Saturday, 3 January 2009


It is so nice to be able to get back to a normal routine after the fullness of the last three weeks. And I mean fullness in the sense of food. In spite of our not 'doing' Christmas in the traditional way that it's done in Germany, we were still feted and fed by in-laws to the point of discomfort. They cannot, and we don't expect them to understand how we think on these things. We celebrated Hannukah between 21st and 28th Dec with some readings from Mark Biltz, games, prayer and worship with the children, and we had F's parents over later on 24th for their trad. meal and a much reduced - I'm glad to say - present-giving session. I'd been eating only one meal a day for a week before that, and the richness of the meal on 24th did not agree with me. The less said about that, the better.
They invited us out on the 25th to a restaurant and again on 1st Jan for brunch at another noble establishment. It was all delicious, and they meant it so kindly, but I am so glad we can get back to soups and simplicity again.

The children fly back to England tomorrow, so we're ironing and packing and doing last minute things. I shall miss them both but am looking forward to getting stuck in to my writing again. Last year was so full what with getting them ready for school over there that I didn't have much muse, (the blog filled somewhat of a hole) but I intend to start afresh now.

Below is our newsletter for those who are interested... :)

Most of this year has been filled with things to do with Hannah and Ben's new school, so I make no apologies for the following, which should be sung to the tune of ' A Song of the Weather', by Flanders and Swann.

In January came the day
We watched our youngest fly away

Ben was thrilled to get away to Sedbergh at last. He had rather a rude awakening once he arrived and the first year hasn't been easy getting used to a different culture, let alone boarding school, which wasn't as romantic as 'Tom Brown's Schooldays' made it out to be, but he's gradually finding his feet and learning English diplomacy…
February brought reports
He'd started lots of violent sports
Rugby, fell-running, fives, squash and basketball are among the new experiences he's gained, as well as bruises. Sedbergh lives up to its claim of being 'a stern nurse of men'.
March – we watched the Wilson Run
Hannah thought it wondrous fun
We were able to fly over to the UK to visit the school with Hannah, and watched the 6th Form do the gruelling, annual 10 Mile Run. Hannah decided that she wanted to try it out next year. Watch this space.
And April let the tidings slip;
She'd gone and won a scholarship
She did French, Maths and English, passed with flying colours and was awarded an academic scholarship. By Bavarian standards, the exams were much easier than she thought they would be – but then the pressure to achieve here is ridiculously high.
In May we bought her lots of stuff
She really thought it was enough
We'd already bought her main uniform in March while we were in England, but the rest of the kit was needed, plus all the name-tape-sewing-on. In Germany, hardly any schools have school uniform. It's something we'd love to see introduced, but opinions in Germany are divided on this one. Frances spent a day at the Rangers' camp doing a workshop on rabbit-skin tanning; a filthy and stinking job, rubbing a slurry of pigs' brains into rabbit skins on a hot day.
In June the time was getting short
And nerves were feeling rather fraught

Most people were wonderful and encouraging, but a few well-meaning folks told Frances how hard it would be seeing both children go. The last thing she needed.
July saw Frank with too much work,
Although he's never one to shirk
The whole year has been crazy as far as Frank's work is concerned. He was told that the first two years of a teacher-trainer's job are hell, and they weren't far wrong. The worst of it has been the reports he has had to write after watching his student teachers' lessons, and the nights spent preparing seminars. Some nights, often twice a week, he's had to make do with only one hour's sleep. We are constantly amazed and grateful that his health hasn't suffered. By January things should get a lot easier as all the lesson observation will be finished. Next year he'll only have to repeat what he's already done.
August - quite the coldest yet
Saw midnight oil and weeks of wet
So we drove over to the UK – via North Sea ferry – and spent a busy time getting the last minute things ready for Hannah and Ben for school. Frank had to work almost every day to try to finish those ghastly reports (he managed 12 out of 37) and Frances, Hannah and Ben tried to keep out of his way as much as possible, which wasn't always easy because of the weather. We were blessed by friends who allowed us to stay in their mobile home for a week in Northumberland and we had a lovely time catching up with them and other friends. We stayed with Frances' parents for a few days before driving down to Sedbergh, where we washed uniform, discovered that mice from the attic in Ben's House had eaten a couple of holes in his school coat, spent some very happy hours catching up with more old friends and celebrated Hannah's 17th birthday by making a day trip to Beatrix Potter's house in the Lake District (almost the only day we saw the sun) a few days…
Before we said a brave goodbye:
September saw both birdlings fly
The journey back to Germany seemed rather long and bleak without Hannah and Ben, but as soon as we'd crossed the North Sea again, the sun came out and we enjoyed hot weather all the way down to Nuremberg. It just ain't fair. ;)
October sees the pupils come
For English lessons – they're not dumb!
It was exactly what Frances needed to take her mind off things – without her advertising in any way, one after another, people started ringing up and asking if she could give English coaching to their children. She even has an English teacher (who needs to brush up her English) who comes once a week. She has six pupils, with the possibility of a few more on the way; one hour each, once a week, except for one boy, who comes twice a week.
Apart from that, she has discovered 'Square Foot Gardening'. We have a fast developing SF garden at the back of the house and come next year, we hope to be self-sufficient in veggies.
Now we turn November's page
To see Ben's debut on the stage
Frances flew over to watch Ben in 'The Browning Version' by Sir Terrence Rattigan; the play the school is putting on this term, in which he was fantastic. It's won him a lot of kudos with his House. It was great to see the children and Mum and Dad, who booked accommodation in Sedbergh for all and made amazing meals. We are looking forward to seeing Hannah and Ben on 11th December – they'll be here until January 4th. Both are gradually settling in. Hannah has made a super start and says that she's too busy to miss home much. The Matron of her House is a Spirit-filled Christian from South Africa and they pray together once a week. (Hannah is as much an encouragement to Dawn as Dawn is to Hannah.) She told me that she's glad we let her come to Sedbergh; she's learning to rely on the Lord rather than on us, which is great. She's doing Further Maths, English Lit., Chemistry and Biology, as well as German and has been put in a group where pupils prepare for Oxbridge. She has started to learn the flute, has qualified for the cross-country fell-running championships (to prepare for that 10 Mile Run next March) and she sings in the choir and choral society. Ben gets more encouragement in academic subjects than he did here in Germany and is doing well, even in maths, which is a miracle. He also does shooting, has taken up the oboe, is in the choral society and the B3 Rugby team. He scored in a football game recently, by kicking the ball so that it hit the cross beam of the goal, a rather hard thing to do, which won the inter-House final for Evans, to their huge jubilation. He was the House hero and was paraded around shoulder-high. The climax of a tough year. It's great to be able to end on a high.
Grey December now descends,
whereupon this poem ends

I don't go in for all the New Year razzmatazz - I think it makes more sense to celebrate it in spring at the vernal equinox like they used to do before Pope Gregory XIII imposed the Gregorian calendar on Europe in 1582. I'd have loved to have g0t an early night on Dec 31st, but our son was desperate for fireworks and friends so we gave in and had a get-together. It was fun, but the next day was MORE food, so I'm glad it's over and we can get back to sensible hours. One day is alike to another. The most important thing is to live in Messiah regardless of the day, which I didn't this morning. I botched up and exploded at Ben, who spilled chocolate powder all over the table and floor because he pulled open the packet instead of cutting it with scissors. It was just thoughtlessness but I was so frustrated at him not doing the sensible thing. It delayed us and meant that I couldn't help Hannah with her music theory before they went off for lunch at their grandparents' place. Groan. Sorry, Ben, for the Etnaean impression. :(

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