Well, if you thought last year's Christmas message was tedious, wait until you plough your way through this one. All we seem to have done this year is spend considerably more than the combined gross national products of several developing countries travelling, much to the dismay of those we have visited and the consternation of our friends and neighbours whenever we return. Only the dogs, it seems, are happy to have us back again but even their loyalty has its limits.

January saw Pen travel down under for the first time ever to join the Butler family in celebrating her mother's 80th birthday. Now, most people would probably want to spend some considerable time on their first visit to Australia - instead, Pen flew in, said hello to everyone, shared Christmas dinner with the family (in January), wished her mother a Happy Birthday and flew home again, all in the space of about ten days (and two of those were spent travelling). I guess that's what they call a Flying Visit!

In February Pen decided that it was time to acquire an additional son - raising and dispatching three into the world wasn't quite enough - so we welcomed her nephew Michael from Australia to remind us how much we had missed the thumping bass and cacophonous dissonance of what constitutes popular music nowadays. Michael has settled in well and is pursuing an apprenticeship in motor mechanics at Hartwell's Ford in Banbury.

Easter? I guess it's time for Greg to make his annual pilgrimage to Southern California to impose on Ben and Donna in Playa del Rey, to intrude on Miles and Muriel at San Juan Capistrano and to annoy and pester his folks in Prescott - in other words, the same old story year after year after year. Pen, quite wisely, decided that she could no longer face the incredulous looks and sceptical comments which have become the standard response to our suggestion that we might like to drop by for a short visit.

Greg had barely returned home when it was time to prepare for this year's big adventure - a visit to irritate Adam in China followed by a visit to aggravate the UN Development Programme representative in Hanoi, Jordan Ryan and his delightful family.

More Christmas cheer?

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