We have made a radical break with tradition this year. It has been our habit for Paul to write the Christmas letter, spending hours carefully crafting each phrase. He then passes it on to Sue for a final polish, who deletes 98% and re-writes it from scratch. This year, Sue has written the first draft, and Paul gets the chance to 'improve' it. Oh yes, and Sue started it early in December! You may not get it before Easter, but at least we were thinking of you all at Christmas, honest. And as 1999 looks like being very exciting, sharing our news now seems sensible.
Europe Now, the charity we have been so closely involved with, is on the move, and we are planning to move too. The office has just moved out of Steve Poulard's spare bedroom, but during 1999 we expect that both it and we will move to Bristol. Leaving Guildford after so long will be a considerable wrench for us. Paul came to University in Guildford over 23 years ago, and never got away, and we have been at Westborough (our church) for almost 20 years - almost half a lifetime. So why are we planning to move?
In October, the Europe Now Trustees agreed to establish a training course for Christian workers in Europe. The initial plan was to set this up in Nottingham, but when Korky Davey of OAC West Country renewed, at an opportune time, a long-standing invitation to work with him in Bristol, it seemed right to respond.
To broaden the training beyond practical evangelism, the new training course will need a Director/Lecturer. The post has been formally advertised, and Paul has resigned as a Trustee of Europe Now and applied for the job.
We are open to the possibility that Paul may not be the best person for this position. However, we still want to move to Bristol to enable us to continue to support Europe Now's work, so if his application is unsuccessful he would look for a new job in the Bristol area.
If Paul is appointed by Europe Now, we will need to raise our own financial support. We hope that some of you will want to help with this, and if you would like more information we would be glad to send it to you. You can read more about the training programme on our web site if you are that way inclined.
Alan, Philip and Ian have reacted in different ways - as you would expect - but are looking forward to their first visit to Bristol, which will be early next year. As a family there are more questions asked than answered: when to move (not before SATS, says Ian's teacher!); where to move; how to move (the trauma of selling/buying/renting). Linked to those are decisions about schools and church. We do not expect immediate answers, and it is not appropriate to ask most of the questions before the decision has been made about Paul's future employment, but we continue to pray and consider what God has in store for us.
So much for the future: what of the past year?
Alan (11) has made the transition to secondary school fairly painlessly, and through being in a different class to his friend Edward has made another friend! His maths remains reasonable, with his SATS placing him at level 6 - the best result in the school (again!) - but this year his favourite subjects are English and History. His bedroom is still impassable, but to the Lego models which cannot possibly be broken up he has added a 'Warhammer 40,000' army. He now spends as much time and money as possible in Games Workshop: he can earn money by cutting the grass and becomes very cross on the (now rare) occasions Daddy does it. Alan left Sea Cadets at the end of the summer - a combination of disorganisation on their part and too much homework on his - but continues to enjoy JAM club at church.
Philip (9) continues to thrive and to 'have a go' at anything on offer. He was runner up 'Player of the year' for the school football club, for improvement and all-round attitude, and Sue thought her heart would burst with pride. He also represented the school in the District Sports for 50m and relay, and won a prize for hand-writing in the school Arts Festival! He has two and a bit more years at Junior School, but despite that has started to earn money from Snooker (see August, below). Philip will shortly be a published poet, in an anthology called 'Cosmic Surrey' - available in all good book shops from May 1999. You can read his contribution at the end. He has finally been able to start violin lessons, and even after half a term remains keen to practice. He has just finished reading The War of the Worlds, by H G Wells, which has impressed various people - all the more, because he was reading it from a collection of stories by Wells, in a fairly large volume. Philip remains a very keen Cub.
Ian (6) remains the cuddly one, who is slowly learning that offering Mummy a kiss is no substitute for doing what she has asked! He has had a more stable school situation since we last wrote, and now, in the top year of Infants, has finally realised that if you want to do the interesting work, you have to do the boring stuff first! He can read anything he wants to, which is a good stage to be at. He has also learnt to ride his bike without stabilisers and swim 10 metres without arm bands - both major boosts to his confidence. Like Philip, Ian has just started violin lessons but would prefer to emulate Stefan Grapelli than play long, smooth notes. Ian enjoys Beavers immensely.
Now for our review of the year - a short one, since we were so late writing the 1997 letter. The highlight of April was a Construction Party at church: we paid for the privilege of playing silly games with wheelbarrows, duplo bricks, eggs, scaffolding, tins of coke, string ... in aid of the Church Building Fund.
May saw Paul spending two days in meetings about the future direction of Europe Now, which led to the results described above. At the same time, Sue was sitting her French exams, which made it quite stressful. However, she passed, with a distinction in the oral module.
At the end of May we were once again camping at Longbarn with the church: Ian slept out twice, once with each parent, and Alan slept out once with his friends. A recording was obtained, allegedly of someone snoring: we won't say who, but Paul is too much of a gentleman to record his best beloved's stertorous efforts. We built boats, made coasters and wall plaques, played wet games and dry games, and cooked lunch over an open fire again. It was all wonderful.
The start of June was very quiet, with Alan away with school. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, but not the work which had to be done afterwards. He then spent a weekend away with JAM Club. While he was gone, we joined a day trip to the Watercress line, organised by the local Lions for children and pensioners. It was an incredible day, with a small patch of blue sky over Ropley station and a ring of black clouds all around. A jazz band played, picnics and sweets were given out, and we loafed until it was time to catch the steam train back home. If you know Ropley station, you will understand that without that patch of blue sky it would have been a pretty miserable day!
Paul and Sue spent a weekend in Nottingham, spending time with Rob & Traci Davis, who will be involved in Europe Now's training programme. Alan went to stay with his friend Edward, and Philip and Ian went to Ben Cribbin's, and all had a lovely time. Finally we met Paul's family in Tonbridge for the day, and can thoroughly recommend the castle and the indoor play area.
In July we attended another Promise Auction, where our bargains included a cake a month for a year, a cream tea which went to Legoland with us the next day, and various meals. The Legoland day was one of the wildest and wettest of the season: we spent it there to celebrate Paul's mother's birthday, and the big kids enjoyed it enormously.
Sue took Alan to see Woking Youth Theatre in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', which both found tremendous. And Alan and Philip had a sleepover at church, to mark the imminent demolition of The Hut, venue for their junior church group. We were invited out for a meal that evening, and were able to take Ian for his own mini 'sleepover', with a wide choice of floors on which to lay out his sleeping bag. He decided against the room where the white rats lived, and opted for the Star Trek posters.
The Westy Club organised a barbecue and fun day, for which the weather was mercifully glorious, and Sue scored a rounder! (She doesn't think she has ever done this before.)
At the end of July we set sail for France again. This time we were spending two weeks in Vasles, sharing a huge gîte with Mark, Sue and Nathalie Howe, and had a wonderful holiday. Vasles is a tiny village which turned out to the the self-proclaimed sheep capital of France. Imagine a theme park whose theme is sheep (and not a single mention of Shawn)! Paul and Ian toured the 22 different breeds of sheep, with commentary in English, while Sue and Sue learned how sheep have saved mankind over the aeons of history - this part of the park can only be appreciated by French speakers, but to be ignorant in this area indicates a sad gap in your education. And in the shop, there were woolly items, of course, but also jars of sheep pâté, lamb stew etc, because to really love sheep, you have to eat them as well.
Paul was seriously impressed with Sue's French, which he could not follow at all. Sue was equally impressed that Paul could conduct a conversation with a Frenchman (who spoke no English) which covered the weather, where to go swimming, and our activities of the day. Madame plied us with fresh vegetables; the boys initiated her grandson into the intricacies of Warhammer 40,000; Ian learned to ride a bike without stabilisers; and one of Mark's colleagues joined us for a couple of days to thrash out some more details of the Europe Now training programme. We went to Futuroscope and saw amazing fireworks, stunning films, and interesting architecture. We saw wallabies (those who took their noses out of books) and monkeys (Sue, Philip and Ian); went canoeing; visited the best-preserved Roman baths Sue has ever seen; and relaxed, a lot. Two weeks is definitely the way to do it.
On our return in August, Alan and Philip spent a week at YMCA Day Camps, getting very dirty and having a lot of fun, while Ian went to a new Playscheme and got very dirty and had a lot of fun. Alan went off to camp with the Sea Cadets, and Ian and Philip spent a night with Paul's parents before spending the day at The Enchanted Garden in Kent, a brilliant day out. Philip then had a Snooker course, at which he won £1 for potting the black! The first of many such wins, we hope. We then spent a weekend in Nottingham, thinking at that time that we were likely to move there. The month ended with a trip to the Science Museum with Paul's family, where a good time was had by all.
At the start of September, demolition work started on the church, hall and hut - oh happy day! We are currently worshipping in a new day centre in Park Barn, with dangerously comfortable chairs and more space than we will have in the new building. It has taken a little getting used to, but it is worth getting the bikes out for the trip, which the boys enjoy. We also enjoyed a delayed birthday treat for Alan at Legoland, and took Steve Poulard along - Sue has been dying to show Steve his doppelganger, the double bass player. It was another day so wet we begin to think we should never take friends again! But we all enjoyed ourselves. And Timothy was born to Peter & Jo - our fourth nephew (no nieces yet), and the seventh grandson for Sue's parents.
In October Philip went to Cub Camp (not under canvas), at the end of which he displayed his tremendous organisational skills by putting his rolled up sleeping bag in his holdall, and leaving his clothes in a heap on the floor because "there wasn't much room in my bag". Sue went to the seaside for the day, to Hove, to accompany Mark Howe to the 30th anniversary celebrations for OAC GB. And then she went to Bristol with Steve Poulard, to join Mark in interviewing Jo Dunn, who plans to work in France. We all went to Waterbeach (just north of Cambridge) to meet baby Timothy, and Sue brought the boys back on the train while Paul went on to Nottingham for more meetings about the Europe Now training programme.
November was a red-letter month for Sue. After four years of intense involvement with the the Westy Club, she decided to stand down as Chair of the Management Committee. A new 'volunteer' was found, and after careful thought and with the agreement of the new Chair, Sue decided to come off the Committee altogether. One of her last acts was to have a meeting with representatives from Pearl Assurance, who were interested in sponsoring a club to the tune of £10,000 over three years, for the appointment of an additional Playworker. We got it! The shrieks of joy were heard all over the school. All credit to the staff, some of whom had spent most of half-term week tidying, sorting and brightening the Club up. It is a great relief not to be 'responsible' any more, and the new committee are working well with the Playworkers to keep the Club running smoothly.
We also had an enjoyable evening swimming at the leisure pool with church, and went to London for the Lord Mayor's show - Roger's office overlooks St Paul's Cathedral so we had warm grandstand seats! We went to Waterbeach again for Timothy's dedication.
December was a run of minor ailments (keeping Sue from work and giving her time to write this!); the West Surrey Go Teach-in for Paul; and a mediaeval mystery play in London with one of Sue's University colleagues as the Virgin Mary (she directed an impressively realistic 'soppy' look at the baby).
We spent Christmas in Guildford, and went to London just after New Year. Paul had hoped to go to Holland, for Mission 99, in the period between the two, but despite applying for it in October his new passport arrived too late to make the arrangements. This was probably just as well, because a slight pain in his shoulder developed over two days into excruciating pain, so in the early hours of the first Sunday morning in January we crept out of his parents' house and made our way to Casualty. 6 hours, 3 X-rays, 1 blood test and several needles later, he was in slightly less pain, and the following day received a diagnosis of 'frozen shoulder' and two weeks off work. He is much better now, and we have an appointment at our local hospital for follow-up.
Entertainment: films have included Star Kid (not terribly memorable), Flubber (hysterical), Dr Dolittle (predictable), Antz (probably funnier for grown-ups than for children), Small Soldiers (just Paul and Ian), Prince of Egypt (awesome), The Parent Trap (improbably plot, but better than we expected), and The Mask of Zorro (highly recommended, although we have declined to take the boys). Alan is waiting with bated breath for the new Star Wars film (OK, we are all keen to see it!). Paul has still not managed to see anything at The Globe.
Paul's job title has changed: he is now the 'Quality Assurance Coordinator' but spends most of his time firefighting as before. The Exchange (now known as 'the eXchange' following a re-branding exercise) has launched an Internet site, www.moneyextra.com, which if things go to plan, will become the prime site for financial planning in the UK. He continues to preach at various churches, swims and takes saunas regularly, and plays Go most weeks. Unfortunately, life was too busy this year to attend any tournaments. Sadly, he even missed the one organised by his club, as it clashed with a 'World Mission' Sunday at Westborough.
Sue's work has been quite pressurised: at the University we are still working on transferring over 10 years' worth of the Dance Current Awareness Bulletin to CD-Rom, and although there has been some help with the 'normal' part of her job she is now on her own again. We are trying to recruit a replacement, but it is proving very difficult: you would think that for a school hours, term-time only job requiring only literacy and good computer skills there would be plenty of applicants, but not so far! She usually spends two days at the University and three at Europe Now, so housework is a thing of the past! She has not managed what she thought of as her annual weekend with Val in Whitley Bay, and regrets this! (Shopping with another woman is so much more fun!)
Our families are all well. Sue's parents are feeling old, but still come to help at school fundraising events when they can. Uncle Phil has settled well in his sheltered accommodation and has managed some holidays. Ray and Diana brought delicious food from Oxford to Cambridge for Timothy's dedication. Mike and Barbara have moved to Ashton in Makerfield (Wigan), and Sue has promised herself a weekend with them next year. Philip and Pip are still in Thatcham, near Newbury, and we have seen them several times. Peter and Jo have bought a small house and an enormous garden in Waterbeach, just north of Cambridge, and are slowly adjusting to life with Timothy.
Paul's parents seem to get busier every year. Dad still plays golf every Friday (even in snow). They have joined the local history society, and Mum is active in the Trefoil Guild, so there seems to be an outing every week. Roger enjoys his work for a small financial company, still helps with Scouts, and leads an active social life. He is adored by his nephews, and rashly suggested holidaying together in 1999: we are going to France for the eclipse.
As you might have guessed from the details at the top, we now have email at home. All the previous email addresses continue to work and reach us at various places. Our web page has a list of which addresses will find us where, if you are interested. It also has our last four Christmas letters, so you can go back and re-read your favourite bits.
We do enjoy hearing your news: thank you to everyone who keeps in contact. May God bless you through 1999.
Paul, Sue, Alan, Philip and Ian Hazelden
A world for the futureby Philip Hazelden
A world for the future
will have new coins,
a world for the future
will have more mines
A world for the future
will have new gear,
A world for the future
will have new fear.
A world for the future
will have lazy humans,
A world for the future
will have hover hands.