The Women’s Institute (W.I), a long established women’s organisation, made a valuable impact in the austere years of World War Two by promoting home-made preserved fruit and jam so that the valuable, healthy resource was not wasted. Huge numbers of jars were made by W.I. Members when the fruit was in season. William Blake’s hymn; Jerusalem has been adopted as the WI anthem and is usually sung at WI gatherings. In 1999 the ladies of the Rylstone branch decided to make a nude calendar for charity. Rylstone is a very rural part of Yorkshire – not the kind of place you associate with controversy. The ladies hoped to make a few hundred pounds for a charilty from their enterprise. The calendar sold all over the world in large numbers. The story was made into a film and a stage play. Recently it has been made into a musical
The writer has a healthy respect for the Women’s Institute and in no way would wish to denigrate that fine organisation.
The following is a tongue-in-cheek story inspired by The Calendar Girls:
‘And now ladies, I will announce the results of the home made preserves contest: In third place was Mrs Patterson’s beetroot chutney. The second prize goes to Mrs Hamilton-Smythe with her celery and walnut conserve. The first prize once again is taken by the Reverend Betty Finch with her delicious damson jam.’
A ripple of applause rang round the Widebotham village hall.
The chairman, Mrs Elsie Rippendale, a relative newcomer to the village having lived there for a mere twenty years was still viewed with a degree of suspicion by some of the members. How had she, a Leeds woman, a newcomer to the Dales risen to assume the chairmanship? A relative stranger from the big city. The cheek of it.
Mrs Rippendale continued:
‘Now ladies, I come to the third item on our agenda: The Annual Calendar. As you will all be aware, we did extremely well with our Nude Calendar for several years. It was quite ground-breaking in its day and at first caused not a little controversy. The Women’s Institute likes to be at the forefront of social conventions and is always ready to break new ground. In that spirit, last year the Calendar Sub-committee decided to move the boundaries even further and for the first time produced a Spanking Calendar. It was a runaway success and we had to order several reprints to satisfy demand. Building on our success it has been decided to repeat the exercise. At this stage I would like to call upon Miss Hermione Jones, The chair of the Calendar sub-committee to give us an update of progress on this year’s production. Miss Jones, if you please.’
Miss Jones a retired librarian, clad in country tweeds with a deer antler brooch in her lapel rose unsteadily to her feet.
‘Thank you Madam Chairman, ladies. I am pleased to be able to tell you that January to July is in the can, as those in the film-making business might say.’ She smiled, pleased with her own little quip. ‘I will be requiring more volunteers for August to December. Once again we have been fortunate to secure the services of Colonel Bagshotte to take on the role of spanker. He and Mrs Bagshotte have been kind enough to allow us to use the Grange and the grounds for our production. I would like to say a special thank you to Mrs Bagshotte for allowing us to prevail upon her husband once again. As you know, he has not been in the best of health and I know Mrs Bagshotte was somewhat concerned about the exertion. The colonel and his wife are a very public-spirited couple and have been unstinting in their support. I should mention that the good lady provided refreshments throughout the long editing session and her home-made ginger biscuits were delicious. I have secured the use of a slide projector and Mr Dodderington, our photographer, has produced a number of excellent slides so I can show you how we are getting on.’
‘Lights please, Mrs Dewhurst.’
Mrs Dewhurst obediently went to the switch by the door and turned off the lights. The flickering slide projector illuminated the bed sheet on the wall that served a screen.
There was a ripple of excitement and the ladies leaned forward in their seats as the projector was switched on. It was even more exciting that rector’s magic lantern show of his missionary tour in Papua New Guinea.
‘Here we have Miss January. As you can see, there was snow on the ground and a naughty Miss January has thrown a snowball at the colonel, knocking off his deerstalker cap. The colonel has made Miss January lean against the fence as he lifts her fur coat and has pulled down her winter drawers and delivered a stroke with a thin branch he has taken from a nearby bush. As you can see there is quite a noticeable red stripe on Miss January’s plump and dimpled bottom. Thank you whoever donated the pair of pink directoire drawers to our props department. They look most authentic in this winter scene.’
A murmur rippled round the room as the ladies recogised Miss January as Betty Braithwaite, the buxom kindergaten teacher. Who on earth had owned the pink bloomers. They were well out of date, even in the upper dales.
‘Now Miss February: This picture was taken in the Colonel’s study. Miss February is dressed in fur coat (faux of course, we in the W.I do not encourage the exploitation of animals) and faux fur hat. Unfortunately the silly girl has forgotten her knickers, so the colonel has taken her over his knee for a hand spanking. As you can see her cheeks have taken on a nice pink glow.’