Canalside one street our story.
Listen to the most recent episode of my podcast: One story of one street https://anchor.fm/joolz-raven-stewart/episodes/One-story-of-one-street-eb5apj
Canalside one street our story.
Listen to the most recent episode of my podcast: One story of one street https://anchor.fm/joolz-raven-stewart/episodes/One-story-of-one-street-eb5apj
No I don’t want a cup of tea.
There is an acrid taste of vomit in my mouth.
Questions asked and I hear them.
I hear them like I’m underwater or in a bubble?
It’s this real or is it a dream.
My head hurts if I move it.
The tea the police man has given me is stone cold.
My tears are warm as they run down my cheeks and splash into the tea cup.
I wonder how many tea cups of tears I will cry.
Enough to fill an ocean?
Rushing now that loud noise in my head.
Technicolour scenes I cannot pause or mute.
Play over and over.
Although my eyes are closed I still see it play.
I press my fingers hard into my temples as if they are stop buttons on a memory remote control
but batteries are dead nothing can stop it.
I’m not wearing any shoes.
My feet are dirty there is a scratch on my left ankle.
Dirt from my front garden I’d been out there all day pulling up privit hedges.
That’s where I was when my world changed standing barefoot grounded.in the April sunshine.
Surrounded by my children in the late afternoon I’ll just finish clearing up this mess then we will go down to pick up your Nan I told them.
A car pulled up in front of my house.
Suddenly I knew, that gut feeling. I felt it physical pain.
I caught my breath and I knew he had killed her.
My Mam. The only one I’d ever known my alcoholic father had finally done it.
The button was pressed the flashbacks began
The chaos was real.
I sorted out my children and got in the car stood in the door way of her flat.
I hear him singing in my head..
You are my sunshine my only sunshine…
Dark cloud of blood on her carpet marking where she had fallen hitting her head.
Her china cup, Mam inscribed in gold letters half full of cold tea on the window ledge.
Photos of my children on the walls I can smell olobis oil on a tissue she had used.
I hear a shrill scream then a gutteral howl. The cine film of memories in my head plays on.
The scream is mine. No I don’t want tea I want my Mam back.
People ask where the name of my retreat here in Wales came from
Here is my story
Little black bird.
She was small tiny in fact.
Not one of them, not part of this tribe and so she didn’t belong.
Saul the king of the crows had said her mother had been a visitor a maverick laying her egg in a nest here in the woods then leaving it to be hatched by one of the king sauls female mates.
Little bird had emerged small scrawny and different she didn’t fit.
The only thing about her that was like the murder of crows she lived with was her colour. She was blacker than the night.
Every day she was reminded that she wasn’t like them smaller not good enough she lived there but she didn’t belong there.
Saul the king was big and mean she had learned not to upset him dodge the sharp elbow of his mighty wing his shrill caw and she had many scars from his sharp beak.
She would wait until everyone had eaten before she dared to look for what scraps were left she survived by living and blending into the shadows.
She lived roosted and nested on the edge of the woods in an old oak tree in a small hollow of a branch near to where she had been hatched.
She knew there was no room for weakness in the woods where she lived the fittest survived the weakest didn’t
The seasons changed the wheel of the year turned new eggs hatched young were born and raised their gathering grew but she was not to see her young born.
Saul would fly into a rage smash her eggs killing her young before her eyes they didn’t stand a chance.
She wondered what was beyond this place her oak tree these woods the stream she dreamed of another place where she could fly and be free.
Then one warm summers evening as she glided alone on a warm summer breeze she was startled by a whoosh of wind as a beautiful huge black bird flew past her.
She watched as he darted and glided this way and that his call was different louder deeper and his feathers though black like hers were darker she followed him as he landed stealthy on an old oak tree on the otherside of the woods.
‘Where do you come from?’ asked the little black bird across the ocean far from here he said preening himself
The sun shone as they spoke of other worlds green valleys and oceans and the little crows heart fluttered.
Could I go to this place she asked?
The beautiful Raven cawed ruffled his feathers and laughed. He tilted his head his eyes were brown and in them she saw a reflection looking back at her.
She let out a caw,
Yes he said seeing the surprise on her face.
You can go anywhere, you too are a Raven.
‘Me a Raven?’ ‘Yes you.’
Why are you nesting with the crows their king is not a good being. His heart is blacker than his feathers,
Fly from here fly south look for the purple topped mountains and green valley’s there are others like us.
Do not be afraid any longer you are brave and stronger than you think you are a warrior little Raven. You can live anywhere you choose.
She flew back to the woods cawing out thanks to the Black Raven.
The king crow was getting old now his eyes were failing and suddenly she realised he wasn’t bigger or stronger and the fear she had felt for all those years roosting in the woods began to leave her.
She puffed up her chest and cawed loudly as she flew down to the place by the river where her smashed eggs and young were buried.
Her heart banged in her Raven chest she was afraid to go but more afraid to stay.
Head tucked under her wing she slept knowing this was the last night in her oak tree in this small woodland that had been her home since she had hatched in the wrong nest.
Tomorrow she would fly
She wished only for good weather and then she slept.
The next morning the sun came up she drank from the stream and caught sight of her reflection again in the water a raven there was new determined look in her eye.
She was no longer the tiny bird the outcast who had taken so many beatings.
A proud strong Raven stared back at her.
She cawed loudly. ‘Goodbye woodland of my youth.’
Gentle winding stream and old oak tree thank you for my shelter and quenching my thirst.
She heard King Saul caw a cruel laugh behind her.
‘Little bird’ he jeered. ‘Who do you think you are?’ ‘Where do you think you are going?’
I am not little bird I am Raven Storm. I am mighty brave and strong a warrior that is who I truly am. Today I shall fly and find my own path far from here.
King sauls eyes flashed anger ‘you dare speak back to your king you defy my orders?’
‘You would choose solitude and loneliness this is your place.’
The other crows waited for her to answer no one ever left this gathering no one ever left this gathering.
Raven puffed out her chest and spread out her wings ‘I am not your little bird. I choose freedom’
Lonleyness and solitude are yours
There was a gasp from all who gathered as Raven circled for the last time above the small woodland that had been her roost.
As all the crows begin to caw loudly a last goodbye.
The warm winds carried her south. Warm sun shone on her feathers and hope beat a drum inside her brave Raven heart.
She was free.
I walked through the gate
there standing before me was a huge 1930s detached three story house.
I’d driven past here hundreds of times and never noticed it.
hiding behind tall fir trees.
it was drizzling rain a dull damp day.
angry clouds above this huge house
I stood beside my friend Chris he looked at me.
looks a bit run down I say choosing my words
old-fashioned rooshed net curtain that haven’t seen a washing machine in a long time adorn the huge windows
I hear my mother saying “they need steeping in some Sally white bleach ‘
your not wrong mam I think.
come on then I say to Chris as we walk past the huge cars on the drive shining and polished complete contrast to the grey and dismal house.
the Adams family comes to mind says Chris as we walk up the stone steps to the first floor front door.
Rocky horror I smile
I ring the bell and we wait.
nice view across the city I say as the door is opened by a well dressed man in a suit
he struggles to open the door pushing boxes to the side of the hallway and beckons us to come in.
I introduce Chris and we take a seat in the waiting room.
Dust in corners of ceiling cracked paint spiders webs and if the windows were cleaned there would be a fabulous view across the city.
the furniture is 1970s g plan in a faded green ancient Wilton carpets thread bare in places tell of better times and I wonder if families stuck within their grief fail to notice the neglect around them as they sit here being advised on their loved ones funeral.
Waiting to pick up ashes or to view a loved one before a funeral.
I’ve worked in many funeral.homes but this is, well run down. shabby and cold. It’s shocking
The man who runs things is lovely a little aloof but I didn’t see this coming.
He asks if there’s anything I need.
No I smile
Okay I’ll go and get her, I’ll put her in the chapel of rest then I’ll come to get you.
off he goes .
I look around.
is there a secret camera I say?
we are hear as part of my soul midwife work.
I’m doing the hair and make up of a lady I’ve worked with.
before her family come to view her.
Then next week I’ll do her funeral.
Chris has come to help
for the first time
probably the only time after this.
after few mins he comes back up stairs guides us down stairs to the chapel of rest.
I swear you couldn’t make this up.
It’s under the house next to a garage
Bang bang bang constant hammering of coffins being assembled.
he opens the door creak. musty damp smell
why didn’t I video this …
blare witch goes to funeral home
there before me is a huge room set out with old wooden folding chairs
very dusty chairs
I’m wishing I’d brought a feather duster and some polish it’s set out as a chapel
wow I say.
Chris nudges me
this “could” be fabulous obviously it’s not used now
no says funeral director.
not for years
He smiles shuts the door behind us it’s dark and dismal and I’m reminded of a Steven king film
Here is chapel of rest
a door to the side is opened into what can only described as a large cupboard with a gurney trolly in there body on it looking like it’s been dropped out of a plane and landed very akwardly.
head twisted mouth and eyes open not just cold but bordering frozen.
I look around almost sureal slow motion
now first and foremost I’ve seen alot of corpses in my job
I’m not afraid or shocked I care for the body
when I go to funeral directors they are usually lying with dignity eyes mouth have been closed head straight .
You know what I mean.
Everything okay says funeral director?
There is a arched window behind him covered in dust and spiders webs
it’s winter but the flies are alive one lands on the face of the body
I flick it off
are you going to put a stitch in the mouth I ask?
Oh no he says I don’t like that..
would you like a tea or coffee?
I’m tempted to ask for a gin I bloody need one
I shake my head
he leaves closing the door and I wonder what the fook is going on.
Chris is standing in the corner with a is this a sick joke look on his face .
I take out my kit and get to work.
talking chatting to my lady as I work.
well I’say to her
ou chose this place I’m betting you”ve never been here before!
Chris come help me hold her mouth closed.
I work gently hair make up fix her body into an acceptable position and close her eyes and mouth.
there is still rope around her feet from when she was brought from the hospital morge
a sticker across her chest her name and date birth.
I flick away flies
There I say as we finish
goodbye my friend
I pray her family don’t come to view in this room
it’s just beyond unbelievable and I’m glad Chris is with me or no one would believe this
we go back up stairs he is sat at an old desk.
where the sink I ask?
sink? He looks puzzled.
Yes I’ve just been handling a body id like to wash my hands.
Chris laughs nervously.
We wash our hands say a polite goodbye tell him I’ll see him to do the funeral.
we get in the car
sit for awhile
seriously that place is beyond I say.
I wonder what I can do
vow to get funeral over with then go back to speak to him
he needs to sort that place out he needs help says Chris.
he needs a mop and bucket and a complete renovation I say.
The funeral went well cars staff everything was good
but behind the scenes there was a completely different story .
I wouldn’t tell the family
what could it achieve?
but I plan to go back and have a chat to see just what the score is there has to be a reason such a beautiful place has fell into such disrepair.
what do you think?
I need a plan.
Or a twin.
As you know I work as a Soul midwife (end of life care)
I live on a canal bank in South Wales
A small row of 19 terraced cottages.
We have lived there 12 years
It’s always been a dream to buy another cottage on our row to run as a Retreat.
For Cancer patients & mental health patients.
You see I work full time too for the community mental health team.
Now you see why I need a twin.
Anyway I digress.
So I’m working full time then two years ago a cottage goes up for sale
Well I have been asking the universe.
Problem is it’s out of my price range 90k I was gutted. It was perfect needed work but nothing we couldn’t do ourselfs.
Never mind says my hubby Jeff.
It will happen and we carry on dreaming no one moves into the empty cottage and six months later I spot the estate agent coming out of there.
‘Excuse me’ is it back on the market? I ask.
He smiles yes the doors still open come in and have a look around.
I step inside out of the rain
Its very magnolia I say. It’s had a few coats of paint and cheap cord carpet but there’s no damp which is amazing for an old cottage and it’s bigger than our house.
I walk upstairs and I’m visualising the door sign
60k he says
I know he says I’d offer 55k.
I’m stunned it was previously on for 90k
“Okay I say without thinking ill offer 55k”
He looks up from his clipboard.
“Its not advertised yet.
Do you want me to ring the vendor?”
“Yes please” I say assertively
Appearing confident whilst in my head I’m wondering if I can get a mortgage.
He walks into the kitchen chatting on his I phone.
I close my eyes and ask the universe.
“Please let it be” as I open them he comes striding back into the lounge
“Congratulations he accepted your offer, who is your solicitor?
He shakes my hand and I follow him outside onto the tow path.
Ill be in touch he smiles
Im thrilled, scared, and wondering what just happened?
Thank you I whisper to the universe.
As I dial my hubby Jeff.
“Hi love I say as he answers .
Guess what I just bought?”
“A cottage no 28”
There’s a pause. He laughs.
“I need a mortgage and a deposit I carry on. ”
I don’t doubt you’ll get one he laughs you always find a way,
I ring a mortgage advisor he comes out the next evening i can’t see a problem he says and everything is a little sureal.
I find a local solicitor and few weeks later end of Feb it snows my daughter is over to visit so we walk down to no 28 to look around.
“mam looks like there’s a leak in the kitchen from flat roof. ”
We call the estate agent and sure enough there’s a damp patch ceiling and wall.
Im wondering how much it’s going to cost.
Can you ring the vendor I ask?
He drops the price by 4k mor than fair and a month later on 30th march day before my birthday 2017 we complete.
Cosmic ordering at its best.
The hard work begins. Painting furnishing all on a shoe string. We divide the garden in half deck outside the back door and plan to use the other half to build a therapy cabin.
I think back to that kid that was me my father called me “gunner” because I was always gunner do something or other. Always day dreaming. Always going to live in Wales.
I smile he I am with my hubby still dreaming with a man who never doubts me and helps me build them and again I thank the universe.
I have a beautiful oak door sign made “Ravens Retreat”
Register as a C.I.C
(Community interest company) non profit.
And we provide our first free cancer breaks
People love the idea .
Now I’m still working full time and still working as a soul midwife.
Running the cottage and providing free therapies.
We had been open five months cue storm Callum.
The street is evacuated but we don’t leave as the flood waters rise praying that the rain will.stop.
Ravens Retreat is flooded.
The cottages are so old that the drains can’t deal with the flood waters the drains back flow through toilets sink baths and up through the floor.
Its heartbreaking all our hard work.
We throw out furniture carpets the whole kitchen and hack off plaster
Our beautiful Retreat is a building site.
We are doing all the work ourselves, from pay check to paycheck it takes us nine months we work all day and work on the retreat in the evening.
Fall into bed then do it all again the next day.
I have days when I wonder if theres an end to it.
Then in June 2019 we re open.
Im so happy .
So proud our first cancer break is a good friend of mine who has just finished radiotherapy and another friend who is still undergoing chemotherapy.
Four of them arrive and as they walk in look around the sun is shining and they love it.
Suddenly everything is worthwhile.
We have provided many more free holidays this year.
Our therapy cabin is almost finished.
I’m looking for funding to get things finished it will make such a difference.
Then hopefully one day soon can give up my full time job consentrate on my soul midwife work.and the Rtreat.
Dreams really do come true.
This one did. ❤️
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This is a short recording of a poem I performed for stand up to racism it’s called Dandelions.
I cannot remember my hair’s natural colour. Some non descript brown.
My sister eighteen years older than I and a want to be hairdresser cut it permed it platted back combed generally practicing on me and her three girls.
I remember my dad cutting it when I was at junior school with Mam’s pinking shears there is a horendous school photo taken the day after fringe like a ski slope and one pony tail longer than the other. I looked a right state.
The day after my sister came over and cut it short it did look better but I was heart broken I couldn’t tie it up anymore.
That was it I was like her hairdressing dummy she cut it regularly after that perms became fashionable do she practiced that too.
I should say she wasn’t at anytime at college. Then when I was thirteen she asked if I wanted it dyed? Before I knew it my head was over the kitchen sink plastic shower stuck onto the taps Luke warm water dripping down my front.
Then sitting with itchy burning mixture on my head fidgiting and complaining keep still she scalded it’s bleach it’s only been on for ten minutes!
she babbled how it had to be bleached first before it could be dyed red.
Mam is going to kill me wailed she laughed and pushed my head back over the sink.
Back onto the hard kitchen chair and slopped red coloured dye onto my sore head.
Wrapped it in a kwik save carrier bag and started to warm it with a hair dryer holding dryer with one hand and a fag in the other.
Shouting all the while at the kids running in and out the kitchen and the dog for chasing the cat.
If there is a Hairdressing for dummies manual she hadn’t read it but we we’re in the 1970s.
She washed it off and gave me a cracked bathroom mirror to hold. You know the ones that swivel and make everything look 12 times bigger?
Jesus Mary and Joseph I heard myself say in a whisper.
Red it was luminous bright pink.
To make things worse I was wearing orange t shirt.
My sister screwed up her eyes.
It’s not too bad.
She said brushing it as she dryed it.
“Wash it out” I begged.
“Er it’s permanent”
I could feel my heart beating in my head I grabbed my coat as her husband walked in.
“Fucking hell lizard” he laughed “your Mam’s gonna kill you. ”
I banged the door behind me the glass rattled in the door.
I walked across the estate home thinking of a way to get out of my latest mess but apart from leaving home, buying a hat and refusing to remove it the fact was I was dead!
I sneaked in the back door and ran upstairs.
Just as the bathroom door opened and mam stood there in her yellow dressing gown.
We stood on opposite sides of the landing clashing and staring.
What the bloody hells fire have you done she gasped?
It wasn’t me it was my sister I stammered I always stammered when I was nervous which was most of the time.
Get in that bloody bathroom and wash it out!
But it won’t wash out I tried to explain as she clipped me around my head screaming at me and launching a bottle of head and shoulders.
“but Mam” I wailed.
“don’t come down until it’s out!”
Needless to say I was up there awhile
It didn’t come out if anything it seemed to get brighter.
I looked like a match stick!
I was suspended from school and grounded.
But after a week I got to like it.
It was different. Definitely different.
So there it started accidentally my life long love affair with dying my hair.
It’s been punk, red, blue, green, black, blonde purple but never dull!
I’m fifty three now and last week I dyed it brown.
I looked in the mirror and reminded myself of my sister years ago unsure if I liked it I thought I’d leave it for a week or two.
Until my grand daughter arrived.
“Nan” she shreeked what’s happening with your hair?”
You don’t look like you Nan it’s too ….. Normal!
She really didn’t like it and to be fair neither did I.
So few hours later it’s bright pillar box red .
That’s better she said I couldn’t have gone out with you with brown hair.
So I guess why change the habit of a life time.
Rebel grand mother it is.