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Measure for Measure and Stratford - August 2019
Many thanks go to Margaret Wainwright for arranging another splendid
trip to Stratford upon Avon on the 29th August to see an excellent performance
by the RSC of Measure for Measure. The
observant would have spotted Antony Byrne (the Duke) who also played Mark
Antony in Antony and Cleopatra (a previous trip organised by Margaret).
We had a good journey and as the weather was good, thankfully not as hot
as the previous week, although a little windy, there was enough time for a walk
by the river or to look round the shops and have some lunch before the
performance started. Out of a party of
fifty, thirty-four saw the play with the
remainder spending their time sight-seeing. The coach driver was kind enough to
drive several of this group out to Ann Hathaway's Cottage. Two days before going to Stratford a workshop
had been run by Alan Allkins, a St Albans U3A member, which was of great help
in understanding and enjoying the performance.
Diana & Frank
Ian and Pat Martin, as part of the non-thespian
group were free to explore Stratford for about 4 1/2hrs. They write , "The weather was fine
& so we decided to begin our wanderings with a 40 min. boat trip. This took us upstream past the Royal
Shakespeare Theatre and beyond Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried.
Audio guides were provided and additional commentary was provided by the skipper.
The boat turned round & made its way
downstream, past the chain ferry and under the Tramway Bridge (an early failed
attempt at steam haulage) and now a footbridge then the 14-arch Clopton Bridge
built in late C15. It was funded by Thos. Clopton, a wealthy wool merchant and
Lord Mayor of London. Further on we passed palatial properties
with their own boathouses before returning to the start.
After a quick 'refuelling' session we
walked back to Holy Trinity Church and then explored more of the town, the
older part of which is quite compact with a wealth of places to visit: Shakespeare's birthplace in Henley St.,
the Guidhall & Grammar School where he was educated, New Place (now demolished) where he owned
a house and Hall's Croft where his married daughter Susanna Hall lived.
No time to visit Anne Hathaway's Cottage
at Stottery, 2 miles away or Mary Arden's Tudor Farm. They'll have to wait for another
Ian & Pat Martin
Althorp Estate, Northampton 8th August 2019
The day we went to Althorp
House turned out to be a really good experience, with the weather staying dry
but not too hot, the snacks and drinks easily available and the journey a
simple dash up the M1. Margaret
Wainwright struck gold again.
Althorp is the family
home of the Spencer family and has been for 500 years. The Spencers made their
money as sheep farmers in the 1600s and worked their way up to become Earls by
the 18th century. The house is only open for 2 months in the summer
and is still very much a family home.
The house is very
impressive and stands amid the most beautiful and extensive parkland and
farmland with some lovely trees and sheep still grazing safely. The state rooms are well presented and
include two amazing dining rooms which
the guides assured us were used quite
often for formal occasions. The bedrooms
too were in regular use. It must be
quite an event to sleep in a large four poster bed with walls totally covered
by paintings of past noblemen and women.
Paintings were prominent in every room, with one sitting room decorated
with lots of pictures of prize bulls!
The stables are grand
and a fine example of Palladian architecture, now housing the shop, café and
exhibitions. One wall at the end of the exhibition rooms was a full length
glass cased shelf unit full of tribute books from all over the world to Diana,
Princess of Wales. Beyond the house there is a small lake (the Round Oval) with
a private island where there is an urn dedicated to Diana and at the far end of
the lake is a temple in her memory.
The whole place was
very well looked after and had a very calm and tranquil air about it.
The Spencer family
seem to be doing well and hopefully will continue at Althorp for another few
hundred years. Best bit of information
from the lovely and often quite young guides was that the Spencer’s London
house is rented out to one of the De Rothschilds!
Italy and the Amalfi Coast 16.5.2019 to 23.5.2019
outward trip went without a hitch. All of the logistics were ably marshalled by
Margaret, and we were seamlessly transported to our destination, the Grand
Hotel Due Golfi, a 4 star hotel with a 5 star view.
our way there we eased through heavy traffic in Naples, a metropolis with a
population of 3 million and all the entanglements of modern city life. Vesuvius
loomed large above it, a brooding threat of apocalyptic destruction which the
locals have managed to ignore for the best part of two millennia, apparently
secure in the knowledge that they will have 10 days notice of any eruption.
passed by signs to ‘Ercolano’ and ‘Pompei’, a reminder, if one were required,
of what a somma-strato volcano can do when it decides to blow its top. Soon
enough we would see some of the glories of antiquity that had been excavated
from layers of ash, pumice, and lava to a depth of about 10 meters which had
been deposited on those towns when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
roads around Sorrento, and onward to the Amalfi coast cling to the sides of the
coastline, and wind like spaghetti rising from the blue bowl of the bay as they
climb up from sea level to the commanding heights of the Lattari Mountains of
the Sorrento peninsula. With each twist of the road new views appear.
hillsides when not rocky and sparse, are terraced with gardens of vines growing
on pergolas, and within their shade there are olive and lemon groves, and
everywhere, signs of human habitations, ancient and modern. The gardens and
orchards which once graced Herculaneum and Pompeii may have looked much the
same, as do the Neapolitan people, an admixture which in ancient times was less
Roman than Greek.
days passed quickly, full of interest and activity, during which we learned so
much. Each of us may have their particular favourites, whether the
Archaeological Museum where the unobtrusive security allowed us to be immersed
in the sculpture hall and other treasures there, as demonstrated by our guide,
or the delightful terraced gardens of the Villa San Michele on Capri.
Villa Poppaea, Herculaneum and Pompeii were no less fascinating, though each
raised different questions, often not without difficulty, as to how to give
access to the wonders of Roman civilization in their everyday setting, without
risking damage to the fabric of the buildings, or losing the precious frescoes
and mosaics which look a little sad after long exposure. Or more poignant
still, the remains of those who were caught out waiting to be evacuated from
the docks of Herculaneum, undiminished by the knowledge that we were looking at
all enjoyed the conviviality of the very pleasant dining in the hotel, and
Martin voiced all our appreciation for the sterling work done by Margaret and
Allan to make it such a wonderfully enjoyable trip. The Greek influence of the
area was still with us as we stoically withstood an unexpected delay on our
return caused by the need to repatriate a passenger from a previous plane and a
diverting trip to Southend on Sea because a hole in the runway had closed
Stansted. Throughout Margaret kept us informed and oiled the wheels so that a
replacement coach was to be had. Thus we returned home, tired, but triumphant.
Mia Moments on the Amalfi Coast
years ago, we sailed along the amazing Amalfi coast and thought – beautiful
scenery; fascinating history; dangerous coastal roads carved into precipitous
cliffs - we have to go there one day ....
U3A-adopted hotel was near 5* and perched very high (just below satellite
level) on the Sorrento peninsula. We
looked down (and I do mean down) on Sorrento and across the bay to Vesuvius and
Naples – 30 miles by road. To reach the
hotel our coach was obliged to climb narrow winding roads clinging to the edge
of sheer cliffs. Every day for a week,
wherever we went - Pompei, Herculaneum, Amalfi, Naples, Sorrento – our coach
driver had to negotiate these dramatic roads.
the Maitre d’s other half, I got to ride shotgun – high above the driver on the
front seat. I had first hand experience
of every twist and turn in the roads as we hurtled towards oblivion on every
hairpin corner (and the faint cry of ‘Oh, my God’ coming from behind me).
wound our way round a series of bends, I was often surprised when we slowed
down on a relatively straight bit of road.
Our driver was simply easing off to allow faster traffic to
overtake. At school-closing times this
included hordes of school kids on their Vespas, buzzing past like flies. On these difficult roads the actions and
reactions of all the drivers as they squeezed past each other, overtook or gave
way was little short of symbiotic.
say that getting there is half the fun.
Well, getting back continued to be hair-raising. Due to a hole in the runway (!) at Stansted,
our return flight was diverted to (wait for it) Southend … where we waited
until the hole was repaired before resuming our journey. After a mad dash along the (shortish) runway
we roared up to 7,000 feet before (“cabin crew – clear for landing”) we started
our descent into Stansted: a whole 15 minutes flight!