Reports from our Courses
Like all the groups in U3A, at this time last year we innocently made plans for 2020 only to be thwarted by a pandemic of all things.
After three meetings at the beginning of the year all our plans were put on hold! Being travellers, our members were stymied in other ways as well with tours cancelled and Interstate and International borders closed. It was a frenzied time for cancelling holidays and rebooking, getting deposits returned and feeling “fenced in”.
U3A started advocating the use of the new “thing” called Zoom to keep everyone in contact and to continue learning. With lots of support from Ross Bell and Jim Sloan, I was on a quick path to learning a new skill.
I surveyed our membership on July 5 and overwhelmingly the vote by 19 members was to return to face-to-face when possible, but to use Zoom in the interim. On August 5, Armchair Travellers had their first meeting and presentation on Zoom with 16 participants. I enjoyed sharing my tour of the Kimberley, taken in August 2019. (there was a strange feeling that this had happened in a different world!). Bill Leach presented his tour of Spain on August 19 on Zoom using the Screen Share technique with me and we had 23 participants. On September 2, Brian Nixon presented A Londoners’ London and Day Trips from London via Zoom and 20 people joined in.
Much excitement when the Cronulla School of Arts allowed return to using the lecture room and those 20 members returning to face-to-face enjoyed Anne Williams’ presentation Charms and Comforts of the Deep South of America. For the rest of the year attendance at the School of Arts had to be by invitation and RSVP because there was a maximum audience size of 20 people at every event. Luckily no one had to be turned away.
Ketty Crossley took over as leader for the face-to-face meetings from September 16. While the face-to-face was happening in the Arts Theatre, I continued providing the members who wanted Zoom with presentations at the same time, albeit a different one. The average attendance on Zoom was five members.
At our Christmas luncheon recently, the “bookings for presentations in 2021 list” went around and the program for next year is looking very interesting. We are all hoping the maximum number who can attend will increase before February when we resume. Armchair Travellers will no longer be doing Zoom. I am going to trial leading a separate group called Travellers on Zoom beginning with one presentation a month.
So dreaming, reminiscing and planning, Armchair Travellers wish all U3A members Happy and Safe travels into 2021.
Brain Games has been going in Endeavour Region for 2 years now based on material from Professor Peter Beale and Brain Games Co-ordinator Ainslie Lamb of U3A Illawarra.
We have 25 active members. However, with grandparent baby-sitting, holidays and illness we usually have around 20 members attending. With COVID it has been 10 to 15 with some members wishing to avoid crowds.
Areas of activity include some or all of the following:
- Word games an languages
- Geographical knowledge
- Cryptic crosswords
- Towns, cities and countries using a cryptic name to decode
- General knowledge on any subject
The group is lively, knowledgeable and fun as there is much laughter with a little irreverence at times. There is no room for any member to feel inadequate as other members are only too willing to part with their knowledge or experience from their profession or chosen career. It is sometimes enlightening to hear some of the knowledge imparted by some members.
In 2020, our friendly group continued to keep busy and creative. Our members worked so well during the lockdown following the program established at the beginning of the year.
After completing our work, photos were sent to Robyn who then published them for all to admire. Each artist was recognised and their work praised.
In recognition of the suburb in which we meet, last week using various mediums, we drew and coloured the lily. The leaves of these giant lilies were used by the local Aborigines to weave baskets.
Art for Enjoyment
Doreen Kellett and Barbara Adams
With the advent of Covid, Art for Enjoyment members rapidly upskilled their technology knowledge and used the Skype platform for weekly classes.
Members presented on a wide range of artists, from Stone Age cave drawings through to Modern Pop Art. Facilitator Barbara Adams, also uploaded Virtual Art Museum Tours, comedy sketches and YouTube art tutorials, whilst Leader Doreen Kellett organised social outings to Hazelhurst Gallery and lunches. All members agree that they have broadened their knowledge of both art and artists, whilst maintaining social contact via Skype during Covid isolation.
Art for Enjoyment has given all members both ART and ENJOYMENT.
Singing for Fun
Singing for Fun (Skype) recently held a tribute session in honour of Sean Connery’s James Bond. Members channelled Bond by their outfits and accompanying coffee cocktails (shaken, not stirred) with Joanne joining in as Bond’s enemy, Ms Galore, in her sparkling metallic jumpsuit. We sang all the theme songs from the Bond movies and had a presentation on Bond’s drink of choice for each one. Another Singing for Fun theme day enjoyed by all because – We Never Say Never!
In a tough year of isolation and COVID, Singing for Fun members have technologically upskilled to come together via Skype since March. This platform has enabled both social interaction on a face-to-face basis and provided an uplifting environment where Leaders Barbara and Janice presented much needed comedy videos, group singing, chat sessions and fun-filled theme days. Singing for Fun has gone a long way to beating to the COVID Blues.
We will continue with songs in our hearts for 2021!
Walking Around Sydney
We at Walking Around Sydney (WAS), began the year as normal with a get together lunch catch up at Bundeena Community & Services Club on February 14. Followed by an Historic Sydney walk, Town Hall to Woolloomooloo on February 28 and Huntley’s Point to Lane Cove National Park on March 13. Perhaps that date was an omen! Because that was our last walk for some time as we were all in lockdown by March 23. Our group stayed in touch with email messages and some very uplifting internet stories.
As the weeks and months went by we eagerly read all the “omail” updates and newsletters from U3A hoping for a date to recommence our walks program. All the information seemed to be focused on the recommencement of indoor groups, understandably. But we were keen to have some guidance for outdoor activities.
With many emails back and forth, the walk Leaders jiggled their pre-COVID planned walks to suit the COVID Safe rules and the concerns of our members. We instigated a booking system to limit walks to 20 participants, start and finish times adjusted to avoid peak public transport times, as our walks are all accessed by public transport. However, our first two walks were “loop” walks so those who wished could drive there.
We have enjoyed walks at Bicentennial Park Homebush, Tempe Cooks River Loop, Como Heritage Trail, Waverton to Circular Quay, Wollongong Botanic Gardens, Christison Park to Parsley Bay and Abbotsford to Cabarita.
What a joy to be out with friends again. And now to planning walks for 2021!
Film Appreciation And Discussion
2020 has been a difficult year as far as Film Appreciation and Discussion is concerned because watching films at the cinema was impacted by COVID-19 and the ability of members to meet-up face-to-face to was stifled. This has necessitated thinking outside the box and being creative.
Cinemas closed shortly after our second film group meeting in March. This meant future discussions had to be based on films viewed on television or films watched in the past. Several alternatives were introduced at this stage. Defining characteristics such as favourite Academy Award winners were used as a theme and discussions were conducted via Zoom. Needless to say, participation was reduced to those with the bandwidth and those prepared to use a technological fix for their interactive and social needs. This aspect is every bit as important as a love of film, I hasten to add.
In recent months cinemas re-opened, U3A returned to face-to-face in some courses, but members were still wary. It was impossible to vote on films showing on the ‘big screen’ as we ‘older folk’ were justifiably nervous. Once again the choice of topic had to be left open to allow for different methods of film access. Some chose streaming services like Netflix while others preferred SBS on Demand, iView or DVDs.
In order that this U3A group stay viable a two-tiered system evolved. Some were happy to resume meeting at Cronulla School of Arts with me and others continued online with Ross Bell facilitating.
One thing in favour of this year’s activities has been the variety of content discussed. We’ve delved back into the past as well as discussing films made for Netflix.
Like everyone, I can’t wait for the vaccine in 2021. Maybe then, things will go back to normal.
ShireSketchers meet outdoors every week, learning how to sketch memories of days with friends in our beautiful Sutherland Shire.
3 years ago we all started as real beginners. It’s not easy to make a beautiful journal. Even those few who had copied photos to make a big acrylic or oil painting had even more difficulties in change to Urban Sketching. It is easier to learn from the beginning this skill of choosing the subject, observing the light and composition, balancing water colours on the go and creating an attractive book of memorable sketch days – from which pages cannot be torn.
The process of all 16 ShireSketchers has been amazing. Beautiful and often home made journals are bursting with beautiful pages of weekly sketch days in our beautiful Shire. Also all members are now computer savvy as we communicate, learn, show and discuss our work. As well as doing our homework on our secret website.
At the Cinema
The screening of Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice concluded our series of Dirk Bogarde films. Congratulations to all who participated. Remarkably, Bogarde had three phases to his professional life. He quickly became the “Idol of the Odeons” for his popular image in comedy, such as the “doctor” series, romantic, war hero and light drama roles. He tired of these roles and moved to far more dramatic characters in films such as Victim, The Servant, King and Country, Darling and several European productions. While these later “art” films appealed to the critics, they were not as popular with “the masses”. With three wins from five nominations for the Best Actor Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts he had a most successful career.
Towards the later part of his film work Bogarde was persuaded to write. Over 20 years, he wrote 10 autobiographies/anecdotes and 6 novels that were published to critical acclaim. He said that actors are a suspect brood and that, socially, he found himself more admissible in England now that he had written books.
Next semester we will explore the life and films of Billy Wilder. This former Austrian screenwriter fled Germany and had a stellar career as a writer and director in Hollywood. I hope to see you there as we experience nine of his great movies.
I feel very lucky to lead a wonderful group of people wanting to learn French. It’s a beautiful language but like all languages it is not so easy to learn. When COVID arrived we kept in touch via email and when we were able to go back into the School of Arts I decided to split our group into two groups (with fewer numbers so we could keep safe and socially isolate,) and to hold each session fortnightly.
Although some would prefer weekly, it is working okay and the upside is that I have been able to accept three new learners, as unfortunately some people decided to have a break.
The groups are really now ‘post’ beginners and keep me on my toes! As leader I am very happy to share my knowledge and love of the French language and I learn so much from everyone in the group.
So all you intermediate French learners if there is someone who would like to practise their French and lead another beginners group, I still have people on a waiting list eager to join! You will really improve your own French.