Monday, 27 May 2019

Around the WI

Around the WI


THE November meeting started with our usual singing of Jerusalem and a discussion as to what events, outings and talks we can look forward to both locally and nationally.

Following the events in October, the month had been a little quieter as we all prepare for Christmas.

We were saddened to hear of the loss of two of our long-standing former members.

Our speaker for the evening was Biff Raven-Hill, author of The Wartime Housewife.

She spoke about her grandmother, who was one of 12 children and had a very poor childhood, going on to work in the Lancashire cotton mills and living through three wars — the Boer War and the First and Second World Wars.

Biff’s grandmother made all her own and her family’s clothes and managed to feed her family well using very few ingredients. She really did “make do and mend”.

Due to unfortunate family circumstances, Biff's grandmother was left with her three granddaughters to bring up and this she did as if the war was still on!

They lived very frugally and she taught the girls how to cook and make things, even when convenience food appeared in the shops and clothes could be bought readymade.

When Biff got married and had her own family she carried on in the same way. Her husband once said that it was like living with a wartime housewife!

From this came the idea of setting up a blog to advise people how to live in a more frugal and sustainable way. The blog was very successful and led to the publication of her book, which is now into its second print run.

Biff finished her talk by holding a very enjoyable, fun quiz identifying old-fashioned household items that she had brought along.

It was perhaps not surprising that some of our members still owned and used some of these items.

In December we will be going to a Christmas afternoon tea at Lily’s in Dorchester.

Then we shall have our regular get-together at Benson parish hall on the 20th to enjoy a “bring and share” supper to accompany Patricia Purcell and her “Tales of the opera”.

At the first meeting of 2018 on January 17 we will hear John Warburton talk about the Wallingford Corn Exchange and then in February our speaker will be Bert Pridgeon talking about “Local place names”.

New members are always welcome — details of our programme can be obtained from Brenda Hallett on (01491) 838584.

Benson WI would like to pass on best wishes to all our local WI members and Henley Standard readers for a very lovely Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2018.


AT November’s meeting, we were privileged to welcome Steve Waite to tell us all about the wildlife we can find in our gardens.

He showed us some of the beautiful pictures of flowers, insects and even an owl that he has taken in his garden and provided many interesting details, including their names, habitats and scarcity.

We learned the importance of supporting local species and all wildlife as part of the ecosystem (not just the “lovelies”.)

In December, we will be celebrating both the group’s 56th birthday and Christmas, with some line dancing and a festive buffet.

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

For more information, visit or search for “Caversham WI”.

For enquiries, please call our secretary on 0118 947 5176.


AT our November meeting, the ladies were encouraged to do some exercise.

Valerie Holden, a committee member, introduced Debbie Page, who took us through some tai chi movements with some ladies standing and others sitting down.

Valerie gave the vote of thanks and the members showed their appreciation in the usual way.

Voting forms were available for the members to decide if the WI should change to afternoon meetings or continue to meet in the evening.

Also, did we want to have a coach trip in June or keep it in the month of August?

Four of our ladies offered to form a team to take part in the Berkshire quiz night on Tuesday, January 30.

Our future social events include the Christmas lunch at the Highwayman on December 15 and a visit to the Mill at Sonning on January 6.

The knitting club continues to meet and an art group has started.

We meet at Caversham Heights Methodist Church Hall, on the corner of Highdown Road and the Woodcote Road in Caversham Heights, on the first Tuesday of the month beginning at 7.30pm.

We welcome visitors and ladies who wish to join us.


ON Wednesday, November 15, our president Adrienne welcomed members and the return, for the third time, of our guest speaker Frances Benton, who gave us a pearl-knotting demonstration.

This was a follow-up to her previous talks about the origins of pearls. It was a very popular subject, enjoyed by 40 members and their friends.

As members came in, they were dazzled by the glittering display of pearl necklaces, earrings and brooches displayed on two tables.

Frances is an amazing woman who works tirelessly for the Jabulani charity in Durban, where it cares for abandoned street children.

Their plight touched her heart and it was a difficult choice for her to adopt just one child when so many were in need.

In 2006, a young Zula teenager joined her family. He was the first black student to gain a first in law at Pretoria University. He is now 30 and studying to be a judge.

For six months of the year Frances spends time in her farmhouse in Burgundy. making pearl jewellery.

In the other six months she is the UK, giving talks and demonstrations about pearls — all in an effort to improve the lives of the street children in Durban.

She also teaches at Denman College.

Frances set up a table with all kit needed to string pearls and members gathered round and watched her string a bracelet made with pearls and crystals. She learned how to string on silk, which is strong, soft and pliable, in China.

Her teacher asked her to string 51 pearl strings and when her task was completed the teacher said she only wanted 50.

When Frances queried this, the teacher quoted a Confucius saying: “The journey is more important than the destination.”

Tools included a Chinese bead-knotter, various thicknesses of silk thread on cards, tweezers, glue, two different pliers, side cutters, end beads, clasps and, of course, the pearls and crystals.

Frances chose to make a bracelet with three pearls interspersed with a tiny crystal. The silk thread is two metres long and has a fine integral needle at one end.

She recounted that if there is a long “tail” of silk, it is not easy to “knot” the pearls together, especially when you have four cats that are known to like playing with thread!

One cat in particular liked sitting patiently on her lap while she was threading but occasionally it was too much and a paw came out quickly on to the work surface, intent on helping. With a glare from Frances, the paw was removed instantly.

You start by putting on an end bead, then threading some French wire (or gimp), which stops the clasp fraying the silk, and then the clasp goes on. Then backstitch the silk back through the silver end bead, which makes a loop, and when tightened the gimp bends and holds the clasp in place.

Frances then made a matching pair of pearl and crystal earrings using Indian wiring technique and finished by showing us the set.

All complete in about 20 minutes, if you don’t count the chat and the stories!

We all agreed that Frances was a very entertaining, professional speaker, full of fun with her amusing tales.

Over a delicious tea prepared by Nan McDonnell and Hilda Freeman, members were able to inspect her jewellery with the added bonus of knowing that they, when tempted, would be helping the children in South Africa.

Our next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, January 17 at 2.30pm, when Graham Foster will talk about the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.


AUTUMN was the theme of our November meeting and Val, our president, welcomed back photographer Norman Horsham, who has been a frequent visitor to Greys over the past 10 years, with his very lovely presentations entitled “Travelling with a camera”.

But first it was down to business. Members had been asked to donate toiletries and make-up for the Women’s Refuge to be distributed in Oxfordshire and Berkshire over Christmas and items were collected.

Janet, our secretary, dealt with the rest of the business, minutes, apologies for absence and potential visits to Birmingham Christmas Market and the Wallace Collection in London.

Peppard WI has invited us to an afternoon of musical entertainment on December 13.

Then we all settled down to watch the presentation of gorgeous photos set to music of autumn in all its red, gold and orange glory.

Norman had also travelled widely in Scotland, photographing wildlife, castles, churches and some of the now uninhabited islands of the Outer Hebrides in all their bleakness and, as autumn turned to winter, with beautiful local snowy scenes. Brrr.

After tea, Norman kindly judged our photo competition on the theme of autumn and it was Joyce Robins, who won with her photo of a squirrel in a frame decorated with cones and autumnal foliage. Val came second and Jenny Smith third.

Our Christmas lunch will be held at Badgemore Park Golf Club on December 7 and Christmas Party on December 13. Joyce, our floral arts expert, will be guiding us through the making of a festive floral decoration, so please bring a 10in cake board, pliers or secateurs and a tall candle preferably in green, red or white.

If anyone would like to join us, the fun starts at 2.30pm.


THIRTY-EIGHT members attended our annual meeting. The financial report was given by Inger Osborn and a summary of our finances was given to all members.

The committee report was given by Niki Mainds. This summary of the year’s speakers, activities, visits and workshops allowed us all to reflect on a very busy and enjoyable year.

In her president’s report, Jo Martin thanked all members for their contributions with special thanks to the very hardworking committee.

The committee was elected en bloc and the president was re-elected. The teller was Maureen Cleary.

The Wilson Cup was presented to Christine Hatfield for her winning cupcakes.

A vote of thanks for the president and the committee was given by Jean Keane.

At the end of the evening we held a fund-raising accessory sale which proved to be extremely popular.

Many thanks to Margaret Spratley, Catherine Dinsdale and Val Wood for providing delicious refreshments.

On Wednesday, December 6 we are going to the Royal Albert Hall for a Christmas concert.

Our Christmas party will be held at St Katherine’s, Parmoor, on Thursday, December 14 at 7.30pm. 2018 is looking like it will be another busy year. Our first meeting will be on Thursday, January 11 when Diane Latham will share her story of being a midwife in London and, latterly, a shepherdess.

We welcome new members. For more information about Hambleden WI and to see our programme, please visit our website,


HENLEY Golf Club was the venue for our November meeting, where a very enjoyable lunch was enjoyed by 35 members.

Thanks go to the club’s new chef Mikael and the front of house manager Sophie and all her staff for such excellent organisation.

The outing to White Waltham Airfield, organised by Suzanna Rose, was much enjoyed, again with a good lunch. Harpsden ladies seem to like their food!

The sight of all the small planes taking off and landing gave much pleasure and delight.

The next outing is to Stonor Park on December 5 to see the house decked out for Christmas. Again, there will be a chance to partake of the delicious food on offer.

The next meeting will be held at Harpsden village hall on December 13, commencing at 2.30pm. There will be seasonal entertainment and the competition is for a Christmas tree decoration.

Members should remember to bring a present for the Secret Santa basket and, if bringing a visitor, a present for her too.


OUR November meeting was a celebration of our first year.

Katie, our president, welcomed everyone and then talked about how well this year had gone, giving thanks to the committee for all their hard work and our members for their support.

A special thanks was given to our WI advisors Pat Eades and Jean Greary who have been supporting us from the very beginning and without whom we wouldn't be where we are today.

A bouquet of flowers was presented to them both as a token of our appreciation.

The all that was left was to wish everyone a slightly early Happy Christmas as we have no meeting in December and to give everyone a small gift of homemade truffles courtesy of our well-loved committee member Chris. Delicious! Everybody then enjoyed a wonderful party with plenty of food and drink provided by our members and a good time was had by all.

We look forward to seeing everyone in the new year for more fun and friendship.

Our next meeting will be held at our new venue, Sacred Heart Church Hall in Vicarage Road, on Friday, January 19 at 7.30pm.

For more information, email or find us on Facebook Henley-on-Thames WI.


OUR president Frankie Macmillan welcomed Brian Clews to our November meeting.

His talk was entitled “Britain’s mammals”. We knew we were in for a treat as Brian has spoken to our WI on three previous occasions.

His talks are full of interest and superbly illustrated with beautiful photography.

We were all surprised to learn that in Britain there are only about 60 terrestrial mammal species whereas globally there are around 4,000.

Most of our terrestrial mammals are rarely seen because they are secretive and shy — some are nocturnal and many are very small.

The shrew family is a good example of tiny, elusive mammals that hide away in undergrowth.

We have three varieties: the common shrew, pygmy shrew and water shrew. As its name suggests, the common shrew is the most populous shrew with an estimated 42 million, so it is surprising that we rarely see it.

The pygmy shrew is our smallest terrestrial mammal. It is no more than 6cm long and weighs about 5g but its weight will decrease in winter.

The water shrew is a delightful little black and white creature that feeds on shrimp, fish and newts. It is equally adept on land eating beetles, worms and millipedes.

The house mouse is one creature we have all seen. It is the world’s most widespread terrestrial mammal (other than we humans) and it enjoys living in close contact with us.

It can be a real pest as it will happily chew through wood, plastic and anything it can get its sharp teeth into.

It has a voracious appetite for breeding. A female can have 10 litters a year and the young are capable of breeding from the age of just six weeks old.

One of our most populous mammals is the wood mouse. In autumn there can be more 100 million wood mice, far more numerous than our familiar house mouse.

The smallest rodent in Britain is the very pretty harvest mouse. It is our only mammal with a true prehensile tail.

It skilfully uses this tail when climbing and playing among the stalks of cereal crops and this is the best place to catch a glimpse of it.

A great favourite is the hazel dormouse but unfortunately it is very hard to see as it is nocturnal and spends most of the year asleep.

Sadly, as with many of these small mammals, numbers have reduced over the years.

A number of factors have contributed to this decline, including changes in agricultural practice, road and housing development and pollution.

Fortunately, there are schemes to help re-establish the diminishing species. We were all enthralled by the glorious photography capturing these little-seen creatures. We also met the badger, otter, stoat, weasel, mink, hedgehog, water vole, mole and more.

Glynis Gothard warmly thanked Brian for another excellent talk. We learnt a lot about the numerous mammals that live around us. Now our challenge is to see them for real!

At the remembrance service on Sunday, November 12, Frankie Macmillan laid our poppy wreath at the Wargrave war memorial on Mill Green.

We end the year with our Christmas dinner on Wednesday, December 6 in the Sansom Room. This is always a well-attended and happy occasion.

Our first meeting of 2018 will be in the Hannen Room on Wednesday, January 3 at 7.30pm. We welcome visitors and new members.


DAVE MAYCOCK gave us a fascinating and informative talk on brass rubbing and memorial brasses.

To our delight, we all had the opportunity to make a rubbing for ourselves to take home, so had an enjoyable afternoon.

Pamela Davies and members provided a good tea and an assortment of cakes.

Our next meeting will be at Peppard War Memorial Hall on Wednesday, December 13, when members and guests will be entertained by the musical group Pandemonium.


NOVEMBER’S meeting is always a fund-raising affair and this year it was entitled “Christmas Events” .

There was a variety of stalls, craft, bric-a-brac, produce, wine-tasting, raffles and, of course, teas.

It was a very jolly afternoon and many of the local WIs came to shop. As all the speakers we ask to give talks at our meetings have become much more expensive, any fund-raising is much needed.

Our next meeting will be the Christmas lunch, at the Flower Pot at Aston.


AT our November meeting, president Margaret Pyle welcomed all members and guests.

She announced that June Fisher had held a very successful Macmillan coffee morning in Sonning Common, raising the princely sum of £1,450. Well done, June and friends.

Those members wishing to go to Cardiff for the National Federation’s annual meeting in 2018 can apply for an observer ticket (closing date February 16).

A Berkshire WI quiz night will take place on Tuesday, January 30 at Knowl Hill village hall and Padworth village hall. The cost will be £12.50 and this will include a fish and chip supper.

The calendar for 2019 — the Berkshire Federation’s centenary year — is now in the planning stage and members are asked to submit beautiful or intriguing photographs of Berkshire by January 31. Details of this and other events can be found in Berkshire WI News.

Treasurer Judith announced that calendars for 2018 were available at a cost of £4.50.

Margaret was pleased to welcome Pat Larkins back to our meeting following her operation. The Scrabble club met twice in November and the book club once. The cinema group was planning to see Murder On The Orient Express.

Margaret was pleased to welcome Jill Sawyer, who has taken over the raffle table.

She also asked for helpers on the day to assist with the raffle, help in the kitchen and getting out and putting away chairs and tables.

Margaret introduced our speaker Kevin Little, who gave an informative and amusing account of his life with anecdotes and stories about farm life and the fish shop in Smelly Alley (Union Street), Reading. Thank you, Kevin.

Finally, a cup of tea and biscuits before the raffle was called.

I now go back to October, briefly. We did not have an official meeting, just introductions and then a wonderful ploughman’s lunch with such goodies as bread, rolls, pork pie, dips, paté, cheese, salad, coleslaw etc. This was followed by various “puddings”, such as apple crumble with sultanas, chocolate truffle torte, fruit salad, French apple tart and lemon tart and several different fruit juices to quench the thirst.

A big thank-you to all those members, especially the committee, who put together this wonderful spread — and can we please have the same next year?

After lunch, we had to use our brains to do the quiz that Pat and Richard Denney had prepared. Thank you once again, Pat and Richard.

We meet at St Barnabas’ village hall, Emmer Green, on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm.


PRESIDENT Joan Jolley opened the meeting on Wednesday, November 15 amid laughter caused by a small hiccup with the music for Jerusalem but she then gathered control to start the business with news and notices. She reminded ladies to sign up for the Christmas lunch at the Crown and she gave the date of the next walk.

She then reported that Rosemary Appleby had laid the poppy wreath on remembrance Sunday.

In Sue Lines’s absence, Joan confirmed details of the visits to My Fair Lady and 42nd Street.

Two members were invited to the Peppard WI Christmas party.

Janet Matthews thanked ladies for their contributions of toiletries for the Oxfordshire Federation’s Women’s Refuge project — we have collected together 10 full boxes and these will be delivered before Christmas.

The speaker was Rosemary Edgington, a volunteer with Hearing Dogs for the Deaf.

We were thrilled that she had brought with her a very pretty dark brown poodle called Teaka.

Rosemary gave some details about the number of people with hearing loss, especially mentioning the 45,000 deaf children.

She described some of the problems that deafness can bring, for example, barriers to communication and social exclusion and, with the increasing aged population, there is a rise in the demand for hearing dogs.

Rosemary explained that the charity was still quite new — it only started in 1979 — but had already bred, trained and found homes for more than 2,000 dogs.

She talked about the work that the volunteers do in housing the brood bitches, organising the whelp and caring for the puppies once they are born.

Early training includes “sound training”, which is designed to get the puppies used to noises such as trains, alarms, busy shopping arcades and fireworks.

At six to eight months, the basic training starts and this can take another six to 10 months. There are two training centres and some work is done in trainers’ homes.

The preferred breeds of dog are English cockers, Labradors, miniature poodles and crosses, such as cockerpoos.

There are more than 80 dogs in training at any one time. When the dogs are 14 months or so, the team starts to look for a potential recipient.

The dogs are taught to attract attention with a nudge of the nose or a pat of a paw, depending on the size of the dog.

Once the dog and the recipient are matched, training continues at home and at the charity’s headquarters near Princes Risborough.

The family of the deaf person also needs to be involved with the training.

The charity supports the partnership throughout the working life of the dog — they normally retire at around 10 years old — and the recipient’s lifestyle may change so the dog may need retraining.

Some of those with hearing dogs keep the old dog when it is retired and then take on a new one.

There are currently 1,000 working partnerships, including 30 children with hearing dogs.

Rosemary ended her interesting talk by telling the meeting that it costs £40,000 to train and support each dog.

She emphasised the importance of the independence that hearing dogs can provide.

After the speaker was thanked, everyone enjoyed an excellent tea. The tea hostesses were Pam Hudgell and Barbara Ingoldby-Williams, assisted by a team of helpers.

The winner of the most popular flower was Susan Partridge and the winner of the competition for a favourite Christmas tree decoration was Yvonne Watson.

The December meeting will be the Christmas party and members were reminded to bring a gift for Santa’s basket. Visitors are always welcome.

More details about Shiplake WI are on the villages’ website.


PRESIDENT Rita Mann welcomed an almost full house of members at the meeting on Tuesday, November 12. This month was the 99th anniversary of the institute’s formation in 1918, so next year we will be celebrating our centenary.

During the business section of the meeting, our president reported on the successful group meeting hosted by South Stoke on October 31.

Groups consist of five or six local institutes, each taking it in turn to provide the venue and refreshments.

These extra meetings take place twice a year and enable members to meet up with old and new friends from other institutes.

The speaker for this meeting was Brian Greenan, a toastmaster in the City of London.

He works for the royal family as well as different guilds and businesses.

He gave a fascinating talk with a lot of insight into protocol, regalia and, more importantly, precision timing. Everything must go like clockwork, particularly where the royal family is involved. If it doesn’t, it is his job to sort out the difficulties.

If you thought that a toastmaster just turns up and announces people, think again. They have to organise the movement and timing of everyone involved. He is the master of ceremonies.

The talk was followed by a delicious ploughman’s lunch provided by the president and members of the committee.

After giving out cards and small gifts to two members celebrating birthdays this month, the president introduced our speaker for November.

Chris Lowe is an educational volunteer for the RNLI. His job is to raise awareness of the work done by the 4,900 volunteers who risk their lives to rescue people in distress on our seas and rivers.

Men and women are alerted by pagers to a call-out and respond unstintingly in 239 stations around the British Isles and Northern Ireland.

In many families it is a tradition for sons and daughters to follow their parents into the service. Coxswains try not to include more than one member of a family in a crew.

The service started out as a private enterprise organised by Sir William Hilary.

He had moved to the Isle of Man and soon became aware of how many ships got into difficulties around the coast with a great loss of life and goods.

The idea of a rescue service spread around the country. It was funded by wealthy patrons, particularly ship owners who realised it was in their interests to support this venture.

The first lifeboats were rowing boats but as motors were invented they were fitted and boats updated.

Volunteers wore their own clothing and the first lifejacket consisted of a leather jacket with lumps of cork attached to it. Specialist clothing was gradually introduced and is now upgraded on a regular basis.

During the First World War, with all the young men drafted into the war effort, the average age of the volunteers was between 70 and 80 as the older generation stepped into the gap.

They did the same in the Second World War, although this time the age group dropped to between 60 and 70.

The service is funded entirely by voluntary contributions and lifeboat days are held every year.

During the Sixties the type of rescue changed from ships to more leisure craft as the population became wealthier.

The RNLI does not just go out to distress calls at sea, rivers are also part of its responsibility. It has also formed a flood rescue service to help communities, especially in recent years.

Last year lifeboats were launched more than 8,000 times and more than 7,000 people were rescued, an impressive record and one we are all grateful for.

The afternoon ended with our traditional afternoon tea when members enjoy delicious sandwiches and a variety of cakes and biscuits, all supplied by three or four members who take it in turn each month.

This is a wonderful way to socialise as we all like to chat over a cup of tea, catching up with friends and discussing forthcoming events.

There is always a large variety of outings, workshops and talks for members to enjoy either within your own institute or organised by our county federation.

We welcome visitors, so why not take the opportunity to see for yourself at South Stoke village hall on the second Tuesday of the month at 2.15pm?


THE president welcomed 40 members and four visitors to our November meeting and covered the usual business.

Jane Handley reported that the arrangements for our Christmas lunch at Badgemore Park Golf Club had been finalised.

Carol Townhill reminded members to enter their names if they wished to attend our January evening meal at the Shoulder of Mutton in Playhatch.

Sue Hedges was thanked for organising the recent members’ workshop held in our village hall. She had worked very hard to organise the event with her usual enthusiasm and commitment.

Di Soden then gave a report on the day by reading out members’ views of their participation.

The options available were tai chi, icing flowers, Chinese brush painting and making hand-sewn fabric flowers.

Overall it was clear that the members attending had really enjoyed the day. Photographs taken of members’ participation were on display at the meeting.

Sue Hedges then reported on the craft group, which continues to be very popular and has increased its number to 15.

At the last meeting there was a demonstration by Jenny Hermon on how to make angels or Christmas trees from paperback books. This proved to be most enjoyable and some examples were displayed at the meeting.

At the next craft meeting in December, members can make fresh foliage Christmas wreaths under the guidance of Sue Hedges.

Sue reminded everyone that we would be holding our village coffee morning on December 6, complete with mince pies and a Christmas theme with sales of festive cakes, costume jewellery, greetings cards and books.

She will be holding an attractive and varied Christmas gift sales table and the proceeds for this will be sent to the Associated Country Women of the World.

Jo Denslow then gave an interesting report on the “Murder and Mayhem” trip. Five people went to the event at Didcot civil hall on the previous Thursday.

There were talks by forensic scientists Denise Stanworth and Amy Kuzemka and, although gruesome in parts, these were fascinating.

The pair covered DNA profiling, toxicology and the fascinating science used to provide evidence. Jo gave several examples that they had been given by the scientists and it was incredible how detailed this science is.

After lunch the speaker was broadcaster and crime novelist Val McDermid, who spoke about how she had always loved reading and had spent her early years in her local library.

She went to Oxford University and passed the entrance exam at theage of 16. She was the first student from a state school in Scotland to be accepted at Oxford.

She developed a love of writing crime novels and has now had many books published. Her most recent success was having a novel adapted for the TV drama series, Wire in the Blood.

Her novels have been translated into 30 languages and sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

Val still writes profusely and is invited to travel all over the world to speak at many venues. She is always working on the next plot!

Everyone enjoyed the day and felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with such a high-profile author. They all left with a lot more knowledge of crime investigations.

The president then introduced our speakers, Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury and Stan Rust. Chrissie formed the Sonning Common Village Gardeners and Stan is a keen photographer in the village.

Some years ago Chrissie had noticed that the village had lots of weeds and lacked flowers in communal areas.

The Village Gardeners were born due to Chrissie’s determination and by her liaising with the local and national press who took up the story. The volunteers are a very enthusiastic and hardy group of people who plant, weed and maintain the many flowerbeds and containers in our village and have transformed some of the less attractive areas into floral delights for the community to enjoy.

Chrissie then introduced Stan, who has always taken local photos and was soon as enthusiastic as Chrissie in his involvement.

He showed slides of flowers throughout the year and many of the wonderful transformations of previously shabby areas simply by planting flowers, shrubs and trees.

On the Queen’s birthday the flowers around the village were planted in red, white and blue by the Village Gardeners.

One of the more unusual projects undertaken was the purchase of an old red telephone box from BT. This was placed in the village and filled with plants for all to enjoy.

Unfortunately, this had to be removed at a later date as the land was being developed. It is hoped that another area will be found to return this interesting plant container to the village.

After their interesting and funny talk, Chrissie and Stan they invited questions from our members.

Beverley Porteous then gave the vote of thanks, thanking them for their talk and saying it was lovely to see the photos and hear how the Village Gardeners were formed and the valuable contribution they made to our village. The members applauded.

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

The competition for a poem about Sonning Common was won by Jane Handley with Lillian Dewar second and Jenny Ward third.

The brilliant winning poem was read by Jane and was met with loud applause.

The president closed the official part of the meeting at 9pm. She thanked everyone for coming and invited members to stay on to socialise.


SANDRA began our November meeting with the sad news that our member Joan Milner had died the previous day.

Probably our eldest member, Joan would have been 90 in January and was looking forward to coming to this meeting as she had missed the previous two due to being in hospital.

WI was important to her as she could not get out much otherwise and we always made sure she enjoyed herself. We stood for a minute’s silence while we remembered her.

Our speaker came next with a very interesting talk on “How Parliament works”.

Guy, an outreach officer, spoke non-stop with a screen presentation to illustrate the houses and explained, among other things, the procedure for passing a Bill through the two houses and on to the Queen for Royal Assent.

We asked a lot of questions, which showed that we had found the talk stimulating.

The walkers this month had taken in the Wilfred Owen trail around Dunsden, where the war poet once lived.

This was enhanced by a talk in the church while we were refreshed with tea and cakes.

Some members had gone to the “Murder and Mayhem” day hosted by the Oxfordshire Federation.

The organising committee included two of our members and another one was one of the speakers. Swimming, game-playing, eating and embroidery helped to fill the rest of the month. We keep active even in the winter!

We have been invited to Peppard WI’s Christmas celebration meeting and two members, Alison and Penny, will go.

These same two had braved the cold to go out into their gardens to pick some late blooms for the monthly competition.

As they were the only ones to do so, they were rewarded with being equal first with a passion flower and a fuchsia respectively.

Our own Christmas celebration will be held in December when we will have some entertainment and homespun food and party spirit to look forward to. Father Christmas may even find time to call in on us.

Then we are off again on another year, our annual subscriptions being due in January — and well worth it too!


AT our November meeting, a local lady, Jane Pawlyn, gave us an interesting talk about St Nicholas, Bishop of Myre (Turkey), and how he became our Santa Claus.

She then demonstrated how to make a model of St Nicholas. Her demonstration was enthusiastically received by all members and a vote of thanks was given by Isobel Simpson.

On Monday, November 23, 10 members from Watlington WI attended the Thames Side Group meeting hosted by Stadhampton WI.

The speaker was a fishmonger from the Smelly Alley Fish Company in Reading with a talk entitled “Fishy tales and eccentric customers”. He was very entertaining and had some very interesting stories to tell.

The competition for “A fishy tale/tail” was won by Stadhampton who did a song and dance routine to The Mock Turtle’s Song (Lobster Quadrille) from Alice in Wonderland but our fishy poem was well received.

The talk was followed by some delicious refreshments.

The Oxfordshire Federation had arranged a day of “Mayhem and Murder” and five of our members joined 300 other ladies at Didcot civic hall.

In the morning we had two forensic scientists, explaining DNA and toxicology and how they helped to catch criminals and solve murders from blood and other body fluids.

After a light lunch, we were introduced to Val McDermid, the famous crime writer.

She gave us a fascinating and amusing insight into how from the age of eight she had wanted to be a crime writer and how she had reached her goal.

Our next meeting on December 13 will be our Christmas celebration.

On January 10 we will be given a talk by Ken and June Brazier called “Cycling the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela” and in February Jane Few Brown will give a talk entitled “Mad about animals”.

We meet at Watlington town hall at 7.30pm. If you would like to come along, you will be warmly welcomed. For more information, please call Kath Gomm on (01491) 612939.


THE speaker for our November meeting, who was booked 12 months ago, let us down at the last moment (a problem which, fortunately, occurs quite rarely) but we were pleased to welcome Graham Loxton-Best, who stepped in at very short notice, and gave us an interesting talk on English courtrooms.

Few members had been called for jury service and his explanation of the complicated structure of the work of the different courts was interesting to all.

Birthday greetings and flowers were given to three members and a special welcome to our newest member, Sally Bergmann.

The National Federation’s annual meeting next year will take place on June 6 in Cardiff and Whitchurch Hill WI is due to send a delegate to represent our own WI and three others.

Future social events include a visit to the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed early next year and a coffee and cake morning at the Art Café in February. Two members have volunteered to organise a local walk and lunch in the New Year.

We have no business meeting in December as members will be enjoying a Christmas lunch at a local hostelry.

We shall start the New Year with an afternoon tea for members and our next business meeting will be on Tuesday, January 3, when we will be given a talk by Clive Williams on “The Nabobs of Berkshire”.

We have a business meeting with a speaker on the third Tuesday of most months and we also plan a social or craft morning, or possibly a walk and pub lunch, usually on the first Tuesday of the month.

Our monthly meetings take place at Goring Heath parish hall, opposite St John’s Church on the B471, starting at 10.15am. Visitors are welcome. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


ANN LARDEN welcomed the members to our November meeting. Christmas is fast approaching and we have received invitations to Peppard and Cleeve by Goring WIs’ Christmas parties, which several of our members have accepted.

The speaker this month was Steve Roberts who told us of his “Tales of a Scotland Yard detective” in the Flying Squad, which was very entertaining.

The competition for an unusual whistle was won by Carole Shelley-Allen.

The tea ladies were Connie Vickery, Vivien Stevens and Jo Sutcliffe. Thanks to them for a lovely tea.

Trips in the New Year include a visit to the Wallace Collection in London and a talk on “My travels as a midwife” in India and Malawi, taking place in Cholsey.

The bloom of the month was won by Carole Shelley-Allen.

We will have old time music hall at our December meeting and we hope to see a lot of Victorian costumes. Come and join in the fun.

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