Christmas 2019

Oh my goodness! Another fine year is rapidly receding in the rear view mirror. We’ve had a few excursions to see family and friends, we’ve completed (almost) a major project, welcomed visitors to Moreton Pinkney from near and far and enjoyed a number of wonderful family gatherings. I don’t know why we should be so lucky but we’ll take it.

Our major distraction this year has been a small building endeavour, a “three or four month” project which is finally nearing its completion. A mere ten months later. We’ve taken down a small conservatory and built a new kitchen, remodelled what was the old kitchen and utility and relocated the downstairs toilet. It looks absolutely splendid – light and airy with bi-fold doors and roof lights – and we are very, very pleased with the outcome, if not necessarily the length of time it’s taken to get here. You’ll have to visit to see for yourselves.

Ben, Brex-Anna and Max came for a visit in the spring and for the first time in many years we had all three boys, their lovely wives and our gorgeous grandchildren in one place at the same time. Priceless!

The building works and our resident Chinese family meant Ben and family had to stay at a B&B down the road – no bad thing as it was probably considerably more comfortable than anything we could have offered. Max was great – he seems to have caught up any lost ground due to his early birth – and was even content to stay with Grandma and Grandpa while his parents gallivanted off to Paris.

Ben, Brex-Anna and Max

During their visit Penny’s father had the opportunity to meet Max, his most recent great-grandchild. Sadly, Oz died in June aged 97 after spending several weeks in the Northampton General Hospital following a fall. He lived a full and eventful life. He was born in Bulawayo in what was then Rhodesia in 1922 and lost his father to a mining accident when he was about six months old. His mother brought him and his older sister back to the UK where he was raised largely by his grandparents. He served in the navy in World War II and was involved in the Arctic convoys as well as some sticky situations in the Mediterranean. After the war he went to Oxford to become a teacher and in 1965 the Butlers set off on their world migrations. He taught in Uganda, Jamaica, the US (where I met his delightful and beautiful daughter Penelope), Nigeria & Cyprus and retired to southern France – interestingly, all considerably warmer than the UK! Must have been those south African roots.

In October we visited with my mother in Hanover, New Hampshire and then flew out to Los Angeles to spend some time with Ben, Brex-Anna and Max. The trip out west was everything we could have hoped for. Fabulous weather and time to enjoy with family and friends.

We stayed at Ben and Brex-Anna’s new home in Westchester, just by the airport. It’s wonderful – large, lovely and airy – with great living and working spaces. It even comes complete with its own elevator!

Another excuse for our trip out west was to participate in my 50th high school reunion. (It doesn’t seem possible that it’s 50 years since I finished at the Webb School of California and yet it seems to be true). It’s always great fun to look back, to reminisce and to wonder at the marvel that we all have somehow survived life so far. It’s also astonishing how remarkably well we all look and not a bit like the decrepit old geezers we watched at their reunions 50 years ago.

Nick, Lucy and Annabelle are all doing great and enjoying a full and, at times, frenetic life. Nick has finished his work at Boden and is currently taking a bit of time out between consultancies. Meanwhile, Lucy is busy trading carbon credits for some of Europe’s larger enterprises while Annabelle continues to be involved in everything. She’s now eight and enjoys (and excels at) most things, it seems.

Adam, Ava and Jessica were finally able to leave their temporary accommodation in the Guest Wing in early November (after one year, four months and four days, but who’s counting). The silence in the mornings can be disconcerting until one remembers that the dynamo that is Jessie is no longer in residence.

They bought a house on the southern outskirts of Northampton and have spent the last several weeks decorating, cleaning and knocking things about. In particular, Adam had the great idea of removing a wall between the kitchen/dining area and the living area and it came out great – makes the place feel considerably larger and lighter.

Elizabeth Toll Stragnell - 1925 - 2019On our visit stateside we returned from LA to Hanover for a final visit with my mother. This was tinged with some considerable sadness – my mother had decided that this was as good a time as any to depart this world and she died comfortably and with great dignity in the early hours of October 26. She had discussed her plans and wishes with all of us and we did our best to ease her passage. My sister Sarah in particular was a marvellous helpmate to my mother especially in her final days. Mom was a remarkable woman, loved by many and liked by everyone. She raised six great kids and was known everywhere she lived for her outstanding hats!

Greg & PennyOf the two of us, you will be amazed to know that Penny has been the busier. She’s at the gym almost every day of the week, dragging me along occasionally. She’s on the committee of the Garden Club and spends every Wednesday learning to play bridge. She’s a member of the Book Club and also part of a small, intimate group of women who play croquet in the summer months – Women Who Croque, as they dubbed themselves. And, with all this she still found time to transform her vegetable garden this summer. All that’s left for her to do this year is to decorate the new extension from top to bottom, redecorate the rest of the house and try and keep me in order.

As for me, I continue to do as little as I can get away with.

Greg & Jessica

No change there then.

And so, as 2019 vanishes with a despairing whimper, we hope it has treated you well and wish you all the very, very best for the New Year. We’ll keep you all in our hearts and thoughts and hope that this is the year you come to visit.

Much love to you all,

Penny & Greg