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

2nd December 1999

Dear All,

Summary of the year - 1999

Yet another busy year, with a lot of pleasurable travelling and visits from old friends.

The year started in the Gambia with Mother - lovely weather, friendly people and amazing colourful birds. Travel by road was pretty amazing too. There are no traffic lights and no MOT tests! However we survived unscathed and made a good friend in our taxi driver Ousman Jarju. A trip to the village where Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’ was based and an early morning bird watching trip by canoe were also memorable. A week wasn’t long enough and we have booked to return early next year.

In February, we returned to northern Tenerife, where we again enjoyed the sunshine, scenery and the colourful Carnival. We found enough new walks to keep us happy. Being away then, Margaret missed the graduation ceremony for her Sheffield M.Ed, which she had finally been awarded after working on it by distance learning for several years.

At Easter we did a fly/drive to Madeira, staying in three corners of the island - Santana, Porto Maniz andFunchal. We had a lovely week of perfect weather and enjoyed varied walks along the levadas (the narrow channels which carry water from the mountains). Paul managed to step backwards into the levada on the last walk. As he was carrying the camera, the event was not recorded for posterity.

We again spent a long weekend in Montreuil at the early May bank holiday. The temperature was about 10 degrees warmer than on our previous visit and we enjoyed walking on the coast and in the valley of the Canche.

We also paid a return visit to Corsica in June, this time on a Ramblers holiday, based at Calvi. It was rather too hot for walking up hills - and all the walks were uphill, but we were rewarded with some spectacular scenery.

Margaret’s birthday was again spent on the river, this time with our old friends the Pennycooks, on a visit from Tennessee. We’d spent many hours punting with Margaret and Stephen before they emigrated. This time we were able to introduce their sons to the delights of messing about on the river, and were delighted when the boys took over and we could lie back and be chauffeured. It was an ideal occasion for strawberries and champagne.

In August Paul was at the ICA Conference in Ottawa for 10 days and Margaret came to ensure that he wore matching socks etc. Together with Sue, the wife of one of Paul’s colleagues, she explored Ottawa by foot, boat and open topped bus. At the weekend we four took a steam train from Hull to Wakefield! Sue and Margaret went by Greyhound bus to Montreal to stay with friends of Sue there. On the last day we hired a car and drove into the beautiful Gatineau Park to walk.. The house and garden were looked after in our absence by Margaret’s cousins from Yorkshire who enjoyed a holiday in Cambridgeshire despite less-than-perfect weather. It was wonderful to come back to a tidy house and garden!

The champagne was replenished in September, when Comberton was officially twinned with Le Vaudreuil, a village near Rouen. More than 49 Valderoliens spent a weekend in Comberton as guests of the villagers. We acted as hosts to three of them, including the head of the college. As well as the official activities (where Paul got landed with doing bilingual announcements), we were able to take them punting and they discovered the delights of Sunday shopping in Cambridge. We are going on a return visit next May.

At the end of October, we spent a week in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with Ramblers, based at Kyrenia (Girne to the Turks). Kyrenia is a very pleasant town with a harbour described in the Lonely Planet guide as ‘ruthlessly pictoresque’. As well as walking in the countryside we visited the divided city of Nicosia, Famagusta, the Roman ruins at Salamis and the abbey of Bellapais where Laurence Durrell lived and wrote ‘Bitter Lemons of Cyprus’. It was warm enough to eat breakfast and dinner outdoors under the lemon and bougainvillaea trees. Margaret managed to be ‘attacked’ by (we think) a yellow star thistle, which injected poison into her leg and made walking rather painful. The plant is apparently deadly to horses - though one assumes as a result of eating it.

In between holidays and major trips, Paul has been to Scandinavia on sales prospects a few times (Sweden, Finland and Denmark), and spent an interesting week at a castle in Germany. Schloss Dagstuhl is run as an academic seminar centre for Computer Science, and this particular week seminar was on ‘Computational Cartography’. The invited attendees are a mixture of top academics, young researchers, and a few industry representatives (including Paul). When not travelling, Paul has also moved jobs within Laser-Scan to become Business Development Manager for Mapping and Charting. The Internet (and specifically web mapping) is providing some interesting opportunities and challenges.

As well as working for three days a week as Coordinator for the Forest Education Initiative, Margaret has returned to teaching for a term, teaching for a day and a half a week at her previous school in Potton. The experience has convinced her that she doesn’t want to return to teaching and made her realise how lucky she is to have a found a second career which she enjoys. She has (just) managed to find the time to go to French classes, play badminton and keep the garden under control.

The key hole surgery on Paul’s shoulder in January was successful and he can now take his wallet from his back pocket without flinching. It took several months of physiotherapy to get the movement back, but it was well worth having the operation. He has continued playing the concertina, and has had great pleasure from joining a local band of beginner and improver folk musicians called Greenshoots, which meet at a pub once a fortnight.

Paul’s mother is now 86 and is amazingly fit. She recently took us on a walk in Chatsworth and set a faster pace than we would have chosen! Our ex foster son Barry (now Dominic Graywolf) is 24, and is still enjoying his job as a porter at Magdalene college despite the antisocial hours, though he would like a higher salary. He comes to lunch every few months.

We had hoped to go to Costa Rica for Xmas and the New Year, but Ramblers couldn’t get the flights, so we’ve postponed that for another year. Instead we’re going walking in Southern Spain for 11 days, based at the village of Competa, inland from Malaga. We’re due to return on January 2nd (provided the Millennium bug doesn’t bring the world to a standstill!).

We hope you had a good year and are looking forward to the Millennium.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Paul and Margaret Hardy