Black & Gold

Memories so vivid.
Every detail.
They often become dreams
Like slipping behind the veil .
To replay to remember.
To see you.
Lying on the deck of a boat.

A boat with a stick you’d call it.

One of your favourite places

Hot sun, cool wind.
Black and gold plays on the radio.
Turquoise blue of the Mediterranean surrounds us.
As we sail off the coast of Turkey to forgotten caves and deserted beaches.
There is a gust of wind and the hat that was covering my eyes is now floating beside the boat a tiny speck in the blue blue sea..
I hear you laugh, your long black hair unruly.
The smell of coconut sun oil
As you tilt your head and smile.
I know what your thinking.
This is perfect
I smile as you squeeze my hand.
I close my eyes and listen to you sing along.

And the stars fell out of the sky
And the tears rolled into the ocean
And now I’m looking for a reason why
You even set my world into motion

‘Cause if you’re not really here
Then the stars don’t even matter
Now I’m filled to the top with fear
That it’s all just a bunch of matter

‘Cause if you’re not really here
Then I don’t want to be either
I wanna be next to you
Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold

I go back there often ..
To lie on that boat
Next to you.

Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold.

Uncomfortably numb

Sitting in circle last week I had a reading .

Beautiful lady looked into my eyes and said..

I want to say you have lost half…. Of yourself.’

Can you take that?

She asked..

That is so accurate.

Yes I can take it I smiled.

My best poker face.

She has no idea, no one has, not really.

I miss you.

I miss the half of you that was me.

You always said we were meant to be together.

Well this is a shit way for you to prove your point Donna.

I miss opening the door to you moaning about the state of the tow path.

I miss you badgering me to straighten your hair..

You asking me for a cwch.

The top of your head fitting under my chin

Breathing in the smell of your hair.

Sitting together,

Making up some really stupid fact to tell you then laughing because you’d believe me.

Lying on the grass watching clouds finding pictures.

Your random facts and infectious giggle

I hear you saying you know I’m right boi!

You texting me , sending me songs ..glitter in the air…

Our granddaughter Emilia is looking more and more like you everyday

That’s such a comfort.

But I still miss us.

Me without you

How can that be?

I got into my little van packed lunch and a flask to go off with my dog and maybe camp.

Found myself just sat for a min.. lost in the silence

‘ your supposed to be there on that seat beside me I say out loud to you.

I feel your hand squeeze mine

I’m here you tell me .

The sun is shining.

But I’m sure it was brighter when you were here.

Cowboys and Indians.

As a kid I loved old western films.

They were escapism.

Not the cowboys I was always on the side of the Indians , I’d be devistated when tipi’s were burned Indians homes moved .

Equally id be thrilled when cowboys lost.

Spending much of my time as a kid outdoors avoiding my family it was the outdoor living that appealed to me.

When the fair came to the estate id be drawn like a moth to a flame.

Caravans outdoor living.

A tribe that lives differently on the outskirts of the norm. over the years I guess not much has changed .

I’d rather sleep under canvas then in a house I’m lucky to have found my hubby who is equally as in love with the outdoor life.

As you know I live on a canal in small cottage in Wales .

Tiny street twenty nine cottages and a converted chapel.

Behind each door is a different story.

It’s not a street of shiny cars and neighbors that don’t know who lives next door .

It’s my tribe very like an accidental commune .

Extended family I love this place and it’s people.

We range from Mick who’s 83, to Rachel and her babies at top of the street .

Mental health, vulnerable adults, kids, teenagers , self employed, unemployed, widows married couples and single mams.

You may know also have a second cottage Ravens Retreat at the back of it is my therapy cabin.we provide completely free breaks for cancer patients / mental health and counseling for veterans.

All in memory of my best friend Donna Drewson.

Who sadly left us on 11.09.2018

As a community we are quite a diverse lot but we fit.

Like a jigsaw.

Like those Indians in the westerns .

It’s feels particularly like that at the moment.

We are like the Indians that are desperately trying to protect and fight for their sacred land. .

The cowboys are national resource Wales,

Neath council ,

Cadew

Water board.

And leeders port tenant canal.

It’s a battle since or home were flooded by first storm Callum Oct 2018

Then Feb 2020 by Storm Dennis

Most of us lost everything on ground floors of our homes. Plus our cars .

Me and my hubby lost everything in our cottage, ravens Retreat. and our healing room .

Under 3 foot of sewage .

It’s funny that when something like this happens you have no time to be heart broken although of course I was. But from the min that water spewed up through the toilet bath and the letter box you go into some sort of surreal automatic pilot.

When the last deluge came I was standing under the under pass at 2.30am in morning with Jon my neighbor we were praying it wouldn’t breach the wall.

Suddenly a red van stopped on the bridge overhead and shouted at us to get back to RUN .

it was like a bad horror film a huge tree was blocking the bridge acting as a dam .

So we ran..

Rain pouring as we ran down the uneven toe path, stumbling in pot holes.

Through my front door over the two pathetic sand bags we had been given by the council.

Heart banging in my head as I shouted to Jeff who was taking things upstairs.

I looked out the window and the water came over the wall like a wave.

The canal became a river and poured over the garden wall I shouted again to Jeff and we preceded to try to stop the water.

It was pointless .

But we tried .

Towels at back of front door and in letterbox .

I ran to the back door the most foul smell as the raw sewage spewed like horror movie sewage chocolate fountains..

I slipped and fell onto the kitchen floor within minutes my tiny dog was swimming.

I shouted to Jeff we have to help the twins .

Erica and Joanna live next door and I could hear them crying.

Jeff looked at me wading in water I begged him to come upstairs.

We were soaking everything was floating.

Still I’m on auto pilot

I open back bedroom window shout to the girls next door to stay up stairs .

As I phone fire brigade.

I need the toilet but it’s downstairs. Jeff fetches a bucket .

The fire brigade are on their way and all lights go out. It’s pitch black I light tea lights the cat comes through the bedroom window.

I hear sirens .

They are coming to front of houses with dinghys

I shout down I’m not coming tell them to get the twins out.

They tell me I have to leave .. but I don’t ..

I shut the bedroom window

I can’t I don’t know why but I just can’t go.

Morning comes we haven’t slept I tried I keep hearing the man in the van shouting run! The girls crying the water is still high .

The smell is vile.

I worrying about Ravens retreat my cabin.

The patients that are relying on us for breaks for treatments.

Jeff holds me..

Don’t worry he says I’ll fix it.

Three words that ruin me.

He’s almost sixty he’s fit and good for his age a grafter he’s done it after the last flood .

Having to do it again

This was not the plan.

We have no insurance.

We did have after first flood then they wouldn’t cover us .

Don’t think about it he says it will be okay .

We start to bail.

My phone rings .

Colleges from NHS friends are all on their way .

My daughter who’s I’ll with auto immune collitus Wade’s through 3 foot of water to rescue my dog and kitten.

The clean up begins AGAIN.

as the water leaves the cottages. We are left with a layer of sewage coating everything.

We move from each others houses supporting each other .

Men lifting out furniture .

Carpets laminate floors.

Children’s toys .

People’s lives pile up Infront of there ruined homes .

Council wagons take it away then come back for more.

The media arrive they call us the forgotten street.

I’m at the front to be interviewed determined needing everyone to know we need help.

We need the promised preventative measures.

Telling them this is the second time .

Begging for help

A young couple stand outside their home newly weds.

The letting agent arrives tells them their tenency is ended.

They stand in wet sewage soaked clothes homeless.

I want to scream to cry.

The electricity comes back on I offer to make soup for everyone then realize the cooker is full of sewage.

I ring my boss explain.

Ask for emergency leave .

Carry on cleaning people bring food , strangers come to help,

Eventually both cottages are empty .

The boiler in retreat is 6 months old is ruined.

My cabin my books everything gone.

My daughter tweeted my story I was contacted about the Retreat by Michael Sheen .

Who wanted to help.

That was the point the tears came.

Tears of relief .

I don’t mind not having things fixed in our house but the thought of letting people down in Ravens Retreat who were end of life loosing free holidays killed me.

I felt helpless.

Michael offered to get our oil boiler repairs sorted which was my biggest expense and one I just couldn’t afford. Im honestly I’m beyond grateful.

I know he’s famous well know and lives part time in the States. but he’s a valleys Welsh man who knows his roots and cares, really cares about others about things that matter . I honestly can never thank him enough.

He then went on to raise money for flood victims all over Wales .donations came in from everywhere .

The Ravens Retreat benefited from that too replacing our ruined front door and windows .

We now don’t have a letterbox!

I’m so in awe of people’s kindness.

That was February the Corona virus came In march .

Every thing stopped.

Lockdown.

The forgotten street our canalside tribe was forgotten again.

By all those agencies who had previously promised us preventative measures.

Where were the people to dredge the river?

The people to higher the wall?

to clear the aqueduct?

The water board to fix the drains the surveyors to check the walls under the British legion.

Social distancing they said.

Higher up the valley there was work in the rivers.

Here in Canalside nothing.

It was locked down we were stuck we started a Facebook page a private page for our residents our tribe Canalside.

We sorted out shopping reassured everyone that needed help shared shopping had veg delivered cooked for others we went on to work on our houses.

We did what we could it was surreal the world has stopped but we had to carry on to rebuild our canal side paradise.

I had to think of something so I suggested that we clear the river ourselves.

There is tons and tons of debris. The bridge arches and the aqueduct had been smashed in the last storm they had promised us it would be removed it was now June if it wasn’t done before September we’ve been the same position again. Another flood.

Every time it rained the anxiety within me would rise.

So I organised a street clear up of the river bed.

I contacted Michael Sheen told him about plans and asked if he could help.

We rang ITV news. They told me they were still filming Corona virus news.

I told them Michael would be there.

That swung it.

That day was awesome.

Mick 83 and Colin 71 in charge of wheelbarrows.

Paul balenced on a a deralict aquaduct.

Lee , wynne, moereen

Everyone from the street who could be there was there all sporting orange buckets it rained but we didn’t care we were in the river socially distancing.

Paul and Jude are shielding we took photos to keep them in the loop.

Of us moving debris showing the UK how much we loved our street how we wouldn’t be forgotten we were tribe.

The twins were there, Rachel with the children ,

Vicky, Mave, Gemma and the kids Stuart, Steve, Jon and Anna .

Michael Sheen was amazing he told them our story that he had the platform to be heard and rightly said that without him our voices should still be heard.

National resoures Wales turned up and promised us that before the end of July there would be machinery in the river to clear 600 tons of stones of trees of debris it felt like a victory a small one but at last something was being done.

Last week they arrived I was so thrilled when I saw them in the river I sobbed I don’t think I’d realise how much the whole situation was affecting me at that moment I did.

News travels fast and before long we are all up looking over the wall all everyone smiling.

We have a meeting setup for the end of the month you asked everyone to attend all the agencies they have promised his help.

.

The day after they started to clear the river they stopped not because they’ve finished because they’d only just started maybe they’ll be back the day after we thought.

But they haven’t been back.

Another item to be discussed at the meeting.

I sat here today and suddenly the reality hit me it’s almost August we could be flooded in September .

We haven’t recovered from the last flood.

How hard can it be to put the preventative measures in place to save our homes to save us our tribe. If someone were badly hurt or killed but they do it then?

Will it cost a life?

I will be like the Indians will they move us from this sacred place the place that we love.

It isn’t just our cottages it’s each other who will help the twins?

Who will cook for Mick? Who will Jeff laugh and joke with if John and Steve are not there?.

Why are we forgotten?

It breaks my heart to think the everything I have dreamed of everything that Jeff has built for me this retreat ravens retreat could be gone everything here for cancer patients for for mental health for war veterans.

Cottage breaks counselling psychotherapy it’s all free.

Years ago when I tell people what I plan to do do most people said you can’t do that for free.

Why free?

Because I know no it’s a bit isn’t free there will always be someone who misses out someone who can’t afford it so it had to be free and it’s worked I’ve had the most amazing people stay with us they come as strangers and they leave as friends and to think that this could end now that really does break my heart.

Because in reality we have two houses on a flood plain that are worth nothing and a cancer retreat that is ireplaceable.

It’s a feeling of helplessness but we won’t stop fighting until the agencies involved listen to us for we are canalside we are tribe.

There by the grace of God go I

I live in a cottage on the side of a canal. I have a healing centre and I offer free breaks to cancer patients we have a counselling service and in my spare time I walk my dog in some of the most beautiful places on earth here in Wales.

I like reading tarot, crystals and crafting firepits, camping and laughing with the amazing friends that I have made while I’ve been here Wales.

Does my life sound? perfect I suppose it is.

Because this canal the work that I do is paradise it’s my paradise.

At 55 always been a bit of a rebel I suppose I still am sporting spiky hair shaved sides hippie clothes I’m bare foot most of the time I’m comfortable in my own skin I like who I am.

Believe me that’s taken a while.

So if you saw me if you met me and you knew all this.

What would be your opinion? Would you judge me what would you think as I’ve just said I have the ideal life.

My previous blog talks about the young man That we recently helped he was homeless and was wanted by the police.

Obviously we didn’t know this but it got me thinking about the different paths that we take in our life the choices we make. Because our story, our beginning ultimately paves the way to our destination. Wouldn’t you agree.

Rewind 45 years my story was different I didn’t have the best upbringing and that’s an understatement. I came from an incestuous family alcoholics, sexual physical and mental abuse.

That was my normal.

Yes that’s right normal. Because when you’re brought up being continually treated a certain way you believe that is the way life is.

Everyone must be the same behind closed doors inside all those houses.

It’s only when you get older you start to see the difference and then it’s too late.

Why too late? You’re different and it’s a secret and you can’t tell anyone.

Your the weird kid because their live is so much different than yours.

They could never understand and you don’t want to be different you want to fit.

It’s like a circle a rounder bout you just can’t get off.

I could go into more and horrendous details but that would just be like Scratching old wounds that I’ve worked so hard for a lifetime to nurse and to heal.

Occasionally there is something to remind me A flashback a nightmare a patient in work with a similar story that throws me right back there but my poker face is amazing.

I’m not that scared little girl That rebellious teenager, that fierce single mother anymore.

I’m not a victim.

So I guess the point I’m making is I’m one of the lucky ones.

Somewhere along the path there were signposts .

But despite everything I wouldn’t change a single day if I could go back have a different childhood I wouldn’t.

I know I can see you shaking your head.

What! you say?

the whole thing has been a journey my journey.

If I went back and change things I wouldn’t be sitting here right now in my cabin My sacred space by my cottage near the canal in Wales.

Yes I might have had an equally nice life but I want this one and everything that happened to me in the past has made me exactly who I am today.

I remember my father would call me gunner. Always gonna do this always gonna do that.

He’d tell me if aspire to be nothing but a whore.

For a long time I believed him .

Dispite all of this for as long as I can remember I wanted to live in Wales.

To escape my mother sister had a caravan in North Wales and she take me and my cousin

Once a year just a week but it was amazing there is a beach the chip shop and in Orchard where would climb up trees and I slept at night. I slept well.

So that was my wish I suppose it was cosmic ordering I just didn’t realise it at the time but no matter how bad things got or where my life took me And I can tell you there were some pretty dark places.

I dreamed of a magical place

I was going to live in Wales I was never sure how but I was going to do it.

I also wanted to go to University not sure why because I was never in school when I left home I was pregnant not for the first time.

18 years later I moved to South Wales. It wasn’t plain sailing I had countless disastrous relationships behind me but I was to determined to start new.

I went to University studied psychology human behaviour it fascinated me it still does Why people behave the way they do.

Nature versus nurture

I was hooked.

I carried on studied holistic therapies became a hypnotherapist reiki, reflexology counselling and psychotherapy i got a job working in community mental health I really felt like I was giving something back.

Making a positive difference.

You see one of the main things no matter how you try that sticks with you when you’re brought up in such a dysfunctional family is that needing that wanting to fit wanting a family.

I remember years ago after my mother died and a counsellor said to me there’s no such thing as the waltons every family has its problems and it took awhile to say that she was right.

In 2002 I met a guy whilst out for a drink with my friend he was quiet an unassuming Shy even. We became friends he was different than anyone else I’ve ever met we were opposites but then You know what they say about that so to cut a long Story short eventually we were married

We bought our cottage by the canal. By this time I was working in end of life care and it was a dream of mine to have somewhere anyone with an end of life diagnosis could come for a free break to get away from appointments and just to be themselves three years ago we bought small cottage in our street it was my dream.

That cosmic ordering finally is coming true.

My husband is amazing I dream it he builds it So now we have a beautiful cottage lots of people benefit from it.

A healing cabin And I can honestly say I couldn’t be happier. I finally found that place I fit.

One day I’m going to have a farm no animals but an open space and a bigger Retreat therapy cabin and celebrant services.

I’ve put it out there to the universe

Everything I do is there a reason I’m paying it forward I’m so unbelievably thankful for the journey I have been on.

I’m aware it could have been so very different.

And as I said in my previous blog about the young boy last week who was homeless I can’t ever turn anyone away.

Because truly there by the grace of God god go I .

🙏❤️

Someones son.

I’ve had a lot to think about this week and it’s made me reflect about the way we see people. Even though we don’t intend to judge I think sometimes most of us do.

2-weeks ago friend of mine was contacted through her website by a young man who was homeless and looking for a safe place to pitch his tent and somewhere to charge his phone.

Being in lockdown this proved more difficult than ussual.

My friend runs a country pub with rooms and so she decided to let him stay. He was a very polite young man excellent manners quietly spoken he didn’t ask for anything but was very very grateful for the roof of his head.

I arrange to go over to see him he needed a new rucksack his old one was tattered and in pieces. I bought him a rucksack it wasn’t too expensive but did the job and also asked about to friends of mine who had son’s his age and size and very kindly clothes were donated.

He was over the moon very humble and again very grateful. He told us a little bit about his life he said he’d lived Outdoors for a long time that he didn’t like to be thought of as homeless it was his choice he was a bit of a nomad and loved been out in the countryside.

Whilst staying with my friend he would be up early and out exploring the beautiful countryside around the pub waterfalls mountain walks he loved it.

He told us he worked casually and there is someone in Cardiff he had done some casual work for who owed him some money he was going to bring it to him that week and after that he’d be leaving Wales to stay with friends who had bought a farm just outside of Southport in the North West of England.

He came over to my house to have dinner with my family whilst in the kitchen he looked at me and said I can’t believe it’s only been three weeks and ‘I’ve met so many lovely people who have been nothing but kind to me.’ I knew these words we’re coming from his heart.

I gave him a crystal I have made into a pendant and wished him well I told him to keep in touch and if he ever need help to come back to Wales.

He hugged me me and thanks me again. He was a genuinely lovely young man there are a few things about his story I didn’t seem to fit but I guessed somewhere along the line he’s been trouble but he had been nothing but polite courteous and grateful to myself and my friend.

2 Days Later he left on a train to go to the north of England I messaged him on Facebook later that day to see if he has arrived safely.

He assured me he had and thanks to me again telling me he would stay in touch. He stayed in touch with my friend and my daughter who lives in Swansea she was as equally taken with him as we were.

Then a few days later my friend and her husband return to Wales from a short break in Brighton the following morning the police were knocking at her door asking if they had seen or been helping a young man the name given was not the name of the young man we had helped.

But a photograph confirmed it was indeed the same person. He was wanted by the police for breaking bail and not appearing in court and had been on the Run since January. We were told he was dangerous not 21 as we had thought but 27 and from the south of England.

Yes we were shocked but we were also concerned as I said earlier there is absolutely no clue then he could have been dangerous. The police asked where he had gone and my friend told them the north of England but we didn’t have an address.

We were notified later that he had been arrested still in South Wales in the area where he had stayed. My daughter feels that’s on all those walks he went on he was probably looking for somewhere remote and hidden to pitch his tent.

He must have known the police had an idea he was in Wales. The police couldn’t tell us what he was wanted for or anything about him although they did tell us his real name. So we looked on Facebook and the internet and it seems there’s not much that you can’t find out.

I worked most of my life if in mental health nursing so I’m aware of people who have committed crimes I work closely with them in forensic units and I know show some of the people who have committed most terrible crimes look the same as you and I.

They don’t look like Monsters they don’t wear a badge you could be standing next to them in a supermarket. I’m also aware that people who have got onto the wrong path often have horrendous life stories behind them and I’ve been treated terribly themselves.

Please don’t think but I’m excusing any crime I’m not but I’m saying there’s always a story.

So I believe this young boy let’s call him Harry found kindness when he came to Wales. And in that kindness I hope some healing occurred I take people as I find them for who they are with me.

And I hope the kindness he was shown here he remembers. I think we’ve got to remember that old saying there by the grace of God go I.

Harry was someone’s son, brother and I suppose in a different dimension he could have been my son.

Would it stop me helping someone again definitely not who am I to judge anyone it may have only been for a few weeks but I believe the kindness that he was given helped him to show the person that he really is.

I wish him well and continue to send him healing and love.

Multi faceted

We are all so multi faceted.
We are all many different things to many different people.
I don’t mean labels like, daughter, wife, mammy.
Although each of these alone carries different expectations.
Demands,
Rewards,
I mean the parts of us that we comfortably show to others .
Do you know what I mean?
I love the people that I can be real with.
Honest and comfortable.
The ones that just get you.
There is something so comforting about fitting.
Laughing with someone until you ache.
Watching the night sky.
But I wonder how often we find those sorts of friends ?
Is it rare?
The ones that we can genuinely “just be” with.
We have so many acquaintances hundreds , thousands .but sometimes there’s that one that you feel that connection with.
The one who you think you must have know before.
No matter how often you see them or how far away you are .
You still know that they are there .
That web.
Connection.
Those are your tribe