Jeni Wood

I had an expectation of meeting a woman who was mainly interested in her own political power and therefore assumed I would dislike her. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Firstly, I like Jeni enormously; I find her warm, open and fun: secondly she is a woman who loves

living in Peppard and believes it is her duty, as well as a pleasure, to do as much as she can for her community. Indeed, she really enjoys serving as the new Chairman of our Parish Council because she finds herself amongst like-minded people; her fellow councillors are non-political and just want to do their best for Peppard. One of Jeni’s strengths is that she is not afraid to ask for help when unsure of something. She knows she has a lot to learn and would rather request help than flounder.

Jeni, with her husband Barry, moved to Peppard four years ago into a house that she fell in love with on first viewing.  They settled in after a long protracted buying process and felt it was ‘meant to be’.  After moving every two years they had settled in Henley for almost 40 years. She loved it there but has not regretted the move to Peppard. However, she is still very involved in Henley; she worships at Christ Church, is a Governor at Henley College and still sits on Henley committees. She was a Town Councillor for eight years and was Mayor for one.

As if this was not enough, she was also a Councillor on South Oxfordshire District Council for four years where her favourite committee was the Planning; she brings that experience to Peppard.

Originally from Sheffield, when she was 12 her father’s job took the family to Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Jeni attended Walsingham House International School, situated in a palace by the sea! She believes living in Mumbai was a truly formative experience for her and she loved it.  On a visit to Delhi, she met Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. Her Indian friends had used 15 year old Jeni as their excuse for meeting him; in the event he spent half an hour with them and she found him to be very kind and absolutely charming.

Jeni returned to Mumbai with an American schoolfriend in 2008, they both agreed it was like ‘going home’

After four years she returned to England to live with her aunt but, even with the company of her cousins, she really missed India. The owner of her school had recommended teaching as a career as, as an older pupil, she was a Teaching Assistant to the younger children. Much later, she did start a playschool in Leeds when she had young children herself. Later still, she taught at the Smith’s Hospital for autistic children in Henley.

Rather than teaching, she visualised working ‘in travel’ but her first real job was actually in a bank followed by newspaper advertising and libraries (she currently volunteers at Sonning Common library). Eventually she retrained as a book-keeper and, to this day, still works for a few valued clients. For many years Jeni worked as a book-keeper for several Henley estate agents and ultimately managed ‘let’ properties; a job she found very satisfying.

Despite her busy life and all her responsibilities Jeni’s priority in life is, without doubt, her family.  She and Barry have two children, both married, and four grandchildren in whose company she takes great pleasure. She greatly admires her only grand-daughter who she describes as being so positive, willing to have a go at anything. I asked if she is a ‘chip off the old block’ but Jeni said No, she was never as courageous as Lara. I am not so sure! I perceive Jeni to be a person who, in the modern idiom, will always ‘go for it’.

Rita Hadgkiss