A new year’s treat was to see Cabaret at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland. An excellent production. The following month saw Colin on stage himself, in the St Andrews Operatic Society production of Ruddigore. Pat’s Mam and Auntie Joan were impressed by the high production standards but couldn’t make out much of the singing because of trouble with their hearing aids! However, they took our word that the singing was wonderful. We also went to see West Side Story, this time at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle.
February also brought our new car. The Fiesta was getting a bit long in the tooth, and really too small to cope with elderly relatives and children. We had eventually decided on a VW Golf, and after a couple of months of searching the ads, exactly the right one popped up in Hexham – sunset metallic red with just 16k on the clock. Bringing it home was a bit of an adventure as a snowstorm made the A69 barely passable. The car has proved to be exactly what we wanted – and we know it’s good in snow!
At the end of the month we went off to Meribel by train for a week’s skiing. There is a separate little write-up of our trip here.
Back home and back to the Theatre Royal. In March we saw the Ballet Rambert, several pieces including music from Howard Goodall. The next trip was to a matinee performance of The Tiger Who Came To Tea; Pat’s excuse being to take Ellen and Benjamin who enjoyed sitting propped up on the extra cushions the theatre had thoughtfully provided.
In April we spent some time at home overseeing the renovation of our lobby and downstairs loo. They’re both now tiled and look quite smart. For the May Day bank holiday we joined a few dozen of our biker friends for the usual trip to France. This time it was to Pithiviers, further south than normal, so we opted for the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, and spent an extra couple of days coming back through Normandy and visiting the WW2 beaches. On the way down we spent much of the day with the Brodericks (Anne is an ex-colleague of Colin’s) in Le Bec Hellouin, a beautiful abbey village in the depths of the countryside. Their small daughter washed the bike in return for a (very careful) pillion ride around the square. Our new satnav, a Zumo 550, earned its keep on that day alone; rural France is not fun to navigate using folded maps in a tankbag.
We spent the Whit bank holiday on our first visit to the Northumberland County Show at Corbridge. Fearing huge traffic queues we went by train, a trick we’ll repeat. The weather was good and it was a really nice day out – the show still retains elements of the proper old fashioned agricultural shows.
In June we went to a superb production of Don Carlos at the Theatre Royal and hosted a garden party for family. We also spent a weekend at Warwick University, enjoying a lecture by Professor Ian Stewart who autographed a book for us. While at Warwick we nipped into Coventry for an authentic North African meal, eaten from a low brass table while reclining on cushions. There were even hubble bubble pipes to be had.
Later in the month we enjoyed a short holiday ‘down south’, staying in Weymouth and Lynmouth, admiring the coastal scenery. There was no charge for the Weymouth stay, it being compensation for the hotel chain messing up our reservation at Sherborne the previous year. They gave us a large room overlooking the sea, so we were more than satisfied. We spent a morning walking round the RSPB reserve at Radipole Lake, and were proud to be the first people to spot one of two juvenile Marsh Harriers that had been bred there.
July saw Colin once again performing with St Andrews in their series of Summer concerts. They sang a great variety of pieces that showed off the (considerable) talents of the members.
At the end of July Pat’s nephew Neil was married in Maine and New Hampshire. He wasn’t married twice, just had the ceremony in one state and the reception in the other. Guests mostly stayed in Massachusetts, just to complete the set. Pat took the opportunity to stay with Jean’s family, joining in Ian’s 8th birthday party and trips to the lake for swimming. She also had a couple of days in the Berkshires visiting old friends.
Pat returned in time for the Saltburn Folk Festival where Colin’s group Backshift went down well as usual.
After Saltburn it was time to get ready for our Summer motorcycling holiday in the Tyrol. You can read about it and see a few pics here if you like.
On our return we had a very welcome visit from Colin’s old friends George and Pauline Cole. Colin and George were two of the six college friends who bought a VW Microbus and drove it overland to India in the year they graduated. A reunion of the group is planned for 2010. In the meantime Pat was pleased to meet at least a couple of the people she’d heard so much about. We showed them a bit of the North East, enlisted them to help cheer Ellen and Benjamin along in the Junior Great North Run, and introduced them to the Davy Lamp Folk Club.
We also had a weekend in Derbyshire with the ukrm biker crowd. The “wheelie a wheelchair” competition brought winners and losers. It would turn out to be the last time we saw Mike, the landlord of The Black Horse at Hulland Ward, who passed away at the end of the year. He and his wife Mu have played host to us bikers on many occasions.
Pat had a weekend in Aberdeenshire with Julie and Ellen (who was much amused to stay in Ellon) attending a family reunion. In this year of the Scottish Homecoming a long-lost relation from Australia had been doing some genealogical research and sparked the whole thing off. There were about 50 people at the dinner and Pat was pleased to renew contact with her Scottish cousins.
Later in October we had some longstanding biker friends to stay. Jean and Bruce Porter were celebrating 25 years together by inviting themselves to stay a night with all their friends in turn. A brilliant idea, and we were happy to take our turn, cooking them a curry as well (Fridays are their normal curry night).
In November Pat cooked a Thanksgiving dinner, albeit 5 days early, and we had pretty much all the family to enjoy it. Christmas without Mammon – perfect!
Into December, and off we headed to Tignes (above Val D’Isere in the French Alps) for a week’s skiing. Flying from Gatwick meant a long drive so we took the opportunity to stop off in Cambridge for lunch with Kate and Matt (and a quick visit to Sandi). Tignes was delightful: plenty of snow, all in tiptop condition, and 4 of the 6 days without a cloud in the sky. We were impressed by Mark Warner’s ski guiding, and thanks to new friends Anna (12) and Lucy (10) for keeping us entertained in the evenings.
The Carricks would be staying in Leeds for Christmas, so we went down a couple of days before to deliver presents and take them out for a traditional Bradford curry before retiring to the nearby Travelodge (cheap deal). A visit from the Slaters on Christmas Eve and Pat’s Mam on Christmas day rounded off the year nicely.