Last night I gave my very last WI (Women's Institute) talk. I have been giving talks to the WI and a number of other organisations over many years both in Zimbabwe and here in the UK. In the last 6 years here I have given well over 50. It was an excellent way to get not only the service I am offering out and about, but also the art of glass engraving itself. Often my talks would entail a very long drive sometimes an hour or more, in the depths of winter in the middle of a blizzard in the dark.....to a tiny hall in a tiny village which I often got lost trying to find (should have got satnav!) Then I would set my table up with an array of engraved glass, with a nice black velvet background and some good lighting. They would have their business meeting first then I would talk, usually at about 8pm. After this there were questions, tea and cake and the ladies would come and chat and ask more questions and even buy if they wished (I always gave 10% back to WI). Then it all got packed up and there was the long drive back home. As time has gone on, and I have got busier and busier in my business, it has become very tiring. Last night was a typical example where I was hard at it all day, engraving right up till the last 30 minutes, quickly brushed the dust off me, put on a smart jacket, packed the glass, lighting etc etc and off I went, only to return home very late at night and completely exhausted.
The ladies are always very welcoming and often quite a laugh. I have judged many a competition where they have been asked to bring along a piece of glass they own, engraved or otherwise, for me to judge 1st 2nd and 3rd. Based on...well, whatever I think really. I have seen some delightful glass, some absolutely stunning pieces, and some really strange stuff. Remember if you own lovely engraved glass/crystal, don't forget to wash it!!!!
I have also munched through plenty of home made biscuits, cake, flapjack and I would just hate to add it all up in calories.
Some of the meetings have been enormous, like Aldeburgh for example...that night I will never forget as I had not been in the country for very long and was still pretty much traumatised. There was a lady from Zimbabwe in the audience and I started the talk by sobbing my heart out for 10 minutes.... honestly!! Other meetings have been very small and friendly, the one had only 6 ladies and the trip was thankfully not too far from home because it was in very thick drifting snow on a tiny rural road.
Some sing the traditional hymn Jerusalem, some with a piano, some with a scratchy old tape and some with no music, many don't sing it at all. But all seem to have enjoyed hearing about engraved glass and that is the main thing. I was paid a small fee plus mileage, as are most speakers.
So there we are the end of another little era in my life. To all the ladies and gents (well I did do other talks too, Probus, Hard of Hearing, Gardening clubs etc etc) Thank You for having me.