By popular request, our September speaker was Sally Botwright, a well-known London Blue Badge Guide who gave Part 2 of her excellent talk “London Oddities and Curiosities”. We were entertained and educated with some of the unusual sites in London with many amusing anecdotes and intriguing pieces of information. I’m sure we will all be looking for those special red telephone boxes identifying them as listed buildings! Sally’s extensive knowledge of many aspects of London life always illustrate what a wonderful city it is and we hope that she will return in the future to give us Part 3 of her talk with more about the interesting things we have not noticed in our capital city.
The August Main Meeting speaker was Roy Smart, who gave an excellent talk entitled “Amy. Wonderful Amy”, which detailed the life of the famous aviator, Amy Johnson. Roy described how Amy, an unknown woman from Hull with very little flying experience,, became the darling of the 1930’s after she became the first woman to fly solo to Australia. The fascinating story of her flying exploits, her disastrous relationships with men, her brief stay in Princes Risborough and her mysterious disappearance when her plane crashed into the Thames, was superbly presented. Roy’s slide show complete with film and music clips, was absorbing and entertaining. We hope that Roy will return in 2018 to give another of his excellent talks.
Our speaker at the July main meeting was Roger Moorhouse, the well-known historian, researcher and author. Roger is no stranger to Princes Risborough having been on four occasions to give talks to packed audiences of members of the History Group. His talk “The Rise of the Nazis” explained the reasons behind Hitler’s rise to power in the years between the First and Second World Wars. A fascinating and informative talk from an expert in German and Mid-European history. We certainly gained a much greater knowledge of that particular period of history that had such tragic consequences for so many people around the world. Roger also gave his considered views on current recent developments following the rise of certain politicians in the world and whether there were similarities with the rise of Hitler.
The speaker at our May meeting was Ian Keable who gave us a superb talk on the 19th century satirist and illustrator, George Cruikshank. Ian’s expertly prepared presentation, illustrated his educational and interesting talk on the life and work of Cruikshank charting his skills from satirical prints lampooning the Prince Regent and Napoleon in the Georgian era to his beautiful engravings for numerous books and journals in Victorian times. He is most famous for his collaboration with the young Charles Dickens and brilliant drawings for “Oliver Twist”. Cruikshank’s personal life revealed his obsession with temperance and a secret, long term mistress who had 8 of his children! An excellent talk and we hope that Ian will come back to give another of his talks with a magical twist in 2018.
We were taken from the hot, humidity of Calcutta up to the cooler, fresher mountain air of the old hill station of Darjeeling on one of the world’s great railway journeys involving “The Toy Train to the Clouds”. Our guide was Captain Paul Whittle, who gave a wonderful talk on the World Heritage British-built Darjeeling railway which climbs 7,000 feet to the foothills of the Himalayas. The colours, sights, sounds and smells of the towns and villages en route were gloriously illustrated with many lovely photographs in Paul’s presentation. Not only did we learn about the railway, but also about the history and people of the region. The tea plantations, the fabulous regal buildings and the links with the British Empire were highlighted as was the fabulous scenery and stunning views of the snow clad Kangchenjunga and the Himalayas. No wonder the Raj loved Darjeeling. We hope that Paul will pay us a return visit in 2018 to tell us more of his travellers’ tales
Our speaker at the February meeting was Dr Martin Hodson an environmental biologist who is a researcher and lecturer at the two Oxford Universities. Martin had previously visited us to give brilliant talks on GM crops and climate change and at this month’s meeting he gave an excellent talk on “The Future of Energy”. He explained in easy to understand terms, the problems of our current reliance on fossil fuels for the world’s energy supplies. The pros and cons of fracking and nuclear energy were discussed and the possible effects of the recent change in policy of the newly elected US administration. We were given some very interesting statistics on how in the last few years countries particularly China and the US, had dramatically increased their interest in and use of renewable forms of energy. A very interesting and educational talk making us much more aware of the current world energy situation and possible options and consequences in the future.
The speaker at the January meeting was Susanne Carr, our local art historian and lecturer who gave us an inspirational talk on The Wallace Collection. After explaining the history behind the art collection, she introduced us to 20 of her favourite paintings with great expertise and humour. This enabled us to see behind our initial viewing thus revealing the true meanings and artistry of the wonderful works of art. There were paintings from all eras, many with hidden symbols that Susanne pointed out, some of which had very naughty meanings! Gems in the collection such as “The Laughing Cavalier” by Frans Hals and Fragonard’s “The Swing” were examined and explained and helped us to take a fresh look at these masterpieces with newly opened eyes. A fast moving, enlightening and very enjoyable talk. Thank you Susanne.
On December 13th, we held our annual Christmas Party. The hall was full to capacity with everyone in a festive mood and ready to be entertained by Adrian Broadway with his own inimitable style of quirky music. With the theme of “Happy” he kept us amused and in voice with both happy and Christmas songs backed by an array of unusual instruments. We were then treated to a mouth-watering selection of savoury and sweet light bites and flowing wine and soft drinks expertly served by some very fine wine waiters. Those who had small stickers under their seats claimed the lovely table decorations made by members of the Gardening Group. Thanks go to everyone who had worked so hard, both before and during the event, to make the afternoon such a success. Special thanks go to Cathy and her social team for organising the afternoon. A very happy start to the Christmas season.
Our speaker at the November main meeting was Captain William Wells a retired river and sea pilot. William gave a fascinating talk on the Life and Times of a Ship’s Pilot detailing his life in the Merchant Navy and Royal Navy Reserve and his work as a river and deep sea pilot on the Thames, in the Far East, the Bahamas and the English Channel. He ended his career as the Senior Pilot in the Port of London. Wonderful stories of ships, seamen and pilots around the world illustrated with excellent slides and scary videos of life at sea and on the great rivers.
Every year in October, we hold out Annual General Meeting. This year the well-supported AGM led by our President, Michael George, informed members of the year’s activities in reports from the Chairman, Treasurer, Membership Secretary and Social Secretary. Geraint James, Chairman, and June Brazier, Social Secretary, had completed their terms of office and were thanked for all their hard work and dedication in helping to make our U3A such a thriving and successful organisation. After being proposed and seconded, members voted two new members, Jenny Boorer and Roger Jones on to the Committee. Once the business section of the meeting had finished, Michael George entertained us with some two short film clips of fascinating ballooning events over London and at the Albuquerque Balloon festival. We were enthralled by the wonderful scenes of huge numbers of beautiful balloons flying through the sky. This was then followed with a superb afternoon tea and a fantastic selection of cakes from Godwin’s Patisserie.