Well, what a year this has been. We didn’t think 2013 could live up to 2012 in terms of drama and excitement, but how wrong we were!
January saw us all troop up to London to celebrate Great Aunt Maura’s 95th birthday. It was delightful to see so many family members in once place, and with only a few individuals who weren’t on speaking terms and just one person forcibly removed by security, we all thought the party was a great success! The food was excellent – the work of our much-loved second cousin Chardonnay – I’d forgotten how much I love prawn cocktail and cheese-and-pineapple sticks!
In February, Jeremy and I became incredibly proud parents when our little Tilly celebrated her first ever Valentine’s Day with a boyfriend. We really went the extra mile to help her celebrate this special moment – cards, flowers, acting as butler and waitress while she and Tarquin had a wonderfully romantic candle-lit dinner at our house, and even putting a little special something in the bedroom for afterwards. I know many parents would do the same for their precious little darlings. Sadly, Tilly and Tarquin are no longer together (they broke up shortly after Valentine’s Day, although for the life of me I can’t imagine why). However, she now seems perfectly happy with the captain of the 1st XV rugger team.
As you will know, our eldest son Jake surprised us all by announcing his homosexual leanings at the beginning of last year, and since then he has moved in with his partner Wilfred and they used a surrogate to have a child. With the arrival of spring came the arrival of our first grandchildren – twins! They have named their little girl Judy (after Judy Garland) and the boy Elton (after Elton John), and use these things called Twitter and Instagram to post photos of the sweet little cherubs in a variety of outfits. My favourite was Judy’s in a little pink bikini and Elton in a striped suit. Jeremy has yet to find the time to visit his grandchildren, but what with the maintenance of the estate, the expansion of the shoot and the monumental effort of running the village summer and Christmas fairs, he has simply been too busy!
Given that last summer we decided to stay home in order to watch the Olympics, we decided that this year we deserved a jolly time abroad. Jeremy and I took a villa in Antibes for three weeks, and we made some excellent chums whilst we were there. A lovely couple called Henry and Jacquetta were in the villa next door, and we all hit it off straight away. It seems that Jeremy and Jacquetta have a shared passion for sailing, and so they would spend most of the day together on a little schooner we’d hired. One day there was no wind and they’d run out of fuel for the engine and so had to spend the night on board together! What an adventure.
Not surprisingly, Tilly passed her A-levels with flying colours, and is very excited about going to Oxford Brookes next year to read Property Management. After the summer, she and some pals from school headed off to Argentina to work at an orphanage, before flying over to Tanzania for conservation work. Jeremy and I are incredibly proud that she’s become involved in humanitarian causes, and we cannot wait to have her back with us for Christmas. She’s currently in Thailand studying the ways of Buddhist monks and taking a beginner’s class in spoken Thai. We’re told that Koh Phangan is the best place to learn this and that each night they observe a ritual whereby everyone drinks from some sort of bucket. It all sounds very exotic and exciting!
This year’s dry summer sadly took its toll on our kitchen garden, and those of the rest of the village, so this year’s Harvest Festival wasn’t quite up to its usual standards in terms of fresh produce. I have a sneaking suspicion that Vivian from the Old Rectory might have had the assistance of Waitrose in delivering her ‘home-grown’ offerings, but one can’t turn one’s nose up too much at the mediocre attempts of others.
Jeremy tells me that this year’s shooting season is shaping up to be one of the best so far, although we did have a slight run-in with some animal rights activists a few weeks ago. I thought everyone who wears Barbour jackets and Hunter wellies would have the same views as us, clearly I was wrong. Jeremy saw them off in a most efficient manner by setting the dogs loose.
As I write this letter, looking at the hot-house geraniums on my windowsill and our acres beyond the garden, I feel the warm glow of achievement and satisfaction that my family brings to me. It is rather unfortunate that Jasper, our middle child, continues to upset and disappoint us by continuing to work as a lobbyist for the Labour Party, or as Jeremy likes to call them, ‘those Commie bastards’. Maybe his exclusion from this year’s Christmas supper will make him come to his senses and see that family values should come first.
I do hope that you all have had as an exciting and fulfilling year as we have. We know how much you enjoy hearing the details of our family life, and we certainly look forward to your Christmas missives each year with great anticipation. Learning of others’ trials and tribulations really does make one feel so fortunate in life.
With our warmest and happiest Christmas wishes,
The Stockington-Lyle Family (written by Miffy)