Posted in Adventures with Alfie

Adventures with Alfie Day 13

The day started earlier than any other Adventures day…at 03.13 precisely. I know it was that time, because it glowed green in my bedroom from my Roberts Atomic cube clock.  The clock receives the time signal from Rugby somewhere and is guaranteed to be accurate to within one second in a million years. I am not sure whether I will be around to check, probably not, but it does keep great time and helped me never be late for work.

I lay staring at the clock as Alfie was deposited into our loving care by Aunt Bes! She had been on nursery duty and had been trying for some time to get him back to sleep downstairs in the nursery, after he had woken up sometime earlier… but Alfie was having none of it. Neither did he feel any more sleepy in my bed – the one that I share with the lady of the house. She had tried unsuccessfully to get the little darling back to sleep…but he was way too excited…today was Friday.

Her patience wearing thin amid reminding that she had to go to work later! I rose to the challenge and took Alfie down stairs to play. He was happy, excited and singing. At that precise moment I was not all that happy, not all that excited and did not feel much like singing.

We went into the lounge; I put the TV on and found a few things for Alfie to play with. I wrapped a blanket round myself to keep warm and thought…’What a lovely little grandson I have!’ I was kind of wishing Mia and Millie could join us for this unexpected bit of fun but thought their parents might not appreciate an 03.50 call.

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I thought we would start with a midnight feast and raided the biscuit barrel. I felt sure we could finish that lot off and judging by Alfie’s smile he thought the same way. He was signing PLEASE as I walked into the room.

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A cup of coffee for me and a cup of warm milk for the boy finished the preparation. We had fun. Alfie played and then realised he could climb up into the chair we have had since our older kids were Alfie’s age. Once he knew he could do it he did it a hundred times! Climb up. Turn round, wiggle his bottom till he felt comfortable, look very pleased with himself and then repeat the process.

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I started watching TV and watched by far the best three programmes I have seen for a long time. The first was called Bringing Books to Life, when famous people picked a book they loved and read it and acted out little scenes from it. This was followed by a programme in which some actors, mimed children’s stories; I didn’t catch the name of the programme, but I loved watching it. The third one was called Seeking Refuge. In it, five REAL kids spoke of their journeys to the UK to live. Anyone who thinks badly of immigrants coming to our country to find a peaceful place to grow up should be forced to watch it. In a few of them I felt a tear running down the side of my face, as I realised again how some children suffer so horrendously in life. I was so glad little Alfie is surrounded by love and fun and people who care for him.

The lady of the house came down, looking radiant, just after seven and was confronted by a scruffy, unshaven, shivering wreck and a little boy both of whom had been having such fun. She gazed suspiciously at the empty biscuit tin,

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but then smiled with much love as her eyes set upon the fat little scruffy, unshaven, shivering wreck that she had married in the dim and distant past! Then she saw Alfie still climbing in and out of his chair and swept him away to be fed, watered and changed, expressing her undying love as she did so!

I noticed that when Alfie stood up the crutch of his nappy was dragging along the floor, weighing no doubt several kilos… and I thought maybe I should have changed him some time before.

Alfie was soon cleaned and well fed and sleeping soundly in the cot and I took advantage of a few spare hours ahead of me and an empty nursery bed to claw back some of that lost sleep. It had been fun and I felt honoured to sleep in the nursery bed. I thought of all those who had slept in it before me, the lady of the house, Bes, Margaret Davis and many others.

As I closed my eyes and thought how lovely electric blankets were, my mind went back to that programme I had watched Bringing Books to life. If I were ever famous enough to be asked I would read Boy by Roald Dahl. I would read The Great Mouse Plot and Mrs Pratchett’s revenge….  sheer magical brilliance. Part of me is so sad that I have many teacher friends and not one of them has ever asked me to come in and read with their class. I have only had one chance to read since I retired and hung up my chalkboard duster, and that was to some older ladies in Coffee Morning. I even managed to squeeze in a reading of Boy there and they lapped it up and went hysterical when I stopped! I have been invited to read my story of Noman the Snowman in the Cathedral School soon. That will be fun, even more fun as that school was the school that Roald Dahl went to when he was young.

As I thought about the programme I also thought how much fun it would be to bring a story to life with Alfie and one sprang to life immediately…

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Burglar Bill!

Burglar Bill is a great story for kids about a burglar who steals among other things an old cardboard box only to discover it contains a little baby. He sets about looking after the baby on his own and does a great job. Later, when he was in bed one day, he gets burgled himself by Burglar Betty. It turns out that the baby is hers and eventually…

You will have to read the book yourself to find out what happens but I thought….BRILLIANT! We have all the characters ready, I could be Burglar Bill, the lady of the house is the spit of Burglar Betty anyway, and Alfie could be the kid.

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We could take schools by storm. That’s it… today’s adventure would be to turn ourselves into those delightful characters. A trip to town was on the cards.

We awoke around 11.30 and I thought I had better feed Alfie before we set off.

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We caught the train into Cardiff and started the search for costumes.

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We started with some of the Charity Shops near the station without success and then made our way around other shops.

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Some of the costumes I was not sure about. We even visited M & S and found a strong contender. Alfie checked the label carefully but was not sure it was right!

Image I saw an ideal one in a shop in one of the arcades but even though it was extra large, I had a struggle to get it much passed my shoulders. I was in the changing room with Alfie’s pushchair in the doorway, he was giggling away, and I am sure a couple of the customers thought I looked like Burglar Bill getting ready to go out on a job.

Frustrated, we made our way home, but we did so by going past the joke shop in the High Street Arcade and met with some success I found the perfect mask! Yes, we were making progress. I asked some pretty young girls outside the shop if they would take a photo of me to mark the progress we had made, albeit small progress, but progress none the less. I put the mask on and approached them I could see the fear in their eyes as they gripped their mobile phones very tightly – I knew then that Burglar Bill was going to work, even without my stripy top I could scare people!

ImageThe relief was audible when I made it known that I wanted a photograph and was not about to steal their beloved iPhones. There was a bit of giggling, but they did the job and smiled again as I wished them well and went on my way, pushing my little man ahead of me. I did wonder if I would be apprehended by the boys in blue, when I realised I had forgotten to take my mask off. But all was well.

Feeling happy that progress had been made I decided it was time to eat and Alfie agreed. It was time to continue his education with a visit to The Louis on St Mary Street. A visit there is like a step back into the past. A quaint old place with waitresses, the youngest no less than sixty and another lady who sits in a little cash desk by the door collecting the money. Hand written bills are issued and the whole experience is truly lovely! One of the tables is taken over by the manager/owner and it is covered by a mountain of paperwork. He wears a massive bunch of keys on his belt , almost like a prison officer, but  fusses around in a very caring way. It’s got to be the best place in Cardiff, quiet, peaceful and sophisticated in an ordinary kind of way. I was starving and ordered an all day breakfast and scrambled egg on toast for the lad. My pot of tea came in silver pots and included a pot of hot water without me even asking.

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We had fun. Alfie had the whole restaurant smiling with affection at his antics. He threw everything he could lay his hands on onto the floor, sang loudly and smiled broadly at everyone.

Two clean plates later, we paid the lady at the cash desk. I was thinking that maybe The Louis have never heard of time and motion studies. She did put her knitting down while she counted my change back to me.

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We made our way back to the station to catch a train home and Alfie fell asleep. 03.13 seemed a long time ago. He didn’t wake till his dad came to pick him up.

On the train I closed my eyes and we both dreamt of burglars and boxes and Bringing Books to life in a big way!

We had fun.. but be warned and make sure your doors are locked tonight….and every night!

Noman the Snowman

Chapter 1

Noman the snowman was sad; nobody liked him.  All his friends made fun of him because he had green sticking out teeth. Other snowmen had nice teeth that were made from coal, like proper snowman’s teeth, Noman had green teeth and they stuck out a bit.

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All his friends said, “Noman you don’t clean your teeth…they’re green!”

But Noman did clean his teeth every night; he was a good snowman.

Noman wanted people to like him.

He wanted people to say nice things about his big pink buttons but nobody ever did.

He wanted people to say, ”Noman, I love your glasses, but nobody ever did

Noman was sad.

One very snowy night Noman got lost. It had been snowing hard and Noman lost his daddy and mummy and found himself in a garden. He had never been there before; it looked a little bit untidy. There was a lot of rubbish and some chairs that had not been put away for the winter.

Now Noman was even sadder.

When morning came he thought he would look for his daddy and mummy. He hoped he wouldn’t see his friends.  He didn’t like it when people said he had green teeth.

As he was deciding which way to go to find somewhere safe and quiet, he heard some children’s voices. He saw three little children with their noses pressed up against the window of a house nearby. They were very excited, they had never seen snow before and they had never, ever seen a snowman before.

The children were called Mia, Alfie and Millie.

Noman was sad, he thought Mia, Alfie and Millie would make fun of his green teeth, he wanted to run away, but when he looked he didn’t have any legs.

When they were dressed the three children walked very slowly out into the garden.

Noman was a little bit scared of the children and the children were a little bit scared of Noman.

“What’s your name?” Mia asked in a very quiet voice.

“I’m Noman,” said Noman.

“You look sad,” Mia said and tried to cheer him up by giving him a snowball right on the top of his head. It looked like a funny little snowy hat.

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Alfie was looking at Noman’s green sticking out teeth.

“You’ve got nice glasses,” Millie said. Noman smiled and hoped his teeth didn’t stick out too much. He tried to cover his mouth, but his arms were very thin.

“And I like your big pink buttons,” said Alfie.

Suddenly Noman didn’t feel sad anymore. He had found some new friends. They were not like his old friends. His old friends made fun of his green teeth.

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One of Noman’s cruel friends.

“Can I stay with you today?” Noman asked his new friends.

“Yes, Yes, Yes!” they all said at the same time, “We have never seen a real snowman before and we want to be your friend. Noman felt warm inside.

Mia and Millie ran in to tell their daddy and mummy about their new friend. Alfie stayed in the garden with Noman.

He looked hard at the face of his new snowman friend and wondered if all snowmen had green sticking out teeth. Alfie had never seen a snowman before.

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Chapter 2

‘I like you,’ Alfie said to Noman.

Alfie loved Noman’s stick arms. Alfie loved to pick up a stick every time he went for a walk. He thought it would be fun to have sticks for arms.

Alfie began to wish he was a snowman.

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Alfie stared hard at his new friend. He wondered what it was like to be a snowman. He didn’t think he would like to be a snowman. He thought it would be a bit cold. Alfie liked to be warm and especially enjoyed cuddles with his mummy and daddy.

‘Do you like being cold all the time?’ asked Alfie.

‘Yes I do,’ said Noman. I love it. ‘What I don’t like is the rain and the sun, they are not good for me.’

Just then Mia and Millie came running back out into the garden. Noman hoped they would not mention his green, sticking out teeth.

Now it was Mia and Millie’s turn to stare at Noman.

Noman was a bit worried.

‘Why are you wearing sunglasses?’ Millie asked him quietly. Millie had a lovely pair of sunglasses but she only wore them in the summer when she went to the beach in Cornwall.

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‘I wear sunglasses because I want to be a cool snowman and besides when I was made, my owner didn’t have any coal to use for my eyes,’ Noman replied in a voice nearly as quiet as Millie’s.

‘I like them,’ said Millie, ‘they suit you. You do look like a cool snowman. I am sad you have got no coal for your eyes.’

Noman thanked Millie for saying such kind things, he was not used to children saying nice things. Most of his old friends only made fun of him and his green, sticking out teeth.

Now it was Mia’s turn to ask her new friend a question.

‘Where are your daddy and mummy?’ she enquired. ‘Are you here on your own?’

Noman told the three children that he didn’t have a mummy or a daddy and that snowmen usually just lived on their own.

Mia, Millie and Alfie felt sad; they all loved their mummies and daddies very much, they were sad that their new friend didn’t have a daddy or a mummy.

Millie thought they could adopt Noman and he could live in their garden all year. She would ask he mummy later.

‘Do you have any friends?’ Alfie asked him, trying not to look at his green, sticking out teeth, which had started to chatter in the cold.

‘I have three friends, but I don’t see them very often.

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One of them looks just like me and he wears sunglasses and a scarf too, but my best friend is called Olaf. He is very famous and he is a film star. We have been friends for a long time.’

IMG_2177Mia was so excited to hear this. She loved to watch Olaf in her favourite film.

Noman told Mia that he wanted to be in a film too but no one asked him because of his teeth.

Mia looked at Noman’s teeth. They did look a bit green, but she thought that he still looked very handsome.

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“One of my friends is very rich, Noman told the children, ‘he lives in a big house and he has a real hat to wear on his head.’

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Mia remembered the snowball hat she had made for Noman. She wished she could give Noman a nice hat just like his friend.

snow6Just then Mia’s mum called them in for dinner and they said goodbye to Noman. They asked him to wait in the garden till they came back out. Noman said he had nowhere else to go and that he would see them later.

Noman felt happy to have three such lovely new friends.

Posted in Travelling

Lesotho 2012 – The final chapter.

Our visit to Peka had been memorable in so many ways; the one thing that stands out in my mind though is the privilege of knowing that I have friends living on the side of a hill in the little town of Peka in The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. I treasure the friendship that I share with these wonderful people. We have a mutual love and respect for one another. The friendship I share with Alice and her lovely family enriches my life immeasurably. I don’t know if Alice will ever read these words, if she does I hope she realises how much she and her family mean to The Newberry Family. I look forward to meeting again some time soon.

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When we got back to Maseru it was getting dark and we had another night in The Lancers Inn to look forward to. We had previously arranged to have a ‘team’ meal in The Lancers that evening, all friends together, five Westies, Five Lewises, the lady of the house and me. Matt and Helen and their beautiful girls had decided to join us by staying in The Lancers as a ‘special’ treat and they managed to book a ‘bungalow’ in the hotel. It was a beautifully designed self-contained apartment. We were so excited.

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The meal was superb but the company was even better. It was a memorable evening. We went to sleep reflecting on a most special day and one I will always remember.

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The next day promised further treats, we were due to start our journey home. We had planned to spend two nights at the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve, which is roughly between Maseru and Johannesburg.

After an early morning swim in the hotel pool,  we packed and tidied up and went for a stroll around Maseru town.

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We ended up at the Lesotho Craft Centre, a wonderful building shaped like a Basotho hat. The girls loved this and bought a load of gifts, presents and souvenirs.

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Outside there are some local women, who sit and make the famous Basotho hat in front of you. It was fun chattering and bartering with them and the lady of the house bought a traditional hat and also a winter hat, which would have looked great on a herd boy, but she still managed to make it look glamorous on her. Happy days!!

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Sadly, the end of the shopping trip meant the end of our stay in Lesotho. It had been another memorable visit and after checking out of The Lancers, we made our way to The Maseru Bridge border crossing and said goodbye to this beautiful place.

Being back in South Africa was a thrill and we drove the short journey to Ladybrand, a small town in the Republic. We stopped to pick up supplies and prepare for our stay in the Game Reserve. It was self-catering, so it meant being well prepared. We had lunch in a Wimpy (where else?!!!) and then did the shopping. Mark organized meat for the braai. The word braai is Afrikaans for barbecue or grill and is  a social custom in South Africa. Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Zambia. The term originated with the Afrikaans speaking people, but has since been adopted by South Africans of many ethnic backgrounds. A braai is a social occasion that has specific traditions and social norms. . In black and white South African, women rarely braai (cook) meat at a social gathering, as this is normally the preserve of men. The men gather round the braai or braaistand (the grill) outdoors and cook the food, while women prepare the pap, salads and deserts for the meal in the kitchen. The meal is subsequently eaten outside by the fire/braai, since the activity is normally engaged in during the long summer months. The braaing (cooking) of the meat is not the prerogative of all the men attending, as one person would normally be in charge. He will attend to the fire, check that the coals are ready, and braai (cook) the meat. Etiquette has it that you don’t interfere with the braaier’s duties, except if expressly asked to help. Other men may assist, but generally only partake in fireside conversation while having a drink in hand.

The rain was chucking it down thorough all the time we were in Ladybrand, but well fed and well stocked we made our way to Ventesburg and the game park. It was a long wet drive but we arrived safely and checked into our homes for the next two days. We were staying in rustic huts over looking the lake of the game park. It was idyllic.

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We ate and settled down for the night having planned an early start exploring the park.

We visited the park early to try and catch the animals – not literally – while they were active. Entry to the park was ridiculously cheap with an entry fee of R50 per car. With an exchange rate of almost R14 to £ it meant it cost just less than £4 per car (we had 7 in our car!) to tour the game reserve. It’s self-drive so you can just drive anywhere you like seeking out the best views of the animals. The roads of the park are unmade roads, which give you a real experience of rural life. The entry fee also allows you unlimited access for the whole day. That first visit turned out to be disappointing in terms of animal sightings and after a couple of hours hunting, we returned to our house for breakfast. We were hoping better things were to come… and they were!

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ImageWhen we returned later in the day, things were very different and we saw many animals – kudu, antelope, ostrich, guinea fowl, rhinos, wildebeest, monkeys, zebra, baboons and many others including the highlight of the day the giraffes. These animals are the favourite of the lady of the house. We followed a family of giraffe for some time before our paths finally crossed on the lower road. It was an incredible experience; seeing these wonderful animals so close and in their natural habitat. It was an almost spiritual experience.

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On the way out of the park we had a bit of childish fun finding silly signs and pretending to drive our vehicle ‘rally car style’ through the enormous puddles.

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We enjoyed a delightful evening with the braai, the food was wonderful with real South African steaks, Mark did not let us down at all. The food was great but the company was the best thing of all.

In the evening quietness, I reflected on many things this trip had given us, visiting a different continent, meeting up with a special family – Mark, Chabi and the girls hold a special place in our hearts – the SU camp with all those incredible children and young people, visiting Alice and her family in Peka, the smile on Alice’s mum’s face, church on Sunday, Maseru the changing city, driving through South Africa, the animals and then Matt Helen and the girls, such wonderful friends. I have so much to be grateful for in my life and I am really grateful.  I thank God very day for the good things I have. Best of all though, is the incredible lady who was brave enough to agree to share her life with me all those years ago.

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It was so good to share such an amazing time with the lady of the house.

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A glorious sunrise greeted us the next morning.

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I got up with the sun and sat outside overlooking the lake and read my Bible. Before the sun would set we would complete our journey to Johannesburg and be halfway home to our families in Wales.

It was an uneventful journey and after visiting a flea market near the airport we made our way to Oliver Tambo Airport, to catch our flights home.

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Some people asked me if it is worth going so far for only ten days…. I’m just guessing you know my answer!

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With grateful thanks to Mark, Malichaba, Patricia, Elizabeth and Angharad, Matt, Helen, Naomi, Hannah and Abigail and Boo – it was an experience I will never ever forget!

Posted in Family

Our beautiful mum

 

Family reflections of a precious wife,

mother, grandmother and great-grandmother

Phyll Newberry

26th April 1923 – 4th January 2010

Read at the Thanksgiving Service for her wonderful life

Llanishen Evangelical Church, Cardiff

 Monday 18th January 2010

 

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Somehow we knew that there would not be a long time between standing here in this chapel paying tribute to our dear father and doing the same for our precious mother. They were inseparable in life and we believe they will be inseparable in death. They have been reunited in the presence of the God they love.

Our parents shared a beautiful poem, which they always regarded as their own. It is entitled ‘How do I love thee?’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and comes from her collection called Sonnets from the Portuguese. In it there is a line which reads…

I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears of all my life! And, if God choses,

I shall but love thee better after death.

God did choose and since 4th January that line has become a poignant reminder to us of two wonderful people that we had the privilege to call dad and mum. They will be in love forever!

Our mother was the heartbeat of our family. She really was the most remarkable lady. She was small in stature but a massive force for good in the lives of all who knew her. As a family we would all echo the words of Abraham Lincoln who once said

‘ All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my mother’

She was a humble lady; who lived simply and loved a lot. Mum and dad didn’t have much, especially in the early days of their marriage, but they shared everything they had with anybody they could. Just like our dad, mum’s main aim in life was to live in such a way that she honoured Jesus in all she did and she tried to show love to others as often as she could.

She showed her love in many ways

She showed her love by the way she loved and cared for our father. It is impossible to speak of one without the other, because they were one. Together they showed us what true love really was love. There is little doubt we enjoyed a number of extra years with our dad because of the wonderful way she looked after him throughout his life, but especially as he got older. She gave him extraordinary care, sorting out his countless pills and tablets, organising a host of doctors and hospital visits. We will always be grateful to her for the selfless love she always showed him. They were married for sixty-three years and she didn’t love him the same after all that time… she loved him much, much more!

Before meeting our dad, mum had a very tough life. She was an original ‘Girl from Tiger Bay’ and was born in Sophia Street in the very heart of Cardiff’s tough dockland area. Her father was an alcoholic, who suffered from a severe form of epilepsy and the effects of this made him treat his family in a very cruel way.

Mum often told us how scared she was when he became violent. She had a loving, caring mum and a wonderful brother and sister, Doris was older and her brother Bill was younger and she adored them both all the way through her life. Mum always told us her life began the day she met our father during the dark days of World War Two. It happened in a dance hall in Newport Road in Cardiff, when he was home on leave from serving his country. God obviously brought them together and despite many wartime dangers and difficulties, their romance blossomed and, as soon as they could after the war, they married.

God blessed them with sixty-three wonderfully happy years, three children, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren and each one of us adored this remarkable lady. Their love story is unique and an inspiration to us all. They lived for each other and many lives over many years have been touched for good by this special couple.

She showed her love by the way she cared for us, her children. She was caring, hardworking and totally devoted to us. She took in sewing when we were younger, helping to make ends meet; she was a dinner lady in our local school, went on to become a tax officer and eventually realised her dream and opened up a flower shop in Grangetown. This meant very early mornings and late nights, but she never complained. Mum and hard work were always close friends. She often reminded us that on the day the shop, which was called Flower Trend, opened in Paget Street, her dear friend Bill Davies – Brother Bill to most of us – called into the shop and prayed with them; what better way to launch a business venture. She opened the shop in the face of advice to the contrary, but mum knew best, and her hard work, her skills, and her positive nature made it a success.

She really believed her job helped others; whether it was a red rose to a loved one on Valentines Day or a little posy to a proud new mum, or a beautiful funeral tribute bringing comfort to someone grieving, she knew the joy that flowers could bring and she just loved bringing joy into other peoples’ lives.

She was selfless in the love for her family. We never once doubted her love. She used that love as a shield protecting us from the harsh things life often likes to throw at us. When things were tough with money worries, we never knew. Whenever she was ill and sometimes she was really ill, she would protect us from the worry and say that she was fine, never telling us when things were bad. We shared with you when we said goodbye to our father, that our childhoods were idyllic living here in Llanishen. We played in the street and in the local woods, built damns and caught fish and always got wet and at the end of the day we came home to our mum, whose love filled our home. It was so real you could almost feel it. Mum had a wonderful way of always knowing what was in our hearts and on our minds even before we had the chance to say anything.

She helped us realise our dreams, forgave us our mistakes and loved us unconditionally. As with our dad, we never needed to earn mums love and affection, she gave it freely and in generous amounts. It has been said that only a mother can share her love with all of her children, yet give each child undivided love. We found this to be true each and every day of our lives with her. How she did it will remain a secret. Mum never knew that statement, but lived it out from the very day she became a mum for the first time in 1947.

She showed her love by the way she nurtured her relationship with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She has a wonderful way of developing a unique relationship with each one.

She took an interest in what each one did, whether it was hearing about what things had happened in school or at work or at home. Even in the tough days of her last illness, she would still delight in hearing of what we had all been up to, when they went to visit her in hospital.

In late December, when she was really weak, she still found the strength to sing Happy Birthday on the phone to Gareth, just as she and dad had always done, without fail, when that special day arrived for each one of us. She rejoiced with us in our happy times, cried along side us in our sad times, comforted us when we were anxious and was always the rock on which we could depend – she really was the heartbeat of our family. She probably was the most positive person in the whole world. She never got down and if she did, she never ever showed us.

She showed her love in her devotion in her church. Mum became a Christian in 1949 shortly after dad. Both of their lives have been devoted to following God and working as part of the local church since that time.

During those years, countless lives have been touched by their love and kindness. In the early days of this church they ran boys and girls youth meeting in the evenings; teaching children and young people many different craft skills and sharing with them the truths of the Bible. They made their home available to the young people of the church and week after week on a Sunday evening, our home would be filled with youngsters chatting, singing and drinking endless cups of tea.

One day, Paul, our friend, arrived on our doorstep, suitcase in hand, needing a place to stay and he actually came to live with us on a permanent basis, such was their devotion to their church and their God.  Later on, she became a Girl Covenanter leader and worked with the girls with great energy and enthusiasm for many years. Some of the trophies she won still stand proudly on the wall in the back of the church. Look at them and smile on the way out!

When the church started a new youth work in recent years, mum got involved, and soon found a job looking after the tuck shop. At 80 plus years of age she was surely one of the oldest youth leaders around! What a role model for all of us who follow!

In Coffee Morning on a Thursday, mum always took her turn making the coffee and clearing up afterwards. She always prepared the flowers for the church, using the skills she learnt as a florist.

Like our dad, mum loved this church with a passion; whether it was called Llanishen Gospel Hall, Emmaus Chapel or Llanishen Evangelical Church, they loved it because it was God’s house and their main aim in life was to serve the God they loved.

Mum also showed her love by the way she cared for animals. Her love for animals started when, as a young girl, she owned a dog called Nell. She loved them all, especially all of our dogs; there was always a treat ready for them when they visited. She loved Helen’s horses, the other grandchildren’s rabbits and hamsters…anything! Whether they had four legs, two legs or as in Bobby’s case three legs, it made no difference, she loved them all. The birds in mum’s garden were the best fed birds in Wales and she would spend a fortune on coconuts, peanuts, and fat balls to make sure they had enough to eat all the way through the year. The birds were her friends and they would often eat out of her hands as her and Dad sat or worked quietly in the garden.

One thing is certain… sales of Take a Break, crossword books, cockles and clotted cream will be down in the coming weeks and months. Viewing figures for Emmerdale, Dancing on Ice and Coronation Street are already down by one these days. Those things she really loved!

She loved to travel as well and would often thrill us with the stories of her journeys to Greece, Spain, Yugoslavia, Israel, Egypt and many other places. Her love of holidays and travel has been passed down through the generations and we have all followed her lead and heeded her advice to ‘get out and see new places’.

Mum was loved by everyone in the small community where she lived. We are so grateful to see many of her friends and neighbours here with us this morning. Mum had a heart for people.

She was greatly loved and will be greatly missed by us her family, her fellow Christians, here in Llanishen and across Cardiff and also by her many friends and neighbours. Her passing has left a huge hole in the hearts and lives of all who knew and loved her.

For us the family chain has been broken the family chain has been broken, but we have the wonderful hope that mum is the second link in a new chain in heaven and one by one, as we join our beloved parents, that a new chain will link up again. We don’t like to say goodbye to the ones we love. We thank God for allowing her to see little Mia, her first great grand daughter and sixth great grandchild and also allowing us to share one last Christmas with our mum, and this year we realised again that the best of all gifts around any Christmas tree, is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.

If what the Bible says about heaven is true and we believe it is, one day we will meet again, reunited in the presence of our Saviour. It is right for us to weep but there is no need for us to despair. Mum suffered her; she has no suffering there. She struggled here; she has no struggles there. We might wonder why God took her home. Mum doesn’t! She understands; she is at this very moment at peace in the presence of God, reunited with our Dad, her precious husband.

If we had the chance to listen carefully on the day that she died, as we shed those tears of grief, we would have heard the still, small voice of God saying to our mum…

“Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord…Jacks been waiting for you…

Goodbye mum!

She is gone.

We can shed tears that she is gone

or we can smile because she has lived.

We can close our eyes and pray that she’ll come back

or we can open our eyes and see all that she’s left for us to remember.

Our hearts can be empty because we can’t see her

or they can be full of the love we shared together.

We can turn our back on tomorrow and live for yesterday


or we can be happy for tomorrow because of our yesterdays.

We can remember her and only that she’s gone
 or we can cherish her memory and let it live on.

We can cry and close our minds, be empty and turn our backs


or we can do what she would want:

Smile,

Open our eyes,

Love each other…

…and go on.

Grow old along with me ~ the best is yet to come!

Diamond Anniversary Speech

The speech delivered by Roger Newberry at the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of my parents on 29th June 2006. The celebration was held at The Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant in Bassaleg, near Newport.

 

 

The Time is Now

If you are ever going to love me,
Love me now, while I can know
The sweet and tender feelings
Which from true affection flow.
Love me now
While I am living.
Do not wait until I’m gone
And then have it chiselled in marble,
Sweet words on ice-cold stone.
If you have tender thoughts of me,
Please tell me now.


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So let’s do that now!!

It’s hard to put into words the feelings of our hearts today. 60 years of marriage is a remarkable achievement and we are here to honour you for it tonight.

Dad and mum , we as a family, want to thank you for being the most remarkable parents. The fact that your love has, day after day continued to grow and that we your family are not just family but best friends and are probably closer now than we have ever been, speaks volumes about the example that you have set for us to follow.

Sir Isaac Newton is attributed with a famous quote. You will see it on the side of a one pound coin…Standing on the shoulders of giants…. It appeared first in a letter written by him to a fellow scientist Robert Hooke on 5th February 1676, where he very modestly claimed that his success had been largely built on the previous hard work and achievements of others:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Tonight, John, Joy and I feel like Sir Isaac Newton as we are doing just that and now as our children, your grandchildren, begin to have families of their own, we see again the importance of the solid foundations your love has given us and impact that your love has had upon all our lives.

When you leave this earthly scene, be assured that the influence of the love you share with each other will continue to be felt in the lives of our children and our children’s children and their children in turn.

Growing up in your care has been the most wonderful experience for us. Life in our home in Llanishen was idyllic. We had a mum who devoted herself to looking after us and our home, a dad who worked so hard for his family. A man who cycled home on his bike, with handlebars laden with off-cuts of wood for the fire. As very young children we would await his call of ….’Dad’s home’…  before running to meet the wonderful man who was our father and be cuddled by his rough carpenter’s hands!

We had many happy days of excitement, like the day dad bought his first motorbike – a B.S.A. Bantam, registration number FBO 717, or our first car a little green ‘Sit up and beg’ Ford Anglia, MTX 292, which couldn’t get up Caerphilly mountain!

We had many friends, a safe street in which to play, the woods and fields nearby and at the end of the day, we came back to the security of a home filled with love and care and a dad and mum who so obviously loved each other and loved us with a passion.

We realise now that times were often tough for you – but we never knew – you protected us from all that. We always had holidays, sometimes  with very little to live on for the whole family, but we never missed a year from Broadhaven to Blue Anchor from Watchet to West Wales, you gave us so many happy memories and produced children and grandchildren who have travelled the world inspired by you.

As we turn back the pages of our lives, wherever we look, we see the same things that you gave us as our parents…

  • Unselfish love
  • Encouragement
  • A belief in us and
  • A willingness to support us in whatever we tried to do!

We also look back with affection at our extended family – our church family. Many from the church are here tonight to share this special celebration. Thank you all for the special part you have had to play in the lives of my dad and mum and in our lives too.

Those early pioneering days were very special and many happy friendships were made, Gordon Trew, The Throwers, Aubrey and Lilian Roberts, Bill and Ruby Dobbs, Charles and Eileen Hallet, Jim and Ruby Orr, Billy and Gladys Williams and Shaun Ryan…

Our home was constantly open to the young people of the church and many nights were spent singing and having fun. But for one young man in particular our home became his home. We ‘adopted’ a young man named Paul Pace. He was a young lad from a broken home on the other Llanishen estate. He became like a son to you and a brother to us.

So as the formal part of the evening begins to draw to a close, I look around and see so many of you who have loved and supported dad and mum through these sixty years… brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces and many friends  – and I am sure I speak on behalf of you all when I say, a huge thank you to you dad and mum for all you have done and indeed all you have yet to do for us all. As your children we want to say, from the bottom of our hearts, a huge thank you for your inspirational love.

When I conduct a marriage ceremony ~ and it was probably said at your wedding back in 1946 ~ I always say

‘Marriage is a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and His church.’

I always tell the happy couple what this means in reality is that when we model our marriage on Christ’s love, that the bride needs to love her new husband enough to live completely for him and the groom needs to love his wife enough to die for her just as Christ died for the church.

Dad and mum, you are the best examples of that love we have ever seen! We love you so much and pray that you may you have many more years to enjoy your special love together.

Congratulations on your special day.

May God richly bless you both.

Posted in Adventures with Alfie

Adventures with Alfie (and Millie) Day 12

06 You’ve Got a FriendDay 12

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Alfie stayed with us overnight which was a very pleasant way to start the day. I looked after the little man while the lady of the house ran his bath for him. He smiled when he saw me and I realised it had been a few weeks since we had had a day together adventuring. I had already planned today’s adventure thanks to two of Alfie’s friends Joseph and Nathan Jones. Apparently they get tweeted by Techniquest  – I am sure it’s not as painful as it sounds! – and they let me know that Techniquest runs Toddler Days once a month.

When I checked the Website this is what I read!

Toddler Day – At the Zoo 

 

Friday 11 January 2013

 

Once a month during term-time pre-school children have their run of the  exhibits with activities

on a special theme.

There’ll be drawing and colouring and something to make to take home.

Admission costs just £4.60 for adults, who can enjoy a free cup of tea or

coffee in the café.

Techniquest is buggy-friendly, with nappy-changing facilities, lockers and a cafe that warms children’s food

 

Well, I was hooked…toddler day, free tea or coffee, nappy changing facilities… it offered the lot. I have an almost toddler, I love free tea and coffee..  Day sorted!

It was a glorious morning, crisp and clear with a beautiful blue sky – I am amazed at how many Adventure days have clear blue skies. The lady of the house insisted on bringing Alfie with her to work to do a bit of showing off! I was not amused. I was looking a mess; unwashed, unshaven and breath smelling like Gandhi’s flip flops meant either would either breakdown and have to walk home or meet someone I knew. I dropped her off at the door of her office and went to turn the car around. When I returned my worst fears materialised… Jeff Lacey was waiting outside.  He wanted to thank me for speaking in his Home Group on Wednesday. Very embarrassing!

Note to self…. Get a wash and brush up before doing the taxi run on a Friday morning!!

I decided that we would make an early start so Alfie missed his morning sleep. I had been listening recently to the story of an adventurer who is sailing around the world and he was asked how he sleeps. He answered that he sleeps off and on during the day but only in stretches of up to forty minutes. Alfie is beginning to become a great adventurer so I guessed he could miss one small nap!

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We headed at first for Penarth and breakfast at Hampton’s. The lady of the house and I had been there the week before and I fancied a return visit for breakfast. Hampton’s is a little jewel in Penarth. It is a kind of posh gift shop with a café upstairs called The Blue Pelican, it’s a really cool place. We parked the buggy, and booked a table for two. I had scrambled eggs on toast and I ordered a kids breakfast for the kid!

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We had a great time, relaxed, quiet and just a bit classy. As he does every week, Alfie charmed all the other customers in the place with his smile and cheery nature. He was totally fascinated by a giant polar bear, high on a top shelf.

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I was tempted to buy it but thought a house extension might be too high a price to pay in addition to the shop price!!

Next we headed for Cardiff Bay and Toddlers’ Day at Techniquest. Alfie sang most of the way down. We parked outside The Cole Exchange, that fabulous old building in The Bay and as I lifted Alfie out of the car, I noticed the singing had stopped and he had fallen asleep. I guessed like all great adventurers this was his forty minutes!! I lifted him into the buggy and he still did not stir, so I amended the itinerary for the day and headed for Starbucks via Tesco to buy a newspaper. The next forty-five minutes was wonderful. I ordered my usual  – tall, extra hot, skinny, single shot latte – and as an added bonus, I had a few pounds left on my Starbucks card, so it felt like a free drink. I took it outside, tucked the blanket snugly around Alfie, turned him away from the sun, zipped up my gillet and sat reading my paper in the warm, clear January sunshine and as I was enjoying my coffee, I cast a thought to all my ex colleagues who were in school sweating over their forthcoming inspection.

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The boy slept for ages and I eventually strolled down to Techniquest and booked in with him still sleeping. I received my security wristband and free cup of tea voucher and headed in. The place was very busy, full of pretty young mums with their over excited offspring all red faced and sweaty. I sat quietly amid the mayhem and waited for Alfie to join me. We sat near the buggy park. There must have been more than fifty buggies all parked higgledy-piggledy behind a barrier, with bags coats and numerous other things hanging from every available handle. I looked around for some male company; there were one to two dads and grandfathers so I was not completely alone. I had a few smiles from some young mums as they came to the buggy park to retrieve some important item, all smiled at me and all said they wished their offspring would have a sleep. I smiled back, desperately wishing Alfie would wake up. Thankfully none of them had come back to breastfeed their little one!

Techniquest’s mission is to engage people with science and to motivate them to learn more. It offers interactive experiences that are accessible to all. It was founded in 1985, by Professor John Beetlestone and his colleagues from Cardiff University; its first site was the gas showroom opposite Cardiff Castle (now Burger King). In 1988 it moved to a pre-fabricated industrial building in Cardiff Bay, with 100 exhibits; it was here that it launched its education programmes for schools. In 1995 it moved to its current site, the UK’s first purpose-built science centre, in Cardiff Bay. The building was formerly a heavy engineering plant; Techniquest was designed around the framework of the original building. It’s a large hall full of fascinating scientific things.

Alfie was woken by the screams, shrieks and laughter of the other kids and when he was settled, we set off. For the next hour or so we enjoyed all manner of fun together. He had has his face painted, I half fancied having a big spider put on my face but, even though it would have been great fun, I chickened out, I must be getting old and boring! We played in the water, built big Lego towers, tried building ball pyramids, pushed buttons, watched balloons being launched and a hundred other things. Marvellous times!

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We then decided to invite Millie, Alfie’s cousin down. A quick phone call and she was on her way. Alfie was thrilled. Millie is a beautiful little angel with striking blue-eyes, who has been sent to our family.  We had such fun! Millie loved all the exhibits and enjoyed the water especially but got herself soaked at the same time. I am sure they loved each other’s company, it was so good to see them playing happily together.

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They played on a giant piano, which was built into the floor and played tunes as they walked (or crawled) over them. They loved the ‘Infinity” mirror room which I also loved. It looked like I was in a room with a hundred Alfies and Millies.

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They also amazed me with a magic trick by appearing to climb up though a table, Great stuff.

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Sadly all good adventures have to come to an end. Millie’s mum had to go and collect Mia from school and I had to think about heading back home.On her way out Millie joined the painted faces group, she looked so cute!

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Alfie sang all the way home, I didn’t recognise the tune or the words but I did recognise a happy little boy who appears to enjoy going out with an ageing, tubby little fellow he calls grampy.

Happy days!

Posted in Travelling

Lesotho 2012 – Chapter Three

Chapter 3

We really missed the camp after  the kids had all returned home, but we still had much to enjoy in this beautiful little country. Lesotho has several different ‘nicknames’. The Kingdom in the Sky’ and ‘The Mountain Kingdom’ are two of the most popular. Lesotho is called Southern Africa’s ‘Kingdom in the Sky’ for good reason. This stunningly beautiful, mountainous country is nestled island-like in the middle of South Africa The country offers superb mountain scenery and a proud traditional people

lesotho-flag

The ‘lowland’ areas (all of which are still above 1000m, the height of Snowdon!!) are where most of the people live, while the highlands in the northeast and centre feature towering peaks (over 3000m) and verdant valleys. In these areas transport is difficult and fewer people live here.

Lesotho came into being during the early 19th century, when both the forced migration and Boer incursions into the hinterlands were at their height. Under the leadership of the legendary king Moshoeshoe the Great, the Basotho people sought sanctuary and strategic advantage amid the forbidding terrain of the Drackensburg and Maluti Mountain Ranges. The small nation they forged continues to be an intriguing anomaly in a sea of modernity.

Lesotho’s existence is attributable to a quirk of history and fortuitous timing. In the 1880s, direct British rule was deeply resented by the local population as an infringement on Basutholand’s freedom and sovereignty. Little were they to know that British occupation would secure the future independence of Lesotho as other kingdoms fell under the South African umbrella. All because at the precise moment when the Union of South Africa was created, Basutoland was a British Protectorate and was not included in the Union.

In 1910 the advisory Basutholand National Council was formed from members nominated by the chiefs. In the mid-1950s the council requested internal self-government from the British; by 1960 a new constitution was in place and elections were held for a legislative council. The main contenders were the Basutholand Congress Party (BCP), similar to South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC), and the conservative Basutholand National Party (BNP) headed by Chief Leabua Jonathan.

The BCP won the 1960 elections and demanded full independence from Britain. This was eventually agreed to; independence came into effect in 1966. However, at the elections in 1965 the BCP lost to the BNP and Chief Jonathan became the first prime minister of the new Kingdom of Lesotho, which allied itself with the apartheid regime across the border.

In 2006, a new flag was chosen from four proposed designs; all of these designs included a brown Basotho hat instead of the shield. This was subsequently changed to a black Basotho hat in order to represent Lesotho as a black nation. The colours all mean something; the white standing for peace, the blue strip for rain and the green for prosperity.

After the camp, the lady of the house and I had agreed to book into a hotel as we had taken Mark & Chabi’s bed on our first night in Maseru and did not feel too happy about that. Their hospitality is legendary, but a party of seven descending on them with their five already in residence, meant our decision would help a little. It turned out to be an exciting thing to do! I had booked us into The Lancer’s Inn right in the middle of Maseru.

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I had stayed there when I first came to Lesotho in 2004 on a school exchange. We had one night there to acclimatise before being shipped off to our schools. I had forgotten how beautiful it was and can only describe it as an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of Maseru. The lobby is quiet and cool and the rooms are like rondavels (traditional Basotho houses). The gardens are immaculately kept and the whole place is stunning!

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The rooms were beautiful and the chance for a long warm shower and a lie on a huge double bed and watch the football on TV, after the hard work and sweat of the camp was wonderful.

We stayed in The Lancer’s for the night, had a quiet meal together in the restaurant and prepared ourselves to be picked up to go to Mark and Chabi’s church on Sunday morning.

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Church was an incredible experience – after we got over the embarrassment of being called out to the front to introduce ourselves and deliver the greetings of friends back home in Wales. We were warmly welcome and felt vey much at home. Mark is one of the church leaders and is highly respected. Basotho people sure know how to sing and we were swept along on a tide of music and song and totally loved every minute we were there. There were several hundred in the congregation. Church services tend to go on for several hours, so people just come and go as they will, but this never detracts from the solemnity of the occasion. We took our leave after about an hour, as we had pressing and important business to attend to…an appointment in Peka and the chance for me to keep a promise I had made almost nine years previously.

When I first visited Peka on a school exchange in early 2004, I had stayed with Alice Nkoala and her family in their home in Peka, a small town in the Leribe district in the north. It was an experience that changed my life in many ways. I was accepted, looked after and became part of the community even though my stay was a very short one. I was even offered a plot of land for a home by the local chief. Alice lived very simply with her mum and two children Mpho and Kwesi. They had very little but made me feel like a king! As I left them I promised that one day I would bring the my dearly beloved to meet Alice’s mum.  Since 2004 I had made four other visits to Lesotho, with various members of my family and friends and teachers on another school exchange, but each time without the lady who shares my life. For all those years I had wanted to keep my promise and was always nervous she would pass away before my promise could be kept. Life expectancy in Lesotho is in the late forties. Alice’s mum is was in her eighties and is an incredible lady.

Some years after my first visit I came across a book called ‘Singing Away the Hunger’. This book was written by a lady who had received little formal education, but had the gift of telling stories and with help from a visiting American lady, produced an incredible account of life in Lesotho across many decades.

The book was described like this …

In Singing Away the Hunger, ‘M’e Mpho relates the harsh realities of life matter-of-factly in the context of stories about her loving and religious mother, the babies and children who died too soon, the unscrupulous brother-in-law who stole her husband’s pension and the food out of her children’s mouth. It is an anguished yet loving portrait of life in Lesotho, a country portrayed as a place of human triumph, great natural beauty, good humour, and spiritual strength. In the final paragraph of the book, ‘M’e Mpho expresses this hope: “Maybe if there is one day enough for the hunger to stop, we can stop being so jealous of one another. If the jealousy is no more, we can begin to have dreams for each other. We can build something new.”
Since it was first published in Natal less than a year ago, SINGING AWAY THE HUNGER has brought the struggles and strengths of poor but resourceful Basotho women like ‘M’e Mpho to international attention.

I was so bowled over by this book, I scoured the Internet till I found the co-author and lady called Kathryn Kendall. Through her publisher, I made contact and we began to correspond and have become friends through our love for Lesotho and it’s beautiful people. The lady in the book reminded me so much of Alice’s mother. I had this dream of spending a week with Alice’s mum, who must have such a wealth of information about life in Lesotho over many years and getting it all down on paper for others to read. Alice tells me her mum is 94 years old this year…Incredible!

On this day however just keeping my promise to get the lady of the house to meet Alice’s mum was enough.

After the inevitable visit to the ‘Ladies’, we left church and Maseru and entered what I still consider the real Lesotho. Things are changing all the time and I am glad for the people, but I love to see the rondavels and the shepherds and herd boys looking after their animals and the people going about their simple daily lives. We stopped on the way to buy some peaches from a family on the side of the road.

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On the way, we stopped at a Craft centre just outside the town of Teyateyaneng; most people call it TY for obvious reasons! It was the most wonderful building made out of empty drink cans.

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It was fantastic to see. Inside we met a small group of ladies, who were weaving; a great skill practiced by many in this lovely country. They took us around the back and showed us the looms and explained how they used them.

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We bought all we could from them and left them beaming at the unexpected sales on a quiet Sunday morning!

Peka was calling!

The journey took just less than an hour. As we got to Peka, we called into the school where I had spent happy weeks teaching. It reminded me how simple and basic it compared to the school from which I had recently retired! The lady of the house enjoyed having her picture taken with me here!

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When we got to Alice’s house it was empty but we were met by Alice’s sister who remembered me and told us that Alice had a new home a little further up the hillside. When she pointed, we could see a Welsh flag hanging proudly from a fence. We had made it.

 

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The cars struggled up the dirt road and emotional scenes followed. It felt good to be back in my second home! My promise had been kept and Alice’s mum and my good lady got to know each other. Alice’s mum had raised her arms toward heaven and thanked God for her new friend. It was the most incredible few minutes.

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We showed many family pictures on our ipad and then Alice’s mum said something quite wonderful. Looking at a picture of Alfie our grandson, she said, ’Is this the boy I have been praying for? The one whose mum had difficulty conceiving? What a memory and what privilege to have a friend who cares so much that she prayed for our family every day, even though she lives 7000 miles from us.

Alice fed us well and brought out the bone china to give us a cup of Rooibos tea. I felt at peace.

We left reluctantly after several hours and I thought what I think every time I leave these dear people…  that I will probably never see this dear lady again. I hope my friendship with Alice and her family will continue for many years. I hope to return to that little home in the small town of Peka sometime soon. They hold a very special place in my heart.

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The journey back to Maseru was a quiet and reflective one.