READING RETIREMENT CENTRE    (registered charity No. 281830)


(Friends in retirement taking relaxation, exercise and education)

Firtree Newsletter                         March 2021                          Issue 505

Many years ago now, I asked my very proper great-aunt what she was going to give up for Lent. She wore horn-rimmed glasses and towered above me. “Colin” she said, “if there’s anything you should give up for Lent, you should not be doing it anyway.” This impressed me so much that I can still hear her 75 years later. Lent for me has always since then been a time to see what you can do rather than being negative. It still applies. Being 83 is no excuse, it just makes the answers a bit more challenging.

For example, we hear a lot about a ‘new normal’. Now what on earth is that going to mean for Firtree? Well, we hope the time will come when we can all meet again. It certainly means we will want time for a cuppa and a good old chat. One of the things I have noticed, though, is that many of us are not as mobile as before so I think we will want to keep our Zoom link so that those who are housebound can still join us.

Zoom will never replace the joy of human contact or spontaneous laughter but it has opened up new ways of being in touch without having to travel in the rain or for hours on a train. My family now meet every two weeks for a quiz and a chat. It is a great way to keep in contact but it will never replace the joy of a hug. It has actually brought old friends together again as with the writing groups I am involved with.

Another change, though not so much, has been the amount of television we have been watching, especially in the afternoon. We have enjoyed gardening, and new programmes such as the Bidding Room and the amazing skills of the Repair Shop. Countdown has always been a favourite and the thought of Anne Robinson becoming the lead is quite interesting; after all, she is old enough to join Firtree!

One of our silly pleasures is to count the number of times the word “gorgeous” comes up. Perhaps the lockdown has made us more conscious of the beauty that is around us. My garden has a long way to go but it is good enough for me.

Our monthly ‘music to movement’ group goes from strength to strength and the Tuesday talks have a good following. Some of our speakers have joined the audience for later talks, as when Kevin Little attended Avis Furness’s talk about the Reading Bridges. Mark’s quiz included some accordion music played by Bert, but sadly the technology let me down a bit and I lost two of the rounds altogether.

Roll on March and a welcome back to Jeff Rozelaar on what sounds a tasty talk on ‘Bagels and Bacon’ on the 2nd March (11.00 in case you forgot) and two weeks later on the 16th Katie Amos tells all about The Mansion House in Prospect Park.

Our meeting on 6th April is two days after Easter Sunday and will include some thoughts on Easter with readings and reflections. Our good friend, David Jenkins, will be leading that with help from you. If anyone can read a poem or such then please do let me know. We have not finalised the programme for 20th April yet.

With the vaccinations going so well, we might start thinking not only of whether we can meet, but how, and where!! I am hoping that we may be close enough to start planning ahead, but we do have to remember that we have been running outside our official constitution and one of the first things we must do is to hold a general meeting. Your committee has been running well over their appointed time and I am immensely grateful to them for their work, as otherwise we might well have had to close. Financially, we have been running on cash in hand and though we are reasonably safe we will have to decide how and when we start asking for club subscriptions again.

Now for something a little bit lighter – if you are getting worried about your memory fading (which can be due to not meeting other people) I have been known to take at least half an hour trying to find my car in a multi storey park, though on one occasion I spent the time trying to find my car only to realise it had actually been stolen!

John Campbell, a well-known Scottish writer, went into a book-shop one day and became engrossed in a little book he had picked up that it wasn’t until he had bought it, taken it home and read half way that he realised he had written it himself.

Richard Branson forgot to take one essential item with them on a round-the-world balloon expedition. Later he offered this advice to fellow adventurers: “If you are embarking around the world in a hot air balloon, don’t forget the toilet paper. Once we had to wait for incoming faxes.”

In 1982 a gunman tried to rob a Louisiana hotel, He brought along a black plastic bag in order to mask his identity but forgot to make holes for his eyes.

Sir Isaac Newton’s maid once found the great man standing beside a pot of boiling water. Baffled, she gazed first at the pot, which contained his watch, and next at his hand, which held an egg.

Finally, three quotes from Dorothy Parker, Phyllis Diller and Joan Collins:

“Time may be a great healer but it’s a lousy beautician.”

“I spent seven hours in a beauty shop – and that was just for the estimate.”

“The problem with beauty is that it’s like being born rich and getting poorer.”

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

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