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Peter and Pauline Curtis's 2010 Christmas Newsletter

How can it be December and time to write the Christmas newsletter ? Where has the year gone ? It has been a year when we have been revisiting, if not reliving the past in various ways. Many important themes in our life started in our time at Oxford and we had various Anniversary celebrations during the year. So lets go back to those formative years at Jesus College and St Hilda’s College and the periods of research that followed - it was a time when we made many of the friendships which endure to this day. And of course it where we met – most of you probably know the story of how a friend of Pete’s who we will just call Steve had worked during a vacation with a lady called Janet who was to start at St Hilda’s the following term. Pauline’s godfather was a friend of Janet’s family. The first day of term Steve invited Janet round to tea and it grew, as such things do, to include some of her new acquaintances who were reading the same subject and some of Steve’s friends from Jesus just turned up. And that was how it all started on Pauline’s first day at Oxford and grew until we finally got engaged at dawn on the banks of the Cherwell at the Merton Commemoration Ball after Pauline’s finals.

That was only part of the complicated web which was woven at college where mutual friends of many people from outside of Jesus and St Hilda’s were drawn in, mainly through the Easter walking holidays which continue to this day. We unfortunately missed this years gathering as Easter was in March and we were not back from New Zealand. In 2011 Easter will be late April and we have already bought new walking boots. How can it be 40 years since Pauline matriculated and we met when neither of us feels that old? In August St Hilda’s had a celebration Gaudy and dinner for everyone who matriculated in 1970, at the same time as the annual University Alumni Weekend ‘Meeting Minds-Shared Treasures’. Lecture subjects included John Henry Newman and Oxford University Consulting with the highlight being Ffion Hague (from Jesus) talking about the art of biography, with lunches at Blackfriars and the Said Business School. Pauline stayed in St Hilda’s overnight and complained that she had to sleep on the floor in the Wolfson building because of the bed. The joys of getting older.

Pete’s ‘Anniversaries’ were concerned more with his work – unbelievably it is now 40 years since the first of the satellite experiments he worked on was launched, the Selective Chopper Radiometer on Nimbus 4. His contribution on that instrument was small and only on the ground segment but it was still sufficient to get invited back to the Atmospheric Physics Department for the Anniversary where he had to sing for our supper by giving a short presentation on the later instruments. It was great to see everyone again, many we have kept in touch with but there were still quite a few who we had not seen since those days. It was also a sad occasion as it was the last time we saw a close friend, John who was in the terminal stages of brain cancer but still gave a moving talk with many Reminiscences and group pictures from the old days. The Space Game also produced a 25th anniversary of the Advanced Microwave Sounder Unit. Pete had worked on it at Rutherford then at the Met Office and a colleague, David, held a very successful party in his beautiful garden and there was a chance to catch up with many more people and swap pictures.

We are not going to be able to avoid travel completely as the last of our journeys down memory lane was on a ship. While we were in Guernsey we took the ferry across to Herm and we passed a cruise ship which looked rather familiar and it turned out that the Ocean Countess, originally the Cunard Countess. We had three happy holidays on her in the Caribbean starting in 1991 and when we looked her up on the Internet we found she was off shortly on a trip to the sunny Canaries, where we took some of our first holidays – we still keep in touch with friends we met on her. There were some silly last minute offers at only one third of what we had paid twenty years before. We could not resist and a fortnight later we caught the train to Plymouth – there had to be one catch - and had a great time for 12 days. We also caught up with friends and relations in Exeter before and after the cruise so it all worked out very well. The rest of our travels are on the web including cruising pirate waters on the Queen Mary 2 on our way to New Zealand, a cruise to St Petersburg and Tallinn on the Queen Victoria, and a VIP lunch on board the new Queen Elizabeth in Southampton followed by escorting her on her maiden on board the paddlesteamer Waverley. We still love our own boat and spent many weeks on the River Thames and the Kennet and Avon canal as well as having a great time in Holland on Dugald and Lesley’s Klein Schipp.

Pauline is still continuing her charity work with the OU and Pete is still contributing to the Open Source Movement. Sales of Pauline’s books continue and she is quite low on stocks of the first one. There has not been a lot of time for watercolour painting but Pete continues to make enough home-made wine to avoid the temptation to buy much in – it is very restful watching the bubbles through an airlock. Please contact us if you are in our area because we enjoy sharing our wines, and goodies from our kitchen, with visitors.

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