Monday, 16 May 2022

WI Roundup

WI Roundup


COFFEE mornings continue and we had our first lunch since last year at the Packhorse in Mapledurham, which was enjoyed by those present.

One of our members celebrated her 90th birthday — what a milestone.

A visit to the Mill at Sonning theatre to see Top Hat is planned for the new year. Our last visit was very enjoyable.

We hope to be able to hold meetings in person again soon with a speaker.

Until then our members will continue to enjoy coffee mornings and lunches.

Carol Briscoe


ON Wednesday, July 14, president Judi Rowlands welcomed 15 members to our meeting over Zoom.

She introduced our speaker, Susan Howe, who gave us a very entertaining talk on “Running Fawlty Towers” and cooking for the rich and famous,

In her early twenties, and with minimal cooking experience, she answered an advertisement to cook on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean.

The “sleazebag” of a captain neglected to tell her that she was expected to cook for 15 very demanding charter customers as well as a crew of 15 merchant seamen single handedly.

Armed with only a Constance Spry cook book, Susan went to sea.

The first charterer was a starch millionairess from New York who never changed out of her white negligee for the whole two weeks.

When the deep freezers broke down the captain told Susan to throw all the fillet steak and salmon overboard in the middle of the night without telling the clients.

He then had Susan row to Dubrovnik in then Yugoslavia to replace “like with like” but all she could purchase was donkey meat.

When Susan managed to find someone to help her cook, he turned out to be an epileptic and was immediately dumped on the volcanic island of Stromboli.

Then Brigitte Bardot’s “newly ex-husband”, the German multi-millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs, came on board.

This was bliss because he got sea sick so hardly ate on board the yacht.

After the summer, having rarely tasted Susan’s cooking, he asked her to spend the winter cooking in his chalet in St Moritz.

Gunter had a second chalet in Gstaad and would often dash off there, leaving Susan to entertain the great and the good of St Moritz while playing bingo for Rolex watches.

Later in life, Susan trained to be a London Tourist Board Blue Badge Guide, the highest qualification in the tourist guiding profession.

Most of the other talks she gives are about her passion, quirky, fun history.

While learning to guide in Westminster Abbey, she met her future husband who was running the function catering for the Abbey and Westminster School.

They went on to run a number of hotels together.

Susan assured us that the TV comedy series Fawlty Towers was mild by comparison with what really went on behind the scenes — chefs who threw knives around the kitchen on hectic Saturday nights, escaped convicts posing as wealthy businessmen who disappeared in the night without paying the bill and Susan’s beloved cat Stubbles throwing up as VIPs arrived.

Overall, this was a very amusing and stimulating talk by a witty, well-informed speaker with a wondrous flair for words.

We look forward to booking her in person for another of her talks.

The next meeting will be on September 22 at 2.30pm by which time it is hoped we will be back at Crazies Hill village hall.

We are aiming to have a bring and buy sale as well as mingling with other members and enjoy sharing a delicious WI tea again.


IN 2020 we should have celebrated 100 years of Greys WI.

Four members, Val Mundy, Millicent Gibby, Joyce Robins and Josee Leadley, had worked hard to raise funds for a bumper centenary tea party. However, covid-19 cancelled everything.

The party was finally held on the July 21, 2021, our first meeting since February 2020.

We invited two guests, Penny Noble, convener of the Beechwood Group of WIs, and Jane Probitts, former chairman of the Oxford Federation who had hoped to join in our original celebrations.

She spoke about how future Greys members would find the record of our centenary year coping with the covid pandemic amazing and unprecedented.

Suzanne Thetford gave a moving tribute to her lifelong friend, Shirley Bates, who had died the previous day.

Shirley was a stalwart member of Greys WI for many years. As a musician, she had managed to hammer out Jerusalem from the ancient hall piano at the beginning of our meetings.

President Jackie Walker and treasurer Ina Chantry greeted us all.

Rose plants were given to three much-valued members who had recently retired from office: Val Mundy, our former president, Janet Leaver, our secretary for many years, and Millicent Gibby, a much-valued committee member.

Sadly, Doreen Howells, former president and treasurer, was unable to be with us to collect her rose.

Val showed everyone the gift-wrapped new baby comforter made by our knit & natter group for Charlotte Cavanagh, owner of Time for Tea.

Nicola Baker, a member of the Time for Tea team, toiled in a hot kitchen to serve our delicious tea and was thanked by all.

Val announced that the first knit & natter (or stitch & bitch) meeting would be at her home on Wednesday, September 8 from 10.30am to 12.30pm.

As we have missed so many monthly meetings, we have arranged an August boat trip on the Thames for our members with the Riverside Boat Trust.

The next neeting in Greys village hall will be on September 15 at 2pm.

The theme will be Harry Potter, organised by Julie Green, educational manager for Warner Brothers and The World of Harry Potter. For more information about Greys WI, please call (01491) 280348 or 628349.

Merryl Roberts


UNFORTUNATELY, the initial date for our summer tea party had to be rescheduled to later in July due to continuing covid restrictions limiting the size of groups allowed to meet indoors.

However, as I write, we are eagerly anticipating confirmation of the final relaxation of regulations to allow us to meet on Thursday, July 29 at Hambleden village hall.

The committee is keen to assure members that everything will be done to ensure our first face-to-face get-together is as covid-safe as possible. We are planning to hold our usual summer party raffle and donations of prizes will be gratefully received on the day.

Nine WI walkers, accompanied by a number of dogs, met at the Chequers Inn in Fingest on June 24 for an exhilarating and scenic circular walk along the valley towards Turville and beyond.

They were later joined by a number of other members for a most enjoyable lunch in the pub garden. Big thanks, yet again, to Inger for organising such a lovely walk.

The next walk was to be on Thursday, meeting at the Bottle and Glass in Binfield Heath.

The book club met on July 22 at Niki Mainds’s home. The book being reviewed was The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.

The September meeting is scheduled for September 9 in Hambleden village hall at 7.30pm and will be a “social” evening. We are very much looking forward to the resumption of our regular monthly face-to-face meetings.

For more information about Hambleden WI, email or visit our website,

Sally-Ann Roberts


THE July meeting was held via Zoom and it is to be hoped that this will be the final virtual meeting.

Baiju McCubbins spoke first about Medical Detection Dogs.

She gave a lot of technical data on the work of this charity, which was started in 2008 by Dr Claire Guest when she realised that dogs were sniffing out cancers where they had not been detected previously.

The noses of dogs have millions of receptors and to train each one in detection costs £29,000 and takes up to two years.

They must have a good temperament and be people-orientated. They do not do detection on people but on samples supplied.

The dogs are in two groups, either bio detection or medial alert assistance, and go to the training centres daily.

At present, medical detection dogs are working in conjunction with Durham University and with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Suzanna Rose thanked Baiju for her talk and then commenced the business part of the meeting.

It is proposed to restart Sunday lunches, walks and visits to local places of interest in the autumn.

The meeting on August 11 will be held in the garden of 67 St Mark’s Road, Henley, at 2.30pm. It is a “bring and share tea” so please bring a small plate of food for the table.

This will be our first meeting since February 2020 so there will be a lot of catching up to be done.

Then we will be looking forward to celebrating our 80th birthday in September.

Judith Young


OUR latest get-together was an evening in Nicola Taylor’s garden where we could relax and chat on a lovely summer night.

With snacks and drinks, we continued until it got too dark to see each other but all agreed it was so lovely to be out and so much nicer to meet face-to-face in the fresh air.

We are really looking forward to commencing our traditional meetings at Sacred Heart Church hall, off Vicarage Road, on Friday, August 20 at 7.30pm.

We will be holding a tiara bingo night, a fun bingo event where one must wear ones favourite headpiece. There could be prizes but there will definitely be tea, cake and wine.

New members are more than welcome to pop along on the evening to meet us and join in this fun and friendly group session.

Nicola Taylor


WE met on July 7 at the St Mary’s Centre in Wargrave, which proved to be a very pleasant venue for the afternoon talk given by Nicholas Henderson.

The talk was entitled “Folly and finale”, a reference to Henry VIII’s last two wives, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr.

Nicholas had been with us previously and spoken of Henry’s earlier years and his disposal of wives who did not please him, so we were familiar with his character.

Holbein’s famous portrait of Anne of Cleves pleased Henry but, as we know, face to face he found her disappointing.

Henry exclaimed: “I am ashamed that men so praise her as they have done — and I like her not.”

And so he came to speak of her as the Flanders Mare.

Anne’s inability to speak English, her dowdy taste in clothes and her lack of interest in either music or other art forms all added to Henry’s determination to divorce her.

Henry already had his eye on Katherine Howard. A familiar figure in his household, she was a dizzy young thing.

Nicholas peppered his talk with anecdotes which helped us get an idea of these unfortunate wives.

Maybe their lives were involved with dalliances or folly but quite often they were innocent.

However, courtiers, servants or archbishops could bring about their downfall and thus it was for Katherine, who was accused of having slept with other men prior to her marriage with Henry. Exit Katherine Howard. And here we paused for a moment and listened to some appropriate music from that time before moving on to Henry’s next wife.

Enter Catherine Parr, a widow twice over and a lady of intelligence and wisdom who knew how to handle the ailing king, whose health was now in serious decline.

It was the year 1543 and Henry lingered on until 1547, at which point Catherine married Lord Seymour of Sudeley.

So ended the reign of Henry VIII and Catherine Parr was the one wife who survived.

This was a very enjoyable talk by Nicholas, who we know has more to tell, so hopefully he will return again and turn back the pages of history for us in the not too distant future.

Sue Drew


MEMBERS were able to have their second get-together of the summer in July, this time in the hall, with the usual events plus tea, cake and a raffle.

The flower of the month table was especially joyful.

We enjoyed a natural and well-presented talk from Barbara Carr about finding lost relatives.

We hope that everyone will be able to keep in touch during the summer.

We will meet again on Wednesday. September 8 when Dr John Hasler will kindly speak to us on “GP golden years”. Visitors are most welcome.

Stephanie Douglas


MEMBERS were delighted to be able to join together for a picnic luncheon in Pat Sly’s garden, also welcoming Mavis Greenhalgh to the occasion.

With gazebos providing welcome shade, everyone enjoyed their picnic lunch and the opportunity to catch up on news and events.

The river traffic and passers-by provided plenty of people-watching too.

After the raffle, celebratory cakes were cut and Prosecco poured.

There were many customers at the produce bring and buy, with savouries, fresh spinach and plants among the many items for sale.

The book club met again and discussed their latest read, All the Light We Cannot See, addressing many in-depth questions. Everyone enjoyed the book.

The next one is American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

Daphne Austen


THE residents of Shiplake must have known something special was happening when 41 ladies were seen heading towards the Baskerville on Wednesday, July 21.

It was the first time the WI had been able to have a real gathering for 16 months and everyone was thrilled to be able to meet and greet friends in the Bedouin tent in the pub garden.

The tent looked welcoming and luckily was shady as it was a very hot afternoon.

There were five seating areas with tables and sofas and plenty of space to wander and chat. The tables were laid with white crockery and napkins — it all looked very inviting.

Joan Jolley, our president, welcomed everyone and explained that all the real WI business would wait until the next meeting, which she hoped would be at Shiplake Memorial Hall in September.

Sue Lines, the outings
co-ordinator, announced that she was hoping to
re-organise the trip to the Fairmile Vineyard in Henley, which had to be cancelled last year.

A lovely tea was then served, with platters of sandwiches, sausage rolls, scones with cream and jam and a choice of cake. The pots of tea were replenished many times by very helpful staff.

The volume of noise was a sign of a successful afternoon and there was much laughter and chatter as friends were able to catch up on news from the last year-and-a-half.

Compliments were paid to the Baskerville staff and to the committee — the event had been a great success and was made more so because the committee did not have to do the washing up.

It is hoped that the next meeting will be in the Memorial Hall on September 15. The speaker will be Lizzie Rowe talking about “Colour in Art”.

Pam Hudgell


MAGIC was in the air at our July members’ meeting.

Steve Price, gold star member of the Inner Magic Circle, entertained us with incredible tricks.

Was the trick with two snooker balls or five? Was the handkerchief red or white? How did Steve read Barbara and Pauline’s minds?

A very enjoyable evening which worked well over Zoom.

President Sue Frayling-Cork informed members that a donation had been made to the county memorial fund in memory of Jackie Cheffings.

The National Federation has announced that the resolution “A call to increase awareness of the subtle signs of ovarian cancer” had been passed with a majority of 99.48 per cent.

Every two hours in the UK someone dies of ovarian cancer. The earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat so public awareness and understanding of the symptoms is really important.

The WI campaign will aim to increase the awareness of the signs and symptoms. It will empower and support WI members to have conversations with friends and family about their own and their loved ones’ health.

Members have been referred to the NHS website and to Ovarian Cancer Action.

Members had expressed frustration that it was taking so long for the main postbox in Sonning Common to be replaced after it was damaged by a vehicle last year.

Emails were later sent to the Post Office and an apology for the delay was received and hopes raised that a new postbox may be in place at the end of August.

The Sonning Common WI July/August newsletter reminded us that Sonning Common Primary School continues to collect crisp packets, milk bottle tops, batteries, used tooth- brushes and empty toothpaste tubes, printer cartridges and used pens and felt tips.

So far, the school has raised £1,366 for school funds. There is a collection point at Sonning Common library. Blister packs can be recycled at the Superdrug store in Reading.

Two members attended the Zoom meeting of the Townlands Steering Group.

Henley town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said the home care provided by Sue Ryder nurses was first class.

However, it was difficult to accept that the bed provision in South Oxfordshire was anywhere near adequate to meet the demands of patients not able to be cared for at home.

The matter will be monitored by the Oxfordshire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.

In July another scorching hot and beautiful day dawned ready to welcome the first of two much anticipated summer garden parties.

Noreen Freear hosted the event in her beautiful garden, which looked glorious in the sunshine.

Our “What we did in lockdown” banner was on show for all to enjoy and our bunting hung to complete the scene.

Beautiful invitations, produced by Jane and Eddie Handley, had been sent to all members and 35 came to this party. The remaining 35 members have been invited for a date in August.

Sue Frayling-Cork, our president, welcomed everyone. She also welcomed Janet Kingdon, our WI advisor who had come to join us.

While still taking care to be cautious, we all relished in our new found freedom. We sat at tables under gazebos and sunshades and Noreen, together with a group of members, served delicious sandwiches, cakes on tiered stands and refreshing tea in delicate bone china cups and saucers. What a treat.

The cheerful chatter must have been heard across all the adjoining gardens.

There was a competition and Sally Wills was the lucky person who found the winning ticket under her seat cushion.

Despite the heat, the atmosphere was buzzing with everyone catching up with each other’s news and, for a couple of hours at least, forgetting all about covid-19.

We all sang Happy Birthday to Wendy Dean and she was presented with a birthday cake.

Sue Frayling-Cork gave a well-earned vote of thanks to Noreen and her husband David who had worked so hard to prepare the tables, chairs etc., and their group of helpers who had made the afternoon such a huge success.

Now they have to do it all again in August.

The craft group has optimistically booked the village hall again in anticipation that monthly meetings will resume.

The first meeting will be on Thursday, September 9.

The committee continues to monitor the situation with regard to being able to gather once more for our members’ meetings in the village hall.

The next meeting isn’t until September 16 so the committee will wait until nearer the time before making a final decision.

The talk at that meeting will be by Jeff Rozelaar with an autobiographical account of growing up in the post-war East End.

Sue Hedges and Gill Hayward


ON Tuesday, July 27, we celebrated one of the first meetings since lockdown by holding the president's lunch in her beautiful garden.

Although the weather forecast was not the wall-to-wall sunshine hoped for, being British, we carried on.

About 20 members enjoyed a posh ploughman's lunch followed by strawberries and cream decorated with mini meringues, a speciality of one of our committee members.

It turned out to be a lovely summer’s day with just one downpour towards the end and as everyone was under cover, this did not prove to be a problem and brilliant sunshine followed immediately.

Everyone enjoyed being together again after so long apart.

Socialisation is a big part of human life and most people have had very little of it for a long time.

We are now hoping that by being careful and taking as many precautions as necessary.

We can restart our monthly meetings and once again give the love, help and support that the WI is synonymous with.

Margaret Boorne


JULY and August are often quiet months for organisations such as ours as their members take their annual holidays.

Although many of our members have managed to get away, Stoke Row WI has remained very active.

Our craft and book groups have continued to meet as usual in the first week of the month and outdoor games in a member’s garden continued to flourish.

The speaker at our July meeting was Christine Green, who talked about the art of paper-cutting, a centuries-old practice believed to have started in China.

Christine showed us some amazing examples and some of her own designs too.

We had another walk led by Tilley on July 23 around Hailey, ending with a meal at the King William pub for members and partners.

Our coffee morning via Zoom was a little bit special as we welcomed our longest-serving member to her first online meeting since covid-19 first prevented us from meeting in person.

Esme was a founder member of Stoke Row WI in February 1956 and over the years has served three terms as president, one as secretary and one as treasurer.

Although we held a birthday meeting for our group earlier this year, it was an online meeting and Esme was not able to attend.

Therefore, it seemed appropriate at our coffee morning to “present” her with flowers (secretly popped round to her niece by another member) in recognition of her 65 years in the WI.

To add to the occasion, it was also Esme’s birthday and after coffee with us she was whisked off by her family for a celebration lunch.

It was a lively meeting with stories from the early years of our WI.

What a contrast with the group in the Fifties, which was made up of mainly young women, many with young children.

It was interesting to hear that they also had a drama group.

We just had enough time to squeeze in a quiz with a theme of 1956 of course.

With the coronavirus restrictions being lifted, we plan how we might return to meeting in person in Stoke Row village hall, hopefully from September, and are consulting our members about the format of future meetings.

As the restrictions are lifted, we are planning how we might return to meeting in person in Stoke Row village hall, hopefully from September, and are consulting our members.

We recognise they may not be ready to join our monthly meetings in the pre-pandemic format.

Their views and their safety are paramount so we are looking at ways in which our meetings can still be accessed by our members both in person and online.

If you are interested in what we do, please call our secretary Pam on (01491) 681723 or email her at

You are most welcome to visit us.

Denise Stanworth


WE have been busy this last month.

A very successful cake sale was held by the town hall on a Saturday morning and we quickly sold out.

Our thanks to everyone who bought our cakes and bigger thanks to our members for baking them.

As the covid-19 restrictions were still in force, our garden party could not be held indoors, so we decided to have a cream tea with Pimm’s instead.

We held this on the green lawn at the back of Watlington Bowls Club on a Thursday afternoon.

The weather was kind to us, exactly right to hold a cream tea.

Sue Markham had designed two devilish quizzes, one about the London Underground and the other general knowledge. The two winners, Helen Wiedemann and Amy Drummond, both received a prize. Well done to them both.

We then had our Pimm’s and cream tea. The scones, which were made by Stephanie Craddock and Maggie Bruce, were delicious. Thank you, ladies.

A good afternoon was had by everyone.

Over the last few weeks, members have been knitting again, this time for the premature baby unit at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

We had been asked to knit blue blankets and blue matinée jackets for the small babies in this unit.

A first parcel has been despatched and we shall carry on knitting,

Our first full meeting will be held in the Methodist Chapel on August 12 at 2.30pm. Our speaker will be Sheila Smith showing us her embroidery and crafts.

We will take care to ensure our members are as safe as possible from covid infection.

We hope to see you all there but do understand if you feel this is too much for you at this present time.

For information about Watlington WI, please call Dawn Matthews on ()1491) 612023.

Dawn Matthews


WE held another monthly get-together in July.

We had a very successful plant, book and sales stall which encouraged the donation and purchase of goodies, all in a good cause. More than £20 was raised.

The monthly raffle prize was highly sought after with a homemade cream tea being very generously supplied by Sandra Atack.

The sunflower growing competition came to a head at the end of July.

Some participants had flowers to show for their efforts, others had stalks and leaves but no flowers, while others, like the organiser herself, had lost their plants to slugs.

The winner was our green-fingered president Frances Le Strange with her 7ft forest of flowering plants.

Her prize will be presented at the August meeting.

At that meeting we will plan our contribution to the Great Big Green Week in September.

Ideas so far include a recycling/upcycling event and the distribution of wildflower seeds to members for flowering next year. Who knows what else may happen?

Want to know more? Call Frances on 0118 984 2162.

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