Christmas 1999

(Backdated entry, obviously)

Xmas 1999

Our biggest event this year was the safe arrival of Fergal on July 25th, at a hefty ten pounds (4.5 kilos). He is a very smily and quite strong baby, currently being introduced to the delights of solid food. Bridget, now almost 2-and-a-half, likes to touch noses with him and plays “This Little Pig” with his toes. Fergal loves watching her play and run around the place at top speed. She hasn’t yet caused him any major injury, despite her habit of jumping on the bed at nappy changing time, and pointing out eyes and tummy button. Her favourite toy at the moment is a very loud glockenspiel. Bridget will start nursery school next year. Anne is still enjoying a life of motherhood and housework far more than seems reasonable.

Nicholas’ new job, working on Balkan politics for an independent Brussels think-tank, has brought a number of interesting experiences; policy making on the fringes of the Stability Pact for the Balkans, and a small role in Montenegro’s recent change of currency. He has travelled this year to Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, and Slovenia, and also back to Zagreb. The Balkans are still a fascinating and oddly dynamic place, and should keep Nicholas in work for a few years to come.

Nicholas spoke on the difficulties of implementing peace in Ireland and the Balkans for the 10th John Whyte Memorial Lecture in Dublin in November, on the very day that George Mitchell concluded his review of the peace process in Northern Ireland We are immensely cheered by the developments there over the last few weeks. Tying up another loose end, the book-of-Nicholas’-thesis was published in October by Cork University Press.

Our only family excursion outside Belgium (since moving here in January) was to see the total solar eclipse in France in August, with Grandad, Grandma and of course a very small Fergal. We fought through traffic which had come from most of Northern Europe and eventually came to rest just outside Guise. Clouds covered the sky as the light dimmed and eventually totality fell. Bridget commented “Dark”, and then, thoughtfully, “Sunset”. The clouds broke just as totality was ending and we had a good view of the “diamond ring” effect, and of the rest of the partial phase.

Apart from grandparents, we have been able to welcome plenty of visitors, starting with Greg Starosky over Easter and concluding (so far) with Anne’s brother Rob, en route to India by bicycle, at the end of November. Our Christmas will be with Anne’s parents in Kidderminster, and New Year with Nicholas’ mother in Loughbrickland. We look forward to catching up with old friends over the holiday season, and hope that some of you will visit us next year.

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