December 2018 – A Christmas Pot-pourri!
There was an end-of-term feel about the last open meeting as we anticipated the entertainment we were going to witness. We certainly weren’t disappointed.
The Barber Shop quartet, Bill, Nelson, Mike and Brian, which opened the proceedings, gave us a polished mixture of recent songs – e.g. Eight Days’ a Week – and some old faithfuls – e.g. Mary Lou. They also gave us a brief history of the origins of what has become known as ‘Barber Shop’ singing. They were part of the Grand Centre Chorus which is an East Midlands group of men who specialise in Barber shop singing. Their enthusiasm was infectious and it was lovely that they were able to attend our end-of-term party.
The Play Reading Group followed with an amazing version of ‘Aladdin’ or to be accurate, ‘Albert Ladin’. The cast were inspiring particularly the Genie and Princess Shushine. The costume changes and special effects had us gasping with admiration. The lack of rhyming couplets from some cast members in no way detracted from the overall polish of the production.
The contribution from the ‘Let’s Right Shakespeare Group’ only served to underline what has been said for years: Shakespeare is full of quotations. The number of common/well-known sayings which can be attributed to the bard is staggering. The group recited a list that was comprehensive but not, I suspect, complete. I’m sure we all use at least one in our everyday converse. What was a revelation came in the second part where it became obvious that our Will was recycling long before it became fashionable. Having read us a long list of well-known phrases, the Group then proceeded to tell us which plays these phrases were from. Several appear in more than one play, but then if you’ve got a neat turn of phrase why not use it again?
There was a break in the seasonal jollity to announce the winner of the short story competition. The competition had been announced earlier in the year and so the results were eagerly anticipated. Helen Stewart told us there had been 34 entries which had been narrowed down to 18 and a final short list of 5 which were judged by the local author Sam Maxfield who narrowed it down to a final three, Peter Hilton, John Gallagher and Sue Daly. Sue from Ilkeston was declared the winner. The judge commented that her story ‘Man Upstairs’, had a light touch, an interesting ending and sparkled. Congratulations Sue! (See page 16 for more details, and the winning story).
The finale was a combined effort by the ‘Singing for Fun’ group and the Ukulele Players. Their joint and single efforts gave us all the seasonal favourites including ‘Oh! Holy Night’ ‘Red, red robin’, ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and finally, ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’. Of course!
Below are photographs taken by Mike Johnson at the meeting.
David and Anne Curnock gave a talk ‘Walking the Camino in Northern Spain’.
These boots were made for walking …
Those belonging to Anne and David Curnock certainly were, they walked over half the Camino de Santiago from Asturias airport to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where, along with many other pilgrims, they attended the noon service which takes place each day and is for all pilgrims who have completed the walk. The route is well signposted with the characteristic shell on the waymarkers.
Anne and David brought their back packs with them to show what they had carried. We were told that for serious walking your back pack should not weigh more than 10% of your body weight so you have to think about your luggage carefully. Apart from the obvious items of clothing and basic first aid they brought their ‘Pilgrims Passport’ to show us. This is a document which is stamped at every stopping place along the route and also helped them find accommodation. It is embellished with the scallop shell which is the sign of St James. According to legend he spent 11 years in Spain and after he had drowned, his body was washed up covered in scallop shells.
They met many interesting people along the way and saw some beautiful scenery; old Roman bridges, quaint little churches, at 4,940 feet above sea level, an iron cross atop a wooden pole surrounded by small stones laid there by pilgrims. Frequently they met people whom they had passed on the way at the inn where they spent the night and could swap travellers’ tales. The increasing popularity of the pilgrimage is boosting the economy of the area. The number of pilgrims rises every year and so does the available accommodation.
Why do the walk? Anne and David did it because they had always wanted to, others do it out of curiosity, as a challenge, as a time to reflect or for spiritual reasons. The service in the Cathedral seems a fitting climax. There is a special pilgrims’ entrance and, because of the numbers, no rucksacks are allowed. There is an enormous incense burner inside which takes 8 strong men to elevate and swing. No doubt in days gone by the smell of the pilgrims might have needed much incense to make the air more pleasant! On the roof of the cathedral is a place where pilgrims can burn their clothing – both a practical and symbolic gesture.
It was interesting to hear from two people who had actually done something which many of us might have thought about doing..
Review by Rosemary Pickering
Kurt gave us a comprehensive tour of the work of Watson Fothergill who was born Fothergill Watson in 1841. He was the son of Robert Watson and Mary Ann Fothergill. He changed his name to Watson-Fothergill in 1892 because he wished to perpetuate the Fothergill name. He studied architecture in Nottingham and set up in practice in 1864. He is variously described as Nottingham’s flamboyant architect and the father of the Gothic revival although many feel that this title more accurately belongs to Pugin. His work is distinguished by many strange and unusual additions; towers, carvings of animals, famously a monkey representing the weight of the mortgage that was outstanding on a building, horizontal bands of red and blue brickwork, timber eaves and balconies and stone carvings.
He designed over 100 buildings in Nottinghamshire including shops, warehouses and houses, some of which still stand although their function may have changed. We will be aware of the Express Chambers building on Upper Parliament Street, originally newspapers offices but now used for different purposes.
For many years he had his office on Clinton Street but had to move from there in 1895 when the land was purchased for the arrival of the railway and the building of what was then the Victoria Station. He moved across the road initially to 18 George Street and later to 15 George Street to occupy the offices which he had designed and in which he remained until his retirement.
Several houses in the Park were built to his plans. Edale house on Clumber Road East, houses on Cavendish Crescent, Newcastle Drive, Hope Drive, Park Row. He designed affordable housing, now long gone in St Ann’s in 1891, the Mary Norris funded alms houses on Woodborough Road and the building which is now the Pakistani Centre.
Public houses, and places of worship were all grist to his mill both in Nottingham and Mansfield. It is interesting to walk around the city and try to see how many of the works of this son of Nottingham one can spot.
Review by Rosemary Pickering
David Longford gave a talk on the history of the Theatre Royal, Nottingham.
All his world’s a stage
David left us in no doubt about his enthusiasm for Nottingham’s 150 year old theatre. He took us on a whistle stop tour through its colourful history and finished by showing a slide of David Suchet unveiling a green plaque to commemorate the theatre’s anniversary.
Opened in 1865 the present theatre replaced an earlier one which was deemed not grand enough. The philanthropic brothers, William and John Lambert, wealthy lace factory owners, together with a rising young architect, Charles Phipps, co-operated to build our theatre. It cost the equivalent of £1.5 m, seated 2,200 people and had gas lighting. The heat and smell beggars belief! The first production was ‘School for Scandal’ and a revival was staged as part of the birthday celebrations. The theatre is important to the local economy because of the people it brings into the town, both the actors and the audience and also employment to run the place but it is also important that the theatre keeps pace with the changing times. Following a disastrous fire at a theatre in Exeter (also gaslit) which caused many fatalities it was decided to refurbish our theatre and Frank Matcham a Devonian and eminent theatrical architect was commissioned to do the job. The theatre re-opened in 1897 complete with electric lighting, an auditorium with better raking and sightlines and with a capacity of 1,100. In the 1970s it was owned by the Moss Empire which decided it needed an upgrade so 1976 saw the last panto before another refurbishment. This time the back stage facilities were improved; many of the pieces of machinery which had been operated by ropes were replaced making backstage a less hazardous place in with to move around. Dressing room facilities for the cast were also improved.
NCC bought the complex in the 1980s and added the Concert Hall to the complex. The whole area is now in the throes of more refurbishment scheduled to be completed in time for the autumn season.
The theatre has seen some memorable performances; the premier (pre London) of ‘The Mousetrap’ 1952. A critic said it might do ‘quite well’; it is still running! Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, Vivien Leigh, Julie Andrews, the D’Oyley Carte opera company and many more have all trodden the boards. 1868 saw the panto ‘Beauty and the Beast’ which is being repeated this year (with a different cast!). Panto here is almost as old as the theatre although now you only buy your seat, in Victorian times you bought the script as well; Aladdin in 1981-82 broke all records because it ran until April. The Thriller Season is 25/26 years old and apart from a brief holiday at the Playhouse this year will be back next year, various famous ballet companies have delighted us; eminent actor/managers the last of whom, Sir Donald Wolfit, worked in Nottingham.
Not everyone however has approved of the theatre, in 1865 the Rev A. Hervey published a strong condemna………must go, my cue’s in 30secs!
Review by Rosemary Pickering
Dr John Dornan gave a talk ‘Doctors of Culture and Doctors of Death’.
What do the following have in common? President Assad, Josef Mengele, John Keats, W S Maugham? Give up? They were all qualified doctors.
Dr Dornan’s talk was a revelation. So many well-known figures both past and present are qualified doctors. What makes people follow that profession and become side-tracked? Could it be the drug of power? Your GP has power over your well-bring insofar as he can improve your physical or mental state of health. It is but a short step from the consulting room to the seat of power and having life and death control over many e.g. Hastings Banda (Malawi), Bashar-al-Assad (Syria), John Bodkin Adams (UK), Radavan Karadzic (Serbia) and many others. These are names with which we are familiar but maybe cannot remember why. They were all killers…and all qualified doctors!
Che Guevara, qualified in Argentina. but then travelled extensively in South America and encountered the poverty and corruption that turned him to politics
Fortunately, as there are often rotten apples in a barrel so there are many sound ones. The list of doctors who have enriched the lives of their fellowmen is just as distinguished. Amongst their ranks are Friedrich Schiller, John Keats, Oliver Goldsmith. These are names with which we may be familiar but not because they were doctors.
Friedrich Schiller is immortalized as the man who wrote the words to the ‘Ode to Joy’ which has become the anthem for the EU.
John Keats. Well, we all had to study him at school but remember snatches with pleasure, Oliver Goldsmith was a prolific playwright.
Lesser known but just as noteworthy, Charles Bell (1774 – 1842). He went to Waterloo to treat the wounded. He wished to record how he had dealt with various casualties and as it was pre- ‘selfie’ days and he was a competent artist he drew and painted the wounds showing how he had treated them initially and at various stages in their recovery. All his patients survived. Prof. Henry Tonks, although a qualified doctor taught art, his first love. He was appointed as a war artist in the 1914-18 conflict. His work furthered the scope of plastic surgery.
W G Grace made so much money from his cricketing appearances that he could afford to pay a locum to take his surgeries! W S Maugham, although qualified, never practised, Arthur Conan Doyle fought in the Boer War and met another doctor called Watson….
More recently Dr Albert Schweitzer was a doctor of many talents and will long be remembered for the work he did in his hospital in Lamberene.
Dr Roger Bannister is famous for being the first man to run a mile in under four mins (3.59.4) but went on to do ground breaking work in neurology with particular emphasis on sport.
Alexander Borodin We all know the Polovtsian Dances, was a doctor as was Chekhov who is supposed to have said that medicine was his wife but writing was his mistress. Make of that what you will!
It was a fascinating talk and I am sure we will view our GPs with curiosity in the future.
Thanks to Rosemary Pickering for this write up.
Samantha Glaswell gave a talk ‘A Little Bit of History’.
Samantha Glasswell, a well-known figure on the local Historical Association/U3A lecture circuit, gave us a fascinating insight into dining Roman style. It was not, however, pasta and pizzas but what the Romans would have been eating two millennia ago and the rituals that went with dining.
Her archaeological evidence was based on the findings of types of pottery and glassware, types of seed and other vegetable remains and lastly, and not for the squeamish, the residue from latrines. From these varied sources, it was possible to discover that much of the food eaten by the rulers of the then known world would not have been out of place on a 21st century table. Like us they ate two/three meals/day the first being breakfast, second, a quite light, lunch or prandium was a bit more substantial and may have been bread and leftovers from the previous evening, thirdly cena was the big meal of the day, usually in late afternoon and for official occasions and banquets could go on well into the night. This was a meal of three courses, an hors d’oeuvre, a main course and a pudding. None of this is so very different from the way we live today.
Tableware or crockery was, as now, very influenced by fashion. Good quality glass was very up-market and there are a few surviving examples. The peasants had basic bowls and plates but the higher up the social scale the number of both proliferated. You brought your own cutlery and napkin to a banquet. On the whole diners ate with their hands and slaves continually washed the guests’ hands during the meal.
We know how the food was prepared and cooked because there are surviving cookery books from the time. These are on papyrus or scrolls. The best known is by Epicius (hence Epicurean). It gives recipes and ingredients but sadly no quantities. Trial and error have led us to an approximation of how the food might have tasted.
The basic ingredients would have been bread; meats e.g. mutton, pork, beef, venison, hare, suckling pig, dormice, cow’s uterus, sea urchins; pulses, dried fruits, nuts, kitchen garden produce, snails all spiced up with garum. Cow’s uterus, dormice and sea urchins do not feature on today’s menus but potatoes and tomatoes did not feature on theirs. There was no sugar but honey was used extensively. Almost every known bird was cooked including peacock for the very rich. It was not acceptable to leave egg or snail shells intact after eating the contents. They had to be pierced.
Garum was to the ancient Romans what tomato ketchup is to us, the universal sauce. It was made from fermented fish pieces. The guts, trimmings and whatever else discarded from cleaning of a fish was left to ferment in the sun. The result had a strong smell and was used frequently. It is thought that it somewhat resembled today’s soy sauce or Chinese fish sauce. Many spices were used which were imported from India, China and the spice islands. There is no archaeological evidence to show whether the garrisons in Britain had their food enhanced with spices.
Before you even got to the table there was a ritual to be followed. You entered the house on your RIGHT foot, offerings were made to the household shrines of Lares et Penates, this was followed by the washing of the hands and feet by slaves, a ritual purification. Where you sat in the dining room was also governed by strict protocol. Seating was on a series of couches placed in a horseshoe shape. The centre was for the most important guests, the family and close friends sat on the right-hand side, other friends and hangers-on sat on the left-hand side. Slaves, children and social parasites milled around and sat behind the guests picking up crumbs and other titbits which might be thrown to them.
Wine flowed freely on these occasions and it was important to have at least one slave available to help/take you home. The streets of ancient Rome were not a place to wander safely at night! You were advised not to overeat and also not to leave food. There is a belief that the Romans would gorge themselves to excess and then visit the vomitorium but there is little archaeological evidence to support this idea.
Religious rituals regarding food were observed and there was often entertainment in the form of story-telling, magic, dancing, acrobats, juggling. A Roman banquet was not boring. There were often gifts at the end, rather like the ‘goody bags’ of children’s parties today.
Thanks to Rosemary Pickering for this write up.
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”,