December 2000
Dear Family and Friends,

The Millennium year has been one of contrasts for the Warners - the good and the not so good. Bron’s Mum was called into hospital for major surgery at the end of February. While she survived the operation itself her heart said “enough” at the good age of 87 and she died on March 10th. The good thing was that she had been able to care for herself in her own place right up to the end and had excellent care in hospital. Had she survived she would have been very unhappy at the prospect of living elsewhere. Some time ago we agreed to a pact whereby she would take just one ride on John’s Harley Davidson motorcycle - in her urn to have her ashes scattered on the slopes of Mount Snowdon in North Wales! This we did on a cold, wet April morning!

Bron’s 60th birthday was celebrated in style in Oxford with family and friends and this raised her spirits in March a lot. Bronwen and daughter Katherine have also been able to have a couple of “girls days out” together thanks to the fact that Katherine and Rob now live only 1¼ hours away in Warwickshire. Both the Travelling Quilt show and the Spring Garden Show in Malvern were very colourful and gave many ideas. John took Bron to the Chelsea Flower Show in May, probably the only time that we’ll make it. My! It was hard on the feet! Bron found it helpful to have seen quite a lot of it on the TV before the visit. Some of the displays looked much smaller in reality than on TV, but others looked bigger. The best garden layout in most people’s opinion was the one created by prison inmates.

John has been forging ahead with his trombone playing, having passed grade 1 theory (with distinction) in June, sat grade 2 theory in October, and grade 3 practical at the end of November. The carol-playing season is just about to start again too - it doesn’t seem like a year ago since he was struggling with the carols as a novice player starting from scratch. The brass band organised a day trip to the Boosey and Hawkes brass instrument factory in London. It was a fascinating day, and we now know why such instruments cost so much - they are mostly handcrafted by engineering artists.

John has also been preparing for his advanced motorcycling exam through the summer and was very pleased to learn that he passed the test in mid-November and is now a full member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. He was hoping to take the test in August when the weather was better but the examiner was pretty busy then and couldn’t fit in a date before we went to the USA in September. He says that come next spring he’ll prepare for and take the equivalent test for car drivers. In addition to the prestige there’s a cash benefit to be had in terms of discounted insurance premiums. The Harley is beginning to show its age (8+ years and 37,000 miles) and has let John down on a couple of trips this year with first a blown head gasket and then a broken drive belt. We’ve looked around for a possible replacement and have settled on a Honda Deauville, which is more of a touring motorbike, with fairing and integral panniers for improved protection against the British climate. We sat on lots of bikes at the National Motorcycle show recently, and John has had a test ride and found it very comfortable. We expect to buy the new machine in December. (John says it will be Bron’s Mums legacy to him.)

Poor Katherine managed to fracture her right wrist just before we went on holiday in September, and before that was mended she fell again and fractured her left ankle! What a mess to be in! Luckily, living much close together, we were able to pop over and help quite a bit but we were really sorry for her. She has enough to bear coping with her Rheumatoid Arthritis. She’ mended now of course, and has a new toy - a fancy electric wheelchair that she uses when her arthritis flares up, bought out of her legacy from her Grandma (Bron’s Mum). Martin has been busy fitting out a new kitchen and bathroom at his home. He and his girlfriend Christine are also very involved with the brass band. Martin has taken up the Euphonium and is doing very well; he loves the relaxation that it provides too. As if he hasn’t enough to do he’s decided to build another kit-car! He has already sourced a donor car (a crash “write-off” with only three wheels but more importantly, mechanically sound with a 130hp Ford Zetec engine!) The new kit should arrive next March or April. This one is a Quantum H4; same company as our 2+2 kit-car, but a different model, more suited to everyday commuting. The new kit-car project will need changes to Martin’s garage and shed, and a carport being put up - more work!

September and October saw John and Bron head for the USA again, motoring from Chicago to Colorado Springs to catch up with friends made when we lived there. The main purpose of the trip, though, was to see the New England Fall colours. This we did, driving all the way through Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York State to Vermont and Maine. The colours are really out of this world and were the best for 10 years the locals all said. We also saw Nebraska Sandhills, Dakota Badlands, Wisconsin pine forests, and discovered the hidden delights of Michigan with huge sand dunes (and jeep rides!) and vast areas of fresh water. The biggest Mall in America (in Minneapolis) with more than 550 shops and an integral theme park was checked out of course, but it really is just too monster. After New England we hit the Atlantic coast in Maine, and followed it down through Rhode Island and Connecticut, then skirted New York to visit or newest EIL student at Princeton University, who had spent a six-month semester at Oxford earlier this year. We managed to get four of our EIL “daughters” together on Long Beach Island on the New Jersey coast where one of the girls, our first experimenter in 1976, owns a beach house. What a great meeting and re-union. The “frosting on the cake” for John on this trip was to visit the largest brass instrument music store in the world (warehouse sized) right by the Interstate highway in Indiana on the way back to Chicago.

Now having sorted the washing and garden Bron is beginning to plan a monster trip to Australia and New Zealand while we’re still young enough and fit enough to do it. The Christmas cake and puddings are cooked. The Christmas card list is up-dated. A date for Christmas shopping has been booked in John’s diary (who has never been as busy as since he “retired”). It’s time to wish you a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy first year of the 21st century. This may have been Millennium year but we think the twenty-first century starts on 1st January 2001.

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