Tuesday, 04 August 2020

WI Roundup

WI Roundup

BENSON

ON Wednesday, February 19, we welcomed Gita Konschak, from the registered charity Supershoes, to talk about its custom-painted shoes which it gifts to UK children fighting cancer.

Funded entirely by donations, its aim is to empower the children.

Gita told us how the charity works, the process for designing and painting the shoes and their eventual delivery to the child.

She had brought along a demonstration pair of shoes that she had made herself and, with the aid of videos, showed the feedback received from the families.

This was her first experience as a speaker and members found her delivery enjoyable and her subject very interesting.

During February, members attended the meetings organised by the Oxfordshire Federation in Didcot (health and wellbeing day) and in our own parish hall (Historic knitter and Pelham’s war) as well as enjoying an outing to see the film 1917 at the Wallingford Corn Exchange.

Our next meeting will be at Benson parish hall on Wednesday, March 18 at 7.30pm. This will be our 93rd annual meeting when we will reminisce about the year just gone, elect our committee and president for 2020/21 and see what the future holds.

We also hope to welcome Hilary Dix, from the Oxfordshire Federation, to chat to us about climate change, a subject currently at the forefront of the news.

Visitors are always welcome to Benson WI meetings. If you would like to join us, please email bensonwi@oxfordshirewi.co.uk

CHAZEY

SHE is one of the most famous women in the world with a global empire spanning every continent and which still bears her name 170 years after her death.

But who was Madame Tussaud and what do we really know about her?

Chazey members found out at our February meeting when Tony Weston took us back to the horrors of the French Revolution with his illustrated talk “A woman of wax”, the story of how a little French girl born in 1761 gave rise to the eponymous museums we know today.

Apprenticed at six years old to an experienced wax modeller, young Marie Grosholtz’s natural talent led her to create her first wax sculpture — of the French philosopher Voltaire — when she was just 16 and a year later to teach art to the sister of King Louis XVI at his palace in Versailles.

But it was the notorious brutality of the French Revolution which really began her path to international fame. (At its height, 1,200 people were executed in Paris in a single day.)

Marie was soon using her skills to make death masks of some of the revolution’s most famous victims, including members of the royal family and the governor of the Bastille, while also producing models of the celebrities of the day, such as Napoleon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin.

In the days before photography was invented, these beeswax figures were the only way to see what famous people looked like.

Marie toured Europe with her collection under her married name, arriving in London in 1802, when she was 41. Audiences flocked to see the exhibition.

The macabre nature of many of her exhibits was a big part of their appeal and by 1835 Madame Tussaud had opened her first museum in London’s Baker Street.

One of the main attractions was its chamber of horrors, which included her original death masks from Paris as well as other murderers and criminals.

Some sculptures made by Marie herself still exist and the self-portrait she made in 1842 is now on display at the entrance of her museum.

What emerges is a picture of one of the first female entrepreneurs, a gutsy perfectionist whose tableaux were the television of her day and who was still taking money at her museum’s ticket office well into her eighties. She died in her sleep in 1850.

Today, the visitors who queue daily outside Madame Tussauds also encounter figures such as Donald Trump and dancers from Strictly Come Dancing but the fascination remains the same.

Thank you, Tony, for an illuminating talk.

After delicious lemon and ginger cakes, members were invited to sign up for the Chazey summer trip to Blenheim in June and to get baking and making jams and marmalade for our stall at Caversham Court’s Beanpole Day on April 18.

Our knitting group will also be producing cuddly teddy bears for sale.

We meet every first Friday afternoon at St Andrew’s Hall in Albert Road, Caversham, at 2.30pm and visitors are always welcome.

You can email us at chazeywi@berkshirewi.co.uk or look for our page on Facebook.

CLEEVE-BY-GORING

THE speaker in February was Alan Winchcombe, chairman of our local history group, who spoke on “Writers, artists and musicians of the Goring Gap”.

Good transport facilities, especially the railway, drew many visitors to the area.

Writers who had spent time in the area included Kenneth Grahame, Laurence Binyon, Alison Plowden, Lewis Carroll, Richard Adams, Oscar Wilde and Monica Dickens.

Musicians included Pete Townshend, Deep Purple and George Michael while artists William Morris, Robert Gibbings and George Dunlop were also visitors to the area.

Well-known entertainers included Danny la Rue, Wilfred Bramble, Anton Rogers and Rowan Atkinson.

After the coffee break we did a quiz showing how much (or little) we all knew about recycling.

There will be a village litter-pick on April 25 which we will be involved with.

COCKPOLE GREEN

ON Wednesday, February 19, president Diane Bush welcomed members and guest speaker Rachel Rance, whose talk was entitled “Chocoholics”.

When members arrived they were greeted by the lovely sight of a table full of beautifully presented chocolates, all made in Brussels.

For the past eight years Rachel has been based in Hurst, where she receives orders for these special chocolates not available in the shops. Her work takes her to many parties all over the country.

The cacao tree has been around since ancient times. Originally native to the Amazon basin in South and Central America, where it still grows wild in the rainforests, it was introduced to Africa on St Thomé Island (off French Gabon) by the Portuguese.

There, the climate is tropical and just perfect for the cacao tree.

Seventy per cent of the world’s production of cacao now comes from four West African countries — Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana. This provides incomes for millions of small rural farmers.

The cacao tree can grow to 20m tall. For the farmers it is hard manual labour.

The tree carries fruit throughout the year, producing large cacao pods which are cut down using machetes.

Each pod contains 20 to 30 seeds, which are the actual cacao beans. It takes a whole year’s crop from one tree to make half a kilo of cocoa butter.

The cacao beans need to be fermented, dried, cleaned and packed before being exported to grinding companies, where the shells are removed and they are crushed, roasted (changing the name to cocoa) and ground to produce cocoa butter which is blended to produce the chocolate we know.

Members were delighted to sample some of the chocolates on display as well as enjoying a lovely tea prepared by Nan McDonnell, Hilda Freeman and Judi Rowlands.

Our next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, March 18 at 2.30pm.

This will be our annual meeting and will be followed by some entertainment.

GREYS

ON a gloomy, drizzly day. members gathered to hear a talk from Richard Anderson on the topic of Eva Braun.

It was a subject that interested a range of people and our audience was made up of our regular attendees and a number of visitors, including two gentlemen.

The business of the meeting was rapidly completed and our president Val Mundy welcomed the speaker.

Richard served in the Artillery and on leaving the army developed an interest in history and also raising money to end polio in India.

He explained that his potentially contentious talk was not about the politics or the events in Nazi Germany but Braun’s relationship with Hitler.

This he proceeded to do with a wide-ranging number of photographs of Braun through her childhood and working at a photographers where she met Hitler as well as subsequent years.

The talk gave a picture of a sociable, lively woman who enjoyed clothes, shopping and the company of her friends. Details of the relationship revealed why it worked for them and why neither of them would have found another partner easily.

Eva willingly spent her life with Hitler and provided him with emotional support until the very end.

While the policies and horrors of the Nazi state are an anathema, the devotion of this woman to her partner is perhaps to be admired or at least acknowledged.

After the talk an excellent tea was enjoyed by all.

HAMBLEDEN

OUR meeting opened with details about this month’s clubs and activities, including the snowdrop walk.

The book chosen for this month’s book club was The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

We have a number of trips planned this year, including the summer party at Waddesdon to celebrate 100 years of the Buckinghamshire Federation. Louise Andrews gave details of a trip to Greatmoor, near Aylesbury, which produces energy from waste.

Helen Grubb and Louise have more trips planned for the rest of the year, details to follow.

Our speaker was Warren Ford who spoke to us about “Tea, our national beverage”.

He is an experienced tea taster and blender who originally trained with Tetley and latterly set up the Yorkshire tea blends for Taylors of Harrogate.

He took us on a journey from leaf to cup with photographs showing his trips to tea estates in Sri Lanka, India and Kenya.

Warren certainly whetted our appetites for the tea and cake which followed. These were kindly provided and served by Shelagh Green, Christine Hatfield and Niki Mainds.

If you are interested in joining us as a guest at one of our meetings or on one of our walks, please call either Jan Connelly (01628 486344) or Sarah Williams (07817 120339).

We meet at Hambleden village hall on the second Thursday of each month at 7.30pm.

To see our 2020 programme, please visit www.hambleden-wi.org

HARPSDEN

SHIRLEY WEYMAN opened the February meeting and welcomed the speaker, Keith Appleby, a retired lecturer in art and design and photography and a manager of a creative arts faculty.

Nowadays he enjoys sculpting in wood and he exhibits with the Oxford Sculptors Group and the Henley Arts and Crafts Guild.

His subject was “Women in art” and he began with the Renaissance period of 1535 when the aristocracy were mainly the painters.

His presentation showed the work of many artists and photographers, commencing with the flower paintings of Mary Moser (1744-1819).

A self-portrait by Angelica Kauffman and the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron were shown and discussed.

A well-known name in Cornwall is that of Dame Laura Knight and her work was prolific until her death in 1970. The work of Berthe Morisot from the late 1800s was much admired.

Keith brought us up to date with the work of painters and sculptors in the 1900s, mentioning Georgia O’Keefe, Gwen John (sister of Augustus John) and Dames Barbara Hepworth and Elisabeth Frink.

He also mentioned Bridget Riley and Tracey Emin, who are still exhibiting, and abstract painter Wilhelmina Barney-Graham who is still working in St Ives. The works of all these artists were shown by Keith as he imparted much in-depth knowledge of the subject.

He answered many questions before being thanked for his talk by Judith Young.

Keith came to the Henley area two years ago from Cornwall and is now particularly busy giving talks on art history and photography for the U3A group in Henley.

The competition was entitled “All my own work” and there were several paintings and embroidery pieces on display.

Rose Musselwhite and Judith Young tied for first place with their paintings after members had voted for their favourite using silver coins.

Shirley began the business part of the meeting and brought members’ attention to the bursary which is being perpetuated by the Oxfordshire Federation in Pat Eades’s name. Shirley is kindly donating the bursary which she won at Harpsden to this bursary, an action which was much appreciated by members.

The National Federation is developing a “Vision for the Future” and these “statements” will be published in WI Life over the next three months.

Events organised by the Oxfordshire Federation and held in Benson enable WIs in the south of the county to travel more easily.

On April 28, forensic pathologist Professor Angela Gallop will talk about the evolution of forensic science. All details are in News & Views.

The sales table at our monthly meetings is being resurrected and there was marmalade made by Pam Hails on sale. Donations to the table will be welcome at the next meeting.

The book club will meet on March 18 at Shirley’s house.

The next meeting of the Beechwood Group will be on April 24 and will be hosted by HoT (Henley) WI at Sacred Heart Church hall. The new convenor of this group is Jane Probitts.

The next gathering of Harpsden WI will be for the annual meeting when the new president is announced and the committee voted in. There are still vacancies for the committee and new members would be welcome.

The meeting will be held at Harpsden village hall on March 11, commencing at 2.30pm.

There will be a short talk on climate change given by Hilary Dix. The competition will be for a favourite poem, which it is hoped will be read out by those entering the competition.

Do come along as a visitor and hear what goes on in the WI.

HoT (HENLEY-ON-THAMES)

AT our January meeting, as it was the eve of Burns Night, we had our own wee celebration and what a bonnie evening it was too.

We were lucky enough to have six members from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society come and entertain us.

They gave an interesting talk on the history of Scottish dancing of which the origins are recorded as far back as the 16th century.

This was interspersed with several reels to show us exactly what they were talking about — wonderful.

Then we all had a chance to join in and learn a few jigs ourselves, which was excellent fun and involved lots of breathless merriment.

Afterwards we enjoyed some homemade haggis, neeps and tatties canapés cleverly made by Chris and Scottie dog shortbread biscuits made by Nicola, not forgetting a wee dram/glass of wine — slainte.

Our February meeting was a quieter affair and after Katie, our president, had welcomed everyone and talked through any business, we got into teams, put our thinking caps on and settled down for a great quiz devised by Alison and Chris.

Congratulations to the worthy winners, Team RAD, with a top score of 91. Hope you all enjoyed your prize of choccies.

Our usual accompaniment of tea/coffee and wine was added to by the delicious beetroot cake made by our member Anne, who got the recipe from WI Life magazine.

Our next meeting will be on Friday, March 20 at 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

THE annual meeting took place in the Hannen Room on February 5.

After a warm welcome by president Frankie Macmillan, the committee were voted back in for another year: Frankie Macmillan (president); Jan French (vice-president); Wendy Porter (treasurer); Pat Jones (secretary); Carol Evans (programme and outings); Gina Foden (birthdays).

The financial report was presented and showed the finances were in good order. This was given in, Wendy’s absence, by Carol. Tom Smith was proposed as auditor and this was accepted. Wendy was thanked for her work in keeping our finances in order.

A detailed report on all the talks and activities of Mill Green WI last year was given by Pat — “Pearls of wisdom” in March, “The history of the John Lewis partnership” in April, “Fulfilment and farce, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleeves” in May, “Care for the mature skin” in July, the garden meeting in August, “The Romanovs” in September, “The wonderful world of British cheese” in October and “Around the world” in November.

The October meeting featured a celebration of founder member Sheila Carruthers and was attended by her daughter Anne Marie.

President Frankie gave her report and thanked the committee for all their work during the year and introduced our guest speaker, Kevin Lancaster.

A further vote of thanks to the committee was given by Kate Emerton.

Kevin, who is managing director of Right at Home in Twyford, gave us a short talk about caring for the elderly in their own homes.

He stressed the importance of trying to keep the elderly in a familiar environment for as long as is possible.

He explained Right at Home provides visits of different lengths, depending on the client’s choice, which are “person-centred”.

Consistency of care givers is vitally important so that a strong relationship is built up with the person receiving the care.

Our next meeting was to be on March 4 when the speaker was from the Watts Gallery Artists’ Village, giving us an overview of the properties and galleries to be enjoyed at our outing in May.

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

PEPPARD

ALL members were mesmerised when our speaker John Caldicott talked about Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital.

They found his talk fascinating and enlightening and we were all delighted that he came to talk to us on such an interesting subject.

Shakeena had brought a lovely spring flower display and group 3 provided an enjoyable tea.

Our next meeting will be at Peppard War Memorial Hall on Wednesday, March 11 at 2pm when will have our 101st annual meeting.

REMENHAM

MEMBERS gathered in February for the annual meeting.

Wendy Robinson was welcomed to the meeting. The afternoon began with a delicious lunch of homemade soups with cheese and pâté, prepared and served by members of the committee.

During the meeting, members were reminded to apply for tickets for the National Federation’s conference at the Royal Albert Hall, a forthcoming WI holiday to Yorkshire and also for the spring annual conference in Reading.

The financial statement was approved and passed, as was the annual report.

Secretary Irene Parker gave a summary of the year’s activities, which showed what a busy year had been enjoyed by all.

There had been outings to theatres and garden centres as well as conferences at Reading and Bournemouth.

Members had participated in various lunches and craft sessions and speakers’ subjects had ranged from swimming the Channel to microwave cookery.

Donations had been made to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading in the form of 100-plus knitted baby hats as well as more than 100 emergency overnight sponge bags.

As well as branch competitions, other WI competitions were entered.

The president then thanked members of the committee for all their hard work over the last year, particularly Carol Wisssett who was retiring from the committee after 17 years. She was presented with a hoop of orchids.

All branch members were also thanked for their support for the branch.

Wendy Robinson oversaw the voting of the new committee as follows: Daphne Austen (president); Judy Palmer (vice-president); Irene Parker (secretary); Anne Francis (treasurer); Rosemary Pratt, Pat Sly and Jen Terry.

The following trophies were awarded:

Best bloom — Daphne Austen

Craft — Judy Palmer

Art – Daphne Austen

Photographic — Judy Palmer and Daphne Austen

Helpfulness — Audrey Curtis

Judy Fraser gave a vote of thanks to Wendy Robinson who was also presented with some flowers. Birthday posies were given to Anne Francis, Yvonne Stevens, Irene Parker and Joyce Tivey.

ROSEHILL

PRESIDENT Arlene Riley welcomed members and visitors to our first meeting of the year in February (there being no meeting in January).

She told us that the record of our December meeting was available for all to see.

Secretary Ryszarda advised us about the resolutions voting papers that are in the current issue of WI Life. Completed forms should be returned to her as soon as possible.

Also brought to our notice is the Berkshire Federation’s holiday to East Yorkshire which will take place in September/October.

The holiday will be based in the Park Manor Hotel in Scarborough and will feature days out in the area. The Berkshire Federation’s spring annual council meeting will be held at the Great Hall, University of Reading, on April 8.

One of the speakers will be Rev Kate Bottley, a Church of England priest and media presenter.

Further information can be found in the February issue of Berkshire WI News, together with details of other forthcoming events.

We were reminded by treasurer Judith that the renewal membership for 2020 was due.

She also advised us that the December sales table raised £27 and the raffle £60. Thank you to all who took part in these events. The clubs continue to flourish. The Scrabble group met twice in February and the book club once. The cinema club saw The Personal History of David Copperfield. Ladies that Lunch met at Browns in the Oracle.

There will be a summer Thames trip with cream tea — details to follow.

Rosehill WI has received correspondence, including booklets and programmes, from New Zealand WI. These were available for members to look through.

Arlene was to send them copies of our programmes and events.

Members were reminded to bring their own cups/
mugs to meetings from March onwards, in line with the other WIs, to help the environment.

Next we had our speaker, Jane Fletcher, who gave a very interesting talk on 3D art. She explained how we could use it to make up pictures for ourselves depicting personal memorabilia as a reminder of events that we have witnessed or heard about, for example, war medals, items of jewellery, photographs etc.

Thank you, Jane.

Arlene gave the vote of thanks.

This was followed by the usual cup of tea and biscuits before the raffle was drawn.

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

SHIPLAKE

WE met on Wednesday, February 19 and vice-president Sue Lines took the meeting in Joan Jolley’s absence.

The meeting started with news of the continuing village walks and the Cancer Research quiz, which had raised more than £1,800.

Joan has been invited to the centenary event planned by Shiplake Village Bowling Club.

The next group meeting will be on April 24, hosted by HoT (Henley) WI.

There will be a showing of the film Military Wives at Denman College and members were reminded that the film will also be screened at the Regal Picturehouse in Henley.

Sue directed members’ attention to their copies of News & Views.

Of particular note was the holiday to Chatsworth, the trip to the London Postal Museum and the talk by a forensic pathologist.

She was keen to point out the article (with two photographs) about Shiplake WI and the centenary posies we gave away outside the Corner Shop back in July.

Sue then gave details for the trips to see Dolly Parton the Musical in April and to Polesden Lacey in June. She is also planning a visit to the Fairmile Vineyard in Henley in August.

The speaker for the afternoon was Graham Horn, who gave a talk about “The royal wives of Windsor” .

Graham is a blue badge guide at Windsor Castle and certainly knows the history of the royal families over the last 10 centuries.

He told us about the different royal houses, from the Plantagenets through the Tudors and the Stuarts to the Windsors.

He explained how the wives of some kings did not become queens and he named some that we had never heard of.

He talked of those who were very powerful and of those who never even set foot in England.

It was interesting to hear the various stories attached to each marriage.

The talk was enhanced by an excellent display of photos and slides.

The winner of the competition for a wedding photograph was won by Anne Mee with an amazing picture of her grandparents’ wedding in a circus lion’s cage in South Africa. And, yes, two lions were actually in the cage!

The winner of the flower of the month was Frances LeFebure.

In March we will have our annual meeting and members who had won cups last year were reminded to bring them in.

More details about Shiplake WI are on the Shiplake Village website. Visitors are always welcome at meetings.

SONNING COMMON

AT the village coffee morning on February 5 cheques for £200 each were presented to the following good causes:

Fish (Friends in Sickness and Health), Sue Ryder, Club SC (youth club), Greenshoots, Nomad, Sonning Common First Responders and Riverside Counselling Service.

The money was raised at the 2019 coffee mornings. On February 8 we hosted the launch of a campaign by EcoSoco to make Sonning Common plastic-free and reduce avoidable single-use plastic.

The launch fitted in very nicely with the WI’s Green Heart campaign.

In February, WI members wear green hearts to show their love for things that might be lost because of climate change.

This year we provided large hearts to eight different groups of young people who decorated them to express their feelings about climate change, pollution and recycling.

The very attractive artwork was on display in the village hall.

Merlin Meyer, representing EcoSoco, provided facts and figures and it was shocking to learn that every day seven million plastic coffee cups are thrown away. Merlin said every effort to reduce single-use plastic does help, plastic straws being an example as they are now almost a thing of the past.

This joint event raised awareness of our wish to reduce pollution and protect our planet.

Members met on February 20. The speaker for the evening was poet and local author Jean Hill, who entertained us with “The rhyme of our times”.

Jean made us laugh with many of her witty rhymes.

There were memories of Teddy Boys and their Judys, which was not lost on one member who said happily that she had married her Teddy Boy.

We were moved by Happiness is Fleeting and Autumn Love.

Jean judged the competition for a poem of members’ own composition.

The winning poem was An Empty House written by Ann Chivers. Second was Lillian Dewar with Brief Encounter and third was Jane Handley’s poem 75 and Fighting.

Members were invited to enter the draw for a chance to win £350, which is the Sonning Common WI bursary towards the cost of a course at Denman College.

Foodstuff donated by members will be taken to Nomad in Henley for the food bank. Last year 206 emergency parcels were delivered by Nomad.

The darts, Scrabble and craft groups all held meetings in February.

Attention was drawn to Fish, which has an opportunity to buy its own premises. Fundraising is taking place and the charity is asking residents to “Buy a Brick for £10”.

Sue Frayling-Cork and Rose Prynn had studied the response to the HealthWatch report and Sue gave members feedback on it.

Greenshoots has asked members to volunteer to help at the tea kiosk at Caversham Court.

Members were also reminded that digital advice is available at Sonning Common library on Thursdays by appointment.

Janet Evans won the flower of the month competition with a very colourful polygala creeping milkwort.

All the entries from members’ gardens reminded us that despite the storms spring is on the way.

The annual meeting with the election of a new committee and president will take place on March 19 and will be followed by a quiz.

SOUTH STOKE

ON yet another wet and windy day, 24 members gathered in the village hall on February 11 for our monthly meeting.

After dealing with WI business and informing members of various outings and the annual meeting at Oxford town hall in March, president Rita Mann introduced our speaker Maddy Radburn, from the Oxford Lions.

Maddy told us about the Lion Clubs’ Message in a Bottle scheme.

This is voluntary scheme for anyone to keep at home who would be reassured should they suffer an accident or sudden illness to know that essential information would be readily available to the emergency services.

Your details are stored in a clearly labelled plastic container which is kept in your fridge. After an interesting talk about how the scheme works and what information is required, Maddy gave out a number of the small containers.

The talk was followed by a fun quiz, which was won by Ann Powell and Sue Sarjent.

Three members celebrated their birthdays this month, Margaret Boorne, Joan Dodd and Maureen Palmer.

Members usually receive a card and a small gift but as Maureen was celebrating a special birthday, having reached a magnificent four score years and 10, she was given a birthday orchid.

She has been a member of South Stoke WI for 54 years and has held a number of roles on the committee.

Suzanne Small, Jenny Mansfield and Lis Harrison produced a delicious tea and we finished the afternoon with a raffle.

STOKE ROW

IN February we marked our 64th birthday with a talk on Inspector Morse in Oxford.

For fans of Morse, Lewis and/or Endeavour this provided us with some insight into the locations and the red Jaguar from the TV series.

This was an opportune month to have this talk from Alistair Lack as he told us there were 33 episodes of Morse, 32 of Lewis (because they did not want to overtake the original) and now this month Endeavour has come to its 32nd and final episode.

Most of these are also now being repeated or are on catch-up so we can all see them if we want to.

Several events were signed up for, some more local than the usual selection, including wellbeing, Pendell’s War and a forensic scientist talk in Benson.

Our netball players have been joined by a few more so are looking to continue.

Following the last theatre trip, we have also signed up for My Fair Lady in Oxford later in the year.

The village litter-pick is being organised and members were encouraged to join in.

Our supper was enhanced by the distribution of our birthday cake. Sandra, our president, made it and member Rosie decorated it.

The competition was won by Sheila with an impressive boxful of Morse books by the original author Colin Dexter.

We had invited ladies from other WIs to join our birthday meeting and they thanked us for doing so. Next time we will hold our annual meeting so there will be a business section followed by a fun beetle drive.

Then in April we will have a talk by Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson on microwave cookery with a demonstration.

Our other extra event was to mark Shrove Tuesday with a special pancake evening, held in the Chapel Room in Stoke Row.

Members had brought an amazing selection of savoury supper dishes, then our flipping twosome, Penny and Tilley, went into action.

Twenty-four pancakes were freshly cooked and members chose their fillings from caramelised oranges and bananas and chocolate to colourful fruit salad with maple syrup and lemon.

The evening was a resounding success and much praise was given to Tilley, the organiser.

WATLINGTON

AT our February meeting Peter Hague gave us an interesting talk on “Cliveden, power, politics and scandal”.

Cliveden, a large property in Buckinghamshire, was built in the Neoclassical style by George Villiers in 1666.

He was a friend of Charles II and Frederick, Prince of Wales lived there.

There have been many private owners of Cliveden, the last being William Waldorf Astor.

In 1942 Nancy Astor gave it to the National Trust but the family continued to live there until 1966. It became a luxury hotel in 1985.

In 1963 Cliveden became infamous for the Profumo Affair, which was recently dramatised on BBC 1.

Today, Cliveden shows its rich history of passion, pleasure and politics in the extravagant gardens and miles of walks though woodlands and riverbank paths.

In March we will hold our annual meeting with a quiz to follow.

If you would like to join us, we meet in the town hall at 7.30pm. For more information, please call Dawn Matthews on (01491) 612023.

WHITCHURCH HILL

WITH little new to report, February’s business meeting was short and to the point.

Tickets were sold for a forthcoming Pang Valley group event and the regular financial update was given. This left plenty of time to socialise before our speaker Catherine Sampson gave an informative talk about living in and around Reading during the Civil War.

With maps and pictures to illustrate exactly where and what she was talking about, we learned something of the prevailing hardships — living here in the 21st century definitely has its benefits.

The very successful bring and buy stall raised money for our branch and the monthly presentations of birthday flowers, a raffle prize and garden flower competition all complemented the proceedings.

For the annual meeting in March we have all been encouraged to come along with stories of which famous people we have seen out and about over the years.

This should prove to be an amusing who’s who of modern life.

For those who frequent the Art Café in the Old Stables, the WI team will see you there on March 14.

Like any branch, Whitchurch Hill WI has its routines but also its surprises.

Many of us belong to more than one voluntary organisation but how many receive instant offers of help when the call goes out for someone to join the committee or to organise something?

Very refreshing — and a reflection of the camaraderie that builds up over time. Thank you to those who are stepping down from responsibilities and thank you, too, to those taking their place.

Visitors are always welcome to join our monthly meetings and see who we are and what we have to offer.

For more information, please call Frances on 0118 984 2162.

Our meetings are held at Goring Heath parish hall on the third Tuesday of each month (except December) from 10am.

WOODCOTE

PATRICIA SOLOMONS welcomed our guests, members and new member, Marlene du Toit.

It was lovely to welcome our new group advisor Jane Finnerty as we celebrated our 76th anniversary.

Celebrating birthdays this month were Shirley Bryant, Sylvia Parr and Vicki Parker. Jean Taplin and Jean Walker were given plants and cards for very special birthdays.

There will be a trip to Oxford to see My Fair Lady in May.

Chance to chat takes place at the community coffee shop on the first Thursday of the month and table tennis takes place at the village hall every Tuesday.

Our next lunch club meeting will take place at the Packhorse in March. We were entertained by Hannah, who kept us humming and clapping to songs by Abba, Dusty Springfield, Cliff Richard and the Carpenters.

This was followed by a lovely birthday tea. Many thanks to Betty Thomas and her helpers, it was much appreciated.

Thank you to Margaret Carter for the lovely spring flowers which decorated the tables.

At the April meeting our speaker will be Catherine Jones, speaking as Kate Lace, on “From guns and roses to hearts and flowers”. The competition will be for pretty flower jewellery.

We meet at the village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm, so please come and join us.

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