Is it almost 2024 already? How time flies. Here is a round up of what we did and where we went this year. We have celebrated weddings, welcomed babies, wept at funerals, visited beautiful places and met up with family and friends. Though retired, we’re busy but doing less. Click the links below to find out more.
As this year comes to a close we are thankful to God for all he has helped us through. We trust you will have a blessed Christmastime and a hopeful new year; and that you will know the peace of God that passes all understanding.
It feels as though we have been away from home more often this year, with visits to The Lakes, Peak District, Northern Ireland, and Madeira as well as shorter breaks in Coventry, Gloucestershire, Cambridge and Chelmsford – the last two regularly to visit Matthew and Wesley’s families.
For our Lakes holiday in June we stayed in the Northern area near Penrith and explored places we have rarely visited before. Buttermere, Pooley Bridge, places around Keswick and climbed only one fell, Latrigg; just a gentle stroll really!
We joined Matthew’s family in the Peak District in July. Three cottages side by side in a village called Wetton; one for us, one for Matthew, Laura, Anna and Rowan, and one for John and Eileen, Laura’s parents. To the delight of the children there was a play barn there too. So we enjoyed the local riverside walks in Dovedale, explored the ancient Thors Cave, rode the heritage railway in the Churnett Valley and enjoyed meals in local pubs and restaurants.
In September we took the ferry to Larne in Northern Ireland. My brother’s son, Joel, was getting married to Rachael and we decided to take a holiday in Northern Ireland. The Antrim Coast is spectacular; Giants Causeway, Glenariff Forest Park to name just two places we enjoyed. We also visited Mount Stewart on Stangford Lough and the Titanic Experience in Belfast. We will have to return to explore more of the beauty of Ulster.
Our final visit to Madeira. Flying is such a hassle and bad for the environment so our visit to the Portuguese island of Madeira is to be our last. We have been there most years since 2013 partly because of a deal we had with a resort company there, which ended this year. But also because Madeira is such a pleasant destination. This year the October temperatures were record breaking. The staff said they had never known it to be so hot. We abandoned the Levada Walks and the mountains this year (perhaps a sign of our advancing years) and settled for gentle days wandering from cafe to cafe, reading and soaking up the warm climate.
To celebrate a special birthday in February Joan was treated to The ABBA Voyage event in London. We were joined by Matthew, Wesley and Emily to join the avatars of the Swedish foursome. There was some singing and dancing too. It was an amazing experience, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately Joan was unwell at the concert which turned out to be a second bout of Covid, a virus she promptly passed on to Barrie (and possibly a few thousand others at the venue). Annoyingly the aftermath of covid, coughing and congestion, carried on for several months afterwards.
Alex performed really well in his GCSE exams. Outstanding results gave him a pass into 6th form where he’s studying science subjects at A level. Alex also won an award for his cricket, being the youngest player to be awarded the “Great Baddow Top Bowler Award”
Emily performed in her first ballet with the Chelmsford Ballet Company and is now in rehearsal for the next one scheduled for 2024. She also did well with her Citizenship GCSE, taken early in Year 9. Now she’s into Year 10 the proper start of her GCSE studies,
Anna has just celebrated her 6th birthday. She has also started a new school in Cambridge which she seems to really love. Rowan absolutely loves trains, from Thomas the Tank Engine right up to The Flying Scotsman and Mallard. They are delightful children; creative, attentive; who love stories, reading, writing, drawing, fun and games.
Matthew has his first feature film credit. He was one of the animators on Chicken Run 2 which premieres this month on Netflix (and a few cinemas). Laura is on a sabbatical from face to face lecturing and tutoring so she can write. Wesley is managing to ride the BBCs staffing reorganisation as it tries to put more staff outside of London. He works as a Senior Data Journalist at New Broadcasting House in the West End. This year will be busy with elections on both sides of the Atlantic. Deborah continues to work (mainly remotely) as a director of a boys school in Manchester.
Our brother in law, Derek, has moved into a care home because he has vascular dementia. Joan’s sister, Ann, was no longer able cope with him at home and reluctantly found a care home nearby in Royal Wootton Bassett. It’s been a sad year for the family. Sadly, their daughter, Jo, died in June.
There were two weddings this year. Barrie’s nephew, Joel married Rachael in Northern Ireland. They met and live in London. Joan’s nephew, Adam married Helen in Wotton under Edge in Gloucestershire, they are living in Birmingham. Two happy events that brought our respective families together.
Our Ukrainian family moved into a house of their own just after Easter. They had stayed with us for eight months and at times it seemed they would never be able to rent a home of their own here in York. But thanks to the efforts of the Homes For Ukraine team of City of York Council and the council’s letting agency, Yorhome, they were offered a small terraced house only a few minutes away, and it was right next to the school their 5 year old daughter, Vira, was attending. When they left Yuliia was six months pregnant and baby Elizabeth was born at the end of August. Seva is working as a chef at a cafe in York and is enjoying his work. This Christmas Yuliia’s parents are able to visit York for a month from their home in Dnipro.
Restore, the York housing charity Barrie helped to found, has opened two houses this year to give refugees a home. One of them is home to a Ukrainian family and the other houses three Afghani cousins. This has been a new venture for the charity, Its main work is still the provision of supported housing for single men and women experiencing homelessness. The most recent large donation to the charity will allow it to open three more houses and meet the cost of providing support in those houses. All of this expansion means it is no longer a small charity. Restore remains the largest provider of supported housing for single people in York, playing a vital role in local services to help people into a home of their own. The success is also measured in the number of residents (70-80%) who ultimately move on to a home of their own. We are very thankful to God for the success of Restore and also to the dedicated staff who prayerfully and enthusiastically provide the service.
This summer our church building, St Michael-le-Belfrey, was closed for extensive reordering and refurbishment work. The ten million pound project has begun. The pews, balcony and narthex have already been removed leaving just the shell of the grade I medieval structure ready for repairs and reordering to start. In the meantime the church is meeting in a very grand recently restored building called The De Grey Rooms, a former Officers Mess and ballroom just a short walk away in St Leonards Place.
As well as closing our church building we also lost our Vicar, Matthew Porter, who was consecrated Bishop of Bolton this year. The vacancy has been filled by our Associate Minister. Revd Andy Baker has been installed as Interim Priest in Charge until we move back to our refurbished building in three years time.
My (Barrie) term as Parish Safeguarding Officer came to an end at the Annual Meeting in May. I handed the responsibility on to the person who had been my assistant. In a church the size of ours it is a big job, and I was ready to pass it on.
We are still Belfrey Group Stewards, looking after the leaders of three home groups and we serve on the welcome and coffee rotas for the 11am Sunday service. Joan is on the pastoral visiting team (as well as being a volunteer at York Hospital two mornings a week). We belong to a home group which now is mainly made up of people who belong to other churches. They were all at one time or another part of St Michael-le-Belfrey but have moved on in the years we have been meeting. Everyone values it and we have some very good friends there. Sadly we said goodbye to one of our dearest friends in the group. Paul Burbridge, the artistic Director of Riding Lights Theatre Company, died after a short illness just after Easter, leaving his wife Bernadette and children, Patrick, Caitlin and Erin.
More recently we lost Dave Playle. Dave was the pastor who married us in 1971, and prior to that I lived with him and his family in Holmfirth. He had been living in the nursing home where his wife Rosemary lives in Warrington.
We also meet regularly with our friends who formed the leadership of Harrogate Christian Fellowship in its early days in the late 1970s and early 80s. Richard and Jenny Dean, and Colin and Rhona Stanbury. We usually meet up about once a month, enjoy lunch together and an extended chat. We often start with coffee at 11am and finish with tea at three, with a cooked meal in between.