Absolutely nothing in the diary. Think we just hibernated.
February saw the St Andrews Operatic Society’s performance of Patience. Colin had been asked to take on the role of the Major, which involved him in several songs. We’ve uploaded a low-res video of one of them here.
Taking full advantage of our location here in the North-East, we also went to see Chris Addison at the Gala Theatre, Durham, and Randy Newman at the Sage, Gateshead.
Our late winter skiing holiday this year took us to Schladming in central Austria. We were very impressed with both the resort and our hotel (they even had marmalade for breakfast). There was a good variety of slopes, the town itself was pleasant with several nice cafes , and the prices both in the town and on the mountain were reasonable, a welcome change from France. The only downside was Colin having a hard fall during an off-piste lesson and bruising ribs and shoulder.
For some years Colin had been wanting to see Bellini’s Norma, and he had his chance at the Gala in March. Unfortunately the nice music was spoilt by what we thought was an inappropriate modern setting. Also on at the Gala were Fascinating Aida, who were superb and had us in stitches.
The 14th was Benjamin’s 8th birthday and he’d been given a 2hr recording session in a local studio with his friends. He’d written some lyrics for a song, so Colin put them to music. The result is here.
The most important job in April was to get the potatoes planted on Good Friday. Mission accomplished and the crop progressed well – until the blight hit in August and the whole crop had to be lifted early. We had rather a lot of baby potatoes.
April also saw us twice more in the theatre – Henry V at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal and Don Williams at the Sage.
At the beginning of the month we had our annual May Bank Holiday trip to France. As usual Colin co-organised the trip, this time to Maubeuge. We ended up with 49 people on 37 bikes. We included a detour north to visit the Memorial Museum at Passchendaele and the Tyne Cot cemetery, both thought-provoking.
Setting off on the journey home we noticed a flat front tyre. We couldn’t see anything sharp, and it seemed to hold air so we set off, aiming to top it up periodically. We had to stop about 20 times in all! Many thanks to our patient friends Tony and Helen who limped along with us as far as London.
Later in May we ventured farther afield for the theatre, to Drury Lane where a friend, Bob Fox, was playing the Songman in Warhorse. The play exceeded our expectations and is highly recommended. We extended our visit to a week so that we could see various sights of the city and meet up with old friends for a posh curry at Veeraswami. Delicious!
Back home, we went to the Gala twice more, to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Fairport Convention. Pat also took her Mum to see Avenue Q at the Theatre Royal.
We took our summer holiday earlier than usual, driving down to Cornwall where we visited the Eden Project and then took the Scillonian ferry for a week on the Isles of Scilly. We’ve written up the holiday here .
July’s entertainment was provided by a great production of West Side Story at the Sage and by Julie doing a hair-raising zipwire crossing of the Tyne from the top of the Baltic [Video].
We were also entertained by Benjamin whose school closed early because of some flooding problems. We organized a couple of outings with him: to Teesside to see the seals and visit the Trincomalee; and around the sea front in Sunderland following a Treasure Trail. We all learned things on the trail and would do one again.
Colin also took part in the usual summer concerts by St Andrews Operatic Society.
We took the opportunity in July and August to watch as much of the Olympic Games as we could on TV. We’d both been scathing of the pettiness surrounding much of the organization of the Games, particularly the commercial side, but once the Games had started we were as captivated as anyone.
Backshift, Colin’s band, played several times over the three days that comprised Saltburn Folk Festival, and we rounded off the month with a pleasant few hours, and the usual nice food, at Newcastle Mela.
1st September blight hit the greenhouse and the entire tomato crop had to be picked immediately. Colin’s chief concern was that there should be plenty of green tomatoes for his favourite chutney (there were, but not many ripe ones for sauce). Damn all that rain!
Colin wanted to visit the Acoustic Music Company in Brighton, who had offered to sell a mandolin for him, so we made this the excuse to spend a few nights in Eastbourne (cheaper than Brighton). We spent a night on the way south with Colin’s cousin Margaret, husband Dave (and Douglas and Alison), and called in on Pat’s niece Sally (and Phoebe and Bill) while down there. On the way back we called in on Colin’s nephew Dougal (and Fergus) and spent a pleasant night in Henley.
We got back on the same day that Pat’s brother John and wife Terri landed from the States, so we went directly to the family gathering that Pat’s sister Liz had organised for them in Sunderland. The arrival of Pat’s other brother Mark meant the four siblings could enjoy a rare moment together. We had an excellent turnout and thoroughly enjoyed the do. Using our house as their base, John and Terri spent a couple of weeks touring locally and in Scotland.
Backshift played at the Sunderland Split Festival, doing their best to make themselves heard above the over-amplified pop music from the next tent! A more peaceful time was enjoyed the following weekend on a bike trip to the Dales where we met a new group of bikers, the PEMC.
The month of the new greenhouse! Colin had decided that we really needed to grow more chilli peppers and tomatoes. Pat agreed that more space to spread out the tomatoes might be a Good Thing ( not so sure about MORE chillies). We took delivery of the components for an additional, larger greenhouse in the pouring rain and stored them until we had a dry week. With the help of our allotment neighbours the greenhouse was duly raised and is looking wonderful, all ready to receive 2012’s seedlings.
We did make time for another meeting with the new biker group, this time in Derbyshire so that was a good excuse to look up our old friends at the Black Horse, Hulland Ward. After lunch with the bikers and then one of Mu’s stupendous dinners it’s a wonder the bike was able to carry us home the next day.
If October was the month of the greenhouse, then November was the month of the TV. We had been waiting for several years for our Sony CRT to pack up, so we could upgrade, but it just wouldn’t. So we gave up waiting, not least because the current technology seemed sufficiently advanced to make the upgrade really worthwhile. Our sitting room is now dominated by new TV, HD PVR and surround sound!
This had to be a well organised Christmas. We had booked a skiing holiday in Tignes that had us returning to Heathrow on the afternoon of 23 Dec. We had family arriving to stay on 24th, plus our usual Christmas Eve gathering, and Christmas dinner for 8 to organise. Thank goodness for daughters (and freezers)! Julie kept the turkey in her freezer, moving it to the fridge to thaw for a couple of days. (Being a vegetarian, she must have found it quite revolting!) Jo did the last minute shopping for fresh food and brought it with her from Leeds. Pat planned and baked and filled the freezer before skiing. With a bit of goodwill on all sides it all went off well and a good time was had by all.
The skiing was mixed – lots of snowfall during the week so plenty of fresh powder for Colin to practice off-piste. Surfaces on-piste could be challenging, as could the weather. We found ourselves stranded in Val d’Isere one afternoon when the clouds and wind closed in, waiting interminably for a bus home; we were just grateful to be with a ski guide who had got us that far safely. The company was good and the food superb, so no complaints.