Saturday, 15 August 2020

WI Roundup

WI Roundup

BENSON

AFTER our president’s usual business of discussing forthcoming events and local issues, our speaker for our October evening meeting was welcomed to talk about “Oxford history — mischief and mayhem”.

Richard talked amusingly about some interesting facts, including one about the Martyr’s Memorial, which was erected in 1555/56 and completed some 300 years later in 1855.

It has been known to tell gullible tourists that it is a sunken church.

There was another one about St John’s College and a rule that you were not allowed to get married which was only changed in 1960!

More interesting titbits followed about the universities, colleges and museums. University College apparently had its own police called the Bulldogs with a prison in the basement of the college.

Richard was warmly thanked for his talk and for stepping in at short notice to replace our previously booked speaker.

Eight members attended our local group meeting where we were very well entertained by Shillingford & Warborough WI.

Thanks to them for a lovely evening.

On Saturday, November 3, members will be serving refreshments at Benson’s Armistice centenary event in the parish hall.

For our next meeting on Wednesday, November 21, we will welcome Yvonne from the Chiltern Florist of Benson shop to give us a flower arranging demonstration. Visitors are always welcome.

CAVERSHAM

FOR our October meeting we welcomed Tony Weston to talk to us about the Thames crossings.

He gave a very well-informed talk, which was very well received.

The bridges have meant so much to the prosperity of their local areas over the years.

Crossings are known to go back to Roman times, although there are some records showing that Caversham had a bridge in 1231.

At next month’s meeting Jane Sampson will be talking about her “Training with Russian cosmonauts”.

We are just starting to plan the programme for the 2019-20 year, which will be here very soon!

Ladies are very welcome to visit our friendly group. We hold meetings at Church House in Prospect Street, Caversham, on the third Thursday of the month at 7.30pm, which helps avoid childcare issues. There is parking nearby and a lift to the first floor meeting room.

For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/hwzj6zy or search online for “Caversham WI”.

CHAZEY

THE meeting on October 5 was very successful due to two members of the committee organising a quiz.

Teams of four battled it out and the winning team had a good score of 40 points.

A variety of questions was put to the ladies and they found they knew many of the answers, probably because there were no pop music or film questions. A lovely tea was provided by Alma’s daughter to celebrate her 90th birthday. Chrysanthemum plants were given to Alma.

We welcomed some visitors who we hope enjoyed themselves and will join us again.

A coffee morning was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel by the river and our lunch was at the Pack Horse on October 31.

The book club continues to meet at the Caversham Rose, ably organised by Valerie Wing, the knitting club clicks away at Jean’s house and the art class is hosted by Rowena.

Last weekend was our last time this year running the kiosk at Caversham Court Gardens and it is now closed for winter.

Many thanks are due to all the ladies who were on the rota and baked.

A wonderful day was spent at the silk factory in Whitchurch, then on to the Bombay Sapphire Gin factory. The weather was perfect for an outing.

Chazey WI meets at St Andrew’s Church hall in Albert Road, Caversham Heights, on the first Friday of the month, starting at 2.30pm.

Due to a previous booking we will next meet on the second Friday in November (9) but return to the first Friday in December.

COCKPOLE GREEN

ON Wednesday, October 17, president Adrienne Rance welcomed members and guest speaker Peter Lowe, who gave us a fascinating insight into the “Challenge of the Channel”.

Peter, who lives in Cockpole Green, first dreamt about swimming the Channel from Dover to Calais some years ago.

He started his talk by showing us a video called “Quest for Glory”, which was compiled by his friend Hannah Young, from Wargrave, who is also a Channel swimmer, to give us an idea of what his dream entailed.

He contacted the Channel Swimming Association in 2016 and realised that there was a lot of preparation to do, not least booking a pilot boat to support him during the swim.

Peter told us that in 1875 Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the Channel unaided. He took 22 hours and only wore swimming trunks, a tradition carried on today as no wetsuits are allowed.

Members learned that because you are not allowed to touch any person or the support boat during the course of the swim, any fuel in the way of food or drink is passed to you from the boat in a cup on a string.

Peter was given a carbohydrate drink every half hour and some solid food like jelly babies or mini sandwiches every hour. His support team would wave a Union flag to indicate the time for food.

After his first two hours of swimming he was permitted a support swimmer to swim alongside him. A support swimmer was then allowed every other hour.

As the crow flies the distance to be swum is approximately 21 miles but increases due to the tides.

The swimmer needs to take into account being pushed up channel then down channel in an
S-shaped swimming track.

Another issue was the fact that the Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with lots of tankers passing and ferries crossing every day.

The primary job of the escort boat is to ensure you do not get mowed down.

Undeterred, Peter contacted a registered pilot of the Channel Swimming Association, one of only 12 boats available, and was given a date for his swim of August 2018.

His training took place in a wide variety of locations. He swam in the pool at Gillotts leisure centre in Henley and in the River Thames.

Whenever he saw water on family holidays, he just had to swim in order to acclimatise himself to the cold temperature. Lake Zürich was a chilling 4C.

He took part in the cold water swimming championships in Tooting Bec lido when even a block of ice in the water did not deter him!

He took the family on a holiday to climb Mount Snowdon and swam in a lake at the foot of it.

Of particular interest to our members was his other training programme, which included eating lots of cakes to increase his body fat to offset the cold.

In March this year, he went to a long distance training camp in Mallorca to train with 12 marathon swimmers.

He showed us a video of his extreme shivering following a six-hour training swim. Peter was contacted by the CSA pilot this summer to offer him an earlier date for his challenge.

The Channel normally remains bitingly cold at 16C to 18C but the wonderful weather in summer this year resulted in a warmer 18C to 20C.

Peter agreed to swim on Wednesday, July 25 and at 9am that day he set off from Dover harbour to swim the 21 miles to France.

After 13 hours and 58 minutes and 33 miles of swimming (due to the shifting tides), he arrived in pitch black darkness at 11pm.

While swimming he came across stinging jellyfish, whose tentacles slashed his face. There was seaweed too but, thankfully, no plastic litter.

A light attached to his goggles strap made him clearly visible to the support boat.

He was delighted to see the distant coast of France but said it seemed to never get any closer and with darkness falling the coast disappeared into the murk.

He was determined to succeed and not let down his family and friends who had given him such support.

When he finally reached the beach he was elated but there is little glamour in Channel swimming and there was nobody to greet him. He simply had to get back into his support boat and be brought home again.

Although he was very seasick on the journey back, he was thrilled to see a welcome home party of his two brothers waiting for him on the harbour wall in Dover with a bottle of champagne.

His challenge has so far raised £4,500 for Cancer Research.

If you would like to make a donation, visit https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/petes-channel-swim-2018

Peter recovered physically in the days after the swim but said it would take a bit longer for his mental strength to return.

So does he contemplate another challenge anytime soon? “Wait and see,” he said.

An amazing adventure which had members asking questions and chatting to Peter while they enjoyed a delicious tea served by Fiona Birdseye and Ruth-Mary Vaughan.

The next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, November 14 at 2.30pm when Aldon Ferguson will return with a talk entitled “Danesfield House and Phyllis Court at war”. All are welcome.

GREYS

OUR president Val welcomed 17 members to our harvest meeting on October 17. She reminded us that Greys WI was hosting the Beechwood Group of WIs two days later.

Our speaker was Mike Willoughby, a renowned local military historian, who is involved in the Lest We Forget project in Henley.

He is determined that soldiers from Henley and the surrounding villages who lost their lives in the First World War will never be forgotten.

While tracing his family genealogy, Mike discovered that his grandfather’s younger brother — “Uncle Jack” — had been killed at the Somme during the war.

This was a surprise as his family, like many others, had never talked about it.

Mike visited the Great War memorial in Jack’s home village, and found a
J King but was astonished when the local archivist didn’t know anything at all about any of the young men commemorated on the memorial.

This seemed terrible to Mike — after all, every name represented some mother’s son who had died for their country.

Hence he founded Lest We Forget to honour and remember all the local young men, like Jack, who seemed to have been airbrushed out of local history.

After 12 years of researching “all the uncle Jacks”, he was supported by the Henley Standard as he began researching the 1,300 young men from the paper’s circulation area who had died in the war. He researched them, village by village, and now has a large database.

He has visited the battle sites, including Talbot House in Belgium, where soldiers could visit, borrow books and unwind before returning to the horrors of war.

He campaigned for Henley’s Townlands Hospital to be renamed the Townlands Memorial Hospital and has been working on a new war memorial to be placed in the hospital garden. A quiet space for the public to reflect and remember.

This was to be unveiled today (Friday) by Tim Stevenson, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire.

Mike is also organising an exhibition at the Old Fire Station Gallery in Henley from November 9 to 12.

Mike is knowledgeable, passionate and committed to his amazing project and this came across to us as he talked.

He also discussed mementos of the war brought in by members, from a shrapnel shell designed to explode at head height to photos of soldiers and names in a family bible.

A truly fascinating, and timely, talk.

His book, Bringing Them Home, commemorates the soldiers from Henley, Bix, Dunsden, Fawley, Hambleden, Harpsden, Highmoor, Nettlebed, Nuffield, Remenham, Rotherfield Greys, Shiplake and Stonor. A wonderful tribute.

Our next meeting will be at Greys Green village hall on Wednesday, November 21 at 2.30pm.

We’ll be having a crafty afternoon with Doreen Howells demonstrating and teaching us all how to crochet. It should be fun so come and join us for a friendly afternoon — just pop in.

The Beechwood Group meeting hosted by Greys WI took place on October 19. What a fun afternoon we had as more than 50 members from surrounding WIs joined us.

Our small WI worked very hard to put on a fantastic tea and was rewarded by warm comments on how well and professionally everything had been organised.

Grandchildren, a daughter and husbands were roped in to assist and we are truly grateful to Becky, Charlie, Sally, Colin and Ian for doing such a grand job.

Our president Val welcomed everyone and we sang a joyous Jerusalem before our convenor, Pat, read the minutes of the previous group meeting and introduced Penny, who is taking over from her in the autumn.

Jane, our county chairman, said she was pleased the chairmanship was in the southern part of the county for the first time since Lady Brunner was chairman in 1950.

She urged members to take part in the many events and activities organised by the Oxfordshire Federation and gave a rundown of some of the celebrations taking place in 2019, the federation’s centenary year.

It was then time to introduce our speaker, Angela Collins, for “A puppet’s tale”.

Angela had brought along her theatre and many of her home-made puppets and regaled us for the next hour with amusing stories of her life and how she became a puppeteer.

On a more serious note, she stressed how much taking part had helped her husband, who suffers from kidney failure.

Puppets and photos were circulated while she continued her tale amid much hilarity.

Following the vote of thanks to the speaker, our army of helpers sprang into action, serving sandwiches, cakes and tea to all our guests. Thanks to Janet’s organising skills, this went like clockwork.

Later, tables were cleared for a fun quiz and the raffle was drawn.

After our guests had left, there was an incredible pile of washing up and much clearing up to do but not much food left!

It was a job well done with huge thanks to those who toiled over the cooking and sandwich-making and those who helped on the day.

HAMBLEDEN

WE welcomed 35 members to our October meeting.

Our speaker was Juliette Orton discussing “Art therapy to manage health and wellbeing”.

Juliette shared her story and some of her beautiful work with us.

Sue Pepperell gave the vote of thanks.

Delicious refreshments were provided by Wendy Darbey, Suze Bateman and Carol Horner.

Hambleden WI is fast approaching its centenary year. Celebrations are being planned for April.

We are also commemorating our centenary by working on several projects that will allow us to not only look back over the last 100 years but also show what the WI means to us in the 21st century.

Other events that we are looking forward to include a trip to Cutlers Hall in London, a visit to Waddesdon Manor to see the Christmas fair and lights and an afternoon of poetry readings at St Katherine’s, Parmoor. Our annual meeting will be held on Thursday, November 8.

Hambleden WI has more than 60 members. In addition to our monthly meetings, members are also involved in a drama group, book club, art group and the Hambleden Hikers. Groups generally get together once a month.

We welcome new members. For more information and to see our programme for 2018, please visit www.hambleden-wi.org

HARPSDEN

THE October meeting was held on a gloriously warm and sunny day, which would have been more suitable for a garden meeting.

However, there was plenty going on in the village hall with which to cope.

Hearty greetings were given to Eileen Needleman on reaching her 90th birthday.

President Pat Eades led members through the items in News & Views, urging members to read the chairman’s letter.

There were a couple of photos of the “leaf” wall hanging to which each WI contributed.

On November 12 there is to be a floral art demonstration at Denman College, with a two-course lunch and a tour of the college included. Price £40.

Christmas Songs will held at Didcot Civic Hall on December 3 at 7pm. The cost to members is £9.

In centenary year, 2019, there will be an art and craft exhibition. Full details of entries are to be found in News & Views.

Harpsden WI’s book club will meet on November 21 at Shirley Weyman’s house.

Seven members were due to attend the Beechwood Group meeting on October 19 hosted by Greys WI.

An invitation was received from Remenham WI to join them on a trip to Waddesdon Manor on November 22.

Patricia Williams announced a visit to the Mill at Sonning to see Guys and Dolls on December 4.

Stewart Linford was our speaker for the afternoon and gave a very informative, and sometimes amusing, talk on “Windsor chairs”.

He attended technical college in 1972 to learn about woodworking and subsequently acquired an old pigsty which he turned into his own factory to make Windsor chairs.

Stewart said that three different woods were required to make a Windsor chair — elm for the seat as it is resistant to splitting, beech for the legs and back and ash for the curved back edge.

He had several of his chairs on display, including one of a design made at the time of the new millennium, featuring the letter “M” on the curved back.

He also had a chair containing wood from HMS Victory and was able to hand round a piece of such wood for members to feel.

For the Queen’s golden jubilee he made a set of chairs and No 1 of this set was given to the Queen. He kept one for himself which he had on display.

Another outstanding example of his craftsmanship was a chair for Winston Churchill, fitted with a secret cigar drawer on the side. This was made of Spanish cedar wood from the grounds of Blenheim Palace. There was also a rest below the seat for placing one’s hat — superstition saying that the hat should always be placed upwards so that the luck did not fall out.

Stewart fittingly donned a hat and smoked a cigar while lounging in the chair.

He won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise and went to Buckingham Palace to receive the award, taking with him workers from his factory.

In summing up his life so far, Stewart said he had come from having no money to buying a pig sty to owning a factory employing 40 people to winning a Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

He certainly made the story of his life very interesting for members.

The competition was for a small wooden item and was won by Joan Hoyes, with Shirley Weyman second and Patricia Williams and Judith Young tied for third.

The November meeting will be held at Henley Golf Club when a two-course lunch will be served.

The following meeting will be back in Harpsden village hall on December 12 for a “Home-grown Christmas”. The fun begins at 2.30pm and the competition is for a Christmas tree decoration.

HOT (HENLEY-ON-THAMES)

OUR October meeting was well attended with regulars and several guests.

Katie, our president, welcomed everyone and talked through any business.

The Christmas card competition had lots of great entries so congratulations to the two worthy winners, Jean Hedges and Alison Engleby. Their designs will be printed ready for November’s meeting.

Katie welcomed our guest speaker Linda Sujeewon, from the House of Colour, to talk about “How colour can transform your life”.

Linda explained how she uses 144 dyed drapes from warm yellows to cool blues in order to analyse a person’s colour personality.

Wearing the right colours enhances your self-esteem and helps you to confidently build a capsule wardrobe.

A top tip to help slowly reorganise your wardrobe is when you buy a new item that is your colour recycle one that isn’t and be on trend with your clothes and eco-friendly.

Linda also talked through styling jewellery and make-up, explaining the power of the correct colour lipstick.

And in case you are wondering what the one staple you should have in your wardrobe, it’s not black — the only colour everyone can wear is true red!

The House of Colour works with all ages and sexes and each consultation takes, on average, three-and-a-half hours. Well worth the time, we thought.

Thank you to Linda for a lovely evening.

We finished the evening with the usual wine, cake and merriment as we celebrated our member Julie Goddard’s birthday. Thanks to all who provided the delicious selection of goodies.

HoT WI are honoured to be helping to marshal this year’s Remembrance Day service in Henley. We will be the ones in hot pink hi-vis jackets (our colour we thought). Hope to see you there.

Next month’s meeting will be on Friday, November 16 when we will be making Christmas goodies. We meet at the Sacred Heart Church hall in Walton Avenue, just off Vicarage Road. Please come and join us. For more information, email hotwi2017@hotmail.com

MILL GREEN, WARGRAVE

ON the occasion of our 500th meeting on October 3 Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson gave a thorough explanation of the principles of microwave cookery.

She began her career in Sydney, having left England after her marriage.

There, she wrote for a magazine called Nature and Health (with which our president Frankie Macmillan was familiar, being a true Aussie) among other food-related publications.

She was then asked if she knew anything about cooking by microwave and wrote a book entitled Microwave Knowhow, which was published bi-monthly with a recipe magazine. And so her microwave career was launched and she helped set up the Microwave Council of Australia.

On her return to England, Jennipher discovered that microwaves were being marketed hugely but no one really understood them.

So, for the last 30 years, she has been chairman of the Microwave Cookery Association.

She has had a very varied career in the field of microwave cookery.

As well as writing articles for national and international publications, she used to write the Dairy Diaries which came with home deliveries of milk.

Jennipher has also appeared on TV’s Watchdog programme with Angela Rippon carrying out experiments at Oxford University on the value of preserving the vitamins in vegetables by microwave.

Several simple dishes containing not more than three ingredients were then cooked for the audience to taste, teriyaki salmon, chicken with apricots (with accompanying vegetables) and a chocolate and cherry upside-down pudding with chocolate sauce.

Jennipher demonstrated how to cook small cakes in just one minute and quickly prepare puddings — useful additions to the list of ways to amuse small grandchildren!

After a toast proposed by the president, the members tasted the dishes along with a glass of wine to celebrate the 500th meeting.

The vote of thanks was given by Jan French.

Our Christmas dinner will be be held in the Sansom Room on December 5 at 7.30pm. Our January meeting will be a members’ evening.

Meetings are held in the Hannen Room at 7.30pm unless otherwise stated.

PEPPARD

THE speaker at our October meeting was Margaret Moore, who took us into the world of bees.

This talk was quite fascinating and informative.

We enjoyed a delicious tea provided by a group of members and Shakeena Siddique brought a lovely flower arrangement.

Irene Lindsay, our president, discussed plans for our centenary year — all very exciting.

Our next meeting will be at Peppard hall on November 14 at 2pm when Stephen Douglas will give us a talk called “The importance of textile and tapestry”. Visitors are most welcome.

REMENHAM

AS our speaker wished to get off early, our president Daphne Austen introduced him.

Ian Scott-Hunter spoke about “The memoirs of a royal footman”.

He commenced his talk by telling us of the accident that brought him and the family to London from North Wales.

Their daughter Alexandra had a brain haemorrhage and was taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for treatment, so the family moved to Highgate.

Ian needed a job and answered an advertisement for a valet to Prince Philip. This post had been filled but he was given a job as a footman.

The family was given an apartment in the Royal Mews which went with the job but this was not suitable with Alexandra’s problems, so the family was given a ground floor apartment at Hampton Court.

There was much to learn — how to valet the Queen’s guests, laying out their clothes and running their baths, lay tables and get on and off moving carriages.

Their uniforms were varied — black tailcoats for days and red for evenings. On the royal yacht Britannia white jackets were worn.

There are 12 footmen working in two sets. When there is racing at Ascot all work full time but are recompensed later.

Duties were varied during the Queen’s well-regulated arrangements between Balmoral, Buckingham Palace, Windsor, Sandringham, Britannia, the royal flight (no longer used) and the royal train.

Ian had many amusing tales. Once a gentleman was nervous at being presented to the Queen so he was told to copy what the person in front had done — and curtseyed just like the woman before him! The Queen didn’t flinch and helped him to his feet.

Another time at a staff party it was Ian’s turn to dance with the Queen, so he said, “Ma’am, I’m afraid I am no dancer” to which she replied, “Never mind, we’ll just pretend”.

There was another time he had to take the corgis out. Not a dog person, he kept counting them in case he lost some.

This was at Sandringham and the Queen Mother was writing letters and watching out of the window. She said: “The Queen controls her corgis perfectly.”

Prince Philip does not appreciate the noise of the planes over Windsor. An American visitor was once heard to say, “Why did they build the castle so near the airport?”

Ian now works for Princess Alexandra and they are starting a hospice charity.

We all enjoyed Ian’s talk and he was sincerely thanked by Rosemary Pratt on behalf of us all.

Daphne then went through the business part of the meeting, our outing to Waddesdon Manor’s Christmas celebration and tickets for our Christmas lunch in Henley.

Kay Stevens, a new member, was welcomed.

While a good tea was being prepared by Jen Terry and helpers, we all had to take part in a quiz. Jackie Stevens and her table won. A super afternoon.

Our next meeting is Christmas events with a super tea at the village hall on Monday, November 12 at 2.30pm. All are very welcome.

ROSEHILL

WE have had a good summer with good attendance at each meeting and a good selection of speakers, including Emma Stiles talking about nutrition at our June meeting.

It was very interesting to hear her explaining how our system works and telling us how we can help ourselves with sensible diets and very gentle exercise.

In July our speaker was Stuart who came with his guide dog Olivia.

Stuart told us that he had not always been blind and how he had learned to cope with life with the help of his trusty companion.

Some of his stories were very amusing. On a very hot afternoon in August we had our summer tea party, which was a great success. It was followed by a quiz which taxed our brains.

We had two different quizzes to work out, one from Arlene Riley and the other from Judith Sharp.

In September our speaker was Julia Miles who spoke about her very interesting life as a diplomat’s wife, about the various places she had lived and the events that she had attended.

The October meeting was opened by president Arlene Riley (recently recovered from her operation) who welcomed all present, including visitors.

The record of the August meeting was available for all to see. Birthday buttonholes were also handed out.

Then we had our lovely harvest lunch. A big thank-you must be said to all those who contributed to such a successful afternoon, including those who did the food purchasing and preparation, setting out (and putting away) the tables and chairs, and clearing up afterwards. Well done, everyone!

This lovely meal was followed by our speaker, Jean Hill, who read some of her poetry to us.

Some of it was very funny, some thought-provoking, and one poem quite sad.

Very enjoyable, Jean, we all had a great time and would love to see you again.

The raffle and sales table have continued to be very successful right through the summer with the proceeds being used to provide courtesy packs for the Royal Berkshire Hospital or as donations to the Associated Country Women of the World.

The various clubs have continued with the Scrabble club continuing to meet on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month (except August) and the book club meeting once a month. The cinema group has had a couple of outings.

After welcome cup of tea, the meeting closed.

We meet at St Barnabas’s Church hall in Emmer Green on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm.

SHIPLAKE

PRESIDENT Joan Jolley opened the meeting with her usual warm welcome.

We have two new members and Joan said she hoped that they would enjoy being part of our WI family.

Joan also welcomed Toni and Lucy, daughter and granddaughter of committee member Joyce.

Lucy is off to Ghana next year on her elective as a paediatric nurse and is busy fund-raising to help with her costs.

To this end Toni was selling home-made jams and chutneys.

Thank you, ladies, for your worthwhile support.

Our speaker this month was Tracey Blaney, who has been a milliner for 12 years and is an approved WI speaker.

After having her second child, Tracey was looking for work she could do at home.

Luckily, she spotted a newspaper advert for a local millinery course and things took off from there.

Tracey gave a brief history of hats and hat making.

Marie Antoinette was famous for wearing ostrich feather fascinators.

A hatter makes and sells hats for men and women and a milliner makes and sells hats for ladies only.

It is illegal to use feathers from exotic birds but with modern-day dyeing methods even the more humble goose, chicken, turkey or duck feather can be made to look stunning.

Tracey’s creations have been worn to numerous royal events, including the weddings of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as well as at investitures at Buckingham Palace.

Two years ago Tracey became a WI speaker. She said that although she still gets nervous, she thoroughly enjoys bringing her hats to meetings.

The hostesses were Jill Irwin and Brenda Nichol. As usual, the tea was lovely, with the feta and herb pinwheel biscuits proving exceptionally popular.

The flower of the month competition was won by Joyce Vernon with a beautiful blush-pink rose with a remarkable scent.

The competition for “A photo in a hat” was won by Wendy Channell with a cute photo of her granddaughter wearing a sou’wester.

Our meetings are held in Shiplake Memorial Hall on 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.

SONNING COMMON

THE promise of seeing and learning all about pearls brought a full hall of members and visitors to our October meeting.

Our president Jenny Ward gave a warm welcome to all, including our speaker, Frances Benton.

The usual business reports and announcements were given.

Jenny reported that members had been busy knitting trauma teddies which are used by volunteers at Reading Crown Court in their work supporting witnesses, especially young ones.

The first trauma teddy was chosen by a 14-year-old girl who named it Raspberry.

Raspberry kept her company all day and she took it home with her.

Six of our members had recently entered a quiz in aid of the Friends of Sonning Common Library. They found it challenging but fun.

Sue Hedges reported that members had been busy knitting poppies.

She is making a wreath with these poppies and it will be displayed around the plaque in the village hall in memory of paratrooper Francis (Fred) Slough, who lived in Sonning Common when he lost his life in the Falklands War when he was aged just 19.

This will be unveiled at the next coffee morning on November 7 at 10.30am. All are welcome.

Sue reminded members of the next craft meeting and examples of crafts were available to see in the side room.

Members can learn how to make these crafts and others, or just bring their own craft project from home to work on.

Carol Townhill reported on her recent stay at Denman College on a research your family history course. The tutor was excellent, giving information and tuition on accessing appropriate websites and other useful sources of information such as parish registers, census records and others.

A day was also spent at the National Archives in London where she discovered her grandfather had been awarded an OBE in 1945 that the family had not been aware of.

The course had fired up Carol’s enthusiasm to continue with her family history research. She highly recommends the course for the excellent tuition, friendship and fabulous hospitality given at Denman.

Alison Bishop then introduced our speaker whose talk was entitled “Passion for pearls”.

Frances developed a love of pearls at the age of eight when she was allowed to handle her grandmother’s pearl necklace. She believed they were moons from fairy land!

By the age of 17 she had developed a passion for pearls and knew that they were always going to be a huge part of her life.

She studied pearls in all their forms, travelling far and wide to discuss the subject with divers, jewellers, pearl farmers and, indeed, anyone who knew anything about pearls.

She explained to us the differences between natural pearls and cultured pearls.

Simply put, natural pearls are extremely rare and form without any human assistance or interference.

They grow in either saltwater oysters or freshwater mussels, the common description for both being bi-valve molluscs which open and close with a hinge.

A very common myth is that each pearl has a grain of sand at its centre.

Frances explained that this is actually the remains of a worm that, many years before, had entered the bi-valve mollusc to plant its offspring in a safe place that included food.

The host then tries to kill or evict the invader by squirting a liquid at it. Over time, the liquid builds up into a form of calcium carbonate, evenly covering the remains of the dead invader and this forms the pearl.

Cultured pearls, however, are farmed extensively and produce almost all the pearl jewellery available to buy.

A very small “seed”, in various shapes, is put into a bi-valve mollusc which is then put into either salt water or fresh water.

The host then squirts its liquid to kill and evict the seed and the same cycle begins.

Only one in two million shells produces a natural pearl.

Frances strings and makes her own jewellery and she lectures at Denman College on this subject.

She had brought a fabulous array of pearl jewellery for us to handle and try on and we were all surprised at the many shades, shapes and varieties.

Frances comes from a theatrical background and she presented her talk in a very informative but hugely entertaining manner.

She kindly donated two pairs of pearl earrings to our raffle, so two lucky ladies went home very happy.

Refreshments and social time followed.

The competition for an item of home-made jewellery was won by Sue Hedges, with Sue Frayling-Cork second and Lillian Dewar third.

The flower of the month competition was won by Jo Denslow with Chris Gibson second and Jenny Ward third.

Jenny closed the meeting, thanked everyone for coming and wished them a safe journey home.

SOUTH STOKE

WE met at the village hall on October 9, a lovely sunny autumn day.

Rita Mann opened the meeting and we were very pleased to welcome Sue Sarjent as a new member. Three members were
celebrating their birthdays during the month and cards and small gifts were
distributed.

After covering WI business, Rita gave details of the group meeting to be held in Woodcote on October 24 at which Colonel Lucy Giles spoke about “Life in the army”.

We have also received an invitation from Cleeve by Goring WI to a talk by the Queen’s swan marker on November 14 at 7.30pm. Several members were interested in attending.

Rita welcomed our speaker Julia Miles, who gave an interesting talk about her time as a diplomat’s wife in Greece, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

We had a raffle and a well-supported book stall for WI funds.

The afternoon finished with a delicious tea provided by Pam Seymour and Eileen Peedle.

Next month we will be celebrating our 100th birthday. The meeting will take place at the village hall on November 13.

STOKE ROW

OUR October meeting had a harvest theme with great quizzes that kept us chatting and moving round the hall before a lovely supper.

Before all that, however, we had an inspiring talk from a representative of England Netball.

She came to tell us, at our request, about the joint initiative between her organisation and the WI nationally about starting walking netball sessions in WI groups.

As a result, 17 of us signed up as being interested in this fun, healthy and relatively easy form of exercise, taking take us back to our schooldays when most of us last played.

The challenge now is for us to source a suitable indoor venue and a day of the week to get together for the tuition and games which will be run by a local netball leader. All offers or ideas of where we could play would be gratefully considered.

We hope to start in January so need to get things in place as soon as possible.

Our walkers had an autumn walk in the sunshine in the Kingwood area, even finding a vineyard we did not know existed.

The walkers enjoyed tea at three at Penny’s house afterwards.

Craft day at Sandra’s went well and the book group met at a pub to discuss their latest book, The Runaways.

Swimmers had a good workout at Liz’s and game players enjoyed a card game or two at Pam’s house.

The next meeting will include a flower arranging session with the Sonning Common florist who we know is very good so this will be a good evening.

Two potential new members enjoyed their taster evening with us and we hope they will join us again next month.

Our pavlova makers will be creating their usual masterpieces to go with the lunch for visitors who will be coming soon.

A few other trips and events have been chosen from the Oxfordshire Federation’s offers, including the annual quiz in Didcot, which we have entered.

WATLINGTON

OUR speaker at the October meeting was Susie Ingram, a local resident who came to lead us in a “Let’s Sing” evening.

She demonstrated breathing technique and posture for singing and then outlined the history of singing and how songs had progressed through the ages.

We then had a wide selection of songs, some well-known and others not. Everyone joined in enthusiastically. We finished off by singing Jerusalem.

Our walking group went to the Aston Rowant nature reserve and walked the talking trial. This was an interesting walk, with stops to look over the Oxfordshire Plain and views over to Didcot and the surrounding villages. Even the M40 had a grandeur about it.

This trail has sculptures with wind-up talking machines which give you an insight into the history and nature od the area.

Well done to all the children from the local schools that took part.

At our meeting on November 14, Robin Stafford Allen will give a talk on nuclear fusion research at Culham, near Abingdon.

December is our Christmas celebration and in January we will have Nick Brazil talking to us about “Namibia, the land God made in anger”.

We meet in the town hall at 7.30pm and would be delighted to welcome you for the evening. For more information, please call Kath Gomm on (01491) 612939.

WOODCOTE

ANN LARDEN welcomed members and two visitors to our harvest bring and share meeting.

The tables in the village hall looked lovely decorated with flowers.

The delicious plates and dishes of food provided a feast indeed.

This was followed by a quiz thanks to Ann.

Celebrating birthdays this month were Edna Smith, Gill Woods, Barbara George, Patricia Jessup, Connie Vickery and Sally Lambert.

The lunch group was going to the Red Lion.

This year’s Christmas Songs will take place at Didcot for a festive start to the month of December.

The entertainer at our December meeting will be Adrian Broadway who will bring us a “Happy-go-Lucky Christmas”.

Come and join us at the village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm.

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