Greetings to all from deepest Suffolk. With any luck you’ll find our news interesting – if not, the bin can’t be too far away?


I started the year working in a part of BT called BTexact (www.btexact.com). I then transferred to work for BT’s new Chief Technology Officer (Matt Bross) for a few months, before being appointed as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the new BT Exact (note the new capitalisation – very important to marketing people). My appointment got a fair amount of publicity – including a mention in the Financial Times and a 3 page spread in the IEE Review (a full copy of the article downloaded from the IEE site is here, if anyone is interested). Amazing what our PR people can do.

It seems that the appointment has meant even more foreign travel this year. February was a conference in Lisbon. March was Orlando. In May I had a trip to San Jose to visit Cisco and a conference in Nice. June was Atlanta (which I now know is the home of Coca Cola). September Barcelona. October Boston. Mavis came with me on a couple of them – Lisbon and Nice. Lisbon was a fantastic place to explore – tiny little streets with little trams running down them. In Orlando this year I "did" some of the theme parks – Sea World and Universal – a good time had by all. I was wined and dined in Atlanta at the top of the highest hotel in the city, at 723 feet. Barcelona was fun – I spent a day exploring. Visiting the Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s cathedral – was an experience – it was more building site than cathedral, but an amazing thing to explore nonetheless.

I’ve also had a few other interesting speaking engagements. I guess the best was in a 3 way debate organised by a Cambridge firm of accountants, on who was the British scientist who most impacted our lives. I spoke on behalf of Alexander Graham Bell, Sir John Kingman (Director of the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge) spoke for Sir Isaac Newton, and the CEO of a bio-tech firm spoke on behalf of Alexander Fleming. Interestingly, Fleming won, Bell was second and Newton last!

Mavis continues to work at "Katie’s Garden" – a horticultural nursery – for 2 or more days a week. She really enjoys the variety – from starting seeds off, through potting on plants, to selling to the customers. Her main sewing activity has been constructing prom dresses for the offspring of friends – including unknowingly copying a chiffon Armani number courtesy of a photo in a magazine and a request to copy it!

Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona - note the crane at the top.

The House – not much change. I spent a week decorating the bathroom and we now have PVC barge boards, etc. Anything to avoid more painting.

The Family

This year my dad has suffered with his health. It started with his kidney playing up (he only has one following cancer back in the early 1970s) but he was then diagnosed with (as I understand it) a malignant growth in his intestinal region (don’t ask me exactly where). He was operated on and appeared to be recovering. However, he is back in hospital as I write, having had quite a large portion of his large bowel removed following the discovery of another growth. We obviously hope he recovers well from what was quite major surgery for someone in their 70s.

My mum continues to suffer with her back and legs, and Mavis’s mum has problems with her hearing and sight – but I guess that’s stuff to be expected as time goes by.

Onto the subject of family Chez Holmes – we had to have one of our cats, Tucker, put down last week. He’d been suffering with what transpired was a blockage in his digestive tract, and he ended up pretty much starving to death. He was 16. Tinga continues on very fit – as do all the fishes, except the goldfish in the outside pond who disappeared, presumed eaten!


In many ways, the highlight of our year was at the very start – our holiday in Canada. We flew out on December 13th and spent the first evening and morning in New York. We didn’t really have time to do the sights, but just had a quick look round and decided it was worth another visit later. We flew to Ottawa, staying in the Chateau Laurier hotel, where I’d stayed on a business trip a few years ago. The weather was wonderful (if you like cold) – bright sun, snow on the ground and everything crisp. Even the canal was frozen solid. We then went on to Toronto by train (which was an interesting experience – it’s too long a story for here, but we ended up sitting opposite a schizophrenic), "did" Toronto (including a trip to Niagara Falls) before boarding the train in Toronto for a long train trip to Jasper in the Rockies. It’s about 2500 miles and took 2 days, almost non-stop. We had a sleeping car and dined in the First Class diner – including dinner at Christmas. It was wonderful. We then stayed in the Rockies for 2 days before getting another train – the Rocky Mountaineer – which wended through the mountains before arriving in Vancouver on the 2nd day. We had New Year in Vancouver and spent one day in Victoria before flying back. As an itinerary, we can definitely recommend it – and, despite staying in some pretty up-market hotels, it was surprisingly affordable, thanks to the Canadian dollar being quite weak.

We also took a short break in the summer, spending a wonderful weekend with our friends Helena and Chris Finden-Browne (plus children Fergus and Hywel) and including a visit to the RHS at Wisley, and a few days in Cornwall (we flew from Stansted to Newquay) visiting the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. My knowledge of horticulture continues to improve…

Rocky Mountaineer Train

The "Rocky Mountaineer" in the snowy Rockies


Phil as Private Willis
Phil as Private Willis in Iolanthe

We still sing with Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan Society (www.IpswichGandS.org.uk). The innovation for this year was that Mavis agreed to produce our annual stage show – which was Iolanthe this year. This is no mean feat – we have around 50 people actually in the production, and our turnover for the show is in excess of 25,000. However, as might be expected Mavis rose to the challenge fantastically, and the show was a great artistic success. We had numerous comments about how everyone enjoyed watching the show, as well as the cast who enjoyed appearing in it. I played the part of Private Willis – the sort of part I like – almost no words but an excellent song.

We’ve also re-arranged our transport arrangements. At the start of the year we had 3 cars between the 2 of us – a Sierra Cosworth that I’ve owned since 1988, an Escort RS2000 and Mavis’s Clio 16v. We’ve now sold the Clio and the Escort is up for sale, and Mavis now has a Subaru Impreza Turbo (similar to the one Petter Solberg used to win the World Rally Championship this year) and I have a motor-bike – currently a Honda 125 until I pass my test. Then it’ll be something sensible but a bit quicker.


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

14 December 2003

The Cosworth

The Cosworth - not bad for a 17 year old car!