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Phyllida Gordon-Duff-Pennington

11.2.29 – 10.5.11

Phyllida was a friend and supporter when the Centre was just a twinkle in Gretchen's eye and she became a Trustee on the day we took our very first baby steps as a charity back in the early 1990s. She was tireless and loyal and would sell raffle tickets or tackle the washing up as readily as she greeted visitors or donned her glad rags to host a fundraiser.

She was one of a kind: a great lady and a class act in every way. We shall miss her.



One way and another, it hasn't exactly been a vintage few months here at the Big House on the Bad Corner.


The Great British Spring and Summer put a bit of a damper (quite literally) on the Festival of Fools. Although the weather, overall, wasn't that bad it had a nasty habit of being wet and overcast in the morning and then clearing up in the afternoon. As the Great British Public tends to make up their colective mind what they're going to do each day by sticking their nose out of the door after breakfast and scenting the air, ‘clearing up in the afternoon' was a fat lot of use.


We made about £350, which is not to be sneezed at (Memo to self – must check out the origin of that bizarre phrase ...) but it's a bit aggravating when you know that had the weather gods been with us, we could have done so much better. However, mild-but-utterly-pointless annoyance with the climate notwithstanding, we're very grateful to everyone who gave up their time on the bank holiday to help us out down at the Castle – we couldn't conceivably run the sideshows without you. (By the way, while I still have you attention, *coughs discreetly*, please be so kind as to note the date of the Christmas Fair later in this newsletter. Thank you.)




The whole purpose of getting involved in events like the Festival of Fools is, of course, to make money – and you could be forgiven for thinking that the be-all and end-all of the Centre is to generate income. It's not of course, but unfortunately, out in the real world, if we don't raise the money we can't keep the Centre open. Nice as it would be to drift around ethereally in turquoise robes with our minds on higher things (like – ooh – chips and mayonnaise for instance) fund-raising is an unfortunate reality of our lives, especially in view of the fact that other small charities are going down around us like ninepins.


However, in deference to anyone who might occasionally wonder if Gretchen - or anyone else for that matter – ever actually sees any clients for healing … she most assuredly does. She has appointments every hour on the hour five days a week from 9.00am to 5.00pm – except for the days when she goes out to her little posse of housebound people.


In addition to Gretchen we also have Sonia Norton who sees physiotherapy clients at the Centre by appointment while Kay McMahon sees massage clients at the Centre, also on an ‘as-needed' basis.


So, if you are looking for either physiotherapy or massage, then please ring Sonia (019467 23265) or Kay (019467 24226) direct to make an appointment. They will then book a treatment room at the Centre.




In pursuance of our Grand Plan not to spread ourselves too thinly, we once again haven't had a big fundraising event this summer (which would almost inevitably be washed out anyway) but instead have been concentrating on other things like making our major fundraiser, the Christmas Fair, as good as it possibly can be. And then there are the bees.


We're into bees in a big way. We'd been thinking about setting up a hive for a long time, but last year's dire summer with its distinct lack of the fuzzy little pollinators tipped us over the edge and we decided that Something Must Be Done. As one does.


Serendipitously, a short time later Gretchen found herself sitting next to a local bee-keeper at dinner one evening and before they'd made it through to the pudding, he'd been appointed our Official Bee Bloke (hereinafter referred to as the OBB).

A few weeks later, the OBB came to lunch here at the Centre - armed with an empty hive, an infectious enthusiasm and many stories of Bees I Have Known - and proceeded to sell the idea of bee-keeping to a highly receptive audience. The net result was that we now have two hives, purchased from local suppliers, which came flat-pack (did you know that you could buy flat-pack beehives? No? Well now you do …) and were painstakingly nailed together by our Wednesday volunteers. The two nuclei – which are sort of ‘starter sets' of bees, each with its own queen – arrived shortly afterwards. Oddly enough, I believe they're Slovenian bees - tough little operators who have what it takes to cope with the Cumbrian climate (lifebelt, galoshes and a sou'wester presumably…).


Of course, they arrived when I wasn't here, which is a shame because I understand that with everybody in their bee-keeping suits, it looked like a nuclear decontamination team up there. Imagine the hours of innocent fun I could have had with the tabloid press and just one well-placed, artfully grainy snapshot …




Maybe next time …


Once upon a time, of course, bee-keeping was a relatively cheap hobby. These days setting up two hives with all the necessary kit, plus the bees, will set you back a four-figure sum; but fortunately the critical importance of bees is so well understood that finding the money wasn't a problem and we once again have to thank the Sellafield Charity Snowball for their enthusiastic support. Mind you, they've got first dibs on the honey …


If you'd like to come up, admire the hives and talk bees at any time – just give us a ring. We can bore for England on the subject, especially Andrea - who now speaks fluent Bee, albeit with an Austrian accent, which must be jolly confusing for Slovenian bees.



Clocks: I think I may have mentioned in passing, just very occasionally, that we have the world's most talented gardener in the form of Ralf Bidder . When he isn't out wrestling the weeds into submission or driving the caterpillars from the broccoli with a (very small) horsewhip he's in his workshop producing not only beautiful furniture but also a wide selection of smaller items. Most recently, he's turned his hand to clocks … and they're just gorgeous . Each clock is unique, because Ralf's way of working is to look at the piece of wood he's chosen and then decide on the shape and form of the finished item. The clocks in particular would make ideal wedding or anniversary presents AND he accepts commissions. You can see all of his current work on his website ” or – alternatively – from now until after Christmas, you can come and see a selection here at the Centre. We're usually open every weekday from 9.00am to 5.00pm – but it's probably best to ring ahead just to make sure one of us will be here – especially if you're coming from any distance.




Volunteers: We may well have one of the most eclectic groups of volunteers in the whole of the North of England. Not only do they come in every shape and form known to mankind and from every conceivable walk of life – they're also prepared to turn their hand to virtually anything – from donning a bee-keeper's suit and tending the new arrivals at the top of the garden to weaving, weeding, envelope stuffing, knitting, embroidery, card recycling, hedge trimming and crochet. They also help out at our fundraisers like the Festival of Fools and the Christmas Fair and keep us supplied with wheatbags and cakes.


They gather en masse at the Centre on Wednesdays (an average number for lunch is about a dozen), and work on whatever is needed and/or whatever the weather will permit (we don't drive anyone out into the rain, honestly …). Tasks are suited to ability and no-one need ever fear that they won't be able to cope. It's a great way to get out of the house, make new friends and learn new skills while at the same time doing something useful. If you'd like to join us, or know of someone you think would benefit from a convivial few hours in friendly and supportive surroundings, do please get in touch.


And speaking of our volunteers and fundraising … can I give you our usual shopping list of things we need?


  • Knitting yarns – whole packs, half packs and oddments. ALSO – those half-finished garments you started but never completed for whatever reason. Send them in to us and we'll finish them off and sell them on our craft stall at Christmas. We're currently beavering away at scarves, gloves, hats, shawls, jumpers, pullovers and even (as I understand it) knitted Ferrero Rocher covers.

Just let me run that one past you again …

  • Knitted Ferrero Rocher covers. Yup. Just when you thought the world couldn't possibly get any weirder.
  • Knitting, crochet and sewing equipment – needles, frames, thread, scissors – anything at all – eve unwanted knitting and sewing machines. They are all grist to our voracious volunteer mill.
  • Art materials – card, paper, crayons, paints, brushes, glitter, glue – not only are we recycling cards, we're producing our own little works of art for Christmas. Expect LOTS of sparkly bits …
  • Secondhand/unwanted jewellery – our bling display in the waiting room has turned out to be small goldmine and constantly needs topping up. No item too gaudy.
  • Pottery, porcelain, glass (decorative – not petrol station specials please).
  • Anything else remotely saleable: nearly new, toys, unwanted presents, good quality clothing, pictures, prints, picture frames … you get the idea.




Future Events:


Jennings River Ride - Sunday 18 th September


This is a new charity challenge just launched by the wonderful Cumbria Community Foundation (which has, over the years, played a MAJOR role in the continued survival of the Centre) that they hope will become an annual fixture. It's a sponsored cycle ride – but with a difference. There are three separate routes, to suit a range of abilities and fitness levels, and all three follow the path of the devastating effects of the 2009 Cumbrian floods, tracking affected river courses and criss-crossing bridges that were either destroyed or damaged. There is a 10 mile, a 40 mile (ouch!) and a 85 mile (double-ouch!) route and the Centre is entering a team. Most of them are sensibly only tackling the 8 mile ride, but the heroic (and quite possibly certifiable) Ralf and Paul have signed up for 40 miles. Even Richard, our Senior Gardener, who can generally be relied on to be the most sensible person in the building, is in training …


Gretchen and the bees will be cheering them on from the sidelines, of course … and Moira will be manning a feeding station and doing her Florence Nightingale bit for the fallers-by-the-wayside. Mind you, it might be a good idea for no-one to fall by the wayside anywhere within her sphere of influence, because we understand that her bedside manner could do with a little work.


If you'd like to sponsor our team (and we'd be very grateful, because otherwise the whole exercise is a bit – well - pointless …) you can do so on the enclosed form.


CHRISTMAS FAIR – Saturday November 26th – Muncaster Chase: Okay people. This is it. This is the big one. Cancel all other engagements. Doors open at 10.00am.


This year, our big “come hither” is a huge craft stall featuring brand new, handmade goods produced by our volunteers – both here at the Centre and in their own homes. Everything is made from donated materials and all profits go straight into the Open Door Fund for the benefit of the increasing number of people who need our help but can't necessarily afford to contribute financially towards the cost of keeping the Centre open.


Other enticements will be our usual crammed-to-overflowing cake stall, refreshments throughout the day, live music, jewellery, cards, toys, nearly new, books, CDs, DVDs and white elephant, along with the eagerly awaiting Trivia Quizzes, 2012 Calendar and, of course our Christmas Raffle … details of which follow in a moment.


We will, of course, need lots of help – both on the day and beforehand. If you can help with any of these:


•  Setting up.
•  Baking for the cake stall.
•  Minding a stall.
•  Selling raffle tickets
•  Serving tea and cakes.
•  Clearing up afterwards …


We'd like to hear from you please.

Christmas Raffle:


Now, even the most jaded amongst you would have to admit that our raffles are always pretty good – but THIS year we've excelled ourselves. I think I can say without fear of contradiction (because most people round here wouldn't have the brass neck, quite apart from anything else) that the prizes are the best we've ever had. Check out this little lot:


•  A brand new, extremely elegant, fascinator by the London-based couture milliner Judy Bentinck .
•  A superb quality Bavaria Prestige ladies' bicycle - 21 speed Shimano derailleur gears, Shimano brakes, side stand, luggage rack, front and rear lights (also suitable for a man who's secure in his masculinity .... )
•  A copy of The Archers Archives by Simon Frith and Chris Arnot signed by Tim Bentinck , who plays David Archer (and just happens to be married to Judy …)
•  A first edition hardback copy of Emma Darwin 's critically acclaimed first novel The Mathematics of Love , which Emma will personalize for the lucky winner.
•  A signed hardback copy of Katie Fforde 's   lastest novel - Summer of Love.
•  A signed copy of actor/director Steven Berkoff 's Tough Acts.
•  A signed copy of actor Edward Petherbridge 's memoirs Slim Chances.
•  A set of 48 Derwent Coloursoft pencils in an elegant wooden presentation case.
•  A side of smoked salmon.
•  A 'Snuggie' supersoft blanket with sleeves.
•  A bottle of whisky.

(There are photographs of the prizes HERE. )


The more observant amongst you will have noticed a bit of a thread running through the prizes and those of you who have REALLY been paying attention over the last couple of years can probably work out what that thread is.


Yep. It's our Centre Manager's slightly startling alter ego , the “International Woman of Glamour“.


As we've mentioned before ad nauseam (and generally in tones of bemused disbelief), in her Other Life (and isn't she lucky to have one?) she's the Co-Administrator of a literary website called Vulpes Libris which means that she knows a lot of authors and actors. She is also, perhaps even more bizarrely, an Associate Member of The Romantic Novelists' Association . As such, she went to their insanely ritzy awards ceremony at The Royal Horseguards Hotel in Whitehall, where Tim Bentinck was the Master of Ceremonies. Also present was his immensely talented wife Judy plus the then chair of the RNA Katie Fforde and - well - you get the drift.


The most amazing part of this, of course, is that so far, we've managed to keep her down on the farm (and if you recognize THAT reference you must be –as they say in Cornwall - ‘some old').


Anyway , tickets are £1.00 each and the raffle will be drawn at the Christmas Fair on the 26 th of November. Just let us know how many tickets you want (they're available both singly and in books of five) and we'll put them in the post to you. Due to the arcane terms of the Gambling Act 2005, you mustn't send us any money until you return the ticket stubs. Bad Things will happen to us if you do.


2012 Calendar: James Roberts' local photographs in our 2011 Calendar were such a resounding success that we decided to use seven more for 2012. This time, we've gone a bit arty-farty and all the images are really striking black and white ones.


Once again, they're all local subjects. Spiral bound for easy display and A3 when opened out (ie: thesize of this piece of paper) they are £6.50 if you collect them direct from the Centre yourself, or £7.50 if you would like them posted to you. You can, of course, order them on the enclosed form. (And a big ‘thank you', of course, to James for his permission to use the photographs.) Oh, and I forgot to say that you can see the pictures here.


Trivia Quizzes: Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the Centre's world famous quite famous not-really-famous-at-all-but-v-entertaining-anyway Trivia Quizzes, so once again we're offering two – one for the clinically insane, attractively named the ‘Abandon Hope', and one ‘ordinary' one for everyone else. The ‘ordinary quiz' has 100 questions, varying in difficulty from “ Everyone knows that ” to “You can't be serious!” The ‘Abandon Hope', meanwhile, sports just 50 questions but they cover the range from “You can't be serious!” to “You WHAT?”. The quizzes are £1.00 each, plus postage and packing if you want them sent to you.




And finally ... nothing to do with the Centre, really ... but our old friend Joan Capp of Bootle Refugee Aid Cumbria UK (BRACUK) is trying to raise money to build a school in Islamabad. It's going to take 80,000 bricks to build the school and Joan (who has been tirelessly raising funds and sending aid out to stricken areas of the globe since the early 1990s) is asking people to buy bricks at 25p each. If you'd like to help, there's a collection pot at the Centre, or you can contact Joan at Bootle Refugee Aid Cumbria UK, Hycemoorside House, Bootle Station, Millom, Cumbria, LA19 5XG, or phone on 01229 718248.




That's it for this time around. We seem (she said, touching wood as if her very life depended on it) to have triumphed over the Mailing List and – in theory at least – if you've received this Newsletter it's because you want to. If, however, we still haven't got it right, do let us know (and PLEASE DON'T SHOUT – because your face will stay that way) and we'll remove you forthwith, not to mention at once. In addition, please also let us know if you'd like to receive this Newsletter by email ... we have the technology.




It only remains for us to be in the annoying vanguard of those wishing you all the very best for Christmas and the New Year. See you on the other side . . .





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