How to Contact Us
Search this site
Paul & Sue Hazelden's
1997 Christmas Letter
It is Easter 1998, so it must be time to finish writing the 1997 Christmas
letter. Thank you for the delightful letters and cards. We appreciated
knowing that a number of you were not expecting to hear from us before
1998, although we did not expect it to be this late, even if you did!
To start with our news, for a change. For Sue the most significant events
of 1997 were connected with work. She is still working at the National
Resource Centre for Dance, and the last 14 years of her work have not yet
appeared on CD-Rom, but we're almost there! However in October she began
to feel increasingly restless at having spent over 10 years working on
a voluntary basis for the church doing safe, undemanding jobs, and began
to feel that God had more in mind. Shortly afterwards an administrative
vacancy came up with Europe Now, the Guildford-based charity which supports
Open Air Campaigners missionaries from the UK working in Europe, including
the Howes and Kemps, our friends in France. Working from an office in Steve
Poulard's house, she now does her best to answer the phone, post and e-mails;
keep track of the accounts; organise the UK end of outreaches; send out
prayer letters; and arrange deputation. It's certainly different, and takes
up far more time than the church job, but it feels 'right'.
Paul is now the chairman of Europe Now, in which capacity he finds himself
attending EMA (Evangelical Missionary Association) conferences in Birmingham
and OAC meetings in far-flung places. Apart from occasional trips to Lauris,
April 1997 was Copenhagen, March 1998 was Basel, 1999 is Munich, and 2000
is Brazil. In addition, Europe Now is currently considering offering training
to those interested in working as OAC missionaries in Europe. We are contributing
to the initial discussions and hope to be involved in the plans as they
come to fruition.
All this means that we are reaching the limit of what we can do on Paul's
salary while he holds down a full-time job (and Sue does several part-time
ones): we may soon need to be fund- raising for ourselves as well as the
missionaries. Some of you may wish to pray particularly for us as we decide
how to develop this ministry: please let us know if you would like more
information about this or any other aspect of Europe Now's work. There
is an excellent quarterly magazine, Borderlines, which we can send, and
we can also arrange for someone to visit your church or housegroup.
Having had to spend a considerable amount of time and energy on The
Westy Club since setting it up, Sue was very glad to see the committee
strengthened by several keen parents. The Club is three years old now,
and although money remains a problem Sue's responsibilities are more widely
shared. Just for fun Sue continues with a French class, which this year
she was daft enough to make an Institute of Linguists post-A level diploma
class. Exams in May - why, oh why!
We celebrated Paul's 40th birthday last June in a low-key way, at the
Rum-Wong Thai restaurant. He has not had noticeably more time to play Go,
but managed to get to a couple of tournaments and competitions in Guildford.
He still swims fairly regularly, and Alan now joins him. Work remains challenging,
but a little simpler following a management buy-out earlier this year.
On the church front, Paul continues to preach at Westborough and three
other churches, and Sue also preaches occasionally. Paul is Treasurer for
the Mission Board and Building Fund, and tries to ensure that support for
the latter is not at the expense of the former. The hope is that work can
start on the buildings later this year, although there is still a lot of
fund-raising to do before then. Paul has also been involved in responding
to the URC's somewhat contentious resolutions on homosexuality. Sue no
longer serves on any church committees, which she finds quite refreshing
(and the work gets done even without her). We are now slowly settling into
a new Housegroup, and several successful social events have been organised.
Alan moves on to secondary school in September and is very happy to
be staying with his friend Edward. They spend as much time as possible
together, and each family thinks the other boy is charming, polite, helpful
etc. Comparing notes with Edward's Mum it is clear that each reserves his
really horrible moments for home. Alan's bedroom is impassable due to Lego
models, and it can be difficult to prise him from the computer or a book.
We were astonished when in year 5 he received a silver certificate and
'best in school' certificate for the UK Maths Challenge which his school
enters each year. This is aimed at years 7 and 8 - we knew he was clever,
but hadn't realised he was that clever. Alan has moved on from Cubs to
Sea Cadets, having tried Scouts once and found it 'boring'. He jumps at
any chance to spend time away from us - YMCA weekends, for example - and
although he is not a noisy boy it is very quiet without him. He still goes
to Westy Club which is 'boring' except on video night. He also goes to
JAM Club (Jesus and Me) at church, with Edward, but has so far steadfastly
refused to believe the good news.
Philip remains keen to try anything. He loves all games and sports,
and plays football whenever he can, having given up dancing in favour of
this (to Mummy's regret: dancing creates cleaner dirty washing!) The local
Anglican church has started a football club (the vicar is an ex- professional
footballer and coach), and he has made tremendous progress, to our surprise
and delight. He is popular at school with boys and girls, where his intelligence
seems to be regarded with mild curiosity, probably because of his matter
of fact attitude. "I'm clever, I know it, and there's no point trying to
hide it." He is desperate to learn to play the violin but has had to make
do with the recorder up to now. He has recently 'swum up' from Beavers
to Cubs and remains enormously enthusiastic. He reads voraciously and fights
Alan for the computer. Westy Club is fun, because there is always someone
who will play snooker, monopoly or chess with him.
Ian is good, he says, although not everyone has noticed it yet. He specialises
in girlfriends, and says he does not enjoy school, although he does well
there despite this. He suffers from following in Philip's footsteps, because
he is a very different child. It has not helped that his reception class
teacher was unwell for six months. She was then kept with the class for
year 1 and fell ill again, so in 18 months he has had four different class
teachers for about a term each, not to mention supply teachers for odd
days and weeks. However, Ian's reading is excellent, and his maths shows
great promise. He also wants to learn the violin which does not fill us
with joy. He liked the idea of tap dancing better than the reality, and
abandoned both ballet and tap last year, to his teacher's relief. Ian is
still desperate to go to Beavers, which we hope will happen soon! Westy
Club is usually boring (except video night), but he would be furious if
he didn't go any more. Ian starred as Cheddar/Edam Mouse in Kid's Praise
at church: those of you who know the work may wonder at this description,
but he was the only little mouse brave enough to speak, and very sweet
To skim through some of the highlights of 1997: in February Paul took
Alan to see the Queen opening a new wing at the hospital, which we hope
he will remember.
In March we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a romantic
meal at La Meridiana, a very nice Italian restaurant which Paul had found
In 1996 Paul made several (failed) attempts to see some famous impressionist
paintings at the Musee D'Orsay, and when he finally got in, the main pictures
were on loan to Tokyo. Last April he had a meeting at the Institute of
Directors in London, and arrived in Trafalgar Square with time to spare,
so what's on at the National Gallery? An exhibition of Impressionist Art,
with most of the works he wanted to see. Who needs Paris? There's a parable
in there, somewhere.
May was hectic. Sue spent a weekend with Val Cowan in Whitley Bay. We
spent the start of half-term camping with the church at Longbarn, a lovely
place where we participated in various amazing activities with other families
- building an aeroplane, throwing water around, and cooking over an open
fire. Alan impressed us by single-handedly repulsing several adult 'attackers'
in the water game who approached with a ladder: how he did it we will never
know. Camping was followed by a quick trip to Cadbury World (Alan won a
family ticket in a competition, clever chap) which the boys pronounced
'boring' apart from the free samples.
June was quiet, apart from our birthdays. We spent a lovely afternoon
in July on the river with the Prydes - Sue particularly enjoyed being rowed
upstream by Chris and Alan. Also in July we were honoured by Peter Hooper's
visit. For Durham friends, being a priest hasn't changed him much. The
boys were in stitches at his bed-time story and want to know when he will
We holidayed in August, in France: two weeks in a gîte with Paul's
parents. (Mark and Sue Howe were having a knee operation and a baby respectively.)
We were in the countryside near Soissons, NE of Paris, and within striking
distance of a run-down farmhouse being renovated by Sue's cousin Valerie
and family ... and of Parc Asterix. The boys loved the day we spent with
the relatives (who had English videos), and even more the day with Asterix,
which included one of the most entertaining shows we have ever seen, revolving
around a plot (several plots, in fact) to steal the Mona Lisa. The boys
found the rest of the holiday 'boring'. Paul and his parents went to Paris
the day before the Pope arrived, and travelled on the metro with most of
the thousands of young people who had assembled to see him. They also got
to the Louvre, and finally managed to see the Mona Lisa ('La Giaconda'),
the Virgin of the Rocks, Venus de Milo, Mr de Milo and so on.
September was quiet. In October Sue did the Christmas shopping at a
Chocoholics party - enough said. It was also a delight to welcome the Jenkins
family for the evening. Hearing of school starting so early in the morning
in Germany made the boys feel less hard-done-by than usual. We also house-sat
a rabbit and a guinea-pig for half-term. Although we enjoyed having them,
it has not inspired Sue to acquire our own.
In November we sent the boys in various directions and spent a weekend
in Nottingham, staying with the Howletts. The purpose of the trip was to
present Europe Now's work at a day organised by OAC Nottingham, and Sue
was able to put a few faces to names. Later in the month came the high
(or was it the low?) point of our social calendar. At the church talent
auction we bought an evening of 'Pasta with the Pastor': a pleasant meal,
we thought, with several friends from church, the pastor and his wife.
Sue was asked beforehand if there was anything we did not like to eat,
as you might expect. Her list included ginger, marmalade, curry and chilli,
but all she could think of for Paul was marshmallows. When we arrived,
there was a strange assortment of dishes on display, and gradually the
horror of our situation dawned: mention anything relating to 'Church',
and the penalty was to eat the food you most disliked. Imagine Paul, with
his mouth full of marshmallows ... we have seldom seen such glee on the
faces of anyone over five years old.
Highlights of December included a trip to Thatcham for Sue's sister
Pip's n-th birthday, with a house-full of guests, while Paul played Go
in Guildford. For Paul, 'achievement of the year' was at the work Christmas
meal. Chocolates were distributed in 'Trivial Pursuit' type game boxes
with questions on a theme: the player with the highest score got to eat
the largest piece. Paul's table had the box with questions on 'Pop Music,'
which, as those of you who recall his familiarity with the genre will appreciate,
ranks slightly below Serbo-Croat as a topic he would choose. But he won
the chocolate (with a score of 1 - a lucky guess, but hey, who cares?)!
After Christmas we spent a few days in London, and visited Docklands. The
boys were fascinated by the driverless trains on the Docklands Light Railway,
and a friendly guard showed them the controls.
We spent the first night of 1998 sharing a Chinese takeaway with the
Kemp family and other friends. A few days later (and unconnected), Paul's
eczema became infected and he spent an unexpected and initially very uncomfortable
10 days at home.
In February this year we joined three other couples from church on a
Mission to Marriage weekend: don't panic, our pastor is encouraging all
couples to go on one. It's hard to describe the experience, but we did
decide that it would be good to go away without the boys at least one weekend
each year, preferably for pleasure rather than on EN business! Soon after
we enjoyed Fritz Goerling staying with us. Fritz is a translation consultant
with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and has links to our church going back
March saw a Hitchins family meal for Mum's 70th birthday, which fortunately
did not clash with Philip's chance to see a Premier League football match:
Wimbledon v. Leicester City (2:1) - Paul's first 'real' football match.
Philip enjoyed it, but would rather not travel so far next time.
And finally April: JAM Club hosted a quiz night, with alternate rounds
of questions for children and adults. Sue scored a creditable 4 out of
6 on both football and TV, and the children were just brilliant. We spent
the week before Easter with Val in Whitley Bay, visiting castles, rockpools,
dinosaurs, Romans, and Metroland (horribly noisy, cramped and expensive
indoor fairground rides - the boys loved it). Philip and Paul did the tour
of St James' Park (for some reason Philip is a Newcastle fan) which they
both enjoyed, Paul far more than he anticipated.
We started to travel home on Maundy Thursday but the flooded roads (remember
the floods?) forced us to give up at Crick, near Rugby. The Forte Posthouse
offered very reasonable B+B (with a bit of haggling and all in one room),
and we took advantage of the swimming pool and sauna next morning, so stayed
in holiday mood.
May is already looking hectic, with French exams, preaching, camping,
and EN meetings...
Culture has included cinema trips: for us, The Crucible (amazing!),
Absolute Power and The Peacemaker (frightening); and with the boys all
the Star Wars (was it really 20 years?), George of the Jungle (Watch out
for that tree!), The Borrowers (no relation to the book), Mousehunt (hysterical)
and Anastasia (just Ian - fancy explaining the Russian revolution to a
There have also been several theatre trips. For his 5th birthday (1997)
Ian and a few friends saw The Famous Five in Woking. Sue made Philip go
to the ballet with her to see Coppelia - he was still dancing then - which
he denied enjoying. Paul and Alan greatly enjoyed the Royal Shakespeare
Company's production of Beowulf in Woking. For Paul's mother's birthday
we treated her to 'All's well that ends well' at the Open Air Theatre in
Regent's Park. Alan went to the Royal Tournament which was 'all right'.
The Beavers allowed us to join them at Ali Baba, a reasonable amateur production.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company's presentation of 'The Bible' had us in
stitches. Maybe this year Paul will manage to see something at The Globe
in London - we visited while it was still being built.
Legoland is still a favourite treat. Alan and Philip both opted for
this as their birthday treat last year, as did Ian for his 6th birthday,
this year. Philip's treat was early, the last weekend Legoland was open,
so there were amazing fireworks. Ian's trip was with two girl friends,
which may explain why it was our best visit yet.
Families: Sue's mother was 70 this year, and there was a three line
whip for lunch. Both Mum and Dad are well, but have had a difficult year
in some ways, with both needing minor surgery. Uncle Phil was 80 last year
and has moved to sheltered accommodation. The siblings are well and seem
to be specialising in moving house. Ray and Diana are the exception, still
in Oxford. Mike and Barbara are in Stalybridge, but hope to move closer
to Barbara's job. Philip and Pip are moving within Newbury: we see them
most often, and there is a good picnic point about half-way between us.
Peter and Jo have sold their house in Eckington and have been renting near
Cambridge, but are desperate to buy before the baby arrives.
Paul's parents continue to thrive, with golf keeping Dad fit and Mum
running round after him and Roger. Roger has changed jobs, from Burberys
to a small financial company. He is happier in this job, and continues
to help with Scouts and lead an active social life.
We still don't have e-mail at home, but as you can see at the top, Paul
can now be found on a more manageable address. Sue actually has two addresses,
but doesn't see either of them every day.
Thank you again for all your cards, letters and other bits. We love
to hear from you - it is a sad day when the postman only brings bills and
junk mail! May God bless you throughout (the remainder of) 1998.
Paul, Sue, Alan, Philip and Ian Hazelden