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On Wednesday, 12 December, the Singers’ Group, led by Mark Hewitt, entertained shoppers in Bucky Doo Square with a selection of festive songs.
Their new term commences on Thursday, 10 January and anyone interested in joining them will be very welcome. No audition, just come along and give it a try. 10.15 St. John’s Ambulance Hall, Rax Lane, Bridport.
Group Leaders' get-together and working lunch
On 23 November over 40 of our U3A's group leaders came together at the WI Hall in Bridport for a chance to discuss a variety of topics relating to running our many interest groups.
After a welcoming cup of tea or coffee, there was some discussion as to whether 'leader' was actually the right word to describe the role, as it might put some members off offering to run a group at all. 'Facilitator', 'convenor' and 'contact' were all possibilities, but no clear conclusion was reached; 'leader/contact' seemed the closest, but a bit clumsy!
There was an offer from John Grantham to run sessions to encourage confidence in giving presentations at group meetings; this might encourage more people to come forward to run or share in running a group, so will be offered to the whole membership via email.
Leaders were reminded of the need to inform the Groups Co-ordinator of any changes in their group, such as the leader's contact details or the time and day of meetings. In addition, it was important to check regularly that group members were also U3A members; this is for insurance purposes. Leaders were asked to send the Membership Secretary a list of group members so that their membership status could be checked. This should be done around July each year, thus allowing for late renewals (which are due from 1st April).
There was a request that leaders be provided with a summary of 'dos and don'ts' in running a group; this has been done in the past and the Chairman undertook to look out these Advice Notes and update them, particularly in the light of the recent data protection legislation.
There was some discussion of public rooms available for group meetings and the need to compile a list of such rooms to put on the website for everyone to see; apparently the Tourist Information Office keeps a such a list and a copy will be obtained. If a group uses a public room for which there is a charge, the U3A will pay half the rent per monthly meeting, but leaders are asked to check with the committee first before making a firm booking.
An Incident Report form can now be downloaded from the Links page of the website in the unfortunate event of an accident or similar event. When completed, the form should be sent to the Business Secretary for filing.
Following these discussions, a buffet lunch was served, which was much enjoyed by everyone and allowed time for more informal exchanges.
BBC launches consultation on TV licences for older people
That’s probably you, or it will be soon . . .
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Politics and Assassinations
Political Discussion Group 1 met on 9 December to discuss the US Mid-term elections; and when we were bored of that, we turned to Political Assassination.
The success of the Democrats in the House of Representatives was balanced by Republican success in the Senate. We considered the trend towards more and more sophisticated gerrymandering of the electorate, so that the actual number of votes cast did not match the success of candidates. We felt that Mr Trump is a very cunning gentleman, and he will be able to blame the Democrats successfully for any failures of his policies to achieve their aims. His power to appoint senior officials and judges remains, so he will be able to resist Democrat attempts to hold him to account. For their part, Democrats will have to suck it up and smile.
Political Assassination takes place as a semi-deniable form of military aggression when double agents seek asylum abroad, or when leaders of opposition militant groups are targeted, such as in Palestine. The former is to discourage traitors, and the latter to prevent popular leaders from fronting peace negotiation attempts.
Deniable political assassinations focus on domestic targets, like Jamal Khashoggi (a journalist), Anna Politkovskaya (a Russian journalist), Benigno Aquino (a Philippine politician) or Maria Caruana (a Maltese journalist). These aim to quieten protest, protect corruption and preserve strongman rule. We agreed that they sometimes form flashpoints that lead to the opposite conclusion: the more foreign interest they inspire, the more exposed the instigator of the assassination becomes. We did not discuss the prominent role of the CIA in ensuring stable government in Latin America through assassination, nor indeed the operation codes of the UK secret services.
However, we thought Tracey Crouch, by her resignation, had shamed her colleagues to backtrack on their agreement with the gaming industry to delay introducing a ban on big-stakes gaming machines.
Living like the other half?
On 22 October, members of the Isn’t That Interesting! group visited furniture-maker Jeremy Norton in North Mills. He moved his one man business to Bridport from north London about 6-7 years ago once his children had left home. He is happy to make anything from a small shelving unit to a fully-fitted kitchen, with bespoke staircases and one-off tables in between.
Everything is made from solid timber or veneered plywood as appropriate. MDF has its place in the world but not in Jeremy’s, partly because it’s not enjoyable to work with, partly because the dust is unpleasant. He selects the solid timber from the timber yard rather than having a batch delivered, to ensure that each piece is suitable for the project in hand. In addition he has a stock of timber that he’s chosen because it has particularly decorative grain and may well be useful one day – some has followed him around over the years.
Many of his customers are still in London but with others in the South West. He showed the group his current project, a large suite of kitchen units that are destined for an extension to a house in the north west of London. The extension is somewhat larger than many Bridport houses and the units featured walnut veneered backs plus copper sinks that may well have been hand beaten. When finished, the suite will be hand painted then broken down into blocks that are suitable to be transported. A trusted team will install everything, and then the final coat of paint will be applied in situ. The price, several tens of thousands of pounds, reflected the care and quality of the work. (Jeremy confessed that his own fitted kitchen came from IKEA).
All of the dozen machine tools that cut, prepare and shape the timber are connected to a central extraction system that collects the sawdust and shavings. This is then compressed into blocks that can be burnt in a log-burner, thus avoiding waste going to landfill. In his previous workshops he has been able to burn them for winter heating. However, North Mills is listed and can’t have a log-burner installed, resulting in an embarrassing excess of blocks. After the group had enjoyed another visit to an unexpected Bridport business, several members went home with a bonus sack of blocks for their own wood burners. They had strict instructions to return the empty sacks that were more costly than their contents. . .
Death and taxes?
When the Isn’t That Interesting! Group visited AG Down Funeral Directors in June, Karen Hussey suggested that they should also visit a local Crematorium. Thus on 2 October, a dozen slightly nervous members found themselves over at Weymouth Crematorium. After a brief introduction by manager Richard, they were shown the system that controls the many thousands of pieces of music that can be played. It’s mainly a mixture of non-religious and Christian music but the Crematorium can cater for any other religion. There are no restrictions on choice provided it’s lawful but the staff would advise against anything particularly offensive.
The group moved into the main hall of the building where they were shown how it was adapted with lights, flowers, candles and religious symbols to suit the occasion and requirements. They heard about the procedural aspects, ranging from how to deal with a crowd of several hundred mourners to times when the funeral ceremony has taken place in, say, a local church and the committal has been carried out by just the funeral director and the Crematorium staff. All are treated with the greatest respect. It’s never a case of just dropping off the coffin round the back.
Next, the group were shown the two cremators by technician Ian. The width of one cremator had been chosen to suit the ever-increasing size, weight and girth of Dorset’s population. The exhaust gasses pass through a filtration system that is designed to trap dust and mercury vapour (from tooth fillings). It seems that ‘back in the bad old days’, mercury vapour was blowing over towards Scandinavia, being washed out by rain into the North Sea and absorbed by fish that we then ate.
At the end of the end of the process, the ashes of each individual are processed separately and stored until collection. In most cases, any surgical implants such as replacement hips are kept back and sent for recycling (although they are occasionally returned to the family). Since these are made of titanium, they have considerable scrap value and, very pleasingly, the payment that comes to the Crematorium is passed on to local hospices and similar charities.
While it wasn’t the most fun visit the group has ever made, it was pleasing to meet such sympathetic, professional staff and it was, of course, most Interesting.