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!

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Sept 21st | Visit to the Munnings Art Museum, Dedham

On a beautiful early autumn afternoon a small group of Capel Ladies went to visit the Alfred Munnings Museum at Dedham. If you have never visited here it is well worth the short trip.

We all enjoyed looking at his paintings, many of horses, which were his first love, but also landscapes – a number of which were local scenes of Dedham Vale and the River Stour. There was also a special exhibition entitled “Munnings and the River” which included a lovely series of pictures showing ladies boating on the Stour at Flatford. Everything is well explained with clear information to read, and very helpful Guides in each room.

The house – which was Munnings’ well-loved home, is also very interesting, with much of his original furniture, books, sculptures and china still there, exactly as it was in his lifetime. After a pleasant time in the house we moved on to his studio to see where he painted, with more exhibits in here too.

The afternoon finished with our group enjoying delicious, very generous pieces of cake sitting outside in the Garden Café, watching the horses in the adjoining field – rather apt considering Munnings’ love of horses. You can find out more about the museum by visiting its website: www.munningsmuseum.org.uk

(Report by Di Barker)

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)

Aug 3rd | Summer Barbecue

After all those lovely summer evenings in June and July the night of the Capel Ladies Barbecue turned out to be unsettled, cool and very blustery! However, we were safely tucked away inside a marquee, courtesy of Liz and Tony Gulliver, our hosts, enjoying a delicious spread of barbecued meats and salads, followed by a selection of creamy gateaux, so the weather didn’t affect us in the slightest. We had a tricky quiz from Pat Bradford where we had to match the correct event to the year it happened, and a Lucky Raffle Prize Draw. At the end of the evening Di Barker thanked our hosts and presented them with wine and flowers. The end of another Barbecue, but let’s hope it’s not the end of another summer!

Coming up we have a touch of Turkish sunshine from our September speaker Jenny Gibbs, a trip to the Munnings Museum with afternoon tea, and a craft evening.

July 20th | The Shelley Centre & Riding for the Disabled Charity – talk by Chairman Jan Derbyshire

Our July meeting saw Jan Derbyshire, chairman of The Shelley Centre for Therapeutic Riding, accompanied by her deputy Chairman Margaret Fowler, come to talk to us about the Riding for the Disabled charity.

Jan started with the words “It’s what you CAN do that counts” and then read a poem entitled “I Can”.

Jan explained to us that she was an unlikely character to be where she is today, at the head of a riding centre for disabled people.  She was raised in Uganda, later moving to Hong Kong. She eventually came back to this country and was a “Townie” living and working in London, in nursing, in banking and also in recruitment, then moving to Dedham 30 years ago. After retirement a chance meeting with a neighbour got her volunteering for an hour a week at the Shelley Centre, which is set in picturesque countryside.

An hour a week led to a day a week, she learnt to lead a horse, then to ride a horse; she trained to be an instructor, then she went on the Committee and eight years ago became Chairman of what is now a Trust.

We found out that riding has long been known to improve mental and physical health, even as long ago as in Greece in the 5th Century B.C., and it was used to help First World War victims. The Riding for the Disabled Charity officially came in to being in 1969, and there were 80 groups scattered throughout the country. Now there are 600, including The Shelley Centre for Therapeutic Riding, which has been open since 1989. It has seen many changes over the years, with the introduction of Health and Safety regulations, CRB checks, First Aid requirements, etc.

The Centre has 10 horses and ponies, lots of tack and specialist equipment, and even a side-saddle. They have a carriage for driving and Ebony the computerised mechanical horse. (You may have read ‘Ebony’s Blog’ in Capel Capers.)  There are between 95 and 100 volunteers and over 100 riders attend each week. The Centre costs £70,000 a year to run, so much fund-raising is needed.

Jan impressed upon us that RDA is a therapy, not just a ride on a horse. Riding uses every muscle in the body, improves internal organs as well as posture, and gives the riders more self-confidence. They also have to try to fit the school curriculum into lessons, using colours, letters and numbers, amongst other things, in the arena. She also told us that many of the Paralympians, like Sophie Christiansen, have been discovered through the RDA.

We saw several film clips showing children and adults riding, and so obviously enjoying every minute of it, and we heard from families what a big impact RDA has had on those they were able to help. In some cases the riders said it was the first time they had ever been able to achieve anything which made them feel they had been set free from their disabilities for that short time when they are sat on their horse.

Jan was an excellent speaker, full of information delivered passionately and with wit. At the end of this very informative and enjoyable evening we presented Jan with a cheque for £100 to help The Shelley Centre’s funds.

For more information visit their website: www.rda-east.org.uk/shelley.html

July 6th | ‘Time After Time’ – The Orchard Players’ Show

James Finbow and Charlea Burwood
star in “Time After Time”

Our first July meeting was a visit to the Orchard Players’ Show, “Time After Time” at Capel Village Hall. The show featured songs from the 70’s and 80’s, accompanied by an excellent live band, and featured a good mix of favourite numbers. The dancing in particular was excellent, and there were some terrific performances from the younger members of the cast. A feel-good fun night out!

June 15th | Evening Mystery Tour

The evening of June 15th was warm and balmy – a perfect summer’s evening, in fact, when around 20 adventure-seeking ladies boarded the coach for our Mystery Tour. At least the name of the coach company inspired confidence – “Boomerang Tours” – so we knew we would eventually arrive back where we started!

Anyway, both David, our driver and Alex, our guide seemed to know exactly where we were going so that was OK! We were on a wildlife and history coach tour and Alex called out questions along the way to see if we could guess the names of villages, plants, birds or animals that we might encounter en-route.

We were on a tour of the Deben villages and the countryside seen from the coach was a picture in greens and golds, splashed here and there with scarlet from wayside poppies!

Our first stop was picturesque Ramsholt Church with its round tower overlooking a peaceful bend on the River Deben. The churchyard was full of wild flowers and the church was cool and quiet inside. After looking round and drinking in the beautiful views under a bright blue summer sky we reluctantly moved on a short distance in the coach and came to The Ramsholt Arms. This pub has an idyllic location below the church on the sandy shores of the river, and on summer evenings there’s nowhere better to sit with a glass of something gazing at the sparkles on the water, or peering up and down the river to catch glimpses of herons or cormorants, or perhaps a barn owl swooping over fields on the opposite bank.

We stopped here for a drink and to sample the two home-made cakes baked the previous night by our guide Alex, and I can vouch for the fact that they were both delicious!

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Back in the coach and down a few more narrow lanes to Bawdsey, at the mouth of the river, opposite Felixstowe Ferry, where the ferryman in his rowing boat plies his trade. We were too late to see it in operation, of course, but just in time to see the beginnings of a glorious sunset! After a short wander we boarded the coach again for a leisurely ride home.

En route we listened to more interesting facts from Alex about what we were passing – from details of the wildlife, trees and plants to historical facts and information about people and places connected with the area, from Saxon Ship Burials to Alien Encounters! We rolled into Capel just as it was getting dark – about 10.15 pm. after a delightful evening!