Elizabeth's first tea party as a volunteer was in 1971.

She looks back fondly on 50 years of Re-engage memories as volunteer and guest.

Elizabeth Shaw came to the UK from Australia in 1970 expecting to stay for two years – to her surprise, she’s still here! 

“I’ve been very lucky because I’ve had a wonderful life – and I’ve loved being part of Re-engage. It’s a marvellous organisation,” she said. 

Elizabeth, now 83, joined the Westminster 43 group after seeing an advert in The Times newspaper appealing for drivers to take out older people once a month. 

Elizabeth answered the ad and was soon ferrying tea party guests to Essex, Guildford and even the Chilterns in her tiny Hillman Imp. 

“The original idea was to drive for an hour or so into the country and go to a tea party. I used to take a couple of older people with me. One of them wasn’t very mobile so we’d strap her wheelchair to the roof of the car and off we’d go. We had some lovely times.” 

Progressing from driver to host to group coordinator, Elizabeth now attends the tea parties as a guest. 

She came to the UK in 1970 to do a post doctorate fellowship and undertook two years’ microbiology research at Hammersmith Hospital. 

“After that I was a little unsettled and wasn’t sure what to do – whether to go back to my home city of Melbourne or not. Then I got a post at Barts Hospital, which was supposed to run for five years, but I stayed until I retired.” 

Elizabeth, who once hiked through the mountainous Western Himalayas linking Pakistan with Afghanistan, met husband Michael, who worked at the Bank of England, through her love of walking. 

Together they enjoyed extensive trips abroad including visits to Australia as well as to the Arctic and Antarctic. They were regulars at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival in Sussex, and at English National Opera and the Royal Opera House as well as going to the proms at the Royal Albert Hall. 

Thirty years ago, Michael proposed to Elizabeth and they married at Chelsea Chelsea Register Office, travelling there by Tube and celebrating with a meal in a Kings Road café along with their two witnesses who were Michael’s friends. 

Sadly, Michael developed dementia and found it difficult to socialise, but he joined Elizabeth’s Re-engage group run by Carl Gardner. In 2020 Michael was moved into a care home and two years later Elizabeth moved in to be with him. 

“The staff tell me that he is so much happier now I’m there because he can see me every day. So, that’s a blessing,” said Elizabeth.  

“I also help one of the ladies who loves doing crosswords. Twice a day I walk to the station to get copies of the free papers for her. 

“I’m happy to be there but it’s difficult to converse with other residents so it can be lonely. That’s why I’m so grateful to still be part of the Re-engage tea parties. I know I can get out once a month to socialise. 

“I have very fond memories of the tea parties. For some years I had 12 guests at my house for Christmas lunch but didn’t have an oven big enough to take a turkey that would feed them all. So I did roast beef instead and everyone loved it.”

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