It's that time of the year again. (Well, it's actually a little bit after that time of the year, but we've been busy. See below). No long introductions this year - straight into the story.
Surprise of the year for me is that I've changed employers. After 2 weeks short of 31 years, I resigned from BT and I've joined Motorola. In truth, I'd not been looking to leave BT - in fact I was quite enjoying my work there. It's normally quite hard to describe what I did, but this year there's been quite a bit of excitement about BT's network modernisation plans - BT calls it the "21st Century Network" or 21CN. Internet junkies can read about it with a quick Google for BT and 21CN. Anyway, my claim to fame is that I wrote the initial architecture for 21CN, so you can imagine that contributing to a modernisation programme costing £10 billion was quite exciting. But I was called by a head-hunter, and following some interviews and discussions was made an offer that was too good to refuse - so I joined Motorola on September the 1st as Director of Architecture and Technology. My office is home, although I travel to the Motorola office in Basingstoke every week or so. The decision to get a motorbike last year has been well justified with that trip.
I continued with my international jaunts during the year. BT took me to Cork, Amsterdam, Paris, Austin, Antwerp, Budapest, Nice, Chicago, Atlanta and Lisbon. Mavis accompanied me to Amsterdam Nice and Lisbon. So far I've been to Cork and Dubai with Motorola, but that looks to get more exhaustive in the New Year. I start with trips to Bangalore, Morocco, Marbella and Barcelona. I guess of the locations I visited, the most interesting were Budapest and Dubai. Budapest is an interesting old city and much larger than I was expecting. I don't know why, but I was expecting to stroll around it (as seems possible in Prague) but it's just too big. The trams and metro are good, though. Dubai was hot. Really hot. During the day it was about 45 C (just over 110 F) and even at night it didn't drop much below 30 C. I also thought it was a very false environment - like an Arabian version of Las Vegas. Perk for this year was a place in a box at Lord's to watch one of the cricket one-day internationals against the Aussies.
Mavis has retired again - this time from working at Katie's Garden. She says that the garden, dress making and doing the Ipswich G and S show keep her far too busy to be able to work.
Holiday of the year is undoubtedly the one we've just returned from - to Antarctica. I'm not quite sure what it was that made me decide that it would be a good place for a holiday - perhaps because we do rather enjoy cold holidays? Whatever it was - it was a fantastic choice. We flew to Buenos Aires (BA from now on) 3 days after the end of The Mikado and, after a day in BA, flew on to the Iguazu Falls. These are smaller than Niagara in terms of water flow, but better in every other way. They're right in the middle of jungle and the views and wildlife are fantastic. Argentine Airlines then went on strike, making the rest of our travel fraught, to say the least. No matter, we got to Ushuaia (on the far Southern tip of South America) via BA again, and then on to the boat. This was a converted scientific exploration vessel, and was "ice strengthened" - not an ice breaker. 2 days spent crossing the Drake Channel (the "roaring 40s") and we arrived at the Antarctic Peninsula. We had typically 2 trips to land per day, taken there from the boat by inflatable "zodiacs". There were penguins everywhere, seals, and just the odd whale. It was a genuinely fantastic holiday.
For the last few years we've gone to the Belgian Grand Prix. However, last year's organisation was so poor that we decided to take advantage of being in Nice for the week before the Monaco GP and visit that instead. We had grandstand seats next to the pool, and enjoyed every moment. Highlights were the noise, the closeness of the cars, the pit lane walkabout and Ralf Schumacher putting his car in the wall about 30 metres from us.
We also had a week in the Lake District at our favourite haunt in Wasdale Head. Lots of walking for me and relaxing for Mavis, with my main triumph being the climb up Great Gable - although the fog meant the view left something to be desired.
The major change to the house this year was the addition of a solar panel. It heats the hot water, meaning we don't need to run the heating at all during summer, and it continues to provide water pretty much from March to October.
This year was the 25th wedding anniversary for my Dad and Maggie. They had a party at Maggie's daughter's house and a good time was had by all. My Dad now has real problems with his back, which is making him almost immobile, adding to all his problems with his cancers and kidneys. My mum had a fall this year and broke her hip, but still gets around when she needs to. Mavis's mum (now 90) is still in good form. She especially enjoys visits from her neighbour, Martha Kearney.
Our last cat, Tinga died in November. She was 18½ and had been in very good health until a few months ago. She then started to suffer from heart problems and we were feeding her a cocktail of pills with her food. She died in her sleep whilst being looked after by our neighbour when we were on holiday.
Our main hobby continues to be singing with Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan society. This year Mavis produced The Mikado and I sung the part of Mikado himself. It was a very well received production and we got many congratulatory letters and calls. We were very pleased that all Mavis's hard work paid off.
Mavis still enjoys doing the garden, but with the aid of a gardener for the heavier work. I remain obsessed with the weather and continue to run my internet weather station.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes
18 December 2005