26th – 31st December – It’s been a great Christmas and here’s to a Happy New Year   Leave a comment

After a lovely Christmas Day with the family we had a relaxed Boxing Day, but in the evening we invited our friend Christine Arnold around for a meal. Christine goes to the choir with Margaret and in spite of the age difference, we get on well with her.


Christine Arnold

Before we could leave for Derby on the 27th there was a sad duty to perform, saying a final farewell to an old colleague. I worked with Mike Brebner at the lab in Poole from 1978 until his retirement in 1995. Mike was an ‘old school’ microbiologist who worked in an era before Standard Operating Procedures and Risk Assessments. Mike would look at a problem and use his experience to find a way round it, something that is not encouraged today. After the funeral our group of six ex-colleagues reminisced, each describing of the some of the novel solutions that Mike employed. I remember when we thought the tissue cultures that we used to grow viruses where chronically contaminated with a resistant bacteria. Mike thought he could cure it a good dose of erythromycin, but he got the antibiotic from the Paediatric ward and it had a fruity flavour to make it more palatable to the kids, thus every time we opened a tissue culture flask or test tube it smelled of bananas!


Four lab retirees taken at Gio’s retirement a year ago. L-R: Me, Mike Brebner, Gio Pietrangelo, Geoff Westwood.

The journey northwards in the afternoon of the 27th was difficult in the extreme.  Heavy traffic meant that the journey that normally takes three and a half hours took five and we only averaged 40 mph. We didn’t go straight to my brothers place but instead booked into a Travel Lodge near Alfreton. Back in early December we tried to meet up with my school and university friend Nigel in Leeds, but the arrangements didn’t work out. Nigel had joined his two brothers and his sister for Christmas and they had hired a large house in the wilds of Nottinghamshire for the entire family and we were invited around for the evening. I hadn’t seen his brothers Stewart and Iain or his sister Elaine since 1981 so it was really great to see them again and meet their various spouses and offspring. All together there were 13 of the family, there plus the two of us..


Nigel, Margaret and me.


Stewart, Iain, Elaine and Nigel Mackie


Another present unwrapping ceremony. It was a huge house with enough room for the 13 family members staying……


…. it even had an indoor swimming pool.


As we left we noticed there was a huge halo around the Moon. This is caused by moonlight passing through ice crystals in high altitude cirriform clouds. The halo is usually at a 22 degrees radius from the Moon.

After nearly seven hours in the car yesterday we intended to take it easy on the 28th but after a bit of a lie in we drove north to Chesterfield so Margaret could see the famous wonky church spire. From here we heard that Nigel, Elaine and Iain were visiting the minster at Southwell, a small town in north Nottinghamshire and in spite of the fact that it was another hours drive, we decided to join them. Later we drove south towards Derby to stay at my brother’s place in Duffield.


There are two theories as to why Chesterfield’s 13th century church spire is twisted, One says the Devil perched on it on his way to visit Sheffield and the other is that they built it with unseasoned timber which warped after construction. I know which one I believe!


The Minster at Southwell  (pronounced Suth-ull) in Nottinghamshire. A little known architectural gem well off the normal tourist route.


The Nave dates from 1108 and is a classic example of the three tiers of early Norman design which preceded the more famous and elegant Gothic style seen in many famous cathedrals of England and France.


The splendid sculpture of Christus Rex overlaid with copper and gold hanging above the congregation was erected as recently as 1987.


Another recent addition is this huge stain glass window at the west end of the Nave which was installed in 1996.


The original Quire at the east end of the church as demolished in 1240 and replaced with a larger version in English Gothic style.


The incredibly detailed carving in the Quire. The Great West Window is visible at the end of the Nave


A close up of the carvings.


A series of modern sculptures depicting the 12 Stations of the Cross were on show.

By the 29th Nigel and Iain had moved down to their late mother’s house in Allestree, just south of Duffield, so we picked Nigel up in the morning and took him round to two more friends of ours, Martin and Tricia Gadsby. Nigel, Martin, Tricia and I were at school together and apart from my brother and a few of my cousins (whom I hardly ever see) they now represent my oldest acquaintances. I was shocked to hear that  recently Martin had been so ill with a UTI that he ended up with renal failure and almost died. It is reminder, if one was ever needed,  that as we get older simple clinical conditions can have very severe consequences. It was lovely to see my friends again and catch up on news and reminisce about old times in Derby and Leeds.


L-R: Martin, me, Nigel and Margaret. Photo by Tricia Gadsby.


Margaret’s daughter Anita and her  husband John have friends from South Africa who live in north Derbyshire and they we re visiting them over New Year. As they would be driving through Duffield, I suggested they call into Simon and Viv’s to say hello, so we spent a pleasant afternoon all together.



Margaret, Anita and John at Simon and Vivian’s house.


In the evening we all went round to Viv’s parents, Ida and Dennis, although both in their eighties they always host a family get together. With us, Simon and Viv, my nieces Miriam and Jennifer, Viv’s brother Graham and his wife Sally, their three daughters and  their husbands and children (each of Graham and Sally’s girls has one young child) there were 19 of us.



Ida and Dennis have known each other for 76 years and have been married for 59. They always make us very welcome. They have installed a glitter ball in one room for the kids but someone has to shine a torch on it.


Choy with his son Arlo


My niece Jennifer would do anything to get in a photo until she turned 14, now she’s gone all shy.


Now three and a half, Lauren soon became the centre of attention.


Arlo dodges a pillow thrown by his cousin whilst Choy looks on.


Eight-month old Archie can now crawl and is almost as mobile as the other two kids,


Arlo is banging a drum so Lauren protects her ears whilst Archie looks on. In spite of my best efforts I couldn’t get the kids to stay still long enough to get all three in the same photo.


We left early on the 30th and were back in Poole by early afternoon where after the hectic schedule of the last few days, not to mention the prodigious quantities of alcohol and food, we took it easy. We plan to have a quiet New Year’s Eve with Janis and Andy and will probably just watch Jules Holland to see 2013 in.


Posted December 31, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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