Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An Afternoon with the Women's Institute.

Today I gave a reading with a few friends to a local Women's Institute. The sun shone the whole afternoon (I feel obliged to point this out because it made me feel so cheerful). We sang Jerusalem, listened to notices and then Elizabeth read out a few humorous poems, Jane read out a few poems about local views and legends while Dilys read out an amusing piece about the political goings on in a similar Women's Institute. This proved to be highly popular.

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.


Blogger Jan said...

Hello Clare
Ive not been in Blogland lately and how weird I should suddenly return to read about you ( and some lovely mutual friends!) doing the latest WI gig! Sorry to miss it but as you know, some of us were involved in Book Club!
(YES Folks it all happens in our neck of the woods...)
AND PS: I sang "Jerusalem" at 2nd son's wedding last Saturday ( NOT as a solo, I hasten to add, so I think Im forgiven for my No-Show at the WI!!

Wed Sept 12, 08:50:00 pm  
Blogger Susanna said...

ounds like a real nice afternoon. Good for you.

Thu Sept 13, 04:21:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talking of strange faces... I have just started to read 98 Reasons - tempted by childhood memories of Struwwelpeter. I love it when you find a book you wouldn't normally read. There's no way I would deliberately pick up a book about a lunatic asylum but just think what I would have missed.

Fri Sept 14, 06:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me know, Ruth. I'm always thrilled when I hear someone has happened to pick up one of my books.

Fri Sept 14, 08:18:00 pm  
Blogger badgirl said...

Dear Clare,
Getting involved in your blogs again late at night when I should be going to bed. I just have to stop after this one. But I had to add that I thought '98 Reasons' did have a happy ending, as happy as any sane person can expect (my little american joke); she speaks again...and other things too. The way it ends with the father's letter to his son is just brilliant and poetic, talking about Hannah, just so beautiful, all of it. And to think it was months ago now that I read it.
Making people think about life and all it's vagaries and giving a little sense to it all is indeed a venture worth embarking on and I am so glad that you do.

Mon Sept 17, 07:33:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Bad Girl! Such kind comments. I am overjoyed about you said about my book! This business is very hard for most people - I didn't realise until I got into it. I know it is nothing truly dreadful in the great scheme of things but it is really hard going on a lot of the time, I find.

Mon Sept 17, 04:29:00 pm  

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