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December 2009
Dear Family & Friends,

It must be autumn because Bron has got the "Spring Cleaning" Bug! The loft is being blitzed as we found we could not stuff any more up there and couldn't find what we knew was there. Where it all comes from in, say five years, let alone 25 years is a puzzle. At the further end are the Christmas decorations so we hope to get to those before the holiday season!

Where has summer gone? Here we had just three really hot days in June and as those were 85 to 89 degrees they were too hot; the rest of the "summer" has been very poor or cold wherever we have been. Our daughter Katherine featured on Sky television in January with Ernie, her assistance dog, on Noel Edmunds "HQ" programme. Noel had initiated a program to donate old mobile 'phones for the Support Dogs charity under the catchy title "Give a Dog a 'Phone". It takes 10,000 to train and support each dog for all its life. In just three weeks they had been given enough 'phones for re-cycling to fund 4 new dogs - a fantastic result.

A friend of ours, badly injured in a road accident several years ago has just become the proud owner of such a dog, from a similar charity "Canine Partners" based at Heyshott in West Sussex. Bron was down there for a week as her P.A. while she trained with the dog and cared for him, and then came back to Malvern with them both. It was a very interesting and rewarding time. Katherine's dog came via the "Support Dogs" charity based in Sheffield. Both organisations rely on donations and sponsors to help with all sorts of disabilities - deafness, epilepsy, and all sorts of physical impairments. So you can see there's a lot more to canine support than the well known "Guide Dogs for the Blind". While Bron was helping there (in August) John went to Brass Band Summer School again and had a really good time, as usual.

Earlier Bron did a creative textile course over last winter (from September until March), culminating in a finished offering to the quilting group's public exhibition at the end of March. We then dashed off to South West Scotland to catch up with old friends and their children from North Carolina who were checking out some of their Scottish roots. It was pretty cold up there but an interesting area, home to Robert Burns that we hadn't been to before.

Soon after returning from Scotland we re-packed our bags for our latest trip to the USA, "New England in Spring". Flying with Aer Lingus from nearby Birmingham to Boston, we explored a bit of Massachusetts, followed the Maine coast to Acadia National Park and then went North to Quebec City. We really fell in love with the old town particularly. After a few days in Quebec we headed back south to New Hampshire's Green Mountains and White Mountains but then, very unusually John became really ill with a high fever. After a day or so John wasn't getting any better despite having been seen by a GP so we decided to cut and run home before thing escalated with awful financial consequences. (We were actually less than 100 miles from Boston Airport). It was fortunately not catching to others and responded back home with 3 lots of antibiotics and he was spared septicaemia thank heavens. So our much planned and anticipated wander through Vermont may happen in the future, or never - we shall see.

In June John was asked to help Worcester Concert Brass band on their twinning trip to Le Vesinet (a Western suburb of Paris) complete with coach trip and homestays over the weekend. Bron went too as general helper, holder-down-of-music-in-the-wind and handbag holder, to say nothing of being unofficial band photographer! The event was 15th anniversary of the twinning of Worcester with Le Vesinet. There were two or three concerts, one literally on the banks of the Seine. We also had a side-trip to Monet's Garden at Giverney - our second visit, this time a summer one. Heavenly!

We've enjoyed two family get-togethers this year, which has been great. The first at the end of May was for John's eldest brother Peter's 75th birthday when both their grandchildren had come from Sydney for a month too. We had previously met young Michael at about 9 months old. Now he's a very enquiring & thoughtful young man of 3+ years. His new sister Alison, just 8 months old, took everything in at the party, including lots of eats at teatime in a very equable and engaging way - a real poppet. The second get together, in July, was organised by John's younger brother. To celebrate their Ruby Wedding anniversary year David hired a genuine Thames barge from Maldon in Essex for a sedate sail on the estuary, followed by a super buffet on board at the quayside while the tide retreated. Many of David & Jeannette's family & friends were there, including their 8 month old grandson Jason from Hinwil, Switzerland with his Mum & Dad Bea & Chris. John's 70th birthday in January was marked with just a small family get-together. Maybe we'll do something grander to mark Bron's 70th birthday next March.

John did some brotherly bonding by going for a few days motorcycling with his two younger brothers and a cousin. David organised this too - day trips in deepest East Anglia and Northamptonshire. It went so well that they'll do it again. Next time it'll be John's turn to organise trips in this area - not difficult with Welsh Marches, Forest of Dean, and the Cotswolds all on our doorstep! No doubt Bron will be making lots of Bikers dinners, just as Jeannette did last time.

The Tewkesbury Band made a flying weekend visit back to Miesbach to play in a Bavarian "Oompah" festival early in September. They played three other concerts as well so were kept pretty busy. This time the band members flew by Easyjet. All the instruments were taken earlier by road (white van!) courtesy of the band's drummer and musical director. Martin came too this year and John really enjoyed being back again - we had a lovely holiday there last year.

We have re-joined the National Trust after a long break and have enjoyed visiting several local venues as well as one or two further away. One recent trip, to the Dutch water gardens at Westbury on Severn was a previously unknown nearby delight to us. It has been ravaged by floods in recent years like the rest of us and its magnificent Yew hedges are suffering with the dreaded Phytopthora disease so some serious decisions about the way forward have to be made - to maintain historical accuracy or to introduce more disease-resistant varieties.

Quite a number of people we know are having problems over job security, or lack of it. We thought it would hit this region by the end of this year, and so it has - several shops and business shutting their doors for the last time. Also our daughter Katherine has had a rotten year, having spent several weeks in hospitals at Birmingham and Worcester with considerable health issues due to her underlying condition. She's on the mend again now though so let's hope we will all be able to recoup over the family time of Christmas, and the chance for a positive and upbeat start to the New Year.

We wish you all the very best in health and success in 2010.

Happy Christmas and much love from John & Bron.

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