Despite my best efforts, this last blog of the year is being written abroad – the last few days at home were simply too busy! Yes, we made it across half the world to celebrate Christmas in England, before moving on to Germany for New Year’s. It’s the first time back over here at Christmas time since we moved to California, and we’re all very excited to celebrate properly. There’s nothing like a good English Christmas, is there? And who wouldn’t like a proper German New Year’s, life-endangering fireworks and all?! But of course, the main reason is to see out the old year with our families, who we never get to spend enough time with anymore.   
E and her mount before the big gallop
So, what’s been going on in our lives? It’s been pretty much business as usual, with a few new (animal) additions to our daily routine: just before Halloween, a little black rescue kitten named Midnight joined our household, and has delighted and kept us busy ever since (he is celebrating Christmas with another family, and I don’t have much hope for the survival of their tree). And E has started to ride an ex-racehorse called Snappy Francesca, a grumpy old equine lady, who still has a lot of fire in her, much to my daughter’s delight. Her happy face after her first proper gallop across the fields was absolutely priceless! In early November, just a couple of days after the election, S and I escaped to D.C. for a couple of days, to catch up with friends – a fun time to go after all the election build-up! And we almost saw the president. It was interesting to see how different D.C. is to California; it has a much more European feel with its big avenues and monuments, and the fact we noticed this really shows me how California has become our “normal”. 
bike riding, Half Moon Bay

There will always be things in this country that I find flabbergasting – but it’s amazing how you get used to pretty much anything, from saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, to buying your coffee in a drive-thru Starbucks. Not to mention having a sheriff parked outside the school all day, just to keep an eye on things, after a madman on the East Coast decided to shoot 20 little children. Actually, come to think of it, this is something I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. The American people’s attitude to guns is something I will never ever be able to understand. 89 out of 100 Americans own a gun, so if I look at my friends, statistically quite a few of them might have a weapon at home. Who knows? I only know of one family who definitely does, and when E was recently invited to a party at their house, I wouldn’t let her go. And I know that quite a few Americans absolutely share my view.
It’s a fragile country, and a messed-up one, but I’ve grown to love it. And let’s face it, what country isn’t?! If anything, this last year has definitely shown us just how messed up most countries are. I truly hope 2013 will be a better one!

In this sense, not much more remains to be said, except to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Eucalyptus Avenue, San Carlos

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