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.


1st Feb | Anecdotes of a Midwife – talk by Kim Mason

Chairlady Di Barker welcomed a full turnout of members to the first meeting in our 2018 programme, and she announced that as this is our 50th Anniversary Year there were some extra-special events planned to mark it. These would be revealed as the year went on! After introducing the new committee Di welcomed our speaker for the evening, midwife Kim Mason, who had come to tell us all about her work, and of her beliefs and values in helping women to deliver their babies safely.

Kim has been a practising midwife for forty years, having first qualified as a State Certified Nurse and then taking a hands-on midwifery course, learning on the job. She worked for a year in a general hospital and then in Leigh-on-Sea with another colleague giving mothers-to-be ante-natal and pregnancy care, taking them all the way through from ante-natal classes to delivery, and then following up with post-natal care for both mothers and babies.

Although retired now, she is still called upon to attend occasional births. Her philosophy is to let the mothers lead when it comes to delivery – it is the midwife’s job to learn when to interfere, and to ensure a calm and comfortable environment where mothers feel able to relax and listen to their bodies. Midwives are there to “catch the baby” as Kim put it, and let women feel empowered by doing it all themselves as far as possible.

As it happens, Kim disapproves of programmes such as “Call the Midwife” as she feels that many of the stories can put mothers-to-be off completely and actually terrify them when it comes to giving birth themselves. Giving birth at home and as naturally as possible also makes for healthier babies and healthier mums, and less post-natal depression too. Only 8% of mums-to-be in the UK give birth at home today, compared to 50% when Kim started work!

Kim’s talk was both relaxed and informative and given with humour and sensitivity – exactly in the way you would imagine she did her job!

Jan 18th | Capel Ladies Club A.G.M. 2018

The 2018 A.G.M. was attended by 21 members of Capel Ladies Club, six of whom were current committee members.

After welcoming everyone to the meeting Chairlady Di Barker gave her annual report. She said it had been another successful year with some good speakers and members had enjoyed meals out, social and the annual Barbecue. However, although a number of outings had taken place throughout the year they had not been particularly well attended. The main exceptions to this was our Christmas shopping trip to Bury St Edmunds and the Mystery Tour round Suffolk. Di said perhaps it was time to reconsider the number of outings arranged each year as it was quite a lot of work if only a handful of people wanted to go on them. Wendy Keeble commented that it was a shame that a minority of interested people who wanted to go on trips and visits should have to forfeit these because of the great majority’s disinterest.

Di went on to thank everyone who had helped the club in some way over the year: Val and Dorothy for setting out the tea things each meeting; Linda Morrison for putting round our posters; and each individual committee member for their various roles. Secretary Sue Woolgar received special thanks, and also mentioned was Nick Woolgar, Sue’s son who puts reports and photos on our website,

Treasurer Liz Gulliver was also thanked for her hard work, and John Bloomfield too for auditing the accounts. Sue and Liz were leaving the committee this year but there were two new volunteers to join. These were Sue Crane and Beryl Backler, who were both proposed and seconded on to the 2018 team.

Of special note was this, our 50th Anniversary year, and Di announced that the club would be holding several special events to mark this. The committee was yet to finalise this year’s programme but all would be revealed as time went on.

After the main business of the evening there were refreshments with home-made cakes baked by members of the committee and this was followed by a “Backwards Raffle” which turned out to be great fun and was a jolly way to end the evening!

Dec 21st | Christmas Social

Our Christmas Social 2017 was another happy occasion with decorations on the tables, a Grand Christmas Raffle, the Members’ Hamper Draw and even a Secret Santa surprise at the end! As usual each member brought a plate of food to share, and there was a tremendous variety of snacks and party food. Irene Carder had a seasonal quiz for us with chocolates as prizes, and the winners were Beryl Backler and Sue Woolgar. The draw for the fantastic Christmas hamper, put together by Pat Bradford and Shirley Ward, was won by Jacky Lloyd amidst great applause. Di Barker thanked all the committee for their hard work over the year and reminded everyone of the coming AGM in January when some new committee members will be chosen.

Nov 2nd | The History of War Memorials with Griff Johns & Bill Dimond

With the planned inauguration of Capel’s own new War Memorial coming in 2018 it seemed appropriate a week before Remembrance Day this year to find out something of the origin and history of such monuments, and Bill and Griff came to Capel Ladies Club to give a presentation about this very subject.

One or two people amongst us weren’t sure they would be able to keep from dropping off during a talk like this, but they were pleasantly surprised as it proved an interesting and informative talk and slideshow.

The term “war memorial” can be used to describe a monument, building or statue which has been erected to celebrate or honour a war or a victory, and an example of this is Trajan’s Column, erected in Rome during the 2nd century AD. It commemorates the victory of the Roman emperor Trajan over the Dacians and is a 126-foot marble pillar with carvings spiralling around it of the various battles that were involved, so that it reads like a comic strip. There are also a number of Triumphal Arches around the world that glorify victories and commemorate famous generals and leaders.

However, the Great War of 1914/18 – the “War to end all wars” –  was so terrible and inflicted such large numbers of casualties on all sides that many thousands of families around the world were affected by the tragedy of the wounding or loss of one of their own, and whole communities were depleted of many of their young men. Consequently, after the war there was a strong feeling and a need felt by those left behind to preserve the memory of the dead and the wounded, and those people and places scarred forever by their involvement in such an appalling  and world-changing event.

Memorials to the First World War are many and varied, and throughout  the UK most villages and towns erected their own memorial, be it a stone column on the village green or a plaque in the local parish church. Names of the dead were also included on the memorial so that they should never be forgotten. Although we have a plaque in St Mary’s Church to those killed in the Great War, and a Book of Remembrance which honours those killed in World War II, there is no stone memorial in the centre of the village.

Some injured soldiers from Capel were cared for at the old Anglesea Road hospital in Ipswich, so at the time the village decided to send its money to Anglesea Road, rather than spend it on an inanimate object like a war memorial, however worthy.

However, in recent years, after thoughts were galvanised into action, former Royal Marine Griff Johns found himself archivist of The Capel St Mary War Memorial Trust – a small group of villagers determined to unveil a permanent memorial in the centre of Capel on the 11th day of the 11th month, 2018: the 100th anniversary of the guns falling silent. Griff has been researching the 33 men so far identified who did not see Suffolk again. They are all associated with the parish through school, family or birth, and their names will be carved on the granite memorial.

To this end there has been active fund-raising and publicity, and after giving a very informative and well-illustrated talk to our members, Griff and associate Bill Dimond were presented with a cheque towards this worthy fund.

Oct 5th | Craft Evening with Linda Bloomfield

There were furrowed brows and serious looks of deep concentration at our October Capel Ladies Meeting. The person to blame was Linda Bloomfield who, once again, had set us the task of being creative and producing an attractive decorative item for the festive season!

As it turned out, it was 100% success rate this year – and we all managed to make a rather cute little fir-cone gnome, one which could be hung on a festive tree or stood in pride of place on a mantelpiece amongst the cards! Some skilful members even graduated to bauble-making using string wound round and glued to a sphere and then decorated with sequins, but the majority were more than happy with their fir-cone gnomes!

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Linda buzzed about with felt and needles, and there was a hum of conversation in the Library, punctuated only by “Mmmmm!”s as we chomped our way through the home-made “chocolate bark” slabs which Linda had thoughtfully placed on each table. Naughty but very nice!

Several people bought Christmas cards, again home-made by Linda, and in so-doing raised £25 for the East Anglian Children’s Hospice. A very enjoyable evening was had by all!

Sept 7th | Turkey and the Ottomans – a talk by Jenny Gibbs

Capel Ladies were delighted to welcome back Jenny Gibbs, along with her partner Mustapha, to talk about the Ottoman Empire, the  Hidden Treasures of Istanbul and a Glimpse into the Harem. Jenny wore a traditional costume with head dress, pantaloons and apron, and a gorgeous sparkly top. She gave us a quick introduction as to how she came to live in Turkey for twenty four years, having fallen in love with the country after a brief holiday there. She lives in a two hundred year old farmhouse, which is apt because – as the Ottoman Empire only ended in 1923 – her home is an Ottoman house.

The Empire was created in 1299, and from the 15th to 17th centuries was the largest empire in the world. The Ottomans came from Mongolia and while some went to Turkey others went to Finland, which is why there is a similarity in their languages. Eventually Istanbul became the centre of the Empire. The Palace there is magnificent and covers 173 acres. All the roofs are domes, and the walls are covered in ceramic hand-painted tiles. The kitchens are vast as they would have served upwards of 10,000 people.  Jenny has visited the palace  several times as it takes many days to see it all.

The Harem in the Palace was also very large. Harem means women’s quarters and this is where all the women in the palace lived. The Sultan was allowed four wives, while other men could have seven! These would all be Turkish but his concubines, usually about eight hundred of them, would come from conquered nations. They would be the most beautiful girls, and in the harem they were well educated, taught to play music, dance, sing and do exquisite embroidery. Each girl would have her own servant and there were also about four hundred eunuchs to keep order, so you can understand why it was so large with that many people there! A sad fate awaited these women, however. When a Sultan died all his concubines would be killed – often weighted down with stones and thrown in the Bosphorus! Fortunately this practice died out as the centuries passed.

It wasn’t too good to be the son of a sultan either, since only one son could take over when his father died. They often killed all their brothers to ensure no one tried to depose them! Later on this custom, too, died out and the brothers would be put in a special place known as the Cage to live out their lives. Although called a Cage it was a good life with every luxury and plenty of concubines too. However the brothers were never allowed out and frequently went mad.

Jenny went on to tell us about some of the buildings in Istanbul including the fabulous mosques, The Grande Hotel de Londres, built for the passengers of the Orient Express in 1892, remains unchanged to this day and is often used by film companies. She also described a vast underground cistern where water had been stored and they had used Greek and Roman columns to support the roof, but many of these were put in upside down! She said it was beautifully cool in there after the heat of the streets.

Jenny brought with her examples of Ottoman clothing as well as scarves, tablecloths and bags to sell, all very beautiful and eagerly bought by our members. We look forward to the next time Jenny comes, she is always a delight to listen to.

(Report by Di Barker)