Monday, 04 July 2022

WI Roundup

WI Roundup


WE decided to cancel our January meeting as our local Millstream Centre was closed during January and our parish hall refurbishments were still incomplete.

Also, as covid cases remained very high, members felt happier not meeting up.

We hope to get back together again at the Millstream Centre on Wednesday, February 23 at 2pm for a social catch-up.

In January members chose which of the shortlisted campaign resolutions they wished to support and their votes have been sent on to the National Federation.

In March, our thoughts will turn to membership renewal and plans for our new formal year with the hope that we can actually have a more settled year and meet up on a regular basis.

For more information about Benson WI, call our secretary on (01491) 837885 or email

Sue Brown


WE hope that this new year will be better and that our members will be happy to join in with our activities.

At our first meeting we had a very amusing talk by Barbara Carr about discovering a long lost sister.

We were so grateful to Barbara for stepping in at the last moment and it was good to laugh.

Margaret and Rowena have mapped out the programme for the coming year and Margaret told the meeting the details.

We thank them both for all their hard work and in getting the year sorted.

A visit was proposed by the art club to the Courtauld Gallery in London and others are welcome to join the party.

Coffee was to be at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Caversham and our lunch visit to the Packhorse in Mapledurham.

The treasurer reminded the ladies to look in their purses for any loose change for the Associated Country Women of the World on their way out.

It was a very enjoyable meeting and we hope that more of our members will be happy to join us once again.

Carol Briscoe


OUR latest meeting was held on Wednesday, January 19.

Judi Rowlands welcomed members and then introduced Mike Watt, who spoke on the Alexander Devine Hospice.

Mike spoke about his involvement with the charity, initially as a volunteer helping the gardening team.

He now fulfils other roles, including as a speaker for the charity, which Cockpole Green WI has adopted as its charity of the year for 2022.

Mike outlined the history of the charity from its beginnings in 2007 following the death of Alexander Devine from a brain tumour.

His parents realised that there was no children’s hospice facility in Berkshire and a fundraising appeal was launched.

In 2009, the first nurse was recruited.

A few years later, another appeal was launched to build a hospice near Maidenhead after a donation of land by a local farmer. In 2018, the hospice was opened by Sir Michael Parkinson and Theresa May MP.

The hospice now supports more than 135 children and about 30 bereaved families.

Most of the work is in the community and currently there are more than 20 care and auxiliary staff.

Running the hospice costs £1.8 million each year and 80 per cent of this has to be fundraised.

Mike finished by outlining ways of supporting the charity with fundraising activities.

Following the talk and formal business, two games of bingo were played with Carole Ellis and Sue Griffiths as the callers.

Many thanks to Diane and Carole for the delicious tea.

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 16 when Graham Jones will talk about the Lambourn railway.

New members are always welcome.

Selina Avent


IN January we decided to have a socially distanced meeting in the village hall.

This meant that the speaker Susanna Beard could address us in person and not on Zoom, where fewer members would have access to her talk.

Just under half of our membership attended on a bright winter’s day and listened to Susanna tell us how she became a published author of psychological thrillers.

She had always dreamt that one day she would complete a book and hopefully see it on a shelf in a bookshop.

She said she was always good at essays and languages at school and later worked in public relations.

After raising a family, Susanna enrolled on a creative writing course.

In 2017, after many rejections, her first book, Dare to Remember, was published. Susanna is now on her sixth book.

The ups and downs of agents and publishers taught her to be patient while waiting for acceptance.

This was a most interesting talk and Susanna answered many questions before members rushed to purchase some of her books at a reduced price.

Our president Suzanna Rose announced the next walk, which would take place in Blewbury, and that the book club would meet on February 2.

The competition was for a “childhood souvenir”. Di Painter and Judith Young shared first prize with Gill Spiers the runner-up.

Copies of Oxfordshire Inspires were collected by members, who discovered an invitation to a WI holiday in the Lake District.

A day-long event, entitled “A tale of two times” will take place at a newly-
refurbished Benson parish hall on Thursday, February 24 (cost is £23, which includes a light lunch).

Looking ahead to the spring, there is an afternoon talk on “Clematis, chrysanthemums and cake” at Horton-cum-Studley millennium village hall on April 6 from 1pm to 4.30pm.

Our next meeting is in Harpsden village hall on February 9, commencing at 2.30pm. Wendy Herman will be speaking about the charity Swan Support.

The competition will be for “wild bird memorabilia”.

At the time of writing, the signs are for a more relaxed lifestyle and we hope “normal” meetings will resume very soon.

Judith Young


WE are planning a year of fun and friendship to celebrate our fifth anniversary with a mix of meetings offering activities, information and social events for all ages.

We meet on the third Friday of the month at 7.30pm.

We have groups for walkers, crafters, cinema and theatre enthusiasts and bookworms.

Our February meeting will feature a felting demo by Linda Cookson.

In March we have our annual meeting with a crisp tasting followed in April with spring flower wreath-making with Lorna Dunlop, the Henley Florist.

We are a welcoming group of ladies so if you feel like joining, please come along to a meeting or follow us on social media to see what we’re about.

Nicola Taylor


ON January 5 a Zoom meeting took place at which we exchanged good wishes for the new year. We welcomed our speaker, Chris O’Grady, who was joining us for a second time.

This time his talk was entitled “Keep the sea on your left, remember to turn right at Land’s End”.

Chris told us that following the break-up of his marriage he had visited his folks in Bournemouth and, expecting to see his sister, was surprised to hear that she had set off to walk the South West Coastal Path.

This jolt to his being ignited a spark which would eventually explode into an epic adventure involving 15 years of his life.

He, too, would set out on the same path, taking on chunks at a time and then returning to his car by means of hitch-hiking.

This was just the beginning for Chris.

He was destined to cover hundreds of miles because over time he had become enamoured with the great outdoors, which gave him freedom to think and reassess his life.

He decided to walk the entire coast of England and Wales, a massive undertaking which presented many challenges along the way.

These were always resolved though “the kindness of strangers”, which he found overwhelming and uplifting.

This and the beauty that surrounded him brought him moments of joy.

Chris peppered his talk with anecdotes about the amazing people he’d met along the way.

He could well have chosen “The kindness of strangers” as the title for his talk.

This had been a most enjoyable afternoon and we know that Chris has more stories to tell so look forward to welcoming him again in the future.

Incidentally, he was able to meet up with his father at the end of this adventure in Poole, exactly where he had started off so many years before.

On December 1 we enjoyed a Christmas lunch in the beautiful setting of the Hennerton Golf Club.

It was a wonderful start to the festive season with delicious food prepared by Paul and his team.

Our next meeting was to be held at the Church Centre, Mill Green, on February 2 with a talk on “Anniversaries of 2022” given by Graham Horn.

Sue Drew


GERAINT THOMAS took us down memory lane when he came and gave us an enthusiastic and engaging talk, accompanied by slides, about the life of Richard Burton.

This culminated in recordings of the actor’s distinctive voice. As one member pointed out, it was as if he was there.

After a delicious afternoon tea, we were given our programme for the coming months, which highlights lots to look forward to.

Our next meeting will be at Peppard War Memorial Hall on Wednesday, February 9 at 2pm. Barbara Carr will give us a talk entitled “Education, education”. Visitors are most welcome.

Stephanie Douglas


JANUARY was only a few days old when the ladies of Remenham WI’s book club met to discuss the novel Liar by Leslie Pearse.

A would-be reporter but still only selling advertising in the local paper, a murder, quickly followed by another, and Amelia starts her own investigations. Who is the liar?

It was decided that this was an intriguing and, on the whole, a well-written book.

The next read for the book club is The Bletchley Girls by Tessa Dunlop.

The January meeting was well attended and some time was spent discussing the new resolutions, each one being presented by a member of the committee.

Individual votes of choice were then collected.

After the remaining business of the day, members were transported from a rather grey and overcast Remenham to a tropical island “somewhere in the Pacific” for an hour of our version of Desert Island Discs.

Members had previously made choices of music to take with them as well as details of books and luxury items.

A wide range of music was played, including Sailing By, the Overture to Die Fledermaus, The Moon And I and Fields of Gold.

Luxury items included a lot of cold cream, perfume, a fluffy pillow, gardening gloves and a dog.

Books included those on poetry and gardening and other large tomes. By the end of the meeting, everyone was wearing a brightly coloured lei and happily tucking into, among other things, turtle egg and seaweed sandwiches and pineapple cake.

Raffle prizes of a bunch of bananas, a packet of dates and a pineapple were won by three happy castaways.

Daphne Austen


WITH our meeting on Wednesday, January 19 being the first gathering of the new year, there was so much news to catch up on that Joan Jolley had to remind the ladies to stop chatting so that she could start the proceedings.

Jerusalem was sung but wearing masks made it difficult to hear and keep in tune. All members had been asked to do a lateral flow test before coming to the meeting and the Memorial Hall is still keen to keep covid at bay and asks users to sanitise hands, so we all felt very safe.

Joan, our lovely president, announced details of the new speakers’ list and asked everyone to vote to select the resolution that will be discussed later in the year.

She also told ladies about the National Federation’s annual meeting in June and the Oxfordshire Federation’s annual meeting in March.

Joan reminded members that they should now book for all the county events online but it would be helpful if they could let the committee know.

Sue Lines reported on the very successful visits to the Bremont headquarters in Henley and to see Top Hat at the Mill at Sonning Theatre.

Final names were checked for the second visit to Bremont in February.

Sue is also planning a visit to the new Côte restaurant in Henley and a possible trip to Windsor as part of the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations.

The speaker for the afternoon was Jeff Rozelaar with an autobiographical account of growing up in London’s East End.

He was born into an Anglo-Jewish family in the middle of the Second World War.

His father was a bookmaker and his mother was a bus conductress.

Jeff remembered, with some amusing stories, the difficult times of living in London during and after the Blitz.

He played on bomb sites near the Tower of London and paddled in the Thames.

He recalled one incident clearly when a rocket exploded on the Stepney bathhouse.

He had tales to tell about his time at primary school and at the Hebrew school which he had to attend to be prepared for his Bar Mitzvah.

Jeff recalled some anti-Semitism in his local area and talked about the gangs of Teddy Boys that he used to encounter on his way to school.

He was lucky to have an inspiring headmaster who made huge changes at the school, improved students’ behaviour and encouraged Jeff to go to university.

He remembers learning French by singing French songs which he is still able to sing fluently.

He enjoyed playing football and cricket on Hackney Marshes.

Joan thanked Jeff for his very entertaining talk.

This was followed by another excellent tea co-ordinated by Hilary Mackie and the catering committee.

The competition for the Associated Country Women of the World flower of the month was won by Pauline Watkins with a lovely branch of mimosa.

The competition for “A piece of train memorabilia” was won by Susan Partridge with a beautiful cross-stitched image of the Mallard steam engine made by her mother-in-law.

The Mallard was the holder of the world speed record for steam engines.

The February speaker will be Richard Road with a talk entitled “Grandma flew Spitfires” and the competition will be “Something relating to the RAF, RFC or flying in general”.

Visitors are always welcome to come to our meetings, which are held on the third Wednesday of the month.

Pam Hudgell


COVID necessitated a change of plan for the January meeting.

Thirty-two members attended the meeting via Zoom and five apologies were received.

President Sue Frayling–
Cork welcomed members and speaker Helen Plumb, who is an internationally known gemologist.

Secretary Carol reminded members of the arrangements for members wishing to book a place at the National Federation’s annual meeting in Liverpool on June 11, when delegates will vote to adopt a resolution.

There are five resolutions listed in the latest WI Life magazine with a voting slip for individual members to vote for the one resolution they support the most to go forward to the meeting.

The resolutions are:

1. Fit for purpose, fit for girls.

2. Appropriate sentencing of non-violent women offenders.

3. Equality in law for the menopause.

4. Women and girls with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: under- identified, diagnosed or misdiagnosed.

5. Tackling digital exclusion.

Lesley, our public affairs representative, drew members’ attention to the WI campaign Get on Board for a better bus service.

There is an opportunity for people to comment on the Oxfordshire transport plan survey at https://lets The deadline is March 16.

Lesley has placed notices giving the County Lines Helpline phone number on local noticeboards.

This is to provide assistance to anyone who needs help, including those who are concerned about cases of modern day slavery.

Members with donations for Women’s Aid are asked to bring them to the meeting on February 17.

At the same meeting, donations for the local food bank will be collected. Treasurer Anne gave the financial report. The annual accounts will shortly be submitted to the independent financial advisor.

Jane reported that the 2021 Christmas lunch at Badgemore Park had been very successful and that next year’s lunch had been booked for December 5 this year.

Programme secretary Alison introduced Helen Plumb, a gemstone enthusiast. She creates unique items of jewellery and makes many bespoke pieces to order.

Helen loved pebbles as a child and went on to work as a geologist working for BP.

She then opened a shop in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. Helen visits many countries to buy gemstones. Some places are safer than others.

What a interesting and exciting career. We were amazed by the huge variety of precious gems, some extremely rare and valuable.

Skill is required to predict the trends and what will be the rarest gem.

Some gems had unfamiliar names, such as tourmaline and spinel, but more familiar were diamond, ruby and jade.

We learned that the best sapphires are not the usual dark blue stones but the rarer lighter blue gems, as worn by the Queen. We can but dream!

Alison thanked Helen for her most interesting talk.

President Sue then canvassed members’ opinion as to in what medium they wished to receive a copy of the monthly magazine Oxfordshire Inspires.

Sonning Common WI may not continue to cover the cost of supplying a hard copy to each member.

Members should let Sue know their preference.

We welcomed a past member, Jenny, to the meeting and were interested to hear of her happy experiences at the WI she has joined in Dorset.

The next meeting will be held at Sonning Common village hall on Thursday, February 17 at 7.30pm when Dave Maycock will give a talk and demonstration on brass rubbing.

For more information, call Carol on 0118 972 3738.

Sue Hedges


WITH the start of 2022 came a definite feeling of déjà vu.

With rapidly rising Omicron infection levels in the community, the committee took the difficult decision once again to hold January’s monthly meeting entirely via Zoom to keep our members safe and warm.

Nevertheless, we had a good turnout with more than two-thirds of our members joining from the comfort of their own homes.

One of our members now lives in Derbyshire and regularly joins our meetings via Zoom but this time we had a great surprise when another of our members joined us from Botswana where she was on holiday visiting family. Technology is such a wonderful thing.

Our speaker was Hayley Scott, who talked to us about her life as a crime scene investigator.

Crime and the solving of it is a very popular subject, as reflected in the number of crime dramas and documentaries on television.

Our members werel enthralled as Hayley explained the various scenes that a CSI might attend, including burglaries, fires and murders.

She then described what they might look for at a crime scene, most often objects or surfaces that might yield DNA or fingerprints possibly providing a link with the perpetrator.

We were all provided with a sheet of fingerprint patterns and instructions on how to take our own fingerprints.

I had to admit defeat on this exercise as I could not get a clear pattern but it was fascinating to hear Hayley explain the points of comparison that are used in fingerprint analysis. Such an interesting evening.

Despite the high coronavirus infection rates, we have not cancelled any of our coming activities, just adapted.

There will be coffee and chat sessions via Zoom. The craft, games and book groups will still be meeting and we have another walk organised by Tilley for February 10. This will be a snowdrop walk around Stoke Row, finishing at the Rising Sun pub for those who wish to have lunch.

Our birthday meeting will be on February 15 when we will be celebrating the anniversary of the formation of Stoke Row WI with a pizza and fizz evening in the village hall.

There will be contributions from members with anecdotes from the Fifties to the present day. This will be followed by a word game.

Those members who cannot be there in person will be able to join us via Zoom, but will have to prepare their own pizza and fizz!

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

You would be most welcome to visit us.

Denise Stanworth


THE older you get the faster time appears to travel — not literally, of course, but WI events seem to come and go with amazing speed. Or is that just me?

Since our last article we’ve met up again as a group, sharing the ups and downs of Christmas and New Year.

For some, plans went swimmingly, while for others covid changed plans to see family and friends.

Into February, however, we are all looking forward to a more positive year.

We are busy planning a community coffee morning/
fundraiser in March. Beyond that we are providing teas and cakes for the hundreds of locals who usually attend Whitchurch Hill fete at the end of May.

That is before we get to the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations in June. This national event will not pass by uncelebrated.

In between times we have our regular programme of meetings. If the talk by Paul Whittle about China, “Behind the Great Wall”, is anything to go by, we are in for a treat this year.

If you live in our area and want to know more, please call Frances on 0118 984 2162.

Sally Bergmann


PATRICIA SOLOMONS welcomed members to the January meeting and wished everyone a happy new year. We welcomed a new member who was celebrating her birthday this month along with Jenny Gough, Carole Shelley-Allen and Joan Soanes.

We had the world premiere of a talk by speaker Graham Horn on “Anniversaries of 22”, starting with the Romans in the year AD 122 and up to the present day — so much history.

We all enjoyed the talk very much.

We had our new year lunch at The Caversham Golf Club, which was very enjoyable.

It was lovely to see so many members together after the previous two years.

At our meeting in February we will be celebrating our 78th anniversary.

We look forward to being entertained by Keith Harris and his partner with plenty of cakes and goodies to

We hope to be playing skittles in March so watch this space.

The competition for a photograph of the Queen was won by Carole Shelley-Allen, as was the bloom of the month competition. Well done.

We meet at Woodcote village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm. We would love for you to join us, so just come along.

Judy Williams

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