Christmas 2011

e-ticketWhat a rollercoaster ride we’ve had this year! We’ve had some excellent “highs” but we perhaps could have done without the occasional “low”. Thankfully, the lows are but a rapidly diminishing memory. A real “E-ticket” ride as we used to say in the day.

Greg’s annual pilgrimage to the home land to check on his folks provided the usual high spots and, once again, brought them enormous pleasure – they are always delighted to see him leave. They are both doing well and the visit provided the opportunity for a weekend jaunt to Lake George as well as a quick visit to the emergency department at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock to have his eyes examined (Posterior Vitreous Detachment was the verdict) – a mere blip on what was otherwise a great trip. The visit culminated in Greg’s being able to fulfil a long-held ambition – to see the Red Sox play at Fenway. And, best of all, he was out of the country during the insufferable nonsense surrounding the Royal Wedding – definitely a high point!


June provided the “low” of the year when Greg was diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, the outstanding staff at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford helped us come to terms with the diagnosis and reassured us that the condition was treatable and curable. A robot-assisted radical prostatectomy at the beginning of September initiated the recovery and we were given the “all clear” two months later. And to think that there are those who claim a nationalised health service couldn’t possibly be any good.

In the Pool

In July we celebrated Greg’s 60th birthday. (We know his birthday is in December but who wants to host a family gathering in England in the midst of winter?) We had two weeks in Tuscany with the three boys and Lucy, Pen’s sister J and some excellently good friends. The weather was glorious, the scenery and sights spectacular and the food and wine in abundance. We visited Lucca, Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, Montefegatesi, soaked up the sunshine whilst relaxing by the pool and generally spoiling ourselves. We tried our best but it seems even our enormous expenditure wasn’t enough to save the Italian economy. You can find some of the least bad photos here or a short, snappy little slideshow below. Enjoy.

AnnabelleBack in the UK again and, after the slight inconvenience of the surgery, the real high spot of the year came on 18 October with the arrival of our first grandchild, Annabelle Katrina, courtesy of Nick and Lucy. She is undoubtedly the most beautiful infant ever born and, of course, one of the most intelligent. Within a matter of moments she learned that a squawk and a wail would solicit the appropriate attention and is now an expert at both squawking and wailing. You will be relieved to know that both grandparents are coping well.

Everything else continues much as always. Ben and Donna are still in sunny southern California doing programming stuff and writing for Investor’s Business Daily. Donna garnered some nominations in the Los Angeles Press Club Journalism Awards; she came second in one category and received an honourable mention in another.

Nick, Lucy, Greg, Penny, Adam and Ben in TuscanyAs well as producing Annabelle, Nick and Lucy decided there just wasn’t enough excitement in their lives and so moved house at the beginning of November. Nick is still doing lots of media stuff all over Europe and Lucy, of course, is on maternity leave. No wonder the UK is crashing towards a double-dip recession now that Lucy is temporarily unavailable to advise government ministers on energy matters.

Adam and Tang are still living in the monstropolis of Changsha but are contemplating a move to the more scenic area around Yangshuo in the southeast. Adam is still teaching English and, in addition, seems to be the driving force behind a range of highly successful international projects with a number of schools in the UK. We’re hoping to visit again this summer, if everything works out.

Beryl and OzPen’s folks, Beryl and Oz, are still soldiering on in beautiful, downtown Byfield. Oz certainly gets his money’s worth out of his free bus pass while Beryl has found her niche as the Principal e-Bay Product Dispatcher for SeamStress Playchutes.

Speaking of which, SeamStress is still keeping its head above water in these difficult times. In spite of our threats in the past, the business really will be winding down this time – it’s almost impossible to find the appropriate fabric let alone at a cost which is affordable. So, when the current stock of fabric is gone, it’s gone! Get your final orders in now!

Stragnell ICT Consultancies also, amazingly, still purports to dispense ICT advice and support to anyone foolish enough to ask. Since the Local Authority support for schools has disappeared thanks to the cuts, schools have been cast adrift and many seem to find it useful to get some advice from someone who pretends to know what he’s talking about. The expression “up the creek without a paddle” springs to mind.

MollyMolly is increasingly hard of hearing, has difficulty seeing anything more than about ten metres in front of her but still reminds us that we “enjoy” taking her for an appropriate walk every morning and afternoon. She finally discovered after twelve years that if she gives a little yelp someone will let her out into the garden. Unfortunately, she now finds this highly amusing and frequently yelps in the middle of the night, seemingly just for the heck of it – when let out at 3.00 am she wanders onto the drive and sits for a while before strolling back in. I’ve threatened her with all manner of cruel and unusual punishments to no avail so far.

And so there we are. Another year slips by and, sorry to say, we’re still here to tell you all about it! We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the company of those of you we couldn’t persuade not to come and look forward to being out of town whenever anyone else suggests a visit.

All our love to you all,

Greg and Penny


Greg and Penny




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