The Yokohama International Women’s Club is holding its 52nd Azalea Tea from 10:30 a.m. on April 19 at the Hotel New Grand Yokohama.

Its program includes a charity jazz concert, “Swing in Yokohama,” performed by Eiji Hanaoka and the Swing Shots. A leader of the festive occasion is Pamela Bodle, who arrived in Yokohama 18 months ago. She is a singer who originally and interestingly comes from the Beatles’ city of music, Liverpool.

A schoolteacher, Bodle found her first job in a girls’ junior school “just down the road from the Liverpool Football Club,” she said.

In time she moved to London. An alto, she joined an amateur operatic group where she met her future husband, a tenor. “We met over a pot of paint,” she said. “We were painting scenery for a show. He liked to perform on stage. I liked doing behind the scenes things, helping to paint and move scenery, and organizing and collecting all the props.”

In 20 years of marriage, Bodle and her husband have lived in short spells of duty in different places.

“He works for an American oil company,” she said. “I think we are now on our 14th move. We love the constant movement. New places and new people are exciting. We spent three wonderful years on assignment in Norway. We both learned the language, and I developed an interest in stave Churches, which date back to the time of the Vikings. I visited the 29 original wooden churches which still exist. There used to be a thousand of them.”

In Scotland, Bodle worked for an oil pollution control firm. There she helped write oil spill contingency plans, and assisted in running a special club for oil companies. “I learned many facts about pollution control, and all the plans which have to be in place when companies drill for oil,” she said.

On their return to England, husband and wife bought a house for their own permanent base. This led to another interesting connection. “We live opposite the Beckhams there,” Bodle said.

She continued, “This is the first time we have lived in an Asian country. We try to visit as many different places, and experience as many different things as we can. In Japan everything to us is new and educational.”

Shortly before she was due to come here, Bodle suffered a setback. She found she had breast cancer. “My way of coming to terms with anything is to talk about it,” she said. “I have never kept my cancer a secret. If anyone wants to speak to me about it, or ask my advice, that is OK. It’s a personal point of view. If we don’t mention it, becomes the dreaded C word.”

Bodle spent most of the year 2005 receiving medical treatment. “The first week after my diagnosis I was numb,” she said. “But I tried not to let things get me down. I tried to keep my spirits up. I was lucky as I found my lump before it spread.

After I had one breast removed, I was cancer free. All my succeeding treatment was preventive rather than curative. I return to the U.K. for checks every six months.

“It’s a big part of my life, and I don’t think it should be hidden away. My advice to everyone is to check your breast every month.

If you find a lump, go and see your doctor immediately. Nine times out of 10 lumps are nothing awful. If one does prove to be cancerous, the earlier it is treated the better the chances of survival.”

Bodle knew of the YIWC before she arrived in Yokohama, and hastened to become a member.

She brought to the club her skills in craftsmanship and card-making, as well as her common sense, practicality and good cheer. “The club is full of friendly and welcoming women who have certainly made my life here very enjoyable,” she said.

She joined in the club’s fund-raising schemes which provide funds for two homes for children and one for the elderly. These institutions have been YIWC’s concern, however the club’s membership has changed, for nearly 40 years.

The club’s care goes beyond financial support to setting up personal visits and arranging convivial events. Additionally YIWC contributes to local charities and charities abroad.

Bodle expects her next move will be to Doha, Qatar. “Another country and culture to explore,” she said. “I shall certainly miss Japan and all my friends here. Our two Russian Blue cats go with us. They travel wherever we go.”


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