Mavis and Phil's news from the year gone.
The start of the year had echoes of 2014, when Mavis's mum (Liza) died in April. This year it was my mum. She was due to spend Christmas at Steve and Sandra's (my brother and sister-in-law) and when Sandra went to collect her, it transpired that her right arm was not functioning, and appeared to have stopped working around October. She'd not bothered to mention it to Steve on their weekly phone calls. Many visits to hospital later, and much testing, and it turned out she had incurable cancer which was blocking nerves and veins. She died quite quickly in hospital on March the 8th, before either Steve or I could get to see her.
Namibian sand dune about 200m high
Phil went skiing in Colorado again this year. The weather was pretty good and the skiing excellent. It might be our last year: Chris (skiing companion) and I can't ski for as long as we used to, and have other things to do these days.
In April we took a trip up to the North East. We'd been intending to do this for a while, since we wanted to scatter Liza's ashes in her favourite places. We decided to make an expedition of it, and drove up via places where we could recharge the BMW i3 electric car. That meant we visited Swaffham, Lincoln, York and a B&B in Crook, County Durham. All extremely interesting places with plenty to see, and allowed Mavis to show me some of her old haunts (including her school) in York. We scattered the ashes along the river in Middleton-in-Teesdale, and in the cemetery of her old church in Eighton Banks. The drive back was less epic: we used the little petrol engine to get us back in one go.
Malachite kingfisher in Botswana
In June we set off on another safari trip to Africa. This time we started in Namibia and then progressed to Botswana. I'd not realised it until we arrived, but Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, and you realise that when you drive through it. You can go hours barely seeing a soul. We spent a night in the capital, Windhoek, visited 3 different safari camps and spent a few days in Swarkopmund exploring the dunes. In Botswana we flew between a variety of safari sites, and we took lots of photos throughout the holiday. We dined with the captain of AC Milan (Riccardo Montolivo) and his wife at one of the camps in Botswana. We really recommend these as holidays: as a way of relaxing, they're fabulous (although not cheap). We're off to Kenya and Tanzania in January.
In September we travelled down to Exeter for Phil's University 40th Anniversary re-union. Lots of friends from University were there and Pete and Jane were perfect hosts. The wander around Exmoor was challenging for some (e.g. Mavis), but we all enjoyed it..
A relaxing lioness in Botswana
In March we had a 4 kW photo-voltaic (PV) system fitted on the roof. So far it's yielded nearly £500 in feed in payments, and saved us around £200 in our electricity used. We're very pleased with the system.
In September we were a little more adventurous and had our aging oil-fuelled boiler replaced with an air source heat pump (ASHP). This effectively uses electricity to compress the heat that already exists in the outside air, and can provide up to 4 kW of indoor heating and water heating for only 1 kW of electricity. Because it reduces burning carbon-based fuels, we also get a grant of almost £900 per annum. We're still getting used to how it works and working out how efficient it is in real life.
Mavis has decided that after about 25 years, the living room definitely needs decorating. No simple task: the room is full of furniture, including a fish tank weighing about 1/3 tonne. We've decided to empty the tank and move it, and then get the house movers in to store the furniture while local tradesmen do the work while we're on holiday. Fingers crossed.
The heat pump external unit
We've continued to sing with the Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan society and Stondon singers. Mavis made a seven-foot-tall lily for the G&S production of Patience. We sang evensong in St Paul's cathedral in April with the Stondons, and will be doing the same in Norwich cathedral this year. Phil continues to work at Felixstowe CAB and this year did a little maths mentoring for GCSE pupils at a local academy (or school, as we prefer). Mavis continues to keep the garden in shape, grow lots of veggies and serve as emergency dress maker for our friends.
That's all we can fit in. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes