2008 had many similarities to last year - neither of us is now working full time; Phil continued the activities he started in 2007, and Mavis continued to focus on the garden and doing costumes. As ever, more below.
Mavis's mum continues to live with us, in our loft conversion upstairs. She is now 93, and the only thing that really holds her back is her poor eyesight. Despite living under the same roof, she remains pretty independent,preparing some of her own food and drinks, and with her own TV, etc. As a result of this she is able to continue to take great interest in politics, finance news, etc. She was the only one in the household who sat up to watch the results of the US Presidential election as they came in.
This year my mum passed the age of 80 and we had a celebration dinner in her local pub with lots of her friends.
We still have Georgie - the cat who came with Mavis's mum. We think she's about 14, and starting to show her age these days. Even she seems to find going up and down the stairs hard work.
Phil has three main activities that keep him off the streets - technology consulting, advising at Felixstowe Citizens Advice Bureau, and being secretary of the Parish Plan Steering Group. The first of these is mainly with three companies - 2 based in Dallas, where I serve as a member of their Technical Advisory Boards and the other is assisting Huawei, a Chinese equipment manufacturer, as they work on selling wireless equipment to BT. I find both interesting and well paid. Huawei also sent me to their headquarters in Shenzhen, China (just near Hong Kong) for a week in March which was - er - interesting.
I am almost fully trained as a CAB advisor - just some ploughing through paperwork needed to get there. It's incredibly interesting and rewarding and I can recommend it as a voluntary activity. You never know what problems your next client is going to bring - from difficulties getting the benefits they're entitled to (or indeed even understanding them), to debt, marriage, housing, or consumer problems etc., etc. Being able to help people claim money they're entitled to, or wipe out debts they are no longer legally responsible for, can make a real difference to their lives.
The Parish Plan is about consulting local people to see how they feel the villages should develop. This year we ran two consolation exhibitions and a large survey where we handed out and collected over 800 surveys. We entered data from almost 100,000 answers into an online database (for which I wrote the software) and we're currently in the process of writing the results up into our plan.
Mavis continues to make dresses for friends and herself. Her main piece of work this year was a wedding for which she made the bride's dress plus six bridesmaids' dresses - some of them quite large.
Phil took the opportunity of being over in the USA on business in February to have a week skiing in Colorado with Chris Pollard. Curiously, we avoided arguments for the whole week. We also discovered similar fitness levels, which meant that skiing ended at about 1 pm and we had a sleep in the afternoon.
In June we visited Amsterdam for a few days. Phil was presenting at a conference there, but Mavis was able to do some sightseeing
In September we had a holiday on the Orient Express. We flew on a private charter to Venice, spent 3 nights staying at the Hotel Danieli on the front of the lagoon, then took the overnight Orient Express train to Budapest, where we stayed two nights in the Le Meridien. We then came home via the Orient Express (overnight to Paris), coach to Calais, ferry to Dover and Pullman train to London Victoria. All in all a sumptuous experience, although our waistlines suffered badly as a result.
We've had quite a bit of maintenance done on the house, mainly taking advantage of good prices from the credit crunch. We were "door-knocked" and asked whether we wanted a price on double glazing, and let them price it up while continuing to protest we weren't really interested. As a result we managed to bargain down from the original price of £15250 to £4000, and we're very pleased with the work.
We bought a new digital SLR camera as a Christmas present to ourselves and Phil has become very keen on the whole thing. He's very into bird photography and bought a huge lens to help. It gets somewhat envious glances at the RSPB, Minsmere.
We continue to be involved with Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan Society, singing in the concerts in the first six months of the year. We both appeared in the stage production of "Pirates of Penzance" this year, with Mavis taking the cameo role of Queen Victoria. She was also responsible for all the costumes (arranging them, not making them )
That's all I can think of. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes