Lots to bring us up to date, some good, some less so.
The year started rather badly: on Christmas eve Mavis's mum tripped over in her bathroom and hit her head, cutting it. That resulted in an ambulance trip to A&E, and although she was bruised and cut, no other damage was done. However, it meant she became less mobile, and this meant she fell over a couple of other times, once falling out of bed in the night. She became confined to her bed, and we had a somewhat stressful period sorting out care for her. She was clearly not doing well, in some pain, and not eating. She died on April 15, aged 99.
We both believe she was glad to go - there was nothing left she wanted to do. We had an excellent musical funeral with song sheets handed out for "Be still, my soul" to the tune from Finlandia, and sung to a rousing four part harmony. The funeral director and priest said it was the best singing they'd heard at a funeral. Liza would have enjoyed it
Phil's mum remains troubled by her back and legs, but soldiers on, aged 86.
The reduced need to stay at the house meant that we were able to have a couple of holidays this year: one a brief break at a Landmark Trust property - Lynch Lodge near Peterborough. Holidaying in Peterborough sounds somewhat unexciting, but we had a really good time walking, exploring cathedrals and churches, and chilling out.
The second was an attempt to recreate one of Phil's favourite holidays from earlier days: a trip to South Africa including a safari, which he was lucky enough to be able to do in 1978. Despite trying, it appeared impossible to book everything without help, so following a personal recommendation we left it to a company called Safari Consultants to arrange the whole holiday. They did a wonderful job, and we had nearly 4 weeks, including 4 nights at Tanda Tula safari camp near Kruger, a drive through the Garden Route, staying at 4 different locations, 3 nights in Cape Town, the Blue Train to Pretoria and then on to the Tswalu safari park in the Kalahari.
Hugging leopards at Tanda Tula
The final stop was the highlight of the trip: the reserve is owned by the Oppenheimers (of de Beers/diamond fame) and is 1,000 square km, with a maximum of 22 guests. You get there by private plane and each couple has their own guide and tracker: ours were the wonderful Stuart and Davide. It turned out that Stuart's father lives less than 20 miles from us. We took lots of pictures and had a great time.
No changes to the house, but a change in cars.
BMW i3 - the panda car
Phil's Sierra Cosworth, which has been in the garage for about 8 years, is now out and being fettled to be used again. The good news is that it started and moved under its own steam, even after all that time. We decided our diesel Clio needed updating, and so we have bought a BMW i3 REx. This is essentially an all-electric car which is only ever powered by its electric motor, but still does 0-60 in under 8 seconds. It has a petrol engined range extender which can be used for trips outside its range (about 75 miles): it simply keeps the battery charged in order to power the car. It's a fabulous little car.
Our main hobby remains music. Phil has just finished his 3-year Bachelor of Arts in music, getting an upper second: the peak of his expectation. He sang with 2 choirs there, played some percussion with an orchestra, and ended with a 25 minute vocal recital from memory.
We continue to sing with the Stondon singers, based about 60 miles away in darkest Essex. This year we've done 3 concerts with them, covering music from the 16th to the 21st century. We've sung in Brentwood cathedral, Ingatestone Hall, and Stondon Massey church (where William Byrd is probably buried). We'll be singing choral Evensong at St Paul's cathedral (the St Paul's) on Saturday April 25th, if anyone is in the area.
We remain stalwarts of Ipswich Gilbert & Sullivan society, singing in about 6 concerts. Phil played Captain Corcoran in their production of HMS Pinafore and Mavis did costumes and make-up ("frocks and faces").
Mavis continues to keep the garden in excellent shape and the freezer is packed with our own produce. Phil continues to contribute to LilyPond, a free music program.
That's all we can fit in. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
A protea at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes