In contrast to last year, a few items of significance to announce this year. Read on for details.
Our normal mention of Liza, Mavis's mum, normally only requires the addition of a year to her age - She's now 96 going on 97. However, this year she had a significant change to her health - she had an operation to remove cataracts from her right eye. She's had glaucoma for a while now, and is completely blind in her left eye, so operating on the sole one that provided sight was always likely to be a risk. However, the cataract actually made the glaucoma worse by preventing the fluid pressure in the eye from being reduced and so she would have lost the sight in any case. In the event, all went well and her vision is now somewhat improved.
Jennie, her sister-in-law, died earlier this year. She was also 96 and she had been in poor health for a while. Liza had know Jennie all her life, and is now the last of the generation.
Phil's mum is 83 and continues to do fairly well (albeit with problems with her back) living in Woolpit.
Gilbert-the-one-eared-cat remains fit and healthy. Not surprising really, since he seems to sleep for about 23 hours per day.
The big change this year is that Phil has now started a degree course for a Bachelor of Arts in Music, at Colchester Institute. It's a 3-year course and takes him there 4 days per week. The course is very performance based, and so he sings in 2 choirs there, plus singing lessons. He's just about old enough to be the grandfather of some of the students on his course
He also continues to volunteer at Felixstowe CAB on his one day off from college. This year has seen the introduction of a new IT system there, which we piloted. Performance has been poor, and so he's spent quite a bit of his time arguing with the IT department about how they've managed this.
We again had a short break in Oxfordshire this year - the first night staying at Raymond Blanc's Manoir aux Quat' Saisons and then 2 nights at The Randolph in Oxford centre.
We are just about to spend 4 nights in a Martello Tower in Aldeburgh, taking Liza with us. Not quite sure how we'll manage with no TV or broadband, but it promises to be interesting.
Phil again had a week skiing in Colorado with Chris Pollard. On the final day, it was fairly chilly - 0°F at the hotel (-20°C) and about -40°C at the top. Didn't spend long out This holiday has been put on ice for next year (no pun intended) what with college.
We had an interesting time replacing 8 doors in the house at the start of the year - that'll teach Phil to moan about the prospect of painting the old ones. What with cutting them to size (door frames are not all the same size and shape) varnishing them, fitting the hinges, etc., it took well over 2 weeks. Knackering.
Our major change this year has been the construction of a massive shed development at the side of the house. This is now almost complete, and comprises a glass house and 2 separate sheds, one for storage and the other for work. It'll have electricity, and is made of weather-boards and cedar shingles (tiles). It's now almost finished and is absolutely mega. The neighbour has shed envy.
Singing continues to be our main hobby. We're both still involved with Ipswich G&S - Phil sang "Sir Roderick" in this year's production of Ruddigore and Mavis did the costumes. The society also gives about 8 concerts a year, and so we rehearse 1 or 2 times a week with them throughout the year.
We also joined the Stondon Singers - a group of people who specialise in unaccompanied singing, in particular madrigal-style from the 16th century. They're based in Essex, about 65 miles away, so it's a fair weekly round trip - so much so that we bought a little diesel Renault for longer journeys - currently saving over £1000 per annum on fuel. That's another evening per week.
We've also been singing with a little chamber choir of just 7 singers from the G&S and put on 2 performances with them - the last in Christchurch mansion, dressed in Tudor costume. Oh. And we sing with the benefice choir at Easter and Christmas. And Phil has his 2 choirs at college.
Mavis has continued to put considerable work into the garden. She had 39 varieties of tomatoes and 36 types of chilli on sale at our village plant sale - plus some little biscuits.
Mavis continues at the Grundisburgh Art Group and spends many Tuesday mornings watercolouring.
That's all we can think of. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes