Christmas 2017

An article in the Guardian recently revealed how the unrelenting rendition of Christmas musak has the capacity to cause real emotional harm. The emotional harm (in my case) results from the cruelty of its capacity to jolt me from my normally somnolent state to a realisation that Christmas is upon us and it’s time to start scribbling. It ought to be stopped!

It’s been another fine year. We’ve enjoyed a range of activities in our lovely village and further afield, we’ve had a few outings, numerous friends and family have come to visit, and we welcomed a new member of the family. Whew!

The most exciting news we have on offer this year is the November marriage of our Ben to Brex-Anna, a truly delightful Californian lass and a wonderful addition to our family. As if that weren’t enough, Pen and I got to attend the wedding in California AND we are expecting a new grandchild – our first grandson – in April.

In May we paid the first of our bi-annual visits to New England to spend some time with Greg’s mother who continues to do very well at the Finishing School at 92. On this visit we took the opportunity to disappear for a few days on a road trip to Maine, a part of the States neither of us had visited before. The weather was pretty lousy but the trip was a lot of fun and we had a great time visiting numerous spots and enjoying the marvellous scenery along the Maine coast when the fog lifted.

At the end of May we joined Nick, Lucy and Annabelle for a great few days in Cornwall – we went crab fishing in Looe as our boys had done when they were young, and we visited the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, both of which had long been on our “To Do” list.

At the end of September we headed off on an epic journey to the far east and down under. We spent a fabulous three weeks in China with Adam, Ava and the delightful Jessica. Jessie is at a really fun stage and jabbers convincingly in what sounds to us like perfectly acceptable Chinese. She carefully enunciates her consonants and uses such wonderful facial expressions that we thought she must be some kind of genius to have such well-developed language skills at 16 months. A shame therefore to have Adam disillusion us by revealing it was all complete gobbledygook . . . just Chinese gobbledygook!

Yangshuo was as wackily delightful as ever and we were joined for the first week by Ben and Brex-Anna. We stayed at our usual venue, the Outside Inn about 3 km up the canal path from Yangshuo, and cycled into town each day for adventures with Adam and Ava. Brex-Anna was a great travelling companion and thoroughly enjoyed the new sights and scenery we have grown to love. We were very pleased that she got to meet Adam and family since she had already met Nick, Lucy and Annabelle in the late spring.

After Ben and Brex-Anna left we took Adam, Ava and Jessica for a relaxing week in the holiday resort of Sanya on Hainan Island. The hotel was lovely (and luxurious) and Jessica was in her element in the swimming pool and the children’s play area to which she dragged us two or three times a day. The weather was great and it was a wonderfully restful week despite a brutal bout of Chinese Revenge for some of us.

After China, Pen flew off to Australia to meet up with her sister J from Toronto and visit a brother, sister and aunt while I flew back to the UK to watch the baseball. Pen visited Western Australia, Adelaide and Tasmania in the space of a fortnight and then flew to Los Angeles to help celebrate Ben and Brex-Anna’s wedding at the beginning of November! I flew into LA from the UK and we tackled our respective jetlag from opposite directions. The wedding was great fun and was held in the beautiful South Coast Botanical Gardens just as the sun set. By the time we flew home Pen had managed to travel 29,758 miles without getting lost or mislaid once!

We were back in the UK only a week before I disappeared again, this time back to New England to spend Thanksgiving with my mother, my two brothers and youngest sister as well as our Nick who also flew out. It was cold, cold, cold but everyone was in fine form.

In between the variety of visitors who came to stay, Penelope completely re-worked the vegetable garden and produced a bountiful harvest. She enjoyed great success at the annual Garden Club show and between us we secured a number of first prizes, including one for Greg’s now famous Award Winning Sourdough! She planted out the conservatory with tomatoes and aubergines which were so successful that one needed a hefty machete to make one’s way through.

Back in the UK everything is fine as long as we pretend the approaching calamity of Brexit might not happen! Annabelle is in Year 1 and continues to enjoy school immensely. She is reading up a storm and continues to bring home Headteacher Awards for good work and excellent behaviour (would we expect anything else?). More importantly, I guess, school continues to be “awesome” and she is still the busiest six year old we know – Rainbows, swimming, violin lessons, ballet and funky dancing as well as attending a birthday party just about every weekend. She is quite the character and has us in stitches much of the time. Nick continues to do great digital stuff for a variety of folks and Lucy is looking forward to being a lady of leisure for a short time – her local office is closing and all the staff are to be relocated to London, a move which Lucy quite sensibly declined as did the majority of her compatriots.

And so, as we drag ourselves towards the end of the year, we reflect on a splendid 2017 and look forward to all that 2018 might bring. We wish you all the very best and, if you think you can stand it, make this the year you come for a visit.

Much love to you all.