For Home and Country

I’m just back from a meeting with the Lovely Rita (Rita, what an awesome name) from the Balerno WI.

The ‘WI’, or Scottish Womens Rural Institute to give it its full title, is apparently on the cusp of a sort of urban renaissance according to Rita. She has had THREE enquiries from ‘young ladies’ (myself included) over the past few weeks, all interested in starting up groups in the City.

Why? She asked me what had motivated me and I rattled off words like cake and decoupage, but what I think I’m after is some community spirit, and maybe some new mates – they don’t have to be young trendy things fashioning handbags out of old tights though. I’d quite happily learn a new recipe or listen to a story from an older person too.

I’ve reached an age (or should i say a stage in my life) when I appreciate that older people have something to offer younger people. Its not just about handing down wisdom or keeping old traditions alive; they have personalities too! Likewise I think older people can certainly learn a heap from young’uns. And I’m not just talking about how to work an iPhone – my mum loves to blether with me and my mates, and seems rejuvenated after a good gossip. I don’t have the luxury of having her on the same landmass as me, so I miss out on her company.

It’ll be interesting to see who signs up for this new Leith Group if it goes ahead. Rita thinks it’ll be a mix of ages and that’s what I’m hoping for. It’d actually be a bit boring if it was all trendy young chicks or fluffy old ladies. Apparently the South Queensferry group was keen on having a ‘stitch & bitch’ night but the group decided to call it ‘knit & natter’ to appease the more delicate members. My ideas for activities have been things like cocktail-making demonstrations, poker, finger painting and having the zoo guy come round with the mobile petting zoo. I will stick with this if my group comes together – hopefully the new members will add some better ideas in to balance it out, like flower arranging or a talk on houseplants.

Rita was good. She had pixie cropped grey hair and rather flamboyant dangly earrings, a lovely smiley face and a hand-printed scarf [swooshed over her shoulder as opposed to tied in a wee bow]. She threw a gigantic Barbour coat on to brave the rain though, which made her look like a farmers wife. She has won many many rosettes and trophies for embroidery, she tells me proudly. I hope I’m as good as Rita when I’m her age (anywhere between 50 and 75 she could be).

She gave me some photocopied info to look over, including the April 2012 newsletter from the Midlothian Federation (which covers Edinburgh) and alongside the news and, worryingly, obituary section, there was a list of updates from all the groups in the area.

This was an interesting spectrum of activity that included the aforementioned ‘Knit & Natter’ but also had talks on ancient monuments in Midlothian, LEATHER craft and a story session from a very very old lady who (with the assistance of her granddaughter) recounted her travels around the world in the 1920s on the RMS St Helena.

They even had a talk from a man who ‘overcame a very bad stammer’ – which I bet was actually really moving.

I became rather agitated when Rita mentioned the Federation’s Autumn Show (27 October, Newtongrange Parish Church Hall) as I love anything remotely crafty or home made, and am beginning to think I AM actually an old lady in a youngish lady’s body. Rita will be entering some embroidery in the competitions, which are themed around Halloween. See the reason for the agitation and excitement? HALLOWEEN CRAFT.

Competitions include:

1. Halloween mask (any craft)

2. A black cat

3. Halloween wall hanging (I reckon this is Rita’s)

4. A Pumpkin Pie

5. A jar of chutney

6. A savoury filling suitable for a jacket potato

These are just a few – I think I could be in with a chance for number 6. I love a good spud, like. Or I could enter the ‘Education & Miscellaneous’ competition, where you can submit ‘8 lines of verse, entitled “Autumn”’. I’m thinking something a bit dark, like 50 shades of Autumn.

I’m so conflicted now. I want to observe all of this going on and be a part of it, but am I going to be/feel old going to the WI? Is it cos I don’t go clubbing any more? Or because I’m too inconsistent to pick one hobby and stick to it? The variety appeals to me, and the social, community aspect. I’ve lived in the city for 9 years and loved it as much as anyone can love a place. I belong in Edinburgh, and in Leith specifically, so I guess becoming part of a group or community would be a natural thing to want to do.

I think I could give up one night a month to go somewhere, have tea and biscuits and learn something new and hopefully interesting. I could even do a demonstration on – how to make a wonky looking owl out of old clothes and rice. Or deliver a talk on bargains at the car boot sale. Who knows?

I’ll update more about this as it unfolds…


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