Next meeting: Thursday Feb 9th at 2.00pm in Kirton and Falkenham Village Hall.
Speaker: David Empson on Brave Men of Ipswich.
Competition: A medal or certificate you have won. (Also bring along any wartime medals you may have). Trading Stall: miscellaneous

Now that we’ve got Christmas and January 1st over with Kirton and Falkenham WI is starting to think about 2017 and plan some activities for the coming year. A second Litter Pick was suggested under the title of ‘Spring Clean’ as last year’s was so successful. Another success was the Fiddle Mats made for the Suffolk Show and distributed to care homes for the use of residents with dementia. It was suggested that we hold a craft morning/afternoon where we could make some more and also where we could knit hats for the Seafarers’ Centre. Possibilities for future outings were discussed in committee. One would be a visit to Yarmouth Dog Racing Track, suggested as a consequence of our very enjoyable outing to Newmarket last year. Also a boat trip on the River Orwell was put forward and a guided tour of Flatford Mill. A board was circulated at the meeting and members were asked to put their names beside the ones they favoured. Iris is considering entering one of the competition categories held in the Federation WI tent at the Suffolk Show. The overall theme of the competition this year is ‘Seasonal Suffolk’ and the category she has chosen is ‘The Diversity of Suffolk’.

At our get-together this month we were lucky enough to have as our speaker local mover and shaker Susan Harvey who came to tell us about her year as chairwoman of Suffolk Coastal District Council. After serving on the local parish council for thirty years Susan plucked up the courage to put herself forward for a position on S.C.D.C. and was duly elected. Her ward contained eight villages with about two thousand five hundred residents in all. After three years she was invited to serve a year as vice-chairwoman. Someone in this role fills in when the chairman is absent and so in the process she was able to learn the ropes for when she would take on the top job herself. At the end of the year she was officially elected as Chairwoman which meant she had to distance herself from politics, the person in charge being unaffiliated partywise. During one of her first official engagements she met the chair of Mid-Suffolk District Council who gave her some good advice: ‘…enjoy your year and make it your own.’

One of the aspect of the role that she found quite challenging was wearing the chain-of-office. In fact it had a very narrow escape when she used the toilet facilities at Aldeburgh during the International Woman’s Cycle Race. The large medal at its centre, which she had not realised was detachable, plummeted to the floor and skidded under the partition into the next cubicle, much to the amusement of the woman who was using it. During her year she attended about one hundred and fifty engagements, too many to mention here. At these she often networked with other members of the ‘Chain Gang’ as she soon realised people in her position were called. On the theme of detention one thing she agreed to during the year was being Jailed and Bailed to raise five hundred pounds for the charity Homestart. Having committed her crime – selling water from the River Deben as a cure-all for ten pounds a bottle – she was arrested by two Special Police Officers, handcuffed and put in a wire cage at the back of a police van. She was then driven up Market Hill in Woodbridge with sirens sounding and lights flashing before going before a judge and being shut in a little cell outside the town hall. She actually raised eight hundred and fifty pounds bail which then went to the charity but says the experience has put her off crime for life.

Throughout the year Susan made up her mind to visit all one hundred and eighteen villages in the Suffolk Coastal area, something no chairperson has ever done before. Having joined in their local activities and mixed with the people who ran them she realised the truth of the saying: ‘Volunteers are the glue that holds society together’.

V E Bines


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