We were delighted that Dr Timothy Walker, former Director of Oxford University Botanic Gardens and BBC 4 TV presenter, was our speaker at our January meeting. It was the third time that Timothy had visited us and again his talk was excellent. Intriguingly entitled “Sex, Lies and Putrefaction”, Timothy described the wonderful pollination strategies of a huge variety of plants from around the world and their importance to not only the plants themselves but also to the survival of the animal kingdom including human beings. Superb slides with a fascinating, informative commentary and comments delivered in Timothy’s inimitable amusing style, brightened a dull, dreary January afternoon. We very much look forward to a return visit in the near future.
Our speaker at the November main meeting was Bernard Lockett who is a trustee of the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival and a broadcaster on the subject of the famous operas. He gave a most interesting and informative account of the lives of G and S and their collaboration in creating some of the most memorable songs and controversial lyrics which are still relevant today. Bernard explained how there has been a recent revival in the operas with performances around the world especially in Russia. In the UK, productions are much livelier with up-to – date choreography and are attracting sell-out audiences. It was very enjoyable to watch snapshots of some of the 2017 Festival performances.
The AGM was well-attended and after preliminary notices, Michael George, our president, opened the business part of the meeting. Reports on the year 2016-17 were given by the Chair, Treasurer, Membership Secretary and Social Events Secretary. Four members of the Committee, Steve Williams, Jenny Boorer, Pauline Watts and Christine Huggins, who were standing down from their posts, were thanked for their valuable work over the past three years. The remaining members of the Committee were re-elected and four new members, Colin and Jenny Robinson, Eleanor McGregor and Ray Marshall were elected to fill the vacancies. After the AGM had closed, the Walking Group gave an entertaining slide show presentation about their walk along the Grand Union Canal. The meeting ended with tea and a wonderful selection of cakes from Godwin’s Bakery.
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.