In line with the restrictions imposed by the spread of Covid-19, we no longer hold our monthly group meetings in members’ houses. Like everyone else, we entered lock down expecting not to be able to continue our Local History group. However, the magic of video conferencing came to our aid and we now have Zoom Sessions every month.
One member of the group arranges the Zoom link, another member arranges the programme and a third has acted as a guru to solve any technical problems initially experienced by members of the group. In this way we have retained virtually all members of the group with a near complete attendance each month. Three sequential 40-minute zoom sessions (we don’t have the Pro version!) are booked each month and we even have the obligatory break to make a cuppa and optional biscuit and plenty of time to catch up with each other’s news.
We have maintained a very interesting programme discussing such subjects as “Why was Samuel Sebastian Wesley so awkward? “, “St John’s Street Residents” “Southwick House” “Isaac Watts: Dissenter”, “Seventh Earl of Shaftsbury”, “Southampton: From Spa Town to Major Port”. Illustrations have been shown using the “Share Screen” facility. Question and answer sessions have supplemented the talks and they have revealed many interesting points about the history of Winchester. We are so looking forward to meeting each other again in person as restrictions are eased in the future and to renewing a programme of visits to sites of interest in and around Winchester.
Roy Weller, Pam Jones and John Craig
Every month, on meeting dates, we have circulated emails to each other with images and our responses and discussions attached. Throughout the lock-downs we have continued our practice of choosing a topic to be illustrated by our choices of works of art. Our choice of themes may have been influenced by the circumstances of lock-down, being: Dreams, The Picturesque, Portraits, Home and Holidays.
Some of us have attended, via Zoom, fortnightly talks given at Southampton Art Gallery , and at the height of the Summer’s heat-wave a few of us met to take socially distanced tea in a member’s garden.
The Textile group used to meet monthly at the village hall in Littleton but since lockdown have been keeping in touch intermittently with emails until August when we decided to cancel our booking for the hall. Since then we communicate once a month on the day when we would have been meeting. We post photos of any projects which we have been working on and sometimes send links to anything which may interest the group.
So far the group has been making various patchwork items, making things for an expected grandchild, making cards and decorative baubles. And one of our members is working on embroidery which will eventually hang with others in the Winchester Hospice.
Obviously we hope to be able to meet again in the future but it looks as if that might some way off. We applied for a refund on the rent of the room in the hall, which we had paid for in advance, and got it. After some discussion we agreed that we should donate the money, together with the small amount in our petty cash, to the Hospice fund. Our treasurer Marion Todd has sent a cheque for £185.00 on behalf of the Textile group to the hospice Fund.
Toni Weekley Group Leader
During lockdown, we have kept in touch with each other mainly by e-mail. We have sent photos of our knitting achievements to each other together with general news of what we have been up to (not a great deal). With the excellent weather, however, and the easing of restrictions, we have had socially distanced meetings in members’ gardens since early July. This has worked extremely well and has almost been a taste of normality! The current restriction of meetings to 6 people works pretty well; it means that we can space ourselves out but not be so far apart that we can’t all hear the conversation!
Here is a photo of some of Gloria’s bunnies and a knitted scarf of mine.
We are always pleased to welcome new members. The group meets every Monday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00 but not everyone can come each week so the numbers are manageable. Also numbers may be dictated by Covid legislation, and the weather too if we have to meet outside still.
Cathy Wallis Group Leader
We met early in March to read and talk about Russian poetry (in translation!), just able to squeeze in a last meeting before we all locked down, appreciating in particular the poems of Anna Akhmatova, a million miles from Covid-19, although she writes of loss and despair and other universal themes which feel as relevant as ever.
Despite the ubiquity of Zoom we decided against using it for our meetings as it seemed not everyone in the group would have participated. Instead, each month on the meeting date, we exchanged poems by email. We weren’t tempted by the darker themes during this period, choosing instead spring, birds and birdsong, trees. Poetry worked its magic in raising the spirits even by email; the poems about birds and birdsong in particular were fresh and powerfully uplifting.
Finally in August we were delighted to resume meeting in person in the wonderful Swanmore garden of one of our members. Rain threatened but a carefully erected awning ensured we could meet regardless; in the event the sun shone for us. We had all listened to a podcast of Simon Callow reciting some of Shakespeare’s sonnets beforehand so talked about this and our experiences of lockdown and much more.
In the absence of a return to business as usual, we plan to meet outdoors for as long as the weather allows, with Zoom as a backup over the coming months. Ultimately the pleasure of direct engagement with the rest of the group determined that decision.
I recently was asked to organise future meetings of book group Modern novels. 5. I set up a Zoom site on my computer so that I could reach all the members for a meeting once a month to replace in our homes face to face. We have now had two meetings via Zoom. We found after everyone had contributed to the discussion we had time to chat and catch up as our sessions lasted 50 minutes. We have six members at present, but would like to have two more people join as we have previously had eight. We do need members, who drive, as we are all lively very much older age people and four members no longer drive.
We take our turn being the reviewer and hostess and everyone in our group always contributes to the discussion. We can all make suggestions on which books to read for a six month period and a selection is made of books and willing reviewers at that time. We have mostly been members for years, and it would be refreshing to expand to eight again. I like the choice of reading, the informal meeting and the way everyone has always read the book and contributes to the discussion. My reading list has been expanded considerably by this group and the discipline of having to read the book each month means I make more time to read other books too. We do also read a Dickens novel , or a good detective story, so our reading is unlimited Recent books we have read;-
Becoming-Michelle Obama, The second sleep--Robert Harris, Transcription---Kate Atkinson, Silence of the girls —Pat Barker, Happiness--Aminatta Forna, A single thread - Tracy Chevalier, The Quiet American---Graham Greene, and Tidelands — Phillipa Gregory
I enjoyed all of them for different reasons. The quiet American is of course an old book, but it could have been written today. I had only read one other Graham Greene and it renewed my interest in his books. It raised a lot of discussion about modern America and how their attitude has not changed. It is one of the books I shall read again to really do it justice.
Michelle Obama's book, Becoming, was a surprise, in that it was so informative about being resident in the White House, and the restrictions on black Americans through prejudice even today. It is well written and informed through her own life experiences. If you are interested to join our group please contact Grace Gray contact details
A late update on what Poetry Group 1 is up to. We tried and rejected Zoom as being inappropriate for us but have settled on an alternative which is working well. We choose a theme for the month and share 2 or 3 poems each during the month. June has been Solitude (!) and we comment on each other’s choice and a ‘conversation’ will often ensue between members, prompted by the poem itself. All on line of course. We have voted for July’s theme and are set to start afresh.
Exploring French Literature has continued to meet and enjoy speaking French on Skype throughout the Lockdown, and we are about to begin our next French book. Anyone wishing to join us at our meetings on the last Tuesday of the month pm, please contact me for details contact details
A weekly email has kept members of Quester 6 in touch with each other during lockdown. We have “watched” with great interest how the little flowerpot family made by our leader, Ferne, expanded over the weeks in her garden.
We also find we have a budding poet in the group; below is one of Mike’s very topical poems and another (Rainbow Thanks) is featured on the front page of the June newsletter.
We bought some toilet rolls today,
My wife has stashed them all away.
It’s best to keep a lot in store,
Who knows when we shall get some more.
We bought some eggs and pasta too,
Hope it’s enough to see us through.
Meat and cheese to store away,
To feed us both from day to day.
Bread and milk, essential things;
Who knows what tomorrow brings.
Fruit and veg, our five a day,
The healthy option, so they say.
Shampoo, toothpaste, shower gel,
Deodorants, so that we don’t smell.
Some wine and whisky, beer and gin,
Seeing as we’re staying in.
Our cupboards now are overflowing,
Should be enough to keep us going.
For a while at any rate.
Let’s hope this crisis will abate
All report that they have no activities planned at the moment. The Retreads will issue a notice when they feel that it is safe to resume, and everyone in Group 1 will receive an email from Sue Greenway as soon as the first walk is planned. Details of walks will appear on the Winchester U3A website..
Our group enjoys sharing and discussing our images. We have a wide range of interests, individual skills using a variety of photographic equipment, whether it be phone, compact camera or Digital SLR. Monthly meetings at Littleton provide the opportunity to view themed images and learn from each other’s approach through post-tea break sessions volunteered by our members.
The first Monday in March was the last time we were able to gather as a group. You might have thought that as users of technology we would already be online and the Covid-19 crisis would have limited impact upon the enjoyment of our common interest. Not so, our regular meetings and the occasional photographic outing are as much about the social aspect of sharing as about the art of photography and especially important to us.
Acknowledging the gravity of the situation and constraints that lockdown imposes, we have taken steps to adapt to the new world. As we cannot use the hall and display images on a projector, we have created a website to host our contributions; images are uploaded, we can view them at our leisure. We even have virtual outings by uploading images representative of the outings we sadly can no longer go on. We use Zoom to meet online as a group, viewing and commenting on those images. This works surprisingly well, so long as we do not all speak at once! The process to handle the images is little more than is required to prepare for our Village Hall meetings. This is working well for us and in the long term it is something we may continue to do even when we are able to meet up again.
With more time on our hands at the moment, some members expressed an interest in filling in the gaps between our monthly meetings with additional activities. We use the image-sharing website Flickr. Utilising this platform has worked well and a free account is sufficient for our needs. We have four weekly challenges and one daily challenge ongoing. A selection of themes provide the challenge, whether is it technical or creative. Flickr allows us to comment and discuss our images though we still like to use Zoom on a weekly basis to keep in touch, our discussions cover anything and occasionally photography.
The photography Group website is https://winchesteru3apg.myportfolio.com/
The Flickr links for three of the above images are:-
Paul Haines, Group Leader
Art Explorers are keeping in touch sporadically by circulating items that might be of interest.
Amongst other things there was an introduction to the Omega Workshop, and we looked at some of John Hitchens paintings, a trip that had to be aborted. One member sent us Easter greetings via a lively cock he had painted - it certainly looked as if it could crow loudly three times! On another occasion a member sent a couple of photos taken on his daily walk showing not only Spring arriving but alternative transport with a pony and trap. Forwarded from the internet was a clever series of paintings showing the progression of lockdown from all right to boredom and yet another walk with the dog, which was enjoyable.
All in all, we are keeping gently in touch and will be ready to enjoy our next outing, whenever that may be.
Mahjong 4 under Lockdown
Name that Hand was our first email competition under lockdown.
Once a week on Tuesdays, our usual Mahjong meeting day, members were sent a picture of a Mahjong hand and invited to work out which hand it was. They were able to use their Mahjong books for reference. Attention to detail was important in reaching the correct answer. Every Tuesday they were sent a new challenge and the answer to the previous week.
More recently, we have had a quiz via email. Each Tuesday members are sent 5 questions about the game of Mahjong and invited to send in their answers. Answers are sent the following Tuesday, with a new set of 5 questions.
Our last face to face meeting was on the 10th March, more than 2 months ago. We are all looking forward to resuming our meetings when it is safe to do so.
The Social French Group during LOCKDOWN are not able to have physical meetings and so, instead these have been replaced with meetings using zoom. The meetings take place on the first and third Mondays of the month.
In common with all Groups the Railway Group has been unable to hold meetings or, in our case, visit preserved railways, Museums, etc. as had been planned in our programme. Nonetheless we have kept in constant touch by circulating a wide range of railway videos and discussing online different railway topics. Perhaps of greater value to maintain and improve morale during these difficult and unprecedented times, we have prepared what we call our “Bumper List”, or programme, for 2021 which includes a whole range of “Railway Goodies”. I know from responses from individual members how excited they are about this programme – may I commend the thought to other Group leaders where this is possible?
It’s probably no surprise that our book group was caught unprepared for living through a pandemic. Had we known in advance we would have sought out an IT trainer to teach us how to make the most of the various communication devices we possess, and how to competently set up and join in video conferencing with each other. Being unprepared has meant that our initial plan to have a virtual meeting in April just wasn’t possible, and some members weren’t able to get hold of copies of the book for that month in time. So we concentrated on the social aspect of our usual monthly contact and emailed and/or phoned each other to exchange news (mercifully everyone was well) and keep up morale.
Our plans for the future are coming together. We have already compiled a reading list for the rest of 2020, and have discovered the Digital Library run by Hampshire County Council which may help some with the problem of obtaining books, and members who live near each other are also lending books by leaving them out for safely-distanced collection when others are on their daily walk. We were hoping to each put our thoughts on the current book into emails which we will share on the day when we should have been meeting, but then realized that would probably mean that the first thing we’d have to do when we meet again would be to compile a new list which is quite a task. Instead when we email we will exchange information about the other books (recommending or warning against) we’ve been reading in lockdown so that we can take up our list where we left off eventually.
We all look forward to the first post-pandemic meeting where we can exchange views on all we’ve read, catch up with each other’s news – and eat delicious cakes!
We are meeting once a week at the moment on zoom, not discussing books except in passing, but just to keep in touch. We are all females in isolation and on our own, and over the years have become friends and in addition to our monthly meetings to discuss a book, we have been to the theatre, concerts, cinema etc. After all when life is normal and we have finished pulling our chosen book to pieces, we always find time to put the world to rights.
Our monthly meetings had been held in the Littleton Hall but in March and April they’ve been on-line. Our usual day and time, though, with almost 20 of us enjoying a presentation on the subject for the month, with questions and discussion to follow. In April we saw how to scan documents and send or print them, using an iPhone or iPad rather than a printer/scanner.
We’ve used standard Apple software including FaceTime, Keynote and iMessage, and it’s worked pretty well although the broadband isn’t always all that it might be for all of us.
Members with issues have been able to get help to resolve them on line and by phone, and we are still open to new members so if you use Apple iPhone / iPad / Mac and you’d like to know more please give me a ring on 07714 768398 or email .
The Science Discussion Group is continuing our monthly meetings from our homes during lockdown using the Zoom software. In April, 15 members of the group linked up to discuss The History of Eugenics and our next topic will be Global Warming. Using the Zoom software pushed us all outside of our comfort zones, but is an enjoyable and manageable experience. It is very useful to be able to show slides on the screen simultaneously with the chat. We found it very helpful to have a “play” zoom meeting before our proper meeting, so that members could check out the procedure and would advise that to any groups thinking of zooming. The only problem is, of course, during zoom meetings, you only get virtual tea and biscuits.
Our group is sadly misnamed just now, as we wait for the gates of our lockdown to open we are in fact Art Tomorrow.
Our planned programme to visit an exhibition each month was disrupted on March 13th when Ann Ashburn’s carefully prepared visit to the Light Box in Woking was cancelled due to our concerns about travel on public transport.
Since then, encouraged by our group leader Jo Watson, we have kept in touch with each other by phone and email. It has been a delight to share details of virtual exhibitions and as always to hear about our different responses to the artists work.
Tate Modern offered a ‘visit’ to see Andy Warhol’s work and Jo’s insight certainly helped me to make more of this exhibition. The next treat from the Tate was the work of Aubrey Beardsley, whilst the Royal Academy offered ‘Picasso on Paper’ and more recently a look back at the David Hockney exhibitions from 2012 and 2016. The National Gallery provide views of their great collection on Facebook,Instagram and YouTube, we certainly have reason to be grateful for 21st technology.
Still to come there is Channel 4’s ‘Art Club’ presented by Grayson Perry starting on Monday 27th April.
We certainly have plenty of visual art to keep us interested but we are missing our conversations over coffee and long lunches!
The Spanish Improvers’ Group are so content with Zoom gatherings that we have doubled our meeting rate to weekly. Now, hosts are not required to tidy their houses or bake cakes; members need not dress properly, run their cars or ride their bikes to remote houses. It’s also much easier to share written material online – no tedious and wasteful copying of sheets of paper.
There is one fearful drawback, however. The new regime leaves one technophobe member out in the cold.
There is nothing quite so satisfying and rewarding as a ‘thoroughly good read’, especially now when we are forced to ‘stay indoors’, feet up on the sofa , cup of tea near by and the whole day to ourselves.
The best thing about these novels is that they inspire debate and discussion on all human failings, hopes and aspirations that we all recognise in ourselves and others.
This is what our group encourages at every opportunity in our meetings, a lively discussion on the characters , plot, historical references and accuracy and much more.
We have a vacancy for a few more members and we welcome anyone who is keen on reading the best of British classic novels. Yes, sometimes they are a ‘challenge’ in that most are so well written and so fascinating that you really are asked to concentrate in order to appreciate the unsurpassed beauty of the style and language.
Classic novels involve the reader like no other type of writing; their appeal is timeless, their heroes and heroines real flesh and blood characters who stay in your mind long after you close the book.
Since the first meeting last year, we have read Evelyn Waugh ,George Eliot, the immortal Jane, and Somerset Maugham...all names familiar to you; their books unforgettable because of their unique understanding of what it means to be human.
Please join us on the fourth Wednesday of the month ONLINE for the moment on ‘Gotomeeting’. For more information please contact me, Chrissie Landale contact details
When we realised the extent of the restrictions meant an end to our planned monthly birdwatching trips, the birdwatchers started a watts app group. This has become a lively interactive place where we have shared the sightings made on our permitted walks, in our gardens or from our windows. We have learned how to share recordings of the birdsong we hear too. The lockdown has happened just at the right time from this point of view because of the wonderful springtime dawn chorus. We are lucky too that some of our members are excellent at recognising the song of different species so the learning together has continued in spite of not being able to meet face to face.
Janie Penn Barwell
Captain Tom fever has come to Town. Stand up and be counted all those on the Frontline and those whose voluntary efforts loudly echo in the Thursday night curtain calls of applause! However, within the newly formed Canasta Group the Pandemic meant we did not have time for some formalities which included ex-change of telephone numbers and email addresses. In the meantime, I have learnt by various means of the U3A grapevine, the member who has deliciously hosted us since our first of 3 sessions of settling in has been busy making masks for Frontline workers. They now total 150+. Hurrah! Another ‘Canasterist’ , on his daily exercise, strode out as the sole (no pun intended) participant each day in Holy Week to complete the annual event of Walking the Bounds of his home village, whilst another volunteered a phone line to the Listening Ear for the elderly. But, it is all to easy to feel whilst enjoying reading of the resourcefulness of Groups that there are those who are not able, for whatever reason, to feel even more inner loneliness in isolation because they are not doing their bit like inspirational Captain Tom. It can then be so easily forgot-ten that Toeing the Line, keeping ourselves safe, keeping others safe, is the biggest gesture we make to our Group members and the Pandemic world outside our front doors. Three Cheers for all of us Toeing the Line! I so look forward to when ‘we’ll meet again’.
The Améliorez Votre Français Group has continued to meet twice a month using Skype, with average attendances of between 8 and 10 people. It is quite a good way of proceeding, - the only problem being that there is no really effective way to avoid several people unintentionally speaking at once! Each meeting we do some translation from a French magazine called "La Vie Outre Manche" which contains some very interesting articles, and we are fairly rattling through our set book "Stupeur et Tremblements”. The latter is a fascinating (but challenging) book about life in Japan, and particularly how women are treated in a large Japanese enterprise. Some of the things we learned have been quite surprising! We still have a short break for coffee but, each person being in their own home, we do miss the amazing array of chocolate biscuits that we can enjoy when we meet in different homes|!