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by Mary Davidson

I have been a choir member since the very beginning. I saw an advert in the Ambler for taster sessions for a possible choir in Amble, led by Ann Suggett from 20000 voices and Flora Smith. The advert stated that you did not have to be able to read music or even be able to sing.

“That’s for me” I thought and after checking that statement was for real, I went along. There were a few people I knew there too, so that was lovely.

I have always loved singing, having taken part in a school choir in my final high school year. They let us join with no audition thankfully. It was a terrific experience to sing at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh in a performance of Faure’s Requiem.

I have always remembered how wonderful that felt, so to be able to join a community choir was terrific.

Flora Smith formed the choir after the initial introductory sessions, more people joined us and in time we became “The Harbour Lights – Amble Community Choir”.

In those early years I was working as a Health Visitor in Ashington, a job I loved. It was very rewarding, but it had its challenging times too. To be able to attend choir on a Thursday evening, switch off and put the demands of the day behind me was so great. For that time, it was just about the songs, the music and the support of a great choir community. I have been retired for five years now, but remain busy as a volunteer and a proud grandmother.

Sarah Gray took over when Flora moved on. Some members moved away, other members joined us, and our choir grew to over forty members.

There have been so many choir highlights for me, including:-

  • Christmas songs in the early years at Alnwick Gardens,

  • “Sing for Water”, at the Scoop in London, where we sung our Harbour Lights song, 'Lights', which Sarah had written for our choir in the very early days.

  • Performing Magnificat, in Hall One at the Sage

  • Singing outside at the Pods in Amble

  • Our fabulous party evenings

  • Our wonderful zoom video of us singing 'Harbour Lights'

  • Being invited to play a special part in the Amble Bird Trail

When Carol asked me last year if I would consider being Chairperson, it came out of the blue and I said I would give it some thought. I agreed, as Harbour Lights Choir means so much to me and it is a huge honour and privilege to be Chair.

Then the pandemic hit, and lockdown happened.

Sarah introduced us all to the delights of Zoom. We wondered how that would work but knew it was definitely worth a try. We have had up to twenty-nine ‘zoomers’ joining in our sessions. It’s especially lovely to see some members who have moved away and to have new people joining us too. Zoom choir of course has its limitations and is not for everyone, unfortunately, but with our new amazing website (thank you Lesley and also Paul), and through emails, Sarah, Alison, Paul and I, aim to keep in touch with everyone. Also, a special word of thanks to Susan our Treasurer for the hard work she does behind the scenes - dealings with 'the Bank' take a great deal more time and effort since March.

For me personally, the hardest part of the first lockdown, was not seeing my three-year-old granddaughter who lives in Alnwick. Travel restrictions and then only being able to visit at a two-metre distance was not going to work. You can’t explain to a three-year-old why you can’t hug them or go inside the house. So, it’s been wonderful to be back in a family childcare support bubble again.

As that lockdown began, I became a volunteer in the local isolation support group and the Amble Foodbank, joining Elizabeth Wardle and Angela Scammell, choir members who are also Foodbank volunteers.

It was also good during that time, to walk local bridleways, along with husband Eric, walking paths we knew and finding new ones to explore.

I am even more thankful to be living in this beautiful part of Northumberland, with a good number of independent shops in our local high street and a community which comes together to support those in need.

So as with us all, there were highs and lows during that time and we now enter another period of lockdown again.

We all look to the future day when we can return to singing together, we do not know yet when that will be. One thing I know, we have a strong bond, which runs through our choir. We also have so much to thank Sarah Gray our choir leader for, keeping us going, with her wonderful enthusiasm and enabling.

The joy of choir for me is still there, as strong as ever it was.

Harbour Lights Choir has been and always will be a special part of my life, one that I am so grateful for.

November 2020

(Photo entitled 'Elf on a Rock' by Eric Davidson)


Spicy Parsnip, Carrot & Coconut Soup

As the clocks have now gone back with the passing of British Summer Time, here’s a warming

recipe for those increasingly damp, cooler days – some of which can also be disappointingly ‘as dark as a bag’.


300g parsnips

200g carrots

1 medium/large onion

(trimmed weight)

2tbsp olive or vegetable oil

2tsp cumin seeds

1tsp smoked paprika

1tsp hot paprika

750ml vegetable stock

250ml coconut milk (or 2tbsp powdered coconut dissolved in 250ml hot water)

2tbsp of chopped fresh parsley

25g desiccated coconut

Sunflower seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a medium/large saucepan and add the diced vegetables. Briefly stir and add the cumin and paprika. Stir again for a couple of minutes to fry off the spices and coat the veg.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer until the vegetables are tender enough to puree with a blender.

Whilst the soup cooks, add the desiccated coconut to a small frying pan (no oil required), and dry fry on a low heat and stir to gently brown - it won't take long, so keep your eye on it. Be careful not to overdo it and burn it!

Blend your soup to your preferred consistency adding the chopped parsley.

Serve your soup and top with a sprinkling of the browned coconut and sunflower seeds.


Any leftover browned coconut can be stored in a small airtight container and it adds a nutty taste when sprinkled on curries at a later date.

Paul Stocks


by Sarah Mitchell


Jack Russell, Patterdale

Heart of a lion, stamina of a tank.

Abused and rescued: three families before you joined us five years ago.

Solver of problems, keeper of the gate.

I’m his staff – he’s my best mate.

He can read my mind, manipulate my actions.

Knows my voice, has learnt to spell.

Consoler of my soul, through that long dark night,

When thirty six hours stretched to forty eight years

As I waited to hear if my man was Covid positive.

You stayed with me, never left my side.

Your nose on my arm.

Lying at my side.

As together we drifted through that terrible time.

But with the morning and the sun, we rose, went out and the words came through.

He was clear.

And you licked the tears from my face.


Walking through the woods,

We reach the crest of the rise.

The dog stands stock still and points.

I follow his gaze – and catch my breath

At the sight of you – glowing in the light.

A young stag and his hind,

Daintily, delicately poised “en-pointe”

With your coats rippled in the dappling morning sun.

I tried to slow my heart beat

Tried to stretch out time.

But I blinked – and you left.

So did I – my heart up lifted by your beauty.


I saw just one – a perfect jewel.

A glowing red and black spotted Burnett

Displaying on a white lacy flower.

I then expanded my view

And saw a hundred more

Red and black petals rising to the sky.

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