Thank you to:

Alan Marshall - for his photos of an autumnal riverside walk in Grantham

Michael Warren for photos of his local area, Weston On Trent

Anne Bitton for her photo of trees in woods around Allestree, Derby.

All lovely autumnal images to compare with the wintry shades of January.

Maxine, dressed for winter

Regional News

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope it's better than the last one! Not all of us made it through unscathed. I'm sure your Christmas and New Year celebrations were different to normal, but I hope you were able to see or at least be in touch with the people who matter most to you.

If you have discovered a nice walk during lockdown please do share it with your Local Officer as outdoor events are more likely to actually happen for the time being. Yes, in winter, I know, but hey ho, we'll be fit and healthy! You are also most welcome to contact myself or your Local Officer with suggestions for future events when we get back to whatever normal turns out to be.

East Midlands is the third largest region of British Mensa (after London and South East) and hopefully that means despite these difficult times you still value your membership, and the Mensa office can help with reduced fees in certain circumstances so please don't just leave without speaking to them.

We're still looking for volunteers to join our friendly team in the roles of Online Events Officer, Northampton Local Officer, and Luton Local Officer. Give me a call or drop me a line for further information please. It really is a pleasure to work with such a lovely bunch of people and you will be supported in any role by us as well as by the Mensa office.

Maxine Bates

Regional Officer

Carole, dressed for winter


Happy New Year to you all, and I hope 2021 will prove to be an improvement on 2020 - the year that held so much promise and frankly let us down. Are you daring to make plans yet or holding back?

Last January I resolved to be at home more and to spend more time in the garden - so at least I achieved some of my goals - whether I liked it or not.

Creativity has helped me through - making home made Christmas presents, drawing, painting, quilting and finally achieving my daily word target for the book that's been bubbling last January.

Speaking of which - check out the back page for news of Mensans who have not only reached their daily word targets, but who have finished books and got them published - a great achievement.

There are always lots of ways to keep in touch with Mensa. The Facebook group, East Midlands Mensa always offers the opportunity for a chat (within the usual confines of polite and kind conversation of course). Check out the Brightspace page too. Also, please remember to update your profile on the main website at Once you've added your email address you can be sure you will never miss any important news or announcements.

Well I hope 2021 finds you all well - keep safe everyone and let's embrace the opportunities of the new year.

Carole Pollard

Update your email address at to make sure you receive news and updates

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 20th Jan at 7:30pm - 3WOTM Online

Here’s the monthly Derby meeting on Zoom. Pen has volunteered to host as Susan is double booked. Join us for a chat without going out into the cold. It’s likely to last for about an hour and twenty minutes. Please contact Susan for the Zoom link on [Email]. For questions on the day, Pen is on [Email]

Susan Graves

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

photo of Steve Thomas

Hertfordshire Happenings

On Thu 7th Jan at 8:00pm - FThOTM

We will again be joining the Sudbury (East Anglia region) Zoom meeting. The meeting number and Passcode are not finalised at the time of going to press. If interested please see the FThOTM Virtual Meeting listing in the East Anglia column. Previous Zoom meetings have provided lively and interesting conversation, and new faces are always welcome. Please call or [Phone Number] email [Email] for details.

Steve Thomas

Contact [Email] or [Mobile Number] for details

photo of Haydn Starkie

In Leicestershire

On Sat 16th Jan at 10:00am - Walk

If the weather is suitable, please meet me by the police box in the Newtown Linford car park of Bradgate Country Park (parking charges apply). From there we can take an invigorating morning walk in the park, work off some of the Christmas excesses and enjoy a good natter. You are welcome to bring a friend/partner. For directions or encouragement please contact me on [Phone Number] or email [Email].

On Mon 18th Jan at 8:00pm - Pub Social

Join me for our usual convivial third Monday of the month gathering at the Cradock Arms, 201 Knighton Road, Leicester, LE2 3TT. You are welcome to bring a friend or partner. Look out for the Mblem or Magazine. If you need any directions or encouragement, please contact me on [Phone Number] or at [Email].

On Sat 30th Jan at 7:00pm - Pub meal

Due to November's national lockdown, we were unable to meet, so we are going to try again to go to the Miller & Carter Steakhouse, 933 Loughborough Road, Rothley LE7 7NJ. Please note that there is a dress code of smart/casual. Booking in advance is essential so please let me know by 23rd January if you would like to join us. Contact me on [Phone Number] or e-mail [Email]

Haydn Starkie

Contact [Email] or [Mobile Number] for details

photo of Jacquie Harrison

Lively Lincs

On Sat 2nd Jan at 12:30pm - Zoom lunch and discussion

Note FIRST Saturday of the month this time. As a break from thinking about New Year resolutions, this month we're going to talk about our “Favourite Pipe Dreams” 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 Thu 28th Jan at 7:30pm - Relaxed quiz

All welcome to a fun general knowledge quiz on Zoom. 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

photo of Val Hinkins

Mid Bucks

On Fri 1st Jan at 2:00pm - Games Afternoon

If “rules” permit we will have a face-to-face games meeting in our well-ventilated conservatory. If not, please join Dave and Alison on-line for a relaxed and informal afternoon of board games and chat. All members and friends are welcome, but must book in advance. 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 Sun 3rd Jan at 2:00pm - Games Afternoon

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

On Fri 8th Jan 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]

On Sat 16th Jan at 12:00pm - Turkish Lunch

Keep the date free and if rules permit join me in High Wycombe to celebrate Mark’s birthday at Historia Turkish Restaurant. For up to date information see: 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]

On Sun 17th Jan at 2:00pm - Games Afternoon

Please join Dave and Alison on-line for a relaxed and informal Sunday afternoon of board games and chat. All members and friends are welcome. We will be using and either Skype or Zoom for chat. For more information & connection details please contact Dave a few days beforehand. Either telephone him on [Phone Number] or e-mail to [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 9th Jan at 11:30am - Walk

Weather and Covid permitting, we are going to wander around the charming little town of Olney. Meet 11.30am by the war memorial in the market square. Contact [Email], or [Phone Number] / [Phone Number] beforehand to confirm it’s going ahead.

On Mon 18th Jan at 7:30pm - 3MOTM Quiz

Fun general knowledge quiz via Zoom. Link will be publicised nearer the time via social media, or contact Jo at [Email], or [Phone Number] / [Phone Number].

On Sun 24th Jan at 10:30am - Sunday Breakfast

Join us online via Zoom as we chat over breakfast. Zoom link will be publicised nearer the time via social media, or contact Jo at [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 Tue 5th Jan at 8:00pm - 5OTM

Please check with Maxine on [Phone Number] or [Email] whether we will be able to meet for a drink and chat at the Vat & Fiddle pub on Queensbridge Road.

On Sat 9th Jan at 10:30am - Walk

Meet in the car park at Attenborough Nature Reserve (NG9 6DY) for a socially distanced walk around one of their trails spotting the wildlife. Accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Parking is an optional £3 donation towards keeping the reserve open. Please check this event is going ahead due to COVID restrictions as we may be limited in numbers or simply the good old weather! Possible lunch in their cafe afterwards.

On Thu 14th Jan at 7:30pm - Natter & Nosh

Will we be able to meet for dinner and drinks at The Cadland on High Road in Chilwell? Contact Maxine on [Phone Number] or [Email] to find out.

On Tue 26th Jan at 7:30pm - Eating Meeting

Please contact Maxine to find out if our restaurant visit is able to go ahead this month and if so where.

Ciao for now!

Maxine Bates

Contact [Email] or [Phone Number] for details

Creativity in Lockdown

The Wing Cutter, ready to cut foam

Bruce Porteous uses unexpected free time to complete a long abandoned project.

I like making things and have always been fascinated by aeroplanes so it was fairly inevitable that I would build model aircraft as a hobby. Radio controlled aircraft can be built in a number of ways but one way of producing wings is to hot-wire cut a foam core and skin the core in balsa or obechi wood. Cutting foam cores is a fairly involved process and involves making templates to guide the wire followed by carefully moving the hot wire over the templates to cut the shape.

A couple of years ago I decided to build a computer controlled hot-wire cutter. This works by using motors to drive the path of each end of the hot wire under the control of a computer (well, strictly 2 computers). This wasn't the first version - about 25 years ago I built a much cruder cutter. The lockdown gave me ample opportunity to move the mark 2 version forward and to actually finish the beast.

There have been some interesting problems to solve such as:- How do I move 4 motors so they all arrive at their destinations at the same time? How do I fit a smooth curve round the wing section? How do I make sure both ends of the wire go round the front of the wing at the same time even when the sections on either end might be different? How do I drive (Stepper) motors at a controlled rate?

The mark 1 was controlled by an original, and very solid IBM PC-AT - at one point state of the art with its massive 5MB hard drive. The cutter was largely made from MDF board, and to allow for tapered wings was driven by 4 motors bought at considerable expense from an electrical surplus store with homemade drivers

25 years on it's interesting to see what's changed. The maker movement has undoubtedly driven change and opened up availability of parts. These days inexpensive motors, sophisticated stepper motor drivers, and mechanics are available from the likes of Alibaba, Bangood and Amazon. There are just so many resources today for anyone who wants to build anything mechanical - just look at the explosion of devices like 3d printers and laser cutters.

Computer technology has also moved on dramatically in those 25 years with a rough doubling of power every 2 years. Over 25 years that's a factor of 4000 or so in compute power! To bring this into perspective - the PC-AT cost several thousands of pounds new. Compare that to the little controller card which I now use to control the motors. This is smaller than a credit card, has about 100 times the processing power of the PC-AT and cost less than £20 !!

What's less obvious is that the increase in computer power makes sophisticated software available to anyone who wants to dabble. Whatever your (software!) problem, someone somewhere will probably have solved it before you and environments such as Arduino and the omnipresent Raspberry Pi open up powerful and cheap computing devices to everyone.

It's been a fascinating project, not just in getting it working but seeing just how much things have moved on over the years and the resources available to anyone who wants to have a go making something with a mind of its own.

Mensans in Print

Display of books including Queenie's Teapot, Floreat Queenie, Spirit of Adventure, A Short Walk on a Bike,
             A Yellowbelly Childhood, The Adventures of Gorrin the Gnome, Midges, Maps and Muesli, Travels with Cookie, 
             and Pull the Door Marked Push

What do these books have in common?

They are all written by Mensans, and cover a vast range of interests, including travel, political satire, adventure, memoirs and Mensa itself.

Most are signed by the author, although sadly two of them are no longer with us.

Have you ever written a book? Tell us about it!

Mensans Stitching

Cross-stitched scarecrow onto a pennant, Scarecrow has blue hat, red an white scarf, green shirt and blue trousers with a red and white checked patch. A couple of birds are perching on it.

This is Tara O'Brien's cross-stitched scarecrow. He was completed using some re-purposed fabric her friend was going to throw away.

He's lovely Tara!

20 Questions (No. 231)

The answers from our November competition were DAX, David Copperfield, Danville, Darius, Dave, Data, Das Kapital, Dalai Lama, Dambusters, Dark Sky, Dacia, Dagon, Daks, Dara Ó Briain, Darwin, Dawes, Dabchick, Dada, Dagestan and Daffodils. The winner was Lynn Faulkner from Nottingham. Congratulations Lynn.

Many thanks to Geraldine Reeks for compiling this month's competition on the subject of genealogy and things you might encounter if tracing your family tree.

Send your answers to:- '20 Questions (No. 231)', [Address] or [Email] by 20th January. Don't forget to include your name and address!

The prize will now be a £10 One4All gift card valid online or in store at over 130 high street brands and restaurants offering a wider choice where to spend it.

1. How often is a national census held?

2. What year did civil registration of births, deaths and marriages begin?

3. Before civil registration which was used to trace baptisms, marriages and burials?

4. How long are census records held before they are released to the public?

5. What date is the oldest census record collection commonly used by researchers?

6. What new information did the 1911 census record?

7. What does the initials I.G.I. stand for?

8. Which group of people are responsible for the I.G.I?

9. What is the study of coats of arms and family crests called?

10. What famous publication would you refer to for information about a titled person?

11. Where are the national archives stored?

12. What does the word 'spurious' mean after a baptism record?

13. Why is there no 1931 census?

14. What did the 1939 register record?

15. What is the term for a woman's surname before she is married?

16. How many great, great, grandparents do you have (assuming no illegitimacy in any line)?

17. What relation would your grandmother 's sister be to you?

18. What year did the calendar year change from starting on 25thMarch to start on 1stJanuary?

19. In what year did proving of wills change from being an ecclesiastical to a civil function?

20. What language are many early records written in?