Third Age Matters Spring 2023 - Screenreader Edition

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From editor, Joanne Smith

Technology is always a thorny topic – love it or hate it, most of us have to rub along with it. Keeping up with the latest scams is part of staying safe. In this issue, tech writer James Day has some tips to avoid falling victim to cyber crime tricks.

There’s no doubt that u3as are stepping up their activities (if the TAM email inbox is anything to go by) and we try to reflect as much as we can, particularly the more unusual groups. We hear about members using a ‘sound bath’ for meditation and relaxation, and others taking part in drone photography. Then there’s the fascinating miniature world of Northampton u3a’s Microscope Users’ Group that examines everything from food to eyelash mites.

This issue also sees the start of our new feature on our trustees, starting with Liz Ervine, who covers Scotland and is a keen runner with her dog, Paddy. And it’s great to hear when u3as are growing, such as Teignmouth & District u3a in Devon, which formed just before lockdown but now has 400 members.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Third Age Matters, and please keep sending in your stories and letters for the Summer issue.

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Cover story - Black history has been suppressed, changed and distorted

Joyce Fraser OBE tells Joanne Smith how her celebration of black icons through plays, school talks and charity work led to an appointment with the King

Few people will have heard of John Archer, who fought for equal rights for Africans and became London’s first black mayor in Battersea in 1913. Or Claudia Jones, who challenged the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act because she had the foresight to know it would lead to identity problems decades later for the Windrush generation.

Now, u3a member Joyce Fraser has been awarded an OBE for bringing their stories – and many more – into the public eye through her charity, the Black Heroes Foundation (BHF), which she set up in 2016 in honour of her late husband, Peter Randolph ‘Flip’ Fraser, founding editor of the UK’s first African-Caribbean newspaper The Voice.

Other notable individuals highlighted by BHF include Jamaican farmer’s son Sam King MBE, a former mayor of Southwark, and the cousin of Joyce’s father, who came to the UK on the ship HMT Empire Windrush in 1948 after volunteering to serve Britain in the RAF during World War II. Known as the ‘father of Windrush’, he co-founded the Windrush Foundation in 1995 and financed the West Indian Gazette – which was created and edited by Claudia Jones.

Nurse Mary Seacole was born in Jamaica in 1805. Her Scottish father, James Grant, was a soldier in the British Army. When Mary’s offer to join the official Crimea War nursing contingent, led by Florence Nightingale, was turned down, she borrowed money to fund her own trip to eastern Europe, where she rode on horseback into the battlefields to aid wounded soldiers.

Sir William H Russell, war reporter for The Times, wrote of Mary in 1857: “I trust that England will not forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.”

Amid controversy, a statue honouring Mary was erected outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London in 2016.

There are modern-day heroes, too, such as children’s author Malorie Blackman, England footballer Marcus Rashford and Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, who was instrumental in campaigning for the Mary Seacole statue and became the UK’s first sickle cell and thalassemia nurse specialist, as well as helping to establish the Sickle Cell Society.

Joyce’s work promoting black history at arts festivals, in schools and online events earned her an OBE in the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours last year as well as a Points of Light award, which recognises ‘outstanding volunteers’, from former Prime Minister Theresa May.

She has also written and produced three plays which have been performed at arts centres and festivals – quite something for someone who was a science teacher before working in IT and didn’t consider herself at all creative.

“It’s amazing what has happened,” she says. “I knew nothing about charities or theatres or media when I started in 2016.”

The Black Heroes Foundation continues the work of journalist and playwright Flip, creator of the critically acclaimed musical Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame. Born in Jamaica, he gained a scholarship to the prestigious Jamaica College before coming to the UK when he was 15 with his parents, who worked for the Jamaican High Commission.

The Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame production was Flip’s life’s work, telling ‘5,000 years of history in one night’. It ran from 1987 to 2012, touring all over the UK and in America.

Joyce says: “He knew that the way to educate people isn’t in the classroom but through media and theatre, and he was just so clever.

“People would go and see it and come out saying they felt 10 feet tall. It made them feel proud of their background. The problem is black history has been suppressed, changed and distorted and we actually don’t know our own history, so the play was telling the black audience about their past.

“My parents always said ‘Get a good education and you will be able to get on’, but Flip thought it was more than that – it was education about ourselves. We all need to know black history.”

With little money, the charity needed a bit of luck, which came in the form of a generous restaurateur. “Mihad of the Leilani Restaurant & Ashanti Bar on Lavender Hill in London gave us our first break by offering use of his premises for one night a month,” recalls Joyce. And so with a £5,000 grant from Wandsworth Council, the Black Heroes Soul Food Café TM was launched, where people came together to tell their own stories or to research tales of local black heroes. “There was poetry and singing – it was a magical evening once a month,” says Joyce.

When lockdown hit, the Soul Food Café went online, attracting people from around the globe. “We had some fantastic guests,” she adds. “It was extremely popular and we had people tuning in from all over the world.”

Joyce first became aware of Claudia Jones through an online fundraising event to celebrate London’s women of colour. Claudia was a Trinidadian communist expelled from the US in 1955 and granted asylum in England. Three years later, she set up the West Indian Gazette in Brixton, South London, and fought the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.

“She knew it would be used very badly,” says Joyce. “She told everyone to make sure they had their papers in order.

“My mum came to Britain with a British passport. When she went back to Jamaica 20 years later, she didn’t have a British passport because unless you did your papers correctly, you didn’t have one. Because of that law, your British passport was not carried on unless you did all the paperwork.”

Claudia contracted tuberculosis while living in squalid conditions in New York, leaving her with a weak heart. She died on Christmas Eve in 1964 at the tragically young age of 49.

Joyce was so moved by Claudia’s story that it became the subject of her first play. She attended a creative writing workshop in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, and, with some funding from Wandsworth Arts Fringe festival, she was able to stage the play online as a live stream. The recording has also been shown in schools.

More funding followed from the Arts Council for Joyce to write The Story of John Archer, performed at Wandsworth in 2021. In the audience was the mayor of Liverpool, and Joyce hopes to take the production on the road to Merseyside.

The play opened Black History Month at Battersea Arts Centre in the capital in October 2021, attended by 80 Windrush elders, many of whom had not left the house since the beginning of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.

“What keeps me going is the feedback I get when I hold these events, even if it’s just one person at a time,” says Joyce.

Joyce joined various groups to help her learn, from the Small Charities Coalition to the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and the Musical Theatre Network. Now, she has been accepted by Stage One, a charitable body of West End veterans who help new producers, which adds further prestige to her work.

Joyce was thrilled to be awarded her OBE, having met the late Queen in 2019 at Windsor Castle to mark the centenary of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

“I accepted it without hesitation because I know Flip would be so proud and my parents would be so proud,” she says. “My relatives’ blood and labour went into building this country, so why on earth should I not take some recognition? I was born here, I’m British, so I’m very proud to accept it.”

She was presented with her OBE by King Charles in his first investiture at Windsor Castle on 31 January, accompanied by three trustees of the Foundation – the Rev Michael King, son of Sam King, his wife Marjorie and Claire Jackson.

“It was pretty amazing,” says Joyce. “We were very honoured to have King Charles. He said, ‘Hello Joyce, I understand your late husband Flip was the first editor of The Voice. I’m very proud to say I edited it last year to mark its 40th anniversary’. He said he was so pleased that the Foundation was getting the recognition it deserved. I was blown away that he mentioned Flip.”

She’s now in the thick of it, writing her next play. “I would never have dreamed all of this would happen to me,” she adds.

Joyce joined Bromley u3a in south-east London last year and has already given a talk as part of the national u3a online learning events. An academic, she also lectures at the Open University in the MBA Business School.

BHF is this year preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of HMT Empire Windrush’s arrival at Tilbury Docks in Essex, with events at Wandsworth Arts Fringe in June and screenings of a documentary about Sam King.

  • Black Heroes Foundation needs assistance with bid-writing, fundraising activities and donations. To find out more, please go to

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What's been happening across u3a

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Serving up sports hit to the masses

A cross between tennis, ping-pong and badminton, pickleball is so popular there are plans for a u3a festival, writes Joanne Smith

It is said to be the fastest-growing sport in the United States – and now pickleball is booming in the u3a, too.

The number of u3as offering the game has grown from around 15 to at least 50 in the space of just a year, with more groups in the pipeline. And it is so popular that there is even talk of a u3a Pickleball Festival being staged this summer.

u3a Pickleball Subject Adviser David Pechey has been inundated with requests from members for advice on where to play or how to start up a group since TAM ran a feature on the activity last spring.

The game – a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton – has celebrity followers, too, from actors George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio to American Football star Tom Brady and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

Its appeal is that it is easier than tennis as it is played on a badminton-size court, the net is two inches lower than in tennis and the ball – called a wiffle ball, made of plastic with holes in – is much slower. The racquets, known as paddles, are similar to ping-pong bats but larger.

Winning is also based on strategy rather than speed or strength. David says: “Hardly a week goes by without any new u3a enquiries. Either a member is asking where can they play it or they want advice on how to start a u3a Pickleball Group.”

David started his group five years ago at Bramhall u3a, Greater Manchester, with around 15 members. Today, some 50 people want to play each week so two-hour pickleball sessions run every weekday morning and afternoon.

Pickleball England, the national body, reckons there are around 8,000 active players in the UK, of which David says many are u3a members. “I estimate there are approaching 1,000 in u3a alone, making u3a a significant force in the growth of the sport in the UK,” he says.

Six Bramhall u3a members have trained as pickleball leaders, meaning they can help groups set up by explaining the rules. David has been visiting u3as local to him to help them get started. For those further afield, Pickleball England can supply a local leader to help.

“I am amazed at those members who come forward and are willing to set up a group in their u3a,” says David. “They have quite a bit of work to do as they need to get money to buy paddles and balls and then book courts.”

Lynn Boyes started a Pickleball Group at Congleton & District u3a in Cheshire in January. She also runs three u3a groups for badminton and plays tennis, so her interest was piqued when she read TAM.

She was so keen to try it that she and her husband joined Bramhall u3a, 15 miles away, to have a go. After playing it just a handful of times, they picked up the rules and started a group at Congleton. After just six weeks, they had 35 players, some of whom had never played a sport at all.

Lynn says: “We arranged a session from three qualified coaches from Bramhall u3a – David, Steve Goodall and Phil Kay – who willingly gave up their time to share their knowledge with 20 of us.

“It was brilliant. We learned about technique, positioning and strategy, which has really made a difference in our game. It was a perfect example of sharing knowledge within u3a.”

Lynn says her husband, who can no longer play tennis because of his knees, found the game easy. “He absolutely loves it,” she says. “It was quite easy to pick up and a fresh challenge. It’s quite competitive and very sociable.”

She adds that it was also very cheap to set up the group, with the u3a paying £60 for four paddles and some balls.

“Most people have now invested in their own pickleball bats,” adds Lynn.

Another new group is Cookridge & Horsforth u3a in Leeds, led by Barbara Stearn. Barbara tried pickleball after reading the article in TAM and then set up some taster sessions, with paddles and balls borrowed from Leeds u3a.

When she established that at least 16 members wanted to play weekly, her u3a paid for eight paddles and balls so she could set up her own group on badminton courts at a local leisure centre.

She now has a waiting list and is about to hold another taster session with a view to setting up a second group.

Some of Barbara’s group are already competitive and rank the top player each week. She is now hoping some may want to train as pickleball leaders.

“You never know, we might end up with a u3a league!” she says.

Finding suitable venues can be difficult. Badminton courts are the ideal size but tennis courts can also be used. An initial outlay of a couple of hundred pounds is needed to buy paddles, balls and nets, but David says this can quickly be recouped through fees when the group gets started.

Pickleball began in America in 1965, where there is a professional tournament season called Major League Pickleball with a $5million prize fund.

Last autumn, a pro-am tournament was held as part of the English Open Championships in Bolton, where US professionals came over to attend.

  • David would like to know if there
    are any u3a Pickleball groups he has not been in contact with so he can add them to his database. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Don't be court out! Get involved with u3a Pickleball Festival

Steve Baker, of Swansea u3a,
is looking to organise a u3a Pickleball Festival on August 5 and 6 at Swansea University for members to meet up and play the game. If you are a Pickleball group interested in supporting the event, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Build knowledge at Off the Wall festival

Free online talks and workshops on subjects from geography to art around the theme of Hadrian’s Wall take place next month as part of u3a’s Off the Wall Festival of Learning.

Join geologist Martin Eales as he explains how England and Wales collided with Scotland to form the British Isles or hear author Nancy Jardine discuss writing historical fiction.

Catherine Stevenson, of Newcastle u3a, will lead a talk about intriguing works of art found in areas around Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.

‘Scotland’s foodie’ Wendy Barrie will lead a session about Roman cuisine’s influence on Britain, and you can also take part in a workshop to learn how to create a Roman-style floral crown.

Those who enjoy art, whether drawing, painting or any other form, are invited to make postcard-size pieces on the theme of Hadrian’s Wall.

Submit your creation at or send it in the post to:
Off the Wall Postcard Competition,
c/o Katie Hull, Third Age Trust, 156 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8EN.

A number of events will be taking place at The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall on
10 May, including talks from Dr Rob Collins, senior lecturer in archaeology at Newcastle University, and Dr Andrew Birley, chief executive and director of excavations at The Vindolanda Trust.

There will also be guided tours of the Vindolanda fort and fringe activities all day, including charcoal landscape drawing and creative writing.

  • Find out more at

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Scottish u3as are organising events around the Antonine Wall, which was built by the Romans some 20 years
after Hadrian’s Wall.

It was the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire, stretching 39 miles between the Firth of Clyde in the west and Firth of Forth in the east.

u3as including Bearsden & Milngavie, Falkirk & District and Glasgow West End are planning walks, visits to Callendar House and Bearsden Bath House, and chats over tea and coffee.

  • More information can be found at

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Would you like to help behind the scenes with TAM?

Do you have a strong interest in journalism? Would you like to be part of the team that creates Third Age Matters magazine? TAM is looking for u3a members to sit on the magazine’s editorial advisory board. The board meets five times a year and discusses the content of the magazine with the Editor. Between times, board members are often consulted on editorial content via email.

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Take your place on Finance Committee

The Third Age Trust is looking to recruit volunteers to its finance committee.

The role isn’t onerous, with quarterly meetings and some emails in between.

The finance committee reviews the Trust’s quarterly accounts, annual accounts and other financial reports and documents.

Trust officials are seeking volunteers who have an accountancy background.

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Covid cash aids woodland growth

A pot of money built up during the pandemic was put to good use when members planted 200 trees to help create a National Trust woodland.

Plymouth u3a needed to find a project for funds that had accumulated through not holding general meetings amid Covid lockdowns.

Inspired by u3a’s 40th Anniversary Woodland, promotions officer Sandra Richings approached the National Trust at Plymbridge Woods – part of Saltram House and Gardens – where a project was under way to plant new trees.

The u3a agreed to spend £600 on 200 slender shoots – or whips – including native willow, poplar and alder.

Future plans include reseeding with wildflowers to improve species diversity and provide a food source for pollinating insects.

Some 23 volunteers turned out to plant the new trees (pictured above), while chair Marilyn Lean and vice-chair Tony Bowen were both interviewed for local radio and television.

Sandra said: “Plymbridge is popular and very worthy of investment. The woods are beautiful and frequented by families, walkers and cyclists.

“There are also protected nesting areas for falcons, monitored by cameras and many dedicated volunteers.

“It gave us a really good feeling. We can all do something to help in these troubled times. But when we pull together, those little things combine and turn into something substantial and very meaningful.”

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u3a calls for tsar role

u3a is one of 72 organisations calling for a new tsar to fight in Westminster for older people's rights.

Led by the Centre for Ageing Better, Age UK and Independent Age, the coalition wants to see a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing established in England. There are similar posts already in Northern Ireland and Wales.

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New home needed for library

A new home is being urgently sought for a unique and internationally important library collection on older age.

The Centre for Policy on Ageing’s reference library holds more than 60,000 items. u3a co-founder Eric Midwinter is a former chair of the CPA, which played an important role in the birth of u3a.

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Could you take on a rescue dog?

Channel 4 series The Dog House wants to hear from people who would love to rehome a rescue dog and their reasons why. And don’t forget to let TAM know if you are successful so we can follow your story! To apply, go to

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Grab your place at u3a bridge festival

Bridge fans are invited to take part in the u3a’s 2023 Spring Charity Bridge Festival from Monday, 22 May to Friday, 26 May.

Players can take part online or compete face-to-face in a number of ways. Organiser Steve Carter said: “There will be something for everyone.” The event follows the success of the 40th Anniversary Charity Bridge Festival in which more than 500 u3a members took part and raised in excess of £1,000 for charity. Proceeds from this year’s event will go to Alzheimer’s Research UK and Age UK.
For more details and to enter, go to

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Host call for robot contest

Enthusiasts are being sought to host the u3a Robot Constructors Challenge next year.

The event was staged by Gloucester u3a in 2022 following the highly successful inaugural contest in 2019 run by Cannock Chase u3a in Staffordshire.

Teams of constructors from u3a science and computing groups around the country build their own robot to be controlled either manually or autonomously around six different challenges, including crazy golf, an egg-and-spoon race, skittles and a maze.

The event is also a great way to attract new members to u3a.

The search is now under way for a u3a to take on the mantle for 2024 in a different part of the UK. Support will be given by Cannock Chase u3a, which has documents and pre-built arenas to share.
If your u3a is interested in staging the event, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.

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King’s thanks to u3a

King Charles III has thanked u3a members for their heartfelt sympathies following the death of his mother. A book of condolence signed by more than 600 people in the movement was sent to Buckingham Palace after Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September.

A letter addressed to ‘All at u3a’ said the King was ‘greatly touched by your kindness in expressing your sympathy and profound gratitude to the late Queen for her extraordinary life of service’ and that he sent his ‘warmest thanks and very best wishes’. It was sent with a card featuring a photo of a young Prince Charles with his late mother. 

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What will you be doing to celebrate the Coronation?

The coronation of King Charles III takes place at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, 6 May – and u3a members can participate in
a weekend of national and community events.

Buckingham Palace has said the ceremony will reflect the monarch’s role today as well as looking to the future.

Large-scale events include a concert at Windsor Castle on 7 May, and the Coronation Big Lunch, where communities across the country will come together for picnics and fun. Turn to page 28 for Ashford, Wye & District u3a member Beverley Jarvis’s own recipes for 21st Century Coronation Chicken and a Cranberry and Apple Slice.

Monday, 8 May, is a bank holiday, where everyone is encouraged to try volunteering as part of The Big Help Out.

Do you have plans to celebrate or watch the coronation? Let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or send your photos and stories following the event.

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Debut music festival hits stage

Music lovers can enjoy a varied line-up at Yorkshire and Humber Region u3a’s first music festival this summer. Around 25 u3a groups from the region are set to perform, including choirs, ukulele groups, guitar bands, recorders, flutes and jazz/swing. Margaret Fiddes, regional trustee for Yorkshire & Humberside, said: “It should be a fun day. We hope to attract a sizeable number of non-performers.” The event will be held in York St John University on 13 June. Catering will be provided, including a buffet lunch. Full information about the festival and how you can attend or join to perform can be found on the YAHR website,

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Photo I.D. needed to vote in elections

Voters in England, Scotland and Wales will have to show photo ID at the polling station for some elections from May 4. Acceptable items include passports, driving licences, Blue Badges, biometric immigration document and certain national identity cards. If you don’t have any of these, or if you are unsure whether your ID still resembles you, apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate at, or complete a paper application form from your local council. For more information, go to or call the helpline on 0800 328 0280.

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Science Network events

The u3a Science Network is hoping to meet members face-to-face this year after announcing plans to hold three meetings. Two of the events will be via Zoom on 18 April and 12 October, while there are tentative plans for an in-person day meeting in Birmingham in August. The April event includes talks by biochemist Paul England, from St Albans u3a, geologist Pete Webb, of New Mills u3a, and Thanet u3a’s Mike Trevethick discusses Bazalgette’s sewer system for London. To find out more or to book, go to

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Walking cricketers step up for health benefit research

Walking cricket enthusiasts are helping a university with research into the health and social wellbeing benefits of taking part in the sport. Members of Barnsley
and Todmorden u3as in Yorkshire are involved in the work being carried out by Huddersfield University. Walking cricket was devised in 2019 by Mac McKechnie, from Barnsley u3a, and the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF). It makes the game accessible to older people or those with mobility issues. Retired Test umpire Dickie Bird and former England captain Joe Root have both endorsed the game, while a friendly match that saw Leeds u3a defeat their Barnsley counterparts by 20 runs at the indoor facility at Headingley was featured on ITV last month.

Mac said: “It’s a brilliant activity to give gentle exercise to people and get them out and about.”

Derek Bisphram, of Todmorden u3a Walking Cricket Group, said: “It improves my balance, hand-eye coordination, thinking speed and communication skills. I also see these improvements in others.” It is hoped the university study might lead to the activity being prescribed by health professionals to aid wellbeing. Kendal James, of YCF, said: “We hope the research will highlight the benefits with regards to quality of life.”

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Burgeoning u3a celebrates arrival of 400th member

A u3a formed five months before the Covid pandemic hit the UK has welcomed its 400th member.

Teignmouth & District u3a in Devon, which launched in October 2019, has 50 activities on offer and new ones being created all the time, from sea swimming to French for Fun. A successful recruitment day saw 21 new arrivals sign up and others take away enrolment forms. Publicity officer Peter Hayes, who has had several articles in the local paper, said about the recruitment day: “Newcomers to the u3a ethos really got it. The camaraderie and friendship opportunities struck a chord.” He added that the French for Fun Group was named to emphasise the enjoyment in learning a language. Members have tucked into patisseries while learning the origins of the names – and even watched a French tribute show to Freddie Mercury.

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Assist visually impaired at study breaks

A charity is looking to recruit volunteers to help visually impaired people on residential study breaks. Add-Venture in Learning needs sighted guides to accompany people on courses such as ecology and history. Guides are asked to pay a proportion of the costs. Jean Taylor, of Ryedale u3a in North Yorkshire, has been on several trips as a guide. She said: “I have been privileged to make many new friends. For details, visit

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The easy way to receive national newsletter

The monthly online newsletter goes out to members and friends via email and features news and upcoming events from across the u3a movement. You can keep up to date with the latest news by going to

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News feature

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Learning is the real elixir of life

Public health expert Professor Sir Muir Gray describes how the u3a’s focus on shared, informal education helps tackle ageing issues and can be vital in enabling people to live longer, better

Millions of pounds are being invested in the search for an elixir of life. There are, however, a number of points that need to be considered when reflecting on the role that an elixir of life might have in society.

First, there is no strong evidence that many people want to increase their life expectancy, although it is clear that people want to increase their healthy life expectancy. Not many people want to
live to 118, but they certainly want to minimise the time spent dependent on others for the most basic of tasks.

Second, concern about what happens to us as we live longer and the desire for an elixir of life is based on the mistaken assumption that the problems that occur in later years are all due to the normal biological process of ageing, or ‘senescence’ as the scientists sometimes call it. However, it is now clear that the normal biological process of ageing does not cause major problems until we are in our late 90s.

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The science base of living longer

A bit of luck is needed to avoid problems linked to ageing, such as Parkinson’s disease. But most of the problems that affect us as we live longer are due to three other, inter-linked, processes:

Loss of fitness, both physical and mental, which for most people starts in their early 20s; Disease, much of it preventable, including dementia, the risk of which can be cut by about 40 per cent, and disease which is often complicated by accelerated loss of fitness; Social and environmental pressures.

Loss of fitness – Physical & Mental

Most people start to go downhill when they get their first sitting job and a fitness gap opens up between the best possible rate of decline and the actual rate of decline. This is a consequence of the environment in which we now live and it is wrong simply to blame ‘lifestyle’. We have inherited our genes from hundreds of generations of people who survived by being very active and efficient at converting any food they could find into fat. We now live in a world dominated by the car, the computer, the desk job and the television, with calories galore available everywhere we look. It is also clear that the brain and mind lose fitness because they are not challenged enough in later years, so the concept of fitness is relevant for body, brain and mind. The good news is that the fitness gap can be closed at any age and, by doing so, one becomes as able as one was five or ten years ago. So rejuvenation is possible by increasing activity – physical, cognitive and emotional.

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Disease followed by increased inactivity

Most modern epidemics, such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes, also arise from the physical and social environment in which we live. Furthermore, the fitness gap often widens faster after the onset of disease, almost always due to increased inactivity as well-meaning friends and family do things for the person with the long-term condition instead of supporting them to do more for themselves. The good news is that, no matter your age and no matter how many long-term conditions you have, you can close the fitness gap and continue to perform basic tasks without the need for social care.

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Environmental and social pressures

Environmental pressure from deprivation accelerates decline, so too do pessimistic beliefs, while negative attitudes, otherwise known as ageism, reduce the challenges offered to people who are living longer. We now know that involvement with others – a sense of purpose, interaction and challenge – are of vital importance in maintaining brain and mind fitness and in reducing the risk of dementia. We now also have a strong evidence base about the impact we can have on these three factors.

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Increasing healthy life expectancy

We do not need only to invest more in healthcare and social care. What we need is to focus on enabling people to live longer, better. Ageing reduces resilience and therefore we need take more action:

We need to enable people to increase their physical, cognitive and emotional activity, including activities with other people and with a social purpose, such as volunteering. Prescriptions for those with one or more long-term conditions should include recommendations for activities.
A National Activity Therapy Service is being designed and the 40,000 fitness professionals involved are now focusing on contributing to healthy longevity;

We need to tackle the social and environmental factors that cause problems. Helping people cope with the impact of deprivation is something every community can do – for example, helping people find u3a groups or to get online. All of us need to tackle ageism and the work of the Centre for Ageing Better on negative language should be promoted;

All of this requires a cultural revolution which is positive about living longer and the changing demographic. For example, stop talking about ‘the elderly’, change the term ‘retirement’ to ‘renaissance’ and change the name ‘carer’ to ‘enabler’. But it also requires people to reflect and learn, and the best way of doing that is with others in groups like u3a.

Members of every u3a should be able to describe to others what is happening to us as we live longer and what can be done about it. This, of course, can be done with friends and family but also with other groups of people, with every bowls club and bridge club, with every church, Women’s Institute and mosque. There
are many ways in which culture can be changed, but learning and education are probably the most important ways of doing this and the u3a, based on its guiding principle to ‘promote non-formal learning’, provides the perfect basis for the revolution.

The fourth education revolution emphasises the fact that people learn more from one another than they do from a lecturer or tutor, and the u3a has always followed this approach.

For individuals to live better for longer, and for a shift from fearing a tidal wave
of ‘population ageing’ to welcoming healthy longevity, requires a revolution and the u3a Healthy Lives initiative is already having a very important impact.

  • To watch Sir Muir Gray’s talk to the u3a Future Lives Group, and to find more talks and events, go to

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Esther Rantzen - I’m missing my radio pals

Nothing beats face-to-face service when it comes to our money, says Dame Esther Rantzen.

The exodus of experienced broadcasters is like losing dear friends, says Dame Esther Rantzen

I’ve lost too many dear friends recently. They have fallen, or been pushed, from their perches leaving me feeling quite depressed, bereft of their company, their good humour, their capacity to lighten even the darkest days. And although I have seldom, if ever, actually met any of them, I miss them deeply.

I’m referring to the skilled and experienced BBC radio broadcasters who became cherished friends and over the years were a crucial part of my life. For some reason there has been a catastrophic shake-up at Broadcasting House and they have gone. Far too many of my favourite presenters have been removed, sometimes of their own volition but often not, and I miss them. I also wonder what it says about BBC radio’s values and whether it values listeners like me at all.

Take Steve Wright, for instance. For years he filled every weekday afternoon on Radio 2 with a lively, stimulating mixture of interviews and factoids interspersed with music, hosting it like the perfect dinner party. He created such a warm atmosphere that although you couldn’t join the conversation, you were happy to enjoy their company and listen along. He’s been banished now from my afternoons, exiled to Sunday morning love songs, which is
a tad too honey-sweet for me.
I miss him terribly.

Then there’s Paul O’Grady – funny, unpredictable and, for me, unmissable on Sunday evenings. The format suited his wicked, anarchic wit perfectly, while the BBC’s own publicity said accurately “there is no other radio programme like it” and called him “incomparable”. Then, perhaps for financial reasons, perhaps because they thought he – and therefore I as a listener – was too old, the Beeb made him share his series on a 13 weeks on, 13 weeks off rota with Rob Beckett, and he left. Understandably miffed, in
my view.

The loss of Ken Bruce from Radio 2 – his own decision, it appears – has added injury to insult. Maybe, as he watched all the others being discarded, he decided he had better jump before he was pushed. So now I’m deprived of the affable, humorous voice that had followed me around every morning, in the bath, doing the chores, preparing for the day ahead. No matter how intimidating or gruelling my actual life was, he helped me feel part of his charmed world, and that I had his constant friendship to cheer me on.
Not any more. And it hasn’t happened only on Radio 2.

As an insomniac news junkie, I have been a huge
fan of the late-night Radio 4 programmes The Westminster Hour, hosted by Carolyn Quinn, and The World Tonight, equally stylishly presented by Ritula Shah. They were jewels in the BBC’s political crown and should have been cherished. Never rude, aggressive or interruptive, they put precise questions with courtesy and in a tone that exactly matched my mood as I prepared for sleep.
I was horrified when, in two days, both informed me on the air that this was their last programme. Why? Where were they going? What a loss.

Many listeners of my generation live alone, some cannot get out to find company to lift their spirits. For them, the broadcasters we have lost have been a real defence against loneliness.

I believe the BBC has a public service duty to us oldies. It’s not that we dislike young voices, but it takes years for presenters to build up the trust, the familiarity and the skill. The exit of these prized friends is a genuine loss. It shows a sad lack of respect for them as veteran broadcasters – and for us as veteran listeners. What a shame.

  • What do you think? Let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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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. To access the opportunities below and more, go to

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Online learning events

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Let’s Talk About Autism

Tuesday, 18 April at 2pm

Grace Venters, of New Milton u3a in Hampshire, talks about autism and shares her own experiences of her 44-year-old autistic son.

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Toulouse-Lautrec and the Cabarets of Paris

Thursday, 20 April at 2pm

Art historian and writer Peter Webb introduces the world of Toulouse-Lautrec and 1890s Montmartre in Paris.

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Climate Change and Geo-Engineering

Tuesday, 2 May at 10am

Ian Hawker, of East Suffolk u3a, asks what radical solutions can help avert a climate disaster as the Earth warms.

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Meditation in Faith

Monday, 15 May at 10am

Our monthly Exploring World Faiths talks continue. With Buddha Day occurring on May 5, we hear from representatives of Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism about meditation in their faith.

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Family History: Births, Death and Marriages

Wednesday, 17 May at 2pm

Julie Johnson, of Syston & District u3a in Leicestershire, examines civil registration and the use of birth, death and marriage data in family history. It is the second talk of a three-part series.

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National programmes

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All Our Yesterdays

Do you have a memorable story from the 1950s or 1960s you would like to share? It could be linked to a global news event or a piece of family history.

The u3a is collecting your memories of this eventful period for an online gallery until the end of May.

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Aileen’s Game

Have you played Aileen’s Game yet? The word game is the creation of East Suffolk u3a member Ian Clarke and involves getting the highest score possible by making words in a 5x5 grid. Have a go and see where you come on the leaderboard.

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Subject networks

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u3a cycling network

The u3a Cycling Network is a collaboration of bike enthusiasts from across the u3a movement.

The aim of the network is to share ideas and successes, to support one another and to bridge the gap between u3as in adjacent areas as well as further afield.

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u3a chess network

The network gives advice to u3a chess groups that play face-to-face and helps facilitate chess games online at local, regional and national level.

All abilities are catered for and the network welcomes individual members who have just started playing chess. Members will receive occasional newsletters, as well as invitations to Zoom meetings and the opportunity to contact other u3a Chess Network members who would like to play online.

  • For help accessing the programmes or to offer an opportunity, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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We’ve plenty to shout about... so pass it on

Liz Thackray: view from the chair.

I am writing this column while in Belfast, visiting a number of u3as. I have a packed agenda including wine tasting, creative writing, local history, how to perform CPR – and much more besides.

Trips are planned to many different locations, providing the opportunity to see something of Northern Ireland, a part of the UK I have not previously visited. I am looking forward to learning a lot from members and sharing their activities to a wider audience.

When I became Chair, I made the decision to try to make longer tours, such as this, to the different regions and nations. I hoped that this would provide the opportunity to meet and celebrate with u3a members and listen to their challenges.

Last year, I was able to spend time in the east of England, north-west England and Yorkshire. Plans are also afoot to visit south-west England, having had to postpone a trip in last summer’s heatwave.

It is always interesting to hear people’s stories and the enthusiasm and passion of members for their interest groups. There is clear evidence of the u3a strapline in practice – ‘Learn, laugh, live’ – and a strong desire to create new groups for emerging interests.

Of those places I visited over the past couple of days, libraries have been important, providing rooms for gatherings and, in one case, hosting a substantial archive.

The contribution of u3a has been recognised in one library which has named its large meeting room in commemoration of a member who had served the local community in many roles.

Links with other local and national bodies are an important way of raising our profile – and addressing a problem reported by many that u3a is too much of a well-kept secret. Many emails I receive criticise the u3a Trust and office for not promoting the movement. At the same time, national initiatives that manage to shine a spotlight on u3a may be viewed as inappropriate by some.

As a multi-faceted organisation, we need to have a voice nationally as well as in our own areas – and publicising local initiatives complements national activities and vice versa.

In my conversations this week, I am encouraging members to inform other u3as of their stories, through the medium of this magazine and through the newsletter, and by telling local PR advisers of anything that might interest others.

By keeping the u3a office in the loop about these things, it is possible for the staff team to seek media outlets to promote those activities and raise our profile.

Members compare us with other organisations that everybody has heard of, but often these institutions have origins dating from a century or so ago and have become well known through shared initiatives of members and their central bodies. At 40, we are still ‘the new kid on the block’ and it is down to all of us to ensure we make the most of each of our communication channels.

There are so many exciting things being done by u3as. We have much to shout about and I do hope that increasingly we will all be working to pass the word on and encouraging others to join us in sharing their knowledge and skills – and learning together while having great fun.

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Every member should be doing something

Eric Midwinter: u3a founder.

The u3a is, or should be, a self-mobilising, self-energising agency. It is fuelled by the human equivalent of sustainable rather than wasteful fossil energy. I am encouraged to have another pop at the subject by Barrie Gunter’s stirring article ‘Volunteers must step up for u3a to survive’ (TAM, Winter).

In 1981, my co-founder Peter Laslett’s Objects, Principles and Institutional Forms of the u3a, consisting of 20 ‘objects’ and eight ‘aims’, were agreed as ‘the national basis’. They were summarised into eight ‘objects’ and five ‘guiding principles’. The fourth of the objects said:

‘To create an agency where there is no distinction between those who teach and those who learn, where as much as possible of the activity is voluntary, freely offered by members of the University to their fellows.’

It behoves all members to be thus involved. This is not a service charity. It is not a kind of educational St John Ambulance Brigade for old folk, where a tiny few officials are providing a programme of learning to a sizeable host of needy older people.

I am pragmatic enough to recognise that some will do more than others, but I am idealistic enough to claim that everybody should be doing something.

I am often told by u3a officials that they can’t get people to serve on committees or whatever. On enlistment, were the novitiates informed of the proper nature of the organisation? Were they inducted appropriately as to the responsibilities as well as the rights of membership? Were they, over time, offered simple training in the techniques of ‘mutual aid’ education? New members can’t be expected to be properly involved if they have not been properly informed.

Peter, his imagery doubtless arising from his father’s career as a nonconformist minister, used to say: “Everyone should be welcome into the kirk and then each one should be open to conversion to this progressive way of doing things.” Fellow co-founder Michael Young held a lifelong belief that everyone had something to offer. We saw older age as a massive reservoir of experience and knowledge to be shared to the enhancement of later life.

The key is confidence. As I have seen so many times, there is that Damascene moment when someone suddenly finds the self-assurance to add to the narrative and feels better for it.

I recall the work of Audrey Cloet, u3a national organiser from 1990 to 1993, who must have been responsible for at least 100 u3a launches. She was keen on the role of interest group convener – they were the lifeblood of the movement.

Audrey rightly asserted they should have an annual party by way of appreciation. But she also argued that they should be limited to three-year terms, partly because some may fear being stuck in the job forever and partly because others should step up to the plate.

She recognised, too, that the first qualification of a convener was not a specialist knowledge but the ability to run a ‘mutual aid’ learning outfit. There has been a tendency for experts to regress to the teacher/student approach, didactic rather than facilitating. There is a duty on u3as to ensure members and conveners understand the values they have agreed to.

Years ago, I met a woman with a long career as a French teacher. She had had enough of that; time, she insisted, to extend her long, unrequited love of poetry. Thus, she brilliantly organised a poetry interest group in which she was, as she modestly admitted, the most backward pupil.

u3a was never intended for everybody, hence object eight:

‘To help to mobilise the efforts to offer other older persons in Britain other opportunities of educational stimulation on as wide a basis as possible.’

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Microscope users’ group; subject adviser contact details; Summer Schools Programme;Calverton & District u3a promotional video. For more inspiring stories, visit

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Alternative focus helps put life under the microscope

Northampton u3a Microscope Users’ Group examines items ranging from food and blood to eyelash mites. Here, Joanne Smith gets the lowdown from group leader Mike Gibson

Many u3a group leaders go above and beyond to provide a great experience for their members. For Mike Gibson, this meant going to bed with Sellotape on one of his eyebrows. The aim of his dedication was to capture hair follicle mites.

“Demodex are a species of parasitic mites that live in the base of eyelashes,” explains Mike. “They are most active at night, emerging from inside the hair follicles around the eyebrows and eyelashes to feed on dead skin cells.
They are generally harmless unless you get too many, which can lead to irritation and skin rash.”

An excellent subject for investigation under a microscope, but how do you capture them?

“I had been experimenting and the best way was to place a bit of Sellotape across one eyebrow and leave it overnight,” says Mike. “I peeled it off the next day and soaked it in distilled water to release any captured mites. Looking at them under the microscope, it was evident that some of the mites were still alive.”

The following day, members of Northampton u3a Microscope Users’ Group were able to observe these wriggling critters, which appeared quite grotesque when viewed close up – “rather like something out of one of those Alien films” according to Mike.

Mike is a former science teacher, health educator and fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society. When he set up the Microscope Users’ Group ten years ago it was an instant hit with u3a members, the majority of whom were beginners keen to learn new skills and
try something different, as well as some who had previously worked in laboratories and wanted to add to their existing knowledge.

Initially, one major problem for Mike was finding a suitable location where the group could meet. And while some members had their own microscopes, others needed to borrow equipment. Luckily, Mike is a member of the Northamptonshire Natural History Society, based in the centre of Northampton, and the group is able to meet there once a month and use the facilities and equipment.

The society was formed in 1876 and has had many famous members, including Charles Darwin and the family of Francis Crick who, along with James Watson, discovered the structure of DNA.

“From the outset, we emphasised to our u3a members that this is a beginners’ group and therefore no previous experience or knowledge was necessary,” continues Mike. “The essential idea was to discover, learn and have fun.”

The group has studied a wide variety of subjects, from leaves and pollen to the structure of hair and bacteria. Using low-power stereo microscopes, members have also examined Japanese star sand, as Northamptonshire Natural History Society has the largest collection of sand in the UK. They were surprised to learn that the star-shaped grains – one of the world’s rarest forms – are made up almost entirely of shells once inhabited by tiny living organisms called foraminifera.

Recently, the group also looked closely at food samples.

“In a drop of milk, for example, we saw the tiny fat globules jigging about,” says Mike. “This is known as Brownian motion, where atoms and molecules too tiny to see move the fat globules around.”

Tomato skin cells appeared like “lattice work – neat paving stones that were almost square”, while the starch grains
in potato were “quite beautiful” when viewed with polarising filters.

The group even cut cross-sections
of celery with razor blades. “That was quite fun,” explains Mike. “They had to make the cross-sections as thin as possible and then stain them with blue dye to see the vascular bundles that transport food and water.”

Members learn how to prepare slides and take photos with their smartphones or cameras down the eyepiece of the microscopes to record what they are seeing. When looking at
a blood sample, for example, they discovered that Quink ink used in fountain pens is an excellent stain that makes it easier to differentiate between various types of blood cells, especially
the lymphocytes.

Early work included looking at squamous epithelial cheek cells from inside the mouth and making simple slides with the blue dye.

“Under the microscope it was possible to make out the plaque bacteria that often form as a biofilm on each cell’s outer membrane. This led to further work on bacteria by some of our members in making their own bacterial slides from yoghurt,” says Mike.

“In another session, we had great fun making leaf peels, which is a relatively simple technique using clear nail varnish painted over part of the leaf surface. Once dry, the varnish is peeled off with Sellotape and stuck on to a glass slide which can then be viewed under the low-powered lens of a microscope.”

Some of the group took part in a citizen science project, sampling and recording microscopic life found along various stretches of the nearby River Nene.

“We were particularly looking for a specialised group of single-celled phytoplankton known as diatoms,” Mike says. “Each diatom is contained within a glass-like outer shell called a ‘test’ that is formed out of silica and collectively they are quite beautiful under a microscope.

“They help oxygenate the rivers and seas, and there are blooms of them in the oceans that can even be seen from satellites orbiting Earth.”

As well as practical sessions, the group enjoys a varied programme of talks, discussions and online videos.

“Members are astonished at what they see,” says Mike. “Using a microscope is like going on a voyage of discovery – you don’t know what you will find. We really do learn, laugh, live.”

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Book your place now at one of u3a’s Summer Schools

Registrations open for members to take part in range of programmes and meet fellow Third Agers

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North West Region Summer School


15-18 August


University of Cumbria, Fusehill Street Campus, Carlisle, CA1 2HH

Bookings are open for this year’s three-day North West Region Summer School. Members can either be full-board residential or day delegates.

What's on

The seven courses on offer are Archaeology: Landscapes and archaeology – unpicking the layers of the past; Art Challenges: The changing seasons; Literature: What the 20th century did to the novel; Art: Female artists; Architecture: From Shelter to the Shard, 2,000 years of British architecture; Knitting: Cables and lace; and Japanese Encounter.


Full board costs £355 (plus £10 parking and £15 for a field trip on the archaeology and female artists courses). Full board for three nights includes dinner on 15 August, breakfast, lunch and dinner on 16 August, breakfast, lunch and a gala dinner on 17 August, and breakfast on 18 August. Tea and coffee refreshments are also provided each day.

A non-residential day delegate cost is £190 (plus parking and field trip surcharge if applicable) and includes lunches, teas and coffees. It excludes daily breakfast and dinner on 15 and 16 August, but does include the gala dinner on 17 August. Accommodation is available nearby in Carlisle city centre.

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London Region Summer School


25-26 July


St Bride Foundation Institute, 14 Bride Lane, London EC4Y 8EQ

Bookings are now open for this popular non-residential event for u3a members only, now in its 10th year.

What's on

Activities will include 17 talks, four workshops and eight guided walks. Wide range of subjects including art, current affairs, history, literature, performing arts, music, sciences and social studies.


Cost is £41 per day, including refreshments and buffet lunch with a choice of healthy salads and fruit.

Members can choose to attend for one or both days.

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South East u3a forum Summer School


4-7 September


University of Chichester

Booking is now open for this four-day school. Although primarily a residential school, participants do have the option to be day delegates.

What's on

This year the favourites will be returning such as cycling, Mahjong for beginners, Mathematics demystified and Fun with French. Poetry has a different emphasis, titled A World of Dreams, and ukulele is now an intermediate group. New subjects include Irish and Anglo-Saxon Illuminated Manuscripts; Fizziks is Phun (Physics); Archaeology & Egyptology; Seated and/or Standing Yoga & Mindfulness; and not forgetting Walking/Rambling – A Coastal Delight. Evening entertainment includes a quiz, film night, theatre visit and a talk.


Full board is £345 (standard accommodation) and £375 (en-suite accommodation). Standard rooms have a wash basin but groups of six share a bathroom, shower and toilet facilities. All rooms have Wi-Fi. Non-residential fees, including lunch, evening meal and refreshments, are £187.50, or £135 without an evening meal.

  • For full details and booking forms, go to If you do not have internet access, please contact Jill Haistead on 07939 332542 and the relevant information will be posted to you. Please read the Course Information section before filling in the booking form. All forms can be downloaded and returned either online or by post. Details are on the Course Information sheet.

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Lights, camera, action as promo clicks with YouTube generation

Making a video to publicise your u3a is engaging and funto do – and it’s low-cost too.

Promoting your u3a to attract new members can be tricky – but Calverton & District u3a in Nottinghamshire has branched out to shoot a YouTube video showcasing its interest groups to potential recruits. The film has been viewed nearly 1,000 times.

Michael Dobbs produced and published the three-minute, 47-second clip as an engaging alternative to displaying posters in shops or on
local noticeboards.

It features fellow members John Suggett and Jude Cordell as on-camera presenters speaking about the benefits of joining the u3a in retirement.

The video – which has been seen more than 980 times – includes a montage of some 21 interest groups ranging from bowls, ukulele and tai chi, to social history, reading and French. It also highlights get-together events such as coffee mornings and lunch club.

Michael enhanced the clip by adding music from the website, which provides a library of free samples for background tracks since the use of copyrighted commercial music by bands and solo artists is prohibited on YouTube.

Michael says: “When large companies need to sell their products or services they use a wide range of methods, but their biggest spend is overwhelmingly on commercials for television and online.

“The typical u3a can’t afford TV advertising, but producing and publishing a promotional video can be done for very low, or even zero, cost. With some cajoling, members were persuaded to engage with the camera to show just how informal and friendly our u3a is.”

Michael advises would-be directors to start by producing an outline objective of the video and then imagine the sub-sections and content. Clips can include on-screen actors and presenters or just a voiceover, but he says the main thing is to create a script using succinct sentences and “everyday, conversational language”.

He urges those speaking to be as close to the microphone as possible to reduce background noise, or to use a clip-on mic, which are available on the likes of Amazon for around £10. A decent camera or smartphone – with at least 1080p definition – should also be used for filming, and the footage should be shot in landscape mode like a TV screen.

There is a wide range of editing software available, including free downloads from the internet, while tutorials on YouTube itself show how to use it.

Michael adds: “Once your video is on YouTube, you’ll need to make sure your target audience knows about it, so use every method to publicise it. When our u3a video was published, it was shown on the big screen at a monthly meeting, featured on the homepage of our website and mentioned on all the local Facebook pages. An advantage of YouTube is that, unlike printed media, your video will be visible for years to come.”

  • You can view the video at For help or advice with your video project, contact Michael at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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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

Could you be our next Spanish, metal detecting or natural history subject adviser?
To find out more, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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u3a groups

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Drones photography - Learning to fly drones is not pie in the sky

u3a members rise up to the aerial challenge … and take their photo skills to new heights

Members of Leicestershire’s Harborough Welland u3a Drones and Photography Group are hitting the heights as they learn the skills and rules of flying hi-tech craft – while taking stunning pictures in the process.

And the enthusiasts, who capture birds’-eye views of local landmarks, are proving a hit with others in their u3a, who have asked them to film activities for the Cycling and New Experiences groups.

Group leader Terry Eato is an experienced model aircraft and drone flyer, as well as a photographer.

He says: “I didn’t think the group would be very popular because a lot of people are put off by having to fly drones. They think it will be difficult but it’s not, it is easy to learn. The challenge is positioning the drone to get good photographs.”

While Terry leads the group, fellow enthusiast Jim Tyson brings photography and IT skills to the table. Currently, six members have bought one of the hand-controlled gadgets and three more are planning to follow suit.

Harborough Welland u3a has also bought a second-hand, beginner-friendly DJI Mini 2 drone, operated under Terry’s licence, for members without their own craft.

“This drone has proved invaluable as it offers some flying experience for the members without their own drones and others wanting to sample the flying,” says Terry.

The choice of drone was important as the only qualification needed to fly one that weighs less than 249g is an operator’s licence from the Civil Aviation Authority. This involves a £10 fee and taking an online test.

Terry says flying a drone is relatively easy to master and, with some practice, accurate hovering can be achieved.

“The main challenge is positioning the drone so that still shots and video can be taken, making best use of the unique aerial view a camera-equipped drone offers,” he adds. “Even with an introductory drone like the Mini 2, some stunning still images and video can be taken from a perspective not possible with a conventional camera on the ground.”

The new group has attracted members with no drone or photography experience but who are now quickly picking up the skills.

Terry says: “We have been following the progress of two steeplejacks working on a local village church. The video and pictures offer an amazing insight into the sheer bravery of these guys. As an added benefit, we were able to show them images of the spire before they started work, which not only helped in their planning but also helped in keeping them safer on the job.

“One aspect that we never envisaged was the interest shown by other groups. We have recently been asked to film inside a church for drum practice organised by our New Experiences Group – and it certainly provided a different view of the event.

“We have also been approached by our Cycling Group for some video shots which would be used to promote their activities online. Our Local History Group has requested some aerial pictures of Market Harborough for inclusion in a second book they are writing.

“When invited, we also like to do talks to a variety of groups, making them aware of what one of our drones can do. 

“Our plans for the future are to continue the flight-training programme and visit some of the many fascinating buildings and locations we have in the Harborough area.”

Use of drones is not covered by u3a insurance. Additional insurance cover needs to be purchased if you are using drones as part of a u3a activity.

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Sound bath - Relaxing in the sound bath

We are always fascinated at TAM to
learn about new and interesting u3a groups – and the Sound Bath Group at Barnsley u3a in Yorkshire might be unique in the movement.

It was set up by Christine Whewell, who plays a variety of instruments from crystal and Tibetan bowls to chimes and drums while members of the group switch off and relax. The intention is to alter energy levels and enable the brain to ‘let go’, she says.

Christine has a lifetime of experience in alternative relaxation methods having worked as an energy healer, and her sound bath class evolved from that.

She explains that it is not meditation, which can put people off, but instead an opportunity to enjoy the sounds.

“It can take you into a different space,” Christine says. “When I finish, everyone stays completely still and they do not want to move. They are in a fully relaxed state.

“I get comments about how it makes you appreciate how busy you are – you never stop or sit still.”

Christine says the brain recognises patterns that you do every day. The purpose of the sound bath is to ‘surprise’ the brain by using different sounds, which allows the release of tension.

“For some, it takes longer to relax than others. It depends on your state of mind,” says Christine. “But normally everyone finds some relaxation.”

Barnsley u3a member Heather Lindley says of the experience: “It is a rather special sort of mindfulness, listening to and absorbing her wonderful musical improvisations. I find it very peaceful and meditative, an oasis of stillness.”

  • Do you lead an unusual group in your u3a? Let us know about it at
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Railway modellers - Train gang steams ahead on skills journey

Geoff Evans and Chris Harrop reveal the intricate process of designing and building layouts and locos at Aston Clinton u3a’s Railway Modellers Group

Building a model railway requires a lot of skills, from historical research to carpentry and painting. The Railway Modellers Group at Aston Clinton u3a in Buckinghamshire was established more than 12 years ago and is still going strong today.

The 10 members model in various scales and gauges. As most of the layouts cannot be moved, each person takes turns to host a meeting every month. It is good to see what other members have been up to and also set deadlines to get a particular job done before your turn to host a meeting comes around.

Railway modelling is a very broad church, covering many skills and talents. For example, you will need to do some geographical research to decide where the railway you are modelling is located. It could be in this country or abroad. What era – post-1830, of course – is your model set in? This will lead to some historical research.

You will need to learn some carpentry skills to construct the baseboard on which your model will be built. It could be a fixed structure in a spare room or attic. Or it could be portable, as many model railways are shown at exhibitions.

What will be the setting for your railway? It could be a station in a town or in the countryside, by a canal or dock, or a factory/works/quarry setting. You will also need to design this.

Members develop craft skills to build the scenery using various materials including polystyrene, cardboard, wire mesh and Plaster of Paris. When you start to build the railway, you will need to design the layout of the track and points, either based on an actual location or a fictional plan.

Knowledge of low-voltage electrics is required to design the various circuits to power the track, operate the points, signals and so on, and the necessary wiring involved.

You can make your locomotives, wagons, coaches and buildings either from kits or from scratch. Then there is the artistic side of painting the scenery, as well as the technical side of correctly decorating locomotives rolling stock.

Each of the above can be the specific reason for building a model railway but other parts of the hobby are often involved. For example, you can be interested in locomotives and collect or build quality models, but if you want to see them running you have to get involved in planning and building a track. You may be interested in making buildings, but how much better will they look if sited on a layout with a context?

One part of the hobby tends to lead to another. Some modellers even go so far as to draw up a timetable to operate (not ‘play with’, you will note) their railway.

Model railways are fictional but based on historical facts. Most are long-term projects built over many years, with members joining model railway groups to aquire the skills needed. Famous model railway fans include Rod Stewart, Jools Holland and Pete Waterman.

Railway modelling scales in this country have historically been ratios of millimetres to one foot. The smaller scales, up to 7mm, modelled in our group are indoor layouts with the engines obtaining electrical power through the two rails.

Four of our members have larger-scale outdoor railways – two are powered by electricity from the rails and the other two use independent power either from on-board batteries or by live steam.

Why do we do it? Who knows! There can be as many reasons as there are modellers. With some people, it stems from childhood, either from playing with trains or perhaps trainspotting or wanting to capture the look of days gone by.

For others, it is about recreating stunning engineering, or the thrill of operating model trains.

One of the most detailed model railway landscapes is on show at Pendon Museum in Oxfordshire (, which is one man’s way of preserving the countryside he saw in England in the 1920s and 1930s.

Very few of us have the skills to create our own Pendon – but we can try.

  • Are you a model railway enthusiast? Send your details and photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Fashion - Sir Paul’s tour is perfect fit

Nicky Walker, from Malmesbury & District u3a in Wiltshire, tells how designer Sir Paul Smith opened up his studio to the Fashion (Hybrid) group

We stepped from an ordinary London street into a different world. Sir Paul Smith ushered us through the door into a building full of colour, style and creativity over four packed floors. Even the staircases were chock-a-block with pictures, mementos and photographs.

Paul showed us around, each floor and studio dedicated to a different area of his business – tailoring, luggage and bags, textile design studio, accessories, architecture and showrooms full of his new collection. He was a constant source of information, explaining processes and showing us some of the vast array of fabrics and garments he has produced.

His staff were charming and office assistant Georgina kindly used Zoom to show the studio to our members who were unable to travel to London.

One of the most fascinating places was the meeting room, which housed the obligatory long table but was packed from floor to ceiling with an eclectic mix of objects, paintings, prints and novelty items – many of which had been sent to Paul over the years. We met ‘office manager’ Mr Brown, a 1930s monkey toy, and loved the train set in a briefcase, which Paul admitted to playing with during tedious meetings!

We wondered at his bike chassis design weighing less than 2kg and were fascinated in the studio where Paul’s creative team painted, drew and developed patterns in gorgeous colours and tones. We marvelled at the range of sustainable and recycled materials he uses in his stores worldwide, from wool made into boards and fish scales made into building materials, all of which are designed in-house. The mind boggles.

You need to visit a number of his stores to see how different he has made them all – particularly the iconic pink wall frontage of his store in Los Angeles, which is a magnet for photographs and selfies among the Instagram generation.

Our last port of call was the showroom of his latest collection which drew gasps of appreciation and delight from us all. His collections were beautifully made and of real quality, the colour and style of clothes subtle and distinctive, with the famous Paul Smith stripes in evidence.

The extent of his operation is vast. He produces not only clothes for men and women, but accessories, bags, luggage, cufflinks, fragranced candles and a range of specially selected items for sale in his stores. Paul is involved in every aspect of his business, even the packaging, and remains the majority shareholder – a
real feat in these modern times.

The man himself is understandably proud of his achievements but is modest, generous, approachable, enthusiastic and inspired by what surrounds him.

We cannot thank him enough for his time during the hour-and-a-half tour, organised by our group leader Ruth Lancashire. What a treat!

  • To find out more about the Fashion (Hybrid) group, go to

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Photography - Eye-catching moments

Are you a budding snapper? The u3a Eye is an online photography project with a different theme each month. To find out more, go to

Image 1:

Frosted Faded Flowers, By Alan Lyall, Leigh-on-Sea u3a, Essex.

A heavy frost on garden flowers accentuates the textures on the petals and leaves.


Misty Meresea, By David Mill, Halstead u3a, Essex.

Beach huts shrouded in mist. I haven’t seen an image taken in these conditions, so I thought I’d try something different.

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You couldn’t even think that someone like me would go to university to be a doctor

Averil Mansfield CBE came from working-class roots to fulfil her childhood dream of studying medicine before going on to be the UK’s first female professor of surgery, writes Joanne Smith

Averil Mansfield knew she wanted to be a surgeon when she was eight years old – much to her mother’s horror, who didn’t think it was appropriate for a working-class child. It was 1945, when further education was unheard of in her family, as were female surgeons.

When she achieved her dream in the 1970s, only two per cent of surgeons were women. Today, that figure is around only 17 per cent, something that Averil has worked hard to see increase over her decades holding a scalpel. Excelling at her profession – despite failing her first professional exams – she went on to become the UK’s first-ever female professor of surgery.

Averil’s love of science began at primary school. She was a good reader because her mother, who had wanted to be a teacher, taught her well. Her father was a welder and both parents had left school in their early teens. But they were highly intelligent and encouraged Averil, an only child, in her school work. As they didn’t have many books, Averil would go to the local library to read and she soon began delving into science books.

“I got interested in books with a medical slant,” she says. “Initially, I think they were fictional books but then it led me on to looking at the history of medicine and particularly surgery. I was fascinated with how people first began to do surgical procedures, so I read more about it and felt that was a direction I wanted to go for a career.”

Her parents weren’t so sure. In fact, when Averil won a school prize and was interviewed by a local newspaper, her mother said the youngster wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. “Not that there’s anything wrong with being a nurse, but I wanted to be a surgeon,” says Averil. “I was really cross with her!”

Averil recalls her parents putting money aside in pots on the mantelpiece to pay the bills, including medical fees. When the NHS arrived in 1948, it was a huge relief for working-class families.

“You couldn’t go into debt in those days,” she says. “It was the big fear – of going into debt and ending up in a workhouse.”

Going into medicine was considered ‘above our station in life’, says Averil. “You couldn’t even think that somebody in our circumstances could go to university to be a doctor,” she adds.

But there was no stopping Averil, who would make Petri dishes in her pottery classes at school and conduct experiments on the kitchen table at home using chemicals from the local chemist shop and a Bunsen burner.

She was extremely competitive at primary school and always wanted to be top of the class. Having passed the 11-plus, Averil went to Blackpool Collegiate School for Girls, where her science classes were a disappointment.

“I was aware of the fact I would have been much better off if I was a boy in terms of science education,” she says. “You would hear boys talking about being a geologist. I thought, ‘You couldn’t be a geologist at my school, no one would know what the word geology means’. Another wanted to be a metallurgist. I thought they had all these exciting ideas whereas we were just learning about languages and English.”

However, Averil passed her science A-Level and won a bursary to the medical school at Liverpool University.

“My family was very excited about it because I was the first to go into higher education,” she says. “It was fantastic.”

But Averil soon learned it was not plain sailing when she failed her first professional examination. She recalls: “It was horrendous, after all that desire to get there. Nobody I knew had been to university before so nobody warned me that you really had to work hard. You were up against the top people from all of the schools in the country. The fact you had been top girl at school didn’t mean you were going to stay there.”

Towards the end of her five years at Liverpool, Averil began to focus on becoming a surgeon. She took a house surgeon’s job for six months and explained her plans to her superior. “He was wonderful and went out of his way to watch my faltering first footsteps, give me some guidance and observe whether or not I was capable of this future career,” she says. “That was invaluable.”

Averil was the only woman in the hospital at that stage who wanted to become a surgeon and began her career in A&E stitching up wounds. Being a practical person, she enjoyed making the wounds look ‘neat and tidy’.

She began as a general surgeon before specialising in vascular surgery in the 1980s. One of the things that has changed beyond all recognition over the years, she says, is imaging such as ultrasound.

“In the old days, you relied on talking to the patient and examining them. That’s how you made the diagnosis and I loved doing that,” she says.

However, that meant there could be unforeseen issues in store and an hour-long operation could end up taking five hours. Now, with MRI, CT and ultrasound, there is far greater accuracy in diagnosis.

The other major change is the advent of intensive care. Previously, patients would go back to a general ward following surgery, where there was no specialist care. Recalling the sight of her first aortic surgery, Averil says: “I had never seen anything like it before. That patient, having had a massive operation, would go back to an ordinary ward. Unsurprisingly, some of the patients did badly.

“I remember pleading with my boss when I was a young registrar to keep a patient in the operating theatre for another couple of hours after the operation had finished, until they had warmed up and their liquid intake was balanced, but there wasn’t a place to do it. When intensive care came along, it transformed the survival rate.”

In 1991, Averil founded the Royal College of Surgeons’ Women in Surgical Training Scheme (now called Women in Surgery) to encourage greater numbers into the profession following alarm in Government circles over how few females were involved in medicine as a whole.

Averil says: “I thought maybe a couple of dozen would turn up – and about 200 did. There are 6,000 members now.”

When Averil became a professor of surgery, her role involved teaching medical students, making sure they got the right experience, organising research and raising money.

“I would like to think that I have encouraged people to see that if they have the potential to do something and they are prepared to work hard, they can achieve it – and that applies to whoever you are and from whatever background,” she says. “I have concentrated on women because they were the under-represented group at the time.

“You can’t make people want to be a surgeon, but what you can do is enable them to be able to be a surgeon, that there isn’t any bias against any particular sector of society. Opportunities should be available for all.”

Averil has never suffered any discrimination against her but knows it has happened to others. “If I was the best person for the job, I got it,” she adds.

Averil retired and became chair of the Stroke Association. She also learned the cello and enjoys playing in amateur orchestras.

She says: “I love my music. At 65, I decided to learn the cello, which is completely mad but I absolutely love it.”

  • Life in Her Hands, by Averil Mansfield, is out now, published by Ebury Spotlight, priced £20.

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Meet the trustee for Scotland, Liz Ervine

The ex-headteacher joined Bearsden & Milngavie u3a in 2015 and set up Glasgow West End u3a. She tells Joanne Smith about running, life in her home city and the fulfilling role of being a trustee.

Hello Liz, I hear you are a bit of a marathon runner. How did that come about?
In my youth I was! Now I do parkruns and 10Ks. The marathon is quite an interesting story. I was working in a school in Glasgow with Ann Keating [former trustee for Scotland] and we thought we would have a go. We hadn’t a clue what we were doing and I’d never even jogged before, so we practised and completed it in four-and-a-half hours. The next year I did it with another set of friends in three hours, 40 minutes.

You’ve been a runner all your life, then?
Apart from a wee gap in my early 50s when I had to have a hip replacement, which was nothing to do with running. Afterwards, I asked the consultant if I could run again and they said ‘yes’. Running is good for your health and wellbeing. I’d recommend parkrun. It’s a bit like u3a in that it’s run by volunteers and it’s a friendly community.

You are from Belfast. How did you end up in Glasgow?
My husband, who died in 2010, and I were both born in Northern Ireland. He was an engineer and he got offered lots of jobs, one of them in Glasgow, so we moved here and stayed ever since. It was the European Capital of Culture in 1990 and hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

What did you do?
I was an English teacher and worked in four schools in Glasgow. I met Ann, an art teacher, in my first school. I was headteacher of Springburn Academy for 12 years.

How did you get involved with u3a?
When I retired in 2015, I wanted to get involved with the local community. I joined the u3a in Bearsden, where I lived at the time. I have family in Northern Ireland who are members of Causeway u3a, so I had heard about u3a. Then I moved to Glasgow’s West End, where there was not a u3a, so Ed Link, the trustee for Scotland at the time, helped me set one up and I was the chair.

Which groups do you belong to?
I’m in the Book Group, Walking Group, Current Affairs Group and Spanish, and I enjoy going to the theatre with u3a. I still belong to Bearsden & Milngavie u3a, too.

Are you a member of any other community group?
I belong to a church eco awareness group which encourages people to be climate-aware.

What is the best thing about u3a?
The friendship and social aspect. It makes you get out and about. There’s a real hunger now that we’ve come through the pandemic and a buzz about u3a, and membership is rising again. Bearsden & Milngavie went down to 400 members but is now back up to 600 while Glasgow West End has risen from 290 to 371. We are unique because we’re a grassroots, self-help movement and we’re low-cost.

And the best thing about being a trustee?
Helping to set up a new u3a and see that through. I supported the Isle of Bute u3a at the end of its journey, which Ann had begun. Whenever I needed help, I got that from the national office or from other u3a members. The next new u3a to set up will be Glasgow Southside. I’ve also enjoyed meeting members.

Any tips for anyone thinking of joining a u3a committee or becoming a trustee?
The emphasis is on people enjoying themselves. If you feel the responsibility will be too much, you will always be heavily supported by the national office. You are not on your own.

  • Interested in becoming a trustee? There will be opportunities this autumn when several come to the end of their terms of office. Contact your u3a to find out more.

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Gone phishing

From shopping and personal finance to Covid and bogus fundraisers, cyber crime comes in all shapes and sizes. James Day reveals what to look out for and how to dodge the fraudsters

The UK is being plagued by online scams and fraud as criminals become more sophisticated in their methods and take advantage of digital platforms.

According to a report by, more than 350,000 incidents of fraud or cyber crime were reported in 2022, with in excess of £4 billion stolen – a 63 per cent leap in losses compared with the previous year. While online shopping scams became the single biggest source of fraudulent activity, investment and romance cons were also common.

Increased reliance on digital platforms has seen criminals adapt quickly to find new ways to exploit the situation. For example, there has been an increase in phishing – when criminals use false emails, text messages or phone calls to trick victims – and fake websites aiming to steal personal and financial details.

Another factor is the growing use of social media, which provides an easy way to target potential victims. Fraudsters are using social-media platforms to create fake profiles and lure people into scams, such as investment opportunities or prize giveaways.

The UK Government has responded by launching a campaign ‘Take Five to Stop Fraud’ ( It encourages people to take a few minutes to stop and think before they hand over their personal or financial information. But what else do you need to know to avoid costly mistakes?

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Current Cons

We live in a cynical world, but it’s heartening to see organisations rallying around to raise the alarm when it comes to scam warnings. The likes of Barclays, Age UK and even credit bureau Experian regularly post alerts on their websites, while Action Fraud is invaluable for understanding and reporting threats.

Without wishing to go all X-Files on you, ‘trust no one’ is a pretty good stance to take. Current scams include fake emails and texts offering discounts on energy bills. Some appear to be from energy regulator Ofgem but, remember, the Government-backed support scheme is automatic, so anyone asking for personal details simply isn’t legitimate.

Free Covid test messages claiming you have been close to someone identified as positive are also nonsense. The same goes for people posing as HMRC or your local council offering rebates, and courier companies suggesting you have a parcel to collect – especially if you aren’t expecting anything.

Sadly, scammers are only too happy to profit from pulling on your heartstrings. Bogus fundraisers for victims of the Ukraine war and Turkey earthquake have been identified in their hundreds. And romance scams, where someone gains your affection before asking for financial ‘help’, cost Brits around £97million each year. Men are scammed four times more than women and Facebook can be a hotbed for targeting the over-45s.

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Online protection

So, how to protect yourself? Police advice is to never click on links or attachments in suspicious emails or respond to messages asking for personal or financial details. Badly written messages containing spelling mistakes are also a telltale sign and you should always check website addresses.

Ask your broadband provider if they have any protective measures in place. For example, BT has Call Protect to stop fraudulent phone calls, Virus Protect for computers and Web Protect to warn you if a website is harmful. The BT website also offers plenty of scam advice.

Your mobile-phone network should be protecting you, too. British company EE recently launched a Cyber Security Powered by Norton™ service to help customers protect their devices and digital identity. It’s comprehensive, checking if your personal information has been compromised, keeping an eye on your social-media accounts for suspicious activity, protecting your devices against viruses and identifying text messages with unsafe links. You can also try

The EE platform includes a manager for generating and storing passwords in one secure place. Alternatively, head to to help you create unique passwords. Choosing three random words tends to be secure, so while something like ‘jumping123’ can be hacked in seconds, ‘hoppingskippingjumping$21’ could take millions of years.

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Ticket fraud

We mentioned online shopping scams, and one area where fraudsters are having a field day is selling fake show tickets. A survey by ethical ticket reseller site TicketSwap found 54 per cent of theatregoers have either been victims of fraud, know someone who has, or both. In fact, one in five theatregoers has been a direct victim of fraud, 91 per cent believe the industry needs to be made safer and 81 per cent think resale prices should be capped.

Websites such as TicketSwap allow people to buy and sell tickets but only for a maximum 20 per cent above face value, while TicketSwap says 70 per cent are sold for face value or less. The company has anti-fraud technology in place to check the legitimacy of tickets, it can withhold funds (similar to eBay transactions) and should something still go awry, a customer-service team steps in to resolve things.

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Banking on it

In the final three months of last year, banking fraud was responsible for the biggest losses with nearly £290million taken. With more of us forced to rely on online banking due to branch closures, the situation could get worse.Digital-only banks such as Starling already have customers in their 90s.

James Andrews, senior personal finance expert at, says: “Making sure you have up-to-date antivirus software on your computer, phone and tablet can help to protect yourself from cyber attacks.

“As a rule of thumb, banks and other official bodies will never request details such as credit-card numbers or other personal information over the phone or email. If you do find yourself in a position where you have unexpectedly lost money, it is important that your bank is made aware of this as soon as possible.”

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Staying safe with online banking

Online banking is becoming a necessity, with benefits such as keeping control of your finances from home or on holiday via a website or app.

If that’s not liberating enough, you can transfer money between accounts, send money to people you know, and set up or cancel direct debits and standing orders – all without visiting a branch.

Most banks give lessons to help, while Age UK has terrific advice on its website and offers computer classes. Here are a few of our essential tips:

Do set up your online banking carefully, download the correct app and follow your bank’s instructions to the letter.

Don’t share those details with anyone unless it’s an emergency or you completely trust them, such as a next of kin.

Do take some time to play with the app’s features and familiarise yourself with the layout.

Don’t mistake online banking for being unsafe. Most have the highest levels of digital security and log you out automatically after use.

Do look for ‘HTTPS’ before the website name in the address bar of your web browser. The ‘S’ stands for secure and means it is protected.

Don’t reuse the same passwords for different accounts.

Do be cautious with public computers. The one in your local library might not be secure, so check with staff.

Don’t share passwords or PIN numbers. Banks will never ask you for these in full. If they do, it’s fraudulent.

Do view your balance frequently to check for irregularities and raise any concerns immediately.

  • Is there an area of tech you would like to learn more about? send your suggestions to
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Food fit for a King

Beverley Jarvis, of Ashford, Wye & District u3a in Kent, shares some delicious ideas to celebrate the coronation of Charles III

To mark King Charles III’s coronation, a Big Lunch is planned for 7 May to allow communities to come together and share food and entertainment.

I designed these recipes specifically – and to fit in with the u3a Cook for the King online competition, the results of which will be in the next issue of TAM.

  • Is your u3a doing anything to mark the coronation? If so, tell us about it at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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21st Century Coronation Chicken

Serves 6

This delicious modern take on coronation chicken needs only a mixed salad and some crusty bread to accompany it.

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4 large chicken breast fillets

600ml chicken stock. Use a chicken stock cube and boiling water from the kettle

4 spring onions, sliced (I like the red variety)

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

For the dressing

10 rounded tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise

2 tbsp mild or medium curry paste

4 tbsp crème fraîche or natural Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp mango chutney

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

Salt and pepper

10 dried apricots, roughly chopped
(I like the soft variety)

To Serve

1 little gem lettuce

10 black grapes, halved (optional)

200g radishes, sliced

4 spring onions, chopped

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1. Put the chicken breasts into a large saucepan. Cover with the stock. Add spring onions and dried herbs. Bring to simmering point. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked. Remove from heat and leave to cool completely.

2. Meanwhile, mix together all of the ingredients for the dressing, except for the dried apricots, in a large bowl. Once mixed, stir in the apricots.

3. Remove cooled chicken from the liquid and cut into medium dice. Retain the stock fo. Stir chicken into the dressing to coat. Season, if needed. If sauce seems a little thick, stir in a tablespoon or two of the cooled, reserved stock.

5. Arrange lettuce leaves and grapes around the edge of a large platter. Turn the chicken into centre of the plate. Garnish with the radishes and spring onions and serve immediately, or cover and chill for up to two hours.

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Cranberry and Apple Slice

Serves 8

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750g cooking apples (I like Bramleys)

50g caster sugar

2 x 320g sheets ready rolled puff pastry (all butter variety is nice)

60g dried cranberries

1 medium egg, beaten

2 tbsp Demerara sugar

To Serve

Custard, single cream or ice cream

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1. Put apples, caster sugar and 3 tbsp of water into a large non-stick pan. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer for about four minutes, until apples soften but retain shape. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Stir in cranberries.

2. Preheat oven to 200C, fan 180C, or gas mark 6.

3. Place one pastry sheet on a large baking sheet. Lay cooled apples on top, leaving a 2cm border all round. Brush edge with beaten egg.

4. Fold second sheet of pastry in half, lengthways. Carefully cut slashes all along its length, from folded side towards centre, at 1cm intervals.

5. Lay slashed piece of pastry, to fit, on top of apples. Carefully open out to form a lid. Seal edges, then crimp.

6. Brush tart all over with beaten egg. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Serve hot with custard, cream or ice cream.

  • Have you tried any of Beverley’s recipes? Send in a photo and let us know. Or perhaps you have a tried-and-tested CREATION of your own you WOULD like to share? It must
    be your own original RECIPE. Get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Leave peat to work its magic on our planet

The UK’s peatlands are natural carbon sponges so let’s call time on digging them up for use in our gardens, writes Victoria Benn on behalf of environmental charity Friends of the Dales

Our gardens are our sanctuaries; vibrant havens where we can enjoy the birds, listen to the insects and nourish ourselves both mentally and physically. Yet, for decades, many of us have unknowingly done this at the expense of nature and the climate.

Some 12 per cent, or three million hectares, of the UK is peatland, vast tracts of important habitats and sites of special scientific interest comprising rare fauna and flora that have developed peat from partially decomposed plant material over several millennia. Sphagnum moss, essential to the formation of peat, accumulates at about 1mm per year, so our oldest peatlands date back 9,000 years.

Yet, according to The Wildlife Trusts, 94 per cent of UK peatlands are in a decimated state, an environmental catastrophe resulting from more than 70 years of inappropriate farming policy and ongoing commercial extraction for the amateur and professional horticulture sector.

If in a good state, our peatlands act as giant natural sponges to capture rainwater, slowing the flow to prevent catastrophic flooding of which the UK has seen a sharp rise recently. Poor quality, eroded or dry peatlands do not slow the flow, instead allowing rainfall to rush off, gouging out great gullies which get wider and more powerful as the peatland erodes.

Peatlands also store carbon in the same way as trees, with 30cm³ retaining the equivalent amount of carbon as a hectare of Amazon rainforest – an astonishing statistic until one appreciates that, like rainforests when they are decimated or destroyed, all that stored carbon transfers to the atmosphere. Indeed, peat extracted for horticulture in the UK and Ireland in 2021 released up to 880,000 tonnes of CO₂.

All of which brings us back to our gardens and the importance of leaving peat where it belongs. The encouraging news is that peat for the amateur gardening sector will be banned in England from 2024, with several retailers already selling quality, peat-free composts.

Yet, worryingly, there is no date when peat use in the professional sector will be banned. The Royal Horticultural Society has pledged that all of its gardens, show displays and plant sales will be peat-free by the end of 2025 (its bagged compost already is), yet consumer pressure is needed to encourage other sites to do the right thing and follow suit.

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It’s green for grow

The RHS’s new £1 million research fellowship is joining five commercial nurseries to experiment with sustainable alternatives to peat.

There is also a new traffic-light system to help consumers when buying material for their gardens.

The Responsible Sourcing Scheme for Growing Media enables retailers, growers and manufacturers to make informed decisions about the sustainability
of growing media formulations, accounting for their environmental and social benefits, and costs.

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Top tips for going peat-free

Visit for a list of which retailers are peat-free.

1. Check labels on potted plants, pellets, plugs and composts. ‘Environmentally friendly’ does not mean peat-free.

2. Stand up for peatlands: If shops do not stock what you want in a peat-free option, ask for it and explain why.

3. Experiment with improving your soils naturally. Go to and for soil tips and how to develop compost.

4. Share the #PeatFreeApril campaign message on social media.

For more information, visit

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Making great strides to tick off jam-packed itineraries

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Islington u3a

Twelve-mile hikes are a walk in the park for Islington u3a’s Longer Walks Group, who enjoyed a four-day trip in Exmoor.

Basing themselves at Holnicote House in Somerset, members took in Exmoor National Park, including Selworthy Beacon, strode through quaint villages and climbed a steep cliff and narrow paths to Hurlstone Point.

Jo-Ann Kennedy, of the North London group, said: “We were overwhelmed by the views.”

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Sawbridgeworth u3a

Stepping on board the final Concorde to fly was a highlight of a trip by Sawbridgeworth u3a in Hertfordshire.

Some 61 members saw the iconic jet at Aerospace Bristol Museum as part of a five-day trip to Wells, Somerset.

They also toured Wells Cathedral, Aldwick Estate vineyard and Coates English Willow visitor centre at Stoke St Gregory, which had an Alice in Wonderland sculpture trail.

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Buxton u3a

Members of Buxton u3a visited Merseyside for a three-day trip as part of the u3a Walking Exchange initiative.

They were guests of Southport u3a’s Walking Group, having led them on treks in the Peak District last year.

Highlights included seeing Antony Gormley’s iron men statues at Crosby beach, a walk along the Mersey to the Royal Albert Dock and refreshments in the Tate Gallery.

  • Has your group been on an interesting trip? email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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From the allotment

Plotting a recovery as we get back to business

Clearing patch and sowing seeds provide glimmer of hope, writes Joanne Smith.

We were down at the pub when I was tapped on the shoulder. It was a fellow allotmenteer who wanted to know where we had been all winter. Our plot was looking a tad uncared for compared with those of its neighbours. We hadn’t yet received a summons from the allotment committee, but it probably wasn’t far off. Excuses of ‘there’s been a lot of rain’ don’t cut the mustard – particularly when there had been no rain for a month and the weather people were talking about a drought.

So, armed with an array of long-handled tools – many of them kindly donated to our cause and some of them mysterious – we set off one Saturday morning in early March to make a start on the overgrown patches.

There was another reason to go that particular weekend . . . the allotment association was holding its annual seed swap. I didn’t have any seeds to swap but the newsletter informed me that I could buy them for 50p – what a bargain! We had to check they were still in date. Some needed to be planted this year but so what? 50p instead of £3 is not to be sniffed at.

There was a huge variety, so what to choose? Seeds are a minefield, a bit like choosing the right compost. I stuck to tried-and-tested courgette, tomato, broad beans, sweetcorn, cabbage, sprouts and carrots to add to my collection at home.

Then I thought, why not try something a bit different? Some yellow dwarf French beans, perhaps? They mature early, with fleshy pods and a sweet flavour.

Back home, heated propagators at the ready, the first tomato, sweetcorn and sprouts were duly sown and noted in my allotment notebook, alongside the rough plan I had drawn up so I knew what to plant where. This plan inevitably changes several times over the planting season, but you have to start somewhere.

Within two weeks, the sprouts had sprouted, along with the tomatoes and broad beans – but no sign of the sweetcorn. So it’s back to square one with them, then.

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Group visit to rhs garden; Gilbert and Sullivan festival

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Win 15 tickets to an RHS garden of your choice

With five world-class gardens across the country, a calendar of special events and delicious catering, the Royal Horticultural Society offers a fantastic day out for u3a groups.

The RHS has something for every group – from the most experienced horticulturalists to weekend gardeners or those who simply enjoy the great outdoors, what better way to enjoy a fantastic day out than immersed in the beauty of plants.

One lucky u3a group has the chance to win a maximum of 15 tickets to an RHS garden. Choose from RHS Garden Bridgewater in Greater Manchester; RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire; RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex; RHS Garden Rosemoor in North Devon; or RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey. Each member of the group will receive a souvenir guidebook.

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How to enter

To be in with a chance of winning, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your u3a and reference ‘TAM Prize Draw’. Entries must be received by 11.59pm on Sunday, 28 May. Winners will be drawn at random and notified by email. The winning group must redeem its prize booking and visit the garden of its choice by 31 January 2024.

Terms and conditions: Group visit is for 15 u3a members and excludes any additional refreshments, transport to the garden and accommodation. Any additional u3a members attending the visit will need to book and pay at the advertised group rate stated on the RHS website Prize cannot be exchanged for RHS Shows and Festivals and cannot be raffled or resold.

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Grab your seats for Gilbert and Sullivan shows

The 29th International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival returns to Buxton, Derbyshire, from 29 July to 12 August 2023 – and Third Age Matters has six pairs of tickets to give away to any performance.

Shows to choose from include The Yeomen of the Guard, featuring jester Jack Point, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and many more!

The festival also offers an exciting fringe programme of daily lectures from G&S experts, chats with the stars, matinee concerts and productions.

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How to enter

To win a pair of tickets, answer the question below and either email it with your name, address and the u3a you belong to, to
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with ‘TAM Competition’ in the subject line, or post to TAM Competition, The Old Vicarage, All Souls Road, Halifax HX3 6DR, by 15 May. Winners will be drawn on 31 May 2023.

To enter, tell us the name of the Gilbert & Sullivan opera featuring Jack Point:

a) The Mikado

b) The Yeomen of the Guard

c) The Pirates of Penzance

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Brain games

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From Michael Cleaver, of Lancaster & Morecambe u3a

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Competitive Double

1. The Bidding


1 ♥





What should West do with:
♠A76 ♥AK9642 ♦7 ♣ Q84 ?

Many players would reopen the bidding with 2♥. This is exactly the error of putting all your eggs in one basket. Yes, the hearts are strong, but the best trump suit is one where the partnership has the most cards. 2♥ could be the best spot but partner could hold any of the following hands:


♠ Q8542

♥ 7

♦ 8652

♣ K53


♠ 852

♥ 7

♦ J102

♣ KJ7532


♠ K54

♥ 7

♦ KQ962

♣ 9752

If you bid 2♥, partner is likely to pass each time, yet the best spot is 2♠ on (A), 3♣ on (B), and 2♦ doubled on (C). How will you reach these spots except by doubling?

2. The Bidding

Nil vulnerable
















What action should West take with:
♠ 62 ♥K985 ♦ AKJ763 ♣ A ?

Many players would be seduced by the suit texture into a 3♦ bid and that could be your best spot. Nevertheless, bidding 3♦ may also miss your optimal contract. If you do bid 3♦, what do you expect partner to do with:
♠ A2 ♥ Q10753 ♦ 54 ♣ J87

Partner will pass 3♦ because the sequence you have chosen, double followed by a new suit, implies a one-suited hand, a hand too strong for an immediate overcall. That is exactly how you would bid if you held:

♠ A2 ♥ 95 ♦ AKJ764 ♣ KQ3

The solution is that West should
double 2♠. If partner bids 3♥, fine. If
East bids 3♣, then, and only then,
should you bid your 3♦.

3. The bidding

Nil vulnerable

















2 ♥







What should West do with:
♠ A ♥ AQ10853 ♦ A8 ♣ K974 ?

West should double. Partner has
heard the auction, has heard you bid 2♥, has heard the opponents bid ♦ and ♠ and so should be able to take a sensible decision. In this instance, with a good holding in their trumps and little in the way of hearts, she converts your intended take-out into a penalty
double. If West passes 2♠, E/W will still get a good (second best) score.

West will score badly with either bid of 3♣ or 3♥.

Competitive doubles, anyone?

  • Don’t miss our u3a bridge festival! FIND OUT how to take part in the News section

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From Cryptic Crackers of Swansea u3a

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1. Sounds as if single timber could shape dramatic compositions (10)

5. Symbol I consider to be part of (4)

9. Person from US nodded agreement regularly, displaying intellectual depth (8)

11. Nonconformist invertebrate (6)

12. Loud noise exhibits reversed charged particle (3)

14. A den in order for the top of cathedral (4)

15. As a starter, I naturally invite two Italians as lodgers (6)

17. This worm can measure the marigolds, at a pinch, but not quietly (4)

18. In the past you’d find Lord Emsworth’s pet there (3)

19. What the Poker banker might aptly say, perhaps? (5)

22. It was a round in Arthur’s time, those of High IQ would say in Latin (6)

24. Personal equipment found in kitchen cabinet (3)

25. Runaway fell, exercising at intervals (4)

29. Unaffected, not flat or sharp (7)

30. Device which makes the robber’s takings reverse (4)

31. Douglas, a North American associate (3)

34. Agency with authoritative position (6)

35. A salad staple, the piper’s son needs athletic starter to be on his digits! (8)

36. Special quality previously implied (4)

37. Confused mob blazed round the 1st of October, becoming totally bemused! (10)

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2. A sign for public notice (4)

3. An informal convenience continues on a rampage (6)

4. Central to sundown, it’s a release (4)

6. Would you believe it's just a bit dishevelled with red lace? (10) 

7. Let X be the source of this sting (6)

8. Drunk, indecisive, inverted and harsh (6)

9. Given the green light for go ahead (6)

10. Number that Germany reportedly rejected at the start of the year (6)

13. The point of putting pen to paper (3)

16. How to describe the methods used by Isaac, Charles, Marie
and Albert (9)

20. Buffet orbit around the first sunrise (6)

21. Breaks down, as Ant’s partner ends in tea-party dress! (6)

23. Refused to work, being attacked (6)

26. Noses around like underground agents (6)

27. This seasonal little helper unpacks tinsel fairies (3)

28. Solanum, cultivated underground? (6)

32. A write-up for the attached (4)

33. The aim of a striker (4)


  • Quizzes and maths challenges are available online at

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Crossword solution

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1. Monologues.

5. Icon.

9. Profound.

11. Insect.

12. Ion.

14. Dean.

15. Initial.

17. Inch.

18. Sty

19. Ideal

22. Mensa.

24. Kit.

25. Flee.

29. Natural.

30. Tool.

31. Fir.

34. Office


36. Such

37. B

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2. Neon.

3. Looter.

4. Undo.

6. Creditable.

7. Nettle.

8. Unkind.

9. Permit.

10. Ninety.

13. Nib.

16. Scientific.

20. Bistro.

21. Decays.

23. Struck.

26 Snoops.

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professor rebus

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9. Scratched out from sleek editions (4)

10. Just sounds like food! (4)

11. Blind padre is in difficulties (5)

12. Sounds like a savage place to shop! (4)

13. High collar of dog talk? (4)

1a. An ace chord composed, but just not a bishop (10)

5a. Spoils the aim as it rips apart (7)

14a. Can go to an odd shape (7)

16a. Prosperous to clamber over on foot? (11)

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

3. Thing's found in gritstone (3)

7. Pan used to live here in central Peloponnese (7)

14. Pharaoh Moses got some resistance from (3)

15. Snubbed a bit in the centre (3)

1d. Melody that's well preserved? (6,5)

4d. House has a compromised member with a rift (6,5)

6d. Base note, rather than bass note (6,1)

8d. Direct to free stuff? Rot! (5,2)

  • For more professor rebus puzzles visit

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professor rebus solution

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1. Custom built, 5. Impairs, 9. Eked, 10. Fare, 11. Drape, 12. Maul, 13. Ruff, 14. Octagon, 16. Comfortable.

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1. Canned music, 2. Ski, 3. Its, 4. Timber frame, 6. Middle c, 7. Arcadia, 8. Refer to, 14. Ohm, 15. Nub.

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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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Age is not a barrier to learning and trying new things

In June, I shall be 79. This has not stopped me from continuing with my life and taking on new things – a recently joined u3a Philosophy Group being one of them.

Age is not a reason to be alarmed about using technology. I’m worried when
I read about u3a members refusing to use smartphones to pay for car parking and that their attitude is ‘not gonna happen’. Once learned, a parking app takes 30 seconds to pay rather than standing in a queue in the rain because the machine is not working.

We all have to learn new things, however old we get. After all, if we didn’t learn new things, how would we be able to use our smart TVs or new cars or new electrical appliances?

In the February issue of TAM, there was an article about how Mill Hill u3a’s Extreme Sports Group members, aged between 62 and 82, went white-water rafting. That’s the attitude we should all be adopting – not giving up because something is new and we don’t know how to use it. After all, I’m sure when we were in our late teens or early 20s we didn’t go home after our first driving lesson and say, ‘Well, I’m not doing that again’. So why give up now?

Ruth Alexander, Sturminster Newton u3a, Dorset

I am 90 and would not be without my laptop. I do all my shopping on it and research everything I want to know. Emails are a joy.

Eileen Gibbs, Lea Valley u3a, Essex

I am so tired of reading that ‘our generation’ is being left behind by the online age, and now even Dame Esther Rantzen is getting in on the act by lamenting the loss of bank branches to online banking (TAM, February).

Yes, it can occasionally be frustrating when the technology doesn’t work but, please, ditch the rose-coloured glasses. In the ‘good old days’ you had to wait a month, or even three, to check your bank account, utility bills and other financial matters. Booking a holiday or an appointment required a trip into town, parking fees and a long wait in a queue.

Anne Stanford’s comment regarding using an app for parking – ‘that was never going to happen’ (Letters, Feb) – is denying the world in which we live. It’s like someone a century ago saying they were keeping their horse as they didn’t like the motor car.

We may not like all aspects of the brave new world but it’s here to stay, so we may as well adjust or lose out.

Jane Jennings, Cam, Dursley & District u3a, Gloucestershire

Oh, how I agree with Anne Stanford regarding car parking charges (Letters, Feb). I used to go to theatres at least twice a month but have not been once in the last 18 months. Why? Theatre Royal Windsor, Anvil Basingstoke and the New Victoria Theatre in Woking have all now got complicated payment methods which I find difficult to operate. After an embarrassing experience at Woking, I decided reluctantly not to go any more.

I am 88 and miss one of the few pleasures I have left. I do not use apps and used to use cash at these venues, which is no longer available. I miss the theatre and I am sure they miss my income.

Someone please do something before we become a cashless society.

Ron Fortin, Fleet & District u3a, Hampshire

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From Sixties’ classic rock to new artists

Regarding Peter Coleborn’s letter about having difficulty finding new sounds to engage with (Letters, Feb), I suggest BBC Radio 6 Music or your local BBC Music Introducing show. The East Midlands version of Introducing with Dean Jackson on Saturday evenings is a joy to listen to. Young, and not so young, contributors sending in their new, often exceptional, music makes for a fine show.

Peter mentioned Jake Bugg, who was found through Introducing in 2012.

Another show I have found and enjoyed recently is Radio 3’s Night Tracks. I catch up on the BBC Sounds app to the mix of classical and other ‘often-not-heard-on-the-radio’ music.

Paul Turner, Keyworth & District u3a, Nottinghamshire

My experience is very similar to Peter Coleborn’s, growing up in the ‘Swinging Sixties’. After the 1960s, I was excited by the surge in progressive rock through the 1970s, and followed bands such as Yes, Barclay James Harvest and Kansas, plus American guitar-based rock bands Boston, Journey and Foreigner.

Now, in the 21st century, my ears and heart have been stimulated by the music of Porcupine Tree, Pendragon and others, who write complex rock music that you must listen to, rather than just for head banging. In particular, I can highly recommend the latest album by a reunited Porcupine Tree, headed by the amazing Steven Wilson, titled Closure/Continuation. I already have tickets to see them in Manchester in June this year.

For a single track that blows me away, you must go back to 2000 and the song The Time is Now by Moloko. Better still, watch the promo video on YouTube – it’s brilliant, as is the album from which it is taken, Things To Make and Do.

For a different type of music, I am also a big follower of Eric Johnson, who, in my humble opinion, is one of the world’s most talented and under-rated guitarists, and is someone whom I have had the pleasure to meet.

Brian Collett, Brixworth & District u3a, Northamptonshire

One way of discovering new music that’s not ‘easy listening’ is to follow links in reviews. This is how I discovered Wet Leg, though that took me back to Pixies and The Breeders.

Today, I listened to the rapper Slowthai after reading a review of his new CD. I had never heard of him but he was at Glastonbury in 2019.

I dance in the kitchen to Belle and Sebastian’s The Boy with the Arab Strap, but is this going to be ‘easy listening’ in the not too distant future? What about Talking Heads? And Tom Waits? Will I have to wear noise-cancelling headphones if I live in an old people’s home so I can listen to my own music?

Christine Lee, Callington u3a, Cornwall

I grew up in the Seventies with glam rock and progressed on to heavy rock – music genres I still enjoy to this day. As a teenager, I would curl up in bed listening to Radio Caroline broadcasting from the Mi Amigo ship in the North Sea.

It may be of interest to u3a members that Radio Caroline is still broadcasting to this day – legitimately and no longer as a pirate station. It recently acquired a transmitter at Orfordness in Suffolk which formerly belonged to the BBC World Service and can now broadcast on 648 AM across much of the UK and Northern Europe.

The Radio Caroline website from which the station can also be accessed means that it now has worldwide coverage and has therefore recruited many listeners from all corners of the globe. Many former Caroline DJs from the past still devote spare time to contribute regular shows and the station now broadcasts
24 hours a day.

As well as playing all the classic rock sounds from the 1960s and 1970s, many of the DJs play a broad spectrum of sounds including new bands and artists. Peter Coleborn may find that he can identify new groups that appeal to his tastes, as well as older ones from the last 40 years that he may not have heard of.

Doug Saunders, Barnstaple (Taw) u3a, North Devon

New operators took over our 900-seat theatre a few years ago and put on shows they thought would appeal to older residents, a substantial demographic in our town. We had stuff such as Sing Along with Vera Lynn, Musical Spirit of the Blitz, Golden Hits of the ’40s and comedy acts including A Tribute to Bob Monkhouse and Tommy Trinder. Big mistake. It was the music or comedy of our parents’ generation – ageist stereotyping and ignorant marketing.

Now they fill the place with punters enjoying some of the best tribute bands emulating the likes of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Tina Turner and genres such as Motown and soul. More than half of the audience are retirees in the 60-80 age bracket, energetically enjoying the music of their youth.

There are also shows by current
comedy performers such as Mark Steel and Jimmy Carr.

Times and audiences move on and the smart event operators recognise and are profiting from that. There’s some great stuff out there now, including contemporary performers.

So hopefully it is goodbye to Vera Lynn, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. They were great for their time but are now literally past their sell-by date.

Chris Smithers, East Suffolk u3a

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Bringing cemetery dig memories to the surface

I was intrigued by the photograph of the archaeologists excavating a grave in a chalk landscape in the article ‘Shedding light on the Dark Ages’ (TAM, Feb). The caption ‘A dig at an Anglo-Saxon cemetery near Dover’ confirmed to me that it was probably one with which I was involved in 1994.

At that time, I was the regional technical manager for a housing association, which had acquired a former allotment site in the Buckland area of Dover for a social-housing development. The site was to the south of the main London to Dover rail line, to the north of which was the Dover Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery, excavated in the early 1950s. It was therefore no surprise that
an archaeological evaluation of the site was required by the planning consent for the development.

Wide strips of topsoil were removed across the site to expose the chalk subsoil and it was pronounced that we could expect to find a dozen or so graves within the site. A team of archaeologists from Canterbury Archaeological Trust, with the assistance of the British Museum, duly commenced work.

The ‘dozen or so’ proved to be a significant underestimate as 244 graves were ultimately discovered by the team, headed by Keith Parfitt.

There were signs of previous use, too. Stripping the soil down to the chalk revealed signs of terracing, with tool marks still visible, left by the Bronze Age workmen who had cultivated the site many, many years prior to its use by the Anglo-Saxons.

Some of the graves contained artefacts. Male burials contained a sword or spear and perhaps a shield boss. Those of women contained brooches, beads and other items. I recall seeing a comb carved from bone among artefacts removed from one grave.

In another, the team discovered an intact glass cone beaker, which probably originated in Germany. Shaped like an ice-cream cone, it could only be put down once the contents had been consumed. Were they party animals, one wonders? The grave discoveries were gifted to the British Museum.

The site proved to be a highly significant one in archaeological terms, dwarfing the original Dover Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery first excavated by Professor Vera Evison in 1951-1953.

Keith Parfitt’s book, Buckland Anglo Saxon Cemetery, Dover, written with Trevor Anderson, provides a detailed study of the cemetery, the individuals interred and the grave goods.

The housing development was eventually completed and two of the roads within the estate are named Parfitt Way and Evison Close.

John Ellaway, Spelthorne u3a, Surrey

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Free help to get on top of your finances

Esther Rantzen draws attention to the difficulty in obtaining financial advice (TAM, Feb).

I think it is a significant problem, especially for retirees who may never have had to deal with these questions during their working life. Of course, it is very difficult to give or receive individual advice: the Government aims to protect us from fraudsters but at the same time the controls make it difficult for genuine advice to be easily given.

However, some help is available in the form of introductory level, free material from the Open University’s OpenLearn offering. In particular, I would draw readers’ attention to MSE Academy of Money. Produced by the Open University with advice from Martin Lewis, this free course covers all the key aspects of personal finance in six sessions of study that each take around two hours to complete. It assumes an investment in time, but it is free of charge and you can pick and choose which bits to study, and take as much time as you like.

Other free courses include Managing my Investments for people with a little basic knowledge, and The Midlife MOT, Wealth, Work and Well-being, aimed at helping those who are still at work to plan for the future.

To see the whole range of courses, go to

Peter Walton, Emeritus Professor, Open University Business School, and member of Arun East u3a, West Sussex

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Pros and cons of turning TAM digital

Andrew Rowden presents some good arguments for making TAM a digital publication (Letters, Feb).

But my first concern is that if it goes online, fewer people will read it. In our u3a, only about 12 per cent of members choose to take the magazine, but I expect that those who do at least
look at it when it arrives on the doormat. It’s the sort of thing you might flick through over breakfast or lunch.

I know personally that when I get similar periodicals by email, I put them aside to read later – and then forget all about them.

Andrew also says that more of the advertising revenue would be available as profit, but would it? I suspect that with an online publication, it would be like watching commercial TV on catch-up and people would just skip over the adverts. And the advertisers, knowing this, would stop using TAM.

I think TAM should continue in its current form.

James Cadle, Chess Valley u3a, Buckinghamshire

Andrew Rowden makes a very valid point, but this would remove all the pleasure I have in reading TAM.

There is nothing nicer than settling down in a cosy chair in a sunny spot to read the latest periodical. Balancing a laptop and trying to avoid the glare on the screen just doesn’t cut it for me.

My favourite times to read magazines have always been meal times, and I just wouldn’t trust placing my laptop on a table covered in food and spillable drink.

Please do not go digital. A phone is awkward to read and a laptop or tablet too cumbersome at the meal table.

Roni McGrath, Elgin & District u3a, Moray

Even though I have been using computers daily since the early 1980s, I must disagree with Andrew Rowden’s suggestion to turn TAM into a digital format. I am sure I’m not alone in enjoying TAM dropping through my letterbox and reading it cover to cover. There are very few email newsletters
I receive that I can say that about.

The current quality adverts in TAM will degenerate into clickbait, probably with a consequent reduction in income, which in turn will impact on the quality of the magazine. I’m very happy to pay the postage of this quality publication. If it ain’t bust, don’t fix it.

Dave Neale, Bedford u3a

In response to Andrew Rowden’s letter, I have to strongly disagree that this is the way forward for the magazine.

Third Age Matters is a colourful,
eye-catching, professionally produced magazine which is always interesting to read and a pleasure to receive.

There is much to be said for receiving news in a format that can be held comfortably and perused at leisure,
rather than gazing at a screen with the need to manipulate controls, whether that be PC, tablet or phone.

There is so much pressure on us to
adapt to ever-advancing technology
when we carry out everyday activities, such as shopping, banking and making car-parking payments.

And it is not necessarily true that advertising revenue will remain the
same – colour adverts in a magazine
are more eye-catching than on screen.
I think people will take less time over the magazine if it is in an electronic format – therefore paying less attention to the advertisements and skipping articles.

Mary Hall, Chelmsford u3a, Essex

I love the printed magazine. Other organisations of which I am a member changed to digital-only and, as a result, I do not get around to opening my computer to view content. My loss as
I may miss content and advertisers’ loss
of my interest.

There is a general view that using the internet instead of using paper is green. Sadly, the internet is a massive source of carbon emissions from its huge requirements for electricity to cool its servers and run each computer.

Please keep the paper magazine and keep on producing a welcome arrival in my postbox.

John Kuyser, vice-chairman, Totton South u3a, Hampshire

Andrew Rowden maintains that it is time to go digital and ‘everyone wins’.
I had thought so, too, until I watched Panorama: Is the Cloud Damaging the Planet? (6 February, BBC1).

This short documentary graphically showed that the information held on the cloud is stored in bank after bank of computer servers in huge data centres, which take up land and use prodigious amounts of electricity to power them and keep them cool. One data centre will use as much power as 100,000 homes. And this problem is increasing exponentially as cloud storage expands.

Going digital is not as green as it may first appear.

Ray Walker, Bearsden & Milngavie u3a, East Dunbartonshire

I really enjoyed the variety of letters in the February edition but would like to comment on two things.

Firstly, I say ‘no to digital’. I am a competent user of a computer but I do not want to have to go to my desk to read TAM on the screen, nor crouched over an iPad on my lap.

Secondly, the items on opening jars were interesting but missed one simple solution. For those pesky push-down bottle tops, the art is to use both hands – push down on the top with one and turn the whole container in a clockwise direction with the other.

It works every time.

Sylvia Jones, Fairford & District u3a, Gloucestershire

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Label reading problem comes into focus

It is commendable that the u3a is petitioning the Government to enforce minimum inclusive standards for consumer packaging (TAM, February).

But it is not only often very difficult for older and disabled people to open containers; in some cases, the instructions printed on them are almost impossible to read.

Use-by dates on tablet containers are very often just an imprint on the cardboard with no colour whatsoever, and the same applies to tubes containing medicinal products. Even cooking instructions can be unclear due to the colouring on the packet.

It would be very helpful if you could focus on this issue, too (no pun intended).

Myra Wasserman, Redbridge & District u3a and Waltham Forest u3a, London

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No rush... but wall walk is wonderful experience

In relation to the the u3a’s Off the Wall event (Page 7), a few years ago I walked Hadrian’s Wall over several weekends.
I did the start and end with a friend but
I walked the majority on my own.

A big advantage of the Hadrian’s Wall walk is that Hadrian very conveniently built a road nearby and a bus now runs along this route – meaning that, unlike other long-distance walks, you can catch a ride either to or from your B&B or car.

I was never lonely walking alone. People coming in the other direction would stop to chat, I could make diversions whenever I wanted to, lie on the grass and doze, and do whatever I wanted to.

So if you live close enough to the wall, do try it if you can. It was a wonderful experience. But take your time, it is not
a race.

Hazel Townesend, Wantage & Grove u3a, Oxfordshire

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Offensive Honours in need of an overhaul

I agree with Dr Mike Gibson’s suggestion to have the word ‘empire’ removed from the award currently entitled Order of the British Empire (Letters, Feb).

There is no such ‘empire’, and reference to this piece of history could understandably be offensive to people with connections to countries that fell into this category.

Also, I’m sure that I’m not alone in being British and feeling uncomfortable about much of our imperialist past. However, I disagree with Dr Gibson’s suggested alternative of Order of the British Commonwealth for very much
the same reasons. The Commonwealth is an association of 56 independent and equal countries, of which the UK (another issue, perhaps) is one.

Maybe all British awards currently incorporating the word ‘empire’ could have this changed to ‘excellence’, retaining the shortened OBE etc.

Geoff Lee, Barnet u3a, London

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Our debt to Poland’s war efforts

I write in reference to Dr Sonia Sassoon’s letter about her father, who was in the Polish RAF and volunteered for the Berlin Airlift (TAM Letters, February).

The UK does not adequately recognise the great debt that we owe to Poland. The highest scoring squadron in the Battle of Britain was Polish. The bomber squadron that sustained the heaviest losses was Polish. And it was the Polish Cipher Bureau that presented us with the methods and equipment necessary for breaking the Enigma cipher. The British built on that gift so that the ability to read German was maintained.

The Polish bomber force aided us even there, as it was they that undertook the ‘gardening’ raids that were designed to prompt predicable enciphered German radio traffic of known content, and it was the clues extracted from that traffic that enabled Bletchley Park to regain the ability to decipher Enigma messages when the ability to read them was lost.

It was a privilege for me to be able to explain to a Polish pilot who flew ‘gardening’ operations that his contribution to the war effort was, on some of those raids, more important than he knew.

Peter Day, St Albans u3a, Hertfordshire

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Care home opens its doors to u3a group

June Thorpe highlighted the need for some u3a groups to meet in local care homes (TAM Letters, February).

Ashburton u3a in Devon did just that. A member of our group had to go into the local care home but came out regularly to join the mah jong sessions. When the walk across the road became too difficult for her, the care home agreed for some of us to play mah jong with her in the very comfortable residents’ lounge. We did this for some months – with tea provided – until our member very sadly died.

Mah jong can be tricky, so I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody, but we would certainly ask to go back if any resident wanted a game and has a desire to learn.

Doffy Milner, Ashburton u3a, Devon

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Mentor scheme can solve volunteer shortage

Having read the articles about the future of u3a (TAM, Winter) and listened to the cry for volunteers in my local branch, I think a mentoring/sharing system could help members who are shy, cautious or worried about being involved.

I joined u3a a little over a year ago and recently became a convener of a new group simply because no one else volunteered to help.

A more experienced member agreed to share the role with me. When he showed me the list of responsibilities, I very nearly backed out. It was very daunting as I had never run anything like this before. Knowing the group would fold if I did back out, I agreed to divide the roles between the two of us.

The u3a is about learning and sharing, so this is the perfect environment to encourage the mentoring of new or younger members to take over the roles at both national and local levels. Rather than asking for volunteers for big roles, why not start with smaller roles with the aim that it will lead to them expanding their volunteering experience?

At least two groups in my u3a have
been doing something similar. The Family History Group has seven conveners who meet two or three times a year to discuss the programme. The role of convener at the monthly meetings is
on a rota basis. The Gardening Group
has a committee-style system involving
a treasurer and speaker finder, so everyone works to their strengths but also helps each other.

Trainee conveners could start in less complex groups, such as mah jong,
bridge or book clubs, which do not involve finance, finding speakers or organising trips. Once they become comfortable with those roles, they might feel able to assist with convening a more complex group.

I believe that encouraging members
to take part in simple tasks in the knowledge that they have someone to support them could be the first step to growing a group of volunteers for other tasks in their u3a.

I agree with Barrie Gunther (TAM, Winter) that the volunteering ethos needs to be ‘up front and centre in our recruitment messaging’, but also regularly in our ordinary meetings and groups – not just asking for help but also offering help to potential volunteers.

I certainly would not have been keen
to volunteer as soon as I had joined – I
was far too nervous of being in a new group. Nor would I have volunteered if
I had thought I would be doing it on
my own.

Anne Sherman, Swanland u3a,
East Yorkshire

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Pay attention to your flew-t and veg journey

The recent national debate about turning to turnips in the absence of tomatoes and lettuce has prompted me to reflect on the importance of making seasonal food as great a part of our diet as possible.

We have come to believe that we can eat anything at any time of the year. But I do not want to eat food that has been flown across the world – remember the delight of British strawberries and raspberries, asparagus and French beans when they come into season?

We are being urged, rightly, to reduce fossil-fuel consumption in the interests of future generations and the natural world. Ask yourself, ‘Has this been flown here?’. If the answer is ‘yes’, don’t buy it.

Of course, there are products which we never grow here because of our climate, such as oranges and bananas. But they come by ship and are therefore less environmentally damaging.

Catherine Budgett-Meakin, Hampstead Garden Suburb u3a, London, and member of Countdown to Cop Group

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Friendly face at the bank would be priceless

What an excellent and relevant article from Dame Esther Rantzen at a time when further bank closures have been recently announced (TAM, Feb).

Like Dame Esther, I would love to turn back time to reopen these branches. From personal experience, I do value the opportunity to go into my branch to engage with staff there – it’s quicker than using the telephone and you get the response so much quicker, with no ‘hanging on the line’.

I do admit to using internet banking myself, but I still value the personal
one-to-one contact, taking the opportunity to go into the branch when
I have any queries.

Given that we are mostly retired individuals in the u3a movement, perhaps we should support our banks a bit more by visiting the branches more often from now on when we might have in the past deferred to using the internet.

As Dame Esther says, ‘Banking online doesn’t compare with a friendly chat with a cashier at your local branch’. I couldn’t agree more.

Colin Knight, Soar Valley u3a,
East Midlands

I agree with everything Esther says. I’ve also got another little funny to go with her SKIN (spending the kids’ inheritance now). It’s called FRISKI, of which my husband and I are fully paid-up members – fully retired intent on spending the kids’ inheritance. My husband Peter had a massive stroke 10 years ago this June and I’ve been his sole carer for all that time. However, that’s not stopped us travelling the world to the likes of the Falkland Islands and ice fields of Chile.

We have also cruised up the Amazon, 1,000 miles to Manaus and around the Caribbean since he had his stroke.

We’ve decided life is definitely for the living, but travelling when you’re in a wheelchair is a challenge.

Lynne Dunham, Aylsham & District u3a, Norfolk

Reading Esther Rantzen’s article was a delight and a comfort. For some time now I’ve needed to sort out some business at my bank – transfers from one account to another and setting up a new savings account to obtain a higher rate of interest. My bank has told me to go online and that me setting it all up will be easy-peasy. Except it isn’t as I’m technologically challenged and just lack the confidence and experience to do it.

This morning, I’m going ahead with my plan to go in to the local branch of my bank and ask for help. Except what was my local branch closed down and the new one is a 40-minute bus ride away.

But Esther’s article has made me determined. Wish me well.

Helen Johnson, Caterham & District u3a, Surrey

I couldn’t agree more with Dame Esther Rantzen in her article about banks.

We live in the tourist town of Hay-on-Wye where, until a few years ago, we had three of the major banks in the town. Now there are none, which is a huge problem for local businesses which need to deposit money and require coins and notes for their tills.

I am a church treasurer and need to pay in collection money consisting of notes and coins. I am now forced to drive 16 miles to the nearest branch of Barclays bank in Hereford, where they have just one business cashier point with restricted opening times.

I do use online banking, but you can’t pay in cash online and there are times when you do need a face-to-face meeting.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bring back the old days when, as Esther says, you could meet the manager in person?

John Neville, Hay-on-Wye u3a, Powys

Esther articulates so many concerns of older people. We seem to be dispensable in so many ways, particularly in the realm of essential communication unless you are a whizz-kid on digital devices.

I remember when I was farming in the 1970s and 1980s I had a letter from our local bank manager asking me how I was, hoping everything was alright, then adding, “Oh, by the way, I notice you have exceeded your overdraft limit, nothing to worry about, but could you kindly drop in to talk about it when next in town?”

I called in, was offered a cup of tea, and I explained that some weaner cattle that were due to market weren’t quite ready. “Quite alright, Mr Brett, I’ll increase the limit. Will £5,000 for three months be alright? So nice to see you. Any problems at all, do let me know.”

Those were the days when community meant community, not customer commodity.

Alan Brett, Liphook u3a, Hampshire

Dame Esther Rantzen’s article about the lack of personal touch in banking certainly struck a chord with me. Often, when called upon to input my password, I find myself panicking because I cannot remember it. When transferring money online, I frequently double-check to ensure I’ve not sent too much, or too little, or transferred it to the wrong account.

While there is undoubtedly the convenience of carrying out transactions at any time, I miss the face-to-face interaction with, and help of, a cashier.

Diane Cowley, Bolton u3a,
Greater Manchester

Reading about people of age who prefer banking in person has prompted me to laboriously type this message on my first-time smartphone, instead of on my PC or by mail.

I wonder if anyone has considered the disabled, or people with learning difficulties, on the subject of digital banking or other activities. Pushing people, or ignoring their needs in this matter, is presumptuous.

Elaine Price, Rainworth & District u3a, Nottinghamshire

I refuse to do online banking and instead walk into town to do all my transactions in the branch.

Luckily, I still have the wonderful Coventry Building Society here in person. Long may this continue.

If the branch closes, that would make a big and very detrimental difference to my life, as would the threatened closure of my local train station ticket office.

Age discrimination in spades.

Helen Grainger, Bicester u3a, Oxfordshire

We have lost several banks from our small town of Penicuik, but the Bank of Scotland remains. I recently spent an hour there with a young manager who led me through an amazing number of accounts in which my money could receive better interest.

He was extremely helpful and repeated all of the details and made copies of all of the new accounts. He gave me time to ask questions and study the accounts.

This is the kind of service we older folks need. It’s so important to speak to a human being and not a robot.

Marjory Bissett, Penicuik u3a, Midlothian

I felt Dame Esther’s article rather trivialised what is a desperate problem for many older people.

On the evidence of the service in my local bank, cashiers are not even trained in how to deal with deposits via paying-in books. We all know that the banks want to force us all online and are doing their very best to make bank visits user unfriendly.

Of course, it goes much further with general discrimination against payment by cash in restaurants, shops and now car parks. Discrimination against those who can’t or who do not want to use cards, but want to carry on using legal tender, is now rife. It is a problem that needs serious action, perhaps led by the u3a and Esther.

Stewart Blencowe, Gloucester u3a

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One look was formula for sizzling chemistry

Referring to Esther Rantzen and other u3a members’ comments regarding sex and nudity on TV (TAM, Winter and February), I think one of the most powerful scenes I have seen on television regarding sexual attraction was from the 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy.

It was the longing look between them as Elizabeth was helping Darcy’s sister play her piano. It was memorable and watching a recording of it recently, it still had that sexual chemistry between them. Who needs nudity and writhing bodies?

Jenny Thurston, Beccles u3a, Suffolk

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Howzat for a walking cricket endorsement

The cricket season will soon be upon us and, as I approach my 90th birthday, I will still be out and about (health permitting) enjoying cricket-related activities.

Last year, I visited a fantastic women’s match of walking cricket in the indoor centre at Headingley. It was a match between Yorkshire u3a Allcomers and Leeds u3a.

This is a fantastic game for older people, developed by Yorkshire Cricket Foundation in partnership with u3a.

I was made an honorary member of Barnsley u3a and have had a keen interest in the development of their walking cricket and other activities since. It is marvellous that there are so many activities for older people in the area.

The very first walking cricket county match, between Yorkshire and Worcestershire, is planned for 15 June at Monk Bretton Cricket Club in Barnsley. It is in my diary, I will be there.

There are Test matches, County Championship games and The Hundred, but it is also great to know that semi-retired and retired men and women are also engaged in our beloved sport of cricket across our wonderful county.

Dickie Bird, retired international cricket umpire, Barnsley u3a, Yorkshire

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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 May 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

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Holidays Canary Islands

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Holidays Cyprus

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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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Holidays Portugal

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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

YORKSHIRE DALES Cosy, converted granary on working farm, sleeps 2/3. Equidistant Skipton/Settle.

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

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

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SHERBORNE SHORT BREAKS Elegant, spacious, 2-bed apartment in town centre with under cover parking. Abbey, 2 castles, railway link to London
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POOLE HARBOUR Shoreline cottage, sleeps 4. Stunning views. Close Poole Quay. Prices from £350pw-£1,010pw.

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West Clandon, Guildford Self contained annexe adjoining main house. Sleeps 2, en suite shower, TV room. Fully equipped kitchen/dining room overlooking mature garden. 10 minutes drive to
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Widow, 80s Fit, active, young minded, WLTM similar with sense of humour. Interests, sailing, walking, music, theatre. Essex area.

Reply to Box No 396

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Lady, 72 Sociable, youthful, GSOH, many interests, WLTM a gentleman to share their love of life. Nottingham.

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Attractive Cheshire widow, mid 70s Caring with GSOH. Enjoys music, theatre/cinema, dining out and various u3a activities. WLTM gentleman, non-smoker, with similar interests and age, hopefully for a LTR.

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Widow, 73 years old WLTM gentleman for company and for sharing holidays, and who lives in London/Herts/Bucks. I live in London borough of Harrow.

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Widow, early 70s Fit and active, enjoys outdoors, seeks similar gentleman. Worthing (Sussex) area.

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Lady, early 70s Loves music, walking, pubs, various interests, seeks male for LTR. London area.

Reply to Box No 400

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BOOK COLLECTIONS Interesting books, the older the better.

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Minders Keepers Long established, highly respected home and pet sitting company is looking to recruit mature, responsible house-sitters for paid sits.

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