It’s Important To Have A Hobby

Richard Wood Probus Vice President (left) with Speaker Alan May
Vice President Richard Wood with speaker Alan May

It is received wisdom that following retirement it is important to keep both physical and mental capabilities in good working order. There are plenty of things that people can find to occupy their minds if they are not into visiting a gym on a regular basis.

Alan May has a boyish enthusiasm for filling his life with interesting pastimes.  He outlined his hobbies to fellow members of the Probus Club of Basingstoke, the social club for male retired professional and business managers. While he plays golf once a month and with his wife regularly enjoys ballroom dancing he has several cerebral interests, one being very unconventional.

For many years attendees at the Probus Club Spring Ladies’ lunches and Christmas Dinners have been entertained by the pictorial and brain teaser quizzes he has compiled, many details of which concern Basingstoke and its environs. Clearly his interest in crossword puzzles comes to the fore.

The May family tree
May Family tree

An interest in genealogy over time has thrown up many interesting facts. His wife has Belgian parentage so he produced family trees of his Belgian in laws with the family name of Faes going back to the mid 1700s in Watou near the Belgian/French border. They have seen on a WW1 memorial and the graves of three brothers, George, Gaston and Jerome Faes, who were on his wife’s family tree. In 2018 Alan and his wife were invited by the Belgian local council to the naming ceremony of a street commemorating the three Faes brothers.

Faes brothers street name
Three Faes brothers remembered with a street name

Another branch of his wife’s family lived on the outskirts of Brussels. During WW2 her little cousin Fifi was often asked by her mother to deliver messages to different people. After the war she discovered her mother had hidden British soldiers in the attic. The messages were to get the soldiers moved further down the resistance line and back to England. Very much like the television series “Allo Allo”.

He traced his mother’s side back to the 1600s in Gloucestershire and their travels through railway service to Swindon and thence on to London and eventually Dover. As a man of Kent he traced his father’s family back to the late 1700s. In the 1930s an uncle had a pleasure boat near Deal. Sometimes at night the boat picked up contraband which was then buried in the garden.

“Although his civic duty included being a member of the Lifeboat crew “, Alan explained “but inexplicitly he refused to go to Dunkirk with the small boats to rescue the British troops from the beaches.”

A 1959 GCE “O” level in Art has been put to good use in retirement when Alan bought a set of water colours. In the U3A he has progressed from Beginners to Improvers and concentrates on flowers and birds. His paintings on display were to a very high standard.

Alan May with some of his paintings (2)
Alan May with some of his artwork

“I enjoy the peace and quiet together with the calming effect and is very relaxing. You meet others who are always willing to help and comment.”

This artistic bent comes in useful with his “secret hobby” of Cross Stitch. Usually a female pastime his wife taught him to such a degree that he featured in the Cross Stitch magazine. As a regular cruiser he can often be found in the ships’ lounges with a small design.

Cross Stich fire screen
Cross Stitch Fire Screen
Cross Stitch of his previous house

“I get a few raised eyebrows but I am too old to worry what people think. I bet they can’t do it.”

Alan is an inspirational example following the advice that people should get out of their comfort zone and try something new.