Christmas 2014

Ho, ho, ho!

As the sun dips closer to the horizon and the nearer we get to the Solstice, I am reminded by the cascade of holiday greetings plummeting through our letter box that we better put something together with which to stuff the multitude of greeting cards that Penelope has faithfully and carefully addressed. So, the usual apologies for the tedious nature of this Round-Robin correspondence. You can be grateful for at least one thing – thank goodness Christmas comes only once a year.

It’s been a good year with the occasional less than good bit thrown into the mix.

Beryl's 90th BirthdayOne of those less good bits was the loss of Pen’s mum Beryl in January after several years of struggling with declining health. She made it to her 90th birthday in early January and enjoyed a magnificent party attended by family and friends. Only a few weeks later she suddenly collapsed due to a deep vein thrombosis and died in Penny’s arms.

Penny in the bluebellsSince her death, Pen has spent most of her time finishing the task of transcribing and collating Beryl’s memoirs which finally were completed at the beginning of December. Beryl kept diaries all her life and some years ago was persuaded to write them up in a narrative form so that they could be enjoyed by the family. Pen and she worked together for years getting the diaries typed up – Beryl would read and Pen would type. As her health deteriorated and after she died, Pen and her sister Judi completed the task and Pen then scanned several hundred thousand photos with which to illustrate them. In the end, she has produced a book which will be a wonderful keepsake for all the family.

Greg becomes a UK citizenAfter more than forty years as a “benefit tourist” Greg finally became a UK citizen in February complete with a swearing in ceremony in Northampton. Certainly there will be lots of swearing once the general populace finds out. There was much swotting up for the Citizenship test which, amusingly, virtually no natural-born UK citizen can pass – the objective is clearly to keep such miscreants out but it’s obviously failed in Greg’s case. That’s what a Yale degree will do for you!

We’ve enjoyed a couple of very pleasant excursions – we visited Greg’s folks in New England in the Spring and again in October, staying at Steph & Hope’s newly renovated and mightily beautiful new home. Greg’s folks must feel that they’ve lost the lottery having to put up with us twice in one year! They continue to do well in spite of their advancing years and are happy and comfortable at the Finishing School in Hanover. We were also able to get over to the glorious splendour of Lake George and see for ourselves the devastation wrought by a sudden storm in August which brought down hundreds of trees – brother Sandy is still clearing up. We visited with our good friends Chip & Leca for a fabulous few days in Boston and made our way out west to spend time with Ben & Donna, Greg’s sister Sallie, Greg’s cousin Wendy and his favourite aunt, Barbara, as well as a collection of Webb School boys on the occasion of Greg’s 45th high school reunion. You will not be the least bit surprised to learn that Greg is easily the one who has aged least gracefully. [I don’t think ‘grace’ comes into it – P.]

The boys are well – at least, that’s what we would like to pretend.

Ben and Donna are still living and working happily in Southern California. They treated us to an overnight stay in Santa Barbara which was truly wonderful. Donna continues to write and manage reporters for Investor’s Business Daily, while Ben is still grinding away on various Call of Duty videogames at Activision. He also plays drums for “Scorpion Wolf Shark” – the sixth-most-popular three-animal named band in Los Angeles. (2015 is the year they climb to number 5, he tells us). Their dog Aibo seems to be the only one with any real leisure time, and he spends most of it in the relentless pursuit of food, and things that smell like food.

Nick and Lucy and the delightful Annabubble still live just down the road in Bishops Tachbrook. Lucy has been made a member of some high-powered committee of big-wigs in the energy game which requires attendance at the occasional meeting in London. The great news for us is that we get to look after Annabelle from time to time which is always an exhausting but delightful chore. Nick joined Avon in the Spring as their head digital media honcho and loves it – he says it’s the best organisation he’s ever worked for which makes perfect sense – it’s largely run by women.

Adam and his partner Ava are living and working in Yangshuo in southeast China. He is busy spinning plates continuing with his web design / architectural business while, at the same time, starting a new venture – the Lounge café/bar – in March. Ava is doing some English teaching and helps out in the bar. As ever, he says, there are too few hours in the day although the mountains of Yangshuo never fail to inspire awe and they count themselves lucky to call it home.

AnnabelleLa joie de nos vies this year has been, of course, opportunities to interact with the most beautiful and enchanting child in the whole of Christendom, Nick & Lucy’s Annabelle. She is an absolute delight, not least because she is too young to realise that Grandpa is a waste of space. Naturally, she adores Grandma and, in particular, the opportunity to have story after story after story read to her. Recently co-opted into the role of Elsa to Bubble’s Anna from the film Frozen, Grandpa excelled. The part involved much running up and down the workshop, cries of “Oh dear!” and “What shall we do now?!” and falling down (loudly) on cue when “frozen”. More activity than Grandpa has seen in recent years but reasonably satisfactory as far as the director was concerned.

House for SaleWe finally put Penelope’s Playhouse on the market with a view to downsizing. We have long toyed with the idea of having a small place in the UK and one in France but those plans have been on hold for some years. We’re still waiting for someone to come up the driveway trundling a wheelbarrow full of cash so if you are interested in a deceptively spacious five bedroom family home with separate self-contained annexe give us a ring – we’ll certainly consider a discount for cash!

Molly in the bluebellsMolly, at nearly fifteen, is still, surprisingly, going strong. She is deaf as a post and blind as the proverbial bat but still insists on two walks a day and the prompt delivery of her dinner at the appropriate time. She still enjoys barking at anything and everything, often at 3.00 in the morning. I keep telling her I am going to donate her to medical research but, after all these years, she knows I’m bluffing.

And so, another year wobbles to a conclusion. We’ll keep you all in our hearts and thoughts and wish you all the very, very best for 2015. Do take us up on our invitation to visit while we still have the room – Molly will be grateful to have someone let her out into the garden at 3.00 am.


Much love to you all.

Greg and Penny


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