Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Xmas Letter 2011

Xmas 2011 marks the end of our first full year back in the UK. It has been an eventful year!

Nicky is Professor of Paediatric Dentistry at Bristol University. The main reason for taking the job was cleft lip and palate research – she is running a project with test centres all over the UK, so getting to know motorway services and the Premier Inn chain rather too well. She is running another cleft project in Australia and nipped back over there twice in 2011. Unfortunately things didn’t work out as planned and Nicky resigned in November – she will leave in March 2012 and after that....who knows. Wait for the next instalment, Xmas 2012!
As always, she is as fit as a butchers dog – Clifton is great for running and she is doing plenty of that. At least one of the household is fit and in shape. And the viola came out this year. It had most of its strings still on and not too much dust. Nicky is playing with the Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra who perform at St Georges, Bristol, and we nipped across to Suffolk to play with the Tallis Chamber Orchestra, a blast from the 1990s. Same people, few more grey hairs but nothing has really changed in close to 20 years. One of the reasons for returning to the UK was to see bits of Britain and mainland Europe – we were reminded how stunning Suffolk is.
Stuart’s professional reason for returning to the UK, beside doing Nicky’s ironing, was to work with the UK orchestras. It has been a busy time. After lots of auditions he has been on with:-

Opera North
Orchestra Victoria/Opera Australia - back to Melb from Mar-May to do the Opera Australia season
Northern Chamber Orchestra –3 operas with the Buxton Festival
Scottish Chamber Orchestra – the opening of the Edinburgh Festival with Roger Norrington was a stunning show. SCO are truly outstanding
Scottish Ensemble – amazing small scale chamber group, the Scottish version of ACO. The program was Vivaldi four seasons in the first half and the Philip Glass four seasons in the second. It was a stunning gig
Welsh National Opera after auditioning in June, he did the Sept-Dec season (Katya Kabanova, Barber of Seville and Don Giovanni) on trial for principal bass.
Other musical highlights in the UK included Forest Phil gigs in Walthamstow, Minehead Festival for 2nd year and chamber music with Harmoniemusik at St Columb, Cornwall.
In our Xmas letter last year we expected to stay in our rental cottage in Leigh Woods as a house purchase in Long Ashton had just fallen thro, thanks to the joys of property purchase chains – one of the more insidious aspects of life back in Britain. Just after writing that Xmas letter a house came in the market in Clifton and it went thro very quickly. So most of 2011 has seen us settling into Clifton. Our tenure had an interesting start! The house settlement date was 10th Dec, after a week of removals and unpacking we moved in on Sat 18th Dec. On Xmas Day the news broke of the shocking murder of Jo Yates in Clifton – it would later become apparent that Jo was murdered on 17/12. Jo’s flat is on our road, 100m from us. Our first month in the house was dominated by press packs up the road and interviews from detectives, as we appeared on lots of CCTV cameras, and we “assisted with their enquiries”. Clifton really is a lovely suburb, green, leafy, lots of Georgian houses (like ours), which is one of they reasons why the Jo Yates tragedy was so shocking. But the quote of the year came from Moston boy Paul Mooney – “you have moved into a rough area!” Mancunians will appreciate the irony!
The main project has been the basement flat renovation. It’s fantastic – do come and stay!
Once that all settled down we finally got to meet some of the neighbours. Bob and Liz, two doors away have been dragging us (screaming and kicking of course) to the Royal Oak most Friday nights. Real beer in a proper English pub (one that is still in business) – a genuine British experience.
Another interesting night was 25th Jan – we celebrated Burns Night, complete with haggis, whisky and over excited Scot reciting poetry that was not too complimentary about the boys South of Hadrians Wall. But we realised that it is Australia Day at the same time – 26/1 in Oz. So it became a joint celebration for us – an excuse to drink Auzzie red wine followed by a scotch whisky....or two!
Another reason for returning to this little island was to see more of family, friends and visit bits of the UK and Europe. As both of us have been travelling lots we have had time to see a great deal of people dear to us – Nicko and Mo are our London “hotels”, Jon very conveniently placed for the Buxton Festival and Macclesfield gigs, Paul Mooney in Manchester, Peter Day in Leeds, Liz and Ian for our Devon and Cornwall forays, Nor for the gigs up North (including Katherine Jenkins in Lytham – phaooorrrrrr), Mike and Glynis for the Glasgow work, John and Ann in Edinburgh.....we hope our hosts don’t feel completely dumped upon – it really is wonderful to see you all as well!!!
At Easter Stuart nipped over to Hamilton to see John, Terri and his nephews, William and Joe – one of the highlights of the year.
The Kilpatricks held a family gathering in Abergavenny in June to celebrate Liz’s 70th. Great food, wine, cottages and company. The next trip was to Switzerland in September, for Matthew and Thomas’s wedding. Zurich and the lakes were truly glorious. And in October we went to Rome, via Glasgow! Yes, it’s not exactly on the way but Stuart persuaded Nicky it was, and there just happened to be a gig up there at the end of the week, fancy that?! In November we nipped over to Rome – amazingly this was Nickys first trip to Italy. It will not be her last. And at time of writing we are planning a week in La Rochelle, Western France the week before Xmas.
We had lots of Auzzie visitors including Geoff Lee and Jordi, Pete and Kathy, Sheena and Paul, Mimi and Johnny Price.
Xmas 2010 was with Jon, V and Ewan in snow covered Buxton - this year it will be in London with Mo and Steve, followed by New Year back in Bristol.
We wish you a peaceful and jolly Xmas and here’s to a healthy, safe and prosperous 2012.
Nicky and Stuart

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Roma Day 1 - 24 Oct 2011

One of our goals in returning to the UK was to "do" Europe - so here we are in Roma, on Nickys first trip to Italy.
We are staying in a swanky hotel in Via Veneto, of the film La Dolce Vita fame. And being the huge film buffs that we are, we have never heard of it!! After our buffet breakfast, we walked miles on the first day, climbing  four of the seven hills of Roma -  Quirinal, Capitoline, Palatine, Esquiline.
The first hill was Quirinal, where we visited the Piazza del Quirinal and the Presidential Palace, home to Berlosconi, and lots of under aged hookers no doubt.
From the first hill, we moved onto the our first Fountain – the Trevi.

Next we threaded our way thro lots of back streets and ended up in Piazza Venezia, which has two things of note, the first being the Victor Emmanuel monument, loathed by many Romans, as an expensive folly which sticks out like a bacon sarnie at a barmitzvah. Next to it is the Palazzo Venezia, where Mussolini would speak to the masses from a balcony window.
It was then time for hill no 2 – the Capitoline. Even the steps are of note in Roma – the Aracoeli Staircase was built in 1347 to celebrate the end of the plague (there is logic there, somewhere). At the top is the Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michaelangelo, and surrounded on three sides by the Museo Capitoline, full of truckloads of mega important artwork, that we didnt have time to go and see.

The Capitoline offers great views of the West side of the Forum, our next port of call. Forum is the site of many of the major ancient ruins from the centre of Empirial Rome. Many of the sites have become household names around the world - Rostra (speaking platform), Julia Caesar Palace (the real one, not that glitzy jobbie in Las Vegas), Via Sacra, the temple of the Vestal Virgins (more of them in the video below!!) and the Colliseum. They are all within the same region, a short walk down Via Sacra joins the dots. Nero committed suidice here, Caesar was murdered by his fellow senators, “Et Tu Brutus”. The site is full of archaeological excavations – most of the ruins are 5m or so below road level, who knows what they will find beneath the current stuff.

If you check out the first clip of the video above you will see the forum in the foreground and the Colliseum on the horizon after the masterful camera panning! The last clip shows Nicky walking down Via Sacre, or the Sacred Way, that joined the Colliseum to the Capitole and was a spine running thro the Forum.

The third hill of the trip was Palatine, just to the South of the Forum. This area has seriously old ruins believed to be where Romulus and Remus were brought up, suckling on a she wolf. Yeah, right...
We could probably fill this blog entry on the Colliseum alone. It is quite remarkable in terms of history, culture, adult entertainment and architecture. Stadium design has not really changed much since it was commissioned by Vespasian in AD72. Free gladiator duals were staged, sometimes including live animals. The prisoners and beasts were stored in the understage rooms, a bit like a modern day opera orchestra. The stage was covered in sand, which would be raked over between bouts, to hide the blood. Injured combatants would look up to the Emporer in the posh seats to seek leniency, which would be granted by a thumbs up, or not in many cases.

After a hard earned lunch, we wandered back to our hotel, via a few more spots of interest, including our fourth hill of the day – Esquiline. On top of this hill is Saint Maria Maggiore – our first gratuitously massive and ornate churches of the trip. If St Peters didnt exist this would be the top Catholic Church in the world, but as were to find out the following day, it is dwarved in comparison. It is still a commanding building which is awe inspiring.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Australian invasion of Clifton

September saw the invasion of the Auzzies. We had Pete and Kathy to stay first, and our first guests walked across the doorstep with a bottle of Wolf Blass Grey Label, and excellent start. Oh, and it was lovely to see them both also!!! Thier was a short stay, just a couple of nights, before shooting off to Bath and London.

Next was the Geoff, Lee and Jordi from Riddles Creek. They christened out basement flat and had a great time seeing the local sights (Exmoor, Stonehenge, Bath) and fossicking. Jordi will no doubt have a metal detector one day and will keep him mum and dad in the lifestyle to which them have come to love, by finding things. Excellent effort with the blackberries and raspberries. And he picked up at least 10p!! We had a great day out on Exmoor, feeding the ducks, eating fish and chips by the river Exe and fossicking!!

Then Sheena arrived, and a little later Paul too. Sheena was meant to be having time out but spent many hours with Nicky at the 3rd floor desk, working out researchy stuff. Brilliant.


And last, but by no means least were John and Mimi. If Sheena cants stop working, then Johnny is in the boat. Mr-Fix-It couldnt deal with stuff going wrong, all of which Stuart was very happy to forget all about. Thanks for the dining room light, dishwasher door and all the other "little jobs".

The Clifton Sausage got a bit of business out of us - we are trying to rename it the Clifton Snag in honour of the Auzzies!!


Thank you Auzzies - we loved seeing you all and we had a great time. Come back soon!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Basement Flat - Sept 2011

The basement flat it just about finished - check out:-


Readers of this blog are of course entitled to video access, that the great unwashed cannot see via Owners Direct. You lucky people!

Mo was the first to test out this exclusive pad, but the Auzzie are catching up. Geoff, Leeanne and Jordi Barrett are in there right now and Sheena and Paul will be checking it out next week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Athens - 15-19 June 2011


We have spent Nickys birthday in some interesting places, two years ago it was in the rain on Fraser Island just North of Brisbane, at the start of our big lap trip. This year it was in Athens - a fascinataing place for the past 5000 years, but particularly interesting right now.

Nicky was busy at the conference so didnt have as much time to discover Athens as Stuart, but our first trip would co-incide with that for 99% of visitors to Athens, to the Acropolis rock and the world famous Parthenon. Its quite a climb to the top, 150m or so, and though we were fairly early, the crowds were building and so too was the temperature.

At the end of the second video clip, the camerawoman skillfully panned across to a hill in the background - this is Filipapos Hill, from where the next clips were shot...

Lord Elgin would not be the most popular guy in Greece, assuming he was still alive. He took the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon and sold many of them to British Museum. He claimed to have done so to protect them from the rampaging ruling Turks, who were trashing the joint. The new acropolis museum is stunning, and has an excellent, display on the top floor of the marbles around the perimeter of the parthenon, which can be seen thro the window. Most of the exhibits are plaster casts, with location of the originals on a sign underneath. The message is loud and clear.

This is an issue creating angst for the Greeks, but as we were to find out later in the trip, it doesnt take a lot to get the Greeks upset. Like those nasty Germans and French who are balking at having to work until over 65 so that thier countries can keep tipping money into Greece so that the locals can retire on big fat salaries at 50. And that is only the tip of the economic iceburg.

We just missed the first major demonstration - the day we arrived some of Nic's conference delegates were tear gassed as things got ugly. The mood was lighter when we were in Syntagma, but we couldnt help thinking that the economy might be in better shape if the lazy, tattoed, hair extensioned mongrels went back and did an honest days work rather than stopping others from doing so. It was interesting talking to waiters and people on the streets - those in the private sector were working, of course, and had very different views from those demostrating outside parliament.

We have all had mediterranean food, but here it is just the right stuff to eat. Nicky was seriously into her Haloumi, cooked cheese and Stuart went hard on the taramasalata. But that was OK as we had dripping in dressing! And the beer is vital, to keep fluids up!

It was great to catch up with our paediatric dental buddies, many from Australia. We had a ball.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Canynge Road basement flat - 7 June 2011

Thanks for all our friends around world who want to see more of the kitchen basement flat as the kitchen is being fitted. Will update the blog with more footage as it takes shape. And it is, of course, Emma's flat!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Liz's 70th - Abergavenny - 4 June 2011

The Kilpatricks used to schlep up to Wales for family holidays, many years ago when the kids were small - how apt then that Avergavenny was chosen by Nic, Jon and Mo to celebrate Liz's 70th, which was early in 2011.

 Manolo like Mum's "big hair"!!

The Walnut Tree was fantastic, in every way. They dealt with an often lively, disperate group of 18, even if we had only booked 15! Ages ranged from the wee Manolo to the ancient Ian. All diets and tastes were catered for expertly. The cottages were very cosy, and the spiral staircases ensured that the residents didnt have too much grog before negotiating the perilous climb to bed. The hearty few went out for a walk, some took the chilled option.
It was the first time in a long while the Kay and Liz's extended families were together in the same room, with all three grandkids - Ewan, Brandon and Manolo. Those present were:-
Liz and Ian
Us, Nicky and Stuey
Jon, Verity and Ewan
Mo and Steve
Kay and Howard
Jenny and Dave
Charlotte, David, Brandon and Manolo

Many family traits are demonstrated on this blog entry:-
Jenny's love of cameras and videos
Kay's cholesterol
Howard's diet
Dave's grey hair
Ewans good looks, which clearly come from his mother
Steve's bravery and good nature - he was thrown into the lions den this weekend, to be sure

KT's 5th birthday party - 15 May 2011

Stuart's last day in Melbourne was Sunday 15th May - there could surely be not better way to spend it than to go to Katie's tinker bell and dinosaur party!! Stuey was seriously considering coming along as a fairy, but could find enough net curtain.

There was fun for the little one and the grown ups. That crazy game where you beat the hell out of some cardboard and crepe paper creation to get at the choccies is always good for a larf. First the kids wear themselves out (often a good idea), then the adults look really stupid as they take over....and fail!!

Musical cushions wasnt without its tears. Some took the lack of cushion and elimination a little like those on Australias Got Talent!

The cake was a barbie doll, sans legs, with a delicious dress.

And Chandelle, the face painter, was very popular with kids and adults alike!

Melbourne - April and May 2011

We were both in Melbourne in early 2011. Nic had a trip to the Kids to continue her cleft project data collection and Stuey did the Opera Australia Autumn (note for Northern Hemisphere readers, April is NOT Spring) season, with Orchestra Victoria. Nic went first, we overlapped by a week or so, the Stuey stayed for almost two months.

Matthew and Thomas will no doubt be on a blog entry in September as we are going to THE wedding of the year in Switzerland. Matty reckons this photo looks like one of the cut out pictures you get by the seaside, where you stick your head thro the hole...

We met the latest huge de Korte male to enter the world, our godson Nick. He might look small right now, but he is on target to be at least as big as Harry and Jack, who a big lads. Its going to cost Ro and Caro a lot in potatos over the years

Stuey had a wonderful time with the OV dudes. Two months may seem like a long time, but its hard to get round everyone - he did his best. Linus clearly knows what to do with an iPhone! And as the remaining shots will attest, Stuey had a good time with OV!!

It was a wonderful trip - Nicky was worried about whether Stuart would actually get on the plane back to the UK. She had every right to be worried!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Zealand, Easter 2011

Stuart went to NZ for Easter, to see the guys and to meet nephew Joe. What a cutie - Easter was just before Joe's first birthday. Saturday had fine weather, so we were able to play out on on the dick (er deck as the kiwis pronouce it!!).


The deck racing was event filled, with the bike winning some of the time, skillfully riden by William (watch those legs going for it), and Joe wisely opting for the easier route of getting Dad or Uncle Stuke to push him up and down the "dick".

Will is still a little bit interested in Thomas the Tank Engine. And thats an understatement!

And the last video clip has all sorts, including grey hair from the younger brother!!! A big boys lunch was great fun or Uncle Stuke. And Uncle Stuke is particularly keen to note that William has a good musical ear - listen to him singing along to the Thomas tune, and gets the high note at the end band in time with the video, which he has probably watched a million times before.

Monday, April 11, 2011

3/1/2011 - Cat Lurve.....or maybe not

Cat lovers will know that what looks like a scene of domestic bliss can turn into World War 3 in a very short space of time. The video clip aboves shows Albury (ginger) and Wodonga (charcoal) sharing the Ottoman at the end of our bed. They are chuffed to have "thier" furniture back. Once upon a time they could both fit onto it with space aplently. Nowadays, being the fat cats that they are, there is less room, er, not enough to swing a cat in fact. So Albury has a cunning way of getting Woodie to shift annoying him. Note the (not so) subtle change from licking to throat biting!!

Xmas Day 2010

Followers of this blog will be used to seeing us baking in Australia sunshine over Xmas. 2010 was our first Xmas back in the Old Country, our first winter Xmas for 16 years. In some ways that was nice - minced pies, mulled wine, heavy winter foods like turkey all seem more apt in the cold. But our poor bodies struggled to deal with the extreme winter the UK dished up.

As the video will show, the temperatures plummeted to -11 degrees. As we drove past Worcester it was -13. Luckily Buxton was not so bad, a miracle really consider it is High Peak country and is often snowed in at this time of year.

We dropped in on Gra, Stuart's father first in Manchester, then had tea with Joan and Graham Lee. Then onto Chadderton for Xmas lunch with Nor, (Stuarts mum), cousin Julie and Steve. It was a slap up Xmas lunch with all the trimmings, plus plus. Before it got too late and the snow froze, we headed to Buxton where we stayed a few days with the Kilpatricks. And a good time was had by all - lots of games, music and good natured banter.