u3a - u3a matters Spring 2024 (2024)


From Sharon Parsons Editor

Being a new editor is a bit like moving into a new home: you have so many plans and ideas, but you’re also conscious that a building’s foundations need to be treated with care, and that it usually pays to get to know it a little before you charge in and completely redecorate!

With that philosophy in mind, when it was decided a fresh new look to this magazine was called for, it made sense to ask you, the members, what you would like to find on these pages. We’ve worked hard to meet those expectations, but – just like that imaginary home – things sometimes take time: there might still be a little re-arranging of the furniture required, and fresh ideas will, of course, continue to be incorporated into the scheme.

Nevertheless, I do hope that you enjoy this first new-look issue which – as no doubt you’ll have noticed! – now has a slightly different name to bring the magazine in line with all other aspects of the Trust which use the abbreviation ‘u3a’. Rest assured, you will always find familiar topics and faces on the pages, although perhaps not in every edition. On that note, I would like to thank our good u3a friend Dame Esther Rantzen for her regular contributions over the last few years.

Anyway, let me know what you think as I settle into my new editorial home... but I think I’m going to like it here.

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News and views to share what's been happening across u3a

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Campaign success

A best-selling idea

In a bid to increase membership, Cheltenham u3a teamed up with Cotswold Link to create a strong presence at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, as publicity officer Susan Rowe recalls.

Spurred on by the experience of running a repair shop at last year’s Science Festival, we came up with the idea of developing a recruitment campaign around a festival event. The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, which draws audiences from around the world, best matched our demographic. Last year the festival sold more than 109,000 tickets. Once we got an idea of the likely budget, we widened the plan to work with members of Cotswold Link, the u3a network that stretches from Herefordshire to South Gloucestershire. Eventually we submitted a successful application to the Third Age Trust for a £5,000 grant, with the idea of raising the expected £2,000 shortfall via local crowdfunding.

Meanwhile, discussions with the festival partnerships team resulted in an opportunity to sponsor a well-known author. Once we had a shortlist, these names were circulated to the leaders of our groups. Overwhelmingly, comic actor, traveller, writer and broadcaster Michael Palin –promoting a new book about his great uncle Harry, a tragic casualty of the First World War – took the vote.

Boosted by an anonymous gift, we were able to abandon the crowdfunding and to print a brochure listing the contact details of all our groups and a coded A5 flyer for visitors from further afield. A small team of members galvanised social media, devised logos and created a promotional video to run before Michael Palin arrived on stage. Not only did our special guest speak for almost an hour without pause, but he posed cheerfully with our chair, Janet Ropner, and former vice chair, Christine Wardle.

Included in the sponsorship package were free tickets, entry to the festival VIP lounge and invitations to the opening night party. For everyone, there was the benefit of priority booking – a valuable bonus when tickets to Literature Festival events can sell out in minutes.

On the day, six volunteers in u3a sashes distributed hundreds of brochures to locals, more coded leaflets to visitors and cheerfully fielded enquiries as the queues passed our jaunty u3a banner on their way into the packed 1,600-seat venue. A recent spike in membership can reasonably be attributed to this activity alone!

This link with the Cheltenham Literary Festival brought us into the centre of Cheltenham life and among our target audience, as well as raising our profile among a wider public. It is still too early to determine the impact on membership, but the plan is to make a second application for funding and work on relations with the Festival team to see how we could make progress in 2024.

  • Has your u3a done something similar – or does this initiative inspire you to try? Let us know by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Musical hits

Calling castaways...

Haslemere u3a’s initiative offers members the chance to share music that has infl uenced their lives, as chair Allen Chubb explains.

Formed in early 2023, the Desert Island Music group provides a relaxed atmosphere in which a member presents their personal choice of favourite music, often marking memorable or important moments in their life so far. Over 90 minutes, there are usually 20 to 30 tunes, though not necessarily all played to the end.

The latest session was led by member Tony Ighodaro, who started by playing ‘Ol’ Man River’, sung by Paul Robeson. After that, the selection ranged from part of the Carmen opera sung by Maria Callas to ‘Let’s Do It’ performed by Eartha Kitt; ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ by Edith Piaf; and a German drinking song with an oompah brass band marking the time

Tony and his wife lived in Munich. We also heard music from different parts of Africa, Lang Lang playing Liszt, Aretha Franklin, Queen and the US jazz pianists Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk.

Other sessions have featured items from musicals; mechanical music from a street piano heard weekly by a member as a child; a fairground organ; sea shanties; boogie-woogie piano; Ella Fitzgerald; ‘Zorba’s Dance’ (which prompted several members to get on their feet); and a foxtrot, which a member explained she once danced with Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton du Beke. Such has been the popularity of this new group that its membership has almost doubled since July and is expected to grow further.

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Festival focus

A packed agenda!

With the programme now almost complete, the first-ever u3a Festival promises some wonderful activities and talks, as Margaret Fiddes, trustee for Yorkshire and the Humber, reveals.

We’ve had so much support, interest and great ideas submitted as we’ve put together this remarkable programme offered by members to members – thank you all so much! Here’s just a flavour of some of the great things we’re looking forward to – there really is something for everyone.


OF THE GEORGIANS with our History Man, Richard Taylor. Covering the period 1714-1830, we’ll be navigating the once fashionable city of York, as seen through the eyes of visitors of that period, embracing scandal, celebrity – and chocolate!

MUSIC will drift across York

University’s campus as members from across the country bring their talents in many different genres. Performing among the many acts will be the popular Whaler Band from Whitby u3a. Music to sing along to, and guaranteed to get your feet tapping.


The Greek philosopher - and those around him - are endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking. Beth Rudkin hopes to fire you with enthusiasm for ideas, which though ancient, may seem very new to us!


While the old superstitions connected to corn dollies are a thing of the past, they are still an attractive symbol and reminder of our agricultural history. Mary Hopkins will teach members how to make three old favourites: a love knot, a tied straw angel and the Suffolk horseshoe.

WALKING SPORTS make a great contribution to the health and wellbeing of many members – we’re expecting a good showing from the Walking Netballers, the Walking Footballers and the Walking Cricketers over on the sports field.

MATHS AND HISTORY come together as our Maths Subject Adviser David Martin joins our British History Subject Adviser Ian McCannah to sum up the 19th century. Intrigued? You should be!

  • Save the date! 18-20 JULY 2024.
    For more information, visit: u3a.org.uk/events/festival-2024 You can also contact us via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sporting hero

Pickleball prowess.

Did you know pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the u3a? Three years ago, fewer than 20 u3a groups offered this paddle game, but now nearly 100 do so, and the number of players has increased to more than 2,500. Proving that it’s a game to enjoy, at any age, John Adderley (pictured), a member of Bramhall u3a in Greater Manchester, celebrated his 90th birthday in February, and plays pickleball at least once a week (alongside regular games of tennis on neighbouring courts!). You go, John!


Heart felt wishes

The new Felting 360 Degrees group of Guernsey u3a uses this absorbing craft to make useful – and beautiful! – items. Employing both wet-felting and needle-felting, the group got started in February with felted jewellery, moving on to fl at felting in March to create either pictures with stitching, or items such as pencil cases. The group is guided by “obsessed” felter Karen Winter, who is aiming to pass on her love of the craft to others with one-to-one guidance. If you’d like to learn more, you can access Karen’s tutorials via: youtube.com/ @kaggieskreationz7566.


Change is good!

Our chair, Liz Thackray, believes that being open to new opportunities and fresh ideas is essential.

As I write this piece, the snow is falling outside my window. By the time you read it, spring should be well and truly sprung. We live in a world that is constantly changing, sometimes predictably, as with the seasons, and sometimes in ways nobody could have imagined. The same is true of organisations. The u3a has remained true to the ideals of our founders with a strong focus on learning activities led by members for members: everybody has a part to play in our organisation. But we have also changed and adapted, most recently in our response to the pandemic with the adoption of video conferencing, social media and interest in new technologies. And indeed, this fresh new issue of u3a Matters is very different from The Last Post – the first incarnation of our national newsletter that was first produced back in the early 1980s. When preparing to speak to The Young Foundation which was established to continue to advance the work of one of our founders, Michael Young, I was very much aware that the original vision for the Third Age Trust was much wider than supporting u3as. The founders envisaged an umbrella organisation embracing concerns and speaking out on behalf of ‘third agers’. As part of the movement, the u3a Future Lives group and our Push Back Ageism initiative embody this vision and promote our movement to those who might otherwise not know of our existence. Over the past 40 years, the third sector has become an increasingly important part of the social fabric of the UK, and external factors have often required many voluntary organisations to adapt accordingly. Fit for the Future is part of this. Change for the sake of change is pointless. Change when change is necessary opens up new opportunities and keeps us alive – so let’s embrace it!

Great benefits


u3a Friends just got even better with Friends Extra.

We are delighted to announce the launch of Friends Extra, a new benefits website exclusively for those signed up to u3a Friends. This valuable new initiative provides access to a wide range of offers, discounts and additional services. As part of the wider u3a Friends package, Friends Extra is completely free to access. This new service expands on the existing u3a Click & Save discount voucher scheme, but with a much wider range of benefits. u3a Friends can now also make savings on well-known brands, shopping, travel, days out and much more.

Friends Extra includes:

Health and wellbeing discounts on eye

care, health tests, gyms, spa deals and

golf courses.

Shopping savings on major brands and

retail discount cards.

Travel discounts from selected partners.

Lifestyle and leisure offers, like family

days out, trips to the cinema and theatre.

Insurance offers on home, car and

travel insurance.

Access to financial advice and a

legal helpline.

To become a Friend, simply sign up to receive the Friends Newsletter (details can be found on the u3a website: u3a.org.uk/news/newsletter) Each issue of the Friends Newsletter includes a link to the Friends Extra benefits website and highlights some great offers. Make sure your friends and family don’t miss out, either! Any u3a supporters are welcome to sign up to the Friends Newsletter.

Community project

Sidmouth in situ.

A piece of art produced by Sidmouth u3a’s Exploring Art group and local children is now displayed proudly in a doctors’ surgery waiting room.

U3a members may recall the Our Town community art project, which featured on the cover of Third Age Matters (Summer 2023). The artwork was produced by Sidmouth u3a’s Exploring Art group, with the help of a local Guides and Brownies group. Those contributing to the project were aged from fi ve to 85, with artists painting their own homes and other local landmarks. These images were then carefully put together using Photoshop, printed out as a poster and put on a local billboard. Now, having been reprinted on vinyl, the wonderful piece has pride of place in the new waiting room at the Sid Valley Practice Beacon Medical Centre in Sidmouth. Dr Sara Hadfield, GP partner at the practice, says: ‘We are thrilled to have the artwork in our new waiting room. It will certainly make a big impact on our patients as they wait for an appointment.” Louise Cole, development director at Sidmouth School of Art, which supported the project, said the artwork would help to create a “pathway to wellbeing” for those who see it.


A tribute to Len Street

Keith Richards, former chair of the Third Age Trust, remembers late Trust chair Len Street, whose work helped establish the u3a we know.

Len was the architect of the second phase of the development of the u3as in the early part of the 21st century. He changed my life. Newly retired, grieving for a job I loved, and attempting to establish a new u3a, I attended the annual conference and AGM of the Third Age Trust knowing nobody. It was a rumbustious affair but, to my dismay, nothing was heard about education – particularly the radical peer-to-peer learning model I had been so excited to hear about. On the last day, Len appeared on the platform, made just this point and proposed the creation of a Standing Committee for Education. The basic principles of third age learning were always central, even more so when he became chairman of the Trust in 1997. As a former principal of further education colleges, he had contacts and used them to massively increase the public profile of the movement. Len was born in Walthamstow. He was a generation ahead of me, twice evacuated as a child, served in the Royal Navy and marched to the Cenotaph on Armistice Day. He had a wicked sense of humour and I could make him laugh with accounts of my undistinguished military service during great nights at the summer schools which he so relished, contributing courses in science and technology. He was always accompanied by his wife Ros, who he married in 1950. In 2003, he was awarded the OBE for ‘Services to u3as’. He believed that the educational model would always need constant attention and renewal. We were still discussing on the telephone the possibility of ‘advanced’ learning groups on Zoom in the last year of his life and he coordinated an opera session the week before going into hospital for the last time. A great man – the embodiment of third age learning. He will be so sadly missed.

  • To read a more detailed tribute, please go to: sources.u3a.org.uk Len is also included in Five Hundred Beacons by Eric Midwinter (available via Amazon).

Pick a podcast!

Our u3a podcasts continue to go from strength to strength... what started as an idea back in lockdown is now nearing its 40th edition, with over 100,000 views on YouTube, and all the popular podcast platforms. Coming up in the next few months, you can enjoy fascinating stories from u3a members, ranging from aviation to mindfulness, alongside interviews with some famous names from radio and television. And if you have a great story to share or would like to contact the u3a podcast team don’t hesitate! Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Life lessons

Words of wisdom

We asked u3a founder Eric Midwinter to

share his top-line philosophy on life.


Every morning, repeat: “I am an active citizen, not a passive social casualty.” We are privileged to be the fi rst-ever generation of a society to see most people survive a natural life span, so grasp the opportunities these valuable years bring. Make sure that in the long letter of life, you end with a glorious paragraph rather than a skimpy postscript.


The u3a is a thriving, evolving organisation, but being part of it – as implied in the small print when members join – obliges everyone to contribute to the working of the organisation, and to help recruit new members. This is a mutual, proactive cooperative – not a dated Darby and Joan club where members amble along being looked after by others!


Have purposes and targets, things that you aim to do, whether travelling, writing your memories, or choosing new learning themes: give yourself ‘commissions’ to complete by a certain date. As a writer, I have found that having deadlines has, paradoxically, kept me alive. And fi nally: never look up medical symptoms on the internet – that’s lethal...

  • What are your Words of Wisdom? Send your short and sweet thoughts to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Hats off to you!

Millinery maestros raised thousands for their local hospice, as Marbe McNeill, chair of East Renfrewshire u3a, explains

An astounding £4,547.48 for the Prince anzd Princess of Wales Hospice was raised by East Renfrewshire u3a, which held a ‘hatwalk’ on St Valentine’s Day. The idea was conceived last year by Sylvia, a talented milliner herself and a member of our Fashion Through The Ages group. Students from Glasgow Clyde College’s millinery course modelled the hats that they had created as they walked among the tables. Tickets were sold at £20 each, and for an additional £50 some members sponsored a table in memory of a loved one. Many members joined in the occasion by donning their favourite hat. The event was attended by some 175 members and friends, including representatives from our neighbouring u3as – Glasgow Southside, Glasgow West End and Paisley – which all took a table to support us. Many members helped make it a success. Our Sewing group worked on the tablecloths, and our Ukulele group provided the entertainment.

Get set for u3a Week

Save the dates! Saturday 21-Sunday 29 September

Planning has started for this fantastic annual event. It’s a week for all members to showcase the very best of what it means to be part of u3a, publicise their u3a within their local community, reach new potential members and display the activity, learning and fun which takes place across the movement each day. Last year, u3as got involved in activities such as beach cleans, table tennis tournaments and concerts, and many members took the fun and learning outdoors as part of the Alfresco in Autumn initiative. We’d love to know how you are planning to celebrate the week at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Diary dates

Online learning events

Enjoy a diverse programme of u3a web talks, workshops and events, as well as online activities. Here are just a few highlights.


Deportation of HungarianJews

David Wirth tells the tale of his mother Eva’s deportation to Auschwitz and his father Istvan’s journey from Budapest to Dachau. Their stories are told by their son David as a way of honouring them, using family photos, maps, and video testimony of Eva.


Science Networkmeeting Join the Science Network meeting online and hear about artifi cial intelligence in a scientifi c context.


Deafness and beyond: the tribulation and triumph of Ludwig vanBeethoven

Professor Christopher Dowrick of Orrell Park & District u3a discusses how Beethoven’s compositions during his early 30s reflect his distress at becoming profoundly deaf, and how he sublimates his suffering to create some of the most profound music we have ever heard.

Learning activities

To participate in, or contribute to, our learning activities, please go to: u3a.org.uk/learning/learning-activities.

Find a u3a speaker

Looking for a speaker to come and talk to your u3a on a particular topic? Use our facility to search for speakers for either online or in person u3a talks, on a wide variety of subjects.

u3a Air FryerCommunity

Tell us more about the air fryer recipes you’ve been using. Share any photos of your creations with us via the website link above and we will add these to our website.

  • Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you require assistance accessing any of the above, or would like help to set up a learning activity.

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Interest: Singing

All together now

From seafaring sing-alongs to traditional folk groups and showtune ensembles, the u3a is alive with the sound of singing groups.

What is it about singing a song, collectively, that somehow always makes us feel better? It happens everywhere – from a football crowd roaring out an anthem, to a quiet reflective hymn sung by a congregation, or at a get-together when, unprompted, everyone suddenly joins in to belt out some age-old favourites. There is nothing new, of course, about singing with others in one form or another: the voice is the most ancient of all instruments, and in cultures across the world, the ritual of singing together dates back thousands of years. (As a sidenote, an ancient bone flute found in Slovenia is thought to be around 50,000 years old, so music was more than playing its part back in those Neanderthal days...).

Interestingly, however, recent studies suggest that organised singing groups have never been more popular, and there are a number of theories for this. The pandemic threw into sharp focus an unnerving sense of isolation, and an almost instinctive need to connect with one other: an activity such as singing – when we come together ‘as one voice’ – has been shown to reinforce that sense of connection on a very deep human level. Creating notes that rise and fall in unison is intrinsically satisfying. In addition, as fast-evolving technology increasingly means we live and function in remote ways, such traditional and reassuring communal activities are a way to counter a sense of being alone, and encourage a feeling of belonging instead Not least, the huge popularity of programmes such as The Choir, led by choirmaster Gareth Malone, and actor Vicky McClure’s Our Dementia Choir have shown how transformative community singing can be for everyone, no matter their circ*mstances. Most importantly, it’s clear that anyone can join in: shows like these have proven you don’t need a musical background or a great voice to have a good sing (and nobody is likely to mind anyway!). So, if you haven’t already signed up to a singing group, why not give it a go? Check out the groups available in your own u3a - or consider starting one of your own. You’ve got a voice – enjoy using it!

Member's story

‘These songs of the sea

are part of our history'.

John Cushion is group leader for Hayling Island u3a’s Island Shanty group, which he started in 2023 Shanties were originally sung by sailors during all the repetitive heaving and hauling that had to be done on ships and helped to keep time. A caller leads the shanty, then the rest of the crew join in. Not every song needs musical accompaniment but we’re lucky enough to have a member of the crew who plays a special drum called the cajon, and another on the washboard. I’m looking out for a penny whistle and a squeeze box player too! We have a mixed core group of about 45 and meet fortnightly at our local community centre. We often do gigs too, where we sing songs that suit where we are and what people want. We might do something at one of the Island’ sailing clubs or a local hotel and recently played in the parish church. In the summer, we will entertain on the beach plaza and there’s a great musical festival on the island every July. One highlight was last October when a group of us performed on HMS Victory in Portsmouth harbour as part of the Trafalgar celebrations. These are rousing songs, but what is appealing is that you don’t have to have a fantastic ‘choir’ voice. We sing and enjoy ourselves, and everyone can forget their troubles for a while.

Member's story

‘Our singing group doesn’t

take itself too seriously’

Janet Stoney has been group leader of the Singing for Fun group at Weatherby & District u3a for the last 14 years I have always lived with music – I was a music teacher before I retired (I’ll be 90 this year), and now I accompany everyone on the piano. We have a mixed core group of about 45 – though it can swell to 60 – and we meet once a fortnight in the local town hall, and often give concerts for local organisations and causes. We’re not a traditional choir – this is all about enjoying ourselves, and not taking things too seriously. When people say they’re nervous of joining because they can’t sing, I always say: ‘Don’t worry – there are so many others, you won’t be heard anyway!’ Of course, voices become a lot lower as you get older, so some songs are more diffi cult to be sung as they were originally intended. I always take these down a couple of tones when I’m playing piano to make it easier for everyone. I plan all the songs we’ll be singing at our sessions, and include a wide variety: everything from popular hits of the day to musical theatre songs. Oklahoma! is a fi rm favourite, and ‘Do you hear the people sing?’ from Les Misérables always makes everyone want to stand up! There is something wonderful about the sound of a collective voice, when we’re all singing together. It brings a wonderful sense of community.

Expert view

Singing together boosts happiness Mike Pupius of Sheffield u3a, a Subject Adviser for Mindfulness & Meditation, says: There is so much scientific and anecdotal evidence that shows how good singing is for you – especially when you participate with other people: it’s one of the mindfulness activities we recommend on our u3a programme, Mindfulness & Meditation. Our Five Ways to Wellbeing initiative reiterates the importance of social connection and learning, for instance. Not least, an activity like this takes you into the present moment: you concentrate on what you’re doing, without worrying about anything else, and this encourages mind and body to relax, which in turn reduces stress: ask anyone after a singing session how they’re feeling, and they will almost always have a positive reply!’.

Top nOtes

Here are just a few of the benefi ts that come from singing, especially in a group.

1. Physical factors. Deep breathing can improve and strengthen lung capacity, and engages the muscles around the ribcage, while the intake of oxygen reduces muscle tension. Not least, singing encourages you to sit or stand up straight, so it’s good for your overall posture.

2. Feel-good vibes. Singing releases the body’s ‘happy’ hormones – endorphins, serotonin and dopamine – which give your mood a boost. It’s also an easy way to express yourself in like-minded company, all the while building connections and relationships with others who are enjoying the same thing you are.

3. Mind matters. The cognitive wheels turn more effectively when you’re learning something, improving memory and concentration. Singing and music are also recognised for their part in caring for and communicating with those with dementia, sometimes sparking deep-seated memories.

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How to make simpler, better - and more enjoyable.

Life laundry

Let it go... (or maybe not).

A good sort-out at home can make you feel freer and more organised, but it’s often easier said than done. Here are some strategies to help you get started.

Most of us need to ‘de-clutter’ our homes from time to time, but when it comes to deciding what to do with items that hold a strong sentimental attachment, it can be a daunting task. You might feel guilty letting go of items you don’t really want any more – perhaps they were given to you by someone special, or were inherited. Equally, you may be convinced that one day you will pass things on to someone who will treasure them, and so need to keep them safe. “But that’s not always the case,” says u3a’s Subject Adviser for Psychology, Angela Raval. “After a bereavement in the family, my son and I had a sobering walk around the house, and I asked him what he might like to have one day. He picked just two things – a painting and a bracelet that I’ve always worn. That was it – he wanted nothing more! If you can have a conversation with those you plan to leave things to, do so - it can make sorting things out much more straightforward.”

Donate without drama.

You might have items that you’d like someone else to enjoy, or make good use of: “I had a huge collection of quality cast-iron cookware which I just didn’t use any more and my daughter lives abroad so didn’t want it either,” says member Barbara Moore. “I decided to give the lot to a local charity that provides meals for homeless people – they were so grateful, and I felt so happy knowing the pots and pans would continue to be really useful.” When you do donate or sell something with a personal history, it can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that it might just become ‘anonymous’ to the next owner. “When I moved into a smaller property, I had to sell an old sewing-machine table with a beautiful oak top my carpenter father had made,” says editor Sharon Parsons. “I ended up writing a little note about how carefully he’d made it for me in his workshop so many years’ ago, and tucking it into the drawer: later I got a lovely letter from the new owner saying how much that meant to them.”

And if you do want to let, say, an heirloom go but feel guilty about doing so, think about the person you inherited it from in the first place. Would they really mind if you gave it to a new home where it would be appreciated? Probably not... Donate to a community space, or to a cause that meant a lot to the person who gave it to you in the first place... and stop feeling bad about it!

Sound advice

Members of the u3a Psychology Leaders Group pass on their tips.

Angela Raval, Subject Adviser for Psychology, Macclesfield u3a says: Start small when you are beginning to clear things out, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the task. Celebrate everything that stays with you – or goes to a new home.

Carol Miles, Redbridge & District u3a ays: Don’t feel you need to get rid of things in one fell swoop. If you’re not sure, just tidy things up a bit for now, so you have a sense of establishing some order without doing anything drastic. You can come back to review it all again later.

Anne Marcus, Thorpe Bay u3a says: If belongings give you good, happy memories, defi nitely keep hold of them! Perhaps you can give treasured items a new lease of life by displaying them differently, or have them in another room in your home...

Lucy Lofting, Hillingdon u3a says: Read the lovely poem ‘Presents’ by Norman MacCaig. It basically says you will always have the memories... but create the space for new ones too.

  • Check out the Facebook page: National u3a Psychology Groups Chat.

Smart ideas

Great buys and clever tips.

Earth day.

Do your bit!

Earth Day is marked in over 192 countries on 22 April each year. Its dedicated theme is Planet vs Plastics – and all of us can play our part by rethinking everyday habits and purchases: Off to market? The average plastic shopping bag requires 100 years to decompose (and that’s only if it’s exposed to air and sunlight). Invest in some strong canvas tote bags for supermarket shopping instead. Always keep some in the car, and carry a small foldable bag so you’re never caught out.

Out and about. By 2050, there will be more plastic bottles in the sea than fish, so if you’re regularly on the move, invest in a reusable water flask (and coffee cup). Ditch disposable plastic cutlery for picnics and use bamboo instead. Alternatively, buy some inexpensive metal cutlery specifically for the purpose.

In the home. Check out green multipurpose clearners, or soluble cleaning products to cut down on plastic containers (and storage space); try reusable kitchen towels such as Ecoegg Bamboo (£7.99, Amazon); swap clingwrap for beeswax (honeybegood.co.uk have a jolly selection); and give old-fashioned cleaning tips a go: just google ‘baking powder’, for instance, and see how many brilliant uses come up!

Personal choice. Choose cotton buds with paper stems; try sturdy bars in place of bottled shampoos, conditioners and body wash (Faith in Nature have a great-smelling range from £2.99); take note of the increasing number of toiletry products that offer refills, rather than buying new again.

Gadget spotlight.

Growing power.

If you haven’t got a greenhouse, follow the example of a renowned garden designer and make room on your windowsill instead. Zoe Claymore, a gold medal winner at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2023, keeps a Garland Super 7 Electric Windowsill Propagator in her offi ce. Why? Because it allows her to grow multiple plants from seed much faster, without the need for a greenhouse. The Super 7’s heated base contains a 13-watt carbon fi bre element and is designed to increase the ambient temperature of the compost by around 8°C. You might not win prizes for your blooms, but you’ll certainly enjoy propagating – even from your armchair! Garland Super 7 Propagator, £39, DIY.com.

Stay connected for less.

Look at these ways to save on your broadband, mobile and TV subscription costs.

1 Broadband: Ignore the need for speed It’s easy to be bewildered by superfast broadband deals, but in households of one or two, 10Mbps is suffi cient for web browsing and 25Mbps will stream BBC iPlayer on the highest setting. This puts you in the lowest price bracket for broadband.

2 Mobile phones: Be contract savvy Unless you use your mobile phone sparingly, a PAYG (payas- you-go) tariff is probably a false economy. Calculate your data and usage then look for contracts where everything is covered by the monthly fee.

3 Streaming: Share your subscriptions The cost of streaming services like Netfl ix and Amazon Prime Video can soon add up, so try splitting the costs with friends and family. Some platforms like Netfl ix are clamping down on this, but others like Apple TV+ and Disney+ allow multiple users. Or consider downgrading your subscription: if you’re paying for 4K content and don’t watch it, you could save a huge amount. If you pay monthly, you can also cancel anytime.

  • For further advice, speak to an expert at the government’s MoneyHelper service for free by calling 0800 011 3797 or visiting moneyhelper.org.uk.

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Hello Sunshine

Bright, fresh and zesty, lemons have been used in recipes since ancient times – and at this time of year, their refreshing fl avour brings a welcome lift.

The recipe I return to.

Lemon Whisp.

Serves 4-6.

Diane Harper of Tenterden u3a shares this simple recipe. ‘I had this dessert in our hotel in the Canary Islands last year, and loved it so much I chose it every day. When I got home, I developed a version myself. It’s really light and creamy – despite having no cream in it. Finish with a topping of lemon zest or grated chocolate, and serve with shortbread.’


2 eggs

50g caster sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Zest of 1 lemon


1. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl, then add the lemon juice and zest.

2. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and continue to whisk until creamy but not too thick – it should take about five minutes. Don’t allow the water to touch bowl.

3. Pour the mixture into four ramekin dishes, cover and keep in the fridge until ready to serve. It can be made the night before if preferred.

More to try…

Home economist Beverley Jarvis from Ashford & Wye u3a suggests a couple of deliciously lemony puds, and quick ways to give dishes a citrus twist.

Citrus pudding

Some might recall this nostalgic dessert from school dinner days! It’s deliciously light with a creamy citrus sauce underneath. Have everything assembled and ready before you start baking – it’s important that the butter is really soft.


You will need a medium size, oval pie dish, approximately 22cm x 18cm, greased with soft butter.

3 large eggs,separated

50g butter, softened

175g caster sugar

50g plain fl our

250ml milk

75ml lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)

25ml lime juice (about 1 lime)

Zest of 1 lime

Zest of ½ lemon

Sifted icing sugar

To serve

Single cream or crème fraîche


1. Pre-heat oven to 180C, 160C fan, gas mark 4.

2. Separate the eggs, and place the egg whites in a large, spotlessly clean mixing bowl.

3. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, butter, caster sugar, plain fl our, milk and citrus juice. Put the zest to one side.

4. Using a hand-held electric whisk, beat egg whites until fi rm and cloud like. Set aside.

5. Using the same whisk, beat pudding ingredients: start on a low speed, then increase until well combined to make a wet batter. Using a large metal spoon, fold in the zest, then fold in beaten egg whites lightly and evenly.

6. Turn the mixture into the prepared baking dish, and stand this in a shallow roasting tin, half fi lled with hot water from a boiled kettle.

7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until top is golden, and pudding is set, with a lemon sauce beneath.

8. Top with a little sifted icing sugar and serve immediately, along with single cream or crème fraîche.

Lemon tart

Serves 6.

My grandchildren love this dessert! It’s really simple and can be made a day in advance so you can get ahead if you’re entertaining.


For the biscuit crust

170g digestive or ginger biscuits,or use equal quantities of both

For the filling

1 x 200g can condensed milk

3 large egg yolks

Juice of 3 lemons

Zest of 1 lemon

To serve

Fresh fruit, such as strawberries or raspberries, crème fraîche.


1. Prepare the base. Break each biscuit into 4 pieces, then either crumb in a food processor or put into a strong plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin until the crumbs resemble sand.

2. Add the crushed biscuits to the melted butter, stirring well. Press into base and sides of the tart tin. Chill for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 180C, 160C fan, gas mark 4.

4. Make the fi lling. In a large mixing bowl combine condensed milk and egg yolks. Gradually beat in the lemon juice, using a wooden spoon - it will thicken as you beat – then stir in the zest.

5. Pour over the prepared biscuit base, and level surface.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven. Cool then chill for an hour or so in the fridge to set. Serve with fresh fruit and crème fraîche.

Refreshing ideas

A little lemon can make all the difference to tried and trusted recipes...

Sprinkle a piping hot pork casserole with a little lemon zest and some fi nely sliced red chilli for a zingy flavour lift.

Beat in the juice of half a lemon when making pancake batter for a citrus twist.

Blitz zest and juice 1 lemon with a clove of garlic, a little sea salt and a bunch of parsley leaves to pour over cooked fish or chicken.

Next time you make risotto, add the juice of half a lemon to the rice, and notice the tangy difference.

Roast vegetables, such as courgettes, bell peppers and butternut squash, with the zest of a lemon, two tsps lemon juice, and a few chilli flakes, plus a glug of olive oil for a tangy side dish.

Need buttermilk for a recipe? Add 1 tbsp lemon juice to 250ml milk, leave for 10 minutes and hey presto!

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u3a members share their poignant, inspiring and illuminating memories and experiences.


Memories for the future

Many of us would say that a history of our lives would be of no interest to anyone. Nick Hoskins of Winchcombe & North Cotswolds u3as has found, almost by accident, that this is not so...

When my wife Linda died two years ago after we’d been married for just seven years, I asked friends who were invited to the funeral to jot down any anecdotes they had about her. This had happened at my brother’s funeral too. We received a surprising number of wonderful stories that gave a real insight into her life. Th ere were many stories that were new to me or that I had forgotten. At her wake, we put all these stories on the wall for people to read, which sparked even more memories. This wasn’t the fi rst time we’d had a look at Linda’s life. When she and I fi rst became an item and decided to move into ‘our’ house together, I discovered an old projector and some reels of 8mm fi lm she had in a box. Th e projector was broken but one could tell that the footage was of a baby. I got the fi lm transferred to DVD and suddenly we could enjoy

watching Linda's older brother toddling around in 1946, Linda as a baby in 1949, and other recordings made for a number of years afterwards as the two children grew up. This was a great addition to the array of family snaps. So much to remember After her funeral, I refl ected on how important all these diff erent accounts of Linda’s life were – and not least, of course, how much her young grandchildren would miss her: she was a very involved granny. And so, I decided to create a ‘story’, as a letter in Microsoft Word, which brought all these diff erent anecdotes together, along with my own recollections, interspersed with various photographs taken through the years. It quickly took shape, with the photos adding further colour and detail. Looking back at my parents’ and grandparents’ lives, there are so many things I wish they had told me. Th ere is much that we take for granted about our past that our grandchildren – and future generations – may not know, but would wish to know about us. It is part of our heritage, and so important to pass our personal history on. I also believe that if a record is created in electronic form – as I’ve done with Linda’s life story - there is more chance of it being kept and passed further down the line. (An interesting case in point is that Linda’s father, George Pratt, made a recording recalling his time serving in North Africa and Italy during the Second World War, which can now be heard online via the Imperial War Museum site.) A valuable insight Having completed this project, I’d recommend that whenever a funeral is planned, ask everyone to write down their stories and bring photographs – it’s such an important thing to do. However, this exercise also made me realise that all of us should record our own lives for posterity. Tell all your friends what you are doing and ask them for anecdotes. This will bring back many happy and interesting memories for you too.

Many of us feel that our histories are mundane and not of much interest, but that simply isn’t the case. Such recollections give a valuable insight into what has gone before. Look back and think of all that was commonplace in years gone by: no computers, milk and bread delivered to the door, and tough discipline at school, for instance! And of course, everyone will have their own particular experiences and reminiscences to share. It would be great if all the Writing and History groups in u3a were to encourage their members to do this. Just have fun, do a rough draft to begin with, and discuss it with someone of a similar age as well as relatives. When you’ve refi ned it, pass it on to those you would like to read it. Yes, you can do it!


keep on rocking!

Gerald Cumming, from Bishop Auckland & District u3a, had played guitar since he was a boy but never joined a band. Retirement seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a go.

I have played guitar as a hobby since the age of 12. I kept up playing occasionally throughout a 40-year career as a solicitor but I had never been part of a band. On retiring in 2017, my wife and I joined Bishop Auckland & District u3a. I began to wonder if it was too late to try becoming part of a rock or pop band. Many people who grew up in the 60s and 70s will have played in groups, but I found it rather sad that so few of them carried their musical skills into retirement. On the basis that if you don’t use it, you lose it, I proposed in late 2018 that my u3a set up a string band group to rekindle the fun of playing musical instruments and singing great songs from the golden age of rock. At fi rst not much happened, but by mid-2019 we had a group comprising three guitars, a violin and a folk harp. Mandolin, ukulele, harmonica and kazoo were also heard. We then found a bass player. We were an acoustic group originally but over time we realised that a lot of the songs we enjoyed needed electric guitars, so we added those. We had no intention of performing in public when we began but, at Christmas 2021, we were asked to play at our year-end u3a meeting, with an audience of about 120. We got through it without too many hiccups and the idea of a performing group – now called Third Age Rocks! – was born. Vocals are just as big a challenge for older people as playing instruments, so we were fortunate when a retired army drill sergeant with a big voice joined our group. We then found a lady who taught herself to play the drums inside a year. Later a keyboard player joined the group. We had the bones of a band! At present, we have three guitarists playing electric and acoustic, a keyboard player, a drummer and vocalist. We possess a lot of kit such as amplifiers, microphones, music stands and have mastered using iPads to scroll our music while playing. Play on! We agreed to a request to play a gig for a local charity. Having survived that, we decided to play for free in support of charity events in our area. Performing live has added a sense of purpose to our fortnightly practice sessions. In 2023 we played fi ve charity gigs, plus a private birthday party show and our u3a Christmas meeting. We raised over £1,500 for various charities and we got the pleasure of playing and singing. We have played over 100 diff erent songs by artists such as Th e Beatles, Elvis, Roy Orbison, CCR, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Lindisfarne, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan, Eagles and Eric Clapton. It has been terrifi c fun. If you can play an instrument, why not dust it off and form a group?


Joining the dots

My late mother, Margaret (née Goodman), born in 1921, was a keen watercolourist throughout her long life. In the mid- 1930s, Oxo ran an advertising campaign that included a painting competition for under-16s. Th ey issued a book with a completed picture on the left-hand side, including a small palette specifying the only colours that could be used. Th e drawing on the right had to be painted as an exact match. My grandmother was nagged into buying plenty of Oxo cubes so my mother could send off the wrappers to obtain her book. Th e pictures above show some of my mother’s results. She came second in the country, missing fi rst place for over-whitening some teeth! Second prize was a beautiful box of Reeves paints that she kept to the end of her life. I cast many a covetous look at them, but they were strictly out of bounds. One of my treats on a Sunday was to be allowed to look at her book, and I was incredibly proud of her. After her death I couldn’t bear to throw the book away. I tracked Oxo down to current owner Premier Foods, who were delighted to receive it for their museum and sent me a book of recipes. The full picture Fast forward to spring 2017 when to my astonishment I spotted an article in this magazine featuring some of those pictures! I emailed the author, Goff Gleadle from Waterlooville u3a, thereby opening an amazing story. His father was the artist who had produced the artwork for a poster campaign for Oxo, which was news to me. Oxo had adapted the posters into the painting book. Goff knew nothing of the painting book, and I knew nothing of the posters! Premier Foods kindly gave him access to the book, which he later reproduced in his own book. Since then, Goff has written a biography of his father. I have a copy of it and was thrilled to see a paragraph about my mother’s small part in his father’s story with her pictures. Th anks to u3a, we have both completed our parents’ Oxo story.

  • Anyone interested in purchasing Goff’s book can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

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Your good health

Keep the mind body and soul strong, active and happy with the latest news, expert tips and members' inspiration.

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Six reasons to eat more pulses.

Pulses are as close to a ‘superfood’ as you’re likely to get. Readily available and huge in variety, they’re all rich in fibre and extremely nourishing. Replacing some of the meat you eat with pulses is a great alternative to unhealthy saturated fat, protects your heart health, manages your weight and keeps your digestive system healthy. Pulses are good for the environment too. They increase soil nitrogen, improving its quality and helping to reduce the use of fertilisers. Here’s why it’s important to be on the pulse..

1. They’re a healthy all-rounder Pulses are free of the top eight allergens and are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan - an ideal ‘one-ingredient-fits-all’ choice. There is evidence that as well as lowering your risk of bowel cancer, eating pulses can lower blood cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and help manage your body weight - all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. A clinical nutrition study showed that participants who had a high intake of pulses had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

2. They count towards your five a day Three tablespoons of pulses (about 80g) count as one serving of fruit and vegetables and will provide the potassium, zinc, B vitamins and antioxidants you need to keep healthy. They can only count as one of your five a day, however, because they don’t contain the same mixture of nutrients and minerals you would get from fruit and vegetables.

3. They’re bursting with nutrients Pulses can do a similar job to meat in providing the protein your body needs to repair itself. If you’re vegetarian, they’re a useful way of including protein in your diet. For non-veggies, pulses are a great way to reduce your meat intake. One portion of pulses (three heaped tablespoons) provides up to 9g of protein – about a sixth of what you need in a day. One tin of kidney beans contains as much protein as a portion of beef mince, and almost no fat or salt. Pulses are one of the highestfibre foods. They have around three times more fibre than brown rice – great for keeping you regular - and a highfibre diet can lower the risk of bowel cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Pulses are also a good source of iron and other nutrients, such as B vitamins (including folate), potassium and zinc.

4. They’re great for your waistline We use the saying ‘full of beans’ to describe someone who’s bursting with energy, but did you know that the fibre and protein in pulses means they are digested slowly, making you feel fuller for longer?

Most pulses are also low in fat, which is great news for your heart health and your weight.

5. They’re a ‘cheap eat’ Adding pulses to your meals can bring costs down and keep the flavour up. Cooking with pulses rather than meat can be much kinder on your purse. A 400g tin of chickpeas, beans or lentils costs between 50p and £1. Dried versions usually work out even cheaper as they more than double in size and weight once cooked.

6. They are versatile Used across many cultures and cuisines, pulses are culinary powerhouses that can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or dinner. The fact that they’re easy to cook with means they are great for experimenting or using up ingredients you have to hand. Chickpeas, cannellini, kidney and black beans can be used interchangeably in most dishes, and you can generally swap all types of lentils, although they may have slightly different textures or colours.

Pulse points!

Make the most of this delicious versatile store-cupboard ingredient that you can add to many dishes:

Use less meat and bulk up stews, soups, chilli and curries with canned pulses like kidney beans, butter beans and mixed beans. You could divide your usual portion of meat into two meals and include more veg to make it stretch further.

Add extra vegetables and pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans, into sauces for Bolognese, curry and chilli. Tinned beans can liven up your lunches. Baked beans are a great source of fi bre, especially paired with jacket potatoes. Try bean chilli with sweet potato wedges, chickpeas in your salads and soups, lentils in curry, and hummus in sandwiches.

Chickpeas roasted in the oven with some seasoning are a delicious alternative to crisps.

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Wake up refreshed!

Sleeping patterns naturally change as we get older, often making it a struggle to get to sleep, or stay asleep. Here’s a look at why - and what you can do.

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep issues in older adults. Many conditions that can disrupt sleep and may require support from your GP include: depression and anxiety; conditions that cause acute pain such as arthritis; and diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. However, general sleep issues shouldn’t be accepted as an inevitable part of the ageing process: there are simple ways to improve matters.

Develop healthy habits

Studies show that older people who exercise regularly fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and report better quality of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and large meals late in the day, and aim to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time seven days a week. Phones, tablets and laptops cause mental stimulation and generate blue light that may decrease the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Make sure at least the last 30 minutes before bedtime is device-free. Instead, try listening to soft music, light

stretching, reading or meditation.

Create a sleep sanctuary

Keep your bedroom cool and dark – the ideal bedroom temperature is 18°C. Review your mattress, pillows and duvet – are they meeting your needs now? If not, change them. Cut out noise with ear plugs or a white-noise machine. A familiar calming scent, such as lavender, can trigger a relaxed state of mind too. Unwind your mind There are many apps to help you sleep, including free NHS sleep apps that have been more rigorously assessed by doctors or have had clinical trials. Sleepio, for instance, is an online sleep improvement programme based upon the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that focuses on resetting your sleep patterns naturally over time. It’s available at sleepio.com, or as an app. It’s been clinically proven to work, so it can be prescribed for free on the NHS by your GP. You can also get a free NHS Mind Plan – take a simple mental health quiz and get a personalised plan that gives advice on how to fall asleep faster and sleep better.


Can’t sleep? Don’t panic!

Dr John Darwin, u3a Subject Adviser for Meditation & Mindfulness, advises: One of the key ideas behind meditation and mindfulness is the notion of acceptance. If you’re having diffi culty sleeping, it’s very important not to fi ght the situation. There are meditations that can help with acceptance, enable you to relax and help you sleep. The best of those is a ‘guided body scan’. That’s a mindfulness meditation practice that involves mentally scanning your body for pain, tension, or anything out of the ordinary. It can help you feel more connected to your physical and emotional self and become more aware of, and attentive to, the present moment.

  • Find our mindfulness body scans here: mindfulageing.org/u3aseries/ session-3-be-active


Make a healthy mental connection between being in bed and actually sleeping. If after 20 minutes you haven’t fallen asleep, get up and stretch, read, do a jigsaw or another calming pursuit in subdued light before trying to fall asleep again.

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News and views from the world of wellbeing.


Make sure your medical box is up to scratch... Have a sort out Check all expiry dates on medication and over-thecounter products such as creams and lotions. Bear in mind that plasters lose their adhesiveness, and bandages and wipes become unsterile over time. Old medicines should be returned to either your GP’s surgery or pharmacy, and replace any items as soon as they have been used or disposed of. Prep a basic kit Antihistamine cream (for insect bites, stings, minor cuts, nettle rash etc) Antiseptic cream (for minor cuts, grazes, burns) Hydrocortisone cream or ointment (for inflammation,

itching and redness) Painkillers Cold and flu medication Eyewash and eyebath Rehydration sachets Alcohol-free cleansing wipes Selection of differentsized plasters Crepe rolled and triangular bandages Sterile gauze dressings Instant icepack Digital thermometer Tweezers Scissors Adhesive tape to secure dressings Safety pins Disposable sterile gloves 􀅊Basic first-aid guide. If in any doubt about which medicine or treatment is safe to use, consult a healthcare professional.


It’s never too late to give healthy eating a go. A study published in the journal Nature Food looked at the health data of nearly half a million Brits whose eating habits have been documented as part of the UK Biobank study. Researchers found that the biggest gains in life expectancy were made by those who changed their diets to include more fruit, whole grains and nuts, and fewer sugary beverages and processed meats. Even when a healthier diet was adopted at an older age, the life expectancy gains were substantial: 70-yearolds

can extend life by four or five years if they make a sustained diet change. ‘The bigger the changes made towards healthier dietary patterns, the larger the expected gains in life expectancy are,’ researchers explained.


In the 1960s, a pedometer called the ‘manpo-kei’- which translates as the ‘10,000-step meter’ - was launched in Japan. The fi gure stuck and since then 10,000 steps a day has become a global marker for healthy living. In reality, the guidance is that some steps are good - but more steps are better.

FOCUS ON t'ai chi

T’ai chi (tie-jee) is a martial technique that originated in ancient China. It is often called a moving meditation because it benefi ts both mind and body. The movements - slow, graceful and coordinated - require absolute attention and internal focus. Although it’s not strenuous, it helps improve strength, resilience and fl exibility. The practice can also be adapted for those with mobility issues. Valerie Garner of Upholland u3a is a fi rm advocate: ‘I have chronic kidney disease, arthritis and a knee replacement, so my exercise options are limited. However, years ago I tried t’ai chi on holiday and really liked it, though I didn’t take it up then. However, last September I took the lead to get our u3a group going, and there is now a core mixed group of about 15 and a trainer. ‘It has improved my posture and balance, made me stronger, and helped with hand-eye coordination. I think it also relieves stress, and I􀅊also feel that my memory is better. At the end of a session, there’s a huge sense of calm – it’s wonderful.’

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Experts on call

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

Barry Claydon is Subject Adviser for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a member of East Suffolk u3a.

Learning machines

How did you get involved with u3a?

I joined u3a in 2023. I’m passionate about sharing my research into AI with other members, so I’ve become AI Subject Adviser and set up an ‘AI for Everyone’ online library that’s very popular.

Where does your interest in AI stem from?

I witnessed the digital revolution at first hand during a 50-year career in technology that included software development and IT project management in various sectors. My interest in AI began in the 1980s when I was a teacher. I joined BT hoping to work in AI, but more attractive job opportunities took me away from the subject. Having retired, my interest in AI was reignited last spring by its increasing appearance in the news. The potential of AI to transform industries and impact human lives fascinated me, and I wanted to be able to have informed conversations with my grandchildren about it.

What do you find particularly compelling about the subject?

The most fascinating aspect of AI is its ability to learn and adapt. Watching a machine ‘learn’ from data, improve its performance, and sometimes even surpass human intelligence in specific tasks is truly remarkable. This continuous evolution promises untold possibilities for the future. The most useful is the potential to solve complex problems, from climate change to healthcare challenges. But there needs to be caution when it comes to ethical considerations, privacy and the potential displacement of jobs. We must ensure that AI is guided by ethical standards and contributes positively to society.

Should we be nervous about how AI is developing?

Common misconceptions include the fear that AI will become sentient and rebel against humanity. This sci-fi scenario distracts from real issues such as data privacy, bias in AI systems, criminals using AI and the need to ensure the technology is used ethically. Nervousness often stems from a lack of understanding and the rapid pace of change, highlighting the importance of taking an ‘AI for everyone’ approach to education and having a transparent dialogue. People who are unfamiliar with AI are often surprised by how integrated it already is in their daily lives, from smartphone assistants to recommendation systems on streaming

platforms. The subtle yet impactful ways in which AI enhances our day-today experiences often go unnoticed.

How do your group sessions work?

They are mostly online for members nationwide. The sessions are interactive and cater to all levels of knowledge, from beginners to experts who are building and training their own AI devices. We look at a range of topics, includingAI basics, ethical implications and realworld applications. There are typically between 15 and 150 people attending: the aim is to foster an environment that

encourages discussion and learning. I also get occasional requests to do a workshop or event.

  • To find out more, contact me via: u3a.org.uk/learning/subjects/ artificial-intelligence

Maria Chester is Subject Adviser for American Archaeology and a member of East Berwickshire u3a.

American discovery

How did you become a u3a Subject Adviser?

I was born in Argentina but have travelled the world, and lived for 20 years in Venezuela. After initially studying fine art, I decided to go deeper and studied art history, becoming a professor in pre- Columbian civilisations. A passion for cave art and rock art led to my interest in archaeology. After moving to the Scottish Borders in 2003, I joined u3a in 2004 and have been a Subject Adviser since 2007. I also tutor art history courses for Berwick Educational Association, work for Berwick Visual Arts delivering conferences and guided tours and in 2018 was accredited as a lecturer by The Arts Society in London.

How do you keep up to date with your subject?

In my field, a new discovery is made every day. There are several websites that I use, and of course my colleagues and contacts overseas keep me informed as well. I regularly attend congresses and conferences too. What is so fascinating about this aspect of history? People often think that civilisation in the Americas started with the arrival from Europe of the Spanish conquistadors. However, when we talk about ‘pre-Columbian’ America, we are referring to something that happened – or was there – before Christopher Columbus arrived searching for a ‘spice route’ from Asia to Europe. We should really use terms like ‘pre-contact America’, ‘American archaeology’, or ‘archaeology of the New World’. I usually start my classes with an introduction to the creation of complex societies and how America went through the same development as Europe, from hunter-gatherers to settlements with cities, pyramids, temples and tombs.

There were two centres of civilisation: Andean, from Colombia to Peru; and Mesoamerican, covering an area from the south of North America to the north of South America. For centuries, these cultures were thought of as prehistoric because it was thought they lacked any system of writing. That proved to be absolutely wrong. First the Olmec, then the Maya, developed a system of hieroglyphs that we can now read, and the Maya invented paper before the Chinese.

What surprises people about the subject?

The splendour of the civilisations: their architecture, religion, society, literature and legacy. For instance, more than 85% of the food we eat today originated in the Americas: I always love to see the expression on people’s faces when we go through all the vegetables and cereals we regularly consume today such as strawberries, tomatoes, beans and chocolate without knowing where they came from.

How do your group sessions work?

My lectures run for 50 minutes with 10 minutes for discussion. I have hosted a series of lectures at many u3a Summer Schools. I lecture via Zoom, or in person if u3a groups

can cover my expenses, and can help organise seminars or short courses.

  • To find out more, or to set up a group, contact me at: u3a.org.uk/learning/subjects/American-archaeology

Jules Smith is Subject Adviser for Backgammon and a member of Ayr u3a.

A roll of the dice

How did you fi rst get involved in backgammon?

In 1980, I was one of a large group of colleagues who spent virtually every lunch break playing competitive backgammon: it quickly became a hobby and an important part of our daily routine. One colleague, who still runs a successful backgammon club in Bristol, was the driving force. He taught many of us and began organising in-house tournaments with league and knockout formats. At that time, playing a variety of different opponents and reading books on strategy were the main ways of learning and improving.

Why are you so passionate about it?

First and foremost, as a dice-based game, there is an element of luck. It’s simple to learn, but takes a lifetime to master, and has to be one of the few games where a complete novice, if they’re lucky, can beat a grandmaster. It’s highly social when played face to face. And of course, it’s mentally challenging and stimulating, even if it is often described as ‘the cruellest game’! A few years ago, a u3a member who was in the early stages of learning the basics summarised backgammon in a nutshell: ‘Backgammon is a game where you try to maximise your options and minimise the risks, except when you don’t.’

What prompted you to become a u3a Subject Adviser?

I derive a lot of satisfaction from spreading the game and getting beginners started on their own backgammon journey. Having set up and run several groups and clubs, I’m well equipped to provide advice to group leaders, new or old, about structuring sessions to include teaching and learning, as well as both fun and competitive games. Many people new to the game are unaware of the UK Backgammon Federation (UKBGF), so I can introduce this organisation to them which helps with learning resources and other benefits, including its online list of UK backgammon clubs.

What happens in group meetings?

My u3a backgammon group in south Molton is face-to-face, but many UK groups are online or hybrid, which works well. Depending on the dynamics and range of skill levels it can be good for members to spend sessions either playing competitively, playing purely friendly games, or perhaps learning and analysing the best moves.

What does the future hold for backgammon in u3a?

I’m aware of around 30 u3a backgammon groups in the UK, and the aim is to grow the number of members who play. I’m also hopeful that at some stage, we’ll be able to run a UK-wide u3a tournament.

  • To find out more, contact me via: u3a.org.uk/learning/subjects/backgammon
  • You can contact over 70 Subject Advisers via: u3a.org.uk/learning/subjects. Also see our Subject Advisers Directory on p54.

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Subject Advisers Directory

Looking for fresh inspiration for your interest group? Whether you want to share ideas with similar groups or need support to start a new one, find resources and information at u3a.org.uk/learning/subjects.



Mike Carr

BOOK GROUPS Richard Peoples

FILM Dieter Shaw



CRAFTS Kelly Benton









EGYPTOLOGY Neil Stevenson

GENEALOGY Stephen Dyer



LOCAL HISTORY Sandra Whitnell



FRENCH Sylvia Duffy

GERMAN Alastair Sharp

LATIN Trevor Davies


Heather Westrup

SPANISH Sandra Dean

PORTUGUESE Geoffrey Phoenix

WELSH Cher Palmer



CLASSIC ROCK & ROLL Martin Hellawell





PIANO Keith Jacobsen

RECORDER Val McCarroll

UKULELE Kenneth co*ckburn



AVIATION Clynt Perrott


BRIDGE Steve Carter

CANASTA & BOLIVIA Margaret Thompson

CHESS Rob Kruszynski



FASHION Ruth Lancashire


Ian Ludbrook



QUIZZES Ian Matheson



RESEARCH Rodney Buckland


Maggy Simms



Martin Whillock FRAS


John Baxter

GEOGRAPHY Jeff Armstrong

GEOLOGY Martin Eales

MATHS & STATS David Martin


Social sciences


Pam Upton



BOATING Nick Hoskins

CROQUET Sally Slater


CYCLING John Bower


PETANQUE Andrew Lloyd

RACKETBALL Terry Wassall

Walking & Walking Sports

KURLING Mac Mckechnie


WALKING Terry Dykes, Bernard Owen and

Jacky Carter

07816 674356



WALKING RUGBY Graham Truluck




US & UK POLITICS Paul Carter


HEALTH MATTERS Richard Franklin



Mike Pupius and

John Darwin

NEW! TAI CHI & QI GONG Peter Karran


YOGA Patricia Hamilton

  • Could you be our next Ballroom Dancing Subject Adviser? To find out more, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Silversmithing from scratch

In his new book, The Repair Shop’s resident silversmith, Brenton West, encourages aspiring metalworkers.

The enormous success that BBC TV’s The Repair Shop has enjoyed since it first came to our screens in 2017 shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. A group of craftspeople who are all experts in their field communicate their enthusiasm as they restore cherished family heirlooms that aren’t necessarily valuable but which all have an engaging and often emotional story behind them. It makes fascinating viewing.

One of the key elements of the programme’s appeal though, which resident silversmith Brenton West builds on in his new book, is the way it encourages people to consider whether they could have a go at restoration themselves. Silversmith’s Secrets provides an informed guide to identifying the item you may be working on, the tools you’ll need, and not least, how to get started on a project.

An early start

The book reflects the passion Brenton has had for making and repairing since childhood. “I was always into things, levering up floorboards to see what was underneath, taking things apart to see how they worked,” he recalls. “I loved Blue Peter and had a go at all of the things they showed us how to make.” The results weren’t always as successful as those we see on TV today, however. “As a child I opened the dishwasher to see how it worked and flooded the kitchen,” he confesses. This fondness for hands-on activities carried on at school. “Rather than concentrate on getting good grades in my ‘proper exams’, I was more often found in the metalwork department,” Brenton says. “My teacher was amazing – so inspiring and encouraging. The pieces that I made helped secure me a place at Medway College of Design, one of the renowned colleges for silversmithing.” After three years, equipped with good grades and an impressive portfolio, Brenton came out of college confident that going straight into a career in his chosen profession would be easy. Things weren’t that straightforward though. “A recession was just starting, silversmiths and goldsmiths were laying off staff – it was a tough time,” he recalls. “I tried the self-employed route, selling jewellery and going to craft fairs, but I struggled to make ends meet.”

Learning the craft

As a temporary solution, Brenton found a job at a classic car restoration company. “The owner said if I could bend and shape one metal, I could bend and shape steel and aluminium. I’ve always loved classic and racing cars, so it seemed a great way of using my skills. My first job was to straighten air boxes on a Ferrari 512 BB!” That foray into classic car restoration, however, proved to be a temporary diversion on a path that has led to success in the career he’d always hoped to pursue. Brenton went on to establish a successful silversmith business and, eventually to become a familiar face to many on television. With Silversmith’s Secrets he’s passing on his experience at a time when there’s a growing shortage of people with such practical skills coming through the ranks. Brenton attributes this to a lack of hands-on subjects being taught in school. “Once our generation has gone it will be a worry who is going to fix stuff,” he says. “That’s why I’m always encouraging craftspeople. I donate to the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, which helps with grants. I’m sometimes given old tools and I make sure that students benefit from them.” So how should a beginner who wants to have a go at the work themselves and is reasonably confident get started? “This is a difficult one,” he admits. “More damage can be done attempting to repair something, so careful research needs to be done. My book helps demonstrate how I repair certain things, but the internet is an amazing resource too.” The basic principle for beginners to stick to, he suggests, is, “don’t do something that can’t be undone or reversed”. Rather than starting with a beloved heirloom, Brenton suggests gaining experience with less cherished objects.

“Silver-plated items are very cheap,” he points out. “Auction sites, car boot sales and charity shops are great places to source pieces to practise on. You can buy damaged and unfavoured sterling silver items for the cost of scrap metal - and if you mess it up, you can still sell it to a bullion buyer.” Apart from that, Brenton says, all you need is “an area to work and some basic tools, which can be bought second-hand. Keeping an eye on health and safety, get stuck in!”

Respect and repair

Step-by-step photographs and descriptions in the book of some of Brenton’s favourite projects show what can be achieved. One of the most challenging but satisfying, he says, was a hand mirror “pretty much ready for the scrap heap”. ‘It took a lot of work, but when finished it was ready to enjoy another 100 years of useful life,’ he says. And how should we look after our treasured silverware for future generations? ‘If it is to be stored, wrap it up well with acid-free tissue paper, then bubble wrap, and put into a box,’ Brenton suggests. ‘However, if the silverware is out to be enjoyed, once clean and polished, try not to touch it, as fingerprints will tarnish it. Expect to polish it every three to six months, but always use silver polish not metal or brass polish.’ Brenton’s “repair rather than replace” philosophy isn’t confined to his workbench. “I sew up my clothes when they’re damaged,” he admits. “I used to have lots of cool patches on my jeans, because silversmiths always had holey clothes from the sulphuric acid used to clean silver. Recently, I repaired a 90-year-old Singer sewing machine, learned how to use it, patched some jeans and made a dog blanket from fabric samples!’

Shining through time

In this extract from Silversmith’s Secrets, Brenton reveals the history of this incredible craft: Silver has been used by craftspeople since ancient times. Mined and used mainly for coins – the ancient Greeks used silver coins as early as 350BC – it was also used to make jewellery, vessels, cutlery and other decorative metal items, a practice now known as􀅊silversmithing. In the modern era, wealthy families would have handmade silver pieces in their homes as a show of their affl uence. During the Industrial Revolution, new manufacturing techniques such as stamping, spinning and casting allowed more affordable items to be created than pieces made by hand by individual craftspeople. New techniques and approaches to boost profi t were employed during this period. Cutlery sets were stamped out, making them affordable to far more people than in the past. Picture frames were manufactured with incredibly thin metal, and then fi lled with a heavy fi ller such as pitch. This lent support to the frail, nearly paper-thin silver, and gave the objects strength and a ‘weighty’, valuable feel. Silver made today tends to be more bespoke. Silver production mainly consists of many craftspeople practising their art and making individual items. There are still commercial manufacturers but these are few and far between.

Member's story

‘My silverware takes a lot of polishing – but it’s worth it!’

Pauline Flynn from Princes Risborough u3a tells us about her eclectic collection. I’ve always loved silverware – it’s so eye-catching. In fact, I had a very small antiques business for many years, so I often came across pieces from different eras, and there’s something very special about handling items that would have been used and enjoyed by generations before me. I love the fact that silver can be used to make such a huge variety of beautiful things. I have a collection of solid silver pieces on display at home - the oldest is a George lll caddy spoon dating back to 1813. Some of my collection was inherited from my grandparents and mostly dates back to the early 1900s. I’m very fond of it all, especially an unusual ink stand with two little pots: one would have been for the ink, while the other may have contained sand which was used to dry the ink. I’ve also got a wonderful miniature silver trowel that was presented to my grandfather when he opened a chapel in South Wales. We don’t know the story behind it – possibly he was involved in its construction, as it even has the building etched on it – but it’s very intriguing! Several pieces I have were made by my late husband, David. When he was in his 50s and semi-retired, he did a silversmithing course at our local college, and went on to make some beautiful things, such as a damper for snuffi ng out candles, and various pots and spoons. As you can imagine, these are the things I will always treasure the most – and I always polish them to look their absolute best!

Silversmith's Secrets giveaway! 10 free copies!

Silversmith’s Secrets: Repair, restore and transformtreasured items by Brenton West (£19.99, Search Press) is available now. We’re giving away 10 copies to members at bit.ly/Silversmith-secrets.

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Good times

Make the most of life – great places to visit, new things to try, what to watch, read and enjoy.

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Into the woods

Whether you enjoy a quiet ramble or the company of a walking group, our wonderful woodlands promise to put a spring in your step.


Our woodlands are full of wildlife and history


Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest.

Bedgebury Pinetum is home to the world’s largest collection of conifers, with over 12,000 specimen trees, as well as broadleaf species standing alongside 2,000 acres of native forest. Today it’s a globally important centre for conservation, but it’s also a beautiful setting for peaceful walks, picnics, familyfriendly days out and other adventures. With miles of trails plus a visitor centre and café, there’s lots to see, do and enjoy. The Pinetum itself also has a short loop (0.8 miles) and a long loop (1.6 miles) that are both suitable for wheelchairs, ensuring the rarest and most endangered tree species are accessible to all. This includes swamp cypress and red maple, as well as Bedgebury’s oldest trees, the English oaks, which date back around 400 years. Other highlights of the botanical collection include an impressive avenue of Lawson cypress on Lady Mildred’s Carriage Drive, and a stand of giant redwoods in the Dallimore Valley, named after Bedgebury’s first curator.



Blickling Great Wood.

Owned by the National Trust, Blickling Estate is a vast swathe of Norfolk countryside that covers some 4,600 acres. Its landscapes encompass fertile arable land, elegant formal parks, grazing grassland and stunning woodland. Visitors can enjoy dazzling displays of oaks, beeches, limes and sweet chestnuts as their leaves change from lush green to a kaleidoscope of autumn colours. Blickling Great Wood is also home to owls, deer and plenty of weird and wonderful fungi. The eeriest route through the woods winds its way to the brooding 18th-century mausoleum. The haunting atmosphere may be attributed to the fact that Blickling was the ancestral home of the Boleyn family, and Anne Boleyn’s father, Sir Thomas, is said to haunt the woodlands and grounds. He’s supposedly cursed for failing to stop Henry VIII from beheading both Anne and her brother George. Meanwhile, Anne herself is reported to appear here every 19 May, on the anniversary of her execution. nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/ norfolk/blickling-estate


Coedydd Maentwrog, Eryri (Snowdonia).

This ancient oak wildwood in the heart of Snowdonia is one of the few remaining pockets of a vast Celtic rainforest that once carpeted western Britain and Ireland. This lost world is a hot topic right now – it formed the subject of Guy Shrubsole’s bestselling book, The Lost Rainforests of Britain, which won last year’s Wainwright Prize. The temperate, humid climate beneath the lush green canopy supports 200 types of rare mosses, liverworts and lichens, as well as a host of insects, birdlife and animal species, including the lesser horseshoe bat. Explore its gnarled and twisted trees, dramatic waterfalls and tranquil lakes on a range of marked trails, accessible by car, or via the historic Ffestiniog Railway. With a lakeside picnic area, interpretation boards, wooden sculptures and waymarked paths, it makes for a memorable and informative day out. Just watch out for occasional tangled roots and rocks underfoot, as well as some steep sections as you descend into the thickly forested gorges. naturalresources.wales/daysout/ places-to-visit/north-westwales/ coedydd-.


Golitha Falls, Bodmin.

This National Nature Reserve is renowned as one of Bodmin Moor’s loveliest spots. Here, the tumbling River Fowey forms a series of scenic cascades set in tranquil woodland. The babbling brooks and dappled glades among the trees seem to come straight from the pages of a children’s fairytale. The two main trails are both waymarked, and broadly follow the course of the river, which means there are ample opportunities to paddle in the water and picnic on the banks (bring a blanket!). This steep-sided valley, populated with mixed oak and ash, is home to bats, otters and dormice. Other woodland favourites include bluebells, wood anemone and rare bryophytes – mosses to you and me. The river is also home to salmon and sea trout. Parking is free at Draynes Wood (PL14 6RY), where there are toilets, a small shop and a mouth-watering barbecue hut called Inkie’s Smokehouse. woodlandtrust.org.uk/visitingwoods/ woods/golitha-falls.

Rambling on...

More great woodland paths to discover

1. Loop around the Devil’s Punchbowl, Surrey, a natural amphitheatre of heath, streams and woodland.

2. Visit quiet Ty Canol Wood, Pembrokeshire in South Wales, and stroll in solitude among ancient woodland that dates back some 6,000 years.

3. Walk the 2.5-mile Fairoak Trail at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, which opens out into the Fairoak Valley and the magnificent Fairoak Pools.

4. Explore Low Burnhall Wood, County Durham, on one of three marked trails that celebrate the region’s industrial heritage.

5Visit Hackfall, Yorkshire, a 120-acre wood in the Nidderdale AONB. This ancient woodland boasts grottos and

glades, rustic temples and waterfalls.

6. The Grizedale Forest, Lake District, offers plenty of trails to pick from, and fabulous views from the top of Carron Crag (314m).

7. Head to Symonds Yat, Herefordshire, home to goshawks, peregrines, dormice, fallow deer and even wild boar.

8 .Get spooked at Hangman’s Hill in Epping Forest, Essex – reputedly the UK’s most haunted woodland. Apparitions

include the ghost of Boudicca, and a coach drawn by phantom horses.

9 .Davagh Forest, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, has a network of winding trails through lush woodland. Look out for spotted sika deer, accidentally introduced to Ireland in 1860.

  • To find more woods near you, go to: woodlandtrust.org.uk

Member's story

Avril Mountford of Inverness & Black Isle u3a shares one of her favourite woodland walks.

I am lucky enough to live by Culloden Woods near Inverness – I can even hear the tawny owls hooting at night – and to be able to come here anytime, either by myself or with my u3a walking group, is a constant joy. It’s a long skinny wood about 7km long with very undulating, rocky terrain – lots of steep slopes, bosky dells, valleys and streams – along with a fine variety of trees such as pine, elm, rowan and hawthorn. It’s home to so much wildlife, from badgers and roe deer to the red squirrels that thrive here, and we’ll often spot buzzards or hear the enigmatic cry of curlews high above... A walk in these woods touches all the senses. I love watching the everchanging dappled light through the trees, touching the leaves and bark, and taking in the scent. In the springtime, especially, it’s wonderful: the remarkable fragrance of hawthorn flowers from the old trees, the coconut smell of the gorse, and the unmistakable pungency of wild garlic... At the east end, you can see across to Moray Firth and Ben Wyvis, while to the west there is rolling farmland and the foothills of the Cairngorms. There are ancient sites on the trails, and the woods are close to the Culloden battlefield, the site of the last battle fought on British soil in 1746. These days, it’s a much more peaceful spot – and a great place to finish our walk with coffee and cake in the café there!

  • Avril is a member of the u3a Walking Exchange group. For further information, go to: u3a.org.uk/learning/subjects/walking

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What’s on

Take a quick look at what to watch, visit and listen to now...

Film and TV expert Mark Adams of Chichester u3a recommends the following.



On the small screen, Andrew Scott (that ‘hot priest’ from Fleabag) stars in Ripley, a lush adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s bestselling novels. A suspense-filled eight-episode set against the backdrop of 1960’s Italy, roguish Ripley is employed to convince wealthy loafer Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn) to return to the US, but Ripley has darker motives, and Dickie’s girlfriend Marge (Dakota Fanning) becomes suspicious...

Ripley Premieres 4 April, Netflix.

Renegade Nell.

BAFTA-winning writer Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley) delivers a real change of tone and pace with eight-part period action-drama series Renegade Nell, starring Louisa Harland (Derry Girls) as quick-witted Nell Jackson, who finds herself framed for murder and unexpectedly becomes the most notorious outlaw in 18th-century England.

Renegade Nell Streams On Disney+ From 29 March.


Blu-ray and DVD are becoming ever-more popular as fi lm fans realise streamers don’t offer much in the way of classic cinema. All That Money Can Buy features a truly diabolical performance from Walter Huston as the devil. And you can pick up a restored collector’s edition of Ealing classic The Lavender Hill Mob, and One Life with Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton, who helped rescue Jewish children during World War II.

On Sale In April.


British director Guy Ritchie hits cinemas with The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, a freewheeling action romp starring Henry Cavill as the leader of a band of Churchill’s ‘freelance pirates’ as they strike at German forces behind enemy lines during World War II. Loosely based on Damien Lewis’s 2014 book, it also features Freddie Fox as Bond author Ian Fleming, who advocated secret missions during the war.

Released On 19 April.

Artistic focus.

Ruth Lancashire is u3a’s Fashion Subject Adviser, and recommends this show-stopping treat: ‘I can’t wait to see the major exhibition of artist John Singer Sargent’s work at Tate Britain. He had a keen sartorial interest, and used fashion to express the identity and personality of his subjects: he would even choose and then “style” their clothes to make them more fl attering or seductive. “There are almost 60 of his paintings on show, and some of the clothing that his subjects wore in them are also showcased alongside.’

  • Exhibition runs until 7 July 2024 (tate.org.uk).

Tune in...

... to enjoy a fabulous throwback to the best of 50s music. Bob Houghton of Ross-on-Wye u3a presents a weekly internet radio show that celebrates everything from chart-toppers to show tunes and comedy hits. ‘There’s all sorts of interesting stuff I bet some members won’t have heard for many years,’ he says.

  • Bob’s Fabulous Fifties can be heard on Thursdays at midday (timeoutradio.net)

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My life in books

Richard Peoples, Subject Adviser for Book Groups, shares his favourite page-turners.

Best childhood book:

The book I remember loving as a child was a collection of nonsense rhymes and cautionary tales that included Edward Lear’s The Owl and the puss*-Cat, The Jumblies and The Pobble Who Has No Toes, as well as Hilaire Belloc’s Matilda. These tales fired my imagination and gave me a lifelong taste for surreal comedy.

Favourite book of all time:

George Eliot’s Middlemarch is a wonderful evocation of provincial life in a mid-Victorian town, showing the connected lives and changing fortunes of a beautifully observed cast of characters. Its themes include love, disillusion, unrest and human frailty at a time of great social change.

Currently reading.

Scottish author James Robertson's novel To Be Continued is described as ‘an utterly mad, entirely heart-warming Highland adventure’. I first came across Robertson when he gave an entertaining talk to Edinburgh u3a. I then read and enjoyed his great epic novel And The Land Lay Still, which portrays modern Scotland through the eyes of natives and immigrants, journalists and politicians, drop-outs and spooks. It’s a witty and insightful work.

  • Tell us about your best childhood book, favourite book and current read. Send an email, headed BOOKS, to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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We love to hear from you, so please email your letters, including your name and u3a, with ‘Mailbox’ in the subject line to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or post to the u3a office.

Garden pleasures

Many of you responded to Dame Esther Rantzen’s piece on the joy of the garden - here’s just one letter that sums up how everyone feels...

A garden is so much more than a collection of plants. At 84, I am considering moving into sheltered accommodation, and the main question (apart from fi nance) is: can I live without a garden? Being able to step outside on a summer’s morning, often in my dressing gown, to breathe the fresh air, fi ll up the bird feeders and see what new fruit and fl owers have appeared is irreplaceable. Watching the birds and squirrels, and checking to see if the frog spawn has arrived in the pond is a constant joy. I have also grown my own veg on an allotment which I may have to give up. Th e companionship (at a distance) kept us all sane during the pandemic. I am eternally grateful that I have always had a garden. I can no longer dig or shovel compost, but I can plant seeds. Finding a home near to friends and family that also aff ords the joy of still occasionally getting my hands dirty is hard.

Rosy Daley, Cheddar u3a.

Sensible measures

So many things we all learned from past generations seem to have been lost now, which is sad and wasteful. Watching a news item the other day I was, in truth, a bit surprised to hear the presenter telling people how to save on energy bills. This included: thickening curtains with a lining; wrapping up in a blanket to watch TV; moving the sofa away from a radiator; switching off lights when you leave the room; and wearing socks, vests and jumpers. What about giving clothes a really good hard shake when you take them out of the washing machine, which saves on creases and ironing; using a clothes horse to dry and air clothes instead of a tumble dryer; opening a window every morning, no matter how cold it is outside, to help stop mould - just half an hour is enough. Back in ‘the olden days’ we were just sensible.

Sarah Hughes, Sherborne u3a.

  • Got other sound common sense tips to pass on? We’d love to know!

Doctor difficulties

Recently, I received a message via my NHS app saying that we could no longer ring or call into the surgery for an appointment, but instead had to book via the app. Fortunately I have a smartphone and loaded the app during Covid, but my husband only has a basic mobile. When he tried to go into the link, he was asked to provide identifi cation. We have been with the same surgery for 40 years so for him to have to provide identifi cation is ridiculous! I could add him to my profi le on my app but, yet again, we both have to visit the surgery – along with identifi cation - and go through a registration process. Th ere is still a problem with this system if I am unwell, for instance, and my husband doesn’t know how to use my phone and access the app. More importantly, I am concerned about other older patients who may not have smartphones or know how to use them. Not enough thought has been given to how the older generation will cope with this new system.

Pauline Kunzmann, Glenfield u3a.

  • Have you experienced similar issues with your GP surgery recently? We’d like to know if so.

Fitness in focus

We had a great response to our lead feature on the importance of strength and resistance training as we get older (‘Get your strength back’, February 2024 edition). Here are a few of your inspiring letters:

The advice from Dr Hugh Bethell of Alton u3a is to undertake a programme of jogging on a treadmill, push-ups and weight training. I did all of that and more at my local gym for many years until it closed at the start of lockdown. When it reopened, I informed my wife that I intended to rejoin – or get a dog. She was concerned I would catch Covid at the gym so we chose the latter. I now go for a walk with the dog every afternoon, and use Nordic poles to provide upper body exercise. I fi nd that 45 minutes of Nordic walking every day keeps me in better shape than three weekly visits to the gym ever did. It is a wonderful form of exercise that has the benefi t of being in the open air rather than in a stuffy indoor room. I would recommend it to anyone who is fi t enough to walk in the countryside. For good measure, feeding the dog costs a lot less than the gym subscription.

Nick White, Sevenoaks u3a

I enjoyed reading the cover story that featured u3a member Rosemary Mallace and her online fi tness regime. I decided to start doing Olympic weightlifting at the age of 70. My husband, who is a veteran British weightlifting champion, became my trainer. Soon, I was doing 35kg (5st 5lbs) clean and jerk, and power-lifting 60kg (9st 5lbs). Sadly, lockdown put a stop to my dreams of competitive lifting. However, I still do exercises with dumbbell weights each morning, and I walk at least two miles daily. I cannot recommend doing some form of exercise daily highly enough. My husband who is just entering his 80th year is still weight-lifting three times a week, which keeps him fi t and healthy.

Veronica Walton, Shoreham & Southwick u3a

Tricky terminology

Derek Ross’s opinion piece on how older

people are treated by society (February 2024) prompted several members to get in touch:

So, Derek Ross at 77 feels he is getting older: as I am halfway through my 97th year, I reckon I have passed ‘getting’ and now ‘got’ old. The passage through the years has been eventful. Losing my wife some 11 years ago brought about great changes, but one has to go along with these. When Havant u3a was formed, I was one of the fi rst in the queue. I am an active member and have only recently given up being convenor of our Use Your Bus Pass group. I fi nd people in general seem to be helpful, friendly and pleased to lend a hand

if needed. I am a pensioner, so why object to being called one? I am inclined to think that maybe the attitudes of people to us ‘oldies’ is rather infl uenced by what they see as our attitude to them.

Ken Arkell, Havant u3a

Shouldn’t Derek be grateful that one younger passenger offered him a seat, when several did not? Is it such an unreasonable assumption that folk in their later decades (wrinkled or not) might fi nd crowded transport an uncomfortable hazard? As Derek points out, we are not a hom*ogeneous category: in fact, some readers might be offended by the term ‘old age’ rather than, say, ‘vintage dude’. Neil Richardson, Holmfirth u3a

I found it interesting that Derek felt offended when it was he and not his slightly younger wife (both in age and looks) who was offered a seat. As a woman of 70+, I would think it only right if a man – older and more frail-looking than me – was offered a seat before me. Derek feeling offended highlights how being polite and sexism can get entangled. Only by being equally polite to each other, irrespective of sex, can we be truly equal. I agree with Derek about how the use of the term ‘pensioner’ diminishes the person spoken about. At the same time, describing people by their job is also not without its problems. Derek himself uses a word that I really object to, and that is ‘elderly’. I am aware many consider this to be polite, but in my view it contains an implication of weakness or feebleness. I usually say to people: you are welcome to call me old, as this is just a fact, but don’t ever call me elderly, until I can’t manage without daily care from others.

Anonymous u3a member.

Receipts from the past

In response to the article ‘Everyone has a story to tell’ (February 2024), as a family and local historian, I have always encouraged people to write about themselves. I also believe we need to illustrate our stories. My own story starts in 1941 when our country was at war. I was born in Listerdale Maternity Home, near Rotherham, Yorkshire, and my father fi lled in a small booklet with not only the date of my birth, but also the time. He also completed a page which shows I was baptised in Derby at the church where my parents were married, and where my grandmother lived. Th is was a time before the National Health Service, and I am lucky enough to have two surviving receipts that show my father paid £2 and £4.15.00 maternity fees to the local council. Do any other readers have items like these?

Pauline Marples, Forest Town & District u3a

  • We agree - these tangible reminders of the past are so important. See also ‘Memories for the future’ in Stories to Share on page 35 which also provides a way of keeping our personal histories alive.

What about the inheritance?

Your letters (Autumn 2023 and February 2024) around single-person discrimination and pension disparity continue to spark interest.

I read with interest Gillian Leeper’s letter on singleperson discrimination, but she did not mention inheritance tax. The threshold for single people is £325,000, and tax is payable on any sum over this at a rate of 40%. Many of your members will own property that is valued above this fi gure, to say nothing of any savings they may have. I am aware of how this fi gure is reached and why those who are married or widowed are subject to a higher threshold, but it does seem to be a situation where some redress could be made. The standard answer from anyone in authority is that inheritance tax only affects about 4% of the population, implying that this is something not worth bothering about.

Angela Mayes, Shrewsbury u3a

Another form of discrimination that often affects the elderly is against people with no children. Inheritance tax rules favour people with direct descendants, including adopted and foster children. Childless people can also be discriminated against in certain aspects of their employment.

Charles Rudd (four grandnephews and no children), Harrow u3a.

Bearing up!

I I read the article from Sue Morris headed ‘Bear necessities’. I have belonged to the charity Free the Bears for a few years now, so I was very interested in reading her hands-on experience with these wonderful bears, and other animals who have suff ered cruelty and who so desperately need our help. I follow their progress through my regular updates from the charity. What a wonderful visit it must have been for Sue and her friend. Well done both of you – I am envious!

Sandi Cole, u3a Ripon.

Family packs are fabulous!

In the February letters page, I was astonished at the negativity of those members who complained about the large packs of food available in the supermarkets. There are endless ways of economically using them - all you need is a medium-sized freezer. Buy them! Here are a few ideas:

1 . A pack of four chicken breasts can be wrapped individually and put in a freezer bag – that’s four meals! Do the same with a pack of eight sausages, and divide up bacon rashers – they all freeze well.

2. Divide a large pack of mince in two: one will make a batch of shepherd’s pie divided into separate portions then frozen. Use the rest to make a Bolognese sauce for either lasagne or spaghetti.

3. Love roast chicken? Buy a small one. You will get at least three meals from it and also stock from the carcass. If you use sliced bread, freeze it in its bag. Separate how many slices you need at any time with a spatula.

4. Put apples, potatoes and carrots in the salad drawer of the fridge. Bananas will last at least a week: keep in a banana bag (available from Lakeland), then place in the fridge.

5. If you like an occasional glass of wine, boxed wine is a super alternative to an opened bottle.

What is more, I always have something that I can produce for unexpected guests. Don’t be so pessimistic – give it a go and surprise yourself!

Pamela Hart, Watford & District u3a.

A problem shared

In our February issue, one member shared her frustration at being unable to persuade her husband to engage with the u3a. Here is just some of the advice you had for her.

I HAD A VERY similar problem with my husband. He found it hard to mix with strangers. We both joined u3a, but I only joined to try and get my husband involved. He started going to meetings on his own but nobody spoke to him. He likes board games and we set up a Rummikub group at home for just four people. Only women came but he made a connection with them, and one lady encouraged him to join a walking group. He now walks with men and women and talks to them all. He goes to mahjong and we both go to the gardening club. It has certainly given him lots to look forward to and he is much happier.

Sue Dullaway, Bromley u3a.

JEAN MIGHT LIKE TO suggest that her husband join the Men’s Sheds Association. The sheds are like workshops where men can go and use equipment they may not have at home, or get help with a task they want to undertake, and also offer their knowledge and skills to others. Where I live, there is also a repair shop run by volunteers where men and women off er to look at items that are broken or not working properly and off er to repair them for a donation. Maybe a place like this would be something that would interest her husband and where his skills would be much appreciated.

Barbara Evans, Harborough Welland u3a.

AS A MALE WHO HAS only recently joined my local u3a, I read with interest Jean’s problem and have a great deal of sympathy with her and her husband. Jean is keen for her husband to share and enjoy some of the benefits that u3a can bring, as she has done. She may need to give him time to think about the idea so that he does not feel he is being cajoled into joining. A man needs a shed: it is somewhere that he can go to be alone on his own property without being ‘in the way’ or ‘making a mess’ (no offence, ladies, and no apologies!) A shed is not something that men generally share with others but he may have other interests or hobbies that he can share with both men and women, such as an art group, sport, history or garden trips, for example. The seed has to be sown in such a way that it becomes his idea or his decision. In any event, it is inevitable that the man will feel outnumbered. Nevertheless, I would encourage any man to join and give it a try. I am pleased that I did and have enjoyed some wonderful days out and made new friends.

Bill Watkins, Bridgnorth u3a.

I HAD THE SAME PROBLEM with my husband. I was loving all the groups I was in and wanted him to enjoy u3a as much as I did. Classical music was our shared leisure interest so we ran a classical music group for a few years together. Then we ran a humour group and eventually my husband set up a film society in our local village. All the while, I became chairman and he ran the groups for a while on his own until illhealth took over.

Wendy Hill, Ledbury u3a.

AS AN INTROVERT MALE in my 60s, I know that my wife (also 60s and very extrovert) gets frustrated that I only belong to a couple of interest groups. Personally, I’m very happy with my own company and get frustrated myself when told I ought to be more sociable! I consider myself relatively academic, and I’m never happier than when I have my head stuck in a pile of books or am visiting a museum by myself and not wondering whether a companion is getting bored. I have read a couple of articles recently written by introverts, saying that the world seems populated by extroverts who don’t understand them or, worse, think that they can convert introverts into extroverts for their own good. Maybe it’s time to let sleeping dogs lie...

Anonymous u3a member.

Another dilemma

My wife and I have been members of u3a for almost two decades, and have always been actively involved, volunteering our services to various groups and helping to organise events and meetings. However, as we have grown older, it’s becoming increasingly apparent we don’t have quite the same energy we once did!

While we want to continue as members and do what we can, we need to hand the baton for some of the more demanding tasks over to others in our u3a who are much younger. The problem is, there seems to be a reluctance by others to commit wholeheartedly to all the different things we’ve taken on, not helped by the fact that the interest groups we belong to seem only to attract older members like us: younger folk belong to very different ones. It would be very sad if some of our long-running favourite groups were eventually disbanded because there isn’t anyone to keep the engines running. What would anyone suggest we do? Bob (Name has been changed.).

  • How would you advise Bob? Send your thoughts to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Head your email: Advice: A Problem Shared). If you have a dilemma you’d like help with, head your email: Dilemma. Alternatively, send a letter to the u3a offi ce. All letters and answers are anonymous.

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Members pinboard

What have you been up to? Got an event to celebrate, news to share, or something to commemorate in your u3a world? We want to know about it!

Painting prowess

Burton upon Trent’s Painting for Beginners class has now been up and running for almost a year. “Most people who attend said they couldn’t paint when they fi rst enquired,” says coordinator Barry Appleby. “My reply was: ‘Come along and within four weeks you will have a painting you will be proud to hang on your wall!’” Here are some of the paintings on display at an exhibition in the local library.

Celebrating in style

Alsager & District u3a marked its 25th anniversary in 2023, and celebrated with a concert put on by its 50-strong orchestra. “We packed out St Mary’s Church in Alsager, with well over 200 attending,” says chair Alan Bell. “We asked for donations at the end and raised £2,000, which was distributed to three local charities and the church.”

Rambling on…

Havering u3a has notched up an impressive 300 rambles, nearly 30 years after the fi rst one took place. The Christmas time ramble took in many of the sites of London, fi nishing in Paddington station just in time for lunch. The group is run by Lorna and Alex Turner, with Lorna organising almost 250 events since 2003.

Chance encounter

The annual u3a open day in East Suffolk saw the Netball group strike up a bond with the Photographic group. With the netballers in need of new players, the photographers were happy to come along to a session and take some great action shots, which are now being used to help encourage more people to come along.

Birthday leads to new members

Saffron Waldon was the fi rst Essex u3a, formed in 1984, and are planning a 40th birthday celebration on 23 September at Saffron Walden Town Hall. A taster meeting was organised, which resulted in 30 new people signing up, and two new members setting up Scrabble and New Testament Greek groups.

  • Send brief details of your memorable event – and a good clear photograph – to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mark your email: PINBOARD.

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Brain games


From Peter M Kitchen of Preston & District u3a. Many clues and solutions relate to television programmes past and present.


1 .Prison food? … (8)

5. … Bread, for instance (3 3)

8. Cottage perhaps from Country File (6)

9. Tipping Point or second helpings (8)

10. Especially wide? (5)

12. Put up with The Tube for a supply of water (9)

15. Last of the Summer Wine party shrine (8)

16. Inexpensive plan (6)

18. Thought it’s 12 o’clock – about half time (6)

20. Led a ride – bumpy and more dangerous (8)

21. Attempt 24 down (9)

23. Letter O - great! (5)

26. Understand that Wakey Wakey is being broadcast (6 2)

27. They serve silly Mr Bean (6)

28. Iron Man or woman (6)

29. Former BBC magazine to catalogue Rene’s trickery (8)


1. Barrier to obstruct dealer (6, 5)

2. Trekker – the final frontier and beyond (5)

3. Make an impression in Countdown (4)

4. They map complex powers of understanding (7)

5. Is it bangers ‘n’ mash? – Veg! (6, 4)

6. Took off Pointless and stumbled (6)

7. Admit the absent king – an adult (3, 2)

11. Run round a Wheel of Fortune say – fool (5)

13. Musician set foot in a Highland town with hesitation (11)

14. Cave in sadly following State intrigue (10)

17. Front men on the radio (5)

19. Broken down train that is showing no movement (7)

20. Laid-back, holding a tea caddy, during daytime (7)

22. Loop a ring through the hooter (5)

24. Rome’s enigmatic code (5)

25. Bird seen in the hibiscus vegetation (4)

Crossword SOLUTION

Across: 1. Porridge. 2. Sit Com. 8. Craven. 9. Portions. 10. Extra. 12. Standpipe. 15. Feretory. 16. Budget. 18. Notion. 20. Deadlier. 21. Endeavour. 23. Omega. 26. Cotton on. 27. Barmen. 28. Female. 29. Listener.

Down: 1. Picket fence. 2. Rover. 3. Dent. 4. Empathy. 5. String bean. 6. Tripped. 7. Own up. 11. Tarot. 13. Entertainer. 14. Connivance. 17. Guise. 19. Inertia. 20. Diurnal. 22. Noose. 24. Morse. 25. Ibis.

  • To submit a crossword, grids should be no bigger than 15 square. Email it This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject ‘CROSSWORD SUBMISSION’.

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1. Lessens the car amongst the crocks? (10)

7. Rent for pudding, banana style (5)

9. Rick, banging on about returning a call (7,4)

8. Stadium's domain (5)

11. Water features, boa-constricted (8,3)

14. Tradesperson to have about a litre or so (5)

15. Glaringly vivid slur, idiotically presented (5)

16. Could Masala have been made for a sailor? (4,6)


1. Give out when it could be a bit dustier (10)

2. Fruit the melodeon’s poem is about (5)

3. Connotation that's a bit negative (3)

4. Gait Old Bob, the happy dog has? (7)

5. She’s as slippery as an eel (5)

6. Bank card e.g. could be the plot behind it all (4,6)

10. Operating within the police? (2,5)

12. Bald I maybe, but at least it's extempore! (2-3)

13. Sound the strings of this trumpet section? (5)

15. Look in earnest, beginning to find the rest (3)


Across: 1. Diminishes. 7. Split. 8. Arena. 9. Ringing back. 11. Beaufort Sea. 14. Tiler. 15. Lurid. 16. Able seaman.

Down: 1. Distribute. 2. Melon. 3. Not. 4. Swagger. 5. Elena.

6. Back garden. 10. In force. 12. Ad lib. 13. Strum. 15. Lie.

  • For more free Professor Rebus puzzles visit pitcherwits.co.uk

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Maths challenge

Problems and puzzles are posed weekly online by Rod Marshall, Ian Stewart and u3a Maths and Stats Subject Adviser David Martin

Question 1

John and Stan are planting trees. John plants a tree every 20 minutes, while Stan, the more experienced of the two, plants a tree every 15 minutes. They have a total of 49 trees to plant. How long will it take them?

Question 2

Alison and Brenda are having a race. As Alison’s running speed is 5 metres/ second (m/s) and Brenda’s running speed is 3 m/s, Brenda is given a head start and Alison does not start running until Brenda has reached the 100-metre point on the track. How far will Alison have run when she passes Brenda?

Maths challenge solutions


Together they plant 3 + 4 = 7 trees per hour. Planting 49 trees will take 49/7 = 7 hours.


Alison is catching up on Brenda at 2m/s and so will have caught up 100m after 100/2 = 50 seconds. Alison will have run 50 x 5 = 250 m when she passes Brenda.

  • Quizzes and maths challenges are available online at

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From Michael Cleaver, of Lancaster & Morecambe u3a

Avoiding a doomed finesse

North. 9,7,4. 8,7,4. A,K,7. A,J,10,9.

Dealer West.

South. 5,2. A,Q,6,5,2. Q,10,9. K,Q,8.

The auction:

South. Double. 3.

West. 1. Pass. Pass.

North. Pass. 2 . 4.

East. Pass. Pass. All pass

West plays A, K and J. How should South plan the play?

North. 9,7,4. 8,7,4. A,K,7. A,J,10,9.

Dealer West. A, K,J, 10,8,6. K,3. J,8,6. 7,4.

South. 5,2. A,Q,6,5,2. Q,10,9. K,Q,8.

East. Q,3. J,10,9. 5,4,3,2. 6,5,3,2.

The play:

South should ruff the 3rd spade and play A followed by a low heart. She will now only lose two spades and one heart.

The bidding makes it obvious that West holds K so the fi nesse must be a losing play. Note also East's failure to respond.

South's only hope of success is fi nding West with precisely K doubleton.

  • What other puzzles and quizzes would you like to see in u3a Matters? Let us know by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Personal 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

The Foundry
156 Blackfriars Road
London, SE1 8EN

Email: advertise@u3a org uk

Deadline for next issue:
3 May 2024
Rate £1.87 a word + VAT @ 20%
Box number charge: £10

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

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 advertisem*nt 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 advertisem*nts

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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SLIM, ATTRACTIVE LADY in her early 70s, wish to meet gentleman 65-75 Hampshire/Wiltshire. Reply to Box No 312.

YOUTHFUL, ATTRACTIVE, ACTIVE LADY, 72. Optimistic outlook. WLTM kind, sincere, outgoing, active gentleman. Chesterfield area. Reply to Box No 310

WIDOWER SLIM, active, with many interests including theatre, music, rambling, dancing, travel, dining out. Seeking interesting lady to share pleasures of life. Berkshire & neighbouring counties. Reply to Box No 383.

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

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The big contribution to society starts now

Sam Mauger, u3a’s CEO, kicks off this new series that focuses on all aspects of the third age.

Since 2000 I have worked with many great colleagues through a number of initiatives and organisations that all share the aim of amplifying the voices of people as they grow older. All too often, the wider daily portrayals of older adults is delivered through a much narrower perspective. Many assumptions are made about attitude, interest and ability purely based on numerical age - so how do we change this? I believe it starts with challenging organisations to remove their ‘agecoloured spectacles’ and to see age with its fullest diversity of skills and contribution. After all, ageing is everyone’s business. Age-friendly societies Over the years, I have been involved, along with older people, in a number of campaigns that have led to practical changes. This has included everything from bus driver training to ensure drivers understand the impact of driving safely where older adults and people with disabilities are concerned, calling for access to equal employment opportunities, and researching the plight of older adults in poor rented housing. In 2016, I was involved in the Age UK London hustings for Mayor, calling upon candidates to deliver the London that older adults told us they wanted. This included a solid request to make London an age-friendly city, part of the World Health Organization global network of age-friendly cities, which was taken up by Sadiq Khan. Older adults are now at the heart of making this a reality with the London Age-Friendly Forum - a collective of organisations and individuals (including a London u3a member) - championing the experiences of older Londoners. Following this, in 2023 we were glad to see the launch of an action plan to begin making London an age-friendly city. Back in 2021, the u3a ran an internal and external survey on attitudes to age. It was clear that no matter how old they may be, people strive to continue to be involved in society as a whole, and shape their futures themselves. This outlook does not change once you hit 60, 70 or 80 (ask the average person over the age of 60 who an ‘older person is’ and you can guarantee it won’t be them – it will be someone else!). What older people want A good example of the challenges faced in changing wider attitudes to age is in consumerism. Just like younger people, those in the third age invariably buy products and use services because they want them, not because they need them. Yet all too often this intention is not clearly perceived or delivered on by manufacturers, companies or service providers. What older people choose to invest in should not have an ‘older person’ label attached: these are things older people want. The wider conversation about age in every part of our living world is missing. Seeing people as they age as valuable, diverse members of society with an active, informed attitude and an intelligent voice is crucial, and ever more important. It means that people of all ages have to be heard. Older adults have so much to give in time and skill, and we need those qualities in our communities right now. People don’t stop contributing in retirement – certainly, if the u3a is anything to go by! Indeed, this is when the big contribution starts.

u3a - u3a matters Spring 2024 (2024)
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