Audlem WI February Meeting

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One of my many ways of idly passing retirement is to leaf through my WI Life magazine, counting the number of adverts as opposed to useful articles in my quest to challenge the need for a glossy magazine whilst annual WI subs are escalating.

However this month I was stopped in my tracks by the advert on page 71!

As you all know I have led a sheltered life, mainly shackled to the kitchen sink, so investigation was necessary — what the heck was a 'PicoBong Zizo? Why did it need a discreet plain brown wrapper? How did it encourage better sleep? Why is it waterproof?

So ladies, in the interests of science I have sent off for one, in an advisory capacity of course, and will be reporting on usage and functionality at our next meeting..............if it's not up to expected WI standards it's going back and I shall claim a refund!

Gardening Theme

Our February meeting heralded a gardening theme. I know that one day I shall burst my bud of calm and blossom into hysteria however let's face it, gardening is the best fun you can have with your underwear still on ( although remember, I am still awaiting my PicoBong Zizo ) as most avid gardeners spend all day in their beds, knowing where the best dirt can be dug up and never grow old as they just go to pot and are placed on the mantlepiece!

Gardeners also share the best gossip — after all where else would you find Iris and Violet in the same bed as that Sweet William — and gardening can come in quite handy when you need to bury the bodies!

I've also discovered when weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily you can guarantee it is a valuable plant. After all a weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill known to man, except for learning how to grow in a row!

Sadly this month our President Christine was unable to be with us, so unfortunately for the rest of our members, I stepped into the breach.

We were delighted to welcome two new members and three guests, our band of merry ladies continues to grow although we haven't come across Robin yet.

Guest Speaker

Our speaker, Phil Smith from Wollerton Old Hall Garden, arrived early and gamely sat at the back of the hall whilst WI business was discussed.

Now I know we are classy, sassy and a bit smart-assy, and some of us are a little overweight due to the fact that a tiny body couldn't store all of our big personalities, but here was a man who recognised quality when he saw it and knew that if you see women that have everything going for themselves and you're not ready to add value to their lives then you should just admire them from afar and don't interrupt their greatness!

This month we dedicated our singing of Jerusalem to a much beloved and hugely talented member who had recently passed away — Maggie Phillips. She will be sorely missed.

After our rousing rendition, Phil was released from his assigned chair next to Daphne, who was keeping him under control, and informed us that of all the WI's he had attended, we had by far the best singers, and the young lady ( June Perry ) who played the piano was superb!

I think we'll invite him again!

I now introduced Phil who was far too young to be a Head Gardener as he prepared his slides ready for his talk on 'A Year in the Garden.'

Phil is a passionate horticulturalist with previous positions at Ragley Hall and Winterbourne House. Wollerton Hall Garden has been designed and developed by Lesley and John Jenkins.

It is set around a 16th Century Hall House and has developed into an important modern garden in the English Garden tradition with echoes of Arts and Crafts.

Lesley Jenkins, an artist herself, had been born at Wollerton Hall and she and her husband John repurchased the house with it's four acres in 1984 where she discovered that the age of the site demanded formality in the garden design and so she created three north-south and three east-west vistas.

The resulting linearity of these vistas together with the hedges, walls and paths have created a number of separate gardens, with each one having its own style and ethos.

The planting style is best described as controlled exuberance with a definite emphasis upon perennials. Colour, form and scale are all important and there is much in the garden for the plant enthusiast as the garden is bursting with design ideas. The range of the plants is very wide resulting in significant collections of clematis, salvias, phlox and roses.

Phil is studying for his Masters in Horticulture and is then hoping to become a landscape designer, as even at his tender years, his knees and back are becoming troublesome with all of the hours he spends lifting, carrying and digging.

Phil stated that his is not the best paid job, but who can take away the joy of working in a beautiful garden with the ever changing seasons, watching the early morning mists rise as the sun appears, a blanket of multi coloured leaves on the ground and a carpet of yellow crocuses peaking through?

At the end of his talk, Phil was surrounded by several members ready to pick his brains on a number of horticultural problems and he was more than willing to pass on his knowledgable information and useful tips.

There are certain things in which mediocrity is not to be endured, such as poetry, music, painting and public speaking. Phil is a prime example of a speaker who is convincing because he cares about his topic and speaks from the heart and we all came away better informed and ready to attack our own little patches with renewed vigour!

Once again our members did us proud with another amazing display of cakes and sandwiches on the tea table. Phil tucked in, mumbling through mouthfuls that he usually only gets pink wafer biscuits, so there you are ladies, Helen Dunlop, Margaret Bailey and Val Butler, another man falling at your feet!

I particularly wallowed in the joy of being served tea in a teapot with fine china cups and a plate full of yummy cakes. A suitable reward for stepping into the President's shoes on a temporary basis!

Phil judged this month's competition — a picture of a garden. Val Butler came first with a picture of Sizergh Castle in Cumbria, he particularly liked the reflection of the castle in the lake. Anne Watson was second and Jackie Creber was third.

The raffle was drawn and Brenda Heathcock was our birthday lady of the month and received a beautiful pot of flowers — thank you Jackie Creber for your sterling attempts at multi tasking, juggling both the secretary and birthday flower jobs so successfully.

Before I finish remember, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

See you all next month.