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In this interview with Community and Events Manager, Abbie, one of Mirthy's super users, Jane gives us some insight into her retirement, and how Mirthy came into her life...

Jane

What did you do prior to retirement?

I did 50 odd years in IT, then I had a couple of breakdowns due to the pressure of work and then a friend suggested I did a training course she was running in London on housing benefit and I ended up doing appeals on the tribunal for housing benefit.

Then I retired 7 years ago and I’ve never been so busy! I’m now doing things I want to do! I do all sorts of things. I’m vice-chairman of one of our local U3As and I do 11 of their groups, and I do about 9 different things outside of that. Pre-pandemic I was doing 46 meetings a month. I’m not one of these people who sits and does nothing. You’ve got to go out and get it haven’t you, can’t wait for it to come to you.

Did you pick up a lot of new activities in retirement?

A lot of it is new. I possibly had an interest before but nothing particularly exciting. I’m interested in industrial archaeology: canals and mills and things. So I was already a member of those sorts of groups anyway. Couldn’t join the U3A until I had retired!

Within U3A, I do brick business, crafts, crochet, drawing, family history, local history, quiz, solo lunches, theatre and travellers tails. Outside I do belly dancing, brush painting, industrial archaeology, mills group and nuclear society. Take your pick from that!

What did you find hardest about the pandemic?

A lot picked up on Zoom. Three or four times a year there’s 7 of us from school and we met up and now we Zoom every Sunday evening. But the main thing was people. I don’t think I could have got through without my cat! Takes the stress away!

When did you discover Mirthy?

I became the Vice Chairman of my U3A group last May, and I didn’t realise the role involved doing the speakers for the monthly meeting. And one of our speakers said “I’m not doing personal Zooms now, I’m doing it via Mirthy”. So from then on I’ve pushed it in the newsletter as well. Two or three times throughout the year I’ve written an article on Mirthy

First event?

It was last August- so it was a long time ago!

Favourite?

My favourite speaker is Sandy Leong - she gives such interesting talks. She’s obviously done such an awful lot of research in all her stuff. You’ve got subjects like industrial archaeology and history that I like as well (which is often Sandy’s stuff). There’s such a wide range of subjects you do with your talks so it covers such an awful lot of people.

Do you do any other events with us at all?

Pilates. I listen to most of your talks actually. I’m open to listening to anything.

How do you pick which talks you sign up for?

I sign up for anything! If I haven’t got anything in the diary at that time. So I do practically everything that you do! Must be one of your best customers! (Abbie can confirm, you are Jane!)

What keeps you coming back?

Something to do! The range of interesting subjects. And it does feel like a community- although I’m unlikely to ever meet anyone. You don’t have to be in a particular place. You can just log on and it’s there!

Typical week at the moment? Your diary must be packed!

I’m usually on a zoom twice if not three times a day/ I’m dealing with U3A stuff. I worked in Amsterdam so I’m refreshing my Dutch on Duolingo. Going out to see my brother and sister in law. And generally keeping in touch with people.

What’s most important for you about Mirthy?

Absorbing new interests and facts. The pilates coffee mornings are also social. I’ve done so many of Helen’s classes now that I feel as though I know her, “know” in inverted commas. I don’t mind chatting to everyone, so see how that develops I suppose.

How has Mirthy added to your week?

It’s filled up all the spaces where my groups had closed down. I look forward to them. I open up my calendar every morning and go “ah I’ve got two today!”

How would you describe Mirthy to a friend?

Easy access to interesting subjects. I can just sit here, the alarm goes 5 minutes beforehand, start the PC up and there it is! I know a lot of people have been very anti-Zoom but I don’t know how I would have coped without it. Living on my own, it’s nice to be able to keep in touch. And of course there’s the Facebook site as well.

Three words?

Interesting, affordable, and accessible.

What would you say to someone considering Mirthy?

Just do it! Just do it! No reason why not. It’s good, it’s accessible- if you can’t afford it, just do the free ones.

Jane is indeed a very involved member of the Mirthy community, and can often be found helping others to sign up for events through the Facebook group. She attends many Mirthy talks, and along with all her activities beyond Mirthy, still makes time for Pilates, Belly-Dancing and Art Workshops.