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Notes from the Chair December 2018 – Farnham Humanists

Christmas/Yuletide/Saturnalia Greetings

The committee of Farnham Humanists wishes you all a merry Christmas, and a happy new year. More on that happiness below. You’ll notice I use the word Christmas. Yuletide refers back to a pre-Christian (at least in England) time, and gives us many Christmas traditions, but whether it involves Odin and Thor, or druids, logs, and mistletoe, it is hardly a rational concept. Winter solstice is rational, and a great reason for celebration, but I’m not aware of a secular name for the feast that follows. Saturnalia sounds good but has anarchic connotations. So merry Christmas it is.

Recent Events

Thank you to all who were able to support our Public Lecture or Ceilidh. We had over 50 people at the former; about half were new to Farnham Humanists (FH). We learned about the challenges of educating in the creative arts, and the difficulty in critiquing work. Students may feel criticism of the work is criticism of the maker, and while flawed technique is obvious in some crafts, new art movements tend to break all previous rules. A difficult balancing act, but one which Farnham University and its antecedents have been performing for nearly 140 years. The ceilidh was scheduled to fill a vacant Sunday evening slot and I now know we shouldn’t run an event that needs 50 attendees to break even, just before Christmas. Our band, Innistor were superb, and their caller made it easy for even the clumsiest. Dancers ranged from expert to inept; teenager to nonagenarian.  The evening was enlivened by three items only one pre-planned.

  1. We held the English premier of a new jig – music and dance. The creator, Ruth Bamforth is Linda’s sister. She wrote Wedding Bells for the wedding of her daughter in September. Bride and groom, the bride’s mother and father, and a bridesmaid attended our ceilidh, though only Dad, in his new kilt, dressed as on the big day. Ruth explained that Heather had been a keen campanologist, as had Ruth and Linda before her. Music and dance steps featured change ringing, with the nimble movements of the small bells contrasting with the large sweep of the tenor, and even firing of the bells – a difficult manoeuvre when all bells are sounded simultaneously. Farnham Humanists ensured a lively performance.
  2. At our Garden Party, FH members Quentin and Joanne Brodie-Coper told me that their children, Millicent and Magnus had been selected for the UK contingent to the 2019 world Scouting jamboree in West Virginia USA. They need to raise £3000. I invited them to the ceilidh, to collect from members. Being prepared they arrived with a stall selling jamboree-badged, re-usable coffee cups. Donations and sales raised over £150. It seems appropriate to offer support as the Scouts have at last followed the Guides in allowing a non-religious Promise. Also a personal reason; Linda and I were Guide and Scout when we met almost 50 years ago at our university Scout and Guide Group’s country dance.
  3. A week before the ceilidh I received the following email. “My name is Maryam and I live in Farnham. I’m a BA media student at Farnborough College and currently directing a short documentary called “I’m none”. I’m investigating why England is heading more towards non-religion. … can I visit one your meetings and have some interviews?” I invited Maryam to the ceilidh and she arrived with her cameraman. I’d warned Maryam that conditions would not be ideal for interviewing, but I thought some shots of Humanists cutting Christmas capers might enliven a talking heads documentary. Maryam’s main problem was a location, the hall was too noisy, where the camera’s field of view would not include the pictures of schoolchildren adorning many walls. They chose the corridor – en route to the loo. In these un-prepossessing surroundings they interviewed and filmed me, also Belinda Schwehr and her friend. Maryam said that she’d also scheduled a session with the bishop of Liverpool!
    I have asked to see a copy of the resulting documentary.

Never a dull moment in the life of Farnham Humanists.

Farnham Humanists – U3A Happiness Course

In May 2018 we invited David Warden, chair of Dorset Humanists to talk about his course on Happiness. He has run this in Bournemouth and has positive testimonials from attendees. FH’s meeting was well attended, drawing in new faces. With positive feedback, your committee decided to evaluate running of David’s course in Farnham.  It is based on a book called The How of Happiness by Sonya Lyubomirsky, so my first step was to help out FH’s book club in their hour of need. There was doubt about a previously chosen book. “Why not read the How of Happiness”, I said. They did, and all agreed that the book made sense and the ideas might work. 5 members Jennie, John, Sylvia, Ailsa and Linda, offered help with the course.

Sue Willson, then Chair of Farnham U3A, suggested we might run this as a U3A group. I accepted this idea, both as a quick route to rooms, equipment, publicity, insurance etc. and as a relatively safe place to trial the course. U3A members have already demonstrated initiative and readiness to learn, by electing to join. U3A has been most welcoming, and efficient; our course is now in the programme.

108 Psychology of Happiness: techniques to improve wellbeing – Alan Montgomery
We explore an evidence-based approach to increasing happiness. Members will discover how much people can increase their happiness, and learn techniques proven to work, that they can practise between classes. Members will report back on their success or otherwise with each technique.
Contact Alan Montgomery – alan.montgomery@btinternet.com  07770 846 937
Meets Tuesday, 17:00 to 19:00. Fortnightly
Jan, 22 Feb 5, 19 Mar 5, 19, Apr, 2

David Warden visited us, generously handing over his course materials, and delivering a “train the trainers” session to our volunteers. David will help deliver the first session to get us off to a good start.

There are still places on the course which runs fortnightly from 22nd January at the Maltings. We make a one-off charge of £10 largely to cover the cost of providing a copy of the book. U3A is proving the rooms and to participate you will need to join U3A. This costs £36 per annum, but only £20.00 for the two remaining terms of 2019.

If this is for you, please contact me as above,

Thank you for your support and interest in 2018, and best wishes for 2019 and beyond,

Alan Montgomery

Chair, Farnham Humanists