Saturday, 24 September 2016

FOXY TEDDINGTON

Staying on the subject of wild life, living in London’s suburbs has introduced us to the urban fox. The whiff of musk which we would cross at points on our Garth walks, is the prevalent perfume here. It’s ubiquitous. On closing our first floor bedroom curtains one evening last week I caught the upward stare of my first Teddington fox standing on a green patch in the communal gardens, with a, ‘Yeah?... And? Whatever,’ look, challenging me to close the curtains before he sloped off into the laurel hedge.
     The inhabitants of Harrowdene Gardens don’t leave their leftover pizzas out for foxy dinners.  They may not even eat pizza. I don’t know, I’ve stopped knocking on their doors to introduce myself.  But if I was delivering pizza perhaps they would answer their doors. Charles Forster in his recent, ‘Being a beast,’ attempted to get down on it with badgers, deer, otters and urban foxes, and found poking around London bins for pizza or curry leftovers particularly distressing. Clearly, he’d never been on a night out in Cardiff ending up in Caroline Street with the munchies.
      The Evening Standard has a current campaign to get out of date leftovers in the big supermarkets to homeless and poor Londoners. Don’t think the urban fox realises they aren’t included in the campaign, as I spied an empty take-away container (washed) and a couple of cardboard egg containers by the rose garden, abandoned once they saw they didn’t contain fresh chickens’ eggs, which their country cousins would have eaten straight from the coup.
     My second fox, sighted from our front room,  was limping badly, clearly in need of a hip replacement, which unless we change young doctors’ contracts she isn’t going to get on the NHS.

    Our guest, sleeping on an air bed in the front room and keen to get on with her day, opened the curtains early to see two young foxes, hunting collaboratively for breakfast.  Given the species are supposedly so clever, I wonder why they haven’t gone straight to the supermarket source or accost the Tesco delivery man when the food is fresh.   The Teddington fox is far too cool to ask. Now the Barnes fox is a different animal all together.      

THE DEER HUNTER

Living near Bushy Park, one of the Royal Parks, we're privileged to take our walks and cycle rides in the company of deer.  At the entrance we are reminded not to make contact, not to approach within ten metres or get between them and their young. Yesterday in the warm equinox sunlight and deep shadow, photographers were out in force making contact outside the defined safety limits.  Anything for a good photo, eh?  No, not just a good photo but an award winning photo. The shops in the high street are full of good photos of deer; on their own, resting with iconic antlers poking out of the long grass, like a Georgia O Keefe bone painting, groups of young fawn, nervous, twitching, their speckled backs merging in the autumnal hues or a single startled speciman. Even the local rugby club has an antler as their club motto and on their strip.  Boys cavort like young stags on the rugby pitch.
     In September and October there is a deer cull, which takes place after the park is closed.  I’m not sure how it works but firearms are involved. I imagine a specially commissioned possy of Scottish Highlanders in kilts and deer-stalker hats on their stomachs elbowing their way through the bleached grass like soldiers in search of the enemy.
      Lyme disease is prevalent in the park and tics need to be dealt with immediately.  I’m not sure if they are in the grass or fall from the trees but cycling through the park I make sure I keep my helmut on and avoid the long grass. That means I keep within the health and safety regs on at least two counts and lessen my anxiety of being charged by a bellowing stag who may not have noticed I’m outside the ten metre range, as he trundles across my path in, ‘I’m the king of the park-get out of my way,’ attitude.  I also carry a small tin of Vaseline, which is supposed to affixiate them. The tics of course.
        Deer have been in the park since Henry V111’s day, when he stocked his land with hare, rabbit, pheasant and deer for hunting and eating purposes. Not just one of each obviously.   At a recent talk on the history of Bushy Park by John Shaef, a local historian, we saw maps of how the park’s landscape hasn’t changed essentially since that time. Old Victorian photos of children feeding the deer, with captions such as, ’Oh dear!’ show how times have changed even if the landscape hasn’t.   Until recently the biggest cause of their death (besides culling) was car accidents. A major road goes right through the centre of the park. Now, according to an article in the London Evening Standard, it’s cyclists. Not by running them over, but by discarding their gel packs from races. Post-mortem examinations of deer have shown their stomachs full of litter. This clogs their digestion systems leading to starvation.  Rather like fish bloated with plastic in our oceans.
    So it was with great schadenfreude that I laughed to myself at an elder running through the long grass, her hand clasped on her handbag as if a stag was chasing her with a view to mugging. Then I realised it was a lovely Chinese woman who we’d met at Pilates at the Age UK Centre for Well Being.  She jumped like a startled young fawn when I shouted out her name, her hand up to shade her eyes from the sun, and surprisingly didn’t recognise us on our bikes as she’d only seen us rolling over on the floor doing pelvic muscle exercises on the one other occasion we’d met.   I even had to shout out our names to prompt her memory. She was most gracious and humoured us well even if she didn’t know who the hell we were.

 Next month is the rutting season, when I may have reason to be really afraid, that’s unless a lyme tic gets me first. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

TEDDINGTON- HELLOOOO?



Well, it’s happening. We’re here in Teddington. Been living in our new home for one whole week. It’s not quite back to my roots as I was brought up in Fulham, schooled in Battersea, and after living in Birmingham and several years abroad, lived back in Battersea before spending 37 years in the Taff Valley, South Wales. Well, that is with the exception of a year spent in Shetland.  It seems unbelievable that given my restless personality I could have sustained a life and been happy in the one place for so long.
     ‘Most people do it the other way-leave London for the country in retirement,’ ‘That must be very expensive,’ ‘You don’t sound Welsh,’ (to me)’You’ve only been here just a week and you’re coming to Pilates/Country Dancing/Welsh Choir, ‘ You want to shake up your life, eh?’ are a few of the  reactive comments we’ve had to our coming to live here. 
      People nod sweetly when we mention a daughter and a grandchild but we know that they are also wondering how we can afford to move into the wealthiest borough of London-Richmond-Upon Thames (RUT), where 69.8% of the population between 16 and 74 are in paid work. Unemployment is just 3%.   You’d have to be well off to survive here, life is expensive-no local Aldi or Lidl and until we get our Freedom passes for London transport, travelling by train up to Waterloo costs us each around £9 return.  Our intention is to have a year to 18 months out from our old life while we try and sell our house back in Taffs Well. To those of you wondering, we’re financing this year from our illicit earnings.
    According to an article, ‘Getting to know your Borough’ in TW11, an independent magazine for Teddington, inhabitants in RUT live a long and healthy life, nationally rated amongst the highest. ‘Affluence is cited as a major contributor, with wealthy inhabitants being less likely to smoke, drink and be overweight.’  
    In Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT), one of the most deprived areas in the UK, people die young for the opposite reasons-inhabitants are more likely to smoke, drink and be overweight. I don’t know what the employment/unemployment figures are for RCT but they are probably one of polar opposites to RUT.  I guess it’s going to take a bit of time to adjust to this new identity and environment. Perhaps by the end of our time here I’ll have lose weight, given up drinking, and Rhys’ various ailments including plantar fasciitis, a painful foot condition may have gone away.
  
    We learnt from our year in Shetland that if you want to get to know people the first place to start is with the neighbours. But this isn’t Shetland, when on our first Saturday morning we knocked on  doors people did open them and say ‘Hello’. Some said ‘Welcome’ and two neighbours even said,      ‘Come on in, let me tell you where to get the bus and by the way here’s my life story while we’re at it.’  
    When we knocked on the doors of the five other flats in this block nobody opened their door. We’ve tried several times now. We know there are people living here cos we can here the front door slam and we’ve spied people going out from our front window.  The guy opposite leaves his trainers outside his door to fool us.  When I told my oldest school friend, who lives in Hackney,’ she said that knocking on people’s doors in London is a no-no.
     Last Friday we heard voices down below our sitting room and twitched the curtain to see two young men drinking large glasses of red wine and smoking at the edge of the communal garden. One of the young men had his shirt off to show off his angel and snake tattoos.  He turned to look up and I saw a tattooed gun on his upper arm. I quickly untwitched the curtain and got Rhys up from his chair to look at the loose wires hanging from below our flat. We’ve decided not to pursue door knocking as our main way to meet the neighbours.  Instead we’re going to try hanging out in the garbage room the night before the recycling is collected. 
     The next lesson from Shetland if you want to meet people when you don’t work is to join clubs or do courses. As we’re on a budget we’re looking for cheap/free clubs and courses, so I did research into The University of the Third Age and Age UK and came up with a variety of activities that might interest us. 
     When I called the class leaders, they all answered with,’Hellooo???’ as if nobody ever phoned them. The lady leading country dancing asked me how I’d got her number. When I told her it was on-line, she said,’ Oh, am I on-line? I didn’t know that.’ She then asked me if I’d done any folk dancing since school and I was thrown back to Miss Fournier, my PE teacher who was always reminding me to point my toes gracefully when I galloped down the line of my friends urging me on to mess up the dance. The lady had never heard of Circle Dancing.  Shirley, my circle dancing teacher would be quite hurt. She’s spent a lifetime getting people to dance in circles.
      In another phone call, the line went silent, and I said,’Hellooo???’  ‘Sorry,’ the chap said.’ I put the phone down while I was thinking what play we’re reading next session.’  ‘Who wrote Laburnham Grove?’ As if I knew. I’m sure he’ll remember by next month. When I enquired if I need to read the play beforehand, he assured me that the members like the surprise of reading the play afresh. Anyway, I’m sure he’ll remember the author by next month or the librarian will remind him. He’s ordered several copies from the local library for us.
     Rhys was somewhat disappointed by his visit to the London Welsh Centre.  We’d met by chance and the charms of our grandson a member on a birthday cruise up the Thames, and he suggested Rhys come along to join the choir. When he went into the lounge full of older people and greeted them in Welsh, they looked blank, and then one man said that he didn’t speak Welsh. Just like Taffs Well.  He was advised to go to the bar and there he found a lovely young Welsh speaker who he chatted up. Then he met the choir master who made it clear that Rhys’s inability to read music would be held against him and membership was by audition.
   ’ I never wanted to wear a red blazer anyway,’ he said arriving back home late and £15 poorer (cost of overland and tube). He’s trying ‘Singing for Pleasure,’ with a U3A group in Kew on Thursday where he won’t need to read music or wear a red blazer. He hopes.



Tuesday, 23 August 2016

POEM TO MY GRANDSON ON HIS FIRST BIRTHDAY

YOU ARE ONE YEAR OLD TODAY!

You peer into your mother’s amber eyes, rocked
in your father’s muscle, feel their deepest love, and start to grow.
Suckling and sleeping; dreams like clouds cross your countenance,
you whimper, frown and smile.
In your crib; you stare at the morning light bouncing off miles of old Thames flow creating waves on a ceiling flickering like a black and white movie.

Out in your buggy; poodles, clowns and bears act out their sky stories.
Sycamores scatter their autumn leaves, robins chirp, aeroplanes fly high.
You feel the chill of coming winter on your ruby cheeks,
and smell the odour of a season changing, and so are you.

You rub your fist on Tadcu’s stubble, pull off the Elder’s specs,
explore new textures of rough, bristle, hard, the joy of rustling paper,
contrasting the silky warm nectar of your own milky way.

You socialise with your chums; Elliot, Rufus, Maia and others from NCT.
You are a regular at Starfish Swim, Bumps and Babies, Storytime,
Baby Music and Babbling Babies.

You’re a real Music Monkey. You open your mouth, pull back your tongue and find your voice. Like an archer you project a tune cross the room on a whale-bone scale, drum a beat. Granj repeats and reflects your notes.
Our raw duet sears the quiet-still of a river mews.

You sit up straight in your high chair; you eat Weetabix, sweet potato mash, yoghurt and finger-food. When you’re done you shake your head exclaiming like De Gaulle to the British wanting entry to the Common Market, ‘Non,non, non!’  

You can kick a ball, hold a spoon, play the xylophone, lay out your toys and knock them down. At night time the tooth fairy wakens you with gifts of two and two more little pearls.

Spring and early summer come; the world is warming.
You stand up and are on the move; you walk with a helping hand.
You crawl backwards a bit, then fast forward like Popeye’s Pee Wee on a mission; opening cupboard doors, turning keys, closing books, pulling stuff from shelves, and laughing.

You watch the world and smile until the world turns round,
and the world smiles back.

HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY,JOE!



9 August 2016

A Granj Poem (2)

Monday, 25 July 2016

AN URBAN SHETLAND ADVENTURE AWAITS

I was shocked to see I haven't written a blog entry since last December. Although it's not really surprising as it's been a tough year in some ways. I just stopped writing altogether. I have had no appetite or motivation for it. I stopped attending creative writing classes. It has felt like my creative well isn't blocked it's just run dry  I've decided that what my life needs is a good shake up and so I've decided to quit counselling for a year and seek my fortune in London. Well, Middlesex actually. Our house is on the market, a flat is rented and a new adventure is about to start...

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

SHETLAND SAGA: A SOOTHMOOTHER'S STORY OUT NOW IN PAPERBACK

Stuck for Christmas presents? 

If you haven't already downloaded the kindle version of my memoir SHETLAND SAGA: A SOOTHMOOTHER'S STORY , the book is now out in paperback, available from Amazon, The Book Depository and Wordery . Most reviewers have given it 5 * for a good read. At £8.99 from Amazon and cheaper through Book Depository  it makes a unique present. If you are adverse to Amazon or internet ordering you can buy directly from me.

As a reminder of what it's about...

      In 2004 Rhys and I left our South Wales home for the Shetland Isles., where I had a job as a counsellor in a new Primary Health Care service. This is the story of our year's experience, and explores themes of attachment, relationships, connection, remoteness and belonging.

What people have said about the book:

 'Quite different from the usual euphoric account of rural bliss on remote islands, this book is a rather deeper and more interesting description of the human process of relocating, filling a new and challenging post, and forging meaningful relationships in a beautiful but not always welcoming environment. The scenery is fabulous, the wildlife awesome, the winter celebrations long, unique and rumbustious, but communities and individuals are undergoing severe economic and social strains, all the more poignant in such a sparsely populated, scattered archipelago. Ms Teal Daniel has had the courage to write a frank and honest account of both the deep frustrations and intense joys of working in the Shetlands as a non-Shetlander' .    ***** (Amazon customer)   


'An honest and affectionate description of an outsider's place in a close community, this is an entrancing read that had me place Shetland at the very top of my travel 'wish list'. ***** (Jane R)


'This is an honest, humorous and thought-provoking journey. A middle-aged woman persuades her husband to upsticks and join her when she is offered a job on a remote island off the coast of Scotland. The couple - Jan a therapist and Rhys an artist - leave their family and friends in Cardiff to brave the weather, the gannets and the isolation of island life. This (true) saga is particularly compelling for its insights into the mind of the therapist. We hear her thoughts, we hear her conversations, how she copes with difficulties and how she throws herself enthusiastically into island life. I laughed out loud in many places. I was horrified in others. But mostly I felt drawn in and honoured by the honesty of the account. 
This is a beautifully crafted book, with a rich balance of cultural, historical information and personal triumphs. Highly recommended not only for people thinking of leaving their steady life behind; not only for middle aged women whose children have just left home; not only for people who want to get to grips with their inner psyche; but for anyone who wants to read a good story.' *****(Emily Hinshelwood)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

THE YEARNING OF THE SCREW: A COMMUNITY INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

   Rhys and I have been involved with Awel Aman Tawe for the past six years, inspired by the drive and enthusiasm of the founders, Emily Hinshelwood and Dan McCallum.
    I first got involved with Emily through Pontardawe Script Café and community plays about climate change and community action:- ‘Nine meals from Anarchy,’ ‘Conscious Oil’ and ‘Fall Out 84’.  
     It is my belief that when you meet individuals who inspire you (it doesn't happen very often!) through their commitment, beliefs and actions, they're really worth supporting. So when we held our art and poetry joint exhibition called ,’Sorry I don’t eat Fish,’ celebrating nature and raising awareness about climate change at the Roald Dahl Gallery in Cardiff Bay, we donated the proceeds of profits from sales of Rhys’ paintings to Awel Aman Tawe. The amount was tiny-just about enough to pay for one screw and bolt in one turbine! Last year we were pleased to invest a bit more in Egni-their community solar energy coop. Not sure how many screws we contributed to on one solar panel, but to Em and Dan it’s not the amount of money you give it’s the support it represents that’s important.
       The couple have spent the last two decades trying to get planning for a community wind farm-just two small turbines that will generate electricity to the community in the Aman Valley in West Wales-an area devastated by the decline of the coal industry.  As they've jumped through and over all the hoops and hurdles and finally got planning permission, the Government has reneged on their commitment to offer tax relief to community groups investing in renewable energy. So, Awel Aman Tawe have fast forwarded their plans in order to be able to attract investors who believe renewable energy is an important component of action against climate change, who want to get a good yield on their funds (7%) or who want to support a Welsh community that is struggling.
         After the hopes and failures of the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen many people felt despair. We attended workshops based on the work of American eco-psychologist, Joanna Macy, an environmental activist. They explored how we can empower ourselves as individuals and communities by understanding the inter-connectedness of all beings and our relationship to the land.  The Paris Summit on Climate Change looms ahead and if you feel like us that it is probably the most important issue for the future of our planet, buying a screw in a community wind farm may not change the world on its own, but one screw and one bolt at a time surely is a good start.
Janet Teal Daniel
Nov 14 2015


Sunday, 6 September 2015

IN CELEBRATION OF THE BIRTH OF OUR FIRST GRANDSON AUGUST 9 2015


 IN CELEBRATION OF THE COMING OF JOSEF RHYS

 

Monday’s child is fair of face

Mum-to-be swims

a mile,  freckle-smiling

checks her pulse.

 Not Monday’s child.

 

Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Mum-to-be watches breakfast TV, texts

by return of post, and yawns.

 Not Tuesday’s child.

 

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Mum-to-be wobble-walks

to a Barnes café, drinks

NCT latté with other Mums in-waiting.

 Not Wednesday’s child.

 

Thursday’s child has far to go

Mum-to-be finger-winds

her hair, glances scullers rowing

up the Thames to Kew.

 Not Thursday’s child.

 

Friday’s child is loving and giving

Mum-to-be drums a tune

on her rolling tum, wonders

if her baby will ever come;

has acu-pressure and a sweep.

 Not Friday’s child.

 

Saturday’s child works hard for a living

Mum-to-be feels the squeeze, contractions,

labour pain- goes into hospital-

and home again.

 Not Saturday’s child.

 
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day

is bonny & blithe, good and gay

Mum-to-be breathes air and gas

with Dad’s help pushes hard;

At 10.20 the world welcomes Josef Rhys

Sunday’s child.                                                                                          

Friday, 4 September 2015

AN EYE OPENING VOYAGE


 This year I went on a Saga cruise to the Baltic States. I wrote an article about my experience which is published in this month's Telegraph-the monthly journal of Nautilus International-the professional magazine of Seafarers. See www.nautilusint.org.    In the September issue Page 20 under the section Seafarers' Rights. Please feel free to circulate the article among your friends and colleagues and write your views to the editor. I have already had feedback from a seafarer telling of his worrying experience working on the Saga Sapphire. I would like to persuade Nautilus to take up the campaign of Cruise Sweatships.