2006 was notable mainly for 2 things: it was my first full year of working for anyone other than BT, and it was also sadly the year my dad died.
As I said above, my dad died in July this year. He was 78. He'd survived cancer in the early 70's, and that had left him with just one, partially functioning kidney. Over the last few years his body's "plumbing" in that area had become increasingly troublesome, and this was then made worse when he contracted cancer of the bowel in 2003. That was operated on and removed, but of course he was then left with even more tubing to cope with. He handled it all with extreme grace, but the bowel cancer returned this year and was diagnosed as untreatable. He spent the last few weeks of his life planning, and he eventually decided to have a completely private cremation followed by having his ashes scattered at a green burial site. As a lifelong electricity supply engineer he was extremely happy to discover that the Feckenham sub-station was in view from the burial site! As you can see from the attached picture, one of the things that kept him busy during his retirement was writing about electrical network design. Maggie organised a celebration of his life at his local sports club, which was a great send-off and a good opportunity to meet friends and relations.
The rest of the family is doing well. Mavis's mum is now 91 and continues to live on her own, although we plan to change that in the coming year when she'll be coming here to occupy our upstairs room. My mum continues to suffer with her back and legs, but is doing pretty well for her 78 years.
As I mentioned above, I've now been working for Motorola for 15 months. I've enjoyed it a lot - there's some interesting technical challenges to solve, and that's the sort of thing that keeps me happy. The travel remains something of a hassle - this year I've flown 78,000 miles (equivalent to more than 3 times round the world) and I've slept somewhere other than my own bed for 94 days. I'm now a Gold card holder with Continental, American Airways and the Hilton, and silver with BA. The list of places visited includes Malaga, Casablanca, Barcelona, Chicago (4 times), Bangalore, Bonn, Dubai, Nice, Abu Dhabi, Warsaw, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid and Dallas. It sounds very glamorous, but mostly I just want to get back to my own bed!
The most interesting was Bangalore. It's a huge clash of rich and poor culture. I stayed in a securely walled location with a hotel and lots of up-market bungalows, with the hotel costing around £100 per night. I walked out past the security gates to discover an open sewer four feet wide and deep with remains decomposing in it, smelling strongly of rotting fish. I bought some wonderful souvenirs, including sandalwood and silk, for around £200, and my driver remarked that this was about 4 months wages for him. The view from the steel and glass office building where I was based included a yard with cows and hens. An experience not to be missed.
Bizarrely, given that it's where the Motorola head office is, we chose to visit Chicago for our summer holiday. We used some of my airmiles to fly business class, and stayed a week in the centre of the city itself. It really is a lovely place. It's on the shore of Lake Michigan, which gives it something of a seaside feel. The architecture in many places is breathtaking (it's really the home of the skyscraper), and the river-based tour describing the architecture was a highlight. It also has some really interesting cultural sites, and, of course, the elevated railway as seen in the "Blues Brothers". We then went on to Indianapolis for the US Grand Prix, and sweltered in the sun watching the racing. At this race the Schumacher/Alonso battle was decisively settled in favour of Schumie, although not the world championship, of course :-)
We also had a very quiet week in Devon. I did some walking over Exmoor and we explored where some of Mavis's ancestors hail from.
I'm very pleased with our solar panel, added last year. It provided pretty much all our hot water over the summer period, and makes a contribution except in deepest winter. We're now trying to get a wind turbine, but the planning department at Suffolk Coastal aren't helping.
We're also having some work done in the garden to allow for the construction of a summer house and new greenhouse. You never know - I might end up having the house to myself!
Singing, as ever. Mavis's production of "Trial by Jury" and "HMS Pinafore" was very well received. She set Trial in the late 60's/early 70's, so we had bright clothing, flares and mini-skirts. Pinafore was more traditional, although moved to Southwold rather than Portsmouth. I was the Judge in Trial.
That's all I can think of. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy
& Mrs P E Holmes
17 December 2006