My Gorsedd award
for outstanding service to Cornwall
Several weeks ago an envelope arrived with 'Important' written in red ink
on the front. Inside, typed on Gorseth Kernow letterhead in a characteristic
uncial font, was a letter with 'Absolutely Strictly Confidential', conspicuous
in purple, across the top. The letter read that the Gorsedd Council had awarded
me the London Cornish Shield for outstanding service to Cornwall and Cornish
To say I was amazed was an understatement. In
fact, I was too emotional and overwhelmed to read the letter properly and
rang the Awards Secretary, to ask if they had the right person. Yes, it was
for me, but she couldn't say who had proposed me, or for what, although I
had a suspicion, which wasn't confirmed until the awards were officially
announced prior to the Gorsedd on 1st September. The Gorsedd of Cornwall,
or to give it it's Cornish language title, Gorsedh Kernow, is an organisation
dedicated to the preservation of Cornwall's unique Celtic spirit and sense
of identity through literature, language, music and the arts, and the recognition
of all forms of important service to Cornwall and its people.
The award was given to me because of decades
working with Cornwall Tapes for the Housebound. I've been involved with
number of high profile charities over the years, but this small organisation,
dedicated uniquely to people living in Cornwall, is very close to my
heart. It's the first charity that I worked with and has been part of
my life for 36 years. It couldn't have been better timed as the charity
is approaching its 40th anniversary in 2013.
'Tapes' is such an anachronistic title in
a world that has fast-forwarded from cassette tapes to CDs and MP3 players...
and what's this 'Cloud' system of storage on distant servers? What hasn't
changed is our ethos of providing the most simple kind of communication
- talking! With kind, caring words, our 'chatters' speak to people who
have become lost and invisible in the hustle and bustle of daily life
because they mostly live alone and are isolated through age and disability.
The charity began in 1973 with an inspirational
idea by Marjorie Gilbert; she had recorded tapes for her nephew, immobile
with a broken leg, who liked to hear stories read by his auntie. Marjorie
moved the concept on when she heard of a group in the east of the county,
who recorded and duplicated books which were circulated on the principle
of a rotating tape library, send to people who were unable to get out
and about. She amalgamated the idea of sending out tapes to housebound
folk, but without being duplicated. Each recording would be a personal
messages to a specific listener, taking into account, their personal
interests; resulting in the birth of the 'Chat' tape. These are C30 cassette
tapes, unscripted and recorded in 'chatters' own homes and sent to listeners
on a one-to-one basis.
My initial involvement was incidental as
John, my husband, had a recording studio back in 1976 and Marjorie called
him with a technical question. She had a Yorkshire saying, "horses
for courses' and when we met, she could see 'soft touch' written all
over me, and what can I say; thirty plus years later, I'm still here
because I recognise the need hasn't changed.
We live in a beautiful but remote part of the
world and for those who are fit, active and healthy there is
no better place to be, but when confronted by illness, age and disability
it's a different story; bleak, lonely, endless days and nights. The
sound of a friendly voice, even if recorded, can be the only human
contact for days on end. The tapes are sent regularly by post and unlike
other organisations, we do not target people with a specific disability
or in any age group and anyone who lives alone and is housebound comes
within our scope.
Accepting the award from the Gorsedd Council
was a honour personally, but the recognition of 'Cornwall Tapes' and
the commitment of the 'chatters' that I've worked with over the years,
acknowledges their dedication. Speaking into a microphone to a stranger
takes a special kind of person - we have a couple of chatters who have
recorded over a thousand tapes... imagine talking for five hundred hours
to people you've never met! The volunteers are the backbone and vital
resource of the charity as the number of people we are able to 'talk'
to is entirely dependent on them.
Our first patron was Daphne du Maurier, who
lived and wrote n the county; she was so impressed with the aims of the
charity that she was the first author to give permission for us to record
all her works. Could it be that she felt an empathy with our listeners?
In the foreword to her book, "Enchanted Cornwall" she wrote, "...I
am thought of as a recluse, which suggests someone who is very lonely,
but there is a difference between being lonely and being solitary"...not
everyone has that choice.
this page to a friend