Open Meeting Reports 2011-2012

Monthly Open Meetings June 2011 to December 2012

The monthly meeting goes from strength to strength with attendance steadily growing. Members are able to mingle over coffee, ably supplied by Sheila Strang and her rota of volunteers -thanks ladies – sign up for group activities, learn what new groups are proposed and listen to notices about upcoming events and happenings.

Since June, thanks to our excellent Speaker Seeker, Lucy Beardsley, we have had a variety of exceptional speakers with varied and interesting topics, illustrated with slides or power point presentations. For the June 2011 meeting, there had not been time to arrange a speaker and so Liz Barnes, our membership Secretary volunteered to fill the gap and did so admirably by telling us about her charity work. Liz has visited the HOPE Community Orphanage in Kerala twice. She described her time there in January this year, working with the children on craft activities and painting the huge black entrance gates. Liz also told us about visits to local schools that are forming links with schools in the UK. The talk was illustrated by slides and photographs of her visit. We could see she really enjoyed her visit and was looking forward to going again. Liz donated her fee to the charity plus money from a collection. In total £ 108 was sent to the orphanage. This will be used to buy furniture for the newly built boys’ home.

In July we had Dr Wendy Freer with the Census Story, describing the inception of the census, how it developed, and the difficulties that early census takers had to overcome. This was followed in July by Michael Butler with a lively presentation about the works of Gilbert and Sullivan.

In August Rodney Cousins gave us an amusing and fascinating insight into the history of willow growing and basket making in the Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire area. Rodney described how he met Harry Summers of Sutton on Trent who was the last local basket maker. Harry passed on his skills to Rodney who has written a book called “A Basket Full” which he has dedicated to Harry Summers. Had the two men not met, much of the history of basket weaving would have been lost.

September brought Nigel Lowey, pictured with members, who regaled us with his St Pancras story. He told of the history of the station and the attached Grand Hotel as it developed during the 19th Century overcoming enormous problems through to its decline, dilapidation and subsequent restoration with a campaign by enthusiasts, including Sir John Betjeman and a £10 million grant from English Heritage. Nigel ended his talk by encouraging us all to visit the station and enjoy the exuberance of the refurbished facade, the station facilities and the luxury of the public spaces inside the Grand Hotel. In particular he urged us to visit the statue of Sir John Betjeman and observe how the sculptor has fashioned the statue’s coat which appears to be blowing in the wind, to mirror the shape of the station’s unique roof shape.

In November, Maureen Rushton, pictured, gave us a talk on Stars of the Silver Screen illustrated with a slide presentation. Maureen described the Hollywood lives of stars from the silent screen up to the 30‟s and 40‟s including such greats as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Mae West and Marlene Dietrich right through to Fred and Ginger, Cary Grant and Bob Hope. It was amazing how many of these once great stars ended their days poor and friendless. We also learnt such titbits such as Clark Gable, the smouldering sex symbol, had horrendous halitosis! Particular thanks go to Maureen as when the Speakers List was being put together she was the first to step up to the plate and volunteer.

The picture shows Enid Ruff the speaker with our Chairman and Josta Gardener assistant to Enid at our December meeting .  Enid gave a talk entitled “A Brush with Experience”.  She told us about her childhood, experiences during World War II and taking us beyond to her working life.  She became interested in painting and writing poetry using these talents to good effect during her time as a teacher.  Enid then decided to branch out and now accepts commissions as well as holding Open Days at her home when she raises money for charity – namely Treetops Hospice, Risley.  She brought examples of her work and had a number of items for members to purchase.

5 January 2012 brought along Val Bird, Chair of Bramcote History Group to speak to us about the ‘Effects of WWI on the people of Bramcote’. Val told us of the research her team had carried out in order to produce the book – ‘Remembering the People of Bramcote’. She linked some of the people in this with places in Beeston which was, of course, of particular interest to a number of our Members. The launch of this book was a huge success with standing room only in the Memorial Hall.

Her interest in this subject was initially started by the Memorial inside Bramcote Church and she told of interviewing many people, taking us from pre-war Bramcote, through the war, post war and up to the opening of the Memorial Hall. A stimulating and interesting talk.

The picture above shows Val Bird, centre, with Committee Members, Hadyn Boothroyd and Jane Wild.

Our Speaker for February 2012 was Stuart Dixon (pictured with Jim Turner), who came to tell us how he had restored his house and garden at Hebb’s Farm. When Stuart and family moved into the property is was practically derelict and there was no sign of any garden at all. Stuart was a lecturer at Brackenhurst College and has an enormous enthusiasm for his subject. His talk was illustrated with slides.

He was advised to knock down the very old walls which had originally been pig pens. Fortunately he ignored this advice and they are one of the features in the garden. His style of gardening is to create old fashioned borders where the various plants, shrubs etc all scramble together and create an exciting colourful vista. He says that the things not found in his garden are: decking, fences painted blue, gravel and all the things makeover programmes put in. Although he travels nationally and internationally giving talks his garden remains in excellent order and he opens this in July each year. It is possible to arrange private visits although he is booked up for 2012 and is taking bookings for 2013. Many of our Members bought pots of the lovely crocuses he had brought along.

The subject of March 2012’s Meeting was ‘The Battle of the Flames’ a talk by David Needham.  (pictured left with Liz Barnes and Jane Wild) This told of Nottinghamshire’s fight for survival in WW2.  Not a lot of people know of the bombs which fell on Nottinghamshire or even the sites.  David has written a book recording all of these and, using slides, he took us on a tour and pointed out the things to look for – not only in our County but in adjoining areas.  He showed pictures of the sites before and after, as well as current photographs.  We heard of the fire-fighters and how they were deployed, not only in Nottinghamshire, but into many other Counties of England.  The accidents and tragedies which befell them in carrying out their work during this dark time during our history.  His current project is ensuring that all the names of these brave men and women are recorded on a monument. A thought provoking and interesting talk.

April 2012 brought us Geoff Bagley (pictured left with Mike Allery) who was the last speaker of our first year.  Pictured left with Mike Allery) His talk ‘Sing a Song of the Sixties’ was illustrated with music and slides.  We travelled through the Sixties looking at fashion, trends and events – both good and bad.  This talk invoked memories for so many people and we were surprised at how much we had ‘forgotten’ about these times.  Members were saying “I had forgotten that……, Didn’t remember that ………, Oh yes I remember wearing/eating/listening to that.  This talk took us back in time and then very gently led us back to the present – some of our members singing along to the music!.

The May 2012 meeting heralded the start of Beeston U3A’s second year and the AGM.  The meeting was very well attended by 174 members, The Steering Committee Chairman, Sue Cotton and the Treasurer Anne Allery gave reports on the year, the Constitution was formally adopted and a committee was duly elected to replace the Steering Committee.  The committee remains the same but with two welcome additions, Douglas MacDonald and Elizabeth Le Marchant Brock.  Judy Lloyd gave a short appreciation of the Steering Committee’s work, saying that a good start had been made to this U3A group which was long overdue in Beeston.  Full minutes of the meeting are available for viewing by clicking Beeston U3A AGM Minutes 2012

The formalities over, we were treated to a splendid performance by the Attenborough St. Mary’s Church Hand Bell ringers. (see photo left) The group has been in existence for some 30-40 years led by Janet and Jim Crabtree who have been involved with the group almost since its inception. Jim is also Tower Bell Captain at the church. Margaret Gunn and Mike Allery, both U3A members are part of the team. If you want to hear more, there is a performance at the church on 1st June at 7.30pm. Tickets can be purchased on the door. It is also hoped that they will perform for us at Christmas.
Speakers are now in place for June 2012 – April 2013 but I would be pleased if Members could pass on any other Speakers they or their Group may be interested in.

The June 2012 meeting was well attended as usual and brought us a very interesting talk by Nottingham Archivist Chris Weir, pictured right with Liz Barnes and some members of the Greeter Team. Chris was an excellent speaker, who told of the life of Jesse Boot who founded the Boots Company. Chris described how Jesse learned the business from his father John Boot, an agricultural worker, who moved to Nottingham to start a new business. He opened a small herbalist store on Goose Gate in 1849, from which he prepared and sold herbal remedies. After John’s death in 1860, his widow, Mary, continued trading, with the help of her young son, Jesse, who became a full partner when he was 21. The store continued to flourish, and, in 1877, Jesse took sole control. Jesse’s talent for business was soon evident, and with the help of his wife, Florence, he expanded the range of products he sold to include proprietary medicines and household necessities. He adopted a strategy of buying stock in bulk and selling his goods much cheaper than his competitors, advertising under the slogan “Health for a Shilling”. Customers flocked to buy his affordable products and his turnover increased rapidly, allowing him to move into larger premises on Goose Gate in 1881. This was followed by yet more shops in Nottingham and then, in 1884, Jesse’s first shops outside the city, in Lincoln and Sheffield. The wellbeing of their employees was very important to Jesse and Florence and they provided welfare, education, sports and social facilities for their growing retail and manufacturing workforce.

In July 2012, we had a very interesting talk from Tony Stimpson on the Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire Air Ambulance. In England and Wales there are eighteen dedicated Air Ambulance operations flying a total of 29 helicopters and all are reliant upon charitable support. An Air Ambulance provides an important and sometimes vital additional patient care service for critically ill and injured patients. The helicopter carries one pilot, provided by Medical Aviation Services, and two paramedics selected from the Ambulance Services. There is a pool of ambulance men and women working on a rotation basis. When they are not flying, they revert to their role on land ambulances. Tony had been involved in a very bad car accident and was treated at the roadside by paramedics from the Air Ambulance, who then airlifted him to hospital. Following his recovery, he became involved in the services’ fund raising activities. Members were able to buy various items, including a model helicopter, and a very cute bear complete with flyinhelmet and goggles, the proceeds of which helped towards funding of this very worthwhile charity. The second photograph shows Tony Stimpson & Susan Bellington with a few of the gifts.

Our August 2012 guest speaker was Richard Hamblin, seen here with Lucy Beardsley, whose topic was The Christ Church Earthquake in New Zealand in February 2011. Richard was a professional geologist, formerly working for the British Geological Survey team based in Keyworth and was at the end of a geological tour of New Zealand, visiting Christchurch when the earthquake struck. He and his wife were separated from the other members of the tour and were just outside the city centre visiting an aircraft museum.
Richard explained the causes and unpredictability of earthquakes and the effects of this particular one in terms that we could all understand. We were left in no doubt of the liquefied mud and total disruption caused by the quake and aftershocks, or of the helpfulness of the New Zealanders to bereft strangers. All of the people were delighted to be reunited with their luggage, intact, and in some cases passports in June 2011.

Brian Ellis was our Speaker at the September 2012 Open Meeting.  Brian opened his talk by explaining that is was based on photographs taken on a holiday to visit a friend from his university days, in the province of South Australia.  Both men were geographers and found that their interests still coincided, even after so many years.  Details of their tour certainly made very interesting listening for us and stretched from the mouth of the Murray River, Australia’s most significant drainage system, in the east across the Flinders range of mountains to include part of the Great Victoria desert and the Nullarbor Plain at its western perimeter a distance of 750 miles.  Adelaide, the provincial capital, lies at 35 degrees South, roughly equivalent to Gibraltar in the northern hemisphere.  It was the size and dryness which was most striking.  A farm they visited would stretch from here to Ashbourne and Leicester!  Rainfall can be non-existent, tanks for rainwater collection are essential, but when that is dry, that is it!  Adaptations of indigenous animals were highlighted.  Yes we did see photos of Koala bears and kangaroos but much more of interest too.

Special guest speaker in October 2012 was Cliff Warner whose topic was ” Humour on the Bench ”
Here he is photographed with Jim Turner our Group Coordinator. Cliff, originally a teacher, gave a very humorous talk about his life as a Magistrate. In his early years he discovered very quickly that when seeing a familiar face at a party or function, it was not wise to say “Do I know you from somewhere?” because the likely answer would be “Yes you did me for speeding two months ago “. Once, while queuing at a supermarket checkout, he was approached by a young man who described being up before Cliff for Shoplifting and was found not guilty. Laughing he then told Cliff that he was in fact guilty. Cliff said he hoped that the young man had nothing on his person today that he hadn’t paid for whereupon the young man beat a hasty retreat. On another occasion he asked a defendant if he had anything to say in mitigation before passing sentence after a speeding offence. The man blamed his dog who liked to have his head out of the window and have the wind make his ears flap, a situation which required the driver to travel at 38 miles per hour. Cliff responded by saying that as the dog had no money and no driving licence, he had no choice but to fine the owner and put three points on his licence.

Our Speaker in November 2012 was an archaeologist – Daryl Garton and her talk was “Fragments from the Past”. This talk took us field walking which is walking a field finding fragments of ancient artefacts. She used slides to accompany her talk and told us of 2 projects in Newark amongst others. Daryl showed slides and had brought examples of raw materials, flint antler etc used by early man to make tools.  Many such finds were discovered during the building of the new A46 dating between 23,000 and 2,000 BC (Late Upper Paleolithic – Neolithic).

6 December 2012 Christmas Extravaganza

Beeston U3A Christmas Extravaganza was held in place of the usual open meeting. 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.