“A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret (and) that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret…” I often recall this quotation from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities whenever I look at a large urban conurbation (as in the accompanying photograph of central London looking eastwards) and wonder what might be happening behind closed doors.
Mary Kells, St Faith’s Assistant Curate, recently formed a women’s group in the church for those interested in doing something to help women in the community who might be victims of domestic abuse, feel isolated or be in any kind of need. Wanting a clear focus on what the group might do, Mary contacted people within the locality already engaged in helping others for ideas. Among them she visited Mandy Bright, Community Engagement Officer at the Gosport Voluntary Action group and Spa 61 run by the Harbour church, Portsmouth (with 61 referring to Isaiah 61.I if you’d like to look it up) which aims to help vulnerable women in the city including the many refugees.
After meeting these people, St Faith’s women’s group decided that it should focus on ‘Women in Lee’ reaching out to vulnerable local women by getting alongside those who might be suffering from domestic abuse, social isolation or any adverse predicament as well as building bridges between different sectors of our community (church, military, civilian, business, being just some examples). It is hoped that by arranging future fund-raising events and activities over refreshments, the group might attract women who are interested in actively helping other women in difficult situations. One of the avenues the group is exploring is that of encouraging links with Lee businesses by inviting shop owners to run events and demonstrations such as bread-making, wine tasting or flower arranging etc.
Members of the group held their first event to celebrate International Women’s Day in the Bulson Hall on 14 March. This was a great success with around 50 people attending and raising £220 for a local women’s refuge. At the meeting women enjoyed home baked cakes and tea and coffee. They were delighted to be addressed by the Worshipful the Mayor of Gosport, Councillor Kathleen Jones, Kerry Snuggs who talked about her inspiring initiative Acts of Kindness and Julie Caldwell from Hampshire Library Service, who informed people what they could find at their local library. Opinions were sought on the next moves giving plenty to think about for the future. Finally people were asked to vote for which out of the four name options the group might select. The winning option was Women4Women in Lee.
Although the current coronavirus pandemic has stopped the group from meeting, it has given them an opportunity to work on tackling social isolation caused by the pandemic itself. They are also looking forward to holding their formal launch event later in the year, if conditions permit, details of which will be posted on the St Faith’s Facebook page. If, after reading this, any women or local businesses would like to become involved with the group, they should contact Mary Kells on 02392 556151, the church office on 02392 556445 or email email@example.com. The success of the group depends on your support and I know Mary would be more than pleased to hear from you.
NB Hard copies of the magazine will not be published during the lockdown but an online copy of this article is available on https://issuu.com/bigvoicedirectories/docs/0520_lee_final.
I was naturally intrigued when I received a telephone call from St Faith’s Parish office with the news that a letter had been handed in for me to collect. With my curiosity aroused I collected it and discovered it was from a Lee resident who was helping to run a support group for grandparents estranged from their grandchildren. Explaining that the group offered support to such people and campaigned for a law to be enacted ensuring grandchildren’s rights to extended family relations so long as it was safe to do so, the writer hoped I might be able to promote the group’s existence.
The author of the letter, whom I subsequently met, wished to remain anonymous but having experience of being estranged, was concerned that there might be grandparents living within the parish of Lee who, for various reasons, are prevented from having contact with their own grandchildren. Such estrangements have many causes including breakdowns in family relationships, arguments and hurts which remain unhealed or divorce and separation. Those grandparents affected can suffer for years from depression, guilt (deserved or not), shame and feelings of being judged or for being at fault themselves whether they are or not. For such people meeting with others in similar positions provides an opportunity to share experiences, discuss feelings and/or receive advice. The Hampshire support group meets once a month at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth and offers practical and emotional support either at their meetings or over the phone,
Anyone wishing to take advantage of this support should contact Ken Ebbens who runs the Hampshire group and knows how it feels to lose contact after being prevented from seeing three of his four grandchildren. Ken’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and he’d be more than pleased to hear from any estranged grandparents since the group, which currently has only a small number of attendees, is keen to be more widely known so that others can benefit from its monthly meetings. The wider movement campaigning for a change in the law is supported by Esther Rantzen, who attends their annual meetings in Westminster. MP Penny Mordaunt is also one of many other MPs who are keen to fight for grandparent’s rights as well as the grandchildren’s rights in the hope that Parliament, being made aware of their plight, might act.
Those of us, like me, who have regular contact with their grandchildren, take the relationship for granted and know how precious it can be both for them and for us. Being involved in their lives, watching them grow and develop and sharing time with them is one of the greatest pleasures in life. We can only imagine how distressing it would be if we were to be separated from them and prevented for whatever reason from having any further contact with them. Those who are in that position often feel totally isolated, lonely, depressed or even suicidal without knowing what they can do about it. Attempts to take legal action can be prohibitively expensive and offer no guarantee of success. But no one in this position need feel alone. There is help and support, and if anyone reading this needs it or knows of anyone who might, contacting Ken and the Hampshire support group could be a first step. I’m pleased to have received the letter drawing my attention to the plight of such people, and I hope this article does something to increase awareness of the help that is available in our own locality.
Introduced in the 1300s, churchwardens could be regarded as rather formidable characters. Charged among other things with maintaining peace and order in the church and its precincts, they have the power to impose fines of £200 for riotous, violent or indecent behaviour and for molesting, disturbing or troubling the clergy. They also have the power to apprehend such miscreants and take them before the magistrates which today would involve making a citizen’s arrest and waiting for the police to arrive. Perhaps all this explains why Churchwarden posts are hard to fill!
Fortunately the churchwardens at St Faiths have never had to exercise these powers and when, in April 2016, Rita Morgan was invited to join Cliff Rook and become a churchwarden, seeing the offer as a privilege rather than a burden, she accepted.
Although Rita’s father was an Irish Catholic, as Rita grew up she joined the Guides and began attending the Church of England. She enjoyed her time at school until Year 9 when the family moved to Newcastle under Lyme. Having difficulty settling at her new school she decided to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS). Here, as part of the dental branch, she did well, grew in confidence, worked for twelve years in various places including Malta, Haslar hospital, HMS Daedalus and, as importantly, met her husband to be, Andrew, at the Royal Sailors’ Rest (RSR) in Rowner, They were married at Holy Rood in 1982 while Andrew was still completing his 30 years service, settled in Lee and now have four sons and three granddaughters.
Having spent a number of years as a full-time mother, Rita returned to paid employment 1995 working for Hampshire County Council as a Special Needs Officer (overseeing the statutory assessment process, school placement and additional funding for children with special educational needs). On retiring at the end of 2014, Rita and her husband have taken to cruising and have spent nearly a year at sea since then!
The Christian faith was always important to Rita but it wasn’t until her later years in the RN that she became fully committed after an experience that changed her life. From being involved at Holy Rood church, Stubbington, from 1995, she and Andrew moved to their ‘local’ church, St. Faiths in 2014 and, nearly two years later, she became a churchwarden.
Although churchwardens have the same powers as they had in the thirteenth century, Rita sees her role as one of care and support in a number of ways such as ensuring that church services run smoothly, keeping a pastoral eye on the congregation, providing a link between them and the clergy, doing whatever needs doing when no one else will and, most importantly, supporting and, if needs be, gently challenging the vicar. Being responsible for the buildings and its artefacts, she is also a member of the fabric committee, an ex-officio member of the PCC and part of the leadership group. The leadership group is currently engaged with seven other churches on a two year ‘Lead Academy’ learning journey which provides unique insights and tools to release churches to their full potential.
So what does Rita do with all her spare time?! If you pop down to the prom on Saturday mornings you’ll see her cheering on the ‘Park Run’ runners including her husband. ‘You should write about them in a future article,’ she suggests. Well there’s a thought. I think I’d rather write than run! Meanwhile I take my hat off to Rita. She’s hardworking, caring, lively and enthusiastic and we’re lucky to have her.
Having arrived at Lee Infant and Nursery school drenched in a downpour to meet the headteacher, Julie Roche, the immediate offer of a cup of coffee from the kindly administrative staff was more than welcome. Moments later I was sitting with
Julie and her deputy head, Margaret Rochon, hearing, among other things, that the school prided itself on welcoming everyone, something I’d already discovered!
Eager to tell me all about the school, I quickly realised how committed Julie was, how much she valued every member of staff, how much they cared for the children, all they’d achieved as a team during her two years as head and what they aimed to achieve in the future. The school had recently received an excellent Ofsted report and are among the nation’s top 20% in Reading, Writing and Maths. Not satisfied with that, her aim in the next Ofsted inspection or as soon as possible thereafter is to become an outstanding school. Such was the enthusiasm of everyone I met, I’ve no doubt the aim will be realised. To me it already seemed outstanding.
The school values based on LEAP (LEAP to success at Lee!,) are linked to the United Nations Rights of the Child (UNICEF) which aims to see that children are enabled to become enthusiastic learners, excellent communicators, active and healthy and part of the community. Before they progress to the next stage of education, the entire staff aims to help each child to be independent and resilient, collaborative in relationships, self-aware and equipped with learning skills for the 21st century bearing in mind that no one knows what changes will occur in the future.
Wanting above all for the children to enjoy learning, without sacrificing high standards in basic skills they are encouraged to learn through play and group activities. The school welcomes all children including those with particular needs who are cared for by specialist teachers and support assistants. In addition to the normal curriculum, there are numerous clubs including Karate, Dance, Cooking, Gardening, and Yoga. Taking over what was once the Sure Start centre, existing staff also run the Club in the Hub which provides breakfast and after-school care. The service has been extended to offer a school holiday club. More information on this and all the school offers can be found on its website: https://www.los-infants.co.uk/
Although it is a County and not a Church school, like the adjoining Juniors, Lee Infant and Nursery has close links with St Faiths where, as well as holding their harvest service in the church, they welcome visits from our ‘Open the Book’ team, assembly talks from our vicar Paul Chamberlain and visits to the church building when learning about the town’s places of worship. Similarly the church watches over the school with the vicar and two congregation members on its Governing body.
From the moment I met her, Julie stressed that she wanted me to write about the school and not about her although, after some gentle persuasion, I did mange to learn that she is married with three grown-up children, grew up in Thanet, Kent, with her sister, attended grammar school and trained at Sussex University. I also discovered that she prefers coffee to tea, counts Rudyard Kipling as one of her favourite writers and, although she rarely has time for television, enjoys watching Strictly Come Dancing while she’s doing the ironing. Wanting to know how she came to settle at Lee, she told me it was partly her love of being close to the sea that brought her along the coast to Lee. I’m glad it did. Rarely have I met such a committed, enthusiastic and caring head teacher and staff and I look forward to a future visits.
An Enjoyable Diet for the New Year
January articles often focus on the latest diet for shedding those extra pounds gained over Christmas. As a change I thought I would write about a shop which sells bread rolls, cakes, cream buns and all those treats that many of us enjoy throughout the year.
The New Cottage Loaf in the High Street is managed by Pauline Thurling who not only caters for the people of Lee but also donates to various good causes including St, Faith’s church. Pauline is the fifth of seven siblings, 3 boys and 4 girls. Her father was a civil engineer but worked as a teenager for Green’s Bakery, Gosport so perhaps baking was in the genes! Pauline, who has always lived in the Gosport area, was educated at Bay House Comprehensive and subsequently spent 17 years working for the Wing family at the Stoke Road Gallery which specialises in picture framing, artwork and art materials. She still remains friends with the family and caters for the annual children’s Christmas parties which the family provides at Community House, Old Road, Gosport, a local charity.
Now married to Ian with 2 children, her career was to take various routes before she finally settled for the catering business. Ian and his brother Roy had both studied at Highbury College gaining their City and Guilds diplomas, Ian in Restaurant Management and Roy as a Chef. Eager to use their skills they started in business together, at first working from home providing sandwiches for various clients and later, acquiring an empty shop in Brockhurst Road and creating the ‘Varieties’ sandwich bar where Pauline joined them. Approached by Vector Aerospace (now Standard Aero) to cater for their workforce, the business grew eventually supplying factories, shops, vending machines and other outlets.
After 8 years and wanting a change, Pauline trained as a phlebotomist and worked for the NHS in local clinics, hospitals and surgeries for the next 3 years. I couldn’t help wondering how many armfuls of my blood she might have taken during that time! Her career however was to take another turn when Ian spotted an advert for The Cottage Loaf and acquired it. Needing by now to care for her aging parents (her father refers to her as a proper Florence Nightingale) and her unwell brother, Pauline required more flexible hours and so left the NHS and returned to the catering world by joining Ian and Roy in their latest project. Between them they now run two shops, one in Gosport where Roy manages the catering side and helps out as chef and The New Cottage Loaf in Lee where Ian runs the business side while Pauline manages the shop.
Pauline was keen for me to express her gratitude for the way that the residents of Lee have continued to support the shop after the change of ownership, and to the existing staff for their ongoing support. As a token of her gratitude to the senior citizens of Lee, she also offers a 10% discount for purchases made on Thursdays.
How she manages to balance family and work requirements and still look so young amazes me. It was a pleasure to meet her. Before I left I asked if she took orders for individual items and, of course, she does. So I ordered a fruit cake (my secret passion) which few shops seem to sell these days. So, delighting in a delicious fruit cake, here’s wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year, and even if you did eat too much over Christmas, a little of what you fancy does you good and I’m sure The New Cottage Loaf will be able to provide it.