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Third Age Matters February 2022 - Screenreader Edition

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ISSUE 50 / FEBRUARY 2022 / u3a.org.uk

EDITOR

Joanne Smith – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Carolyn Rea

Proofreading

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U3A ADVISORY EDITORIAL BOARD

James Osgerby, Adrian Van Klaveren, John Wilcox, Louise Wood

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Third Age Matters is published in February, April, June, September and November. Copy deadline for editorial and advertising: 1st of the month preceding publication.

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Welcome

With our 40th anniversary year well under way, there is much to celebrate and look forward to. We’d like to mark this special year with your stories about U3A, so please get in touch. In this issue, U3A co-founder Eric Midwinter talks about the early days of this wonderful movement while U3A Chair Liz Thackray looks at what the future might hold. One thing that is certain to continue is the comradeship, adventures, companionship and fun that many find through joining U3A. Unfortunately, the Winter issue of TAM was printed a month late, which was beyond our control and we are working with the printers to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Sadly, it meant some articles, such as the Kindertransport Zoom event with TAM columnist Dame Esther Rantzen, were out of date. However, Dame Esther’s moving interview with Fred Stern, who came to Britain on the Kindertransport, is on the U3A YouTube channel and more stories are on the U3A website. I hope you enjoy this issue of TAM!

Editor Joanne Smith

Twitter @MagU3A | Facebook @U3Auk

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news

what's been happening across U3A

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Messing about in boats

Dawlish & District u3a members kayaking

For most people, a trip to the pub involves a walk or drive. But for nine intrepid members of Dawlish & District U3A’s new Adventure Club, it meant climbing into boats.

The group set off from Exeter Quay on the River Exe in a variety of kayaks, including singles, doubles and sit-on-tops. As most were beginners, the group enlisted the help of a local firm to supply the equipment and an instructor.

The group was taught how to paddle forwards, backwards and, most usefully, how to get in and out of a kayak without tipping themselves into the water.

This was an essential skill, since the trip took the paddlers down to the Double Locks pub, where rest and refreshments were much needed to prepare for the return journey.

Perhaps the greatest challenge was in negotiating Salmonpool Swing Bridge. The combination of high water and a low bridge required an unanticipated degree of upper body flexibility. Some folded and others limboed; thankfully, all made it through without going for a swim.

Activity convenor Miggie Pickton said: “The aim of the Adventure Group is to give members the chance to have a go at new and potentially challenging activities. This is something that I was keen to do myself and I thought it might attract a new and more adventurous type of member to our U3A. Given the interest shown in the kayak on show at our recent Dawlish & District U3A Open Day, I think this proved to be the case.”

The group will undertake an adventure each month, such as zip-lining, treetop-walking, sailing, walking with llamas and escape rooms.

Dawlish & District U3A has given permission for the group to organise activities that are provided by suitably qualified, experienced and insured third parties. Each activity will include appropriate instruction for beginners, and health and safety is a priority. The U3A conducts risk assessments before each activity and fully informs group members of what is involved, such as how long members will be paddling for, level of fitness required, the requirement to be able to swim 25 metres, and advice on suitable clothing.

Chair John Vick said: “Here in South Devon, there are plenty of activities to choose from, including quad-biking, climbing and stand-up paddleboarding. We are grateful to Nick Hoskins, U3A subject adviser for sailing, for his advice when we were setting up the group.”

  • For advice on setting up your own U3A adventure group, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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U3A to campaign to promote positive ageing

The U3A is looking at how members can campaign to promote positive ageing and influence providers of goods and services to design what third-agers want, not just need. This will involve the U3A partnering with organisations that have similar objectives, which may result in wider awareness of the movement.

Sandi Rickerby, chair of the Push Back Ageism Working Group which has been looking at Government guidance on the issue, said: “It will give us the opportunity to show the significant contribution we make to positive ageing. This will aid recruitment and ensure that U3A continues for many years to come. We are allowed to campaign, provided it is in support of our charitable purpose, which is the advancement of education, in particular the education of older people and those retired from full-time work, by all means, including associated activities conducive to learning and personal development.

“Campaigning can take the form of raising awareness and of educating the public on a particular issue, either in support of that issue, or to oppose it. It can also be used to encourage the public to support the work of the charity. We can make public comment on social, economical or political issues, if these relate to our purpose. We can support any relevant policies of a particular political party, but not the party itself.”

Government guidance for charities describes campaigning as a highly effective means of pursuing charitable purpose: ‘Charities have a vital role to play in society in promoting the interests of their beneficiaries and contributing to public debate. Their direct experience of their beneficiaries’ needs means they are often uniquely placed to do so.’

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pauline strikes gold with Discovery award

Congratulations to Pauline Watts, of Haywards Heath U3A’s Discovery Award group, who has attained the Gold level of the scheme.

The Discovery Award offers a range of challenges to the over-50s. Pauline’s challenges included researching Greek historical events, making a Chanel-style jacket, learning Tai Chi and becoming the membership secretary for the Mid-Sussex History Group. One of the most enjoyable challenges was researching the life of Shakespeare. “It involved much research, time spent in Stratford Upon Avon and making a photographic journey around the scenes of his life in Stratford,” she said.

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pensions petition

Pressure group Silver Voices is calling on the Government to increase State pensions by £500 a year to compensate for the suspension of the triple lock and help with the cost-of-living crisis. They are hoping for 100,000 people to sign their petition at petition.parliament.uk/pensions/605503.

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Al Gore supports U3A activities at climate change conference

Al Gore meeting u3a members including u3a's Brenda Ainsley

U3A member Brenda Ainsley met former US vice-president Al Gore at the COP26 international conference on climate change in Glasgow. Brenda, a co-founder of the Trust U3A Countdown to COP26 group, told Mr Gore about the work the U3A is doing to raise awareness of climate change issues.

Mr Gore founded The Climate Reality Project after the success of his Academy Award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth. Brenda is a Climate Reality leader for the Project and was one of nine chosen to meet Mr Gore.

Brenda said: “This came as a total surprise and amid a flurry of security vetting. We were chosen because we had all worked long and hard for nearly a year to bring together a series of events in and around Glasgow; this included the U3A workshops. 

“Mr Gore was well-briefed about U3A and the workshops we were running in Glasgow. He talked to me for some time about intergenerational climate action and was charming and supportive.”

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Kindertransport stories online

U3A members have been sharing their personal stories about the Kindertransport rescue following an online U3A event hosted by Dame Esther Rantzen.

The Zoom U3A event in November heard from Fred Stern, who, at 98, told Dame Esther the story of how he came to the UK in 1939. Other U3A members have since come forward to share their experiences, which are now on the U3A website.

Stories include those of members such as Helen Ruddock, of Littlehampton U3A, whose parents took in Kindertransport children, and of dedicated rescuers who funded and found homes for the youngsters.

These stories are on the U3A.org.uk under the Learning/National Programmes tab.

  • You can watch a recording of Dame Esther Rantzen interviewing Fred Stern on the U3A YouTube channel. The YouTube link is at the bottom of the U3A home page, U3A.org.uk

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Top travel award for U3A leader

U3A was well-represented in national travel awards, with one U3A group leader winning a top prize while a second U3A leader was nominated.

Elizabeth Hodgson, leader of Barnet U3A’s Outings, Trips & Cruises group, has been named Group Travel Leader of the Year 2021 by Group Leisure &Travel Magazine while Jackie Ring, of Guildford U3A, was one of four shortlisted by judges.

Elizabeth has been organising trips for 13 years, which include 138 days out, 28 trips of between three and five days, and six cruises. She was interviewed by a panel of judges after her name was anonymously put forward before being shortlisted for the prize.

“I am delighted that this has been acknowledged by Group Leisure & Travel in their annual awards,” she says.

“It is quite an honour as it comes from the industry itself.” She says her award recognises the hard work of travel organisers through the U3A. “By the very nature of what we do, we all put in a considerable amount of work just for the reward of knowing that these activities are much appreciated by so many of our members. I am fortunate that I have a team of three to support me, and my husband.”

Last August, her group visited Iceland. Other highlights include a World War I anniversary visit to attend the remembrance ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, where Elizabeth laid a wreath on behalf of Barnet U3A. Other trips have included cruising the Dutch waterways, a visit to Monet’s Garden and the international horticultural festival Floriade in the Netherlands. “I get great satisfaction when people approach me and want to book things. People put so much trust in me,” she says.

Elizabeth is hoping to use her £1,500 prize money on a summer cruise in Europe.

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Summer school is back

Following last year’s one-day event, the London Region of U3As is planning a two-day summer school on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 July at the St Bride Foundation Institute, off Fleet Street, London.

This popular non-resident event is open to all U3A members, who can attend one or both days.

Activities will include talks, workshops and guided walks on subjects such as art, current affairs, history, literature, music, science and social studies. This year the theme is London.

The full programme will be finalised in late April. For enquiries, contact Catherine Ware, Talks & Summer School Coordinator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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New climate group for isles of Scilly U3A

Members of the U3A South West Region has met with the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust to kickstart a new climate group, with the aim of reducing their carbon footprint. Effects of climate change are being felt on the Isles of Scilly, such as decline in seabirds belived to be caused by warming seas, and coastal erosion. The full story can be read at sources.U3A.org.uk

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Retired midwife goes back to work at NHS

Sheffield U3A member and former nurse Lawrence Whyte has returned to the front line in the battle to beat Covid.

Lawrence, a retired midwife, was invited by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to join a temporary Register for Nurses which was set up to entice retired health professionals back to work during the pandemic. The last time he had practised was four years previously.

Lawrence had spent 40 years with the NHS and wanted to give something back in gratitude, so he signed up.

He undertook an extensive online training course to update his knowledge and after that was invited to join his local mental health trust to cover NHS staff who are off sick. He initially agreed to work for eight weeks but two years later, Lawrence is still at the Trust and is now on the permanent Bank register.

“It has been an incredible journey and I have expanded my experience by working at the eating disorder service and as a flu vaccinator,” he says.

“I have been made to feel very welcome and valued by my colleagues and fellow team workers who have spent time and effort investing in my skills.”

“Contributing to the service in a small way has been a life-changing experience for me. I dread to think of what I might have felt if I had continued in the social isolation of lockdowns as I am sure my own mental health would have suffered.

“Being part of the NHS team has restored a sense of pride, maintained a continued motivation to learn and given me the opportunity to work with some awesome people.”

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Tricia takes to the skies

Tricia Stephens, of Midhurst U3A, marked her 75th birthday with a wing walk in memory of her daughter, Sarah Long.

“Climbing up was easier than I thought it would be,” she says.

“I had to shut my eyes a few times when it seemed as though the pilot was going to nosedive into the ground. It was quite thrilling.”

With her family waving furiously, the take-off was very bumpy across the airfield. “I only realised that we had left the ground when the bumps stopped,” she says. “I was amazed that that sheep, cattle and horses were unfazed when we dived quite low over their fields.”

Elizabeth used the event to raise money for Nerve Tumours UK, a charity that supports people with neurofibromatosis, which her daughter Sarah suffered from.

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20th-century group

Do you remember hippies, beatniks and Teddy Boys? Do you have favourite music, films or fashions from the last century? If so, you may be interested in joining the Trust U3A 20th Century Life Group, which meets online. A recent presentation by Barrie Cressey was on the history of the hippie movement. Other topics covered include music, theatre, films, fashion, televion, art and travel.

  • If you are interested in joining, please contact Barrie Cressey at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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U3A joins forces to help refugees

Ilkley & District U3A’s craft group has been making clothing and face masks, as well as donating household items, for refugees in Bradford.

When the group saw that trainers were urgently needed, they teamed up with the local Rotary club and collected 100 pairs to be donated to Bradford Immigration and Asylum Seekers Support and Advice Network (BIASAN).

U3A member Jacqui Whiteley said: “This one coordinated activity is a good example of groups working together to make positive things happen. A huge thank you to all.”

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Everyday items that make life hard

Bad design perpetuates age stereotypes

Ring pulls on food packaging, medicine blister packs and too many controls on white goods are some of the things third-agers get most annoyed about, according to a U3A survey.

The U3A has teamed up with The Design Age Institute to find out what really irks older people. Several thousand members replied to a survey sent out via the U3A electronic newsletter last December as part of the movement’s Push Back Ageism campaign.

The Institute is working with policy-makers and providers of goods and services to design or improve the existing design of items aimed at older adults, and is currently compiling a list of the top 25 everyday items that third-agers find frustrating and difficult to use.

Top of the list was packaging, with 60 per cent of respondents complaining about food packaging such as ring pulls, cling film, peel-back labels and instructions in small print on coloured backgrounds.

More than 12 per cent complained about medicine packaging, such as blister packs, small tablets and child-proof bottles.

Other annoyances included changing duvet covers, too many controls on white goods, heavy vacuum cleaners and high kitchen cupboards.

One member said: “I feel so old and incompetent at not being able to do it myself.”

George Lee, founder of This Age Thing, Design Age Institute, said: “Bad design perpetuates age stereotypes. The attitude is that if you can’t do something as you get older, it’s because you are the problem, not the design. It’s time to challenge that attitude!”

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Helping to reunite children with grandparents

U3A members helped create this quilt to raise awareness for estranged grandparents. Lorraine Bushill, of Mill Hill U3A, is fighting for a change in the law. For details, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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New online writing group for northumbria

A regional online creative writing group set up during the pandemic attracted new members in the area to U3A.

Northumbria Regional Creative Words was advertised on the regional website, attracting interest from outside the U3A. Some members who joined the group went on to join their local U3A.

The group consists of enthusiastic creative writers whose abilities range from those who have had books published to complete beginners.

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barnsley U3A teams up with local council

Barnsley & District U3A has been working closely with its local council on projects to raise its profile.

As a result, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council now regularly invites the U3A to get involved with community issues.

This has included the council offering Barnsley U3A a display cabinet in its Experience Barnsley museum to showcase memories of Barnsley Town Centre.

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Newsletter for U3A networks

The first News for Networks newsletter was launched in January this year and has been well-received.

Networks provide the opportunity for clusters of U3As from across the UK to meet, share news and connect.

More than 500 people have signed up for the newsletter, which has delighted the Network Link team.

They hope that networks will find the newsletter a useful way of communicating and to share what they are doing.

  • Any contributions or queries to Hilary Jones, chair of Network Link, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Favourite walks

With spring around the corner, walking groups will be shedding their waterproofs and hopefully heading out into the sunshine, putting muddy walks behind them! If you belong to a U3A walking group, we'd like to hear about your favourite walks for possible inclusion in a future issue of TAM. Send in a description of the walk, the highlights and why you like it, of up to 300 words, including a photo if possible, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Grant for Newport U3A

Newport U3A received a grant from supermarket Asda to buy a laptop, air-quality monitors and sanitising products worth nearly £1,000, under the store’s ‘Bringing Communities Together’ programme. Chair Stephen Berry said: “The lockdown made our members very aware of the possibilities for using technology, so having a laptop available will greatly enhance what is already on offer to our 350 members and will be a welcome addition to our assets.”

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U3A gets planting as 40th anniversary year kicks off

As the U3A starts its 40th year with a host of celebratory events planned, the Anniversary Woodland has already exceeded its initial target of 5,000 trees planted in just three months. Members and groups have been snapping up native tree saplings to form a woodland on the England/Wales border in the Brecon Beacons.

U3A chair Liz Thackray said: “It’s fantastic news that more than 5,000 trees have been donated to the Anniversary Woodland over the past few months. Thanks to all who have contributed – and we are now encouraged to expand our vision to 10,000 trees by the end of 2022! Congratulations, too, to others who are planting trees in their own localities.”

Trees capture and store many tonnes of carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and so help combat climate change. According to figures from The Woodland Trust, the U3A seven-hectare woodland would sequester 2,800 tonnes of carbon over 100 years.

U3A members will have the opportunity to get involved with a number of events this year to help raise the profile of the movement. In June, U3As are encouraged to hold picnics to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend and the Queen’s Green Canopy, an initiative to plant trees for the Jubilee.

Other events include the U3A Science Network’s anniversary meeting in July and plans for a Research and Shared Learning conference in late summer to showcase the projects that U3A members have worked on. U3A Day has moved from June to the third Wednesday in September, during U3A Week (18 to 26 September). Members have also contributed to an anniversary quilt, which will be revealed in May.

  • If you have ideas for anniversary events, U3A Day and Picnic in the Park, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Updates will also be on U3A.org.uk

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North Cotswold U3A celebrates Silver Anniversary

North Cotswold U3A marked its 25th anniversary with a tree-planting ceremony carried out by founder members Penny Ingles and John Busbridge. The U3A began with 20 members and grew to 415 in 2019. The liquidambar tree was planted on Willersey Village Green, with permission from the parish council. Members also enjoyed a two-course celebratory lunch.

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cover story

We’re living longer and we’re healthier … which means more time to enjoy U3A

u3a Founder Eric Midwinter

Eric Midwinter co-founded U3A in 1982. Here, the author tells Joanne Smith about the battle against ageist attitudes to get U3A off the ground, how he is coping with Manchester United’s current form, and his love of Lancashire County Cricket and comedy

Just before I was due to meet Eric in central London, Omicron had begun to rear its ugly head and I had wondered if our meeting might be cancelled or relegated to Zoom.

I needn’t have worried; Eric, who lives in Hertfordshire and turns 90 this month, has been enjoying weekly outings to London, since restrictions were lifted, for meetings at the Savage Club, a society whose alumni include comedian Tommy Handley, Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, and composer Edward Elgar.

Eric is a social historian with an interest in the history of education, from just before the 19th century up to 1950. He has a Doctorate of Philosophy in poverty, crime and ill-health in the post-industrial revolution era and an honorary Doctorate from the Open University.

He also has a keen interest in cricket, football and comedy, and is a prolific author, mostly in the field of education, but also sport. Indeed, his two religions are Lancashire County Cricket Club and Manchester United, who he first saw play in 1941. The day we meet, the team had recently suffered a five-nil home defeat against bitter rivals Liverpool and were due to play Arsenal that evening.

He says he hopes the team’s recent years of underachievement since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 will soon come to an end. “It’s a bit similar to the years that followed Matt Busby’s long reign,” he says. “It took them three or four managers before they settled on Ferguson and he nearly got fired, but they had the sense to stick with him. And I am hoping it is that sort of blip again. From 1945, when Busby took over, it’s been 75 years of glorious history so you can’t complain too much, though it is a bloody nuisance.

“I’m dreading tonight when they are playing Arsenal. It does affect you spiritually.” (Man Utd actually went on to win that game 3-2.)

Eric’s first cricket book was a biography about W. G. Grace, while Red Shirts and Roses: The Tale of the Two Old Traffords won the Cricket Society Book of the Year award in 2005. Make ’Em Laugh: Famous Comedians and Their Words was his first foray into light theatre, while The Cricketer’s Progress: Meadowland to Mumbai won the prestigious 2011 Wisden Book of the Year Award.

Born in 1932 in Sale, near Manchester, to a working-class family, Eric went to grammar school and then did a stint in National Service before going on to Cambridge University to read History.

It was his father, a fireman, who instilled a love of theatre and sport in Eric, who went to his first pantomime aged four – Mother Goose at the Prince’s Theatre, Manchester.

But creating the U3A in 1982, with social reformer Michael Young and historian Peter Laslett, is his greatest achievement, he says. The three friends from different backgrounds had a common belief: that people in their third age could manage their own affairs if only they were given the resources and confidence to do so. Which, believe it or not, was not happening in the 1980s when the U3A was born.

Michael Young was a social entrepreneur who drafted the Labour Party’s 1945 manifesto, coined the term ‘meritocracy’ and was involved in setting up the Consumers’ Association and the Open University. He was against large, faceless organisations, whether public or private, which he called ‘giantism’.

Eric met Michael in the late 1960s and they worked together at the National Consumer Council (NCC), where Michael was the founder-chairman. Eric was head of public affairs, which included education and social services. Through Michael, Eric met Peter, a don at Cambridge University. One day, when Eric had been at the NCC for around five years and was thinking about a move, Peter came into his office.

“He told me to forget all this nonsense about children in education, the real issue was older age,” says Eric. “I took that on board.” So, in 1980, armed with references from Michael and Peter, Eric became the founder-director of the Centre for Policy on Ageing.

“My primary task was building up this notion that older age was a positive rather than a negative time, and to shift away from the idea of the older person being a social casualty to being an active citizen,” he says.

It was Peter who introduced the idea of third age to the UK, and U3A is based on L’Université du Troisième Âge (UTA) in France. The three wanted to do away with the concept that once you reached retirement, you were fit for nothing except watching TV. Eric’s research found that there were around only 200,000 people of pensionable age engaged in adult education at that time.

“We immediately thought education for older people was an issue in the UK,” says Eric. “We had this idea of recurrent education for everyone – that it wasn’t just for children.”

However, the UK model would be different from the French. It would not be attached to universities, as the French model was, but instead would be a mutual self-help movement where third-agers organised their own activities.

However, attitudes in the UK in the 1980s that older people couldn’t learn and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s view that ‘there is no such thing as society’, encouraging individualism, meant that setting up a self-help organisation was going against the national mood. “Since the 1970s, we have become much more centralised as a society,” says Eric. “In many ways, it is destroying the voluntary sector.

“In the 1980s, people were more reliant on themselves and were not cooperating with other people. It was a very individualistic society.

“It’s strange to recall now some of the anti-U3A views. We were told that older people couldn’t learn because their grey matter had disappeared or they’d lost their marbles or whatever. It was also said that because education was linked with qualifications, there was no point educating older people because they couldn’t use it for work.”

The worst thing Eric heard was when he was in Glasgow giving a talk about the U3A to a group of professional educators, academics and people involved in adult education. “They were quite antagonistic to the point where one or two said that this was dangerous,” he recalls. “I always remember this – that it was dangerous to allow older people to teach other older people. You would have thought they were talking about doing brain surgery! Apart from it being regarded as a threat professionally, there was a certain amount of feeling that if self-help groups were set up then adult education tutors would lose their jobs.”

The other major problem was convincing third-agers that it was possible to learn, as many behaved “as they thought old people should. And that included not going back to school.”

Research at the time showed that retired people were watching an average of 39 hours of TV a week – equivalent to a full-time job – and weren’t doing many leisure activities at all.

By contributing to an active retirement, both mentally and physically, the U3A is getting the message across that getting older is OK and should be embraced.

However, Eric fears some U3As are not doing enough to pass on the ethos of mutualism to members and that this could lead to it becoming a service organisation rather than a self-help one.

“One of my worries before the pandemic, when I was giving talks around U3As, was this sense that people were joining but U3As weren’t explaining what the ethos is,” he says. “There is a danger of U3A becoming a service to third-agers rather than a self-help organisation.

“I’m not over-idealistic about it – I know in all organisations there are some people who do more than others – but that’s very different from the few doing everything and the majority doing nothing. The duty of a member is quite clear in the constitution, that they should play their part as active members of learning circles and involve themselves fully in the sustenance of the U3A. I do feel that that is not always being done.”

The most important thing in setting up the U3A was to have a national body, The Third Age Trust, to which all U3As affiliate. It annoys Eric when some U3As question the point of the Trust.

“I used to get peeved by U3As saying ‘Why should we be paying for a national body?’” he says. “I’d say, ‘You wouldn’t be here if it was not for the national office’. The U3As are paying afterwards for the benefits now, and it did annoy me – that selfishness that we’ve had our bit from the national body now we are set up.”

Back in 1982, within a couple of weeks of setting up the U3A, a newsletter was sent to every member.

“I am an advocate of every member getting Third Age Matters magazine because otherwise this idea of being a national member is eroded and then people say, ‘Well, what do they do and why are we paying this per capita fee?’”

The U3A was set up in 1982 with the help of a £9,000 grant from the Nuffield Foundation. Half of the money went to Cambridge U3A so that there would be a prototype that other U3As could follow, and the other half was used to set up a national base, which included employing administrator and editor, Dianne Norton. Suddenly, local U3As were springing up across the country.

However, Cambridge U3A, along with three others, was later to leave the movement following a disagreement over capitation fees, which was a matter of deep regret for Peter.

In the early days, Eric would spend afternoons trying out various ideas at his local U3A and passing them on. “The most ambitious thing we did around that time was to get around 16 groups watching The Pickwick Papers on TV and then comparing it to the original Charles Dickens’ script, all with help from the BBC,” he recalls. “It sparked off literature groups in several U3As.”

Part of the vision of the U3A was that it should give a voice to third-agers so that families and communities would better understand what ageing was about, and that it would be the go-to organisation for comments on issues to do with ageing. The term ‘third age’ was used to get away from downbeat descriptions, such as ‘elderly’ and ‘ageing’. It was hoped the U3A would be a campaigning voice on issues that affected third-agers and would be sought out by the media for comment on them.

Eric talks of the third age being “the last golden paragraph of life and not a hastily scribbled postscript on the letter of life. It’s not a fading away, it’s a chance to do things – to sing, study military history, whatever”.

In the 1980s, the idea of people living 20 or 30 years into their third age was very new and Eric hopes that the presence of a U3A in a community will help change perceptions of ageing. He argues that while the rising average age of U3A members – now at 74 – is not a surprise, people are remaining healthier for longer, with more time to enjoy U3A.

In 1982, life expectancy was 73 and this had risen to 81 by 2021.

“More people are surviving to lead a normal lifespan,” he says. “We have emerged from a premature death society to a normal society. It’s not an ageing society, it is a normal society. Nobody is living longer than what has been the maximum 110-115 years for thousands of years. More people are surviving into their 70s and 80s and 90s. It’s very, very difficult to get that message over.”

Eric believes the U3A can grow from the current membership of around 420,000 to up to one million. But he says U3A is not for everyone.

“The U3A is very good for those for whom it is very good,” he says. “That’s why Peter was so bothered that other third-age organisations didn’t start up at the same time. People expected the U3A to sort out everything related to third age.”

All U3A activities are learning in the broadest sense, he says. A Sheffield U3A member once told him that he was in philosophy, painting and one of the walking groups.

“What could be more rounded than that? Philosophy for the intellect, painting for creativity and walking for exercise,” says Eric.

He thinks today’s educators could learn a lot from the U3A, believing education should be voluntary and child-led. He cites the Finnish education system as a good example, where teachers are highly qualified and esteemed, and there are no exams before the age of 19.

“I regard the National Curriculum as abominable because it is too narrow and strait-laced. It’s too tied up with exams and Ofsted. There’s no creativity and teachers are fed up with it,” he says.

“My mantra is the American educationalist John Dewey’s ‘education is participation in rather than preparation for’. This is what is wrong with the British education system, it’s instructing people what they think they need in their adult life. Most people never need much of what they are forced to learn.”

Throughout the pandemic, Eric has continued to write and has a new book out called Cricket’s Four Epochs: How Cricket Reflects Civil Society. In 2020, he was awarded the Brooke-Lambert Award for services to cricket history from the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, of which he was once president. “I don’t regard myself as a cricket historian, I regard myself as a social historian with an interest in cricket,” Eric says.

It was after a Zoom talk that Eric was approached by an old friend to write his next book. Malcolm Lorimer, chaplain at Lancashire Cricket Club, was looking for someone to write a book on ‘clown cricket’ and Eric, with his knowledge of cricket and light entertainment, fitted the bill. Between about 1868 and 1884, troops of clown cricketers from touring circuses would play against the local cricket club and then there’d be a concert in the evening. “It was the burlesque of cricket. You don’t hear much about it as the cricket authorities were a bit sniffy about it but there was a lot of it going on.”

One of Eric’s favourite comedians is Robb Wilton, of radio and stage fame in the 1930s and 1940s, and he does a great impression of him. “He was very still, very composed, with just this hand movement across his face,” says Eric, as he impersonates the comedian. “His timing was marvellous.”

So what’s next for Eric? He’s now well under way with writing another book on the history of the comedian.

“Up to the First World War, the term comedian meant a comic actor. It was only after the war the term comedian was used for people like George Formby or Robb Wilton or my hero, Jimmy James.” Eric pauses: “I’m never sure whether Robb Wilton or Jimmy James is my favourite comedian. It seems to me that people have turned to comedy in sitcoms such as Steptoe and Son or Only Fools and Horses, and the players are comic actors, not comedians. It was the same back in 1918, where the comedian was a comic actor.” So, full circle, then.

  • 500 Beacons: The U3A Story by Eric Midwinter, published by Third Age Press, is available on Kindle on Amazon

My primary task was building up this notion that older age was a positive rather than a negative time

From left: Eric with Michael Young; Peter Laslett; Eric giving the U3A Founder’s lecture, 2013. Right, Eric during his National Service days and, far right, at Cambridge University, where he read History

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esther rantzen

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The thrill of riding into battle on a worthwhile campaign

In 1982, older people were watching 39 hours of TV a week

As U3A takes on a campaigning role, Dame Esther Rantzen recalls some of the most important issues she exposed on consumer affairs programme That's Life!

In these Zoom-dominated times, whenever I contribute to TV programmes, they ask how I would like to be described. Which is kind. Over the years, I have had no choice, as I transmogrified from ‘toothy Esther Rantzen’ to ‘veteran Esther Rantzen’, which makes me sound like an old banger but mollifies my dentist. Nowadays, when I am given the choice, I usually say ‘campaigner and journalist’.

In my experience, riding to battle on a worthwhile campaign is not only a very exciting ride but takes you into all kinds of new, unpredictable directions. As U3A has decided to take on a campaigning role on behalf of us oldies, it occurs to me that it might be useful if I reminisce a bit.

Firstly, I recommend that the huge, articulate U3A membership should suggest which topics to campaign about. In my days on That’s Life!, we received 15,000 letters a week and reading them was a crucial chore for the whole team every day, because we knew that among them would be gems of real value to our viewers.

How did we select them? We had two criteria. It could be something really annoying that affected loads of people, not seriously but significantly. For instance, the plethora of fake slimming products. These didn’t cost huge amounts of money but hundreds of thousands of hopeful dieters tried them and were furious to find they didn’t work. The most famous stuff we exposed was Bai Lin Tea, sold by Australian conman Peter Foster. His most recent slimming product that I know about (because my sister lives in Australia) was a tongue spray which was supposed to take many pounds off you. In fact, it took many Australian dollars off the investors.

The most entertaining slimming product we exposed, after you’d sent the money, turned out to be a piece of string you had to tie around your waist. When it felt too tight, you had to stop eating until your tummy shrank and it fitted again.

Then there were topics that didn’t affect so many people, but were extremely serious, even life and death. Dangerous playgrounds with concrete or Tarmac surfaces, for example, are now outlawed due to one letter That’s Life! received from a mum whose toddler had been badly hurt by falling onto concrete from the bottom step of a slide. Until we talked about it, nobody had been collecting the numbers of serious playground accidents but after our first broadcast we were inundated with other examples. From then on, I spent weeks dropping china plates on a concrete slab in the studio, showing how they shattered but bounced off the safe rubberised surfaces. All our viewers had to do was visualise a toddler’s skull shattering, and parents, teachers and council officers all over the country dug up the concrete and replaced it with safe surfaces.

What would I campaign about these days? What about the way people who design online forms, like banks for instance, forget how difficult it is for us to fill in boxes which are almost invisible, grey on grey, far too easy to miss or overlook? Or, more serious but affecting fewer of us, how about the fact that a friend of mine who relies on carers to help her night and morning never knows who will arrive or what time they will reach her, so she has to get up at six in the morning even though they often don’t get to her until 9.30am, and she has had 75 different carers since the beginning of 2019. Is that really what we would call care?

Do write to me with topics you think we should campaign about. I’d love to know. Then the next time this old banger is asked for her views, I’d have something to get my teeth into.

  • Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your ideas and we will pass them on to Esther

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news

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Parting is such sweet sorrow for group leader Ray

Ray Waterhouse retired after 12 years as Shakespeare group leader at Mawdesley Villages U3A . Gifts included a framed print and vouchers for the Royal Shakespeare Company, plus a card from the RSC’s artistic director Gregory Doran. Moyra Summers, who takes over as group leader, said: “The group would like to thank Ray for sharing his knowledge, enthusiasm and vast experience of Shakespeare over the years.” Ray is continuing in his role as national U3A Subject Adviser for Shakespeare.

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Ilkley ambassadors ramp up membership

Ilkley & District U3A has attracted nearly 60 new members by creating ambassadors to raise its profile locally.

The U3A covers a wide number of small towns and villages. While more than 1,000 of Ilkley U3A’s 1,700 members come from Ilkley itself, only 100 members came from Otley, a town of a similar size to Ilkley and just five miles away.

“We wanted to raise awareness of our fantastic U3A in this area,” says chair Jean Smith. A team of 15 Otley U3A Ambassadors was created to raise awareness in the town. Donning hi-vis tabards and accompanied by U3A musicians, they entertained the public in Market Square on U3A Day, supported by Otley Town Mayor and the Otley Bellman.

The Ambassadors have also attended Farmers’ Markets, held drop-in sessions at the Town Hall, distributed leaflets and featured in the local press, which resulted in attracting 57 new members from Otley. There are now new activities taking place in Otley, including a book club, family history group, country dancing and hand-bell ringing. The project has been such a success that the U3A now has Ambassadors in all areas of its district.

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opinion

the big debate

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‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!’

In this new series, we look at issues raised by U3A members. Here, we evaluate online meetings, which have proved so important to many U3As during the pandemic, and their place in the future of the movement

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Tony Cheetham Preston & District U3A

One of the points emphasised in Liz Thackray’s inaugural column View from the Chair (TAM, Autumn) was that, post-pandemic, we need to look at new ways of conducting our activities, particularly in relation to the use of technology. There can be little doubt that Zoom has enabled us to remain active and involved when unable to meet face-to-face; indeed, I’ve been able to participate in six of our groups online during lockdown.

As we reopen, I have heard inferences that we can continue with our online sessions almost as an ongoing substitute for a return to face-to-face meetings. I would counsel ‘be careful what you wish for’! 

Interest group meetings and U3A events such as monthly speakers incur expenses such as room hire, catering, tutoring and so on, and as such they require high levels of participation to ensure viability. If people believe that they can simply ‘sofa surf’ from home as a substitute for the face-to-face social interaction which underlines the U3A ethos, then the financial viability of groups, and indeed of some U3As, could be threatened. We must do nothing that threatens the social and financial integrity of our movement.

I also take issue with the notion that online meetings enable people who cannot attend in person to take part. Taking as an example the six groups I’ve attended online, I see no evidence of the creation of a ‘new’ audience. On the contrary, the attendees have largely been those who pre-pandemic were the most regular participants at meetings. And they’ve generally been the quickest to return to face-to-face meetings as we’ve reopened.

By all means use technology to complement what we do but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

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Liz Thackray Chair of the U3A

Tony cautions against throwing out the baby with the bathwater and I agree with him. There are many aspects of U3A which are in a state of flux. In our rebranding, we have dropped our usage of the word ‘university’.

Looking at comments in social media, we should also stop using words such as ‘retirement’, ‘older’ and ‘learning’ and emphasise the social and fun aspects of U3A. The real question is what do we want the U3A to be in the future – what is the baby and what is the bathwater?

U3A members have always exercised their individual preferences, some viewing the large monthly meeting as central to the U3A experience, while others prefer the more intimate atmosphere of an interest group. Some regard technology as an anathema, while for others it is part of daily life. We are all different, and it is our differences that make us interesting – as well as providing the incentive to learn and share new experiences together.

We are social beings. The bedrock of the U3A movement is the interaction between members, the relationships we develop with each other, the activities we participate in together and in which we learn from each other.

However, for some, meeting with others in a large room with many different conversations going on is a challenge – it may be difficult to hear or there may be other reasons that make us uncomfortable in large groups. Currently, we may be worried about Covid, especially if we have underlying health issues.

I have never suggested hybrid meetings should replace in-person meetings. But, like it or not, we have to recognise we are now doing things differently from a couple of years ago – and some of those changes will not go away.

to submit an issue to debate with liz, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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news

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U3A polio survivor is honoured with MBE

Colin Powell, a member of Radlett & District U3A in Hertfordshire, was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2022 New Year’s Honours list for his services to people with polio in the UK and to the criminal justice system, where he served for 32 years as a magistrate.

Colin said: “It’s such a lovely thing. I have never been interested in awards or anything and it just came out of the blue. I just get on with what I love doing.”

Colin caught polio in 1949 when he was just six months old, following a swimming trip with his father. The polio virus attacked his spinal cord and left him paralysed for life.

He spent the first four years of his life in hospital, including a year when he was in plaster from head to toe, to try and make him straighter.

Colin only started his education at age 11 and left school with just one GCE O-Level. Despite that, he qualified as a chartered accountant and, having experienced disability discrimination in the workplace, he set up his own practice.

During lockdown, Colin has raised £11,000 for British Polio Fellowship (BPF), which helps polio sufferers, by giving Zoom talks to various clubs such as Rotary and U3A about his life. When he was appointed a magistrate in 1987, he had to fight for gadgets to enable him to access the courtroom. “They did not think about disabled people at all,” he said.

Colin found being a magistrate, which is an unpaid role, extremely rewarding.He would always take time to explain to the defendant what the sentence was and why. “I would always prefer rehabilitation to punishment, so they don’t come back,” he said.

He says it is a great honour to receive an MBE and his only sadness is that he could not share it with his wife, Anne, who died of cancer in 2017. Colin joined U3A with Anne and they enjoyed going on outings. “U3A was extremely accommodating for me,” he said.

  • To book a Zoom talk by Colin, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Non-executive directors needed for U3A trading arm

The Third Age Trust’s trading arm, TATTL, looks after many Trust activities, including TAM, Beacon, and brand merchandising. It also has responsibility to develop a digital strategy for the Trust and U3A movement.

The Board of TATTL is made up of directors drawn from the Third Age Trust Board and three independent non-executive directors (NEDs), including the Chair. TATTL is looking to add at least one and possibly two new NEDs from this summer. 

Chair Clive Grace said: “We are keen to have applications from people who are part of, and committed to, the U3A movement, who are from diverse backgrounds and who have a good commercial sense. The TATTL Board is collegiate and amiable, as well as very hard-working.”

  • If you are interested in joining the Board, email Clive at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ideally by early March.

Colin raised £11,000 during lockdown for polio sufferers

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what’s on

The U3A runs free online learning events, from talks to courses. For more information, go to U3A.org.uk/events/educational-events

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Exploring World Faiths

Wednesday, 23 February, 10am. What do spiritualists believe and how do they practise their faith?

Spiritualism is formally recognised as a religion with 300 churches and is a member of the Interfaith Network.

Find out more from Julia Almond, officiant of the Spiritualists National Union and founder member of Garforth, Kippax & District U3A.

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Lent and Ramadan

Monday, 21 March, 10am.

Hear about the differences and the similarities from active Christian Bernie Morton and Mahmooda Qureshi, regional coordinator of the Faith and Belief Forum.

  • For more information on either of these events, email Dr Peter Rookes, National Subject Adviser, Exploring World Faiths, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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lifestyle

personal stories, recipes, crafts, travel and more …

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Downton Abbey cook and the Covid dog detectives

Lesley Nicol, who plays cook Beryl Patmore in Downton Abbey, is an ambassador for Medical Detection Dogs, which are trained to sniff out diseases such as Parkinson’s and Covid. With a new Downton film out soon, she takes us behind the scenes and tells us about her love for dogs

Lesley walking her dogs, Bertie, left, and Freddie

Lesley Nicol is well-known to Downton Abbey fans as the rather strict but warm-hearted cook Beryl Patmore and her motherly relationship with her assistant, Daisy.

With a passion for dogs, Lesley is also ambassador for the charity Medical Detection Dogs, which are being trained to sniff out Covid-19 in public places, such as workplaces and events.

The charity also trains Medical Alert Assistance dogs, which help their owners manage a range of complex and potentially life-threatening conditions.

Lesley became aware of the charity while walking her own dogs in a park and spotted them being walked in their red coats. She had never heard of medical detection dogs and was astonished to discover they can detect illnesses such as cancer or can sense when a diabetic is about to suffer a hypo, when the blood glucose levels drop suddenly, and alert them so they can take action.

“I once saw a little boy playing football on the pitch and his dog from the sidelines could smell something was coming, ran onto the pitch with his kit in his mouth, gave it to the boy so he could take his insulin or whatever it was, and that was it, job done,” she says.

“His parents told me that they used to get up many times in the night just checking on him because they were so frightened, but now the dog comes to them in the night and will wake them up.”

Dogs work with people with a range of conditions, including Type 1 diabetes, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), Addison’s disease and severe allergies.

“What I love about it is that none of these dogs are made to work,” says Lesley. “For example, there was a dog called Patmore, a beautiful poodle. She was in training but it turned out it wasn’t her thing. It’s got to be something the dog wants to do.”

The dogs are trained in Milton Keynes, where they are taught to sniff out scents on metal stands.

“The dogs get rewarded with whatever they love – to play, a biscuit or a toy – so of course they love doing it. So they walk around and around and as soon as they sniff the cancer, they sit down and get their reward.”

Lesley has two dogs – Bertie, a 15-year-old Tibetan terrier, and rescue poodle Freddie, who is about 12.

“When I got Bertie, I wasn’t aware of the rescue issue and how many are perfectly fine, they just don’t have a home, they’ve just been dumped or whatever,” she says. “So I really wanted to rescue a dog, and Freddie came later. I will probably rescue in the future. People worry that rescue dogs might be problematic but there are so many reasons a dog is abandoned.”

Lesley has recently been filming Downton Abbey: A New Era, which is released next month. In real life, Lesley and Sophie McShera, who plays Daisy Mason, forged a special friendship which has gone beyond filming to the extent that Sophie calls Lesley and her husband her ‘telly mum and dad’.

Lesley and Sophie hit it off from the very first day of filming the TV series, which ran for 52 episodes from 2010 to 2015. Arriving on set, someone pointed out to Lesley who Sophie was, as they would be playing opposite each other.

Lesley says: “I looked down the corridor and Sophie was wearing what I can only describe as a trailer trash coat – and I had the same coat on! And I thought, oh, that’s a good sign! And we hit it off from the very beginning. We had a lot of fun working together and Julian [creator and co-writer Julian Fellowes] gave us a lot of fun to do. I think he developed that relationship in a very different way from what he thought it would be in the first place because he picks up what people’s strengths are, and he does that for all the characters.” As the relationship developed between Lesley and Sophie, the roles evolved into a mother-and-daughter situation.

Lesley was delighted to land the role of Mrs Patmore opposite Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, and Dame Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

“I was thrilled to be in something with Maggie Smith. That seemed pretty exciting,” says Lesley. “Sadly, my dad died before this happened, because he would have loved it. As a family, we had watched Brideshead Revisited – we were addicted to it. All I remember thinking is that if Downton Abbey is anything like the quality of Brideshead, I will be thrilled to bits. But no one had a clue it would be so successful.

“We all get asked why we think it was so successful but we really don’t know. We can say it’s the good stories or there’s enough characters so you might like one and not another, but no one really knows. Julian says if he knew the answer, he would write a string of them!

“It was lucky this cast gelled like it did because that doesn’t always happen. Sophie and I could have loathed each other on sight and then it would be, ‘I’m not so happy going to work today’. But it was never like that.”

Lesley had to do her own research to create Mrs Patmore’s character.

“What good writers do is they give you something and you try to figure out why the character is like that,” she says. “When I got the part, Mrs Patmore was shouting a lot and you think, why is she like that? So you gather clues. We had a historical adviser who explained that if she seems stressed or hot-tempered, it’s because the stakes are really high – she’s under pressure. She cannot serve a rotten meal at Downton Abbey. She’s got to deliver and she can’t have anyone messing up. So you think okay, her job is pretty stressful.”

So the new Downton film is out next month. Can Lesley reveal any secrets?

“You know I can’t, but a good try,” she laughs. “What I can say is that there’s definitely romance, there’s drama and it’s funny, and it’s going to look rather beautiful. All the old favourites are there – every one of the original people are there. And it was just lovely to be with everybody again. It just feels like family. We did it for six years and a lot of us are still in touch anyway. It’s as easy as anything to get back into it. The only thing is it doesn’t go on long enough for me – because, of course, we used to do it for months and this is a matter of weeks. It puts a smile on everyone’s face, that’s for sure.”

The film is set at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, while the downstairs area is a set. “It looks totally the same,” she says. “I am always amazed they can do that, but they can.”

Lesley has just finished a one-woman show, How The Hell Did I Get Here?, in the US, where she lived from 2015 to 2020, and has plans for more shows this year. And Downton 3? “We’d all be very happy if that happened, but it all depends how this one goes, of course,” she says. “I hope people are comfortable to go to the cinema again by then.”

She adds: “What I really love is that Downton has given me the opportunity to support things like Medical Detection Dogs, and that feels like you are doing something really good.” l

Lesley as Mrs Patmore with Daisy, played by Sophie McShera, in a scene from Downton Abbey:A New Era, out next month

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Covid detection dogs

The dogs are being taught to recognise the unique odour that the disease gives off in a similar way that they detect drugs or bombs at airports by sniffing the air around the person.

The dogs make a very clear indication to their handlers when they find the odour of the virus and then they get a reward – usually a beloved tennis ball.

The training involves using dogs to sniff out the virus on clothing such as T-shirts and socks that have been worn by people with Covid. The trial revealed that dogs, with their incredible sense of smell, could be trained to sniff out Covid on people with 94 per cent accuracy.

Now the dogs are training at workplaces, in conferences and other large events.

The dogs live with foster families and go to work each day with their trainer. There are around 20 in training but this number is growing.

The Covid trials started soon after the pandemic began in March 2020, when three experts from Medical Detection Dogs, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University, who had been working on a project to use dogs to detect malaria, suggested it could be done with the virus.

Medical Detection Dogs have also been trained to detect cancers, including prostate, and Parkinson's disease.

It is hoped these trials will lead to the development of an artificial dog’s nose that detects prostate cancer in urine samples and could be available in every GP’s consultation room.

As soon as they sniff the cancer, they sit down and get their reward

Treat time for Bertie and Freddie. Right: MedicalDetection dog Storm in training

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Medical Alert Assistance Dogs

These dogs are changing the lives of children and adults who are at risk of sudden collapse from conditions such as Type 1 diabetes, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), Addison’s disease and severe allergies.

With 350 million sensors in their nose (a human has just 5 million), dogs can detect minute changes in a person’s body odour ten minutes before they are about to have an episode, allowing them vital minutes to keep themselves safe.

For 14-year-old cricketer Tom, who has Type 1 diabetes, it means being able to play his favourite sport and go to sleepovers, knowing that his dog, Grace, will keep him safe. His condition means he can suffer up to eight hypos a day, some taking an hour to recover from. This meant he had to have constant blood tests, which his mother Sarah says left him feeling ‘rubbish’. Grace, a Labrador cross, alerts Tom to changes in his blood sugar levels, meaning he can take action to reduce the severity of the hypos. Sarah says: “As parents, we are more relaxed about diabetes. We sleep better at night.” For Tom, having Grace means he can get on with being a teenager.

Tom and Grace

To find out more about medical assistance dogs, visit medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk

Below: Lesley with Martin Shaw in the BBC’s Inspector George Gently. Right: Accepting the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series at the 22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, 2016

Downton has given me the opportunity to support things like Medical Detection Dogs, and that feels like you are doing something really good

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recipes

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Eating well to age well

food by beverley jarvis

Cookery writer Beverley Jarvis, of Ashford, Wye & District U3A, shares two quick, tasty and nutritious recipes from her new book, Eat Well To Age Well. There’s also the chance to win your own copy

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Avocado and chicken bake

Serves 1

Although most people are more familiar with avocados eaten cold, they are equally delicious baked in the microwave or conventional oven. In my opinion, they taste even more nutty and creamy when eaten warm. As an alternative to chicken, try cooked prawns or flaked, canned tuna fish.

50g cooked chopped chicken thigh or breast meat

50g freshly made brown breadcrumbs

1 tbsp Greek-style natural yoghurt

1 tbsp freshly chopped tarragon or parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large ripe avocado, halved

Juice ½ lemon

25g parmesan cheese, grated

TO SERVE

2 tsp crème fraîche; handful parsley sprigs, chopped

1 Put the chicken into the mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs and yoghurt, stir in the herbs with a seasoning of salt (keep to a minimum) and pepper.

2 Brush both halves of the avocado flesh with lemon juice and wrap one half to chill in the fridge for use in a salad the following day.

3 Fill the remaining avocado half with the prepared filling.

4 Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

5 Put the filled avocado half in a microwaveable avocado dish, then stand the dish on a dinner plate.

6 Microwave, uncovered, on high for 2½-3 minutes. Serve immediately with the crème fraîche and parsley.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE

Unsaturated fats in avocados can help lower cholesterol. The chicken contributes significantly towards your RDI for protein. The breadcrumbs provide carbohydrate and fibre.

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Sweet jacket potatoes with smoked mackerel, horseradish and parsley

Serves 2

Sweet potatoes cook quickly in the microwave and can be counted as one of your seven-a-day. I often serve them for a quick lunch, straight from the microwave, with just some crumbled feta cheese and a dressed, mixed salad with a sliced kiwi fruit and some chopped dates added.

2 medium-size sweet potatoes, washed and dried

Spray oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

75g smoked mackerel fillet, skinned

3 tbsp Greek-style natural yoghurt

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp horseradish sauce

1 dsp freshly chopped parsley

TO SERVe

A dressed, mixed salad

1 Score a cross in the top of each potato you wish to cook.

2 Stand the potatoes, spaced apart, on a dinner plate and spray them all over with a little spray oil and season with salt and pepper.

3 Microwave them, uncovered, on high for 5-6 minutes for one potato or 8 minutes for two.

4 Set aside for 4 minutes.

5 Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In the mixing bowl, mash together using a fork, the mackerel fillet with the yoghurt, lemon juice and horseradish sauce. Add the parsley and fork in.

6 Serve the opened jacket potato(es) with the mackerel filling divided between them, accompanied by the salad.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE

A good source of fibre, and providing approximately six per cent of your daily requirement for carbohydrate and four per cent of your daily vitamin C needs, sweet potatoes also provide 10 per cent of the daily requirement for vitamin B6, per 120g. The mackerel and yoghurt contribute significantly towards your daily protein requirement and the mackerel also provides more than the RDI for vitamin D, significant B3 (niacin) and B12, plus the minerals iron, magnesium and selenium. Greek yoghurt contains 121mg calcium per 100g.

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we made it!

William and Christine Kinsella, of Pembrokeshire U3A, baked Beverley’s pineapple upside-down pudding from the Autumn issue of TAM.

Have you tried making Beverley's recipes? Send your photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear from you.

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win!

To win one of three copies of Eat Well to Age Well by Beverley Jarvis, £24.99, published by Hammersmith Health Books, answer the question below and send it by email with your details, including the name of your U3A and your membership number, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by post to Hammersmith Health Books (TAM competition), c/o Annette Neto, Action Group, Fora 35-41 Folgate Street, London E1 6BX.

Closing date 31 March 2022.

Q: How much calcium does Greek yoghurt contain per 100g?

a) 12mg

b) 121mg

c) 1,021mg

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crafts

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Ruffles stitched in softness

The Suffolk puff is an ancient sewing technique that can be used to make pretty accessories or adornments with textured patterns. Here, we show you how to do it

Simple to make from old pieces of clothing or offcuts of fabric from previous projects, the Suffolk puff is a circle of material gathered in on itself to create a smaller, thicker circle. Traditionally sewn together to make a patchwork quilt, today the Suffolk puff is used in a range of crafts and takes only a few minutes to make.

Cotton fabric is ideal to use, since it is lightweight and has a tight weave. Thicker fabrics will not gather up so easily and may appear bulky. Once completed, the puffs can be used to embellish soft furnishings or sewn together to make striking accessories. A little padding can also be added to give the puffs a raised appearance.

Experimentation with colour and size will add to their variety as well as the enjoyment of making them.

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you will need

l Scraps of pretty fabric

l Selection of circular objects to

draw around, such as saucers

and glasses

l Pencil

l Scissors

l Needle and cotton in complementary shades

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How to make a Suffolk puff

A circle of fabric is cut to the desired size. A large running stitch is sewn around the circle rim with a needle and thread, folding the edge in towards the wrong side of the fabric as it is sewn and leaving both long ends of thread once finished. The needle is set aside and the thread ends pulled gently to gather up the fabric. These are then tied together to secure, making a gathered pouch, which is then pressed flat to make a gathered circle. A small piece of wadding can be added to give a raised effect or a decorative centre sewn over the middle of the puff. Experimenting with circle sizes will create an array of different puffs. The circle will be approximately double the diameter of the finished puff.

Richard Faulks / Project by LandScape magazine

  • This feature was first published in LandScape magazine. LandScape magazine celebrates the best of Britain’s seasons, exploring our countryside, wildlife and heritage, and bringing you simple crafts, tempting recipes and beautiful gardens. Filled with stunning photography and informative features, LandScape magazine guarantees you an inspiring read from start to finish. New issue every month in shops or subscribe today at greatmagazines.co.uk/U3A

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Rosette brooch

A piece of fabric with a diameter of approximately 7in (18cm) is used to make the larger puff. A second, smaller puff is made using a 5in (12cm) diameter circle of fabric. The two puffs are sewn together using a contrasting running stitch. A smaller circle of fabric, felt or decorative button is then sewn over the centre of the smaller puff. Contrasting ribbon is sewn to the back of the rosette and a safety pin attached so that it can be worn as a brooch on clothing.

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Circles necklace

Varying sizes of Suffolk puff are sewn together to make a soft, eye-catching necklace. Clustering smaller puffs around a central larger one creates a pleasing arrangement, and time can be spent experimenting with contrasting colours and sizes. Choosing fabric colours that complement one another, such as different shades of blue, gold and yellow, creates a harmonious effect. Once finished, two lengths of ribbon or binding are attached to tie the necklace.

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Floral stems cushion

A plain cushion is transformed when it is embellished with delicate floral Suffolk puffs in a range of pastel shades. Sewn to a cushion cover with a contrasting top stitch, some also have a coloured central disc. Buttons or circles of fabric can be used for the centre of the flowers, but consideration should be given to the type of button, as this could cause discomfort when sitting against the cushion. Simple leaves of green felt are sewn and stems added by overstitching scraps of green yarn with a slightly darker shade of green thread. The stems can be straight or curved to give the impression of flowers swaying in the breeze.

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opinion

Liz thackray: view from the chair

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Making plans for the future as U3A turns 40

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the U3A in the UK. Elsewhere in TAM there is information about our anniversary plans and the U3A website carries regular updates. No doubt most of us have memories of other 40th anniversaries in our lives. So-called landmark birthdays are regarded as a time for reflection on the past, celebration and reassessment and an opportunity to make plans for the future. This is as true for organisations as in our personal lives.

The U3A movement has much to celebrate. The initial handful of U3As has grown to more than 1,000 local organisations. The current membership of 400,000 or so makes the U3A the 17th largest membership organisation in the UK.

Over the years, we have overcome a number of challenges. Many discussions from the early days sound familiar to us today. Our founders were educationalists with a vision of the U3A as a learning organisation where each member had something to learn and something to share. They were perhaps a little taken by surprise by the range of activities, forms of learning and importance of social interaction evident in the embryonic U3A.

In the current strategy review, there is debate over whether ‘learning’ is the most appropriate way to describe our activities or whether the focus should be more on social interaction. Other early discussions centred on whether there should be a minimum age for membership and how to fund the office. There are some changes in language; our founders spoke freely of ‘older people’ and ‘retirement’, labels which some now question.

A debate then, as now, was whether U3As should be involved in campaigning activities. Our founders were clear that the movement should have a voice in public policy discussion and the Trust is developing guidance on what is, or is not, permissible.

The 1980s was a time of change for the voluntary sector. Previously charitable bodies were primarily involved in providing services, but new organisations were emerging with a focus on enabling disadvantaged people to have their voices heard. Much current-day equality legislation has its roots in the racial equality, disability and women’s rights movements. People were raising their voices to say what kind of society they wanted to live in. The emerging U3A movement provided a way, then as now, for older people to have a say and to demonstrate that no longer being in full-time employment was, and is, no deterrent to organising our own lives and activities.

It is that same spirit that has brought us through the past two years as so many of us have developed new skills in using technology and have found ingenious ways of keeping our activities and friendships alive.

The world we live in today is not the same as that of the 1980s as we face different challenges. We are all aware of other organisations competing with us to attract new members. Although we may (fingers crossed) be moving out of the worst effects of the pandemic, we still face the global threat of climate change and other challenges beyond our control.

As we turn 40, like any 40-year-old, it is time to take stock of what we have achieved and make plans for the future, making whatever changes are necessary to ensure we are just as vital when we reach our next landmark birthday as we are today.

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The good, the bad and the ugly of National Service

Eric midwinter: u3a founder

Some 80 years ago, National Service began to fade. It was the National Service Act of 1948 that had obliged all those aged 17 to 21 to serve for 18 months, later two years, in the Armed Forces. National Service continued for about 12 years, meaning that, in the main, all surviving recruits must now be in their 80s or over. More than 2 million young men were called up, some of them serving in action in Cyprus, Malaya, Kenya and Korea.

Having studied various compilations of National Servicemen’s memories, I have formed the opinion that, for many, the experience embraced 12 weeks or so of arduous and sometimes uncomfortable basic training and 15 or 21 months of relative boredom and wasted time. It was the initial culture shock that figured most vividly in the memory, with all the rites of square-bashing, bulling boots and polishing brasses.

The outstanding caricature in these remembrances was the non-commissioned officer, be he corporal, sergeant or sergeant major. They were the figures of terror. For our generation, it was a shared experience and, for some time, it was a conversational gambit, should you meet a stranger of contemporary age, to exchange lurid ‘tales of the expected’ horrors of NCOs on the warpath.

I went straight from school into the army, as my university insisted on those studying the humanities to soldier on first. Those doing engineering or medicine, for instance, went straight to college, so that they might later practise their wiles on the innocent troops.

The impact of army life on the callow sixth former was substantial. I suspect I learned more in three weeks in a barrack room than I did in three years at university. To be fair, after what in my case was six months’ training, the rest was comparatively tranquil.

Still, I did have my sergeant major story like everyone else. Some readers may recall the BBC comedy series It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum, telling of the trials and tribulations of an army concert party in India. It starred Windsor Davies as Sergeant Major ‘Shut Up’ Williams. I was fascinated by his brilliant portrayal. In strident tone, blustering style, demeaning yet somehow insecure attitude and, most intriguing, actual verbal content, it was the exact replica of one who had haunted my life in training.

Writing about the show in the music hall and variety magazine The Call Boy, I included a reference to this comparison. An alert reader, with whom I am now acquainted, wrote to me and later included a relevant note in the magazine. He informed me that I was not mistaken. Windsor Davies had undergone the same training course with the self-same sergeant major. My informant had been a regular soldier at this base and knew him well.

Was National Service ‘a good thing’? Certainly, for some decades afterwards, the cry of ‘bring back National Service’ rent the anxious air whenever there was youth-centred trouble. I was amused to hear the phrase twice in vastly differing situations. One was having drinks with Ken Dodd when he had generously done a charity show for the children, teachers and parents of the schools in down-town Liverpool where I was running a project for socially disadvantaged pupils. His driver-cum-accompanist weighed in with that sombre thought. The other was when representing Michael Young, co-founder of U3A, at a Mansion House dinner in London, presided over by the then prime minister Jim Callaghan. This time, it was the top man at one of Britain’s best-known retail companies who wanted to invoke National Service again.

It all leaves me wondering how many other post-war conscripts are still marking time in U3A groups.

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sources

for more inspiring stories, visit sources.u3a.org.uk

a yearn to learn. in each issue, we showcase learning projects and subjects to inspire and educate

cop26 focus

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U3A takes a stand at climate conference

U3A was given a voice at the COP26 international conference on climate change in Glasgow last November

Around 30 members of the Trust U3A Countdown to COP26 group travelled to Glasgow for the conference, where they were given space to hold workshops in an electric bus.

The U3A was invited by the action group Climate Reality, which was founded by former US Vice President Al Gore to educate the world about climate change. Climate Reality offered U3A a free meeting space and a specially equipped electric bus in which to hold their workshops during the conference. 

Through the workshops, U3A members started to thrash out what was meant by ‘intergenerational climate action’ and came away convinced that this is an area to work on further. Brenda Ainsley, joint leader of the Trust U3A Countdown to COP26 group, said: “All the Climate Reality events in Glasgow had a theme of Climate Justice, with a strong thread running throughout which was to provide a diverse range of viewpoints, including those of older people.”

The Countdown to COP26 group held four workshops for U3A members and the public to learn more about intergenerational climate action and explore how older members of the community can work with and support younger people as they seek ways to address the climate emergency. 

Brenda said it was often concern for children or grandchildren that motivated older people to get involved with climate action. “Just how to support younger people is not always clear. Discussion in the workshops helped some of us to learn more and to clarify this.” Intergenerational climate action is a topic that members of the Trust U3A Countdown to newly named COP27 group hope to explore this year.

Highlights for U3A members included women activists from sub-Saharan Africa talking about grassroots action on the front line of the climate crisis and a Moroccan farmer who had lost his livelihood to desertification caused by prolonged drought through climate change.

U3A members also joined 100,000 activists from across the globe on a Climate Justice march through Glasgow, demanding action on climate change.

Brenda was interviewed twice while in Glasgow and again back at home, while Clive Teague was featured in his local newspaper.

Brenda said: “The buzz was inspirational. Several members felt a sense of ‘stubborn optimism’ despite disappointments about the final Glasgow Pact. The commitments coming out of COP26 are at least moving us in the right direction to meet the 1.5-degree target.”

Ann MacGarry said: “I feel our focus must be on our Government’s persistent support of fossil fuels and its failure to do the obvious.”

  • A host of information about the group’s visit to COP26 is available on its website, including a podcast by Irish octogenarians Frank Dorr and Eileen Lynch, who explore international climate action in more detail. Go to sites.google.com/view/countdown-to-cop/home

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Reasons why U3A members became involved in the fight to beat climate change

Trust U3A Countdown to COP26 members tell how they became concerned about climate change and what they are doing about it

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turning vegetarian

As a teenager, Eleanor Brookes, of White Cliffs Country U3A in Kent, horrified her parents by becoming vegetarian after caring for the cows on a farm.

“I could not believe the conditions veal calves were kept in and I loved cows,” she says. “I backed up my emotional response with logic: how much more efficient would our food production be if we were plant-based? My dad said it was just a fad, but 40 years on, a vegetarian life has suited me well.

“My mother also became vegetarian. When I had children, I raised them as vegetarians although I know my mother-in-law sneaked them meat when I wasn’t looking.

“I try to buy local produce. I grow much of our food and at times have had an allotment. Since reading Silent Spring by Rachel Carson [1962], I have been aware of pesticides and their impact on wildlife, but I am increasingly aware of the need to return to organic principles for our agriculture. I am finally paying more to buy organic.

“A few years ago, my daughter Lucy became a vegan, not for animal compassion reasons but because of the overwhelming evidence that cutting meat production will help lower our carbon footprint.

“Being vegan should bring down our carbon footprint but eating grapes or asparagus flown in from abroad can be more carbon intense than eating fish caught in the UK or drinking British cow’s milk. I revise what I eat according to new evidence, finding a balance between what is good for our world and what I can manage.”

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experiencing famines

Peter Homes’ climate journey began in the early 1970s. Peter, of Helensburgh & District U3A, was working for a UN agency in Ethiopia in 1973 when he went on a private tour of the northern provinces with two colleagues, returning through Wollo Province, where the first major Ethiopian famine of 1973/74 was beginning.

“As we drove along, we saw increasing numbers of starving children on the roadside begging for food. When we eventually reached a town, we were able to buy bread to help some of the children we saw. The famine was not known at that stage by the outside world but within a few weeks British film crews made powerful documentaries on the ‘hidden famine’ in Ethiopia and it became world news.

“It gave me first-hand experience of what drought and famines can be like for local people and it set me on a journey of greater awareness of the fragility of our agricultural and food systems, especially in poor countries.”

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Heat intolerance

Extreme and changing weather is a concern for Hazel Earwaker, of Redbridge & District U3A, as she is heat-intolerant.

“I must stay out of temperatures above 25°C,” she says. “This used to be easy in drizzly, overcast Britain, with its dappled sunlight and the occasional sun scorcher. But now extreme temperatures are increasing, lasting and humid: I’m imprisoned indoors sometimes for days trying to keep my body temperature regulated.

“My situation helps me to understand how people will feel who live in places where rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns are going to ruin their homelands and make basic living difficult or impossible.”

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Green activist

Eddie Phillips, of Ayr U3A, became a green community activist in 2011. Over a couple of years, he distributed more than 2,000 energy-saving lightbulbs, attended schools in East Renfrewshire to talk on the environment, oversaw an orchard being planted, ran two well-attended mass events, produced a short video on food waste and improved local recycling rates to be the best in Scotland. “I still thought that it was not enough, never enough,” he says.

“We need to change how we act, act now and never give up the job of protecting the planet.”

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Going green is easier than you think

Jim Osgerby, of Odiham District U3A, shares some of the ways he has gradually made positive changes to reduce energy consumption at home and cut his fuel bills by 25 per cent

COP26 ended with some progress being made towards reducing carbon-dioxide emissions to limit the effects of global warming.

However, some people believe there is little they can do as individuals to make a difference to climate change, so there’s no point in reducing their waste, consumption or emissions.

What follows is not a ‘how-to’ guide, nor is it a self-congratulatory ‘what we did to save the world’ piece.

Rather, it’s an attempt to show that there are many things we can do to reduce energy consumption - some that will improve your quality of life or save you money.

About five years ago, my wife and I discovered the Eurail Pass and tried it out on a trip to Venice.

Since then, we have done all our European travel by train and enjoyed it tremendously. Giving up flying was no hardship, as one of us isn’t keen on flying and the other detests the whole airport experience.

At around the same time, partly for ecological reasons and partly for food-quality reasons, we cut beef from our diet, reduced our consumption of other meats and have vegetarian or fish-based meals more than half the time. We buy local produce where possible and have started growing some of our own food; we also home compost as much organic waste as possible.

Lockdown gave us time to research how much greener we could become without reducing our quality of life, and cut our spending tremendously. We began by commissioning an energy-efficiency survey of our house. The advice was to start with small improvements, many of which were the most cost-effective.

This included putting a heavy curtain on the front door to cut out draughts, closing internal doors when the weather is cold and trebling the amount of loft insulation.

Replacing light bulbs with LEDs paid for itself in power-saving in less than a year.

These measures cost less than £500. So far, so good!

We then looked at the bigger projects that were greener but less cost-effective. We decided against cavity wall insulation as the house is a timber-framed construction and already has some insulation. The survey suggested replacing the outdated gas-fired central-heating system, ideally with an air-source heat pump. This was too costly, inconvenient and, we believed, a relatively poor performance.

Instead, we went for a modern condensing combi boiler, replaced some radiators and fitted thermostatic valves on them all.

We set the thermostat to 19°C in the living room, dining room and kitchen, and try to make sure the doors between this core area and the cooler rest of the house are kept closed as much as possible. These measures have reduced our gas consumption by 25 per cent.

We now have 14 solar panels on the roof, which should enable us to generate more power than we need to run the house and charge an electric car. We also fitted a car charger and a storage battery to enable us to maximise the amount of solar generation we use.

Finally, we changed our electricity supplier to one that provides four hours a night of cheap electricity, either to charge an electric car or the domestic storage battery.

We also replaced one of our two cars with an electric one. Electric cars aren’t for everyone but if you can charge at home, the positives outweigh the negatives, such as a quieter, smoother and more relaxing way to travel, as well as savings on running costs.

If you can’t charge at home, the public charging infrastructure may require compromises you find impractical or unacceptable. For the future, we plan to give up our petrol car if or when we have enough confidence in the public charging infrastructure to take 500-mile journeys.

If hydrogen becomes an option for replacing natural gas, we will move to it. If not, we will reconsider an air-source heat pump if and when economies of scale, improved technology or government aid make this viable.

Not everyone would want to do the things we’ve done, but everyone could easily do some of them. If nobody does any of these things, the problem will get worse.

  • For more ideas on how to make changes, visit the website: together-for-our-planet.ukcop26.org/onestepgreener/

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‘Joining Extinction Rebellion changed my life’

Clive Teague, of Trust U3A Countdown to COP26 group and Farnham, and Odiham District U3As, on what motivated him to join climate protests

Just over two years ago, I was invited by friends to a presentation by Extinction Rebellion (XR) and that changed my life. They clearly demonstrated how global temperatures were rising exponentially and where and how greenhouse gas emissions were being produced.

I joined XR Farnham and began changing my lifestyle to reduce my carbon footprint. It was clear to me that most people, governments and businesses did not understand the importance of the climate and ecological emergency. XR had a clear vision of how to alert the world to the fast-approaching climate changes and I soon became involved in marches, banner drops, outreach to the public and occupations to raise awareness.

XR actions generally, but not always, involve some disruption and this is necessary to get the attention that is needed to highlight the messages. In October 2019, having completed a course on non-violent direct action, I joined the action in Whitehall outside Downing Street. Thousands of XR supporters held the streets here and at other places in London to make it very clear that our Government needs to act decisively on this man-made climate-change emergency.

Other actions followed, including ‘die-ins (a peaceful protest where participants lie on the ground), occupations at the Science Museum and entrance blockades at the executive jet terminal, Farnborough Airport. The action at the Science Museum was taken because they were accepting sponsorship from Shell. Professor of Climate Science Chris Rapley CBE resigned from the advisory board shortly afterwards, saying he did not agree with sponsorship by oil and gas companies.

Many U3A members are part of the XR movement. We are ordinary people who realise the seriousness of our situation and want to do more than just talk about it. It would be wonderful if we could just retire quietly and leave the actions to younger generations but the urgency demands that everyone, of all ages, does as much as possible to combat climate change. COP26 showed that many world leaders do understand the situation, but the final communiquê fell well short of what is needed.

As I marched in Glasgow with 100,000 concerned people, many from XR, I felt encouraged and inspired. Our messages are now widely accepted as the truth and I look forward to the time when XR is no longer needed because every government, business and person agrees that we must strive to make the changes that will create a better world.

Left: Clive Teague, on the right, waves his arm during a climate-change protest. Below: The ‘die-in’ at the Science Museum, in which Clive took part

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subject advisers

Are you looking for support to set up or run a group? The U3A has around 80 Subject Advisers who can help you. Each Subject Adviser also has a page packed with useful information AT u3a.org.uk under the ‘Learning’ tab

Find a full ist of where to get help on the Subject Advisers page.

 

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Still learning, still not lonely, despite lockdown

Canterbury & District U3A surveyed its members to find out the benefits of belonging to the movement during lockdown.

“When the Learning not Lonely report was published by the U3A in 2018, no one could have predicted that our lives would be curtailed by Covid,” says Rona Hedges, of Canterbury & District U3A.

“We decided to research members’ activities during lockdown, and their perceived value. Eight focus groups were asked about how lockdown was impacting their lives. This generated a list of activities, such as creative writing, singing, dancing, gardening, baking, painting. Benefits included a sense of purpose, increased use of skills, being ‘given permission’ to spend time doing what one wanted and ‘losing oneself’ in activities.

“Interestingly, activities first taken up in U3A continued. For example, U3A singers were singing online with other groups, and members of U3A art groups drawing with other online groups, so that we could argue that the U3A is responsible indirectly for the benefits of these activities. Lockdown has shone a torch on the benefits of belonging to the U3A and our research has evidenced this.”

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Try something new

Joining U3A is all about new experiences, as Patricia Pearl, of Crouch End & District U3A, has discovered. A member of U3A for three years, Patricia decided to join the birdwatching group in 2020. As an amateur, she says she has learnt a lot in the past few months. “We have some experienced birdwatchers in the group but the majority are beginners and we learn from each other,” she says. “With 10 pairs of eyes, we see more than we would on our own.”

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Patricia's tips

  • Read the signs in the reserve car park, which will often include a list of local bird celebrities to look out for
  • Close your eyes – with practice, you will learn to recognise different species
  • Join a group because you will spot more birds and learn from each other
  • A good bird book will tell you which species to see, where and when
  • Talk to people with binoculars and tell them you are a beginner, as they are likely to be very helpful and share local tips
  • Get an app on your phone to identify birds
  • Watch the birds carefully to see how they behave – how they fly, what habitat they are in, for example
  • Listen to Radio 4’s Tweet of the Day, available on Sounds if you are not up at 5.58am
  • Join a conservation group that protects birds and their habitats so you give something back

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The beginnings of a new U3A

There are more than 1,000 U3As across the country. Trust volunteer Marion Clements has been involved with helping to set up many new ones. Here, she explains the process

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First steps

There are two possible ways of starting a new U3A; one is the ‘cold start’ and the other is by request.

With the cold start, a regional trustee

with help from their team will have identified a suitable place for a new U3A, taking into consideration the proximity (or lack of) other U3As and the suitability of the locality.

Designated Trust volunteers will visit the area to identify suitable venues for the launch meeting and where to advertise it, and to find other interested local people who would like to help. A visit to the local council office often helps, as can popping into a popular coffee shop to spread thword around!

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helpful contacts

Some helpful contacts could be made from these visits and these will be a source of local information as well as a potential launch team.

The other way that a U3A gets set up is by request. This is when a request may have been made to the U3A Office by an interested individual or by a U3A to set up a new U3A in their area.

In this case, the pre-launch team will have some local knowledge and will be able to advise the Trust volunteers of suitable places for advertising, such as shop windows where posters can be displayed; council notice boards; doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries; local Facebook sites or other social media; local radio and newspapers.

Importantly, a date for the launch must avoid clashes with other locally popular groups.

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The launch meeting

The launch meeting is chaired by the Trust volunteer. The agenda opens with ‘housekeeping’ information such as fire exits etc., and a welcome. The Trust volunteer explains what U3A is and members of local U3As talk about what it is like to belong to U3A.

The regional trustee gives an outline of the national picture before taking questions from the floor. A tea break follows, with time for questionnaires to be filled in giving contact details, interests and what help, if any, they can give on the steering committee.

The meeting should reconvene after the tea break for any further questions before a vote is taken – do we want a U3A here? If the answer is positive, then a steering group of a minimum of four (chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer) must be formed from among those present. A date is suggested for when the U3A should be ready for inauguration. It is usually possible to form a committee from the steering group at this point. They also need to exchange email addresses and arrange for their first committee meeting.

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The first committee meeting

The Trust volunteers set out the tasks to be done before the U3A can be inaugurated. These include deciding on a name for the U3A, arranging a bank account and nominated signatories, working out a suitable budget and setting a membership fee. The Constitution, which the U3A Office can provide, must be confirmed and signed. These tasks will take several meetings but not all will require Trust volunteers to be present. The U3A Office and the regional trustee will be kept informed of the progress.

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The inaugural U3A meeting

There will usually be an introduction by the Trust volunteers and regional trustee, which will cover the same information as at the launch because it is hoped that there will be more attendees who hadn’t been at the launch meeting.

Potential members will have to pay their first membership fee to join interest groups. Members who have volunteered to convene interest groups will be able to sign up members to their groups.

The committee member responsible for speakers at the monthly meetings will give details of the first monthly meeting.

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travel

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1,026 miles on shopping bikes

Edinburgh U3A’s Joan Cutting and Aled Owen took on the Land’s End to John o’Groats cycle challenge last summer. Here, Joan recounts their adventure . . .

Thousands cycle from Land’s End to John o’Groats every year, but not all couples doing it add up to 135 years in age and ride sit-up-and-beg shopping bikes. Christina Mackenzie completed the 839-mile route in a record-breaking 51 hours, five minutes and 27 seconds last July, a few weeks before we set off, while most people do it in 10 to 14 days. However, we wanted to savour the sights and planned to take 26 days. Why did we do it at all? We like challenges.

Aled spent weeks planning our 1,020-mile route along lanes, canals and disused railways. We had a couple of short 20-something-mile days to allow for the hills of Devon and Cornwall, before ramping up to 40- then 50-mile days. That planning worked well with the short hilly and longer flat days. He booked up all accommodation in advance.

To prepare, we went on all the Edinburgh U3A Cycling Group day rides and did three four-day rides on our own. Our frequent grind home from Edinburgh city centre, which includes a 600-foot ascent, must have helped. We bought padded shorts, a padded saddle, waterproof saddlebags and non-puncturable tyres.

Aled rigged up lines on our seat posts and carriers, so we could have our washing flapping out behind! During the ride, we had no major aches and pains, there were only four tired days, and only three minor falls with scraped knees.

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Week one

Land’s End to Tiverton. At the start, we had the obligatory photo taken – £10.75. We’d dreaded the hills of the West Country, but they weren’t bad. We dismounted three times and two of those were when hills suddenly presented themselves around a bend. The pasties in one of the many ‘Oldest Cornish Pasty Makers in the World’ helped. We got drenched to the skin on several days, even with waterproofs; our trainers squelched and our brakes squealed. Our wettest day must have been Day 5 from the aptly named Sheepwash to Tiverton. We set off in a downpour, riding through several inches of water.

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Week two

Tiverton to Garstang. Long, straight roads took us across the Somerset Levels in the sun to scrumpy and cheddar rarebit in medieval Axbridge. After that, it was motorways, liners, cranes and power stations. We were tried and tired by the muddy puddles, low bridges, steep cobbled ascents at locks and bike-unfriendly stiles, so ditched half our clothes, our books and the Thermos and posted them home.

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Week three

Garstang to Edinburgh. We were rewarded by a change of scenery: crimson heather-clad craggy hills and dry-stone walls, with tourism the main industry. Once into Scotland, we were soon climbing in the misty border hills and spinning through pretty villages.

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Week four

Edinburgh to John o’Groats. This section was breathtakingly beautiful wild mountains in glorious sunshine and clear blue skies. Sweeping down the dramatic glens at Drumochter and then finally meeting the rugged north coastline with its white sands had me weeping in awe. Dawdling across the immense open basin edged by distant hazy mountains had Aled shouting over and over, “This is lovely!” Then we turned the corner to John o’Groats, with its rather tawdry tourist shops and little else, took a piccie by the sign, and that was that. We continued to Duncansby Head for a sight worthy of the culmination of our ride, with its sea stacks and soaring cliffs.

An interesting aspect of the ride was the journey through our industrial heritage. From the tin mines of Cornwall, past the Somerset lime kilns to the coal pits of the Black Country and factories of the Potteries, all were connected by railways and canals, now sources of leisure rather than toil.

Another thing that struck us was the social differences along the way; the beautifully kept thatched cottages of Devon and the picturesque Tudor mansions of Gloucestershire contrasted with the sprawling housing estates of Salford. Some towns were clearly so much more affluent than others, emphasising the social divide. We realised how lucky we were to be able to take 26 days out of our lives and afford to eat out and stay in a hotel every day for a month. Also interesting were the changing accents as we came up the country.

It was wonderful meeting our friends along the way. One drove us from Penzance station to Land’s End; those in Gloucester, Droitwich and Dunfermline had lunch with us; others near Carlisle and Biggar had dinner with us. We cycled with a friend into Stirling, with another into Edinburgh; we were joined by the Edinburgh U3A Cycling Group, who’d kindly turned out in the pouring rain to accompany us from Edinburgh to within sight of the iconic Forth Bridge; and yet another friend cycled with us at the end and then drove us back to Edinburgh. The friends and family messaging us every day on Facebook motivated us to keep going.

Through all this, I learned the basic rule of cycling is “If you’re struggling to climb a hill, a) change down a gear, b) if you’re already in the lowest gear, it’s time for cake, c) if you’ve already had cake that day, it’s time for bitter shandy.”

Well, we did it, proving that, with a bit of preparation and determination, LEJOG is within the capability of most people. l

Joan at the Pass of Drumochter

Members of Edinburgh U3A Cycling Group turned out in the rain to accompany Joan and Aled on part of their long journey from one end of the country to the other

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fashion

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Hats off to you!

The ladies try a creation at Sean Barrett’s workshop

Members of Trust U3A Fashion (Hybrid) Group met Downton Abbey milliner Sean Barrett, writes Jill Hensher, of Haxby & Wigginton U3A

Group leader Ruth Lancashire had been trying to arrange a meeting with Sean Barrett for three years and he was certainly worth waiting for!

Sean has just finished work on the upcoming second Downton Abbey:A New Era film and has been involved in the series from the start, where he said work is often at ‘breakneck speed’. Occasionally, he may be sent only a piece of fabric or trim plus an idea of what the outfit will be, for example ‘tea with aunt’. He then has to design and make a hat to match. 

He revealed that some celebrities do not like trimmings such as peacock feathers on a hat as they can be considered unlucky, as is the colour green or bringing lilacs indoors. Sean sources his trimmings from places such as London’s Portobello Market, online markets and saves anything that catches his eye as unusual and can be used later.

The Duchess of Cambridge is apparently a big fan of Downton and, following a visit to the set, Sean was asked to make some hats for her, which ‘he was delighted to do’, and visited Kensington Palace for the fittings.

Sean has also worked on Peaky Blinders, Gentleman Jack and Netflix series The Crown, where he made a copy of the hat the Queen wore at Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding, and films including Mamma Mia! and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Despite the busy demands for his work, he likes to do it all himself in his small workshop at home and only occasionally will have some assistance.

It was a fabulous afternoon with a fascinating, interesting, humorous but very modest man.

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life story

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Keeping people moving is what I’m passionate about

Olympian Roger Black was diagnosed with a heart condition aged 11. Here, he tells Joanne Smith how he copes with it and how to stay fit as we age

When Roger Black stood on the Olympic podium next to Michael Johnson to take the silver medal in the 400 metres at Atlanta in 1996, he felt complete. He knew he could not have done any more and, despite the gold medals he has won at World and European championships, it remains the highlight of his career. Not bad for a lad from Gosport in Hampshire who, aged 11, was diagnosed with a leaky heart valve that he still has today.

Atlanta was ten years after Roger’s breakthrough into athletics and he’d had many operations and setbacks along the way.

“I knew I wouldn’t go on after that Olympics,” he says. “It’s a tough event but I was prepared, I was ready. But the Olympic final is like nothing else; it’s on a different level. I ran as well as I possibly could at Atlanta but Michael rightly won; he was in a different league. But to just stand on that Olympic podium, knowing I had achieved it and could move on with my life, I was very grateful.”

Roger loved sports as a child and was a naturally fast runner. So when he was diagnosed with a faulty aortic valve following a routine medical check at Portsmouth Grammar School, it was a big shock.

“It was scary,” he says. “I wasn’t allowed to do competitive sport for the first few months at school, which was weird because I was the fastest kid in the school, and I never did cross-country in my life.

“I’ve seen a specialist every year of my life since I was 11, so if anything goes wrong with my heart, I will know about it.”

Roger didn’t start athletics until he was 18, when he took a year out to retake his maths A-Level, and joined Southampton Athletics Club, where he met Kriss Akabusi. He went on to get his maths A-Level and started reading medicine at Southampton University but dropped out after the first term when his athletics career took off.

“I had worked hard to go to university but I had to go for it,” he said. “Athletics seduced me and the thought of maybe winning an Olympic medal was too big to turn down. Until you get into that environment, you don’t know how good you are. I found out quite quickly that I was quite good.

“It happened for me very quickly but my heart condition was always there and it was a real concern because suddenly I was training every day and I was pushing myself, but I tried not to think about it.”

His parents were very supportive and Roger knew that if athletics didn’t work out, he could always go back to medicine.

The only year Roger did not go for his annual heart check-up was in 1996, the year of his last Olympics.

“Every time you walk in the room with the doctor, there is always a chance they will say actually things are changing and you need to back off. In 1996, if they had said you have to stop, I was still going to carry on and go to the Olympics,” he says. Roger is now 55 and exercises every day but does not push himself. He is an ambassador for the British Heart Foundation and is aware he may need a heart operation in the future.

“I’m much more aware of my heart condition now than when I was as an athlete,” he says.

“I’ve gone from Olympic athlete to someone who goes for a 30-minute jog, maybe play tennis or go on the treadmill or bike, but I’m not pushing. People don’t believe me, because they think I am running hard but I am just jogging and enjoying nature.

“My wife and I will jog for as long as we can, then I will just walk. But I will keep moving until I die, there’s no doubt about that.”

Roger says keeping moving is the most important thing, for example walking instead of taking a cab or bus, and that exercising with someone else helps enormously as it provides motivation.

He says he would not have achieved what he did without teaming up with athletes such as Kriss Akabusi and Daley Thompson.

“There’s a great saying in sport by the African runners that if you want to run fast, then run alone; but if you want to run far, then run together,” he says. “I love it when you get little groups of people doing yoga, or keep-fit or walking or running. It’s just more fun if it’s a social thing.”

While Roger’s individual silver Olympic medal is his greatest achievement, the race he is most famous for is winning the 4x400m relay World Championships in Tokyo 1991 with Kriss, Derek Redmond and John Regis, where they came from behind to beat the Americans.

The British team gambled by changing the running order and putting Roger, the fastest, to run the first leg, whereas he would normally run the last. It went to plan – with Kriss, who ran last, getting the baton just behind the American and then just overtaking him on the line to win. “It’s a very famous race and it changed our lives,” he says. “It was four friends running together and it was an amazing race. It went perfectly to plan. It was the only opportunity we had to beat the Americans, they were much better than us.”

Three decades later, the four friends still get together to play golf or do charity events. “We have a stronger bond now,” he said.

Roger is a now a motivational speaker, has his own fitness brand and has done reality TV, coming fifth in series 2 of Strictly Come Dancing, got to the final of the first-ever Celebrity MasterChef, and has recently been on Celebrity Mastermind, Pointless, and Richard Osman’s House of Games.

“For some people, they cannot get outside, so a lot of my customers have folding treadmills or indoor bikes,” he says. “It just allows people to keep moving. I’m very passionate about that.” l

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U3A member offer!

U3A members can get a 10 per cent discount on the full range of Roger Black fitness equipment, including folding and stationary bikes or treadmills, as well as cross-trainers and rowers. Prices start at £159, plus delivery, for a Roger Black folding exercise bike.

Simply use the code ‘U3A10’ at the checkout at rogerblackfitness.com

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fast rewind

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The Isle of Man scooter queens

A few hardy women took on the men on the famous TT circuit in the 1950s, including Diana English, of York U3A

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to motorbikes, much to the amusement of my family, who constantly reminded me that ‘girls don’t ride motorbikes’.

However, in the early 1950s, much to my delight, several auto firms switched their production lines to small, less powerful, lightweight motorbikes which they marketed as ‘motor scooters’. This was like ‘manna from heaven’ for me, as here was a mini motorbike, which was exactly what I was looking for.

Almost overnight they became very popular and sales soared, particularly among the female population. Here was a machine which was manoeuvrable, economical and of the ‘step-through’ design, ideal for girls wearing skirts.

These early motor scooters ticked all the boxes for us girls and they sold like hot cakes. They were easy to operate, with just three gears, front and rear brakes, motor concealed below the driver’s seat, a spare wheel, tool kit, everything!

My first motor scooter was a Lambretta 150cc by Innocenti of Italy, which took me all over Yorkshire and beyond. My sister and I joined the York & District Lambretta Club, which held regular meetings in York’s oldest pub (very handy) where we learned all about maintenance and how to care for our new machines.

We lived in a small village outside York and filled up weekly when petrol was 37p a gallon – those were the days! Similar clubs sprang up in most towns and cities and the International Motor Scooter Rally on the Isle of Man was born. My first year as a competitor was 1958, followed by 1959 and 1960.

The major events of the rally were the 12- and 24-hour reliability trials. Competitors would ride for 12 or 24 hours at a given speed, clocking in regularly at checkpoints. The 12-hour event was for one rider; two riders shared the 24-hour one.

At the start, competitors were despatched at regular intervals from 8pm and needed to complete the course having clocked into all the checkpoints by 8am the next morning. This meant that each competitor covered many laps of the TT course in their 12- or 24-hour event.

The IMS Rally took place annually during the first week of June, so for the first couple of hours it was still light, after which we had to brave six or seven hours of darkness on unfamiliar roads in all weathers, including thick fog in the mountains.

Driving through well-lit towns and villages was quite pleasant but trying to keep to speed in the pitch dark, on hilly terrain with hairpin bends dodging marauding sheep tested our skills.

Roads were closed for the TT races but not for the IMSR, so competitors had to dodge the morning and evening rush-hour and such inconveniences as out-of-control teenagers rolling empty 44-gallon drums into our path. At the end of each 37¾-mile circuit, we checked into the pits to register our times.

I was part of the 12-hour contingent, so on finishing the event I was able to catch up with other competitors all in the same condition – tired, hungry, wet, cold and dirty but happy to have finished the course. Then back to the hotel for a bath and a few hours’ sleep. I achieved a Second Class Award in 1958 and a Third Class Award in 1959, which was all to do with timing/reliability and arriving at checkpoints ‘on the dot’ at pre-arranged times. The trials were called ‘reliability trials’ and most competitors had watches strapped to their handlebars so they could arrive at the checkpoints ‘on the dot’. If competitors were late arriving, points were lost.

All other events took place during the day – speed events, obstacle courses and various ‘trick’ events to test our skills and balance. All in all, an excellent week. Most evenings were spent dancing and generally enjoying ourselves. In 1958, there were 300-plus boys and only a dozen girls, so readers will realise that us girls had a great time – never sitting out at a dance, never short of company – only short of sleep!

I often wonder what the residents of Douglas thought of us, as I doubt that we met their accepted level of behaviour. One boy, who was the captain of the Lambretta Dealer Team, was seen wandering the Douglas promenade leading a horse and dray, calling out via a loud-hailer ‘bring out your dead’, much to the amusement of passers-by. All good, clean fun.

The week ended with a very enjoyable prize-giving for successful competitors where many friendships were formed and many happy memories created.

I also owned a BSA Bantam and a Matchless 500, which my father would have been horrified about had he known. But by then, my sister and I had bought a house of our own and the motorcycles were well hidden!

  • For more information on the Isle of Man Scooter Club, visit iomscooterclub.com

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An ever-moving adventure!

Members of U3A in Kennet’s Classic Car group tell us about their love of driving

“We are a highly enthusiastic and busy group of retirees who love owning and driving classic cars – usually from one pub to another,” says Ashley de Safrin, group co-ordinator. “Many of our events end up with eating a good lunch somewhere! I set up the group as most car clubs cover a wide area and very few events are near to us. A local classic car club seemed to be the answer and our group has really taken off (or at least taken to the road).”

Ashley and his partner Nick Swan own two 1960s classics – a Rolls-Royce and a Mercedes Benz. “During the past 20 years, we have bought and sold other classic cars but these two are ‘keepers’ and we enjoy using them both here and abroad,” adds Ashley.

“Classic car lovers consider their cars part of the family and we nurture them in the same way as family pets!”

Peter Turvey’s rare 1914 15hp Stanley Steamer was an unusual vehicle even when it was new. “With terrific torque and no clumsy gearbox, steam cars outperformed many larger petrol cars and even today our little Stanley’s acceleration and hill-climbing ability surprises people,” he says. “Our U3A car club is a great way to meet a variety of local enthusiasts, as many car clubs are marque- or type-specific and tend to stick to their own.”

Many classic car owners give names to their cars, such as Jeff Hide, who calls his 1964 Morris Minor ‘Baggins’. “Baggins is much-respected, a good old age, but nevertheless adventurous and tough, like the Hobbits. It enjoys the outings with our U3A classic car group, where it fits in with the others,” says Ashley.

David De Saxe says nostalgia is the driving force behind his love of vintage and classic vehicles.

“The pleasure in self-maintaining and driving my small collection is enhanced in the company of like-minded others, and this can be achieved through membership of single-marque or model-specific classic car clubs,” he says. “A local U3A group brings this facility closer to home, with visits to museums, collections, traders and social road or navigational runs arranged by members.”

Ian Ritchie adds: “We organise diverse events each year and it is great to meet up with such a friendly bunch of enthusiasts.”

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brain games

puzzle page - solutions page 82

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crossword

From Bob Rotheram of Arnold u3a

To submit a Crossword, grids should be no bigger than 15 square. email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Quizzes and maths challenges are available online at U3A.org.uk/learning/national-programmes

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Across

8 Light ring in such a lot of cakes ... (4)

9 ... 1 of 10 here with liquor and ice (10)

10 Apollo parts are what The Apollo does (6)

11 'No Taping' order is pathetic (8)

12 Complete agreement could be shop steward's position (2,6)

14 Country where gluttony doesn't end before church (6)

16 Relish starting Zoom every single time (4)

17 For tea, maybe, before one is sick, oddly (5)

18 Come across food in conversation (4)

19 Aim to break cooker. What's to be done? (6)

21 For one girl, following Maggie May ultimately makes things easier to see (8)

23 Desert absorbs a cold dessert, perhaps (8)

26 Ebbing, dangerous tide engulfs whole pier (6)

27 Doing a headstand, accidentally wiped sound (6-4)

28 Row when recipe is lost causes complaint (4)

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Down

1 Jam-packed, four-square calorific cuboid (10)

2 Top of Homer's list, he's obsessed with money (8)

3 Brief periods when baths admit some every second (6)

4 Cry when it's the same card (4)

5 Call setter before uncle limits baked item (8)

6 Fruit that fussy Sloane Ranger learns to leave (6)

7 One Tory who can do no wrong? (4)

13 Used to keep people in suspense at Tyburn (5)

15 The Pensioners' hair style? (7,3)

17 Being experienced, argued differently at first (8)

18 Blended tall foam - it's brown and chewy (4,4)

20 Biblical killer turns up in supplement (6)

22 Make bigger electronic version of Windows Plus (6)

24 Afterthought behind the last two of Cleopatra's horned vipers (4)

25 PM follows 12 (4)

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bridge

From Michael Cleaver, of Lancaster & Morecambe u3a

Elimination

♠ Q109753

♥ 6

♦ KQ10

♣ A108

The Bidding:

S W N E

1♥ 1♠ 4♥ P

The Play:

West leads the ♦K; declarer can count nine top tricks and needs one more.

She wins the opening lead with the ♦A, draws trumps, cashes ♠AK and returns to hand with a trump and trumps her last spade. The time is now right to exit with ♦J.

The defence may cash ♣AK, providing South with her tenth trick, or concede a ruff and discard which will do just as well.

The Principle:

By stripping opponents of their safe cards of exit, declarer can dispose of the lead when the defence are forced to open up a “frozen”suit to her advantage(in this case

clubs) or concede a ruff and discard.

(A frozen suit is one that is disadvantageous to the side that leads it.)

W

♠ AK

♥ J108753

♦ J7

♣ Q43

♠ 862

♥ AKQ94

♦ A9

♣ J52

N

S

E

♠ J4

♥ 2

♦ 865432

♣ K976

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professor rebus

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pitcherwits™

for more professor rebus puzzles visit pitcherwits.co.uk

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Across

5 That woman needs some therapy! (3)

6 Bit of compassion for donkey, please (3)

10 Nice index in your earpiece! (3)

11 Arched overhang at final mistake (7)

12 Produce eggs in action replay (3)

16 Trip to have gone out from (3)

17 With a nod back to University type (3)

1a Athletic? Casting my eye over it (9)

7a Restarted the match while at loggerheads with her twin (5,2)

13a DIY, suckers? (7)

18a Looks square in the eye and accepts (5,2,2)

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Down

2 Romulus and Remus, twins having obligation (4)

3 Bargain event place in Cheshire? (4)

8 Heated, he put it back (3,2)

14 Stringed instrument with money in it, say (4)

15 Spot a quiet, slow leak (4)

1d Thankful, for a load of ash? (8)

4d Rustic compatriot? (10)

5d Topping that's wasted, say? (6,4)

9d Used old towel to become affluent (4,2,2)

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sudoku

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letters

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From heat pumps to electric cars

Having been concerned about global warming for decades, installed cavity-wall insulation in two houses in the 1970s, solar PV panels in 2010 and having run a plug-in hybrid car for six years, I was pleased to see the letters on the subject (Letters, Winter).

It is vital we improve house insulation to reduce heating demand. Although replacing gas boilers with other forms of heating is difficult and expensive, undoubtedly we must stop burning all fossil fuels, including natural gas, in homes and power stations.

Power from solar panels and wind turbines is intermittent, which is why we need to speed up development of electricity storage schemes such as pumped hydropower using a high-density liquid, gravity storage in redundant mine shafts and others.

However, we also need to increase the range of renewable sources – the wider the portfolio, the greater the constancy of supply. It is sad that the Government did not press ahead with the Severn Tidal Barrage, which would have given a large predictable output for 22 hours a day. However, there are other schemes for turbines moored in tidal races. The Orbital Marine Power’s O2 tidal turbine in Orkney went on stream in July and there are proposals for a tidal barrage in Swansea Bay. There is also a gradual pan-Europe cable linkage of renewables such as hydropower in Norway, wind in the UK and solar in Germany, to enable sharing of excess capacity.

Michael Miller, Sheffield U3A

  • Graham Mutlow (Letters, Winter) is spot on in suggesting we need a proper discussion on energy. Too much of what we hear and read about is selective, often deliberately omitting information crucial to a full understanding of the issues. For example, much emphasis is placed on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in electricity generation – which accounts for around a quarter of UK energy needs – while ignoring the fact that there’s been very little change in the other three quarters. When imports of manufactured goods are factored in, the UK is still around 75 per cent reliant on the burning of fossil fuels for all that it consumes.

In 2012, my husband and I built a new three-bedroomed house incorporating solar panels and an air-source heat pump. The solar panels have proved reasonably successful but the heat pump is a disappointment – in fact, a failure in winter when it’s most needed. At 4°C and below, we use the same or less electricity by switching to standard convector heaters. Heat pumps are far from a 'game-changing solution, particularly as they are almost certainly unsuitable for large or poorly insulated properties and those lacking external space.

Hybrid pumps, using heat-pump principles backed up by gas heating in cold weather, are now being promoted. The problem here is that natural gas (methane) will have to be replaced by hydrogen to achieve the aim of decarbonising such systems. As Angela Cotton (Letters, Winter) correctly infers, hydrogen can only currently be produced at a reasonable cost from methane, the process emitting substantial amounts of CO2. The Commons Committee on Climate Change addressed the issue in 2018, concluding that hydrogen could only be considered sufficiently low-carbon to play a significant role if it could be produced using carbon capture. That technology is in its infancy and may never become a reality on the monumental scale required.

Population growth is also a victim of incomplete thinking. GHGs are directly related to wealth: the richest 10 per cent in the world account for 37 per cent of all emissions, whereas the poorest 10 per cent emit just 0.75 per cent. In the carbon-fuelled world we live in, greater prosperity inexorably leads to increased emissions. Unpalatable as it might be, until we decarbonise the world’s economy, spreading global wealth to level up poorer countries with burgeoning populations, as Dick Symonds suggests (Letters, Winter), makes no sense at all.

Future generations will surely despair at our insanity in not slamming the brakes on human-induced growth until such time as the whole sorry mess had been sorted out.

Alison Smith, Wetherby & District U3A, West Yorkshire

  • Graham Mutlow claims that “[electric vehicles are] a very inefficient way to use power, like heat pumps”, and then quotes efficiencies that bear little relation to those in most studies.

A heat pump takes heat energy from the ground or from the air outside a house and ‘pumps’ it into radiators or underfloor heating. A properly designed system can produce 3kWh of useful heat from 1kWh of electrical energy – a coefficient of performance of 3. Another way of looking at this could be to say that the efficiency is 300 per cent. By contrast, the efficiency of a modern gas boiler converting the potential energy in the fuel to heat is typically 90 per cent.

The thermal efficiency of internal combustion engines (petrol or diesel) is generally around 30 per cent when used at their optimum output. But efficiency is significantly less when used at part-power or when idling. This does not reflect on the competence of the designers but is a consequence of the laws of thermodynamics. In comparison, the efficiency of the drive train of an electric vehicle (EV), from the electrical supply, through the battery charger, into and out of the battery, to the motors and thence to the wheels, is around 75 per cent. And, when an EV brakes, the energy goes back into the battery rather than heating up brake discs.

In terms of energy efficiency, both heat pumps and electric vehicles are better than any viable alternative. Neither is a panacea, but they will form essential components of any strategy to meet the UK’s commitment to a net-zero economy.

Roger Kemp, Lancaster & Morecambe U3A, Lancashire

  • We should all be aware of the very real dangers of global warming. What can we do to help? What we could do immediately is to stop using gas-fuelled or electric outdoor heaters, garden chimneys, outdoor log burners, pyramid patio gas flames, fire pits and flares at football matches. I would allow the hospitality industry time to look at more efficient ways of warming outside spaces as they need the flexibility. But in our own back gardens, why not put on a pullover?

Robert Smith, Stroud & District U3A, Gloucestershire

  • In the discussion regarding heat pumps, I am reminded of the quotation from US President Calvin Coolidge: “Doubters do not achieve; sceptics do not contribute; cynics do not create.”

John Drake, Chepstow U3A, Monmouthshire

  • It is good to see so much discussion about important energy topics in recent letters. Angela Cotton (Letters, Winter) is right to raise questions about hydrogen as a universal decarbonisation solution. It really doesn’t make sense to base our long-term sustainable future on a fuel made from natural gas, even if it is ‘blue’ hydrogen with captured carbon.

Hydrogen produced by the electrolysis of water using renewable electricity is ‘green’ but this is a relatively inefficient solution for mass home heating as the production and heat conversion losses divide down the precious renewable energy which is in the end just burnt in a boiler. Conversely, heat pumps significantly multiply up the renewable power to provide the heat with far less energy input. This means the hydrogen route would use more than three times the renewable electricity of an equivalent heat-pump system, which makes a huge difference to the number of wind farms and other power sources needed.

Whilst hydrogen is a valuable and flexible resource that certainly has a place in the wider energy system, it can only ever be more expensive than the electricity used to produce it. Surely it is time to take a long-term view and build systems that are genuinely sustainable for future generations. Yes, there are some challenges, but we must learn to make the best use of heat pumps in our UK homes – there are apparently 40 million already installed across the EU nations.

Jeff Douglas, Redditch U3A, Worcestershire

  • Burning hydrogen is not as straightforward as may be thought. True, the direct combustion product is simply water. However, hydrogen has a very high flame temperature which leads to the production of nitrogen oxides (NOx) when it is burnt in air. So, in the case of domestic boilers, relatively more NOx is produced than from burning natural gas.

These NOx emissions could be cut by fitting extra kit on the exhaust, similar to that used on cars. This kit would need annual checks for compliance, and periodic replacement.

Mike Higton, Woking Area U3A, Surrey

  • Enthusiasts including engineers, mechanics and scientists at Kingsbridge Estuary U3A in Devon have started an Alternative Energy Sources group. We are starting to explore types of transport and ways to heat homes and other spaces. I am sure there must be similar U3A groups investigating the future of power and we would love to make contact. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sarah Howden, Kingsbridge Estuary U3A, Devon

  • Peter Casper asks how we are faring with compostable bags (Letters, Autumn). I’m having difficulty in composting supposed compostable postage bags. I cut mine in strips. Some have been in a wormery for five years and still have not composted. The other compost bins I have are bagged up after about a year and they still have the strips in.

Jan Elliott, Rugby U3A, Warwickshire

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Kindertransport stories

Further to the excellent coverage of the Kindertransport story (TAM, Winter) and the Zoom session which attracted more than 500 members, might I mention the part played by the host families and the recognition given to them by the Czech Foreign Affairs Ministry.

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport, the Czech government generously hosted a splendid event in 2019 at the Czernin Palace in Prague, focusing on the ‘invisible heroes’ who accepted Czech children put on trains by desperate mothers in Prague.

As we had taken into our family a young Czech girl, Ruth Halova, I was invited to receive from the Foreign Minister a ‘Certificate of Recognition’, which named my late parents, Eric and Phyllis, in acknowledgement of their role as a host family in saving the life of a Czech child in 1939.

A moving experience, especially with Ruth, then in her early 90s, sitting there smiling in the audience.

Russell Cleaver, Watford & District U3A, Hertfordshire

  • In your very interesting Winter issue, I was especially drawn to Dame Esther Rantzen’s column about Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued hundreds of children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

Nicky Winton and his wife, Greta, were good friends of my late husband, Mike, and myself in Maidenhead Rotary Club. We were proud to know this modest man who achieved so much. We shared many interests, including the arts, France, our gardens, and I recall quiet chats at their home and at Rotary functions. Greta and I also enjoyed an Institute of Linguists French course at a local college.

Thank you for bringing memories of a very special man into focus for me again.

Jill Braxton, Maidenhead U3A, Berkshire

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Passion for trains I was very interested to read the article Memories of Steam by Julian Holland (TAM, Winter). It appears that he and I both had the same passion for trains when we were younger.

I lived first in Carlisle and then in Dumfries, and spent many a happy hour watching trains at Dumfries and Carlisle stations, and at Lockerbie and Beattock (I know, how sad!). The article showed a photo of The Royal Scot departing Carlisle and I attach a photo of it approaching Carlisle, taken by me, probably in 1951. If you look carefully, you can just see the name board attached to the front of the engine.

Like Julian, I watched trains struggling up Beattock Bank, where the gradient is 1 in 88, increasing to 1 in 74 for the last ten miles; frequently, a banking engine was despatched to catch up and push a struggling train. Coming down the Bank, trains travel very fast and one has to stand well back from the platform edge.

Thank you for a bit of nostalgia!

Roger Ball, Witney U3A, Oxfordshire

  • I very much enjoyed reading Memories of Steam by Julian Holland. The account certainly brought back boyhood recollections.

During the school holidays, around the late 1940s aged 10, I would cycle to Hornsey in North London to see The Flying Scotsman building up steam on the pull-up from King’s Cross. If my memory serves me well, number 60103 (before it became 4472) left King’s Cross precisely at 10am. I calculated that in around 16 minutes it would be passing through Hornsey station, not far from Alexandra Palace, so I would leave home in good time to witness this daily event.

It was intriguing to read in the article about the respective timings and speeds that individual trains would reach particular stations and other noteworthy features en route. My father taught me when travelling by train to use a large fob watch to record the time the train took to pass specific trackside mile posts – which had different designs according to whether it was LNER or GWR, etc. This was my early practicable mathematics experience in working out the specific speed of the train in mph and in so doing often getting grit in my eye from leaning out of the window!

In those days, I did not have the benefit of satnav or, for that matter, a modern Road Angel. For example, in recent years I could use my car Road Angel to note the speed of the car ferry I was using and, with minor adjustments, recalculate speed in nautical miles per hour. Julian Holland does not indicate how he recorded the speed of the various train journeys he undertook.

When travelling to East Croydon on Southern Region, I deliberately caught the Norwood Junction steam train each morning, finishing my journey from there using third rail electric traction. Alas, steam was withdrawn towards the end of the 1960s.

Regrettably, there are few opportunites in Kent to reinstate lost branch lines, axed by former chair of British Railways Dr RichardBeeching, because the county council did not see the value in acquiring the complete old track beds with associated cuttings and bridges.Ownership is now far too fragmented to consider the possibility of reinstatement that could have served the many villages that expanded in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and thereby greatly reducing car use and pollution.

Philip Hurling, Tonbridge U3A, Kent

  • Julian Holland’s article took me back to my school days. I was one of the young teenagers who went on the school train from Lymington to Brockenhurst until 1967. We didn’t know it was the last commercial line.

There were the old wood-lined compartments, and some of us stuck our heads out the door windows for ages and got smutty faces. No health and safety but none of us fell out. We kids used to go down and look at the large engines on the big trains that went from London to Weymouth (I think). They were massive noisy beasts next to our little chuff chuff. I was terrible at getting up and, if we missed the train at Lymington, Dad would whizz me to the next station in his little works van. I think he rather enjoyed the chase, and the driver and guard knew us well.

Cathryn Iliffe, Bradford & District U3A, West Yorkshire

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Nurses’ memorial

I was the Chairman of the Nursing Memorial Appeal, which raised the money for a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum naming members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and nurses who died in both world wars.

The VAD system was founded in 1909 with the help of the British Red Cross and Order of St John of volunteer nurses who could help care for military casualties. The VAD Ladies’ Club was set up by Lady Amphill in 1920 for those returning from war zones so they had a place to meet and share their experiences. Many years later, it moved from its site in Cavendish Square in London nearer to Marble Arch and was renamed ‘the New Cavendish Club’.

When the Nursing Memorial Appeal was being planned in 2012, we had to move again and were invited to join the Naval and Military Club in St James’s Square, a very appropriate home. The British Legion approved the final design for the Memorial and it was dedicated on June 4, 2018, in the presence of the Countess of Wessex, our Royal Patron. There are more than 1,300 names of women who died.

I hope that any of the people visiting the National Memorial Arboretum give a thought to the nurses and VADs named on the Memorial. The Arboretum is a place of remembrance for those, like these nurses and VADs, who didn’t make it back.

Barbara Hallows, Chelmsford U3A, Essex

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A good read

I thoroughly enjoy reading your magazine and was particularly interested in Terry Brown’s article ‘Reading between the lines’ about personal items he had found in old books (TAM, Autumn).

Perhaps I could offer some insight into one of the bookplates, A Mirror to France by Ford Madox Ford, owned by Frances Gould Ryman, which showed a scene of yachts at sea and was described as a ‘steamer book’ from ‘Mug’.

My grandfather, on his return from Palestine at the end of World War I, was offered a job by the then Egyptian government as director of hydrology and was responsible for controlling the waters of the Nile at the original Aswan Dam.

My father and grandmother spoke of travelling by steamer from the UK to Egypt, so no doubt this book would be suitable for such a sea voyage.

The term ‘Mug’ they used as an affectionate term for someone who did something silly or who enjoyed playing the fool! Perhaps this was how the giver was known to the recipient?

Anne Phillips, Hayling Island U3A, Hampshire

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Theatre will carry me through

I read with interest the letter from John Smith of Thornbury U3A on ‘A Life on the Stage’ (Letters, Autumn). I, too, have spent a lifetime in amateur theatre but really became eager to perform in 1953 at the age of 11, thanks to my wonderful English teacher at Tonbridge Girls’ Grammar School. Whenever I’ve moved around the country, I’ve joined an amateur drama group and count myself fortunate to have had such varied parts in comedies, dramas and musicals. As befits a woman of vintage years, I then moved into directing, and while the pandemic put paid to stage work, I appeared on Zoom in several short pieces and in a play written especially for Zoom.

Now I’m all set to direct two productions this year. By the time the first one goes on, I shall have reached another milestone birthday. But as when my dearest husband died, whom I met at South London Theatre, I know ‘Doctor Theatre’ will carry me through.

Nikki Packham, Bromley U3A, Kent

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Improve your speech skills

As a past senior manager, I had to give a lot of talks and presentations, and so I was interested to read ‘How to deliver a great speech’ by Patrick Forsyth (TAM, Winter), which described various faults of speakers encountered by the author over the years. He is correct that very few people are natural orators and most untrained speakers have faults. Public speaking is a practical skill in which the only way to learn is by hands-on training and experience.

While some people may be fortunate to have had work-based training, for everyone else there is an organisation to help them learn public speaking in a friendly and supportive environment – the Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC). A typical meeting will include a couple of training speeches, speech evaluation, experience of chairmanship, impromptu speaking and speech evaluation, plus some social time with tea and biscuits. Within a relatively short time, members go from novices to being able to do a workmanlike job. There are clubs up and down the country.

“I’m retired”, I hear you say, but there are those wedding speeches, funeral tributes or maybe serving on a committee or voluntary group. Communication is the key, so all can benefit from improving their speaking skills.

Dr Mike Canaway, Oldham & District U3A, Greater Manchester

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Bush House memories

I read with interest the letters regarding working at Bush House in Aldwych, London, following Jill Heller’s article about her time at the BBC World Service when it was based there (TAM, Autumn).

My memories of the area while working in Central London in the early 1960s have something of a different slant. Once a week there was a lunchtime dancing session round the corner at the Lyceum, where entry for the two hours was 6d, or 2.5p! My lunch break was completed with a visit to the nearby Wimpy for burger and chips plus a drink that was well within the upper limit of my luncheon voucher valued at 3 bob, or 15p!

Paul Goddard, Banstead U3A, Surrey

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Why worry about ageism?

I don’t understand why the U3A is so preoccupied with ageism (‘Taking a stand against ageism’, TAM Winter). A couple of weeks off my 75th birthday, I have yet to experience discrimination on the grounds of age or sex.

U3A discriminates on the grounds of age and I am sure there are members who live in housing which similarly discriminates. How many members take advantage of free bus travel, concessionary rates for entrance to theatres and such like, or the government’s heating allowance? It seems age-based discrimination is fine as long as it works to your advantage. The best way of showing that age is just a number is to participate as much as possible in the wider community and not focus on activities for the over-55s only .

Ageing well and ageism are not the same thing and yet are lumped together. As individuals we are responsible for ensuring we age well.

Christine Tose, Mid-Northumberland U3A

  • Regarding the U3A’s anti-ageism toolkit available on its website (TAM, Winter). During my lifetime, I have seen the politicisation of all sorts of minorities, the aim being to create a sense of victimhood in individuals, develop unhappiness and encourage the formation of victim groups with political aims. Most of the time when I’m out and about, I am treated with respect and assistance, and I see a similar attitude extended to other oldies. I don’t mind being called ‘elderly’. I can manage, and respond to, if necessary, an occasional patronising spark.

Pensioners are active, visible and valued in most sectors of our society. It is an unavoidable consequence of our survival, not a lifestyle choice, not ethnic or gender-specific, not a disability, just good fortune that we got here. I do not want to switch on Radio 4 and hear the U3A representing me through a minority whinge.

John Marlor, Newcastle U3A

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Get jogging!

Are we in Edinburgh the only U3A jogging group in UK? I scan Third Age Matters looking for reports from other joggers, but nothing! It is so easy to start a group now that NHS and other ‘Couch to 5k’ apps guide novices gently along the path of progression. All that’s needed is a coordinator.

David Syme, Edinburgh U3A

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Trust U3A opens up a whole new world

May I highlight the wonderful work of the Trust U3A? The diverse range of subjects, together with the now familiar medium of Zoom, has enabled so many of us to pursue avenues of interest we have never done before.

For example, exploring the world of art has been a joy, enabling members to contribute by researching their favourite artist’s family history and their personal journey for recognition by the artistic authorities of the day. In addition, we have looked at many wonderful paintings, which have been explained in more depth by our knowledgeable group leader.

Members of groups have become familiar faces and confidences been strengthened to voice ideas and opinions on a wide range of subjects such as books, music or places visited.

I would like to say thank you to the U3A movement for creating this now well-established and innovative facility which so many of us enjoy.

Zoe Parker, Droitwich U3A, Worcestershire

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Should U3A campaign?

Who could oppose involvement in ‘campaigning activities around positive ageing’ (View from the Chair, Winter)? Yet the contribution of the Universities of the Third Age is specific – ‘the education of those in the third age’ which, of course, can be ‘entered’ at any chronological period in an individual life when there is time for education for its own sake.

The vital and radical achievement of the past 40 years is the peer-to-peer model of learning, which is not easy to understand or to practise (no formal training for coordinators has ever been available) but, at its best, provides a university education and the opportunity to ‘teach’, which some members had never aspired to. The efforts of all paid and volunteer members of the Trust should be devoted entirely to the realisation of this great educational enterprise.

Keith Richards, ex-Chair of the Third Age Trust

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Can you help?

SOS to TAM readers – we need your jokes, one-liners, brief humorous anecdotes, all relating to food, for The Food Joke Show (with musical interludes), projected to publicise our indomitable hard-pressed city foodbank. If it works well here, the blueprint could be available to your situation: your local foodbank, staged by you and U3A friends? Please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Terry Timblick, Chichester U3A, West Sussex

  • Sea shanties are a key part of our maritime heritage. Teignmouth & District U3A supplied volunteer stewards at the Teign Maritime Shanty Festival in September 2021. Last month, we formed our own ‘U3A Crew’ with a goal of taking part in the Festival in September this year performing an original sea shanty all about U3A, which has been written. We would love to hear from other U3A members who sing sea shanties. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

David Leyland, Chair, Teignmouth & District U3A, South Devon

  • Further to the mention of the Women’s Royal Naval Service’s contribution to the war effort at Bletchley Park (Letters, Winter), it occurs to me that it is possible that there may be many ex-Wrens who, like me, are members of U3A. There is a project under way, in collaboration with the Association of Wrens, to build an archive of data, memories and photographs about the Training Establishment at HMS Dauntless, Burghfield, near Reading, between 1946 and 1981, with the further objective of reuniting these ladies.

So if you, your mum, granny, aunt, godmother or even your next-door neighbour donned a blue suit and aimed for a life near the ocean wave, please get in touch on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Elaine Wells, Farnborough U3A

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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TAM LETTERS

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 Trust156 Blackfriars RoadLondon, SE1 8EN

Email: advertise@U3A org uk

Deadline for next issue:1 March 2022Rate £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.

Family Research

Family Research. Grandfather fought in the Great War? Didn’t talk about it? Let an experienced military family historian discover his experiences for you.

Web: bf-battlefieldtours.co.uk/soldiersrecords.html

07796 633516 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Holidays Canary Islands

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

Karen 07801 472954

Holidays Cyprus

Northern Cyprus. Ozankoy, near Kyrenia. Delightful three-bedroom villa with private swimming pool, pretty garden and beautiful views.

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

01873 811455 - 07977 019635

Holidays Greece

Private villa in Western Crete. Swimming pool, large garden, sleeps 4-5.

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

Holidays Italy

Escape to Podere Sant’Angelo in Maremma. Hilltop villages, Etruscan remains, stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches, delicious food and fine wines in undiscovered Southern Tuscany.

www.poderesantangelo.com

00 39 339 622 9302

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

Holidays Mallorca

Mallorca Puerto Pollensa Comfortable beach-front two-bedroom apartment. Heating/aircon. Access to all summer and winter activities. Available all year weekly or longer lets.

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

Holidays Spain

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

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

Holidays UK

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

01227 700428 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk 4-star self-catering, semi-detached bungalow. Two bedrooms. Large secluded gardens.

www.burygardencorner.co.uk

01284 702848

YORKSHIRE DALES NATIONAL PARK. The Granary, sleeps 2/3, comfortable, well-equipped S.C. “Hidden Gem”. Picturesque surroundings, good walking, cycling, dark sky gazing. Skipton 9 miles.

01729 830291

LAKE DISTRICT. Quiet village just minutes from Keswick. Warm welcome assured to our 18th-Century country house B & B. Large, well-furnished rooms, with ensuite 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. www.thornthwaite-grange.co.uk. Read our reviews on Trip Advisor.

Ph. 017687 78205

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

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

Tel: (01209) 860402 www.cornwallallyear.co.uk

POOLE HARBOUR Shoreline cottage sleeps four. Stunning views. Close Poole Quay. Prices from £350pw - £930pw.

www.sandbanksview.co.uk

Simon 01202 805466

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

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

DEVON/DORSET Jurassic coast. High quality cottage. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, beautiful garden, close to beach/countryside. Sleeps 2-6.

www.flintstonescottage.co.uk

Call 07736 804887

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

Tel 029 20759314

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

Personal

POSTAL CORRESPONDENCE CLUB. Friends, penpals, romance.

Call Rebecca 01633 526523

Widower, 80s, seeks companion. Professional career in many parts of the world. Three daughters, artist specialising in portraits, fluent German (interpreter), rusty Spanish, avid reader, crosswords, antiques. Living in Shropshire.

Reply to Box No 299

75 year old former Leeds MD seeks a lady of poise & refinement. Let me spoil you!

Reply to Box No 313

Widower (active retired engineer) WLTM lady in her 70s. Bradford on Avon area.

Reply to Box No 285

Top professional introduction agency Specialising in bringing together attractive, intelligent people for companionship, romance and maybe more. Relaxed, confidential personal interviews in your home, London/S England.

Call Sandra at Affinity, 020 8832 9030

www.affinitylondon.com

Petite, slim, attractive Blonde, 70, suddenly unattached, new season, new start - seeks attractive gentleman 65-75 to enjoy happy times together, London.

Reply to Box No 364

Widow, late 70s. Slim, active, cheerful. Enjoys walks, theatre, gardening, dining out. WLTM gentleman for friendship. Winchcombe, Glos area.

Reply to Box No 330

I’m nothing special. In fact, I’m a bit of a bore. If I tell a joke, you’ve probably heard it before. So goes the ABBA song, but you’re welcome to prove me wrong. Male, 73 years, divorced. Likes classical and popular music, history, the countryside and much more. Seeking lady to share life’s ups and downs, and the times in between. Surrey/Hampshire Border.

Reply to Box No 327

Active, slim widower General interests, wishes to meet lady, Yorkshire area. Age unimportant.

Reply to Box 294

Wanted

Record Collections Wanted - Nationwide. Complete collections, no cherry picking - best cash prices. Professional service, Covid precautions taken at all times.

Call Chris McGranaghan on 07795 548242

Pet Lover? Looking for mature, responsible house-sitters for paid holidays.

www.minders-keepers.co.uk

01763 262102

Ercol Windsor (BLOND) Furniture bought and sold. Refurbishment service available.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 07860 589959

Fountain Pens, Ball Pens and Pencils. Parker, Mont Blanc, Waterman, Cross etc

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 07860 589959

National house sitting company looking for applicants to join their team. You must have your own car, be honest, reliable and flexible and have a love of animals. You must be a non-smoker and have a permanent home in the UK. If you would like to apply, please log on to www.housesitters.co.uk and complete the application form.

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solutions

professor rebus

pitcherwits

Across: 1 Gymnastic 5 Her 6 Ass 7 Threw in 10 Pie 11 Fantail 12 Lay 13 Rollups 16 Ego 17 Don 18 Faces up to

Down: 1 Grateful 2 Must 3 Sale 4 Countryman 5 Hipped roof 8 Het up 9 Well to do 14 Lute 15 Seep

sudoku

crossword

Across: 8 Halo 9 Pontefract 10 Stages 11 Poignant 12 In unison 14 Greece 16 Zest 17 Scone 18 Meet 19 Agenda 21 Eyeglass 23 Macaroon 26 Pillar 27 Upside-down 28 Ague

Down: 1 Battenberg 2 Doughnut 3 Spasms 4 Snap 5 Meringue 6 Orange 7 Icon 13 Noose 15 Chelsea bun 17 Seasoned 18 Malt loaf 20 Niacin 22 Expand 24 Asps 25 Noon

correction

Correct sudoku solution:

Winter 2021 Issue 49

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