Craster WI, January meeting

HAPPY DAY: Craster WI’s first meeting of 2012 was a very happy occasion. We welcomed two new members, Beryl Aynesley and Muriel Silk, and Sylvia Biott congratulated the competition winners for the year: First,Trish Flegg; second Shirley Harrison, our new treasurer, and joint third Marjorie Hewitson and Vivienne Lowerson.

Subscriptions for the year were paid and a vote taken on the suggested resolutions. Newsletter items were discussed and Sylvia arranged two more walks for this month, which will be very popular after Christmas indulgences!

Then it was over to Marion Gallon, our secretary, who gave us a very good insight into life in a Chinese family after she had stayed with her daughter-in-law’s family in Shantou on the coast of China. Very few of us have such an opportunity to live in a Chinese home and become part of their family. Marion said that seeing someone from England was very rare and that everyone was very hospitable and welcoming. Food and language differed from region to region, and as Shantou was near the coast lots of seafood was on the menu. Life was still hard so the food was simple and most people lived in apartments with balconies on which they dried their clothes and sometimes grew vegetables. Apartments less than ten stories high had no lifts provided so it was very hard with shopping for elderly people or those with young children.

Very few people had pensions so younger members of the family, usually the sons, looked after the older members. They were quite shocked to learn that many elderly people in England live on their own. Many families do have two children. The first is given an official ID similar to a passport and can go to school. The second child is not listed and cannot go to school unless the family pay for the listing. This policy may be changing.

Schooling is very strict and considered a privilege. Children start as young as two years old and are expected to write their names by then. There are about 100 in each class and there is a rota for two older children to stay behind each day to clean the class, windows and lavatories. Children often leave school at 10 years old.

Marion showed photos of her son’s wedding. The bride and bridegroom dress in a variety of outfits – some traditional Chinese, some European, some American with photographs taken in different venues over the period of a day. The meal is the wedding ceremony arranged well after the civil wedding in the register office. The meal took place in a sumptuous hotel and consisted of 18 courses with lots of fish and fresh fruit.

Christmas and New Year are celebrated enthusiastically.

Churches are packed as the Chinese are very religious.

No presents are given but many traditional foods are cooked for large family reunions at both Christmas and New Year. An even number of oranges are given to families as a sign of good luck! The tea making ritual is also very important.

Marion ended by saying how she was overwhelmed by the generosity of the Chinese people she had met. Sylvia thanked Marion for giving such a clear picture of her experiences in Shantou.

All our good New Year’s resolutions then went out of the window as we tucked into our usual mouth-watering buffet supper.

We are now all looking forward to our February feasting at the Horseshoes in Rennington, and plans are being made for our ambulance coffee morning on February 11.