20th Dec | Christmas Social in the Vine Lounge

Our Christmas Social in December was great fun as usual. A delicious buffet provided by members, a huge Christmas Raffle, Members’ Hamper Draw (won by Linda Morrison) plus quizzes and Secret Santa gifts! We are now looking forward to our new programme of  activities for 2019, and to welcoming our new committee and chairlady after our forthcoming AGM in mid-January.


1st Nov | Guy Fawkes – a talk by Barbara Faulkner

It was Barbara Faulkner’s fourth visit to Capel Ladies Club to give us one of her many entertaining talks. This time, appropriately enough, it was all about Guy Fawkes.

We heard all the back story of how Guy Fawkes, a converted Catholic, was disillusioned by the continuing persecution of Catholics by Protestants in England. Having unsuccessfully tried to raise a Catholic rebellion in his own country, he went to Spain to join the Catholic cause in wars against the Dutch Protestants. It was here he became an expert in using gunpowder, and when the plotters back in England formed their plan to blow up Parliament they persuaded Guy to return and join their conspiracy. The rest is history and the story of how the plot was foiled and plotters arrested and later executed is well-known to us all.

For years afterwards Gunpowder Treason Day was decreed a Public Holiday, with church services, the firing of cannons and celebrations. Fireworks were added in the 1650s, and effigies of Guy Fawkes, or sometimes of the current Pope, were burnt on bonfires. Anti-Catholic feeling persisted up until the mid nineteenth century when laws about tolerance and freedom of worship were finally passed in England. However the customs around Guy Fawkes Night have persisted and are still very widely observed in our modern times.

We all reminisced about our childhood Bonfire Nights with soup, sausages and sparklers, and Catherine Wheels that refused to spin properly, and modest boxes of fireworks for family displays, so different from the organised, more sophisticated (and probably safer) gatherings today! At the end of Barbara’s talk we all repeated the old rhyme, “Remember, Remember the fifth of November…….” and let off party poppers en masse! A fun evening!

4th Oct | Golden Anniversary Dinner

On 4th October 2018, Capel Ladies Club celebrated its Golden Anniversary, marking 50 years since its formation in September 1968.

Nearly 50 members attended the evening which began with wine and canapés in the Vine Lounge. This was followed by a delicious two-course meal served in the Library which was decorated with gold trimmings and bunting, with gold cloths and centre-pieces of flowers and balloons on the tables!

After the meal everyone retired to the Vine Lounge again and the evening drew to a close with the cutting of a celebration cake, (baked and iced by Audrey and Di respectively), and then the draw for the Golden Raffle took place.

Current Chairlady Di Barker gave a short speech thanking the committee and all the members for their continuing support which she said has been the backbone and reason for the longevity of the Club over the years.

In spite of its vintage Capel Ladies Club still has the same original aims – to provide the opportunity for ladies of all ages in the Capel area to gather socially, listen to invited Speakers and enjoy trips out as well as raising money for charities and supporting the local community.

Here’s to the next 50 years!

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6th Sept | History of the Co-op Movement – talk by Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews was our September speaker on The History of the Co-op Movement. He began by saying that he grew up in London where he got his first job at 13, delivering newspapers for his local Co-op.  Now here he is in his thirties still working for them as the Manager of Woodbridge Co-op & a Director of some aspects of the work the Co-op does in this area.

The Co-op movement was started by The Rochdale Pioneers, a group of twenty-eight people (one of whom was a lady), who decided that the rich merchants were taking advantage of them by adding ingredients to products to make them weigh more, to the detriment of the quality of the goods.  They started in 1844 calling themselves the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. They struggled to amass £28 over four months, but were able to open a warehouse from which to trade at 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale, on 21st December 1844.  They traded in flour, butter, sugar, oatmeal and candles, and soon expanded to include tea & tobacco, all goods sold at fair prices.

Chris told us that The East Anglian Co-operative Society follows the same principles as the pioneers in that they do what is right for the people. It was started by John Castle of Essex in 1861, later joined by George Heinz of Ipswich in 1867. Together they opened a little shop at 34 Carr Street, Ipswich, which was registered on 3rd March 1868, and was later to transform into the flagship Co-op Department Store. Eventually Boss Hall Farm was bought to supply dairy products in Ipswich. The first official Co-op Supermarket was the Solar Store (now Morrisons) that was eventually built on the same site.

The East of England Co-op is now made up of 150 stores across Norfolk, Suffolk & Essex, and – as in the old days – customers can still become shareholders by paying a membership fee of £1 which entitles them to an annual dividend payout.

The Co-op is still a great supporter of local communities. They promote local food producers and source many of their goods from our region. In addition they have a number of good causes which they support and they pride themselves on being a business for people and communities not just for profit.

The Co-op was the first company to introduce degradable plastic bags, and they led the way in introducing Fair Trade products such as bananas, tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate.

Chris brought several bars of Fair Trade Chocolate for us to sample, and it was passed around and duly devoured. He was an extremely good ambassador for the Co-op, and we all enjoyed his talk and his chocolate!

19th Jul | ‘My Life in Harrods’ – talk by Sue Smart

What an interesting career was had by our July speaker, Sue Smart. She spent all 43 years of her working life in Harrods, from the age of seventeen as a Junior until she finally retired after being a Buyer in various departments.

Harrods began as a small store in Stepney, East London, in a single room owned by Charles Henry Harrod selling only tea and groceries. The store moved to Knightsbridge and expanded in 1849, until gradually the business occupied the whole block in the Brompton Road. After the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851, Knightsbridge became a very fashionable area and the store enjoyed great success. In 1898 an escalator was installed – England’s first – and smelling salts or a stiff drink were offered to its daring early passengers after their trip! In the same year Harrods issued its first Catalogue, where all its products were listed. The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is Latin for “all things for all people, everywhere”, so you can imagine the size of this publication!

As far as Sue Smart is concerned – she began her career there travelling from her home in Neasden as a Junior trainee in 1968. Her training took two years including one day a week at college and during that time she worked in several different departments. When decimal coinage was introduced in 1971 she was one of the “Decimal Pennies” who were stationed on each floor of the shop each wearing a sash to make them visible to the customers and offering help with the new currency. During the ’60s and ’70s she remembers the I.R.A. bomb threats and the store had to be evacuated a number of times. In 1974 a bomb did actually go off in the House & Garden Tools department which was sealed off in time to minimise damage and no one was hurt. The January Sales attracted large numbers of customers, some of whom camped outside to be first to get the bargains and takings often exceeded £100 million in this month!

One of Sue’s unusual roles as a Buyer was in the Pets Department, and one of her first trips abroad as a Buyer was with the merchandise director to Frankfurt to a Pets Accessories Trade Fair. After a day of walking around the stalls she was told that the next day she could buy whatever fancy accessories caught her eye – and the more unusual the better!

As a Buyer for the Linens department Sue visited China, India and the USA in search of beautiful hand-made products, and one banqueting-size tablecloth covered in hand-made lace which she brought back actually sold for £40 000!

Famous customers who Sue remembers include Priscilla Presley (who regularly visited the linen department), plus countless celebrities, an Arab princess and several members of the Royal family. Sue told us that Al Fayed was a very generous and hands-on employer who was often in the store and who knew many of his staff by name. After the death of his son Dodi he eventually decided to sell it in 2010 to Qatar Holdings for £1.5 billion. It was – as Sue says – the end of an era, and soon after this she retired, taking all her remarkable memories with her. We all enjoyed her sharing some of them with us!

Click CONTINUE READING to discover more fascinating facts about Harrods… Continue reading

3rd May | Memories of a Headteacher – talk by Brian Carline

Brian Carline, our speaker in May, is a former Head Teacher with forty years experience in the profession. It turns out he was originally half of a double act in the world of stand-up comedy, and has even appeared on TV in the vintage talent show “New Faces”! He told us that one of the essential qualities of being a good teacher is a sense of humour, and this was well illustrated in his very amusing talk!

He has worked in a number of secondary schools in quite difficult areas of the country, from Toxteth and Salford  to parts of Essex and the East End of London, and he recounted many amusing anecdotes about the staff, pupils and families which he has come across over the years. He had us all laughing from the word go – and yet throughout his talk of the tough characters and difficult families his devotion to the job and his compassion for the pupils in his care was clear for us all to see. A very entertaining evening which culminated in many of us remembering our own school experiences!

5th Apr | The Royal Gardens – talk by Mark Lane (Head Gardener, Buckingham Palace)

Capel Ladies Club members were very excited about their April speaker, Mark Lane, who was coming to talk to us about The Royal Gardens. BUT – as we found out – there are TWO Mark Lanes, both highly accredited in the gardening sphere. One is the first wheelchair garden designer who also presents “Gardener’s World” from time to time and the other is the Queen’s Head Gardener at Buckingham Palace. Who knew? I think we had all assumed it would be the Gardener’s World Mark Lane, and so when our Chairlady Di Barker and her husband went to collect Mark Lane off the evening train from London prior to the meeting they were looking for a man in a wheelchair!  Misunderstandings corrected, and laughed over, OUR Mark Lane arrived in the Library to give his talk, having come straight from work especially to speak to us, and charging us nothing but the price of his train ticket!

He spoke in a very relaxed style, telling us about the history of the 39-acre garden at Buckingham Palace, and showing photos of the different areas of landscape and planting. There is a large five-acre lawn where the Garden Parties are held, a three-acre lake and a large wildflower area, plus a huge herbaceous border, a rose garden and extensive vegetable plot growing organic produce. The Palace is self-sufficient in its own honey too, having several beehives. There are nearly 500 mature trees and a very comprehensive plant collection. Mark has been Head Gardener at the Palace for over thirty years, and he also oversees the gardens at Clarence House, home to the Prince of Wales. A total of only eight gardeners are employed at these two places which seems surprisingly few as they are kept very busy throughout the year with all the many functions, open days and exhibitions held in the grounds. The Palace grounds are home to many types of wildlife, which bring their own sets of problems – for example large flocks of greylag and Canada geese live by the lake, and of course create a lot of mess which needs to be continually cleared up.

At the end of Mark’s illustrated and interesting talk he answered a number of our questions before leaving to catch his train back to London.