Veteran TV presenter and celebrity cook entertained a Garston pensioners’ group on Monday with a talk on her life in the Wrens during the Second World War and her subsequent career which led to her becoming a national celebrity and treasure.
A household name in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, Zena Skinner produced numerous cookery books based on her TV shows which included "Town and Around" and "Indoors and Outdoors".
Her books are still in demand and used copies of them offered for sale on Amazon fill two pages. Finally retiring from TV in 1989, Zena, who lives in Redbourn, spends her time giving talks on her life to groups and raising funds for medical charities.
Her association with the Wrens began at the age of 17 when she responded to the recruitment slogan of "Join the Wrens and free a man for the fleet".
Having completed her initial training period of four weeks, which included polishing floors and learning to type, she found herself being trained as a coder, despite her early requests to work as a driver or despatch rider, and spent four years based in Portsmouth decoding signals.
After being demobbed at the end of the war she trained as a demonstrator at the London School of Electrical Domestic Science and obtained employment as a demonstrator at the Eastern Electricity Board showroom in Royston.
She was also responsible for covering an area of 100 square miles doing house calls checking people were happy with their purchases.
After four years she moved to GEC again giving demonstrations and servicing appliances and covered a very large area of southern England. This work led to her being offered the opportunity to spend six months in Jamaica training demonstrators and subsequently three months doing much of the same job in east Africa.
After this she became a freelance demonstrator and a photo of her taken with Masai warriors came to the attention of staff at the BBC and she was offered the chance to present cookery shows on TV which continued from 1959-1982.
After being dropped by the BBC she went on to present a show on Channel 4 with Robert Dougall and Raymond Baxter until 1989. Since then her only TV appearance has been in an episode of "After They Were Famous".
With a group of like-minded friends she has raised £117,000 for British medical charities with the sale of handicrafts which they make themselves.
Her entertaining talk was much appreciated by the members of the fortnightly Seniors’ Club at Stanborough Park Church, which attracts a large number of pensioners, with only a third of them church members and the rest from the Garston community.