By Sheena Dearness

A speaker with a difference set the scene for an informative morning at the meeting of the February Crossways & Villages U3A.

Dorset-based musician Rick Potter brought along a selection of stringed musical instruments originating from a number of countries.

From a North African lantour made with little more than a broom handle, a few pegs to adjust the strings and a bowl of wood covered with stretched goatskin, to a Bolivian charanga, the audience marvelled at the beauty of the instruments on display.

Many of the designs have changed little over the centuries. One instrument from Turkey created amusement as it appeared to be made from an aluminium pan and a neck-top covered with Formica. A very basic instrument from India necessitated strumming strings simultaneously as keys resembling those of an old Imperial typewriter were pressed.

Rick explained that pictures of stringed instruments were found in the pyramids in Egypt, dated to more than 3,500 years ago, and as such music has been integral to the lives of human beings across the centuries. Rick gave an explanation of each instrument; its country of origin, and an approximate age (or when the first was likely to have been created). He then went on to play a piece of traditional music on each one.

It was an interesting display that included a Turkish oud, a baglamas from Greece, a banjo and sitar from India, a phin from Thailand, a setar from Persia, an American guitar made in 1924, and a twin-neck guitar made in Germany before the First World War.

U3A was known for many years as the University of the Third Age. With an objective to provide an opportunity to learn at its core, we believe all of us benefit from talks given by our guest speakers, hand-picked to give our members and visitors an insight into the services provided by organisations and individuals in our area and in many cases on a national level. The topics are varied, interesting and often amusing, and offer opportunities to answer questions.

Our meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month in the Youth and Community Centre, Old Farm Way in Crossways village starting at 10am. Our next meeting on 14 March, is to be given by Mr Keith Howarth, the harbour master at Weymouth, and should prove to be very informative as to his management role in controlling the vessels and yachts under his remit.

On 7 April, Maria Fountain will give an illustrated talk, featuring some of the lion and leopard cubs, mongoose, racoons, deer, lemurs and monkeys she hand-reared during her time as an animal keeper in wildlife parks. Her talk is entitled ‘Her Jungle Babies’, which seems rather appropriate.

We invite those interested in what we do to come along as a visitor to one of our U3A public meetings (£2 charge on the door).

Our U3A belongs to the villages, so we welcome the opportunity to take meetings to other village venues. We also welcome fresh ideas to introduce new interest groups into our U3A, and ask potential members to come along and share their hobbies and talent to enable us to do so.

Trips and social events are organised regularly by our secretary, Eve Sorensen, the most recent, drawing a group of some 30 members and their friends to attend a Horse Race night at Moreton Village hall. An excellently priced visit to a spa is currently on Eve’s agenda, and another trip to the Lighthouse in Poole. Come along, meet us and make new friends.

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