Group News


The Group Co-ordinator is John Craig email

 


See the Complete List of Groups and Group Contacts Read about recent Group Outings

 

Read about potential New GroupsRead about Groups seeking New Members

 

As our group meetings are held in many different venues, often individual members’ homes, please check with the leader of the group you are interested in about accessibility.

 

A copy of the latest Group Leader Gudelines is available for existing and new Group Leaders

 

On occasions Group Leaders will be emailed concerning Group Leader meetings etc A list of these emails are kept on the website for review by Group Leaders

 

During Lockdown Groups have been asked to report how they are coping. A new Page Group Lockdown News Summary has been created.

 

 


FREE GRESHAM HISTORY TALKS

We have received an invitation from Lucia Graves, of Gresham College to attend their free public online lectures. They can be watched both at the scheduled time and afterwards (online).

--------------------------------------

You can read more about Gresham College's free public lectures since 1597 here.

Of general topical interest, as well as the straight history lectures coming up this year, there is a lecture by Professor Chris Whitty on the history of Vaccination, and how it has transformed healthcare, and an old series on epidemics by the historian Professor Richard J Evans, that you may be interested in.

You can register for any lectures using an email address, and will get a reminder 10 minutes before the lecture is due to start.

History One-Off lectures 2021

The South Sea Bubble of 1720 by Helen Paul, 1pm, Tues 30 Mar 2021

Napoleon: Shadows & Gardens by Ruth Scurr, 1pm, Thurs 6 May 2021

Theatres of War: Crusade, Colonialism and Chivalry in the Middle Ages by Nicholas Paul, 1pm, Thurs 3 June 2021

History Series with lectures still to go in 2021 (you can watch the earlier ones online now)

A series on Great Tudor and Stuart Houses by the superb Simon Thurley - next one is Private Palaces: Mansions of the Marlboroughs, 6pm, Tues 15 June 2021.

Alec Ryrie on England's Reformations - this excellent series has been our top-rated lecture series so far this year (by views), next one England's Anglican Reformation 6pm, Weds 21 Apr 2021.

A series on Darwin by Jim Endersby (all complete now).

Joanna Bourke on Evil Women (cultural history - next one is on Myra Hindley), 6pm, Thurs 13 May 2021.

The Politics of the Courtroom by the writer and QC Thomas Grant looks at things like the state appointment of judges, and the 'political lawyer' from Apartheid South Africa to contemporary Britain. Next lecture is on the Politics of Judging, 6pm, Mon 29 Mar 2021.

A series on Great Thinkers by Classicist Edith Hall (one of our best lecturers) - next one is on Cynics, Stoics, and Epicureans, 1pm, Thurs 27 May.

You can see everything History-related here.

You can sign up Gresham's email newsletter here: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/newsletter/.

Neil Skinner

0421

 


MODERN NOVELS GROUP 1 NOVEMBER 2020

Modern Novels Group 1 has thrived for nearly 30 years. Our formula seems to work and we’re in no hurry to change it.

So when Covid descended we looked for a way of continuing our meetings that wouldn’t be too disruptive. We settled on using email, which was the only technology with which all our members were familiar.

In May we ‘met’ via email to ‘discuss’ our novel of the month. Some members circulated their initial thoughts and others responded. But while this arrangement allowed us to stay active as a group, it proved unsatisfactory. The interactions were too slow and ponderous, and all that typing was a chore.

So, like many other U3A groups, we switched to Zoom. Despite some initial hesitancy, all our members managed the transition without undue difficulty.

Zoom has been very much better than email, but still nowhere near as good as our old physical meetings. Clashes seem to be inevitable, with too many people trying to talk at once, and protocols around use of the mute button don’t really seem to work. Also, our meetings are considerably shorter than they used to be – we discuss the novel, have a brief chat, and it’s over.

But the biggest drawback is the absence of cake. Our group has only two rules, one of which is that the meeting host provides tea and cake, often home-made and always delicious. But Zoom is sadly lacking any ability to support that worthy tradition.

So for our December Zoom meeting we’re all going to come equipped with mulled wine and mince pies. We’ll raise our glasses and wish each other a happy Christmas. While not as good as being in the same room and handing round the cake, it’s the best we can do.

But, you ask, what about the novels? Well, as always, we’ve had a mixed bag. Some we’ve liked, others not so much. Though often it’s the novels we don’t like that trigger the best discussion, so there’s always an upside.

One novel we’ve recently enjoyed is Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls. It’s a charming story about a troubled young man who is led by his love for the leading lady to take a part in an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet. As the blurb on the cover says, one life-changing summer. If you’re looking for a novel that’s an easy read, engrossing, entertaining and funny, you could do far worse.

Vic Stenning

1120

 


BOOK REVIEW. THE NINTH HOUR, BY ALICE MCDERMOTT

Group 2 Modern Novels

Although Alice McDermott is an award winning American author, she had gone under Group 2’s radar until her eighth novel, The Ninth Hour, was chosen for discussion. We all agreed that this was a beautifully written and powerfully affecting story. It was not an easy read as the author doesn’t shy away from the pain, suffering and sinfulness of human beings; she explores death, depression, motherhood, girlhood, religious life, and illness, to name a few of the themes. But we all felt it was a very worthwhile read. The title of the book alludes to the ninth hour of prayer (nones) at 3:00 in the afternoon, but also the hour that Jesus died: a hint to readers that this book does not ignore darkness; instead it is embraced.

Spanning the 20th Century, it is the story of a widow, Annie, and her daughter Sally (who becomes the focus of the story) and the nuns belonging to the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn. These characters and others who feature in the lives of the main protagonists are vividly brought to life.

The reader is drawn into the book by the recounting of the suicide of a young Irish immigrant, Jim, who opens the gas taps in his Brooklyn tenement, while his pregnant wife, Annie, is out running an errand. The Sisters come to Annie’s aid, providing her with employment in the convent laundry, where Sally experiences an unconventional, almost-cloistered childhood.

The book primarily follows Sally’s life, born in a tragic situation, and her heartrending struggles with faith and helping others in her journey to adulthood. It is narrated retrospectively by unidentified descendants of Sally and her husband. We don’t know their gender, or even how many voices we are hearing, nor do we know their ages or their names. This was confusing at times as it was slightly difficult to decipher the relationships of some characters and the time frame which any particular section is placed within. But it ultimately builds to a comprehensive picture of a family tree, one which, without the help of the Sisters, might not have survived. Jim’s suicide, although never spoken of, reverberates through many lives and over the decades, even through multiple generations.

Modern Novels Group 2 highly recommends The Ninth Hour. It provided the group with material for a very vibrant discussion.

Celia Harris

0420

 


FROM BED TO BOOK IN FIFTEEN MONTHS, OR WHAT I GOT UP TO DURING LOCKDOWN

Tom Edith

I was very lucky during the night of 18 September 2019. At around 3 am, I woke up with a story going round my head. I don’t remember dreaming about it, it was just there. I lay in bed for a few minutes thinking about the adventure in my brain and decided it was too good to forget. So I got out of bed, woke up the computer and typed up a plot summary. File creation time is recorded as 04:14.

Months passed by and in the dark days of December last year I decided to type up my little story. I found that the words came easily enough; after all, I am used to creating articles from almost nothing for my own parish magazine when we are running short of copy to fill the pages. I completed several pages of a short novel in only a few days. Another flash of inspiration whilst doing the washing-up allowed me to complete the story and by Christmas I had the basis of my book.

Universal guidance from the internet was – leave it alone for a month. Following that advice was so hard. I wanted to edit it, change a few things and spend more time with my new pet project. But I was ruthless and allowed four weeks to go by before sitting down and rereading it from start to finish. There were passages that were too complicated, some that were too short and some that just didn’t need to be there. Eventually I had a short novel ready for public scrutiny - so I gave it to my sister. Her several pages of notes came back and I must say she had spotted things that I hadn’t even noticed were wrong. Spellings, grammar and plot details that couldn’t possibly happen. So I returned to the computer and amended those points that I felt needed further attention.

A friendly artistic designer produced a cover and I got a local printer to do a short initial run and there I had it, my debut short story, Tom & Edith, which I could hold in my hand. Unless you’ve done that sort of thing yourself, you have no idea how fulfilling that felt. However, a couple of months later, when the first lockdown started, I began to feel I hadn’t really done the story justice. It was lacking something but it took me a while to realise what it was. I had written the entire story from just the hero’s point of view. So I put myself in the heroine’s shoes (having read a good deal of chick-lit in my time, I found this surprisingly easy to do) and began to write her story as a separate book, Edith & Tom. Soon after that, I combined the two novels and produced an expanded version of Tom & Edith’s adventure. Further intense proof reading and historical research necessarily moved the beginning of the story on by about a year but the definitive Tom & Edith, second edition, is now in print.

On the one hand, I surprised how easy the whole exercise had been, but on the other, I was amazed how long it had taken. But when you’re doing something creative and when you have no specific deadline to meet, it’s quite true that time doesn’t really matter. Currently, Winchester U3A doesn’t have a Creative Writing Group and based on having written only two short stories (the first Tom & Edith [only two copies sold so far] and the other a failed entry for the National U3A short story competition this summer) I’m not sure I’m the best person to lead it. But if enough members make contact, I’m sure we can come up with something!

Vernon Tottle, Author !

As an introduction to the novel, chapter one follows herewith.

Tom & Edith

By Vernon Tottle

Chapter 1

“Thomas Liebchen. Breakfast’s ready. Get down now or you’ll be late. And Aunt Sophia has sent you another couple of magazines.”

Still lying in his bed, Tom rubbed his eyes and yawned. The Pennsylvanian sun had already pierced his curtains; it looked like another lovely spring day. “Coming, mom!” he shouted as he looked around for his clothes. Fortunately his mother as usual had laid them out for him on his chair to make his daily preparations just that bit easier. She had always done that, starting when they had lived in Leipzig fifteen years ago and he had been getting dressed for kindergarten. Now in his final year at Montgomery High, Tom had a young man’s body and his clothes had changed accordingly but they were still set out for him every day.

Down at breakfast, tucking into his Corn Flakes, he tore open the package of magazines from Germany. Radio for Young Germans and German Scientist fell onto the tablecloth as he munched his way through his cereal.

“Aunt Sophia tells me in her letter that the Nazis are imposing postal censorship next month,” said Tom’s mother. “So these may be the last magazines for a while.”

“Hey mom, it looks like this issue covers the new valve they’ve been developing for shorter wavelengths,” was all that Tom had to say in reply.

“Gut, sehr gut,” Mrs. Muller replied as she washed up the plates from her husband’s breakfast. He had already left for work at the college. He liked to be in long before his pupils to make sure he had everything set up in the laboratories in time for their classes.

“And the other magazine’s got reviews of the principles of rockets. Imagine that, mom. We might soon be able to send people from one country to another in minutes!”

"Ja, ja,” she muttered as she dried up the cups and put them away, sadly only a remnant of her treasured collection of crockery, most of which she had to leave behind when they left Germany seven years ago.

She suddenly realised that Tom had stopped eating, even stopped talking and was just looking open-mouthed at a photo in one of his new magazines. “What’s that you’re looking at?” she asked her son.

“Mom,” Tom replied, “that’s the girl I’m going to marry.”

If you want to read what happens next, please contact me.

Vernon Tottle

 

1120

 


MODERN NOVELS GROUP 6

On 8th July our group (well the six of our group who could make it that day) met in person! We hadn’t read a set book but it didn’t matter – we were actually seeing each other and had a good natter.

novel6a

 

It was a delight to realize that this bench in the Hyde Abbey Gardens was a perfect venue in clement weather. The lovely curved bench sat three people 2 metres apart and we were close enough to the carpark for the other three to fetch chairs from their cars. We only needed umbrellas for a short time and each brought our own flasks of coffee.

I would thoroughly recommend others follow our example but sadly, less than a week after a repeat meeting in August, the bench was vandalised. The Friends of Hyde Abbey Gardens posted this on their Facebook page:

novel6b

 

THIS is what remains of one the benches in Hyde Abbey Garden – and it will cost thousands to replace. Vandals destroyed the wooden structure between 2pm and 3pm yesterday afternoon (August 18). It had been there since the garden, which is a memorial for the Great Church of Hyde Abbey, first opened.

Rose Burns, a trustee of Friends of Hyde Abbey Garden, said the group is distraught.

"We have already obtained a quotation for a bench and it will apparently cost between £3,500 and £3,800," she said, "I’m told that actually the quotation was for repair of both benches, so the rebuilding of just one will cost a lot more. This was part of the original design by Kim Wilkie for the memorial garden for the Great Church of Hyde Abbey, last known resting place of Alfred the Great, his Queen Aelswitha and son Edward the Elder. It was Winchester’s Golden Jubilee project, and was opened on 2 June 2003 to mark the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.”

A fundraising page has been set up https://www.facebook.com/donate/3240293109388528/

Janie Penn Barwell

0820

 


BOOK REVIEW. THE NINTH HOUR, BY ALICE MCDERMOTT

Group 2 Modern Novels

Although Alice McDermott is an award winning American author, she had gone under Group 2’s radar until her eighth novel, The Ninth Hour, was chosen for discussion. We all agreed that this was a beautifully written and powerfully affecting story. It was not an easy read as the author doesn’t shy away from the pain, suffering and sinfulness of human beings; she explores death, depression, motherhood, girlhood, religious life, and illness, to name a few of the themes. But we all felt it was a very worthwhile read. The title of the book alludes to the ninth hour of prayer (nones) at 3:00 in the afternoon, but also the hour that Jesus died: a hint to readers that this book does not ignore darkness; instead it is embraced.

Spanning the 20th Century, it is the story of a widow, Annie, and her daughter Sally (who becomes the focus of the story) and the nuns belonging to the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn. These characters and others who feature in the lives of the main protagonists are vividly brought to life.

The reader is drawn into the book by the recounting of the suicide of a young Irish immigrant, Jim, who opens the gas taps in his Brooklyn tenement, while his pregnant wife, Annie, is out running an errand. The Sisters come to Annie’s aid, providing her with employment in the convent laundry, where Sally experiences an unconventional, almost-cloistered childhood.

The book primarily follows Sally’s life, born in a tragic situation, and her heartrending struggles with faith and helping others in her journey to adulthood. It is narrated retrospectively by unidentified descendants of Sally and her husband. We don’t know their gender, or even how many voices we are hearing, nor do we know their ages or their names. This was confusing at times as it was slightly difficult to decipher the relationships of some characters and the time frame which any particular section is placed within. But it ultimately builds to a comprehensive picture of a family tree, one which, without the help of the Sisters, might not have survived. Jim’s suicide, although never spoken of, reverberates through many lives and over the decades, even through multiple generations.

Modern Novels Group 2 highly recommends The Ninth Hour. It provided the group with material for a very vibrant discussion.

Celia Harris

0420

 


BOOK REVIEW. BITTER ORANGE, BY CLAIRE FULLER

Modern novels group 9 would like to share and recommend our book choice with other groups and U3A members

This is Claire Fuller’s third novel and we were keen to read it as she is a local author. It tells the story of Frances Jellico who is dying and remembering the summer of 1969 when she was commissioned by Mr. Lieberman, the new owner, to survey the follies in the gardens of a decrepit and almost derelict country house in Hampshire. An old friend, a vicar, is with here at her deathbed and is encouraging her to tell him what really happened that summer. A sense of suspense is quickly established.

Frances is an ungainly, lonely, socially inept woman of 39 who has spent most of her life caring for her ailing, difficult and critical mother. On arrival at Lyntons she discovers Cara and Peter (who has been commissioned to survey the interior) already in residence on the floor below her. Early on she discovers a Judas hole in her bathroom through which she can spy on the couple. Frances is bewitched by this exotic and hedonistic pair and the prospect of friendship with them beguiles her. She is drawn into a summer of extravagant and elaborate meals cooked by Cara, where champagne flows and the three of them lead a seemingly idyllic, lazy, indulgent summer, totally neglecting their brief from Mr. Lieberman. Frances is entranced by Cara’s fantastic stories of her past life. Peter initially seems less complicated, but his character is gradually revealed to the reader. Frances refuses to heed the pleadings of the vicar to distance herself from this pair and remains charmed by them.

We all enjoyed this gothic novel where Fuller blends a sense of the languid, hot August and gentle bucolic descriptions of the Hampshire countryside with an air of undefinable menace and foreboding. There are strange sounds, a face at the window , a dead bird and the eyes have been cut out of the peacocks on the wallpaper. The tension increases throughout the novel as the weaknesses of the protagonists are revealed and hints of impending disaster build. This is a novel full of surprises.

Jenny Brennan

0919

 


A ‘FLEDGLING’ BIRDWATCHING GROUP!

The Birdwatching group has now met four times. The first meeting was over coffee for planning. We have been on visits three times to watch birds – to Titchfield Haven, Winnel Moors and Blashford Lakes.

FURTHER UPDATE

The birdwatching group still has room for new members and has been out an about a few times. We had a great trip to Blashford Lakes followed by a pub lunch when we discussed other possible outings. The following month saw us at Framlington Marshes looking out for very different wading birds and some beautiful lapwings performing their spectacular aerial courtship displays. Lunch that time was a picnic in an open shelter. Eating is of course an important part of birdwatching!

If you would like to join us, please contact me, Janie Penn Barwell contact details

Janie Penn Barwell

1118