Christmas 2013

This time last year Keith wrote: ”The aim for next year is to be more relaxed and spend long holidays with the family and visiting friends – we shall see.” Well, it did not work out as we had hoped. In fact 2013 has been a pretty unlucky year – but at last things are looking up and we definitely intend to be more relaxed and enjoy long holidays next year.
The first disaster was a break-in. We had gone over to Scotland early to get Stroanfreggan ready for our big family get together when our flat in Copenhagen got burgled. I (PatC) flew back for 24 hours to assess the damage. He had taken most of my jewellery and left a mess, but nothing was badly damaged, not even the window he had forced open and climbed in through. The insurance paid up, but of course most of the jewellery was of sentimental value. The police have since tracked him down through DNA left as a smudge on the window pane and he comes to court in January.
Stroanfreggan was not finished for Christmas; in fact it was barely inhabitable. We managed to improvise, wrap up warmly and huddle together – a bit like “old times” and it was wonderful for us to have all the children and grand children together. The builder pulled out and we got an arbitration against him but he is declaring himself bankrupt.
We employed the sub-contractors to get the house in a reasonable state and we spent July there with Luke, Lisa and James and some of their friends.
Wind farms took up quite a lot of time – the last count was 500 turbines built, approved or in planning in the local village area (which has 125 adult inhabitants). It meant that we got to know all our neighbours a lot better and the local community voted nearly unanimously to reject the proposal around us – we shall see whether the political platitudes about respecting local opinion count for anything.
At the end of July we celebrated Ruth’s 40thbirthday party in a Martello Tower on Shingle Street Suffolk. The weather was good, the skies over the flat landscape magnificent and we had a wonderful week together.

Those weeks in July were especially precious as they represented a brief respite from my thymoma (cancer) treatment. It was a dreadful shock getting the scan results in February and I wouldn’t have survived so well without all the steadfast love from family and friends. It’s been a very long haul and has dominated our year, but now I am declared cancer free and am focused on getting stronger and fitter.  You can read about it on my health blog:
Now for some other family news: Ruth continues to work very hard commuting to her chambers on the improved (but not always reliable) East Suffolk line but will be taking a sabbatical from March. Mike, like all free-lancers finds it hard to say “no”, so is also very busy but has taken up rowing on the Waveney. I loved the film “Rush” that he worked on even though I have no interest in Formula One. Rosie (5) knows all her “Rainbow reader” key words and Evie (3), who was an inn keeper in her pre-school nativity play, spoke her lines so clearly, “I haven’t got a room, but I have got a stable”. Both girls are self confident and very sweet.
Matthew has become an academic and doing a Ph.D. Sam (7) is a brilliant reader, creative and easily out-manoeuvres his grandfather in a game of football on the links. Emma (5) is learning to read very fast and draws the most amazing little pictures while Lucy (2) is already a demon on a scooter and determined to join in with everything. Alice ensures everyone’s lives run smoothly.
James (3) has boundless energy and is getting on well at his kindergarten; the teachers say it is quiet when he is not there! Luke is very busy and his expertise much sought after. I’ve lost count of how many universities he is an associate of. Lisa, after 3 months learning how to brew beer has shelved her plans to start a micro brewery and starts a new job in January in charge of anti money laundering for Credit Lyonnaise Securities Asia. So they will stay in Hong Kong for a while longer.
Retirement seems to be about as easy to achieve as tranquillity. 2013 began with a great party at work to celebrate mine, but I have since kept up a fairly steady pace of papers, book chapters and reviews, with a flurry of invited talks in September and October, as Patricia’s treatment ended. This included a very enjoyable few days in Reykjavik to accept the 2013 Johan Hjort Chair in Marine Ecosystem Research and a brief visit to Dublin, where I got to see the Book of Kells as well as taking part in a panel discussion on climate change.
A couple of red squirrels do a tour of our garden almost every day to check for edibles and often pause in front of the window where I work. When the cherries were ripe we did battle over who should eat them, but they were not intimidated by shouts or water cannon and simply give you a withering glare.

This year it is “not our turn” to host Christmas so we will be at home alone (Keith is going to cook duck) and go over to Stroanfreggan for New Year with Matthew and family. We’ll welcome 2014 in, keep our fingers crossed and do what we can to ensure that it is a good year for relaxing, travelling and visiting (and being visited by) friends.

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