Last month Stokes Bay WI had three special ‘treats’, each with some link to royalty.
The first was a trip to London and a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Despite delays caused by extensive roadworks, we had time to shop, have lunch in the sky gardens of the Walkie Talkie building and visit the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Our young tour guide was wonderful, knowledgeable and engaging, and even those who had visited Westminster before were once again impressed by the Great Hall and the sense of history and tradition that seeps out of the fabric of the building.
It was a day of heavy rain but our spirits remained undampened.
The second came at our Tuesday meeting and the illustrated talk by local artist, Maggie Cross, on Chinese brush painting.
Following some background to growing up in Hong Kong, Maggie went on to introduce the four ‘treasures’ of Chinese painting – inkstones, inksticks, brushes and paper – explaining the time-consuming process of grinding the ink and demonstrating a few brush strokes and pictograms.
Accompanying the rest of her talk with the painting of a vibrant pink and purple peony on silvered paper, we watched in hushed awe and appreciation as this ‘queen of flowers’ emerged and Maggie revealed the art of rolling three colours on to one brush, pressing its different parts on the paper to create leaves, petals and stems, then adding the finishing touches – a butterfly (symbol of man’s closeness to nature), Maggie’s Chinese signature (meaning Golden Phoenix) and her chop (or seal).
Maggie’s skilful technique, calm delivery and personal insights proved a wonderful combination.
And in the break for refreshments, we were further able to view her display table and discuss her work.
Our third treat took place on April 21 – the Queen’s birthday.
St Mary’s Parish Centre was the setting for a jubilee-style ploughman’s lunch, with long tables decked with mini union flags, red, white and blue flowers and similarly coloured napkins.
A Right Royal Quiz culminated in the attempt to make crowns and to sing the second verse of the national anthem.
We might have started with a respectful raising of glasses but hushed awe was not the order of this day.
Rather we marked the occasion with laughter, jollity and friendship. Her Majesty, as president of Sandringham WI, would have approved!