Sunday, December 31, 2000

The Newnham Christmas Letter - 2000

It’s been two years since our last Christmas letter as we were pre-occupied last year in the UK for Y2K festivities. It was great visiting family and friends and Ali G’s address to the Nation was not to be missed. We spent new years eve at Arlene’s mum’s which was fun, especially when Eleanor, Danielle and Donna dressed as fairies, wings, wands and all. The back garden firework display was impressive with John’s pyromaniac tendencies in full swing. We all spent a few days on the Isle of Wight, with my Dad and Arlene’s mum, reliving my childhood, playing on the beach and walking over Tenneson’s Down. December on the Island is pretty cold and wet and we literally were up to our knees in mud and cow by-product – an excellent way to toughen up those soft American kids of ours. Martin and Anita’s baby boy arrived in the nick of time, a few days before we had to return which was a wonderful present for us all (another soccer playing pigeon fancier in the making).

We spent time with Kath & Steve in Lake Tahoe in August, which was a little warmer. Tarrant got to sail a catamaran by himself which brought a big smile to his face (and mine!), and Eleanor and Elliot spent time catching Crawdads (tiny lobsters), on the shore of the lake. Another day was spent “white” water rafting and had the most fun soaking bicyclists and in-line skaters riding along the riverbank (serves them right for being so trendy). The kids got to see San Francisco for the first time and complained about walking up all the steep hills. Driving through the clouds on the Golden Gate and along the Pacific coast was magical, on our quest to find Drake’s landing place. Eleanor was caught tree-hugging a Redwood.

My fantasy was fulfilled visiting the Tallships at Charleston Harbour, especially the 18th century British Frigate HMS Rose. Tarrant was most attracted to the ships with the best cooks and galleys while Arlene seemed to enjoy the Argentine sailors in their cute white uniforms (her words, not mine!).

Arlene surprised Sharon for her 40th birthday, nearly sending her into shock. The highlight of the party was Danielle playing Sax and singing, while Gregory break-danced (once torn away from the girls). A wonderful time was had visiting old friends and new additions. I also got to surprise everyone when I spent a week working in the UK during the petrol crisis which forced me to brave British Rail more than I had planned.

I especially enjoyed the Olympics, where Britain excelled on the water, rowing and sailing. Live coverage of the games for us was calling Dad in the UK so he could stick the phone by the TV, nothing like heavily biased BBC commentary! This encouraged me to get back in a rowing boat for the first time in over 10 years, it seems more difficult than I remember….I wonder why?

The kids are growing fast, Tarrant is officially taller than Arlene, Eleanor’s debating skills exceed the entire family’s and Elliot finally learnt to ride a bike and swim a width in the pool. Tarrant has started to play the oboe and performed in several school concerts. Elliot and Tarrant’s football (soccer) skills are improving, culminating when they took me down during practice (a sign of thing to come I feel). Elliot’s prized possession is a football signed by the Arsenal team, a feat only achieved by a fanatical Godmother. Tarrant of course supports Man Utd but he stopped just short of letting the air out Elliot’s ball. Tarrant broke his hand while playing keeper, which would have been fine except that it was not his writing hand.

The entire neighborhood turned out for a Halloween party in our garage when we introduced the locals to a bizarre and ancient British game….Conkers, which Arlene nervously sneaked through customs on her return from England. Trick-or-treating is a little quicker these days with Eleanor leading the pack, on a sugar high screaming “give me candy”, at the top of her voice. My efforts to encourage please and thank you were fruitless so I levied heavy chocolate fines to bring home this important point.

As we look forward to another wonderful Christmas season we wish everyone a New Year filled with happiness. Visitors as always are very welcome, room rate is a box of PG Tips per week!

Love and best wishes,

Dale, Arlene, Tarrant, Elliot & Eleanor