Christmas meal and Wreath-making with the WI

Getting a bit WI-crazy Christmassy here.  Battleaxe has been very busy, so this is quite a quick post.
On Tuesday this week we had a Christmas outing to the Fairlight Lodge Hotel, on Thursday it was Book Group, Saturday afternoon I went to a wreath-making workshop, tomorrow we have a Christmas Coffee Morning – crikey.
   The Fairlight Lodge Hotel is a funny, quirky, somewhat tumbledown old place just out of town along the Fairlight Road. It has had a long history, being once the home of the Martineau family, and most notably, Robert Martineau, the nineteenth century artist and associate of Holman Hunt.  Hunt, Millais and Edward Lear stayed at the Lodge before and after they stayed at Clive Vale Farm, where our house now stands.
    Martineau’s most famous painting is ‘The Last Day in the Old Home’, now in Tate Britain. According to the hotel website, the room pictured is now the hotel bar, but the scene is more likely to be the Ashford home of the bloke who was the model for the man in the picture.

Martineau – The Last Day in the Old Home

     Anyway, last Tuesday sixty-one women (plus three men) descended on the hotel for our annual WI Christmas meal. The venue is very cozy, the food was fine, and the staff looked after us well.
     We couldn’t afford to go out like that every year – the total bill came to almost £1000, despite paring the budget to the bone.
     One problem, the family who keep the place (who, incidentally, come from Walsall) hardly ever answer the phone. I had a real panic a few weeks ago because I could get no response out of them, searched the internet and came across a Facebook page which said the place had closed down! Turned out it was another Fairlight Lodge somewhere else…..
     The three men are threequarters of local shanty singing group the RX Shantymen, one of whom is Tom Kelly, husband of WI Jan. Very bravely, the men sang us some specially adapted shanties – we all joined in very robustly.
     Our behaviour was actually not bad – we only knocked the Christmas tree over once, and then derailed the little Christmas train in the bar…..
     The wreath workshop was good – about twenty of us journeyed out to the Village Hall at Three Oaks, where a mountain of greenery was waiting for us. We were taught what to do by Heather Goodsell, a very funny, talented woman who has been to do two talks for us at the WI.
     All of us managed to produce beautiful wreaths by the end of the afternoon, despite much gossiping, drinking tea, eating cake and speculating who will be in the Strictly final. My wreath is hanging downstairs now, by the front door.  Battleaxe was pleased with her efforts – as you know, crafty making of things is not something I go in for that often. It was actually quite easy to do – a bit prickly and hard on the fingers though.

Mass of greenery
Some of the finished products.

     We’ve got all our Christmas decorations up now, including the faithful Singing Santas from Birmingham. Down here, they tend to get activated by wind, badgers etc., so, sadly, they are switched off most of the time.

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