Annual news 2019

Hardy travellers

"Our annual holiday was taken in west Dorset. We had a cottage on a farm, with lovely views, very comfortable and it suited us to self-cater as we often do. We found a very welcoming church, pottered along beaches at Portland Bill, Lyme Regis, Sidmouth, and enjoyed exploring the local villages, cliff walks and the town of Sherborne." - Miriam

Although we were staying inland we were able to explore a good stretch of Dorset's distinctive coastline, including the famous harbour at Lyme Regis and the limestone outcrop of Portland. From the causeway leading to the Isle of Portland we scrunched our way up the pebbles of Chesil Bank and then watched the kitesurfers performing their maneouvres in the bay facing Weymouth. At Charmouth we climbed up a section of the coastal path and looked down on the fossil-hunters combing the beach below.


Miriam and Phil on top of the shingle ridge of Chesil Bank

On top of a very windy Chesil Bank, with the Isle of Portland behind

Coloured fishing nets with the harbour and town in the background

Fishing nets at Lyme Regis

Miriam playing a violin

Miriam tries out a violin (with permission) at Thomas Hardy's house

"We also saw round Thomas Hardy's childhood home and garden, the swannery at Abbotsbury and a beautifully peaceful lakeside sculpture garden that encouraged rarer butterflies and birds."

At Sherborne we enjoyed a guided tour of the huge Abbey before exploring the small town around it. We went further back in time with a walk around the ramparts of an Iron Age fort at Eggardon, while a ramble along the footpaths around Thomas Hardy's house took us along a surviving stretch of Roman road.

The history of more modern times was brought to life in the village of Tolpuddle where a tree commemorates the Martyrs who were transported to Australia as the price for their battle for trade union rights. In the churchyard, where one of their number is buried, a man trimming the bushes was wearing a union T-shirt.

There are more photos of our time in Dorset here.

Weekends away

"We celebrated my mother's 97th birthday with a November weekend break near Hereford recently. We met up with my brother, sister-in-law and cousin for a very pleasant time."

Earlier in the year we had another weekend gathering, this time in Oxfordshire where we toured Blenheim Palace with its magnificent gardens, lake, butterfly collection and, of course, the house itself. In an ideal world every library would have a four-manual organ. Blenheim is a reminder of what could be.

Family gathering at Tintern Abbey

Family gathering at Tintern Abbey on the banks of the River Wye

Miriam and her brother in the rose garden at Blenheim Palace

Miriam and her brother in the rose garden at Blenheim Palace

Phil wearing a Bolivia football shirt

Non-standard funeral attire for a special friend: Mark loved sport and wanted everyone to come wearing a team's strip

A grand piano

There have been many happy occasions too: I got to play this wonderful piano at a wedding

Sorrow and joy

"The year started sadly, with the death of my only aunt who I had known well for all my life. Her funeral and wake were well attended and she was appropriately honoured. She wrote a short book describing the main events of her life and I have enjoyed browsing it and finding information that I knew little of, especially her early childhood in Germany."

During the year I have played the music at the memorial services of church members and friends who have died, and while this has not been easy it has been striking how strong is the sense of community and support in times of grief. Many others close to us are experiencing ill health and disabilities of one sort or another and we are grateful that, by the grace of God, we ourselves are currently suffering nothing that greatly limits our activities.

Stories and stitches

Along with her fellow Stirchley Stitching members Miriam made a giant quilt which, when raffled at the end of the year, raised over £400 for charity.

I took part in the Stirchley High Street Stories photo project in which each of us came up with our own theme relating to the busy section of Pershore Road running through the centre of Stirchley. It's been another busy year of local activity as I gave a talk about the history of our local canal to Stirchley History Group, put in the occasional volunteer session at Stirchley Library, and helped to run a Heritage Open Day and a Fun Palace at Stirchley Baths.

On another creative front, it was a great surprise to win a prize in a Kings Heath poetry competition. The entry was inspired by my regular visits to the park where Kings Heath Spanish Club meets.

"Stirchley Stitching" stitched by the Stirchley Stitching

"Stirchley Stitching" stitched by Stirchley Stitching

Members of Sustainable Stirchley behind a market stall

Members of the new Sustainable Stirchley group running a stall at Stirchley Community Market

Star student

"I still sing with the Phoenix Singers, and the highlight has been to learn the Mozart Requiem, which we performed in Bromsgrove School in June this year. Fortunately it has been recorded and I hope to be able to buy a CD of our concert."

"Congratulations to Angela for passing her grade 7 music theory recently and her grade 2 piano earlier this year. She's heading for grade 8 and 3 respectively for 2020." - Miriam

Miriam has been giving music lessons to our friend Angela each week and it's been a tribute to both their hard work that Angela continues to make such good progress.

Miriam and friends standing next to a cross that is covered with daffodils

Easter morning: Miriam joins the team that covers the cross outside Christ Church with daffodils

Photos extra

There are many more photos taken throughout the year on our Photos 2019 page and my Instagram account.

Swing Train at the Stirchley Fête

Swing Train at the Stirchley Fête

Autumn trees alongside the canal

Autumn trees alongside the canal


Young man holding a placard: Stop burning my future

Campaigner at the Birmingham Climate Strike

Driving an electric toy car in a village street

Early driving lessons in rural Dorset