Hand Crafted Pizzas

Using home made pizza dough, Maria’s passata recipe, and a selection of ingredients such as olives, cheese, ham, sweetcorn and pineapple, our members could create a pizza of their choice.

These creations – labelled with appropriate names on greaseproof paper, were then cooked in the church ovens by our team of talented cooks, and then enjoyed!

We rounded off a culinary evening by celebrating a birthday, with a delicious home made cake!

We were lifted up by 42 Balloons

Not literally, of course, but in 1982 a truck driver called Larry Walters really was. He had dreamed of flying, carried by balloons into the air for a long time. For many people this would have remained an idle fantasy – which explains why we do not regularly look up to see people floating around. Larry planned carefully, and with the aid of his girlfriend Carol – who took out a large bank loan to enable Larry to fulfil his dream – and a small team of friends, Larry achieved his dream.

This really happened and you can look it up after the show

42 Balloons musical

About six years ago, Jack Godfrey came across the story, and dreamed of turning this event into a musical. For many people this would have remained an idle fantasy, but Jack started writing songs, and planning, and with aid of quite a few very talented people Jack achieved his dream, and the musical “42 Balloons” is performed at The Lowry from 18th April to 19th May 2024. (YouTube video of Jack telling the story)

The author at his show

Jack Godfrey started writing songs and playing in Rockfish (the church band) at Wesley Memorial Church a long time ago, and Oxford Phab members have performed or assisted backstage with several of his early musicals, including Amazing Love, so it would be a dream come to true for Oxford Phab to go and see 42 Balloons on stage – even though The Lowry, in Salford is 160miles from Oxford. For many groups with would have remained an idle fantasy, but Mary started planning, purchasing tickets, and with the aid of our members and supporters, who moved seats, brought people to rendezvous sites and. particularly Chris who did much of the driving, an Oxford Phab group went to see the show.

Oxford Phab, with Jack Godfrey at The Lowry

After an unfortunate start to our trip, when a car drove out of a side road right in front of the minibus (fortunately we were obeying the 20 m.p.h. speed limit so no-one was hurt), and loading the minibus in heavy rain, the journey was smooth and we arrived in Salford in time to eat before the show, and even sit in a replica of the lawn chair which Larry had used for his flight.

The cast were incredibly talented and energetic, and particularly impressive as unfortunately one member slipped during the highly athletic introductory number so there was a pause before the musical continued with some members in re-arranged roles – which they did amazingly well.

The show has been reviewed by the BBC, and there is more information about the cast and team and videos at the show’s own website.

Differences and Dreams

Despite having achieved his dream, rather than being celebrated, Larry was mocked for having dropped the air pistol he had been using to shoot the helium filled weather balloons which were lifting him into the air, after he had only shot a few of them. His forethought in bringing spare spectacles in case, as did happen, the ones he was wearing came off in the launch was cause for laughter, rather than congratulations. Although Larry had done something new and impressive, because he was a truck driver, all the public focus was on the parts which had gone wrong rather than his successes. He broke the stereotype of what we expect from someone from his background, and was derided rather than being applauded. If he had been, as was his dream, a NASA astronaut, then his successful return to earth, despite technical difficulties might have been made into a film, like Apollo 13.

There is an unfortunate part of human nature, particularly in herds, to make fun of, or fear, those who are different or do not conform to ‘the norm’. If someone staggers when they walk, sounds different when they speak, dresses differently, does not fit the stereotype for their gender, race, occupation etc they are likely to be excluded from society, rather than welcomed into it.

If we can learn to celebrate the variety there is in people, to see the similarities as well as the differences, then when we come across someone out of the ordinary we can be lifted by the encounter, rather than wanting to pull them down.

Those of us fortunate enough to belong to Oxford Phab gain much from our interactions with each other – as well as the opportunity to travel to Salford to see 42 Balloons!

Looking forward to Spring and Summer

Having had a break for Easter we had plenty to talk about, but the main focus of the evening was looking forward to the events of the Spring and Summer.

Particular highlights of the Summer will be our return to Avon Tyrrell for another holiday there, and PhabFest at Parallel Windsor , where we hope to meet up with friends from other clubs, and also arrange to be sponsored as individuals or groups as a fundraising activity.

We are also looking forward to our trip to see 42 Balloons, at the Lowry Theatre in Salford. This musical by Jack Godfrey is based on the story of Larry Walters, who really did use a cluster of weather balloons to fly high into the air in a lawnchair. The musical has received very positive reviews, and an article on the BBC website. This is particularly exciting news for us as although 42 Balloons is performed by a very talented professional cast Phab members have appeared in some of Jack Godfrey’s earlier musicals, including Amazing Love.

Easter Bingo

Once again members were very generous in the prizes they brought to our Easter Bingo – the beautifully wrapped mugs with cute teddies and bunnies made by Tom’s mum were particularly admired and eagerly sought as prizes.

As we usually do, we play a rule that people who have already won a big prize pick a small prize if/when they win again and we play until all the prizes have been won, so nobody goes home empty handed (unless they ate their prizes on the night!)

Tom did out bingo calling, with assistance from Libby, who informed us of notable events from the twentieth century which the number which had been called, such as 14 – 1914 – Start of the First World War.

Eyes Down for a First Line


As well as our usual cups of tea or coffee and chat we played several games of Boccia. There was some fluidity in the teams, with some members playing for either, or both, while our keenest Manchester United supporters insisted on playing Red.

As we usually do, some of our members use our improvised ramp, made from a piece of plastic gutter, while others threw freehand. As usual with Phab the games were filled with some unexpectedly good throws – as well as some really wild ones which makes it more exciting than you might expect.

Zumba at Botley W.I. Hall

Due to electricity supply issues at Wesley Memorial Church, where we normally meet, we had a change of scene. Those who were making their way to Phab independently met at McDonalds in Botley, and then walked the short distance the the Hall of Botley Women’s Institute, where George Martini – who normally leads us for Zumba, had already been running a session. The minibus went straight there.

Not our normal meeting place!

Fortunately we were able to make a last minute booking for the W.I. Hall, which had lights and power for the music, so we had a very enjoyable Zumba session – this time largely seated.

George is qualified in several areas of Zumba from the high energy versions we enjoy at Zumbathons to slightly more sedate version we did today, which still left us feeling exercised!

George will be running a session at the Phab Fun Weekend in November, so something to look forward to for those who are going to that.

Burn’s Night

The evening took on a distinctively Scottish feel, with a Scotland themed quiz, plenty of chat about our own favourite Scottish connections or memories, and a traditional meal of haggis, neeps and tatties. This was washed down with Irn-Bru, Scotland’s other national drink. We did, of course, have the traditional reading of Robert Burns’ “To a Haggis“, although only the first verse. We also sang along to the Auld Lang Syne and The Proclaimers.

Church Party and Barn Dance

Wesley Memorial Church invited Oxford Phab to join their Church Party with Ploughman’s supper and Barn Dance.

Some Phab members arrived early, and helped set up the Hall and John Wesley Room, lay tables, cut bread and cheese, prepare drinks, put out snacks and the multitude of other tasked needed for such an event, with over 80 attendees to be a success.

There was an urban railway based quiz before the supper, with pictures of trains, trams and buses from all over the world, and city transport maps all round the walls of the John Wesley Room. These gave an alternative activity, and conversation point, though many people were content to sit and chat.

The Ploughmans supper had not only a variety of breads and cheeses, salads and chutneys but also some delicious home made hummus. Following this were a wide selection of contributed deserts, from chocolate cake to crumbles.

The evening was rounded off by a series of Barn Dances, organised by Derek, our experienced and patient caller.

Some Phab members were among the kind people who stayed on to clear up and set the rooms straight for the following day.