Jill Jarrett, Henley Down Cottage

The WI Christmas party on Thursday 6th December was a huge success. The Village Hall was set with tables laid for tea and each had a lovely decoration made by Ann Clegg from beautiful red and ivory roses, winter greenery, gold cones and a candle which one lucky member from each table was able to take home. After singing Jerusalem and cutting the business matters to a minimum, the President welcomed the many visitors and members to the party.

The entertainment was provided by the choir, formed by Barbara from eleven WI members who gathered together under her guidance and started rehearsing about seven weeks ago. They sang a selection of lesser known Christmas music, punctuated with readings and favourite old carols, in which everyone participated and a solo performed by Gloria Jones. The choir members presented the President with a donation of £50 that they’d collected at their practices, to be put to the WI Charity for the year, Demelza House Children’s Hospice.

The party then continued with a Christmas Quiz organised by Beryl, whilst enjoying an amazing tea, which had been prepared by and then served by the committee members. Everyone dipped into the Bran Tub for a gift whilst the raffle was being drawn and it was generally agreed that it had been a great Christmas Party.

A very competitive football match against Crowhurst on Saturday at home saw us lose 1 - 2. Things were fairly even until two mistakes let Crowhurst in and the depressing run of losses continues. Nigel scored our goal on a pitch which, despite the wet, was in good condition. Saturday 14th we are home to Bexhill Athletic, with very few matches left to play, the season will soon be over.

Thanks to Mike Cooper for this report on the pantomime. There was an air of eager excitement in the packed Hall for the CADS’ 2012 offering

‘King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table’. The lights dimmed and the drum roll of ‘Queen’s’ rendition of the National Anthem still raised a smile or two. The scene was set by Geoffrey of Monmouth, the chronicler (Jane Overall of whom we saw much more later) We were then treated to an excellent CADS version of ‘Tragedy’ sung by all the cast.

Our attentions were next drawn to a lake, wherein dwelt ‘Lily’ lady of same, hilariously played by Dave Stevens waiting to entice any likely ‘lad’ to dive in the lake to claim Excalibur. In time honoured panto tradition we didn’t have to wait long before Arthur (played in superb Principal Boy style by Rachel Putland) turned up and was quickly persuaded to jump in after Lily. There followed a most excellent frenetic scene where Arthur and Lily raced to and fro across the lake in a medley of aquatic transports from canoes to surf boards and yellow submarines to Flipper. All finally curtailed by a menacing shark, which turned out to be Victoria Crawshaw with a fin on her head!

With Excalibur in rightful hands, all seemed set for Arthur to claim his rightful place in legend. However, we had forgotten about Merlin menacingly played by George Brunger (great to see that the spirit of his granddad Denis Philips lives on in him) who with his henchmen ‘Garlic’, an itinerant French trucker played enthusiastically with an authentic ‘Allo Allo accent by Tracey Hickman and aided and abetted by ‘Fifi’ a retired dancer from the Moulin Rouge played very convincingly by Jane Overall in a fetching basque, presumably her own from another life!

This wicked trio had conjured up a huge black knight, Mordred, towering above them and one wondered how it would move on Catsfield’s tiny stage. However from behind appeared a diminutive figure also clad completely in black who, upon consulting the excellently designed programme, turned out to be Abi Wright whose clear tones untroubled by the all enveloping helmet revealed that she was indeed in Merlin’s power.

Mordred was Merlin’s creation to wreak havoc at the forthcoming tournament to claim Guinevere’s hand and the kingdom of ‘Catsfield on Camelot’. But what of the other knights in the contest, we had seen nothing of them? To a big cheer, on came Vanessa Francis in the guise of Lancelot, followed by newcomer Keith Robertson as the simple Galahad and Aaron Vitler as the effeminate Gervaise. There followed an hilarious interlude that supposedly instructed us in the art of being a knight and the traditional line-forgetting by the mistress of the art, Vanessa to the huge delight of the audience. A talented trio!

The action now turned to the day of the tournament. The ailing and aurally challenged king and his longsuffering queen (played by more newcomers John Search and Sallie Relf) were an excellent double act to introduce the action that was to follow, whilst their daughter Guinevere (Rebecca Campbell) looked suitably demure - initially. The Scottish commentator (who turned out to have a penchant for black stockings) (Peter Josling) then took charge from his booth and warned those on the aisle to keep limbs tucked in. We were soon to see why, that was to be the tournament field! First to enter was Mordred on his little hobby horse, soon to be challenged by Galahad mounted on his coconut shell clopping steed Felicity (Jessie Francis) no contest you would have thought, but no - Mordred prevailed. Next came Gervaise, armour trimmed in pink, as was his charger Gringolet (George Baker) still no luck. Surely Lancelot would prevail but no, even with the power of his faithful Dobbin (Lizzie Francis) he was unable to defeat Mordred. At this point Merlin claimed the prize, the kingdom and took the princess, who was beginning to show she was no push-over but all to no avail. What to do now? Why, sing a hopeful song of course, gather your team around you and head off to the interval!

Suitably refreshed we returned to the fray to be greeted with a delightful scene in the stable, where the trio of horses with their imaginatively created heads bemoaned their fate in word and song with a very mobile pile of horse dung (Victoria Crawshaw). Merlin failed to break the spirit of his now feisty prisoner Guinevere, but learning that the Arthur & co were after the ‘Sword in The Stone’ resolved to delay them. This he did in the shape of an athletic little Welsh Dragon, ‘Puff’ (Peter Josling) who despite a valiant attack by the inept knights and deafening guidance from the children in the audience, remained victorious until overcome by an ensemble rendition of a Tom Jones song, resolved to use his magic powers to help our hero. In a whirlwind of scenes Merlin was overcome, the rightful heir pulled the sword from the stone, which whisked them back to the king & queen, Arthur was given the hand of Guinevere in time for all to end well!

The scenery was magnificent and was swiftly changed when appropriate. The costumes were a delight and the props ingenious. This was Aaron Vitler’s first attempt at directing and he made an excellent job of it. Good luck for next year!

Do come to the Village Hall on Thursday 20th December for an informal evening of carol singing. Drop in any time between 6.30pm and 8.30pm for mince pies, hot punch and a chance to get in the Christmas spirit with a joyful sing-a-long of all your favourite carols. This event has grown in popularity over the last few years and is a lovely village occasion to spend with friends and neighbours celebrating fast-approaching Christmas.