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Avril Vale

I am sad to say it has been quite a difficult week due to the passing away of my mother on Monday aged 91. She had been diagnosed with cancer 20 months ago so we were very fortunate to have this extra time with her until last week.

Some of our long standing customers will remember her days serving in our very first shop that consisted of a Mongolian yurt. I will always recollect some of the customers stating that ‘surely it was far too cold in winter for her to be serving under such conditions’. My response was always ‘my mother wouldn’t do anything she didn’t want to’, her strength of character was one of her defining attributes. In 2004, when I told her I was going to establish an organic smallholding as a basis of teaching children about the environment and growing food without pesticides and chemicals, she was very surprised knowing that I had never really grown anything prior to then due to my long term career in the army. Her anxiety led her to try and persuade me not to take on such a project that would be such hard work. How wise she was, but as a typical daughter, took no notice.

Despite this reticence and misgivings about what I embarked upon, bit by bit she came aboard; not only seed funding some of the very first funds we raised for the education centre, but becoming a regular shop assistant when we opened the shop in the yurt. Since then and for the last 10 years, until just after her cancer diagnosis, she had been very much part of the volunteer staff. Every Thursday, she would take the number 700 bus from Bognor Regis, which was at least a 20 minute walk to the bus stop and then travel to Tuppenny Barn. She then either served in the shop or helped with putting fresh newspaper into the returned empty veg bags. She loved meeting all the customers, some of which she got to know quite well over the years. She believed in every aspect of sustainability and never missed an opportunity to promote what we at Tuppenny Barn stood for. She was also a keen saleswoman and some of you might have experienced her technique of trying to entice you with the latest cropped veg or fruit, extolling the benefits of the said item – the expression ‘dog with a bone’ occasionally came to mind! This was also true to be said for her raffle ticket selling technique whenever we had a fund raising event. I could always rely on her for excellent ticket sales. She was always keen to be involved and loved the Tuppenny celebratory volunteer occasions such as birthdays having a love of most types of cakes as well as taking the opportunity to catch up on people’s lives. Over the years, she became our longest serving and oldest volunteer.

As you can imagine, life at Tuppenny will never be quite the same for me, however, I take comfort in the fact that as part of her last wishes, she has asked that a tree be planted near the centre with her ashes scattered beneath. I know then that she will always be keeping an eye on us all. On Friday, we are having her funeral at St Mary’s Church, Cot Lane, Chidham at 11am followed by her wake at Tuppenny Barn. Anyone that knew her would be most welcome to attend. She has stipulated that she wants this to be a celebration of her life so no black! Due to these exceptional circumstances we won’t be having a normal shop service on Friday.

On a slightly more positive note, we have re-structured the post of Centre Manager to be that of Centre Administrator. I am delighted to announce that from the first week of July, Nic Prichard will be joining the team to establish this role. Nic has a great community pedigree, not least for establishing the Westbourne WI that grew to have the largest WI membership countrywide. She has been a previous veg bag customer and is passionate about sustainability. Nic is very keen to meet our weekly customers and I’m sure you will be seeing her soon.