For reasons that currently escape me, I haven't been to a U3A monthly meeting for ages. According to some, I haven't missed too much - but I beg to differ. The most important aspect of U3A meetings in my (albeit) humble opinion, is catching up with
Here's Jim and Delia from Cribbage. Here's Sue and Roger from Birdwatching. Oh, yes, and look over there - it's Myra from Singing for Pleasure and, well, isn't that Rita too? In the kitchen Shirley (wearing a badge which identifies
her as "Catering") and her helpers are dispensing tea and coffee, plus we can help ourselves to a biscuit (chocolate digestives or jammy dodgers - which would be your choice?) and a cheese straw. I am not a cheese lover but I make a mental note to tell Mr
B that he has missed out on a cheese straw as a result of his absence. I dare say he won't grieve for too long.
I buy a strip of raffle tickets. It is a case of Hope Over Experience. There are only ten prizes and there are over 100 of us packed
into St Mary's Hall so the odds are not in my favour. I check out the table of prizes just to confirm what I will be missing out on, come the draw at the end of the meeting.
It's not just any old meeting, by the way, but the Annual General Meeting
no less. We have to elect our new Committee, agree the accounts and the appointment of our honorary auditor. I ask Scottish Christine who is keeping me company whether she wants to check the Balance Sheet and Statement of Accounts, being as there is only one
set of papers between two. She waves them away and says can't we just agree them and get on with it? From this, I deduce that Christine is a Trusty Soul.
Someone raises the thorny issue of why Convenors (those of us who run the forty-plus activity
groups) now have to pay a reduced membership fee of £10 where previously they paid nothing. Lots of people have a view on the matter. One group had a whip-round to pay for their convenor's annual membership, so poorly did they view the Committee's decision.
Someone suggests there should be a differential between those Convenors who organise meetings in their one homes, thereby not making any charge on branch funds, and those who hire halls for their meetings, the cost of which is met out of our subscriptions.
Someone else thinks people attending meetings held in halls should pay extra to cover hire costs. A couple of Convenors make the point that this would involve them in considerable extra work handling money. It is all getting Just A Little Heated.
I think about adding my two-pennorth, namely that personally I am more than happy to pay £10 a year for all the pleasure and the fun I gain from the groups to which I belong. In the end I keep quiet on the basis that the business of the meeting has
gone on long enough and we need to move on to this month's talk.
Ah, yes, the talk. It's the other reason I was so keen to attend this afternoon - because my friend, David, husband of Jenny who is a member of our Nomination Whist Group is our
speaker. His subject is the Tear Fund. I make sure to seek him out before the meeting gets underway to wish him luck.
He doesn't need it. He speaks fluently and with considerable passion - in his gentle, under-stated way - about the work he witnessed
over his years as Chairman of Tear Fund, which operates in the fifty poorest countries in the world. His talk is an eye-opener for all of us and I don't think I am slide in feeling humbled at the true stories he tells.
There's five minutes for
questions, our Chairman decrees. One of the audience, somewhere down the front, asks what many of us wanted to ask: wasn't the sheer scale of the need overwhelming?
David nods. Then reminds us of Mother Teresa's comment when challenged that her
efforts were as hopeless as removing a bucketful of water from a vast ocean. "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is a drop in the ocean. But the ocean will be less because of that missing drop."
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Some ocean.
Some (tear) drop.