Friday 21st May 2021
Life, love and biscuits
Our Marketing & Communications Officer Helen shares her experience of visiting Evington Home, Leicester
‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.’
Thursday, mid-morning and I’m hearing a sound that I haven’t heard in a very long time. Voices singing. Together. Indoors.
Even when churches have been able to gather in person, Covid-restrictions have prevented congregations from singing indoors. But not at Evington Home in Leicester, and indeed at our other homes across the country, where our family members have been able sing together throughout the pandemic. At Evington, singing is accompanied by the cheerful sound of the piano, played by Jean, who lives at the home.
Devotions, as this collective time of worship is known, is led today by Andie, Activities and Community Events Facilitator at Evington, and Gary, her husband and a volunteer. As well as singing together, the time includes prayer and a short talk by Gary from the Bible. It’s a gentle and reflective time of togetherness.
I’ve come to Evington to have a look around ahead of a filming project we’ll be doing later this summer. Having started my role at Pilgrims’ Friend Society during in March 2020 during the first lockdown, I had not yet visited any of our care homes. It was nice to finally meet some of the people who live and work with us!
One of the first people I met earlier that morning was Lois and her daughter Sarah. Lois, aged 100, had recently moved into our care home at Evington from Cambridge. Lois has a bright room on the ground floor at Evington, with photos of her family - she has lots of granddaughters - pinned up along the wall. Sarah is local to Leicester, meaning it is easy for her to pop in and see her mum.
After the daily devotions session, I have the opportunity to chat to some of the other family members. One is lsabelle who tells me she had spent her earlier life as a ‘mish’ in Cote d’Ivoire and translated a whole tribal language. Another lady is Margaret, who lives at the home with her sister Ruth, who has advanced to dementia. Margaret and Ruth sit together, with Margaret gently holding Ruth’s hand. “We’ve lived in the Evington area all our lives,” she tells me. “Our father used to visit the residents at Evington Home. He was always serving the Lord somewhere.”
At lunchtime, cooked ham, veg and gravy is on the menu. Due to Covid regulations, I am unable to actually eat with the Evington family members as I’m not allowed to remove my mask. However, table talk is allowed. I pull up a chair with Fay, and Jean and Barry. They have all recently moved to Evington from Pilgrim Gardens, our independent living housing scheme next-door.
Barry tells me a little bit about his life story, including how he became a Christian in Berlin while on National Service in 1953. “I used to hear the gospel from the Salvation Army,” he said. “I didn’t want to go to church, but the Salvation Army officer was respected. One night I went out on the town, which was not something I usually did. It left me wondering, ‘Where can I get peace?’ I went along to the church and realised that’s where I could get peace, not out there.”
Shortly afterwards, Barry was baptised alongside 18 German men. He then joined Christian friends in evangelising, going along the trains handing out tracts. On his return, he found his way to Woodside Baptist Church in Croydon where he met Jean. They married and became missionaries in Brittany, France.
After lunch, I join the afternoon’s activity, led by Andie and Gary. Today we’re baking Pilgrim Biscuits. “It’s good when we do activities together as a little group,” says Barbara, one of the participants in the group. “It gets people talking.”
The recipe for Pilgrim Biscuits is shared by Fay. It was passed down to her by her mother who once came to the old Pilgrim Home, which once stood on this site in Leicester, for a respite break. Her mother liked the biscuits so much, she asked the cook at the home for the recipe. It feels lovely to be sharing a special recipe from our organisation’s history all these years later.
The baking group – Barbara, Fay, Jean, Jean and Hazel – take it in turns to stir the mixture. “I do love these Pyrex bowls as you can see what’s happening,” says Fay as the mixture is stirred.
Fay has a pinch to check the consistency with a practised hand, and then its time to break off small pieces, roll them into walnut-sized balls and lay them out on three ginormous baking trays. “You do need to space them out as they can spread a bit,” says Fay. “And you have to be careful not to overcook them. They can end up so hard you have to dunk them in your coffee to eat them.”
As the bakers work, there’s much discussion about whether the biscuit balls are just the right size. One of our Jeans then breaks into song ‘Bind us together Lord, Bind us together…’ and others take up the refrain. When all the biscuits are duly rolled and put in the oven to bake, it’s time for a well-earned cup of tea and chat.
Hazel shares a photo she has been recently sent in the post and keeps stowed between the pages of an old address book. She also tells me a little of her childhood, growing up in Leicester. Vivid in her memory is the family’s allotment in Victoria Park. “We planted all sorts – cabbages, Brussels sprouts, peas and beans. Mushrooms used to spring up – just on our family’s little patch, nowhere else. One day, there was a great big one. I was carrying it home and a lady appeared, she was very interested in it… My mother gave her some of the smaller ones we’d found, but we kept the great big one for ourselves!”
When the biscuits are ready, I’m given the privilege of sampling one warm and fresh from the oven. Everyone else will have to wait until tomorrow morning when they will be handed out during the morning tea and coffee break! According to Andie, the huge batch of over 40 biscuits will soon disappear. I can see why – the biscuit is delicious.
All too soon, conscious of my impending train to catch, I have to bid my goodbyes. I leave feeling blessed by this warm and happy community made up of some truly amazing people. And I’m pleased that I’ll soon have a reason to be back again.
Find out more about life with us
Evington Home is in the Evington area of Leicester
Living in our homes means being part of a warm and friendly community.