14 September 2011



(Please note: this is not a true story)

It was the month after the AGM that Federation asked for contributions for a summer craft display; that was when it dawned on the members what a good choice they'd made for replacement president. Nell Parsons was good at everything, so capable that in all probability the rest of us would not be inveigled into doing things. A misguided assumption.

Our new secretary, young Sybil (she's 72, but we have to differentiate between her and Sybil Cox who's nearly 90) ... young Sybil told us, after Nell left the committee meeting, that there would be no opting out. Sycophancy was a new characteristic for Sybil Soper, though her bossiness had always been problematic. I guess rebellion didn't feature in her disciplined existence. Anyway, she said it was up to us to back Nell in her new role so we relented and asked to see the schedule.

You would not believe the length of the list, a double-sided A4 sheet containing a complete miscellany of unfamiliar and difficult crafts. Young Sybil suggested we ask Nell to start a class but Thelma Pittey, our Treasurer, said she'd rather go to Denman College*. For someone who constantly pleads poverty I thought that remark was an absolute gem, unless, of course, she's got a hidden cache.

Well, we had a vote and Nell won, nine to two. She'd have been thrilled if she hadn't gone early to get her hair done. To this day I don't understand why she needs hair-dos at all, her having the sort of natural blonde curls to die for.

The classes got underway. Note I said classes plural; there's no messing when Nell gets the creative bug. Throughout the winter, closeted in the hall with the central heating going full blast, curtains drawn to shut out the miserable elements, we gave ourselves up to concentrated edification. Hours of solid graft punctuated by welcome servings of Nescafé and Garibaldi’s provided by our forty-something ex-beauty queen, Dotty Paxton. Willow-slim, bearing trays of goodies, she sashayed to the work tables in a style befitting an ageing Miss Torquay.

Apart from a couple of travelling tutors, Nell taught us everything herself. I must admit I enjoyed most of the classes, though I got a bit heated under the collar with paper crafts. It’s no joke when enlarged knuckles get stuck in scissors. I'm not all that enamoured with anno domini but I won't labour the point. Now Thelma, with her wonderfully slender hands, did rather well. Her quilling was out of this world. In fact, Nell Parsons said her rosebuds were the best she'd seen. She had a cheeky look on her face when she said that. I smirked because Thelma is really flat-chested. However I was quite serious when I told Thelma she should start a card-making business and offered to be her agent. I'm fairly adept at selling ... my old man says I'm persuasive enough to sell used sugar. Thelma wouldn't have it that she was good enough but I told her, as Nell did, that her efforts with mere strips of paper would win copious prizes. All she needed was confidence.

The group worked hard to meet the deadline. Some of our younger members were quite proficient and kept talking about City and Guilds. Between us we've accomplished many of the scheduled crafts. Nell's been great. Took it all in her stride. I understand now why young Sybil applauds her genius. Thelma and I put one of our new skills to the test and embroidered a cushion with Jack-of-all-Trades stitched in blue. Nell was so over the moon her tears soaked her new cardie. It transpired that her mother's relentless denigration pulled her down so much she didn't start learning until she joined the WI. The cushion has prime position, permanently on the president's chair. I'm not sure who's proudest, her or us.

* Denman College is the WI’s own college.


  1. smiles. is this a true story? or one of your fiction pieces?

  2. Great story, Valerie!

    Your description of each character is flawless!

    And I LOVED this....

    "I'm fairly adept at selling ... my old man says I'm persuasive enough to sell used sugar."


    Hope you're having a faaaaaabulous day, dear lady!


  3. Valerie you should write a book. This was great!

  4. I love your description of the characters - old Sybil and young Sybil! They're great!

  5. Smiling! You're such a good story teller.

  6. love how "young" Young Sybil is!!

    Gill in Canada

  7. My thanks to everyone for the lovely comments. I thought 'Young Sybil' was an inspiration ... grins.


If you're new to A Mixed Bag you might find something to interest you, a bit of mirth, a story or two, or some pictures. I'm so pleased you popped in, do leave a comment if you have time.