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Tuesday 10 October, 2023

Reuse, Recycle, Remember! How we used to be environmentally friendly

 Long ago, when I was young there was a shortage of everything — and I suspect in particular money, plus after the War there was a shortage of everything so every one had to “make do and mend”.

 The wrapping on parcels was carefully removed, any string wrapped up and the paper folded, all ready to be used again. Everything around the house was treated with care. Furniture and fittings were made to last and any spare food (although not a lot in my  house as there were five children) was recycled for another meal, and in fact, in our street was a bin which people put spare food, which I always believed was to feed pigs. (although this was never verified) but it seemed a good use of food waste.     All this was fine, but for me the most annoying thing was that as the fourth of four daughters most, if not all my clothes were second had — yes I was the original “Second hand Rose”.   To make thing worse, the sister immediately older than me was much taller and better looking than me and I always felt that I was invisible. One Christmas, much to my amazement there were two party dresses, one pink and one blue flowers in amongst my gifts.  Now I knew that they had never belonged to anyone in the family and I felt  very excited about it.

Imagine my shock when I discovered that they had belonged to one of my mother’s friends daughters. No longer did  I want to wear them and, in fact, they were used to dress up my dolls. A case of one very unhappy little girl and unsuccessful recycling.

However, one year, my mother did make me a new party dress of blue taffeta with a net overskirt and flowers at the waist — I was thrilled and went off to all the parties very much delighted with myself.   I am not sure if this was to make up for the earlier party dresses.  Naturally my brother, being a boy, never had any second hand clothes, but then I don’t think that this was important to him, being a boy.  In any event, being the “son and heir” he always got the best.     Nowadays, I think we have, to some extent, a lot of recycling.   This is partly due to the fact that we seem to be in a recession and also because we are so much more aware of the shortages of resource on our planet.  I know that clothes do not always wear out and that many people  (including myself) still recycle clothes by sending them to the Charity Shops, but I, for one, have never bought anything there.   I will just put it down to my earlier life.

Liz Duncan 

Wednesday 31 May, 2023

The Power of Positive Speaking

For many people, one of the scariest things in life is to stand up in front of a group of people and give a speech.  It doesn’t matter whether the group is friends - e.g. at a wedding – or whether it is a group of strangers, the feelings are the same.  We can prepare well and practise but it does not take away that fear.  Of course, the more one speaks in public the more confident one becomes but for many the occasion is a ‘one off’.  So how can we deal with these fears and positively enjoy the occasion?


‘Fear’ or F.E.A.R. is simply ‘Future Expectations Appearing Real’.  We create our own fearful feelings through our imagination – the ‘What ifs’

‘What if I forget what I am going to say?’

‘What if I stumble over the words?’

‘What if I bore everyone?’

Why does this negative internal chatter affect us so much and how can we change it?


We have a conscious and subconscious part of our brain.  The conscious is that part which takes in information and makes decisions.  The subconscious controls the reactions to the messages sent to it by the conscious, it never questions or makes decisions, it just believes what it is told.  Consequently all those negative messages our conscious is sending to the subconscious are being acted upon.  The result is our stomach churns, our mouth goes dry and we feel really nervous.  To change the way we feel we need to change those negative voices into positive ones. 


The phrases need to be in the first person ‘I’.  When the subconscious hears ‘I’ it becomes alert and ready for a command.  The instruction should be in the present tense (it’s happening now) and it needs to be specific and positive.

For example –

‘I am speaking clearly and confidently.’


‘I am not stumbling over my words.’

Practise this and replace every negative statement with a positive one.

In everyday life avoid speaking negatively to your friends or colleagues, it has the same effect on your subconscious.  Instead of saying ‘I am really worried/nervous about this.’ You could say, ‘I am working at controlling my nerves.’


Finally, remember to believe in yourself and overcome those last minute nerves.  I recall many years ago, standing in the wings of a stage waiting to make my entrance in my first amateur dramatic play.  I tried to remember my first line (or any other line for that matter) and nothing!  I was beginning to go into panic when I stopped and told myself – ‘I’ve learnt my lines, I have successfully rehearsed them, just trust yourself.’  And sure enough, as I stepped on to the stage the words began to flow.


Remember, when you come to make your speech do your preparation, practise your speech, think positively and trust yourself .  Do all of these things and enjoy the experience.  

Lesley Smith

Monday 6 February, 2023

Improve Your Communication Skills

What do I write on a blog? Would other people be interested in what I have to say?  Who knows?  But here goes.  I joined POWERtalk GB many years ago long before I had even heard of the Internet, webpages and blogs.  So I definitely did not join in order to become a blogger.

When the Edinburgh Toastmistress club was started up again in 1971 I was working as an Administrator but had just landed a job as a Further Education lecturer.  It occurred to me that this might just give me more confidence to stand in front of a class of adults, some of whom could well be older than me, and teach them.  I still remember the first topic I was given “You have won £1 million. What would you spend it on?”  I think I spoke for about a minute.  But that was the start, both of my Further Education career and my ongoing fascination and involvement with communication in the widest sense.



Communication is so important in life.  We are social beings, but not perfect, so to be able to hone our skills in speaking, listening, organising, debating, contributing to discussions in meetings, minute-taking and finally chairing meetings in a welcoming, friendly, supportive atmosphere of a club meeting is one of the major plus points of ITC, now POWERtalk. 

At school I was terrified to open my mouth at a debate; at university it was an ordeal to present a paper to my tutorial group.  Taking minutes was fine for me after my secretarial training, but to take part and to chair a meeting…

I enjoyed teaching in Further Education.  Yes, some of the students were older than me.  Some were men and women who wanted to change careers of get back into the workplace after a break.  I enjoyed researching the subjects I taught at the same time as I was enjoying researching for the speeches I was making in ITC. The opportunity for promotion came and I had the confidence to  go for it and eventually became head of section.  More communication skills were required now delegating, listening, organising timetables, counselling and meetings. 

In ITC I was taking part (and winning) speech contests and debating how proud my parents were with my achievements.  I held office, club right up to region and finally helped organize an international convention here in Scotland.  This would not have happened without the support of fellow ITC members, each of us putting our ITC training into action.

I am still a member of POWERtalk, now retired from lecturing, but still learning and improving my communication skills with my friends in The Rovers Club and Stirling POWERtalk.

If you have just been surfing the internet and found yourself reading this, I hope it was of interest it’s never too late to improve your communication skills for business or for pleasure. 

Diana Porterfield

Sunday 4 December, 2022

What is Shibui?

First I would like to explain that one Japanese word usually implies various kinds of meanings and therefore they describe different Japanese words.  I assume this is the case with English words.  I would like to mention the various meanings of this word “Shibui” here, as follows:—
1.    Mouth-puckering
Bitter (tea)
Sour persimmon
Rough wine

2.    Glum, sour, sullen
Look glum (blue)
Frown at/on
Pull a wry face

3.    Quiet and simple
Sober, austere
Be tight, stingy, tight-fisted:
(Don’t wait for Gillian to buy a drink — she too tight-fisted)
Be a miser
(On environmental spending, the president is a miser)

4.    Tasteful
Shibui – a sense of beauty:this category fits “Wabi-Sabi”.
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi is world view acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of appreciating beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” in nature.  It is prevalent throughout all forms of Japanese art.

Wabi-Sabi is a composite of two interrelated aesthetic concepts.  Wabi may be translated as “subdued, austere beauty”, while Sabi means “rustic patina”.
Characteristics of Wabi-Sabi aesthetics and principles include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and the appreciation of both natural objects and the forces of nature.

Zen Garden of Ryoanji in Kyoto is an good example of the Wabi-Sabi arts. The clay wall, which is stained by age with subtle brown and orange tones, reflects Sabi principles, with the rock garden reflecting Wabi principles.

Zen Garden of Ryoanji in Kyoto


I would like to emphasize the last “Shibui” meaning. This directly
connects Japanese aesthetic with the basic sense of beauty of Wabi-Sabi.  I really hope you will be able to visit Japan and taste (or feel) at first hand this essence of Japanese Arts and Culture.

Reiko Uchiyama
Nagoya, Japan

Sunday 4 September, 2022

Rovers Training Weekend

The final day of the Rovers  Training Weekend started with a workshop on ‘Expanding your Word Power’ led by Vice President Iris Gibson. After a break for refreshments the second workshop  on writing was led by the President, Rosemary Low, and the Secretary, Laurence Coates.

A brief evaluation session followed before the weekend was brought to a close.

Saturday 3 September, 2022

Rovers Training Weekend

The Rovers Training Weekend in Carlisle commenced with an informal meal at SannaS Sardinian Restaurant on Friday night. Members enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere and there were a lot of favourable comments afterwards about the meal.

Saturday morning commenced with the AGM followed, after a short break by the speech contest. The winner of the contest was Yvonne Baker, pictured below receiving the Tibbie Brown trophy from club president, Rosemary Low.

Speech Contest 2022
President Rosemary presenting the trophy to winner Yvonne Baker


After lunch the club parliamentarian, Ruth Maltman, led a workshop on Practical Parliamentary Procedure. The second part of the afternoon was a mini debate chaired by Margaret Robertson.

In the evening we had a meal at the Crown and Mitre hotel followed by table topics led by Nancy Sanderson.

Saturday Dinner
Members and Guests at the Crown and Mitre

Thursday 7 July, 2022

Rovers Spring Weekend in Chester 2022

Janya Statue

The Rovers Spring Weekend took place this year in the historic city of Chester, in Cheshire, NW England from 22nd to 24th April 2022. We were fortunate to have fairly good weather with little rain — always a plus for any area in the west of the UK!

On the Friday evening, we all met for a meal at our city centre hotel which allowed us to catch up with all the news and to have a reasonably early bedtime, prior to a prompt breakfast before our first activity of the day — a private guided walking tour of the centre from Stephen Shakeshaft, one of the city’s Guild of Tour Guides who provided a fun and educational background to the city. 

City Walls

 Chester has a compact and easily walkable city centre, Particular highlights from the tour were the Roman walls and amphitheatre and the famous “The Rows.”  Unique to Chester, these consist of covered walkways above the shops at street level and are reached by steps from the street. Some date as far back as the 13th century but their origin is unclear with many their facades being restored in Victorian times. 






 In the afternoon, members had free time, shopping, museum visits and sightseeing. Many visited the impressive Chester Cathedral for lunch and an exhibition of some stunning mosaic work. As a bonus, the Chester Symphony Orchestra was rehearsing for the upcoming celebration concert of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and we were treated to stunning renditions of classical pieces like Elgar’s “Nimrod.”

Our Saturday evening’s Members’ Dinner was located at the Georgian “The Architect” bar and restaurant near “The Roodee” — Chester’s racecourse. The experience was most enjoyable with excellent food and an after-dinner presentation, by our tour guide Stephen, on other aspects of this historic city. Meeting face-to-face for the first time since 2019 allowed President Rosemary Low to present Diana Porterfield with the Tibbie Brown Trophy for winning the 2020 Rovers Speech Contest.  





Diners in the Architect



Diana with Stephen Shakeshaft and Rosemary Low
Diana with the Tibbie Brown trophy


On Sunday, half the group departed for home, but those remaining enjoyed a variety of pursuits including river cruising, Chester Zoo, more shopping, visiting local museums, restaurants and cafes. Everyone then headed home on Monday after having a most enjoyable weekend  great: company; food; and the chance to learn about this historic city.




Iris Gibson

Thursday 7 July, 2022

Chester Racecourse

Why are horses sometimes called "gee gees"? Read on and find out.

Lots to see in Chester, of course, but how many visitors think of racing horses? The oldest race course still in operation in Britain and maybe even in the world is in Chester. It is consistently awarded the Gold Standard Award.

In Roman times, the river Dee was just about up to the Walls and the area of what is now the race course was an important harbour on the river, enabling supplies to be delivered to the garrison of Deva, the Roman name for Chester. Some harbour anchor stones can still be seen at the present course site.

Today you can see a large sandstone cross at the course. The story is that there used to be a wooden cross but it collapsed, causing the death of the wife of the Governor of Hawarden. The cross ended up in the river, floated upstream, and came to rest at the present site, on an island formed by the build up of silt in the centuries after the Romans left. Later the timber was replaced by the present sandstone.

The cross and site is now called The Roodie, based on ancient Norse and Saxon words meaning the Island of the Cross. In the early Middle Ages a weir system on the river caused much more silt so that the area became a riverside meadow, eventually developing into the present racecourse.

In 1539 the mayor of Chester was Henry Gee. He began the annual horse race on the Roodie, as part of his reformed civic celebrations. So you now know why horses are called "gee gees", commemorating the man who began the famous series of races. The first race was held on Shrove Tuesday. A silver bell was awarded to the winning owner of "the horse that ran before all others".

When the Derby race was inaugurated it was intended to be run in May but the Horse Racing Authority forced them to change the date to June to avoid a clash with Chester.

In the 19th century the race goers were referred to as "the most perfect mix of society from all over the British Isles". In 1817 the first grand stand was built but it burnt down on 28 September 1985.

While racing continued, a new grandstand was built and opened in May 1988.

In 1883, the first Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, bred Ormonde at Eaton Hall nearby. The horse won the Triple Crown in 1886.

In 1903 Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show appeared on the Roodie.

There have been three times when races were suspended - during the English Civil War, the Great War, and World War 2. In 1946, when racing re-commenced, a record 103,993 people attended.

The course averages 25,000 racegoers for each meeting, in the top five for annual attendance.

Nowadays the Roodie hosts 15 days of competitive and quality racing. In three days in May riders compete for the Chester Cup, the Chester Vase, Ormonde Stakes, Cheshire Oaks, and the Dee Stakes. Top racehorses from Britain, Ireland and sometimes France participate.

In 2012 the Olympic Torch came to the racecourse. Jockey Jason Maguire rode the winning horse with the torch down Watergate Street.

Visiting the Roodie makes for a good day out. There is no shortage of first class eatries. The glass-fronted 1539 restaurant and bar situated within the County Stand, open all year, overlooks the race course.

A second hospitality venue, The White Horse, in the racecourse paddock, opened in Easter 2014, with a bespoke nautical themed play area.

A third venue can be explored in the city centre. Commonhall St. Social gives a "fun vibe and eclectic industry-leading craft beer offering".

There is also an on-site hotel, ideal for weddings.

The Roodie is surounded by beautiful manicured lawns, a picturesque setting, in over thirty acres of breath-taking green space. Have I whetted your appetite? Why not attend on Ladies Day, for glamour, fashion and excitement as every one waits with baited breath to learn of the winner of the best dressed Lady Competition with its fabulous prize.

On 8 May 2022, Jackie Chambers 56, from Essex, won the prize for the best dressed. In a yellow Sophie Hunter dress and Steve Madden heels, she was awarded a Boodles diamond pendant and £700 fashion voucher from Matthew O'Brien,


Nancy Sanderson


Sunday 24 April, 2022

Chester, Old & New

ThreeOldArches amphitheatre


A relatively modern building, 1274 AD, in comparison to a Roman amphitheatre.

The Bear and Billet is a 17th Century Public House in the half-timbered style typical of many of the buildings in Chester. Annie Jane Millward, the grandmother of John Lennon was born in the Bear and Billet in 1873.


Sunday 24 April, 2022

Iris and the Elephant

Iris and Janya 

As we started the walking tour of Chester our tour guide, Stephen Shakeshaft, showed us the statue of a baby elephant. Iris, who in one of her speeches admitted to “a passion for pachyderms”, is seen here sitting beside the statue.

The plaque in front reads:

“This baby Indian elephant is called


The bronze sculpture is a gift from Chester  Zoo to the people of Chester. To celebrate the strong friendship between the Zoo and the city. Janya means ‘Life’ in Hindi. It symbolises the Zoo’s global role in Wildlife conservation. She was gifted in 2010 by  the sculptress Annette Yarrow who grew up in India in the 1930s and 40s, there is a sculpture of another one year old elephant by Annette at Chester Zoo.
Annette’s sculpture is remarkably lifelike, it benefits from her first-hand experience of elephants. Inside nearby Chester Cathedral there is a 14th Century wooden carving of an elephant and castle on a bench and in the Quire. However, the medieval craftsman would never have seen a real elephant so it has a rather strange body… and hooves!
Please feel free to stroke and enjoy Janya. Please do not climb”.

Apparently is is supposed to be lucky to rub the elephant’s ears. Some members indulged in this superstition.