Christmas News 1999

Balkan blackout

Standing behind our tripod-mounted binoculars ready to view the solar eclipse While thousands of Britons watched the total solar eclipse of August 11 huddled under umbrellas on Cornish beaches, we headed east in search of the sun. The day of the eclipse found us in the town of Mangalia on Romania's Black Sea coast, where there was not a cloud in the sky.

We arrived early and set up our binoculars and tripod in a park by the sea. To the delight of the boys ("We'll be famous!") we attracted the attention of a local reporter, who interviewed us. As a result our photo (on the right) appeared in a local newspaper later in the week.

We watched the partial phase of the eclipse by projecting the sun's image using the binoculars. The sky gradually got darker as the moon crept across the face of the sun. There was loud cheering and applause from the crowd in the town square above us as the last glint of sunlight disappeared.

For two minutes everyone watched in amazement as the sun's corona shone brightly around the black disk. There was more applause when the sun reappeared, and then the crowd started to disperse. Only later did we discover that we really had chosen the best place in Europe to view the eclipse. Brief though the total phase was, it was two minutes we will never forget.

Follow this link for a full report on the eclipse

What Martin did on holiday

I went to Romania on holiday this year. I stayed at the Hotel Riviera. In the room that I stayed in had a television that showed pop music. When you are there you can watch the coolest dives. In a few dives Adrian took a photo of a person doing a dive. There was a swimming pool. The swimming pool was in a shape of a palette. The water in the swimming pool was blue. The plane was like being on a bus. It went to Romania.

Travels in Transylvania

Melinda and a group of children standing in the street in a village Several years ago some friends from our church made three trips to Romania, taking clothing and medicine in a truck. This led to a friendship with a couple (who have since had two children) who live in the Hungarian-speaking region in the west of the country. We were able to stay with this family for three days during our holiday.

István and Melinda live in a small village in the mountains, a world away from the stifling heat and noise of Bucharest. Most of the people in the village work on the land, and the principal means of transport is a horse and cart, but mobile phones and satellite dishes are also making an appearance. The main street is perfectly safe for the children to play in and crime is unheard of.

Our hosts were very hospitable and made our visit really enjoyable. The main frustration was that we were unable to speak to many people in the village because we had not learned any Hungarian. Adrian helped things along by giving children Polaroid photographs of themselves (we took this picture during one of these photo-shoots - and yes, that is Martin standing in the back row).

All change

A year of change for Miriam, especially on the job front; I did a 3-month audit project based at Cape Hill Medical Centre but later involving other practices; a paper job that I enjoyed. Then I applied for and obtained a job in the St Stephen's Parish office (our own church) where I work 16 hours a week. I have also started a post-graduate diploma at the University of Central England dept. of sociology, studying research methodology. This is 2 nights a week in college and lots of reading; it does lead to a research MA next year if I choose to continue.

Dial V for voter...

Although Miriam did not stand in the City Council elections this year we are still very much involved in political activity. Traditional campaigning techniques still have their place - including the quaint local custom of decorating lampposts with our posters at election time (yes, it is allowed!) - but we have also turned our hands to telephone canvassing, which involves much less physical risk.

Phil called a particular household where two young children answered the phone. After a short internal debate they informed him that he should have his bottom smacked. It's the sort of offer many MP's would die for.

Double trouble

From next January Phil will be a governor of two schools rather than one. This is because Moor Green operates as separate Infant and Junior schools, and new legislation means that each must have a separate Governing Body rather than the present "grouped" one. Since the total size of the two schools will remain the same, it may be that the overall number of meetings and the size of the workload will not increase. On the other hand...

Stars in their eyes

Having seen Adrian go to a drama class every Saturday morning for a couple of years now, Martin decided that he would like to try it as well. So they both took part in the class production of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" in the summer. Because Adrian has such a loud and clear voice, he tends to get the speaking parts in school productions.

Martin landed a vital part in his school's production of "Jack and the Beanstalk" - he was the beanstalk!

More photos...

Martin, Phil and Adrian on a tree-lined path near a beach

Seaside fun in Mamaia on Romania's Black Sea coast

Martin sitting among ancient stones

Remains of a 6th century basilica in Mangalia, Romania

Crowds of people sitting in a town square in the sunshine

Crowds gather in Mangalia's main square to watch the eclipse

People looking at our binoculars mounted on a tripod

Our eclipse-viewing equipment draws much interest.
The sky is already darkening as totality approaches

Ancient Roman building

Site of the Roman Mosaic in Constanţa. The city has been a major seaport since antiquity

Ancient white stones in a city park

Archaeology Park, Constanţa: like a free open air museum

A row of fountains leading to a huge white building in the distance

View along Bulevardul Unirii, Bucharest:
Nicolae Ceauşescu had a historic part of the city flattened to make way for this vanity project.
At the far end stands the Parliament Palace, the world's largest parliament building

A white triangular monument with a large building in the background

Piaţa Revoluţiei, Bucharest: Memorial to those who died in the 1989 Revolution.
On the building behind is the balcony where Nicolae Ceauşescu made his last speech before his overthrow

Adrian and Miriam by the shore of a lake with woods in the background

Lacul Fântânele, an artificial lake in the north-west of Romania.
A dam was built with the aim of generating hydroelectric power but none has ever been produced.
Today the lake is used for leisure purposes