Welcome to Hutton Cranswick

In Bloom

Britain in Bloom Finalists 2012

Gina Simpson

What a year we are having for celebrations. The Jubilee festivities have finally finished and though the weather was awful thousands of people seemed hardly to notice and partied till they dropped. Was I the only one though to catch a glimpse of a slightly damp Prince Charles gazing wistfully heavenwards and muttering “Will this reign never end?”.

As I write, it’s the football fans turn with the European Championships in full swing where I expect England will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as per normal.

Then it’s THE BIG ONE – on 10 August our village, which has the honour of representing the County in our category in Britain in Bloom will be judged, and it’s true to say that my victim this month is largely responsible. I think most of you either know or recognise Gina Simpson as she is involved in so many aspects of our community.

Gina spent the first nineteen years of her life in Surrey, very close to Kew Gardens, but denies this has any bearing on her enthusiasm for Village in Bloom for which she is Co-ordinator, fund raiser, sign writer, rabble rouser and general labourer – not necessarily in that order. She was a keen competitive swimmer as a youngster and enjoyed canoeing and sailing on the Thames, so when her parents retired and moved to Southampton it was opportune that the River Hamble was nearby to further her interests in water-based activities. Gina had attended Pitman’s College in London enabling her to get a secretarial job at the Yacht Agency Port Hamble near her home.

A year out travelling in South Africa was sadly curtailed by the illness and subsequent death of her father, and after a while Gina and her mother moved back to Surrey where they lived in a residential prep school in Godstone. By now theurge to travel, which anyone who knows Gina is familiar with, got so great that she ‘ran away to sea’! The massive influence this was to have on her life she could never have imagined.

Joining the Merchant Navy as a Purserette (which has deliciously Thirties overtones) on the Windsor Castle she immediately fell in love with the Chief Officer, John Simpson. Luckily this was reciprocated and a year later to the dayher Naval career with Union Castle was forced to end as wives were not allowed in those days to sail.

John hailed from Northumberland and Gina from Surrey so they decided to buy a home in the Hull area which was roughly equidistant. The new estate in and around Laburnum Avenue was being built and that is where they settled.

Their first child, Helen, was born in 1974 and Kathryn followed two years later. A serious health scare resulting in Kathryn being rushed to Hull Royal made John question whether he wanted his family to spend so much time alone, and the decision was made for him to apply for the position as a Marine Pilot overseas. Knowing the East coast of Africa so well it wasn’t too long before the Simpson family upsticks and move to Tanzania, and Gina’s lifestyle was to change somewhat.

She remembers leading quite a pampered existence as an ex-pat wife, with servants as the norm and a brilliant social life. During their four year posting to Dar es Salaam their son Duncan was born. Gina was confined in Dr. Khan’s Nursing Home and describes his delivery as ‘different.’ I can imagine that it was, but ever resilient, mother and child survived the experience, and the round of ex-pat’s parties and Yacht Club jollies continued. They also frequented the Dar Mission to Seamen, (an International organisation run by a chaplain) now known as the Mission for Seafarers – the equivalent of a religious cum social gathering place, and so involved did Gina become that one of Duncan’s Godfathers is a Franciscan Friar. Nothing lasts for ever though, and their next move was to the port of Tanga on the Kenyan border when John gained promotion to Harbour Master.

Before we envy Gina’s lifestyle too much it should be noted that a number of items in everyday use were just not available. No dairy industry led to a scarcity of milk, and if you wanted bread you baked it yourself. The same applied to clothing – no trips to town to buy ‘off the peg’, everything was handmade. The lack of commodities was not the reason for the families return to the UK but rather a concern for the children’s education. So in 1986 the family returned to Hutton Cranswick: Helen and Kathryn attended a prep school in Scarborough while Duncan was at the village primary.  

John was posted to Saudi Arabia, but his leave periods were lengthy and by now they were happily settled in Main Street.  Tragedy struck when John fell ill, and succumbed at the dreadfully young age of forty four.  It’s difficult to imagine how Gina got through this traumatic period of her life, but she is nothing but pragmatic and concentrated on looking for employment. She heard that the Parish Council were looking for a Clerk, and this role she fulfilled for five years. Then a new venture started in the village, a Mobile Library, which caught her imagination and she remained with the Library Service until retirement.

As well as bringing up three children single handedly and holding down a job, Gina has given herself wholeheartedly to just about every organisation the village has to offer. One time Treasurer of the Tennis Club and the SRA, she became a Trustee of the more recently reformed Sports and Recreation Association. A Parish Councillor since 1995, she has been the mainstay of Village in Bloom for almost as long. She is currently on the committee responsible for our lovely new Play Area, somewhere she visits more often these days since Kathryn gave birth to Jessica in 2008, followed by Louis two and a half years later.

While Helen and Kathryn have remained in Yorkshire, Duncan has now lived in the United States for six years. Sports mad, he completed a first degree in PE at Leeds Metropolitan University followed by a Masters Degree in Sport and Exercise Science, and in 2009, gained a PhD from the University of Tennessee where his Graduation was proudly attended by the family members.

I don’t think Gina will ever be rid of the travelling bug, and she recharges her batteries as often and as vigorously as she can in all sorts of exotic locations although on a more peaceful level her weekly birdwatching outings are sacrosanct!

I believe that if Gina was chopped in half she would have Hutton Cranswick printed through her, and the old saying about asking a busy woman if you want something done, is never truer than here. So please let there be a sunny day in August so that Gina and her band of ‘in Bloomers’ who contribute so much to making Hutton Cranswick such a lovely place to live, are given a result to remember.

Oh, and thinking back to celebrations, I believe there’s something going on in London at about the same time … .