the parents’ annual ramble (not in the snow thank goodness!)

Every year for at least the last twenty years my parents have issued a Christmas letter with what we have all been up to. Now sitting in their dining room, opposite my little brother Duncan who is reading about why does E=mc²?, and having just seen the other one Peter who is off playing taxi driver for some neighbours, I reproduce the letter that has been sent out – with some editorial from me in purple.

Although plenty seems to have been happening this year there’s not a vast amount of any significance to report; so here we go on the annual ramble.

We have, at last, got planning permission and Building Control approval for the proposed extension out behind the garage end of the house downstairs. It is to be a living room with a wet-room and storage at the far end. We are just waiting for the last tended to come in. It should make a big difference to how we cope with day-to-day living and will mean that Brian will be able to enjoy the morning sun right through the year.

Brian has continued to take himself off round the Province with his Smart Card. We’re never quite sure where he’ll take off to next – nor sure of whether to meet trains from the north or the south. Just before all the snow arrived he’d taken himself to [London]Derry for the day! He is still enjoying Scottish dancing and we usually make it to the class in Ballymena and to a class in Belfast each week. If either of those isn’t functioning for some reason, you may be sure that he’ll know of somewhere else to go! He has taken over the bird feeding duties and the boys think he is the recycling king as well. If he doesn’t go further afield he keeps himself fit by going for walks round the neighbourhood – sometimes accompanied by Peter’s dog.

Mary is still teaching in a High School just north of Belfast. Life in her room at school is getting busier and busier as more foreign pupils come in needing to be taught English and we seem to have more pupils needing help with basic literacy and numeracy as well. Her work with the Guide Association is almost at and end – ageism in play here. In the last few years she had just been doing a few training sessions for adult leaders. Some of her former colleagues in the Brownie Pack think she’s going to join the Trefoil Guild and maybe she will. She continues, with Michael’s help, [but for how long?] as Membership Secretary for Ballymena Festival, so the early months of the year are always busy. She retains her contact with the University through membership of both the Convocation Executive Committee and the University Court. She has now handed over the Presidency of nasen NI after her tw0-year stint but remains as a member of the committee.

This year Brian and Mary were only over on the other off-shore island once – during July when they went down to Calstock for a week after an overnight stop with Harriet and her family in Bath. They made a leisurely progress home up through England and Scotland, visiting Jane (a cousin of Brian) in Malern and then Nigel and Mandy (just ten days before the birth of their daughter, Tabitha) on the way. Life in Calstock is not getting any easier for Mary’s parents but, with a good deal of support, they are still able to manage in Glendower; the stair-lift has helped considerably. Stephen seems to spend quite a bit of time there and on the phone sorting things out.

Michael has not been in the best of health this year [to put it mildly with three spates of hospitalization!] but has kept himself busy. He is still working for David Ford (born in Orpington!) who is now our first Minister for Justice in the NI Assembly. He is currently the Chairman of the Lib Dems in NI. He has also taken on some more voluntary work, acting as Company Secretary [and Treasurer] of The [HIV Support] Centre in Belfast. Sadly, his health has not allowed him to play the organ very much this year but he’s hoping to get back to it. He even had the cello out at some stage. He is still very involved with the Scouts and, although he has practically had to give up working in a unit [with young people – they carry too many infections…], has been taking part in some national working parties [and National Scout Active Support Units]. He is still living in Belfast.

Duncan too has not been in the best of health in the last few months. He is still living in Belfast and working in Robinsons. He and Catriona have parted company. Mary has seen quite a bit of him recently but he is a rare visitor to Ballymena.

Peter is still living just round the corner and working for Sainsburys. After helping out with the opening of the West Belfast branch at the end of last year he was back in Ballymena for a wee while before being sent to Coleraine for some training. He is now Commercial Manager in the Carrickfergus branch. He and Mary had hoped that they might manage some car sharing since they both now travel in the same directionbut as yet it has come to nothing. Diesel the dog and Bailey the cat share the house with him.

With our best wishes for Christmas and 2011.

Brian & Mary Campbell

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