Last year was the year of the snow, as those of you who read our Christmas letter last year may remember. That letter was distributed before we went away for a pre-Christmas break. It was a chance to try our ancient and tiny Eriba Pan Duo caravan - 6 by 10 feet and room for everything happy campers could wish for. Off we went to the Cotswolds – shouldn’t be too much snow there. It turned out to be the coldest place in England -18° and -15° on our campsite, with somewhere between 8 and 12 inches of snow! We had a glorious walk in the blizzard that dropped the bulk of the snow and arrived back to discover the campsite managers ready to set out and look for us if we didn’t return by 5 pm – we made it with five minutes to spare.
We had a quiet Christmas on our own and then were joined for the New Year by Dad and Michael and Rachel and their families, and of course we did all the traditional family Christmas things.
Easter was a complete contrast. Another holiday in the caravan in the Lake District – an area that we have sadly neglected in the past. It was absolutely glorious. The temperature reached 25° in the sun on more than one occasion and we needed the sun cream as we walked and walked and BBQed. We did all the famous walks: Skiddaw, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn as well as walking round some of the Lakes. Jill made wreckage of her knees on the first really steep descent. Rathbones came to the rescue with the most serious (and ugly) knee straps I have ever seen. She managed all the rest of the walks. The scariest moment was driving over Hardknott and Wrynose Passes – steep and so narrow that you almost touch both sides of the little walls alongside the hairpins. It didn’t help meeting a really scared driver coming towards us who was paralysed at the predicament we faced as we came upon each other at the wrong moment.
In the summer, we went to South West France, not too far from Italy for yet more knee-challenging walks in the Alps. Duly strapped up (Jill!) we managed a number of mountain tops – some of the most spectacular hiking we have ever done. We tended to walk without the proper maps using books of walks, definitely a mistake as one path disappeared at the top. We couldn’t return as it was seriously ‘vertigineuse’ (guide book speak) and Jill decided she would never get down looking over the drop! Instead we came down a very steep descent with no paths on our bums – lost a rucksack which somersaulted several hundred feet, the GPS, a Tilley hat and other odds and sods. Adrian broke a walking stick prodded into the mountain side to stop a rather rapid descent and Jill shredded her walking trousers. 2 hours it took to get down that steep descent and then a 2 hour walk down the rest on a proper path. We got back at 9.20 pm, two hours after our booking at a very nice restaurant and twenty minutes after the little pizza shop closed. So the day ended with a shower, salad, wine eaten in the open air as the sun sank. We are definitely planning a return visit next summer!
You might have guessed by now that the flatness of Cambridge has seriously got to us and dreams are filled with hills and mountains! However we are both glad to be here in Cambridge. Ridley Hall is a dynamic and fun community as well as being exhausting at times, an excellent place to work. Jill continues to enjoy being part-time, although not always as part-time as she would like in term time. There is pay-back time in the vacations, which we are enjoying to the full. Jill’s immediate boss was on sabbatical in the Easter term so she did an extra day – it was okay for a term but she was glad to return to normal in the new academic year.
We took our Summer holiday early so that we were on hand for the final planning of the ‘Dying Well’ conference put on by the Simeon Centre. It was excellent. The speakers were of diverse opinions who respected one another and were very complimentary about the papers of others who differed in their opinions. There was lots of opportunity for ‘round table’ discussion and on the final afternoon some questions grew out of participants’ very painful situations and history. All took place in an atmosphere of great grace helped by some very sensitive and moving worship which held us all in the presence of God.
Adrian continues to roam the country speaking here, there and not quite everywhere! Jill is frequently asked ‘Where is Adrian?’ and oftentimes the answer is ‘I don’t know!’ as she has long since given up taxing a feeble memory with the effort of remembering the various dioceses and retreat houses to which he so often departs. If she gets desperate, she can always check on our shared Google calendar! A couple of firsts on the work front: Adrian has examined two doctoral theses this year and he’s supervising another on Christian Music among one of the tribes in the Sahel region. So he has added the word ‘ethnomusicology’ to his vocabulary. (Jill: however can you supervise a thesis when it is about something you have to have explained by your student?!)
Looking forward, next year brings the 3rd sabbatical of Adrian’s working life. The last was spent in the curate’s house at Greasley, sitting back to back with Jill, both at tiny computer trolleys (about an inch between!) in a dining room that doubled as a study and was too small for either! (Apologies to Greasley – we really loved living and working there.) This one will begin after the Easter term and last till the start of the Michaelmas term i.e. July to the beginning of January. At this moment he thinks he would like to write about enjoying being radical and Anglican – but who knows whether this might change before it begins. Jill is busy working out how best to enjoy some of the fun parts with him.
It will also be our 40th wedding anniversary. So, apart from the Alps, we intend to do a short cruise on the Nile. Normally averse to hotels, crowds of people, being stationary etc, we decided we could cope with it for a short while for a change and it might even be a fun thing to do to celebrate 40 years of a wonderfully happy marriage.
The fruits of that marriage continue to be well and happy. Michael is now based at RAF Northolt and Northwood, the UK’s principal military HQ site, although he is living at the decommissioned base in Uxbridge. His wife Helen is teacher training and Michael commutes to work (16 miles round trip) on a tandem dropping Naomi at school. Hannah boards at Plymouth College where she successfully combines study with swimming. Rachel and Dave are still at Stapleford. Charlotte and Lucy continue to thrive although four-year old Lucy’s theological questioning really needs an on-site theological educator. Her last foray took her to the Garden of Eden, the birth of Jesus, his death, his resurrection and his coming again – all in half an hour! She has already done some serious Advent theological reflection: if Jesus is coming again to establish God’s kingdom and to take people home to heaven, what happens to those that have already died?!
A good point to wish you all a Happy Christmas filled with remembrance of the One who left heaven’s splendour to live in this spoiled and damaged world in order to bring forgiveness, peace and hope as we wait for the consummation of all things.