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Post Office Underground Railway Postal Museum 


Diane, Ursi and Pammy organised a most interesting visit to the PO Underground Railway in Farringdon.

The amazing network is no longer used by Royal Mail, but some of it has been preserved and now operates as a living museum.

Bubble trains take visitors on a tour through the tunnels, with sound and visual displays depicting the history of this unique system of industrial transport.


Following a fascinating journey on the train and a look at the museum display we strolled through the streets of Farringdon to the main section of the Postal Museum. The weather was bright for a change after what had seemed like perpetual rainy days.

Pammy McGinley, U3A Exploring London 2 Group



How often does one get to see a living legend conduct his own music? Those of us on the Sunday afternoon trip to The Royal Albert Hall on October 13th did just that when we attended Sir Karl Jenkins’ 75th Birthday Celebration Concert. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra supported eminent soloists, both vocal and instrumental, and also The Crouch End Chorus, treating us to a magnificent programme of the maestro’s most popular works including “The Armed Man” and “Palladio”.

Jonathan Scott’s rendition of “6000 Pipes” was as breathtaking as the title suggests; and the amazing Abel Selaocoe appeared to make his cello dance. Excerpts from Jenkins’ new work “Miserere” whetted our appetites for the upcoming premier in June 2020 (and yes, I’ve already booked my ticket!)

It was a unique event that  had the whole of the Albert Hall audience on its feet for a very long standing ovation in recognition of the greatness of the man before us, and of the beauty and originality of his music, which is even more  appreciated when you actually sing it from the score.

So thank you to St Albans U3A, and Margaret in particular, for organising the unforgettable trip that I would otherwise have missed!

Andrea Berry





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 Brown

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 day!"

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!  


Annabel Alcock


Classical Italy and the Amalfi Coast 16.5.2019 to 23.5.2019


Our 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.


On 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.


We 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.


The 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.


The 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.


The 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.


The 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 plaster casts.


We 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.


Paul and Meg


Mamma Mia Moments on the Amalfi Coast


Twelve 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 ....


Our 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.


As 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).


Having 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.


They 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!


Allora, andiamo.  Eh.



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