The Watson-Laird Gazette 2011
Well, here we are again. Well! What a year it's been, eh! Alice? (Don't we always start the letter like that?) Christmas 2011 beckons, and with it a last chance to put on weight ready for next year's Olympics. Many of you will know that Martin has spent November and December rather incapacitated following an operation to straighten the toes of his right foot – a proximal metatarsal osteotomy for hallux valgus correction. At the time of writing it is six weeks since the operation, and while it is healing (pun intended) very efficiently, it is still causing inconvenience, and for the first time ever we don't have any Christmas decorations up. (Hooray! says Alice the not-so-enthusiastic-about-Christmas Elf)
Yes, once again we've managed to contrive really interesting events in our personal life, with which we can entertain you over Christmas. We do have some standards though and we had decided not to trouble you with the photographs. Martin's foot is still very swollen, as it will be until spring next year, sadly restricting the range of Olympics events he can enter...
We've heard all the jokes, about toeing the line, keeping in step, nailing the problem, being a bit of a heel, yawn, yawn!
For her birthday this year, Alice decided she would like a guided tour of the Royal Albert Hall, and what Alice wants Alice usually gets! This year was no exception, of course. We followed that with a visit to the Albert Memorial, and a walk across Hyde Park to pamper to another of Alice's whims, by visiting the Wallace Collection, and having tea in their elegant courtyard.
For our spring holiday this year we visited the National Forest, with which we are sure you will all be familiar. It's the area in and around Ashby de la Zouch, and the first couple of days greeted us with an endless carpet of dandelions the likes of which we have never seen - it was a truly spectacular sight. We stayed with a lovely lady in a little village called Coton in the Elms, which we had never heard of, but surprisingly our speech-recognition software has! We walked extensively in the National Forest, including a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum, which was a moving and impressive sight. Created in 1997, the Arboretum is a special place that remembers those who have served, and continue to serve, our nation in many different ways. With some 50,000 trees already planted, and 200 dedicated memorials established on the site, the Arboretum is a living tribute that will forever acknowledge the personal sacrifices made by the armed and civil services of this country.
With Martin being a fan of Dr Johnson, we took the opportunity for a return visit to Lichfield, and the Dr Johnson birthplace Museum. Oh, and by coincidence Martin found a beer festival on the way home...
To tie in with this year's International Puzzle Party in Berlin, we decided to visit two very different parts of Germany, one to the North and one to the South. After flying to Berlin, we had a somewhat tortuous train journey, accompanied by a rather raucous German stag party, to the Baltic coast town of Rostock. We really enjoyed the local food, beer and the architecture of this medieval town, as well as taking a river cruise to the coast. We then spent a long weekend with old puzzle friends from around the world in Berlin, before travelling south to Dresden. It's a magnificent city, which has been extensively and tastefully rebuilt. During the day we enjoyed walking around the almost limitless sights of this fine town, as well as days out in the surrounding countryside. Every evening we went to a local restaurant, a converted brewery, which supplied wonderful food, mostly Saxony specialities,such as spit-roasted pig's knuckle, as well as 'steins' of local beer.
Avid readers of this esteemed publication will remember that at the beginning of 2010 we embarked on the London Loop, a 150-mile round-London long-distance path, which has many hyphens. Our goal was to finish it by the end of 2010. Our goal this year was to finish it by the end of 2011, but even without Martin's foot operation, we would still have failed. We are about halfway around, having reached as far as Chingford in Essex. We still have a couple of days' walk to the River Thames. Hopefully in the spring we will continue, and look forward to starting the second half from Kent back to nearby Kingston upon Thames.
We also had many local outings such as visits to Richmond Park, Bushy Park, Wimbledon Common, Kempton Park nature reserve, Hampton Court, Barnes Wetlands, and even the Steam Museum at Kew. One of the highlights of the year saw us seeing something which Martin has long wanted to visit, that being the Ceremony of the Keys in the Tower of London. One of Martin's work colleagues arranged for a small group to be able to have a guided tour of parts of the tower not open to the public, before watching the actual ceremony, which has taken place every night in the Tower for over 800 years. One evening during the Second World War it ran a few minutes late following some anti-social bombing but otherwise there have been no interruptions since the 12th century.
We had a couple of bird-watching expeditions, to Paxton Pits in Huntingdonshire, and also the Arne Peninsular at the west side of Poole Harbour, or Pearl Harbor as the speech recognition software suggests. (For those of you that think they aren't enough jokes this year, perhaps I should have let the speech-recognition software have three rain (sic), without me may king mine are edits!)
In September on national Open House Day we visited the Custom House, a building housing the offices for the government officials who processed the paperwork for the import and export of goods into and out of London, followed by the Roman remains under the old Billingsgate Fish Market before ending the day with a spectacular guided tour of the Mansion House in the City of London.
In October we spent a wonderful week in Wiltshire, between Shaftesbury and Salisbury, near Tisbury, walking on the Wiltshire Downs. During the First World War training and transit camps were established for troops leaving for, and returning from, the battlefields in northern France. In remembrance of their colleagues, many of the regiments carved replicas of their cap badges into the hillside at Fovant and we were able to walk along the top of the downs looking down on these.
Without a doubt the low-point of the Year, (no we're not still talking about Martin's foot!) was the day Alice phoned Martin at work, and greeted him with the terrifying words, "I've been the victim of a massive bank fraud." To cut short a very long story, which dragged on through six weeks in the autumn, as far as we can tell somebody had got hold of enough of Alice's bank details to be able to contact the bank informing them of a change of address. Money was transferred from an account for which Alice doesn't even have a bank card and then large amounts were made to various people.
All the bank can tell us is that it wasn't related to internet banking, and, reading between the lines, it seems a bank employee didn't thoroughly check the signature on a letter they were sent. We were asked about compensation, and worked out a reasonable rate for the 10 to 15 hours which a distraught Alice spent visiting banks and phoning the Fraud Department. (it was so frustrating that bank security meant that Martin couldn't get involved.) Ultimately, the bank gave us three times our very optimistic request for compensation. The police now tell us that we weren't the victim, it was the bank. We are so careful with bank details, shredding everything, and it is nice to know that our sensible and cautious behaviour kept us secure.
Here's our regular feature the Page Three Bird (only just 'stuffed' in), and this year it's Teri the Turkey, and she's got some seasonal advice for you all.
With a circulation in excess of 1 million, we at the Watson-Laird Gazette have to constantly review our distribution addresses. This means that the A.L.E. (Address Label Elf), Alice to her friends, has to visually check every address, to remove people we haven't heard from, to add and remove names to reflect changes in relationships, and also, sadly to remove friends no longer with us.
In this respect we must congratulate one friend, recently divorced after many years, who has been so well organised as to find a new girlfriend with the same name as his ex-wife, (and it isn't even a particularly common name). We wish them great happiness together.
Research from previous years has shown that about 3.31pm on Boxing Day is the average time at which folk settle down to read the Watson-Laird Gazette, so we all hope you enjoyed your cold leftover turkey. Here's the inevitable annual puzzle.
Fill in the 9 blank squares with each of the numbers from 1-9 so that each number at the wide end of an arrow is greater than the number at the point.
Oh, and make sure that each block of four digits adds up to the number in the centre of the block. No answers will be provided and please don't send us your entries, there isn't a prize.
The second competition if you really want one is to list all the contents of your bathroom cabinet, including the embarrassing items, without going up for a look. The more obsessive of you can include weight and packet contents. Please throw out any that have use-by dates from before 2005. (Especially that tube of cream that you can't remember what (who?) it was for. It's probably cleared up by now.)
Our pantomime this year was Aladdin, in Twickenham, and there were frequent references to characters from other pantomimes, giving the audience frequent opportunities to yell out, “Wrong panto!!!!!”
We hope you all heard Martin's brief 3-minute contribution to the “Christmas Food Phone-in” asking how to roast chestnuts on BBC Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour' last week.
Congratulations to Alice for her great perseverance this year as she battled Leo Tolstoy and won!! Yes, she read 100 pages of 'War & Peace' each month to reach her goal of finishing the whole book in 2011. It is acknowledged as one of the greatest novels of all time, possibly not by Alice.
Something Martin had long wanted to do, was to grow chilli plants from the seeds. This was the year that it finally happened, and we're currently inundated with chillies of all colours, yellow, red, green, purple etc., the plants all in different stages of producing usable fruit.
The little ones, Barabbas and Lucretia, are both doing tolerably, in their own way, each at their specialist secure schools.
Finally we'd both like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and good luck in the 2012 Olympics. (Oh, and if Sandra and Bill who noted on their card to 'Matthew and Alison', that they will drop in in the New Year, we've no idea who you are.)
Read more all next year at www.@martinhwatson.co.uk
Printed copy was produced with OpenOffice 3.2, in Comic Sans
PS, does anyone want a Higgs Boson?
PPS, we've cut the pictures down this year as it has been so busy, but you can still see this year's crop of photos on the website.
PPPS after the trouble I've had getting OpenOffice to print a booklet, this may well be the last ever Watson-Laird Gazette, unless we get lots of enthusiasm for more more more!!!!
PPPPS if we start to run out of toner, then that turkey picture has to go!!!