Category Archives: General

26 November 2023


🎄🎅Not quite Christmas but this was  our last meeting of the year.   We had a  quiz and games and then after our festive refreshments  the excellent local guitarist, Pete Mercer, returned to entertain us 🎄🤶

Musical Theatre – ‘The Trinket Box’

We are now starting to cast our next show “The Trinket Box”. We have openings for new members, men & women, to come and join us. You do have to be over 55 and able to come to rehearsals on a Tuesday afternoon between 1-4pm.

It will be performed at Aughton Village Hall on 22nd & 23rd March 2024.  We are also in need of people to work backstage and ‘front of house’. Please access Musical Theatre group page for further information..

November dances

3.11.23 Elfrida recorded the dances.

  • Birthday Reel a 4 couple dance
  • Jackdaw 4 couple dance, to a different, more lively tune – Cumberland Long Eight.
  • Jump frogs jump 2×3 couple set.
  • The Magpie – longways.
  • Sprigs of Laurel – longways
  • Brighton Review – longways.

10.11.23 from June’s dance records.

  • The Merry Monarch 3 couple dance.
  • Aughton Reel 4 couple dance.
  • Leaving of Liverpool 3 couple dance
  • Trip to Sheringham 4 couple dance in a square formation.
  • One each & all together (unlikey to repeat this dance)
  • Lord Caernavon’s Jig 4 couple dance 1851 reconstructed by Cecil Sharp 1910.

17.11.23 including some of Geraldine’s Birthday requests.

  • Barn Dance Reel.
  • Brighton Le Sands a June Jones longways dance.
  • Welcome in the May slightly out of Season but a good longways dance by Sharon Green 2018.
  • and following on the theme Upon a Summer’s Day a 3 couple dance.
  • The Spaniard choreography & music, Playford 1777.
  • Whim of the Moment a longways dance , choreography & music Thompson 1791.

24.11.23 John called the dances.

  • Go to the Devil and Shake Yourself a longways dance from 1795/99
  • A fig for Bonaparte longwaysby Henry Thompson 1804. On 2nd December 1804 – Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France. (some kind of political comment?)
  • The Whim of the Moment see last week.
  • We Will Down with The French a 3 couple dance following the French theme, Thompson 1780 reinterpreted by Charles Bolton 1997.
  • Brighton Review a longways dance 1794.
  • The Leaving of Liverpool 3 couple dance x2.

Delighted to announce, that this month we’ve had a new couple join the group. Still room for more dancers if you’d like to try Country Dancing.

20 November 2023 – Trees and Other Plants

We broadened the topic of the landscape by looking a trees and plants starting with trees.

1/.  Trees live for a long time, are big, strong with a lifespan beyond those of humans.  They move and make noises with the winds

Most ancient civilisations would have sacred trees, they were venerated. We have a love for trees now but they have ancient sacred memories associated with them too.  Genesis has the tree of life and tree of knowledge so have been seen as wise.  Irminsul the tree of life venerated by the Saxons may be the origin of the English Maypole.  Yggdrasil, the world tree from Norse Mythology held the universe together.

Not all tree were good, The Wild Wood of Northern Europe has a dark ominous view of them.

2/.  Trees in Irish Celtic Mythology

The Chieftain Trees were the most important and included oak, hazel, holly, apple, ash, yew and fir.

i/. Oak – we looked at the Oak in detail, as it was the most important.

It has a powerful spirit, in winter the spirit goes to the mistletoe which is frequently found on it.  A protector against lightning, for the God fearing.  Links to Thor.  Associated with fertility and thus with marriages.  Newly married couples would dance around Marriage Oaks.  Couples would marry in church and process to the oak tree.

Healing powers – an iron nail driven into the oak would cure tooth ache, water from hollows in the tree would cure ulcers.

Some stories were attached to existing traditions.  Oak Apple Day 29th May took existing traditions appropriated by the Royalists to commemorate the restoration of Charles II.  This was very popular, sprigs of oak were worn on coats, sprigs in churches, houses.  The origins were probably from May Day.

ii/. Hazel – hidden knowledge.  9 hazel trees surrounded the Celtic Well of Knowledge.  Hazel rods were used to search for hidden things, suspected thieves, water, minerals, metals.

iii/. Holly – Protective, belonged to the fairy folk.   Not generally allowed in churches due to their pagan associations.  If cut one had to apologies to the tree.

iv/. Apple Tree – Symbol of youth, strength, and healing.   An ancient symbol of fruitfulness and fertility.  Apple trees should never be cut down and should be honoured.  There was a tradition of wassailing the apple where an offering of cider-soaked bread would be made.  These were serious ceremonies where the whole family from eldest to youngest were expected to attend but are more light-hearted in modern times.


                           Future Meetings                    

All future meetings will be at the Scout & Guide H.Q. building on the 3rd Monday of the month.

All meetings will take place in the small room from 2.00pm

The Competition topics from August 22 to June 23 are now listed above with the due dates for entries.

Our December meeting will be on Monday 18th December.

We will judge the December competition which is :-

Topic 1 Flower with Creative Text: Topic 2 Street Photography

We will also look at winning pictures from the last twelve months, and perhaps even partake in a quiz to excise our brains after exercising our tummy muscles.

The cost of this extravaganza is £5.00per person (non refundable.)

If you missed the November meeting but would like to attend the Christmas meeting, please forward your name via the competition email no later than 30.11.23 so that catering arrangements can be completed.


November 2023 Competition

T1 Perspective  click for  slideshow

T2 Roots  click for slideshow

Publicity “Deadlines”

Do you need to publicise a u3a event or activity? Here are the deadlines for advertising in the various publications:

u3a Magazines

  • copy for next magazine: deadline as publicised

(The next Magazine is due out in late January 2024.  So please send in your items to the Magazine Editor before the end of 2023.)

Monthly enews

  • deadline for enews items: NOON on the last Monday of the month

u3a Website

  • Group and other News and Events, Photos etc:  Anytime

u3a Facebook

Horizons Slideshow

  • Projected in the Scout & Guide HQ halls during Horizons:  Anytime

Horizons Announcements and Flyers

  • Notes of announcements to be read out  and / or  prepared flyers for the tables: Bring to the meeting

Please refer to the Communicating within our U3A webpage for more information on these ways of advertising and how to contact their “editors”.

Remember that you need to separately contact the editors for all of the various publications where you want your item to appear.  Sending to one does not necessarily mean that it will  automatically appear in the others.

Musical Theatre

The Musical Theatre Group presents  ‘Once upon a Time’  at Ormskirk Civic Hall’ in November.

The show – set in an apartment building called ‘Falling Stars’ – is for retired thespians.  Next to the building is a meeting hall called ‘Stage Door’ – which is the residents meeting place. The residents lack lustre and are depressed – until – a new resident called Penny joins them. She will take you on a journey to meet all the residents and what they did with their lives.

With witty tales and upbeat music, we go on the roller coaster ride as they fight to save their hall from becoming the next car park!!!

Tickets are on sale from September at Horizons:

Adult  £8.50  –  Children  £5.00

See Musical Theatre Group for other methods of procuring tickets and for more information about the Show.

Techie Advice

The Monday morning Computer Advice Group will open for the last time before Christmas on December 11th and will re-open on Monday January 8th 2024.

Bill S and Alan S, however, will be present at their usual table in the Aughton Room during  the Horizons coffee mornings up to December 21st, for any general Computer and Photography advice. And as usual at most Horizons Meetings, Alan N and Joyce N will also be around and about in the Scout & Guide HQ (often in the Computer Room) available to provide techie advice.

16 October 2023 – Hill Figures, The Glastonbury Zodiac and Mazes

We continued the topic of hill figures in the landscape.

1/. We discussed the possible link between hill figures and folk legends concerning giants

The Long Man of Wilmington was said to be the outline of a giant who was killed in battle.  A figure that was once at Plymouth Hoe was said portray the giant Gogmagog, who was killed in combat with Brutus’ champion Corineus.

In the 1950s, the archaeologist T. C. Lethbridge carried out a prolonged investigation of the Gogmagog Hills in Cambridgeshire, in search of a hill figure of the same giant.  He claimed to have discovered several figures, but his claims have largely been dismissed.

In a similar fashion, in 1929 Katherine Maltwood claimed that she had discovered the figures of a huge prehistoric zodiac marked out by roads, lanes, field boundaries, watercourses and earthworks in the area around Glastonbury.  The centre of the zodiac was occupied by a figure of King Arthur at Glastonbury Tor.  Mrs Maltwood’s claims have largely been discounted.

2/.  We also considered the ancient mazes – convoluting pathways cut into the turf, or marked out by rocks and stones – that have survived in Britain and on the continent.  The purpose of these mazes is unknown, but it has been suggested that some of them may have been used by church men as paths for contemplation; or they may have been used for ritual dances, with the dancers spiralling in and out of the maze along the paths.

Autumn is here – October’s dances.

6.10.23 Elfrida recording the dances.

  • Duke of  York’s cotillion – 3 couple dance (deferred)
  • Prince Rupert’s March see last week.
  • Bartlett Bells also danced last week.
  • Greengage a nice longways dance & music.
  • James’ Park – longways, also deferred.
  • Whim of the moment – longways, went well , all went home happy.


  • The new Rigged Ship a 3 couple dance.
  • Fine Dame a 4 couple dance by Simone Verheyen.
  • Nonesuch a 4 couple dance pub. Playford 1651, adapted by Pat Shaw 1964.
  • On the Edge II a June Jones 4 couple square formation dance with Grand Squares.
  • Lord Caernarfon’s Jig a 4 couple dance from 1651, reconstructed by Cecil Sharpe 1910.


  • Hit and Miss a 2 couple dance, pub. by Playford 1651 in The English Dancing Master.
  • St. James Park  a longways dance from 1718, source John Young.
  • Fret and Rejoice a longways Gary Roodman dance from 2015.
  • If all the World were Paper… a traditional 4 couple dance from 1651 in a square formation.
  • She looked down her nose and Sneered a longways dance and a fascinating title!
  • Nampwich Fair a longways Playford dance.


  • Barbara Walton’s delight a 3 couple dance, apparently written by her friend Irene Crew. Barbara was due to retire but sadly died before this happened. Published in 1999.
  • The Slof Galliard a 4 couple dance by Pat Shaw in 1975, everyone is dancing all the time in this flowing dance. (a belated birthday request from Wendy)
  • Handel with Care a 2 couple Gary Roodman dance.
  • On the Edge II see 13th. danced a few times.
  • Jamaica a 4 couple Playford dance from 1670 adapted by Tom Cook.

A good selection of both Traditional and Contemporary dances.


Sunday 22 October 2023


Peter Gateley gave us a great presentation  on the new RHS Bridgewater garden👩‍🌾🌼
This was followed by a plant related quiz after the refreshments break.

Ageing Better Again

Following the success of  Ageing Better with an Active Mind, run in conjunction with Edge Hill University last winter,  the project is continuing this year at the beginning of November.

The first session (Workshop 4) will be on Friday 3rd November at 11 am in St Michaels Church Hall, with a talk on the topic of  ‘The Sense of Touch’.

This will be followed on 1st December at the same venue, by Workshop 5 where we will have ‘Dance Contact Improvisation’ delivered by a dance lecturer.

For further info, click or tap on the Edge Hill posters below.


If you are interested in attending either or both events, please contact the Coordinator of the Health & Wellbeing Group, Julia, on





September dances.


  • One is one and all alone…..a longways dance by Fried de Metz Herman 1994 part of a series.
  • Freeford Gardens another longways dance by David & Katherine Wright. Good tune.
  • Dancing at Lughnasa a 4 couple June Jones dance MarkII
  • Black Bess a longways dance from Dancing Master 1696-1728
  • Faithful Shepherd a longways dance Charles & Samuel Thompson 1773.
  • Gasconne see 21.07 23


  • Winifred’s Knot a 4 couple dance from 1652.
  • The Merry Andrew  a 3 couple dance by Marjorie Heffer & William Porter 1932
  • The Waters of Holland a 3 couple dance by Pat Shaw 1971
  • Dunant’s House waltz a 3 couple dance by Colin Hume 1991.
  • Bells of Newport a longways dance.

15.09.23 Elfrida calling the dances today.

  • The Prince Regent a 3 couple dance.
  • Simple square as  befits the title, danced in a square formation for 4 couples. From Margaret McFarlanes collection of dances.
  • Birthday Reel a 4 couple dance. Just because we like it, not for anyones Birthday!
  • Which way now MkII a June Jones 4 couple dance with diagonals & stars!
  • Go to the Devil and shake yourself a longways dance 1795/9.
  • Trip to Sheringham danced in a square formation. The music getting faster & faster.

22.09.23 Elfrida recording the dances for the next 3 sessions.

  • a longways dance Olive Grove danced to the tune Childgrove.
  • a 3 couple dance April’s Lady a waltz danced x2.
  • a 3 couple dance A Lady Remembered.
  • a longways dance The Militia danced April 2023.
  • a longways dance  Irish Lamentation a slow waltz from the Walsh Collection 1735 and rather beautiful.


  • In the Fields of Frost & Snow a longways dance.
  • Bartlett Bells with diagonal Heys.
  • Prince Rupert’s March a 4 couple dance with lots of casting & 1st man in the lead.
  • Dunham Oaks a longways dance.
  • Prince William of Gloucester a longways waltz.


Sunday 27 August 2023

We had an excellent poetry  recital from our very own Poetry Group, followed of course by refreshments and a game


Research Study with Edge Hill

Title of this new study: The underlying neural mechanisms of working memory in elderly populations.

  • Description: “In this experiment, we will use a non-invasive technique called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to explore the brain regions involved in working memory. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive method used to stimulate small regions of the brain. It uses electromagnetic induction to generate an electric current across the scalp and skull without physical contact. This current induces activation and/or deactivation of the neurons under the site of stimulation. This method is FDA-approved and it is used mainly in clinical and experimental settings (here you can see how they use it for other conditions in the NHS:
  • Objective: our goal is to compare the effect of this stimulation at two sites in the brain in order to test their contribution to the performance of some working memory tasks. To measure working memory we will use computerised tests and to measure the brain activity we will use an electroencephalography (EEG) cap. The EEG cap contains electrodes that are attached to the scalp with conductive gel.
  • Number of sessions 3: introductory, session 2 and session 3 (session 2 and 3 must be in consecutive weeks).
  • Duration of each session: introductory (1.5hr), session 2 (3.5hrs), session 3 (3.5hrs).
  • Benefits: Participants can learn more about their cognitive skills and their brain functioning. Furthermore, your participation will help us to understand more the underlying neural mechanisms of working memory in elderly populations.

To find out more about the project, and to check your eligibility, contact Esteban Leon Correa on 07575 087865, or by email to Esteban León Correa <>

18 September 2023 – Rivers, Lakes and Springs Folklore and Hill Figures

1/. We continued the topic of features associated with the British Landscape.

We completed our discussion of folklore associated with inland water, and legends that connect Celtic goddesses to rivers as the sprits of the water.  We questioned if there was a connection between these, the waters are dangerous, there are obvious warnings contained.  It is possible that there are folk memories of the goddesses and spirits from pagan times.

There were beliefs that rivers demanded a quota of drownings over a period of time, some said per year, others every seven years.  We also looked at the importance of the recovery of the bodies of the drowned.  There were rituals used to locate where the bodies were.  It was important for the bereaved to bury them and show respect.

We looked at the folklore related to Aine an Irish Celtic sun goddess/earth mother/mother earth figure and the creation of Lough Gur in Ireland.  She created the lough as a young woman by leaving the top off a well or she was caught by St Patrick as an old woman as she was urinating and that created the lough.

There are many stories in mainland Britain where women left the lid off a well creating lakes and lochs.  Very few of them related to men.  They may have been warnings to protect your precious water source, the water gods could also be dangerous.   Possibly there are links to the memories of the great flood myth which has lots of stories all over the world.

2/. We started a new subtopic of hill figures in the landscape.

White Horses

Most existing white horses are from the late C18th and early C19th due to them becoming fashionable.  These were mainly in Wiltshire due to its topography and the chalk.  A few of these may have earlier figures underneath or Iron Age forts or enclosures nearby.

The white horse at Uffington is the oldest surviving horse.  It is 120 metres long.  It has a stylised shape.  It predates the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the most likely contenders for its creators are the Celts around 1000 BCE.  There is a hill fort by it which is likely to be of the same time.

The stylised shape of the horse is quite common in Celtic metal work and the Atrebates tribe have them on their coins.  It may be dragon not a horse.  There is a Dragon Hill just opposite and the story is that the dragon was killed by St George and the grass did not grow where the blood was spilt.

Human Figures

We looked at two the 180ft Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset and the 230ft Long Man of Wilmington.

There a number of theories of the origins of the Cerne Abbas Giant.  It had an Iron Age enclosure above it and it is likely to have been involved in fertility rites.  We looked at possible dating information/clues for it; the best guess being Celtic.

The Long Man of Wilmington is possibly Saxon or Romano British.  The figure may have had more detail such as eyes as it was almost lost in the turf and was reinstated by white painted bricks.  There is a giant legend associated with it where two giants fought and the figure is the outline left in the hillside of the one which was killed.

We’ll finish this sub topic next time and start a new one.

21 August 2023 – British Rock Formations Folklore

We continued the topic of features associated with the British Landscape.

In the session we carried on with our discussion of folklore associated with stone circles, standing stones, burial chambers etc; petrification legends, stones that are impossible to count, stones that have the ability to move.

Many standing stones and stone circles are said to be able to move, to drink from nearby streams or to dance. It is suggested that originally it would have been the people who visited the stones who danced, or poured water over the stone as an offering.

Long Meg and her Daughters are said to be a coven of witches who were turned to stone by the Scottish magician and alchemist Michael Scott.

Callanish Stone Circle on the island of Lewis is said to be giants who were turned to stone by St. Kieran. There is also a folktale concerning a white cow that appeared out of the sea at a time of famine. She gave milk to all, until a malignant witch milked her dirty and the cow vanished.  Possibly offended by the greed and disrespect that the witch had shown.

We also began to consider folklore connected to inland water, and legends that connect Celtic goddesses to rivers as the sprits of the water; Boann and the River Boyne, Sinnan and the Shannon, Deva and the Dee, Sabrina and the Severn etc.

August dances


  • Barberini’s Tambourine a longways dance from the Walsh Collection c 1735. We last danced this in August 2019.
  • Bartlett Bells another longways dance.
  • Greensleeves and Yellow Lace this is a 3 couple dance which has gone out of fashion but June is keen to give it another chance. From Dancing Master 1721. It was challenging!
  • Handel with care Gary Roodman 2 couple dance from 1987. 

We danced most of these dances x2.

11.08.23 Some Golden Oldies from 1650’s. (ex 3 & 5)

  • The Maid peeked out the Window or The Friar in the Well a 4 couple dance x2.
  • Gray’s Inn Mask a 4 couple dance with the tune at varied speeds. Very enjoyable.
  • Cat’s Cradle Mk2 a June Jones 4 couple dance. Mk1 28.07.23.
  • Bobbing Joe a 4 couple dance, slow and measured. 4 movements synonymous with Traditional dances.
  • Ashley’s Ride a 3 couple American dance 1795 by Nancy Shepley.
  • Upon a Summer’s Day a 3 couple dance. A fitting finish to an August summer day.

18.08.23 Elfrida recording.

  • Chocolate Cake 4 couple- which we’ve danced before. You can never have enough cake!
  • Bobbing Joe see last week. Music- Balshazzars Feast playing J.Playford’s Secret Ball.
  • Alice – Longways, one of Phillipe Callan’s dances.
  • Connaught Water was tried but abandoned!
  • Swirl of the Sea – square set 4 couple dance.
  • Whim of the Moment – longways. Went well.


  • The Happy Couple a longways dance x2.
  • Prince Georges Birthday a longways dance from 1713 with ‘clapping’ to your neighbour and to your partner.
  • Dancing at Lughnasa a 4 couple dance. x2
  • St. Andrew’s Gardens a longways dance x2

I may have missed a dance here but will add next month if so.

Connemara Memories

This story is a memory I have of an unusual Irish man, and of a time now long gone, and I hope it will be of interest to u3a readers.

The poems attached at the end are by my husband, Francis Loughlin, and also relate to Connemara.  We both fell in love with this special place on our first visit there in 1986 and spend as much time as possible there.

Adrienne Loughlin

The Dancer

When I was a little girl, my mother filled my head with stories of fairies, goblins and any other mythical creatures she could think of, so I spent quite a long time searching under the bushes in our back garden for a sight of one of the Little People.  With no luck, I asked her just where were they.  She smiled a half smile, scrunched my cheek and said, ‘Aah child, you have to go to Ireland to see the fairies.  That’s where they live’.  She was on a safe bet there as the chances of our family visiting Ireland in the 1950s were as remote as us flying to the moon.

But I did visit Ireland in 1986 and have visited every year and several times a year since then.  I still haven’t seen a fairy or leprechaun but I have met quite a few other weird and wonderful characters.

I was walking along a narrow country road in Connemara, which is in the far west of Ireland, on a fine day in June and admiring the thick banks of wild dog daisies each side.  The only sounds were the droning of bees in the fuchsia hedges and the occasional mellow call of a cuckoo.  Very few people owned cars then in that part of Ireland and the only traffic you might have seen in the early mornings would be farmers driving their cattle from one field to another.  I had a bit of a surprise then when the figure of an old man appeared, looming over the rise in the road.  He was the thinnest and tallest man I had ever seen.  He wore a crumpled suit which had long since seen better days and as he walked towards me, gave the impression of being a puppet on strings so loosely did he move.  He passed me by with a, ‘ How are ye?” and went on his way.

A few days later I came across this tall and thin, old man again when I was listening to a traditional music session in a local pub.  Towards midnight, when the pub was packed and the air thick with pipe and tobacco smoke, in he came.  Bending his long frame he entered through the door, and then stretched to his full height. With  a wide smile on his face, he began to dance.  He still wore the same suit I’d seen him in previously and a pipe dangled comfortably from his mouth in a space where his teeth had once been.  The musicians, who consisted of an accordion player, and several others playing  tin whistles, fiddles, and a bodhran were  playing fast reels and jigs.  Someone found a pair of spoons and added to the rhythm.  The old man’s dancing was of a style I’d never seen before.  First he shrugged one shoulder, then the other, then both.  Sometimes he held out a hand to anyone who might dance with him.  Some did but most cheered him on.  His heavy boots made a pleasing, thumping sound on the wooden floor of the pub and every so often he raised an arm and punched the air in his enjoyment.  He was mesmerising to watch, his long, lean body bending forwards and backwards, whilst his audience clapped him on.  But even the best dancers need to rest and soon  he wandered over to the bar where he sat and nursed a pint of Guinness in his bony hands.

I found out later that the old man had been born and bred on one of Connemara’s small offshore islands.  His island had to be evacuated in the 1970’s due to the extremely harsh living conditions, often being cut off for weeks during the frequent Atlantic storms in winter,  and the lack of any help in an emergency.  He and the rest of the islanders, along with their cattle, hens, dogs, cats and everything they owned, were then ferried over to Connemara’s mainland, and settled there, in view of their old island homes.

That man has long since passed, taking with him old traditions, customs and his very own island way of dance.

Adrienne Loughlin

Connemara Sea

I must rest awhile where wild orchids dream
And Sea Pinks sway to the tune of the Skylark
Where mistress rocks await the homeward tides
Where land meets sea and sea meets sky
And rainbows swoon on a western breeze

Connemara Land

Today I watched a cloud fall from the sky,
It slipped and slithered down the grey black mountain
Towards the head bowed tip-toeing sheep
That grazed by a water’s edge
And raced and rippled over shining rocks
Towards a hungry sea

Francis Loughlin 

Drama Group Autumn Shows

Our next performances will be on Friday 24th November and Saturday 25th November at Aughton Village Hall.  Curtain up 7.30.

“Never Mind The Butler” a two act play by Lou Treleaven.

Trials and tribulations in a country estate – upstairs and downstairs.  Think Downton Abbey – with a twist!

Tickets cost £13.50 each and this includes a hotpot supper and a sample of Mrs Purvis’ baking.  As usual please bring your own drinks and glasses.

Tickets will be on sale at Horizons from 14th September or you can telephone 01695 227503/578207

Spring 2023 Performance

Spring 2023 Performance

The Musical Theatre Group presented – ‘The Not So Young Ones’.  A Celebration of songs from –  50s, 60s & 70s – at Aughton village Hall


July – dances.

7.07.23 Elfrida recording the dances. More of Wendy’s birthday choices.*

  • Black Nag (see last week)
  • *Leah’s Waltz ditto
  • Leaving of Liverpool ditto
  • *Trip to Bavaria 4 couple Scottish dance by James McGregor Brown.
  • *Wibsey Roundabout a 5 couple dance in circle formation, by Gary Roodman 1966.
  • *Morrison’s Reel another 5 couple dance.


  • *The Rakes of Rochester  a longways dance from 1756 by Rutherford.
  • Money in both pockets a longways dance c1800.
  • One is One… a longways dance by Fried de Metz Herman 1994.
  • Black Nag, Leah’s Waltz, Leaving of Liverpool these 3 dances are being demonstrated at the U3a 20th Celebration later this month.
  • Irish Lamentation a longways dance c1735 pub. Walsh.
  • Christina a Naomi Alexander longways dance.


  • Six for the Six proud walkers…another Fried de Metz Herman dances 1995.
  • The 3 demonstration dances, practise makes perfect!
  • Double Jubilee a 3 couple Gary Roodman dance c2015. Tune (a great one) by Dave Wiesler.
  • Giant Steps a 4 couple June Jones dance, we’re still making a giant effort to improve this .
  • Summer Waltz a longways dance
  • Gasconne a longways dance from 1710 reinterpreted by Pat Shaw 1965.


  • Waters of Holland a Pat Shaw dance from 1977 x2.
  • a June Jones – in progress dance, possibly named the Cat’s pyjamas! we will see.
  • the 3 demonstration dances -final rehearsal for tomorrows celebration.
  • The Baffled Knight a 4 couple dance by Heffer & Porter 1932 one of the early contemporary choreographed dances. (Becoming less baffling!)
  • Nonesuch a 4 couple dance Playford 1651
  • Lord Caernarfon’s Jig another 4 couple dance from 1651 reconstructed by Cecil Sharpe 1910

No Mow May

This Spring of 2023, the Nolan household, in the interest of the local insects, decided on a No Mow May policy for the Front Lawn.  This experiment has produced some quite interesting results.

Many more wild flower varieties popped up than expected. These included: shining cranesbill, dandelion (in profusion but surprisingly few daisies), wild violet, pansy (probably reseeded from last year’s plant pots), lesser trefoil (suckling clover), creeping buttercup, chickweed, and white clover.

Cutting resumed post-May, though few mowings have been required because of spells of very dry weather. Most of the wild flowers quite quickly disappeared with the exception of the clover, now carpeting large expanses of the lawn area!  So much so, that it may not be easy to get rid of.  Maybe we won’t even try for a while as the bees are just loving all that clover.  And there are other ecological benefits of this plant. For example, clover is capable of adding nitrogen to the soil, and is often mixed with lawn seed to reduce the need for fertilizer.  It is also drought resistant, so survives without much watering. It can out-compete other plants, thus reducing the use of weed-killers. It can be foraged by both animals and humans.

Although mowing is now underway, we have left an inconspicuous strip of grass uncut under the side hedge.  This has almost no flowers but the now tall grass is a haven for tiny moths – also useful pollinators.

Weighing up some advantages and disadvantages ……..  is No Mow May 2024 on the cards for our Front Lawn? Possibly.  Or perhaps we could even consider letting it become a Completely Clover Lawn.  Then, apparently, it will: attract lots of insects, bees and butterflies, smell nice, feel good to walk on with bare feet, not be discoloured by dog wee, stay pretty green all year without much attention and remain short with very little mowing at all. It’s tempting.

Alan and Joyce Nolan

The Dancer

When I was a little girl, my mother filled my head with stories of fairies, goblins and any other mythical creatures she could think of, so I spent quite a long time searching under the bushes in our back garden for a sight of one of the Little People.  With no luck, I asked her just where were they.  She smiled a half smile, scrunched my cheek and said, ‘Aah child, you have to go to Ireland to see the fairies.  That’s where they live’.  She was on a safe bet there as the chances of our family visiting Ireland in the 1950s were as remote as us flying to the moon.

But I did visit Ireland in 1986 and have visited every year and several times a year since then.  I still haven’t seen a fairy or leprechaun but I have met quite a few other weird and wonderful characters.

I was walking along a narrow country road in Connemara, which is in the far west of Ireland, on a fine day in June and admiring the thick banks of wild dog daisies each side.  The only sounds were the droning of bees in the fuchsia hedges and the occasional mellow call of a cuckoo.  Very few people owned cars then in that part of Ireland and the only traffic you might have seen in the early mornings would be farmers driving their cattle from one field to another.  I had a bit of a surprise then when the figure of an old man appeared, looming over the rise in the road.  He was the thinnest and tallest man I had ever seen.  He wore a crumpled suit which had long since seen better days and as he walked towards me, gave the impression of being a puppet on strings so loosely did he move.  He passed me by with a ‘How are ye?” and went on his way.

A few days later I came across this tall and thin, old man again when I was listening to a traditional music session in a local pub.  Towards midnight, when the pub was packed and the air thick with pipe and tobacco smoke, in he came.  Bending his long frame he entered through the door, and then stretched to his full height. With  a wide smile on his face, he began to dance.  He still wore the same suit I’d seen him in previously and a pipe dangled comfortably from his mouth in a space where his teeth had once been.  The musicians, who consisted of an accordion player, and several others playing  tin whistles, fiddles, and a bodhran were  playing fast reels and jigs.  Someone found a pair of spoons and added to the rhythm.  The old man’s dancing was of a style I’d never seen before.  First he shrugged one shoulder, then the other, then both.  Sometimes he held out a hand to anyone who might dance with him.  Some did but most cheered him on.  His heavy boots made a pleasing, thumping sound on the wooden floor of the pub and every so often he raised an arm and punched the air in his enjoyment.  He was mesmerising to watch, his long, lean body bending forwards and backwards, whilst his audience clapped him on.  But even the best dancers need to rest and soon  he wandered over to the bar where he sat and nursed a pint of Guinness in his bony hands.

I found out later that the old man had been born and bred on one of Connemara’s small offshore islands.  His island had to be evacuated in the 1970’s due to the extremely harsh living conditions, often being cut off for weeks during the frequent Atlantic storms in winter,  and the lack of any help in an emergency.  He and the rest of the islanders, along with their cattle, hens, dogs, cats and everything they owned, were then ferried over to Connemara’s mainland, and settled there, in view of their old island homes.

That man has long since passed, taking with him old traditions, customs and his very own island way of dance.

Adrienne Loughlin


Recent Events

23 July  2023

A music quiz – songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s.   Refreshments and then entertainment from local Guitarist🎸 Ken Waters.   Lots of singing 🎶along.

25 June 2023

Our u3a Choir returned to entertain us with some of their excellent performance pieces plus some sing-along songs to join in on – followed by a game or two after refreshments.

28 May 2023

Vaughan entertained us with a series of songs🎵🎶🎤and videos 📽📹 then refreshments and  a lighthearted quiz


23 April 2023

We were well entertained by the local Guitar Group Revamped 🎸 🎤 🎵

Super refreshments – as always – 😁

17 July 2023 – British Rock Formations Folklore

We continued the topic of features associated with the British Landscape.

In the previous session we had broken the topic into three parts and completed the first section of rocks and rock formations with healing properties.

i/. Natural Rocks and Rock Formations & Stones with Healing Powers

ii/. Natural Rock Formations & Stones with Powers of Fertility

iii/.  Natural Rock Formations & Stones connected to Oath taking etc.

In this session we completed the second two groups and started a new section of Stone circles, Standing stones etc.


1.1  Natural Rock Formations & Stones with Powers of Fertility

These included examples of ensuring female fertility and for easing childbirth and one example of male fertility from Boho, Enniskillen.  Then we looked at stones relating to good harvests, fine weather, or good catches at sea.  In one example in the Western Isles Scotland weather stones were treasured by families and clans; these stone were not always big and were looked after in houses, kept wrapped (often in flannel) and washed in water or milk.

A lot of these stories were in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We discussed why stones might have been used in these rituals.

1.2   Natural Rock Formations & Stones connected to Oath taking etc.

We looked at number of these which covered marriages, inauguration of kings, oaths and agreements.

If the stones were not respected there could be consequences.  The Deity stone in Penmaenmawr, North Wales it was told that if a person blasphemed or used bad language within arm’s reach of the stone it would strike them.  In the legend it was told someone had challenged this, used bad language and had been found battered and trampled to death beside the stone.

We looked at why stones may have been used for this, perhaps because they are fixed and a constant and somehow these attributes could be borrowed by the process used.  The use of stones in this way goes back at least as far as the Celts.

2/.  Stone circles, Standing Stones etc.

These go back a very long way, certainly to 3500-1000 BCE.  They are all over the country and there are lots of examples in Cornwall which has areas which have not been inhabited so remain undisturbed.  Not all have folklore attached.

There were a number of common themes such as petrifaction of people who failed to observe the sabbath or are duped by the devil, the number of stones being impossible to count, consequences of trying to count them, offerings being made.  There was impact of Christianity on the folklore.

One example in Rollright, Oxfordshire covered a stone circle which had stories relating to a king and his Knights being turned to stone, the stones being impossible to count and the king someday coming back to life.

Pam’s Past Speaker Meetings


November 2023

On Thursday 2nd November a large audience welcomed Stuart Elliott, who spoke on the subject of English Village Life in the Middle Ages.

This well illustrated talk covered English village history from roughly 550  to 1450 A.D. In particular, Stuart highlighted stages of medieval village development: the English village in pre-Conquest times, the consequences of the Norman Conquest, the English village in about 1250 to 1300 and the impact of the Black Death on  English village society between 1350 and 1450. The social structure of the medieval village was outlined together with the role of the church, the nature of village governance,  leisure pastimes, changes in agricultural practice, the decline of personal servitude and, towards the close of the middle ages, the emergence of a village cloth industry with international dimensions.

Thank you Stuart!

September 2023

The first of our Autumn talks took place on Thursday 7th September, when author Fran Sandham spoke about his Solo Walk across Africa.

In a most entertaining and fascinating illustrated talk, Fran told us how, as a 6 year old child in hospital in Birkenhead, he was enthralled by a Tarzan comic featuring Africa. This developed into an interest in Victorian explorers such as David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, then a New Year’s Eve decision to spend a year walking solo across Africa in 1997. Carrying a rucksack weighing 100 lb and walking an average of 26 miles a day, he managed to cover 3,500 miles in a year; at the outset he weighed 12.5 stone, and by the end of the journey 8.5 stone. Despite illness, blisters and a very uncooperative donkey, what Fran remembers most vividly is the friendship, kindness and hospitality of the people he met along the way. Thank you for sharing your unique experience with us Fran.

July 2023

A large audience gathered on Thursday 6th July to hear Dave Carlos (Cyber Volunteer for Lancashire Police) speak on the subject of Cyber Crime. In a highly informative and well illustrated talk, Dave offered detailed advice on passwords, scams and online security, and emphasised the importance of vigilance when responding to emails and texts. Since the talk, Dave has sent over some links which may be of interest:

Stolen Logins and Password Checker:
Scams video link:
Phishing reports:
Suspicious text reporting: Forward to 7726
Support & Advice – National Cyber Security Centre:
Cyber Crime reporting – Action Fraud:
Victim Support: 24/7 Support line 08 08 16 89 111
Take Five, Stop Fraud:
Get Safe Online:

June 2023

On Thursday 1st June Sid Calderbank returned to entertain us with songs, stories and poems in Lancashire dialect, expertly accompanied this time by violinist Joy Hunter. Sid’s theme was the life and career of Edwin (Ned) Waugh, born in Rochdale in 1817 to a very poor family who ran a cobblers’ market stall. He was apprenticed to a printer, and through the trade became acquainted with literary men who inspired him to write songs and stories. He eventually settled in Manchester and in 1856 wrote a poem about a young wife pleading for her husband to come home from the pub. The poem was published and made him famous, he made a lot of money and travelled widely giving readings and singing songs. He died of cancer of the tongue after a lifetime addiction to snuff, and 2000 people came to his funeral. We love hearing your stories Sid, thank you!

May 2023

On Thursday 4th May we welcomed Dave Joy, who vividly described how his own family had moved from Wharfdale in Yorkshire to set up in business in Liverpool supplying fresh milk from their own cows. Using many photographs to illustrate his talk, Dave explained how, in the early nineteenth century, many farmers were moving from the Pennine Dales with the intention of taking advantage of the mass migration of workers into cities like Liverpool, as the industrial revolution took hold. We heard how such farmers would typically set up in end of terrace properties, housing their cattle in the back yard. The cows would be fed on grass cuttings from local parks, spent grain from breweries, molasses and oil seed cake. Waste products would be exchanged for hay at the city’s haymarket. The businesses did a roaring trade selling fresh milk, until competition began to emerge from corporate dairies, who brought milk into the city by train. Nevertheless, Dave’s ancestors traded successfully as A Joy & Sons between 1863 and 1963. Thank you Dave for an exceptionally interesting and well presented talk.

April 2023

The Real War Horses

On Thursday 6th April Dot Hawkes, Secretary and Trustee of Lathom Park Trust, gave a detailed and moving account of how Lathom Park became a Remount Depot during the First World War. Opened in 1915, Lathom Park was just one of 12 such depots around the coast, where horses were imported from Australia, the USA and Canada in specially adapted ships, then trained and cared for until they were ready to be taken onward to battle sites. A ship could accommodate 500-700 horses, and many were lost when the ships were attacked at sea. The Horse Mobilisation Scheme was a major undertaking and the horses played a vital role in warfare, to the extent that it was said that the loss of one horse was the equivalent to the loss of 100 men. Upon arrival in Liverpool, horses were checked by vets, before being brought by train to Ormskirk then walked to Lathom. The Warhorse Route is a popular walk today, and in 2019 a memorial was erected at the entrance to Lathom Park.

An inspiring story, thank you Dot!

March 2023

A large audience gathered at HQ on 2nd March to hear Graham Stirrup’s talk on Women in World War 1. In a superbly well illustrated talk, Graham took us back to 1773, when records show that a man sold his wife at a cattle auction for one shilling. By 1914 women could still expect a life of drudgery in the home, the mills and in service, unless they were very rich. Things began to change with the outbreak of war, when thousands of men were called up and women were called upon to work in transport, munitions factories, in mines and on the land, often working in dangerous conditions and with toxic substances. After the war ended in 1918 and men returned from fighting, women were obliged to return to the same occupations they had before. However, this era also saw the beginning of the Suffragette movement and the Women’s Land Army, heralding the start of momentous changes which we benefit from today. A most entertaining informative and thought-provoking talk, superbly well presented. Thank you Graham!

February 2023

 The first Speaker Meeting of 2023 took place on Thursday 2nd February, when Angela Danby gave a very entertaining talk about her 20 year career as a journalist with the Southport Visiter. We were shown a first edition copy of the paper from 1844, which included the announcement of the birth of a baby to a lady with 24 children! Angela also gave us a vivid description of a fire at Huntapac in Tarleton, the famous visit of Diana, Princess of Wales, to Queenscourt Hospice in 1992 and the attempted murder which took place at Pineapple Park restaurant, also in 1992. Angela has met and interviewed many famous people during her career, including Jason Donovan, Ken Dodd and Roy Castle. A thoroughly enjoyable talk – thank you Angela!


November 2022

The last Speaker Meeting of the year took place on 3rd November, when author Philip Caine entertained us with a whistle-stop tour of his extraordinary career. In 45 minutes of vivid description, colourful characters and fascinating anecdotes we heard of Philip’s extraordinary adventures and exploits in the North Sea, Algeria, West Africa, Kazakhstan, Russia, Iraq and finally Dubai. Philip retired in 2015 and is now pursuing as second career as a writer and speaker.

October 2022

On Thursday 6th October we enjoyed a moving and inspirational talk by u3a member Mike McKenna and ex-serviceman Tom O’Brian. After a difficult childhood blighted by ill health, Mike trained as an athlete and competed successfully at a high level.

He then went on to teach discus and shot put and joined Preston Harriers as a coach, where he began training injured ex-servicemen to take part in the newly inaugurated Invictus Games.

Tom was one such veteran. Having joined up at 17, he served with the Scots Guards in London before being posted to various locations around the world including Afghanistan in 2010, where he acted as an interpreter in addition to active service. Having sustained significant injuries during heavy fighting, he left the Army in 2012, but over the next 4 years struggled with mental and physical injuries which brought him to a very low point in his life. Eventually, he heard from a friend about Combat Support and the Invictus Games, and decided to approach Preston Harriers, where he met Mike. This friendship, and the sport training, changed his life. He competed in the Warrior Games in the USA, met Prince Harry and took part in the Invictus Games.

This was a vividly described account of triumph over adversity and the power of friendship. Thank you, Mike and Tom, for sharing it with us.

September 2022

On Thursday 1st September a large audience gathered to hear Roger Blaxall speak about his interesting and exciting career as Public Relations Officer for Greater Manchester Police and also Lancashire Constabulary. In a very detailed and entertaining talk we heard about the Police Constable who stole cars to pay off his £58,000 gambling debt, the Police Sergeant who smuggled drugs to India whilst claiming to make monthly visits for specialist back treatment, and the Detective Sergeant whose strippergram party was covertly filmed and sent to the News of the World.

June 2022

A large audience gathered on Thursday 9th June to hear David Hearn’s fascinating talk about Sir William Brown. One of linen merchant Alexander Brown’s four sons, William was born in Liverpool but moved with his family to Baltimore, then returned to Liverpool in 1810 and married his wife Sarah. They had 9 children, and William outlived all of them.

William’s extensive interests covered shipping, banking and railways, and by 1836 he was turning over £10 million a year. $1 in every $6 of US overseas trade was handled by William Brown’s companies. Several office buildings were built in Liverpool, including the library and museum we see today, and William Brown Street is the only street in Europe which consists entirely of public buildings. In spite of this William was not well liked and was rather an introvert, however he was well known for his philanthropy.

May 2022

The Lancashire Cotton Famine

Sid Calderbank

1860, and the Industrial Revolution is well under way, with 2000 cotton mills employing half a million people, using cotton mostly supplied from the cotton fields of the Southern States of America which arrives regularly in the port of Liverpool with its 7 miles of docks. Then in 1861 war breaks out in America. 800,000 lives will be lost and there are naval blockades of the Southern States. The supply of cotton comes to an end; nearly 50 mills close within a few months and in Wigan alone 10,000 workers are unemployed. With no other source of income or support they are reduced to begging and burning furniture for warmth.

Then in 1862 John Whittaker, aka Lancashire Lad, writes a letter to the paper about the plight of the workers and begins to receive donations. Other philanthropists follow suit, and before long towns are setting up their own Relief Committees. Sewing schools are set up to retrain young mill girls, and by 1865 the war has ended and the supply of cotton resumes.

This amazing tale of triumph over adversity was told by Sid Calderbank, a Lancashire Lad himself who for 25 years has been entertaining groups such as ours. Using songs, poems and extracts from contemporary diaries, Sid painted a vivid and evocative picture of these extraordinary times, and drew parallels with the present tragic situation in Ukraine. A spellbinding talk, thank you Sid!

April 2022

Fakes and Forgeries: is there a difference?

After a most informative, amusing and well-illustrated talk by Bill Soens, we were left in no doubt: a fake is not intended to deceive, whereas a forgery most definitely is.

Bill began by showing us a Georgian silver coffee pot, valued at several thousand pounds and complete with hallmarks. In fact this turned out to be fashioned from a silver chalice, to which a spout, handle and lid had been added and which now had two sets of genuine hallmarks about 150 years apart.

By contrast, we were then introduced to ‘The Bolton Mafia’, aka George and Olive Greenhalgh and their son Shaun. Working in his garden shed, Shaun forged paintings by Lowry, artefacts by Barbara Hepworth and Paul Gauguin and an Egyptian statuette which he sold to the Bolton museum for £440,000, after it had been authenticated by the British Museum and Christie’s Auction house experts. He also claimed that an alleged Leonardo painting, La Principessa, had been painted by him and was in fact the checkout girl from the local Coop.  This is still in dispute.  He was eventually prosecuted and spent 4 ½ years in jail. Apparently he is still painting but signs everything with his own name, and has returned his ill-gotten gains to the Bolton Museum.

March 2022

On Thursday 3rd March Julia Clayton made a welcome return, and gave a good size audience a fascinating insight into The Grand Tour. We heard how one of the first Grand Tours took place from 1613-14, when Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, and his wife Alathea journied to Italy, accompanied by the artist Inigo Jones. Amongst many other works of art they purchased 37 paintings by Titian, which can all be seen in the Ashmolean museum in Oxford. Many others followed in their foot

steps, renting a carriage in Calais and travelling onward in the hope of improving their language skills, building on their classical education, viewing artworks (and often having portraits painted of themselves), and listening to new music. This would build up their prestige and confirm them as men and women of taste. Clothes would be bought in Paris, and lists of what to take included such suggestions as a sofa bed, cutlery, condiments, cork-soled shoes and ‘portable soup’.

Julia then introduced us to 3 Lancashire gentlemen who made the Grand Tour: Charles Townley of Burnley, whose sculpture gallery formed the basis of the British Museum collection; Henry Blundell of Ince Blundell, a landowner whose collection of sculptures can be seen in Liverpool Museum; and finally John Foster Junior, a young architect. After spending 7 years abroad John Foster became the chief architect for Liverpool and designed the ‘bombed out church’ we are all familiar with, and many other buildings.

With the advent of the railways, improved techniques for reproduction and mass market guide books, the Grand Tour fell out of favour, but its legacy remains for us to enjoy today. Thank you Julia for a most interesting and enjoyable talk.

Julia will be back next year – keep an eye open for details.

February 2022

Neil Stevenson

The first of our 2022 Speaker Meetings took place via Zoom on Thursday 3rd February, when Neil Stevenson gave a fascinating illustrated talk entitled From Pit Graves to Pyramids: Ancient Egyptian Burial Practices. We heard of evidence from 3500 BC in the form of Gebelein Man, who was simply buried in sand surrounded by grave goods, and whose body can be seen in the British Museum. In later times large structures were built over graves, then further developments led to step pyramids being constructed out of mud bricks. Finally techniques were perfected and the famous Pyramids at Giza were constructed using locally quarried limestone and granite from Aswan, using various transportation methods including sleds, levers and ramps. Neil also gave us an insight into hieroglyphics, the sophisticated writing system developed by the Egyptians 4500 years ago.

A lively Q & A session followed Neil’s talk.


October 2021

If you’re irritated by the cost of renewing your passport, be grateful you were not trying to obtain one in 1858, when it would have cost you £2 7s 6d (equivalent to £266) and involved personal acquaintance with the Foreign Secretary!

A large audience attended the Speaker Meeting on 7th October at Aughton Village Hall, to hear author, broadcaster and former Immigration Officer Martin Lloyd describe three events which have influenced the development of the passport we know today. In a vivid and detailed talk we travelled back to France in 1858 and the attempted assassination of Napoleon III, then to events Germany in 1914 which led to the inclusion of photographs, and again in Germany in 1945 when William Joyce, alias Lord Haw Haw, was executed for treason.

August 2021

An appreciative audience gathered at Aughton Village Hall on 19th August for the first ‘in person’ Speaker Meeting since for 18 months. Author Carolyn Kirby spoke about the background to her latest novel, ‘When We Fall’, a gripping 2nd World War thriller which was chosen by the Times and Sunday Times as one of the 10 best historical novels of 2020. Carolyn spoke movingly about the women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary who flew aircraft from factory to airfield with minimal training, often making 3 or 4 trips a day. In particular we heard about Diana Barnato Walker, whose obituary in The Guardian was the original inspiration for the novel, Amy Johnson, a huge celebrity of the time following her solo flight to Australia, Polish pilot and resistance hero Janina Lavandowska, who was taken prisoner by the Russians and killed at the infamous Katyn massacre, and Monique Agazarian, who after the war became a pioneer of simulator training.

Carolyn is at present working on her 3rd novel, and we hope to hear from her again in the future.

June 2021

On Thursday 3rd June we were greatly entertained by Fool’s Gold, alias Carol and Steve Robson. Carol and Steve have been performing their unique shows for some while – long enough to rack up over 1000 performances which have been delivered to audiences all over the UK. Since the pandemic began, they have adapted their performances so that they can be delivered very effectively via Zoom. Dark Light is the new Fool’s Gold zoom show for 2021. Using a very effective combination of songs, film, photos and graphics, Carol and Steve told the fascinating story of the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from Flannan Island in 1900. A most enjoyable performance. More details about Fool’s Gold can be found on their website:

May 2021

On Thursday 6th May an appreciative Zoom audience enjoyed a fascinating and informative talk by John Whittles on Red Mason Bees. John told us how for many years farmers had been relying on imported bees to pollinate their fruit crops, due to the low numbers of native species. was originally a pollination service for farmers and growers, but has now developed into an educational enterprise designed to encourage us all to use our gardens and green spaces to create homes for solitary bees, which represent 90% of the bee population. We heard about the life-cycle of the Red Mason Bee which spans only 6-8 weeks in Springtime, and how the use of simple, specially designed equipment can greatly improve the chances of success, and so increase the declining numbers of bees.

You can find out more about these essential insects and their lifecycle on John’s website

April 2021

On Thursday 1st April a very appreciative audience was entertained once again by chocolate expert Andrew Thwaite, whose talk ‘Brilliant Brands’, told the stories behind the history and development of chocolate manufacture in York, and in particular Rowntree’s and Terry’s. We heard how the 19th century founders of these companies were Quakers, and how cocoa was considered to be a wholesome alternative to the ‘demon drink’. In the beginning only hand-made chocolate assortments were produced, which were so expensive that the receipt of one was considered to be as good as a marriage proposal! The Kit Kat which we all know and love was first produced in 1935 as a result of a suggestion box scheme at the factory, and is now the world’s best selling chocolate bar – 6 million being made every day. Kit Kats are very popular in Japan, where they have developed flavours such as squid ink, hot dog and purple sweet potato! Andrew vividly described the early development of many of the products we still enjoy today, such as Polos, Walnut Whips (one eaten every 2 seconds, even though there is no longer a walnut on the top), and Terry’s Chocolate Orange, which started off as Chocolate Apple, then Chocolate Lemon before becoming the chocolate treat we enjoy today.

March 2021

Stephen Wells

Stephen Wells spoke about The Curious Incident of Agatha Christie

Thursday 4th March over 50 members enjoyed a most entertaining and informative talk by professional entertainer Stephen Wells. The topic was ‘The Curious Incident of Agatha Christie’, and we heard how the famous author staged her own ‘disappearance’ in 1926, after receiving the devastating news that her husband had been having an affair. After a much publicised investigation involving Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace and Dorothy L Sayers, she was finally found 10 days later, very much alive and well, at the Hydro Hotel in Harrogate (now the Old Swan), having caused huge embarrassment to her errant husband, whom she divorced shortly afterwards.

Agatha Christie became known as the ‘Queen of Crime’ and is the best-selling novelist of all time, her books being outsold only by The Bible and Shakespeare. Stephen’s enthralling talk not only outlined her incredible career as a writer but also described how the film adaptations of her books have entertained huge audiences over the years, and continue to do so. An excellent presentation, complete with archive photos, film clips and music, added to our enjoyment of this excellent talk.

If you missed Stephen’s talk it can be viewed by following this link

February 2021

What did the Spartans do for us? Quite a lot it seems!

The first ever A&O u3a Zoom Speaker Meeting took place on 4th February 2021, when author and historian Julia Clayton transported us back 2500 years to Sparta, the largest of 2000 separate city states in the region now known as Greece. In an enthralling talk, we heard how Spartan ideas, attitudes and culture such as constitutional monarchy, token money, team sports and the welfare state, form the basis of our modern society.  In her illustrated talk, Julia vividly described the unique social and economic system in operation at the time, where there was a ‘national curriculum’ of education for boys aged 7-30 and where the decision making was only done by people over 60 years of age. Julia commented that the Spartans would have approved of the u3a, conforming as it does to their philosophy of life long learning.

Julia’s blog can be found at:


[Speaker Meetings were paused during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.]

March 2020

On 5th March we welcomed Natalie White, Community Banker for NatWest bank. Natalie’s talk was based on the Friends Against Scams initiative, which through organisations such as the U3A, aims to contact one million people by the end of the year, raising awareness of scams and how not to fall victim. We heard about many different scams: postal, phone, doorstep and online, and of how scammers are trained in befriending and grooming techniques in order to gain trust. 43% of people over 65 have already been targeted, resulting in huge financial loss and emotional impact. Natalie summarised her talk by suggesting 5 things to remember: Never disclose security details, don’t assume everyone is genuine, don’t be rushed or forced to make a decision, listen to your instincts and stay in control.

(Since the outbreak of the corona virus there have been reports of scammers attempting to take advantage of people’s vulnerability – please be extra vigilant).

February 2020

The first Speaker Meeting of the year took place on 6th February, when a very appreciative audience heard U3A member Jane Sheehan speak on the subject of Foot Reading. After an introduction describing Jane’s career path to Reflexology and Foot Reading via Avionic Engineering and the Foreign Office, we were invited to remove our shoes and socks in order to be able to ‘self read’ our feet. We heard how wide feet indicate a hard-working mentality, whereas narrow feet suggest someone who is good at delegating. High arch? You are independent, self-reliant and enjoy time to yourself. A very long second toe suggests leadership qualities (or bossiness!). Members were invited to ask questions, all of which were competently answered by Jane. Altogether a most enjoyable and entertaining talk.


November 2019

A large audience gathered on a cold, wet morning in November to hear John Winter speak about his book: Blame it on the Beatles – and Bill Shankly. John was studying medicine in Liverpool during the 60s when he became involved in the burgeoning music scene as a singer and songwriter, and his fascinating and entertaining talk brought back many memories of that time for those present. We were taken back to the early days of the Beatles (who at one time considered calling themselves The Raving Texans), and to Liverpool in the 60s, still recovering from the devastation of the war but nevertheless boasting over 300 groups. We heard about the famous Cavern Club, the Casbah in West Derby and Litherland Town Hall, where the Beatles played for the first time in December 1960. The poster for this event read ‘Direct from Hamburg’ and everyone thought they were German!

John is a keen fan of Liverpool FC, and readers of his book will note that the sky on the front cover is red, not blue! We heard how Bill Shankly joined Liverpool as manager from Huddersfield in 1959 with a mission to take his team to the top. He famously once said: ‘Football isn’t a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that’, and under his leadership the team went from strength to strength. By the mid 60s, through music and football, Liverpool transformed its image and the Beatles had the world at their feet.

September 2019

A large audience gathered in the Ministry Centre on 5th September to hear a talk by Harold Hoggarth on the Civil War in Lancashire. Illustrated by maps, paintings and illustrations and based on the writings of 19thcentury historian Ernest Broxap, Harold’s talk described how Lancashire at the time of the Civil war was divided into 6 regions, or ‘hundreds’, of which only 2 were on the Parliamentary side. The 2 armies were a combination of professional soldiers and ‘clubmen’, or local vigilantes, and towns quickly changed allegiance back and forth. We heard about the use of the musket, and how it was just as likely to kill the user as the enemy when the gunpowder exploded. Between 1642 and 1644 our region saw a number of conflicts, one of the most notable being the Battle of Whalley at Read Bridge, where 400 untrained men defeated 5000 Royalist soldiers. We also heard about the famous Siege of Lathom House, when the Countess of Derby, Charlotte de la Tremouille, held off the Parliamentarians for 3 months before being relieved by Prince Rupert, nephew of the King, in May 1644. The Battle of Marston Moor, west of York, was the largest battle of the Civil War, resulting in victory for the Parliamentarians and the abandonment of Lancashire by the Royalists.

Note: The Battle of Ormskirk (August 1644) was fought in our local area. More details can be found here.

June 2019

On Thursday 6th June, a large audience welcomed local resident, writer and photographer, Peter Rimmer,  who presented a fascinating and informative talk on Morecambe Bay. 

Peter is a freelance writer and photographer from Southport, now living in Ormskirk. He was awarded a Master’s Degree in Photography by the University of Bolton in 2013, and has self-published a Photo Book “The tide’s the very devil” about Morecambe Bay and its shrimp fishermen. Peter specialises in Paralympic and disability sports as a photojournalist.

Peter writes

The illustrated talk is based on my Photobook “The tide’s the very devil: Morecambe Bay in photographs” describing the hazards, dangers and isolation of the Bay; some of its rich history; crossing the sands; shrimp fishing – the catch, landing, boiling and picking of shrimps; and the men and women involved. Shrimping is a family business where the traditions are handed down, and remain largely unchanged from one generation to another. The opportunity to use old family photographs enables me to compare and contrast the practices of today with what went before, showing similarity and difference.

The title of the talk comes from the first line of the chorus of On Morecambe Bay, a folk song written by an old school-friend from Southport and recorded by Irish folk singer Christy Moore. Kevin Littlewood was inspired to write the lyrics following the tragedy in February 2004 when 23 Chinese cockle pickers died after becoming trapped by rising tides at Hest Bank. It is a poignant reminder that the tide dictates every move on the sands.

The solitude, isolation and scale of Morecambe Bay were apparent on my first venture out on the sands sitting on the back of Michael’s tractor. I wanted to capture the feeling of isolation and show the wide open spaces. I also wanted to illustrate some of the features of the Bay such as myrings, footprints and tracks in the sand. Including aerial shots from a balloon. I discovered a rich history of literature and painting which under-score the story of life on the sands, and provide an external context largely unchanged today.

April 2019

Our next Speaker Meeting was in April, when Carolyn Kirby spoke about her debut novel ‘The Conviction of Cora Burns’. Carolyn’s novel has attracted considerable favourable comment in the press and online – more details here.

Carolyn writes:

My novel ‘The Conviction of Cora Burns’ will be published in the UK and USA in March 2019. This is a historical thriller set in 1880’s Birmingham about a troubled young woman, Cora Burns, who was born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse. Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of a scientist, Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora?

The novel is inspired by some real Victorian lives and events. My talk will give an insight into the research that underlies the fictional narrative of the novel and will highlight three controversial Victorians: Arthur Munby, W. T. Stead and Francis Galton. This will be followed by Q and A’s and a chance to buy a signed copy of the book.

February 2019

Many thanks to Andrew Thwaite, who kick-started the 2019 programme in February with an entertaining and informative talk on the history and manufacture of chocolate. A great many people braved the elements that wet and windy morning and were rewarded with a most enjoyable talk and freshly made chocolate!

Visit to Pennington Flash – 14th March 2023

Seven members of the group attended this visit on a cold and blustery March morning.  Fortunately the rain and sleet that would dominate the afternoon held off apart from a couple of sharp showers when we were able to take shelter in one of the hides.

It was good to see the improvements that have been made to the facilities at Pennington Flash which now include a café.  A total of 41 bird species were recorded on this visit.  The feeders in front of the “Bunting Hide” always produces a good number of birds.

Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of 41 species seen:

Continue reading

June dances


  • A Lady Remembered a John Wood longways dance.
  • The Merry Andrew a 3 couple dance 1932 by Heffer & Porter, published by Maggot Pie.
  • The Baffled Knight also by Heffer & Porter 1932. I think we were a little “baffled” with this dance, one to return to!.
  • Wakefield Hunt a 3 couple triple minor dance by Thompson 1779.
  • Moonlight a 3 couple dance
  • Dover Pier a longways dance from Preston 1791.

9.06.23 Elfrida calling. June having a well deserved break.

  • Jump Frogs Jump a 3 couple dance.
  • The Journey a 4 couple dance x2.
  • Prince of Wales Fancy a 4 couple dance.
  • The Morning Rout a fast 3 couple dance with ‘trotting step’ Thompson 1789 x2
  • Roberts Reel a 3 couple dance.
  • The Hop Pickers Feast a 3 couple dance Thompson 1786
  • Nampwich Fair a longways dance. Playford 1726.

16.06.23 No dancing today

23.06.23 Elfrida calling and recording the dances. Some of Wendy’s Birthday choices * Also Marie’s Birthday request +

  • Jump Frogs Jump 
  • * Liberty.
  • * The Leaving of Liverpool.
  • * Leah’s Waltz – Wendy chose The Ashokan Farewell music.
  • + Upon A Summer’s Day 

Most danced twice.

30.06.23 Welcome back June with more of Wendy’s Birthday choices*

  • * (The) Black Nag a 3 couple dance Playford 1657 x2
  • * Jackdaw a 4 couple dance x2
  •  Prince of Wales Fancy a 4 couple dance
  • The Prince Regent a 3 couple dance x2.
  • Trip to Sheringham a 4 couple dance in square formation x2. Not the speedy version.
  • The Leaving of Liverpool  a 3 couple dance to the traditional tune, x2. I have previously attributed this dance to June but this is incorrect. Choreographer is not known.
  • (The) Comical Fellow a 4 couple dance music & choreography by Thompson.


17 April and 15 May 2023 – Heroes in Greek Mythology and British Natural Rock Formations Folklore

In the sessions we the completed the topic of Odysseus, and started themes associated with the British Landscape.

1/. Odysseus

Odysseus was part of the Greek Army which besieged Troy for 10 years.  After Troy fell Odysseus set off for Ithaca, however there was a prophecy that it would take him another 10 years to return.   He fell foul of Poseidon by blinding one of Poseidon’s sons and gloating about it.  That enabled Poseidon to curse him so that he would arrive home with nothing, on a borrowed ship.

On the journey back he annoyed a number of other gods and was beset by storms and lost his men and his ship.  He landed on the Island of Ogygia where Calypso a sea nymph fell in love with him at first sight.  She offered him a place to stay and immortality if he stayed with her. They had 2 children and he stayed for 7 years but he stilled dreamed of Ithaca.

Not all the gods and goddesses were against him and with the help of them including Leucothoe and Athene he made it back to Ithaca as foretold.  Here he was reunited with the faithful Penelope but not before more intervention from the gods where he fought off suitors.  She had been expecting him back after the siege of Troy had been broken.  She had been pursued for marriage and had kept her suitors at bay as she waited for the prophecy of his return to be fulfilled.

There are two versions of Odysseus’s death, one where he died peacefully and the other, after intervention from the gods, he was killed by his son Telgonus who did not know who he was.

Odysseus was a complicated character.  He was at times loyal, resourceful, silver tongued, wise and cunning as well as having warrior characteristics.  He was also a leader with no respect for his men, and a liar.

The ancient Greeks liked this though and regarded him as a tactician and heroic warrior.

The Greek gods and goddesses were very hands on with him and impacted his life.

2/. Exploring the British Landscape

We looked at folklore about how the landscape was used and the impact on the landscape starting with rocks.

Rocks have always been regarded as special places, sacred with associations with old gods.

This is the same all over the world with examples such as Mount Fuji, Uluru and Everest.

The links to giants and the devil may have been the pagan gods venerated at the time, downgraded and surviving in folklore.

We broke the topic into 3

  • i/. Natural Rocks and Rock Formations & Stones with Healing Powers
  • ii/. Natural Rock Formations & Stones with Powers of Fertility
  • iii/.  Natural Rock Formations & Stones connected to Oath taking etc.

i/. Natural Rocks and Rock Formations & Stones with Healing Powers

We looked in detail at a number of these which are spread across the country.

These could be rocks with holes in which could be passed through.  Not all had holes or arches

Sympathetic magic where the strength of the rock can be transferred by contact with it by squeezing through, touching.

By following exacting rituals, it has to be difficult, or it wouldn’t work.  Repeating actions a number of times, in the direction of the sun etc..

These may be preserving folklore memory at these sites.  Some sun worship.  Similar beliefs could be attached to man-made structures.

June 2023 Writing

Mike M set us the task of writing a piece up to 500 words that had to include words that we’d each picked randomly from the dictionary. The words were:

Question, Dialogue, Lithe, Premium, Misunderstanding, Puffin, Wall-to-wall, Integral


Duncan and Phylis had first met at the athletics club. Both were keen runners and trained three times a week. Duncan was immediately attracted to Phylis. She was a very good 800 metres runner. Extremely fit and lithe, the result of many hours exercise and training. Initially their conversation and dialogue was faltering. They were both shy but after a few misunderstandings their friendship eventually blossomed into more than that of training partners. After 18 months Duncan ‘popped to the question’ and Phylis accepted.
They decided to honeymoon in Iceland. Iceland is notoriously expensive but after much research they decided to pay a premium for their accommodation in a classy downtown hotel. Their room was amazing and beautifully appointed and it even had its own integral sauna.
On their second evening they chose a very traditional restaurant. The dining area was like a baronial hall with wall-to-wall elk antlers jutting from the wooden panelled walls.
They browsed the menu but were none the wiser because it was all in Icelandic. Although the waitress obviously appeared to speak English they decided to be daring and choose unaided. Phylis saw ‘Lunda’ as an option and liked the sound of the word. Duncan agreed and so that’s what they ordered.
It had an unusual taste and was similar to chicken or even pork and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
Back in their hotel they looked the word up on their mobile phones and discovered that it was puffin.


How Can Elephants and Puffins Be Friends?


‘The question is’ the elephant said,

As he pranced from wall to wall,

‘Is whether animals and birds can really mix

A little or never at all?’

‘This’ said the puffins extending their chests

And chunnering through the fog

‘To create no misunderstanding

We must have a dialogue.’

‘An integral meeting is what you need’

Sang a premium voice from outside.

‘Puffins and elephants must make up a dance

To prove that they both can be lithe.’

‘A jigging together can be quite upbeat

To help them enjoy feeling nice

Yes, a good old feathery fling together

Will certainly break any ice.’


It’s Maytime, dances this month.


  • Slof Galliard a 4 couple dance. In February when we last danced this, “We needed more practise” today we finally cracked it ! x2
  • The Northdown Walk a longways dance, choreography & music by Goulding 1820. Some J.J adaptation.
  • The Pursuit a longways dance with ‘Heyes’, see 21.04.23 a challenge 2 weeks ago. Danced several times but practise makes perfect!
  • Up to no Good a June Jones 3 couple dance, requested by Elfrida, x2
  • The Ladies of London a longways dance from the Walsh Collection 1740.


  • Welcome in the May a longways dance by Sharon Green 2018.
  • Lovely Nancy Choreography & music by Johnson 111 1744. A longways dance.
  • Chickpeas and Spinach a 3 couple dance requested by John. This might sound like a recipe but was a challenging dance.
  • The Recruiting Officer a 3 couple dance interpreted by Pat Shaw 1960 from Nathaniel Kynaston 1710 in the Walsh collection.
  • Canadian Traveller a longways dance by Pat Shaw.

19.05.23 recorded by Elfrida.

  • Millicent’s Jig from 1651, a nice 3 couple dance.
  • Chelsea Reach a 4 couple square set, Playford style with lots or parts to it, danced x2.
  • Friday Square another 4 couple square set dance – music was Life in the fast lane from the Short & Sweet CD.
  • Swirl of the Sea 4 couple square set in waltz time, another mini challenge, accomplished 2nd. time around.
  • Lord Caernarfon’s Jig a 4 couple longways dance enjoyed by all.

26.05.23 – Elfrida again.

  • School for Scandal x2 June adapted a triple minor dance to a 3 couple, which worked well.
  • Happy Heyes x2 – 3 couple dance which includes ‘cross heyes’.
  • Greengage a longways dance at a  slower pace.
  • Lovely Nancy (see 12.05)
  • Jack’s Maggot longways dance.

28 May 2023

Our long standing member Vaughan entertained  us with a series of songs🎵🎶🎤and videos 📽📹 that he has published on his Youtube Channel.     The videos were taking on his various jaunts around our local towns and places of interest

23rd April

The Fabulous local Guitar Group – Revamped entertained us with a great range of songs

Group Events

Certain Groups run events and outings where any u3a member is welcome to attend even if they do not regularly or usually go to the Group Meetings.  Indeed extra people are sometimes necessary to make an event viable or cheaper.   So now and then, do check out the following:

If any Leaders would like their Group adding to the above list, contact:

Healthy Brain Showcase – Edge Hill University press release

Family friendly workshop highlights healthy ageing to combat dementia

Edge Hill University researchers and Aughton & Ormskirk u3a welcomed more than 170 visitors to a workshop to highlight healthy ageing and combat dementia.

The Healthy Brain Showcase featured talks and discussion on healthy ageing and memory, in addition to dance performances and crafting.

The event was part of the Ageing Better with an Active Mind research project which aims to encourage healthy ageing in Lancashire and Merseyside, where the elderly population with dementia is higher than the national average.

Dr Dorothy Tse, senior lecturer in psychology and principal investigator, said: “This event was a great opportunity to engage with the whole community, to improve people’s understanding of healthy ageing, promote a better understanding of brain health and raise awareness of key actions to reduce the risk of dementia.”

The co-principal investigator Dr Nicola van Rijsbergen added: “Ultimately we want to inspire behaviour change within communities across Lancashire and Merseyside and show people how they can take positive steps to improve their brain health.”

At the workshop the team presented and discussed the findings of a consultation with members of u3a which explored themes of memory and dementia, how physical activity benefits the brain, neuroscience, brain health and the active mind.

Alan Buckley, a u3a member who took part in the previous workshops, said: “Dementia affects so many people but it is so complex, so to have better awareness of the disease and how it can affect you is really useful in understanding how we can reduce its effects. We have to do something about it at an early stage instead of letting it progress.”

Fellow member Sue Buckley added: “It was interesting to focus on something which is already close to our hearts, I was absolutely amazed to find the link between physical activity and mental activity.”

Attendees described the Healthy Brain showcase as “a fabulous day”, “interesting and entertaining”, “an excellent event for the local community”, “well organised and presented” and said “the speakers were all excellent”.

Speakers included Dr Jitka Vseteckova, senior lecturer in health and social care from The Open University, Dr Jade Thai, programme manager of neuroscience and mental health at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and Carol Rogers MBE, Director of House of Memories at National Museums Liverpool.

Organisations and charities also attended with stalls hosted by The Brain Charity, the Liverpool-based Women’s Health Information and Support Centre (WHISC), Age UK Lancashire and the National Museums Liverpool initiative House of Memories.

There were dance performances by u3a members, Edge Hill’s James Hewison with the Hard-Wired project, 50 Moves, Men Dancing and Base Dance Performing Arts, and the University’s Confucius Institute led crafts such as calligraphy and Chinese paper cutting.

The research project showcase is funded by Edge Hill’s Institute for Social Responsibility and the Department of Psychology.

Photo gallery

Chester visit – May 2023

A wonderful day in a sunbathed Chester.

We visited some of Chester’s oldest and finest hostelries, guided by Dag Griffiths;-

  • The Old Harker’s Arms
  • Ye Olde Boot
  • The Pied Bull
  • Telford’s Warehouse
  • The Bull and Stirrup

Next month’s visit is Chorley.

Chester photos

On the way to Ye Olde Boot

Eastgate clock

Lunch on the hoof

Inside Ye Olde Boot

Thoughtful customers

Back room – Ye Olde Boot

Chester cathedral

Chester town hall

Oldest Inn with its own brewery

Through the city walls to Telford’s warehouse

Telford’s warehouse. A great selection of beers in a converted warehouse, next to the Shropshire Union canal

April’s dances

14.04.23  Some of Elfrida’s Birthday choices.

  • Rostilion John & William Neal 1726, a longways dance.
  • Bar a Bar from the Walsh collection 1719 a longways dance reinterpreted by Fried de Metz Herman.
  • Happy Heys a 3 couple dance, as the name suggests, full of ‘heys’.
  • Professor Martin’s maggot a 3 couple dance.

” The notated melody & dance directions were discovered in the back of a ‘Playford book’ among the papers of Professor Martin of Liverpool university after he died c. 1930.”

  • 1st. April appropriate for April’s dances. pub. Thompson 1780.


  • Upon a Summer’s day x2 Playford 1651.
  • The Militia x2 a 3 couple dance.
  • The Pursuit a challenging longways dance. Pub. Walsh 1719.
  • Of Noble was Simkin 1695.
  • My Lady Winwood’s maggot a 3 couple dance from Dancing Master 1728.
  • Fitleworth Frolic danced in a circle for 5 couples by Francis Hawkins 1987.
  • Whim of the Moment a longways dance pub. Thompson 1791.

28.04.23 with some more of Elfrida’s requests.

  • Toney’s Rant a 4 couple dance with a snappy tune.
  • Morrison’s Reel a 5 couple dance.
  • Diamond Diversion for 4 people in a diamond formation.
  • Fret & Rejoice a longways dance by Gary Roodman with music ‘ Without his Tiger” by Dave Weisler.
  • Sam’s maggot a 3 couple dance x2 from the Walsh collection 1728.

Indoor Meetings Winter and Spring 2023

Tuesday 7th February

A Brief History of Entertainment

A ‘cheer up’ on a Winter Afternoon with the help of Mervyn Saunders.


Tuesday 7th March

The Architecture of Alfred Waterhouse

Born in Liverpool 1830, Alfred Waterhouse went on to study architecture and was particularly associated with the Victorian Gothic Revival Style. He designed many of our well known buildings such as the Great Western Hotel in Liverpool, Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London. Sean Jinks also told us more about the architecture of Alfred Waterhouse.


Tuesday 4th April

Ormskirk in Days Gone By

Images of Ormskirk presentation by Chris Bentley and how Gingerbread plays a big part in our local heritage with one of Ormskirk’s Gingerbread Ladies.

Spring Walking/Leisure holiday

On Monday 17th April 2023, 59 members of the Aughton & Ormskirk u3a made their way to the HF House Derwent Bank on the shores of Derwentwater in Portinscale for the Walking and Leisure holiday.

The house, Derwent Bank, from the Lake

After checking in, afternoon tea was served at 4.00 p.m. in the Orangery, which enabled everyone to relax after their drive from Ormskirk.

For the energetic, this was followed by a putting competition on the challenging putting green at the house. Dermot Glennon was our Referee with Wafa Alwan acting as his secretary. The event was won by Colin Latimer with Colin Ratcliff and David Moore achieving the distinction of having a ‘hole in one’.

Prizes were presented at the dinner in the evening.

On Tuesday morning, we awoke to clear blue skies which remained with us for the remainder of our stay.

A lakeside view

After a hearty breakfast and picking up packed lunches, the walkers split into three groups for a long, medium, or short walk prepared by leaders organised by Barbara Carter.

The non walking members also collected their packed lunches and then set about exploring the area by the local bus service which took them to Buttermere, Windermere and Keswick just to mention a few places. Trips were also taken in the launches on the lake and visits to the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick.

Some members of the group just stayed and relaxed in the house and extensive grounds, persuading the staff to open the bar to enable them to enjoy liquid refreshment with their packed lunch.

Afternoon tea – Sue Clark, Mo Billinge and Colin Latimer

During the dinner that evening a quiz was placed on each table forming eight teams. Some sheets were completed during dinner, but the final round was not started until after the coffee which was served in the bar area. Sue Clark’s team were the eventual winners with Bob Broughton’s team in second place.

Wednesday followed a similar pattern with different walks on offer with the leisure group again exploring the local area and making full use of their bus passes and enjoying their packed lunches in various parks or by the lake and hillsides.

Margaret Wiechers on her Tramper

After dinner the house provided access to the HF Holidays national quiz which was won by John Tomlinson and his team.

Thursday was the final full day, without any organised walks with groups heading off on their own routes or visiting Keswick market and shops, unfortunately the busses did not appear to be running in Portinscale so to visit outlying areas it was necessary to use our cars.

After the dinner it was time to pack and regretfully after a final hearty breakfast on Friday, we all headed home after a most enjoyable 5 days.

The Walking and Leisure Holidays are organised by a number of u3a walking group members acting as Aughton and Ormskirk Walking and Leisure Group. Currently we are organising two holidays per year – Spring and Autumn.

The Autumn holiday this year, which is fully subscribed is to the HF House Peveril of the Peak in Dovedale Derbyshire.

The Spring holiday 2024 is to the HF House Newfield Hall, Malhamdale in the Yorkshire Dales. We will be opening for booking shortly. Further information can be obtained from John Spurr, Tel. 01695 229538.

John Spurr

20 March 2023 – Heroes in Greek Mythology

In the session we the completed the topic of Heracles and started on Odysseus, who is the last Greek hero we shall cover.

1/. Heracles

Heracles’ twelve labours were a way of atoning for his madness (imposed by Hera) for breaking the code by killing the defeated King of the Euboeans and desecrating his body.  Whilst in the throes of this madness he killed six of his own children and their partners.

Heracles’ final and most challenging Labour was to go down to the Underworld to bring back the guard dog Cerberus.  He accomplished this formidable task with help from the goddess Athene, and with that the gods declared that he had cleansed himself of the sin of killing his children.

Heracles’ Labours were at an end but his adventures continued and his hot-headed nature continued to get him into trouble.  After Eursytheus insulted him, Heracles killed three of Eurystheus’ sons in his rage.  He murdered a guest in his own house and when the Oracle at Delphi refused to tell him how he could be absolved of this crime he desecrated the holy shrine.

Nevertheless he kept the favour of the gods and when he died (killed by the poison of the Hydra by way of her son Nessus the Centaur) Zeus welcomed his immortal spirit to Olympus.  Acclaimed as the greatest of the Greek heroes, he was a hero with flaws.

2/. Odysseus

A formidable warrior with many hero characteristics.  He was the son of Laertes the King of the island of Ithaca and Anticleia.  Anticleia’s father was Autoclycus the son of Hermes.

Having received the prophecy that if he went to Troy, he would be gone for 20 years and return penniless and alone Odysseus tried to avoid going to Troy which was not usual warrior behaviour.

Odysseus is resourceful, silver tongued, wise and cunning as well as having warrior characteristics.  He was also a leader with no respect for his men, and a liar.

The ancient Greeks liked this though and regarded him as a tactician and heroic warrior.

Next session we shall complete the story of Odysseus and start a new folklore topic relating to natural features.

Country dances in March

3.03.23 Some of John’s Birthday choices.

  • Trip to Bavaria a Scottish 4 couple dance by James McGregor Brown. We danced it twice.
  • Eastbourne Grove a 3 couple dance by Kevin Prigmore 2015 also danced twice.
  • Sam’s Maggot a Traditional 3 couple dance from 1728 reconstructed by Andrew Shaw, also danced twice.
  • Posties Jig a 4 couple dance devised by Roy Clowes of Ormskirk. One theory is that the ‘arches’ section of the dance symbolises ‘the tying up of a parcel’ We certainly created a few knots!
  • Gasconne see 3.02.23.

10.03.23 No Dancing due to snowy conditions.

17.03.23 with an Irish theme to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Dancing with Friends a longways dance choreography by Elizabeth Goossens 2013. Music by Sue Stapleton from Irish tunes from Liverpool.
  • (The) bonny lad & the bonny lass by John & William Neal 1726
  • Giant Steps a June Jones 4 couple dance to the tune ‘Blind Mary’ played on the Irish Harp.
  • Season of Mists a longways dance.
  • The Princess Royal a longways dance by Pat Shaw.
  • Shandy Hall a 4 couple dance with circles & half stars.

24.03.23 some more of John’s Birthday choices.

  • Criss Cross Jig a 5 couple dance.
  • Nonesuch 2 a longways dance.
  • Trip to Bavaria see 3.03.23.
  • Peace be with you contemporary longways dance by Fried de Metz Herman.
  • Fourpence Halfpenny Farthing a traditional longways dance from 1709.
  • Dancing with Friends see last week.

31.03.23 still more of John’s choices…

  • Frances Ann’s Delight by George Middleton 1975 for his wife Frances Ann!
  • (the) Italian Disappointment a longways dance pub. Neal 1726.
  • Marching to Praetorius a Gary Roodman 2 couple dance 1996.
  • Indian Princess a Colin Hume 1984 longways dance. Danced to the tune of the Indian Queen.
  • Upton Priory a 4 couple waltz time dance.
  • Nampwich Fair a longways dance Playford 1726.

There will be no dancing next week as it’s Good Friday

Back on the 14th.April.

26 March 2023

Lacemaking   by Jayne Shepherd 

Jayne introduced us to her journey and sabatical through lace making.  Very interesting and thought provoking

Followed by refreshments🍰  ☕and a game of bingo   🔢

2023 Spring Show

Our next performances will be on Friday 19th May and Saturday 20th May at Aughton Village Hall:

“More Tea Vicar?” a one act play by Geoff Buckingham followed by “What Happens in Vegas” – the adventure continues with music and dance.

Curtain up 7.30 p.m.

Tickets cost £13.00 each and this includes Afternoon Tea.  As usual, please bring your own drinks and glasses.

Tickets are now on sale at Horizons or phone 01695 227503/578207

29 Jan 2023

Film afternoon featuring ‘Finding Your Feet’ – a 2017 British romantic comedy 

Ice creams 🍦were enjoyed at the interval as well as the usual cuppa☕ and cakes 🍰

March 2023 Writing

In March we wrote short stories of 100 words, maximum. Here is a selection:

A Nice Cup of Tea


She waited with her sister, seeking reassurance. “It will be alright.”  Her sister replied sympathetically. “What if she wakes up?” She fidgeted nervously.” We’ll stay up all night, watch TV and drink tea.” Her sister replied. “She said some terrible things.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “It’s the illness, she can’t help it.” They talked about the past, particularly their childhood, and their mother’s illness.

A noise came from above. A creak, a shuffle of slippered feet on the linoleum floor. The door opened. “Hello girls. You’re up late. Got a nice cup of tea for your old Mum?”



Avril suspected Brian was up to something when he claimed he had taken up jogging. She followed him but he only got as far as the High Street when he went into a flat above the haberdashers. The Perspex sign next to the door that led to the flat above said ‘Miss Jenkins Piano Tutor, phone number Melton 62145’. The following evening Brian claimed he was going jogging. Twenty minutes later Avril phoned Miss Jenkins on the home phone and simultaneously phoned Brian’s mobile using her mobile. As Miss Jenkins said ‘Good evening’ Brian’s mobile rang in the background.



Another Phone Call


“Oh Mum! Please don’t ring school.”

“You can’t go. It’s my bridge night and your father’s out.”

“But Mum I’m fourteen. I can walk home.”

“Not on a dark, winter’s night you can’t.” Justin cringed as he listened.

“Mr Marlowe? Mrs Carey here. I’m afraid Justin can’t attend your special rehearsal. There’s no-one to collect him. I see, but if he’s really needed, could you change to a more sensible time or arrange for him to be brought home. What’s that? You’ll run him home yourself. Fine. Good evening.”

Rehearsal over, Mr Marlowe pedalled off with Justin running beside him.


Visit to Lunt Meadows – 14th February 2023

Seven members of the group enjoyed a good morning’s bird watching at this Lancashire Wildlife Trust site adjacent to the river Alt and a total of thirty three species were recorded.  A particular highlight of this visit was a young female Kestrel which perched, flew low and hovered quite close to us.  We noticed the bird was ringed and information subsequently seen on Facebook confirms she was ringed as a nestling on 10th July 2022 at Cockerham near Lancaster.

Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of 33 species seen:

Continue reading

Dances in February

Correction from 6.01.23. Floss Galliard should read Slof Galliard. (a Morecambe and Wise moment, all the right letters, in the wrong order!)


  • Brighton le Sands a June Jones longways dance x2. People always ask, ‘Where is Brighton le Sands?’ x2

It is between Blundellsands to the North, Waterloo to the South and Gt. Crosby to the East.

  • Valentine’s Day a longways dance called by Elfrida in preparation for 14th. pub. 1670 Playford. x2
  • Up to no Good another June Jones 3 couple dance. 1st. version.
  • No Taxes from 1791.
  • A Lady remembered a longways dance remembering all former dancers who have ‘passed on’.
  • Gasconne a longways dance from 1706 with interpretation by Pat Shaw.


  • Portsmouth a longways dance from 1701.
  • Roll the Line a longways dance with some ‘travelling’.
  • Harvest Reel a 3 couple dance x2.
  • Diamond Diversion unsurprisingly, in Diamond formation for 4 people.
  • Morrison’s Reel a 5 couple longways  dance. x2
  • Nampwich Fair a longways dance pub. Playford 1726, interpretation by Pat Shaw 1964.

17.03.23 some of John’s Birthday choices.

  • (The ) Farmer’s Joy a Joseph Pimentel longways dance.
  • Two’s Lead a longways dance.
  • D’e’il Take the Warr a 3 couple dance from 1721.
  • Triplicate danced with 3 in a line, choreography Peggy Roe.
  • New German Waltz a longways dance.


  • The Spaniard a longways dance 1777.
  • Zephyrs and Flora  a longways dance from the Walsh collection 1715.
  • (The) Slof Galliard a Pat Shaw dance 1975 for 4 couples.
  • Homebound Duet a 2 person dance by Judy Keeling 2020, to the tune Elizabeth.
  • Pilgarlic a 3 couple dance from 1751.
  • Comical Fellow always a favourite longways dance with clapping. pub. Thompson 1776.

20 February 2023 – Heroes in Greek Mythology

In the session we continued our topic of heroes from Greek mythology by looking at Heracles.

The Greek myths credit Heracles as being the greatest of all the heroes.

His famous Twelve Labours showcase his many hero attributes.  Heracles used his hero qualities of superhuman strength, courage, and supreme skill as a warrior to accomplish a series of apparently impossible tasks.

The Labours also illustrate some of the flaws in Heracles’ character.  He could be hot-headed and impulsive with a tendency to over-react to situations.  Hercules was frequently unable to control his superhuman powers and got himself into trouble as a result.  It would seem that the Greeks wanted their heroes to be complex characters with flaws and shortcomings alongside their super powers.

February 2023 Writing

In February our theme was ‘children’. Some wrote the first chapter of a children’s story, a couple of people wrote complete stories, one wrote a poem, and there were two articles about children’s authors. Here is Judy’s story:

The Rainbow Children


Ginta-Marie was eight years old with a rather unusual name and an extra-ordinarily difficult problem. Her close friend Betsy, also eight was blind. Betsy had moved in next door a year before and had become so familiar with both houses and gardens that it was easy to forget she couldn’t see.

Then, yesterday it had rained and when the sun shone through later, there was the most beautiful rainbow that Ginta-Marie had ever seen and without thinking she had shouted out to her friend, “Look, Betsy, see the rainbow and all those fantastic colours.”

Betsy couldn’t understand what she was talking about. Feeling sad for her friend Ginta-Marie tried to describe the rainbow but Betsy grew more and more tearful and cross and as she tripped over a stone running between the hedges to her garden, yelled, “Leave me alone, leave me alone!”

Ginta-Marie raced after her, crying, “Betsy, wait, I’m so sorry. I forgot you can’t see. Wait, Betsy.”

Betsy just rushed into her house and wouldn’t come out again.

Ginta-Marie was so unhappy, she couldn’t eat her tea, went to bed early and sobbed into her pillow.

She had always accepted Betsy’s blindness and even sometimes she’d closed her eyes and moved around as though she were blind too. It had even felt exciting to pretend she couldn’t see trying to enter into Betsy’s world. She found out that she could hear the birds more clearly. She didn’t just see the flowers she sniffed them and breathed in their scent. She’d shut her eyes at times when eating and had found she enjoyed the taste of food more. It had been like a game.

It had never seemed to occur to her that Betsy couldn’t see colours and her tears fell even more as she realised how black and dark her friend’s world really was. Very unhappily she at last fell asleep.

She awoke to a very noisy chorus of cats and birds. She kept her eyes shut listening and then shuddered as she remembered her dream of a black and white rainbow that kept following her, trapping her into corners of her room as she tried running away from it.

Sitting up in bed she thought of the real rainbow that Betsy couldn’t see or even imagine. She closed her eyes and thought and thought. Betsy could hear better than her, her sense of taste and identifying smells was more accurate and she was always good at guessing what an object was by touching it. Ginta-Marie felt she must help Betsy find a way to imagine a rainbow, so she thought and puzzled until she suddenly smiled to herself and then jumped out of bed.

Much later on, if her Mum was surprised at all the bundles and food from the kitchen, that kept disappearing into the playhouse, she said nothing, although she was curious, as she and Betsy’s Mum had both been upset by what had happened between the girls the day before.

After a quick lunch, Ginta-Marie called for Betsy.

“Please, come and play. I have something to share with you.”

Betsy wanted to refuse, “Its no use, I can’t see.”

“Please, Betsy I really have a nice surprise for you,”

Betsy’s Mum urged her to go.

Ginta-Marie, pulled her into the playhouse taking her hand and leading her to each corner. The first was filled with fruit, the second with flowers, the third had a mouth organ and a recorder and the fourth had some felt tips and paper. She made Betsy feel everything in each corner.

Then she announced, “Betsy, here are four different rainbows. The first corner is the tasty rainbow,” and she giggled as she made her friend taste each fruit in turn, which were all in rainbow colours, strawberry for red, then an orange, banana for yellow and a green apple. The blueberries were from a tin. Finally she made her taste a purple grape and a deep dark plum which was rather squashy. When Betsy had tasted them all and said she would remember this as the Tasty Rainbow, Ginta-Marie led her to the second corner where all the flowers were.

“This,” she declared is “ The sniffy Rainbow corner.”

She giggled again and Betsy did, too, as she sniffed a bright red rose, an orange marigold, a yellow daffodil, some cut grass, a blue hyacinth in a pot, a sprig of lilac from the tree in the garden and finally a small bunch of deep purple Chrysanthemums. In fact the giggling led to sneezing as the leaves tickled Betsy’s nose.

In no time she was trundled to the third corner, where she was given the mouth organ while Ginta-Marie picked up the recorder. She insisted they play all seven notes together.

“ Doh ray me far so la tee “ and then she added the final doh, laughing out loud she said, “This is the Sound Rainbow.”

Betsy was soon laughing along before she was led to the final corner where there was paper and coloured pens.

“This is the Touching Rainbow,” she said solemnly.

She gave each of the pens to Betsy to hold, getting her to feel the notches she’d made on each, one on red, right up to seven on the purple one. Then she guided Betsy’s hand on each pen in turn so that she actually drew her own rainbow on the paper.

Ginta -Marie hugged Betsy, “ you are my bestest, bestest friend and you may not be able to see it, but I’ll help you draw a rainbow, if you want to on a card for your Mum’s birthday next week.”

Betsy hugged her back, very excited about all the different kinds of rainbows.

Together they ran for their mothers, who were already creeping down to the playhouse in search of all the giggling. The girls led them happily round the four corners of special rainbows.

Then Ginta-Marie’s Mum responded, “You mustn’t forget the most important rainbow of all, the Feely one!”

The girls looked puzzled, so she held each of their hands with Betsy’s Mum too, and said,

“Both of you were very sad yesterday, and you went through lots of different feelings.”

They both agreed the range of feelings they had both felt were, sadness, anger, fear, worry, love, excitement and finally happiness.

Then Betsy said holding on to her friend’s hand, “I want to call the Feely rainbow the Friendship Rainbow”

Both Mothers smiled at each other and gave both girls a hug before leaving them to carry on playing with all their new rainbows.

16 January 2023 – Heroes in Greek Mythology

In the session we continued our topic of heroes from Greek mythology.

We completed the story Theseus.

We did a recap of his origins and how he became the accepted heir to the throne of Athens.

His story was as deliberate amalgamation of three characters and how his story was deliberately used to promote an image of a hero.  Theseus was not content to be a prince he wanted adventures and emulated the feats of Heracles.

He defeated the fire breathing white bull which had killed hundreds of men and took it up to the Acropolis and sacrificed it. Crete and Athens had been at war for some time and Minos the ruler of Crete had the upper hand with a strong navy.  King Minos’s son had been killed and he was due recompense for this, so every year seven youths and seven maidens were sent over to Crete and put in the Labyrinth where they were either killed by the Minotaur or died of thirst/starvation.  The story goes that the tribute fell due and Theseus took the place of one of the youths promising if he survived he would fly white sails on his return to indicate he was alive.  He went to Delphi to consult the Oracle who told him to put his trust in Aphrodite.

The back story to the Minotaur was that he was the half-brother to Ariadne King Minos’s daughter, his father was the white bull who had mated with Ariadne’s mother.  King Minos had a labyrinth constructed to contain him.

Ariadne was smitten as soon as she saw Theseus and offered to help him if he would take her to Athens.  Theseus agreed.  She told him to take a ball of thread with him and use it to find his way back out.  Theseus navigated the Labyrinth and slayed the Minotaur in his sleep and followed the thread back out.

Ariadne guided Theseus and his companions to the harbour where they escaped under the cover of darkness.  They sailed to Naxos where Theseus built a shelter for Ariadne and then left her there, breaking his promise to take her to Athens. When she found herself alone she called upon the entire universe for vengeance and Zeus nodded his assent.

Theseus sailed for Athens where he encountered adverse winds which delayed his progress, it took him some time to get there and he forgot about his promise to put up white sails and left the black sails up.

His father Aegeus watched for his son every day and upon seeing the ship with the black sails swooned and fell into the Aegean Sea and was killed.  Some say Theseus did this deliberately.  The original warning by the Oracle had finally come true as Aegeus died of grief.

Theseus became ruler of Athens killing his opponents and setting up a federation of states, a law court and coins with the image of a bull on them.  The mythology also credits Theseus with more adventuring, leaving counsellors and advisors in place whilst he was away.

His adventures also include encounters with the Amazons and the taking of Queen Antiope with whom he had Hippolytus.  He had an alliance with Deucalion the ruler of Crete, whose daughter Phaedra he married, casting Queen Antiope aside.  Antiope attacked them at their wedding and she was hunted down and killed.

Theseus’ grandfather Pittheus adopted Hippolytus as his heir.

There followed Greek tragedy where gods were offended, Theusus’ wife Phaedra was enchanted to fall in love with her stepson Hippolytus, was rejected, and ended with both of them dying.

Another convoluted story involving abducting Helen of Sparta (later of Troy) when she was very young and the consequences of his actions.  He ended up with Hades inviting him to sit in the Chair of Forgetfulness in the underworld from where eventually Heracles rescued him.  During this time the Spartans marched into Athens and set up a Regent.

When Theseus eventually returned he was seriously weakened and unable to do anything so set sail to Crete, he was blown off course and took shelter on Skyros where its ruler Lycomedes initially welcomed him before throwing Theseus to his death from a cliff.

During his life Theseus showed some very bad judgement, not thinking before he acted with some severe consequences for those around him, offended the gods and treated women badly  (for example Ariadne and Antiope).  This may explain why he did not get a hero’s end.

The next session we shall start on Heracles

‘Ageing Better’ Showcase at Edge Hill

Following on from the successful collaboration with Edge Hill University on the Ageing Better Project, there was a free Showcase Event on Saturday 11th February in the Arts Centre at Edge Hill University, starting with Reception and coffee at 10am.


10:00 -10:30 – Reception & Coffee
10:30 – Opening ceremony
10:45 – Talks from guest speakers on health and wellbeing

  • Dr Jikta Vseteckova, Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care, The Open University
  • Carol Rogers MBE, Director of House of Memories, National Museums Liverpool
  • Dr Jade Thai, Programme Manager of Neuroscience & Mental Health, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

12:00 – Lunch and poster session
13:30 – Dance performances

  • Base Dance Performing Arts Academy
  • 50 Moves – Jennifer Hale
  • Men! Dancing! – Jennifer Hale
  • u3a Line Dancing – Lorraine Dyke
  • u3a Tap Dancing – Irene Arkinstall
  • Hard-Wired project – James Hewitson

15:00 Closing ceremony – Dr Dortothy Tse



Visit to Martin Mere – 24th January 2023

Five members of the group attended our first visit of 2023.  We started by meeting in the café to discuss the programme of visits for the year after which we visited some of the hides and the Reedbed walk before lunch.  This site never disappoints and an excellent variety of species were recorded with several raptors and many woodland and farmland birds as well as waterfowl and waders.  One member was able to stay on for a while after lunch and added a few extra species at some of the other hides we did not have time to visit in the morning.  In total forty six species were recorded on this visit.

The Black-tailed Godwits can be quite feisty!


Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of 46 species seen:

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Indoor Visits Autumn and Winter 2022

Tuesday 4th October

Lancashire Comedians 

Dr Tom Preston joins us to talk about the evolution of local comedy by referencing some of the styles of Lancashire comedians of the past.

As it is Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Anniversary year we will begin with the wit of Her Majesty, Duke of Lancaster.

Tuesday 1st November 

Coal Mining in Lancashire

There were many coal mines in our area, the borough of Wigan for example in 1863 had 48 collieries operating, employing thousands of men, women and children. Mining historian Alan Davies will tell us more about the history of coal mining.

Tuesday 6th December

Christmas in Victorian Lancashire

We begin with some of the Christmas traditions associated with Victorian times. Kate Hurst will continue with her illustrated presentation about Victorian Lancashire at Christmas time.

£3.50 includes sherry (or a non-alcoholic drink), shortbread and a raffle ticket.

Please book for the December meeting with Margaret at the Local History meetings or at Horizons.

Welcome to the New Year dances.



  • Gasconne from 1710 with an interpretation by Pat Shaw. A longways dance.
  • Homebound a dance compiled during lockdown by Judy Keeling, a duet in diamond formation with ‘Petronella turns’.
  • Floss Galliard a 4 couple dance x2.
  • Nonesuch from 1615 Playford “Both these dances are not danced enough” June’s quote. Another 4 couple dance x2.
  • Two’s Lead a longways dance.
  • The Comical Fellow always a favourite longways dance.


  • The Maid peeped out the window OR the Friar in the well, a 1650 longways dance.
  • Chelsea Reach a 1657 Playford style dance in square formation with some J.J adaptation.
  • Consequences a 4 couple dance.
  • Broom the Bonny Bonny Broom a 1651 Playford dance longways formation. x2.
  • Delia a 3 couple dance choreography & music by Ellen Taylor x2.

20.01.23. Liz’s Birthday choices.

  • Mendocino Redwood a contemporary longways dance by Mary Devlin, Bob Fraley & Elizabeth Zekley from 2005. Tune Woodlands Walk.
  • Handel with Care a 2 couple dance circle formation. By Gary Roodman 1992 with music the Bouree from Handel’s Water Music.
  • Winter in Brasstown a longways Philippe Callens dance 2004. ( Rather a lot of turning)
  • one of Geraldine’s requests. Marching to Praetorius another Gary Roodman 1996 dance for 2 couples in circle formation.
  • Sir Watkins jig a 3 couple Traditional dance from 1750.
  • Mile of Smiles another longways contemporary dance by Joseph Pimentel with the tune by Dave Wiesler.


  • Monday Night a longways dance.
  • Pandemonium another longways dance x2.
  • Belle of Amherst a 3 couple dance by Gary Roodman x2 another of Liz’s birthday choices, looks lovely but tricky & not universally enjoyed! x2
  • Tipu Sahib a longways dance we haven’t danced for a while, in waltz time but quite nippy. x2
  • Fourpence Halfpenny Farthing a 1709 longways Playford dance.


Outdoor Visits Summer 2022

Our outdoor visits began Saturday 30 April Milford Junction.

Where? Clue: be careful to avoid getting grit in your eye. We were going for a brief encounter at Carnforth Heritage Centre. Part of the film Brief Encounter was filmed at Carnforth Station, named Milford Junction in the film.

The visit included lunch – sandwiches, cake and tea/coffee in the film set Refreshment Room.

A screening of the film `Brief Encounter` was optional.

Saturday 11th June

Tour and Tales Around the Ribble Valley.

As we travelled around the lovely Ribble countryside most of which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we will listen to the history, legends and stories that shape the area. From views of Pendle Hill to the Forest of Bowland, through historic villages to Dunsop Bridge, declared by Ordnance Survey as the official centre of Britain. We stopped at one, two, three or more (!) of the ancient Inns, some dating back to the 18th century, all had an interesting ghostly history. Lunch was included.

January 2023 Writing

Our challenge for January was to write something with the theme of ‘dilemma’. Below are two examples that were read and discussed at the January session.

Geoff’s Dilemma


‘Geoff, come and meet the latest newbies in the neighbourhood.’ Alan clapped a friendly hand on Geoff’s back and directed him across the grass to the couple who had recently moved into the area. ‘Geoff’s been here longer than us, haven’t you, Geoff? Must be nearly 40 years for you and Mary now!’

         Normally Geoff would have managed more than the mumbled agreement to Alan’s comment but he was feeling far from normal. His mind was all over the place. The neighbours often got together in one garden or another for a drink and a barbecue and whilst Geoff was never the ‘life and soul’ like Alan, he was usually sociable and chatty in a calm, understated way. But without anything to say on this occasion, he looked around and caught sight of Mary talking amiably to another neighbour. His heart sank. His beautiful plum cake (a name he occasionally used in public by mistake) might just have her whole world shattered very soon. Could he put her through that? Would it be worth it? He had no idea.

         Mary wandered over, her comfortable expression turning quizzical as she saw he was not himself. ‘Are you okay, Geoff, love? You look a bit peaky.’ He tried to assure her he was fine and only too happy to nip back home for her cardigan. She raised her eyebrows at the new neighbours as she exclaimed, totally unnecessarily, how unpredictable the British weather was. He left the three of them chatting and headed next door but Mary’s cardigan was the last thing on his mind. He slumped in his armchair and began picking over the agonising memory of his encounter with Amanda at work the previous day.

         Amanda had only joined the office team a month ago. She was good at her job – focused and reliable – but she seemed to find any excuse to talk things through with Geoff. He’d shrugged off the ‘Aye, aye, wink, wink’ comment from another colleague. Why were people in the office so interested in extra-marital gossip? Geoff was totally devoted to his plum pudding and their two amazing offspring, Robert and Claire, both in their late thirties with delightful young families of their own.

         ‘Just checking you’re still alive, love, you’ve been ages!’ Mary had breezed in, too chilly to wait any longer for him. ‘I’ve got to get back because I’ve promised Anita I’ll butter the rolls but if you’re not feeling well why don’t you go to bed.’ He certainly did feel ill, even if it was due to stress rather than a virus. God, he loved this woman so much. She joined in with Dusty Springfield singing ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ as she headed back towards the music and the party.

         Geoff’s head was in his hands. The bomb that had been dropped by Amanda was news that he had, unknowingly, fathered a child 42 years previously and that child was Amanda. She’d been given scant details by her mother but had painstakingly followed up every avenue to arrive at the conclusion Geoff was her dad. Once she was fairly convinced she’d found the right man she had planned to ask his permission to do a DNA test but she’d chickened out in case he’d refused and had gone ahead with it already. For this she was deeply apologetic. The DNA test was the least of his problems. He had seen Amanda as a smart, pleasant woman but now he was staring at another daughter. It excited him and terrified him equally. How on earth was he going to deal with this? He didn’t want to wreck the idyllic life he had with Mary and his children – his other children – but if he kept it a secret, would that betrayal be worse?

         Mary would be back in a couple of hours. Tormented, he took a pad and a pen out of the bureau to make some notes but he couldn’t bring himself to commit his thoughts to paper. Once he’d done that there’d be no going back. So he tried to bring some order to the bewilderment in his head and work out what he would say to Mary if he decided to come clean: He was sorry. It was a moment of irresponsible madness before he’d met her. He’d had no idea until yesterday. He was so sorry. He would understand if she wanted nothing to do with Amanda. He was sorry if she’d preferred not to know but he couldn’t hide it from her. What would they tell Robert and Claire? Please don’t hate me, Mary.

         He sat bolt upright when he heard Mary come in through the back door. His hands began to shake but, with his mind made up, he tried to steel himself for the conversation. ‘Oh, you’re still up, love. I thought you’d have gone to bed,’ she said brightly.

         ‘Mary I’m so sorry.’ But he didn’t have chance to say anything else because Claire came in behind Mary wittering away about how lucky they all were that she and her brother got on so well when many of her friends were indifferent or positively hostile towards their siblings.

         ‘Look who popped in to the party!’ Mary was beaming, happy to have had her daughter to herself for a short time without husbands and small children.

         ‘Hi Dad,’ said Claire. ‘How’re you feeling?’ He didn’t answer the question because all he could think about was that he couldn’t put this off any longer.

         ‘I need to talk to your mother,’ he said and suggested Claire made some tea in the kitchen, out of earshot. And so it began. The words came tumbling out in a jumble of phrases, less coherent than he’d planned but he just had to get them all out. Eventually he took a breath and looked up at Mary. She was stunned. Calm but stunned. The silence was broken by Claire bounding in.

         ‘A sister? I’ve got a sister!’ She was genuinely happy. Mary considered her thoughts for a moment and said quietly,

         ‘Geoff, I have no right to be upset about any of your liaisons before I met you.’ And after another moment’s pause, she said, ‘I reckon we can accommodate another daughter, don’t you?’ and for the first time ever, she saw him shed a tear.


What a Dilemma


I hardly ever go to Chorley but a friend told me about the curtain stall on the market so I thought I’d have a run out to get a new net curtain for my front window, freshen the place up for Easter. I’m not very familiar with the lay out of the place and got a bit lost coming out of the car park. I was on a quiet side street when I passed ‘Maisie’s Coffee Shop’ and happened to glance inside. Who did I see but Malcolm, you know, married to Lizzie who’s in the same Knit and Natter group as us. But he wasn’t with Lizzie, he was with a dark haired woman I’d never seen before. All long dangly earrings and shellac nails. They were having a good giggle over something or other but it wasn’t till the waitress brought their order over that I realised they’d been holding hands under the table. Well that had to stop so they could deal with their cappuccinos and all day breakfasts. Well, I didn’t know what to do for the best. I stood back so I couldn’t be seen, not that they were looking anywhere but into each other’s eyes. Anyway, I decided to risk a quick photo, which came out quite well considering.

Well, I spent a sleepless night that night, I can tell you! I tossed and turned. Shall I tell Lizzie what I saw I wondered? If my Len had been carrying on would I have wanted to know? In the morning my mind was made up, I knew I had to do the right thing. I messaged Lizzie and told her I was popping around. I decided the only thing I could do was give it to her straight. I told her exactly what happened and pulled the photo up on my phone. She said nothing at first but gave me a strange look then told me she did not want to see the photo and she was very sorry that I had seen Malcolm yesterday. I said to her I didn’t know how he could do such a terrible thing to her and she shouldn’t put up with it. I was outraged for her! She put her hand up, palm towards me and said,

‘Stop! You’ve no right to criticise Malcolm or judge my marriage. You know nothing about our private life. I wish it could stay that way but now I feel I have to explain something to you in order to keep my privacy. Will you promise to keep this absolutely confidential?’

‘Well’, I said ‘you know me, the soul of discretion. I won’t breathe a word’. Then she told me about the horrendous health problems she’d had a few years ago. Terrible operation which went badly wrong. Really everything was just a mess and Malcolm had been marvellous throughout. But it left her with no interest in sex at all.

‘I know, so sad. So, her and Malcolm have come to an agreement. He has a lady friend he sees from time to time, if you know what I mean and Lizzie and Malcolm carry on as before and they go on lovely holidays together and have you seen her new kitchen? Fabulous!’

‘What, should I have told you this? Oh my dear I know you’re just like me, the soul of discretion. I know you won’t tell anybody else, so telling you doesn’t count, does it’

Anyway, I’ve decided to put new nets all around now so I’ll just need to pop back to Chorley again next week. I wonder if I’ll come across that café again?

19 December 2022 – Heroes in Greek Mythology

In the session we continued our topic of heroes from Greek mythology.

1/.  We completed the story of Jason and Medea.   Including Jason and Medea’s ruling of Corinth.

He had a close association with the gods with Hera, Atheni and Aphrodite who intervened in his life.

We again looked at where Jason shared characteristics in common with the heroes from Celtic, Germanic and Scandinavian myths and legends and where he seemed weak.  His partnership with Medea continued to be important.  They used deception and magic.

We also looked at the consequences of Jason’s decision to divorce Medea and take a new wife, breaking the oath he had made to the gods to keep faith with Medea.  This had an impact on the rest of his life.  The trust and protection of the gods was vital.  Even though a number of Medea’s actions are quite brutal she maintained a good relationship with the gods and ended her life immortal in the Elysian Fields whilst Jason’s breaking of his solemn oath to the gods meant they withdrew their favours and he spent his last years wandering, hated by all.  In old age he sat in the shadow of the Argo and was killed when it toppled over on top of him.

2/. We started the story of Theseus.

The early myths started in the bronze age and there were originally three characters called Theseus from different areas.  These became amalgamated into a single person; this was done deliberately when the Lapith clan became the senior clan of Athens around 6th C BC. What people wanted at that time was a hero and it was used for political purposes and promulgated by poets and storytellers.

We looked at the early years with Theseus’s father Aegeus going to Delphi to see the Oracle for advice on how to get a son, travelling to Corinth and meeting Medea and then travelling further with Theseus eventually being born to Aethra and raised by her father philosopher Pittheus.  We looked at the symbols and prophecies involved, he had sandals and sword from his father.  These were symbols of royalty and kingship and were part of the real rituals at the time.

Theseus was precocious, strong, intelligent and cultured.  When his mother judged the time was right for him to go to Athens, Theseus insisted on going down the notoriously dangerous coast road.    He wanted to prove himself and have adventures.  He would only react if provoked and any punishment he meted out would fit the crime.  The tale covers an astonishing list of feats and encounters some of which are very similar to those of Heracles.  We looked at the qualities of heroes to see where he matched up.

Meanwhile in Athens Aegeus had married Medea and she had given him a son whom she wanted to be king, so when Theseus arrived in Athens she plotted against him.   Her plot failed as Aegeus recognised Theseus as his son due to the sword he was carrying.  Medea and her son were given safe conduct form the city.

Horizons returns

Horizons returns on Thursday 5th January after the festive break.

If you’ve had your fill of Christmas pud or Yule log, come along for a simple cup of tea or coffee and an optional biscuit!

Year 2023 Operas

Wednesday 20th December 2023 at 1.00pm

Cinderella by Alma Deutscher

Performed by the Opera San Jose in 2017

Cinderella by Alma Deutscher

In this engaging version of the fairytale, Cinderella’s father is manager of a ‘little opera house at the edge of town’ who, after the death of his wife, marries an ‘ageing prima donna’. When he dies, Cinderella’s stepmother takes over the opera house and turns Cinders (Vanessa Becerra) into a copyist slave: despite her skills, she is not allowed to write her own music and her compositions are confined to her mind (beautifully performed on violin and piano by Deutscher, off stage). The shoe-fitting scene is replaced with the prince asking potential brides to set one of his poems to music; Cinders’s stepsisters steal her work and present it at the singing competition as their own. Our heroine eventually sings her song to the prince, and the pair are united.

About Alma

“She may be one of the most gifted musical talents of her generation, lauded by Zubin Mehta and Simon Rattle, but she is also a teenager testing the bounds of her freedom and pushing back against expectations.   In Ms Deutscher’s case, this means defying her critics over her insistence that “music should be beautiful.” New York Times, June 2019

Alma Deutscher, born 2005, is a composer, violinist, pianist and conductor. She started playing the piano when she was two years old and the violin when she was three. At six, she composed her first piano sonata, and at nine a concerto for violin and orchestra. Conductor Zubin Mehta called her “one of the greatest musical talents today”. Sir Simon Rattle told the BBC: “Alma is a force of nature. I don’t know that I’ve come across anyone of that age with quite such an astonishing range of gifts. I haven’t really seen anything like it.” Composer Jörg Widmann said he had never met a talent like hers before. And violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter declared it was “absolutely extraordinary what this young girl has managed to achieve.”

Come along and see and hear the amazing opera that this young British composer has produced, written between the ages of 8-12yrs!

Synopsis Here:

Wednesday 15th November 2023 at 1.00pm

La Boheme – Puccini

La Boheme from the Met

Puccini’s evergreen paean to young love and the bohemian life has captivated generations of Met-goers through Franco Zeffirelli’s iconic production. Movie theatre audiences got to see it with fresh eyes in a touching performance starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas as the frail seamstress and her poetic lover.

Giacomo Puccini has been described as “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi”, and his operas are some of the most popular and frequently-performed of all time, including Tosca, La bohème, Madama Butterfly and Turandot. He is known for his astonishing gift for melody, matched by a strong theatrical sense and rich harmonisation

Synopsis Here;

Wednesday 18th October 2023 at 1.00pm

Eugene Onegin – Tchaikovsky

Met Opera Production

Eugene Onegin is among the most popular Russian operas and I really enjoyed this production. Sets and costumes are beautiful and they give a feeling of autumn that fits the opera. Renee Fleming I mostly know as Desdemona and Violetta .Here as Tatyana she gives us both naive and romantic young Tatyana and in Act 3 when Tatyana is married,great maturity. Dmitri Hvorostovsky is truly great as Onegin in both his acting as a bored and arrogant young aristocrat and in the big final duet with Tatyana and in his voice. Ramon Vargas as Lensky did a truly great job with the big aria Lensky sings .I knew him as Alfredo and Rodolfo,and now as Lensky he managed to get me emotional. The rest of the cast also does an amazing job. Overall,amazing Eugene Onegin.


Synopsis – Click here


Wednesday 20th September 2023 at 1.00pm


Madam Butterfly Puccini

Visually authentic and musically very good

This is the most authentically Japanese stage production of Madam Butterfly which is available. It was filmed at La Scala, Milan in 1986 and stars the Japanese soprano Yasuko Hayashi as Madam Butterfly. The production was staged by the Japanese director Keita Asari and the set, costumes and lighting were all designed by Japanese experts. Suzuki is played by the Korean mezzo-soprano Hak-Nam Kim. The result is highly successful and the most visually authentic presentation of one of Puccini’s greatest masterpieces.

Wednesday 16th August 2023 at 1.00pm

IOLANTHE – Gilbert and Sullivan  – Regretfully Cancelled

or The Peer and the Peri 

is a comic opera with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, first performed in 1882. It is one of the Savoy operas and is the seventh of fourteen operatic collaborations by Gilbert and Sullivan. In the opera, the fairy Iolanthe has been banished from fairyland because she married a mortal; this is forbidden by fairy law. Her son, Strephon, is an Arcadian shepherd who wants to marry Phyllis, a Ward of Chancery. All the members of the House of Peers also want to marry Phyllis. When Phyllis sees Strephon hugging a young woman (not knowing that it is his mother – immortal fairies all appear young), she assumes the worst and sets off a climactic confrontation between the peers and the fairies. The opera satirises many aspects of British government, law and society. The confrontation between the fairies and the peers is a version of one of Gilbert’s favourite themes: a tranquil civilisation of women is disrupted by a male-dominated world through the discovery of mortal love.


Wednesday 19th July 2023 at 1.00pm

THE MIKADO – Gilbert and Sullivan

In the Japanese town of Titipu, the citizens are tired of the constant round of executions taking place for even minor offences. They appoint as Lord High Executioner the next prisoner on Death Row, one Ko-Ko, a tailor, on the supposition that he cannot execute anyone as he is himself first in the queue.

Nanki-Poo, the emperor’s son, flees from the Court to escape the attentions of Katisha, who wishes to marry him. Disguised as a minstrel, he arrives in Titipu, where he falls for Yum-Yum, one of a trio of sisters who are schoolgirls and wards of Ko-Ko. When Katisha traces him to the town she is prevented from exposing his identity, and claiming him. She retreats to fetch the Mikado, who is already on his way, concerned at the absence of regular executions in the town.

When the Mikado arrives, he is told that an execution has been carried out. Unfortunately he discovers the supposed victim to be Nanki-Poo, and the penalties for killing a royal heir are serious. The only solution is for Ko-Ko to marry Katisha, thus leaving the way free for Nanki-Poo to come out of hiding and marry Yum-Yum.

Synopsis – click here

Wednesday 21st June 2023 at 1.00pm

Le Comte Ory  –  Rossini

Imagine a picturesque medieval country where most of the men have gone off to fight in the crusades several thousand miles away. Among the few  who have remained behind is a young noble man intent on seducing as many women as he can. His eye is on one virtuois countess in particular, he disguises himself and takes up residence outside her castle to plot his next move. When his cover is blown, he boldly decides to make another attempt at conquest by dressing up as ….a nun



Synopsis; Click Here;

Wednesday 19th April 2023 at 1.00pm

Manon cover picture

MANON – Massenet

Natalie Dessay

Rolando Villazon

Natalie Dessay embodies the character of Manon remarkably, even within this
framework. With the girlishness never exaggerated, each movement seemingly
spontaneous (about how many opera singers can that be said?), her love for Des
Grieux sincere, her sadness in her Adieu absolutely believable, there seems to be
no artifice. (By the end of the aria, shes curled in the fetal position on top of the
table.) She turns coloratura into perfect peals of laughter absolutely organically in
the first act; her Cours de la Reine scene is vocally properly dazzling.

Click Here;

Wednesday 19th April 2023 at 1.00pm


by W S Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan

The seaside village of Rederring, the local Castle and the Baronetcy of Ruddigore are under a curse – the Baronet must perform one crime each day or die in hideous torment.  This is enforced by the ghostly gallery of portraits representing his ancestors back to the original recipient of the Curse.



Synopsis Here;

Wednesday 15th March 2023 at 1.00pm




Three glorious one-act operas for the price of one!

Puccini’s idea of presenting three short operas in one evening led to the creation of his Il Trittico, or Triptych, which premiered in 1918. The tripartite structure, however, quickly fragmented, with the comic Gianni Schicchi becoming instantly popular while the emotional thriller Il Tabarro (The Cloak) and the intense personal tragedy of Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) tended to fall by the wayside.

In recent times, though, increased attention has been paid to the work as the composer intended it to be performed.

Il Trittico Review – Three Operas for the Price of One
Posted on February 11, 2012 by philip
On Sunday, February 5, 2012, and again on Tuesday I saw my second complete Il Trittico and I was reinforced in two of my opinions.  One, that Puccini’s three one-acts are even better taken as a whole, and two, that an ROH production with Conductor Antonio Pappano and Stage Director Richard Jones will be first rate.

I’ll be honest with you.  Taken by itself, I don’t really like Il Tabarro.  I’m sure that it is verismo to the nth degree in its depiction of life on a canal boat in the Seine – but that’s not my own personal verismo.  That being said, Trittico Uno is a perfect gem.  The story is not pretty, the characters are not pretty, the music is not pretty.  But each of story, characters, and music matches the other parts perfectly, and the whole builds to its grisly end with mounting tension.  All of this is perfectly captured by Pappano and Jones and singers Lucio Gallo, Eva-Maria Westbroek, and Aleksandrs Antonenko.

Captain Michelle (Lucio Gallo) forces his wife Giorgetta (Eva-Maria Westbroek) down onto the dead body of her lover Luigi (Aleksandrs Antonenko)
The curtain comes down, and I can breathe again.  But only briefly because there is no intermission between the first two parts.  The curtain goes up and my first reaction is kudos to D. M. Wood, lighting designer.  All of Il Tabarro was played in semidarkness which emphasized the darkness of the story – and suddenly the stage is brilliantly lit; the contrast almost hurts the eyes.

In all previous productions of Suor Angelica that I have seen, the setting has been an outdoor area of a convent.  Which works fine.  But Jones has set his scene in the children’s ward of a nun’s hospital. Various activities are going on and from time to time it focuses on a particular nun seated on a lab stool and grinding herbs with a mortar and pestle.  And whenever the conversation or action refers to young children or joining the convent or on desire, this nun’s face tightens in misery and her herb-grinding is energized with a repressed vicious energy.

This nun is, of course Sister Angelica, and she is showing us clearly and uncontrollably that she longs for her son – the illegitimate baby she bore seven years ago and has neither seen, heard from, or had news of since he was torn away from her minutes after his birth.  For Angelica was the elder daughter of a prince and the son’s father was a mere commoner; the conception was a bitter disgrace for the whole family.  The instant the infant was born the mother was whisked away to a convent, never to be spoken of or spoken to again.

I have never, ever, seen an opera singer who so completely lived a fictional character as Ermonela Jaho lived Sister Angelica.  The opening scene described above was just the start.  A bit later, Angelica’s aunt, the Princess (Anna Larsson) visits to demand that Angelica sign away her financial birth-right in favor of her younger sister.  Angelica has no objection to doing that; in fact for a moment she forgets her own grief and rejoices over the fact that her little sister is getting married.  But first, “Tell me of my son.”  Auntie demurs: “You’re here to atone for your sin, not to grieve.”  This enrages Angelica: “I’ve happily given everything I possess to the Virgin Mary, but I cannot give her the love and yearning I feel towards my son.”  Even though she is less than half as old as the Princess and not much more than half as tall, she lights into her relative with all the fury of a tigress defending her cubs.  Her aunt replies without showing much feeling one way or another, “Two years ago he became very ill.  We did everything we could to save him, but . . . ” Angelica gasps, “My son is dead!” and falls to the floor in a faint.

Left alone after the signing, Angelica in her faith believes that her son is now an angel in heaven and that he is listening to her every word.  She sings how she has loved him and how she longs for the day that she can quit this earth and join him in heaven.  “Send me a sign,” she pleads.  “Write it in the stars.”

She believes she has received his message and that it said, “Do it now.  You have the herbs and the knowledge.  Join me today.”  She rushes to her lab bench in the ward, pours some pills from one bottle, drips a few drops from a vial on each pill, and pops them one after another, each with a grimace and a swallow of water.  All with a beatific smile on her face as she sings farewell to her fellow nuns “on my way to join my son in paradise.”

Suddenly she stops.  Her face freezes.  Slowly the radiant smile fades into sobriety, then to fear, to terror.  She realizes she has just taken her own life – the worst possible sin.  She is not on her way to heaven and reunion with her son, but is doomed to eternal damnation.  “Forgive me Holy Virgin.  Mother of all mothers, forgive me.”

Angelica’s faith was totally convincing.  Tears were running down my cheeks.  I was right there with her, pleading her cause.

The curtain falls to thunderous applause.  But the drama is not over.  The stage is still in total darkness.  A single spot picks up a female figure in the wings and moves with her to center stage.  One would expect the figure to be Ermonela Jaho taking her well-deserved initial bows for a superlative performance – one would be wrong.  Angelica is there – not Ermonela.  Her body is still heaving with emotion.  In the past few minutes she has learned that her son is dead, she has taken poison so she can join him in heaven, she has realized that she will go to hell instead, she has pleaded for forgiveness but has died without knowing if her plea was granted.

On to Gianni Schicchi.  But first, honesty impels me to point out one major thing about Suor Angelica that I did not like.  In all other productions I have seen, directors have used various details to make it crystal-clear that the end is joyful.  Forgiveness has been granted.  Richard Jones wants us to think about it.  There is no celestial light from above – there are no shooting flames from below.  Angelica has realized her sin; she has made her plea to the Virgin Mary; she has died.

On to Gianni Schicchi.  No more taut emotions.  Farewell to fear and sorrow.  Farewell to spirituality.  Time to relax and give those laugh muscles some exercise.  The plot is simple as could be.  Buoso Donati dies of old age in the first minute of the opera, surrounded by a bunch of relatives eagerly looking forward to their inheritances.  But his will leaves every penny of his considerable wealth to a monastery.  Relatives don’t like this idea and plot with the equally scoundrelly but more intelligent and much more likeable Gianni Schicchi to replace that will with one more favorable to them.

Lucio Gallo (we saw him earlier as Michele in Il Tabarro) stars in the title role with wonderful casting for the motley crew of relatives.  Of special note are the two eldest cousins Simone (Gwynne Howell) and Zita (Elena Zilio).  Love interest and some lovely singing are provided by the delightfully young Rinuccio (Francesco Demuro), the only non-venal relative and Schicchi’s daughter Lauretta (Ekaterina Siurina).  Puccini’s music is delightfully light-hearted and . . .but that’s enough.  This opera is to be seen and heard, not to be written about it.  Go, if you get a chance.


Synopsis of all three operas here;

Wednesday 15th February 2023 at 1.00pm

Maria Stuarda – Donizetti     (Met Opera)

Maria Stuarda Cover

Late 16th century. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, has been forced to abdicate her throne and flee her kingdom after the rebellion of her Scottish nobles. A Catholic, crowned at the age of nine months, she was betrothed to the Dauphin of France and raised from childhood at the French court. At 18, she returned to her native land, following the sudden death of her husband Francis II, having reigned as Queen of France for little more than a year. Unable to exert control over her Protestant nobility and beset by insurrections, plots, and murders, she has sought asylum in England from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.

But her presence in Protestant England is untenable to Elizabeth and her advisors. As a descendant of the Tudor line, the English Catholics see Mary as the rightful heir to Henry VIII’s crown (Elizabeth having been declared illegitimate following the execution for adultery of her mother, Anne Boleyn). An English inquiry into the scandalous murder of Mary’s dissolute second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley, has proved inconclusive as to her complicity in the crime but has served as a pretext to keep the former Queen of Scotland imprisoned for many years.

Synopsis Here;

Wednesday 18th January at 1.00pm

Manon Lescaut   –   Puccini      (Royal Opera House)

Manon Lescaught

“From the moment Kaufmann and Opolais embark – with infinite delicacy – on their emotional journey, it becomes clear that this is a vocal marriage made in heaven. His warmly burnished sound is balanced by the exquisitely-nuanced purity of hers, and they are supported by a performance in the pit, under Antonio Pappano, of rare refinement.” – THE INDEPENDENT

When Manon meets the young student Des Grieux they fall in love. They elope – but when the elderly Geronte offers Manon a life of wealth and luxury, her head is turned.

Manon cannot forget Des Grieux. Des Grieux attempts to flee with her, but before they can escape, Geronte has Manon arrested. They escape, but, on the run again, Manon collapses from exhaustion. She dies in Des Grieux’s arms.

Synopsis for this opera here


It’ll soon be Christmas…December dances

2.12.2022 Elfrida calling the dances.

  • Holborn March a longways dance Wright 1740
  • Toney’s Rant a 4 couple dance.
  • (The) Prince of Wales Fancy a British Fan dance c.1792, longways
  • Comical Fellow another longways dance  pub. Thompson 1776.
  • Orange and Blue a 3 couple dance from 1815.
  • Nampwich Fair a Playford dance from 1726. Pat Shaw interpretation 1964.

9.12.2022 Elfrida recording the dances.

  • Olive Grove – longways, similar moves to Childgrove & used the same music, nice dance & not complicated.
  • Christmas Stars – 3 couple dance, one of Geraldine’s birthday choices, danced twice. 1st. to tune Rigadoon on The Brass Tacks CD. 2nd. to a Scottish Jig Lochiel’s Welcome, on the Short & Sweet CD. This was the favourite.
  • Morrison’s Reel– a 5 couple longways another of Geradine’s choices.
  • Gloster Reel
  • Winifred’s Knot -a 4 couple circular dance.

a further session on 16th. but either of us there to record the dances. Good wishes for Christmas and for a peaceful New Year.

We return to Country Dancing on 6th. January 2023. 

Looking forward to seeing you all then.

Summary of visits, September to December 2022

(Please accept my apologies for not posting individual reports of these visits)

13th September 2022 – Speke Hall

Four members of the group attended our first visit of the Autumn to this National Trust property by the Mersey Estuary.  A total of twenty bird species were recorded on this visit.

11th October 2022 – Leighton Moss RSPB and Morecambe Bay

Five members of the group travelled to this site, the most distant of the sites we regularly visit.  This large RSPB reserve regularly has many less common species including the bearded tits, which we only managed to hear on this occasion, and Marsh Tits.  A total of thirty six species were recorded across the two sites.

8th November 2022 – Burton Mere RSPB

This visit was called off at the last minute when several members had to pull out, however one member of the group didn’t get the message in time and recorded a total of twenty nine species.

The visit was re-arranged for 13th December but again was postponed when only two members of the group were available.  We will try again early in early 2023, hopefully it will be third time lucky!

29th November 2022 – Martin Mere

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Martin Mere is always a good visit at this time of year and six group members were well rewarded with a total of forty two species being recorded.  A particular highlight was seeing four Marsh Harriers flying over the land beyond the mere, though the hazy conditions made it difficult to capture good photographs.  The number of Whooper Swans in ‘first winter’ plumage indicates they have had a good breeding season.


Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of species seen on the above visits:

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Summary of visits, 29th March to July 2022

(Please accept my apologies for not posting individual reports of these visits)

29th March 2022 – Marbury Country Park

Five members of the group enjoyed a lovely morning’s birding at this extensive country park with its wide range of habitats between Burton Mere and the Trent and Mersey canal.  A total of twenty six species were recorded and a particular highlight was the good views we got of a Mistle Thrush at quite close range.

Thanks to group member Ken for this shot of the Mistle Thrush.

12th April 2022 – Mere Sands Wood

Four members of the group attended this visit on a soggy and misty morning.  It was interesting to see the on going repairs and replacements of the hides and the improvements to the main hub.  A highlight was about twenty Swallows flying low over the water.  A total of twenty six species were recorded.

10th May 2022 – Yarrow Valley Country Park

Yarrow Valley is another extensive country park with a wide variety of habitats alongside the River Yarrow and six members of the group had an enjoyable morning’s birdwatching, recording a total of twenty two species.  Highlights of this visit were the Dippers feeding their young and the Grey Wagtails.

14th June 2022 – Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve

It was good to be able to return after three years to this very special Site of Special Scientific Interest set on an island between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal close to the Thelwall Viaduct.  Five members of the group enjoyed this visit with a total of thirty species being recorded.  One of the main attractions of this site is the breeding colony of Black-necked Grebes and the timing of this visit was ideal as the adults were seen feeding their chicks.  It was also good to see many other birds with their young.  The Black-necked Grebes were at quite a distance but this one put on a good show for us as it constantly dived for food for it’s chick:

Thanks to Tony and Ken for these other pictures from this visit:


12th July 2022, Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve

Eight members of the group attended our final visit before the August break.  This Wildlife Trust reserve, alongside the River Lunt, has a good variety of habitats and always produces a good range of sightings.  This visit was no exception with a total of thirty seven species being recorded.


Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of species seen on the above visits:

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