Christmas 2004

Peter & FranThe big family news was that Peter got engaged to Fran in February (pictured left). He met her as a Domino’s customer when working in their Andover store. The Date has not yet been finalised but they are planning around Summer 2006. There is more news about the boys here.

Both our mothers are still keeping reasonably well, although Paul’s mother’s sight is continuing to deteriorate. We look forward to seeing both over Christmas.

Il DuomoMay and June were particularly hectic on the culture front. It all started with Salisbury festival—sixteen events in just over two weeks. We then had a week to collect our thoughts before leaving for Italy. We spent a week in Florence and Rome before collapsing at our favourite hotel in Amalfi. It is difficult to pick just one highlight. Florence certainly lived up to its reputation - Its cathedral (Il Duomo, pictured right) dominates the skyline. The Uffizi gallery was stunning but our biggest surprise was the Bargello and its sculptures. Michelangelo's Baccus deserves to be more famous that his David. On the other hand, Donatello's David, the first free standing nude statue during the Renaissance period, was fascinating - if only for trying to sort out which gender it is!.

Vatican GardenIn Rome, the surprise was the quiet spacious gardens in which the Vatican and its museum are set—a contrast to the bustle in the rest of Rome.

Earlier, in the spring, we flew to Bremen to collect a new car. We timed the return journey perfectly for the Dutch bulb fields. The Keukenhof gardens are a spectacular showcase for the Dutch bulb (and Orchid) industry. The return trip was also a good opportunity to catch up with Henry & Louise in Brussels.

Our final overseas trips was to Dublin for our wedding anniversary in August. It is an amazingly young city although, at times, we had a feeling that the pub menus had not changed since we were courting in the sixties—very nostalgic! Our hotel, on the other hand, had a stunning restaurant where we had our celebratory meal.

Garden MakeoverWe returned for the start of a major job landscaping the back garden. Planning had started in January when we produced a brief for two designers. Both produced inspirational plans and choosing between them was hard. In the end, we chose one created by Wayne Brans of Hambrook Landscapes who, two years ago, landscaped our front garden. It took almost six weeks to complete the back garden; the wet end to August did not help. However, we are delighted with the result and cannot wait for all the plants to start growing. We spent much of November on our knees planting half a hundredweight of daffodil bulbs plus nearly as many smaller bulbs—there will be words if they do not look spectacular in Spring.

Reluctantly, we decided to replace our boundary fence to keep out the deer and rabbits—the new plants would not have survived. However, the new pond has attracted several spices of bird we have not seen before including grey wagtail, sparrow hawk and redwing.

Apart from an interesting course on social history of Salisbury, we have not signed up to any more courses this year. Instead, Sue has joined a the Winterslow Musical Players (known as the WIMPs). They are all working towards an ambitious Vaughn-Williams for their Christmas concert.

P.S. Last year, some newspapers were disparaging about newsletters such as this. Don’t let that discourage any of you—we thoroughly enjoy reading all those we receive. Keep them coming.