Pam and Mike (and Honey the...
When Pam and Mike started looking at retirement communities, finding somewhere...
Ann and Harry moved to The Sidings in December 2022 and were married on Ann’s 80th birthday in February 2023.
Ann said: “We’ve known each other for 60 years. We met in London when I was a hostess on a luxury coach service and Harry was a percussionist in the Irish Guards Band.”
Harry said: “I joined the army at 15 years old, from a little mining village in County Durham. I was a drummer boy in the Scots Guards and after six months was asked if I’d like to go over to the Irish Guards Band. The Victoria Coach Station was around the corner from where we were based, at Chelsea Barracks, and I used to clean the coaches out to supplement my income. You hear of love at first site. When Ann opened the door on her first trip and I saw her, that’s what it was.”
Although Harry and Ann parted, they always kept in touch. Ann went on to be an airline stewardess and enjoyed wing walking and parachuting, before training as a nurse and meeting Alan, her partner for 30 years.
“I loved my time as a nurse. I left the NHS fairly early and went back to Manchester for an extra qualification in occupational health and I managed to get a job as a regional nursing adviser across the North West. I became the head of the service across the UK and worked there until I retired. I must have been about 38 when I met Alan. Harry had always kept in touch and we were all great friends. He used to come and stay with us when we lived in Shropshire.”
Harry meanwhile had married Maureen, started a family and progressed to become Senior Band Sergeant Major.
“We were on tour a lot of the time in Canada, South America, Argentina, Japan, Australia, New Zealand. We visited all these places, and I took part in 30 Trooping the Colours, The Festival of Remembrance and, one of the things I’ll never forget, Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral.”
Harry met most of the Royal Family and spent many summers holidaying on the Balmoral Estate.
“My daughter, Louisa, is severely disabled. When she was four or five years old one of my senior officers called me in and asked if I’d be interested in holidaying on the Balmoral Estate. He’d become the keeper of the Privy Purse and said there were two cottages on the Balmoral Estate which could be rented by people he recommended. He said ‘this would be ideal for your daughter’ which it turned out it really was, so we went there for 15 years running.”
After 31 years in the Irish Guards, Harry retired in July 1986 and started at the Metropolitan Police college that same day. He trained as a driving instructor specialising in advanced driving and was with the police as a driving instructor for 25 years. When Harry’s wife died in December 1999, Ann and Alan were a great support.
“We’d been married for 40 years and had two sons and a daughter. The eldest son, Gary, served in the band with me for 22 years. He’s a very good French Horn player. Our other son, Stuart, is very adventurous. He lived in Israel on a kibbutz for a few years and he loves to travel. He lives in Chelmsford with his partner Paul, and Gary and his wife live in East Grinstead. About a month after my wife passed away, Ann and Alan invited me to come and stay for a week.
Ann: “Harry was still in Northampton. Alan and I had moved to Wirral because we wanted to be by the sea. Harry came to see us and thought it was a lovely area. He had retired so he came to live in Wirral too.
“I had a Victorian house on the sea front and when Alan, my partner of 30 years, died very unexpectedly, I didn’t want to have a knee jerk reaction and sell it. The way I cope, is I get very practical, so I redecorated the place from top to bottom and kept busy and after three years I sold it and moved into West Kirby to a town house overlooking the marine lake and the sea. Harry lived in Moreton which was about three miles away.”
Harry and Ann got back together but kept their own houses until they decided to move to The Sidings in Lytham.
Deciding to move
Harry explains: “There comes a time in life when you’ve got to say, right if we don’t do something now, we won’t do it at all. Ann’s always wanted to live in Lytham because she’s from Fylde.”
Ann added: “The thing is, I don’t have any family at all, so I’ve got to be very careful when I get old not to be shut away and lonely and forgotten. I knew eventually I would want to move to this sort of environment.”
Letting go of home maintenance responsibilities also appealed to Ann.
“When you have a house, you become a servant to it. I’ve thought that many times about the house or garden. You have to do all these things to keep it sellable and up to scratch. I used to live in this Victorian House and then I lived in a townhouse which required a lot of work. I’m quite good at building things. I can plaster walls, lay drains, but the days come when you don’t want to have to do that sort of thing anymore. It worries you.”
Harry said: “I’d been thinking about moving for about two years. I saw an advert for Adlington and registered my interest. I forgot all about it and then last year this leaflet dropped through the letterbox. I left it on the table and Ann came round and opened it up. We read through it and came straight to have a look.”
Ann said: “I knew how lovely Lytham is and The Sidings is exactly what we wanted. What’s not to like?”
Harry: “You’ve got Booths on the doorstep, the buses two minutes away, the train station down there. Lytham itself is a lovely place and we don’t have to use the car that much. Ann went to Blackpool yesterday and went on the bus. After we came to visit, we got straight in and booked this apartment, which we think’s the best one.”
Ann: “We didn’t mind buying off plan because Adlington had been very transparent in everything. There’s nothing hidden. The costs and everything like that were fully explained so we didn’t have any nasty shocks. We knew it was what we wanted and now that we’re here, that was absolutely the right decision.”
Starting a new chapter
Harry and Ann decided to buy new furniture and furnishings for their apartment.
Harry: “We got rid of all our furniture and bought everything from scratch. We were amazed at how much room we have. We’ve got three bedrooms. Ann commandeered one for her arts and crafts.”
Ann: “I used to exhibit but I don’t really do it now. I use it as a hobby room and for extra storage. And there is plenty of room everywhere. I was worried about the kitchen because I’ve always had big kitchens but there’s plenty of room in there.”
Once Harry and Ann had decided to move, they also planned to get married.
Ann said: “Harry and I decided we would get married on my 80th birthday, which was in February this year. We were moving to The Sidings and we thought it would be silly having two separate residencies and we just decided it was about time. We got married in a hotel in St Anns and had 65 guests.”
Harry: “If we’re having a wedding, I said I want all my family there. We thought it would probably be the last time that we’ll see most of them. A friend of ours and her daughter came over from for the wedding and stayed in one of the guest suites at The Sidings and my eldest boy and his wife stayed in another suite and then everybody else stayed in hotels. My half-brother, who was my best man, stayed with us in our apartment.”
Ann: “I moved out the night before we got married and went to the hotel. We invited everybody from here too. All the ladies came. We reserved a table for them and they had a minibus to take them there and back.”
In fact, Ann and Harry have continued to enjoy hosting visitors, even after the wedding and have found the Guest Suite at The Sidings invaluable.
Ann: “We’ve had more visitors since we’ve moved here than ever we had before.”
Harry: “We’ve had two of our friends from the old U3A in the Wirral. One of my colleagues from the band and his wife stayed here for a couple of days. Both of my sons have been for a few days. Your friend Karen when it was the festival.”
Ann: “They all loved staying in the guest suite.”
Finding a pet-friendly retirement community where Tinka and Olga, their two small dogs, could feel at home was absolutely essential for Ann and Harry.
Harry: “Ann’s had dogs all her life. Tinka’s been all over Europe with her. We didn’t think Olga would settle here but she loves it. Ann walks her first thing in the morning for an hour and a half and then she goes for another hour and a half late in the afternoon.
“The other homeowners here love her. She knows that she’s not allowed in the coffee lounge so we walk past there and she’ll stop and look and there’s a lady who always calls her to come for a stroke. She loves Katie and Sean, two of our managers too.”
Ann: “We wouldn’t have come if we couldn’t have brought the dogs. When we sit out in the garden, they come and sit with us.”
Harry: “When I walk them around, we like to sit in the corner area in the sunshine, where the raised beds are. It’s a little suntrap down there and Tinka just lies down and goes to sleep.”
Life at The Sidings
Since moving to The Sidings, Ann and Harry have felt a real sense of relief and freedom from the worries of maintaining a house and garden.
Ann: “You don’t have worries here. It’s like being on holiday all the time. I can’t get over it. It’s wonderful. It takes all that anxiety away from you.”
Harry added: “We’ve got rid of two houses and all the worry of painting and weeding the garden and all the rest of the things. It’s all done here. If anything goes wrong, we just report it and there’s somebody here within a couple of days. And there’s an on-site maintenance chap, who’s most helpful.”
Ann: “And we’ve got the gardeners. It was beautiful when it was tulip season and it’s lovely now with the hydrangeas.”
Harry: “We’ve got all these seats dotted around. We’ve got the pétanque court (or boules in French) that we’ve had a go at and we’re going to set up a team. Everything’s a big laugh and Ann never stops laughing.”
The couple are also enjoying being part of the thriving community at The Sidings.
Ann: “We’re having such a wonderful time. There are so many things going on and the people are just lovely. We’re busy, but busy doing things that we like. That’s the thing. Even if you enjoy doing your job, there’s a certain amount of enforcement in it isn’t there… but here, we’re busy doing what we want to do!
“We have a gardening group, take-away nights, pétanque, a book club, and there’s a local, historical interest group and we go around looking at old buildings. We have film nights. We have two official ones in the cinema room that are organised by Adlington and then we have an extra comedy night and games nights. We’ve done that in the restaurant and in the activity room, depending on how many people are taking part.
Harry: “We have speakers come in. We had the fire service in last week, we have the RNLI next week.”
Ann: “We have these special themed nights and they’re really good. We started with Italian night and then we had a Spanish night and Greek. We’re having a French night tomorrow. There’s been an afternoon tea with a quartet. We had an Oscars night which was good. It causes a bit of excitement and people get dressed up. That’s another good thing about living here. You don’t let yourself go. Because you’re on show. Everybody looks so nice. They’re all nicely dressed. It’s good discipline.”
Ann enjoys dancing and goes to a weekly movement with music class in the activity studio: “It’s good having it in the same building because in winter, the bad weather can put you off and if you don’t go, sometimes you stop going. But if it’s here, you’ve only got to pop downstairs.
“We spend lots of time in the coffee lounge and the homeowners lounge too. If anybody wants to chat, they go and sit in the coffee lounge and invariably, the crowd will gather and that’s how it goes. You’re never short of somebody to talk to. I’ve never laughed so much since I came here. It’s just wonderful. We’re laughing all the time.”