Bagnères-de-Bigorre, 2005

I think that just about everyone’s aware of our biggest news of the year - the addition of Thomas James to our family. He was born on 18th June and has grown very quickly - he’s much bigger than Sophie at the same age.

just born 5 months old

He’s turning out to be a very contented little boy - doesn’t cry much and likes getting out and seeing people. He loves taking Sophie to school, often squeaking with delight all the way, then looking very smug when one of the classroom assistants grabs him to coo over.

Sophie’s adjusted well to life with a younger brother and is very caring towards him, covering him in toys if he starts getting grumpy. She also imitates everything I do using her dolly, which is generally very cute, but almost caused a stir when Dolly demanded a breastfeed while we were out shopping.

story time

Sophie loves school now. What’s made a huge difference is that there’s now another English girl in her class. Although this means she speaks more English at school than I’d like, it’s also boosted her confidence no end. She understands a lot of French and has started speaking it too, although more when we’re not around apparently.

Patrick has, as ever, been busy with work and, somehow in between, has found time to do renovations, in particular Sophie’s purple ‘Princess’ room (Sophie and I helped a bit with that), central heating on the 1st floor plus guest room and lots of wall insulation.

the Princess Room nice wall

So the combination of a new baby and a warmer house has been quite attractive to the grandparents, who’ve all been out more than once this year. It’s great to get to see them all so much more, as well as being wonderful to have had the extra help during Thomas’ first few months. Mum and Mike came out for his birth, arriving just a few hours before he did. They were an incredible help during those first few days, as was Hiltrud, Patrick’s mum, who spent a week with us when he was just two weeks old.

nanna and grandad grandma gran and grandpa granny and grandad

In between, our sisters and their partners have also been over a couple of times each, enjoying the skiing, riding and walking round here. And apart from family, we’ve had a friend from Australia, Ewen, stay. He liked it so much here that he even extended his stay by a week. That was fine by us, as we really enjoyed showing him some of the local mountain bike trails and sampling his cooking.

Ewen and Patrick duck apple tart

In fact, I think hardly a month has gone by without any visitors and that, combined with not really relishing the idea of travelling with a baby, has meant that we haven’t been over to the UK this year. Maybe next year.

We’ve become very settled into life here. Unsurprisingly, it’s been much easier to get to know English people than French people. We’ve got some great friends here now and are also beginning to socialise with a few French people, mainly due to me pouncing on other parents at Sophie’s school!

buskers at the market market day

It’s a very friendly town to live in. I find that virtually every time I go out of the house I end up chatting to someone, whether it’s a neighbour, acquaintance or even a complete stranger (young children seem to be a great incentive for people to start talking to you).

We’ve also had a chance to explore the area a bit, cycling, walking and even one overnight camping trip before Thomas was born (not my most comfortable night’s sleep at 8 months pregnant).

camping at Estaing a walk up to the Signal de Bassia

So now we’re looking forward to getting out and doing a bit of skiing and sledging.

up at Payolle sledging

We wish all our friends and family a great Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Claire, Patrick, Sophie and Thomas