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Passports, Assassins Traitors and Spies
We welcomed Martin Lloyd as our guest speaker for our March meeting.
Martin, now retired from the UK Immigration Service, is a well-known author and as our guest speaker at our March meeting, gave a very entertaining talk, enthralling us with three stories.
We were taken to Paris 1858 to witness Count Felice Orsini, with the help of other revolutionaries, hurl crude grenades in the failed attempt to assassinate Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie as they arrived at the Opera. On his arrest Orsini, an Italian, had travelled on a passport, under the name of a London barrister, but was caught out when he didn’t know how far Clapham Common was from London. Tensions mounted between France and Britain, and the ensuing diplomatic row resulted in Lord Palmerston’s government being brought down and the introduction of British passports. Up until this time a passport was not required to enter or leave Britain.
Carl Hans Lody, with poor eyesight and failing health didn’t look like a spy but using the “borrowed” name and passport of an American, he travelled to Britain visiting Scotland, Liverpool, London and Dublin. Intercepted letters he had sent to Germany led to his arrest and he was tried and then executed at the Tower of London. When Germany declared war on Russia all Americans living in Germany had to have an exit permit on their passport to leave the country. The passport for Charles Inglis was missing. The introduction of photographs for all passports swiftly followed.
His voice was well-known –and it was his voice that led to his capture but with three passports, American, German and a fraudulent British one, William Joyce appealed that he couldn’t be tried in British Courts as a traitor – he was an American born German citizen. Lord Haw Haw lost his appeal and was hanged at Wandsworth prison.
Monthly meeting February 2020
There was a very good attendance of long standing, new and potential members at February’s monthly meeting. After taking our seats and hearing the latest news and updates, our guest speaker Jacqui Wood was introduced. Jacqui, who has worked within the NHS specialising in sleep problems, stressed just how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. The lack of sleep can affect people both physically and mentally often leading to frayed tempers and accidents.
We were told that to function well, an adult needs between 7 and 10 hours sleep a day and we were given many helpful tips – we shouldn’t eat or drink too close to bedtime, we need a routine to prepare for bed which includes dimming the lights, turning off our screens, making sure we are warm, heavy curtains or blinds at the window, perhaps adding a lavender spray to the pillow.
Everyone has their own way of getting off to the land of nod, and I for one have no trouble dropping off, any time of the day, but for those who do suffer sleep problems Jacqui offered sound advice, a copy of her book, and provided a very enjoyable and interesting talk. The meeting concluded with refreshments and with names being put down for forthcoming group activities.
Monthly meeting January 2020
Considering that many of us were still recovering from Christmas there was a good turnout at our first meeting of 2020. After the formalities we were introduced to Sue Watsham from The Butterfly Hospice Trust.
Sue explained in great detail how the trust started, the care that they provide, how they raise funds and the role of volunteers.
The trust was set up to offer care and support to local people when they needed it most and was opened in 2014 after approximately ten years of planning. The trusts services are for people aged 18 and over who are referred to them by healthcare professionals. They aim to improve the quality of life for patients and families facing a life-limiting illness by providing choice, care and support in a Hospice setting.
Apart from the medical staff all other costs are met by fund raising through their charity shops, online shop and ebay sales, together with annual events open to everyone such as a butterfly release, a walk of life, a bike ride - details of which can be found on their website.
There are also many opportunities for volunteers (who are always needed and welcomed) either in the shops, fundraising, or at the hospice.
The Allsorts Quilters, who meet at Weston Village Hall, produce beautifully coloured quilts and at the meeting, Barbara Coates presented a selection to Sue, (see picture) which are given to the hospice residents for their personal use.
I found this a very interesting and a worthwhile cause and if you would like more details please look at the website (www.butterflyhospice.org.uk).
December Monthly Meeting
Spalding and District U3A’s December meeting doubled up as our Christmas party. Members contributed towards the buffet and were greeted with a glass of mulled wine upon arrival.
After browsing the book tables for holiday reading we took our seats, where following announcements about U3A events planned for the new year, we were entertained by local magician Paul Vickers.
With his easy style Paul treated us to some very good magic, lots of funny stories, jokes and some silliness all making a very enjoyable afternoon.
During the show Paul managed to persuade some of the members to willingly? assist him (see Jacquie helping Paul with a rope trick and Margaret with a droopy balloon). If anybody would like to know more Paul has a facebook page.
After Pauls act, the festive refreshments with cups of tea and coffee were enjoyed and Christmas greetings exchanged.
November Monthly Meeting
The November monthly meeting found us celebrating 21 years of our U3A, previous Chairs were invited to attend and were introduced to the current membership. A very tasty iced cake, expertly cut, was served with coffee or tea to the 130 + members and visitors towards the end of the afternoon. After learning on Tuesday that the original speaker had to unfortunately cancel, a tense few hours ensued for Josephine in her search for an alternative at such short notice.
I think we would all agree that the talk by Cambridgeshire author Sylvie Short was very funny and informative.
Sylvie is a very engaging lady and told us how she became an author fifteen years ago upon her retirement from teaching. She invited and answered questions from our members explaining where the ideas for her books came from and how they progress from a simple seed through to the end publication of novels, history books and a series of reflections. Sylvia had us laughing at very funny observations she made during a cruise which provided material for her book It Rained in Bora Bora.
Her honest answers would be helpful to any budding writers amongst our members. If you would like further information regarding Sylvie please go to her website www.sylvieshort.co.uk
Animal Heroes at U3A September Meeting
The Speaker for our September meeting was retired Royal Air Force Officer Kenneth Moore who gave an entertaining presentation introducing the audience to some of the recipients of the Dickin Medal. Animal charity worker, Maria Dickin created this medal in 1943 to recognise and honour animals for their conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict. We were informed to date, 31 dogs, 32 messenger pigeons, 3 horses and 1 cat have been awarded this 'animal Victoria Cross'. The medal itself is a bronze medallion, inscribed with the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve”.
We learnt about Simon, the only cat to have received the medal, who was smuggled aboard HMS Amethyst in Hong Kong and soon earned his keep as a rat catcher. Surviving a shell blast during the Yangtze Incident, he returned to chasing rats and boosting morale for the injured sailors, becoming a celebrity hero on his return to England. Sadly, he died before he could receive his medal. His gravestone bears the words “Throughout the Yangtze Incident his behaviour was of the highest order” London police horses Olga, and Upstart who remained “on duty” whilst showered in debris from flying bombs, and Regal who twice escaped burning stables, were awarded the medal. Ship’s dog Judy, a pedigree pointer, was on HMS Grasshopper when it was sunk and helped save crew members, before their eventual capture by the Japanese. Judy is the only animal officially recognised as a POW, and one who kept the prisoners’ morale high. Both german shepherds, Bing received the medal for parachuting into Normandy and Jet for rescuing people trapped under blitzed buildings. Springer spaniel Theo was awarded the medal posthumously for gallantry and devotion to duty whilst serving in Afghanistan.
Pigeons played an important role in the delivery of messages, flying under exceptionally difficult circumstances. Billy delivered a message from a bomber which had been force-landed, Ruhr Express carried an important message from the Ruhr Pocket in April 1945 and Gustav brought the first message from the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944.
A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, which welcomed several new members, recruited at the recent Open Day, and potential members enjoying a taster session.
Open Day Success
Our Open Day was held on the 1st August at the Spalding Grammar School. Every one of the forty groups were represented and as a result of the considerable time and effort taken by each Leader and their members, was a resounding success.
Providing interesting table top displays – covering everything from Aviation to Wine Tasting, a continuous overhead projection illustrating the work of the photography and art groups, the energetic display of disco dancing from our members, and not forgetting those at the poker, canasta and cribbage tables, there was something for everyone, and on what was a very warm afternoon, welcome refreshments.
Visitors, and members too, commented on the friendly reception they received and the information they gained as they browsed the displays. By the end of the afternoon several visitors had taken up membership, with others intending to take advantage of our “taster” monthly meeting, and enquiries were received from existing members about their joining additional groups.
With thanks to everyone who made it such an enjoyable event.
Sheila Field – Group Co-ordinator
THE JULY MONTHLY MEETING
Balloons, Bleriots and Barnstormers
The Speaker for our July meeting was local author, Alastair Goodrum, who gave an illustrated talk, introducing us to James Sadler and Louis Bleriot, famous for early balloon and aeroplane flight. As public interest grew in this race for advancement in aeronautics, the idea of sponsorship and a means to make money snowballed and resulted in the formation of travelling shows across the country. Advance advertisements would be placed in local papers announcing the sale of tickets, inviting people to watch the launch of balloons, and then later on, aircraft, rising dangerously high in the sky, with passengers bravely hanging on for dear life. Redundant pilots from the first world war, and women too, became the celebrities of the day as they performed trapeze and parachute acrobatics and wing walking. It was surprising to learn that Spalding, Boston and surrounding villages were often host to these dare devil events as photographs showed crowds gathering in still recognisable places around Spalding – what is now the B&Q car park, and out on Cowbit bank. This recreational flying only ceased with the commencement of the 2nd world war. Alastair, a keen photographer, has written aviation history articles and books and we thoroughly enjoyed sharing his enthusiasm for the subject.
The June monthly meeting
The June meeting was very busy as it was also the first opportunity for members to renew their membership.
After formalities had taken place we took our seats for a very funny, interesting and informative talk by Chrissy Kirk from Homefield Alpacas. The story began in 2007 when Chrissy set out with the intention of buying three alpacas to keep the grass in her paddock short and came back with seven. From that point she found herself on a very quick and steep learning curve. When faced with an animal that will spit and kick in all directions with any of its feet she soon learnt to detect the likely actions of each individual alpaca and take quick evasive action. The next challenge came when Chrissy decided to start breeding them to increase her herd. The first time consisted of three first timers Chrissy, a male and a female alpaca (what could possibly go wrong) and having penned the female she bought the male along and he soon showed interest and started to make his noises to prime the female, It was at this stage that Chrissy didn’t open the gate to the pen quick enough and found herself pinned to the wall by an amorous male, fortunately by turning his head to show him his intended mate he realized his mistake and nature took its course. Alpacas carry their young for eleven months and they now have a herd of about thirty animals. We then learnt about the general care of alpacas including the shearing which is carried out by travelling Australians and the fact that they live outside all year. This fleece gives protection against the elements but when processed results in a very soft yarn, of varying colours. Originating mostly from South America, they cannot now be imported as there are now sufficient numbers (25-30 thousand) in the UK. Homefield Alpacas organises popular walks with alpacas and welcome visitors by appointment, You can find out a lot more from their website (www.homefieldalpacas.co.uk)
Representatives from the Institute of Advanced Motorists came to speak to members in May, when a meeting was held in Baytree, Holbeach. Roger Hicks gave a very informative introduction to motoring, with many hints and tips tucked into the narrative. A short video followed, which provided discussion regarding various points in the film. Ashley Behan followed with a further talk taking a deeper insight into more advanced driving. This showed just how far ahead we should be looking at what is around us, something perhaps we are not sufficiently aware of. The offer of a free drive with one of the members of the IAM was taken up by many members, with some also booking the advanced test. Interesting questions followed which provoked good discussion.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
At a very busy April meeting Keith Talbot took most of us back to our younger days.
Keith brought along about half his collection of shop display memorabilia. This included some very clever moving, highly detailed and what would now be thought controversial (who would promote smoking in their shop window today?) pieces. He also told us details about each piece and some history of the relevant companies.
Keith’s pride in his collection and passion for his subject was clear for all to see making the talk very interesting. We also had a visit from the local paper (Free Press/Guardian) who took lots of pictures and spoke to members with the intention of doing a feature about the U3A. this should be in the paper on Tuesday the 9th of April. The meeting was an opportunity to thank three retiring group leaders for their many years of hard work and dedication making their groups successful. In recognition they were each given a pot plant although only one was present to receive theirs. Please remember the May meeting will be held in the theatre at Baytree Garden Centre.
Further to the above excellent article, the Spalding Guardian
published the piece shown here. It is great to be recognised by the media for the good work done by the branch.
This article is now on Spalding Today website and is far easier to see and read.
Up Up and Away
Members at the March monthly meeting were treated to a very interesting talk by Oxfordshire historian Mark Davies on the uplifting escapades of James Sadler.
James worked in the family business as a pastry chef in Oxford in the 1700’s but with the enquiring mind of an engineer and inventor he experimented with the idea of balloon flight, when interest right across Europe was at fever pitch.
Before men, and later ladies, took to the skies the balloon “guinea pigs” were sheep a duck and a rooster.
The first manned flight was in France in 1783, undertaken by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent d’Arlandes, but it was the Italian Vincenzo Lunardi who was the first to take to the air in England in September 1784.
Our British hero, the first Englishman to design, manufacture and fly a balloon, took off from college fields in Oxford in October 1784 – rising to 3,600 ft, travelling the four-mile journey in about 30 minutes.
This was the first of many flights, and Sadler became a celebrity overnight, but shunning the limelight he took a more scientific approach to flight and it was Sadler who created the adjustable fire in the basket which then led on to the discovery of what we now know as hydrogen.
An expensive venture, Sadler would rely on the patronage of the wealthy and would charge the public to view his balloons displayed before each flight.
Despite bumps and bruises, falling out of the basket, and once being dragged along the ground, he lived until the ripe old age of 75. Remembered not only for his aeronautical achievements he also gained the praise of Lord Nelson when he invented a new design of cannon, although with the rush to get Nelson sea bound King of all balloons it is thought the cannon was never actually used.
So little has been written or known about this remarkable man, but this is thought to stem from the fact that he was seen to be a mere pastry chef, looked down upon by his wealthy, educated Oxford neighbours. It has been a welcome introduction to a man who once landed his balloon in Sleaford.
King of all Balloons by Mark Davies
A NOSE FOR TROUBLE
Despite an unpleasant February day there was a large audience at Spalding and District U3A monthly meeting. The guest speaker was Mike Money from the Medical Detection Dogs charity. Even though Mike didn’t bring any dogs he was very informative and knowledgeable leaving us with an understanding of how clever and beneficial these detection and medical alert dogs can be. Most of us have seen programmes and articles about individual dogs being paired with a person where it can detect danger signs across a range of illnesses and prevent an emergency developing. Not only do the dogs become valued family members they can save lives. They also reduce the number of paramedic call outs and hospital admissions allowing the patients to confidently lead full and happy lives. Unknown to most of us they are also used in medical test facilities where they are trained to detect the minute odours associated with many cancers and other diseases.