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Science Group

Thanks to all contributors to the October meeting.

Meeting on November 19th, 2021

Bob is preparing a Christmas Science Quiz activity and we will be revisiting the Christmas tree. If we have time we will watch two short video clips featuring Tesla and Elon Musk.

The science group is producing the tree for the annual Parish Church Christmas Tree competition.

Details:
Christmas Trees to be assembled on Wednesday 1st December, 2021 and will be on display until Sunday the 5th.
We agreed that it would be a ‘food bank’ tree with additional decoration.
Please bring along your ideas and any items that would either hold it together or add to the Christmassy feel.
If we can all donate 2 full tins (we now have enough empties) each it will be most appreciated.
We will need a few volunteers to assemble the tree on Wednesday 1st December.

David Rose

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Movement to Music Group Closure

Group Update
25/08/20.

Unfortunately I am no longer able to continue as Group Leader for the Movement to Music group, so (unless another U3A member is willing to take over*) it won’t be re-opening when other U3A activities resume at the John Godber Centre.

This has been a very lively, sociable and enjoyable group to teach – so I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have taken part since our first short course started in September 2017, for their interest (and willingness to share my enthusiasm for Dance!) Keep Moving!

Sue Saunders.

*If you know anyone who might be willing to give it a try, could you ask them to contact me as soon as possible via this page.

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Creative Writing group

Once again, even though the Creative Writing Group has now closed, I thought you might be interested in the following which was first written in February, 2016. We were told to choose a scene and write about it.

BLISS!
It had been a pleasant summer’s day, that Wednesday in July, not sunny but warm. The Hucknall U3A Lunch Group had had a lovely three-hour cruise and lunch down the River Trent on the Nottingham Princess Riverboat. It had been a much more relaxed lunch than our usual monthly event as, after the lunch itself was over, instead of disappearing home straight away, we all sat on deck and watched the world go by. We marvelled at the expensive looking homes built on the riverside and at the crudely made nests also built on the riverside. Cyclists waved to us from the Victoria Embankment, rowers scowled as we broke their concentration and swans and Canada geese quickly swam away from the eddies made by the riverboat.

Eventually it was time to go home, back to our usual early evening activities. I watched some television until it became dark and, being bored, flicked from channel to channel to find something worth watching. And there it was, a BBC Four programme called “The Canal Trip” which had been filmed in real time and contained no commentary, music or presenter and showed nothing more exciting than passing boats, changing scenery and the occasional passer-by in the distance walking along the towpath. I started to watch, wondering when the commentary would begin – but it didn’t. Surely something would happen soon, I asked myself?

I continued to watch, becoming mesmerised by this experiment in slow TV filmed down one of Britain’s historic waterways, the Kennet and Avon Canal. The programme, which switched from colour to black and white, featured facts about canal construction which appeared on the water in text, a very original idea which negated the need for a commentary. I checked how long the programme would be on for and was quite surprised that it would last for two hours. Two hours! Could I really sit and watch this programme for two hours? But I was so hypnotised by the sounds of the birds singing, the crunch of approaching cyclists’ wheels on the gravel, the wind rustling the leaves which overhung the canal and the slow-moving background and interesting facts emerging from the water that I just sat back and enjoyed it. It was such a lovely coincidence that we had been on our own trip on the water earlier that day.

Later I wasn’t surprised to find that thousands of other viewers had felt exactly the same way as I had about the programme. Apparently, the show fetched 506,000 viewers and had a peak of 599,000, well above the BBC Four slot average of 340,000. Britain has so much to offer, whether it be these canals, the Lochs of Scotland, the Peak & Lake Districts, or the Yorkshire Moors. Wouldn’t it be great if the BBC made a whole series of these films and encouraged people to visit places that might even be on their own doorsteps or just an hour or so away. No need to spend money on an expensive trip to Venice in order to visit the Grand Canal, not when the Kennet and Avon Canal is on your doorstep! With the help of films such as this and the hard work of the Canal Conservationists, it is hoped that the future of even the grottiest canal’s future is ensured for the benefit of all.

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Creative Writing Group

Once again, even though the Creative Writing Group has now closed, I thought you might be interested in the following which was first written in October, 2017.

Dining Out

The five elderly ladies sitting down for their bi-annual dinner glanced sidelong at their unexpected guest until the eldest, but not necessarily the bravest, cracked and asked timidly “Can we help you at all?”. The person (whether man or woman could not be identified as he/she was wearing a long coat with a hood pulled well over the eyes) sat down in the remaining sixth chair. It moved its head slowly side to side and turned to glance over its shoulder at the rest of the room. It was early evening at Luigi’s Restaurant, even the pre-theatre customers had not yet arrived and Luigi had placed the group in the furthest corner of the restaurant, away from the window tables and the central prominent tables. He had then taken their meal orders and disappeared into the kitchen at the other end of the restaurant where a furious argument seemed to be taking place, with much crashing down of pots and pans and raised Italian voices. The ladies looked at one another in fear and trepidation as the creature extended a gloved hand towards Agatha, handing her a rolled up piece of paper. Agatha took it and unrolled it, glancing at her companions, silently begging for their support, but they simply just sat there with confusion in their eyes. She looked down at the thick parchment-type paper and read the following words out loud to her friends:

“Just do as you are instructed and do not attempt to identify me. I shall be standing just inside the washroom door. When Luigi returns with your orders, just eat it without commenting on my presence. Then when you have all finished, come into the washroom one by one where I will be waiting. Do not attempt to alert Luigi or things will get difficult. You have been warned.”

Agatha looked at the others to see how they were reacting. Timid Mabel did not look up from examining her hands in her lap whilst Florrie looked worried and shifted closer to Beattie, who was the biggest and boldest of the group. Beattie opened her mouth to protest but the figure rose from its seat and swiftly went around the table, pressing a gloved hand in warning on Elsie’s shoulder. She gasped in fright and clutched her napkin to her mouth in fear.

The creature moved swiftly into the Washroom but kept the door slightly ajar so that they were still able to be aware of its presence. Just then Luigi came out of the kitchen, beaming at the ladies and bearing three plates of steaming food which he placed in front of them. He then rushed back into the kitchen and soon re-emerged with two more steaming plates. “Enjoy, signorinas, enjoy!”. He disappeared back into the kitchen, as still no new customers had arrived. The ladies looked at one another and then at the figure hidden in the washroom doorway. “Well” said Beattie “we may as well eat our meals whilst they are hot” and she tucked her napkin under her chin and began to eat. The others slowly followed her actions but at the same time kept glancing at the figure in the washroom doorway.

The food was so tasty and they tucked in with relish as they didn’t want to let it go cold. Then as they each finished their meal about the same time, they looked at one another in enquiry. Slowly Agatha picked up her knife and walked towards the washroom door. The creature opened it wider and she went inside. After a few minutes the others decided they couldn’t leave Agatha to her fate so they too picked up their knives and went into the washroom. There they found Agatha chatting amiably with a portly figure, bald headed and wearing rimless spectacles. There was the cloak on the floor. “Sorry about that, ladies” said the man “but it gets more and more difficult for food critics to get honest opinions from customers if the restaurant owners know a food critic in on the premises. Now what did you think about your meals?”

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Creative Writing Group

Once again, even though the Creative Writing Group has now closed, I thought you might be interested in the following which was first written in May, 2017.

“Birdsong”
I’m not a good sleeper; I either go to bed very, very late or at a reasonable time but can’t get to sleep and then wake at least twice in the night with typical old lady’s complaints. These are obviously all factors which are down to me, but every now and again outside (literally outside my bedroom window) a problem arises which is not of my own making but of nature itself. I first noticed it when I once went to bed very late, in fact after 2.30 am. As I opened my window, I heard chirruping from the trees about twenty feet away. “Whatever’s making that noise so early in the morning?” I asked myself. Not being very knowledgeable about birds, the next day I asked friends, who suggested it could be a nightingale but it was too early in the year for them. So, I Googled it and found in fact that it was a robin. Apparently, they are the last to go to bed and the first to wake up! (Rather like me, so I may have to change my name to Robin!).
But the best sounds are around four thirty am when the blackbirds start their conversations. The first is in the nearest tree to my house, about ten yards away in the school yard. His co-respondent is in a tree around fifty yards away, across the school playground. I just have to get out of bed and open the window a little wider to more clearly hear their conversation which I imagine goes something like this:
“Morning Peter, are you up yet? Are you up yet?”. “Of course I am, Paul, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well I heard you had a late night last night. Chatting up Belinda, I believe?”. “Well, you’re only jealous. You’re only jealous. Just ‘cos you can’t get yourself a lady friend!”. “I’ll have you know I do very nicely, thank you.” “I’ll believe it when I hear it” responds Paul.
And so on it goes. Occasionally Peter will repeat his sentence twice, just for emphasis but Paul will then change the subject of the conversation and alter his tune accordingly.

In this age of technology, I can’t believe that scientists haven’t studied the blackbirds’ songs and been able to interpret what they are saying to one another. Their phrasing is so conversational, sometimes a little wistful, at other times questioning or indignant. It just cannot be random notes; it just has to be a proper conversation, which is often quite lengthy, not like the occasional squawk, chirrup or chirp of other birds, such as sparrows, seagulls and crows. Just this morning as I lay awake planning this piece of writing, I suddenly thought of the wood pigeon and, just as I thought of his name, he started his chant. Sporty Warren is the wood pigeon who sits on a corner floodlight, high above the school playing field behind my house, chanting “Come on United! Come on United!”.

The only sound I can well do without is the chatter of the magpies; they’re so loud, clattering and argumentative. I just have to shut my window when they begin, but usually they start their racket when I should have been getting up anyway.

I love the blackbirds’ song so much that I even bought myself a CD of birdsong which I play very loudly when I am just relaxing or reading a book, because the birds don’t usually sing all day, just at the early morning and evening shifts. But strangely in these awful times we are living in at the moment, I’ve noticed the blackbirds are singing nearly all of the day! So, you scientists, knuckle down to cracking the blackbirds’ songs so that we early risers can follow their conversations.

Check out the blackbird’s song on Youtube: https://youtu.be/EB1lgjg9e4Y

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