Speaker cancellation 4th January 2022

Catherine Robertshaw from NatWest Bank is unable to speak to us live about “Friends against Scams”. The Banks Covid protocols preclude face-to-face encounters. Being close to the New Year, we will take an extended break until 11th January when David Siddans will speak about “The American War of Independence”

Secretary’s Report for 30th November

Today’s topical speaker was John Butterwick who came with his “bible” THE QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO CHOOSING WINE WITH FOOD by Kathryn McWhirter and Charles Metcalfe. Thus armed, he was able to give lots of pointers to choosing the right wines for our Christmas Day Celebrations and only leave us with the daunting task of putting the turkey in the oven at the correct time.

Beginning with champagne, John suggested we keep an eye out for unfamiliar names selling cheaper than the main champagne houses. These are likely to come from smaller producers unable to supply the volumes demanded by major supermarkets. Just check that the label contains the words Champagne plus Grand Cru or Premier Cru and you could be on to a bargain!

His recommendations for good value supermarket champagnes include the Co-op’s Les Pionniers NV, Asda’s Henri Cachet Brut and Waitrose’s Chandon Brut NV . All under £20

Cheaper alternates to the main champagne labels are found in the sparkling wines listed as Cremant These are made using the double fermentation champagne process but with grapes grown in the locality. One example is the popular Cremant de Jura by Aldi.

John moved on to matching wine with Christmas food beginning with smoked salmon for which he suggested a Californian Chardonnay or a Blanc de Blanc or a Chablis Premier Cru

Following up with the turkey main course, John was set on an Australian shiraz named Atkins Farm from the Barossa Valley which should be available at Waitrose. If not a Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra District or maybe some more of the Chablis Premier Cru for those preferring white wine.

Recommendations for the cheese course depend very much on the strength of the cheese. With a Blue Stilton John prefers Tawny Port (Aldi), with Wensleydale a German Riesling, with Brie and Camembert a Chianti Classico or a Spanish Tempranillo.

Finally, with Christmas cake and mince pies, John recommended a 12-year old Pedro Ximenez sweet sherry. And so to bed – but not before a question from the floor to which John was unable to offer any recommendation. “What is the best mattress for postprandial recovery?”

So thanks to John Butterwick’s informative and inspiring talk many of us will be hairing off down Otley Road to find that elusive bottle of Atkins Farm at Waitrose. Not easy – I’ve been there already.

Reported by: RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretary’s Report 23rd November 2021

Architect and Author Richard Newman entertained the audience with reminiscences of his life back in 1974 when he was promoted from design work on Devonport Submarine Base to job hunting for his Practice in Qatar. Moving with his young family was always going to be a challenge but when coupled with bureaucracy and Arab customs it provided plenty of room for the humorous anecdotes which scattered his address.

Getting legal is always a priority for Expats on arrival in a new territory. Qatar was no exception and accompanied by Daniel his “Mr Fixit”, it started with a cursory but successful examination of Richard’s knowledge of the rules of the road followed by a visit to the licensing department. Not the driving licence as expected but, as in all Muslim States, for a liquor licence which allows “kaffirs” (non-believers in Islam) to purchase a designated amount of alcohol each month strictly for family consumption. In Richard’s case, his first month’s pick-up was 12 cases of lager, 6 bottles of gin, 6 bottles of whisky and 2 bottles of liqueur. This was probably just enough to face the daily rigours of life in the Gulf.

The second expat priority is to find a decent house in a good neighbourhood – not that simple when fresh in town. Richard decided to allow Daniel to do the necessary and followed his choice of a brand new house in a new development. Unfortunately, the utilities had not reached the chosen house but once again Daniel had a solution. At night he extended the sand markers for the services trench up to and inside the property and by the next week the Contractor had finished the water and electric installation quite oblivious of the trick.

Fortuitously for Richard, his arrival coincided with a design challenge for the Qatar Naval Base. He was able to charm the Director of Public Works with his knowledge gained from working on Devonport and he had his first commission almost before he had settled in. On the back of this award his Company decided to beef up their presence and it was then Richard’s turn to play the old hand and introduce the newbies to life in the Gulf.

A recurring theme of the mornings talk was sand which is an all-prevailing nuisance in Qatar but, in closing, Richard waxed lyrical about his enduring memories of climbing up to sit on the front face of a sand dune to watch the sunset. Magical !!

Reported by : RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretary’s Report 16th November 2021

It was a full house time today at the Forum as Members and their wives turned out to listen to Harry Satlova and his historical tour of Harrogate.

Chairman Peter Wilson opened the proceedings by posing a frequent question to which Harry might have the answer – “Where’s the Beach?” Harry was unable to give a definitive answer but did offer the suggestion that visitors may be misled by signs for the “Pier Head” to say nothing of street signs for that posh cul-de-sac – Beech Grove.

Back to Harry’s history lesson. York and surrounding areas were first settled by the Romans from the 1st to 4th centuries and later by the Vikings who arrived here from the 8th century using the Humber and Ouse to reinforce both their presence and trade. Harrogate must have been on their agenda because a cache of 700 Viking coins and jewellery was discovered in 2007 just a few of miles out of town. Known as the Harrogate Horde it was the most important find in England for 150 years

Moving on a few centuries we come to William Slingsby who, around 1570, first began investigating the many local springs and checking them for their curative properties. Some 200 years later, by 1777 4 springs ( 3 sulphur and 1 iron) had been captured into wellheads where they were dispensed for body wash and consumption. Following the success of the Belgium and French Spa Towns, entrepreneurs arrived in Harrogate and offered visitors assembly rooms where musical recitals, dances and lectures took place together with the enjoyment of the surrounding gardens and the beneficial effects of springwaters.

From 1830 to 50 there was a demand in Low Harrogate for buildings for bathhouses. Structures like The Crown and The Swan Inn were converted from farms and to keep up with the sophisticated treatments offered on the Continent the Royal Baths was constructed and opened in1871. It was followed in the 1890s by larger new-build hotels like The Majestic, The Cairn and The Grand supplemented by the expansion of the Swan and The Crown into fully-fledged Spa Hotels and attracting more than 250,000 visitors a year.

With a decline in the demand for spa treatments and an increased need for entertainment, local entrepreneurs led by engineering inventor Samson Fox commissioned the building of a theatre come assembly hall. The building designed by Frank Matcham constructed on the site of the former Cheltenham Pump Room was named The Kursaal and opened in 1903. Patriotically. at the end of World War 1, it was renamed The Royal Hall.

Harry’s tour continued for us past the Mercer Gallery into the Valley Gardens and through the Collonade on the Westside. This was once covered with a glazed roof and used as a walkway up to the Grand Hotel (Windsor House) and the Royal Baths Hospital. Both are now redeveloped into Offices, apartments and housing. Hopefully, the potential of the Collonade, sadly in some disrepair, will be recognised and upgraded to a useful civic amenity.

Harry opened the meeting up to audience participation which enabled an interesting exchange of views and reminisces. Starting with the Second World War, when Harrogate first became a hub for Government and Defence personnel who took over most of the Hydros. There was also a mention of an evacuation plan to move the Royal Family to Newby Hall and Winston Churchill to Grove House. This plan was abandoned when a single plane dropped bombs on the Majestic Hotel.

After 20 minutes of discussion, Michael Williams rose to thank Harry for a fascinating morning which was seconded by hearty applause from an appreciative audience.

Next Tuesday author Richard Needham will recount his adventurous times in the Gulf some 40 years ago when we will find out about “A cockroach on my shoulder”

Recorded by: RICHARD WRIGHT

Change of Speaker for 23rd November

Unfortunately, Veronica Bird who was due to speak to us on 23rd November is presently indisposed and has sent her sincere apologies. We wish Veronica well with a speedy recovery.

Therefore, on 23rd November we will now welcome Richard Newman who will speak to his Middle Eastern experiences of “Cockroach on my shoulder”

Posted by: RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretary’s Report 9th November 2021

Opening the meeting Chairman Peter Wilson welcomed Jin McPhail as the second Forum Member to occupy the stage this season.

Jim began by identifying Zambia as the focus of his talk and in particular the Eastern Province and Chipata District which he chose as his Project Area. He also identified the latent opportunities for growth through investment in Africa by comparing the GDP figures of $40,000 per capita in UK with $1900 for Africa as a whole and $1600 for Zambia. Particular development difficulties emanate from Zambia’s landlocked position and is surrounded by 6 other countries. Zambia is 95% Christian which has provided for a more stable political platform than many other African States. However, a complex and slow Administrative process has encouraged businesses to resort to “facilitation payments” which spreads corruption to many levels.

Back in 2000 Jim visited Zambia with his wife and saw the urgent need to improve conditions amongst these rural poor. Struck by
their experiences, and through their Christian beliefs, they could not walk away and started the ShareAfrica charity with a mandate of alleviating poverty in small rural communities.

The charity began by developing a strategic plan helping farmers to grow quality seeds and crops in what is a risky rainfall regime. They established centralised purchasing and marketing for the crops for which farmers receive a guaranteed and enhanced payment. This is possible because the crops are now held in purpose-built dry storage sheds until the market price is elevated, when they can be sold. The proceeds pay down the purchase price and fund reinvestment of the surplus into a food factory where the manufacturing of nutritious foods like peanut butter, corn flakes and soya products is carried out for free distribution or sale. Today, with an annual turnover of more than $2m, the charity is supporting 475 farming families, sponsoring 220 orphans, and paying school fees and food for many others whilst still managing to expand the project base by about 20% a year.

Jim went on to show some pictures of his farmers including one, who had in the space of a couple or so years made enough money to build a house, put a roof on it, buy beds to sleep on, curtains on the windows and all the kids going to school. That gives him great pride in the Project

Although the Charity is founded on Christian ethics, they do not sponsor any Pastor or Missionary activities. Instead, they purchase materials and equipment to help Christian communities self-build or fulfill their own particular needs in their parish. These could be boreholes, solar power, buildings, fertilisers and seeds, etc which are identified, implemented and monitored by a team of 21 employees working from an office in Chipata. This team is supplemented during the planting and harvest seasons with casual outreach workers. The Charity supports hundreds of small farms and, to reduce administration, five or six farms are linked together under a lead farmer who coordinates all their requests for inputs and advice.

An important element of assistance is to advance payment to farmers for a pair of Oxen and plough. This means that their area under cultivation can be increased by around 5 acres and earn a 200% payback in the first year. Similarly, they offer start-up funds to enable lady street traders to buy more stock and increase their turnover to buy more stock and begin repaying their loan after a few cycles.

Another element of the Project is to produce quality seeds to obtain maximum yields and also to develop different varieties to meet changing climate conditions and consumer demand. The Charity runs 2 purpose-built seed farms and sponsors 110 farmers who are trained to grow seeds for the Project. Income from selling surplus seed is very important because it commands a hefty price premium over the basic product and can be realised at any time to support cash flow.

Back in UK, Jim explained that he maintains a Small Enterprise Resource Programme software package which gives him and the UK Charity Commission complete accountability for all funds generated at home and a financial record of all activities and disbursements in Zambia.

Finally, Jim addressed his audience of retirees who he claimed harboured a lot of latent talent. Like himself, there are still things one could do to help the disadvantaged and his advice was” You’re not dead yet so it’s never too late to start”.

The Chairman commented on Jim’s presentation as amazing, passionate and practical. Further questions highlighted the audiences’ captured interest and admiration for all that had been described and achieved by SHAREAFRICA ZAMBIA.and Roger Bancroft reflected these views with a generous vote of thanks.

Recorded by RICHARD WRIGHT


Secretary’s Report – 2nd November 2021

Chairman Peter Wilson opened the meeting with the news that Thomas Clayton had resigned his membership of the Forum because of his deteriorating health. He recalled that Thomas joined in 2013 and had interests that were never exploited by the Forum. He is an accomplished artist and also published a booklet of his poems which is available on Amazon.

Roger Bancroft distributed details of the Menu choices for the Christmas Lunch which is priced at £27 for 3-courses and £24 for just 2 courses. He advised a deadline for acceptance by the end of November.

Members gave a warm welcome to today’s speaker and President of the Forum, Rev Moses John. His appearance had been delayed for 2 years because of the pandemic so, for us, this was his debut. His opening remarks left us a bit confused when he announced that actually, his surname was Moses and his given name John. However, he preferred to be Moses in line with his biblical calling!

Moses introduced us to India as a sub-continent more diverse than Europe with so many different languages and cultures. His home state in South India is called Tamil Nada (Home of the Tamils) with its capital Chennai. (formerly Madras). He was born a few miles south of Chennai into a Hindu family of the untouchable caste. As a child, his lowly status was brought home to him when a school friend invited him back home to play. When the parents returned they began to seriously scold the boy and asked Moses to leave. Later he learned that the parents had scrubbed the house down from top to bottom because they were of a higher caste and considered that Moses’ visit had made the house dirty.

Thus, untouchables found Christianity quite appealing because, as Hindus, they were trapped into the hereditary caste system for life without a chance of promotion. Whereas, as Christians, in God’s eyes, they were all equal and in their own communities there would be opportunities to progress.

Moses’ father was the first in his village to convert to Christianity and in doing so descended below the level of untouchable giving up all the government benefits that were on offer to poor and needy Hindus. He worked as a military driver and was often struck by the number of children he saw sleeping on the streets. One day he picked up 5 of them and brought them back to the house where they happily settled in with Moses as part of the family. The village was on the coast south of Chennai and something of a tourist resort and provided them with an opportunity to seek sponsorship from visiting tourists. This encouraged his father to enlarge the community to more than 70 children and give them an education and a chance to progress up the ladder.

When he was 21 Moses felt the urge to follow his father’s example and help people through Christianity. His contact with visiting tourists proved invaluable because he was able to secure sponsorship from a Swedish gentleman to enter the Methodist Cliff College in Derby to study Theology. So began his journey to England, to marriage, to family and to the Nidd Valley Methodist Circuit where he is happily settled.

There were several questions from the Floor mainly to do with the operation of the caste system. after which the vote of thanks was given by Richard Brooks who congratulated Moses on his inspiring story of progress from adversity.

Recorded by: RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretary’s Report 26th October 2021

Today’s Speaker was Michael Greatorex who took us through his time as a telegraphist in the Royal Air Force.

Beginning as a raw recruit and surviving the usual friendly advice from his NCO’s, Michael proceeded on his chosen trade by learning morse code. The system involved learning the code to 5 new characters each day and in the evenings writing down each code multiple times on a foolscap sheet. Sounds like doing lines in school!

After 18 months training at the Joint Services Training Organisation at RAF Digby in Lincolnshire, he was posted overseas to Aden followed by Berlin interspersed with several return visits to RAF Digby. Retiring after 22 years of service in 1986, which he described as rewarding and satisfying, he applied to the GCHQ in Cheltenham where after 9 months training as a radio operator he was posted to Harrogate where he finally retired in 2012.

David Hopkinson thanked the Speaker for a very interesting personal account of his work and lifestyle.

Recorded by: RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretary’s Report October 19th 2021

Opening the meeting, Chairman Peter Wilson was pleased to annouce that Roger and Lindsay Bancroft had volunteered to organise the Christmas Lunch at Ascot House. Members showed their appreciation of another fine example of participation in the running of the Forum.

Our Speaker, Malcolm Johnson, returned to continue his previous foray into Children’s Favourites on BBC radio – this time from 1960 onwards to its close in 1982. When updating his talk he surprisingly found that it became a rather harrowing story full of sad endings for many of the artists. Sex and drugs and depression and suicide and gambling and bancruptcy and murder all featured in the unfolding tales from the pop stars of the era.

First on Malcolm’s list was Adam Faith who had seven consecutive chart hits in the early 60s He made the headlines in an eclectic range of topics from dating Chris Evert to theatre and journalism. He wrote a financial advice column in the Daily Mail until he declared bancruptcy owing £32m.! His notorious womanising produced many more hits than his singing until 2003 when he died of a heart attack in a hotel bed with a 22-year old.

Lonnie Donegan with his skiffle group was the inspiration for many a 60’s pop artist including Paul McCartney, Brian May, and Roger Daltrey,. His career spanned from the mid 50’s with Chris Barber and Ken Collyer to a final appearance at Glastonbury in 1999. Malcolm declared his favourite memory was listening to “My old man’s a dustman” after a Saturday morning visit to the childrens matinee.

Harry Belafonte, Charlie Drake, Bernhard Cribbins, Kenneth Wiliams, Josh McRae, Speedy Gonzales, Clive Dunn, David Bowie, Benny Hill all featured amongst his favourites chosen for analysis.

Also mentioned were that wholesome Danish/Dutch duo Nina and Frederik whose final hit released in 1999 was “Puff the Magic Dragon” An intriguing title when linked to the untimely death of Frederik, who was shot on a beach in the Phillipines in a drug related incident in – 1999.

Finally, Malcolm gave us the breaking news of the revival of the Wombles from family favourites of the 1970s to the singalong musical theme for COP26. In case you didn’t know Wombles live in burrows, originally on Wimbledon Common, where they aim to help the environment by collecting and recycling human rubbish in creative ways. So there’s the link.

Godfrey Alderson proposed a vote of thanks to Malcolm for his well constructed talk which engaged and enlightened the audience with childhood memories and some surprising revelations.

Posted by RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretaries Report – 12th October

Today’s meeting attracted members eager to find out efficient ways to plan for their demise. Speaker John Ashworth from The Co-op Estate Planning proved a most knowledgeable and agreeable dispenser of information.

To start with he warned against delay in making arrangements concerning inheritance. Such measures or changes have to be taken whilst in a sound and coherent mind otherwise they may not be legally recognised.

Regarding inheritance tax he explained that, as of today, a married couple’s maximum tax free allowance is £1 million and any excess is taxed at 40%. There are only a few ways that the tax can be reduced such as giving to charities and political parties.

On a related topic, payment for long term care eventually arises for many families. Statistically, 1 in 6 men and 1 in 3 ladies over 80 go into long term care. This has to be paid for 100% out of their assets until just £23,250 is left.. However, once again, there are ways that part of their assets can be shielded from being consumed by the cost of long term care.

Mr Ashworth continued by explaining the benefits of a Trust Will over a Standard Will. A Standard Will typically passes all jointly owned assets over to the surviving spouse. Therefore, the amount available for payment for the care of the survivor will be 100% of the assets less £23,350.

Whereas, if appropriate, a Trust Will can be set up where each Partner owns 50% of the family assets. If one Partner dies, their 50% share is passed into a Trust and the surviving spouse retains their own 50% share. Continued occupancy of the family home is assured and, should long term care be required, the amount to be paid out will be measured from the current value of the 50% asset split. The assets placed in Trust are fully protected and managed by family or known Trustees.

Subsequently, Trustees can dispense the Trust funds to anything or anyone including the surviving spouse . Such an arrangement can last for up to 125 years and serves to reduce the statutory amount available for the self funding of long term care for the surviving spouse. It could also support educational, property and start-up grants and form an enduring legacy in support of future generations.

On a different topic Mr Ashworth considered a situation where one might suffer an unexpected accident or illness resulting in a loss of mental capacity. He strongly recommended that we should all have in place a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This is like an insurance policy where should the need arise, people known to you, can help you make decisions, or make decisions on your behalf,. Failure to have an LPA will mean that lengthy Court Orders must be obtained to take any action on Bank, Bills, Investment, Property, Medical or Personal choices for the Beneficiary.

After several questions from the floor, Frank Ellis rose and thanked the Speaker for a thought-provoking and relevant talk delivered to an appreciative audience.

Mr John Ashworth can be contacted on 07540 048 242

Posted by RICHARD WRIGHT