New year activities to improve body and mind

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As 2016 gets underway there are resolutions of increased fitness levels, cutting back on sugars and alcohol and promises to follow a really healthy diet.

I cannot be alone - I just know there are other people out there with the same good intentions.

At least the fitness got off to a really good start when I went to visit the U3A Racketball Group at Collingham Squash and Racketball Club.

What a team. They are the current U3A Yorkshire Champions. Connie Appelbe is the current Ladies U3A Yorkshire Champion and Steve Widdison, the Men’s U3A Yorkshire Champion. It doesn’t get much better than this.

I found everyone in the group welcoming and friendly. There is no prior playing experience needed and the group is mixed in terms of ability. Collingham Squash Club has great facilities which they hire out.

The group welcomed me into their midst, equipped me with a racquet and a ball and led me onto the court.

I have never played racquetball and so as a complete novice was interested to find it is played on a standard squash court, using a larger headed racquet than tennis with a shorter handle.

It’s played with a larger bouncier ball than squash, which means the rallies are longer.

It’s a great game which concentrates the mind, focuses the eyes, improves hand eye co-ordination and gets your heart rate up. What more can you ask of a sport?

The group has been going for two years, has about 20 members, together with a qualified coach in Steve, who is an ardent supporter both of Collingham Squash Club and the U3A. The group welcomes new members.

Once a week, on a Monday morning, beginners are welcomed at 10am for an hour, given tuition, a racket and a ball.

On a Tuesday morning the more experienced players meet from 10am–11am and play this fast and furious game in short bursts, changing partners during the session so by the end of the morning almost everyone has played everyone else.

One member whispered to me at the end of the morning, when I had managed to pick up the rudiments of the game, ’you just have to add in the shots, develop the skills’ and added sotto voce, ‘its deceptively difficult!’

Before Christmas, and without any thought of my fitness level, I went along to join the Play Reading 2 Group who was meeting in Bardsey at Sue’s home.

Listening to the Afternoon Play on Radio 4 has always been a favourite occupation of mine so I was really interested to know how this activity would present itself.

Very quickly, the group got down to action and Sue introduced the play, ‘I Love my Love’ by Fay Weldon.

The play is usually chosen by Nicola Down, a long standing member with a theatrical background.

In fact most members in the group had an interest in amateur dramatics or had a theatrical background or, in Margaret’s case, had run a bed and breakfast for actors in Liverpool.

There are 11 members in all and the chosen play determines how many parts there are. Each member was given a copy of the play, characters and narrator decided upon and the play began.

Everyone was very attentive and followed the dialogue between the characters and the unfolding story.

At one point Susan’s cat wandered in almost as if she was part of the action.

As the story unfolded and the characters developed, it reminded me of Jane Austen and Christmas evenings spent round the fire before television and radio were invented. A truly delightful, relaxing and absorbing afternoon.

At half time, over a cup of tea, members discussed what had happened and what was likely to happen. They all loved a good drama, it was obvious.

The roles were shared to enable everyone to take part, which made me realise just how difficult it must be taking on more than one role in a radio or theatrical play.

The 11 members of the group meet on the second and fourth Tuesday from 2–4pm in various houses, and the group has been going for four years.

The whole experience was like going to the theatre with a bunch of friends.

For further information about Wetherby & District U3A please log on to the website