2007 was notable mainly for 2 things: I gave up full time employment to join Mavis in a life of (relative) leisure, and Mavis's mum moved house to join us. More on both below.
Mavis's mum (Liza) is now 92, and up until the end of June had been living on her own near Diss - about 30 miles north of here. Mavis used to visit her around once a week, and her next door neighbour kindly helped with the chores. However, cooking, climbing the stairs, etc., gets a bit much at that time of life, so we all decided it made sense for her to move in with us - into the loft conversion we had done in 2000. Selling her house went fairly smoothly. It wasn't a "standard" house by any means, but a 16th/17th century Inn which had been called the "Tumbledown Dick" and was converted to residential use when Mavis's parents moved in, in the early 1970s. It had quite a bit of land with it too, including what had been the bowling green of the old pub. We agreed a price and details with the agents, and it went on the market just before Easter. We'd agreed a sale about 4 days later, so the lack of messing around was a real boost. We exchanged in June and she moved in on June 25th. I have to say we all now get on very well - she keeps to her upstairs set of rooms, and we use the downstairs, and we take food etc. up to her.
Liza brought Georgie, her cat, with her, and we mostly enjoy looking after her - although if left to her own devices she'd eat all day. We're not quite sure how old she is, since she came from an old peoples' home, but we think she's about 13. She's got no teeth, but she could give you a vicious gum if you don't feed her.
My mum is now coming up to the big eight oh, but continues to live on her own and gets around well.
As I mentioned above, I gave up working full time in April of this year. I was conscious of the fact that I was continuing to be away from home a heck of a lot and flying lots and lots to many places - and that made it impossible to do some of the things (like organising Liza's move) that I needed to do. So I did the sums and concluded I could afford to resign. Since then, I've done a few bits of consultancy which often pay very well indeed, so I'm able to keep the wolf from the door. I've been training as a volunteer adviser at Felixstowe Citizens Advice Bureau, and I've just started advising clients myself. I've become involved in Parish activities, and am secretary to our Parish Plan steering group. I've been converting documents and photos gathered by someone else in the village into web-compatible form, and we're selling these as CDs to people in the village. One of my consulting jobs (as a member of a Technical Advisory Board) takes me to Dallas 4 times a year, so I'm still racking up air miles (somewhere around 40,000 miles this year). On one of the visits to Dallas I took the time out to visit the "grassy knoll" where President Kennedy's motorcade was passing when he was assassinated, and the Book Depository from which the shots were almost certainly fired. It's a very fascinating place to see. We also stayed on the ranch owned by the guy who ran this company. It's just the odd 1,600 acres. A great time was had by all, and I rode a horse for the first (and so far only) time.
No great excursions this year. The main holiday was 5 days spent at our favourite location of Wasdale Head. It's a place Mavis's parents had visited about 70 years ago, so this time we took Liza up with us. Inasmuch as her eyesight would let her, she had a marvellous time, and I did some of the hills covered in the BBC "Wainwright Walks" series.
Mavis and I went to France for a couple of days in May. It was paid for by a Venture Capital company, who invited me to give a talk to their team meeting in Burgundy. We went via some friends of her's to the north of Paris, stayed a fabulous night in the rather up-market Chateau de Gilly with the people from the company, and then had an evening with her old friends in Dijon. The evening at the Chateau was something else. The company took us out for dinner, and one of their people was a serious wine connoisseur. He kept ordering magnums of Premier and Grand Cru Burgundy, and we kept drinking them. There were about 10 of us, and I'd guess we spent well over £2000 on wine!
Because of one of my trips to Dallas, I managed to avoid being home for Mavis's birthday - a fairly important one since it was the time when she became eligible to draw her pension! As a result, I felt duty bound to treat her to something special - so we spent a night at Raymond Blanc's Hotel, le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. I think it's fair to say it wasn't cheap, but it was something quite amazing. The hotel (featured in the TV series "The Restaurant") is set in an Oxfordshire manor house, and the attention to detail with both the room and the food was out of this world. I don't think I'll ever forget the canapés. From the manoir, we went on to a night near Woodstock, then on to her cousin's wedding in Cheltenham. I think I got back the points lost for missing the birthday.
We now have a new greenhouse, plus a summer house in the garden, but apart from that there's nothing much to report (except the use of the upstairs rooms as mentioned above).
Singing, as ever. This year Mavis and I have been reducing the amount of time we've spent with Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan Society. I've resigned as Chairman., and she has stopped being the producer of the show. We just thought it time others did some of this. That said, we've continued to sing with the society, and Mavis was assistant director and costumier for the show, so we've by no means given up.
She has continued with her dress making, making some wedding dresses and things she wears herself. She's also continued as an avid gardener, and the garden's looking wonderful. I've got into genealogy and have traced her family tree to the 1780s, as well adding to the Holmes family tree done by my brother.
That's all I can think of. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes
8 December 2007