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Dear friends you will all have heard I’m sure of the infamous Chinese curse “‘May you live in interesting times!”
Well we are certainly finding ourselves in interesting times, especially those of us over seventy. But is it turning out to be a curse? So many of our members are acquiring amazing skills with virtual meetings, youtube learning tutorials and other fascinating ways to stay connected to the outside world and those we care about in spite of remaining ‘safe’ at home. I feel proud of the way we older people are engaging with these challenges and supporting each other although at a distance, so from that point of view lockdown has brought significant accomplishments which will serve us in good stead in the future when life gets back to ‘normal’.
A lot of us have needed to rely on other, usually younger, people for our shopping needs - that has forged new and hopefully continuing friendships. People who have never spoken before are shouting cheery greetings across the obligatory two metre gap.
Possibly for the very first time we have been confronted with the need to acknowledge and appreciate our NHS staff, our postmen, our dustmen, our delivery drivers, our bus and train drivers, those who serve in our shops and all caring for other vulnerable people. They are all taking huge risks cheerfully and loyally to keep the rest of us safe.
So not really a curse then.
However it has caused frustration and rage at having our physical activities impaired - we have simply had to come to terms with those emotions for our own and for the nation’s good. No-one would deny that it has not been easy and has caused serious anxieties for our mental well being. We older folk who on the whole are not struggling to pay a mortgage, or living cooped up in a tiny flat in a multi-storey block with small children need to remain thankful for what we can still do and do still have.
We will come through this awful time having learned a lot and with positive attitudes to the way forward. Here in Britain we survived the Black Death in 1348, the Great Plague of 1665 and the Spanish Flu of 1919. All that was endured without benefit of modern medicine or modern technology for staying in touch with the outside world. So please continue as you are doing to help and support each other with phone calls, emails, Zoom meetings etc in the days ahead until we do meet again on the other side.
And by the way there is lots of interesting stuff on our wonderful website.
Freda Bates Chairman
It’s one of the many frustrations of the present crisis which has taken over our world, that we cannot meet together: but that’s how it is. As everyone realises, we cannot run any of the monthly meetings from our programme until the government says they are permitted, and we are working on the assumption this may be a while yet.
We did have a programme which should have been interesting for lots of us:
In April we were due to welcome Michael Etherington to give a talk about the origins and the future of Electricity; we hope this may be possible later in the year.
May should have looked at the evolution and development of the iconic Spitfire aircraft which was so crucial in saving our country back then.
Epitomising the spirit we need today!
June held the promise of learning what we can do as individuals to help our planet by working towards a low carbon household.
July was going to be a social event with entertainment and in August we had hired the Guildhall presentation room to hear from Adrian Sindall (who gave us the brilliant talk on Syria not long ago) talking about the Arab Spring and what happened.
We still have a programme lined up, we haven’t postponed the plans for September onwards just yet in the hope of better times to come, so we will see how life develops.
Meanwhile it’s far more important that we stay safe and well, and one day as the saying goes, “we’ll meet again” but we think we do know where even if we don’t know when.
U3A Networks have always been a essential part of our organisation and a vital link between U3As and the Trust. In normal times U3As across the UK gather several times a year, in groups often known as networks, clusters or links. They support each other, they share events, advice, workshops and problem solving.
We are aware of many inspirational ideas that U3As are coming up with in order to continue their informal learning. We have been gathering ideas that might be useful for networks to consider in their support of their U3As. Here is a selection below.
1. Encourage your U3As to look at the national website – new ideas are added every day. Also to sign up to the national newsletter which comes to your inbox every month.
2. Have a Zoom meeting with representatives from your U3As, there are ‘How to’ guides on the national website (with information about various platforms) – if you have not used Zoom before.
3. There are members, who specialise in Zoom tutorials, who are available to deliver these to any network/ group of people who would like to attend or Tech volunteers who can provide one to one help via telephone or online.
4. A regular newsletter with latest ideas, advice and information sent to your U3As, asking them to disseminate it to all their members. Encourage a buddy system for those members who do not use a computer or tablet.
5. Consider other ways you can keep in contact with members who do not use computers or tablets.
6. There is a new Support forum – available on the website – for issues and problems to be shared and solved. Encourage U3As to sign up to it.
7. There are Trust Volunteers in every region who are willing to help in any way – including with technology. Contact your Regional Trustee for further information.
8. Have you got contact with all your local U3As? What about the ones that don’t belong to your network? Are they ok? Now might be the time they would welcome contact and they may end up joining the network.
What great ways are you supporting the U3As in your network? We would love to hear please. Contact Hilary Jones
Government input about Covid19 is central to any risk assessment and given the advice remains “stay at home as much as possible” and “limit contact with other people” it follows that face-to-face U3A activity should not be undertaken at present. The government reasons for leaving home remain very limited and do not include for leisure activities such as provided by the U3A.
Would you like to be part of a big, responsible research group, reporting about the spread of the virus?
You will need a smartphone or a tablet (for example an iPhone or an iPad or Samsung or other equivalent product). A laptop probably is not suitable.
COVID symptom tracker is an app for Android and iOS systems.
A research programme led by Dr Tim Spector of Kings College London together with Guys and St Thomas’s Hospitals in partnership with Zoe Global, a health systems company, invites us to tell the app every day how we are feeling and thus have a picture of millions of people all across our country. So far between 2.5 and 3 million of us log on every day for a few seconds to report. They especially want people over 70 to be in this programme.
When I registered it asked me about my age, sex, ethnicity, health questions etc so they can use the data sensibly but each day they just ask how we are feeling so it’s really quick.
In addition you get access to the results, so each day they show the daily trends of infections over the past month with a map of where the cases are, with % figures estimated of the local population by region.
The app is available on the Apple App Store and Android equivalent at no cost. It’s called COVID symptom tracker.
If you’d like to contribute to a big and responsible data base, perhaps it might inspire government to make timely and sensible decisions on how to get us out of this horrible mess.
ISOLATION PLAN - Literally written on the back of an envelope, but it was a big one!
There’s a cupboard on the landing – floor to ceiling, chock-a-block
With boxes, bags and packages, all bulging with a stock
Of ‘that might come in handy’, ‘that’s quite nice’ and souvenirs
Of inefficient storing over more than forty years.
It needs a clear out and I am quite ready now that I’m
At home in isolation, and at last I have the time.
But first perhaps the larder and that aging flour that begs
To become a cake with Stork and those two also aging eggs.
The icing sugar’s not too hard, and even I might find
That half a tub of cherries that last Christmas left behind.
I’ll make it, then for clearing I’ll be absolutely free,
But maybe I’ll just taste it with a lovely cup of tea.
Then I’ll have to pass the wardrobe, so much sorting needed there,
All those much loved dresses from my past, I’m now too big to wear.
Did I really buy a sweater of that ghastly shade of puce
For which not even charities could find financial use?
But I’ll bag and sort my choices from disasters to the best
Then start upon that cupboard after just a little rest.
But bags suggest the bookshelves and the chance for getting rid
Of the ‘must reads’ that I didn’t, and some lowbrow stuff I did.
Oh, and there’s dear Georgette Heyer, read until she fell apart,
For while masterpieces stretched my mind, her humour warmed my heart.
I’ll just take another look at her, it isn’t much to ask.
Then, inspired I’ll face that cupboard and be ready for the task.
But now the sun’s come out, and so I really shouldn’t miss
Some time out in the garden, and not stay indoors like this,
When dead heading and some planting are the things the garden needs,
And keeping down the moss, the slugs and strong assorted weeds,
For, whatever lurks behind that cupboard door, this truth I know
Though rubbish seems to gather, unlike weeds it doesn’t grow.
So, writing now I wonder what will happen through the year.
. Will I be well and free or still be isolated here?
And, if I am, will I be wise, not fritter life away,
But work and learn and stay in touch with people every day?
Whatever I achieve though, I’m afraid there still will be
A landing cupboard chock-a-block just waiting there for me.
Heather Riley sometime member of the Worthies WI March 2020
Those of you good at downloading apps may find taking part in this research a worthwhile use of some of our unexpected free time.
Go to https://covid.joinzoe.com/ .
Freda Bates Chairman
The following message was sent to all Group Leaders on 17th March:-
Dear Group Leader,
With the best interests of all our members at heart the committee have decided to cancel the April and May monthly meetings and re-schedule the speakers. This message will be put on the website. We will make every effort to keep you informed about developments for subsequent months.
We are relying on group leaders to pass on this information as not all our members use the internet. Given the diversity of our groups, their members and their venues we ask group leaders to consult with their members and make a decision to meet or not on this basis. A possible outcome of this projected lockdown is depression and feelings of loneliness and isolation. Please keep up everyone’s morale with phone calls and emails etc as much as you can. Already the brighter light and welcome spring flowers are helping to lift our spirits until, in the words of Vera Lynn, “We’ll meet again!” and not before too long I hope,
Freda, your chairman.
To Chairs and Secretaries
Following the Government and NHS announcement yesterday, the Third Age Trust has created a dedicated page on the national website to keep you up to date with the latest guidance and advice - both general and specific to U3A.
Please let your members know that they can find it here
Living History in Unprecedented Times
U3A members are being asked to help craft a shared learning project where they create living history of this extraordinary time.
The project will look for personal thoughts, ideas and reflections on how this feels to you and what you are doing to deal with it. Members may want to keep an electronic diary or to find a little note-book which you can have close at hand to scribble down thoughts as they come.
We are asking people to write up anything they think relevant to having to be at home and your thoughts and reactions. You may wish to write something each day for example, or once a week or simply when something of note happens. You may read an article, book or see a programme which triggers some ideas or thoughts.
We are also looking for ideas and reflections on how you are keeping your interests going if you are online and if you have access on your television, radio or via the internet.
It's also pretty important to think of good things that happen so in the journal make an effort every day to list five things that gave you pleasure however small.
We will be expanding our support of this project in the coming days including suggested questions that you could ask yourself to help structure your thoughts.
We are currently recruiting volunteers to be contact points to offer support and advice.
If you want take part - please keep in touch with us. At the moment share your ideas at but in the next few days we will have a dedicated email address for this living history project. So keep checking the website and national newsletter.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Please see below an updated Q and A summary of advice sent over the last few weeks.
Freda Bates Chairman
To Chairs and Secretaries
Please find enclosed the link to the National Newsletter for March (button below).
The National Newsletter is crucial in reaching out to members, as we have no direct contact with them. During this period we would be very grateful if you could assist members who are happy to do so, to sign up to the national newsletter.
Thank you - its very appreciated.
Freda Bates Chairman