Our evenings out in the new year started in February with the Transatlantic Sessions coming to the Sage, Gateshead. We’ve enjoyed these over the years on BBC4, but this was our first opportunity to see some of our favourite musicians live. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Also in February we saw the Penguin Cafe Orchestra at the Sage, Milton Jones at Durham’s Gala Theatre and G&S’s The Grand Duke at Newcastle Grammar School, while Colin was remarkably convincing as a Peer in St Andrews Operatic Society’s production of Iolanthe.
March brought our first skiing holiday of the year. Some friends of ours, Bruce and Jude Rogers, have an apartment in Engelberg, and had invited us to stay. We drove there, via the Eurotunnel, and had a great week’s skiing. Jude is a qualified ski instructor and Bruce an experienced SCGB rep., so we also learnt a lot – as well as eating, drinking and spending a lot!
No sooner were we back home than we heard about good snow cover, and forecast good weather, at Glenshee, so it was back in the car and up to Scotland for three nights. As well as the really good skiing we had our first, but by no means last, taste of the local Malt – Edradour. One to savour.
By the end of the month things were getting into full swing at the allotment while every windowsill in the house was filled with seedlings. In this first full year of allotmenting, and in spite of the dry spring and the poor summer, we managed to eat our own crops right from the first lettuces in April through to the stored root veg., jars of chutney and frozen fruit that we’re still using as we write this in January 2012.
April saw us spending a Saturday night with our usual biker crowd at the Black Horse in Hulland Ward – a chance to catch up with old friends. Later in the month we went to an entertaining evening with Joanna Trollope at the Sage and an excellent concert by Eddie Reader at the Gala.
At the end of the month we packed the bike for a long weekend and headed south. It was time for our annual biker weekend in France, this year returning to Caudebec-en-Caux. Colin had taken over co-organising the event, and was pleased with the turnout of 47 people on 35 bikes. We took a detour on the Sunday ride back to Calais in order to have lunch with friends Ann and Bill Brodrick. Colin used to work with Ann on Tyneside, before she and Bill moved to France so Bill could concentrate on his new (and successful) career as author.
Evenings out in May included Yeomen of the Guard at the RGS, Newcastle, and Il Tabarro/Gianni Schicchi at the Gala. Pat also spent a couple of days in Edinburgh with her cloggie friends. The Washington Downtown Cloggies having disbanded (as a result of too many aging knees) what better use of the remaining funds than a good gossipy weekend away?
Also in May Colin started taking singing lessons – not so much to improve his voice as to make the most of the voice he has! One lesson a week over a few months resulted in an audible difference.
At about this time disaster struck in the garden: the water level in our pond kept dropping until we had to face the fact that it had somehow sprung a leak. We decided that the best remedy would be to line the existing hard plastic preformed pond with a flexible pond liner. That meant removing plants and hauling out trugs full of water to preserve them in, along with any mini beasts that might be living there. We fished out numerous frogs – hard to say how many since some of them kept jumping back in again! Then we pumped out the rest of the water, cleaned it out, lined it, replaced all the edging and put all the plants and beasties back in. Fingers crossed!
June was a month for biking. Neighbours of ours organise a weekend in the Lake District each year for the Triumph owners club. Kindly overlooking the fact that our bike is a Kawasaki, they invited us along, and we had a nice weekend in Patterdale. We also had a Californian biker friend to stay a couple of nights, and (amongst other things) dragged him along to a concert at St Peter’s church in Sunderland, performed by Scherzo, the small singers’ group formed by Colin’s voice coach. Our friend was most impressed to be sitting in such an ancient building, once home to the Venerable Bede.
July was a busy month with four concerts given by Colin’s choir, including the usual trip out to Egglestone in the Yorkshire Dales. We also had an extended family get-together in our garden, where the children enjoyed sitting on Colin’s newly built decking to dabble their toes in the (now watertight) pond.
An evening with a difference was spent in the nuttery of Washington Old Hall, watching the critically-acclaimed open-air theatre company The Pantaloons perform a potted version of The Canterbury Tales. Very entertaining and highly recommended. At the Sage we saw both Lyle Lovett and the Halle Orchestra. Colin has been a big fan of the former for decades, so was very glad to see him at long last.
Durham Constabulary’s Bikewise show was as entertaining as ever. And we were glad of the bike to dodge the traffic queues when we rode down to the sea front at Sunderland for the air show. The show never fails to amaze. They even had wing walkers this year – and a pair of biplanes doing the most astonishing aerobatics.
Colin’s group Backshift was as usual booked for several appearances at Saltburn Folk Festival, and for once the weather was quite kind to us. Then it was back home to pack for the Pyrenees.
We had decided we’d like another look at the Pyrenees, which had given us mixed weather the last time we’d holidayed there, so we’d booked a return trip on the Portsmouth/Santander ferry to give us the maximum amount of time down there. There’s a fuller write-up of our trip here.
By the time we got back from holiday September had arrived, and with it our 10th Wedding Anniversary. What better way to spend it than a posh curry at Vujon!
In the middle of the month we cheered on grandchildren Ellen and Benjamin as well as great-niece Leah in the Junior Great North Run on the Newcastle quayside.
We spent a pleasant day at the Newcastle Mela (always excellent street food to be had) before Pat flew off for a few weeks visiting family in the USA, arriving in time to celebrate Charlotte’s 8th birthday. There was a lot of time spent watching Ian’s football matches and being beaten at Connect Four by 5-year-old Noah.
November was notable only for seeing Alison Krauss and Union Station at the Sage, but they were on top form and remain one of our favourite groups.
Finally, December saw us off for a week’s skiing in Tignes. At the Rogers’ suggestion we had both signed up for week-long courses with Inspired to Ski. The week proved exhausting but extremely satisfying, the more so as a few days before we arrived Tignes had been mostly green fields whereas we were greeted by 1m plus of fresh snow.
As soon as we got back it was off to celebrate Pat’s Uncle Maurice’s 80th birthday, and attend the Davy Lamp Folk Club Xmas party in the evening. Colin sang “Tiger Feet”, taking the lead guitar part double-stopped on his mandolin!
We saw both Jo’s and Julie’s families over Xmas, but spent the day itself quite quietly with Pat’s mum.