I was looking for something to keep me moving during the cooler months and the new course in the Term 2 newsletter titled “Muscle Moves” caught my eye. Rather than slogging it out at the gym, or trying to cope with the discipline of doing exercises at home, I thought I would give it a go.
WHAT A FIND! Tutor Stephanie welcomed us with her warmth, energy and enthusiasm. Beneath her gentle demeanour lies a wealth of knowledge in body movements and natural health. To music we have moved and stretched muscles we didn’t know we had. With the inclusion of some “mind, body and spirit” exercises, this class leaves nothing to be desired. I might mention that the venue at the Malua Bay Surf Club must be the best in the area – whether we are upright, or on the floor, we can hear or see the ocean. It doesn’t get much better than that!
On 9 May 2017, Audrey Maher’s Folk Dancing course celebrated its 15th anniversary with a birthday party. This group has great fun, loves to dance and is very proud of its achievements. If you want to exercise your brain and your feet together, you should consider enrolling in this exhilarating course.
The History Forum is going from strength to strength. This year it has been doing particularly well, attracting new members to the ongoing group, as well as a good number of members who attended individual sessions. Last year it looked as though this group would have to fold but the group was determined to keep going, seeing it as important that our U3A keep a focus on history. So changes were adopted and these have made a great deal of difference.
Firstly, the change of venue to Banksia Village has been popular and we thank Banksia for making their venue and its AV equipment available to us. Secondly, we arranged for newcomers to give short presentations rather than having to prepare and deliver a full hour to a 1½ hour presentation. Thirdly, we have invited a guest speaker each term. This has proved to be very popular with Bill Perrin presenting twice on the history of NASA due to the intense interest of members.
In Term 2 we had Brian Treanor present his PhD on the History of the Irish Troubles. This also attracted wide interest and we are grateful to Gail Legge for suggesting him and then persuading him to come from Canberra. Having guest speakers adds variety and interest to the program and we would love to have suggestions for future speakers from you.
The other factor that worked very well was including aspects of the Versailles Story in the program, and inviting those who were going on the bus trip to the Exhibition in Canberra. Thanks are due to our History Forum members who went to the trouble of researching and presenting such a wide variety of topics for the exhibition-goers.
The program for Terms 1 and 2 was very varied with topics ranging from the History of Beer Making and Country Life in Australia in WWII, to a new look at explorer Hamilton Hume and another on the Suez Crisis.
We now need a break, so we are going into recess for Term 3 and will resume again in Term 4 with renewed vigour. Watch out for details of the next program in the Term 4 Newsletter.
Penny Bonnell, History Forum Coordinator — Tel. 4471 5691, email: pbonnell[at]bigpond.com.
WAG Grape Expectations: Expectations of a Grape Escape
Chief WAG, John Mobbs, reports that with the last warm days of Autumn quickly fading, and in a break from usual meeting routine, some members of the U3A Grape Expectations WAG recently took to the Southern Highlands under clear blue skies to sample fruits of the vine. A couple of members dropped in at Centennial Vineyards near Bowral, whilst another couple visited Bendooley Estate for tastings and lunch on the way up. Both highly recommended!
The WAGs convened at the Berrima Bakehouse Motel and next day joined local tour operator Kate on her Grape Escape bus, visiting three local wineries plus a micro-brewery. A full range of local wines was sampled at Cherry Tree Hill, Eling Forest and Artemis wineries, with a whistle stop at Eden’s Brewery, Mittagong.
A tour highlight was Eling Forest, where members were regaled with the intricacies of good champagne-making, immersing themselves in the details of bottle fermentation, the role of egg whites, riddling, the freezing point of brine, disgorgement, recorking, applying the coiffe – and that essential item of the winemaker’s craft – the muselet. Ask one of the WAGs if you’re not sure what those items are!
Both evenings featured dinner at local restaurants. Especially fine was Eschalot in Berrima, where their host Richard presented an amazing degustation dinner in a private dining room. Local Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir wines were showcased. An artistic dessert prepared by the chef for John Armstrong helped make this a special evening in celebration of his birthday.
A side visit to Tertini Wines in Mittagong was highly recommended by one couple when they rejoined the group for more wine tasting and lunch at Cambewarra Estate Winery during the next day’s return trip to Batemans Bay, capping off the excursion.
This short trip cleared the cobwebs for everyone, revealed new geographical perspectives and added to their store of oenological knowledge, whilst visiting an interesting wine region not too far distant!
Trip to Versailles Exhibition
On Friday, 31st March, U3A members set off early by bus bound for the ‘Versailles’ exhibition at the National Gallery. Bright sunshine accompanied us as we climbed up the Kings Highway and we were greeted by a somewhat brisk, beautifully sunny Canberra day. This trip was an interesting initiative of Penny Bonnell which was approved by the U3A committee.
At the entrance to the exhibition was a huge reproduction of The Hall of Mirrors, which was built at the instigation of Louis XIV between 1678 and 1684. At that time it was, and has remained, the most impressive room in the Palace. Two giant, golden candelabra stood in front of this ‘mural’, indicative of the opulence of the display within.
In the first room of the exhibition the marble bust of the Sun King, created by Jean Varin in 1665-66, disdainfully turned his head turned away from the entrance. An impressive figure indeed but aloof, as if absorbed by thoughts of his own glory and achievements. We were immediately made aware of the celebration of king and state.
In another room, there he was in the well-known portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud dated 1701-12— a plain man elegantly posed in exquisite garments. Nearby, holding a blue cloak with fleur-de-lis design, was the 1720 painting of King Louis XV by Rosalba Carriera. Although only ten years old he is wearing a grey powdered wig. It is interesting to note the new informality which entered French portrait painting only a few years after the Rigaud portrait but perhaps the painter and his studio were less overawed by the young monarch.
As we proceeded I became aware of various comments —expressions like: ‘quite an eyeful’ and ‘this is really over the top’. While not being a huge exhibition the rooms were certainly packed with luxury items, much as the Palace itself.
A favourite painting for me was Carle Van Loo’s 1754 portrait of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, later Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV. I think this painting has captured the personality of an assured, poised—and possibly scheming young woman. The painting’s alternative title was ‘the beautiful gardener’. As it is said that she and the king often tended flower beds together. But surely not in the clothes she is wearing in this portrait! Most importantly in 1762 Louis XV commissioned Le Petit Trianon at her instigation from the architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel.
It was great to see the eighteenth century Chinese perfume fountain in porcelain with cracked glaze for the wardrobe of Louis XV because Margaret Barlow in her excellent talk earlier in the week had described how the cracked glaze effect is achieved.
Very impressive as one entered the largest room of the exhibition was the huge painting by Jean Baptiste Charpentier of the Duke of Penthievre’s family enjoying their cups of chocolate. As you can imagine chocolate was a great luxury at the time. Not to be missed was the detail of the gorgeous porcelain cups which was particularly appreciated thanks to Margaret Barlow’s illustrated talk on the history of porcelain.
I have mentioned only a few items viewed during two walks through the exhibition. Others in our group had different favourites. It would be fun to meet again and discuss our outing.
Again many thanks, merci beaucoup, to Penny for organizing this memorable outing, made the more interesting because of the History Forum’s series of talks including those of Gail Vincent on Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun’s portraits and Gwen Wharton’s overview of the unfortunate life of Marie Antoinette. Penny’s summing up emphasised the themes of power and politics in play throughout the history of Versailles and drew comparison with current world politics. This meant we had been presented with a substantial background to this multi- facetted and fascinating exhibition.
Tutor: Stewart Needham
I am a newby member to U3A and more than halfway through this course. We do one week in-house and armed with all the knowledge from Stewart Needham, we go on an excursion the following week. I have found this class most interesting and am sad that it only runs for a few more weeks. For sure the rocks and features that abound will never be the same. If I am born again, I will endeavour to be a Geologist in the next life.
Report on Trip to ‘The Nutcracker’
After a very enlightening talk by Hilary Trotter where we learned of the machinations of the creation and original production of The Nutcracker ballet on the Friday, we all trooped onto the bus for the trip to Canberra to see the production on Sunday 27 November – and we were not disappointed. A dazzling display of clever choreography, and a very animated production, kept our interest. The ballet is set in two worlds: one at a family Christmas; and the second act as a dream sequence where the Nutcracker itself comes to life.
The first sequence showcased a busy family celebration, with hijinks and revelry, superbly assisted by a very young cast of dancers as the children. There the naughty brother and his friends, the magician Uncle and his automatons, and the adult revelry made a busy stage. In the second act we were treated to a sequence of dances inspired by Chinese, Russian and several other cultures, all met with loud applause. One of those who attended said she was so enchanted that she didn’t want the performance to end! Another was delighted to be seeing her first ballet since she was five years old. Thanks once again to Penny for all her good work in organising this and to Hilary for teaching us so well in preparation.