Unlike 1989 and previous years, 1990 has been quite an eventful year. I'm still at Laser-Scan, and we're still at the same address, but a few other things have changed.
Barry, whom we had fostered for 6 years, is no longer with us. As we said last year, he had become increasingly moody and violent, and had lashed out physically at Margaret and broken the nose of a kid at school. In January there was another more severe incident, in which Margaret ended up with a black eye, and we decided that enough was enough. Barry went into temporary care for a month, and then Social Services were able to place him with other foster parents in the village. He has been able to continue at the same school, and with other ongoing links like Scouts.
We still see him round the village, and I (Paul) spent an evening with him last week acting as a consultant as he wanted to buy a computer out of the 50 a week he now earns from a combination of paper round, school cleaning, and a Saturday camping shop job! He seems to have settled down with his new guardians, and we hope that as he gets through the stress of adolescence, that he is growing to control himself better.
It was a traumatic experience for all concerned, but when we look back at what he was like when we first met him, it is clear that he gained a lot during his time with us. The break gives him a new start with a cleaner slate, and hopefully a realisation that his actions have consequences.
Margaret too has been changing her lifestyle somewhat, after 16 years teaching in the same school. Prompted by her disillusionment with the the state of the education system, National Curriculum, Attainment Assessment, Local Management of Schools, and a sense of freedom, Margaret gave in her notice and stopped full time teaching in the summer. She started applying for various jobs in librarianship and similar careers, before being `head-hunted' by someone who had been her deputy head at Roysia, was now a headmaster, and was short of a part-time french teacher. Margaret was able to negotiate a suitable timetable, and is now working 0.6 of the week at a middle school in Bedfordshire. She works Monday, Tuesday pm, Thursday, and Friday am. She has off Tuesday am, all day Wednesday, and Friday pm. She doesn't seem to have a lot of free time however, as she has taken on various daytime classes, and another part time job as an assistant librarian at Trinity College, which involves working until midnight on Thursday evenings!
Margaret did get the City and Guilds certificate in ``Library and Information Skills'' that she was studying for last year, and is applying to become a Chartered Librarian through the `experience' route. Time will tell whether the attractions of books and library work wins over the experience (and better pay) of teaching.
I am still with Laser-Scan, as Chief Programmer. The firm has survived its recent history of mergers and a management buy out of the loss-making hardware parts of the merged company. There is a slight sense of `deja vue' in that we are now independent again, back to the same size (100 people) and similar market (mapping and geographic information) that we were 5 years ago. However, we now have a USM stock market listing (`Laser-Scan Ltd' under `Electricals' in the FT), and the financial base of the company seems better than for some years. Incidentally, anyone with access to electronic mail systems can now reach me via email as `PAUL@LSL.CO.UK'.
The main thrust of firm's business is now supply of software for handling geographic information in computers, both for producing paper maps, but also for an increasing number of spatial query applications (known as GIS). During the year we launched two products. HORIZON is a GIS aimed at use by environmentalists (first sale to NERC - the National Environmental Research Council) and can be used to answer all sorts of questions about the environment, such as ``show me all heathland in Dorset under 500m above sea level, which lies within 2km of a built-up area?''. The other product is also a GIS, called METROPOLIS, aimed at use by local authorities, county councils, utilities, and large companies, who want to keep track of the whereabouts and spatial relationships between the pipes, cables, buildings, etc that they own.
On the holiday front, Margaret went off with my mother to Tunisia for a week in February, and we took her with us to Spain at Easter. We stayed on the villa complex near Marbella where we have been involved in buying property. That purchase is still in limbo, the original deal having fallen through, but all the 60 families involved have now joined together to form ``Phoenix Villas Ltd'' to negotiate an alternative arrangement.
In the summer, we two took a 5 day break in Brittany, previously arranged to be while Barry was on Scout camp. It was a pleasant stay in a usually peaceful `village fleurie' in inland Brittany. However, during our 4 nights we had a series of events, including a pea vining machine coming to harvest the field outside the hotel at 2 o'clock in the morning, and the man in the next room having a heart attack another night!
As a further string to her bow, Margaret did a correspondence course in ``Teaching English as a Foreign Language'' last year, and during the summer we had two sessions of having Italian students living with us for a period. The first two were a couple in their 30's for a week, and then later we had a female university student for a fortnight. It was quite hard work, as they had to have 4 or 5 hours formal tuition per day, as well as needing feeding and entertaining, but we enjoyed it on the whole.
At October half term we had a week on the north coast of Majorca, at Puerto Soller. This area has marvellous scenery and we did a lot of walking (as well as sitting and eating).
Earlier in October, I spent 10 days in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, installing a military computer mapping system. This had been sold by Laser-Scan in 1988, but the Saudis hadn't built the building in which it was to go, so the kit sat in a hangar in Lancashire for 2 years! However, when the events in the Gulf happened, the situation sprang to life, and I was tasked to go out and get the kit installed and accepted. It was very much `business as usual' out there, but I expect Margaret was worrying all the time I was away.
As a reward to ourselves, made possible by Margaret giving up full time teaching, we have booked a holiday of 18 days in India for next February. It is one of those intensive guided tours of the main sights (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Bombay), followed by a rest in Goa. It should be quite an experience (I hope so, given the cost!). More about this in next year's bulletin.
Both our parents are doing well, considering their ages, and my mother has invited all us to spend Christmas with her in Sheffield. Margaret's dad caused consternation by collapsing and being taken into hospital while we were on holiday in Majorca, but he was out within a few days. He is getting increasingly forgetful, and gets lost when he goes out for a walk, but still manages to look after himself at home, and writes Margaret a 10 page letter every week.
Highlights of the year include another lovely summer (reaching 100 Fahrenheit in the shade in our garden one day), with lots of punting and some excellent concerts in Cambridge. This is balanced by lots of tourists and ever increasing traffic problems. They are even going to ban bicycles from some streets in the centre of town.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year,