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Here we are again - another year gone and my list of things to do has just got longer. Where does the time go. I have been retired for over 2 years now and the project list has hardly been touched.

We have had a quiet year as Mike has spent most of it in bed! In March a small patch of skin broke down on his posterior which meant he had to stay off it. He went to Stoke Mandeville Outpatients every 6 weeks for the consultant to have a look at it but it seemed to be healing, albeit slowly. This was a better option than having it closed surgically, so Mike stayed on bed rest for about 3 months. By the end of June/early July it had closed up and so we went on the Barnes ringing trip to Kent - but it broke down again after only a couple of days of activity. So we had to cut the trip short and Mike went back on bed rest. This time it didn't heal on its own and so Mike went on the waiting list for an op - which finally happened at the beginning of October. He was in Stoke Mandeville for 5 weeks thereafter and as I write he has just come home but is still on virtual bed rest while the operation site completely heals. He is just beginning to sit for an hour or so a day and hopefully by Christmas will be able to be up for 3-4 hours.

The up side of this is that Mike has accomplished one of my retirement projects! He has put all our ringing records into a database by trawling through back copies of the Ringing World (where peals and quarter peals are published) and then cross-referencing them with the lists from our diaries. They go right back to 1983. We just have a few left where they don't seem to have been published and we need to get the details from the relevant towers or from friends ringing records, but we now have over 2,600 recorded.

Mike has been able to work from bed and with the use of email and telephone conference calls has been able to keep in touch with work and other members of the various projects he is involved with. However we had to drop most of our plans for holidays etc. We had hoped to join the Roving Ringers (cycling bellringers) for some of the summer tour this year, with plans in place to do 2 days cycling and ringing, then stay with a work colleague of Mike's in the middle of the week and then rejoin the tour at the end. But obviously this had to be shelved.

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Me beside one of the new
water features in Gocek

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The Yagmur Apartments
Ours is ground floor just behind
the two umbrellas

I did manage to get to Turkey again for 2 weeks at the beginning of June - and it was fabulous. I went with Jayne again and we went back to the same Yagmur Apartments in Gocek, flying with First Choice again. This time I met up with Jayne at a Gatwick hotel the night before so we started the holiday with a lovely meal together and several gin and tonics! There were several people at the Yagmur who had been there the year before, and we are likely to meet them there again next year (yes we have booked and paid for our flights already!) which makes it all seem very friendly without being part of an organised group. We had lovely weather, of course, and once again spent most of the time lying by the pool, except for occasional trips to the markets in Gocek and Fetihye. This time I also bought a Turkish rug home (nearly blew the weight limit on the flight home but got away with it - just!). It is a small rug for in front of the fire in the living room, but it is beautiful and I am very pleased with it. We also had a day on a boat sailing round the various lagoons and islands off the coast of Gocek. The town of Gocek has had a lot of refurbishment done to the open spaces near the market square, with various water and decorative light features.

At last we do actually have a fire in the fireplace! This has been one of my ambitions since moving in to the house in 1989 - to have one of those gas fires that looks like a real coal fire with real coals. Originally the fireplace had been closed up and an old gas fire was there. About 2 years ago I finally got the gas fire taken away and a lovely fireplace installed with slate hearth, but the person who came to measure up for the fire itself never came back and I never did anything about it. This year we decided to tackle several outstanding jobs on the house - including getting the gas fire and painting the outside of the house. The building firm were able to do both jobs, plus some work on the electrics, and while they were here our fence blew down so they also put up two new fences for us. They have done a very good job on the front of the house, which was in dire need of attention, and the new fences are extremely sturdy - and so good that the neighbours then decided to replace theirs! The new fire, with the rug in front, sets off the living room a treat and of course we can now warm up that room when the heating isn't on or when it is inadequate.

Mike and Suki went down to stay with his parents while I was in Turkey - Mary (Mike's mum) looked after them both very well! Mike can use the broadband connection down there to work so that means he doesn't have to take time off when he is down there. While he was there his dad was taken into hospital, and sadly he died a week after I got back from holiday. It was good that Mike was able to spend some time with him, and as he would have struggled with throat cancer had he lived it was probably better that the end came reasonably quickly. We have made several trips to stay in Devon with Mary since then - Suki and I enjoying beautiful early morning walks on Dartmoor - and Mary seems to be adjusting well to living on her own after 58 years of marriage.

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On board - final
organisation of towers etc

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Cooking breakfast while
JJ checks the map

This arrangement whereby Suki and Mike go down to Devon to be looked after by Mary also went well in September when I went on the Intrepid trip (cycling and ringing again but this time including a canal boat!). This is the second year when Mike has organised the whole trip and then not been able to go on it. We had a lovely week - great weather and lots of good ringing, scoring 15 quarter peals (although we lost the last 5 so the tally could have been better). We had a big roast dinner every night - it is amazing what JJ (our ringing friend who owns the boat) can produce for 10 people with the limited facilities on board and still do most of the driving too! We met up with the boat at Bradford on Avon and followed the Kennet & Avon canal and then the River Thames down to Abingdon in Oxford, where another team then took the boat back to its mooring in Stourport. I tried to step into Mike's shoes as on-board ringing organiser, and we were also without our usual breakfast chef so I also became a dab hand at producing breakfast each morning. This left me feeling a little less guilty about my complete inability to do any of the driving!!


Dad preparing to start opening
his 80 presents

The box of 80 presents

There were some significant birthdays in our family this year - Lorraine (my eldest niece) was 30, my sister (Carolyn) was 50, my youngest niece (Leanne) was 20 and Dad was 80. So lots of cross-stitching and card making opportunities (and I still haven't touched my main cross stitch project since I retired!). For Dad's 80th the family got together for the weekend, with Amanda flying over from Mallorca and John coming down from Manchester. On the Saturday we went to a matinee perfomance of Phantom of the Opera (which I hadn't seen before) followed by a meal at a nearby restaurant, then on the Sunday we had a barbecue in Dad's garden. The female members of the family had clubbed together and bought him 80 different little gifts which had all been individually wrapped (mainly by Carolyn) - and so it took Dad most of the afternoon to open each one. They had been numbered and he had to open them in number order. It was great fun and we all enjoyed watching him open them although sadly Mike had to miss this too!!


Dad's 80th birthday barbecue

I took my Grade II piano exam this year - at the beginning of November so I don't know the result yet but it wasn't the unmitigated disaster I thought it might be. I was so cheered by the fact that I did not completely crumple into a blubbering mass that I went straight out and bought the Grade III book - so now I have a challenge for next year as I must take the exam before the end of the year or the pieces will change.

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The bellringers after disembarking
from the Alderney plane

In April, Lorraine and I went on a Barnes bellringing trip to the Channel Islands - there is a full trip report and slide show on the WigneyWeb web site - which again was a trip Mike had to miss. I hadn't been to the Channel Islands before so it was nice to have time to look around as well as ring. We stayed in Guernsey and rang at the 3 towers there, flew to Alderney (on a tiny plane!) to ring at the one tower there, where we also enjoyed lunch and handbells at a local ringer's house, and took the ferry to Jersey to ring at 1 of the 2 towers there. Lorraine and I spent a happy time on Jersey also looking at the Occupation Tapestry - 12 tapestry panels depicting the time of the occupation. When we got back to Guernsey we also had a look round their Millennium tapestry of 10 panels depicting life on Guernsey through the last 100 years.

I am still Secretary of Aces Hockey Club and was even dragged out of retirement to play in goal once this year (I even managed to kick it away a couple of times). I set up a web site for the club this year - courtesy of a free web hosting service for clubs (www.clubwebsite.co.uk/acesladieshockeyclub). It is really aimed at football clubs but any club can use it. Perhaps one day I will have time to set up a free-standing site, but since I am also hoping to re-vamp the Barnes Church web site and the St Stephen's web site, and get my own web site properly set up instead of the temporary state it is in at the moment - not to mention that I am also hoping to set up a nice whizzy Access database for the Middlesex Membership Records (bellringers association), I think I probably have enough to be going on with at the moment.

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Suki - butter wouldn't melt!!

Suki is still providing us with unlimited entertainment, good company, motivation to get out walking, fun, love, cuddles, frustrations etc. She is great fun on a walk, and will chase a ball endlessly (until side-tracked by interesting smells!). She spends the days curled up in the crook of Mike's arm on his bed while he works and jumps on to my lap for a cuddle whenever I sit down. She tries hard to catch the squirrels in the park but they always make it to a tree in time.  And the cats keep a respectful distance from our garden now – which is a bonus!  She hurls herself at the door whenever anyone knocks, or the post arrives, and we have a glass panel in the door so callers see this thing leaping and barking behind the door – I often open the door to find the person who knocked is back on the pavement behind the gate (as if that would stop her!!).  When the postman has a parcel to deliver he knocks and then goes next door and peers round the connecting wall!  We have a letter cage to try and stop her destroying the post before we can get to it – but she often gets a corner of an envelope through the bars and then the letter stands no chance! We have stopped taking her ringing as she clearly gets distressed by the sound of the bells and she is much happier being left at home. We can leave her for about 4 hours now and she coped very well with being left for this length of time each evening while Mike was in hospital and I was visiting.

Well I think that is it for this year - hopefully there will be more going on next year and Mike will be back to fully fit and active. I hope all is well with you and yours and that you have a peaceful Christmas and a happy new year.