An exhausting WI week…. Meetings, Fair, Women going Wild!

OMG what a week. Am absolutely knackered – and all with WI stuff. Believe me, readers, it is not always like this.  Monday was East Sussex Board of Trustees. Tuesday our own committee meeting. Wednesday the East Sussex Annual Meeting in Eastbourne, Thursday the WI Fair at Alexandra Palace, Friday, editing the monthly WI News, Saturday, stomping round a camp site in Ashdown Forest.

Yes, it is a camping field – soon to be full of women?

   To crown all this, we have the first tiny bit of trouble in our Hastings Ore WI. Think resigning Treasurers. Nothing we are not getting over but very energy-sapping.
    So, I have mentioned that as well as being President of Hastings Ore, Battleaxe is a member of the East Sussex WI Federation Board of Trustees.  It is interesting. The WI, as a whole, is changing. The ‘traditional’ old-established, smaller, usually rural groups are starting to disappear as the members age, and we have an increasing number of much larger groups of younger women who are more political, less into traditional WI thinking patterns about royalty etc, very social media/internet savvy and have a very different outlook.
    Anyway, to cut a long story short, at our Trustees’ meeting we elected the Officers for the coming year, and Battleaxe is now Second Vice-Chair. Yes, the title does sound more honorary, less about work, but….. at the Annual Meeting the current Second V-C was up on the platform having to look pleasant and interested the whole time in full view of the masses. No yawning or sniggering allowed. Worse, she read out the incredibly long list of prize winners, long service ladies, newcomers etc as they filed onto the platform. Now, don’t get me wrong, Battleaxe is well-used to public speaking, but I do struggle to maintain the necessary gravitas. How much do you bet me that next year’s list will include Artemesia Cholmondeley-Chetwynde, Aiobheann O’Ceileachaigh, Graznya Bogurslaw, Seung-Ok Ng and Dikeladi Kunto just for starters?
    The Annual Meeting is held at the Eastbourne Winter Gardens and is attended by about 600 women. I wrote about it last year.

Women, women everywhere….

    This year our guest speakers were a good mix. Bill Shelford, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, had Royal fairy dust drifting round his head, and those so inclined could bask in the vicarious presence of Her Majesty. Then, after lunch, Ruth Goodman, the TV historian. Now, here’s a thing. She arrived late and told us she was feeling terrible – had a bug and had nearly lost her voice. She looked white as a sheet. We were really worried, but when she stood up she pulled a second wind from somewhere and sounded flawless…. that’s real professionalism for you. She was quite funny and earthy – probably shocked some of the older ladies by talking about Bollocks….. I don’t normally like her that much on telly but she did well.  I like her 50s skirt, too.


Ruth Goodman

    Thursday, we had a day out at the WI fair at Alexandra Palace. A load of us went up on a coach. Traffic was terrible going up, and we arrived later than planned. It didn’t matter though, because after several  hours walking round we were all sitting happily in the sun, ready to come home again.

Sitting in the sun…


Great views….

    We had a good day, and enjoyed ourselves, but I don’t think National WI got the best they could from the event. It was too much retail trade fair and too little that interested us. Here’s a link to another blog post about the Fair – says what I want to say much better.

Very much a retail fair….

    There was much jewellery and many clothes, too many of which were expensive and too alike – voluminous floral/linen tent tunic thingies for the larger lady. I tried on some linen trousers and could scarcely prise the eager hands of the male stall attendant off my buttocks. He must have had a fancy for older women. We sampled loads of food and drink – gin and cheese seemed particularly popular.
    Alexandra Palace holds special resonance for me because I went there often with my parents – my mother organised dog shows. I used to sneak round the bits of the building that were hidden from the public, the basement, the area behind the organ in the Great Hall (destroyed by fire in the 80s) and the amazing theatre. Here is a picture of it now, still closed off and even more dilapidated.

Alexandra Palace theatre – photo from the internet.

    I had my first ever kiss in the gardens… Barry Adler, where are you now?  He was the son of a visiting American dog judge – a real New Yoick Jewish boy with curly black hair and big black spectacles. I never saw him again….. 
    My Dad watched the 1966 World Cup final in the TV studios – my mother burst into the middle of it, furiously screeching ‘Jim? Jim? where are you?’ It was lucky she was not broadcast around the nation….
    Friday, I was slaving over a hot computer. I’ve taken over the editorship of the monthly East  Sussex WI News. In the ideal world, it would be on-line, but many of
the women still prefer/need a paper publication, and we have to keep
producing/selling enough to keep the printed version going for the
foreseeable future. It sounds a big thing, but it is a good job for me, living in Hastings – less travel required.  I hope to modernise it/jazz it up a
bit – here it is as of now. Oh look, is that loo protesters I see on the cover?

   Saturday, off to the Blacklands Farm Girl Guide camping ground in Ashdown Forest. We are planning to organise a ‘Women Go Wild’ camping event there in June 2018. These camping things are currently dead popular with the younger WI contingent – yoga at sunrise, drumming etc. More about that later.

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