Christmas 2005

Season’s Greetings from Belgium!

Our biggest news item this year is not especially wonderful. Ursula, who will be three just before Christmas, has not yet begun to talk and was diagnosed in the spring with an autistic spectrum disorder; quite different from Bridget in some ways, but similar in others. She has now started at the same school as Bridget, and seems to be enjoying it; on the whole a very happy child.

Ursula and Fergal both accompanied us on our most adventurous experience of the year, a week in the United States for Nicholas’s brother William’s wedding to Steph. We had a couple of days in a hotel in Washington, a couple of days with old friends Stuart and Elizabeth in New York, and then a long weekend near Boston for the wedding itself, staying with old friends Rachel and Tim. As well as the usual touristy things (Space Museum and monuments in Washington, Central Park and Natural History Museum in New York, and the Children’s Museum in Boston) we had a day watching whales in the Atlantic Ocean off the Massachusetts coast, an absolutely wonderful experience. The wedding was great, too, and Fergal declared his intention to move to America and live in the house where the ceremony took place, when he grows up.

Another very pleasant day in the first half of the year was Bridget’s First Holy Communion: a beautiful and compassionate ceremony, organised through her school for about a dozen boys and girls with special needs, with a theme of Noah’s Ark. Bridget’s teacher sat with her throughout, helped her to stick the hedgehogs she had painted on to the ark, blew bubbles for her, and let her dance amongst the bubbles around the altar at the end, after a long time of managing to sit still. Several of the school staff not only turned out on a Saturday morning but gave Bridget presents to mark the occasion. We have a lot to be thankful for.

With all of that going on, we took it easier during our summer break in Loughbrickland this year, and all three children very much enjoyed playing on the trampoline bought for them by their aunt and uncle (see pictures, left); we didn’t really have the energy to catch up with old friends, as we normally like to do when back in Northern Ireland. Nicholas took a few days off in the middle to attend the World Science Fiction Convention, this year held in Glasgow, where he met many of his favourite writers and was able to talk science fiction with the cognoscenti. (Nicholas’ other travels this year have taken him to two new countries, Albania and Ukraine, and numerous other return visits to other places.)

In September Fergal moved up to primary school. He has actual homework three times a week, and fortnightly swimming lessons. There are only twelve children in his class. He seems happily settled.

We are looking forward to a guest-filled Christmas, with Anne’s brother R and sister H here on the day, Nicholas’ sister C and her husband T coming shortly afterwards, and grandparents due soon after that.

With our very best wishes and love for Christmas and the New Year,

Nicholas, Anne, Bridget, Fergal and Ursula

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