Just arrived home from a two-week holiday in England. My wife and I took the ferry over to Harwich and had breakfast with her 92 year old cousin Margaret. The family calls her Auntie Margaret because even though she and my mother-in-law Mary are first cousins, they are 20 years apart in age.We’d only planned to spend an hour or so with her, but after three hours of stories, we looked at the time. (Rachel describes conversations with Margaret as ‘giving her a good listening to’.) One of Margaret and Mary’s common great-grandmothers (if I have the story correct) was one of 22 children. Their grandmother was one of three whose children were born over the space of about twenty years. I think this is right. I want to write to Margaret and ask her for a family tree because I know there’s a great novel in their backgrounds.

We then continued our drive up to the midlands where we spent Xmas week with Rachel’s parents. Too much food, as always, but we got a couple of walks in, and (as is tradition now) Xmas eve with Rachel’s brother and his kids. Rachel has been very attentive to them as they grow up and bought gifts that were very appropriate to the interests they’ve been showing. She feared that this would make her ‘Crazy Aunt Rachel’ which I assured her was already guaranteed as she’d wed Crazy Uncle Joe, and that it was a title worthy of esteem.

Rachel’s parents aren’t in the best of health and had not been able to attend to the graves of Mary’s parents and grandparents (indeed – the aforementioned grandparents) in over a year, so we went up to the cemetery with garden tools and cleaned them up. Other than that, we mostly relaxed and took a couple of walks.

ETA: I forgot to add that we had a wonderful luncheon with three more cousins and their spouses. The daughters of Rachel’s uncle Bob all live (relatively) close to Rachel’s parents and they came to a newly reopened carvery in the village. It was really great to see them as we hadn’t seen one another in several months. They’re a great bunch.

Every year we gather for New Year’s Eve with a crowd of Rachel’s college friends for a week or so of walking in someplace hilly. This year, the place was Ilkley Moor in the Yorkshire Dales. James Herriot territory. On the first full day there, I’d planned to walk maybe six or seven kilometres. Nope. Rachel and I set off with one group to the Cow and Calf Rocks and then we separated. I joined a group that ended up walking almost 16km all told. The next day we took it easy – a slow 10km walk near Bolton Abbey that included child in pushchair. The following day our walk included Malham Cove and Gordale Scar, the attraction of the first being that it was used as a location for one of the Harry Potter movies. That walk was also less than 10km.

One more walk of note was another 16km doozy that included Simon’s Seat (a great big rock with a trig point). I can now say that I’ve been to Arthur’s Seat, Simon’s Seat, and Sea-Tac.

I’d had a discussion with a couple of our friends about the life of native Americans on the reservation. They’d been to one in Utah (I think) and found it quite depressing, especially with regards to the levels of technology/mod cons available to them. One friend wondered why the North American natives hadn’t developed technology at the same rate as was found in Europe at the time of the explorations. I know that it’s quite complicated, and I wasn’t prepared to delve too deeply into my own ignorance, but I brought it up with Rachel as we walked up to Simon’s Seat. One way of looking at it is as a microcosm of the Drake Equation. We’ve only been developing civilisation on this planet for a few thousand years. It was never evenly distributed, but more to the point, in the absence of that interchange of ideas, one tribe in isolation isn’t going to hit upon those ideas that take that tribe to the next level of technology. They’ll probably get there, but an offset of a few hundred or even a thousand years is negligible in the grand scheme of things. There’s a blog entry in it, to be sure.

Today’s adventures included a wander around Harrogate and a really fantastic chicken sandwich for lunch before heading to the airport for an uneventful and on-time journey back to the Netherlands.