Christmas Newsletter 2013

6 Berne Avenue
Staffordshire ST5 2QJ

16. December 2013

To all our friends and family

It's a sunny December day outside, cards are beginning to arrive and clearly it is time to write and wish you all a happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year.

The year has been a happy one for us but with some firm reminders of our mortality as we move down the chance of survival by age curve. We've lost a number of friends this year, including Alan Gibson from Buxton, who had unwittingly brought us together to attend our first concert some fifty nine years ago, Peter and Traudi Plesch, erstwhile colleagues and friends at Keele who enriched our own and everyone's life here, Harry Greenwood, with whom I published my first paper in theoretical chemistry, and Bert Adams who, with Kath, taught us to enjoy social bridge - and several others of our chemistry cohort from Birmingham 1953.
Also I was diagnosed with angina in the Spring and we wondered whether our walking days were over - but, happily, it responded to medication and to a series of progressively longer and more strenuous walks which found us at the top of Caer Caradoc in Shropshire and Shutlingsloe in the Peak District in the autumn.

We visited several elderly friends (the eligibility age for a visit seemed to be about ninety!) including both my brothers and Kath Glover, my boss at Harwell when I left school at age 16. We also met up with Gerald & Manon Owen, last seen in Princeton some 52 years ago.

We've enjoyed the annual opera frenzies - several times in Munich, twice for stays in Llandudno, the Wexford festival with Ian and Richard from London, a grand nostalgia stay in Birmingham when we tramped round the Uni, a stay in Salford and of course, Buxton, as well as single trips to the RNCM and the Lowry, sometimes with Susan Gomme or Tony Johns.

We had a grand skiing trip to Hochgurgl (with some adventures on the road in the snow) stopping in Speyer and D?sseldorf. I teamed up to ski with Joelle and Hanno, two Belgian friends (younger than our children). Tempted by the lovely weather during the week, Pat decided to venture out skiing again with much success, until she was run down by a young Dane. The Belgian group were impressed when I turned up at lunch with, literally, "the bloody woman" in tow, and were most kind in sorting her out and cleaning her up, before we skied back home. Then, in March, they invited us to a party in Brussels where they and their friends entertained us royally.
Unfortunately I was not allowed to steer on our river cruise from Moscow to St Petersburg, but we did have a grand time and saw many lovely sights both in the cities and in the wooded river landscape along the way. I was provided with interesting bragging rights when passing the Marinsky in a small tour boat - as I told everyone who would listen, Mike, my son was there with Mr Putin the previous month, at the opening of the new stage; I believe that Total Oil had contributed to the splendid new addition.

When not patronising the arts, Mike is still dashing about from Paris to Moscow, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan to keep us supplied with oil and gas. Meanwhile Nicky is trying to balance life between the Paris house and her new home in Bristol. We went to their "one hundredth" birthday party in the summer. James, their second son,  remained at home for most of the year but is now in Kingston Ontario with old friends from Calgary; he has yet to find a vocation. Charlie, the youngest, did well at Malvern and is now studying Earth Sciences at UBC in Vancouver. And Will, the oldest, graduated from Edinburgh in Business Studies. For postgraduate experience, after a juggling audition, he was admitted a circus school in Glasgow! His immediate career aim is to spend some time "on the streets" which surprised us, but I believe he means busking to get performance experience.

Another enterprising grandchild is Fiona who graduated in Maths several years ago and joined the scientific civil service. She decided that applied statistics is not for her and is now in receipt of a government training scholarship to take up the teaching of maths. With interests in running, riding, the violin and the clarinet, she should make an ideal teacher, and she is so enthusiastic. Felicity, her sister, a graduate in animal behaviour, has worked with dogs and, in Canada, with bats. At the moment she is thinking about further work with bats or, just possibly, with naked mole rats. Their parents are fully engaged with their two horses; we've just spent a pleasant weekend with them.

We've seen Stephen and family several times both in D?sseldorf and in Staffordshire. Sarah is in her last year at school and hoping to take up an apprenticeship in information technology next summer. Timmy is still at school and should be working hard. However he has a remarkably good Golf handicap and spends a lot of time improving his play. Stephen is still travelling frequently to the Far East with visits to China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. He still finds time and energy to play squash and a bit of Golf too.

At home Pat still reads for Update, the local newspaper for the blind; I have now been roped in to extract items from Thursday's Sentinel. I do a little bit for the local National Trust web site and for the RSC Benevolent Fund - there is also practical side since several friends seem to need help with their computers - I am even becoming familiar with Macs as well as PCs.

The garden blossomed after the cold start and we have had excellent yields of potatoes, beans, black and red currants, and lettuce - and there are lots of leeks and parsnips waiting to be harvested at the moment, with broccoli for the Spring.

There have been a lot of additions to the web site - all our Newsletters and many groups of photos, mostly from the early 1970s. On reflection those years, the boy's teenage years, were perhaps our happiest times as a family. However we have enjoyed so many good things over the years, it seems crass to make comparisons. One barmy thing - we have been listing all the books we have read. They will be on the web site in due course; such is retirement!

As you can see, we are thankful that our good fortune continues - as we hope your does too.

With much love from us both.

Patricia and Peter