READING RETIREMENT CENTRE    (registered charity No. 281830)


(Friends in retirement taking relaxation, exercise and education)

October 2020                       Firtree Newsletter                  Issue 500

Have you noticed the issue number? I started at 401 so my ton is up. I took over in June 2011 from the incomparable Peggy Brooker who was a member of Firtree for thirty-seven years (almost one of the first members) and editor of the newsletter for eighteen of them. I do not plan to be editor for that long as it would put me well into my 90’s. What I would like to do is to invite you to be a guest editor for one issue. You are all welcome to work with me on an issue.

We will soon be thinking of how to celebrate our 50th Birthday as it was on the 5th June 1972 that our life began. Perhaps we could put together a little anthology about where we were in June 1972.

But as for now in the grip of this never-ending pandemic, we struggle on trying to find ways of staying sane and staying together. I find it very difficult to believe anything we are told. The rule of six is so arbitrary and it penalises grandparents yet again. The idea that we should snitch (schoolboy language) on our neighbours if they happen to have more than six in their back garden is not going to build up good relations.  The Scottish version of children under twelve not being counted seems much more just. The new Covid wardens remind me of the old nursery rhyme – Wee Willie Winkie.

The garden group have had another socially distanced outing, this time to the Forbury Gardens where they enjoyed a conducted tour of the garden with Roland the head gardener followed, of course, by tea and cake. Next month the plan is to go to Thatcham Discovery Centre on Monday 12th October. Meeting for the minibus at the YMCA by 1.30. Please book with Pat or Gloria first.

Our other venture of running a Zoom group has over thirty members interested and there were about half that number tuned in to the practice round. The first scheduled talk will be this Tuesday 22nd September when I will tell the story of Noel Chavasse and his amazing family. Tune in from 11.00 as I will be starting by 11.10 and hopefully ending by 11.40 which is when our time will run out (we get 40 minutes free time).

On the 29th Mark will be giving a talk on Royal Reading and then we move to a fortnightly meeting – the 13th October will be me on a similar theme. That talk is called ‘The knight who introduced honour – William Marshall’. Mark is to arrange a talk for the following meeting on the 27th October. If these talks are successful then we do have a number of possible speakers available for the future

There are members who would like to be included but do not have a Zoom facility. If you know someone in that position, please invite them to join you; in fact, it may be nice to make it a coffee morning as well. Only six at a time though!

Sadly, the hopes we had of getting back to the YMCA or the chapel soon are diminishing by the week. What with Government decisions being haphazard, neither the YMCA nor the church are likely to be in a position to open up properly before Christmas. We might be able to meet if we had a space to do so but that would depend on the interpretation of the rule of 6. One paper suggests that you can meet with a larger group as long as you do so in groups of six. Such fun!

Reading is still proposing to have an Older Peoples day on Thursday October 1st. To see the programme, visit There is, through the same link, a virtual coffee morning at 10.30.

Even closer to home is the celebration of Ray’s 100th Birthday on October 14th. Ray still takes an active part in what we are doing. It was after all only two years ago that he stepped down from the vice chairmanship on the grounds that he was getting too old for the vice. We will remember him from Firtree with at least a big card which hopefully we will all get a chance to sign soon. Sadly, his eyesight is now not up to scratch for driving but he is still self-dependent and loves to chat as always.

Our other ‘centenarian (not quite the right word, but a suitable recognition)’ Bob, continues to enjoy being looked after at long last and when last heard of was in good health apart from a brush with Covid.

I am very tempted to say things about our political situation but I remind myself that we are not a political nor religious body except in the broadest terms but being trusted is not political, it is personal. We are a group because we can trust each other – there would be no Firtree if we didn’t.

A social worker friend of mine in London told me of her visit to two old ladies (probably our sort of age). They were both complaining about being lonely. She asked them both why not get together with Mrs so-and-so next door. The both replied that they have never spoken to each other because the other one had never spoken to them. If nobody speaks to you maybe it’s because you don’t speak to them. Janet tells me off sometimes because I talk to anybody. Shops, bus stops, front garden, I don’t care, and a lot of people talk to me.

 Quote – Waiter – How did you find your steak, sir?

Reply         – I just moved the potato and it was there.

If you want to know more about  Firtree, contact Colin Ferguson ( – 0118 9482557,  – Mark Bowman – 0118 9677130  –  or Liz Prior on 0118 942 2958

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