The members sit at socially distanced barrels
Mensan households/bubbles join an organised tour of the White Peak Distillery to learn about the making of gin and whisky. It would have been rude not to try some!
The distilliary tanks and pipework
Close up of one of the tanks

Regional News

I'll try to keep this column short as Mark has lots to cram in this month thanks to two of our members Sarah and Angie sharing their amazing experiences with us. Well done ladies on doing something so exciting with your time when most of us have been stuck at home for months!

As is now standard, please do check with the host that any in person event advertised is going ahead in this fast-changing world. We do have some online Zoom events hosted by Local Officers and I'll be hosting another quiz on the East Midlands Mensa Facebook group at 7.00pm on Thursday 17th. Just log on, I'll post some general knowledge questions and you can test those brain cells whilst enjoying a mince pie or glass of mulled wine from the comfort of your armchair! Not quite the same as our usual Christmas meals and party nights, I know!

We are still seeking an Online Events Officer(s) to take up a new role of arranging and encouraging online events in the region. A critical role in this new world. Please get in touch if you may be interested as we'd love to welcome you to our friendly team. Thanks as always, and even more so this year, to the Mensa office staff and volunteer officers of East Midlands Mensa for doing their utmost to keep things going in these strangest of times.

If you're reading this you made it to the end of level 2020! Let's hope level 2021 is much easier! I truly hope you are able to enjoy the festive season with loved ones and very much look forward to seeing some of you as soon as we can.

Maxine Bates

Regional Officer

Staff of the distilliary describe some of their products


Welcome to the December edition of Empress. This is my last one before Carole takes over again. If you have not already done so then please let the office ([Email]) know your email address. The regional newsletters can be available electronically in the future, so it is vital that the office can contact you via email.

Mark Sloan

Events and Meetings

In the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus, the expectation is that all non-online events listed here are susceptible to being cancelled, if not already marked as such. If you intend participating in any event listed here, please contact the event organiser beforehand to confirm that the event is still on.
photo of Susan Graves

Derby Diary

On Wed 16th Dec at 7:30pm - 3WOTM Online

Have a pre-Christmas chat at our monthly Derby meeting on Zoom. We aim for it to last around an hour and twenty minutes. Wear your Christmas jumper or equivalent and have a glass/mug of a drink of your choice to hand with a mince pie. Please contact me for the Zoom link and with any questions. Contact Susan on [Phone Number] or [Email]

Susan Graves

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] / [Mobile Number] for details

photo of Steve Thomas

Hertfordshire Happenings

On Thu 3rd Dec at 8:00pm - FThOTM

Sadly, due to COVID-19 there can’t be a meeting at the Three Magnets, so we will again be joining the Sudbury Zoom meeting. The meeting number is [Requires Login], Passcode: [Requires Login] Previous Zoom meetings have provided lively and interesting conversation, and new faces are always welcome. Please call or [Phone Number] email [Email] for details. Or please visit the East Midlands Mensa or Brightspace Facebook group for updates.

Steve Thomas

Contact [Email] or [Mobile Number] for details

photo of Haydn Starkie

In Leicestershire

On Mon 7th Dec at 7:00pm - Zoom Dining

With the present uncertainty about our ability to meet together at a restaurant, I would like to invite you eat your chosen meal at home whilst joining in some stimulating conversation via Zoom. If the situation should improve and we can meet at a restaurant, I will ask Mensa head office to notify everyone in the LE postcode area by email. More information on [Phone Number] or email [Email].

Haydn Starkie

Contact [Email] or [Mobile Number] for details

photo of Jacquie Harrison

Lively Lincs

On Sat 12th Dec at 12:30pm - Zoom lunch and discussion

A theme rather than a discussion topic this month: “Christmas ornaments or food with a story”. Show and tell us about yours, and hear about others’, as we enjoy a friendly conversation over lunch. Email Jacquie in advance to request the link. If you haven’t used Zoom before, Jacquie is happy to run through it with you a few days beforehand. Contact Jacquie on [Email] or [Phone Number].

On Wed 23rd Dec at 7:30pm - Relaxed seasonal quiz

Ho ho ho, all welcome to a fun quiz on Zoom. Small prize if there’s no cheating! Teams of 1 or 2, but you can have more than one team per household on separate screens. Have snacks/drinks handy. Email Jacquie for the link in advance. If you haven’t used Zoom before, Jacquie is happy to take you through it a few days ahead. Contact Jacquie on [Email] or [Phone Number].

Jacquie Harrison

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] / [Mobile Number] for details

In Luton

photo of Val Hinkins

Mid Bucks

On Sun 6th Dec at 2:00pm - Games Afternoon

Please join Dave and Alison on-line for a relaxed and informal afternoon of board games and chat. All members and friends are welcome. We will be using and Skype for informal chat. For further dates, information, directions &/or connection details please contact Dave a few days beforehand. Either telephone him on [Phone Number] or e-mail to [Email]

On Fri 4th Dec at 10:30am - Coffee & Chat

Keep the date free and join me in High Wycombe for relaxed conversation, cake and coffee. Please contact me a few days beforehand to confirm the venue and that the meeting is going ahead on [Phone Number] or e-mail me at [Email]

For further details or encouragement contact me on [Phone Number] or e-mail me at [Email]

Val Hinkins

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] for details

photo of Jo Sidebottom

Mensans in MK & Bedford

On Sat 5th Dec at 12:00pm - Park walk & lunch

Weather and Covid permitting, we are going to wander around Bedford’s attractive Victorian town park, enjoying a pub lunch on the way. Meet 12 noon in Bedford Park car park (Foster Hill Road, by Robinson Pool). Contact [Email], or [Phone Number] / [Phone Number] beforehand to confirm it’s going ahead.

On Mon 21st Dec at 7:30pm - 3MOTM Quiz

The Plough may not be running their quiz so close to Christmas, so it’s safer to stick with the online option. Fun general knowledge quiz via Zoom, link available from Jo nearer the time - [Email], or [Phone Number] / [Phone Number].

Just a reminder about our M-MK & Bedford Facebook group – if you would like to join please search for the group and send me a request. I also keep an email distribution list for meeting reminders and any last-minute changes, so if you would like to be added to this please let me know.

We hope to see as many of you as possible at one or other of our events this month. Do remember that you’re welcome to bring a guest with you, so if you’ve never been to a Mensa event and are a little nervous about coming along on your own, just bring a friend.

Jo Sidebottom

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] / [Mobile Number] for details

News from Northampton

photo of Maxine Bates

Notts News

On Sat 5th Dec at 8:00pm - 5OTM

Will we be willing and able to meet for a drink at the Vat & Fiddle pub on Queensbridge Road (near Nottingham railway station and Castle Rock brewery)? Please check with Maxine on [Phone Number] or [Email]

On Sun 6th Dec at 11:00am - Walk

Join us for a winter woodland walk in Sherwood Forest Several marked trails to choose from ranging from 1 to 4 miles. Meet in the visitor centre car park (NG21 9RN). £4 per car to park all day payable by cash, card or contactless. Suitable for all ages. Contact Maxine on [Phone Number] or [Email] beforehand to check this event is taking place due to virus restrictions or weather.

On Thu 10th Dec at 7:30pm - Natter & Nosh

Please contact Maxine on [Phone Number] or [Email] to enquire whether dinner and drinks at The Cadland, High Road, Chilwell, will be possible.

On Tue 15th Dec at 7:00pm - 3TuOTM

The Newark group are in need of a new meeting venue as their regular one has closed as a casualty of COVID. Contact Pete on [Phone Number] or [Email] with suggestions and to find out if/when/how/where this friendly bunch will be getting together this month.

On Thu 17th Dec at 7:00pm - Online Quiz

Log onto the East Midlands Mensa Facebook group to test your general knowledge! Questions will be posted. Play along with your household/bubble. Then find out how much you really know when the answers appear! You might learn some trivia from the comfort of your sofa!

On Tue 29th Dec at 7:30pm - Eating Meeting

Sorry, no event this month due to the festive season. Hopefully normal service will resume in 2021.

Ciao for now!

Maxine Bates

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] for details

Obituary - Brian Samuels MBE

Brian, smartly dressed in white shirt and black bow tie

It is with great sadness we announce Nottingham member Brian Samuels has passed away aged 82. He was a retired secondary head teacher who achieved so much professionally and personally in his life, one highlight receiving theMBEfrom theQueen in 2008. Over the years Brian and his wife Pat enjoyed the finer Mensa events such as afternoon teas and dinner dances. He leaves Pat, his wife of 52 years, hisson, daughter and three grandchildren.

One positive from lockdown - a cycling adventure

A suspension bridge, spanning a pretty river
A look down over countryside, with a drystone wall in the foreground
A harbour with small sailboats in the foreground and brightly painted houses on a hill in the background
A rural scene, with a rainbow
Angie, standing by a Land's end sign showing distances to New York and John O'Groats

I'm a huge advocate of Mensa organised events as a basis for visiting other countries, taking advantage of local knowledge and sharing experiences with a group of like-minded individuals. It was thus that I began 2020 with plans to attend IMAG (Waterford), go see the Midnight Sun with Mensa Finland and then off to EMAG(Brno,Czech republic) aswell as theUK BMAG. This was in addition to a smattering of cycling trips and other short holidays. Like all of us though, I found my diary in disarray, a mass of cancellations and a surplus of holiday from work. This surplusI had to use or lose before the end of September.

For a long while, I have had the idea of cycling the length of our island from Land's End to John O'Groats or vice versa, known as the LEJOG or JOGLE cycle. Several years ago I had cycled from London to Land's End with the British Heart Foundation on a charity ride over 4 days, which was fun but very rushed. My idea was to do the standard LEJOG/JOGLE in a more relaxed way, perhaps in stages, and really enjoy the route and associated scenery, taking in the changes across the island as they occurred. I had thought this would be a retirement project, but here I was with the ideal opportunity of available holiday coupled with the need to make any trip UK based to avoid quarantine and/or yet more cancellations. It was in this spirit that I came to be organising the first leg of the proposed trip at relatively short notice this September.

Armed with the Cicerone guidebook I made plans. Most people who do this cycle seem to want to complete it in one go and take around 2 weeks. This book adhered to that general idea with 14 suggested stages covering just under 1000 miles.From Land's End they suggested a route through the West Country, past Bristol and up the Welsh border then northwards to Glasgow. Since I have a daughter in Liverpool, and Bristol was a good halfway mark, I decided this would make a nice 2 week trip to cover the first section of the LEJOG whilst giving time for a weekend break in Bristol to get clothes washed and also allow me to spend a couple of days at the end in Liverpool before getting the train back home. At some point in future, I could then go back to Liverpool and continue northwards. It was important that I had this little guidebook as I was carrying my luggage in panniers and would otherwise require 15 different OS maps, more than half of one pannier.

So, I began my adventure on Saturday 12th September with my trusty carbon fibre hybrid bike, with 2 panniers weighing in at 2 stone (12.7 Kg) catching the train from my home in Hertfordshire to Penzance and cycling the 10 miles to the hotel at Land's End. The next morning I set off and in the ensuing 12 days covered 437 miles, ascended a total of 38358 feet (some bits were VERY hilly), travelling through 10 counties in 2 countries to arrive in Liverpool. It was a fantastic trip. I was incredibly lucky with the weather, with only two days where I had any rainfall and one amazing day where there was lots of rain around but all I saw were wet roads and rainbows (I counted 4 or 5 different ones). Following on from the hills of Cornwall, including some I could barely walk up let alone cycle, onto the spectacular Dartmoor, I stayed with the hippies at Glastonbury and visited the Tor (great views), a particular highlight was crossing the Severn Bridge into Wales, Tintern Abbey and the Welsh valleys, Hereford (which I'd never been to before and was amazed at how pretty a city this is), then through the Wirral to cross the Mersey by ferry and arrive at my destination.

The route/plan had some flexibility if I needed it, but never did. The pre-booked B&Bs, hotels and inns were on a can cancel at last minute basis, but all worked well and I was pleased with all my choices. Cycling is lovely way to travel and see things that you might normally miss, taking you off the beaten tourist track (for example through the Wirral which was very interesting) and meeting more local people than you perhaps would otherwise. Not being in a particular rush meant I had time to enjoy places and talk to locals in cafes etc. The bike with all my luggage and guidebook always made for good conversation openers. Mensa is a great source of friends and contacts spread around the country/world. My trip also provided a chance to meet up with family and friends, many from Mensa, who I hadn't seen for awhile. These encounters made the trip extra special, particularly after the enforced lockdown we had all recently endured. I posted daily on facebook about my trip and the many comments and likes from friends also ensured that I never felt alone.

In the first weekend of lockdown, I had organised a Mensa cycle from London to Reading followed by events at Reading for the weekend. This was cancelled, but I still have an interest in potentially organising Mensa cycle tourswith likeminded individuals. I'm not a fast cyclist and enjoy touring at what most people would call a leisurely speed (average around 10 - 11 mph), and depending on terrain between 25 (very hilly) and 60 (flat easy) miles a day. If you are interested in getting together with a group of us trying something of that ilk then please feel free to contact me via email at

Hope you've enjoyed reading a little of my latest adventure.

Angie Wade from Letchworth

Sarah's Virtual London Marathon

Last summer I decided I needed to get fit. Having had a lay off from horse riding due to an injury, I was keen to get started again, and at 50 I knew it might take some time. So I started walking. I kept hearing about Park Runs, and eventually discovered these were free runs round a park, for 5km. Now to me, 5km seemed like an awful long way to run. I tried a run, but barely made it to the end of the road. This was kind of annoying, and so I resolved to complete the Couch to 5k. I distinctly remember quite early on you have to run for 20 minutes. That to me was a bit like climbing to Mount Everest base camp. But following the training and encouragement from the voices on the app, I did complete it. I quite liked the idea of doing some longer runs, and a seed of an idea got planted. I would run a Marathon. In fact, why not go all in and go for the London Marathon!

And so I found myself on Sunday 4th October, having run hundreds of miles in training, going through lockdown, heading out to run 26.2 miles. Of course, having had good weather throughout training, it was pouring with rain all day long on the day of the Virtual London Marathon. But after a mix up with my race number, and trouble with the app, I set off bright and early. By late afternoon, having popped home mid way for a change of clothes and some lunch, I finally hit the magic 26.2 miles. Except the app said I hadn't! I was running a back-up app, Garmin, which is usually very accurate; that said I ran 27.2 miles! I was fine to about 18miles, then had some pain in my hip, which meant a slow last part. I completed it in 6 hours 50 minutes of running, but when you account for time at home for lunch, the app gave a time of 7hrs 32.

My aim was only to complete, and complete I did. I was convinced I wouldn't be able to walk the next day, but I actually recovered straight away; yes I slept well that night, but by the next morning I was raring to go! No aches and pains. I highly recommend it as a one-off experience. Will I ever run the actual London Marathon? Never say never? ..

Sarah Barry of High Wycombe

20 Questions (No. 230)

There were just three entries for our Harry Potter quiz in the October issue. Having tested it on some serious fans I thought it would be challenging! Congratulations to David Crozier of St Albans who wins the £10 book token. The answers were Albus, 2, Sirius Black, broken wrist, Little Hangleton, Norwegian ridgeback, 7, Professor Sprout, sugar-free sweets, Parseltongue, Slytherin, mischief managed, Ford Anglia, September, Ernest Prang, Professor Moody, 700, pepperup potion, one galleon and Wizarding Wireless Network.

This month we have a festive quiz and a new prize. We have decided to offer a £10 One4All gift card that can be redeemed at dozens of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in store or online as feel this will be easier to spend in current circumstances. Please send your answers to arrive by 10th December (note earlier closing date) to [Address] or [Email] remembering to include your name and address in case you win. Any member from any region can take part.

1. Which country started the tradition of putting up Christmas trees?

2. Which reindeer's name begins with the letter B?

3. Christmas Eve is the name of a character in which stage musical?

4. Who wrote the poem 'The Cultivation Of Christmas Trees'?

5. Which US state was the first to recognise Christmas as an official holiday?

6. Which Australian city was hit by Cyclone Tracy on 25th December 1974?

7. How many gifts would you receive in total if you got everything in the '12 Days Of Christmas' song?

8. Which company was first to use Santa Claus in an advert?

9. What is the capital of Christmas Island?

10. Which festive food is made from marsh-whorts?

11. On which date is Christmas celebrated in Armenia?

12. Which German city was once known as the 'gingerbread capital of the world'?

13. In 'A Christmas Carol' what was Scrooge's first name?

14. Which Englishman banned the singing of Christmas carols?

15. What colour are the berries of the mistletoe plant?

16. Who composed the music to the song 'Silent Night'?

17. Frosty the snowman's nose is made of what?

18. What was the best-selling Christmas toy in 1980?

19. Which airport was taken over by terrorists on Christmas Eve in the 'Die Hard 2' film?

20. What is the most popular restaurant chain Japanese visit for their Christmas Day meal?