The Parishioner interviews one of our local community heroes…
Great to meet you Mary! Tell us a bit about yourself…
In a sentence: I’m a rock and country music loving, Prosecco drinking, mad cat lady!
Have you always been in the area? What do you love about Ash Vale?
I’ve lived in Ash Vale for over 50 years. We moved here when my dad left the Army and I have never felt the need to move since. Up until a couple of years ago my career was in IT and I often made long commutes for work and travelled internationally too. We’re lucky to have great road networks and a great rail service. You can be in London in 45 minutes and the coast in 45 minutes, Heathrow in 30 minutes and Gatwick in 50 Minutes. I’ve always felt safe here. I live in a small close where everyone knows each other and we have a wonderful community spirit.
What’s your ‘day job’? How has COVID affected your day to day?
Once I left IT, I became a Registrar which means I spend my days marrying people. It really is the best job in the world! COVID has had a devastating effect on the whole wedding industry from the Ceremonies through to caterers, planners, venues, entertainers and others. So many of our couples have had their wedding plans squashed several times. Even now, restrictions are very limiting and so couples are still having to compromise from the ‘Big Day’ they had planned, to a more intimate event.
We know you have a great heart for the community. What motivates you and what do you get up to?
As work dried up, I found I had plenty of time to volunteer within the community I have made home. I feel blessed to have good health and that meant I could step up and volunteer to help others who need it as part of the amazing local Corona Support Group. I’ve met and worked with some incredibly selfless people who have dedicated their lives to this community and I am so happy to have been able to play a small part in that. Initially, I acted as a co-ordinator for my very local area, taking calls from those needing help with their shopping and prescription collections, and more recently have become a regular volunteer with our Food Parcel Project, where we make up parcels for families needing a little extra help through these difficult times. I am so motivated by the generosity of the community when we ask for donations – especially little extras around Christmas, Mothering Sunday and Easter, to make these times a little more special for the families we help. I have many friends who have worked all the way through the pandemic who would have loved to have been able to do more. We know this won’t last forever and we’re finally seeing a light at the end of this terrible time but for as long as I can get out and give a little something back, I will continue to do so. Being back in the Chapel is actually very nostalgic for me – as a teenager I went to a Youth Club there called PowerPoint, and so coming back decades later in a very different capacity is amazing.
Away from the volunteering activities bought in by the pandemic, I am also a regular volunteer and treasurer for our Local Nature Reserve and I am the area coordinator for our very active neighbourhood watch scheme.
A little bird told us you’re rather a fabulous singer, tell us about that!
Oh well now, who told you that?! Hahaha, Yes I do love a good sing song! I have fronted several party and function bands over the years and being on stage truly is my happy place. The very first band I was in – The Tangible Fruit Squad – was planning its 25 year anniversary with a bit of a comeback tour around the local area during 2020 but I don’t need to tell you how that went! Hey Ho, maybe we’ll go for a 30th Anniversary tour instead! I’ve played some incredible venues from the Iconic Rock Garden in Convent Garden, to stately homes performing at Weddings. We were lucky enough to get some Radio Airplay and even did a live acoustic set on the Whispering Bob Harries show. I guess the highlight for me would have to be my appearance on ITV’s Stars in their Eyes with Matthew Kelly, Singularly the most exciting thing I have ever done!
What’s your Easter wish, prayer or message for our local readers?
Mostly, I hope everyone can hold on to the fact that there are better times ahead. This won’t last forever and the time will come we can see and hug friends and family again. Secondly, to anyone who is still struggling, know that there is help out there. Don’t be afraid to ask. We have a wonderful group of kind volunteers just waiting to support you in anyway we can.
Finally, please be kind. It costs nothing and may make the world of difference to someone.