Tomorrow is International Women’s Day – this post isn’t about that, but I wanted to just mention that until 1982 a publican in the UK could refuse to serve alcohol to a woman. (In the sense of her buying it herself. Apparently it was OK if there was a bloke buying it for her). That’s really not that long ago.
So anyway, myself and some friends (8 women, 2 men) met at the pub for lunch. Some of us drank alcohol, and we even paid for it ourselves with our very own money. All of us are old enough to have been drinking legally by 1982!
It’s seven months since I was a regular volunteer at East Riddlesden Hall, but they were kind enough to invite me along to their start-of-season meal – I used to volunteer every Thursday for the National Trust until life got in the way and I needed to get a proper job.
The House is open six days a week, and each day has its own team of volunteers. It’s become a bit of a tradition that each team goes out for a meal at the start of the season, and again at the end of the season. The Thursday team favour a pub not far from the House called the Airedale Heifer. The original Airedale Heifer was kept on East Riddlesden land, so it seems more than appropriate.
I’ve been counting every penny that I spend on food – it doesn’t mean that I never had a meal out, but I normally go for the cheapest thing on the menu. I order a lot of soup!! Today I decided to push the boat out a little, and I had a very pleasant Southern Fried Chicken salad. It was delicious. Strips of just-spicy-enough fried chicken on a bed of baby salad leaves, some rye bread, some homemade coleslaw, and a lovely dip. But still, at £9.25 it’s more than half of my normal weekly food spend!!
It was lovely to see people I haven’t seen in ages, and to catch up with all the gossip. Lovely to hear that we have three new volunteers, and lovely to meet two of them.
To anyone looking at us, we probably just looked like a group of middle-aged ladies out for lunch. But don’t be fooled. Apart from anything else, one of us is 80. Such an interesting and interested group of people.
When I took on the job of Senior Volunteer/Day Leader on a Thursday, myself and the Volunteer Manager had a vision for what we wanted Thursdays to be like. We wanted them to be different from the rest of the week – the volunteers would be in costume, and we would be doing some sort of activity alongside the traditional roles of talking with visitors about the history of the House and making sure people don’t touch anything.
We have people who spin, people who weave, people who knit, people who do embroidery. It brings the place to life – you can walk into a room and find, alongside the seventeenth century furniture and the oil paintings, people in costume having a conversation about spinning or just talking about the weather. Our visitors really enjoy it and are as fascinated by the costumes as they are about the House itself.
It gave me enormous pleasure to see our original ideas going from strength to strength. Other people have taken over the things that I used to do. There’s a new Day Leader, there are new ideas. There are finally enough volunteers – we struggled at the beginning to find enough people who were willing to be in costume (being in costume is a bit like eating Marmite – you either love it or you hate it).
Yes, I miss my volunteering – but things move on, things have to change. It’s lovely to dip back into my previous life now and again.
And the bartender was more than happy to let us pay for our drinks.
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