Strange times.. wonderful times

These last few months have been history in the making.

What ever you believe regarding the origin of the corvid 19 pandemic it has affected us all.

Never before has something touched us globally.

I live in a small terrace of canalside cottages.

2020 had been challenging before the pandemic we had no een hit by floods that ruined our homes destroyed our possessions twice in fifteen months.

But we are an amazing community and we had helped each other through it.

With love support cleaning each other flooded homes endless cups of tea and smiles.

Over half the families had to move out whilst their homes were rebuilt.

We stayed grafting my hubby jack of all trades repairing our cottage and the cancer retreat we run.

Then a month later Covid arrives bringing more disruption in a very different way.

So now we are in lockdown my hubby’s garage closes.

The tiny street is quiet

The building work stops. No one can get building supplies social distancing affects our community in a completely different way.

The street seems surreal only eight houses out of thirty are occupied.

We open at Canalside page on Facebook and we keep in touch through the page if one of us is going shopping with post to ask does anyone else in the street need anything picking up? Is everyone ok does anyone need any help

we arrange local businesses to deliver fresh fruit and veg.

we look after elderly residents check they have enough food and they’re feeling ok. Mental health is more important now than ever.

Thursday evenings we stand outside clapping for the key workers waving to each other smiling we are Canalside we are community we are family the floods strengthened our community the pandemic even more.

The more challenges this street has the closer our community becomes.

It really is a magical place to live

Thankfully the weather is good.

Newspapers and every day on TV they tell us the death toll rises they tell us to wash our hands to only go out to buy essential shopping not to visit close family or friends and to stay stay six feet apart.

when I was 17 very long time ago I spent my time chained to the fence at greenham common protesting about cruise missiles fearing for the future of my children I was 16 at the time and pregnant.

I had hitched a lift from my home just outside of Wigan to greenham common I’ve been befriended by a group of Welsh women who would sit and chat about the fear the nuclear weapons.

Each of them had been taken there by the fear they felt for their families future we would join hands singing blocking the path of these huge lorries transporting these huge cruise missiles.

Women trying to make a difference to change the world

Women of all ages from so many different backgrounds but with one common belief life is indeed precious

it seems strange now that this pandemic has created the same wave the fear but this time it is a fear of something none of us can actually see.

That experience as a young teenage pregnant girl instilled something within me I always believed that people are inherently good. This gift this realisation was given to me by those women at greenham common.

And I’ve lived by that positive thought ever since I’m not saying that life is a bed of roses but I am saying that life is sometimes hard but it is always beautiful.

I always remember their unshakable belief in a better world when I need hope and reassurance.

That when something threatens the thing that we love the most our families our communities then so many of us stand up to protect those things.

We’ve pulled together and we try your best to make a positive difference.

So it’s been 8 weeks now since this pandemic and lockdown began “pandemic “it’s global and we’ve I’ll have to slow down we’ve all had more time on our hands we’ve had time to think what matters most to us to reflect we have witnessed so many things that have happened in this world and those things have often been positive.

And I thought of that circle of strong Welsh women.

Here in the UK we have the national health service it’s .

Don’t get me wrong I think it’s always been appreciated but it’s always been struggled under financed I work for the NHS and I’ve seen so many changes over the years we haven’t got enough staff we haven’t got enough beds, psychiatrists supplies, the list is endless I could go on but you get the picture.

When something goes wrong within the community or crime happens and it’s a mental health patient it’s mental health services that are blamed but often it’s a deeper problem that we really just can’t cope. Huge caseloads closure of wards .

Patients are sent home from hospital far too early in my opinion there are so many unsafe discharges but that’s because we haven’t got the beds and patients are accused of bed blocking this is all down to the government.

My daughter-in-law works in general nursing and it’s a very similar story there too waiting list for operations are years if you would like a counselling appointment if you are suicidal 12-months 18 months how can that be?

but that’s the way is a wonderful NHS has been slowly run into the ground the staff are on their knees but now in 2020 during this pandemic we have seen people out on the streets clapping for the NHS politicians who have deprived us of money who haven’t supported us a clapping for the NHS I wonder and I hope if after the pandemic they will realise just how amazing the staff and the service is.

it has broken my heart to see friends of mine going into work dealing with this virus with no PPE armed with only a an apron and an inadequate mask.

This is true care they don’t go into work for the money obviously they need their pay packets but the pittance they are paid is nothing compared to the service that they give willingly everyday.

And I think is a nation we have been reminded of this throughout these difficult times.

as I said earlier the weather has been amazing and that in itself has been a blessing I can’t imagine coping with lockdown if it been raining or terrible weather and we are all stuck inside.

What a difference no aeroplanes and no traffic has made. Everyone has commented look up how blue are the skies how quiet are the roads less pollution less chemtrails

We’ve had reports of wildlife roaming in city centres of dolphins swimming in the canals of of Venice clearer water in lakes less pollution breathed in surely all of this is positive.

Families are getting to know each other interacting more walking together.

How many people walked before the pandemic I know the footfall past our cottage on the canal has probably quadrupled.

Just these few things we can reflect on and maybe keep some of the changes we’ve had to make.

I don’t think we can ever get back to “normal” because in reality the way we were living wasn’t at all normal.

Isn’t it sad that it’s taken a pandemic for most of us to notice this?

So before this ends maybe we could take that time of reflection to go inside ourselves and to ask what are the changes we would like to keep.

Because this really is history in the making so when our grandchildren ask us about the pandemic of 2020 what will be the story we tell them? What will the world be like that they are living in and how will we have helped to create that.

This is our planet our world our country our community and it’s up to us to take personal responsibility so will you be that change you want to see?

Remember life is often hard but always beautiful

Full moon, ivy, and a new friend.

Matthew Goodridge we met unexpectedly on Oct 30th Samhain eve 2015 when the veil between our two worlds was at it thinnest.
I had walked through the graveyard under a ink black sky.
Heading to my favourite cross roads to perform my ancestor ritual.
There is a beautiful avenue of ancient yew trees in this tiny 13c churchyard an ideal place to honour our ancestors.
The sky so clear I sat down beside the end of a ivy covered tombstone my son Matthew and I have been estranged for quite some time and today as most days he had been on my mind.
The atmosphere this night was heavy.

I sat looking at this old tombstone covered in ivy and moss. who are you I whispered.Opened my bag took out my candles and incense placed them beside the coffin shaped base.
Something told me this is where I needed to be.
I gave thanks to my ancestors who have walked before me.
Sat with my black mirror to scry then after ritual I sat watching the sun rise birds began to sing.
I was still sat on the grave stone I began to pull at the ivy. It had pushed its way into the stone but somehow it felt the right thing to do.
Who are you I asked again as slowly a name was revealed.
My samhain companion.
I chatted away until I had a full name..
Matthew Goodridge.
Aged 43.
Died.. I smiled..
Samhain.31 October 1888.

.

So Matthew it wasn’t a coincidence I was drawn from my usual path.

He had been hidden in in knot weed and brambles covered in ivy for years and years.
Forgotten .
I remember you Matthew Goodridge.
I said out loud touching the top of the stone.
Further down were the names of Matthews two daughters.
Sarah Anne 14
And Tirzah 9.

.

No mention of a wife or mother.
As I finished removing the rest of the brambles from the corner of my eye a tall man in a flat cap stood watching me his cigarette smoke blew across to where I stood .

Gardener maybe?

I smiled and nodded.

In the blink of an eye he was gone.
I looked over towards the yews and the big wrought iron gates
But there is no one about.

A crow caws above me.
Your welcome Matthew I say.
As I pick up my bag..
The sun light picks our the names on the stone.

I’ll be back soon to finish tidying .
That was two years ago.
Since Matthew and I met.
I go there often to keep the ivy at bay I have found the missing end piece of the tomb dug it up repaired and fixed it back into its original place.

He is my peaceful place

An ancestor of this land I call home.

Flowers and vase now show that someone cares and remembers them.

He won’t ever be forgotten whist I speak his name.
I will remember him.

One hundred and twenty seven years to the day.
Matthew Sarah and Tizah my samhain ancestors of this place that I love.

What’s it all about?

I’m not sure about the phrase “self isolation”

It conjours up thoughts of loneliness.

Especially for the elderly

If back in December someone close to us had suggested that a world wide pandemic would be with us in twelve months

Borders closed, normal people would turn into selfish beings panic buying food medicines and baby milk.

There would be an even bigger pandemic of mass fear inducing self isolation and social distancing

Would we have believed it could happen so quickly? As I write I feel I’m discribing a plot a of a Margret Atwood novel.

Yet here we are.

Everyday a new chapter unfolds. This week schools in Wales will close for the foreseeable.

People are working from.home if they can. Supermarket shelves are empty old people stand in the rain outside doctors surgeries waiting for their medication to be brought out by masked staff .

Social distancing forgotten as they huddle under umbrellas

I hear people saying the world has gone mad.

Everything has slowed down. Venice canals are now clear dolphins visit

There are no planes over head pumping chemitrails into the sky.

The usual bustle of shoppers riding by each other unoticing has calmed .

Although everyone is worried I’ve noticed more smiles.

Concern for family friends, strangers. The flip side of the panic buying.

Let’s try to focus on what we can do. Instead of what we can’t

Pick up your phone for a chat with family and friends.

Read the book you haven’t had time to pick up.

Discover the joy of podcasts and radio plays.

When weather allows it get out into the garden spring is coming .

If you don’t already try meditation.

The power of visualisation can take you anywhere. YouTube is a good place to start.

The world hadn’t stopped it’s just slowed down. Maybe she will take the time to breathe and to heal.

Maybe we can too.

When all this is over remember this is history in the making.

Our great grandchildren will learn about 2020 in school.

The year that everything stopped and changed..

Let the next line be ..

For the better..

Open letter to U.k government/ environment agency , prince Charles.

PLEASE SHARE
OPEN LETTER TO PRIME. MINISTER, GOVERNMENT, ENVIRONMENT AGENCY, PRINCE CHARLES PRESIDENT OF THE CANAL AND RIVER TRUST. NEATH COUNCIL .

I also run a non profit cancer retreat (soon to gain charity status)
I provide completly free breaks, a soul midwife service, celebrant service, counseling and therapies for patients with life limiting illnesses and their loved ones
Lots of people said I wouldn’t be able to do this completly free, but they don’t know about the magic and support of canalside.
We have been doing it for over two years. Provide lots of beautiful people with a safe happy space to forget about hospital appointments and just to be themselves
To walk on our beautiful canal explore local areas supported by us and our neighbors.
October 2018 were devistated by storm Callum all our hard work and love Ravens retreat was ruined.

To the powers that be.
Prime minister, government, environment agency, Neath council. Prince Charles president of canals & rivers trust.
It’s a almost a week since storm Dennis devistated our little street Canalside.
We are a terrace of 29 old but beautiful cottage as the name suggests we are nestled by the side of the Tenant Canal.
You hear older people talk of how it used to be when people look after each other, you could ask neighbors for help, leave your door open. When there was real communities.
I always smile feel proud and blessed because canalside is exactly that they are describing us. Canalside.
I know everyone in our street.
We are a tribe.
We look out for each other, we remember birthdays, pick up shopping, give lifts when needed, fix cars, we don’t live in each others pockets but we have always got each others backs you get the picture.

But we hadn’t had flooding here since early 90s so we pulled together as a community baled water/ sewage dried out the cottages hacked of plaster dug up floors, pulled out fitted kitchen, white goods sofas furniture clothing toys nothing was salvageable due to the sewage imagine a film.of human waste covering everything you own.
Strangers came to help, we had no electricity for days but canalside residents stuck together unbreakable bonds were made, strangers were now friends .
It took us from October 2018 of storm Callum to June 2019 to recover
The sun shone we welcomed home those who had moved out whilst builders re built their homes.
Ducks, geese , the dog walkers passed our cottage again our community breathed a sigh of relief we were home, together.
Life went on.
We welcomed families for cancer breaks from at Helens , Liverpool, North Wales, Swansea .
A word they often used to describe canalside was magical.

I vividly remember our first group of ladies after the flood Viv and Jule. Were friends from my hometown of St Helens.
Viv had just finished radiotherapy. A mural friend had rang to ask if she could join them with her best friend who was having chemotherapy for a terminal diagnosis.
Everything was arranged and they traveled down together

You see that’s what Ravens Retreat (wish cottage project) is all about.
Fulfilling wishes and dreams giving people hope
We are so much more than a little cottage in a little street.
When Bex Viv, Shaz and Julie drove away at the end of a perfect week the sun shone their car radio blared they sang at top of their voices .

They arrived from Liverpool after a long drive I introduced myself to Bex she smiled but looked quite and lost, she was wearing a back brace and they had wondered if the drive over would be too long but she had been determined to come.
As the four of them looked around our retreat slowly Bex began to smile.
That week was truly wonderful.
They sat by our fire pit, sunbathed on the decking, drank wine laughed lots discussed hopes and fears.
Bex confessed wanting to climb mountain.
Leave it with anything is possible in Canalside.
It was a sunny day when we drove into Swansea to mumbles pier.
We had lunch then
I sat on the beach beside Bex there’s your mountain I smiled pointing at the light house on the hill.
Her face lit up..
I sat in the dun watching her slowly but surely climb up the hill to mumbles lighthouse..
She stood at the top wind in her hair waving over to me..
That will always be Bex’s mountain.

My heart smiled.
The girl who arrived looking quite and tired left glowing happy and smiling.
I’m privalaged to call her my friend
And to have been part of her journey sadly Bex died a few months later.

Why am I telling you this? It’s because although you ‘see’ the floods on T.V and a few of you may walk down the street you don’t get to know our stories.
You come then leave to sit in warm houses without the real fear of ‘What if’ hanging over you when you go to bed, or if your in work and it starts to rain.
Behind each door of each cottage is a story.
A family just like yours .
I want and need you to know how loved and important this small street is.
So a week later after our second flood in sixteen months we have done the same again.
We pulled together bailed sewage,
cared for our vunerable less able neighbors.
New strangers have arrived we have lost all our possessions again..
Because the preventative measures promised were not honoured.
This time I have no insurance.
Not because I chose not to because I couldn’t get cover after storm Callum
A £6000 oil central heating boiler a beautiful sofa bed bought for patients who are too weak to get upstairs.
All our white goods, carpets, crockery all contaminated again by sewage .
Preventative measures that we were promised didn’t happen.
Why am I writing to you a week later..
Because as I clean up the mess in my bedroom that has been trodden upstairs all week
I have found a pile of thank you cards from people who have stayed with us . A letter from my best friend Donna Drewson who died September 11 2018 telling me how proud she was of me and the Retreat.
She always believed in me
Everything we have done is in memory of her.
Finally my strength left me.
I sat on my bed and sobbed.
I want to believe that you neath council, environment agency the water board, local government prince Charles and the prime minister have took on board our dilemma.
That this time you will do something preventative to help us.
My greatest fear is a few months down the line the reporters news crews will leave.
Council will be spending money on speed bumps and once again we will be forgotten.
So prime minister, local government.
Prince Charles.
Put your wellies on.
Knock on our doors hear our voices our stories.

Talk to us.
Remember Canalside.
We are worth saving
.
Do I want to move?
Of course not.
Where else could I find such a melting pot of amazing people
It may not be your idea of paradise but it’s ours .
Please help us preserve it.

Yours in hope
Joolz

Storm Dennis South Wales

So I’ve been I’ll all day V &D due to the 3 ft of raw sewage that spewed it’s way into my cottage early hours Sunday morning.

Beginging of storm Dennis.

We knew what to expect we endured exactly same 18 months ago storm Callum

I’ve been reading alot in praise of what council and environment services have done for canalside (our forgotten street) in this flood ..
Here are a few facts
I live at no 20 no one was there in the street when the flood came at 2.30 / 3 am
No one came apart from the guys dropping off 4 sand bags and placing one useless row at top of the street.
I moved here 14 years ago and a team of council employees came to do a dummy run of what would happen in a red alert
They came fitted new flood gates front and back.
Then they promptly took them off and put them back on the lorry?
Asked if we could keep them we were told no that on red alert they would be brought out and fitted along with advice and help to elderly and vunerable to lift furniture ect
So storm Callum…
WHERE WERE THEY
Storm Dennis WHERE WERE THEY?
No one knows where these flood gates are?
No one knocks doors helps the vunerable warns us
We look.after our own

There was a meeting in the legion after Callum
Promises made about prevention highering walls, finding elusive flood gates,
More storm drains
And money from Europe for flood victims … False confidence given to vunerable people.
I have been scrubbing what can only be described as liquidised s@@t from all surfaces in my cottage the sewage was 3ft deep spewing up from toilets bath sink.
Help advice on contaminated water would have been helpful
Also we have vunerable tenants in the street in rented property.
Land. Lords now have to have a licence (rent smart Wales)
One young couple have had their tenency ended by their landlord no where to go…
The twins having to stay with a friend as their land lord has failed to help and find them.alternative accommodation.
It’s easy for people who aren’t experiencing this devistation for second time in 18 months to sit in their warm dry uncontaminated homes
With their opinions
They aren’t living it.
Not only is my home ruined my car is too.
For the amazing people who have knocked on our doors and walked the walk with help and support… I truly am grateful.
But council and services could have done so much more BEFORE and after the event FACT

Canalside cottages. Toilets and Christmas decorations 🙈🎅

So as most of you know any jobs improvements on our home “Crow cottage” has been on hold since the flood of 2018 as we have been getting our cancer retreat which is in same street back up and running.
We have lived in our little cottage for 12 years .

I fell in love with it the minute we turned out car onto the canal tow path I hadn’t even viewed the cottage on the inside and I knew we would live there.

Ducks geese canal mountain view from the window .

I loved it.
Now when we decided to look for a house to buy we couldn’t afford to live in the city

However just ten miles out in a small Welsh valley houses were quarter of the price.
That’s how I found our canal.
After never being able to settle in a house for more than a year I found my paradise.

Canalside.
Now I had a friend who was a builder .

Joolz he advised DONT buy a cottage .

The walls a 4 foot thick and they ALWAYS need money throwing at them..Good advice .

So I bought a cottage and twelve years down the line I can say.
He was absolutely right 🙈But it’s been an adventure.

We don’t have fabulous paid jobs Or credit cards

Thankfully we don’t have a liking for all things new.

I love second hand furniture.
In fact I love 1930 furniture and it’s in keeping with the cottage.

So I don’t mind car boot sales

Second hand shops , e bay

My living room cost under £500 to furnish probably furnish whole house for under £1.500
I guess I’m telling you this so you get the picture that I’m not a I want a new sofa kind of girl.
I buy when we need.So when we moved in I thought eventually we will get a new bathroom.

For now it’s fine.So few months ago

I find a beautiful bath tub on Facebook market place FOR FREE! so off we go to collect it.
It’s in the garden of a lovely ladies house who asks if I’m going to use it as a pond ?No I laugh I really like it and It’s going in out cottage ours has seen better days paint is chipping.
She’s thrilled it will be reused proceeds to give me a lovely set of telephone taps and a bath panel and off we go!

Two days later it’s a bit of a squeeze as it’s slightly bigger and has to come in through the window there’s lots of swearing and mentions of Vaseline and he’s going to buy me a bloody tape measure for Christmas as my long suffering husband fits this lovely deep bath.

I’m thrilled but I’m now on a mission to find a sink and toilet.
I don’t have to wait long

As a week later we are picking up some slate chippings to finish cancer retreat garden from builders merchants I spot a brand new toilet for £30.00 in the sale.
Jeff’s off looking at wood on his return I try to look casual as I push our trolly to the cashier.

“Er what’s that? ”

I ignore him

We aren’t buying a bloody toilet I proceed to tell him just how much we are saving it’s £60 off

He’s doing that look!

One raised eyebrow as I push the trolley into the car park and attempt to change subject.
So that was five weeks ago.

The toilet in its box is still standing in my bloody living room under the window with a view of the canal.

Apparently Jeff is too busy to fit it!

Now here is the Christmas link.
He’s sat eating breakfast this morning. 1st December

The Christmas tree and decorations convosation starts .

I don’t mind I say reluctantly.
Yes it will be nice for our grandchildren and I’m sure our cats Luna and Lucifer and tiny dog Mavis will have a wonderful time climbing up said tree 🙈

Now the tree goes in the living room window.Stands Infront of it were the new boxed toilet is currently living.
This is it .

It’s weekend he will have to fit it today or no Christmas tree!

I’m feeling smug as I say

Okay we can do it later after you’ve sorted toilet because you’ll have to fit it out of the way to put the tree up.

Cup of tea love before you start?

I wonder into the kitchen and click the kettle on
Well he says looking at the toilet.
I thought if we put a Xmas table cloth over it.
We could use it to put the tree on and I’ll fit it in the new year?

He’s really serious!

Can you guess what my answer was😈
The decorations and tree arent up yet.
Watch this space.
I’ve hidden the Christmas table cloth.