We members of the U3A are a feisty bunch. There are few things we enjoy more than a bit of Fuss and Bother. Today the core of the argument is this: exactly what constitutes a "learning experience?" Answers, please, on
a postcard - preferably one with an attractive view of a cathedral or a castle on the front so that we can test ourselves on the location of Ancient Monuments.
The latest Fuss and Bother has arisen over the
unfortunate demise of our Film Club. Regular readers will doubtless recall my occasional stories of Film Club Meetings I Have Attended. One particularly memorable meeting I was involved in helping our Club Leader applying black-out material to every window
in the bar above a local theatre. When I say "black-out" material, I mostly mean pairs of dusty, old curtains which we fastened up at the windows with copious drawing pins, keeping all our fingers crossed that they wouldn't fall down in the middle of the film
and so let the sunshine in. The curtains, that is, not the drawing pins - though I suppose one follows the other, just as surely as night follows day. Or, in this case, day follows night. In a manner of speaking.
Still, let us draw a veil - or possibly a curtain? - over such incidentals. The Club Leader has, over the eighteen months the Film Club has been giving enjoyment to its many members, risen above one challenge after another. I freely admit that I would
have given up long ago but he is made of Sterner Stuff. So it is sad, indeed, that he has finally been felled, rather like my horse in Saturday's Grand National.
The big question is: can Film Club be considered
educational enough to be a U3A interest group? Or is it, heaven forefend, just Too Much Fun?
You will doubtless want to judge for yourselves so you need to know that one of the guiding principles of the U3A
(or University of the Third Age, to give our august organisation its full name, is lifelong learning. Which suits me down to the ground because, as you know, I believe that everything in life is a Learning Experience. Catch the Pulse bus into town and you
learn so much about human nature. You learn, at a glance, which bus drivers will wait while an elderly couple puff and pant their way to the bus stop - and which will wait until said elderly couple are just a few yards away before closing the doors, signalling
and moving off. You learn which bus stop is the one before your bus stop, as in the one at which you wish to alight. This is an important learning point because you need to know exactly when to push the buzzer so that the bus stops where you want it to and
doesn't carry on all the way round to the sea-front before letting you off.
Sometimes you learn more than you really want to. There's the school-girl pretending to be All Grown Up carrying on an emotional
conversation with Someone Unknown at the other end of her mobile phone - and you want to give her a bear hug and tell her that one day, maybe next month or next year or certainly when she has reached a Great Age, she will have forgotten all about the Faithless
One. It's one of the Important Lessons of Life. Some lessons, sadly, are only learnt the hard way.
Now here's the rub: if Film Club is not sufficiently educational, what could be said about our Nomination
Whist Club? How would we fare, should we be subject to an Ofsted-style U3A inspection?
I throw the question open to our group members at the mid-way break in today's session, making sure first that they all
have their choice of drink and a plate of biscuits to choose from. What do we learn at our Nomination Whist sessions, I ask, or do we just have fun? Nobody has to think for long. Here are their answers, in no particular order:
We learn how to lose. Gracefully. Occasionally we are lucky enough to learn how to be a good winner as well as a good loser. We learn who has the best poker face when holding the Ace of Trumps in his
or her hand. We learn that Everything Changes After Tea.
Mostly we learn that there is nothing like an afternoon spent having fun, enjoying each other's company, sharing our news - whether good or bad - supporting
each other, laughing till we are fit to burst.
Inspection passed. Case proved.