“Can do”

My friend Barry and I have just spent a week at Blind Veterans UK (BVUK) in Llandudno, teaching visually impaired veterans how to tie decorative knots. Yet again, just like last year, the guys and gals there demonstrated how determined and resourceful they were, and the members kept us on our toes by picking things up so quickly!

Dragonflies, solomon bars and key fobs were just a few projects we covered. After a couple of days, some of our visually impaired “students” were even teaching others – now there’s an achievement worthy of note!

We found it quite ironic being thanked by everyone for helping out. Little did they realise just how much Barry and I gained from the experience. We were treated like royalty, and I for one came away with a very positive attitude and renewed enthusiasm.

Some members (not “patients”, not “clients” – members) not only suffer sight loss, but many also have to live with other disabilities, making their achievements even more remarkable.

Although Barry and I were there to teach knotting, the Arts and Crafts Centre is full of fabulous works of art produced by the members, none of which would be out of place in the better known galleries. I particularly like the mosaics being produced. Many young, able-bodied, sighted people would consider these items beyond their abilities, but if they could only witness what the BVUK members are capable of they would realise what is possible with the “can do” attitude of our veterans.

As well as the members, Barry and I were privileged to meet part of the team of managers, carers, housekeeping and catering staff, all of whom are absolutely dedicated to supporting the members. These folks represent a huge team that any businesses would be truly proud of.

A thoroughly enjoyable experience and I can’t wait to go back.

Find out more about Blind Veterans UK here – http://www.blindveterans.org.uk/

Blind Veterans UK

Following last year’s successful workshop at the Blind Veterans UK Centre in Llandudno, my friend Barry and I have been invited back in August this year.

We’re both looking forward to another dose of inspiration from the wonderful folks in Llandudno!

Old dog, new tricks …

I thought I’d try something new, and wanted to learn about ply-split braiding.

The Braid Society held a “Try It” day at Westhope Craft College in Shropshire on Sunday 9th March, so I booked a place and dragged myself out of bed early to get there. It was definitely worth the effort!

My grateful thanks to Julie Hedges, who showed quite a few of us the basics of ply-split braiding. Personal attention was given as needed, and everyone was given the help and advice they required, without anyone being rushed at any time. Like all good courses, we all went home with something we’d made ourselves. Julie also taught us how to make our own 4-ply cord.

When I first arrived, Alison gave me a quick tour of the college – a very welcoming reception. She made sure that she showed me where to help myself to coffee too.

I saw so many different work/demonstration areas set up, and I felt like a child in a sweet show with there being so much to choose from! I remained disciplined though, and stuck to ply-split braiding. It’s a fact that I’ll be looking to try some other disciplines in the future. It certainly appeared that those who tried other types of braiding were as well looked after as the ply-splitters, and everyone seemed very happy throughout the day.

The college itself was wonderful. Hidden away in the beautiful Shropshire countryside, it’s the perfect place to learn new skills in a relaxed, family-like, atmosphere. Nice food too!

A thoroughly enjoyable day, and I can’t wait to go back to Westhope. I am also looking forward to meeting more of the folks from the Braid Society.

Upcoming events …

Upcoming Events, pop in and say hello –

Sunday 26th January at St. Anne’s Manor (10am until 4pm)
London Road
Wokingham RG40 1ST

Weekend 1st -2nd February at Reading Moat House (10am until 4pm)
Mill Lane
Wokingham RG41 5DG

Sunday 9th February at Hilton Bracknell (10am until 4pm)
Bagshot Road
Bracknell RG12 0QJ

Christmas is coming …

Yes, it’s true, but at least I didn’t starting talking about Christmas in April or May (I did receive my first Christmas catalogue in May, believe it or not!)

If, like me, you refuse to take out a second mortgage in order to pay for presents, consider a few “stocking fillers” that won’t break the bank! I must confess that the best presents I receive are not usually the most expensive ones, they are the unusual ones that make me smile.

Take a look at our Etsy shop and find something a little different this year –


Oh, by the way … when the time comes, a Merry Christmas to you all!


I can’t …

Many of us have read motivational books and listened to inspirational speeches, but nothing compares, for me at least, to the workshop my friend Barry and I ran at the Blind Veterans UK Centre in Llandudno from 7th – 9th August 2013.

If an 86 year old blind veteran can learn to tie decorative knots, how on earth can I possibly dismiss any of my ambitions with the words “I can’t”?

John and dragonfly

John, totally blind, was a very determined chap with real energy, and he started by learning to tie a decorative dragonfly.

During his visit to the Centre with his wife, Daphne, it was Daphne’s birthday, so John decided to make her a dragonfly brooch out of ribbon, which Daphne proudly wore for the rest of the week.


Along with a light pull for the bathroom, on the final day John made a lanyard for his identity badge.

John was one of many remarkable people Barry and I met during our three days in Llandudno. Members and staff alike at the Blind Veterans Centre proved incredibly inspirational.

The staff smiled all the time and could not do enough for the members or each other – it is obviously a real team effort there.

Another member, Mark, was there for the week too with his wife Anita and their young son Sam. Although Mark was generally busy with computer courses, Sam and Anita joined us for part of the workshop. I think Sam is probably setting up business as I write, making dragonflies and bracelets! In fact, I know that Sam got his first commission on Friday night. By the way, Mark, who suffers significant sight loss, can touch type 40 words a minute (which is considerably more than I can, and I’ve been using computers for over 35 years).

My special thanks to Nadia and Maryam, who run the Arts and Crafts Department in Llandudno – they were extremely supportive and didn’t complain once about the mess Barry and I created!

The next time I find myself struggling with something new, I’ll think about the wonderfully resourceful and determined people I met at the Blind Veterans UK Centre in Llandudno, get myself motivated and pull my finger out!

Blind Veterans UK

Wow – what a pleasure it was to visit the Blind Veterans UK centre in Llandudno this week! Check them out here – http://www.blindveterans.org.uk/

The centre is one of three that does some fantastic work with blind veterans, and the staff are heroes to a man (and woman).

The bar now boasts a gr8 bell rope, attached to a World War One 5 inch shell case.

More excitingly, I’ve been invited to run a workshop in August to teach some knot tying! This is an event I’m really looking forward to, and I know I’ll have lots of people to thank for their help and support in putting this together.

I’m really proud to become associated with such a worthwhile institution – let’s continue to support our armed forces, many of whom suffer life-changing disabilities in serving their country.

Phil The Rope