British Sign Language

We celebrated Deaf Awareness Week with a wonderful presentation entitled ‘Love and Trust’ by Sian Cooley (president of Teddington WI) who inspired us by describing her years as a teacher of the deaf in Wandsworth schools. She talked about the challenges facing the deaf community, but also told us about many students she had worked with who had gone on to fulfilling careers in teaching, the law, and the aviation industry. She described the many ways of communicating with deaf people, including British Sign Language (BSL) and told us that every country had its own sign language, so learning BSL was equivalent to learning a whole new language. Sian’s presentation included a few short videos with top tips for communicating with the deaf. We were then encouraged to learn how to finger-spell the BSL alphabet and within a short time we were all spelling out our names! The evening finished with a rendition of ‘Lean on Me’, with everyone joining in using our new found BSL skills!”

Belly Dancing – 10 April 2024

We were all a bit daunted by the idea of having a go at belly dancing, but we needn’t have worried! Sandrine told us all about the history of belly dancing which has its roots in many cultures and then she gave us a wonderful display of how it is done. The brave ones amongst us then dressed up in the sparkly belts and bras that Sandrine had brought along and then, under her expert tuition were soon shimmying and belly dancing like pros! The rest of us looked on in awe. A thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all with lots of laughs and giggles along the way!


Wow! What an amazing evening! Monika Butling-Smith gave a fascinating presentation on her experiences as a mudlarker on the Thames and showed us a wide range of her finds. She explained how all mudlarkers require a permit from the Port of London Authority and whilst there were thousands with a standard permit, she was one of only fifty members of the Society of Thames Mudlarkers. She also described how she preserved and restored her finds as, even though they had been protected by the mud for centuries, once they were out of the water they quickly rusted or disintegrated. We were able to handle some of the finds, and there were audible gasps when some objects that were hundreds of years old were passed around, and Monika brought them to life with her wonderful descriptions. There was also a local angle when she showed us some of her finds from the Welsh Harp reservoir when it had been drained recently and she had been among a number of mudlarkers invited to see what emerged from the mud, including a camera from the beginning of last century that she had carefully restored.


What a wonderful evening we all had! Nidhi gave us a fascinating talk about the history of saris and showed us a fine array of her own collection, most of which had been passed down by her mother and each one telling its own story. She answered a wide variety of questions before she and her sister helped us all to learn how to drape and wear a sari. Even those who were reluctant at first joined in and we were soon transformed into a stunning and colourful display, with lots of smiles and laughter thrown in!

Games night & WI resolutions – 10 January 2024

We had another great turnout for our January meeting at St Anne’s, when we enjoyed a selection of board and card games and discussed the four resolutions shortlisted for this year’s NFWI campaign. There was lots of lively chat and discussion and at the end of the evening everyone voted on their preferred resolution. A record seven members had a birthday in January, with both Frances and Penny celebrating a significant birthday (ending in ‘0’!) – many thanks to Michelle who made one of her spectacular cakes which was enjoyed by all.

Party time – 13 December 2023

We all had a wonderful time at our Christmas party, brilliantly hosted by Frances again. Members brought a wide variety of delicious food and the wine flowed! We enjoyed three rounds of the ‘True or False’ game during which we learned useful facts, such as Russia’s surface area being larger than Pluto’s! There was also a secret Santa and a competition for the best decorated scarf (won by Rebecca), expertly judged by Mimi and Shirley. Thanks again to Frances for letting us invade your lovely home!


Another great turnout for our November meeting – we started with the Annual Meeting at which reports from the President and Treasurer were received as well as the re-election (by acclaim) of Caroline as our President for the coming year. The Committee were also re-elected. Then on to the fun part of the meeting with an excellent quiz – many thanks to Denise for being our quizmaster and congratulations to the winning team!

Line Dancing – 11 October 2023

Another great turnout for our monthly meeting – this time we all had a go at line dancing. Angie and Maureen did a wonderful job of teaching us some basic moves and by the end of the evening we were all tapping our heels and toes and thoroughly enjoying ourselves! Whether we were all in time and in step is another matter!

Making Seed Bombs – 13 September 2023

We had a record turnout for our September meeting when Caroline showed us how to make seed bombs out of her surplus tissue paper. Everyone got stuck in and the volume of chat around the hall steadily grew! With some having more success than others, a large variety of seed bombs were made. Look out around the verges of North West London to spot where the seeds eventually end up! Many thanks to Caroline for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

New Ground Housing – 9 August 2023

We were delighted to welcome Hilary to St Anne’s to hear all about New Ground Housing – an inspirational housing project in Barnet for women over 50. Hilary told us all about the many hurdles that she and other members of OWCH (Older Women’s Co-Housing) had to overcome to fulfil their dream of creating a community for women where they could live independently, but at the same time reap the benefits of living alongside each other and enjoying the company of friendly, supportive neighbours. After many years of setbacks, OWCH managed to secure a site in Barnet for their new purpose built block of 25 flats, finally moving in in 2016. After describing all the many benefits of co-housing and talking through photos of the site, Hilary answered a wide range of questions. Members were encouraged to look at the short film about New Ground on their website (unfortunately we were defeated by the technology on the night!).