Saturday, 4 January 2020

Graham and Dylys' news in 2019


Home

What a wet latter half of the year! Last year we became aware of an overflow from blocked guttering at the back of the house, and paid for a builder to clear the guttering.

So in all that wet weather this year, it was obvious that the problem was back again. The builder’s recommendation had been to get the roof professionally cleaned, but that is hard to stomach in a semi-detached house where the guttering on the rear collects rain and debris from both houses and the overflow was on our side. We explored various options, but felt that the simplest solution was to invest in a ladder so that Graham could climb up and clear the blockage on an as-needed basis. There is an angle-bend at the top of the downspout assembly, which is easy to take apart once it can be accessed – it is the short vertical section above the angle bend which is prone to getting blocked.

Holidays

Cnicht - near Porthmadog
We managed two holidays this year: Combe Martin in Devon in the spring, and Porthmadog in North Wales in the autumn. The south westerly direction for the spring holiday gave us opportunity to meet up with family in Cornwall before we settled into the holiday accommodation.

We are delighted to have now had five holidays in succession with near perfect weather (the odd shower on one day for some of the holidays, but no days written off due to rain) – a remarkable achievement for holidaying in the UK!

Mum moves into a care home

We are so grateful to Graham’s sisters who took on the bulk of the hard work and made some difficult decisions. Mum was becoming less and less able to look after herself. Karen was having to arrange for various people to make additional visits to Mum’s home. There were awkward phone calls. One evening, when we were about to go to a church meeting (which Graham was due to lead) we had to make an emergency trip to Leicester instead, spend the night with Mum, and Graham had to request the time off work the following day.

Of course Mum did not want to go into a care home. The first few weeks were very difficult, but thankfully she has settled down. For us, the journey to the care home takes a good couple of hours, and we are seeing her every few weeks.

Church

We continue to be active members at Bethel Baptist Church, and we really want to see the church grow now, as it is getting more difficult for a small fellowship to keep up with all the practical duties. The church advertised for a children’s worker to join us this year, but did not get a response, and we plan to try again next year.

Work

Graham has been working for Waters Corporation in Wilmslow for the past five years. He is pleased to be able to cycle to work regularly when the weather is expected to be fine (and apart from a break over the winter). He managed a longer season this year, and goes swimming once a week outside of the cycling season.

Dylys does various voluntary jobs, with a few changes this year. Her favourite job is as part of the “Open the Book” team, visiting various schools on Thursday mornings to take assemblies. She is encouraged when she meets children on the street and they excitedly ask, “You are the Open the Book lady, aren’t you?”. Besides “Open the Book”, she expects to be doing some extra work in our local hospital over the coming months.

Graham and Dylys' news in 2018


A hard few months

Dylys’ Mum had been seriously unwell since the summer of 2017. In the early months of this year, Dylys was making daily trips to see her in hospital in Stoke on Trent, or at home in Cheadle. The Lord called Mum home in April. Dylys also lost a niece and the niece’s husband in tragic circumstances just before Mum passed away – several funerals in April.

A shiny new toy

We kept our old Hyundai Getz for ten years. Over the years, the battery had let us down on a couple of occasions during the lifetime of the car – we found it flat and had to call the rescue service. Air conditioning feels like a con – in the UK there are so few occasions when we really benefit from it, but it seems to need servicing on an annual basis if it is going to work at all, and it just does not justify the cost. But overall, the car had served us very well.

Servicing was getting expensive in recent years – always something requiring replacement, and it usually came to light shortly after the annual service. In the autumn of this year  we knew that another bill in the order of £500 was likely, so we changed the car. We now have a bright red Hyundai i20. The Getz served us well; it felt quite basic but was perfectly adequate. The i20 has all manner of gadgetry, and we have to wonder whether it will all last as long as the old car did.

Health and exercise

Last year, it was Dylys who tripped on our stairs and struggled to get around for a few weeks. This year something happened to Graham’s knee. The symptoms varied quite a bit over the course of the year, sometimes making it difficult to walk, sometimes difficult to get up or down stairs, and for a few days, difficult to operate the clutch in the car. Fortunately, it had little effect on Graham’s cycling. After the symptoms had persisted six months, he requested that the GP arrange an x-ray. When the results were in, the GP advised that there was no serious damage and recommended a course of physiotherapy. The symptoms then subsided before the course started, but Graham went through with three sessions and is trying to keep up with the prescribed exercises.

Graham was really grateful that the knee problem had not affected his cycling unduly, as this is his preferred exercise. He managed to cycle to work on 123 occasions this year, compared with 98 times last year, and he thinks that he has cycled a greater total number of miles this year than on any previous year.

Holidays

Much of the country enjoyed a long, warm, dry summer this year. Consequently we had two excellent holidays. We enjoyed new scenery around Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales in May. Then we stayed near St Ives in Cornwall in September, the Cornish location motivated in part so that we could see Graham’s family, including a new great niece Rosie.

Church

Dylys looks after the communion and manages the rentals at our church. Graham has been an Elder for several years, but our constitution defines a maximum term of office, meaning that he was obliged to take a very welcome break, starting from the AGM in May.

Work

Not much change from last year. Dylys is officially retired, and does voluntary work for “Open the Book” (Bible stories in schools), the Hope Centre (Christian coffee shop), the Hospice shop, and for the Macclesfield hospital. Graham continues as a Software Engineer with Waters Corporation in Wilmslow.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Graham and Dylys' news in 2017

Accidents will happen

 A week into the new year, Dylys stumbled on our stairs and twisted her ankle. She put up with it for a week, hobbling around, and then went to hospital for a couple of appointments, where she was told that she had not broken anything, but she was given a boot with instruction to take things carefully, otherwise it would take longer to heal.

Fortunately, the ankle injury did not keep her from joining the choir to sing in the Roger Jones “Jailbreak” production in February and March.

Getting older

Dylys took early retirement in 2015. It has all sounded more official this year, as she started collecting State Pension in March, then she picked up a bus pass, and finally we were both taken by surprise when she received a letter in the autumn advising that she was getting a winter fuel allowance.

Travel

Graham has been in his current job with Waters Corporation in Wilmslow for three years. One of the benefits of the job is that it is a really nice cycle ride from Macclesfield, mostly along country lanes. As an unashamed fair weather cyclist, Graham managed 98 rides this year, around 50% more than he did last year.

Meanwhile, Dylys managed plenty of travel of a different kind. Mum Patrick had to spend a few weeks in hospital over the summer, and Dylys was travelling on an almost daily basis, by car or by train, to visit Mum in the Royal Stoke Hospital. Her bus pass came in handy for getting between the train station and the hospital. We were pleased to see Mum get back home again after her stay.

Holidays

We did well this year. The weather was a little mixed when we went to North Wales in May, but there was enough fine weather to enjoy walks and scenery around Barmouth and Harlech which really exceeded our expectations. It was the weather that made our second holiday at the end of September – after a few years absence, we returned to the north end of the Lake District, and we had ideal conditions for exploring Derwent, Buttermere and the Newlands Valley.

Drive and Patios

We have thought about replacing our drive and patios for a number of years, and finally took the plunge this year. The new block paving is very smart. When the workmen dug up the old paving, they discovered a serious damp problem at the back of the garage, which added significantly to the cost of the project. We dispensed with the old shed and green house, intending to replace the shed quickly; but it proved complicated as the area beside the garage where we thought the shed would go is no longer flat. We have now erected a bike store – that is big enough to accommodate Graham’s bike and a few other bits. 

Church

We are always busy at church. We are responsible for opening up the building on a Sunday morning, 45 minutes before the start of the service – and yet we are rarely the first to arrive – we find people waiting to be let in. Graham is an Elder, he sometimes leads the service on a Sunday evening, and he looks after a lot of the technical stuff. Dylys prepares communion, does a bit of cleaning, and is a regular at the monthly service at the “Harry Lawson Court” sheltered housing centre. We run the Conversational English class at church on Thursday evenings together.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Graham and Dylys' news in 2016

Day by day

It has been a busy year. On Mondays Dylys is working in the back office at the Hope Centre in the morning and at the East Cheshire Hospice shop in the afternoon. On Wednesdays she works for Macclesfield Hospital. On Thursdays she takes part in “Open the Book” – a team taking assemblies in schools. These are all voluntary positions. In contrast, Graham has a straightforward life – he works in the Waters office Monday to Friday, and he gets paid a bit more than Dylys.

Getting around

Graham has appreciated this year as one in which he has had more exercise than most – he cycled to work 66 times, ten miles each way. He is a fair-weather cyclist, so he only does it during the better months of the year. However, he did get caught out in a terrific thunderstorm on the way home one evening in September – and he got somewhat more wet than he does when he goes swimming on a Monday evening.

Church

Graham continues his service as an Elder at Bethel Baptist Church – life has been a bit easier this year, as we appointed a new pastor in January. He looks after the church website and sermon podcasts. We run the Conversational English class on Thursday evenings together. Dylys looks after communion at church, does some of the cleaning duties, and manages the rentals – the other groups that use the church building on a regular or one-off basis. We both helped out with the week-long Children’s Holiday Club in August, and took part in the first meeting of a new “Messy Church” venture in November.

Music to your ears

If it is raining when you read this letter, Dylys is probably practising her singing. She is part of the choir at the Roger Jones “Christian Music Ministries” productions. This included a performance of “Barnabas” in July, and she will soon be practising for the “Jailbreak” production next February and March (Graham got quite disconcerted earlier this year when he looked over her shoulder to glance at her mobile phone and saw the word “Jailbreak” on the screen).

Seeing the best of the UK

With the normal weeks being so busy, we really look forward to our holidays – the opportunity to take a complete break. In June we had a week in a caravan in Great Langdale (Lake District) – it is a great place to stay, as there are lots of walks starting either straight from the caravan or just a short drive away. In September we booked an apartment in Settle, visiting the Yorkshire Dales for the first time – it turned out to be one of the wetter weeks that we have spent away, so we had some decent walks but did not see as much of the area as we had hoped.

We visited family in Cornwall in October, and on this occasion we took Graham’s mother with us, so that she could stay with his brother’s family in Bude for a few days.

Dylys at Loughrigg Tarn, Lake District

Graham at Stainforth Falls, Yorkshire Dales

The odd let-down

There are always a few problems arising at unexpected moments – we had to miss church one Sunday evening when we found that the car had a flat battery; we had a boiler fault and made do without hot water for a week; and we were without a landline for three weeks (come on, Openreach!). Minor inconveniences really – it has been a good year.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Graham and Dylys' news in 2015

All change for Dylys

Perhaps the defining event for us this year has been Dylys taking early retirement. She has worked for the Information Commissioner in Wilmslow since 2001, initially as a temp, but very quickly taking up full time employment. We planned a holiday in May, and Dylys made arrangements to finish work in time for the holiday. Since the holiday she has found opportunities for voluntary work in the charity shop of the local hospice, and in our local hospital (doing quite similar work to that which she was paid to do at our local cottage hospital when we lived in Stoke on Trent). She has also joined “Open the Book”, a group which takes Bible stories into local schools.

Waters and bicycles 

Graham started his current job with Waters Corporation in Wilmslow in December 2014. Initially we travelled to work together by car, and Dylys would usually catch the bus home, as she finished work earlier than Graham. The Waters office is around ten miles from home, and Graham has appreciated the opportunities to cycle into work once or twice a week over the summer months – something which was not really viable with his previous job.

Kitchen facelift

We have thought about a replacement kitchen for a long time, and this was a job that Dylys said that she would like done before she finished work in May. We ordered the kitchen in late 2014, and it was fitted late January / early February this year. It really was not the best time of year to be without a kitchen, and the whole process took around three weeks due to a snow event and one of the contractors having an accident (not in our home).

Old kitchen ...
... New kitchen

Up, up and away!

Dylys was given a good send-off from the Information Commissioner in May, and she was presented with a voucher for a balloon flight. Balloon rides are subject to appropriate weather: she had to book a date and then phone at 11pm the night before to find out whether she had to get up very early for the morning flight – this happened six times before her flight finally took place on 20 October, and she floated over the countryside around Nantwich.

Church

It has been a busy year with Bethel Baptist Church, as we are only a small church, our previous pastor retired in 2014, and we are still working our way through the challenging process of identifying a new pastor. Graham was appointed an elder of the church in May, giving him particular responsibility in this task. We have had one candidate preaching several times this year, and the church may be making a decision in early 2016.

We are both involved in running the Conversational English class which takes place in the church lounge on Thursday evenings. Dylys is usually present at the monthly service that the church holds at Harry Lawson Court – a local retirement complex.

Some time away

We have enjoyed two excellent holidays this year. We had a week in North Wales in May – yes we did get to the top of Snowdon, but no we did not get any views because the summit was in the clouds. Then we had an amazing bright, warm, summery week near Hadrian’s Wall at the end of September and early October. We were also part of a family gathering long weekend in Somerset in August, to mark the 80th birthday of Graham’s Dad.


Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall



Sunday, 13 December 2015

Graham and Dylys' news in 2014

Church

We have been kept especially busy in our church this year. The Pastor retired in September, and so we are currently “in interregnum”, looking for a new Pastor. In the meantime there is extra for the rest of us to do. Graham has welcomed the opportunity to lead several Sunday evening meetings this year, although it is quite demanding in time to prepare. He has also picked up overall responsibility for the Conversational English Class which takes place on Thursday evenings, and in which Dylys is also involved. Dylys was elected to be a deacon at the church AGM (she has served previously, but took a few years off when her last term of office came to an end). She takes responsibility for preparing communion, and helps out with the church cleaning.

The aforementioned English class is aimed at people from the local community whose first language is not English. The current students are all migrant workers from different countries in Eastern Europe. It is disappointing that we do not have more students to justify the effort that we put in, but those who do come along are extremely appreciative, and have become more proactive in requesting topics for study. Most weeks we use formal worksheets, but the intention is to stimulate discussion and help our students gain confidence in their spoken English.

Holidays

Our main holiday this year was in the Lake District - on a caravan site which was literally carved out of the hillside in the middle of Great Langdale (the road to our caravan was on a 30 degree incline, and there was a digger parked on the vacant caravan slot opposite us). Despite some mixed weather, we had some great walks; and with the caravan being strategically located, we never had very far to drive to find those walks. We had a very memorable walk from Tilberthwaite - we parked the car close to a row of cottages and a slate quarry, and although the parking area became quite busy during the day, once we had climbed past the quarry area and crossed a stream, we did not see another soul until we had completed the circuit. All that remote gorgeous hillside scenery was just for us on that day.

Dylys approaching the waterfall
at New Dungeon Ghyll, to
capture a video on her smartphone
Fantastic walk, whilst the rain holds
off  (near Elterwater)


We also made a family visit down to Cornwall in the autumn - the weather was excellent and we managed several nice walks along the coast and on Bodmin Moor - all around the fascinating rocky outcroppings on Roughtor.

Work

Graham started a new job in December. For seven years he has been working for GPC Computer Software in Cheadle, developing systems for taxi businesses. He has moved to Waters Corporation in Wilmslow, developing healthcare laboratory systems. Graham had been looking for a move, Waters provides a new challenge with better benefits, and it is also rather closer to Dylys’ place of work for the past 13 years - the Information Commissioner’s Office, also in Wilmslow.

Home

We have recently indulged in a new washing machine and a new freezer for the kitchen. The new washing machine sounds like a very modest light aircraft, and replaces the old one which was sounding like a Boeing 747. We had learned that the old freezer was consuming £120 electricity per year, and economics dictated that we replace it.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Graham and Dylys' news in 2013

A year of problems

The hall ceiling had to come down
It has not been the best of years for us. Our electric shower went “bang” in January, and soon after we got it replaced we had water leaking from the hall ceiling which had to come down. Decoration of the hall and stairs became essential, and we wonder why it should be so hard to get hold of a decorator in an economic slow-down. We managed to get the job done in early December, and the smell of the paint has had a chance to clear in time for Christmas.

In a completely separate incident, we had a blocked drain and raw effluent coming up through the washing machine discharge pipe all over the kitchen floor. We made an emergency call-out to a tradesman to clear the blockage, and then later called Dyno-rod to inspect the drain. Dyno-rod diagnosed a disjointed drain pipe running from the house to the manhole cover in the front garden (with roots growing through the joints). They finally came to insert a new lining into the drain pipe just before Christmas.

Graham made a series of trips to the GP and hospital early in the year with chest complaints - he was given the all-clear and the discomfort has eased, though without real explanation.

The car also caused us some concern when there was evidence of a leak from under the engine. The fluid was clear, and it turned out to be from the air conditioning system, so it did not affect the driving, but we had to pay to get the air conditioning fixed in order to confirm that this was indeed the diagnosis - it has been an expensive year!

The other “disaster” is that our ancient printer (circa 2000) has stopped printing in colour, apart from a bit of pink - so the Christmas newsletter that we sent around with our Christmas cards this year was lacking the usual pictures - you may be reading this online journal in order to find the pictures! Yes we did buy a new cartridge for the old printer, and ran the cleaning cycle several times, and carefully wiped the contacts with a damp cloth. Graham is expecting a replacement model for Christmas - the old printer had a good life span.

Leadership

It is not all gloomy news - we both completed the CPAS “Growing Leaders” course with our local church this year. There was no final exam, but we had several projects and assignments to review with our mentors. The course has helped clarify our talents and aspirations with regard to Christian service. Leadership can mean all kinds of things, but Graham has volunteered to lead the final church service of the year - the evening of 29 December. In past years it has been announced "no evening service" on that Sunday after Christmas, which seems such a shame immediately after the high profile of Christmas on the Christian calendar.

Graham was on the tech team at the carol service this year, which went very smoothly. As with most services, he has published a podcast on the Bethel website.

Holidays

We indulged in two “proper” holidays this year (an occasional luxury - most years we stick to one main holiday. We spent a week in Lancashire in May and were delighted to be given the keys to a brand new caravan with all mod-cons including the largest fridge-freezer that we have ever seen in a caravan! Graham's favourite day was when we climbed the hills of Quernmore and found this amazing stone structure near the summit of Clougha Pike - an awesome place and really not very far from home.
On the hills of Quernmore
In September we spent a week in Northumberland - we did some climbing and also did a tour of “Flodden Field”, soon after the 500th anniversary of the battle at that site which was prominent in the news this year. We also made a couple of brief visits to Cornwall to catch up with Graham’s family.

Happy days

We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary this year with a meal at the “Rising Sun” - which is opposite the Council household recycling centre in Macclesfield, so we made a romantic trip to dispose of the rubbish that had been accumulating in our garage, prior to enjoying the meal.

Dylys was short on ideas for presents for her rather significant birthday this year, so she decided that we should go and see Evita at the Lowry in Salford to mark the event. It was a very touching account of a true story, and Dylys is now hoping for a CD to help her recall the experience.

They were not a birthday present, but as a mark of getting older, Graham has had his first prescription glasses this year.

Also on the subject of birthdays, Dylys and Maldwyn were instrumental in organising a surprise 80th birthday party for Aunty Rose in August - we booked the village hall at Checkley and managed to fill it with family members from far and wide - a very successful day.

Due to the complications of finding a mutually convenient time for a family get-together, we met with Graham’s family shortly before Christmas, but plan to spend Christmas Day with Dylys’ family, and to enjoy a few days off work together!