I’m sitting in the computer room (not allowed one in the living room) trying to think of a new way of putting this letter together. Once again my good intentions of writing it in sections throughout the year has failed miserably and my original start got lost when the PC crashed. Yes, I do have backups but this bit was missing somehow!
I left you last year anticipating reports of our impending New Year Rhine cruise. This was almost eclipsed by the demise of the our leader Peter Robinson’s Dynasty following the disclosure that the “holier than thou” Iris, doyen of Dundonald Society and famous for offering to get homosexuals cured, had been having a quiet affair with a 21 year old and had lent him about 50 grand to set up shop in a council owned restaurant.
Actually the Rhine cruise was a great success with amazingly good food and wine. Probably the highlight was getting out of the rain in Rüdesheim and having the local speciality coffee made at the table – sugar caramelised in the glass by flambéing a v large Asbach brandy, coffee and lots of cream! There was a great crowd of “oldies” like us including a very large Welsh contingent who were intent on having a good time in spite of the rather poor entertainment on board. Needless to say the bar bill at the end warranted a mortgage.
The photo is of a very big music box at the famous Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett. An amazing museum of mechanical music machines.
Later in January Peter, having somehow managed to survive politically and having moved Iris quietly into a sanatorium, shook hands with Martin. Wailing and gnashing of teeth in Ballymena; what was the world coming to?
We managed to survive into February and escaped off on a tour of Cambodia. After Vietnam Cambodia was definitely hard work. Either that or we are getting old. I would not have missed the experience and the highlights were the trip by boat from Battambang to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat. The downsides were our travelling companions, a pair of septuagenarian retired schoolteachers from London, the
female being christened “the witch” by all the guides, and the hotel in Kratie which had no lift, cold and cold running water and an ancient and very noisy air-conditioner. I’m not sure which of bit of the air it conditioned. The geckos were extremely efficient at insect control!
We did have a good time on the whole and the guides were absolutely super. Anybody for fried tarantulas?
From Cambodia we flew back to Bangkok to meet up with Sandy and Kay McKinnon, 13 and 9, ’61 to ’69, who had very kindly offered to put us up for a week and show us the high life of the city. It was wonderful to just relax in good company. We did make a memorable excursion with them and their friends to The Bridge on the River Kwai. Sandy and I also managed to fit in a game of golf (Note the very efficient caddie) whilst the ladies went off for a coffee morning. Go to Bangkok, it is an amazing city.
Whilst we were away the ubiquitous dissidents bombed Newry court house.
March brought the announcement that the Queen is planning a trip to Ireland. With hindsight one wonders how they will afford it.
Just to give Easter a boost the nice new MI5 HQ at Palace barracks near Holywood was car bombed. Bet nobody saw that coming!
Business was not getting any easier either.
In May we flew to Venice with friends to pick up the Orient Express to Paris. Venice was amazingly wet, from above and below, but the food and wine were unsurpassable. The Orient Express is a train everybody should travel on once in a lifetime, but not more than that! I was really impressed with Paris and it exceeded my expectations in trumps. Two wonderful days and then we returned via Eurostar to London and then home.
This was also the month we had the council elections and poor Peter Robinson lost his seat to an ordinary local person who was not under the impression that she owned East Belfast.
In June I went off to join a happy band organised by Tom McMahon, to walk along the canal from Liverpool to Leeds in aid of the Birgelen Vets Charity and Macmillan Cancer. I just completed the last 15 mile leg from Bingley to Leeds. A great time was had by all. Mick and Lynne Shepherd, of 9 Sigs Rugby fame met me along the way to make a contribution and also forced me into a couple of pints of real ale – well it was lunch time.
The rest of the month and July were typical. As a warm up to the marching season a 400lb bomb was left outside the Auchnacloy police barracks and following the 12th marches there were 4 days of carefully orchestrated rioting in north Belfast.
In August the funeral of Alex Higgins brought the cream of the snooker world to Sandy Row to pay their respects. Personally I reckon they should have named the city airport after him; but then he didn’t die quite soon enough and footballers always get the glory anyway!
In September we joined up with friends to go the passion play in Oberammergau. I reckoned it was our last chance as the next performance will be in 2020; which is rather a long way ahead. There were 47 of us altogether and we had a great week touring in the Tirol, going to the play, which everyone, be they religious or not, should experience, and culminating in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich.
Our Great granddaughter is now a year old!
We found out, during October, that one should be careful which beaches one picnics on, following the discovery and exhumation of the body of one of the IRA victims who had been buried by the dunes in Red Bay on the North Antrim coast some 37 years ago.
November brought the 50th anniversary of my joining the army (actually it was September ’60 but we’ll not quibble over a couple of months) as a boy soldier in the REME. One of the squad, Barry Johnson had spent the last two years organising a reunion in Wokingham, close by the camp at Arborfield, Berks. It was a great evening followed by a conducted tour of the Corps Museum on the Saturday. Josephine and I then took off up to London for the rest of the weekend.
Workwise things are pretty slow at the moment and do not look like improving to any great extent for the foreseeable future, however, we have enough work to keep the factory going for another month and one keeps one’s fingers crossed that something will turn up. At least it’s not as bad as the Republic.
We’ll that’s a sort of commentary on our year and the local events of passing interest. Cannot really complain as we have managed to fit an awful lot in around work and golf: yes I’m still finding time to play although I’ve definitely become a fair weather player!
We are off to the Med on boxing day and will see in the New Year in between Alexandria and Olympia all being well; so that all that’s left to do now is wish you a great Christmas and health and happiness for the New Year.
Michael & Josephine