An interview with ... Joe Gleeson
Father Christmas is not the only one to work all night at Christmastime. As Christmas Day approaches they are burning the midnight oil in our local butcher's too.
Village butcher Joe Gleeson is used to working 12 hour days for much of the year. With hundreds of festive orders to prepare he has to double his workload and call in his entire family and former "Saturday boys" to help. There have been Christmases in the past when it has involved 24 hour working on the the day before Christmas Eve.
However, it's worth it if it keeps the customers happy. And happy customers are a feature at Joe's shop on the corner of West Avenue and Hazlemere Road.
In fact, the Christmas queue to collect pre-ordered meat and other goodies is one of the jolliest places to be in the village in the days leading up to the holiday. Joe puts up a marquee to protect customers from the elements and hands out mince pies and hot drinks. It's even been known for the waiting throng to burst into carol singing!
This will be Joe's 27th Christmas at the shop he has run since the age of 24. When he arrived here in 1984 there were three butchers in the village following the recent closure of King's. Now he's the only one. But with communities like ours continuing to lose their local shops, Joe never rests on his laurels.
An interview with ... Dr Hilary McDermott
When Dr Hilary McDermott first arrived at Penn Surgery nearly 30 years ago she was the first female GP in the practice.
For some patients that was a step too far. Before she arrived a handful wrote in the nicest possible way saying that a lady doctor was not for them and could they transfer to a man. To which the surgery replied, also in the nicest possible way, that the choice was, of course, up to them but could they "respectfully request that you meet her before making that decision."
It was a credit to the good doctor - as well as the handful of reluctant patients - that those who agreed to the request didn't go on to transfer their allegiance. In fact, it's a fair bet they will be among the many hundreds who will sorely miss her passion, her care and her understanding when she retires next year.
Helping people is what makes Hilary tick. Sitting in her roomy office in the swish Penn Surgery, built on the site of the Horse and Groom pub in Elm Road, she doesn't regret her career choice one bit. "I never know how is going to walk through that door or what they are coming for," she says. "Being a GP is exciting; you are on the medical front line."
An interview with…Peter Sachs
Peter Brown talks to Peter Sachs about local charity ‘Village Care’ and his extraordinary life so far.
Village Care is a practical yet modest charity that brings enormous credit to Penn and Tylers Green. For the past 25 years hundreds of people have given time and energy to assist those in the community in need of a helping hand. They have done this, without any fuss or proclamation, as volunteer drivers or duty telephonists to ensure that people unable to get about can keep hospital appointments, collect prescriptions or simply do a bit of shopping.
And for the past decade this quiet, unassuming charity has been chaired by a quiet unassuming man. Peter Sachs takes no credit for the continuing success of Village Care, handing that to the volunteers. “As an organisation it virtually runs itself. Any problems are solved by the volunteers themselves; they hardly ever come to me,” he says with satisfaction.
An Interview With...Pat Dancer
Peter Brown talks to columnist Pat Dancer about her life so far.
To her husband, she was the village’s Miss Marple “riding round on her bike getting information from all over the place for her column”. To her customers, in earlier days, she was the welcome provider of regular hot lunches and delicious homemade cakes. But to her many, many friends in Penn and Tylers Green, she is simply our Pat, the lady with a winning smile, a sympathetic ear and ever-open arms of welcome.
Readers of Pat Dancer’s column in Village Voice and, for 20 years before that, her village column in the Buckinghamshire Advertiser, will know how much she loves this community.
She was born in Bushey in 1925, but when Pat was seven, she and her parents settled in Gerrards Cross, where a happy, almost idyllic, childhood followed. War had broken out by the time she left school, so thoughts of university were out of the question – as a slightly headstrong, but deeply patriotic teenager she wanted to do her bit.
Pat yearned to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and fight from the deck of some battleship, but she was too young. Instead, in 1941, aged 16, she commuted daily to Regent Street Polytechnic for a commercial and secretarial course.
Just before her 18th birthday, her call up to the WRNS came, but her hopes of joining the front line were soon dashed: “They told me I could become a cook, a steward or a clerk,” she says today, still wistfully.