We have now put the clocks back and had our Halloween and Firework parties so Winter and Christmastide are officially beckoning. Shops and streets are packed with goodies and seasonal lights and we now feel "in the Mood".
Our year has been one of change, all for the better! John retired from the Civil Service on Jan 21st, aged 60 and Bron arranged a family get-together with his three brothers, wives and five nephews and nieces plus Katherine, partner Rob, and Martin. It's rare to get the young folks all together these days. Fifteen of us took over a wing of rooms at a Travel Lodge and had Champagne, cake and general partying, followed by a super meal at an adjacent restaurant. It was much appreciated by John. He also had a good send off from work and received some power tools he really wanted amongst his leaving presents. We spent the next two weeks going mad ordering new carpets, curtains and suite covers for the living room, which, now redecorated, looks great. We then got used to doing things when WE wanted, not collecting up until the weekend when the weather can turn unhelpful.Our next activity was to embark on a five-week vacation to the USA (our rather favourite second home). We caught up with British Embassy friends in Washington DC, John's ex-boss from Colorado now living in Huntsville, Alabama, and two much loved friends, (American), who have stayed with us in the past and who now live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Murrell's Inlet on the coast of South Carolina. In between we motored and explored down the Blue Ridge Mountains, across the Carolinas and back up the East Coast. Though we have travelled extensively in the States this holiday enabled us to widen our knowledge -- all before it got too hot and humid too. We got back just right for attacking the garden for the summer. Sometime in the foreseeable future we will revisit Colorado and go on to the Northwest, Pacific coast and into Canada.
John has enjoyed some good Harley rides, doing the 'male' thing and riding to the Isle of Skye again amongst them. He also did a sponsored 500-mile ride in 20 hours on the Harley (i.e. through the night) for Mencap. He thoroughly enjoyed that and hopes to go again. He managed to arrange his route so he could get his head down for three hours at our daughter's at York. He earned a 'Gold' award plaque for doing the full five hundred miles. We have used our soft-top sports car quite a lot too, enjoying the open-top, 'wind-in-your-hair' experience throughout our pretty reasonable summer weather. The Kit-car firm has asked us twice this year to put our kit car on their stand and help to man the stand at Kit Car shows. Surprisingly interesting and exhausting but OK to do occasionally.
Bron is involved with the EIL from an active committee position, and provided a long weekend's food in April for a Memorial Service weekend when representatives from all over the world visited. Our British National Director, who had worked dedicatedly for the EIL for 14 years, died suddenly aged only 43. A great tragedy and he is sorely missed. In addition to her usual pursuits Bron has been round two car racetracks -- once in a parade with Martin in his racy Marcos; the second was in a fun racer at over 100 miles per hour, somewhat on and OFF the course!
We managed to book a three-day break in South Devon in order to watch the total eclipse of the sun this summer. It was an eerie experience but very effective seen from the beach and watching the huge black shadow from the right then seeing it lightening up again from the right soon after. The seabirds settled down to roost for a while too.
This Autumn has been DIY time. Firstly our son Martin's old heating system packed up so he got organised for radiators, boiler and new plumbing to be put in. Whilst having the whole house in total chaos he went the whole hog and ordered his new kitchen! He is slowly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but decorating, new carpets etc all seem even more necessary. However he has begun by buying some bedroom furniture to replace some of the old cast outs we gave him to get him started.
We were delighted to learn that our daughter Katherine and partner Rob have decided to move out of Yorkshire to Warwickshire to a new farm job. Their actual move was over last weekend and involved about 10 of us, using 5 cars and a van. The latter proved to be too small and it had to be filled twice! Their three ferrets had a bumpy ride but were fine. The hawk spent 48 hours in it's cramped, dark travelling box so was in an evil and stressed state of mind when released into it's rebuilt aviary and given a whole rabbit as a peace offering. They also have 6 assorted dogs but they thought it all a great adventure with a good, big, new garden to sniff around in. They now live about 65 miles away, not 200, so we hope to see much more of them in future. Katherine wants us all to spend Christmas Day there; my Mum included if she is up to it. It's over 10 years since the five of us have been together for Christmas.
Retirement is the third stage of LIFE we are told so John is realising a lifelong ambition - to learn to play the TROMBONE!!!! He is now having lessons and tries to play (or keep up) with the High School Band which our two children were part of. Friends, parents and past members balance the newcomers. Martin has rejoined with his cornet, and it's all thanks to his new girlfriend who, with her sister, virtually run the show with a couple of music teachers. John is going Carol Bashing with them tonight up town with late night shopping and Santa Claus and all. The Trombone is a very pleasant instrument, even when being learned and Bron is buying him a brand new one for the Millennium. John has just been told by a friend not to consider himself "retired" but "in receipt of a pension" - a subtle difference which we both appreciate.
We sincerely hope that all of you have had a happy and healthy year like us. The new Millennium is a good time for us all to take stock of our lives and hopes and work towards making the future a better one for others, -- those we know personally, or others less fortunate round the world. Let's hope 2000 will bring love and peace to the World and to you and your family.
We both send all our love. Take care, John & Bron.