Made redundant from my “Job”

I went into the Trussell Trust this week and found out that they had appointed paid receptionists, so I was no longer needed.  I hadn’t had warning of this;  it was just thrown at me when I walked in and was introduced to the new receptionist!  They found something for me to do after I sat around for about 45 minutes, but it was not exactly stimulating…..  This is really quite upsetting as this was the most interesting, challenging and worthwhile thing that I do.  It is the variety of people that I meet and talk to that I have enjoyed and I don’t think they will be able to find me anything of the same sort, so it is unlikely I will continue going in.

On phoning the next day, to say that I wouldn’t be going in any more, they were (sounded) surprised that I had not been told!  They thought that they “had discussed it with everyone” and told anyone relevant that they could apply.  But they seem to have left me out.  There were two people doing it and they both assumed the other had spoken to me, I think (hope?).  Not that I would have applied, but it would have been nice to know that I would be redundant.  The volunteer co-ordinator, who I phoned, was terribly apologetic – I have heard her use just that tone of voice to other people!  She also thanked me for all I had done.

In fact she said that when the new receptionists have settled in there might be a roll for me back on reception  (maybe?).  I have suggested that they phone me if/when they get to that stage……  Meanwhile I will probably start looking for something else.

To Cornwall with “Wessex Warblers”

Early rising is not my thing, so having to get up in time for a taxi to pick me up at 6.40 for departure from the coach park was not good!  The two coaches left soon after 7.00 and met up with the third coach carrying the rest of the “Wessex Warblers” at Exeter services.

So who were the Wessex Warblers?  Basically those of Fiona’s Choirs who had opted to go!  The choirs?  Babes and Ballads, Guys no Dolls, Coffee Choir and the Devon ones – Seaton Babes and Ballads and Beer Seriously Occasional Singers (SOS).

Wessex Warblers Banner (made by Susie and Gill) in the wind at St. Michael's Mount

Wessex Warblers Banner (made by Susie and Gill) in the wind at St. Michael’s Mount

The coaches continued on to the Minack Theatre, but had to park at the bottom of the hill.  I joined the “loo queue” and was at the end. We then walked up to the theatre, having no idea how far it was, but as I was now near the end I found myself encouraging the slower and less active members of the group.  When we actually got to the theatre we not only found more loos, but also that the choir were half way through the first song!  By the time I got down to the stage area, they were half way through the second…. This was totally accidental and not planned, even though I don’t like the first song – Kom.  When I say I don’t like a song it usually means that either it is too high for me to hit some of the notes, I don’t know the notes well enough to be confident with it or, if it is an African one, that I don’t know the words.  It can be a combination of any or all of theses!                                                                               

Wessex Warblers seen from the top of the Minack Theatre

Wessex Warblers seen from the top of the Minack Theatre

Anyway, I then joined in with all the other songs.  I think we sounded great – the acoustic at the theatre was pretty good – not that I am an expert…

Fiona conducting the Devon Choirs while the rest of us listen

Fiona conducting the Devon Choirs while the rest of us listen

All the choirs have their own individual songs as well as the ones we do together.  We had a list of songs and Fiona chose which ones we would do, depending on the time and weather.  It was very sunny at the Minack and the stones seemed to reflect the heat so it felt as if we were cooking!  I would have burnt badly if I hadn’t put on suntan cream.

Minack Theatre seen as we were leaving

Minack Theatre seen as we were leaving

When we had finished, we were supposed to hurry back to the coaches so they could take us for our cream tea, but inevitably some people went for a paddle so we hung about for ages down by the coaches.  There was fortunately a nice shady tree.  The first coach eventually went, taking some from the second coach to fill the gaps.  When the rest finally arrived we drove to where we were having cream teas – and then found we had to wait about half an hour while the other coaches finished and they could seat us!  It was quite a good cream tea when we got it – wonderful scones, but the cream was a bit second class and only one cup of tea when we were all dying for more!

On finishing, we drove to Falmouth University where we were staying.  It took us a while to locate our flat, but that helped us get to know the others a bit.  On finding it, we had time to chat a bit more over the much needed cup of tea, collect money for the fish and chips and find the person we were giving it to.  Then time to fetch and eat the fish and chips – good ones – chat some more and the day ended.

Day 2, was a free day, but I had opted to take the coach trip to The Lost Gardens of Heligan.  This was a very good move and a wonderful day.  I had originally decided to go there because I wanted to see the pineapples grown using the heat of horse manure!

Pineapple grown using the heat of horse manure

Pineapple grown using the heat of horse manure

That was what I found first, (after a coffee) but walked through some flower and vegetable gardens to get there.  The vegetables were pretty good, and the pineapples were fascinating, as were the tool shed and potting shed.  I wish I had a potting bench like that.  After finding the Italian Garden and some of the original gardeners’ earth closets (!) I decided to head for the woodland walk (I am not much of a plant person) and the living sculptures – Giant’s Head, Mud Maid and Grey Lady.

The Giant's Head

The Giant’s Head

Continuing round the outside, I found some tamworth pigs, little brown ones, that are used to help clear the ground of brambles and such like.  Three were sleeping, but the largest was very busy and the others a bit busy.  There was a man there scratching their backs who I realised worked at Heligan, so we got chatting and I got lots of interesting information as we walked on.  He was actually head gardener of the Northern Gardens, which includes most of the formal bit.  I left him where I turned off for the Jungle, heading slowly back towards the entrance and lunch.

Looking towards the Jungle from the top pool

Looking towards the Jungle from the top pool

I took a somewhat devious route back to the cafe where I had a Cornish Pasty (necessary at some point on the trip), which was somewhat filling (!) and then some fresh (very!) local raspberries, which were really yummy and so tasty they had to be eaten slowly and individually.  After lunch I bought postcards and then wandered round some of the other closer places that looked as if they might be interesting, including the wildlife hide.

It is hard to pick out highlights, but I think the Fern Gulley, the Ram pump display (pity one can’t see the pump, but the explanation was fascinating), the pineapples, of course, and the pigs.

The Fern Gulley

The Fern Gulley

I also found it fascinating talking to the gardener and to the wood-turner and seeing the photos and reading the explanations of the things they have uncovered and restored, such as the Italian Garden and Northern Summerhouse.  I know that I saw less than half of the grounds and I only scratched the surface of what I did see.  I could easily have spent another 2 days there, but we had agreed to leave at 3.0 p.m……..

Back at the flat I had time to write most of the postcards before the others came back.  I was still rather full of pasty(!), so had a roll for supper after a stroll into Penryn.

We had a free morning on Day 3, so I strolled into Penryn with some others and we had coffee overlooking the harbour.

The afternoon was the Workshop in a church in Falmouth.  We were joined by Pip Wright and some of her Cornish choir people and Fiona and Pip jointly led the workshop.  Pip leads in a totally different way to Fiona and although some people didn’t like that much I found it very interesting.  Pip takes things much slower and makes sure that we have all got every note – which was helpful for my slow learning – but she is more serious.  I liked the first song she taught us – “Cornish Lads” (become a bit of an “ear-worm”) – but not the second and Fiona’s first was an African one which I didn’t pick up and I have no recollection of the second at all!  (Sorry, Fiona.)

I rather liked being able to sing the men’s part in the Cornish songs – I think I am really a tenor not an alto!  Perhaps I should join Guys no Dolls instead of Coffee Choir, but the name does suggest maybe not!  Perhaps I could do our warm-ups an octave lower than everyone else; I am sure Fiona wouldn’t mind (unless she would miss laughing at my attitude when it all goes too high) but I would have to persuade some of the other altos to join me, I think.

I was wondering if I would have stayed in a choir for 18 months if Pip had led it.  I would probably have been more confident about what I was singing, but it would have mattered more when I did it wrong.  And with Fiona, when I have a bad day and feel I have got none of it and most of what I have done was wrong, at least we have had a laugh (those jokes!) and a chance to chat.

We had cups of tea and cake provided by the Cornish people at half time and a buffet meal provided by the Warblers later on.  I don’t know what I was doing – chatting to some of the Cornish people? queuing for the one loo? helping set out the food for the meal? – but I turned round and there were Coffee Choir starting to sing to everyone!  I honestly didn’t hear or see that we were being called up.  The other choirs each sang their songs, too, and I managed to miss the calling up of all the Warblers, too!  How did I do that?  When it got to performing the songs we had just learned (failed to learn, in my case), I just gave up.  My reputation for missing these things started to build up…..

After the meal we had a Ceilidh, which was good fun, even (especially?) if we were fairly useless at going in the right direction at the right time.

Day 4 also started with a free morning.  I was going to take it easy and read for a while, which I did, but then decided to walk into Penryn.  I got lost on the campus on the way back, so it took much longer than I intended and I very nearly missed the coach to St Michael’s mount – but I didn’t!

St Michael's Mount

St Michael’s Mount

On arriving at Marazion, we either had to get the boat out to St Michael’s mount or wait for the tide to leave the causeway.  The second seemed fine to me, so I wandered round and bought the last postcards I needed and when the water was mostly off the causeway I walked across.  Did roll up my trousers and take off shoes and paddle a bit, but I did have a towel to dry my feet!  And I was on time for the performance!!!!

The weather stayed dry and sunny, if a bit breezy, while we were singing on the green at the bottom.  We had a fairly good audience, too.

Men's Choir singing, with other Warblers watching.

Men’s Choir singing, with other Warblers watching.

When we finished, some people went up the mount, but I went into the shop with another lady and then dropped into the loo on the way to the cafe.  This turned out to be a ‘good thing’ as it started to really tip down with rain, and we could stay sheltering, but I fear that some of the others got soaked, especially those who had started back across the causeway because they were a bit slow and needed time.  After it stopped, there was time for an ice-cream (essential when at the sea-side) before going back across the causeway.

Going back along the causeway.

Going back along the causeway.

We then found a place for a pot of tea, but had to rush it a bit to get the coach to go back to the university.

After we got back there was not much time to get ready for the hog roast as our attire was to be on the theme of “exotic birds”.  Some people really went to town on this, and produced some amazing, excellent costumes – I was really impressed.  I am not up to that standard, but like most people made some effort, by wearing as a cloak a long scarf with a picture of a peacock on, that I had found in the charity shop.

"Exotic birds"

“Exotic birds”

Fiona had found a costume that made her look like the picture on the banner.  Her T-shirt had a picture of 2 great tits on – bet you will never guess where they were!

Just like the banner?

The food was wonderful, although getting about 130 people fed took a while.  Pork in a roll, with various chutneys, apple sauce etc. and with salad, followed by cheesecakes.

Exotic birds eat hog roast!

Exotic birds eat hog roast!

At the end there were naturally songs to celebrate and thank Fiona as it was, sadly, our last evening.

The final day started with breakfast, as usual!  Then we had to strip our beds, pack and hand in our keys by 10.00.  Cases and us were loaded onto the coaches and we drove to Truro.  There was time for a coffee before we had our rehearsal.  Now Fiona had told me that I wouldn’t be able to miss the performance in the Cathedral – now would you see that as a bit of a challenge?  As I was with others they made sure I got to the rehearsal on time (early?).

Waiting for the rehearsal in Truro Cathedral

Waiting for the rehearsal in Truro Cathedral

I think that it went OK – but who am I to judge?  Naturally, we only did our “respectable” repertoire in the Cathedral.

Guys rehearsing in Truro Cathedral while the rest of us wait and listen

Guys rehearsing in Truro Cathedral while the rest of us wait and listen

After the rehearsal we had a short time and I needed to put my things down in the choir vestry and go to the loo.  And yes, I really did need to go and had been doing so for the last 15 mins or so…..  I might have allowed a couple of other choir members to go ahead of me in the queue, but 2 others wouldn’t go – they knew me!  We three were all a little late for the start!  (I do so like a challenge, don’t you?)  I did say I don’t like Kom, didn’t I?  And I wasn’t deliberately late – honest.  The queue was just too long….

I was asked if I was actually singing and the answer is yes.  Not every note in every song, but some notes in every song and all the notes in one or two!

The actual performance in the Cathedral was definitely our best.  Some of the ragged bits were smoothed out and it seemed to go really well, including the Community Choir version of the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah.

Choir view of the Cathedral

Choir view of the Cathedral

Then it was time to quickly get some food for lunch and wait for the coaches.  It really tipped down with rain as we were waiting – Cornwall crying because we were leaving?

We were home soon after 7.0 pm, having had a stop at Exeter services again.

So was it a good trip?   YES! YES! YES!   Many, many thanks to Fiona for all the fantastic organisation.  Everything seemed to go really smoothly – but I do wonder if it was like swans – lots of furious paddling under the surface.  And of course thanks for the permanent good humour and for all the fun and the amazing way she leads the choirs.

Would I go again?  Maybe……  The hesitation is the hang-up I have about performing.  Not quite sure why, but found myself really gripping my song folder in the Cathedral, which shows how up-tight I was.  I keep saying that I don’t sing in public, but that is not strictly true.  I sing in church, but that is as part of the congregation; and in my last school I invented and taught some songs to help the pupils learn some facts – but pupils do not count as “public”.  (One song turned out to be a real “ear-worm”, which was excellent for learning the fact, but very annoying…)  So what is the problem?  Mostly I don’t feel I know the songs or can stick to my part; I can read music well enough to know that what I am doing is not right but not well enough to correct it.  I think I worry about letting everyone down and however much everyone says it doesn’t matter, it does to me!  I can’t even pretend that I am a perfectionist, because I am not.  Probably failing an audition for the junior choir at school 50 years ago might have some relevance….  Anyway, now I have done it a few times perhaps I won’t mind so much again -maybe?  But it will probably depend on how many of the songs I “don’t like”!

And finally……. I managed a cream tea and a pasty because we were in Cornwall and an ice-cream for being by the sea; I met and talked to lots of new people and caught up with some I had known years ago; I got to know some of the Coffee Choir much better and we had a lot of fun.

Three years into retirement….

I saw an ex-colleague of mine when I was working in the charity shop this week.  She had just finished her last day at school and so had retired!  So how am I finding it, three years in?

I think I am happier than I have ever been – much more relaxed and the only stress is about workmen and when they will come and if they will do the work well.  Minor worries about holidays – will I get to the coach park/airport on time; what should I take; what will the weather be like….

I feel fit and healthy and have a routine of things to do each week – a timetable for an ex-teacher! – and two more possibles to put in.  Then there are a host of other things to do, time to visit or have lunch or coffee with friends, the freedom to not do any activity and go on holiday or visit family.  There are occasional days when I am a bit bored or lonely, as I have two days in a row with no activity, hence the “two more possibles”.  I don’t want to overdo it and get too tired though.  I am also talking to other retired people to find out what they do, in case I want a change from my present volunteering.

I thought I would have a category on this blog called “grumpy old woman” – but haven’t found anything to put in it yet!  I am working on it, but can’t find anything to be grumpy about except the weather, of course, but that is a given, being British.

I have found things to fill chunks of time, I have got to know more people and some of them provide stimulating company and I have found several roles, or perhaps found that I don’t need a role in the same way.  I suspect that I have also slowed down – which is good in some ways, but not when I have tasks to do.

Our rector is retiring in the autumn and said he talked to a vicar who had just retired to find out what it was like.  Apparently he said that after a few weeks he was in tears!  I can see why he might be, but given time to sort out ones life and activities there is a way to retire actively and gracefully.

So was retiring a good thing?     YES!!!!


Housegroup end of term barbecue

I am not usually that keen on barbecues, but with the very hot weather we have been having, I thought it might be quite nice to go to this as it was our end of term social.  And it was good.

D had got the barbecue going before we got there, so we avoided all the smoke and ‘getting it lighted’ problems.  B and D had also put chairs outside under a tree, so it was nice and shady.  We all (10  of us) brought food, and as well as the usual chicken joints, sausages and burgers (with all possible things to go with them), someone had brought some excellent kebabs.  There were 2 green salads, a tomato salad, various types of crisps and H provided his pasta salad special – which is a meal in itself.  As well as pasta, I found bacon, cheese, peppers, tomatoes and I am sure there were other things, but I enjoy the the combination too much to remember exactly what.  Then we had some yummy ice-cream (Waitrose special) afterwards, which provided an excellent finish.

So apart from the food what was so good?  Being outside and cool in the very hot weather, was one and also the good and easy company (we know each other quite well) and conversation.  After we had all finished eating, K and H provided a Bible Quiz game – to show that we are church linked, maybe?  It was supposed to be done in 2 teams, but we decided to do it all together.  On cards, there were given categories and we had to find the ten answers given.  This was not necessarily easy, as we had right answers that weren’t on the card, so they didn’t count!  For example, they had one category of “Cities in the Bible”, where Nazareth was right (K argued strongly that this was a village not a city), but Caesarea  and Damascus were not included.  Some of the answers were a bit obscure, too – “jawbone of an ox” as a “weapon in the Bible” – OK that was Samson, but where is “a dart” and why didn’t they include “a tent peg” if they are into being obscure?  Anyway we had a good time guessing what was on the cards and working out the last ones (with heavy hints from the person holding the card) until it got too dark to read the answers.  A different and amusing diversion!

Altogether a very pleasant evening to finish off the term.

A special session with the Coffee Choir

This week we had a special session with the Coffee Choir, led by a young man from Brazil called Pedro Consorte.  He has worked with ‘Stomp’ and is into percussion, including body percussion!  Fiona knew of him because he shared a flat with her son.  Having seen the YouTube clips but been reassured by Fiona that he would match the session to our (age! and) abilities I was not really sure what to expect.

I have to say that he was impressive – he managed to get a load of chattering ladies quiet and concentrating for an hour and a half without raising his voice!  OK , so he started by using a standard teacher trick of going silent and not starting or continuing speaking until we were all quiet and listening, but he held our concentration from then on.  I didn’t think it was possible to get us all so quiet!

He started by getting us to take off our shoes (if we wanted, and it was a warm day so most did) and shut our eyes.  He then led us to relax but to be aware of our bodies – breathing, relaxed jaw and neck etc. – and also of what was around us – mostly what we heard, but also what we were touching, where we were in the room etc.  It was very relaxing and if he hadn’t continued talking I think I could have fallen asleep!  Still with our eyes and mouths shut we had to produce a note and listen to the rest of the group so that our note blended with the rest.  We were then encouraged to change notes, to open our mouths to project our note, to change the volume but to continue blending with everyone else.  We also had to try to feel the vibration of the note in our bodies. (OK, I failed on that bit!)  I think the idea was to make us aware of ourselves as part of a group, so we work together.

That part took about 45 minutes, but it didn’t seem more than a few minutes!  Pedro then gave us a demonstration of his “body percussion” – fun to watch.  He then gave lots of rhythms to copy – some clapping, some vocal sounds, some tapping feet or fingers on arms or hands on legs etc.  I don’t think he ever actually said copy them – just made it obvious that we should.  They weren’t  too difficult and there was a considerable variety.

We were already sitting in a circle around the room and Pedro joined us and he started clapping a rhythm, which he kept up and then going round the circle we had to join in with clapping our own (simple) rhythm which would fit in with everyone else’s and which we could keep up.  He then split the room into quarters and each quarter in turn continued while the others stopped – and then had to re-start with the same rhythm they had used before.  He then did the same but got only 2 to 4 people to continue while the others stopped.  (At one stage I was one of only 2 clapping – very exposed!)  Good for getting and remembering rhythms and for listening to others and fitting into a group.

The final thing was where we had to make sounds like rain…..

Just as Pedro was drawing to a close, Q’s mobile went off – she was so embarrassed.  I can’t think of anyone in the group who would have been more embarrassed by it!  We just laughed and finished.

It was an interesting, different and enjoyable morning.  Glad I didn’t miss it.

Holiday in Lulworth Cove

When retired we can have as many holidays as we want/can afford!  And they don’t have to be in school holidays, either – Yeah!  If one is only a volunteer, we tell the people in charge when we are going and nothing has to be booked as it does if one has a job.

My first holiday this year was with hf holidays to Lulworth Cove.  This was a 4 night, 3 day walking holiday and was in one of their new locations.  The hotel was not yet up to their normal high standards, which was disappointing, but the walks, leaders and company were good.  I chose “easy” walks every day as I am never sure if I can walk the longer distances.

The first day started at Lulworth Cove and we walked across the military ranges, passed the Fossil Forest and back to the hotel via West Lulworth.

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove

The weather was mostly dry with one dribble of rain – not enough to get out a waterproof for.  It was quite windy, though, so not all that warm.

The afternoon was to Durdle Door and back – with time for an ice-cream, which is, of course compulsory on a sea-side holiday.

Durdle Door

Durdle Door


The second day we had a coach to Corfe Castle.  As I was on the easy walk there was time to go to the station to see the steam train arrive and leave.

Steam Train at Corfe Castle station

Steam Train at Corfe Castle station

I really liked the pile of old trunks on the station – reminded me of those we used to have at home and how luggage used to be sent in advance in a trunk like these.

Trunks on Corfe Castle station platform

Trunks on Corfe Castle station platform

We looked at the Castle from the outside, but didn’t have time to look round, but it was a landmark looking back for the first part of the walk.

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

We then walked on to Studland, by the sea.  There were excellent views all day, but again it was windy and quite cold and we had to find a slightly more sheltered place for lunch, rather than their usual stop.  As we headed towards Studland we had very good views of Swanage.

Studland Church

Studland Church


The third day took us from the viewpoint of the Cerne Giant and around it so we were walking below it at one stage, but had no idea it was there except that we saw signs saying so!

Cerne Giant

Cerne Giant

We had time in Cerne Abbas at the end to have a good look round and also have a cup of tea, while waiting for the other groups to arrive and before going back to the viewpoint to get the coach.

Row of houses in Cerne Abbas

Row of houses in Cerne Abbas

All the walks provided good views, but it no doubt helped that the weather was dry and clear.  It was also not too hot, which might have caused a problem as some of the walks were quite exposed.  I hadn’t realised that Dorset was so hilly (!) – although I knew the coastal path was – and so attractive.

The final night we had a barbecue and a (sort of) boules competition.  It got a bit cold towards the end but good fun anyway.


Would I recommend it?  If you like walking, yes, but I would probably wait a year or so to go to Lulworth until they get the hotel sorted out.


Receptionist for a Charity

At about the same time as I volunteered in the second charity shop I also volunteered to work for the Trussell Trust.  This again involved filling in an application form and giving references.  I thought that I would be offered a task with the food-bank but was actually offered several positions, most of which were at their shops and I decided another shop would just confuse me!  I was also offered the task of being receptionist and as this seemed like a new challenge I went for a “taster” and decided that this was something I would like to try.

So, I now volunteer there as receptionist one morning a week.  This is probably the most interesting and challenging thing that I do at the moment.

The Trussell Trust is known mostly for its food-bank network, but it also does work in Bulgaria and with the local community.  The website describes the work they do.  The people who originally set it up went to my church, so I can remember some of the early days, but it is now much bigger and has changed quite a lot, although it is still a Christian organisation.

As receptionist, I never know who will be on the phone and it is my job to answer it and pass them on to (hopefully) the right person.  It can be someone needing food or wanting to know how to access it; someone wondering how to set up a food-bank; someone wanting to volunteer or offering furniture for the shops, just as examples.  It is also my job to greet people who come through the door and again there can be a large variation.  Some have come to an arranged meeting with a member of the staff, some are the usual volunteers (some of whom have social or physical problems), sometimes it is a person bringing food and recently work experience students and the lady from Tescos about the food collection.   I try to be cheerful and welcoming and get them to sign in!

When I am not either on the phone or welcoming people, I am given administrative jobs to do.  This has been quite varied and has included entering information on databases, cutting and folding birthday cards, doing some laminating, stuffing envelopes, counting tea bags into bags of 40 (!) and phoning to get references for new volunteers.  I am not always kept busy, but usually have something to do.

I really like the variety of things to do and the variety of people to meet, although I have had one or two distressing phone calls – but that is what the charity is about.

Would I recommend it?  YES – this fulfils the criteria for things to do – meeting people, providing a useful role, filling time….

Another Charity Shop

Having given up my job, got the work on the house under-way and recovered from the operation, I quickly got bored again.  The obvious answer was to volunteer at a charity shop again.  There are lots of charity shops in T so it was a question of which one to choose.  Some of them seemed a bit posh or arranged their clothes by colour (which I find really irritating) or were in the wrong place so weren’t very busy or were for a charity I didn’t care about.  That left the small, crowded, busy British Heart Foundation (BHF) on the High Street.  Just my sort of place!  So I went in and offered my services(!) and was accepted.  This again meant filling in an application form and also going through an induction – mostly reading a folder of information.

I was initially asked to  go in on a Wednesday, but that was soon changed to a Friday afternoon so that I could work on the till.  This is actually quite a good time to be on the till, as it is usually quite busy.  The best days are when it is sunny and the end of the month so people have just been paid!  I think some people finish early on Fridays, so have time to trawl the shops.

After a while I discovered that Tuesday afternoons were rather short of people, so I started going then too.  That is to work upstairs  i.e. sorting the things that come in, putting tags on clothes and other “behind the scenes” activities.   There is usually a lot of chat and I have great fun trying to wind up the manager, A.  Don’t worry, she gets her own back!

It is interesting seeing the similarities and differences between the 2 charity shops where I have worked.  Both have managers who are “characters”, but in different ways.  The clothes and other items for sale are prepared in the same ways – sorting, putting on labels and hanging up clothes, steaming the clothes, pricing.  The numbers of items put out each day is counted and there is a prescribed number.  There is a target for the money to be raised each week – but in the first shop this was only for donated goods and in the second it is for everything.  In the second shop they also have “van goods” collected from charity bags given out and collected from house to house collections, but in the first shop there were goods passed on from other shops.  T is apparently too far from the other nearest shop for that to happen.  In the second shop the labels and the code for the till have to show if they are donated goods or van goods.  And there is also “gift aid”, where people who pay tax have donated goods and extra money can be claimed from the tax man if the goods are sold.  These obviously have special labels with the unique gift aid code for each person so the money can be claimed – the joy of computerised tills!

In the first shop, the only paid staff were the manager and a lady who was in charge (and only paid for) Sundays.  In the second shop there is a manager, an assistant manager and an assistant who are all paid.  The last 2 are part time, with the last one mostly covering Sundays.  There are more paid staff because they take  more money!

In the first shop, the last thing I was taught to do was sorting the goods coming in, but that was the first thing in the second shop – probably because there is so much more, with all the van goods.  Because I know my alphabet (!) I very often am asked to do gift aid – it involves finding the appropriate sheet from a filing cabinet with that person’s gift aid stickers to put on the labels.  When I am feeling lazy/tired I beg to put labels on and hang up clothes – it is fairly mindless so can be done with little effort.  A (the manager) put me on pricing bric-a-brac the other day as she thought I might like a change, but I hated it so much that I really complained and (pretended to) threaten to walk out.  She has taken the hint and I have not been asked to do it again!

I have made sure that I have not taken so much responsibility in this shop and that I am not available to call on at any time.  I actually haven’t learned to do all the things there are to do and don’t do steaming (I don’t like that much either and am very slow) or pricing.

Would I recommend it?  Probably, but it is not for any one who doesn’t like handling second-hand clothes!  I enjoy it, especially the contact with customers, staff and volunteers.

Have an operation!

Not something you really want to do, but better to get things sorted than leave them!

I found that a mole on my leg had changed and took it to the doctor.  By the end of next day I had seen a consultant and had the mole removed!   About two weeks later I went back for the next hospital appointment and was told that they had removed a melanoma. Although it was not very deep, it was recommended that they remove a larger and deeper area of skin round the mole to make sure that all the cancer cells had been removed and also that they carry out a “sentinel node biopsy”.  This means that they remove a lymph node or two which drain the melanoma area and look at it to make sure that the cancer has not spread.

It wasn’t urgent, so I had the operation about 2 months later, after everyone had had their holiday and not immediately after the doctors all change their posts!  It was supposed to be day surgery, but as there was no-one to look after me it was arranged that I would stay in overnight.  That was a good thing as the wound where the extra skin was removed started bleeding and had to be re-opened and sealed.  That bit was under a local anaesthetic whereas the earlier bit (especially the sentinel node biopsy) was under a general anaesthetic.

I was discharged the next day and friends, especially K,  were very supportive and took me places and helped with shopping.  It took me longer than I expected to get my energy back and it was 3 weeks before I could drive and go to the gym again and 2 months before I started doing anything serious there.  It took about 6 months before I got back to the programme I had before the operation – but maybe I didn’t try that hard!

Apart from two scars, everything now is back to normal – except that I will be going for check-ups for the next 5 years.   The most annoying part of that is the large parking charges at the hospital and that one can wait a long time for about a five minute appointment!   Also travel insurance needs either a medical questionnaire or to accept not being covered for any effect of the cancer.


Would I recommend it?   Well certainly I would recommend going to the doctor as soon as possible.  The sooner you go the less that needs to be done!  If I had left my mole then it might have spread.  On the other hand, operations are not to be recommended if you don’t need them!

I was also very much supported by friends and their prayers, and knowing that was very good.

Join a (Community) Choir

I was talking to an ex-colleague and she said her husband was a member of a choir where one didn’t have to have an audition or be able to read music.  That was a men’s choir, but she said there was a women’s equivalent.  On looking it up on the website, I found there were 2 ladies choirs  – one in the evenings and one during the day.  I contacted the woman in charge  and went along to try the day time “Coffee Choir“.  We have coffee first and then sing!

I have now been going for 18 months.  If it was all taken very seriously I doubt if I would have lasted more than 2 weeks, but we have a chat over coffee and get to know each other and Fiona, who leads it, is very tolerant and encouraging, so we don’t get told off for singing wrong notes!  Other people are tolerant, too, which is a good thing as I sing lots of wrong notes and have difficulty sticking to my part.  N, who usually sits next to me, says I am improving, but I am not convinced of it.   I am an alto, so we rarely get the tune and tend to stay on one note for a while, which does give me a chance to find it!

I also have problems reaching the higher notes – even the C above middle C is too high for me!  Give me a nice low A or G any day.  Fiona knows I can’t reach the high notes and sometimes in the warm up, when she knows I have given up as I can’t reach the note, she continues to go higher and  higher and just gives me a grin!  I have found another alto who has the same problem, though, so that makes me feel better – a bit.

Most weeks Fiona has a joke to tell us – many of which I couldn’t repeat – and we generally have a fun time.  How many other choirs sing “sitting shitting chickens” as one of their possible warm ups? Or have a conductor who wears pink boots?  A dressing up competition and Christmas quiz and food have all featured.

The choir does do “gigs” but I have opted out of these, partly because I am so bad and partly because they are at times when I cannot make it.  I guess there will be one time when I won’t be able to find a good excuse…..

Definitely recommended!