The year began with Pat’s Mam returning home to her flat from the nursing home where she had been convalescing from her serious illness of December. With all the necessary support in place, she felt able to return to something like normal life.
Meanwhile, we returned to our monthly music sessions at The Millstone in Newcastle and enjoyed seeing Irish band The Gloaming at the Sage and the ballet version of Hansel and Gretel at The Theatre Royal.
A sad occasion was the funeral of our neighbour, Alex Cross, the blind, guitar-playing regular at The Davy Lamp, who died from oesophageal cancer.
We also said goodbye in a less permanent sense to two friends: attending Colin’s old boss Ros’ leaving do and making a final visit to The Black Horse to see our landlady friend Mu before she retired to Northumberland.
Much of Pat’s time was taken up with supporting her Mam, while Colin found himself embroiled with OFSTED in what had become an unexpectedly demanding role as a governor of Redby School. He has since resigned!
Pat arranged to have a walk-in shower installed in her Mam’s flat to allow her more independence; Colin performed in a successful production of HMS Pinafore ; we both enjoyed attending the Transatlantic Sessions at The Sage.
At the end of the month we went for a week’s skiing in Elmau, Austria. Unfortunately, Pat managed to damage her leg in a fall on the second day and was unable to ski after that. She was, however, able to hobble to the cable car and join Colin for lunch up on the mountain so all was not lost. Ellmau bus on tea break!
More theatre-going this month. First up was a super production of Tyne at the Theatre Royal, the play mapping the history, atmosphere and soul of the river in story, music and images. We also saw (for the second time) the ballet Still Life at the Penguin Cafe at the Sunderland Empire, and Dial M for Murder, again at the Theatre Royal.
Pat’s Mam continued her diagnostic appointments for Alzheimer’s disease, having a CT scan this month. Physically she continued to recover, going out for walks and asserting her independence.
We took a short trip to Oxfordshire to make detailed plans with our New Zealand specialist Chris at Audley Travel for our big holiday next year. The idea is to spend a month travelling around NZ, followed by two weeks in French Polynesia. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Chris is extremely knowledgeable and gave us invaluable advice.
We took advantage of our visit by having a good look around Oxford, including an exhibition of the Pearlman collection of paintings by Cézanne and others at the Ashmolean Museum.
At the end of the month we enjoyed our usual weekend motorcycle trip to France with our biker gang, this time to St Quentin. Queue for ferry.
Pat was still struggling to get her Mam’s bank to recognise her power of attorney by actually giving her access to the account. She had to settle for a cheque book (no internet access!) and ‘borrowing’ her Mam’s debit card.
We cheered on Julie and Ellen as they completed a mud run at Herrington Country Park to raise funds for breast cancer. They came home with us afterwards to use the two showers – and they did need them!
We went off to Puglia for our planned fly-drive Summer holiday, much earlier than usual because we wanted to avoid the heat of the Italian south later in the year. Well, we achieved that alright. Puglia had an unusually cold and wet Spring! That didn’t stop us enjoying the sights and food of this most unusual region. Pat particularly enjoyed all the fresh fruits and vegetables. We liked the local olives so much that we had some more shipped to us after we returned home. We’ve written up the holiday here.
We decided it was time to improve arrangements for guests in our house by installing a decent sofa bed in the study so that tall (and dare we say aging) guests no longer have to chose between bunk beds and a roll-out-on-the-floor type of thing. This involved much reorganisation of furniture and the purchase of a new, smaller desk. We’re pleased with the result.
Colin took part in the usual series of St Andrews summer concerts, this year seen by Pat’s Mam, Auntie Joan and grandson Benjamin.
Pat joined the Cloggies for a very posh afternoon tea at Crook Hall.
As the weather was nice we popped down to Sunderland Airshow for the day. Highlight for Colin was, as usual, the Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight . Six Merlins make a lovely sound!
The first weekend we spent up in Earsldon, near Otterburn in the Northumbrian countryside. Friends with motorhomes were visiting other friends for a weekend of walking and singing, so we joined them – the only difference being we stayed in the pub! On the Sunday afternoon we went up into Otterburn ranges for a short memorial gathering at the training trenches built during WW1.
The following weekend was marked by one regular event, Colin’s group Backshift playing several concerts at Saltburn Folk Festival, and one unusual one – Jean arriving with Noah to spend a week seeing as much of the English family as they could. A family gathering in Sunderland helped them meet a good many at once and then Noah managed to spend a good part of the week with his English cousins, getting to know the local seaside and a great many playgrounds.
The day after they left we went to see Dauntless Theatre’s production of The Gondoliers. Then it was a quiet week before the arrival of two more guests – Pat’s childhood friend Linda and her hubby Dan.
Into September and we were off to see The Mousetrap at the Theatre Royal. Colin had seen it before, but still enjoyed it as all he could remember was whodunnit! Later in the month we also saw Top Hat at the same venue.
Kate and Iain came over for a last meal before disappearing over to the USA for three years. Kate has picked up a residency in Veterinary Clinical Pathology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at the time of writing she has settled in well and is enjoying the job. The meal itself had to be cooked by Colin, as Pat was called over at short notice to see to her Mam who had had a fall. The diagnosis, after a few nights in hospital, was that common but serious curse of the elderly, a fractured neck of femur. She needed a partial hip replacement and a lengthy stay in hospital.
The following Monday we caught the train to London to spend a few days doing the sights down there. This inevitably included a couple of nice curries, one, as usual, shared with some of Colin’s college friends. We also had a really nice meal at 10 Greek Street, where the manager happened to be one Will Irvine (Colin’s nephew). We were impressed by the food and the efficient service!
The must-see in London this year was the display of poppies all around the moat of the Tower. It was a truly impressive sight and moving too, as onlookers contemplated all those lost young lives.
As soon as we were back Colin was off to play with Backshift at a one-day festival in Washington, and then it was time to get ready to receive our old folk-singing friends Dana and Sue Robinson, staying for the weekend in the middle of a short tour of the UK.
The first weekend in October took Pat down to Leeds for a couple of nights, allowing Jo and Tom to get away for a well-earned break. She took Iris and Arlo on the train to London for the day, including a much heralded trip on the London Eye. The damp weather didn’t spoil their enjoyment, although the compensating trip to Hamleys dented Pat’s purse somewhat.
The following week ended with a trip to the Sage to see Cara Dillon and Dan Tyminski – two of our favourite performers giving us a thoroughly excellent evening. The week also saw the death of Pat’s Auntie Doris at the ripe old age of 92¾.
Pat’s Mam came home from hospital, and a new care plan was put together with Social Services.
Also in October, Colin suddenly came down with acute pain in one leg. Tests and talks with doctor and physiotherapist proved inconclusive by the time the pain went away. Footnote – a chat with another physiotherapist sharing a chalet with us in Tignes in January identified it as a problem with the femoral nerve. To be watched.
Finally, Pat achieved new heights in the pumpkin-carving stakes!
Most of November passed quietly, although we did make two trips to the Sage – one to see Kathryn Tickell and another the following week to see Bellowhead. We nearly didn’t see Bellowhead, as shortly before leaving for the theatre we got a call to say Pat’s Mam might need taking to hospital to have her cut lip sewn up. However, when we popped over the bleeding had stopped and the advice of the paramedic was that she could be left in another half hour. So we dashed over to the Sage in time to see the main act!
The end of the month saw more visitors from America – John and Eileen! They were just in time for a late Thanksgiving dinner.
The day after that dinner, Pat’s Mam was celebrating her 90th birthday, so Liz had arranged a lunch at Romano’s with all four of the “children”. A splendid meal which Mam really enjoyed.
The day after that, we had our third big meal in a row, Xmas dinner at the Millstone, our monthly folk venue.
Then it was the drive down to Gatwick, to stay the night at the pleasant Cambridge Hotel before catching an early morning flight to Obergurgl and its ski slopes . There was plenty of snow and the weather was mostly OK, plus it’s a nice resort. We’d happily go back. We spent a day skiing in Solden, keeping an eye out for Daniel Craig who was filming the next James Bond film there. The only downside was Colin’s scant ability to ski, hampered by a left leg that kept collapsing!
Back home, we went to the closing-down party at Birtley Folk Club. Bryan and Doreen Elliot, who had inherited the mantle from the other members of the Elliot family, had felt age creeping up on them and it was time to call it a day.
We saw all of the local family for Xmas. The Slaters came for dinner on Xmas Eve, the Carricks arrived in time for lunch on Xmas day, and both families were together on Boxing Day.
As for New Year’s Eve, Terri and Eric, who normally host a party, were in France, so we went into Newcastle to see the huge firework display in the early evening. The walk back to the car took us past one of our favourite Indian restaurants, so that solved the question of dinner. We saw the new year in with Graham Norton. Well, old age sometimes requires acknowledgement!