Saturday, 18 December 2010

A year in eleven (shortish) paragraphs

That's us. Christmas 2009 in Brittany, just the three of us. And here's our contribution to the wretched world of the round-robin annual newsletter; yes it's the Prettygate Postings for Christmas 2010. Read and cringe. (Why is it a round-robin? It's insulting to Robins.)

"We’re just back from our summer holiday – a few days in Birmingham at the end of November. We never were the “sun and sand” types, so it was perfect. We travelled by bargain-ticket train, and hired an apartment in central Birmingham’s Chinatown. A highlight of the trip was the Frankfurt Christmas market in Birmingham (yes, really!) which set us in the mood for Christmas at home this year. Frank’s best bit was catching the tram to Wolverhampton, the little wanderer.

We apologise for spoiling your 2010 by not producing a Prettygate Postings for Christmas 2009, but we were not in Prettygate last Christmas. We decamped from Colchester to Brittany for a long December break, getting back in the last week of December. We stayed near Quimper, and enjoyed a quiet holiday, away from the over-the-top commercialisation of Christmas in the UK. Bah, humbug.

2010 has been a bit of a stay-at-home year, as we had neglected the house a bit from 2008, when we first had to concentrate our efforts on doing our best to manage Frank’s diabetes. The house now has nearly all the windows replaced, and we have extended the patio and roofed it with a sun-shaded pergola - imagine a cross between Tuscany and Accrington. And the garden has been cleared in readiness of our moves towards hard-core radical homemaking and backyard homesteading – insert your own “The Good Life” joke here. We had a bumper crop from our one vine vineyard with about ninety bunches of grapes, and the best ever quince yield, and collection of wild apples.

Frank’s learning is going well, with his natural inquisitiveness. We had been looking at the possibility of home schooling, even before Frank’s diabetes diagnosis, and he would have started at the local school in January 2011 if we had chosen that route. We decided on balance to go for home schooling, so we can enjoy that together, and also better manage his diabetes. Frank’s circumstances are very much out of the ordinary, and a young child with diabetes is in a vulnerable position at school. If he went to school he would have a lower level of skilled observation and care for his condition, and we would still need to be on standby, and have the task of visiting him at school at lunchtime to test and inject.

Besides, our Big Swifty homeschool is a great option. We belong to national and local networks, and there are lots of activities out there. For those that are interested, we are following Un-Schooling principles, as set out by John Holt. Our education projects are sometimes mentioned in our blogs.

Much of our capacity is taken up with our family life, with Frank needing a lot of care 24/7, but it is very rewarding to be making a good job of it. For those that don’t know, there are only guidelines on how to manage diabetes; even with good management and control there is a large random element there to trip you up. We are both involved in all the work, and it makes it much better for us all to have second opinions on the judgements we make, about food and insulin timings and dosages. There is much more about what it really means to manage a child with type 1 diabetes on our blogs, especially at Muffin Moon. Next year we hope Frank gets an insulin pump, which he will always wear, and we will plumb into his body every other day – and we will still have to continue with the 4-5 blood tests a day. It should mean less injections and better care, but it ain’t a patch on a healthy pancreas.

Our work is going well, with our main income from Andrew’s work for the Travel Plan Club, linked with Colchester2020, a local organisation that survived the government’s bonfire of the quangos. Other jobs include working for Colchester Borough Council pounding the beat for the Elections Service, and his latest creation, the poetry stand-up “Fred Slattern, Colchester’s Slum Poet”. Jules is full-time mama, wife, homemaker and inspiration. Our voluntary/ self-employed work includes setting up and running a local support group for parents of children with Type 1 Diabetes “Colchester Circle-D”. Jules runs a Knit and Natter group, and has been very busy crafting under her Muffin Moon brand. We did our bit for Colchester Free Festival in September, specifically for the Kidstival and at a Busk Stop. Big Swifty Associates were also involved in walking promotion as part of “Walk Colchester” took off in 2010/11.

We’ve been to a fair few arts events, but in the evenings it’s always only one of us, as we don’t have a trained babysitter to enable us to go out as a couple - maybe when Frank’s older! On the other hand, we have a lot of daytime together as a family, with visits to local sea and countryside, and maybe the odd cafĂ©/ fish and chip shop.

Andrew had a few days in Scotland in mid-May, backpacking from Glenelg to Invergarry, with Rod Ross and Alan Hardy. At the end of May we went camping in Yorkshire at the Gaia Tribe which was loads of fun and lovely food, but rather cold and windy for us southern softies. Henley-on-Thames is more our scene; balmy days by the river with Severine. We tried a bit of house sitting at a friend’s house in Norwich, but got rained off during a non-stop raining September. Turnips underwater, in the Norfolk paddy-fields.

We have enjoyed the build-up to this Christmas, after a year away from it all last December. We have had a Martinmas party round our house for the local nightshelter, and next week will be hosting a solstice event for the immediate family. We have Severine and her friend Louise staying with us over Christmas week, so we will have to pretend to be ultra-English. Then we also have the older family visiting for Christmas Day. We are looking forward to a peaceful time, and a quiet night in on New Year’s Eve – our life is exciting and dramatic enough, 365, thank you.

And next year? Frank’s having music lessons, Andrew’s making cheese, and Jules is opening an Etsy shop. With love to all our family and friends for 2011, from Andrew, Jules and Frank.
at Facebook “andrew stanley budd” “julie budd” “andrew budd” “fred slattern” “colchester circle d”


  1. Great letter! I so enjoyed reading all about all of you.
    Cute photo of the two of you.

  2. That's a lovely photo if the two of you, full of peace and joy, ideal for the season but perhaps not completely reflective of the challenges the three of you have faced over the year. It's been a fast year - they're all getting that way - and I can't believe it was way back in May that you were walking in the highlands.
    I've enjoyed walking with you through your blog, getting to 'know' you a bit better through the postings and have very occasionally dipped in to Muffin Moon when you have been absent from the blog for a while. I'm glad that in general things have gone well with Frank's condition and that it has seemed that you have all become more confident in dealing with the reality of diabetes.
    I hope you face the challenges that next year will bring with the same outlook that I read into the photo at the top of the page and I wish you all peace, a bit more prosperity and all the very best for 2011.

    kind regards....Al.

  3. Thanks Colleen and Al! We're up for the challenges of 2011 and are anticipating a super year.



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