Getting towards mid-December and I must now make the effort to compile the annual resume for inclusion in the Christmas Cards. Looking back the year seems to have flown by again and the forthcoming holiday really has crept up on us this time around. This acceleration was of course aided by the visit of a hefty contingent of family and friends to Northumberland in November as guests of my parents. From the accounts passed back all visitors had a most enjoyable weekend and Angela and I were delighted to help out with the hosting duties.
Susan has now moved into her final year at Sheffield. We have not seen much of her in Northumberland as she again worked the summer months with Avesta Polarit - stainless steel manufacturers in Sheffield. For her holidays she and her two friends, Laurie and Jo (still without the 'e'), went out to the Dolomites for a trekking holiday on the high ridges, and the Via Ferrata. They had a thoroughly enjoyable time and, from the pictures, some most exceptional views of the mountain ranges - and the steel ropes and ladders. They ended with a couple of days in Venice - somewhat different!
With many of Susan's friends completing their three year courses last year she has moved in to a new house in the Broomhill district. Now sharing with three lads from the course, she is constantly on the go squeezing the required rota of work, outdoor activities, department clubs and a full social calendar into a 24/7 schedule. I still call in when I am passing for a chat and supper - a quiet evening with a pizza and a pint or three does not do anyone any harm!
Andrew has now progressed to the Upper Sixth at KEVI and is pursuing his aims in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Further Maths. The school has been most supportive towards the small band of students doing the extended Maths course, and this keeps him very busy with a constant stream of tests, new topics and exams. As many of you will appreciate, the Sixth Form syllabus is one long grind leading to a climax next June. Many of his other activities have either been curtailed or dropped completely - making room for the necessary study time and (equally important) some social life. Of particular note has been attendance at a number of rock concerts - including Stereophonics, Radiohead and Meat Loaf. Also Lindisfarne at the Queens Head (Rothbury), in Sheffield and at their last ever concert in Newcastle. Those of you who attended Newcastle in the 1970's may recall the Lindisfarne Christmas Concerts at the City Hall - every bit as much a tradition as Fenwick's windows. Sadly the group is no more (but the windows are!).
We continue to get excellent feedback on Andrew from the school. He was rewarded with a place on a 10 day Summer School at Eton in June, followed immediately by five days at Surrey University on a Engineering introduction course. He is now finalising his arrangements for college next year - and has been on a week long trip around Universities in the south, followed by visits/interviews with those that he is interested in. Our sincere thanks to those of you who put him up for one or more nights during his various travels. He has opted to take a Mechanical Engineering course and, with student applications falling for this type of course, he has received every encouragement from the colleges. He has applied to Cambridge (awaiting the outcome of an interview) and has received offers from Southampton, Imperial, Bristol, Bath and Sheffield (but understandably he really wants to get away from the role of 'Susan's brother' after 12 years in the part!).
And so what of the two senior partners in the family? Well, we tick along much the same as usual - though starting to look forward to next year when we will be very much on our own again. We had a good taster to this in the summer when it was suddenly realised that Andrew would be away for nearly three weeks. We cancelled everything and took two weeks away. Just the two of us. The type of experience we had left behind many years ago. We went up to the Shetland Isles, taking the overnight ferry from Aberdeen. We left the tents behind for once - though we did take the car over to give us the flexibility to tour throughout the islands. We had a great time - the vast majority of it walking the cliffs and seeking out the (extensive) bird life and sea mammals. It is a very different community to the Western Isles on the mainland (it has money from the oil and fishing) and has close links with the Scandinavian countries (they are after all much nearer than Westminster). Being mid-June it was light for virtually 24 hours, and apart from a day on a popular bird reserve (Hermaness), we typically had the cliffs to ourselves. I was keen to try out the cameras and we took the computer along to download and process the images. Maintenance work on one of the ferries delayed our return another couple of days (a real shame that was!) and we made the most of it. I look forward to making a return trip before too long.
Work on the house and grounds continues to move along. A bit of much needed redecoration in the kitchen is a great improvement - well we had visitors coming you see. The major investment for the year has been a fruit cage to protect our fruit crops from the birds. The results have been impressive - even though the raspberries were only planted at the start of the year we had a steady autumn crop that yielded fruit as late as November. It has been a good year for fruit (lots of gooseberries as usual) and the netting ensured we (and not the birds) got the strawberries and the red currants. So, looking good for next year.
We continue to get out and about on the hills - sometimes with the students - sometimes on our own. Angela and I received Certificates of Thanks from the School and DoE organisers for services rendered - it was us that got our pictures in the paper this year! I also look to take photographs of the local landscape when I can - subject to the weather, work and the young persons taxi service. It has been my intention to post these and other notes on the web - but I have not found time to expand on the BarberSASA.co.uk site much. Even the Shetland pictures have not made it yet - despite the text being largely completed. Will try better for next year.
I very much enjoy the rewards the new era of Digital Photography has to offer. Being able to take and then print large format pictures without the need for chemical processing or sending away to labs is excellent. However - do not be fooled into thinking it is a cheap hobby. The need for a good printer (yep - got another one), extra disk space (120gb to be going on with), software (Photoshop looks good), cameras (new models out next year), memory cards (another one never goes amiss), and posh paper with ink that costs more per ml than the finest of wines, are all guaranteed to earn a fistful of points on your credit card. Great fun though.
Work continues apace for both of us. Angela now works for four days - splitting time between surgeries in Morpeth and Guidepost. Both practices are going through changes in management at the moment, but the need for a dental service is undiminished. My own work keeps me plenty busy, with a new client in Cumbria coming on line this Autumn. I continue to put together database applications for clients and very much relish the challenges that these projects throw up. The work has kept me from putting the amount of time I would like towards my more personal interests - particularly the photography and web pages. However you have to respond to the requirements of the client and promise yourself to get around to the hobbies one day soon.
And so I have just about reached the end of this circular note. By this time next year both our children will be living away from home, and much of the traditional content that has filled the pages for the last few years will disappear. But before then there will be an 18th birthday, a Graduation and 25 Years of Marriage to mark (oh how time has passed) - so another party then! Who knows, something may come up to fill a few pages next Christmas, we shall see. In the meantime we all wish you the very best of the Seasons Greetings, and every success to yourselves and your families in the New Year.
Till the next time then,
Andrew, Susan, Angela and Simon.
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