The Watson-Laird Gazette 2009
even bigger than ever about the same size as usual! Credit Crunch Special.
What a year it's been, eh! Alice? (Don't we always start the letter like this?)
You might think we've given up our 'Red Top' gutter press image, and gone up-market, but it's just that Martin has changed jobs and no longer has access to a colour printer!
I don't really discuss these matters with Alice, but the high point of the year must be our summer holiday to San Francisco. More of that later!
Apart from an excellent puzzle party, nothing much happened in January. February, being the calendar home for Alice's birthday, was as usual a busy month.
We'd failed to find a local pantomime with the required level of wit and sophistication, so we decided to see The Sound of Music at the London Palladium, a glittering Alpine fun fest, with the usual selection of nuns, goats and small children. As usual Alice wanted to be pampered on her birthday, and her choice of day out was a trip to Bletchley Park, the second world war Code-Breaking Centre.
A picture here somewhere shows her getting familiar with the dials of an Enigma machine. That particular week was also memorable for the amount of snow that we had in the south of England. It snowed so much that there were no trains running, and we were unable to get to work. Being stopped a day's pay, while working for a train company that couldn't run trains seemed a little bit obtuse. More positively however, we both had a wonderful walk in nearby Bushy Park, where we saw deer in conditions normally expected in Norway, and even three hardy people on skis.
At about this time Martin heard that his department of three was to be reduced to two, and the company would be conducting interviews to find out who wouldn't have a desk any more. Before these interviews took place the company asked for volunteers for redundancy, and Martin was at the front of the pack!
At the time it was a very unnerving decision, but as he managed to secure a new position on the final day of his notice period, in retrospect it was the right thing to do. His time at South West Trains had given him a good experience of CCTV and the police environment, so applying for a job with British Transport Police seemed the natural progression.
Briefly stepping back a month or so, we had an excellent spring holiday, once again in the Dorset town of Wareham, making final use of free travel on the trains. Excellent weather, combined with bird-watching and beer testing made this holiday yet another one to remember.
We mentioned earlier that our summer holiday was in San Francisco, once again choosing to mix it with the International Puzzle Party, being held in that city. It came as a welcome break for Martin, three weeks after starting his new job, and once again, one of his puzzle designs was presented at this year's party. However, the thing that made this holiday truly memorable, were the hosts at our bed-and-breakfast, just south of the centre of Golden Gate Park in this marvellous city, which we explored on foot and by cable car.
Michael and Yolana, both in their eighties, had survived the worst horrors of the Second World War. Yolana had spent time in Auschwitz, while Michael had been in another prison, before meeting each other shortly after the end of the war. They then discovered that Yolana's brother had been in the same prison camp as Michael. They had left their native Hungary in the 1970s to start a new life in San Francisco, when Michael was the same age as Martin is now. Each morning at breakfast they told us riveting tales, both from their younger days in Hungary, as well as more recent adventures striving for, and attaining, the American Dream.
For the first half of the year, many people were telling us how wonderful San Francisco was, and it certainly lived up to our expectations. The city is about six miles east to west, and the same from north to south. The east and north sides are bordered by the Bay, with the Pacific Ocean to the West. For Martin, one of the high points was our visit to Alcatraz, the infamous prison on The Rock. Alcatraz means Pelican, and to be on a boat, heading to this tourist destination and seeing pelican flying overhead is an image that we will long remember, nearly as long as seeing Martin banged up in one of the darkest cells in the prison!
Despite the frequency with which San Francisco is seen on television, with its famous cable cars, we didn't really realise that the cables run underground. The driver or grip man of a cable car has a handle connected to a gripping device which goes through the base of the cable car and grips on to the cable. The car is thus drawn around the city, until the grip man loosens his grip, allowing the car to stop. One day we visited the cable car museum, and also saw the giant wheels which drive the cables around the city.
The puzzle party itself, as ever, was a wonderful opportunity to meet new and old friends from around the world. Already we are planning next year's holiday, which looks set to include climbing Mount Fuji.
Another high point of 2009 was our completion of the Capital Ring, a 75-mile round-London long-distance footpath. In previous years we had completed much of the southern section, from Woolwich in the east right round to our own area in south-west London. After slowly nibbling away at the walk in recent years, we resolved to complete it, and during the spring we made many trips to north-west and north-east London, including a day's walking near the River Lea in east London, soon to be home to the 2012 (2013???) Olympic Games.
The picture here shows that they clearly still have a lot of work to do! The walk itself tries as much as possible to go along canals and rivers and through woodland and open spaces for much of its course. It varies in distance from Charing Cross from as close as 4 miles up to 10 miles. There are many places where you would not believe that you're so close to one of the world's largest cities. We would heartily recommend this walk, and are already planning the London Loop, which is a similar walk but further out from the centre, 150 miles in all.
On the subject of a capital ring, Martin had a minor operation, which made sitting down a lot more comfortable.
For as long as Page Three Birds have been appearing in the Watson-Laird Gazette, Martin has been hoping to get his hands on one! Well, this year he gets his wish, as he affectionately cradles this Suffolk White lovely in his arms. Many thanks to Simon and Alison for making his dreams come true!
Here is a picture from New Year's Eve 1999! Yes that's a full 10 years ago, when we were all sitting on the edge of our seats, arguing about when the 21st century actually began, and wondering what effect the Millenium Bug would have on us all! Martin spent most of the previous year working on a project to make sure that the Millennium Bug didn't bite us. North Korea and Italy didn't bother at all. 10 years on, we can see who was wisest…
For our autumn holiday, we returned to the county of Suffolk, where we were fortunate enough to have excellent weather for exploring the woodland, coast and small towns of this much underrated county. Possibly our greatest memory of that holiday comes from 11 o'clock in the evening of our last day. After a hearty meal in a local pub, accompanied by a final sampling of the local beers we left the pub for a 200 yard walk back to our accommodation. We suddenly saw a white object on the far side of the country road. We crossed over and quickly identified it as the largest, whitest Guinea pig we'd ever seen! It proceeded to get very familiar with Martin's foot, scurrying round it several times, before we returned to the pub to find someone to look after it, as it was clearly a recently-escaped domestic animal. Martin still doesn't know what they put in the beer there!
The picture above amused us as we walked around the Suffolk town of Aldeburgh. Hardly enticing, is it?
Two or three years ago, the petrol station a hundred yards along the road from our house closed down, and soon became a bare building site. Every few days throughout the year we have taken photographs as work has progressed on the new building, nine flats and office accommodation. The winter picture near the top of this page shows how it looked in February.
These photographs have been compiled into a time-lapse film of the building of this three-storey structure, and you may be able to find it on YouTube, along with a similar film of the snow in Bushy Park in February. We also found earlier this year the 1930 film of the first trolleybus journey through Teddington and for about two seconds you can see our house that year!
For Martin it looks like being a beery Belgian Christmas, as we were lucky enough to win dinner for four at a local Belgian restaurant, along with a small hamper of Belgian beer. One particular bottle featured on the menu at £29. He doesn't plan to share!
Did you know…? Nearest Tightwad Zealot, Tangoed Wealthiest Tzar, Donates Watertight Zeal, Anesthetized Goat Trawl, and Reheated Waltzing Toast are all anagrams of ‘The Watson-Laird Gazette’.
Just before we finally round-up, possibly wistfully, possibly wisely, possibly just rounding up, we've just got time to leave you with this year's Christmas puzzle. All you have to do is substitute each letter in the following equation for a number, to make the arithmetic correct.
All you need is logical thought and basic adding up. It’s a great puzzle and you will feel really pleased with yourself when you work out the answer. Go on, surprise yourself!!
Well as we look forward to 2010, we had the idea that it would be nice if nothing happened. We wouldn't have to go to work, we wouldn't get charged for gas, electricity, water or telephone, but we'd still get paid! Nobody would make any demands on us, and we'd all have a chance to catch up on life, and do all those things that we've been meaning to do for so long. Ah well, we can wish! Have a wonderful Christmas, and may 2010 bring you everything you hope for. Here’s Alice taking the plinth to say “That’s all, folks.