Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Upholsterers

My grandfather was an upholsterer by trade, and I've always been proud of the very idea that he was a skilled worker in a craft like that.

I have, to hand, a recently published Upholsterer’s Step-by-Step Handbook , Alex Law is the author of this informative reference book, which really gets to grips with the practicalities of upholstery. Law, in his modesty, explains in the opening lines of his introduction that though techniques and materials have evolved over centuries, in its pure form, upholstery is a set of basic rules and that similar methods can be applied to many different chairs. There is more to it, I think, a bit of mathematical know how, good design; hands on skill, and a careful, methodical approach needs to be applied, to turn new or existing frameworks into soft furnishing items that are both functional and good looking. The National Careers Service online sums up the necessary attributes required to be an upholsterer: 

'As an upholsterer you would add padding and soft covers to furniture. You would work with textiles, design and colour to cover or re-cover items with materials such as leather, suede or cotton. If you enjoy practical, hands on work and have an interest in style and design, there could be opportunities for you in upholstery.An eye for detail and the ability to work accurately will help you to measure materials and cut them to the right size. You’ll also need to be patient and persevere to make sure your furniture is finished to a high standard'

My grandfather died when my Mum was just a teenager. She remembers him however, sitting at the sewing machine, machining fabric, even working while enjoying family gatherings up on the Norfolk coast. I’m not sure how he acquired the skill for his craft. He may have served some kind of apprenticeship perhaps, I know his father was a Boot Finisher (which might have involved stitching leather), and that my granddad also had aunts who were dressmakers/milliners, and his sister owned a furniture shop, so perhaps there was something in the family's line of work, or the genes, being passed on. Perhaps I'm born to sew after all!I must work at getting better at it. This useful Handbook will help me. I will use it.

Chapter 1, is 56 pages alone, devoted to the tools and materials to fill an upholsterers tool bag and work space. Substituting equipment for items that will be less effective, or simply making do with just a few tools, just makes jobs like this harder, but there will be a fair outlay to fully equip. 

I'd like to think my Granddad was a master upholsterer like Alex Law. I wonder what happened to all my Granddad's kit! I assume it was left behind when my Nan eventually vacated the house they had shared. As was his violin, his WWII mementos from time served at RAF Cardington and the Dutch connections he made, plus other personals. Sentimental I might be, but this book is certainly not, the content is fresh and very giving, with Chapter 6 revealing the Blueprint methods, demonstrating how similar techniques and materials can be applied to a wide variety of chair styles. Recommended!

Monday, 27 April 2015



  • Seven people die from skin cancer every day in the UK.
  • Over 100,000 new cases of all skin cancer diagnosed in the UK each year.
  • Rates of malignant melanoma are rising faster than any other type of common cancer.
  • On average, someone who dies from skin cancer typically loses 20 years of their life.
  • At least two 15-34 year-olds are being diagnosed with malignant melanoma every day in the UK.


  • Protect your skin with clothing – don’t forget to wear a hat that protects your face, neck and ears.
  • Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when it’s sunny.
  • When choosing a sunscreen look for a high protection SPF (SPF 30 or more to protect against harmful UVA).
  • Apply plenty of sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours.
  • Be sure to reapply sunscreen after swimming and towel-drying.
  • There is strength in the spring day sunshine so remember to keep babies and young children out of direct sunlight, and don't get caught unawares, as I once did when my second born was just a few months old, note: baby in the pic above is not of my son. 

A guide to checking your skin
by Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Bav Shergill

Dr Bav Shergill
“Most skin cancers can be cured if detected early. The best way to detect skin cancer is to check your skin regularly, about once a month. You should examine the skin all over your body, from top to toe. Ask a friend or member of your family to look at areas you can't see such as your scalp, ears and back. Look out for moles or patches of skin that are growing, changing shape, developing new colours, inflamed, bleeding, crusting, red around the edges, particularly itchy, or behaving unusually. Remember, if in doubt, get it checked out straight away. We recommend that you tell your doctor about any changes to a mole or patch of skin. If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you see a Consultant Dermatologist - an expert in diagnosing skin cancer. Your doctor can refer you for free through the NHS” 

Dr Bav Shergill, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation Trustee

Find out more about our skin cancer appeal here: www.ittakesseven.org.uk

For further information please contact:
lisa@britishskinfoundation.org.uk or call 020 7391 6347

Monday, 13 April 2015


You may have seen the large AirTurn banner in my left-hand side panel if you have visited Not Compulsory recently. Learn more about the PED wireless foot controller I am previewing here, and other AirTurn designs ideal for music education and live music performance by clicking over to AirTurn (US)

For education, this AirTurn PED (Bluetooth SMART), has a variety of uses around the school, on stage and in the home. 

The Product: AirTurn PED Bluetooth SMART (for the foot control of your tablet or computer device)

Developer – AirTurn Inc – The Netherlands – Manufactured in the US
AirTurn (US)
$69.00 (47.10 GBP)
Compatibility: works with most Bluetooth SMART READY Equipped Tablets including iPad 3 and later, and Computers (Mac, PC) and iPhone 4S and later, Android 4.3 or later with Bluetooth 4. Note: A compatible app is required http://www.airturn.com/apps
Mode: six available. PED-APP-Direct and HID (not all compatible apps will function in both modes)
Size: measures 4 inches H (76mm) x 6 inches L (152mm) x less than 7 inches (18mm) D
Suitable for hands free page turning while reading or controlling applications on a Bluetooth SMART READY device


An assistive type of technology I see as being useful in foot controlling a tablet or computer, so that musicians specifically, can view/read or page turn sheet music, guitar tablature and song lyrics via an app on a Smart ready device, so that during music playing and/or live performances there needs to be no breaking of the rhythm to turn a page, or to scroll down or click through screens with the hand. Also an alternative to using button hand-switch operation during slide style presentations


As the official release date of the AirTurn PED Hands-Free Controller has not yet arrived, and though imminent (22 April 2015) this did not undergo a trial in the same way items do when under review

I found the link to check out the Bluetooth SMART device list on Page 4 of the information booklet supplied (text is in English only). Here is the link http://www.bluetooth.com/Pages/Bluetooth-Smart-Devices-List.aspx

The AirTurn PED Bluetooth SMART is a small, compact and lightweight item which, ironically, fits comfortable between the two hands like a game’s controller would. It has non-skid material as feet, which roots it, and will help to stop it from ‘travelling’ on a slippery floor avoiding the need to go searching for it with the foot in those crucial moments of live performance. This unit will, of course, work very well using an app on a smart phone too, but perhaps a little less effectively because of the small screen (see above for compatibility)

  • Battery powered (CR2032) which is included – plus spare (see figure 3)  
  • Has PED Instructions on the base
  • AirTurn ships to worldwide customers

figure 3

Negative – whether you’re a tech head, or not, for those who are not so Bluetooth savvy, the information in the booklet attempts to pre-empt situations when the unit will not comply, so some of us will need the booklet to hand. And not only for the trouble shooting information but for getting conversant with how it is going to work with your device and your personal set up. Like any new piece of kit I think you may be referencing, researching and seeking support online until its requirements and function becomes fully apparent

Positive –In music education, teachers and students will increasingly look to technological alternatives and solutions that will result in paper formats being used less and less in favour of digital alternatives. It will happen more. It will be common place to read from devices that has whole libraries of sheet music at a touch, tap, and a swipe, and you can read it without having wires and leads attached. This AirTurn PED will have a myriad of other uses both on stage or off

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Book Review - Anyone But Ivy Pocket - A Children's Fiction Book by Bloomsbury Publishing

Anyone But Ivy Pocket
ISBN 9781408858639
Author – Caleb Krisp
Published by Bloomsbury in Hardback –
Release date 09 April 2015
RRP £10.99
A Children’s Fictional Book – for 10 + years

Overview: Ivy Pocket has been travelling as a maid to a Countess in Paris, when she finds herself suddenly abandoned. She’s a plucky young girl however, one with a real knack for winding people up and getting under people’s skin, but a born ‘survivor’ nonetheless. She agrees to courier and safe keep a special necklace gift from a dying Duchess to Matilda Butterfield; until the up and coming occasion of Matilda’s birthday ball in London. The story is of the weird and humorously grisly events that happen during the time Ivy takes possession of the precious stone. Along the way Ivy has to run and hide with it and she has to cope with some pretty odd behaviour from others. She talks to ghosts too (the earthbound ones), and she has visions of her own life in the past. Ivy may not be making the grade in the popularity stakes and she may be stretching of the truth, but who should she trust in her effort to fulfill her quest?

Comment and Guide: Krisp’s indignant little character invention, Ivy, is really endearing. He cleverly uses the flaws of her personality to win over the affection of the reader. Written in a style of intelligent chit chat and fast action there is no time to get bored with the plot. Some echoes of the work of others in the language, Roald Dahl, JK Rowling and even a bit of the Oscar Wilde
Some excellently sharp character retorts...
‘Now shut your trap and drink!’

‘It’s a scientific fact that hysteria causes freckles...’

‘I’m a ghost, not an oracle.’

Adjective ‘old’ - Old geezer, old bat, Old Walnut Head,

Alliteration - Wicked windbag, blubbery beast, murderous mess

Note: Reviewer worked with an uncorrected proof copy that did not contain John Kelly's illustrations. Upon previewing a finished copy the view is this: 'where the highly amusing, comic-book style illustrative work is very giving to the reading experience overall; this is a rare case where the imagination does not need to rely on the presence of any visual component to boost it as the writing is so good. That said, the full colour illustration on the back of the hardcover is nothing short of fabulous!'

Saturday, 4 April 2015

CHILDREN'S BOOK GIVEAWAY - mystery prize/lucky dip



How to Enter:
There are multiple ways  
Twitter: follow @Norries_girl - reply to any competition tweets stating #boy or #girl and Child's age
Instagram: follow Picture_Personal leave comment stating #boy or #girl and Child's age
Facebook: Like the Facebook page TSS or the competition post that appears there and leave a comment stating #boy or #girl and Child's age
Not Compulsory: enter here at Not Compulsory by leaving a comment stating #boy or #girl and Child's age

1. Competition is open to UK residents only and entrants must be over 18
2. Only one entry per child nominated
3. The Competition will run from Saturday 04 April 2015 for  and will close at Midnight on Friday 10 April 2015
4. 14 DRAWS - 14 MYSTERY PRIZES categorized by gender and age ahead of the draw. EACH WINNER that is drawn receives ONE BOOK ONLY
up to 5 years - picture book (2 draws) 1 for male, 1 for female child
5-7 years approx - 1 x storybook to be read out loud to child (female)  
1 x illustrated 'superhero' comedy for 7 years + (male)
8 to 10 years - activity books (2 draws) 1 for male, 1 for female
10 - 13 years - 3 x adventure stories (male) 3 fiction books (female) plus 2 graphic novels (2 draws) 1 for male 1 for female
5. Each categorized prize draw will be random
6. Participants must agree to be part of any reasonable promotional activity surrounding the competition on social media outlets. Please note however, that the competition is not connected to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and is operated independently
7. It is the responsibility of entrants to ensure their entry meets with entry requirements and is submitted online successfully
8. The winners will be announced on the competition post at Not Compulsory and on the host’s Twitter/Facebook outlets on Saturday 11 April
9. The winners will be required to provide information such as a name and address
10. Prize is a mystery prize and there is no prior indication or choice allowed. It will not be possible to transfer or exchange this prize for any kind of alternative
11. Not compulsory reserves the right to exclude from the competition any entry that does not meet criteria, and also to change, suspend or terminate the promotion and entry period at any time. Disqualification of participants will be carried out if, for any reason, the promotion cannot be carried out fairly or if they suspect any person is manipulating entries or results, or who has acted unethically in any other way