2011 sets fair to be a Monty Python year for Penallt – each month something completely different. January was a wallow in nostalgia with speaker Beth Butler’s ‘200 Years of Girls’ School Stories’ stirring memories of baggy gymslips, navy blue knickers with pockets and horrid felt hats. With the establishment of girls’ schools throughout the 19th century, fiction soon tapped into a rich genre. From Jane Eyre at Lowood to Angela Brazil’s jolly fourth formers and Ronald Searle’s wicked young ladies at St Trinian’s, fictional school heroines have always been popular.
The tradition continues: J K Rowling’s Hermione Granger and Jill Murphy’s Mildred Hubble being the latest to capture readers’ imaginations. A lively discussion over coffee revealed the correct length of the gymslip – 3″ from the ground when kneeling – and some spectacularly disgusting school dinners. Weymouth Grammar’s monochrome menu of steamed dogfish, boiled potatoes and tapioca making modern school canteens seem like the Celtic Manor.
For February Richard Clammer’s talk on ‘The Voyage of the Matthew’ proved so popular with members and guests that it was full house at the Pelham Hall. This replica of John Cabot’s ship was built in Bristol and sailed to Canada to celebrate Cabot’s great voyage of discovery in the reign of Henry Vll. The speaker had been a crew member for the Canadian leg of the voyage – on the modern trip, that is, not the 15th century original. His excellent talk and wonderful slides clearly illustrated that this truly was the voyage of a lifetime. Today the Matthew is back in its home port of Bristol berthed close to the SS Great Britain.
The next meeting will be on Thursday 3rd March when Dr Naylor Firth will be talking about the City of Venice. Guests are always welcome, including gents, as Penallt WI isn’t picky.