Monthly Open Meetings From January 2013
Our meeting in December was our Christmas Extravaganza. The event was organised by Helen Stewart who did a brilliant job. Our thanks go to her and to everyone else involved, whose hard work made the event a great success. After coffee and seasonal refreshments our Chairman Liz Barnes introduced proceedings and welcomed Broxtowe’s Mayor, Councillor Iris White who had come along to join in the fun. (Pictured left). The programme began with music from Beeston U3A’s Ukulele Group, BUGS. The group, led by Sue and Graham Lodge, have only been in existence since our U3A began but have become a very entertaining and accomplished group of musicians. Further seasonal entertainment was provided by members of the newly formed Performing Arts Group followed by an exhibition of International Dance led by Gill Morrall. The meeting ended with community carol singing led by Alan Windsor.
In November, we had the return of Wendy Freer, who has visited us previously, Her talk this time was entitled “Packhorses and Drovers” From ancient times, men drove trains of horses and ponies across Britain on ancient tracks and routes carrying goods ranging from coal, salt and other raw materials as well as a range of finished goods. Remains of these track ways or Holloways can still be identified today. Wendy also described the work of Drovers who drove cattle and sheep to market, Goose Fair, for example. Drovers were men of substance and had to be licenced. Cows had to be shod before travelling and as their feet are split, they had two shoes per foot. Pigs had socks with leather soles.
October’s speaker was Chris Wrigley who is Emeritus Professor of History at Nottingham University, Chris’s talk was on the politician William Ewart Gladstone who was Prime Minister of Britain and Ireland four times between 1868 and 1894, and in later life was popularly known as the ‘Grand Old Man’. He returned to Parliament as MP for Newark, after the Great Reform Act of 1832, Gladstone retained connections with Nottinghamshire after he retired from his seat in 1846.
Sue Blackley and Hazel Brooke gave a report on the U3A National Conference.
In September we had Jane Barnes (pictured left with Lucy) with her talk “Tales from a Farmer’s Wife”. Jane and her husband produce 725,000 litres of milk per year. All of it is sold on contract to Clawson Dairies to be made into Stilton Cheese. The aim is to send 2000 litres of milk to the dairy every day. It is collected by a tanker lorry and taken to Clawson to be pasteurised before it is made into cheese.
Jane brought along samples of the cheese which members were able to sample.
The Speaker at our August Meeting was Maureen Taylor, pictured right with U3A Chairman Liz Barnes. Maureen spoke about the hidden messages in the portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, using a PowerPoint presentation. Personally I found this talk extremely interesting as, previously, I had only looked at pictures and portraits and thought “Well maybe I could live with that.” or “I do not really like this.” From now on I will pay much more attention! We were told that hands are difficult to portray and that if you had two hands in the picture you were wealthy, one hand not so wealthy and no hands ‘forget it’. She enabled us to ‘read’ the opulence of the clothing and how this went from higher to lower, how a form was used for Elizabeth’s face so that it was always the same. The positioning of objects and hands could show what the sitter felt was prominent in their lives and meant the most to them. How groupings of sitters were organised to show dynasty and favouritism. Many thanks to Mike Allery for controlling the visual/audio equipment.
John Whitfield, left, enjoying a coffee with Mike Allery, came to speak to the Membership and his title was A New Light on Edward and Mrs Simpson. There has been so much written and broadcast on this subject that we all felt we knew everything there was to know. However, John told us so many interesting details which had not reached prominence in the British press at the time. If, for example, his current mistress had not gone away and asked Wallis to look after Edward the face of history would be so different. So much was reported, apparently in the American press that the English did not know about. Edward Simpson appears to have ‘stood aside’ and agreed to divorce so that the affair could go forward. It appears that Wallis was, at some stage, having second thoughts but things had gone too far. We heard of her loneliness whilst waiting for the decree nisi.
Edward’s and Wallis’s marriage did go ahead in France but with the advent of WW2 Edward was appointed Governor of the Bahamas. What was not widely known was the couple’s support of Hitler. The couple returned to Paris after the war and lived there until their deaths
Our June Open Meeting speaker was Ian Wragg who is a member of Beeston U3A. Ian is a retired HMI and his talk was “An Inspector Calls” sharing memories from his days inspecting schools. He is photographed here with new Committee member Susan Blackley (centre) and Linda Selby. He was based in the Sheffield area but travelled widely in his role. He reminded us of how small children make natural remarks without intending any cheekiness or rudeness. For example he was sitting with a group of children and one of them looked at him and said “You are bald” and then got on with his work! On one occasion, going into one school he drove into the car park and saw HMI painted in a bay – thinking he had arrived he parked. A loud voice (female) shouted at him “What are you doing parking there?” It was the Head Mistress of the adjoining infant school – a danger of using initials! His extremely interesting talk was delivered with humour and he left us with a very thought provoking poem.
In May after the business of the AGM was concluded Rami Seth, a retired doctor, greatly amused and entertained us with his talk about going into hospital. He had been a doctor and surgeon for over 40 years in NHS but saw things from another perspective when in later life he developed serious life threatening illness and became a patient himself. Rami gave us very good advice about how to cope with a spell in hospital, giving his tips on essential items to take with you and how to avoid pitfalls of hospital admission such as hospital infection, chest infections, deep vein thrombosis. He described techniques and strategies that we can all employ to make our stay in hospital more comfortable and safer. He has also produced a useful booklet which was available for purchase at the meeting. His talk was peppered with humour and anecdotes which had the whole assembly in fits of laughter. Rami is now a respected and much sought after speaker who is often to be found on Cruise ships giving his talks on this and other subjects. It is hoped that he will come back in the future and give us a talk on another subject.
In view of the forthcoming U3A trip to Chelsea Flower Show, the April speaker was Geoffrey Smith, pictured with retiring Secretary Haydn Boothroyd and our new Chairman Liz Barnes. Geoffrey gave us an interesting talk entitled “Behind the Scenes at Chelsea” accompanied by slide pictures. He described how the grounds at the Chelsea Barracks were transformed to provide the venue for this prestigious event and some of the tricks of the trade used by the participants to ensure that their displays were at their best for the show. We learned how blooms were carefully packed and refrigerated and then brought out for display in time to let them bloom and open ready for the big day of opening, and how the growers encouraged this by artificial means such as the use of hot hair dryers. Geoffrey showed us slides of the different show days, of royalty and stars from the entertainment world who attended the show. He described catastrophes he had witnessed, such as the story of the lady who had demolished a tiger made entirely from flowers, by overshooting with her mobility scooter. Most amusing, was his description of the last day when everything is up for grabs or for sale and showed us pictures of how inventive gardeners carried away their spoils, in wheelbarrows, on make shift carrying poles and of the bus queues which were more plant than human, with purchasers buried under greenery trying to pack themselves on the buses.
Sandra Hart was our Speaker in March when she told us about the City of the Bees.
Sandra keeps bees and has a number of hives in her garden; she brought honey and various products for our Members to purchase. The life cycle of the bee was described in great detail and informed us of how hard these small creatures work in order to pollinate plants and produce honey etc. They keep the hive/s scrupulously clean, taking all dirt etc outside. However, they do not leave the rubbish outside the hives they move it further away. Worker bees travel great distances to pick up the pollen and have a route to which they keep. The temperature inside the hive is regulated very carefully in order to keep the optimum climate – the bees can raise and lower this as required. There are a number of invasive diseases which have been responsible for the decimation of hives and colonies. It is a well publicised fact that if the bees become extinct then so will Man. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen!!
The Speaker at our February Meeting was David Shipstone. His talk was “The Early History of Shipstone’s Brewery”. David is a descendant of the founder of Shipstones Brewery. He had researched the history of Shipstones and led us, using slides, through the many phases through which the company had passed. It was interesting to note that the “footprint” of the site was little changed until further land was acquired. Shipstones had been famous for their superb drayhorses, their turnout and livery. Following our Speaker on Animals at War (Claire Lyons) David showed how some of the drayhorses had been sent to war. Shipstones is now closed but David said that at a well known outlet it was still possible to buy some “Shippos” in cans.
January’s meeting brought us Clare Lyons (pictured 3rd from left) whose interactive talk concerned Animals at War. She described the many animals that have been used during wartime, ranging from pigeons, rats, dogs, horses. The conditions some of the animals endured were not of the best and when the Vietnam war ended, many dogs were just abandoned and left behind by the American forces. Times change though and animals used in war these days are much better cared for, some even having their own personal vets to care for them. Claire also showed pictures of a memorial recently opened in London which honours all of the animals who served in wartime.