“Welcome to the Thames Valley Writers’ Circle.” Those were the first words I heard from Barbara Olive Smith back in January 2011. I had found details of the circle on-line, and just turned up without warning, but Barbara put me at ease and made me feel very welcome. She and Chris Mundy persuaded me that I should be on the committee and talked me into becoming Treasurer. That sums up Barbara, she was persuasive in a very calm, gentle and pleasant way. Because TVWC was so very special to her, if something needed to be done that she couldn’t do herself, she would persuade others to do it for her. She was very keen that we held social events and over the years we had skittles evenings, a Beetle Drive, and trips out. She was particularly happy that we organised the presentation evening in January this year, even though she couldn’t attend due to ill health, it pleased her to see the lovely photos of the event. At Christmas each year she generously made every circle member who attended meetings regularly, a goody bag with sweets, pencils, note pads, mini games, crackers and party poppers. Then a tin of chocolates would be circulated. At Easter we had chocolate eggs and in the summer Choc Ices, all provided by Barbara. If a circle member had a new addition to the family or grandchild Barbara always gave an appropriate card and present. If a member became ill or suffered a bereavement, she would make a point of telephoning to see how they were. She also generously gave out greeting cards, coasters and paperweights all made by her. Painting was also a favourite past time and latterly she had taken up Chinese writing using special brushes bought for her by her son Alan. When she decided not to drive in the dark anymore, I offered her a lift and that continued until she could no longer attend due to ill health. On the journey we would discuss expectations of the evening. She always had a pocketful of Fox’s mints and would give me two to keep me going through the evening. For a long time, she was the keeper of the circle biscuit tin and made sure it was filled on a regular basis. For many years she brought second-hand books to the circle once a month to sell for The Duchess of Kent House hospice. She was very wise and supportive of other members’ writing efforts, often offering expert tips on how to continue with a story line. On the way home she would remark on the evening’s events, especially if they were particularly amusing. Barbara often regaled me with stories of her childhood in Bristol when her older brothers would lead her into scrapes. When she was very young, they took her near to the railway line and left her there. Luckily her mother found her but scolded Barbara for being there. Her brothers got away ‘scot free’. She also told me of her life while abroad due to her husband’s work for the sugar industry. She had lived in many countries all over the world. Her three children, all born in Africa, and six grandchildren were a great joy to her and she was very proud of them all. Sadly her eldest son Richard, who had settled in Brazil, died a few years ago. She has a daughter-in- law, granddaughter and great granddaughter who still live in Brazil. It upset Barbara that illness prevented her from attending Richard’s funeral. When her hearing was failing, Barbara often asked me what was said during TVWC meetings; she didn’t like to admit that she couldn’t hear. When the circle purchased the microphone and speaker it changed the meetings for her enabling her to hear the readings and comment on them. Committee meetings held at her home were accompanied by supper with sausage rolls, sandwiches, crisps and cake. We had builders’ tea out of mugs with cats on. After the meeting we would sit in her dining room, chatting, and always staying longer than planned. Whenever I visited her at home, I was offered cake or chocolates or sweets plus extra to take home. I told her she was out to make me fat, but she just laughed. Barbara’s garden was always a picture, she loved it and could potter all day. It was lined with trees and shrubs, many with bird feeders hanging from them, and a large pond often filled with tadpoles or frogs depending on the time of year. She loved to watch the birds, squirrels and butterflies and could name all the species. She also said there was a rat living under her shed that popped out at night, but it didn’t bother her at all. Then there was Harry, the cat. She would moan about him because he was fat and greedy, he would steal any food left out on the kitchen worktops, but she worried about him all the time and he would sit with her purring, being stroked lovingly. When Barbara needed home care to help her to bed, she was not happy that Harry was not allowed in her room at night, the carers thought it impractical and unhygienic. How dare they! Each September she had bags full of apples to give away. I, and other friends, would get some windfalls one week then some picked apples the next. Her freezer, mine and others were full with stewed apples. Barbara’s good friend Dorothy Winters was always given a small plastic box of ready cooked stewed apple for her freezer too. Barbara said ‘Dorothy doesn’t cook.’ When Barbara became poorly last year, I visited her often at home, especially if her daughter Susie was away, mainly for company and to check that she was managing on her own between home carer calls. If well enough she would tell me about her family, a new great- granddaughter arrived called Georgie, her grandson qualified as an architect and her son gained a PhD in Naval History. She was very proud of them all, especially Susie, a geologist and mining consultant, who came to stay with her mother to be her live-in carer. Barbara always had a table at her side, provided by Susie, with cakes, biscuits, chocolate, toffees and mints. I would make her a cup of tea and then I had to have something to eat of course, not that I protested too much. She liked to ‘graze’ she said but she never gained weight. Barbara plainly said exactly what she was thinking and had a few funny sayings, “Never drink plain water, it rots your insides.” “Don’t bother with housework unless you’re expecting visitors.” “It’s better than a slap from a wet mullet.” She was unique, funny, clever, generous and always excellent company. She was a good friend to many people and will be truly missed but I think she would agree that she had, for the most part, an excellent, long, full and happy life.
© Thames Valley Writers’ Circle
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Barbara Smith was special. Her talents many. And her long life was filled with considerable achievement. Born in 1926 in Bristol, Barbara was the youngest of six children. She enjoyed a lively childhood including in getting into quite a few escapades with her brothers. She also loved the surrounding areas and when possible used to go for long cycles, including to Symonds Yat. During the war years, she had a narrow escape when she survived a direct hit on her house. She was pulled unhurt from the shelter along with others of her family. In 1948, Barbara married Will Smith, an agricultural officer in the Colonial Service, and began what was to be an eventful and happy life living overseas, much spent in West Africa. During this time Barbara had three children Alan, Richard and Sue. All quickly became well-travelled. Barbara enjoyed 40 years of happily married life before becoming widowed. The retirement plans she and Will had were sadly not to be. Barbara was also blessed with a very creative and artistic nature and decided to make more of her writing. She attended several writing courses and it was in 1993, when on a writing course at Theale Green College of Further Education, she met and became great friends with Dorothy Winters and Joyce Robinson. So contact between the three was not lost and they could pursue their love of writing, Barbara contacted the principal at the Wilson Adult Education College to hire a room one evening a week and The Thames Valley Writers’ Circle was born. From these early beginnings and under Barbara's guidance the Circle developed and flourished and has won several major prizes, including for the Circle’s own publications. She also encouraged leading writers to talk to the group including Colin Dexter, Robert Harris and Lady Carnarvon. For 26 years, Barbara encouraged, advised and provided support and friendship to many. When members had problems or needed a helping hand Barbara was there. She was trusted, kindly and regarded the Circle as her extended family. Barbara was an inspiration and talent. Over the years Barbara also won many of the Circles writing competitions, including the 2019 Chris Mundy Poetry Competition. She also had stories published in My Weekly, a magazine which prides itself on quality fiction and an article about her life in Bristol in The Countryman. She wrote two novels, Of Doubtful Loyalty and latterly Listen to the Drums, based on her knowledge and life in Africa. This publication was particularly well received and won glowing reviews. It is indeed a riveting read. But Barbara's talents were not confined to writing. She was a skilful artist. Some of her seascapes were stunning and graced the walls of her home. She also made and designed cards. Many times she included flowers she had pressed and on occasion added sand and shells from Orkney, where daughter Sue lives. Her card work was of such high standard it was featured in the magazine Card Creations. Barbara also enjoyed gardening and spent many happy hours tending her plants. More recently when picking fruit from her large apple tree she took to wearing a crash helmet in case any fell on her! Barbara was very dedicated to her family and justifiably proud of the achievements of Alan, Richard and Sue as well as of her grandchildren. Barbara was unique, had a mischievous endearing streak and contributed so much. She was a real talent and a good good friend. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote ‘To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Barbara succeeded and in so many ways.
Founder and Life President of the Thames Valley Writers’ Circle
Tributes to Barbara

by Sally Johnson

April 2020

Barbara Olive Smith (1926-2020)

by Neil Somerville

April 2020

After the funeral, which was available to view via webcast, an email from Mary to Susie: Dear Susie, Thank you, thank you all, for allowing us to be there with you and Barbara. Thank you for all the wonderful times we four have had. All the lovely memories you piled up for us. What a wonderful family you are and it all started with Barbara and your Dad. When your dad died Barbara kept his pyjamas under his pillow. Did you know that? Did you know that he jumped onto the bed one day and it collapsed. (Memories of going to lunch with her and Dorothy). Do you know something silly that I thought when I saw the early photos of her. She grew more beautiful as she got older. When the service was over I had a phone call. It was Les Cooper to see if I was OK. He asked if I had cried and I said I had been crying for the family. I hate the thought of you being on your own with no one to talk to. No one to pour out your pain to. One day when the sun is shining, if a sudden breeze kisses your cheek, it will be me. Say hello to Orkney from me. All my love and a bit more. Mary X
© Thames Valley Writers’ Circle
Created with Xara Designer Pro X
by Neil Somerville April 2020 Barbara Smith was special. Her talents many. And her long life was filled with considerable achievement. Born in 1926 in Bristol, Barbara was the youngest of six children. She enjoyed a lively childhood including in getting into quite a few escapades with her brothers. She also loved the surrounding areas and when possible used to go for long cycles, including to Symonds Yat. During the war years, she had a narrow escape when she survived a direct hit on her house. She was pulled unhurt from the shelter along with others of her family. In 1948, Barbara married Will Smith, an agricultural officer in the Colonial Service, and began what was to be an eventful and happy life living overseas, much spent in West Africa. During this time Barbara had three children Alan, Richard and Sue. All quickly became well-travelled. Barbara enjoyed 40 years of happily married life before becoming widowed. The retirement plans she and Will had were sadly not to be. Barbara was also blessed with a very creative and artistic nature and decided to make more of her writing. She attended several writing courses and it was in 1993, when on a writing course at Theale Green College of Further Education, she met and became great friends with Dorothy Winters and Joyce Robinson. So contact between the three was not lost and they could pursue their love of writing, Barbara contacted the principal at the Wilson Adult Education College to hire a room one evening a week and The Thames Valley Writers’ Circle was born. From these early beginnings and under Barbara's guidance the Circle developed and flourished and has won several major
Barbara Olive Smith (1926-2020) Founder and Life President of the Thames Valley Writers’ Circle
prizes, including for the Circle’s own publications. She also encouraged leading writers to talk to the group including Colin Dexter, Robert Harris and Lady Carnarvon. For 26 years, Barbara encouraged, advised and provided support and friendship to many. When members had problems or needed a helping hand Barbara was there. She was trusted, kindly and regarded the Circle as her extended family. Barbara was an inspiration and talent. Over the years Barbara also won many of the Circles writing competitions, including the 2019 Chris Mundy Poetry Competition. She also had stories published in My Weekly, a magazine which prides itself on quality fiction and an article about her life in Bristol in The Countryman. She wrote two novels, Of Doubtful Loyalty and latterly Listen to the Drums, based on her knowledge and life in Africa. This publication was particularly well received and won glowing reviews. It is indeed a riveting read. But Barbara's talents were not confined to writing. She was a skilful artist. Some of her seascapes were stunning and graced the walls of her home. She also made and designed cards. Many times she included flowers she had pressed and on occasion added sand and shells from Orkney, where daughter Sue lives. Her card work was of such high standard it was featured in the magazine Card Creations. Barbara also enjoyed gardening and spent many happy hours tending her plants. More recently when picking fruit from her large apple tree she took to wearing a crash helmet in case any fell on her! Barbara was very dedicated to her family and justifiably proud of the achievements of Alan, Richard and Sue as well as of her grandchildren. Barbara was unique, had a mischievous endearing streak and contributed so much. She was a real talent and a good good friend. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote ‘To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Barbara succeeded and in so many ways.
Tributes to Barbara
After the funeral, which was available to view via webcast, an email from Mary to Susie: Dear Susie, Thank you, thank you all, for allowing us to be there with you and Barbara. Thank you for all the wonderful times we four have had. All the lovely memories you piled up for us. What a wonderful family you are and it all started with Barbara and your Dad. When your dad died Barbara kept his pyjamas under his pillow. Did you know that? Did you know that he jumped onto the bed one day and it collapsed. (Memories of going to lunch with her and Dorothy). Do you know something silly that I thought when I saw the early photos of her. She grew more beautiful as she got older. When the service was over I had a phone call. It was Les Cooper to see if I was OK. He asked if I had cried and I said I had been crying for the family. I hate the thought of you being on your own with no one to talk to. No one to pour out your pain to. One day when the sun is shining, if a sudden breeze kisses your cheek, it will be me. Say hello to Orkney from me. All my love and a bit more. Mary X
by Sally Johnson April 2020 “Welcome to the Thames Valley Writers’ Circle.” Those were the first words I heard from Barbara Olive Smith back in January 2011. I had found details of the circle on-line, and just turned up without warning, but Barbara put me at ease and made me feel very welcome. She and Chris Mundy persuaded me that I should be on the committee and talked me into becoming Treasurer. That sums up Barbara, she was persuasive in a very calm, gentle and pleasant way. Because TVWC was so very special to her, if something needed to be done that she couldn’t do herself, she would persuade others to do it for her. She was very keen that we held social events and over the years we had skittles evenings, a Beetle Drive, and trips out. She was particularly happy that we organised the presentation evening in January this year, even though she couldn’t attend due to ill health, it pleased her to see the lovely photos of the event. At Christmas each year she generously made every circle member who attended meetings regularly, a goody bag with sweets, pencils, note pads, mini games, crackers and party poppers. Then a tin of chocolates would be circulated. At Easter we had chocolate eggs and in the summer Choc Ices, all provided by Barbara. If a circle member had a new addition to the family or grandchild Barbara always gave an appropriate card and present. If a member became ill or suffered a bereavement, she would make a point of telephoning to see how they were. She also generously gave out greeting cards, coasters and paperweights all made by her. Painting was also a favourite past time and latterly she had taken up Chinese writing using special brushes bought for her by her son Alan. When she decided not to drive in the dark anymore, I offered her a lift and that continued until she could no longer attend due to ill health. On the journey we would discuss expectations of the evening. She always had a pocketful of Fox’s mints and would give me two to keep me going through the evening. For a long time, she was the keeper of the circle biscuit tin and made sure it was filled on a regular basis. For many years she brought second- hand books to the circle once a month to sell for The Duchess of Kent House hospice. She was very wise and supportive of other members’ writing efforts, often offering expert tips on how to continue with a story line. On the way home she would remark on the evening’s events, especially if they were particularly amusing. Barbara often regaled me with stories of her childhood in Bristol when her older brothers would lead her into scrapes. When she was very young, they took her near to the railway line and left her there. Luckily her mother found her but scolded Barbara for being there. Her brothers got away ‘scot free’. She also told me of her life while abroad due to her husband’s work for the sugar industry. She had lived in many countries all over the world. Her three children, all born in Africa, and six grandchildren were a great joy to her and she was very proud of them all. Sadly her eldest son Richard, who had settled in Brazil, died a few years ago. She has a daughter-in-law, granddaughter and great granddaughter who still live in Brazil. It upset Barbara that illness prevented her from attending Richard’s funeral. When her hearing was failing, Barbara often asked me what was said during TVWC meetings; she didn’t like to admit that she couldn’t hear. When the circle purchased the microphone and speaker it changed the meetings for her enabling her to hear the readings and comment on them. Committee meetings held at her home were accompanied by supper with sausage rolls, sandwiches, crisps and cake. We had builders’ tea out of mugs with cats on. After the meeting we would sit in her dining room, chatting, and always staying longer than planned. Whenever I visited her at home, I was offered cake or chocolates or sweets plus extra to take home. I told her she was out to make me fat, but she just laughed. Barbara’s garden was always a picture, she loved it and could potter all day. It was lined with trees and shrubs, many with bird feeders hanging from them, and a large pond often filled with tadpoles or frogs depending on the time of year. She loved to watch the birds, squirrels and butterflies and could name all the species. She also said there was a rat living under her shed that popped out at night, but it didn’t bother her at all. Then there was Harry, the cat. She would moan about him because he was fat and greedy, he would steal any food left out on the kitchen worktops, but she worried about him all the time and he would sit with her purring, being stroked lovingly. When Barbara needed home care to help her to bed, she was not happy that Harry was not allowed in her room at night, the carers thought it impractical and unhygienic. How dare they! Each September she had bags full of apples to give away. I, and other friends, would get some windfalls one week then some picked apples the next. Her freezer, mine and others were full with stewed apples. Barbara’s good friend Dorothy Winters was always given a small plastic box of ready cooked stewed apple for her freezer too. Barbara said ‘Dorothy doesn’t cook.’ When Barbara became poorly last year, I visited her often at home, especially if her daughter Susie was away, mainly for company and to check that she was managing on her own between home carer calls. If well enough she would tell me about her family, a new great-granddaughter arrived called Georgie, her grandson qualified as an architect and her son gained a PhD in Naval History. She was very proud of them all, especially Susie, a geologist and mining consultant, who came to stay with her mother to be her live-in carer. Barbara always had a table at her side, provided by Susie, with cakes, biscuits, chocolate, toffees and mints. I would make her a cup of tea and then I had to have something to eat of course, not that I protested too much. She liked to ‘graze’ she said but she never gained weight. Barbara plainly said exactly what she was thinking and had a few funny sayings, “Never drink plain water, it rots your insides.” “Don’t bother with housework unless you’re expecting visitors.” “It’s better than a slap from a wet mullet.” She was unique, funny, clever, generous and always excellent company. She was a good friend to many people and will be truly missed but I think she would agree that she had, for the most part, an excellent, long, full and happy life.
for writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry
Thames Valley Writers’ Circle
Barbara
for writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry
Thames Valley Writers’ Circle
Barbara