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.