Francis's Christmas Newsletter 2016



Welcome to Francisís tenth electronic Christmas Newsletter. As usual, I donít buy cards, but make a charity donation. Some of my friends and relations (mainly any who are still off line) will get paper copies of this.  

Sagres harbour
Sagres harbour

Globetrot 1: Portugal

In April Sam and Lizz invited us to spend a week with them in a holiday home in the Algarve. Finding the hire car at the airport proved a challenge, but we found the house, only to discover unwashed bedding all over the place. Problem sorted by some phone calls, but later on in the week some gruff workmen appeared to turn off our water supply; some bill hadn't been paid. Once again, a phone call sorted the matter, but these things take the shine off an otherwise pleasant holiday.

Amongst various excursions we opted for a whale watching trip from the nearby port of Sagres. We were seated on a very bumpy speed boat for two hours, and had some good views of the Algarve coast. But unfortunately no whales. Never mind, we had good weather, and good local seafood.

Dual of rhomibicuboctahedron

Golden Wedding

In July Judith and I celebrated fifty years of mutual tolerance. We decided not to hold a party, but to treat ourselves to a trip to Amsterdam, in an up-market hotel, and with first class travel. It didn't work out quite like that, as to start with the hotel gave us a room with music pollution, and the Eurostar was wanting Alice-in-Wonderland ticket prices. But we had a good time; the highlight, as you would guess, was a visit to the recently reopened Rijksmuseum

In a cafe near the station I noticed some unusual lampshades. Mathematicians may like to puzzle out the description of this polyhedron; others may prefer to read it in the postscript below.

Bruce Randall's Quire
Bruce Randall's Quire

Globetrot 2: USA

In Late July and early August I attended the US Go Congress in Boston MA. First my friends Kate and Marvin Wolfthal in Weston MA hosted me for a much needed post jetlag recvery period, and then off to Boston State University. The tournament was, as usual in the USA, well organised, but I could have done with better accommodation. The air conditioning in the student hall consisted of a noisy fan. And it was a bit of a schlepp having to walk back half a mile there for dinner. Boston is my favourite US city, but the schedule kept me so busy that I had no time for sightseeing. But it did leave time for an evening West Gallery workshop with Boston's West Gallery Quire, led by my friend Bruce Randall.

Long train
Long train

On the final Sunday my friend Karen Gold insisted that I rise at 4.00 pm to catch a flight to Monterey CA, whence her husband Avner drove us to their well-appointed home in Carmel, for a few day's visit. At the time a wildfire was raging a few miles away; you could see the smoke. I was taken to a local neighbourhood party. The first thing anyone said to me was, "What do you think about Brexit?" I told them that I took an unfavourable view of the holding of the referendum, the result, and HM Government's decision to respect it. Most people agreed. And it was hard to find a Trump supporter. Later in the week I had the chance to visit the Monterey Go Club, which meets in a noisy cafť.

Thence by train to San Diego. One gets so used to travelling by train from place to place in Britain in a few hours that it was a bit of a shock to the system to find that this was going to take fourteen hours, with a change at LA. And still in California! At one point I looked out at the hilly scenery and saw another train a hundred yards away, going in the opposite direction. No it wasn't, it was our one, going round a loop.

San Diego
San Diego

At a station near San Diego I was met by my British friend Paul Margetts, at an unearthly hour in the morning, who drove me to his palatial residence. (Apparently they're all like that around there.) My go playing friends will remember him as the leader of the now defunct Epsom Go Club. His firm moved him there a year or so ago. He and his family seem to have settled in well to US life.

Paul arranged a go meet in his house on the Sunday afternoon, when various go players crawled out of the woodwork to meet this wandering Brit. Once again, the enquiries about Brexit, and sympathy all round. I had expected to have to explore San Diego by myself, but but Paul kindly took two days of leave to show me around. And leave is in short supply in the USA. I was a little taken aback when I had a mobile phone text welcoming me to Mexico. San Diego is near the Mexican border, where the next US President intends to build a wall. The city is something of a naval centre, and highlight of the trip was a visit to a laid-up aircraft carrier. It's vast, but the poor ratings had precious little space to themselves. Then home, and into jet-lag recovery phase. then
London Gallery Quire then

West Gallery music

London Gallery Quire continues to flourish. Our latest recruit is a soprano singer who is totally blind. I send her MIDI files of all the music, and Word files of the texts. She learns the music by heart, and has a gismo which simultaneously translates the texts into Braille, which she reads with her fingertips as she sings. A most welcome addition to the quire.

One of our members had the idea of trying to imitate with our members the appearance of Thomas Hebden's famous picture "The Village Choir", which is reproduced alongside as "London Gallery Quire then". Our attempt to mimic the picture appears as "London Gallery Quire now". Our picture was taken at our regular rehearsal church, St James Garlickhythe, in the City of London. I don't know how successful you think this was. You can see better images on our website here.

London Gallery Quire now
London Gallery Quire now

The quire's CD, "Your Voices Raise", of which we had 500 copies made, sold out this year. We are now getting up steam to record another one. We have been warned that even CDs are going out of favour nowadays, as younger people use digital files downloaded. This may not be so much of a problem for us, as our audiences, regrettably, do not usually contain many younger people. Watch this space; with luck I'll be announcing the details of the new CD this time next year.

Skye landscape
Skye landscape


I continue to play go regularly, two or three times per week. But increasing years are limiting my attendance at tournaments, especially the one-day ones where you spend as much time travelling as playing.

My visit to the USA is described above. The other highlight was the Skye tournament in March; a tournament amid attractive scenery is my ideal. My friend Sue drove me on a trip to the Talisker whisky distillery. I was faintly unimpressed to find that malt and yeast are imported, and that barrelling and bottling take place on the mainland. The only local ingredient is the water.

It appears that next year for the first time in decades I shall attend neither the European nor the US Go Congress. The revived Isle of Man Go Festival clashes with both, and no way will I miss a trip to my second favourite place in the British Isles. First is London, where I live.

Edward and Amy
Edward and Amy


Judith continues her post-doctoral research into the Quaker language usage in the later 17th Century. Her latest project is the language of minute-writing, for which she needed a corpus of non-Quaker minutes from the same period for comparison. The archives of the Royal Society provided the necessary. Apparently their administrative minutes, (not the scientific ones,) had never previously been studied.

Our son Sam after many years running his small businesses has decided that the time has come for a weekly wage, and is drawing one from Google, of all people, advising other small business people how best to use the internet.

And Edward, who is to have been our last cat, has passed through the great cat-flap in the sky to join the spirit of his mother, Amy.


I wish a joyful Christmas and New Year to all my friends and relations.

Postscript: The lampshade's shape is that of a deltoidal icositetrahedron, which is the dual of the rhombicuboctahedron, one of the fifteen Archimedean semi-regular polyhedra.