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Meeting Reports
NHSRF (Harrogate Branch): Meeting 14th February

Before the start of the Business Meeting, John Rostill (Chief Executive) of the Retirement Fellowship addressed the members and said how delighted he was to be attending a meeting of such a successful branch – one of the most successful, if not the most successful, in the country!
He particularly asked whether there was anyone willing to take on the role of Regional Representative for Yorkshire and stressed what an interesting and fulfilling role it was. The person involved would travel to the various Yorkshire branches, meet other members and have the opportunity to attend national meetings in London.  He stressed what an important role this was and mentioned that Gillian Oldfield had been the Regional Representative in the past.
John also spoke about Ethel Armstrong and the various roles she had played in the Fellowship and how pleased he was that she had received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours.
2018 was, he said, a very important year for the NHS – the 5th July 2018 was the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the NHS and many events were taking place to commemorate this important anniversary. These included services at Westminster Abbey and York Minster.
Val Muscroft, ex Vice-Chairman, Chairman and at present Minute Secretary, had been invited to a Royal Garden Party and was taking Brenda Hawkswell-Stock as her guest

Jeannette Wilson

My Life in Music

Our talk today was given by Stuart Atkins, a most dapper octogenarian, with a wonderful head of silver hair and the most colourful socks I have ever seen, about his life in music.

Born into a musical family in 1937, Mr Atkins started piano lessons at the age of nine, and then following in his father’s footsteps learned the trombone. By the age of eleven he had joined his father and uncle as a member of Flockton Brass Band. After leaving school at fifteen he trained as a tailor, but his real passion was music and every Saturday night he performed as a trombonist in a dance band at Horbury. During his National Service he became a pianist in the dance band and trombonist in the military band where he played alongside John Barry, award winning composer for the James Bond films.

In the 1960s and 70s Mr Atkins played at jazz clubs and music halls and in dance bands across West Yorkshire including Batley Variety club, he provided backing music and arrangement for such stars as Bobby Vee, Gene Pitney, Shirley Bassey, Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones and Roy Orbison. He became a musical director working with acts including The Bachelors.

He spent much of the rest of his career as a freelance musician and orchestra conductor at home and aboard cruise ships. Although now officially retired Mr Atkins can be found playing the piano at Betty’s in York every Wednesday evening.

Jennifer Chan

The speaker at our May meeting was Chris Powell of The Cone Exchange. This was started in 2003 as a result of a visit to Betty’s & Taylor’s Group by some children with learning difficulties. A boy spotted an empty cone in a waste bin  which had been used for making tea bags and asked if he could have it to make an angel. This lead to many children making angels which were displayed in the windows of Starbeck shops, then sold and so the story began.
Cones were then made into rockets and telescopes, discontinued boxes into pirate ships and castles and, from the sale of these items, the money was used to buy equipment to expand the project into making a variety of other items such as butterflies, spiders etc. from rubber. Other waste products such as hessian sacks, ribbons and off-cuts of material were then made into shopping and hand bags.
Chris became involved in the annual Knitting & Stitching Show held in the Royal Hall each November and also took stands at Music Festivals to sell these items. He was also invited to hold workshops at Harlow Carr Gardens and The Pavilions and students with learning difficulties are given work experience which results in them earning money by selling their products.
Chris was awarded and MBE in 2008 and has appeared in T V programmes and last Wednesday morning the BBC was filming for a Blue Peter programme.
It is a truly remarkable, imaginative and inspiring story which was delivered with humour and was very well received by the 63 members who were present at the meeting.

Gillian Oldfield

The speaker for the 10th October meeting was Andrew Thwaite who has been in chocolate and baking all his working life but as a Chocolatier he now trains, demonstrates and speaks on the art of working with chocolate.

Andrew gave a brief history of the harvesting of the beans right through to the final process which is mainly in Belgium.  Andrew told us that, in the process, fat is added to the chocolate beans with a larger percentage of fat being used by the main manufacturers than Andrew uses – obviously less fattening!!

The members were delighted that Andrew was not only talking but demonstrating the process of chocolate-making. Chocolate had been heated in a microwave (melting it over a pan of hot water is no longer advised) and was then placed in moulds which were refrigerated for a short time to harden. Members were advised not to store chocolate in a fridge since it will absorb smells from other products thus ending up with a very different taste, plus a white covering.

He related a tale he had been told from an employee of one of York’s main chocolate producers - a chocolate dipper who had dentures paid for by her employers since the continual cleaning of the “dipper stick” by licking had caused her teeth to decay. An unlimited supply of free chocolate might also have contributed.

Finally, after an interesting talk and demonstration, a tray heaped with delicious chocolates was handed round the hall for everyone to sample. An excellent end to the talk.


Jeannette Wilson