An Afternoon with the Women's Institute.
It was a much happier experience than my solo encounter with a Women's Institute a year ago. Although the group this afternoon was much smaller - just twelve in the audience - they were warm and appreciative and one even took note of my name so they could get one of my books from the library. I was a little reluctant to tell them. Judging from their usual reading material I think they are unlikely to enjoy a book on an Arctic explorer and meteorologist or life in a German mental asylum, and anyway they all professed to appreciate 'happy endings' - which my books never have (although I do try to make them satisfying).
It was a fine way to spend an afternoon. For just a few hours we became part of their lives and learnt about how they came to be where they were: a husband's career forcing a move north from Wiltshire, a gentle joke about a hideous fireplace, the time when the chairwoman and the secretary first met and a child's face appearing above a wall - and that child now in her thirties with children of her own. This sort of thing always fascinates me; lives touching like two curves and then veering away again, and strange faces reminding me of more familiar ones. We are all so much the same and yet so different. It is a sort of duality - like that picture that is at once a vase and at the same time two faces looking at each other - but we can never see both at once.