Clayhidon Friends 2014

Members dress up for Victorian Christmas
A Victorian Christmas evening was the theme inspired by Margaret Brotheridge for the meeting this month, and she and helpers decorated the tables with fruits, crackers and silver stars.
Festive foods made by the members included yuletide cake, mince pies both sweet and savoury, apple fritters and game sandwiches, all washed down with mulled wine and homemade fruit juice. 
The members, many in Victorian style dress, joined in old-fashioned games such as pin-the-tail on the donkey, shove ha'penny and flip the kipper. 
Ruth Tartaglia amused everyone with her reading in instalments through the evening of John Julius Norwich's "Twelve days of Christmas" (illustrated by Quentin Blake). 
With Christmas music and carols playing in the background, the evening was thoroughly enjoyable, and finished with gifts for all from Santa's sack. 
A new Club year begins in January, and for anyone who would like to join or make enquiries, please phone Anne Langford on 01823 680086

Favourite mementos inspire anecdotes
"Tell a 3 minute story about a favourite item" was the theme this month. Members came prepared with a varied range of pieces from home and interesting anecdotes to go with them.
A chalet musical box bought on an Austrian skiing holiday when the member was 13 years old, fold-away shopping bags from a Tasmanian trip, and a bullet mould found in Afghanistan in 1974 were some mementos brought in. 
One member's treasured Arthur Rackham pictures were much appreciated as was a lovely oil painting of a Devon family farm where the member had lived for much of her early life. 
A daughter's pretty embroidered check apron from primary school was the final much loved item.
A surprise mini fireworks party then followed, thanks to Helen and Margaret. Everyone enjoyed grilled sausages and crackers with tasty spreads for refreshments, but then, with the hall in darkness, childhood memories were revived with that glitter and particular smell of (indoor) sparklers! 

A sociable evening of rag-rug making
It was a sociable but industrious evening when Deborah Hastings, a talented craftswoman from Umberleigh, came to tell us about rag-rug making. 
She showed us her many rugs, cushions and items of clothing done in the "prodding", "hooking" and "knitting" rag-rug styles, and described how she uses materials for recycling which are cut into narrow strips with a special cutting tool.
Debbie makes up rag-rug kits of owls, squirrels and other animals, and sells them in National Trust centres around the country. 
We then had our own opportunity to try the "prodding" method, and equipped with a circle of hessian with a black button in the centre, we "prodded" strips of red fabric through to make a large poppy. Easy once you got the knack, and we produced colourful, flamboyant flowers. 
Much chat was enjoyed as we prodded and had tea and cake, and our thanks to Debbie for giving her time to our meeting.

Beautician shares her expertise
Elaine Bush graced this month's meeting with a relaxed and friendly talk on her career of some 30 years as a beautician. 
She described how her clients are welcomed when they enjoy a facial or massage at "Elaine's Beauty Room" in the Healthy Living Centre at Hemyock, and the kind of advice they receive from her. 
She is aware of the importance of the health of the skin, and will suggest a client visit the GP if there is a concern.
Angela was persuaded to be a model so that Elaine could demonstrate the correct facial cleansing routine of the face.
Then it was question time. Members had a variety of queries, and Elaine was able to give lots of tips and ideas on skin care, hair removal etc. 
It was a pleasant change for members to have an evening devoted to more personal issues, and was not only useful, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Helping the homeless in Tauunton
Our theme this month was a more sobering topic than usual, but nonetheless interesting and heartening. 
Jason Thorne from the Taunton Association for the Homeless spoke to us about his work with those living on the streets in the town. He and his colleagues are involved in projects which support these (mainly young) people. 
For example, they offer activities and training courses, and run a drop-in cafe which provides work for the homeless. 
The scheme helps those coming off the streets to build their confidence and self-esteem, and teaches skills from which they can rebuild their lives. 
The members had many pertinent questions for Jason about rough-sleeping issues and his organisation, and we are very grateful to him for giving his time to us with his mind-broadening talk.

Cordial welcome at community bakery
We were lucky to have a beautiful evening for our meeting this month as members and their spouses and friends spent a very sociable time in the attractively furnished tea-room at the Stentwood Farm Common Loaf Bakery, Dunkeswell. 
We were treated to a delicious vegetable soup with feta cheese and a bread roll, then cake with a topping, and tea or coffee all served very cordially by the bakery Community members. 
After eating, some of us were shown around the small and spotless bakery itself. The daily bread-making takes place between 1.30am and 10am, and a great variety of rustic breads and sweet buns are made; many with spelt or rye flour. 
The Community sell their breads at farmers' markets in the south-west, and and also at fairs and county shows, but a trip to the Stentwood farm for a light meal is a must.

Creative fun with cakes
We enjoyed an evening of creative fun with Tina Barns, whose hobby of many years has been cake decorating.
First she demonstrated icing a large sponge cake with ready-to-roll icing, and following on, demonstrated some ways to decorate a cupcake with brightly coloured shapes.
Then it was our turn, using cutters of flowers, leaves, stars and much more, we produced near professional looking cakes; some done freestyle like Margaret's "egg and sausage breakfast" and Vivienne's cats!
The evening was great fun and very sociable. Our grateful thanks to Tina - and we enjoyed her sponge cake for refreshments.
Tina is taking part in the "Race for Life", so we were pleased to be able to sponsor her in this.

David Attenborough's wildlife illustrator
Peter Barrett, who has lived much of his working life in Greece and the Blackdown Hills, gave us a most interesting talk on his work as an illustrator of wildlife. 
He brought many of his original works to show us, and the members thought his water-colour pictures of birds, animals and insects were exquisite. He also showed us some nature books which he had illustrated for authors such as Gerald Durrell and David Attenborough. 
He described his life in Greece with his wife in the sixties, where they were able to work on a remote island, yet earn their living - Peter by painting, and his wife by teaching and writing - at minimal expense. 
Peter also talked about his move towards painting as an artist, which is a more creative occupation than illustrating. Paintings for nature publications require very accurate details and to the specification of the "employer", but Peter found that he was always employed, unlike artists who often struggle to sell their works. 
Peter has now retired and enjoys painting for pleasure. 

  • Peter Barrett is holding an exhibition of his wildlife art at The Garages, Millhayes, Hemyock, May 10 - 13. He will show about 250 pictures - oils, watercolours, pastels and etchings - all based on natural subjects. 
A career in the Queen's service
We were very lucky to have Deborah Bean give her penultimate talk on her time as the Queen's correspondence secretary. Deborah describes aspects of her work including the foreign travel, sailing on the royal yacht Britannia and working in the different royal residences. She talked of the Queen's dedication to her daily routine, and of the royals' yearly programme which opened our eyes to the enormous size of the royal "machine", and the number of staff employed.
Deborah brought with her some memorabilia, including photos, letters, royal Christmas cards and her awards that she received during a 40 year career in royal service, which were fascinating to look at. 
Deborah retired 11 years ago, and since then has been presenting her talk with the aim of raising funds for the Royal British Legion. Now, she is retiring for a second time to enjoy her hobbies and interests.
A memorable evening for the members.

30,000 miles on a bike
Judi Zebedee whirled us around the world through 34 countries and for over 30,000 miles with wonderful photos of her trip on a bicycle. She cycled to Paris with friends, then continued on her own through Europe, eastern Europe, including Ukraine, and the "stan" countries to China.
Judi averaged about 80 miles a day through deserts, mountain ranges and alternately beautiful and boring scenery. She flew from Hong Kong to Anchorage in Alaska so she could attempt to cycle the length of the Americas, but not quite reaching the far south, she returned home in time for a family reunion and the Olympics. A fascinating and awe-inspiring journey. 
The members learnt so much history and geography from Judi's talk, and were amazed at her fearless and adventurous spirit. A talk to be recommended.    

A day in the life of Regency House
We were treated to a year's journey of life and the changing seasons at Regency House, Hemyock through Jenny Parsons' delightful videos which she had expertly shot and edited herself. 
She introduced us to her family members through her commentary, and also to her horses, dogs and animals. We were able to see day to day happenings such as the birth of a Dexter calf, the felling of a tree in the garden and exercising the horses in the snow. 
We watched beautiful shots of  garden birds, and insects on the flowers, and were amazed at the horns on the jacob rams. 
On rides out from Regency House on horseback or trips in the land rover, Jenny's videos show us how splendid the Culm Valley scenery is throughout the year. 
Jenny offers bed and breakfast at Regency House, and the garden is open twice a year for the National Garden's Scheme for charity. 
Next month, Jude Zebedee will tell us of his round-the-world trip on a bicycle.  

Enjoyable meal in a garden centre
Members with their spouses and friends gathered at the Blackdown Garden Centre restaurant for lunch. A large airy room, we filled it with our chatter, and ate a very enjoyable meal chosen from an attractive menu. The new programme for the year was available, and members liked the varied events to come.
February's meeting will welcome Jenny Parsons who will talk about Regency House.