Christmas 2019

An update from the Stainsby’s in 2019

2019 has been dominated by two big events. The first was my significant birthday, which we celebrated together in Macedonia. The second was the birth of our first grandchild, Brianna.

The two events became interlinked. Whilst I had always wanted to return to Vanuatu with our family for this celebration, the big secret kept the boys’ planning to go somewhere safer and closer for Andrea’s pregnancy – not that I knew about that during the planning.

Turning 70 was a big deal and before we set off to join the family, I celebrated numerous events with Doggy-Walkers, Maggie-Walkers, Girl-Cousins and Girls-Night-Out groups as well as family and friends.


Macedonia was cold in February but offered stunning scenery and precious time with the family. We lunched at a hunting lodge on my big day, and Evan surprised me with a photo shoot of the family. The other highlight was a few days beside the beautiful Lake Ohrid with its fortifications, a church for every day of the year and a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

Bruce and I continued our Balkan travels to Kosovo – a very Islamic country, struggling to free themselves of debt, poverty and Serbia, and Albania – which had been a closed country under the brutal rule of Enver Hoxha until 1985. Both were very new experiences for us. Undoubtedly Bruce’s stories will fill you in.

In Corfu and Cyprus we enjoyed warmer weather and easier travelling. Cyprus notched up 102 visited countries for Bruce, just one behind me!

We spent a wonderful few days in Berlin, a quick visit to Stuttgart to see family Busch then Switzerland with Denis and Martine before reaching New York to celebrate Evan’s less significant birthday. From there we went south and drove South Caroline to California, taking in famous cities like New Orleans, Nashville, Memphis, Houston and Tucson and enjoying the history of South Carolina, music of Tennessee, bayous of Louisiana and the harsh deserts of the west.

Home again and getting settled, waiting for a return trip in September, but unfortunately things didn’t go as planned and little Brianna entered the world 9 weeks early. We were called to Berlin in July to provide some support. That was fortuitous as we avoided the coldish Melbourne winter and enjoyed a balmy summer in Berlin. We made a couple of side trips to Dresden and to Lindau on Lake Konstance but spent most of our time exploring Berlin and getting to know the wonderful district of Prenzlauer Berg in the old East Berlin.

Brianna has ticked nearly all the boxes in her development. She is still tiny for her age but with no serious effects from her premature birth. Hayden and Andrea are happily learning to juggle feeding times with work and sleep.

Stainsby family with Brianna (born 8 July 2019)

Evan and Steph visited Berlin to meet their new niece. They are still enjoying life in New York and kept busy with work trips. Whilst Evan’s are confined to the States, Steph has travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Morocco.

We are home again and have time to spend rejuvenating the garden at Sorrento, catching up with family and friends and even the odd excursion.

So, our highlight this year has been getting to know Brianna and watching her grow both from near and afar. It is hard being distant grandparents, but we look forward to the opportunity to celebrate her future birthdays in the European summer months.

Oral polio immunisation in Uganda by World Vision

Each year we save the cost of Christmas cards and postage and donate to a charity. It is hardly surprising that this year we have chosen one for children and their ever important immunisation.

Not only has measles devastated Somoa, but my father’s mother died of tetanus when he was just 8 months old, sadly he never knew her. I am however pleased to report that Brianna is up to date with her vaccination programme.

So on that note, we wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and a safe and healthy 2020.

All our love

Bruce & Thea

Thea’s 70th birthday celebration at Kamnik Hunters Lodge near Skopje MK