Monday, 14 March 2011

Jerusalem - without the jam!

There have been some changes in my life recently and, surprisingly, one of the smallest has had the biggest impact. My son, and youngest child, has started walking to and from school on his own. This leap of independence in his life has had a surprising effect on mine. I didn’t appreciate how much I relied on the school run to meet and interact with other parents. As I predominantly work from home, playground conversation provided a link to the outside world.

Realising that action needed to be taken before I started talking to the walls, I looked for new ways of meeting other like-minded individuals. Having heard rave reviews about a new branch of the WI, I was intrigued to find out how this well established (some might say old fashioned) organisation could work for a modern generation of women.

So on a cold Thursday evening, I took the first steps towards my brave new life and walked into a room full (and I kid you not, there were well over a hundred people) of women I had never met. I expected to spot maybe one or two familiar faces in the crowd, but quickly realised that I was on my own. Rather than crying into my glass of wine (yes, wine was on offer as well as tea!) I sought out the nearest friendly face and struck up a conversation. The experience was incredibly liberating.

Having just been to see Calendar Girls the stage show, images of flower arranging and jam making were fresh in mind (taking their clothes off aside). And my first experience of the WI was both exactly like this and yet completely opposite. Sarah Mills, the resourceful and engaging founder of this new branch of the WI ( has done a truly marvellous job of fusing tradition with modernity.

I must admit that as everyone stood up to sing Jerusalem, I experienced a moment of panic, with scenes from the iconic show still uppermost in my thoughts. I fully expected someone to start lecturing on the merits of purple sprouting broccoli. Fortunately there was none of that.

What I found was a group of women of all ages and from different walks of life chatting happily with one another, everyone from grandmothers to young singletons. It was lovely to see different generations interacting and it was impossible not to be drawn in and make friends. The established members went out of their way to make myself and the other newbies welcome. 

With a range of activities on offer to suit all tastes from knitting to photography, there is something for everyone. And so far no one has even mentioned jam.

Would I recommend the WI to other women? Most definitely yes. What I experienced was women at their best, being themselves, away from the responsibilities of family and working life, supporting good causes and, equally importantly, one another.

And just to ensure that I don’t completely forget the true ethos of the WI, you will be pleased to learn that I have just signed up to bake a batch of cakes for the upcoming humble jumble.

1 comment:

  1. Hehe, good to see the WI is still going strong! My MIL lectured at our local branch a few weeks ago (sewing!) and said she was surprised at how many members there were. Fantastic, perhaps the 'ol WI is undergoing a quiet revolution!