'Alison's Bee Class' with Alison Wakeman, September 2019
Alison is a lovely lady who gave us a very interesting talk into the life of the bees. She started the talk wearing the protective clothing which was required, especially around the eyes which is where the bees would attack first if they felt threatened.
Her interest in bees took on a new dimension 5 years ago when she wrote a programme to teach school children about bees, during which they observed a hive. This was done for no payment. She has since spoken to 40 schools consisting of 40,000 children and has received an award for her contribution to education.
She told us that there are 250 different types of bees, and then gave us details about the complicated production of honey, beeswax, candles etc.
She explained the workings and sections that made up the beehive and all the different jobs the bees undertake. Not being at all sexist she explained that the female bees do all the work in the hive. The drones leave the hive from around 11 am just to hang around with other drones and arrive back around 4 pm in the afternoon. Once the Queen is ready to mate she flies to the congregation area and once that takes place the drones are not allowed back into the hive so they die or are killed by other bees.
To help encourage bees into the garden, lavender, herbs, crocus and snowdrops are a few of the plants that will attract them.
The Asian hornet is a threat to colonies here in the UK as they kill whole colonies. There have been a few sightings in the UK but not prevalent here at the moment.
There were pots of honey and beeswax cloths on sale and I have been told that the honey was very, very nice.
'Travels with a Penguin' by Pen Turner, June 2019
The story of a lady who, in her fifties, decided to get off the merry-go-round and work on her wish list.
Pen gave us an insight into what made her spend 6 months of her life travelling the world. She had a good life in London but this changed when her job became insecure, her dog died and she broke up with her partner. Maybe she was living the wrong life? She felt that time was slipping away. Wishing to see friends around the world she realised that nothing was stopping her.
Her travels took her to the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Sri Lanka. Some things she had planned, but it was the unplanned experiences that she particularly enjoyed – seeing whales, penguins and volcanoes amongst them.
She came back from her journey changed – more confident and self-reliant. She had coped and indeed survived. It took her a year to find another job and two years to find a house and a dog. Pen has used her experiences to encourage other people to think how they can realise their wish list.
"Shrewsbury Drapers Company 1462-2017" by Nigel Hinton, May 2019
Nigel Hinton gave a very informative talk in regard to the origin of the Shrewsbury Drapers who were known as wool traders or merchants in the 12th century. Shrewsbury Drapers Company is a long-established Guild which was granted a royal charter in 1462. The Guild has been running almshouses continuously since 1444. There were separate guilds for all the numerous trades and there was a fee to join the town guild. As the population grew some of the important commodities were wool, food, gold and silver. Shropshire was the main source of wool until the 16th century. Many would travel to Shrewsbury to sell or buy wool and with the building of monasteries there was a big increase in wool production.
St Mary’s Alms Housing belonged to the Draper Company from 1444 to 1820 and was situated in front of St Mary’s church on the road where the bus stop is now.
Nigel explained the procedure of wood stretching and marketing and showed pictures of various traders properties in Shrewsbury, a few of which are still in existence and have been refurbished by companies such as Prêt A Manger and Costa coffee. The Drapers Hall, which was built in 1575, is by St Mary’s and is now a restaurant but still has some of the original furniture. He highlighted some of the wealthy drapers, Rowley, Bowdlers, Coram, and Millington etc.
The Flaxmill, now being renovated, located in St Michaels Street, Shrewsbury would have been in competition with the wool traders. He told the story of an 11 year old apprentice with a 10 year indenture who if she married during that time then she would be sacked!
Today the Drapers hold an Annual Textile Design Competition at St Mary’s Church and the various Alms Houses which are run by Drapers, which is now a charity organisation, for those over 55 around Shrewsbury.
A very interesting insight into the past trading in Shrewsbury.
"Captain Flora Sandes" by Mike Watkins & Wilma Hayes, April 2019
We were given a very informative and interesting outline of the life of Captain Flora Sandes.
Flora was born in 1876 and was 38 years old when she signed up, only 8 days after war was declared. She was the only British woman to serve in WW1 in active service although, due to British regulations, she served in the Serbian army. She went from nurse to soldier in Serbia.
Growing up Flora was not interested in doing “women chores” but preferred shooting, driving cars, etc. A very unlikely lady. She had once said herself that she had always wished she had been born a man.
Flora commenced her army career as a Private and gained promotion through the years to end her army career as a Captain. During her career she was awarded many medals and was held in very high esteem by all those she came in contact with.
Flora did marry in 1927 but unfortunately her husband, Yuri died in 1941 during their time in Belgrade. While in Belgrade at that time Flora was imprisoned for a short while by the Gestapo but eventually freed.
We were shown some very impressive photographs showing Flora in her uniform and then in her later years when Flora returned to Suffolk. She died in 1956 aged 80.
She had been described as a fine brother!
"Tax, Care and Toy Boys Updated" by Glyn Williams, March 2019
Glyn started his talk with the question “Is there any point in making a will?” That certainly got my attention! Most of us, I suspect, are keen to leave our assets to our families. We can, however, only pass on what is left of our estate at the time of our death. Glyn described how our assets, if we are not careful, are eaten away by tax and care fees.
The topics Glyn touched on were:
Inheritance tax Care fees Wills Trusts Powers of Attorney Funeral Plans Sideways Disinheritance
These are all issues that are worth researching or talking to a Solicitor about.
It was good to be reminded that estate planning should be revisited from time to time. Glyn answered many questions from the audience which indicated that I was not the only one to think that.
Did you know that money left to Political Parties is not included in your estate for Inheritance tax purposes!!
“Botswana” by David Maddocks, February 2019
David Maddocks presented a fascinating picture of the diverse scenery and wildlife in Botswana. Botswana, at the heart of southern Africa, has long been a model for conservation, attracting tourists to the game-rich Okavango Delta and the adjacent landscapes of the saltpans and Kalahari Desert. Troops were deployed to protect the wildlife. Elephant herds (totalling 130,000 elephants) thrived and rhinos, endangered all over Africa, have been imported from South Africa for their safety.
Sadly in the last few months there has been a change of government policy. The troops have been redeployed and the future of the area is now in the hands of rangers who face a serious threat from poachers. Extensive slaughters have already taken place. David is saddened by this turn in policy and regrets he has little optimism for the future.
Anecdotes of camp life, the use of old termite hills as vantage points in a flat environment and the ubiquity of light aircraft as taxis punctuated a series of magnificent photos of the wildlife and scenery. The shots of elephants and the big cats, many in the glow of African sunsets were stunning.
The wet season produces flowers and vegetation that attracts smaller creatures, birds and insects in large numbers. David, as a seasoned traveller in Africa, also showed shots of less well-known creatures in their natural environment. It is clear that, no matter what the future holds for the area, the Okavango Delta is a magical place.
“New Orleans to New York” by Roger Browne, January 2019
Roger’s musical interests stretch beyond Jazz. His love for Musical Theatre and Grand Opera have seen him on stage, for over 40 years in many different acting roles and directorial appointments including singing a principal bass role in Wagner’s “Tannhauser” for Manchester Opera Group.
Roger, as a child, entered talent competitions as a singer where the age range was from 8 years old to 80.
He commenced by playing the theme tunes from Family Favourites and Housewives Choice, which I think most of us remembered. He continued with a selection of tunes composed by George Gershwin who Roger said was the bridge between jazz and theatre. There were also tunes made famous by Winifred Atwell who entered the music scene playing the piano in the boogie-woogie style of ragtime.
One of the stories was from New Orleans during the 19-20th century where organisers held a Rent A Party Piano. A hall would be rented and a hat was placed on the piano for the audience to give money to cover the hire of the hall. The pianist would be plied with bourbon which as the night went on it encouraged him to play faster and led to more money being put in the hat. Roger played one of the songs which got faster and faster and his fingers just raced expertly over the keys.
Roger is a very talented and jolly man and played many tunes from various musicals and in between there were many very interesting stories. He referred to Art Tatum, who was visually impaired, as being the greatest jazz pianist of all time and played one of the tunes recorded by Art Tatum, Tea for Two.
He entertained us with history, stories and songs in relation to the influence of jazz on the musical theatre. Roger has written and directed plays and at present directing Guys and Dolls at The Plaza in Stockport which will take place in October.
Roger is an excellent pianist and also very good singer. A very enjoyable afternoon.
“History of Music at Christmas” by Cecil Hayward, December 2018
This was Cecil and Ruth’s third visit to Church Stretton U3A and their focus this time was on music at Christmas. Cecil told us the history behind some of our well known Carols and then he and Ruth played a verse or two on their “brass, tubes and pipes”.
My particular favourite was the Coventry Carol played on a Cornett (yes, two t’s!) and a Baroque Flute. The Cornett is played like a Recorder, but has a brass mouthpiece. The sound they made was very much in keeping with the Carol’s origins in the 16th century.
The Twelve Days of Christmas has a fascinating history. On the surface it comes across as a jolly seasonal song, but it has another hidden meaning. For nearly 300 years, Roman Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith openly, so each element of the Carol was given a religious meaning which children could remember. For example, the four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The following link will give you the meaning of the other eleven. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/advent/customs-and- traditions/the-history-of-the-twelve-days-of-christmas
And we were encouraged to sing! Great fun.