W.I. Newletter January 2024

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When our members updated their calendars and diaries for the New Year there were several W.I. events to note this month.  Members of the Book Club were the first to meet and enjoyed a lively discussion around their latest selection – The Beekeeper of Aleppo. Next was a well-attended coffee morning when members caught up with each other and two days later it was the turn of our walking group.  It was a rather chilly morning, but five of us strolled around Stockbridge and took time to look at our surroundings.    However, we were pleased to return to the White Hart Inn for lunch and a warm-up. 

Our planned post-Christmas Lunch was subject to a change of venue and date as unfortunately Essebourne Manor has closed its doors.  Our President, Lynne Lucas, worked hard behind the scenes to find an alternative and eventually booked us into The Abbots Mitre in Chilbolton where we were served a two-course lunch followed by coffee and mints.  Members were also treated to a glass of wine.  Our Secretary, Aileen Catterson, also worked hard ensuring everyone had made their choices from the menu and produced placed cards for us all. Those attending enjoyed this event.

A few days later and we were back in the Village Hall for our monthly meeting.  We were pleased to welcome Sandra Simmonds who was describing her experience of Life under the Veil.   Sandra comes from Gloucester originally, but she joined the Navy in 1974 when she was just 17½.   She was living in Portsmouth when she met a handsome sailor, but he was in the Iranian Navy.  Despite opposition from many quarters including both Navies, but with the support of her family Sandra continued with the romance and after some three years she married him in her home City.  Surprisingly, her mother-in-law left Iran for their first time in her life to attend their wedding, the only one of the bridegroom’s family to do so.  She even joined them on their honeymoon as they travelled, by car initially, to Iran.  The plan had been for the couple to live in Iran for a few years and then return to the UK to start their family and new careers.  However, that was not to be.

Her father-in-law was the head of the family and made all the decisions.  Women in Iran are the property of their fathers until marriage and then their husbands.   Sandra was keen to impress upon us that she was only able to talk about her own personal experience.  It was not easy for her to adapt to so many restrictions.  She was only permitted to bath/shower once a month, but the washing of face, hands, elbows and feet had to be attended to five times a day.   She discovered that all food is rice orientated and this caused her some gastric problems. There were no conventional western toilets, just a hole in the ground, and no toilet paper. 

However, life got much worse when the Shah was overthrown, and she was forced to live apart from the family – she was a risk to their safety – with food brought to her only once a week and with no means of communication.  Eventually Sandra and her husband were able to escape from the country, but not without difficulties and only with the help of strangers.  When she returned to the UK her family did not recognise her, she had lost almost three stone.  To this day her family do not want to hear of all that she endured at that time, but she was encouraged to tell her story by others.  Our members were shocked with much that she told us and when giving a vote of thanks one member got quite emotional.  No doubt, she wasn’t alone.   It is not possible to write about so much of what she told us – it is not our story to tell.    There is another talk in which Sandra explains what happened next – so no doubt we will be booking her for a return visit.

Our next meeting on 29th February (yes, it is a Leap Year) will see a representative from Naomi House & Jacks Place in Sutton Scotney giving us an insight into Hospice Life.    If you wish to join us, then our meetings are held in the Village Hall and start at 7.30 p.m.


07 February –    Book Club – Dobbies Garden Centre 10.30 a.m.

08 February –    Coffee Morning – Sports Pavilion at 10.30 a.m. (£2 to include refreshments) Non-members welcome

10 February –    Walking Group

29 February –    Monthly Meeting – Village Hall 7.30 p.m.