2013 continued.

In September Debbie and I had a reunion of our medical school year who graduated forty years ago. It was, I think our fifth reunion. Had we changed? At our first reunion I was impressed by how many of our year were professors. At the next one I was struck by how many had died. At the last one I was struck by how many of our contemporaries had retired. This time I was struck by how many were still working. Debbie and I have not done any paid work now for over a year, but of course we remain as busy as ever. As, presumably all this activity is now of our own choosing I seek neither sympathy nor admiration for the catalogue that now follows. Perhaps I am seeking to justify something to myself.
Any of you who are also grandparents will understand that our regular trips to Southport or Hollowell are undertaken with enthusiasm. What amazes and thrills me is the enthusiasm on the little faces that greet us when we get there. All four grandchildren are expanding their horizons. Dylan has started school and Reuben is at nursery for two days a week. Bethan moved up a year of course, but has now moved to a rather larger primary school where she will have a few more direct contemporaries. Alistair, Michelle, Dylan and Reuben joined us for a week in the mountains in February. While Dylan learned the basics of skiing we thought we would entertain Reuben on the toboggan, but it turned out that he would rather pull it than sit on it. 
In the summer we managed to overlap part of our holidays in St Raphaël with each set of children. There we did what you do in the South of France. We swam and fed the fish. We ate tomatoes, prawns and ice cream, though not all at the same time. Josiah was most excited by the fact that they went on the train, but the glass bottomed boat must have come a close second, chiefly because it was called ‘Nemo.' 
Debbie and I also had a holiday walking The Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness. Jonathan had organised a boatload of friends who were all great company, even if they walked rather fast. We had every possible sort of weather, but most of the less pleasant stuff came at our backs and we dried out again pretty quickly. We saw some lovely views and a fair range of wildlife including an otter and a black-throated diver which was having great difficulty swallowing a very large eel. 
Another big chunk of my diary at the moment is taken up with a weekly visit to London. Rather against my will I was persuaded to put my name forward for a Liberal Democrat policy working group intended to prepare a new policy document for delivering public services. Rather against the will of some of the Party’s inner circle I was appointed. Clearly my particular interest is in developing health policy and I have drawn up a draft policy document that would involve restoring the NHS as the organisation that provides healthcare and does away with the cumbersome market in healthcare that is taking up so much time and money, is fragmenting care and which even the chief executive of NHS England says is obstructing the delivery of high quality care. Unfortunately the Liberal Democrats seem to have lost their campaigning zeal and at least those close to the leadership are reluctant to do anything that might ‘rock the boat’ so I am facing an uphill struggle. Locally, I have had a few struggles too, but I have managed to get a new parliamentary candidate appointed as my successor, and I have lined up a successor as chair of the Shrewsbury party. We had local elections this year, and though I was quite heavily involved in supporting our candidates I managed to be away at the time of the election.
Debbie’s commitments in Church Stretton are divided between school, the church and her parents. Though she is not chair of governors now, she is on a number of committees and is now in the throes of advertising for a new head-teacher.
It is now quite dark and Debbie has gone down the road to her parents’ house. She has gone to tidy some things up and check on the house which is empty. Sol sails for France this evening with Jon and Jane. Last year, 2012, was the first time for many years that Sol and Alice failed to get to France. For some years it has been getting more difficult. For two years we helped by driving them down there; Jon and Jane drove them down and Debbie and I drove them back. But by last year Alice was so frail that Sol really felt that there was no point in going. This last year saw her health decline further, though she was buoyed by visits from grandchildren and great-grandchildren and she really enjoyed the celebrations for Sol’s ninetieth birthday in June. She died peacefully at home at the end of July. Sol has coped admirably, but after a year when Alice seemed to require his attention for twenty-four hours a day the days must now seem very long. Nevertheless, he has joined a bridge club and a walking group. We took him to Villard de Lans in October and, as I say, he is off now to St Raphaël.
And so we dance our dances to a different tune and we follow the light when we can. We have so much to be thankful for. 

We wish you a Happy Christmas and a healthy and happy year for 2014

Charlie and Debbie