Mayfield & District

Reviews

The Fascinating Lives of SpIders - Thursday 20th September - reviewed by Pauline McIldowie

Anyone who thinks of spiders just as creepy-crawly creatures, lurking in corners and apparently coming up from the plughole, was in for a revelation in our September general meeting talk. Simon Moore has worked for much of his career at the Natural History Museum, as an expert on the preservation of biological specimens (anything from minute sections of tissue to whole animals). But he has two great passions : spiders, and Georgian silver.

For us he gave a talk on the huge range of spiders that he has studied. This was accompanied by many beautiful photographs, and a display of preserved specimens - the most lethal ones being safely encased in little Perspex blocks, fortunately! These spiders, as you probably realise, are all exotic, since we have no poisonous spiders in the UK (yet).

The variety in the spider world is astonishing. We saw big fat furry spiders, and ones so flat that they can squeeze through a paper-thin hole in a rock; beautiful brightly coloured ones, and those camouflaged to be almost invisible on a leaf or some bark, or even disguised as an ant to infiltrate an ants’ nest; ones ranging in size from 30cm to 3mm; some with little legs and some with long elegant legs that enable them to run like a flash. Their webs are far more varied than I’d realized, exquisitely beautiful, and I imagine fascinating to a mathematician.

Although after this talk we now know how to tell a male spider from a female, we also realise that spiders would not be very edifying in a ‘birds-and-bees’ type sex education talk : a male may well ‘leg-cuff’ a female while he does his job with the knob-ended palps at the front of his body, and the female likes to eat the male after copulation, unless he makes a quick get-away. Sometimes the male appears actually to offer himself for consumption. Meanwhile, females are happy to be eaten by their children. Members of the U3A are advised not to learn from spiders!

Our thanks to Simon Moore for a very entertaining and beautifully presented talk.

Pauline McIldowie

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

The Fascinating Lives of SpIders - Thursday 20th September - reviewed by Matt Scott

The recent general meeting entitled ‘spiders’ was definitely not for those of a nervous disposition.

We were introduced to many of these delightful invertebrates which we might discover hiding in a bunch of South African grapes or West Indian bananas and all of them deadly! Best to keep a sharp eye out next time you are in a Supermarket.

I’m pleased to report though that our native species are far from deadly and do a very good on flies.

Sadly we had only a small turnout for this excellent talk and beautiful slides of these fascinating arachnids.

Matt Scott

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

The Fascinating Lives of SpIders - Thursday 20th September - reviewed by Thomas Ballantine Dykes

Whatever your view of spiders – love them or hate them – no one who attended our most recent talk by Simon Moore on the Fascinating Lives of Spiders could fail to have been impressed not just by his huge knowledge of a species which many probably treat as a pest – but also by the wonderful presentation of photographs and electron microscope generated images which accompanied his talk.

Even the smallest parts of the smallest spiders were illustrated in graphic detail on the screen and some of the photographs of the many different kinds of web - creations that they construct solely to provide their next meal – hardly “fast food” you might say, but stunningly beautiful when encrusted with frost or rain – would not have looked out of place in any gallery.

Simon spent much of his early professional life as Curator at the Natural History Museum but left there in the late 1990s and spends much of his time now talking most entertainingly about spiders – the great love of his life – as well of course about his own pet tarantula who was seen in his closing slide nestling up to his ear – an old lady who died eventually at the ripe old age of 21.

The many photographs which illustrated his talk bore testament to the phenomenal versatility and diversity of the spider – some 800 different species reside in the UK alone and the number of species identified worldwide runs to over 6000 - and is rising.

A number of facts – possible useful at the next pub quiz that you attend - stick in the mind. Firstly that male spiders get a hard time – usually ending up as lunch for the mates they have just impregnated. Secondly that some spiders are quite dangerous (or more accurately lethal) though fortunately not those that live in the UK, and that of those that do live in the UK only a very few are likely to bite you if you upset their equilibrium. Thirdly that as a species they are hugely industrious, adaptable and quite simply beautiful to look at. Fourthly that if you wish to avoid encountering a stranded spider at the bottom of your bathtub (and no - they don’t come up the waste pipe) try hanging a piece of loo roll over the side of the bath to provided a ladder out for the creature which will in return do its best to rid your house of flies and finally that the spider bridges what sometimes seem to be impossibly large gaps between the points that anchor the web to a fixed structure – by the use of air currents to float out two pilot lines which can then be used as scaffolding while the rest of the structure is created.

Now you didn’t know that did you?

For those of us who were lucky enough to hear Simon’s talk, this was a real and (for your author at least) a totally unexpected – treat.

If you see his talk advertised again anywhere – and you weren’t in the hall this afternoon – make sure you get to hear him. Not to be missed.

Thomas Ballantine Dykes
---------------------------------------------------

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

Mayfield U3A General Meeting, on Thursday 19th July - reviewed by Anna Thompson

Music for a sunny afternoon……..

Aptly, whether by design or chance, the opening number of our musical meeting was “Bring me Sunshine’, made memorable of course, by Morecambe and Wise.

Our duo, pianist Jane Spur and flautist Diana Simmons were equally entertaining and just as talented. They are good friends as well as accomplished musicians, and the warmth of their musical relationship was obvious. Relaxed and full of anecdotes, they played Bach, Fauré, The Pink Panther - the list went on to cover a great variety of songs and styles.

I’m very surprised no-one got up and tap danced their way through Baby Face, nor did anyone join in with Annie’s Song, (or not very audibly) but by the end, and with the help of a word sheet we did all finish with aplomb, singing We’ll Meet Again.

And we will all meet again, but not until September, when the next meeting will be about eight-legged furry things…….

However, back to the music. Jane dealt with a sustaining pedal that squeaked and groaned loudly every time she pressed it and Diana good naturedly joined with the jokes that came thick and fast. Jane has a truly hilarious sense of fun, and one is never sure what is coming next.

The meeting was supposed to have been the AGM, but as it gave Jane and Diana more time in which to amuse us, it was a cloud with a very silver lining!

By the way, if you want to know why Bach had 20 (at the last count) children, you should have been there….

Anna Thompson

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

Rails to Road and Back AgainTalk - reviewed by Anna Thompson

The general meeting this month was called Rails to Road and Back Again, and was the history of freight.

As ever when a speaker is knowledgeable and passionate about a subject, it becomes interesting for everyone, and Keith Harcourt, (historical Model Railway Society and a co-founder of the Archives and Artifacts Study Network) cleverly used Mayfield as an example of the changes in our transport systems.

He took us from packhorses to modern day trucks and trains but it seems Mayfield lacked canals!

Obviously containers are the key to commercial success these days, and there were some fascinating photographs to illustrate the points Keith was making and to emphasise the vast scale of global freight traffic.

Anna Thompson

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

Hearthrobs - A History of Women and Desire" - reviewed by Anna Thompson.

Carol Dyhouse, a social historian and Professor Emeritus of the University of Sussex, came to our May general meeting and entranced us all.

Author of many books on a range of related subjects, Carol’s talk was based on the wide ranging research for her book of the same title.

Beginning with Byron (although the subject has been relevant through the centuries), and leaving us with boy bands, Carol showed us how the image, or style, of a hearthrob has changed with the times - as women have become more in control of their lives and have consequently more power, there is less need to find a ‘strong’ man to take us into the sunset, with or without the white charger!

There are many profound points to be made on this subject, as well as the more superficial and amusing ones, and Carol made what is actually a deeply interesting and pertinent topic extremely entertaining, and left us all discussing various aspects (and perhaps our own personal choice of hearthrob?) over our tea and biscuits.

A talk not to be missed, so take a moment and Google her book.......

Anna Thompson

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

Ightham Mote Talk - reviewed by Anna Thompson

Heather Woodward, one of our members and a well known local speaker, came to talk to us on April 19th on the subject of Ightham Mote.

The fact that Heather obviously knows and loves this ancient and rather romantic house shone through her talk.

We were given a blend of historical fact and architectural information, which was interspersed with domestic snippets by former  staff members together with fascinating stories about the various families who have owned it over the centuries.

It’s no castle and it never had to defend itself - though it does have a moat! Perhaps its hidden location in the midst of small lanes and rather rolling farmland lends to a sense of secrecy and meant no-one could find it.  It does seem to suddenly pop unexpectedly up from behind a hedge as one rounds a corner!

It was a beautifully balanced talk and gave enough of a feeling of the enchantment of the buildings to make you want to get in the car and drive straight there. Not only can you go and see it, but you can pack your pyjamas and several books and go and stay in one of the historic restored cottages lying within the grounds.  Now that is tempting……

Before you go, whether for a day or several, if you are a lover of well researched historical fiction, I would recommend you read Green Darkness, by Anya Seyton who, like the last owner and indeed rescuer of this wonderful house, is an American with a love of England. I won’t give the story away, but houses of great age and mystery make many things seem plausible.

On the strength of Heather’s knowledge and enthusiasm alone, I  will certainly be wending my way towards Sevenoaks and Ightham Mote before too long and I suggest you do too!

Anna Thompson

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

To find out more about Ightham Mote why not visit the National Trust website at: Ightham Mote|

*******************************************************************************************************************

To return to the Mayfield U3A Website click "left arrow" or "previous page" in your browser