If you know me, you're welcome to read this duplicated letter. If you don't, I can't imagine you'd find it interesting.
With record-breaking lateness, I wrote this year's duplicated family letter on 2nd January, misdating it by a year, and leaving the old web address.
Happy New Year!
Last year I wrote the "Chandler Annual Report" on Christmas Day (1999, I mean), apologising for being late. This year I can claim to have been confused by the fact that our performance of Beethoven's Ninth was not on the Emperor's birthday (Dec. 23rd) as usual, but on Christmas Eve, and unfortunately on Christmas day, apart from stopping for roast turkey I was still finishing off an end-of-year job. So I somehow envisioned sitting down and typing "New Year's Day" at the top of the letter, but forgot that Keiko's sister Mieko was coming to visit us, with Fumito and Ayumu, who are cousins roughly the same ages as Ian and Terry. So here we are - it's the second of January, and all I can say is I hope "better later than never."
It's been a mixed year. Keiko's father became ill at the beginning of the year, and was clearly weakening when we left for England, but seemed in no imminent danger. Sadly, he died on August 14th, and Keiko came home immediately, ahead of the rest of us. Her mother is on her own, now, but only a few minutes cycle ride from us, and she is, well, basically surviving, but unfortunately has no outside interests, so things have been a little difficult.
We've all got a year older - how many of us are a year's worth wiser, I don't know. At the beginning of the school year (Spring), Terry (just!) passed his exams for the same "Senior High School" as Ian, despite forgetting to turn the page over in the maths test (leaving nearly half the questions undone). And now Ian will be finishing school next spring, with university as yet undecided.
We did get to England, on what has quite unintentionally become a regular three-yearly cycle. This year we spent some time in Painswick, finishing clearing out things in the house (which my sister Brenda has been living in), so we can sell it in the near future. We also visited friends in Manchester, and had a week in North Wales, climbing a few mountains (including Tryfan), and for the first time in my life actually reaching Bangor and the coast. Oh, actually this was four of us: Aki stayed behind in Manchester, and went to Sports Camp for a week with Nathan, who is just a year older. Quite an adventure, really, but he was staying in the Somers household, where fortunately Japanese is widely understood. (I think Nathan did all the interpreting, which is quite impressive.) Then the Somers's all brought Aki out to meet us at the seaside (Pwllheli) at the end of the week. Typical British seaside weather - more or less continuous drizzle - but all in all it was a very pleasant break. Otherwise our stay in England was more business than holiday. As well as sorting out things to do with the house, we managed to visit the physics departments in Bristol and Manchester Universities, to discuss the possibility of Ian going to University in Britain. Still not decided, but it's possible, if we aren't crippled by the overseas student fees he has to pay.
I've been working bit by bit on my website this year. I've always found it interesting to notice differences in plants and ordinary things like that, so I've found myself writing a sort of guide to Sano, with bits of stuff about things like the horse chestnut trees which are quite common around here, and which Tochigi is named after. This has also led to an upsurge in photography, so I have been kept fairly occupied.
Music: we've all been working at it. Ian, Terry, and Aki are all having piano lessons, and we all appeared (one way or another) in their teacher's concert, which this year she held in the small hall of the City Culture Centre. Aki particularly (when he's concentrating) is making rapid progress. Ian managed a creditable bit of Benny Goodman on the clarinet in the school wind band concert, and I hit the boards for the first time in a quarter century (?!) in the chorus of a production of Carmen in Oyama, 20 km down the road. Other things like that -- both Ian and Terry seem to do amazingly well at athletic activities (considering their parentage!), so that out of the 700 kids in the school 'marathon' (13.5 km) Ian managed to come 31st, and Terry 180th, so not bad, eh?
The economic situation continues to look grim, frankly. Last year my jobs were well down on previous years, and the government continues to pour borrowed money into concrete construction work that isn't needed. We'll keep going for the time being, but I suspect we haven't seen the worst yet.
With our belated but very best wishes for a happy 2001,
Brian, Keiko, Ian, Terry and Aki Chandler
PS: I hope you will have a chance to look at our web pages. Last summer's holiday pictures still aren't organised properly, but there's a bit on the "Family" page, and lots of photos of surroundings in Sano.
http://imaginatorium.org (or just search for "Brian Chandler Sano Japan")