Monday, 21 June 2021

Caversham Heights Society

THE society hosted three very different events during March.

On March 7, Dr Georgina Dodd spoke about her doctoral research with a talk entitled “How components of diet affect cognitive decline”.

She pointed out that from our early years of childhood until our twenties there is strong cognitive growth.

Thereafter there is a slow but steady decline until the ageing process often leads to dementia/Alzheimer’s disease and sometimes Parkinson’s disease.

All these diseases are associated with memory loss, a gradual decline in the use of motor skills and, for many, a decline in higher order cognitive functions

Given the age range of most of the society’s members. this meeting was extremely well attended as we all were curious to know in what ways our diets might help or hinder our cognitive decline!

Apart from talking about the benefits of fruit and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and other red fruits that have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, the speaker also stressed the advantages of drinking tea and cocoa.

More than anything, though, most of the talk was devoted to extolling the benefits of eating, or drinking the juice of, blueberries.

Through numerous experiments conducted with children, middle-aged adults and the elderly, it has been shown that the greatest impact of eating blueberries, in whatever form, is on the elderly.

Not only is cognitive decline slowed but in most cases there was a noticeable improvement in physical wellbeing and motor skills. Whether or not there was a rush on blueberries from Waitrose in Caversham in the days following is unknown but we all gained some useful knowledge from this most interesting talk.

Our next event was on March 13 when a coachload of members went up to London for a day of contrasts.

In the morning we had a tour of the Royal Albert Hall, seeing the royal box and the Queen’s withdrawing suite, the special royal entrance away from prying eyes.

We also saw other parts which have been refurbished at the cost of several millions of pounds in recent years and learnt of the many events that have been staged at the hall.

We also had a glorious view of the refurbished Albert Memorial and learnt of Albert’s great dream of developing an area for the arts and sciences around the Royal Albert Hall which led to the development of Imperial College, the Royal College of Music and other institutions.

Sadly, we were not able to visit the basements because several schools were preparing for an evening performance. Nonetheless this was a worthwhile visit.

In the afternoon we experienced a real contrast as we ventured into the East End to visit the Dr Barnardo’s Ragged School Museum.

Dr Barnardo was training to become a doctor at the Royal London Hospital in order become a missionary to China (for which he was turned down) when he saw the appalling conditions of squalor in which the children in that part of London lived, in rags and without shoes or much food.

He felt such compassion that in 1877 he bought an old warehouse to turn into a school for the poor. Between 1877 and 1905, the year Dr Barnardo died, the Ragged School had provided schooling for more than 55,000 boys and girls.

This education consisted of mathematics, reading, writing and religious studies. It was sufficient for many to get into different kinds of employment.

When Dr Barnardo died the 1902 Education Act was being implemented as local authorities began to provide the rudiments of an education for elementary children.

We were able to experience something of what the schooling might have been like as we sat at the original desks in the girls’ school room that would have originally seated more than 100 children.

The contrast between the appalling poverty of those living in the East End and the opulence of those living in the West End, both in the late 19th century and even now, was not lost on any of us.

The third event was on March 21 when Mike Willoughby talked about the human costs of the First World War.

Mike explained how he had come across a member of his family who died in the battle of the Somme and about whom he knew precious little, so he became interested in the backgrounds of soldiers whose names appear on war memorials in Henley and the surrounding villages.

Unlike many talks on the Great War, which sanitise the horrors of the battle, this talk was both personal and emotional.

We were shown pieces of military ordnance found in the fields of Flanders as well as the book that the speaker had produced, after considerable research, about the lives of hundreds of men from Henley and the surrounding area who were killed in the war. Named Lest we Forget: Remember Each One Was Somebody’s Son, the book’s title summed up the tenor of the talk brilliantly and gave us all much food for thought.

The Caversham Heights Society meets fortnightly on a Wednesday in the hall attached to Caversham Heights Methodist Church. Meetings begin at 8pm following a period for coffee and chat.

For more information about the society, email
org or visit caversham

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