Here’s our annual news from York as we anticipate the celebration of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem – a birth that changed history and is still changing it.
May we send you more good tidings (in the following pages) and trust that we all experience a better New Year – especially for those fleeing war and injustice. But to all of you, Christmas Blessings in whatever way you celebrate it, and whoever you celebrate it with.
There has been much more to our lives than can be contained these few brief snippets. We both continue to serve in our church community at St Michael-le-Belfrey, Joan volunteers at York Hospital and Barrie with Restore.
As soon as the war broke out in Ukraine we offered to be hosts for refugees fleeing the conflict. At first it seemed our hospitality wasn’t required but in June we were asked if we could take a family who were part of a larger group of people from a church in Dnipro – a number of whom were already in York. We agreed and the family started the long process of obtaining visas.
Seva, Yuliia and Vira finally arrived in York by train at 1.30am on August 23rd. After a night’s sleep we joined a rally organised by our MP, Rachael Maskell, outside the Minster. Before the rally had finished we were treated to a patriotic Ukrainian song as Yuliia led the gathered crowd in full voice. Yuliia loves singing.
A few weeks later their 4 year old daughter, Vira, started school on the first day of the September term. Mum and Dad started English lessons to improve the limited vocabulary they brought with them to this country. Vira, not surprisingly, started to pick up the language at school.
There are many stories to tell, but enough to say here that hosting them is largely good (the kitchen is a little crowded at times) and they are starting to think about finding a place of their own in York. The situation back home means they are unlikely to be returning anytime soon.
It is hard to believe that at the start of the year we were still wearing masks to protect us all from Covid-19 (Omicron variant), but we were. Here we are displaying the deluxe fabric masks donated to us all by Matthew and Laura for Christmas.
Thankfully Joan and I have managed to keep clear of infection this year, although others in our family were not so fortunate.
We made it to Emily’s Ballet Show, The Tales of Beatrix Potter, by The Chelmsford Ballet Company. Emily was a mouse – a very charming one at that.
We enjoyed a holiday with Matt and Laura’s family in Kessingland on the Suffolk coast near Lowestoft. Three adjacent static caravans right next to the beach. Anna and Rowan loved being there. It was during that really hot week in July (40º remember), the fresh breeze off the sea kept us all cool (only 30º there) and sane while the rest of the country sweltered.
We may be rubbish at Football, but the future for Cricket looks brighter – especially with Alex coming up through the ranks. Now playing in the senior team, he regularly fools the opposition with his right handed spin bowling and left handed batting. Perhaps they’ll soon have to make space for him in the ranks at New Writtle Street (home of Essex CC and just down the road from his home). It’s his GCSE year so his activities may be more revision rather than cricket until they are over.
Restore, the charity, is now in it’s 12th year of providing supported housing for single people experiencing homelessness. At any one time more than 40 people are being supported in 12 properties; this year 80% of those have moved on successfully.
As the number of refugees coming to York increases we wondered if there was a way Restore could make some housing provision for them. There is. Thanks to generous donors, two properties are in the process of being bought for us to accommodate refugee families. This an amazing provision to help us move into a new phase. It would be amazing if Restore could start to help solve the housing crisis affecting many families; refugees and local people.
Restore now has a branded coffee. Ten percent of sales are donated to the charity’s funds by the company, Divine Coffee Roasters. It’s available to buy online as well as through their retail outlet in York. It’s a rich blend in more ways than one.
It was our first post pandemic return to Madeira. Imagine our surprise when on the first day we walked along the promenade in Funchal and literally bumped into Joan’s brother Phil and his wife Janice. Neither of of us had any idea the other couple were on the island. Without that chance meeting we could have all spent the week there totally unaware of the others until we returned home.
The weather was disappointing, but the company was good and we were able to show them around some of the sites we have become familiar with over the years. It was good to be back in Madeira but we found the travel from the UK and back a real chore. We may just stick to homeland holidays from now on. Nice knowing you Madeira, you’ve treated us well.