Christmas Newsletter 2014
Staffordshire ST5 2QJ
12th. December 2014
To all our friends and
Christmas is clearly upon us: there are newspaper reports of elves,
smoking and behaving badly at a muddy "Winter Wonderland" not far away
and we have actually had a frost to interrupt the mild weather. But,
despite the rampant commercialism, it is still a cheerful time of the
year, and, with this letter, we have the chance to wish all of you a
very happy Christmas.
It shouldn't perhaps be a surprise that Elves are quarrelsome. They are
probably related to the Nibelungen who do metal work underground and
are still smarting at being cheated out of the all–powerful
Ring that they had forged and which ended up with t hree
sonorous but rather dozy ladies at the bottom of the Rhine.
The Ring has an influence on everyone it touches and we too are
affected since we have seen two performances of Wagner's four opera
Ring cycle this year. The first was at Bayreuth
in Wagner's own theatre, actually built to perform the Ring.
While the long-distance motoring, with a
visit to friends in Göttingen, and Bayreuth itself were most
enjoyable, it is not an exaggeration to say that the cycle itself was
perhaps the worst ever, as evidenced by the round booing at the end of
all its performances. The music and singing were largely splendid but
the production was silly and the director totally ignored or spoilt the
necessary illusions which so many great directors have enjoyed solving
over the years. Just one example of the distracting silliness: during
Brünnhilde's aria at the end of Siegfried, one of the most wonderful in
all opera, an unscripted crocodile tried to eat the mellifluous wood
second Ring was almost on our own doorstep in Birmingham and,
having been disappointed by Bayreuth, Patricia was determined to see a
proper performance. The St Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre, under their
renowned conductor, Valery Gergiev, did not disappoint. The music and
singing were wonderful and the production enhanced rather than
distracted from the action. And there was a substantial added thrill:
we were telephoned
by Gergiev himself
and spent most of the first half hour interval in Götterdämmerung
chatting to him in his dressing room. He's a charming man, and we
learned a bit about the problems of bringing such a set of operas to
England while he heard about some of the idiocies of Bayreuth! It was
wonderful to be with him briefly and literally to rub shoulders with
But why did he 'phone us?
Well Mike organised it! Total Oil sponsored the construction of the New
Stage at the Mariinsky, and Michael, who is responsible for Total's
large Russian operations, knows him well. Sadly, our conversation
started with the death of Christophe de Margerie, the Head of Total, in
an air crash in Moscow. Michael had, happily, made a lucky decision to
stay in Paris rather than accompanying Christophe as he normally would
Opera has taken us out and about this year – to the
Buxton Festival, twice to see the Welsh
National in Llandudno, on holiday at the Wexford
Festival where we met up with a couple of Buxton friends from London,
trips to Munich, and various evening visits, with and without
friends, to the
Lowry in Salford and to the RNCM
in Manchester. Locally we go to the symphony concerts in
Hanley and occasional musical events at Keele, Adbaston and Nantwich.
A Buxton Friend
There was another Continental
trip in January which took us to Einsiedeln in the snow to
call on friends, to Garmisch to visit other friends and to Hochgurgl to
ski with Christopher and Gwenda. Christopher and I start out late to
ski, the ladies meet us for lunch, and we all enjoy the pleasures of
home we still walk each weekend – we have spent the Autumn
wandering along the Lathkill and the Dove in Derbyshire and there have
been trips to the Shropshire Hills and Cannock Chase - and further
afield too on visits to Northumberland
and to Sussex,
where we also attended Gwenda's
80th birthday party. We also spent a few days on the Grand
Union Canal with Tony and Barbara Cox.
Age is just ending my period as a visitor for the RSC
Benevolent Fund, but Pat still reads for the Stoke talking
newspaper. We go regularly to lectures at Keele; Pat is a member of the
U3A book club and I'm a member of a couple of local groups as well as
two informal discussion groups. One book that I have been enthusing
about this year is Daniel Kahneman's, Thinking, Fast and Slow; I have
actually tried to make a summary which you can find on the web site.
For me it appears to provide a simple framework for the multitude of
impressions about thinking and decision making that I have accumulated
over nearly eighty years. The work on our web site itself is
progressing slowly – and twice a year I update the web site from the
local National Trust Association. So there always seems to be
a list of things to do.
The family is still thriving – and we are very much looking forward to
seeing them all before Christmas when we are assembling briefly for a
celebration lunch. One apparent change in the world – among the
grandchildren, it is the girls who seem to be the most enterprising.
Fiona has successfully transferred from the Civil Service into the
teaching profession and seems to be fully immersed in her first post;
she and Adam are to marry next year; Felicity, after a wonderful trip
to Canada where she was studying bats and working on farms, now has a
position at a sanctuary for aged horses. Sarah has started an IT
apprenticeship in Frankfurt. We are looking forward to seeing her and
her partner Kevin here next week, as they are unable to make the family
With the boys, Will completed his year at circus school and we saw one
many performances on a brief trip to Edinburgh. James who
spent much of the summer in Canada is at home again in Bristol with
Nicky, contemplating a career; Charlie is thriving as a geology student
at UBC in Vancouver. Timothy is in his final Arbitur year at school.
Although his work is reasonable, he finds it hard to combine it with
the extensive practice required to improve his excellent golf handicap,
much to Conny's exasperation. He is hoping to train as a
Our own boys, all in their fifties, are working as hard as ever.
Michael's good luck has already been mentioned; Stephen is back and
forth to the Far East trying to ensure that his firm continues to do
well despite the slowing of growth; and Paul is trying to increase the
market share of his insurance firm. He and Rosalind are still also
fully engaged with their two horses.
His eightieth year
It is inevitable that we are losing friends and family – my sister-law Ivy
died this year aged 89, as well as several friends. We are
still fortunate with our health, although Pat has problems with macular
degeneration and is no longer able to drive. We are still following my 93 year old brother's
dictum "keep taking the pills" He is just taking his first - ever
holiday abroad, in the USA.
We hope very much that you and your family are all well and are finding
life worthwhile and enjoyable. We hope you have a lovely holiday and
wish you all the very best for the New Year.
With much love from us both.