Dear Friends,

I started thinking about this year’s Christmas letter when the new leaves came out bright and green on the trees and the lawn turned green again after my attempts to kill the winter’s moss. Bethan spent much of the spring in and out of hospital, and Debbie and I went over whenever we could to take a turn on night duty. It was strange really because once she got over a spell of vomiting she was really well, and we took her for walks round the middle of Northampton where she smiled at people and waved at the ducks. And now, blink twice and the leaves have turned brown – they looked glorious in the Abbey churchyard when I went to a Wilfred Owen memorial service – and Nick and Matilda have moved house. Bethan is much better and Matilda says that she can sing more words than she can speak! Blink once more and the leaves are blown over drive and into corners of the lawn.
I took the legs off the patio table this week and put it away in the cellar. It only seems like two blinks of an eye since I put it out in the spring, and I don’t think we had a meal outside this year. In the spring I was doing two or three days a week in General Practice, now I can’t find the time to make out the bills for the work I did last month. In the spring I was a district councillor and chair of Ludlow Liberal Democrats. Now I am also the Parliamentary Candidate for Shrewsbury. In the spring of last year I ran a fringe meeting at the LibDem conference in an attempt to persuade the party of the value of Restorative Justice. Nick Clegg was our Shadow Home Secretary then. He was on the panel and was quite impressed. This year he is leader of he party, came to Shropshire, visited a school, spoke to some farmers, was interviewed for national TV news and spoke at one of our dinners. I drove him back to Sheffield at midnight! This year’s spring conference was in Liverpool, which was great because I stayed with Alistair and Michelle. Alistair drove me to the station in his smart car, and I caught the train to Liverpool. I proposed an amendment to our Health Policy which criticised privatisation in the NHS. I had quite a bit of negotiating before we managed to agree on the wording of my amendment, but the party endorsed it with enthusiasm. I have yet to persuade the worthy voters of Shropshire that privatisation of the NHS is all that important. I am hoping that the general election will not be until 2010, which will give a little time to promote Liberal Democrat policies and to get myself known. The local party seems to be in disarray. The selection process was stopped and started three times and I have not really managed to get started on my campaign yet. I have spent days preparing documents and leaflets, and last night the Executive seemed to baulk at spending money on delivering them. It was actually suggested that I target our three best wards and ignore the rest. Well even if I get every single vote in three wards I shan’t get elected if I ignore the other twenty-one! Still, I have managed to get several mentions in the local press and one appearance on Radio Shropshire. Funny old world!
Though we may not have eaten out in our own garden, we have eaten out in Nick and Matilda’s and we had picnics most days in France, though we sometimes got wet.
I think perhaps the best weather this year was on our “non-France” holiday. We went to visit Martin in Sweden and had blue skies from horizon to horizon. We drove with the roof down around the West coast of Sweden, across bridges and ferries, through woods, farmland and rocky fishing villages.
So it seems that the pattern of my life for the next couple of years is taking shape. Of the three strands of politics, General Practice and Quaker committees, clearly politics is going to take up most of my time, General Practice is being phased out, and then we’ll have to see how much time I have for Quaker work. I was on a Quaker committee called the Public affairs Group, but that was abolished this week, much to the annoyance of all involved.

So Life goes on, my ambition to spend more time leaning on gates and gazing on fields of stubble will have to wait for now. Our family continues to give enormous pride and pleasure, from diamond wedding to first birthday. It is only the garden, playing the flute and reading novels that are getting neglected, and of course those fields of stubble.

Our love to you all, and Happy Christmas.

Charlie and Debbie West