Christmas Newsletter for 2000

from Colin and Elizabeth Hicks

Each year we send out a Christmas Newsletter to family and friends.
The text below is a slightly edited version of our Christmas 2000 Newsletter.

Colin & Elizabeth

Colin, Elizabeth and Jasper in November 2000
Colin, Elizabeth
and Jasper
in November 2000

Jasper in November 2000
Jasper in November 2000

In May, Colin and Elizabeth spent most of a week on holiday in Avignon. (Holidays in France help Colin with learning the language - a smattering of French is a real advantage for his new job if only because he travels in France and Belgium so much).

In August, we rented a converted barn in the Dordogne (southern France) and spent a week there all together (Colin, Elizabeth, Rachel, Richard, Jasper, Joanna, and James). While there, we visited the Lascaux II caves which Colin had been wanting to visit ever since we missed seeing them when last in the Dordogne over 30 years ago. During that visit, Jasper was terrified by a moving, roaring full-scale reproduction of a woolly mammoth. Jasper knows he can’t speak French but Joanna taught him to say “vache” every time he saw a cow.

In October, Colin and Elizabeth combined holiday and work with a trip to America where Colin attended an International Space Symposium in Washington and visited various NASA sites. Elizabeth spent a few days with friends in Portsmouth, Virginia. It was quite something to stay with a real American family. While there she visited Jamestown and Williamsburg - both historic towns from the colonial era. She then joined Colin in Washington where we met up with Matthew and Lisa McInnis (Joanna was in Rostock with Matthew ten years ago).

Some of Colin's unusual experiences in his new "space" job are described below. For Elizabeth, life has been comparatively mundane. She has continued working part-time at Chase Bridge School (and doing some private tuition) while helping look after Jasper when Rachel and Richard are both at work.



Christmas star


spinning world

All in a Day's (Space) Work

Colin has settled into his post as Director General of the British National Space Centre (BNSC) where he has been for just over a year.

In March, Colin went to the European Space Port in French Guyana where he saw a night launch of an Ariane 5 rocket. Then in July, he went with a European Space Agency delegation via Moscow to the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Khazakhstan. There he saw the day-time launch of the Russian module of the International Space Station.

Major launches are unforgettable experiences because the ground shakes - even from a safe observing distance of more than 5 kilometres - as the rocket powers its way into the sky. The night-time launch had the added spectacle because the whole sky lit up for several minutes after the rocket went behind the clouds.

While in Moscow, Colin toured a number of space facilities and in one place was able to try out the cosmonaut experience by getting into a Russian Soyuz module which had actually flown (see photo on No 10 web site!). This was an uncomfortable and cramped experience even for a brief 5 minutes.

Colin featured as “civil servant of the month” for August 2000 on the No 10 web site - a choice unlikely to have been made by anyone who matters.

He has also appeared on BBC Breakfast TV News, being interviewed with Heinz Wolff (Colin was the one not wearing the spotted bow tie). This episode flushed out those whose daily routine allows them to watch tv at 8.45am on a Thursday morning (e.g. the Vicar of Teddington as we were leaving the annual service for Christian Unity - “Didn’t I see you on tv last week?”).


Click to see

Colin and Elizabeth's

eChristmas Card

to You!



Teddington Baptist Church

We remain as deeply involved in the life of Teddington Baptist Church as ever, although Elizabeth thinks Colin should follow our Minister’s recent example and take a sabbatical! We also continue to have a string of overseas guests for a few days each month as they visit Tearfund.



Richard, Rachel & Jasper

Richard and Rachel in August 1998
Richard and Rachel

Rachel continues teaching English as a foreign language to students in Southall also combining this with some private tuition. Richard is now based in Lambeth having moved there at the end of August after ten years in Brentford.

Richard, Rachel and Jasper moved from their Hampton Wick flat to a house in nearby East Molesey in May 2000. The house has four bedrooms and a secluded back garden so is a lot better for Jasper than the flat. The sale and purchase took over nine months so they were fortunate that the purchase price held through a period of rapid price rises for London houses.

Jasper is a lively and articulate three year old) still in love with trains - especially Thomas the Tank Engine. He loves going for swimming lessons with his Mum having built up his confidence in August by daily use of the private swimming pool in the grounds of the Dordogne “barn”. He started at a local play group in September.



Joanna and James

Joanna and James in August 1998
Joanna and James

Stable under Easter Sky
Clipper Cards

Joanna and James are due to have a baby in January 2001, so we enter the Christmas season full of anticipation. Naturally Colin intends announcing the new arrival on the web with the minimum of delay. See our Grandparent page for further details!

Joanna started maternity leave from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport early in December 2000. Her last post was with the Youth Justice Board - a Home Office agency - where she has been on secondment for the last year. Her teeth (damaged in a bicycle accident in 1999) are still awaiting final repair.

James continues to work at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (University of London). He and Joanna managed to visit America together when James delivered a paper to a conference in California. Sadly, James has had his pipe organ relegated from the second bedroom to the garden shed to make room in the house for the imminent new arrival.




Rest of the Family

Heather, Andrew (Elizabeth's brother), and Dad are all fine doing much as they were last year. Heather is still working for Healthlink Worldwide - a charity which seeks to improve the health of poor and vulnerable communities around the world. On Colin’s side of the family, his grandmother is now 98 and as mentally sharp as ever.


e-mail addresses
e-mail to Colin and Elizabeth:

Colin’s web sites:
Colin’s office e-mail:
Colin’s office web site:

e-mail to James:
The Clipper Cards web site is at: