The Festival

West Pennard Primary School

Happy Circle

Over 50 years young?  Then you are eligible to join one of Pilton’s most active and friendly clubs. We have been going for 35 years – true to our founding principles of companionship and mutual support but developing a programme of talks; educational and entertaining outings and visits to fine local eateries.

Annual membership costs a modest sum plus a £1 charge for each meeting which covers the cost of insurance, speakers, a raffle ticket and the so essential tea and biscuits.

Please do not get the idea that we are a moribund old people’s club! Our members are some of the most active people in the village community. Our lectures and ‘ over tea’ conversations  are stimulating, pertinent, thought provoking and fun. If you like caring, committed people you will like us. Why not come and give us a try?

Be the ‘new blood’ that keeps us young – every group can benefit from a transfusion of talent. You can be ours!


Chair Person – Janet Raynsford – 890418


January 2019

Philip Eavis brought us our annual pre-Christmas treat of a mystery selection of films and recordings. We watched wonderful footage of the Somerset and Dorset railway about times when Evercreech Junction was an important part of the transport system.

The 2017 Mummers’ play was performed, and filmed, as part of John and Sandra Howe’s farewell party; it was good to see them and a taster for the 2019 performance. Then the piece de resistance, us! Ten years ago Philip interviewed Happy Circle members about their time in Pilton. It was a joy to see our younger selves and to remember those who are no longer with us. We are grateful, Philip, that this visual village archive endures.

The members’ Christmas lunch was held at the Orchard Inn, Galhampton and they did us proud. Everyone donned paper hats and dined well. Good food, happy chatter and a mince pie, what more could we ask? Members of staff were invited in for a round of applause and the young cook became rather pink; it could have been the heat in the kitchen.            Liz Elkin

February 2019

Our 2019 programme started with ‘Christmas Memories’ contributed by members. We recalled carol singing and handbell ringing as children, with mince pies for all here and a long walk for a few coppers there. The magic of Christmas morning - the tree had been brought in and decorated after children were in bed on Christmas Eve. Home-made cake, pudding and mince pies, some ate pork pie and chutney for breakfast on Christmas Day (and still do!) and Sheila let us into the secret of the ‘Black Bun’ shared with visitors at Hogmanay.

Christmas gifts were remembered - some welcome, some less so - and Christmases past were shared both happy and sad, but Pauline had everyone’s attention when her tale finished with, ‘It was the worst Christmas since the one we spent at the undertakers’.....

Liz Elkin

March 2019

What do we know? The picture quiz was back to test us and prove that we remember notorious women better than films, we recognise trees more easily than cathedrals and everyone knows comedians - we all need a laugh. Sheila, George, Pauline and Janet won the chocolates and shared them with the group; our type of winners!

Bingo with Audrey and Terry saw several members arrive ready for action armed with highlighters. Winning lines and cries of ‘Bingo’ meant prizes were shared around the room and bingo nicknames rang out though some, we learned, are no longer acceptable. Thanks to our caller and her glamourous assistant for entertaining us once again.

Liz Elkin

April 2019

Richard Raynsford gave his talk a month early to help with a hiccup in booking dates. We were on familiar ground as Richard showed us photographs of Somerset landscapes and buildings but ‘Croscombe from the wrong side’ confused most of us. The photographs were superb and several locations unknown to some members so tea was postponed to allow the opportunity for more pictures to be enjoyed. We will be calling on you again, Richard.

‘The hare in history, nature and folklore’ was the title of Brian Wright’s talk and it was fascinating. Not everyone is fortunate enough to see a brown hare but we wished we could and we were sad to hear that the myxomatosis virus may have mutated to affect hares.

A traditional tale tells us Boudicca carried a hare in her tunic which foretold victory over the Romans by the path it took on release. Fast (35 mph +) and elusive, the creature had a reputation for shape shifting – witches could turn into hares, apparently. A traditional event is still held to celebrate the magical hare each Easter Monday in Hallaton, Leicestershire, called Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking. Look it up!

Liz Elkin

May 2019

Adel Avery began her talk by describing the formation of some of the rocks of the Mendip Hills and circulating examples. Mendip quarries are significant sources of black rock limestone, an important raw material for aggregate and concrete manufacture. Moons Hill Quarry produces basalt, a very hard volcanic rock which is used in asphalt, and near Cheddar, Burrington Oolite is quarried, a very pure calcium carbonate limestone. We were surprised to learn that oolite is used in pharmaceuticals, flour, breakfast cereals and water purification. Limestone is essential; usage in the UK equates to 5 tonnes per person per year! We discussed the quarry lorries using the A361 too; numbers should decrease soon as aggregate is delivered by barge to a jetty at Hinkley Point. Thank you Adel for a stimulating and thought provoking presentation.

It was a welcome return for Pam and her dance troupe Pam’s People, a friendly and very fit group of ladies. They started the performance with two tap routines then changed into soft shoes and danced to songs we all knew well. Then it was our turn – a bit of tuition, Marc Bolan sang out and ‘We loved to boogie’.

Liz Elkin

June 2019

The Happy Circle Club is 40. We celebrated with a splendid carvery lunch in our usual club meeting room and later members and old friends enjoyed cake and Prosecco; cheers! We saw photos from albums covering the past 40 years – a real memory test but fun.

Mr Burroughs gave a talk on gardening in Victorian times. Mowing the lawns required 15 men and a pony wearing leather boots to pull the cylinder mower and with no grass box the lawn was swept. Mr Burroughs’ father was a ‘pot boy’ aged 12. For six months he washed flower pots every day in cold water and washing soda. Those were the days.

Walking in Australia and Tasmania sounds like a great idea for a holiday but Ian Williamson likes a trek. On the day he arrived in Sydney he walked across the Harbour Bridge and back and visited the Opera House. In Tasmania he walked in the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair Park. He carried all his own gear and it rained incessantly for the last three days. Undaunted he is attempting The Great Wall of China Trek to raise funds for St Margaret’s Hospice next year. He brought application forms for sponorship.

Liz Elkin

July 2019

‘Has anyone heard of Shel Silverstein?’ asked Steve Darby, but nobody had. He wrote poetry and children’s books, was a cartoonist and a songwriter. ‘Does anyone know the song ‘A boy named Sue’ by Johnny Cash or ‘Sylvia’s Mother’ by Dr Hook?’, everyone did.

Steve read poems that made us laugh and a couple that brought a tear to the eye, he is a real fan. Shel Silverstein was a Renaissance Man, an American writer who received two Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. We know lots more about him now, thank you Steve.

This year’s AGM was well attended and a lively discussion was held after the main business where trips, lunches and thoughts for future Club ideas were considered.

The bring and buy table was busy and we enjoyed a cup of tea after all that chat. Thank you, Janet, for your 6 years as President and to Freda who has taken on the role.

Liz Elkin

August 2019

The rain had stopped before the Happy Circle members boarded the coach for a trip around the Glastonbury Festival site but there was enough to keep the dust down. We were in driver Rodney’s capable hands and our guide was Michael Eavis – dream team indeed.

We saw the new pier and the Arcadia crane, there were flags, tipis and we were reminded to give bees a chance. Thank you to Audrey and her team at Goose Hall for our refreshments and to Michael for giving us the opportunity to see the weird and wonderful on our doorstep.

Pauline wondered if anyone could remember their first day at school, some could but most memories were not positive. Members contributed thoughts on learning to read (Janet and John or Peter and Jane?), maths and craft activities where Janet came up trumps with sewing samples and a maths book which she once accidentally threw out the window during a lesson. Pauline read some Joyce Grenfell pieces which raised a smile and triggered memories of Georges and Nevilles we had endured – a very enjoyable afternoon.

Liz Elkin

September 2019

Happy Circle members were unsure what to expect when they arrived at the Club to hear about ‘Senior Safety’. PCSO Guy Dury and PCSO Sheila Thompson led us through the pitfalls of online and telephone scams.

We were told how to protect our money and our identity and to work on the principle that any offer which sounds too good to be true probably is.

We seem to be a fairly sceptical lot but will now be even more on our guard.

August seems to be the month for a cream tea and 20 members set off for Cheddar Garden Centre to find one. Ice cream and cake were also consumed after a little retail therapy. Our group came home through Cheddar Gorge, always a treat, and across the Mendips, pink with fireweed, beautiful!

Liz Elkin

October 2019

Happy Circle members enjoyed a bring-and-share lunch at the Playing Field on a perfect day, sunny and warm but not too hot. Some of the newer members, after a super lunch, took a stroll around the field to appreciate the wonderful views and were impressed by the equipment available to the village children. Such a good day that some were happy to stay after we packed up.

Would you have liked to travel as a young woman to the Middle East, working with the people of Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq learning about their life and work? Lovely textiles made from silk; beautiful jewellery in a land before there was conflict. Read more about Harriet’s life and work in her book ‘Beyond That Blue Mountain’. We were in awe of this brave lady.

Freda Boyce

November 2019

We had a beautiful day for our September coach trip to Poole, with al fresco lunches, ice creams, shopping and watching the comings and goings of Poole Harbour. Our next meeting was a beetle drive so we were all prepared for competitive dice work! Some found throwing a six impossible while others streaked away. Prizes were won and the less lucky were given compensatory chocolate treats; a win-win game.

Peter Tinney told us about his life and family in his ‘Recollections of a Country Farmer’. We were given no instruction on how to hand-milk a cow but learned how his father met his mother Winifred (he fell off his motor bike and she tended to his wounds) and that she had to get used to being Winnie Tinney. An entertaining afternoon with tales told in ‘Zummerzet’, a joy to hear. Liz Elkin

December 2019

We had a brilliant start to the festive season when Suzanne Millard gave us a demonstration of floral arrangements for Christmas. She gave tips and encouragement and turned garden greenery and some market flowers into beautiful displays. We were given hints on using lights and candles to made effective decorations - not forgetting those magic water beads! Suzanne showed no limit to her skills as she made delightful reindeer tree-hangings from fir cones. The arrangements were raffled and very happy winners carried their prizes home.

Brian Wright began his talk on Christmas customs with the mid-winter festivals of Yule and Saturnalia when revellers would feast and drink alcohol during the shortest days of the year. The Feast of the Nativity was celebrated here by the sixth century and by the Middle Ages Christianity had mostly replaced the pagan religion. Believers went to church at Christmas but afterwards drunken revelry continued, which led to the Puritans passing an Ordinance that abolished Christmas Day as a holiday.

St Nicholas was known for his secret gift giving and, partly influenced by “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas”, he transformed into the Santa Claus beloved of children. Merry Christmas!

Liz Elkin

January 2020

Philip and Gill Eavis joined us with a video selection covering several years. Philip began with a 1963 black and white film of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway branch line from Evercreech Junction to Burnham-on-Sea narrated by John Betjeman which brought back memories of Sunday School outings for some.

This year was the 50th anniversary of the Pilton Show taking place on the Playing Field and we enjoyed snippets from various years featuring entertainments such as ‘Tip the young lady out of bed’ and Bale Tossing which we decided were unlikely to pass Health and Safety requirements now. The most recent recording was of John Howe in his garden in Cheltenham. We still miss those pantomimes, John!

When December is upon us we like to celebrate with seasonal food and Happy Circle members enjoyed their Christmas Tea, with added Pass the Parcel, and, a week later, Christmas lunch at the Club room. Festive feasting with friends – a perfect end to the year.

Liz Elkin

February 2020

Happy Circle members began the New Year with a picture quiz. How we struggled with actors who have played Scrooge but did better with naming flowers. The ultimate test was a Burns Night menu; what makes Cranachan and Cullen Skink so difficult to remember?

There were Maltesers to share and cups of tea to round off the afternoon as we congratulated Di and Angela on achieving 33 points – great quizzing!

Liz Elkin