Well firstly let me wish you all a very Happy New Year. I do hope you had a lovely Christmas and stayed healthy.

2017 has now truly started and got under full swing this week for me. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great first week in January.

On Tuesday I gave a talk to the local WI in the village hall – WI Frithelstock. I had originally approached them some 12 months ago, thinking, on starting my business, what a good idea it might be. When I was told that the speakers are actually organised some 12 months ahead (how very efficient) I was a little down hearted. However, I was so very glad in the end that I had a full 12 months to prepare!

Firstly, where did last year go, and secondly I had much more to talk to the ladies about, having completed a whole 14 months in business.

The WI

The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then the aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary organisation in the UK. It celebrated its centenary in 2015 and currently has 220,000 members in 6,300 WIs.

For more information about the WI, including becoming a member, go to https://www.thewi.org.uk/ 

The Meeting

I attended the whole meeting, having been invited to, and it was great to see exactly how the WI meetings work. After singing “Jerusalem” (a long held tradition), business was conducted with meeting minutes read, agreed and signed off. Other business then discussed with the group and efficiently dealt with by the Chair.

It was then time for “the speaker” – help – that was me! I must admit, not being used to speaking in public, or to such a large group (there were 20 or so ladies), I initially felt a bit daunted. However, once I got going the ladies were very welcoming and friendly. I made sure there was some interaction with questions which promoted some group chats which was lovely. I then finished with 2 mini facial demonstrations and encouraged the ladies to come up and look at/smell/touch the products I had on display.

Extremely lucky for me I had given the talk in January as it was the only month with food (oh joy!). Hot bowls of homemade soup and crusty bread were quickly and efficiently put on tables and the ladies arranged for the group to all eat together. I must admit I was quite hungry by then and had 3 different soups which were all delicious. A desert trolley (y-e-s) was then wheeled out to reveal many wonderful and again, all home-made desserts. They all looked amazing but my heart belonged to the trifle, yum yum.

So, for me, what a lovely start to the New Year. My thanks to Maureen Poole (Chair) for organising for me to attend, and to all the lovely local ladies for the warm welcome.

The next day this got me thinking about my evening and would I have done something like this a few years ago. Not only, did I do something that took me out of my comfort zone, but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to (some of) my neighbours and local people.

The WI is an amazing institution; some of the ladies have been attending for a very long time (50/60 years). It is traditional, friendly, warm and certainly a supportive network for a rural community.

Sarah Butler went to give a talk to WI Frithelstock

Wishing you much healthy and happiness for 2017.

I hope your start to the New Year has been as a good as mine.

Sarah Butler signature