So, another year has passed, my dear friends, and so comes my annual Christmas witterings. Work continues, as always, filling up those 7¼ hours of each working day – the accompaniment to everything else that I have been doing. The year started with me wielding a paintbrush, not of the artistic kind, but of the big, wall-decorating kind. After four years in my house, all the wallpaper has finally succumbed to my scraper and been replaced with clean lines of paint. Then, just after Easter I pulled up the carpet and replaced it upstairs with nice laminate flooring, and downstairs with slightly posher real wood engineered floor (as they call it!) in a lovely oak finish. It completely transforms the house (and is a whole lot easier to keep clean!!)…

With decorating my house, and buying myself a new camera – you can see my pictures on my flickr page (www.flickr.com/photos/shepline/) – I only managed one foreign holiday this year. Staying on the Eastern European theme, I journeyed to Romania this year, and in particular the university city of Timisoara – the birthplace of the 1989 revolution – and from there to a conservation holiday in the Retezat mountains, where I spent the time learning Romanian childhood songs (www.shepline.com/movement/) and building fire circles, log benches and generally improving campsites in the National Park. I’m already planning next year’s holiday though, and I think I may continue the southerly trend that I have been taking of recent years. Albania or Bulgaria maybe, or maybe Italy or Sicily…

Whilst I may have only managed one foreign holiday, and yes I did spend a million (Romanian Leu) on the latest Harry Potter!), I also took a trip back memory lane, joining my parents for a long weekend in Suffolk, and revisiting the stomping ground of my childhood, in August. In September, too, I went shopping in Hanley and Alsager for the first time in over a decade, on route to Cheshire and Derbyshire where I had a couple of nice weekends seeing friends and attending the christening of one of my school friends children.

I have also been writing a good deal – including the odd song – although this is more for the benefit of singer-songwriter Hanna Katla Baldursdóttir, in my novel. Ah yes, the novel. Blood & Fire continues apace, currently standing at over 72 thousand words and almost 73% completed. As I write this, the world is collapsing into instability, and the alfar people are moving in this world and theirs – a climax is approaching. With luck, by the time I write my next Christmas letter I will be writing something new – and who knows, maybe just maybe someone will be considering this one for publication?? Certainly I need to get a move on, for rumour has it that Philip Pullman has gone into ‘seclusion’ to write his next novel and he is interested in climate change…

Meanwhile, I continue to play flute in the local Abingdon Concert Band, and perform in several concerts throughout the year, including the very enjoyable, and now annual, Christmas carols at Millets Farm earlier in December. It’s great fun, and gives me the opportunity wear silly hats with bells on – not that I really need the excuse. Well, I seem to have filled a page of A4 with my news, which is a bit of a surprise considering when I started at the top of the page I didn’t really feel I had much to say this year! Still, I persevered because I hear that for some of You, receiving this has become a bit of a Christmas tradition… *grins*

All that is left for me to say is that I hope that Your year has been as good to You as it has been for me. I look forward to hearing what kind of year that You have had had, and please, have yourself the bestest of Christmas of all time and make the new year the bestest ever again…!

With every best wish (and a smile),

~Thomas

Current Music: BBC R4 – ISIHAC (listen again)