1999 – the end of the Millennium

Actually, I put that title in just because I'm sure it will wind a few people up (my brother included) who are adamant that the millennium doesn't end until December 2000. Me – I don't really care – I'll party anytime.

But on to the year. This year was dominated by a sad event in Mavis's family, when her father died on September the 13th. He was 89. He'd been taken ill with 'flu on New Year's Eve, and taken to Ipswich hospital when he collapsed. He stayed there a while, and seemed to be getting better, as a result of which he was taken to a convalescent hospital in Felixstowe. While there, he caught a stomach bug, which meant he got worse and was taken back to Ipswich. He didn't seem to get much better while he was there – boredom and dislike of the food seemed to be his main enemies – so we arranged to get him moved to Hartismere Hospital, which is only about 5 miles from where Mavis's parents live. Again, his time there seemed dominated by him having no real incentive to get better and with nothing to do during the day and not liking the food, he seemed to be drifting downhill. By June, we decided he'd be better off at home, so I started a campaign with the social services to get him "released". It took quite a while, a number of meetings and 'phone calls, but we eventually got him back to his own home by mid-July. He was far happier there, but he continued to get gradually worse, until the last day when he just didn't wake up.

But on to happier things …

Mavis's other momentous event for the year was giving up work. The hassle with her parents' health (her mum was ill at the same time), plus all the travel to Bury St Edmunds convinced her that 30 years' teaching was definitely enough. She's now a lady of leisure – but we can cover more of that in the other bits of the letter.

Holidays

Once again, I managed 2 skiing holidays during the year – the first to Les Deux Alpes with our friends (but with Mavis at home!). This trip was distinguished by Jules – the beginner in our group – falling and damaging her knee ligaments on her first morning. She took it very stoically, but it was a great shame for her. Mavis and I then went to Verbier at half-term, where I skied and she lunched. The journey there was interesting – we drove, and intended to stop at a convenient road-side motel. Unfortunately one didn't appear, so I ended up driving there in one go. We arrived at 7:30 on Saturday morning, which was a bit of a shock to the chalet staff. It was the time of the huge snowfalls and avalanches, and skiing was occasionally interesting, to say the least.

We didn't have a proper summer holiday. As a kind of alternative, I helped Mavis and 6 other school staff to take eighty 13 year-old children to France for a week, on an activity holiday. It was mostly pretty interesting and enjoyable – the thing I learnt was how omniscient teachers must be – I lost count of the number of times one of the children said "Sir – what am I doing next?".

We also took a quick trip to Cherbourg to try to see the eclipse. As with most of Northern Europe, it was almost complete cloud. However, we did get a few very brief breaks and managed a few snaps.

In September I presented a paper at a Conference in Cannes. Again, it doesn't really count as a holiday, (for me, anyway), but it was a nice break. We were entertained to a champagne reception on a boat in Cannes harbour on the first evening (which was nice). My presentation was well received and we did manage to get one afternoon off to look around the area.

House

We've at last managed to get the extension/loft conversion started. We submitted plans late last December, but the design of the loft extension didn't meet with our next-door neighbour's approval, and we had to spend a long time working out changes. We eventually got the go ahead around July, and building started in August. The photo shows the new gable extension, which sits over the old breakfast room. Once it's all complete, we'll have a new bedroom and shower room/toilet in the loft, together with a huge workroom, and a bigger garage and breakfast room downstairs.

Hobbies

Singing continues as before. This year's activities were the usual round of concerts with Ipswich G&S in the early part of the year, and then the show – Pirates of Penzance in November. I played the part of James, one of the minor principal parts, and Mavis did some of the costume design and the make-up. We sold every single ticket – over 3,000 in all.

I was also lucky enough to be asked to do some parts in other groups' performances – I sang the part of Nabucco in the opera of that name in Long Melford, and shared the singing of Elijah in Mendelssohn's oratorio in Earl Stonham.

Mavis has started 2 daytime courses – water colour painting and couture tailoring, both of which she's wanted to do for ages. I'm hoping for a new Dinner Jacket from the latter course…

Work

For Mavis, there's not much to report, since she now doesn't (except perhaps to remark that her old school has an Ofsted inspection in January, and it cheered her up no end that she won't need to worry about it). She now devotes her time to cooking (which is nice for me) and planning the garden.

I've had a variety of organisational changes, which I won't bore you with, but perhaps the most interesting thing was that this September was the 25th anniversary of my starting work with the Post Office. To mark the occasion, Paul Collins arranged a reunion at our old college (Horwood House), and of the original 19 PO Students who started 25 years ago, 18 attended (the other lives in the USA). We repeated many of the daft things we did all those years ago – although we did stop short of throwing the tutor in the pond again.

The Family

Tinga and Tucker are now both 12, and are getting on as well as ever.

Mavis's SignaturePhil's signature

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

12 December 1999

Mr & Mrs P E Holmes
Paddock Hill
Grundisburgh Road
Great Bealings
Woodbridge
IP13 6PE