2010 summary

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2010 has seen a wide variety of speakers and subjects, often topical and always fascinating. There is so much hidden knowledge out there – it’s discovering what we don’t know about and then finding someone who could come and enlighten us!

We started off with a ‘discussion’ for the evidence of big cats in Penalt. We were a rather sceptical audience but perhaps we’ll have to eat our (WI and other) hats after Prue’s latest sighting!

A talk about Samuel Pepys might have been considered worthy but don’t we all know what he got up to when he wasn’t being kept busy at the Admiralty? Samuel’s account of his surgery made us appreciative of modern medicine and anaesthetics. We’ll catch up on the advances in medical knowledge through a talk in June 2011 on the Role of a Surgeon in Nelson’s Navy by Roger Morgan – not to be missed. (It's a common misconception that the barber surgeons were still trading at that time. Officially you had surgeons, physicians, doctors, dentists and apothecaries working in the early 1800s and all had to be qualified. That applied to Army, Navy and civilian. However, you still had barbers who would do a bit of bleeding and tooth drawing, lance the odd boil, set a limb etc.)

A tale of adventure took us vicariously to Iran in the days of the Shah as a group of enthusiasts travelled across Europe in an increasingly dilapidated bus to discover caves in the remote and mountainous areas of the country. The expedition members were willing but the bus was weak and objected to anything beyond suburban Bristol and the team found themselves having to walk up anything steeper than a 1 in 80. However, it all led to another visit from John Elliott and a chance to see more breathtaking photos and hear of his adventures.

Bob Trett made a welcome return. This was his third visit - and we have the fourth lined up for 2011. His love of history has shown us the fun and allegory portrayed in Medieval Bench Ends, the discovery of the Newport Medieaval Ship and now on to the History of Inn Signs. In November 2011 he’ll be talking about the History and Archaeology of Penallt Nature Reserves.

Did you teach your children nursery rhymes? Did you actually know what you were singing about? Some might not have been suitable subjects for innocent ears! The Hidden History and Meaning of Nursery Rhymes was a gallop through history with side swipes at power hungry magnets of the day immortalised in apparently childish verse. We enjoyed Beth Butler’s talk so much that we’ve invited her back as well. She’ll be coming in January 2011and talking about 200 Years of Girls’ Stories so this is one probably of more interest to the ladies!

The Police are so often criticised in the media that it was refreshing to hear the inside story from Caroline Peters. A career that has given her a great deal of satisfaction and interest when not dealing with harrowing and distressing situations.

‘Things, wonderful things’ sums up the beautiful examples of beadweaving that Helen Dodds brought along. Wonderful colours and designs; different techniques to try out - fingers of the more gifted among us were itching to have a go.

Stephanie Poulter’s talk on Exmoor Ponies conveniently followed an item on Adam Henson’s ponies shown on Countryfile the weekend before. Did you catch sight of her inspecting Adam’s ponies on a more recent programme? Visiting the ponies themselves was the focus of the summer ‘walk and pub supper’. Steph is giving another talk in September 2011 but her subject will be Poisonous Plants. Would you recognise hemlock if you it was in the hedgerow? It’s been found locally so here’s your chance to come along and learn!

And so another year of WI comes to an end - this time with some sadness as we hear of the death of Nancy Pugh. Nancy was one of the founder members of Penalt WI – one of the youngest back in 1963! She remained a member throughout the rest of her life although latterly, due to her illness, she was unable to attend meetings and events. Her support and interest will be much missed.

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