Christmas News 2009

Colours of Cornwall

"Phil, Martin and myself went to Cornwall for a fortnight; we all had a good time, seeing the sights that included the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project." - Miriam

When the sun shone we saw the coastline of Cornwall at its best, and the sea was picture-postcard blue. When the fog came down, the sea disappeared and the old tin mine workings became ghost-like.

Among the places where we could dodge the showers were the art and craft galleries that cluster together in West Cornwall. Local artists have a wide range of subjects to choose from and it was impressive to see how they have depicted even the most familiar scenes in varied and original ways.

A different form of art was on display at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, where a determined group of enthusiasts have restored these once-derelict grounds to their former glory. We also spent a day at the Eden Project, where the Mediterranean biome was colourful and cool compared to its tropical neighbour.

Memories of earlier visits were brought back at St Michael's Mount and at Land's End, which we reached along the coastal path from Sennen Cove. Near St Keverne we rediscovered a cottage where we had once stayed when the boys were small.

"Adrian informed us prior to departure that my cousin Ruth and her husband John were holidaying and house-sitting near Penzance - 10 minutes walk from where we stayed! They treated us to home-made scones, home grown vegetables and a tour of the owner's grounds, while we showed them photos of last year's family visit to Berlin."

Adrian himself was not with us, having decided to stay at home and work instead. He had already spent a few days in Prague with his girlfriend Emily.

Martin and Miriam standing in front of the biomes,
              which look like huge plastic bubbles

"Mum, there's a giant caterpillar behind us": Among the biomes at the Eden Project, Cornwall

Two human shadows on a sunlit clifftop

Making our mark on the Cornish coastline

Tall tales

A footbridge leads to skyscrapers and, in the distance, Canary Wharf

"I spent the weekend at London, where I visited Adrian's flat, saw many modern skyscrapers including of a closeup of the Gherkin, saw line vector drawings of buildings and saw photographs of living rooms." - Martin

As Adrian prepared for his second year at Queen Mary College, he moved into a shared flat near King's Cross early in the summer and we took the opportunity to stay for a weekend in London. Our visit to the Gherkin was followed by a stroll around Docklands, where the scale of the skyscrapers contrasts sharply with the toy-like appearance of the light railway that snakes its way around them.

Across the river, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich provided a break from all the modernity. We visited a museum where living rooms from former ages were on display, but did not spot any of our furniture.

Heading for Canary Wharf in London's Docklands

Martin on course

Before leaving Queen Alexandra College and being a day student again to go to Birmingham Metropolitan College (which was formerly Matthew Boulton College) to do a graphic design course, I stayed at a house with two students, one of which like me did an IT course.

As a summer treat, I went to the Space Museum with a student from my hostel that is also doing an art course. I went on trips with students from my art course to Bilston Craft Gallery, the Artlounge, the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and Bournville College.

At Birmingham Metropolitan College I started doing a graphic design course, as well as going through mainstream education. Doing this course, I am busier than ever.

I went on holiday to Penzance, where I went to most Southern point of the UK, saw a lot of paintings and silkscreens and saw "WEEE man" at the Eden Project.

WEEE Man at the Eden Project, Cornwall

"WEEE Man" is made from scrap electrical and electronic products

Human traffic

Crowds of runners in the 2009 Birmingham Half-Marathon

The normally busy Pershore Road fell silent on one Sunday morning in October as the cars and buses were cleared to make way for some 14,000 entrants in the Birmingham Half-Marathon. Our church is on the main road and we had a crowd gathered on the front steps to cheer on the runners (who included some of our own members). Standing on a wall on the other side of the road, I had a perfect view as the runners streamed past.

I uploaded a video of the event (from which the picture on the left is extracted) to YouTube.

They just keep on coming: Thousands of Birmingham Half-Marathon runners head along Pershore Road and past Christ Church

Miriam at work

I continue to work full-time at the University of Birmingham.

I have been doing a patient self-management of blood pressure study for most of the year (half-time) and hopefully going into print early next year. The other half has seen the successful completion of the children's obesity feasibility study followed by helping out with a liver function test study, (and having to learn to take blood again!).

The latest challenge is getting involved with a new study on smoking cessation. Another piece of good news is my name in print amongst a list of 6 authors for a study that I worked on a couple of years ago.

Expensive defences

Just over a year ago we had to move out of our house so that repairs could be made following flooding in the area.

"We started off 2009 living in a flat but by the end of January had moved back home! It's so easy to take one's own place for granted. We're grateful for being able to spend last Christmas Day with my mother, to the people who physically helped us move and lent us things we needed while at the flat." - Miriam

We were glad to return to our own home, though tragically this came too soon to exploit the comic potential of the MPs' second homes scandal which blew up later in the year. Following the flooding the Council did some clearing along the banks of the river that adjoins our house, so we can at least claim to have had our moat cleaned at taxpayers' expense.

We have since fitted some removable flood barriers to our house - paid for by ourselves.

The year in photos

Picture of total solar eclipse on a square of cloth

Can you guess what it is yet? Miriam and I made this extremely modest contribution to a creation-themed mosaic that hangs in the entrance of our church. Yes, it's a total solar eclipse, something like the one we saw in Romania in 1999

Yachts and a stony beach

Marazion, Cornwall: A rare view that does not include St Michael's Mount

Tall whitewashed building at St Ives, Cornwall

Picturesque restaurant at St Ives, Cornwall. The building dates from the 17th century

Small boats in harbour at Coverack, Cornwall

Harbour at Coverack, Cornwall

Long thatched roof

Thatched cottages at Cadgwith, Cornwall

Looking up at London's Gherkin next door to a more traditional building

The Gherkin competes for aerial space with a neighbouring wine bar in the City of London

Looking upwards at one corner of the Lloyds Building and the curved face of the Willis Building

The Lloyds Building (left) and the curved face of the Willis Building in the City of London

Pedestrians on a walkway leading to the base of the tower

Entrance to One Canada Square (Canary Wharf Tower), Britain's tallest building