Thursday, 31 March 2016
Small in a Tall Person's World
Tod U3A, with speakers Hamish Willis and Penny Dean OBE
Thursday, 17th March was a fine day, but sunshine and Tod Market could not stop 102 U3A members turning out to welcome Hamish Willis and Penny Dean OBE to our monthly meeting. There was a lot of technical kit in evidence and we all wondered what we had two screens and a video camera out for.
All was revealed - in two stages. First, Hamish Willis from Rossendale gave us an enthusiastic talk and video presentation about the merits of Nordic Walking, an activity only three members of the audience admitted to having tried. I fancy more of us may give it a go: 40% better outcome than ordinary walking, improved blood circulation, better co-ordination, mood enhancement, calories burned off and increased flexibility – what's not to like?
For anyone interested in taking up the Nordic challenge under Hamish's instruction, a list will be available to sign up to at our April meeting. Please note, though, that this will not be a U3A group per se.
Ernie Rogan, officiating in the absence of our regular chairman, Keith Coates, introduced Penny Dean, our main speaker. Even though her siblings are all over 6ft tall, Penny was born with achondroplasia – dwarfism - and she was careful to explain that this is not actually unusual. It also explained for us why there were two screens: Penny was being filmed so everyone could see her on a screen. Brilliant stuff.
Penny was an excellent speaker: engaging, inspiring, open-hearted. She has led a richly packed life and one that has enriched the lives of others.
As a youngster, she found herself troubled by her smallness until her elder sister took her to the circus when she was 14. There she met Arthur who was both a clown and her size. They exchanged addresses on a hotdog paper and their correspondence helped to 'crumble the chip on her shoulder'. Subsequently, it was not long before they were boyfriend and girlfriend, and, when Penny was 16, husband and wife. They were married in Portsmouth, blessed by the actors' chaplain, and were taken to their reception on an elephant. Their early married life was spent in Stockport, and they worked in both panto and at Butlin's.
Then they decided to start a family. At this point, Penny took time to explain that small people can give birth to tall people and tall people to small people. In her case, she had some difficulty carrying a child to full term, but in 1986 she gave birth to Kimberley who is now the only dwarf physiotherapist in England. But Penny and Arthur also adopted two small babies, Nicola and Matthew. Nicola is a documentary maker, is married, and has two children, one of whom is tall; Matthew is a social media consultant. You would have to go some way to find a photograph album that suggests a happier family than Penny's.
But family itself has never been enough to Penny and Arthur. Having adopted two small children, Penny is now the Adoption Co-Ordinator for Little People UK. So far she has placed 15 children with new parents.
But more than that, she and Arthur started the Dwarf Athletics Association UK which in 2011 became the Dwarf Sports Association UK which hosts the annual National Games with the intention of preparing dwarf athletes for the Dwarf World Games and the Paralympics. Penny told us with great pride that Ellie Simmonds OBE, the paralympian swimmer, came up through the opportunities and encouragement offered by the DSAuk, and is now one of their patrons. The role of the organisation is to 'use sport as a tool to break down the barriers of difference within society and to encourage confidence and empower our members'. Indeed, this was very much the thrust of Penny's talk, and has clearly has a deep resonance in her own experience of life.
We would like to thank Penny (international dwarf goalkeeper and crossbow champion) for the richness of her presentation. She will be well remembered in Todmorden.
We had a brief heartfelt talk from Age UK Todmorden inviting us to consider becoming trustees for this well known and important local charity that promises work that is 'rewarding and fun'. Enquiries should be made to Age UK Todmorden directly.
Our next speaker is Jane Shepherd whose talk on Thursday April 21st is titled 'My Life as a Cabbage – from Polio to TV Presenting and Beyond'.
Many thanks to Anthony Peter for this report
Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb
HebWeb News:In the Footsteps of Norbert Carteret (22 February 2016)
HebWeb News:Gallivanting on Public Transport - a Bus Pass from Berwick to Land's End (30 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Magna Carta - A (Mostly) Light-hearted look at 800 Years of History (1 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Summat a' Nowt - talk by Steve Murty (28 April 2015)
HebWeb News: My Convict Ancestors (12 April 2015)
HebWeb News: Aquaponics Lab - A Radical Solution (16 January 2015)
HebWeb News: British Professional Cycling – Tykes and Le Tour de France (11 December 2014)
HebWeb News: Life in La Serenissima, Venice - Kathryn Ogden (9 July 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: The Machine that Changed the World (25 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Music and the Deaf (12 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Psychology and You - Part Two David Groves made a welcome return as a speaker at the October Todmorden U3A (26 October 2013)
HebWeb News: Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, A Short History was recounted by Ray Riches to the University of the Third Age. (28 Aug 2013)
HebWeb News: John Sheard, retired land agent to the Duke of Devonshire, gave his third talk to members of the U3A, this time on Sir Joseph Paxton, Knighted Gardener (26 July 2013)
HebWeb News: Off Stage Choices: Andrew Rawlinson recounts his theatre experience from Tod Operatic to General Manager of a leading Theatre Group. (18 July 2013)
HebWeb News: The Story of the Hebden Bridge Calendar (April 2013)
HebWeb News: Changing Times in the Press (March 2013)
HebWeb News: Cancer from Both Sides (Nov 2012)
HebWeb News: Steve Halliwell outlined the history of the Woodland Trust (Sept 2012)
HebWeb News: Ray Riches talks on Walking the Pacific Crest Trail (Aug 2012)
HebWeb News: Pitch and Pythagoras - Pulse and Prison (July 2012)
HebWeb News - Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords (May 2012)
HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)
HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)
HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail
HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey
HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant
HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance
HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century