Mavis and Phil's news from the year gone.
Even less to report on the family front than last year. Gilbert the one-eared-cat is a year older and so are we.
In November 2017 Phil eventually went to see the doctor to try to shift a persistent cough. It turned out that the cough was down to being allergic to something or other and was fixed with a nasal inhaler. In listening for the source of the cough the doctor noted an abnormality in his heart beat and sent him for ultrasound investigation. A few days later the doctor rang to say that one of his heart valves was not working properly (a prolapsed bicuspid valve, for those interested) and so the heart was not functioning completely as it should. This was not good news 4 weeks before a massive holiday. We quickly arranged a private visit to a consultant cardiologist who pronounced him fit to travel (phew) since there were no symptoms of the problem. It has to be kept under observation and his blood pressure is being treated with pills, but otherwise all looks OK.
A chimp at Mahale
One major holiday this year and a few other bits.
The major effort was another safari trip to East Africa - Kenya and Tanzania. As last year we flew to Nairobi and the next day flew up to northern Kenya. This was a pretty remote place called Meru conservancy and we stayed at Elsa's Kopje where Elsa the lioness from Born Free was brought up. Then further north to an even more remote location called Sarara Camp in the Namunyak Conservancy. This is a very arid area where wildlife and nomadic herders co-exist, mainly peaceably. Mavis's highlight was the naked Samburu warriors raising water from their wells to provide for their animals. A return trip to Lewa and then on to a hotel built at the top of the Rift Valley escarpment overlooking the Mara triangle reserve. Stunning views and wildlife.
Mahale camp - made from old dhows
On to Tanzania where we were reunited with Kakae, our guide from last year. We started with a return to Lamai Serengeti camp and enjoyed it as much as last year. Then on a long flight to Mahale camp, in western Tanzania on the banks of Lake Tanganika. The camp (which is only accessible by a 90 minute dhow trip) is surrounded by rain forest which is famous for being one of the few remaining places where chimpanzees live in the wild. Mahale has a particular group of chimps which became used to the presence of people following work in the 1970s by Japanese researchers. The key attraction is spending time with these chimps. For the first two days of our three day stay, the trackers could not find the chimps and so we lazed around in camp. On the third morning we headed out and walked past the group without knowing it. They then started shouting and screaming (possibly at a leopard) and we headed back. We were lucky enough to spend over an hour with them playing around alongside us.
Carmine bee eater in Meru National park
For Mavis's significant birthday (the number of years ends in a zero) we spent two nights at the Savoy Hotel (built for Gilbert and Sullivan), ate at Gordon Ramsey's grill and watched an opera at the Royal Opera House (Mitridate Re di Ponto - a not well known early Mozart opera, but it was fantastic). We later returned to London to the Opera House for the rather better known Magic Flute.
We had a University reunion in Manchester - around 10 of the class of 1975 revisiting our old haunts which have changed quite a bit in the interim.
Nothing to report on the house. We had another go at growing tomatoes this year and beat last year's 57kg haul with 60kg this year.
A selection of our tomatoes
We've pretty much ended our time with the Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan society - Mavis after 35 years and Phil after 30. There was no falling out - we just felt we'd "done our time". Phil continued to sell the tickets for the show but this will be his last year. Overall he has sold £210,000 worth of tickets for them. Mavis did costumes and make-up - but plans to give up being costumier.
With the Stondon Singers we continued to sing four concerts of fairly varied repertoire - one each in March, July, November and Christmas. We arranged to sing Evensong at St Paul's cathedral in April and it then turned out they were short of a choir for an afternoon in June so they asked us if we could come and sing Eucharist. Rather pleasing.
Phil continues to work at Felixstowe CAB. Mavis continues to keep the garden in shape and grow lots of veggies.
That's all we can fit in. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes