We seem to have surpassed ourselves this year, with the Christmas letter being started in mid January and completed in February. Many thanks to all of you who wrote at Christmas and during the year - we really appreciate the letters, and managed to reply to at least some of you this year.
Ian turned two in March, but he had been practising for the terribles for some time so it didn't make much difference. A typical morning conversation: "What are we doing today?" "Alan and Philip are going to school, and you are going to Janette's house." (Janette = wonderful childminder.) "My not want go Nette's house, my want go Katy's house." "Tough." At bedtime: "What do you want to say thank you to Jesus for?" "Tank you I could go to Nette's house." At the turn of the year, his middle brother was "Fiship". By his birthday last March this had progressed to "Fibip", and there we remain. However, don't think he can't talk well! Just some words are individual to him. He can do anything his brothers can do, and when the three of them fight he often ends up on top. If anything, his brothers need protecting from him. He has just started dancing lessons, which he loves! He tried a few months ago but was deemed too disruptive... He starts at the church nursery after half-term and has already made several visits. "It was a bit boring," he told one friend (when he had to stay at a table), and "They told me off!" (for jumping in puddles). He now has two friends, Timo(Seals) and Katie (Pryde), and is still inseparable from Clownie, the favourite of his 'cuddlies'.
Philip was five in December, so he started big school this Autumn. He had been asking about words on the cornflakes packets and other places, but we were quite taken aback when, in his first week at school, he brought home a book and read it to us. We are enjoying the Oxford Reading Tree the second time round, and have just discovered the Magic Key again. The suspense is nearly unbearable. He has to go to an older class to get his books now. One teacher - not his regular - wondered why he was not making eye contact with him in a one-to-one setting, then realised he was reading the notes on her lap upside-down. (She did not know he could read at all!) Asked "How come you're so clever?" he replied "I don't know, I just am. I am sneaky like that!"
Alan turned seven in July and changed schools in September. He could have stayed on at Westborough with Philip, but he would have been in the first year to go right through to eleven, and we thought he would benefit more by being stretched by older pupils around him. He now goes to St Joseph's, a Catholic Junior school, and according to the teacher is fitting in well, popular, and organising the kids around him. Don't tell anyone, but he is currently organising a ring of Secret Agents. His reading is also progressing well, and in the first term exhausted the reading scheme books in his class (wonder where he gets that from?) and is the only one in his class allowed to choose books 'belonging' to older years. He managed to swim ten metres over the summer, and has not set foot in the water since. Been there, done that, read the book. Alan tried dancing briefly last year, but dropped that and is now going to a fortnightly drama group. He enjoys the games and some other aspects, but is not at all interested in performing - not if it means doing as he is told rather than just what he feels like. He has just taken up the recorder and after a long struggle finally seems to be getting the hang of it. He started Beavers in September and thinks it is wonderful!
Our regular weekly activities remain very much the same: apart from Church and Housegroup together, Paul tries to play Go on Monday evenings and swim on two mornings. He has also started going to a lunchtime prayer group in Woking. Sue goes to Keep Fit (which some unkind persons have suggested is a slight misnomer) on Thursday evenings, and claims it does her good despite the aches afterwards.
Apart from the above, we are both involved in the new/revitalised church Building Committee - the Hall and Hut are in desperate need of replacement. Sue continues on the Management Committee and Endowment Fund Committee, and is currently setting up an after-school club (i.e., business) for children at Westborough and other local schools. Paul is Secretary to the Open Air Campaigners in France and Europe Now Committees (recently merged), and Treasurer to the Mission Board and the new Building Fund. He has started teaching the oldest Junior Church group, theoretically on alternate months. There is also a lot of work because our Minister is due to retire in June, and lots of preparations to make before then to ensure the Church keeps functioning. And we are trying to spend one evening a month simply enjoying ourselves - dangerous, eh?
January: got up early on New Year's Day to say "Bon voyage" to the Kemp family who were setting off to France for language training with a view to Christian work there. Celebrated Paul's father's 60th birthday with a meal out with his parents and brother, and then with them joined all Sue's clan (parents, uncle, 5 children + spouses, 5 grandchildren, a couple of friends...) a week later to exchange Christmas presents. Later in January Paul took Alan and Ian to the Hospital Panto (Philip was ill), where our friend Val decided she'd like Ian in it next year. Started thinking about having work done on the kitchen.
March: Sue did a French Day; Paul took the boys to the Science museum; and we enjoyed ourselves at the Normandy church Barndance. Thought some more about the kitchen.
April/May: we abandoned our offspring and went to France for a long and not very dirty weekend, visiting our missionary friends Mark and Sue Howe and also meeting the Kemps. The boys barely missed us, the oldest two at Paul's parents and Ian with his friend Rosie. We flew to Paris - Sue's first flight - and (just) caught the TGV to Marseilles. Impressive!
June: we spent the wettest and windiest weekend of half-term on the church camping weekend. Four of our group of tents did not survive the experience, and by the second morning not a single frame tent remained standing on the entire site. It was so bad that Sue volunteered to go to a bed and breakfast with Ian. The disastrous weather is not the reason why there is no church camping weekend planned for 1995, honest! Enjoyed watching the Brother Cadfael stories on (a friend's) TV: we have been addicted to the books for years. We all went on the Junior Church Awayday and got very dirty at Frensham Pond. Philip and Sue sneaked off to Littlehampton without Ian but with about ninety other children from Nursery.
July: Katie came to stay with her friend Ian. There was a wonderful garden party for the church building fund where we enjoyed cream teas, good company and glorious weather. Then, for the same cause, the talent auction, a superb entertainment in its own right. Visited the model steam trains at Stoke Park - Ian hasn't stopped going on about them since! Thought some more about the kitchen.
The school holidays started with us abandoning our children again (but just for the day) to attend the wedding of Bruce and Katherine - our former lodger from South Road days - in Malvern. We combined this with a lovely weekend with John and Rosemary Jenkins. Ended July at Judith (Sue's boss) and BJ's house where Alan got very good at rock-climbing on a walk around the Devil's Jumps.
August: had a Tent With a Mission at church (no, we never found out what the tent's mission was) and the kids enjoyed Livewires, led by a talented Scripture Union worker.
September: The day Philip started school, the builder moved in and knocked down a wall in the kitchen, hacked off all the nasty brown tiles (and the six layers of wallpaper underneath), and stripped the ceiling. The following week we had a new sink unit installed, and new doors to the remaining cupboards. And then we had to paint, and have new vinyl for the floor. We are still thinking about new tiles for behind the sink, and still have some equipment in store. But the improvement is worth all the effort and mess.
Some of Paul's Surrey chums gathered for a wonderful meal and scintillating conversation at Steve and Sally Pryde's: Barry and Suzanne, Steve and Miriam, Tim and Jude, Adrian and Julia. The next day our boys learnt to play basket ball (a talent auction purchase) with a church family: barbecue for all, with coaching in beginners and improvers groups - Paul was surprisingly competent. And the Hitchins clan gathered in Oxford to celebrate Sue's dad's 70th birthday.
October: Alan's very first campfire, and our first for a long time. During Freshers' Week Sue found new babysitters from The Planet, still occupied by Christians, for those who remember it. Another talent auction outing: we took Christopher and Jenny, Alan and Philip to the Science Museum while Sally took Katy and Ian to a farm. We saw Carmen Jones in Woking - excellent!
Half-term week was spent in the Lake and Peak Districts, initially at a Durham reunion where we walked a little, ate more and talked a lot. Moved on to a cottage from where we visited Peter and Jo (Sue's brother and wife), Sue's Aunty Dorothy and Uncle Nevil, and met up with Mike and Barbara (Sue's sister and husband). Our education continued with a visit to Jodrell Bank.
November: this started with another trip to Judith and BJ's wonderful garden for a bonfire. Paul, and most other people at The Exchange, started working an extra day most weekends.
December: we abandoned the boys again, this time for Paul's work do, a 'black and white' evening at a nearby Country Club. Sally nobly had them all to stay so we could get out early enough and stay out as late as we wished (not very). For a small fee, photographs of Paul in formal evening wear can be provided! Paul made it to his first Go tournament of the year, while Sue and the children attended the dedication of our latest nephew, Stephen, born in August to Pip and Philip - grandchild six to Sue's parents, and all boys. Philip (and half the school) were ill on the day of his play, so it was repeated (with a different set of children sick) on the last day of term: he sang and danced beautifully. Alan read at his school carol service, with the deaf old lady at the back clearly in his mind. The Deputy Head was very impressed: she remembers him from Nursery, when he wouldn't even join in singing with other children - he still won't if he thinks he can get away with it, but Sue didn't tell her that. We spent a quiet Christmas Day here, then a few days in London.
Then Paul returned to work. Some of the software due to go live on January 3 had its release postponed to mid January. Life was supposed to get easier in January, but it is nearly the end of February and the software is still not yet live. As well as weekends, early and late shifts were introduced. The early shifts were okay if he went in at 7 am and left at 3.30 pm, but of course there were days when he went in at 7 and still left at 6.30 or 7.
Apart from news given earlier, our families remain much the same: Sue's brother Peter has graduated in Electrical Engineering from one of the Universities in Sheffield and is job-hunting while his wife Jo continues to avoid the TV cameras at Sheffield children's hospital. Sue's brother Ray urges everyone to write to their MP about the reorganisation of the Blood Transfusion Service which it seems will result in a poorer and more expensive service - more details on request. Paul's brother Roger works for an insurance company which is being reorganised with major redundancies in the IT department so he faces an interesting time. Parents continue to cope well with their noisy grandsons - Paul's father has discovered the joy of switching off his new hearing aid!
We wish you a happy and prosperous (remainder of) 1995. Do keep writing...
Paul, Sue, Alan, Philip and Ian Hazelden