We surprised ourselves by being up in time on New Year’s Day to enjoy a lunchtime singaround with friends at the Millstone. A very informal session, and all the better for it.
Later in the month Pat took Benjamin for the first of several snowboarding lessons at Silksworth dry slope (he shows promise!), and then it was time for us to go skiing ourselves. Pat, with possible injuries in mind, was reluctant to ski so close to our big holiday in the spring, so we went to Tignes for Colin’s benefit and stayed in a luxurious chalet for Pat’s. We went by overnight Eurostar for a change. We were glad we tried it, but in future any train we take will be a daytime one. We found the journey tiring, and the drunk passenger puking on others’ luggage disconcerting!
We ended the month seeing our good friends Ribbon Road perform their No Redemption show at the small theatre on The Side.
In February we went to see the Transatlantic Sessions at the Sage. Colin performed in the St Andrews Operatic Society’s performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, and Pat spent a day in London seeing the sights with Ellen and Benjamin.
March kicked off with the Carricks coming up for the weekend.
Thereafter it was a question of preparing for, and eventually setting off on, our long awaited trip to the Antipodes. In the allotment Pat planted everything that could be planted so early and handed over her precious tomato and pepper seedlings to a friend for nurturing.
The trip was everything we hoped it would be. We kept a blog, since rewritten, which together with galleries of some of the photos we took can be found here. This took us to the end of April.
We were back so close to the early May Bank Holiday that we had to forgo our usual trip to France with the rest of the motorcycling gang, although Colin still helped organise it.
Pat weeded the overgrown allotment and completed the planting. The seedlings had survived and went on to produce decent crops. Fellow allotmenters had saved her some of their seedlings too so we had a good variety.
During May we enjoyed a production of Matthew Bourne’s Car Man at the Theatre Royal, and Colin started taking violin lessons, borrowing the violin that Kate has on long-term loan from Sandi, Colin’s sister-in-law.
In half term week we took Ellen and Benjamin to Beamish High Ropes where they strolled among the treetops while we watched from terra firma. It looked very exciting and they enjoyed it but we weren’t brave enough to join in.
We finished the month with a trip to Leeds to help celebrate Jo’s 40th birthday. In keeping with the Heros and Villains theme, we went as Hell’s Angels while Julie and family were (predictably) characters from Harry Potter.
The Theatre Royal enjoyed more of our patronage for two performances – Puttin’ on the Ritz and Twelve Angry Men. June also saw a substantial financial outlay in the form of a new violin for Colin. He’d been conscious of needing his own violin for a while, but finally took the plunge when he discovered that the violin he was planning to trade in, bought at a fete for a few quid, was worth hundreds of pounds. A big thank you to Dave Mann at The Hexham Violin Shop for pointing this out, and for substantially reducing the cost of Colin’s new instrument as a result.
Guisborough Folk Club was celebrating its 40th Anniversary, so we spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon there helping them do just that and catching up with a few of Colin’s old acquaintances.
We also spent a day in York, partly to do a bit of shopping but chiefly to see our friends Dana & Sue Robinson performing at the Black Swan Folk Club.
We had the Carricks up for another weekend, mainly so Pat could take Iris and Arlo to the Theatre Royal to see The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Colin took part in the usual annual concerts by St Andrews Operatic Society, and later in the month we had dinner with Kate and Iain and Iain’s parents, who were over from USA and Canada to attend Iain’s PhD graduation. We took them to Akbars in Newcastle for a proper traditional English curry! They were not disappointed.
We ended the month with a trip to the Theatre Royal to see the stage version of And Then There Were None. It might be a well-known story, but we couldn’t remember who dunnit, and the cast was superb.
August meant, as usual, Saltburn Folk Festival. For the first time in years we stayed in the Spa Hotel, the festival’s informal headquarters. We were lucky to be able to take advantage of a late cancellation, so had a superb room. We’re booked in next year, but in a smaller room at the back of the hotel. We’ll just have to work our way up!
We also headed into Newcastle for the annual Mela on the bank holiday weekend. We both like to go every year – principally for the food and the clothing stalls.
Colin likes to go back to his roots every now and then, so we took advantage of a quiet September to spend a week down south, staying in Brockenhurst (with our friends the Wingates), Corfe (Oliver’s), Glastonbury (No 51) and Cambridge (sibling). Glastonbury was fascinating, very much affected by the rise to prominence of Glastonbury Festival. We could have had our chakras aligned or our tarot cards read in any of a dozen places.
We also saw a stage version of the Glen Miller Story, and Colin successfully auditioned for the party of Scynthius in St Andrew’s 2016 production of Princess Ida.
Pat started having some bother with her knees which developed a worrying habit of giving out every now and then. This inhibited the allotmenting a bit so she had the GP do some investigating. (In November she had a referral to the musculo-skeletal service.)
Colin finally got around, after two decades of hesitation, to joining the IAM (M, in this case, for Motorcycles), and had several observed rides. He also played in the first of what are to become regular monthly folk music sessions at the Beamish Open Air Museum.
Performances attended during the month comprised Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at the Live Theatre (very rude, very funny) and Steve Earle, long admired by Colin, in concert at the Sage. On a sadder note we attended the funeral of Jean Matthews, wife of St Andrews’ Musical Director Ken.
Then it was off to a reunion at Warwick University (Pat’s Alma Mater) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding. Pat was in its first ever year, and was able to renew many acquaintances.
We were barely back home before Pat was off again, this time for a fortnight visiting the Canns in New England.
Colin passed his IAM motorcycle test and promptly joined Northumbria Blood Bikes, attending their induction meeting and passing their observed ride.
Colin’s net surfing came in handy when the local plumber, called in to fix a leak in the toilet (built in) in the main bathroom, failed to cure the problem. Colin found a suitable d-i-y video on YouTube and did the job himself – successfully!
We went to hear Jeremy Corbin speak in Sunderland. We were far more impressed by his policies than Yvette Cooper’s (whom we’d seen a couple of months previously), and were reassured that we’d voted for the right person in the leadership election.
We ended the month with a weekend in Edinburgh. John and Terri were over for a flying visit, so the four siblings plus some family met up for a couple of days there. Apart from the constant rain and Terri’s nasty cold, the weekend was a success. We stayed in a very nice guesthouse in Dalkeith where we may well stay again. The whole crew then decamped for Durham.
We all celebrated Mam’s 91st birthday on the first with lunch at Lumley Castle, sitting by the open fire in the library.
A week or so later we flew to Kitzbuhel for a week’s skiing. We chose Kitzbuhel partly because of a really good deal on what turned out to be a fantastic hotel, but also because there would be plenty for Pat to do if her knees proved unequal to the strains of skiing. It was a good choice. The skiing was good, there was plenty to do and in the hotel restaurant we found ourselves seated at a table next to a couple from the Lake District – John & Penny. They turned out to be excellent company, both on the piste and off, and we’re sure that they’re set to become firm friends.
We shared an excellent Xmas dinner at the Millstone with our fellow regulars there, and then it was time for Xmas at home. The Slaters came for lunch on Xmas Eve and Xmas day, then joined the Carricks who arrived on Boxing Day for a couple of nights, and Kate and Iain called in a few days later.
Pat’s Mam didn’t manage to come for Christmas as arranged because her legs were too painful. She had a couple of days in bed. Of course, the carers had been cancelled for two days in anticipation of her being out so there was a lot of toing and froing to Sunderland to be fitted in.
We thought about going out to see the fireworks in Newcastle on New Year’s Eve, but we failed to summon the energy and had a quiet evening in with Jules Holland instead!