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NAC Unavailable during week of 2nd April

The planned demolition of parts of Neyland Athletic Club is imminent. Whilst this is ongoing it is difficult for us to use this as a venue for our activities. The Pembrokeshire U3A Monthly Meeting, scheduled for April 5th, is therefore cancelled. Joe Rielly’s talk on Redundant Churches will be rescheduled for later in the year.

Group Leaders who have meetings at NAC during the week commencing 2 April should also postpone, or find temporary venues until the NAC becomes available again.

We are monitoring the situation, and we shall let you know when the venue is available again.

March 2018 Meeting: The Samaritans

‘Samaritans’ is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, often through their telephone helpline. Leo and Gil from the Haverfordwest branch gave us an informative talk about the wonderful and important work that they do.

Samaritans began in 1953 in London, founded by a vicar called Chad Varah.  Throughout his career Chad had offered counselling to his parishioners, and wanted to do something more specific to help people struggling to cope and possibly contemplating suicide.

The initial idea for Samaritans came from the first funeral Chad conducted early on in his career: a girl aged 14 had started her period, but having no one to talk to believed that she had a sexually transmitted disease and took her own life.

Chad was immensely moved by this senseless loss of life, “I might have dedicated myself to suicide prevention then and there, providing a network of people you could ‘ask’ about anything, however embarrassing, but I didn’t come to that until later”.

When Chad was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen in the summer of 1953 he knew that the time was right for him to launch what he called a “999 for the suicidal”. He was, in his own words, “a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone”.

The first call to the new service was made on 2nd November 1953 and this date is recognised as Samaritans’ official birthday.

Chad knew he would need to get word out about the service. Luckily he wrote and illustrated articles for children’s comics, so he knew many of the journalists who worked on national newspapers. The service received lots of press coverage and on December 7th, 1953 the Daily Mirror coined the term “Telephone Good Samaritans” and although Samaritans is not a religious organisation, the name has stuck and become synonymous with the idea of people being there for others struggling to cope.

The newspaper coverage worked and Chad received many callers wanting support both on the phone and face to face, as well as people wanting to help as volunteers. Initially the volunteers’ duties were to sit with the callers whilst they waited for their appointment, offering them someone to chat to, but it soon became clear that their role was much more central to the service. Often, the callers would pour out their problems to volunteers and many felt no need to speak to Chad afterwards.

The simple act of listening and offering non-judgmental support was enough for most callers, and Chad realised the power of the service was in providing a safe space so people could talk and be listened to, without judgment.

Publicity for the London-based service created a lot of interest elsewhere in the UK and as a consequence several more Samaritans centres were set up in the following years – the second being Samaritans in Edinburgh which took its first call on 1st June 1959. There are now 201 branches across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

In February 1954, Chad officially handed over the task of supporting the callers to the volunteers, and Samaritans as we know it today was born. Samaritans service today still operates on Chad’s guiding principles of confidential, non-judgmental support.

February Meeting – ” Madagascar” a talk by Julian Cremona

An illustrated talk by Julian about his visit to the island country of Madagascar in 2016. Julian is one of our most popular speakers and again he delivers a most interesting talk about his travels, illustrated by stunning photographs.

Our speaker for February’s meeting was Julian Cremona, a well known local biologist and naturalist. His subject was the island of Madagascar.  One of the largest and poorest places in the world and with little or no infrastructure, travelling through the island proved to be a challenge for Julian in his quest for wildlife. In the dense vegetation, most of Julian’s photographs were taken using flash photography.

With the aid of local guides he was able to take some 16,500 photographs, including the rare red ruff lemur which he located in six hours whereas David Attenborough had taken six days!
Having no natural predators, many species of bird life flourish on the island and in the main can be found on the forest floor. We journeyed by means of photographs from dense forestation to arid desert.   
He told hair-raising stories of his internal aeroplane flights and leeches clinging to his body as he climbed through the forest. I think I would prefer to look at his photographs rather than visit the island. In fact, Julian said that much as he loved the wildlife it was unlikely he would visit again even though he deemed it to be a paradise.

January 2018 Meeting “Fun Quiz”

Today’s was an informal meeting introduced by our Chair Penny Thomas, and followed by an enjoyable and entertaining quiz devised by Peter Brown and presented by Derek Church.

Winning team (below) called ‘Odd Man Out’ since either the team was all ladies plus one gentleman, or
because they considered their ‘gentleman’ to be odd.  The team members consisted of:
Janine Crooks, Helen Kift, Anne Hyslop, Enid Lawrence, Shiela Evans and David Pinch

 

 

Monthly Meeting: David Wilson Photographer

David is a Welsh landscape photographer, well known for his black and white atmospheric images.  David, is also a fan of the Welsh detective series Hinterland, was offered a chance to produce a book promoting the series and not surprisingly to be entitled Hinterland.  Many of the visitors to Wales seem to zone in on areas such as the Gower, Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia bypassing the dramatic landscape of Ceredigion the County in which the programme is set.  In the main, there were photographs taken during filming grey skies, rolling mists and as David stated plenty of rain a perfect setting for brooding detective DCI Tom Mathias!  It is possible to purchase framed copies of David’s work the most popular, with the ladies we were told, being the head of a bull.  An interesting talk by someone who clearly loves his subject watch out for his next book, Pembrokeshire through the Year, produced with the well known television presenter Jamie Owen we saw a sample of the photographs to be included, a rather young looking Judge in his smart bowler hat clutching what could only be a glass of the hard stuff!

Penny Thomas  2nd November 2017

U3A Horticultural Show

For what seemed to be weeks, members of the Gardening Group have been complaining about the weather conditions: wind and rain and heat. The latter two great for growing but the wind can lead to disaster!
As I walked through the door leading into the hall at the NAC I was faced with many empty tables. What could I expect, in the way of entries? Not very much if I was to believe the cry of “I won’t have anything for the show”. I think they were misleading me; the hall was full to capacity. Three or four times I needed to plead for extra tables, two even came from the red room!

The Flower Section

There was such an array of beautiful flowers, scrumptious looking vegetables and very appetising fruit scones and preserves. Fantastic, why did I doubt? It was delightful to receive entries from ‘first timers’. I hope they catch the bug. Returning to the hall after judging had taken place to find you have a certificate against your entry is just the best feeling, especially when it was unexpected. There were fifty entries more this year than last, so my powers of persuasion worked.Our overall winner with the most number of points was, for the third year in succession, Pam Steer, with Ifor Swales a close second. Best exhibit in the flower section with her amazing vase of flowers was Ruth Poole. In the preserve section Viv Scale was awarded Best Exhibit for her delicious mango chutney and with some modesty I have to reveal I had the best exhibit in the vegetable and fruit section for my runner beans!

When the show opened at 2.00pm there was a goodly flow of visitors (thank you for your support) who enjoyed a good look at the exhibits, a cup of tea and in some cases a piece of cake or a biscuit, with much chatter. With a sigh of relief we shall now start planning for next year!

It’s been a long day!

Gardens of Holland April 2017

Wonders of Keukenhof

Thirteen U3A Members visit Keukenhof Gardens

 Thirteen Pembrokeshire U3A members departed on Easter Sunday 16th April 2017 to catch the Super-Ferry Stenna Brittanica from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, for a five day holiday discovering “The Gardens of Holland” with CJB Garden Tours www.cjbgardentours.co.uk.  

We made our way to Harwich and boarded a ferry to the Hook of Holland, a perfect overnight crossing, following breakfast on board.  We then made our way by coach to the Keukenhof Gardens the first of our garden visits – although hardly a garden!  Keukenhof Flower Gardens, said to be the greatest spring flower show in the world. Thousands of visitors from all over the world visit this spectacular attraction each year between March and May. There must have been a million or more tulips, hyacinths and other spring bulbs to delight the eye, in fact, it was all quite breathtaking.

The following day we travelled to the Het Loo Palace and Gardens. This Royal Palace is known as the “Versailles of the North”, where we found immaculate formal gardens.   Returning from Het Loo we spent an afternoon wandering around the older parts of the beautiful Dutch town of Amersfoort. We rounded off our short visit to Holland with a fantastic excursion featuring a one-way cruise from Enkhuizen to  Medemblik on the museum ship Friesland, and a steam train journey through the Dutch bulb fields.  

The weather was bright and sunny but you will note from the photograph we were well wrapped up against the wind!

Penny Thomas  22nd April 2017

April Monthly Meeting: National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) Woolpack Point Station

Today’s speaker was Richard Neale, Station Manager for the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) at their Woolpack Point Station, in the Deer Park close to Martin’s Haven.   The National Coastwatch is an entirely voluntary organisation keeping a visual watch along UK shores.  Each station assists in the protection and preservation of life at sea and around the UK coastline. Currently 50 NCI stations are operational and manned by over 2000 volunteers keeping watch around the British Isles.

Richard talked at length about the history of wrecks & rescues on the short stretch of dangerous coastline north of the Haven covered by their Watch and the changes that have occurred over the years to establish safety for mariners, boaters and those using the waters around Skomer Island.  Whilst high technology and sophisticated systems are aids to improved safety, a computer cannot spot a distress flare, an overturned boat or a yachtsman or fisherman in trouble. Other vulnerable activities like diving, wind surfing and canoeing are made safer with visual surveillanceof volunteers.

NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are volunteers trained to deal with emergencies and to support the other rescue services, offering a variety of skills and experience.

Geoff Winterman

January 2017 Monthly Meeting: Julian Cremona

The speaker at the first monthly meeting of the year, Julian Cremona, took us to Canada with the aid of photographs and dialogue Churchill, to be more precise, which he and his wife visited some ten years ago.  His photographs are amazing, close up pictures of polar bears, a silver fox, arctic hares, red and arctic foxes, elk and deer.  You almost felt they were only feet away rather than just looking at  them on the screen apparently over 3000 photographs were taken in all. 

The talk followed the journey Julian and his wife took.  Commencing in Vancouver, where they hired a vehicle to take them northwards to Churchill, having been assured it would not be necessary to have a four wheel drive vehicle since there was no snow. Not so, it was necessary for them to retrace their steps because of snow. In fact, part of the journey had to be undertaken by air as there was only a narrow window of time during which Polar bears may be seen before they depart for the ice cap in order to feed. 

Julian has such an enthusiasm for his subject, explaining and giving great insight to the nature of the area he was exploring.  However, as soft and lovely as polar bears look they are the largest land living mammal on earth and not one to be trifled with.  The Tundra which covers some one million square miles is home to these magnificent animals.  They wait patiently for the ice to form to enable them to seek their food, in the main seals.  Having not eaten for upwards of six months, it is not surprising the human residents of Churchill are ever watchful for these creatures, placing bars at their windows just in case a passing bear decides they might make a tasty meal!

The talk was much enjoyed by the members who can look forward to hearing of Julian’s adventures in Costa Rica, his next destination.

Penny Thomas 5th January 2017

A YouTube clip of a Polar Bear sliding as Julian described!