A member's blog
I have been a WI member for over 40 years in various English counties. More than half this time I have spent in Buckinghamshire. I am interested in all crafts, reading and writing and in travel.
I have been a WI member for over 40 years in various English counties. More than half this time I have spent in Buckinghamshire. I am interested in all crafts, reading and writing and in travel.
With two cars packed to the gunwales, three of us set off for the WI Christmas Fayre in Buckingham. There were about 20 stalls in the Centre all crammed with articles of craft, cakes and toiletries and the refreshment tables were laden with gorgeous cakes, the sight of which alone added extra inches to one's waist.The wares were similar but nearly everyone reported a successful day. However, it was the usual pattern where people pay lip-service to homemade or crafted items but then don't want to pay a realistic price for things which have taken hours to make.The members appreciate the opportunity to sell our work like this and it is all good publicity for the WI. The public came in and there was a happy atmosphere in the hall. I imagine quite a few of the workers collapsed with a gin and tonic when they arrived home.
The local WI held its Games Evening tonight at a convenient restaurant/pub in the High Street. It is a while since I have been able to go along and join in, so I had forgotten what fun a game of cards or dominoes can be among friends with a glass of wine to hand. The regulars are treating themselves to a Christmas supper and a bingo session next month.
The Book Group met this afternoon and there were only 3 apologies for non-attendance so once more we only just had enough chairs for everyone to be able to sit down : I swear if we ever all turn up there will be standing room only.We have been reading "The 100 year old Man who climbed out of the window and Disappeared" by Jonas Jonasson. The novel was met with a mixed reception: some readers didn't think it funny, some thought it too long but others had laughed out loud and finished it ready to read another novel by the same author.If you describe the life of a centenarian it gives you the scope to comment on all the political events of the whole 20th century. OK , these events were pretty hair-raising at times for us all to watch or take part in but it is fun to see how ridiculous some of it could be if viewed through the eyes of a non-political and non-religious man. The novel could not be anything except far-fetched but it carried a very real message. If you didn't laugh, you would cry at the worldwide machinations of national philosophies and egos.
The neighbouring WIs met together this evening for a Group Meeting at Stewkley. The speaker or demonstrator was a land and seascape artist Susan Gray. Susan was painting with acryllics and in front of us produced a lovely picture of a Cornish beach. She was able to talk all the time she was applying paint and explain how she achieved the textures and colours and how she was able to rectify things when she thought she had gone wrong. It was fascinating to watch and the display of paintings was wonderful. Some of us are going to try to visit her exhibition in Wendover in the middle of November. We listened to the reports of the 5 WIs' activities in this celebratory year and were very pleased that our Group Convenor, who arranges these two meetings a year, is prepared to stand again. She does a splendid job finding good speakers and arranging group excursions.
The Craft group, rather reduced in numbers, spent a lovely afternoon knitting and sewing together and planning what to do next. We are going to learn how to make some Christmas decorations involving curtain rings and beads and sparkly things. We also sorted out some items for the Christmas Fayre in Buckingham which three of us will endeavour to price and tag one day next week. These will be either given for WI funds or sold but the maker will give 10% to WI funds as agreed at the monthly meeting.
Six members from our WI attended the seminar and workshops arranged by the Education and Current Affairs sub-committee at Cheddington. The title set was Feeding 9 Billion in 2050 which was pretty daunting but we knew that these meetings were always very interesting and there would be informed speakers.Geoff Tansey, a writer and broadcaster working at Bradford and Newcastle Universities, started the day by clearly but at a great speed setting the scene for more world poverty in the future. Geoff pointed out where the power for change was held and the dangers ahead and listed what was required to provide healthy food systems for all. He challenged us to think of what action could be taken by whom and to what end. What levers could the different nations and even the WI use? Who could they approach constructively in order to have some sort of power and control? Climate destabilisation and geo-political shifts and competition for resources all contribute to world poverty. We were heartened to know that there were organisations such as the Food Ethics Council and the Food and Poverty Group working on ideas and publicising their findings in scientific journals and via the media.
Dr Olga Sayanova from the Rothamsted Research Centre talked about her work on designing seeds for nutrition and health. She talked about making fish oil in plants using the land already available for agriculture. Fish oil is an unsustainable resource which is an essential element of a healthy diet. Genetically modified camelinan sativa had been in use for ages with the same results as that naturally produced.To produce 1 kilo of factory farmed salmon it needs 4 kilos of fish oil Olga's answers to questions from the floor were particularly good and she dispelled many of the concerns about genetically modified foods that the audience had held.
After an in-hall picnic lunch, Thelma Sackman arranged everyone into small workshop type groups to see what thoughts the members could come up with and perhaps tease out a resolution to go to the NFWI Annual Meeting next year.The reports back tended to be very similar because the statistic given in the morning session of the vast sums of money spent on advertising and packaging by the global food chains (often more than several national economies possessed) had so shocked the members that it had partially blinded them to the bigger picture.They considered that that money would be better used in helping the poverty stricken parts of the world and on educating our own people about the growth of food and its use---bring back home economics on the school curriculum etc. Geoff Tansey had asked us for ideas to transform food systems with global action and we were thinking too locally. I hope he wasn't disappointed and went away thinking it was what he called "tinkering" with the problem. But the subject is so huge and requires the adoption of vast concepts. It is an even greater problem, involving the whole world as it does, than struggling to cope with population shifts across a few nations.
It was a very interesting and challenging day and the members all learned a great deal. I hope that we can all make a worthwhile contribution by spreading the word whenever we have the opportunity, by shopping responsibly and voicing our concerns with supermarkets and by educating future generations.
After such a brain testing day at Cheddington, it was very pleasant to hear one of our own members talk on the theme of Tales of a Travelling Wife. Some of it was relevant to the poverty topic of the afternoon because Daphne had worked with local charities and hospitals wherever her husband was posted.Twenty shawls which the members have been working on since March were presented to Greg Morris for the Fustula victims in Ethiopia.Items for the Christmas Fayre stall in Buckingham on 31st of October were requested. Notice was given of a meeting to try to form a second WI in the town. Our WI is still living in temporary accommodation which is becoming rather annoying when we have over 60 people squashed into a confined space and then the coffee runs out! Let's hope that 2016 sees us back at the proper venue.
The book group met this afternoon to discuss "And when did you last see your father?" by Blake Morrison. This had proved a difficult biography to tackle and some members didn't enjoy it at all. Mind, considering the theme it wasn't a book one could claim to have enjoyed as it described the death from cancer of a rural Yorkshire doctor who was a bit of an authoritarian type. His son, the author was obviously torn between love and despair in his memories of his father's eccentricities. I don't think the characters were appealing; although there were touches of humour throughout it was a tough read.The descriptions of the countryside and the small town politics were good. I imagine it is a very accurate telling of the doctor's life in the 1960s.
Happy 100th Birthday to the WI! There were comments and articles in several newspapers today. On the evening TV local news there was an account of the Oxfordshire Federation's march with banners through the centre of the city.A few days earlier the annual visit of the Queen to her WI in Norfolk was also covered. Our local WI's exhibit in the town library is of interest to many readers and looks very good. There are still a few events planned for this celebratory year which has definitely been a huge success in publicising the WI nationally and across the world through the ACWW (the Association of Countrywomen of the World).
It was an early start for 44 members of the local WI when they boarded the coach for a celebratory visit to Denman College near Abingdon.We did actually need to allow that amount of time for the journey as the traffic was very heavy around Oxford. This outing had been planned as a special event to celebrate the centenary and also Bucks Federation's 95th birthday. Our WI had voted to use the annual bursary which it awards, towards the cost of a day visit to Denman which would include a cookery demonstration and a tour of the college and an awful lot of food. Each traveller contributed to the cost of the coach hire. We enjoyed a lovely time together and it was especially good that some members had never been before and surprisingly, some had no idea that one could study anything other than cookery. I'm glad to say that several people were encouraged to think of booking a place in the future. The cookery demonstration was excellent and taught us some new recipes and encouraged us to use different ingredients. The members were impressed with the house and the Bucks Federation bedroom and the gardens were looking good even if seen through fine rain.
Some of us were still away on holiday so it was a select craft group that met this afternoon. Several members were struggling on with projects that they had started in the last "term" but others brought along knitting or sewing to keep their hands busy while conversations roamed over travel and family news. We put some thought into what we could feature on a Christmas Fayre stall in Buckingham at the end of October. The craft group did not want to shoulder the complete onus of provision for the stall again so soon after its commitments to the Farmers' Market and the Baton celebrations. So we are going to have a stall which may offer anything--cakes, preserves, crafts and toiletries--so that as many WI members as possible may contribute.Items will be sold on commission or on behalf of the WI. It should work and we will present the idea at the next monthly meeting. We did very well two years ago and it would be very shaming if our WI was not represented at the event.
The local WI met this evening, once more away from its normal base. There was a good turnout to hear the speaker try to separate truth from myth in weather lore: we could have done with some reliable information for the month of August when the town show was a washout and the County Show just recovered from a heavy downpour to welcome visitors wisely in wellington boots.Once more we welcomed a new member and several guests who it is hoped will join later.The vice-president worked hard to obtain volunteers for various activities in the autumn but the audience was not very enthusiastic about anything---post-centenary lagged perhaps.A display has been set up in the library and next month there will be a discussion about the formation of an extra WI for the town. One member has been encouraged by the positive reaction to her plan to form a WI choir and the knitted shawls continue to roll in.
For the Bucks County Show, the local WI had joined others in a competition to construct a display to represent something that had inspired women in the 100 years of the WI movement. Most people had chosen past resolutions and there was plenty of variety in choice. Some of the displays were very imaginative and did the WIs proud. Unfortunately our WI was not among the prizewinners this year but we were pleased to be in the top half of the competition.Exhibits necessitate a lot of planning meetings even if only 4 people are involved. I would be sorry if our WI did not take part and it would be a pity not to have a presence of some kind at the County Show.
The Book group met to discuss Ben MacIntyre's "Agent Zigzag". This was the biography of a famous double agent in World War II.It is amazing to learn that an awful lot of the gung-ho adventures of James Bond are not as far-fetched as we had always thought. There really were people wandering around with multi-use wristwatches and suicide pills in their trouser turnups.These peolpe were playing with the lives of hundreds of members of the public both in Britain, Europe and North Africa. The author wrote with humour and pace but with sources quoted to prove that he had done a vast amount of research. Would the Book Group members have chosen this off a library shelf? No, yet all but one was pleased to have read this account of events that had taken place within most of our lifetimes.
Today I visited Greys Court, near Henley where the Oxfordshire Federation of WIs had set up a very good display about Lady Brunner's part in the WI over many years.Lady Brunner was instrumental in setting up Denman College and was National Chairman for 5 years from 1951.This was her home and it was very fitting to accentuate this link in the WI's centenary year.It's a lovely property to visit even if one isn't interested in the WI connection---wonderful gardens even on a wet day.
Three of our members visited the WI exhibition at the Milton Keynes Museum. One room was devoted to the WI with lots of exhibits and information about the WIs in the North of Bucks. In the refreshment area, there was a very interesting timeline with photos of WI activities fitting in with British social history.This show is one of three set up around the county. I believe our WI will feature in the one staged at Aylesbury in September.Some more of our members are due to visit the MK Museum later in the month.
"The Other Side of the Bridge" by Mary Lawson was our book group's choice for this month. It is a novel set in Canada which paints a wonderful picture of life spent in desolate countryside with extreme temperatures for months on end. It was a study of family relationships, the tensions between father and sons, and brother and brother. Also it pointed out the huge sacrifice of young men which Canada made in the World War II, a fact which is often forgotten. The author pulled no punches in her description of the mental and physical wounds suffered by the men in the forces and their families at home. We had enjoyed "Crow Lake" by the same author about 5 years ago and this one didn't disappoint.
The craft group met this afternoon to learn how to embroider with ribbons. We discussed the results of the stall on the market place and agreed that the craft had generated a lot of interest but it was not the time or place to achieve huge sales: another strategy was needed. There was talk of a summer lunch rather than wait for one in the middle of the Christmas festivities and plans were made for activities when we resume meeting in the autumn.
St Swithins Day and it did rain a tiny bit but not enough to stop the intrepid members of the local WI's "Green Gym" from their weekly walk.They don't go far and manage to replace any calories they might have lost in exercise by a midway coffee stop! It's the thought that counts. A very good promotional article appeared in today's Daily Telegraph from Lucy Worsley who spoke at this Year's AGM at the Albert Hall. Lucy has joined one of the London WIs in admiration of the WI's "subversive" history while playing its part in the establishment. Wasn't Bucks Federation lucky to have her to speak at a meeting in High Wycombe before she became such a regular presence on television programmes?
This afternoon a small group assembled to sew together some of the knitted squares for the fistula victims in Ethiopia. I think we have about 15 shawls completed now but it is hoped we will be able to present several more in September to the representative of the charity who spoke at our March WI meeting. There was a larger attendance in the evening when the Discussion Group gathered to talk about the effect of music in our lives. The topic was enlivened by the hostess possessing an authentic jukebox and loads of records from the 1960s. One could see in action the liberating sensation gained from music as the mood and arms lifted to the songs of Neil Diamond. It would have been feet as well if we had had the space! The music in the world around us is not always appreciated: the background music in shops and in documentaries on TV is not welcome: we could do without the jingles while one waits for a human voice on the telephone too.And oh to be rid of the advertisements on Classic FM! We realised the value of music in breaking through to people in comas and lifting the spirits and jogging memories in the elderly in social care.Every category of music had its champion. Some people work better with the radio on whereas others found they could not push the sound into the background.There was only one Philistine who never switched the radio on except in the car and only one who didn't like Neil Diamond.
The blood donors' van was in town again today. Some members of the WI help to serve drinks to the donors in order to release all the nurses to do more important things. We were told that there has been a recent drop in donors of around 4% because the age of the majority is getting beyond that at which blood may be taken and fewer younger people are coming forward. This is extremely worrying as there is always an urgent need for transfusions. Perhaps the WI should publicise this at the same time as it promotes discussion on organ donation following its mandate in 2014. After all to donate an organ is a once in a lifetime action whereas to donate blood can be a longtime commitment to helping others.A really noble thing to do and even "an armful" as Tony Hancock described it is replaced within hours.
The WI had a wonderful position for its centenary stall at the Farmers' Market today and the square looked resplendent with all the bunting in the shops and up the trees. We sold lots of raffle tickets and some of the items which the Craft Group have been working on during the first part of the year. The idea wasn't fund-raising so much as healthy promotion of the local WI and the WI nationally.There was a display in the adjacent cafe window which many people looked at and commented on so at the end of the day we have probably gained a couple of new members and enthused some of those who have already joined. We smiled a lot, talked a lot and stood a lot so we welcomed the assistance of the WI husbands in actually putting up and taking down the gazebo.We appreciate their help in all our activities and sometimes forget to acknowledge it as much as we should.