I’m back!

I’m back! After a long break.

I’ve been working on recovering from M.E./CFS. I joined the Optimum Health Clinic in London in July as a patient; and soon realised something would have to give, if I was to follow their directions to get well from M.E.  I had a very good response to their programme, and started to feel well and more energetic.  At work, an opportunity arose to work full-time on a project I was interested in, and because I was feeling better I was able to accept. I had to give up a few other things, including my blog, to prioritise getting well. It’s been quite a challenge taking on the extra work and working on recovery, but my health is steadily improving.

Like most people with M.E. who feel like they have tried “everything” to get better, I was a little dubious about joining the Optimum Health Clinic, and investigated forums about them, and spoke to other practitioners, before deciding that the Optimum Health Clinic were the most friendly, positive thinking and professional option. I had 3 free 15 minute interviews with different staff from the clinic, and they seemed to know so much more about M.E. than I or anyone else I had spoken to. I also found it really uplifting and reassuring that the clinic is run predominantly by people who have fully recovered from M.E. It really gives you something to aim for!

So now I really feel I am on the road to recovery, and can plan for a bright and positive future.

Cullercoats bay

I am already enjoying doing more with my improved health – like dancing the night away this New Years Eve with my friends in Brighton! – like skipping about on Yellow Craigs beach showing off my new Morticia lace shawl:

Morticia shawl

Like going on a conservation tour to Melrose Abbey with Historic Scotland and climbing the scaffolding to the roof!

Melrose Abbey

I thought I’d share this tour with you as my return to blogging. Before I was got ill with M.E. I was pursuing a career in stonecarving and lettercutting, and I had to give it up due to my health, but I’ve never lost the love of stone and stone carving, so I was delighted to get a place on the tour.

We had a little tour of the stone yard first to see some of the pieces they had been working on. This is a stone mullion which is going to replace one that has eroded so much it cannot support the tracery above it.

Stone yard

The stone mason said it took him 150 hours to carve by hand, and that it was great to have to opportunity to use his stone masonry skills, rather than just replacing stone blocks.  This is the old mullion in situ, somehow they will have to insert the new one in its place (apologies for poor quality photo due to low light conditions):

South Transcept work

I was amazed at how close the scaffolding was placed to the carved stone; erecting and taking down the scaffolding without damaging the delicate stone work is a skill I hadn’t thought about before.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. First we had to climb up the scaffolding:


We went straight up to the roof top, luckily there were steps rather than ladders. Actually, holding onto the freezing cold scaffolding poles to pull myself up was more of an endurance test than the climb!

What a view from the top:


Eildon Hills

Melrose Abbey ruins


South Aisle

The Architect and Conservation Officer talked us through some of the conservation decisions they had to make:


Here you can see a kind of jigsaw of stones they have glued back together:

Conservation work

The old cement they used to use is the lighter colour filler with little stones in it, the newer filler is a warm reddish brown closer to the colour of the stone.

This was another part where they had glued back the broken pieces:


It was a real privilege to get close to the carved stones:

Dog stone carving


Carved faces


Fox & Pigeons

The Conservation Officer told us about the laser scans they were doing of the carved sections of the Abbey while they had the scaffolding up. This means they now have an electronic 3D copy of each carving so they can monitor erosion and damage and can use it as a restoration reference if necessary. Then he showed us a miniature model of this:

Pig gargoyle

With new 3D printing techniques they can now produce actual models of the carvings. They could also create a model of the whole abbey, as they have been scanning the entire building and site. The pig gargoyle had recently been cleaned and conserved.

Sometimes carvings become too fragile to be left in situ, and two statues on the abbey have been replaced by fibreglass casts. Here is the Virgin Mary:

Virgin Mary statue

It is a convincing fibre glass cast that was made in the 80s by taking a mould of the carving. Now they can use scanning techniques to create a copy without the chance that they would damage the carving while creating the mould.

As we came down from the scaffolding and walked round the abbey it was interesting to see how delicate the mullions in the windows look from a distance, compared to the hefty piece of stone we saw in the stone yard.

Presbytery window

Back Presbytery window

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the moss growing out of the lettercarving in this gravestone:

Moss in lettering

I’m looking forward to being able to do a bit of stone carving again in the future, although just as a hobby this time.

I will be back to part-time working again in April and intend to focus on developing my knitting pattern designs.



  1. Really good to read a blog from you again, Ruth – and the Melrose repair work is fascinating. Sorry not to have seen you at the Guild on Saturday – hope to see you soon , Katherine

    1. Thanks. Pretty much the same tools are used for carving today, although some of them with newer materials now. Imagine what the scaffolding would be like back when the abbey was built!

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