Saturday 14 October 2023

Graham and Dylys' news in 2022

A great loss

We had two funerals this year, the first been Dylys's uncle. We had not seen much of him for many years 

Graham: In 2019 Mum moved from her own home into a care home. Her Alzheimer’s had become more serious, and she was becoming progressively more disabled. She was in the care home for six months and then moved to a nursing home shortly before the first lockdown of the pandemic. She was two years in the nursing home before she died this year – on 26 April, the day before our wedding anniversary, which makes it easy to remember the date.

The funeral was in Solihull, where my sister Karen lives, and where the nursing home is located. We spent another day in Solihull, in which we took a little time clearing out the few items from Mum’s room in the nursing home. Then, in September, we had a family memorial day at Bradgate Park in Leicester, close to where Mum used to live, where we have had a memorial bronze oak leaf mounted, and where we scattered the ashes. 

Wendy, Phil, Karen, Graham in front of a memorial post
Memorial leaf
It was a sad loss, Mum is much missed. Perhaps my fondest memory of her was when I was made redundant from my first job in 1992, in a great recession – I managed to sell my house quickly, and she told me, “You can come and live with me very cheaply, until you find a new job”. That took three months; I found a new job in Staffordshire and bought my next house in Stoke on Trent, where Dylys and I met.


Graham: It has been mostly working from home this year, with odd days travelling to the office. As part of a small team, an intriguing experience this year was for a team interview of a candidate to join us – all remotely, an online event. The team agreed that Jack was a good candidate, he has now joined us, and we have had a few days together in the office.

Dylys: Besides spending two mornings a week doing voluntary work in the hospital, I was very pleased that “Open the Book” was able to restart the schools work that had come to an end with the pandemic – I am with them on Thursday mornings. I am usually doing some church cleaning each week, and I manage the rentals for our church.


Graham: I don’t get much free time at home, although with working from home I spend most of my time in the house. I have managed to mow the lawns over the summer months, and to trim the bushes in the autumn (after the growing season); but I have not been able to treat the fences or the shed. Hence we are seriously thinking about moving to a “retirement” home.

We had opportunity to meet a representative from a McCarthy Stone retirement home development that is being built very close to where we live. On top of buying an apartment, it comes with a huge monthly service charge. We did manage to view an apartment for sale in a more established retirement development – interesting, but it was really too small for us. Now we are thinking more about apartments that are not specifically targeted at retired people, but we have not viewed any at the time of writing this letter.


It turned out to be an expensive year. We booked two regular holidays: in May we spent a week in Wolsingham, County Durham, and we had a good time exploring the Wear Valley – new territory for us. We were able to spend an afternoon with one of Dylys's cousins, who lives in St John's Chapel. Then we spent the first week of October in Hayle (near St Ives, Cornwall). On the whole, the weather was good for each of these weeks, and we much appreciated them.

Graham and Dylys with a stone wall in the background
Lovely sunshine near Thornley, County Durham

Dylys walking along a beach
Dylys on Porthkidney Beach near Hayle

Our church was going to have the first church weekend away for several years … in 2020. It was postponed twice due to the pandemic, and we finally went away to Cloverley Hall in June. After a couple of years of lockdowns (no church services) and cautious meeting together again in the church building (lots of Covid rules), the weekend away was a welcome opportunity to see the church fellowship properly.

Then my sister Karen announced that, as she was having a milestone birthday this year, she would like a family weekend away in Symonds Yat. She booked a large house, and four generations spent the weekend together (Dad and Val, down to great niece Rosie). We enjoyed good weather, good walks around the River Wye, and lots of food! So the two extra breaks made it a much more expensive year for what we would consider to be holiday expenditure.


We have been meeting in the building on Sunday mornings throughout the year. Most Sundays, the two of us are sitting behind computers and the sound desk – Graham records the service, whilst Dylys manages the display of words whilst the congregation sings along with the worship group, and the playing of Youtube videos. We have put out appeals for somebody to help with the sound desk, but with no response as yet, so Graham has to manage this as well.

We have not tried to reinstate the Sunday evening meetings, perhaps because we still do not have a great attendance each Sunday morning. Graham also sets up two Zoom meetings each week: the Sunday afternoon prayer meeting, and the Wednesday evening cell group – we are disappointed that so few people attend these, but maybe with Graham spending so much of each day in front of a computer, the Zoom meetings feel a much more natural environment for him than they do for most people in the church. Our pastor runs a daytime Bible study during the week, in which we are not able to take part.

Graham and Dylys' news in 2021


Graham: I have been in my regular day job, but working from home all year. I’m sure I will be back in the office one day, but for the time being it is easier for the software engineers to work from home than it is for most other staff at the business.

Dylys: I have been able to restart my voluntary work at the hospital. When I first resumed work after lockdown, I was restricted in what I was allowed to do: giving out masks as visitors came into the hospital, and filling up the mask stations. Since then I have been able to do an extra morning: two mornings a week in recent months. It was good to be able to go and do regular work again: my old job in Subject Access, and a new role, encouraging patients to check-in at the self service kiosk.

As “Open the Book” teams have not been able to go back into the schools, I have joined them in making some videos which we can send to the schools instead.

An accident

Graham: I used to cycle to work regularly before the pandemic, but whilst I am working from home, I like to get out for an early morning bike ride. I had a serious accident in June: although it was not raining, the roads were wet after rain overnight. I remember coming down a steep hill towards a sharp bend, but can recall nothing after that, although the cycling app on my phone showed that I spent 25 minutes at the scene of the accident, and it shows the route that I took home. Dylys took me to hospital, and after short term dressing in A&E, I went back a week or so later and had a plate fitted into my arm. In the follow-up consultations I have been told to be more careful on my bike. Despite having the accident in the summer, the winter feels the more risky time on the bike, and in recent weeks I have been trying a mix of walks/jogs in the local area when the weather is fit, and following video exercises in the house on other days.


Graham: I have struggled to get jobs done at home: like repainting the passageway gate, and trimming hedges around the garden - in part this is due to the resumption of family visits after lockdown, which take up at least half of our Saturdays. But also, I have been needing more sleep - whether this is part of getting older, or a consequence of the cycling accident, I am not sure. I did get the gate painted, and half of the laurel hedge trimmed - the other half is outstanding at the time this newsletter was written.

To be honest, I could have made headway on these jobs on August bank holiday, which was a fine day; but we chose to go off for a day's walk from Tegg's Nose Country Park, including Lamaload Reservoir and Shining Tor. We appreciated the opportunity to get out for a summer's day together, particularly with our holidays this year being delayed to the autumn.

Reached some milestones

We “celebrated” our Silver wedding anniversary in April this year. Dad and Val very kindly sent us money for a meal out, but although restaurants were starting to open, we did not feel that the time was right, and we had a takeaway on our special day.

Graham: I hit a different milestone in May – my 60th birthday! We would have liked to mark the occasion better, and maybe we still will next year, but as for the wedding anniversary, we had a celebratory takeaway.

I took a couple of days off work in November, and we did go out to use our anniversary gift on the Thursday lunch time, anticipating that it would be a less busy time. The Legh Arms was a bit more busy than we were expecting, but we really enjoyed the meal.


Normally we like to book our holidays at the start of the year, and select one week in May, and another week in the autumn. With the Covid situation the way it was at the beginning of the year, it felt wise to delay the holidays until the autumn.

We had an excellent week at Trearddur Bay (near Holyhead) in September – during the course of the break, we covered most of the perimeter of Holy Island on foot, and managed to include a short stretch on Anglesey.

Graham at a trig point
Holyhead Mountain summit

Graham and Dylys in sun hats
Lovely weather on our walk to North Stack

In October we spent a night in Cornwall (around visiting family) before a second week’s break at Brixham in Devon. Brixham is on a peninsula, and we were pleased to cover the coast path around the peninsula.

Dylys overlooking the sea
Dylys: Not to be outdone by Graham’s cycling accident, I managed to take a fall coming down a steep bank in Kingswear on one of those walks from Brixham. I sat down hard and I can still feel it, but I did not come off as badly as Graham did earlier in the year.


There were no meetings in the church building from New Year until the beginning of May. The two of us would watch the pastor's pre-prepared video message together, then spend an extended time in prayer, and then join a Zoom fellowship meeting.

We miss the Service @ Home routine - it was much less hectic, and seeing people face to face on Zoom feels safer than doing so in the building. We have an ongoing Zoom prayer meeting and Zoom cell meeting each week, but are disappointed at the low participation: clearly, most people prefer meeting in the building, and would rather take the time off for something else than meet on Zoom. We are not eager to return to late nights in the building or people's homes, once we are able to meet physically more regularly again.

Graham: It’s difficult to avoid being busy, as I am an Elder, and responsible for most of the IT tasks in the church, as well as for Data Protection.

Dylys: I stepped down from deacon’s duties this year, but I am still managing rental groups within the building, and regularly doing church cleaning activities.

Graham and Dylys' news in 2020


It has been a very different year, thanks in part but not exclusively to Covid-19. Graham has been working from home for most of the time since mid-March, with just odd days in the office, and is really thankful to have had a stable job with no furlough. We have had more time at home with family visits having been seriously curtailed.

Early on in the year, before Covid took off, Dylys fainted in the bath, bashed her nose as she fell, and Graham came home from work to take her to A&E. She spent one night in hospital and then came home. The doctors suggest that an underactive thyroid may be the underlying cause of her fainting, but we are grateful for no reoccurrence.

In a strange year we have had two new garage doors! Early in the year, Graham had gone down to the West Midlands to visit his mother in the care home, and then spent time with his sister and family nearby. He drove home in the wind, tried to reverse the car into the garage, but did not notice that the wind had brought the garage door down 45 degrees. The rear windscreen was smashed, and the garage door broken. We got both fixed before the first lockdown happened.

Then in the autumn we went away for a holiday. We returned home, pulled onto the drive, and thought, “Hey, somebody has broken into our garage!” The door post was broken and the garage door was wedged inwards. But there was a note from a poor meter reader through the front door, explaining how his van had rolled off whilst he was reading a meter, and he found it up against our garage. It seemed to take weeks for his insurance claim to go through, but we had the door replaced at no cost to ourselves.


At the start of the year we booked two holidays: one in Cornwall for the final week in March, in which we would be able to see family; and the other in Bellingham Northumbria in September. As March progressed, that first holiday looked increasingly uncertain. As we approached that week, the Government advised (but did not legislate) that we should avoid unnecessary travel. Two days before we were due to travel, we cancelled it. The lockdown was announced whilst we were due to have been away, so we would have been in an awkward position if we had travelled.

We were pleased that the week in September did go ahead. Northumbria was under tighter restrictions at the time, but we never expected to meet up with other people whilst we were away, and it was not a problem. Positioned on the River North Tyne running east-west, and on the Pennine Way running north-south, Bellingham is a strategic place for good local walking. On a couple of days we drove to Keilder Water, which we found to be pleasant, but it does not compare with the sheer beauty of the Lake District.

Dylys at a waterfall

Having missed out on seeing family in March, we booked up a last minute holiday in October, staying in a caravan near Looe. The rules at the time were such that we could not meet people indoors, but we were able to see Dad and Val, and Amy (niece) and Rosie (great niece) outdoors. The weather was generally good, we did lots of walking, enjoyed plenty of treats, and had a really good week.


For us, the more significant disruption this year were the restrictions on seeing family. In previous years we have been travelling on at least a couple of Saturdays each month, but it came to a halt with the first lockdown.

Graham’s mother moved to a care home in the West Midlands in the autumn of last year, and then from the care home to a nursing home early this year. All that we have been able to see of her since she moved to the nursing home is a few “window visits” during the summer (Graham sits outside the window of her ground floor room, she sits inside, with the window slightly open).

We managed one visit to Dylys’ family in the summer. When Uncle David died, attending the funeral was out of the question because numbers were very limited.


Church has also been very different this year, as we have had to get used to Zoom, and delivering “Service @ Home” sheets to church people who are not online. Graham has been publishing the pastor’s video sermons on Youtube, and has added significantly to the web site during the course of the year.

We had been attempting to recruit a Children and Families Worker, which we initially put on hold when the first lockdown happened, but then decided to go ahead, and we conducted interviews using Zoom. Katherine was appointed and joined our church in October.


Graham has been working from home for most of the time since mid-March. It works quite well, as modern technology makes it possible to access the business systems, talk with people, share the computer screen with people, with just the odd hold-up because the network connection is slower from home than it is in the office.

Dylys was going into schools with “Open the Book”, but that came to a halt early this year. She has been helping out at the hospital most weeks, but has not been allowed to do the office job there since the first lockdown – instead she is situated near the entrance, directing people to the masks. When she is not doing voluntary work, she has to put up with somebody else in the house who would normally be in the office for a large part of the day!