The winter part of the year passed without snow again, though it was a bit colder than last year and fairly dry. Spring came quite early but we then had a long cold spell which didn't do much for the spring growth. We had a good clump of frogspawn from which the tadpoles wriggled free, only to disappear into the stomachs of the waiting newts. So we never saw any little frogs, but we do now seem to have quite a few frogs around the garden, so maybe some did survive.
By the end of spring, my optimism at Christmas had been confounded and Burnley had failed to survive in the Premiership, though not as ignominiously as their previous visit.
In May we went on a trip to Switzerland with Sandy's choir, based in Luzern. We had one rainy day but we filled that by visiting a brilliant transport museum, and for the rest of the time it was fine. Luzern was a lovely city but everything was very expensive. There wasn't any evidence of poor Swiss people but maybe they live somewhere else. On the last day, we managed to fit in a trip to the top of the local mountain, which involved five modes of transport, including the steepest cog railway in the world (up) and two cable cars (down) and a train which left the station two minutes late!
We always enjoy the choir tours because we don't have to organise anything, we just turn up and go!
Summer eventually arrived and early in July we had a short hot spell, but it didn't last long. So results from the garden were disappointing, particularly the climbing french beans and onions. One treat though came from the raspberry plants which I put in in Spring, not expecting to get anything this year. We ended up enjoying regular pickings until quite late in November. We are looking forward to lots of raspberries next year. I also restocked the strawberries and rhubarb, so I had to pick all the flowers off the strawberries and not pick any rhubarb to get the plants established. I hope we get our reward next year.
In September, we had a holiday in France, visiting some of the places in Normandy and Brittany which we went to with Tessa and Joe when they were kids. There has been quite a bit of development over the thirty years, but the character of the places appeared to be well preserved. The Carnac megaliths (several thousand standing stones in long lines) is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Thirty years ago, we could just wander around among the stones – now they are fenced in and you can only view them from the edge.
We eventually ended up in Couzou for a few days with our friends Maurice and Lesley, eating duck products and drinking the local Merlot plus a first taste of the wine I made last year from grapes brought back from Maurice's vine. Pretty good it was too! The visit coincided with the Rocamadour hot air ballon festival. Not only was the weather great for hot air balloon flying, there was gently breeze blowing the balloons over Couzou so we didn't even have to travel to see the show. We also had a display by the Patrol de France, which flew over the village, often at tree-top height doing all their aerobatics. We harvested the grapes before we left and now have this year's vintage on the way.
Tessa, Joel and Maria are well settled in Reading. We enjoy our visits over there, but not the journey round the M25 to get there and back. They are heavily into Triathaloning, and Maria has now completed her first mini-triathalon event. Tessa recently changed from being a consultant working at Thames Water to a TW employee and is now responsible for all the sewage in the west Thames area. Joe and Eugenie are still living in Canary Wharf though they have been thinking about moving to a house somewhere a bit further out of London. So far, they haven't found anything which ticked all the necessary boxes on a wish list which is going to be hard to satisfy.
We enjoyed winning the Ashes over the summer and had high hopes for the Rugby World. I had two tickets for the semi-final, thinking that I had a 50/50 chance of it being England, but things didn't quite go to plan and I ended up watching Australia and Argentina.
We are both keeping in fairly good health with regular visits to the Gym and country walks in Kent, though the benefit of the walking is often undone by the pub lunch afterwards. We did however have to visit Lewisham A&E late in the evening a couple of weeks ago when Sandy injured her face after a collision with a gate which should not have been where it was when she hit it in the dark. Fortunately no bones were broken, but it did require a visit to the specialist Facial Injuries Unit at King's a week later for a second round of painful treatment. Then, despite staying indoors to recover, she went down with a flu virus which I must have brought home with the shopping. We have had our flu jabs, so this must have been on of the other strains. She is almost fully recovered now but it has been a miserable three weeks for her.
We still have one choir concert to go but we are getting on with our Christmas preparations now. Joe and Eugenie will be in Hong Kong for Christmas with Eugenie's parents but Tessa, Joel and Maria are coming to us for Christmas dinner. Maria (8½) is beginning to get a bit suspicious about Santa but has put her suspicions on hold for another year as Tessa told her that if there was no Santa, there wouldn't be any presents. She also asked Sandy if Santa would be calling at our house with 'that big sack' of presents he has left in the past. Sandy told her that we did expect him to call, but she had to remember that the 'sack' had not done any growing over the last eight years so it might not seem quite as big as it used to.
That then is our news for 2015. Have a good Christmas and all our best wishes for 2016.