The biggest factor in our lives in December has probably been the awful weather. It has disrupted our Christmas plans, caused us injuries, and made us more determined than ever to move to warmer climes.
Before the weather turned to custard, we managed to get out and about a bit. On the 8th we went to Slough for our court hearing against IPS, although unsure whether they had complied with the court order and paid in the money. In the end, though they missed the deadline, the judge ruled they had done their best to do so, and set the judgement aside. So now we have a full-scale hearing set for January 14 – watch this space if you like courtroom dramas.
On Dec 9th we had a pre-Christmas dinner with some friends from the Willoughby Tappers group that Sandie used to belong to. The day after that, it was the Marlow Folk Dance Club Christmas Party. On the 16th we were able to meet up with an ex-colleague from Wellington, who has moved to the UK and met us in Beaconsfield for a pub lunch.
Ian had been scheduled to run a training course in Newcastle on Nov 30/Dec 1, but this had to be postponed because of the atrocious weather in that part of the country. He was able to fly up to Newcastle on Dec 13th, before the bad weather started again. He has done some follow-up work for the people there, while Sandie has been working on a report for New Zealand (she managed to finish a draft just before Christmas). Other things that occupied us in December were preparations for Christmas and planning our five-month tour of S America.
Because Claire was flying over Christmas, and both sons were spending Christmas with their partners’ families, we had arranged the official Schagen family Christmas celebration to take place over the weekend of the 18th/19th, with Paul and Rosie coming down from Manchester by train and Andrew, Ellie, Hope and Isobel driving over from Kent. But early on the Saturday morning, while Claire and Sandie were shopping, six inches of snow fell – it took them 1.5 hours to drive back two miles, and they had to abandon the car in the snow. Main roads were blocked, and there was no way Andrew and co could make it. Paul and Rosie made it by (delayed) train, but it was impossible to reach the pub in Amersham where we had booked dinner. In the end six of us walked through the snow into town for a Thai meal together.
On Sunday the snow had stopped and main roads were open. We had booked a lunch for all of us at the Crown in Hazlemere. Six of us plus Charlie in the buggy set off to walk there, while Andrew and co decided to attempt the drive. It was hard going in the snow, especially with the buggy, but after an hour we reached the pub. Unfortunately, the team from Kent got held up by a major accident on the M25 and arrived at 3pm, after we’d finished lunch. We returned to the flat to open Christmas presents, and then had tea at Gordon Road, so at least were able to be all together for a few hours.
On Monday 20th we walked to the station to see Paul and Rosie off back to Manchester. Ian walked on into town, but slipped on ice in the underpass and managed to break his wrist. He went to A&E in Wycombe and they tried to manipulate it, but decided it needed an operation at Stoke Mandeville. He was sent home with his arm in plaster and told to await an appointment. Broken bones were extremely common due to the conditions, so it wasn’t till Christmas Eve that he was able to have the op, under general anaesthetic; wires were put into his bones to help them knit properly. He should be in plaster for 4-6 weeks.
Our actual Christmas was therefore extremely quiet; we had some babysitting duties, but otherwise it was mainly watching TV. The paths were still very slippery, and we didn’t want to risk another fall, so we were largely confined to the flat. We went for a short walk on Christmas Day, but turned back early because it was so icy. To add to the disasters, when Sandie ventured forth on the following Monday into town, she slipped over and hurt her wrist. It seemed only to be sprained, but was still painful after five days, so she visited the hospital on New Year’s Day. X-rays did not show any breaks, but she is in a wrist splint pending further investigation. At the time of writing we have only two good (left) hands between us, but typing is one of the things we can still do!
We said farewell to 2010 at the Marlow Folk Dance Club’s New Year’s Eve party. We are now wondering what the new year will bring. There has already been a major change in our plans. We’d bought tickets for the Rio carnival in March, and had a series of flights (to and around S America) being held. We were due to confirm and pay, when the possibility came up of working in Ghana. This had been suggested back in October, but it was a vague idea which we did not expect to materialise. Suddenly in mid-December it became a real option, so our S America plans went on hold yet again.
Ian has been working with Professor James Tooley of Newcastle University, who is involved with a group of low-cost private schools in Ghana. James wants to have systems set up to collect and analyse performance data for these schools. This ties in very much with our interests and expertise, so we are very keen. There are still details to be finalised, so it is not quite 100% definite, but looks very promising. One question still to be decided is when we go – the end of January would be ideal for all concerned, especially as we have to leave our flat by Feb 1! But it is now dependant on wrists being healed…..
Whatever 2011 brings us, we hope it is a happy and healthy new year for all our family and friends, wherever they are in the world.