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

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