U3A Todmorden isn’t just about monthly talks and the ever-popular Let’s Go group that tours the area and beyond. We also have more than twenty interest groups meeting regularly.
Like the craft group, for instance, that meets every other Friday at 11 in the Fielden Centre, large and well-appointed enough to host 20-25 people at each meeting. The crafts we try (writes member Jennie Coleman) are very varied, and in the best traditions of the U3A many of our sessions are run by our members sharing their skills, besides occasional outside experts. Recent sessions have included silk painting, making decorated boxes, a session covering basic embroidery stitches and a very stimulating session on the use of colour. In the near future will be bobbin lace, introduction to spinning and making ‘dammit dolls’!
The group’s very friendly and as well as concentrating on our craft topic we also take the opportunity to share chat over a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit. While there are some skilled crafters in the group many of us are happy beginners in one thing or another; the emphasis is on trying something new and having fun in a very supportive atmosphere.
There is space for more members – do consider joining us!
Picture by Mary Findon.
A version of this report featured in the Todmorden News on 14 August 2014.
Lynne Copley was a teacher in Huddersfield when someone rushed into the staff room one day to say a young student had been badly hurt. Rushing out, she found that a 14-year-old pupil had somehow dashed into the road, fallen, and a bus’s wheels had driven accidentally over him.
That – as she told the U3A meeting in Todmorden in July – was her first encounter with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. If the service hadn’t been available at the other end of the 999 line, that boy might well have died. Instead, he was whisked off by helicopter to hospital, made a painful but good recovery – and when he came to school, he and his parents asked if the school would raise funds for the air ambulance.
What? Isn’t it part of the NHS? Well, it’s integrated with the NHS, who pay for the paramedics on board, as Lynne explained. But the cost of the ambulance and its infrastructure have to be met from charitable funds. And that cost is enormous: £3.6 million pounds a year. £5 per month keeps it flying one more minute. Everything about helicopters is expensive. How much do your windscreen wipers cost? For an MD902 they’re £43,000!
There are two bases in Yorkshire, one at Nostell Priory near Wakefield and one at RAF Topcliffe near Thirsk. There’s a dedicated ‘air desk’ to take calls from the police. There’s a paid pilot, and volunteer doctors on hand when they can.
But the benefits for the badly-injured are enormous. With speeds of up to 160 mph over gridlocked roads, a helicopter can get any patient to the nearest A and E in ten minutes, or a specialist treatment centre in 15 minutes – well within the ‘golden hour’ medical experts say is vital to start treatment happening to save lives.
That’s why Lynne herself became a volunteer speaker and fundraiser for the service, after experiencing for herself how it saved her student’s life.
As you might imagine, the coffers were well-replenished for Yorkshire Air Ambulance after her talk. And we noted that recycling helps too: there are containers in Tod Morrisons and in Mytholmroyd for unwanted clothing that goes to help YAA.
U3A’s next meeting is on Wednesday 21 August at 1:45 at the Central Methodists Todmorden, when the speaker will be Henrietta Bond, talking about the plight of young people leaving care.
A gorgeously sunny afternoon in Todmorden (now how often can you say that?) didn’t deter U3A members from providing a full house at Roomfield Baptist Church for Laurence Cockcroft’s talk to the World Affairs group. Laurence, a Todmordian by birth, confessed he’d never spoken before in his home town about the topic that dominates his work and thinking: global corruption.
Laurence is co-founder of Transparency International (TI), which in 20 years has spread to work in a hundred countries. Each national group investigates its own problems, from rulers who make personal fortunes, to the petty bribery that besets daily life in some countries, to the corporate jiggery-pokery that afflicts countries like ours – as evidenced by the enormous fines our banks have paid in recent years to British and especially American regulators.
Why does corruption matter? Laurence argues that it distorts big projects, makes public service dysfunctional, reinforces poverty, and enables money to flow illicitly from poorer countries to tax havens (‘One step the world could easily take,’ he said in answer to a later question, ‘would be to abolish all those places with these financial arrangements.’)
In many western countries attitudes have changed for the better towards corruption in the last 20 years. TI and brave organisations like Global Witness have helped to make this happen, including TI’s ‘Corruption Perception Index’, updated each year, which, however controversial its measurement techniques, provides a focus for commentary. (In case you were wondering, the UK has fallen from 7th to 19th place in the last five years).
Despite advances like legislation in the USA, and corporate codes of conduct for major contracts, why haven’t things improved more? For one thing, it’s hard to root out systemic small-scale bribery. Dodgy political fund-raising is deeply entrenched in many places. Even the most reputable-seeming companies like Walmart and Rolls Royce have been caught out. Here in the UK, cash for honours, and the scandals of MP’s expenses and police corruption have tainted public trust, while our major banks have lost their reputation for truth and fidelity.
So there remain major issues. Currently Laurence highlighted offshore centres, where the UK government seemed about to act decisively but has now drawn back;. He also talked about mis-pricing, formerly known as ‘transfer pricing’, where companies price transfers between countries to get the best tax deals: ‘The international audit profession,’ he said, ‘has done a very bad job in dealing with this.’ Geo-politics also tarnishes our ability to act: much of the West provided financial support to the corrupt Mubarak regime in Egypt, for instance, which made their support for reform equivocal at best.
After a riveting talk, Laurence fielded a variety of informed questions, including deforestation and the Commonwealth, NGOs – no large-scale wastage there, he thought – and privatisation, which he didn’t think in itself necessarily made things worse, ‘though many public private partnership arrangements were effectively corrupt’. The deeper philosophical question about the nature of corruption and what we mean by saying it’s ‘endemic’ in some places was perhaps too complex for a quick exchange on a hot afternoon. TI’s definition of corruption as ‘misuse of entrusted power for personal gain’ was accepted as being as good a working idea as can be hoped for. Finally Melvin Coleman gave a vote of thanks to our warmly-applauded speaker, who had modestly not brought any copies of his book ‘Global Corruption’ along for signature. But many of us are off to buy it now, though perhaps not from online companies with dodgy tax-arrangements!
Members at the June general meeting of Todmorden U3A were treated to more than a glimpse of life in Venice for Kathryn Ogden, who winters there every year. Life in La Serenissima – most serene – was the subtitle of her talk.
Kathryn started her talk, illustrated by some fine photographs, with some history of the city.
The marshes on which it is built were settled by people fleeing from the armies of Attila the Hun. The magnificent buildings we associate with Venice were built on wooden piles and have been sinking in recent years. A barrier similar to that across the Thames has been constructed to protect them from the rising sea level.
Historically, the city was the capital of the Republic of Venice ruled over by a Doge and was an important centre of commerce between East and West during the middle ages and the Renaissance. Relics believed to be the body of St. Mark were stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants and taken to Venice. The Doge of the time built the original Basilica of St Mark next to his palace.
In 2008, Kathryn took early retirement from sales management due to ill health. She wanted to spend the winter away from Mythomroyd where she lives and as well as having a love of Italy, the attraction of Venice for her was that it is a small city, with no cars. Its situation also gives her access to other places in northern Italy. Kathryn had also read Sally Vickers’ novel, “Miss Garnet’s Angel”. A book inspired by the very old tale of Tobias, who travels to Medea unaware he is accompanied by the Archangel Raphael. Although generally milder than Mytholmroyd, Venice winters often have six weeks of rain and in 2012, the Grand Canal froze for the first time in over 20 years.
Kathryn’s photos were a mix of some of the sites of Venice along with those featuring her in some of her activities. One showed St. Mark’s Clock Tower, which twice a year, at Epiphany and on Ascension Day, the three Magi, led by an angel with a trumpet, emerge from one of the doorways. Others featured scenes painted by Canaletto, who Kathryn said, took some artistic licence, as he would have had to be on a step ladder and hanging off to the left to paint the scene as it appears in his painting. Continuing the artistic theme, Kathryn went to an exhibition of works by Vorticists. Included was one called Mytholmroyd, by the Cleckheaton-born artist Edward Wadsworth. Unable to photograph the actual painting, she was able to take one of a reproduction in the exhibition catalogue.
Venice, Kathryn explained, has only three bridges and many use the traghetti, ferries to take Venetians across the canals or to the islands. There are 17 licenced traghetti and these are a much cheaper way for tourists to have the “gondala experience”, she advised. There are also 24 boats used by the emergency services and when they need go at high speed can sometimes overturn traghetti in the vicinity.
Kathryn’s photos also included shots of food in shops, markets and some of her own servings when entertaining some of the many friends she has made. It was mouth-watering stuff, seasonal produce only and so creatively and colourfully displayed in shops, markets and on the plate. Kathryn related, how she has to ask for the head and feet to be chopped of any chicken she buys as they are always sold complete, as it were, and the butcher’s bemusement at her request. In the Rialto market the fish are priced by size and each size is displayed on a notice board.
Kathryn has made a varied life for herself, making many friends of different nationalities. Each year she appears in pantomime. Her first role was as a fairy in Sleeping Beauty and was again a fairy the following year in Jack and the Beanstalk. Flamboyantly dressed Venetians participate in the Carnivale masked ball. Facial expressions cannot be seen behind the masks, which Kathryn found a bit scary. In addition to all her activities, including outings with Venice Ladies Club, visits to galleries and opera, Kathryn has found herself a job in Wellington, an English language bookshop. She insists she doesn’t allow browsers to get away without buying. Each year she chooses a photo project. This year the subject was washing lines. Kathryn has picked up Italian by being there and now gets together with a woman who wants to improve her English, on a mutual exchange basis. Kathryn rents a different flat each year, at rates comparable with this country. Whilst gas is expensive, the cost of living is similar to that here but transport is cheaper.
Kathryn’s lively talk was much appreciated and may well have prompted some to consider following her example. Her talk was preceded by Todmorden U3A AGM, at which Keith Coates was elected as the new Chair. T
Each month, at our members’ meetings, there have been comprehensive reports about current and future developments. These reports have also been circulated to our members either by email or through the post and they always appear on our website. Since January the Minutes of the monthly Committee meetings have been available on our website, too.
So everyone has been kept informed of everything going on in U3A Todmorden!
As you all know, therefore, U3A Tod continues to flourish – in April there were 370 members – in six years that has grown from the original 40 members! All our Special Interest Groups are well attended and so, too, are our members’ monthly meetings – usually attracting an attendance of over 100 members. We have enjoyed excellent talks by our guest speakers and we have more talks in place up to November with our usual special members’ meeting in December – the newProgramme of Members’ Meetings is available today.
Last August we all mourned the sudden death of our esteemed Chairman – David Cross – who has been very sadly missed. As a result the Committee appointed the Vice-Chairman to act as Chairman until the AGM today.
We enjoyed an extremely well-organised and highly successful U3A Tod Coffee Morning in September when over 100 people came to see our exhibition and we gained many new members as a result. Most of our Convenors attended and they were able to provide information about our Special Interest Groups.
U3A Tod continues to maintain links with our neighbouring U3As in Burnley and Clitheroe and the next meeting of representatives will take place in September – here in Todmorden.
U3A Tod was represented in May at the Todmorden Mayor’s Day and we have been invited to give a short talk about U3A Tod at the AGM of Age UK (Todmorden) in early July.
We are eagerly awaiting the visit to U3A Tod of Barbara Lewis – U3A National Chairman – who will be our guest speaker on the 18th September and we are also planning our annual Coffee Morning and Exhibition on that day as well. In December our Photography Group will again hold an exhibition at the Todmorden Tourist Information Centre.
Keith Coates has now completed his term of Office of two years as Treasurer.
As Secretary Anne Foster has now completed her two years in that Office.
Thank you to Keith and to Anne.
Our Assistant Secretary – Sarah Pennie – has served for two years and is now leaving Committee.
Peter Gibson – has completed three years on Committee as our Database Controller and Technical Officer.
Sue Thornton was co-opted onto Committee last June for one year to provide a link between Committee and speaker-finding.
Ernie Rogan – accepted our invitation to be co-opted back onto Committee last September.
Thank you to Sarah, Peter, Sue and Ernie.
When our new Committee is in place today we can all look forward to the continuing success of U3A Tod.
U3A Todmorden really is much greater than the sum of its parts!
Jean A Pearson – Chairman – U3A Todmorden – 19th June, 2014
Next Thursday – 19th June, 2014 – we will be holding our Annual General Meeting as you know and our guest speaker will be Kathryn Ogden who will give her talk entitled ‘A Venetian Experience’ – (Life in LaSerenissima). It will be a great pleasure to welcome Kathryn to U3A Tod and I know we can look forward to an interesting presentation including a fabulous slideshow.
Although the majority of you have renewed your membership for 2014-15 (only £15) there are still quite a few who have not – we urge you to do so promptly.
You can renew by paying at the AGM next week or by post to U3A Todmorden, Sento House, Halifax Road, Todmorden. OL14 5QG. All you need to do is enclose your name with your cheque – we have all your other details already.
If you wish to set up a Standing Order you can download the form from the U3A Todmorden website and post it to us or, again, you could bring it to the meeting. We will also have these forms available at our AGM next Thursday.
Please let us know by telephone or email if you have decided not to renew your membership. We can then ensure that you will not be troubled with any further reminders and also this will mean that U3A Tod will be saving funds by not sending out the magazines etc. to you.
43 members of U3A Todmorden Let’s Go group recently travelled to the Lake District to visit one of Britain’s finest Arts & Crafts houses, Blackwell House. The house was designed and built by the architect M H Baillie Scott as a holiday home for the Manchester brewery owner, Sir Edward Holt and his family. With cosy inglenook fireplaces and inviting window seats offering stunning views over Lake Windermere, the rooms contain furniture and objects by many of the leading Arts & Crafts designers and studios. When we visited they were displaying an exhibition of Moorcroft pottery.
The group then travelled to nearby Bowness where some members took advantage of a boat trip on the lake while others meandered around the cafes and shops.
Mai Chatham gave a very heart-warming talk to those attending the May general meeting of Todmorden University of the Third Age members. She spoke about the work of Chernobyl Children’s Project, set up to support children in Belarus who had been affected by the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. Mai explained that although Chernobyl is in the Ukraine, 70% of the nuclear fallout fell in neighbouring Belarus. It will take 1000 years for decontamination to be complete. She noted that sheep in parts of Wales and the Lake District are still regularly monitored for the effects of fallout from Chernoby.
Food contaminated with caesium has caused many birth defects in affected areas, particularly in Gomel, the nearest city to the Ukraine. Thyroid cancer increased 1000 fold after the accident. Mai reminded her listeners of the conditions in Romanian orphanages the that were revealed after the fall of Ceausescu and said that such conditions prevailed across Eastern Europe and that attitudes to orphans and the disabled are very differentfrom here.
CCP (UK) was started in 1995 following a meeting in Manchester at which Adi Roche, CCP Ireland gave a moving speech about the plight of the children of Belarus. Within days local groups had been formed in Glossop and Littleborough, the latter being the one Mai worked with. Local doctors felt that the children needed to get away for recuperation, so the first support the people of Littleborough and Glossop gave was a four week holiday for a group of children. These, and those that came in the years following, were hosted by local families, who put them up for a fortnight before handing them over to another family for the remaining two week.
The children were housed in pairs so that they had company and someone who spoke their language. In the beginning, Mai said, it was difficult to undertake vetting of families – these were the days before CRB (now DBS) checks – but there was an interpreter in the party to whom the children had access at all times. In the early days there was little done to support the hosts but it got better over the years. DVDs in Russian were brought over for the children to watch and the hosts learned a little Russian themselves. Children in Trouble, a Minsk based charity which supports the families of children with cancer, saw that mothers needed a break as well, so in 1997, the first group of young children in remission came over with their mothers.
Local facilities were used as much as possible when organising activities and outings for the children, and local people, organisations and companies were generous with support in kind. Hollingworth Lake was handily on the doorstep and Todmorden Baths opened its doors early in the morning just for the children. There were lots of barbecues and picnics. Mai said they got very good at scroungin.
Mai went on to talk of the conditions in Belarus and the work CCP has undertaken there. Parents of children with disabilities were encouraged to place them in an orphanage. These were little more than holding institutions and one Mai described as a prison. Bright children had no place there. This particular one now has a brightly coloured room with facilities for arts and crafts. Stimulating and engaging activities were absent from these institutions. Fostering and adoption were also unknown in Belarus, and with training given by CCP, these are now established to the extent that institutions are now beginning to close. A respite day centre has also been set up.
Todmorden and Hebden Bridge families have also hosted children but although Glossop, Buxton and other places around the country continue to host, Littleborough folded about two years ago, owing to compassion fatigue and no new families coming forward. There was much appreciation for Mai’s talk from her audience, a considerable number of whom were already aware of the work of CCP. Instead of the usual token of appreciation customarily presented to guest speakers, Mai accepted a donation to CCP. There were also collection boxes for U3A members to make donations. For more information on CCP go to www.chernobyl-children.org.uk
What a wonderful talk we’ve enjoyed this afternoon by Mai Chatham about the Chernobyl Children’s Project. Mai provided lots of interesting information about the aftermath of that terrible disaster and the National Charity supporting the sufferers. She took questions and clearly many of our members have also been involved in supporting this Charity. Peter Gibson gave the vote of thanks and members’ donations to the charity were quite considerable. Mai was extremely grateful.
Our meeting had started with a slideshow about the July Let’s Go trip to the Bowes Museum and at the end of our meeting Ernie Rogan provided further information, with great enthusiasm, about this trip.
Diane Collins provided samples of English and Spanish bluebells in order to correct some false information which had been provided at last month’s meeting. We also put further information about this on the notice board.
Also on the notice board was a poster advertising the open art studios event in Todmorden this coming weekend. We all now know that Nick Littlewood is opening his studio and we all now know where he lives! Nick can expect many U3A Tod members to visit his home and see his exhibition, I think!
Last Saturday I attended the Mayor’s Day at Tod Town Hall on behalf of U3A Tod and the new Mayor – Councillor Michael Gill – confirmed to me that he will be joining our meeting in July.
Next month it will be our AGM and, if you are on our mailing list, you will be receiving all the paperwork associated with it along with this letter. Anne Foster – our Secretary – is providing the calling papers including the agenda, information about the Committee together with a nominations form. I thanked Joan Sutcliffe and Jo Higgins for all their work this year in sending out our regular monthly news but this month there will be these extra sheets to send to you.
If you are on email you will receive this information directly from Anne.
Our next meeting, which will include the AGM, takes place on Thursday, 19th June, 2014 when our guest speaker will be Kathryn Ogden with her talk entitled ‘A Venetian Experience’ – (Life in La Serenissima). We will not have a bookstall on that day.
Gail Allaby – our Groups Co-ordinator – gave an update on recent developments including a proposed trip to see a Vulcan bomber (organized by Ernie Rogan) and that information about online scams is available from Age UK. Gail has also put this information and contact details on our Facebook page. Now on that page we have a wonderful photograph – taken by Ann Beard – of our Walking Group in action and looks like they’re having lots of fun.
Early on in his talk on that subject at the April general meeting of Todmorden U3A, David Wilson pointed out that the responsibility for footpaths lies with the Public Rights of Way section of the council. David was speaking in his capacity as Upper Valley Area Countryside Officer and said his service receives many calls on the suject of footpaths as many understandably believe responsibility for their upkeep lies with them. Having said that, the Service is responsible for the Pennine Way and the Calderdale Way, and the Service is currently busy repairing a number of bridges which have been damaged by the recent heavy rainfalls.
David started by saying that the Service has been a victim of the cuts and less is being undertaken but then went on to tell his audience of how wide a brief the Service has, and how much, despite the cuts, is being done. David expressed his appreciation of the many volunteers who make this possible, some of whom were in the audience. Ogden Water Visitor Centre, for example, is entirely run by volunteers, who are supported by the Volunteers Co-ordinator. An Education Officer and Conservation Officer make up the rest of David’s team. Ogden Water attracts over 250,000 visitors a year. The Service is also responsible for Jerusalem Farm, along with 80 woodlands, the moors and Open Access lands. Street trees are also a responsibility of the Service.
David spoke of the invasive species found locally. Himalayan Balsam is familiar to many Calderdale residents and this plant is pushing out many native species. Moreover, when it dies back in the winter, nothing else grows, leaving the soil to be washed away. David encouraged his listeners to uproot as many of these plants as they can. The opposite is the case with Japanese Knotweed. Leave well alone, he advised, as it is all too easy to inadvertently spread by even the slightest of handling. It should certainly not be composted. Anyone encountering Japanese Knotweed should contact the council as specialist skills are needed to deal with it.
David then related the interesting story of Oxford Ragwort, poisonous to animals and humans. It was collected in Oxford but did not spread beyond the city until the advent of the railways. It established itself in the clinker of the railways and the trains then progressively transported it all over the country. Spanish Bluebell is another species that David encouraged his audience to uproot, as our native species is endangered by its spread. These are a paler blue or often pink or white in colour.
David explained how the Beech trees above Centre Vale Park will pose a problem as they were planted at the same time and so will age together and need replacing. Another problem the beeches create is that their large canopies allow little in the way of growth beneath and are not good for soil conservation. The plan is to plant a variety of native species which will aid the Service in another of its aims to encourage more wildlife, part of its Biodiversity Action Plan.
Partnerships with other with a wide range organisations is an important part of the Service’s work, including community groups and Friends of… Moor Watch, and the Police and Fire Services, to name but a few. David said that he has a finger in anything that’s Green.
In answer to questions, David said that the deer population is increasing but difficult to track and with no management as they move around and don’t stay in Calderdale! There is a fox population in Calderdale but not necessarily everywhere.
It’s not all serious stuff though. As well as the children’s activities that take place regularly, the Service mounted a Halloween event at Ogden Water that attracted 2,500 people, some of whom came from as far afield as Sheffield and Kendal. And David is the man behind the Boggart Festival. At the end of his warm and delightful talk, David was presented with a token of appreciation from Assistant Secretary Sarah Pennie.
Apologies that due to holidays this wasn’t posted until May 5th.
Today (Thursday 17 April) our guest speaker was David Wilson who is the Area Countryside Officer for our Upper Valley and his talk was entitled ‘The Protection of Our Rich and Natural Environment’ – the work of the Calderdale Countryside Service. He was extremely interesting and I was surprised at the wide range of activities involved in maintaining and protecting our countryside. There were many questions at the end of his talk and we all really enjoyed it. Sarah Pennie – our Assistant Secretary – gave the vote of thanks. 103 members attended and we also welcomed 7 visitors.
Our guest speaker in May will be Mai Chatham with her talk entitled ‘The Chernobyl Children’s Project and the Local Connection’.
With my May report for you we will also be including information about the AGM in June and this will include the AGM agenda and nomination forms compiled by our Secretary – Anne Foster. Please note that there will not be a book stall at the AGM.
I know that many members renewed their membership today with Roger Howard – our Assistant Treasurer – but renewal of membership should be made at our May meeting, if not before, and we propose to open our doors at about 1.15 pm in an attempt to avoid long queues.
At our July members’ meeting there will be a Fair Trade Stall.
Gail Allaby provided information about our Special Interest Groups although there are no new groups planned at present.
Ernie Rogan provided information about the next Let’s Go trip to the Lake District.
At their March meeting u3a Todmorden members heard a fascinating presentation about the life and work of Charles Darwin, who married his cousin Emma Wedgewood, so it was coincidental that 51 members of the “let’s go” group visited the Wedgewood pottery factory and museum recently.
Greeted by yet another sunny day, members enjoyed tea in the excellent restaurant before exploring the large museum and learning of the history of the company. Examples of the fine craftmanship were on display.
There followed a guided tour of part of the factory where members watched as experts made and hand finished the famous products. Watching gold paint applied, by very steady hands, to finest porcelain was fascinating. No imperfect products are allowed to leave the factory so, at final inspection, items can be rejected and destroyed;some to the value of several thousand pounds. There was an opportunity to purchase china and pottery from the Wedgewood outlet.
Our April members’ meeting will take place from 1.30 pm at the Central Methodists Hall on Thursday, 17th April, 2014. Nick Littlewood has designed a new poster to publicise this meeting. I do hope you like it.
It will be a pleasure to welcome Dave Wilson as our guest speaker. Dave is the Area Countryside Officer for the Upper Calder Valley. His presentation is titled ‘The Protection of our Rich and Natural Environment’ – the work of the Calderdale Countryside Service.
I do look forward to welcoming Dave to our meeting and I hope he enjoys his afternoon with us.
Alison Greenwood needs more volunteers with the refreshments at our meeting in June. Please contact Alison if you are able to help us or have a word with her at our meeting next week.
I need to remind you, yet again, that we are in great need of new Committee members – especially a Chairperson and a leader of the speaker-finders team. Without these key members on Committee our organisation will cease to function. U3A Todmorden provides so much pleasure for our 360 members I do hope you will consider stepping up to make a contribution to the work of the Committee.
I look forward to our meeting next Thursday.
Sincerely – Jean
(Jean A Pearson – Chairman – U3A Todmorden)
Dr Geoff Carter made a welcome third appearance before Todmorden U3A members at their March General Meeting. On this occasion, his topic was Galapagos, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution. Darwin had both a good and a less auspicious start in life. He was born into a well-to-do family, his mother Susannah being of the Wedgwood family and his father a successful doctor. His grandfather, also a doctor, achieved the unlikely feat of writing racy, sexy poetry about vegetables, Geoff informed his audience.
His education record gave no indication of what was to come. He was sent to Shrewsbury School, which duly sent him back home where he was tutored. His father then despatched him to Edinburgh to train for the family profession. This he abandoned, due to boredom and to witnessing the amputation – without anaesthetic – of a girl’s leg, which he viewed as barbaric. He was then packed off to Cambridge to study divinity. This suited the young Darwin as it meant he could have a living and still find time to pursue the scientific interests which he had already developed. He was progressing in this thanks to learning field craft from John Henslow, Professor of Minerology, who was an ardent naturalist. Like many a student before and since, Darwin had a high old time with drink and women, and left Cambridge with what Geoff described as “a weedy degree”.
Geoff then moved on to a more familiar episode in Darwin’s life: the voyage of HMS Beagle, a marine survey ship. An advert appeared for the post of a naturalist to be a companion to the Captain of the ship, Robert Fitzroy – he who pioneered weather forecasting, he coined the term, and after whom the shipping area is named. Henslow, dissuaded by his wife from accepting the post, put Darwin’s name forward.
The voyage of the Beagle took five years, of which five weeks were spent in the Galapagos. Darwin explored the land, examined the geology, collected fossils and made detailed observations of plants, animals and birds, specimens of which were sent back.
There is a generally held misconception that the eponymous Darwin’s Finch gave the impetus for him to develop his theory of evolution. Although Darwin noted the gradation of different beak sizes in this species, he failed to note on which island he found those differences. Geoff explained that this was the crucial in the case of the mockingbird. Darwin noted which subtle variation in this species appeared in the birds on each island. It was this that later prompted Darwin’s thinking when closer examination by ornitholigsts determined that were different species rather than varieties.
Another important observation of Darwin’s was that although there is a considerable degree of resemblance in the volcanic nature of the soil, in climate, height, and size of the islands, between the Galapagos and Cape Verde Islands, the life found in each was entirely different. The species on the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa resembled those found on the mainland. Similarly, those found on the Galapagos were similar to those found on the South American mainland. Darwin drew the conclusion that each of the groups of islands could be colonised from the mainland and then modifications in the species take place.
The Beagle spent a year returning, arriving back in October, 1836. Darwin started to develop his theory during this time. In 1839, he married his cousin Emma Wedgwood and her wealth meant that he could devote himself to science for the rest of his life. He completed the development of his theory in 1838, and although his ideas were not completely unknown to others, he was collaborating with and learning from other scientists of various disciplines, he did not publish for another 21 years. Part of the reason was that he did not want to hurt his wife, who was a devout Unitarian. He also knew that publication would cause a furore and that he would undoubtedly face a great deal of personal attack. His hand was forced when his close friend and fellow geologist, Sir Charles Lyell, read a paper by Alfred Russel Wallace. The paper outlined similar ideas to Darwin’s and Lyell urged Darwin to publish to establish precedent. He did nothing for almost three years until in June, 1858, when Russel himself sent Darwin a paper outlining his own theory.
The upshot was a joint presentation to The Linnean Society but which did not cause a stir. This came about when Darwin completed the book he had undertaken and finally finished in 1859. Publication took place in November of that year after encouragement from friends and Lyell taking responsibility for placing it with John Murray. The expected attacks came and Dariwn withdrew, leaving it to friends such as Joseph Hooker and Thomas Henry Huxley to defend him and his theory. Queen Victoria rejected his theory and for this reason Darwin received no knighthood. In his later years he became a recluse and died after an illness in April, 1882.
We now have 358 members and today 118 attended our meeting together with 5 visitors.
It was a great pleasure to welcome the Mayor of Hebden Royd Town Council – Mayor Councillor Karl Boggis.
We opened our meeting with a slideshow compiled by our U3A Tod official photographer – the late Philip Willis – who died so suddenly and so very recently. It provided us with a wonderful range of photographs of our U3A Tod events and activities and I think it was a fitting tribute to Philip’s contribution to our organization.
I reported how our AV equipment and team (led by Peter Gibson and ably supported by George Boyle) has been acclaimed as superb by visiting speakers. David Sutcliffe has now joined this team bringing with him his experience and expertise as a result of his involvement at the Hippodrome Theatre.
Three members observed our recent Committee meeting and it was a pleasure to welcome them. I’ve already received some extremely valuable feedback. I again asked for more members to come along to see what goes on at our meetings – please let me know if you do. Already we have one volunteer observer for our next merry Committee meeting.
The Publicity Group has been working hard on improving our website and other aspects of publicity. Nick Littlewood gave a presentation to our recent Committee meeting and I was able to show our members today the new design for our posters which go up around our region prior to our meetings.
I did remind members that at the AGM in June we will need a Chairperson, a leader of our speaker-finders team and three or four more Committee members. So I am appealing again for you to come forward.
Our Treasurer, Keith Coates, informed us that our fees for next year will remain the same (£15) and asked for members to use standing orders, if possible and also it helps with our finances if you can sign up for Gift Aid. Forms will be available from our Assistant Treasurer – Roger Howard – at the April meeting.
Gail Allaby – our Groups Co-ordinator – gave an update on developments associated with some of our special interest groups and I am attaching her full groups’ report with this letter.
It was a delight for us to welcome back Geoff Carter (Retired GP), our guest speaker, who gave us such an interesting talk entitled ‘The Galapagus, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution’. This was informative and entertaining and Geoff took questions at the end.
Mayor Karl Boggis gave the vote of thanks on our behalf – he almost walked off with our token of gratitude – but I reminded him to hand it over to Geoff!
Next month’s guest speaker will be Dave Wilson, Area Countryside Officer, Upper Valley with his presentation ‘The Protection of Our Rich and Natural Environment’ – the work of the Calderdale Countryside Service.
Ernie Rogan gave us information about the next Let’s Go trip to the Wedgwood Museum. This made a neat link with Geoff’s talk because Charles Darwin married a Wedgwood heiress! Contact Linda Cook if you wish your name to go on the list for this popular outing.
Thank you to all those who helped in returning the chairs to the edges of the Hall at the end of our meeting – we do appreciate this help.
Alison Greenwood needs volunteers to help with the refreshments at the June meeting. Please contact Alison on 01706 816870 or email@example.com if you can help us.
Our next members’ meeting will take place on Thursday, 20th March, 2014 at Central Methodists Hall. I know you will happy to welcome as our guest Mayor Councillor Karl Boggis of Hebden Royd Town Council.
We propose to show a slideshow prior to the beginning of our meeting which was recently compiled by the late Philip Willis. Philip was a very active member of the Publicity Group and its members wish to express their special thanks for all Philip’s work for u3a tod. Additionally, Philip was a great asset to our Photographic Group with his experience, knowledge and passion for photography which he generously and willingly shared with fellow members of the Group. He will be very sadly missed.
Our guest speaker – Geoff Carter (Retired GP) is returning with his talk ‘’The Galapagos, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution’. Geoff tells me he has already given this talk to another U3A and it was extremely well received. He will be happy to take your questions at the end.
I look forward to meeting you on the 20th.
We now have, as our guest speaker in April, Dave Wilson – Area Countryside Officer – Upper Valley – with his talk ‘The Protection of Our Rich and Natural Environment’ – (The Work of the Calderdale Countryside Service).
The funeral of Philip Willis will take place at 1.30 pm on Monday, 17th March, 2014 at Priestwell Chapel, Todmorden.
Dunham Massey, a National Trust property, was converted in 1917 as an auxiliary hospital and over 280 members of the armed forces received treatment there. 50 members of u3a Todmorden’s let’s go group visited the hall recently and were transported back to the days of ww1.
A re-creation of the hospital has been made from the archives. Rooms have been transformed into hospital wards and the stories of real people are revealed. Actors are around to add authenticity; some showing disturbing signs of shell shock , others the effects of amputation. The recorded voice of Lady Jane Grey describes her part in surgery on the brain of a wounded serviceman: she held a torch, while the surgeon worked.
By today’s standards, equipment and treatment was antiquated. However, the care of the nursing staff was apparent ; “eventually when they were clean and in bed, all they wanted was a cup of tea and a cigarette: they come in dead tired, the chief thing they need are bed and food.”
This proved to be an emotional day for all; medical notes and letters home were available to be read.
The Machine that Changed the World. This was the sub-title that Barry Yates chose for his talk given at the February Todmorden U3A meeting. It could describe a number of items but Barrie was referring to the almost ubiquitous motor car. Barrie himself is an engineer with experience of working in many different fields and countries. There is probably little that he doesn’t know of the subject.
He started by displaying a picture of a Sumerian cart circa 3,000 BCE, pointing out that the basic shape of the motor car remains the same. Apart from improvements to the interiors and the suspension of the horse-drawn coach, the next significant development was the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century.
There was no prospect of steam driven vehicles until Richard Trevithick designed the first high-pressure steam engine, enabling them to be much reduced in size. Barrie told his audience that a number of discrete developments were needed to take place before the final advance to the petrol-driven internal combustion engine was made.
The first of these was, Alessandro Volta, investigating gases, ignited marsh gas with an electric spark, paving the way for the spark plug. Giovanni Venturi determined that when a fluid flows through a tube that narrows to a smaller diameter, the partial restriction causes a higher pressure. This principle was later used to develop the carburettor. Some others included the building by François de Rivaz of an internal combustion engine powered by a hydrogen and oxygen mixture, and ignited by electric spark. In 1860, Etienne Lenoir produced the first internal combustion engine, which was gas-fired. Two years later, Nikolaus Otto was the first to build and sell such engines. In the 1870s, Otto worked with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach to develop a 4-stroke gas engine and meanwhile Karl Benz worked on a 2-stroke then a 4-stroke engine, patented in 1886 which was used to power the first cars in production.
In 1884 Edward Butler constructed the first petrol internal combustion engine. Butler invented the spark plug, ignition magneto, coil ignition and spray jet carburettor, and was the first to use the word petrol. A year later, Benz built the Motorwago, the first car to have a petrol engine. It was much lighter than the steam engine and was faster.
In the beginning, cars were very much a rich man’s toy, and were custom built. Moreover, they were not built by a single concern. A coach builder would construct the body, while the engine would be built elsewhere. Production-line manufacturing of more affordable cars was started by Ransom Olds in 1902. His Oldsmobile factory was based upon the assembly line techniques pioneered by Marc Isambard Brunel (father of Isambard Kingdom) at the Portsmouth Block Mills in 1802. Henry Ford took up and developed this to produce the famous Model T Ford. 20 millions of these cars were produced. A figure exceeded by only one other model of car. You’ve guessed it! The VW Beetle.
General Motors under Alfred Sloan became the biggest motor manufacturer in the world. Sloane developed a range of models which had the same chassis, starting with basic model and the cheapest – the Chevrolet. Owners could then upgrade as their income grew, to Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick; culminating in the Cadillac. Production costs were minimised and buyers were encouraged to stay with GM.
Britain has an illustrious history in motor manufacture at all levels. The most prominent names associated with the mass market are Herbert Austin and William Morris. It was the latter who pioneered Ford’s mass production methods in this country and the famous Morris Minor can still be seen on our roads as well as those of other countries, notably India.
Barrie brought his talk up to date by commenting on the implications of depleting oil reserves and climate change. In his opinion, until our public transport is improved to the degree that many can dispense with car use, hybrid vehicles are the best choice of car for those who wish to keep their emissions as low as possible. Membership Secretary Margaret Gunnill gave the vote of thanks for a well-received talk and presented Barrie with the customary book token.
We’ve added video to our repertoire of ways of recording our activities – and publicising them to our members and the wider world. See the first of what we expect to be many in the ‘Video’ section! Thanks to Gail Allaby for her enthusiasm and technical wizardry in making this happen 🙂
What a pleasant and enlightening afternoon we have again enjoyed at our members’ February meeting. We tried a new signing-in system in attempt to cut down on our inevitable queues at the beginning of our meetings – I think we all found it much easier and quicker.
We also put the notice board at the front of the Hall after the meeting so that members had an extra chance to peruse all the announcements, posters and so forth.
We congratulated Geoff Boswell on becoming the u3a national adviser for Science. Copies of the Report by the Steering Group on the Future of the Todmorden Markets were available – you can get more information from the Tourist Information Centre.
U3A Todmorden is a member of the Calderdale 50+ Network which provides a wide range of information about services available for us throughout our region. A document has now been produced and copies are available in public buildings and in GPs surgeries. If you or someone you know needs support in any way this document might provide contact details of appropriate and useful organisations.
Thanks were extended to Peter Gibson and Alan McDonald for their comprehensive computer advice and guidance which has been circulated to all our email members. Dr Paul Whittaker, OBE, has thanked us for our donations to his charity ‘Music and the deaf’ at our January meeting which amounted to £350.
We now have a little over 350 members! 98 members and four visitors attended today’s meeting. Our guest speaker in September, 2014, will be the National Chairman of U3A – Barbara Lewis. She was born in America, has lived in England for many years and currently lives in Hertfordshire but we understand that she knows very little about our region. We are sending her a copy of the book ‘A History of Todmorden’ by Malcolm and Freda Heywood (U3A Todmorden members) and Bernard Jennings. We hope she will enjoy reading it prior to her visit to these northern parts.
Our guest speaker in March will be Geoff Carter – we will all be happy to welcome him back, I am sure – and his talk is entitled ‘The Galapagus, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution’. Please note that Sally Pulvertaft is not now able to give her talk about India at our April meeting – she’s re-located to France – so we are now working on a replacement speaker for you. I will keep you all informed.
We were happy to show our appreciation to Alison Greenwood and her team of helpers who provide us with refreshments every month. Alison gave the Groups Report and there are two new groups – Anthony Peter’s group – Novel Appreciation – will meet at TRCR at 11 am on 10th March, 2014 and Geoff Boswell is starting an IT group as well. Sheets were available to sign up and Gail’s report will give further details. If you would like to join these groups please put your name down as quickly as possible. I will send Gail’s report to you separately – if you are on email. Gail’s full list of groups and their reports are also available on our website.
Our guest speaker today was Barrie Yates – retired engineer – who presented his talk entitled ‘The Machine that Changed the World’ – the development of the motor car. We all thoroughly enjoyed his presentation which – for people like me – was not too technical. This prompted many questions from members at the end. Margaret Gunnill (Membership Secretary) gave the vote of thanks.
Finally I made an appeal for members to step forward and volunteer to be nominated for the U3A Tod Committee. At the AGM in June we will need a Chairperson together with four members (one to act as Assistant Treasurer and one to be leader of the Speaker-finders team). I do hope that some of you will be prepared to give just a little time to ensure that U3A Tod continues.
Our next members’ meeting will take place on Thursday, 20th February, 2014 at the Central Methodist Hall, Todmorden writes Chairman Jean Pearson.
Our guest speaker will be Barrie Yates with his talk entitled ‘The Machine that Changed the World’ – (The development of the motor car).
Barrie tells me that he is what our American cousins would call a value engineer which means that he ran teams carrying out cost reduction activities and also design for manufacture but he says the best description would be that he is a clean hands production engineer!
He says that his talk will not be too technical and that he’s enjoyed his research for his talk for us. In fact, we might like to put our brains in gear and ponder upon what have scent sprays to do with a car engine!
I know we will give Barrie a warm welcome to U3A Tod and I look forward to our February meeting.
At the January General Meeting of Todmorden U3A, Dr. Paul Whittaker OBE, Artistic Director, Music and the Deaf, was another speaker making a welcome return to address the U3A audience. More Music To The Ear – The Osmonds, The Proms and More . . ., he entitled his talk.
Before Paul got under way, members heard that three new U3A groups have been formed: Critical Reading; First Aid; and Photography is so popular that a second Photography Group has been formed.
Paul explained for the benefit of those not at his first talk that from a young age, he wanted to help other deaf children and help deaf people get involved in music. Paul told his audience that they were not just going to sit there and listen and he wasted no time in getting everyone involved. Rather than merely state that rhythm is the foundation of all music, Paul got his audience clapping. Firstly a fairly simple rhythmic clap, then one a little more complicated before advancing to a round. Paul is one of those people who had no difficult in getting the one hundred plus attending involved in such ways early on. His warm and charismatic personality, along with the fact that he had his audience laughing from the word go, meant that they were relaxed and ready to let go of any inhibitions they may have had.
That part over, MatD, Paul continued to say, have set up Music Clubs in Yorkshire, Manchester, London and Peterborough. Two further groups have been launched in conjunction with the Nottingham City Music Hub and the North East Hub Cluster. In these clubs, deaf children have an opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. Some go on to develop further skills, such as composition. More clubs are being formed in other parts of the country.
Signed Song is a project that brings deaf and hearing people of all ages together to make music. The Jersey Eisteddfod was the first music festival in the UK to have a signing choir class in competition. Paul has been invited the adjudicate this class since it started.
More audience participation! This time Paul invited his audience to join him and his very able signer and confederate, Andrew – who got his own well-deserved round of applause at the end of the meeting – in a signed rendition of “Hey, Mr Miller!”, a song dedicated to Glenn Miller. To get an idea of what this involved, those readers with a computer can key in the title of the song and get a link to YouTube (Sing Up) and see Paul and Andrew perform the number. The trombone is the sign for Glenn Miller.
Paul then brought the Osmonds into the picture. Two non-performing Osmond brothers Virl and Tom, were born deaf as was the second son of Merrill, Justin. This lead to much of the charity work of Merrill focussing on supporting the deaf and eventually bringing him into contact with Paul and Music and the Deaf. Paul was overwhelmed at the prospect of having support from the Osmonds with their presence. So were some of his older female colleagues, but for a different reason.
Merrill Osmond and his deaf son Justin, visited Music and the Deaf in Huddersfield. A fund raising show at the Grand in Leeds was held, featuring Shane Ritchie, Chico and other celebrities but especially the Osmonds, who could guarantee a sell-out. Proceeds went to The Hearing Fund UK, whose 2013 charity partner was Music and the Deaf.
At a concert in Cardiff, Paul encountered a woman from the BBC and challenged her on why there was no signing at the Proms. The message was taken back to London and in due course Paul was invited to sign for a concert of songs from musicals. The BBC would go for one of two options: Rogers and Hammerstein or Stephen Sondheim. “Lovely”, thought Paul. “They’re bound to opt for Rogers and Hammerstein”. The Beeb, however chose Sondheim, which posed difficulties for Paul as few of his songs stand alone outside of the context of the musical. Paul has gone on to do more signing at the Proms.
Paul performed himself and has a good singing voice and knows, he said, in answer to a later question, when he is out of tune. Back in speaking mode he explained that deaf children are often isolated because integrated education does not bring them into contact with other deaf children. This is another great benefit that MatD brings to them, they realise they are not alone. Although founded in 1988, there are still only a handful of people who are trained to teach music to deaf children.
Before he finished and took questions, Paul and Andrew delivered what was perhaps the high spot, a mimed performance, signing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Reader, you needed to be there. For more information on Music and the Deaf, go to matd.org.uk.
Rain and hailstones greeted 43 members of u3a Todmorden’s let’s go group on their walking tour of Manchester recently. Members had an introductory talk in the Old Pump House engine room of the Peoples History Museum, in the Spinningfields district of Central Manchester.
Led by two blue badged guides, the groups then moved on to the John Rylands library and were shown fragments of an early copy of the Bible and the eyes of the John Rylands, a shy cotton millionaire, left for scientific research. One of the guides commented that, in her opinion, everyone should spend a day in this magnificent building, with its thousands of books.
The tour ended at the town hall, where the group were told that Queen Victoria declined to attend the opening of the building. Apparently the then mayor Abel Heywood had too radical a past for her. Still his name lives on: the town hall’s bell, inscribed AH, is the Great Abel!
What a wonderful afternoon we’ve had! Absolutely exceptional I would say! Our guest speaker – Dr Paul Whittaker, OBE – presented ‘More music to the ear – The Osmonds, The Proms and More …’. For me it was a quite stunning and inspirational experience! Peter Gibson gave the vote of thanks to Paul and his interpreter – Andrew. Amusingly Paul had brought along a collection bucket for his charity ‘Music and the Deaf’ – much better and bigger than our usual collection boxes – and I do hope it was full to the very top with your donations – thank you.
Everything else was rather insignificant!
Nevertheless I will just mention that Calderdale SCOPE is seeking to provide mentors for survivors of stroke. For further information please contact Heather Barham on 01522 367544 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or our Secretary – Anne Foster – can provide further information.
We need much more help, please. I reported that there will be 4 or 5 vacancies on the Committee in June when we have our AGM. We will definitely need an Assistant Treasurer. We have each written a job description of what we do and these are now on our website – on the Committee page. Please have a look at them. I’m sure some of you would like to make a greater contribution to U3A Tod. You are also invited, as ever, to observe our Committee meetings – the next will take place at 10 am on Tuesday, 18th February. I’m developing my Chairmanship skills by the way – last Tuesday the meeting lasted much less than two hours! Let me know if you would like to observe us.
Gail Allaby – Groups Co-ordinator – reported on our new special interest groups – I will send her full report separately – and she thanked our 30 Convenors. I second her comments – our Convenors do such a wonderful job all the time and we are lucky to have such dedicated members who provide us with such pleasure and enlightenment.
Ernie Rogan outlined the plans in place for the next Let’s Go event to Dunham Massey Hall in March. You need to contact Linda Cook quickly to get your name on the list and further details will be available shortly.
Our next meeting is on Thursday, 20th February, 2014 when our guest speaker will be Barrie Yates – ‘The machine that changed the world – the development of the motor car’.
Members having sampled the delicious non-alcoholic punch being served, the December Todmorden U3A general meeting opened with another Christmas treat. A delighted audience heard four string players from Todmorden Orchestra, lead by Andrew Rostron, perform Haydn’s Quartet No. 53 in D major, Op. 64, No. 5, “The Lark”.
Before getting down to the quiz, set by Quiz Group convenor Myrna Beet, retired local magistrate Trevor Driver gave an amusing talk drawing on his 23 years as a magistrate. Trevor started with some brief historical facts. The magistracy began in the 13th century with landed gentry being nominated from among their local number. Nomination was the norm throughout the evolution of this post until relatively recently when personal application to become a magistrate was introduced.
No formal qualifications are required but magistrates need intelligence, common sense, integrity and the capacity to act fairly. Listening skills and a balanced view of human nature are also necessary. Membership comes from all parts of the area covered and drawn from all walks of life. When Trevor started, his training consisted of a list of do’s and don’ts. Now, all magistrates receive a 3 day training before sitting, carried out in conjunction with a mentoring programme (mentors are magistrates with at least 3 years service). This covers basic law and procedure, and they continue to receive training throughout their judicial career. Additional training is given to magistrates choosing to sit in the Youth Court, or those dealing with family matters. New magistrates sit with mentors on at least six occasions during their first eighteen months. Magistrates are compulsorily retired at 70.
The bench usually consists of three magistrates and it is the chair who speaks in court. Magistrates don’t cross examine. The only questions they may ask are those for clarification. They are assisted by the Clerk to the Court, who is on hand to give advice and is legally qualified. Trevor said magistrates can sometimes find it difficult to decide on a sentence to impose and ask the clerk’s advice. The clerk will then go through the list of options for the offence in question without recommendation but enabling the bench to take a decision. Sometimes decisions are of a different nature. Trevor and his bench were faced with one such on Christmas Eve. Should we remand, and deprive the defendant and their family the Christmas they had planned? On the other hand, remand would give certain kinds of defendants a bed for the night in the warm and dry.
Like many of the speakers at U3A general meetings, Trevor raised some laughs. His humour was mostly contextual, so not easy to relate here. He said that some of the stories told by defendants are often a source of amusement for the court. One such tale came from some youths captured on CCTV on the roof of a supermarket and caught later with a bag of lead. They were taking a short cut across the roof, they said, and then found the bag later and were on their way to hand it in.
He did, however, tell one joke he had told in the days when Lada cars were on the roads. What’s the difference between a Lada driver and a hedgehog? In the case of the hedgehog, the pricks are on the outside. It happened that his earlier telling was in company, one of whose number was a Lada driver. Oh dear!
The afternoon was rounded off by Myrna’s quiz, which consisted of seasonal questions with a sprinkling of some general knowledge. “White Christmas”, a cake made of coconut, crisped rice and dried fruit, is popular in which country? This one, exclaimed a contestant, appeared last year, but she couldn’t remember the answer. Not much help, then. Some were of a popular culture nature, like what was Girls Aloud’s 2002 UK number one single? But a real teaser was, Quaid-e-Azam’s Birthday is a 25th celebration in which country? Sorry reader, you’ll have to look those up. Christmas is over. The winners were rewarded with a box of a popular brand of wrapped chocolates assortment. Such a lavish prize meant that the teams who were second and third had to leave empty handed.
I am sending out this month’s report on behalf of our Chairman, Jean, who is currently indisposed and was unable to attend our December Members’ Meeting. I’m sure you’ll all join with me in wishing her a speedy return to good health.
There were 109 members and 3 visitors at our special Christmas meeting and we had a change of format from our normal meetings. We started with a live performance of Haydn’s “The Lark” by a string quartet from Todmorden Orchestra under their leader, Andrew Rostron. This was beautifully played and was much appreciated by the audience.
After that we had a number of announcements. Briefly these were as follows:-
– A request for people in their 80s or above, who have vivid and interesting stories to tell about their past, to participate in a new BBC2 series called “Britain’s Greatest Generation”.
– A request for U3A members to get involved in the Imperial War Museum’s Centenary Partnership Programme.
– The 2014 Residential U3A Summer School.
If you would like further information about any of these, please look on the internet if you have access, particularly at the National U3A web site or, alternatively, contact our Secretary, Anne Foster.
We didn’t have a Groups Report at the meeting and, in fact, we’ve decided that in future, we will only have a very short report at monthly meetings – just covering exceptional items such as new groups, out-of-the-ordinary events and changes of dates or meeting rooms. The full report will continue to be posted on our web site and sent out with these monthly emails and mailshots.
We were pleased to announce the formation of a new Group, “Novel Appreciation”. Anyone interested in joining this group should contact our Groups Co-ordinator, Gail Allaby. Also on the subject of Groups, we expressed our appreciation to Duncan Relf, Convenor of the Spanish Conversation Group, which has now ceased meeting after over 5 years of dedication from Duncan.
We then moved on to our Guest Speaker, Trevor Driver. As well as running a dental practice in Todmorden over four decades, Trevor has also spent 23 years as a local magistrate and he gave us an extremely interesting and amusing talk about his experiences as a magistrate over that period. The vote of thanks was given by Ernie Rogan.
The final part of the afternoon was devoted to the annual Christmas Quiz, which was devised once again by Myrna Beet, the Convenor of our Quiz Group. The winning team (who I won’t embarrass by naming!) only marginally out-scored the second team by just half a mark and won the afternoon’s “star prize”, a modest box of chocolates.
Next month’s meeting will see the return of Dr Paul Whittaker OBE, the Artistic Director of the charity “Music and the Deaf”. Many of us fondly remember the amazing talk he gave to us nearly three years ago. There will be a retiring collection for Paul’s charity at the end the meeting.
So all that remains now is for me to wish you all, on behalf of Chairman Jean and the rest of the committee, a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
U3a Todmorden’s Let’s Go group visited the historic county town of Lancaster last month (November 2013). 52 members wandered the ancient streets, museums and the castle, formerly a prison. The Grade 1 listed building dominates the town and dates back almost a thousand years.
After lunch the group moved on to the restored Midland Hotel in Morecambe. They all enjoyed a comprehensive guided tour of the art deco Grade 2 listed building.
The present hotel opened in 1933 and Eric Gill was responsible for much of the interior decorations.The hotel was used as a hospital during the second world war. Forced to close in 1998, the hotel reopened, after refurbishment in 2008.
U3a members enjoyed an afternoon cream tea, while overlooking the magnificent Morecambe Bay.
The next U3a let’s go trip will be a guided walking tour of Manchester City Centre in January 2014.
The Age Old Question, that was the title of the talk given at the November general meeting of Todmorden U3A. However, since the speaker was from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, members were not expecting a profound, philosophical lecture. They might however, have gone into the meeting fearing they may have to hand in their driving license. What they got was an informative and interesting talk with nuggets pertinent to drivers of all ages. And reassurance that they could probably hang on to their license. Members also got a couple of films thrown in for good measure.
Ian Andrew is Senior Motorcycle Observer for the Rochdale branch of the IAM and was accompainied by their Chairman, Eileen Taylor and Club Secretary John Bradshaw. Ian’s favoured form of road transport is motor cycling and it was from this perspective he gave his talk. However, he is a car driver as well and the principles of each mode are virtually the same. It came as no surprise to his audience when they heard that older drivers are safer drivers – they are more cautious. They less likely to exceed the speed limit, brake suddenly or their driving be impaired by alcohol.
‘Failed to look properly’ is the most common factor leading to accidents among all age groups but is particularly high among drivers over 70. Ian reassured his audience by pointing out that this is something that can be easily remedied. Other factors that appear in the statistics of older drivers involved in accidents include: failure to judge the other car’s path or speed; poor turning or manoeuvering; loss of control; illness or disability; nervousness, uncertainty or panic. Driver and rider error or reaction factors are recorded more frequently in accident statistics than other types. This is the case for all drivers.
Other good news for older drivers is that research has revealed that reaction times do not differ much between age groups, although they are slower amongst older drivers. This is compensated for by the fact that they are slower drivers. An area that needs attention comes with the care that drivers take when turning onto a road into traffic. It is highest amongst the youngest group of drivers, who look three times as often as older drivers – surprised, reader? Goes against the stereotype, perhaps. This declines with age and is worst amongst older drivers, again this can be remedied, although older drivers can have difficulty coping with the traffic environment.
How did Ian get involved with IAM? When she reached the age of 18, Ian’s daughter announced to her parents that she was going to get a motor bike. Trepidation on the part of Ian and his wife. After considering the options, Ian decided that the best one was for him to get a motor bike so that he could talk with his daughter about the craft of motor cycling on equal terms. Where to learn? With the IAM. Ian realised while taking their course that he had much to learn and bought a book on road craft.
Ian didn’t gloss over the fact that most if not all drivers have exceeded the speed limit. He stressed though, that some accidents are caused by driving at the wrong speed for the conditions. Whilst a driver may not be speeding acording to the designated limit, for example, driving at thirty past a school when the children are coming out, this is not driving at the appropriate speed for the conditions. 95% of crashes are due to driver error. Crashes – Ian always used that word advisedly, there are no accidents. Keeping one’s vehicle up to scratch helps, too, Ian said. Keep windows clean and wipers working properly, especially at this time of year with the sun low in the sky.
Ian showed a film he made, shot from a camera on his bike. He tallked his audience through the journey, commenting on his manoeverings and the reasons for them.
In talking about the factors of health and fitness, Ian pointed out the neck fexibility reduces with age, thus reducing the ability to look to each side. He also gave a tip for testing one’s peripheral vision. Using the index fingers, raise them each side of the head to eye level, behind one’s vision and slowly move them forward. The point at which they come into sight indicates one’s peripheral vision capacity. The value of convex mirrors were mentioned and Ian said that they are an asset but take getting used to as the images are smaller, initially leading to misjudgement of the distance of vehicles behind.
Ian talked about what drivers could expect from the IAM training. Comments on driver performance are given in a matter-of-fact, non critical way and one can take the test as many times as is necessary. For more information on IAM and the research they undertake, go to iam.org.uk. Ian belives that tailored driving assesments are needed because of the variation in individual drivers of all ages.
The first film shown was made in the 1930s and entitled Your Driving Test. Ian told his audience it was funny and it was. Being a period piece, trilbys and raincoats were to the fore and the driving practices owed more to slapstick than “this is how you should do it”.
So, some fun in addition to a talk which was not just interesting and informative but with useful content as well.
The main speaker yesterday was Ian Andrews of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. We also looked forward to our Christmas meeting, and our newly-published programme of meetings for the first half of 2014.
At yesterday’s monthly meeting we all enjoyed a most interesting and entertaining talk entitled ‘Age Old Debate’ presented by members of the Rochdale Branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. The main speaker was Ian Andrews – Senior Motor Cycle Observer – accompanied by their Chairman – Eileen Taylor – and John Bradshaw their Club Secretary. I feel that we were all encouraged by the talk even though we are no longer young drivers. Ernie Rogan gave the vote of thanks in his usual entertaining fashion!
I must tell you that at the end of the meeting several members suggested that I make a request at future meetings for mobile phones to be switched off during our meetings – I’ve been told that at least four mobiles rang during the talk!
Thank you for your kindness in remembering our late Chairman – David Cross – by making donations to The British Heart Foundation. We will be putting the collection boxes out again, for the same purpose, at our December meeting and then our Treasurer, Keith Coates, will forward your donations on for you.
We hope to run First Aid Awareness Courses shortly and members were able to sign-up. Please let me know if you have not seen the information about this and would like to participate.
The two new groups ‘Going to the pictures’ and ‘Gardening’, which were announced last month, are up and running. Information about these groups will be included in Gail Allaby’s groups report.
There was also an opportunity to sign-up for the U3A Todmorden bunting making party in support of the Cragg Vale Bunting World Record attempt as a part of the Tour de France event next July. I also mentioned that Todmorden people are also making bunting for Todmorden and you can get further information from TIC and there will be an article about this in Tod News next week.
We placed Gift Aid forms on the chairs for members to complete and hand to Keith and Roger Howard our Assistant Secretary. Thanks for completing these for us.
Also everyone received the Programme of Members’ Meetings for January to June, 2014. It looks interesting and exciting and I thanked Anne Crane for all the work she has put in to sorting out this programme for us. I think it must be time-consuming work for which she really does deserve our acknowledgement. I attach a copy for you.
Margaret Gunnill is now our Membership Secretary. As you know the signing-in table is always a bit hectic prior to our meetings starting – I experienced it last year – and Margaret already has some wonderfully willing helpers but if you would like to get involved please let me know.
Peter Gibson is no longer Membership Secretary but will continue to be in control of the database – which is a very big job nowadays – we now have 344 members! This reminds me to ask that if you have changes to your contact details do please let us know. If you are currently a member receiving information by post but you can have access to a computer – again, please let us know. Postage is so very expensive these days. Peter’s new title is Database Controller – unfortunately I gave him the title of the Fat Controller at the meeting yesterday!
I mentioned that when photographs are taken at our meetings, activities or groups meetings we assume that you are giving your consent for the photographs to be used in our publicity materials.
If you are on Facebook please look at the Facebook u3atod page. The publicity group have put us up there and we are asking you to invite your friends to ‘like it’. The page gives up-to-date information about U3A Tod and, of course, there’s an opportunity to post your comments.
We have agreed that the Groups Reports will continue go on our website, I will continue to send Gail’s report to you by email and this report will also be included in the mailshot. This means that Gail’s report at our monthly members’ meetings will focus purely on new groups and changes associated with our groups. In other words all the new news!
As you know Gail Allaby – our Groups Co-ordinator – has been on holiday – only returning late on Wednesday night – but I’ve just been chatting with her and she is busily putting together her monthly report for you. Unfortunately, as I mentioned yesterday, she is not very well and I know you will all wish to join me in wishing her a very speedy recovery. Best wishes, Gail. As soon as I receive her report I’ll forward it to you.
Finally, I announced details of our December meeting – on Thursday, 19th December at the usual time and place. There will be seasonal refreshments including mince pies and the now very famous non-alcoholic punch. We are thrilled that members of the Todmorden Orchestra will be coming along to play for us. Myrna Beet our Quiz Group Convenor will be devising a quiz for us – which I am sure will again be challenging as well as giving us an opportunity to meet new people – because we do the quiz in small teams. There will also be a short talk by Trevor Driver entitled ‘Humorous experiences as a Magistrate’.
This will be a packed programme – do come along – and join all your U3A Tod friends!
David Groves made a welcome return as a speaker at the October Todmorden U3A general meeting, giving part two of a talk entitled Psychology and You. By way of a subtitle he described the discipline as “the scientific study of mind and behaviour.” He started by giving a brief recap of his first talk, outlining significant landmarks in Western scientific discovery in order to illustrate and emphasise the fact that psychology is a discipline which employs the scientific method to verify its findings.
Each of those attending found a handout on their chair listing the various branches of psychology and also the various applications psychology has in society, along with some of the jobs in which graduate psychologists could apply their learning. The other side of the handout included some of those drawings of illusions where one sees two faces in one sketch, and a couple which one stares at to find there is more to the image than is at first apparent. The mind playing tricks.
David started with first impressions and the “halo effect”. Social psychologists have found that attractiveness can produce what is known as a halo effect. Essentially, we tend to assume that people who are physically attractive are also friendly, intelligent, pleasant, and likeable. First impressions do count but are, of course, mediated by experience when we get to know a person better.
David referred to a number of studies in the areas of ethics and morality and said that psychologists have demonstrated that we are not born with a conscience. Jean Piaget spent many years studying the development of morality in children. David outlined one of Piaget’s observations. Four children were playing a board game together. A six year old was losing and deliberately knocked his game piece off of the board. Another child told the teacher that the rules had been broken. The offender was told to sit in the corner.
The next day the children are again playing the board game. A ten year old child reached to move his game piece, lost his balance and placed his elbow into the middle of the board. All of the pieces bounced around, and flew off of the board. The offender of the previous day complained to the teacher. The teacher asked “Did you do it on purpose, or was it an accident?” The reply came that it was an accident. The teacher responded with agreement. She directed all four children to go back to playing the game. The six year old, upset by the teacher’s solution, protested, “It’s not fair! Yesterday I knocked off one piece and I had to sit in the corner? How come he doesn’t have to? He knocked off all the pieces!” The ten year old interjected, “It’s fair because you did it on purpose!” The younger child just doesn’t understand, and continued to insist it isn’t fair. This example illustrates how the development of a more sophisticated sense of fairness is one that progresses as children get older.
David then turned to research done on the research into the differences between men and women in making moral choices. Lawrence Kohlberg, based on research conducted exclusively on men, concluded that justice is the highest claim of morality. In doing so, David explained, his colleague, Carol Gilligan, saw this as down-grading women’s moral judgements based on exercising care. Gilligan did a study with 24 pregnant women who were considering abortion. These women discussed their choice within a care orientation rather than a framework of justice. Responsibility was interpreted as exercising care; not being selfish meant not causing hurt.
David continued by citing a famous experiment conducted at Princeton University in which a group of theology students was asked to walk across campus to deliver a sermon on the topic of the Good Samaritan. As part of the research, some of the students were told that they were late and needed to hurry. Along the route, the researchers had placed an actor, who was lying on the ground in pain and in need of help. In their haste to give a sermon on compassion, 90% of the “late” students from completely ignored the needs of the suffering person. Some of them literally stepped over him.
David spoke of how twins are studied to learn more about the contributions of inherited factors and the impact of the environment in determining behaviour. Introducing a lighter note, he said how the town of Twinsburg, Ohio, holds a twins convention every year. At the latest one. In 2012, 2096 sets of twins attended, of whom, 864 were identical, of these 81 were over 61 years old.
Towards the end of his talk, David realised he was running out of time but had said nothing about Freud and psychoanalysis. Before taking questions, he made a few quick remarks on the topic. Perhaps the subject of “Psychology and You Part 3”? Suggested subtitle, “Psychoanalysis and its Discontents.”
U3A Chairman, Jean Pearson moved the vote of thanks before Membership Secretary, Anne Foster presented the customary token of appreciation to David.
The guest speaker today was David Groves, a retired lecturer in psychology, and it was a joy to welcome him back. 127 people came, and heard among other news that there are two new groups – Going to the pictures and Gardening – and that a new publicity group has been formed.
Good afternoon all U3A Todmorden Members,
It was a delight to welcome 121 members and 6 visitors to our monthly meeting today. There was a special welcome to all our new members – we now have 334 members.
Please let us know if you change your email or home address and also let us know if you no longer wish to receive U3A Todmorden information through the post.
If you ever wish to hand deliver mail to U3A Todmorden we now have a label on our mail box which is situated at Senko House and accessed from Halifax Road, Todmorden.
The new publicity group is now up and running and planning exciting developments for us. Alan McDonald is the Chairman of this new group and he wrote an excellent report on our last meeting which appeared in Todmorden News. Ernie Rogan sent a copy of that report to Chandra and Richard Law and Chandra has sent the report to her home village in Malaysia – our fame is spreading!
Thank you to all our members who again stayed behind today to help put the chairs back in place – it is a real bonus to have your help. Same again next time, please!
There is a change to our programme on 19th December, 2013. We will not be showing a DVD but we will be having a short talk by Trevor Driver entitled ‘Humourous experiences as a Magistrate’ The remainder of the programme that day remains as planned.
Our next meeting is on Thursday, 21st November, 2013 when our guest speaker is from the Institute of Motorists the title of the talk being ‘Age Old Debate’. This does sound an interesting topic for us.
We were also reminded that November is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Gail Allaby gave her groups report and announced two new groups – 1. Going to the pictures and 2. Gardening – and we got lots of names of interested members. She also announced that Geoff Boswell is stepping down as Convenor of the Photography Group mentioning what a great contribution he has made to the Group. Ann Beard will be taking over.
Ernie Rogan outlined plans for more interesting Let’s Go trips next year.
The guest speaker today was David Groves, a retired lecturer in psychology, and it was a joy to welcome him back for his ‘Part 2’, who fascinated us by what he called ‘rambling on’ about psychology. It was extremely interesting and, I think, we all wanted to hear more. Perhaps we should have a ‘Psychology Part 3’ by David. What do you think? Our Secretary, Anne Foster, gave an amusing and sincere vote of thanks.
Hope to see you at our next meeting.
Sincerely – Jean A Pearson – Chairman – U3A Todmorden