Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

For those of you who didn't get my card via the mail, the following is the Christmas Letter you would have receive with it. It is reproduced here almost directly quoted from that letter. It is a brief recap of the year that is now coming to a close. To all a Merry Christmas and a good night!

Another year come and gone again! Can you believe it? It hardly seems possible that it has already been a year but then, that may be because I am writing this letter the week before Thanksgiving. My year has been a hectic one.

About this time last year I approached a friend of mine who leads the Quality Assurance team for my company. I was not getting a lot of work from my manager and asked if she had anything that I could do to make myself busy whilst awaiting an assignment from my actual boss. I thought it would end there. But in Mid-December she got back to me and asked if I would mind going to London for a while to do some testing.

Now let me see, hmmm... do I want to go to London? "How soon do you need me there?" was my immediate response. The original eight-week assignment became twelve, became six months, became well, I am writing this year's Christmas letter from Thames Ditton.
I've had a wonderful year over here. I have great friends on this side of the pond who invited me along to a number of great times. We rang-in the New Year at The King's Arms in Hampton Court. It was a blast! There was plenty of music, camaraderie and conversation. (Oh, and I think there was also a good amount of alcohol...)

In January, I took my first trip across the channel to Europe. (Well, under the channel, actually!) Angie, Terry and I went to Oostende, Belgium for the weekend to attend the closing of a bar that a friend of theirs ran. It was a blast and a real eye-opener. Belgian beer for breakfast... Yum!

In February my team from the US came over for a while to help-out with the testing. It was an experience and I got to show them around. This was also the first time I ever went down to Brighton. What a cool little amusement park there!

March came along and we had a lovely spring! The crocuses and daffodils and wisteria were all over The Wilderness and Bushy Park was a joy to ride my bicycle through. Better to ride through then around, as March was when some total idiot in Teddington decided to run me off the road. A bit of road rash and (knock wood) that is all the worst that I have experienced, traffic wise.

April! Ah April! April was when the allergies started to manifest. I've had a little hay-fever since I moved out of Florida. It was pretty bad in Tennessee; it was really bad in Colorado. But both those combined are as nothing to the onslaught of suffering my sinuses set out on me over here. It was so bad I had to go into the NHS clinic one day. When I got back to Colorado, I saw an allergist and he said that I was correct that the lack of air conditioning over here was probably a big reason my allergies were so bad over here.

In late April/early May I returned home and spent a couple weeks at my place in Lakewood. I was also able to make it up to Minnesota to see Dad and Flo during this visit. It was good getting to see them, but on the way home, I got caught in a heavy spring snowstorm and had to hole-up for the night in Rosebud, South Dakota. Well, if you haven't ever had to spend the beautiful town or Rosebud, you do not know what you're missing! (I can't say I recommend it, though.) The best way to see Rosebud (in my humble opinion) is through the window of a car moving at least sixty-five miles per hour. (Don't blink, you'll miss it!)
In June, it was more of the same. Testing, testing, and more testing! My year had fallen into a nice rhythm. I would get up early, ride my bike for a nice leisurely circuit around the two bridges in my area that cross the Thames on my way into the office. When the weather was nice, I'd go for a ride at lunch as well. Three-a-day was the plan for the day while the days were long.

July had a lot going on. First, I had an Independence Day Party for my friends over here. Have you any idea how hard it was for me to find the correct food? It is next to impossible to find Bratwurst!

Then there was the Molesey Regatta. My friends over here started telling me about this one back in January and I was really looking forward to it. What a blast! The weather was perfect, the food was really excellent and the Pimms cocktails were cold and plentiful! Apparently, there was also some kind of a boat race or something going on. I'm told we were somewhere near the river.

At the end of July/beginning of August, my parents came for a visit. For Dad it was his first trip to the UK. For Flo, it was her first trip in forty years. Using Thames Ditton as a base of operations, we went everywhere that I could think of taking them.

Thanks to some really good friends I have made over here, there was no lack of things to do. I got tickets to some of the local attractions, and a guided tour of Central London which included seeing the changing of the guard from inside the gates at Buckingham Palace.

In September, I was asked to come back to London for a "Long-Term" stay. So, on my way to London, I was able to make a stop in Florida to visit with my family and friends living in South Florida. The house has really come a long way since the last time I was there. (It was a bit weird learning to drive on the right again, but I did so without incident.)

October came around and it suddenly dawned on me that I have wasted an opportunity! I am within spitting-distance of Gold Premier status on the airline I have flown to London five times this year. If I can make gold before I go home, there is a good chance I will be upgraded to business class on the trip. So I looked on the Northwest Airlines website and found a couple flights that I could take on the cheap. This would also add countries to my repertoire.

On Halloween, some colleagues of mine had come over to the UK from the states and we took a ghost tour that walked us around Central London. It was good and entertaining, but the best bit was when they had to close the pub we where having pre-tour dinner and drinks in because someone had left a bag behind.

The first weekend in November, I took a quick trip over to Amsterdam, the second weekend, a quick trip to Copenhagen. The weather in both cities decided to be uncooperative when I was there and so there are no pictures of my trips. The fact that they were really just to get the air miles, though, means I don't really mind.

So, here I sit. I'll be leaving at the end of the week to head back to Florida to meet-up with my family for a Thanksgiving/25th Anniversary celebration. Twenty-five years ago this month I was in School at UCF (in Orlando) when Dad and Flo got married. This year we're celebrating by going to Disney.

In December, I'm headed back here to London where I will be until the end of June. (...unless the schedule changes once again...)

There has been some talk of my relocating on a permanent basis to the UK. That would be cool, but there are a number of practical issues with it. (Like is it practical for me to move to the UK?) Well, that's a problem to be resolved in the new year.

I hope wherever you find yourself today or throughout your year, I hope that the year is a happy and healthy one for you and your loved ones!

As indicated in the letter, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my family in Florida. It was excellent. I did get to see some old friends at UCF when I was there. I had a wonderful time in the two weeks I was back in the US (if it was a bit stressful) and am now back in the UK busy, happy and with Saga (as you will probably get tired of reading here in my blog).

I hope that this Christmas is a merry one for you and your family. I wish you happiness, plenty and peacy in this holiday season and in the year to come!

Don Bergquist - 25 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

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