The Night’s Watch: Steve Roberts supports the hospice, both night and day #hospicehero #volunteering #patientcare #fundraising #community

Often you will turn around at Wirral Hospice St John’s and Steve Roberts, often for reasons not always immediately obvious, will be in your line of vision.

He’s an ‘Every-Person’. He might be jet-washing a patio area, fixing a light, cutting grass, checking the CCTV, touching up some paintwork, pat-testing the defibrillators, picking up or starting some laundry or just smiling, ready for a chat, when he picks up the internal or external post.

Employed as a ‘bank’ worker in our night ‘security’ team, he’s available (nearly) all hours of the night when called upon. However, throughout the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond, we’ve also seen him adding hours, which he’s volunteered for, during the day!

Steve is ‘Wirral’ through and through, starting school at Mersey Park in Tranmere and after leaving school he progressed to become a HGV fitter, then joining Unilever as a quality control technician. He then moved across to the security department where he spent 20 of his 39 happy years of service, latterly as security team leader.

In his home life he lives with partner, Jean, on the Eastham/Bromborough border! A keen DIY’er and ‘Man-Caver’ his name recently came up in dispatches, in a missive from the Cheshire Freemasons.

You see, Steve is an active freemason and his charitable works therein have not gone unnoticed. Down the years he’s been very active in both Cheshire and West Lancashire provinces. The Freemasons are renowned charitable givers across a range of charities and Steve also goes above and beyond in his duties.

As a visiting volunteer he helps to assess and administer financial assistance to freemasons and their families who, maybe through redundancy, ill health or even a death, become eligible for the special welfare awards the freemasons can deliver. Also when the government issued a call for citizens to apply to help with ‘community drop off’, Steve, stimulated by the calls to assist the community from within the Cheshire province, was quick to offer his services to the hospice..

Most recently, Steve was able to donate £120 (+ the 25% gift aid he was eligible to claim) to the hospice because a path he built, using 24 contemporary circular stepping stones to his ‘man-cave’ at home, didn’t work for him, after he‘d laid them.

His neighbour, seeing Steve start to take up his work, asked Steve if he could take them off his hands. So, for a discount off the retail price, at £5 per stone, Steve told his neighbour their joint endeavours would now benefit the hospice. CHEERS GENTLEMEN!

Steve’s since built the pathway he wanted – very nice indeed!

In normal times Steve also volunteers to help at various hospice events and special occasions. We see him at our annual Light up a Life lights switch on service* helping to marshal the crowds around the hospice gardens, also helping with the annual Christmas tree collection and he also lends a hand at our Summer ‘It’s a Knockout’ event.

He can’t speak highly enough of the care and compassion of the nurses he observes on his regular night shift. It is a quieter time than the rest of the day but, from time to time, Steve has been able to offer a visiting family member a drink, often tea but sometimes something a little stronger if they’re in any distress (and not driving).  

He loves the atmosphere at the hospice and has a very good rapport with the rest of the maintenance team too. He has a natural cheery disposition and when his night shift is over the last job he has to do before heading home is to feed the fish in our garden pond.

I imagine him spreading the feed, wishing the fish a great day then striding off ready for a well earned rest but also looking forward to the next bit of good work he can do.

Top Man, Steve.

Many Thanks for all you do!

Author: Billy Howard

*Sadly, due to the pandemic and the restrictions that have been put into place preventing crowds gathering, we have decided to cancel this year’s outdoor Light up a Life carol service. We will film a ‘Virtual Light up a Life service’ which will be on our website, this will be available to watch at 6pm on Sunday 6th December.

Born to Run: Hospice physiotherapist Miriam and friend Bev to do Virtual London Marathon for Wirral Hospice St John’s

#healthcare #hospicehero #wirralhospice  #physiotherapy #caring #wellbeing  #fun  #thankyou

Hospice Physio Miriam – with hospice colleagues wishing her well

If you’ve done, or can imagine doing, a London Marathon in normal times, you’ll have trained hard, loaded up with carbs, seen all the publicity build as the day approaches and organised your thoughts about how the day will pan out for you.

There would normally be thousands of people gathering ready to run, jog, trot, plod and, maybe, even walk for a myriad of good causes. Many others would line the streets to cheer on their friends, family and all the other runners around the course.

A huge gathering of humanity and goodwill spurs the runners on and helps them to get ‘over the line’.

However, on Sunday 4th October, and far away from the Capital, thousands of people will still be completing gruelling runs for their chosen charities, just without the extra impetus provided by the crowd.

So, think about doing that 26.2 miles when only you, and one friend, cheered off by a small gathering of your social bubble, are relying on true grit and self-belief to get you around?

Well, that’s what Wirral Hospice St John’s Physio, Miriam Lemon and her friend, Bev Tasker, will be doing on Sunday 4th October, 2020.

Yes, they’re in the 40th London Marathon after more places were made available to allow people to run the distance closer to home on a route of their own choosing (the London course will not be open!)

Miriam and Bev’s route – taking in the Wirral Coastline

We trust Bev will be a great running mate (Miriam says so) and with a number of family, friends and hospice colleagues volunteering to complete sections of the run alongside the pair of marathoners, socially distanced of course, we’re sure they’ll complete the distance with flying colours.

We took the opportunity to find out a little bit more about Miriam, her family and her life at Wirral Hospice St John’s. Before I spoke to her I asked one or two of her colleagues for their opinion on her and her chances:

Her whole family are like the sporting family from the card game Happy Families. She’ll smash it, we call them The Incredibles.

Miriam laughs when I tell her this and with typical humility she says, “I’m the least incredible.”

Daughter, Imogen, 13, is an accomplished short course swimmer and has competed in the Welsh National Championships, while son, Toby, 11, is an all-rounder enjoying football but with his coaches at the Deeside Amateur Athletics Club nurturing a talent for running at all distances from sprinting to 5k (under 21 minutes already!). Incredible!

It turns out husband, Dave (pictured above running with Toby), has completed 5 of the 6 ‘World Marathon’ series in Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and has only Tokyo to go! Incredible!

The Incredibles on a family hike: L-R, Miriam, Toby, Imogen, Dave and their dog, Lexi

For her part Miriam claims she’s not really a runner. Her sports are Netball, she once starred for Anglesey’s Valley Vixens, and she rowed, most notably for the renowned Worcester Rowing Club.

So why is she running this year?

Miriam had challenged herself that in the year she turns 40 she would complete the ‘Chester Triple’, an annual three event challenge encompassing an organised 10km run, followed by a half marathon and either a ‘metric marathon’, 26km, (which Miriam had signed up for) or a full traditional marathon later in the year.

However, having duly completed the 10k on 8th March, the other events were cancelled in the light of COVID 19. Miriam decided to complete the half on her own in Lockdown and now the (Virtual) London Marathon will round off her own personal triple in 2020. Incredible!

At the hospice Miriam is one of the physiotherapists in our Patient and Family Services team.

She qualified from Keele University early in the new millennium. From there she has worked in the NHS in Worcestershire, moved around with Dave who is in the RAF, taking in Cyprus between 2008 and 2011, via Anglesey and Surrey, where she was able to apply her physiotherapy skills to people in intensive care and to support acute medicine.

Miriam’s now been at Wirral Hospice St John’s for 3 years and explains how physiotherapy fits into the overall support and care we offer patients,

“Our job is to maximise people’s potential, building strength, balance and mobility. We want patients to be as independent as possible, helping them with breathlessness, symptom control, fatigue and anxiety. We’ve found that many patients can benefit from things like acupuncture, help with flexibility and by setting achievable goals people really manage well with their symptoms.”

On her colleagues at the hospice Miriam is heartfelt,

“They really are the best people I could have ever chosen to work with.”

With only 3 weeks before the Marathon all of her colleagues, friends and family will be spurring Miriam (and friend Bev) on. She’s created a Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/miriam-lemon to raise funds towards Wirral Hospice St John’s specialist care and support services

It won’t be easy but there is a word for what she’ll feel when she reaches the finishing line on Sunday 4th October.

Now, What is it again?

Oh YES……… Incredible!

Have The Incredibles discovered the fountain of youth?

This one’s for you Dad. Andy McKinney and friends to ride from Chester to Amsterdam in memory of dad, Paul. #hospicehero #hospicecare #nursing #fundraising #bikeride #care #thank you

Andy McKinney with bikersAndy McKinney is full of pride when he remembers his dad, Paul, who was with us at Wirral Hospice St John’s until October 2019 when he passed away, having lived with throat and lung cancer for several years.

The hospice couldn’t do enough for my dad. The nurses were so attentive and the care he received was, honestly, second to none. He’d be delighted now that we’re aiming to raise some funds for the hospice with our bike ride from Chester to Amsterdam. The lads have been training so hard to make him proud.

Yes, on Wednesday 19th August, Andy and six other friends will be setting off on their bikes from the iconic Eastgate Clock in Chester to arrive three days later, via the Hook of Holland port, to Amsterdam Rijksmuseum (not ‘bikes museum’!)

It’s a grueling and intense ride from one beautiful City to another. The first day is, just the 71 miles, the steepest in climbs (up to around nearly 1400 feet in parts), will see them eventually settle for the evening in the Pennines at Thurlstone MillHouse.

Then, day two is the small matter of 82 miles from South to East Yorkshire to Hull, again the undulating terrain which will test even the keenest of riders.

Having taken the ferry from Hull to Hook of Holland (Hoek Van Holland) on the third leg of their epic journey they ride out on the final 45 mile ride up to Amsterdam. Thankfully in Holland, as everyone knows, the land is a little flatter so that should help on the now, extremely, tired legs.

Andy tells me a little bit more about his dad, (they’re pictured together here enjoying a drink).Andy McKinney with Dad Paul

Paul was born in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and Andy’s the middle sibling of three brothers all also born in Canada.

Andy McKinney dad coachAs you might guess Ice Hockey was a favourite sport and when Paul and his sons came to the UK, he coached the Deeside Junior Ice Hockey club, The Deeside Dragons. He was held in great affection by many young people, being seen as a teacher and mentor by everyone who enjoyed their time there.

He lived in Chester for many years before settling in Wirral with his beloved Tarnya whom he met at the winter Ice Rink at Chester Zoo which he managed and where she was head of first aid.

They settled in Wirral where Paul’s passion for the whole region flourished, so much so, that Andy says they could have made him a Blue Badge Tour Guide for all of his visiting friends and relatives.

Before, during and, really, despite his illness Paul always motivated his sons to develop positive attitudes, to follow their dreams, travel the world and challenge themselves to new things and sporting achievements.

Andy himself is now a professional player in the National Ice Hockey League for Telford Tigers and, although he’s too humble to say, a google search shows he’s more than capable of handling himself in a very tough sport!Andy McKinney playing

So you just know that, as they’re all set to go, the team made up of Andy and friends, Joel Bate, Tom Briggs, Matt Davison, Luke Briggs, Jack Watkins and Ross Kennedy will be in good shape to complete the challenge.

Andy launched a Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-paul-mckinney setting a challenging target of £10,000 between them to make a great donation to the hospice.

Great good luck chaps. Or ‘Succes (no extra ‘s’) as the Dutch will definitely say.

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Colin Middlebrough – a volunteer we can all count on! #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #wirral #fundraising

ColinIf you could choose anyone to count out all the coins (and often notes) that are donated to Wirral Hospice St John’s via collection boxes distributed all around Wirral, in shops, bars, hairdressers, chemists and a host of other businesses, as well as at bag-packing and other events, you would do well if you could find a former bank auditor!

Happily, we have that very man. His name is Colin Middlebrough.

He’s been volunteering here for 7 years now and every Wednesday, with a cheery ‘”Good Morning”, he’ll greet people in finance, fundraising and other volunteers around the place, with a ready quip or funny anecdote, before bunkering down in a quiet room to start counting.

In the week of his 80th birthday – 80? No Way! – Colin shared some of his life story with us.Colin 80]

The legend is that, in 1940, Fred and Bessie Middlebrough welcomed baby Colin into the world during an air raid over Liverpool. Born at Mill Road Maternity Hospital (where there was a tragic bombing in 1941), he spent his formative years in Armley Road, off Priory Road in Anfield, not far from the home of his beloved reds, Liverpool FC.

By age 15 Colin was nurturing his lifelong talent, playing the drums! He’d be bashing the skins and cymbals in the terraced house he was brought up in and he chuckles when he recalls, “I think the old lady next door was deaf so it never bothered her, although I think I may have driven the other neighbours mad. They used to throw bricks through the window…… just so they could hear me better!”

His 1958 skiffle group, The All Blacks (they were admirers of the New Zealand rugby team), were regulars at the original Cavern Club, winning a competition to be a support act at The Liverpool Empire Theatre for a week.

Colin subsequently worked on the same bill and met many famous artists and groups, The Beatles, Rory Storm, Cliff Richard, Jim Dale of ‘Carry On’ film fame, Ike and Tina Turner’s Ikettes, Queen, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Merseybeats and many more.

(You could say Colin is our MBE – Mersey Beat Expert!)Colin KC5

Here’s Colin pictured with The Kansas City Five (they were six actually) in Liverpool in 1961. Colin is 3rd from the left. Just behind him is Tommy Hughes (we told his wife, Angela’s, story here)  Bruce McCaskill (in the photo 2nd from right) was Eric Clapton’s road manager and also managed Scottish R&B combo the Average White Band. 

The gigging was going well but by 1969 he was also looking for something steady. He joined Midland Bank (now HSBC) as a cashier in the days when it was compulsory dark suits, ties and a white shirt. He continued to gig with his covers band, The Jaywalkers, while working his way up at the bank to become a Senior Auditor.

How he also found time for refereeing amateur football matches is a wonder and Colin tells a great story of the time he was to referee the Cup Final between Guinness Exports and Littlewood’s Stores in the Liverpool Business Houses Football League in the 1960’s. As representatives of the opposing teams approached him separately before the game, it is only speculation what he could have earned in Guinness, or a year’s worth of new outfits. Of course, Colin refereed with the ultimate integrity.

As life went there was also time for volunteering. He helped, as treasurer between 1989 and 1994, to establish the Merseyside entertainers’ charity, The Merseycats, (find Colin in the middle of Row 19 at this link) which organises events to raise funds for children’s charities in the region.

Through entertainment he became involved with the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundationand recalls a gig at The Liverpool Empire in the early 90’s in aid of the Roy Castle charity which led to him meeting the late great famous actor, Sir John Mills.

Colin got chatting to Sir John at the after-show get together at the Adelphi Hotel (as you do!). After Lady Mills retired for the evening Sir John asked Colin if he’d like to take a nightcap with him. Assuming there would be a call to the waiter, Colin was surprised, and delighted, when Sir John undid the head of his walking cane to allow him to pour out a ‘tipple’ of brandy, which he kept in the shaft of his cane! Class!

So, seven years ago, Colin remembers meeting our volunteer services manager, Carole, at a function and the subject of counting all the pennies came up. He’s been here ever since  and has counted tens of thousands of pounds for Wirral Hospice St John’s.

Colin MarioHe’s also been involved in loads of fundraising himself and last year, with a group of his good friends from The Wheatsheaf pub in Raby Mere, he led a ‘Movemberesque’ effort which raised around £2,000 for the hospice. The story made the Wirral Globe and, good sport that he is, he also posed with a spoof moustache in the photograph here.

Grandad Colin has three grandsons, Fionn Padraig, who lives in Ireland, and who Skype’s Colin regularly, and Logan and Aaron who live closer to home, in Wirral.

Colin is literally our man for all seasons and we’re delighted to have him on the team.

Happy 80th, Sir, and many, many happy returns!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Angela Hughes, a patient in our Wellbeing Centre who had a part as a child actor in 1958 Hollywood Movie, Inn of the Sixth Happiness. #wirralhospice #wellbeing #hospicehero #lifetime #nursing #care #support

Angela Hughes and LesleyAngela Hughes is, simply, a lovely lady. (Here she’s pictured with our Wellbeing  nurse, Lesley). She loves coming to the Wellbeing Centre at Wirral Hospice St John’s. The therapies and treatments are helping her live as well as possible with her COPD but, most of all, she looks forward to sitting with people, like herself, with various challenging conditions, and just chatting.

“They’re my friends and it’s great to spend time with them!”

It would be fair to say that Angela is small in height but she more than makes up for it in personality. She’s got a really interesting life story and I sat down with her to hear a bit more about it.

She was born, Angela Woo, in St George’s Place in Liverpool, at the heart of the oldest Chinese community in Europe, known locally as Chinatown, to a Chinese father, who died when Angela was two and an English mother, Alice.

Angela Hughes 6She says that the title ‘child actor’ overstates her role in the Twentieth Century Fox film, made in 1958, Inn of the Sixth Happiness. The film attempts to highlight the real life bravery of legendary Chinese missionary, Gladys Aylward, (the film is not completely accurate according to Gladys herself), who is played in the film by famous Hollywood actress, Ingrid Bergman.

The film depicts a period in the Second World War when Gladys led a group of Chinese children, orphaned in the Sino-Japanese war, to safety over the mountains of China. It was actually shot in the mountains of North Wales and 100 Chinese children from Liverpool played the orphans.

Angela says, “There was an advert in The Liverpool Echo and mum put me forward. The rest, as they say, is history.”

It certainly is. It’s also the reason that many people who were children in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s remember the song, This Old Man, so fondly. “♫This Old Man, he played one, he played knick knack on my thumb… ♫”

Happy Days indeed!

So, following her Hollywood ‘debut’ young Angela was enrolled in Margaret Cox’s dancing school in Parliament Street in Liverpool. She showed plenty of promise and was soon off to the Pavilion Theatre in Rhyl for a regular acrobatic ladder act and more dancing.Angela Hughes 1

“I was extremely flexible as a teenager and I was soon recruited to the Circus.”

Via Billy Smart’s and Bingley Hall in Manchester, Angela moved on to the famous Dick Chipperfield’s Circus.

In those days tamed animals were part of the attraction and Angela would ride horses, elephants, camels, and rhinos as part of bringing in the crowds all around the UK.

Angela Hughes 3“I also performed acrobatics and a ballerina act. We’d have fun being chased by, and chasing, the clowns around the Circus ring. The famous ‘bucket of water into the crowd, which turns out to be confetti’ was one of my jobs and it did get a lot of laughs”.

Angela’s first marriage produced “five wonderful children” who she clearly adores. “They’re always there for me and, of course, the 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren keep me very busy.”

Her second marriage to the love of her life, Tommy Hughes, was a happy one. Tommy has his own place in music history as one of the original members of Merseybeat favourites, The Swinging Blue Jeans. Sadly, Tommy died in 2013. 

Originally The Bluegenes were a skiffle group formed in 1956 and Tommy played the banjo. However National Service cut short Tommy’s growing career and he missed out on their later considerable success in the 1960’s. Have a listen to Tommy talking about his career here https://www.vincetracy.com/podcastfile/tommyhughesswingingbluejeans8october.wav

Tommy and Angela used to sing ‘live’ together in his later years which underlines Angela’s own wide-ranging talents.

It’s emotional for Angela so I move on to ask about Wirral Hospice St John’s and her experience here.

“People are so lovely, caring, understanding. No one judges you they’re just as helpful as can be. I love meeting the people who are in a similar position to my own. There’s a lot of sharing. We’re like our own little community. They’re all very special people.”

Angela gets breathing exercises and strategies to cope with breathlessness. She has strong, heartfelt advice for young people,

“Don’t Smoke, it’s that simple. There are enough people now, who started in the time before we knew its real effects, who are living with the consequences.”

Wise Words from a wise lady! I ask her how she views her own situation and, in a throwback to her Liverpool roots, she says (maybe using a different word).

Stuff happens! I’m just glad that I have my family and the people here at Wirral Hospice St John’s to help me to cope.”

We love having you around Angela, thank you for sharing so much about your fascinating life!Angela Hughes 2

Author: Billy Howard

 

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