This year saw a number of changes for both of us and the house. Read on for details ...
Mavis started the year as a woman of leisure. However, she kept her eye on the "Sits Vac" in the local paper and was excited to see an advert for a seamstress for an opera company based locally. She duly applied and was delighted to get the job. She works freelance for First Act Opera, who are a private opera company, putting on a variety of shows, from complete operas to "best of" type concerts. They now also run a nursery and Mavis did some of the painting and creation of the childrens' play costumes for the nursery. I'm the webmaster for both the opera web site www.firstactopera.co.uk and the nursery web site (www.mulberrynursery.org.uk).
I've also had quite a significant change to my work during the year. At the start of the year I managed about 85 professional engineers working on the design and development of computer systems that manage BT's data network. By the start of the year I'd decided I'd being doing that sort of thing for long enough and got a new job within the central "Group Technology" function as the BT Group Chief Systems Architect, with only 1 person working for me. It's been a good change. I've travelled much more (Amsterdam, Ottawa, New Jersey, Brussels, Zurich, Stockholm) - not that I enjoy that terrifically - and now have much more freedom to organise my time and work. I think I now use my brain cells more now.
The work on our house, which started last year, was completed around March of this. We've now got an upstairs to the bungalow, with a pretty big work-room, a shower-room/toilet and a spare bedroom. It wasn't cheap, but we think it was worth every penny. I'd like to put some pictures here giving an idea of what it's like, but we can't get any that do it real justice. You'll have to come and look.
The work on the house again limited our scope for summer holidays. I went skiing to Val d'Isère with the usual crowd in January and then to Åre in Sweden with Mavis. We both had a great time. Mavis explored the village and painted the local scenes while I skiied, and we both took the opportunity to visit some of the local attractions - the highlight of which was a trip on a dog sled. I stood on the back and tried to steer while she sat in the sled. Brilliant. Recommended.
We also did our normal visit to the Belgian Grand Prix. This year we sat in the grandstand on the start/finish straight, which wasn't as much fun, but did allow us to see the cars at closer range - especially during the rain in practice. The downside of this was that we shared the view with about 350 (literally) Japanese spectators, who were visiting courtesy of Honda. Which was OK, except that they kept on standing up whenever anything exciting happened. Made paying that much for a seat a bit pointless, really...
As ever, Mavis and I continue with our singing. We both sang in concerts of Stainer's Crucifixion around Easter and the Messiah in October, in a smallish Suffolk church at Earl Stonham. It might not have been the Albert Hall, but it was nice to keep our hands in.
We've also been more heavily involved in Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan Society, both singing and organisational. On the singing front, the society performed 11 charity concerts during the year, plus a first production of the opera "Orphy's Innings" plus the production of "Patience". "Orphy's Innings" was wonderful. It was written by Bernard Reader, our musical director, and based around the poems of A E Housman, set during the Great War. It told the story of a young man (Orphy) and his beloved (Eury), her death in childbirth and his going to war to escape. It ends with all the young men trapped in the hell of the trenches and then the women singing a mournful Easter song. The music was very challenging but very rewarding and we got some marvellous feedback from those who attended.
We both sang in the production of "Patience". I was always expecting to, but Mavis's role in the show had been planned to extend as far as making all the maidens' costumes, but not performing. All that changed when one of the maidens decided not to be in the show with only 2 weeks to go. Mavis stepped into the breach and learnt all the moves in the short time available. The show was a success, just about breaking even on a turnover of over £21,000.
On the organisational front, our Chairman of the past 35 years (yes, 35 - that's not a typo) stepped down and I stood for and was elected as the new chairman. I see it as quite a challenge maintaining the success and style of the current society, whilst moving forward to meet the needs of younger audiences and performers. We'll see how long I last (but it won't be 35 years!).
Mavis has started 2 daytime courses, one learning watercolour painting and the other couture tailoring. She's finding the painting an interesting activity - she's more used to working in oils, and the tailoring is teaching her a few new things.
I have to admit that the rest of my waking time tends to be occupied doing things on the computer. I've written a few applications that I use at work to make my life easier, but which are also used by quite a number of other people - over 700, in one case. All I need to do now is sort out how to make money on the deal.
Tinga and Tucker are now both 13½, and are getting on as well as ever. They've been joined by a couple of aquaria - one tropical freshwater and one cold freshwater. The tropical tank was a birthday present from me, and I have to say we had no idea of how much work it would require. We started by having to learn about the nitrogen cycle and how fish tank filters work, then getting depressed about our first fish dying, then realising how much time the water testing and changing takes. Still, our little family of 2 guppies, 2 platies, 4 cardinal tetras, 4 leopard danios and a Golden Algae Eater seem happy at present - and watching them is a great way to relax. The cold tank is planned to be a fore-runner to a pond. I'll let you know how that works out next year.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
16 December 2000
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes