The local WI discussion group met this evening and started by laying down domestic guidelines on limiting the numbers attending a meeting in the most democratic way and by tightening up the conduct of the sessions themselves. I hasten to add that there has been no complaints but it is extremely difficult to control a large number of people who all want to take part in the discussion and to be able to physically seat them all in a private house. To hire a hall would destroy the atmosphere of the meetings which has always been informal and friendly so far.
That done, the members set about the topic of Explorers or Exploration. We wanted to try to separate exploration from conquest which is very difficult.Is it all "To go where no man has ever gone before"? A time-line was established from the Chinese, through the Age of Discovery in Europe to the modern Space Age. Some members had researched an individual explorer eg Mary Kingsley, Charles Darwin, Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Cousteau; others had found out the areas which were as yet unexplored eg Greenland, deep sea trenches and crystal caves in Mexico and of course, other universes beyond our own.It was interesting to talk about the reasons behind exploration apart from empire-building, such as research for medical science in the Amazonian rainforest. Should the exploration of what an individual is capable of be disqualified? What about these amputees who set off across the Antarctic: does that count?
The WI makes the headlines yet again this year.Historic England has listed the West Sussex pub in Charlton where the first WI meeting was held and Denman College (which was already designated Grade II) and Balcombe Place in Sussex where Lady Denman lived. These sites are all going to be preserved because of their part in WI history.On the same day there appeared a write-up of the Bee Summit,a conference organised by the Friends of the Earth and the WI which is now part of the Government's National Pollinator Strategy campaign.So who says our resolutions don't achieve anything? It takes time but eventually they are noticed and acted upon.Also this month the Annual General Meeting in the Albert Hall is featured on the cover of the ACWW magazine "The Countrywoman" and there is a full account of it inside.There is also a photo of our Bucks ACWW representatives at the garden party at Waddesdon.
Our monthly meeting was for the last time held away from our proper meeting place. Thank Goodness in December we will be back with ample space for seating and display tables which we can reach without climbing over each other. The new facilities at the school sound wonderful and I am sure will prove worth the wait.This was our Annual Meeting so we thanked our retiring President who has done a marvellous job despite personal problems and the nomadic year.We are in safe hands with our new President. We are financially secure and feel we have done our bit in the celebratory year both locally and as a part of the county federation. It was good to hear that the exploratory meeting to form a new WI in the town had been well attended and it is hoped that the new year will see another WI established which will be a daytime one. The stall at the Buckingham Fayre had realised about £200. This had been a combined effort by those actually selling and the members who had given items very generously for the stall.The 20 shawls for the fistula victims in Ethiopia which the members had made were on their way. On the TV news when I got home there were shots of the drought in Ethiopia and Senegal and I couldn't but think how much more worthwhile it would be if we could send money and expertise out to these afflicted countries to set up desalination plants perhaps rather than knit shawls however welcome those may be.We did what we could locally in our small way but could the WI nationally do something on a larger scale? How about sending all the crooked bankers and football associations to the ATMs to cash their ill-gotten gains, to put it in their pockets and force them out to disaster areas to actually use that money to solve a few practical problems? Sorry---I've strayed outside the box...
The craft group met to make baubles based on curtain rings and glittery threads. All very fiddly but simple to make, so we were able to chatter away quite happily. Next time we are to continue the Christmas theme by constructing hanging bells in different sizes in fabric and cardboard.If it goes according to plan we will end up with the best dressed trees in Bucks.