Plum Jam? Virtually None…..

I’m addicted to the movie “Calendar Girls” – an oldie but goodie. My daughter and I chuckle away at the same funny parts no matter how many times we see it. I’m a huge fan of Julie Walters so there’s that added bonus for me too.

For anyone who doesn’t know the film, its the true story of how a group of women from a Women’s Institute (WI) group in Northern England rally together to produce a radical semi-nude calendar to raise money for facilities at a local hospital where the husband of one of the women unfortunately died. The idea of anyone in the WI getting naked in public for any reason was very shocking at the time.

There’s a line in the film where one woman asks another: “Annie, what is the point of the WI?” and Annie answers “Enlightenment, fun and friendship!” This got me thinking about women like me (if there are any!), who are not sure about the whole jam and Jerusalem thing but who do enjoy the idea of sharing experiences and making friendships. I have therefore hatched an embryonic theory – could blogging be the Virtual WI for us women?

I sat down to think about it. (Yes, I know I should be cleaning something or reading to the children, but those who read this blog regularly know that it is, in fact, the kids that bring ME up not the other way around, so sshhh) And I wrote my fledgling ideas down:


Lady-Blogs such as myself laugh, cry, empathise, educate and learn much with blogging and reading blogs of like-minded people. There is a vast array of subjects and issues discussed on blogs all over the UK and the world. The traditional WI talks are intended to enlighten in the same way. Virtual WI wins, however, as you can skip blogs focused solely on the history of bee-keeping or beets if they are not your bag. Imagine having to physically sit through an hour’s presentation on “Tissue Boxes Through the Ages”? Not for me, sorry – I’d rather click and go!

Blogging is something we do that is just for us. Our bit of “me time”. We feel comfortable amongst a group of people with a common interest. It is somewhere we can “go” with our ideas, get feedback, involve others and pass on the benefit of our experience. The traditional WI does much the same thing, except you have to go out in the rain (ugh), or stress to get back from work/picking up the kids etc. to go sit in a drab hall. Virtual WI just happens to be more convenient, at a time to suit, easily accessible (unless your broadband provider lets you down) and you can usually find a subject that suits your mood or interest, rather than being pigeon-holed into what’s on offer that night.


I particularly like the friendships, camaraderie, support networks and the way different personalities and points of view blend together. And I have laughed my socks off at some of the blogs I have read. Virtual WI is fun!

There are the events such as the recent CyberMummy which, whether you like the idea or not, had more than a touch of the WI meeting about it. It’s nice to bring Virtual WI to a physical manifestation. (And then go away again!)


As bloggers, we pour out our thoughts to those who are, initially, strangers but many of whom come to be dear friends over time. The friendships made face to face at WI groups work the same way, but such geographic and social diversity is tough for them to achieve. Virtual WI coverage wins hands-down here. It also has the advantage that you don’t have to see or deal with those who have unfortunate eye-tics or who are not quite your cup of tea every week. Excellent news.


There is a “doing good” aspect to Virtual WI in the same way as the traditional one. Whether its helping you network to grow a home-based business, offering free advice to those in need based on your own professional expertise, or simply promoting a charity or fund-raising event to a wider audience, there is so much that can be achieved through word of blog at the Virtual WI. It is also, by its nature, able to focus towards the things YOU think are important, rather than causes and issues chosen at a remote national level which you may or may not agree with.


I’ve always thought that there would come a point where I would join the traditional WI – partly to escape that “empty nest” feeling I feel will come to the fore later on when the kids have left, and partly because I assume I will give up work at some point and will need something to get me out of the house so I don’t machete my long-suffering husband into tiny pieces (Hang on: does this count as a craft project? Hmm, maybe not.) I am not so sure now that I can blog and be blogged that the moment will arrive.

I’m also slightly intimidated by the traditional WI. In addition to craft projects and cake-baking (at which I expect to be crap anyway), it seems today’s modern WI has taken things to a new level. Their website expounds on some rigorous philanthropy and women’s activism particularly in areas like maternal care, poverty etc. This is great and very admirable but, between you and me, I don’t have the strength. I’m not sure this forceful modern WI fits with me, being a bit of a wuss and lazy to boot, or with the traditional reasons women like me would join it in the first place.

So, in conclusion, I think the traditional WI are missing a trick here. Instead of focusing on small groups of worthy ladies of a certain age in draughty church halls, sipping tepid coffee while wielding hand-made flyswatters decorated on an international theme, they perhaps should be broadening their membership and ensuring the WI’s survival by engaging on-line: the Virtual WI. Listening to women of all ages, the subjects they talk about, experiences they share, how and why they help each other. Witnessing good old-fashioned enlightenment, fun and friendship in action.

Getting naked for a calendar is not so radical out here in the Virtual WI – its what we do with our thoughts on our blogs every day. In my opinion, here lies the future for women like me much more so than trying to fit into an apron-clad scary women’s empowerment movement. I, for one, am not looking for that – all I really want is a bit of fun and a jolly network of mates. Perhaps that way of thinking is too simplistic, but the Virtual WI I’m seeing in the blogging world embraces it and allows for the way modern women like me can and want to come together: it fits with our lifestyles, doesn’t involve any lobbying of MPs (unless you want to) and most particularly no hateful plum jam.

Anyone else out there want to join my Virtual WI? New members welcome and you don’t have to bake a bloody thing if you don’t want to.


About pigletinapoke

I am a forty-something married mum of two, working in London and commuting a crazy amount of hours so I can enjoy living at the coast at weekends! I'm into netball, jointly coaching and running a successful ladies club. I also sail whenever I get the chance and took part in the Trans-Atlantic leg of the Clipper Round The World yacht race in 2009. I like movies, particularly stuff by Nancy Meyers in whose set designs I want to spend my life. I devour novels, biographies and anything to do with self-improvement. I like to drive fast and live slightly dangerously, attempting to experience everything and everywhere before my time is up. That's me in a nutshell - I hope you enjoy my blog. If you would like to use any of my articles or the pics, I would appreciate very much if you could ask me first. Never known to refuse to date. Thanks!

Posted on July 29, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’d like to be a fully fledged member of your virtual WI please. Although there shall be no semi-naked photo’s of me with social media icons over my ‘bits’ circulating the WWW 😉

    A wonderfully thought out post as always, especially in light of the ‘not nice’ blogging atmosphere circulating between some bloggers this week.

    Let’s do it! Who’s going to play you in the movie spin-off?

    • Right, you’re in. You can be Madam Chairwoman cos I’m crap at organising anything more complicated than a pint and a packet of pork scratchings. You can make the rules up and if folks are being nasty witches (yes, I had heard there was a bit of argy-bargy going on) then they can’t join! Welcome!

  2. Sounds like Rachel Johnson’s attempt to drag The Lady magazine into the 21st century! Would be a battle! Anyhow, count me in and I might even make some virtual jam.

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