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|Peter and Pauline Curtis's 2000 Christmas Newsletter|
We, once again, escaped from the English Winter and spent the first two and a bit months of the year in New Zealand where we had an excellent time, mostly camping on the most basic sites in the parts that most tourists cannot reach. We went a bit later than usual just in case of Y2K problems and only went to North Island. The highlight of the NZ holiday, for Peter anyway, was the period sailing. This time we had a 15 days in the Bay of Islands and the conditions were some of the best we have experienced. Whales, Dolphins, Bays, Beaches, Islands and Harbours - we saw them all. We went up and down the coast from Whangaroa to Whangaruru and returned "Calana May", a 31 foot Raven to Charterlink having covered 360 NM in the fortnight, mostly under sail.
We caught as much fish as we could eat (and no more) whenever we needed to and returned so brown even the locals were asking what we have been doing. A fantastic fortnight and the best sailing yet. The whole New Zealand saga was Emailed periodically to many of our friends as a series of lighthearted "Letters from the Antipodes". If you missed out the whole holiday is now well documented with lots of pictures at http://uniquelynz.com/nz00-p0.htm
Almost as soon as we were back from New Zealand it was time for the Easter get together with the "College Group". This time it was a repeat of last year at the top far left of Wales on the Lleyn Peninsula, close to Abersoch, where the group had three interconnecting holiday homes rented for the week - a far cry from the early days in youth hostels or even wet cold cottages one of which even lacked running water when we got there. We were just outside the Snowdonia National park boundary and, if the weather had been kinder (and Pauline had not gone down with flu), there would have been some excellent walking in easy reach.
We again found it an interesting contrast to New Zealand - the Snowdonia area and areas in New Zealand are surprisingly similar yet different. Snowdonia has magnificently stark scenery especially when shrouded in rain, cloud and mist. The main difference is in the people - even at Easter Wales was heaving whilst in New Zealand we hardly knew other people were there and many areas were completely deserted. You would always stop and talk. The human influence was however always intrusive in Wales and we missed the silence. We are not sad that next year will be in Northumbria.
We went back home for a few weeks to mow and weed and set up Pauline's OU teaching and it was soon time to commission Corinna for the season. Our intentions were to join up with The David Piper Owners Club (DPOC) and head eventually for the Lee and Stort and a trip up the tidal Thames under Tower Bridge. In the event the river was in flood when we were due to leave and we took a brief period of reduced levels to bolt down and onto the Basingstoke canal. It is a lovely canal but, like many, often chronically short of water - but not this year! Our boating throughout the year has been very restricted and mostly short trips up to Lechlade and a longer trip down to Teddington where we joined up with the DPOC and went up to Lechlade - it rained a lot.
We usually try to stay at home during the summer holidays in July and August and this year we were further constrained because we were due to have the house painted. Our house has a lot of windows, we estimate 700 and it took three people nearly 5 weeks to do it, even without having to strip much of it back. You can guess what happened a lot of the time - rain. There was still plenty of fruit on the trees and bushes for wine making despite the weather - the house seems to be full of demijohns these days.
Once the painting was over it was almost time for the annual Guernsey trip to stay with Pat and John (Pete's sister and husband) for a week over Pauline's birthday. This was as relaxing as ever and although the weather was not good with a lot of r*** we did have a couple of nice days hiking along the cliff paths as well as a few nice shorter walks.
The event of the year for us was a trip down through Europe. We had our first tour through Europe on honeymoon - after two tour firms had gone bust Thomas Cooks returned enough money to us to buy a ferry ticket the day before the wedding. We have tried to go back every 5 years but missed out recently because of anniversary parties. This time the plan was to go down through the Loire, stay at the Chateau de Nieuil for the anniversary itself and then on to the Mediterranean coast, up through Italy and the Italian lakes and back through Switzerland, France and Germany.
Our plans were upset by, guess what, r**n and fl**ds. We had an exciting drive along the south coast to Menton and we quickly discovered Nice behind us was under two feet of water and Turin, which we were due to pass through was completely cut off. We just got out of Menton through water pouring across the roads and associated landslips. We headed back to the Pont du Gard, a magnificent Roman aqueduct, and up into the Ardeche (which we had never even heard of). We had a great time working our way North through Beaujolais and Macon finding a memorable place to stay in the Chateau d'Ige - we booked for one night when we arrived, saw the room and changed it to two and rapidly to three in the middle of the first meal! Read all about it at www.pcurtis.com/france00.htm - again lots of pictures.
We returned via the tunnel (the night the ferries never arrived and the M20 closed) to find the Thames (and most of the UK) in flood. We headed North to collect Tigger from Pauline's mother stopping at Hoo Mill to see John and Babs, friends going back to the gliding days. We got within 50 yards and found the Trent was flowing across the track to their house but John and a local farmer pushed us through the water onto higher ground by the Mill. It eventually came up high enough to lap the patio before suddenly dropping two feet over the second night allowing us to leave with dry feet.
Over the last few weeks Peter has been doing some more consultancy for local firms and the Royal Meteorological Society, mainly setting up web sites - still not enough yet to claim his first retirement has ended but enough to keep the brain alive and continue his habit of turning hobbies into business. Pauline is doing consultancy for the OU planning new courses and the last lot of background material has just arrived - she has a stack of boxes full of folders which is slightly taller than she is. The material covers 11 courses (normally sufficient for a complete degree although some are post graduate level) and she has 10 days left till Christmas to read it and produce an outline for a new post-graduate course specific to a major European firm. Xmas has however come early for Tigger - he loves cardboard boxes and has never seen so many before.
As I am writing this it is raining again, the river is over our landing stage and already at the highest we have ever seen. Another year to remember is almost over.