Minutes of the meeting held on Jan2nd 2019
Mrs Armsby welcomed 14 members and one visitor, Mike Cooper , our quizmaster for the evening. She also wished everyone a happy new year.
APOLOGIES were received from Heather Durrance, Valerie Kirchen and Audrey Hudson.
A report from the Christmas meal was read & signed, & Mrs Armsby said that her Poinsettia is still looking very healthy.
Mrs Horgen gave a birthday card to Carol Thulbourne, and Mrs Self offered to deliver one to Audrey Hudson. There will be two in February.
Mrs Elsey said that she will be collecting subs for 2019 @ £15 a head.
The Feb meeting will be a talk by Rosie O’Grady from Riding for the Disabled. Janet Burns will contact her nearer the time to remind her of the date & time.
Teas Janet Cooper & Hazel Hearne
Door & raffle Janet Burns & Sheila Smith
VOT Anita Horgen
Mrs Armsby then introduced Mike Cooper who had compiled the quiz for us. We enjoyed some unusual rounds such as Gardening and what comes next in the sequence, but proved to be rubbish at local knowledge, and the identification of which fungi were edible, and which were poisonous. However, we all enjoyed the challenge, and Mike was warmly thanked by Mrs Armsby, and presented with a Waitrose voucher.
Each member had brought a wrapped parcel for the raffle, so everyone went home with a prize.
The meeting ended at 9.30pm.
Claire Lankfer (secretary)

Roy Bivon Part 2

Since Julia and I married in 1971, I have never been without a dog. One of these, a Jack Russell, was called Rascal and the name suited him to a T. On one occasion as we were walking by a river, Rascal took a dislike to a pair of swans. Being a good swimmer, he decided to chase them. After 45 minutes of swimming around he gave up, but got out on the wrong side of the river. We eventually persuaded him to jump back in to swim to our side, glad that the swans had completely ignored him.
My present dog, Casey, a rescue dog, is the gentlest creature, but he has one fault – he is a hunter. So when we go out I keep him on a long lead because the last time he escaped he was off hunting for three hours.
In 1973, two years after I was married, I went to visit Natasha in Moscow. I had written a letter, informing her of my visit but when she opened her door she was amazed to see me as she had not received it. This was not unusual in Soviet times. Letters often went mysteriously astray. She then explained that she was shortly coming to England to attend a Course in Cambridge, with the last few days to be spent in Norwich!
She carefully explained that when she reached Norwich, I was to pretend that we did not know one another, otherwise she would be refused permission to attend the Course. In fact, I already knew about her visit as it was being organised by one of my colleagues.
So when I got back to UK, I suggested to my colleague that I would like to invite the group to a party in my house. I did not really expect them to come, but the Soviet Union was an unpredictable country and they came.
I have some surprising and interesting memories of the visit. I found the Russians in our kitchen. They were opening all our cupboards. Looking to see what equipment we had. They had never been in an English house before! As I was carefully pretending that I did not know Natasha, the only time we were able to chat was for a few minutes in the bedroom with a friend keeping watch to make sure the Group Leader did not report her.
In 1980 I had met a correspondent from Novosti News Agency. He decided that he would like to show me the ‘real Russia’, as Moscow was very different from other towns. We traveled to a small town called Zvenigorod. It was a complete mess! The bridge over the river was damaged and people had to use a rowing boat to cross from one side to the other.
The best stocked shop in town was the vodka shop, as the Soviets always made sure that there was a plentiful supply of cheap vodka. Vodka is still very cheap there.
I have always been a keen photographer, so I had a camera with me. I had especially bought a Zenit Russian camera, as if I had had a Canon or Nikon, I would have been spotted as a foreigner at once. For the same reason, I always wore my oldest clothes, as Western clothes were not for sale in the Soviet Union.

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Ron’s Rambles February

Best wishes Benefits
Amber Rudd’s decision to introduce changes to the Universal-Credits programme are to be welcomed, but they are long overdue. There is nothing wrong with the concept of Universal Credit, the aim to ensure that one is better off working than living on benefits appears to make sense, at least it would do if those who are working were receiving enough to provide shelter, food, heating and clothing for their family. Sadly for anyone working a forty hour week on the minimum wage, this is barely true, for those not working a forty hour week it almost certainly isn’t true. The situation has become more complex by the increasing use by employers of zero hours contracts such that they might get no work at all in some weeks. The government aim is to ensure that the level of benefit is such as to make one better off by working but fixing that level to ensure that it is fair is very difficult. With the introduction of UC the government decided that recipients would get paid once every five weeks, this, they claimed would be comparable with someone in work who is paid monthly. Bearing in mind that those applying for benefit are the poorest in society they were unlikely to have sufficient funds to meet their living expenses during that five weeks, many were able to call on family or friends to help them through that time but a significant minority were not. Understandably there were many protests, just what did the government expect these people to do? Crime or prostitution or go to loan sharks? I have seen people at the food bank with apparently no money, no source of money and three weeks before they can expect to get any. Those operating benefits do so in a ruthless manner, applying sanctions, in the form of withholding benefits, for any minor breach of rules. Belatedly a scheme of loans was introduced last year so that people could borrow some of their benefit in advance, but this money had to be repaid so ensuing payments would be reduced, which was not much help if the benefits were not enough in the first place. Another aspect of UC was the decision that, unlike the old Housing Benefit, all the benefit would be paid to the recipient and it would be their responsibility to pay the rent to the landlord, just as they would if they were employed. Makes sense, one could argue, saves the tax-payer lots of money spent in administration, but for reasons not clear to me, the government decided that those living in affordable accommodation would be treated differently and their rents would be paid to the council/housing association and deducted from the benefit going to the recipient. Those in private renting have to pay their rent. Almost by definition private accommodation is unaffordable for someone on benefit, the net result is that they are likely to fall behind with their rent leading to eventual eviction and becoming the responsibility of the local authority. Amber Rudd’s changes do address some of the problems, the proposal is that where it is necessary weekly payments of benefits can be arranged and private landlords will be able to apply to have the rent paid directly to them. Three cheers for Amber Rudd, she seems to have a much better understanding of the difficulties facing the poor than any of her predecessors in that Job.
As I said at the start there is nothing wrong with the concept of UC, the problem is that the government is trying to save money at the same time. In 2008 the conservative government announced an austerity programme that included a big reduction in welfare spending and they have been pursuing that aim. I believe that there remains further cuts to be made over the next three years amounting to a figure in excess of £12bn. Austerity is not over yet.
Our government has been in denial of the extent of poverty in this country and many of it’s actions have been deliberately aimed at helping the better off at the expense of the poor. Last year they did raise the minimum wage, an overdue act that has improved the situation a little for those on low wages, they also raised the personal allowance for income tax, whilst this may have helped the low to medium earners, it did nothing for the very poor who are not earning enough to pay any tax, but what it did do was to give the greatest benefit to those who had an income that resulted in a tax rate higher than the standard rate almost 50% of the reduction in tax take went to people in that category. This gift to the better-off came on top of the reduction in the higher tax rate.
I read recently that some of the top paid people in the country had earned in the first four days of this year as much as a worker on the minimum wage could expect to earn in the whole year. We are a rich nation but the wealth is becoming increasingly disproportionately distributed throughout society, a trend that has been happening over a number of years. The government’s failure to curb excessive salaries, act to end the housing crisis and stop the exploitation of the low and middle earners by property owners and to adequately protect the poorest in society are major factors that have led to this unjust and unfair society.
One can understand and applaud the aim to balance the nation’s budget, but to do that by constantly squeezing the people with low and middle incomes whilst leaving the better-off to make merry cannot be the best way.

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An old man placed an order for one hamburger, French fries, and a drink He unwrapped the plain hamburger and carefully cut it in half, placing one half in front of his wife. He then carefully counted out the French fries, dividing them into two piles and neatly placed one pile in front of his wife. He took a sip of the drink, his wife took a sip and then set the cup down between them. As he began to eat his few bites of hamburger, the people around them were looking over and whispering. Obviously, they were thinking, “That poor old couple…all they can afford is one meal for the two of them.” As the man began to eat his fries, a young man came to the table and politely offered to buy another meal for the old couple. The old man said they were just fine, they were used to sharing everything. People closer to the table noticed the little old lady hadn’t eaten a bite.She sat there watching her husband eat and occasionally taking turns sipping the drink. Again, the young man came over and begged them to let him buy another meal for them. This time the old woman said, “No, thank you, we are used to sharing everything Finally, as the old man finished and was wiping his face neatly with the napkin, the young man again came over to the little old lady who had yet to eat a single bite of food and asked, “What is it you are waiting for?” She answered him “The Teeth”.
Last time, I promised to include the full version of “the talking dog for sale” joke. This joke is funny on several levels and I love I. Here we go!
An elderly man, who had recently lost his wife, did not have a soul in the world and was very lonely. He saw an advertisement in the local paper “Talking Dog for Sale”. He telephoned the owner and went to the house where the owner suggested that the man should go into the back garden and have a chat with the dog.The dog, a labrador, was sitting under a garden table, reading the Financial Times. “I believe you can talk” said the man. “Oh, yes. As a puppy, I realised that I was able to understand and talk very many foreign languages. As I grew up, people got used to the fact that I could talk ; boredom set in so I taught myself to read. Eventually, I became really bored so I went to the Army Recruitment Centre and persuaded them to let me join up. They cut down on my food and made me grow my coat long and, when I looked scruffy enough, they sent me to Iraq where I had to pretend to be a stray dog, mix with the enemy and bring back to my commanding officer all the intelligence I had gathered while sitting around cafes and bazaars. It is fair to say that my information prevented many surprise attacks on our troops and saved many lives, both military and civilian. After about 5 years, my hips played up and I had to retire from the Army on medical grounds. I came back here; the pension was good but I soon became bored again so I volunteered to join the police as a volunteer. They seconded me to the CID and I spent a lot of time in pubs and cafes, sitting under the table and gathering information about planned bank raids, burglaries, fencing of stolen goods, and so on and reporting back to the police station. It is fair to say that I was very successful and the crime rate in our area dropped significantly. Eventually, they retired me and I returned here to live. Now the old fool who owns me wants to sell me!!”
The elderly man was mightily impressed by all this and decided to buy the dog if he could afford him. He asked the owner how much he was asking for the dog and was told £5.00.
“What?” said the elderly man “£5.00 for such a wonderful dog who has such an interesting and brave history, can speak several languages and taught himself to read? That cannot be right!” “Well” said the owner “That’s easy to explain. He is a lying, idle little b*gg*r who has never been farther than my garden and the local park in his life”
A blonde girl was tired of being the butt of blonde jokes as she knew she was intelligent and no-one could fool her. She cut her heir short and dyed it brown. She drove into the countryside and came across a shepherd with his sheep. She engaged him in conversation and then asked “If I guess the number of your sheep correctly, will you give me one?” He concurred and she guessed 282, exactly correct. Amazed, he told her to take a sheep and, as she was driving away, he asked her “If I can guess the natural colour of your hair can I have my dog back?”
MISERABLE TIME OF YEAR, SO ALL JOKES THIS MONTH! Best wishes to you all Ian Nisbet.

February Gardening.

February can feel like the start of spring, it can also feel like winter is never going to end. Luckily, if you’ve finished your winter pruning and clearing, there isn’t too much to do outside. Instead turn your attention to seed sowing!
February is the perfect month to sow seeds of annual climbers. Many of the climbers recommended here take some time to get going so to avoid a disappointing show seeds must be sown early in the year. Often from tropical parts of the world annual climbers can rapidly transform the garden. Climbing annuals will flower non-stop throughout summer until the frosts, producing striking blooms and sculptural leaves. Annual climbers are often grown as fast cover-ups for sunny fences and trellises, but they make excellent pot plants for large containers on a sunny patio. Most annual climbers twine by tendrils and require suitable structures on which to climb. Consider attaching plastic netting or frames to fences, installing wires and using canes or pea sticks for support.
To encourage germination, soak the seeds overnight in cold water to soften their coating. Sow your seeds individually into 3” pots filled with a seed-sowing compost and place in a warm propagator to give them a head start. Remember to label your pots! Seedlings should appear within two to three weeks. After germination, wait until they’re big enough to prick out and grow on in larger pots of fresh compost. Pinch out the tips of new growth this will create a better shape and multiply the flowering shoots. From April, gradually harden off plants in readiness for moving outdoors.
Once the threat of frost has passed your seedlings can be planted outside. If you are using containers choose a loam-based compost like John Innes no 2 – it holds water efficiently, preventing your climbers from drying out too quickly. They’ll need plenty of water when they’re in growth, so don’t let them dry out and feed them every couple of weeks. These plants love the sun, If you hide them in the shade they’re liable to sulk and put on a disappointing display.
Here are some of my favourites:
• Sweet peas are available in every colour option you can imagine. I like the variety “Incense Mixed” it has strong fragrance and elegant colours.
• Morning Glory ‘Grandpa Otts’ very dramatic intense violet blue flowers
• Thunbergia alata (Black eyed susan)
• Rhodochiton atrosanguineus (purple bell vine)
• Eccremocarpus scaber (Chilean glory flower)
• Ipomoea lobate (Spanish Flag)
Come next February, you can choose a whole new batch of climbing annuals for a different colour scheme or planting effect.
Here are a few other gardening jobs for February:
• Plant a container or hanging basket with colourful primroses and place by a doorway.
• Prune over wintered fuchsia’s back to 2 buds on each shoot.
• Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches using horticultural fleece.
• Plant out snowdrops ‘in the green’.
• Chit Seed Potatoes
Whatever February brings, I hope you are able to enjoy some time in your garden.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800