Our usual updates on the year's activities.


Work for both of us has been similar this year to last (see below for what Mavis is doing). I remain in charge of Technical Strategy for BTexact Technologies.

I seem to have spent more time abroad this year. It started with a trip to Paris in January - Mavis came with me -staying in Montparnasse. The most striking local feature is the cemetery - "home" to all sorts of people including Jean-Paul Sartre and André Citroën, to name but two. I spent my time in the conference, Mavis spent hers in the cemetery... March was Orlando. Sounds exciting, but wasn't really - a 2 day trip to Florida in half-term, where the only thing within walking distance is the car-park of "Sea-World" leaves something to be desired in the enjoyment stakes. April was Florence for a week - I'd been before, but still enjoyed this a lot. Recommended. May was Nice - Mavis came again and spent lots of time in the markets. July was Chicago. It was really hot, but a great place to visit - the tour of the architectural sites by boat along the river was a real highlight. September brought a conference in London. And November was Las Vegas - a really bizarre place. Whoever thought of putting a canal on the 1st floor of a hotel! (It leaves space for the casino on the ground floor, incidentally). I'd mention in passing that the job isn't just going to conferences in various places around the world, but it's the most newsworthy aspect.

Venice Hotel

The Canal inside the Venice Hotel, Las Vegas

Gondoliers' Dresses
2 dresses Mavis made for Gondoliers



Is the same as last year (or is it? - see below...).


As ever, singing has continued to dominate our spare time (and some that isn't spare). I'm still Chairman of the Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan Society (www.ipswichgands.org.uk). I mentioned in last year's letter that our Musical Director and Producer of the previous 20-odd years called it a day at the end of last year, so the excitement has been in replacing him. In the event, and after much searching, we appointed our accompanist as MD. That left the equally taxing problem of finding new accompanist(s), which ended up as a very last minute job - we were without someone to play at our first concert with less than 2 weeks to go. In the event, all was well, and we also found a producer locally. However, that didn't go quite to plan, since (a) the society found her very difficult to understand and (b) she ended up needing a hip replacement part-way through rehearsals. As a result, we replaced her with our previous co-producer (Sheila Potter, still going strong at 78) and Mavis. And the show (The Gondoliers) appeared to be a great success, selling about 95% of its tickets. I played Don Alhambra, the Grand Inquisitor, and, as mentioned, Mavis assisted in direction and made a number of the costumes.


I went skiing with my brother and our friends Paul and Jennie to Killington, in Vermont, USA in March. It was a great big place that really needed the hire car we had, and I took advantage of that for a day driving around the roads nearby.

Mavis and I spent a week in the Lake District in July - we stayed at the same hotel where we started our honeymoon (the Wasdale Head Inn - recommended). We didn't complete the ascent of too many of the mountains, but we climbed part way up a few and looked at the tops. That was quite enough.

We also did our annual pilgrimage to Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix. This year we worked out our strategy for the circuit invasion in advance and managed to get to the podium for the award ceremony. It looks like this will be our last visit, as the last great circuit is dropped from the calendar in the name of commerce.

The Family

All our family continue in fairly good health. Mavis's mum has now decided that the central heating we persuaded her to get fitted last winter wasn't such a bad idea after all. And after much persuading she's at last got a hearing aid - but is complaining that everything's too loud. My mum's back continues to give her gyp, but my Dad appears to be over the scare with his kidneys from last year.

Tinga and Tucker are now aged 15½. At this time last year we were getting used to a 3rd cat in the house - Holly, who we were looking after for Kathryn and Alan - friends who were temporarily living in Canada. Unfortunately her heart started to play up mid-year, which left her panting and struggling for breath continually. We had to have her put down, which was very sad for us all. The only slight bright note was that at least Kathryn (whose cat she was) was over here for a holiday, and so was able to say good-bye.

Holly the cat Holly relaxing in the garden

We've gone upmarket in the aquarium stakes - we now have a 4 foot one downstairs, that holds about 80 gallons, as well as the original smaller one upstairs. Keeping the fish in good health seems to be a full-time weekend job!

The Distaff view.

In previous years the sheer lethargy incurred by a very full calendar prevented any contribution from me other than adding to Phil's overview. As he has arranged a special Christmas trip for us, I felt that I needed to be shaken out of my usual state of torpor prior to packing sufficient warm clothes (and washing and ironing them) ready for our trip.

Work has been varied and fulfilling in all aspects. Potting up 2,000 petunias on a hot sticky day or persuading the reptilian coils of Eremurus to sit neatly in pots are only two activities experienced at Katie's Garden. Dealing with demanding or sometimes awkward customers can be challenging, but it prevents me vegetating. I let the plants do that. There has been some work for the opera company. Their major productions this year were "La Cenerentola" and "Don Giovanni" and involved some O.T.T. eighteenth century costumes in powder blue, rose pink and delicate eau-de-nil for the gentlemen. As "Cenerentola" was in May, the costume construction coincided with our trip to Llandrindod Wells to assist with the C.S.M.A. Curtis Bennett motor rally. Of course the costumes went with me as usual. All I needed to do for "Don Giovanni" was a cloak for the Commendatore - 12 metres of calico dyed to look like stone and appropriately bedizened with acrylic pigeon effluent. Oh, the glamour! I had the thing on a model upstairs and it nearly scared the life out of me when I had to go into my workroom and didn't bother to turn on the lights. "Gondoliers" was a different proposition. The costume hire company had commissioned two dresses for the Duchess and Casilda, to be built on enormous panniers 120 inches in circumference. Tinga took a fancy to the hooped skirts and took up residence for a while. Before each fitting I had to do a careful search for regurgitated fur balls. Luckily there were none in evidence. The dresses turned out well and are being used for a production of "Amadeus" as I write. I also made various costumes for the four children in the show. They were happy with them, just like those of the adults but smaller.

The house is not the same as last year! The hall has been decorated and we have had cavity wall insulation to minimise heat loss. Very successful.


Phil did not mention that I had to drive the skiing party to the station in the Transit van we use for delivering plants. I'm glad I was driving and not rolling around in the back like Phil and Steve.

The Lake District was wonderful but I don't think our stomachs are as large as those of the locals. Elastic waistbands were a necessity. They brew their own beer at the Wasdale Head - also to be recommended!


Just as Phil has said, we regularly squawk with the G & S but occasionally are invited to participate in "from scratch" concerts at Earl Stonham as soloists. We do enjoy these but as the church has still no heating, warmth takes priority over elegance.

That's me done - and about time to I hear you mutter. "So it's goodbye from me... etc"

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

Phil's sig

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


Mavis's Sig

1 December 2002