The lecture/sharing circuit

Local talks by female or male speakers are well attended throughout the Allen Valleys

This diary entry goes out on the morning of the heaviest snowfall of the year, up in Sparty Lea! Awakening to the snow, I wondered if I shouldn’t create a special diary entry about the winter wonderland! It certainly deserves an accompanying image, but I’d have thought that the roads look reasonably passable — I wonder if there are any school closures down in Allendale? No, it doesn’t look like it on the county council ‘Alerts‘ website, though the snow seems pretty pervasive throughout the valleys from email reports. There’ll be some concern for the new lambs due to emerge on the fellsides if they’re not indoors. But we’ll just hunker down and enjoy the view for the day. Poor daffodils though, completely covered! That’ll be six inches if not more.

Plough, the friendly gentleman who often features anecdotally in these entries, looks out over snow-covered Sparty Lea

Meanwhile, on with the regular diary, eh? I have to admit, I’d never thought of this as a topic for a diary entry until yesterday, when I suddenly twigged that the ‘lecture/sharing’ concept is something that energises our community, that goes on quietly under our noses, so to speak, and that deserves to be remarked upon.

Monday evening the Allendale Lions took a break from their normal business affairs to listen to Prof. Nicholas Owens speak about ‘Geo-engineering and climate change’. By all accounts it was an engaging talk, upstairs in the Golden Lion, but on the same evening (similarly the first Monday of the month) the Allendale Women’s Institute were also hosting a talk upstairs in the King’s Head as part of their usual format. The other Women’s Institutes of this patch (Whitfield and Catton) host regular monthly lectures/sharings in their respective village halls.

Every quarter, the Dales Gardening Society (about which more in a later post) hosts a talk by a gardening expert at Allendale Village Hall, and in venues around the area, the Allen Valleys Wildlife Group on a roughly similar calendar presents a talk on their favourite topic — a week or so ago it was a lovely set of slides of Flora of Upper Teesdale by Geoffrey Chayter, indefatigable local photographer at St. Cuthbert’s Church Hall, while this diary featured the presentation by Robert Philipson, local farmer, at their first session of the year up at Sinderhope Community Centre. I know that local gardening writer Susie White has been warmly welcomed to a variety of sessions throughout this patch.

We’ve already mentioned the last session of the viewing season at the North Pennines Observatory in Allenheads, with a lecture by Dr. Fred Stevenson on Cosmology and the Big Bang, accompanied by delightful snatches of the night sky (moon and Orion) through the facility’s big telescopes.

Carrie, during her time as Master Baker at Allendale Bakery, visited at least three local WI meetings to describe the process of making ‘real bread’, while I too participated in a county-wide WI meeting held up Morpeth way on the occasion of a Canada-centred day (the WI was invented in Stoney Creek, Ontario just down the road from where I was born). It was there that I realised something of the process: you’re invited to these things, accepting with some delight and gratification (they want to listen to me?), and presented with a lovely ‘thank you’ card in an envelope at the end, which doesn’t quite compensate for your travel expenses!

Maybe some of the other lecturers do receive something of an honorarium for their pains, but of course it’s not really commensurate with the effort it takes to put a little talk together. These talks/sharings (and no doubt I’ve missed some regular activity, in which case corrective comments are very welcome!) are done for goodness, for goodwill, for the sake of sharing a topic that is near to the speaker’s heart with a receptive audience. And it is gratifying to be asked to speak about something, no doubt about it, so the speaker’s vanity is quietly nurtured as well.

And these events go on (no, thrive, actually) in a time when YouTube hosts a vast cornucopia of videos detailing every possible topic under the sun, while WikiPedia presents an explanation of everything you could possibly want explained, while the telly churns out endless entertainment and factual programming from around the world for our edification. Interesting that, that live chats and sharing among people who know, and who love to share that knowledge, are so important in the contemporary life of our community.

As long as the weather holds, of course — I suspect the heavy snowfall will have put paid to any evening events scheduled in the village today, and maybe even the afternoon Tea Dance in the village hall! But tomorrow may see normal activities resuming, as the big thaw proceeds apace.

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