• Naseem Syed

'Me and my lockdown’ by Marilyn Priday

After a career in Teaching physics then I.T. (High School) took on the job of Interfaith Development worker for Community House Presbyterian Church of Wales. Retired from that job 6 years ago but somehow find I’m still very involved in it. I am a member of Community House Church and the Company Secretary for the Charity, Community House Eton Road.

I set up Coffee’n’Laughs in 2007. This group is to encourage friendships between women of all faiths and cultures. It is still going strong. We have done many lovely things together and have very strong friendships.

Has lockdown changed you? How? Why?

I wouldn’t say that it has, but, in a way, I have been more able to spend time on activities that I enjoy (learning Welsh, Cooking, Sewing). Generally, I am too busy, with lots of different commitments, Community House being one of them. Although I have been involve in lots of meetings on Zoom the fact that I am usually at home has, in my case, been a positive one, saving me a lot of time travelling to Newport or to Cardiff. My mother (91) came to stay during the first lockdown, which was different and so good to know that she was safe, but now she prefers to be in her own home in the village of Deri in the Rhymney Valley.

What made you smile or brought you joy in lockdown? Can you explain it.

Walking about three miles every day, with my husband, in the spring was wonderful. We always appreciate nature and, this year, spring was incredible. The weather was glorious and without all the traffic it became easier to appreciate it. We enjoyed the bird song, the blossom, the leaves coming out and the wildflowers and especially the baby birds on the canal and the boating lake. (I live in Llantarnam.) Our mature, wildlife garden, though very messy and full of weeds, was a flourishing, with tadpoles, newts, dragonflies and even a hedgehog. Our garden is always full of birds and this year the sparrows and starlings have returned (after many years). We have blue tits, great tits, bull finches, robins, blackbirds, dunnocks, nuthatches, collared doves, magpies, a woodpecker and even a tree creeper. All wonderful to watch!

Our Coffee’n’Laughs Zoom meetings have certainly brought joy to me. Mostly we just have a jolly good chat. Sometimes we have a speaker. We have had good advice from community professional, the NHS, Rahila from Eyst, who is one of us, Sy Joshua, Fateha Ahmed and Roon Adam from ME in Mind etc and we are currently doing an embroidery project with Naz and a poetry project with Karen Ankers arranged by Community Arts. We are hoping to do a project with Marion Webber in the new year. Amy Morris of Winding Snake Productions is another friend who joins us occasionally. She hopes to have a film to show us in the new year. We always support one another and encourage new members.

Our Sunday morning church services on Zoom has kept our church family together. We have also been joined by a few friends who don’t normally worship with us and that has been a bonus. Unfortunately, one of our group feels unable to join because of IT phobia. Nevertheless, we have been able to take the service to her on paper so that she has been able to be with us in spirit.

Have you changed since lockdown? Tell me why?

I don’t think that I have changed except to slow down a bit – something I was always trying to do. Maybe it has helped me be more myself.

What is the story behind your hand art?

My art is just a bit of not very clever embroidery. There are two pieces, each of which is a hand sewn onto a piece of Fabric 7x7 inches, and I will sew those onto the Coffee’n’Laughs heart, together with the others when I get them.

The first one I did has on it words for the things that I was enjoying doing during the first lockdown. Some of these are in Welsh as well as in English because I have been working to improve my knowledge of Welsh. At 72, after a very busy life, it’s time I learnt to speak my own language. The second one is to illustrate my passion for interfaith development and how important it is that people, of all faiths and none, respect one another and learn from one another. Coffee’n’Laughs is a brilliant example of this, with really strong and supportive friendships.

Anything else you would like to share?

I think that this project of Naz Syed is brilliant. As usual she is very caring and supportive of people and it is a great way to bring the community together. I look forward to seeing it in its entirety. Meanwhile – I must have another look at the website and blog. Thanks Naz! Rwt ti’n garedig iawn, ac mor dalentog. Gwych!

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