Third Age Matters Spring 2022 - Screenreader Edition

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

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

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Editor Joanne Smith

In this issue, we look forward forward to some of the events planned to mark our 40th anniversary year. One of the highlights will be the mass Picnic in the Park on 1 June, to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It is hoped
that as many u3as as possible will hold picnics
and it will be a lovely opportunity for members to get together
and share some happiness.

To help get you in the mood, our cookery writer Beverley Jarvis has come up with some super recipes that you might like to try for your picnic. There’s also an online cookery demonstration in May by Alex Connell, of the charity Vegetarian for Life, who will demonstrate some delicious picnic dishes (see page 17). To help your picnic really stand out, you can buy bunting and picnic blankets, sashes and other branded items from the u3a shop. The u3a Picnic in the Park is a great excuse for a get-together and we would love to see your photos of your event! Please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I hope you enjoy this issue of TAM and please keep sending in your inspiring stories!

Twitter @Magu3a | Facebook @u3auk

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what's been happening across u3a

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Join the diversity conversation

Members are invited to take part in discussions around increasing diversity within the u3a and making the movement welcoming to all.

The diversity and inclusion team holds regular coffee mornings on Zoom, where everyone is welcome to join the conversation. Recent topics have included gender-neutral language, outreach ideas and equity and equality.

The team also continues to deliver its presentation Understanding Diversity and Inclusion: Attitudes and Bias online, which includes a presentation followed by breakout-room discussions.

Sue Southwell, chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said: “Our vision is strength in diversity – for every u3a member to achieve more by embracing diversity and inclusion in everything
they do.

“We look forward to welcoming you to one of our events.”

The committee’s mission statement can be read at

To join a coffee morning or for more information, email the Diversity and Inclusion team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Pensions campaign

A petition is hoping to get 100,000 signatures to force Parliament to debate a £500 increase in the state pension to compensate for the suspension of the triple lock and to help pensioners cope with the cost of living rises, including energy and food prices. The petition can be signed at

Despite the pandemic, Teignmouth & District u3a has gone from zero to 300 members in less than three years.

The u3a was set up by a small yet enthusiastic steering committee chaired by David Leyland. Part of the growth of the u3a has been due to publicity in the local paper, the Mid-Devon Advertiser, and local radio, which have run many stories about their various activities. These were supplied by the u3a’s publicity officer, Peter Hayes.  

David comments: “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the growth of our group during the past 30 months. We now have more than 40 activities on offer, ranging from Wobbly Walkers to Sea Swimming and, for the more cerebrally minded, Astrology to Theology & Philosophy!

“Imagine my delight when our membership co-ordinator, Tricia Forrester, informed me that we had broken through the 300 members barrier!”

The 300th member is Peter Cox, whose wife Jean is also a u3a member. Peter said: “I have often been involved in the background with u3a activities, lending a hand here and there. After hearing that a Bible Appreciation group was being formed, I wanted to find out more and found it inspirational, so I decided to join.”

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Lockdown is no barrier to one u3a’s growth

Teignmouth & District

u3a completed

21 walks in Devon for

u3a Day last year

NHS services in Cheltenham have bought ten u3a memberships to improve patients’ mental health and wellbeing following an approach by u3a chair, Janet Ropner.

The memberships will be given out under social prescribing, which is when health professionals refer patients to community organisations involved with matters such as sport, weight management, gardening and cookery. The goals of social prescribing are to reduce healthcare costs and ease pressure on GPs. Janet says: “It occurred to me that the u3a had a lot to offer this service. I eventually managed to identify a manager and sent her some information about u3a. I was invited to join a social-prescribing team meeting and was delighted to discover that many of the social prescribers had heard about us and some had already referred clients. They were all very positive.

“The outcome was that the group decided to purchase ten memberships of our u3a which they will hand out to suitable clients over the next year.”

Each new member will be allocated a u3a buddy to help them get the best out of their membership.

“This will be one of our members who has been with our u3a for a while and who knows how it works,” says Janet. “We do not want these people, who may be vulnerable, to encounter barriers to what should be a simple process. Having a buddy also means we can track the progress of these people over the year and feed back to the social prescribers the outcome of their investment.

“We are very excited about this project. We have more than 120 interest groups which potentially can enhance the lives of local people who otherwise may not have heard about us.”

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Hear the stories of the movement

Now on podcasting platforms for the first time, the u3a Radio podcast gives a monthly soundbite of what’s happening across the u3a movement, featuring stories from members, group convenors, Subject Advisers and trustees.

Previous episodes are available, with subtitles, on the u3a YouTube channel and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and through the u3a website.

  • If you have an interesting story you would like to share, get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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A message from the staff and Trustees of the Third Age Trust

Our thoughts are with u3as in the Ukraine, their members, family, friends and neighbourhoods during this terrible and unprecedented time. We know many of our members wish to make personal donations to the humanitarian effort in Ukraine. The Government has guidance on giving safely to Ukraine at and search ‘Ukraine’.For anyone wishing to make personal donations, below is a link for the Disasters Emergency Committee, which brings together 15 leading UK aid charities to deliver aid, including Oxfam and Age International.

  • Donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee at

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Cheltenham GPs to prescribe u3a membership to patients

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film shows how u3a changes lives

Members tell stories of how u3a has changed their lives for the better in a new film, Do Something Brilliant Today, available on the u3a YouTube channel.

The film features members line dancing in Croydon, identifying trees in Ayr and kayaking in Dawlish and showcases the fun and dynamic things happening across the u3a movement. Members also share their stories of the u3a movement and the impact it has had on their lives. Geoffrey Bibby, group leader of Upholland & District u3a’s Musicians group, said: “u3a, and being part of this group, has given me an excuse to play guitar more. I play guitar every day now for a few hours at least.
I had no incentive to do
that before.”

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Are you part of three generations of members? if so, get in touch!

Is your mother or father a member of u3a and now maybe your son or daughter has signed up? Or you might be the son or daughter of an existing member, carrying on three generations of membership?

TAM is looking for inspirational stories of u3a members – and we know there are lots out there!

Please get in touch by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by mail to TAM Editor, u3a office, 156 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8EN.

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what’s on

for more events and to book, go to

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u3a spring online learning programme

The spring learning programme has arrived, with plenty of initiatives to do individually or with your u3a groups.

Here you can try kirigami (a variation of origami), join the books group forum for discussions, or try extreme crocheting, where you can join
in workshops.

Other initiatives include old favourites such as the maths challenge and paint or draw, and there are monthly logic puzzles. Below are two examples of kirigami by Bob Hunt of Forest Town & District u3a.

Crochet by

Chris Winner

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Bookings open for summer schools


Yorkshire & Humber Region u3a is running its three-night residential Summer School from 25 to 28 July at The Hawkhills conference centre in Easingwold, North Yorkshire. Courses on offer include an introduction to jewellery-making, researching family history, Greek mythology, flower arranging, portrait drawing, conversational Spanish for beginners, women artists from the Renaissance to the present day, and much more.

  • Full board costs £380 or £190 for day delegates. To book, go to and follow the links to Events, then Summer School 2022.


The South East Summer School takes place at Chichester University from 20 to 23 June. Courses on offer include the environment, poetry, music and maths. Delegates will also enjoy quiz nights and theatre visits.

  • Booking forms are available on the website, or call Jill Collins on 07880 544943, or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


This year’s theme for the non-residential two-day London Region of u3as Summer School is London Past, Present and Future. Activities will include talks, workshops and guided walks. Subjects include art, current affairs, history, literature/drama, music, sciences, social studies and travel. The event takes place at the St Bride Foundation Institute on Tuesday 26 July and Wednesday 27 July and costs £39 per day.

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

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online events coming up…

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Cryptic crosswords for beginners

From Thursday 5 May, 10am.

This six-week course with Henry Howarth, Subject Adviser for Cryptic Crosswords, will help you learn how to solve them.

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Stories of the willow pattern plate

Friday 13 May, 2pm. Free

Irene Kyffin, of u3a in London, talks us through the history of the distinctive plate design.

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All about Pictish Stones

Friday 20 May, 10am. Free

Pictish stone monuments can be found all over the Scottish landscape. Join archaeologist and historian Philip Holdsworth, of Penmaenmawr & District u3a, to learn about the Picts.

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Exploring World Faiths – National Zoom events

Please register on Eventbrite through the Exploring World Faiths Subject Advice page on the u3a national website. Queries to Dr Peter
Rookes, Subject Adviser, at
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Monday 16 May (Buddha Day), 10am

Buddhism, Buddha and the Dalai Lama.

Monday 20 June, 10am

Chat session for local coordinators of u3a Exploring World Faiths groups and others thinking of getting involved.

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What do we want to campaign about? Well, quite a lot really . . .

A rallying cry by TAM columnist and campaigner Dame Esther Rantzen for issues worthy of campaigning about led to a flurry of suggestions from u3a members.

Many issues of concern to members affect all ages, such as discrimination against single people, lack of NHS dentistry, domestic abuse and the high cost of veterinary care. Better pay and conditions for carers and the prescribing by GPs of u3a activities to people who are inactive, suffering depression or loneliness, were also championed.

Dame Esther said: “I was struck by the intelligence and depth of feeling in the many suggestions sent to me by u3a members. It is clear there is a wealth of untapped passion among members waiting to make their voices heard on issues of great importance. But unfortunately we live in an ageist society where the views and wisdom of older people are not valued, despite their years of experience.”

David Gregory, of Haddenham u3a in Buckinghamshire, is keen to see u3a membership prescribed by GPs. “Overweight, isolated, sedentary or lonely patients could be prescribed a dose of u3a magic rather than expensive consultation and medication,” he said. “In my experience, most GPs have little or no knowledge of the u3a and the undoubted benefits of the interest groups.”

Wendy and John Dowse, of Liskeard & District u3a in Cornwall, are concerned about illegible type on coloured backgrounds, and also ring-pulls. “Why are so many tins these days made with ring-pull openings? They are very difficult to open for those with arthritis or indeed any manual restrictions, even with a ring-pull ‘device’,” said Wendy.

Christine Lawrence, of Dorking & District u3a, says she wants to see carers being valued and properly paid for the work they do. She says carers often do not have enough time to do their job properly and frequently put in extra unpaid hours to help their clients.

“Society needs to wake up to the fact that we all get old and many of us will require a paid carer. The number of elderly is increasing and the number of carers is decreasing. This is a crisis situation and we are doing nothing about it. The Government has earmarked money for local authorities to spend on care, but as far as I can see this is going to help people pay for their care, not [going] to carers,” she says.

For Bill McIntyre, of Shaftesbury & Gillingham u3a, trying to find out whether a plastic item is recyclable is exhausting. “I become really annoyed trying to find if a plastic food container is recyclable. The triangular sign is always so small. My eyesight is good but I imagine lots of people struggle with this and simply throw the tray in the bin.”

Lindsay Libby, of Lostwithiel Area u3a in Cornwall, says the lack of NHS dentists meant she was on a waiting list for three years. “Many people simply cannot afford private rates and cannot even get an NHS emergency appointment. This is an appalling situation, and such a deterioration from when I was young, when everyone was taken on by an
NHS dentist.”

She is also concerned that many veterinary practices are no longer independent but have been bought out by larger organisations. “The cost of veterinary care has risen beyond the means of those on low incomes or on benefits, and this will of course mean that animals will not be receiving the medical care they need, and may even be abandoned by owners who cannot afford to keep them,” she adds.

Anne Harris, of Peterborough u3a, is concerned at the extra costs single people are faced with when going on holiday. “I realise the costs for a single person are not always half that of a couple but we do only use one towel, soap, shower gel etc, use one lot of water in the bathroom and only eat one meal each sitting. Also, is not a hotel room heated whether or not it is occupied?”

Liz Thackray, chair of u3a, said: “It’s likely many of us have seen the cartoon of the caretaker shovelling snow from the steps to a public building and ignoring the ramp – and, when questioned, failing to realise clearing the ramp first would benefit all users of the building.

“Several of the issues raised by members are already on the agenda of our Push Back on Ageism work and some, like social prescribing, are part of our agenda and being further expanded.

“As a national organisation, it is important for us to have a voice and also to be clear as to what campaigns we can actively support. The ideas here will be part of our discussion when the Board next meets.”

Carers being valued properly is one campaign suggestion

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cover story

To mark our 40th anniversary, u3a cookery writer Beverley Jarvis has come up with some tasty ideas for your Picnic in the Park this June!

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Time to celebrate!

I was delighted to be asked to develop some tasty, yet nutritious, recipes to take on a picnic, so here is my menu plus a few hints and tips along the way. I hope you enjoy using the recipes.

Include seasonal local produce, local cheeses, a selection of bread rolls and butter, a substantial main dish which is also suitable for vegetarians, a salad and or vegetable crudités, a decadent cake or dessert plus some sort of celebratory drink to help make the picnic go with a swing! For those who do not drink alcohol, elderflower fizz is often very popular, and don’t forget plenty of chilled water. I also like to take a thermos flask of tea or coffee to round off the picnic off.

A good cool bag and some sort of picnic basket or hamper are a must, in my opinion!

Beverley’s colourful

picnic will set your

taste buds tingling!

Include seasonal local produce, plus a celebratory drink to help make the picnic go with a swing!

Celebration picnic

Apple juice and Champagne cocktail

Smoked salmon on homemade oatcakes

Caribbean-style chicken drumsticks

Courgette and red pepper parmesan tart, suitable for vegetarians

Asian-style coleslaw

Super simple chickpea salad

Vanilla frosted carrot, sultana and pecan muffins

Additional sides: Vegetable crudités, fresh summer fruits, hard-boiled eggs, bread rolls and butter, various cheeses

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Apple juice and Champagne cocktail

Serves 8

This makes a deliciously light, fruity cocktail that isn’t too alcoholic, especially if you leave out the gin. Don’t use too much soda water or you will drown the Champagne!

I find it easiest to take the chilled components to the picnic and mix the cocktail on arrival.

2 tbsp gin, or gin-based orange liqueur (if using)

200ml good-quality apple juice, chilled

1 x 75cl bottle chilled Champagne
or dry Prosecco

Soda water, to taste

To Serve

Sliced strawberries, raspberries, and tiny sprigs mint for decoration

1 Put the gin into a tall jug. Carefully stir in the apple juice and Champagne or Prosecco. Top up with a little soda water, to taste!

2 Add sliced strawberries, raspberries and sprigs of mint and serve immediately in Champagne flutes.

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Smoked salmon on homemade oatcakes

Makes about 18 oatcakes

The oatcakes store well in an airtight tin for several days. These canapés are great to hand round with the apple Champagne cocktail before you enjoy your picnic.

For the oatcakes

25g butter

175g rolled oats

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

Plain flour for dusting

For the cream cheese topping

125g cream cheese

2 tsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp lemon juice

Small bunch dill, chopped, optional

To Serve

100g smoked salmon, cut into thin strips

Freshly ground black pepper

1 Make the oatcakes. Preheat oven to 180°C, 160°C fan, gas 4. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

2 In a small pan, melt the butter in 150ml water. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

3 Put oats into a food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Process until fairly fine. Tip into a large bowl and stir in the salt with the chopped parsley. Mix in the cooled butter mixture, using a table knife, to form a soft dough. Shape into a ball.

4 On a floured surface, knead pastry lightly, then roll out to 3mm thick. Using a 5cm round cutter, stamp out biscuits. You should have about 18.

5 Arrange on the prepared trays and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin for several minutes, then transfer to a rack and cool completely.

6 Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese with the tomato ketchup, lemon juice and dill, if using. Mix just to combine.

7 To serve, spread a little of the cream cheese mixture on to the oatcakes and top with the smoked salmon and some freshly ground black pepper.

Members of Ashford, Wye & District u3a enjoy Beverley’s picnic

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Caribbean-style chicken drumsticks

Serves 8-12

These drumsticks are absolutely yummy served cold. Served warm, they make a great supper dish, with a side dish of mixed salad and chunks of wholemeal bread.

For the picnic, remember to pack kitchen roll or paper napkins so people can clean up after eating them!

You will need two large mixing bowls and two large baking trays, lightly greased with oil. Use two racks to stand the chicken on, in the oven, if you have them.

10 tbsp tomato ketchup

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp chopped chillies, from a jar

2 tsp chopped garlic, from a jar

3 tsp runny honey

2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

16 medium-size chicken drumsticks, skin on

1 In one of the large mixing bowls, combine all the ingredients except for the chicken drumsticks. Stir well, then transfer half of the mixture to the second bowl.

2 Add 8 of the drumsticks to one bowl and 8 to the second bowl.

3 Turn the chicken pieces in the marinade, cover the bowls and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight, if preferred.

4 When ready to cook, remove chicken from fridge and preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C fan, gas 7.

5 Transfer the chicken drumsticks to the prepared baking trays, spacing them out. Use racks, if available.

6 Roast for about 40 minutes, until juices run clear when centre of drumstick is pierced with a knife.

7 Allow to cool completely before packing in covered containers ready for the picnic.

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Asian-style coleslaw

Serves: 8

This pretty coleslaw is best kept in coolbag until ready to serve.

About 450g shredded veggies - choose a selection of red or green cabbage, courgette, fennel, carrot, red pepper, beanshoots, mangetout and Brussel sprouts

2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley or mint

3 red spring onions, chopped

1 eating apple, cored and chopped, then tossed in juice ½ lemon or lime

Handful sultanas

For the dressing

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp chopped ginger, from a jar

1 tsp chopped garlic, from a jar

Freshly ground black pepper

To Serve

Large handful roasted peanuts, chopped

1 Put the shredded veg into a mixing bowl. Add chopped herbs and spring onions, with the apple and sultanas.

2 In a small jug or mug and using a fork, mix all the dressing ingredients together.

3 Pour dressing over the salad ingredients and toss well, using spoons.

4 Serve in a salad bowl, or pack into a picnic box. Top with nuts on serving.

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Courgette and red pepper parmesan tart

Serves 6-8

This pretty tart makes an excellent main course for a picnic and is a useful recipe to use for a buffet lunch or supper. For the picnic, I suggest
you cut the tart into slices before you pack it.

1 x 375g packet ready-rolled shortcrust pastry

1 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 courgette, sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped

250ml single cream

3 large eggs

Salt and pepper

75g grated parmesan cheese

1 Preheat oven to 200°C, 180°C fan, gas 6. Use the pastry to line a 23cm loose-bottomed flan tin with removable base.

2 Prick base all over with a fork. Line pastry with non-stick baking parchment or tin foil. Add baking beans or dried pasta shapes to keep paper or foil in place.

3 Bake blind for 12 minutes. Remove paper or foil and beans. Return to oven for a further 5 minutes.

4 In a medium-size frying pan, fry the onion in the heated oil, over medium heat, for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the red pepper with the courgette and continue to fry for 5 minutes, stirring now and again.  Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.

5 Turn oven temperature down to 180°C, 160°C fan, gas 4. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the cream with the eggs. Season with a little salt and pepper. Beat well with a balloon whisk or fork.

6 Add courgette mixture to flan case, spreading it over evenly. Pour over cream and egg mixture. Sprinkle parmesan cheese evenly over.

7 Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 200°C, 180°C fan, gas 6 and continue to cook for about 6-8 minutes until golden.

8 Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing and packing for the picnic.

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Super simple chickpea salad

Serves 4

A quick and easy recipe that is ideal to pack and take on a picnic.

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained

3 medium-size tomatoes, chopped

3 red spring onions, sliced

1 green pepper, de-seeded and chopped

1 Make the dressing. In a large bowl, and using a fork, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, parsley and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.

2 Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, spring onions, and the green pepper. Stir well.

3 Pack into an airtight container and chill until ready to serve.

Super simple chickpea

salad, right. Below:

Courgette and red pepper

parmesan tart

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Vanilla frosted carrot, sultana and pecan nut muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Individual cakes are easier for a picnic than one large cake. I used buttercream to support the u3a logos. However, I prefer a swirl of whipped cream! I used Renshaw roll-out fondant icing in royal blue and an alphabet cutter to make the u3a logos.

For the muffins

225g wholemeal flour

4 level tbsp light brown muscovado sugar

3 level tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

3 rounded tbsp natural Greek yoghurt

200ml rapeseed oil

200g carrots, grated

60g pecan nuts, chopped

60g sultanas

1 Preheat oven to 200°C, 180°C fan, gas 6.

2 Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

3 In a large mixing bowl, and using a wooden spoon, mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder.

4 In a separate bowl, using a fork, beat together the eggs, yoghurt and oil.

5 Make a well in centre of flour and pour in the liquid ingredients. Add the grated carrot, pecan nuts and sultanas. Mix well to combine but do not over mix.

6 Divide mixture evenly between the paper cases.

7 Bake for 25-30 minutes, until well risen and golden.

8 Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing.

For the Vanilla Frosting

120g butter, at room temperature

250g sifted icing sugar

1-2 tbsp milk

½ tsp vanilla essence

1 Put butter into a large mixing bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat butter for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the icing sugar and vanilla with a little milk, to form a soft, creamy icing.

2 Use a star tube and a piping bag to pipe swirls on each muffin. Add u3a letters, if using. l

Individual cakes are easier than one large cake. Also, take
a flask of tea or coffee to round off the picnic

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u3a to exhibit at major flower show

Members of Southport u3a is to build a garden at the prestigious Southport Flower Show this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the u3a movement.

And u3a members across the country will be able to get discounted tickets for the August show – the largest independent flower show in the UK.

Lisa Fryer, Southport u3a Gardening group leader, said: “The Gardening group is thrilled and excited to undertake this show garden. We have some great ideas for it and we want many of our other u3a groups to take part. We hope this show garden will encapsulate all the great things we stand for in u3a.”

The u3a show garden will showcase some of the many group activities enjoyed by members, and is currently in the planning stage with a designer, with local companies providing materials.

Southport Flower Show is 100 years old next year and has attracted many celebrities in the past. As well as the show gardens, there will be displays, demonstrations and performers. This year, the Hairy Bikers will be revving up some of their favourite recipes in the Cookery Theatre, while award-winning garden designer and BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Adam Frost will also be attending the show.

Membership secretary Jim Hay said: “For u3as around the country, especially those with Gardening groups, looking for a day out, this would be a great opportunity. There are a huge range of stands and marquees
at the show, as well as entertainment. We would be happy if members said hello
at our stand alongside the
show garden.”

For tickets at the discounted price of £18, go to and enter the code ‘u3a’ at the check-out. The offer is open until midnight on 17 August and the show runs from 18-21 August.

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We are 40! Events to mark our big year

From mass picnics and science lectures to robot competitions, there‘s lots going on! You can find
out more, and book events, by going to

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Jazz up your Picnic in the Park with homemade bunting

Pretty bunting for your 40th Anniversary Picnic in the Park can be made from all sorts of fabrics, as these examples by u3a members show. Barbara Haycock, of K2 Spelthorne u3a in Surrey, made hemmed triangles cut from duvet covers and fabric from charity shops. Sue Hewson and members of Skellingthorpe u3a in Lincolnshire bought blue and yellow fabric from Amazon and ribbon from Hobbycraft to make 21 metres of bunting for £21, while Susan Southwell, of Hamble Valley u3a, created crotcheted bunting.

Susan Southwell, of

Hamble Valley u3a,

made this crochet bunting

Barbara Haycock’s

bunting made from

duvet covers

This bunting cost £21

to make 21 metres

Vicki Wilkinson Photography

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Picnic in the Park Live Cookery Demonstration

Monday 16 May, 10.30am to midday

Join chef Alex from Vegetarian for Life for a live online cookery demonstration with recipes suitable for your u3a Picnic in the Park event in June.

Alex will be demonstrating five recipes from his kitchen, including bruschetta with a trio of toppings, pasta salad, and Greek fritters with tzatziki. A favourite is Rose Elliot’s tasty mushroom pâté en croute, which is a terrine of mushrooms and nuts wrapped in puff pastry. Alex will finish with a mouth-watering orange, lemon and pistachio cake to share with friends at your picnic.

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u3a Picnic in the Park

Wednesday 1 June, UK-wide

Celebrate our 40th anniversary and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with your very own Picnic in the Park. We want as many u3a members as possible to make themselves visible across parks in the UK and we have delicious recipes on pages 9 to 14 to get you started! Bingham u3a in Nottinghamshire has organised a band and singers to entertain their members at their Picnic in the Park. What’s your u3a going to do? We’d love to know! Sign up on the 40th Anniversary page at

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40th Anniversary Quilt

Friday 17 June

The 40th Anniversary Quilt, created from 40 squares made by u3a members and chosen by a panel of judges including quilter Stuart Hillard from TV's The Great British Sewing Bee, will be revealed at Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. To book, go to the 40th Anniversary page on the u3a website.

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u3a Science Network lecture

Tuesday 26 July,
10.30am to 3pm

Plans are under way for an eminent scientist to give a talk at this one-day online event. Other talks include ‘Blowing hot and cold in the 1980s’ by John Marriage, Science Network webmaster and Lyme Regis u3a member, who will examine two temperature-related scientific ‘discoveries’ during the decade – cold fusion and high-temperature superconductivity.

Leigh Edwards, u3a Science Subject Adviser, will look forward to 2062 and the ‘Human colonisation of space’, discussing the challenges humanity faces in travelling, exploring and living beyond the confines of Earth.

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Research and Shared learning conference

Wednesday 3 August, Preston (hybrid)

Hear about the many fascinating shared learning and research projects that u3a members have been Involved with.

These Include the Foundling Hospital Project, where members transcribed documents relating to the orphan children left by destitute mothers, the High Street Project, which looked at the changes that have taken place in our towns, and work with the Design Age Institute to improve the design of everyday objects.

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Robots put through their paces

Wednesday 26 October, Gloucester

Gloucester & District u3a is planning a Robot Challenge and inviting u3as to register their interest now. The robots will compete in one of five challenges: skittles, egg and spoon carrying, crazy golf, white-line following or a maze.

Any u3a wanting to exchange ideas is encouraged to come along to the event and share experiences.

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

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New email addresses

For information or to send in ideas about the 40th Anniversary celebrations, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

u3a Day has been replaced by u3a Week and a new email address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has been created. Please use this, as the u3a Day address has been withdrawn.

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Everyone's talking about … pop muzik!

u3a members buck the trend when it comes to listening to music, a survey
has found.

While 54 per cent of the public believe you can be too old to enjoy pop music and 44 per cent said no one over the age of 53 should go to an Adele concert, four out of five u3a members say age is not a factor when it comes to enjoying music.

A public poll of 2,006 people was carried out online by Mortar Research, while 2,065 members responded to a u3a survey.

More than half (54 per cent) of the public felt music should reflect your age and that you can be ‘too old’ to listen to modern music.

However, 86 per cent of u3a members said you are never too old to listen to
any genre of music, while 36 per cent are always on the lookout for new music
to enjoy.

Ten per cent of members said they had been patronised about their choice in music. One member said they had been asked why they were at an outdoor music festival, while another attending a concert was asked whether they were related to the band, assuming they must have been their parents. Other comments included: “Aren’t you too old to be listening to that?”

However, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of u3a members believe music can provide a way to bond with younger generations and a third (35 per cent) of the public say they chat to their parents about music.

Ed Sheeran proved
to be the most listened-to artist in both the public poll (40 per cent) and u3a poll
(34 per cent).

u3a CEO Sam Mauger said: “Music is
a great way to bring people together. Rather than focusing on differences and belittling other people’s tastes, we’d encourage everyone to embrace each other’s love for music and use it as a chance to connect, whether their favourite artist is Sting or Stormzy.”

Do you like pop, hip hop or even grime? Perhaps you enjoy nothing more than a good dance vibe? Tell us about your favourite bands or music experiences and why, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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What’s new at the u3a shop!

Fresh branded merchandise is available - and it’s great for your u3a Picnic in the Park!

to order branded merchandise, log in to the brand centre at

Backpack, £19

Beacon 500 mug, £6

Beacon 500 ballpoint pen, £1

Picnic blanket with handle, £20

Water bottle, £12

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Share your skills with #GenerationWow

u3a members are sharing their skills with younger generations in a campaign featuring TV presenter Steph McGovern and high-street opticians Specsavers. The u3a has teamed up with Specsavers’ Home Visits service to champion older people in the #GenerationWOW campaign and is looking for members to star in short film tutorials to be hosted on the Specsavers website and social media.

Have your paintbrushes handy for the first of the tutorials, in which Steph is shown how to paint a landscape by her father, professional artist Eamonn McGovern. Steph says: “My father is a brilliant artist, so
I grew up surrounded by paints, brushes and all the other bits and bobs used to create his beautiful images and sculptures.

“I’m not sure I’ve inherited his talent, but I don’t do too badly thanks to the tips he has given me. Also, it gives us the chance to spend quality time together, which is really special to me.”

If you struggle to arrange supermarket flowers, florist Margaret Fiddes, of Sherburn & Villages u3a in Yorkshire, demonstrates how to show them at their best, with additions from the garden. “If anyone is thinking of doing a film, you will have a lot of fun,” she says. And Edinburgh u3a member Judith Walker gives a session on laughter yoga.

“We know older people often feel unseen by society,” says Dawn Roberts, clinical director at Specsavers Home Visits. “But through our Home Visits service, we get to meet incredible people with a lifetime of experience and stories. We want to celebrate this older generation by giving them a platform to show off these amazing skills and help teach younger generations.”

  • If you have a skill to share,
    email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The films can be viewed at

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Help at hand to support your u3a

Above: Steph McGovern with her father, Eamonn. Above left: Margaret Fiddes demonstrates flower arranging

The Development Committee supports existing u3as and the launch of new ones by providing materials, advice and workshops to volunteers. Since absorbing the work of the International Committee, it also aims to establish better links with u3as globally. It is one of six committees that report to the u3a Board and is made up of nine members from across the UK.

If you would like to know
more about the work of the committee, or are interested in becoming a member, please contact chair Jean Hogg by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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esther rantzen

Dame Esther Rantzen is bowled over by the feisty ideas she received from u3a members for campaigns that could change our lives for the better - if only someone would pay attention

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‘What we need now is a listening ear in Government’

It is infuriating to read all the excellent, feisty messages from readers of TAM suggesting important ideas for new campaigns, some to right wrongs, all to improve the quality of all our lives. Why has nobody come up with suggestions like these before? These are not the moans or whines from grumpy old people. These are the carefully thought-through observations from people with wisdom, experience and life skills, whose ideas would really make a difference. If anyone was listening. The infuriating thing is, nobody has been, until now.

It has taken TAM and the members of u3a to open the floodgates and ask older people for their views about ways our lives could and should be improved. I wonder if this national deafness is actually our own fault? Have we succumbed to the prevailing ageism which declares that as we are past our sell-by date, we should keep our thoughts and ideas to ourselves? Should we have been more assertive? Less compliant?

But in saying that, I am myself guilty of ridiculous ageism. Of course it’s not our fault. To disinter a long-standing campaign of my own, what we need is a listening ear in Government with some clout – a Minister, or at least
a Commissioner, for Older People.

Just look at the range of reforms you have proposed, when I mildly suggested you might like to contact me to suggest positive changes. Messages dropped into my inbox by the score; you have obviously been mulling over these ideas for ages. You have analysed what has been going wrong with the way we offer care, the way our forms are printed and our holidays are organised, how cans have become more and more difficult to open, and benefits far too complex to apply for.

One of the most delightful ideas you sent me was to remind doctors and practice nurses of the positive health impact of u3a when they are offering an older patient ‘social prescribing’.

I’m sure that would be really helpful to anyone suffering from loneliness or isolation.
It clearly works. Whenever
I speak to a u3a group, I always tell them how unusual they are. Firstly, because they always fill up any hall from the front, unlike most English audiences who insist on sitting in rows at the very back, just in case I bite them. And secondly because they smile. u3a audiences are the happiest people I ever talk to. I think it’s because they have learned the secrets of contentment, which are good company and enjoying the moment.

In future weeks, I will be looking at some of the individual ideas you have sent me, but right now I want to concentrate on two particular issues. Firstly, I believe we need a campaign to protect fine, brave, experienced journalism, reported by brave, skilled, dedicated journalists. We have been reminded over the past weeks how much we in this country owe professionals like the multi-award winner Lyse Doucet, the extraordinary Clive Myrie and their colleagues in all the media who have penetrated the fog of war and frustrasted wilful attempts to blind us with fake news. And that applies not only to professionals working in the best-known media channels, but also to all the amateurs scanning videos around the world for investigative journalism group Bellingcat, which first identified the Russian missile that brought down the passenger jet in Ukraine, and has done equally crucial work in Ukraine now. We owe them all so much, for bringing the courage of the Ukrainian people into our living rooms. In future, let nobody underestimate the value of great journalists and journalism; we desperately need them.

And at the risk of sounding like an elderly broken record, please will the politicians listen to us, and appoint a Minister (or at least a Commissioner) for Older People. Then at least we will have somebody to take up and take seriously the brilliant campaigns suggested by you, the readers of TAM.

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tech news

technology by james day

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Mind, body and soul

Holistic health tech designed to elevate your physical and mental wellbeing is the hot fitness ticket for a post-pandemic perk-up. Here, we take a look at a few options . . .

Spring has sprung and, coupled with a new-found optimism that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, now could be the time to embrace a more active lifestyle.

However, if, as with many of us, your physical and mental wellbeing have taken a hit during the long winter months, perhaps you’re in need of an uplift.
It’s fortunate, then, that a new wave
of holistic health gadgets and online classes is on hand to help you get back to your old self.

And . . . relax

Health and fitness gadgets can be gimmicky, with audacious claims and miracle cures, so we’ve picked out products we’ve tried first-hand. The Fitbit Charge 5 1 (£169.99, is a holistic health wristwatch that tracks your heart health, scans for signs of stress and, rather than telling you to push harder, advises you when it’s time to take a step back and relax.

Also designed to elicit moments of calm, the Sensate 2 2 (£199, is a vibrating pebble that rests upon your chest. By using near-infrasound bone conduction in combination with a selection of soothing musical soundscapes, it tones your vagus nerve, which helps the brain sustain wellness by calming your organs.

Trust your gut, they say. Well, that’s the idea with the Foodmarble Aire 3 (£149, This pocket-sized digital detector for digestive intolerances works like a breathalyser to identify food types causing you stomach problems. This includes testing for lactose, fructose, sorbitol and insulin. It’s been used in clinical trials and validated by the British Society of Gastroenterology.

Work out, rest up

If you’ve avoided physical exercise, getting some strength back into your bones could be a good starting point. The Activlife Activ5 4 (£119, Amazon) is a clever, connected pebble placed between your palms – or even thighs – to gradually work your muscles. That’s thanks to static isometric exercise, which means you could use it sitting down or even during a yoga session, and everything is calibrated to an individual’s strength so you don’t overdo it.

Of course, if you have pushed it a tad too far, remember rest and recovery is the most important part of any workout. That’s where massage guns, such as the MyoMaster MyoPro 5 (£149, can help. They use percussion to improve circulation and reduce fatigue, and have been developed alongside physiotherapists and athletes to help increase flexibility and mobility.

Wellness on demand

The u3a has a fantastic portal for online wellbeing classes anyone can join, and activities can be as eclectic as laughter yoga (see Divine Comedy, right).

However, if you’re lucky enough to lead a busy social life, apps with on-demand classes that work around your schedule (and not the other way around) can be very handy. With monthly subscriptions costing from a few pounds, think of them like Netflix for workouts, where the activity you want – be it meditation, yoga, Pilates or cardio exercises – is available at the touch of a button.

For example, iFit has something called Global Workouts where a top sporting ambassador, such as Team GB Olympic rower Alex Gregory MBE, travels the globe with a National Geographic film crew to lead a session from somewhere exotic. This often includes a fascinating geography or history lesson about the location too.

Alternatively, Fitbit Premium adds some Hollywood flair to its line-up, where you can follow actor Will Smith, 53, on his own wellness journey with exclusive workouts, mindfulness tips and more.

divine comedy

They say laughter is the best medicine, so kudos to Judith Walker, who runs online yoga classes where u3a members are encouraged to burst into spontaneous chuckles to improve their mood.

She tells TAM: “We’re always concentrating on mental health and what’s going wrong, but we should be concentrating more on what makes people healthy.

“I got ill, and I laughed, and I got better, then mixing it with yoga seemed to be the answer. You don’t have to have something to laugh at, you just start and after a while it becomes infectious.”

Judith explains that breathing is very important in yoga, and that laughter is just exaggerated exhalation, adding: “It’s good because you carry on laughing until you’ve really exhaled as much as you can. And then you breathe in again, and that's basically what laughter yoga is.

“Some people love it, others think it’s daft but you’ve got to throw yourself into it, and if you’re willing, it works like magic, and even if you never get beyond the pretend laughter, you still get all the health benefits because your body doesn’t distinguish, it just says ‘hey, send me more endorphins’.”

By setting up online through u3a, Judith’s classes have gone from being attended by 10 people in Edinburgh to more than 300 over the web, connecting her with lots of new participants.

She adds: “Obviously, it’s more accessible, and people join online who wouldn’t come to a physical class because they feel they can’t really express themselves in front of all these people – although we do encourage you to keep your camera on!” Judith’s laughter yoga class is just one of many available to u3a members if you head to k/events/educational-events

Always check with your doctor before trying any medical devices

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tech Q&A

Have you got a tech question you’d like help with? Send in your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
and we’ll do our best to find a solution on these pages

“Are any other readers sick, tired and fed up of email spam? Most of it doesn’t have a ‘unsubscribe’ option and when it does it rarely works. I’ve looked at the Ofcom website but that’s useless.”

David Woolven, Newport u3a, Gwent, South East Wales.

More than half of emails received last year were spam and a quarter of those originated from Russia, followed by 14 per cent from Germany, according to antivirus provider Kaspersky.

Recently, spam emails have centred around money and investment, James Bond and Spider-Man film premieres, and the pandemic. The age-old rule of something sounding too good to be true means it probably is, so how can you combat it?

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l Don’t click

Clicking links in spam email alerts spammers that your account is active so they’ll keep sending you more.

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l Never respond

Emailing them back to say ‘stop’ will likely have the opposite effect and you may mistakenly give away personal information.

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l Use a different address

The likes of Gmail let you add an alternative email address to use with websites that might spam you. From there you can add a filter.

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l Block senders

Blocking emails from specific senders is effective. Most email services offer this functionality.

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l Don’t post

Don’t advertise your email in public places, such as social media sites. If it’s for work, try the alternative-address trick.

For further advice, go to

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news feature

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Does age affect our most intimate relationships?

Two u3a members have taken part in an intergenerational podcast exploring how age affects sex and relationships, and why it is a taboo subject for many people.

Sandi Rickerby, chair of the u3a’s Push Back Ageism working group and North East trustee, and Peter Chritchard, of Blyth & Cramlington u3a, were part of the Age on Trial series of podcasts which pose the question ‘What’s age got to do with anything?’

The podcast was created by innovator and designer Georgina Lee, who is passionate about ending ageism for all ages, and gerontologist Ella Moonan-Howard, who looks at research to show how ageing shapes our experiences.

In the podcast, a panel of ‘expert witnesses’ put their points of view to be discussed by a ‘jury’ of members of the public of all ages. The first case, available to listen to now on various podcast platforms, is the trial of ‘Sex and Intimacy vs Age’ and questions how age influences our sexual behaviours and attitudes.

Experts include Dr Sharron Hinchliff, of The University of Sheffield, who talks about sexual rights for older adults and wellbeing connected with relationships. She said: “There is quite a large body of research that suggests that if we are sexually active, we are in better health than individuals who aren’t.”

Other subjects covered include sexual liberation as we get older and relationships in care homes.

World-famous photographer Rankin talks about his eye-catching work with relationships charity Relate for their campaign ‘Let’s Talk the Joy of Later Life Sex’, in which he took photos of older couples in intimate poses, and talks about the importance of cuddling and talking to each other. “Intimacy makes you feel safe and makes you feel loved,” he says.

Jules Chalkley, creative lead for Ogilvy UK, says society ‘flinches’ at the idea of talking about ageing and sex “when actually the people we are talking about are having a whale of a time,” he says.

“There is something that we are not talking about,” he tells the podcast. “And I thought this was some kind of weird Victorian hangover – we won't talk about sex, we definitely won’t talk about sex in later life.”

Jackie Marshall-Cyrus, a nurse with expertise in nursing older adults and independent living specialist, has launched national innovation programmes to support Britain’s ageing population. She says that when the menopause is discussed, it is always the negative side effects that are highlighted.

“You have equally the other set of women who are enjoying menopause and actually their sex drive increases, and we don’t talk about that. It’s always the deficit, reductive sort of narrative that we have,” she says. Age has nothing to do with the human need for intimacy, love and how we feel about others, she adds.

Sandi, 74, and Peter, 72, were joined on the ‘jury’ by student Eve, 19; transgender grandmother Ruth, 88; 21-year-old Ellis, plus podcast creators Ella, 28 and Georgina, 54, to discuss what they had heard from the experts and to look at whether the generations had anything in common.

Sex and intimacy were felt by Sandi and Peter to become less important with age compared with feelings for someone, while Ruth saw it as a long-term thing. “The whole meaning of sex is to know somebody so well and trust them so much and feel so much for them that they are part of your life,” she says.

Sandi said that growing up in the 1950s and 60s shaped her attitudes today. “The very worst thing you could do was to get pregnant outside of marriage,” she said. “You couldn’t get abortions , you were put into homes for unmarried mothers or sent away to have the baby, which was taken away and adopted, so those things really inhibited the amount of sex and the attitudes that we have towards it.”

But even though her attitudes to sex have changed over the years and she is more open, Sandi says she still struggles with the easy come, easy go attitudes of today. Teenager Eve told how things were so much different for young people now, who often have the support of their parents in sexual matters. “It’s interesting how so much has changed over 50 years, which is not really a long time,” she says.

The biggest obstacle to older people dating and having sex was a feeling of shame. “Shame has come up several times in this discussion,” says Sandi. “But that’s other people judging you.”Peter adds: “You might be 60 or 70, but you are still a loving, beautiful person, even if you are carrying scars or have lost a breast.”

Being on your own when you are older was seen as an opportunity to form new friendships and try new activities. Peter says: “Being by myself for two years, you do grow in confidence. This period of being by yourself, you find yourself and start doing really what you want to do.”

The older members of the jury felt relationships, including physical ones, were important at any age.

“Why can’t you have the same needs and desires?” says Sandi. “It’s not quite centre stage as it is when you are younger but it is still an important part of your life and it’s totally unacknowledged.”

Peter said he hoped he would be in a physical relationship with someone for the rest of his life. “Life goes on and it’s still enormously pleasurable. You just have to find the right person.”

Age on Trial on Apple Podcasts are available at or search for it on Spotify, Google or any podcast platform. 

Does age have anything to do with sex? Vote now at, or share on social media at #ageontrial

A new podcast featuring u3a members looks at sex and relationships in your third age

Top row from left: Ella, Sandi, Peter.

Bottom row from left: Ellis, Eve, Georgina and Ruth

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Members’ lockdown memories
in print

A collection of u3a members’ experiences of the first lockdown in 2020, called u3a in the Time of Corona, is available to buy.

Hundreds of members recorded their thoughts and feelings during the first lockdown, from setting the alarm at midnight to secure a Tesco delivery slot to missing their grandchildren and how to cut their own hair, as part of the u3a Living History Diary Project.

Extracts from this project were turned into a book, and include drawings, photographs and poems. It costs £9.32, including postage, and is available from the Brand Centre at

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Future of u3a movement

New ideas are needed to raise the profile of u3as and make them more attractive to the next generation. Members also seek a wider range of online learning opportunities. These findings emerged from a member-wide consultation on future strategy that showed few members understand the full range of opportunities available in the movement.

However, peer-to-peer learning and member-led activities remain the most important features of u3a, according to more than 3,000 members who took part in surveys and focus groups. At its core is the volunteer base, which is fundamental to keeping the movement going. From the wealth of feedback, it was clear that priorities should include providing more advice to u3as, and developing the national online learning programme such as tutorials and talks, which proved popular during lockdown.

The longer-term focus will include working with other organisations to promote u3a values and to get our name and purpose better known. This is also an opportunity to redefine what the u3a stands for and make sure that the movement is attractive to younger recruits as well as ensuring that members feel part of a bigger movement - a ‘u3a family’. Over the coming months, u3a members will be invited to share ideas through committees and consultation. u3a chair Liz Thackray said: “The aim of this work is to enable the u3a movement to evolve in line with a rapidly changing society. There will be changes and new ideas, but this will be more akin to evolution than to a revolution.”

peter alvey

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Liz thackray: view from the chair

Our hearts go out to those who are suffering

I am writing this on a sunny March morning. Looking out of my window, it is almost impossible to believe what is happening in Ukraine – and even more difficult to imagine what the world might look like in April when this column appears in print.

A few years ago, I travelled along the Danube on a river cruise from Budapest to Bucharest. We chose to travel to and from our holiday by train, spending a few days in Prague, Vienna and Munich. Shortly after returning home, we began seeing images on TV of the many refugees traversing a similar route to the one we had taken – not in the comfort of a cruise ship or train, but on foot.

Now we are seeing similar images as families seek to escape their homeland in Europe, many having to leave behind husbands, brothers, fathers. It goes almost without saying that our hearts go out to those suffering in this way and it is so important we never allow ourselves to become immune to the suffering of so many. Many u3a members have friends and relatives caught up in the current situation, some worried about young men who may be called up and others just wishing they could find a safe place for older family members.

Last week, we held our board meeting in Milton Keynes. Residential board meetings are a mixture of business, thinking and planning, and conversation. For one trustee, who has been shielding, it was the first time he had met most of us face-to-face. Thinking about the conversations we shared, we experienced the u3a in action as we learned from each other while sharing fragments of our life experiences. How else would I know that one of our number speaks fluent Hungarian, or have learned so much about wedding flowers? The first evening, four of us arrived early, each with a story to tell of how our arrival was anything but uneventful. A middle-of-the-night phone call and need to call an ambulance were reminders that we have to be ready for the unexpected. There is really very little difference between our interactions as board members and those experienced in any u3a!

The first day of the board meeting comprised a workshop on environmental issues, educating ourselves in response to enquiries about whether the Trust or other u3as had environmental or sustainability policies. We established a working group to take this forward.

Following the workshop, we spent time updating our risk register, a legal requirement.

The formal Board meeting took place the following day. This was largely a business meeting. We received updates on anniversary plans, strategy, finance and governance. A decision was made on proceeding with the Sitebuilder replacement – essential as the volunteers supporting it are retiring. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee was renamed Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Thought was given to succession planning – five regional/national Trustees come to the end of their terms of office this year and few volunteers are putting themselves forward to replace them. We talked about social prescribing and possible collaboration with other organisations. An update was provided on AGM plans – this year on 6th October.

By the time you read this, I will have spent two days meeting u3a members in Yorkshire. Over the coming months, I have plans to spend time in the East of England and South West and have invitations to speak at a number of regional events.
I am looking forward to meeting members in person
and online.

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eric midwinter: u3a founder

Self-help is at u3a’s core and must be preserved

Everyone in u3a should
be an involved member, not
a customer being served

We experienced the u3a in action as we learned from each other while sharing fragments of our life experiences

In 1981, only 200,000 persons of pensionable age were involved in any kind of regular education. In 2021, more than 400,000 such people were u3a members. That is the numerical success tale of u3a. But that is only half the story.

I surprise myself when recalling how crude was the negativity about older age that still prevailed in the 1980s: “Old people can’t learn because their brain cells decrease”; “Education is wasted on old people because they’re not going to use it in the workplace”; “Old people are over the hill”. And these were academics and medics, not know-alls in saloon bars.

The notion that older people may and should be active citizens rather than passive social casualties is now broadly agreed – and there can be no doubt that one vital factor in this important change of public mind has been the busy activity of u3a in 1,000 communities.

This acceptance that older age may be a positive golden rather than a negative grey has been a definitive shift in civil society, and it is certain that u3as have been a major factor in this. In so doing, they have justified the decidedly political aim of the founders to construct a national demonstration of the ability of older people to organise their own agencies. Not for nothing was the first book on the subject of u3as published in the UK entitled Mutual Aid Universities (1984).

That mode of a self-energising, self-mobilising membership fitted smoothly into the most progressive outline of education, one found globally to be the most effective and beneficial. This was the claim that the creaking didactic ‘jug and mug’ method was outmoded and that a more participatory mode of learning was required. An old story tells of a school inspector asking a teacher what she taught: “Children” was the illuminating reply. Thus the u3a interest group is a learning circle based on the needs and strengths of its members and the tutor/student divide is closed by the adoption of an impartial convener. As we move forward into the next 40 years of our history, this great truth must be preserved. It is explicit in the guiding principles and articles of the movement.

One must be pragmatic. In any group activity, be it the House of Commons or the local tennis club, some will do more than others. The danger of the co-operative, self-help motif is that, without due care, the some become the very few and the others become the almost all. The u3a is not, nor should it ever become, a service charity in which a few provide a programme for the many. Everyone should be an involved member. Nobody should be a customer being served or a patient being treated.

Are people on recruitment to u3a always fully informed on the mutual aid obligation that membership affirms? Enlistment is tricky. You don’t want to put people off by heaping responsibilities on them as they step through the door. The evidence of u3a life is of people gradually growing in confidence, often surprising themselves at their own self-enhancement. But some indication should surely be given to newcomers, otherwise one may be selling a false prospectus. I have often thought that induction to u3a should be more nuanced – while I am aware, of course, of the vitally good practice of many u3as by way of introductory welcomes for new members.

For only through this
form of educational mutual aid will each member realise his or her best self. That is
the ultimate goal of the
u3a model.

u3a interest groups

have impartial

convenors, not tutors

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become a puppy raiser; favourite walks; keeping young with walking cricket

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Dogs puppy raiser

Guide Dogs is on the lookout for volunteers to give its dogs the right start in life. Do you have what it takes? u3a member Maggie Speirs tells Joanne Smith what is involved …

When Maggie Speirs took in her first guide dog puppy, she only intended to do it once. This year, she’s on to her 18th puppy – Betty, a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever cross.

Betty is one of sight-loss charity Guide Dogs’ super litter of 16 puppies born to Unity, a three-year-old German Shepherd. It’s the biggest litter the charity has ever had and the story made the national press. So how did Maggie get so involved with guide dogs?

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Life as a Guide

“The family all wanted a dog, and they all wanted different dogs,” explains Maggie. “I thought, ‘Am I going to be able to cope with a dog shaking mud all over the conservatory and the muddy pawprints and everything else?’

“Then one day, when I was taking my son to school, I saw someone who was a guide dog puppy raiser and I talked to
her about it.

“Afterwards I thought, ‘If I do that, then the dog is going to have to go at the end of the year, I have no choice’, rather than buying a puppy and thinking after a year that this is not for me.”

However, by the end of that first year, Maggie was hooked and she asked if she could have another puppy. She recalls her volunteer manager saying to her, “You’re a lifer now!”

“I hadn’t planned on doing more than one and I don’t want my own dog,” she says. “It wasn’t hard to give the dog up because I knew why I was doing it and you know from day one that they will go. I don’t have a problem when my children go to school or university or go abroad because, if I have done my job properly, they will be ready. It’s similar with the dogs.”

Bringing up puppies involves a lot of hard work, and one of the first things to master is toilet training.

I say to Maggie that, when you get a puppy, it’s surprising how much you end up talking about dog poo. Puppies poo on average once for every mealtime plus an extra one. So that’s five times a day to start with when they are eating four meals a day and you need eyes like a hawk if you don’t want accidents in your living room.

“My children used to get fed up with me when I’d jump up mid-sentence and say ‘I’ve got to take the puppy out!’” says Maggie. “After they’ve played, after they’ve had a sleep and after they’ve eaten, they have to go out to the toilet.”

The puppies stay with their puppy raisers until they are about 14 to 16 months old, when they go on to their next stage of training. By then, the dog should be familiar with a wide range of everyday sights, sounds and activities, should come back when called when free running and be able to walk nicely on the lead.

“Our job is to socialise the puppies to anything a visually impaired person might want to do, such as going into shops, supermarkets and restaurants,” says Maggie. “She’s got to be able to go up in a lift. We don’t do escalators because dogs can catch their claws in them. I take them anywhere I go. If I go for a meal,
I take them with me.”

All the training is reward-based, which means using food or praise when the puppy does well and ignoring unwanted behaviours.

When Guide Dogs began 90 years ago, the charity used only German Shepherds because they were very active and quick to learn. But now the charity breeds its own dogs and the most common is a Labrador crossed with a Golden Retriever. Dogs are matched to the needs of their owners, so an active German Shepherd that needs lots of exercise might be more suited to a young person at university whereas a slower Labrador might be best for an older person.

Not all the puppies become guide dogs. Some are used for breeding, while others, for whatever reason – from medical to behavioural – might not be suitable.

Some will go on to provide other types of assistance, or they make great pets.

The dogs are normally ready to go to their guide dog owner at around two years old. Once their working life is over, they are retired. Sometimes the guide dog owner or a family member will keep them. Otherwise, they are rehomed.

You don’t have to have had dogs before to be a puppy raiser and you can also volunteer if you have your own dog as long as they pass the behavioural checks. But your dogs will live by different rules – the guide dog puppy will not be allowed on the furniture! It’s also worth noting they are pretty much a full-time job due
to not being able to be left alone for
long periods.

Maggie is also a speaker for Guide Dogs and a puppy raiser mentor. She is more than happy to talk to anyone who might be interested in getting involved and can be contacted by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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find out more

If you are interested in becoming a guide dog puppy raiser (formerly called a puppy walker), you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 0345 143 0191. Alternatively, search ‘puppy raiser’ on the Guide Dogs website,

Our job is to socialise the puppies to anything a visually impaired person might want to do

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the natural world adventurer

Enjoy nature from your armchair with u3a’s Matt Carroll and his short films, writes Joanne Smith

The u3a has its very own Jack Hargreaves in Matt Carroll. Since lockdown, ecologist Matt, who leads Swansea u3a’s Natural History group, has been making short videos on his own YouTube channel.

Matt has made about 70 short films, covering everything from the life of a dead log and the amazing world of fungus to making charcoal and how to carve a whistle out of a carrot.

“Recently, I got lost in the garden,” he tells his audience with tongue in cheek. “And there I was thinking, if only I had a whistle. And I realised I could have made a whistle from a carrot. I could have called my dog, and my dog would have got my wife, and I wouldn’t have got cold. So this is how you make a whistle from a carrot.”

In another film, Matt gets up at 4.15am to film a day in his garden, featuring bird song, his faithful companion Bramble the spaniel, cloud formations, bees feeding on blossom, pond skaters and a blue tit taking food to a nesting box. The only sound being birdsong, rain, sheep and chickens, ending with the rapid pip-pip-pip of a soprano pipistrelle bat in slow motion as it sweeps around feasting on insects against a setting sun.

The films are charming, educational and fun. Take the one about ponds, where Matt discovers an otter spraint and the remains of the mammal’s last meal – frog’s legs. In another fascinating video, Matt demonstrates catching voles and wood mice using a Longworth humane trap and describes the differences between them before letting the creatures go where he found them. He explains that some small mammals, such as the shrew, are protected by law and therefore must not be caught. His trap included a small hole to allow shrews to escape, should they be tempted by the muesli and bedding inside.

A trip to Robin Hood’s Bay in the North York Moors National Park resulted in a film about fossil-hunting in Boggle Hole. “The rocks here are Jurassic, at around 180 million years old,” he says. “And all the creatures you find in the rocks lived in shallow, tropical seas.” The film includes Atlantic grey seals, which live at the other end of the bay.

Matt has honed his skills to such a level that the opening scenes of one of his latest films, The Wild Sound of a Churchyard, wouldn’t be out of place in a Hammer Horror movie – a misty silhouette of iron gates with the hoot of an owl in the distance and the eerie glow of lights within. For this film, Matt hid his night-time filming equipment to capture the sights and sounds of wildlife at night, as well as during the day, and we are treated to glimpses of foxes, the dawn chorus and an orange sunrise. A drone captures the church from above, taking in the Gower Peninsula. Matt shows us a close-up dissection of a barn owl pellet – where he found four vole skulls and one common shrew, with enormous sharp teeth and a bit of fur still attached. Matt lines them up on a stone for comparison.

In Discover Cwm Ivy, we follow a woodland walk down to the sand dunes of the Gower Peninsula and enjoy various wildflowers such as ragged robin,
sea spurge and semi-parasitic yellow rattle, and orchids including purple pyramidal, Southern Marsh, Marsh helleborine and ‘the wonder of evolution’ – the bee orchid, which is pollinated by bumble bees.

Matt spent a career teaching children natural history in outdoor forest schools in the Lake District and Epping Forest before setting up his own business in habitat creation. He was also a bat consultant for planning applications,
and joined the u3a after retiring three years ago.

He was invited to do a talk about bats to the u3a and from there set up the Natural History group, where he would take members out on adventures such as identifying wading birds on an estuary, or show them how to make bird boxes to take home.

When Covid struck, it was suggested to Matt that he make some short films, so he set off with his head camera to see what he could do.

“The early films were absolutely terrible,” he said. “But I have a friend who is a film editor and each time I made a video, she gave me a few hints about how I could improve it.”

Matt said he realised the most important thing was the sound, because if you can’t hear anything due to background noise such as wind, you won’t enjoy the film. He has spent more on microphones than on lenses.

“I am really, really enjoying it,” he said.

Matt gets about 100 viewers for his videos but a time-lapse film of him building a timber-framed shed for his son over five days went round the world. “I did it as a bit of a joke really, and it got 26,000 hits,” he said.

Having spotted some owl pellets in a churchyard, and with the permission from the vicar, he set up his equipment to film overnight where he thought the owl might be. You can see what he captured on his YouTube channel.

His videos can be seen at Matt Carroll’s Natural World on YouTube.

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

Matt Carroll carves a whistle from a carrot

In Discover Cwm Ivy, we follow a woodland walk down to the sand dunes of the Gower Peninsula and enjoy various wildflowers

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The show must go on … oh yes it must!

Preston & District u3a’s drama group,
The Paduta Players, began in 2014 and has gone from strength to strength.  From a gathering of about seven or eight members, we are now an enthusiastic group of at least 24, meeting twice
a month in a large hall. We have put
on many productions, including pantomimes, plays and various sketches, all well-received by our audience. 

I took over from Harry Chaloner as group leader in August 2020, not long after lockdown kicked in, and decided to take the group online on Zoom to keep us going. Although we couldn’t ‘act’ the plays as such, we read through many we had produced already and one or two new ones, and even encouraged some new members to join. We had put on After the Ball Was Over in January 2020, the fictional follow-on story of Cinderella, written by myself and a member of the cast.  This had been popular, so it encouraged me to continue writing. 

With an age group straddling three decades (we have five members in their 80s), I find it much easier to write plays with the members in mind rather than trying to buy plays in. So far we have performed a Murder Mystery, a skit on ’Allo! ’Allo! called Bonsoir! Bonsoir!,
Monty Python sketches and many other varied productions. We now have a regular following.

Of course, we weren’t able to do any public performances throughout 2021, but in January this year I directed a pantomime called Robin Hood and the Royal Jewels, once again written by myself, with invaluable help from our leading man Fred Roberts, who played an excellent Robin Hood. We negotiated the use of a church hall with separate changing rooms, a stage and curtains
(a luxury we had not had previously)
and this certainly helped with our
scene changes.

We played to an enthusiastic audience of 96. It was a proper pantomime performance with sweetie bags for the children (made by Maid Marian), slapstick, ghosts, refreshments, audience participation and even a homemade suit of armour. Everyone had a thoroughly good time. 

Most of our excellent costumes were made by a new member of the group and our scenery was either made or donated by cast members, saving us a considerable amount in hire charges. A very successful production, albeit a lot of hard work!

Following a short break to get our breath back, we shall be starting to rehearse a crime drama, which we hope to put on in July. 

I should just like to say how much I enjoy leading this friendly, enthusiastic group, and how it is definitely keeping the ‘little grey cells’ active! It is now so popular we have a waiting list to join.

If any other u3a drama groups would be interested in hiring our plays, they are welcome to do so. Just get in touch via the drama page on the Preston & District u3a website,

One u3a drama group refused to give in to lockdown and is now back treading the boards. Group leader Gael Hughes-Jones reveals more

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Pickleball? The new craze that’s sweeping the nation - and u3as

George Clooney is said to be a fan, as is Leonardo di Caprio, and we have our very own pickleball expert in subject adviser David Pechey, who can help you start your own u3a pickleball group

It’s been grabbing headlines in the national press recently, but before that few had heard of pickleball. Now, the fastest-growing sport in the US has made it over the pond and is growing in popularity in the UK, too. In fact, the sport is growing so fast, it has aspirations to join the Olympics - and u3a members are rapidly joining its ranks.

Pickleball is a mixture of tennis, badminton and ping pong, and has a growing list of celebrity fans. George and Amal Clooney are said to be enthusiasts, as are Leonardo DiCaprio and Friends actor Matthew Perry.

It began in the back garden of a congressman from Washington state in 1965 but is not, apparently, named after a dog called Pickle. According to reports, his wife named it after university ‘pickle boat’ races, where crews are cobbled together from surplus rowers.

Its name is not the only odd thing about it (no pickles are harmed in the playing of pickleball), but it is played with a wiffle ball, which is a lightweight plastic ball with holes in it, and square paddles.

David Pechey started a pickleball group at Bramhall u3a in Greater Manchester four years ago and became the u3a Subject Adviser for the sport last year. He came across the sport when looking for something to keep him active after recovering from a broken ankle, but the group he found was an hour’s drive away, so he decided to start one locally.

He said: “Pickleball is quick and easy to learn and within a few minutes almost everyone can be playing to an enjoyable level. It doesn’t have to be as stressful to the body or as energetic as tennis, for example. It has been quickly adopted by the u3a demographic as an alternative sport to, or even in addition to, tennis, badminton, squash and table tennis.”

David has been trained by Pickleball England as a pickleball leader to offer coaching advice and training to new groups. He can put u3a groups in touch with pickleball leaders in their area.

He urges any u3a pickleball group leader who hasn’t yet been in touch with him to get in contact. “We can steadily move from pickleball being the ‘fastest growing sport almost nobody’s heard of’ to the ‘most interesting new sport that everyone knows about’,” he says.

Four pickleball players at Bramhall u3a - John Bramich, Steve Goodall, Jackie Latham and Phil Kay - recently completed their pickleball leaders’ training, which will enable them to help new groups get started.

Some u3a members have already had success at international tournaments. Geoff Piper, secretary of Cranbrook u3a in Kent, and other u3a members, belong to Cranbrook Pickleball, where they play three times a week at a sports centre.

“I had heard of pickleball, since a good friend of mine who lives in the US plays it regularly, so when I heard that it was going to start in Cranbrook I was very keen to play,” says Geoff.

“The advantage for more senior members like me is that the court is the same size as a badminton court, so there is not as much running around as there is in tennis! It is a game for all age groups and skills. Many of us have competed at international tournaments in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany.”

In 2019, Geoff and u3a member John Taylor won Gold in the senior men’s doubles at the German Open Pickleball Tournament. John also won the senior mixed doubles with Ann Furminger.

“The rules are relatively simple but extremely well thought-out and it does not take long to get used to them or to the scoring,” says Geoff. “In the UK, pickleball is mainly played as doubles, though if you are superfit you could play singles on the same-sized court. It doesn’t matter whether the pairs are single-sex or mixed.”

Elmbridge u3a in Surrey has several pickleball groups, with some members in their 80s playing three times a week.

Cranbrook u3a members in a pickleball tournament in the Netherlands in 2018

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How to start a u3a Pickleball group

  • Get an interested population wanting to play Because almost nobody has heard of or had experience of playing pickleball, the key is getting publicity and a clear explanation of benefits to the potential u3a audience.
  • You will need to buy some equipment, such as paddles and balls, to get started Many folks will have tennis or badminton racquets lying around in their loft but almost nobody has a pickleball paddle gathering dust since their schooldays. So new kit is necessary and David has suggestions of how to achieve that within u3a groups and even with help from outside sources. 
  • Finding a venue A badminton court (or two or three) makes an ideal starting venue. Several u3a groups have found facilities at sports centres, and in village and scout halls.

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From genetics to cosmology

I am here to help science groups start in u3as and to provide ideas for adding variety to their activities. If you are running a group, or looking to start one up and would like some help and ideas, please get in touch.

I lead the Science group at Exeter u3a and I’m a regular contributor and attendee of the Science, Engineering and Technology group of Sidmouth u3a. I’ve an honours degree in Chemistry, awarded many years ago by the Royal Institute of Chemistry.

I have spent more than 24 years as an analytical chemist, laboratory computer scientist, and middle manager, mainly in pharmaceuticals.
I founded and ran a software company for 12 years. During that time, I wrote a couple of textbooks on computer programming.

Throughout my early life, career, and ever since, I’ve maintained an avid interest in a wide range of sciences, including genetics, food and health, computers, cosmology, and many other subjects. I have given a wide range of talks and I am willing to present to interested u3a groups.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 01404 814889.

Leigh Edwards

New Subject Adviser for science

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Online bridge is an ideal way to learn or hone your card skills

Pam Rayment, of Guisborough u3a, started playing bridge a year ago – and now she’s hooked . . .

Have you ever wanted to try bridge but not been sure how to? Or perhaps you want to improve your game but you’re unable to get to a bridge club?

Perhaps you don’t have a bridge partner to play with, or have not played for many years. Whatever the reason, you can play online with other u3a members.

About 15 months ago, I saw an article in the u3a electronic newsletter inviting members to play bridge online and was disappointed to find the list was full when I applied. However, around a year ago, a second invitation appeared.
I got in touch, was warmly welcomed and haven’t looked back.

Everyone is welcome, from complete beginners to more experienced players. Beginners will be given a mentor to provide support and show you round the website. Complete beginners will start as a group together and there are resources to help improvers develop their skills. And best of all, the list won’t be full! Steve Carter, of East Norfolk Bridge Club, and Tony Bullen, of Great Yarmouth u3a, will welcome you. I admit I had reservations as I’m not really an ‘online’ socialiser. To my surprise, I found it comfortable, relaxed and I have made several online friends. I have also improved my bridge.

I live in the North East of England and have played with u3a members across the country. In the ‘social room’, you’ll be able to play with others from all around the world if you wish, at any time of the day or night. In other ‘rooms’, you may chat with those at your table, to other u3a members and, of course, to your mentor.

For more competitive players, there are friendly duplicate sessions against partnerships in other u3a clubs and we take part in charity matches.

Advantages of playing bridge online include not having to go out in the cold and dark, you can make a cuppa whenever you wish, you’re welcome to join alone or with a friend/bridge partner. If you join alone, help will be given to find a partner. After your free trial, you will be eligible for three months’ free membership, after which it costs £1.66 a week.

To find out more, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 07749 888830

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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

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


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Foraging followed by a slap-up meal

Members of Downe u3a in Northern Ireland enjoyed a foraging trip along the shore at Crawford’s Rock near Kilkeel, where they identified different seaweeds before tucking into a slap-up meal.

Expert Michelle Wilson, of Crawford’s Rock Seaweed Company, identified which seaweeds were best for cooking, which were used in skincare products and which ones she recommended for
a natural bath.

Afterwards, the group retreated to a gazebo on the shore, where they were served seaweed with seaweed bread and cod roe, followed by local produce such as langoustines, mussels, crab toes, haddock landed in Kilkeel that morning, steak, seaweed and chilli chocolate, ending with Crawford’s Rock Seaweed Company’s award-winning peppermint and kombu tea.

The group agreed that it had been a day to remember. Some were keen to try the seaweed bath but not so many were looking forward to cooking seaweed at home!

u3a member Sheila Magee said: “After the meal, we were given a taster of sloke (edible marine algae). I found it an acquired taste but for a few of the party it reminded them of food from their past and they enjoyed it. The bread and butter with added seaweed were fine and I liked the seaweed tea, which had an unusual flavour, not salty as
I  expected. We took home our collection of seaweeds.
I added the serrated wrack variety to my bath, which felt strange. I think it did me good, though! If not, my garden enjoyed it later. 

“The seaweed spaghetti was an eye opener, with a good consistency, though it needed sauce to flavour it.
I would try it again.

“This was another example of how you get so much more from visits when you have great company and someone telling you stories and pointing out things you would otherwise have missed.

“We had a fantastic day and will be back.”

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Barnsley u3a members help to shape their town's future

What started out as a survey of high streets led to Barnsley & District u3a members connecting with their area’s history and helping to shape its future.

2020 saw the start of the u3a High Street Project, with members across the country looking at the impact of the pandemic on shops in their areas and the communities using them.

A year later, Barnsley Council called for their residents’ views regarding the town’s redevelopment.

Hannah Lucas, of Barnsley & District u3a, together with council development officer Lynn Maloney, saw this as a good opportunity for members of various Interest groups to contribute to creating a safe and age-friendly town. Hannah said, “Once we had this link with the council, doors started to open.”

The u3a’s local history groups developed a relationship with the town’s museum, Experience Barnsley, where they now have a display of artefacts from the past and a new group was formed to research the history of various streets. u3a members are also working with the council’s High Street Heritage Action Zone to revitalise parts of the town. Maggy Simms, from the national High Street Project, said that this is an example of the project’s continuing legacy. “For many u3as, the project has been about how we can explore, examine and celebrate a sense of place,” she says.

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favourite walks

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A winter ramble in Lakeland

u3a members take us on a circuit of Crummock Water in the Lake District and explore the natural delights of London

After a frosty night in early January, the day dawned crisp and bright – just the weather for the splendid nine-mile undulating circuit of Lakeland’s Crummock Water, which Skiddaw u3a Roamers embarked on at Lanthwaite Green, writes Anna Nolan. A dusting of snow over the fells dazzled the eye in the blazing sunlight.

Having followed an attractive bridleway across Lanthwaite Wood, we reached the water’s edge, marvelling at the mighty Grasmoor, casting a dramatic shadow on the lake. As we were approaching Mellbreak, we were able to admire its steep upper slopes dissected by rocky gullies above the extensive screes.

The winding lakeshore path led us to the picturesque peninsula of Low Ling Crag jutting into the water right opposite Rannerdale Knotts. Such a landmark proved impossible to resist, with a fishing cormorant adding a touch of excitement.

Then came the notoriously boggy section below Scales, but it was soon over as we reached the haven of Buttermere. The plan was to have a pit stop by Crummock Water on the other side of the village but the westerly wind, hitherto held at bay by the fells, suddenly unleashed its full force and we had to
seek shelter in the nearby woodland on Long How.

Replenished, though now freezing, we warmed up by climbing along the shelf on the lower slope of Rannerdale Knotts before rounding the fell to reach the famous bluebell spot at High Rannerdale. From there, we were supposed to return along the beguiling lakeshore path but, as its sections were already in shade, we opted for the still-sunny higher route
at the foot of Grasmoor, with the impressive views of its soaring gullies providing a fitting finale to the fabulous winter ramble. 

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Exploring London’s rivers, canals and docks

During the pandemic, our walking group has been extremely successful, writes Cathy Mercer of Walking London with Brent u3a. Many people joined Brent u3a simply to enjoy the walking group to get to know people and new parts of London.

Our walks are usually three to five miles, with cafe or pub visits, and generally based in London, making use of our public transport Freedom Passes. We visit places we’ve only ever heard of locally, as well as on the Thames Path and Capital Ring. We also venture into the Chilterns to Amersham and Chesham, at the end of the Metropolitan Line.

We walked the Thames from Hampton Court to the stunning Thames Barrier in 2015 and 2016 and then London rivers and canals, most of which have good paths on even surfaces – the lovely River Lee, the pretty New River, Pymmes Brook from Cockfosters to Edmonton, River Pinn in Pinner, River Wandle in Wandsworth and Dollis Brook. We’re now walking the Thames again, but westward, from Woolwich to Hampton Court.

A very popular Thames walk is a visit to the foreshore at low tide to look for ancient artefacts with Museum of London archaeologists.

We found Roman pottery at Putney and explored Bankside. For Easter, we’re planning a walk to Rotherhithe for the docks and tunnels.

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‘I’m not 82 when I play Walking Cricket – I’m 40 again!’

Widowed at 53, Norah Hoult discovered friendship, laughter and her youth when she joined u3a . . .

My name is Norah and I want to share the story of my journey to Walking Cricket. I am a Yorkshire lass and proud of it, Barnsley born and bred. Coming from a large family, at school I was a great sports lover and particularly enjoyed netball, rounders and hockey.

I left school at 15 and went to work for the Yorkshire Traction bus company in Barnsley. At 23, I got married to Terry and had three children. I had a lovely marriage for 30 years before I lost Terry when he was only 52. At 53, it was not nice to be widowed but myself and the kids stayed strong for each other, of which I am truly proud.

Travelling through life when widowed so young is very hard. You can go down with it or fight it and survive. And here I am today, nearly 82, and I have survived.

It has not always been smooth. I nearly lost out at 40, with blocked intestines and peritonitis. In 2010, I fell and broke my pelvic bone while coming home from a Barnsley football match and couldn’t walk for six months.

I discovered Barnsley u3a at a time when I was really down. You hide a lot when you live on your own because you don’t want to let your friends see you down. But sometimes you just can’t hide it.

My kids worried about me during lockdown. Though I had done my best to stay motivated, I was down and sad at not being able to mix with friends and do what I enjoy. My daughter said: “Mum needs her Walking Cricket! She is too sad.” Well, I’m back playing cricket. In fact, at 82, I think I’d like my own cricket bat. Not furs or diamonds, and not pearls. No, just my own cricket bat. Being sporty, I had looked for something that would suit me and discovered an old friend who led the Barnsley u3a Crown Green Bowling group, and I am now a well-established member.

Then I heard about the u3a Walking Cricket group, five minutes from where I lived, so I thought, ‘Let’s have a dabble’. The only cricket I had played before was against my brothers on the street!

Did I enjoy it? You bet! I was smitten! Couldn’t bowl straight, missed a lot of balls when batting, but I loved it! I came out of there feeling a different person, laughing at my mistakes, but feeling very light-hearted.

The people are a real mixture. Some are ex-cricketers but there are also those who knew nothing about the game. We are all there for the same thing – to get us out of the ‘doldrums’ and boredom. You reach a certain age and think you are not fit for purpose. Well, let me tell you, you are! There are people there who can hardly bend but, by heck, can they bowl and bat!

Once they get out there on that pitch, they forget their troubles and aches and pains. They have friendly banter, they laugh at their downfalls and jump for joy at their successes.

Our captain and u3a Subject Adviser Mac McKechnie, who is also captain of the Yorkshire Walking Cricket team, and Kendal James, participation manager from the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, are looking to evidence that Walking Cricket is good for health, mental wellbeing and improving fitness.

I’m not 82 when I’m playing, I’m 40 again! To see people’s smiling faces when we started up again after the Covid lockdown was a real tonic.

To anyone thinking about it, I’d just say have a go – you’ll love it!

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my story

the medway queen; joining the hippie movement; meeting mahatma gandhi

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Restoring the Medway Queen

I retired in December 2019 and was introduced to Medway u3a by a friend, so I joined the photography group. I was determined to find something to keep me active and found myself visiting the Medway Queen Preservation Society in Gillingham one Saturday in February 2020. Having started out as a pleasure steamer, the Medway Queen went on to play a key part in the 1940 evacuation
of Dunkirk.

Initially I thought I would have no skills to offer, other than helping with administration or project management. During a brief tour, I mentioned it would be lovely to work in the carpentry shop and learn some new skills. Luckily, that is where I landed from day one.

My first task was helping to paint what would become the forward stair cover. This involved sanding, applying a wood stain, sanding and applying another coat, then repeating the whole process a third and sometimes fourth time; then doing it all again with multiple coats of varnish. There were still lots of parts to make for the stair cover and I was taught how to use the various machines in the carpentry workshop, such as circular saws, planer-thicknesser, bench router, spindle machine and mortise cutter.

In July 2020, the workshop volunteers dismantled the decaying forward stair cover and erected the new one. One new skill we all had to learn was how to fibreglass the roof of the stairwell. Following a bit of reading-up on the subject, we successfully applied a fibreglass roof. I am sure some people may object to this choice of material, as it was not originally used. However, to limit water penetration and preserve the interior of the ship, it was decided to use materials available today.

Our next task was to reinstate the purser’s cabin. Ron oversees the carpentry workshop and produced a design based on original drawings and photos. The cabin is the deck and where passengers would have purchased their tickets. We made the cabin from scratch and installed it in April 2021. All the parts were machined by Ron and me in the workshop (and, yes, endless rounds of painting and varnishing).

We then moved on to creating a bar to go in the aft saloon. Ron designed this with an Art Deco feel.

In August, the ship was taken to a commercial shipyard in Ramsgate to have the hull cleaned and repainted. It was towed away for what we thought would be around six weeks. The society agreed to add a few extra tasks while it was on the slipway and out of the water, which added to the timespan.

I was asked if I would manage the return of the ship, once the work was complete. I did not appreciate what a challenge this would be. First, I had to get a final date for completion of the work. If any of you have had work done on your house, you will realise how hard that can be. Then, due to the size of the vessel, we needed a series of documents from various organisations, including three documents from the tug company (although the ship has an engine, it has no boiler and the engine last ran in the 1960s), a passage plan, tug plan (two tugs – one forward and one aft) and a route plan. Next was to submit these to the Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA) to get them to issue a Load Line Exemption Certificate. Everything then had to go to the insurers for approval.

We had restrictions in place from MCA and insurers that the wind had to be south to south westerly and a swell less than 1 metre as it moved around an area called North Foreland, which faces the North Sea. We needed a high tide at Ramsgate to get it off the slip and a high tide at Gillingham to get over the sand and mud banks and to moor it at the pier. Everything was ready for 17 December.
I then got a call from the shipyard saying their winch had broken. Eventually, on
6 January, 2022, the ship came off the slipway at Ramsgate and arrived at Gillingham at 3pm the next day (tides prevented a single journey). The workshop crew could now complete the work that had stalled since August 2021, including installing the bar.

As well as continuing in the workshop, I am now helping the Board of Trustees with planning major projects such as opening it for hire as a venue, and a longer-term aim to get the engine running and steaming on the River Medway.

For a full history, please go to, where you can also find details about visiting times and how to donate to the charity. The Medway Queen Preservation Society desperately needs more volunteers in both practical and administrative roles. Whether your interest is in joining the workshop team or helping to run the project, get in touch.

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history of the medway queen, A heroine of dunkirk

1924 The Medway Queen was built at Troon and launched in 1924 as a pleasure steamer. It worked on the River Medway in Kent through to 1963, carrying pleasure-seekers between the coastal towns of Strood, Chatham, Southend and Herne Bay, with occasional trips to Clacton, Margate and the Pool of London. In the inter-war years, hundreds of paddle-steamers would take day-trippers from one seaside town to another. It was a popular pasttime.

1939 It was requisitioned as a minesweeper and took part in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk, in 1940. The crew made seven trips across the Channel, bringing back an estimated 7,000 troops and earning itself the title of Heroine of Dunkirk.

1943 HMS Medway Queen continued minesweeping after Dunkirk, becoming an accommodation ship for a few months in 1943 and then a minesweeping training vessel. It returned to normal service at the end of the war.

1963 It ceased service and was sold to a company that took it to Binfield on the Isle of Wight, where it was used as a nightclub until 1974, when the club was closed. Three Kent businessmen bought the Medway Queen to save it from the scrapyard. Damage meant it remained on the Isle of Wight until 1984, when it was brought back to the River Medway. It sat here for a year, filling with mud and water at every high tide.

1985The Medway Queen Preservation Society was formed to support the restoration and bought the ship in 1987.

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fast rewind

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What inspired me to become a hippie

Barrie Cressey leads the Trust u3a 20th Century Life group, which hosts
online talks. Here, he tells us about
the history of the movement …

I was nine in 1967, the year of the Summer of Love when thousands of young hippies gathered in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco and across the US to enjoy music, free love, experiment with hallucinogenic drugs and protest against the Vietnam War.

When images of hippies from San Francisco appeared on our television screen, prompting my father to make derogatory comments about ‘loose morals’, I said I wished
I could go to such fantastic events. This sent my dad into palpitations, asking what on earth I thought I would do if I was in California, to which I replied: “I’d wear flowers in my hair.” At that age, I did not understand the hippie movement but it was something that struck a chord with me and, as I grew older, I craved the hippie lifestyle.

My time to be a hippie did come – a bit late – just before the advent of punk, leaving me as an aspiring hippie in a radically changing youth culture. In 1974 I went to a music festival, where I and my hippie friends made it into the local newspaper. To have hippies in rural Warwickshire was, indeed, unusual!

What hippie life was I aspiring to? Well, some authors believe that the hippie ideal originated in Germany in the early 20th century with a youth movement known as der Wandervogel, which promoted folk music and a rural way of life, attracting thousands of young Germans who rejected industrialisation. These beliefs were introduced to the US by German immigrants, some opening the first health food stores in southern California, where they could practise an alternative lifestyle in a warm climate.

The hippie movement in the US developed during the 1960s, growing in popularity due to its opposition to the Vietnam War. It is estimated that around 100,000 people travelled to San Francisco in the summer of 1967, living communally in the large, inexpensive Victorian apartments in the Haight-Ashbury area of the city.

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, a pivotal time for the hippie movement, was held in 1969 on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in New York State. The festival exemplified the best of hippie counterculture, with more than 500,000 people arriving to hear 32 of the biggest bands of the era.

Meanwhile, the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970 drew an even bigger crowd than Woodstock, with an estimated 600,000-700,000 people, and was a major gathering of the hippie movement, as well as one of the last major concert appearances of Jimi Hendrix, who died in September 1970.

By this time, much of hippie ethos had been integrated into mainstream culture. Large rock concerts that originated with the Woodstock and Isle of Wight festivals became more regular. Moustaches, beards and longer hair became commonplace, while colourful, multi-ethnic clothing dominated fashion. Eastern spiritual concepts reached a wider audience, and interest in natural food, herbal remedies and vitamins became widespread.

In the UK, a group of hippies started the Stonehenge Free Festival in 1974 and the hippie ideal lives on at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, in the fields of Avalon in Somerset.

To join the Trust u3a 20th Century Life group, email Barrie on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Share your
hippie memories with u3a members by emailing
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The day I first met Mahatma Gandhi

In the summer of 1946, when I was five years old, I would accompany my elder sister, Sharda, every Sunday to the Gandhi Ashram in New Delhi. This was a spiritual centre where ladies would meet for a charkha session, in which they would spin cotton on spinning wheels to be made into indigenous clothing.

My sister, who was 17, was a great disciple and follower of Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violent Satyagraha movement, which was opposed to British rule in India and the use of foreign imported materials for clothing. The centre was about three-quarters of a mile from our home and my sister and
I would walk there. Gandhi didn’t live there but he would visit it and we would see him there regularly.

In those days, women had to have a chaperone and my sister chose me, the youngest of her brothers. I think I was her favourite! I was very fond of her, too.
I would sit quietly while the women spun their cotton.

From my vivid memory, after a session one Sunday evening, my sister was stopped by Gandhi and they started talking. He was asking my sister, who was to study medicine, how she was getting on and what she had achieved.

During the conversation, which lasted about ten minutes, his right hand rested on my head and he kept blessing me all
the time. Towards the end of his conversation, he asked my sister if I was her little brother or chaperone. She replied, “Yes, Bapu-ji, he is both.” Bapu means ‘father’ and ‘ji’ is a mark of respect.

As we were returning home, I asked my sister, “Who is this Bapu-ji?” She replied, “Ved, he is Mahatma Gandhi.”

After that, I met him again and again, and was blessed by him a few times.

Sadly, my sister died in 1951 of typhoid. There was no treatment for that in those days. She had got married in 1948 and had a son, who was brought up by my parents. He became a doctor and moved to Chicago in the US.

I was born in 1941 in Pune, formerly known by the British spelling Poona,
near Bombay, and we moved to New Delhi in 1943. My father was a physicist and worked for the meteorological office. I studied medicine in India and came to England in 1968 to continue my education in general practice at St Mary’s and Hammersmith hospitals.

I worked for the NHS for 41 years,
35 of them in general practice in Lincoln. While I was doing my hospital posts, my wife, Sudershan Sood, did her MSc in child development at the University of London and worked in London hospitals as a clinical psychologist until our children were born. My daughter and my son-in-law are both orthodontists and my son is a lawyer.

I am a bit of a collector and I possess several items connected to Mahatma Gandhi, which I am so proud of. One is an oil painting of Gandhi by renowned Indian artist Satish Sinha (circa 1940).
I also own a pocket watch which is inscribed on the interior back plate: ‘Presented to Mr J T Dickson by the officers and senior staff of the BB & CI Railways, loco dept. Ajmer, on his retirement, April 1928.’ Mr Dickson had once had to arrest Gandhi for civil disorder as he and his followers tried to disrupt the railways.

I also have an original recording of a spiritual message from Gandhi. This was recorded on a 78rpm record during his stay in England in 1931, when the Columbia Gramophone Company asked him to make a recording. Gandhi pleaded his inability to talk about politics but added that, at 62, he could make his first and last record which would make his voice heard for all time, and so he recorded an old article he’d written entitled ‘God’.

Gandhi, a Hindu, was born on
2 October, 1869, which is now a national holiday in India and the world celebrates it as the International Day of Non-Violence.

His Satyagraha movement, known as the struggle for truth, was for the freedom of the nation and was not against the British. His protest was against the ruling government and the atrocities facing the Indian population at that time. His main aim was the freedom of India and this he finally achieved. He is therefore known as the ‘Father of Nation’.

Gandhi believed in non-violence and unity, and especially that Hindus and Muslims should live together in peace. This is what cost him his life when he
was assassinated by Hindu fundamentalist Nathuram Godse on
30 January, 1948. Godse opposed his support for Muslims.

Gandhi never took the easy option. His powerful protest proved more persuasive than violence and he helped topple an empire without raising a weapon.

He left legacies to the world and to many people, such as Nelson Mandela, who called him his role model, and Martin Luther King Jr, who once said: “Christ gave me the message. Gandhi gave me the method.”

Mahatma Gandhi was India’s peaceful fighter. He was a tireless fighter for human rights and for India’s independence. His strategy of Satyagraha, or passive resistance, earned him the admiration of millions throughout the world.

Today, I feel so privileged and fortunate to have been blessed by this soul of the 20th century.

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brain games

puzzle page - solutions page 82

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From Chris Simmons of Tynedale u3a

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1 Dough, Champ? You’re the main provider (11)

9 From east to west, old lady takes in a glitzy mixture of ingredients (7)

10 Old boy takes on half series, leading to unknown conclusion for tribute (7)

11 Put clothes on again and set everything straight! (9)

12 Starting nearly empty, expenses doubled, you soon will be (5)

13 Audible questions for three men, three monkeys (4)

14 Highlights of a tale that sounds well-told at first (10)

16 Reported organisation comprising just yourself, him and her. What? Me too! (3,5,2)

19 Keir cuts back rapid eye movements, becomes one who rises by night (4)

21 Rabbit received over the airwaves (5)

22 Right alternative joint in Yorkshire ((9)

24 Nation’s cold store? (7)

25 Colony with rising bills covets a restructuring (7)

26 I get sane men to construct their dream machine! (5,6)

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

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1 Watch the wall, my darling – these gentlemen are off to the parsonage (6,9)

2 Old comic gets the bird (5)

3 Some lad gets involved with old lass (7)

4 So that’s where a monk belongs! (2,5)

5 Intrusive feature of solitary descendant lying back on promontory (8)

6 O, request cheer of reconstituted dairy product (9,6)

7 Farm equipment found at hilltop educational establishment (6)

8 Celestial alignment: three identical axes, gravity, second and last in series – confused? (6)

15 Matters of current interest to you! (5,3)

16 How an uncouth Anglo-Saxon might address Mr Meldrew here (6)

17 Male rod constitutes lordly domain (7)

18 Climb aboard what is behind 26 (7)

20 Careless about failure to hit target (6)

23 Knock back Rioja or Moët alternately – your face is a picture! (5)

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♠ 10642

♥ A3

♦ Q6

♣ KJ1083

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From Michael Cleaver, of Lancaster & Morecambe u3a

The auction:


1♥ 1♠

2♠ 4♠

West leads ♥A followed by ♥3

The Play:

South ruffs the 3♥ but with only 3 winners outside trumps, the spades will need to produce 7 tricks.

This means that declarer will need to proceed on cross-ruff lines, making her trumps separately.

She should cash ♦AK and ♣A then ruff ♣4 with ♠8. ♥7 is now ruffed with ♠J, a club with ♠Q, another ♥ with ♠K and a club with ♠A and finally dummy's last heart with ♠7. West is welcome to overruff for declarer can now claim ♠9 for her tenth trick

The Principle:

Note South's action is cashing her side-suit winners first. If she fails to do this, observe that West can discard a diamond and then South will be unable to enjoy her two diamond winners.

♠ AQ98

♥ J8762

♦ A53

♣ 5

♠ KJ75

♥ 9

♦ K76

♣ A9764

♠ 3

♥ KQ1085

♦ J10952

♣ Q2

puzzle page - solutions page 82

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professor rebus

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5 Item of worth, like a TV, say? (5)

7 Spider crab, biting some religious leader (5)

11 Tree to sing about when very wet! (3)

12 Way back when, it could be a swerve (3)

16 Frequently derived from decimal (5)

17 Glue? It’s said to have walked! (5)

1a Gamblers circulating in cluster of OAPs (11)

9a Tales man can accrue hydrogen (7)

13a If things were correct, however brightly left out (2,5)

18a Auric times could be so legendary (6,5)

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2 Way beyond any useful training (5)

3 French composer was a golden boy? (5)

10 Some ammunition for little tertiary education (3)

14 Cooker, donated by veteran gentleman (5)

15 Buying up pyjamas, partly for the fish (5)

1d Strain a welcome with an oversized stabiliser? (4,3,4)

4d These are the ones that run deep (5,6)

6d Old trombone, brewed in cask or tub? (7)

8d Somehow betrays a source of barium (7)

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

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We must accept nuclear energy

As a retired energy consultant, I am much encouraged by letters on this subject (Letters, February), which are mostly accurate. However, we need to keep an eye on the UK’s progress towards ending the net emissions of fossil carbon by 2050, not only by what we as individuals can do to reduce energy waste, such as better insulation, but also by encouraging politicians to take the necessary actions to convert our primary energy supply to fossil-free energy over the next 28 years.

By 2050, most of the UK’s primary energy is likely to be fossil-free electricity, with the rest from the ground and the air in the form of heat pumps that are driven by electricity.

This is a huge challenge, not only for the UK but also for the world. Currently, electricity production in the UK is only around 15 per cent of our total primary energy demand, which needs to be ramped up to around 90 per cent by 2050. Increasing, our electricity production and converting it to fossil-free electricity cannot be met by renewables alone, such as wind, solar, hydro and tidal, by 2050,
so we will have to accept that the only other source of fossil-free electricity is nuclear power.

While this may shock many people with memories of Chernobyl and Fukushima, which were unsafe because of bad design and poor location, modern nuclear fission technologies that have reactors cooled by molten salts or metals are far safer as they don’t work at the very high pressures of conventional nuclear reactors (PWR) cooled by water at over 2,200 psi and 350°C.

These low-pressure reactors do not require the massive safety containment buildings that cost a fortune to build, such as the two buildings of Hinkley Point C that are presently under construction next to the Bristol Channel.

Many low-pressure reactors can be small and mass-produced and are called small modular reactors (SMRs); they can be taken to the site by heavy road transport to replace gas boilers in our power stations, retaining the steam turbines and high voltage distribution equipment.

While hydrogen is being promoted by gas-supply companies to replace fossil methane natural gas to heat buildings, these boilers still produce unacceptable amounts of harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx), so the long-term solution is to use heat pumps powered by electricity that do not emit NOx. A ground source heat pump drawing energy from a single bore hole around 120 metres deep is the best. Air source heat pumps are not as efficient but may be needed when a bore hole is
not practical.

All vehicles will be electric-powered by 2050. However, the increasing weight of batteries means that heavier vehicles will need an additional energy store of high-pressure hydrogen that is converted into electricity by a fuel cell to keep the battery charged.

A hydrogen-powered vehicle (FCEV) is an electric vehicle (EV) backed up by a hydrogen fuel cell. Over the next decade, we should see a big increase in hydrogen for transport according to the Government’s hydrogen strategy published last August, but the UK has a long way to go to catch up with most European countries in building the hydrogen delivery infrastructure to power their vehicles.

David Dundas, Lichfield u3a, Staffordshire

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We don’t need XR to get our point across

I am pleased to see that u3a member Clive Teague (TAM, February) acknowledges that Extinction Rebellion (XR) ‘involves some disruption’ but then justifies it ‘to get the attention that is needed to highlight the messages’, and that ‘we are ordinary people who realise the seriousness of the situation’. Count me in regarding the latter, but not with the antics of XR.

What right does XR have to create mayhem for thousands of commuters going about their lawful business of earning a living and moving round cities? Moreover, taking up police time with their protests and blockages to highways – police who are generally regarded as overstretched?

u3a members with a lifetime of acquired wisdom should be able to exert influence without indulging in ‘die-ins’ and disruption to the general public.

I, personally, wish to be distanced from such antics.

Lynne Noble, Ilkley & District u3a,
West Yorkshire

Reading Clive Teague’s article Joining Extinction Rebellion changed my life, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Extinction Rebellion is not generally recognised as giving a balanced view on climate change, but is often seen as being a group of extremists who are very selective about the figures they present.

That they ‘clearly demonstrated how global temperatures were rising exponentially’ is doubtful in the extreme, if only for the inaccurate and scaremongering use of the word ‘exponentially’. The climate-change zealots harp on about limiting global temperature rises to 1.5°C, as if that increase is imminent. No, it is a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times, i.e. before 1760, and we’re not there yet.

The 2015 Paris Agreement aimed to limit the rise to below 2°C, but pressure groups have forced through a 1.5°C target at the recent COP-26 international conference on climate change. The increase in global temperature is generally agreed to be 1°C since 1850.

There is no doubt that human activity contributes to climate change but the climate is also largely influenced and changed through natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, ocean currents, the Earth’s orbital changes, solar variations and internal variability.

The problem with humans is they have a distorted view of their own power and influence. People do not take account of geological time, measured in tens of thousands of years. Much of the planet is still recovering from the last ice age, for example. When I was at school (many years ago), we were taught about isostatic readjustment, i.e. the land recovering after the weight of ice pushing it down has melted, and that the land mass of Scotland is rising more quickly than the south of the UK.

In my opinion, the greatest problem is that of population growth, with more people needing more land to live on, more food to eat, more electricity to use, more water to drink (people rarely think about the power needed for a clean water supply), and so on. XR’s activities do nothing to address the climate question.
I refuse to use the word ‘crisis’.

Nick Wootton, Wallasey u3a, Merseyside

EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature was the personal view of u3a member Clive Teague, a member of XR, and not the view of the Third Age Trust.

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The climate debate

Having read the articles and letters regarding the climate crisis (TAM, February), I am disappointed at the one-sided debate. Nowhere did I read about the rapidly rising cost of energy or of any concern for those facing the choice of ‘heat or eat’.

There was lots of discussion about expensive and unreliable heat pumps and electric vehicles, which will quickly go the way of diesel when their own impact on the climate is uncovered.

As an island, we live on top of massive reserves of coal and shale gas and have untold oil in the North Sea, yet have allowed ourselves to become hostages to those – often unpleasant – regimes that supply us with oil, gas and even coal.

With our energy reserves, we could become self-sufficient while at the same time boosting our economy and keeping down costs for those currently struggling to make ends meet.

Don’t misunderstand me – we should still be at the forefront of developing and exporting new technologies in all sectors of the energy industries, but this should be done at a sensible pace, not in a panic to suit those with extreme views.

We have been let down by decades of poor strategic planning by successive governments of both persuasions and it is high time to start thinking ahead and not reacting to the latest headline or fad.

Jeffrey Mallinson, Mawdesley Villages u3a, Lancashire

I have to respond to claims that electric vehicles (EV) are efficient (Letters, February).

Battery-powered EV can end up using more energy and creating more pollution in the long term than they save at the point of use. Use of rare materials such as cobalt from distant lands and their transportation are why EVs are 30 to 50 per cent more expensive to buy than conventional combustion vehicles, despite being mechanically much simpler. We have yet to see how long they can last and the cost of replacement, recycling or disposal of batteries.

It’s ironic that areas of rainforest have been cleared in the Congo to mine for cobalt – and by using child labour.

The blanket coverage of COP-26 is surprising. The hypocrisy of this talking shop and the protest movements supporting them is clear. Just setting targets for the future while actually creating huge amounts of pollution also signals the western democracies’ weakness in dealing with aggressive foreign governments who are ready to extend their dominance in manufacturing, using their much cheaper, new coal-powered energy and
so are now emboldened to take over adjacent countries.

We cannot fund better clean energy technology while making our country much poorer and ignore what is happening elsewhere. Engineers will solve these problems in time, but governments cannot legislate for new unproven (and sometimes wrong) technology. Our children and grandchildren will have a very poor and dangerous future if the UK carries on offshoring manufacturing and importing gas just so we can boast of net zero targets.

The impending energy shortages, rising costs and the folly of most of Europe in importing its energy from unreliable sources to appear green is madness.

Graham Mutlow, Epsom & Ewell u3a, Surrey

I am fascinated by the discussion about the use and effectiveness of heat pumps.

I already have two in my bungalow. Sadly, they cannot be functioning properly as I am still using and paying for electricity. I had no idea that they could generate more power than they use. Would this mean that the manufacturers of my refrigerator and freezer have cheated me? Perhaps it is only recently that they have been produced so that they break the laws of thermodynamics that I explored while reading for a degree in engineering over half a century ago.

We used to jokingly speculate what might happen if the basic law that stated that any process could never produce more energy than it used was broken and the world would perhaps come to an end. However, this seems to have happened via heat pumps.

Henry Chandler, Teesdale u3a

Following Jan Elliott’s comment about compostable bags (Letters, February), compostable plastic does fully decompose but only under certain conditions that are met in industrial anaerobic digesters. Most local authorities do not have this facility, so to tell customers they are 100 per cent compostable is misleading.

As Jan says, they do not decompose in garden compost bins. Because compostable plastic is more likely to be landfilled or incinerated, it is not very different and not much better than conventional single-use plastic.

I have taken up this issue with the Co-op and would suggest that other members do the same if their preferred retailer is providing these bags but their local authority does not collect food waste in them.

Linda Wornes, Isles of Scilly u3a

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get your eyes checked

Since Covid, the waiting times for patients to be seen at hospital outpatients are far longer than normal.

Eye diseases have some of the longest waiting lists, so self-help groups and more knowledge is vital, especially for many u3a members who would, because of age have a higher risk.

Glaucoma effects around one per cent of people in the UK aged 40, three per cent of 60-year-olds and eight per cent
of 80-year-olds (figures from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).

Sadly, pre-Covid, 20 people a month lost their sight for lack of NHS capacity. However, if diagnosed and treated early, glaucoma has a far better outcome.

This disease may have very few symptoms if any, before quite a lot of vision is lost. If everyone had their eyes checked at their optician at least every two years, or every year if there is any family history of eye disease, this would help prevent the ‘silent thief of sight’.

Glaucoma UK has excellent information and some webinars with experts in the field. The charity asked me to help with a webinar from the patient’s point of view. It can be viewed by searching on YouTube for Glaucoma UK digital support group, living well with glaucoma, dated 26 January, 2022.

If just one person’s sight is saved by this article, then it will be well worth while.

Jan Redman, Wells u3a, Somerset

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Why worry about ageism?

How I agree with Christine Tose and John Marlor (Letters, Feb). Why worry about ageism?

People see you how you see yourself and I find I am treated with utter respect by young and middle-aged people in London where I live.

I find the least respectful are other old people – especially men.

As Christine Tose states, the elderly are more than happy to take the benefits available to those who have reached retirement age. I love it and am having
the best time of my life since passing 60. For goodness sake, stop whingeing and enjoy your life before it’s too late.

Sheila Herrando, Merton, Kingston & Isle of Wight u3as

When I first read about the u3a’s anti-ageing campaign, I felt uneasy because that is not why I joined the movement. The best way the u3a can fight ageism is to continue to promote its many varied, positive activities.

John Andrew, Cowbridge u3a, Vale of Glamorgan

Christine Tose’s comment that, at
age 75, she has yet to experience discrimination on the grounds of age or sex reminded me of an incident at my local supermarket recently.

A young couple in front of me threw a paper cup and some litter on to the path.
I called to them, with tongue in cheek, that ‘they had dropped something’ and that there was a waste bin in front of them.

The youth glared at me and, after a hesitation, said: “If you weren’t so old, mate, I’d have belted you one.” I am 83.

So age sometimes has its compensations!

Michael Bass, Weston-super-Mare u3a, North Somerset

It was interesting to note that in the February TAM there were two letters of quite a strong rebuttal of the u3a’s stand against ageism. Otherwise, there appeared not to be a universal outpouring from members on this seemingly very contentious matter.

In fact, the letter pages were overflowing with engaged older men and women who felt valued. Their interesting views would be agreed with or not, but they certainly did not appear marginalised. There was not one letter in support of the campaign.

I agree with Christine Tose and John Marlor and their pertinent comments.
I found the ageism item somewhat stridently dramatic and a heavy-duty industrial hammer to crack a not very significant nut. I do not appreciate this pitting generations against each other and the opinion that older people were considered ‘less valuable than the young’ in the pandemic.

Of course there were dire mistakes made in care homes, but our young people also suffered as well, with disrupted education, isolation and all the angst and anxieties that afflict us all, regardless of age. They are often discriminated against with regard to vacuous statements that belittle their age and views, for instance by those calling them ‘snowflakes’.

I don’t take much notice of media stereotypes in adverts that portray us as ‘enveloped in beige, passive and sipping tea’. If this is the case, there are legions of u3a members who are vibrant, energetic and probably sipping wine!

Yes, we receive the odd patronising remark and, as John Marlor states, a quick and pithy verbal response is often all that is required. So please, this is rather perilous ground. Wasn’t it so sad to state that young people are three times more likely to experience loneliness? That is not something to take age-upmanship on.

When and if it does happen, call it out but don’t make a crusade of it or we will all be forever looking for slights and put-downs in our daily, and hopefully fulfilled, older lives.

Where will it lead? My educated guess is demoralisation and a self-pitying, unnecessarily compromised life view and attitude.

Judith A Daniels, Great Yarmouth u3a, Norfolk

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u3a bureaucracy puts off committee members

Although I have been a secretary of a u3a for two years, I must stress that I am writing this in a personal capacity and not on behalf of our u3a.

I believe that the article about how to start a new u3a (TAM, February) is over-simplistic and does not really reflect the level of bureaucracy that a committee will have to deal with. In our case, it is such that we are having difficulty getting committee members to remain and/or recruiting replacements.

The article points out that a model constitution is available for a new u3a. This is actually a useful document to adopt. There is no mention, however, of the plethora of policies and procedures that the Third Age Trust says are necessary. The point is that increasingly complicated rules and regulations can be counter-productive and are not always easy to follow.

Brian Radesk, Warwickshire

In my maturity, I have always considered that the most difficult job was keeping a thing running well, at the same level. There appears to be a trait in human nature to want to change things, no matter how good they might be. For example, as a long-time member and supporter of the National Trust, I feel that it is changing – slowly, but changing.

The same thing is happening to u3a.
I have been a member for about 20 years and over that time it has definitely changed. It has become more centralised and more of a social than a self-help, learning organisation. Eric Midwinter and Keith Richards touched on this (TAM, February).

We are very much conditioned to seek information and pleasure from rectangular screens of various sizes at the touch of a button. The concept of getting involved in running the organisation seems to be getting lost.

It seems more and more difficult to get members to step up to help ‘staff’ the organisation. I understand this also applies to similar organisations. I would be interested to learn what other members feel. I imagine they will not be slow in writing.

David Feather, West Wilts u3a

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Support for campaigning

It is good for u3a to contribute to the climate debate. I feel we should also be contributing to debates on other societal issues such as racism, sexism, the refugee crisis, child poverty, the north/south divide and the health and social care crisis, to name a few.

I am well aware that such contributions are bound to raise political issues. However, we live in a country where politics impinge on those issues as well as many other aspects of our daily lives. In u3a groups I have led or attended, politics has always featured. Sometimes, certain individuals need to be discouraged from making extremist comments and encouraged to realise that the loudest voice does not win the argument.

Unfortunately, entrenched views are difficult to change, as we observe with ongoing racism in cricket and football, let alone in the Metropolitan and other police forces.

It is often said that older people are wiser than those younger. Well, some are but some are not, and they often use age as a defence for ignorant behaviour.

John D Brian, York u3a

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Online talks are
a success

My wife and I set up an archaeology group in our u3a in 2019 following the spectacular Iron Age two-horse chariot burial discovered here in Pocklington.

We enjoyed monthly talks given by visiting local speakers and members, which attracted just under half of the membership, which stood at 50. We also organised visits to museums and archaeological digs.

After a few months’ suspension when Covid hit, we resumed monthly meetings via Zoom and these have been very well received as we have been able to attract prestigious speakers from universities around the country who give their talks from home or their workplace, without having to travel, which also saves our group from having to pay travel expenses.

We still attract about half the membership, which has in fact grown over the past 18 months. A number have commented that they can log in from the comfort of their own home and, in some cases, while away on holiday.

Contrary to what some might think, they feel more part of the group by being able to chat before and after the talks to other members, whereas when we met in person they probably only talked to the people on their table. The talks are recorded so everyone can get to see them if they wish. We have decided to continue with Zoom meetings for the foreseeable future as they work for our group.

Peter and Brenda Ellenger, Pocklington & District u3a, Yorkshire

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Zoom must not replace face-to-face meetings

I agree with Tony Cheetham and with Liz Thackray (The Big Debate, February) about hybrid group meetings. The pandemic gave us the opportunity to discover the value of virtual meetings. However, as Tony says, we must get back to person-to-person meetings and encourage members out for social and financial reasons.

I run a hybrid group for the Trust u3a, which has enabled members all over the country to take part. I’ve loved meeting them all, from the Isle of Man to Swansea, Yorkshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. We have bonded over the past two years and I intend to continue our monthly Zoom meetings.

We also have meet-up events for those able to travel to exhibitions and visits. Those of us who attend then share a presentation of the event virtually with those living far away. I have loved meeting these members and without Zoom our paths would never have crossed.

But I agree with Tony that this must not replace our local u3a meetings, which are vital for our social contact and learning. The ethos of the u3a, as I understand it, is to learn and have fun doing so. Please don’t turn us in to a ‘fun’ organisation – there are plenty of those, and one person’s idea of fun is different to another’s. In u3a, by joining groups with shared interests you meet like-minded people and enjoy learning together.

Yes, let’s have Trust u3a and hybrid groups for those unable to leave their homes but please let us continue our enjoyable u3a learning experience as
we have done successfully for the past
40 years.

Ruth Lancashire, Leigh Estuary u3a, Essex

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Not-so-friendly u3a

All your contributors say how friendly u3a is and paint a rosy picture of how new members are welcomed. I have not found this so at my branch. I joined about four years ago and belong to two groups.People are OK within the group activity but barely, if at all, acknowledged me at the monthly branch meetings. In fact, I stopped going pre-Covid.

I am quite outgoing, but not pushy! Before retiring, my job meant that I mixed with new people from all walks of life, which I enjoyed and had no problem with.

At u3a, long-standing members are very exclusive, and it is very much a ‘them and the others’ situation. I won’t stop going to the groups just yet, now that we are restarting after Covid, but have given up expecting to belong or make new friends. I just wanted to point out that it isn’t all roses.

Anonymous, Hampshire

Editor’s note: What has been your experience of joining u3a? Have you done anything to make your u3a more welcoming to new members? Share your thoughts on
these pages by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Memories of the
Sheppey playbus

I read the opinion from Eric Midwinter about the formation of the Pre-School Playgroups Association (PPA) in the 1960s and the birth of the first playbus (TAM, Winter) with interest and not a little nostalgia.

I learned of the PPA when I enrolled in classes about educating the under fives and was a member of the committee that formed the Isle of Sheppey branch.As time progressed, it became clear that some parts of our island needed playgroups but lacked halls. A visit was made to see the Hackney playbus and plans for a Sheppey playbus began. We were successful thanks to a vigorous community effort.

My husband Tom, with an HGV licence, drove the bus home, local artist Martin Aynscomb-Harris designed the exterior, inmates of Standford Hill Prison painted Martin’s design using (and ruining) local signwriter Dennis Marsden’s brushes. They then built the interior.

Our bus was the first playbus in Kent, so all the regulations for Kent County Council had to be designed around us. This led to contacting other playbus owners to gather ideas and eventually to the formation of the Playbus Association, of which I was a committee member.

I have memories of trips to Bristol, where Tom drove someone else’s bus through the city streets, and to Keele University. Great memories!

Betty Allsworth, Isle of Sheppey u3a, Kent

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Pension debate

I was interested to read the article regarding increasing the state pension by £500 per annum (TAM, February).I may not be happy that the triple lock has not been applied. However, I understand why the decision was made.

My pension would have been worth in the region of £450 more if the decision had not been made, so I am at a loss to see the logic in the claim. The £500, if granted, would, of course, attract the percentage of increase for all future years. I would happily support any discussion with Government for state pensions to be improved, but not a flat £500 across
the board.

Alan Waumsley, Grimsby & Cleethorpes u3a, Lincolnshire

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PoW role in building dry-stone walls in Dorset

Your story of dry-stone walls and the variations in them (TAM, Winter) was very interesting.

A further interesting feature of dry-stone wall construction is that French prisoners of war were set to work building dry-stone walls in Dorset during the Napoleonic wars. Understandably, they used their own style, in which the stone courses are laid on the diagonal rather than horizontal fashion.

They also sometimes incorporated sculptured stones.

Barry Rossell, Christchurch u3a, Dorset

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Childproof problems

Regarding your article Everyday items that make life harder (TAM, February), I should like to know why every household item one buys is made ‘childproof’?

Do the manufacturers not realise that ‘childproof’ means ‘pensioner-proof’ too? It is impossible for the elderly/infirm to open jars, bottles, etc, because tops are made to protect children.

Why can’t there be a ‘childproof’ range and a normal range for those of us who are frail or have weak wrists due to arthritis and/or old age?

Yes, we know about the aids available to help turn tight screw-top jars, most of which do not work, but why bend over backwards to protect the young and disregard the needs of the old? That
is ageism!

Lucille Balkin, Harrow u3a, London

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experiences of
National Service

Eric Midwinter ends his fascinating account of National Service (TAM, February) by wondering how many surviving recruits are still around in u3a groups. Very few, I imagine, but, as one of them, I can still recall many of my experiences quite vividly. One incident in Germany had a certain ‘Le Carré’ quality about it.

In March 1955, a senior official of the Control Commission General (CCG) did not return from an official visit to East Germany. The story was that he had become ill and was being looked after by the authorities there. The suspicion in the West was that he had been kidnapped for political reasons and so it was decided that the Royal Army Medical Corps should be brought in. Accordingly,
I found myself, as a young German-speaking medic with no dependents, being driven to the border near Goettingen and collected there by the East German authorities, idly wondering whether I would ever return.

The fears of the West were unfounded on this occasion, however. Our CCG official was in hospital, having been successfully operated on for a cerebral abscess arising from a middle-ear infection. I was shown the case-notes and X-rays and conversed with the patient, one very relieved gentleman! My return to the border was uneventful and the good news was received with relief.

George Pollock, Kenilworth u3a, Warwickshire

I did my time from 1956 to 1958 serving in the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) as a vehicle mechanic and reckon it was, for me at any rate, a truly worthwhile experience and introduction into the ‘real world’. I left school at just 18 (boarding school, as my father was then away in the RAF) and was promptly called up to register at Fulwood Barracks in Preston, in my case.

Being a mechanically minded boy,
I asked to be assigned to the Royal Engineers, thinking that this would spare me all that parade-ground drilling. In fact, I was sent to join the REME and soon learned how wrong I was about the drilling! My basic training unit was in Honiton, Devon, and there we had three or four months of intensive ‘square bashing’, with all those terrifyingly sadistic corporals and sergeants (character forming?) and then off to a trade training unit. I chose to be a vehicle mechanic and went to Taunton. I have to say that this was a truly well designed and interesting course and I actually passed out with a Certificate of Merit.

I then had 18 months with the Army Mechanical Transport School at Bordon, near Aldershot, to service and repair vehicles. This was wonderful as I loved driving even though I had not that long passed the driving test. However, this seemed enough for me to be let loose to test-drive anything from motorbikes, Land Rovers, four-wheel drive 10-ton trucks, Scammell tank-recovery tractors, Humber armoured cars and so on – and I was still aged only 18!

After my two years, I went on to a career with manufacturers of grain-milling and processing machinery, which took me all over the world. My hobby is playing about with pre-war motor cars, for which my training was put to good use.

Simon Cauthery, Chard, Ilminster & District u3a

Eric’s article in the February issue brought back memories of my own stint as a national serviceman. I was one of the last to be called up, and was three months short of my 21st birthday when my call-up papers arrived in April 1960. After six weeks of thoroughly unenjoyable square-bashing at RAF Bridgnorth, I moved on to trade training in signals at RAF Compton Bassett and then to my final posting at RAF Northwood, where
I worked on shifts as a teleprinter operator. Working shifts was great as you were excused a lot of the dreary bull and inspections of military life.

Although I was reluctant to do National Service, in the end it did me a favour as I was an 11-plus failure and didn’t have any qualifications. After finishing my service, I joined BOAC (now British Airways), working in signals, and eventually graduated into computing. Later, I did an OU degree, and after that an MSc in systems analysis, leading to a fairly successful career in IT.

So I have to admit that National Service gave me a career, though I certainly wouldn’t advocate bringing it back.
Tom Hill, Kingston u3a, Surrey

I loved Eric Midwinter’s article on National Service but would disagree with the contention that ‘it was 12 weeks of arduous basic training followed by 21 months of relative boredom.’

My service followed three years at boarding school and two years away from home as an office boy in the City. My training was a doddle and my 21 months gave me valuable experience for my later career. Those who found it difficult had never been away from home before and had been raised on home treats!

Alan Borrow, Ems Valley u3a, Hampshire

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

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classified ads

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

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

Email: advertise@u3a org uk

Deadline for next issue:
1 May 2022
Rate £1.87 a word + VAT @ 20%
Box number charge: £10

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

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

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

Holiday advertisements

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

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professor rebus


Across: 1 Speculators 5 Asset 7 Rabbi 9 Chaucer 11 Oak 12 Yaw 13 By right 16 Often 17 Paste
18 Golden years

Down: 1 Stay too long 2 Ultra 3 Auric 4 Still waters 6 Sackbut 8 Barytes 10 Uni 14 Range 15 Guppy



1 Breadwinner = main provider: dough = bread, champ = winner

9 Amalgam = mixture of ingredients: old lady = ma, containing a glitzy = a glam(orous), east to west = reversed

10 Obsequy = tribute: old boy = OB, half series = sequ(ence), unknown = y

11 Redressed = double meaning

12 Needy = soon will be: result of starting Nearly Empty Expenses Doubled You

13 Wise = audible questions: sounds like why’s

14 Clerestory = highlights (upper range of windows): tale = story preceded by sounds well told = clear/clere

16 You three eh = organisation: reported sounds like yourself, him and her = you three, what = eh

19 Star = one who rises by night: Keir = Starmer cuts back rapid eye movements = omits REM reversed

21 Roger = received over the airwaves: rabbit = speech/Roger Rabbit film

22 Rotherham = in Yorkshire: right = R, alternative = other, joint = ham

24 Iceland = double meaning

25 Avocets = colony with rising bills: collective noun for and distinctive feature of these birds, restructuring = anagram of covets a

26 Steam engine = anagram of “I get sane men”


1 Brandy smugglers: reference to “A Smuggler’s Song” (Kipling): brandy for the parson

2 Eagle = double meaning (boys’ weekly and bird)

3 Damosel = old lass: gets involved anagram of some lad

4 In order = where a monk belongs: double meaning (so = with the intention)

5 Nosiness = intrusive feature: solitary descendant lying back = 1 son reversed, promontory = ness

6 Roquefort cheese = anagram of O, request cheer of”

7 Harrow = double meaning (Harrow on the Hill)

8 Syzygy = celestial alignment: confused =anagram of three identical axes (y,y,y), gravity (g), second (s), last in alphabetical series (z)

15 Third Age = TAM: that you are now reading!

16 Yorvik = Anglo-Saxon settlement: sounds like “You’re Vic(tor Meldrew)

17 Earldom = anagram of male rod

18 Entrain = the act of boarding: that which is pulled by a steam engine

20 Remiss = careless: about = re, miss = failure to hit

23 Emoji = face is a picture: alternate letters of “Rioja or Moët”, knock back = reversed

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