David Longford gave a talk on the history of the Theatre Royal, Nottingham.
Dr John Dornan gave a talk ‘Doctors of Culture and Doctors of Death’.
Samantha Glaswell gave a talk ‘A Little Bit of History’.
May brought us to the end of another successful U3A year and the Annual General Meeting. Our current Chair, Sue Blackley gave an extensive report detailing all of Beeston U3A’s activities, events and achievements that had taken place during the year. Malcolm Brookbanks, our Treasurer, reported on the financial situation and presented the year’s accounts. Celia Billau and Janis Patterson, co-opted Committee Members were officially elected onto the Committee.
After the formalities were over we had a short talk from Elaine Morris. Celia Billau reports: Dressed in the bright orange T shirt used at the Rio Olympics, Elaine certainly stood out from the crowd. She gave us the story of her volunteering exploits starting at London 2012 and through to Rio in 2016, pulling in lots of other events, particularly for disabled competitors, all over the world.
Elaine started off by posing the question, “do you volunteer for purely altruistic reasons or is there some selfishness about it?” If it were just to help the games organisers and competitors and it was no fun at all, then the answer would be an altruistic act. Seeing the amount of fun and excitement Elaine clearly gets out of travelling the world and “being there”, then there are clearly many benefits offered to herself, as well as others. I think if any of us were to be based in an office in Rio, with a glass screen overlooking the finishing line at the athletics stadium, we would probably say “Oh, go on then, I’ll help you out” to that!
In April, we had another talk from Jane Barnes, a dairy farmer. Celia Billau writes:
Who has seen a cow this morning? I’m afraid we don’t see many around Beeston these days. “Has anybody ever milked a cow?” Well, a few may have experienced it once or twice, but to commit to it at 5.30 am every morning, and again at 3.45 pm, 365 days every year is quite a commitment. Life on a dairy farm clearly involves a great deal of hard work, but it’s not without its amusing side, and Jane gave us an interesting taste of the effort involved and some anecdotes about the escapades of the
animals (and humans) down on the farm.
Jane is married to Mark who is the third generation of dairy farmers, based on their farm in Somerby near Melton Mowbray. Their two children, Charlotte and Harry will continue with the business, with new ideas being introduced by the new generation, just like any business, it has to adapt to changing circumstances. The herd of some 160 pedigree Ayrshire milking cows produce the milk which goes towards the famous Stilton Cheese, made at Long Clawson Dairies. As Mark says, “all the females need to be pregnant every year, except wife, dog and daughter”.
Young female cows are called heifers, and at about 16 months they can become pregnant when one of the bulls has done his job properly. The cows will then produce a new calf every year after a nine-month pregnancy. Each cow will then lactate for about ten months, producing some thirty litres of milk per day. That’s a lot of milk being sold to market, but the price fluctuates according to global commodity prices.
Calves are born in the Spring, and are handled by humans from day two. All the cattle are used to human interaction every day and therefore, we hope, shouldn’t be prone to stampeding when ramblers come wandering across their field. As the grass is growing strongly at this time of year, feeding the cows is much cheaper, so more of the income can be retained in the business. During the winter, the cows are fed sileage and may need supplementary feed, and therefore the costs increase. The bulls get on with doing what comes naturally during the summer so that the calves are born when grass is plentiful. A bull who was serving about 160 cows had to work so hard to do his job, he actually lost half his body weight during this period! Additional bulls were purchased to ease the load but these come at a price to keep the pedigree Ayrshire breed.
The family have always taken an annual holiday, always at around the same time, and visit some beautiful and interesting parts of the country each time. They fortunately just happen to coincide with the location of Ayrshire cattle conferences. Even a trip to the US involved visiting cattle farms across several different states, enjoying American hospitality as they went. Jane brought with her a selection of blue cheeses together with recipe ideas, and many members purchased some and took the leaflets.
This year’s Beeston U3A Group Fair and Open Day took place in March. We took over the whole of Beeston Methodist Church. This was a chance for all our hard-working Group leaders to showcase their groups. We now have 67 Interest Groups running. Most of the groups were represented and the event was very well attended. It was an opportunity for non-members to come along and find out about U3A and also for existing members to learn about groups they had maybe not considered in the past. It was also a chance for our Ukulele and singing groups to perform. Helen Stewart, the Wrting for Pleasure Group leader also launched a Short Story Writing Competition which is open to all members. The closing date is Thursday 7th of September 2017.
Below are photographs taken by Mike Johnson at the Group Fair. Click on any picture to start a slide show.
February’s talk given by Vic Taylor was entitled “How Heraldry Works” The coat of arms, or literally the colours and designs painted on to a man’s coat of armour, has been a familiar site in so many places that we often forget to look and examine what there is. I well remember the days of receiving exercise books at school with the Nottingham coat of arms printed on the front cover, in black lines only so we could imaginatively colour them in ourselves!
Vic is obviously an enthusiastic observer and has clearly studied the history of the development of coats of arms through the ages. He explained the way important individuals start with their own family design and this is inherited by the men in the line of succession. Through a series of diagrams and photographs, he showed us the various design elements. Photographs of local sites illustrated his talk. There is obviously much more to learn for those who were enthused by this, and I think we will all take more notice of the displays of coats of arms when looking round old buildings.
There is a whole new language to learn with heraldry, with many words based on French, although thankfully, the words have an English pronunciation. In the beginning, the Bayeux tapestry which portrays the Battle of Hastings, shows banners being flown with designs which represented William the Conqueror. French families who stayed in Britain, such as the Warenne family, became Anglicized as Warren, and the coat or arms for John Borlace Warren is displayed in the pub at Canning Circus.
The coat of arms is made up of the colours or tinctures or hatching, the shapes or charges and the design such as chequers, bar or blazon. It seems almost limitless the number of ways these can be varied to show a distinction between one family and another. When one family marries into another, the designs are combined into quarters, and it’s amazing how many quarters will actually fit onto one shield! (Hint: a quarter does not mean one over four!)
Along with the shield, further design elements are added to make the coat of arms such as the crest, a wreath or torse which holds the crest, a helm or helmet from a suit of armour, the mantling (a relic of the Crusades depicting the ragged scarves worn) and the motto at the bottom.
ome good examples were featured locally from Thrumpton Hall and the pub in Colston Bassett, The Martin’s Arms so we can take a greater interest when visiting these places, and attempt to identify the origins of the designs. I would particularly like to visit Snowshill Manor in Gloucestershire which was described by Vic as “mad as a box of frogs”!
In January we had the pleasure of a visit from Mr. John Wilson who came along to talk of his experience as a Volunteer Ranger in the Peak District. I, like most people, had heard of these Rangers but knew very little of what they actually did. I thought most of the time they took groups on guided tours. Well I was enlightened. John Wilson spoke enthusiastically about his role as a Ranger. Yes, they do guide groups but they maintain the area which is a mean 555 square miles, you couldn’t get around that in a day.
When walking in these areas we take so much for granted such as sign posts and the paths and trails we walk on. From time to time signs fall down and paths and trails become eroded and need maintenance, also clearing rubbish and obstructions. These are daily chores for the Rangers to ensure the safety of visitors. Mr Wilson told us that Rangers are also on hand to deliver first aid and conduct searches for visitors who get lost. A pleasant walk on a sunny day in the Peaks can easily, with a sudden change in the weather, become cold, wet, foggy, and disorientating. This is when the Ranger services really show their skills and courage. Fortunately, these are rare events.
Mr. Wilson shared the contents of ‘The Rucksack’, and it wasn’t just his flask and sandwiches. The items were all necessary for help, and at times survival. Waterproof clothing, extra clothing for warmth, Hi-Viz jackets, maps, torch, first aid kit, three flasks, compass, whistle and much much more.
I have only been to the Peak District twice, knowing none of this. I am now waiting for that sunny day to go again, enjoy the scenery and appreciate, that while I am having a good time, other people are giving up their time to ensure my welfare and keep this beautiful part of our “England a green and pleasant land”,