Programme 2021

All meetings are 7.30pm on Wednesdays.

There will also be a Centenary Celebration this year.

13th January Overland from Alaska to Argentina - (Zoom)

Manuel Queiroz

10th February Sailing Around the World - Part 1 Turkey to Panama (Zoom)

Jackie Oakey

10th March Confessions of a Wine Taster (Zoom)

David Barrie

14th April ORCA - whales, dolphins and porpoises (Zoom)

Anna Bunney

12th May Resolutions Meeting (Zoom)

A Tour of The National Gallery

Zsa Zsa Levack

9th June Life on the Rocks - Lighthouses (Zoom)

Kathryn Kelly

14th July Garden Party

11th August My life as a Micro Artist

Grahame Short

8th September Casualty Simulation in Rescue

Les Wiltshire

13th October Ice Age Ponds

Beth Andrews

10th November Annual Meeting

8th December Christmas Meal

January 2021


Manuel Querioz via Zoom

We were joined on screen by Manuel and his wife Jill for an account of their big adventure undertaken 7 years ago. Over 7 months they drove a VW camper van the 22,000 miles of the Pan-American Highway, from the Arctic coast of Alaska to Ushaia on the southern coast of Tierra del Fuego. The first section took them through Alaska, learning the ropes of camping in spectacular but empty campsites, meeting locals and trying to avoid enormous speeding trucks on the dirt roads. They travelled through vast, glorious landscapes and spotted caribou and bison. Once in Canada they were on the Top of The World Highway through the Yukon, spotting bears in Jasper National Park and learning that Amazon still delivers to these remote places.

Apart from an unpleasant border guard as they crossed into the U.S.A they generally met with kindness and interest from everyone they encountered on the trip. The States offered more grand landscapes, Yellowstone Park (with geysers and bears), Pikes Peak, Monument Valley, the Utah Canyons and the realization that 7 months was not enough!

Despite the appalled reactions of Americans on hearing their plans, they safely drove the 3,000 mile length of Mexico, exploring Mayan history which is still being discovered and finding Manuel’s knowledge of Spanish very useful in emergencies. Through Guatemala and El Salvador they enjoyed camping in hotel grounds or among volcanoes and spent some rare nights in a hotel bed too. Nicaragua was memorable for meeting interesting people, Costa Rica was extremely beautiful with its lush cloud forest and beaches. After Panama and being awed by the vast scale of the canal the van was shipped by container to Columbia as there are no roads though the Darien Gap.

Manuel and Jill flew to meet the van at Cartagena, enjoying a couple of weeks in this vibrant city and the best coffee of the whole trip. Despite the 30kmh speed limit on Colombia’s roads they reached Ecuador and had their highest camp – at 12,000 feet. Next was Peru with its tortuous unfenced mountain roads, large trucks and hairpin bends and roads often destroyed by floods. Tunnels were just rough hewn through sheer rock faces and giddying drops were a feature! A visit to Machu Picchu was a highlight but also notable were all the alpacas, the shanty towns and the hard unmechanized labour they witnessed. They crossed into Bolivia via Lake Titicaca, then more dangerously slippery cobbled roads and the amazing Uyuni salt flats.

The Highway zigzags in and out between Argentina and Chile for many miles with long empty roads and huge landscapes again. Manuel and Jill enjoyed the cosmopolitan Santiago, the Perito Moreno Glacier and the Torres del Paine National Park before finally reaching Ushaia and celebrating a summertime Christmas at the bottom of the world in Tierra del Fuego.

It was then just a relatively short drive of 3,000 miles to Buenos Aires and a flight home after putting the van in a container for shipping. Although the van was broken into they had kept important belongings with them, fortunately including all the glorious photos we enjoyed tonight and which in this lockdowned year have given many members itchy feet.

February 2021


Jackie Oakey

Unfortunately, due to IT problems, Jackie was not able to show us her photos but instead described her adventures in vivid detail. An internet dating site 20 years ago introduced Jackie to her partner, Brian. Both lovers of sailing, they became disillusioned with the security problems of sailing around the eastern Mediterranean and decided to sail to the Caribbean and spend a couple of years there. Jackie studied for her yacht master’s certificate, they prepared the boat, stocked up with 6 weeks worth of provisions and hired a young girl to crew. They set off with 2 cats as well and despite being becalmed for a period they reached St Lucia having seen no other boats for 25 days. They spent some time in the Caribbean, exploring the islands and then sailed to Trinidad to avoid hurricane Ivan. Lack of wind and a broken engine meant that to reach Guyana they had a scary tow from a pilot boat, connecting the boats in pitching seas and darkness and then being pulled through shallow water at top speed. Their adventures continued for some months in Guyana and Venezuela, staying both in luxury resorts or camping during a dugout canoe trip on the Orinoco. They explored the Andes by bus and horse before returning to their boat and eventually decided to go through the Panama Canal, sail cross the Pacific and reach New Zealand. This plan required a few weeks stay in Colon to make arrangements for using the canal and wait for a slot. Pilots travelled with through the canal – they slept on board and Jackie’s main task was to keep them well fed – this meant she didn’t see much of the canal and her final impression of this first leg of their adventure was disappointment that the Pacific was not blue!

March 2021


David Barrie

David first became interested in wine on visits to the off-licence with his father when he bought his weekly beer. In those days alcohol could only be bought in off-licences or pubs and David was fascinated by all the strange bottles and the mystique of it all. He joined Peter Dominic, initially serving in a shop, he was too young to drink but able to sell. The rise of package holidays in the 60s meant more people became interested in wine and the business expanded. David would travel up to The Vintners Hall in London for training and ran candle lit wine tastings in cellars under the Haymarket. As his palate improved and his knowledge grew he became a buyer (including advising restauranteurs on their wine list) and then a broker (advising customers on wine as an investment) and travelling to different wine producing regions. He had all his knowledge filed away in his head to help him recognize and classify wines. The factors to consider for a good wine are grape variety, soil, micro-climate, the skill of the vigneron.

David was eventually promoted to head office in Essex as a quality control taster. Tankers of wine would arrive overnight from France and Germany and need to be tasted and the quality assessed before sterilizing and filling bottles. There were also stills of vodka and gin to taste which would then have botanicals such as juniper or orris added. On top of that there were casks of maturing rum to check – this would be assessed by smelling it on warmed hands so David would not destroy his taste buds. His job also included assessing new drinks from the R&D team. Wine from the bottling lines needed tasting too – in all David might taste 5-700 samples daily.

David taught us about wine as a living thing which grows and matures with age like us! A young white will be pale greeny/yellow and mature to a deeper orange. Young red is black aging to purple and ruby. We learnt the origin of sparkling wine – champagne was first produced by a monk called Dom Perignon in the 17th century. Nowadays prosecco has carbon dioxide pumped in to give it bubbles. Standardised wines such as Piat D’Or or Black Tower are made by blending so that the product remains the same every year. France and Germany’s position as major wine producers has been reduced since the rise of new world wines from Australia, New Zealand and South America in the later years of the 20th century. David told us of his triumph taking part in Beaujolais Nouveau run back to Cheltenham, beating a fog bound plane. He changed career some years ago - after an event where guests may well have drunk 3 bottles of champagne each he thought about the impact on his body and switched to a career in health foods!

April 2021


Anna Bunney

Anna is the head of education for ORCA and in such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable talk told us of her work and that of the charity– a charity that has been surveying cetaceans since 1995 in order to understand their behaviour and habitats, help form government policy and help in their conservation. Many trained volunteers are used to travel on ferries or cruise ships and gather data. Observations can also be land-based and an app is being launched this year to enable us all to become citizen scientists. Data collected by ORCA is freely available to researchers and governments and so far 100s of thousands of animals have been monitored. There are 90 species of cetacean of which one third are found in European waters, sadly many are in danger of extinction but new species are being discovered i.e the beaked whale which lives in extremely deep water. Cetaceans are marine mammals and divide into two groups, teethed or baleen. Whales are baleen feeders in that they have an enormous fringe of keratin fibres along the upper jaw - this is used to filter out the krill after a huge mouthful of water has been collected in. Their tongue pushes out the water and the krill can be digested. They are migratory, covering thousands of miles to find food. Toothed cetaceans are the dolphins and porpoises – they eat more frequently and catch large prey using echo-location to find shoals and to communicate. The blue whale is the largest creature that has ever existed, the largest dolphin is the orca or killer whale. 30 species can be seen in UK waters, for example harbour porpoises, bottle nose dolphins and orcas off the west coast of Scotland. Cetaceans are under many threats – they can be a bycatch of fishing boats, victims of overfishing, whaling is still carried out illegally by Iceland, Norway and japan. There is habitat destruction, pollution from noise, chemicals, climate change threatens their existence and they can suffer disturbance from ship strike or jet skis. We can all help the vital work of this charity by donations, becoming a trained surveyor or by spreading the word about the important aims of ORCA.

May 2021


Zaza Levack

As you walk through The National Gallery the paintings are hung chronologically, showing the development of western art from the 13th to the 20th century. From the 15th century onwards it is possible to see that mythology is a very dominant theme. Zaza showed us how Greek and Roman myths were used and adapted in paintings. The drama and excitement and sensuality of these paintings ensure their continuing popularity.

Morality – Early mythological paintings were used to illustrate a moral point and were often used to decorate domestic furniture given as wedding gifts (castoni). A picture by Piero di Cosimi of a satyr mourning a nymph accidentally killed by her husband carries a message to wives not to meddle. Many details in these paintings carry great symbolism – dogs for loyalty, swans for purity, pearls for chastity. The flowers depicted would also be chosen for their symbolic message.

Nudes – Later mythology was used as an excuse to lend respectability to scandalous portraits of nudes. For example ‘Venus and Cupid’ by Cranach the Elder. Venus brazenly looks the viewer in the eye. She depicts temptation before the fall – imagery of apples, stag for regeneration and donkey for perserverance. This would probably have been hung behind the patron’s curtain for discreet viewing. By the time Velasquez painted ‘The Toilet of Venus’ moral imagery has been abandoned – it’s just a nude for the king of Spain! Cupid is included to convince us this is Venus, Political themes – Rubens was an ambassador and diplomat as well as an artist - he would carry messages between rulers and use mythology in his art to make political points. In ‘Minerva Protects Pax from Mars’, Minerva the Goddess of Wisdom is depicted protecting Peace from Mars the God of War. The satyr and leopard are shown as being tamed by peace.

Portraiture – In a 1691 painting by Mignard, the Marquise de Seignelay is shown dressed as Thetis who had been raped and forced to marry a naval minister. Thetis was mother of Achilles and so the Marquise’s son is shown in the painting dressed as Achilles. Stories and characters would be adapted to suit and flatter the patron.

Mythology is still relevant in our culture – enduring in the popularity of horoscopes, our language (days of the week and months) and in our use of mythological references as metaphors, Nemesis, Echo, Herculean tasks, beware Greeks bearing gifts, Trojan horse etc. Advertising and brand names borrow from mythology - Hermes, Interflora, Nike. We send Apollo rockets into space and popular songs are also influenced – Aphrodite by Kylie Minogue or Venus in Blue Jeans.

June 2021


Kathryn Kelly

From her home in Devon Kathryn gave a fascinating account of her family history. On her father’s side both parents came from lighthouse keeping families. Her grandmother was born at Burnham on Sea where the lighthouse was a stilted wooden structure. Her grandfather came from the Isle of Man, born of a long line of keepers on the Irish and Scottish coasts. They married in 1912 and moved to Penzance as her grandfather was posted to the remote and dangerous Wolf Rock Lighthouse (so named because the wind whistling through the stone work sounded like a wolf howling).

Life on the rock was treacherous – storms meant that keepers could not always be safely relieved and food supplies would run short. There were always 3 keepers on duty at a time, in case one went mad or became ill and to allow rotating watches. They worked hard with very little sleep. All keepers were required to have a trade so they could carry out repairs. Based on Guernsey during WW1 her grandmother became so proficient at semaphore that she was engaged to teach the home guard. Sinister ghostly events were often associated with lighthouses – such as the mystery of 3 men who disappeared without trace from a Hebridean lighthouse and tales of a ghost haunting South Stack lighthouse.

Kathryn’s father was born in St Catherine’s lighthouse on the Isle of Wight and remembers a happy childhood there. Kathryn managed to take him back for his 80th birthday. This lighthouse was initially founded by a Pope in the 14th century and was eventually rebuilt by the Victorians in 1838. Her grandfather finished his career at Dover Castle and retired to Torquay in 1936. We were shown a collection of family photos and memorabilia which had made up part of a recent exhibition in Falmouth recreating life on the lighthouses.

Lighthouses are now all automated and operated remotely, the last one was decommisioned in the 1990s, although visits are still necessary for maintenance. Trinity House which is still responsible for lighthouses was founded by Henry 8th in 1514. It is considered a very prestigious institution, predating the Royal Navy, and still serves the nation today, providing almshouses and education services.

July 2021


On one of the most beautiful evenings of the year we were finally able to meet again in person at our Garden Party. Catherine and Robert Knight's garden looked lovely in the sun with the old red bricks of the house giving a gorgeous backdrop. Members queued in a covid sort of way to go inside and select fabulous finger food from the buffet. Most ladies enjoyed a glass of prosecco as we toasted the fact of being together again. After a few short notices we ate and chatted and wandered round the pretty and colourful garden. It was a perfect way to restart WI life and end all the social restrictions.

August 2021


Graham Short

In an amusing and at times incredible talk Graham described his early career as an engraver in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. From setting mousetraps at the start of his apprenticeship he eventually qualified and then worked as a self employed engraver producing invitations and stationery for prestigious businesses and even the Royal Family. He credits an inspiring school teacher for encouraging him to think differently and even dress differently (Graham was resplendent in brocade jacket and shiny winklepickers). In the 1970s he began inscribing miniatures, initially The Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin. In a long association with Buckingham Palace, for whom he produces invitations, he has met Prince Edward and Princess Anne (very different manners from both of them!) and been teased as to the Queen Mother’s toilet habits.

Graham has gold pins produced specially for his craft, the soft metal is easy to engrave. To avoid traffic vibrations he works from midnight to 5 am, takes beta blockers and potassium to slow his heart rate and is a keen swimmer to also keep his beats slow and strong. He has botox injections in his eyelids to prevent any movement from muscles and nerves while he works. Among his work he has engraved a Shakespearean quote on a paperclip which was bought by Ronnie Corbett, engraved ‘nothing is impossible’ on the edge of a razor blade, engraved on a pen nib for Stephen Fry and put an Islamic prayer on a piece of gold in the eye of a needle. He was responsible for the £5 note stunt a few years ago – 4 notes were engraved with a portrait of Jane Austen and put into circulation with much publicity. One was eventually auctioned for Children in Need. An encounter at the strange home of Uri Geller led to Graham producing work which was sent for display in Israel. Graham has collaborated with Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to produce a poem about cancer on a tablet to highlight research into drug based cancer therapies. He continues to work and give talks and is still waiting for Simon Rattle to send him a quote he can use!

September 2021


Ann Adams

Casualties Union is a charity founded in 1942 by Eric Claxton after he perceived a need for training in the rescue of casualties following bombing raids, so casualties were not further injured during their rescue. It now provides volunteers who act as casualties and patients for the medical profession, emergency services and those teaching first aid.

In an illuminating and interesting talk Ann explained about their work and her different experiences. Before the 2012 Olympics The Health Protection Agency set up training scenarios, for example a chemical attack in a Birmingham conference centre to observe how the public would react and to train the rescuers. Volunteers would be given different instructions in order to feign symptoms and injuries. Ann has worked with the Railway Police to set up a staged train collision with fireworks and acting casualties in order to educate children in the dangers of playing on train tracks or vandalizing equipment.

An important aspect of the work is in providing scenarios for doctors undertaking ATLS (Advanced trauma life support). Volunteers are made up as patients, instructed how to act in order to test doctors skills in decision making and interventions. Anne has worked with many local hospital trusts. The local group has also done much work at The Fire Service College in Moreton-in-Marsh. The college has facilities for all aspects of training, a section of motorway, railway tracks and a level crossing, cars, planes, helicopters, ships and oilrigs and collapsed buildings. The Casualties Union provides volunteers for many rescue scenarios there and Ann has spent many hours upside down in a car in a ditch.

We were fascinated to hear about all the different aspects of the work of this charity – they are used to train rescue dogs – who are taught to bark just once for each casualty so rescuers know how many people might be in a collapsed building. They also provided images to feature in a very successful poster campaign aimed at reducing aggression towards staff in a midlands hospital. Using convincing makeup volunteers were featured on the posters with black eyes and bruising. In addition to injuries, volunteers can demonstrate medical conditions, for example a diabetic coma, epilepsy or asthma.

Ann showed us how she fakes injuries, playdough can be used for wounds and swellings, plastic glass mimics shards of glass, stage makeup is used for bruises or pallor. For longer lasting injuries silicon is used and peel off facemasks with colouring added makes a very convincing burn. Ann even keeps bones from restaurant meals for fake open fractures and apparently egg shells are good for an exposed skull fracture. Coloured pudding rice makes great gravel!

October 2021


Beth Andrews

What a fascinating talk this was! Whoever would have known that Ice Age ponds or kettle holes could be not only interesting, but also so informative, whether it be how the depth of peat in an Ice Age pond could tell you the age of it, or the pollen found in the peat could tell you what the environment was – which trees, plants, etc, lived there, such as thread leaved water crowfoot, some sedges, bladderwort, tubular water dropwort, to name but a few. Not only that, but if there were leeches in it, then they [or at least their ancestors] must have been in there since the Ice Age. Medicinal leeches are very rare and have been collected almost to extinction [British and European are different species].

Beth started by showing us a map of Hereford with the location of the Ice Age glacier which covered Hereford and explained that, as the ice melted, many lakes or ponds were left in the depressions - some are now just depressions with no sign of water on top – but there is still a lot to tell beneath them! In order to be a pond they must have water in them for at least three months of the year – otherwise they are potholes! Moccas Park in Herefordshire was carved out by a glacier and there has been little change for fifteen thousand years! Unfortunately some lakes have been deliberately drained in the second half of the twentieth century in order to make use of the land for other purposes.

In Shropshire seven mammoths were found in Ice Age ponds. There is a museum in Craven Arms. Sadly, there are no kettle holes in Worcestershire, but there are some not too far away at Croft Castle; Birches Farm; The Sturt to name but a few. There was much of interest to take in but everyone agreed that it was a most interesting and rewarding evening, as could be judged by the number of people who went to talk to the speaker after the talk.

10th November


Sadly President Lynne had to self isolate so joined us from her home via a zoom link. The President's, Committee's and Treasurer's reports were presented and accepted. Lynne Whitaker was happily voted in as President for another year and the Committee has stayed the same. Voting then took place of the entries in the very first Kay Ballard Trophy. The competition this year was to design a centenary logo to be used throughout the year. The winner was Wendy Congrave and she is seen accepting a beautiful fused glass trophy from Tracy Robinson-Ballard (Kay's daughter-in-law) and Lesley Willetts who had created the trophy. Rose Moule has now stepped down as treasurer after many years of hard work - she was presented with a gift voucher and a beautiful bouquet. Jan Hogan had prepared a wooden cross and poppy for Remembrance Day. Members were invited to add their own crosses and along with Sheena's scarlet floral arrangement it will be displayed in St Mary's Church on Remembrance Day. Co-incidentally 2021 is also the centenary of The British Legion and their Poppy day. The evening was rounded off with a lovely social time!

8th December

Christmas Meal

This year's Christmas Meal was held at The Crown and Sandys in Ombersley and was once again a great social event. Members enjoyed a fabulous meal and as it was a special centenary Christmas enjoyed some entertainment. Sheena treated us to a reading from 'Cider With Rosie' and everyone enjoyed the beautiful singing of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' by Helen Willis. One round of Australian Bingo raised money for Crisis at Christmas. Caroline presented Lynne with a bouquet on behalf of the members to thank her for all her hard work keeping Abberley WI going and keeping members together during the last difficult years.