With the advent of social media we have decided to give up on this blog and have archived all the entries here
Sadly just after Christmas and following a nice day in Norwich visiting us, Steve Mums' husband and grandfather to the children Len Jones died. Len was always cheerful and companionable and will be missed by us all.
Off to the Lake District for a Christmas celebration with Elliot and Kate and her family. We stayed in a cottage that slept 12+ at the Quiet Site near Ullswater. We had a wonderful time in spite of the severe storms and then a wind and rain lashed journey home. Granddad Geoff joined us for Christmas day as his planned move to Norwich has been delayed by paperwork and won't happen until first thing in the new year. Over the last couple of months with lots of hard work and a coffee and cake day that was well and generously attended by lots of our friends, Judith has managed to reach her fundraising target and will leave for Africa at the end of January.
Rachael has returned to live at home while she looks for full time employment here or in Birmingham with Sam.
Down to a blustery Plymouth for Judith's Graduation. Although the weather was not great it was easily the nicest Graduation ceremony so far (just one to go now). Granddad Geoff decided to move back to Norwich having found a nice flat near the river. Judith gets a place on a VSO working party in Lesotho on a programme called Coaching for Hope. She now needs to raise nearly a thousand pounds to cover trip expenses.
We nip off to Northern Italy for a fortnight in Bologna, and the surrounding towns. Lots of interesting photos including a particular favourite. As well as visiting romantic Verona we also visited the Casa Ferrari in Modena and the magnificent mosaics in Ravenna and some of the other nearby towns. Colette returns to University her foot having recovered at last.
Rachael has her graduation at the Southbank. A beautiful day in prestigious surroundings. Colette is in Belgium au pairing for a French speaking family. Enjoyed her time there but was deep in the countryside so only had the odd day trip to Belgium's more well known towns.
The old codgers all head off to London for a long weekend. We walk the river and cross on the emirates cable car with magnificent views on a clear day then off to the west end for dinner and a show at the Black Cat cabaret. A nice weekend and a great time with really nice people.
Steve hits the big 60 and had a great surprise dinner party with some friends who between them all had someone who was 60 this year. So we decided to go to London for a long weekend.
Judith hears she has a good job over the summer holidays working with disadvantaged youngsters in the outdoors.
Steve starts a new job with working to secure contracts for a local medical consortium. Its a really interesting and challenging post. At last Colette has her operation and is going to be about on crutches and in a moon boot for 6 weeks.
Its very quiet when everyone has left to go back to their new homes.
Christmas is wonderful with everyone home and a couple of house guests as well. Oliver surprises us by coming back from Singapore the day before Christmas eve. Colette hears that only an operation is going to fix her foot and is anxious to get things moving. Rachael has new work at a Carting centre and has given up her west end pub job.
Off to the Lakes to visit Elliot and Kate in their cottage in Kirkoswald. We have a great time visiting and walking around various locations although with the incessant rain we do get pretty muddy.
The cottage atop the village stores and post office is idyllic but has got a bit of a ventilation problem that may lead to damp issues (It does).
Colette tears a ligament in her leg and is unable to start her new term although she does continue with her theory whilst waiting to hear if it can be repaired with physio or will need an operation.
Fed up with the plotting and planning at work that was not helping clients, Steve leaves his job to seek pastures new. (It will take 6 months but its still worth it)
March - April 2012 Off to the far east.
We took the opportunity of visiting Oliver in Singapore to take a long awaited trip to Cambodia and Vietnam.
After an endless flight with a stopover (just a few minutes) in Dakar we flew into Singapore in the afternoon. After a short break to have a shower and freshen up we were off to start our tour of Singapore. First stop was in the amazing Divine wine bar in Parkview Square or as Time out calls it Singapore’s ‘Gotham City’. Devine boasts a fairy who ‘flies’ up to retrieve your bottle of wine from a 12m-high rack complete with silver wings. The (very petite) girl flies up and down on an electric hoist and it’s a sight you won’t see anywhere else. Then off on a walking tour of Singapore by night taking in the Sri Mariman Temple and Boat Quay.
Next morning a quick round of museums. Then off to the amazing Marina Bay Sands complex which boasts the Sky Park a vast boat like structure parked atop three huge skyscrapers. At the bottom is the Science Museum, an odd title and nothing like you will find in South Kensington, however they did have 2 very interesting exhibitions one on the Titanic particularly timely as we visited just a couple of days before the hundredth anniversary of its launch (and sinking), and the other on Andy Warhol. It was really interesting to see lots of his early work so very different from his later more famous artworks. Then up the tower to the top and the terrific views over Singapore from the boat shaped Sky Park. Finally Oliver treated us to a concert featuring Buddy Guy and The Specials.
Our Last day was spent travelling to Sentosa Island (a weird Asian Disneyland) to catch the Cable car across the bay. Very similar to the cable car in Hong Kong but this one also passes through the middle of a skyscraper on the way. Then off to the shopping Malls on Orchard Road. This is either all your dreams come true or a ghastly temple to mammon with endless variations of the same designer brand stores in dozens of different but the same malls. Far more interesting is the giant market at the Mustufa store, where the same brands (not knock offs mostly) are available for a fraction of the price, you just need a map and Sherpa to find your way around a shop that literally sells everything.
Then cocktails before tea in Raffles Hotel, luckily Oliver was paying for drinks that were only a smidgen less than the bank toppling cost of a coffee in St Marks Square. On our way out we came across a square full of dozens of Ukulele players learning western tunes from an accomplished tutor. We finished the evening at the Clarke Quay watching a film being made of some dancers in the pavement fountains. Next morning pack and off to Cambodia with Helen wiping a tear from her eye as we said goodbye to Oliver at the very calm Singapore airport.
The brief stopover in Ho Chi Minh (Siagon) didn’t look too promising as it was in the middle of an intense tropical storm, however by the time we reached SiemReap we had flown past the storm and landed in sunny weather in the charming and attractive, very asian airport.
Mr That who was to become our TukTuk driver for the next few days was waiting for us and drove us to the Angkor Pearl hotel that we can heartily recommend. Luxury attention and clean pleasant rooms. We are not the sort who choose isolated lux resorts divorced from the reality of the town or even country you’re staying in, so this was heaven. Next day we booked Mr That to take us to the distant but really interesting jewel of a temple that is Banteay Seri. The 20 Km ride past houses, businesses and ‘restaurants’ is fascinating just on its own. On the way back we visited the Land mine museum. This museum supports an orphanage for children who have lost parents due to the thousands of landmines and other ordinance still remaining from the American war against this peaceful rural community. In the evening we took a short walk to restaurant street and enjoyed our first taste of genuine Cambodian food.
We had planned to hire cycles but the combination of the heat, humidity and low cost of hiring Mr That and his hard working TukTuk meant we had a slightly easier time and got round more of the temples that are so different although a common theme everywhere are the Apsaras the beautiful dancers forever entertaining the temple cities rulers and then centuries of visitors. Over the next couple of days we visited most of the temples and enjoyed a banquet and Apsara dancing. The temples are all very different although similar themes appear in all of them.
Undoubtedly the Bayon with its 12th century version of big brother watching everywhere and the main temple of Angkor Wat are the most amazing. The impressive thing was that because the sites are so vast you are never really aware of the very large number of visitors and its possible to be alone even in somewhere like Angkor Wat itself.
The children selling beads and postcards are everywhere, but if you are firm but keep a good temper they wont bother you too much. It's sad that this is a country so poor that they use the US dollar rather than their own currency that only appear as small change. After four days in Siem Reap it was time to leave for Vietnam…
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) was a bit of a shock. It is the busiest, noisiest city that I have ever been in. Arriving at the Cat Huy hotel was interesting, the staff were waiting for us (possibly to stop us running away when we saw the alley it was in). Nevertheless it was very comfortable and beautifully decorated and ironically the location meant it was very quiet despite a busy main road in front and a very busy restaurant street behind.
Next morning we decided to get trishaws to get across town, (do fix a price before you start, it can rise alarmingly if you don’t) this was an exciting ride as they weave in and out of the millions of motorbikes on the road. Crossing the road as a pedestrian is an interesting experience as the traffic never stops, you just need good eye contact and walk out into the road, if you don’t hesitate or stop, they will miss you.
We visited a couple of interesting pagodas and decided to give the reunification hall a miss. Walking round a new city is always a joy (as long as you have a serviceable map) and Saigon is an amazing place to walk around. Despite being a communist country there is a lot of poverty but also a hive of activity. The markets (there is a vast one in the Cholon district) are an amazing hive of activity and seem to have a huge foreign as well as local client base. There are many museums and other places to visit like the Saigon Hilton the prison where hundreds of US military were kept for years after being captured during the war. The War remnants museum is a must visit and deeply moving place, especially if you have any interest in photography or the recent history of this victimised nation.
We took a trip up the Mekong Delta in a boat. Somehow I thought it might be hilly but of course it is a huge alluvial flat delta thousands of miles square. The river is a busy highway, floating market, sewer outfall, source of agricultural irrigation and home to thousands. There are rice paddy’s everywhere and this area is the main rice basket for Vietnam and parts of Cambodia.
Everywhere we went we came across brides and grooms having
their photographs taken in tomb sites, museums, parks in fact anywhere that
looked nicer than the local registry office. The parks are very busy in the
mornings and evenings with huge crowds of people exercising to music, we asked
but couldn’t get to the bottom of who the sessions were run by. People also play
endless foot badminton and more conventional badminton.
On our final evening we
went to the circus, bits were brilliant, bits were fun, and bits were
especially the strange lady and her dogs.
Hue is wonderful. We both really liked Hue. The moment we arrived at the Jade Hotel the staff were really wonderful, attentive and helpful, and the room was lovely with the bed decorated with roses and rose petals. The bed… was very very very firm. This is pretty normal in this part of the world but it takes a couple of days to get used to. We arrived in the middle of their International festival so there was lots going on. We walked down to the riverside and watched the entertainments. Some were free on the street and some were ticketed. The hard bit was working out what was on where, but it was an entertaining night.
The following morning the bikes we had hired turned up. They were excitingly and inspiringly branded ‘Asama’. If I had found it on a skip I would have left it there, nevertheless they did work and we then had our best day in Vietnam on them. Cycling along the river a woman on a motorbike ‘picked us up’ and assured us she knew where we wanted to go. She didn’t. Not quite sure still if she genuinely wanted to be helpful? Her English was very good so I do think she understood when we said we were going to a very famous local archaeological site and she said it was on her way. Anyway as I can follow a map I realised we were heading in the wrong direction before she had gone too far out of our way. She got a bit shirty so perhaps she saw some way of making money out of us but in any case we parted company and we got ourselves back on track.
About 12 miles outside Hue is the tomb of the emperor Minh Mang. I believe it is one of the most beautiful and peaceful man made places in the world. There was an occasional drizzle which only served to wash the stones and bring an amazing atmosphere to the place that was impossible to catch with a camera. I really did not want to leave but there were other sights to see and we dragged ourselves away. Refreshed after lunch we visited another amazing tomb that of Thieu Duc then cycled on to see the elephant arena built for elephant versus tiger fights after one got out of hand and the emperor was injured. After a day of cycling on real boneshakers in temperatures in the upper 30s we were exhausted but very happy when we returned to the hotel, only to find they had seen it was my birthday in my passport and presented me with a cake and flowers!
But it wasn’t over yet as we had tickets to visit the Imperial city at night something that only happens every 2 years. It was amazing and along with national dress shows, music, and fireworks there were people in period costume demonstrating and playing court games. I played, I won, I don’t know what I played or how I won but I won a splendid piece of calligraphy made by one of the artists in residence. All in all I don’t think I have ever spent a happier birthday.
The next day we visited a beautiful local pagoda and monastery, the Thien Mu Pagoda. Poignantly this was where Thich Quang Duc the first monk to immolate himself in protest against the activities of the southern government during the war in Vietnam. The bell which was being rung constantly by a monk resonated with a clear but guttural sound that shook your stomach. Afterwards we visited the tomb of Duc Duc which was badly damaged by the americans during the same war. It is an amazing testament to these wonderful, friendly people that they bear few grudges against the nation that decimated their population in the name of securing a market for US goods (OK rant over).
We couldn’t resist returning to the Imperial city in the daylight and had the good fortune of seeing a troupe of Japanese dancers and musicians rehearse. They just seemed to float around the stage without being phased by the high humidity and temperatures. Afterwards we watched some fantastic kites in front of the flag tower, I have no idea how big the flag is but it looks the size of a football pitch, anyway it is really big. In the evening we watched a visually spectacular show and could make no sense of it at all. Afterwards the traffic we had to make our way home in was really busy but we never felt in any real danger even when making U turns in it. The next day we headed off to the airport for our final destination in Hanoi.
(More Pictures for Vietnam coming soon)
Once again the Hotel staff at the Hanoi Holiday Diamond were waiting for us and again the quality of service was suburb and this time a bit softer bed. After settling in we went for a walk by the lake and onto the tiny island temple. We ended up by the water puppet theatre. Having read very mixed reviews we had decided not to bother but as we were standing outside and the tickets were very cheap we decided we couldn’t miss it. It was entertaining and lasted about the right time, but… The seating is designed for Vietnamese people at least two feet shorter than us and it was torture for tall Europeans. There are a few separate folding seats in the side aisles and I recommend grabbing one to anyone over five feet high who is considering going.
The next morning we were off to Halong bay, a sugarloaf mountain range that comes up out of the sea and has created nearly 2000 small islands in an idyllic setting. The small downside is that it takes a nearly a four hour trip to get there from Hanoi, so if we had had more time an overnight on the bay might have been nice, nevertheless it is a remarkable place and despite the very large number of visitors the bay is vast so apart from the docks it doesn’t seem too crowded. There are lots of vast caverns with massive stalactites and ‘mites. In the evening we visited the Market that appears in the roads from the permanent market down to the lake, miles of bargains of every conceivable type.
Our final day was spent visiting the Temple of literature. It’s the oldest university in Vietnam and is still attached to the university. Loads of students haunt the place and have their photos taken together there. A joyful and interesting place, in the centre of a busy city. We walked past the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ the prison that held many American prisoners of war, didn’t feel the urge to visit though. In the evening a meal on a restaurant balcony overlooking the shopping streets nearby. Our final morning was spent walking round and having a final excellent coffee overlooking the city and the lake from the top floor of the highland restaurant. Then reluctantly packing and setting off to the airport for our final flight home back to our gorgeous, wonderful lucky golden cat!!!
Everyone has gone away to their various locations around
Britain and around the world. Oliver has persuaded us to visit him in
Singapore so now we are planning a visit to him and will probably take the
opportunity to visit other places in the far east as well.
Among Norwich Harmony Christmas Concerts were two Singouts for charity. One for Steves work, Asperger East Anglia when about £300 was raised and another outside the Forum in Norwich were they raised £83.
Helen and Steve managed to book a bargain break weekend in London and met up with Colette and Rachael to do a bit of Christmas shopping. Rachael let slip that her boyfriend whom Helen and Steve had not met was free later so was persuaded to text him to meet up for a meal before her parents caught the train home. Everyone had an interesting time at Leon's Restaurant in Spitalfields. Rachael is spending time with Sam before she comes home to Norwich and hopefully Sam will get the chance to visit Norwich very soon.
Helen has been practising furiously with her colleagues in Norwich Harmony for two singing competitions. One for Radio Norfolk and one serious one in Harrogate. They lost out on the Norfolk Choir of the year award but did very well in Harrogate where they moved up into the first division of Ladies Barbershop Choruses.
Everyone has gone back to University and the house is very quiet. Moving into their own accommodation and out of Halls resulted in some minor crises, but nothing too complicated to solve. Finally Steve's ankle returns to normal and stops reminding him of the accident in December every time he walks on it.
Steve has broken his ankle, well actually dislocated his ankle and broke his fibula. This meant 3 days in hospital, followed by moping about the house and working at home till Christmas. Still it was enlivened a little bit when Anglia TV asked him to appear in an item about the difficulties posed by the bad weather (clip here). All the Children are now home from their various university courses so we have a happy Christmas house full.
The really snowy weather has meant Steve's broken ankle has felt like being under house arrest as it has been rather dangerous to venture out.
A quiet month, Steve has been busy preparing for the charity AGM at the end of October, and working with Helen decorating Colette's room. Helens dad visited in order to see cousin Adam in a play at the Maddermarket theatre.
Our turn to plan the Freewheelers cycle ride and having always travelled out in the country we decided to do a city run. It worked out fairly well except for the BBC event in the Forum which stropped traffic and filled the city with thousands of parents and children at 10:00 in the morning on a Sunday which we didn't expect. Jean, Helen's friend from Australia came to stay for an enjoyable couple of weeks. It was really great to catch up on news and get together again.
Just a couple of weeks into her nursing course Colette managed to break a big toe (playing football in the halls corridor and a couple of days later sprained her ankle so badly the hospital thought it was broken and had to spend some time in a moon boot and crutches.
At the end of the month Helen went off with the other members of Norwich Harmony to Llandudno to take part in the Ladies Barbershop convention and competition where they did very well improving on their last score.
So we got all three girls off to Uni, did have a little bit of bovver as Steve managed to fill the diesel car up with petrol. This of course had to be pumped out and the fuel delivery system cleaned out. This it seem is a three shilling job and of course you lose the tank of petrol as well. Plymouth has changed a lot since Steve was there in the 70's although the old flat on Haddington Rd hasn't changed a bit!
Brilliant news Rachael & Judith both got the universities of their choice, especially good news when the media are reporting that thousands will not only have problems getting their first choice but will have problems getting a place at all through clearing.
Nice to have everyone at home before Helen and Steve set off on their summer hols.
Click on the links for the Photos. - Italy on our own, with a week in Venice and another in Rome. Off with Ryanair and no hassle or delays as we did manage the 10kg in the miniscule suitcase. We knew we were going to die when the bus driver from the airport to the island answered the second mobile on the motorway but he did manage to keep the bus on the road and we arrived after that stunning trip down the Grand canal to find the hotel we booked even better than expected.
It was very central just a dozen meters from busy St Marks square and all the staff were delightful. Although it didn't have a restaurant you really wouldn't want one when just outside the door are loads of bars and restaurants and eating breakfast in the street is much more fun.
We did a lot of walking as we visited the many museums, galleries and churches covering about 35 miles in 6 days. We did catch the Vaporetto and motoscafo a couple of times and when we went to Murano but nowhere is very far to walk. For a low cost treat you can catch a gondola (Traghetto) across the Grand canal for 50c.
If you visit Venice the best way to beat queues to the Doges palace is to buy the 'secret itinerary' tour ticket, the tour is quite interesting and you have the opportunity to visit the rest of the palace afterwards. The Peggy Guggenheim Gallery is interesting and thought provoking as is the new modern art gallery in the old customs house. This has a statue of a naked boy with a frog outside that has its own policeman to guard it! We felt that a surfeit of Madonna's made the Accademia less interesting.
Steve is pretty good with maps and directions but we still got lost at least once a day in the fascinating back streets. Since its only a mile or so wide you can't stay lost for too long but it can be a bit frustrating when you find you were only a hundred meters from where you wanted to be having wandered about for 30 minutes. It rained for a while on a couple of occasions but it didn't last long and it still made Venice look interesting.
Murano is worth a visit but totally dedicated to selling you glass (actually everyone in Venice wants to sell you something or other). Yes we did have a cup of the most expensive coffee in the world in St Marks but you only have to do it once a lifetime. We were sitting next to people drinking champagne at prices that would settle most peoples mortgages so we didn't so feel quite so guilty then.
A week passed very happily and so off to Rome on the train, a comfortable and fairly quick journey. Another nice hotel who were happy to cope with a wheat free breakfast. So much to do and so little time. Since we had visited many of the churches and the Vatican on previous visits we concentrated on classical Roman history and people, here at the Trevi Fountain.
The best day was probably visiting the Capitoline museum, Trajans market and deciding to call it a day we took the metro to St Peters for dinner and an evening walk when we discovered that Castel St Angelo was open till midnight. In the cooler evening the trip round was fascinating and the views of Rome by night from the top were brilliant. Walking home we found ourselves by chance backstage at a Queen concert (actually a tribute band but they were great fun). a pretty memorable and enjoyable day, the only frustration was only having my phone camera with me that evening.
We spent a very hot day in Tivoli visiting the very badly signed and staffed but really interesting site of Hadrian's Villa. There is a wonderful restaurant opposite the bus stop back to Tivoli/Rome where we had the best and cheapest salad in 2 weeks in Italy and the staff really tried hard to make us welcome and be helpful.
On the last evening someone decided they had had enough of the noise etc from scooters parked in the courtyard of the flats next to the hotel and set them all on fire. The final day we visited a couple of well known churches and then had lunch before travelling back to the airport and another stress free flight back to the UK.
While we were away Judith went to Cambridge & Nottingham, Colette had a w/e in London whilst Rachael went with friends to Carcassonne and Oliver delivered some specialist kit to the Netherlands for his work. Busy busy busy.
July '10 First day of the month and Rachael & Judith are off to the prom with their friends click for pix and then off to Dublin for a week.
June '10 Off to see Elliot in Penrith. We had also planned to walk a big section of Hadrian's wall but Steve ricked his ankle a couple of weeks before and so we only ended up walking about 15 miles out of the 30 planned. However we did walk the best and most spectacular sections of the wall and the weather was pretty kind to us. Steve was delighted to visit the Mithreanum at Bracolita as he went to school with a Roman/Celtic temple buried beneath the school playing field and had wanted to see what it may have looked like ever since. Meanwhile Colette got a small taste of the university life spending the week with Elliot. Came back to the confusion caused by decorating the lounge and hall and spent the weekend clearing up and cleaning the carpets. Still nearly done now.
May '10 A difficult start to the month as the girls out in the Clio managed to write it off. luckily without involving anyone else or hurting themselves or the friends with them. So now we search for a new cheap car. Meanwhile the heating in the lounge has, after many years, finally been replaced with some proper radiators that will give of enough heat to work properly. Helen, Colette, Rachael and Judith all ran the Race for life and had an enjoyable time. Mid month we found a low cost hatchback so everyone is mobile again.
April '10 Steve is much engaged at work as the 'chief exec' has stood down and he and a colleague are taking over the role between them. Meanwhile Helen has started her new job and is enjoying it. Luckily we had decided to miss a trip to Nerja in Spain mid month as some of the group never made it out there because of the Volcanic Ash and those that did had to wait some time to get home.
March '10 Oliver gets his first ticket in his new SAAB! Colette, Rachael and Judith all get offers of University places. Rachael gets her own show on Future Radio. She is very good and a natural presenter. In the competition she runs with her co presenter she has been winning in her choice of music. Steve has been busy at work dealing with some difficult issues and Helen has been training for her new job that will start in April (still based in the same school). Colette has returned to help out at the Hewett with Judith backstage on West Side Story. It was very good. Colette is also volunteering at a local day centre and has secured a job at the N&N University Hospital. Rachael has a new job at a bar/restaurant in the city and seems to be loving it despite the longer hours
February '10 Helen and Steve are getting the bedroom redecorated and have pinched the twins room to sleep in which was fun for a couple of days but is wearing thin after a week, still the work is progressing well and it will all be over soon. Mid month Oliver has bought his own car, a SAAB which looks pretty good.
January '10 Quiet after Christmas with everyone at home.
December 09 Elliot has to speak up on behalf of students in the Lake district when financial problems hit his university. Mid month Judith gains the FA referees qualification and can now referee proper football matches.
In December we went to Paris to collect Colette. The weekend we decided to go was the weekend all the Eurostar trains broke down, however as we were travelling Eurotunnel it seemed worth trying as they started to sort out the backlog once the Eurostar trains stopped running. However the roads from Norwich were very icy, the windscreen washer froze up and once across the channel after only an hours delay the temperature really dropped and we drove all the way to Paris on black ice, not an experience I want to try anytime soon. We did get to stay a night in Paris and to see some of the people Colette had met in her time there. Then AAhh a flat tyre with a big hole and a bill of nearly £200 for the replacement. Then back to Calais on icy roads, do some shopping at the Carrefore where the carpark was a solid sheet of every bumpy ice. Still at the tunnel there were no delays because the stopped Eurostar trains meant the Eurotunnel trains were all on time with no holdups. We have grandad a lift from Basildon to Attleborough on the way back and decided the M11 would be the best route, wrong, it was travelling very slowly for miles and miles with nothing at the front when we reached the end of the problem. Finally made it back at Midnight Christmas Eve! Nice relaxed Christmas though.
November 09 At last Judith has been passed fit and her Knee is getting back to full strength. Just 2 days later she sadly had an accident when a motorist opened her door in front of her. Luckily it was the bike that the full force of the accident and she suffered little harm. She is currently undertaking the FA referees training.
October 09 Not too busy and Steve & Helen manage to get away for a relaxing weekend in Cambridge. Taking our bikes made travelling around very easy and enjoyable.
September 09 The twins start their last year at school and are busy choosing universities which means we will have four children at uni all together! Colette continues to have fun in France and has made many new friends from across Europe who are also au-pairing in Paris.
August 09 Helen and Steve take a cycling trip around the North Holland area of the Netherlands. It really was great fun and we had a wonderful time Click here for an outline of our journey which covered just under 300 miles...
At last the kitchen and bathroom are finished and life can return to normal, we are too exhausted to do anything else!
Oliver has been to Amsterdam helping to run his companies stand at a major oil exploration exhibition.
Meanwhile the house is in chaos as we clear everything in the bathroom and kitchen into the lounge whilst the new floors and then the kitchen and bathroom are fitted out. It will end one day but we are getting a bit fed up at the moment.
Judith is recovering well and only occasionally uses a crutch to help her get about. Helen has had Offsted into the school but it all went reasonably well.
Rachael continues to work at Cafe Rouge and like Judith has already started on her A2s work having completed her AS exams.
Elliot has been voted Vice President of the student union, a paid job that will mean he will take a year off study and start his final year in 2010.
Colette has decided to remain in Paris for the rest of the year and will be doing more work with the children. Her plans for uni are temporarily on hold as she continues to improve her French, visit museums and art galleries and generally have fun in France.
Judith has a new Saturday job as maintenance person on some new flats nearby but she will soon have to take a break when she goes into hospital. Judith had her operation at the end of May. Good news the op went well and she is now hobbling around on crutches with a massive support round her leg which nevertheless is better than a plaster cast.
The new boiler is in and up and running, it's great to have really hot water on tap again as well as better heat round the house. We were lucky that for the days the boiler was out we had pretty good weather.
Judith had a great time in Barcelona although the weather was not particularly good. Then bad news, her knee has not recovered from the accident last year sufficiently well for her to do any sport so she has to have an Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction and that means a couple of weeks on crutches, and then a year off sport which is devastating to her.
Steve & Helen went on their first cycle ride on the middle Sunday of the month with the Bicycle Club and it was glorious. The sun was really hot and it was really nice cycling through the spring Norfolk landscape. Colette continues nicely in France with a number of visitors having been over or going soon.
Good and bad news for Oliver and Judith who were both scheduled to fly abroad the day the snow bought much of the UK to a halt. Oliver just made it out of Birmingham a few minutes before the airport closed, so he did manage to get to the Lapps winter market in Jokkmokk in Sweden (photos here). Sadly Judith didn't get away to Barcelona and was very disappointed. However she will be off later in spring so all is not lost.
Our 18 year old boiler is giving us problems so we are looking at a replacement however the cold snap means delivery and installation will take about 3 months!
Big move - Colette is off to France to work as an Au Pair in Fontenay-aux-Roses just outside the perepherique to the south west of Paris. She is enjoying the new experience and is helping the families three children to speak English. She has made friends with other Au Pairs and local people and devotes her weekends to soaking up Parisian culture.
December was hectic and sad. Steve had a silly accident which had him on crutches for a couple of days and reduced mobility till past Boxing day. The excitement of getting ready for Christmas with the whole family including Helen's Dad who came to stay with us. Nevertheless when the holiday came it was very enjoyable. Then it was time to say goodbye to Elliot who went off to a winter sports session in Scotland before returning to work for his degree in Penrith.
Just before the sad death of her mum Helen heard that she had won the Cath Lake Cup for the most improved person in the Norwich Harmony Ladies Barbershop company. Pic here.
Helen starts work in the brand new school built to replace Thorpe Hamlet Middle School. The new building is great, very spacious, with lots of light.
Off to Seville with the girls. We spent a great couple of weeks in a city centre hotel and explored the city and the surrounding countryside. It was hot (it reached 45C) but very enjoyable. Halfway through the holiday it was the festival of the Virgen de los Reyes which meant a very early morning to watch the Virgin process around the city and a late evening at the bullfight. The girls decided they would visit the Bullfight and although they didn't 'enjoy' it, they did find it an interesting experience. Photos here
Sadly shortly after we returned we heard Helen's mum had broken her leg and had gone to hospital where she remains not very well and discomforted by the metal work keeping her leg bones aligned.
Meanwhile Judith has discovered that she has damaged her anterior cruciate ligament which means many weeks of physiotherapy. Great news for Oliver, he starts his fulltime job at Guardline in Great Yarmouth in the middle of the month.
So much has happened over the last few weeks. Judith and her team with the help and support of their coaches have set up a new football team Thorpe United Ladies Football Club and won their first 2 matches. Then disaster Judith had an accident on the pitch when another girl kicked her knee instead of the ball. Instant pain and a serious injury. X-rays look serious but we are still awaiting a scan to discover if she will need one or more operations. She is gutted that she may be off the pitch for 9 months or more.
Meanwhile Colette is currently in Australia (via Dubai) having a great time travelling around on her own. Last week she climbed OVER (not across) Sydney Harbour Bridge and she is currently skiing in the mountains before heading off to Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock) and finally to Perth.
Oliver is in France travelling around with friends in a car all over the place. Meanwhile Elliot is working running all sorts of outdoor sports events with Active8 and Rachael is working again at Cafe Rouge.
Judith and her team won the girls football cup ending her final season as a girl very satisfactorily, although injuring her ankle and sitting out the second half was a great disappointment. Next season she and her team plus their colleagues in the Norwich City 'Greens' will be forming a new Ladies Club.
Meanwhile Rachael has started Kickboxing and is thoroughly enjoying it. She is also delighted to be back working at Cafe Rouge. Colette is planning a journey to Australia to meet a school friend and visit old friends in Perth.
Earlier in March Collette and Judith worked as backstage manager and stagehand on an ambitious stage version of the Golden Compass.
Elliot has returned from Egypt with a diving instructors certificate and a bit of a tan. Oliver continues to go gliding and enjoys both flying and ground crew work.
Steve has finally got around to brightening up this website and giving it a crisp new look, and Helen has been for a look round her new school that is being built over the road from the temporary school she is working in. At the end of April her singing group Norwich Harmony made it through the preliminaries and will be singing against the best in Britain in Harrogate later in the year.
Helen receives her Counselling Certificate at the University of East Anglia pic here
Colette is featured on the UNICEF website. Just before
going away to Barcelona Colette had a piece of artwork that she had done for
UNICEF put onto the main page of their website
Elliot is back off to Uni and then is going to Norway to do some ice climbing followed by a session of diving in the Red Sea.
Good news Steve has been offered a really interesting post at Asperger East Anglia to help improve services for people affected by Asperger syndrome. He will be starting at the beginning of January.
Oliver is now working at ASDA as a Home Shopping delivery driver whilst searching for a permanent career. Steve is still hunting for a permanent job meanwhile he is working for Tesco rather than sign on. He is also undertaking computer repair and set up work. Elliot is enjoying his course and continues to do well.
A busy month as we attend Oliver 's Graduation at Chelmsford Cathedral on a beautiful sunny day. His degree was presented by Alan Titchmarsh the University patron. Two days later we are heading up to Penrith to settle Elliot into his new University course in Outdoor Education.
The guinea pigs have moved to a new house a short distance away
where they are very happy. Rachael was finding her busy school and social life
were making it more difficult to look after them properly and a friend with
grandchildren was keen to help out.
Very sadly we have been to Chichester to the funeral of Steve's childhood friend and best man Steve Goodridge. Steve died on Sun 31 July '05 after a long fight with cancer. Steve G was always interested in hotrods, fast cars, motorcycles and art and one of my earliest memories is his soap box kart which was always faster and sleeker than any of the rest of his school friends could build. Memories include racing around the old bowling green outside the scout hut on one of the scooters Steve G owned well before being old enough to drive one legally. Through adolescence Steve was plagued by cramp in his legs and would alternately amuse and annoy us as in the middle of the night he would suddenly leap from his bed/sleeping bag with cramp and hop round the room.
David, Meg, Vanda, Steve Goodridge, Anne, and