Happy Christmas 2017


    This was a good year for damsons. They were abundant and sweet. We picked them from the ground, then from a small platform that I carried round the tree, then I climbed a ladder and finally I climbed into the tree itself. I was not tempted to climb to the very extremities this year, because by the time I reached the climbing stage our freezer was full and Debbie had made lots of jam. Balanced on the top of the ladder and holding onto a twig to steady myself I pick sometimes a single damson, sometimes a handful, I cup my hand under a bunch, close my fingers and shake a little to release them. As I look at the deep purple fruit each dusted in delicate dusky bloom I think of putting them straight in my mouth, but mostly drop them in my box.

    It was a good year too for apples. As I stood in the kitchen stoning damsons I looked down the garden at our Bramley covered in rosy fruit. Then one of our small eaters fell over under the weight of its heavy crop. I hoisted it up by attaching a rope to the old climbing frame which has lurked in the bottom of the garden ever since the children grew up and left home. We then had a glut of eating apple windfalls, and tried to persuade friends and neighbours to help us eat them.


It has been a good year for

grandparenting (see photos)

... and the saxophone!

    The wider political picture has, alas, been rather more depressing, with Trump creating chaos wherever he goes and the scene in Europe far from settled. Though France and Germany have staved off the threat of the far right for now, we are cautious about the future. Meanwhile the UK seems to be governed by a bunch of squabbling donkeys whose only interest is to keep themselves in power. I am reminded of the Quaker poster of two donkeys and though I still feel that there is a tiny possibility that we may pull back from the folly of Brexit I suspect that Britain may need to spend five or ten years in the wilderness before enough people realise that in culture, science, education, jobs, security and care of the environment we are better pulling together than pulling apart. We recently bought some smoked salmon in France. It had been grown in Scotland and smoked in Poland; all of which is no problem of course because the food safety regulations are the same throughout the EU.

    So we have plenty to concern us, but also plenty to celebrate. We have enjoyed some wonderful times with friends: walks in Cornwall, Shropshire and the Peak District, fine concerts in Cheltenham and gatherings in Oxford.

    Apart from our usual winter and summer trips to

France we have managed more short visits this year.

There are always chores to be done, but we manage

a walk nearly every day, and seldom less than four

hours, so I always feel fitter and better when we

come home.

Once more, we thank you for being part of our

lives and wish you well for Christmas and the

New Year.

With Love from,

        Charlie and Debbie



Sorry no damsons, but these wild orchids  are a similar colour!

Well dressing in the Peak district