Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Newnham's - 2010

After a poorly executed attempt to migrate our letter from wood pulp and ink to electrons, we have decided to return to trusty snail mail, with the hope that we will be forgiven (or thanked) by those that missed out over the past year or two. 2010 has been an interesting but challenging year for the USA branch of the Newnham family. Tarrant is 22 and claims to be inch or two taller than Dale, Elliot at 19 has taken to posting complex physics formulas on facebook, and Eleanor has grown into an elegant young lady that captures the heart of everyone she meets (in the totally unbiased opinion of this author).

The "tree" constructed from random sailing bits

Tarrant decided to take up mixed martial arts against our best judgment and stern parental advice. The upside is that he enjoys beating the proverbial out of a whole new set of friends and has added highly functional muscle to his lanky frame. The many downsides include the stench of his gi, the sweat soaked Japanese style outfit that weighs perhaps 30 pounds and takes the best part of two days to dry after working through the family laundry. He is currently recovering from a depressed skull fracture and mild concussion after clashing heads during a training session. The dent in his lower forehead is quite noticeable at certain angles and you can guess what Santa is getting him for Christmas……plastic surgery! Jokes aside he is doing great and hardly missed a day of work or school.

Elliot has been consumed by school work and has done brilliantly, sailing through some very challenging classes and winning his university’s Freshman Engineering Design Competition with an innovative model vehicle that he rigorously tested for many hours.

He plans to major in electrical engineering and his passion for technology has developed into a seemingly masochistic love for solving highly complex mathematics and physics problems. His skills as a dinghy sailor have also developed, culminating in skippering team Newnham at a National regatta on Lake Erie, a week long event with Eleanor and Dale as crew.

Eleanor has enjoyed her junior year at high school a little more than we had hoped, with all the drama and fun you might expect from her group of 16 and 17 year old girlfriends. She has continued to row and competed in a number of regattas throughout the year, improving her fitness and developing a real love for the sport. Dale has taken after his dad Derek, cheering her on from the river bank but has sadly not managed to persuade her coaches to find him a spot in the boat even for a short practice row! Eleanor performed with her school choir at several concerts and sang a duet, played guitar and walked the runway at a fashion show fund raiser.

Eleanor's rowing team

Arlene has been busy coordinating all the family activities and her efforts to exercise continued to be thwarted by curious mishaps. For instance, she sprained her ankle stepping over a matchstick and sliced the top off her finger with a food processor while making Thanksgiving dinner! Eleanor showed her maturity, handling the spurting blood and Arlene’s alternating bouts of screaming and fainting like a highly training ER nurse. Dale had a clear preference for the fainting spells which he used productively to dig the finger slices out of the potatoes in the hope that they could be reattached. Although sewing the finger slices back on was not possible, the finger tip is surprisingly growing back as we write, a bit like a lizard’s tail, but with fewer scales and a lot more audible pain and drama.

Arlene at The High Museum Atlanta

We enjoyed a visit from Arlene’s mum over Christmas and New Year. Our niece Danni, a budding Alt-Country singer-songwriter visited with her girlfriend Sarah during their American tour. Arlene tagged along on their Deep South road trip which included Memphis, Nashville and the birthplace of the king. This was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience for her, and to cap it off we all met at Muscle Shoals Alabama for a sailing regatta where Danni entertained the fleet with her unique British take on country music.

Danni and Sarah at Sun Studios

Danni at Tupelo, the birthplace of the King

Dale began the year training for a triathlon event, working on his pathetic swimming technique and relearning cycling, his primary form of transport as a teenager. He competed in a couple of events, culminated in an Olympic distance triathlon which he completed in just under three hours. After making the mistake of eating a large pasta meal the night before, he woke with severe stomach pain which persisted through the event. Arlene first noticed what was later determined to be an umbilical hernia. Surgery luckily was avoided as the scalpel happy doctor begrudgingly pushed in the offending bulge with his thumb while Dale cried like a baby and jumped clear out of the chair. All seems well without the need to revisit Dr. Evil’s torture chamber, but cheese tortellini is off the menu at Trattoria Newnham. Cycling has become Dale’s latest obsession and he can often be found climbing the mountains of North Georgia and planning a tour of the Pyrenees on a classic British two wheeler. Arlene joined Dale on a number of tandem rides including a tour of a beautiful and hilly college campus in the foothills of the Appalachians.

The tandem ride at Berry College


A ride in Appalachia

That’s all the news for this year and we are clearly hoping there will be fewer mishaps to write about in 2011. Wishing you all a safe and happy new year,

Love and best wishes, Arlene, Dale, Tarrant, Elliot and Eleanor xxxxx

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Newnham's - 2009

The year started with Tarrant’s 21st Birthday party at a lovely pub that is renowned in the Guinness book of records for the largest choice of beers in the world. Tarrant joined a club called Dagohir where members build foam weapons and proceed to beat the living daylights out of each other in battles that are a cross between the Lord of the Rings and Gladiator! This as you can imagine is loads of fun and he has developed an impressive arsenal that includes chainmail, leather armor and a massive foam axe that strikes fear into the heart of every newbie member! Tarrant started his second year working at Trader Joes and is finishing up his degree at Georgia State University.

Tarrant ready for battle, be afraid, very afraid!

Our 31st “going out” anniversary was celebrated by a stay at an historic bed and breakfast in downtown Atlanta. We also enjoyed a visiting exhibition of the Terracotta Army at the High Museum which was pretty amazing.

Eleanor sung and modeled at a school fashion show which is a fund raiser for her choir. This has become a regular event and she has taught herself guitar to play at the 2010 show.

Elliot skippered our old wooden dinghy to 5th place at a regatta in Tennessee, even with the handicap of his dad as crew! This was Elliot’s first adult trophy and a wonderful experience for Dale that made all the renovation work and practice worthwhile. Elliot and Eleanor also crewed for different sailors throughout the year.

Admiral Farragutt regatta in Tennessee

Trying to catch up after going over the start line early

A Thistle class dinghy requires traditional Scottish dress

Our 25th wedding anniversary was in May and we threw a party at the sailing club. Elliot provided music, Tarrant and girlfriend Kaitlyn ran the bar and Eleanor was the official social butterfly. We had a great time with lots of Atlanta friends.

25th Wedding Anniversary

Tarrant and Kaitlyn visited Australia where they stayed with friends in Melbourne, with a side trip to Sydney. They loved the place but said it would be impossible to live there as the Internet is slower than molasses! There is a rumor that Kev the PM heard their complaints and has initiated a massive government investment to speed things up which should make the antipodes bearable for people under 50.

The rest of the Newnham’s followed up with a separate visit down under, spending time with Marlene and Syd in Sydney, and Donna and John in Perth. We also visited Alison and Michael at a wonderful boutique hotel which they ran south of Perth and spent time in the Margret River wine country which was beautiful…sort of Napa Valley with Kangaroos. Elliot and Eleanor had the chance to meet long lost cousins for the first time and spend time in a different but similar culture. Eleanor discovered that her cousin Gabby was a virtual identical twin, which confused friends in Sydney when they saw them together and did a double-take. Elliot and Eleanor also crewed for some casual club racers on Perth Water and demonstrated the finer points of spinnaker handling to some new Aussie sailors.

Rock climbing with Henry at Margaret River near Perth

Gabby, Eleanor, Elliot and Tom in Sydney (see the similarity!)

Visiting with Alison and Michael at Fawlty Towers down-under

Near Palm Beach, North of Sydney

On return from Australia, Eleanor was rushed to Fripp Island in South Carolina where she spent several days with her best friend Elizabeth. This trip has become a tradition which involves bicycling on beaches, golf carts and swimming with friends.

Elliot graduated from high school with a big ceremony with a class of over 600 and is studying engineering at Mercer University south of Atlanta and seems to really enjoy it. He built a new PC for school, with a custom wooden case and water cooling, demonstrating a mastery of carpentry and computing technology.

Elliot's custom water cooled computer

Eleanor joined a rowing club and spent the autumn training and racing at a number of regattas in Georgia and Tennessee. She stroked a four in one race which was her dad’s position when he was Eleanor’s age. This brought back some vivid memories for Dale who re-lived his youth by hanging out among the boats, rowers and coaches. Eleanor, Arlene and Dale plan to compete at an “indoor regatta” in early 2010 in preparation for the new season.

Eleanor's eight after racing on the Tennessee River

Elliot and Dale trying to work out how to pass two boats

Elliot sailing in the rain to a nice finish at the Wild Turkey regatta in south Georgia

Eleanor’s glorious reign as Junior Miss North Georgia State Fair ended as she passed the tiara to her successor who was almost as beautiful (according to dad).

The last day of Eleanor's reign..she was a wise and just leader

Crowning her successor

Arlene joined an Indian dance troupe and performed at a big party after lots of practice which was rumored to be both a physical and mental workout.

Arlene's Indian Dance Troupe

Arlene’s mum is visiting from England and is enjoying spending time with her grandkids over the holidays. She loved watching Eleanor’s choir sing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at an impressive Christmas concert downtown and will also get to celebrate all three birthdays while she is here.

Well, that's the news for this year...love and best wishes for 2010!!

Arlene, Dale, Tarrant, Elliot and Eleanor

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Newnham's - 2008

2008 seems to have gone by in a flash so here is a quick account of the key events that might be of interest. Eleanor played the role of Grace in the musical Honk which is based on the ugly duckling fairy tale. She had to put on an English accent which is easy for her as she frequently mocks Mum and Dad with her witty repartee. Eleanor’s most memorable line was when reminiscing that her husband the mallard “alas, became crispy and aromatic before his time”.
Eleanor backstage in the musical Honk!

Our first regatta was in Jacksonville Florida where Tarrant skippered our dinghy Dare to one of her best ever finishes. Dale and Eleanor crewed and the breeze blew the cobwebs of winter well and truly away.
The Orange Peel Regatta in Jacksonville Florida

Dale and Elliot renovated our old wooden dinghy that was built in 1962, stripping off the old paint and varnishing the hull. They completed the work just in time to enter the Junior Dixie regatta where Elliot, Tarrant and Eleanor raced her to a second place finish.
Elliot preparing 1368's hull with loving care

Elliot with friends sailing in the Dixie Regatta Atlanta

Tarrant moved back home with his cat Leonard and is now commuting to university. He has a part time job at Trader Joes, his dad’s favorite store and has recently formed a band with some friends and is writing songs and planning gigs at local venues.

Naina, Anand and Tejal, our old neighbours and good friends, visited to attend a wedding and we had a great time catching up.

Elliot spent a week playing cello at orchestra camp which culminated in a concert where they played a beautiful rendition of the Harry Potter theme music. This is his last year in high school and he is working on college applications where he hopes to study engineering or computing.
Elliot playing Green Day

The summer really started with Eleanor and Elliot spending a week together with friends at sailing camp. They tested their skills by sailed a wide range of boats and finished the week with some exciting racing in good breeze.
Eleanor at Junior Week

Elliot laser sailing at Junior week

Elliot sailing to second place at Junior Week

Arlene flew to England to care for her Mum as she recovered from an operation. She was able to catch up with family and old friends and travel to Brighton to meet her God daughter Danni. They enjoyed a tour of the Brighton Pavilion, perhaps the most outrageously decorated building on the planet and also managed to squeeze in a trip to London.
Danni at the Brighton Pavilion

Arlene and Danni at the British Museum "Blue Steel" (http://www.wikihow.com/Do-the-%22Blue-Steel%22-Pose-from-Zoolander)

Eleanor crewed for a friend in the Y-Flyer Nationals and won the junior regatta by one point which made it a real nail-biter. Eleanor down-plays the whole thing but Dale likes to announce that his daughter is a national sailing champion and perhaps the first Newnham the rise to such lofty heights.
National Champions

The highlight of the summer was a week in Florida racing our wooden dinghy in the Thistle National Championship regatta. Elliot and Eleanor got third place in the junior event and Elliot skippered the boat in the main event with Dale and Eleanor as crew. There was a lot of wind and even some pop up storms which made the sailing a challenge but major disaster was avoided and the old boat held together well.
Our best start at Thistle Nationals (2177)

Sailing in after racing

Dale travelled to England and persuaded his friend Andrew to spend four days sailing on the Norfolk Broads. Andrew’s visions of a luxurious and leisurely cruise were shattered as the “yacht” was built in 1932 and lacked an engine, electricity and running water. Sleeping onboard was akin to being jammed inside a mahogany coffin and their 40 year friendship was tested as they navigated the treacherous waters under sail and human power alone.
Andrew showing complete mastery of the oil lamp

Hustler 2, moored at Thurn, Norfolk

Andrew manhandling Hustler 2 through the low bridge at Potter Heigham

Derek and Sheila, Dale’s mum and dad moved back to the Isle of Wight after 50 years on the mainland and they spent time together with Martin, Misha and Hari rediscovering family in their ancestral homeland. Dale also spent time with Donna and Henry who were visiting from Australia.
Misha, Dale and Hari at Sandown Isle of Wight

Aunty Joan's beach hut

Eleanor was persuaded by a friend to enter a local beauty pageant which is something that Mum and Dad were not overly keen on having recently seen the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”. Arlene rustled up a secondhand dress and acted as makeup artist preparing her for the big event. The tension mounted as the third and second place winners were announced and Arlene burst into laughter as Eleanor was anointed “Junior Miss North Georgia State Fair”!
Beauty Queen

Dale volunteered for the Obama campaign and spent election day getting out the vote. This was an unforgettable experience and hopefully the start of a new path for America and perhaps the world.
Dale with his "flat" mate Obama

Tarrant, Eleanor and Elliot

That’s the news for this year. Hope you all have a great holiday, with love and best wishes for 2009.
Dale, Arlene, Tarrant, Elliot and Eleanor

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Newnhams - 2007

Well, time seems to be flying by for the North American branch of the Newnham clan. The year started out with Elliot completing his custom computer and entering in a county technology fair. He enjoyed demonstrating the advanced features and fine woodworking to an admiring crowd of techno-geeks and judges and won first place in the hardware category. This qualified him for a State wide contest where he came in third place against some stiff competition. Elliot continues to tweak and tune his machine and has helped a number of friends to build their own “Ell” computers which are faster and cheaper than similar machines from that insignificant competitor that shall remain nameless.

In March, Elliot and Dale crewed for a good friend, Jim Roberts at the Thistle Mid Winters regatta in Florida. This was a solid week of sailing and coaching on Tampa bay mixing with some of the best dinghy sailors in the country. The last day included some pretty strong winds and big waves that were both exciting and a little frightening in a small sailboat, but they managed to hold it together for 3rd place in the B fleet and some nice awards. Arlene claims this was actually also 3rd from last, but this is not even close to the truth...honest!

Elliot, Dale and Eleanor sailing Dare at the Orange Peel Regatta, Jacksonville, Florida

The next big event was Eleanor singing in the chorus of her school’s musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. This was a big production for a middle school, with many months of rehearsals, but opening night and the cast party made it all worth it. Eleanor also enjoyed one of the most important events in modern literature, with the release of the last Harry Potter novel “Deathly Hallows”. Our local bookstore held a monster party with horse drawn carriage, sorting hat and a thousand Potter Pretenders. Arriving home in the early hours of the morning and attempting to read through the night was challenging. Eleanor is active in the school choir and recently sang at an Honour Chorus concert with over 100 others picked from district schools.

Thoroughly Modern Millie chorus line

Tarrant started his second year of college by moving into a small house in down-town Atlanta with 5 friends and his (our!) Jack Russell Neo. Tarrant’s friend Jessica found a young stray Pit-Bull/Boxer cross in a parking lot in a sorry state and nursed her back to health. Uma and Neo have become the best of friends, although it’s best to keep clear if they are play-fighting! Tarrant has decided to major in Business and IT, which is a change from his initial thoughts of a career in music or anthropology, but its early days and who knows what he will decide to do.

This was not staged, they actually do love each other!

The possum returned for revenge after last year’s humiliation and had obviously bulked up a lot and developed more advanced fighting skills. Neo was more cautious and seems to have lost a little of his youthful recklessness. He kept the formidable intruder at bay using more mature techniques that included a nasty bark and a particularly hard stare, avoiding direct dog/possum contact (for the most part).

In May, Dale and Arlene helped organize the “Disco Dixie” regatta. The theme brought back some great memories and some pretty dreadful clothes and music, but the party was epic and the sailboat racing was a lot of fun with the best turnout for many years. Elliot and Eleanor raced our boat “Dare” with friend Trey as crew in the Junior Regatta, sailing well to take first place! This was a great accomplishment that made Dale’s year as he proudly made the awards to his talented offspring! A picture of the winning team made the front page of the “Bagpipe”, a national sailing magazine for the Thistle class which nicely topped off a wonderful event.

Elliot starting a roll tack in the Dixie Junior Regatta

Eleanor and Elliot with friend Trey modeling on the front cover of the The "Vogue" of dinghy sailing, Dad got up a 7am to wax that hull!

Dale discovered a beautiful old wooden dinghy built in 1962, the year he was born and viewing this as divine providence could not resist adding this to the Newnham fleet. Elliot and Dale spent many hours lovingly upgrading the old girl and raced her with Eleanor and Tarrant in a number of autumn regattas, possibly the only team in the country to race with an original wooden rig. The person that owned the dinghy happened to also have an old rowing shell that he wanted to part with, so Dale is reliving his youth and has taking up rowing again in a futile attempt to stave off the onset of old age!

Eleanor, Tarrant and Dale at the Great Pumpkin Regatta in Alabama sailing the old wooden Thistle

Dale trying to remember how to row

Tarrant, Elliot and Eleanor spent a week together at a sailing camp which has become a real family tradition. Days were filled with good friends, games, sailing and a number of practical jokes at the expense of the adult “supervisors”. Arlene was Cabin Mum to the eldest boys which included Tarrant, much to his chagrin. Elliot and Eleanor sailed to victory in the end of camp regatta and were closely followed by Tarrant’s team who sailed Dare to a well earned 3rd place.

Tarrant's Thistle team

By that smile, Elliot, Eleanor and Trey just got another 1st place!

Tarrant working hard to catch Elliot (the silly hat is fast)

Elliot on the right, Tarrant 3rd from the left and ahead

Sailing camp attendees (they look harmless in this picture)

Elliot continues to play the cello and had a big trip to Europe, with stops in Prague, Berlin and Vienna. They played a number of concerts in some great locations and visited the birth place of some famous composers. Both Tarrant and Elliot really prefer live composers and they saw a number of excellent bands including The Decemberists, The Shins, Ted Leo, Death Cab for Cutie and Of Montreal.

Arlene started a part time job at a wedding gown boutique, as a receptionist where she enjoys getting dressed up and meeting the new brides-to-be. We hope to not take advantage of the staff discount at any point in the near future! Arlene has also had fun developing her flower arranging skills decorating at parties and a friend’s wedding. She was also lucky enough to see the Police reunion tour in Atlanta.

That’s our news for this year. Hoping you all have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

With love and best wishes,

Dale, Arlene, Tarrant, Elliot, Eleanor