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Once again it is time to come face to face with the Coyne Christmas Communication and we thank you for taking the time to hunt it down. The usual stuff follows so letís beginÖ..
It has been another busy year of work for the retired Stephen with conferences, courses, appraisals (seven Heads in one year), accreditations (donít ask) and inspections filling in the spaces left between helping at the food bank, playing badminton, taking photos, walking, being an IT buddy and, as an new departure, cycling. A dodgy ankle means that running is now very tricky so heís to be seen in yellow lycra and black tights terrifying the natives. Not the safest of pastimes given the traffic and poor road surfaces but it keeps him happy (surprisingly so as he bought himself a new Mercedes to travel around in this year).
I, on the other hand, am content to sing, sew, walk and bake but, following a birthday present course, I am now turning my sights on chocolate making. This bodes ill for the figure but Iím afraid sacrifices must be made for oneís art!
Given all of the above it is amazing that there is time left for what remains our greatest passion Ė travel. This year started with a trip to the north of Vietnam to sail the Red River (no sign of Montgomery Clift or John Wayne). It was one of our less successful trips. The party of 22 was friendly and the boat was lovely but the river is not particularly interesting or pretty and the weather was so cold that one day I was sightseeing wearing just about every piece of clothing I had taken. It was 5oC on some days with torrential rain at the start of the trip. Visiting a village which is dedicated solely to the production of banzai trees is a struggle in itself but doing so for two and a half hours whilst trying to keep some feeling in oneís extremities is a real challenge. We did see some interesting things but Ö..
April found us sailing round the Azores in rather better weather. They are a beautiful group of islands and the trip was most enjoyable. We could only visit seven of the nine islands as high seas meant it was not possible to land on two of them. However, the highlight of the year came in July and August when we spent almost a month in the Arctic. I wonít bore you with the whole itinerary but here it is in brief.
We sailed up the Norwegian coast and on beyond the Arctic Circle and up to the Svalbard Islands which lie on the edge of the pack ice. From here the ship crossed down to Iceland and from there to Greenland (our favourite place) and then back via Orkney to Tilbury. We saw whales, puffins, countless sea birds, reindeer, seals, isolated communities, icebergs the size of houses, Inuit, glaciers, vast icy wildernesses and a week without night. The weather was fabulous and the seas were calm. It was a wonderful adventure, one we will never forget.
We regularly get called upon to give travel talks to U3A, WI and other groups (some people are gluttons for punishment) and we are preparing a new presentation based on this trip. SC has joined Crewe Photographic Society and we are talking to them in the New Year about travel in India & Nepal (to show off my saris as well as the photos).
We spent a less taxing week in Spain in October on the Guadalquivir and Guadalana rivers revisiting cities such as Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba and Granada. The weather was hot and dry and it was a pleasantly relaxing way to end the travelling year.
This begins again in January with another visit to Burma. At home Archie Cat continues to wreak havoc on the local wildlife and to be a great source of amusement and joy to us both. He travels shorter distances now and spends a lot of time surveying his kingdom from the tops of various fence posts.