Slightly out of season.but we thought you might enjoy these pics of the Nottingham Mensa Christmas meal.

It looks like a good time was had by all – got to love those Christmas jumpers!


Regional News

Did you notice the change of format in the January issue of Empress, i.e. the LocSec columns disappearing? Did you miss them? Would you like to see them again? Or would you prefer to read articles such as the one about New Year traditions that Lucy put together? The change has resulted in mixed feelings amongst the LocSecs so your input would be greatly appreciated. Drop a line to either myself or one of the editors (details on the back page) if you have a strong preference. Remember, Empress is for YOU so YOUR opinions do matter.

We are continually seeking member profiles and ‘20 questions’ quizzes so if you’d like to submit either of those please email to me at [Email]. Thanking you in advance!

I would also welcome contact if you have any suggestions for events for pre-teens and teens in the East Midlands region. There are a lot of you – plus Mensa parents who have children – so we’d like to cater for you occasionally. Are there any activities that you’d like to do or places that you’d like to visit?

I look forward to meeting many more of you throughout the year.

Maxine Bates

Regional Officer

Events and Meetings

In the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus, the expectation is that all events listed here are likely to be 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 Val Hinkins

Mid Bucks

On Sat 6th Feb at 12.30pm - Lunch

Meet me at 12.30pm for a relaxed lunch at La Salute, Kingsbury, Aylesbury, HP20 2JA. This Italian restaurant comes highly recommended by a member. Full details can be found at I’ll reserve a table, so please book by 30th January.

On Sat 6th Feb at 2.30pm - Museum

After lunch we will walk to the nearby Buckinghamshire County Museum on Church Street, HP20 2JA. They will be hosting a selling exhibition by the British Institute of Professional Photographers. If you aren’t coming to lunch, there’s no need to book, just join us at the Museum at 2.30pm.

On Fri 26th Feb at 10:30am - Morning Coffee

Meet me from 10:30am onwards on for a morning of informal conversation and coffee. This month we are returning to The Cape on Station Road in Beaconsfield, HP9 1NN. Further details at If you can, please let me know in advance that you are coming so I can choose a suitable table. You will still be welcome if you just turn up on the day.

Val Hinkins

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] for details

photo of Christine Howells

Lively Lincs

On Sat 13th Feb at 12:05pm - Pub discussion

Our friendly pub discussion group will be meeting as usual at the 'Adam and Eve' on Lindum Hill, Lincoln, probably in the alcove, look for MBlem. This month's topic: 'The BBC: purpose? funding?'. Do join us for as long as you please, join in or just listen, food available, free car park.

On Tue 23rd Feb at 7:00pm - Eating Meeting

The midweek eating meeting will be returning to the ever popular Vincenzo's, West Parade, Lincoln. I'd be grateful if you would book with me by 18th if possible, thanks.

Christine Howells

Contact [Email] for details

photo of Jo Sidebottom

Mensans in MK & Bedford

On Sun 7th Feb at 11:00am - Town walk

Our first event this month is a leisurely walk around the historic town centre of Buckingham. This was very popular a few years ago so we thought it was worth repeating. We’ll meet at 11am in Cornwalls Meadow car park off the High Street, at the back of Waitrose. Contact me for directions and/or encouragement, and let me know you’re coming if you’d like us to look out for you. We may go on for lunch afterwards at a local restaurant.

On Mon 15th Feb at 8.30pm - Quiz

Our monthly visit to the Barge in Woolstone for the quiz. Meet from 8.30pm - the quiz starts at 9pm and costs £1 per person. Look out for the Mblem on a table. Please let me know beforehand if you’re coming so I can bag a large enough table.

On Sun 28th Feb at 10:00am - Sunday Breakfast

Sunday Breakfast will be on 28th at 10am at Carluccio’s in the Centre:MK. You will probably find us in one of the red booths just in front of the restaurant – look for the Mblem on a table. Come for a full breakfast, a snack, or just a drink.

We hope to see as many of you as possible at one or other of our events in February. 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

photo of Maxine Bates

Notts News

On Fri 5th Feb at 8:00pm - 5OTM

Thank you to everyone who came along to my little celebration of being Nottingham LocSec for 20 years back in November. It was a lovely evening seeing friends old and new and from near and far. Thank you also for the cards, presents and good wishes. It was also nice to see a few new faces at our December event. Long may it continue! Why not join us for our next event at the Vat & Fiddle pub on Queensbridge Road (near Nottingham railway station) from 8.00pm. We should be in the Goldings Room to the left of the bar with a yellow Mblem on display. You can pop in for a quick drink - alcoholic or non-alcoholic - to say hello or stay all evening.

Sorry, there will be no "second Thursday" get together on 11th at the Beekeeper as the pub will be closed for a major refurbishment. Normal service should resume next month.

On Tuw 23rd Feb at 7:30pm - Eating Meeting

Our “eating meeting” returns to Ania’s at 558 Mansfield Road in Sherwood for generous portions of home-cooked Polish cuisine. Come and sample pork, beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes for reasonable prices. Plus it's 2-4-1 on Tuesdays so even better value! I’ll be booking a table for 7.30pm so please let me know by 16th if you’d like a place as the restaurant is very popular.

On Fri 26th Feb at 7:30pm - Board Games

Whilst Richard is holding our “B” alphabet event in the south of our region I thought I’d hold one in the north too! So you are invited to my home in Langley Mill (NG16) from 7.30pm for an evening of board games. I have a selection but feel free to bring your own. There will be tea/coffee and nibbles but bring whatever else you’d like to drink. Get in touch if you need directions and also to let me know you’ll be there please.

Advanced Notices

On Saturday 14th May, it's my annual Eurovision party at my home in Langley Mill! Watch the contest on TV, heckle the acts, eat, drink, wear something and/or bring a buffet contribution relating to a European country. The fun starts at 7pm. Contact Maxine on [Phone Number] or [Email] for directions and to say you'll be there. Some beds/floorspace available for overnight guests.

A weekend based at Whinfell Forest CenterParcs. Parties, eating, drinking, swimming, walking, quizzes, tastings and much more or just relaxation in the beautiful Lake District if you prefer. Come and make lots of new friends of all ages. Friday 4th – Monday 7th November. Contact organiser Maxine on [Phone Number] or [Email] for further details.

Ciao for now!

Maxine Bates

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] for details

Derby Diary

On Wed 17th Feb at 7:30pm - 3WOTM

Just the one event this month as we’re still seeking a LocSec to take over the Derby area. Hint hint! We’ll be at the Standing Order (Wetherspoon) on Irongate in the city centre from 7.30pm until late. Look for a yellow Mblem on a long table in the low-ceiling area at the rear of the pub. All welcome for food and/or drink. On a couple of occasions we have invited another social group to join us – as several of us belong to both Mensa and this other group. It has seemed to work well with a good variety of conversation flowing throughout the evening. So unless any Mensans object we may continue to do this. As they say, variety is the spice of life! Mints and complimentary glass of rum punch. For menu choices and to book please contact me by the 17th. First come first served!

Maxine Bates

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] for details

More or Leicester

On Sun 7th Feb at 1:00pm - Medieval Leicester

One of the things that often irks me (and there are many!) is the fact that Leicester is always described as a “modern, industrialised city” – not true!! Why not come along and join an expert (Me!) for an introduction to Medieval Leicester, building up to the events of 30th May 1645 when the town was sacked during the Civil War. Meet 1pm at The Magazine and walk through to the castle, onto the medieval market at High Cross before ending up at The Guildhall where there’s a rather nice coffee shop. After that, there’s the opportunity to pop in and say hello to Richard III.

On Thu 25th Feb at 8:00pm - 4ThOTM

After all that exertion, it’s back to the usual Cradock Arms for our Fourth Thursday at 8pm. This is just over a week after my birthday, so if you want to bring cake..... no pressure..... just if you want to....

Paul Coulson

photo of Richard Allen

Hertfordshire Happenings

On Thu 4th Feb at 8:00pm - FThOTM

We are now at the Three Magnets, Leys Avenue, Letchworth. Thursday nights are curry nights but other food (standard Wetherspoons' fare) is available as well. Leys Avenue is the main shopping street in Letchworth and is a few minutes' walk from the station (Kings Cross to Cambridge line). Call me for more details and encouragement.

On Sun 21st Feb at 2:30pm - Board Games

B is for board games; I shall be hosting a board games afternoon at my place from 2.30pm. Tea, biscuits, cakes and awful jokes also provided! If you'd like to come, please call me for further details and encouragement. I'm about ten minutes' walk from the station. Backgammon beginners or those wanting to learn are especially welcome.

On Fri 26th Feb at 8:00pm - LFOTM

Last Friday is at our usual venue of the Cowper Arms, Digswell. The pub is next to Welwyn North station and is served by stopping trains from Kings Cross to Peterborough and Cambridge. Good food, beer and conversation guaranteed! Please call me for more details and encouragement.

Richard Allen

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] for details

photo of Bob Ford

Luton Leisure

On Tue 2nd Feb at 7:30pm - FTuOTM

We will have the usual first Tuesday of the month meeting at the Brache Beefeater, Osborne Road, opposite the Vauxhall Design Building. There is parking on site. Come along for a drink and a chat, or just the chat. Food is available at the bar or in the restaurant from the same menu. New faces will be welcome to join our group. Contact Bob for directions or more details.

Bob Ford

Contact [Email] or [Mobile Number] for details

The Beauty of Bolsover

Imagine a sort of 17th century Lady Gaga. There you have Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, and a super celebrity who made a great and controversial impact on London society in the 1660s. Margaret always set out to shock, not only by designing her own clothes, but also by adopting the latest avant-garde fashions including a fashion set by Queen Christina of Sweden for cross dressing. Shockingly, she not only dressed like a man but behaved like one too, making “a fine man's leg” by bowing instead of curtsying.

A Restoration beauty, stalked, unsurprisingly, by Samuel Pepys, Margaret was however much more than a fashion icon. A thinker, writer, intellectual, proto-feminist, she also shocked society by her advanced views. Who did she think she was, this mad woman who pontificated on subjects more appropriate to a gentleman's conversation? “There are many far soberer people in Bedlam than Margaret Cavendish” concluded one female commentator. But although dissed by her peers, Margaret commanded the respect of the minds that really mattered. She was a personal friend of the political philosopher and near neighbour, Thomas Hobbes, and corresponded with the likes of Rene Descartes. Up until 1945, when it was finally opened up to women, this writer of the world's first SF novel ever written by a woman was also the only woman ever to be invited to attend a meeting of the Royal Society. As for her husband William Cavendish, he was delighted to have as a companion a woman who was not only beautiful, but brainy too, whilst Margaret forgave his indiscretions by remarking “...he has been a great lover and admirer of the female sex; which, whether it be so great a crime as to condemn him..., I'll leave to the judgment of young gallants, and beautiful ladies.”

This brilliant and fascinating woman would certainly be a prime candidate for Mensa membership were she alive today. If Margaret had outlived her husband, Bolsover Castle would have become her Dower House, and we are planning a visit on 5th March, meeting in the Castle's Visitor Centre at 1.00pm. The prices quoted are the basic admission prices: for those wishing to support the work of English Heritage there is also a gift aid price which enables them to reclaim the tax paid on the whole of the entrance fee. I will be leading a free tour of the Castle as part of the visit which because of the number of steps involved in the Little Castle and around the site may not be suitable for visitors with limited mobility.

Look in the “What's On” section of the magazine for details.

I look forward to meeting you there.

Greg Monks

Member Profile

Portrait photo of Helen Krasner
Helen Krasner
Kniveton, a small village near Ashbourne, at the southern end of the Peak District. I've been here about ten years, but I've lived in many other places before that – Croydon, Edinburgh, Northern California, and North Wales.
When did you join Mensa?
Why did you join?
Sheer, idle curiosity. I was a psychology graduate and knew what my IQ was, so I knew I was eligible to join. I just wanted to find out what it was about.
What does Mensa mean to you?
Not a huge amount really. It has some fun meetings and events, and I've made a number of good friends through it. But it's just one among a number of organisations and activities in my life. And if the subscription rate gets any higher I may well leave!
Have you attended any events? If so, what were they like?
I went to my first meeting soon after joining; it was in Croydon, where I was living at the time. I didn't think much of it; in fact I was bored stiff, so I didn't go to any more for a while. Then the following year I walked 5,000 miles around the coast of Britain. I met many Mensans on my route, and when I got home I decided to give things another try. I went to a few meetings and weekends and liked some of them, so when I moved to Wales I became a Loc Sec, then Assistant Local Groups Officer. Later I got involved in other things and had less free time, so I eased off a bit. Now I go to one or two events a month. Overall some Mensa events are good, some bad, some indifferent – like most things in life really.
Do you belong to any SIGs? If so, which ones?
At present I'm in Cat SIG, Aviation SIG, Professional Writers SIG, and Travel SIG. I've joined and left others at various times. I started the Welsh Language SIG and ran it for five years, but unfortunately it went downhill a few years after I gave up, and eventually ceased.
What is your occupation?
I was a helicopter pilot and instructor for some years, and also a freelance writer. Then I combined the two and earned my living by aviation writing. I still write for a couple of flying magazines, but I'm semi-retired now.
Any hobbies or interests?
Cats, cats, and more cats! I'm a mad cat lady, living with a mad cat man and our four felines. I used to show my Maine Coons, and I'm presently a volunteer for Cats Protection; I cuddle and groom their cats; a tough job, but someone has to do it. I also enjoy travel, yoga, and ballroom dancing – though I'm still something of a beginner at the last of those.
Anything else?
I've had a number of books published, both print books and eBooks for the Kindle. The first was “Midges Maps & Muesli”, which is an account of the 5,000 mile walk round the coast of Britain mentioned above. The most recent is “Travels With Cookie”, written in collaboration with my partner David Thomas, the story of his five years living on a canal boat with his cat Cookie, before we met. The others are mainly about different aspects of aviation, both fixed-wing and helicopter. All of them can be found on Amazon, or you can simply Google my name. I still have a few signed copies of some titles available; email me at for details.

Would you like to submit a profile for inclusion in Empress – all contributions, as always, very welcome. Just email for more information.

20 Questions (No. 173)

The answers to our December competition were George V, Australia, Beagle 2, white, Oliver Cromwell, Chris Rea, Christmas cracker, the nativity, Irving Berlin, Melchior, 1984, 364, Griswold, 12, Jacob Marley, Tracy, Oklahoma, Dr Seuss, cranberry sauce and Welsh. The winner of the £10 book token was Rita Beeson of Bedfordshire. Congratulations!

This month we have a competition for all you well-read people compiled by Mark Sloan. Send your answers to arrive by 20th February to ‘20 Questions (No. 173)’, [Address] or [Email]. Don’t forget to include your name and address!

1. Which novel is the story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza?

2. Which 1719 book has gained wide acceptance as 'the first English novel'?

3. What was Rudyard Kipling's given first name?

4. 'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen' is the first line from which book?

5. Which novelist wrote 'Cannery Row' and 'East of Eden'?

6. Which Washington DC born Oscar-winning actress wrote 'A Lotus Grows in the Mud'?

7. Which famous past British political figure wrote Sybil?

8. Which lead character was the budding author in the The Waltons?

9. On which date is Burns night celebrated?

10. Which Victorian author wrote the plays 'Frozen Deep' and 'No Gobblins'?

11. Who in 1907 was the first English writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

12. In literature who lived at Seven Savile Row?

13. Who wrote the adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps?

14. Who wrote Moll Flanders in 1722?

15. 'Call me Ishmael' is the opening sentence of which novel?

16. Who taught at the Marcia Blain School for Girls?

17. About which game or pastime has the most books been written?

18. Who wrote A Town Like Alice?

19. What kind of book is a Nebula Award given for?

20. Who was Sir Percy Blakeney better known as?