Visits and Events Reports

Art History’s Trip to Florence March 2017 or How to Understand the Renaissance Movement in Art

Imagine walking in the steps of Michelangelo, of the Medici family, of Savonarola; that is what twelve of us from Art History did in the spring sunshine of March 2017. We spent three intense days in Florence supporting our work on the artists we had studied in the previous year. There was barely any time for shopping, for eating a “gelato” or sipping Italian wine surrounded by amicable company but, somehow, we managed to fit it in.

Our trip began in the early hours of Sunday 12th March. Who would have believed that there would have been so many people around Beeston at 4.00 in the morning? We were certainly not the only ones on the move. The journey to the airport, to Florence and then to our hotel went without a hitch for us. It was a little more fraught for our lecturer/guide/tour manager/ translator and all-round helper Peter Higginson. When he arrived at Heathrow it was to find that BA had sold on his seat but, with a few angry phone calls, he managed to fly out with us.

Our hotel looked disappointing from the outside but once inside we were very pleased with its standard of comfort. A real advantage was its distance to all the major sites in Florence as we were approximately 15 minutes’ walking from the Duomo, the great cathedral. Having settled in we then had the first of the two lectures from Peter where he looked at the beginnings of the Renaissance and how it would relate to what we would see on Monday. We were beginning to understand that Peter really “knew his stuff” and would be an extremely knowledgeable guide. The evening meal was most welcome as were the bottles of wine included with the food.

The next day, starting at 8.30, we trooped off to see our first artist, Giotto, passing on the way the Palazzo Strotzi, the Piazza della Repubblica, the Duomo , the Palazzo Vecchio (where Savonarola was burned at the stake) and eventually arriving at the magnificent Franciscan church of Santa Croce which was our destination. We spent several hours there looking at the amazing frescoes by Giotto and by Gaddi. We saw the tomb of Michelangelo, Donatello’s beautiful “Annunciation” and Brunelleschi’s mathematically constructed chapel. We were also astonished and intrigued by the terrible damage caused by the 1966 floods. Santa Croce, being close to the Arno river, was badly affected and some precious works of art have still not been fully restored as we saw with the Crucifix by Cimabue.

After an hour’s stop for lunch and a rendezvous at the Ponte Vecchio, where jewellers flashed their ostentatious goods, we headed for the church of Santo Spirito and its Brancacci Chapel. Here we spent our half-hour slot studying the frescoes of the next artist to develop naturalism in art, Masaccio. There was then time to stroll off on our own for some shopping or an ice cream or even to visit other gems which were not on our itinerary before the evening lecture and meal. Our pudding that night needs a special mention. It was called a “zucotto” and seemed to be a rich mixture of cream, ice cream and chocolate; a traditional Florentine dessert. Having consumed even more wine we were ready to crash out in our rooms as Tuesday was to be another 8.30 start; Peter was unwavering in his decision to head out early, a cruel but wise choice.

What was left for us to see on the Tuesday? We visited San Marco convent to look at the works of the gentle Dominican Fra Angelico. Apart from looking at some of his altarpieces we were fascinated by the monks’ cells which each contained a small fresco by Fra Angelico. A visit to the Medici Chapel, attached to Brunelleschi’s church of San Lorenzo, was a dramatic contrast to the charming paintings of Fra Angelico. Here were the monumental Medici tombs decorated with the powerful sculptures of Michelangelo. Before we ate a late, lazy lunch in the warm sunshine we visited the church of Santa Maria Novella. Apart from its important marble facade we saw Masaccio’s “Trinita” and Ghirlandaio’s fresco cycle of the life of John the Baptist in the contemporary costume of 1485. The day was completed with a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia where we saw Michelangelo’s statues of David and his unfinished slaves. We were so lucky as, by 5.00, fewer people were in the gallery and we could spend extra time just looking at the brilliance of Michelangelo’s sculpture in relative peace. Although it is so well known and has been reproduced so many times seeing it in reality still takes away your breath.

Our last morning was spent at the Uffizi Gallery where Peter took us to see altar pieces by Duccio, by Giotto and other early Renaissance painters. We saw delicate paintings by Fra Filippo Lippi and the iconography of the Botticelli paintings was explained to us. The importance of Leonardo was explored as was the way that Michelangelo’s paintings began the Mannerist movement in late Renaissance work. As we raced from one room to another we caught glimpses of other fabulous works of art but time was against us. By 12.00 we were heading off to Pisa airport and our flight home.

Did we enjoy it? You bet we did. Was it a holiday? No, it was a “study tour”. Did we have fun? We laughed a lot especially when it was discovered that the distortion of the slides for our talks was caused by the beam of light from the projector filtering through Peter’s glass of water and nothing to do with poor equipment. There was also the young, Far Eastern tourist who decided to tag along with us at the Uffizi because he enjoyed Peter’s explanations of the paintings. We thought we had lost him several times but he soon popped up again – finally leaving us at the toilets! Did we make friends? We really enjoyed the company of each other. On our last night we all went out for a true Tuscan meal together at a local restaurant which was a tremendous sociable evening. Would we go back? You bet we would as we only covered a small proportion of what Florence has to offer.

All that’s left is for me to thank Travel Editions and Tracey Konidaris who helped to set it all up. It was a delight to work with her. To thank Peter Higginson for being the prefect guide for us with his knowledge of art, of Italian and of Florence. He became a good friend to us all. A thanks to my husband, Murray, who helped to keep me from panicking and finally, to everyone who came on the trip as it was a wonderful group to be with on our very first adventure abroad.

Helen Stewart

Beeston U3A Fine Wine Tasting Evening

wte1As the autumn edition of Third Age Matters landed with a thump on the doormat, I glanced at the front cover. There was the U3A’s Mission Statement – “Learn, Laugh, Live”. It perfectly encapsulated our Fine Wine Tasting Evening. Alcohol (in moderation) is good for you and your social life. Some even claim a glass of red wine as one of their 5-a-day (it’s grapes, after all). So 60 members were ready to get stuck in. The arrangements had been engineered by Sue Blackley and the wines chosen by Piers Krause, Beeston U3A’s Wine Appreciation group leader and mentor. He presented 2 whites and 4 reds from some of the best wine-producing areas.

We kicked off with a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, fruity but restrained, followed by a French Chablis with its balanced acidity and flintiness. The reds provoked some heated discussion and not a little disagreement. A majority agreed that a Spanish Rioja was the hit of the evening, big and fruity with well-balanced tannins and acidity. A Bordeaux cru bourgeois lived up to expectations, dark red colour, refined fruit and hints of leather/tobacco on the nose.

wte2It was the 2 expensive reds that were challenging although, to be fair, the French wouldn’t dream of drinking a fine wine without food (don’t get me started on the subject of cheese and wine!). Chambolle-Musigny comes from Burgundy and is a light-coloured, fresh pinot noir with a good balance of acidity and a shy but alluring summer-berry bouquet. And to finish? A Chateauneuf du Pape from the southern Rhône, nicely balancing rich fruit and acidity with a bone-dry finish.

What did we Learn? Piers asked for comments on each wine, so we took a stab at describing our experience – strawberries, chocolate, farmyard, melon, resin – and people came away with a better appreciation of what they had tasted. Did we Laugh? Yes, a lot. And we’re going to Live long enough to taste the rest of the World’s wines!

Our thanks go to Sue for picking a great venue and choosing a tasty selection of cheeses and nibbles, to Piers for his choice of wine and his constructive observations, and to the army of volunteers who set up, took down and served the wine. I, for one, am looking forward to another evening wine tasting and I’ve a suspicion that 59 other people are too.

Adrian Shipway

Beeston U3A Trip to Highclere Castle July 31st 2016

HC1There were gasps of recognition as our coach neared Highclere Castle, home to the Earl of Carnarvon and his family. In front of us, rising up in front of a vivid blue sky, was Downton Abbey itself. Eagerly, we all trooped off the bus and went to stand in line to be allowed to enter one of the most recognisable houses in England. We were not the only people there at 10.00 on a Sunday morning as, already, the queue was forming and growing with visitors from all around the world. It is thanks to the income generated by the many visitors that much of this house has been restored.

The ancestral home, previously a Georgian mansion, of the Earls of Carnarvon was completely rebuilt in the 1830’s when the 3rd Earl commissioned Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament, to transform his home into the soaring pinnacled castle we see today. The tour through the rooms open to the public was well organised. Most rooms contained a volunteer guide who was keen to talk to us about the room itself, about its role in the TV series and their own memories of the filming which took place there. In each major room there was also a large photograph showing the cast from “Downton Abbey” so that we could compare the reality with the fantasy. It really is a must for its fans so that they can relive those classic moments from the series. It was also a family space as each room contained many photographs of the family of the present Earl and of his aristocratic friends.

HC2After visiting the house there was time for coffee and to wander the large grounds of the stately home which were originally landscaped by Capability Brown. We were so fortunate that the weather was delightful: not so hot that we were desperate for shade but sunny enough to allow for a gentle stroll. We were also able to watch some classic planes flying overhead as there must have been an air show nearby. We spent a good three hours at Highclere before we set off from Hampshire.

So far, the trip, organised by Lucy Beardsley, had been wonderful. We had spent the night at the 4* Apollo Hotel in Basingstoke where we had very comfortable rooms as well as a good meal on the Saturday night followed by a big fry-up on the Sunday morning. We were all fascinated by the rabbits in the grounds of the hotel; especially as the hotel itself was just off the busy ring road. Lucky Lucy could watch them from the comfort of her room. The hotel though, was not the only pleasant surprise as, on the journey down, it had been arranged for our coach to stop at Abingdon-on-Thames for three hours.

HC3Very few of us had ever visited Abingdon; its near neighbour, Oxford, attracting more visitors. What an absolute gem of an English market town it is. It prides itself on being one of the oldest settle sites in the whole country and, although there was no evidence of Neolithic Man, there was certainly many Medieval buildings to admire. The town had contained a Benedictine abbey and many of its old service buildings were still in use.

We all found places to have lunch there, followed by visits to the church, to the craft market, to the delightful museum and to the river. When we returned to the coach we were all so pleased that our visit to Abingdon was part of our weekend.

There was one more “extra” attached to our two days. Lucy, along with our excellent driver Rick, had decided that, rather than stopping at a service station on the way back to Long Eaton and Beeston we would, instead, break the journey at Bicester Shopping Village. The place itself was packed with people buying items from Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, MaxMara and all the other high class designer outlets. Most of us managed to buy some lunch, join the queues to the toilets, and even partake in a little retail therapy before our final part of the journey.

What a great two days for which we must thank Skills, our driver Rick and, most of all, our organiser Lucy.

Helen Stewart

Beeston U3A Wine Appreciation – A Taste of Italy

WA1Our generation can count itself lucky that we’re able to capture the spirit of the 18th century Grand Tour (once a de-luxe gap year for rich young gentlemen bound for glittering careers) and enjoy a week away in Italy. Members of our Wine Appreciation Group and the Nottingham Wine Club once more teamed up to go on a wine-tasting trip under the leadership of Piers Krause. This year, the Veneto beckoned, with the added allure of a cruise on Lake Garda and guided tours of several famous cities.

Our family-run hotel was very comfortable and the owners did everything they could to make us feel welcome and accommodate our requirements. They also had an interesting wine list. We were based in Grezzana, a small town north of Verona, sheltered by Valpantena (valley of gods) at the foot of the Dolomites.

We were in the centre of the Valpolicella wine region and the eponymous red is the wine of choice for glugging with pizza or pasta. But the winemakers have some tricks up their sleeves to make a variety of Valpolicella wines with a great deal more finesse. After harvest, bunches of good grapes are air-dried for up to 4 months, then fermented as usual. The concentrated sugars produce Valpolicella Recioto, a red dessert wine with surprising and delicious layers of character. Midway through last century, someone fermented the sweet juice just too long and Valpolicella Amarone was born. The longer fermentation converts more residual sugar into alcohol and produces a wine which is succulent and well-balanced but which ages well. And finally, wanting to extract every last ounce of flavour from the grapes, they saved what was left of the grapes and skins from the Amarone process, then fermented a batch of ordinary Valpolicella for a second time on this residue; this they call Valpolicella Ripasso.

The wineries were keen to showcase their best wines. Machinery is modern and steel tanks stainless, but the old methods are reserved for the best wines which age for between 18 months and 4 years in oak or cherrywood barrels and barriques. This softens tannins and lends subtle bramble and vanilla flavours before bottling. All three wineries we visited had a modern visitor centre, a tour of the cellars and a tasting. Our young guides (for whom the invention of Amarone in the 1950s was ancient history!) spoke wonderful English and gave us lots of facts and figures.

All this talk of red wine ignores the area’s great contribution to the white wine industry, the dry white Soave. To the east of Valpolicella lies the village of Soave, visible for miles around, and having a hill-top citadel protected by walls which climb the steep slope to the castle. Our first tasting was at Cantina Soave, nestled beneath the walls and offering a taste of their famous white wine, alongside their Rocco Sveve Ripasso Superiore and Reciotta di Soave Classico.

For our next visit, we had to drive all of 5 minutes from the hotel to Bertani, winemakers of distinction (and our most expensive tasting). We tried Bertani Ripasso Superiore, Amarone and Recioto, which, as you’d expect, had plenty of class about them.

Our last visit was to Cantina Valpantena, just down the road from Grezzana. Our guide was Samantha Orlandi and her enthusiasm and joie de vivre were infectious. She talked with her hands and eyes and spiced her repertoire with a few bars of a Verdi aria, sung with a sweet but powerful voice. Oh, and the wines were very good, too! She served a white made from local gargenaga grapes and lightly oaked, very enjoyable drinking; then a Ripasso, an Amarone and a Recioto. The cantina markets its wines under the name Torre del Falasco (Falasco’s Tower). Falasco, Samantha explained, was a local brigand and thief. A bit like Robin Hood, then.

Piers organised an in-house wine tasting to precede our penultimate evening meal. A taste of prosecco was followed by Rocco Sveve Soave Classico and Cantina Valpantena Lugana, rounded and fruity. The reds kicked off with Torre del Falasco Ripasso Superiore, then Secco-Bertani (a dry version of their good red wine), finally Torre del Falasco Amarone Superiore.

We started our day on Lake Garda at Sirmione and took a ferry to Lazise where we had lunch. A brief downpour brought the brollies out, but the streets were steaming by the time we were ready to look around the pretty walled town. Onward to Garda and an opportunity to join other tourists jostling for space in the narrow alleys or queuing to buy Italy’s famous gelati.

The weather was kinder for our city visits and photographs looked good in the bright Italian sunshine. Verona has graceful bridges across the River Adige, spectacular Roman ruins (including the amphitheatre which famously stages Italian operas) and architecture spanning the centuries in brick, sandstone and Veronese Rosso marble. It’s obligatory to be led into a compact courtyard, accompanied by half the tourists in Verona, to goggle at a nondescript balcony said to be the very one from which Juliet delivered her famous soliloquy. Pity Shakespeare wasn’t there to pick up some ideas for a play.

The sun was out in Vicenze and the white marble facades of Antonio Palladio gleamed. Vicenze’s son was the genius who created a fashion for Greek and Roman architecture and sold his ‘Palladian’ style to the aristocracy of 16th century Italy, later to be adopted by Robert Adam in his British stately homes. Mantova proved itself well-fortified in medieval times; the castles and palaces stand to this day, the cathedral interior a riot of frescos and trompe l’oeil panels. And for our last trip, we were blessed with a gloriously bright and warm day in Venice. The waters of the Lido sparkled and the Grand Canal assumed a milky turquoise hue. Words alone can’t do justice to the beauty of the city, but our old legs had begun to tire of traipsing the streets in the heat and we were relieved to be back on solid ground.

The quality of the food and the number of empty bottles which went in the hotel’s skip each night speak volumes for the good time we had. And thank you to all the lovely, friendly Italians who made our stay so pleasant.

Adrian Shipway

Edward Elgar’s Birthplace Museum April 2016

On Thursday 14 April 2016, 41 Members of Beeston U3A went on a visit to Elgar’s Birthplace. The weather was fine and we had a good journey. We were welcomed with morning refreshments and a video showing Elgar’s life, his achievements and some of the places he visited. Following this we went, in two groups, to visit the Birthplace Museum and Gardens as well as looking round the Elgar Exhibition in the Centre. The cottage gardens were delightful with the spring flowers just coming through, birds singing and sun shining. A group of thatchers were working on the original summerhouse – this was due to be completed the following week. The original well head is due to be restored and put back on the original site. Many of our Members said that the visit was magical!

Leaving the Elgar site, we travelled a few miles further on to Spetchley Park Gardens where we were served our lunch. This consisted of a finger buffet, cakes and tea/coffee. Cakes were so good many folks brought selections home. Once again we were put into two groups and given guided tours around the gardens. Spetchley is one of the homes of the Berkeley family. A grant from the Lottery has enabled them to improve the large lake which, should later on, be covered with water lilies and marginal plants. They have a spectacular show of daffodils with many of the old species. Leaving Spetchley at 4 30pm, we arrived back in Beeston at around 6 30/7 pm.

Our thanks to Steve, our driver, who had some small entrances and exits to cope with, and to Mike Johnson for the photograph below.

U3A Quiz 14 November 2015

Sue Blackley writes: We held a Quiz night at Chilwell Manor Golf Club on November 14th. It was well supported and 72 people, members and friends, attended making teams of four. The evening began with a delicious supper of sausage, mash and peas followed by the quiz.

There were 8 rounds with 10 questions in each. This included pot luck and the popular cheese tasting round. There were prizes for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd teams and booby prizes. The quiz was won by the team calling themselves Cumberland Gap members being Tony and Maureen Rushton, Brenda Langford and Christine Ball. Congratulations to them!

I’d like to thank everyone who came along and made the evening such fun and so successful. A particular thank you to Margot and her husband Ali for their invaluable help.

What Was The Family History Event of 2015?

Chris O’Brien, Family History Group Leader writes:

Chris O'Brien and Professor Kevin Schurer

Chris O’Brien and Professor Kevin Schurer

Many members of the Beeston U3A family history group had watched, on television, the re-burial of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015. We wanted to find out more about the discovery of Richard III and how it was shown that the skeleton found under Leicester social services car park was indeed the king who was killed in battle in 1485. Identifying Richard III was surely the family history event of 2015.

YouTube has a video of the press conference given by the University of Leicester when they presented their research on Richard III. Included is a short speech by Professor Kevin Schürer, who had led the genealogical work. We decided that we would like to know more; could Professor Schürer talk to us?

We realised that, to justify such a meeting, we would need more than the 15 who usually attend our group meetings; we thought a minimum of 50. We were able to pursue the idea when some of us visited Birmingham for the “Who Do You Think You Are?” exhibition, and we met Keith Oseman and Tom Adam who are leaders of the family history groups in Long Eaton and Sour Valley respectively. They agreed that by inviting local U3A groups we should get up to the 50 mark.

I therefore wrote to Professor Schürer, suggesting a meeting in Leicester, which would be convenient for him and should suit the U3A members who would come not only from Beeston but from other nearby groups.

Professor Schürer was very positive and efficient in replying and suggested a date of October 5th at 5 pm: that was the basis on which we would go ahead. However, we needed to arrange a suitable venue. I contacted Mike Bates of Leicester U3A history group, who talked through a number of possibilities and I settled on Leicester Secular Hall. This was available at a very reasonable cost, had facilities for a PowerPoint presentation, and was only a short walk from the train station in the city centre.

We publicized the event initially through the U3A groups in Beeston, Soar Valley, Long Eaton and Leicester. While focussing on members of family history and history groups we did promote the event more widely, and a number of others responded. We had acceptances from just over 50 who wished to attend, which meant we had met our original target. However, the room had a capacity of 80, so we wished to do more. I therefore contacted other local U3A branches, speaking to group leaders in Loughborough, Great Glen, Oadby & Wigston and South Leicestershire. All were positive, and the bookings increased, with another acceptance on the day of the lecture itself taking us to a total of 80.

We made a small charge to cover the room hire fee and would donate the surplus to the University of Leicester with a view to assisting their future research. I did not provide transport, bearing in mind that people were coming from a variety of places in the East Midlands, and Leicester has good public transport links.

On the day of the lecture, some people went to Leicester somewhat earlier and took the opportunity to visit the Richard III Exhibition Centre and the tomb in Leicester Cathedral before going on to Secular Hall.

 The audience just before the lecture started.

The audience just before the lecture started.

There was a buzz in the packed lecture room for the lecture as Professor Schürer began. It was a real detective story: we heard about the history and archaeology, and Professor Schürer conveyed the excitement of the research and, eventually, the finding of the skeleton. There was a spinal deformity, consistent with Shakespeare’s writing and also two contemporary writers, but that wasn’t enough to prove it was Richard III.

This was where the work of Professor Schürer and his colleagues came in. There was a need to find descendants whose link with Richard III could provide relevant DNA evidence. Some earlier work had found one such, Michael Ibsen, which the Leicester research was able to confirm. However, another was needed: Professor Schürer traced such an individual: Wendy Duldig, a New Zealander. The problem was, where on earth was she? She was tracked down to London, where Professor Schürer met her in the British Library, and she agreed to provide a sample for DNA testing. Turi King, the project team’s DNA expert, was able to extract DNA from the skeleton’s teeth and showed that this indeed had the same pattern as DNA from Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig. Mystery solved at last!

The feedback on the talk was quite outstanding: “conveyed the difficult concepts clearly”; “a wonderful experience and presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment!” and “made a potentially dry subject most fascinating and his humour was the icing on the cake”.

Professor Schürer had given us an excellent presentation, mixed with anecdotes and humour, and it fulfilled our ambition to have an enthusiastic audience of U3A members from eight branches able to hear and understand such a great story!

Macmillan Coffee Afternoon – 25 September 2015

MacmillanIn September, Sue Blackley organised our second Macmillan Coffee Afternoon. U3A members yet again showed their generosity by donating tombola prizes, books, scarves, jewellery and cakes galore.  Ilanah Dance brought in a magnificent teddy bear cake which had been made by her son Chris Dance.  The cake was used in a “guess his name” competition. The winning name was Samuel, correctly guessed by Mrs Bradbury. We had an amazing tombola stall, jewellery and scarves, hundreds of books, all from generous donations by you, our members. Lucy Beardsley, our Speaker Seeker bought along examples of her lace and bead work and demonstrated the techniques involved. Last but not least, we had a wonderful array of home baked cakes, again, all donated by members. In total, we raised a grand sum of £600.71. I think it is true to say that a good time was had by all.

Outing to Bletchley Park August 2015

B1On Wednesday 12 August 2016, 53 U3A Members and friends set off for their second visit to Bletchley Park. On a previous visit we had been told of the proposed plans for improvement of the site.

We had a good journey down to Milton Keynes and navigated the numerous traffic islands to arrive at 10.45 am, well in time for our scheduled 11 am arrival. After being greeted by Bletchley Staff we were escorted into the reception area and everyone was free to “do their own thing”. It was amazing to see and experience the changes which had taken place since our last visit. The interiors and displays have been enhanced and gave a real feel of how it must have been to work on this site during WW2. The photo top left shows the Interpreted Room and bottom right picture shows the famous Enigma Machine.

It was possible to join guided tours, starting hourly, when the guide gave information on B2the various areas. This enabled people to plan their day. The weather was perfect and many folk had taken packed lunches which they enjoyed sitting outside, on the grass or round the lake. It was in this area that atmospheric sounds from WW2 were heard. Train whistles, Spitfires flying across and even games of tennis and rounders being played.

We left Bletchley at 4 pm, arriving back to base after an uneventful journey around 6 pm.

Thanks to Breda Cooper as well as to all of the people who came on this visit. Thanks also to Steve our driver.

Lucy

MacMillan Coffee Afternoon

Picture1In September we held a MacMillan coffee afternoon at the Chilwell Road Methodist Church. The event was organised by our Events Committee Member Sue Blackley. Sue has worked very hard over the last few weeks, pulling together all the strands that made the day a success. An army of willing members turned up to help, bringing home made cakes scones and muffins galore, enough to feed an army. There was a book stall, a scarf swap, tombola and other fund raising games. The event was well attended by members, friends and families and for a £1 donation, coffee and cake was provided.

Sue Blackley has asked me to write and tell everyone that we raised the magnificent sum of £510.77 in less than two hours.

She has also asked me to thank all of those members and committee who helped and worked so hard. Sue says she couldn’t have done it without you all and your efforts were very much appreciated. Everyone worked tirelessly all afternoon. Others supplied us with fantastic cakes as well as donations for the stalls. Then of course, we are grateful to members who came and supported the event by buying books and scarves and eating all the delicious cakes.

Well done Beeston U3A

Marie Potts
on behalf of Sue Blackley and the Committee

Here are some photographs Margaret Johnson took:

The Downton Experience

DN10In August, members from Beeston and Long Eaton U3A, set off for Windsor for “The Downton Experience.” At Bray Marina everyone boarded the boat for our cruise up river to the Edwardian Marquee. On board was an excellent courier who gave us lots of information on areas of particular interest on our journey. There were many superb properties alongside the river with lovely gardens and frontages. Soon we reached the stretch where some of the activities for the London Olympics took place, entered the lock through two golden posts, and rose to the higher level. The posts had been painted gold for the Olympics, like the post boxes. Soon we were tying up at Windsor and entered the Marquee where round tables had been set for our tea. The chairs had white covers and the table, each seating 10 people, had white damask table cloths. China crockery was the order of the day and a stand, filled with a variety of sandwiches, was brought to each table. Waiters came around with tea, coffee, soft drinks or water. Once the sandwiches had been eaten, warm scones, strawberry jam, butter and cream were then served. Three tier cake stands were then brought in with a good selection of cakes. Guests were then encouraged to try on the Edwardian hats and clothes – which many of our folk did. Some of the men put on striped blazers! It was then possible to watch past episodes of Downton Abbey, stroll in the gardens and wood, play croquet or boules or just sit on the terrace and gossip. There was soon a lively game of croquet in progress as well as a very competitive game of boules. The day ended with a return cruise to Bray Marina and the coach home.

Lucy Beardsley

Photographs Taken during the Downton ‘Edwardian’ Experience

Click on any thumbnail to see a slide show then press ‘Esc’ to finish.

Report on the Quiz Night at Chilwell Golf Club

What an excellent quiz Sue organised for us on 16th May 2014! There were no recognisable rounds like History, Geography or Science for us to play our Joker/Bonus card. Instead with intriguing titles like “Sing a Song of May time”, “Here Come the Girls” and “On the Cat Walk”, the choice for a Joker round was much trickier. That was the first hurdle Sue set. The questions which followed varied greatly in content and level of difficulty, with, for example, “What is a babouche?”; “Which famous Thespian died on 1st May 2000?” and “Where would you wear a biggin and a billycock?” A great time was had by all as we puzzled with the answers in the company of our colleagues from Long Eaton at the Chilwell Golf Club.

As a pre-amble, whilst enjoying a generous helping of cottage pie and vegetables, we could look out over the club’s fairways as we tried to identify photos in a “Who Is This” non- competitive, warm up. There was great enthusiasm for the last round “Food Glorious Food”. Each team had 5 cheeses, with pieces for each team member, wrapped in foil and colour coded, to recognise. What ingenuity! The round ended with “What are Ladyfingers, Cavendish and Orinoco varieties of?” and “Which British pop singer in 1983 preferred ‘a cup of tea to sex’?” Team “Undecided” took the honours, followed by “Potts’ People” whilst the Wooden Spoons, decorated in U3A colours, went to team “Wollaton Wanderers”.

Sue had clearly put in an enormous amount of time and effort creating interesting rounds, researching the questions and answers, and, assisted by Margot, delivered them in clear tones. Many thanks to both, also to Nelson, Sue’s husband, for his rapid adding up of the results. We so enjoyed the first quiz that we are looking forward to the next one, Sue. Do come along and, to paraphrase Brucie, “Start quizzing!”

Haydn

Report on the Malvern Spring Flower Show Outing

At 8 am on Friday 9 May 2014, members of Beeston U3A with members from our Cluster Group – Long Eaton – departed for the Malvern Spring Flower Show. We had a good start to the day, the weather was fine and everyone was on time! The traffic, nearer the showground was horrendous. However, our driver, John, kept us informed of how far we still had to travel and ETA. We arrived at the showground around 10 30 am.

There was so much to see and do – it was an Aladdin’s cave for gardeners. The displays in the Floral Marquee were, as usual, breath taking. The range of plants and exhibits in the Plant Marquee were an inspiration. We were fortunate with the weather as the day before it had rained heavily; we were able to go outside to see the show gardens at their best in the sun. Plenty of places to eat and rest as well as purchase “just the plant for that awkward spot”. Leaving the show ground at 4 pm we made our way home, seats and the underneath hold on the coach bursting with plants, trees, tools and gardening paraphernalia. Covered my remit – 55 people taken and 55
returned.

Lucy Beardsley

Rhubarb, Rhubarb ,Rhubarb!

Amid much derision and laughter from my friends and family I visited the Wakefield Food, Drink and Rhubarb festival. A small group from Beeston U3A joined an outing arranged by Long Eaton U3A.

What a great day we had. Samples of food and drinks were plentiful – not only traditional Rhubarb pies and crumble but cakes, sausages, meat pies, sweets, vodka, beer, cider and wine. There was also a demonstration marquee where we were treated to an excellent cookery demonstration – flat breads made with Rhubarb beer, Rhubarb pickle and delicious pan fried Pigeon breasts with Rhubarb sauce. I felt inspired to buy a Pigeon and try the recipes!

The whole event was well organised with very amusing street entertainers. Good weather and a delicious lunch made the day most enjoyable. Roll on next year and “Ya Boo Sucks” to those who thought a Rhubarb festival was so amusing!

Liz Barnes

Special Presentation – 500th Member

New Picture (37)From small beginnings Beeston U3A has grown rapidly and we now have a membership of 500 plus and in January we welcomed our 500th member Geoffrey Cawthorne. To mark this very special occasion Liz Barnes, Beeston U3A’s Chairperson, presented Geoffrey with a year’s free membership at the monthly Open Meeting on Thursday 2 January. Liz welcomed Geoffrey and said his joining represented a very important milestone in the development of Beeston U3A.

Geoffrey from Wollaton was looking for a friendly group of walkers so he could get some more exercise. A friend advised him to join a local U3A. After some research in his local library, he decided to come along and join one of the regular walking groups in Beeston U3A.

Rockingham Castle 28 November 2013

New Picture (34)On 28 November, Lucy Beardsley organised a coach trip to Rockingham Castle near Corby in Northamptonshire. We were welcomed by Rachel from the Castle Tour staff who organised us into two groups to tour the castle.  One group was led by Robert, the Head Footman and the other by the Cook, both in period costume, who described how life was in the household on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the 1800s. We were able to see the kitchens, where food was laid out ready for the family’s return from a visit to friends, and the Butler’s Pantry.  New Picture (36)We were then shown the magnificent dining room, with the table beautifully laid ready for Christmas Lunch.  Upstairs we were able to see the long gallery, magnificent Venetian glass chandeliers and matching wall lights and imagine the family enjoying an afternoon of entertainment at Christmas.  Our afternoon ended with a grand cream tea with piping hot scones with jam and clotted cream before leaving for home.   An enjoyable afternoon was appreciated by all and thanks go to Lucy.

Ceilidh 19 October 2013

This was the second Ceilidh held by the Beeston U3A.  The venue was the Bramcote Memorial Hall and attracted over 70 members and families from both the Beeston and Long Eaton U3A groups.  The band was the excellent Heads and Tales band from Matlock complete with dance Caller Dave Gee from Long Eaton who made all the intricate dance moves simple for everyone.  Members donated eight raffle prizes and bar facilities were provided by Ivan Greensmith from the White Lion Pub in Bramcote.  It was an enjoyable evening for everyone who braved the rain to attend the event.  Further social events will be planned for the future months including the coming new year.  Our thanks go to Douglas for organising this event and Douglas would like to thank members of the committee for their help on the night and in particular, Hazel for her help and support.

Bletchley Park Visit 

On Monday 23 September 2013, 40 people embarked on a visit to Bletchley Park and Station X.

On arrival we were served tea, coffee and biscuits in the Mansion before walking to Hut 11 to meet our Tour Guide. On the walls were a number of posters etc giving information on the Enigma machines. John, our guide, set the scene for us explaining how messages from the Enigma machines were intercepted, de-coded and then translated. The information extracted was then forwarded and acted upon. As well as forces staff there were a number of people recruited from the Universities – mathematicians and linguists to take part in this important work.

We then began our tour of the site. As there is currently a lot of maintenance taking place it was not possible to see inside some of the Huts. We saw the Huts where the naval, army and air force messages were received and de-coded. These were then passed on to other huts where they were translated and then forwarded and acted upon. Some of the party then went to see the Colossus machine – the first electronic semi-programmable computer. Also in this hut were a number of teleprinters and the guide there explained how these worked. Messages from the Lorenz machine, used by Hitler and his High Command and Generals, were sent via perforated, punched teleprinter tapes. The Colossus machine – designed by a post office electronics engineer Tommy Flowers – was capable of reading the punch-tape and this meant that the mathematical work which needed to be done to break the Lorenz code could be carried out in hours instead of days.

Lunch was then served in the dining room in the Mansion. We enjoyed cottage pie with vegetables, fruit juice/water and tea/coffee. Afterwards we had approximately an hour to explore before returning to Beeston.

Overnight Outing to London

London Trip

A great time was had by all when we were joined by three members of Long Eaton U3A on a two day visit to London in mid-August. The visit had been arranged by our hard working Outings Secretary, Lucy, who offered visits to the Palace of Westminster, and to Buckingham Palace or Greenwich.

The security getting into the Commons is as rigorous as going through Heathrow – Electronic checks on possessions and sometimes body scans. Everyone passed muster except Lucy and her hair pins!! We gathered in Westminster Hall, admiring the hammerhead vaulting and peering at the well-worn tablets marking where royalty had lain in state and traitors had been arraigned. Very knowledgeable guides lead us on a tour of the Palace beginning at the Sovereign’s Entrance, intertwining rich history with the customs of both Houses and the rituals of the State Opening of Parliament. The tour was followed by a delicious, elegantly served afternoon tea in the smart Pugin Room, impressively overlooked by portraits of 4 major players in the history of Parliament. One of the windows overlooking the Thames framed a fine view down river of the London Eye and the South Bank.

The tour of Buckingham Palace, in addition to the State Rooms, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The displays of robes and regalia were stunning – it seemed that the coronation was only yesterday! Meanwhile those who had chosen Greenwich had been to see Cutty Sark and the Observatory in The Park. In “free time” on Saturday members variously had a cruise along the Thames, went on “The Wheel”, visited the Tate or strolled past “fortress” Downing Street, through Horse Guards and into Trafalgar Square to see the Blue Cockerel on the 4th plinth before popping into the National Gallery. On Sunday afternoon Hyde Park and The Wallace Collection were popular venues. Driver Martin was most amenable and the whole trip went ultra-smoothly. Even the weather obliged by raining only when we were in the coach.

Colleagues are grateful to Lucy and appreciate her organisational skills and all the time she puts in.

Haydn Boothroyd

Ceilidh 23 March 2013

Our first outside evening event, a Ceilidh, was held at Assumption Church Hall on Foster Avenue in Beeston on Saturday 23rd March. The event coincided with severe snow during the day and evening and it was amazing that 64 members attended from the 80 tickets sold, including those from Long Eaton and Castle Donnington. Full marks go to the band who braved the snow all the way from Matlock! Special thanks to Alan Windsor who helped me set out chairs and tables on Saturday afternoon and who later played with the Ceilidh band and to other members of the committee who helped me organised this event. Dave Gee, from Long Eaton, whose expertise as “caller” just made the evening go so smoothly. His good humour and patience with us as he showed us all the intricate steps was excellent This was a popular event and a follow up Ceilidh will be held on Oct 19th with the same band but with a larger venue.

Douglas

Outing to Chatsworth House Derbyshire on 13 December 2012

On a grey foggy morning in December, led by our intrepid Outings organiser, Lucy, a coach loaded up with U3A members left Beeston bound for Chatsworth House.  The weather didn’t improve as we arrived at the Chatsworth Farm Shop but the coffee shop was warm and welcoming and coped admirably as the whole coach load piled in.  The farm shop was laden with Christmas Goodies and Seasonal Fayre.  The coach then took us to Chatsworth House.  The House was decorated for Christmas and the theme this year was Pantomime.  As we wandered through the various rooms we were able to see tableaus from different pantomime stories.  The amount of work which had gone into the decoration was impressive as was the array of huge Christmas trees in the larger areas.  Later there was time to visit the restaurants and shops in the stables area.  A great day.  Thanks Lucy.

Here are some photographs taken by Douglas’ during the visit. Click an image to start a slide show

Christmas Extravaganza 6 December 2012

Beeston U3A Christmas Extravaganza was held in place of the usual open meeting on 6 December. Click on the link to read the  December Extravaganza Report which has been sent to members.

  • A social and free buffet was followed by the presentation of a cheque to Beeston U3A by the Mayor.
  • All attending members were be eligible for a free prize draw held during the event.
  • Groups displayed information/examples of their activities.
  • The Photography Group gave an exhibition of their work.
  • The programme of entertainment included – a performance by the BUGS (Beeston Ukele Group), our International Folk Dance Group, St Mary’s Hand Bell Ringers and a Carols sing-a-long led by Alan Windsor and small choir.

Below are some photographs taken by Douglas’. Click an image to start a slide show.

A Nottingham Lad, a Play by Pete Davis – Monday 15 October 2012

DSC_0034We had an entertaining afternoon Monday 15th October with Pete Davis and his friends as we made a journey through his memories of being a lad in Nottingham and his memorable trips to Skegness with his family and friends.
He is a professional storyteller, writer and actor and an Equity Member. His regular co-performer in the duo – The Teapot Twins – was, unfortunately, unable to take part because of health issues. Her role was performed by Patricia Chan an actress, who has taken part in many local productions. All the members who attended had an enjoyable afternoon. The photograph shows members of the cast together with some members of the audience. A big thanks to Jane for all her hard work arranging this event, helped by Douglas.

Visit to St. Pancras Station – 13 September 2012

Group at St Pancras Station

On 13th September 45 members and friends met at the Circle of St Pancras Station. Our visit was a guided tour of the Station highlighting the restoration and recent changes to the Station itself. The group had 2 tour guides – John Finn and Alan McDougall. They were excellent – very knowledgeable and entertaining. It was a most interesting afternoon. We were given plenty of historical facts as well as seeing many old and new features in the Station.

Well done to Lucy for arranging the event.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Party 6 June 2012

Beeston U3A celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with an Indoor “Street Party” at the Chilwell Road Methodist Church on Wednesday 6th June.
Over sixty members and guests were entertained by the Beeston U3A Ukele Group (the BUGS) under the confident direction of their Leader Graham Lodge (Music Group Leader), a local choir Nova Voce led by Christine Smith MBE and had their knowledge of Her Majesty the Queen tested in a Team Quiz organised by Douglas MacDonald (Committee Member).
Sheila Strang directed a team of waitresses (dressed as Lyons Tea House “Nippies”) as they served a traditional English tea including cucumber/salmon sandwiches and cream scones.
A DVD of the Coronation and photo montage of the Queen created by Mike Johnson (Technical Officer) provided a continuous colourful background to the party, which ended with a rousing Sing-a-Long and flag waving finale.
Jane Wild (Vice Chairman) wishes to thank all Members who helped in preparations for the event and especially Elizabeth Le Marchant Brock for recruiting them!

Here are some pictures taken at the party. Click on a picture to enlarge it:

Rockingham Castle Trip 6 December 2011

Group Photo - Rockingham Castle Visit

Group Photo – Rockingham Castle Visit

In December, a trip was arranged by Lucy Beardsley to enable members to experience a Visit to Rockingham Castle, in Leicestershire. Here is her account of that visit:

December 6th 2011 dawned very wet and overcast when over 50 of our Members set off from Beeston. We enjoyed the drive through the countryside to reach Farndon Fields Shop – situated near to Market Harborough. Many of the Members had pre-ordered food which Aimee and her staff served in the little restaurant. Also on this site was a fresh fruit and vegetable section, bakery, butchers shop as well as the usual garden centre displays. There were many things on offer and the queue at the till was long!

Re-boarding the coach we set off for Rockingham Castle, approximately 20 minutes drive away. On our arrival we were greeted by Trish Griffiths who gave us background information on the Castle. This has been a home for over 900 years and the Saunders Watson family have lived there for 450 years. After a ‘photo shoot’ in the castle grounds we were put into 2 groups for a tour of the castle decorated for Christmas Eve 1849. The Housekeeper, our Guide, was very informative when taking us through the various rooms. Following this we had time to look at the gardens, sit in the heated marquee or look round the well stocked shop.

Finally we went to the Walker’s House Tea Rooms where we had a Yuletide Cream tea consisting of warm scones, raspberry jam, clotted cream and hot drinks before boarding the coach for our return journey.