Saturday, 19 June 2021

Around the WI



ON Wednesday, December 12, a truly cold and frosty day, president Adrienne Rance welcomed everyone to our Christmas party with a glass of mulled wine.

The hall was beautifully decorated, with pride of place given to a twinkling Christmas tree.

We were delighted to share our party with guests from Knowl Hill, Littlewick Green and Cookham Rise WIs.

The guest speaker Susan Howe was delayed, so Selina Avent spoke about growing up with deaf parents before our secretary’s husband, Richard Lloyd, an accomplished piano player, arrived to get us all in the Christmas spirit by playing some traditional carols.

Richard and Selina were relieved when Susan walked through the door. Her sat-nav had broken down as she was driving to Crazies Hill from Petersfield.

Susan, a historian, enthusiast and entertainer, regaled us with some events from her extraordinary life.

She was PA to Sir John Betjeman, who was somewhat eccentric as the loves of his life were Archie the teddy bear and Jumbo the elephant, soft toys he carried around with him.

Susan blended in beautifully by looking after Archie when he was not well, which made Sir John regard her as being “barking mad” as himself.

As a Blue Badge London guide, she shared some of her funny anecdotes, or history “without the boring bits”, for example, the puzzle of the whereabouts of the decapitated head of Oliver Cromwell.

She was thanked by Adrienne for her entertaining talk.

Everyone then tucked into a delicious tea, which included mince pies and Christmas cake, all prepared and served by the committee.

Maureen Rothery went round the Christmas table laden with a basketful of gifts, inviting each member to choose one. Surplus gifts and money raised from the sale of holly and mistletoe will be given to Sue Ryder.

The meeting in February will take place on Wednesday 20th when the guest speaker Simon Jones will talk about The Auctioneer’s List. Members are invited to bring along pre-1920 antiques for a competition.

Anyone interested in attending, should call Selina Avent on 01189 403426.


THE Christmas meeting was held in the main village hall on December 10 with about 30 members and guests looking forward to getting into the seasonal mood.

Business was kept to a minimum so that enough time would be allowed for the entertainment.

A good number of members had attended the celebration of 55 years of the Witheridge Group at Badgemore Golf Club. This was a most enjoyable event and Julia Ratcliffe, the group co-ordinator, had put in a lot of hard work to make it such a great success.

On this rather cold and icy evening we were warmly entertained by Wendy Carne and a thrilling rendition of songs from My Fair Lady and The Sound Of Music interspersed with poems and information about the Sainsbury Singers.

Nothing to do with the chain of superstores, Frank Sainsbury was born in Reading in 1891.

He was advised to take up singing to aid the process of recovery from pneumonia. In 1914 he became engaged to Kathleen Hill, a Reading schoolteacher who was also a gifted pianist and accompanist. They were married in 1918, towards the end of the war.

During this time Mr Sainsbury developed an excellent baritone voice and a fine presence. These combined attributes meant that he became an experienced amateur actor as well.

In the early Twenties he began to teach singing and rapidly established a reputation as a gifted teacher and by 1930 had 30 or 40 pupils.

Mr Sainsbury continued to sing at local concerts and often took his best pupils with him. He gave many such concerts for local churches and other good causes as well as an annual pupils’ recitals.

After a time his group of singers came to be known as the Sainsbury Singers. He himself was the heart and soul of the society and remained the chairman and musical director until his death in 1963.

This talented group of singers has vastly increased in number and is still entertaining people today with its wonderful repertoire.

Some delicious refreshments prepared by the committee and members was enjoyed before by some light seasonal entertainment provided by the committee finished off the evening in grand style.

Our next meeting will be in Dunsden village hall on January 14 at 7.30pm when Penny Cole will be delighting us with the Wonder Of Wool.

Knitting seems to be the new craze, so come and join us to find out what it is all about. We look forward to greeting you.


THIS year the committee decided to have a break from the usual festivities in the village hall.

Instead, everyone went to Parmoor, where a delicious dinner was served in the candlelit dining room, complete with a log fire and sparkling Christmas tree. All agreed it had been a wise decision.

Frances Emmett welcomed 50 members to the evening. Little business was discussed.

Ann Lazur had organised a quiz including recognising the baby pictures of the committee — some very funny pictures were on show and it proved very difficult to recognise individuals from 50 years ago.

It was a great evening and, with our new president, we look forward to another year of friendship and fun.


THE Christmas party took place on the 12th day of the 12th month in 2012, but there were certainly more than 12 people present. In fact, it was more than 36.

President Mary Burton welcomed members from Shiplake and Peppard WIs and also several visitors. Birthday greetings were given to Pippa George, Pat Williams and Christine Davidson. The outing to London for the Christmas cruise and the cable car had been an outstanding success. The day started at 10am with a journey from Henley to a pub close to the O2 Arena in Greenwich for a roast chicken lunch.

Then it was a 20-minute flight on the Thames cable car with views across Greenwich and the East End. Canary Wharf, Docklands, the City and the Olympic Park could all be seen.

After this excitement, members joined a 90-minute cruise on the Thames.

The boat was warm, spacious and cosy with big picture windows for terrific views and the licensed bar with warming drinks was kept busy.

Thanks were given to Pat Williams by the various WIs present for such an enjoyable outing.

A draw was made for a bursary for a Harpsden WI member to attend a course at Denman College and this was won by Judith Young.

Members were urged to complete the cut-out section in WI Life concerning the resolutions for the 2013 annual meeting and to bring it along to the January meeting for onward transmission.

The February meeting will take the form of a lunch at Henley Golf Club and members signed up and made their choices. The book club will meet on January 16.

Business was kept to a minimum so that the entertainment could begin.

John Hunt, from Harwell, had brought along the mechanical organs which he built himself from plans he had obtained at an exhibition.

His first musical interlude, Whistling Rufus, was played on a 20-note organ which had a hand-cranked paper roll inside.

Traditionally, Mr Hunt should have had a monkey sitting on the organ but instead of a live one he had brought along a small marmoset which beat time as the German tunes were played. He interspersed his musical items with various amusing recitations, monologues and tales.

The next organ to be played had a digital chip containing all the tunes but it still had to be hand-cranked.

Mr Hunt was assisted in playing this by Harpsden WI member Barbara Davies who then received a certificate stating that she was qualified to be an organ grinder.

The final instrument was a concertina which was completely digital and did not require Mr Hunt to use any of the buttons, although he still had to manually “squeeze” it.

He was warmly thanked by the president for an enjoyable afternoon.

The next meeting will be on January 9 when Ken Fitt will entertain with music by Richard Rodgers and the competition will be for an unusual Christmas card. Visitors are very welcome to come to Harpsden village hall at 2.30pm.


AT our final meeting of 2012 president Margaret Pyle welcomed members and visitors and commented on the day’s good weather.

She then asked if any members wished to fill out the Denman College survey (published in WI Life issue 48). These could then be passed to Margaret Seal who would send them to the national federation.

The proposed walk in Wokingham had been postponed until the New Year because the ground was waterlogged and one would be held in the Caversham/Emmer Green area instead. There would be only one scrabble meeting during the month.

We then had our concert, In Tune With Christmas, by the Serenade Choir, a group of six singers and a pianist. This featured a mixture of Christmas songs, carols and poetry which everyone enjoyed.

Before the final song, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, certain percussion items were given to members to join in and the star of the show was Pat Larkins with a mean football rattle!

We then had the usual cup of tea, this month served with mince pies, shortbread and cake.

Our meetings are held at St Barnabas’ church hall, Emmer Green, on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm. Visitors are very welcome — come along and see what we do.


UNDETERRED by frost and fog and restored by a glass of mulled wine on arrival, our members enjoyed a festive meeting where we were entertained by the Organ Grinder.

He showed us his hand-crafted barrel organs and played some traditional music interspersed with humorous stories and poems.

We finished with a selection of Christmas carols, which were heartily sung, before enjoying a bring and share supper.

Members were encouraged to join in various activities involving the book, walking and craft groups and were reminded that our next meeting will be on January 15, when Simon Jones will be talking about The Grand Tour.

Finally, it was found that Father Christmas had dropped off a bag of sweets for us as he flew overhead in his sleigh.

These were handed round and, with many best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, the meeting slowly dispersed.

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