John & Yvonne's Year 2008

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Yvonne near Burton

It seems no time at all since last I was putting down our diary of the past year. But come to think of it I believe I failed to do so at the end of 2007. So I guess that's two years sped past scarcely being noticed! Sorry-sorry if we've been out-of-touch for ages, never mind here goes with a catch-up...

I'd like to have the excuse of having been too busy due to our busy, exciting and thrills-packed 2008. But truth is we've not had any such good luck! No trips to Indonesia nor to any other tropical spot at all this year. The closest we came was Ireland!: And I say this only on the basis it rained on us as much there as it does in the Tropics!

Work-wise I started a particularly frenetic project early February (destined to run until July) and this meant planning any holiday difficult. In mid-March we had a quick weekend at my parents' near Kendal in England's Lake District. While there the fells caught a pretty dusting of snow late for the season. Photo above, looking toward Ingleborough, Yorkshire: As you can see, a distinctly pleasant time and place for a little fell-walk provided well-wrapped-up. Ahh, the English Spring.

wild boar

We snatched five or six days around Easter to visit Berlin, a city I've been especially fond of for over twenty years now. It's been fascinating to experience the city's changes through this period. Czech Border With or without the Wall it is for my money one of the great cities of the World with its inescapable sense of history (Sachsenhausen concentration camp, left) and its on-going reinvention of itself. Will it be one day, may be sooner than we think, the capital of a federated Europe? Berlin scores highly also for being a spacious and green city with many rivers, canals and parks in and around it. Including those inhabited by wild boars, one of which we were a little too close to for comfort at one stage! (Excuse the fuzzy photo ~ I wasn't too bothered about focussing at this point!)

Sony Centre

Shots right and below show the new third city centre (as if two already aren't enough) ... DB building seen from inside the Sony Centre, and the adjacent new Potsdamer station. Potsdamer station On this trip we made it to Dresden for the first time. And, on discovering we could see the mountains of the Czech Republic from our hotel window, we made a day trip there as well. Turned out that the Lake District snow hadn't been the last we'd seen for that season after all: Toward the end of our loop through North-western Bohemia we shivered our way across eerily empty snow-fields of the Krušné Mountains. Below is looking in to Czech Republic over the single-track border bridge at Ceský Jiretín, 2175 ft.

Czech Border

A rather bizarre event the day after our return from Berlin: I had a 'funny turn' mostly featuring tunnel vision. On the Doc's advice I spent a day at hospital being tested to see if I'd had a stroke!! ... Conclusion however was that I had suffered an ocular migraine. And that I should not in future use the PC forgetting to put my glasses on! (A slightly worrying episode over... though it sort of came back to haunt me ~ read on.).

The high-light of April was a trip to Old Trafford for the Champions League semi-final versus Barcelona. An atmosphere-charged evening from which of course Man U went on to win the competition in Moscow.

In May we had a very pleasant long-weekend at an old haunt Chateau Landel in Normandy. Enjoyed the more so for being joined there by my friend since school days Phil, and Emma his delightful partner. See photos of Landel. Around about this time we acquired a little Fiat car so Yvonne can complete learning to drive. Also allows my Spider to enter into semi-retirement as it's now clocked over 80,000 miles. And to cap off May I caught the Ting Tings at the Astoria down the road (hear their music). Manchester as ever continues to turn out amazingly good new bands!

One weekend early June we flew to Eindhoven: Yvonne and Lia, the deputy chairlady of their Indonesian expat social group "Bonapasogit", visited the bi-annual gathering of their Dutch sister group. Three in the bar We took the opportunity to have a spin up to Amsterdam for 24 hours to show first-time visitor Lia 'the sights' there. Corner bar One of my very favourite old hangs (...even lived there in the early-eighties) but realised suddenly I hadn't been there in probably a decade almost. So was immensely glad to find it hadn't changed at all, and in particular that Amsterdammers are as convivial as ever. (Apparently it will change soon though ~ thanks to them having unluckily elected the wrong kind of Mayor! orange bar So if you want to enjoy 'the sights' the way they've been until now... better get your skates on!!). The photos by the way are of/in the little bar so-typical of the excellent Jordaan district where we stay. We/I spent a goodly amount of our 24 hours in here... which just chanced to be yards from our hotel. And I didn't even plan that ;) honestly.

In July I finished the earlier project and started work supporting the company's bid for a major contract (on-going well in to 2009). So the chance for a little time-off and luckily there was a hint of the English Summer at this point. Shouldering my shiny new rucksack I rambled for a couple of days from pub-to-pub in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds (Blenheim to Charlebury and about.). Exceedingly relaxing and plan to enjoy similar excursions in 2009.

Early August a pleasant break from the office routine attending an 'outward bound course' in Windermere and Borrowdale, Cumbria. This included some steep fell scrambling, a seriously capsized canoe and abseiling down a old lead mine. The last activity a reminder of pot-holing fun in the Yorkshire Dales as a school-boy. me Ireland Managed to combine this trip North with a couple of days visiting my parents again. The second half of the month was our 'Summer' holiday, a 2075 miles driving tour of South and irish summer West Ireland returning via Belfast and Southern Scotland. For this the old faithful Spider was brought out and polished up. Thankfully it resolutely refused to be shaken to pieces by the appalling Irish road surfaces. But sadly having a convertible was minimal use as we'd chosen the wettest August in living memory for our trip ~ which in Western Ireland means really, really wet! connemara mtns But some days it was dry-ish... and windy and cold. As you can see here despite it all we did manage some time on the beach (!) and hiking. Follow our trip aound Ireland in pictures by Clicking Here if you like.

A surprise in October when a letter advised me of a 'probably benign lump' in my lung very close to my heart. (The hospital had lost an x-ray for five months from that earlier stroke assessment!). The outurn of a nervous week of scans and consultations being that I'd had TB at some point. (I suspect the Congo days when I'd put down bad fevers to malaria.). Evidentally my immune-system must have 'self-healed', 10% of those infected survive in this way I'm told. So recently I've had pretty much every possible scan, test etc and come out with a clean bill of health. Not to be sneezed at :)

I was really glad I'd grabbed tickets for Goldfrapp at Cambridge Corn Exchange late October. An absolutely sensational show. I went along with a good mate from college-days, Steve. We each agreed it was a high-spot of the year for us, and he'd not been a fan at all previously. If you're not familiar and want to check them/her out I recommend a visit to their Website. (Especially follow the link there 'Videos', then click the green/purple photo bottom-left ... hang-in for the light-show accompanying the crescendo ;)

Yvonne hasn't been able to handle live music since onset of her ear problems while diving in 2007. Just recently though some improvement and we were able to visit once more our local Soho jazz club. (Pretty much our first date was at the Jakarta jazz club 'Jamz': We've been fond of the genre for a quite a while.). Anyway it's looking up and she's even optimistic that scuba may be an option again in 2009.

Grote MArkt Antwerp

Nothing much in November, though it was great month for British boxing on TV. Did manage a flying visit to my parents' for a short fell-walk and the obligatory pubs. Combined this with a rare chance to catch up one evening with some old school chums in North Manchester while passing through for a business meeting. Mid-December for Yvonnes's birthday caught a long (very wet and windy...) weekend in a Kent coast hotel that we know . Then, unusually, a Christmas-time in our own home. Followed by New Year's Eve in Antwerp joined again by friends Phil and Emma. We were there also in 2005/6 (photo left) and really enjoyed the thoroughly party-oriented while distinctly civilised atmosphere. A meld which sadly we don't seem to find much in London these days.

By the way, in case you're wondering about the background song for this page (assuming it loaded for you?): It's of course "Both Sides Now" written 1967 by Joni Mitchell best known as a hit in '68 for Judy Collins. This cover sung in Khymer by Dengue Fever on the soundtrack (end credits) of a rather B-movie City of Ghosts 2002. Check out in particular "Tiger Phone Card" on their new release.

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