Gilbert this year
Mavis and Phil's news from the year gone.
Gilbert the one-eared-cat is no longer with us. He died in May this year. He'd had a large lump on his hip which the vet said was almost certainly malignant but too attached to be able to do anything about. He died in Mavis's arms at home and is buried in the garden.
Both still alive.
Elephant in Tanzania
In January this year we returned to Kenya and Tanzania.
We started at the rhino conservancy at Lewa - our 3rd stay there. It's an unusual location since both white and black rhinos are found there. It's really too far north for white rhino, but the conservation is so good it serves as protection for both sub-species. They now have over 100 black rhino (up 25% in 4 years) and a similar number of white. They have not lost a rhino to poaching for 5 years.
Then on to the Masai Mara. Lots of wildlife there, including a count of over 160 elephants in view at the same time.
Next was the drive over the border to Tanzania and the Serengeti. We met up with our long-time guide, Kakae, before going on to our camp at Lamai. We were pleased to discover the manager was Julien, whom we had met in 2017 at the chimp-tracking camp. The stay there was enlivened by occasional torrential storms which the local leopards didn't seem to be enjoying.
Then 2 new camps for us - one in Tarangire National Park, an area of around 2,800 km2 just to the south of the Serengeti. The other was in Selous Game Reserve, an enormous reserve of around 54,000 km2 - about the size of Ireland. We remember Tarangire mostly for the tsetse flies - they're not dangerous but they really hurt when they bite. They also have very hard exoskeletons and are almost impossible to swat. Selous is quite a long way south and it was summer when we were there. Gosh it was hot. But they upgraded us to the honeymoon suite and we had our own lounge and plunge pool. Nice! We got a bit obsessed with bird spotting and saw almost 250 different species while we were there.
Obligatory photo of tomatoes
Still singing with the Stondon Singers just south of Chelmsford - about a 110 mile round trip. We started in March with an ecclesiastical programme of music from the 16th to the 20th century, both accompanied and a capella. Then to Stondon, where William Byrd died, for a July concert in his memory. November was a significant departure for us - music from the USA's jazz era, including Porgy and Bess and In the Mood. I think we all loved singing it and the audience seemed to enjoy it. We finish with Christmas songs later this month.
A Christmas gift of a silk painting set persuaded Mavis to take up her brush once more. She sold a painting of cheetahs to one of the assistants in a Woodbridge shop, and we're planning to take the rest to Tanzania, to sell in one of the lodge shops in aid of the Nomad Trust - a charity that works with people local to its camps supporting Conservation, Education and Health.
Silk painted cheetahs
Phil continues to work at Felixstowe CAB. A change to the IT set up means he can now do some work at home, checking the advice given by other advisers.
Mavis continues to keep the garden in shape (with the help of Pete and Kevan). This year we again pushed the boat out growing tomatoes, with 66 plants growing in a variety of self-watering systems. This year started slowly, but produced a new record yield of 75kg. We have quite a bit of roast tomato passata
Our second electric BMW i3 is going well - normally averaging around 160 miles on a charge, which is plenty for us. Phil has now sold the big Triumph Tiger motorbike and replaced it with an electric motorbike. Performance is not exactly stunning, but it gets him to the local towns where needed.
That's all we can fit in. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Hard at work painting
Mr & Mrs P E Holmes