Open Meeting Reports 2016

December 2016

The Christmas Open Meeting took place on 1st December getting the seasonal festivities off to a flying start. Refreshments included mince pies which must have gone down very well as there were none left when I came to investigate.

The entertainment for the morning started with the play reading group who put on a version of sleeping beauty in keeping with the pantomime season. All the costumes were elaborate and well thought out to signify the different characters with a suitably evil witch who received the appropriate boos from the audience. The drippy sleeping beauty was finally taken away by the dashing young prince, with the rough builder winning the heart of the wicked witch.

Next up was “Oldish Spice”, an all-male Capella singing group who performed a number of well-known songs with aplomb. With a professional and accomplished performance, it was highly appreciated by the audience, who were able to join in with some of the songs. We were also given a demonstration of how the voices are made up from the deep bass to the falsetto and tenor voices, including some percussion noises, all combining to give a very full effect.

The Beeston U3A ukulele group and the Singing For Fun group put on a very Christmassy performance of songs which also got everyone singing along. It was lovely to see how everyone could develop their musical talents and have the confidence to give a performance, particularly those who performed the solo numbers.

All in all, the variety of entertainment gave members a cheery start to the Christmas period, humming the tunes as they left the hall.

Here are some photographs taken at the meeting:

Click on any picture above to start a slide show.

November 2016

Irene Starkie

Irene Starkie

By way of a complete change, in November we were entertained by Irene Starkey. I must say just how much I enjoyed Irene, who, we were told, has been singing since she was four years old. Her singing was lovely, her clever mixture of vocals and monologues, I thought, very well balanced. It was a real pleasure to hear songs from the past. My favourite was ‘Burlington Bertie’ which I am still singing. We were entertained with music from the beginning of the twentieth century to the end of it. So many of these, in their time, were the equivalent of our hit songs today. I wonder if anyone was remembering ‘The Good Old Days’. I’m sure most of the members were quietly singing along.

A very talented and entertaining lady. I don’t need to say any more as her voice said it all. Maybe another visit in the future would be appreciated.

October 2016

Hazel Brooke with Speaker, Louise Fountain

Hazel Brooke with Speaker, Louise Fountain

Louise Fountain was our October Speaker. As a child I cannot remember having a lesson about ‘wildlife’. But then I was brought up in the middle of London during the war years. I have, of course, seen many of David Attenborough’ programmes and others besides and have been amazed at the amount of hidden life that is all around us: of how it survives and increases without us humans doing too much to help it. However, it was so interesting to hear Louise Fountain speak about the nature reserve in Attenborough. I just had to take a trip down there and see for myself. In a relatively short time, fifty years to be precise, it has become a haven for so many different species of birds, animals, and fish. So many starting from just a few to as many as a 1,000 in the case of the Terns. Some of these quite new to this area. I was impressed with the number of people there with children and obviously, grandchildren running around sharing the area with ducks and ducklings.

Louise gave so much information that I couldn’t keep up with my note taking, hence my visit. Her dedication to this project is so obvious. I was also surprised by the number of volunteers who give their time to maintaining the nature reserve. Judging by the number of people there, when I visited, it is much appreciated. When we learn that this started from industrial gravel pits turned into the place of interest and fun it is now. But also with areas of peaceful tranquillity, without some of the archive photos it would be hard to imagine. I will definitely visit again and enjoy learning and seeing who we are sharing our environment with. One last but important mention the ‘cafe’, don’t miss it, unless you’re watching the calories. Enjoy YOUR visit.

September 2016

Our speaker in September, Trevor Williams seemed a very jolly and unassuming soul. Well, this talk made me reassess my opinion of Trevor. He made me feel rather small and inadequate. Trevor and his wife, as we saw, seem to me to have taken on a task that most of us would run a mile from.

To travel hundreds of miles to a hot dusty and a very backward place. To help people who are barely out of the dark ages, and yet find joy in doing so is a very selfless act.

He showed photos of children with clothes, they were more than happy to wear, that must have been third or fourth hand. People who displayed tooth brushes the way people in the U.K show off family heirlooms.

Life in this part of Malawi seems to be taken up with survival, trying to cultivate crops mostly maze and some vegetables with very little agricultural knowledge resulting in poor harvests. Yet they all seemed to smile a lot and have ‘parties’. These parties appeared to be occasions for the whole community to get involved in, with singing, dancing and men dressed in ‘loin cloths’ brandishing spears. There were photos of Trevor’s wife with the women in a very ‘domestic’ setting. The ‘all-purpose cloth’ was typical of making do with what you have. The women found so many uses for this piece of material. This included a way of carrying your baby with you from the first day of birth. HIV causes many deaths to people in their middle years, leaving children to be brought up by grandparents, and in some instances other members of the village. Education for children is now happening. What this will mean in the future remains to be seen, as the country is one of the many poverty stricken parts of Africa.

With all the daily problems and the lack of any kind of mod cons there was an air of happiness there. With all our technical and sophisticated lives, I wondered if many of us were as happy or light-hearted as these people. I enjoyed the talk very much and felt that I might have just have missed out on an experience that would have made me appreciate the more worthwhile things in life.

August 2016

Dr John DornanOur August speaker was Dr John Dornan, who spoke on What Happens When a Doctor Goes to Ward. And our reporter is Haydn Boothroyd, who writes

Whilst in no way condoning war, Dr John Dornan, in his talk to us in August, sought to illustrate his thesis that dealing with victims of war stimulates advances in medicine which can later be applied to civilian medicine.

John started in Greek times with Hippocrates who was the first to document medical principles (the Hippocratic Oath) and came right up to date with Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. He chose a selection of conflicts to make his point. Roman mosaics show soldiers being crudely treated for sword and arrow wounds. In the 16th century during the 100 Years War, Hieronymus Brunscwhig recognised the fatal effects of poisoning from gunshot wounds and introduced the earliest form of cauterising whilst Ambroise Pare, a barber by trade, devised the method of tying off arteries to save limbs. During the Napoleonic Wars a French doctor, Baron Jean Dominique de Larrey realised the importance of “nourishing” his troops to get them back to health – even feeding them on meat from their cavalry horses. Much to the dismay of the French cavalrymen! He also introduced the idea of evacuating the wounded from the battlefield to a field hospital on a converted cavalry gun limber. Forerunner of M.A.S.H. and A.& E.

Using statistics from the Crimean War, 1853 – 56, John contrasted the DEATH rate in Scutari hospital (80%) with the SURVIVAL rate in Camp Bastion (90%). He referred to the importance Florence Nightingale placed on hygiene in her fight to improve hospital conditions and reduce death rates in Scutari. Meanwhile in 1862, arising from the Battle of Solfarino the French and Austrians negotiated the foundation of the Red Cross. Amongst other examples in the 20th century, John referred to the work of Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe in WW1 and WW2 respectively which launched progress in the fields of burns treatment and skin grafts. Illustrated by a power presentation, John’s talk was informative and entertaining, much appreciated by his audience in the time honoured way.

July 2016

Tony WalthamThe speaker, Tony Waltham, was to talk on ‘North Korea-South Korea. Oh dear this could be boring. Not with this guy. My ribs ached when he finished. Tony was entertaining and informative. If you excuse the Anglo Saxon expletives it was a really interesting talk.

Tony had visited several times, with his wife. They had made friends with the locals and it appears the people of the South are friendly and welcoming. The markets were busy and absolutely filled with food of all colours. But Tony’s description of ‘KIMCHEE’ a seemingly popular dish (hope that’s the spelling) was enough to give it a miss should I ever see it on a menu, unless you just love cabbage. The populace appears well fed. They are industrious and appear happy. Tony gave us views of the countryside and some of the activities taken by the locals. He also took us to the burial hills of previous rulers. These made me think of the ‘barrows’ that are found here in England. Life in general seems quite good for South Koreans.

North Korea is a very different picture. Our speaker was with about half a dozen others on an organised bus trip. Everything is organised, and in some instances, when visiting groups of people at a meeting, or education (translators) appeared to be stage managed tableaux for the benefit of Western tourists.

The group had ‘minders’ and the minders had minders. Tony’s group was not allowed to wander freely. On one occasion Tony ‘got away’ and entered what he was told was a grocery store. It was in darkness and the shelves and chillers were empty. He was very speedily returned to the party.

The people looked unsmiling, a potato field was being harvested by hand and a plough was a museum piece being pulled by an ox (I think). I really enjoyed the talk. Could tell you lots more, but then I’d be doing the talk.

If you missed it, sorry, but I won’t be going to North Korea anytime soon.

Our July meeting’s write up is by Ace Cub Reporter Breda Cooper who had her arm twisted by the wicked Ed.  Thanks Breda. 

June 2016

John WhitfieldOur June monthly meeting brought us John Whitfield who’s talk was The Kennedy Family – Triumphs and Tragedies.

John is not so much a speaker, more a story teller I feel. His entire talk was done without the aid of notes, slides or other prompts but was interesting, informative and certainly held the attention for the length of the talk. John told us all about the Kennedy family, which was beyond fiction. Its patriarch, Joseph and his wife Rose, had nine children and throughout their lives, the family experienced more than their fair share of tragedy, including several fatal air crashes and two assassinations.

He had designs on the Presidency and in 1938 he was appointed US Ambassador in Great Britain, but made himself very unpopular by constantly maligning Britain and during the Blitz would drive his family into the country to avoid it. As a result of his actions, he was recalled to the USA and lost any chance at the Presidency. He spent the rest of his life trying to get one of his sons into the White House. Daughters didn’t come into it! Unfortunately, his first choice, Jo Junior was killed during WWII so he turned his attention to John F, with great success, and subsequently Robert, both tragically assassinated. Edward was a different character. He was more charismatic, and a better speaker than his brothers, in John’s view, but he was unstable. He was the longest serving Senator, 1962-2009, but the Chappaquiddick incident effectively ended his career. The most famous of the female siblings, were Patricia, a socialite rebel who married the actor Peter Lawford, the marriage ending in divorce, and Kathleen who was a friend of the Mitford sisters and was presented at court. She went against the family and married the Marquis of Hartington who was killed in the war. She later became engaged to the Earl of Fitzwilliam, but tragically they died in a plane crash flying from Paris to the South of France, against the wishes of the pilot when weather conditions were bad. She is buried at Chatsworh.

May 2016

The May Meeting was of course, our Annual General Meeting, which was well attended and went very smoothly. After the business of the day, Mike Johnson showed a slide show of pictures commemorating Queen Elizabeth II as she celebrates her 90th birthday. The official minutes of the meeting can be seen by clicking this link.

April 2016

Dorothy O’Brien

Dorothy O’Brien

At the April “Open Meeting” Dorothy O’Brien (pictured left) gave us an illuminating, illustrated talk entitled “Nepal, then and now”. When Dorothy retired she determined to fulfil her dream of trekking around the Kanchenchunga Circuit in Nepal. Quite by chance she befriended the young guide and, having become “part of his family”, involved herself in setting up a school in his small village, Mirge, in the Dolakha province of North-east Nepal. Mirge is a 7-hour drive from Katmandu, then 2 hours from the main road up a hazardous mountain track in a “bus” – a vehicle where some of the passengers travel on the roof. And, yes, they do sometimes fall off!

Dorothy told us that the children are very keen – they learn in English and are very assiduous. Many of them, smartly dressed in school uniform, walk 2 hours through the jungle (no wild animals fortunately!) No wonder some of the little souls fall asleep on their desks. And then, at the end of the day, there is a 2-hour trek back home.

But on 25th April 2015 disaster struck – an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude wrecked the village which was close to the epicentre. Fortunately, it was a midday on a Saturday and most of the people were tending their fields, so fatalities were minimal though houses and the school buildings were destroyed. People were forced to live in cowsheds in the most modest (to be polite) conditions. The villagers have emerged, dusted themselves down, and are now rebuilding the school with financial support from people like Dorothy.

Our Chair, Sue, had suggested that members might like to support the cause as they left the meeting. They did – raising £458, for which Dorothy is extremely grateful.

Our thanks go to Dorothy for her excellent, inspirational talk. We wish her well in the future.

Thanks to Jill Boothroyd for this article.

March 2016 – Groups Fair

Our March meeting was totally given over to the Groups Fair and we filled the entire building! All the groups were represented by their Group Leaders who all put in a lot of time and effort and thought very creatively about how they could promote their groups. In the Church, we had entertainment in the form of demonstrations by members of the Ukulele Group and the International Dance Group, and readings from the Writing for Pleasure Group.

The meeting was very well attended, both by existing members and newcomers who wanted to find out more about the organisation. As a consequence, we got over 30 new members and many existing members signed up for new groups. There was a real buzz in the air on the day and it was very rewarding for the Committee to see the event being such a great success. We have to give a big vote of thanks to all the Group Leaders for their commitment and contribution.

These photographs were taken by Mike Johnson at the Groups Fair. Click on any image to start a slide show.

February 2016

Photograph from Mike Johnson

Photograph from Mike Johnson

Our Speaker on 4 February 2016 was Ken Bird and his talk was “The Astronomical Universe”. Using a variety of slides, Ken showed us “our” galaxy – the Milky Way, the surfaces of the sun and moon – showing them from various angles. We saw views from the Hubble telescope as well as a number of slides showing moon landings. It was interesting to see how the machinery was used on the moon, showing us some features and surfaces and the work these machines carried out.

Orion was identified, and I am sure that many of us now know in which direction to look to find him and we all now know that a golf club was left behind on the moon after one visit! Could this be the start of another Interest Group? A thoroughly entertaining and informative talk.

January 2016.

Photograph sent in by Dave Gilbert

Photograph sent in by Dave Gilbert

At the January meeting, we had a real treat in the form of Charles Hanson, antiques expert, auctioneer and TV personality. Charles was very entertaining and very knowledgeable. He began by telling us a little about his life in the antiques world, which began as a young boy, when he bought a piece of porcelain from a local W.I. jumble sale for about £2. and sold it in an auction for over £100. He was a confident and amusing speaker who kept us all enthralled. Charles then went on to talk about and value items brought along by members. The items included silver, china porcelain, a watch and chain, and some jewellery.

Jan1The undoubted stars of the show however, brought along by Anne and Mike Allery, were two items of pink granite jewellery inherited from a relative. We learned that Albert Balson was Anne’s great aunt’s brother who had an incredible life history. He joined the Navy at a very early age, eventually rising to Chief Petty Officer. He went to the Antarctic with Scott, was mentioned in dispatches during the landings at Gallipoli, defused a bomb in a ship in harbour whilst under enemy bombing and as one of the early expert divers, recovered today’s equivalent of £300,000,000 in gold from a ship sunk by the Germans. He received the Polar medal and two pieces of pink granite jewellery (photo) after his trip with Scott. For his efforts in defusing the bomb and recovering the gold he received a BEM and bar.