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Celebrating Our Volunteers – Chris

As part of National Volunteers’ Week, 1-7 June 2020, we are celebrating our amazing volunteers and saying a huge thank you to them for the invaluable contributions that they make to Newcastle Cathedral.

Chris’ Story

Here we shine a spotlight on Chris, a Senior Steward at the Cathedral, as he shares a little about himself…

Taken inside studio two at Abbey Road Studios, London with Mrs Mills Piano! It was also used on many Beatles albums and singles.

Describe your best weekend

With just spending, at the time of writing, ten weeks totally on my own with only the occasional delivery drivers at a distance for physical contact, I dream and long for what has been for many years now my average “weekend”. Having had enough wild weekends of singing and dancing and laughing at the moon to last a few lifetimes my average weekend nowadays (during normal times anyway) has settled into a regular pattern far from the white knuckle rides of the past. Saturday consists of my regular routine of cleaning the house and listening to Radio 4 during the day, switching to Radio 3 for the jazz programmes come tea time. I always see my significant other on a Saturday evening and catch up with the week’s news and events and happenings over tea and biscuits. Every other Sunday we visit a very dear friend of mine for our tea who I have known for over fifty years now indeed since junior school days. We enjoy a far wide ranging session of conversation, chit chat, reviews and laughter over our sandwiches and I long for the day when we can return to this arrangement again.

Tell us about a memorable holiday / event

I’m just so lucky that my life has been filled with memorable holidays / events but a recent one would have to be being taken all expenses paid to visit Abbey Road Studios in London. Words just can’t describe fully what an experience it was to visit and spend a couple of hours in the room that so much of the magical and important music of the last century was conceived. It almost seems dream-like that I have actually been there now with the highlight seeing the piano that the great Mrs Mills recorded her classic singalong LP’s of the 60’s and 70’s on and of course hearing that final piano chord from The Beatles “a day in the life” played live on several pianos (well three as it was on the recording) sounding just as it does on the album.

Post-COVID-19, if you could be whisked away to anywhere for 2 dream days where would you go?

Two dream days is easy… it would be spent on the Holy island of Lindisfarne with The Grinch. Preferably in September with days of wonderful late summer sunshine and blue skies followed by star filled nights with just a hint of early autumn on the breeze. Having stayed on the Island many times during the 1990’s there is nothing like it when the tide is up and the tourists have gone. A beautiful, peaceful, unique vibe envelopes the place that no one can fail to respond to. Forget Paris, Rome, London or Las Vegas it’s always North Northumberland for me!

Have you tried any new foods or perfected any recipes during lockdown?

No real new foods but I have invented many dishes by combining the contents from my weekly gratefully received Government “food box” for the vulnerable .I have also managed to make porridge from scratch at long last and also managed to make some very tasty homemade pasta concoctions.

Have you got any new hobbies you’ve picked up during lockdown?

No new hobbies to report but I’ve tried to sharpen things like my plant propagation skills and made myself do things like replacing the corroded ear pads on, hideously in their day, overpriced headphones!

What’s the first thing you’ll do when COVID-19 is over?

First thing I will be doing (well the non-x-rated bits anyway!) when finally given clearance is having loads of hugs, cuddles and kisses.

How long have you volunteered at the Cathedral / what is your role / what made you choose to volunteer with us?

I have been volunteering at the Cathedral for several years now and am currently a Senior Steward / Head Welcomer / Cathedral Host / Leader of the Gang… whatever I am known as this week. I was looking for some voluntary work to do and had intended to work at the Castle Keep where I had worked during the 1970’s as part of the archaeological exaction team but sadly I had to accept that due to my continuing mobility problems I would never manage all the steps. I had always thought as I made my way to work every day during my time at the Keep that I would have some future involvement in our wonderful Cathedral and indeed my psychic powers must have been working overtime! Following an interview with my now good mate Kate, I spent one week shadowing the then Head Welcomer Malcolm, who pronounced me more than capable of “going it on my own”, which I did the following week.

In fairness, I have decades of experience as a front man for various music groups and many MC-ing jobs under my belt over the years, which came in as a useful resource to draw upon. This however is the Dean’s gig and I like to think that I give the warm welcome that Geoff would expect of me whilst I am on duty. This is as I coined it years ago “The Peoples Cathedral” and I believe we are totally unique amongst UK Anglican buildings and am enormously proud of my small but potent connection to the place.

How would others at the Cathedral describe you?

I know that some staff and workers think I am a little on the LOUD side. I know my voice can carry somewhat and that my dulcet tones seem to permeate the gaff, but remember folks that I spent years learning how to project my voice properly in concert venues and did receive vocal training back in the day. On the positive side, I have been told by some fellow volunteers that my ready smile cheers them up and I like to think that I am always approachable and available should anyone require any advice or tips regarding our job on the front line so to speak.

I do know that I make folk very proud of me by the stoic way that I have coped with my recent two and half years of chemotherapy for my continuing lymphoma. In return thanks for all your much valued support.

I love coaching and passing on my knowledge of things and do feel that I am an underused resource in all sorts of fields (especially the Arts and performance) but I do find my work at St Nicholas’ very rewarding and fulfilling. It’s a great place to be on the right day and we have a lot of fun and many laughs. I did not start working here to make any friends but inevitably friendships form and I have met some people whose presence enriches me and in whose company I derive great joy.

There is a Steve Harley song called “The Best Years of Our Lives” which includes the lyric “If there’s no room for laughter there’s no room for me”. Just about sums me up.

Why Volunteer?

Volunteering is a fulfilling way to give back to the community and, as well as helping others, volunteering has been shown to improve volunteers’ wellbeing and makes you feel great in return too!

It’s human nature to feel good after helping someone out. Volunteering can also help you gain valuable new skills and experiences, and boost your confidence.

If you have been inspired and are interested in becoming a volunteer at Newcastle Cathedral, please get in touch with our Project Manager, Lindy Gilliland, by email to find out how to get started.

Want to read more volunteering stories to inspire you? Click here.