It's taken me a couple of days to get over a night out with the East End WI, a group of excellent women sharing skills and ideas through the Women's Institute. A small group of us were having a night out visiting Brilliant Women at the National Portrait Gallery, an exhibition about a small group of women who "forged new links between gender, learning and virtue in 18th century Britain". A little bit like the WI really - though it is about a bit more than that too according to my bedtime reading joiners pack .
Apparently, there has been a rise in the number of urban WI groups and EEWI is one of them. I found out about the group at a community fete where they had a stall selling jam and cakes, just as you would expect to see at any village fete. EEWI does more than jam and cakes, though. Sorella, for example, is a "Love Food Champion" appointed by the WI and working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme WRAP to reduce food waste. It's not just about excellence and virtue. We had a glass of wine or two; and tried to do some recruiting on the way home.
My own contribution to reducing waste is the allotment I suppose. Yesterday I planted my potatoes and onions. I'm not sure whether the temperature of the soil was at the perfect minimum for planting potatoes-6 degrees C according to the growing your own book which came free with the paper yesterday. This year I am only growing two types because of limited space; Charlotte, the most delicious of salad potatoes; and Desiree, a very acceptable maincrop. Pity about the snow today, but I'm sure they'll survive. I go in for the minimum effort method - no trenches laid with manure, I just dig a little hole into the ready prepared ground, pop in a chitted potato and wait for the shoots to come up before earthing up. It does not make a particularly exciting photo opportunity. I did try...
...so I'm indulging myself just one more time with a picture of my narcissi, this time in full bloom.
Because of the cold weather forecast, I made sure that I was warm enough with at least 4 layers of clothes, including a fantastic leather jerkin that I found in our cellar. I've always been a bit snooty about the anoraky type that you imagine the heroines of aga-sagas wear. This one however, has a real worker's provenance. It used to belong to my dad when he drove a dustcart for the local council, over 20 years ago (John wears the donkey jacket, another workwear favourite of mine).
The jerkin was much admired by Les, my fruit man who says you can't get them anymore. That's not quite true, because I found some when I did a search on the web. I'm not sure that mine is quite as stylish as the one you can buy if you play at medieval knights; cheaper and more serviceable for the allotment, perhaps. Look out for it on a catwalk near you some time soon.
Now, Reader, I must return to my own quest for learning with my research proposal on what stops women from reaching the top in my workplace. I've been reading some fascinating stuff about the importance of the way we perceive ourselves and our beliefs about what we can achieve. Which is why I am going to remind myself that I too am an excellent woman from now on. For more tales of Excellent Women, take a look at the soon-to-be republished Barbara Pym from Virago, or just read what Alexander McCall Smith had to say about my favourite novelist. You'll understand why when you read it.