Paul and Margaret Hardy,
15 Kentings, Comberton, CAMBRIDGE CB3 7DT
Tel 01223 263232

December 2001

Dear All

Summary of the year - 2001

We started the year in Costa Rica in South America, a small country that packs a lot into a small area - tropical rain forest, tropical dry forest, cloud forest, temperate forest, coffee plantations etc. We saw a wonderful array of wildlife, the most memorable being a 'sprinting' sloth (travelling fast hanging upside down from a telephone wire) and a Magnificent Quetzel, the country’s very rare national bird (and the sacred bird of the Incas). That set the scene for the rest of the year, which has again included a lot of enjoyable travel and various memorable events.

In February Margaret went on a Ramblers’ holiday to Seville and Cordoba, which are wonderful cities, though the walking aspect was disappointing. At Easter we returned to Puerto de Pollensa on Mallorca to do more of the walks that we had tasted last year. Once again we enjoyed some excellent hikes and magnificent views. Mallorca has so much more than the fleshpots of Magaluf or Palma Nova! In April that nice Mr Go offered us the chance to fly cheaply to Venice. It was too good an offer to refuse and we spent a wonderful weekend staying in a small palazzo actually on the Grand Canal. The weather was perfect and many photos were taken. Venice is like no other city, and we must go back there again to visit all the scenic parts, museums and galleries that we hurried past this time.

We spent a weekend in France in May, staying with a family in our twin village of Le Vaudreuil, where we enjoyed magnificent hospitality. Later in the month we went on a Ramblers holiday to the walled city of Dubrovnik in Croatia, which has been sensitively renovated since the Yugoslav war of 1990. Paul, who’d visited the city in his early teens, declared it largely unaffected except for the colours of the roof tiles. It still seems to be a timeless snapshot of history. There were signs of the war - damaged and deserted hotels and shrapnel marks on roadways but there was an air of optimism and we tourists were warmly welcomed. It’s such a shame that the Serbs shelled it out of spite, not even for strategic military benefit. Country walking inland was limited because of the danger of unexploded landmines, but we enjoyed walks on some of the hundreds of islands and along the beautiful coast of the clear blue Adriatic.

Margaret was invited on a forestry tour of Canada in August by the Canadian High Commission, with four days in each of Newfoundland, Quebec province and British Columbia. The weather was good apart from the last day in BC when the heavens opened. The hospitality was everywhere magnificent. There was a tremendous amount to see in a short time and enormous distances were covered. Margaret asserts that Canadian school buses are only beaten by camels as the most uncomfortable form of transport. Of the three areas, Quebec was her favourite, as the group stayed in three truly magnificent locations and she enjoyed the opportunity to practise her French.

In September we had another Ramblers holiday based firstly in Collioure, a pretty little port in the South East of France much painted by artists, and then on to Girona in North East Spain. As well as having some excellent walks we were able to visit the Dali museum in Figueras - a memorable experience. We flew out from Gatwick on September 12th, the day after the attacks on the Twin Towers, and back from Toulouse the day after a fertiliser plant (and half the neighbourhood) had been devastated by an huge explosion. Considering the circumstances, both flights were remarkably trouble free.

At the end of October we went on a Waymark walking holiday to Kaş (pronounced ‘cash’) in Turkey. We’d spent a (non-walking) holiday in Kaş in 1996 in June when it was too hot to walk. This time the weather was perfect (until the last day when it rained so hard our plane was delayed for three hours because the runway was flooded). Our leader had lived in Turkey for many years and knew the walks, the language and the people, which combined to make an excellent week. The scenery is stunning and ruins and tombs abound. There was an earth tremor while we were there, so there are probably a few more ruins now. It was quite hard walking because of the rocky terrain but well worth the effort. Our group included five Americans who greatly enlivened the party and added a different viewpoint to our discussions.

Paul has continued playing the concertina with a local band of ‘improver’ musicians called Greenshoots, which meet at a pub once a fortnight, and also joined a group of concertina players near Bedford (Chiltinas), plus playing occasionally at folk sessions at a local pub. He’s also secretary of a local investment club "Comberton Marauders", which has managed to lose money convincingly this year (not difficult considering the stock market falls). However he has enjoyed the ‘discussions’ (over a glass or two of wine) about investments and feels he has learned quite a bit about stocks and shares. He still swims one lunchtime a week with friends from work, and more frequently in summer at the village swimming club. However, his waist has increased two trouser sizes in the last year, so presumably he is not exercising enough!

He is in his 27th year at Laser-Scan, now as Chief Product Manager (in fact, the only Product Manager!). The company continues to be involved in a range of high-tech projects involving digital mapping and spatial databases. The Yeoman group, which is now the parent company, is just launching a world leading service for giving driving directions (taking note of current traffic) through the mobile phone. This is based on Laser-Scan’s Gothic database, and Paul has been acting as a pilot test guinea pig with a unit installed in his car. He is travelling less than previously, but still has done short trips to Belgium, France and Northern Ireland in the past few months.

Margaret has added line-dancing (five, six, seven, eight,...) to her winter evening occupations of French classes and badminton. She is doing two sets of daytime Spanish classes and a computing course as well. She also goes with a group of friends to plays at the Arts Theatre.

She continues to be the Co-ordinator for Forest Education Initiative (FEI), nominally three days a week (but going on five!). She finds the job is like Alice in Wonderland - you never know what or whom you will encounter next, and there are always impossible questions to be answered! It is alternately very rewarding and frustrating. There are perks though, like the trip to Canada, which was hard work but fun.

We do go walking together, both abroad on holiday and locally - when it’s not raining. We remain (resting) members of the local drama group (but are being box-office for the panto shortly), intermittent attendees at the winemakers evenings, are committee members of the French Twinning association and have recently taken on being Secretary of our village Ramblers. We still see our foster son Dom every few months - he came to lunch last Sunday. He is currently working for the Post Office sorting letters.

We are off to the Gambia in West Africa for Christmas and the New Year. Paul’s mother was to have come with us but after months of suffering from balance problems she decided she’d prefer to stay in England. Paul’s brother Michael has stepped in to invite her for Christmas and she insisted that we still go. It will be our third visit to the country, but I expect we’ll find new places to explore as well as revisiting some of the places seen on previous visits.

We hope you have had a good year and will have a successful 2002.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Paul and Margaret