Christmas 2020

Dear Family and Friends

Exactly one year ago today, Gordon and Libby were in a head-on car crash. Both vehicles were travelling at 60 miles per hour. Miraculously they survived, and a year on, they are recovering from their injuries and with determination and courage, rebuilding their lives. Gordon celebrated his 30th birthday in February and had major surgery in June which was successful.

We hope that you have not been badly affected by Covid-19. We feel we have got off very lightly so far! Some of our favourite things to do have stopped, and we reckon that is the same for most people. But we have mostly been okay. We have been walking a lot, and cycling too. We have found a lot of lovely places to enjoy, not too far away.

Howard had his second total knee replacement operation in February, and that was great timing. He got it done just before Lockdown! That knee is doing great, but the one he had replaced in 2019 is now causing him some pain, especially going up and down stairs or hills. We are waiting to hear the results of a recent X-ray. He says he doesn’t really fancy having three metal knees. That would be really weird. Even for him.

We have had a few short breaks this year: A holiday in Germany with lovely friends at the beginning of February.  We were there on Brexit Day! A holiday on the coast in Norfolk in July, stopping by to visit Anna Jane and George. And a cycling weekend on the Isle of Wight in September. We felt very brave and adventurous leaving our car on the mainland, and heading off on the ferry, with just our bikes!  It was a great success however, and we would love to do it again.

Jamie and Kat, who got married in September 2019, are expecting their first baby in March 2021. We are delighted about this. It is a baby girl! Brilliant news!

It is almost a year since we have seen Joe, Charlotte and Teddy, who live on Lamma Island, Hong Kong. But they are well, and happy. Teddy has started Kindergarten; he will be 4 next February.

Vicki, Stephen and their children Florence (aged 4 and now at primary school) and Harry (aged 2), live in Wantage, just a 10 minute walk away. This is a great blessing to us. We love to see them often!

Gordon is now working with Howard on “First Ideas” our website business, which is a great thing for us. And Libby has set up her own business; baking Cookies and Biscuits to send around the world! We have a very enterprising family!

Rob, Summer and their son Reuben, live in Devizes, Wiltshire. We had a lovely visit from them in August. We are looking forward to seeing them again fairly soon, for a walk. STOP PRESS (mid December) – they’ve just announced that a new baby is on the way. Fantastic news!

Anna Jane and George live in Fakenham, Norfolk. They got engaged in February, and hope to be married in June 2021. Annie tries to get over to visit them every few months. The run-down house they bought in 2019 is now in much better order! They have done most of the work themselves, and learnt a lot in the process.

Howard has been improving his photography and videography skills, and has taken some great photos!  He hasn’t had so many regular music events, but he has done as much outdoor busking as he possibly could. He is playing for Christmas Markets in Wantage, on the three Sundays before Christmas, with his band Melobo. He was presented with a “Thank you for the Music” award, by a local charity. He was very pleased with that.

Annie has kept herself happy by gardening, at home and at the allotment. We have kept in touch with our friends from Church through WhatsApp and Zoom. We are looking forward to meeting in person very much, and hope that isn’t too far away.

Howard is now getting his old age pension and he has got his bus pass. Annie still has a few years to go, before she gets hers. We are enjoying life together more and more. Our 22nd wedding anniversary is in February 2021.

We wish you all God’s blessing and peace for Christmas and the New Year.

Please fill in our Guest Book.

Howard and Annie xx
1st December 2020

EXTRA LONG BIT ABOUT HOWARD’S MUSIC

The biggest impact of the C-19 virus was that I have only done one paid gig this year. I normally do around 50 or 60 gigs a year (a mixture of paid and unpaid events). The one I did was with Jigworks playing a Burns’ Supper in the Officer’s Mess at RAF Benson. Dear me – that lot can’t half drink. I can see why they call it a mess.

So, no more music for Howard in 2020? Well, no. Using the well known “let’s do this” algorithm, I managed to play loads of times this year. I almost always played outside where it is breezy and therefore, very safe.

Recently, I’ve just completed a couple of music videos to contribute to Wantage Mayor’s Carols in December (Zoom and Facebook Live). And Melobo will be performing live in the Christmas Markets held in Wantage Marketplace on the three Sundays leading up to Christmas.

I was the recipient of a “Thank you for the music” award from the Ray Collins Charitable Trust. I’m very proud of that.

Whoosya did a Facebook Live gig in May in our back garden. Mostly country blues. Then in June I played outside in Wantage for the local disability group.

Troubshort and Turnipseed recorded a video in Mr Troubshort’s garden. I played in the band, and recorded and edited the video too. It was eventually broadcast as part of “The Friday Sessions” by the Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot.

The Kerfunken Jig
MELOBO CEILIDH BAND

Rob That Train
TROUBSHORT AND TURNIPSEED

Troubshort and Turnipseed

Busking in Abingdon

Melobo

The Fox, Denchworth

Howard and Dave

Playing for Wantage Mobility Group

The Vale Islanders

The Fox, Denchworth

Slow Session

Streaming from Justin’s garden

Whoosya

Busking in Wantage

Melobo

Busking in Wantage

Vineyard Trio

Busking in Wantage

Howard in Wantage

VE Day

VE Day I busked in our street, singing jolly WW2 songs and playing my ukulele. quite a few neighbours appeared to find out what the racket was all about, but thank goodness, they all joined in with the singing. They even applauded once I’d finished. Well they would, wouldn’t they.

I started up my “Wantage Presents” series for a couple of months between lockdowns, performing outside with Melobo, Troubshort and Turnipseed, Whoosya and The Vineyard Trio. We raised money for Oxfordshire Mind, Thames Valley Air Ambulance, Autism Family Support and October Club (Dementia) charities. All of these gigs were enormous fun.

I got to play several times with Melobo in pubs. All very carefully managed and safely distanced.

I put together 3 music videos of Melobo, where we all play separately and synchronise them together, as if we are with each other. It was a challenge, but having seen so many of these videos with other groups, I thought I had to give it a try. It worked!

I took part in two of John Spiers’ Isolation Pub Sessions. It was a real privilege to be able to play along with a superb musician of international standing, even if it was all done with oodles of smoke and mirrors. By that I mean synchronised video.

Sadly, no gigs with my dance groups took place. The Vale Islanders got together a few times in a paddock to try and work out some socially distanced versions of dances (to give that authentic Black Plague vibe) but it turned out to be a bit too tricky really. I attended a few outdoor Cornucopia practices.

No music with Pandemonium either. For various reasons, I was the only one willing and able to play outside, so that was that. Shame. Not just for us, but for the (mostly) community groups that we love to support. In the same way, Hendred Ukulele Group, also great supporters of community groups, has not been able to play any gigs.

I’ve not been able to play for Ray Collins’ Charitable Trust, nor busk around the pubs with the Street Pastors, or lead “Singing for the brain” for the Alzheimer’s Society.

I busked in Abingdon and Didcot with Troubshort and Turnipseed raising money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance. And we also did an outdoor gig in Berkshire. In the rain. The band and audience were all in gazebos scattered around a field. Bonkers, but great fun.

And of course I did the usual crop of Zoom music (really good to chat, but not much fun musically) with Hendred Ukulele Group, the Wantage Slow Session and Cornucopia.

So all in all, it’s actually been a really great year for music, albeit very different and without any income.

Howard xx