November 16th 1995
1995 has been an eventful year for us. Margaret started badly
by tripping over a sun lounger in Madeira on New Year's Day, and
cracked the bone in her little toe, which eventually broke a week
later back in England when she tried to play badminton. In February
she had a car accident on an icy road near Comberton, which shook
her up but did no physical damage to her (unlike the car). Thirdly,
she was made redundant from Burgoyne Middle School this summer
and has been on the dole since. We hope that we are nearing the
end of her 'annus horribilis", and that things will be better
On the bright side, we have managed to see some more of the world
this year. Our big trip was to China at Easter. We took Paul's
mother, who is in her 80's, but was at the time quite fit. We
flew to Beijing, and visited the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace,
the Ming Tombs, and of course the Great Wall. This was indeed
impressive, as it climbs at more than 45 degrees up mountain sides.
We went by train to Chengde, to the Emperor's summer retreat,
then flew to Xian to see the Terracotta army. It was an amazing
sight - several thousand full-sized clay figures, buried in about
200BC to keep the emperor company. I suppose that to a man who
ruled most of the civilised world, and had just built 4000km of
Great Wall to keep the riff-raff out, then the odd few thousand
statues was a minor work.
The trip continued via Shanghai, to the silk and garden city of
Souzhou. They took us though the mill where girls were spinning
the silk from the cocoons, and to perfect water gardens, showing
a great sense of beauty, design, and respect for traditions.
It's a shame that those attributes were comprehensively destroyed
for a whole generation during the years of the Cultural Revolution,
because much of 20th century China is grey, featureless, and modelled
on western culture (complete with MacDonalds). We finished by
flying to Guilin, down in the south, for a trip down the Li river,
complete with cormorant fishermen and weird conical limestone
hills. We flew from there over the border to Hong Kong and from
there home. Hong Kong itself was full of contrasts - dingy tenement
blocks next to gleaming commercial buildings, but an amazing amount
of untouched green hills and coasts - in all, a most memorable
trip, not a holiday, as it was very intensive, but we don't regret
Mother had been having pains in her leg for some time before going
to China, but we suspect the visit may have hastened things. Anyway,
she had a hip replacement operation in August. Apart from a complication
with a blood clot, which has had her taking rat poison (warfarin)
since to keep her blood thin, she has made an excellent recovery,
and is now walking unaided again. I see that the Queen Mother
has today had the same operation, so it is very fashionable.
It was luck that Mother had taken out health insurance some years
before, which paid for the operation, or else she would still
have been waiting for it on the National Health.
Margaret left me at home and went off to Nice for a week in February,
to improve her French by staying with the French family we have
known for many years. Our travels continued with a week in Corsica
in May. This is a really beautiful island, with marvellous walking
terrain (read tortuous driving terrain). We stayed at home during
the summer, as Margaret taught English as a foreign language to
two lots of people who came to stay with us. The first was a
19 year old German skinhead, but a charming lad, showing that
one shouldn't judge by appearances. The second was an Italian
couple, whose English was (originally) not much better than our
Italian. This lead to some hilarious conversations, particularly
one in which Paul described the our gravy as `dog sauce' ("sugo
di cane" rather than "sugo di carne").
Paul has been very busy at work. Earlier in the year he was project
leader on the development of a major new mapping and charting
product, delivered in August. This was followed with a job change
to become Product Manager for Mapping and Charting within Laser-Scan.
A perk of the new job was launching the new product at the International
Cartographic Association conference in Barcelona in September.
For the second time in 20 years, Margaret was able to come on
a business trip (the previous was in 1979 to Reading!). She spent
the week coming to appreciate Barcelona, and then gave Paul an
intensive one-day tour of the city on the Saturday.
Paul has had two other business trips, one brief one to Denver
(where he went to his first baseball match), and the other in
October to Mexico, Canada, and briefly the USA. In Mexico City
he managed to miss the earthquake by three hours. Returning from
this trip on the Friday, we then went off on the Saturday to Turkey
for a week. We stayed at Dalyan on the south coast near Dalaman.
The long beach at Dalyan is one of the last breeding places of
the loggerhead turtle, so is a protected reserve. It is backed
by hills, a large lake, and a river delta, so there is plenty
of natural beauty, as well as the ancient site of Caunos across
Our only trip booked ahead is to Sicily for Christmas. This is
a walking holiday with Ramblers, and we are actually there over
Christmas day, so it should be different! After that, we don't
know what will happen. Clearly, our income is reduced by Margaret's
redundancy, and our forward planning is restricted by her job-hunting,
so it may inhibit our travels a bit.
Margaret has been applying for jobs of various sorts with little
success up to recently. There are many teachers in a similar
position, so the last teaching job she applied for (a two term
post as general subjects teacher to cover a maternity leave),
had over 90 applicants. However she has just accepted a part-time
job as Clerk to the Parish Council in Comberton, and hopes that
this will be the first in a portfolio of part-time jobs to bring
in some money and keep her interested. She is not being idle
in the mean time, as she is studying French, German, and Spanish,
as well as playing badminton and other sports.
Our ex foster-son Barry came to dinner on Sunday. He is now back
in Cambridge, living with his mother and on the dole again. During
the summer he had worked in France on a goat farm, and as a courier
on camp sites. He has changed his name to Dominic Greywolf, largely
we think to avoid his debts. We were discussing possible seasonal
employment with him, but concluded that he was too thin to be
a Father Christmas, and too tall to be an elf!
Margaret has finished the assignments for the M.Ed. that she has
been working towards. She has much of the research in hand for
the dissertation, but has not yet embarked on writing it up.
Ancillary activities continue, as we did box office for a couple
of amateur dramatic performances, and are just girding up our
loins to do likewise for the coming panto (The Three Musketeers)
at the end of January. To finish on a high note, Paul's home-made
Strawberry wine won first prize in the Comroy cup between Comberton
and Royston, and we still have five bottles to drink!
We hope you had a good year in 1995, and are looking forward to
1996 (and beyond).