In the October edition of the Newsletter:
Where did you go for your holidays? An exotic cruise somewhere hot and sunny? I did, too. I went cruising round Cannock and Wolverhampton and Sandbach and Stoke on Trent, on a narrowboat.
Six of us plus a dog spent a couple of weeks dawdling along the canals of Staffordshire, Cheshire and North Wales. I've never seen most of these places from the land, so to speak, but most of them are very pleasant from the canals. With the exception of Stoke. Stoke is grim, and, at 2mph or thereabouts, it seems to go on for ever. Unfortunately, in order to get to all the nice bits of the Trent and Mersey canal, you sort of have to do Stoke.
Most of the canals are peaceful and rural and inhabited by attractive wildlife. We saw the expected, such as ducks with little fluffy ducklings, swans with medium sized fluffy cygnets, and Canada geese with enormous fluffy goslings. Canada geese seem to infest every watery environment in vast numbers and I really wish they didn't. A bit like Billy Connolly wishes Parkinson had kept his disease to himself, I wish Canada had kept its geese.
Moving on from gooserant, we also saw and heard lots of smaller birds, including kingfishers. And we saw some more unexpected wildlife in the canals. The first week of our cruise was very hot and sunny, so other creatures took advantage of the canals to keep cool. At one point, we had to navigate around a herd of cows that were wandering about in the canal. We also came across three dogs swimming along the canal whilst their owner held on to their leads from the towpath. And then there was the sheep.
As we rounded a bend in a peaceful rural area, those of us on lookout at the front of the boat saw a man kneeling on the towpath with his head down over the canal. Praying? Throwing up? No, he was hanging on to a sheep. We waved frantically at the pilot and co-pilot at the back of the boat, to get them to stop. They had their heads in an overhanging tree at the time, so didn't see us until it was almost too late. We stopped within a few feet of man and sheep, which is dangerously close with a 69-foot narrowboat. Man turned out to be a cyclist trying to rescue a sheep that had fallen into the canal. He was just about managing to keep its head above water, but it took three strong men to lift it out. Hopefully it will remember that it doesn't float and can't swim.
Remember the swimming dogs? They were swimming uphill. You wouldn't think that a canal could go uphill, would you, but the upper reaches of the Llangollen canal do. How do I know this? Well, beside the canal is a towpath, and the towpath goes uphill, so the canal must do too, mustn't it? Unless you're on your way back from Llangollen, in which case it goes downhill. I enquired why all the water doesn't just run to the bottom. I was told that, as long as the slope is fairly gentle, friction slows the flow, and water is added at the top, as is the case with all canals, because water is gradually lost downhill through locks in more conventional canals.
And, of course, the Llangollen canal has another claim to fame; its spectacular aqueduct, which is - spectacular - so I'm told. I hid under the table with the dog, because I don't like heights, but everybody else enjoyed it.
Look forward to seeing you.
I'm Chenda Appleyard
IMAG in Newcastle
This year's Irish Mensa Annual Gathering was in Newcastle! No, the Irish Mensans didn't come over to our region; it was in Newcastle, County Down.
I travelled there via our Newcastle (as that is my nearest airport, not because I put the Newcastle in my sat-nav) and stayed overnight in Belfast en route and visited a friend I used to work with.
Irish Mensa had arranged a coach for those of us arriving in Belfast to take us to Newcastle on the Friday, so it was nice to meet up with fellow members as we were travelling.
There were lovely views of the Mourne mountains from the hotel. Saturday was an adventurous day. In the morning, we took a coach trip up into the mountains to the Silent Valley.
Again, there were lovely views, and we climbed the steps to get to the top of the Ben Crom reservoir - I counted 281. After a quick break back at the hotel, it was off to learn archery for the afternoon. It was something I'd never attempted before, so I was pleased when I managed to hit the target, then a paper plate and a balloon.
Sunday was a more relaxing day for me. I started at the crazy golf course next door to the hotel, and then went down to the seafront. It was too cold and windy to go paddling, although I did manage to get a bit wet chasing the waves!
Before I knew it, it was Monday and the coach was there to take us back to Belfast where some of us stayed on for farewell drinks until it was time for us to leave for our various transport back home - via our Newcastle in my case.
What do you do?
Have fun and enjoy myself. How about you? The photographs below show just some of the activities Mensans have enjoyed and include:
Locally: Regional Wayzgoose, Steam train trip, Colour Experience, forensic day.
Further afield: Annual Gathering, Climbing the Newport Transporter Bridge, Da Vinci Experience, surgical science day, robotics day and a visit to 3M.
We have some great speakers too, such as Tony Buzan on Mind Mapping, Johnny Ball talking numbers.
Of course Mensans young and old love food from ice cream at Future Paths, to a BBQ in Brighouse, a free lunch at the Wayzgoose and Caribbean dishes at a Globetroughing meeting.
But you don't have to go out and meet people, you can meet fellow members through the magazine and newsletter or via the website, a visit to the forum to chat, talk, debate and on occasions argue and disagree, but still having fun.
If you have a special interest, then 10:1 one of our Special Interest Groups (there are over 100) will link with people who have a similar passion. We have Facebook groups and a LinkedIn group too. So something for everyone to enjoy.
What do you enjoy about Mensa? Why not drop us a line?