Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Around the WI

Around the WI


OUR president Yvonne welcomed all members, including two new members, to the January meeting.

After discussing WI business, she introduced our speaker for the evening, Carole Bankes, who had come to talk about the good work of the Blue Cross.

The Blue Cross was founded in 1897 by a group of animal lovers who primarily cared for the working horses in the streets of London.

In 1902 the first horse ambulance was purchased at a cost of £500. Animal welfare was extended to the care of ponies, dogs, cats and all small pets for owners who could not afford private care.

In 1906 the first animal hospital in London’s Victoria was opened at a cost of £10,000. In the first six months 2,344 animals were treated.

To this day, the hospital has never once closed its doors to needy animals.

By 1910 16 horse ambulances were operating in and around London and in 1912 Our Dumb Friends League was set up to run alongside the Red Cross during the First World War in order to help wounded horses that played a huge part in the battlefields.

During the Thirties many county councils conducted slum clearance but the people who were rehoused were not allowed to take their pets, resulting in the Blue Cross having to rehome 100 to 150 abandoned pets a day.

While service personnel were sent abroad during the Second World War, the Blue Cross cared, with the help of volunteers providing temporary care, for 600 dogs and 800 cats until their owners’ return. Sadly, not all animals could be reunited with their owners but all were re-homed.

After the war quarantine kennels were opened for all animals arriving from abroad with returning personnel.

In 1948 national children’s dog shows were launched to encourage children to care for their pets and in 1958 the name was officially changed from Our Dumb Friends League to The Blue Cross.

In 1992 an animal behaviourist was employed to help owners with problem pets and in 2009 new facilities were unveiled at Thirsk and Southampton.

Plans are in place for a new centre in Suffolk which will allow twice as many pets to be helped.

Blue Cross is a charity and relies totally on donations, gifts from wills, sales from its Christmas catalogues, money made from the 50 charity shops and extensive fund-raising.

In 2013 the running costs amounted to £31.6million. During 2014 26,800 pets were treated.

The 12 rehousing centres are proud that they achieved a 97 per cent success rate and rehomed 8,300 pets last year.

All pets are vaccinated, wormed and neutered as well as receiving a behaviour assessment before arriving at their new home.

Blue Cross has been around for more than a century and during this time has been dedicated to caring and helping pets, never closing its doors to pets and their owners.

Following this interesting talk delicious refreshments were served and our meeting closed at 9pm.

Benson WI meets at the village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm. Our next meeting will be on February 18, when we will hear all about the good work of the Helen & Douglas House. We would love you to join us. For further information, please call Lin on (01491) 836800.


PRESIDENT Adrienne Rance welcomed members and guest speaker John Maden to our first meeting of the New Year on January 21.

The talk was entitled “What computers can do for you“. This was a subject close to members’ hearts as most of us now use computers in our daily lives.

John lives in Maidenhead with his wife and family. His background includes more than 30 years in corporate IT, while in his spare time he’s involved in maths tutoring, PC tuition and as a volunteer for Age UK Silver Surfers.

He told us that his oldest client reached the ripe old age of 97 before attempting to use a computer, the incentive being her need to Skype with her son, who lives in Australia.

She now “sees“ him at least once a week and catches up on all his news, sees his surroundings and photos etc and all at no cost.

Her life is now much richer and this is all thanks to modern technology, which means you can send and receive messages, photos, videos, play games, check news, book flights, look up weather forecasts, restaurant and hotel reviews, plan journeys, research items and do your shopping as well as undertaking other activities and accessing a wealth of interesting information.

This computing revolution started back in the Fifties with the arrival of huge mainframes followed by minicomputers in the Sixties, microcomputers in the early Eighties and laptops and notebooks in the late Eighties. In 2007 smartphones arrived followed in 2010 by tablets.

The pace of this technological change is breathtaking when you consider that the smartphone in your pocket has more processing power than the old mainframe computers that filled a warehouse.

Back in the Eighties scientists were already researching the possibility of a “network of networks“ (internet), mainly funded by the Americans .The internet was initially used by academia and the military. The online world took on a more recognisable form in the Nineties when British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented a more recognisable and usable form, known as the world wide web.

This staggering invention truly changed the way we live, as have mobile devices.

At the tip of your fingers, on a keyboard or a screen, there is the possibility of enriching your lives endlessly.

The knowledge is there to help you, make your life easier and more fun. On a personal level, I find it an amazing tool to keep in touch with family and friends.

Based on the number of questions that John answered, there is a need for some training to make the most of one’s computer, so he suggested contacting Age UK as it runs courses to help get you started or you to improve your skills.

In addition, Barclays offers a free “digital angel“ service for the over-50s and you do not have to be a customer.

We then relaxed over a delicious tea, prepared by Jenny Bendell and Mary Romanes, and browsed over goodies on the bring and buy table.

Quite a few of us then rushed home to try out new ideas on our computers and try to understand better all our new computer jargon.

The next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on February 18 at 2.30pm.

The speaker will Mrs Horigan with a talk entitled “The good, the bad and the ugly“.

It’s not a Western, it’s about caring family photographs. The competition will be for a family photograph.


ON January 21, a cold afternoon, president Val Munday, welcomed us to our latest meeting.

As ever, the atmosphere inside the hall was warm and friendly with a lot of interest around the bring and buy and produce stalls.

We began by discussing seven WI resolutions, of which we had to vote for one. Eventually, all WI members will be able to vote and the chosen resolution will be announced at the annual meeting of the National Association of Women’s Institutes in London. This is WI democracy in action.

The resolutions ranged widely, from female equality to defibrillators, curbing the use of antibiotics to improving care for frail elderly people.

After an active and interesting discussion, we all voted but at the time of writing I do not know the result.

Our speaker was Eileen Race, a financial planner specialising in advising elderly people.

This may not sound like a fun-filled occasion but Mrs Race was a superb communicator and full of really important information relating to pensions, how to understand the care home fee minefield and the vital importance of wills and enduring power of attorney.

The very fact that your reporter can write about these subjects is a testament to her clarity.

So good was she that her audience was reluctant to let her go and after being revived with tea and cakes, Mrs Race stayed to judge the shortbread competition. We hope she will come back.

The shortbread competition was won by Millicent Gibby with Jane Leaver second and Joyce Robins third

Tea was provided by Jose Leadley and Merryl Roberts. In the tradition of Greys WI, it was a relaxed, informative and fun meeting.

Our next meeting will be at the village hall on Wednesday, February 18 at 2.30pm.

The speaker will be Nick Brazil, an old favourite, and his topic will be “Castles in the air“. Recommended.

For more information about Greys WI and our meetings, please call 07706 663982 or email greyswi20@gmail.com


FRANCES EMMETT welcomed 24 members to the opening meeting of the year in January.

She reminded them that £500 had been set aside for bursaries at Denman College and urged them to make use of the offer. There are also bursaries available from the Buckinghamshire federation on application.

Owing to a prior booking at the village hall, the March meeting will be held in Frieth.

On April 26 the WI centenary baton, which will have been travelling around Buckinghamshire, will reach Stuart Lodge in Wycombe and it may be interesting to meet members of other branches there.

We are planning to have a coach to Waddesdon on Tuesday, June 16 to take part in the centenary garden party for the Buckinghamshire federation.

On April 4 it will be the WI’s centenary annual meeting at the Albert Hall. Margaret Spratley will be the delegate with Eileen Collins and Anne Lazur as onlookers.

The resolutions to be discussd there were circulated and members were asked to vote on their importance. The results will be known at the next meeting.

The speaker for the evening was Caroline Hyman, who is a photographer very much in the style of Richard Avedon.

Her portraits are usually in black and white, against a white background.

Her book, The Portrait of a Valley, contained photographs of many well-known village personalities, including a group photograph of the WI 20 years ago.

There were many recognitions and reminiscences and Caroline was thanked by Jill Busby for bringing back some personal happy memories.

A delicious tea was served by Liz Jarvis, Anne Lazur and Suzy Livesey.

This was followed by a small Christmas raffle.


IT was a lovely, sunny winter’s day for the first meeting of 2015, in total contrast to the weather forecast, which had prophesied snow, sleet or rain for the afternoon, so everyone was in a happy mood for the “fun and games” to follow.

President Mary Burton gave birthday greetings to Marion Brockway, Shirley Durrans, Pat Eades and Audrey Fox.

Mary took members through the articles of association for the federation, which needed to be agreed by members and also on the question of whether there was agreement that each WI had only one vote for a trustee to serve on the federation committee. It was not a unanimous decision but the vote was carried in favour.

It was noted that there is a new course on silk painting available at Denman College, details of which are in News & Views. Audrey Fox has kindly offered her garden for an afternoon tea party on July 28. The Book Club continues to meet every other month.

Members signed up to go on a double-decker bus for the centenary baton celebration at Dorchester Abbey on April 20.

It was sad to hear that Pat Williams has had to resign from the committee for family reasons. She will be sadly missed for her organisational skills in planning outings.

There are now 30 members wishing to attend the lunch at Henley Golf Club on the February 11.

When all the business had been dealt with, the room was set out for the fun and games to commence.

There was a large selection of indoor games to choose from - skittles, shove ha’penny, Scrabble, cribbage, Lexicon, Rebound, darts and many more.

It was good to see members moving around, enjoying themselves and being competitive, all in a very friendly atmosphere.

Thanks are due to everyone who provided the games and transported them to and from the hall.

The competition was for a Christmas card and Judith Young’s entry received the most pennies in the voting with Ruth Norman’s second and Joan Hewitt’s third. The next meeting will be the annual meeting at Harpsden village hall on March 11 at 2.30pm.

There will be a short talk by a member of the Oxfordshire federation on the Assooicated Country Women of the World, which will help members find out how their voting pennies are spent.

Instead of the usual monthly competition, members are asked to put forward suggestions for competitions for the coming year.

The annual meeting is an opportune time to hear about the previous year’s activities, so an invitation is extended to all visitors to come along and join in.


ON December 3 members met in the Sansom Room for their Christmas meal.

Catered by Nikki Alston, the menu included roast breast of duck with seasonal mixed vegetables followed by a trio of desserts. It was much appreciated by everyone.

The committee had dressed the table in gold, red and cream with the addition of cyclamen and members were greeted with Christmas music and a delicious punch. After supper there were table games and the party finished at 10pm.

On January 7 members gathered in the Hannen Room for a convivial games evening with a light supper.

Members submitted their choices for resolutions for representation at the annual meeting to be held at the Albert Hall in June.

President Jan French reminded us of the local baton day on April 13 to celebrate 100 years since the foundation of the WI. Further details about other centenary events will be published later.

Other notable events for the following year are: A centenary lunch in Henley on April 13 (more details later). A coach trip to Syon House with a guided tour in June. The festival bridge evening, also in June.

More details of our programme will be in the report next month.

Mill Green, Wargrave WI always welcomes visitors and new members. Our meetings are usually held in the Hannen Room, Mill Green, on the first Wednesday of each month at 7.30pm unless otherwise stated. For more information, call Penny Hampton 01189 403080.


JANUARY heralded the centenary years of the WI movement and the president Judy Palmer told members of the planned celebrations.

In April the centenary baton that is travelling the country will arrive in Berkshire.

The Thames Group, which includes Remenham, will give a welcome lunch.

Major Paul Whittle gave us an absorbing talk (accompanied by stunning slides) of a 1,200-mile tour of Myanmar (Burma), a sovereign state in South-East Asia.

Often travelled by splendid restored vintage steam trains, the “land of green and gold” offers magnificent religious sites, including gigantic reclining Buddhas, mountain-top settlements and thousands of gold-plated minarets and spires with a backdrop of beautiful scenery.

Maj Whittle’s fees go towards helping several children’s charities in Burma and India as well as towards essential building and desperately needed wells.

He said he was a very busy man and gave 127 talks last year. He was warmly applauded and thanked by the president.

A delicious tea was served to end a very good meeting.


PRESIDENT Margaret Pyle welcomed everyone to the first meeting of 2015 by wishing them all a happy New Year.

There was some confusion about the working of the microphone as Margaret Seal (who knows these things) was unfortunately too ill to attend the meeting - we wish her a speedy recovery.

Unfortunately, Margaret had some sad news to announce that one of our members, Barbara Prince, had passed away.

No walks have been arranged because last year the weather was so bad that most of them did not take place, so it has been decided that walkers will meet in Budgen’s car park on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month and a decision will then be made as to where (and how far) the walk will be.

The national federation’s centenary baton will be received in Berkshire on Tuesday, April 7 from Wiltshire and handed over to Oxfordshire on April 14. Arrangements for this event have yet to be finalised.

Secretary Mary Robinson drew our attention to several federation talks and courses that are due to take place, including “Aspects of horticulture”, “Uganda today” and a workshop entitled “Invisible machine applique”.

The meeting continued with the birthday buttonholes being handed out and then Margaret introduced our speaker, Catherine Crabb, who gave a very interesting and amusing talk called the “Life and times of the canal people”.

This life was particularly hard with children often not receiving much education.

The afternoon concluded with the usual cup of tea, biscuits and the raffle.

Why not come along and see us? We meet at St Barnabas’ Church hall, Emmer Green, at 2pm on the first Wednesday of every month.


RACHEL LLOYD, the president, welcomed two new members and four guests to the meeting on January 21.

She then thanked everyone for making our Christmas party such a success. She had received thank-you letters from the other WIs whose members had attended.

The business for the afternoon covered events mentioned in News & Views, including the county federation’s annual meeting at Oxford town hall, the golf taster day and the science lecture.

We were pleased to note that one of our members had won £40 in the 400 Club draw.

Pam Hudgell then told members about two possible outings - one to the Harry Potter Experience at Warner Brothers Studio and the other to Ramster Gardens to see the Embroidery and Textile Art Exhibition.

Details were given of the next WI walk and the ladies’ lunch at the Baskerville.

Rachel then reminded everyone about the fund-raising race night planned for March 7. Tickets will cost £15, which will include a supper and lots of lovely puddings. There will be a bar and a raffle.

It is vital that we raise extra funds so that the committee can continue to run a successful WI. Rachel then introduced the afternoon’s speaker, Stewart Linford, who told us about making bespoke wooden furniture.

He explained the history of Windsor chairs and showed us examples of some beautiful workmanship created at his workshops in High Wycombe.

Some of the chairs were created for special commemorations and there was a cigar drawer in the seat of the Winston Churchill chair.

While tea was being served members were reminded to vote for the Associated Country Women of the World flower competition, which was won by Pauline Watkins,

The competition for a favourite fridge magnet attracted 24 wonderful entries. The joint winners were Sue Evans and Beryl Lawson.

The speaker at the February meeting will be a serving magistrate talking about local crime and community sentencing. For more information, Please call Rachel Lloyd on 0118 940 3975.


WE welcomed 44 members and two visitors to our January meeting.

What a great way to start the New Year with so many attending despite the cold, dark nights.

Our president, Sue Frayling-Cork, opened the meeting and wished everyone a happy New Year.

She read a passage from the

Little Book of Wisdom by the Dalai Lama, including his guiding principle “be guided by realism, moderation and patience”. Good advice in today’s busy and sometimes stressful times.

Ann Chivers thanked the committee for providing the wonderful Christmas party in December, which she considered to be the best one ever.

The finance report was read out and members were reminded to renew their subs if they had not already done so.

It was agreed by the members that we would send a memorial bursary in respect of Joyce Hargreaves who sadly passed away in December. Joyce was a long-standing member of many years and her contribution was outstanding. She was great fun and will be sadly missed.

Our president brought to everyone’s attention the resolution nominations which were included in everyone’s copy of WI Life.

Members were asked to consider each resolution and then complete the voting slip and send it in.

Three centenary roses donated by Sonning Common WI have been planted in the flower bed outside the pharmacy in Wood Lane.

Thanks were extended to Sue Hedges, Alison Bishop and Jackie Million who organised the ordering and planting in conjunction with the Village Gardeners.

Thanks were given to the members for their wonderful support in attending and donating items at the coffee mornings held in 2014.

Unfortunately, the speaker we had originally booked for this meeting had to cancel at fairly short notice but our programme planner Alison Bishop came to the rescue by recruiting Nick Brazil who gave a talk entitled “Castles in the air”.

The theme of the talk was bizarre Victorian inventions, some of which were patented, that never came to fruition.

Photographic examples included the 1887 umbrella lightning conductor, a swooning chair to aid ladies’ recovery when feeling faint, a contraption supposedly for busy farmers’ wives which would rock the baby’s cradle, churn the butter and darn socks all at the same time and many styles of mono-cycles which looked extremely dangerous with one even designed to run along power lines! Many more examples were shown.

The presentation was very informative and amusing and enjoyed by us all. Beverley Porteous gave the vote of thanks.

After refreshments there was a recipe exchange and members were able to order copies of recipes they fancied having a go at making.

The flower of the month was won by Joan Reeve with a little primrose which had bravely flowered in the frosty ground.


WE were very pleased to see a good turnout for our meeting on a cold evening in January. We soon warmed up with plenty of chat and a sales table and competition entries to see before we settled down to listen to the notices.

There is plenty going on in the coming year, both locally with our turn to pass the travelling baton on in April and further afield with trips to join.

The craft, book and swimming groups are still meeting enthusiastically and some stalwart walkers are venturing out, with usually a promise of tea and cakes at the end of a nice local walk.

Our speaker was local craftsman, Philip Koomen, who told us how he started his furniture making business in Checkendon.

He showed us photographs of some beautiful bespoke tables, benches and the like and he had also brought some examples or models,

From choosing and buying the different woods to designing on commission, he undertakes the work with great expertise. The furniture is made in his workshop.

His work can be seen in Dorchester Abbey where he made the modern choir stalls. Philip chose our competition winner, which was a lovely bowl with a carved cow on top made from a walnut tree from the farm garden of a member - very appropriate on the night.

Supper followed and more chat as we booked up further outings or caught up on each other’s news. Our hall is beginning to look much better as improvements are being undertaken. We finished as usual with a raffle.


FOR our January meeting, a very interesting talk about Eton College was given by Tom Holden, who was a teacher and then the lower school headmaster at the school.

He gave a brief but interesting insight into the life of the college, with many amusing anecdotes.

Both he and his wife, Eleanor, have met people who have changed the world, many of them young men at college who have helped to shape our country.

Our meeting on March 11 will be our annual meeting. This will be held in the town hall at 7.30pm.

If you are interested in joining our WI, you will be most welcome. For more information, please call Kath Gomm on (01491) 612939.


WE started the New Year with a good attendance at the January meeting, welcoming our Berkshire chairman Sara Staker as well as guests and members of other local WIs and of the Pang Valley Group.

Our speaker was Sir Hugo Brunner, son of Lady Brunner, who was a leading light in the WI movement for many years.

Their home was at Greys Court, near Henley, and this delightful house is now open to the public thanks the National Trust.

Sir Hugo opened his talk by mentioning that he himself is very much in tune with the WI and its aims as he was “brought up by the WI”.

His mother Elizabeth Brunner was a grand-daughter of the actor Sir Henry Irving, who died in 1904, just six months after her birth.

She began her life as “a child of the theatre”. Her mother Dorothea had created the part of Trilby and her father was the eldest son of Sir Henry, the first actor to be knighted.

His son followed him on to the stage and Elizabeth made her debut on the London stage at the age of 16.

After her marriage to Sir Felix Brunner, she gave up the stage and took an interest in a number of charities, in particular the Women’s Institute and was instrumental in the creation of the WI’s own training establishment, Den-man College at Abingdon.

This year is the WI’s centenary and celebrations will be many and varied throughout the Berkshire federation.

The centenary annual meeting at the Royal Albert Hall in June will be of great interest.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, February 17 when Steve Moll will be talking to us about “The world of the honeybee”.

Meetings take place at Goring Heath parish hall on the third Tuesday of the month at 10.15am. Visitors are welcome, so do come along and find out what we do. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


SHIRLEY BRYANT welcomed members to our meeting on January 21 and wished them all a happy New Year.

A birthday buttonhole was presented to Carole Shelley-Allen.

Thanks to everyone who helped to arrange the homes and gardens annual meeting and lunch.

We have lots of activities planned, including skittles, trips to Canterbury and Kew Gardens, croquet lessons and a theatre trip.

The table tennis and walking groups are back in full flow to work off the Christmas excess!

Our speaker was Vicki Jordan who spoke to us about the history of Woodcote (or is it Woodcott?)

We had the 1851 census records of the village, which gave us a fascinating insight into the occupants and occupations of the residents.

The competition for an interesting local photograph was won by Rose Metcalf and the bloom of the month was won by Monika Watters.

We would love some new members, so come and join us. We meet on the third Wednesday of the month in the village hall.

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