2002 has been another busy year, with three holidays, and some major plumbing work to fit in, and numerous activities with our local Methodist church and theatre club.

Although living in the Chiltern Hills has many attractions - the leafy woods almost behind the house, the breath taking view of rolling hills only half a mile away, and the stunning Autumn colours along many of the roads - we do miss the sea. We have instead adopted the Grand Union Canal as our cob-web blowing space. The Wendover arm reaches out to us only 15 minutes away, and the main branch is a little further on at Tring. As there were no events in the village to celebrate the Golden Jubilee, we went instead to the Tring Canal Festival, where the boys had a brilliant time making t-shirts and badges, and enjoying a boat ride on the canal.

Now that it's free, we decided to take the boys to the Natural History Museum in London, which went down quite well, although James was rather thrown by how realistic the animated dinosaurs were. He decided that he much preferred the skeletons.

Shortly afterwards we discovered that we had a branch of the Natural History Museum practically on our doorstep. The Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring includes stuffed polar bears, monkeys and Matthew’s current favourite, the lemur.

Another favourite local haunt for the boys is the Railway Museum at Quainton, and we normally manage a couple of visits each year. There's regular steam train rides, plus a wonderful ride-on miniature train layout.

They have several events during the year, including the inevitable "Thomas" weekends. We even saw a replica of Stephensons’ Rocket this year.

In June we had a week in France. This year we decided to fly to Nice instead of the three-day drive that we’d previously taken. We carefully chose a campsite with a railway station, bus stop, and even a Marineland and Butterfly Jungle within walking distance. We found a contact for the campsite on the Internet, and the result was a mobile home with a vertiginous view of the river. We were lucky with the weather, sandwiched between two unusually wet spells. James took a little while to get used to the swimming pool, but by the end of the week couldn’t get his clothes off quickly enough to jump in and play with his new dolphin. We were lucky enough to meet up with my school friend Susanne and her two children during the holiday, and an extra treat for the boys was the train ride to Menton.
In August we had ten days in Ireland. Again, the sun smiled on us, and we had only a few spots of rain the whole holiday. We had a day in Dublin, enjoying an open-top bus ride and a trip to Dublin Zoo, and a couple of days in ‘Grandma Leathley’s’ hotel in Monaghan (James was convinced his Grandma owned the B&B we stayed in, as she had free run of the kitchen, having worked there half a century ago.) It was lovely to catch up with aunts, uncles and cousins. The boys enjoyed Uncle Gerry’s ‘Teletubbyland’, riding Ryan’s bike, and playing in the close with Christopher and Nathan and their friends.

We spent the remaining week of the holiday on a farm in County Fermanagh’s Lake District, near Enniskillen. James still talks about the cows and the tractor, and Matthew remembers throwing bread for the chickens and the cow banging its head on the feeder to get extra feed.

Robert, Jean and 9 year old Emma made us very welcome, and a return visit could be on the schedule in the future. Who knows, in a few years they might even want to drive the quad bike!

Our final holiday this year was a short break at Centerparcs. Malcolm’s mum, dad and sister-in-law joined us for a day, which was a particular treat for the boys.

Malcolm is still working for O2 in Hammersmith, and I confess it took me until October to realise that he’s spending most of his time at work on games! No, he’s not plugged a play station into his laptop, he’s managing a number of projects with the aim of getting customers to download games onto their mobile phones.

Malcolm is sometimes allowed out to bang bits of wood together when the local theatre club (PTC) needs a set constructed. His more regular handy work can be seen in the shape of their website.

Rashly, I auditioned for the PTC panto this year, and will be appearing as third villager from the left (with lines) from January 17th.

I’m still teaching yoga to my adults, and I’m contemplating setting up a children’s yoga class next year (but probably with older children than the four year olds I had a try out with.) I still carry out a monthly software review for ‘Health and Safety at Work’, and they’ve just published my first two page article (on how to choose safety related computer based training, for those of you interested).
Matthew is enjoying two mornings a week at nursery, and January will see James in his first school uniform as he starts at the local infant school’s early years unit (half days). You’ll have to wait for next year’s newsletter for his first day at school photo!