So many people are crowding into the church hall for our monthly U3A meeting that the ever helpful caretaker is wheeling more chairs out to line the walls. We are glad we arrived early, Mr B being in his Most Punctual
Mood. They haven't even boiled the kettle by the time we get there, let alone unwrap the biscuits.
We save seats in the fourth row back for Delia and Jim. The time of their arrival is governed by how long
it takes them to walk from home. At least this way they will get a good view of the Top Table. The new layout of chairs means there are only four chairs per row, with an extremely large gangway. Possibly there is a view that the gangway needs to be so wide
to accommodate any of us who waddle from side to side when we walk, like the Hoegh Osaka in high winds. Certainly it is plenty wide enough for at least two wheelchairs to race, side by side, from one end to the other. We think the large turnout is due to the
this month's topic - the RNLI. When you live by the sea, you are always aware of the brave souls who risk their lives for those in peril on the sea.
My friend Pam, who is now a member of the Committee and
therefore a Very Important Person, tells me about her latest initiative, a monthly photo competition. Each month there will be a different theme, with 6 x 4 photographs to be affixed to a competition board with an anonymous member, chosen at random, asked
to select the winning photo. This month's theme is "My favourite Christmas present". I tell Mr B we should enter the photograph of me with a twin in each arm. Who could resist?
Mr B thinks he will enter the
competition every month. Some of the themes are distinctly more challenging than others. February's theme, for example, is Keeping Warm, March's is Happiness and April's theme is "Water Droplets." Over to you, Mr B. My ace photographer wants to know what the
prize will be when (if?) he wins. I have no idea but suggest he should be satisfied with the honour. He nods, a trifle sadly. I am pleased that he is so supportive of Pam's new initiative because, let's face it, if you can't rely on your friends to back you,
who can you rely on?
While Mr B haunts the kitchen, waiting for the coffee and biscuits to be served, I scan the Information Table. Do I want to discuss the beliefs, motivation and attributes of Alexander
the Great? Or study the power and pattern of mathematics ("Maths has a beauty and utility which we will discover in three different contexts: topology, combinatorics and coding theory...please bring a pen and paper!") Or, perhaps, I could join the group studying
Russian music? Hold on, I'm too late, these were all Study Days in 2014, I am reading the wrong side of the leaflet. What a pity!
Still all is not lost. Topics in 2015 include aspects of Sussex housing, a
discussion on whether the European Union has a future and a day on How to Look at Paintings. Plus Sussex Folk Customs, Legends and Songs, not to mention a day examining "the extraordinary power of the links between the visual and aural arts when one medium
inspires the other." I shall have to consult my diary...
Mr B is gesturing wildly at me from the kitchen door. He has a cup of coffee in each hand, with two biscuits in the saucer of each. This is what it
means to be a Hunter Gatherer as a Senior Citizen in this 21st Century. I am grateful indeed for his care and concern for My Stomach. Of which, as you know, I am Always Thinking.
Delia has arrived. She is
wet through, having been caught in a hail storm on the way to the meeting. We can't do much about the fact that she has to sit through the entire meeting with steam rising from her sodden trousers - but we can offer to give her a lift home. Even if the words
"horse" and "bolted" come to mind.
I love Delia. I really, really do. I love, in particular the way she remembers to ask people about the trials and the triumphs of their lives whenever she sees them.
How does she manage to keep everyone's problems at the front of her mind? I am trying to be more like Delia but she is a Hard Act to Follow.
When I knew her first, as the organiser of our fortnightly
afternoon cribbage sessions, I appreciated her for the rich assortment of milk chocolate biscuits she provided half way through the afternoon. Now that I know her so much better, I appreciate her far, far more for the Milk of Human Kindness.
Which, like her biscuits, my dear friend Delia possesses in abundance.