This month our theme is Pets. This month’s magazine may not feel
as thick as other recent issues but there is still a good read to be had.
Revd Howard looks at why we love pets and goes on to explore
relationships. Tudor discusses dog training. Sue writes about
the loyalty of dogs. Anya alone has many things to say about cats.
John Moles widens the brief and writes of his experiences of camels in
the Gibson Desert. Ralph writes about our debt to animals.
Mary writes of the funeral of Bishop Michael. Jenny tells us
about a fine illustrated book, ‘Les Tres Riches Heures’. Her
illustration comes from a page on Wikipedia where you can find many more
similar pictures by searching there. Brian tells of a recent,
unpleasant incident at the United Reformed Church in Deep Street.
Of interest to the wider community the Summer Reading Challenge from
the library team is on books about animals. Jackie tells us of a
book she has been reading. Hilary and Sara write about events in
your local WIs. Roseann tells us of the problems found by many
young people when they leave care.
In the right-hand column you will find listed some events you might
like to attend.
For many years there has been a page with a short quotation from the
Bible and someone has related that in some way to recent experiences.
This month Janet has provided the final page.
||Mavis has sent in this picture. It shows
adorable puppies born to her sister’s bitch, a labradoodle cross
cocker. They are 7 weeks old and just about to go to their new homes.
Have you got a pet? Have you more than one? Why have you got a pet? Why
does anyone have pets?
Questions that you may have asked yourself, or asked of family or
No one is quite sure why humans often take on the responsibility, cost,
and commitment of keeping a pet. Apparently we alone in the animal
kingdom possess this general trait.
How prevalent it is! I do not consider myself a very ‘pet’ person but
when I lived with my parents we had a dog. Our young children grew up
with a cat, and we have cared for indoor goldfish, giant stick insects,
mealy worms, a rabbit, a chameleon, tadpoles, and a praying mantis. Of
course some of these are more ‘pet-ish’ than others, but all entirely
outclass that strange (to me) concept of looking after a pet rock!
The British consider themselves to be big on pets, but according to the
Scientific American in 2012, we could boast only 43% of homes with pets,
compared with 63% in both Australia and the USA.
No one is really sure why we like pets. Some argue that dogs are the
prime example of pets, and that they achieved this status by being
considered as tools by our ancient ancestors. They could be used to
assist in the vital task of obtaining food. This inevitably led to an
increasing relationship between dog and Man, with Man being the leader of
the pack. As time progressed companionship became part of the equation.
Perhaps this then broadened to encompass perceived companionship
attributes of other animals, eg cats, canaries.
Another theory I have read is that (as social animals ourselves) we
have a wish to make others happy. In some respects it is easier to make a
pet ‘happy’ than to do the same for other people. Relationships with pets
are usually much simpler than those with our friends or family.
There are many benefits from having a pet, as we all know either from
our own personal experience or from observation of others. Dogs, closely
followed by cats, are the most popular animals in the UK. Both species
can give companionship, but in different ways. Dogs can be seen as more
demanding, but in reacting to their needs, we can benefit from regular
exercise when walking them, from social contact with similarly occupied
people, and a shared enjoyment with others of all things canine.
Perhaps the desire to care for a pet can be seen as one of the ways in
which the God given gift of love that is within each of us can be
expressed. We all have a surprising capacity to love. We can show love in
many different ways, and these ways will differ depending on the subject
(object?) of that love. Our love for something depends on what it is. Our
love of beautiful scenery, for a pet, for a child, and for God are all
There is something else too. Scenery, pets, children, and God can be
considered as on a spectrum of response to our love, with scenery being
at the completely non-responsive end; children and God at the other; and
pets spread out in between.
In our relationships, it is response that is important, not only the
response we receive, but also the response we give. We are Easter People.
We should always be considering our continuing response to the God of
Love who sacrificed himself for us so that we could have eternal life.
Revd Howard K Nichols
On Saturday 6th May I attended the Funeral Eucharist for Bishop Michael
The service was held in Gloucester Cathedral which was completely full,
with the quire being used also as an overflow. People from all over
the world, representing all stages of his career, gathered to pay tribute
to this great man of Faith who had died on Easter Monday.
During his ministry he touched many peoples’ lives in a variety of ways
– through services he led, his writings, his prayers and his wisdom.
Anyone was welcome to attend this service to celebrate the life of Bishop
Michael, but in his welcome before the service actually started, we were
reminded by the Dean of the Cathedral that it was also a very poignant
and personal occasion for those people in the congregation who were
saying goodbye to a husband, father, brother, uncle, and close personal
Bishop Michael’s four daughters delivered a very moving and emotional
tribute to their ‘Dad’, and his wife, Alison, read the final prayer over
his coffin as it was sprinkled with Holy Water at the end of the service.
The Very Revd Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Bristol, preached a wonderful
sermon emphasising Bishop Michael’s very deep and profound faith and his
desire that this faith should be made available to everyone. He also
preached, in Fr Nick’s words in a recent notice sheet on the “nearness of
earth and heaven and the communion of saints, giving thanks for Michael’s
grace, energy and resilience.”
At the front of the order of service there is an extract from Bishop
Michael’s book “To tell afresh”. Below is part of this extract – relevant
to Jesus’ present day disciples as we all work to share our faith with
those we meet day by day in our own lives.
“So our task – and it is, in reality, more joy than task – is to go on
holding before us the vision of the kingdom and the communion of saints,
and to seek to advance that kingdom and communion on earth. We do
it by entering the life of the Trinity from which love flows to earth, by
speaking of God with clarity and conviction, by trying to discern God’s
will for earth, by resisting evil in ourselves and in our society and by
striving for peace and justice. But above all we do it by letting
God be God, with all his yearning, his loving and his transforming
beauty. We need to make space for God to be, to act and to draw the
world to himself, establishing in human hearts on earth the glory of
heaven and, in so doing, setting forward God’s kingdom – on earth as it
is in heaven.”
The Very Revd Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, when speaking
about the service on the radio later in the week, described it as:-
“A tremendous occasion mixed with great sadness and amazing joy.”
Pets come in all shapes and sizes but the best ones are the ones that
are trained and a pleasure to meet. This particularly holds good for
dogs. A fluffy little bundle when it first meets the family can soon
become unruly and a pain in the neck without some proper guidance.
Owners can often find it is not unlike having a baby in the house,
needing a lot of attention and some rules for its future as a member of
the family. A good start is to have a special dog crate in the house
which is like a kennel to which they can retreat or use when you want to
get on with other jobs. The crate for our youngest dog was behind the
chair in the back room and, although it has been moved from there years
ago, he will often go there for his afternoon nap.
Equally important is when you take them out of the house for a walk.
They need to be on a lead which means that you have full control of their
movements until you reach the space where you can let them off to enjoy
the freedom of a walk. We have been lucky to have the Prestbury Road
playing fields, though we are now finding that curtailed with the arrival
of the new houses. A small strip remains there but we shall have to see
if that remains. If only people would pick up after their dogs it would
make it all that much easier for the groundsman and other walkers.
We are also blessed with the walks around the racecourse where we have
the pleasure of meeting other dog walkers and can compare progress. It is
a joy to see a couple of dogs chasing around, under the watchful eye of
their owners, and return home with the benefit of plenty of exercise.
To train the puppy yourself can take a lot of patience but it will pay
off in the long run and you can have the dog which fits in with the
family routine. You can join a dog training club where you can register
when they have had all their inoculations. There are several in the area
with the Woodmancote Dog Training Club operating in the New Village Hall
on Wednesday evenings. Once you have registered they learn the basic
commands and how to cope in a room with several other same-age pups. At
Christmas they have their own party when pass the parcel and hunt the
sausage take on a new meaning.
You need to visit the vet to check on inoculations as they can be
vulnerable to various health problems and the sooner these are dealt with
the better. This can be an expensive area and there are different
opinions about how far you should go with insurance. If an operation is
needed it can soon mount up to a large figure and the right insurance
should cover it.
There are problems with being an owner but they can all seem small when
you return home from town and you receive a greeting as if you have been
One Sunday morning in May, three youths in their late teens walked into
Prestbury United Reformed Church. They were of middle-eastern
appearance and spoke poor English. Although they seemed to be
out-of-place in Prestbury, I am pleased to say that we welcomed them in
and Church members made an effort to speak to them. It struck
me that perhaps they were students; someone else thought that they might
have been from refugee families known to have been resettled in the area.
Before the start of the service they made some excuse and left.
This did not strike me as particularly odd at the time – I thought that
they had probably decided that our Church with its ageing congregation
was not their scene.
It was not until the end of our service that it became apparent that
they had abused our welcome. A purse belonging to one of our
elderly church members had gone missing.
We contacted the police and, despite the fact that this incident must
be minor in their terms, they showed concern and compassion. They
visited the lady concerned at her home in the afternoon. Later,
they told us that at least one other church in Cheltenham had been
targeted in a similar way and there had been a theft there too.
Likely it was a team of petty thieves from outside the area.
Distressing though this was to the lady concerned, it is some consolation
that there was only a small amount of money in the purse – not enough to
cover their petrol costs!
Word got around quickly via the churches grapevine, and I know that
there was a friendly police presence on the door of at least one of the
Sunday evening services in Cheltenham. It came to light that
another local church had been visited by the three youths just minutes
after leaving us. Fortunately, in this case they left empty-handed
and – better still – they and their vehicle were captured on the church’s
closed-circuit TV camera. The pictures are available to the police
so who knows where this may lead.
We said at the time that it could have been worse – it could have been
a lady’s handbag with mobile phone, credit cards etc. It was only
the next day that it struck me that it could have been much, much worse.
They might have been carrying knives. They could have been
I’m really glad that, perhaps naively, we never thought other than to
take them at face value and welcome them into our church as genuine
visitors. Had it struck me at the time that their motive might be
more sinister, then I would not have had a clue what to do. Call
999? Evacuate the church? Or would these actions have been a
little over the top?
Thankfully, this is likely to be a one-off incident in our little
backwater of Prestbury although clearly we shall need to be more vigilant
in future. But it did bring home to me the threats and difficult
decisions that our fellow church officials have to face each week in
places in the world, and indeed in the UK, where violent crime or
terrorist-related incidents are more prevalent.
Prestbury URC May Fayre – Thank You !
A big ‘thank you’ to all who helped and attended the May Fayre. With
your help we raised £424 for church funds.
This picture is from a page illustrating the month of June from the Duc
de Berry’s ‘Les Tres Riches Heures’. A devotional, private prayer book,
owned by the exceedingly wealthy Duc de Berry, it was illustrated by the
Limbourg brothers. Descended from artists or craftsmen on both sides of
the family (father was a wood-carver), the brothers were Herman, Paul and
Johan. Born in Holland, their dates span 1385 to 1416, when all 3 died,
possibly in an outbreak of the plague. Circa 1396, Jean and Herman
Limbourg became apprentices in a goldsmith’s studio. In 1402, Paul and
Jean started work illustrating a Bible for Philip II, (younger brother of
Charles V of France). That work came to a halt with the death of Philip
in 1404. Later that year, the brothers began working for Philip’s
brother, Jean, Duc de Berry.
The Duc de Berry liked to display his wealth. His territory included
much of central and southern France. He had 3 mansions in Paris and
several chateaux in the Auvergne and Berry. He collected a great variety
of curios and art treasures. In addition to all this, he had an
outstanding collection of books, including several books of hours. Each
one of these was unique. A book of hours was a source of private prayers
(to be said at the same time as services in a nearby monastery), texts
and psalms. It usually contained a calendar, often marking a saint’s day
in red lettering.
‘Les Tres Riches Heures’ was made of vellum, the book measures 29cm x
21cm. It is illustrated with religious and secular pictures, including a
picture for each month. February shows a snow-covered farmyard. The side
of the farmhouse has been removed to show 3 adults warming themselves by
a fire. Astrological symbols decorated each month’s page. Backgrounds
often included castles or cities which the Duc would have recognised. The
Duc taxed his peasants heavily to pay for his lavish lifestyle.
The intense blue used on many of the pages was made from ground lapis
lazuli, possibly from Afghanistan. The Limbourgs used gold leaf liberally
throughout the book. Green was obtained from crushed irises, violet from
sunflowers. A book of hours was a status symbol, the Duc’s coat of arms
are incorporated into the decoration.
The Duc too, died in 1416. Seventy years after the death of the
Limbourgs, the book was finished by another illuminator, Jean Colombe. A
most magnificent work of art!
Chessie came to us via a school friend of the girls. She was very
pretty, Titian and white and adorable. As she tiptoed in she immediately
knew what the litter tray was for, then proceeded to explore, looking
round corners and peering here and there while we all tried to stay
quiet. We named her Chesca and she responded well, notably whenever
she gathered herself to jump the fender for a rummage in the ashes.
A shout would go up and she’d turn in mid air, then saunter away with a
look of “I wasn’t going to anyway”.
During breakfast she took to sitting on whichever lap took her fancy, a
little heart shaped face peeping from between cereal bowl and lap owner.
Her evening game was chasing screwed up silver paper balls (OK, cigarette
paper, but I haven’t smoked for years). I would ping one across the
carpet and she’d whizz around in a frenzy, showing amazing footwork
around table legs and chairs, then drop it back at my feet, taking care
never to appear too keen for another go, I think she felt that would be
unseemly. One autumn day she tried walking across the pond, which
was full of leaves. She was rushed back to the house a chilly
sodden little heap draped in weed, and endured a warm rinse down.
After half an hour by the oven she climbed out of her towel and left the
room with her nose in the air.
She was soon at the age for the customary trip to the vet and mewed
non-stop for her breakfast which of course she couldn’t have, I felt very
mean. Later in the morning there was a phone call to say she hadn’t
survived the anaesthetic. The children came home in dribs and drabs
as usual, so they were each told separately, and it seemed to go on and
on. We found a little plot for her, and it was all very miserable,
poor little bundle.
A year or so later we got Humbug, a very different pusscat, with an
abiding dislike of the man of the house. He would come home and sit
down with a G&T and the newspaper, and she would wait, for as long as it
took. Inevitably the newspaper would start to droop, and she would
launch herself into the centre of it just as his eyes had closed.
She was never disappointed. Arms, legs, newspaper, all over the
place, every time, followed by expletives deleted, but Humbug was long
gone by that stage. Behind the door younger members of the family
were well advised to keep the giggling subdued. Humbug was
eccentric in other ways - she loved to be hoovered, flinging herself in
front of it if the nozzle was on. Claw clipping was another thing
she didn’t mind, sitting beautifully while I squeezed her paws. I
only once saw her use them as intended when I caught her up to her armpit
down a skirting board fishing out naked mouselings, the size of 50p
The senior daughter in law, however, has good reason to be thankful for
a cat’s hunter instincts. Alone in the house getting ready for
work, Judi lost patience with the Siamese who had been pestering the
laundry basket for a week or more. So, mid mascara, she left the
dressing table and picked up the laundry basket with the now much quoted
comment, “alright then, there you are, look there’s nothing ... .”
Only a sizeable yellow snake, looking ready to move off.
There followed a pantomime, Judi running back and forth screaming,
wondering who to phone, and the cat looking very pleased. In her
panic she phoned her best beloved who was bobbing around off Norway, and
helpfully responded “please tell me this is a joke”. For the record
it’s a very good marriage. She then left a request for assistance
with her colleagues at the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, who are
believed still to have the tape. Eventually a vet was found and the
snake was pronounced non venomous, probably escaped via the roof spaces
from a neighbouring house.
Always pay a cat due respect.
Ours has always been a “dog” family, and over many years we have
experienced examples of their devoted loyalty.
My grandfather’s courtship was mainly carried out by letter, and when
his fiancée’s correspondence appeared to be petering out, he was hurt and
puzzled. That is until he caught his dog waiting for the post to drop on
to the mat, then nosing aside anything from my grandmother, which he then
hid in his basket!
In the same family, when my uncle left for France in the Great War, his
dog was inconsolable, and could only be persuaded to settle at night if
he were allowed to lie on an old coat of his master’s. On the two
occasions when my uncle returned home seriously wounded, his dog never
left his side through long periods of convalescence. When the time came
for him to rejoin his regiment, his dog kept looking for him. One night
during the last days of the war, the dog would not settle on the old
coat, but just sat giving little howls. Two days later news came that my
uncle had been shot by a sniper after most hostilities had ceased. That
dog knew his master was gone.
I was given a Labrador as a wedding present and she had the gentle
nature of most of her breed, tolerating all kinds of rough behaviour from
my young children. On one occasion she and I were alone together when she
suddenly pricked up her ears and began to growl in a menacing way,
demanding to be let out. Our house was in a remote position up a long
drive, and a very unpleasant looking character was approaching, clutching
what looked like a car jack. I grabbed hold of my snarling dog and called
out that he was on private land, but he took no notice until I threatened
to let the dog go, snarling and barking as she was, when he turned and
fled. I was quite shaken, but once back inside, my brave dog returned to
her usual calm self as though nothing had happened!
That dog had two litters of puppies, and we were all distraught when
one died as they were having their first jabs. My four–year-old asked the
vet whether there are vets in heaven. His prompt reply: “I hope so or
what will there be for me to do when I get there?” was a great comfort to
a little boy.
As I moved from large to progressively smaller houses, so my dogs had
to decrease in size, but each and every one showed the same affection and
loyalty, and I will always miss having a dog to greet me when I return
Whilst the theme of this month’s magazine is pets and indeed I have had
many pets, I considered it is also an opportunity to acknowledge God’s
working creatures, in this article - Camels.
I have been fortunate enough to ride camels, many times, predominantly
in Africa, and usually dromedaries although I have ridden Bactrian in
Outer Mongolia. In Africa usually this has been in the Sahara, on
one spectacular occasion leaving the sand shrouded confines of Timbuktu
and heading out into the jaundiced sea of sand that surrounds this
ancient university town, with its great Arabic Library, for a Bedouin
camp several kilometres into the desert.
My main experience with camels however was crossing the Gibson Desert,
in Central Australia, named after Alfred Gibson, an explorer who died of
dehydration when travelling alone in this desert region. The Gibson
is situated to the west of Alice Springs in Central Australia. With
my late wife, Jackie, I joined an expedition to fix the position of the
Crawford Rock Holes. Surveying, in the desert, prior to the
development of GPS was notoriously difficult due to mirage and lack of
fixed points. A previous crossing had reported that the rock holes,
vital as a mid-crossing water supply, were not at the position shown on
the existing maps. They could not be found and questions were
raised as to their continued existence. The last recorded visit to
the Crawford Rock Holes was some 70 years previously. On this
expedition there were 13 of us humans and 17 camels to carry our
supplies, which included one tonne of water and five litres of port!!!
All were in plastic Jerry cans, as well as a two weeks’ worth of food.
We were not to see fresh supplies of either for two full weeks!!
We cobs (cobbers) were trained by the cameleers to handle one camel
each, my allocated camel was ‘Lofty’, no physical description needed. He
was a strong but compliant camel (by camel standards) who did not
usually, bite, kick or spit. At night our job was to hobble the
front legs of our camel, prior to releasing them for the night to graze
on what they could find of camel thorn etc. Hobbling, is not a job
for the squeamish, and is carried out by a judicious approach to the head
and having established the mood of the camel to turn alongside with one’s
rear end facing the rear legs of the camel, with one’s body firmly
pressed against the flea-infested flank of the camel’s body. Thus
if the camel decided to kick there was some soft protection in the form
of one’s buttocks. Then the procedure is to gently run one’s hand
down the leg of the camel, lift its foot gently but firmly and slip the
right hobble over the right foot. Then reaching underneath, keeping
close personal contact repeat the procedure for the left leg, finally
checking that the hobble is comfortable and gives sufficient movement
without allowing the camel to run.
After a freezing night, with temperatures down to -10ºC, tucked in our
swags rolled out on the ground, it was our job, at first light, to find
our camel, who may by now be a kilometre or so away and lead it back into
‘the camp’. Here we ‘hooshed’ them down ie got them to crouch on
their knees by the repeated imprecation of “Hoosh! Hoosh!” and then set
to clean them up by running our fingers through their hair to remove all
scraps of twig and spinifex trapped in the long hair that might cause
discomfort to the camel once its saddle was in place. Such rubbish
becomes firmly ensconced under the finger nails. Then to place two
sets of their own blankets over their hump and then the heavy wooden
saddle, this has a belly strap which can only be fixed in place by
burrowing in the sand below the camel’s belly and passing one end through
before nipping round the other side to connect it up before the camel
shifts and traps the end, or your hand, under its extensive belly, and
then by lifting the tail fix the excreta-covered tail rope in place.
As I said, “Not for the squeamish!” Onto the saddles are strapped
the supplies. These vary in quantity as time goes on. Diminishing water
and food are distributed evenly between the 17 camels.
It was then our job to walk, no riding allowed, these are strictly pack
animals, alongside the string of camels checking that kit is secure and
that they were coping with traversing the dunes in day time temperatures
of 40ºC or higher. Water for the camels was from the occasional
Having reached the approximate position of the Crawford Rock Holes we
began to quarter the dunes. These were covered mainly in spinifex,
scrub bushes and desert oaks of limited growth. After three
quarters of a day of a line check, spread over several kilometres, we
heard the extraordinary sound of birds singing and then amazingly, we
found, in a depression, amongst the scrub, three slime covered holes of
less than a metre diameter. These contained slime covered water
about ½ metre below the surrounding surface. The camels drank their
fill!!! All this time surrounded by yellow chats sitting on and in the
scrub totally unafraid of our presence or flying in clouds around them
and us. We had seen no birds or humans for a week and were not to
see any more for a further week, an oddity of the natural world.
The only evidence of human existence was a discarded, broken, rubbing
stone, used by Aboriginal people to break down vegetable matter.
After discussion we decided to refill only one jerry can, with the
green slime-water, for final emergency use. We were at this point,
we calculated, approximately 2 litres up on our estimated water
consumption per person per day to be used for ALL purposes including
drinking. Only one tin mug of Dettol water was available each day
for the washing of finger tips and only then before the evening meal.
Any human body odours were overcome by strong camel scent!
Having a GPS set with us we were, for the first time in history, to fix
the Crawford Rock Holes with accuracy. There was a great sense of
achievement as the holes were some 3 kilometres out of position which
could make a vital difference to the survival of future cross-Gibson
God’s working creatures such as camels may be smelly, bad tempered and
aggressive but we could not on this occasion have accomplished this vital
task without them.
Prestbury Library is usually busy with people rather than animals but
this summer we’re welcoming some special animal friends!
The 2017 theme for the popular Summer Reading Challenge is Animal
Detectives. Coming soon is a fabulous range of story books for ages 4-11
all with animal characters. We already have a great new selection of
non-fiction books on the shelves featuring creatures from around the
Last year hundreds of Prestbury children took part in the Summer
Reading challenge and really enjoyed it. They read 6 books over the
summer and received stickers, posters and eventually the much-prized gold
A special four-legged guest at Prestbury this summer
Watch out for our very special four-legged visitor coming to the
library to see us this summer. We do like our animal guests at Prestbury.
Did your children or grandchildren come and see the frogs and snakes last
year?! Keep an eye out for more details in the library or on our Facebook
Know a teenager who’d like to help us with the Challenge this summer?
Do you know a teenager or young adult (13-24) with spare time this
summer? Volunteering to help with the Summer Reading Challenge can be a
great way to gain confidence and experience working with younger
looking for teenagers to create or help with events at the library to
support the Reading Challenge – ideas may involve crafts, computers or
any other skills they may have.
Please pop into the library for more information. More ideas also found
Jo, Karen, Laura, Becky and Tessa
The Children’s Society works with some of the most disadvantaged
children in England and Wales. As you can imagine, this covers a broad
range of work. Each month we are bringing you a story from one of the
areas of our work. Last month we talked about the impact of social media
on mental health. This month focuses on one of our campaigns where we are
asking for council tax exemption for care leavers.
Care leavers can be a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to
When young people
leave care and move into independent accommodation, they begin to manage
their own budgets fully for the first time. They find themselves
grappling with the challenges of living independently; managing a
household, continuing education or seeking employment, as well as
managing personal finances and paying household bills for the first time
- often without the support of family or previous financial education to
help them navigate this.
We are asking councils to make care leavers exempt from paying council
tax until they turn 25; giving these young people a few valuable years to
learn how to manage their finances and have a better chance at avoiding
problem debt in the future. Our research in the past has shown us just
how quickly debt can spiral out of control.
Thanks to lots of support, we have now secured a council tax exemption
for care leavers in fourteen local councils and the campaign continues to
gain momentum. Some councils which are supporting young carers include
Oldham, Greenwich, Bolton, Coventry and Wolverhampton. Unfortunately,
Gloucestershire has not yet agreed to support young carers and we have
had to take a public pause from our campaigning work during the election,
but we will be picking this up again after 8th June.
Following the election, we would greatly appreciate your support for
this campaign. All you need to do is go to our website and send an email
to your local council to show them how important this matter is to you
and many others. Wouldn’t it be great if Gloucestershire council could
ensure a fairer start for care leavers?
It’s great that some councils have already agreed to this and the other
good news is that after working with the Welsh Government and the
National Assembly for Wales over the previous months, we have been told
that the Welsh Government is likely to announce after the elections this
month that it will exempt care leavers across Wales from paying council
Your donations, actions, prayers and time enable our work with young
care leavers. This is a campaign that will affect vulnerable children and
young people all over the country, and we have a great opportunity to
influence what happens here in our very own community. Thank you.
Regional Fundraising Manager
The Children’s Society
We had a very busy evening at our meeting in May. Peter Bryant,
the recently retired County Secretary, opened the evening with an
illustrated talk about his career. He joined the RAF as a dog
handler serving in Cyprus during the troubles there and then in Northern
Ireland, was a body guard in Belize – where he also DJ’d on the services
radio, took a commission and was stationed at Valley, Anglesey, Stanmore
and then Innsworth. After serving for 26 years in the RAF he
retired and took up a post as Secretary of the Royal Flying Pigeon
Association for 10 years – to continue his career in the ‘Royal flying’
world! After a short time at the National Trust, doing maternity
leave cover, he spotted the advert for a Secretary at the Gloucestershire
Federation of WI’s, and applied as a joke. He got the job! So
far, the only male WI County Secretary in the country. Peter spent
over six years at the post and was a very efficient and hard worker with
entertainment thrown in - he says that dealing with the pigeons and their
owners was more stressful! He is much missed at WI House, though
Lindsay, the new Secretary, is quickly finding her feet.
Next on the agenda were the discussions and voting on the two
Resolutions to be debated at the National Annual Meeting in Liverpool in
June. The subjects were on Plastic Soup (the accumulation of
plastic residue, especially in the sea) and Loneliness.
The holiday in Lincolnshire was much enjoyed by a number of members,
despite the weather being a bit chilly and wet. Visits were to
Burghley House, Grantham, Southwell with its Workhouse and beautiful
Minster, Lincoln – where Sue and I were pelted with hailstones as we
walked round the Castle walls - and Newent where we went on a boat trip
on the River Trent. On the way home we called in on the late Geoff
Hamilton’s gardens at Barnsdale, that are now run by his son Nick.
There are 37 separate gardens which were developed for his Gardeners’
World programmes. As usual on these kinds of outings, the coaches
were full of plants and shrubs, to be found new homes in Gloucestershire!
The May activities included a tea afternoon at Gloria’s where we
enjoyed her beautiful garden (though it was a bit damp and too chilly to
sit outside), a skittles evening, Craft and Book Club meetings, tea at
Eileen’s and a meal at Moran’s. Dame Janet Trotter gave a very
interesting and inspiring talk at the Cleeve Hill Group Meeting. We
also partook in a Shibori beading day, a morning dying a silk infinity
scarf and a County walk. After a slight hitch in the County
Skittles Tournament we have been awarded a bye, and so go into the next
round for the Trophy, where we are due to play Benhall WI.
The June programme is looking very busy. Several of us are off to
Liverpool to the National Annual Meeting, I am stewarding. Then we
have the Three Counties Show at Malvern. There we have teams of
members going to help with the catering, sales and craft demonstrating
over the three days.
We have a change to the July programme. We now have Ged Cassel
giving a talk on ‘Florida and the Everglades’. Visitors are always
made welcome if you would like to join us for the evening. We shall
meet at St Nicolas’ Hall, Swindon Lane at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd July.
May I take this opportunity to congratulate Sue Davies, our President,
on completing her WI Advisor training, for which she is now qualified?
On Monday 12th June Graham Minett will be giving us a talk on “A
writer’s Journey” from how he got started and all the ups and downs of
being a writer. It promises to be an interesting evening.
Other WI news…
On the 18th April our skittles team met Tibberton and Taynton WI at the
Cheese Rollers in Shurdington for our first round in the skittles league.
It was a fun evening made even better by the fact we won by 31 pins!
We held our Annual Resolutions meeting on Monday 8th May, which was
followed by a Fish and Chip supper. Afterwards we were entertained by the
first “Public Performance” of our Ukulele group, whose varied repertoire
was very much enjoyed by all!
Visitors are always welcome at our WI meetings. They are held on the
second Monday of each month and start at 7.15pm in the WI Hall on
For further information on WI activities please contact Hilary Brick on
We share this wonderful planet with other living things - animals and
plants - fauna and flora. “All good gifts around us are sent from heaven
above, then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord for all his love” we sing at
Ever since I was a boy I’ve felt that I should help tiny creatures if I
found them struggling - a washed out worm on asphalt after a rain storm
or a struggling fly on a water butt. I still feel that it’s a bit soppy
moving worms back to safety - sentimental nonsense - but I still do it.
In my younger explorations of my faith I came across the medical
missionary, philosopher and musician, Albert Schweitzer, who wrote an
influential work on ethics called Reverence for Life. I’m no expert on
ethics but Schweitzer’s thoughts have stayed with me. Reverence for Life
has much to say about relations between human beings and the animal
world. He stresses that we must do to every animal all the good we
possibly can. Humanity has a debt to be paid to the animal world. Animals
who serve man in any way are owed a debt for what they do for us. None of
us must allow any suffering that can be avoided.
In the case of pets and particularly dogs somebody once said to me that
we should believe there is an unwritten contract between humans and the
pet animals they feed and look after. Our side of the contract is to give
love and care and the pet’s role is to give us loyalty and doggy love.
People keep pets for all sorts of reasons. Pets give us companionship
and a feeling that we have a ‘friend’ who cares and accepts us as we are.
People who live alone are helped when they have a pet to share their
life. There are, of course, many working animals such as horses and
donkeys and mules who give daily service to their owners. Sheep dogs are
essential to hill farmers. I could go on....
At different periods two black Labrador Retrievers have played a great
part in my life and I owe a lot to them. In my boyhood the first came
with the name of Tim. When my family were living at an old farmhouse
during the Second World War I was lucky enough to be able to befriend and
learn from Tim. Tim was my great friend when I lived in a Hampshire
village as a 9 and 10 years old. I will never forget the time when Tim
followed my brother and me to the ancient village church. Being a shy
little boy I was so embarrassed and I asked our Sunday School teacher if
I should take Tim home. “No,” she replied, “he can stay - the shepherds
used to bring their dogs to church.” So Tim stayed sitting on the
kneelers between the pews as good as gold.
Later in life, taking assemblies in primary schools, I thought it would
be a good idea - as a ‘visual aid’ - to take him with me and get him to
catch titbits. I asked the assembled children to predict how many he
would catch - part of introducing the new National Curriculum. It worked
well and I had lots of drawings to decorate my office! I don’t think I
can put Bonzo down as a working dog but he was a lovely pet and so good
even with two hundred or so pats as the children left the hall!
I’ve been in love with dogs all my life and my wife doesn’t believe I
can talk to them! Pets are part of the good gifts that God gives. Thank
you for this world so sweet.
When RMS Titanic left Southampton, on 10th April 1912, she was
described as “unsinkable”. She was (at that time) the largest and most
luxurious ship that had ever sailed. She was carrying 2,200 passengers
and crew, who included some of the most illustrious and wealthiest
businessmen in the world.
However, just 4 days later, on 14th April 1912, Titanic struck an
iceberg, and in 2½ hours, broke up and sank below the waves, lost
forever. The inadequate number of lifeboats were launched, carrying
mostly women and children (predominantly of 1st and 2nd class) – the rest
of the passengers were left to survive as best they could on the stricken
ship. Only 674 people survived the disaster.
This book is a collection of letters, witness statements and press
reports, by survivors (and victims) involved in the tragedy. The letters
make heart-breaking reading. Some were sent from the ship, mid-voyage, to
parents and friends at home, and tell of future hopes and plans – many of
which were never realised. The majority of the witness statements were
given by survivors to the Inquest that was held in New York, after the
event was made public. It started on 19th April, and lasted for 17 days.
One thing that struck me was how many of the witness statements were
contradictory. In many of the accounts, the timings and sequence of
events are quite different, but every person is adamant that their story
is the ‘true’ version.
The official report of the findings of the Inquest panel was
delivered in a speech that took over 2 hours to read, and listed several
errors that collectively sealed the Titanic’s fate, including ‘too few
lifeboats’; ‘ignoring the ice warnings from other ships’; ‘travelling too
fast’; and ‘no on-board practice of emergency procedures’.
The book concludes with 30 pages which contain an alphabetical list of
the registered passengers and crew on board the Titanic. The passengers
are listed by class, the crew by seniority. The survivors are printed in
I have always been fascinated by the story of the Titanic. I can’t say
I enjoyed this book, but it was a case of ‘having started it, I had to
finish it’. A tragic sequence of (mostly avoidable) errors, culminating
in a senseless loss of many, many lives – what a disaster.
‘Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy; I will
give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am
gentle and humble-hearted; and you will find rest for souls. For my
yoke is easy to wear, my load is light.’
Matthew 11.28-30, NRSV
THIS PROMISE COMES just after Jesus has identified the very special
covenant between himself and God. He stresses how intertwined this
relationship is: ‘Everything is entrusted to me by my Father; and no one
knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the son...’
It separates Jesus from being just another prophet and thus gives far
greater significance to this promise. Yet Jesus is also frustrated by the
attitude of the towns where he has performed miracles and taught because
they fail to recognise his significance, but despite this he makes this
loving invitation to us all.
I chose this reading for my mother’s funeral service so it has a very
special meaning for me. She was not one of life’s complainers and yet
many would have considered that she had a lot of issues to complain
about. She had been born the illegitimate daughter of a seventeen year
old mother who was in service and a Chinese father who had come to this
country with his father as economic migrants. In such circumstances in
the 1920’s many families considered it better for women to place their
children for adoption rather than marry a man who was not white. My
grandparents married a year later, even though it meant that my
grandmother lost her British citizenship. Sadly my mother’s father died
when she was only 10 years old and so when she passed the entrance exam
for the local grammar school there was no money to pay for her uniform
and books and so she left school at 14 years old with no qualifications.
All her life she worked hard in low paid jobs (not least to support
myself at that very same grammar school that poverty denied her and
subsequently my time at university) and faced a level of racial
discrimination that would make many of us squirm but I never heard her
once utter any words of resentment for her lot in life. She once applied
for a job at the local soap works but when she arrived at interview she
was turned away with the words ‘We don’t employ coloureds’. There were no
words of anger expressed, we simply never bought Persil washing powder
ever again. She bore everything with a quiet dignity. In her final
illness, I would like to think that the quiet faith of her Catholic
upbringing brought her some comfort. Jesus’s wonderful offer of
solace to those who work hard with little recognition seemed so
appropriate for her and for so many like her.
At this time when there is so much ill feeling expressed in the media
about immigration, I never forget that I am the grand–daughter of an
economic migrant and remind myself of the burdens that other people have
to bear. Whatever the nature of their burdens, be it the loss of a loved
one, homelessness, an addiction or serious illness, Jesus offers to share
that burden if we will allow him into our lives.