Saturday, 20 December 2008

Christmas Round Robin Letter 2008

I finally got around to writing my Christmas cards today. I love getting Round Robin Christmas letters. Here is mine for this year.

2008 got off to a great start; Chris and I left the children at home and joined Chris’ sisters and brother, plus spouses, on a trip to Ecuador. We had a fantastic time with a week cruising around the Galapagos, snorkelling with sea-lions, sharks, penguins and flightless cormorants, with a few giant tortoises and iguanas on the land. Then, we had four days at Napo in the Amazon basin, where we were paddled along blackwater creeks by native Indian guides, Chris working on getting his holiday bird list up to 200 species. In between, we had several days in and around Quito, high in the Andes, where it was pleasantly cool, but where the air was so thin that several of us felt permanently queasy.

After escaping for two weeks, the rest of the year has largely revolved around the children and their activities. Rose and Alice left Selby High School in the summer with a memorable Prom night. After the formal Prom at the Parsonage Hotel in Escrick, about 70 of their friends came back to our house for an after-Prom party and sleepover. Fortunately it was one of the few dry nights in May so the party was outside and they slept in tents (if they slept at all). Chris complains that he still keeps finding beer and cider bottles in the hedge. In the same month, Lucy went on a school trip to Germany, apparently successful, other than that there is no sign that she learnt any German. Lucy and Jack also had a week at an outdoor adventure centre with School. After their GCSE exams, Rose and Alice had a camping holiday with some of their friends in Robin Hoods Bay, which involved squeezing them, their friends, and a massive amount of gear into our car because public transport was apparently going to be too complicated and they couldn’t carry everything that was “absolutely essential”. They then proceeded to get holiday/Saturday jobs. Alice has been working at Starbucks in the York Designer Outlet since July and brings free coffee beans back home every week. She has taken to making cappuccinos at home, resulting in large numbers of pans having to be cleaned after being used for frothing hot milk. But the fresh-ground coffee is good. Rose had finally settled on a job at Ralf Lauren in the York Designer Outlet after working in Levi jeans in York city Centre and – for one week only – at Mexx in the Designer Outlet. Chris is now sporting one or two items of designer clothes!

Lucy, Rose and Alice have continued with their musical theatre group and had a four night run at the Gate Theatre in Goole with a wonderful performance of their musical ‘Don’t Let the Big Man Win’ in July. After the success of the post-Prom party we followed up with the after-show party. One of the advantages of a barn and no neighbours within shouting distance is that you can host teenage parties without having them in the house and without disturbing the neighbours. Chris took the opportunity to be away; a week on Reunion Island, taking part in a conference on EU Overseas territories and climate change.

Chris and Jack are now Hull City season ticket holders. Chris queued for over 13 hours on what must have been the only sunny day this summer, to get the tickets, and returned with a very pink scalp. They are enjoying Hull’s surprisingly impressive progress in the Premier League. Jack has exchanged playing football for watching, with exercise now provided by sessions in the gym, which Lucy also does.

Since September, we have started a new morning and early evening routine. Rose and Alice are doing A levels at York College and so no longer get picked up at the house by taxi. North Yorkshire provides a minibus to York College from Wistow village so I have to get them to the village at 7.30am and pick them up at 5pm. It’s good for me because it means I can’t work for too many more hours that I’m paid for! I’m probably working fewer hours than I was, even though I’ve officially increased my hours to 90%. Alice is doing Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry A Levels and Rose is doing Maths, Chemistry, Psychology and Theatre Studies. They are both planning to continue with Science at University.

We are spending Christmas at my sister’s this year and planning a pretty uneventful two weeks. On the other hand, Rose and Alice had their 17th birthdays and have just start to learn to drive. Being driven around by them certainly gets the adrenalin rushing, especially on the icy lanes near home. The more confident they get, the scarier it becomes. I hope you have an enjoyable and restful Christmas holiday.

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