Meet the Local

The Parishioner interviewed Graham Thomas, Treasurer of the Shawfield School Association

Great to meet you Graham, tell us about yourself and how you feel about the local area. How would you describe Ash Vale?

A well connected, friendly village. It has that lovely village feel, yet at the same time, it’s very easy to get to the nearby towns, and even jump on the train to London. I also love the fact you don’t have far to get before you’re either in the middle of various army lands, or in the countryside.

What do you do for your ‘9 to 5’?  I’m a Technologist for a computer manufacturer. It means I spend a lot of time explaining what a Technologist is 🙂 I get to work with all manner of customers to shape future products, from F1 teams to Universities, and I also get my hands on the latest laptops, phones and tablets before they are even launched. My kids think I just get to ‘mess around with gadgets’.

When you’re not working what do you do like to do to relax?  When I’m not chasing around my two sons, I play bass in a band and love watching live music. I also moved house last year and I’m still working through the long list of little tweaks and improvements. I recently bought a 3D printer to satisfy my inner inventor and that’s proving to be another time consuming pastime, I wouldn’t say it’s relaxing though!

A little bird told us you’re quite active as a volunteer for the Shawfield School Association (SSA). What do you get up to and what are you fundraising for this year? Yes, I’ve been helping out the SSA (the school PTA) since my eldest son started at the school 5 years ago, more recently I became treasurer. This year we are trying to raise £10,000 to support the school plans to enhance the learning environment and resources. With everything that’s happened in the last 20+ months, school budgets have been stretched more than ever, and it’s important that the SSA focus on helping the school add to what they already use to deliver excellent teaching to the children.

That’s amazing! How can the people of Ash Vale support the SSA this Christmas?  Well, there is great way to support the SSA, not just for Christmas, but all year round, and that’s the Guildford Community Lottery. 60% of all monies raised goes to good causes, with 50% going to the chosen cause: https://www.guildfordlottery.org/support/shawfield-school-association People can either use the above address, or go to the main community lottery page and then search for Shawfield. It’s only £1 per ticket and the prize fund is very good, with a £25,000 jackpot. They also run extra competitions, and the run up to Christmas is a competition to win a £1,000 Decathlon voucher.  It’s a great community lottery where players know that the funds raised are used to support local organisations. We are also signed up to Amazon Smile, where Amazon donates to charitable organisations, at no cost to the customer. So make sure Shawfield School Association is selected when shopping, it’s free and it would be nice to get even the smallest chunk of Jeff Bezo’s money!

News from Abbeywood Care Home

By Carol Weaver

Hi Everyone, let me introduce you to your local care home, Abbeywood, on Wharf Road. We specialise in caring for the elderly and those with dementia. We have brilliant residents, who haven’t been outside since last March. It has been a very tough year for us all.

We want to start planning exciting things for our residents after lockdown. Our Moto is ‘#never too old’, so we have decided to start early and plan a Panto for late November, date to be confirmed.

We would like to open this up to the public as well, but being a care home we have to fund this all ourselves… that’s where we hope you guys will be able to help. Our Panto is Cinderella, and we have some costumes, but may need to ask for help with some props and scenery. As a team we will need lots of willing Abbeywood volunteers to fill the characters too!

As you pass our windows, especially during the holidays on the Easter Trail, please do keep waving to our residents, they really love it. They may not all wave back, but they talk about it as you go by.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and we wish you all a Happy Easter.

If you’d like to get involved and support the Abbeywood Panto in November please phone us on 01483 404931 and ask for Shai, Sylwia or Carol. Thank you for your support!

Meet the local — Mary Langsford

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.

Introducing Rosie, our Waterways Chaplain

By Rosie Leakey

When I became a Christian, 42 years ago now, my life was transformed overnight and having given my life to Christ, I experienced such love and joy within my heart I was propelled into living and viewing life differently on a day-to-day basis. Jesus rapidly became my best friend whom I enjoyed talking with, reading the Bible, and looking out for answers in line with His plans for my life. The verse from John 3:16 then made sense to me, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ It has been an exciting journey, not always easy going but full of encouraging things that have happened, even in the hard times. One of the verses that has always meant a lot to me is from Psalm 37 v 5 ‘Commit your ways to The Lord, trust in Him and He will do this’. I placed this verse over the doorway of the department I work in and God did indeed bless the work. I also learnt that success in Gods’ eyes can be different from our limited idea of achieving or being successful.

My love of being on rivers and walking along tow paths started 20 years ago when we had a family holiday on a narrow boat. Being able to go more slowly along and appreciating the beauty of nature helps us to draw closer to God. I am so grateful that my love of sharing my faith in Jesus, being on or near water and enjoying nature, has all been brought together in being a Waterways Chaplain.

I retired from being an Occupational Therapist 4 years ago to help look after my late frail father-in-law, to spend more time with my elderly mother, to be on or near the water and to help look after our granddaughter.

Just before the end of the first lockdown I managed to complete my training to be a Waterways Chaplain and I was commissioned in time to go roaming in the Fenlands. We did many prayer walks round the old churches that were along the river banks and it was an encouraging time meeting different people.

Many others enjoy walking along the tow paths and even more so in this year of a pandemic, so it has been good to be able to be out and about when possible and talk with those who do want to, especially if I am given an opportunity to share about what Jesus means to me and has done for us all. I look forward to seeing you again in the future and may the Lord bless us all daily as we look forward and trust in Him for a Happy Easter and year ahead freer of COVID.