Official magazine of the National Women’s Register
Registered charity number 295198
Connecting women who are interested in everything and talk about anything
Vietnam Conjuring war and sublime beauty
Einstein inspires the theme for 2016
on loneliness with Dame Esther Rantzen
Big Read 2015
book reviews are in
Revealed: Winning story from the Short story competition >>>
NWR’s party girls
Tips for taking
Japanese professor tells of her year amongst Trentham group
NWR website - Make the most of it NWR skill-sharing
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
Not a member? NWR could be for you! Have your children just left home? Are you a stay at home mum? Do you have more time on your hands? Have you moved to a new area or experienced a big life change?
of activities, from book clubs to walking groups to plain old have-a-natter meetups! We exist to connect women who are interested in everything and talk about anything.
Come and meet other women to share and explore thoughts, ideas and experiences. Enjoy lively, stimulating conversation and broaden your horizons whilst having fun and making new friends. We offer a wide range
Are you in tere sted
in joining NWR? Contact us on 0160 3 406 767 or by emailing of fice@nw r.org.uk or visi t w w w.nwr.org.uk to find ou t more.
news – Page 4
What’s on – Page 9
Technology – Page 10
The new faces of NWR
Telephone Treasure Trail
Meet your new National Organiser and Website and Publicity Coordinator
Celebrating 20 years! Will you be part of the action?
5 tips for better pics
News from the groups What members have been getting up to
The 2016 theme is announced Read all about it and put your thinking caps on for some great event ideas
Diverse connections in Glasgow Members and staff tell us more about the July conference
NWR website Make the website a space of your own and don’t miss out on all the new content!
Struggling to upload to your group pages? Find out about skill-sharing
Life – Page 12 Loneliness
History – Page 11 Salisbury comes to life with a carnival of colour NWR member and Salisbury Cathedral guide Lisa Conway tells of the Magna Carta celebrations
NWR trustee writes on the importance of staying connected Exclusive interview with Dame Esther Rantzen
Arts – Page 14 Painting and poetry Lymn group get creative
Short Story Competition 2015 Winner and story revealed
Travel – Page 20 Connecting women East to West
Japanese visitor tells of her year amongst Trentham group
Maidstone member tells about this country of contrasts and incomparable beauty
The Big Read 2015 book reviews are out! Read them hot off the press
NWR Magazine is available in an audio version for the visually impaired. Please contact the NWR office on 01603 406 767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
NWR Welcome NWR in perpetual motion
n the last issue, I wrote about living with change – well there have certainly been lots of changes over the summer. First of all we warmly welcome our new staff Natalie Punter and Ilana Levine. Natalie is our new National Organiser and impressed us at interview by seeking out and attending a local group meeting! She is keen to meet more members as she learns how NWR works. Ilana is our maternity cover for the website and publicity and has done a great job already in improving the website and tweeting about events. We also welcome two new trustees, Christine Harrison and Josephine Thomson, both long standing members who will bring their own skills and knowledge to the Board meetings.
We would also like to extend a huge thanks to our departing trustees, June Nash and Liz Valette for their unique and valuable contributions. With nine years as a trustee, with responsibility for National Conference for most of that time and twice Chair of the Board of Trustees, as well as member and frequent Local Organiser of Knowle, June has provided continuity and knowledge of NWR during discussions at our Board meetings. Her calmness and common sense have been invaluable as she has guided NWR through change. June is looking forward to focusing on her role as Secretary of the National Dahlia Society though no doubt will still
Get in touch
play a part in organising events for NWR in the Midlands. As many of you will know, Liz Valette is very keen and knowledgeable about technology so her significant contribution over the last few years has been setting up NWR’s Facebook page and other social media accounts. She also manages the various Facebook discussion groups (about 17 the last count!). Liz has helped many members with their computer challenges and continues to offer help with accessing and using the website. On the staff side, we bid a fond farewell to Kathryn Buckman and, temporarily, to Kath Latham who – we are delighted to say – gave birth to her second son Sammy, on 30 July. Kathryn joined as the Membership Coordinator seven years ago and has since met many of you at
area and regional events. We have benefitted enormously from Kathryn’s positive can-do attitude and super administrative skills. She has turned her hand to all the aspects of running a membership organisation. Her legacy will be the development of national activities and the very successful one-day conferences. Thriving organisations recognise that each trustee and member of staff contributes their own special skill set and experience. Our aim as a new team is to build on our legacy to develop and enhance NWR for the future – connecting women in the 21st century.
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NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
Would your group like to guest edit the next edition of NWR Magazine? Email firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 November 2015.
L Train in motion | Jamie McCaffrey on Flickr (This image was slightly modified)
Josephine Burt | Trustee
The new faces of NWR
Natalie Punter National Organiser
Ilana Levine Website and Publicity Coordinator
I am delighted to be working for NWR after a hectic couple When I saw this position advertised I was excited about all that of years seeking the right role to move into following several it entailed. I combed through the website as best I could in years at the British Red Cross. I had never heard of NWR preparation for my interview, and happily today I find myself in before I saw the advert for the role but, upon speaking to my this exciting and challenging role. My background is in fine arts mum, it turns out that she was a member when I was a small and graphic design and I worked as Editorial and Production child. She described it as a place which helped her to maintain Assistant in the energy sector for several years. More recently, some semblance of sanity whilst she stayed at home with I was a digital web editor at Tate. As Website and Publicity small children. I can understand that – as a mum of two small Coordinator, it is my challenge to keep the website fun and children myself I know how draining it can be having no adult fresh with interesting content to keep you engaged. I keep conversation (or only conversation about children!). my eye on the Facebook and website forums to know what I went along to my first meeting in Letchworth, Herts before everyone is talking about and where your interests lie so that my interview and I thought it was fantastic, I really enjoyed I may create a website that serves you. In my spare time myself. One of my long term aims in my role is to widen the age I love socialising, taking in some art and design, seeking out range of members as there are plenty of women in their 30s London’s best coffee venues and cycling everywhere. and 40s, whom I speak to every day, who are interested in the I also can’t live without my morning yoga routines. organisation but have never previously heard of it. I am looking forward to getting to know you all, but in the meantime, a bit about me in one sentence: I am a voracious reader, genealogist and ‘criminal minds’ fan who loves living in and spending time in the countryside with my kids and my dog!
In memoriam Barbara Wright Our dear friend Barbara Wright, a member at Barton on Sea for seven years, died in April. She died from sporadic CJD (a rare and fatal brain disease). She was a lovely, vivacious lady; wife and mother to Julie and David and Grandma to Matilda. In her younger days she worked for the NSPCC and the CAB. She was a leader in the Boys Brigade and in later years volunteered at Highcliffe Castle in the archives. We shall miss her very much. So next time you meet and drink red wine (her favourite tipple) raise a glass to ‘Barbara’. Marian Carter Sadly, Marian passed away in June after a long fight with a very painful cancer. She had been our Local Organiser 4
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
for over ten years welcoming new members into our Coquetdale group. Her friends in Longframlington will remember her most for her dedication in chairing our Planning Meetings and organising special events. Marian was also an avid reader and by profession a retired Headmistress whose speciality was history. We very much looked forward to her ‘History Mystery’ where she talked about topics we knew nothing about – real mysteries! She will be sorely missed. Shirley Kearns Shirley was a long standing member of the Horbury and Ossett NWR Group and sadly died suddenly in September following a recent short illness. A great lover of books and all things associated with words, she will be sadly missed.
News from the groups Weekend of culture Each October for the last nine years the NWR Sonning Common group has travelled to various destinations abroad for our ‘weekend of culture’. Numbers can range from 8–12 members and we have such fun, with a penchant for warmer cities. Destinations so far have been Cologne, Barcelona, Paris, Seville (where we visited the Alhambra Palace), Istanbul, Rome, Vienna, Budapest, Venice (including Verona). Our next destination is Bologna, Italy.
Margaret Melville 70th birthday tea Dunfermline group celebrated the elegant lady pictured beside the birthday card. Margaret Melville is our second oldest member. She brings 70 years of knowledge and wisdom to our meetings. We had a wonderful afternoon tea and chat at a local hotel. Many happy returns to Margaret.
A fun and therapeutic Battle/ Japanese evening ‘Fun and therapeutic’ was the view of the Battle group, having tried the Japanese art ‘Chigiri e’ (torn paper pictures). For economy, instead of Washi (traditional Japanese paper), we used coloured tissue and other assorted papers, PVA glue and mount board. We created our masterpieces to the soothing tones of Japanese music. The group thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Salisbury Summer Garden Party Anne Roberts and Vanessa Moulding organised a Summer Garden Party for both Salisbury groups and guests on a gloriously warm and mainly sunny August afternoon. It took place in Vanessa’s colourful garden with giant sunflowers, baa-ing sheep in the field beyond and Mitzi the cat gracing the guests with her company. The table was laid out with dainty sandwiches and scrumptious cakes and biscuits which no one needed... But diets must be put aside from time to time! Anne made a fantastic non-alcoholic Pimms to set the tone of the event, and then tea was served – naturally!
Worksop’s Golden celebration On Saturday 20 June Worksop group celebrated their 50th Anniversary with an afternoon tea at Rossington Hall in Doncaster. The Worksop group was started by Aileen Roberts in 1965. Pictured are 15 of our 19 current members. The longest serving member joined in 1978 and many of our members have belonged to the group for between 20 and 30 years. Starting when our children were small, we now swap stories of our grandchildren. We continue to thrive as a group and just recently we have welcomed two more new members. Our programmes are always varied and we share the planning and organisation between us. We always seem to find new and current topics for discussion, a variety of interesting speakers and lovely places to visit...Especially if there’s good food available! Our celebratory afternoon marked the value of friendship, shared interests, lively discussion and of course, delicious cake.
Celebrating 50 years In July Sutton & Carshalton NWR invited an old member who had moved to Dorset to come back and celebrate 50 years in NWR. Sheila Warren had kept all the archives during this time from when the organisation was called Housebound Wives’ Register to the present day. Much fun was had looking at old member lists and happy memories were revived.
Masham Murder Mystery Trail and more Bedale & District group held an eventful day conference in Masham on the banks of River Ure on 10 October. The day began with a brief history of Masham followed by activities that included a walking Murder Mystery Treasure Trail aimed at introducing the attendees to some of the interesting features of the little market town; a ‘Leaf Walk’ along the river; a Theakstone’s Brewery tour; craft activities and a table quiz running throughout the day. Saturday being Market Day in Masham meant that everyone had the chance to glimpse the bustle of the market, ending the day with tea and homemade cake back at the town hall where the event was based.
As always there was much chat and hilarity and several members brought guests, so there may well have been be a few potential new members introduced to the wonderful organisation that still appears to be Britain’s best kept secret!
Keep us posted:
www.nwr.org.uk NWR Magazine Autumn 2015
Glasgow NWR news
Diverse connections were made at the
conference At the NWR National Conference 2015 in Glasgow we had the privilege of listening to three thought-provoking speakers on the topic of Diverse Connections. Members and staff tell us more about the talks.
The joy in dementia
Jill Lucas | Crewe & District group ally Magnusson, daughter of Magnus, spoke movingly about her mother’s dementia and how there is a joyful side to dementia as well as the dark side. During her presentation she referred to several passages of her book Where Memories Go and also to her charity Playlist for Life. The purpose of her book is to get through to the medical profession, carers, politicians and anyone else, what it is like to live with a dementia sufferer. There is a need to refocus on the individual rather than lumping everyone under the umbrella of ‘dementia sufferers’. There is a wide range of issues behind everyone coping with dementia and these should be recognised by the people coming into contact with them. Mamie Baird Magnusson, Sally’s adored mother, was a case in point. Feisty, funny, a lover of language and a renowned 6
journalist, her dementia began in the 1990s with her gradually going off the boil. But there were moments of pure joy as well as the bewildering memory losses. Sally trained herself to savour the moments of joy and in her book
Talk by: Sally Magnusson
their memories. Some families may say that their relative was not interested in music but they may have watched Corrie or listened to the Archers, so the theme tunes from such programmes might do the trick.
…but there were moments of pure joy as well as the bewildering memory losses she is as honest about the laughs as the tears. Sally realised that music can provide a respite. She sang with her mother who was able to remember events connected with the songs. Music shows that some neural pathways are still operating and can reach the ‘pearl inside’ (the pearl of self). Playlist for Life’s aim is to make available to dementia sufferers a personalised mp3 containing music that can help jog
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
Everyone has a playlist personal to themselves. A Playlist app is being developed. The important thing to remember is that every person suffering from dementia remains an individual with some abilities and there is joy to be found.
Exploring diversity and reconciling our differences
Talk by: Mairi Nasr
Kathryn Buckman | NWR Business Manager
airi Nasr had no idea of the challenges she would be faced with when she moved to Beirut with her Lebanese husband and their three children just after the end of the 16-year civil war. She found the people resilient, hopeful and very welcoming, but coming to terms with the cultural differences was a different matter. Picking her way through a minefield of strange customs, bewildering misunderstandings and painful mistakes was a long and difficult process during which she often shed tears of frustration. Living with her husband’s parents, she soon learned that maintaining family dignity is paramount and that lives are governed by age-old traditions. It is a patriarchal society in
which women have little freedom and it was interesting to see her husband slip back into the role expected of him as a male.
respectful of other cultures and she is intent on promoting greater familiarity and understanding in order to avoid the development of anger, fear and
Significantly, it was through connecting with other women that Mairi really came to accept, respect and become part of the chaotic, sometimes unruly, Middle Eastern way of life... Significantly, it was through connecting with other women that Mairi really came to accept, respect and become part of the chaotic, sometimes unruly, Middle Eastern way of life; she discovered a sublime beauty in many of the customs and traditions. Back in England, Mairi’s experiences have made her more
hate. If our attempts to do this are met by some resistance, she encourages perseverance to encourage mutual appreciation of each other’s cultures. Read Mairi’s interview on the website in the blog section www.bit.ly/Mairi-Nasr-interview
Could we all be Neanderthals?
Kate Lawler | Nantwich and Audlem group he scientist, historian and author Alistair Moffat is co-founder of a company offering genetic analyses of DNA profiles commercially. With informality and humour, he gave us our first connection of the day, describing how humans have evolved, and how current knowledge of genetics allows greater insight into individual ancestry. He outlined how radiometric dating allows evolutionary biologists to estimate the age of fossils found in geological strata and how studying movement of humans through phylogeography helps to build a picture of the origins of man. He captured our imagination by explaining that our ancient pasts have strong commonality, inasmuch as we are all descended from the African population that split 60–70,000
years ago, following a catastrophic super volcanic eruption in Sumatra. The resulting volcanic winter of 6–10 years, meant that populations only survived with difficulty in caves and clefts in rocks in the Great Rift Valley. The existing numbers shrank dramatically and the gene pool diminished. A part of the population split off, migrated north and began interbreeding with Neanderthals, leaving about half in sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, we were fascinated to hear that virtually ‘everyone in this room has 2–4% of Neanderthal DNA’. Further progress in the field means that the skills developed can be used to determine – up to a point – a person’s more recent ancestry and origins, through their genetic markers. For example, his company discovered
Talk by: Alistair Moffat
that the actor Tom Conti shares a genetic marker with Napoleon Bonaparte. During questions, delegates were interested in genetic theories such as red hair being associated with Celts or Vikings, why blue eyes are dominant (they are thought to be more attractive
...everyone in this room has 2–4% of Neanderthal DNA to potential mates!) and the use of DNA testing in legal suits. In response to a query as to how people might explore their own origins through their DNA markers, anyone can contact his website, www.britainsdna.com where his group of scientists and historians will – for a fee – trace personal ancestral roots.
www.nwr.org.uk NWR Magazine Autumn 2015
De ar NWR, I would like to ask if it would be pos sible to have a vote on whether the National Conference should be returned to its full weekend glor y? As a regular attendee since Durham , I feel I cannot be alone in missing all the best bits of Con ference. The fun of arriving on a Friday nigh t knowing you had a full, packed weekend with ver y little extr a expenditure. The excitement of getting dressed up to prepare for pre-dinner drinks, a silver service meal and the brilliant afte r dinner speakers. Who will ever forget Queen Elizabeth I sha ring her secrets, or undressing Mr Darcy?
Dear Diane, thank you for your letter raising this issue. I wanted to respond How I miss Sunday morning worksh ops, or visits to city centres to you publicly so that all members or local attractions. can understand the thinking behind I looked forward to retiring and bein our current stance regarding conferences. g able to arrive and leave at leisure, but a day conference just The full weekend conference involved does not seem wor th the effort. accommodation, catering and activities Yes I have been to Liverpool and Birmingham, but no way was from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and I going to travel to Scotland for a day! the delegate cost for the last one in 2011 was Boo king reasonably priced hotels has approximately £300 per person. At this price proved difficult to get close enough to walk to venues, and we struggled to get enough members to attend, cities are expensive to park for the day. which meant that we were running the risk of a loss which would have had to be covered by Come on, let us get back to the goo d old days and have brilliant NWR. Therefore, we moved to a day conference weekends away at Conference, mee ting old friends and making new. in 2012 in order to minimise this risk but also There is just no time in a day. to allow members a more affordable option. The weekend conferences were take We have tried to arrange ‘wrap-around’ events n from us with no consultation of membership, but a whispered sug from the Friday afternoon to the Sunday gestion that maybe, just maybe we would have weekends again. lunchtime in order to accommodate those who wish to stay for the weekend. Many groups So be brave, let us vote, and bring back weekend conferences. also hold area events on the Friday or Sunday Yours sincerely, before or after the main conference. There was also consideration Diane Ellis of the need to get enough local members Hadleigh/Southend-on-Sea NW R to volunteer to help organise the conference. The staff resource at NWR is very small and conferences involve a huge amount of organisation. Since 2012 – the first day conference – we have Another thing that I am hoping to do more of next year easily attracted 250/300 members to the conference. is to organise regional events to allow more members Brighton may well attract more of you as the cost is so the opportunity to attend. If you have any suggestions reasonable and, with the main accommodation on site, or comments regarding this do please contact me at it has a very good chance of recreating the atmosphere email@example.com. of the weekend conferences. I hope that you will come along, give it a go, and tell me what you think. 8
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
Natalie Punter, your National Organiser
Calendar* | Dafne Cholet on Flickr
ome members have been asking about the length of the National Conference. One member has written in to us about it...
A one day affair versus a full weekend glory
he time is upon us to set out our new annual theme and in 2016 it will be 100 years since Einstein published his theory of general relativity. In celebration of this anniversary, our general theme for the year will be ‘It’s all relative’. Some exciting ideas that are bound to generate interest, are already churning around the topic. The country for the themed evening will be Germany,
NWR What’s on
where Einstein was born in Ulm on 14 March 1879. The conference, which will be held on Saturday 25 June at the University of Sussex in Brighton, will be entitled ‘Relatively Speaking’. We are lining up lots of interesting speakers and exciting events and the booking form is on the back page of this magazine so do start booking early!
Over to you... Now’s the time to begin thinking about all the exciting events you can put on.
Take the lead and organise something in your area and remember, there is a subsidy of £100 available towards venue hire and speaker costs. For tips on setting up an event, check out page seven of the spring 2015 edition of NWR Magazine or contact the office for help and advice on 01603 406767 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. To see more events or to add your own, visit the website at www.nwr.org.uk/nwr-event. As a member, you can also find tips for running successful events at www.bit.ly/nwr-events-handbook.
Mon-Thurs 9–12 Nov 2015
Telephone Treasure Trail
Our annual Telephone Treasure Trail celebrates its 20th Anniversary!
Sat 12 Mar 2016
SW Area annual lunch
Ann Widdecombe talking about her career as a politician and author and her foray into Strictly Come Dancing, and Mary Quicke MBE talking about all things cheese.
Exeter and District (SW05)
Sat 14 May 2016
Speaker: Dr Lisa Ackerley, Consultant in Food and Environmental Hygiene. Lisa is a regular contributor on the BBC’s Rogue Traders & Watchdog, BBC Breakfast and BBC Radio. Private tour of the nearby Elton Hall and gardens.
Fri 17 Jun 2016
Hatfield branch will be masterminding the Lively Minds Quiz, involving the local Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire groups.
Sat 25 Jun 2016
Sat 8 Oct 2016
Making the World a Better Place. With keynote speaker AC Grayling who is a Professor of Philosophy at – and Master of – the New College of Humanities in London.
Salisbury, Wiltshire (SW04)
Telephone Treasure Trail 2015 celebrates its 20th Anniversary NWR held its first Telephone Treasure Trail in 1995. It was organised by Abbots Langley group with 231 groups taking part. Because of its great success, it turned into an annual event and now – 20 years on – almost 400 groups will be getting ready to take part on one of four evenings in November. Each year there is a hidden ‘theme’ for the quiz, which becomes apparent as clues are solved. Groups are sent their first clue, then they have to ring volunteer ‘clue holders’ to be given their next clue. This aspect of the quiz gives groups an opportunity to speak to other
members all over the country, enhancing the fun. It can also add to the frustration, as groups only have two hours to get all the clues, and with up to 100 groups taking part in any one evening, it can take time to get through to the busy clue holder volunteers. It is also a hectic time for the staff at the NWR office who have to allocate clues to clue holders and groups by hand. But the end result is always worth it! Good luck to everyone taking part this year and happy anniversary!
www.nwr.org.uk NWR Magazine Autumn 2015
Tips for taking group selfies
The term ‘selfie’ was coined in 2005 and refers to the informal self-portrait generally taken with a smartphone or other digital device held at the end of an outstretched arm.
Make sure you’re in a well lit place. There’s no point in taking a selfie in a dark alleyway – unless your flash is working!
More often than not, the selfie is destined for social media (or to send on to others by text). NWR members are always out doing amazing things and at times, no one in the group has a camera! But there’s always someone with a smartphone! NWR Magazine thought it was high time to put together a few fun tips for taking great group selfies, so we don’t want any excuses that you don’t have photos of your days out!
Part of the point is to show that your group is out and about having a jolly good day, so is there something in the background that indicates where you are?
Beware of the double chin
Ever see a group selfie and there’s just no doubt who snapped it? (Hint: one person’s chin is digging into their chest). It’s possible to stretch out your arm whilst pulling your shoulder back – it’s a bit like yoga or pilates – think elongation and good posture (are you imagining that rope pulling from the top of your head?).
It has been approximately a year since the relaunch of our new look website, and since then your Website and Publicity Coordinators have continued to develop and enhance it. We are working hard to keep the content and images fresh and exciting. We plan to make some parts of the website interactive so that you can truly make this space your own as members. The website is a useful and fun resource and a great way to keep connected to the NWR network to see what fellow members are up to and to get inspired. You should have received an email recently with your login details. Don’t miss out on the news, blog posts and forum discussions, log in and visit the members’ corner now!
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
Look at it before
Most phones have the ability to switch the view so you actually see what you are taking a photo of, so take advantage of that and do a visual scan of the entire picture frame to see what you’ve got! (There wasn’t a streaker running amok behind your group was there?)
Snap like the Paparazzi
Take advantage of today’s technology! It’s not like we’re working with film here! You waste nothing (except maybe time) by snapping away like the Paparazzi or a fashion photographer. You only need to take a few, then choose your best one to publish on Facebook or send to your child, spouse, friend…
Making the most of the NWR website
Do you struggle when it comes to updating your group pages? We are offering skill-sharing. If you need a hand to upload your latest news or photos to your group page, our avid (and technologically-savvy) Southsea member Liz Valette is there to help. Please contact Liz via the office at email@example.com or by calling 01603 406767. If you have a skill you too would like to share for the benefit of all members, please get in touch.
Group Selfie | Bart Booms on Flickr
Ilana Levine | Editor
Celebrating Freedom,Liberty and Justice
Lisa Conway | Salisbury NWR
Photo credit: Ash Mills
ecently named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten cities to visit in the world, Salisbury’s Cathedral houses the finest of the four surviving Magna Carta manuscripts dating from 1215AD. Elias of Dereham, priest and steward of the Archbishop of Canterbury is thought to have brought Salisbury’s copy of Magna Carta to Old Sarum in the days following the events at Runnymede. It has remained in the Cathedral’s care ever since. In this 800th anniversary year, the Cathedral created a new, permanent exhibition to tell the story of the Great Charter. It takes visitors on a journey of liberty and justice woven throughout the Cathedral, mediaeval cloisters and stunning 13th century Chapter House. Here, visitors are able to understand the making of the document, its unique connections to Salisbury, and its global legacy. Sealed at Runnymede in 1215, Magna Carta limited the power of the Crown and protected the rights of the Church and nobles. In some ways we might think that it has little to do with the lives of ordinary people today, but at a time when issues of justice, the protection of human rights, and the balance between security and privacy form a key part of public debate, the commemoration of Magna
Carta’s 800th anniversary offers a chance for reflection, discussion, and possible action. Thousands of people have descended upon Salisbury this summer to celebrate eight centuries of the Magna Carta. On the evening of 15 June – eight centuries to the day since King John met the group of rebel barons at Runnymede – locals and visitors alike experienced a spectacular, once-ina-lifetime pageant which brought the streets of the city to life with a carnival of colour. The spirits of the barons were reborn as a series of larger-than-life puppets – representing the diverse communities that make up Wiltshire – and were paraded through the city from the Market Square to the Cathedral. The evening ended with a spectacular firework display. In my role as Cathedral Guide, I’ve been able to welcome several NWR groups to the Magna Carta Exhibition during the summer. At the beginning of December NWR groups from SWO4 will be displaying Magna Femina, our contribution to the annual Christmas tree festival. We hope to see you there.
…a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime pageant which brought the streets to life with a carnival of colour.
Loneliness and the importance of staying connected Jeanette House | NWR Trustee
you do lose someone, you get inundated with advice. ‘“Get out more. Get rid of all the photos. Cry more. Cry less. Talk about it. Don’t talk about it.” The truth is that we all deal with that loss in our own way. There are no rules.’ The relationship between social interaction and wellbeing has been widely discussed across disciplines in social science. Whilst the genes we inherit affect how well we age, our chosen lifestyle has a greater impact on our health and well-being.
However, research indicates that being sociable (meeting others, conversation, discussion and activities) can make a significant contribution to individual health and well-being, and even stave off dementia! Protective factors that may reduce the likelihood of mental health and well-being issues include good interpersonal relationships and a supportive social network. Whilst advances in technology and the evolution of the Internet may appear to bring people closer together, the number of people feeling lonely appears to be on the increase. Certainly technology offers a greater opportunity than ever before to find out where the writers, knitters or artists are congregating, so that you can join with those who share your interests. A common bond is a great stepping stone towards friendship! For ‘10 Steps to end Loneliness’ visit our website at www.nwr.org.uk/blog.
2.5m people aged between 45 and 64 are living on their own in the UK – a rise of 50 per cent over the past 15 years
Morn | Sixtwelve on Flickr
alent, financial success, fame and adoration offer no protection from the subjective experience of loneliness. Three of the most idolized women of the twentieth century, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, were famously lonely people. Yet there is nothing inherently problematic about solitude itself. Loneliness isn’t about being alone, it’s about not feeling connected. Although the two terms sound similar, loneliness and social isolation can be very different in appearance. It is possible, for instance, to be miserably lonely inside a marriage, a situation that resonates in fiction from Flaubert to Jackie Collins. An individual surrounded by lots of people can still feel lonely – hence the expression ‘to feel lonely in a crowd,’ whilst others prefer to be alone and foster isolation. There is nothing trivial, comical or poignantly romantic about loneliness. The experiences of bereavement or divorce can be a traumatic and devastating precursor to loneliness, but one notion is that loneliness is a signal to motivate us to reconnect. Journalist and presenter Esther Rantzen said, ‘People lose loved ones all the time and when
Dame Esther Rantzen gets candid about loneliness
n 2011, presenter and journalist Dame Esther Rantzen wrote an article speaking openly about the loneliness she had experienced since the death of her husband, documentary maker Desmond Wilcox. Criticised by some for openly admitting her loneliness, Esther was overwhelmed by the huge response from people who shared her experience. In what she terms her second ‘light bulb, life changing moment’ (the first being ChildLine in 1986), she came up with the idea of creating a confidential helpline
to offer friendship and support to vulnerable older people. Esther was determined to break through the stigma of loneliness and isolation, and through sign-posted services, tackle the problems of abuse and neglect. In the first year of operation The Silver Line Helpline received 275,000 calls; 53% of callers saying they had literally no-one else to speak to. They now receive almost 1,000 calls daily from lonely and isolated older people. Over 1,200 volunteer Silver Line Friends make regular weekly friendship calls.
Esther spoke candidly to NWR trustee Jeanette House about her personal approach to life in this exclusive interview. NWR: At a particularly traumatic time in your life, how did you find the strength to take the concept of The Silver Line forward? ER: A way to cope is by embracing a cause that you believe in. I did a year of research and the Royal Voluntary Service was also extremely helpful, before eventually doing The Silver Line pilot. Volunteering is a way to gain a sense of achievement. Working with a team and confronting challenges all help to diminish the pain of loss. NWR: Did the success of ChildLine give you a blueprint for launching The Silver Line? ER: The CEO and team were amazing in helping to develop The Silver Line very close to my original vision. It has regular friendship callers but also includes letters and friendship groups. NWR: How do you see The Silver Line responding to the future demands of an ageing population? ER: The majority of our work is telephone friendship calls, but we also now have friendship groups and letters. We are constantly increasing our volunteer base to respond to the demand. NWR: One of the difficulties for many older ‘singletons’ is returning home to an empty house. What coping strategies have you personally devised? ER: I record and stockpile my favourite TV programmes - usually about antiques, and it is a delight to treat myself by settling down on the sofa to watch. I also pamper myself
by tuning in to Radio 4 whilst having a hot bath – I sometimes fall asleep! I have friends I ring for a chat, and if I have insomnia I can always ring my sister who is in Australia, so of course I am not keeping her awake. NWR: You travelled extensively with your late husband. What do you now look for in a holiday? ER: I have tried a paradise beach holiday and I didn’t like it on my own. I would now only holiday with a close friend or family for company. NWR: What future challenges have you set yourself? ER: I would like to explore South America – there is so much to see. I also have an ambition to host a TV Panel Game. NWR: Do you ever see yourself withdrawing from public life? ER: Not until there is absolutely no longer a need to find ways of liberating children from abusive situations, and no further need to transform lives lived in isolation and loneliness.
Esther Rantzen began presenting the consumer-affairs show That’s Life! in 1974. She is the founder of ChildLine and recently set up The Silver Line, a confidential telephone helpline for older people. In 2015 she was awarded the DBE by the Queen for her services to children.
www.nwr.org.uk NWR Magazine Autumn 2015
Lymm girls bring the party to life
as she is a professional wedding photographer! Viv Griffiths kindly offered the use of her large sitting room in which to build the set that included creating an entire archway out of plywood. Bemused members of our families provided the lingerie! Trying to recreate the picture made us realise how Beryl Cook had played with perspective in posing her group of ladies, an effect that was challenging to replicate in real life. The process was a real eye-opener.
Party Girls by artist Beryl Cook
Beryl Cook Party Girls recreation by Robyn Cotton, Lymm NWR
Rose Askham | Lymn NWR
nspired by the artistic efforts of Deepings and Sittingbourne’s recreation of Renoir’s The Boating Party in the Autumn 2014 magazine, our group decided to do the same with Beryl Cook’s painting Party Girls. The process of putting together our outfits and building the set proved to be an enjoyable challenge, and on the night of the photo we all had a hilarious time trying to keep in character. We are very lucky to have Robyn Cotton in our group
Lymm group’s ‘poet in residence’ wrote a sestina to accompany the picture.
Party Girls Penny Kimber This evening will be over in a flash, thank goodness. Skimpy, kinky underwear is not my thing. I’m here because my friends invited me, that’s all. A fashion show for lingerie. A Tupperware party without the Tupperware. And more bare skin. I favour pure new wool next to the skin or unbleached, undyed cotton, nothing flash unless it’s for a hot date or a party. Comfort dictates what smalls I choose to wear. It’s not as though they’re going to be on show, especially on a night out with my friends. We larger ladies (let’s be honest, friends) are not the types to flaunt a lot of skin. We wouldn’t dream of letting bra straps show, revealing too much cleavage or a flash of thigh. We’re not prudish, simply wary 14 NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk of dressing as though at a hen party.
Here she is, the hostess of our party (we get an extra discount as we’re friends). She’s modelling her latest range. I swear those fishnets and that black lace basque are skintight. Ooh! I think I’m having a hot flush I don’t know where to look. What a floor show! Camisoles with cheeky, cut-out holes show off our bulging midriffs. Tonight’s party special offer is a corset in fleshcoloured georgette with suspenders. My friend’s buying a sheer onesie in leopard skin silk and a thong she’ll never dare to wear. I like that chiffon baby doll nightwear; the satin, halter-neck teddy will show off my tan. If I buy them I’ll be skint. But what the heck, I’m in the party mood. Another glass of red for my friends! Try on the bustier! Credit cards flash … A flash of risqué, flimsy fun. We wear our woolly thermals home. To friends we show the secret party girl beneath the skin.
Short Story Competition 2015 – all is revealed!
great many NWR members entered the Short Story Competition this year. Everyone was asked to write on the theme of Freedom. The entry was free and the prize was two nights B&B for two at Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire.
The two judges were Peter Morrison and Dr Neil Wilson. Mr Morrison is the author of A Lonely Road and other stories, a retired university lecturer, Chair of Airedale Writers Circle and a regular competition judge. Dr Neil Wilson is the author of Proper Poorly, editor of The Writer and writer of many medical anecdotes, short stories and news articles. He is also a retired GP and an active member of Airedale Writers Circle.
Our congratulations go to Jill Sidders of NWR Sittingbourne for her winning story Freedom lost and freedom gained. ‘I am amazed and delighted in equal measure. At the time, I was recovering from a painful illness, and this gave me just the tonic that I needed!’
Runner up: Sylvia Crawley (Stafford) Highly Commended: Sally Krykant (Beccles) Commended: Penny Hoskins (Solihull) Sally Krykant (Beccles) Phyllida Walton (Exeter and District)
A lette r from th e judge s… you who entered . Warmest congratulations to all of ies was ‘what an interesting Our reaction on reading your stor e!’ If this were Paradise collection of writers you are out ther ne would have had a prize (and preferably not ‘Lost’) everyo Planet Ear th of some sort. Unfortunately this is Our apologies for that; – and something of a comedown. the matter. you’ll appreciate we had no say in was excellent – at times The standard of entrants’ writing of many published of a much higher quality than that are some ver y gifted writers we’ve come across. There souls amongst you. with trepidation, We approached the task of marking es have made some being all too aware that literary judg ) decisions in their time. exotic (or, if you prefer, plain daft rt stor y has to be neither The underlying maxim as to the sho . Or, to put it another way, a word too many nor a word too few that ’s it. We were looking say what’s got to be said – and then stories which left for stories with style and impact – them. As we found an impression long after we’d read same wavelength to our cost, our entrants were on the from the star t.
Thanks We would like to extend a huge thank you to Gladstone’s Library for the generous prize donation and to our judges for their time and dedication. We would also like to thank each and every member who entered the competition and we hope that you keep putting pen to paper! You can share your stories with other members on the website. Send your creative writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can upload it to the Poetry Corner or Creative Writing sections under the Interests tab in the members area of the website.
Best wishes to you all, Peter Morrison and Neil Wilson Competition judges www.nwr.org.uk NWR Magazine Autumn 2015
Freedom lost and freedom gained Jill Sidders | Winner of the 2015 Short Story Competition
’m leaving him. Today, this morning, now. I’ve thought about it many times in the past, but this time he’s gone too far. He’s always been careful before, careful not to leave any bruises where they could be seen, but last night he was beyond caring. He hit my face, a vicious blow, and his gold knuckleduster ring – ironically, one I’d bought him – laid my cheek open. I was cowering in a corner, begging, ‘Not my face! Please, Robert, not my face!’ but by then the blood was pouring down and spattering on the floor, and he’d gone out, slamming the door behind him. Shock left me shaking and shivering, until finally I crawled into bed, a bloody towel held against my poor cut cheek until finally the bleeding stopped. So this morning I waited until he’d left for work – humming a merry tune, just as if last night had never happened – then I packed a suitcase and I just walked out, not even leaving a note. I’ve heard there’s a refuge somewhere nearby, run by a church I think, somewhere that people can go when their partners turn to violence, where they will be safe. Robert wasn’t always like that, though. To start with, he was the sweetest, kindest – no, the nicest – man I’d ever known. We met in a bar over a spilled drink. I’d made no special effort that night – my normal discreet make-up, a sparkly top and tight black leather trousers – but I thought I looked good. The bar was crowded, full of people laughing, talking, having fun, and as I turned with my drink, Robert was pushed against me by the sheer numbers of people, and my G&T spilled all over him. ‘Oh God, I’m so sorry,’
I gushed and as I raised my eyes to look at him, a queer little tingle ran over me. God, but he was attractive – tanned skin, dark curly hair, blue eyes. That’s how it started. We dated for a few weeks and it went so well that when he suggested that I might like to move in with him, I jumped at the chance. And to start with, it was great. I thought I was in heaven. A wonderful man, no money worries, and a lovely flat. But then gradually, almost imperceptibly, things changed. Robert had his own ground rules – fair enough, it was his flat – and he didn’t like it if I transgressed, if I put the milk in the wrong place in the fridge, if I didn’t hang the towels up properly, or put CDs in alphabetical order, or put my shoes away. I always apologised and promised to do better in future. Then he started on my appearance – first, he didn’t like me to wear make-up. ‘But I only wear a little,’ I protested. ‘It makes you look like a tart,’ he snapped. So to please him I went bare-faced. Then it was my clothes, my scent, the fact that I like an occasional ciggie – nothing seemed to please him. He laid down the law about my friends too, so gradually I stopped seeing them. I was allowed to keep my job ….. as long as I came straight home afterwards and didn’t make any close friends in the office. And eventually meeting Robert’s needs and obeying his rules became the only important things in my life. The penalties for disobedience were too great. It started with a little push, then built up to a slap, a kick, a punch to the stomach. Each time, Robert convinced me that it was my own fault, that I deserved the punishments he meted out. Little by
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
little my confidence ebbed away. I kept thinking that I should leave, but Robert always convinced me that it was all my fault …. and anyway, he said, I was so useless that no-one else would want me. Sometimes, when my punishment had been particularly severe, he’d hold me afterwards and tell me he was sorry – but always, always, there was the reminder, ‘But you made me do it, babes, it was your own fault’. -----So now this morning I’m here at St Columba’s, checking into their Centre for Victims of Domestic Violence – or CVDV, as I learned to call the refuge. They showed no surprise at the jagged rip on my cheek, only kindness and concern, and the gentle insistence that I must get it looked at. At A&E it was cleaned and bandaged, and I was given antibiotics, but by then it was all swollen and too late for stitches. I’m going to be left with a scar. They’ve given me a room in the refuge, small but immaculately clean, and gradually I’m starting to rebuild my life. Going to work was hard at first, there were questions about my injured face, but I managed to fend off enquiries. I walked into a door, that old story. I think that maybe people guessed though, mostly by what I didn’t say. It would be wonderful to find love again one day. But I’m not sure if I can ever trust another man, ever again. -----It’s now been nearly a month since I left Robert and I’m just starting to re-build my confidence and self-esteem. Imagine my surprise – and my fear – when he came to meet me from work
Freedom | Man Made Tree on Flickr
today. When he stepped out of the shadows and called my name, my knees turned to water and I found myself cowering from him. But he spoke to me so gently, so sincerely, and with tears in his eyes apologised for all the times he’d hurt me, all the harsh things he’d said, that I felt all my old love for him flood back. He’s asked me to move back in with him. I don’t know – would I be utterly stupid to give him a second chance? I asked for time to think about it and he looked so happy that I hadn’t turned him down flat. -----Well, I took a week to think it over and this morning I made my decision and took the plunge. I let myself in to his flat – I still had the key – and I’m sitting waiting for him to get home from work. Oh, there’s his key in the lock now…. -----I’m in hospital. They’ve let me go onto a general ward now that I’m out of Intensive Care. I can hardly begin to list everything Robert did to me. I have cuts, bruises, broken bones, and
internal injuries. He’d taken one look at me, waiting for him – so naïve and hopeful I was – and the look of leering triumph on his face was terrifying. He’d laid a trap and foolishly I’d walked right into it. And his revenge for my escape was brutal. If it wasn’t for the neighbours who heard my screams and called the police, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have survived. The police have just left the ward. The hospital authorities insisted on calling them. The police officers were kind but insistent; they want to proceed against Robert and I am to be their chief witness. -----Here I am, in court. I’m standing in the witness box. God, but this is hard. I’m looking at the man in the dock, the man I used to love, the man who manipulated and controlled me, who isolated me from all my friends, who destroyed my self-esteem and who beat me and humiliated me. Photos of my injuries were passed around the jury, and I saw two of them in tears. Now I have to harden my heart
to give evidence. I’m standing in the witness box, trying to keep my voice from shaking, I answer the questions, and I tell only the truth. -----The jury’s back after less than half an hour. Guilty, the jury foreman says. The judge speaks harshly to Robert, saying domestic violence in any form is totally unacceptable in a civilised society but the violence Robert dealt out was beyond anything he had experienced before in all his years on the Bench. He sentences Robert to four years in jail. I feel numb. I’m beyond feeling grief or sadness or even relief – or any other emotion. Freedom for me, freedom from fear … but oh, such a loss of freedom for him. Robert is led away to start his sentence. At the last minute, he turns and looks at me. Despite the warder pulling him away, he’s still able to speak to me: There’s emotion in his voice but I can’t recognise what it is – sorrow? Anger? Threat? – Because he only says one word, only one word, my name: ‘Michael,’ he says.
The Luminaries By Eleanor Catton
The Good Terrorist By Doris Lessing
The Last Runaway By Tracy Chevalier
A Masterful Con!
We thought it was good to re-read a contemporary novel of its time in a period that we have all lived through. We found the book to be witty in places, powerful and furious, although we had little sympathy for any of the characters.
Our group found the title ambiguous and there was no general consensus as to whom it applied. The novel had a strong sense of time and place: we particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the milliner’s shop, the social quilting circle, and the bumpy wagon ride through the woods. We also enjoyed the chapter headings with the little quilting motifs below, the contrasts Tracy Chevalier drew between the shifting population of Ohio and the much less mobile population of rural Dorset, and the portrayal of characters such as Belle and Mrs Reed.
Only one member had read it and proclaimed it a good read. The synopsis failed to say it was 832 pages long. So you can see that what follows is not a glowing testimonial. We are a small group of ten and all but two attempted to make sense of the tale set in Victorian New Zealand that involved gold prospectors, opium, ladies of the night, murder and – dare I say it – out and out confusion of characters, all told in chapters aligned to heavenly bodies… Needless to say, in true NWR fashion, we had a robust discussion. There were those who felt failures for giving up after a few chapters, only to be comforted to learn that a mere five people had read to the end of this Booker prize winning tome! The consensus was that we had been hoodwinked and the great and good of the publishing world had, in their own interests, promoted a book that was, in our opinion, a joyless read that had nevertheless brought fame and fortune to the author!
The book explored damaged and disaffected characters coming together in a squat and looked at how they related to each other. The book is centred on character development and group dynamics. The main character Alice – a hostile daughter who steals from her own family – is a mass of contradictions; an angry and bitter revolutionary, brilliant con artist when dealing with authorities, yet she is also a driven homemaker and fearless opponent of bureaucratic injustice. She moves the commune to become a family, which is just what she is looking for, having abandoned her own. The novel demonstrates Doris Lessing’s unusual insight and narrative abilities. She excels in depicting the fluidity and volatility of the political and personal relationships and how little events cascade into bigger ones. The novel is entertaining and interesting, but challenging at the same time.
Some of the group felt that their sympathies were somewhat at odds with where the author had intended them to be. They felt that perhaps the reserve of the Haymaker family was at least in part because they could sense that Honor was comparing Ohio unfavourably with Dorset much of the time and that they were remarkably tolerant of her feeding the runaway slaves in view of what had happened to Mr Haymaker. They also felt that Jack, in particular, was actually very kind, despite the fact that he had been ‘shamed’ by his wife running away, much as Honor herself had been shamed before leaving England. We liked the fact that the author kept us guessing about the plot until the end: none of us had foreseen the denouement. It is often said of Tracy Chevalier that she applies her research lightly, and we certainly felt that was true in this book. Altogether a jolly good read we thought.
Warwick & Leamington NWR
2015 Big Read reviews 18
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
The Secret Life of Bees By Sue Monk Kidd
The Heroes’ Welcome By Louisa Young
Small Island By Andrea Levy
Our group found much to discuss in The Secret Life of Bees but it was not universally popular.
The book starts in April 1919 with the war-damaged Riley and Nadine getting married and the equally, if differently, damaged Peter and Julia struggling to hold their marriage together. Riley has extensive physical damage to his face meaning that he cannot speak nor eat properly and Peter is mentally scarred and drinking heavily. Julia has damaged her own face in a misguided attempt to win her husband’s attention back through her beauty. There is also the sad little figure of Peter and Julia’s small son and Rose, the nurse who wants to train as a doctor. The book focuses on themes of loss and damage – to beauty, innocence and love. Nothing much happens, save the gothic final scene of Julia’s, and the ending is rather disjointed with a sudden ten year jump into the future but the question as to whether you can ever truly return home from war is evocatively asked.
As this book deals with the experience of immigrants and racial issues in post-war London, feelings were mixed about ‘enjoying’ it. But being an NWR group in the London Boroughs of Brent and Harrow, we all agreed that it was a book of our time. We were all of an age to have remembered the 1950s when signs appeared in the TO LET adverts stating ‘No coloureds or Irish.’ Then we were too innocent to understand what it meant, but the book makes you feel uncomfortable because it depicts the way our world was.
Set in the racially explosive atmosphere of 1960s America, the author describes the indignities, prejudice, humiliation and ignorance routinely suffered by black people on a daily basis. Some members of the group felt that Kidd had not explored racism sufficiently and found the book unsatisfactory because of this but the majority felt the story was primarily about Lily and her journey towards acceptance. The author skilfully uses the life of bees as a model for human society showing how we are all interdependent and parallels the Civil Rights Movement and black people’s demand for human rights with Lily’s quest for freedom from her torment and perceived guilt. Most of us found the characters credible and likeable, especially strong, independent and wise August and prickly adolescent Lily. The others felt the author’s voice was heard too clearly speaking through her characters.
Described as a book which explores the long-lasting consequences of war I expected The Heroes’ Welcome to be an emotional read. In this, however, I was slightly disappointed. I found the characters quite hard to engage with Overall we found this an uplifting and and even by the end I had only really heart-warming story as Lily eventually felt an engagement with Julia. The book finds happiness and breaks free from dove straight into their lives with no her chains of grief and guilt. She finds a background as to what had happened to sanctuary in the unquestioning love and them and I have now realised that it is a friendship of the bee keeping sisters and sequel to My Dear I Wanted to Tell You. Daughters of Mary, which allows her to Apparently, this first book builds tell her story and come to terms with her the characterisation and I do not feel anger and sense of loss. that The Heroes’ Welcome works In spite of some contrived and unrealistic particularly well as a stand-alone book. The lifelong scars and damage of a situations, oversentimentality and an unlikely happy ending, we found the book conflict like that of 1914–18 are vividly ultimately redemptive showing the power painted in this book but I do wish I had read My Dear I Wanted to Tell You first. of women coming together to heal and nurture each other and the ability of love Natalie Punter, National Organiser to transform our lives.
Although the book opens in London in 1948 and ends only a few weeks later, most of us liked the way the story developed through the eyes of the four characters in previous years, however some felt it jumped about too much. We discussed how it connected continents in wartime – Gilbert, a young Jamaican who joins the RAF to fight Hitler but finds himself fighting racism instead. Perhaps Bernard’s traumatic story of his wartime service on the India/Burma border does something to explain the twisted bigoted person whom Hortense, Gilbert and Queenie see. However, we liked the way Andrea Levy is also able to breathe humour into the hardships and dire circumstances the characters had to endure. Most of us thought Hortense was the best character, having been brought up properly and speaking correctly only to be unaware that her Jamaican Patois was not understood by many white British. A lot of discussion was provoked by Small Island. As a novel we found the conflicts between the four characters its backbone – conflicts as much within the two marriages as between the Jamaican and English characters. But it was no Downton-style romanticism of the past though. This was cruel harsh post-WW2 reality.
www.nwr.org.uk NWR Magazine Autumn 2015
Connecting women East to West:
Chitose Ikawa | Trentham NWR guest member
he past year has seen a Japanese visitor amongst NWR Trentham group – rather fitting with the Japanese theme of 2015. Chitose Ikawa tells of her experience in the UK with her new Trentham friends.
useful stuff – from bedding to a Le Creuset pot. While it’s one of the aims of NWR to ‘enable members It was Carol Gorton who introduced to make contacts when moving to me to NWR. Carol and I had known a new area,’ twelve months on, I’m each other for five years, as the fully convinced that members are secretary and an overseas member always ready to extend a helping of the Stoke-on-Trent-based Arnold hand not only to someone new to Bennett Society respectively, when the area – member or not – but also I was granted a year’s leave of to those who are not new but are at absence from my post at Hitotsubashi a loss for some reason or other. University, Tokyo to do research in the Although the book group was UK. Hearing that I was to be based at the main activity I took part in with Keele University, she suggested I join Trentham, I also attended several Trentham’s NWR book group. To my regular discussion meetings and shame, I knew nothing about NWR one-off events. What struck me on the or book groups in general at that time. first couple of occasions – including Carol gave me an account of the history the successful Staffordshire Day and aims of NWR and it appealed Event in October – was the organisers’ to me immediately. scrupulous efficiency and the Even before the first meeting enthusiasm shared by the participants. last September, on moving into a flat, This impression lasted: in every I was offered by the members a lot of following event, I couldn’t help noticing
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
that everyone tried to make the most of the opportunity. It was extremely fortunate for me to be able to be part of this lively-minded community, not least at a time of particular historical significance. The solemn Remembrance Day service at the Trentham War Memorial was a truly unforgettable experience for me. The group’s devotion to the reconstruction of the lives of the village’s seventeen fallen soldiers of WW1 demands admiration. To have Japan as a theme country this year was fortuitous: that afforded me the valuable chance to reflect on my own cultural background. I very much appreciate the interest the members showed in various aspects of Japanese life. Equally meaningful for me was to explore the question of interpretation and adaptation by way of reading Japanese literary works in translation. Had it not been for the book group, I wouldn’t have picked up Edward Seidensticker’s translation of Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country,
NWR TRAVEL such as Newbooks magazine or various activities of The Reading Agency and The Reading Organisation. Having said that, the excursions to the Japanese garden in Tatton Park and Wentworth Woodhouse after reading Catherine Bailey’s Black Diamonds together were of course, simply great fun! Besides, it was a genuine pleasure to be received into so many drawing rooms and gardens, which I had never
Main image: Tokyo Tower | Sonny Abesamis on Flickr
much less compared it to the original and attempted to translate the famous opening sentences myself. The irony is, as a bookworm grown into an academic, I had little time to read anything outside my own field for fifteen odd years. Specialising in late Victorian and Edwardian literature, I tended to deny myself the luxury of contemporary Anglophone fiction or Japanese novels for pure pleasure.
Carol gave me an account of the history and aims of NWR and it appealed to me immediately. But then, I came to know that I was not alone in appreciating the encounter with new books that you wouldn’t have had a chance to read had it not been selected for the meeting. The discussions and more relaxed chats over tea and biscuits afterwards led me to realise that so much about the current publishing trend and reading practice in the UK had slipped off my radar. It was eye-opening and inspiring to learn about book groups, avid readers, and resources for them
expected from a sabbatical year. Even though I had visited Keele and Hanley several times for conferences and research in archives, I had no idea there were so many lovely places in the Midlands. As anyone who has been away from home would agree, however, it’s people that decide the impression of a foreign place. From now on, it would be always the precious friendships for which I would fondly remember Arnold Bennett’s home.
Yūjō | Friendship
So how was it for us? Chitose has been described as both ‘a breath of fresh air’ and ‘a taste of Japan’ as a member of our group these last twelve months. In this our Japanese year, she has ignited our interest and helped us to open our eyes and see Japan in a new way. In her charming and unassuming fashion she has given us an insight into the Japanese way of life, from the wearing of obis to the skills of the tea ceremony and so much more. In our book group discussions Chitose introduced us to four works of Japanese literature previously unknown to us, with her excellent knowledge of our language; she was able to give comments on the translations and, with her academic brain, gave us perceptive analyses as well as an
understanding of the lives portrayed in the literature. It was especially poignant to have Chitose with us on 11 November when we remembered the Trentham men who gave their lives in WW1. Recent media coverage of the 70th anniversary of VJ Day has brought home to us how fortunate we are to be living now and how opportune that we have been able to welcome Chitose into our group, into our homes, to become her friends and to learn more about her homeland and culture. She will be greatly missed; at her last meeting we did not say ‘sayonara’ as we hope we shall see her again in Trentham sometime in the future. Trentham NWR www.nwr.org.uk NWR Magazine Autumn 2015
Conjuring war and sublime beauty Anna Bloomfield | Maidstone NWR Mention Vietnam to most people of a certain age and they think of war. Indeed the country has suffered more than its fair share of conflicts given its very long coastline and important position on the edge of Asia. Invasion and conflicts over centuries have created a vibrant mix of cultures with Chinese, Japanese and French predominating – although the country remains Vietnamese at heart. It is a country of such contrasts; ancient and modern, riches and poverty, chaos and order, yet there is an overwhelming sense of friendliness, lack of resentment about the recent past and incomparable beauty. It was with excitement and a degree of trepidation when I set off on my own at the end of February 2014 to join a group travelling the length of the country by plane, junk boat, sampan, bus and bicycle. Hanoi was a sensory overload with new sights, sounds and smells. Conical hat wearers walking down damp rainy streets under electricity cables wrapped like tangled spaghetti, corrugated iron buildings next to modern hotels, fruit sellers crouched in the street, echoes of the ‘American War’ in Hoa Lo Prison (wryly nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by captured US pilots), pagodas, bullet holes, temples dating back over 1,100 years and of course, the huge mausoleum dedicated to Ho Chi Min – a man who would probably have hated it as he lived a very simple life in a house on stilts. Hal Long Bay was a stark contrast – over 2,000 pinnacleshaped limestone and dolomite outcrops scattered across a huge area, reputedly by a dragon lashing its tail as it landed in the Gulf of Tonkin. I’ll never forget the night spent on a junk boat in the bay, eating and singing (badly) with new friends. The former capital of Hue, sitting on the Perfume River, contained a huge Citadel based on Chinese plans and French military principles. Sadly much was destroyed in the Indo-China wars but restoration of parts shows how magnificent it must once have been. Nearby were many tombs of the Nguyen Emperors with lavish interior decorations and some guarded by soldiers and animals resembling the more famous Terracotta Warriors. Coracle boats dotted the shores of Danang Bay leading to Hoi An – a beautiful trading port from the sixteenth century with Chinese, Japanese and European 22
NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk
architectural influences, streets of tailors and shoe makers (who helped fill my suitcase with made-to-measure wear) lit by breathtakingly beautiful coloured lanterns at night. The Cham site of My Son (dating back to the fourth century) was almost intact when discovered in the jungle in the late 1890s but this was one of the greatest non-human casualties of the Vietnam War. Having survived for so many centuries, it was largely destroyed by US B52 bombers in 1968. It was a heart-breaking sight as most is beyond restoration. If the modest remains of My Son were rather disappointing, the Cu Chi Tunnels over-compensated. The stories told of guerrilla warfare, dreadful traps designed to injure not kill, the cat and mouse games played between Americans and the Vietcong, and the very scary crawling through tunnels, all brought recent history to life. Can Tho and the Mekong Delta brought a whole new feast of sensory delights with floating markets, paddy fields, sampans and palm groves all focused on the bustling river. Despite being the subject of French and Cambodian occupation and Khmer Rouge attacks, life here has remained unchanged for centuries. This area was a stark contrast to the prosperous, more westernised Ho Chi Min City (formerly Saigon). Crossing a road was the biggest challenge as you had to step into moving traffic and hope it would zig-zag around you. The vehicles were mostly mopeds, some transporting families of four. We ended up drinking Saigon Beauty cocktails and dancing in the rooftop bar of the Rex Hotel – famous for being the place where US military officers gave their daily press briefings. The food throughout was delicious – very healthy and fresh with many courses for each meal. We ate in some interesting places including on boats, in farmhouses, in a Buddhist nunnery and at a restaurant staffed by children taken off the streets. The most unsettling part of the whole trip was the return journey as we flew Malaysian Airlines into – and out of – Kuala Lumpur less than 24 hours after the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flight 370 went missing – same airline and same airport. A bit too close for comfort, but it did not detract from a truly amazing adventure.
All images: Anna Bloomfield
…over 2,000 pinnacle-shaped limestone and dolomite outcrops scattered across a huge area, reputedly by a dragon lashing its tail as it landed in the Gulf of Tonkin.
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NWR Magazine Autumn 2015 www.nwr.org.uk