Once again, with the New Year waiting in the wings, I’m taking this opportunity to look back over the past twelve months and the people I’ve enjoyed meeting.
In January I met Sandy, our church cleaner who, 16 years ago, turned up at the vicarage door and, like Yosser in Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff, said ‘gizza a job’ (or something similar) and ever since has worked at St. Faith’s keeping the Church and Parish Centre spick and span along with the caretaker, Glynn.
February gave me the chance to meet John and Barbara Hagger with Indy, the dog they were training to work for the blind. After a long career in Information Technology, John moved to Lee where he became our new churchwarden. Sadly, he later retired for health reasons but he and Barbara still continue to support St. Faiths.
I met Denver-born Constance Williams and her New Zealander husband, Garrie at the Oxfam shop in March. After two amazing careers abroad they settled in Lee where, as manager and assistant, they ran the shop. They, too, have since retired but still support the shop and the work of Oxfam as part-time volunteers. More help is always needed!
In April Ian Hamilton, our Reader at St. Faith’s, drove me to the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation at Whitehall Chase, Bordon where I toured the grounds, met the Director and Chaplain, attended a service, enjoyed lunch, experienced healing and felt better for it! If you’d like to know more about Acorn, email email@example.com
I was invited to Sunday lunch in May by Kevin and Bridget Dean, dynamic members of the team which runs our new all-age, interactive ‘Sundays@11’ service in St Faiths. There’s a live band, various activities and a warm welcome for all newcomers.
June brought St. Faith’s Summer Fete, this year renamed as ‘A Party to Celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday and July saw the first ever ‘Lee Festival of the Arts’.
In August I met Angela (Angie) Jones, Conductor of the Lowry Girls choir and went to one of their rehearsals. If you’d like to join them, phone Angie on 02392 522774.
There was no magazine in September. Coralie and Sean, after 11 years of running Big Voice, handed over the editorship to Gemma Harvey-Guttridge who will still be featuring St. Faith’s. On behalf of the church I would like to thank Coralie and Sean for all their help and support in the past and wish Gemma every success in the future.
Alanna’s ‘Dancin’Fit’ was my subject for October. I went to several sessions and left exhausted after just watching! Alana can be contacted on 07979 800299. It’s fun!
In November I met up with an old pupil, Julie Horton, who, partly as a result of singing in my choir when I was headteacher at Siskin Juniors, is now a professional Jazz Singer. You can find out more about Julie on her website: www.juliejazzyj.co.uk
Christmas is coming so please join us for one or more of our services if you can. Thanks to everyone who reads these articles. I am always looking for new subjects. If you have any ideas for future articles on people or organisations who serve St.Faith’s community, do contact the church office or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year.
‘The past is another country.’ So wrote L.P. Hartley in the opening sentence of his novel, The Go-Between and so it seemed to me when a member of the Lee W.I. told me they’d had as their guest speaker a jazz singer, Julie Horton, who mentioned that she’d been in my choir when I was headteacher at Siskin Junior School more than 30 years ago and, as a result, had changed from a being a shy, withdrawn girl into a confident singer. Having learned of her W.I. visit I renewed contact and have since heard her sing with the Georgia Ramblers at Gosport Jazz Club on more than one occasion. When I knew she’d be singing with the Southern Dance Orchestra at the Lee Festival of the Arts week, I couldn’t resist the chance of arranging an interview and I eventually met up with her before her last concert at the Lee Community Centre.
Julie was born in Birmingham and, having a father in the Royal Navy, spent two years in Mauritius before moving to Gosport at the age of 8. From Siskin school she went to Brune Park where, encouraged by the music director, the late John Witham and drama teacher, Miss Wardle, she took part in various productions and had her first experience of singing solos on stage. During this period, as well as working part-time in Lee Co-op, she took tap dancing lessons and joined both the Gosport and Lee players. Desperate to sing, in 1990 she met up with a local pianist, Vince Wharton, who taught her a wide repertoire of songs. Soon she was singing with different groups in local venues including the Gosport Jazz Club where she met Nat Gonella. In 1991 she and Vince gave a concert in front of 300 jazz fans at the Fernham Hall. Meanwhile she made contact with a number of musicians in Gosport and Portsmouth.
Although I don’t recall the occasion, Julie remembers me saying to her, ‘You’ll make money with your voice one day.’ Hopefully she has (I didn’t ask how much!) but, as well as singing, Julie has had to supplement her income with full-time work. On leaving school she became an administrative officer at Portsmouth Law Courts and was later promoted to executive officer at the Law Courts in Putney. In 1995 she worked in sales marketing for a firm in Farnham and is currently employed in same town as a Customer Service Manager with Kingfisher Fire and Security. Throughout her working life she continued to sing with several bands both here and abroad.
Most of Julie’s singing engagements come from contacts by word of mouth. As well as singing with her own group, the Julie Horton Quintet (JHQ), the list of bands she has played with includes the Jazz Smugglers, Milton James Hot Four, Georgia Ramblers, George Regis Jazz Band, Southern Dance Orchestra, Maryland Jazz Band and many others. She enjoys everything from Funky Jazz, Traditional Jazz and Blues to Mainstream, Contemporary and Latin Jazz. She is available for parties, weddings, festivals and other functions (including guest-speaker talks). She offers duos, trios or larger groups and can be contacted on her website at www.juliejazzyj.co.uk, by email at email@example.com or by phone on 07966 459188.
Like Mr Chips of ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips,’ I still see Julie as the shy, tall 10 year-old girl in the back row of the choir and can hardly believe how much she has flourished in the 30 or so years since leaving Siskin Junior School. Her love of singing shows in her infectious enthusiasm and passion whenever she talks about jazz. ‘Jazz,’ she told me, ‘IS my family’ and I’m sure the jazz family is enriched by having her as a member. Teachers rarely learn what happens to their pupils after they leave school. I feel very privileged to have discovered how Julie’s life turned out and, admittedly, a little proud to know that the Siskin choir played a part in her subsequent success.
“Enjoy yourself and love life!” That’s what Alanna said and that is exactly what she does. I never imagined I would be so lucky as to meet a dancer at friend’s funeral and be invited to a couple of her Dancin’ Fit sessions to watch a room full of lively ladies performing Flamenco, American Street Dance, Bhangra and various other dances under Alanna’s tireless tuition. How she and the dancers managed to keep up the electric pace for an hour and still be smiling at the end was a mystery to me. I was worn out simply watching it all. Where did Alanna’s enthusiasm come from? I was determined to find out when we met later at The Tea Party in Lee High Street.
Alanna Pharaoh (third from the left in the photo) was born in Portsmouth. Her mother was a dressmaker who enjoyed Irish Dancing and her
grandfather played fourteen different instruments in the British Army band and also composed musical arrangements for them. Alanna began ballet lessons aged three and later learned tap and modern dance. Excelling in Drama and Language at Henry Court School, she studied Performing Arts at Fareham College and afterwards gained her LAMDA (London Arts Music & Drama) qualification.
Her varied experience thereafter included touring England and Scotland with the Murder/Mystery (Southern) company, acting as an extra in London for Pinewood Studios and appearing in such films as Harry Potter and Chocolate Factory and working with special needs pupils at Cantell Comprehensive and at Bay House Schools. During this period she qualified as an Arts Award Adviser.
Alanna currently runs six Dancin’Fit sessions: on Tuesdays at the Lee Community Centre (9.30 am), on Mondays (1.30 and 6.30 pm), Wednesdays (7 pm), and Thursdays (9.30 am) at the Crofton Community Centre and on Saturdays (2pm) at Club Hampshire, The Anchorage, Willis Rd. Gosport. She also creates wedding dances for brides, bridegrooms and guests by appointment, runs half-hour classes for those returning to fitness and has recently franchised Dancin’Fit so that classes are now available in Gosport. Having suffered herself from torn arm tendons after a car crash and thyroid problems when she became severely overweight, Alanna is keen to welcome anyone to her dancing sessions whatever their body shape, age or fitness.
In the sessions I attended I watched the dancers (experts and beginners) mirror nine different dance movements led by Alanna who, always smiling, was calling out instructions – Shimmy (shake)! Avanti (move forward)! Arriba (arms up), etcetera. The movements were so exciting and the music so rhythmic that even I was unable to stop myself from jigging about and tapping my feet! When I asked some of the newcomers and old hands afterwards why they enjoyed coming the answer was always the same: it keeps you fit and it’s fun.
I’ve never met anyone who does so much as Alanna and yet seems to enjoy every moment of it. She exudes energy, excitement and enthusiasm and admits herself how lucky she is to have a job that she really loves. If, after reading this, you are interested in joining any of her groups, I promise that you won’t have a dull moment. What keeps Alanna going I’ve no idea but I’m glad I met her, even if it was at a funeral! She clearly means what she says by ‘Love life and enjoy it’ and I think you’ll find, just by being with her, that some of that enjoyment for life and for living it to the full will rub off on you. It did on me. If you would like to know more, her Facebook address is firstname.lastname@example.org or you could phone her directly on 07979 800299.
I’d love to be in a choir. I’m not sure I’m good enough. I can’t read music. I’m not brave enough. If this is you come and sing with us. You will be amazed at what you can do.’ These are the captions which appear on the front of The Lowry Girls’ leaflet advertising a choir for ladies who want to sing for pleasure. The choir meets in St Faith’s church on Monday evenings at 7.30 pm in term time. Eager to find out more about the Lowry Girls I arranged to visit their conductor, Angela (Angie) Jones (front row, 3rd from left) and, yes, as soon as I crossed the threshold I was offered a cup of coffee!
Angie was born in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire. On leaving school she trained as a teacher at Worcester College specialising in Needlework, P.E. and Special Needs. After teaching at an all-age school in Worcester and a Comprehensive school in Tenbury Wells she moved to Hampshire on the appointed of her husband, David, to a deputy headship in Portsmouth. From then on Angela taught in various places including the Haslar Detention Centre and a number of local schools.
Apart from having a few piano lessons as a child, teaching herself recorder at the age of 12 and singing in choirs, music was not her speciality until, at Peel Common school she signed up for a week’s Foundation Conductor’s Course at Keele University, a course which she now attends every year. Wondering how to progress from there she was advised to ‘start a choir’ which she did during autumn 2009 when she formed an unaccompanied choir, Carols for Ladies at St Faith’s church and, much to her surprise, over 30 ladies turned up for what was expected to last for only three sessions. With Angie growing in confidence and her members wanting more, the renamed Lowry Girls soon became an established group.
Since starting the choir, Angie has joined the Hampshire Music Service and now visits a number of schools in the area where she teaches whole classes of 6-11 year old children in keyboard skills, African percussion, Samba drumming, recorders, tuned percussion, ukulele and singing. She believes that everyone can sing and singing for fun and enjoyment is what the Lowry Girls is all about. As well as singing at various functions often with other choirs and groups, a small number of choir members, whoever is available at the time, also visit local care homes and day centres to entertain those with limited opportunities to hear live music. Calling themselves The Lowry Larks, this sub-group is quickly becoming popular in Lee-on-the-Solent and Gosport. As well as singing The Lowry Girls make generous contributions from their funds to a number of charities.
Having heard all about all about the Lowry Girls I was invited to one of their rehearsals to hear them sing for myself. The session began with some gentle physical movements to loosen up, some choral speaking (in parts) and a few tongue twisters to test the diction. Next, accompanied by Carolyn Wilkinson (front row, 3rd from right) on piano, came the rehearsing of various songs beginning with a simple but beautiful three-part, arrangement of Dona Nobis Pacem (which I had to joined in with), then a new song, One More to Count and, finally You Raise Me Up, which was so uplifting that I couldn’t stop myself from clapping at the end. Eventually I came away wishing I could join The Lowry Girls though I imagine that would be against the rules. Certainly, as Angela had told me, this was a choir for anyone who likes singing but might feel they don’t have the musical experience. If that is you, come and join them. Angie can be contacted by phone (02392 522774) or email (email@example.com) and I know she’d be pleased to hear from you.
Lee Festival of the Arts is a joint collaboration between The Bookshop, Lee Residents’ Association, St Faith’s church, Lee Players, Lee Art Group, Lowry Art Group, Lee Choral Society and volunteers fro
m the town’s residents and businesses. This will be the first festival of its kind in Lee. Most of the action will take place in and around the town and the church and since there were no photographs of previous festivals I decided that a photo linking the town and the church might fit the occasion, hence a photo of the signpost.
The festival, a celebration of the artistic skills in our locality, will run from Friday July 1st – Saturday July 9th and will include concerts, demonstrations, drama, dances, exhibitions and more. The events will take place at various locations throughout the town. As in most towns and villages, Lee-on-the Solent has always had its share of local talent and the festival will provide an opportunity to bring this talent together for everyone to enjoy.
The seeds of the idea for a festival were sown a while back when Jean Hedley MBE, a Lee resident and former President of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust, was talking to Councillor Chris Carter. After watching a brilliant drama at Bay House on the D-Day landings, Chris Carter mentioned in passing how good it would be if the local talent could be more widely appreciated. Later, when Jean was talking to Martin Marks, chair of Lee Residents’ Association, the idea began to take root and so it was that, eventually, a committee was set up to plan for the festival.
So what can you expect to see? If you follow the signpost to the High Street you can join an Art Trail throughout the week and enjoy the paintings displayed by local artists in shops or see displays created by the shops themselves. Events during the week will include a Made by Us craft event on the first Saturday in St Faith’s Parish Centre, Jazz and Tai Chi at the Bun Penny, musical events at Leon’s Bistro on the Waterfront, an Art Exhibition at St. Faith’s and Open Studios showing artists at work. Young people aged 6-10 can take part in singing, dance and poetry at the Lee Library. There will be Barn Dancing and Alanna’s Dancin’ Fit group at the Twyford Drive Community Centre, entertainment by the Lee Players and the Lowry Girls choir at St Faith’s. (NB Look out for Alanna’s ‘Dancin’ Fit’ and The Lowry Girls in future Big Voice articles!) The Lowry Larks (a group of singers from the Lowry Girls) will be visiting Care Homes. There will be Acoustic Folk Sessions at the Golden Bowler and Wyvern pubs, a ‘Wicked Night Out’ with the Lee Choral Society in the church and an informal ‘Bring and Share your Favourite Poems’ afternoon with me in the Lowry Room. As the week draws to a close there will be two evenings featuring characters from Alan Ayckbourn, Alan Bennett, Joyce Grenfell, Dr. Seuss and others in a ‘Shocks for Sure! Theatre’ presentation, ‘As I was saying…’ and, on the final Saturday, you can enjoy a concert and dance with the Southern Dance Orchestra in the Twyford Drive Community Centre.
These are just some of the events. For the latest information on all you need to know, visit the website leefestivalofthearts.org.uk and click on the various options. The success of the festival depends entirely on the support it receives so, please, make a point of keeping the week free and come to as many events as you can. Lee has a wealth of talent and the week beginning July 1st gives us all the chance to celebrate and enjoy it.
I have many happy memories of the first summer fete I remember attending at the age of four or five in my hometown, Yeovil, back in the 1940s. It was a gloriously hot summer’s day with not a cloud in the sky, as all days seem to be in childhood memories. Of the many attractions on display, one in particular caught my eye. I desperately wanted to win a small plastic chicken on the hoopla stall which laid eggs when its body was pushed down on to its retractable legs. Needless to say my wooden hoops landed everywhere except over the chicken. It was only out of the kindness of her heart that, after several unsuccessful attempts, the lady on the stall took pity on my plight and eventually gave it to me.
Once again the fete season will soon be upon us but this year’s fete at St Faith’s church will be different from previous years in at least two ways: firstly the name and secondly the day.
Because it will be linked to the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, rather than calling it ‘St Faith’s Summer Fete’ it will be called ‘A Party to Celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday’ and the aim is to give the occasion a distinct ‘party feel.’ The other difference is that, instead of being held on a Saturday as in previous years, this year’s event will be held Sunday, June 12.
The celebrations for the whole Lee community will begin with a special service in the church at 11 am. The party will follow from 12 noon. So that everyone can eat together, tables will be placed around a central performance area in which musicians and others will entertain the crowds. Food and drink including cakes, sandwiches, a BBQ, soft drinks and beer will be available for sale or, if you prefer, you can bring along your own picnic lunch. The cutting of a specially made Celebration Cake, decorated in red, white and blue, will take place at 2 pm no doubt to a rousing chorus of The National Anthem.
As in previous years there will be a variety of stalls and entertainments. The stalls will include books for adults and children, greeting cards and stationery, mixed crafts, jewellery, old coins from the time of Queen Victoria onwards and more. Among the entertainments and demonstrations there will be a coconut shy, traditional races (egg & spoon and sack), Zumba Gold and (hopefully) Line Dancing, a Keep-Fit demonstration, singing to sign language with the Fareham ‘SIGNalong’ group and a fashion show organised by our local charity shops. Children will be able to enjoy themselves on the bouncy castle and slide and receive training from Gosport BMX bikes. And, as mementos of a great day out, a badge-making machine will be printing out celebration badges for the children to keep.
It goes without saying that much will depend upon the weather but there will be a wet-weather plan so please come for all or part the day, whatever the weather! Everyone is welcome and, with any luck, it could turn out to be a gloriously hot, summer’s day without a cloud in the sky, just as it was when I went to my first Fete. And (who knows?) there might even be a hoopla stall with a plastic, egg-laying chicken as a prize. I can always hope.
As some of you may have noticed, I usually mention when writing how much I enjoyed the coffee. This, however, was a first! When I asked Kevin and Bridget Dean if I could pop over to find out more about St Faith’s new service, Sundays@11, I was immediately invited, not just for coffee, but for Sunday lunch!
Kevin (left hand side, far right of 5th row back) and Bridget (front row, far left) were involved from the beginning in a team brought together by Paul Chamberlain, the vicar, to plan for a new interactive service that would differ from the other three services and hopefully appeal to people of all ages. The original team included Paul and his wife Becca, the curate Steve Dent, Carolyn and Luke Marshall, Steve Bye and, of course, Kevin and Bridget. After three meetings the planning was completed and the first service took place last November.
The service pattern follows a similar format each week. After refreshments in the Bulson Hall, everyone meets in the church for an ‘all-together’ time with singing and prayers based on the theme for that particular week in the church calendar. Whoever is leading is often armed with a microphone and, walking around the church, might invite anyone who wants to give their thoughts on whatever is being discussed.
After this get-together, the congregation divides into groups: pre-school age, school age and adults (including teenagers) which separate into different parts of the building for their various activities. There is usually a choice of two activities for the adults. One group, for example, might have an ‘interactive’ sermon when, after a talk from the leader, people sub divide into smaller groups to talk about different aspects of what they’ve heard. Another group might opt for meditation where, concentrating on a candle flame or focusing on the act of breathing, people can clear their thoughts and enjoy the experience of simply being still while being led in a meditation about the theme for the day. In the final session everyone reassembles in the church for a time of prayer which is always interactive and might involve lighting a candle, writing a prayer, using water, stones or smells as symbols to pray with. After that there is more singing and a closing prayer. When the service ends, rather than rushing off, many seem keen to stop and chat about what they’ve been doing in their groups.
As we talked about the service over lunch, Bridget likened it to a family meal where everyone gets involved as opposed to a restaurant dinner where the patrons expect to be served. The hope is that many coming to the service will want to contribute in some way. They may wish to join the band (there are currently two trumpet players, a clarinet player, a drummer, three guitarists and a lead singer who happens to be Bridget). Others might want to work with children or greet people at the door. How the service develops depends as much on those who come as on those who lead.
There is something for everyone from the toddlers who sit on a mat at the front playing with toys and the children accompanying songs on percussion to old-timers like me. If you haven’t already been to Sundays@11, do think about coming. It’s different, it’s new and it really is for everyone.
As for Kevin and Bridget and their delicious lunch, what can I say? I can only admire the work and devotion they and the team have put into producing this service. If you haven’t been to St. Faith’s before or only to other services, why not try Sundays@11?
And finally, yes, after the meal I was offered yet another cup of coffee.
I was enjoying refreshments in the Bulson Hall after the 9.30 service at St Faith’s when Ian Hamilton, a Reader and member of our church ministry team, approached me out of the blue and suggested I might like to go with him to the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation at Whitehall Chase, Bordon, where he once served on their ministry team. Never having heard of the Acorn Foundation nor having been to Bordon, and guessing there might be something new for me to write about, I agreed. Weeks later I was in his car bound for Bordon not knowing what might lie ahead.
Eventually we pulled into the driveway of large house set in acres of parkland and on entering the house I found myself in a spacious lounge being offered coffee and biscuits by Florence, originally from Zimbabwe, who was now living nearby and had offered her services as a volunteer at the centre. Several people had already arrived and were seated around coffee tables talking to each other. After saying hello to some of them I decided to explore the grounds where I discovered wooded pathways to small clearings and a seating area around a pond next to a beautifully designed chapel attached to the back of the house. It was there that a service was to take place at 11.30 and so I abandoned the walk and joined the others in time for the service.
The service was led by the Acorn’s director, the Reverend Wes Sutton. After singing some choruses and listening to a lively address from The Reverend Elizabeth Knifton, Acorn’s Chaplain and Healing Advisor for the Guilford diocese, the service ended with the offer of healing prayers for any who wanted them. Several accepted the offer while others, including me, made their way to the kitchen area for a delicious buffet lunch. At this stage I had already arranged to meet with Wes and Elizabeth over lunch in order to find out more about the foundation and its work.
The house, I learned, had originally been a hunting lodge which was later left in trust for Christian activities. It was Bishop Morris Maddocks, author of The Christian Healing Ministry and first archbishop to become a healing advisor, who was offered the house with funding to further his work which eventually became the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation. The house, open for most of the year, offers various activities including retreats, quiet days, services of healing and wholeness, training for church ministry teams in healing and outreach work, e.g. training street pastors in listening skills. The team also travels to other churches. From my own visit to the Tuesday healing service, just being there in the calm and supportive environment was a healing experience in itself. But was I willing to ask for healing myself?
To ask for healing is not something I find easy but having heard that the chaplain, Elizabeth, suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis, and having recently contracted it myself, I couldn’t resist asking about her experience of treatment in the hope of getting some useful tips. I was happy to hear about the various drugs she’d tried but a little reticent when she asked if I would like healing. Much to my surprise I said yes, and with that I was whisked back to the chapel where she and another member of the team gave me healing prayers. And such was the experience I was glad I said yes.
On looking back over the day I can truthfully say it was good to be there. The Acorn Christian Healing Foundation undoubtedly helps many of those who make the journey. If you want to know more about its work there are three ways of getting in touch: telephone 01420 478120, email firstname.lastname@example.org or look up the website, www.acornchristian.org. You might be pleased that you did.
Lee-on-the-Solent is certainly full of interesting people as I discovered when I went to visit the staff at the Oxfam shop in Pier Street on one of the rare rainless days in January. Constance Williams, (pictured on the right with her husband Garrie at her side) and Mellanie Veck all work at the shop, Constance as Manager, Garrie as her Assistant and Melanie as a volunteer. Oxfam, founded in 1942 at Oxford, aims among other things to help impoverished communities develop self-sustaining solutions to their problems and assist those affected by conflict and natural disasters. And one of the ways in which it raises the necessary funds is though its network of charity shops.
Constance, who is soon to retire but plans to continue as a volunteer, was born in Denver, Colorado, where she attended University and gained her BA degree. For seven years she worked in the restaurant industry, married her first husband and had one child, Nicole, now 32 and currently teaching in New York. After working for another year as a clerk for Time Warner Cable she moved to Frontier Airlines, initially as a temporary secretary in the Purchasing Department and later as a Permanent secretary in the benefits department. After a period of temping when the company went bankrupt, she joined United Airlines in their Employment office and retired with them after twenty one years working for most of her time there as a Customer Service Representative. It was during this period that she met Garrie, a Ph.D lecturer originally from New Zealand, who was to become her second husband.
After their marriage Constance was transferred to Heathrow where she and Garrie purchased Primrose House in Brentford which they ran as a B&B for the next ten years. Not wanting to live in London after both had retired, they set about looking for the ideal place to settle and saw, among other places, an advert for Gosport. Deciding to take a look they drove down from London and, on rounding the corner at Daedalus and seeing the sea, they drove no further than Lee where, on the same day, they walked into an Estate Agent and bought a flat!
Like many others, Constance admits that she and Garrie have always loved charity shops and wanting to do something useful, she became a volunteer in the Oxfam shop at Lee where, in no time at all, she became Manager with Garrie as her deputy. The shop employs twenty volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. The younger ones may be there for work experience (one is working as a step towards getting the Duke of Edinburgh award) and the others for a variety of reasons. It goes without saying that more volunteers are always needed both in the shop selling and at the back sorting. Constance, or whoever takes over from her, would be more than pleased to welcome more volunteers and from what I saw, and what Constance was keen to stress, is that it really is a happy place to work.
Having been there on one particular day, I was only able to meet with two of Constance’s twenty volunteers, Garrie and Mellanie. Mellanie, I learned, lives in Southampton but chooses to work at Lee because she loves both the shop and the town having visited it with her parents on many happy occasions as a child. She worked previously as a legal assistant but, after a break from work, she sees volunteering as an ideal way of getting back into the swing of things, meeting people and learning new skills.
As always I really enjoyed meeting the Oxfam shop team and marvelling at the work they do voluntarily for the love of it. Most of my time was spent sitting out at the back in the midst of countless books and other items listening to Constance’s amazingly colourful history and wondering how many more people in Lee have tales to tell. And, yes, I did enjoy yet another cup of coffee but, after eating too much over, Christmas, I bravely declined the offer of biscuits on this occasion. The charity shops in Lee raise money for so many different worthy causes. Last year I learned of the Rowans and its work for terminally ill and their families. Today it was Oxfam and its work for the needy. All of them depend on the generosity of those who give donations or, like Constance, Garrie and Mellanie, work for them. They all need our support although, today, having spent time with them, I put in a special plea for Oxfam and its shop in Lee. If you feel you would like to support them in any way, please do!