Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Countdown to the 100th Chelsea Flower Show...

With less than a month until the Royal Horticultural Society move in and begin the build of the 100th Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea I thought you might enjoy a blog about the Chelsea Pensioners garden in 2005. I can't promise it will make you feel any warmer though...

In 2005, the Chelsea Pensioners teamed up with The Julian Dowle Partnership to create 'The Chelsea Pensioners Garden - A Soldiers' Dream of Blighty' with the help of sponsorship from Ecover. This was the Royal Hospital Chelsea's first garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The show garden was set in 1945, as the war came to a close and soldiers were coming home. Much of the inspiration for the garden came directly from Chelsea Pensioners who served in the Second World War. The main feature was the traditional English pub and included bunting and a 'Dig for Victory' vegetable garden. It aimed to represent the dreams and aspirations of the soldiers away fighting for their homeland.

The show garden was awarded a Gold Medal, Best Show Garden and also won the BBC's People's Choice award!

Aerial view of the Chelsea Flower Show and the Royal Hospital Chelsea buildings, 2005

For a lovely video clip showing the garden in action (with a guest appearance from a few Chelsea Pensioners) have a look here:

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Fascinating Lives of Chelsea Pensioners

Our Chelsea Pensioners have led fascinating lives - both during their service in the Army and in their lives on 'Civvy Street'. From time to time we will be posting some of their stories here, giving an amazing insight into the past.

James Fellows in Antarctica
Upon leaving the Army, Chelsea Pensioner James Fellows was looking for something to do. In 1955 he joined the 'Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey Expedition' who sent teams to the Antarctic to maintain a continued presence and to establish new research bases from which to extend the research and mapping of the UK's territories of Antarctica.

James was stationed on Deception Island. Their work on the island in the Summer involved maintaining a schedule of Meteorological observations, and once the penguins returned for nesting they started the long job of 'ringing' all of the penguins for research purposes.

The girls from the Windmill Theatre in London had committed to write to each of the team during their stay in Antarctica and this remained one of their main contacts with civilisation during their time here.

Just before the time came to leave Deception Island, the team had a visit from the Duke of Edinburgh aboard the Brittania. They entertained him to a Seal Steak and Penguin Egg lunch which was the main food for the team during their posting.

The second year was spent on 'Horseshoe Island' where they would only have radio contact with the outside world.

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Friday, 8 March 2013

Introduction to the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary - by Sian Tomlin

By now you may have realised that there are many more facets to the Royal Hospital Chelsea than initially meet the eye. A Chelsea Pensioner's life is active and varied, and we believe that just because growing old sometimes means becoming less able in body and mind, it shouldn't mean that our pensioners stop living life to the full. First occupied on 5th January 2009, the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary exists in order to foster this philosophy as a promise for every Chelsea Pensioner as they grow older.

Our remit is primarily to provide quality care and nursing home services to Chelsea Pensioners when they are no longer able to live independently on the Long Wards. With a fully equipped medical centre including: an on-site GP, a therapy department complete with two physiotherapists and two occupational therapists, a gym, a fortnightly audiologist, a podiatrist (the list could go on...); the health requirements of the Infirmary residents and those who live on the Long Wards are very well catered for.

And there's more - as we've already said, this is not just about caring for health needs but also ensuring that the men and women who live here have a lot of fun along the way. With a dedicated activities team, life is never dull around the Infirmary. From pub mornings in Paget Ward to our very own Elvis performing for the crowds, to a visit from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, there is never a shortage of something to do.

A striking example of the vitality and excitement of the Infirmary was the Valentine's Day dance on 14th February. With around 90 pensioners in the Infirmary and only 2 women, a local care home stepped up to the mark, bringing a group of their ladies to enjoy a feast of sweet and savoury food, live music and of course some dancing with our lovely gentlemen. As the pianist played songs from a bygone era, the atmosphere was upbeat and joyful. Taking this as an opportunity to dress in his finest, one pensioner even turned up wearing a tuxedo complete with scarlet bow tie and cummerbund!

If this post has whet your appetite to hear more of life in the MTI, we will be posting updates on our activities and some profile pieces of both staff and pensioners in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned and let us know what you think.

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