It is becoming more and more difficult to compile a Newsletter as I am getting so few articles in. It is thanks to Peter Read and a couple of others that this issue is able to be published.
I have requested articles from groups with virtually no response and for some reason no-one thinks that they have anything to say. What a sad state of affairs.
If, as a group, you are not interested in having a Newsletter that is fine, it would save me considerable anguish and work putting it together. I find this most peculiar as I get a lot of complimentary comments.
Spire is your U3A. Surely you have comments to make, things you would like to hear about, things you would like to see. Do you have hobbies and interests, Have you got something that you would like to try? Is there a group already for that or can we start one. Looking in 3rd Age Matters, so many groups seem to have such exciting things that they do.
We have had, as usual some really good speakers and the group meetings that I have attended have been really interesting.
Are you interested in discovering more about how the new CCG (Care Commissioning Group) is operating with a dynamic speaker. Would you be interested in having access to someone from Age UK, they have lots of information to offer to help us cope with the difficulties facing us as we get older.
OK I will get off my soapbox now, but please consider putting forward some of your views of any interests you may have.
Last month’s talk by Hugh Burnard on the modern aspects of Smuggling, was both interesting and illuminating. Unfortunately not too many of us have access
to yachts or private aeroplanes to try out this fascinating idea!
I am looking forward to this month’s talk on the Avon and Kennet Canal. I took a group of Rangers Guides on a long weekend trip some years ago. We all had a great time and the few days seemed much longer as the pace was so slow. Can recommend it for a holiday.
Zelah Bysouth 01722 330307 or email me on email@example.com
Day 1 - at Salisbury Museum by Peter Read
Sarum U3a organised the study days and 17 members from Sarum and Spire attended on the first day. The day sped by in the capable hands of Adrian Green and Jane Ellis-Schon.
This first day was split into two parts. The morning was devoted to talks about General Pitt-Rivers followed in the afternoon going behind the scenes and looking at the new Wessex Gallery.
But how did General Pitt-Rivers get to this point? By 1880 he was already a well known archaeologist and this had come about from his military career. He went to Sandhurst for 6 months and was then commissioned into the Grenadier Guards and then to the Crimea. He was soon invalided home and thereafter held administrative jobs rising to Lieutenant General. The key thing about this part of his life was his interest in rifles. This provoked an interest in the history and progression of guns. In turn this led him to collect examples from around the world together with shields and boats. He began to consider evolution of such items giving a lecture in 1875. He knew Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Herbert Spencer and Sir John Lubbock.
By this time General Pitt-River's collection was too big for is house and so he gave it to the South Kensington Museum. This finally was handed on to Oxford University and became the General Pitt-Rivers museum. The museum was and still is laid out by type of object and not by time or origin.
In 1867 he became an assistant to Canon William Greenwell. Greenwell taught Pitt-Rivers the essence of how to conduct a dig. A year later he was undertaking his own digs in Sussex in such places as Cissbury and other hill forts. He looked at the gravels of the Thames and this gave him the concept of layers and dating artefacts found within. No other archaeologist was doing this at the time.
By the time General Pitt-Rivers was an old man he was a revered archaeologist who had pioneered many techniques still used today. He was meticulous in his writings and he published most of his excavations in luxuriously bound volumes. The museum have these and we were able to admire them.
Later we went behind the scenes and were able to see and handle some of General Pitt-Rivers finds such as flints and bowls. The museum holds many of his finds and currently they need reassessing and cataloguing and repacking. This huge task will begin shortly and volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks. I volunteered to take photographs as needed. Jane Ellis-Schon will be leading this project.
Jane also showed us round the Wessex Gallery that she designed. I have made a gallery of pictures of selected parts; now on line.
Day 2 - on site at Win Green, Rotherley, Tollard Royal, King John’s House and Ashcombe House by Pat Carter and Brenda Talbot
The talk by Adrian Green, described by Peter Read, revealed just what a fascinating man General Pitt Rivers was, not just as a collector and archaeologist but also as creator of the Larmer pleasure grounds and for his theories on the evolution of culture. For me the highlight of the first day was the behind the scenes tour of the museum to see some of the wide range of items in the Pitt Rivers collection – a cupboard full of models of carts, shelves with boxes of bones. We were able to handle pottery, flint axes and take a close look at some small metal objects such as a beautiful pair of brooches. More than one of us was surprised by our emotional reaction to holding a flint axe millennia old, something that had been held and used by our very distant ancestors. We were shown more artefacts, plans and models from the Pitt Rivers collection during our special tour of the Museum’s new Wessex Gallery.
The second day was quite different and much more energetic. We met at Win Green car park for a walk to Tollard Royal and back, led by Adrian. From Win Green you can see right across Cranborne Chase and as far south as the Isle of Wight. After studying the Iron Age fortifications at Winklebury Hill from a distance we proceeded to the main target for our walk which was the Romano-British settlement site at Rotherley. With the plan of the excavations made by Pitt Rivers and Adrian’s help we were able to identify boundaries, storage pits and the area where burials were found. Pitt Rivers was one of the first people to be interested in this type of rural settlement and what it could reveal about the lives of ordinary people. We then descended into Tollard Royal for lunch at the King John’s pub or a picnic by the pond, followed by a visit to St Peter ad Vincula church where Pitt Rivers is buried and a look from the churchyard at King John’s House.
Some of us stopped at this point but seven set off on the return walk to Win Green. The route took us close to Ashcombe House, the former home of Cecil Beaton, where he held wild parties in the 1930s and early 1940s and many of his famous photographs were taken. Latterly the house was owned by Madonna and Guy Ritchie. He continues to own the house, following his divorce from Madonna. The house is screened by tall trees so our glimpses of it were limited to the chimneys and roof. The walk at this point was a gentle ascent through the beautiful countryside, but soon graduated into a very steep climb to the top of the hill. Several stops were taken to admire the view on the way up, but there was a great feeling of elation at reaching the cars. We did it! A rewarding end to a brilliant day.
Our thanks to Maureen and Jean for organising these two days and to Adrian Green and Jane Ellis-Schon from Salisbury Museum for giving us such an interesting and informative time.
Spire U3A are planning a visit to the ‘Mary Rose’ Museum in Portsmouth Dockyard.
‘The Mary Rose’ was a Tudor warship in the navy of King Henry VIII. Her wreck was rediscovered in 1971. Visiting the new ‘Mary Rose’ Museum is an incredibly interesting and fascinating experience. You see not only the remains of the ship but an amazing collection of artefacts – from weaponry to ovens and to the crew’s personal possessions. The Museum has been very cleverly set out so that you come away with a real feel for the size and layout of ‘The Mary Rose’ and the lives of the crew, but in a way you also come face to face with some of the men through facial reconstructions carried out on their skeletons. If you visited the old museum, you will find the new one has so, so much more to offer.
THE TRIP OFFERS 3 OPTIONS with Driver Gratuity included:
Option l: Coach to Portsmouth, a talk on an aspect of ‘The Mary Rose’ and a self guided tour of The Museum – COST PER PERSON: £34.00 per person (Max of 18 per group)
Option 2: Coach to Portsmouth, plus a self guided tour of The Museum – COST PER PERSON: £29.50
Option 3: Coach to Portsmouth Dockyard area only. The Spinaker Tower and the shops at Gun Wharf Quays are nearby, plus all the other Dockyard attractions paying own entry tickets. COST PER PERSON: £16.00
PLEASE BE WARNED – IF YOU EXPERIENCE WALKING OR STANDING DIFFICULTIES: From the coach dropping off point to the Museum is a walk of approximately ¼ of a mile each way.
You can go in and out of the Museum as often as you please, there is a café next door, but seating in the Museum is VERY limited. The Museum’s designers thought people would take 1 ½ hours to go around, but most take 2 – 3 hours. WHEELCHAIRS are available at the dockyard, but best booked in advance and you need someone to do the pushing.
Payment by cheque only made payable to ‘Spire U3A’No cash. Please write ‘Mary Rose’ on back of cheque.
Depart London Road Park and Ride : 8.30 am. Return London Road Park and Ride : 6.00 pm approx.
Please tick Option 1___ 2 ___ or 3 _____
Tear off booking form and send with cheque and sae to : Jenny Watmore, 5 Green’s Court, St Ann’s Street, Salisbury, SP1 2SX by 01.10.14. Enquiries: Tel: Jenny on 01722 330078 or Ayesha Nickol on 01722 334547.
Three Spire members attended this seminar that took place over 4 days at the Harper Adams University.
Muriel Laptain, my wife Sheila and I set off on Monday 11th August to drive to the venue situated near Telford, Shropshire. We arrived in time for the opening session.
We were immediately into a series of 10 talks of a loosely scientific base. The first was about Electricity and how wonderful it is. We simply could not live without it now. The speaker Alex Paterson explained how this came to be. Lots of science in a digestible form here. For instance he told lucidly why to minimize losses along the power cables it is best to have high voltage and then reduce by transformer at the consumer end. Energy loss = VxAxA [where V is voltage and A is current. As V increases A decreases.]
This was followed after a coffee break by Susan Slater from Rugby U3A telling us about the Industrial Revolution and how Britain came to be the first country in the world to do this. The reasons were resources particularly coal. The Netherlands had no coal and shallow ports and they had no tea to drink. Drunkenness made thinking clearly difficult but we had our Empire and hence copious amounts of tea. The canals and then rail provided vital transport around the country.
The next day our only talk was about a forgotten engineer George Croydon Marks. He specialised in cliff railways. Many of his railways still exist such as the Lynton - Lynmouth cliff railway, the Bridgnorth cliff railway , the Saltburn cliff railway  and the Aberystwyth cliff railway . George had a brilliant reputation and was made Lord Marks of Woolwich.
Then we set off by coach to the Wedgwood Museum. This involved a visit to the excellent museum followed by a factory tour and we dropped in to the DIY shop. Here people were making pots and painting ceramic models. The kids had great fun.
Handedness was a talk about the problems of being left handed in a right handed world. Imagine a body of soldiers with rifles and one soldier using his left handed rifle [and this could be a reality by 2020 according to the military]. It could be chaos.
The highlight for us was the next talk given by Dmitri Mendeleev in person no less! I have a photo to prove it [see below]. He told us his life story [not to be confused with Mandel]. Dmitri invented the Periodic Table. This is still a vital aid for chemists. Dmitri showed on his chart that there must be other elements because there were gaps. By the way the table was made chemists could work out the likely properties of these unknown elements and so they had a good idea where to look. Many elements were found by this means. One such chemist was Sir William Ramsay KCB FRS FRSE a Scottish chemist who discovered the noble gases and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1904 "in recognition of his services in the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air". These gases were helium, argon, neon, krypton, and xenon all discovered in only three years.
Physics of Colour was our next talk. From this I learned that not only does the eye have rods and cones but that there are three sorts of cones for each of blue, green and red light. To see yellow colour the brain has to sort it out from a mixture of green and red signals. One can hardly believe it. The speaker proved it possible by spinning a disc half green and half red. At high speed you could no longer see red or green but a sort of yellow.
Automation in Agriculture was a talk given by a professor from the Harper Adams university and an assistant who demonstrated a tiny drone that flew over our heads and around the room. Robotics will appear on our farms by 2050. The crucial property is the flexible approach this offers. Laser weeding will happen because it uses a tiny amount of energy compared to any other method. It will use 99.9% less weed killer too.
How Medicines were Discovered was a talk about three everyday medicines namely Morphine, Aspirin and Penicillin. These were found by Chance, Inspiration and Perspiration.
Our penultimate talk was about How They Built The Pyramids. We were informed that the first approach were the mastabas, a type of Ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with outward sloping sides. Inside they were in the form of a normal Egyptian house with the dead person buried deep beneath. They wanted the dead to have all the facilities they had in life.
The early pyramids were stepped. These often collapsed after a period if the steepness of the sides was too great and they were filled with rubble. The optimum angle for stability was found to be 52 degrees. The later pyramids were made of large blocks of stone that could take the pressure of the weight of others above them. There were about 92 pyramids built.
Our final talk was called Aspects of Cosmology and roamed widely from how we measure stars distances using parallax and the Cepheid variable stars, to how Hubble worked out that stars and galaxies are moving away from us from the Doppler effect on the light [red shift], to how spectral lines have enabled us to find which elements exist in individual stars, to the Big Bang versus the Steady State theories of the Universe and to the Cosmic Microwave Background. The talk touched on Dark Matter and Dark Energy and how unknown they still are.
A brilliant week spent in the company of like-minded folk from all over the UK. Thoroughly recommended. Next year the dates will be 10 to 13th August 2015 at Harper Adams University.
ITEM for distribution to your members
There are international students at our universities hoping to have the privilege of meeting people who live in the UK. Having a well-educated younger person from another part of the world visit you for a day, a weekend, or over Christmas, is an ideal way of exchanging ideas about your respective cultures. It’s an opportunity to take a pride in our own country and to understand more about another one, while showing kindness to someone far from home. It’s also great fun. If you’re not sure about doing this on your own, why not get together with another U3A member and make a great international weekend of it? HOST is a well-established charity whose hosts are volunteers. Please see www.hostuk.org or call voluntary local organiser Frances Good on 01934 712606.
It was in 2000 that we started a group for beginners in photography. We had been enjoying our hobby of photography for a number of years and given lectures to camera clubs but had little or no experience of teaching a small group. I think I can safely say we have gained as much from the challenge as our students.
Starting by finding out the equipment they had, we then found out what each member hoped to achieve and any particular subjects they wanted to cover. Armed with this information we set about teaching them basic camera use, followed by simple composition. We used our own resources in the form of our prints and slides to demonstrate particular points. We would, for instance, get out photographs to show differential focusing or landscape composition. We took them out to actually practise what we had taught and included the subjects they had requested. Bad weather days gave us a chance to try indoor subjects such as still life, close-up and portraiture and methods of lighting. Constant opportunities to look at each other's work and that of well-known photographers, helped to instil an awareness of composition. Coming fortnightly, a new subject or challenge could be set and discussed the following session. This kept them on their toes and also fed their enthusiasm while teaching them to develop a seeing eye.
We must have achieved our goal as when the proposed number of meetings drew to a close they asked to continue, and so we took on another programme of challenges.
Alternating with this first group we now have another group and can use our experience to find their hidden talents. Trips out are important, we have visited Bluebell woods; castles; markets; villages; exhibitions and tackled night photography, firework displays and the differing seasonal changes.
Now the first group are branching out with the new technique of doing their own printing using computers. This means another group has been set up and we have to keep a step ahead of them all the time! As with their cameras, composition and artistic ability is all important, but also they have to learn about the use of colour and the correct use of all the magic possibilities a computer can achieve.
Their original pictures being correctly exposed and composed remain all important to producing the end result to their satisfaction.
Each year we have shown their work at the Groups U3A Meeting. This requires them to learn presentation skills and at the same time stimulates a great deal of interest amongst the other U3A members.
We have learnt a lot from leading these groups. We have been asked questions we could not answer but have found the means; looked at other artistic examples; searched books; found subjects to set and places to visit. Our own photography has been challenged and at the same time we have found new friends and filled our days with new adventures in the art of photography.
From September we shall start two new classes and the Using Your Camera course will finish. The new classes are Starters DI for those who wish to process their photos in a simple manner and ONWARD.
ONWARD is a totally new class to accomodate members who want to push the boundaries of their photographic knowledge in whatever direction we choose. It is for those members who have been through one of our other classses and know enough to do the basic post processing.
There is a calendar for when the classes are held on our site at http://www.salisburyu3a.org.uk/SPIRE/SpireDIPhotoTimetable.html
Times and classes are subject to changes. So keep an eye on this page just to check, whichever U3A group you belong to, whether the class you are in is being held when expected.
Sheila and Peter Read