Christmas 2016

Doesn’t time fly when you are enjoying yourself? Actually, I find that these days time flies by regardless of any degree of enjoyment! Is it that time of year already?

2016 has treated us tolerably well – a goodly number of highlights as well as, unfortunately, a very sad lowlight marked our progression through the calendar this time round. We’ve been away a few times, we had an exciting new addition to the family but also had to say good-bye to another.

We’ve been in our lovely home in Moreton Pinkney for just over a year now and we continue to enjoy nearly every minute. We love the house and we love the village – everyone is very friendly which only means that they haven’t met Greg in Grinch mode so far.

In April we set off on an American adventure – we visited Greg’s mother and family in New England and then made our way south for a wonderful driving tour – Atlanta, Memphis, Natchez and New Orleans, all of which were distinctly different, fascinating and memorable. Lots of high spots and, you will be surprised to learn, lots and lots of really good food – Southern BBQ, fried green tomatoes, gumbo, collard greens, etc. No wonder southerners are so huge!

We flew back to Boston from Atlanta to spend another week or so with Greg’s mother when we received a message from our Ben informing us that Donna was desperately unwell. We immediately flew out to Los Angeles to find Donna in a coma suffering from a sudden assault of acute myeloid leukaemia with bleeding in the brain. Tragically, she died two days later having never recovered consciousness, a staggeringly sudden and devastating blow. Donna was a very, very smart and lovely young woman, certainly one of the sharpest knives in the drawer with a wonderfully witty sense of humour. Ben is bereft and we all miss her terribly.

We stayed out in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks to try and help Ben through that terribly dark period and then flew back to the UK at the end of May. We arrived home to a garden which had gone pleasantly mad in our absence, especially the wisteria and “Forget Me Nots”. This was, of course, the first spring we’ve spent at Framington House and it was a joy to see what presented itself in the garden for our pleasure and enjoyment.


And, talk about highs and lows, a day after our homecoming, we had an e-mail from Adam in China with the splendid news that our second granddaughter had arrived, born earlier that day in Liuzhou, on Pen’s birthday. That will make it really easy for me to forget not just one birthday on 28 May, but two! Naturally, the proud grandparents are delighted.

Jessica’s safe arrival in the world meant that we had to drag ourselves all the way to the People’s Republic again, this time for her 100 Day Birthday celebration at the beginning of September, quite a big thing in China. If, in days gone by, your infant survived 100 days they would be likely to survive their infancy so off we went to join in the festivities.

Our visits to China have always been wonderful and this trip was no exception. We partied at Jessica’s celebration and partied pretty much the rest of the time as well. Amongst the highlights: cycling through the rice paddies and through the chaotically exciting Yangshuo traffic, wild-swimming in the Lijiang River, riding a scooter through torrential downpours amongst the karst limestone peaks, playing Texas Hold ‘em with a crowd of card sharks at Adam’s bar, not to mention the usual abysmal performance of “There Stands the Glass” on Open Mic Night. Fortunately, there’s no video this time round!

Nick, Lucy and Annabelle have been in their new home in Whitnash coming up to a year now and it seems to suit them well. Annabelle is now five and thoroughly enjoying proper school. Apparently, school is “awesome!” according to Bubble – long may it last. Lucy is still ensuring we have enough oil in the UK to keep our cars on the road and our homes warm in the winter’s gloom and Nick is still doing lots of great digital stuff for a variety of enterprises.

This is usually the point when I update you on the proportion of time the various dogs have spent sleeping and/or eating during the year. Alas, this year there is no update. We finally had to let our Molly go to a better place in late January and so we are without canine companions for the first time in more than 40 years. She had been steadily declining for some time and Pen and I finally had to take the difficult and painful decision that her quality of life was no longer tolerable. Even though we knew the day had come, it was still very, very difficult to take the decision to let her go. Back in the day we purchased her great-grandmother Polly as a 7 week old from our then neighbours for £20 and the use of our lawnmower. Four generations of the kindest and most loving companionship later, we think we got a pretty good deal.

And so we stumble towards 2017 in tolerably good form and moderately good spirits in spite of all that 2016 has thrown at us. We’ll keep you all in our hearts and thoughts and wish you all the very, very best for 2017. There’s always an open door at Framington House and, although you’re no longer guaranteed a cold nose in the crotch, you can still expect the warmest of welcomes when you visit.

Much love to you all.

Penny & Greg