2009 Christmas Message from Graham and Jackie

And so we come to that traditional time to say once again – has another year really gone by?

Like last year, we didn’t really seem to have a summer at all in London this year. We had an extraordinary “once in 20 years” event when it snowed copiously overnight on 1st/2nd of February.  Pretty much everyone was forced to take a “snow day” (not an acknowledged concept in the UK).  And whereas last year we had snow as early as October, this year we didn’t see any until a few wet flurries in December.  Like much of the country we have had far too much rain though.  Climate Change, anyone?

After spending Christmas with Graham’s sister and family at their home in Milton Keynes we saw the New Year in at home in London, seeing the fireworks from the comfort of our roof.  Jackie visited her mother in Spain in early January.  While warmer than here, it was quite cool but it was fun to see the “Three Kings” parade on the evening of 5 January.

We both went back to Spain in July – a little earlier than usual this year.  We spent a fortnight in Benalmádena but, for a change, we had only one week at Jackie’s mother’s apartment because she took us to the Hotel Triton, right on the sea-front, for a week.  That gave her a proper holiday and we enjoyed being close to the sea without a long walk in the heat.  As the weather was good, we did little but enjoy it. 

Despite our best intentions, we only managed one day trip this year – Osterley Park in West London on a lovely early Spring Sunday in March.  It has expansive parkland and an imposing entrance with huge columns.  As the house was not used much after it was done up in the 18th century, the interiors remain pretty much as they were when first put together and so are impressive to walk through.

Jackie remains Technical Director of Institute of Internal Auditors – UK and Ireland.  There is a lot of change there as well as the difficulties of weathering a recession that is even more severe in Ireland than in the UK. 

In September, the members voted in favour of the Institute’s applying for a Royal Charter, which would amount to public recognition of the value of internal auditing to society as a whole.  The application is in and official notice was placed in the London Gazette, asking for petitions for and against.  The Privy Council will consider the application in February 2010.  Fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, she has a new boss.  After 26 years, Gail decided to strike out for pastures new.  Council appointed Dr Ian Peters in June and it has been interesting seeing the Institute and the international world of internal auditing through the eyes of someone completely new to it.

January 2009 saw the launch of new standards for internal auditors and Jackie has spent quite a lot of time spreading the word about what they are and what they say.  She’s been to Stratford, Manchester, Coventry, Exeter, York, Dublin, Belfast, Falkirk, Lincoln Inn Fields and Johannesburg.

The Dublin-Belfast trip included a trip on the train between the two cities, which was a new experience.  It was very comfortable but the only downside was that it was after dark so Jackie couldn’t see much through the windows. 

Johannesburg was for the International Conference of the Institute.  Jackie was there in total for two weeks.  Over a hundred people attended her presentation, including a number of her colleagues from the Internal Audit Standards Board.  It was pleasing when this most knowledgeable group said it was a good presentation.

After the conference and all the meetings were over, Jackie was able to join an Australian colleague and his partner to do some sightseeing.  They returned to the game reserve in the Pilanesberg national park and saw giraffes, rhino and a leopard on two game drives.  They also went to an area known as the Cradle of Humankind where ancient human remains have been found before visiting a Lion park to get up close and personal with lion cubs.

This year we saw six Covent Garden operas; Turandot. Der Fliegende Hollande (The Flying Dutchman), L’Elisir D'Amore,, La Traviata, Tosca, and Gianni Schicci/L'Heure Espagnole.

Taking them in order, we saw Turandot first.  Perhaps we’ve seen it too often, and perhaps with too good casts, because this performance was nothing special.  That’s quite a damning comment when such stars at Paata Burchuladze and Jose Cura are singing.

In March we saw The Flying Dutchman – a much better evening.  Leaving aside the fact that it is performed in one act (nearly two and a half hours!) is was hugely enjoyable.  But that is no surprise as Bryn Terfel always delivers!

In May we saw L’Elisir D'Amore reprise the 2007 production.  Whilst there were no big names, it was a hugely enjoyable well-sung romp.  June brought La Traviata.  Renee Fleming sung an excellent lead; but we thought that Thomas Hampson as her lover’s father actually stole the show.

Tosca returned (as in 2008 and 2006).  This time Bryn Terfel was back – hoorah!- and he was ably supported by Marcello Giordani who delivered some whopping top notes.

The last opera we saw this year was the double header of Gianni Schicci/L'Heure Espagnole by Puccini and Ravel respectively.  Again, we have seen this before, but this time Thomas Allen took the lead in the Puccini.  He was, of course, excellent.

Jackie managed to drag Graham along to one piece of Shakespeare this year – Hamlet.  The pretext was that it starred Doctor Who (David Tennant).  We salivated over the glowing review it received for the first few days only to have David pull out with a bad back just before we went.  Fortunately there was still Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) to provide some interest, but given that the “To be or not to be” speech was over in the first half we decided not to stick around for the second.

Unable to persuade Graham again, Jackie turned to her work colleagues, arranging two trips to the Globe Theatre in London over the summer. She loved the whole experience – the live music, the open-airedness, and the hard benches.  As You Like It was a new play for her with compelling performances from the older actors; Romeo and Juliet featured some stars of the future.

In August we went to the Jazz Café Pizza Soho to indulge in two of Graham’s biggest passions: John Williams and pizza !  Although we got the tickets very close to the performance date we were pleased to be sitting right at the front.  In fact, as we arrived, the sound check hadn’t even finished and John had to virtually climb over us to get back to the dressing room !  The concert was amazing and the serenity of the maestro was quite beguiling – effortless !

Less than a fortnight later we went to Sadler’s Wells for our one and only Flamenco fix this year.  It was a concert featuring that other great guitarist Paco Pena.  As we were milling around outside the auditorium Graham was sure that he had seen John Williams going in.  Sure enough, at the end of our row (in very plain clothes !) sat John Williams.  The really odd thing is that no one else seemed to have noticed him !

In October Graham went to see his childhood music hero Dean Friedman at the Bloomsbury Theatre.  It was rather odd that Dean chose to plug Lenny Henry’s current performance in Othello … but then it turned out that Lenny’s wife, Dawn French, was in attendance.  Graham almost bumped into her on the way out !

Other musical events included a concert by the a capella, beat box group from New York called Naturally 7 – they were brilliant, a concert performance of The Threepenny Opera, a wonderful performance by the African singing group Ladysmith Black Mombasa – in the refurbished Cadogan Hall (go to the website: it’s great) – and a bizarre dance/performance art thingy starring some Shaolin Monks and boxes that they move around the stage (no, really !)

Jackie also went to see Dreamboats and Petticoats – a musical that is an excuse to sing – and sing along to – hits of the early 1960s – when she joined friends for a hen night.

In our only other non-musical theatre trip this year we went to the Old Vic to see Complicit directed by Kevin Spacey and starring Richard Dreyfuss and David (Poirot) Suchet.  Whilst it was interesting in that they had converted the theatre to be in the round, it was otherwise a little dull.  Dreyfuss was good, but Suchet was brilliant.  Even so, we made our way home at the interval.

We have been a little more sociable this year: opening the year with a dinner party; and hosting Nathalie and Jenny from France.  Jackie’s nephew, Chris, came to stay with his new wife, Claire.  We went to Cambridge for Liz and Richard’s wedding anniversary held in Richard’s college of Fitzwilliam.  Then we were on our way to visit Hayley and Ian in Aberdeen but Graham’s cold did not survive being dragged around Stirling Castle in the rain and we had to abort.  (The castle was great, though. J)

Jackie was elected in March to be the President of the Roll Committee of Newnham College. The Roll is the register of alumnae and Jackie takes over at a time when both College and the committee want to do more to develop alumnae relations.  As well as visiting College for the two committee meetings this year, Jackie also went up twice in term-time to have lunch with the senior members to try to find out what the alumnae can do for the academics. 

In addition, the Roll Committee and College’s Development Office organised a new type of event, a Family Day, in September. It had a Victorian theme and Jackie spent a happy afternoon looking after the Newnham teddy bear while children of all ages tried to guess its name.

Back in London, College launched the Changing Lives fund-raising campaign with an event at the House of Lords.  There was also an event for London alumnae, at the London Review of Books bookshop with Prof. Mary Beard speaking. It was a good opportunity to meet up again with old friends.

Jackie is trying to keep up-to-date with technology, having both Skype and a Linked-in profile as well as using Web-Ex internet conferencing at work.  For 2010 the aim is to use them all to greater effect, so, if you have any tips, …

And, finally … this was the year that Graham upgraded us to a 50” TV screen – and even Jackie has to admit that the HD home cinema experience is pretty spectacular as a result.

Merry Christmas & Best Wishes for the New Year
Peace and Long Life

GrahamWoodhouse@btopenworld.com    JackiePCain@btopenworld.com