The January sales are nearly over, so it must be time to start the Christmas letter. After telling many of you that this academic year was going to be more relaxed than the last, we have to admit that it hasn't quite worked out this way... but more of that in good time.
We are beginning to settle down in Bristol. We still sometimes confuse Bristol and Guildford, so apologies to anyone who heard we are planning to go to Bristol for Half Term in February.
Alan is now officially a teenager, having been practicing for most of his life. He took up a Saturday paper round as soon as he was allowed, and has now graduated to a shorter daily round after school and on Saturdays. This definitely makes him the richest member of the family!
Philip and Ian clubbed together before Christmas to buy a second-hand Gameboy, and it has been difficult to separate them from it ever since.
Philip is now going to the Scouts, and took part in his first Scout camp, under canvas, in the freezing weather of January. They took the tent back to the Scout Hut afterwards, and scraped the ice off it.
Ian is a Sixer in Cubs - somehow the leaders consider him to be one of the more responsible members of the pack! He recently enjoyed a canoe 'taster' session in a local swimming pool. A serious error of judgement led us to take him and his friends to the cinema for his birthday treat to see 'Pokémon the Movie', and then for a burger afterwards. It was quite unbelievably bad. Interestingly, Sue's main complaint about the whole experience afterwards was that Paul managed to sleep through most of the film.
We are still sadly in debt from buying Abbeywood with Steve at the end of 1999, so a 'normal' family holiday was out of the question. However, we qualified for a subsidised rate at Brunel Manor, and after a fair amount of confusion, we arranged for Philip and Ian to go to cub camp, left Alan at home with Steve, and Sue and Paul disappeared for a few days of peace and quiet.
Brunel Manor was wonderful: good food, good company, and - incredibly! - they sing the right songs. One of the costs of moving churches is that we just don't know a large number of the worship songs any more. We could also spend time on things like museums and art galleries: bliss! Sadly, we missed out on the House of Marbles because the boys' camp had to be abandoned early due to sickness, so we had to dash back and pick them up.
We flirted for a few months with having two cars, after Paul's father bought a new one for the first time in his life, but this is not a long-term option and the VW proved to be too small, so we are back to the trusty cavalier with a strange damp problem in the back.
The first year of the Snowball training programme was completed in June. That deserves a book rather than a few paragraphs. We have written a bit about the programme in other places, and if you would like to know more, please ask us!
We discovered in the Summer that it would not be possible to run the second year of the programme straight away, which was both a disappointment and a relief as we were all exhausted from the first year, and knew we would not be able to do a number of vital things if we were running the programme as well.
However, Paul had a phone call asking if he would pray about taking over responsibility for Crisis Centre Ministries for six months while the management found a permanent replacement for Derek Groves. In theory, it was a part-time appointment, but in reality the job needed more than a full-time commitment, so little progress has been made with documenting and accrediting Snowball.
Sue has had a few ups and downs at Knightstone, but decided after some hesitation that working instead for the Baptist College is not for her.
Paul made several ministry trips: to Manchester, Vienna and Italy. They are each written up, and available on the web site.
Sue's family had a joint meal in Newbury, and history was made when we arrived not only first but also early! The chances of achieving a similar level of success in 2001 are fairly low.
Beyond a few art galleries on holiday, we have not managed much culture this year. We managed a couple of films ('Pokémon' does not count!) - 'The End of the Affair' was as depressing as Graham Greene's book (so that's good, right?) and the Talented Mr Ripley seemed very talented, but we couldn't quite work out what kind of life the 'hero' was looking for at the end of the film.
Thank you for all your letters, cards, email and phone calls. We very much appreciate the support and encouragement we have received from so many of you. May God bless you all richly in 2001.
Paul, Sue, Alan, Philip and Ian Hazelden