Third Age Matters November 2023 - Screenreader Edition

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From Sam Mauger, Chief Executive, Third Age Trust.

Back in September, our annual u3a Week proved as successful as ever with events and activities enjoyed up and down the country (see p16). We also hosted several online talks and were delighted to welcome the award winning writer and broadcaster, Carl Honoré, author of Bolder: Making the Most of Our Longer Lives. You can read more about his uplifting philosophy on positive ageing – backed up by scientific evidence and research – on p24. On a similar theme, when it comes to activity, it's been proven that one of the best things we can all do to keep mind and body nimble is dance (you’ve only got to watch Angela Rippon on Strictly to realise that!). Turn to p50 to discover why some of our members love taking to the floor so much - and perhaps be tempted to do so yourself... Elsewhere in this issue, there’s a look at just four of the Summer Schools that took place in 2023 (p57), and we discover what happened at this year’s AGM (p19), with a report from chair Liz Thackray on p29. In the next edition, you’ll meet our new editor, Sharon Parsons, who joined us a few months ago, and is already working hard behind the scenes to make the magazine even better. She’ll be taking many of your suggestions on board, and I know you’ll make her welcome. Enjoy the issue!

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Cover story

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To boldly go

Carl Honoré is a global expert on ageing – how we can do it better and feel better about it. He talks to u3a about fully embracing and enjoying this vital stage in our lives.

Words by Sharon Parsons

Lifes are getting longer and the bottom line, believes positive ageing guru Carl Honoré, is that we now have the potential to age better than ever before. “Thanks to a toolbox of good nutrition and exercise, medicine, technology and – perhaps most importantly – cultural breakthroughs, the stereotypical rulebook is being rewritten,” he says.


Carl points out that we’re clearly no longer living in silos defined by chronological age. “These were once built on three life stages of learning, working and resting, but those barriers have been breached,” he says. “These days we may continue to do those things – along with so much more too. “Look at the examples of older people out there who are doing everything from learning new skills, volunteering and joining campaigns that push for change to following a long-held ambition of travelling to far-flung places or fulfilling a creative ambition. “What should define us now is not the year we were born, but our interests and outlook, the way we choose to live and the things that matter to us. It means we have the potential to have fun and be engaged right through our lives.”


But where to start if you want this stage of your life to be as rich and fulfilling as perhaps it could be – but are not sure where to start? “I’m a firm believer in pushing pause to refl ect and consider what you want your life to look like now,” Carl says. “To be honest, it’s something we should be doing at various stages throughout our lives, but all too often we don’t. Taking the time to see the big picture and reset if necessary is so valuable now.”

That’s all very well, but sometimes it’s not that easy to make big changes – a point Carl readily acknowledges. “I’m not a naïve Pollyanna type,” he laughs. “Life is full of the rough and the smooth – and it will always throw up obstacles, be it lifestyle restrictions or failing health. “I do believe, though, that if we embrace the concept of ageing with optimism, our perspective changes in a very real way. It means we will make the most of our time, while being realistic enough to acknowledge that it’s not all plain sailing, and problems can arise with ourselves or our loved ones.” Taking that attitude, he maintains, means that when things do go off course with health or life, we’re more able to find reserves of strength to manage the circumstances. “It’s important to be able to say, ‘This has happened, but I can still...’ – and that little word ‘but’ is key,” he explains. “It means that when something goes wrong, you’re able to anchor it in the rest of your positive life, and manage it better.”


Carl’s new book, Bolder: making the most of our longer lives, explores in depth how we can age better on every level with experiences and insights from pioneers and experts across the globe. “I sometimes wish I’d written this book 20 years ago,” he admits. “But then, of course, my take on it all wouldn’t have been the same then. Maybe someone else should have written it and my younger self would have read it and stopped worrying so much about the future and ageing. I’m certainly not worried now, and my view of ageing has changed completely. Now I see it more as an adventure.”

  • Carl Honoré will be hosting a Midlife Renaissance Retreat in Tuscany next year. For further details, go to


Here are Carl’s tips for doing older life well...

1. Keep on learning and experimenting. The adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks isn’t even true of dogs. Novelty keeps you energised and engaged.

2. Cultivate strong relationships. My advice to everyone, but especially those in later life, is to keep on fostering strong social networks.

3. Draw inspiration from role models. Think Helen Mirren, David Attenborough or even Michelangelo, who rebuilt St Peter’s Basilica in his 80s.

4. Keep your brain and body fit by exercising and eating well.

5. Channel Marie Kondo. If something – a job, a friendship – no longer sparks joy, drop it. Streamline to make every moment count.

6. Find a purpose that puts meaning in your life and fire in your belly.

7. Be honest about your age. Lying gives the number a power it does not deserve – and reinforces the myth that younger is always better. Owning your age is the first step to making the most of it.

8. Remain flexible and open to change, growth and evolution. As Lao Tzu put it: “Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.”

9. Ignore the doom mongers who say sex, love and romance belong to the young: they do not. Make room for all three, however you old you are, if that’s what you fancy.

10. If you think growing older will be bad, it will be bad. Be positive and focus on the upsides of ageing: feeling more at ease in your own skin; deeper relationships; more happiness, altruism, creativity, knowledge and experience.

11. Cultivate a sense of humour. Laughing boosts health. As George Bernard Shaw put it: “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”

12.Think about death. Don’t dwell morbidly on it, but don’t shy away from it either. An awareness that time is finite gives life shape and meaning.

How do you feel about getting older? is it a stage of life that you fully embrace – and which of Carl’s 12 tips especially resonate with you?

    Carl Honoré is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and speaker. We’re delighted to give away four signed copies of his book Bolder: making the most of our longer lives (Simon & Schuster UK, £9.99) to u3a members. To be in with a chance of winning a copy, visit www. surveymonkey.

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What's been happening across u3a

Roots of success

Last year, to mark four memorable decades of the u3a, our 40th Anniversary Woodland was established – and is already proving a real success story. The woodland is situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park on the border between Wales and England, where it is looked after by skilled arborists. So far more than 10,000 trees have been planted: the various species, carefully chosen to thrive in the local environment, include silver birch, wild cherry, hawthorn, oak and rowan. The initiative invites u3a members to donate funds to establish the saplings and maintain the woodland: it’s also possible to purchase a copse of 100 trees, and marker posts for those that have done so have begun to be installed. Establishing a woodland is a long-term process – it will take years for the trees to take root, start to grow properly and become part of the landscape. It is not without its challenges. Here, for instance, many of the trees were planted before the hottest, driest summer in south Wales history, which means some have only seen incremental growth. Rabbits and sheep have also made their mark. Nevertheless, the majority are doing well, and those trees that didn’t survive were replaced last winter. More will be planted this coming season, and tree guards will be installed in some areas for extra protection. The 40th Anniversary Woodland is on private land, and access is by permission from the owner, though there is also a public footpath alongside the site. As the woodland becomes more established in the future, it is hoped to organise a visit.

“The continuing success of our 40th Anniversary Woodland shows that contributing positively to the environment and wildlife and addressing climate change are things we know members feel strongly about“ says Liz Drury, u3a Head of Policy and Communications.

  • Inidual trees and copses of 100 trees can still be purchased to support the 40th Anniversary Woodland. Visit the Brand Centre for more information at

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Normandy reflection

u3a member Jerry Michell shares a valuable journey to a place of great significance for so many

On a fine September day, 40 members of Haddenham u3a in Buckinghamshire departed from Portsmouth for a tour of the Normandy landing beaches and the various sites commemorating Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944. Once we’d arrived at Caen, our experienced Normandy tour guide, u3a member Michael Phillips, directed the coach to our hotel on Bayeux’s ring road — originally built by the Allied Forces to enable military vehicles to avoid the narrow streets of the beautiful old city. After a good night’s sleep, we travelled to nearby Arromanches to view the only remains of the artificial harbour, code-named Mulberry Harbour, on Gold Beach. These impressive concrete pontoon structures were towed across the Channel and flooded to settle on the shallow seabed in order to protect supply ships supporting the invasion.


Over three days we visited other landing grounds at Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, as well as the American, German and British Cemeteries. We also paid our respects at the recently completed British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, overlooking Gold Beach. This serene and moving site commemorates by name each of the 22,442 servicemen and women under British command who fell on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy. To complete our understanding of the incredibly detailed invasion plan, securing a bridgehead stretching from the Cherbourg peninsula to Caen, our final day included a detailed private presentation at the Pegasus Bridge Museum at Bénouville. The museum grounds contain the original bridge and mark the night landings of 180 men of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry in gliders, three of which landed within yards of this strategic crossing on the Caen Canal, to see the first action of D-Day just after midnight on 6 June.


Pegasus Bridge has a special significance for Haddenham, as the Glider Pilot Regiment trained there. The taking of the bridge enabled Allied troops to move quickly inland from Sword Beach, eventually meeting up with US armoured isions circling south from the Cherbourg peninsula, and ultimately across the River Seine to liberate Paris on 19 August 1944. No historical accounts or feature films could substitute for actually visiting the terrain and strategic locations of Normandy in the company of an expert guide. Michael put the whole intricate and costly campaign in context for us, presenting a truly balanced view of the price paid by both sides in terms of successes, failures, misjudgments and, most of all, young lives.

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Landmarks in silhouette

The ancient market town of Launceston in Cornwall

This intriguing artwork was created by Launceston & District u3a vice-chair Angela Harris, drawing on the creative silhouette style made popular in Victorian times. It shows some of the most well-known landmarks in and around the ancient market town of Launceston in Cornwall, close to the Devon border. Planning the layout and sequence of the different features was painstaking and took a great many hours, admits Angela, who used acrylic paint to create the work. “ The hardest part was planning it so that all the landmarks balanced, ” she says. “I worked from the middle out with the ruins of the castle roughly in the middle, and tried to ensure it was more or less in geographical order. Its dimensions (approximately 91.5 × 15.25cm) were so unique that it couldn’t be done on a standard easel, so I had to use an ironing board instead.” The work has now been gift ed to the local community, and is a tribute to a much-loved historic town and region.

The artwork from left to right shows

1. The Trees: Known as 'the nearly home trees', Cookworthy Knapp is a group of beech trees on a hill, and a welcome sight to homewardbound travellers.

2. The Dunheved Cross: A carved granite cross marking the coronation of King Edward Vll, now positioned between the local health centre and the A30.

3. The Southgate Arch: Originally 12th century, and the only remaining town gate of three entrances to this walled town.

4. The War Memorial: The Monument of Remembrance was built in 1919 on the site of the old Butter Market.

5. St Mary’s Church: Located on the site of an earlier 13th century church, this Anglican church has a carved granite exterior and was completed in 1540.

6. The Castle: Built in the 11th century by Robert, Count of Mortain – the halfbrother of William the Conqueror.

7. The Town Hall: A Victorian building of 1881, with a Guildhall and stained glass windows.

8. The Roundhouse: A focal community point in 1829 for political and religious purposes.

9. St Thomas or Prior’s Bridge: A medieval packhorse bridge built over the river Kensey.

10. The Steam Railway: A restored narrow-gauge Victorian railway where locomotives make short journeys into the surrounding countryside.

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A literary tribute

Bobby Cadwallader, leader of the Creative Writing group at Aylesbury Vale u3a, tells us about a very special project...

In April 2022, we were recovering from lockdown and congratulating ourselves on having kept our group running throughout those difficult times. We idly discussed the possibility of creating an anthology of our work and trying to publish it, but no sooner had that little seed been sown than tragedy struck. One of our group members – Jackie Rickard, our dear, dear friend – died suddenly and unexpectedly. We were utterly shocked and desperately sad. We miss her so much. When we first met after this dreadful news, we decided that the book we had discussed might be a fitting memorial to our wonderful friend – an anthology dedicated to her memory. Once we had this in mind, it energised our actions, and we spent the summer reading, revising, editing and selecting our favourite pieces. This was no mean feat as our group has been together for five years and we had produced a lot of work. Finally, we agreed on 19 short stories, including three written by Jackie, and during the autumn we set to work proofreading and editing the copy for a potential publisher. In January, I was lucky enough to get in touch with Alan Corkish, another u3a member, who heads up a small publishing firm in Liverpool called Erbacce Press. Alan was more than encouraging, gave unstintingly of his time and offered excellent advice.

The result of his amazing efficiency and knowledge was that we received our consignment of books less than six weeks after my first contact with him. The excitement and delight we felt at holding those books in our hands was palpable. Our enthusiasm has meant they’ve sold really well: in fact, one fell into the hands of a local talking newspaper, and when they were read to the listeners, they asked for more. We are delighted to have raised over £300, which will be donated to the Florence Nightingale Hospice, a local charity Jackie held dear to her heart. It has been a brilliant experience for us all from start to finish, and I still pinch myself when I look at my copy of The Bird on the Wire on my bookshelf.

  • If you’d like to know more about this lovely book and project, you can contact Bobby at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Stay in touch!

The Third Age Matters inbox is always packed with correspondence from members, and it’s great to receive all your news, views, submissions, suggestions and more. To make sure that your email reaches the right team promptly, please follow these guidelines: For contributions to the magazine (such as letters or features for the editorial team’s consideration), please email your piece to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Memories are made of this...

Tina Naples, chair of Durham u3a, explains how an innovative musical project, the 3D Memory Jukebox, has brought such value, joy and understanding to everyone involved

We have had a thriving Music Appreciation group for some years, much loved and enjoyed by the members. Recently, however, something very special happened when an approach was received from New College, Durham. A visiting tutor, Chris Meads, who is also a very experienced and highly regarded theatre director, was working with final-year performing arts undergraduates, and keen to work with our members to produce an intergenerational performance piece. The group leader, Stephen Brand, was totally behind the project, as was the group – and so many months of creative collaborative work began. This was no ordinary project. The use of music to trigger memory is a well-known way of bringing joy to sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease. In this case four volunteers were interviewed – and recorded – at length about their lives and the music that makes some of their memories so special. The students were charged with acting out the chosen memories, all of which would form part of the work for their final assessment. The production was professionally put together with sound, recording and lighting. Each volunteer member had four memories selected, which were then seen on screen as we heard them each describing what happened. All were accompanied by their chosen music and the students’ interpretation. A few tears were shed as members went back in time to some happy and carefree places. One participant, John Liddle, said that it was a real privilege to be able to talk about oneself in this way. Another, Mary Adcroft , said that after one of the preparation sessions she “skipped home with happiness and joy”. The preview was open to friends and family, and the main event took place in front of the whole membership. The audience were spellbound and found their own memories resurfacing. A Q&A followed in which the audience were able to ask both the students and the volunteers about their experiences in bringing the piece to the stage. The project has been so rewarding that Chris has plans to take it further. An application for Arts Council England funding is only the start: Durham u3a will be an official partner in this endeavour. If all goes well, other members may be able to participate in this unique, simultaneous combination of music, memory and performance, on stage and on screen.

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Esther's book giveaway

In our Autumn edition of TAM, we offered the chance to win a free copy of Dame Esther Rantzen’s book Older & Bolder in our prize draw. Dozens of entries flooded in, and we’re delighted to report that five lucky members are now enjoying their copies.

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Recipe revolution

We know how much members enjoy the recipes in Third Age Matters magazine, created by cookery writer Beverley Jarvis of Ashford & Wye u3a. She’s a huge fan of the air fryer – that nifty kitchen appliance that has completely revolutionised home cooking in recent years – and now she’s compiled a book demonstrating just how incredibly versatile it is. The Everyday Air Fryer Cookbook is packed with dozens of simple, delicious recipes – from basics including speedy roasties to family favourites such as roast chicken with lemon and rosemary,and sweet treats including meltingly decadent chocolate fondants. The Everyday Air Fryer Cookbook: Easy meals for one, two and more! by Beverley Jarvis is published by Ebury Press and priced at £18.99. We’re giving away 10 copies to u3a readers: to be in with a chance to win, go to: AirFryer-comp

  • If you require any assistance entering this prize draw, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Looking East

Months of planning finally came to fruition at the end of September when Lancaster and Morecambe u3a held their Japanese Study Day, as groups coordinator Margaret Hemming explains: “The idea for this project arose during a Crime Book group meeting when we were discussing a book written by one of our members: it was set in Japan where she had lived for many years. What she wrote was so interesting that it seemed obvious what our next Study Day should be. “Offers of help and ideas poured in from our members and we quickly had the main talks organised, with lots of displays and demonstrations planned. This was a superb example of ‘ by the members, for the members ’ as most of the contributors had never even been to Japan, yet showed great enthusiasm. “Undeterred by a train strike and the weather, the event was extremely well attended and a great success. Our Art groups mounted a wonderful display of work inspired by Japan; we learnt about and wrote haiku; and we tried Japanese lettering and made origami boxes. We had a shiatsu (massage) demonstration and listened to Japanese folk tales. In addition, there were wide-ranging talks about Japanese houses, gardens, railways and tsunamis; and films, literature, origin myths and geisha. One of the highlights was a discussion with two members who had lived in Japan for many years. Japanese green tea and nibbles were provided, as well as beautiful memorabilia for us to appreciate. “Suggestions for at least two new groups have arisen as a result, including a writing workshop and an Aspects of Japan interest group. Many thanks to all the members who supported the event and helped to make this such a memorable day. ”

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You've had your say!

More than a thousand members took part in our Third Age Matters magazine survey – it’s been so helpful to get your honest feedback on all aspects of the title, and we’re taking it all on board. Over the next few months, the new editorial team will be working hard to refresh the title in a way that really embodies the organisation’s philosophy of Learn, Laugh, Live. This is very much the magazine for you, the u3a members, and we want to ensure every page truly reflects what matters to you. Watch this space!

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Annual General Meeting of the Third Age Trust 2023

October saw the u3a movement gather together for the Third Age Trust’s 40th AGM. Over 270 members joined the proceedings online, with a smaller number attending in person in Milton Keynes. Chair Liz Thackray’s speech took the form of three short videos addressing the trust’s Fit for the Future programme: digital strategy, strategy for growth and the Trust’s role in ensuring both good governance and supporting the u3a movement. The treasurer’s report had a more traditional feel, focusing on the budget for 2023-24 and the Third Age Trust’s longer-term forecasts. Annual General Meeting of the Third Age Trust 2023 The AGM celebrated three trustees joining the board: Tony Cheetham for the North West, Jean Cubbin for the North East, and Maurice Austin for the East of England. Existing trustees Valerie Cobain, Susie Berry, Susan Parker and Margaret Fiddes were re-elected. Members were able to vote for two ordinary resolutions. The first was to give greater status and input to smaller networks and clusters. The results were 143 for, 440 against, 31 abstained. The resolution was not carried. The second resolution called on the Third Age Trust to, as a key strategic priority, increase u3a membership to 500,000 by the end of 2028; implement regular and substantial national promotional activities to achieve this goal; and report on the implementation and impact of these activities at board meetings and in annual reports. The results were 405 in favour, 187 against, 25 abstained. The resolution was passed. The meeting ended with a thank you to retiring trustees Sandi Rickerby, Barbara Cordina and Neil Stevenson, and co-opted members of the board Jeff Carter, John Bent and Michaela Moody. • You can see all the AGM videos on our YouTube channel –, and the full AGM 2023 will be on YouTube in the coming weeks.

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Podcast news

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The Italian job

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

When London-based journalist Susy Hodges moved to Rome after marrying an Italian 40 years ago, and was subsequently invited to join the English Service of Vatican Radio (now Vatican News), she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. “I wasn’t a Catholic or even a church-goer,” she explains, “but as it happened that didn’t matter then. Vatican Radio was very much like a scaled-down version of the BBC World Service, with an international team speaking in their mother tongue to audiences around the globe. There were about 12 of us working on the English programme, and there was great camaraderie.” The job wasn’t, of course, without its challenges. “I was flung in at the deep end and had to learn very fast – doing everything from live news to making feature programmes,” Susy recalls, “and of course we had to be fluent in Italian to translate news from the Vatican. There were different protocols to follow, and we had to stay away from certain subjects that might be controversial.” Nevertheless, her time as both a correspondent and a presenter was rewarding and exciting. “I interviewed everyone from a cardinal to a reformed sex worker, and met both celebrities and royalty, including the then Prince of Wales, who visited the city in 2017,” Susy says. “And on important occasions – such as when Pope Benedict XVI made his announcement about resigning in 2013 – I found myself being interviewed by the BBC. There was never a dull moment.” One of her stand-out memories was the day that the new Pope (Benedict XVI) was about to be announced after white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel – the signal that a new pontiff had been chosen. “I was working for Vatican Radio, as well doing freelance work for other European radio stations,” Susy explains. “One of them called and asked to do a live interview with me in 10 minutes’ time. I explained I was just outside Rome, not at St Peter’s Square, but they still wanted to go ahead. However, I got stuck in horrendous traffic and I had to pull up by a parish church to take the call. They put me on air immediately, with the presenter announcing I was joining them live from St Peter’s Square. I had to totally wing it. “‘What’s the atmosphere like there, Susy?’ asked the presenter. ‘Oh... joyful, jubilant,’ I replied desperately, ‘Full of excitement!’ Just then came the sound of bells from the little church next to me. ‘And now we can hear the bells of St Peter ringing!’ cried the presenter. It was excruciating, but I said nothing...” Susy moved back to the UK five years ago when she retired, though she still occasionally contributes to her old station on a freelance basis. “I go back as often as I can,” she says. “And of course, when I’m there, I always catch up with my closest friends from Vatican Radio: I’ve dubbed us the ‘Vatican Veterans’!” • To listen to Susy’s full story, go to

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u3a week

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What a week!

From Dundee to Guernsey, hundreds of members from far and wide got out and about in their community to celebrate u3a Week in numerous wonderful ways, as Eleanor Mair reports.

From 16 to 24 September, more than 500 members took part in 50 events involving everything from beach cleans to table tennis tournaments, floral displays to concerts, all to mark what is so fantastic about the organisation. The theme of the week was One Movement – and as u3as celebrated the learning and fun that comes with being a member, it showcased that, while every u3a is different, we are all connected.


The Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey opened the Guernsey u3a event that saw an eclectic mix of over 80 interest groups – from singing to boxing. More than 1,000 members were on hand to share their joy of being part of the movement with potential new members. Bradford & District members put lots of effort into raising their profile during u3a Week. In an innovative move, they took over the Big Screen in City Park, where they used slides to highlight the exciting range of activities on offer to members. They also took a prominent stall in Broadway, the city’s most popular shopping centre, to spark stimulating conversations with passers-by, which they hope will lead to lots of new members. There was a warm Yorkshire welcome at Anlaby, Willerby and Kirk Ella (AWAKE) u3a, where visitors learned about interest groups ranging from circus skills to walking. As the Barely AWAKE ukulele strummers played in the background, members stressed to all visitors that their main aim is meeting up and having fun.


Great Yarmouth u3a’s Gardening group marked the week with an intense competition: impressive gourds, cacti and even apple pies fought it out for top prize of the Green Fingers Best Exhibit Trophy. Horticulture was a recurring theme throughout the week for many groups, including a beautiful floral display at a local flower festival by Tunbridge Wells u3a. Fun and games were a big feature of u3a Week for many u3as. The BOB Network, made up of Bromley, Orpington & Beckenham u3as, held a games afternoon that gave members the opportunity to have fun with members of their own and neighbouring u3as. Easingwold & District u3a similarly held an event connecting members through their favourite games. Community spirit was at the forefront of the minds of Penzance u3a members when they undertook a beach clean and litter survey as part of the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean. There were lots of laughs afterwards at a local hotel where they went for a hot drink and to dry out. A celebration picnic lunch rounded off events in Belfast where guests were treated to musical performances from members including singing and keyboard, classical guitar, tabla and ukulele – it was all good craic!

THE GREAT OUTDOORS The Friday of u3a Week saw many u3as celebrate Alfresco in Autumn. This was a nationally coordinated event where u3as across the movement took the fun and the learning of u3a outside. For some u3as, this meant exploring their local communities: for instance, Tower Hamlets u3a explored the City of London’s walls, and Kettering u3a organised a boat trip down the canal. Other u3as hosted picnics for members. For Wolverhampton u3a, the invitation was extended to members of three nearby u3a groups. Members played archery, corn in the hole, quoits and boules. The chair of Wolverhampton u3a, Mercedes Fonfria, said: “ The day fulfilled the aim of meeting up and chatt ing with old friends, with a chance of making new ones, while enjoying a wide range of picnic fare.” Finally, a special mention must go to Dundee u3a, who took no chances on the Scott ish weather taking a turn for the worse by cannily hosting their Alfresco in Autumn event earlier in the month when glorious sunshine was forecast. Twenty members pitched up at the beautiful University of Dundee Botanic Garden, and following a garden tour and a picnic lunch, the afternoon was spent playing silly games – egg and spoon races, tug of war and even kung fu, wearing inflatable hands and feet! Committee member Hilde Barrie said: “Dundee members took the theme of the organisation’s motto of Learn, Laugh, Live to: Learn about the plants, Laugh at the fun of silly games organised, and Live a great retirement.”

  • A survey will be sent out in the monthly newsletter in the next few weeks requesting your feedback and suggestions for next year. Your views and ideas will help evaluate our impact as a movement. If any new members join in the next month, please ask them how they first heard about u3a

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u3a merch

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It’s the u3a winter sale!

We’ve got some fantastic offers this season. These would make great gifts – or why not treat yourself? They’re selling fast, so don’t miss out

Beanie hats – just £7 and save 12.5% or buy 5 for £32.50 and save 19%

u3a umbrella – £21 save 25%

Eco cup – £12 save 20% or buy 5 for £50 and save £25

Travel mug – just £5 save 17%

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what's on

u3a runs a programme of web talks, workshops and events, as well as online initiatives such as competitions, memory collections and puzzles for you to get involved with. These are all free for members – so don’t miss out!

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online learning events

For more events and to book those listed below, go to < class="CharOverride-2"> This can be found by going to the events section of the u3a website, then choose the Online Learning Events option in the Events menu. Click on each event to book your place.

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Tuesday 5 December at 10am

Art and literature are often connected. One has often inspired the other in relating to experiences, emotions, beliefs and ideas. These can be expressed in works concerning the festival of Christmas, which help to make the season special and may enable people to think more deeply about its meaning. A talk by Catherine Stevenson of Newcastle u3a.

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Wednesday 13 December at 2pm

Insights, tips and examples for family historians, and the importance of looking at information critically. By Julie of Syston & District u3a.

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Tuesday 19 December at 3.30pm

Bring more joy and laughter to your life with Laughter Yoga - an aerobic exercise with playful exercises combined with deep yogic breathing. With Maggie of Stourbridge u3a.

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

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National programmes

To participate in, or contribute to, our National Initiatives, please go to < class="CharOverride-2"> These can be found by going to the ‘Learn’ tab on the homepage of the u3a website, then choosing ‘National Programmes’. There you can then click on any of our initiatives to get involved.

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What weird and wonderful things can you find in nature? Submit your photos to the Found in Nature initiative on the u3a website by clicking on ‘Learn’ and then ‘National Programmes’.

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Test your logic skills by trying out different logic puzzles every month, and get the answers the month after.

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

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Why today’s u3a must evolve

Liz Thackray View from the Chair.

Recently I received a message from a longstanding u3a member, which, I suspect, reflects the views of many. She wrote: “I have read the documents on the proposed council and reflected on them. At this stage in my life, I want to leave behind me all the stress of strategy, goals, etc… I wonder if it might lead to more happiness and fulfilment if we spent our limited time and energy on promoting understanding and friendship and enjoying what life has to offer us. I think this is why most people join the u3a. How sure are we that the current model is not fit for purpose? Are we promoting more hierarchy and managerialism?”


I’m sure most of us agree wholeheartedly with why we choose to be part of the u3a, though many of those serving as trustees might mention that we are all volunteers, often working virtually full-time for the movement, with insufficient time to really enjoy our own u3a membership. In my response, I suggested that the changes being explored – and discussed last year and this at the AGM – would provide a proper forum for discussing topics relevant to u3as. They would ensure elected representatives could focus on supporting and representing u3a views. They would also ensure trustees can be elected with the appropriate knowledge, skills and expertise to meet legal requirements. What about that other question – are we just promoting hierarchy and managerialism? My answer is a clear no. The council would be a conduit for u3as to bring forward suggestions and identify problems. This would enable more members to be involved in deciding the way forward and enable the Third Age Trust to be more responsive to our membership. It would not be a second tier but would be responsible for those areas of work most important to u3as. But why is change necessary? At present, regional and national trustees are doing three different jobs. They have the legal responsibilities of being directors of a company limited by guarantee (as set up by our founders and registered in 1983); they are the first port of call when things go wrong; and they are representatives of their region or nation.


Changes in charity law over the past 40 years – and the u3a movement having grown far more than our founders envisaged (their vision was 100 u3as) – have created an unforeseen complexity. These problems have been recognised by the board since at least 2008, but their recommendations for change have been rejected by u3as. If the u3a’s elected consider there were a problem, they would not seek a solution. At the recent AGM, a resolution was passed showing a desire among the membership to see the Trust being more active nationally in promoting the u3a movement. For this, we need a structure that enables the Trust to be the voice of the u3a movement.

What are your views on the changes proposed for the u3a.... And how would you like to see the movement evolve now? Send your thoughts to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (head your email: evolvement of u3a)

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It’s coming up to panto season – oh yes, it is!

By Eric Midwinter: u3a founder

Once upon a time... it was Boxing Day 1936 and Mother Goose was on at the Prince’s Theatre in Manchester. It was my first pantomime and I was enthralled – and have been thoroughly engaged, in one way or another, ever since. The history of the pantomime has just as many twists and turns as some of its most ambitious storylines. There are men dressed as women, and women pretending to be young men. There is disguise and trickery, misunderstandings and slapstick... and always good triumphing over evil.


It was the Romans – influenced by the Greek tragedy – who established the earliest form of pantomime. Commedia dell’arte – ‘comedy of the artists’ – saw performances take place in the Italian streets, the ensemble often wearing character masks, which the audience came to recognise (these allowed the actors to make risqué jokes or comments). The travelling artists began to make their way across Europe, and eventually reached these shores. Their influence was such that even playwrights such as Shakespeare would introduce the popular commedia characters in their work. Originally, the panto opened with a fairytale or nursery rhyme playlet offering a brief prologue to the long play, called the Harlequinade. A handsome hero, his pretty sweetheart, a grotesque suitor and a feeble father were transformed by the fairy into Harlequin and Columbine, plus Clown and Pantaloon, the doltish papa. Gradually, the opening sequence lengthened and the Harlequinade was shortened. By 1880 it had vanished. The ‘transformation’ scene became part of the story, such as turning Cinderella’s pumpkin into a coach, though the cast of principal ‘female’ boy, principal girl, the dull father or uncle and clown remained.


Over 400 stories have been identified as becoming pantomimes. Fairy stories enjoyed a vogue among the Victorians. The Aladdin and Sinbad tales came from The Arabian Nights, while the story of Red Riding Hood was from the Brothers Grimm. Charles Perrault, meanwhile, introduced the tales of the Italian Puss in Boots and the Persian Sleeping Beauty. The very popular Cinderella, another Perrault tale, was French, with a mistranslation accounting for the princess wearing a glass slipper. The current version dates from 1864, with Buttons fully established during the First World War. Other pantomimes established were indigenous, such as the historical story of Dick Whittington. In 1812 Joe Grimaldi, the founder-clown of modern pantomime, was to introduce the ‘dame’ character in the regal personage of Queen Roundabellya, and, by the 1870s, the dame – almost always played by a man – was commonplace. The part has been played by names including Arthur Askey, Danny La Rue, Les Dawson and Sir Ian McKellen.


Over the decades, the personalities of the music hall, variety theatre, radio, cinema and television have all trodden the boards, sustaining pantomime into the present age. So how do we ensure these classic shows continue to thrive? This winter season, why not indulge in some goodnatured family entertainment? With support – and plenty of cheers from its audience – the panto, with its long and illustrious history, will live happily ever after...

  • What memories do you have of a favourite show, be it a panto, a musical, or something Else entirely? Send your story to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (head your email: shows)

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‘This role has taught me so much’

By Sandi Rickerby, Trustee For The North East

After four years, I am just coming to the end of my time as trustee for the North East. To say it has been a huge learning curve would be an understatement. Although I came with plenty of energy and enthusiasm, I had no experience of being on the board of such a large organisation, but I’ve received so much help and support to develop my skills and understanding, and have acquired a great deal of knowledge as a result.


Basically, there are two aspects to this position: firstly, it is to be a member of the board of directors of the Th ird Age Trust, looking after the governance and finance of the organisation, as well as ensuring that it complies with all the legal requirements as set out by the Charity Commission. Secondly, it is being part of the strategic development of u3a and ensuring that it continues to evolve and remain vibrant. This has seen me join a number of committees, along with a variety of working groups such as Digital Strategy, Future Lives, Hadrian’s Wall and Festival 24, contributing my thoughts and ideas to take these initiatives forward.


A major aspect of the evolving direction of u3a is to use the voice of its members to bring about positive change in the life experience of older people, and to combat ageism in society. This is something I feel very strongly about, and I am chair of the Push Back Ageism working group. We are currently developing partnerships with a range of other organisations that share the same aims. These include helping the Centre for Ageing Better to develop a toolkit to challenge ageism in the media, and working with the Design Age Institute at the Royal College of Art to make goods and services for older people better designed. We have also considered how best to influence and change things that challenge the wellbeing of the older generation, both locally and nationally. A training package has been developed, and we recently started training some of our members in ways to campaign legally and effectively. This work is ongoing and is something I am so pleased to continue being involved with, even as my time as trustee comes to an end. MUTUAL SUPPORT It has also been important to support all the existing u3as in the North East region, not only to grow, develop and overcome any associated difficulties, but also to start new u3as as the need is identified. I have a fantastic team of volunteers, who have formed a regional support team to work with me, and to independently plan and organise regional events that bring our u3as together. Their support has been invaluable. My goodness, this role has involved so much, but it has been an absolutely amazing experience and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have really appreciated the opportunity to use learned skills from my working life and develop new ones; to feel that I am valued and valuable; and, not least, that I have been able to make a positive contribution to what the u3a can offer as an organisation. This extends to improving my own quality of life too, as well as that of my generation and those yet to come.

  • What aspects of the u3a do you personally find most valuable – Or believe could be developed further? Send your thoughts to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (head your email: u3a opinions)

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Esther Rantzen

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Many older people long for romance – and why not?

Here’s a strange thing. Watching the launch of yet another TV dating show, I found myself moved, engaged and learning positive things about humanity. How rare is that? I usually avoid these programmes because so many consist of candidates being publicly humiliated. So why was this one so different? Firstly, it wasn’t youth obsessed. Instead of 20-somethings desperately trying to launch themselves as influencers on the internet, My Mum, Your Dad matched single parents who were in their ‘mid-life’ (not, sadly, oldies. I imagine the producers set the upper-age limit for fear viewers would be appalled by people like you and me having any kind of love life). Because they had been around the block, these contestants knew that what matters isn’t physical attraction alone: a successful relationship is based on a meeting of minds, respect and shared humour. Secondly, the show is intergenerational, with young people taking part. Warmth pervaded the programme because couples were eased gently together by their own grown-up children who loved them and wanted them to be happy – not by producers who Dame Esther Rantzen is in praise of finding love at any age Many older people long for romance – and why not? wanted to create tension or cause embarrassment.


Naturally, when the mums and dads started to ‘get physical’ (to quote Olivia Newton-John’s famous song), their off spring, who were secretly watching their parents’ progress, groaned and hid their faces behind cushions. But the bedroom doors were firmly closed against the cameras, so it stands out compared with other reality shows. Indeed, it made me wonder why reality television is so often magazine prove how many of us are looking for loving partners, so let’s not put an upper age limit on it. Of course, there are things to be aware of. Loneliness can engulf us, especially in old age, and sadly there are ruthless internet scammers ready to exploit that and fake devotion in order to est us of our life’s savings. So we need to be on our guard while remaining open to opportunities. Obviously, we also need to take account of the fact that frailty may set in, so a partner may have to take on a caring role at some point. Another consideration is that our family may disapprove for their own reasons. And friends may dislike your choice (in which case, I say ignore them, unless they mean more to you than your new partner does). Finally, since many of us develop sags and wrinkles as time goes by, we might feel self-conscious. But with luck we will also have become tolerant of a few flaws, so instead of fl inching, we can chuckle. And there’s nothing like laughter to bring people together. Are you in praise of romance in older age? Tell us your thoughts or share your own experiences. Send your story to tam.editor@ nasty, chewing up and spitting out those who take part. We viewers much prefer positive programmes, don’t we? The first series of this heartwarming programme has proved a great hit with viewers and critics alike, and I do hope its success will make broadcasters realise that older people can be box-office gold, and great television can be kind.


Let’s hope this positive look at older romance erases some of the stigma and increases our confidence: the personal ads at the back of Third Age Matters magazine prove how many of

us are looking for loving partners, so let’s not put an upper age limit on it. Of course, there are things to be aware of. Loneliness can engulf us, especially in old age, and sadly there are ruthless internet scammers ready to exploit that and fake devotion in order to est us of our life’s savings. So we need to be on our guard while remaining open to opportunities. Obviously, we also need to take account of the fact that frailty may set in, so a partner may have to take on a caring role at some point. Another consideration is that our family may disapprove for their own reasons. And friends may dislike your choice (in which case, I say ignore them, unless they mean more to you than your new partner does). Finally, since many of us develop sags and wrinkles as time goes by, we might feel self-conscious. But with luck we will also have become tolerant of a few fl aws, so instead of fl inching, we can chuckle. And there’s nothing like laughter to bring people together.

  • Are you in praise of romance in older age? Tell us your thoughts or share your own experiences. Send your story to tam.editor@

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Geeky gifts for everyone

Whether it’s a simple stocking-filler or falls firmly into the category of ‘big present’, this roundup of gizmos and gadgets suggested by tech expert James Day offers fun, useful and innovative gift ideas that are far more interesting than new socks or shower gel

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Keep everything in the garden lovely



Did you know plants make ultrasonic sounds to signal stress? Caring gardeners can commune with nature by sticking one of these monitors in the soil to alert them to any issues. Notifications highlight everything from humidity to light exposure.



For those with a less-than pristine driveway, Hozelock’s electric wand kills weeds with a thermal shock of 600°C. It’s better for the environment too, doing away with nasty chemicals that might otherwise harm children, plants and animals. There’s an extra trick as well – it doubles as a lighter for barbecues.

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To enjoy a little artistic license



This is more of a calming meditative device than a normal easel. The idea is to paint on the clean white canvas using nothing but water – as it slowly evaporates, the artwork disappears. It allows users to let worries go, live in the moment and appreciate a clean slate – literally.



For those craving creativity with a click, and who love the format, the Polaroid Go is the world’s smallest instant camera. This seriously tiny, travel-friendly snapper features a selfie mirror, selftimer, fl ash and a fancy double exposure function. Each photo is just 1.85in wide – almost half the size of a regular instant snap – so is perfect for wallets and purses.

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Smart ways to cook up a storm.



A super-cool, superprofessional upgrade for serious baking fans. The retro design of Smeg’s Electric Hand Mixer harks back to the ‘50s – but with truly-21st century tech. It has nine speed sett ings, three whisks and a turbo function to tackle heavy.


£22.50 (annual subscription),

A free app lauded for its step-by-step videos, Kitchen Stories is a global sensation celebrating home cooking. Tap it up a gear by gifting a subscription, where keen cooks can search, collect and save unlimited recipes to create their own digital cookbook, plus enjoy award-winning content.

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To keep what matters safe.



A useful present for cat owners, allowing them to keep tabs on their tabby. Tabcat uses a radio frequency sensor clipped to a pet’s collar so they can be located wherever they wander on their adventures.



Know someone who loves to escape to their garden shed or allotment? Master Lock’s Biometric Padlock not only adds exceptional levels of security, it also swaps key combinations for fingerprint entry, doing away with the need for pesky codes.

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For exercising the grey matter.



This little stocking fi ller has been designed to sharpen cognitive function by repeating the light sequences shown until you complete the game. Hand-eye coordination and focus are key.



OK, not strictly tech, but this is just too good to miss out! This is Lego – but not as you know it. These days, there are intricate kits for adults too. The Art range is fantastic and includes this fabulous 1,810-piece interpretation of Katsushika Hokusai’s ‘ The Great Wave’.

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To get closer to the natural world.



A lighter, more practical alternative to binoculars, a monocular telescope offers a great way to get up close with wildlife. Hilkinson’s compact pocket model features 6x magnification with a rubber eye-cap that can be folded down for spectacle wearers. There’s a fantastic 133m field of view too.



Like a video doorbell for feathered friends, Bird Buddy is an ingenious way of enjoying wildlife in the garden. Equipped with a motion-activated camera that captures stills and video, its lens points straight at the bird table, capturing the creatures as they swoop down for a nibble.

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For tuning in... and tuning out.


From £15,

For the ultimate music lover in your life, Qobuz is a streaming service with 100+ million songs mastered so they sound fresh out of the studio. A boon for everything from jazz to classical, its playlists are also curated by real people rather than a computer.



Who doesn’t have fond memories of the original pocket synthesizer first released in 1968? This version features the same vintage analogue sound as the original, and includes a built-in speaker and a headphone jack.

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For kids both big and small.



‘Small ears, big world,’ says Loop, which has developed these cute, colourful and comfortable kid approved earplugs to help them focus and stay engaged. The earplugs are designed to take the edge off disruptive sounds, with up to 16dB of noise reduction, and are aimed at helping to manage and reduce anxiety.


£60, uk.yotoplay. com

Screen-free entertainment that doesn’t require youngsters to be online, Yoto players use digital story cards to explore classic stories in interactive ways. Tales include those by Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton, and adventures with Paddington and the Gruffalo, plus podcasts, games and songs – with no microphone, no camera, no ads and no questionable content.



There’s something a bit secret agent about Philips’ VoiceTracer pen because it can record conversations and use AI to transcribe what was said while users scribble down notes. This is a game changer for students in lectures or for meetings, plus the gadget doubles as a 32GB storage device that can be plugged into a laptop.

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Tempting tasters

This selection of delicious dips and nibbles are great for parties, or to serve with pre-dinner drinks. All have been created by Beverley Jarvis of Ashford & Wye u3a

Whether you’re hosting a party or an impromptu get together, it’s always good to have a few simple go-to recipes you can serve with drinks – especially if they can be prepared in advance. I’ve chosen some of my favourite canapés and dips to share with you. Most take no time to make, while the spring rolls require a little more effort but are well worth it. All the recipes are so much nicer than shop-bought alternatives, and more economical too. I like to serve dips alongside a good selection of crudités, breadsticks, crisps and crackers, all arranged on generous platters, large wooden boards or slate. Pop some items in small dishes, ramekins or little glasses to keep ingredients separate and add extra interest to the display. This is such a simple way to entertain – just make sure you’ve got plenty of cocktail sticks and napkins to hand so it’s easy for guests to graze and enjoy.

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Sweet and spicy party nuts

Serves approximately 6-8

These roasted nuts are simply delicious – and very moreish. It’s easy to up the quantities if you’re entertaining, and they store well in a sealed container for up to two weeks..


Sunflower oil to grease tin

200g blanched almonds

200g pecan nuts

50g sunflower seeds

50g pumpkin seeds

2 tbsps maple syrup

25g melted butter

2 tsps vanilla essence

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch cayenne pepper

Sea salt


1. Pre-heat oven to 190C, fan 170C or gas mark 5.

2. Line a large, shallow baking tin with lightly oiled parchment paper.

3. Put almonds, pecan nuts and both types of seeds into the baking tin.

4. Put all remaining ingredients except for the salt into a mixing bowl. Stir to blend well.

5. Pour this mixture over the nuts, then using two tablespoons, toss to coat thoroughly. Spread out evenly.

6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, stirring three times during cooking. Allow to cool in the tin, then sprinkle with a little sea salt.

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Easy romesco dip

Serves approximately 6-8

enjoy this bold, colourful dip warm or cold. It also makes a great pasta sauce. Double up the recipe ingredients if you’re feeding a crowd.


1x450g jar roasted red peppers, drained

1 beef tomato, roughly chopped

50g roasted cashew nuts

2 tbsps freshly chopped parsley

2 tsps sweet paprika

1-2 tbsps balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp avocado or olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp runny honey

Salt and black pepper, to taste


1. Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth.

2. Check seasoning, adding a little more salt and pepper if necessary. Transfer to serving bowl.

3. Serve with crostini and crudités.

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Smoked Salmon and Prawn Dip

Serves approximately 6-8

This pretty pink dip is great with crudités,

but is also delicious on toasted brown

bread or slices of fresh crusty French

stick. Just double up the recipe if needs be.


100g smoked salmon or trout, roughly chopped

150g cooked peeled prawns, drained

165g full fat cream cheese

4 rounded tbsps full fat creme fraiche

2 tbsps freshly chopped dill

Grated rind and juice of ½ small lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tsps creamed horseradish

Slices of lemon or olives, to garnish


1. Put all ingredients into a food

processor, fi tt ed with a metal blade.

Process to a thick paste.

2. Transfer to serving bowl. Cover and

chill until ready to serve, then finish

with a thin slice of lemon, a plump

prawn, a sprig of dill or an olive.

3. Enjoy with veggie sticks and toast.

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Make your crudité arrangements as colourful, interesting and abundant as you can – they’re great fun to put together. Crunchy veggie sticks such as peppers, celery, carrots, cucumber and baby sweetcorn are always a hit, but if you want to scale things up, include radicchio or romaine leaves (ideal for scooping) radishes, baby tomatoes, raw cauliflower florets and sugar snap peas. Tiny steamed potatoes their skins on – tossed in melted butter or olive oil and rolled in fresh parsley or mint – are also delicious served with dips. Add grapes, fi gs and apple or pear slices dipped in lemon juice (great with the romesco dip) and cubes of cheese such as Cheddar or feta, and then nestle in little dishes of olives, gherkins and sundried tomatoes to add extra colour.

Top tip: Ideally, prepare crudités just a couple of hours before you intend to serve them. Once washed and sliced, keep them in the fridge covered in damp paper kitchen towels to help them to stay fresh. Another way to refresh limp or less-than-crunchy prepared veg is by plunging in iced water for a minute or two, then patting dry with a paper towel.

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Double cheese straws

Makes approximately 30

Full of flavour and deliciously crumbly, these cheese straws go down a storm with pre-dinner drinks. They freeze well or can be stored, chilled in an air-tight container, for up to four days.


375g plain fl our

225g salted butter, frozen

150g extra mature Cheddar cheese, grated

75g Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tsp English mustard powder

Pinch or two of cayenne pepper

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary needles, optional

Pinch of sea salt

1 egg, beaten with 4 tbsps cold water

Plain fl our for dredging

Milk for brushing

A little extra paprika for sprinkling,

or poppy seeds


1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Rub in butt er using fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add both cheeses, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, rosemary, sea salt and the beaten egg.

2. Using a cutlery knife, mix to a dough, adding a little more water if necessary. Turn onto lightly floured work surface and knead gently. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

3. Pre-heat your oven to 190C, fan 170C or Gas mark 5.

4. Line two baking sheets with lightly greased baking paper.

5. Roll chilled dough to a rectangle 38cm by 15cm (15in by 6in) and cut into straws.

6. Carefully transfer to the lightly oiled baking sheets. Brush with a little milk and sprinkle with extra paprika or poppy seeds.

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

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Prawn spring rolls with Chinese dipping sauce

Makes approximately 20

These are so easy to make. They freeze well so it’s worth making a big batch in advance of your party, then defrosting thoroughly before popping in the oven to warm through.


450g mixed vegetables (such as shredded red and yellow peppers, bean sprouts, carrot matchsticks, shredded pak choi, sliced button mushrooms and sliced spring onions)

300g cooked prawns, drained 1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

2 tsps garam masala

Salt and black pepper

6 sheets filo pastry, from a 250g packet, defrosted if frozen

A little flour for dredging

1 egg, beaten

Spray oil

For the dipping sauce

60ml light soy sauce

15ml rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar

10ml sesame oil

1 spring onion, finely chopped

2 tsps chopped chives

1 tsp runny honey


1. First, make the dipping source. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, then pour into a serving bowl and set aside.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 210C, fan 190C or gas mark 6, or heat the air fryer to 190C.

3. Prepare the fi lling for the spring rolls. In a large mixing bowl, combine the mixed vegetables with the drained prawns, garlic, chopped coriander, garam masala, salt and black pepper. Mix gently together.

4. Cut fi lo into 18cm by 13cm (7in by 5in) squares using kitchen scissors. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent the filo pastry drying out.

5. Take one square and place on a lightly floured chopping board with the point facing towards you so it looks a bit like a diamond. Spoon about 1 tbsp of the prawn mixture into the middle.

6. Bring the left and right points into the centre. Then bring the bottom point to the centre so you have the shape of an unsealed envelope. Gently roll upwards, brushing the top point with a little beaten egg to seal the roll. Repeat with the remaining filling and pastry.

7. As each roll is completed, brush with beaten egg. Then spray with a little oil.

8. If oven baking: ide spring rolls between 2 lightly oiled baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes until golden. If air frying: cook in batches for 10 minutes, turning each roll over carefully halfway through.

9. Serve warm with the dipping sauce.

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Meet u3a's subject advisers

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Experts on call

In our organisation, there are over 70 national Subject Advisers who offer valuable expertise, knowledge and support to group leaders and members. We meet three to discover more

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Language skills

Geoff Phoenix, Portuguese Language Subject Adviser, has been a member of the Steyning and District u3a in Sussex for 14 years.

When did your passion for Portugal and its language begin? My wife and I first went to the Algarve 37 years ago, and we were captivated by the country, the people and the culture. We knew we’d return often, and I thought it was so important to learn Portuguese: it’s such a shame when people regularly visit, or even live in, another country and can’t speak a word of the language.

What do you tell people about Portuguese? It has its roots in ish, Latin, French and Arabic, and became a language in its own right in the 12th century. It’s also the fifth most spoken language in the world, and there are versions of it in far-flung places such as Mozambique, East Timor and, of course, Brazil. It’s not a particularly easy language to learn, but once you’ve conquered the pronunciation and verb conjugations, I promise it gets simpler (I’ve even written two booklets with audio tracks on these subjects to help).

Why is the country so special to you? Over the years, we have travelled all over Portugal. Cities such as Lisbon and Porto are wonderful, but the rural areas such as the Serra da Estrela in central Portugal are magical – it is like going back in time. The country’s history is fascinating, too, and shares many parallels with Britain. I have to mention Portugal’s wonderful food and wine, of course. One of my favourite dishes is pasteis de bacalhau (cod fishcakes) – just one of the 365 ways the Portuguese cook this fish. A fantastic foodie experience is the Chocolate Festival held in the ancient walled town of Óbidos every spring: little chocolate cups are filled with ginja, a local cherry liqueur, and impossible to resist. Sadly, we can’t replicate that, but group members occasionally visit Portuguese restaurants in this country, and I host a sardinhada (sardine barbeque) every summer. If some of us happen to be in Portugal at the same time, we meet there too – it’s very sociable.

What made you become a Subject Adviser? I’d been learning the language for a number of years, but when I joined the u3a, I discovered that there were very few Portuguese groups operating on a regular basis. Many British people visit or retire to Portugal, so I believed there was a need for more study opportunities, so I eventually became a Subject Adviser. Not only did I find I really enjoyed teaching – I was a chartered surveyor by profession – but I saw it as an opportunity to network with other group leaders to exchange ideas, information and teaching methods.

How does your Portuguese language group operate? Since the pandemic began, we have used Zoom as our meeting platform, and this has been incredibly successful, enabling us to include members from groups all around the country and making it so convenient for everyone. I lead two groups a week, for beginners and advanced study, and we occasionally invite Portuguese or Brazilian friends to participate. I think it’s so important that language groups ensure speaking and listening take priority in the lessons. We’re also aiming to link up with a u3a group in Portugal whose members are learning English for an exchange of ideas. I’m always delighted to hear from anyone who wants to know more about the subject (geoff .phoenix@

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Past lives

Local History Subject Adviser Sandra Whitnell lives in Peebles in Scotland, and has been a member of Tweeddale u3a for 12 years.

How did you first get interested in local history? Some years ago, I spent a long time researching my own family’s history – it was full of surprises and I became a bit obsessed. I was fascinated by how life would have been for generations of my family. After we moved from England to the Scottish Borders about 12 years ago, I started discovering more about the area’s fascinating past and the people who had once lived here. I’d learnt a lot from being nosey about my own family, so this was a natural progression.

What do you think makes local history so interesting? There’s something very satisfying about walking around your own patch and getting a feel for its past – the way the buildings may have altered in either appearance or use and charting a place’s institutions and growth over time. Understanding how events through the years will have affected its people, the culture and the physical environment is so important. I especially love discovering and bringing to life the struggles and achievements of the people who lived here. It’s like an unfolding story – there can sometimes be cliffhangers.

What can you offer as a u3a Subject Adviser? My previous work included working with leaders and organisations. Facilitating groups was a big part of my working life, as was developing guidance, so it’s been helpful to bring these skills to this role. I started from scratch about 18 months ago. I estimate that there are over 600 local history u3a groups across the UK. I’m trying to get the word out that I’m here and ready to support new and experienced group leaders. I really enjoy finding ways to support u3a members. For those unable to get to local groups or who are in u3as currently unable to sustain a group, for instance, I’m offering an online learning group. I know a national local history group sounds like a contradiction in terms, but I think we can make it work. It will give everyone an opportunity to share stories from their local area. We plan to give it themes, such as ‘tell us about your local pub’ and so on.

What sort of activities do local history groups take part in? There are so many ways to find out about an area, from visiting places of local interest as a group to compiling town guides and setting up various projects. At the moment, for instance, I’m working on a mind map of interesting activities our own small Tweeddale group can all do together, such as walking tours of the town, themed talks, recommending local history books and commenting on old photographs. We’re also visiting a cemetery with a local expert from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

How can u3a members get started with local history? Just get in touch with me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). I’m always happy to have a chat. There’s no one way of making a particular group work and succeed: it’s about finding the best route for the inidual coordinator and the members of that group.

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Rock on!

Geology Subject Adviser Martin Eales lives in Surrey and joined the Sutton u3a about six years ago.

Is your background in geology? I first started learning about the subject when I was doing my science degree at Cambridge. We had to study four topics in the first year, which meant I had to choose something I knew very little about. I chose geology – and quickly got hooked. I researched it at Glasgow University and then worked in the oil industry, including in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy. I’ve also lived in North Africa and the Middle East, so for the last 50 years I’ve had opportunities to study geology and visit countries around the world. What makes it such an important subject? Geology helps us to understand how the world was made and continues to evolve. Geology is the basis of landscape, soil and food and all the materials we use in our lives. Its study teaches us so much about our world and how life has evolved over the last three billion years. Geology is literally all around us, and it’s not just seen in our landscapes and coastlines. Whether you’re in a town or village, there is geology. We have an astonishing ersity of rock formations in this country – from the Jurassic Coast in the south of England to North West Scotland, which has some of the oldest rocks in the world. I was involved with the u3a’s Hadrian’s Wall project. This is an especially fascinating geological region: the rocks show us how Scotland and England were ided by a massive ocean some 500 million years ago and then collided to form a huge mountain range.

What do you think surprises people most about geology? People are often astonished to learn that this country was responsible for some of the earliest geological studies. During the 18th and 19th centuries, we were at the centre of scientific thought, looking at the world and its creation differently from the way people had been taught by the Bible. James Hutt on is known as the father of geology because he was the first to suggest how rocks were created over a time of many millions of years. His discovery at Siccar Point in East Lothian in 1788 (now better known as Hutton’s Unconformity) helped him explain his theories about the processes of the earth. At that time, it wasn’t known how the earth was formed, but he could see how two completely different types of rocks – one grey with vertical beds and the other red with horizontal beds – were deposited. This led him to the conclusion that our planet had been formed over an unfathomable period of time. Similar processes are happening now. Tell us about your role as a u3a Subject Adviser... I do a series of geological talks geared for the u3a, which can be presented to a group online or in person (based around the Surrey and London borders). I’ve also led a number of online learning event sessions and will be doing some more this winter. For members keen to start learning about geology, I’d suggest they first check with their local group or go to the subject page on the u3a website ( to find out more.

  • You can contact these Subject Advisers and over 70 others via Also see our Subject Advisers list in the Sources section

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Let's dance

The alchemy of movement, music and connecting with others cannot be underestimated. Sharon Parsons steps out to discover why.

We humans have been dancing for literally thousands of years. Primitive cave drawings show our ancestors energetically busting a move or two, and throughout time the genre has been used in myriad ways: to express emotion or convey a message; to celebrate or commiserate; to make connections or find respite; and, not least, to have fun. Even those who profess to have no dance ability at all might secretly do a little shimmy in the kitchen when a favourite tune comes on the radio. Expressing ourselves in rhythmic movement is almost hardwired into us, Learning steps and routines, coordinating mind and body and – most importantly – connecting with other people are positive ways of keeping the mind sharp and engaged. In terms of physical exercise, dance really is the ultimate workout. It improves balance and flexibility, puts limbs and muscles through their paces and, because it is a weight-bearing exercise, can help to maintain bone density. Not least, a moderately-paced routine gives the heart a good workout. Oh, and it burns calories too, which makes it excellent as part of a weightloss programme. and for one outstanding reason: it’s good for us, and our minds and bodies know it. Countless studies have proven that dance is not only great physical exercise – more of which below – but it has extraordinary wellbeing benefits too. To start with, it brings us into a sense of ‘fl ow’ – a state where we are totally absorbed in a pursuit – which provides the mental space to step back from other distractions. It stands to reason, then, that dancing can improve mood, decrease anxiety, boost energy and improve self-esteem. It’s also proven to be a pursuit that particularly benefits older people.

Finally, let’s not forget the fun bit. Dancing is a fantastic activity to stay socially engaged. It’s not only participating with others in a shared interest, it’s beneficial in other physical ways too – taking each other’s hands or getting into hold for a dance fulfils a basic human need for connection, while studies show that synchronised movements have the same positive ‘we’re all in this together’ effect. So what are you waiting for? Whatever style or genre of dance most appeals, you can’t help but reap the benefits.

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‘Learning to dance is a great adventure’

Gill and Greg Greenhaugh have been u3a Subject Advisers for Ballroom Dancing for the last six years and belong to the u3a Cockermouth group. Here Greg explains why they always intend to keep dancing... “We were both introduced to dance at an early age, and when we met back in 1992, we started learning to dance together. Back then, ballroom was seen as a bit stiff and old-fashioned – but the Strictly effect has changed all that. Quite rightly, it’s never been more popular or appreciated among all age groups. “Everyone loves a beautiful waltz, but personally, because I love old-time glamour – think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – the American smooth, the quickstep and the foxtrot are my absolute favourites. Gill, on the other hand, is a huge fan of Latin because these allow the dancers to get into character – the rumba and the paso doble, for instance, are very emotive and dramatic. In fact, we were instructed in Argentine tango by a teacher from Buenos Aires and we specialised in that dance for a time. It’s one that always grabs people’s attention because it is very intense, and the steps are so intricate. “For anyone new to ballroom or Latin, we’d recommend learning the waltz and the cha-cha-cha first, before moving on to the trickier dances like the foxtrot: it’s harder than it looks because of the rise and fall, swing and sway, but it’s a joy to master. “ The most important thing, though, is to love dancing. Our group is a busy one with up to 60 members who come along once a week to the local church hall to learn and enjoy a wide variety of routines. We also have fantastic dance group weekends away: every year, for instance, we head off to the famous Blackpool Tower Ballroom to dance, where we’ve met other u3a groups doing the same. “We’re about to take our last dance as u3a Subject Advisers, but have no intention of taking it easy – we’ll be on that dance floor as much as ever.”


The origins of ballroom dancing lie in European court dances. The Viennese waltz is the oldest, dating back to the 18th century, while the slow waltz developed at the beginning of the 20th century. Latin has a number of roots – including ish, West African and indigenous American influences.

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‘Ballet is a joy to both practise and teach’

Kyrchian Sweeney teaches Silver Swans Ballet to members of the St Helens u3a group, which she joined about five years ago “When I was six, my best friend’s mother gave me a pair of ballet shoes, and something clicked: I knew then I wanted to be a ballerina. Two years later I was enrolled at a Russian ballet dance school in Tunbridge Wells in Kent, where I boarded until I was 16. “Of course, I had ambitions to become a world-famous prima ballerina, but unfortunately I got too tall (although I did once meet the famous British ballerina Beryl Grey, who was known for her height, and measured myself up against her – I was an inch shorter). “Sadly, my dreams never came true, but I did join various companies that travelled around the country and further afield, and appeared in different shows and pantomimes, which was great fun. “Once I got married and had children, it wasn’t possible to continue, but I would still have lessons occasionally. When we moved to Canada for my husband’s work, I decided to start a small ballet school. Eventually, in order to progress as a qualified teacher, I studied the Royal Academy of Dance method. When I qualified in 1984, it was a fantastic achievement. “We moved back to the UK in 2000, and I naturally continued to dance and teach. Now, of course, I have the great pleasure of doing so with my u3a Silver Swans group, and I teach the Royal Academy method. “ There are currently about 10 of us – all ladies, though men are most welcome – and we meet once a week to practice at a dance studio where there is a barre to practise classic movements such as plié. It doesn’t matter whether anyone has any ballet experience or not: this is all about learning and enjoying the elegant, controlled movements of the dance. It’s a wonderful way to exercise, and improves posture, flexibility and coordination. “I’m 84 now, and after a lifetime of ballet, I still can’t imagine not doing it on a regular basis. It keeps me supple, strong and engaged – and it’s marvellous to share the joy of it with other people.”


Classical ballet is generally classified by Italian, French, Russian and English styles. Each has different characteristics within its own system: Russian ballet, for example, is described as being very dynamic with high extensions, while English ballet has a clean, precise technique.

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'The sound of everyone’s feet tapping in unison is exhilarating!’

Lesley Carter is the organiser of the Hertford & District u3a tap-dancing group, which began five years ago “We’re a small but keen group of 10 ‘tappers’ who meet every Tuesday in our local Quaker hall, where our brilliant instructor, Jodie, puts us through our paces. Most of us joined as complete beginners, but those that tap-danced as children say it’s a bit like riding a bike – you never forget how to do it. “When our group started five years ago, we all came along in our trainers, but within a week or two all of us were on the internet buying proper tap shoes – once you hear that tap, you’re hooked. None of us ever want to miss a class (I always video Jodie teaching the lesson so that those who can’t make it can still practise and keep up). We also have a special WhatsApp group, which is really fun and supportive. “Jodie understands how we operate, and always pushes us – we’re going from strength to strength. We’ll start with a warm-up routine to cover the basics, such as a heel-toe step and a shuffle-ball change, which are pretty easy for any new members to master, and then she’ll teach us a routine to music we all enjoy. There are all the classic tap numbers – think 42nd Street, for instance – but we also love music from the 70s and 80s: my absolute favourite is the Ray Charles number Hit the Road Jack. “I love setting myself challenges. I really want to master the time step, for instance, which is notoriously tricky, but I am determined to do it one day. “I’ve wanted to learn to tap dance since I was tiny, but sadly my parents couldn’t afford to pay for tap-dancing lessons then. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve finally got my chance. While I might not be that good at it, I’m a very happy tapper. When my feet are dancing in rhythm with everyone else’s, there really is nothing like it.”


Tap began in the United States over 300 years ago when African slaves weren’t allowed to play traditional drums, so found ways to create similar rhythmic sounds. These combined with influences from Irish, Scottish and English immigrants, who danced jigs wearing wooden clogs: in the early days of tap, dancers attached pennies to their shoes to make the distinctive noise.

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‘It’s a privilege to keep these traditional dances alive’

Ian Ludbrook is the Subject Adviser for Barn Dance, Country Dance, Folk Dance and Scottish Dance, and is a member of Weston-Super- Mare u3a “I’ve been involved in folk and country dance since I was 16: my teacher would leave me with a record player and an instruction book, and put me in charge of a class while she caught up with her marking. It probably wasn’t very cool at that age, but I loved it. “I’ve spent years studying and learning about these different dances – where they originated and how they’ve evolved over time. Many have ties and similarities with each other. “One of the most enduring types of formation dance is known generically as the Playford dances: over 100 were originally published in a book called The English Dancing Master by a music publisher called John Playford in 1651. These were the first dance instructions ever to be printed, and this book, along with successive editions, were popular for centuries. Jane Austen and her circle would have known them, so it’s astonishing to think we are doing the same steps now. “We have around 30 people in our u3a group, and we enjoy many of the Playford dances, among others. We meet every two weeks for a few hours in the afternoon, and everyone is welcome, regardless of whether they have any dance experience or not. More than anything, it needs to be fun for everyone in the room. “I have a vast collection of over 1,000 different dances, lots of MP3 files and more than 490 CDs of music, so we’re never short of a tune. I’m also a caller – that is, I call out the instructions to the dancers – but that’s not always a good thing. My wife, Gillian, loves dancing too, but not with me: she says I don’t pay enough attention as I’m constantly looking around, ready to ‘call’ if needed!”


Country dance has its roots in old English peasant communities, and some of these formations and rhythms went with the early English settlers to America where they became American country dance and barn dance: some of these have steps and tunes that we’re familiar with today.

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u3a festival focus

Excitement is building as plans get well underway for the inaugural National u3a Festival, to be held at the University of York from 18 to 20 July next year. Here’s the latest update from Margaret Fiddes, trustee for Yorkshire and the Humber

The University of York offers a splendid backdrop for Festival 24. Whether you plan to join us for just one day or for the full three-day experience, you’ll find a wide range of activities and sessions to choose from. The erse programme will include workshops, music, talks and tours – there’ll be something for everyone.


You might wonder why York was chosen as the Festival’s location. Aside from being one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, it boasts excellent connectivity to all four nations. There are direct trains from Exeter and Aberdeen and well connected roads and motorways, while the university’s convenient location to the east of the city makes it an accessible destination with plenty of parking for all.


Affordability and inclusivity have been a major consideration in planning this event. Attendees will pay a single fee per day – which, on day one, also includes dinner and musical entertainment. For those planning to stay on-site, the University of York offers comfortable single en-suite rooms at £54 per person for bed and breakfast. The rooms are handily placed between the sports centre and the exhibition centre, where most indoor activities will be held. Booking can be done directly through the university’s website.


Festival 24 promises to be a real

celebration of learning, creativity and

camaraderie. It’s an opportunity to

embrace new interests and meet fellow

u3a members from across the country.

Get the date in your diaries, spread the

word and get ready to make history at the

first-ever National u3a Festival.

  • For more information, including the detailed programme and booking details, please visit festival-2024 • Please get in touch with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The Festival will not only be an opportunity for members to learn something new but also to connect with other members from across the movement who share their passions. Here are just some of the many activities we have planned:

Artistic licence.

Time to get those imaginations fired up. Creativity will be a major feature of Festival 24. From creative writing to flower arranging, yoga to drumming and family history, there will be lots of workshops and activities to explore.

Tuning up

Music lovers take note – Festival 24 will feature a full programme of musical performances. Many of our talented members have generously offered to bring their bands and music groups to share their talents. There may even be an opportunity to join a u3a choir.

Ready, steady...

Sports and games will also be a central part of the Festival, with subject advisers and group leaders already planning their tournaments and tasting sessions in pickleball, pétanque, croquet and walking cricket. Take a look at the programme and see what you could try.

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Summer schools; poetry competition; bridge pilot scheme & national spring charity bridge festival

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Back to school

Up and down the country, the u3a’s Summer School events have been as enthusiastic, interesting and convivial as ever, with a lot of hard work from organisers behind the scenes.

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Helen Howard from Canterbury & District u3a, and a member of the Countdown to COP Interest Group, recalls this immersive Summer School Our u3a group Countdown to COP has 71 members so far, and 30 of us arrived at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales for the Summer School held in September. Some of us could even remember when the Centre first took over the slate quarry 50 years ago. The history of CAT was laid out all around us in buildings constructed of straw bales, rammed earth, wood, slate, sheep’s wool and lime render, along with water turbines and compost toilets. Needless to say, we found the ensuite accommodation and restaurant facilities on offer today very good. The organisers had planned our time expertly. The first presentation launched us into our two days of work with the statement ‘Climate breakdown is a “wicked” problem’. Each subsequent presentation and discussion of real-life innovative projects happening in Wales led us to think through some “wicked” solutions. We looked at what we could do as iniduals and the benefits of working collectively to influence decision-makers to bring about change. These two days gave us time to re-evaluate and think about how to approach the future with new perspectives. We came away wiser and with new connections within and beyond u3a. It was a truly thought-provoking event.

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Pat Collard, regional chair for the Yorkshire and Humber Region, shares memories of the event This year’s Yorkshire and Humber Region (YAHR) Summer School took place in late July, and was once again held in the Cabinet Office at The Hawkhills in Easingwold near York. We welcomed 106 delegates from Yorkshire, Lowestoft , Inverness, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Worcester and London. Attendees studied one of the 10 courses on offer, which included drama, history, art, science, language, culture and jewellery-making, all led by fantastic tutors. Fun in the evenings included a jamming session, a quiz night and a murder mystery, with opportunities to meet friends in the bar. To sum it all up: enjoyment, enthusiasm, fellowship and fun – and, of course, learning for pleasure. Next year’s Summer School will be held at the same venue from 22-25 July. See for more information.

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This summer marked the 10th anniversary of the London Region Summer School. Rona Black of Dulwich & District u3a and Catherine Ware of Merton u3a explain how this significant event was celebrated This year’s very special Summer School in July was held as usual in the elegant Grade ll listed Victorian building that houses the St Bride Foundation, set up to serve the print and publishing trade of Fleet Street. Around 170 members came each day and, while London u3as were naturally well represented, many attendees also hailed from u3as elsewhere in

the UK. The London Summer School is non-residential, and members select their own daily programme from a wide range of topics and activities. This year there were 29 different sessions on offer including 17 talks, four workshops and eight walks, all led by speakers and guides who were either u3a members or external professionals. Fascinating talks covered far-reaching topics such as Indian politics; London’s historic landscapes; visiting the moon; studying rainbows; art after Raphael; and theatre programmes. Workshops included quilting, ukulele playing, analysing film and American early 20th-century art. Walkers made the most of the fine weather, exploring the likes of Shakespeare’s London and sections of the city walls. Attendees enjoyed sitting in the venue’s pleasant outdoor courtyard and meeting members from other u3as. The positive feedback from everyone has been absolutely fantastic. To mark our 10th anniversary, a digital booklet has been produced on the History of the London Region Summer School 2013-2023. It can be viewed at

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Linda Hugo-Vieten, tutor liaison/ communications officer of the u3a’s South East Forum’s Summer School, shares what happened at this year’s sunny event Well, it really was a Summer School with temperatures hovering around the 30°C mark this September – which was a bit too hot for some of the 150 delegates and 11 tutors at this year’s event, held at the University of Chichester in Sussex. A few unexpected issues put the heat on even more. Our Manuscripts on Sunday session had to be cancelled, while the planned Cycling had to be re-organised due to unforeseen circumstances. Everyone rose to the challenge, and we are so grateful to members who accepted a transfer to their second or third option, and the tutors who incorporated other members at short notice. One member in particular, Mike Taylor, should be commended for volunteering to run the Cycling Group. Everyone took the unexpected heat into consideration and adapted accordingly. The Yoga and Mindfulness group for instance, found a grassy, shaded area away from the hot studio, which suited them perfectly, while bursts of happy laughter could be heard from the Creative Writing group as they made use of shady, seated areas outside. The walkers, meanwhile, enjoyed a slower pace and a breezy boat ride on one route. The other groups whose subjects were more ‘house-bound’ were in airy rooms shaded by blinds so they could thoroughly enjoy their course. The trip to Bignor Roman Villa by the Archaeology group was enjoyed by all, as was the input from a detectorist the previous day. During the morning break on the last day, the members were given an excellent 10-minute recital by the Ukulele group, with a very uplifting singalong. Nothing was too much trouble for any of the staff , and the university deserves a huge thank you for the brilliant organisation and for looking after us so well. We’re already looking forward to next year. For more information, go to:

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Toolkit for environmentalists

Are you involved in a u3a Environmental group or thinking of setting one up? If so, there’s lots of help available. Nick Ward, co-organiser of the Ruthin and District u3a Sustainable Living group, explains A group of u3a members got together last year to produce an online toolkit. This contains advice on setting up and running a group, with examples and ideas from others, plus lots of useful information on possible topics for meetings, speakers, presentations, visits, games, books and fi lms. The emphasis is on the climate crisis, but much of the information will be useful to groups with a wider environmental remit. You can find the information under Tool Kit at: You can also contact Climate Change and Environment Subject Adviser John Baxter (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), who is available to help new and existing groups.

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The u3a National Poetry Competition is back for another year, and this year the theme is ‘What if…’ The competition opens on Wednesday 8 November, and will close at midday on Friday 26 January, so there’s plenty of time to enter. To read the rules and submit your poem, please visit

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Anyone for bridge?

Bridge Subject Adviser Steve Carter advises on how u3a members can master this challenging game Following the very successful pilot scheme for a new Online Bridge Beginner’s Course, which has been running since early spring 2023, a further extended trial of the course will begin in January 2024. The pilot scheme was delivered online to bridge students from around the country and now we want to extend the concept by recruiting teachers (and helpers) to present a 20-week course of online bridge lessons to as many students as we can. To find out more about becoming a student, teacher or assistant, please complete the enquiry form at

  • If you’d like any help with sett ing up a u3a Bridge Group or would like other information about this interesting game, please email u3abridgegroup@hotmail. com

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The second National Spring Charity Bridge Festival in May was enjoyed by players from the four nations. Thanks to their generous support, £2,272.88 was raised and has been shared equally between Age and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The innovative scoring system allowed the results of local groups playing offline and those playing online to be consolidated, enabling the names of daily winners to be promptly published. Congratulations to each of our daily winners: Dawn and Peter Beckett; Peter Tallon and Martin Jones; Hilary and Ray Essen; Andrew Pollock and Dick Chilton; and Mary •an d Jim McDonnell. Coming up: Our next annual Spring Charity Bridge Festival is planned for the 8–12 April 2024, so make a note of the dates and come and join us. For further information, please visit

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Subject advisers

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

Could you be our next science, mahjong or ballroom dancing subject adviser? To find out more please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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One lucky u3a member will win a pair of tickets to enjoy either RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival or an RHS Garden of their choice.

Whether you’re a dedicated green-fingered horticulturist, simply enjoy exploring beautiful gardens or love soaking up the atmosphere of world-famous garden shows, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has something special for everyone. We know how much inidual u3a members, as well as groups, enjoy visiting the world-famous RHS Gardens across the country. There are five to inspire: the newest, RHS Garden Bridgewater, is in Greater Manchester; then there is RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate; RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex; RHS Rosemoor in North Devon; and, of course, the iconic RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, which is not only the oldest RHS Garden but the organisation’s famous home. All five promise a fantastic day out all year round, and are bursting with history, ideas, special events and hidden gems. It’s not just the wonderful RHS Gardens that offer endless inspiration, either: the RHS Flower Shows and Festivals are also an undoubted highlight of the summer calendar. One of the most loved is, of course, RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival (2-7 July 2024), which is the world’s largest flower show. It offers a memorable experience in a magnificent setting, making it the perfect venue for a u3a group visit (see Groups are welcome) .

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The lucky competition winner can choose from either a pair of tickets to the 2024 RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival or a pair of tickets to an RHS Garden of their choice, and will also receive a souvenir guidebook. To enter, just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name and reference ‘TAM Winter Prize Draw’. Email entries must be received by midnight on 7 January 2024. The winner will be drawn at random and notified by email.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is delighted to welcome u3a groups to RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, which opens from Tuesday 2 to Sunday 7 July 2024. Group benefits include discounted rates for groups and free coach parking*. For more information, and to receive a Group Visit Guide plus a pack of seeds, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, address and u3a branch. *Please note: u3a groups are welcome to visit Thursday to Sunday when group rates are available. These require a minimum of 20 people. Groups of 20-49 people: £32.85pp. Groups of 50+ people: £27.85pp (one free place is offered for the group organiser and for the coach driver, plus free coach parking).

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Prize terms and conditions:

Prize excludes any additional refreshments, transport or accommodation to either the Garden or Festival. Any additional visitors attending will need to pre-book and pay at the advertised rate stated on the RHS website. Prize of two tickets can only be redeemed for either RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival on the public days (Thursday 4 to Sunday 7 July 2024), for which tickets will be issued by The Ticket Factory, or for an RHS Garden. RHS Gardens can be visited all year, apart from on Christmas Day. Prize cannot be raffled or resold and must be redeemed during 2024. RHS Show dates and Garden opening times are listed at

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Brain games

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From Michael Cleaver, of Lancaster & Morecambe u3a

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Many experienced partnerships employ the McKenney system for discards, where a low discard shows interest in the lower suit (excluding the trump suit and the discard suit), and a high discard shows interest in the higher suit. However, the system can be used much more widely. Where the card you play is irrelevant, it can be used to signal to partner the suit in which you have a potential winner.


N. ♦K,J,10,8,3.

W. ♦A

E. ♦9,7,6,5,4

South is in 4 ♠ having opened 1NT. East places South with ♦Q2 so knows that West’s lead is a singleton. If East has a winner in hearts, she will play the ♦9, but the ♦4 if she has a winner in clubs. With no interest, she will play the ♦6.


N. ♦J,9,6,4,2

W. ♦10

E. ♦A,8,7,5,3

South is in 4♥. East hopes that West’s lead is a singleton. After winning ♦A, East returns ♦3 to show interest in clubs or the ♦8 to show interest in spades.


North. ♠10,8,6,3. ♥K,8,5,4. ♦8. ♣K,J,7,6

W. ♠Q,7,2. ♥J,10,7. ♦K,J,7,4,3. ♣10,5

E ♠J. ♥A,Q,9,2. ♦Q,9,6,5,2. ♣Q,8,3

South ♠AK954. ♥6,3. ♦A,10. ♣A,9,4,2

The Bidding:

N. P, 3 ♠ (8 losers and a singleton, just worth a double raise), P.

E. P,P,P

S. 1 ♠, 4 ♠

W. P,P.

West leads the ♦4 to the ♦8 and ♦A. Declarer plays ♠A, ♠K and another spade to West’s ♠Q. On the second round of spades, East must discard a diamond – the suit that is of no use to the defence. If a low diamond is played, East is telling partner that they want a club returned after ♠Q wins. If a high diamond is played, East is telling partner that they want a heart returned. If the ♦6 is played, this is middle of the road and says nothing about the required switch. On this hand, East will discard ♦9 on the second round of trumps. West will see this as a clear indication that she should switch to a heart. East will win ♥A and ♥Q and should come to a club trick. Without East’s signal, West may shift to a club, which would be disastrous.

1. Attitude: Historically the method used to show attitude to your partner’s lead was to play a high card to encourage and a low card to discourage – the HELD mantra. The disadvantage of the method is that, to encourage, you may sometimes discard a vital card in the suit. A safer method is to use the reverse, i.e. for a low card to encourage and a high card to discourage – Low Like, High Hate.

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Crossword by Islington u3a Cryptic Crosswords Group.

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1. Supporting feature in Star Chamber (4)

3. I wonder: odd twisted title character (5,5)

9. Pride member’s lover is only nineteen at first (4)

10. Survey to review crew finishing on time (10)

12. Being adaptable, got influence for bending the knee (12)

15. A number at shortened odds left out (5)

16. Pink geese upset dog (9)

18. Finished the endless argument; it’s gone too far (9)

19. Energy times time over length equals big up (5)

20. Is an orchestration of flutes (no bass) blowing your own trumpet? (12)

24. Heroic? Frenzied rivals. Ouch! (10)

25. Two soldiers in romantic film (4)

26. Aggravate one-time champion about to carry bat (10)

27. W not used in insubstantial word game (1-3)

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1. All for one? No, it comes back after a charge (10)

2. Top eco-friendly sports ground (5,5)

4. Old-fashioned wash day is cool (9)

5. Comatose in hospital ward and finally depart (5)

6. I did enjoy the beginnings of sex last time around, in a haphazard manner (12)

7. It’s all here, Romeo — be you — play it by the book (4)

8. Obligation starts to double up the yield (4)

11. Loving a tot stirred with caffeine (12)

13. The appreciation of beauty ties cheats in knots (10)

14. Make no secret of status in worship (10)

17. Reportedly a guide to small yield edible crop (4,5)

21. Personnel in vessel that’s found in garden (5)

22. Kept in by teacher — what a pain (4)

23. Image, a small type (4)

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Crossword Solution





  • 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. with the subject ‘CROSSWORD SUBMISSION’.

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Maths challenge

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

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Question 1

Robert is twice as old as Sue and four years ago he was three times as old as Sue. What are the ages of Robert and Sue?

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Question 2

A security door code is a five digit number. The digits are all different and are ordered from lowest to highest, with a sum of 20 and product of 336. What is this code?

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Maths challenge solutions


If Robert and Sue’s ages are R and S, then R – 4 = 3(S – 4) i.e., R = 3S – 8 = 2S. Therefore, Sue’s age, S, is 8 and Robert’s age, R, is 16.


336 = 2 x (1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 7).

The two products of five different digits that can be formed are therefore, 1 x 2 x 4 x 6 x 7 and 1 x 2 x 3 x 7 x 8. The combination 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8 can be eliminated as the digits sum to 21. The entry code is 12467.

  • Quizzes and maths challenges are available online at

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1. Account that’s sort of windy? (4,2,4)

5. Discover coupon, taking me by surprise (8)

9. How on Earth can you engrave with ketchup? (4)

11. Immoral sort of ends? (5)

12. Time travel could be on the list (4)

14. Salty aluminium mined from a lumber yard? (4)

15. Big distance between taking off a rap artist (3,5)

18. Took him out of the car pool to deter the moths (7,3)


1. Fill, wi Thennui, the rigid hole? (4,5)

2. Welch in my gambling with a tree? (7)

3. Sugarbeet, trimming off the insect (3)

4. Which is the one from the World Health Organization? (3)

6. Rank Calcium as a Balearic island (7)

7. Mate from Las Palmas (3)

8. Gets to the mat at first light? It’s a Lima thing (5,4)

13. Spot the mistake in a terrific clue? (3)

16. Bent bit of the parcel? (3)

17. Little mutt, jumping softly up and down! (3)

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1. Blow by blow. 5. Come upon. 9.Etch. 11. Loose. 12. Item. 14. Alum. 15. Farapart. 18. Camp Horoil.


1. Bore Stiff. 2. Wych Elm. 3. Bee. 4. Who. 6. Majorca. 7. Pal. 8. Night mail. 13. Err. 16. Arc. 17. Pup

  • For more professor rebus puzzles visit

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Member's story

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Islands of adventure

Marg Greenwood, a member of Leeds u3a, shares her stories of travelling solo in the intriguing Scottish islands.

Since taking very early retirement, I’ve visited many Scottish islands. A friend introduced me to the Isle of Coll some 25 years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. What draws me back to these isles? It’s a combination of wonderful coastal scenery, wildlife – particularly birds and otters – and, I think, the feeling of being safe and within the boundaries of an island. Not least, there are surprises around every corner.


Most years I’ve taken one or two solo trips, with each holiday sometimes incorporating up to three islands and often lasting three or more weeks, usually in spring or summer. After deciding to visit either one or a group of islands, I plan well in advance. For a start, I have to book my car onto various ferries (most islands allow vehicles): one recent trip to Gigha – pronounced ‘geeya’ – for instance involved three ferries, together with a drive across the Isle of Arran to take me to the Kintyre peninsula. It’s also important to get my accommodation sorted. I never stay in hotels – it’s usually hostels, B&Bs and even bunkhouses. Bunkhouses and hostels are usually welcoming places and I stay in them because they’re cheap, but I’m not the best sleeper in the world so tend to wake up when a fellow roommate comes in late. In one hostel on the mainland, I had to endure loud, hairy (male) bikers in the dorm, and I once shared a dormitory with a dog. Normally I don’t approve of mixed dorms, but they are common except for places run by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association.


If fellow travellers look friendly, I talk to them on the ferries and in hostels. They come from all walks of life, but the common denominator is that they all love the islands. I’ve met everyone from a doctor and his daughter who helped me with my laptop issues in a Tiree hostel to a Belgian woman staying in the Muck bunkhouse who regaled me with funny stories about the weird behaviour she’d encountered in a mainland hostel. Island residents are mostly helpful and happy to talk. On Colonsay I met Kevin, who led walks for visitors. He introduced me to an ancient woodland where we spotted a feral goat with tall horns whose antecedents, he said, might have escaped from a ish Armada ship. Other wildlife surprises include my best sighting of an otter, which was walking nonchalantly along the beach in front of me on the island of Berneray.

Most of my other otter sightings have been when they are hiding in the sea. Another elusive creature is the corncrake – once very common in the UK. On Muck, a resident showed me a corncrake chick in his hand, which had been separated from its mother. Somehow, he had rescued this tiny bird. I had heard corncrakes often but I had never seen one until this occasion.


One bird that I don’t like to encounter is the great skua, or bonxie (a Shetland name of Norse origin, used widely in Scotland). I’ve seen a couple on Muck, but Handa Island, a nature reserve off the coast of Northwest Scotland, is full of them. There was even a warden lurking on a path to warn visitors of them. These birds fl y up to you from behind, make for your head and can knock you off balance with their talons, causing quite a shock. Once I was e-bombed by one on the Shetland island of Foula – it’s always best to wear a hat or helmet in skua country. Another ‘find’ on Muck was a rope with goose barnacles attached, which I photographed and used as an illustration in my book Return to Muck to highlight the similarity in colouring between barnacle geese and goose barnacles.


Folk tales from the islands are many, but, as in the rest of the UK, you don’t often come across references to them. I have been intrigued by tales of the Brownie (pronounced ‘Broonie’) in a couple of places. On Gigha, I taught schoolchildren a song I’ve composed about the Brownie of Gigha and Cara (a tiny neighbouring island). This Brownie is a short man with a long beard, and he plays tricks on you if you don’t greet him first. When you come across him, you have to say, “Good day, Mr Brownie,” and take off your hat. If you do, you’re in his good books and he might help you with your daily chores. Over the years I haven’t seen much obvious change in the islands, although a significant development on Muck since my first visit has been the building of a fish farm just off the island’s east coast several years ago. The company that owns it has also built a few houses on the island for their workers. I’ve also discovered, on two islands at least, newly built community halls. Residents and visitors alike can use the facilities, such as a badminton court or a washing machine for campers.


Travelling solo in the islands means you can do what you like and go where you want. But there can be pitfalls, of course. The most challenging would be if the car broke down in a remote spot – or worse, you suffered an injury while walking in a lonely place with no phone signal. One slightly risky walk I did was over the wet sands and back from North Uist to the uninhabited island of Vallay. Tide times knowledge is vital, and I survived with dry feet. I don’t see myself as a professional traveller. However, my three top tips for a woman travelling alone in the islands are to tell someone in the morning where you are headed for the day; to speak to everyone you meet on the way so that if you do go missing after they’ve seen you, they’ll hopefully remember you; and to take enough food and drink, a small emergency medical kit, a whistle, a phone and a torch. I always leave any island I visit with regret. However, as a mature single woman, I can see that living near a big city in the UK is ideal for me. Proximity to medical services, buses into town and a wide variety of leisure pursuits are all important to me. Nevertheless, there’s nothing more exhilarating than setting off to visit my beloved Scottish Isles, knowing there are new experiences to have and wonderful memories to make every time I go.

Return to Muck: A journey among some lesser-known Scottish Islands by Marg Greenwood is published by Troubador (£13.99).

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

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When we retired to Whalley in Lancashire four years ago, I was keen to join the local Hyndburn u3a as I had a fear of being bored. But my husband Chris was more reluctant: “ There’s nothing I’m interested in joining” was his complaint. My reaction was: “Well, let’s start something that interests you and see what others think.” So we started the Architectural and Industrial Heritage group with a very broad remit, with me as the lead despite knowing nothing about the subject initially. Since then, we’ve randomly organised visits and walks, and about 15 people join us. We’ve been to all sorts of local places, including the Ribble Head Viaduct, Burnley Weavers’ triangle and Calderdale Industrial Museum, as well as guided walks around Accrington, Sabden, Whalley and Darwen. I enjoy researching and contacting local volunteer guides who have excellent knowledge, which makes up for the lack of mine. It’s also surprising how many local factories are willing to tell us about their development and how things have changed in the 21st century. My advice for potential or current u3a members is that if you can’t see the group you want, then start one – and others will join you. I’m now considering starting a Norwegian Walking group, although I know nothing about this either. Isn’t retirement great?

Angela Oxley, Hyndburn u3a

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Lately, I have had the dreaded fall, an operation and stays in two hospitals. As many of you who have experienced similar know, your whole life changes in a few seconds. Mine has been centred around the u3a for years, and psychologically, I was so upset at having to cancel u3a meetings and not see members in our meeting rooms. Then a visitor brought me my laptop, providing a vital link. I could soon email with other members, but to help pass the long hospital hours, I began planning future interest group meetings that I lead, preparing and reviewing talks for regional u3as and online learning and catching up with contacts. All these activities kept me focused and I even had time to record my ideas, arrange more guest speakers from Speaker Swap and read up about what’s been happening in the wider u3a. Above all, it has been the warmth and support I have received from members of my local u3a that cheered me up, helped me feel I was still a part of the movement and kept me going. In addition, the thought and kindness shown by Third Age Trust team moved me so very much. I felt that all this has served to illustrate that the u3a, whether face to face or online, really does become groups of friends. It is a unique community that shares so much together in the true spirit of the u3a.

Catherine Stevenson, Newcastle u3a

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In the interest of free speech, I applaud the printing of Camilla Long’s ageist attack in The Sunday Times [about older members of the royal family at the King’s coronation]. Had it been suppressed, it would not have prompted the range of comments printed in this magazine (Third Age Matters, Autumn) for the groups that aim to positively support the abilities of, and options open to, our older generation – all of which improve society as a whole. Norma Murray Furness, Cumbria u3a

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Eric Midwinter’s article on the meal he’ll never forget (TAM, Autumn) prompted a few dinner time memories! Getting skewed Satays are a popular food in Malaysia, and Kajang, near Kuala Lumpur, is renowned for them. They’re eaten at pavement cafes: customers perch on small stools and a waiter takes the satay order, and another for drinks. Our satays were delicious. The chicken portions, on bamboo skewers, were tender and we dipped them in a spicy, crunchy peanut sauce, and unrolled compressed rice from folded banana leaves alongside. We ordered more, along with beer from another waiter, but when we’d finished, and attempted to pay, our waiter looked at us angrily, waved his hands and raised his voice. Another diner intervened to explain that the bill was calculated by counting the bamboo skewers which should have been left on the side of our plates. Carelessly we’d tossed them into the open monsoon drain at the edge of the pavement. Nevertheless, a price was negotiated, we paid and made to leave, only to be accosted by the waiter who’d served us the beer. Thankfully, the friendly local intervened yet again and explained that the beer was from a different adjoining establishment altogether, and had to be paid for separately...

Stella Fowler, Southampton u3a

Bland and blanc

Back in the early 1970s, I was a newly qualified careers adviser given my first assignment at an all-boys grammar school in Manchester. I had been warned not to set foot on the corridors when the bell sounded for break as one was liable to be mowed down in the rush. What I was not ready for, however, was the lunch. The head of fifth form invited me to join him with the staff in the refectory, saying: “I won’t ask you to eat with the boys: that would be very uncivilised!” My meal arrived: a white plate with white mashed potatoes, white indeterminate fish in a white sauce with white cauliflower. Unforgettable!

Steve Millns, New Mills u3a

Safari surprise

I have no recollection of what we actually ate, but I’ll never forget a meal on our honeymoon in Kenya and Tanzania in 1972. I had promised myself a special holiday after nine years’ study first for my degree and then for the Solicitor Qualification, all by correspondence course while working full-time. Marriage and house-buying changed my plans but my travel-agent wife knew of my desire to go on safari in east Africa and arranged the trip accordingly. We had seriously limited funds but she found contacts in Nairobi to help us. We hired a VW Beetle with a protected sump, a tent and some basic camping gear, and we toured game reserves for a week We were ridiculously naive and had no real idea of the distances, the dirt track roads or the sheer emptiness of the terrain. We had assumed we’d be able to buy food where there was a name on the map indicating, we thought, a settlement, but that was not the case. In short, we ran out of food apart from a few pawpaws, which my wife incredibly did something with, for a couple of days. Then, a miracle! We came to a posh safari lodge in the Serengeti reserve offering heavenly delights. We could have a cold bath for five shillings, and a buffet dinner for 10 more, and we were invited to eat as much as we liked. You bet we did.

Douglas Raine, Wyre Forest u3a

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As a musician and music producer, I was pleasantly surprised to see the article on technical kit for music makers in the Autumn 2023 issue of TAM. I have played the guitar for over 50 years but when lockdown hit in 2020 and my bands could no longer play together, I turned to a digital audio workstation (DAW) as an outlet for making music. It has everything a recording studio does: instruments, a recording facility, mixing desk and so on, but all of it is ‘virtual’. You could say a DAW does for music what a word processor does for words. You can add bits in, copy and paste, drag and drop, insert and delete and so on. You don’t even need to have any knowledge of music theory or play an instrument, although it does speed things up if you do. So I invested in a DAW – I chose Steinberg Cubase – followed some online tutorials, which there are no end of on YouTube) and within a few weeks I had produced my first track! This was something of a learning curve, but it’s very satisfying to finally produce a whole piece of music, all recorded, arranged and mixed at home. DAWs are suitable for producing any kind of music and you can do it all yourself in your own time. I’ve just embarked on my 15th project, which is a pop track and requires me to actually pick my guitar up again for the first time in two years! If you’d like to know more about how it all works, and the equipment that you will need to get started, do get in touch with me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ralph Tucker, Rutland u3a

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I just wanted to encourage anyone thinking of having a stab at writing and self-publishing to banish doubts and give it a go. I’ve found it a really interesting, challenging and rewarding experience. Taking early retirement not only gave me the opportunity to finish a comedy novel I'd been tinkering with for years (Gerard Philey’s Euro-Diary), but also the time to explore the various publication platforms available. Looking into all the different ways of marketing and publicising your own book has also been fascinating, if quite a challenge at times. But all in all, from writing to launching and selling, it’s been an absorbing and fun project that I would strongly recommend to anyone who has a (half-finished!) manuscript collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. I know lots of u3as have writing groups that can support and advise too, so go for it! Brendan James Bartram, Stafford u3a

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I was concerned by John Kuyser’s response to Jenny Wilson’s climate crisis action letter (TAM, Autumn). His suggestion that those concerned about climate change should set an example to us all in combating it implies that not everyone is, or need be, unduly concerned about it. I find that shocking. Climate change is very clearly happening now, with increasing danger to millions of people around the world, as well as to huge numbers of animal and plant species. We dare not carry on with our lives exactly as before, and I fear for the future of my children and grandchildren. We all have a responsibility to take some action, however small, to reduce our own carbon emissions before we look to others to do it. I freely admit that I don't do as much as I should, but I am trying to make changes.

Stephanie Bradley, Dulwich & District u3a

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I really enjoy reading about Dame Esther Rantzen’s view on life as an oldie and campaigning for so many causes that impact on us all. I wonder if we can also add ‘older and single’ to the cause. I am just about to turn 66, have been widowed for over 20 years, and getting so fed up with being penalised for being single in this society. We are subsidising others in so many ways. For example: council tax provides a 25% discount for single occupancy. So if, for example, my council tax bill is £2,000 per annum, I pay £1,500. However, if my neighbours (two adults) pay £2,000, then it’s £1,000 each for them – why is my inidual amount £500 more? To join certain popular organisations, the cost of a single membership compared with a joint membership is much more expensive. One, for example, charges single people aged 65+ a fee of £63 a year, while joint membership for that age bracket is £96 a year – just £48 each. What is the reason for that? And why, oh why, do hotels, travel companies and so on hit us so hard with single supplements? So often we’re expected to pay a supplement, but still get a room with a single bed that’s often in the worst part of the hotel? And we’re not daft : when a company advertises ‘no single supplement’, we know that the higher cost means it’s often already been added in. The result is to feel like a second-class citizen and literally ‘singled out’ in a very subversive way. It’s discrimination that no one acknowledges. I heartily agree about needing a minister for older people – and hope that if we can convince any government to introduce this, that they don’t forget to acknowledge older and single people too.

Gillian Leeper, Ely & District u3a.

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Learning something new has been a byword for my u3a experience, but both Third Age Matters and my Art Appreciation group have now both helped me appreciate maths. Maths Subject Adviser David Martin’s interview (TAM, Autumn) showed how solving problems together can be therapeutic. Irish president Éamon de Valera taught maths, and he said a particular joy was solving complex algebra. Cue my Art Appreciation group discussion, when members explained that maths questions often pose colours to help find solutions, like numbers generating a colour and then prompting an answer. How amazing the human mind can be so broad-minded to combine arts and maths as one. Thank you, u3a, for making that happen.

Ian Elliott,Belfast u3a.

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I was delighted to read the article ‘Harvesting a great idea’ (TAM, Autumn) describing how the the Ards Peninsula u3a allotment project, were supplying fruit and vegetables to a local foodbank and community groups. In our Current Affairs group at Torquay u3a, we’ve been discussing how the u3a can have more interaction with the wider community – and young people in particular. Two ideas were raised: sponsoring a secondary school debating competition, with awards to the schools providing the winning teams; and helping in the establishment and maintenance of primary school gardens, where pupils can share the experiences of growing fruit and vegetables, and then harvest and eat the fresh produce. Over the last two years I’ve worked with two local primary schools trying to develop these ‘Seed2Plate’ experiences. However, the main obstacle is the need for a team of enthusiastic volunteer gardeners to work with the pupils and teachers. (This idea of a partnership between a primary school and a u3a group could be extended to one-on-one support for young children struggling with a particular subject.) In our discussion, the question was raised of volunteers needing DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checking. Fortunately, a retired police officer in our group could explain the relevant rules, reassuring us that the certifying police authority was only interested in offences that might relate to child protection. Certainly, this was my experience: the certification was organised by the school and the process took only a few weeks. I would welcome feedback from other u3as who are working with their local community about the issues they face, or have resolved.

John Hough, Torquay u3a.

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I thought there might be some u3a members ‘of a certain age’ who might be interested in an internet radio show that I do every Th ursday at noon on Time Out Radio. All 1950s music – from the biggest stars and the most loved records to obscure tracks that you may not know but may love! It’s really easy to find and an hour I'm sure you'll enjoy! Google ‘time out radio’, click on ‘listen’ – and enjoy memories galore!

Robert Houghton, Ross on Wye u3a

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As well as traditional mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, newly acknowledged is engineering that is socially appropriate. We can make new devices, but should we? And is age a barrier to learning the latest technology, or are there other considerations? In the letters page (TAM, Spring), there was correspondence favouring online apps to pay for parking, for example. Up until now, conventional methods have sufficed, so this is not a new problem demanding an app for its solution. It’s actually the commercial interests passing their costs on to the consumer. Ticket machines often connect through the 3G network, but commercial operators find it cheaper to phase this out and enforce apps instead. Age might be no barrier, but cognitive ability is. Many u3a members have an interest in new things and learning capability, but spare a thought for the many who have struggled with logical concepts right from schooldays. Recently, the politician Michael Gove recognised this as ‘digital exclusion’, and when I was mentoring an Age UK group, I found that many people will never be able to learn app techniques. This difficulty was mentioned in The Sunday Times business section several months ago, which also reported that parking apps are prone to unexpected error, so an organisation called Appeal Now had to be set up. Unlike coins, apps require the server, network, mobile phone and battery not to be weak links in the reliability chain, and the internet is inherently insecure. Feel free to favour commercially inspired apps, but don’t criticise those of us who choose otherwise for good reason.

Godfrey Manning, Harrow u3a

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In the Autumn issue of TAM, Barrie Gunter of Epping Forest u3a wrote about the need to encourage more men to join the u3a. Your response has been enormous – so much so that we plan to look at this issue in a more detailed feature in an upcoming edition. We would really like to know how groups or iniduals may have actually tackled the issue successfully – perhaps by widening the range of interest groups, or in some other innovative and positive way? In the meantime, thank you to everyone who have sent constructive, insightful – and sometimes frustrated! – thoughts so far. Here are just three: Anyone for golf? I became a member shortly after I retired at the age of 70, and my wife has been a member since she retired at 60. This is key to my first point: surely, women will outnumber men, not only because they often retire at an earlier age but because they usually live longer and have fewer major health problems during that period of their lives. Another point comes from my personal experience. I have played golf on and off since I was a teenager. I am now an active 81- year-old and in every golf club I have belonged to, men outnumber the ladies by about five to one. This is still the case at my current small club. Two or three years ago, we approached the committees of our local u3as, thinking that golf might be a sport that some members might like to try. It was advertised widely but had no response at all. My view is that there could be quite a few men and women u3a members around the country willing to give the sport a go, but seemingly not in my local area of south Cheshire: the ones there are already playing. Have other u3as tried to open up golf to their members?

Keith Johnson, Crewe & Nantwich u3a

Other interests

As a relatively new member, it has been my experience so far that the u3a is dominated by groups interested in subjects such as bridge, creative writing and book reviews. As a man of 66 and just retired, I still want to be physically active and to be able to use my life skills (I was an electronics engineer for over 40 years). Most men I know that are now retired have been employed in some form of physical occupation either in the building trade, mechanical engineering or electronic/electrical engineering, and if they had not followed a profession requiring practical skills, would be involved in activities at home like DIY, tinkering with cars or boats and so on. It is in this area that other organisations may attract more male members.

Graham Burrows

Outside influences

In your interesting article on why more men don’t join the u3a, I feel one obvious reason was overlooked. Many more men than women already belong to other clubs and groups, such as sports or hobby clubs. Th us, they may have no need to join the u3a for the reasons set out in your article. For instance, although I’m a member of u3a (incidentally for a folk dance group, and the only man out of 26 women), I am also a member of a rugby club, a drama club and a heritage railway club.

Ian Watson, Uckfield u3a

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

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Box number charge: £10

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

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

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

Holiday advertisements

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

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HE FOUGHT IN THE GREAT WAR BUT DIDN’T TALK ABOUT IT? Let an experienced military researcher discover his experiences for you.

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

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TENERIFE LOS CRISTIANOS. Luxurious one-bed apartment, quiet area close to the sea.

Karen 07801 472954

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

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 01159 312571

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

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

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

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Charming courtyard apartment, sleeps two to four.

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

TEXT: 44(0)7900 433151

Tel: 44(0)012422 43693

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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.

TORREVIEJA COSTA BLANCA. Two-bed villa, well maintained. Close to all amenities (supermarket, shops, bars, restaurants, pools, beaches). Available all year, long or short let.

Contact 01457 832995

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NORTH NORFOLK NEAR HOLT period cottage, sleeps four, dogs welcome.

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

POOLE HARBOUR shoreline cottage sleeps four. Stunning views. Close to Poole Quay. Prices from £350pw - £1010pw.

Simon 07860 866183

CORNWALL. Just for two. Comfortable and wellequipped. Free wifi. Village near Truro/Falmouth. Electric vehicle charging. No dogs/smokers.

Tel: (01209) 860402

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

01227 700428.

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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.

HOLIDAYS JURASSIC COAST Four-berth caravan on quiet site in Thomas Hardy country, modern, well-appointed.

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

JUST FOR TWO. LUXURY FALMOUTH BAYFRONT APARTMENT. Parking. Electric vehicle charging. Pet-free. Perfect for Cornish gardens, walking and sightseeing. 5% discount for u3a members.

07534 013826

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LOVE CHANGES LIVES Experienced professional dating agency - we introduce attractive, intelligent people for companionship, romance and maybe more. Relaxed, confidential personal interviews in your home.

Call Sandra at Affinity, 020 8832 9030.

PERSONABLE, ACTIVE, COMPASSIONATE WOMAN OF 80 (looks 70), varied interests (reply to find out).

GSOH WLTM gentleman with shared tastes in the Edinburgh area for companionship and happiness. Reply to Box No 434

PRE WAR WIDOWER NEAR MANCHESTER, average sort of guy, varied interests including bridge. WLTM lady for occasional outings and companionship. Reply to Box No 435

LADY CULTURED, 69, WLTM, gentleman for companion, friendship. Hertfordshire area. Reply to Box No 258

WIDOWER (ACTIVE RETIRED ENGINEER) WLTM lady over 70 living in Bradford-on-Avon area. Reply to Box No 438

RETIRED FEMALE AGE 68 London-based. WLTM gentleman 65 to 75 for friendship, travel, dancing. Reply to Box No 440

WIDOW, 70S, slim and active, loves reading, walks, pub lunches and good conversation. WLTM similar man. Worthing area. Reply to Box No 401

MALE 60S seeks female, smallish, 50s. Devon/ Dorset/Wilts. Reply to Box No 442

WIDOW 68, WLTM gentleman of similar age for companionship. Non-smoker. Enjoys walking, theatre, dining out, travel. East Dunbartonshire/ Glasgow. Reply to Box No 443

FINANCIALLY SECURE GUY, 67, looking to meet an interesting woman. I enjoy nice holidays, cinema, theatre and meals out. North London. Reply to Box No 436

FIT, SLIM, ATTRACTIVE LADY, 70, WLTM gentleman in Durham area. Reply to Box No 437

SEMI-RETIRED TRANSLATOR, WIDOW, 74, West Sussex-based. Active, curious, eclectic. Interests – enjoys volunteering with Bruce, my registered therapy dog. WLTM a kind, similarlyminded gentleman for companionship, outings, conversation and more. Reply to Box No 441

RETIRED INTELLIGENT LADY 66 seeks well-educated active man 63-72 for companionship. Somerset and neighbouring counties. Reply to Box No 439

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BOOK COLLECTIONS - best prices paid. Martin Johnson. 01253 850075

QUALITY STAMP COLLECTIONS/ALBUMS especially Great Britain and Empire. Devon/Dorset/Somerset. Major collections other areas. Call Mike 075 275 38863

MINDERS KEEPERS, long-established, highly respected home and pet-sitting company is looking to recruit mature, responsible house-sitters for paid sits. Please call 01763 262102 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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