NWR POSTAL BOOK GROUPS AND ME by Catharine Woodliffe

 

CW

 

The Postal Book Groups began in 1986. I am the third Organiser, taking over in 2012, after being a member for over fifteen years.

When I started there were six Groups of 12; this has now halved. I changed from having the Groups starting at different months of the year; to having them all start on 1st April. Although this was hard to set up initially, the organisation is a lot easier as when membership changes, I can re-arrange the Groups accordingly.

 

How does it work?

Each Group is given an address circle with arrows indicating to whom they are to send their book.

The members each select a book to post on the 1st April and send it to their designated recipient, together with a small notebook in which others make notes. The book can be of any genre – fiction or non-fiction. I have known poetry and short stories be sent. The only things I recommend is that the book must be in print (sometimes books have been lost in the post), and is not of any personal value. The book is sent First Class in a jiffy bag with a certificate of posting which is free of charge.

On the 1st of each month, the books go on their merry way around the country until they eventually come back to their original senders.

Being a member of a Postal Book Group is like having a birthday every month, as you do not know what will drop on your mat. Sometimes you may have already read the book (very rare), and very occasionally, the same book can be sent twice within the Group. The same author and different books have also occurred.

A member of each Group keeps a list of the books and then sends it to me at the end of the year, so I can then send out the list and ask for 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices of their favourites for the year. I then work out which is the 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The way I do is to score 3 points for 1st, 2 points for 2nd and 1 point for 3rd.

 

NWR and me

I joined NWR in January 1991 when my older son was 10 months old. I have been LO of Boston Group a couple of times and also on the Organising Committee of the two very successful Good Read Day Conferences in 2004 and 2007. I am also involved with the 2020 Celebrations, having been to the Inaugural Meeting earlier in the year.

I was also a member of a Correspondence Magazine for about 10 years, but eventually gave up as my children did not like me writing about them.

I was originally a member of Boston Group until 2006 when I became an Independent Member. This was because I had to work on the evening that Boston Group met, and I did not want to miss out on NWR membership. I still went to Boston Group when I could, together with Grantham and Horncastle Groups who both made me very welcome. I re-joined Boston Group last year.

My first Conference was Nottingham 2001. I always said that I would go to Conference when it was near enough, and when I felt my sons were old enough to be left. I have been to every Conference since apart from two. I thoroughly enjoy the buzz of Conference and meeting up with old friends and making new ones, which is what being an NWR member is all about!

 

Catharine Woodliffe

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Recent comment in this post
Liz Valette
Well done Catharine, you're doing an excellent job. I'm sure members of the postal book group appreciate your efforts.
Saturday, 03 November 2018 19:26
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An Independent Woman!

I am Gill Wignall, Independent Member and trustee of NWR.

Gill Wignall

Before moving to Poland in Spring 2003, I’d been a member of NWR for almost twenty years. It had been an important part of my life since having our children, providing me with friendship, fun, support and intellectual exercise. In addition to our normal meetings, we would meet for coffee or lunch, go swimming or sometimes for camping weekends. In the summer, we would take turns to host a ‘summer playscheme’, keeping our children active and amused and our sanity intact. I still count many of the ladies I met then as friends and our children have become friends too.

Mostly out of loyalty, when we moved abroad, I became an Independent member of NWR. Loyalty, but also because I didn’t know if or when we would return to the UK and where we might be living. I knew from experience of moving in the UK, the value of that National Register of groups. Living in a foreign country with no language skills, family or friends, I quickly recognized again, the benefits of belonging to a women’s group. I checked, but NWR didn’t extend to Poznan. Luckily, I found Open Door, which is like NWR, in that it provides a listing of groups of ladies, but this is international and includes groups from all over the world. I found, and joined, the Poznan International Ladies Club, which provided me (us) with help, new friends, a busy social life and excellent dentistry! When we later moved to Germany, I joined other International Ladies Groups, but In Trier, where none existed, I found an NWR group just a few miles across the border in Luxembourg. The Register had worked for me again and I enjoyed several meetings with the Luxembourg ladies, until we moved on once more.

Back in the UK, my local NWR group had folded. Other things like Book Club, Flower Club, Yoga and Bridge, seem to have taken its place for us oldies, whilst younger people say they are too busy and aren’t interested in joining groups like ours. Maybe, one day, they’ll come to appreciate the value of women’s groups. I have always found that they offer a special friendship and support network, which is particularly important when families no longer live close together.

Anyway, I’m happy to remain an Independent member, although I know that I would be made welcome if I wanted to go along and join in with any of the (not very!) nearby groups. I enjoy looking at the Website, reading other people’s blogs and look forward to reading the magazine, particularly to see what our lively members have been up to. I have joined several Facebook groups, enjoying the interesting debates that go on there, and although I am not a part of it, the Postal book group is ideal for independent members. With my friend, who is also an Independent member, I have been to several excellent day conferences and this year I also attended the Annual Conference in Chester. It didn’t matter at all that I was on my own, everyone was very welcoming and friendly. The whole weekend was great fun and it was lovely to catch up with old friends

There are activities for us Independents to enjoy and be a part of, but without the benefit of an Area or Local Organizer, it isn’t always so easy to find out about things that might be of interest. A good website is a great asset, whilst newsletters and emails from the Office and Natalie are always a welcome way of keeping us informed. I think it’s very important that every effort is made to ensure that Independent members particularly, are kept up to date and made to feel a valued part of NWR.

Gill Wignall, Independent Member and Trustee of NWR.

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My first year as a Trustee – Ann Fox

Ann

 

My first year as a Trustee has sped by. I wasn’t quite sure what was expected of me but having initially sat in as an observer I’ve found I really enjoy my involvement with the behind-the-scenes aspect of the organisation. All the team are very committed and we have lots of stimulating discussions too – very NWR!

In addition to the quarterly Trustee Meetings we also met to plan the NWR’s strategy for 2019-2022, an opportunity to explore all areas of the organisation and decide where we want to be in that time. We also met our new patron, Marion Molteno, which is a very exciting development for NWR.

I keep abreast of other membership organisations and their issues through MemberWise, a fount of knowledge membership-wise. It’s a professional network which provides help and support on any number of topics.

Earlier this year I set up and distributed a survey to the LOs of the larger groups. The Trustees are aware that some groups feel they cannot cope with more members and are therefore restricting their membership; this is against the ethos of NWR, in that we should be open and welcome to all, and it was agreed that I would ask the LOs in order to ascertain how it works for them and for any ideas that other groups could use. The report is nearly ready to be published and there are lots of suggestions as to how alternative ways of operating can be beneficial to us all.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the National Conference in Chester due to the wedding of a close friend – the first time I’ve not attended the National Conference for many years (weddings and funerals being about the only things that would stop me going!)

I attended the Area Meeting in Navenby led by Faith Oxford, Deepings group’s AO, whose meetings are always interesting and good fun. Faith talked about the various ways of running a group (the LO does NOT have to do everything!) and another member of our group showed us how easy it is to upload information to the website.

I was also recently involved in the recruitment of the new Membership & Communications Coordinator. There was a huge interest in this new post and we’re lucky to have recruited a brilliant lady who will be introduced to you soon and who hopefully many of you will get to meet.

I’m delighted too by the huge support for the planning of our 60th anniversary celebrations in 2020 which I’m very much looking forward to.

It’s been a very interesting year. I still have lots to learn but I’m pleased to feel I have something to offer after all I’ve got from NWR over the many years I’ve been a member. Long may it continue!

(Now to get back to that art history talk I’m prepping for our group’s meeting next month…)

 

Ann Fox, Deepings Group member and Trustee

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Lots going on at 'Esher and The Dittons'...

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Our NWR group is based in that part of Surrey which borders South West London. Our members don’t just live in Esher, but in its surrounding towns and villages, including Thames Ditton and Long Ditton (hence ‘the Dittons’ in our name.) We serve Cobham and Oxshott too. I am the current local organiser but I only joined the group 6 years ago so I have had to refer to some of our founder members to obtain details of our group in the early days. Evidently the group was set up in 1979 at a time when many of our current members were at home with small children and wanted some intellectual stimulus besides trips to the park and nappy changing! Group numbers have varied over time from 10 to 30 members and at the moment we are at the lower end of that scale, but we are actively recruiting new members.

 

A walk in the woods of Esher Common followed by a summer lunch party at a member’s house was enjoyed by members in August this year and a visit to the Houses of Parliament and lunch on the South Bank was a great day out.

 

Our meetings this year have included a wide range of discussions on many topics invoking much lively debate. Social activities have included a ‘Mulled Wine and Mince Pies Evening’ at Christmas, a Summer Lunch, and a New Year Party. We particularly enjoyed entering a team for the Quiz Evening organised by the Dorking NWR group. A firm favourite which is well attended every year is the NWR Telephone Quiz organised nationally. Musical evenings with Spotify (choosing our favourite songs from our teenage years) have been much enjoyed and we have arranged an outside speaker on ‘Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking’.

 

Two recent quotes from members as to why they joined the NWR sums up what many of us feel and why we joined in the first place:

“Since I retired I have appreciated being able to get out and meet new people”

“I just love having a lively discussion followed by tea and biscuits, then a good old chat”

 

Group numbers have varied over time from 10 to 30 members and at the moment we are at the lower end of that scale, but we are actively recruiting new members so please do get in touch with via the NWR office or website. We look forward to welcoming you!

 

Catherine Davies, Local Organiser, Esher & the Dittons NWR

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Ladies in Lavender!

Lavender Farm Ladies

A message from the ‘Ladies in Lavender’ from the Ringwood Group...

"Our group is quite new and started in April 2015. We are now 11 members and some have joined after moving into the area from another group, some, like me, have re-joined after belonging years ago and some are completely new to NWR. We have expanded our monthly meetings from an evening discussion meeting to include an afternoon book group and a lunch club.

We try to choose unusual venues for our lunches and include a discussion topic relevant to the location. For example, in the restaurant in a local converted church we discussed 'Stained Glass windows’; ‘Love Affairs’ was the topic at Lily Langtry's and at the RNLI restaurant we will be reviewing 'Disasters at Sea’.

At our evening sessions topics we have discussed include ‘Fashion disasters – yours or other people’s’, ‘Assassinations’, ‘The Shipping Forecast’, ‘Anything beginning with R’, a play reading, and a speaker on hydrangeas. We are looking forward to a Romanian evening and the annual telephone treasure trail. In March we arranged an area quiz night and were delighted to meet with members from other Wilts, Hants and Dorset groups for quite a noisy evening to challenge our grey cells – Salisbury group won!

New members are always welcome to try us out so please contact us through the NWR website to find out more over an informal coffee.

The photo shows some members on an outing and Dee Ap Simon said ‘Our group enjoyed a delicious lavender scone cream tea in the Lavender Garden near Salisbury, surrounded by the busy buzz of bees harvesting the nectar and pollen. Behind us a magnificent second garden was ablaze with masses of wild flowers. A veritable feast for all.’

Please do contact us if you would like to join us."

Wendy Jefferies, Ringwood NWR Group

 

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Hello from Leighton Buzzard...

Hello from Leighton Buzzard in deepest Bedfordshire...

Leighton Buzzard group has been going so long that no one can remember when it started but we believe it was some time in the 1980s when many had small children.

Sue, one of our more recent members said:

"I first joined NHR, as it was then, back in the Seventies when I first moved to Bricket Wood, St Albans.  My main reasons for joining then were:

  • The babysitting circle as when I first joined I was 8 months pregnant with my first child;
  • I was new to the area and also about to give up work to become a mother and wanted to meet like minded people.
  • The NHR fulfilled all my expectations and more: I was immediately involved in village life; meeting other young mums and taking up new interests.

On hearing that there was a local NWR Group here in Leighton Buzzard, I knew straight away that I wanted to join and, once again: I have been warmly welcomed; am joining in a range of activities; making new friends; taking part in lively debates; and thoroughly enjoying being part of the NWR again."

We have grown in the last year or so and currently have 35 members. We enjoy Discussion Meetings, lunches, walks, coffee mornings, scrabble and one-off events. We also have two thriving book groups. One of our recent outings was to the East End of London when we had an enthusiastic guide called Nathan who took us on a Street Art tour. We chose one of the hottest days of the year, so at the end of this fascinating experience of art and culture, we couldn’t wait to quench our thirst with various varieties of liquid. Here we are, exhausted but very happy...

photo LB

 

We finished off the day with a curry supper in one of the Indian restaurants in Brick Lane. Thanks go to Heather who is well known for her trips, this was one of the best.

We enjoyed the company of many NWR members at a day conference we organised in May entitled: The Rothschilds in the Vale of Aylesbury. There’s hint of another one in the pipeline one day, we’ll have to wait and see!

Now we have a large membership we have split the Discussion Meetings into two. On the same day and same subject, we offer a 2.00pm meeting and an 8.00pm meeting. Members can go to whichever they like, both if they wish. This flexibility has worked well and adding together the attendance at both times, shows that overall attendance has increased.

We’ve talked about the NHS, Shipping Forecast, Votes for Women, our Family Tree to name a few. We were entertained by a lively auctioneer who told us all about his experiences in the antique business. We are now looking forward to the TTT and thinking about our Planning Meeting for 2019. As ever, am sure our members will come up with lots of imaginative ideas for us to look forward to next year.

 

Penny Jamieson LO, Leighton Buzzard

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Devizes NWR Group on Track!

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Jenny, from Devizes NWR, has been in touch to tell us about her local group...

“Devizes NWR group held their first meeting in September 2011 and now have 13 members. We meet every three weeks, on a rolling rota of Monday to Thursday.

We try to have varied meetings and recent ones have included Inspiring Women, Human Evolution to Artificial Intelligence, a walking treasure trail and a music hall type drama entitled ‘Tram Track Tragedy’ (see the photo above!).

Other highlights were a speaker on mindfulness and a talk about prisons given by the ex-governor of Erlstoke Prison, and now governor of Portland Youth Offenders Institution.

We are looking forward to the Telephone Treasure Trail, an evening on the Supernatural and early next year a talk entitled ‘Heir Hunters - the real deal’.

We occasionally have daytime visits to gardens or exhibitions and we are looking forward to a visit to Newbury Watermill Theatre to see ‘Trial by Laughter’ by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman soon.

We would welcome new members to our group, please get in touch with the NWR office or via the contact form on the NWR website.”

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Spotlight on Crewe and District NWR Group

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Crewe & District NWR have been together since the 1960s. We have 16 members presently including two who have been members since the 1970s along with others who have joined recently. We meet fortnightly and meetings this year have included a vegan food tasting evening, a discussion based on the TED talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity’, a visit to Quarry Bank Mill, and researching the latest in DNA testing and genetic engineering. We have a book club using the local library service and have regular visits to the theatre.

Crewe NWR member Jill Lucas says “NWR means a lot to me because of the friendships made, the confidence it’s given me and it has broadened my horizons to consider subjects I would never have thought of.”

We are looking forward to the Telephone Treasure Trail soon; our group produced the questions a couple of years ago and we always enjoy the evening. Future meetings include ‘The Armed Man - a mass for peace’, and then at the opposite end of the music spectrum we will be investigating the latest dance/music genres - hip hop, grunge and garage! At the recent National Conference in Chester one of our members had the dubious honour of teaching the delegates the latest dance craze of ‘The Floss’!

Please do get in touch with is via the NWR office or the contact form on the NWR website if you would like to know more or would like to join us. You will be made to feel very welcome.

 

Crewe and District NWR Group.

 

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Reflections on my (first!) 4 years in post, Josephine Burt

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Having just completed four years as a trustee I can honestly say that it's been a invigorating, challenging and enjoyable few years. So much so that I've signed up for another four years! Under the NWR's governing document that is the maximum.

I’ve learnt a huge amount about NWR, the charity sector and governance - it’s certainly been a steep learning curve. I’m continuing because I feel that I still have lots to offer and to provide some continuity.

Hearing from and meeting members has been a privilege and their commitment and support for NWR going forward has inspired me. I really look forward to going to the national conference, area meetings and Area Organisers workshops. We all want NWR to continue to provide a space for women to have stimulating discussions, meet friends and have fun

My aim has always been to move NWR forward and to be open and transparent as a charity. Developments are a challenge with our limited funds and we continue to seek ways of diversifying our income. However we have introduced regular membership surveys, some competitions, more centrally organised events and are excited about welcoming a patron soon. Our approaching 60th anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate with members and raise our awareness. Alongside this NWR is a well organised charity, meeting all the legal and compliance requirements.

Inevitably there have been challenges. One continuing challenge has been increasing our reach to attract more members. Another frustrating aspect has been the high staff and trustee turnover in the last three years for a variety of reasons. However we have a team led by Natalie Punter, our National Organiser, who is committed and focused and ready to take on change.

Let's see what we can achieve in the next four years.

 

Josephone Burt

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Trustee Jennifer Johnson presents this year's Mary Stott award...

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I was delighted to be involved in the Mary Stott Award this year.

Just a little about Mary and why there should be an Award in her name. Mary was a Guardian journalist who was instrumental in getting NHR (as we were then) off the ground almost 60 years ago. She continued to support NWR throughout her long life. She died aged 95 in 2002 and in 2003, in recognition of her support, the NWR Trustees decided to give and annual award to an NWR member who has achieved something exceptional during the previous year. This is the Mary Stott Award!

This year we were delighted to have 3 nominations all of whom had done truly exceptional things. It was difficult job for our panel to make a choice but we were happy to announce our winner was Jenny Wright of the Seaford NWR Group. She was nominated by Barbara Richardson of the Shoreham by Sea Group.

A bit about Jenny - Jenny has always liked to be busy and has been in a variety of clubs and societies ranging from the Adam Faith Fan club, the Scooter Club and ultimately graduating to NWR; what development and variety! Jenny moved to Seaford 17 years ago and there was no NWR group in the area. Barbara suggested she might like to use her organisational and people skills to set one up - this she did! Now 17 years later they have over 70 members.

Jenny is being honoured with this award because she is exceptional in her commitment to NWR, its vision and mission, to the ladies of Seaford who have benefited from her own commitment and care. Jenny embodies what NWR is all about during a time of exceptional challenges experienced by many organisations.

Jennifer Johnson, NWR Trustee

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My first conference as a Trustee...

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I’ve been asked to write a Blog about my first experience of a Conference as a Trustee, and this is the first blog I’ve ever written; so that’s another new life skill I’ve learnt since volunteering!

The last Conference I attended was York, in 2003, before I went to live abroad. Then, I was part of the organising committee, so Chester 2018 felt very different. I felt quite emotional as I was voted in, but was also wondering, what have I done? Luckily, everyone was very kind to me when it was my turn to speak and once that was over, I was really able to relax enjoy the rest of the day.

Apart from the AGM, being a Trustee at the Conference is no different to being a normal delegate and, like everyone there, I had a great weekend in Chester. The Speakers and Wrap Around events were excellent, although maybe I enjoyed the wine tasting a little too much! All the catering was delicious and efficiently delivered by smiley staff, especially the Friday and Saturday night events.

I liked meeting and chatting to members from all over the country and putting faces to those names I had previously only seen on Facebook or in emails. I was thrilled to catch up with a friend from that York committee, and also with the person who first introduced me to NWR, but who I hadn’t seen for 30 years. Thank goodness for name badges! We’d both moved around the country several times in the interim, but had always managed to find an NWR group to join and were grateful for the friendships that resulted. I also spoke to a lady I’d never met before, who spoke about volunteering at the Olympics. When I asked her if, by any chance she’d come across a friend of mine who’d also been a volunteer, they had, coincidentally, worked together. I love the links and connexions that belonging to a national organisation like NWR brings.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be attached to a local group, but even as an Independent member like me, it’s possible to enjoy a lot of what NWR has to offer by joining in with area and national events whenever possible. The organisers go to a lot of trouble to make them fully inclusive and there’s always a friendly face ready for a chat, so no-one needs to feel alone. We’re all part of the NWR Community.

Gillian Wignall, Trustee and Independent Member

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My thoughts on another fabulous conference - Chester 2018 by Josephine Burt

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Once members attend a national conference they have such a good time that they usually go again. Chester was my 7th national conference and yet another exhilarating, informative and fun weekend. The conference theme 2018 was 'Nature versus Human Innovation' so quite a challenging topic for the organising committee. However they found three excellent speakers working in the fields of genetics, sustainable agriculture and conservation.

The first speaker was Dr Lyndsey Craven-Butterworth from the University of Newcastle on Mitacondrial Research who are pioneering IVF-based techniques which has led to what the press call 'Three parent babies'. She was enthusiastic and gave a fascinating talk to explain what Mitacondria are and that Mitacondrial DNA disease is carried through generations by women. The first baby is due later this year.

Dr Kate Pressland from the Soil Association spoke after lunch. Kate runs the Innovative Farmers programme which aims to bring scientists and farmers together in order to provide good food without the use of chemicals. This is hugely important for the ecosystems and for us.

The Sunday morning conference was a new option which attracted 84 members back to the Queens Hotel. Jennifer Tegg, Head of Marketing at Chester Zoo, gave a passionate and fascinating illustrated talk on palm oil production in Borneo and the conservation of orangutans in which Chester Zoo is is a world leader. Chester is now working towards becoming the world's first sustainable palm oil city engaging with restaurants, hotels, manufacturers etc to achieve this.

There was a wide variety of optional wrap-around events and workshops from Friday till Sunday which created a stimulating and full programme. I enjoyed the 'Horrible handwriting' and walking the Chester walls and I heard great reports of the wine- tasting, the drumming workshop, the ghost walk and Discovering the Rows walk.

I am looking forward to the Plymouth conference in 2019 already with its theme of Voyage and Discovery. It's an opportunity to learn about new topics, make friends and have fun and perhaps have a holiday in beautiful Devon. Why not join me?

Josephine Burt

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The Procession Celebrating 100 Years Since Women Got The Vote

I took part in the London Procession on Sunday 10th June and what a thrilling and joyous experience it was!

Described by the organisers as “a spectacular living art work…a tribute to the Suffrage campaigners”, more than 30,000 women (and girls ) of all ages, colour, creed and sexual orientation assembled in Park Lane, on a beautiful sunny day, to collect our scarves. These were in the Suffragette colours. Some were worn as sashes or shawls and many were made into turbans and other (quite stunning) headdresses. The image we created was meant to be of a flowing river of green, white and violet, a gigantic moving banner. (Aerial shots show this was successful and, as we walked down Pall Mall, the procession stretched from one end to the other – simply breathtaking!)

There were banners aplenty, (Apparently one craft shop in London ran out of purple, green and white tassels and they “didn’t know why”!) Women came from many parts of England, and further afield, including New Zealand and Pakistan. There was a wonderful festival atmosphere, lots of good-natured chanting and singing, not to mention VERY loud music booming out at different points along the route!

All in all, a glorious, memorable day, when we honoured and remembered with pride the brave women who fought for the Vote for us.

Pat Holmes (Member of Finchley / Whetstone NWR)

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Leighton Buzzard Day Conference – The Rothschilds in the Vale of Aylesbury

As the sun rose on Saturday May 19th it promised to be the start of a perfect day for the big event, our day conference, the first that Leighton Buzzard group had ever held. It had been a long while in the planning, and although we were fully booked at an early stage there were last-minute nerves as we anticipated the arrival of our guests for the day.

There was another big event on the same day, which we thought might affect attendance, but in fact it didn’t seem to matter, and of course those who were so inclined could record it all and watch it at leisure later in the day.

Our first speaker, Susan Brooke, is a freelance art historian and guide at Waddesdon Manor. She explained how the Rothschilds built their wealth and financial expertise on the basis of being trustworthy and reliable guardians of their clients’ wealth, and as they rose through the ranks of society they were keen to impress, building magnificent houses and filling them with the most opulent treasures they could find. Contrary to other families who had amassed great wealth, they were careful not to squander it so as to pass the baton to the next generation.

The second speaker, Catherine Taylor, is head archivist at Waddesdon Manor, and gave us a fascinating history of the different Rothschild homes in our area, together with entertaining stories of some of the occupants. She also emphasised the considerable philanthropic work undertaken by the family, together with the various trusts and foundations which were set up over the years.

After a delicious and very varied bring and share lunch, attendees had the opportunity to visit Ascott House, a Rothschild home just half a mile from where our event was held in Wing Village Hall, either exploring the treasures displayed in the house or enjoying the beautiful and extensive gardens. Others opted for a walk round the village. Tea and cakes were offered on their return to the hall before setting off on the journey home.

We received some lovely comments during the day, including “Just a note to say all three of us from North Beds. Villages enjoyed Saturday very much. Interesting speakers and we were very impressed with Ascott House and the lovely gardens", and, “Thank you and your NWR colleagues for giving us all such a good day.  
It was all so well organised and you had made the venue look so inviting. Ascott House is delightful and the gardens and wonderful - mind you such good weather helped! Many thanks.” Thame NWR

We went home tired, but relieved it had all gone well and that everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves. Who knows, we might even organize another event one day!

Jo Thomson

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Successful area lunch in Devon.

Ivybridge group organised another successful Area Lunch on Saturday 24 March at the Buckfast Abbey Conference Centre in Devon. 93 members from all over the South West and as far afield as Solihull attended and it is always great to catch up with members you have met before.

First on the programme was a welcome from Brother Christopher and a humorous description of day in the life of a monk including questions such as 'Are you a monk?' and 'Where are the nuns?'! Then we were treated to a fascinating presentation by the Abbey beekeeper Clare Densley. Clare
explained the changing role of the bee colonies at Buckfast from honey production to a focus on education about bees and bee keeping courses. She showed us different beehives, went through the lifecycle of the bee and finally recommended plants to grow for bees including dandelions, Vipers Bugloss and forget-me-knots.

After a superb two course lunch in the light and spacious Refectory complete with complimentary fudge, the Devon author Marcia Willett joined us. Marcia's writing career started aged 50 and she has now written 29 books including short stories under her pseudonym Willa Marsh. Landscape is always the first 'character ' in her books and then other characters evolve and the plot. Her research always includes lots of visits to the setting of the stories which are often places in Devon.

The formal sessions concluded with a brief explanation on the duties of a trustee, by trustee Josephine Burt and exciting news from Natalie Punter, NWR National Organiser about the 2019 national conference. The Joint Area Organiser, Glenda Cooper concluded with huge thanks to the Ivybridge Group, led by Anne Brooks and Marilyn Coles, for organising such a stimulating and enjoyable day.

Despite the wet weather some members made the most of their visit with a guided tour of the Abbey gardens and a visit to the bee barn.

The planning for the 2019 Area conference in Tavistock on Saturday 23 March is well under way so what better excuse for a short break in Devon!

Josephne Burt, Trustee

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The impact of NWR, a member's quote...

For International Women's Day, March 8th, we felt this quote from an NWR member says it all. To all our NWR members, and women and men across the world we'd like to ask you to join us in celebrating this day and make sure your voice is heard...

 

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How to self publish your creative writing...

We know that many NWR members are very creative, with many of you writing peoms, short stories and even novels.  Here, NWR member Sally Krykant offers some advice on getting your work self published...

I have been writing for many years on and off. I began when my children were small and used to enter short story competitions. When I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere, I did an Open College of the Arts Creative writing course and improved, getting a few short story anthologies to take my work. However, I then changed direction completely and became a psychodynamic counsellor. During that time I hardly read a novel. My attention was concentrated on theory books and papers but I always knew I would return to writing.

Thinking psychodynamically has helped me enormously with writing, helping me to empathise with characters and think on many different levels about plot and developing story lines.

It is very difficult to get taken on by publishers. One absolutely needs an agent these days and so I knocked a few doors with negative response. Curtis Brown Associates in London gave me some encouragement when I sent them my manuscript for Seeds of Doubt, telling me it was a lot better than many they received and to keep on with the project. I joined a couple of writing groups and met people who had self published their work. At that time I was almost tempted to go with a vanity publisher but was warned off by many writers I spoke to on the Suffolk Writers website. There is a long article in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook which warns writers not to go the vanity route – too expensive, those handling you do not necessarily have a publishing background or interest and also your work can be pulped if it doesn’t sell.

Self publishing has been an easy and inexpensive way of getting my book onto the shelves. Createspace is a part of Amazon. Firstly, you need someone you trust to proofread your manuscript. A fellow writer read mine. Next, you need to have it set out in the way it will be laid out. Createspace list all you need to know on their webpage. Finally, you need a book cover. You can either choose one from their examples or commission one yourself. I chose to have a young artist, who I found on Suffolk Writers, design mine. When you feel everything is in place you then need to send it across on a pdf file. It is then displayed for you on the account page which you will have set up. You will see your book in animated form on your computer and turn the pages, checking for layout errors. An ISBN number is automatically assigned. They will send you a paper copy for the last proof read.

As soon as you give the go ahead you can start ordering books to sell yourself, and your book is immediately for sale on Amazon Books. You can either do all of this yourself for very little or pay Createspace for services as you go along, but I would simply advise anyone to do it this way. You are in complete control. I felt I was collaborating with people rather than being taken over.

Sally Krykant

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My first NWR meeting!

As many of you know, I started as the website and publicity coordinator with NWR at the start of October and one of the things I was very keen to do was to visit a local group and attend an NWR meeting.

My local group is not very ‘local’, sadly, but last week I travelled to Kendal to meet the group there and attend their November meeting... and I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.

Although I feel I am starting to get a good feel for the organisation and I had spoken to many members about their experiences with NWR I still wasn’t exactly sure how the meeting would work. I didn’t even know the topic for the discussion!

My first impression as I walked through the door was of the warmth and openness of the members. Everyone seemed pleased to see me and I was immediately found a chair and welcomed to the group – no mean feat as it was a busy meeting with (I think) 14 or 15 people attending. The group started promptly and began their discussion – no time for chat or gossip and I realised that the motto of ‘NWR – more than coffee and a chat’ certainly applied to the Kendal group. The topic for discussion was revealed: PUBLIC CONVENIENCES...

What?

Really?

How on earth could we discuss toilets for an hour and a half? I honestly thought we would run out of conversation very quickly, or that the discussion would descend into horror stories of bad experiences...

How wrong could I be? The discussion was fascinating and wide ranging. Members came with information about the Kendal Courtesy Toilet Scheme where local businesses and organisations provide free use of their loos now that the Council run facilities have closed. We also discussed whether councils should be providing free toilets when their spending was under such scrutiny and cuts. Another member gave a fascinating talk about a charity for people who have a condition called paruresis where they find it impossible to ‘go’ in public toilets (a more common problem than you would think and one which has huge impact on people’s lives. Check www.ukpt.org.uk for more details). We also talked about the futuristic high-tech toilets in Japan which automatically wash and dry the user; and how the technology is being used here in the UK to help people with mobility problems to maintain their independence. In between these quite serious discussions we had had some more light hearted moments – including a quiz!

It was only once everyone had been given the time to present their bit of research did we break for coffee, biscuits and a chat. This was a lovely opportunity for me to get to know a few of the members and find out more about why they joined NWR (and why they stay!).

My overall feeling? The Kendal group were exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Everyone was given time to talk if they wanted to and everyone was included. The discussion was stimulating and fun. And yes, I did learn a lot.

I’d like to thank all of the ‘lively minded women’ from Kendal that I met last week. I hope to see you all again soon – and next time I will come prepared!

For those of you who would like to see a photo of us all that evening, head over to the NWR Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nwr.uk  I am the one in the middle of the photo holding what looks like a large tea cup; but as you can probably guess after reading this post is actually something quite different!

 

Sara Jane

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Liz Valette
Ha Ha!! I was right about what I politely called a giant teacup on our Facebook page!!! Public conveniences, a brilliant subject. ... Read More
Tuesday, 05 December 2017 15:16
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NWR National Conference

Please note that due to technical difficulties outside our control the booking site for the Conference is not yet live.  We will be emailing all members as soon as we have a date when the site will be up and running to take your Conference bookings.

Registration for our 2018 conference will open soon and we are looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Chester in 2018.  In the meantime, here is another great write-up about this year's conference in Lincoln by NWR member Sandra Sellers...

 

The annual NWR Conference held this year in the historic city of Lincoln was on the theme of Wonder Woman (yes we knew the film would be doing the rounds this summer) appropriate as the film has become the biggest live action film ever directed by a woman and has been so successful it is the highest grossing film eve directed by a woman so truly an inspirational theme celebrating the success women can achieve.

On Saturday morning around 300 delegates gathered at the venue to be welcomed by Karen Crow the Lincoln Town Crier in her full regalia. She gave her Home Cry about how lucky Lincoln is to be known for Lincolnshire Sausages and then a specially written cry for the day stating that we are all Wonder Women!

Our first speaker was Sophie Wells who is a renowned Dressage rider who was born In Lincoln and grew up on her parent’s farm. She shrugs off that she has just one finger on each hand and no feeling at all in her feet. She told us that she was determined as a child to take up riding just like all her pony loving friends. She loves training her horses to learn the intricate movements required for an accomplished routine set to music. Her hard work and determination have led to success in World championships and Paralympics so that at the age of just 27 years old she has 23 medals.

Our second speaker was Mary Powell who led the team that has raised and spent £22 million on the refurbishment of Lincoln Castle. Mary took us ‘behind the scenes’ to see images of special highlights of the project and gave us an interesting insight into the challenges and how she overcame them. We were all delighted to share in her excitement that just the day before the conference Lincoln Castle had been voted the best castle in England.

After lunch we held the Annual General Meeting. It was as usual a vociferous affair. The lively minded women had their say!

For those who wanted activity there was the choice of Chasamba line dancing or African drumming. Both were in high demand so apologies if you missed out. Then for those who like to meet other members there was a choice of two discussion groups. One on what we consider makes a wonder woman and the other on the Lincoln castle project and what difficulties a good project leader can overcome. In an effort to make sure we had something for everyone we had the choice to listen to a guest speaker from the Woodland Trust. Many of us were members and enjoyed hearing more from the organisation.

It was then time for the last speaker of the day, author Sophie Hannah. I know of at least two delegates who booked to come along purely so that they could meet Sophie!! Others of us had never read any of her books. Some writers find it difficult to speak to audiences much preferring the chance to craft each sentence carefully in the quiet of their office but this does not apply to Sophie Hannah who kept the whole audience enthralled as she explained how she came to branch out from poetry to crime novels and now to writing novels for the Agatha Christie foundation. She told us of the day she had a caesarean birth for her daughter and how this led her to the theme of her book ‘Little Face’ in which a mother is convinced her husband has switched their baby for another. Like many authors she said that friends often suggest topics that she may like to write about and one such was a friend who said that the Sat Nav in her car had an address programmed into it for HOME which was not her home address. Sophie uses this premise in her book Lasting Damage where the heroine wants to find out who lives at the unknown address.

Next Year the Conference will be held in Chester and we hope many of you will decide to invest the time in coming along and making it a highlight of your year. We all enjoyed our time in Lincoln very much and were inspired by the life stories of all our guests. It was truly a Wonder-ful day!!

Sandra Sellers

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Chester Conference 2018 - Planning well under way

Planning is well under way for the 2018 NWR conference in Chester and those who have organised past conferences know just how much hard works goes into making sure these events are a success. The the details for 2018 will be up on the website soon, including details of how to book your place at the conference online. In the meantime, here's a look back to the Lincoln conference as seen through the eyes of NWR member Faith Oxford...

 
Lincoln conference 2017 through my eyes - as a committee member and chair on the day

Sandra's excellent report on the conference was a full and comprehensive account of a day that, we as a committee, were pleased to be able to say most delegates enjoyed. But how did we get to that day? What trials and tribulations did we go through? What emotions did we experience...... and how many emails passed between us?!

From my point of view, volunteering to be on the committee was not a hard decision. I had been part of the 2001 Nottingham conference committee so knew how much hard work was involved but also remembered what a fantastic buzz it gave me when it was all over.

Back then, planning began 18 months ahead of conference, which was a full weekend with the committee organising everything - accommodation, food, workshops, speakers, etc. etc. We also had to decide on a theme for the conference so when ten willing volunteers met up for the first time with Natalie on 3rd August last year and were told the theme for this year's conference was to be 'Wonder Women', we thought; at least that's one less thing to worry about. But was it? In the past conference titles have included 'Power' (Leicester 1995),'Fast Forward' (Nottingham 2001), 'Exploring Diversity' (York 2003) and 'Inspired' (Birmingham 2012). All stirring and inspirational themes but with the added bonus that you could make almost any speaker fit the brief. 'Wonder Women' on the other hand... That was pretty specific!

The original ten members dwindled to seven plus Natalie and our first couple of meetings were brain storming sessions to suggest speakers who would be interesting (ideally, having been heard by one of us previously) available (even more important), fulfilled the brief... and affordable! Helen Sharman, first British woman in space was certainly a Wonder Woman but way out of our budget.

We went away from our brainstorming sessions with our brains hurting! But over the next couple of meetings, we agreed on our speakers and booked them; feeling reasonably satisfied that they would be good. Workshops and retail stalls were also agreed upon and booked.

Does that sound as though it was all going too smoothly? That may be because I forgot to mention the frustration when we were trying to get information and people could not be contacted, when emails we thought we'd sent were not sent - or at least did not arrive or were not answered! Then there was the 'biggie' when one of our workshop leaders had to withdraw. Panic set in... Slightly! After all, we are capable, resourceful and determined 'Wonder Women'! Yet another brainstorming session ensued (by email) and we secured the services of the ‘Drumming Man’ - much to the delight I'm sure, of those delegates who attended the session.

The weekend arrived and the first 'disaster'! I do not intend to dwell on the Friday evening chicken - so much has already been said! With many thanks to Natalie, a refund has been arranged and, hopefully, everyone who went will have realised that we were equally disappointed. 

Waking on Saturday morning with the evening before very much on my mind - plus the fact that I (as the compiler of the picture quiz) had mistakenly thought Cate Blanchett was Keira Knightley and was loudly shouted down! - I was nervous about the day ahead. As volunteer committees, we take on these tasks willingly and with a great sense of responsibility, knowing that the enjoyment of up to 300 women, at no little expense- is in our hands. It was daunting!

But..... from the moment the Town Crier rang her bell and her stirring voice rang out, I dared to hope that it was all going to be okay! There were moments - the AGM being one of them (almost a tradition since it moved from the end of the day to the middle) - that were tricky but we got through it.

Emotional - yes, of course it was. The whole process was emotional - frustrating at times and annoying at times but also immensely rewarding and, overall, it was fun. Working with and getting to know my fellow committee members was great. The lovely, heart-warming and kind comments from delegates during the day and as they went home made it all worthwhile and I went home on a high. However, unlike in 2001 when that buzz kept me awake and buzzing half the night, 2017 saw me having a glass of wine and falling into a long and deep sleep!

And those dozens (if not hundreds) of emails? I can't quite bring myself to delete the folder just yet - in case I should need to refer to them.

Good luck to Chester committee and I'm really looking forward to enjoying the product of other people's hard work.

 

Faith Oxford

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Liz Valette
A lot of hard work really does go into organising conferences. Volunteer committees, with a great sense of responsibility, willing... Read More
Friday, 17 November 2017 09:16
Faith Oxford
Thank you, Liz. Several of us on the committee met up for lunch a few weeks after the conference and did a little 'back-patting'!... Read More
Sunday, 19 November 2017 18:50
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