Christmas Newsletter 2015

Nativity 20156 Berne Avenue
Staffordshire ST5 2QJ

14. December 2015

To all our friends and family

We had some snow a couple of weeks ago and thought of Christmas, but the temperatures returned to "mild for the time of year", accompanied by rain and sometimes high winds which makes it feel cold. In short – global warming continues inexorably and we shall soon be at the end of the warmest year on record. But it is Christmas with the chance to remember our family and friends – so may we wish you all a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Fiona's wedding 2015This year has been a family year, the highlight being Fiona's marriage to Adam. They made a splendid pair emerging from St Andrew's Church at Alwalton  and there was a lovely reception at Wadenhoe House. Nearly all the family attended and we finished a lovely day playing French cricket together as the sun went down.

And we saw the family twice more – just before last Christmas when they gathered at the Upper House where the boys gave a lunch to celebrate Peter's eightieth birthday – and again in August where Patricia catered for and entertained family, friends and neighbours for her own eightieth birthday. In a rather wet summer, we were so lucky to have the only fine day for some time, particularly as there were too many people to fit in the house! But we were able to sit with everyone in the warm sunshine. On both birthdays it was delightful to be able to enjoy being with our family and admire the young men and women who are our grandchildren.

Happily we ourselves continue to be fit so we are able to continue to walk appreciable distances at weekends - this year more than ever with walks in the Peak District, Macclesfield Forest, Cannock Chase, along the Shropshire Union Canal and on the Shropshire Hills. Patricia has been "written off" by her two consultants having survived the five years since cancer. Although unable to drive due to macular degeneration, Pat is still mobile and is now an expert on the local bus services which we are still fortunate to have.

We skied in Hochgurgl in January with Christopher and Gwenda. Sensibly at 84, Christopher has now decided  to make a graceful exit so, in January, we shall be going alone. However Peter is hoping to ski with Joelle and Hanno, a couple of active, cheerful Belgians who are both younger than our children!

There has been plenty of opera: several times in Llandudno, Manchester, Munich and Buxton, where we generally enjoyed short holidays as well. Paul and family also took us to  a Beetles show in London, and we saw a Gilbert & Sullivan opera in Buxton to help Rebecca with the English. We also made a couple of trips to Hampshire and Dorset to see Frank, Peter's brother, who is now 95. His health has deteriorated a bit but he took his first Mediterranean cruise this year. He is being cared for by his granddaughter, Julia, and her family. We were also with Tony and Barbara Cox on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.

On the way to ski we called on Sarah, our German granddaughter and her boyfriend, Kevin. They gave us a pleasant day out in Frankfurt where they are both engaged in IT work. Timothy, her brother, has meanwhile started a physiotherapy course in Idstein at the Fresnius Hochschule. As well as obtaining his Arbitur he has improved his golf and done well in several tournaments. Timothy's charming girlfriend, Rebecca, stayed with us for a fortnight to improve her English (which is already good) and we enjoyed tramping the hills with her and taking her to see a Gilbert & Sullivan opera.

Fiona not only wed this year but continued her new teaching career which is clearly strenuous at times. Fiona's new husband, Adam, is now a fully qualified actuary and, we hope, beginning to profit from it. Felicity, her sister, is on the staff of the Redwings Horse Sanctuary near Norwich. Apart from tending horses all week she seems to be often at home at weekends helping look after the family horses in Peterborough – a sort of equine busman's holiday.

Charlie is progressing well with his geology course at UBC in Vancouver but he is probably already being distracted by the snow at Whistler where he spends a lot of time, some of it in the company of a young lady from the Canadian Ski Team! William, his brother is in Edinburgh involved in occasional shows – he was having an interview for a circus post in London last week. And James has just started a computer coding course in London. I hope he gets as much fun out of coding as I did when we had to write all the supporting software for the graphical analysis of our experimental data.

We saw Paul & Rosalind recently, cheerful, but much preoccupied by the situation of Ros's mother who is in poor health. They are also carers for the two family horses which seems to provide a near full time occupation. We hope to have lunch soon with Mike and Nicky, before they go to ski in Canada. Nicola is enjoying their new house in Marylebone and the grand opportunities that London provides. Michael enjoys it too, when he is there, since he seems to travel nearly every week to somewhere in Asia to negotiate, inspect or manage Total's vast projects. Stephen too seems un deterred by his continued back and forth to the Far East to service Alanod's anodised aluminium interests. Conny is assisting some of the refugees who are trying to accustom themselves to life in Germany. We are hoping to spend Christmas with our German family in Dόsseldorf, and so are looking forward to being away for the holiday, exceptionally, this year.

At home, Pat still reads regularly for the blind and entertains quite a bit. Peter meets regularly with a couple of discussion groups, and both of us go to lectures at the University, one of the reasons we returned from Germany. And we are still occupied with our past pictures, all but twenty years of which are on the web site! However the highlight this year is Peter being President of the Whitmore Probus Club; he is proud of the honour but feels he was probably elected because, on the whole, he stays awake in lectures! That has not been difficult this year with the interesting range of talks which we have had .

And that brings us back to the beginning – the highlight of the Probus year was probably NOT Peter's talk on climate change entitled " Do we have a Future?"  to which the answer is only "yes" if you are as old as we are! – it is much more problematic for our grandchildren. Perhaps something positive will emerge from this week's conference in Paris – you will recognise success if the result is a set of definite, enforceable commitments to reduce emissions soon, and enough to keep any increase below 2o Celsius. 

Yamal column 2015And-on the same note – do admire Michael's cryogenic heat exchanger being rolled out. It is part of a "train" of equipment , one of three being installed by Total and partners on the Yamal peninsular, to produce about a third as much natural gas as the UK uses in a year. The capital cost is approaching 40 billion dollars and the construction is employing some 15000 people in countries throughout the Far East. Though better than coal, it will still add appreciably to the CO2 burden and rising temperatures – it's to process stuff that many of us would like to see left in the ground!

And with that – much love from us both to you and your family

Patricia and Peter

on Rodney's Pillar, 2015