Christmas Newsletter 2010 

Christmas nativity 20106 Berne Avenue
Staffordshire ST5 2QJ

14th. December 2010

To all our friends and family

The continuing icy freeze which is bringing this year to a chilly end suggests that Christmas is near and it's time to send our love and very best wishes to all of you. We are still trying to make the most of our continuing good health and our family seem to be prospering too.

The year had a sombre start with the death of Doreen, my sister-in-law, in Taunton. She had been in poor health for many years - indeed she was truly a monument to the Health Service - but she was always astonishingly cheerful and ready to laugh. Our spirits were then lifted a few days later at the memorial gathering in Enniskillen for my sister and brother-in-law who, you will recall, died in tragic circumstances last year. Bill and Anne, during the nearly thirty years of their retirement, made enormous contributions to the divided community through being a prime mover in building sheltered housing for the British Legion and in the establishment of the integrated schools. And the community, including the temporary First Minister of the Province and several former pupils from the distant parts of Ireland, turned out in force to honour them and to hear the six fulsome tributes, including one from James, my nephew. The icy day concluded most cheerfully with the family climbing the local hill, Topped, to scatter the ashes in a foggy January sunset.

The year has seen much more interaction with the young. We spent pleasant weekends with Felicity (Bristol, studying animal behaviour), with William (Edinburgh, Business Studies and Juggling) and with Felicity and Fiona in Peterborough. We were visited by Sarah & Timmy from Germany prior to a lovely boating holiday with them and their parents, Conny and Stephen, in Ireland. Sarah is now spending a year at school in Canada as the guest of a Canadian family.

James and William came with their Mum, Nicky, after we had seen their brother Charlie into Malvern where he is to complete his secondary education which started in Indonesia and continued in Canada. James has just started on mechanical engineering in Loughborough. Nicky now finds herself making a new home in Paris without her children. We have also enjoyed the company of nephew James's children: Ed who showed us something of his PhD work on wave energy in Edinburgh, and Tara on a couple of opera trips to Manchester where she studies Zoology.

Fiona has just set up home in Bath with her boyfriend Adam. They took a gap year travelling round the world and WWOOFing in New Zealand. Fiona has now joined the Scientific Civil Service at Porton Down while Adam is an actuary In Bristol.

Our boys are modern men in modern jobs - and do seem to have to work far too hard. Stephen is still travelling frequently to the Far East - he has a new outlet for his anodised aluminium as a reflector behind the white light LEDs used in the most modern "bulbs"; only a tiny amount is needed in each but the numbers are enormous. Michael has had another promotion - he is now Senior Vice President for the Caspian and Central Asia for Total Oil. This seems to involve nearly weekly trips to the area and negotiations with the appropriate ministers in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia; we receive occasional emails from him when he is waiting at far-flung airports. We visited him in Paris in the summer where he demonstrated his undoubted executive abilities by jumping up and down in a lift, from which we were only released 45 minutes later! Paul seems to have settled well back into his old firm and seems happily involved in the wholesale insurance market. However, he, together with Rosalind, have a second job of looking after the girls' two horses which Rosalind and he enjoy riding, even though the care is both tying and time consuming. But that seems to be today's life - you either work far too much - or you don't have a job. We were very lucky to have had a pleasant job in a less demanding age.

We ourselves have had a bit of modern pressure too - the book on Remote Sensing which we are editing has taken a year longer than expected and, on several occasions, we have found ourselves working a few weekends, more frequently probably than at any earlier stage in our lives. The final proofs have just gone off, so perhaps we are now retired!

It has been a technological year too - starting with the purchase of a natty capsule coffee maker and milk boiler which provides breakfast coffee for one of us. Then, in connection with the African holiday, we bought a new camera with a powerful zoom. It certainly paid off in the pictures of birds and animals, which adorn the web site and bring back such happy memories to us. And finally, I have acquired a yearned-for smart phone with which I am truly thrilled. It really replaces my old electronic organiser but offers as well, internet access, a lovely camera, music and detailed GPS mapping. You can telephone with it too! However it extends the time I spend "computing" from the normal day to early morning, late in the evening and weekends - "only just looking something up, dear"!

The highlight of the year was a fortnight in Namibia and Botswana, visiting two of the wild life parks, the amazing sand dunes and the Okavango Delta. We saw so much - and you can share a bit of it by looking at the web site. We also managed some skiing in January with Christopher and Gwenda. This winter we shall ski by ourselves, and feel a bit more apprehensive about it than usual - the feeling will probably disappear quickly if the conditions are good.

We also managed to visit my first boss from Harwell (1951), Kathleen Glover, at Caversham. We went from there to Oxford to have lunch with my last "boss" John Burrows from Bremen who is the principal author of the book. Peter & Traudi Plesch also kindly entertained us while we were on our way to see my oldest brother in Towcester and to enjoy a nostalgia trip to Bletchley, my home during the war. The museum at Bletchley Park is well worth a visit, but you have to work at it if you hope to understand anything of the machines and the decoding.

There was also the opera week in Buxton and two half weeks in Llandudno. We have heard and seen some lovely pieces, enjoyed some good lectures, and these have been augmented by a number of trips to the Lowry, the RNCM and Hanley. We also managed to get to Munich a couple of times.

There was quite a lot of walking too including longer walks at Hartington, Lathkilldale and Whixall Moss.

So as you can see - we enjoy continuing good fortune and health. Pat was in hospital for a day with a small tidying up operation from last year, from which she rapidly healed. We have a few aches and pains but, as my hale and hearty ninety year old brother says, "keep taking the pills".

But to finish on a sombre note: while giving a recent talk to a Rotary it was sad to have to apologise for not being able to give them a cheerful take home message. There seems no hope of us finding the social and political will to curb global warming, and this will have a direct and probably deleterious effect on all our grandchildren. If can you handle calculations and want to know the detailed possibilities of cutting our energy use and emissions, do look at the book by David Mackay (FRS and son of a former colleague) on Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air. There's a web site too.

Nevertheless we sincerely hope that life continues to be good to you and your family. We shall think of you as we read through your letters and cards this Christmas day.

With very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

With much love

Patricia and Peter