Xmas 2017

For those spared the inevitable Christmas letter-in-with-the-card...here's the abridged version. Normal service [and backfilling some of the posts that I should have written up before the end of the year] will be resumed shortly. No, really.

Another busy year for me…or maybe it’s just that it seems that way these days! There was some evaluation and ‘rapporteur’ work in Brussels for the European Commission in January followed by wrapping up my 4-year stint as external examiner at the University of Hull. Already a member of the committee of the local section of the Royal Society of Chemistry, I’m now also on the committee of the RSC’s Environmental Chemistry Group. It’s lovely to spend a few days a year in their HQ with all its tradition and grandeur. It’s also right across the road from Fortnum & Mason – result!

I’ve enjoyed working with the Nantwich Museum research group during the year – helping them to put on an exhibition focused on the town’s River Weaver across the summer.

I managed a lovely holiday in Cornwall with embarrassingly glorious weather, and a couple of trips to Paris. During the Paris visit in August, we took a day to visit Giverny where Monet painted so much of his best work. The garden flowers, along with the pool and the water lilies, so memorably captured in his paintings, assaulted the senses and the soul with such exquisite colours and scents that I really didn’t want to leave.

In September Robyn, Mark and I visited the site on the Belgium/France border where, 100 years ago to the day, my grandfather had been so badly wounded during WW1. It seemed fitting, and the short evening service of remembrance at the Menin Gate was all the more poignant this time.

Who’s he been to see and hear this year you may ask? Maybe? Well…Paul Carrack, Van Morrison, Ruby Turner, Al Stewart, The Beach Boys, Mew, Sigur Rós, Phil Collins, The Maccabees, Jackson Browne, Coldplay, Radiohead and Justin Hayward…that’s who - with Jools Holland again just before Christmas. All were good in their own way, although Radiohead took a bit of getting used to.

Who else did I listen to and watch? There was Jimmy Carr, Richard Herring, Derren Brown (with Robyn & Matt), the amazing Penn & Teller, Eddie Izzard and, last week, Brian Cox and Robin Ince with their Christmas Compendium. I wasn’t sure we’d make it to the latter as the train stalled 20 min. outside Euston when the overhead power lines came down, but we made it on time in the end and enjoyed it, despite having to forego dinner.

Recently, I took an overdue trip to Finland to catch up with some old friends that I’ve not seen for too long, and, earlier in the year, a couple of visits to Copenhagen to listen to some jazz and catch up with slightly newer friends there. Next week it’s the annual pilgrimage to the S. Tyrol to check the glühwine  and stollen situation – vital pre-Christmas work requiring attention to both menu details and credit card spend in equal measure.

Mark and I went to the Imperial War Museum North in September – a very enjoyable first visit for us both. Elsewhere in 2017, a couple of days at the local spa, a visit to the Photography Show at the NEC and return visits to the National Archive in Kew to do a bit of family research. We managed a couple of visits up to Grasmere in the Spring and Autumn as well to take the air (and the rain) and also to take pictures of the lovely daffodils and, later in the year, the stunning autumn colours.

Robyn and Mark will both be around over Christmas to keep an eye on me – whatever you’re up to have a great Christmas and all the very best for 2018.

…and Mark adds:

Wow, can’t believe anther year has gone so quickly. This year has been excellent; I managed to go to Australia with a couple of school friends for 2 weeks camping out in the bush. We travelled from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney camping in a 4x4 which was brilliant. I also went to California where we went to a couple of National Parks (Yosemite and Sequoia). We also went to San Francisco and a few places in between – it was a fly-drive holiday. Even managed to have some wine tasting in Napa Valley, I think my dad would have preferred it to me but it was enjoyable. I’ve definitely got the bug for driving around America, we are planning our next trip already if Donald Trump lets me in! I’m also heading to Canada this coming week for a short holiday- visiting Toronto and then driving to Niagara falls and a few other spots. 

I also got engaged to my long-term girlfriend Brittany. We are looking at getting married in Italy at Lake Garda - a place called Malcesine - in September next year all being well. I’m still at Network Rail in the Control Centre looking at condition monitoring equipment and assisting the Fault teams in Stafford, Stoke and Nuneaton for the Signal and Telecoms Department.

I hope you’ve had a good year and have a really enjoyable Christmas.