READING RETIREMENT CENTRE    (registered charity No. 281830)


(Friends in retirement taking relaxation, exercise and education)

Firtree Newsletter                         April 2021                            Issue 506

Greetings for this Easter edition, whatever faith you are or none. Spring is a time of newness, of the garden coming back to life and hopefully a time when we too can begin to emerge from the darkness of the Corona virus. We are now waiting for our second jab. I do hope you are all receiving it because the choice is grim. Failing to have the vaccine without a good reason is foolish. Yes, there are risks of you having a reaction, but without it you continue to run the risk of contracting the bug and risking your life and possibly the lives of those around you. The risk from the vaccine is about the same level as being hit by a bus when you are crossing the road.

Looking ahead, and that is something that I believe we can now do, we are aware that we don’t yet know whether we can return to the YMCA or even the chapel, but we have to plan in hope. Our club life may have to change, as some of our past activities will no longer be viable. I am assuming the bridge group will survive but the whist group is in need of leadership and more interest. Table tennis is still possible but numbers there were minimal.

I am hopeful that the Garden Circle will return, as with the craft group. Movement to Music has survived via Zoom and hopefully will continue to do so when we can meet “live”. Tuesday meetings should continue as they have done over the pandemic, but exactly how we meet is a matter for discussion. Getting speakers every week may be difficult, but continuing to use Zoom could make that easier, because we can get speakers from much further afield. We might have at least one week with just time to have a chat and a cuppa, and play cards or board games. Yes! Chat to each other, have human contact again. Please let us know what you think. Hopefully our choir will get going once we are allowed to sing.

Thank you, Banksy, for giving us something to smile about. Shows how good an idea it is to use the prison as an arts centre. The Hexagon has outlived its days, though I have enjoyed many shows there. As the prison is close to the old Abbey, the opportunities are considerable for art, drama, education. It was good to see Kate Winslet backing the scheme. Her grandmother was one of our first members and I recall Kate working with her mum, Sally, in the ‘deli’ opposite the Butts when she went off to New Zealand for her first film – Heavenly Creatures.

Our next Tuesday morning Zoom presentation is on the 6th April, when we shall have a Spring/Easter Show. Colin will be presenting, the Rev David Jenkins will share his gifts with us, and there will be music with two well-known hymns. Then, on 20th April, our good friend Nick Brazil returns to take us on a Balkan Railway Adventure.

On May 4th it is time to scrape the rust off again as Mark teams up with Bert for another QUIZ. And I believe that, on 18th May, Kevin Little will be telling us all about his life with animals.

Do you remember when the milkman came round with his horse and cart with the morning milk? Janet can’t quite recall it, but her father was one until the war gave him other things to worry about. For all the years since, the clank of bottles has been one of the welcome sounds of the morning. Until last year we used to see our milkman and even talked to him and paid him for the milk. He was part of the community and often the first to notice if anything was wrong. Last year I was told I had to pay by direct debit – the milk person became invisible.

This week, along with others, I had a message from Milk and More to say they were now going online and I could no longer pay by direct debit. I was definitely not amused. They already had an online business, as many shops do, but to insist that I should do my shopping online the very same morning as we were told how some thirty million pounds had been defrauded via online business was very bad timing.

I know that many Firtree members do not have computers, but you do have bank accounts. This, to my mind, was a thoughtless assault on the poor and aged, many of whom depend on their milk supply, especially at a time when we are all vulnerable. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with having an online business, but to abandon those who are most limited is thoughtless. And if it is done deliberately then it is callous and cruel.

It is happening more and more that it is assumed that everyone has a computer and while it may be useful to do so, there are many of us older folk who don’t have one. And even if we do, we do not want to pay online, mainly because of security issues.

Computers using Zoom have been a very positive experience and kept many people together but even that cannot be assumed or right for everyone.

On a lighter note – Regrets – My ageing parents have both become attached to some kind of pet, a dog or a cat, that they got after the kids had left home. They buy it sweaters and birthday gifts and they have conversations with it that are often longer and more meaningful than the ones they have with you

Quote – My parents did a really scary thing the other day. They bought a caravan which means they can pull up in front of my house anytime now and just live 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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