Alan and Beryl's Newsletter for 2013
Its that time of year again when I hit the keyboard to tell you what we have been up to during the past year. Of course, our increasing ages have slowed us down a bit, but it is surprising what has happened during the year - chronicling it brings it back to you. The year started as usual by a fair bit of work in the garden collecting and disposing of leaves, pruning trees, and so on, then it was time for Beryl to take to the air for her annual visit to her sister Pam in Florida. The trip went off well, partly because I had asked the airline to give her a bit of help in making a rather short connection in Frankfurt, and they turned it into the full wheelchair with escort treatment on all the stops! Never has she gone through US Immigration and Customs so quickly! She had her usual enjoyable stay with Pam and then returned, again with the same treatment. While she was away, I pottered around the house, but had some computer repair requests to handle, replacement shutters to paint (I hate that job!), bought a new LED HD TV and had to fix it on the wall and wire it up.
The electricity supplier came in and replaced the smart meter which governs our system, including the heat pump which is the main source of heat in the house, sharing with an oil boiler. When it came time to switch from the oil back to the heat pump, the latter refused to work, and investigation revealed that the new meter did not possess certain switching functions that the original did. We didn't get any satisfaction from the electricity people but the technician who had installed the heat pump came up with a solution which wasn't too costly and works fine. At the beginning of March, Caroline and the girls arrived from Canada to spend three weeks over here, two with us sandwiching a week in their old haunts of Ferrara. It was great to see them again and we did lots of things together while they were here. While they were in Ferrara, I used our new pool heater to warm the water up and it was ready to swim in when they returned (bit chilly for us, but the girls enjoyed it!)
In April we took the EasyJet 'ferry' from Nice to Bristol to visit our friends Martin and Julia Wilson in Broadway. They have had a second house near to us for a number of years which they sold early this year, to our sorrow as we enjoyed their visits, and had prevailed on us to come and visit them in Broadway. The weather could have been nicer but we had a very enjoyable visit, seeing lots of interesting places and eating at some excellent spots (how things have changed in England since we left it 40+ years ago!). May was its usual pleasant self here and the pool was in use from the start, sunshine permitting. Alan had a brief hospital visit to remove a piece of skin from his forehead, which carried us through to the arrival of the builders to renovate the guest bathroom. We were very pleased with the fruits of this labour and hope it will make our visitors lives easier while they are here. When the builders had left us, the well (forage) pump failed, meaning that there was no water for garden watering, so we had to resort to ad hoc arrangements until it was fixed. This took a lot longer and was more costly than it should have done, sadly due to the poor work attitude of some of the workforce here.
August saw Alan take the train to Paris to attend a reunion get-together of school-days friends, Peter, Ken and Brinsley. We stayed in the comfortable Pullman Montparnasse hotel and found a delightful restaurant just down the road for dinners and had a great time. In September we took off for Camogli as we usually do once or twice a year and enjoyed taking it easy in the village with a one day trip to Vernazza (one of the Cinq Terre villages, only accessible by sea or train). Later in the month we enjoyed hosting Christine Marwood on her annual round-the-world trip from her home in Perth, Australia. Martin and Julia Wilson spent a few days with us at the end of the month which we greatly enjoyed, and then October was also visitor month - Catriona Stuart gave us the pleasure her company for a week which was interrupted by the descent of Paul and Shawn from Canada (old colleagues who I keep in touch with), over in Europe for a short-scheduled business meeting. It was a bit of a squeeze but we managed and had a good time with a number of memorable meals.
When the visitors had all gone, the builders came back to improve the pool by replacing the margin tiles and the top rows of small tiles on the pool sides, which had gone black in places. To do this, we had to empty the pool. While waiting for tiles to arrive, the builders made a paved path for Beryl from the gate entrance to the pool, which we had felt the need for for many years but not got round to. With the pool finished, that brought us up to last week when it was time to re-fill the pool, which we did from the forage pump (taking 30 hours continuously!) and put back the salt and other essential pool chemicals, but the pool won't be in use until next spring. (Water is about 10 degrees right now.)
Health-wise, we have been fortunate this year, with nothing serious arising. We duly take our legion of pills and have our medical examinations, blood tests and so on, and Alan had a piece of skin on the forehead removed in the Gassin hospital. Beryl's cataract operations were most successful, as not only did she see better but does not need glasses for anything, although she usually uses them for reading for comfort.
Now it is the run-up to Christmas, putting up the Christmas lights, buying special food, attending and giving parties, planning what to do and where to go and so on, getting in and stacking firewood for the fireplace, putting the pool in winter mode, cleaning out ditches, pruning stuff in the garden, and so on. We hope all this will give us a smooth run through with no dangers of floods. This 'rainy season' has been unusually dry here, very different from last year and it has been been pretty mild and sunny as well.
We wish all our friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, together with Good Health.
Love from Alan and Beryl