Welcome back!

AT LONG LAST! Our first face-to-face meeting since the start of the pandemic! It was wonderful to see so many of our members back together and talking as though it had only been yesterday since we last saw each other.

Tonight was all about reaching out and finding out how we all coped throughout it all as well as sharing personal triumphs and new skills we have learned whilst stuck at home. From crochet to choirs, machine free embroidery to… concrete heads(!) we all had something to share.

Even though we are able to meet again we were happy to welcome some of our members still on Zoom and our thoughts were with those who couldn’t attend.

Throughout the past year we have been forced to prioritise our, and everyone’s, physical health as we protected each other from the COVID pandemic. With that in mind we spent some of our evening talking about health awareness and how we could continue to keep us and our loved ones safe. This time there was no talk of the pandemic but of issues relating to various cancers and most importantly how we can be aware of the early warning signs of some. We will be spreading the message to our friends and families as we continue to look after each other’s welfare. A big thank you to everyone who shared their personal stories and knowledge.

We may have sat apart and had to wipe everything down afterwards but we’re still back – and long may it remain! See you all next month!

Ribbon Wreaths & Festive Florals

What a wonderful evening! After everything 2020 has thrown at us nothing was going to dampen the DHWI’s festive spirit this evening. Although we couldn’t enjoy our traditional end of year Festive Floral meeting together in our village hall we were determined to still celebrate together via Zoom. That included the compulsory Christmas jumper!

A massive thank you to our amazing committee for putting together wonderful parcels containing everything that we needed and hand delivering them to all our members in advance of tonight’s meeting. What a lovely thing to receive and so uplifting to see a familiar friendly face (albeit from a distance) and spend a few moments catching up.

An extra, equally massive, thank you to Bev for her incredibly professional ribbon wreath tutorial via Zoom. What a natural! Her expert presenting skills lead us all through the construction of beautiful wreaths that we will be proud to display in our homes over Christmas for years to come.

Not to be left out, those who chose to make a traditional floral decoration joined us for a chat whilst they worked on their creations too.

Hearing Dogs

Tonight we were delighted to have Mike and Clare Coote from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People talk to us via Zoom about their fascinating and incredibly valuable work.

They opened our eyes to just how isolating it can be for someone who is profoundly deaf especially for those who often don’t want to go out. It is not an obvious disability and for some by simply having a hearing dog makes and enormous difference as it allows them to reconnect to the world. They are able to go out with the dog as a clear signal to their disability and so people make allowances.

Clare is currently training 9 month old Winston; a gorgeous black Labrador. We learnt all about how these amazing dogs are trained to act as the ears for their owners. They must be able to alert their owner to a sound and then when asked “What is it?” either take them to the sound (doorbell, kitchen timer) or signal that it is a danger sound by laying down so that the owner can get to safety (e.g. a fire alarm). The hearing dogs are bred by the charity and go to a trainer like Clare when they are 8 weeks old. By the time they are 12 weeks old they must have basic obedience and impulse control and then to earn their hearing dogs jacket at 6 months they must also show that they react appropriately with other dogs, people, children and in shops. If they pass an assessment at 10 months old then the charity start to look for a match but it’s not until the dog has passed their final 4 star assessment when they will actually be handed over. It is really important that a good match is found as people often have to wait 4 – 5 years for a hearing dog. Remarkably hearing dogs can be matched with children as young as 8 years old. In these instances a split lead is used with a guardian.

All of the remarkable hard work training hearing dogs is done by by people like Clare who are volunteers. They give their time and effort to the dogs and the charity whilst the charity provide everything else for the dog; food, vet bills etc., whilst it is training.

By the time hearing dogs reach the age of 12 they retire from duty. If possible they can stay within the family as a pet otherwise they are rehomed by the charity.

A massive thank you to Clare, Mike and of course the wonderful Winston for their excellent talk. It was a very eye-opening and enjoyable talk and I know that lots of our members were moved to visit the charity webpage afterwards to find out how they could make a difference.

Eastleigh Hedgehog Rescue

Tonight we were delighted to have Chrissy Russell from Eastleigh Hedgehog Rescue talk to us about her work with ingured hedgehogs.

Chrissy started by talking to us generally about the life of a hedgehog; starting from how they are born without prickles (and how quickly they come through!) to the many miles that they walk in an evening. Until tonight we had no idea that hedgehogs could swim!

We were all gobsmacked to hear just how much the hedgehog population has declined in the UK from around 35 million in the 1950s to just 0.5 million today! The most major decline has been between 2001 and 2011. Clearly there is a need for people to help this threatened species and Chrissy gave us a list of ways in which we can all help:

  1. plant a wild flower corner
  2. make ponds safe by providing a ramp so that they can get out again
  3. make a hole in fences to allow for a hedgehog highway through the garden
  4. remove litter and make rubbish safe before throwing it away e.g. crushing the opening of tin cans
  5. put out food and water (cat or dog food is good but bread, milk and mealworms must be avoided!)
  6. stop using chemicals in the garden especially slug pellets
  7. build a log pile or hedgehog house
  8. check areas before strimming
  9. check bonfires before lighting
  10. register with Hedgehog Street to become a hedgehog champion and find more information

Finally Chrissy finished by introducing us to some of the adorable hedgehogs that have been rescued and are making a full recovery thanks to the hard work of Eastleigh Hedgehog Rescue.

Thank you Chrissy for a lovely Zoom evening!


Zoom Family Quiz

As social distancing continues, this month the DHWI reached out to its members and their families by hosting a Zoom quiz night!

Tonight 18 households logged in and enlisted the help of their families (young, young at heart and four legged) to tackle a series of quiz questions whilst others set up new WhatsApp groups to confer with other DHWI members and form a socially distant team.

A huge thank you to our wonderful committee who kept us all entertained and our brains working hard with their large variety of questions. Lots of fun was had by all and the winners are looking forward to collecting their bottle of fizz when we can finally meet again!

Toni Kent – Poet

Having had to cancel our meeting last month due to the start of the COVID-19 lockdown we are back with a bang holding a laughter filled evening via Zoom! Despite the change to our usual “venue” and day our members were out in force to enjoy an uplifting evening together. It was great to see so many of our members embrace our Zoom event tonight! I think you will agree that it was a huge success and very enjoyable too.

Toni was a hoot and delighted us with entertaining stories from her life and made us giggle with her original poetry. Poet, author and profressionally funny compare, Toni brought us honesty and humor at a time we all needed it. Performing bits from her collection of poems I need a wife she had us laughing out loud despite us being sat home alone. After her unexpected rap I won’t be able to shop in Waitrose without tittering to myself!

Thank you for bringing us together and brightening our evening! We would love to have you back to entertain us in person once we’re allowed and lots of us are already looking into purchasing your book to get us through the rest of lockdown…

Toni has been described by June Sarpong MBE as “A phenomenal MC” and the Henley Standard as “Wickedly Funny” and now by us, the DHWI, as the antidote to social distancing!


Life as a Celebrant

Tonight we were lucky enough to yet again be entertained by one of our very own members, Jan, who shared with us her experiences as a celebrant.

We were delighted to welcome Jan and hear how she ended up becoming a celebrant, a little bit about her role, the sort of ceremonies that she can perform and of course the legal bit (or surprising lack of in some cases!). Having gained confidence to improve the public speaking roles that she needed in her job, she feel into working as a celebrant; now officiating over weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies. It was fascinating to hear about a wide variety of wedding services (including a fastening) and how she has even managed to hold a joint wedding and naming ceremony. We were all shocked to hear that there are no legal requirements for funerals and if you’re ever thinking of what song you want as your parting tune… well anything goes…!

Thank you very much Jan for a thoughly enjoyable and incredibly interesting evening.


What a way to start the year! Tonight we kicked off 2020 with a bang with a session of Zumba Gold! Silvia from Salsa y Sol visited us back in 2009 when our WI first started and gave us a terrific Salsa session. It seemed only right that we invite her back now, having celebrated our 10th birthday, for some Zumba.

We may not have all been in time, going in the same direction or on the correct foot but Silvia kept us all going with her infectious smile and a lot of fun was had by all. So much so that lots of us left with her Zumba leaflet and I even heard talk of some members starting a WhatsApp group to organise impromptu Zumba sessions. So lovely to hear! Our WI has always been great for forging friendships.

If Zumba wasn’t a healthy enough start to the year our members running the pop-up café this evening got us in the Veganuary spirit with Vegan milk and cake options too. Delicious thank you!

Festive Florals – with a twist!

Twas the night of WI and all through the hall was candles and foliage and we were having a ball!

It’s that time of year again; time to enjoy our usual Festive Florals… with a twist! Tonight our members were busy not only producing a glorious array of festive floral centrepieces but some impressive decorative candles too. Everyone who attended had a great time and left with something beautiful that they had created.

Thanks to an excellent suggestion from one of our members we had some added fun with a Christmas sock raffle as well. Members filled festive socks with treats that were then raffled off so that everyone went home with a little extra treat! Lots of fun was had by all!

Merry Christmas everyone!



10th Birthday Party: Hula Hooping

Happy Birthday DHWI!

On Wednesday we all had a lot of fun celebrating our 10th birthday by hula-hooping the night away! Claire Saunders from Globe Fit got us all up and moving around regardless of our experience, ability or mobility. She started by showing us how to hula-hoop using our arms before moving on to our waists. None of us realised that there were so many different ways to spin a hula-hoop and we all enjoyed trying out our new moves!
Claire then treated us to a demo of her hula-hooping tricks and skills to music before we all had a chance to practice our own expertise. Laughter ensued and despite lots of out of control hoops we went home beaming but not bruised. This all went very nicely with a delicious sponge birthday cake and the Prosecco certainly helped too!
An extra special thank you goes out to our founding members; Jane, Louise, Ros, Beverly, Katy and Jackie, without whom we would not be able to celebrate a decade of the Disparate Housewives WI. It made the evening having you cut the cake for us. Thank you.
Here’s to the next 10 years!