Saturday, 21 May 2022
AS May has come to an end and June begins, our members and the wider community here in Benson will hope for an ease in the lockdown rules and an opportunity to see families and friends once again.
Most of our members have been catergorised as being in the more vulnerable group and have been self-isolating for some time so being allowed out will come as a welcome relief.
However, during the lockdown, members have reported that they have been very well supported by local amenities and the Benson Help Hub as well as managing to keep themselves busy — gardens in particular have never looked so good.
Some of our members were able join in “stay at home” street parties for the 70th anniversary of VE Day and sent photos for our archives.
Benson WI is currently collecting and scanning photos for its archives which will give us a lovely talking point when we eventually meet up again.
During May, for those members online, there have been lots of interesting things coming through from the Oxfordshire Federation, including links to virtual talks, ideas for activities such as Pilates, “crafts to keep you busy”, lots of recipes and cookery ideas and Denman’s online courses.
With a view to moving on and returning to “the new normal”, we hear that a new date for the National Federation’s postponed annual meeting has now been confirmed as April 19, 2021 at the Royal Albert Hall.
The venue celebrates its 150th anniversary next year so it’s special for the WI to be part of its calendar of events.
Returning to our own WI, it is still uncertain when we can look at a future programme of events and hold our own annual meeting.
Brenda Hallett, our president, wrote to members in May, saying: “We will return and carry on as we always do, enjoying the company of each other and, in the words of so many, including Her Majesty the Queen, ‘We will meet again’.
“And when we do, Jerusalem at full voice will sound so good.”
For more information about Benson WI, call the secretary on (01491) 837885 or email bensonwi@
COCKPOLE Green WI closed its doors on Monday, March 16 due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Below are some thoughts of some members on how their lives and activities have changed.
Our president, Diane Bush, is a farmer’s wife so is always busy but she still managed to make time to do some shopping for vulnerable neighbours.
She is also “phone pastor” for St Mary’s Church in Wargrave, calling six people on a regular basis to make sure they are well or if they need anything.
Clapping for the NHS workers became a Thursday ritual with nearby neighbours joining in using different ways of making a noise, including playing a trumpet, to show their appreciation.
After each session, they all called “good night” to each other.
Nan says she has been busy doing tapestry, reading, turning out drawers and cupboards (long overdue) and doing housework.
“Gardening is my first love, so at this moment in time I wish I had a bigger garden and a smaller house,” she says.
“Now I make a daily list and at end of the day, even if I have achieved one or two ticks, the next day’s list is even longer!
“I cleaned my silver at the beginning of lockdown and now it needs another clean — why did I bother?
“I went for my first supermarket shop last week and spent three times more than when my daughter shopped for me. I better let her shop for me again.
“Several of my friends who, like me, live on their own are bored but I never am.
“Actually, I am living at a slower pace, which is better for my blood pressure.
“I am looking forward to seeing old WI faces again There aren’t many older than me!”
Jill says: “Just to let you know about our activities during the lockdown.
“I have found new enthusiasm for our garden, although it is lessening now that the drought and gales are taking their toll so watering has unfortunately become my priority.
“I am ever hopeful that with a few ‘rain dances’ the situation will improve!
“During the evenings I have completed six baby blankets for the Royal Berkshire Hospital (always assuming that they are still required in this ‘new age’).
“These blankets consist of knitted squares which I join by crocheting them together.
“Some of these have been given to members of our knitting group by members of the community and others have been made by our members themselves.
“I then knit enough to make all the random squares into blankets, which I hope look reasonably attractive.
“In between times I have been doing lots of housework, so the days have not seemed long enough.
“We have certainly been lucky with the weather and, with living in such a beautiful environment, I feel so sorry for those less fortunate.”
Jean says: “Apart from walking my dog Scamp, I have tidied up the garden, chatted to neighbours (at a safe distance). Wargrave is a very friendly village. Our close had a great time celebrating VE Day.
“Most of all, I like to do a bit of artwork. I use different mediums trying to find the one which works best for me.
“Art is really difficult. I do not profess to be good at it but l get pleasure from having a go.”
Judi says: “Overlocking and machining 10 sets of blue scrubs and co-sewing 45 gowns for the Hot Scrubs initiative. I also made 22 masks for friends.
“Replanted the flowers troughs at Wargrave station and have been gardening at home.
“Like everyone else, I have gone through the cupboards and the paperwork and rationalised. Time has flown by.”
Sheila says: “As I live alone, my activities have been solitary and pretty uninteresting.
“I haven’t done anything as inspiring as Judi, although I did volunteer to deliver medicines but have not been called upon.
“I’ve been gardening, painting and renovating my neglected wood garden furniture and sheds and exploring local walks, challenging myself to take unknown paths and see where they lead.
“I bumped into Theresa May and entourage in Penny’s Lane a few weeks back.
“I have been sorting and clearing out clothes and stuff in general.
“I have been trying to manage my growing hair. I cut my fringe.
“I keep in touch with family and friends using a combination of Zoom, the phone and WhatsApp.
“The lovely weather has made all the difference.”
Nana says: “Thinking about what I am doing during lockdown, the answer is not a huge amount really. Besides trying to at least go for a walk every day and now and then doing a bit of housework (why bother when nobody can come into the house?), we have spent a lot of time in the garden, kept up with friends and family through Zoom and WhatsApp and done our civic duty by continuing to do our litter-picking patch.
“We have also done quite a lot of baking, not for ourselves but for the people in our close who live on their own (four out of the 14 houses).
“Gosh, it doesn’t sound like much at all but the days pass really quickly and with the glorious weather we’ve been having, we really have nothing to complain about.
Selina says: “Crazies Hill has seen a hive of activity, including setting up volunteers to help the more vulnerable residents.
“Our little hamlet has been very busy with lots of families out walking with their children, cyclists, runners, horses — and no cars.
“We are lucky to have lots of footpaths to explore as well as enjoying the bluebells in Bowsey Wood.
“Social distancing seems to have become a way of life; enjoying nature outside the home has been a lifesaver for many, especially for those who have not been able to see family or grandchildren for months.
“Access to technogy has been at lifesafer for us all.”
MEMBERS of Greys WI have met every month since 1920, the last 95 years in Greys village hall, except for the regular garden meetings in the summer and our yearly outings.
For the first time ever, all this juddered to a halt in March this year, which coincidentally was to be our centenary celebration.
We had to cancel our monthly meetings to protect our members from the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
During the last two months, like all WI branches, we have been regularly contacting our members, many of whom are isolated in their homes.
Regular emails containing news of Greys and the WI in general are sent out but not all our members are online so for these we deliver printed copies to their homes.
Greetings, information and human contact, albeit human contact wearing disposable gloves and waving and smiling from a safe distance.
“I’ve popped it in your letterbox, How are you… any problems? See you soon!” Very important if you are living on your own for the foreseeable future.
Our committee meetings now take place via Zoom, which means that the business of the WI continues. This is essential, especially as we have postponed our exhibition, 100 years of Greys WI and Greys Village until March 19 and 20, 2021.
We are hoping to open again in September but will follow government and Oxfordshire Federation guidelines on this.
Every month we produce our own newsletter, which includes items about Greys WI plus anything of interest for our own members.
We have unearthed many hidden talents — one member writes wonderful acronyms, others send in poetry, for example.
The monthly News & Views from the Oxfordshire Federation, which is normally delivered by hand at our meetings, is now sent to our secretary in online format to be emailed on.
We also print this, and any other information sent, and deliver it to members not online via the gloved and socially distancing WI post lady.
Jackie Walker, a committee member, is working to create a Greys WI Facebook page, something many branches already have, but until now our members have not needed.
Recently, the granddaughter of one of our members, Charlotte Green, offered to make face masks for our members and we are now distributing these, all free of course. It was a really nice gesture.
We are creating depictions of the coronavirus to include on our centenary wall hanging and a Spitfire to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
So the coronavirus has forced change on a 100-year-old institution — no bad thing.
Keep safe everybody from all at Greys WI.
OUR new president Suzanna Rose has rallied a dozen-and-a-half members to meet on Zoom each Thursday afternoon.
It is a great way to stay in touch and find out what our friends have been doing. One week we each described an item dear to our hearts and related the story attached to it — some so sad and others with happy endings.
Last week Shirley devised a light-hearted quiz and this week we will bring our favourite poem to the meeting. Although initially daunted by this prospect, we have found it so simple that we have even just had our first virtual committee meeting.
The agenda and the minutes of the previous meeting in March were forwarded prior to the meeting.
The agenda had the usual headings but with outings, lunches, book club etc. unable to take place, we began to discuss ways of getting round this.
Plans are afoot for a virtual lunch and the book club will be discussing various books while members are in their sitting rooms and kitchens.
Some members have been busy making scrubs and masks for the NHS.
Several have taken part in the Oxfordshire Federation lectures, which have proved so popular across the county.
News & Views has been emailed to our secretary Mary Burton for those of us who are online.
This has been very useful in finding out what other institutes have been doing in the current crisis and with the information on county events.
Each committee member is keeping in touch regularly by phone with three or four members so that no one is forgotten.
Anyone wishing to join us at our Zoom meetings on Thursday afternoons should call Suzanna on (01491) 571982 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org
Until we are once again reunited at our usual meeting place, please stay alert and keep well.
THE second Monday of each month has seemed somewhat strange without the regular WI meetings and, unfortunately, several speakers have had to be cancelled.
However, all the members have been keeping in touch with each other.
At the beginning of the lockdown, a simple system of telephone contact was set up and those on the committee have been chatting each week to different members of the group. It is good to report that everyone is staying positive and cheerful with a list of all those “put-off jobs” now on their way to being completed.
One observation from these conversations was that different menus for the day were becoming increasingly difficult to conjure up, so the group is now in the process of collecting and compiling a list of easy and straightforward recipes which will be circulated to everyone in the near future.
Also, to provide a little fun and thought-provoking stimulation, members are working on a joint story.
This is circulating around the group, with each member adding a new “chapter” so a tale of intrigue, adventure and goodness knows what is unfolding.
The completed work is eagerly anticipated by all.
ANOTHER month goes by, another month when we cannot meet our WI friends face to face.
But at Stoke Row WI we are managing to keep in touch with our WhatsApp group, sharing some beautiful photos of members’ gardens, walks, craft achievments and even a late night visiting hedgehog in a garden.
Truly lovely pictures which cheer our days up with some witty comments too.
Some members of our book group have decided to reread and review books from their own collections as they cannot get the library ones.
They are sharing these reviews by email, our other main point of contact.
Only two members do not have email so if we want to there are several ways we can keep up with the news of how we are.
Zoom meetings have proved easy and popular, with several members attending the ones put together by the Oxfordshire Federation.
We have been to talks on London and Edith Cavell and a tutorial on watercolour doodle art.
Several members are still keeping up the online exercise run by the netball group.
All of these are free for members to attend and are going some way to substitute our normal meetings.
We are sending birthday cards to those who would have received flowers at a meeting.
Plus, of course, we are telephoning those in our particular group that we would have seen in between meetings and some of those in other WIs too.
As women who are naturally gregarious within our WI, there is always someone on our list who is happy to take time to talk, write or Facetime etc.
We are probably better placed to make contact ourselves and keep happy than others who may struggle to make the first contact.
The WI really proves its worth in times like these.
We are still getting our magazine from the Oxfordshire Federation but now it arrives by email. Maybe it will continue in this form even when we are back, whenever that may be.
We are managing, with a lot of help from our friends and technology, but it will be a treat to get back to normal meetings.
08 June 2020
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