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Peter and Pauline Curtis's 2013 Christmas Newsletter

We started the year by spending Christmas and the New Year at home, the first time we had ever done so since 1974; until then we had always had parents to visit. Then it was off to New Zealand, but only for 6 weeks and only in the North Island. We returned from Auckland to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 which routed through New Zealand, Australia, Mauritius, South Africa and the Canaries. We had lunch with friends in Wellington, sailed into Akaroa, and had a spectacular entry into the Doubtful and Milford Sounds. Commodore Rynd was from New Zealand and he did an excellent job of turning the QM2 at Milford and even sat the bow under the famous waterfall, which is usually done only by the little trip boats. It was nice to visit Australia again, see Tosca at the Sydney Opera House, stroll around Melbourne and Adelaide and then spend time with Di in Perth. The weather was lumpy and the Captain waited for it to calm before he would go into the harbour in Perth – but the benefit was we had an unexpected overnight there and so could go out for dinner with Di. We finally got home in April.

Back in the UK we took Corinna, our narrowboat, north to Red Bull for her regular bottom blacking, then joined with Malcolm on Priory at Crooke to go to Liverpool. There is a new link from the Leeds and Liverpool canal into the docks, and we had to book because the locks in the link are manned by Canal and River Trust (nee British Waterways) staff, and are not DIY. We stayed for 4 nights in the middle of the city and enjoyed the visit very much. The only adventure was the yellow amphibious 'Duck' trip which sank near the moorings, and three boats, including Priory with Malcolm and Pauline, went to help collect survivors from the water (Pete was clearing our prop at the time so Corinna was not mobile). We hope to do the trip again but will stay for the full 2 weeks next time. The Three Cunard Queens (QM2, Victoria and Elizabeth) are scheduled to be in Liverpool in May 2015 and we hope to be there on our boat, unless we get tempted by a proper cruise instead. The pontoons all had water and electricity and rubbish was collected regularly, so it was like being in a marina. Our route back was via Manchester, Market Drayton, touching the edge of Wolverhampton then to Penkridge, Stone, Banbury and Oxford. We were able to see Di again at Nantwich when she flew across to visit family and friends. In total we completed 1000 miles again this year. We finally decided to sell our Shetland, Corinna Too after 28 years, and she went to a good home with the lock-keeper at Eynsham who is restoring her. We are now unable to take Corinna downstream until May because the lock is closed and the old toll bridge is being removed, repaired, and reinstated. This also means a tedious detour when we go shopping in Henley.

We had two other cruises later in the year, both on the Queen Victoria. The first was to Istanbul and the Black Sea and was similar to our trip in 2012. There were lots of days at sea so Pauline started watercolour painting again. She completed a nice painting of the bridge over the Cherwell and Magdalen College tower, which we hope to make into cards for next year. On board there were bargains and we booked a short Cruise to Barcelona in December , in Decemberand the weather has been delightful. The highlight was Barcelona where we finally got to see Gaudi's greatest work, the Basilica of Segrada Familia (Holy Family) – which he started in 1882 and is still at least 40 years from completion – a typical time-scale for a cathedral! Finally we will be off to the Canaries and Madeira for Christmas and the New Year.

Pauline has been trying to sell the handmade crochet by her mother at local Christmas craft fairs, without much success. It is such a pity that people will not pay even the basic cost of the cotton, but it is so cheap to buy similar handmade items from India and China, although the quality is different. Finally 2013 brought success with Pauline's studies for the degree of Master of Laws. She has passed her first two courses, and the degree involves four courses and a dissertation. Fortunately half of the costs are being paid by the OU because she is still a tutor, although she has started the second year of leave of absence – supposedly so she can concentrate on her research but also because there are not enough students registered on her course and the alternative was redundancy. Pete continues with his involvement in the Open Source movement as well as the home-winemaking so we never seem to be idle.

As I was putting this up on the web and I noticed that the Counter on our Front Page has just gone through 200,000 unique visitors and thought it might be worth adding a bit about the web site as it it as major part of our communications and contribution to others. It was set up in 1996 and has steadily grown in size and covers our Travel, Pauline's Teaching and Pete's Technology contribution to the world. The numbers on the counter are deceptive as they only cover people entering through the front door and the actual number is much higher as most come into lower level pages from search engines. Judging by last month the real figures are 170,000 per year for pcurtis.com and then there is uniquelynz.com ! The most visited single page is the one on home-winemaking with over 10,000 visits a year, however the Ubuntu Linux family of pages as a whole get well over 40,000 visits. When we started we decided to only keep going if we got a visit a day on average, a target being exceeded by about 500 times! It is also revealing to go back and read our original 'Mission Statement' In total there are over 700 pages and 7000 pictures. Come and have a look.

A very happy Christmas and New Year from Pete and Pauline

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