We started the year by hiring a local building firm to do some repairs to our roof, necessitated by shoddy work from their predecessors.
Colin did his 45th and last shift for the Northumbria Blood Bikes – he was finding his body clock too hard-wired to allow him to catch up on sleep once home after a night shift. He also had to attend a speed awareness course, which he found surprisingly painless.
We made two trips to the theatre – one to the Theatre Royal to see Agatha Christie’s “Go Back For Murder” and one to the Gala Theatre in Durham to see a revival of Peter Bellamy’s “The Transports”. This was an excellent performance by some familiar local artists.February
In February St Andrews Operatic Society put on a double bill of Trial By Jury and The Zoo, both scored by Arthur Sullivan but with two different librettists. Colin played a juryman in the former and the Zookeeper in the latter. Pat helped out on the door, her first duty being to take home a couple of Cubs whose parents had forgotten their club night had been cancelled.
We also went skiing in Seefeld, not far from Innsbruck. We were both feeling a bit unfit, so simply fancied a holiday in a pretty Austrian town with a little bit of skiing. Seefeld filled the bill perfectly. Using the local train we took one day off to visit Innsbruck and another to cross the border into Germany where we visited Mittenwald, a pretty little village famous for its violin making.March
We had always fancied a visit to Glasgow, so we decided now was the time. Besides, Colin’s 70th was coming up and Glasgow had a whisky shop he wanted to visit. We went by train, up Wednesday morning and back late Friday afternoon, so we had nearly three days there. Highlights included a tour of the School of Art across the road from the Mackintosh building which was well along in its refurbishment after the devastating fire but still not open to the public. We saw various artifacts, models and pictures taken both before and after the fire and the painstaking restoration that was taking place. Since then there has been a second fire that has completely destroyed the building – heartbreaking for all concerned.
While in the city centre we also took a tour of the railway station. Our well-informed guide was full of stories that provided us with a social history of the city. We’d recommend the tour. The wonderfully simple underground system took us to the Kelvingrove Museum, a real treasure house. What with some memorable meals and the whisky shop, we plan to go back. We might even move there, depending on Brexit.
This month’s theatre trip took us to see Un Ballo in Maschera at the Theatre Royal. We were a little disappointed in this. Opera North seems to have decided that opera needs modernisation. Their production of Norma a few years ago was musically fine but drab costume-wise. This time the contrast was even more vivid – gorgeous music and the drabbest ball gowns you could imagine.April
Over Easter Colin lead an Associate rideout for the Northumbria Advanced Motorcyclists, and Pat was elected Treasurer of the Shepherds Way Allotment Society. She found there’s a lot of work needed to get the books to where they should be!
Then it was time for Colin’s 70th birthday trip – a week in Barcelona. We had a package deal with BA from Newcastle, staying at the Meliá Barcelona Sky. This was modern, friendly and handy for the city centre via the Metro. The city was full of Catalan flags and symbols, even some painted on the pavements at crossings. It was only a short while since the Spanish government negated the independence vote with such force and feelings were obviously running high. We did all the usual Barcelona touristy things, plus watched the local castell team practice, courtesy of a Catalan biking friend.
We had a day at the annual Bishop Auckland Food Festival, which we’d not come across before. The stalls were good, and there was plenty to eat, but the pizza-making class was dire. We already make better pizzas than the teacher! We did pick up an excellent knife at one of the stalls; slicing and chopping have never been so easy.
Finally, we ordered and took delivery of a new bed – king size and nice and firm. The old one had lasted over 20 years, so it owed us no favours.May
The early May Bank Holiday saw us heading back over the Channel with our UKRM biker friends, not to France this time but to the Hotel de la Poste in Bouillon, Belgium, our favourite hotel.
Fast forward to Whit, and we were off again with NAM, this time for three nights in Fort William. We spent one day having a relaxed ride down the west coast, and the other day riding across to Mull. Then we took a long route home to spend a night with our friends Penny and John, just above Bowness.June
Colin had been itching to get himself a Uuni wood-fired pizza oven, and finally could wait no longer. He was lucky to get a 2S – the current 3 is harder to use. We’ve had fun since then experimenting. It’ll do a proper Neapolitan pizza at 450C in 90 seconds!
We spent the day in Durham while Colin joined fellow members of the Bones Creek Band playing for the Step This Way clog dancing team in the town centre. Then we were off to spend two nights with musician friends at Twice Brewed on Hadrian’s Wall. Lots of playing, but the wet and VERY windy weather did not encourage much walking. We actually stayed just down the road at the Old Repeater Station, where we had a warm welcome.
We just had time for a visit to the Theatre Royal to see Agatha Christie’s Love From a Stranger before hopping on the bike to spend a week over the Channel with biker friends Wendy & Alan. There’s a brief write-up of the trip here. As an aside, Pat had to work out for a questionnaire how many times she’d been abroad in the last 5 years. Europe alone accounted for nearly 20. We feel more comfortable with many Europeans than we do with some Brits. Guess where we stand on Brexit!
Finally, St Andrews Choral Society did their usual programme of summer concerts.July
Pat had for some time been considering the options for getting her mother a powered wheelchair, but one which someone other than her mother could steer. Eventually we found a suitable chair and arranged with a local fabricator to move the controls to a mount at the back. Perfect! It took some practice, though, to control it smoothly.
Step This Way danced out at one event in Old Durham Gardens and at a Folk party back in Durham City Centre. We went to see the Sunderland Tall Ships setting out for the race across the North Sea, and Colin spent a couple of days doing advanced motorcycle training with Ridewell Tees Valley, which he found enjoyable and informative. Pat has noticed she now enjoys a smoother ride as pillion!
We also took advantage of a cheap Travelzoo offer to spend three nights in the Howardian Hills, an area we’d not been to before. The whole area was very pleasant, as was the Worsley Arms Hotel where we stayed. We weren’t too keen on the feudal nature of Hovingham, though, as the whole village is owned by the Worsley family.
We ended the month at the Sage, enjoying the Folk on the Tyne concert.August
Backshift had their usual three-day appearance at Saltburn Folk Festival, but this year it coincided with a visit from the States by Jean and Charlotte. Complicated arrangements from Pat ensued to make sure everything ran smoothly. The two of them were only here for a week, but managed to cram a lot in.
At the end of the month we paid our usual visit to Newcastle Mela. We came away with full stomachs and a dress for Pat.September
Step This Way danced out at Sedgefield Folk Festival, and Pat started going to a belly dancing class with a STW friend. We had Rob & Sandi to stay the night prior to them attending a conference in Newcastle.
Pat met up with two old friends in York for lunch and a catch-up and resolved to do it more often.
We’d been pondering what to do for a summer holiday in 2019, and eventually decided on a first ever visit to one of the Greek islands. After a couple of visits to travel agents we decided on a fortnight in Crete, in June, flying from Newcastle.October
We both went on a Biker Down course in the fire station at Washington. Well worth while.
Next theatre trip was to see Clear White Light at the Live Theatre, Newcastle. This was a contemporary retelling of a classic gothic story, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, set against a background of cuts to the NHS. Music was by two Lindisfarne members. Excellent.November
Our extension at the back of the house, which functions as a utility room, had started to subside a little, so in conjunction with our insurers and their surveyor we’ve started looking at the possible causes and eventual effect.
We attended the funeral of Johnny Taylor, a friend of Colin’s, organizer of the Saltburn Festival and a stalwart of the local folk scene for decades. There was standing room only in the huge church.
Finally we had a few nights in the West Country. We started with an afternoon at the Motorcycle Show at the NEC, where Colin picked up a new helmet, and then stayed four nights in Ludlow and two with Colin’s cousin near Tewkesbury. While in Ludlow we spent a day with Nick and Jo down in Broad Oak, near Hereford. Nick was a fellow Old Shirburnian and biker whom we’d never actually managed to meet. They live in an ancient inn but are in the process of building a “passivhaus”. Come the warmer weather in 2019 they expect to be sleeping in a teepee while using the proceeds of the sale of the inn to finance the new building. They’re not faint-hearted!December
Pat’s brother John came over from the States to spend a few days over Mam’s birthday. She didn’t really recognize that it was her birthday but we did our best to make it special and she had the company of all four of her children over the course of the day.
Pat in particular ended up going to a number of Xmas parties, and Step This Way did a spot at the Sage, in the interval of the Demon Barbers’ performance of “The Lock In ‘Christmas Carol’”.
We also went to a ceilidh in Warkworth Memorial Hall with our friends Alan and Wendy. The small hall was full and the dancing grand! It’s a pity it’s such a rare event.
Finally, the Carricks and Slaters appeared for various nights and days over Xmas. We started with a party at Julie’s, then next day being Xmas Eve all four grandchildren decorated our tree. Iris and Arlo were up early on the day to see what Santa had brought and Julie returned with Graham for dinner. With the addition of a stray NAM member we had a full house. The Carricks went home on Boxing Day and we collapsed in a heap until New Year.
We saw the New Year in by going to the excellent fireworks in Newcastle and then dining at Red Mezze (thoroughly recommended).