Several years ago, I watched the film Calender Girls and laughed and cried and thought how great it would be to belong to a group like that. The meeting of friends, making new ones and sharing experiences appealed to me but the timing just wasn’t right. I had a young family and I was already playing badminton during match season 2-3 times a week and wasn’t ready to give that up.
A few years on, my son (aged 6) was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and as any Autism parent will tell you, life was tough. There was NO free time at the end of the day and we had daily battles with schools (3 moves in all) as he could not cope socially and was overwhelmed with the busy, noisy environment. Eventually, aged 8, the Local Education Authority conceded that mainstream wasn’t right for him and he needed a ‘special’ environment to learn and rebuild his self-esteem. So, we packed him off, all very tearfully and guiltily to a semi residential school where he is now thriving and learning to cope with life’s challenges.
With school runs and other family commitments, I was still unable to work but needed something to get my teeth into as well as socialize more so the idea of joining a WI was resurrected. The nearest one was only a few miles away but not in the ‘newish’ part of Swindon, in which I live. Still, I went along with high hopes. Now, some of the ladies were welcoming, but others said I was too young for ‘them’ and that this group wasn’t what I was looking for (how could they know??) which kind of deflated my expectations….I am in my early 40’s!!! Anyway, whilst there and recounting these comments to another member expressing my disappointment, she suggested that I should set up a new group in ‘my area’ of Swindon and pointed me in the right direction. Once I had made contact with the WI Advisor, booked a room at the local school and advertised on Facebook, the process was well underway.
At that first gathering to establish interest, 70+ ladies arrived to find out more, the committee was formed (I am very grateful to those amazing ladies who make it all work!) and we kicked off ‘officially’ in October 2014 .
We now have 60+ members and we meet once a month (except Aug). It seems I was not the only lady looking for something special to be part of. We share new experiences, enjoy delicious CAKE, have alcohol at some events and have many things in the pipeline to look forward to. We have a relaxed, informal feel and use a members only Facebook page to chat and pass on information as well as email, twitter and a web page!!!