The Old Manse, 
10 Dec '03
Dear All
Well, Christmas is coming and the goose is getting worried.  So I thought a few words would be in order, well in lines anyway.
 It's been a year now, since the Australia trip, and it's going to be another one before the jaunt to Egypt. I feel the need for some sun.  Sadly the wonderful summer (and a pretty good autumn) are over, (although technically the winter doesn't start until the 22nd Dec,) and we have the delights of the minus 5 mornings.  
Speaking of which, the garage is finally getting started.  I have the concrete base down and the first delivery of the side panels is here.  Once I had worked out which end was up, the sides seemed fairly simple to assemble.  So far so good.  Now for the tricky bit, how do you build a 5-metre wall of 7 foot* concrete panels without it falling over before you get the other sides up?  With gales forecast.
The other bit I'm not too sure about yet is the roof.  It has to span 5 metres and will have a 5-metre length, so I need to get it right first time.  For the technically minded, the current plan calls for a steel angle-iron frame and plastic coated steel sheeting (still called wriggly tin by the people who used to use corrugated iron) with polycarbonate skylights.
Not as decorative as palm leaves but it should last longer.
Other news, well most of you will have heard that John, Fiona's father, died recently.  At 82 he had a reasonable innings and, as far as we can tell, hardly suffered at all.  Lilias is doing well and is coming up to Scotland for a few weeks after our visit to Dingle Road.  She will be visiting us, and her other two daughters, Diana and Helen, over Christmas.
Projects in hand are being hampered by the short cold days at present, though a new one has begun, an emergency generator for the new Village Hall.  The idea being that if, or rather when, we get a major power cut - then there will be a place for the frail and elderly to go to keep warm. Since there might be a bar, there could be quite a turnout.
In our computing corner, I have developed a neat photo-album idea, a CD with the photos of all our holidays on it and a slideshow device to view them.  Just stick the disc in and it goes through a selected holiday picture by picture.  I enjoy it but I wouldn't inflict it on anybody else.  Like most good ideas, it could be a terrible weapon in the wrong hands.
When Fiona has finished packing, we shall be off south for a week, pausing at St Annes overnight and then Bristol to see Ben.  It always takes me less time to pack than it does Fiona, but then I just pack as many shirts, socks etc as there are days.  Fiona does all the other bits, which I would remember three or four days later.
The weather seems to be unsure of what to throw next, so perhaps a waterproof as well as the usual tee shirts.

*Note. I'm metricating in stages, In the last century I did weight, temperature, money and lengths.  Sometime this century I'll do height, volumes, petrol, and bits of wood. I intend to leave haggling (eg, I'll give you a pony for it and that's taking the bread from my children's mouths) and bartering (eg, make it a dozen and I'll throw in a couple of chickens) until later in the millennium.

29TH DEC continuing

We had an enjoyable, if fattening, break, visiting Lilias, Ben, and then Mum and Anne.  The weather was not great, but it was largely ignored.  On the way back we picked up Lilias and, after she had sampled the delights of Tarbrax, took her half way to Nethy Bridge to meet up with Helen and Derek for Christmas.  The work at the department was light until the holiday So I had no immediate excuse and found myself persuaded to play Santa for the ECG department on Christmas Eve.  I had to put up with nurses and technicians sitting on my knee, but there was food and drink to compensate, so it wasn't all bad.
Christmas day was not deep, crisp or even white, but dark and wet and quite warm at 12 degrees centigrade.  There had been a few inches of snow but it melted.  Apparently, while we were away, it snowed in Edinburgh.  I'm glad I missed that, when the ground gets frosty the whole city throws a wobbler and calls in sick, stuck or lost.  The fun bit is watching the townies trying to find what four wheel drive actually does on their enormous Japanese, all terrain, permanent all wheel drive, school run behemoths, (usually called Arctic Nomad, or Mountain Conqueror or something).  They are actually quite good, if rather short lived, vehicles, and can be bought cheaply, never having been off-road, unless you count the pavement, once the paint colour is no longer fashionable.  If there is anybody out there that doesn't know however, there is a trap awaiting the unwary. Acceleration traction is certainly improved, but braking is unchanged, since all cars have four wheel brakes.  And when snow driving gets really interesting, go, go, go is fun, but it's a lack of stopstopstop that you regret most.  
Fiona was working on Boxing Day and the Saturday and I was on call for the Hospital over the Christmas break (Thursday to Monday).  Since the Cardiac Lab broke down when I tried to use it (pure chance, honest) on Friday (Boxing Day) morning, there was less work to be done and I got a nice rest.  The weather being reasonable, I was able to build a bit more garage.  The panels are 7 foot tall and quite heavy, but each one extends the wall significantly.  Just working it out as I go along, I'm trying to leave the re-adjustment option open.  I just hope I don't find, on completion, that the whole thing should be half a metre to the west. 
Have a happy New Year.
Jim and Fiona.