Celebrating Christmas with the family at the end of 1992

A good year for us but a bad year ("Annus Horribilis") of agony and hardship for everybody else as house prices dipped by 7% and employment rose to three million or 10% of the workforce, the UK government being forced into a humiliating devaluation. Weather-wise, famine, droughts, floods and other natural disasters constantly hit the headlines and we had the coldest October for a decade.

Our Paxton Princess was having a well-earned refit after our construction its new Harnser boathouse dominated the year. Della’s sound recovery from her big accident the November before was a blessing and she was doing well at school. Debbie did equally well at school and had managed to bear her dental brace whilst Daniel completed his second year at U.E.A. and started his third and last and his courtship with Angela was going well.

Di was mostly fine, but kept getting coughs and colds that went to her chest, whilst Mum took a while to recover from her potentially serious accident in August and Diana's Mother, Norma, also had a very debilitating bronchial infection throughout the summer. We stayed at "The Swan" in Horning and "The Grand Hotel", Brighton, in March; we went Broadland boating in icy April and stayed on the boat in Horning in May.

There were better weekend trips in July between building weeks and then we treated ourselves to a London weekend with a fascinating tour of The Tower Pageant and musical "Joseph" at The London Palladium in October. There were other day trips, two fireworks displays, three carol services, three theatre outings and countless cinema trips which all meant that we made good use of the year.

Despite the worries and ills of others, 1992 was quite good for us. I had that nose operation in February and, after Della's accident had given me cause for thought and I decided to plan a new life and change of direction in 1992 to finish my council work in April and ensure election of colleagues upon retirement in May, which went well. Elsewhere, elements of former Yugoslavia continued to tear themselves apart; India erupted in religious conflict with over 400 people dying.

Rival factions lost their way on the path to peace in South Africa with mass killings and then the Danes dealt a body blow to the E.E.C. by their June referendum that rejected further European integration. Amongst the isolated news of enlightenment came two wide-ranging nuclear arms reduction treaties between the new Russian President Boris Yeltzin and outgoing US President Bush, the latter giving way to Democrat Senator Bill Clinton at the end of the year.

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There are few people in Britain, and possibly throughout the world, that would disagree that 1992 had been a year of agony and hardship and one that most of us would like to forget very quickly. At home the recession deepened, house prices fell by 7% and unemployment rose still further from its already high level at the beginning of the year to engulf around three million people or 10% of the workforce by the end of it. This has been the major source of most people's agony in this country with property repossessions becoming commonplace. The government persuaded the country that they should carry on in April but then struggled all year with entirely the wrong policies on economic matters until it was forced into a humiliating devaluation in September. The Chancellor lowered his credibility by failing to pay his conference hotel and credit card bills and then accepting public funds for his private property affairs. Even then he refused to resign!

Weather-wise, famine, droughts, floods and other natural disasters constantly hit the headlines. We had our own minor earthquake of 3.1 on the Richter Scale sensed at The Hayling View and centred in Peterborough in February as the dark, cold and depressing winter came to an end. It was a dreadful year for weather, as was confirmed during an icy boating trip in April. It was a very wet summer (thankfully holding out until after our Harnser roof was on) and then hailstones were killing seagulls in September before an equally wet autumn took over. We then had the coldest October for a decade before the rains and floods came in November! December was icy cold again with frosts lasting days on end but no snow to brighten the gloom. Inside The Hayling View Conservatory, however, we had our first ever bananas ripening ready to be eaten in June.

We had The Paxton Princess out of the water for a winter refit and, apart from anti-fouling the hull, work was done to the props, davits and fridge to make her ready for the season. It was the work on its new Harnser boathouse that occupied most of the year. Planning permission came through in February, detailed plans were ready in March and then the piling, river-work, dredging, and excavation were completed in April. The full building consent followed in May just before the timber was delivered by barge and the bearers and joists were laid and fixed to make the building platform. Studwork was started in June and the roof frame formed in July, the roof being felted and then tiled in August just in time to avoid further deluges of rain and allow the dry lining to be started.

It was insulated, plumbed, wired and glazed in September, then fitting out in October/November, decorating and furnishing being completed for occupation in December when The Paxton Princess was at last put in place before the winter frosts. By taking the project in hand, the whole exercise cost £60,000 compared with the architects estimate of £100,000 for him to supervise it! We had the final building regulation consents in December and could say that the building was finished but a series of break-ins in the dyke highlighted the need to complete the burglar alarm and security measures.

This summary reads as if I had spent the entire year building, but 1992 started for me with a nose injury and breathing difficulties and I then underwent a nose operation in February that was straightforward medically but rather a nasty experience. This was successful and solved my breathing difficulties and put me back in good health, my weight being down to 13st 8lbs at the end of January. Even so I had to buy new glasses in June as my eyes aged with my body and I ended the year with knees literally creaking from working in Norfolk and walking in the Scottish Highlands. Then I ended the year with weight up at over 14 stone after resuming my old habits.

My operation and Della's accident had given me cause for thought and I decided to plan a new life and change of direction in 1992 to finish my council work in April and ensure election of colleagues upon retirement in May. I achieved this with the best-ever results locally for the Liberal Democrats. Not only were they in control of St Neots Town Council but had eight Huntingdonshire District Council members, now forming the official opposition to the ruling Tories. The first benefit of the extra time was a sporting visit to Thormaid in May/June with Nigel to catch my first brown trout on my "Loch of the Little White Stones" and to spy out the land. We then organised a return visit in October for a week and I caught the last and largest trout of the season as Nigel shot grouse and snipe.

I had obtained a shotgun license and bought my first shotgun and so we combined after dark to shoot hares and then enjoyed some wild fowling on "Loch Saorach" with me shooting my first Duck and Goose and Nigel getting a bagful. The climax was three days stalking stags which were plentiful so that we got two red deer stags each at "South Strathy", with Nigel getting a sika as a bonus. Once back, I started taking shooting lessons at Thetford to be a better shot in the future and applied for a Firearms Certificate so as to have my own stalking rifle for next year. I also selected, bought, and started training a young German Shorthaired Pointer/Retriever dog puppy ‘Norfolk Wigeon’ or “Sam” at the end of the year which I hoped will help me find the game as the Broubster forest grows and game numbers decline.

Back home I had no time for my Reliant, but my Rolls Royce and Range Rover passed their MOT's. The Range Rover later broke down twice and had its first puncture and the days were numbered for each of these vehicles. A quieter year for the use of our boat. The Harnser was designed to accommodate the boat and provide facilities for the family and, despite my absence for much of the year building it, we had a number of family holiday trips. We stayed at "The Swan" in Horning and "The Grand Hotel", Brighton, in March; we went Broadland boating in icy April and stayed on the boat in Horning in May. There were better weekend trips in July between building weeks and then we treated ourselves to a London weekend with a fascinating tour of The Tower Pageant and musical "Joseph" at The London Palladium in October. There were other day trips, two fireworks displays, three carol services, three theatre outings and countless cinema trips which all meant that we made good use of the year. Despite the worries and ills of others, 1992 was quite good for us.

I could not organise my own year, however, until Daniella had recovered from her road accident that ended last year on such a traumatic note. By the start of 1992, Daniella had recovered sufficiently to shed wheelchair and crutches within a month and was back to school in February as I sorted the school route bus out to be much safer. She was running and jumping in school P.E. in March and had an active "bouncy-castle" birthday party in early summer. Her schoolwork had not suffered during the lay-off and she was in the top five for all subjects by October. By the end of the year, all she had to show for her accident was just the remaining one-centimetre leg shortening from the poor traction, which was to grow even later. Debbie did equally well at school but had to go into her tooth brace in February though she was out of it again by the end of the year. Daniel completed his second year at U.E.A. and started his third and last. His courtship continued seriously, and he went to Rouen with Angela in September to settle her into her French education year.

Diana was fine for most of the time, but she kept getting coughs and colds that went to her chest, suffered greatly at times of the month and with headaches at other times and her slimming was successful only by fits and starts. Our affections have improved this year, probably by my absences making both of our hearts fonder, and she had become a bit more adventurous in her old age. My Mum had a potentially serious accident in August trapping her leg and re-opening our fears about her ability to cope on her own. More worries still as she had a bust-up whilst being looked after by Freda in September but, as the old survivor, she was safely back in Stanton in September relying on herself and friends to keep going. Diana's Mother, Norma, also had a very debilitating bronchial infection throughout the summer and only saw a doctor at our insistence to discover the allergy.

At home, IRA bombs disrupted our cities and railways all year as usual, Even the Her Majesty the Queen called 1992 "Annus Horribilis", having seen the second and third of her three children’s' marriages break up including that of the heir to the throne, Prince Charles and Lady Diana. The tabloid press had been baying for blue blood all year and then won their prize by their use of illicit photographs and tape recordings coming to a head in August. The Queen was on the defensive and agreed to be liable to income tax in November when she also agreed reductions to members of the Royal Family being supported by The Official List in a vein attempt to get her children out of the media spotlight. The Church of England Synod voted to admit women priests to the clergy in a momentous decision, although many traditionalists likened this to the end of the world!

Elsewhere, elements of former Yugoslavia continued to tear themselves apart; India erupted in religious conflict with over 400 people dying; rival factions lost their way on the path to peace in South Africa with mass killings and then the Danes dealt a body blow to the E.E.C. by their June referendum that rejected further European integration. George Bush's Republican Party made the mistake of copying the election techniques of the British Conservative party not realising the fluky nature of their election victory and Bush had also made Gorbachev's mistake of concentrating on foreign affairs to the exclusion of fixing the domestic economy. John Major's EEC Presidency was taking a back seat to his domestic political problems as the Danes decision had strengthened the arm of anti-Europe critics in his own party. It came close to disaster with an end-of-year summit, but things were patched up or papered over in the end. So much for the problems of the outside world,