Our speaker at the June main meeting was Clare Smallman who was an ambassador from Great Ormond Street Hospital. Clare gave a most interesting talk about the history of the hospital, the current work being done and its future plans. With a very clear and enjoyable slide presentation together with video clips, Clare explained how the hospital was an international hub for the treatment of children and how it was at the forefront of ground-breaking research. Some very touching footage of young patients and their families telling their stories of how the hospital had saved lives enabled us to see the wonderful work of the hospital. Clare told us of the new buildings that had recently been constructed and the exciting fields of research that were being investigated to help children to survive life-threatening illnesses.
It was a delight to welcome back Ian Keable to our May meeting. Ian is a well- known author, broadcaster, researcher and member of the Inner Magic Circle who speaks on magic history, satirical prints, cartoons and 18th century hoaxes. This time we were entertained and informed about Dickens, the Conjuror through a playbill of his most famous show. Dickens was a keen amateur conjuror for around 7 years of his life, calling himself the ‘Unparalleled Necromancer’. Ian gave us a highly amusing and expertly presented account of this little-known part of the great author’s life and to round off an excellent talk, he performed two Dickensian tricks to the amazement of all.
At our April main meeting, we were treated to a wonderful talk given by one of our members, Bernard Foot. Bernard’ talk, ”Behind the Edelweiss”, described the dark history behind Austria in the first half of the twentieth century and how it fashioned our modern world. With an excellent slide presentation, we were taken through the fall of the Austro Hungarian Empire after WWI, the collapse of the Austrian Republic, the rise of the Nazis and the Anschluss and the consequences of Austria’s alignment with Germany in WWII. A fascinating, illuminating story highlighted with memorable insights into Bernard’s personal links with Austria.
Our speaker at the March main meeting was Tom Way, a young, dynamic, award-winning wildlife photographer. Tom gave a fantastic talk on wildlife that we can find on our doorstep and illustrated it with his fabulous photographs. Beautiful images of foxes, puffins, kingfishers, birds of prey, deer, water voles and other British wildlife were accompanied by Tom’s accounts of the joys, and challenges when trying to find his subjects and to take the best shots. With hints on how he created his meaningful and wonderful shots, Tom enthralled us all with his passion and dedication for wildlife as well as his artistic skills. The ensuing long question and answer session showed how much the audience appreciated his presentation. I am sure that everyone will be very pleased that Tom has agreed to make a return visit in 2019.
It was a pleasure to welcome back Tim Addison, one of our longer serving members, who gave us a wonderful talk “In Search of Cetaceans”. Tim described his world travels searching for whales, dolphins and seals, his journeys taking him around the British Isles, Antarctica, and Western Australia. A most interesting and educational presentation illustrated with superb slides. Thank you Tim for reminding us of these beautiful creatures and why we should ensure their survival.
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.