Wintering

Dogs are Conversataions waiting to happen

7th December

We wake to an early cup of tea in bed and a biscuit. Well, I have the tea and biscuit, Teya makes do with a biscuit. The sun does its winter best to turn the frost into a sparkling playground as we head out for a walk across some lovely grounds. The university gritting lorries are already out so we avoid those paths for Teya’s paws sake. We head for ponds and an interesting architectural spaceship style building, all stylish glass and metal. I am weirdly happy to find it is the Caudwell International Children’s Centre. Caudwell Children is a disabled children’s charity aiming  

“To change the futures of all disabled children providing access to the services, equipment, therapies and treatments they need. To increase awareness and understanding of the needs of disabled children across the UK. The CICC is the UK’s first purpose-built centre for multi-disciplinary therapy programs for childhood disability and research of neurodevelopmental conditions”.

Transpires it is a butterfly rather than a spaceship. It looks beautifully other worldly, reflecting the rising sun.

Caudwell Children is the brainchild of John Caudwell (once a car salesman who went on to set up high street retailer Phones 4U) who is one of Britain’s most influential entrepreneurs and philanthropists. His inspired rise to huge monetary success (right place, right time, right vision, self-belief, brains,passion) and having a disabled son led to the charity formation. He “remains the charity’s largest single benefactor and most passionate supporter. He enables the charity to offer complete transparency to its supporters, with 100% of direct donations going directly to the children and families who need it. John is also a prolific fundraiser, regularly completing physical challenges and staging events to inspire and encourage the support of others”

His fund raising in Monaco and across the world has led to many other celebrities  supporting the cause, including the Life-Changers Circle- each member has pledged to donate £1 Million over 10 years to support the charity. He is certainly a powerful character, luxury yachts, apartments in Monaco and Mayfair, marathon cycling challenges, and never appearing to forget his terraced street Stoke- On-Trent roots.  

However that is not the only reason that John Caudwell interests me.  Back in DC (During Covid) and lockdown, the British government introduced a raft of financial support for the majority of workers and businesses. This worked extremely well for some people who received 80% of their salary for staying home. Many started new businesses or got second jobs during this time. Still others enjoyed the unusually gorgeous spring weather and the chance to unwind. However, in excess of 3 million self-employed people were denied this support, for a variety of illogical and unjust reasons. Denied, in fact, any kind of support.

I was, of course one of them.

I won’t drone on about the reason (it still fills me with a deep sense of being devalued and ignored after working my whole life and paying taxes for 50 + years). Simply put, the year used for qualifying accounts, I stayed home to care for my mum who was dying- so did not earn enough to qualify. If you sense a residue of bitterness, you may be correct.

Back to John Caudwell (a major Conservative Party donor and supporter), he really fought our corner, as we became #ExcludedUK- a lobbying, action and support group. He petitioned parliament, personally and in the media, appearing repeatedly on television and radio to highlight the injustice and illogical nature of the rules.  He could not understand why any government, particularly a Conservative one, would penalise entrepreneurs, self-directed business folk, able to innovate and create. It made no sense to him. Or us. He was a giant supporter but to no avail. The ExcludedUK group had so many people lose their homes, their business, and in some cases their lives. There were 20 suicides amongst the group – that we knew about. John worked hard to help us, to no avail.  The man in charge of all of that is now our Prime Minister.

These memories and thoughts flit through my mind as Teya and I walk past the impressive building and head back to the hotel for breakfast. Sausages for Teya go down well. In the lobby where we had to eat our breakfast due to the dining room not being dog friendly at all, I meet a couple with a lovely Airedale Terrier. They turn out to be the brother and sister in law of Tracy, who volunteers for the charity that brings dogs to the UK  from (including Teya), and many, many other dogs over from Cyprus. Tracy is a whirlwind of a fundraiser, and has ceaseless energy and commitment to raising money for these beautiful dogs.  Such a random chance meeting that makes me unreasonably cheerful.

I reflect on all the good conversations I have had due to dogs, the people I have met, skills learnt, hearts both healed and broken. How much fun. A sense of connection, due to these amazing creatures. Teya just asks politely for more sausage. It is after all, exactly what she deserves.         

We are late now, so rush off to shower and change for Day 2.

Pre- Registered attendance at the workshop was low, so the university staff ask a student who is helping with the project, to see if he could get a few more people along. We had, just in case, made plans for a small group which would allow for a different kind of discussion-   when in walked the entire, confused, baseball team. They did not really know what they were there for but did their best to join in with enthusiasm. There was great discussion, with some sound ideas for taking forward a chance to interact with animals on campus, without it turning into an animal welfare problem, or upsetting those who did not in fact want pets on campus (strange as it seems to me, there were plenty of those!). Linking with a local rescue to go there and walk dogs (win-win); bringing dogs along from somewhere like Pets As Therapy for dog walks around the lakes and lovely grounds; having a designated space for people who wanted to meet dogs.  All things for the university staff to consider and evaluate. The cameras whirred, neither Teya or I were phased this time, she made new friends. I hoped I had been useful.

It’s a wrap, off to lunch, journey home. Not as pleasurable as the journey there, the weather had turned, accidents forced me to use a different route, but all was safe.

We arrive home tired and happy. Feeling that the 2 days had been a wonderful experience- well I did.

Teya was  already onto the next thing. Sleeping.

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