Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Merry Christmas - 2003

Well, another year has flown by so I’ll try to provide a quick account without sending you to sleep. We had a great New Year with Arlene’s sister Alison visiting from Australia (what about the Rugby!) We missed Tarrant who was with his school marching band in California, performing at the Rose Bowl Parade and Disneyland. He is enthusiastic about playing percussion but finds the American football a bit of a distraction. He is also perfecting his rock-star image, learning the bass guitar and growing his hair to unsightly lengths (you can tell I am jealous). Tarrant has formally declared he is both taller and faster than me. I of course dispute both these phony claims and have an open challenge on the table which he has yet to accept (he mentioned something about not wanting to show me up…cheek!)

Eleanor is still enjoying dance and performed at the school variety show and her dance school recital. She also joined girl guides this year and went camping several times showing excellent skills with the bow and arrow (watch out boys, don’t even come close)!

Elliot’s cello playing is coming along and he performed several concerts with the school orchestra during the year. He tends to spend a lot of time stuck behind a computer screen, building websites or playing games. Getting him and his friends to explore the real, rather than the virtual world is a real challenge!

Both Tarrant and Elliot continued with their soccer and had a lot of fun. I coached Elliot’s team this year (for some reason my accent seemed to sufficiently qualify me for this position). Little did they know that I played rugby not soccer as a boy and was clueless! My unorthodox coaching style expanded the vocabulary of the kids on the team, but luckily none of the parents understood these “colourful” English colloquialisms.

I spent a day sailing in San Diego, with good friends and happened to bump into HMS Surprise, the ship used in the film “Master and Commander”.

We had our first ever camping trip together. This was a logistical feat, with seven other families involved. Great fun was had by all (except Tarrant who used band as an excuse to avoid spending the weekend under canvas).

We continue to enjoy sailing Varuna, the little dinghy we built. She causes a stir where ever she is sighted in this land of plastic powerboats.

The big news this year was our trip to the British Virgin Islands, which truly was (at least for me) the most perfect place in the world. As we had no experience on the ocean, we convinced the charter firm to let us out on our own by randomly throwing nautical jargon into every sentence (e.g. “Ahoy there Eleanor, pass the ketchup, and look lively about it”). The map gives an idea of the adventure we had, with bouts of seasickness, squalls, major sandcastle construction and wonderful natural scenery (topless mermaids are rare but tend to appear after sampling the local rum based beverage). We quickly got the hang of it, learning that a 35 foot sailboat holds just enough water for a single teenager’s shower. By the end of the week, family ablutions consisted of chucking a bucket of seawater over three moaning kids, reserving the three mug fulls of hot fresh water for “luxurious” adult bathing.

Eleanor’s comment in front of a waiter: “Daddy, are we really spending my college fund on this holiday?” was actually close to the truth! We spent Arlene’s 40th birthday at a moonlit restaurant in paradise. The evening was complete when the dinghy outboard conked out and we drifted out to sea with Arlene screaming profanities across the idyllic cove. She put up with all of this as she was still buzzing from the wonderful surprise birthday party thrown by her friends the week before we left.

Arlene keeps busy at school and is active on the PTA, co-chairing the annual fundraiser and the variety show. She is looking forward to visiting the UK over the new year and seeing her new nephew, sister Donna’s baby Henry.

We are preparing for a big Christmas with our local friends, but will sadly miss the Rao’s who have moved to Washington D.C this year.

Well, that’s about it for this year. Happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year, with love to all, Arlene, Dale, Tarrant, Elliot and Eleanor.