Jill Jarrett, Henley Down Cottage

The WI Party, held last week was a delightful pre-Christmas event and most of the members were present with many visitors from other Women’s Institutes as guests. The business side of the meeting was kept to a minimum, but we were pleased to hear that the final total from the sponsored walk in aid of our charity, Demelza Hospice Care had raised a wonderful £387. Members were reminded that their subscription renewal will be due at the next meeting on January 2nd 2014 at 2pm, when the speaker will be Michael Hoad with a talk entitled ‘Mystery Armchair Coach Tour’.

Our speaker, local actor and historian Geoff Hutchinson then took to the floor and entertained us with a talk entitled ‘What is Christmas?’ He described the origins of the festivities as pagan, celebrating the winter solstice and lasting for at least twelve days. It is from those times that Yule log fires, the roasting of the boar’s head, venison, geese, even peacocks and many other kinds of birds became a traditional part of the feasting, until the Spaniards introduced turkeys from Mexico. The holly and ivy were used against witchcraft and mistletoe, because of its pagan association, was banned from all churches except York cathedral.

Many of our Christmas traditions stem from Victorian times, Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to Windsor Castle and the sending of festive greetings cards began in the middle of the 19th century, originally with black and white cards. The tradition of Santa Claus flying through the skies delivering presents has evolved over the years but it originated with the Christian Saint Nicholas. Geoff regaled us with his interpretation of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ and the history of crackers, pantomime, carols and even ‘thank you’ letters. It was all very entertaining and amusing and was followed by the singing of carols before everyone tucked in to a lovely tea, prepared and served by committee members and a piece of the wonderful Christmas cake made by Ann Clegg. The meeting ended with drawing the raffle and everyone went home with a present from the bran tub and a distinct feeling of the spirit of Christmas in the air!

Our Sports Correspondent Ann Davey writes-

The first football team fought a hard game against Herstmonceux at home on Saturday, only for it to be a scoreless draw. However, with the team playing better, we hope to see them moving up the table to avoid relegation. On Saturday 14th the firsts are at home to Hawkhurst and our seconds play Hawkhurst seconds away, how strange.

This is from our Theatre Critic, Mike Cooper-

For three evenings last week and a Saturday matinee Catsfield Village Hall was filled to capacity with adults and children apparently as excited as each other to see CADS latest panto offering, which transported them to Texas with ‘Panto Goes West’. The now traditional ‘Queen’ version of the National Anthem led into a CADS’ speciality, a familiar song with unique words sung by a tribe of ‘Red Indians’ in very colourful costumes with an equally colourful backdrop - three aspects of this show that were repeated time and time again throughout the afternoon.

Bad Man Jake McCabe (Peter Josling) spent all his time trying to set Indian against cowboy for his own gain before he came to a sticky end.

However, he did succeed in causing a small selection of tearful children to head to the exit from time to time! He was ‘helped’ (?) by an hilarious pair of ‘Brokers Men’ in the shape of ‘The Cactus Kid’ (Vanessa Francis) and ‘Dopey Hobart’ (Keith Robertson) the latter bearing an uncanny likeness to Woody from Toy Story. This very funny duo took the ad-lib to artistic heights, something which seemed to spread to the rest of the cast at various times, much to the delight of the audience.

The Principal Boy, a Texas Ranger called ‘Clint Cougar’ was most convincingly played by Rebecca Campbell who started off betrothed to Miss Candy Stripe, a ‘good time gal’ enthusiastically played by Elizabeth Francis, but finished up with the Indian Chief’s daughter, ‘Sings Like a Mountain Stream’ confidently played by Annabelle Sparks in her debut with CADS. The Indians were ably led by ‘Big Chief Running Buffet’ (George Brunger) - even if he had succumbed to ‘White Man’s’ pizza!

The Cowboys were led by ‘Hank Plank’ (Aaron Vitler) who obviously enjoyed being an excellent gun toting Sheriff and led many of the songs with great gusto. The role of Dame this year fell to Jane Overall who played ‘Calamity’, a lady (?) all the way from England, in a most exuberant way giving rise to many laughs. Other notables were ‘Pedro Tortilla’ (Victoria Crawshaw) with a wonderful Mexican accent, the perpetually inebriated ‘Gus Varmint’ nicely played by John Search, the very glamorous ‘Sherrie Trifle’ (Tracy Hickman) and the viper in the Indian’s nest, the Chief’s evil wife ‘Speaks Like a Rattlesnake’, convincingly played by Sallie Relf. Congratulations also to Jenny Taylor, Baz Jenkins and George Baker who played a multiplicity of roles along with other members of the cast and the many unseen technical staff, both back stage and front of house.

Congratulations too, to Vanessa Francis and Aaron Vitler who masterminded it all, helped pen many of those original lyrics whilst having to learn their own lines too.

Texas is called the ‘Lone Star State’ but this was not a lone star production - it was a true ensemble work, which the audience thoroughly enjoyed and gave many both young and old the first true taste of live theatre. Roll on next year’s production! Over the four very full performances people were very generous in their support of the raffle, the proceeds of which totalling £500 is being donated to The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team Charity in memory of Clive Roberts.

Make a note in your diary of the ‘Carols in the Village Hall’ evening on Saturday 21st December from 6.30pm-8.30pm. This now traditional event is a delightfully relaxed, informal evening for everyone to get together and join in singing all the well known carols. Mince pies and hot punch will be served and you can drop in/out at anytime and there will be a collection to raise money for St Michael’s Hospice.

Now is the time to book your place at the Burn’s night Dinner to be held in the Village Hall on Saturday 25th January 2014 at 7.30pm by telephoning Sandra Shoobridge on 774708. Tickets cost £10 each and places are limited for this three course dinner with a ‘wee dram’, so reserve your place quickly before it’s too late – a great way to spend a mid-winter’s evening!

The East Sussex County Council Mobile Library will be outside the Village Hall next week on Wednesday 18th December from 3.45pm – 4.14pm. I will be your last chance to choose a book before the New Year, when it will return on January 15th 2014 at the same time.