Friday with colleagues and students. I can’t hide my excitement!!!

Also, over the weekend I made further progress with my storydress, my final assignment for the MA in creative writing. The Contrado site has been really useful as I have no idea how I would have done it otherwise in these challenging times. I guess, I would have come up with another idea in the end. Just hope they will remain open until I am ready.

It is almost done now but I will be writing the story up as a longer piece too and create an audio recording to accompany the final submission. I have struggled to start writing the story in a format that reveals further details. Maybe this is why I turned my original notes into a laconic almost story. A story that doesn’t reveal much. A story that says more by what it doesn’t say. They say silence speaks louder than words. Sometimes. Maybe I was avoiding writing the story or the stories I should say, as they have been so painful? Maybe. I have made a start now and will continue until it is finished. Over the next days and weeks. I have plenty of time until September and am happy with what I have achieved so far.

Going to the supermarket has become an expedition. I will always remember this. Also our cooking sessions with Nassi. We have tried all kinds of new recipes together. Not sure what will happen in September. Will he be able to go to university? As in “going” physically? So many questions… Will he be safe? And Ody and his new school? What will our new normal be when this is all over? Will it be all over? A friend told me some upsetting news recently. I can’t stop thinking of her. I wish she was living nearby.

I like to be in the garden and observing the plants growing. The rocket we planted with Ody is now out but no sign yet of the spinach. I love April and May when our garden fills with forget-me-nots.

Don’t know what else happened this week. I keep busy at work. Thinking about the now and the future. What I can shape. We didn’t go anywhere beyond the garden and my little Wunderkammer that has now also become my office. It is my little escape room too.

No haircut this week. I am still recovering from my operation but am much better. Almost 60 days now after I went to hospital. Trying to watch the news less but it is hard to escape them. Feeling sadness about all the people who are ill and loosing their lives. I wish there was a cure… I wish there was a vaccine…

week 3 diary > Escaping through food?

I started worrying more and not sleeping that well. Waking up really early. The numbers in the news hurt so much. So many people are loosing loved ones. What progress is there with medicines and a vaccine? Some related news from Oxford University

and the World Health Organization.

I am keeping busy. But then I am always busy. Doing a lot of cleaning, crafting and cooking with the boys. Beyond working, of course. Nassi discovered a yummy BBC recipe and we tried it, together. It was a dhal recipe. We will definitely do this again. Made another rhubarb cake and tsourekakia. I make the dough in the bread maker it it always seems to work. Is food taking over our lives? Is it the one thing we can still enjoy?
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We also did some gardening. Spinach and rocket. Haircut No 2 happened this week. It was Ody’s turn. Nassi and I did it together. I have to admit it was mostly me. I was far too instructive.
The boys are spending a lot of time in front of screens. Far too much… they have not talked about what is happening. They are quiet. I know that they are following the news. I am thinking about the situation a lot. Nassi is going to go to university and Ody to a new school in September? We don’t know yet what will happen. Nobody knows. Times of excitement and anticipation have been turned into silence, endless silence. And uncertainty. Fear also?
Talking with friends and family is comforting. It has been again this week. When will we see each other? When will we be able to travel again without fear? Technology helps and brings as closer together. At least we can see each other from a distance. Missing the human touch though. A smile and spending time together more frequently is now a substitute for everything else… it seems.
Easter Sunday. Our first one. Another Easter Sunday, next Sunday as it is Orthodox Easter then. A quiet day… Ody was unwell the day before and I panicked… Some rest, chamomile tea with manuka honey and toast made him well, after a few hours.
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Ody’s cup… he doesn’t like honey but loved the tea I made him… that had honey in it…

We had a barbecue… in the rain. But the food was yummy. The μπροζόλες reminded me of my childhood and the chicken souvlaki is something I started doing.
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But we had a good time together and the boys did our traditional Easter egg hunt. I always remember doing this as a child. I think my boys will remember this too.
easter

inspired by Marieanne Cavaciuti www.damsontreepottery.co.uk

Not much else to write. Thinking about the next excursion to the supermarket and how to clean the stuff Adam will bring back.This is occupying my mind.

No new story this week but some encouraging news about one I wrote already. More regarding this soon. Below some gems I found about our current situation that link to my picture book love. Hopefully, we will be able to contribute also. 

From my window, an R/GA story, access here

Coronavirus a book for children by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson and Nia Roberts illustrated by Axel Scheffler and published by nosy crow, access here

The book of hopes access here

Stay safe!

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Inspired by Hazel Terry at hazelterry.com and her fun craft activities

Week 2 Have I been home forever?

Usually we are away around Easter. Not this year…

Numbers and stats everywhere and all the time. The graphs make it all look like a race? Such a deadly one. Thousands of people are loosing the fight with the virus. Everywhere. So so sad. So much pain. Even the UK’s PM Boris ended up in intensive care on the 6th of April. I hope he and everybody else will make it and fully recover!!! Nobody should have to go through this.
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made more angels as we all need at least one, stay safe!!!

I struggle to watch the news. Struggle following developments on social media. And journalists seem to ask questions around how long we will be locked into our houses. Is this a useful question? And why is everybody keen to get out when there anyway when there is a real danger that “free movement” would make it all worse for all of us? Hard to say this when thinking about Brexit and what the EU stands for…  but the circumstances have changed and it has now become a matter of life or death. What if journalists would ask questions around the progress researchers are making, and UK’s involvement to find ways to treat individuals who are infected. Any vaccine? There must  be hope. Where is it?

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The house is getting cleaner by the day despite the fact that all four of us are here all the time. Outside work, I have been  crafting, (re-)potting, wrote one more picture book story (we are now at number 4) and spending some time with the boys mainly preparing meals and eating together. Ody changed his whole room just yesterday, moved all the furniture around and created a new space for himself. I made some face masks. We all have one now. Made out of layers of fabric, some from off cuts from our Fashion Institute. The one shown here is for my dear colleague and friend Haleh. 

With Nassi, we made Jamie’s cauliflower and cheese pizza without following the recipe too closely. It worked. Didn’t look as good as our normal colourful pizza but we ate it with an appetite and it was something different. We had to use 50-50 strong and normal flour. We have now officially ran out of strong flour. We got some yeast.

Rhubarb flat cake was also something we tried for the first time this week. We made it twice. I used my basic non-recipe for flat cake and we added the rhubarb at the top. It did sink into the mixture. We sprinkled sugar and cinnamon over the cake and put it in the oven. It was yummy as it quickly disappeared.

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Rhubarb will be the one fruit we will have for the whole year and don’t need to go out and buy. Later, much later we will hopefully have some apples and pears. The strawberry plants don’t look that good this year. Oh, yes, Adam’s tomato plants will go in the greenhouse when it gets a bit warmer and brighter. The little plans are doing really well so far.

Being resourceful is key and positivity is equally important in these difficult times. I found the related webinar this past week with our guests  Gerasimos and Haleh insightful and the experiences they shared will help others move forward in their practice and be there for their students in a meaningful way. The importance of the emotional presence and community definitely came out of our conversations.

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This week, I found the open course Let’s break the chain Covid-19 infection developed by MBRU including Prof. Nabil Zari whom I met in Thessaloniki at a conference some years ago. I found the course  very informative and clear but still have some questions around mask wearing. Is it suggested for the general population not to wear the surgical masks because there are not enough? And if this is the case, what about DIY face masks, which I have started making following some online instructions I found? After completing this informative course, I have become an #MBRUCommunityImmunity Ambassador. I am responsible to protect myself and my community from #COVID-19. I challenged 5 friends to take the course. https://learn.mbru.ac.ae/courses/covid19 > Please do the course and share it further.

I remembered the time I was a translator and the joy I got translating a book by a living author, despite the struggles to do the translation itself. The experience was always so much richer and the struggles more bearable. The final output was also better when I could make that personal connection between author and translator, to establish that bridge. I reached out to connect to better understand their work and share my joy and care for their work with them. For me it was important for them to know that. Often I asked questions, things I wasn’t sure about, things I wanted to understand better to do their work justice but also to celebrate. Peter Härtling (just saw that he died a few years ago, so sad that he is no longer with us) was the author I did this on multiple occasions, as I translated a number of his books, and then we even met one year at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Are such exchanges valuable in other situations too? I have also found this approach really useful in the context of scholarly activities around learning and teaching and see this as a form of collegiality and peer review that connects people and ideas. I have seen that other people do this too, as I am sometimes contacted by people who are using my work. It makes me smile and is lovely to hear that it is useful for others, furthers their thinking and takes my work into new directions. I also continue learning through this process and the discoveries others make. The discoveries we make. That is what it is all about.

My wellbeing, I feel has been boosted by staying in touch with dear friends and family. Care and compassion at the heart, being there for each other in any way we can. Aristotle said that humans are social animals. He was right, we feed from healthy relationships, grow, and are happy in our selves, for others and with others. The noise is disappearing. I can feel it. We also hear the difference in our streets. I hear the little birds singing again. Maybe they were there before and I just notice them now more? A dear friend recently said, we now spent more time talking to each other than before. This desire to connect helps us both. I feel lucky to have met some special people and they are part of my life, to share, celebrate, cry and pick each other up again. Thank you.

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Seeking hope and peace at the bottom of the garden

Stay safe and speak again next week