Litter pick no. 4 – 0 hours

I was missing from the litter pick for the month of May as I was volunteering at the Leonardo da Vinci day at the Art gallery.

It did still go ahead with my husband John taking the lead for me and they had eight people in all picking 15 bags of rubbish.


The above photographs show just a few of our enthusiastic volunteers.  The best finds this month were half a football, a kitchen sponge and a tiny pair of sunglasses  (we assumed belonged to a Barbie type doll).  In addition they did find another supermarket basket but that, as with the previous month’s basket, was taken from our garden before it could be picked up by the council……odd.

Sadly a little corner of our road which has an electric substation on it, seems to be attracting the attentions of a flytipper.

The photographs show the before and after of our March litter pick……….


………and this month’s ‘after’ photo.

Flytipping by business park

The council have been informed and they did pick up the rubbish for us so it is looking well again.

It may be interesting to note the administration for a litter pick such as ours.  Although I  have not claimed any hours this month for the pick itself, I did all the administration for it as usual.

Here are some of the things I do before and after a pick which may be of use if anyone out there is considering setting one up themselves.

After we have had a pick it is time for me to put a new event up on and Keep Britain Tidy websites.  To date we have only had one volunteer come through these sites, but it is where I looked when I was searching for a local litter pick so I am hopeful that we will get more volunteers this way.  The sites also give us an opportunity to add the number of bags each month and upload photographs of the volunteers and the bags.  To date we have picked 49 bags of rubbish.

About two weeks before a pick I send a copy of our poster to the local church and school.  This gives them the chance to put this on their respective Facebook pages and make an announcement in either assembly or service.

Poster April - Sept 2019

Both organisations have already received this of course, but it serves as a reminder that it is coming up again.

The week of the pick I put up a post of Facebook and share it with two local community pages.  We have had much interest and several volunteers by doing this so it is by far the best way of getting the message out there.  I also email our list of friends who have been stalwart in supporting our efforts with this.

After the pick, I put together another Facebook post giving details of the numbers of bags collected and thanking everyone who took part.  There is always lots of likes to this and many comments of ‘thanks’ and ‘well done’ which is pleasant to see.

All the above takes about 1.5 hours a month – not too bad and the results are definitely worth it.


















Leonardo da Vinci Day – 5.5 hours

In 2018, it was announced that the Queen’s collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings  (usually held at Windsor castle and not open to the public) was to have its largest display.  To mark the 500th anniversary of  Leonardo’s death there were to be 12 simultaneous exhibitions held in cities across the UK.

Southampton was lucky enough to be chosen to host one of the exhibitions of these amazing drawings.  The exhibition opened here in February 2019 with its last day being Monday 6th May, a bank holiday in the UK. It was decided to hold a Leonardo da Vinci day on Saturday 4th May where there would be various activities to take part in as well as the exhibition itself to see.

The date did end up clashing with our fourth litter pick but I left that in the safe hands of my husband and off I went for my first time volunteering with Southampton Arts and Heritage.


Although the gallery was open from 10am, the activities did not start until 11. As I arrived it was clear that many members of staff had already been there for quite some time preparing.  I was immediately given a pair of scissors and some badge designs to cut out.

I had only just got started when the co-ordinator called the volunteers together to allocate tasks.

My job for the day was  to greetpeople as they walked up the stairs to the gallery, give them a plan of the gallery and tell them about the various activities that were going on during the day, as well as directing them to the Leonardo exhibition. There were activities mainly aimed at children such as drawing robots, badge making and other arts and crafts, but I thnk the biggest draw for people of all ages was the life sized model of da Vinci’s helicopter.


This incredible model was brought in by a group called Leonardo’s engineers.  They were in period dress and really added to the whole day.  In addition they had brought along wooden pieces so people could have a go at building a bridge to his design.  The sound of falling bricks punctuated the whole day and we were all attempted to shout ‘Jenga’ each time.

With me at the top of the stairs were volunteers ‘clicking’ people in and out of the gallery so we could get an idea of the footfall, and by 11-11.30 we had already had 200 people ‘clicked’ in.  It was going to be busy.

Around 11am, a queue to go into the exhibition suddenly formed.  There was no charge to go in, but they did need to limit numbers in the room and the stream of visitors was continuous.  That was my cue to try and direct people to the mini talks that were being held on Leonardo’s artwork in the Baring room.  I encouraged adults particularly to do that in the hope that the queue may have eased a little when they came out.  However, that queue was constant until lunchtime when it shortened a little for about half an hour.

The atmosphere was good humoured and pleasant even in the queue and I had that marvellous helicopter model facing me the whole time.

At 3.00pm the activities all closed down and they cordoned off the helicopter.  It had taken two hours to put it up and it was going to take two hours to take it down….

img_0323.jpg…..and the visitors kept coming.  The activities had stopped but the gallery would be open until 5pm, so the staff would be there for some time yet.

I left at 3.30 with a happy heart although I am keen to know how many visitors we had in total.  I am hoping the volunteer co-ordinator will let me know.

In case you are wondering, I went to see the drawings myself early in March, and I am so glad I did.  For me, they feel intimate in a way that is difficult to describe, perhaps because they give you an insight into that amazing brain; his thoughts and ideas.

They are generally quite small (he had to make his own canvas by grinding old cloth) and incredibly detailed with descriptions/instructions written in tiny mirror writing.

From May 2019 there will be a display of 80 of the drawings at the Queen’s Gallery at  Buckingham Palace.   In November 2019, they will move to the Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of holyroodhouse, the largest display of Leonardo’s work ever shown in Scotland, and they will be there until March 2020.


 Edit: just heard that we had over 2,000 visitors so I must have said ‘hello’ around 1500 times!























Concert preparations. Part one – 4 hours

In a previous post I talked about the amount of time and effort that goes into preparing for even a short performance.

This post is the first of two or three that will follow the preparations for an evening concert I am doing with two of my singing friends.

The concert will take place in a lovely church in Cadnam where I have performed before and where the Soup Cafe took place in my second post. The church supports various charities throughout the year and the concert’s proceeds will go to the particular charity in the month of September when the concert will take place.

Our first meeting took place over a cup of tea and a scone in a local cafe where the aim was to agree a date for the concert. This is quite often the trickiest bit as all of us sing/play with different groups, the church has to agree a date that suits them and of course, our accompanist needs to be free that day as well.  We managed to put together a few possible dates with remarkable ease – amazing.

The three of us did a concert together last year along similar lines so much of this first meeting was discussing what had worked and what could be improved upon.  We then arranged to meet in a couple of months to talk about the programme. During that time, I was to contact the church and our accompanist and firm up the date which I did – Saturday 28th September at 7.00pm.

Non singers may find it surprising that we start preparing for a concert this early, but I assure you, it is absolutely necessary.  The songs have to be learnt and that is not just about the tune, it involved much work training the voice to sing the songs and memorising the words.

Putting together a programme feels very difficult at first.   I think it is a bit like a writer sitting down at a blank page and not knowing what to start with first. We know we want about 45 mins of music either side of a 10-20 minute interval. Allowing for introductions and ‘moving about’ between items, that means around 12 items per half.

We talked about a theme for the programme, the songs each of us would like to sing and possible duets and trios.

The next step is for each of us to put together a list of songs we should like to perform, about 6 or 7 solos each.  For my part, my singing lessons will now be devoted to trying out various songs so I can decide which I want to include.  Our next meeting in May will involve trying out the duets and trios so we can make decisions about those and/or find other pieces that may work.





Litter pick no. 3 – 2 hours

Although our March litter pick had gone really well, only a few of our pickers were local to our area.  The rest were our wonderful friends who are always amazing keen to support us  and while I am very grateful, my aim for April and the following months was to get the word out to more of our neighbours.

I mentioned in my previous litter picking post that I had found some residential Facebook pages and after posting the results of the March pick together with photographs, I had lots of likes and a few people offering to help with the next one.  I also registered the group with and Keep Britain Tidy.  All in all, out of 12 volunteers, there were six people who were unknown to me coming on our litter pick and that was great news.

I also contacted the local school to ask if they would be interested, but that is tricky as we pick on a Saturday so they couldn’t help us actually as a school event.  However, they promoted the pick to their parents in case they wanted to join in with their children and we may organise a school litter pick one afternoon.

As we get more used to doing these events, we may need to do less preparation, but at the moment, we drive around looking at areas that may need attention, we prepare all the bags with the ring opening devices.  These are great by the way, and for those who don’t know what they are or how they work, here are some pictures.

The rings come in two parts…..


You pull the edges of the bag up and over the black ring………..


……….and then push the green ring over that locking the ring in place and keeping the bag open.  Clever stuff.


Next is to make sure there are spare bags for people to take with them, and I also printed out flyers and the small information cards for everyone so they all had my contact details.   John and I had a rough plan of where to send the various teams as they arrived.


Despite the weather being pretty awful during the week, Saturday was bright and it was pleasing to see people arrive ready to pick.

I gave them a general chat about being safe – not picking up broken glass or syringes, or in fact anything they felt was unsafe for whatever reason. I also thanked them for coming, and then off everyone went.  I hung around the meet point to wait for those who had been delayed.

Most of the area picked this time was around the residential streets, so there was less big stuff, no tyres etc., however, one of our pickers did find this……..


Yep, that’s a sledghammer, our best find this month.  There was also rather a nice supermarket basket and far fewer glass bottles. this time.


This pick yielded fifteen bags of rubbish, sadly more general waste and fewer bags that could be recycled.

We did however meet some of our neighbours who we would not have met were it not for this event and that gave me a great feeling of community.  This is the sort of thing I hoped would happen when I started Gift of Time – new experiences with new people.



Jane Scarth House – street collection

Jane Scarth House (JSH) is a local charity that provides emotional and practical support to anyone whose life is affected by cancer.   It is based in Romsey in Hampshire which is a market town near to Southampton where I live.

I have known about Jane Scarth House for years and the amazing work they do so I knew when I started GoT that I wanted to give some of my hours to volunteering with them.

This post is about the first of two volunteering opportunities I have planned with JSH.

My remit was very simple – holding a collecting tin for one hour in Romsey on their street collection day in March.

I was contacted several weeks beforehand to make sure I was still happy to volunteer and then rung again the week before to confirm what time I would be collecting from and to, and the time I should be at the centre to get my tin.

Ten minutes before my start time I went to the centre as directed and was issued with my tin.

Collection 2

The lady organising the street collection was exceedingly busy, but she seemed to manage everything ver cheerfully without getting the least bit flustered.

Instructions were simple – go to your location, swap tabards with the person you’re taking over from and collect until the end of your hour when the next person arrives.

It was a lovely, sunny day and I was stationed outside the Co-op supermarket.  The lady before me handed over her tabard and stickers, helped me on with the tabard (side fastenings are tricky as you can’t see what you’re doing), wished me luck and then I was on….

I asked my husband to get our daughter-in-law to come and take a photograph of my tin for this blog.  She nipped out from her shop to do so and ignored my “I just need a photo of the tin” pleadings (I avoid having my photo taken at all costs usually) , and took this….

Collection 1
Photo taken by the lovely Jess

Well, I suppose it’s not too bad………….

The collector before me had warned me that things were pretty slow despite how busy the street was.  I know that I do not carry much cash around with me anymore as I tend to pay for things by card, and I am sure that is the main reason people do not give as much to street collections.  However, it was a sunny day and I have always enjoyed people watching so I had a happy hour with several people coming up and putting money in my tin, including my husband who started me off with had a large collection of change!

Before I knew my time was up and I was handing over stickers and tabard to the next collector.  I took my tin back to JSH, where I was very sincerely thanked and given a very welcome cup of tea.

My can raised £16.92 which went toward the final total of £1120.00.












Quiz night in aid of Down’s Syndrome

I feel closely connected with Down’s syndrome as I worked with people with Down’s (in an administrative role) for years and a friend of mine (K) continues to work supporting clients with this condition.

In addition to this, a very close friend of K’s had a beautiful baby last year who has Down’s, so with this very special and beloved little girl in mind, K decided to raise money by organising a quiz night near  tot 21st March, World Down’s Syndrome Day (WDSD).


K has helped me many times in my fund raising events so when she asked me if I would do the catering I was very happy to do so.

Once a venue was found, the organising ‘committee’ met to discuss who would be responsible for what.  I had done some rough costing for the ploughman’s suppers we would be serving, others had got publicity and packs from the Down’s Syndrome association, K had booked the venue, and she had the mammoth task of co-ordinating everything.

I have organised many events over the years, and it can be quite difficult to get people to buy tickets too far ahead of time.  I am very used to arranging to do things in advance as concerts have to be planned well ahead, but many people are not used to doing this and will leave it until the last moment to actually committing themselves.  Quite nerve wracking for the organisers, let me tell you!

And so at the beginning of the week of the quiz we had sold 35 tickets, but two days later the numbers had gone up to 51!  That meant catering for around 60 including helpers.

A ploughman’s supper is a simple dish – cheese, bread and butter,  pickle/chutney and pickled onions.  I decided to also add in some cherry tomatoes for colour and because I like them!


Before we left for the venue, I cut all the cheese into 75-100g portions.  I also cut the butter into 10g pats, drained the pickled onions and put them in a bowl and did the same with the pickle rather than dealing with jars.  We packed everything up, including tea, coffee, milk, sugar and 15 baguettes and headed out.

The venue was a church hall which gave K a very reasonable rate as it was a charity event. We arrived at 6pm to set up for a 7.30 quiz start but with the doors opening at 7pm, that meant only an hour to get everything sorted.

However, a visual way of showing your support for WDSD is to wear odd socks and so we did, and I just had time to take some photos…..

While the others were busy in the main hall, my dear friend, another K (K2!) and I scurried off into the kitchen where we were (largely) to remain for the rest of the evening.

The  kitchen was very well appointed with lots of crockery and cutlery. In addition there was an industrial dishwasher, a mains fed water urn and two trolleys which made plating up a lot easier.

We couldn’t prepare the suppers too early so we concentrated on familiarising ourselves with where everything was, opening cupboards and drawers until we had a pretty good idea of where to find things.

The urn went on immediately and we set out things for teas and coffees as we knew that people were likely to want a drink when they arrived.

By the time the first quizzers arrived the hall was looking pretty welcoming.



As predicted we did a fast trade in teas and coffees and before we knew it it was quiz time.

My husband John had volunteered to be quizmaster and did a great job.  He teases everyone mercilessly no matter who they are and they all seem to love it and give back as good as they get!

Before K2 and I knew where we were it was the last round before supper.  The suppers were largely plated up and just needed handing round together with cutlery.  K2 and I barely got a chance to eat our own supper as everyone wanted more tea and coffee.  Our donation bowl got heavier all the while which was great.

By the end of the quiz, as we saw the last of the quizzers leave and the helpers started clearing up it was clear that we had made a considerable amount.  In addition to our hot drinks, there were cakes and soft drinks and a raffle, and people had been very generous in their donations.

John and I had a concert the following day so we left K and her helpers to do the last little bit of clearing up.  The time was 11.00pm


Tired, footsore and happy.  Final amount raised -£691.97. and 8 hours towards GoT.  Absolutely brilliant.









Sir Harold Hillier Gardens – 2

Here is the next quarter of our year visiting the Hillier gardens.  Having bought a subscription in October, we are visiting every month.  It is proving to be a wonderful journey through the seasons.


One of the great things about Hilliers is that just walking from the car makes you reach for your camera….I don’t know what these yellow flowers were but they were like drops of sunshine on a grey day.



I do love Hellebores and I do prefer the nodding ones even if I have to stoop to investigate the flowers more closely!

As mentioned in my previous post, Hilliers is renowned for its winter garden and  there is plenty of colour there throughout the winter month. However,  the Pinetum is one of my favourite places to go in the winter.  There is a range of greens and textures in conifers that is very satisfying.  Sadly, not so visible in the picture.


There are also these sculptures dotted around the garden but mainly in the Pinetum.  These represent pinecones and seed heads and blend so well with their surroundings.


This was the sight that greeted us on the approach to the entrance to the gardens…


Purple and white crocuses in great drifts.


I was expecting snowdrops, and I got snowdrops……….


I have a great fondness for snowdrops and am sad they will not grow in my own garden no matter what.

I have mentioned before that I love trees in winter, and this applies to other plants too.  Just look at these examples of colour without  flowers.



Walking down to the large pond, we stopped to have a look at the fish.  There are normally loads of them visible in the murky depths.  Not a single one…..puzzling. Then I saw this up in a tree nearby….


It may not be obvious from my not-so-great photo, but it’s a heron perched on a tree overhanging the pond (what do they do with their legs?!).  Certainly explained why the fish were nowhere to be seen.

And then onto one of  my favourite plants in the garden, the paperbush tree, Edgeworthia crysantha.

I think of this as the Star Trek tree as I think it would have looked very much at home with the paper boulders etc..


More and more flowers appearing already in the gardens as we move towards spring.

Lots of blues and yellows.




Some yellows were very familiar.

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Others more unusual

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Sophora Microphylla (Sun King)

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Rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias are all coming into flower.  The magnolia avenue is just showing a promise of what it will be like in a week or two.

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Especially interesting was the Magnolia campbelli which is a species which may not start flowering until it is 30 years old but when it does, the flowers are enormous.


(got J’s hand for scale)

As spectacular and flashy as all the above are I find as much pleasure in these primulas, flowering their hearts out with the deep red of the peonies just coming through.



Just before I leave you, here is the Edgeworthia crysantha again, its flowers are just going over now.


Apparently the fibres from the bark fibres are used for making the handmade Japanese tissue called “mitsumata paper”.  Mitsumata is used for banknotes as the paper is very durable.  Amazing stuff.

Can’t believe it’s already been half a year at Hilliers.  Hope you enjoyed the visits!