My job as a community nurse is never dull. Often tiring, often challenging, often sad... but never dull. Today, I accompanied one of our ladies to a Women's Institute meeting. My exposure to the WI is limited having only watched a few episodes of French & Saunders in Jam and Jerusalem and the quaint 'Calendar Girls' film.
On our arrival we were welcomed and many of the ladies eyed us up as new blood before popping over for a chat and an introduction. We were told that the president would be over to speak to us soon and I was impressed at the prospect of finally meeting Barack Obama, but sadly it was a lovely smiling lady with sunglasses on her head and kitten heels who shook our hands and gave us an agenda. And so, we started with singing 'Jerusalem'. I felt a childish need to snigger which stems from years at school assembly listening to our spinster teachers warbling away whilst we exchanged the words of hymns into more words with a more lavatorial leaning. Anyway, I remembered that I'm no longer 14 and stifled my childish humour and was in awe at the ladies ability to remember and sing 6 choruses of Jerusalem.
The president and her sidekick secretary then went through the agenda and minutes of the previous meeting which was great. 'Matters Arising' covered topics like "Elsie Crabtree wants to inform us about the Knitting Hats for the Uzbekistan Orphans campaign" or "Beryl, can you let us have the fundraising figures for the recent surgical jockstrap singalong night?'. Rich pickings for a comedy sketch and beautifully English. It's easy to see how we won Empires and wars. It was bureaucracy in action and quintessentially British in application. A guest speaker was introduced to give a speech on the seven ages of woman and to be honest, my expectations were low. I imagined references to tea-towels and a woman's place baking and making gravy. What we got was a Helen Mirren lookalike, a ballsy, intelligent, street smart, sexy 60-something lady who spoke eloquently for 30 minutes about the great things about being a woman. She spoke with humour and with passion and I was very impressed.
I'm not sure I'm ready for the WI just yet, but I was pleasantly surprised by their enthusiasm and camaraderie. Makes you proud to be British...