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Meeting Reports
For our first meeting of the new year 81 members enjoyed our usual  cup of tea and chat with friends which was followed by a very interesting talk by Sue Wood, Horticultural Officer for Harrogate Borough Council.
Her illustrated talk gave us an excellent insight into all the various aspects of her work in our beautiful spa town. Starting in the council’s greenhouses at Harlow Hill she showed us where all the flowers are used – roundabouts, hanging baskets and flower beds around the district.
She described and showed us the beds which have been designed for the anniversaries of various organisations such as the W I, Girl Guides etc and this year we will see a green, white and purple flower bed to celebrate 100 years of women getting the vote.
She described the work in the district cemeteries and the grass cutting, of which The Stray is obviously a major part.
A pedestrian counter at the entrance to The Valley Gardens indicates that at least three million visitors walk through the gardens and enjoy the wonderful floral beds and the New Zealand Garden for which money was donated.
A delightful feature around the district is that of carvings on felled trees, the best being Alice in Wonderland figures in Ripon Spa Gardens and another at Conyngham Hall in Knaresborough.
Sue answered a variety of questions and, after being thanked by our Chairman, Mary Bradley, we all made our way home feeling so pleased that we live in such a wonderful town.
Gillian Oldfield
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
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

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