Avid readers of the SHWI blog will know that I usually write the posts after the SHWI Getaways at Currer Laithe and I felt it was only fitting for me to do the same for another getaway comprising of WI fun. However, typically, I write the post within about 24 hours of returning because I am pining so much and trying forlornly to relive the memories, sobbing quietly onto my sofa. Well, this time, I am looking back on the event a whole fortnight after returning. You slacker, Pilson, I can hear you all tutting. However, I have good reason. The delay is due to the fact that I have spent approximately 23 hours and 45 mins of each day following my return (sleep’s for the weak, dude) on the Tea and Tents Facebook page conversing, commiserating and chortling with my many new WI sisters across the country…
So let’s get back to the weekend of wonder itself. With school being out for summer, I excitedly headed towards the wilds of Walesby to participate in Tea and Tents 2. This belter of a camping trip was first organised last year and attended by several SHWI members, whose amazing feedback made this year’s event THE hot ticket for many SHWI-ers (apart from Keighley of course). So 19 of us descended en masse to a campsite usually reserved for scouts! After setting up our tents (thank you
Sarah and Bex for saving an ace area for us), we headed to the main tent for the fuddle. Can you imagine the cornucopia provided in that tent by the cooking of 500 WI members? AMAZING! However, it was quite difficult to get to the food given the organisation of the tables in the tent, so sadly I was unable to participate – this may be my only SLIGHT area for improvement of the whole weekend – next time perhaps have food on all of the tables and everyone eat al fresco. Luckily, we had a guerrilla fuddle at SHWI camp HQ and I was ‘forced’ to abandon my #veganlifestyle by Liz’s
divine mackerel pate. It was a real hardship I can tell you…
Once we were Christmas Day-style stuffed, we welcomed around 30-40 women from other WI’s to Laura’s beer swap. It proved so popular that we had to break into 4 groups. We organised the beer by ABV from weakest to strongest and supped to our heart’s content, sharing opinions on the booze and generally chatting about our WIs. Although I met lots of lovely ladies in my group, I must give a special mention to our nearby neighbours, Youlgrave WI, whom we will definitely visit soon. Despite
us making a valiant attempt, there was so much beer left that many ladies took a bottle home with them and Laura was left with a beer pyramid for her own personal consumption. I imagine it lasted
approximately 2 hours…
Saturday was a day full of activities for all – some more sedate than others. Carolyne and Liz got the ball rolling (quite literally) by participating in a game of Quidditch! It’s not just all tea and cakes in the WI you know, well at least not until the afternoon! Other activities across the weekend included Pilates, crochet, flower crown making, paper cutting, self-defence, a market, best in show competition, quiz, afternoon teas, yarn bombing, sports day (special mention to the UK WI Egg and
Spoon champion Liz Mitchell here!) There was a myriad of talks, including one by the fabulous Joanne Croxford of the Daisy Change WI. I mention this talk in particular because we are lucky enough to have Joanne coming to talk to us at our Centenary Mixer on Saturday September 26th about how the WI changed her life and about setting up the country’s first WI at a psychiatric unit – members, you should come! Tickets only £1! Also, there was a particularly competitive game of Rounders. Did you know that our president, Kirsty Bowen, whom we trust to lead us with dignity and valour, is actually a ruthless Rounders cheat? A victory is not a victory when gained through pernicious means…(Editors Note: Kirsty in no way cheated and is in fact a Lincolnshire district rounders runner-up champion 2002 – KB).
Some of us also chose to take part in Walesby’s standard scouting activity programme, with lake- based frolics or an action-packed activity course. Liz, Bex and I braved the mosquitoes of Walesby by trekking through the forest down to the lake to participate in body-boarding and kayaking. The body boarding basically consisted or jumping headfirst down a ‘slip ‘n’ slide’ on a hill into the lake. It was great fun, unless you let go of the body board and end up sliding down the rocky ground on your belly. As Liz discovered, you may not get to the bottom with everything intact. Don’t worry, she wasn’t hurt, but let’s just say that she gave the young gentleman overseer a treat that he wouldn’t get from the Scouts! On Sunday morning many ladies blew off the cobwebs with a brisk session of axe throwing, zip wiring and climbing. SHWI ‘sensible is my middle name’ Secretary Laura Bainbridge had been very well-behaved up to this point over the weekend, so OF COURSE she had to leave the latter activity with a suspected broken wrist! It certainly made the Sunday night a bit different for myself and Becky, who accompanied her to Bassetlaw A and E for an X-Ray (thank you to Theresa and Rachel who patched her up in the meantime, and fear not – it turned out to be a sprain). Who’d have thought that ACTUAL HEALTH AND SAFETY PROFESSIONAL Laura would sustain a NON-ALCOHOL-RELATED INJURY? Mindblowing.
Luckily, she soldiered on long enough for us all to enjoy Sarah’s curry feast – who else could cater for 30+ people on a camping stove and make it quality better than most Indian restaurants? We welcomed ladies from several other WIs and I must admit I got a bit teary-eyed sitting round and eating that curry (and not because of the spices). It was just such a wonderful example of the do it yourself, everyone muck in, everybody welcome spirit of the WI. Jeez Willoughby, wasn’t making half the crowd cry by beginning a rendition of Jerusalem when we were taking an aerial photo of the group emosh enough for you?!
Finally, I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there and tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air. But, alas, that’s another story. Instead, I’d like to take a minute to thank some of the people who, in particular, made the weekend so special for all of us. Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped run the site and activities programme so smoothly (including Becky, Cat,
Holly and Vicky of the SHWI-ers). Secondly, thank you to all those who gave their time to run workshops, deliver speeches or organise activities – it’s a cliché, but there really was something for
Thirdly, thank you to my own personal hero and SHWI camp mother, Sarah Willoughby. This women organised our shopping, hired various pieces of equipment (including a van), had a hand in various erections (oo-er) and catered for 20 plus people all weekend (I haven’t even mentioned Saturday’s AMAZING paella) – without your amazing efforts the weekend wouldn’t have been what
it was. Next year, try to do a bit more work though, yeah, Willoughby? I’m sure you sat down for at
least 3 minutes over the weekend… Fourthly (is that even a word?), thank you to the generosity of all participants who through simply having fun, have raised £3000 for the charity Refuge, as well as providing donations of food, bras and crocheted daisies for various other worthy charities. Last but
most certainly not lease, the biggest of THANKS must go to the organisers: Sue, India, Claire, Meryl
and Rebecca, who have basically done a full-time job organising T&T on top of their own work and family commitments. It was certainly no mean feat and I know that there are around 530 women who owe you a massive debt of gratitude.
So to sum up – Tea and Tents? More like booze and banter, cakes and crochet, FRIENDSHIP AND
FUN! Until the next time, campers…