Nano’s Wednesday Tea

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, May 3 2016

A collaborative story written by a group of Gabriola women has caught the attention of Brenda Fowler, Executive Director at the PHC (People for a Healthy Community), who hopes to set up similar chapters of the group in different neighbourhoods to get seniors out for friendship, fun and a lot of laughter. 

“Where the Wild Thyme Grows,” was a story started by Isobel Quinn, a 92-year-old retired nurse from Scotland with a lot of spunk. The story is one of self-discovery, something these women want to share with their friends. The story takes some unexpected twists and turns and leaves the reader feeling a little surprised that it was written by a dozen women instead of just one.

When Quinn arrives at Nano Baird’s house, there is a feeling of excitement and it seems everyone settles in for a good time, even Braid’s dachshund “Ruby,” who is fed treats by some of the participants. 

“I’m her best friend,” says Ruth, a spirited South African. “I bring her dehydrated liver and bacon.”

Even that seems like a weekly ritual that has evolved over the last four years since Nano moved to the island and her daughters, Jacqui and Maureen, decided to post invitations at the mailboxes to “Nano’s Wednesday Tea.” 

Nano had just had a hip replacement and found it hard to get out so they thought they’d have a drop-in tea on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. at her house.

Once everyone has found a place to sit, it’s hard to keep up with all the voices that seem to chime together to tell the story of how they have come together to help and listen to each other. 

Today 10 women have come, ranging in age from 40 to 90 years old. Many of the women have backgrounds in nursing, while one, named Connie Leonard, worked as a journalist for Harrowsmith magazine and once reported on beekeeping and other subjects of interest to its rural readers.

I’m told they never know what will happen at tea. Sometimes they talk about politics and even Donald Trump has been a big issue. 

The writing of the story took just a few months. 

“It was really fun writing, no one knew where it would go,” says Leonard. Others say once they got down the first sentence they were able to complete a page or two.

Quinn says one of her first poems she brought to share with the group was the “Green Kettle” poem. 

“My girlfriend lived at the beginning of the Lochs,” Quinn says of her early years in Scotland. 

“You’d go up a hill and smell the hedgerows, and in the springtime there were bluebells. The winds changed quickly and there was a storm. We were at war. The Nazi’s were behind a big barbed-wire fence. They were POWs, I remember it all, they came to the fence and there was a tea shop at the top of the hill at Garelochhead.”

“We’re like a book club, but with no real focus, no rules,” says Jacqui, who is the Unit Chief for the BC Ambulance Service station on Gabriola. “It started as a group of seniors getting together, but quite a few of us aren’t seniors.”

Quinn says some people only wanted their first names used and they’d like to keep it like that. Nano is happy to listen, occasionally talking about her work as a midwife in England. “I like finding out what’s happening in the community,” she says of the group that allows her to see her friends on a regular basis. 

Others say they’ve found a friendship connection where one didn’t exist before. It’s a blend of the old and the young where Gabriolans have a chance to be themselves and find out how much fun it is to write a story together.