1991 has been less eventful than last year, although still fairly busy.
Margaret is still working 0.6 of the week at Potton Middle School in Bedfordshire, teaching mainly French. She has off all day Tuesday, and most of Friday. She attends daytime classes in French and sports, and still works one evening until midnight at Trinity College library. She has continued with teaching English to foriegn students during the summer, and had one Italian student for a fortnight.
I am still with Laser-Scan, as Chief Programmer. I've spent most of the last year reverting to my previous role as software architect and trouble shooter for our traditional computerised mapping systems. I have however had some involvement with our `next generation' GIS (Geographic Information Systems) products which we have started shipping, which has involved learning new programming languages and a new environment (UNIX).
The firm has survived the general recession (which is more than some of our competitors have), but with an uninspiring financial performance. We have made some prestige sales, during the year, particularly one to a major high street chain store (I can't say which, but its name contains the letters M and S!). They are using it to work out where to site new stores.
Apparently the choice between two available sites within the same town can make a difference of thousands of pounds a week in profit, so they need to get it right. Its frightening though, how much information they have on tap about actual and possible customers and their lifestyles. They go from postcode or street address, and have access to census data, credit information, customer records, and commercial mailing lists.
On the holiday front, we mentioned in last year's bulletin that as a reward to ourselves, made possible by Margaret giving up full time teaching, we had booked a holiday of 18 days in India for February. We went with Kuoni to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Bombay, and finished by 4 days in Goa. It was during the Gulf war, so there were very few tourists around, which was good for us (but not so good for the Indian tourist business). It was quite an experience, and what is more, we enjoyed it (well most of it)!
We got off to a bad start with the trip out there with Air India (they came bottom of the list recently in a Which? survey). We got to Heathrow in good time despite the snow, and queued by the check-in for some hours. They then announced that our flight was cancelled. They put us up in a hotel in London overnight, and we eventually took off after a flight delay of 18 hours! Coming back was almost as bad. The flight which should have been 7 hours direct, ended up with 17 hours on the plane, 5 of them on the tarmac in Bombay before going anywhere.
We greatly enjoyed northern India. Highlights must include the Taj Mahal at Agra, the deserted city of Fatipur Sikri, and the Lake palace at Udaipur. We had an excellent escort provided by Kuoni (a well educated Indian parsee woman), who explained the culture as well as the sights. Bombay we could happily have missed out (particularly as Margaret was ill there with a tummy bug), and Goa although enjoyable, was rather humid and hot. In all though we felt we had gained a lot from the experience. Unfortunately, travel widens the horizons, and Margaret is already plotting a trip to Kenya, or Thailand, or America, or ....
At the end of the summer holidays we went for 10 days to stay with college friends of mine (Nigel and Jenny Grimsley) who live near Toulouse in the south of France. We were made very welcome, and borrowed their car to visit Carcasonne and other places around. We also went off with them for a few days camping in the Pyrenees.
Most recently, we went to Cyprus for a week for Autumn half-term, and stayed in Paphos. We enjoyed the local historic sites, the dozens of restaurants, and the scenery in the interior of the island. If we go again, we said we would go in the Spring when the landscape is less barren.
I haven't been away much on business this year. I had another trip to Saudi Arabia, to sort out problems with a Laser-Scan system there. At least this time it wasn't during a war, but the middle of August in Riyadh is still fairly extreme!
Margaret's dad (who is 85) is seriously ill in hospital at present. He has a bad chest infection, which has accelerated his recent gradual decline. He has had a blood disorder for some years which causes sludge to build up in his blood stream. This has been checked by chemotherapy and regular blood transfusions, but he had a habit of collapsing at intervals, and his memory was failing. The current thing is more severe however, and we have been commuting up to Blackpool every weekend for the last few weeks. It seems likely that he will not recover, and our hope now is that he goes quickly rather than dragging on.
My mother is still well, and living in Sheffield when she isn't travelling abroad or visiting friends. She is planning a month in the sun in January or February, possibly in Cyprus.
Our ex foster son Barry, who left us abruptly a year ago after a few violent incidents, is now 16 and has left Comberton. He is living in a bedsit run by Social Services in Cambridge and attending the Cambridge Regional College, doing a mixture of Business Studies and related subjects. We have been exchanging letters quite frequently recently, and I met him recently in his new abode to take various items from our loft which might be of use to him. He still has problems, however, as he got sacked from his Saturday job in a camping shop for an ``attitude problem'' to customers!
Plans for next year include trips to Tunisia in February, and Majorca at Easter. Thing may change however, depending on what happens to Margaret's dad.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year,