Lois Best

Clunk. Uh oh. That’s the sound of the back door locking behind me. I try the knob. Yep, it’s locked. This is not good. I am locked outside my daughter’s house, in her Fort Knox style backyard.

I’m staying here just to look after my teenage granddaughters’ rabbits during one of Port Phillip’s rare heatwaves. I’ve come outside first thing in the morning to give the rabbits some greens, cool water, and shade to keep them safe. Backyard bunnies don’t do well in the heat. My family are off looking after a house with a swimming pool and a dog. (I thought that gave me the easier job.)

My brain goes into overdrive. The back gate is locked and barricaded. The side gate is padlocked. (I’ve never seen a key for it.) I contemplate huddling in a heap and living on rabbit pellets and lemons until they come and rescue me. They would (eventually) notice my phone going unanswered because it is, of course, locked inside the house.

The heat is the problem, and the reason I shut the door in the first place – to keep the heat out of the house. (didn’t mean to keep myself out as well!)

So, what to do? Even if I could climb over the high fence, which is unlikely, it is hardly practical because I am clad only in my nightie. And add to that (and I realise this could be classified as way too much information) no glasses, no denture, no underwear.

I contemplate breaking into the house. But if I did smash a, multi framed, window there’s still the problem of clambering through it.

Instead, I will break out – through the side gate. I scour the shed for suitable tools. Armed with screwdriver and hammer, I attack the padlock. I break part of the gatepost (oops) but it means I can slide the bolt and open the gate.

My objective is the key-keep on the front porch. This, of course, brings on another dilemma. I don’t know the code. Thankfully my daughter knows her neighbours well, and they know me by sight. (But usually, I am more appropriately dressed and with all my teeth.)

I take a chance and bashfully creep through their front gate. Thankfully Amanda is up and to her credit she doesn’t laugh. She doesn’t know the code, so she texts my daughter. Awkward minutes pass then I say, “She’s sent the code to my phone, hasn’t she?”

Amanda’s next text produces the code. Then I need more help as, without my glasses, I can barely see the key-keep let alone its numbers!

Amanda’s boisterous new puppy is overjoyed by the early morning excitement and will not be left home. I happily carry him while she wrestles with the underused, awkwardly placed, key-keep. Eventually she calls her (grown up) son over to help. Oh, the embarrassment. Thankfully I have the puppy to hide behind. But it gets me the key.

Inside, reunited with my phone, and glasses, I find texts from my bewildered daughter:

Text 1: Hi, the pin is…

[and there is the magic number]

Text 2: Sorry the bike is in the way

[No answer from me, of course.]

Text 3: Everything ok?

[Well at that stage, no!]

I text back that the bike was the least of my worries and give a brief rundown of events. I’m able to reassure her that at least she knows that her house isn’t easy to break into.

Oddly, we continue to text instead of calling.

She texts:

Just got confused because:

(A) It was early

[I am notoriously not a morning person]

(B) you are always organised with keys


(C) you always have your phone!!

[Again, true and I briefly admire her ability to text in an orderly alpha style list]

She continues:

1st thought (literally) was that maybe you’d been up all-night partying and just got home! LOL! And lost your keys and phone in a bar or something.

[Who? Me?]

2nd thought was that you’d been out for a walk and didn’t take keys – that’s why I pinged your phone first – didn’t occur to me that that’s why Amanda was sending the message for you! Coffee not quite kicked in! What a drama.  I’m so sorry that happened to you! Thank goodness for amazing neighbours. I’m still trying to process it all. But glad you’re safe and sound. I think scout badge earned.

[I’ll accept that]

The flurry of texts eventually ends with her: Phew! Well played!!

[She’s right!]

It’s then that the adrenalin kicks in. I indulge in comfort food.

[I earned salted caramel ice-cream drowned in chocolate topping for breakfast].

When I feel brave enough, I prop the door open so I can check on the rabbits.

[At this point I no longer care if the heat gets into the house.]


There they are, oblivious to the drama. So cute, contentedly chomping kale.

There I am, completely exhausted before eight o’clock in the morning.


Lois Best

Having grown up in regional WA, I married young, as much because it was the norm as it was to escape the farm! Not the best basis for a marriage…

After divorce I discovered study and got myself into University as a forty something mature age student. It was one of the best times of my life. I found out how much I didn’t know.  My BA focussed on Asian Studies (with the language component learning Chinese Mandarin).  For one of my first year essays on Chinese Politics, the tutor, a young PhD candidate, was very critical and barely passed my effort. Fortunately we had a chance to talk about that at the Uni coffee shop.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: I feel you marked me quite harshly.

Tamara: Well, you left out the ruling class and Marxism and…

Me: Yes, I am finding out there are huge gaps in my education.

Tamara: Why? What did you study before this?

Me: I haven’t studied anything since I left high school. And I didn’t finish high school by the way.

Tamara: Well, when did you leave high school?

Me doing a quick calculation: Oh, about 1966. (The look on her face was priceless!)

Tamara: I wasn’t even born then!

Fortunately we both found that very funny and she became one of my biggest allies as I continued my adventure in education.

My original plan of a three year degree became a four year plan as I found I could spend a year in China, learning Chinese at the Hangzhou University. What a life changing experience. Long story short, I became a teacher, eventually specialising in teaching English as another language. A few years ago I tried retirement but it didn’t suit me, so I still teach part time.

The other day in a class my China adventure came up as a discussion topic. I told my students that I had made a good friend in Hangzhou and he taught me Ballroom dancing. Dance, especially Ballroom, was something I had longed to learn as I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn dance in regional WA.

I explained that our friendship had started as a pure exchange. He would teach me to dance as stylishly as he did from his childhood study of ballet, and I would help him to improve his English. They asked for photographic proof!

I thought you might also enjoy seeing how much, serious, fun we had.

July 1993 – Xi Hu (West Lake), Hangzhou


Bev & Lois

Our Office Coordinators

Once upon a time, a long, long while ago – I often used to visit a place in Albert Park known as “The U3APP Office”.  Perhaps you remember it too?  The Mary Kehoe Centre was then a bustling, sociable place crowded with smiling friends and neighbours intent on sharing their experiences and broadening intellectual horizons.  In daydreams I can imagine us back there, but then the vision fades …

Bev Fryer had been a member of U3A for only a short time when Renate Mattiske wrangled her into becoming an Office Coordinator early in 2016.  Very happily, her first job-sharing partner in this was Margo Anderson, and for almost two years they worked together.  When Margo stepped back, Meredith Mancini came on board for nearly a year.  Early in 2019 Pauline Amos was joint coordinator until she was enticed back to part-time work with an employer who had come to realise how much they were missing her.  But there are depths of talent at U3APP, and Lois Best very fortuitously agreed to share the job with Bev.  They have continued to collaborate through the COVID-19 lockdown.

The position description for Office Coordinator is pretty elastic.  Broadly it requires someone to keep a close eye on activities which are auspiced by U3APP at the Mary Kehoe Centre and other locations, with the aim of ensuring that tutors, members and volunteers all have a positive experience.  An understanding of policies and systems is also needed.  One day is never quite the same as the one that went before!  Is equipment and furniture ready in all class rooms?  Apologies recorded?  Photocopier on?  Fresh milk in the fridge?  Members’ queries answered?  Parking permits all accounted for?  Phone messages answered promptly?  Ceiling fans switched off?  Emails getting through?  Enough trained office volunteers for the roster?

The Coordinators delegate a lot, and rely a great deal on people with specific expertise, such as the IT wizards.  Happily, the team of 25 or so Office Volunteers – the people you meet at the reception desk – are resourceful, adaptable and generous, very much imbued with a ‘can do’ approach.  After the closure of Mary Kehoe Centre in mid-March, phone calls and emails to the office have been efficiently monitored by a roster of OVs from home.  In second term they made outreach phone calls to over 150 members who had not been participating in courses after Mary Kehoe Centre was closed.  Now here we are on the brink of Term 4, and whatever shape our program takes in weeks and months ahead, you can be sure that the OVs will be ready to help make it happen.  And when we put out a call for new people on the team, perhaps you will be ready to volunteer!

Bev’s working career was firstly as a secondary school teacher in English and languages, in Australia and UK.  With small children underfoot she freelanced as an editor with a number of publishers, then  – thanks to Gough Whitlam’s retraining initiative – studied for a post-graduate diploma in office management.  Administrative roles followed at Prahran College, the Victorian Institute of Colleges, Council of Adult Education, Caulfield Institute and Monash University involving student/faculty administration, fundraising & development, alumni liaison.  Along the way, more study in personnel administration.  In short, plenty of people contact in interesting settings.  She and her husband Colin are keen independent travellers who have visited 44 countries, and share a love of music, theatre, cryptic crosswords and the South Melbourne Market.

Lois started her working life in WA as a telephonist (remember when that was a thing?) receptionist, then left work to bring up children. She came to her second career, teaching, in her 40s and still teaches English as Another Language, Literacy, and teaches an ‘Intro to EAL Tutoring’ short course in the Learn Local sector.

Study took her to live in China to learn the language and later teaching took her to live in Japan to hone her teaching skills. The lure of expected grandchildren (both of whom are teenagers now) brought her back to Australia, eventually to Albert Park where she discovered U3APP. Our wonderful Member Liaison Officer, Jill Hearman, made sure she felt welcomed enough to become involved both in classes and volunteering. She will step down from the Committee of Management this year after serving for 3 years.

An ‘emerging writer’ she attends the Creative Writing Group at U3APP. She is addicted to entering writing competitions and has twice been awarded in the Port Phillip Seniors Writing Awards “Port Phillip Writes”.

By Bev Fryer

Fay Bock

Introducing Fay Bock: Fay is a Co-Tutor and longstanding member of Play Reading.

Fay’s family history can be traced right back to the Gold rush in the 1890s, when her grandfather, together with his brother, embarked on the long sea journey from England to Western Australia. Her grandfather in subsequent years moved to Melbourne where he opened a Pawn Shop and married a young bride sent out from England. Fay’s family continues to reside in Melbourne.

Fay refers candidly to her grandfather, making comment on alleged mistreatment towards his wife and children. She was told that he and his friends mistreated their wives and children including one who used a “cat of nine tails” on his family. Fay believes her Auntie “eloped to get away.”

In respect to her own upbringing and religious adherence, Fay recalls that her father, after his Bar Mitzvah, in his teenage years decided that religion was the major cause of conflict in the world and was not for him. He subsequently became an atheist. Her mother came from a more religious family so Fay and her brother participated in all of the various religious festivals and celebrations.

Referring back to her own teenage years, Fay was about 15 years old when she first became acquainted with her husband. She talks with some amusement about her final year at school, Year 12, when she would “skip classes” and go to visit her then boyfriend. Her mother would drive Fay to school and pick her up at the end of the day. However, Fay would often skip off from school to his home in Elwood. Consequently, she “performed badly” in the Year 12, October Tests. Her boyfriend then tutored her, “I got my best mark in Physics!” Looking back Fay finds this amusing, reiterating “it was not every day” that she skipped school. Intriguingly, at that time, Fay tells that she developed “a crush” on the boy who later became her husband. They started going out together just before the end of Year 12, “we became an item on December 13.” Her husband, known as Issy, “had a beautiful chin,” in this way outdoing her former boyfriend!

Fay went on to complete an Arts Degree at Melbourne University, obtaining a double major in History and Philosophy of Science. She has always been interested in Science. Fay later completed a Diploma in Education enabling her to teach Maths. However, it eventuated that she disliked teaching, “I wasn’t very good at it.” She subsequently obtained work as a trainee computer programmer with The Olympic Tyre Rubber Company in 1973. Why? “Because I could do it.”

Giving a glimpse of the early development of computers and industry in the 1970s, Fay described how they would write their programs on sheets of paper, these would then be punched onto punch-cards and taken from Swanston St (near RMIT) to the corner of Elizabeth and La Trobe Streets, where the computer operators would run the program and send the results the following day. A far cry from the immediacy of computing today.

Fay reflects however that she did not feel comfortable working in an office environment, finding that “people were petty, would talk about you in a negative way.” This presented a dilemma for her. She did not like working in an office, enjoyed working in a school, but not teaching Maths. Fay resolved this conflict for herself by obtaining a Graduate Diploma of Librarianship. This turned out to be a good decision. In 1995 Fay obtained the position of Teacher Librarian at MacRobertson Girls High School, where she spent “the bulk of my career.”

Fay got married in 1970 at the St Kilda Synagogue. Her husband, Issy, eventually obtained his Articles in Law and joined her father’s law firm in Melbourne. They had three daughters, initially purchasing a home in Richardson Street for $29,000, a reminder of how times have changed. Fay now lives in South Yarra.

Fay spoke about her husband‘s sudden collapse while having lunch with a work partner. He was diagnosed with having a brain tumour. Defying the initial predictions made in 2006 that he would live for only three months, Issy underwent a very risky but successful operation to remove the tumour. The tumour returned in 2013 after 5 years of remission and sadly he passed away in 2016. The last 12 months were very distressing for all. Fay became his 24 hour carer, supported by a team of carers from an agency. Fay spoke about this difficult period, showing courage and determination to care for her husband throughout those distressing last years. Fay reflected with feeling, “that’s why I joined U3A.”

Amongst other courses, including Spanish, Fay became involved in Play Reading “because I enjoyed it.” She had loved reading to her children but recalls feeling disappointed when attempting to read Enid Blyton out loud. As a child she had loved The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton but when she tried to read it to her children, it “was awful to read aloud.” It would be interesting to hear the perspective of others on this intriguing observation. Dr Seuss’ books became a favourite for “putting on voices.”

U3APP Play Reading has been running for many years, initially run by Moira Fielding who would select the plays and allocate the parts. When Moira decided to leave, this left a gap which Fay decided to fill, in so far as she agreed to coordinate and to organise the course for the group. Currently Ruth Yaffe selects the plays and allocates the parts. Fay stresses that her contribution is the organisation, which others are more reluctant to do. She enjoys the process of getting into a character without pre-reading the play. “Hearing your voice, tragedies or comedies, I just enjoy it.”

Fay draws solace from nature, walking and in particular her love of trees. “I am absolutely smitten with trees,” saying with some humour, “when I die, I want to come back as a tree.” Fay enjoys reading about Tree Science, as in communication signalling between their roots, providing information for other trees on available water, for instance. Fay likes to walk through the nearby gardens, to touch and talk to the trees. A few years ago the City of Melbourne had a programme where you sent an email to a tree. Laughing, Fay recalled, “I did send an email, but I never heard back.”

Fay enjoys listening to the radio “all day” when at home. “I’ve always been a radio person.” She has been listening to The Science Show on Radio National since it first started, “it just keeps up your interest in science.” Like all of us, Fay hopes Covid-19 will be all over soon and has thoughts of travelling to the Kimberleys rather than returning to visit Europe at this time.

Fay continues to work as a Relief Teacher at a secondary school, assisting students with their computers or other tasks. It is demanding and she restricts herself to manageable hours.

What does the future hold? “After my husband died, attendance at various U3A activities became a part of my life.” As it is perhaps, for others in U3A who may have lost a close family member or friend, leaving a gap to be filled. Fay continues to meet with friends, her daughters and grandchildren, her oldest grandson being “very gifted on the piano.”

So, Fay concludes, “that’s me.” She wondered if her life story would be of interest to others. Fay’s story is what U3A is notable for. Obtaining new perspectives, the opportunity to acquire knowledge on subjects that perhaps past work and family commitments have hindered. Relaxing with Play Reading or Petanque, learning Spanish, and also enjoying Israeli Dancing at Glen Eira U3A, Fay reiterated with feeling, “I just find U3A wonderful.”

Felicity May interviewed Fay Bock

David Bourne

David’s fascination with various chemical compounds, with the potential to become explosive, set him off on a significant, and fascinating career in biochemistry.

David Bourne is a U3APP Tutor, currently for the online course ‘Why Insects Matter.” He is a PHD graduate and research scientist.

David joined U3APP about five years ago, after moving from Elwood to St Kilda West. David likes to keep fit, so enjoys the convenient walking distance to the MKC, “no parking permit needed.” David became a tutor subsequent to Jim Pribble, who “was on the ‘look out’ for new tutors, approached me about running a course on Evolution. I thought, “I could do that, it’s been a real pleasure.”

David was born in Brisbane, but following his father’s decision to set up an accountancy business, the family moved to Warwick in south east Queensland. David remembers vividly, “I was five years old, sitting in the back of my dad’s old Ford Prefect, watching the road through the holes in the floor, for 160 kms!” At that time the population in Warwick was 12,000 however following closures of the rail and maintenance yards, it decreased to about 10,000.

David referred to his family life as being, “ordinary, fairly boring so I played up a lot!” How so? “Umm … well, blowing up things.” With some amusement, David supplied the detail. In those days you could easily get hold of fireworks, as in “big bungers.”

Was he motivated by boredom? “No, being naughty was the thrill. In one incident my gang and another local one had organised to have a bit of a punch-up at the local park. Someone let on and we had a police car drive into the back yard in full view of our neighbours, my father was not so happy.”

Aged 13 years, David became avidly interested in chemistry specifically, rather than physics. “I think it was because you could do stuff yourself.” This was not possible with physics unless you had the relevant equipment. “But with chemistry, it was easy to do in the back shed.”

What were you doing in the back shed? (Asked with some trepidation.) “I started off making fireworks, of course.” Cautiously avoiding any specific instructions for making fireworks, “they are made from gunpowder.” David explains, “gunpowder is easy to make, then you wrap the gunpowder in cardboard and stick a wick in it!”

“I remember one ‘experiment’ with my older brother. We found a large balloon one day and were wondering what we’d do with it. Inflate it with air, no not interesting. Inflate it with hydrogen and let it drift upwards. Yep. That’s a bit boring, let’s tie a wick to it, light it and let it go. Excellent idea. The balloon made it to around 300 metres and exploded with a nice bit of flame. A day later there was a small paragraph in the Warwick Daily News about a mysterious explosion in the sky above Warwick.”

Fortunately, David had only one major accident. It was in the back shed, of course. He was engaged in a process whereby he needed to light magnesium powder to initiate a thermite process. It wasn’t going so well and needed some more magnesium powder to get going. It wasn’t a good idea to add more from the bottle. Of course it then caught fire. One thing you cannot do with magnesium fire is put it out with water, it just goes off. “Probably the most dangerous thing I did.” David assures, that his parents were not too concerned about his activities in the back shed but perhaps should have been.

Academic progress at school? “I breezed through chemistry, physics was my downfall.” David proceeded to the University of South Queensland in Toowoomba, partially completing a degree in applied science, essentially training to become an industrial chemist. Whilst still a student, aged 18 years, he was called up for conscription but put it off for as long as possible as was the norm then. However, he was required to complete 12 weeks of basic army training, at Singleton.

How did you find that? “Well, we got so fit, it was unbelievable, lots of route marches and circuit training. A friend and I used to play a round of squash flat out for an hour and usually extend to two because we were so fit we could easily do this.” When Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister, we were able to choose whether we wanted to leave or go into the armed forces. “The good thing about that was if you decided to leave the army you would get a scholarship to finish university. That scholarship was about three times the amount you could get on a commonwealth scholarship, that was fabulous.”

After qualifying as an industrial chemist, “my girlfriend and I hopped into a transit van, we travelled around Australia for about 2 years, getting jobs wherever we could, usually picking fruit, it was really a very good time but there were a few challenging times. Like when we arrived in Melbourne with no food and no money. We parked the van in Footscray and I went off to find a job. Found one at a wool baling place and the manager paid me some cash after the first day. Crisis over! ”

Aged 26 years, David obtained his first position as an industrial chemist with the Abbotts Pharmaceutical company at Kurnell in Sydney. However, this turned out to be “boring, you did the same thing every day. I left that company after two years and got a position as a part time research assistant at the University of NSW (UNSW)”

While doing a biochemistry degree, “I was trying to find a hormone that causes ripening and leaf drop in food plants.” When plants lose their leaves, this triggers reactions that cause hormonal changes, known as senescence. We call this hormone senescence factor.

David commenced his PhD, studying part time, researching further into the “senescence factor” as part of a collaboration between the University of New South Wales and Cambridge University in the UK. “Essentially, in the long run we found out a lot about the nature and properties of this hormone and we discovered a few novel molecules from bean and tomato plants. David subsequently obtained a post-doctoral position with John McLeod, a prominent mass spectroscopist at the Research School of Chemistry at ANU in Canberra. ”That started my interest in mass spectrometry”

Further discussion with David revealed that he has had a great many other interests. For instance, he was asked by the editor of Two Wheels (through a friend) to road test a motorcycle. “I was trying to do a good job because that would mean more motorcycles. It took two weeks to test and write the article. The editor was happy so I continued road testing motorcycles for about another nine years. It was a great experience with many highlights. One was the day Kawasaki Australia flew a group of journalists up to Bathurst and let us loose on the Mount Panorama race track on several Kawasaki motorcycles. I remember going down the mountain with 280 km/hr on the speedo.’’

What was the most interesting position you have held? “Probably, at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. We were researching the possibilities of developing medicinal drugs from marine life. Divers would collect sea creatures, corals, sponges etc., which were then extracted and tested to see if they had any activity in certain bioassays.” (‘Measurement of potency of a substance by its effect on certain medically important metabolic enzyme systems.’)

David was responsible for a successful submission to obtain an ultra-high resolution mass spectrometer. No mean achievement, “given the cost of around one million dollars.” This provided an “incredibly high resolution,” which is essential when an accurate mass and structural information was needed.

His next position of significance and interest was with the Defence Science Technology Organisation at Fisherman’s Bend. “During the 2000 Sydney Olympics DSTO provided the scientific input to the armed forces security effort and I was part of the scientific team. An important backup system was the new ultra-high resolution mass spectrometer which was commissioned a few months before the Olympics.” Due to David’s experience with mass spectrometry a “this mass spectrometer was purchased, costing about $1.5 million.”

David summarises, “we moved away from chemistry into biochemistry and one particular collaboration with the Swedish Defence Science would not have been possible without the high end mass spectrometer. This was a nice piece of work, we identified some unique marker compounds that would indicate exposure to a castor bean extract containing ricin.”

Liaising with domestic and overseas intelligence agencies was another area David became involved with for a time. “What we were trying to do was to design projects that were useful for Australian, US, UK and Canadian Intelligence Agencies.” Further discussion on this was, of course, out of bounds.

David has not married, he has had two long term partners. He has one daughter and two grandchildren aged 16 and 13 years who live in Queensland.

David and Barbara Coles, also a U3APP member, have travelled quite a bit. “We did quite a bit of Europe and the United Kingdom, the US and Canada, but we were more interested in wilder travels. Highlights were Cambodia, Kalimantan, Cuba (we wanted to visit Cuba while Fidel Castro was still alive) and Belize. Then there was a trip to the Gili Islands (off the northern coast of Lombok) which was “interesting, really wild, no cars.” A fairly big earthquake erupted just off the coast while they were there.

David reads science publications, he has good social connections with work colleagues. Does he think science has the same respect as in his working past? “No, definitely not. It is not as trusted as it used to be. It makes their (scientists’) opinions ‘less punchy’ when trying to negotiate with politicians, you are just not believed as much.” There is a huge amount of knowledge now, about insect sprays for instance, “that we did not have when I was younger.” But “people will continue to do science if they are interested, it’s just so bloody interesting, I don’t think they will be put off.”

David acknowledges that, “being a researcher, industrial chemist, is now in my past life.” He enjoys golf, has a large golf screen in his backyard and is also a member of the Middle Park Bowls Club. He enjoys walking, table tennis, being active but also watching foreign films. His favourite film is a Russian Sci-Fi movie, ‘Solaris’.

As for U3APP, “it is absolutely fantastic. It is a good organisation, with a bunch of really good people.” David enjoys his involvement with the various courses he has run and the interesting discussions the courses evoke.

David’s developing interest in chemistry during his early adolescence, his fascination with various chemical compounds with the potential to become explosive, set him off on a fascinating scientific career, leading to his expertise in obtaining significant data from high end mass spectrometers. He has come a long way from the thrill of “blowing up things.”

Felicity May interviewed David Bourne

Diane Boyle

My Third Age Adventure

Not long after my 60th birthday, I walked past a bright colourful sign which attracted me.  It said “Learn to Scuba Dive”.

Now, I had never before had the slightest inclination to scuba dive, but I have always been interested in the sea and, most importantly, I was going on a holiday to Lord Howe Island in a few months.  Thinking it might be fun to dive on the reef at LHI, I went into the shop to make some inquiries.  Laden with brochures, an appointment for a dive medical and a booking on the next Learn to Dive course, I had started my new journey.

Learning to dive in Melbourne is an adventure in itself.  Over a few weeks, there were textbooks to read, online tests to pass, theory lessons to attend, equipment to master and – finally into the water carrying about 20 kilograms of gear on my back. Firstly, at the local swimming pool, swimming along the bottom of the deep end, trying to remain neutrally buoyant in the water, stopping for group exercises such as removing and replacing your mask underwater.  It was way beyond my comfort zone.  Not one to give up, I went back to the next dives which were in Port Phillip Bay, off the shore at Black Rock – and, the big test, onto a dive boat at Portsea, out to Pope’s Eye and two dives down to 12 metres.  I got my certificate, I was qualified!

In the Water!

Thank goodness I had persisted as the journey in the underwater world has been amazing.  Together with my son, Mark, who learned to dive shortly after me and became my dive buddy, we have done numerous dives in Port Phillip Bay, outside the heads in Bass Strait, Westernport Bay and Phillip Island.  We have dived the coasts of Tasmania and New South Wales and Queensland and Western Australia, the fresh water lakes of South Australia, Kangaroo Island, Rottnest Island and New Zealand – and the Melbourne Aquarium with the sharks.  And dived in warm waters – the Great Barrier Reef on a liveaboard dive boat, Heron Island, Ningaloo Reef, Vanuatu and Thailand.  And dived in very cold waters – in Canada, in the Great Lakes.  Every holiday became a dive holiday.

On a dive boat after another dive

We took advanced dive courses, such as deep diving and navigation and rescue, becoming dive masters.  Mark went on to further technical diving and cave diving, but I am content with a maximum of 39 metres in depth.

Diving amongst the beautiful reefs or under piers, amongst amazing fish and marine animals and coral and sponges, the sights are always enthralling.  Did you know that Port Phillip Bay has more marine life than tropical waters?  Being able to float along in 3 dimensions is always magical – even the rituals of preparing for the dive and cleaning up afterwards are reassuring.  Meeting many other divers with many a good tale to tell is always good fun – and so is catching your own food, scallops and crayfish and abalone.

Diving with Sharks and Turtles

And then I became enthralled with shipwrecks – there are over 200 known wrecks in Port Phillip Bay alone, including wooden boats wrecked in the 1800’s and decommissioned naval boats.  This has led me into maritime archaeology, with study at Flinders University and Southampton University, attending maritime archeology conferences, archaeological research on shipwrecks in Port Phillip Bay, the acquisition of a whole new library of books, special trips to maritime museums around the world, training with the Nautical Archaeological Society and now maritime archaeology webinars – there is more than a lifetime of learning ahead of me.

On a whim, a spur of the moment decision, I had embarked on a whole new adventure.

Wooden boat shipwrecked over 150 years ago in Lake Huron, Canada

Julie Butcher


Spreading her toast with butter, sardines, lemon juice and black pepper, Julie recognised it was Saturday lunchtime.

She was one of four-children-born-within-six-years that on Saturday afternoons ate sardines on toast. Then they watched the B-grade movie while Mum, close by, tackled the ironing. Fifty years later, in lockdown with her husband, and sardine-toast crumbs spilling off onto the Saturday newspaper, Julie text-messaged a snapshot of her almost-empty plate to her brother Richard. She watched, and waited, for his response.

Ever the tease, two days later, his reply pinged in. “Looxury!”

Janet Campbell

The Red-Fanged Snake Cake

Cake! Is there any other word so guaranteed to start the smiles, the joy, the celebrations?

Our family’s cake story started nearly nine years ago, when my about-to-turn-eight years’ old oldest nephew pleaded with his parents for a red-fanged snake cake for his birthday party. He’d been a bit obsessed with snakes for a while… but this was an unexpected and rather daunting request.

At that time, I had no experience of cake decorating . . . but well, I put up my hand. I was able to borrow a couple of ring cake pans from friends. They seemed to be the style most likely to lend themselves to snaky body curls. Those red fangs? A red Freddo frog and a very sharp scalpel. And how to keep the snake’s mouth open so that we could all admire those red fangs? … a clear plastic decorative plate stand. Yes, it all worked and we had one super happy birthday boy.

A birthday boy with two younger brothers… my nephews’ birthday cake tradition had just got underway.

Fortunately, I was able to find a wonderful bakery offering cake decorating lessons. Thanks to Mandie at Three Sweeties, I’m so grateful for the skills and techniques that I’ve learned.

Every birthday offers a new challenge. My philosophy has been… whatever they want! These past years’ birthday cake challenges have included: roller skates, bats & spiders, a koala, Nerf Gun, Thomas the Tank Engine, Pikachu, Lego, Minecraft, Star Wars BB-8, Shrek Swamp House, Septiceye Sam, Sonic the Hedgehog and many more.

My oldest nephew is about to turn 17. Yet I have no doubt that he’s already thinking about this year’s birthday cake theme. I doubt they’re going to outgrow this given their Dad asked for a cake featuring the Star Trek Enterprise attacking a Borg Cube for his 60th.  I’m looking forward to many more years of crazy and very enjoyable family and friends’ cake challenges.

Elizabeth Carvosso

“My name is Cornish, not Italian, and the first member of my father’s family to come arrived in NSW in 1820 as a Wesleyan Missionary. So many people get very confused when I am not dark haired and curvy!”

Elizabeth Carvosso was on the Older Persons Consultative Committee when U3APP was founded. She joined U3A because she was keen on education, both for herself and for other people. At the time she had a lot of commitments in the city and so long as she wasn’t attending a concert or play she would go to the Saturday Seminars.

“They have been wonderful. The quality is getting better and better,” she said. “Our technical committee has been quite extraordinary; I have loved everything. And every time I look at the program there is something more wonderful – now Colin Macleod has another lovely program, on the constitution, but it’s on Wednesdays so I can’t go!” Elizabeth is a member of Melbourne University Graduate Union and goes there twice a month on Wednesdays. “Not that I am a Melbourne graduate,” she chuckles.

We are spoilt for choice, aren’t we?

Oh yes, the (U3APP) program is extraordinary. The quality of lectures – we are very lucky. I suppose it’s because Albert Park and surrounds are on the way to Monash (University) and on the tram (route) to Melbourne. Many in this area seem to be connected with those organisations and therefore are available now in their retirement.

In the early days of U3APP Joan Ashbolt one day appeared at Elizabeth’s front door and said she had not had a holiday for over a year. “Could you do the office for me?” Not many people rang, but she was there to answer the phone, send out enrolment forms and do other things. From her house, and then when they first were using the Mary Kehoe Centre, Joan had run the office pretty well on her own all that time. She really did need a break. I think it was only for a week – certainly not very long, nor very onerous.

Do you have any other memories of that era?

Carolyn Hutchins asked me if I would join the Older Persons committee. I had seen her about something the council wasn’t doing well – I always want to organise other people. She said, “You’re the sort of person we need on the Older Persons committee,” and I thought I’m pretty busy but if she thinks I should, I should. Then I discovered I had to be interviewed and approved. The man interviewing told me all the librarians he knew were back-room people and they didn’t like mixing with other people much. “Do you really think you would have anything to contribute to this committee?” I thought to myself, you must know a very limited number of librarians because I’ve been to a few parties with librarians and we always have a very good time. Big library conferences always came with parties as well as serious lectures. I always worked in areas where you had to mingle with people, reference and acquisitions work, publishers, and so on. Cataloguing is in the back room and is very important work. But most of us are in for a party when the time comes. I lasted on that committee for a couple of years; then U3A came on the scene.

I used to go to the (U3APP) AGM, because I know what it’s like to be on a committee when people don’t bother coming. I made a point of going, and to the Saturday Seminars, and then gradually more courses, after I gave up the pretty intense Italian course I had been doing in town.

This year I have been doing three things, and Saturdays, and anything extra that turns up. I’ve been doing Shakespeare with Helen (Vorrath), which of course is truly amazing. It feels good to go back to your university roots and be reminded of things you used to know, and then there are all the other plays you never did. Even at school or university you only ever cover a few, so it has been terrific. And I have been doing David’s films for quite a while too.

That is how I got an iPad, because my computer was so old. My great-nephew kindly bought me an iPad so I could join in the Zoom discussion. I have since got a new computer with a lovely big screen, although I still have my great-nephew on call for technical things. Of course I was born before the war, so I grew up, even in my library work, without computers. So what I know about computers I have partly taught myself. I didn’t have the iPad in the days when you could drop into U3A with problems. Some young people – because they grow up with it – don’t understand why we don’t understand.

So you were a librarian?

Yes. That’s how I came to live in Melbourne. I lived in London in the early sixties, like lots of Australians. I was having a wonderful time and didn’t want to come home because all we did then was go to concerts, plays and travel. Eventually I realised I had to get a proper job, settle down, stop mucking around. Some parents were writing to their kids saying how much they missed them, and how lonely they were, but my parents were so good, they didn’t do that to me. My mother wrote once a fortnight – as she had when I was in boarding school – but then suddenly my father said, “We think it’s time for you to come home now,” and so I did after just over two and a half years.

I am a Queenslander from the ‘deep north’. I grew up on the Darling Downs in Dalby, and so I went to Brisbane for a job at the State Library. I loved the work but it was so hot. The only parts of the original library in those days that were air-conditioned were the Rare Books, the upstairs administrative offices and the catalogue where the public came. But downstairs, where most of us worked, the heat was really getting to me. I found the humidity was difficult. So I started looking around and there was a job going at the new Essendon library based in Moonee Ponds. The librarian there had been writing really interesting articles in the journal about automation. There was nothing doing in Queensland and NSW public libraries – they were in a real mess at that time – so I went to see the man in charge of public libraries in Brisbane for some advice and he said, “That new library in Melbourne sounds like just the thing for you.”

I stayed there for a couple of years and then moved on to Melbourne University Baillieu for another couple of years – the main library for general students. Then I had a brief fling at the Department of Trade. Oh, I had impeccable timing because a week after I left there to go to CSIRO the Jim Cairns/Juni Morosi scandal broke and I missed it. I could have been in the building! (Laughing.) That was typical of me, and my decisions. But I stayed at CSIRO for something like fourteen years. I was in charge of ordering the journals for the whole of the CSIRO. It was funny because there were two jobs going, one at CSIRO and one at the Teachers’ College, and not knowing Melbourne terribly well, I got out my Melways and realised the CSIRO job was closer. Most sensible people would have applied for both to see what would happen; but it was different then.

I had always been interested in publishing and we handled all the journal ordering. There were over fifty individual divisions and they all had their own librarian. They ordered some of their own material. Anything that was complicated or identified-to-be-ordered from some obscure place, especially overseas, we did it for them in East Melbourne. The budget for serials at the time was over a million dollars – I am sure it is a lot more now. It has all changed since publishing became electronic. In those days of paper, journals were constantly getting lost and sent to the wrong place. The post office had an enormous collection of unclaimed journals. It was fascinating work because you had to liaise with the publishers a lot and that was what I enjoyed. I have always enjoyed meeting people outside my own work.

Some years ago, I was complaining to a friend that the National Book Council used to have lovely lunches with authors. The lunches weren’t anything to speak of but we had lots and lots of authors who came and spoke and sold some of their books. Inevitably, it got taken over and turned into a very expensive lunch at a hotel somewhere and then just faded out altogether. I missed those lunches and my friend said, “Why not join the Graduate Union? Any university graduate can join and they do have regular monthly lunches with really quite interesting speakers.” There was also a small group of women who met once a month and so I got involved in that, but sadly all the senior people organising it have died and I have rather got lumbered with it. I am praying that someone a bit younger will turn up who wants to organise it.

Did you write? Are you a writer?

No, but I wrote a manual on how to look after the journals in your library, and some journal articles. After I left CSIRO I went to work for a subscription agent. I had been at CSIRO a long time and that sort of specialisation was going out of fashion in libraries. They were tending to let clerical people do what I considered professional work. It was an American company based in Alabama with an office in Sydney and I was the Melbourne Office. This is how I came to Albert Park. I was working out of my flat and I needed a second bedroom as an office for my new job. Since I was not a Melbourne native I didn’t know Albert Park existed. I was living in Toorak and I didn’t really enjoy it there because I came from the country where you always knew your neighbours. Walking around Toorak there’s no way you could ring a doorbell and introduce your self. When I arrived here (in Albert Park) and saw all the verandas and things I decided this is where I wanted to live. I was lucky; it was 1981.

But unfortunately I got asthma in “Trendy Albert Park.” It was always called Trendy Albert Park. I said it’s not my fault it’s trendy, I certainly don’t add to it. Gradually my asthma got worse and worse and I had to retire. I lasted until I was sixty. Twenty-six years ago. I was representing Melbourne, Tasmania, South Australia – and because my family lived there, bits of Queensland too. The first couple of years after I retired I was sick a lot, but with new drugs it all settled down and I was able to pick up and start doing things again. I never move without a puffer. One lesson I have learned is to wear a mask to concerts and public places. Even if Covid-19 goes away completely I will always wear a mask now. And I am very conscientious with my preventers.

Did you give any classes at U3A?

No, there is so much volunteering involved in librarianship and I worked very long hours at CSIRO and then I was involved heavily with the Library Association. I do make an effort to join and attend things. I was in a lovely garden club here in Albert Park, which I think was one of the oldest garden clubs in the state, founded by Kevin Heinze and a man from the council at the time. We had our meetings in St Vincent Gardens. I remember being there and coming out one February night and you could smell the fires. Meetings were in some sort of hostel and the residents discovered that after a garden club meeting there was a nice supper available. Then the meetings went to the MKC.

You’ve seen some changes in the area then?

Three fruiterers were here when I moved in, now none. One was much better quality than the others. And we had butchers. And of course we had several banks. We don’t have any now. I will not on principle use that ATM near the chemist. Think of all those people whose pensions go into their bank accounts and every time they withdraw from that thing they are charged $2.50. It annoys me, so while I can go to Port I do. I could not believe they would close down the Commonwealth Bank. I’ve been with the CBA since I was about five or six. It was the CBA when you took your pennies and threepences to school in Queensland. And I worked for them in London. They were very good to us in London. We had winter jobs; they knew we weren’t going to stay. I never pretended that I would. And I always gave lots of notice and I worked in the bank right in the City of London – the Old Jewry.

What is that?

The City of London is separate from Westminster. It is where all the old banking institutions are still located. You will remember Prince Charles after he was originally proclaimed King had to go to the City and have a separate proclamation from Westminster. There are streets called Bread and Honey Lane and where the Commonwealth Bank was, it was called Old Jewry. The City has its own lord mayor.

It was a lovely experience in the City, and then they sent me to Australia House in The Strand. (All the states have a house.) It was right near St Clemens – I remember because if you were late for work you could hear the 9.00 am chimes of Oranges and Lemons. That was a great life – very careless. It was cheap in London then, theatre tickets were five shillings, seven and six for something extra special. I worked out, when I was sharing with some friends I had met there, it was cheaper to go out than to feed the gas meter. So we mostly went to concerts and plays. You didn’t stay home at night at all. I didn’t have a responsible job. I couldn’t have done that when I was at CSIRO where I worked until about 6.00-6.30 pm and then I needed to be home, with dinner and into bed, and back at work by half past eight the next morning. That is why having jobs that were fairly routine in London was just to give you sustenance. But you always got a midday meal with those London jobs, or a voucher to get yourself a midday meal. Of course that was 1960. The war wasn’t long over. There was still very much a sense of socialism looking after people who needed a meal. This silly woman who was the prime minister, believes in the trickle-down effect. It has been proven it doesn’t work and she wanted to go back to it. That’s when I became interested in politics, living in London, reading The Guardian, and The Sunday Times. Before Rupert owned The Sunday Times of course.

You are in one of the Current Affairs groups?

Yes, I’ve been in it for a long time. It’s very popular, which is why they’ve established the second group. It is interesting because at U3A all the people in the classes have interesting backgrounds, they all bring different experiences to the discussion. You find yourself in a class beside somebody whose life is very different from yours and you learn just from chatting. I’ve done a lot of interesting things at U3A but not as many as I would love to.

Elizabeth Carvosso was interviewed by Julie Butcher

Rumi Commons

Thank you wonderful U3A IT team and dedicated Tutors for helping us ‘Zoom’ along during the lock down period. You have made the difficult time so much more bearable for me. I came to Japan intending to be with our son for some extra time prior to the Olympics, when my husband also planned to join us. They didn’t tell us that the Olympics were to be cancelled, did they?

Arriving just a day before Narita Airport imposed a stricter quarantine, I decided to live in a self-imposed quarantine for two weeks; during this time my son shopped and cooked for us. After two weeks, it was my turn to shop and cook, and I loved it. The ready-made Sashimi and seafood are all so cheap, because restaurants are not buying them. I also get out for the daily morning radio exercises with local residents at a nearby park, wearing a mask and being careful to be 2 metres away from the nearest participant.

Rumi’s selfie at Asakusa Thunder Gate wearing the notorious Abenomask and a face shield

Japanese law doesn’t allow a ‘penalty’ for disobeying the lock down. Rather, it seems to operate on the ‘name and shame’ basis. Some Pachinko pinball parlours were ‘named and shamed’ for being open, and others complained that the naming ‘advertised’ and attracted more customers.

Rumi and the five tiered pagoda at Asakusa in downtown Tokyo.

I could have got back to Melbourne if I tried, but I am happily ‘stuck’ here using the Corona virus as a once in a lifetime excuse. I’ll probably stay here till Melbourne’s spring time. I’d miss U3A meetings, but I don’t want to add an extra burden to the medical team in Melbourne. Thanks to Corona crisis, the air normally polluted here in Tokyo is fresh and lovely, especially after the rain. Restaurants and shops are opening gradually back to normal. We are supposed to be in the rainy season, but there’s enough sunshine and blue sky to dry clothes. And when we feel safe enough, I want to see my friends who I used to go to school with.

Keep well, everyone, and thank you again, IT team and tutors.

(Photo) The block of small apartments disallow playing musical instruments, so I cheated and locked myself in this Japanese bath cubicle to ‘Zoom’ with the Ukulele and Choir classes. Thankfully, no one has complained to date.

Cheers – Rumi

How to Enrol

On-line: after bookings have opened

On-line enrolments are preferred as this significantly reduces the amount of back-office work for our volunteers.

  • Login to the U3APP.org.au website.
  • Go to the Courses & Enrolling page.
  • Scroll down to find the course that you are interested in.
  • Does the course have spaces available?
    • Click on the course name to go to the booking page.
    • Click on “Book for this course or event”.
    • You will receive a confirmation email.  Please check your Junk/Spam folders as these automatically-generated emails often finish up there.
  • OR is the course shown as FULL?
    • Click on WAITLIST.

Paper Enrolment Form: before bookings open for First Semester

  • Obtain a paper Enrolment Form either from the Office or by printing an online copy available here.
  • Complete the paper Enrolment Form and submit it to the Office.

The start date for acceptance of paper Enrolment Forms for first semester is published on the U3APP website and in the e-Bulletin. Enrolment Forms received before this date are treated as though they had been received on the start date (ie there is no advantage to be gained by submitting early). On the start date and thereafter, paper Enrolment Forms are numbered in order of receipt.  Paper Enrolment forms are processed by U3APP volunteers on the same day as on-line bookings.

If your enrolment is successful, you will receive a confirmation email.  Please check your Junk/Spam folders as these automatically-generated emails often finish up there.

If your enrolment is unsuccessful,  you will receive an email telling you that you have been waitlisted.

Via the Office: after bookings have opened

  • Contact the office in person, or by email or phone.