Monday, 14 June 2021

Around the WI



YVONNE welcomed all members and visitors to our April meeting.

Forthcoming trips and events were discussed prior to the introduction of the evening’s speaker, Barbara Hately.

Barbara spoke about the Changi Red Cross quilts.

This fascinating talk was supported by a PowerPoint presentation depicting the events leading up to the fall of Singapore in the Second World War, the generation of recreational activities that instigated the skills of the Girl Guides and other internees who created the wonderful quilts.

Barbara also explained the formation and contents of the three quilts — Australian, British and Japanese — and how they were used to communicate messages to and from the other internees and prisoners of war.

She explained in detail the stitches, methods, colours, materials and specific designs used for each of the three quilts.

Barbara also bought along a selection of books as well as samples of fabric to support the more intricate aspects of the quilts.

Benson WI meets on the third Wednesday of the month in the village hall at 7.30pm.

Our next meeting will be on May 18 when the speaker will be John Stubbs talking about the National Trust’s Nuffield Place.

If you would like to join us you will be made most welcome. For more infomation, please call Lin on (01491) 836800.


ON Wednesday, April 20, president Adrienne Rance welcomed members, returning guest speaker Frances Benton, guest Glynis Gothard and a new member, Sue Edgell.

Frances covered two tables with an amazing display of pearls in the form of necklaces, earrings, brooches and pendants, all glittering and sparkling on a white background. It was breathtaking.

This was her second of three talks on pearls. Her enthusiasm and commitment to the subject was 100 per cent and her knowledge outstanding.

We learned that pearls are known as the world’s oldest gem as they have been prized and collected for more than 4,000 years. Leading Greek women relied on pearly adornments to show their wealth.

The “birth” of a pearl is truly amazing and so unlike other minerals that are mined in the earth.

They are grown by live oysters or mussels, which are bivalves, below the surface of the water. The natural pearl forms when an irritant, such as a parasite, gets trapped inside the mollusc.

In order to defend itself, the oyster secretes a smooth, hard crystalline substance around the foreign object. This is called “nacre”, the same substance it uses for making its shell.

Over a long period of time, even up to nine years, when the irritant is encased in many silky layers of coating, the result will be a natural, lustrous gem called a pearl.

They were much sought after by royalty and wealthy people as a symbol of status and were even used as form of currency.

The best known example of this was in 1916 when jeweller Jacques Cartier bought a property on New York’s famous 5th Avenue in exchange for two pearl necklaces. Maybe it is the simple look of the pearl that is so alluring or maybe it is the special lustrous character they exhibit when offset against the skin’s natural colour.

Frances pointed out that you can open a million shells and find perhaps only one with a precious pearl inside.

As for fashion, even the “twin set with pearls” has stood the test of time.

When Queen Victoria wore black pearls after Albert’s death, the population took the meaning of misery on board and made black pearls fashionable too.

For the first 10,000 years pearls were associated with love, wisdom and beauty.

The popularity of pearls grew in the 19th century so that demand outstripped supply and prices rocketed.

Thanks to the ingenuity of three Japanese men, the first cultured (akoya) pearls were made in 1893, paving the way for the cultured pearl industry as we know it. To this day, the Japanese are considered the foremost experts in seeding oysters.

Japan became the biggest exporter of pearls but its trade suffered heavy losses after bombing of the oyster beds during the Second World War and it took a long time to rebuild their stocks.

Frances gave us tips on how to identify real and cultured pearls from man-made ones. In general a real pearl is heavier and if brushed gently against your teeth it will feel gritty whereas fake (faux) pearls will feel smooth as they are made of glass or plastic. The varnish of fake pearls will chip off and fade over time. We heard that Frances had bought faux pearl necklaces from charity shops for a couple of pounds because she realised that the diamanté clasps were worth a lot more than the pearls!

Members were very happy to handle some of her pearl necklaces to get an idea of the variety of colours and shapes and, in some cases, value of these amazing gems.

Frances showed us her most precious necklace laid out in a beautiful presentation box, not that valuable but of great sentimental value as it had been in her family for many years.

This amazing woman works tirelessly for the Jabulani charity in Durban, which cares for abandoned street children.

Frances adopted a teenage Zulu boy in 2006 to become part of her family. He graduated in law at Pretoria University and is now a qualified lawyer.

Last year she raised £10,000 and was delighted to tell us that for the first time there was enough money to send three of their Durban children to university.

It was a fascinating talk spoken with lots of heartfelt passion and enthusiasm.

Members then enjoyed a delicious tea prepared and served by Nana Davis and Jill Tomlinson, providing plenty of time to view the collection of pearls on display and for sale.

The next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, May 18 at 2.30pm when Mike Hurst will talk about “The music makers of Reading from 1250 to the present day: 1,000 years of popular music”.

Interested? Please call Selina Avent on 0118 940 3426 as you would be most welcome.


THE speaker at our April meeting was Denise Beddows, who gave us a fascinating insight into the world of intelligence and espionage with her presentation, called “Buckinghamshire spies and subversives”.

She introduced us to the numerous spies associated with this area, explaining how prominent national and international figures have featured in our local history.

After the talk, several members shared their own related stories and anecdotes with the group.

The evening’s business featured a discussion about May’s resolutions meeting when we will discuss both “Appropriate care in hospital for people with dementia” and “Avoiding food waste and addressing food poverty”.

Nikki shared a letter of thanks from the Regis Classic Car Rally. Hambleden WI was thanked for the warm welcome and delicious cream tea that we provided for them in March.

Teas for the meeting were kindly provided by Bernie Beavis, Angela Detsiny and Gill Sandeman.

If you are interested in coming along to a meeting to see who we are and what we do, please contact either Helen on 07889 539605 or Jo on 07803 505665.

We meet in Hambleden village hall on the second Thursday of the month. The next meeting will be on Thursday, May 12 at 7.30pm.


THE April meeting was turned back to front so the speaker was introduced straight away.

Frances Benton’s subject was “A passion for pearls” and she began by saying that her voice was tuned to volume 3 so there was no need for her to use a microphone!

She was a dynamic, lively, interesting and highly entertaining lady and she appeared to have many strings to her bow as she is adept at playing baroque music.

Her first encounter with pearls was at a Chinese market when she was 21. Now she buys the kind of pearls that nobody else has got. She warned members that pearl stringing should come with a government health warning as it was an addictive pastime. Silk stringing is the best kind as it enables the pearls to sit well on the body and to give the necklace “flow”.

Frances explained that there are three kinds of pearls.

Firstly, there are faux, or synthetic, pearls. Then come natural pearls, which are the most expensive and can be dearer than diamonds. The only way to ensure these pearls are genuine is by an  X-ray. They can be found in both freshwater and saltwater. Some of the rarest are those in mussels in the River Tay in Scotland.

The third type of pearls is cultured ones found in oysters. It sounded rather off-putting to learn that inside a pearl will be found the mummified remains of a parasitic burrowing maggot.

Again, these pearls have to be X-rayed to find out if they are genuine. Black pearls are to be found in the Caribbean Sea and peacock pearls in New Zealand.

Pearls should be worn often to keep them polished and Frances said that a good way was to wear them in bed with, possibly, nothing else!

She had brought a huge display of many shapes of pearls, ranging in price from a few pounds to well over £100.

She donates any profit from her sales to a South African charity and, at the end of the meeting, she announced that there was sufficient profit that day to enable three children from the charity to attend school and be educated.

She was thanked by new committee member Ann  Lincoln.

The competition was for “Something with pearls”. There was a vast array of items on the top table and the winner was Judith Young with Shirley Weyman second and Joan Hoyes third.

There were 39 members and three visitors at the meeting. President Pat Eades gave birthday greetings to Alice Drennan, Bridget Hawthorne and Jasmine Weaver. There is a membership campaign competition in operation within the WI running until March 31, 2017 and the WI with the highest percentage of new members could win a cash prize.

The outing to Exbury by the South Chiltern Group has been cancelled due to insufficient interest. The group will be amalgamated with the Witheridge Group on January 1, 2017 when a new title will be needed.

On show at the meeting was a certificate celebrating the 75th anniversary of Harpsden WI, kindly presented by the Oxfordshire Federation.

Items from News & Views brought to the notice of members included an outing to Kelmscott Manor on June 9, the literary lunch in Benson on July 27, a visit to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition on July 20 and to Audley End House and Gardens on July 13.

Harpsden’s Sunday lunch group and book club continue to be well supported.

The new programme for the coming year was available, showing a wide variety of talks and speakers which, hopefully, will be of interest to the visitors present, who will again be made most welcome at the next meeting on May 11.

At this meeting there will be a talk on “Wills and probate” by Jane Whitfield, who was a popular speaker in 2015. The competition will be for “an old document”. The meeting will be held, as usual, at Harpsden village hall, commencing at 2.30pm.


“THE emergence of England” was the title of an enthusiastic, theatrical and detailed talk, sprinkled with folklore and myth, given by speaker Jayne Windmill at the meeting on April 6.

It was a 50-minute account of the early emergence of England from the ancient Britons living in a very marshy and wet country to Roman times and beyond.

In 2000 BC, the early Bronze Age, there were 300,000 people spread around the country, twice as many as now live in the greater Reading area.

About 1,500 years after this, around the time of the building of Stonehenge, the Celts came to Britain. They were very good farmers and also very skilled with weapons so they tended to take over wherever they were.

The Celts spread from the Indian sub-continent and reached England in around 500BC and lived in their various tribes until 55BC when along came the Romans who annexed Britain, imposing their own rules, regulations and taxes.

The Romans ruled Britain for almost 400 years at which point they tired of England and went home, leaving Scotland and Ireland Celtic.

This left England with little discipline and no governance and open to attack. Attacks came from the areas the Romans had not reached, namely Ireland and Scotland.

The ruler at that time in Britain was Vortigan who invited two brothers from the island of Jutland to come with their soldiers to help defend England against the Irish and Picts.

In return they were given the island of Thanet, where they brought more soldiers and colonized Kent and ruled until the middle of the 5th century.

The Angles and Saxons invaded and brought with them their pagan beliefs and customs. They fought great battles, causing huge loss of life among the Britons. To settle the dispute, the land was divided into sectors with each tribe taking large swathes of the countryside in order to settle in peace.

In 500 AD there were great battles and the Angles and Saxons stopped invading for half a century.

In the 6th century the population of England, which had been four million was reduced to one million.

In 541 the Justinian Plague swept the land, killing three out of every four people. The country was then invaded by Europeans from all countries and became a confederate of little kingdoms with neighbours trading and settling borders.

There emerged from these self-ruling kingdoms the systems of fines and taxation. Christianity was practised again and from this a more equable society was born.

The Anglo-Saxons came to Britain with a strong code of honour and the land was mainly divided into several large areas, Northumbria, Wessex, Mercia and Kent. The Norsemen arrived again 300 years later and the Danes later still, capturing Northumbria, where they ruled.

After this the Vikings invaded and Harold of Norway ruled. Later William of Normandy invaded and left Britain to be ruled by foreign kings for centuries to come.

England then emerged as one of the most powerful kingdoms on earth.

The talk was a powerful and entertaining view of our history and much enjoyed by members.

Forthcoming events are as follows:

June 8: Private outing to Stratfield Saye House, 10.45am to 3.30pm. Meet at Stratfield Saye.

June 15: Coffee morning with a bring and buy stall in aid of Age Concern.

July 6: “Tales of the opera” by Patricia Purcell, speaker and singer.

Meetings are held in the Hannen Room, Mill Green, Wargrave, on the first Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm.


AT the April meeting Liam d’Arcy Brown kept us spellbound while talking about Chusan, the first British island in China.

We hope that he will return in the near future to tell us more about China.

Tea was provided by Irene Lyndsay. Pauline Collins was kept busy on the sales table and Audrey Bradley had brought flowers.

Next month we will discuss the resolutions after which we will have a quiz.

The meeting will take place at the war memorial hall in Peppard on May 11 at 2pm. Do come along.


OUR April meeting was held in Remenham village hall as usual and was taken by our president Judy Palmer.

It started with the usual business. Judy told us of the group meeting to be held at Knowl Hill hall on May 12 at 2.30pm when the talk will be on “How mediaeval women led society” to be followed by the usual tea.

The Berkshire Federation’s organised visits include one to the Fashion Museum in Bath and another to Blenheim Palace.

This was followed by the presentation of the cups. The cup for the most helpful member was won by Judy Fraser, the art cup by Rosemary Pratt and the craft cup by Irene Parker. Birthday posies were presented to Daphne Austin, Caroline Leeming, Enid Light and Sue Sharp. The raffle was won by Ann Francis.

Jean Sheppard took us through an excellent photographic quiz, which was much enjoyed by all.

The meeting closed after the usual delicious tea and chat.

Our next meeting will feature a talk by Sheila Hill entitled “A civilian year in Afghanistan”. It will be held at Remenham village hall on Monday, May 9 at 2.30pm. All are very welcome.


PRESIDENT Margaret Pyle welcomed all those present to our April meeting and thanked Sue Hurneyman for the table flowers.

She also extended special thanks to Doris Goddard who has now retired from her position as treasurer and presented her with a beautiful plant.

Doris also used to sort out the emergency packs for the accident and emergency department at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Margaret is now asking for a volunteer to take over this little job.

As usual, the record of the March meeting was available for all to see.

Margaret said that she had the necessary order form if anyone wished to order bulbs from Walkers Bulbs.

A board was sent round for anyone who had not yet ordered a diary, the money is required by the May meeting.

Margaret Seal gave out the birthday buttonholes but unfortunately neither recipient was there (one in New Zealand and the second unable to attend).

We were reminded of a WI open house morning on May 21 from 10am to 12.30pm. Coffee and cake will be available and there will be an opportunity to buy plants for the garden or, if you are more interested in crafts, yarn suitable for knitting or crochet projects will be available.

Secretary Mary Robinson drew our attention to the many outings that are available and included in the April issue of Berkshire News, including History of Fashion, Britain’s Greatest Palace (Blenheim), Sounds of Summer concert and The Timeless Wonders of Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Scrabble group and book club had meetings in April but the knit and natter group is not proving very successful at the moment and may have to close.

The cinema group saw Eddie the Eagle and thoroughly enjoyed it, including the coffee and cake afterwards.

Margaret then introduced our speaker for the afternoon, Moira Hemson, from the Reading branch of the Alzheimer’s Society.

Hers was a very interesting talk, explaining the different types of dementia and how they manifest themselves in sufferers.

Moira said that within the society are groups, including singing for the brain, befriending, empowerment and memory café.

She also showed us an example of a twiddlemuff, which help to calm dementia patients. After the talk, several members asked questions.

This was followed by the usual cup of tea and biscuits before the raffle was called and Margaret reminded us of the next meeting in May. Rosehill WI meets at St Barnabas’s Church Hall, Emmer Green, on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm and would make any visitors very welcome.


IN the absence of president Joan Jolley, our treasurer Rosemary Appleby very kindly took the meeting.

She warmly welcomed members and two visitors.

The business part of the meeting was, thankfully, short. Unfortunately, once again we are advised that Denman College is under threat of closure, so we urgently need to fund-raise.

Climate ambassadors are sought to advise and campaign in local communities.

Rosemary encouraged members to attend the open day at our national headquarters in November. She had been on a previous tour and found it both informative and enjoyable.

On the matter of creating “BRAskets” (hanging baskets made from a bra) for charity, one member mischievously asked whether the cup size mattered.

On this beautiful, sunny spring day thoughts turned to outings and visits to Kelmscott Manor and Audley House were discussed.

Not far from the minds of other ladies were thoughts of spring colour in the garden as Rosemary reminded us that bulb orders were to be given to Pam Hudgell.

Each year Shiplake WI members compete for the Grace Phillips Salver. Grace, a long-time member of the WI, left us a legacy in her will and a silver salver was bought as a trophy.

This year the theme for the competition is a piece of embroidery, cross stitch or tapestry. Time to get those fingers stitching, ladies!

The next walk will take place on Tuesday, May 10, meeting at 10.15am at the Cricketers’ Arms, Littlewick Green.

Now a dilemma for some. Shiplake Community Choir, in conjunction with the International Ukulele Club, was to present “Songs for springtime” on the following Saturday at the Christ Church Centre, Henley, but the Reading Male Voice Choir was singing at Greyfriars Church on the same evening.

Some of our ladies are members of the community choir, others have partners who sing with the male voice choir and some both. Delicate decisions had to be made!

The following day was to be the Queen’s 90th birthday and there was to be a three-hour peel of bells at Shiplake Church. Rosemary’s arms were going to ache after that!

To further celebrate Her Majesty’s birthday, the Shiplake Party Picnic will take place on Sunday, June 12 on the Memorial Hall field. The organisers are asking for names of villagers who will be 90 years old this year to come as special guests.

The speaker this month was Sue Milton, talking to us about swan upping.

Sue is a local professional photographer who has travelled with the swan uppers. Swan upping takes place every third week in July, starting at Sunbury and ending at Abingdon and involves the queen’s swan marker and markers from the Vintners Company and the Dyers Company.

The ceremony begins with a toast to the Queen and then proceeds down the Thames to Windsor where they all stand up in their boats, holding their oars upwards, as a salute. They need steady nerves for this. The six boats then carry on along the river, counting, registering and measuring birds and stopping off at local hostelries along the way to refuel themselves. Indeed, although the task requires a lot of effort, the rest stops seemed frequent!

In July the swans have lost their flight feathers, making it possible for the uppers to catch them. Only breeding pairs and their cygnets are marked.

Fortunately, swans are no longer eaten and nowadays the work of the swan upper is directed at educating school children on how to look after the river and its wildlife.

Sue’s talk generated much interest and some members expressed a wish to visit this year’s event.

As our meetings take place on the third Wednesday of the month, this would coincide with the arrival of the swan uppers at Shiplake Lock, so a picnic by the river at 4pm seems in order.

Rosemary gave the vote of thanks to Sue.

The competition was for a “home-made swan” and the winner was Viv Ellis.

The winner of the Associated Country Women of the World flower of the month competition was Irene Crawford.

A sumptuous tea was then enjoyed by all. Particular mention was made of Hannelore Donohue’s chocolate cake (with its secret ingredient). Thanks to hostesses Rachel Lloyd and Chris Bickerton for all the arrangements.

Many thanks to this month’s reporter Janet Matthews.

Meetings are held in Shiplake Memorial Hall every third Wednesday of the month (except August) at 2.30pm. New members and visitors are always welcome. For more information, please call the secretary on (01491) 410256.


OUR new president Jenny Ward welcomed everyone and in particular the speaker John Caldicott, visitors from other institutes and new members.

There were 41 members and 14 visitors to our open evening.

Jenny opened the meeting and said how honoured she was to have been elected as our president and that she was very much looking forward to the coming year.

She thanked the outgoing president Sue Frayling-Cork and the committee for all the support and help they were giving her.

After the usual business, Jenny reported on the Witheridge Group meeting hosted by Cleeve-by-Goring WI, which she had attended with eight other members.

It was a most enjoyable evening with a Victorian theme and was most probably the last of the group meetings.

There followed the treasurer’s report and the fund-raising team’s report.

Our WI year was starting off in a healthy position but future fund-raising is necessary to maintain the status quo.

We will be hosting a spring special village coffee morning at Sonning Common village hall on Wednesday, May 4.

As well as the usual sales tables and tombola, there will be the usual plants for sale from Greenshoots and the WI as well as some unusual carnivorous plants grown by David Poole.

There will also be a demonstration of how to plant a hanging basket by a member of the Greenshoots team. All are welcome to join us for coffee, tea and biscuits. A warm welcome awaits.

Sonning Common WI will also have a tombola and raffle at the Chiltern Edge Horticultural Society’s table top sale at the village hall on Saturday, May 14.

Sue Hedges reported that we are celebrating our 60th anniversary this year.

The first meeting was held on February 16, 1956 at Grove Road School. This was followed by a delightful talk from Lady Brunner who also read extracts from various nursery rhymes, drama festivals and Dickens.

Sue has been looking through the record books. These make fascinating reading. Our workshop in March, organised by Sue, was a subsidised members’ day as part of our 60th anniversary.

The morning flew by while we enjoyed ourselves listening to Jeanette Hughes from the Keep Fit Association giving us humorous but very informative tips and information to keep our bodies as fit as possible to ward off health problems as we age.

She put us through our paces with a session of seated exercise, which surprised us all as being much more challenging than was thought.

This was followed by a presentation by Emma-Jane Taylor, who is a fitness instructor and nutritionist, with lots of information on the foods we should all be eating.

After lunch, members were able to join either a stitching class or a willow weaving class. All went home with an item they had made.

A very enjoyable day. Thanks were given to Sue Hedges and Alison Bishop.

Sue Frayling-Cork reported on the Oxfordshire Federation’s very successful annual meeting that she attended along with Irene Lindsay and Ruth Whittaker at Oxford town hall. As usual, it was a very good meeting and an opportunity to meet with other federation members.

The president then introduced John Caldicott to speak about the Foundling Hospital in London, which was founded by Thomas Coram in 1759.

The baby and child mortality rates in the capital at that time were incredibly high and even more so among those who were abandoned.

Coram was very affected by the children’s plight. The Foundling Hospital would take very young children left by their mothers with no questions asked about their background.

No records of them would exist. A token of some sort would be left by the mother, so that if her fortunes improved and she wanted to claim the child back, she could say what the token was and the child would be returned.

Very few children over the age of 12 months were taken in and at first they were sent to the country to “wet nurses” for their first four or five years. Life was very hard at the Foundling Hospital but the children were fed, clothed and given an education.

At 16, the girls were sent into service and many of the boys to the army or an apprenticeship if possible.

Coram found other gentry who shared his views and finance became available to build the first Foundling  Hospital.

We were all very moved to hear that our speaker was one of the “foundlings”.

John Caldicott was born in 1936 as Thomas David. He was given the number 24349 and given the name Jack Caldicott.

He wanted to join the army but as he was only 15, he had to go back to the Foundling Hospital for another year.

However, on leaving he did not join the army but became an apprentice making musical instruments.

Many years later, he did manage to trace his birth mother.

His story was not given as a melancholy talk. It was very human, gentle and so informative and we all had lots of private thoughts afterwards.

An excellent speaker and recommended. Carol Williams gave the vote of thanks.

The results of the competition for the best decorated hard-boiled egg were: 1st Diane Soden; 2nd Rose Prynn; 3rd Beverley Porteous.

The flower of the month competition was won by Kathie Anderson with Jenny Ward in second place and Sue Hedges third.

The president closed the meeting by inviting everyone to sing God Save the Queen as it was the 90th birthday of Her Majesty.


OUR April meeting was the first “under new management” and was very enjoyable as usual.

We were reminded that it was the group meeting of our local WIs and several members were going to see Victorian costume at the Witheridge Group meeting hosted by Cleeve-by-Goring WI.

This may be our last group meeting. We are possibly joining forces with another local group to make the combined meetings better attended. Details have still to be  finalised.

Our speaker was Sue Nickson, local author of In Common Memory, who spoke about life on the commons from many years ago. An interesting insight into an area some of us know well.

We are sending at least one team to compete in the Oxfordshire Federation’s quiz night and some members have booked up other trips.

We had an enjoyable walk in the Sonning Common area and look forward to seeing bluebells galore around Witheridge Hill for the next one.

Two members each host a tea at three for the walkers and anyone else who wants to enjoy this particular social event.

The craft group, meeting in Woodcote, is thriving, as are the book and swimming groups, which meet in Stoke Row.

To supplement our fund-raising we have a visiting group coming for lunch and we will run another Woodcote coffee shop in June.

Our next meeting will see us discuss the two resolutions that will go forward with our votes to the national federation’s annual meeting in Brighton in June.

Our meetings always end, as they did this time, with a pleasant social time over refreshments.

We meet on the third Tuesday evening of each month in the village hall if you would like to try us out. You would be made most welcome, whatever the speaker subject is.

There is so much more to the WI than just a speaker each month, although these can be very entertaining, and you usually find out something you did not know before.


OUR speaker for the evening meeting in April was Jon Barton, a well-known local resident who spoke to us about “Syria before the war”.

Jon held our attention because he spoke so enthusiastically about his visit to Syria in 2010.

He had a thorough knowledge of the area, which he presented with beautiful slides. These showed the devastation cause by the “Arab spring” and the continued fighting which has led to the Syrian people fleeing from their own land.

Also in April, we held a group meeting at Pyrton village hall when our speaker was Alexandra Stanbrook.

Her topic was “Hilarious hats” and this proved to be very true. She soon had us all laughing and told us many amusing anecdotes concerning hats and wigs while modelling the many gorgeous hats she had brought with her.

Our next meeting will be on May 11 when John Paine will give us a picture quiz on London.

The June meeting will be our summer garden party to be held at Kath Gomm’s house in Pyrton.

In July our speaker will be Mike Payne, on “The journey to Chalgrove Field”.

We meet in Watlington town hall at 7.30pm. For more information, please call Kath Gomm on (01491) 612939.


ON April 20, Ann Larden welcomed the members to her first meeting as president and fulfilled her ambition to ring the bell!

Audrey Hawthorne played the piano as we sang Jerusalem on this warm, spring day.

Birthday buttonholes were presented to Margaret Carter and Isobel Lomax.

We had a lovely tea thanks to Jan Clegg, Kathy Brewer, Dot Tyler and Sylvia Atkinson.

The lunch group is to meet at the Pack Horse this month and the homes and gardens trip will be to Portsmouth.

Our group meeting is being held in Woodcote and we will hear about the history of Pinewood Studios from speaker Mike Payne.

Our speakers this month were Diane and Geoff Hayes who told us the story of the Poppy Appeal with moving stories and poems.

The competition for a poppy-themed item was won by Shirley Bryant and the bloom of the month was won by Carole Shelley-Allen.

New members very welcome. We meet on the third Wednesday of the month in the village hall and would love new members to join us.


MEMBERS welcomed guests to their 63rd birthday lunch on the third Tuesday in April.

Following a splendid feast, provided by members of the committee, and an excellent range of delicious puddings, provided by other members, we enjoyed a lively and entertaining talk by Susan Howe called “Cantering through a funny life”.

Each month, usually on the first Tuesday, we have a social meeting, such as a walk, pub lunch, special visit or craft demonstration.

In May we shall have lunch at the Herb Farm in Sonning Common, while in June we are preparing to learn how to make lavender bottles.

In July we shall have our annual strawberry tea in a member’s garden (weather permitting — last year it rained and blew half a gale).

Our normal business meeting on the third Tuesday in May will give members a chance to vote on the resolutions to be taken to the National Federation of Women’s Institutes’ annual meeting in Brighton in June.

We need to consider two resolutions, “Avoiding food waste” and “Appropriate care in hospitals for People with dementia”.

This will be followed by a talk on the history of Reading Abbey.

Meetings take place at Goring Heath parish hall, opposite St John’s Church on the B471, on the third Tuesday of the month, starting at 10am.

We have a wide variety of activities and guests are welcome. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


OUR president Val Mundy welcomed 19 members to the meeting at Rotherfield Greys village hall on April 20, a dazzling spring day.

Apologies were received from Jenny Smith and Verina Clerk.

A birthday posy was given to Margaret Bowles, who has been a member of the WI in Oxfordshire for 60 years.

Val had attended the Oxfordshire Federation’s annual meeting at Oxford town hall in March.

Here, in the truly spectacular main hall, which always reminds me of an upside down wedding cake, representatives from every branch of the WI in Oxfordshire meet every year.

It’s a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones and reminds all delegates, often from small branches such as Greys, that we belong to a large, powerful national organisation.

Sometimes we forget this but the rousing singing of Jerusalem, which opens the meeting, always reminds us once again.

Unfortunately, the first speaker had to cancel at the last minute and was replaced by a talk on sourdough, which, although fascinating to fans of sourdough, was not what the delegates expected.

However, things looked up when the next speaker, national federation chairman Janice Langley, gave an interesting speech about our centenary year.

In the afternoon Richard Smith, a writer, talked about Oxford history and landmarks.

Val ended by saying how much she had enjoyed the day and appealed for more Greys members to attend next year.

She then welcomed our own speaker, Rachel Moffett, of Ladybird First Aid, who had come to demonstrate basic life support.

She had brought with her some mannequins so that we could practise. Rachel is an expert who fizzes with enthusiasm about her subject. With the aid of her trusty mannequin, “Mabel”, she took us through the basic but literally lifesaving steps of CPR.

We learnt that the first thing to do if we are faced with someone who has apparently lost consciousness is to try to raise a response by saying “hello” while checking for breathing, acting quickly because we have only three minutes before lack of oxygen damages the brain.

Then phone 999. The operator will immediately send an emergency ambulance, tell you where the nearest defibrillator is and the PIN number to unlock it and if necessary, will talk you through what to do.

The casualty must be moved from a soft bed or chair on to the hard ground.

We were shown how to perform chest compressions to compress and release the heart, forcing it to pump vital oxygen through the body, and also to breathe into the mouth to increase blood oxygen.

We learnt how to use a defibrillator, which told us what to do in an American accent (“press the green button and stand back”), so proved easier than we had expected.

Rachel is wonderful at explaining things clearly, so that we all felt that, if faced with such a terrible situation, we had an internal mind map to follow instead of panicking.

Whether we could manage 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute as advised is perhaps up for discussion but at the very least we can all tell other people what to do when we flag. We’re good at that.

Thank you, Rachel, for a fascinating afternoon.

Our next meeting will be at Rotherfield Greys village hall on May 18 at 2.30pm, when we will vote for our chosen resolution for the national federation’s annual meeting. Robin Popham will tell us all about the Henley Handybus. All visitors will be welcome.

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