Newsletter: Christmas 2001
2001: A European Odyssey
This was the year when we did something we had considered many times: we drove to and from the UK through Europe, in the Summer. Richard did the planning, booking us into youth hostels with family rooms, and downloading maps and instructions from the Internet.
The trip went extremely well, despite last minute changes to the ferry schedule from Cyprus! We drove up through Italy, enjoying the gorgeous countryside, although unfortunately we did not find the Vesuvius national park. Italy's excellent motorway system is balanced by an amazing lack of signposts.
We spent a night in Naples, a rather depressing city, and an afternoon in Rome, which was stunning; we could have spent a great deal longer there, as every alleyway seemed to lead to more interesting buildings. We also passed through Pisa, and were able to park in front of the famous leaning tower, although we did not go inside.
Learning that the Mont Blanc pass through the Alps was closed, we took a longer than planned route through part of Switzerland, seeing the beautiful countryside, including Lake Geneva. We had a lunch of kebabs, since by this time the boys were feeling a bit homesick for Cyprus!
From Switzerland we drove to France, and were able to have a day seeing Versailles and Paris, though we decided not to climb the Eiffel tower when we saw the long queues.
After ten days' travelling - with our ten-year-old car behaving superbly - we arrived in England, where we had a busy schedule, based mainly with Sue's parents in Birmingham, and spending some time with Richard's mother in Sussex. We also drove to St Andrews to spend a couple of days with Sue's grandmother.
In our first week in Birmingham we were out nearly every evening, visiting old friends and enjoying their hospitality; we only wish we could have managed to see more of you. Richard spoke about his work at our church, and four other churches; he was able too to speak at some mid-week groups at various churches.
We also managed to meet twelve families of home educators around the UK, whom Sue had known previously only from email correspondence via mailing lists. We very much enjoyed putting faces to names at last, and seeing a few of the ever-increasing British home educators' network, now estimated to have at least 50,000 families.
After five weeks in the UK, we drove back through Holland, then Germany, Austria, and Italy; we saw from a distance some of the fairytale castles of Bavaria, had lunch in Innsbruck, and spent a day in Venice.
We were pleased to find that despite dire warnings from the tourist guides, Venice was not the mosquito-ridden smelly place of its reputation. We took a ferry from near Venice rather than driving back down through Italy, and arrived back in Cyprus in mid-August to find, thankfully, that we had missed the worst of the heat and humidity.
Having said in last year's newsletter that three cats were quite sufficient for one family, we did not expect a small, friendly and fluffy kitten to arrive on our doorstep on Christmas Day! We tried in vain to discover a family who had lost her. Eventually, we let her into the house one cold, wet night. Tessa quickly established her place in our cat hierarchy, and is now a much-loved part of the family. She likes humans a lot better than cats, and is by far the most territorial of the four, chasing away feral cats, and winning several neighbourhood fights.
This year has seen the Cyprus home educators' group grow to a potential fifteen families across the island. Some of us were able to spend two weekends in the mountains together, at the start and end of the Summer. This was excellent for getting to know each other a bit better, and doing some activities which were not possible at our normal Saturday or Sunday gatherings.
In October some of the group had a day and a half at Kritou Terra, a village at the other end of the island, which hosts an Environmental Centre. We visited a local chair-maker and weaver, and spent time using the centre's lab facilities to examine pond creatures.
We continue to be involved in the Larnaka Community Church, just five minutes' walk from our house. Sue still teaches the 3-5s Sunday School class, two weeks per month, and produces the weekly bulletin/order of service. She has recently started going to the ladies' fellowship, which meets twice monthly. Richard helps to run the youth group, which both boys now attend, and both boys belong to the music group. Daniel has recently started attending the monthly men's breakfast, and is planning to be involved in the weekly outreach meetings to international students (mainly Chinese).
Unfortunately there is no Christmas concert this year, since nobody in the four English-speaking churches was able to organise it, but there are various other Christmas events planned. Timothy will be joining the Anglican church choir for their 'Nine lessons and carols' service, and we will probably all go carol-singing as usual on Christmas Eve to two of the local hotels, with a group from the churches.
Daniel is still playing the clarinet, and enjoying the town band rehearsals, although so far he has not played in any concerts!
In the Summer he and Timothy had the chance to play their recorders, with a small group at our home educators' camp; we hope there will be further opportunities for this.
Timothy is still playing both piano and guitar, and recently took a few lessons on the electric organ at the Anglican church, where his piano teacher is the organist. He was able to play the organ for one of their evening services, and may do so again over the Christmas period, while his teacher is away in England.
No letter from us would be complete without a mention of the computers! Daniel has recently been commissioned to design web sites for some of the local hotels in Larnaka. This will be his first paid work, and should be an excellent start to his future career. One of the big advantages of home education is the extra time available for such interests and opportunities!
Sue's home education web site has grown so large - and proved so popular - that she has moved the family-related articles and photographs to a different site: you can find this, with links to the rest of our sites, at http://www.rsdt.org
Timothy is more interested in the musical and technical aspects of computers, and - with a little help from Richard - has put together a working computer made from old parts, in his bedroom. With this he can do some word processing, play some games, and write programs. He has helped various of our friends by reinstalling operating systems for them or sorting out technical problems.
This has gone well, including moving to an office of his own in the Spring, which required a great deal of refurbishment. There are even two small guest rooms there, so we can have more visitors than previously! He has worked on the multi-media web site, planned future projects, and spent a great deal of time dubbing soundtracks, and copying videos to DVD and video CD to make them more easily transportable to closed countries. He recently spent a few days in Egypt, training someone in video editing, and will be travelling to Jordan in January.
With our love and best wishes for a happy Christmas!
Richard, Sue, Daniel and Timothy