Christmas Roundup 2016

January 1, 2017

We have been very bad at Christmas news and cards the past few years, I think. So we are trying something different this year, using photos. Well done for getting here, if you have!

(A Christmas cold that’s lasted (so far) from 19 Dec to 1 Jan has nearly kiboshed the good intentions, but I am determined to complete this, even if hurriedly!)

Peter and I had a very well traveled year which is one of the wonderful opportunities of early retirement.

In January we flew to join Kate for two weeks at the end of her year in Thailand.

On the way we stopped in Bombay for a few days.  We stayed with a university friend of Kate’s we had got to know when he spent a couple of Christmases with us.


The church where Bridget’s parents got married in Colaba, still the military residential area. The caretaker found us the actual entry in the register


Kushak’s dad, Ravi, kept us well fed  while Kushak was tour guide.


Bridget buying our train tickets to go down town, as the ladies only queue was shorter.


Bombay has beautiful buildings and plenty of trees.

Next we flew to Bangkok and got an overnight train to Chiang Mai where Kate met us.

After a couple of days sightseeing there


How magnificent is this?


There happened to be some sort of cultural festival going on, and the Thai dancing was just beautiful.

we traveled north to Cave Lodge, a guest house in Mae Ho Song province where Kate was based from March 15 – March 16, helping out,  hanging out and using it as a base to visit  neighbouring countries.


A view of our hut/bedroom at Cave Lodge, from the river.


A view of the river from our hut.

She made sure we explored caves, temples, forests and rivers, watched the sun rise and visited various tribal villages so that we would love the area, and the people,  as much as she does.


This is the cave, Tham Lod,  that Cave Lodge, and the village, are named after. The river flows through it.  The local villagers provide a guided tour using rafts, bamboo ladders and paraffin lamps.


The downstream end of Tham Lod cave. Hundreds of Himalayan swallows fly around this entrance and roost inside the cave.


The big gold Buddha is big and gold.




Kate took us to a  cave half way up a cliff face to see this possibly 3,000 year old coffin.


Wriggling grubs at the Tuesday market. We did not buy or eat any.


However we did nibble through this lovely dish of foraged greens. Typical Shan salad.


Weaving lesson

Bridget had a wonderful day and a half learning to weave with a back strap loom with a Karen grandmother who didn’t speak much Thai, never mind English.

We stayed in Sukhotai, an ancient capital turned into an historical site with masses of ruined temples and Buddhas galore, as well as really friendly people, in our way back to Bankok.


Wat ( temple) and Buddha


Big Buddha in big wat


Little wat with elephants


Lots of wats

Then the three of us went to Delhi for a few days from where we visited the Taj Mahal.


Peter at the Taj Mahal


Bridget at the Taj Mahal


Kate at the Taj Mahal


Beautiful family visiting the Taj


Agra, but not the Taj Mahal

Our next adventure was in April. We devised a new cross country route – Wales to the Wash, (W2W?) and took the train to Chepstow with our bicycles. From Monday to Friday we cycled via the Severn Bridge,


Cycle path over the Severn Bridge


Crossing the border

Tetbury, Eynsham, Leighton Buzzard and Godmanchester to King’s Lynn. This was quite strenuous for us, as there were more hills than we are used to. But it was satisfying to complete the 230 miles without wiping ourselves out and nice to be out on the road in Spring.


Peter checking the route in Oxfordshire somewhere

Then in July we packed up the bikes again and took them to St Malo with Brittany ferries.


In the queue at Portsmouth


We cycled south along La Rance and then the Canal d’Ille et Rance


First night at Dinan – we can still crawl into our little two man tent.


We were at Tinteniac on the night of 13 Julliet – and woken at midnight by a  magnificent firework display.


We came across several examples of these intriguing fonts


Cycling through a forest on a hot summer’s day is just perfect

Eventually we curled east towards Normandy.


Fougeres castle, with sculpture by Louis Derbre, copies of Tolerance, The Future, Hope and  Courage,  from  his Monument for Peace which stands near Hiroshima

It was very hot and Peter was getting more exhausted than our W2W experience had led us to expect. So our intended one night stay with kind friends near Domfront in Normandy turned into five days relaxing in their shady orchard and meeting the expatriate community – still very exercised about the Brexit vote. Then home from Caen, with a delicious breakfast of bacon rolls and mugs of tea in Portsmouth!

Our last expedition of the year was to Madeira in Sept/Oct. We’ve never been at this time of year before, so saw different plants in flower.


A kapok tree – in January I only see  the fruits and always wondered if it is a kapok or a fetish tree – now I know, thanks to my mother’s plant book, inherited along with the time share.




Wild hydrangea


Banana passionflower vines lacing the undergrowth together alongside the levada de Serra


A palm tree in flower

and managed some walks we’ve not done before.


On the old route for crossing the island, where women used to be carried in hammocks.

One of them took much longer than the book suggested, and we found ourselves in the middle of the island well after the last bus had gone and needing to hitch a lift.

We also made a day trip to the island of Porto Santo for the first time. We hired bikes and rode to the north of this dry island.


The north coast of Porto Santo.

In August Peter went to the dentist to have a little niggle dealt with, which spread a horrible infection throughout his mouth. He was wiped out and needed three lots of antibiotics to get over it. The wonderful thing was, a couple of days into the third course, masses of energy suddenly returned!  Obviously he had been fighting a mild infection maybe for some months, hence the struggle cycling in France.

It was just in time to get the garden ready for our regular gathering, Sloestock, with family and friends camping in the garden and amusing themselves with various wacky activities.


Wearing a hat and looking cool with a ukulele (Oliver)


Playing a guitar with a half blacked face (Sebi)


Playing improvised percussion with a redded face (James)


Boiling an egg in a paper cup (Helen)


Dressing up and/or posing (Isabel, Gabriel, Amelia)


Celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. Kate is wearing my wedding dress and Amelia is wearing the bridesmaid’s dress which my niece Becky, on the right, wore back then.


Trying to split a water melon in half using rubber bands. (Sam, Becky’s son; Helen; Oliver and Felicity)


Peter helped James and Sebi make knives.


Bridget helped them make a sheath for them.

After that work actually began on our extension, which had been held up for years because of insurance stuff due to subsidence.


Nick and Roger manhandling the floor beams into place.

We tracked down Roger, the builder who did the work for us in our last house about 12 years ago. Although he is semi retired, he agreed to take on the project. Nick is working with him, and he is managing various family stresses.  We have an agreement that slow is OK. Roger has the same attitudes about sustainability that we do – he is going to reuse one window lintel as a door threshold, for example. We have no idea when the work will be finished, but that’s OK. It’s always been the Sloe Project.


Photo taken today, 21 Dec. Timber frame going up. It’s looking good.

In other news, after over thirty years membership of The Quilters’ Guild, Bridget stepped up to take a turn on the regional committee and edits the regional newsletter, Kaleidoscope, which goes out three times a year. This always takes longer than expected, and Peter helps enormously as the technical advisor when photos or adverts misbehave.   Being more in the flow of things quilty, attending the AGM and the Festival of Quilts,


Bridget at the Zippy Purse Tombola Stand at the NEC

means I have been more active in actually sewing than I have for a while.


I made the block to print this cushion cover (for a workshop sample) using old camping mat.


I learnt the basic tree block at a workshop with Helen Howes, and got all enthusiastic afterwards. All the fabrics had been dyed, printed or discharged by me over the years, and I am trying to reduce my stash!


Most recently completed quilt, for a group challenge to use the dark red ice-dyed fabric. I combined it with other fabrics from my stash, and called it ‘Dye-lectable Mountains’.

Now to catch you up with the next generations:

Oliver (see above for photo) is now working sort of free lance, having tried a new job which didn’t really turn out as he had hoped. Helen is in her second year back teaching , part time, at the same school the children attend.


Oliver and Helen’s children: Isabel (8) James (9) and Wilfred (5)

Ruth completed her access to counseling course and has carried on to the degree  course, continuing to volunteer with Citizens Advice, while Steve continues to work in medical data management.



Emily (13), Steve, Sebi (10) and Ruth

Kate returned from her Thailand year in March, lodged with a friend in Walthamstow and did several part time jobs (eg with Mencap, as a PA, with Doo Dah at Glastonbury and Womad)  ) before returning to Thailand in October for two months to help organise another ultramarathon   based at Cave Lodge.


Kate working with a local school as part of the community programme for the Ultramarathon

She came home in December and will be dipping into some care work etc until February, when she jets off again for a couple of months  to Australia and New Zealand, as her friend, Zara’s, PA, funded through Zara’s research grant (into independent living I believe).

Felicity and Martin have been living through slow building work of their own, adding a loft conversion and new kitchen to their house in Isleham. She works with the Children’s Centre based in Ely as a family worker, and still involved with the children and young people at their church.

She and Daisy went on their own Thai adventure too!


Kate, Felicity and Daisy sampling their own cooking on a Thai cookery course in Chiang Mai this December


Daisy and Russell moved to Sutton, on the other side of Ely, eighteen months ago, but their older children still attend school in Soham, so we see quite a lot of them.   Russell is a postman, so is incredibly fit with daily rounds of 6 miles or so. Daisy did very well in her access course to nursing, and hopes to do a midwifery degree.


Sophie (5), Amelia (7) and Rosie (3)

Well, I could go on for ever, no doubt, with funny family pictures and news about church, and our new vicar after the fifteen month interregnum, but I need to write a few more cards to send you all the link to this post.

So I’ll just say: Have a very happy New Year and please do come and see us if you are ever in this direction. (If you have lost our contact details you can  comment on here and we will get back to you!)