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Kelvin Thomas, MBE, aged 98 was in fine voice at Bridgemead Christmas Concert, performed by the Silver Ring choir on Monday 11th December. Mr Thomas who founded the Choir in 1951, said jokingly “I’m not going strong, but I’m still going…” as he sang ‘Trade Winds’, ‘The Little Road to Bethlehem’ and a solo in Welsh. “His voice is even better than it was 10 years ago,” said choir member Jane Tabb, whose sister Mary Bradley is having respite care at Bridgemead.
Mr Thomas was welcomed to Bridgemead by the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Ian Gilchrist, who is 790th Mayor of Bath. Mr Thomas said that his relation Sydney Smith was Mayor of Bath in 1956. The current Mayor who had already been to five functions on Monday and has five more booked in for the next day said: “I’m really happy to be here and represent the City at your lovely event.”
Thirty-five members of the choir performed a lively Christmas recital, led by conductor Philip Draisey, with John Lowe on the piano. Colin Gilbert, whose mother had been in respite care at Bridgemead said ‘The Choir sings for pleasure. We delight in using our gift as a gift to the audience. My mother was here for 5 weeks and Bridgemead is a marvellous place.”
Pam Bourton, Manager of Bridgemead said: “It is such a pleasure to have the Silver Ring Choir here, everyone enjoys their visit so much.” The residents loved the performance and the mince pies made by Mark the chef were highly praised and the mulled wine provided by Caroline Curnock and served by Friends of Bridgemead, was delicious. Ruth Holbrook, a former Chair of Friends of Bridgemead who has been a volunteer for 24 years, and Elizabeth and David Kavanagh who have led ‘Quiet Time’ at Bridgemead for 12 years were thanked for their help and presented flowers.
Marian McNeir, MBE, Patron of Bridgemead thanked the Choir for coming to Bridgemead. She said that the Choir had just performed at the Guild Hall in a ceremony presenting the Legion D’Honneur to three veterans, on behalf of the French Government and would be performing on Wednesday 20th December at St Michael’s Without, Broad Street.
Betty Cooper, aged 96, has just published the sparkling ‘A Run Ashore’, chronicling a life well-travelled. Her adventures take her from the age of 9 in the ’Villa Azur’ in the French Riviera, to working and living in India, Singapore, Cairo, in the war and then Greece and South Africa in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Writing the book
Betty says; “I did not want to write an autobiography, but a travel book. I wanted something to do, in retirement; I’ve always worked. I’m very fond of travel; always love to get up and go, so I thought this is what I’ll write about. It has taken me exactly one year to write.”
‘A Run Ashore’
She explains the title of her book: “When I was bad tempered at Haslar in Gosport, at home with a very small child my husband said: ‘What you need is a run ashore, we’ll work on it.’ It is a naval term for stressed sailors far from home who are given some shore leave to revitalise them.”
Betty studied social science at Bedford College, University of London and was evacuated to finish her studies at Cambridge, which she describes as “intoxicating!” She continued to train at the Institute of Personnel Management and worked in Tyneside, Hull, London and Birmingham.
In 1945 she joined Red Cross to become a ‘Service Hospitals Welfare Officer’ and prepared to serve in India. She was warned by Dame Beryl Oliver:
‘remember that on your travels you will meet men and face many temptations. One glass of sherry may be most enjoyable, but too many and a Gel may forget herself.’
“I was sent to Bombay and then in to deeper India and Bangalore, where I was Quarter-Master of a convalescent hospital. I went to a tea plantation and to a hill station in Ootacamund where there was a Hunt Ball at the Ooti Club. We ate well and there were dances but many simple folk looked at me with fear in their eyes… I was an Intruder.”
Next, she was sent to Singapore to locate Japanese-held prisoners of war to send home for rehabilitation. Living in Raffles Hotel was ‘marvellous, especially from the boyfriend point of view. The hotel was dowdy, but it was so exciting – we had the time of our lives as there were so few girls there. However, I did become engaged to a married man…’
Her next posting was Cairo. ‘I’ve always liked the Middle East. Cairo was a fascinating and often evil city.” She travelled widely in Syria and Lebanon.
In 1948 she returned to England to work at the British Council, meeting Anthony Blunt and Roberto Rossellini among others. She also met and married her husband, John. “We were a very happy couple,” she says. Betty travelled with him to Greece when he was posted to the British Naval Mission in Athens, and then to Simons Town, South Africa.
Betty says of her daughters Judith and Sarie: “My two daughters have both been looking after me so well. They are both exceptionally nice people and I’m very proud of them. They are very well-travelled and have lived abroad a lot.”
“Bridgemead is a marvellous place, absolutely splendid. I can only speak highly of it. It’s terrific and I’m all in favour of it – it’s quite wonderful.”
It was a great pleasure to meet Betty and hear and read about glittering travels. She was very pleased to have her book published and is delighted with the cover designed by her god-daughter.
Her book is on sale in Oldfield Park Bookshop and at the Holburne Museum.
A logo was designed by Mytton Williams based on this research and incorporating the reliefs on Cleveland Bridge.
Bridgemead are delighted to welcome back the superb Silver Ring Choir on 11th December at 6.30pm for a Christmas concert for all our residents and their families. Brilliant news!
Frankie Johns came to Bridgemead yesterday for the afternoon with his tambourines, maracas, hats and garlands for an afternoon of country and western, and fun. He said ” Everyone joined in the singing and we all enjoyed it. I’d not been to Bridgemead before but everyone was very welcoming.”
The Deputy Mayor, Councillor Rob Appleyard, said on a recent visit:” Bridgemead is brilliant. There is a sense of grace and love here, and the food is amazing!” Elliot Gower is part of the great team in the kitchens at Bridgemead producing the amazing food. He has worked here for 12 years, with the chefs Mark and Maria.
He says: “They are a good bunch of people and we have a laugh. Everyone has five minutes to spare chatting to the residents. It can be stressful but everyone goes out of their way to help each other. Everything is cooked from scratch and it is all fresh, except for the cod in batter.”
“The most popular dish is a roast dinner – pork, lamb, chicken or beef. On their birthdays residents choose their favourite menus – and it is always a roast dinner or salmon.”
“Everyone loves the puddings: Eton mess, cherry pie, fresh fruit cocktail, chocolate sponge, banana custard and baked apple are favourites – there’s hardly ever anything left.”
“We cater for everyone, whether it’s yeast free, dairy free or fat free; or we puree some foods for those who can’t swallow easily.”
“All in all, it’s a homely, friendly environment.”
Lauren from Golden Toes got everybody moving with a tropical themed seated dance class this week. Everyone had a go at the samba, flamenco and hula dance and Bridgemead was dancing! Lauren said “Everyone performed beautifully and it was a great pleasure to dance with and for everyone.”
Five Bridgemead residents, along with Heather, Denise and Sonia took advantage of the sunshine by taking a stroll around Bath Botanical Gardens this week,and admired the flower borders in full bloom.
Residents enjoyed watching families and children picnicking and playing in the sunshine. Dog walkers stopped to chat and their dogs were petted by all. It was the perfect day for ice-cream at the Royal Pavilion Café in Royal Victoria Park afterwards with a lovely view of the bowling green and tennis courts.
We had a lovely day out at Bath City Farm. A particular favourite was the speckled hen!