Saturday, 02 July 2022

WI Roundup

WI Roundup


DURING December, as we prepared for Christmas, members were, sadly, not able to meet up as planned for a pre-Christmas drink and a mince pie, so it was correspondence via a newsletter and Christmas card only.

Also, on a very sad note, we heard that one of our very long-standing members had died. Iva Davies had been a member of the WI since the Eighties and her support will be missed.

On a happier note, some of our members were called forward for the covid vaccine just prior to Christmas; we hope this will put us on the road to better days.

There was very little activity on a local level. However, during December, members were asked by the National Federation to consider changes to the WI constitution with a proposal to formally amend our constitution to include provision for more flexible meeting methods and the potential for cancelling or postponing annual meetings where there are reasonable grounds to do so.

Members were also asked to consider the campaign resolutions for 2021 and to lobby support for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.

Unfortunately and sadly, members have been unable to meet and discuss these issues as we would normally do at this time.

The pros and cons for these important topics have been laid out in WI Life magazine and Oxford Inspires newsletter.

It was agreed by our committee to fund the Oxfordshir Federation magazine this year, so making it available for all members who have welcomed its return in hard copy.

Benson WI would like to wish all WI members, all at the Henley Standard and its readers, very best wishes for a safe, healthy 2021.

For enquiries about Benson WI, please call (01491) 83788 or email

Sue Brown


I THINK all our members will be happy to bid last year goodbye and welcome the new year with optimism.

Luckily, covid vaccines have arrived and hopefully most of our members will receive one.

We finished the year by giving every member a Christmas cake and card from the committee, courtesy of Margaret, our brilliant cake-maker.

We look forward to being able to meet outside in 2021 for coffee and a chat but there will be no indoor members’ meetings with a speaker yet.

I hope all WI members keep safe and well.

Carol Briscoe


AS our Christmas party was cancelled, our committee organised another Zoom meeting on Wednesday, December 9, when members were invited to share their childhood memories of Christmas.

It was good to see so many members and to hear their treasured memories.

On a humorous note, I would like to share a few with you:

As a child, our president couldn’t understand how Santa Claus managed to get her doll’s pram down the chimney.

Another memory: a former BOAC air hostess was flying out to Saudi Arabia at Christmas but the plane was grounded for technical reasons, so the crew were unable to return to UK to celebrate.

All was not lost as the plane had a supply of Dundee cakes (well soaked in rum), which they all enjoyed.

I should add that my Dad, a photographer, took a photo of my brother and I standing on an unexploded bomb close to our home in Enfield.

For my other memories of childhood, see below.

When the first lockdown began in March, Zoom was an unfamiliar word to a lot of members, even those with computers.

We certainly struggled to get to grips with this new technology but I am happy to say many of us are now able to socialise on Zoom.

We all very much miss the wonderful visiting speakers we have enjoyed for many years.

This year will be different. The committee is working hard to find speakers who are happy to give their talks over Zoom.

Our first talk will be on Wednesday, January 20 at 2.30pm. The speaker is Kevin Little, a retired fishmonger who spent 54 years selling his fish in Union Street, Reading, known affectionately by locals as “Smelly Alley”.

A letter was sent to National Federation expressing regret at the sale of Denman College (the former WI training school) and approving the charitable objectives of the Denman College Trust.

Selina Avent


MEMBERS of Greys WI have attended their monthly meetings for 100 years, at first in members’ houses and after 1926 in the new Greys village hall.

In the Thirties, the president of the time dressed up as a Christmas elf to distribute gifts and members danced and sang.

Christmas parties continued throughout the privations of the Second World War, with members sharing their meeting with two evacuee families.

We defied the power cuts of the Seventies — “Members sat in the dark and told each other creepy ghost stories”.

In the Eighties and Nineties we celebrated big-style with sumptuous sitdown Christmas teas followed by plays, games and fun.

December 2020 will be remembered as our “lockdown Christmas” and, like every other WI, we have worked hard to bring Christmas cheer to our members, many of whom are living alone.

We delivered a Christmas edition of our monthly newsletter and a festively wrapped Christmas gift to every member.

The gift includes a hyacinth bulb and vase and members are asked to bring their flowering hyacinth to the first meeting, and the best will win a prize.

We also created our very own Greys WI Christmas card and delivered one to every member.

The card depicted a delightful image of the Maltsters Arms in Rothefield Greys in winter, a copy of an original painting by our member Suzanne Thetford, who generously gave us permission to use it.

Mother Christmas, wearing a mask and gloves, delivered these goodies to every member.

Oddly enough, she strongly resembled Merryl, our normal delivery lady, but nobody seemed to mind.

We also raffled a hamper. Every member had a numbered ticket and Val Mundy, our president, picked the lucky winner from a bag. Congratulations, Joy Bates.

Special thanks to our secretary Jenny Smith who printed the Christmas cards, treasurer Ina Chantry, who tracked down and wrapped the presents, our president Val and all the committee.

Who knows when we will be able to resume our meetings?

Many of our older members have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Many thanks here to the Hart Surgery in Henley, who organised these vaccination clinics with warmth and efficiency. Perhaps we can glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel.

Greys members send greetings to all WIs at this difficult time, plus the Henley Standard for allowing us to report on our meetings (and reminding us when we forget!) and to you, all our loyal readers.

Happy New Year.

Merryl Roberts


WE held our December meeting via Zoom and about 15 ladies took part.

We donned our party hats but there was no need to get out our party dresses as our lower halves were not on view. It was Zoom after all.

We enjoyed our own tea and cakes while taking part in the meeting.

President Suzanna introduced the entertainment, which commenced with Jean reading a poem entitled Christmas Dinner.

This told of the amusing ways of using up the remains of the turkey after Christmas Day, eventually with some unpleasant results.

Shirley had compiled a quiz with a mixture of Christmas and general knowledge questions.

We tried to bring to mind the names of Santa’s reindeer, the length of the River Thames and the name of the current Home Secretary. That last question was “Priti” difficult!

And did you know that poinsettia belongs to the euphorbia family?

Judith managed to come out top in the quiz.

Suzanna read A Visit from St Nicholas, which she recalled from her younger days.

Rose Musselwhite had composed a song to end the entertainment.

Alas, she was unable to be present but Judith played the music to the tune of A, You’re Adorable while we spelt out the letters of the word Christmas. It was deemed a very, very discordant rendering.

We’ve been seeing and hearing choirs on Zoom recently and appreciated the rehearsals they must have put in to synchronise their voices. Ours were certainly not synchronised. We needed Rose to put us through our paces.

Committee members had been busy delivering goody bags to all members before the meeting.

Six of our members tuned into the Beechwood Group meeting on December 10 and took part in the quiz run by Pauline Goddard. Alas, we were not among the winners.

Our book club will be reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett and discussing it via Zoom on February 10.

The next meeting of Harpsden WI on Zoom will be on January 13, when we will have a talk by Al Sylvester about the RAF Mountain Rescue Service. Switch on your computers and iPads for a 2.30pm start.

Let us hope that by then those without internet connections will be allowed to join with a friend who has and help swell the numbers taking part.

Until then, stay safe and well, with or without a vaccination, and we all look forward to a healthier 2021.


SEASONS greetings to you all. We hope this strangest of Christmases will be remembered for all the right reasons.

Even though we were not able to celebrate in large numbers with family and friends, we can find a simpler way to be together in smaller, more intimate groups.

Whatever you were doing, we hope you are well fed and watered and took the time to spoil yourself.

Watch one of your favourite Christmas films, eat something naughty, have an extra tipple, play patience without cheating, sing along loudly to your favourite Christmas songs on the radio, catch up with an old friend via social media or write a letter to someone, make something or bake something or just get outside for a short walk in the fresh air.

The HOT WI newsletter for December was accompanied by a gift bag containing a poinsettia from Toad Hall garden centre and a Christmas gingerbread biscuit handmade by Nicola Taylor of Lawlors the Bakers in Henley.

It may well be a different Christmas from those we have enjoyed previously but the essence remains the same — a time for family and friends, even if that isn’t physically together.

Last year proved to be a strange and challenging one and for many a devastating time with many suffering losses.

From bereavement and job losses to being alone much of the year, we must remind ourselves how fortunate we are compared with many and count our blessings.

On a lighter note, the HoT WI committee wishes you an improved and safe 2021. We hope to see you all soon.

Nicola Taylor


A VERY theatrical presentation of The Amazing Mr Charles Dickens was given by David Allen on December 2 via Zoom.

The talk, which was accompanied by festive bells and trumpets, contained Christmas readings from the pen of the great man interwoven with the story of his life.

For many people, Dickens created Christmas as we know it. It was in his mind, the gathering around a Christmas table and the sharing of lavish food and drink in good company.

Dickens was born in Portsmouth in February 1812 to John and Elizabeth Dickens, who already had a two-year-old daughter Fanny, and were to have many more children.

In 1814, the family moved to London, Sheerness and Chatham in quick succession.

In 1822, with five young children, they moved to Camden. Life then changed greatly for Charles.

After his parents’ failure to make a success of opening a school in 1824, he was sent to work in Warren’s blacking factory.

Charles found this humiliating but the family needed his 6 shillings a week for food.

In 1824, John Dickens was imprisoned in Marshalsea Debtors Prison.

Charles was then head of the family but could not earn enough to keep them and so they all moved into the prison, except Charles, who boarded outside.

These circumstances had a profound effect on Charles and his writing.

He withdrew into a world of his own and used his time to make up stories, especially about the characters around him. After a bequest of £450, John’s debts were paid and he was released from prison.

Charles had to remain working in the blacking factory for another year and then went back to school for the next two years.

In 1827 John got into debt again and Charles had to work again, this time in the office of a solicitors for the princely sum of 15 shillings a week.

He described the work as unrelenting drudgery but Charles had aspirations and declared he was to become a journalist.

In 1829, after teaching himself shorthand, he started work as a reporter in the ecclesiastical courts and writing for newspapers.

Within three months he was a reporter in the press gallery of the House of Commons.

In 1835, he met Catherine, daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle, and proposed after only three months.

In 1836 Sketches by Boz was published and monthly instalments of The Pickwick Papers were published to great acclaim.

At age 25, Charles had contracts to write three novels, a children’s book and another volume of Sketches by Boz and all the time he was writing the monthly instalment of Pickwick and still working as a reporter.

In April 1836 he was married. The first of Dickens’s 10 children was born in April the following year.

By 1840 he had had five novels published and the country could not get enough of his work.

Dickens worked hard to change Victorian society, attacking bad education, poverty and social injustice.

Alongside this, he was writing Nicholas Nickleby, which was another hit.

In 1842 he sailed to America but quickly tired of the adulation and was horrified by slavery.

In 1843, after a visit to Manchester and meeting Charles Burnett and his disabled son Harry, he had the character for Tiny Tim.

His next novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, didn’t sell as well as he had hoped and money was tight.

He started the Charles Dickens Christmas book. Six weeks later, A Christmas Carol was finished and he insisted the book was lavishly produced at an affordable price. It was a great success.

In 1849 David Copperfield was written.

Alongside all the writing, Charles was helping to produce and act in plays.

This is how he met Ellen Ternan who became his lover and brought about Dickens’s separation from Catherine.

In 1860 Great Expectations was written.

In 1869 Dicknes collapsed with a stroke. He attempted to write the Mystery of Edwin Drood but he died in 1870 before completing the novel.

All the members of Mill Green WI were presented with spring planters before Christmas.

These proved a great success, making up in part for the fact we were not able to meet for our Christmas party.

Our thanks to the members of the committee for working so hard to keep the institute running during a very difficult year.

The speaker for our meeting on January 6 at 4pm via Zoomwill be Helen Astrid on “A night at the opera”.

On February 3 at 4pm Melanie Gibson-Barton is to talk on “Bruges —it’s more than just chocolate”. Zoom details to follow nearer the date.

Penny Hampton


THE last two meetings of Remenham WI have been successfully held via Zoom.

In November, members gave demonstrations on some easy-to-make Christmas crafts.

Anne Francis showed everyone how to make a beautiful lined bag for all those presents, while Judy Palmer talked about a glorious cake for Christmas and gave the group the recipe.

Irene Parker showed everyone how to make knitted Christmas trees and Daphne Austen demonstrated how to make some simple little decorative hats for display or filling.

The meeting then adjourned for five minutes while kettles were boiled and cake was cut before resuming for a much-enjoyed session of catching up with news.

In December, after the business section of the meeting, the group was delighted to be joined by the pianist Tim Valentine, also via Zoom.

Tim entertained the group with some delightful Christmas music and carols, many of which were requested by various members.

He also punctuated his playing with a few musical stories.

After a teamaking interval, members were able to exchange news with each other once again.

Christmas gift bags were distributed to all members. In addition to a few special goodies, these contained a copy of the book, Qui Victor, a short novel of mystery and suspense written by several members.

The Remenham Rag continues to be compiled and distributed, which gives WI news as well as other interesting articles.

The Remenham round robin letter also continues to be in circulation, helping to keep all members in touch.

If you are interested in joining our active group, please call Daphne Austen on 07919 358979.

Daphne Austen


THE online meeting on Wednesday, December 16 was organised by Helen Robinson.

Joan Jolley chaired the meeting and thanked Helen for her technical help. There were 33 ladies able to join the meeting and it was wonderful to see everyone in festive mood with Christmas jumpers and hats.

Jackie Bryant, who had left Shiplake to move to Wales, sent Christmas greetings to all the members.

Joan thanked members of the committee who had delivered Christmas cards and chocolates.

Three members had attended the Beechwood Group meeting (virtually) and had enjoyed the speaker, who was a talented graphic designer.

The Friday walks were now back on and anyone wishing to join the walkers should meet at the Corner Shop at 10am.

Joan thanked Sue and Rosemary for tackling the difficult job of reimbursing the members for the cancelled Dolly Parton Show.

She also mentioned that the funeral of Audrey Robb had taken place.

The Christmas entertainment was a wonderful variety of poems and memories which the members read out individually.

One member recalled meeting Bing Crosby in Canada and another talked about peeling runner beans for the first time.

Then there was the story about potentially giving the Queen food poisoning.

The next was about working with a lady who had won the Nobel Peace Prize and, finally, there was one about looking through old school reports and remembering that algebra was always confusing and never really understanding the value of X.

This was followed by a musical quiz organised by Sue Lines.

The questions were particularly tricky for those ladies who hadn’t seen many musicals.

Jennifer Studholme was the winner and received a hearty round of applause.

Everyone was reminded about the Shaddo pantomime trail which was being organised for the Christmas/New Year fortnight.

Sixty different pantomime props were displayed around Shiplake, Shiplake Cross and Binfield Heath. Maps were available online and from the village shops.

The meeting ended with Joan thanking everyone for supporting each other during a difficult year and wishing all the ladies and their families a very happy Christmas.

Pam Hudgell


A VERY happy New Year to all WI members and good health throughout 2021.

The vaccine is good news and several Sonning Common members have been vaccinated so when it is safe to meet up again, they will have some protection from the virus.

Our walks are on hold for the moment but before tier 4 was introduced we enjoyed meeting up for a walk in the fresh air and countryside.

Some members supported the First Days charity, which has a collection point in Sonning Common.

Members were reminded that the card shop in Sonning Common, Occasions, is accepting used stamps which will be used to raise funds for the Dogs Trust.

Members received their copy of Oxfordshire Inspires, the magazine of Oxfordshire WI.

It was pleasing to read that 62kg of unwanted currency had been collected from Oxfordshire members and realised £1,020.72.

This sum was transferred to the Associated Country Women of the World to be used for projects relating to sustainable water, sanitation and energy overseas.

Our president is hoping for good luck as she enjoyed eating 12 mince pies in December, an old superstition to bring good luck.

We had to cancel the Christmas party we had all been looking forward to.

Instead, every one of our 70 members received a Christmas goody bag delivered by the hard-working committee members.

In these we found chocolates, Christmas cake, handmade fragrant soap, a pot of lemon curd or brandy butter, jewellery and a rooted hyacinth.

A word search, Christmas poem and special Sonning Common WI Christmas card were also included.

Some of us felt like kids again remembering many years ago when we opened our Christmas stockings.

A big “thank-you” to our president Sue Frayling-Cork and all the committee members.

We are all hoping the coming months will bring safer times when we will be able to meet again.

Sue Hedges


DURING the second week of December there were Zoom meetings on offer daily if we chose to go, including our own party.

A duo of singer and pianist entertained us from their living room and we sang carols with them. After that we had a fun game of quingo, which is a mix of a quiz and bingo.

A few members had hand-delivered to each member a Christmas goody bag which contained a pot of bulbs, chocolates, the quingo card to play along with and a carol song sheet, so we were well equipped for the meeting.

A personal touch was also enclosed with homemade lavender bags and a bookmark from two members.

The additional crackers were pulled together at the party and we had fun reading out the silly riddles. We finished up with a chat among ourselves.

We also had two coffee mornings and afternoon tea and chat.

Members have resumed walking in small numbers and we continue with the book club reviews.

The group of seven WIs that we belong to also met up at a Zoom meeting with a speaker who told us about her time working at the BBC as a graphic designer on drama titles for programmes that most of us could recall.

We often have a topic to start us off at our coffee mornings and have covered “what I found in the attic clear-out” and “where I went instead of on holiday”.

It is a lovely chance to catch up with how members are getting on in their own little worlds and nice to see those perhaps on their own who are not in touch often with distant family either.

The craft group met on Zoom to show and tell what they had done since March and also has had two demonstrations.

The first was of painting cards ready for Christmas and birthdays, which was particularly enlightening as it was held by our member Penny, who has been painting us all birthday cards and posting them out whenever our birthday has come up over the last year. All her secrets were revealed!

Then Alison, another member, showed us some of her foliage arranging skills, which we could then expand on in our own time after collecting from the hedgerows and adding maybe some fresh flowers in time for the Christmas table or a door wreath.

Some members are keeping up their exercise with online netball, which is interesting for its chat opportunity and occasional mindful session as well.

It’s all delivered free and you do not even have to play netball.

Some members have chosen to join in with talks, lectures and demonstrations plus quizzes which are all available through the Oxfordshire Federation or Denman at Home websites or a WI group centred on Facebook.

We have received our magazines from the National and Oxfordshire Federations, which give us the opportunity to sit down for a good read and do some puzzles over a cup of tea while we all have a bit more time on our hands.

With the increased restrictions since the appearance of the coronavirus variant, we really are pinning our hopes on the vaccine, which some members have already started having locally.

Happy New Year.

Penny Noble


WE all missed the opportunity to socialise together in the lead-up to Christmas, but this did not prevent us managing to generate some Christmas spirit between us (and I don’t mean the alcoholic sort).

Christmas cards were delivered to members by the committee, complete with a raffle ticket. Three lucky people received prizes.

A Christmas photographic competition was also organised with Christmas as the theme. This gave plenty of scope for all the participants.

The deadline for entries was January 1 and members will have the opportunity to vote electronically for their favourite so that a popular winner can be announced.

As an acknowledgment that some in our community are finding life particularly difficult at the moment, we had a collection of food items from members and these were donated to the Wallingford food bank.

Fifteen bags were delivered before Christmas and we have more to follow in this year.

The committee is looking ahead to the coming year. Precise planning may be somewhat difficult but we shall plan anyway.

We send our best wishes to fellow WI members and our communities at large.

For anyone wanting to know more about Whitchurch Hill WI, please call Frances on 0118 984 2162.

Sally Bergmann

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