Third Age Matters Summer 2023 - Screenreader Edition

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Editor Joanne Smith

What a busy few months! It’s lovely to see u3a members getting involved with their communities and mixing with younger generations, as with Sidmouth u3a’s fantastic art project. It was a year in the making, but the result was a stunning billboard for the whole town to enjoy.

u3a members across the country were treated to a wide variety of learning experiences at the Off the Wall event at Hadrian’s Wall, ranging from the history of the Roman occupation to enjoying cookery demonstrations and drawing workshops. There were also online events for those members who couldn’t make it to Northumberland.

Also in this issue, we feature a u3a group living life in the fast lane on two wheels and another pushing the fear limits... And Barnsley u3a member Mac McKechnie encourages Angela Rippon to have a go at walking cricket - a game he invented - for BBC’s The One Show. You can read all about it on page 7.

I hope you enjoy this issue and have a lovely summer.

Twitter @Magu3a | Facebook @u3auk

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Cover story

Town is drawn together for art map spectacular

Generations united to paint mini versions of their homes and landmarks in Sidmouth before u3a member Maureen Hawkridge created a dazzling seafront billboard, writes Joanne Smith

With its naïve quality and attention to detail, it would not look out of place in an art gallery. Indeed, it is so attractive there are already plans to turn it into tea towels and perhaps even a jigsaw.

But this huge artwork, measuring six metres wide by three metres tall and depicting Sidmouth in Devon, was created by u3a members and children from the local District Guides group.

The artists, aged between five and 85, set about painting mini versions of their own homes, local landmarks, public and private gardens, churches and even the local lifeboat. The children also painted flowers and trees.

The 234 pieces were put together on Photoshop by artist and former teacher Maureen Hawkridge, who leads Sidmouth u3a’s Exploring Art Group.

The final poster was then printed out by Sidmouth School of Art, a charity funded by Arts Council England, Sidmouth Town Council and local donations to promote community art, and displayed in the town on a billboard known as ‘Wallspace’, transforming an unloved corner of a car park overlooking the sea.

Maureen, who came up with the idea, said everyone was thrilled with the end result although some u3a members at first had not thought they would achieve it.

However, Maureen had much more faith in the outcome.

She said: “I was aware of the Sidmouth School of Art Wallspace project and had admired the posters by previous artists, photographers and groups.

“Knowing that Sidmouth School of Art is keen to encourage community participation in art, I thought that it would be an interesting challenge for the Exploring Art Group to try to produce a group artwork. We have such a variety of interesting buildings in Sidmouth and I thought they would make a good subject – and to make it more personal, we should paint pictures of our own houses.

“At first, some of the Exploring Art Group thought it would be rather challenging to fill such a large space with our artwork. Having been a secondary school art teacher, I’m used to working with big groups of people and I have supervised several murals in my time, so I know how it should be done.

“We started with the Esplanade, our beautiful seafront with many charming Regency buildings. It was important to line these up exactly and make them as accurate as possible. When we had completed these paintings and lined them all up in a row, the result was amazing.

“I think from then on the group was more confident in our ability to do the work. They went on to paint pictures of their own houses and their choice of the many interesting buildings in the town.”

Some members submitted more than one picture, with Maureen herself contributing 23 of the 234 pieces. Other people from the local u3a were also invited to join the Our Town project.

“Sidmouth is rightly known for its beautiful Esplanade and family-friendly beaches but this is also where we make our home, so it seemed right to include our own houses and invite other people in Sidmouth u3a to do the same,” said Maureen, who studied painting and sculpture at Leeds College of Art, and education at Bristol University.

“We took displays of our work to several u3a meetings and were able to persuade other members to contribute pictures. Many people in Sidmouth u3a have followed our progress and encouraged us, even if they did not want to join in with the artwork.”

When Maureen realised the group wouldn’t be able to paint enough buildings for the poster, she enlisted the help of the Guides, who were thrilled to get involved. The u3a group meets in the Sidmouth Guide Hall so they had seen the youngsters’ artwork on the walls.

Maureen led two Saturday workshops with the Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers, where they recreated their own houses. They also painted trees and flowers, adding a variety and exuberance to the artwork.

“The girls tackled the painting of their houses with so much skill and enthusiasm that many of them were done and dusted by lunchtime, leaving time for trees and flowers to be painted,” said Maureen.

Grace Essex, Sidmouth District Guide commissioner, said: “They found the experience intriguing and enjoyable, an opportunity to work with other members of the Sidmouth community, and to be creative and have fun.”

Exploring Art Group member Caroline Stanley painted a beautiful thatched cottage known as ‘the hobbit house’.

Jeff Turner, who painted the Royal York & Faulkner Hotel and Sidmouth Parish Church, said: “You’re always a little bit afraid that you will humiliate yourself and it will come out a bit silly, but I don’t think anyone feels that now.”

It was then Maureen’s job to set about creating the poster. She photographed all the individual paintings and spent many hours working in Photoshop to process and arrange the contributions into the final stunning image.

“I tried as much as possible to position the buildings and houses in roughly the correct part of Sidmouth,” she said. “There were 234 separate artworks and, together with areas of background, this amounted to 240 ‘layers’ on Photoshop. As each new layer was added, other pieces had to be moved slightly to accommodate them – and, of course, some layers had to be in front and others behind.

“Although this was a lot of work, it was a pleasure to do because I had such a variety of lovely pieces of art to work with.”

The whole project took about a year but, from the positive reactions of everyone who has seen it, it was well worth it.

Sidmouth School of Art artistic director Coco Hodgkinson said: “It’s great to see this work on the billboard. The process was a labour of love that embodies our vision to ‘Make Sidmouth the Artwork’.”

Maureen added: “I’ve really enjoyed working with so many people, younger and older, who have put their heart and soul into this celebration of our town.

“It’s exciting to have it displayed where it will be seen and admired by residents and visitors alike. Everyone loves it. And everyone loves each other’s work. People spend ages looking at the details.”

One Brownie said she was proud of being part of the community and it had been “one of the best things I have ever done in Guiding”, while another said the painting made her feel happy because “everyone has tried their best”.

  • More details and pictures can be found on the Sidmouth School of Art website along with a short video showing how the project succeeded. Visit

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What's been happening across u3a

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Founts of wall knowledge

Enthusiastic members from across the UK gathered in Northumberland for u3a’s Off the Wall Festival of Learning event featuring lectures and activities about Hadrian’s Wall and the Romans

Surrounded by stunning views of the wild and beautiful Northumbrian countryside, the Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre at Hadrian’s Wall was an ideal place for u3a’s Off the Wall learning event, which brought members together from across the UK.

The one-day itinerary included a range of lectures, demonstrations, workshops and activities relating to the Romans and their former defensive fortification.

Third Age Trust vice chair Allan Walmsley said: “The speakers included some of the most well-known and respected authorities on the history of Roman occupation and its connections with the wall.

“Dr Rob Collins, senior lecturer in archaeology at Newcastle University, gave a general overview of Hadrian’s Wall through the ages, which was a very informative introduction. Rob has had a special interest in the transition of the Roman frontiers for over 15 years and his lecture went down an absolute storm.”

Members also heard from Dr Andrew Birley, chief executive and director of excavations at the Vindolanda Trust, who talked about the human side of the settlement and the discovery of more than 700 shoes at the fort – an active archaeological site.

“Many members visited the site in the afternoon and were absolutely stunned by the discoveries and the stories of human life in the settlement which attracted soldiers, slaves, traders and support services from throughout the Roman empire,” added Allan.

Alan Leslie, from Glasgow University, spoke about the Antonine Wall, a 39-mile construction spanning the central belt of Scotland from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth, which was built on the orders of Emperor Antoninus, who wanted to expand the Roman boundaries throughout the empire.

Tony Wilmott, senior archaeologist from Historic England, told members that the wall is not all made of stone. He explored the extensive turf sections and revealed the wide range of materials used throughout the monument.

There were also demonstrations by Wendy Barrie, Scottish Food Guide editor and ambassador of the global Slow Food movement, on the Roman influence on British cuisine, while Kim Bibby-Wilson hosted a workshop having entertained members with the haunting sound of Northumbrian pipes.

Attendees went on guided walks, bike rides and geology talks, while the more creative took part in charcoal landscape drawing, photography, creative writing, play reading and circle dancing.

Ann Keating, of Edinburgh u3a, who helped organise the event, said: “It was a delight to see so many experiencing the joy of learning in the company of others. One aim was to encourage members to actively participate. We hope this has inspired groups to think about taking part in our next Festival of Learning.”

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BBC coverage leaves walking cricket groups bowled over

Walking cricket, invented by Barnsley u3a member Mac McKechnie, has been featured on BBC’s The One Show.

Mac and other team members were interviewed by Angela Rippon who, despite revealing she had never picked up a cricket bat before, was encouraged by Mac to have a go. She promptly whacked the ball – a softer version than a normal cricket ball – but was caught out. “I will have to improve my batting skills,” the presenter told viewers.

The One Show filmed Barnsley u3a’s team playing Wakefield Warriors u3a. Members described how they enjoy the sport for its camaraderie, banter and feelgood factor.

Legendary international umpire Dickie Bird, a keen supporter of walking cricket, told Angela that he enjoyed seeing people of different ages playing the game and that he believed, in time, it will become a great spectator sport.

Walking cricket has been promoted by the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation and is now spreading across the UK and to non-u3a groups. A Yorkshire walking cricket league has also been established.

Mac, who founded the sport in 2018, said that he hopes walking cricket will be prescribed to people to prevent social isolation and loneliness, and that being featured on The One Show was “wonderful” as it would reach millions of potential players.

Producer Tony Steyger said: “Mac told me inspiring stories of how setting up and umpiring the new sport had helped him with his physical and mental health, and he mentioned several other people who had benefitted that were equally heartwarming. This provided me with a strong evidence base that walking cricket actually works in helping improve wellbeing.

“At the heart of the film, which is a lot of fun, is the serious message that walking sports can be most beneficial for mental and physical health, and provide important recreation and socialisation for people in later life.”

Huddersfield University is working in partnership with u3a and the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation to research the mental and health benefits of walking cricket for the over-60s.

“We were looking at the physical benefits but it quickly became apparent that the mental and social benefits were just as important, or even more important,” said Dr Gareth Mossman, from the university’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Public Health.

It is hoped that the research will help attract additional funding with a view to walking cricket being socially prescribed by the NHS.

  • At the time of going to press, the feature was due to be aired on June 9.

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Buzzing for an adrenaline ride

Dangling 40ft above the ground on a wire strung between two huge trees, it is a bit late to think you might have made a mistake, writes Mark Dowdney, from Elmbridge u3a in Surrey.

After all, I had volunteered to go on the Go Ape high-wire course in the treetops at Chessington, along with other members of Elmbridge u3a’s new Adventurous Activities Group.

Two hours later, our thrill-seekers reassembled, tired but buzzing having mastered most of the treetop terrors including a zip-wire descent to the finish.

This high-octane outing put a smile on every face. As member Nikki Lindsey puts it: “As you get older, and time passes more quickly, let’s speed up rather than slow down.”

Since we formed last year, outings have included being locked in escape rooms, stretching our creaking joints on climbing walls, kayaking and paddleboarding on the River Thames.

We also took on the Dare Skywalk experience on the roof of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium in north London, with the more daring abseiling down from the top.

Group founder Nigel Cudby says: “I created our group to broaden the spectrum of u3a activities and to enable people like me to tick off items from their bucket lists.

“However, the best value for me has been experiencing our activities with such an amazing bunch of friends.”

Recently, we experienced driving powerful sports cars at Mercedes-Benz World in Weybridge, Surrey, where we were encouraged by the instructor to blast it as fast as we dared. It was also great fun to go on the skid pan.

Other members drove 4x4 monsters on the off-road course where they mastered steep inclines, plunged into water crossings and drove over axle-twisting obstacles.

We are also committed to going on a speedboat ride from central London to the Thames Barrier and back, and trying out a Segway.

But we have drawn the line at taking turns as the target for an axe-throwing experience!

  • The Third Age Trust provides third party liability insurance. However, extreme sports and high-hazard activities may not be covered. Please check before running an activity.

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Liz’s warm welcome in Northern Ireland

A wide array of activities ranging from art and astronomy to e-biking and willow weaving were on the itinerary for Liz Thackray, chair of the Third Age Trust, as she visited u3as in Northern Ireland.

Liz popped in to eight of the nation’s 24 u3as – Holywood District, Belfast, Ards Peninsula, North Down & Ards, Ballymoney, Glens & Dalriada, Causeway and Foyle – where members enthusiastically demonstrated the movement’s ethos of ‘Learn, laugh, live’.

She said: “This was my first visit to Northern Ireland. I had a wonderful welcome and thoroughly enjoyed meeting u3a members and engaging in activities and discussion with so many different people. I just wish I had the time to talk more about local history and engage in so many other activities.

“Thank you so much to all concerned for the hospitality and the wonderful way in which the profile of the u3a was raised in Northern Ireland.”

Liz also savoured some of Northern Ireland’s stunning scenery, visiting the beech-tree-lined avenue Dark Hedges, made famous by TV show Game of Thrones; Whiterocks beach on the north coast of County Antrim; and enjoying a glimpse of Royal Portrush Golf Club, venue for The Open in 2025.

She also ventured to Hillsborough Castle, the Royal Family’s home on visits to Northern Ireland; the Derry Walls; and the picturesque seaside village of Donaghadee, County Down.

Liz also met Fearghal McKinney, the head of the British Heart Foundation in Northern Ireland, to discuss developing links between u3a and BHF to encourage members to learn CPR.

On the final day of her tour, she was entertained by musicians playing Irish uilleann pipes.

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Louise Wood

Louise Wood, a valued member of the TAM Advisory Editorial Board and a founder of Westerham u3a in Kent, passed away in April.

Louise was an experienced journalist working in the tourism vehicle industry, for which she edited two trade magazines. She started her career in tourism PR, writing about, and promoting, London for a variety of magazines.

As a member of Westerham u3a, Louise set up its website and member newsletter, led the Wine Appreciation Group and enjoyed the Yoga Group.

TAM editor Joanne Smith said: “Louise was witty and always ready to answer a myriad of emails that came her way. At the beginning of lockdown she organised a Zoom photo of her wine group, which made an eye-catching cover for TAM.

“She was a pleasure to have on the board and will be much missed by us all here at TAM.”

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Parking apps ‘risk exclusion’

Older people are at risk of being ‘digitally excluded’ by the use of parking apps, the chair of Westminster’s Levelling-Up Select Committee has said.

Clive Betts said people should not have to “wrestle with countless apps” or face fines if they cannot use the technology.

He has written to ministers about the problem among other transport issues.

The Labour MP said: “Finding suitable places to park is an important part of our infrastructure. There have been accounts of motorists being, in effect, digitally excluded as authorities phase out pay-as-you-go parking meters due to 3G networks being switched off.”

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Mum’s word game spells success

A word game devised by a u3a member and his mother while they were on a 900-mile bus trip from Canada to the US in 1965 is taking the movement by storm.

Aileen’s Game, named after Ian Clarke’s mother, has been played a whopping 30,000 times since it was posted on the u3a’s national website.

Ian, a member of East Suffolk u3a, was 15 or 16 when he and Aileen boarded a Greyhound bus from Thunder Bay, Ontario, to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit relatives.

The pair had lots of time on their hands and, as both loved word games, they devised a pen and paper game they called 5 x 5, which they kept playing with family members on their return to the UK.

Years later, Ian thought the game would make a good smartphone app but it was too complicated for him to create.

But when the smash-hit game Wordle burst on to the scene, Ian discovered it was a webpage rather than an app and was written in Javascript, of which he had some knowledge.

In February last year, he set about developing an online version of 5 x 5, which he called Aileen’s Game. He estimates it took between 400 and 500 hours to develop.

“When I got stuck, I would look up videos,” he said. “The first challenge was how to draw a grid. I look at it now and can’t understand how I did it!”

Family and friends tried it, with the game netting an average of 200 plays a month. But numbers rocketed when the u3a agreed to put it online.

“I was at a folk club one evening when the game was being played about 50 to 100 times,” Ian recalled. “I looked at my phone and it had been played 500 times that day!

“The excitement for me is to see how many people are playing it every day.”

The game,which awards points for words of three letters or more in each row and column, changes at midnight each day but you can have as many turns as you like.

The maximum score is 50 and results can be shared on the u3a leaderboard.

Ian is now working on a French version of the game as one of his daughters is married to a Frenchman.

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Belly dancers are keeping fit in style

Belly dancing is often thought of as being a bit sexy. But for members of Epsom & Ewell u3a’s Belly Dancing Group, it helps them keep supple.

Bernadette Hurcombe, who leads the class, had practised the activity for nearly 20 years when she set up the group in Surrey.

“It’s not easy to learn,” she says. “We have to go over the moves again and again.”

There are different types of belly dancing, such as Egyptian and Turkish. Participants wear loose clothing with a sash around their middles – and there are no bellies on show!

“It’s good exercise but that’s not the main reason we do it. We don’t have any men in the group but there’s nothing to stop them joining,” adds Bernadette.

“It’s really joyful. I don’t regard it as sexy. It can be flirtatious. With Egyptian belly dancing, you don’t touch your body, whereas with Turkish you do.”

Group members have reported that it has helped with their flexibility, stamina and balance.

Janet Dare says: “I love going. They are nice people and it is such a pleasant way to keep fit. It has made me feel a lot more confident about my body. We are all shapes and sizes and it doesn’t matter.”

If you would like to know more about the activity or are interested in starting a belly dancing group in your u3a, email Bernadette at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Do you run an unusual u3a group? We would love to hear from you! Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Date set for AGM

The Third Age Trust’s 40th annual general meeting will be held on Wednesday, 18 October.

The election of regional trustees/directors takes place ahead of the event, with seven of the current incumbents coming to the end of their terms.

An online vote, between 19 June and 28 July, will be held in regions where a vacancy is contested.

The AGM will take place at Kents Hill Park Conference Centre in Milton Keynes and will also be broadcast live online via a dedicated portal. Members wishing to attend must register in advance.

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Digital Strategy update

The Third Age Trust digital strategy is now available at The next stage is the development of the implementation plan and this will be published on the same link when available later this summer.

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Flower show ticket deal

u3a members can secure cut-price tickets for this year’s Southport Flower Show – and even design a garden to showcase the movement.

Advanced tickets for the event on 17-20 August are available for £19, down from £28. Simply add ‘SFSU3A’ in the promo code section when you book online at

Horticulture enthusiasts are also encouraged to design a 6m by 6m garden suitable for u3a members. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details and a free entry form.

Southport u3a last year won two prizes for its stunning show garden at the event.

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Teachers needed for beginners’ bridge course

Bridge enthusiasts are being sought to help develop a free online u3a beginners’ course.

No teaching experience is needed, only an enthusiasm for the game and a willingness to help others.

The course involves Zoom sessions; a website with videos, handouts and practice exercises; online learning facilities; and supervised play sessions online.

  • For more information, go to the Subject Advice page at, click on ‘u3a Bridge Groups’ and look under ‘NG34 Bridge’.

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Pickleball contest

There was a fantastic response to the article in the Spring issue of TAM about a u3a pickleball tournament, which will now take place in April 2024.

If you play one of the world’s fastest growing sports and are interested in taking part, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Right royal knees-up to hail King’s coronation

It was a coronation party not to be missed, complete with burly bodyguards, paparazzi – and a visit by the ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ themselves, aka Pete Hoyle and Angela Pitcher of Southport u3a Drama Group.

The u3a team that created the winning garden at last year’s Southport Flower Show pulled out all the stops once more to stage a sumptuous tea party in the town’s five-star venue, The Grand, for 250 u3a members, accompanied by live classical music.

‘Charles’ and ‘Camilla’ arrived in a 1934 Daimler Landaulette, accompanied by bodyguards Dr Andy Rushton and Ste Jones from the Drama Group, who looked the part in shades and earpieces.

They stopped to wave and chat to onlookers before negotiating the paparazzi – Photography Group members Mike Law, David Fitton, Jim Hay, Ian Homewood and Steve Birchall, complete with hi-vis ‘Press’ jackets – to join the delighted partygoers for tea.

Lookalike Charles made a hilarious speech commending Southport and the u3a before his bodyguards tasted the food – just to be on the safe side, and maybe more than absolutely necessary.

“It really was a splendid occasion and one we will all remember for a long time,” said vice-chair Christine Howorth, who helped organise the event with Lisa Fryer, Diane Fitton, Denise Salters, Alison Keats and Karen Oats. “Pete and Angela were excellent and very, very funny indeed.”

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Keaton and Fonda movie screening for cinema fans

A few lucky members of London-based u3as were treated by NBCUniversal to a screening of The Book Club: The Next Chapter, starring Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda.

The film sequel, which is out now, follows four best friends as they take their book club to Italy for a fun trip which turns into an adventure. Jackie Gilbert, of Islington u3a, said she found the movie “enjoyable, uplifting and very funny”, while Derek Harwood described it as a “feel-good film”. He said: “I’m sure u3a members could relate to the topic, still being adventurous in our later years. The actors are of our vintage, so it was good also to see these professionals still working and performing in their prime.

“It was also a great advert for Italy with glorious scenery on view. Some of their travel route might not stand up to scrutiny, but that might be just our memories of notable sights in Italy. Overall, it was an enjoyable, easy-to-view film.”

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Writer’s creative spark details life in slow lane

Clive Wilkinson, of Coquetdale u3a Creative Writing Group in Northumberland, turned his odyssey of exploring UK coastal spots by electric car into a book snapped up by a publisher

I have always had a penchant for slow travel. My wife Joan and I have crossed three continents by train, and I have circled the globe by container ship. For me, slow travel has always been by far the best way of getting to know our world.

As my 80th birthday approached, we set out on a new expedition: touring the edges of England in a Nissan Leaf electric car. Given the parlous state of the country’s charge-point infrastructure back in 2018, we knew this would not be easy. In addition, I had never liked the idea of a driving holiday; you can’t really enjoy the landscape when you have to keep your eyes on the road all the time.

As a geographer, I was interested in so-called ‘forgotten’ communities, so our 1,900-mile odyssey took us through fading seaside towns, rainswept hilltop passes and England’s only desert, with each day’s driving overshadowed by a cloud of apprehension known as ‘range anxiety’. Would we make it to the next charge point? Would it work? Or would someone else be using it? And would it take two hours or three to recharge?

Starting at the medieval border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, we negotiated tortuous roads along England’s geological edge, with its extravagant landscape of extinct volcanoes and drumlins, to the in-between land of the Solway Firth. From there, we drove through Cumbria’s old industrial coastal towns and the faded splendour of Lancastrian seaside resorts to the effervescent city of Liverpool, and back through Northumberland’s Dark Sky Park at Kielder.

We then explored the east, uncovering the roots of our religious, cultural and industrial heritage; the impact of the Norman Conquest on religion and architecture; the conflicting claims of environment and industry in the north-east; the fragile coasts of East Anglia; the vulnerability of the south-east to historic invasion; the early peopling of our island and what it means to be English.

On the south coast, we visited a small community living next to a nuclear power plant and on the edge of a shingle desert in Dungeness, Kent; went to the battlefield that saw the death of Anglo-Saxon England; and stood on the iconic white cliff of Beachy Head, East Sussex.

Despite the cloud of range anxiety hanging over us, we enjoyed this adventure enormously. Travelling slowly, and being forced to recharge every 80 to 100 miles, we had the time to enjoy the landscape, explore local history and geography, and talk with strangers.

The long process of writing about our journey was supported by our Creative Writing Group at Coquetdale u3a, which was founded in 2010. I used to write in a strictly academic style and had to work hard to learn how to do it more creatively. I shared excerpts of my scribbles with the group and the feedback was invaluable, including members picking the opening four paragraphs of my book from several options I had written.

As for the Nissan Leaf? It was magical to drive. There were no gears so you accelerate seamlessly, far more efficiently and quietly than any conventional car. We would never go back to petrol or diesel, but we did recently trade it in for one with a bigger battery and greater range.

  • Charging Around: Exploring the Edges of England in an Electric Car, by Clive Wilkinson, published by Eye Books, is available in bookshops, from the publisher and from Amazon, including the Kindle edition.

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Tech news

Make your own headlines

It’s easy to design eye-catching email newsletters that engage with audiences, writes James Day

We are experiencing an email newsletter renaissance as publishers and brands try to find new ways to connect with captive audiences. The good news is this has prompted an influx of intuitive apps to help anyone produce eye-catching content of their own.

Perhaps you need a newsletter for your u3a group or maybe you have a small business and want to grow your customers, or you are an aspiring author trying to build a fanbase. If you have a literary itch, email newsletters can help you scratch it, but where to start?

Here is a potted guide to my five favourite platforms for creating an email newsletter, plus some top tips to make yours more engaging once you have got to grips with the basics.

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(From free,

MailChimp is a quirky way to create newsletters and remains free until you become a victim of your own success and hit 2,000 subscribers. Once signed up, you will get a guide to the lingo before going through a step-by-step process to build your newsletter audience and design – don’t worry, there are loads of templates to help you.

All that is left then is for you to write your masterpiece using the MailChimp text editor and hit ‘send’. If you want to know just how your newsletter is performing, head to the Reports page to start analysing.

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(From free,

Substack makes it simple for writers to start a free newsletter. The step-by-step process begins with you choosing a topic and defining your audience before switching to Substack’s virtual editor, which will help you write and publish your first post. The platform will then help you promote your newsletter along with tips on how to solicit feedback from subscribers.

Like MailChimp, you can monitor the results and even create a schedule for future mailouts.

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(From free,

HubSpot’s newsletter builder is a straightforward drag-and-drop affair, giving you the licence to create something cool. Like Substack, figuring out your newsletter’s goal is the first port of call, followed by browsing ready-made designs or creating your own custom template if you are feeling adventurous.

Once the design is nailed down, a dashboard will help you understand how to optimise your newsletter with smart ways to personalise it for different audiences. You will become a marketing guru in no time.

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(From free,

The brains behind Brevo – previously Sendinblue – reckon you can build a beautifully designed newsletter in less than five minutes. The drag-and-drop editor tool is intuitive and there are more than 50 free templates to choose from. A nice touch here is that if you are struggling with another newsletter app and want to switch, Brevo makes it easy to migrate across with a customer care team on hand if needed. Just don’t expect them to write it for you!

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(From free,

Mailjet’s email editor is a slick interface for adding content, images and calls to action. Its templates are listed in categories such as sports and travel to help you whittle things down – and while you don’t need any coding skills, Mailjet lets you flaunt any you may have to create your own. It’s also a great platform for collaboration, so if you have a partner in crime helping to create the newsletter you can both work on it remotely.

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Creating a classy newsletter

You have about three seconds to grab someone’s attention with an email. Not much, is it? So to stop yours from ending up in the recycle bin there are some things to consider.

Design. You might have the penmanship of Agatha Christie, but if your presentation is more akin to Rab C. Nesbitt then people will be put off reading your masterpiece in the first place. Use the app tools to create something eye-catching. Consider a masthead, maybe a logo, vibrant photos and a nice, clear layout so readers can easily navigate your newsletter.

Engagement. Content is king, so choose your focus wisely, keep it simple, keep it catchy and include third-party content to make it more engaging – it’s not all about you! If you have engaged with a subscriber and they have sent you some content, share it. This is called user-generated content and it’s great for engagement. If you are connecting to trending topics or events then try to provide a fresh take.

Subscribers. There is little point in creating a newsletter if you don’t have anyone to send it to, so think about how you are going to grow your reader numbers. This might be on the strength of the subject matter alone, but try adding calls to action such as asking readers to write in, perhaps setting some quiz questions, or advertising an online workshop for people to join.

Social media. If you already have social-media followers, try advertising your newsletter there with details on how people can sign up. The newsletter apps will help you with this, including how to safely store a database of emails without flouting GDPR rules.

Subject. It may sound silly but your email subject is the first thing someone will read. Make it something inviting so they feel compelled to dig deeper.

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Esther Rantzen: Attacking Royals over their age is nasty and unacceptable

A journalist’s offensive remarks about someone’s race or religion would be deemed a crime under hate laws, so why is it okay to insult and mock older people, says Dame Esther Rantzen

There is a breed of journalist whose stock in trade is to be outrageous at best, and downright offensive at worst. And knowing that their joy is to provoke us, I normally refuse to be provoked, not to give them that satisfaction.

But an article by Camilla Long in The Sunday Times about the coronation was so ageist, and so nasty, that I need to talk to you about it. Even if that means she will collect a whole new batch of u3a readers.

It was a wholescale attack on the older members of the Royal Family, just because of their age.

Let me give you a flavour of her appalling language. She called the older Royals who attended the coronation an “uninspiring, threadbare, wheezing collection of corpses”. They were a “collection of dusty, crusting Royals”, “aged and remote, unfamiliar relics”, and King Charles was like an “ancient cursed king”.

Now, as an ardent believer in free speech, I would defend Ms Long’s or anyone’s right to attack the Royal Family if she believes hereditary monarchy is wrong. Or to attack the event because she hates religion. Or because she resents the expense of the whole pageant. I wouldn’t agree with her, but that’s fine, disagreement is healthy.

But Ms Long’s attack was based on the Royals’ ages. As she says, bluntly: “Never mind whether the group was ‘too white’ or not, it was certainly too old.”

Pause for a moment, since she brings up the subject of race, and let’s substitute other words for “too old”. How about “too Jewish”? Or “too Muslim”? Or “too Asian”? Or “too black”? Would The Sunday Times then have published such an attack? And if it had, would it have committed a crime under the racial and religious hatred legislation? But, of course, there is no legislation to outlaw ageism.

Should there be? I’m not sure. Think of Victoria Wood’s funniest sketch, written for Julie Walters as the ancient waitress, in Two Soups. It is entirely based on the fact that Julie is so doddery she can hardly get through the door, so when the soup plates arrive, eventually, they are completely empty. There is no question it is ageist. But it is hilarious. If that sketch had been censored by a law against ageism, that would be a crime against humour.

I think that the problem goes far deeper.

So many of the issues I have written about – the loss of bank branches and managers, landlines being cut off, the problems paying for car parks, the loss of well-loved broadcasters, the whole digital revolution – exclude, isolate and victimise older people.

We are an ageist society, governed and organised by people in their 40s and 50s who have little or no insight into the world of those over 60.

There are no older ministers in government and nobody with specific responsibility for advocating for older people. A bunch of older celebrities are now campaigning for a “czar” or a dedicated minister for older people. Welcome aboard a bandwagon I have been riding for decades, with no effect. It is odd when you realise that older people are the ones who vote.

So I applaud u3a’s campaign against ageism – and I defy Camilla Long. The coronation was inspiring and I was delighted to see so many Royals present, of every age and generation.

And while I’m at it, Ms Long’s reference to King Charles’s “fat, bejewelled finger” was not only ageist, it was fat-ist too. But that’s for another column.

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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

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Online learning events

For more events and to book your place at those listed below, go to This can be found by going to the ‘Events’ tab on the homepage of the u3a website, then choosing the ‘Online Learning Events’ option. Click on each event to book a spot.

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LEO – the World’s First Business Computer

Friday 16 June, 2pm

The story of LEO is an extraordinary one. The world’s very first business computer was designed and manufactured not by one of the electronics giants such as IBM but by J Lyons & Co, better known for its teashops and Corner House restaurants, its Swiss rolls and fruit pies.

Join Neville Lyons, a relative of company co-founder Sir Joseph Lyons and member of Guildford u3a in Surrey, as he introduces his illustrated presentation with a brief history of the company’s activities and achievements prior to LEO.

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Into the mind of an artist: Van Gogh series of talks

Thursday 22 June, Tuesday 18 July and Tuesday 15 August, 10am

Catherine Stevenson, of Newcastle u3a, traces some of Vincent van Gogh’s life and works until he encountered a watershed in his artistic career. However, along the way, the Dutch Post-Impressionist suffered mental illnesses that manifested themselves in different ways and were reflected in some of his paintings he called his ‘Inner Soul’.

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Introduction to Cryptic Crosswords: Taster Session

Wednesday 12 July, 10am

This talk is for anyone who would like to try their hand at solving cryptic clues. Join Subject Adviser Henry Howarth to learn how to solve two types of clue and be introduced to the wide variety of cryptic teasers.

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Faith and the Environment

Monday 17 July, 10am

This webinar, led by Exploring World Faiths Subject Adviser Peter Rookes, will explore different faiths’ perspectives on the environment.

Dr Chris Martin (Quaker) will talk about the project Footsteps: Faiths for a Low Carbon Future. Other presenters come from Eco-Sikh UK and the Buddhist environmental justice group.

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The Scattered Islands

Thursday 20 July, 2pm

Neil Stevenson, of Up Holland & District u3a in Lancashire, shares his experience of rarely visited French coral atolls in the Indian Ocean.

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

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National programmes

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

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Short Story Competition

The u3a national short story competition is back for its fourth year, and the judges are looking forward to seeing what creative writing talents members have to offer. The theme for this year’s competition is: ‘Decision(s)’, and stories must be a maximum of 1,500 words. Enter by 26 June at

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Writing to your younger self

Members are invited to reflect and write a letter to send to a previous version of themselves as part of a creative exercise. What do you want to say to this younger person? What experiences and hindsight will you share? What advice do you give them?

A selection of letters, or extracts from them, will be shared on the u3a website, where you can also find details on how to submit your entry. These can be anonymous or credited depending on your preference.

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

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Potential for younger recruits is enormous

Allan Walmsley: view from the vice chair

A few months ago, I passed ‘The Big 7-0’, a milestone that makes you think about your life and what’s important to you. Eight years earlier, I moved back to Birmingham after many years working and living abroad, and I joined a start-up u3a which gave me an opportunity to get back into my local community.

Once I had finished work, I quickly realised that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, and being part of the West Midlands u3a movement was the ideal way to keep the brain working and learning. When I started on the board of the Third Age Trust, I began to understand the huge variety of opinions, quite a few recurring challenges, and the many different ways of presenting the face of the u3a. So, interesting times, lots to think about, and certainly no danger of losing it, at least for a while!

Meanwhile, it’s all change on the board as we say many thanks and goodbye to Hilary Jones, former trustee for Wales, and welcome four new regional/national trustees in Jean Jackson (West Midlands), John Lewis (East Midlands), Karen Green (Wales) and Stella Morris (London).

The board has been running ‘light’ since the last AGM but now we are back to a full complement. Each new trustee will also automatically join their colleagues on the new u3a Council during its pilot phase. This is the body where they can build on links with their u3as and networks, and where they will be the main representatives from their region/nation.

They will be able to ensure that the manner in which movement-wide activities are carried out is consistent with the requirements of the movement. The pilot phase of the u3a Council will last well into 2024 but, unless the movement can see a clear value in making the change permanent, it will not go any further. However, it’s a clear opportunity to find out what works and what doesn’t.

On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to test out different ways of communicating with u3as and networks. However, communication works both ways, so it is also an opportunity for u3as and networks to influence thinking at the highest level.

I read the other day that there are around 14.5 million people in the UK aged 60 and over. At our current membership level of around 400,000, that means that while around three per cent are u3a members, 97 per cent are not. Of course, there will always be people who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t wish to join but, as my old maths teacher used to say, there’s still plenty of scope for improvement.

So, recognising that most u3as need to attract a younger audience to address an ever-ageing profile, I started looking a little closer at similar statistics for a younger age group. I don’t want to bore everyone with statistics, but apparently in the 50 to 64-year-old age bracket, there are around 3.5 million registered as not working full-time in the UK, of whom only 270,000 are actively looking for work and are therefore probably not prospective u3a members.

However, that leaves more than three million, and while u3as do not record the age of their members, I’m betting that, percentage-wise, we have very few 50 to 64-year-olds so the potential for recruitment is enormous. The big challenge, of course, is connecting with this age group and making u3a activities attractive.

One thing we do know is that the future of the movement depends on how we act now – individually and collectively – at all levels for the benefit of u3a.

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Daily home deliveries are no modern craze

Eric Midwinter: u3a founder

Do you enjoy the excitement of a van delivering your groceries these days? Does it seem a new-fangled approach to retailing?

Maybe it was exceptional but my street in the 1930s was awash with delivery men. Early morning, there was Mr Higgins wobbling on a bike carrying a milk churn, into which he would dip a long-handled scoop with which to fill my grandmother’s waiting jug. Another cycling visitor was our butcher ‘boy’, actually the ageing father of the butcher, Tommy Buxton. He wobbled as well, even if only bringing us a rope of sausages. At the other end of the transport scale there was just one motorised vehicle, gruff Mr Smith in his bread van, another daily visitor, with a small Hovis loaf for my grandmother.

Otherwise, it was all horses and the like. The Co-op coal cart, drawn by a couple of , to me, giant horses, trundled up once a week; two men bundling a couple of hundredweight sacks of coal into the cellar. Another weekly visitant was Alf Mills, with a very long horse-drawn array of vegetables. We used to collect dandelions for the prize-winning guinea pigs he kept in a shed at the bottom of the road. Then there was the drinks man, again once a week, with his cartload of stone jars of sarsaparilla or dandelion (not collected by us) and burdock. We would scribble a shopping list for Thomas Royle’s grocery shop – and the comestibles would be brought by a horse and van. This horse was quite skittish, as I learned somewhat fearfully when the driver took me on tour with him, left me on the driving seat as he made a delivery and, startled in some way, the noble creature came close to bolting.

That was never the case with the forlorn donkey led by Toddles, the rag and bone man (yes, we had recycling in the olden days), who swapped hard blocks of soap for our cast-offs and debris. I can still hear in my imagination’s radio studio his haunting cry of ‘Rag; boooone-bone; rag booone-bone’. One thinks of streets being empty of traffic in the 1930s, compared with the heavy lines of cars parked, often halfway on the pavement, today. It is true there was not a single car owner in our road, although two removal vans parked there overnight, but there was this multitude of retailers, so much so that it was sometimes difficult to sustain our games of street football and cricket. However, in those pre-fridge and freezer days, when the back doorstep was used as a cooler and daily shopping was often the norm, this fleet of retailing vehicles was a boon.

There was a by-product of animal propulsion that had diplomatic implications. Some of the houses, ours included, had small gardens, with rhubarb the choice staple thereof. The equine parade led inevitably to a display of rich manure on the roadway, fine nutriment for the rhubarb. The unwritten statute was that any dollop of this fragrant order was the property of the nearest householder. These territorial rights were strictly observed but often the frontiers involved were indistinct. There was, on occasion, an acrimonious dispute as two sharp-eyed rhubarb growers rushed out armed with bucket and shovel at exactly the same time. You had to be streetwise in those days.

The very first joke I recall as a tiny child involved a man with a bucket of horse manure. He was asked what it was for. “I put it on my rhubarb,” he replied. Said the questioner: “That’s strange. I put custard on mine.”

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Short courses can enhance learning

Richard Peoples, former chair of edinburgh u3a

The groups model operated by u3as serves members quite well, giving them the opportunity to meet regularly, get to know each other and learn together. Book groups, walking groups and current-affairs groups, for example, can provide themselves with a constant supply of new novels, routes and discussion topics.

But for some subjects or interest areas, a group’s ability to learn is limited by the knowledge and skills of its members, and these tend to diminish over time. For these, a different way of learning could give more members extra opportunities to learn, and those with knowledge and skills could get the chance to share them with many more individuals.

If you want to learn a language, brush up your maths or science knowledge, or learn painting and many other skills, your local u3a may have a relevant group you can join. But once you have learned all that you can from that group – let’s say over a year or two – would you not like to move on, to learn more about that subject from different people, or perhaps try something new?

For people to make progress in learning some subjects, there often needs to be an element of teaching – if only so that the leader can share information that will help the group with its learning. Courses can run in the same way as groups currently do, with members contributing as well as receiving.

If you happen to be someone who would like to pass on your knowledge or skills to fellow u3a members, would you not prefer to have a constant influx of newcomers with whom to share that knowledge rather than work with the same people year after year? In my experience of running courses for many years, I regularly picked up new ideas and information which I then passed on to the next group.

The Third Age Trust already offers a range of time-limited online courses and groups to members throughout the UK. During the pandemic, a number of u3as got together to set up Online Across Scotland, which works in a similar way. I ran a 10-week playwriting course, and members from all over Scotland took part – most of them new to playwriting. Members shared ideas and learned skills that they could develop further by joining creative writing groups and other courses.

It also sparked an idea that four of us worked into a stage play and video that became part of u3a’s 40th anniversary celebrations last year.

Running time-limited courses requires more administration as they need to be advertised regularly to make members aware and enable them to book places, but this needs to happen only once or twice a year and could be undertaken by a small group of volunteers. If courses are advertised externally as well as internally – for example, by putting posters and handouts in libraries and other public places, and featuring them on social media – u3as could also benefit by attracting new members. These could, of course, include potential group and course leaders.

With the latter in mind, I would suggest that a relatively untapped resource of teachers, tutors and lecturers nearing retirement or recently retired should be specifically targeted in recruitment campaigns.

Some may say that running courses goes against the u3a ethos of mutual learning, but I would argue that it enhances it as members would still be learning from each other, and this approach potentially provides more opportunities and a more comprehensive learning experience. Members could, if they wished, take part in more than one presentation of a course. More importantly, they could have many more opportunities to acquire further knowledge and skills.

The use of courses could also help to alleviate the problem where some groups can be full for many years.

If the movement is to grow, become better known and address the issue of an ageing membership, it needs to look seriously at the opportunities it gives its members to learn as well as to socialise. A mixed model of groups and courses is one practical way of doing that. A pilot scheme, with a couple of larger u3as running two or three courses for a year, either face-to-face or online, would be a good way to start.

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Clyde Sanger notebooks; volunteers’ week; subject adviser contact details; wwII family stories project

For more inspiring stories visit

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Reviving shorthand skills to transcribe reporter’s notes

Volunteers helped decipher 133 notepads to reveal stories from the life of ex-Guardian correspondent Clyde Sanger

u3a members have helped transcribe the shorthand notebooks of The Guardian newspaper’s first Africa correspondent, Clyde Sanger, who died last year.

Volunteers used their knowledge of the Pitman system to reveal details of Clyde’s life and work from the late 1950s onwards, including meeting presidents, statesmen and the biggest music band in the world.

In total, they deciphered 4,292 pages in 133 notebooks from an era of rapid change that saw the mass decolonisation of Africa. But the most surprising discovery was Clyde’s meeting with The Beatles at a historic gig in Washington, of which his family knew nothing until the transcription project took place.

Transcription volunteer Barbara Cordina, u3a trustee for the East of England, reveals Clyde wrote about a ‘lock-in’ with Paul, John, Ringo and George in 1966.

She says: “Clyde had been invited to The Beatles’ last concert, in his professional capacity. They played one 30-minute set and were then locked in with journalists until the police decided it was safe for them to leave the stadium.

“The Fab Four resorted to entertaining the journalists with their views on life and fame. In the notebook entitled ‘Aug 66’ there are five pages of squiggles recording the encounter that begin simply with the initials ‘R P J G’.”

The concert came at a time when riots in black neighbourhoods in the United States were a regular feature.

Barbara adds: “The pages do touch on some serious issues such as the Vietnam War and the band breaking up, but The Beatles seemed more interested in defusing controversy than creating it. Clyde noted that The Beatles’ audience was almost entirely white.”

Clyde’s son Richard, who passed away last year, said he and his three brothers were shocked by the revelation. In an article published on the Literary Hub website in 2021, he wrote: “We couldn’t believe it. He had met The Beatles and never told us? How often had we listened to The Beatles with him and he’d never said a word! How often had we heard about [ex-Kenyan prime minister] Jomo Kenyatta, [former Tanzania president] Julius Nyerere, [Zimbabwe revolutionary] Joshua Nkomo and [Zimbabwean militant] Ndabaningi Sithole… And not a peep about John, Paul, George and Ringo?

“When my brother Matt asked why he had never told us, he said he just didn’t find them that interesting.”

Clyde, who lived in Ottawa, Canada, had donated his notebooks to The Guardian’s archives team in 2017. They included correspondence with influential figures and statesmen in Africa, as well as files on topics ranging from the 1973 Commonwealth Conference to the ‘Missing leaders of Zimbabwe’.

However, they needed a team of experts with Pitman skills to transcribe them. A chance meeting with a member of the Third Age Trust led archivists Emma Aitken and Philippa Mole to invite u3a members, led by former u3a Shared Learning Adviser Jenifer Simpson, to The Guardian’s offices in 2019 to discuss the possibility of transcribing the shorthand.

Jenifer issued an appeal in TAM for members with Pitman knowledge to get in touch. The Guardian’s archive team also advertised for help and by December 2020 about 50 people started working on the diaries.

Volunteers were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement due to the potential sensitive content. The diaries were scanned digitally and uploaded online using a software package, allowing volunteers to access them remotely.

Barbara says the entries presented “several challenges” and early difficulties for the group. She says: “Shorthand is a very personal skill and is written for transcription fairly soon after writing so that memory can be called upon. Also, shorthand writers develop many personal shortcuts and idiosyncrasies.

“The diaries were somewhat fragile so circulating them to potential transcribers was not possible. It was also clear at this very early stage that some of the information contained in the diaries was political and very sensitive.

“In addition, we would need to develop some knowledge of African and Canadian politics, and personalities with whom Clyde spoke, to better understand and decipher the shorthand.”

Some u3a members set up a Facebook page and met regularly online to share their experiences. Others wrote to Clyde directly, reporting on the project and commenting on his shorthand prowess.

Son Richard recalled: “Many said they had enjoyed reviving their Pitman skills and that the challenge had helped them get through the enforced isolation of Covid. One volunteer who had lived in Uganda told of her delight in discovering that some of the words written down in Pitman were Swahili.”

Margaret Derrick, a member of Croydon u3a in south London, learned shorthand on a secretarial course in 1962 and went on to work as a shorthand typist for an international oil company. She hadn’t used the skill since retiring.

She says: “Taking part in the Clyde Sanger shorthand project was interesting, as we struggled with Clyde’s very personal and idiosyncratic comments about Africa and its politicians in the 1960s. Many of the transcribers formed an email self-help group and we all spent many happy hours discussing sometimes conflicting transcriptions.”

The diaries are catalogued on The Guardian News and Media Archive website ( for researchers to request.

Sadly, Clyde died in January 2022 before the work was fully finished.

Barbara adds: “Who would have thought when we were students that shorthand would be used in our retirement on such a worthwhile project, and that it would be fascinating and fun? Learning goes on forever.”

Guardian archivist Emma Aitken says: “We really could not have achieved what we have without their hard work.”

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International career

Clyde Sanger was born in 1928 and wrote prolifically on African and Canadian politics, the Commonwealth, international development and the environment.

Early in his career, he was a reporter for the Staffordshire Evening Sentinel, London Evening News and Daily Mail.

Moving to Africa in 1957, he edited The Central African Examiner in Southern Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – before leaving in 1959 to join The Guardian, where he became the newspaper’s first Africa correspondent in 1960.

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Celebrating dedication of our Trust volunteers

Discover the satisfaction you can gain by giving up some time to carry out a variety of roles within the movement

June celebrates the work of volunteers across the UK. The Third Age Trust has 367 volunteers who carry out valuable roles supporting u3as across the country, such as running workshops, delivering training, answering phone calls and emails, and supporting regional trustees. There are also a number of PR advisers.

Chief executive Sam Mauger said: “The Trust is very grateful for our incredible team of volunteers. They are a team of u3a members giving their time and talents for the benefit of the movement.”

Roles are often advertised in TAM and the national monthly e-newsletter.

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Ann Keating, Trust volunteer

I have been a member of Edinburgh u3a since I retired from teaching about eight years ago. I have had great fun and satisfaction serving on the committee and seeing Edinburgh u3a flourish.

I am the leader of Art Group 2, play tennis regularly and sip wine with the Wine Tasting Group once a month. As well as keeping my mind and body active, I have made some good friends.

I was elected trustee for Scotland in 2019 and spent three years seeing how things worked across the UK. It was an eye-opener. As a trustee, I saw the need to raise awareness of the u3a profile if the organisation is to continue to grow.

I stepped down from the role last October, but as a Trust volunteer I have helped to develop a social influencing working group. Our first push, in partnership with like-minded organisations, will be to persuade banks to establish hubs where older people can access face-to-face banking. We will be asking u3a members what they would like to see on the agenda for our next project.

The u3a Off the Wall event on 10 May at The Sill was a great success. u3a members from all over the UK attended and the buzz of enthusiasm was palpable. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction being a Trust volunteer and part of the team organising the event.

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Diana Lucas. SiteWorks project volunteer, East of England

What does your role involve?

SiteWorks will provide WordPress websites to u3a, replacing their existing SiteBuilder platforms. My role involves sharing my skills and experience in communications and customer service.

This project is a huge challenge. It brings together people with expertise in computing, project management, testing, migration, and communications. A typical week involves meetings to discuss and overcome challenges. I advise on web accessibility, communications planning and creating messaging to the wider u3a membership via the SiteWorks website,, or other channels.

What do you enjoy about your role as a Trust volunteer?

I was always a team player, and knowing that we have a good team trying to make the SiteWorks roll-out the best it can be for everyone makes it worthwhile. As a relatively new person to u3a, I’m learning more about the movement by being part of the project, meeting new people, getting fresh ideas, trying to get my head around technology and having immense respect for others who give their time.

It is important to try to build relationships and support and bring people together on a mutual journey. That is what appealed about this role.

What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a Trust volunteer?

It is very easy to be sucked in, so be honest with yourself and others about the time you are able to give.

If you think it might be for you, just give it a try. You could make new friends or simply give your life a boost. You don’t have to be an expert on a subject. Just being interested and willing to help is sometimes all that is needed.

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Keep your family WWII tales alive with new digital project

A war archive is collecting personal stories and artefacts, writes Joanne Smith

Families are being encouraged to share their memories of World War II as part of a Heritage Lottery-funded project called Their Finest Hour.

The venture aims to collect everyday stories and objects from parents and grandparents dating back to wartime before recording them in a free online archive to preserve for future generations.

Ally Edwards, of Evesham & District u3a in the West Midlands, assisted with similar projects covering World War I and the fall of the Iron Curtain while working at Oxford University.

He hopes u3as will come together to collect personal tales and memorabilia to be submitted to the project, which is being organised by his former employer.

The university has set up Digital Collection Day events around the country, which u3a members can attend or offer to volunteer at.

They are being hosted at museums, libraries, military charities and schools across the UK, from Belfast, Cumbria and Edinburgh to London, Essex, Oxfordshire and South Wales.

u3a members Maggy Simms and Susie Berry volunteered at one of the first events in Oxford. Here, they collected memorabilia including an identity badge belonging to Juliet Campbell, who spoke about her father, General Wilfred d’A Collings, CB, CBE.

Juliet wore the badge on her wrist when she travelled on a troop ship from Suez during World War II. It is engraved with her name, her father’s name and rank, and her blood group. Ally says: “There’s so much you can do, from meet and greet to what I enjoyed most: showing someone their husband’s war record online – he [Juliet’s father] flew Lancasters – and helping them understand more about their family story.”

Their Finest Hour provides opportunities for many u3a groups, such as genealogy, local history, creative writing, photography and storytelling, to get involved and give members confidence in using technology, while also meeting up for interesting conversations with like-minded people.

  • Find out more by logging on to, where you can upload your war-related stories and material. You can also subscribe to a u3a mailing group at

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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

Finding art from scrap

David Halley has made sculptures from scrap metal, wood and junk often pulled from skips for years. He has now started an online u3a Found Art Group to encourage others to join him.

David, a member of Richmond upon Thames u3a with wife Stephania, says: “We are just four so far but I’m sure that will grow. We will discuss techniques, materials, how we put them together and any particular special characteristics our work may have that might be of interest.

“I started making items years ago when I nicked some old instruments for my mother’s kitchen and stuck them together (pictured right). From then on, I kept an eye out for any objects in skips, in the street, in charity shops and so on that might become part of a new piece.”

David always glues his creations together, so there is no welding involved.

  • To find out more or to join the Found Art Group, email David at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Riders rev-el in adventure

Motorcycle enthusiasts revive their passion for two-wheeled machines at regular catch-ups and on 200-mile overnight jaunts. By Joanne Smith

Norman Jones was thinking of selling his little-used motorbike when he was encouraged by his wife to set up a group at Ilkley & District u3a in West Yorkshire. The following month, seven riders set off for the east coast and the adventures began.

More than 10 years later, the group is flourishing. Membership is restricted to 20 and outings are limited to about a dozen riders for safety reasons. With a growing waiting list, a similar group was formed at nearby Craven u3a in Skipton.

Ilkley Motorbike Group meets twice a month to ride in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District, sometimes covering up to 200 miles. They also enjoy overnight trips to Scotland and Wales.

Norman, who rides a 320cc Yamaha, says: “There is a wide variety of motorbikes, from large-capacity multi-cylinder machines to lower-capacity lightweight models. The larger bikes do not have much advantage on the often twisting and narrow lanes that we use.

“Safety is an issue and the group is lucky in having several members of the Institute of Advanced Motoring, which tends to set a good standard. Ride-outs are planned and led on a rota basis.”

The group includes regular bikers and those who tend to only get in the saddle on mass outings.

John Lovel, 73, has been biking since he was 18 and is on his fourth Triumph Street Triple. He stopped riding while raising a family but has been a member of the Ilkley group for 11 years.

John, who has also owned a Mobylette, the Honda models CB200, CB350 and CB550 K3, a Honda VFR and BSA Bantam, says: “I took the precaution of getting my advanced riding certificate on returning to biking in my late 50s. I learned a lot. We ride safely but have fun.”

Keith Ruddock’s 1974 Honda CD175 was bought brand new by his father, who used it to commute from Keighley to Halifax fire station before passing it down to Keith in 1976.

Keith says the machine was “seriously neglected” when he was a teen and left languishing at his parents’ house for 10 years until he began its restoration and used it to commute from 1988 to 2015.

Fellow member Fred Lee passed his motorbike test when he was 16 and now has five two-wheeled machines, including an old BMW and a Yamaha.

He says: “All are different to ride, which is much of the pleasure. Last year, I rode the North Coast 500 for charity with support from the group members.”

Paul Hodgson became hooked on motorcycles when he took a friend’s BSA Bantam for a spin at the age of 14. He later bought the bike – despite his parents’ misgivings – but quit riding at 17.

He recalls: “In my early 50s, I rode a friend’s off-road bike around a field and all of the magic instantly came back. I’m enjoying my biking more than ever, undertaking at least one European trip each year.”

Geoff Beardsley bought a 1953 BSA Bantam for £15 just two weeks before his 16th birthday and pushed it nine miles home to Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

He says he was “overwhelmed by the acceleration, speed, and power” when he finally ventured out at 6am on the morning he turned 16 in March 1961. He says: “I have never looked back.”

Norman adds: “I would recommend any u3a member with a motorbike to start a group. There are no fees to pay, just plan a route once in a while and turn up for a day’s biking and chatting with a group of like-minded people.

“The oldest member of the group is 85 and I have a job keeping up with him!”

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Member's stories

"I made a new life with u3a "

After finding herself alone at the end of her 40-year marriage, Marian Elliott upped sticks and rediscovered her confidence by joining Saxon Shore u3a

Marian Elliott was 60 when her marriage ended and admits she went through a long, dark period of depression. But kind friends rallied and her new life began four years later when she plucked up the courage to move from Surrey to a bungalow by the sea in Whitstable, Kent.

“For the first time in my life, I was completely on my own,” says Marian. “I had to start again. I had no idea what to do. Even making small decisions was difficult, but I made them.”

When Marian arrived in Whitstable, where her cousin lived, she realised she had to join something. That was when Saxon Shore u3a, which covers Herne Bay and Whitstable, came into her life.

Marian, who admitted being “nervous”, received a warm welcome and was encouraged to join various groups.

She is now leader of the Creative Writing Group and teaches chess. Her love of genealogy is covered by the Family History Group and she visits new places with the Bus Pass Travel Group.

Marian is also refreshing her Spanish and organises twice-monthly coffee mornings for her u3a friends.

As secretary of Saxon Shore u3a, she has organised three AGMs – and when not out with u3a groups or walking her rescue dog, Ruby, Marian can be found lunching with her friends.

She adds: “I have hardly got enough hours in the day. My life has changed completely and I’ve gained so much confidence through u3a.

“I realised that all my activities had stemmed from the joint friendships I had with my husband. The difference now is that all these lovely folk in Saxon Shore u3a have enabled me to make a new life all by myself. That’s quite an empowering feeling.

“When one door closes, another door opens – u3a has been that new door.”

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Fanni never fully recovered from Kristallnacht trauma

Littlehampton u3a member Helen Ruddock grew up with Fanni Bogdanow, who came to the UK on the Kindertransport and went on to become an acclaimed academic. Fanni’s story is now told in Voices of the Holocaust, a special exhibition at the British Library, writes Joanne Smith

Helen Ruddock has always thought of Fanni Bogdanow as her older sister. Fanni came to the UK aged 11 in June 1939, before Helen was born, to join Helen’s mother and father, Portia and Harry Clement, and her two brothers, Charles, then aged four, and Richard, two, at their home in Manchester. Their sister Beatrice was born in 1942 and Helen completed the family when she arrived in 1944.

Harry and Portia were Quakers and had helped organise the Kindertransport, which rescued 10,000 mostly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied territories.

Fanni, born in 1927, was the only child of Abrascha Bogdanow, a Russian Jew, and Johanna (nee Selz), a German Jew. Design engineer Abrascha was born near Minsk and had emigrated to Germany at the age of 18 to escape the pogrom riots against Jewish people in Russia, little knowing the fate that would befall those in Germany with the rise of Hitler 30 years later. Johanna, before her marriage, was an accountant.

In documents passed to Helen before Fanni’s death, Fanni detailed her childhood and the trauma she went through before coming to England – most notably Kristallnacht, the ‘night of broken glass’.

The family lived in the village of Affaltrach in south-west Germany. On 9 November, 1938, Fanni arrived home from school to find her mother in tears after her father and uncle, along with all Jewish men and boys in the village, had been moved to Dachau concentration camp. An 18-year-old cousin was taken to a camp and killed within a month.

“But that was only just the start of the horrors that day,” she wrote. “At about midnight, SA men [the paramilitary arm of the Nazi party] broke down the door of the synagogue and smashed everything to pieces. The Nazis knew there were only women and children in most Jewish homes that night and that a Jewish family was living on the ground floor.

“The flat of the non-Jewish family on the first floor was not touched.”

In a letter written in March 2001, Fanni described in detail her experiences of Kristallnacht.

She wrote: “They used pickaxes to break down the doors of our two rooms, they smashed the windowpanes and frames and the crockery. In the bedroom they cut open the feather mattresses. Feathers were flying everywhere in the bedroom. Even now I can still see the fragments and feathers all over our flat.”

The next day, Jewish children were banned from going to Christian schools and Fanni’s family was forced to live in one room in a ‘Jew House’. When her parents heard of the Kindertransport, they realised it was the only way they could save their daughter and successfully applied for a place for her.

Fanni wrote that the Clement family “looked after me with all the love they showed their own children”.

The Clements tutored Fanni so that she could attend Fairfield High School for Girls, with her school fees paid by one of Portia’s brothers.

For a while, she received short letters from her parents via the Red Cross, but in 1941, letters from her father dried up. He had been taken to Heilbronn prison and later to Wulzburg concentration camp in Weissenburg, Bavaria. Fanni’s mother was sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

In a letter dated 4 December, 2001, Fanni described the hell that her mother endured. She wrote: “My mother’s bed was a wooden plank, her pillow was her shoes and her blanket her coat. Snow and rain came in through the cracks in the barrack walls and rats were constantly jumping on the inmates. But even the rats were preferable to the Nazi camp guards. The food was a starvation diet: a piece of bread and water in the morning, a watery soup at midday and then nothing else.”

Both parents survived the war and were reunited in 1946 at a camp for displaced persons in Weissenburg. Fanni was at last able to visit them in 1947.

She had left school at 16 and worked in a library to support herself before applying to Manchester University to study French, for which she was also awarded scholarships.

She later gained an MA and PhD, and stayed at the university as an assistant lecturer, then lecturer and reader, before becoming a professor.

The Clement family continued to support Fanni and she would visit them often.

Helen, of Littlehampton u3a in West Sussex, says: “My first memories of Fanni are of just having a much older sister. She would visit fairly frequently, especially for family celebrations, and look after my sister Bea and myself.”

After Fanni’s father died, her mum came to the UK in 1963 but spoke little English. Fanni said those years were the best of her mother’s life.

Helen remembers Johanna as “a sweetie”. She says: “She would go to work with Fanni and sit at the back with the students. She didn’t understand a word of the lectures, but the students loved her and would give her drinks and chocolate.”

Helen, by then, was at Liverpool University studying English language and literature. Each term, she would take two trains to visit Fanni and Johanna.

“Her mother was always very excited to see me, as was Fanni,” recalls Helen. “I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to get to know this remarkable woman. She was tiny and always cheerful and smiling.”

As part of her academic work, Fanni discovered Arthurian romance and it became her life’s work. Arthurian legends were written in medieval France, Spain and Portugal, as well as in England. Fanni taught herself Middle English, medieval Spanish and Portuguese so she could compare and contrast the legends.

After her mother died in 1978, Fanni consumed herself in work, travelling across Europe in pursuit of manuscripts that she found in elusive monasteries or provincial libraries to translate, leading to her publishing hundreds of articles on undiscovered manuscripts.

Helen and her husband would visit regularly. “She was quite eccentric,” she says. “Every surface in her bungalow, even the draining board, was covered in papers. She trusted no one except our family and her colleagues at the university. Even when she put the bin out, she would lock the front door whilst she collected the bin and then unlock it when going inside again.”

Helen says this was due to the trauma Fanni suffered in her childhood and the terror she experienced during Kristallnacht. “She never recovered from that,” she says. “She threw herself into her work and became an Arthurian scholar.”

Fanni died in 2013 and is buried alongside her mother in the Jewish section of Manchester Southern Cemetery. She left £1.5million to Manchester University to set up scholarships and fund student visits to Auschwitz to learn about the Holocaust.

Helen says: “She never spent any money. She didn’t even have hot water, although she did have an electric shower.”

Fanni is honoured with blue plaques at Manchester University and Fairfield School for Girls.

  • To find out more, go to

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Interview: Meet the trustee for Yorkshire & Humber region - Margaret Fiddes

The freelance florist tells Joanne Smith about awkward wedding and funeral requests, why she carries a spare bucket of blooms in her car and how she joined u3a just to attend a Burns Supper

I hear you are a dab hand with flowers?

I’m a part-time freelance florist or, if you want to be posh, floral designer.

How did you get into that?

I was in a pub in Leeds with colleagues after we’d been made redundant, looking out at all the new flats and awful balconies filled with bicycles and trainers, and I thought they needed some plants to cheer the place up. I went to study garden design at the then Leeds Beckett University, based at RHS Harlow Carr, and started a business called Ready Planted.

How did that go?

It didn’t go anywhere! It was 2008 and the country was in a recession. However, the RHS also ran a flower-arranging course for leisure, so I did that and really loved it.

Aren’t weddings very stressful?

There are some fashionable flowers that are problematic. One bride wanted clematis, which is fine as a cut flower in water, but as soon as you put it in a bouquet you are lucky if it lasts two hours.

How do you manage a bride’s expectations?

Pinterest is the bane of my life! Brides will show me all these pictures of what they want. I ask them to just give me the colours and shapes of the dresses and we go from there. If they want a specific flower, it will cost more.

What contingency plans do you have in case things go wrong?

I always have a bucket of spare flowers in the car in case some wilt. You pick the best flowers for the bouquet. Those that are not so good go behind the altar!

Any tricky requests?

Castleford Tigers rugby league club is very popular round here. If a supporter dies, the family might ask for the club colours, which are orange and black. There is a type of gerbera which is orange with a black centre. Leeds United are easier as their colours are white, yellow and blue.

What other jobs did you have?

When I left school, I mostly worked as a shorthand typist/PA, but then I was sent to BBC Radio Leeds as a temp for two weeks and stayed for 13 years, moving to Radio 2, Radio 4 and Woman’s Hour and regional TV as a researcher. I left when they wanted me to move to London. After that I worked for 10 years for a translation company, moving through the ranks to become client relations director. A very short stint at Red Letter Days gave me the push to work with flowers and plants.

How did you get involved with u3a?

I wanted to go to a Burns Supper they were organising! My friend was going as a member and said it was only £10 to join, so I did. Then I got to hear about all the things u3a did. I am on the Gardening Group committee and help organise trips, talks and plant swaps. Every 18 months we have a five-day tour to visit gardens.

Why did you become a Third Age Trust trustee?

I like to know what is going on and how things work. I was involved with the Pathfinder project about recruitment and retention, which is very important. I oversaw the demise of a u3a, which came about because there was no recruitment of new members.

What’s the best thing about being a trustee?

I’m really excited about the pilot u3a Council. I really hope members contribute towards the discussion. We hope the council will reflect members’ interests and support u3as.

  • 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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Cook for the king

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I never thought my curry would be crowned winner

Khatoon Noonan’s mutton recipe took first place in our Cook for the King contest. The Richmond upon Thames u3a member tells Elise Sargent of her shock and seeing the late Queen in Africa

A recipe featuring the King’s favourite meat, while celebrating the fantastic diversity of British cuisine, has been named u3a’s Cook for the King competition winner.

Members were set the challenge of creating a coronation dish fit for King Charles III, while considering sustainability and the UK’s partnership with the Commonwealth.

It was certainly a tall order, but Richmond upon Thames u3a member Khatoon Noonan came up with an incredible dish that knocked our experienced judges’ socks off.

Having considered King Charles’ promotion of the underused meat over the years, the pickling masala mutton curry was created using exciting ingredients and drawing on Khatoon’s African, Indian and British heritage. She says: “I entered u3a’s Cook for the King competition because I’m enthusiastic about cooking but never thought I would win.

“It was a wild attempt and, for a while, I was absolutely gobsmacked to have won.

“Pickling masala mutton curry is a favourite of my family for celebratory dinners. It is exotic, tasty and, despite a long list of ingredients, it is an easy to prepare, one-pot dish.”

Khatoon was born in Uganda to Indian parents. In 1953, aged nine, she celebrated the Queen’s coronation at school and the following year was able to see Her Majesty on her first official visit to Africa as monarch.

Khatoon adds: “I lived in a tiny village, without any televisions, and I had never seen any British people. My father took us 60 miles to see the Queen and we were on the opposite side of the riverbank. She was in a beautiful pink dress and hat. It was an experience I will never forget.”

Khatoon moved to the UK to train as a biochemist and met the late Queen twice during her career.

“The coronation is an important historical event in all our lives,” adds Khatoon. “Knowing the King as Prince Charles and all the good he has done, I’m pleased he has been given the chance to continue the Queen’s work.”

Judges Beverley Jarvis, a published recipe-writer of Ashford, Wye & District u3a in Kent, and Jacqueline Harriott, who has 40 years’ experience as a lecturer and examiner in food and related studies, were bowled over by Khatoon’s creation. Jacqueline praised her use of kiwi juice for the mutton marinade, while Beverley said the dish “shines” and made an excellent celebratory meal for the coronation.

The recipe can also easily be adapted for vegetarians by using an alternative such as paneer cheese.

Beverley says: “I very much enjoyed cooking the winning dish for a small gathering in my home to celebrate the King’s coronation.

“Marinating the mutton in kiwi fruit and lemon was a first for me. I then followed the recipe to the letter but decided to cook the curry slowly in the oven. It took three hours at 135°C in my fan oven for the meat to become melt-in-the-mouth tender.

“I served it, as Khatoon suggested, with raita, naan bread and some saffron and turmeric rice, which I cooked very successfully in my air fryer for 30 minutes at 180°C.

“The mutton curry, which smelled amazing, definitely was the star of the show, receiving a huge nod of approval from all those carnivores present.

“A truly delicious curry from a very worthy winner.”

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Pickling Masala Mutton Curry

Serves 8


For the marinade

1 tbsp crushed fresh ginger

1 tbsp crushed garlic

Pulp of 2 ripe kiwi fruit

Juice of 1 large lemon

For the main dish

1 kg off the bone leg of mutton, cut into cubes

2 large onions, roughly chopped

250g tomatoes, roughly chopped

150ml cold pressed rapeseed oil

2 tbsp crushed fresh ginger

1 tbsp crushed garlic

3 tbsp pickling masala powder (recipe, below) or alternatively 3 heaped spoons of achari (store-bought)

150g natural thick set yoghurt

5 mugs water

1.5 tsp salt

Lemon juice

4-6 fresh green chillies, halved and slit lengthwise

For the garnish

Half a bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

1in julienne of fresh ginger

How to make the Pickling Masala


1 tbsp black pepper

2 tbsp black mustard seeds

1 tbsp fenugreek seeds

2 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp chili flakes


Dry fry the above mixture in a frying pan, then put it through a coffee grinder to give a smooth powder. Store in an airtight container and it will keep for 3-6 months. Alternatively, you can buy ready-made achari powder from Indian supermarkets.

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Method for main dish

1. Marinate meat for 1-2 hours or overnight.

2. Blend onions and tomatoes to give a smooth paste. Set aside.

3. Heat oil in a heavy pan and fry ginger and garlic for 3-5 minutes. Add marinated meat pieces, fry for further 10 minutes.

4. Add pickling masala or achari. Mix well before adding onion and tomato paste. Cook for further 5 minutes.

5. Slowly add yoghurt and mix to stop it splitting. When thoroughly mixed, add water and cook on medium heat for 40-60 minutes until meat is tender and cooked through, and the sauce has thickened.

6. Add salt, some lemon juice, and the chillies. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Serve in a deep bowl. Sprinkle with coriander and ginger. Serve with boiled rice, flat bread and yoghurt raita.

  • For a vegan alternative, visit

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Monarch marvels

Try out these delicious dishes from u3a members who were runners-up in our Cook for the King coronation competition

Cheesy Layered Potatoes Fit for a King

Made by Beverley Hopkins, North Norfolk u3a

Serves 1


25g Duchy organic English salted butter

1 medium-large Duchy organic potato, thinly sliced

50g Duchy organic mature cheddar cheese, grated

1 medium Duchy organic onion, roughly chopped

250ml Duchy organic unhomogenised whole milk

Ground salt and black pepper, to taste

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1. Preheat oven to 180°C, gas mark 6.

2. In a medium-sized ovenproof dish (I use a gratin dish), dot some of the butter over the base, retaining a little for the finished dish.

3. Begin with a layer of potatoes, grated cheese (keeping a little back for later), and then onion, until used up. Finish with a layer of potatoes.

4. Transfer the assembled dish to an ovenproof tray, then pour the milk carefully over.

5. Grind a couple of twists of salt and pepper over the top.

6. Sprinkle with remainder of the grated cheese and butter.

7. Cook for about 45 minutes. Test carefully that the potatoes are cooked through. If not, turn heat down and cook for a little longer.

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What inspired your dish

When my four children were growing up, this was always a reasonably priced dish to feed six of us with few ingredients. On its own, as a side or with a little cooked smoked lardons in the layers, served with salad, it is delicious.

It is a child-friendly version of dauphinoise but we all grew to love it like this. I always make a scaled-up version when the family visit.

I used Duchy products from the company that King Charles set up in 1990. King Edward potatoes can be substituted to keep the royal connection theme.

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Chia Berries Brekkie

Made by Mal Robinson, u3a South East London

Serves 2


2 tbsp chia seeds

1 cup of coconut yoghurt

Handful mixed British berries

2 drops vanilla essence

Sprinkle of cinnamon

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1. Soak the chia seeds in the coconut yoghurt overnight in the fridge.

2. Wash the berries, dry and set aside.

3. Add vanilla essence and cinnamon to the yoghurt mixture and stir.

4. Spoon into two small dishes.

5. Arrange the berries on top.

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What inspired your dish

The theme of sustainability inspired me, and I know how important this subject is to King Charles, who himself is an inspiration.

I use vegan coconut milk yoghurt and, surprisingly, you can now buy chia seeds grown in Britain.

The vanilla essence and cinnamon are a nod to the Commonwealth, specifically the Caribbean where I am from. Some of the best berries I buy are from the Duchy range.

This little breakfast is a great way to start the day. It will energise without being heavy or stodgy.

The dish is low in calories and cholesterol-free, the chia seeds contain fibre, carbs, iron and calcium. The berries are loaded with antioxidants and high in fibre. This little bowl of goodness is fit for a King!

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Poetry competition

u3a poets show their creativity

Judges sift through more than 600 entries to pick winners in the fourth u3a poetry competition

More than 600 members let their creativity flow in the fourth annual u3a poetry competition.

A panel of 21 judges from u3a poetry groups across the UK had a hard task of poring over the high-quality entries and choosing the winner.

First place went to Jo Peters, from Ilkley & District u3a in West Yorkshire. She said: “I was thrilled to win the u3a poetry competition. The inspiration for the poem was the similarity between two very different things, both beautiful, both homes.

“Behind that idea, the feeling of helplessness and anger at the slow pace of politicians and world leaders in their response to climate change.”

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by Jo Peters, Ilkley & District u3a

When I walked to get the Saturday paper I found

a nest blown out of the hedge by last night’s gale

lying there small but undamaged on the path.

The paper had a COP 27 special. On the front page

was the earth seen from space with its cloud wisps

circling soft white over the blue of its roundness.

The nest so circular too, wispy sheep’s wool woven

into the complexity of its making, swirling round it,

and smoothing that cup for eggs just two inches wide.

‘Last chance’, the caption for the earth picture. How come

its most evolved creatures are so destructive, so blind

to the balance, the delicate circularity of its systems?

We of the fiddling fingers, clever opposable thumbs,

who, given the hundreds of items for a goldfinches’ nest,

and a hundred years, could no more have constructed

this circular cradle than we could spin straw into gold.

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A Clamour of Rooks

by Philip Smith, Sidmouth u3a, Devon

It’s time to muster in the churchyard

and we gather, strutting and flapping,

a bedraggled conclave

absorbing colour from the looming clouds.

We’re an untidy gang of opportunists

scavenging under weed and moss

with our pewter beaks, flicking gravel

and disrespecting the buried departed.

Self-absorbed, we hop about

amongst weathered granite memorials,

incised marble slabs and faded flowers,

focusing on our staccato stabs and jabs.

As the funeral cortège approaches,

we lift as one into the breeze

on broken, squawking notes of discord:

dark calligraphy against a lowering sky.

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Letter from Kharkiv

by Kathryn Sim, Sandbach & District u3a, Cheshire

Anatoly it’s grim here. You’ve done the right thing.

Now I’ll move our old man from this crazed happening.

We’ll dodge the stray bullet, shield from the shell

Sprint past the sniper, we’re living in hell.

Ghost stories are written in this underground place,

Five flickering candles light up this dank space.

The roaming of rats is our only distraction

While we wait for the signal that starts off the action.

The boom of the sirens signals more pain

As sharp shrapnel fragments shower us like rain.

Anatoly I’m hungry, I’m tired and so cold.

But on this front line the heart needs to be bold!

Noisy children fall silent as their parents can’t cope

In Kharkiv my hometown that once held such hope.

The blood of the innocents has been spilt yet again

In this fierce fight for freedom,

For our homeland, Ukraine.

  • To read the top ten poems, go to

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Win a great eight-day adventure with Viking

Third Age Matters has teamed up with Viking to offer you the chance to win a fabulous voyage along one of Europe’s greatest rivers, the Douro in Portugal. Sail on 31 October, 2023 and discover the Douro’s Valleys & Vineyards across eight days for an experience of a lifetime.

Discover Porto, where you can take in the city’s rich cultural heritage. Visit quaint Régua, Barca d’Alva and Favaios, home to one of the last traditional bakeries in the Douro Valley. And explore Salamanca in Spain, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of Iberia’s oldest university towns.

This fantastic prize includes: Return scheduled economy flights; all meals on board; selected wines, beers and soft drinks at mealtimes; free tea, coffee and snacks at any time, plus six guided tours.

Explore the world in Viking comfort

Viking, the world’s leading exploration company, is proud to offer inspiring river and ocean journeys aboard beautiful Scandinavian-inspired ships. With the launch of its new expedition ships, you can now explore all seven continents in Viking comfort.

  • To find out more, visit

How to enter online

To enter the competition online, simply scan the QR code below

How to enter via post or email

Please fill in the form below and either post it to Viking, Nelsons House, 83 Wimbledon Park Side, London, SW19 5LP

or scan and email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To be in with a chance of winning an eight-day Douro’s Valleys & Vineyards river journey for two, simply answer this question:

Which Spanish city can you explore on Viking’s Douro’s Valleys & Vineyards journey? (Please circle the correct answer)

A. Barcelona

B. Salamanca

C. Madrid



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Which u3a do you belong to?

Tick here if you would like to receive email special offers from Viking

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Terms and conditions

18+. UK residents only. u3a members only. For full T&Cs, scan QR code above or request for a copy to be sent to you by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The competition starts at 12.01am on 10 June 2023 and closes 11pm on 10 July 2023. Winner will be contacted by email or phone by 20 July 2023.

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From the allotment

Trial and error in planting season

Plot plans are subject to change but hard work is worth it in the long run, writes Joanne Smith

It has been such a slow start to the allotment this year that I was beginning to get FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as I anxiously inspected other plots to see what my fellow allotmenteers were doing.

As grey clouds loomed most days, at the first hint of sunshine we were down the plot with forks and spades, determined to clear some space of weeds, ready for the emerging seedlings growing at home.

After three attempts to get the sweetcorn started, I gave up and bought seedlings from the garden centre. The taste of freshly picked sweetcorn is one of the joys of having an allotment, and they say you should eat it as soon as it’s picked.

The runner beans are being awkward, too, and have not grown at home. I will try planting them directly into the ground on the plot and see if I have any luck that way.

The plan for the plot has changed several times already. The early and main crop potatoes are in, although a little later than normal. This year, I decided to try growing new potatoes in a bag on the patio at home (pictured above). So far, so good, as they are shooting up. If successful, I will grow more of them in this way next year.

Red onion sets are now in the ground, too, and cabbages and courgettes are being nurtured at home ready for planting out later. This time of year is always hard work, and definitely trial and error, but worth it in the long run when we will be hopefully harvesting all those fresh vegetables.

  • Do you have a story or tips from your vegetable garden? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Brain games

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From Michael Cleaver, of Lancaster & Morecambe u3a

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Part-score competitive bidding

Reopen the bidding with a delayed overcall, delayed double or delayed 2NT, if the opposition bid and support a suit to 2-level and then pass.

Where the auction has been something like:






1 ♥







1 ♣

2 ♥





1 ♥





It is usually wrong for South to pass the bidding out. The opponents have found a trump fit but have not pushed on to game. They do not have 25-26 points (they would have bid game) and they probably don't have 23-24 points (one of them would have tried for game). The points are roughly equal between both sides, and if they have a trump fit, you may have one also. In that case, do not sell out at the 2-level. This advice does NOT apply to rubber bridge where they may have a part score and undisclosed strength.

The actions available when you have not entered the bidding earlier are:

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1 The Delayed Overcall

This promises a five-card or longer suit but the suit quality will be poor as you have not overcalled at the 1-level. In the above auctions, South should bid 2♠ with:

♠1087643 ♥873 ♦A8 ♣K7

or 3♣ with

♠8 ♥J742 ♦Q2 ♣KQ9765

Length in their suit means partner will be short.

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2 The Delayed Double

This shows support or tolerance for the missing suits. South would double 2♥ with:

♠K864 ♥7 ♦A853 ♣J973

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3 The Delayed 2NT

This shows support for both minors, at least 4 cards in each. South would bid 2NT with:

♠65 ♥53 ♦K8753 ♣AJ54

A delayed 2NT will usually not have a 5-5 or 6-5 pattern because of the failure to use an immediate “unusual 2NT” overcall.

After any of the above bids, your partner should keep the bidding at the cheapest possible level.

Your possible outcomes are:

1. You make your 3-level contract – obviously better than letting them play.

2. You are only 1-off in your 3-level contract. Again better than if they make their contract.

3. They push on to the 3-level and fail. Again you are better off.

4. They push on to the 3-level and make. You are no worse off than if you had passed it out at the 2-level.

5. You fail at the 3-level and it costs you more than their contract was worth. This is feasible but rare. Even when vulnerable, it pays not to sell out at the 2-level.

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From Cryptic Crosswords Group of Brunswick, West Hove & Portslade u3a in East Sussex


1. Unruly crowd get sporting award as headgear (6)

4. Queen Pat is confused by southern French game (8)

10. In brief moments South African in charge utilises 19D for craft (7)

11. University in various trials reveal certain customs (7)

12. Trapping flyers inside scanner is a skill (5)

13. Two-way detection (5)

15. Pull one of ten, I hear (3)

16. Victory precedes England to enjoy a tasting (4)

18. Late remit distorted means of measuring height (9)

21. Conformers - a left shift. You have them to thank (9)

23. Goya liked to pose (4)

26. There’s no beginning to this achievement; tuck in! (3)

27 & 34. Game requiring fault to catch the Spanish club backwards (5 & 6)

29. Steps out with another likeable kind soul primarily (5)

30. Sound like a frog; pardon? It’s a game (7)

32. Shambolic tea user has nothing fancy (7)

33. Calm about publicity gives a little night music (8)

34. See 27A


1. Takes off, firstly making infuriatingly mediocre, insensitive comments, seemingly (6)

2. Aim stab randomly for an oriental side dish (7)

3. Rambling gaits for certain people would be discriminatory in the US (5)

5. Lefty, following her majesty, was mistaken (5)

6. Drawing train, cut short, uphill (3)

7. Two pints poured over empty article produce a musical group (7)

8. Without laughing, Charles Kingsley changed direction (8)

9. Complicated measure containing nitrogen allows digital access (8)

14. Spirit belonging to me produces game with decks (5)

17. Decree European policeman has scan (5)

19. Hardy heroine heading East takes time to produce pieces (8)

20. Scenes broadcast with what sounds like a revelation produce these subjects (8)

22. Mother knocks off sailor in slaughterhouse to get a coarse punch (7)

24. This ship’s adrift – all gone! (7)

25. Inside, a lass essentially wants to judge (6)

28. Holding his bat Ed’s swing got restrained (5)

29. No sweat, it’s garbage! (5)

31. Sounds like it pays to work on this vessel (3)

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Crossword solution


1. Mobcap. 4. Petanque. 10. Mosaics. 11. Rituals. 12. Craft. 13. Radar. 15. Tow. 16. Wine. 18. Altimeter. 21. Compilers. 23 Yoga. 26. Eat. 27. Table. 29. Walks. 30. Croquet. 32. Austere. 33. Serenade. 34. Tennis.


1. Mimics. 2. Basmati. 3. Agist. 5. Erred. 6. Art. 7. Quartet. 8. Eastward. 9. Username. 14. Rummy. 17. Edict. 19. Tesserae. 20. Sciences. 22.Mattoi.r 24. Galleon. 25. Assess. 28. Bated. 29. Waste. 31. Urn.

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Maths challenge

Problems and puzzles are posed weekly online by Gordon Burgin, Andrew Holt, Rod Marshall, Ian Stewart and u3a Maths and Stats Subject Adviser David Martin.

Question 1.

The sum of five consecutive odd numbers is 205. What are they?

Question 2.

How many times does the long hand of an analogue clock pass the short hand between noon one day and noon the following day? Neither the starting position nor the finishing position of the hands count as a pass.

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Question 1

Suppose that the middle number is n, then the sum of the numbers (n – 4), (n – 2), n, (n + 2) and (n + 4) is 5n = 205. n = 41 and the five consecutive odd numbers are 37, 39, 41, 43 and 45.

Question 2

As the long hand rotates faster than the short hand, there will be no passes between noon and 1pm. The first pass will be shortly after 1.05pm, followed by further passes shortly after 2.10pm, 3.15pm and so on. The final pass before midnight will be shortly before 11pm, giving a total of 10 passes between noon and midnight. There will be a further pass at midnight, and then the pattern set out previously will repeat itself. The total number of passes during the 24-hour period from noon one day and noon the next day is therefore 10 + 1 + 10 = 21.

  • Quizzes and maths challenges are available online at

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Professor rebus

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6. The Austrian way isn’t cut out for atmosphere (4)

7. Roman road, in enviable position (3)

8. Service that’s blue? (4)

14. Always found in severance pay (4)

15. Antagonist from the past (3)

16. Sort of attention that’s part broken (4)

1a. Has extreme function for those of six feet (10)

9a. We have snakes writhing on the floor, say (8)

11a. Empowered, and so attacked (6,2)

17a. Minimum of athletes at work (2,3,5)


3. Song on disc for a train? (5)

4. Variety show overdue, but please, do not change it (5)

12. Perch for baby jumper on the street (5)

13. A change of heart, Mother, perhaps? (5)

1d. Lizard, but not what it ‘says on the tin’! (6,4)

2d. In a way, the West could have a homeless victory (4,3)

5d. Croatia to use upset to start some mayhem (5,1,4)

10d. Ten neat patterns all made up for her (7)

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professor rebus solution


1. Hexameters. 6 Aura. 7. Via. 8. Navy. 9. Weakness. 11. Turned on. 14. Ever. 15. Ago. 16. Rapt. 17. At the least.


1. Horned toad. 2. Away win. 3. Track. 4. Revue. 5. Cause a riot. 10. Nanette. 12. Roost. 13. Earth.

  • For more professor rebus puzzles visit

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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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We should do more to celebrate and teach Black History

What a wonderful, inspiring article about Joyce Fraser OBE, founder of the Black Heroes Foundation (TAM, Spring).

The Windrush generation deserves great respect, coming to the UK in the aftermath of World War II, working tirelessly in our public services to help rebuild this country and contributing enormously socially, artistically, creatively and athletically, enriching the country in the face of overt hostility, bigotry and racism. Then, to top it all, a few years ago thousands of the Windrush generation, who had been educated in the UK, laboured hard all their working lives and paid their taxes and National Insurance, were told that they were not here legally and not entitled to remain, work or use the National Health Service (ironic, considering how much Caribbean immigrants contributed to building the NHS that we all rely on).

Sadly, racism continues to blight society, if not on the overt level the post-war generation experienced. Surely the time has come to celebrate the Windrush generation and for black history to be taught and respected, not just to African-Caribbean children but to all.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Joyce Fraser and thousands who share her background.

Derek Ross, Crewe & Nantwich u3a, Cheshire

I was so pleased to see that amodern-day hero, Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, who became the UK’s first sickle cell and thalassemia specialist, was mentioned in the article about Joyce Fraser.

Dame Elizabeth and I were on the same health-visiting course in west London and were allocated practical work together in a north London borough every two weeks for a whole day during the academic year 1969-70.

Early last year, I noticed that she was the guest on Desert Island Discs and thus caught up with her life.

When the late Queen’s nominations for the Order of Merit were announced, I was not surprised to see what she hadachieved in the 50 years since we met.

Elizabeth Carr, Gloucester & District u3a

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The naked truth

Judging by the response to Esther Rantzen’s article about sex on TV (Letters, February), the spirit of Mary Whitehouse is still with us. I had to smile at your contributor who watched Naked Attraction and was surprised to see . . . naked people. There is something about the British psyche that means nakedness must automatically equate to sex, but that is not always the case.

For 10 years I have taken part in a skinny-dip in Northumberland in late September to raise money for mental-health charity Mind. There is nothing to beat the supreme silliness of setting an early alarm, arriving on the beach from 6am and, as the sun rises at 7am, stripping off to run naked into the sea along with 1,200 other like-minded souls of all ages (including some famous ones).

Yes, it’s cold, but it’s also life-affirming and liberating. People are accepted for who they are, regardless of their shape or size. No one tells them they shouldn’t strip off because they don’t have the ‘perfect’ figure. Solos, couples, families, friends – every ‘body’ is welcomed.

I will be in Northumberland again this September and plan to attend two similar charity events this summer for Mind and the British Heart Foundation.

Melvyn Harris, Bishop’s Cleeve u3a, Gloucestershire

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University life should’t be just for under-60s

I went on to study at university when I retired. In common with others who were over 60, there was the opportunity to take out a student loan to pay the extortionate tuition fees.

Since then, the UK Government has announced plans to ‘radically transform’ student finances with the launch of the flexible Lifelong Loan Entitlement from 2025, but over-60s will not be eligible. The strap line for this is ‘to empower adults to upskill or retrain throughout their working lives’. But working lives no longer end at 65, let alone 60.

Indeed, the Department of Work and Pensions estimates that there are more than half a million over-70s in the workplace.

This inter-generational inequality must end and let the scheme be open to all.

John Griffin BSc, Faversham & District u3a, Kent

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I so agree with Esther Rantzen on the sad loss of ‘radio pals’ (TAM, Spring).

I live on my own and over lockdown became increasingly engaged with listening to the excellent and informative programmes on Radio 4 and the solace of classical music on Radio 3, which has continued unabated since normal service has resumed.

Great presenters of the Today programme in past years, such as Brian Redhead and John Humphrys, gave us plenty of notice of their upcoming retirements so we could prepare ourselves and celebrate their contributions to the world via radio.

It does seem as though the BBC now quietly removes people with no warning and I too was sorry when Carolyn Quinn left The Westminster Hour.

Every word of Esther’s final paragraph in her column was absolutely spot on. I hope the new, young BBC producers and executives take note – and I implore them to stop the cuts to classical music and the BBC Orchestras and Singers without whom our cultural lives would be further hollowed out.

Sue Jones, Ilkley & District u3a, West Yorkshire

Dame Esther Rantzen goes off on another rant against BBC radio but fails to mention that the corporation has had its funding cut and cut by successive governments. The BBC must find savings. Expensive, older and sometimes stale broadcasters are no longer affordable.

Senior listeners do not have a monopoly of the airwaves. We all learn to adapt, otherwise we would still be clustered round a crystal set, accompanied by an insistent interference from the hissing and crackling.

Change happens. We are not an elite, super-privileged group who must attend only to our favourite radio presenters. Indeed, like us, they will not live forever. It is good to have a fresh perspective from younger voices and an introduction to more recent music, songs and topics.

The BBC has no public duty to any particular group of viewers or listeners, especially when it has been forced to spread itself ever more thinly.

Thelma Mitchell, Kenilworth u3a, Warwickshire

The radio has always been very important to us, but we have increasingly felt that Radio 4 and Radio 2 were looking for another audience. We do still listen to certain BBC programmes but not in the regular way that we used to.

I wonder if Esther has ever listened to Angel Radio, based in Havant, which now plays music from the 1920s to the 1960s. It is a very interesting station and registered charity which also has readings of books and poetry.

Elaine Mucci, Botley, Hedge End & District u3a, Hampshire

The article by Esther Rantzen has moved me to write my first ever letter to a magazine or newspaper.

How right Esther is; her words echo my own thoughts and fill me with sadness. My husband died seven months ago after 53 years together. We did not have children and my relatives are few and live far away. The radio, particularly Radio 2, is like a good friend and provides company to those who live alone.

The loss of Ken Bruce is keenly felt and no other presenters offer the same easy listening. If only the BBC would give more consideration to older listeners but I regret that it is too late.

June Thorpe, Evesham u3a, Worcestershire

I do so agree with Dame Esther Rantzen’s piece in which she mourns the departure of an escalating number of favourite radio presenters to which I would add Peter Day, who retired from the BBC and sadly died in March.

Most of my working life has been overseas. The calm, articulate and reassuring tones of so many favourite BBC presenters provided a lifeline to home, not least because the internet came relatively late into my career. I even had the privilege of getting to know some of the foreign correspondents who usually welcomed a home-cooked meal!

Now retired, I fill my home and enhance my chores with so many interesting people and programmes. Like her, I am not ageist, but strongly value the perspective that the John Simpsons, Jeremy Bowens and Kate Adies provide, among others. History matters. I hope future generations of broadcasters will learn those well-honed skills.

We are lucky to have the BBC and long may it continue to provide a voice in so many languages and for so many people.

Fiona Duby OBE, Brighton & Hove u3a, East Sussex

Although I can still listen to Steve Wright on a Sunday morning, Paul O’Grady has passed away and Ken Bruce has left his morning show on Radio 2. Who will I listen to for easy music and interesting chats with interesting guests, as well as the quizzes?

The BBC wants to attract a younger audience, but surely these people will be working and don’t listen avidly to Radio 2.

I have moved over to Smooth, Gold, Kiss and Virgin but I am constantly changing radio stations. Many of us do not watch daytime television but prefer to have the radio on in the background while we go about our chores or hobbies.

The BBC has made a grave mistake.

Gill Izzard, Milton Keynes u3a, Buckinghamshire

I love reading Dame Esther Rantzen's articles, and how I empathise with her thoughts. I, too, miss Steve Wright, Paul O’Grady and, in particular, Ken Bruce, who brightened my mornings whatever my mood. Totally addictive listening.

My partner and I now listen to Boom Radio and Greatest Hits, which seem to have taken on the demise of the BBC broadcasters deemed no longer suitable for our upcoming youngsters. Their loss.

Sandra Hardaker, Cam, Dursley & District u3a, Gloucestershire

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I am writing with regards to the allotment column (TAM, Spring). When I moved to a new area to find an accessible bungalow, I left my beloved allotment behind. The nearest allotments are now three miles away, which I refuse to drive to because part of the reason for growing my own is to save the environment, so I set about transforming my small garden.

The raised beds were immaculate when I moved in but with no capacity for food growing as they were covered in slate chippings. In my first year, I grew a lot in pots but found the watering hard. I installed four water butts, but even they run out at times.

So I removed the slate chippings that covered the entire front garden and set about making it an edible garden. I now have one bed for blueberries and I am delighted to be self-sufficient in the fruit for part of the year.

The largest bed has fruit bushes in it, under-planted with tulips that give a stunning show when the fruit bushes are coming into leaf.

Another bed has herbs, including bay and rosemary, to give year-round visual interest, and I have squeezed in some flowering plants, as I am trying to have something flowering every day of the year for insect life.

I still have my strawberries, mint and potatoes in containers and have a large trug for carrots and salad crops, but I feel much happier now that my garden looks more like mine!

Eleanor Brooks, White Cliffs u3a, Kent

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As someone who worked with computers as far back as the 1960s, they certainly have their uses. The problem I have with smartphones, though, is that I am being forced in one direction.

My local NHS decided to do away with its phone line for ordering prescriptions. Now it suggests that one finds a friend or relative with a smartphone to do the ordering. Unless one is housebound, the surgery won’t accept the order by phone. The alternative is to physically go to the surgery, but can you imagine the situation in the depths of winter?

There has to be viable alternatives to smartphone-only use. There’s something very wrong with this situation, and others highlighted in the TAM Letters pages. Can you imagine if local businesses decided to accept payment only by smartphone – they wouldn’t survive long.

Currently, I’m very happy with my low-cost internet and landline provider, which includes calls to mobiles. My mobile is a very simple one, seldom used, which I occasionally top up. Why should it then be necessary, as someone no longer in the workplace, to have a smartphone contract?

David Simpson, Hagley u3a, Worcestershire

Parking apps are not the panacea some claim them to be (Letters, Spring). Read the online reviews of the most well-known parking app and they are universally negative, all one-star, and the word ‘scammed’ comes up a lot.

I didn’t like the dismissive attitudes of some of the contributors. One suggested we may as well adjust or lose out. Where is the empathy?

The implied contempt for those who, for whatever reason, do not get on with modern technology is disturbing.

It seems to me that ageism is alive and well, even in the u3a.

Ray Walker, Bearsden & Milngavie u3a, East Dunbartonshire

It was interesting reading the letters in the Spring edition. The first four were from people embracing new technology (including online banking). However, there were 10 commenting on Dame Esther Rantzen’s article criticising bank closures.

I think we are sleepwalking into disaster. We are encouraged, if not forced, into online banking due to the thousands of bank branches that have closed. Where we live, there are none left. Ten years ago we had all four main banks.

So far, I have refused to do online banking, partly due to fraud. I consider I am savvy, but in 10 to 20 years’ time I may well not be.

Peter Barnes, Braunton & District u3a, North Devon

I am 94 and find online banking a boon. I sit comfortably at home and pay bills in a couple of minutes instead of trailing into town, and probably standing in a queue, for a cashier to do the job for me. Time and effort saving!

Kate Brooks, Cheltenham u3a, Gloucestershire

The Letters pages in the Spring edition of TAM had me shaking my head. The reason? The impression given by a few of your contributors that digital technology is new to older people.

I am 91. I wrote my first computer program in the late 1960s while working in scientific research. I went on to become a lecturer using Fortran and Algol programming languages. I also contributed to scientific journals using computer programs.

I currently use an iPad for emails to keep in touch with friends and my remote family but I have no desire to own a smartphone.

What younger generations are oblivious to is that the use of mobile smartphones by today’s schoolchildren on social media is going to cause obesity and mental-health issues on a scale unprecedented throughout the world.

I see schoolchildren every day passing my house, not talking to each other. They are all staring at their smartphones.

Daniel Harris, East Kilbride u3a, South Lanarkshire

I started to read with interest the various articles in TAM and a particular event caught my attention. To save embarrassment for the organisers I won’t name the event, but yet again when I applied to attend I was asked for a cheque.

I have not possessed a cheque book for many years and pay most of my bills, and even the window cleaner and odd-job man, online. It is a way of life, quick and efficient.

Since joining u3a I have been asked a number of times for cheques, without the option of paying online. I feel I will not be able to attend this particular event as I will not be sending a cheque.

Please can organisers keep abreast of modern ways. We need to embrace them not shun them.

Christine Maskill, Wetherby & District u3a, West Yorkshire

The Letters section in the Spring issue featured discussions around ageism, learning and smartphone technology, and concerned me greatly by its emphasis.

I read 1984 by George Orwell (‘Big Brother is watching you’) and was positive it couldn’t happen here. How wrong I was!

I recently Googled a newly opened restaurant and was transferred to its Facebook page, which immediately informed me that a Facebook friend had recently enjoyed a meal there.

Am I too old to learn new tricks? No, and one new trick I’ll be avoiding will be to welcome Big Brother into my life.

Malcolm Soutar, Shrewsbury u3a, Shropshire

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Library displays help promote u3a groups

u3a chair Liz Thackray in her column stresses the importance of libraries in the life of many u3as (TAM, Spring). This prompted me to tell you about the partnership our u3a has forged with its local library in High Wycombe.

The library has various display cabinets which local organisations can use to promote their activities. Our publicity and events team decided to take full advantage of this. We were fortunate to be allowed to use two large glass cabinets with drawers underneath.

We have just finished our first set of displays. One of our glass cases gives visitors a general overview of our u3a, while the other shows off what our Enjoying Shakespeare Group gets up to.

These two displays feature the trademark u3a yellow and blue colours, and we also have space for leaflets and newsletters. We have another display showing our anniversary tree planting and a number of our interest groups have stepped up to put individual displays in the drawers, including geology, history, computers, birdwatching and walking.

Our plan is to encourage the rest of our 30 interest groups to work on putting together their own displays so that we can keep our exhibits fresh and lively.

The displays are already generating interest and help make the library look welcoming. I would encourage anyone to get in touch with their local library and see how you can work together.

Penny Gerrard, High Wycombe & District u3a, Buckinghamshire

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Climate crisis action is not just for kids

I was in London for all four days of the April climate protest, The Big One. I think many u3a members, as representatives of the older community, might be of the opinion that this is not something we should be part of. I disagree.

The whole event was inspiring and uplifting. It was calm, inclusive and extremely well organised. We are being encouraged to use our ‘voice’ to make an impact and influence society, whether you favour environmental and biodiversity issues; the future of power; the rivers and the oceans; the science of global warming or climate justice.

The Unicef Youth Advocacy Guide says: “There is great benefit to combining the wisdom of older people who have more life experience with the views and voices of children and youth.”

We have to step up and speak out for their sakes. Show you care. If your u3a hasn’t got a group, ask why not? This is an emergency. It can’t wait.

Jenny Wilson, Chair, Croydon u3a, South London

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Averil's an inspiration in surgery... and music

What an inspiring interview with Professor Averil Mansfield CBE (TAM, Spring). Being a male nurse, and being brought up on a council estate, I can understand her sentiments of sometimes feeling at odds with family and friends.

But what really intrigued me is her taking up the cello at the age of 65. I did similar upon retirement from my career as a senior lecturer in nursing when I took up the violin. I had always enjoyed listening to violin concertos, having LP records I bought back in the 1970s.

Then, some 30 years ago, an uncle who was a violinist died and I inherited his violin, a German Lowendall (c.1890s). I kept the violin safe in its case until my retirement when I decided I would take lessons. At the age of 62, having had the violin restored, I started lessons, taking grades and began playing in a local community orchestra within three years.

A few years later, I joined the Lichfield u3a Orchestra Group, of which I am still a member. And a year ago I joined my local Burton-on-Trent u3a Folk Group and now play a rather different repertoire to include some improvisation.

Like Averil, I also thoroughly enjoy my music and hope to continue for years to come. Almost without exception, all the string players I have met seem to have played since school days. The question I have never been able to find an answer to is: how common is it for people in their third age to start to learn a musical instrument of the violin family? Any answers?

Peter Wildsmith, Burton-on-Trent u3a, Staffordshire

My hearty congratulations go to Averil Mansfield for not only having reached the top of her profession as a professor of surgery, but also to be the first female to do so – and all this when she came from a working-class background at a time when even boys were not even expected to aspire to higher education, let alone girls.

I, too, in a similar situation, seemed to be the first girl of my generation in my small French village to go to university and my parents were rewarded for their sacrifices when they saw me become a teacher. Sadly, it is heartbreaking to see so many girls still not allowed to go to secondary school, especially in the likes of Afghanistan.

Marie-Claire Orton, Newcastle u3a

Two articles in the Spring issue of TAM deserve to be read together: the one describing Averil Mansfield’s fulfilment of her childhood dream of becoming a surgeon, and Professor Sir Muir Gray’s enlightening account of the means by which one can live a longer and healthier life. The former is set out in Averil’s book Life in Her Hands while the latter might well have been subtitled ‘Your Life in Your Hands’!

Public health has become highly political during the past three or four decades, with advocates emphasising the importance of a good start in life, good education, satisfactory housing, fulfilling employment, adequate income and an environment as free as possible from hazards. Governments, on the other hand, have tended to stress the responsibility of the individual to choose a healthy lifestyle but, before dismissing this as characteristic political evasion, it is worth looking closely at what Sir Muir is saying, under this heading.

The good news seems to be that biological ageing does not, in fact, occur as early as we imagine and the real villains that make us go downhill prematurely are inactivity (physical, cognitive and emotional) and society’s expectation that we should slow down and ‘take it easy’ as we grow older. Fortunately, Sir Muir points out the clear remedies that are there for us to apply.

It is perhaps worth selecting one of these remedies for special mention. Scarcely a week goes past without some medical journal quoting evidence for the considerable contribution to health of moderate physical activity and, for most people, walking – especially if fairly brisk and with a bit of uphill – might well be the easiest and most straightforward means of achieving this, with no special kit required, no expensive gym fees and the local suburban pavement providing a ready location!

George Pollock, Kenilworth u3a, Warwickshire

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Time to overhaul honours system

I read with interest the comments regarding reform of the Honours System (Letters, Spring).

In my view there is a need for a drastic overhaul. Titles and knighthoods should disappear. The only honour should be for genuine service to the community with equal parity. The House of Lords needs to be ‘downsized’.

Tony Mayston, Buckingham u3a

I agree with Dr Mike Gibson’s suggestion to have the word ‘Empire’ removed from OBE since the British Empire is no more, although the great legacy which it left to the modern world is still all around us and engenders justifiable pride in many people.

Perhaps OBE could now stand for the Order of British Excellence, marking excellence in the field for which it is awarded.

David Hutton, Crewe & Nantwich u3a, Cheshire

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The article by David Bissenden (TAM, Winter) discussed in some detail the reasons for the lack of suitable newly built housing for third agers. But they all boil down to one thing: the planning system is seriously flawed.

It is based on a single-minded, short-term, simplistic metric: occupancy per hectare . The only way to get more people on to each hectare is to build upwards. So older people can’t buy new properties – except in purpose-built ghettoes.

Meanwhile, older householders are rattling around in multi-storey houses that they can’t maintain and want to move out of. I’m not convinced by the suggestion we should just man up and get fit; few of us are fortunate enough to have made it into our 70s and beyond with the constitution of a mountain goat.

Older people need to live with young people, and vice versa. My family home in the 1960s to 1970s was a sort of informal youth club, open all hours, to the benefit of all involved, whatever their age.

To ensure a healthy mixture of young and old in new housing estates (which will not be new for long, and need to continue to house a mentally healthy population, surrounded by people of all ages), occupancy standards need to be changed to take into account the net effect of new developments.

If a developer can arrange for an older householder to buy a bungalow, they should be able to factor that person’s property into their calculations: planning standards must be based on NCASH – Net Contribution to the Age-appropriate Supply of Housing.

Bob Knowles, Reading u3a, Berkshire

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In your last issue, you asked for photos of recipes by Beverley Jarvis that people have tried. My version of her coronation chicken has the lettuce leaves standing up, rather like a crown! It was delicious.

I’ll make it again but I almost certainly won’t be around for the next coronation!

Joan Deller, Chatteris u3a, Cambridgeshire

I would like to thank Beverley Jarvis for her excellent 21st century coronation chicken recipe.

Unfortunately, by the time I remembered to take a photograph of this lovely dish, it had all been eaten! Such were the compliments, I felt it was only right to let you know.

A friend has also requested I send her the recipe without delay.

Margo Weston, Holme Valley u3a, West Yorkshire

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Eric Midwinter and Audrey Cloet are right when they say group conveners should be limited to a fixed tenure (TAM, Spring).

Ideally, group conveners should be limited to three years’ tenure, for their own sakes as well as for group health.

I had been a convener for more than 10 years and was becoming wearier and wearier. When I finally announced my retirement, initially nobody was prepared to take over. However, members agreed to take turns to lead sessions.

This has proved a great success. Everyone has a different style, so the way a meeting develops is always different. New ideas emerge, the group has become more dynamic, and so have I. So congratulations to Bath u3a Creative Writing Group for upholding the founding principles of u3a.

Jenny Woodhouse, Bath u3a, Somerset

Eric Midwinter says that “he is told by u3a officials that they can’t get people to serve on committees”.

To serve on the committee means becoming a trustee. The Charity Commission has recently made it an onerous position to hold. I first became a trustee with a different charity in 2013 and have watched how the task has become complex.

We have a large, lively u3a but most people who have joined are more interested in the sporting, gardening, walking and games groups. The ‘university’ types who have the necessary skills for tasks such as treasurer are fewer in number.

Geraldine Lee, Aylsham & District u3a, Norfolk (Vice-Chair 2017-2019)

I am tired of hearing how u3a needs more leaders (Eric Midwinter, Spring).

Let’s assume a membership of 500 and 50 interest groups. Group sizes vary considerably: some activities require regular turnouts of 20 or so, other groups meeting at a member’s house can accommodate less than 10. Each group could have three people in leading roles:

a co-ordinator to handle all the paperwork generated by u3a; someone who knows something about its subject matter to keep the group on track; and another willing soul who will help with organisational stuff.

Then between five and 17 people per group will just need to turn up, participate cheerfully, move a bit of furniture or do the washing up. These are the people without whom u3a could not function and would be pointless.

Of our notional 500 members, let’s have 10 on the committee and a different 150 running the interest groups. That leaves 340 people who are, in Mr Midwinter’s eyes, failing to step up and do their bit.

I’ve been a u3a member for about 10 years, been actively involved in running four groups and joined seven others. I have observed that some people enjoy being on committees and running groups and they tend to do most of that stuff, often occupying several roles at one time. That is their way of enjoying themselves.

For the rest of us, this is retirement; we have had enough of going to meetings and taking on large responsibilities. Without us, Mr Midwinter, there would be nobody to lead. And your final paragraph is plain offensive – u3a is for everybody and many of us make our contribution quietly.

Bobby Vanstone, Towcester u3a, Northamptonshire

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Breast scans have been available on the NHS since 1988 for women between the ages of 50 and 70. There has also been a trial extending it by two years at either end of this scale.

But how many people assume that 70 is the upper age limit? This is not true. The mammogram service is available to every woman over 70 every three years by simply phoning your nearest centre and asking for an appointment. I am astounded by the number of people who are unaware of this.

In December last year, I was surprised to be recalled and shocked that, at 85, I had a ductal carcinoma in situ. This is considered to be the earliest form of breast cancer. It is non- invasive, which means it does not spread in this early stage. Surgery is usual but research is being carried out to discover whether, if left, it will remain unchanged.

I have been lucky. I had an operation and the biopsy revealed that the cells are not carcinogenic. However, I was only lucky because I had my regular mammogram. It is often assumed that, because over 70s are no longer called, the risk goes down, but this is not true. A survey in the US reveals that women over 80 account for 12 per cent of new cases.

So I am campaigning to encourage everyone to keep up with their regular three-yearly appointment. I have managed to encourage my friends to book an appointment and I hope this letter will encourage many more.

I am truly grateful to the NHS for the care and consideration I have experienced in these past four months.

Sheila Darzi, Guildford u3a, Surrey

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I enjoyed reading the marvellous and most interesting article about Aston Clinton u3a Railway Modellers Group (TAM, Spring).

I am currently in my u3a Photography Group. However, at least two of us in this are very interested in forming a model railway group.

I have my own layout which is housed in a purpose-built ‘shed’ (20ft by 10ft) and is in the process of being rebuilt after a house move three years ago. My previous layout was 30ft by 6ft.

If a new u3a railway modellers group is set up locally then I would intend meetings to take place at members’ own locations with occasional trips out as required.

Roy Forbes, Pontesbury & Rea Valley District u3a, Shropshire

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Is there Anyone for compact tennis?

What a pity that people who are now rushing to play pickleball had not first tried compact tennis, which, in my view, is a far superior game for the older and younger generations .

Our small group, varying from as few as eight to 20 people, have been playing compact tennis for some 10 years to date , and we are amazed that it has not developed. Perhaps it is seen as a child’s semi-amusement sport, which it is definitely not.

Compact – sometimes called short – tennis is played using a small tennis racquet, with strings about 11in by 9 in and a semi-soft indoor foam ball measuring 3.5in across. Members have used a full-size racquet, but it is not encouraged.

Playing on a badminton court , with the net lowered to roughly thigh height, it follows the rules of standard tennis, although these can be amended if the players agree.

So, instead of the crashing, ear-splitting sound made when the hard wiffle ball meets the hard paddle bat, we have a much quieter game .

I have tried pickleball but found the noise upsetting, especially when two or three courts were playing the game at the same time.

With compact tennis, conversation is possible, if you have enough breath. The sport is modelled on lawn tennis and has the full range of strokes – forehand, backhand, overarm or underarm serving, plus cutting and slicing of the ball. Even smashes are allowed, but not encouraged.

We normally play doubles, since a game of singles can be very demanding due to the low trajectory or slicing of the ball, which can be achieved by a good player.

I believe that compact tennis is also safer than pickleball since the impact of a sponge ball (which does happen) is far safer than a wiffle ball, especially if it hits your head or face.

Harold Willits, Sutton Coldfield u3a, West Midlands

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Post Offices can fill bank closures void

Regarding John Neville’s letter (TAM, Spring), although I agree it would be nice to have a bank in one’s town or village and not further and further away, it is possible to bank cash at the local post office, both coins and notes.

I do this as treasurer for our local music club. That said, one does still end up with part-filled bags of coins that need topping up gradually. Cheques can also be banked in the post office.

Moving banks, when our charity was charged for banking, did prove a very lengthy business with the whole process conducted by email with all the committee being vetted.

Rosemary Bentley, Spelthorne u3a, Surrey

Following James Day’s article on cyber crime (TAM, Spring), another essential tip for staying safe with online banking is, according to a former banker friend who specialised in such security, to use a separate computer for any financial transactions and for banking purposes.

David Reeve, Woking u3a, Surrey

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Please pass on my huge thanks to Sylvia Jones, of Fairford & District u3a in Gloucestershire, for her excellent and absolutely simple way of opening push-down bottle tops (Letters, Spring). It makes all the difference!

Up until this hint it was always hit or miss and lots of grunting doing this.

Joan Horin, Kingston upon Thames u3a, South-West London

We recently had our bathroom refurbished. A self-employed plumber did the work and we had to dissuade him from throwing our bidet on the rubble heap. He stated that he was forever getting rid of people’s bidets.

I would love to know what the British have against bidets. The bidet is a most useful appliance and both genders can freshen up by using one. On the continent nearly every bathroom that has room has a bidet, so what’s the problem here?

The bidet is also a great saver: it saves water, it saves time and it saves energy. Much quicker than having a shower!

Niall Simpson, Dorchester & District u3a, Dorset

I was interested in the letters regarding musical tastes and how to keep up with modern music (TAM, Spring).

I was somewhat concerned that the contributors all referred to the music of their own era (generally the 1960s) as their major influence and how they have moved on to listening to more modern music since then. This is good, but I was disturbed by the fact that they seem to exhibit the same characteristics as some young people today, that anything before their era is ‘passé’.

One person dismissed those of the era of Frank Sinatra, for example, as “past their sell-by date”. I accept that we all have different tastes in music but, in my view, good music is still good, no matter how long ago it was popular.

I love a wide variety and I keep discovering music from all eras and from around the world, which is so exciting. I ran a u3a group called Music Unlimited for about eight years and the title of the group says it all. We had such fun as well as learning so much about all sorts of music, from any time and anywhere.

Maybe I have misunderstood the letters in TAM but I am concerned that the giants of the past – Mozart, Beethoven etc – and the music from the likes of South America and India are apparently not worthy of appreciation. If so, then that is so sad. Readers, please prove me wrong!

The u3a is here to widen the horizons of its members, and the music of the distant past has as much to give us as that of the present and future.

Helen Elliott, Stratford-upon-Avon u3a, West Midlands

It is disappointing that millions of pounds of public money was squandered on the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla.

It is even more so that billions have been spent on the monarchy itself which is an archaic excrescence on a democratic society.

If the Americans are so keen on the royals then they can have them for free. The money spent on them is sorely needed by the NHS.

Derek McMillan, Worthing u3a, West Sussex

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Following my piece about watching the Queen’s coronation in 1953 (TAM, Winter), I was contacted by a work colleague I hadn’t seen for about 35 years.

Pete Barry and his wife are members of Croydon u3a, and he came over to see me and my husband who, together with our daughter, are members of Abbey Wood & Thamesmead u3a. We had a lot of reminiscing to do about our days working for Greater London Council in the new site offices at Thamesmead.

Pete, a surveyor, cycled from Croydon and I, as site secretary, cycled the short distance from Abbey Wood. Our Portacabins were situated in the middle of nowhere and the surroundings were usually bleak. However, we made the most of our days, getting together with other colleagues for special lunches.

It was good to meet up again after all these years and exchange newsletters and events from our u3as, thanks to TAM.

Doris Grimsley, Abbey Wood & Thamesmead u3a, South-East London

I read about Lorraine Harding’s ‘New to Leeds’ group, which folded as there were not enough new people to sustain it (Letters, February).

My u3a has a Discovering Devon Group which picks a place, person or topic to research every month. It appeals to people who have lived in Devon for decades, as well as being a great way for newcomers to learn about the area and make new friends. The group is proving so popular we've had to set up a second.

It’s a format that might work in other parts of the country.

Anne Aubin, Ashburton u3a, Devon

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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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Classified 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 August 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

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

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Holidays Cyprus

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

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Holidays Italy

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

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

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Holidays Portugal

Algarve, Budens 2 bed, 2 bath townhouse, free Wi-Fi, BBQ, communal pool, next to Santo Antonio golf resort, 5 mins drive from Salema beach. Quiet location. Lovely views from the balcony. Been in the family since 2005.

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Holidays UK

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

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

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

Tel: (01209) 860402,

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

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WEST BAY, DORSET One bedroom apartment with stunning sea view.

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LAKE DISTRICT Quiet village just minutes from Keswick. Warm welcome assured to our 18th century country house B & B. Large, well furnished rooms, with en-suite bath or shower rooms. Beautiful mountain views. Relax in our peaceful garden. Delicious breakfasts. Dogs welcome. Reductions for u3a members (not bank holidays). Tariff, photographs, etc. Read our reviews on Trip Advisor.

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

DORSET breaks, SHERBORNE Elegant spacious apartment with undercover parking in town. Abbey, two castles, rail link to London/Exeter.

Text /phone 07948 710033

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Male, 74 years Divorced for several years. Seeking female companion for LTR. Interested in history, reading, the countryside, most forms of music and much more. Average height and weight and of fair complexion. Honest and genuine. But please don’t take my word. Why not see for yourself? There’s nothing to lose and possibly something to gain. Situated in Hampshire close to the Surrey and Berkshire borders.

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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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