Third Age Matters Autumn 2023 - Screenreader Edition

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From Sam Mauger, chief executive, Third Age Trust.

I am delighted to introduce you to the fantastic Autumn edition of Third Age Matters. The magazine is our opportunity to continue our u3a conversation on the page – a two-way communication that has been going strong for many years, facilitated by our previous editors. I have had the pleasure of working with both Francis Beckett and more recently Joanne Smith, both of whom channelled the u3a voices and stories into so many households across the United Kingdom and beyond. As Joanne leaves us to pursue new ventures, we wish her all the very best for the future and thank her for her work on the magazine.

As usual, this issue features everything that is great about the u3a, from creative postbox ‘toppers’ in Chandler’s Ford (p54) to finding our inner jazz inspiration (p45). In the coming months, you will also hear more about a new venture – the u3a Festival (p20). The member-driven festival will bring people together from far and wide to learn, laugh and live – and generally have a great time.

Enjoy the issue! If you have a story to share with Third Age Matters, don’t hesitate to email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Cover story: My alphabet of survival strategies has stood me in good stead!

Dame Esther Rantzen’s wonderful new book Older & Bolder: My A-Z of Surviving Almost Everything is brimming with life lessons that are funny, poignant, brave, and wise. Here, she touches on just a few of her observations, thoughts and discoveries made along the way...

When people offer me a choice of good news or bad news, I usually ask for the bad news first. Better to get it over, I feel. So let me start with a piece of bad news: when you get old, you get wrinkles. The good news is that at the same time, your eyesight gets too blurry to see them. That’s why when you look at yourself in the mirror, you should never put your glasses on.

Forgive me if you don’t need that advice because you knew it already. You’ve doubtless accumulated a great deal of knowledge and experience over the years. The good news about becoming an Oldie is that we have learned so many important life lessons, we are eager to pass on our advice to the younger generation. The bad news is that, because you are an Oldie, they won’t listen.

Especially the politicians. They’re happy to blame us for being house-blockers, bed -blockers, overwhelming the NHS and having it far too easy when we were young. But although we point out that we can’t downsize if there are no safe, convenient houses being built for older people, and that we can’t move out of hospital if our home isn’t safe, and that the only way we can stop using the NHS is by falling off our perches, and yes, some things were easier when we were young, but an awful lot of things were tougher, we’re talking to ourselves. Because the politicians certainly aren’t listening. Which is odd when you think that we are the generation who vote.

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Take my advice...

Anyway, it is a bit frustrating, don’t you find? To have so many worthwhile pieces of advice to hand over and nobody asking for them. Which is why I was thrilled to be asked by a publisher to write my book Older & Bolder laying out my A-Z of survival. I would be fascinated to learn how many of my thoughts and ideas resonate with you.

For example, I have included F for Food. Food has changed so much over the last 80 years or so. My children accuse me of never eating anything that wasn’t available in the 1950s. And it is true that wraps taste to me like trying to eat a face flannel. And I’ve never enjoyed eating cold damp rice with fish, so I am immune to the charms of sushi. I’ve never known what quinoa is, still less how to pronounce it. But I do become nostalgic about junket, slightly slimy but tasty with nutmeg. And rosehip syrup, in bright pink bottles during the war when oranges were not available. And that black gooey malt stuff in big jars – delicious. So my children are quite wrong, I’m not stuck in the fifties. More like the forties.

And don’t get me started about those sell-by, use-by dates on all our food nowadays. Come on. If it smells okay and hasn’t started growing hair, that’s good enough, isn’t it? Not according to my children, who turf out anything they find in my fridge with an overdue date on it. Amazing my generation survived at all given the decades we spent, like Theresa May, scraping the mould off the jam.

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Treasured ties

Under G there is, of course, Grandchildren. Two points to make here. Firstly, as someone once warned me, you love your children, but you’re in love with your grandchildren. When my daughter saw me with my grandson, she rebuked me: ‘Don’t you ever say no to him?’ I just looked at her, astonished at the thought that I ever could.

Point two, how crucial grandparents are in the lives of children, not just
for school collection and delivery
and babysitting, but especially for vulnerable grandchildren growing
up in unsafe homes. And how desperate it is when grandparents are prevented from seeing their grandchildren
because of a family feud or separation.
I have tried to persuade politicians to strengthen the rights of grandchildren to have access to their wider family, especially their grandparents, as the
law does in France, with no success, so far.

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Do I make myself clear?

Some things are just infuriating. Like M for Mumbling. What has happened to our actors, who used to be trained to articulate so well they could be heard right at the back row of the gallery? They are now inaudible in the front row of the stalls. Do we blame Marlon and the Actors Studio for making mumbling fashionable? Or is it down to television, where their mumblings are overlaid with noisy and intrusive mood music and have to compete with an army of sound effects? In real life, never have sheep bleated so loudly, or cows mooed so often, and I now live in the New Forest surrounded by them, so I know. When I complain on behalf of the poor playwright who spent hours polishing the prose or poetry none of us can hear, there are those who blame my deafness. Pardon?

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Finding the fun

When it comes to handing out praise, under Q for Queen, I know you will agree that our late Queen Elizabeth did her difficult job impeccably for over 70 years. I had the privilege of meeting her several times, and she was genuinely interested in Childline, and the Silver Line [a free helpline for older people set up by Esther]. I think Her Majesty came into full bloom in the last years of her reign, jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond, and sharing Paddington Bear’s affection for marmalade sandwiches. The decades of serious conscientiousness had given her the right to a bit of fun in her old age. And fun is what we Oldies deserve. Far too many callers to the Silver Line tell us that fun is only for young people and admit that they haven’t had fun for many years. Thank heavens the u3a recognises that we Oldies don’t just want to improve ourselves, but to be amused and entertained too.

I wonder how many readers of my book will agree with me? I do tackle some of the major problems many of us face, such as ageism and loneliness. I’ve not avoided controversy, by defending Prince Harry for example (I sympathise with the pressure he was under so young, after Princess Diana died); I’ve also criticised pedigree dogs (far too many inbred disabilities in pursuit of what we humans call ‘beauty’), and ballet (dangerously misogynist).

If you disagree, why not write your own A-Z ? And please do let me know your views. We Oldies are quite happy to disagree amicably – it’s a good way to keep our minds open and learning. And that, after all, is what u3a believes in. That, and fun.

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Win esther's book

Older & Bolder: My A-Z of Surviving Almost Everything by Esther Rantzen is published by Ebury Spotlight, £16.99. We are delighted to
give away five copies to u3a readers. To be in with a chance, simply go to

  • If you require any assistance entering this prize draw, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • As Esther says, we’d love to know what your key life strategies are! Send them to
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Head your email: A-Z Life Strategies)

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What's been happening across u3a

Harvesting a great idea

Pop along to Ards Peninsula u3a’s allotment at Quarries Farm in Bangor, Northern Ireland, and you’re likely to find a hive of activity these days. For the last six months, members of the group have been growing their very first crops of homegrown produce, which is then passed on to local foodbanks to share with those in need.

The Ards Peninsula u3a Allotment Group was started by Wesley Graham in August 2022. “Thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund, we were able to buy the equipment we needed to get started,” he explains.

“With careful planning and the commitment of our members, we built our own raised beds from pallets, cleared the ground and fed the soil. Planting began this spring.

“Now we’re seeing the success that’s come from all our efforts: everything we produce goes to help feed people in the community.”

Wesley adds: “This year we’ve harvested potatoes, peas, broad beans, beetroot, onions, garlic and shallots. Soon we’ll have crops of leeks, spring onions and chard.

“There’s nothing better to lift the spirits than food that is organically grown and fresh from the soil.”

Local foodbanks that have received
produce so far include Bangor Foodbank
and Community Support, Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church Free Food Mondays, and the Warehouse Newtownards.

  • To find out more, go to

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It’s showtime!

From Oklahoma! to Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady to Cabaret, Oliver! to Evita... the songs from these much-loved legends of musical theatre, along with many more, are all part of a fantastic repertoire performed by members of Hampstead Garden Suburb u3a in London in a series of monthly concerts.

Allan Cinnamon, Tanya Forward and Jonathan and Carole Fenton are four experienced singers with varied musical backgrounds. They are accompanied by pianist Stephen Goldwater, whose musical credentials include
acting as musical director to leading hotels and restaurants.

Rehearsals take place weekly in preparation for monthly concerts at
the beautiful Fellowship House in Hampstead Garden Suburb, complete with a superb grand piano.

Group leader Allan says: “It’s such a pleasure to interpret this huge body of beautiful, poetic and witty work. We’ve bonded together wonderfully and look forward immensely to the regular rehearsals and concerts, and to giving
our audiences so much pleasure.”

The group would be delighted to present a sample of their shows to any u3a group that might be interested. For details, please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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We are sailing...

In the last issue of Third Age Matters, we teamed up with Viking to offer u3a members the chance to win a fantastic voyage along the beautiful Douro river in Portugal. We were inundated with entries but there could only be one winner, and we’re delighted to announce it is Mary Madgwick, a longstanding member of Somerton u3a in Somerset.

Mary and her husband Peter have been on numerous cruises over the years, and love both their relaxing ambience and the opportunity to explore new places in comfort. “This one promises to be really special,” she says. “We have been to Porto before and it’s a place we’re looking forward to visiting again, and we’ll also be exploring some other interesting places such as Barca d’Alva and Salamanca in Spain during the holiday. We’re especially looking forward to visiting the Mateus Palace, and finding out more about sardines! I honestly can’t believe I’ve won...”

  • Don’t miss the chance to win a fantastic cruise in this issue’s competition.

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Pilgrims’ progress

This May, 14 members of Tewkesbury and District u3a set off on an eight-day pilgrimage on the famous Camino de Santiago in north-west Spain.

The plan was to walk 115km to Santiago de Compostela. To do so, we flew to Santiago, and then, after an overnight stop, we took a two-and-a-half hour bus ride to the starting point at Sarria, a small town in the Spanish region of Galicia.

The pilgrimage was divided into eight stages, and accommodation is plentiful for the thousands of pilgrims who annually walk this route. Some of us stayed in the shared dormitories of the many hostels, or for those requiring a little more comfort and privacy, there were local guest houses.

We set off on day one under grey skies and drizzle more suited to England than Spain, but as the week progressed, beautiful blue skies arrived and the temperature rose, providing ideal walking conditions amid stunning scenery: the beautiful rural vistas of Galicia were matched only by the warm and generous hospitality we experienced from the local people.

On day eight, we all arrived together in the
square outside the magnificent cathedral in Santiago in time to join the hundreds waiting inside for the Pilgrims’ Mass.

This daily event celebrates and blesses all those who, under their own steam, have made their way here, the resting place of St James.

As it was Ascension weekend, we were fortunate to witness the swinging of the famous Botafumeiro, the huge incense burner that is occasionally swung from the rooftops and down the aisles of the cathedral during mass.

On the Saturday, a final celebratory meal was enjoyed before we caught our flight home to reflect on a unique and never-to-be-forgotten experience.

Did you know...

Camino de Santiago means Way of St James, indicating the various routes which lead to Santiago de Compostela.
The routes start in Spain, Portugal and France, although traditionally people began their pilgrimage from their own homes.

Scallop shells on the route mark the way: pilgrims have a passport (a ’credencial‘),
which must be stamped
once or twice every day if starting in Galicia. Pilgrims must walk at least 100km into Santiago to receive their Compostela certificate.

Santiago sees more than 300,000 pilgrims arrive each year: it is required that those who accept the Compostela certificate have travelled for religious or spiritual reasons. Non-religious travellers receive a welcome certificate.

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Get to know our Newsletter!

The online national u3a newsletter is filled with news from u3as across the movement, updates on national initiatives and much more. Subscribe on the u3a website to receive the latest news from u3a straight into your inbox

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Meet our four-legged music fan

Gillian Wilcockson, leader of Keyworth u3a’s Singing for Fun group, tells us about one very special member who likes to join in with the repertoire...

Keyworth u3a in Nottinghamshirewas established way back in 2009, and Singing for Fun became one of the first groups to be formed. We started with seven members and now have over 50, making us the largest group in our u3a.

We meet every month for a two-hour session in the local Methodist church, and our repertoire includes an ever-changing mix of traditional, folk and pop music from the 1930s to the 1980s, along with songs from popular musicals. There’s no requirement to be able to read music or sing in parts, and the words of the songs are projected onto screens using laptop technology.

Everyone has a great time – not least our very special four-legged member, Dylan, who comes with his owner Rachel. He is a qualified assistance dog with Darwin Dogs, an organisation established to train dogs to work with adults who have a diagnosed mental health condition and/or autism. Dylan really enjoys the singing group – and our members enjoy having him in our sessions – especially as he stands up alongside us when we sing!

It’s now recognised that belonging to a singing group is invaluable in helping to ease loneliness. It not only encourages regular contact with others and the opportunity to make new friends, but also has positive effects on our health, lowering blood pressure and easing stress and depression. Recent research has shown how music, and singing in particular, is able to access the parts of the brain unaffected by the ravages of dementia. The recent success of Nottingham’s Our Dementia Choir, televised last year, is a prime example.

Everyone in our Singing for Fun group agrees: singing lifts our spirits – and so does Dylan!

It's a dog’s life.

Rachel Steele, who belongs to Keyworth u3a’s Singing for Fun group, is Dylan’s owner. She tells us a little about the work he does...

Darwin Dogs were named after the first dog trained for this role. Darwin was my first dog and Dylan my first repeat dog. Once qualified, the dog and owner have the right to access education, housing and transport. This ensures the dog‘s benefits can continue wherever the owner needs to be: in the home, at work and during leisure activities.

Having an assistance dog makes a huge difference: people can go from feeling a burden to their family to being more independent and a useful member of society, which in turn reduces the amount of care a person needs.

Dylan makes an enormous difference to the quality of my life, and I am very grateful to Keyworth u3a singing group for the warm welcome they have given us both.

  • More information about Darwin Dogs can be found at

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We know how much Third Age Matters magazine is valued by u3a members, sharing news and information, offering insights, celebrating communities, groups and initiatives, personal stories and so much more. Now we hope to make every issue even better – and we’d love your help to do it! Our online survey invites you to offer your honest views and suggestions about the title – and there’s a chance to win £50 M&S vouchers too! Turn to page 86 to find out more.

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Join in with u3a Week!

This fantastic event is almost upon us
– a week for all members to enjoy and showcase the very best of what it means to be part of u3a.

Running from 16 to 24 September, there are so many activities taking place, including discovery days, fun and games, singalongs, steel bands, dancing in the park and so much more.

Talks to Inspire

This year we’re delighted to welcome John Tucker from the Woodland Trust who will be giving an exclusive talk to u3a on Wednesday 20 September (for more details, please turn to page 49). This follows on from u3a’s success in helping to plant nearly 10,000 trees for its 40th Anniversary Wood in 2022.

We’re also excited to announce that the award-winning writer, broadcaster and TED speaker Carl Honoré will be providing an exclusive online event for the u3a on Thursday 21 September. Carl is the voice of the global Slow Movement and champions ageing with positivity. The title of his talk is ‘How to age better, and feel better about ageing’ – and it promises to inspire.

  • For information about these online events, and to book a place, go to:

The Great Outdoors

This year, u3a week will also feature  Alfresco in Autumn. This is a movement-wide coordinated event taking place on Friday 22 September when all of us can make the most of being outside – wherever you happen to be. You could be playing games in a field, enjoying lunch on the lawn, or enjoying a stroll in the park - anything that takes the fun and learning of u3a outside.  

We’d love to know how you’re planning to celebrate the week at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – and do send us stories and photos of what you got up to after the event!

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All welcome

The u3a movement provides everyone who joins with an opportunity to make friends, have fun and learn more. Here, Clifford Silverman of Brent u3a in London shares his story...

I have Asperger syndrome, which makes me a bit shy.  I used to work as a gardener for local councils, then at Regent’s Park College. I’m retired now and I heard about Brent u3a through Kingsbury Library.

Brent u3a has lots of groups. I attend the Discussion group on Mondays. I go to the lunches on Wednesdays and sometimes the Walking group.

Once a month, on a Thursday, I take part in the Book group. We all read a book and then meet up to talk about it. In summer we meet in the local park, and in winter on Zoom. I’m not very good on computers, so I go to another member’s house for the Zoom meetings. I’m pleased to read some good books, but there might be one or two naff ones too! I also watch a lot of sport like football, cricket and snooker.

Brent u3a is so friendly, and I enjoy all the groups I belong to. I have also got to know a lot of new people like Cathy, who is Brent u3a’s secretary and typed this article up for me.
Thank you, Cathy.

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Something to celebrate

It’s always great to hear about u3a groups marking anniversaries, especially those that are still going strong after many years and adapting to circumstances and the needs and requirements of its members.

One such group is Wearside u3a, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with a meticulously planned event at the Grand Hotel in Seaburn. Around 100 members from Wearside, Houghton Le Spring and Sunderland u3as, along with special guests, enjoyed a great lunch, before being entertained by the rock choir: their performance even saw one of the three founder members in attendance – now in their mid-90s – hitting the dance floor.

Guests included John Lipscombe, president of the Seaburn Rotary Club (it was the Rotary Club that supported the development of u3as nationally, which led to Wearside’s inaugural meeting in 1993). Also at the event was Abu Sharma, manager of Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre, where regular u3a monthly meetings and some activity groups are held. He leads a team of staff and volunteers, and amazing support was provided during the pandemic when the member lists of both groups were combined to provide telephone contact and help if needed – an initiative that continues to this day.

Finally, the organisers were delighted to welcome Northumbria regional chair Cecelia Coulson, whose sterling work as a volunteer includes leading a team to organise regional meetings, events and networks with nearly 50 u3as.

Congratulations Wearside u3a – and here’s to rocking the next 30 years.

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Let's do this

You’re never too old to have a sporty adventure – as these u3a members ably demonstrate

Jump to it

Dorothy Northwood is the membership secretary of Huntingdon u3a in Cambridgeshire and recently did an exhilarating tandem parachute jump.

My grandson Reece has always been adventurous. When he was a teenager, I bought him a voucher to do a tandem parachute jump. As his mother and I stood far below watching him fall from the sky, I said: “I wish I was up there with him.” Some years later, in 2022, Reece bought me the opportunity as a Christmas present.

I was thrilled and asked him if he’d like to share the experience with me – which, of course, he jumped at. On 28 July, we made our way to Sibson airfield in Peterborough where we were given the drill. When you do a tandem parachute jump, you’re partnered with an experienced parachute instructor, so you just have to do what you’re told: they sit behind you, and you then both shuffle your way to the plane’s open door on your bottom – it’s not very elegant. You put your head back against your parachute partner’s chest, bend your knees back... and go.

It was amazing to be somehow flying through the air, arms wide open – we were more than two miles up. It seemed quite a while before the parachute opened, and then my instructor and I could talk to each other.

It was incredible to be looking down at the ground, and then see my grandson, who had landed by this time. It was exhilarating and one of the best 10 minutes I’ve ever had – I just wanted to do it again straight away.

I’m 78, and love the idea of having more experiences like this: we’re a very adventurous family. Four years ago I paraglided off Whistler Mountain in Canada when I visited my nephew over there. I might do it again when I’m there soon.

I also fancy the idea of taking a microlight flight... the possibilities are endless.

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Scaling heights

Danny Gavigan, member of Medway
u3a in Kent, celebrated his birthday
with a bucket-list climb

Two years ago, I commemorated my 70th by climbing mighty Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. Despite saying “never again”, the bug had bitten, and I decided to scale the imposing Snowdon.

Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales – 351ft taller than Scafell Pike. With my friend Steve Casey
I set out to attempt the climb, planning to go up via the scenic but challenging Miners’ Track and then down via the Llanberis Path.

The Miners’ Track lived up to its expectations with stunning scenery and fantastic views. After about two hours we faced the most difficult section, which involved climbing up a very steep side of the mountain with no discernible path. We were clambering between large rocks and boulders, which often became hazardous. There were also several mini waterfalls, meaning many of the rocks were slippery and treacherous. This section had been marked red on the map – this meant it was classified as hard and strenuous, and at one point indicated an accident black spot.

Nevertheless, we continued our
climb slowly, and after about 75 minutes made it onto an upper ridge where it met with several other paths. Utterly exhausted, we enjoyed a break with some lunch to recharge our batteries. The fantastic views we had enjoyed earlier were now becoming shrouded in cloud. Nevertheless, we knew we were close to the summit, which was only a further 30 minutes or so away.

Finally, we made it. After a brief pause at the summit, we commenced our descent via the Llanberis Path, a steady downhill route that was much safer than the Miners’ Track. However, the gradient was quite significant in some parts: my walking poles proved invaluable.

Some nine hours after we’d first set out, we successfully concluded our descent, enjoying a celebratory pint on the way back to the hotel.

Although tired and weary, there was a great sense of achievement at what two ‘old codgers’ had succeeded in doing.

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Zipping about

Pam Jones is the former National Chair of u3a, and a member of the Witney group in Oxfordshire. Her appetite for adventure knows no bounds

I’d never say I was a brave person, but it’s definitely thanks to my involvement with the u3a that I have the confidence to do so many of the things I do these days. My husband Ivor and I moved to Witney 25 years ago when I was 60, and we decided to join the local group. It wasn’t long before I was taking on various roles – from first becoming treasurer, to eventually being appointed chair of the u3a with all the responsibilities that entailed. This long involvement and experience definitely encouraged a ‘go for it’ attitude.

I’ve abseiled down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth twice, and sailed a couple of times on a 40ft yacht off the south coast. When Ivor sadly died this February, I decided I needed to keep busy and challenge myself – and I’ve done just that. One of the most exciting adventures was when I went with my son, daughter and granddaughter on a zip wire adventure in Penrhyn Quarry at Bethesda in North Wales: it’s the fastest zip wire in the world, and the longest in Europe.

You go in groups of four. Each of us had to lie on a table on our stomachs as we were fitted with harnesses connected to the zip wire above us. Then the tables were taken away, and we were suspended in midair, before being literally zipped across the quarry. It was unnerving to see the wall opposite come up so fast and I remember thinking, ‘How will we miss that?’ – but of course we did. Next, we were driven up to the top of a quarry, and did the same thing again – only this time it was much higher and faster. We were zipping along at about 60 to 70mph, and my heart was pounding.

I was very full of myself afterwards, of course! But the best thing was walking back down the track with my son holding my hand. I felt proud and I think my family did too.

I’m already thinking about the next adventure...

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Podcast news

An eventful journey

Our popular Podcast series provides a fascinating opportunity to discover more about the lives of u3a members. Here’s a preview of September’s edition

It was only 10 days after getting married in 1966, that Anthea Whitehead from Bromsgrove u3a and her late husband, Jeff, were posted to Aden in Yemen.

The couple both worked for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and had a joint posting. “We were so young – I even celebrated my 21st birthday there – and at first we enjoyed a glorious expatriate life,” Anthea recalls. “But soon after our son Bruce was born in the RAF Hospital that November, the security situation deteriorated with frequent terrorist activity. Even our flat had a bullet hole in one of the windows!”

British civilians were eventually evacuated from Aden in June 1967, and the family travelled home on the Italian liner MS Achille Lauro (hijacked almost 20 years later by the Palestine Liberation Front). “The route to the UK was through the Suez Canal, and as we emerged from the canal into the Mediterranean, we noticed a lot of aerial activity with fighter planes,” recalls Anthea. “We thought it was just a training exercise – it was only later we realised that this was the start of the Six-Day War! In those days, we didn’t get news the way we do now – we relied on Pathé news or the British Forces Broadcasting Service in Aden, and of course they weren’t available on board the ship.”

Baby Bruce was seven months old when the family arrived back in the UK. “During that time he’d lived in an Arab country, holidayed in Kenya, and travelled by ship through a war zone,” remarks Anthea. “But he’s rather miffed that he doesn’t remember any of it!”

  • Find the podcast at

This is editor Nick Bailey's last podcast for u3a - thanks so much for all your hard work, Nick!
If you are interested in joining the u3a radio podcast team please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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u3a Festival

Come to the Festival!

Exciting plans are afoot to bring members together for the inaugural u3a Festival 2024.
Margaret Fiddes, trustee for Yorkshire and the Humber, reveals just a little of what’s in store.

Next summer, the University of York is set to play host to the very first UK-wide u3a Festival, taking place between 18 and 20 July – hopefully you’ve got the dates in your diary.

It’s fantastic to see the plans coming together to fill the wonderful spaces available at the university with all the great things we do across the UK. Already, members are coming forward with great ideas to run activities both inside and out.

Get involved

Just as a taster, you can expect talks and walks in the lovely city of York, music to enjoy and dance to, fun sessions of croquet, and not least the ever-popular walking cricket and racquet sports... but we want you to participate too. What can you bring to the party? In true u3a fashion, it would be great to see even more members leading festival fun, workshops, talks and games – so please feel free to make us an offer.

The possibilities are endless. We have meeting rooms, exhibition space, auditoria, great space both inside and out, and fantastic sports facilities, all of which are backed up by the university’s technical and facilities staff. From the Trust, there is a small team of volunteers, trustees and staff all working to bring things together, but the activities will – we hope – be suggested and facilitated by anyone and everyone.

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Looking for partners

Something new for u3a and the Trust is sponsorship, which we think the Festival could really benefit from, so we’re on the lookout for suitable partnerships. If you know anyone, or a business or organisation which might be a good fit and could potentially sponsor some of the planned activities, please send your suggestions and relevant contact details to us at the email address, right, and we’ll take it from there.

The university site is beautiful. With more than 200 acres of grounds and a Green Flag award, it is famous for its abundance of wildfowl, as well as hosting a diverse range of other wildlife. We’ve got our fingers crossed for good weather so we can enjoy as much of the outside space as possible.

B&B accommodation is in student halls on site, right next to the exhibition centre which we’ll be using for our main activities. If you prefer, there are any number of city hotels to choose from, as well as campsites not too far away. Of course, you can just come for the day if you prefer – but why miss out on any of the fun?

Catering will be offered in the restaurant/cafeteria alongside. There will also be a bar and tea and coffee available (and if you’ve forgotten anything, there’s a convenience store on site too).

Stay in touch

Finally, please feel free to ask us anything. If you want to offer an activity, ask a question, make a comment, or indeed let us know you’re planning to attend the Festival, do contact us. (We’d really like to get an idea of how many of you are interested in coming along to celebrate the joy of u3a membership with others.)

Of course, we’ll be keeping you informed in our national u3a newsletters, and on our social media channels, where there’ll be lots of chat and information about everything happening. So keep an eye out for news, and if you’re on social media, do join in the conversation.

Let’s make this a really fantastic event which truly encompasses everything we do.

How to book

Details of how to book will soon be on our website where you’ll also find lots of information about the event. Please go to

  • Please get in touch with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Getting there

York is well connected by train, while the A1(M) brings you close to the city with good main roads to the campus on the east of the city, which has plenty of parking. You can find out more about transport and travel on the festival website too.

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What's on

u3a runs a programme of web talks, workshops and events, as well as online initiatives
such as competitions, memory collections and puzzles for you to get involved with

Online learning events

For more events and to book those listed below, go to This can be found by going to the events section of the u3a website, then choose the Online Learning Events option in the Events menu. Click on each event to book your place.

History of the British Intelligence Services

Friday 22 September at 2pm

Moira MacQuaide of Guildford u3a will talk us through and present on:

Her connection to the intelligence services.

Some early history of espionage.

20th century intelligence services including MI5, MI6, GCHQ, Bletchley Park and counterterrorism.

Famous spies.

How to join the intelligence services.

Books and films about the intelligence services.

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Royal Presence and Royal Presents: A Commonwealth History

Thursday 5 October at 10am

Join Rachel Peat Underhill, curator of decorative arts at Royal Collection Trust, to trace the early origins of the modern Commonwealth.

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Live Cookery Demonstration - Autumn recipes

Friday 13 October at 10.30am

Chef Alex from charity Vegetarian for Life demos his delicious autumn recipes live on Zoom especially for u3a members.

  • Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you need help accessing these or to offer to give a national talk

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National programmes

To participate in, or contribute to, our National Initiatives, please go to These can be found by going to the ‘Learn’ tab on the homepage of the u3a website, then choosing ‘National Programmes’. There you can then click on any of our initiatives to get involved.

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Write a Letter To Your Younger Self

Writing a letter to your younger self can be a cathartic and extremely thought-provoking experience. Do you have wisdom now that you wish you had back then?

Have a go at reflecting and putting your thoughts to paper in this creative exercise for u3a members. A selection of members’ letters, or extracts from them, will be shared on our website for members across the movement to read.

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Paint or Draw

Do you enjoy creating art? Paint or Draw is the u3a’s monthly themed gallery of artwork from across the movement. Enter your artwork on the u3a website and up to 15 will be displayed in the online gallery.

  • Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you need help accessing these or would like to help us set up a national initiative

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And for my next song…

Tune in to the tech that can help you make music, says James Day

It could be described as the ultimate working-from-home indulgence, but DIY music producers who create their own compositions – and to a professional standard – are on the rise, thanks to affordable and accessible technology.

Back in the day, it wasn’t easy. Making music demanded time-intensive effort, an enormous amount of technical know-how, and often a record-breaking budget. Today, though, anyone with a laptop or desktop computer, smartphone or tablet has the potential to create a hit of sufficient quality to make it onto a music streaming service or even radio station. Get ready to rock!

Opening DAWs

Music production has undergone a remarkable transformation. All you need is a sufficiently powerful computer and preferred DAW (digital audio workstation) software, like Logic Pro by Apple, Pro Tools, Ableton or FL Studios. Free DAWs exist too though, and it can be worthwhile experimenting with these first before taking the plunge.

Apple users get GarageBand, and Windows PC users could try downloading Cakewalk. Alternatively, the likes of Ableton and FL Studios often offer ‘lite’ versions or free trials, allowing you to dip your toe in first.

Sound check

Many home producers also choose to install additional equipment such as MIDI controllers (e.g. a musical keyboard), microphones, headphones, and studio monitors (i.e. speakers) to enhance their productivity. The good news is these aren’t as expensive as you might think.

A quick word on an audio interface. At its most basic level, this small box of tricks acts as an aggregator between your computer and your musical instruments or voice. Plug a microphone in and the audio interface converts the signals so your DAW software recognises them.

You can record directly to your DAW by using a USB microphone that plugs directly into your computer. It’s generally more affordable and used successfully by podcasters and YouTubers.

There are many excellent USB mics on the market too, from brands such as Rode, Shure, AKG and Audio Technica. However, the advantage of an audio interface is that you can plug in multiple microphones and record multiple inputs at once – for example, vocals and a violin, which can then be mixed separately.

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A steady stream

In tandem with taking a DIY approach to music, streaming services such as Apple Music, Qobuz and YouTube have become the largest consumption tools for music. With ease and little cost, artists can self-release to streaming services through distribution platforms such as CD Baby, DistroKid, TuneCore and Ditto Music.

There’s radio airplay too. Steve Reynolds is a prolific local and hospital radio presenter in Reading, Berkshire. While major stations work closely with record labels making airplay difficult, regional stations are more inclined to support grassroots local talent. ‘I’ve always tried to develop music scenes by inviting local artists to send me demos for instance,’ he says. As long as what you’ve recorded is ‘CD quality’, email it to the station in a decent digital format like AAC, MP3 or WAV, and try your luck!

‘My friends use streaming services to distribute their music: just don’t expect to make any money unless you get hundreds of millions of listens,’ advises Steve. ‘Something else to consider is the online distribution site Bandcamp. The royalties are better and on the first Friday of every month they waive any revenue so artists receive more.’

Recording now...

Whether you dream of making a hit record or simply want to have a bit of fun, there’s a lot to be said for making music in the comfort of your own home. You can set your own pace, taking all the time you need to get the results you want. You can make mistakes without anyone noticing you’ve hit a wrong note, and you even might find yourself going down an entirely unexpected creative path. So sing, play – and dance – like no-one’s watching because they’re not (at least not yet!).

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3 of the best

Check out these three home record essentials...

Focal Listen Professional Headphones


High-end monitoring headphones ideal for home-mixing purposes. Optimal noise isolation minimises listening fatigue if you end up burning the midnight oil during a mammoth recording session.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo Audio Interface


The Scarlett Solo makes creating studio-quality sound at home simple. Hook up a guitar and mic and prepare to make the best recordings you ever have. It includes plenty of added features to help vocals and guitars shine, along with support for all of the major DAWs.

Audio Technica AT2020


An iconic and critically acclaimed cardioid condenser microphone that brings affordable and professional quality into the homes and home studios of podcasters, musicians and voiceover artists alike.

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Member story- Nöel’s house party

Nöel Sweeney, a member of Cheddar u3a, recently struck it lucky with a little help from a local computer whizz.

“I wanted to record a song I had written. So, with the assistance of a computer expert, I played acoustic guitar and sang my song. It was a straightforward process and sounded fine - at least to me! Indeed, it must have been reasonably ‘professional’ as to my surprise it was suddenly, and somewhat unexpectedly, played on BBC Radio Bristol.“

Nöel explains that his computer whizz pal had converted his garden shed into a recording studio with Ableton and Logic Pro, and he’s now inspired to create his own studio at home. “I figure it must be within my ability to undertake DIY music production for other songs I’ve written,” he says. “My main aim now is to avoid an amateurish approach in recording my songs!”

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Our u3a groups share so much

Liz Thackray View from the Chair.

Ihave just returned from a week spent visiting u3as in South East England. A month or so ago, I was able to spend time in South West England, and plans are now afoot for a visit to South Wales in the Autumn. It’s been busy!

Spending time in different regions has enabled me to call in on a wide range of u3as of various sizes and in very different environments. Some u3as are well established: although I have not been able to share in their 40th anniversary celebrations, I was able to present certificates to two u3as, each of which was marking 25 years of Learning, Laughing and Living. I also met representatives of a newly fledged u3a and heard of some of the trials and tribulations they’ve experienced along the way, including the problem of getting some of the basics in place – like opening a bank account.

Along with visiting individual u3as, I was able to attend a number of network meetings. Although networks are not part of our formal structure, they are essential in enabling u3as to learn from each other and provide a space where ideas can be aired and explored. It was clear that those u3as participating enjoyed the opportunity to engage with others and to share ideas and experiences with each other.

Family likeness

What is striking about u3as is how all share a family likeness. All recognise the principles on which the u3a movement is founded, thus reflecting our origins and values. However, as in any family, each group has its own identity – there are no identical twins! What is striking is that so many u3as share the same challenges. All speak of difficulty finding volunteers. This applies especially to the more established u3as, where longstanding members have made a major contribution and are now less able to do so, while newer members do not always realise that the u3a is a self-help, mutual aid organisation that requires each of us to play our part. Many groups also recognise the difficulty of continuing to engage longstanding members who are no longer able to participate as fully as in the past.

All are valued

Another common challenge is that of recruiting new members. It seems it’s often believed that the u3a movement has a lower age limit, and therefore excludes some potential younger members. This has never been the case. Indeed, I met somebody who could possibly lay claim to being the movement’s youngest u3a member and committee member – a 27-year-
old Treasurer!

It has been such a valuable experience to meet up with so many members, and I would like to express my gratitude to all those u3as that welcomed me, and allowed me to join in so many different activities.

Finally, it is only fitting that I close by thanking those Trustees who are coming to the end of their period of service. Each has gone far beyond what can be reasonably expected, and we all have so much to thank them for.

  • What do you find the most rewarding aspect of being a u3a member – and how would you inspire others to join? Send your thoughts to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Head your email: My u3a experience).

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We need more men on board!

By Barrie Gunter, Epping Forest u3a.

In setting out its stall for the future, the Third Age Trust (TAT) has identified two principal objectives: growing the membership and getting a higher public profile. In his TAM article (Summer 2023 issue), Vice President Allan Walmsley presented potentially reassuring population statistics showing plenty more retirees out there to recruit from.

There is one big problem, however. Around half these retirees are men, who are in short supply in the u3a and, it seems, more reluctant than women on retirement to get active. Research from around the world has shown that
men struggle to adapt to retirement more than women do and this may get in the way of them joining organisations like the u3a. Confirming this observation, the 2019 u3a Membership Survey showed that 29% of members were male and 70% female.

A worldwide issue

One factor could be, of course, that there are fewer activities to interest men than women in the u3a. Internationally, research has indicated that the problem runs deeper than this, and men experience psychological barriers to joining in new activities upon retirement.

Findings from the United States showed that compared to men, women are more likely, for example, to do volunteering work throughout life, and this gender difference persists in retirement even when men also have more time on their hands.

Studies in Italy found that both men and women, upon retiring, enjoyed walking (a popular u3a activity), but women, who generally adapted better to retirement, used walking specifically to make more friends. Men were preoccupied with how walking might affect body shape. Pre-retirement mindsets may vary as well. Norwegian research indicated that working women looked forward to retirement more than men because it would give them opportunities to help their families as well as volunteer and develop hobbies and interests.

But what about the u3a? Looking at my own u3a’s membership data for 2022-23, I found that women outnumbered men two to one. Women were also much more likely to belong to interest groups and go to u3a events than men. Why?

Tough challenge

One reason could be that many men didn’t join for themselves, but were enrolled by someone else, usually their wife or partner. In my u3a, most men (78%) joined with a partner, whereas most women (61%) joined on their own. Anecdotally, couples I spoke to indicated that it was the wife or female partner doing the enrolling for both while the man wasn’t all that bothered about being a member. Is this pattern unique to my u3a or replicated elsewhere?

And what does all this mean for u3a growth? One big challenge is to tackle the male recruitment problem. A plus point is research showing that when retired men broke through their retirement angst and joined in, they experienced physical and psychological health benefits.

Growth strategy therefore needs to be mindful that while the retirement population numbers are out there, the u3a must develop promotional messaging that recognises that men need to be persuaded to join in different ways from women.

  • For the study sources mentioned in Barrie’s thought-provoking feature, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and he will send the relevant information.
  • How do you think men could be encouraged to become u3a members – or were you initially reluctant to join but have found a new lease of life since you did? Send your thoughts to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Head your email: Encouraging men to join)

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I’ll never forget my own hunger games

By Eric Midwinter: u3a founder

To say I have been a lifelong hearty trencherman would be an understatement. For instance, I played cricket and in many of the pavilions I found myself in, I always knew exactly where to sit at teatime in order to catch the eye of the lady bringing out the extra sandwiches! I provide that piece of trivia as a background to the following tragic story.

It was 2 June 1953, the day of the coronation of Elizabeth II, and I was just finishing my first year at university. The practice then was to be in digs for the first year, followed by two years staying in the college itself.

My landlady, Mrs Clarke, always laid out a splendid breakfast: cereal, followed by a full English breakfast with fried potatoes and black pudding included, then a skyscraper of toast and marmalade. A rational start to the day in my book.

But as I rose and went downstairs on that momentous morning, my antennae noted anxiously that the sweet aroma of frying bacon and sausage was absent.

Horrified, I found a note. Mrs Clarke had set off early to join her daughter and other extended family to watch the coronation together on the television. (The event was judged to be TV’s breakthrough as 20.5 million people gathered to watch those blurred images on bought or rented sets – long before everybody had a TV in their homes.)

A bare repast.

I went into college where lunch was always served along with dinner in ‘hall’, which we attended at least five times a week. I thought at first the statement on the student notice board was a hoax. It announced that the college authorities had decided to give all the staff the day off to celebrate the coronation: neither lunch nor dinner were to be served. I trailed through the streets. Cafes and shops were closed. The pubs were packed, notably by American air force personnel but, in any case, pubs in those days didn’t do grub. And as lodgings were, at that time, more or less bed and breakfast only, one didn’t have use of the kitchen, so obviously didn’t keep any supplies.

Rumbling concerns

Hour after hour passed slowly. It was a drizzly day as well. I managed to do some reading in the college library, then I met up with a pal, Denis, in a similar plight. As evening approached, we decided to distract our minds from hunger by going to the cinema. We watched a husky-voiced Roger Livesey as General Clive Wynne-Candy starring in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. To be honest, whilst finding it a laudable movie, I was too stomach-conscious to delve into its psychological depths: it was only afterwards that I became aware of its conceptual value.

Returning to my digs, I retired to bed and endured an uneasy night. What a relief it was to wake the following morning, to shave and dress, then proceed down the stairs bang on eight o’clock, and sniff the aroma from the sizzling frying pan, before settling down to one of Mrs Clarke’s scrumptious breakfasts. It was 37 hours since I had last eaten.

Magazines sometimes ask food experts to describe their best-ever meal. It’s usually some unpronounceable concoction of vegetables braised over a sweet wood fire in an isolated hillside village somewhere far away.

Should I be asked for my favourite meal, however, the answer would be simple:
Mrs Clarke’s breakfast,
3 June 1953.

What’s the meal you’ll never forget - good or bad? Send your story to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Head your email: Unforgettable meal)

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Recipes: Autumn fayre

Make the most of the wonderful seasonal produce now available with this delicious menu created by Beverley Jarvis of Ashford & Wye u3a

Once again, the season of mellow fruitfulness is upon us. This is such an exciting time of year, when an abundance of fruit and vegetables including blackberries, apples and pears, bell peppers, squashes, tomatoes and mushrooms are all available.

This is the time to go foraging for mushrooms (provided you know which ones are safe), pick berries from the hedgerows and make the most of
orchard fruits. I am lucky enough to
live in Kent, the garden of England, so
I always try to make the most of harvest time, freezing produce I can’t make use of immediately.

In this issue, I’ve created a menu inspired by the best of the seasonal produce, perfect for a celebratory Sunday lunch or cosy autumnal dinner. Serve the lamb accompanied by the butternut squash ratatouille, with a dish of creamy mashed potatoes on the side – you could use a mix of sweet and white potatoes to ring the changes.

And don’t forget to send us your photos if you make any of these dishes!

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Slow-cooked shoulder of lamb

Serves 4-6

Shoulder of lamb is far leaner than it used to be and when slow cooked on a raft of vegetables it becomes melt-in-the-mouth tender, and so flavoursome. Buy British lamb if possible. Use any delicious juices that form in the base of  the roasting tin to make gravy.


1 small red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 medium-size ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 anchovies, from a jar

½ tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp coriander seeds

2 tbsps fresh rosemary leaves

1 tbsp runny honey

Salt and black pepper

2 kg lean British lamb shoulder

2 sticks celery, chopped

1 red onion, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

Rosemary sprigs to garnish


1. Prepare the marinade. In a food processor, blitz the red onion, garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, fennel and coriander seeds, rosemary, honey, and about 50ml water, to form a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Stand lamb on a chopping board and pierce the top all over with a sharp vegetable knife. Place the meat in a shallow dish, and pour marinade all over the top. Set aside for 30 minutes or cover and chill overnight.

3. When ready to cook, bring the lamb to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C, fan 180C, or gas mark 7.

4. Arrange celery, onion and carrot in a roasting tin to form a raft. Sit the prepared lamb on the raft of vegetables. Add 2-3 tablespoons water to base of tin. Roast for 20 minutes, to allow lamb to colour and form a crust, then reduce oven temperature to 160C, fan 140C or gas mark 3.

5. Cover lamb with a large sheet of foil, tucking foil round edge of roasting tin to seal well.

6. Roast for 5- 5½ hours, basting after
3 hours, then re-covering with the foil.

7. Remove from oven and set aside, covered, for 30-40 minutes, before carving. Garnish with sprigs of rosemary.

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Butternut squash ratatouille

Serves 4-6

This easy oven-roasted ratatouille is great served with the lamb: cook it while the meat is resting. Any leftovers make a deliciously different salad. Just arrange on a bed of salad leaves, and top with diced feta cheese and plenty of snipped fresh basil leaves.


2 red onions, sliced

4 courgettes, sliced thickly

3 bell peppers (red and yellow are nice), deseeded and roughly chopped

1 small or ½ large butternut squash, deseeded and chopped (there’s no need to peel)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

300g, about 6 medium tomatoes, deseeded and chopped

2 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped

2 tbsps freshly chopped coriander

Salt and pepper

3 tbsps olive oil

Freshly chopped parsley, to serve


1. Preheat the oven to 200C, gas mark 6.

2. Put all the prepared vegetables and
the chopped garlic into a large roasting tin. Add tomatoes, oil, herbs and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Toss well to coat.

3. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring twice, until the vegetables have softened and are starting to char around the edges. Turn into a warm serving dish, and sprinkle the chopped parsley on top.

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Peach and plum cobbler

Serves 4-6

Peaches aren’t strictly an autumnal fruit, but if you can still get them in
the shops, the combination of peach, plum and apple, flavoured with cinnamon and ginger, is sublime. If, like me, you have a damson tree in the garden, you could include these instead of the plums.


2 just-ripe peaches, diced

750g plums or damsons, stoned and roughly chopped

1 eating apple, cored and chopped

100g soft light brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsps cornflour

For the cobbler topping

250g self-raising flour

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking powder

75g butter, diced

2 tbsps demerara sugar

2 tbsps ground almonds

1 large egg

75ml milk

3 tbsps flaked toasted almonds

1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

To Serve.

Vanilla crème fraiche (see next recipe) or hot custard


1. Preheat the oven to 190C, fan 170C or gas mark 5.

2. Put the prepared fruit into a shallow 2-litre ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the sugar, cinnamon, and the cornflour.

3. Make the topping. Place the flour, ground ginger and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and, using fingertips, rub butter into flour, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and ground almonds.

4. In a small bowl, beat the egg and milk together. Sir into the rubbed-in ingredients, using a cutlery knife then your hands, until the mixture forms a a soft dough.

5. Using floured hands, form nine scones, then drop them over the top of the fruit, leaving space between each scone. Top with the flaked almonds and pumpkin seeds.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve with the vanilla crème fraiche or piping hot custard (or both if you’re feeling decadent).

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Vanilla crème fraiche

Did you know you can whip crème fraiche, just like you can double cream? Use one or two tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sweet you like the crème fraiche to be.

Turn 500ml crème fraiche into a large mixing bowl. Add 1-2 tbsps of golden caster sugar and the seeds of one vanilla pod. Using a handheld electric whisk, beat until standing in soft peaks. Chill, covered, until ready to serve.

  • Beverley Jarvis is a home economist and cookery writer. find more of her recipes at

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Seeing the wood for the trees…

Discover how we can protect our beautiful woodlands by joining the Woodland Trust’s John Tucker for an enlightening online event on 20 September to mark u3a Week.

The Woodland Trust was established in 1972 and is the UK’s biggest woodland conservation charity. Its overrriding aim is to ensure that woods and trees thrive for both people and nature.

To achieve this vision, the organisation is dedicated to protecting woods and trees so that habitat, nature and carbon stores are not lost; it restores damaged ancient woodland with ecosystems to improve the landscape’s resilience; it creates or expands habitats which will benefit nature, climate and people; and not least, it works tirelessly to ensure the 1000 woods under the care of the Woodland Trust across the UK are able to grow and thrive.

“There is a lot to do but it’s heartening to see the enormous changes in attitudes towards our work and the organisation,” says the Woodland Trust’s ambassador, John Tucker.
“In the early days, we were seen as quite niche and odd, but that’s no longer the case. Nowadays, there is an ever-growing awareness of how vital it is to care for such rich and diverse landscapes, and an understanding that we must all look after them – whether it’s working or volunteering with the Woodland Trust, establishing specific community or educational initiatives, or simply offering support.”

Wonderful woods.

With that in mind, we’re delighted that John will be giving an exclusive online talk especially for u3a members later this month. “I’ll be providing a snapshot of where we currently are in terms of the nature and climate crisis, and how trees and woods can help the recovery. I’ll also be discussing ways everyone can be involved in making that happen,” explains John, who applauds the fantastic initiative by u3a to create a woodland to mark 40 years of the movement in 2022 .

“I hope to surprise people with some fascinating insights into the incredible ways nature works too.
Trees are not going to
solve all the world’s problems by any means, but they can help in so many extraordinary ways.”

To book tickets for this event, go to

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John Tucker is a chartered forester with over 40 years’ experience working with trees and woods. He has worked for the Trust for 28 years in a variety of woodland management roles, including 12 as director of woodland creation and outreach. He now acts as an ambassador for the Trust with a particular interest in woodland creation and agroforestry.

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Much of John’s presentation will be based on two crucial reports provided by the Woodland Trust: State of Woods and Trees 2021, and Nature Recovery Report 2023, both of which are available at the Trust website:

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Getting Crafty

Creative pursuits are not only fun and satisfying, they have surprising wellbeing benefits too, writes Sharon Parsons

Do you remember how enjoyable it was as a child to get stuck into arty projects involving everything from cardboard, felt and fabric to crayons, paint and glue? Sadly, however, as the years go by, such simple pleasures very often get shelved: there’s never enough time, we no longer have the confidence... or indeed, have any idea where to start!

In recent years, though, the wonderful world of crafting has had something of a resurgence: the restrictions of the pandemic saw many of us look to creative projects to keep occupied, and since then, sales of craft kits and materials have boomed. The likes of Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and TikTok now provide a wealth of inspiration and advice to both would-be and experienced crafters, while sociable sessions – including many initiated through u3a membership groups – have found growing popularity (and achieved very impressive results).

But tapping into your creative side is not only enjoyable – the physical and mental health benefits are immense too. For a start, absorbing pursuits help the brain to calm down: studies show that on average we process an astonishing 60,000 thoughts a day!

“When we focus attention on the task in hand, it allows the mind to get into a state of what is called ‘flow’,” explains mindfulness and meditation subject adviser Mike Pupius, a member of the u3a Sheffield group. “My wife, for instance, is a quilter, and can spend several hours totally absorbed in what she’s doing. These pursuits allow your brain to get into a calm and positive state.”

Research confirms this is especially the case for activities that require a repetitive action such as knitting or cross-stitch, which helps the mind relax and in effect lowers heart rate, blood pressure and, consequently, stress levels. These ‘steady’ crafts are also beneficial for cognitive skills: activities that use both hands require concurrent, coordinated movements which stimulate both sides of the brain. A regular pursuit like this not only improves concentration but taps into recognition and memory too.

Not least, crafting is a wonderful way to socialise, have fun and learn in a group. “Doing something together breaks down barriers because you’re all in the same boat,” points out Mike. “Having shared interests leads to new friendships, and is a wonderful way to alleviate loneliness or a sense of isolation. Connecting with others at this time of life is so important.”

Finally, let’s not forget that making something can be incredibly rewarding, and even if your first attempts aren’t the best, it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. “You don’t have to be ‘good’ at crafting to take it up,” says crafts subject adviser Kelly Benton encouragingly (see below). “Just give it a go – you might surprise yourself. So what if the end result isn’t perfect? To my mind, the wobblier the better!”

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"You can make something from almost everything"

Crafts subject adviser Kelly Benton, a member of the Ruthin and District u3a, runs a Facebook page – craftu3a – and loves the sense of community it brings. “It’s wonderful to have a shared interest, and people join from far and wide,” she says. “We share tips and advice, and seeing what everybody gets up to is so inspiring. We even had a couple of ladies decorating spectacles for fun – they were fantastic!”

Kelly’s personal crafting passion is upcycling. “I can’t throw anything away,” she admits. “I even make jewellery from plastic bottles which are cut up or squashed beforehand, like bangles and earrings.”

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"It’s such a relaxing thing to do"

Once a month, creative members of the Waltham Abbey u3a gather around a table brimming with everything required to make beautiful cards, pretty gifts and decorative touches. “We hold separate morning and afternoon sessions, and everyone pays £5,” explains organiser Marlene. “That pays for all the materials used, and anything left over goes towards our Christmas get-together!”

The atmosphere is relaxed and fun. “We have a lovely time – it’s very relaxed and great to share ideas and learn different techniques,” Marlene says. “Apart from creating a variety of different cards, we make everything from manicure kit pouches and wallets to mini clipboards and notebooks, flower brooches, hanging decorations and so much more. We only have one chap in our craft group at the moment, but more are welcome to join of course!”

  • The Waltham Abbey u3a also run a Dolls’ House group, which we’ll be checking out another time.

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What a card!

As an antidote to the digital greetings cards increasingly popping up in our inboxes, homemade cards are really special – and will be treasured (or even framed!) by the lucky recipient. Here are a few essentials:

Card or paper (of course!) .Stock up on a variety of textures, thicknesses and colours – not just for the card, but for inserts or layering effects too.

Paper trimmer. Precise cutting is essential for straight, even lines – a guillotine makes it quick and easy, and many paper trimmers also have rulers and a precision grid.

Craft knife. This will allow you to cut out shapes and so on safely and accurately: make sure you invest in a good cutting mat too.

Paper punches. A fast, super-easy way to stamp out designs and borders on your cards and allow you to create even very intricate patterns.

Die cutters. Dedicated card crafters swear by these for cutting, stamping and embossing, achieving really professional results in the process.

Adhesive. Forget fingers getting stuck together: these days, adhesive pens make sticking a breeze, as do tiny foam ‘dots’ that adhere on both sides.

Decorations. The sky’s the limit here! Collect ribbons, buttons, sequins, stickers, tiny emblems, photos and so on for use when needed.

  • For more inspiration, read Beginner's Guide to Card Making ( £9.99). The Range and Hobbycraft have a great selection of craft materials.

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"Our postbox toppers sparked so much interest!"

The Chandler’s Ford u3a made headlines earlier this year when their wonderful ‘toppers’, created to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary, adorned the town’s postboxes. “The reaction from far and wide was incredible,” says member Sandra Claxton who made the very first one, and then went on to start a Topper Group which saw 12 ladies creating these eye-catching designs. “As word spread, people got in touch because they wanted a list of all the toppers on display so they could do a tour of the town,” she laughs.

Since then, a Crafties Group takes place once a month in a room at the local church, and now has 17 members busily learning new creative skills.

“We recently met to try our hand at iris folding – a paper-folding craft – and we’re shortly going to learn to make Dorset buttons,” Sandra says. “We get involved in fantastic community projects, too: for instance, we’ve been invited to knit dark green squares to make a big Christmas tree for our local residential home. We’re also holding a craft session to make RAOK – Random Acts of Kindness – which are small gifts left in public places for people to find. We’re very busy!”

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A good yarn

Knitting and crochet have never been more popular – and hobby groups are thriving. According to the retailer Hobbycraft, other yarn-based crafts are also gaining in popularity now. Here are four rising trends:

Punch needling..This is actually a form of embroidery, but rather than making stitches through the fabric, the tool pushes the yarn into the cloth to make loops while keeping the needle on its surface.

Tufting.This is a speedy take on the above when continuous loops of yarn are pushed into cloth using a mechanical tufting gun. It doesn’t take long to see fantastic results – and tufted rugs are especially popular!

Latch hooking. Knitters who always have strands of wool left in their knitting bag will love this one. Short sections of yarn are tied to the horizontal strands of a canvas grid to create ‘fringes’ that overhang in sections – makes a great wall hanging or soft rug.

Macraweave. This combines making traditional macrame knots with clever weaving techniques to create anything from wall art to on-trend plant hanger.

  • What unusual creative hobbies or pursuits does your u3a group enjoy? Let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Head your email: Creative pursuits)

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Spreading the word

The rich, diverse and often quirky characteristics of the English language are a source of endless fascination, writes Pam Upton, Charnwood u3a.

Do you brew, mash or steep your tea?

Are you amazed at how children learn to speak?

Do grocers’ apostrophes drive you mad... or do you think we should ditch this pesky punctuation mark?

These are just a few of the topics in Charnwood u3a’s ETHEL programme. ‘Exploring the English Language’ has members meeting face to face to learn and laugh about the multifaceted subject of English language and linguistics.

The list of possible topics is as wide and diverse as language itself. The group has explored local dialects, the history of English, gobbledegook, political correctness and sign language, along with some more controversial questions such as: ‘Is there any such thing as ‘bad language?’ and ‘Do women and men speak the same language?’

Open to change.

ETHEL doesn’t mind controversy, but she avoids dwelling in Pedants’ Corner too long. She believes that thinking about language use as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ closes down what can be a fascinating exploration of language change, and how people speak and write in different situations. Some people find American English annoying, but without it we wouldn’t have cornflakes for breakfast, we wouldn’t be shopping at the supermarket for detergent, and we wouldn’t be able to moan about the boss.

Grocers’ apostrophes are another popular bugbear, but punctuation can be fun, like the sign outside a restaurant: ‘Cooked Pensioners Lunch – Various Choices’. On the other hand, it could be a matter of life and death if you forget the comma when you post on your family’s WhatsApp group: ‘Let’s eat Grandma.’

Spelling it out.

It’s been estimated that the vocabulary of English includes roughly one million words. Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) already contained 40,000, so it’s hardly surprising that even in the 18th century, Mrs Malaprop got confused. The hilarity continues today: take, for instance, this sign outside a swimming pool: ‘The pool is closed till further notice – sorry for the incontinence.’

English spelling is a regular source of confusion and delight. ETHEL members were thrilled to discover a new dual-purpose corner shop in their town, its sign promising ‘General Groceries and Confessionary’. In fact, it’s only relatively recently that spelling has mattered at all. William Caxton puzzled over which spellings to choose for his printing press because there were so many dialect variations. And dialects are still with us, of course. When ETHEL members were asked, ‘What do you call a small round piece of bread, filled and eaten like a sandwich?’, their responses included cob, bap and barm cake, while ‘a narrow walkway between houses’ yielded alleyway, ginnel, snicket and twitter.

u3a members are as diverse as language itself, and bring with them a huge variety of language experience to share in groups like ETHEL.

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Pam Upton is the u3a’s subject adviser for English language and linguistics and would love to hear from u3as running similar groups. An informal network has been meeting for over a year on Zoom and the members’ group titles show the different approaches possible: Exploring the English Language, Language and Linguistics, English – an Evolving Language, Linguistics and Aspects of Language.

To know more about starting a group in your u3a, or to explore one of the many English topics, contact Pam via the subject advisers directory on page 64, or the website:

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Essential wellbeing

Don’t miss the opportunity to join the next online Mindfulness and Meditation programme, which begins on 18 October. This hugely popular initiative was developed in conjunction with the Sheffield u3a Mindful Ageing Group, led by subject advisers Mike Pupius and Dr John Darwin.

The six-week programme will follow the Five Ways to Wellbeing (widely used by the NHS and other public sector organisations): Take Notice, Connect, Be Active, Give and Keep Learning. Each session considers one of the Five Ways, and involves short presentations, meditation, mindful movement (such as simple yoga) and discussion. The sixth session, the Full Monty, brings it all together. The programme will also introduce practices that demonstrate how best to enhance health and wellbeing. For example, the Be Active session considers the benefits of physical activity and connecting to nature.

‘Past programmes have proved to be incredibly popular, with over 700 u3a members participating so far, and the sessions have been praised for their positive, empowering and inspirational content,’ says Mike. ‘We’re looking forward to welcoming members who want to discover more about these essential paths to wellbeing.’

  • The fifth programme is to be held on Zoom and will be delivered by members of the Sheffield u3a Mindful Ageing Group. To book, go to:

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Join interest groups online

Here’s an enjoyable, convenient and easy way to explore a huge variety of different topics and interests on offer.

Interest Groups Online (IGO), formerly known as Trust u3a, offers small interest groups which operate mostly via Zoom. There are more than 90 on offer, ranging from Cryptic Crosswords and More Fun with Maths to Jazz Hour and Film Reviews.

Membership of IGO can be standalone or complementary to your local u3a membership – offering you a chance to do activities both online and in person. Here’s what just one member had to say about the initiative:

‘I have been a member of IGO since October 2022, when I joined the 19th Century British Social History group,’ explains Andrew Merriman, a member of Interest Groups Online, Long Eaton u3a, and Beeston u3a. ‘Since then I’ve also joined Military History, What Are You Reading and, very recently, the World History group... I’m someone who was badly affected by lockdown during the pandemic and being able to continue with u3a activities via Zoom has, quite frankly, been a lifesaver for me.’

From 1 October, you can join IGO for just £6 for six months’ membership, In the first week of October, we’ll be running free taster sessions for anyone considering joining – see details of Interest Groups Online Fair below.

  • Find out about what these groups have been up to on the IGO noticeboard, and join at

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Try some taster sessions!

For one week only, our Interest Groups Online Fair will be opening the doors to everyone. A selection of our group leaders will deliver 30-minute taster sessions to give prospective members a flavour for what can be enjoyed if you decide to join IGO.

When: 2 to 6 October 2023. Sessions at 10am, 11.30am and 3pm every day.

Where: The comfort of your own home, via Zoom

What’s on: The week will include tasters across the following subject areas:

Book club

Laughter yoga


Creative writing workshop

Exploring classical music

Learning recorder


British cemeteries

Early women doctors

… and many more!

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History in focus

The first-ever u3a Festival planned for next summer promises to bring a wealth of fascinating subjects to the fore – not least, this country’s past.

There are at least 2,000 u3a British history interest groups across the UK, covering many aspects – from ancient, medieval and modern to social, economic, military, empire, and more.

We’re inviting u3a members of these groups to suggest imaginativevways we can bring British history to life at the u3a Festival in York. Ideas can relate to the city specifically or to other, more general, areas of British history.

If you’re interested in helping to develop a British history programme for the Festival, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The u3a needs you!

In order to continue to evolve and thrive, the u3a would love your opinions and feedback on how the organisation can better support local groups and wider learning opportunities.

What do you want to learn and gain from u3a?

How has your u3a learning experience changed after the pandemic? Do you learn online as well as in person?

What subjects would you like to learn more about? Whether you are interested in gardening or literature, geology or languages, we want to hear from you.

We’re looking for members to take part in a focus group or complete our survey, so please help us to help you.

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Subject advisers

Looking for fresh ideas for your interest group? Whether you want to share ideas with similar groups or need some support to start a new one, find resources and information at

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Win a fantastic 8-day cruise down the Danube River worth £3,500.

Cruise the Danube with this Three Capitals Cruise on 19 to 26 March 2024, brought to you by Theatrical Adventures. The cruise will include a string quartet, featuring principals from the National Festival Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera star Donald Maxwell, with six professional opera singers providing nightly entertainment.

This fabulous cruise will see you and your travel companion set sail and travel through the Austrian capital of Vienna, the Slovakian capital of Bratislava and the Hungarian capital, Budapest. You will also visit Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, Melk Abbey and Durnstein.

  • Find the full itinerary at

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How to enter

It’s free to enter, so email:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or send a postcard to: TAM Theatrical Adventures Comp, The Old Vicarage, All Souls Road, Halifax, HX3 6DR

Include your contact details and the answer to the following question:

What is the capital of Austria?

Terms and conditions.

The prize is open to members of u3a, and entrants must be over 18. The prize includes cruise only for two people, including twin cabin, full board and drinks at mealtimes.All excursions are included. Fights and transfers are not included. The prize is non-exchangeable, non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered. The competition promoter and cruise operator is Theatrical Adventures/International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival

Closing date 30 September 2023. The winner will be notified by 31 October 2023.

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Brain games


From Michael Cleaver, of Lancaster & Morecambe u3a


Although the various 4NT control-asking conventions are just as popular as ever, cue-bidding is an infinitely more valuable aid to good slam-bidding.

WEST. ♠ AQ76. ♥ 4. ♦ AK97. ♠ Q96

W. 1 ♦. 3 ♠. 4 ♠

E. 1 ♠. 4 ♥

EAST. ♠ KJ1053. ♥ AKJ. ♦ Q4. ♠ 863

After the jump-raise, East is worth a slam try but the club layout makes it risky to push these two hands beyond 4 ♠.
But using cue-bidding, East's 4 ♥ bid shows a guarantee of 4 ♠ game and first round control in ♥ (A or void) and, crucially, DENIES FRC in either minor. West can tell that the club suit may be wide-open and so signs off in game.

WEST. ♠ KQ84. ♥ AKQ74. ♦ AQ. ♣ Q9

W. ♣ 2. 2 ♥. 3 ♠ 4NT. 6 ♠

E. 2 ♦*. 2 ♠. ♣ 4. 5 ♥

EAST. ♠ A10953. ♥ 76. ♦ 98753. ♣ A

2 ♦*: Waiting bid, at the lowest level, so West can describe their powerful hand, saying nothing about diamonds.

This time, West knows from East's 4 ♣ bid that they have control in both minors. From East's 5 ♥ bid, West knows that East is also has ♠ A, so confidently bids 6 ♠.

In the above deals, cue-bidding began after suit agreement, but such agreement can also be implied.

With partnership agreement, a triple jump-raise can be used as a cue bid since it is rarely needed as a natural bid. The cue-bid sets partner’s opening bid as the trump suit, and tells partner that you may have slam ambitions. If partner is better than minimum, they may cooperate with a cue-bid of their own or merely sign off in game with no slam interest.

Cue-bids are always made at the lowest possible level
first, viz:

WEST. 1 . 1 ♥

NORTH . 1. P

EAST. 1. 3 ♠ Promises at least game (4 ♥) and FRC in ♠

WEST. 2. 1 ♥


EAST. 2. 4 ♣ Promises at least game (4 ♥), FRC in ♣ and denies FRC in ♠

WEST3. 1 ♥


EAST.3. 4 ♦ Promises at least game (4 ♥), FRC in ♦ and denies FRC in ♠ and ♣

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From Phil Lloyd of Reigate and Redhill u3a


1. To improve fitness, get on EU programme, in part (4, 2)

5. Joint creative activity initially held in Notts town (8)

9. On retirement, I was guide in shop selling cooked meats etc. (4)

10. I’d got into south-east team (4)

13. Pick out special container (4)

14. One stopping to express disapproval
of drop in value (10)

16. Do up home again, perhaps – crumbling terraced one (vacant) (10)

18. Limerick, for instance, regularly open in the afternoon (4)

20. Starters of egg also served yesterday – not difficult (4)

22. Provide and pay for a share of theatre attendances (5)

25. Bridge, for example, in Georgia, covering a mile (4)

26. A musical composition? We hear silence (5)

27. Millions excluded from broadcast media plan (4)

28. Confidently forceful, reforming even them (8)

29. Cooking implement from Slovakia, alongside jug (6)

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2. Paramour (not the first) and contrary chum have something in common (7)

3. Quite randomly uncovered better code of conduct (9)

4. Her old pony’s peculiar solid body (10)

5. North-eastern river to deteriorate over time (4)

6. A skating venue right in the middle of Stockholm (4)

7. What’s gripping you and me? His crazy Japanese dish (5)

8. Leftover item in weirdly domed, empty nest (7)

11. Declare spades to get highest point (5)

12. Never giving up, sent seller up the wall (10)

15. Note flipping recipes in a mess and not exact (9)

17. Raise tax in East Lee (7)

19. In context, remedy is drastic (7)

21. One’s area of interest understood, by the sound of it (5)

23. Recess found in air-passage periodically (4)

24. Encounter mass support from the south (4)

  • To submit a crossword, grids should be no bigger than 15 square. Email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Crossword Solution


1. Tone Up. 5. Workshop. 9. Deli 10. Side 13. Spot 14. Depreciate 16. Redecorate 18. Poem 20. Easy 22. Treat 25. Game 26. Piece 27. Idea 28. Vehement 29. Skewer .


2. Overlap. 3. Etiquette. 4. Polyhedron. 5. Wear. 6. Rink. 7. Sushi. 8. Oddment. 11. Speak. 12. Relentless. 15. Imprecise. 17. Elevate. 19. Extreme. 21. Scene. 23. Apse. 24. Meet.

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Maths challenge

Problems and puzzles are posed weekly online by Gordon Burgin, Andrew Holt, Rod Marshall, Ian Stewart and u3a maths and stats subject adviser David Martin.

Question 1

Two trains are heading towards each other on parallel tracks. The first train is traveling at 60 mph and the second train is traveling at 40 mph. The distance between the two trains is 500 miles. If they started at the same time, how long will it take before they begin to pass each other?

Question 2

How many three-digit numbers are divisible by 7?

Maths challenge solutions

Question 1.

The trains are approaching each other at 100 mph. They will take 5 hours to cover the 500 miles.

Question 2.

The largest two-digit and three-digit numbers divisible by 7 are:

98 = 14 x 7 and 994 = 142 x 7.

There are therefore, including zero, 15 one- and two-digit numbers divisible by 7, and 143 one-, two- and three-digit numbers divisible by 7. Thus, 143 – 15 = 128 three-digit numbers are divisible by 7.

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5 Jump that's a bit riskily taken! (3)

7 Flypast said to be worse than a cold (3)

10 Fine linen made from river block, say? (7)

14 Smorgasbord, straight out of the cooker (3)

15 Furrow has a bad start for champagne (3)

1a Do this, being unpopular with lenders if so minded (4,7)

8a Later on it could be imaginary (3,4)

11a Potter in line up for a swim, say? (4,3))

16a Teach, in mime, how to use teleporter through the ages (4,7)


2 Sensed in a woolly sort of way? (4)

3 Lazy tickover? (4)

9 There, somewhere below, is a revolting person (5)

12 Egg unmoved by endless changes (4)

13 Chicken nuggets: fashionable up front! (4)

1d How dieter misplaces a kilogram? (5,6)

4d Rest easy in marquee in continental area (6,5)

6d Picks an awful lot of dodgy fungus (3,4)

7d Shine now and then in a fickle way, right? (7)

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1. Lose friends. 5. Ski. 7. Flu. 8. Not real. 10. Cambric. 11. Pool cue. 14. Gas. 15. Rut. 16. Time machine.


1. Loses weight. 2. Felt. 3. Idle. 4. Square metre. 6. Ink caps. 7. Flicker. 9. Rebel. 12. Ovum. 13. Chic.

  • For more professor rebus puzzles visit

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Member's story

Our on-the-move holiday proved the best way to travel

Mark and Amanda Dowdney, both members of Elmbridge u3a in Surrey, took to the open road through Europe this summer, managing to avoid the alarming heatwaves and wildfires that affected so many along the way. Mark shares their highlights...

Hot, lazy days in the sun took a sinister turn this year, with fierce heatwaves scorching many parts of southern Europe, and wildfires impacting on both local communities and holiday-makers. Scientists warn that such conditions are set to continue because of climate change... So what to do?

One answer is to have your vacation on the move: my wife Amanda and I have come to this conclusion after a seven-week, 4,400-mile campervan trip touring France, Spain and Portugal. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter the devastation of the forest fires on our journey, but if we had, we felt we would be able to strike camp and move on.

We bought our van after retiring and love our summer holidays wandering around Britain and Europe. I accept that campervanning is not for everyone. For a start you’ve got to enjoy driving, but these days satnavs and automatic gearboxes make it so easy, and an ordinary driving licence is all you need to take charge of a campervan or motorhome of up to three-and-a-half tonnes.

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French flavour

We set off at the end of May, heading through the back roads of France. Our first stop, deep in the countryside, was in the large garden of a beautiful timbered Normandy farmhouse on the edge of a village, Pommeréval, north of Rouen.

We stayed the night free of charge, courtesy of France Passion. This organisation costs £29 to join and opens up 2,100 places all over France, such as farms and vineyards, where you can park overnight for free, mostly without booking in advance. In fact, we didn’t book a single night in advance during our entire trip around three countries and never got turned away.

The next day, we moved on to Chartres where we spent a few hours looking at its famous cathedral and old town. Amazingly, the cathedral was saved from being destroyed by Allied bombing in the Second World War by a brave American officer who challenged his orders. He volunteered to go into the city and check to make sure the cathedral was not being used by the Germans. He found it empty and the orders were changed, but tragically he died later the same day.

We moved on to our second France Passion stop on a watercress farm.
It lay in a peaceful valley with tinkling water, and the bunches of watercress we bought for €1.50 lasted for days in our picnic lunches!

Our route took us to Orléans, with another cathedral – where Joan of Arc became a legend – then Limoges and Cahors. Further stops included a walnut farm, and a vineyard owned and run by an Englishman, before we crossed the Pyrenees via Andorra: ahead lay Spain and glorious Zaragoza.

This is such a beautiful city, with two majestic cathedrals and a history stretching back to the Romans: it was founded as Caesaraugusta in the first century BC. We unloaded our folding e-bikes and cycled around for hours soaking up the atmosphere of a truly unique place.

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History lesson

Driving on across Spain’s central plateau felt liberating. It was early summer and there were flowers and crops growing, along with tiny whitewashed villages. But in contrast, our next overnight stop took us back to a time when this peaceful landscape was rent by war, and the earth stained with blood.

Using an online site called Park4Night – which recommends free overnight stops in every country of Europe – we were guided to a remote car park at the end of a stone road, set in low hills with fine views.

This was a former front line in the Spanish Civil War, and a place where British author George Orwell fought against Franco’s fascists. A trench that ringed the hill top is still preserved and there are explanations of the fighting that took place there.

No one else was around and we parked up on a ridge amid wild thyme. The atmosphere of the place was dramatically heightened by a sudden storm with torrential rain and deafening claps of thunder, but it passed and we had a peaceful night, not troubled by any ghosts from the past.

Our route took us down through central Spain, avoiding Madrid, but visiting magical places like the medieval hillside village of Albarracín. We also went to Cordoba, where a tour of the Mesquita Cathedral is a must. The city has four World Heritage sites, more than anywhere else in the world.

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Moving on

After skirting Seville, which we’ve visited before, we headed for Tavira in Portugal to stay with some English friends who moved there eight years ago. This part of the coast with its huge salt flats has not been spoilt by overdevelopment, and our friends have built a house on land filled with orange, lemon, apricot, pomegranate and olive trees.

After a week, the temperatures rose to over 30 degrees, and we decided it was time to move north to cooler climes. We drove up through Portugal, via the capital, Lisbon, where we stayed for two nights in a campsite, past Porto and up into the mountains at Ponte da Barca, and the cooling River Lima.

We are great fans of the Tour de France, and this year we timed our trip to coincide with the start. The first three stages were in the Basque Country around Bilbao: we were able to park up in a hill village on the route of one stage, and also go to the start of another. Seeing sprinter Mark Cavendish up close at his tour bus was a great thrill.

But all good things must come to an end and we headed back into France and home via the Atlantic coast with a final relaxing three-day stay on a campsite amid the pines on the lovely Ile d’Oléron – a place of bike paths, sandy beaches, and great seafood.

The weather was perfect and, thanks to our campervan, we arrived home in mid-July having escaped the destructive and dangerous weather conditions. Now, we’re starting to plan our road trip next spring: touring Scandinavia and hoping to reach the Arctic Circle. The climate will no doubt be slightly different!

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Email your letters, Including your name and your u3a, and with ‘letters’ in the subject line, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or post to u3a office

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If someone had told me 18 months ago that my life was going to take such a positive turn, I’d have found it hard to believe. I had given up my job – caring for the elderly in our local community – 10 years ago to care for my own frail and aged parents. Subsequently I grieved for their loss and that of other close family members, as do many others who approach retirement age.

I now had freedom to rebuild a life for myself that did not revolve around either work or family commitments, but where do you start? It was by chance that a neighbour, who is a member of Cheadle u3a, asked if I would come along to their Walking Netball group as the numbers were low. I loved to play sport at school, although a very long time ago, but I agreed to give it a try. My confidence was low and I was nervous and apprehensive about going to the group. When I arrived I was soon put at ease by their welcome. I realised that, after all, they had all gone through making that first step into trying something new. I had a wonderful hour with the ‘girls’ and enjoyed playing the game – although my old unused muscles were not quite so sure the day after!

I joined the Cheadle u3a, then soon after became a member of the Walking Hockey and Badminton groups. Pickleball has just started and I’m having a go at that too. My week is full of activity, fun and laughter with both old and new friends. I have also joined the coffee morning team of volunteers, where I meet people from all the other groups: you can get a real sense of belonging to the u3a community.

Cheadle u3a runs a coffee morning once a month for members and non-members. We get good attendance and our team of volunteers work well together with great camaraderie. Personally I would like to thank our committee members and group leaders for all the work that they put in – all voluntary – enabling the members to have such a wide range of activities on their doorstep. I can’t speak for the other 700 members, but for me joining the u3a has given me a new direction in life, and I am enjoying my retirement to the full.

Glynis Hopkinson, Cheadle u3a

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I was astounded to see the photographs of Dr Fanni Bogdanow in the Summer issue of Third Age Matters (Member’s story: ‘Fanni never fully recovered from the Kristallnacht trauma’). From 1959 to the early 1960s, I was a trainee photographic technician in the Arts Library of Manchester University. Like Fanni, I had left school early because I needed to earn. One of my duties was maintaining microfilm readers and I often chatted with her. She was always smiley, kind and gentle.

One day she asked me if I’d like to accompany her to see an exhibition of manuscripts at the famous John Rylands Library in the town. She quietly paid my bus fare and guided me round the exhibition, which made quite an impression.

I lost touch with her when I left the Arts Library to take up the position of photographer to The Simon Engineering Laboratories – which is another story – but I have never forgotten her.

Jackie Lloyd, leader, Memoir Writing group, Lyme Bay u3a, Dorset

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It was encouraging to read Jenny Wilson’s climate crisis action letter in TAM, Summer 2023 issue, and read her concern about the negative effects of the catastrophic growth of the human population during the industrial age to the present.

However, I fear the Just Stop Oil campaign is wrongly targeting the companies and institutions that
only exist to provide us with the cheap energy and chemicals that we demand to give us the transport and materials we need to participate in modern life.

Until we decide to drastically reduce world populations and stop demanding higher standards in health, education and infrastructure, our consumption will continue to rise with our demand for cheap energy. This has to come from gas and oil while our expertise and investment in less polluting sources of energy and materials develop.

I hope those concerned about
climate change will be setting an
example to us all by reducing their personal consumption by only travelling on foot, not prolonging their own
lives with resource-hungry medical procedures, reducing their water use
and only replacing appliances and
clothes when essential.

I see no logic in criticising the companies that provide what we ask for.

John Kuyser, vice chair, Totton South u3a, Hampshire

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A letter in the Summer issue of Third Age Matters from Niall Simpson caught my eye. Having been fortunate enough to travel abroad with my late husband,
in France we found a bidet in the bathroom facility was the rule, not the exception. Why oh why are we here in the UK so averse to having a bidet?

When looking around an updated bungalow with a view to buy, I was pleased to note that a bidet had been installed in the en-suite. Yes, we bought the bungalow – though not just because of that, I hasten to add.

Whoever had planned the update with a view to sell had thoughtfully considered the particular market the property was being aimed at. Namely those who, as they get older, appreciate the very real benefit of a bidet for reasons of hygiene. I rest my case.

Mrs Tessa Rossiter, East Bergholt, Essex u3a

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I just wanted to say thank you for your fascinating article on the wonderful artwork created by the various groups in Sidmouth (TAM, Summer). The amount of work that went into it must have been tremendous, especially by Maureen Hawkridge.

Having worked with layers in Photoshop myself, I can’t imagine how she managed to keep track of 240. The more I looked at it, the more details I noticed. This artwork is something of which they can all be truly proud.

Carolyn Hunter, Brackley u3a

I immediately recognised the seafront at Sidmouth (TAM, Summer) after visiting only a couple of times when holidaying in the region. Well done to all concerned – I can’t wait for the jigsaw.

Arlene Hunter, Lancaster & Morecambe u3a, Lancashire

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I enjoy reading the magazine but was shocked to see, in the Summer edition, a piece awarded first prize in a poetry competition that wasn’t a poem, in my opinion. The sentiments expressed in ‘Home’ are thoughtful and worthwhile. However, this is simply prose set out in ‘verses’: it can in no way be called poetry.

I am a retired English teacher, now a tutor. I love teaching my students about poetry and always stress that poems do not require rhyme. What they must have is metre or rhythm, however subtle. With all due respect to the writer, I do feel that this piece would have been much better presented as a piece of beautiful prose.

Sue Deans, Sutton u3a, Surrey

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Eric Midwinter’s article on home deliveries (TAM, Summer) brought back memories from my 1950s childhood.

At that time almost every home in towns had a daily milk delivery. On Saturdays, two days of milk was left as Sunday was still a non-trading day. As refrigeration was less developed, grocers could only stock sterilised and tinned milk, so milkmen had long rounds, carrying two bottles in each hand and leaving them on every doorstep. Standard milk had a silver top, while Jersey had a gold: this had a thick layer of cream on top, which Mum transferred into a small jug to be poured on desserts such as homemade apple crumble.

I was born in 1946, and when I was very small, milk was delivered in a cart pulled by two horses. Later milkmen had milk floats or small vans. In the winter bluebirds pecked holes in the milk tops to drink the milk. When it was very cold, the milk froze and expanded, so that there was a column of ice with a gold top sitting on it.

We’d put the empty washed bottles on the doorstep for re-use, sometimes with a note inside to ask for an extra pint or to cancel because we were going on holiday. The milkman knocked once a week for his money, which he put in his leather shoulder bag. The aluminium tops were collected in a jam jar and taken to the WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) nearby, where we got free orange juice: a treat given to children after the Second World War. The tops were used to raise money for a charity for blind people.

We also had a rag and bone man. He had an old horse and a rickety cart, with pieces of rusty iron in it, and his young son would be waiting to jump off to collect any offerings. He rang a very loud bell so he could be heard from the top of the street. “Aniowron,” he yelled as he rang the bell. Mum told us this meant “Any old iron?”

We also had coal delivered. Mum ordered from the coal merchant in the high street in the morning for delivery that afternoon. The coalman came in a van, then carried the heavy sacks of coal on his shoulder through our side gate and emptied them into the coal bunker at the back of the house. He would then look through the glass panel of our back door with a coal-blackened face, frightening my younger sister.

Most exotic of all was the Breton onion seller. He had an old bicycle, which he propped against the wall by the front door. It had a basket at the back filled with onions, and chains of onions and garlic on the handlebars and draped around his neck. He was wiry and tanned. His main language was Breton, but he also spoke French and a smattering of English for his trade. Mum used to buy a string of Breton red onions and a necklace of garlic bulbs, which she hung on a nail in the kitchen. My sister remembers that Mum invited him in for a cup of tea and homemade biscuits. They managed to converse with her schoolgirl French and his limited English. He must have welcomed the break.

Maxine Elvey, Palmers Green and Southgate u3a, north London

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The TAM postbox is always receiving correspondence regarding the increasingly technical age we live in. Many members recognise that technology has brought many benefits, but it can also discriminate and cause anger and frustration. Here are just two recent letters reflecting the general tone:

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Smart idea?

Following on from your correspondence about smartphones in Third Age Matters, I am afraid we will all need them soon. I went with two other older travellers, all of us with our smartphones, to an Italian restaurant in Santiago, Chile. There was no menu – only the QR square on all the tables. This had to be scanned to order a meal.

We didn’t have a QR reader app between us, so we had great difficulty ordering our food. Luckily, it was an Italian restaurant so at least the food was familiar. If we had chosen a speciality venue and tried to order strange food, it would have been much more difficult.

This was something that happened throughout Chile and Argentina, and I am sure it will catch on here. I don’t know if it has reached London yet, but as far as I know it hasn’t got to Dartmouth here in Devon.

Kathy Warmoll, Dart Valley u3a

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Service, please!

I am one of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who believe that large companies no longer give customers a service – instead, their priority is to take our money as quickly as possible. We are expected to serve ourselves. Personal service is disappearing in a world where technology is taking over to the detriment of humankind. Increasing mental illness diagnoses are probably largely due to the lack of human contact.

We, the customers, should say: “Enough is enough – we expect better.” The shopping experience is no longer enjoyable. Older people and those with special needs or less money to spend are being excluded and discriminated against due to not being able to use a smartphone when shopping or parking. The large companies should be at the forefront of an improved customer service – not a diminished service.

We should lead a revolution: give some power to the people. Technology should serve us, not take over our existence. We should be given a choice and an alternative in our lives.

Gwen Godwin, Bromley u3a, south-east London

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Further to an earlier article published in the Summer edition of TAM, our Croydon u3a Beginners Belly Dancing group has been going for two years now. Our members range in age from 55 to 82 years old, and we incorporate all styles and influences from the belly dancing genre, including Egyptian, Turkish and African.

We get a wonderful workout, strengthening the core muscles and keeping our backs, hips and leg muscles strong, as well as improving our balance.

Our teacher has been dancing professionally for 20 years. She brings her expertise, but also makes it fun and manageable for us all to enjoy. We truly live, learn and laugh when we get together. We shimmy a lot, improvise to inspiring music using our veils, and use undulating arm and hand movements and hip hits that would send a tennis ball across the net. We can now perform a short choreographed dance with confidence. We’ve yet to showcase it at an event, but watch this space.

As you can see from the photo, we are wearing traditional costumes, which help us get into the role and focus on the discipline and beautiful artistry of the dance (Angela Rippon would be singing our praises). If you need help in starting a beginners’ class, then please contact Croydon u3a.

Jacqueline Harriott and Kay Starr Teacher, Croydon u3a

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Many members agreed with Esther Rantzen’s outrage (TAM, Summer) regarding the comments made by journalist Camilla Long about older members of the royal family at the King’s coronation...

Recently recruited into the u3a, I have found and enjoyed the opportunities provided, which have helped me enormously in coming to terms with the difficult circumstances following my wife’s demise into dementia.

When I read Esther’s article involving ageism, I was reminded of my employment at the National Maritime Museum when around the turn of the century they produced a wonderful exhibition simply entitled ‘Time’. Among all the fascinating exhibits and information was a section explaining the Japanese acceptance of age and how they celebrate the changing years of their lives. The age of 60, for example, is known as ‘kanreki’, which is derived from the words kan (return) and reki (calendar). Simplified, this means to start over or a rebirth, which instills respect and recognition of wisdom.

I think The Sunday Times columnist Camilla Long would do well to study this philosophy and reflect upon her considerations of age.
Barry White, Sidcup u3a,
south-east London

I completely agree with Esther. It is outrageous that Camilla Long was allowed to print such an ageist, insulting article, knowing full well that our King probably reads The Sunday Times and no doubt would have been deeply hurt and offended.

Like many people I thought the coronation was marvellous, showing our nation at its best: something for which we are envied by the rest of the world. Much consideration had gone into making the occasion inclusive to the common man, with many ordinary people invited. All that, though, is beside the point. Many other countries value their older people for their wealth of experience and knowledge, but in this country the older generation are largely ignored and don’t seem to matter. Furthermore, they are considered a nuisance because they are a drain on the NHS, and they are increasingly expected to continue working instead of enjoying their well-earned retirement.

I applaud Esther for bringing this issue to our attention, and feel strongly that The Times should be taken to task over printing such an attack.

Vicki Strachan, Seaford u3a; Newhaven and Peacehaven u3a, East Sussex

I see Camilla Long – The Sunday Times journalist having a go at the older royals – is a crusty 44 years old. I remember when I was half that age being quite contemptuous of ‘oldies’ in their 40s, 50s and 60s, especially those in charge. But as I progressed through a more adult working and social life, I came to understand the value of being among a range of age groups. Clearly Ms Long sees herself ‘down wiv the yoof’, but one day she will find they exclude her.

One of the downsides of being retired, I find, is reverting back to narrow age groups. Unfortunately, the rock concert I’m going to tonight will not help as the band I’m seeing was around 50 years ago, and the audience will reflect that.

Ged Parker, Washington Village u3a, Tyne & Wear

I agree with everything Esther said in her article. Why all the nastiness and negative comments about people? I just wish politicians and journalists would be more positive, stop telling lies, work together, show compassion, set good examples to society and adopt a more uplifting approach to life. Bullying newspaper reporters, social media and organisations with extreme views seem to be destroying our society – not only in the UK, but around the world.

Nevertheless, I’m pleased to say I feel there are more good people in the world. I look at who I know and most have a very positive approach to life – despite age in some cases – and embrace a ‘can-do’ culture. Sadly, it’s the whingers, liars and negative people who make the most noise.

Judith Collier, South Bucks u3a

I totally agree with Esther. Ms Long should be ashamed of her ageist comments, as should her editor for printing it.

What she and others like her forget is that – as Esther states – we are the ones who always vote, and the vast majority of us are still taxpayers contributing to the economy. It is all too easy to dismiss or ignore us: we have all experienced that feeling of being invisible at times. But they do so at their own cost.

Us ‘oldies’ are no longer willing to be treated as some kind of underclass and are fighting back. This government should take note and enact legislation against ageism now, as they may find us, the older generation, punishing them at the ballot box.

Evelyn Scott, Braintree Area u3a, Essex

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TAM receives more letters than it has space for, so they may be edited, cut, omitted or held over

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Personal ads

contact Jenni Murphy 020 8466 6139 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Copy to Jenni Murphy
Third Age Trust
156 Blackfriars Road
London, SE1 8EN

Email: advertise@u3a org uk

Deadline for next issue:
1 October 2023
Rate £1.87 a word + VAT @ 20%
Box number charge: £10

A box number is essential for any advertisement seeking contact with others, as we do not publish private postal or email addresses, nor phone numbers, in such advertisements.

Send box number replies to: Jenni Murphy, Third
Age Trust, The Foundry, 156 Blackfriars Road,
London, SE1 8EN. Write the Box No above the address on the envelope and remember to enclose your contact details.

As soon as your order is accepted, you will be sent a formal invoice with the details of your order, and you will be asked to pay this before the deadline. Please include a full postal address (not for publication unless requested) with your advertisement and
state if you are a member of a u3a and, if so, which one. Remittances should be sent to Jenni Murphy at the national office (address left) and cheques made payable to the Third Age Trust.

Holiday advertisements

Readers should ensure any offer complies with UK and EU regulations governing package holidays etc, if appropriate, before parting with any money. The Third Age Trust cannot be held responsible for this.

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Family Research

He fought in The Great War? Didn’t talk about it? Let an experienced military researcher discover his experiences for you.

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Holidays Canary Islands

TENERIFE Los Cristianos. Luxurious one bed apartment, quiet area, close to sea.

Karen 07801 472954

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Holidays Cyprus

NEAR PAPHOS. Members’ 1-bedroom apartment, aircon/heating, large sunny terrace, panoramic sea views, fantastic sunsets, large pool, undercover garaging, Wi-Fi/tv.

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Holidays Italy

PALERMO, SICILY. Private accommodation for individual or couple. Airport pick-up, drop-off. All meals with Italian host. Programme of accompanied visits. Practise your Italian or just relax.

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Venice, Castello. Charming courtyard apartment, sleeps 2/4.

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Holidays Spain

Altea, Costa Blanca. Modern 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom, heated apartment. Pool, tennis, garden, garage. Shops, restaurants, beach close. Warm winter area. Transfers available.

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Holidays UK

North Norfolk, near Holt. Period cottage, sleeps four, dogs welcome.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 01206 298302

POOLE HARBOUR Shoreline cottage, sleeps 4. Stunning views. Close Poole Quay. Prices from £350pw - £1,010pw. Simon 07860 866183

Cornwall. Just for 2. Comfortable and well equipped. Free Wi-Fi. Village near Truro/Falmouth. EV charging. No dogs/smokers.

Tel: (01209) 860402

CANTERBURY, KENT (7 MILES) Just for 2. Unique barn conversion, self catering, rural area

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NORTH NORFOLK, Sheringham. Atkinson Coach House, modern apartment, sleeps 4. No pets/smokers.

MALHAMDALE. quiet, comfortable granary for 2. Super garden, scenery, walking.

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SOMERSET, MENDIP HILLS. Occasional B&B - ideal venue and location for walkers/respite and general ‘R&R’.
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Topsham, Devon. 2-bedroom cottage overlooking Exe estuary and hills. Local shops, inns, teashops,
walks. Coast, moors, Exeter nearby.

Tel 029 20759314 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Double room available for short holiday/weekend stays in this area of West Sussex close to Arundel, Goodwood and Chichester. u3a member.
Please email Mary.

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3-bedroom luxury apartment Sleeps 6. Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1BW.
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WEST BAY, DORSET. 1-bedroom apartment with stunning sea view.

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Love Changes Lives Experienced professional dating agency. We introduce attractive, intelligent people for companionship, romance and maybe more. Relaxed, confidential, personal interviews in your home.

Call Sandra at Affinity, 020 8832 9030.

Fit and active female, late 60s Seeks travelling companion for European/UK holidays. Interests include walking, canal boating, cinema, theatre. Suffolk area.

Reply to Box No 415

70s retired gentleman Harrogate-based. WLTM a lady for outings. Hopefully she may be tactile.

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Widower, slim, active With many interests including theatre, music, rambling, dancing, travel, dining out. Seeking interesting lady to share pleasures of life. Berkshire & neighbouring counties.

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Lady, age 69 Seeks company of man 65 to 75. Also enjoys walks, gardening and family history. Cotswolds/north Wiltshire.

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Retired female academic, 70s Midlands-based. Still lively, active and curious. WLTM similarly minded male for companionship, arts, travel, laughter, conversation and more.

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Widower, 68, slim, active, caring Many interests, WLTM lady in Suffolk or North Essex for friendship or LTR

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Lady of a certain age wishes to meet intelligent gentleman for companionship. Harrow and surroundings.

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Widower, 78, retired journalist Fit, active, young outlook, varied interests. Seeking female companion for possible LTR. Interests: photography, music, current affairs, film, walks with my dog, travel, pub lunches and conversation. WLTM similar for companionship, friendship and to share life’s adventures, Southend/Leigh/Essex area.

Reply to Box No 417

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BOOK COLLECTIONS. Interesting books, the older the better.

Martin Johnson 01253 850075

Quality Stamp Collections/Albums Especially Great Britain and Empire. Devon/Dorset/Somerset. Major collections other areas.

Call Mike 075 275 38863

Minders Keepers, long-established, highly respected Home and Pet sitting company is looking to recruit mature, responsible house-sitters for paid sits.

Please call 01763 262102 or email
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