Mavis and Phil's news from the year gone.
Not much to report on the family front - everything is very much as it was last year. Gilbert the one-eared-cat continues to laze around and bring in the occasional vole. He also enjoys his holidays at Old Oak cattery, where he is featured on the brochure.
Lion cubs on a rocky outcrop in the Serengeti
One major holiday this year and a minor break.
The major effort was a safari trip to East Africa - Kenya and Tanzania. We flew to Nairobi, spent the night at a Red Cross run hotel there, and then flew on to Kenya, staying initially at Lewa, where Prince William proposed to Kate. Then on to Tanzania where we met Kakae, our guide for the next 10 days. He drove us between three different safari camps, and guided us while in camp, and was a truly wonderful guide. Mavis is still in email contact with him. An interesting experience whilst driving between camps was getting stuck in the mud in the middle of the Serengeti. We could not get ourselves out (despite travelling in a 4WD Land Cruiser) and so a team of another Land Cruiser with a winch and a 4WD pickup together with 5 Maasai came out to help. They couldn't free it either, and so we went on to the camp in the other 4WD. Which got stuck in the mud. An interesting day.
Hippos in the Mara River, from our bed
We crossed by road back into Kenya, and finished the holiday at a camp on the banks of the Mara river. The camp was only accessible by a rope bridge about 50 m long, and the lodge was within about 5 m of the Mara river, complete with hippo and crocs.
In April we went to a charity/social event at the local Mercedes dealer and made a maiden bid for a weekend's use of a top of the range Merc. No-one else bid, so we won. We used it for a weekend break up to Cley Next the Sea, in North Norfolk, staying in the Windmill, now converted to hotel style accommodation. Had a good time making lots of noise with the car.
Overlooking the Ngorongoro crater
We're now reaping the benefits of our green expenditure over the last couple of years. The electric car does about 75 miles on battery, at about 1.5p per mile. For our 110 mile trip to deepest Essex for a weekly rehearsal, we use the petrol engined Range Extender for about 35 miles. Apart from that we hardly use any petrol, and overall it does about 230 mpg at just under 4p per mile. Coupled with the grant income from our solar photovoltaics and for the heat pump that heats the house and water, I calculate that we now pay nothing for transport and heating - it's break even between expenditure and grant income.
We had a glass and aluminium verandah installed over the back door, and so we can now wander around there even in the rain.
Our plan to get the living room decorated while we were on holiday paid off - we returned to a ceiling with no cracks, new paint and a lovely new carpet all done. Excellent..
A selection of our toms and peppers
We've continued to sing with the Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan society and Stondon singers. We did the concert season with the G&S but not the show - although Phil sold all the tickets (around £25,000 worth) and Mavis did costumes and make-up - or "frocks and faces". We're taking next year off from the G&S, Mavis having sung with them for nearly 35 years, and Phil nearly 30 years.
With the Stondons (who take their name from Stondon Massey, the final home of William Byrd) we sang a sold-out Christmas concert in Blackmore, a festival of East Anglian music at Ingatestone Hall, a sold out Byrd memorial concert in Stondon Massey and a combination of Duruflé and Rutter in Galleywood. It's generally quite difficult music and the need to learn 4 concerts' worth of completely new music each year is quite challenging. We also sang evensong at Norwich cathedral, and are returning to St Paul's this April.
Phil continues to work at Felixstowe CAB. Mavis continues to keep the garden in shape and grow lots of veggies. This year we made a more team effort with the tomatoes, with Mavis growing them and Phil watering and recording the yield on a spreadsheet. We grew 57 kg in total, most of which was turned into roast tomato passata.
That's all we can fit in. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes