Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Year News 2013

First of all, thanks for navigating your way through everything else on the Internet to find your way here to our Christmas newsletter. There has been a long gap since I last updated this page, mainly because we've been busy and a lot has happened. I'll try to come cover the interesting bits without making it too long, starting with the kids.

Holly, just turned 11 on 6th December
Now in her last year at primary school, having two older siblings and being old in the year, she's ready to move to high school. We've just watched our last primary school Christmas play in which Holly was Winston Churchill, yes it was about Christmas during WW2.

Both scouts and guides play a big part in her life, she likes the variety of activities both offer her from crafts and singing with the guides through to hiking, camping and a recent climbing wall (NICAS Level 1) course with scouts. She has had main summer camps with both which for scouts was a week at the scout activities centre on Kielder Water including bivvying out, sailing, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking and walking.

Her other regular activities are the weekly swimming lesson and more recently she's started diving lessons. For her birthday party this year we took 5 of her friends to the nearby Christmas Adventure for ice skating, first time I've been on proper ice since student days at Solihull Ice Rink!

Bethany, turned 12 in July
Beth is now in year 8 at high school meaning we'll be choosing her first options early in the new year. Although a big change in Autumn 2011 she has adjusted well to high school and is enjoying all aspects of school life including things like young designers club, hockey and cupcake club (we all enjoy the take homes from that one!)

Beth also does guides and scouts taking part in the same summer camps and in May was a member of the winning team in the under 13 Tohunga competition. This is a North Yorkshire Scouts 2day expedition competition where teams of young people have to be self sufficient for two days including an overnight camp in a remote area of The Yorkshire Dales.

Ryan, turned 14 in July
Now in year 10 work is really stepping up. He took 2 GCSEs at the end of year 9 and got an A in Geography and a C in Spanish. We were very pleased given that is 2 years early on traditional timing. This year he will be taking GCSE maths and PE before the bulk of them at the end of year 11. Given his sporting ability he loves both the scientific and physical side of PE; left his Dad behind in running about 18 months ago.

The other big thing in Ryan's life continues to be swimming. He now swims in Harrogate's regional squad training 7 times a week, including four 5am starts. His self discipline is excellent as he manages his time to swim, do all his homework and fit in a bit of scouting. In a recent national event in Bath he was chuffed to be swimming one heat away from Michael Jamieson (200m breaststroke silver at London 2012) in the 200m breaststroke.

Scouting is not as active as the girls, but just due to lack of time but at the Kielder camp he and other older scouts managed a 2 day remote expedition including wild camping (bivvy) which combined both sailing and hiking. He'll be finishing scouts this Christmas and starts Explorer Scouts in the New Year.

Ryan's other big news, in June, whilst still 13, he grew taller than me (Mike), tallest in the family now! Then a week later he managed to break his arm, on my birthday and the day the Olympic torch came through Harrogate, meaning road closures around the hospital, we beat the torch though!

Karen, you don't ask a lady that! 
The past year have seen significant changes for Karen. She is still a pharmacist working for Lloyds but.... January 13th 2012 it was announced that two stores in Harrogate were 'merging' meaning all staff were at risk, even though her store wasn't closing. On a last in first out basis Karen was affected so being without job was redeployed to cover gaps working 2 days/week in different stores in York and 1 day a week in Skipton. This persisted for a couple of months until she was offered full time pharmacy manager of a store in York.

The daily commute to work was a big impact on family life anyway, but added to that Lloyds inability to properly resource the store this has lead to many regular (unpaid) late nights. Probably fair to say a by product of the current economic climate that is obviously far from recovering.

At present Karen doesn't get much time for anything else; although when she gets opportunity she enjoys her swimming and reading. Unfortunately changes have meant she had to give up membership of the St. Paul's Reading Group.

Last year Karen managed adult education classes in beginners Spanish and improvers French. This year she is trying to continue with the Spanish.

Mike, 43 last time I counted back in June
The last two years have been quite busy for me work wise too. At the start of 2011 I was still working at Icon Electronics, a sub contract electronics manufacturer, as the Technical & Quality Manager, one of the 3 managers operationally running the business. Despite being in such a senior position I was becoming increasingly frustrated by being not included by our owner on business decisions, simply put my knowledge and experience was not being respected. Coupled with that I was missing design work having undertaken none since I left COE in 2005, with the only exception of the LED marshaling flags used in Formula 1.

I started looking around and was most fortunate to land a local position after about 6 months as a senior design engineer at Nidec SR Drives Ltd. SR Drives is a small design and development company born from research groups at Leeds & Nottingham Universities in the late 80s specialising in Switched Reluctance motors of all sizes. They are now owned by a Japanese Company, Nidec, who are one of the world's largest motor companies (you probably have many in your house). I've lead a variety of projects already which has included 2 trips to the USA and another coming up early in the new year (Nebraska January, brrr).

Scouting still occupies much of my time, I'm still Group Scout Leader of our local group. My main activity I participate in (other than the group management of the GSL role), is leading scouts hillwalking. I now hold the Terrain 1 permit, equivalent to the MLTA Walking Group Leader and have completed my training for the Terrain 2, now waiting assessment. This is similar to the full MLTA Mountain Leader Award, just without the remote camping. Ultimately I'd like to achieve the full Mountain Leader Qualification.

In terms of getting out there I've had many enjoyable walking days in The Yorkshire Dales leading scouts and training them on navigation and outdoor skills. I've also had a few good Lake District weekends where we stay in a Borrowdale Bothy next to Ashness Bridge.

I still keep up the amateur radio, and am controller of Nidderdale RAYNET still. We have 6 events a year we cover in addition to helping neighbouring groups. This year we had the added pleasure of providing communications for the Olympic Torch relay in remote parts of The Dales, and doubly nice as I was covering Aysgarth Falls. I like it when I can combine the love of radio and hillwalking. One event was providing communications for the UK Athletics British Hill & Fell Relay Champs in October 2011. Just wish I had more time for events like that.

Family Events
The main trip to note was down to London 2012, the Olympics. We applied for lots of tickets in the vein hope we'd get something, and we did, one event. The final show jump, run and shoot of the men's modern pentathlon at Greenwich Park. It was worth it as we made a long weekend of it and did some of the big screen experiences in central London. I take my hat off to London 2012, it was fantastic. In particular I pay tribute to the volunteers and our forces who provided so much of the man power with massive smiles. If you're one of them reading this, thank you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Hello Everyone,

Below you'll find the 2010 news for each of us in the family. In addition other highlights included our family holiday which was split into two parts. First we had a week staying in a friend's caravan at Bassenthwaite in the Northern Lakes where we greatly enjoyed the countryside and we had a few good mountain days (see my Every Trail trips). We then had a week staying at Mike's Mum's near Southampton which included a trip to London for a tour around The Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

Finally we'd like to wish you all the best for 2011.

Bethany's Chalk Drawing on her Christmas Card she bought home from school

Holly's Year 2010

Holly has had a very hectic but fun filled year that has been dominated by the Centenary Year of Guiding. Centenary events she's taken part in have included a Pack Trip to London (including knocking the door of number 10), The National Centenary Camp at Harwood House and the Vision event where at 20:10 on 20/10 in 2010 Guides throughout the world renewed their promise, the North Yorkshire event was at Newby Hall.

Holly (left) and another Brownie from her pack, they got there before David Cameron!
In addition to her Brownie life Holly is also a cub with the 16th Harrogate, and has got up to all the same activities as Bethany there. She also keeps up with her dance and appeared in the show but isn't quite as keen as Beth.

Holly is now in her second year of Junior School and is progressing well.

Bethany's Year 2010

Beth has also taken part in all the Centenary Guiding activities alongside Holly initially as a Brownie. Her extra bit is that at Fusion (centenary camp at Harwood House) she took her Guide promise and moved sections to Guides.

Both girls have also been active cub members. Events this year have included camping at Kielder Water with many water and land based activities, local weekend camps including bivvying out and a train 'sleepover' where a train full of cubs spent the night going end to end on The East Lancashire Steam Railway. Her cub career has just come to an end with a Christmas show as from January she'll be a scout.

Bethany Crate Stacking at the cub's Walesby Camp in September

Bethany's main sport is dancing with her still pursuing ballet, tap and modern jazz. Her dance school put on a show on 14th Feb in Harrogate's Royal Hall called Love to Dance. She managed to appear in 4 different costumes.

Now in her last year at primary school we anticipate that Bethany will be going to the same high school as Ryan. She has just finished the autumn term being the Charity Collector in A Christmas Carol. In November she took part in the school year 6 'outward bound' style trip to a place called Water Park on the banks of Lake Coniston where she had a go at sailing, canoeing, ghyll scrambling, orienteering and fell walking.

Ryan's Year 2010

Ryan's first love is swimming, no matter what else is happening very little prevents him from getting to his 6 training sessions a week, including the 3 that start around 5am! Problem is he still likes mum or dad to drive him there! He's a member of Harrogate District Swimming Club and is swimming for himself and the club at several galas a year around the region with the odd club trip away to places like Hereford for competitions.

Between swimming sessions Ryan manages to fit in school. He's now in his second year (Year 8) at Rossett High School and is loving the 'more grown up' school life. Despite all the miles in the pool his school work is progressing well with a definite bias towards maths and science, no surprise there. We were pleased that Rossett achieved an outstanding OFSTED inspection during July.

In the little bit of time left Ryan is an active member of the Scout Troop and in addition to the weekly meetings he's taken part in several camps, hikes and expedition challenges. The Scouts also had a week camp on the banks of Kielder Water when he got chance to sail, make rafts, kayak, hike, bivvy and mountain bike.

Ryan (right hand end) on the Summit of Buckden Pike with the scouts in July

Mike's Year 2010

Like much of the private sector, work over the past 12 months has been a case of keeping the business running. I continue as the Technical Manager at Icon Electronics with responsibility for the technical customer interface of the contract electronic manufacture business we run in addition to being the internal technical authority. In a recent round of redundancies my colleague was unfortunately affected which means that I've now taken on responsibility for the quality management system and health & safety. This means that my days are spent deciding who to disappoint with not having sufficient time to do it all.

Outside of work my Scouting career continues and I've now moved into 'uniform' having changed roles from group chairman to group scout leader (GSL) of the 16th Harrogate. As GSL is responsible for the delivery and leadership of the scouting programme in all 3 sections (beavers, cubs & scouts) which is a more hands on role to that of group chairman where I was responsible for the provision of meeting place and equipment to allow the leaders to deliver the programme. I'm enjoying the role and the work with the children immensely.

As part of my scouting development I've also trained for, been assessed and award my Terrain 1 Hill Walking Qualification which allows me to take a party of scouts on the hill up to 800m or 3 hours away from 'help'. The syllabus for this course is equivalent to the MLTA Walking Group Leader award I've now started to work towards my Terrain 2 award which is moving towards a full ML qualification which may become a long term goal. I've had quite a bit of opportunity to use this permit whilst hillwalking with the scouts including a mountaineering weekend in The Lakes at the end of November which included sleeping in a bothy alongside Ashness Bridge, a very enjoyable weekend.

My other interest continues to be radio but the only time I get to exercise my callsign is as group controller of Nidderdale RAYNET. We still provide radio communication for several local prestigious community events such as the Rotary Nidderdale Walk and the Knaresborough Bed Race. I also enjoy when I get to combine RAYNET and Hillwalking which this year I managed to do again by covering a remote checkpoint for the LDWA Blubberhouses Challenge.

Karen's Year 2010

In terms of work Karen continues to work 20hours a week as a community pharmacist at a local Lloyds Pharmacy Store. This equates to Tuesday, Friday and every other Saturday morning. The hours and location are extremely convenient for the vast variety of family activities that the kids undertake, much of the taxi-ing falling to Karen. That list again: swimming, brownies, guides, cubs, scouts, swimming, ballet, tap, modern, swimming, drama club, sewing club, oh and did I mention swimming?

Another project was that Karen finally got opportunity to put into practice some of her skills learnt on a garden design course to make a start on updating/tidying the back garden. This included a new patio area built by ourselves and planting new apple and cherry trees.

During the year we said farewell to Karen's very reliable but 15 year old VW Polo that finally became uneconomic to run. This has now been replaced by an '07 Renault Scenic (yes we've gone French!) but being diesel it drinks less fuel for all those taxi runs.