How to live well
Health, wealth and happiness on our stretch of the Thames
Wendy Turner-Webster, TV Presenter and Animal Activist
It’s no secret that Wendy Turner-Webster is passionate about animals.
Living near the banks of the River, interacting daily with the wildlife, it is clear to see she has found her nirvana.
We are river tribers. We live on the Thames at Old Isleworth and our house has a large pool of water at the bottom of the garden. In truth, it’s not actually from the Thames but from a tributary of the Duke of Northumberland’s River, which ends up in Syon Park.
Tracing the source of my little lake was all part of the fun when I moved here five years ago. I was straight on to Google Maps as soon as we saw the house. For me, an animal lover, this is paradise. No crystal sea could mean more to me than this patch of muddy water; the joy it brings is beyond measure.
We have a rocking chair by the kitchen door overlooking the garden which I bought when our first son was born. It was a wonderful aid to help rock him to sleep and now, years later, I rock myself to sleep keeping a dozy eye out for all the animals we’ve left food for in the garden. Sometimes I think that if I didn’t work I’d be perfectly content rocking back and forth and gazing out of the window, G&T in one hand and my camera in the other. I’m sure one day that vision will become a reality down at my Shady Pines Retirement Home.
These days I’m working for Create and Craft TV, both in the UK and the USA. I also co-present a TV series with Julie Peasgood called ‘Crafty Beggars in the House!’. One of the upsides of working as a freelancer is that I get to do a lot of the pre-production work at home and so can enjoy the company of our furry and feathered friends. The local wildlife population has cottoned on to this and I now serve a running buffet for the troops. Sometimes their determination is astonishing. If the kitchen door is shut it’s not unusual for several Canada geese to crowd around tapping their beaks against the glass. Sometimes I’ll open the door and they’ll have a pad around the kitchen (they know where the bread is kept) but sadly they are not house trained so I don’t let them in too often! We also have a few foxes that are particularly fond of Oreo biscuits and jam sandwiches.
My husband, Gary, is an actor (Minder, Family Affairs and most recently EastEnders) and it is with him that our local heron seems to have formed a particular friendship. I had been away working for a few days and the morning after my return Gary said, “Watch this…” and proceeded to make several rounds of strawberry jam sandwiches. At this point the heron was perched on the garden fence keeping a beady eye on the back door. Gary sliced the sandwiches into fingers (apparently to represent fish) and threw them onto the paving stones, saying, “The heron will come down and pick one up, fly back up to the fence, wait a moment and then fly into the water to dunk the bread before eating it. Then he’ll fly back onto the fence to do it again.” And so he did. Right now Gary is away from home, performing in a play with Stephanie Beecham called ‘A Princess Undone’, based on the life of Princess Margaret, and so I have taken on the job of making the sandwiches.
All this heron business takes me back to my childhood in Stoke-on-Trent. Picture the scene; the local heron had been visiting mum and dad’s garden pond on a regular basis and as the pond was too large to cover with netting this pesky bird was chomping his way through a couple of thousand pounds worth of Koi Carp. Eventually, the pond was empty of food and so he sat beside it looking rather forlorn. Mum, who watched all this from behind the curtains, felt sorry for the heron and made her way down to the local Co-Op to purchase a frozen cod in parsley sauce. She got home, heated the boil in the bag miracle and took it down to the pond and placed it on a lily leaf. She returned to the house and waited. The grateful heron came over, the cod had been dead too long for the heron to be interested and I guess the parsley sauce didn’t help. That is an hour of her life she won’t get back but I was proud she made the effort.
Must close now. Time for crafting. I’ve just finished a multi-media piece on a small canvas, which features a mermaid. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a real mermaid living down the road on the Thames or here on the lake? Maybe if I sit for long enough in that rocking chair I’ll see one.
©RiverTribe Magazine 2017