Christmas News 2008

Happy Christmas! It’s that time of year again to hear curious stories from divers friends and family!

As Steph and Josh start to do more of their holidaying on their own, we tried to make what may be our last family holidays this year a bit special. This was also because last year was sadly affected by the death of Toni’s parents, and she continues her journey with this – particularly as she and Jackie have not yet been able to sell their impressive villa on the Spanish coast.

Last Christmas we wrote about starting to scuba dive, with some encouragement from Steph. This was a good leg-up for Steph as in February she went out to Mexico for ten weeks to do marine conservation work with GVI. She really enjoyed sunbathing, counting fish, and becoming so good at diving that she is now a Dive Master. Highlights included diving with sharks and diving in cenotes (deep inland natural sinkholes). In her Gap Year, apart from earning money by waiting in a local restaurant (as Josh does too) she also went Interrailing round Europe with some friends and did some project work with a school in Ghana with Madventurer.

After last year’s attempts to dive in Vobster Quarry with three wet suits on (we looked like figures from the old Michelin tyre adverts), we spent a weekend at Mevagissey in Cornwall for Toni to complete her Open Water Diver course. It’s amazing what life there is even on the Cornish coast, and the weather was great too. We followed that with a week at Nuweiba on the Red Sea to enjoy even warmer weather and diving on the coral reefs there. We received more training too, for example in night diving and using enriched air (higher % of Oxygen) so that Toni, Josh, and I are now Advanced Divers!

We also spent a week in the Cappadocia region of Turkey, renowned for its awesomely eroded rocks formed from lava lying on top of soft volcanic ash. Many of the houses and hotels are dug into the rock, and there are many fascinating ancient cave churches. As a particularly special way of enjoying the scenery we tried our first ever balloon ride, which meant getting up at dawn.

Toni and I continue to brave the local gym, and I’ve joined a local choir again as I was missing singing. I was pleased to be able to skipper a chartered yacht in the Solent for four days over the summer, crewed by Steph and some friends. The weather was scary at times, but we seemed to make wise use of it and had a lot of fun. I’d like to take a group sailing in the Mediterranean. Toni and I are enjoying the freedom to spend weekends away from home on our own.

Toni recently passed an interview to mark the end of her training, and is pleased that the post of Consultant Psychiatrist for children with learning difficulties for Bristol has now been advertised, after some delay, and she has applied. She hopes to gain this promotion in January. Meanwhile she has been doing the job as a “locum” for two days a week, alongside her training in child psychiatry. She has been working very hard.

Joshua did well in his AS levels, gaining ‘A’ in Maths, Art, and Photography, and ‘B’ in Physics. He gained 100% in his Photography AS and his work is being used as an exemplar for examiners and other students! At the moment he is looking at career and university choices and has applied for architecture courses. He will probably not take a gap year, but has booked to do some marine conservation work in the Seychelles next summer.

Josh has also passed his driving test, so it’s a good job Steph has started at university so they don’t fight over the car too much. We delivered her and a lot of luggage (we needed the roof-box) to Leeds University in September where she is reading music and psychology. She is enjoying the music most at the moment, and doing saxophone performance as well as continuing violin and piano lessons. Actually she is enjoying the social life most, as well as the many orchestras she seems to be part of. It is delightful that she has made good friends quickly with those nearby in her hall of residence, and that she phones home most weeks! She continues to be part of the local Swindon & Wiltshire Youth Orchestra.

I celebrated my 50th birthday in March, and in October a year of running my own business. I continue to focus on leaders in small businesses and charities as well as working with some individuals. I have also been working with larger firms through an association with a local coaching firm. This has led to work with VISA and a trip to Vienna. Although advertising myself as a coach and management consultant, I think I am enjoying the coaching most. A good example of the work I do is coaching a newly promoted director of a local accountancy firm to help her to be effective in her new role.

(Click on photo to see Toni too!)

I am also doing some coaching work for the church, and Spiritual Direction, and it still seems slightly strange, but exciting, that my the focus of my work with the church has moved from leading worship and being a pastor for a parish, although I do still lead worship sometimes when invited. My first year has been a good foundation, at times enjoyable and at times stressful, that I am now working to build on. I have been persuaded to become a primary school governor again, in Corsham, and continue to be a trustee of two Christian mission agencies.

There is much talk of recession, and we can see some people and businesses are being hit hard (and a symptom is the continuing ownership of a house in Spain). However when I meet business people in Wiltshire there is still optimism and some businesses are growing. I like to think I am in the right place at the right time to help business leaders find new and creative ways to bring prosperity and surf the downturn. We’ll see!

Happy Christmas from us all!

This is the blogged version of our printed newsletter.