Chapter One -The Beginning Years
Welcome to this time of sharing, it gives me great pleasure to walk this path of learning once more. It is my hope that together we may make some discoveries that will bless our time together. I have been blessed with some amazing experiences that have at times lifted me and others beyond the ordinary.
I was born in a tent in the wilds of Wales, on the incredibly beautiful, windswept, Gower coast. My first breath was on the same spot as my mother drew hers.I was always told I was born within the shadow of standing stones.
Research has shown me an amazing energy line up, which is sort of echoed in the place I now call home and where my mother’s ashes lay.It was on a cliff overlooking Three Cliff Bay, and the Tor. Ruins of a castle lay close by as does an ancient burial mound.
It is backed and protected by Nicholson Woods. I now liveback to back with Nicholson road. The adjoining township is Southgate. I lived around the corner in Southgate road before purchasing the present house. Many things fall into patterns in our lives, and this is the thread of mine.
I have always had a deep fascination with Camelot, Avalon and the dead. Not necessarily in that order, mind you.I come from a long line of incredibly gifted women. My Grandmothers’ family name is Mochan, which means pig (by the way, I adore pigs). This name can be traced back to 12AD; it was given to a group of women who were Priestesses of the Sun.
The cult had links with Cerridween, who was known as the Great Sow. She was in fact an aspect of the eternal earth/birth mother.This connection could in part, account for my years of dedication to the Mother Goddess, in all her forms.
For I see the many twists and changes, she has taken, throughout time and across the face of our planet, stern, as well as loving and nurturing, for me; a motherwho is not afraid to dish out tough love. One who kicked them out of the nest, like fly, befree stuff.
As I was growing up I always heard the ‘reading’ given mother by her Auntie Maggie. She was told…“You carry a child, born out of time… through time. She will be followed by her twin. She will marry not of her people. She will divorce and live across many miles of water. She will walk the roads of this land, like they were her own. She will re marry, one who has shared the same type of life with many of the same joys and sorrows. Before she comes to her rest the world will know her name”
This book is about the prophecy and the bits in between.
This moulded that newborn into the woman I am today. Well, yes my mother did indeed carry a child, it was estimated she was in her seventh month when I decided, as usual to hurry things along. She had given birth to two daughters previously, but nothing had prepared her for this delivery, alone, in a tent, with not a living soul for miles.
The first girl was delivered under anesthetic after a fall from a bus, she was stillborn.My elder sister Kathy was born in hospital under heavy drug therapy, due to complications and mothers rare blood group. I can only imagine her fear of being alone and in labor, with a thirteen month old child tied to a tent rod for safety.
Father had gone off on the push bike to round up a midwife. When they finally returned I was bathed, dressed and had a plait tied with a red ribbon. Apparently everyone who saw me could not quite deal with the amount of hair. I am told it was a deep mahogany red and plaited every day.
The tent was what we call a bender, which is… canvas or other material (often blankets) spread over willow branches. Maybe around the size of todays two man tents. It seems incredible that she brought up two children in these conditions.
All washing was done in the river and all water carried nearly a mile. Now things apparently settled down, except for the fact I screamed nonstop. Seems reasonable to me! I was always one to have my say.
Mother went back to hawking pegs when I was a few weeks old. Father would cut bundlesof ash sticks and sit making them by the fire late into the night. It was under the directionof the same Aunt Maggie; she knocked on a door in Swansea and begged for help with the child.
A doctor Llewellyn Thomas was on holiday there. He was researching into micro surgery. It was quickly established I had a mastoid, which required surgery.I often wonder if this early separation is responsible for my need to be held and be close tothose I love, the feeling of not quite belonging… of being in the wrong place and family sometimes.
I mostly have it sorted now, but, it was dreadful when I was much younger.It must have been dreadfully hard for her to leave her child behind, especially because of the link we had that never broke. It got stretched a bit and bent out of shape a few times over the years.
However things always got back together for us and we had that closeness.Also Rom women, carry their chavies (babies) in a sling type arrangement, usually a blanket in winter and a shawl in summer. The child is always safe, warm, and soothed by the mother’s heartbeat.
This for me was abruptly replaced by a sterile hospital unit. I was not allowed to be touched for three months, very touchy about brain surgery in those days, God love them. Still it got me here and that’s what mattered.
The Rom ‘see’ children as the future and hope for a better life. As such they are nurtured while they can be. For soon enough they will move on to make room for the next one.This time is truly the only time a mother and child can call their own special time.
For us a bit down the track was the added convenience of living in a house. This effectively cut us off from the bigger family picture. In the tribal living the older children cared for the young ones and the elder women supported the young mums. Well hello… here we were out on our own… learning as we went.
I was around two when we moved into a house, must have seemed like a mansion to mother. Two rooms upstairs and two down. Downstairs had gas lights and upstairs candles. All cooking, washing and whatever else was done on the open fire in the kitchen… still the water was only outside the back door, which was a blessing.
This was a small house in a row of terraces, built in 1100 and something. They had red quarry tiled floors. It was easy to see, and smell when times were good. Mother scrubbed and polished those tiles every week on her hands and knees. Usually with normal homemade polish, but in good times she bought lavender polish and those tiles shone like glass.
The upstairs ceilings were solid slabs of oak and if we stood on the bed, we could ‘draw’ faces with the candle. God bless her our poor mother had a huge load to carry and she did it all alone.
We continued to add to the head count year after year, until there were seven kids crammed into that tiny house. Babies were born at home, and she was set up in the front room, the midwife was too old to do stairs.
Father would shoot through the minute the baby was born, off to the pub to celebrate his fertility or some such male ritual. We never saw him again for days. Leaving us in the care of Uncle Terry, who was only a few years older than ourselves. He was not great in the kitchen department; we got a big basin of tea each morning.
I think the theory was the more we had the longer it would take until we needed sorting again. Mother lived those ten days on boiled eggs and mashed potatoes.When our Michael was born I was 8 and our Kathy 9, no one came to look after us that time around, so we set off to have fine adventures.
We found our way to the river, which ran along the back to the masonry yard opposite our house. What bliss, scrambling over great piles of rubbish, heaps of old paint cans to the shore? Two men were fishing from a dingy; it might as well have been the Queen Mary, so impressed were we by this vision.
They chucked something back into the water, just as they neared shore. We lay hidden in the hedge, unseen. We were smart kids, who were well aware the devil could take any shape and once he put his eye on you… that were it… you were done for.
Thanks to fathers tales we were well armed to take care of any eventuality.So after they had tied the boat and left, we waded, waist high into the water to retrieve the prize… first time we’d ever been close to water mind you… no one had told us you needed to be able to swim.
The only danger we saw was, maybe… the devil had set a trap… and would come back and snatch us. We found it easily enough. A big fat eel… thankfully, half dead. Now we knew about eels, they were a treat mother liked, and this one was a beauty.
I stayed to guard the prize. While Kathy collected a rusty paint tin. It took a bit of doing… but finally we got him in and very carefully carried him home.Triumphant we presented him to mother in her bed… was she grateful? not a bit of it… the midwife had a bit of a screaming match as well… we were told off for waking the baby… it was them screaming… not us.
Turned out the prize was a half stunned sea snake.Now apparently being gifted a sea snake… delivered by two half drowned kids is not the best gift… after a difficult delivery. The midwife scrubbed us, thrashed us and we were put to bed for the rest of the day. We may well have fared better with the devil.
Then Granny Kate, fathers mother came to live with us. She was an amazing woman and life took on a huge change. I shared a bed with her and two sisters and occasionally a stray brother. She would tell us the most amazing stories. No three bears for us… there were tales of serpents, floggings, hangings, priests, ritual and magic.
All through it tales of an old girl called Middy McGan… Middy walked the roads by day, begging and working in the fields, until villagers chased her away. Now every night she would find a barn and set about cooking her supper of bacon and a few eggs.
Without fail old Jack would jump out of the haystack, eat her food and ravish her. This continued every night… wouldn’t you think she’d avoid haystacks?Many of the stories contained the wisdom and teachings of our people. Handed down the way they always had been, from mouth to ear.
The ghost stories and tales of the devil were a match for any R rated movie of today. Across the road was the masonry. They hadheadstones and angels all over the place. I remember summer evenings, going to bed while it was still light, we’d sit at the window, quiet as mice and watch the man work.
Or watch the fish jump in the river beyond. On a full moon night the angels seemed to take on a life of their own and whisper secrets to us. At least they did to me… even if my sisters thought I was daft… and maybe a little touched in the head.
This was a hard life for my mother, always either having a baby and/or taking care of one. Still she went hawking, with us trailing behind her, and now we also worked in the fields. I was nearly seven when I first went picking potatoes.
Father who always had a scheme ofsome sort happening was in charge of getting together what he called a gang, and making sure we all worked hard to complete the job quickly. We would fill buckets and empty those into sacks, father would come along on the tractor and weigh and tie the full bags… then each person would drag their full bags to their own spot to be counted at the end of day.
It took two of us kids to drag our sack next to mothers. Despite the hard work it was a wonderful time… summer sun… laughter and food. The farmer’s wives would bring morning and afternoon tea. Big jugs of frothy, creamy milk, steaming jugs of tea, there were sandwiches of thick homemade bread and butter that caught your tongue and just hung there in pure joy. Cakes, biscuits, crisp n golden… often still warm from the oven.
Everyone brought lunch… but still got tea and milk, breadand butter. The work was hard but the rewards well worth it. Planting spuds was a different matter altogether. Freezing cold, we’d start in the dark, rows lit by tractor headlights. Breaks were spent, snuggled in the hedges, away from the bitter wind. This was where I was taught to talk to the winds and make them my friends.
Chilblains, windburn and the cold made life miserable for the ‘others’ amongst us, but the Rom knew each day was a gift and we never got much go wrong with us.Mother had to work all day, get home, feed us, wash and dry our clothes for the next day. I wonder now did that woman ever sleep, and I am sure father would have wanted his ‘rights’ on a regular basis.
It’s just the way it was.We were a bit different from the other kids on the street. Most of them were not allowed to associate with the ‘gypo’ kids. I was never sure if they were afraid of catching something, learning something or it was father’s schemes which put the fear of God into them.
Anyway it was always that lot and us… of course we thought of ourselves as Angels… on a mission most times… but still Angels.I remember the very first toy I ever saw, I was eight years old and Ann Quest had sneaked over to our place to play. She had a water pistol, my, oh my, you cannot imagine the joy this small piece of red plastic gave us.
Most of all father, he was absolutely delighted, and held up sheets of newspaper to be squirted. Ann never came back to our house, not sure what happened there, but I am eternally grateful for the memory of those hours. I saw father in another light.
We all did.Our toys were old rusted farm machinery, which lay in the field over the back garden hedge. It was covered in blackberry brambles. Oh, the fields we ploughed, riding those tractors and the harvests of ripe golden corn. Imagination was our greatest companion. Mother made sure we read daily from a very early age. So we travelled many roads and countries with the aid of that old machinery.
There was a Massey Ferguson tractor… still showing some of her former glory in streaks of red paint. She became a magic carpet, or a dragon… depending on which was needed atthe time. We were princes slashing through thorns to reach sleeping beauty, a knight rescuing a maiden in distress, or Cinderella going to the ball and those berries, warm and juicy where true gifts from heaven.
A wee bit past this mechanical graveyard, come fantasy land… stood the sale yards.We loved the great ring, which became a circus, a stage and sometimes and island. One day we brought home a piglet, felt he would make a great pet and maybe dinner one day.Mother was not amused and packed us off to take it back, after giving us a good clout across the ears.
As other people were taking them, so we could not quite understand the stealing bit.Father’s schemes were another thing altogether and we just went along, it was that or cope a thrashing and there were enough of them being handed out without giving him a reason.
He could never have been called uninventive, whether he was organizing a work gang, selling ribbons or stealing chickens it all received his full attention and our labor. I remember sitting up late one night, gorging on chicken while the police poked around the back yard.
Oh, how innocent were those days, when the police saw the theft of some showchickens as major crime, anyway, we ate them and mother burned the bones. For years we’d laugh over our Anne sitting in the high chair yelling “more flicken please”. Mother was big on manners, whether we sat down to a roast or bread and dripping, the table was set, we thanked the lord for our blessings and used manners.
Once father had this amazing idea of becoming a woodman, everyone used coal which wasvery expensive. Not us… we would go along the railway track… with an old pram and collect the cinders which fell along the way… or go to the local rubbish tip and get some from there.
He conned a mate into partnership in a ramshackle old van… which I am surethe mate paid for… even if it was in father’s name, then off we all went… taking it in turns on a crosscut saw, him, mother and the mate cut down a few trees. These were stolen trees mind you… so we had to be very quiet. However father saw the trees as belonging to the earth, and as such were the gypsy’s property… go figure… I never got it sorted.
We kids carried the logs out, one by one, splashing through the stream as we went. We loadedthem into the van… then walked home with mother… while the men set out to sell the goods. Well we only did that trick once… whether the law got on to him… or his customers discovered green wood, don’t burn. Heaven alone knows… still we ate well that week.
Then there was the time he sold all mothers red dahlias to a funeral home… with the promise of delivery on a weekly basis. Now neither mother nor nature could make that one happen. He would make pots and pans from huge sheets of tin, and mother would sell them from door to door. People also brought pots to be mended.
His greatest gift wascarving, a gift he never really used. Before Christmas each year… he would carve great chrysanthemums from ash sticks. Mother would dye them bright, beautiful colors and sell them. People came from miles around to put in orders… which he sometimes filled.Unfortunately the more money he had… the more he drank… the worse things were when he got home… if he got home that was. One night in a state, he was coming home throughthe cemetery… which is a blessed long way the other direction from the pub… when he fellinto a new dug grave, and stayed there all night in the snow.
The police brought him home, still wearing a wreath on his head, like some great crown. That little lot gave him pneumonia and we nearly saw him off to the other side… no such luck… even the good lord wasn’t ready.Now, Father was a truly vicious man at times and each of us bears our own emotional and physical scars.
He was a great one for the belt and needed no excuse or reason to use it. If the slightest thing was not right we’d all be lined up and from the oldest to the youngest, over the chair we went and he laid on the belt… this would be repeated until someone owned up… even if nothing had happened and it was one of his imagined wrongs… then god help the one who owned up they really coped it.
It was a rare flogging that you walked away without blood flowing. We were often dragged out of bed and flogged for something we may have done years earlier… or made to kneel in front of him and any drunk he could drag home. For hours we had to kneel, hands together and recite our prayers. Not sure if we were saving ourselves or him.He only got worse as the years went by. I came to understand him as the years went by and the hate and anger sort of balanced itself out. I asked God once, a wee while back, about father and why he was the way he was. I was given a vision of a room full of spirits. I was told that this hall was where we choose the coming cycle of learning… they did not call it life.
I stood up front, going over a plan and it was asked “who loves this soul enoughto carry the load of learning, knowing that it may earn only hate and fear”… well, after a time of silence a wee voice at the back said “I do”… yep and there was Father… bless his heart. How can one measure Soul love against mortal love?
It took me a long time and many years of tears and heartache to come to terms with my paternal legacy, but I am learning and can see him now for the frightened, lost man he truly was, afraid of being different, not fitting in. He hated being different, not having hadthe opportunities to learn to read and write, it may have made a difference… but in reality the booze got him. He gave up drinking around eleven years before he died… but the damage was done… he was a nasty, mean minded man, who would still have flogged us given the strength and opportunity.
Although we did not see many people who lived in the close houses we did visit family in Cats Hole Quarry…. there’s a name for a place. Says it all really… these people were truly poor… but the most giving of souls… they shared their last crusts with us on many occasions… we were treated with respect and in a little awe… we lived in a house… had shoes and went to school … we were upper class which suited father just fine.
Cat’s Hole was literally an abandoned quarry and they lived in makeshift homes of tin, tents, bits of wood and one old lady had a cardboard box, covering what looked like a small cave.I remember Lena and Jamesy… she was a big woman who wore a top hat, heaven alone knows how she came by it. She had raven black hair which hung in two thick braids to herwaist.
We thought she was ancient when in reality she was maybe in her 30’s. Jamesy was a tiny wee man, she would nurse him to sleep, lying in her arms and sucking on a baby’s bottle. Now this was not the true baby’s bottle, but a teat stretched over an old medicine bottle. We called them titty bottles. Many a time we had to knock the neighbors out of bed, to beg a bottle when the then baby had smashed the last one.
As a last resort mother used a beer bottle. No-one seemed fussed by the actions of Lena and Jamesy, they were gentle people and she had the voice of an angel. This was a harsh life for all who stayed there. We loved the place… ran free and had a great time… ever mindful of the law of things…Never to approach someone’s fire without being invited…Not to look at people’s private space… or moments (this was more often a man clouting his woman for something or a child being chastised)… these were private times… even if surrounded by many… It was rude to watch people eat… or speak of the dead by name… and you never, ever, poked anyone else’s fire…
It was a communal eating arrangement, where everything which was begged, borrowed orstolen went into one huge pot. The men were served and ate first, then the children were fed and the women shared what was left. Mind you, I remember many a man waving food aside as not being hungry. This was theirway of caring… when you have nothing, tradition and the ancient ways grow in importance. Pride in ourselves as a people and nation are held together by the threads of tradition, is what we were taught daily.
So even if it was only a few stale loafs and a scrapeof dripping… the men were offered first.Somehow everything tasted better out of Maudies big pot. Everything went in, whatever the days hawking had produced. Sometimes the stray chicken or salmon found their way into the pot and tasted the better for it.
I still can taste her pancakes, flour and water they were… cooked in butter from the farm and drenched in sugar, a rare treat indeed, as was going for milk to Jenkins farm and drinking warm milk straight from the cow. You got to be a good catch or wore it.
I remember my cousin Joanie had a rat chew off half her face as a baby and her mother Ruthie waking to find a snake, coiled around the babies neck. Uncle Peter enticed it out ofthe tent with a bowl of milk. Joanie was just fine… had a bit of trouble breathing for a while… but she came good……and so passed, the first years of my life…