Christmas 2006.

Another year has flown and it is time to contact family and friends again, but why do we only do it at Christmas?

Paddy Holdcroft had a brilliant idea this year. Having been to one of those occasions where somebody said, "Isn't it a pity we all meet only at weddings and funerals" and someone else said, "Wouldn't the Dear Departed have enjoyed this gathering?" Paddy determined to hold her wake while she was still in a position to enjoy it, and so was born the Cooper family reunion. We went to a country hotel for a weekend in May. All the extant cousins were there, except Christopher who is in Germany, and many of Paddy and Mike's extended family and old friends. A great time was had by all, so much so that there was a suggestion we do it again next year. - hear! hear! ` We had taken the journey to Howich slowly, starting from Bloemfontein where I had my six months check up (all is well; I had another in November).

We stopped now and then to admire the landscape we usually dash past, and after the weekend we pottered on to Durban, lunching with our Methodist ex minister on the way. We stayed with John and Patsy Edden, who regularly stop over on the farm on their travels, and visited my Aunt Margaret, my father's sister, whom I haven't seen for nearly twenty years. At 91 she is full of beans, a real pleasure to visit and a lesson to us all in keeping oneself fit and busy.

We then tried to visit the Freeman's and Strettons on the way back, but no-one seemed to be at home. ( lack of planning on our part! ) We hope to do more of this kind of travelling in future. We have two weeks time share at Cintsa near East London in July, and could range up and down the coast, before and after, visiting friends and family all the way and avoiding the worst of the winter here ( so be warned! ).

Another highlight of our year was Christopher and Birgit's visit in September. We weren't planning to go all the way to Cape Town, but when my oldest friend, Denise, invited us to her birthday party ( we both turned 60 this year ) and the dates coincided, we just had to go. In Cape Town we picked up C and B, saw Sandra and family, and then back tracked to Maatjiesfontein and up to Sutherland to see SALT - most impressive and very cold! Then we made our way through Namaqualand - the flowers were past their best but still impressive - up to Augrabies and home via Verneukpan, where we drove along the Campbell track where they attempt the land speed records. C and B had a week with us on the farm, doing the usual farm things, before they left for a hiking trail in the Kruger Park, and then home to Germany.

David will take over the farming completely at the end of the financial year, and some months ago Roben started talking about moving into town - the internet connections are much faster! I was very reluctant to entertain the idea, but I've been working on it and have realised it is time for a change. The real problem is the house, where Aunt Hermy used to live, needs extensive renovations. This week we have been camping in it while they put on a new roof, at exorbitant cost. The bathroom will have to wait for some months until the bank balance recovers, and the kitchen could take a year or more! Then there's built in cupboards, windows to be rearranged, burglar guards and fencing, painting, etc., etc. We will move in early in the New Year and work on it slowly. It could take us the rest of our lives! Our postal address will remain the same. The telephone will change to 051 753 0402, for now - it is still in my father's name, may change again. We aren't planning a guest room - we need all the space to make ourselves comfortable, - but we will have a divan in a corner just in case, and of course there are still all those rooms and beds on the farm if anyone is passing and can spare a couple of days.

David will miss us on the farm, but he needs his own space, and he will no doubt be in town once or twice a week so I can feed him. We will visit frequently and I'm hoping, having had the same gardener for twenty two years, to be able to keep the vegetable garden going. There is some space in town, but the larger things like mielies and pumpkins will not be possible. I will be able to spend more time with my mother, Dorothy. At ninety two she is very frail indeed. She is comfortable and well cared for in the Kiepersol Home for the Aged, though not very happy, unfortunately. She was ill in November. An infection caused her blood sugar to spike and she spent twelve days in the local hospital on a drip and antibiotics. She was very weak after that, but seems to have regained some strength and is well again. Wendy and Dave are back in the country, having spent two years in Australia. Dave is Medical Manager at Stanger hospital and they are staying at Shakas Rock. Rosemary graduated from Ondersterpoort this year and is now a fully fledged vet, working at the P.D.S.A. in Cape Town. Diana has finished her teaching degree and plans to work and do honours part time next year. Gaynor is in Midrand with her husband, Ron, a property developer, and four children. We saw Sandra in Cape Town in September and met Sascha at last. They have two little boys, and marriage and motherhood obviously suits Sandra - she is blooming. The really big news is that as of 6th December Christopher is a grandfather! Zoe was born to Caroline and Roman, Birgit's youngest son, so they have a mutual grandchild, which is great. Mother and child are doing well now, though she was two weeks "late" and spent a couple of days in an incubator with congested lungs.

Our grandchildren, Joshua and Ruth, are nine and seven respectively, but we haven't seen them for years. Anne and Michael do not keep in touch or visit. Sandra tells us they moved to Hilton in Natal recently, as Anne found the pressure of her job in Jo'burg too much. I hope and pray all is well with them and they will one day remember they have a family who love and care for them. I trust 2006 has been kind to you and yours, and 2007 will be even more so. Have a blessed Christmas, and may the hope, joy, peace and love that our Saviour Jesus Christ brought into our world go with you into the New Year. With much love to all, from all of us, Roben, Margaret, David and Dorothy.