Jane Scarth House – Romsey Schools Choir Festival – 2 hours

This is the second post about volunteering with Jane Scarth House (JSH).  In my previous post I took part in their street collection in April.

This time I was asked if I would help out with the refreshments at Romsey Abbey where the Romsey Schools’ Choir Festival was taking place.

The concert started at 7pm and I was told to arrive at the Abbey at 6.15.  There I was greeted and made welcome by members of JSH already present.  We had some photographs taken of all the helpers and then I was shown to the refreshments table where I would be stationed.

We would be serving red, white and rose wine, water and fruit juice.  It was extremely hot, so we were anticipating a very busy interval.


Ten choirs took part in the concert and it certainly was impressive.  The standard was so good and the commitment of both the staff and pupils was evident.  I was particularly impressed when one of the choirs sang Shenandoah in parts, unaccompanied and stayed bang on pitch – wow.

As can be imagined, photograph taking had to be very carefully considered at this event, so I contented myself with taking just one picture inside the abbey looking up as I listened to the young voices.


The abbey was pretty much full with both audience and choir members so it was all hands on deck to serve refreshments in the interval.  We managed to deal with the queues efficiently and I could see lots of donations going in the buckets.

The MC – sadly, I could not hear his name from where I was – spoke about the the pride in this particular event and the dedication of staff and pupils.  I think all were saddened to hear that a number of schools that used to take part now have NO music department.  If only the powers that be could have heard what I heard that evening.

The final item was ‘Something inside so strong’ by Labi Siffre, arr. Michael Whiteside, sung by all the choirs together.  This song was inspired by a documentary on South Africa and apartheid and is very special to me so I admit to having a lump in my throat as I listened.

I helped with most of the clearing up but left early as major roadworks and closures were happening that weekend that could affect my journey home.  I left with a smile on my face in amongst a happy atmosphere of excitement and exhilaration, with chattering, skipping children and their very proud families.

The proceeds from this concert were split between JSH and The Romsey Festival of Youth Music and the amount raised for JSH was £462.81.


















Litter pick no. 6 – 1.5 hours

During the week leading up to the litter pick we have been enjoying very fine weather but it was clearly saving itself for the Saturday because boy, was it hot!

The thought of putting on hi-viz vest and gloves was a bit daunting, but off we went, splitting into two teams.

Two  worked on one side of the dual carriageway by Millbrook station and going up toward the city centre and the rest of us worked the other side of the road starting at the railway bridge and working back towards our house.


This is an area we have covered on every litter pick so far.  Either side of the fence is a planted area that seems to be used for fly tipping and drinking judging by the rubbish found there.

Here we found 3 x 1kg bags of rice unopened, a bag of pasta also unopened and another bag of pasta that had split.  We also found untold numbers of glass bottles and cans.

Despite this, there was relatively little litter in this area.  It may be that the plants have grown up and we are just not seeing as much, but I am cautiously encouraged by this as I do feel the amount of litter in the places we are consistently covering is reducing.  Or, at the very least, we are keeping on top of it.

We did a lot of shade hopping as the heat was really fierce and even went into a local park where the trees kept everything lovely and cool.  We were delighted that there was little to no litter there.

We made our way back to the meeting place and picked around our road, which always makes me feel happier.  Still getting flytipping by the substation though…..


This next picture shows a problem that could be easily resolved/avoided…….


……if  companies doing work on the road simply took their stuff away when they finished.

I’ll mention this to the council as well, but I doubt it is their responsibility to dispose of it.

As we dashed in to wash our hands, drink loads and cool off, we tallied up – 3 bags of recycling, 1 bag of glass and 5 bags of general rubbish.  9 bags in all, pretty good all things considered.

Best/odd finds this month – two pairs lace knickers (!) and a pram mobile.

Another great pick with our brilliant volunteers.































Author Talk SeaCity Museum – 2 hours

I have no interest in climbing mountains, enduring hardship or trekking for miles but I do like to hear how others have done it.  The sheer determination and endurance of the people who do such things amaze me, so when I saw that there would be talk given at the SeaCity museum by mountain climber, Adrian Hayes  promoting his book One Man’s Climb, I thought I would volunteer to help set up for the talk and to greet people as they arrived.

The room where the talk would be held is normally the cafe at the museum, so the main thing to do was to remove the tables and rearrange the seating for the talk.  When I arrived, much of this had already been done, but I would need to help put everything back after the talk.  My job was to greet people (seems to be my forte) and show them where the talk was being held.  Unlike the Leonardo Da Vinci day  I volunteered at in May, they were not expecting a huge crowd, so once everyone was in, I could sit and listen to the talk. Bonus!

As Adrian explained about the challenges of climbing K2, the mountain which the book mainly focuses on, I began to understand why over 2,000 people have climbed Everest, but only 381 have climbed K2.   The second highest mountain in the world is located in an extremely remote place – it takes 8 days of trekking to get there, and that is before you even start to climb the mountain itself.  It is also extremely sheer and difficult, and the weather is very unpredictable.  The stats for K2 reflect this with a 22% death rate compared to Everest’s 6.5%.

I was interested to hear how the team go about climbing a mountain and the role the various camps have,  and I was astonished at the photographs.  Adrian kept saying
“there is a bit of flat here where the tents are” and I was thinking “that is still an an angle of nearly 45 degrees”. Snow, wind, ice and rocks, together with sheer sides to climb just had me shaking my head in disbelief.  Oh, and with all that is an elevation of 8,611 metres (28,251 ft), so the altitude sickness is crippling.

At the end of the talk, there was time for questions from the audience and then Adrian signed copies of his book.

All there was left to do was to restore the cafe back to normal, and say goodbye to all the new people I had met and worked with that evening. Another interesting and satisfying volunteering event.


Litter pick no. 5

Well, these months come around so quickly!

A quick post this time as there wasn’t much to report.

The day of our fifth litter pick was bright, sunny and very hot.  In fact, it turned into the hottest day of the year so far for us, so we spent much of the time shade hopping.

There were only 5 of us for this litter pick but that didn’t worry us too much.  John and I decided when we started this that we would pick regardless of how many people came and joined us.  With the summer fast approaching there will be holidays and gardening to do so we expect the numbers to be variable.

The monthly litter pick is keeping the roads near us relatively tidy, but fly-tipping in the area seems to be increasing. That is alarming and puzzling to me as we have an excellent waste and recycling centre very near to us.  The facility is free and easy to access; in fact there are people there to assist you with the rubbish so dumping it on the roads is actually harder than taking it to the proper place…….very strange.

We picked an amazing 13 bags of rubbish between us.  Of that, 2 bags were recycling and 1 bag was glass.


Best find?

Cinderella and Wallace

Cinderella’s glass slipper? A tiny Wallace of Wallace and Gromit.

I often wonder of the story of the ‘one shoe’ one often sees lying on the street.  I can just about understand removing both shoes because they are uncomfortable, but one?  Really uncomfortable walking with just one shoe, surely more uncomfortable even than no shoes………..?  I’ll never know.

We also found a large broken spirit level, a carpet grab rail and a couple of socks (not a pair of course).

Next litter pick is Saturday 6th July

Poster April - Sept 2019

N.B. Any of you checking the No. of hours so far page on this site will notice that this post takes me to 60.5 hours (cue fanfare!).  Nevertheless Gift of Time will continue, but it’s great to know that I have met my target so soon.











Concert preparations part two – 2 hours

This is the second part of the preparations for a concert I am taking part in with two singing friends.

I have mentioned our preparations for performing but the other crucial part of a concert is of course, an audience.  Not only does is enhance the whole experience for the performers, the more tickets sold the more money can go to the charity we are supporting.

It is a good sign that the venue is supporting the event when they ask for posters, flyers and ticket prices months before the concert, but it was a wake up call to me when I received such a request last week for our concert in September, and I admit to a slight feeling of panic.

So here was my next job – design a poster!  We also now had the name of the charity so it was a good time to start.

I am not an expert on this by any means, but it is something I have done many times for various events, so I have some idea of what is needed.  I am sure my posters will never win any prizes for design but they do provide basic necessary information:-

  • Title of concert
  • Performers
  • Date
  • Time
  • Venue address
  • Cost of tickets
  • How to get the tickets
  • Charity name, number and website

Discussion had already taken place with the other performers about the title of the concert. I asked for ideas from my fellow singers and they were very quick at getting back to me with some thoughts and suggestions, so the basic format came together pretty quickly.  However, desk top publishing is a great way to while away hours and hours of your time, moving things around, getting images just the right size etc., etc., so my claim of 2 hours for GoT is really very conservative, it was probably more like 3-4 hours.

It is important that the design is still reasonable (and legible) when enlarged or reduced as it will be used for A5 flyers, the front page of the concert programme, and possibly for A3 posters too depending on where the information may be displayed.  These days it also needs to be in a digital format that can be used in newsletters, Facebook posts etc..

Poster v2

Sometimes a design can look good on the screen but does not transfer well to print on a domestic printer or is cartridge heavy.   For this reason, I also have a print friendly version, perhaps without a background.  As we are not professional performers and are raising money for a charity, we are not keen to pay for professional printing.

While I was at my PC, I also took the opportunity to use a previous ticket template to create tickets for this concert.  I really do not want to be caught out a second time when they request tickets.

With some relief I sent the various versions of the poster to the church.  I was grateful that it all came back approved.  Another job done, back to the music!






Hedgehog Cream Tea – 5 hours

Since the millenium, it is a sad fact that here in Britain we have lost a third of our hedgehog population.  Even worse is the real danger that they could be extinct by 2025 if things do not improve.

Hedgehogs have two litters and the second litter is the one that is most at risk of not having time to gain sufficient weight to hibernate successfully.  When hedgehog numbers were high this was not a problem but now….

Over the last few years in particular, my friend Jane has been actively encouraging these endearing little creatures into her garden by providing food and water in her hedgehog hotel.  This resulted in her finding and rescuing 5 underweight hedgehogs in December one year and needing to find somewhere to over winter them.

December is an extremely busy time at hedgehog rescue places and many were full, however East Boldre Hedgehog Rescue (Facebook page @eastboldrehedgehogrescue) agreed to take them.  It is a longer story that that, but those are the essentials.

Jane and I visited Louise Godden at the rescue which is simply her home at East Boldre.  It is a self-funded, not for profit organisation and Louise admits to being unable/unwilling to say no when it comes to hedgehogs.  We wanted to raise funds for her and decided that a tea party with a talk from Louise, would be the way to go. She would bring a hedghog along and we would serve scones with jam and cream.


We  wanted to keep it small so everyone could sit comfortably and easily hear Louise. We invited around 15 people and ended up with 13 people including ourselves which was a good number.

As expected, her talk was very interesting and informative.  She is totally passionate about what she does and all her energy and time goes into caring for sick and injured hedgehogs.  Her goal is to make them better and then release them, so she only takes those who are vulnerable and keeps her interventions with them to a minimum.

Did she bring some hogs with her, and do I have pics?  Of course I do!




The boy hedgehog in the photo was very active and kept moving, but he and his sister were lovely. They are the result of Louise taking in one very fat female hedgehog who lost weight overnight by producing 5 hoglets! These two are four weeks old and cute as anything.

Here are a few things I learnt from listening to Louise’s talk.

  • Hedgehogs can travel about 1 mile nightly searching for food.  They need access to lots of gardens so we can help by putting a hedgehog sized hole in our fences to ensure they can get through.

More info on Hedgehog Street https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/

  • Louise explained that she can treat hedgehogs who have ingested rat poison, but not ones that have been poisoned by slug pellets so they have to be put down.
  • Do not feed  hedgehogs mealworms. Hedgehogs may love mealworms but they are not good for them at all.  They become addicted and their bones become brittle.
  • Water, water.  Leave shallow bowls of water in shady places in the garden.

If you are interested in donating to a rescue centre, you should check with your local one to find out what they need/use, but East Boldre can always do with:-

  • Newspapers
  • Hay
  • Old towels

There are many sites with really good information on hedgehogs, but this one seems like a good place to start:-

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society  https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/

We raised £110 for the centre which will go towards the purchase of an incubator.

Thank you to all who came, but special thanks to Louise, the hogs and the East Boldre Rescue Centre.

Consorte d’amici lunchtime recital- 13 hours

My husband (John) and I play regularly with another couple in a small ensemble called Baroque Ad Hoc.  We take part in lunchtime recitals in and around Portsmouth and Fareham. The recitals are free to all and the audience is encouraged to bring their lunch and come and listen to music played and sung by local musicians.

When one of our local churches started to do lunchtime concerts here in Southampton, we were keen to get involved, and so we made contact and offered to do a lunchtime recital in May.

Although we play recorders in many different groups, we needed to form a new one of people who were local and available to play during the day.

Surprising quickly we got together three other friends who are experienced players and John put together a rehearsal schedule, meeting regularly up to the concert date.  The name was John’s idea too – Consorte d’amici, the consort of friends.

I have spoken before about the time it takes to prepare for a concert and I have only claimed for the rehearsal time.  John was the one who planned the programme and made sure there were sufficient copies of music for everyone. He also liaised with the church.

We met six times in all, rehearsing for a couple of hours each.  The first rehearsal is always about just playing through the pieces, subsequent rehearsals focusing on specific areas as needed.

Consorte d'amici 2
Consorte d’amici

We were asked to provide an image for the church newsletter and Facebook posts and sent the above photo of all the sizes of recorder that would be played.

For many people here in the UK, the only knowledge of recorders they have is from playing descant recorders at school with 20-30 other children. Or as parents of aforementioned children listening to them practice at home, not always a positive experience! We are always keen to show the family of recorders and many people are very surprised to see (and hear) all the different sizes.

There were not many in the audience; the lunchtime recitals are still very new at this church, but those who were there were responsive and appreciative and there were more of them than us, which is always a bonus!

The church has a a very pleasant acoustic that really seemed to enhance the sound of the recorders. John’s preparations and rehearsals and the players commitment meant that we were well prepared and the concert went well.

I for one, thoroughly enjoyed playing in the space and hope we will be invited back. The recital was free with all donations going towards Christian Aid week.