In March U3A Todmorden reported on Maria Glot, Titus Salt’s modern publicity tornado, and April saw Tony Waltham strut his pyroclastic stuff on
behalf of the Italian Tourist Board.
Altham’s, look out: you may have a sudden flow of spur-of-the-moment holidaymakers through your doors.
Tony is an engineer and geologist by training who has an eye for a good photograph and a yen for a good ‘fire fountain’.
His travels clearly require occasional commitment from his family, to the extent of camping overnight at the summit of Stromboli. How else can you witness the lava fountains that erupt every 20 minutes, and which smoke and ash obscure by day?
But not all volcanoes in Italy are so restrained. Vesuvius is a case in point. Tony carefully explained the famous explosion of 79 AD: Pompeii, which everyone knows well, was clearly not blasted as badly as Herculaneum. Vesuvius’ first pyroclastic surge (of the six that took place during the night) wiped it out, covering it under 20 metres of ash and volcanic debris.
Pompeii, by contrast, was done for by surge number four, but was buried only to a depth of 7 metres.
Pyroclastic surges? Fast-moving (up to 400 mph) flows of volcanic debris and ash and superheated gases, from which there is no escape. Tony was a speaker who could make technical terms easily understood.
Thus we all now know the difference between a crater and a caldera and how plate tectonics work.
We also know about super volcanoes like Campi Flegri, now grumblingly dormant, but once the site of a huge explosion when a magma chamber collapsed.
Nevertheless, owing to local bradyseism – the slow rising and falling of the land owing to seismic activity – a harbour boat ramp no longer reaches down to the sea.
A less inconvenient phenomenon is the volcanic mud of Vulcano. Here
Italians disport themselves in the health-giving mud, caking themselves in the sun and washing themselves off in the Mediterranean. Tony’s English outsider vision found them good photographic material.
But what about Etna? Unlike Vesuvius, it does not kill people, but it does emit plenty of ash and lava and occasionally, as in 2000, a spectacular 1000
ft fire fountain of lava that lasted 10 minutes.
Usually, it just oozes quickly-cooling lava that if necessary can be redirected. In 1669, the citizens of Catania who were in the path of the flow redirected it. The citizens of Paterno took exception: it was now heading for them. They redirected it again. Lava wars ensued, but the lava got both communities anyway.
Our thanks are very much due to Tony and his 9-on-the-Richter-Scale presentation.
U3A Todmorden 10th Anniversary Tree of Knowledge
A second highlight of the afternoon was the unveiling of the ‘Tree of Knowledge’, a wall hanging made by the Craft Group to celebrate and commemorate U3A Todmorden’s 10th anniversary which took place last year.
The piece is housed permanently in the Central Methodist Church’s upper room in a glazed frame made from reclaimed wood by John Andreae, the son-in-law of our founder, John McNair.
The piece, which also bears witness to hundreds of hours of work by a team of Craft Group members, represents each of our Special Interest Groups extant at the time of our anniversary.
Each group is shown as an apple whose design characterises each group. Thus, Philosophy is represented by Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’; the intricacies of philosophical thought are shown by the convolutions of quilling and its logic by straight lines.
By contrast, Spanish consists of the vivid flag of Spain with the black ‘Osborne’ bull in the centre.
Anglo-Saxon is emblematised by the Alfred Jewel delicately figured in gold thread on a green sheeny background, and Golf, played at Todmorden Golf Club, emphasises something of the rough landscape surrounding the course by using felting in greens, browns and greys.
Numerous techniques have been deployed. In addition to those already mentioned you can find macramé, découpage, collage, beading, patchwork, embroidery, appliqué, knitting, lace-making, weaving, and ceramics.
In this respect, the Badminton and Table Tennis Club is exceptional. The apple-artist has used an embroidery background; the foregrounded objects are composed of cocktail sticks, garden and rubberised twine, a prosecco cork, a Wetherspoons stirrer, nail polish, brads and feathers.
Craft Group members designed the apples in consultation with Group convenors, and each apple took an average of 40 hours to complete.
This is truly a labour of love, celebrating what U3A Todmorden has offered the town’s active and enquiring retired community, and furnishing a permanent record of one aspect of community life in the Upper Calder Valley in the 21st century.
It is only fitting public recognition should be given to the Craft Group for the generous way they have dedicated their talents, skills and services to the production of this ‘Tree of Knowledge’, and to the Methodist Church for giving the hanging a home. Long may both ‘Tree’ and Church be a feature of Todmorden.
Our next meeting
U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, May 16th, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker will be Patrick Wildgust whose subject will be ‘Shandy Hall and Laurence Sterne’.