Daily Express

Staff ‘at breaking point’ go on strike at 60 universiti­es

- By Alan Jones By Kat Hopps

THOUSANDS of university staff will strike today in a dispute over pay, conditions and pensions.

Up to 43,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) at 60 universiti­es, from lecturers to administra­tors, will walk out for five days this week and for three days from December 2, disrupting lectures for more than a million students.

And UCU general secretary Jo Grady warned of more strikes in the new year.The union said staff had reached “breaking point” over workloads, pay cuts, a gender pay gap and changes to the Universiti­es Superannua­tion Scheme, which the union claims will leave lecturers £240,000 worse off in retirement.

Ms Grady said: “More people are joining the union and there is a real feeling of anger.”

Carol Costello, for the employers, said: “The union was insisting that employers should pay the full cost of an increase in pension contributi­ons and hadn’t been prepared to compromise.

“Employers are prepared to invest in our people, but unaffordab­le sums of money would have to be diverted from other budgets unless members make a fair contributi­on.

“It has been a complete red line for them and has made negotiatin­g impossible.”

Universiti­es were working hard to ensure that students do not miss out or are disadvanta­ged by the strikes, she added.

THE LASTING measure of a life well lived is the memories we leave behind. They are both the path to our past and life lessons for our future. But all too often, when elderly relatives die, their untold stories go with them, leaving children and grandchild­ren without the answers they crave: What were you like as a child? Who was your first love? Do you have any regrets?

All too often it is a sad irony many of us only realise what we’d like to have known when the answers are beyond our reach.

But what if our loved ones could preserve their voices by telling their life stories in book form, audio or video? Growing numbers of us are doing exactly that.

For some it is a way of keeping memories alive for relatives, for others it is a way of bookmarkin­g their place in history.

For Mary May, 63, from the historic village of Mews in Somerset, it is both. She recently completed her life story, a 15-minute film, with company DocYouTV. Like others who have given their consent, it will be shared on YouTube for future generation­s to enjoy.

The company’s founders Anne Cantelo and Jake Shaw believe it is a service that “will soon become as common as the wedding video”.

Mary, who has striking blue eyes and ivory hair, lost her husband Terry to prostate cancer four years ago.

“When Terry died, I really thought the end of the world had come,” she tells me after filming her video, as we sit in a corner of her local pub.

“Without friends and family it would have been almost impossible but I can’t believe how much better life has become since and I would have liked to have heard that from someone.”

Now retired, Mary was an education officer at a local quarry, and has lived in Mews since she was a child. She says the village was instrument­al in helping her and her two children through their grief as it “wrapped itself around us”.

Her video is as much a love letter to the husband she lost and the neighbours who saved her as it is a life story.Two hours earlier I watched Mary as she recounted her experience­s for the camera – the good times, the bad and the funny.

Mary’s script had already been knitted together with gentle coaxing from Anne, in prior phone calls and a face-to-face chat.

On the surroundin­g table were photograph­s, later interwoven into the finished film. Mary was only a child when she first met her future husband. He was a few years older and she was not attracted to him at first when they reached their teens.

“I didn’t like Terry but he grew on me,” she recalls. “The first thing he ever gave me was a rabbit called Bunty. I thought it was the most lovely thing to do. Later on, he told me he only gave it to me because it kept escaping and was such a nuisance.”

We learn how winning a game of darts earned Mary a Babycham and brandy from her new beau before they danced the night away on New Year Eve’s, eventually becoming inseparabl­e. After their marriage, they lived as tenants of the “eccentric” village vicar.

“The rent was £5 a month and you had to cook the vicar Sunday dinner,” Mary recalls. “Being young I was really scared about this. It often went badly. Once he brought these ducks and they were peppered with shot. I didn’t know what to do with them. He just picked them out and put them on the side of the plate.”

The film becomes especially poignant when Mary discusses Terry’s cancer diagnosis and his death six years later. Here viewers get a real insight into the devastatio­n of grief.

“Nothing can prepare you for it, I didn’t know who I was any more,” she says.

But the villagers helped her find hope in a unique way. Before he became ill, Terry used to manually wind the village church clock each day, something he enjoyed so much he wrote a poem called The Clock Winder.

After his death, the poem was carved into a piece of oak to be displayed in the church, copied word

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 ??  ?? HOLIDAY: Mary and Terry in Llansteffa­n, South Wales
HOLIDAY: Mary and Terry in Llansteffa­n, South Wales
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