The Guernsey Gazette 2018

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Warning: this missive may contain fake news and is NSFW

Joyous and gladsome tidings O friends and family near and far! What a wondrous, fabulous and utterly scrumptious year 2018 has been for us, we’d truly just love to share all our news of the good fortune which has been ours throughout every waking and sleeping hour. We hope you are sitting comfortably, ready to celebrate along with us!

We saw in 2018 with panache and heterosexual abandon along with our friends Paul and Mandy Hayter in Rennes, Brittany, France, European Union. It is perhaps not insignificant [apologies to those reading this in another language as the subtleties of English double negatives are likely to be lost in translation] that we are ending this vintage year of 2018 also with the Hayters.

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With Mandy & Paul in Pons, January 2018

It is perhaps helpful to point out that they have not spent the intervening weeks and months with us, but our paths did cross on a few days here and there. This year however, they will be seeing in the New Year with us in Guernsey.

The trip to France at the start of 2018 was followed immediately by Jon hiking the entire Pyrenees in his Birkenstocks to raise funds for Sri Lankan feral cats. Huge thanks to all those who so generously supported. He reached the sponsorship target of £4.87 on day 23 and so was able to be airlifted at a remarkably reasonable cost of £35,604.87 to the Beirut  General Hospital, the absolute top-notch global clinic for bunions, where he spent the next two days negotiating his exit and eating humous. Whilst Judith had so much time on her hands she managed to complete her life-long ambition of knitting a brand new line of swimwear for donkeys. Amazing.

Back in France after New Year chez Hayter, we travelled down to our little house in Pons, just south of Cognac and north of Bordeaux which we had purchased just a few weeks before (see GG17). Our year has been peppered with several short trips and one long one to this little gem of a ruined shack, in order, firstly to decide a priority for necessary travaux, to work out a budget for them, to reprioritise (once we knew the budget!) and then to choose contractors to do some of the major work. Ah! French tradesmen. You remember the book A Year in Provence? Yeah. You get the picture.

More on our Petite Maison à Pons later.

The highlight of the year, apart from all the above, was most surely the birth of our first grandchild – a boy! – Beau Benaiah Le Tocq Smith on April 5th.

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Beau, a few weeks ago, aged 8 months

Grace and Ollie did so well. OK Grace mainly I guess. Ollie watched incredulously and obeyed orders, like we men do. And what a beau Beau is! Jon was in France speaking at a conference at the time. One of the hosts introduced him as “récemment devenu grandpère” and asked if it was a boy or a girl etc. Jon replied “Il est beau” [Meaning “he is handsome”] and there were many nods; of course you would say your grandson is good-looking. “En plus, il s’appelle Beau” Jon continued, much to the confusion of those present – “your daughter has called her son Handsome?” – Beau is not really used as a name in French! We’re having lots of fun with Beau and his parents, as are his aunts and uncle, although he is a tad wary of Jon at the moment, and often cries when he sees him (“what’s new?” I hear you ask)

Judith has been travelling to France with Jon more this year, partly due to her reducing her nursing hours so as to free up time she would otherwise have had to take as holiday, but also as she gets more involved alongside him in ministry to leaders and churches in New Ground and Nouvelles Frontières France. Judith also accompanied Lucy to Hillsong’s Colour Conference in Wembley in the Spring, where they had an ab fab time with thousands of other women, bumped into many old friends, laughed and cried a lot, and generally came back encouraged, re-envisioned and…colourful, I guess.

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The New Ground French team with whom we just love being together on mission!

Lucy narrowly missed out to Lily James in the starring role of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society movie. But her disappointment was short lived as she has recently been informed that a role is being purposely created for her in the sequel: The Guernsey Paramilitary & GlutenFree Fish Cake Sisterhood (working title). Sorry that was a bit corny [see what I did there?]

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Our sons-in-law Luke and Ollie have become quasi-middled aged and taken a serious interest in all things golf.

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Luke & Ollie displaying their strange and rather concerning fetish for wearing Judith’s head gear (none of her other clothing items are worn by them, so far as we know)

In fact Jon has donated his set of clubs to a friend of theirs so that the three of them can hit it off. Jon is very grateful now to have an excuse when asked to play.

It was Judith’s mum – Miriam’s – 80th birthday this year and the family and siblings gathered from across the globe to celebrate in September. Miriam has actually ventured three times to Guernsey in the last 12 months; she was with us over last Christmas, along with her sister Carol and Judith’s youngest brother Ian and partner Adam; Miriam visited us again in June and once more in November – the attraction of a great-grandson perhaps?

Jon discovered a new hobby this year, which he took to with a passion. He has started collecting parking tickets. So besotted did he become with this new pass-time that at one point he lost count of whether he had actually paid (for) them. No matter, for the friendly agencies of Guernsey Law Enforcement helpfully send out a reminder. Fine if you remember to do something about the reminder. Fine too, actually if you don’t. The latter fine eventually morphs into a summons, which was, in the event, sent to Judith, as the car was (fortunately?) registered in her name. For some reason Judith was not very inclined to pay a visit to a Magistrate the week of her birthday. For some reason she wanted to point the finger at Jon. Anyhow after some gentle words of patience and compassion, she managed to avoid the court hearing and Jon paid up!

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Beau getting to know Great Granny Miriam

Having chosen a near-septuagenarian red haired builder named Bernard to undertake the major building work in our French house (spec: digging out and removal of existing flooring on the ground floor, opening passage-way between lounge and kitchen, laying new concrete floor partout, renewing drainage and laying new connection to rear via garage, etc.) we then chose a blond, over-enthusiastic near-teenager named Micky as sparky (spec: complete removal and renewal of the Napoleonic electrics and installation of heating). These works began just after Easter and were due to complete in June, in time for us to arrive late July for a month of holiday and smaller work we planned to undertake ourselves. The two main contractors needed to liaise and cooperate in order to achieve these fundamental works.

This they did to an extent.

Bernard completed his work. On time. On budget. Un bon mec. Micky on the other hand, to date, has not yet finished. When we arrived in July we had lights upstairs (mostly) but none downstairs. No heating (not that we needed it in 35ºC). No hot water. No sockets in the kitchen. Nor downstairs anywhere!

Meanwhile, while Bernard-the-Builder had been digging out the earth floor to put in a DPC and concrete he fell through a 7 foot hole! And discovered a medieval wine cellar we didn’t know we had! There are about a hundred bottles down there (sadly 99 of them were empty) and a whole load of dirt, rubble and mess of the type that accumulates in the 150 years or so our neighbours reckon it has been sealed up. We haven’t decided what to do with it as yet, and lacking sufficient budgetary resources, we coped with a large access hole in the corner of the kitchen during the summer!

Jon has now built a wooden hatch to cover it, much to Judith’s relief, as during the summer she remarked “One glass of champagne and someone could easily fall down there and seriously hurt themselves, you know, like a young child for example…”

– Then let’s not give champagne to the children

– Oh Jon! You know what I mean

etc.

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Le trou: discovering we had a cellar

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La trappe: Jon’s method of ensuring drunk children do not venture therein

Spending nearly four weeks down there in the summer enabled us to get to know the neighbours a little. This included the artisan bakers next door, whose aromas and fine baguettes, pains & patisserie we awake to each day; the old monsieur across the street who we soon discovered rises very early, fetches his pain, and either installs himself outside his front door on a stool or propped on his window ledge to watch the world go by; Olivier & Ingrid – now wonderful friends with whom we are on tutoyering* terms  – who run the Chambres d’Hote which we used for visiting until we had a bedroom and bathroom up and going. The latter have introduced us to many more, invited us for apéros, dinner with more friends, town late night markets and festivities, and helped Judith into the deep end of speaking French with full-blown discussions on European politics, Brexit and social policy! They have been just wonderful.

Talking of bedrooms. One of our summer aims was to decorate and furnish one bedroom in our maison (we were sleeping on camp beds up to this point). We planned a trip to Ikea Bordeaux (about an hour away) in order to buy a bed, mattress, furniture for said bedroom as well as the kitchen and lounge, garden furniture, etc. We also needed to procure a substantial amount of wood panelling, and tools etc. from ironmongers and the like. Jon decided the best thing to do would be to hire a large van from Le Clerc. Something he knew friends had done. Presented with a choice of 5 vehicle sizes, the names of which meant nothing to him, Jon plumped for the middle one. It was gigantic. Half of Ikea could have fitted in it. We had some, ahem, fun negotiating the small lanes of our medieval town in it. There were nearly a few international incidents. We learnt a few new expletives. In French.

Judith chose a very comfortable mattress. Very. She often doesn’t sleep well, so it was important that it was a decent thickness. As a result, it was not one of those you could roll up. Just a well we hired such a gigantic van, justified Jon. However, one thing we hadn’t considered in moving large King size heavy bulky thick mattresses, is how one manoeuvres said items around quasi-spiral stair cases. That is after you have manhandled it out the rented juggernaut which is now blocking up the main street of Pons. Just as well we had learnt those new expletives, thought Jon. They came in handy. Especially when the mattress is stuck half-way up the stair, around a tight bend, and will neither go up nor down. At one point Judith had concluded that she would be sleeping downstairs that night. Alone. Possibly forever. Jon was marooned at the top, on t’other side of very comfortable mattress. Eventually – after Judith’s really silly, useless and daft idea of trying to remove the plastic covering from the jammed mattress, proved to provide some minor assistance in Jon’s efforts to budge the thing around the corner – the mattress made it into the bedroom. There to stay for the next century or two, resolved Jon.

We tackled the jungle too whilst we were there. It can now possibly be described as a garden, complete with pear tree (no partridge as yet, though there are french hens down the road) and some beautiful flowering plants donated to us by our kind neighbours. We have visited recently in December, spending a week there. Whilst the electrics still need completing, the floor needs tiling, and the kitchen, er… putting in, we can camp there in relative comfort. For us, the diversion – even doing chores and decoration – is a wonderful relaxation. We laugh, we talk, we drink tasty pineau and vin de la region and are generally anonymous. We are truly grateful for our life.

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2018 was also the year that Emily Abigail came home. After graduating in the summer of 2017 she spent the the following 12 months serving her local church in Bournemouth – St Swithun’s – as an intern. Part of a team of nine young people who helped run community services, youth and student ministry, Alpha, Marriage and Parenting courses, training, media and comms, as well as Sunday services. She thoroughly enjoyed it, learnt much, and worked part time as a sales assistant at Cath Kidston to earn a few pennies. The latter proved useful also, as in August 2018 she was appointed as Assistant Manager in a High Street retail fashion and luxury items boutique in St Peter Port. She has settled into the little attic rooms above the flat where Jon’s parents used to live, which is just fine for all of us. She’s loving being an auntie too!img_0542

2018 was additionally the year that Coco the cat died. What a way to go though! He came in for his supper as usual. Had a little cuddle with Emily. Ate some Red Leicester lovingly prepared as usual by Jon. Afterwards he lay on the floor and stretched out provocatively (Coco, not Jon – but see what I did there?) Drank some full cream Guernsey milk. Looked pretty darned pleased with himself. Then promptly went outside into the dark, laid down in the yard and gave up the ghost. Probably a surfeit of dairy I hear you say. Probably. But he was a happy 12 year old cat, and he left happy, although we were sad, but that was that.

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Bye Bye Coco 😦

Judith has launched a support group for Head & Neck Cancer Sufferers this year. It is something she has felt called to do for a while so it was exciting to see it come to fruition. The type of patient she was seeking to help often has untold physical and social issues post-op and so the very idea of forming a group and hold regular public meetings was tricky, if not slightly revolutionary! She pulled it off though, and it’s been so good to hear and see the folk who now belong to it sharing their stories, supporting one another, and growing braver socially as they find out they are not alone and have many people willing to help them return to as normal as life as possible.

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Jon with great friend Ian Gorst, former Chief Minister of Jersey, who now serves as External Relations Minister like Jon. It’s great to continue to work together for the Channel Islands and to have friends like Ian and Dionne who also follow Jesus. 

This year politically has been full of unexpected and often stressful work: apart from the Brexit implications and machinations which rumble on, and whilst outside our general control in the main, do affect the Channel Islands in their relationship with the UK, France and the rest of the EU, 2018 also saw a major three day debate in Guernsey’s Assembly on Legalising Assisted Dying. Presented as a Requête – a form of Private Members’ Bill – and led by one of Jon’s colleagues and a close friend, Jon found himself leading the charge against liberalising the law protecting those needing end of life care. It was a tricky, narrow, bumpy path to navigate. Like many modern political issues it polarised Guernsey society, split friends and families, and divided the elected Assembly. International media attention focused on the island in the weeks leading up to the debate in May., primarily because if Guernsey were the first jurisdiction in the British Isles to liberalise on this issue it would have serious implications for other countries. We were not at all certain of winning. We were however very grateful for the support, encouragement and information which came from far and wide, people we did not know in many cases. We often found ourselves heavy with the burden of defending something (life) which modern society no longer understands, based on principles few embrace today. When the final votes were cast two thirds of the Assembly had been persuaded not to legalise Assisted Dying, Suicide or Euthanasia. This means the issue will not return for several years. But it will return. And attempts will be made elsewhere. This is sometimes what success feels and looks like.

 

The year MMXIII has come to pass, and as my great aunt used to say, the sooner it passes the better. In some ways at least. We’ll leave you to work out which parts of the above are plausible or not. Please don’t ask us. Sometimes we think we cannot be certain about reality any longer. Seriously though we do have much to be grateful for about 2018, even if it has also seen its sad, frustrating and sometimes rather nastier aspects. Politically we seem to live in a world in which fear-manipulation and appeals to self-centredness, hatred and offence seem to be de rigueur. Our prayers for 2019 certainly include a deep, serious plea that our cultures and peoples might once again find beauty in generosity, forgiveness, selflessness and love, that we might fight only for peace instead of conflict, whether on the visible global stage of nations and cultures or the less visible, but equally important arena of communities, neighbours and colleagues.

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Buon Noué à tous – Guernesiais for Happy Christmas to you all – and our very best wishes for the New Year!

Love

Jonathan & Judith

*look it up

The Guernsey Gazette 2017+

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So…

There are a few things that can get one worked up. Some of these one perhaps may share with a partner or loved one after three or so decades of living together. You get used to one another after that length of time, understand one another to the degree where you can predict one another’s reactions to events, share the same outlook on things, have grown accustomed to one another’s foibles, microbes etc. And generally you have learnt to empathise with those things – little things in the main – which get one another worked up. Sometimes disproportionately. “Reaching out” for example, a phrase which has featured regularly on the American political TV dramas, like The West Wing, House of Cards, Designated Survivor, etc. that Judith and I have enjoyed over years, and now which increasingly seems to pop up in British dramas. What is that about? Judith used to cringe physically when it first happened, “That’s what you do with your hands” she’d insist as Jed asked Josh to “reach out to the GOP”. Another one is to “deplane” as in, the flight having landed, taxiing up to the terminal and the pilot announces “you will shortly be able to deplane…” I was not aware than I had already previously “planed”. But maybe I’ve skipped that one. Maybe one can now “plane from London to DC” without having to “take the” at all. I may actually be able to train from London to Paris, to car to town, to boat to France. I’m not (taking the) mick.

But my latest gripe is people who start their sentences – especially in response to a question – with “So…”

It’s just downright condescending.

It’s the most [fill in blank] time of the year…

“Wonderful” of course, according to the song. But how would you fill in the blank just now? Panicky? Pleasurable? Silly? Stressful? Family? Commercial? Busy? Enjoyable?Lonely? Dangerous? Now try singing that line with your own adjective or nominal in the blank. It’s worthwhile having a moment to reflect that not everyone will be feeling the same as you in this season, and that cuts both ways.

As occasionally happens with this yuletide missive (now entering its fourth decade!) we skipped a year in 2016. It flew by us before we knew it. In fact we had a relatively quiet, reflective Christmas, having had a fairly full-on 12 months last year. In synopsis we began 2016 with Judith’s Dad (Peter) seriously ill; in GG2015 we mentioned that we were spending that Christmas in the UK with Judith’s family at a lovely farmhouse in Sussex. Judith’s Dad was in Epsom hospital in the run up to that Christmas, but we managed to extract him – using quasi military logistics – on Christmas Eve in order for him to spend a few days over Christmas with his family. Being a nurse, Judith managed to convince everyone that he would be cared for appropriately, however this did involve a picturesque drive around minor Sussex towns on Christmas Day in search of an open pharmacy in order to purchase surgical supplies not readily available elsewhere!

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Judith & her Dad – fun on the beach

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50 years on – Peter’s last visit to us in Guernsey – Cobo Bay Hotel

The first part of 2016 was sadly overshadowed by Peter’s diminishing health. It was all hands on deck with Judith and her siblings helping to care for him at home for a period, alongside community nurses. Not an easy task, especially as his house was not in the best of conditions! Judith went back and forth for a while, eventually staying for several weeks. Lucy joined her to help at one point. Judith’s brother and sister-in-law, Graham and Luise, who live in Hong Kong, who had been over for initially for the Christmas break, ended up returning just a few weeks later to help with care and staying for several months! They spent so much unplanned time in the UK that they dropped into Guernsey for a break on more than one occasion!

Peter sadly died on 1 April 2016 and the rest of the year was often spent reflecting on his life, with happy, sad, funny, mixed emotions… often brought to mind through Judith and her brothers needing to physically go through the small cosmos of “stuff” (often in triplicate, like any good civil servant) which he had kept in cupboards, boxes, and piles upon piles in his otherwise unredecorated-since-1970 home, which we all knew fondly as “Chadacre”. It was a labour of love, as in between the painstakingly and meticulously kept but otherwise pointless copies of utility bills dating back five decades, there might be a unique photograph or important letter. His funeral brought together folk, some of whom had not seen each other for many years, and was a grand and fitting tribute to a complex man, who loved his family very dearly, even if he was not the best at expressing it. We all miss him.

All this was happening at a unusually busy time politically and personally for us. The Guernsey general election was set for the end of April 2016, and Jon was completing his time as Chief Minister with a raft of legislation to get through before the purdah and the end of that term, the usual unplanned crises here and there to resolve, not to mention an election campaign to fight!

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With the Lord Mayor of London, Dr Andrew Parmley, a fellow organist and a great friend

Having already decided that Jon would stand down in terms of leading the government, if re-elected in our constituency, we decided he would aim for the newly created lead role in external relations – Minister for External Affairs – effectively Guernsey’s Foreign Secretary. During his time as CM Jon had, like his predecessors effectively undertaken both roles of leading the government domestically as well as representing Guernsey externally. As of May 2016 this has been split and having been reelected by his constituency district of the Castel, he was then chosen to become Guernsey’s first equivalent of Boris Johnson. Without the hair, but with some style. It is a fascinating role, involving a significant amount of travel (especially post the Brexit vote by the UK – yes, thanks for that Brit friends 😉 – which puts the Channel Islands into interesting and complex positions!) but it is also thankfully much less busy than when he was CM.

 

This also relates to developments that occurred in relation to our involvement with Church on the Rock. For the previous few years we had been seeking to pass on more and more of our leadership roles to others, to the degree that we brought in Paul Chesworth to lead the staff team in 2012 and to help raise up a new generation of leaders. Both of us were still involved in the team, but much less day-to-day and Jon had become part of the New Ground Churches Core Team – a part of the Newfrontiers global family, led by Dave Holden; we were now being invited to get more involved in ministry outside of Guernsey, in the UK and Europe, France in particular.

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With Nathan Lambert at the OECD Paris, discussing world dominion through church planting!

Whilst our family responsibilities had been rapidly changing in recent recent years, this could not happen unless responsibilities and work loads both politically and in the local church changed also. So, during 2016 the church transition occurred: Paul handed the team leadership over Nathan Miller (who had been Youth Pastor previously) and moved back to the UK; Jon stepped down from the local leadership after 27 years! It all happened rather smoothly considering all that was going on at the same time. Of course we are still very much part of this wonderful church family whom we love, Judith still disciples some young leaders and Jon still preaches once a month, but the rest of the time we are focusing generally on helping develop churches and leaders elsewhere. Away roughly one in two weekends and engaged primarily in the francophone world, Jon now also leads the New Ground French national team.

Into 2017…

In comparison these last 12 months have been increasingly much fun for us for a number of reasons.

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Lucy establishing herself in the new flat

Lucy and Luke had been house hunting for a while, and happily in April found a fabulous brand new two-storey apartment, with an additional third level mezzanine, in St Peter Port, walking distance to their work and Guernsey’s main shopping centre. It is a practical modern development which has been tastefully designed to blend in with the older surroundings of the northern part of the harbour, and overlooks one of our main marinas with views towards the smaller islands of Herm, Jethou and Sark. Idyllic. It’s also just a two minute trot from Grace and Ollie’s victorian flat round the corner. Also this year Luke celebrated his 30th Birthday!

 

In other related news, Judith and I are proud to announce that we are to start shopping at Mothercare again. Well, perhaps that should be Grandmothercare, but that sounds like something completely different!

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Accountant-with-child

Grace and Ollie announced that they are expecting a baby (due next April) and to say we were absolutely delighted would be… absolutely true! Grace qualified as an accountant earlier this year too, so presumably she and Ollie have worked out that having children is a high price very much worth paying.

 

Talking of exams, and babies, our very own baby Emily graduated this summer with an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in Visual Communications from Arts University Bournemouth.

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Emily’s Final Year Show involved a children’s book project on her Dad’s adoption entitled ‘Bijou’, which was what his mum used to call him

We were very happily there to see her receive her award and to sign the last cheque! Ems has decided since to stay on in Bournemouth for the time being where she has taken up the opportunity for an internship with the church she has loved being part of during the latter part of her undergraduate study – St Swithun’s – she’s part of a great team there, enjoying the training, and working a few hours a week at Cath Kidston too, to bring in some extra pennies.

 

Earlier this year Judith was able, through the generous bequest from her Dad, to purchase her dream car – a Fiat 500 cabriolet (dark grey with red trimmings – for those of you who care about that kind of detail!) Jon is only allowed to drive it if he asks nicely. If it had been bright pink (which was an option) Judith would not have needed to worry about Jon asking. The grey is more restrained, and what is more, it fits nicely into those handy ‘small car spaces’.

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La belle famille joyeuse…

Also, thanks to Judith’s Dad’s generosity we have become proud owners of a property in France! Something we’ve only ever dreamt of up until now! One could in fact describe our 17C mews house in Pons, (near Cognac!) in the Charente-Maritime as “un petit tas” [a small pile] as it is currently a tad ramshackle with a pile or tow of incomplete reovation work to do here and there!

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Le Petit Tas de Pons

This is, come to think of it, perhaps a fitting tribute to Peter Berry! We are truly excited by the prospects of spending a little more time in France in the future and part of that will be this little project for which we signed contracts  in November, having only “gone to look at a few properties to see what the market is like” in the summer! Pons is a beautiful little medieval town, on the river Seugne and rising to the 12C donjon set on a rock, towering above the surrounding vineyards, not far from Cognac. We have loved visiting it on family holidays and have frequented the area since the children were quite young. The town is also on the ancient Santiago de Compostela route and was a famous stopping off point for pilgrims. You may also note from the photo that our little pile just happens to be right next door to an artisan patisserie and boulanger! Handy, n’est-ce pas? Here are some views of the town of Pons to put you in the picture…

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Apart from France, comme d’habitute, we have also holidayed in Fuerteventura in February and Crete in October. Both were perfect breaks in our busy schedule. Jon’s travels have taken him (and sometimes Judith) to London (more times than he’d like to count), Brussels, Paris, Washington DC, Munich, Lyon, Nimes, Caen, Rennes, Cambrai, Jersey even. He worked out that in the first six months of this year he’d spent 55 days living out of a suitcase somewhere. (It is true that possibly some of that was in our bedroom in Guernsey). But he’s loving this new season in life. Judith continues to nurse part time and to love that too, with new challenges and developments ahead. And one of the really wonderful developments this year is that her neck and shoulder pain has begun to significantly diminish, so she is not having to take the regular pain killers which she had been on for well over a decade!

To wrap up this missive, here’s a few random photos marking some of the fun times we had since we’ve last updated this blog… [You can pause the slide-show if you wish, or just skip it altogether if you’re a grumpy, boring old so-and-so]

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This Christmas – about to come upon us – we are hosting Judith’s mum, Miriam, and her sister Aunty Carol; we’ll also be joined by Judith’s youngest brother Ian and his partner Adam. During Christmas and Boxing Days we’ll have Luke and Lucy, Ollie and Grace dropping in and out, as they also spend time with in-laws. For the first time Ems will not be “Home for Christmas” as she will be busy working with St Swithun’s in Bournemouth.

So…

In many ways this world today is far less predictable nor as secure as it once seemed. Perhaps that security was only an illusion. But, as we started, in contemplative mood, let’s end with some Christmas lyrics. This time by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
 
 
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
 
 
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
 
 
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
 
 
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
 
 
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
 
 
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
 
 
Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
 
 
 

A Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to all of you!

Love,

Jonathan & Judith

 

P.S. Almost forgot, the most significant detail, I’ve grown a beard (did you notice?)

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Guernsey Gazette 2015

(c) 2015 Emily A Le Tocq

(c) 2015 Emily A Le Tocq

 

So…

If last year was the Bumper Edition then this year may well perhaps turn out to be the Brief Brief.

Sorry. Tempus really does seem to Fugit, as I have noted elsewhere on this blog, especially at this time of the year, so all good intentions of producing this annual communiqué during a spare moment in early December have now dissipated. Indeed that spare moment (on Sunday 6 December, between 02:34-02.36 AM) sadly had to be assigned to marginally more important matters of state (catching some shut-eye) and now having made it to sunny Sussex – where we are celebrating Christmas for the first time in over 25 years in the UK with Judith’s family (and yes, it is uncommonly warm, although those friends reading this in the southern hemisphere may disagree that 12°C qualifies as warm) – I find my current agenda replete with things like weddings, shopping, driving, buying presents, wrapping presents, eating, drinking, shopping, drinking, wrapping presents, playing the piano a little, checking emails very occasionally (thanks to poor wifi), eating, shopping, driving, buying presents, eating, wrapping presents, catching the odd train, shopping, eating and drinking. Oh, and shopping. And did I mention buying presents. Also wrapping them. And shopping.

Do you get my point?

However I did take note of some highlights from this year in the form of photos and so, with your indulgence, forbearance and absolution we intend to use these as a means of sending you a brief pictorial Gazette Guide to the Year that was 2015 for us Le Tocqs.

In no particular order, here we go…

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In a world which seems more unstable and uncertain at the end of 2015 than at the beginning, it seems I spent too many occasions writing in books of condolence and sending messages of solidarity and sympathy to people who had suffered at the hands of man’s inhumanity to man. On a sobering note, here’s hoping 2016 will buck this trend. Here, I’m signing the book of condolence at the French Embassy in London after the Charlie-Hebdo attacks in January.

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Many inter-governmental agreements signed this year. This historic one was signed in Cherbourg between all Channel Islands (Iles Anglo-Normandes), the French region of Normandie and the Département de la Manche (County nearest the islands).

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Really privileged to visit Washington DC in February and to attend the National Prayer Breakfast at which President Obama was one of the key speakers. With increasing religious tensions in the world such initiatives which, whilst hosted by followers of Jesus, gather from a wide religious and political spectrum, are proving to be extremely important.

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Whilst we were in the USA in February we paid a short visit to our dear friends Gareth and Raye Forsey who have recently moved from Connecticut to near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We arrived to around 12 inches of snow; a similar amount fell over the weekend we were there, making travel quite, er, eventful! A 2 hour flight turned into a 10 hour train journey! The welcome from the Forseys, Poes, Ashbys nevertheless was as warm as ever!

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A very white White House viewed from one of our meetings in DC

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We’ve certainly had some incredible weather this year: this is Guernsey’s St Saviour’s Reservoir in February

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We’ve had some fabulous friends to stay this year! Really enjoyed a weekend with Nick and Sue Moyler at the end of February. Nick also has excellent taste in headwear.

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I met this charming senior citizen during a visit to London for a conference on civil rights and liberties, it being the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. She seemed to know quite a bit about Guernsey. Really nice digs too.

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I like a balanced argument. Evidence for the positives of global warming: a day on Cobo beach, early March.

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Made several trips to the classy city of Edinburgh this year, all far too short, as it’s full of so much to see. Best visit was probably when Judith and I were invited to attend the Royal Military Tattoo in August courtesy of the Royal Navy, which was just splendid and something we will remember for a long while.

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“Sarnia Cherie” – Sarnia Dear, is Guernsey’s national anthem. Grace kindly embroidered the first verse for me in Guernsey French which now hangs in my office.

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Emily – now in the second year of her degree course at Bournemouth Arts University – paid a few visits home to spend some time with her old folk… and to see the cats! Here she is with Chanel, who as usual has found another naughty place to sleep in.

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Un vrai ami des Iles Anglo-Normandes, et surtout de Guernesey et de moi-même, Jean-Francois Le Grand, Senateur et Président, a pris sa retraite cette année. Néanmoins, je prévois que nous allons nous rencontrer souvent.

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Wouldn’t be worth much without a few Cobo sunsets thrown in eh?

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Judith and I acting suitably silly in support of Rob, the Guernsey Weatherfox, in the great Guernsey Dancefloor Challenge

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Here’s another Cobo sunset…

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Lucy and Luke have had a good year job-wise, both moving to work for companies and in teams which they really love and find rewarding (in more ways than one). The frustrating hunt for a home of their own continues, but in the meantime they have entertained and hosted loads of friends from all over and found plenty to do with their multiple extra-curricular interests. Here is Luke looking rather canonical.

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Chanel positioning herself for Eine Kleine Kat Mewsik (she prefers Mozart to Bach…)

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When you get really into the countryside in Guernsey (‘to the West’ that is) you meet with helpful road signs like this one.

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Brussels has been much on the agenda politically this year. Although Guernsey is not fully part of the EU, we have many bilateral agreements and are affected by the UK’s decision-making. Brussels is a great and grand city and is always a pleasure to visit.

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Jersey & Guernsey have a representative office in Brussels which is becoming increasingly important for hosting conferences and meetings to improve our relationship with member states of the EU.

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It was a historic year for so many reasons; the top one for the Channel Islands was almost definitely the 70th anniversary of Liberation from Nazi occupation. The weekend of May 9th (Guernsey’s Liberation Day) was filled with commemorative and celebratory events, amongst which was a Royal visit from Sophie, Countess of Wessex

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It was great to accompany the Duchess as she met some of the older generation who were alive during the war years. I introduced her to my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Stan (now 90 years old) “Hello Uncle!” she quipped!

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Grandad, Peter – Judith’s Dad – celebrated his 78th birthday in Guernsey this year (here’s Emily presenting him with a special cake). Unfortunately, it’s not been a great year for Peter. He spent several weeks in hospital over the summer with a failing heart condition and other complications. Judith spent a proportion of her annual leave visiting him or helping to care for him at his home along with her brother Ian especially. As I write he is in hospital again, but we are hopeful he will be allowed to be with us for Christmas day itself.

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The lovely lady Le Tocq all dressed up to meet the Countess. Her hat (couresty of Ollie & Grace’s wedding last year) makes ‘deux bises’ rather tricky. However you can pick up Sky News very well.

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This year saw the rebadging of our Cadets and reserves as the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry, the previous official name of the Guernsey Militia pre-disbanding in the 1930s.

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Guernsey’s Lieutenant Governor Air Marshall Peter Walker – seen here at the inception of the RGLI – sadly passed away suddenly in September. He was well loved locally and still had a year to serve in office.

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Mont Saint Michel was the fabulous backdrop for a CI-French conference on cooperation. It will also serve as the start for the 2016 Tour de France!

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Well used to being interviewed nowadays for various media. Here’s a selfie with Richard at Island FM.

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We’re very grateful to have three such delightful and different daughters! Here’s a pic of a proud Dad!

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The Island Games (a sporting event which brings together dozens of island communities from all over the globe) was held in Jersey this year. We spent a fun weekend there staying with our great friends Ian & Dionne Gorst (Ian is Jersey’s Chief Minister) both of us being a tad competitive of course!

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In July Church on the Rock hosted a conference which also brought together friends from our closest Newfrontiers and New Ground church in Rennes, France! Here are Henk and Eunee, part of the New Ground team, from the Netherlands, speaking at the event.

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Lots of Ambassadorial visits and hosting this year. This is a meeting with the Ambassador at South Africa House London.

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Two of my favourite girls

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We had a glorious summer this year and whilst we spent a couple of weeks of it in la belle France, we are so lucky to live in such a beautiful island, and never need much of an excuse to dine watching the sun go down at Cobo. Did I mention the sunsets…?

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We celebrated our 29th Wedding Anniversary in Nimes courtesy of some very kind friends.

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Another anniversary this year was marked by the unveiling of this dramatic sculpture commemorating the 140+ allied air servicemen who died in action in Bailiwick of Guernsey waters and whose bodies have been never recovered.

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The Battle of Britain week was celebrated in Guernsey as usual this year with a fabulous air display including the Red Arrows, seen here from Castle Cornet, St Peter Port

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One of the significant highlights of the year must beyond all doubt be “Judith’s Great Adventure” or as we sometimes refer to it “Judith Pulls It Off”. Those of you who know Judith well are aware of her “I don’t do adventure” stance on anything more exciting than a merry-go-round. Even that… well, say no more. Strangely therefore, when I picked her up from work during Battle of Britain week and said “I’ve been invited to go for a spin in a Sea King chopper, you can come too” expecting that the latter half of this phrase would be ignored or dismissed with quick laugh, you can imagine my surprise when Judith replied with “Okay”. So it was that this surreal experience continued with the Royal Marine in charge stating “You’re going to be dangling your legs outside over the edge – is that okay with you?” with Judith again replying “Okay”. So here’s the photographic evidence. PS. Maybe the hunky young Marine helped…

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Said Sea King helicopter, just back from Afghanistan, with bullet holes to prove it

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Judith’s feet (on left). Not sure what happened to her shoes!

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Said feet dangling over Perelle on the West Coast. Gives a new meaning to “Island Tour”

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Towards the end of the year we found ourselves yet again with Paris in our thoughts and prayers

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With Sir Lockwood Smith, New Zealand High Commissioner

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Getting a bird’s eye view over Guernsey along with a press reporter as I venture up via a crane to put a star on Guernsey’s Tree of Joy – Europe’s tallest illuminated Christmas tree

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With other heads of Government and Ministers at the British-Irish Council in London

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2016 saw the first Bailiwick of Guernsey Council which brought together political leaders from Sark, Alderney and Guernsey to discuss matters of mutual concern.

So, apart from that… we also enjoyed a week’s break in Jamaica early on in the year (Judith and me that is!) We managed to camp for the church weekend (along with two thousand others) at Ashburnham Place, Sussex, at the end of August. To be fair to Judith, this was also quite a feat for her, as “Judith doesn’t do camping”  was also a family maxim. Judith moved slightly… in terms of her job that is, and now works for the ENT department at the MSG (Ear, Nose and Throat consultants at Guernsey’s Medical Specialist Group for those of you who struggle with TLAs as I do) (Three Letter Acronyms, that is). I also managed to fit in lunch with the judges at the Old Bailey, an operation on my toe, and a trip to Dublin’s fair city.

Therefore, without further ado… there it is, briefly, for 2015. Merry Christmas and  a Happy New Year to you all!

Guernsey Gazette 2014

Last Christmas - 2013 - the family as it was then out for a brisk walk

Last Christmas – 2013 – the family as it was then out for a brisk walk

Top of your Christmas wish-list!

As Good as a Golden Guernsey Cow Pie – Top of your Christmas wish-list!

Pardonnez-nous, Entschuldigung, triste, scusate, συγνώμη, 遺憾, извините, सॉरी, מצטער, desculpe, آسف, my bad. There is just no easy way around this. Profuse apologies; we seemed to have skipped a year. 2013 I think. Just no idea where those 12 months went to. Or the 24 really. Jersey possibly, they seem to be getting overpopulated recently. And yes, I know, for those of you who have been avid followers of the Gazette since the last century, missing an annual GG has occurred before at some point, although we can’t quite remember when. We do recall however that on that occasion we had excuses such as children to bath and put to bed, elderly parents to care for, houses to renovate, cars to repair, Agas to relight, animals to feed and tend to, new children to conceive, etc., etc. However on this occasion we cannot for the life of us think of any excuse.

It has been, it would inevitably seem, a rather dull and uneventful 24 months since the last missive was published. In brief, we’ve eaten, worked and slept a little, from time to time. Here we are two Christmases on and we can only think of a handful of things that are perhaps worthy of reporting. So here goes any how.

Home Alone…

Our youngest and favourite unmarried daughter Emilia Abigalia (she’s rather academically upwardly mobile now so Latin sounds more appropriate) flew the Feugré Villa aerie in September 2013 to take up a University perch in Bournemouth, where she spent the last twelve months successfully completing an Arts Foundation course enabling her to begin a Bachelor of Arts degree course in Visual Communication this term. She’s always been rather good at communicating visually we think, so this it is rather apt that modern academia have invented a graduation programme for her.

Emily and the Art of Visual Communication

She seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, has made a multitude of new friends and got used to travelling either by plane, train or boat back and forth in the process.

So apart from academic holidays (i.e. the majority of the year) we were therefore left with Grace chez nous during the latter part of 2013 and half of 2014. Since which time Feugré Villa has become once again the quiet domain and exclusive residence of Judith and Jon. This phenomenon occurred because in 2013 Mr Oliver Benjamin Smith had officially asked Jon for our daughter Grace’s hand in marriage. As you might expect quite a lot was attached to that hand – for example: an arm, body, various other limbs, a head, a very loud voice, gallbladder, liver, intestines, a kindly heart along with some attitude, amongst other things – all of which we, as parents, decided it would be selfish and unfair to keep at home in view of the circumstances.

Therefore, after quite a wet week, on a spring Saturday in May this year, the sun decided to put his hat on just as we left the church ceremony as we headed to the field and a grand marquee for a glorious afternoon tea and evening dance to celebrate Le Mariage de M. & Mme. Smith. We are really proud of our new son-in-law Ollie, just as we are of our old son-in-law Luke, both of whom we love spending time with and laughing excessively, normally about something either Judith or Lucy has said or done. Ollie and Grace have bought a bijou two-bed Victorian maisonette in a beautifully tranquil canton of St Peter Port, just a few minutes walk from where they both work. Here are a few photos from the day… [click on one to open the gallery]

Lucy and Luke moved from the quaint cottage they were renting to spend a few

Lucy and Luke

Luke and Lucy

weeks with us in Le Petit Feugré wing before moving into a family bungalow temporarily so they can save their pennies in order hopefully to purchase their own property as soon as they can. They have also both been blessed with new jobs and moved up the employment ladder in the last year or so. Lucy now works as Office Manager for Crosslane – a Property advisors & investment trust. Luke was head hunted by a creative design agency, The Potting Shed, where he apparently lives the life he’s always wanted and works hard all at the same time.

Can you tell why it is generally Lucy and Judith who end up being such a great source of family joviality?

We’ll Meet Again…

It’s also been a time of reunions and celebrations with friends and family. Judith got together in London with her old nursing pals from University College Hospital’s set 266 of way back in the 1980s. It was 30 years since they had begun training together and 20 since the last reunion! Many embarrassing stories and a few long-forgotten-and-best-kept-that-way photographs were shared. Money changed hands and the threats have now diminished. The girls had an opportunity to visit their old Hospital stomping ground as well as the brand spanking new buildings which have replaced it. No one was hurt in the process, which was just as well as in my personal experience nurses very rarely have any sticking plasters to hand. I blame the training.

2014 was the year that Judith and I celebrated our centenary. Well, double jubilees actually. That is, we both reached our 50th birthdays. Mine was in March but we decided to hold joint celebrations closer to Judith’s (December 17) as calendar conflicts arose unexpectedly earlier in the year (see below). So being the gregarious party animals and disco-divas that we are, we planned two knees-ups, one in London the last weekend in November and the other in Guernsey just a few days ago.

Judith and her brothers – could be a Woody Allen film, in more ways than one! L-R: Graham, Ian, Judith, Neil, Mark

The London festivities were diarised to coincide with a rare and unusual interstellar realignment of celestial beings; essentially Judith and her four siblings happened to be in the same continent and country all at the same time! The last occasion was some 12 years ago, so we capitalised on the rarity and came up winners when several dozen family members, including cousins and their offspring whom some of us had never met, gathered in Wimbledon to enjoy an afternoon together along with some great grub. A fun time was had by all, and we managed to get some good photos of the Berry siblings all together with their big sister as she entered her 6th decade. We also managed to produce a rather silly family video which you can view here if you dare.

Rock on the Rock

Rock on the Rock

The Guernsey jamboree took the form of an evening of cheese, wine, music and dancing and brought together around 150 of our island-based friends and family. The recently formed local party band Youthe which Luke and Ollie have formed along with three of their buddies, took the main stage for the evening (they had first starred previously on at Grace and Ollie’s wedding) and provided all the stimulus we needed for dancing the night away. For a mid evening interlude Grace on vocals, her dad on keys and our good friend Adrian on trumpet provided some festive jazz. A bottle of the vintage year – 1964 Chateau La Tour – was auctioned off (poured out in 8 separate glasses to the highest bidders!) to raise money for the Guernsey Cheshire Homes (thanks to all for nearly £1000 raised now!) Overall we had immense fun with folk brought together from the various spheres of our life – family, neighbourhood, work, politics, church, with even a couple of international friends jetting in just for the night (thanks so much Dave & Liz Holden – we know you’ll be reading this newsletter for obvious reasons!)

And Finally (Cyril)…

Of course, as many of you know, the big news is…

cue: suitably pythonesque fanfare [we saw Spamalot this year by the way - brilliant!]

cue: suitably pythonesque fanfare [we saw Spamalot this year by the way – brilliant!]

…we are now a Volvo-less family! More by accident than by design. Literally. Last time we published a GG we possessed two Volvos – a turquoise C70 cabriolet which Jon tended to drive and a 7-seater XC90 big beastie which we tended to use mainly for family off island travel, then we had a cute Peugeot 107 for Judith and a leaky old Fiat Abarth Seicento which Emily had learnt on and was still jalopying around. Three days before Grace’s wedding the XC90, which was being used quite extensively to move wedding gear and small crowds of people around, decided to give up the ghost. It just conked out up a hill and the long and the short of it was the 4th emergency service arranged to tow it away, after which we discovered it was more prudent to get rid of than fix (where have you heard that before?!) We were sad to get rid of the big fella but in the end it was probably for the best as although we loved it as a family we do not really have need for such a juggernaut any longer.

Then, a few weeks later, whilst we were still recovering from same wedding, Jon’s beloved and aged C70 was involved in a side-on collision, whilst stationary, but sadly rending the poor teenager (15 year old) coupé similarly beyond economic repair. Fortunately for Jon, who was sitting in the driver’s seat at the time at a junction, and on the side of the impact, he was able to test out and demonstrate the value and effect of Volvo’s Side-Impact-Protection-System and the cabriolet’s Roll-Over-Bars all in one go. The inside of the car looked untouched and unaltered. He could also drive it back home without any problem. The same could not be said for the other car which crashed into the Volvo however – a Ford Fiesta – although one benefit is that it would have easily fitted into a Ford Ka’s parking space afterwards with the help of a crane.

Some things never change however. We still have the beloved Aga. It has not been involved in any road traffic accidents as yet.

As a result Jon took to driving around in the rusty, leaky old Fiat for a while, as Emily had moved on to Uni. It was interesting to see the faces of people as he arrived at official functions, and especially the expressions of those he offered lifts to; they would often squeeze in to the passenger seat and then after a few minutes taking in the pink fluffy accoutrements, rugs and cushions, they would invariably say “This seat feels a little damp” and Jon would need to explain, as he passed them a pink fluffy cushion, that the sunroof leaked. Said Fiat was traded in for a nifty little black BMW 118 which Judith loves and Jon mainly drives.

We have enjoyed some great short breaks and family holidays in the last 24 months, in France,

in Florence

Florence

the family in France

the family in France

Portugal, the Canaries, Istanbul, South Africa, Italy (for the first time thanks to generous friends who own a villa near Florence). But this year in particular been marked by cancellation of planned trips away, firstly in February when we were due to visit the USA but Jon’s visa was delayed because he was apparently a PEP. To begin with we thought meant he was a Personal Equity Plan. Now of course he’s always been Judith’s Personal Equity Plan, but in this case PEP means Politically Exposed Person according to their computer records apparently.

This was quite a shock to us all and we have absolutely no idea where they got that information from, but we have since gotten over it, and hopefully so too have the US government as we are due to attempt to navigate Homeland Security again next February. Then we had to re-schedule and cut short a holiday due to a minor political event at home in Guernsey, the upshot of which resulted in Jon getting elected as the government’s new Chief Minister in March.

The rest is history as they say, but in this case, it seems to be what we are living out on a daily basis. We won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say, we lied above: life is never dull. And a large part of it now more than ever before involves representing Guernsey internationally, either away from Guernsey’s shores or by receiving visiting dignitaries and officials locally. We both count it as a privilege to do so and at the same time really enjoy regularly meeting people as diverse as Ambassadors from the far East, Ministers from the EU, Commonwealth leaders and the leaders of the UK’s devolved jurisdictions. Our close association with France in particular has involved us in numerous engagements and interactions this year including representing Guernsey at the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy, the commemoration of the start of WW1 at Westminster Abbey and the Centenary of the historic gift from the French government of the Statue of Victor Hugo where the French delegation included Victor Hugo’s great-great-grandson, also an artist and polymath comme son aïeul and, like many, someone Jon thoroughly enjoyed meeting and chatting with over dinner! People are often shocked to find in Europe today a practising follower of Jesus, let alone a church pastor leading a government. We are often a bit surprised too.  A few photos from the political year…

Naturally all this has changed our involvement with the local church, but in healthy and exciting ways. Jon remains a member of the pastoral team and we are still both involved in preaching, teaching and leadership development, as well as overseas mission through the relationship we enjoy with NewGround churches, Newfrontiers and New Wine (it would be easier if all those merged into NewFrontiersWineGround wouldn’t it?) So it’s brilliant to see a new team of younger leaders such as home-grown pastor Andy & Abi Coleman rising up around Paul Chesworth who now leads the day-to-day work of the local church and the staff team. Also this year Church on the Rock launched a new congregation in a new venue – a pub – which has really been a fun challenge!

None of us can be sure what the future holds, but we both feel so grateful for the life we lead, the family and friends we have, the fun we enjoy living in such a wonderful place.

Joy and peace be yours this Christmas!

JJ&E

Guernsey Gazette 2014 Bumper Edition

You'll be fine and dandy after reading this year's GG!

You’ll be fine and dandy after reading this year’s GG!

Coming soon… check back again to make your Christmas that extra special!

Guernsey Gazette 2012

TimeFlies1

This fast approaching Christmas of 2012 has really got me pondering: When you’re not looking where do a full twelve months just disappear to? Sorry, I’ll rephrase that for the Grammar-guerrillas out there – To where do a full twelve months disappear while you look away? Still doesn’t sound too good. Perhaps… Whence goeth a thorough twelve months wheretofore thou peerest not hither?

Anyhoo, my point being, it just seems like we were enjoying Christmas 2011, we slept and blinked a little and here we are at Christmas 2012. Is this a sign of that dreaded middle-agedness catching us up? Or maybe time is really moving faster in the 21st Century? Whatever the case we’ve skipped straight from last year’s Gazette to this year’s without my having written a blogging jot or a tittle in between. Not that I was exactly regular (so to speak) before of course, it’s just that so much has happened this year in the Le Tocq household that you would have thought Old Father Time would have maybe even chosen to slow down a tad and enjoy the view a little. Instead we’ve had a roller-coaster of a year, ups and downs both of a positive kind, where one might say, to twist the usual analogy somewhat, that the downs were certainly as exhilarating as the ups were hard work, but most certainly there were few dull horizontal planes to coast along — the pace was a constant fast and furious!

Firstly this was most assuredly the Year of the Wedding… (of Lucy & Luke, I mean, Judith & I were spliced a good 26 years ago, fear not!) Let me hunt out a photo or two… or more… (since we have a few)

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Whilst the said act of wedlock was not held until September, it’s not an inappropriate place to start our year, for it seemed at some points like the whole of the preceding 8 months were simply about preparing for this grand event. In fact, it was I think rather therapeutic for me to hunt out those photos above since now that it’s all done and dusted I was perhaps subliminally in danger of thinking I’d just dreamt it had all happened and that we might have to start again for real this coming January! [It did happen Jon, the wedding took place, she is married, it all went smoothly, now take your tablets and continue…]

And so Mrs. Luke Vidamour she now is of course. Luke and Lucy have established themselves in a lovely 18C cottage in the distant parish of St Martin’s (a good 20 minutes south from Cobo if you drive slowly). Of course The Event was held on a lovely day — the bright shining sun, helpful friends, gifted minstrels, 11C church and 21C marquee all turned up and out very nicely indeed, which considering we did not have a real Plan B (it’s all right I can tell you now) was just as well to be honest!

IMG_2844 643997_10151035763007944_1218133045_nSeriously we are so very grateful to hordes of family, friends and various other threatened passers-by before, during and after (yes, especially after!) the event as it certainly would not have been the rip roaring success it was without you. In fact it would have been a dozen of us sharing a pork pie in the church yard to be frank. Judith, our bank manager and I are supremely thankful. With a few hundred packed into St Sampson’s Church for the ceremony, a reception in a marquee for 150 at the old medieval Castel Fair Field (you can still see where the cattle were tied up for market, very apt) followed by an evening bash for double that number, all catered for in-house, so to speak, you can imagine that tensions may have been raised a little in the run up! But an army of church folk and friends made it a beautiful day to remember – weekend in fact, as we especially enjoyed catching up with family and friends from around the world the next day at a Feugré Villa BBQ.

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The glamorous Grace graduated in and from London this summer, and managed to fit in a couple of Prom performances before quitting the Big Smoke, including singing Beethoven’s 9th with Daniel Barenboim conducting (don’t feel like you need to be impressed, her Dad was and that’s all that really matters!) Here’s a BBC screen capture to prove it –

Grace singing a little Beethoven in BBC Prom, Royal Albert Hall: she's the one with the lopsided halo

Grace singing a little Beethoven in BBC Prom, Royal Albert Hall: she’s the one with the lopsided halo

Grace also managed to scoop up a super job back in Guernsey working for Alter Domus — an upcoming AIFM (Alternative Investment Fund Manager to you and me). She continues to sing in the National Youth Choir, Guernsey choirs, church bands and the shower, and formed part of the jazz entertainment at her elder sister’s Wedding Evening Do, along with her father.

Our baby, Emily (also known as Em, Ems, Emsy, The Hair, etc.) reached an incredible 18 years of age this year. It seems like only yesterday she looked like this –

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Little Ems a while back at the beach with long time friend Jojos (he’s the one holding his willy) [Sorry Joel, at least we haven’t mentioned your surname – hope you’re enjoying London – guess you’re back in Rennes for Christmas – love to all the Hayter family!]

and yet now she looks like this – cher1

sorry, I meant this (easy mistake) – ems2

That coming of age was not quite so frightening as her passing her driving test (for her paIMG_4091rents at least). Fortunately as expected the glamour soon wore off as she was required not only to drive the little Fiat, but also, shock, horror, fill it with fuel occasionally. In her final year at Grammar VI Form Centre now she’s a happy bunny having just received a pretty much firm offer from Bournemouth for next year. Similar to her eldest sister, she’s heading in the Photography-Arty-Designy direction.

In terms of cars, agas and other sagas, not a lot to report… oh except we’ve added a little Peugeot 107 to the mix — as Judith’s personal car of choice — she loves its nippiness, its ability to easily negotiate the little lanes without having to mount the curb (a Guernsey habit) and most of all the fact that it fits so easily into the free, 10 hr long ‘small car parking spaces’ in St Peter Port. Meanwhile Jon still likes the fact that anyone who gets in the way or even threatens to argue with him and his Volvo(s) while he’s seeking a refuelling station (every 30 minutes) simply gets flattened. The simple options are sometimes best.

Apart from that, this year has been perhaps rather uneventful. Let’s think what else I can pad this out with… umm… better consult the wife.

[noises off]

[Judith] Oh well, I suppose there was the incidental accident of Jonathan getting elected as a member of our parliament, the States of Guernsey, and now serving as Deputy Chief Minister. But of course that has not affected our lives in the slightest.

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The Ministers who in May 2012 formed Guernsey’s “cabinet” or Policy Council to use the official title, or ugly so-and-sos as we are often affectionately called

[Jon continues] Ah yes, how could we forget! In April Guernsey went to the polls in a General Election to elect a new 47 member Assembly and after a 4 year break (I previously served from 2000-08) a suitably sized seat (XL with XXL head room) was vacated for me. It’s been strange, having decided not to stand for office in 2008, to see how our politics has changed in those 4 years; especially given the portfolio I have been given, a large chunk of which is “external relations”, how much we as the Bailiwick of Guernsey (and indeed the Channel Islands as a whole) have to plough our own furrow internationally now (perhaps plot our own course is a better analogy for islands!) I am enjoying the ride so far, and the plotting too… There are huge challenges facing the whole of Europe, but personally my biggest challenge, and the one I love the most, is to seek to be Christ to people in this often Christ-less rudderless domain. Both Judith and I see this as part of our calling and have already begun to make good friends at home and abroad; we look forward to whatever else this new path brings. One of the things I am less happy about is being referred to as Guernsey’s equivalent to Nick Clegg. Say no more.

Judith continues to nurse part time at the Guernsey Medical Specialist Group and has done various courses in strange therapies this year, including wound care and bandaging.bandage This has entailed members of the family volunteering (even if they were seemingly asleep at the time) to be mummified in various ways as preparation for passing tests and exams. Not a pleasant experience I can assure you, although, Emily said she rather liked the sensation of her leg being bandaged. Jon played the man as usual… moaning and groaning about it. Judith has promised to unbandage it for the New Year.

Our involvement with Church on the Rock continues, but in increasingly different ways than in the past. We are still part of the senior leadership team but this year has been so exciting and fulfilling to see others, especially younger twentysomething leaders taking up roles and responsibilities, and new teams emerging coordinated and managed by Paul Chesworth who since September 2011 has been on staff as Executive Pastor. Paul and his lovely wife Liz are such a blessing to us and bring a resilience to the team which is enabling us to be more released to other things internationally.

It is a pleasure to continue to be involved with Newfrontiers, and more specifically now with Dave Holden’s nascent New Ground team as we seek to break new ground internationally and influence  many arenas especially in Europe.

And finally, talking of travel, we have enjoyed a few trips, excursions, short breaks and for Jon political visits to various familiar and unfamiliar climes, including, early on, a visit to a freezing Dinan in Brittany followed by a fun time at CenterParcs in Normandy with our great friends the Hayters; Nîmes, Avignon & Montpelier to visit dear friends who lead churches and Christian mission in the south of France; Herm (to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – well, someone’s got to); Paris in the spring; Tenerife for a few nights early summer; Portugal for a short break just the two of us to recuperate post-nuptially; Bournemouth (Ems & her Dad) to check out the Uni and be hosted by our fab friends the Thompsons; Turkey with others from the New Ground team for an international Christian convention; Amsterdam & The Hague a few weeks ago to speak at leadership and church gatherings, as well Edinburgh, Stirling, Dublin and Brussels for political stuff… not to forget Alderney & Jersey – several times for all sorts of reasons. I’m not sure why folk think we get around a lot! Our possessions sometimes stay for a little longer – Jon’s toilet bag is now returned grâce à nos ami Nîmois after deciding to stay in the Med a little longer, and Judith’s purse and Peugeot keys loved Istanbul so much they stayed there a whole two months extra to see the sights we missed in our 48 hours passing through!

That’s plenty enough for this year’s Gazette [says Judith] all that remains is for us to wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! This Guernsey Gazette is published as ever with our love, and our prayers are that you also know the love of God and the peace only Jesus, the prince of the very same, can bring. May grace abound to you in 2013!

Now, for the first time we sign off as…

JJG&E

Guernsey Gazette 2011

Yummy! Just what you've been waiting for...

Hello again! Time to get that clipboard out and begin checking those boxes: Are those chestnuts roasting? Is that fire open? Tree-tops glistening? Children listening? (Yeah, like!) Days: Merry? Bright? Love-light gleaming? (Er… please explain) Snow? Mistletoe? Presents on the tree? (That’s what the lyrics actually say – On the tree. Ours are always under by the way, never tried the ‘on the tree’ idea, Health & Safety Executive might have a few words to say. Or, it’s just occurred to me that maybe they are very little titchy wee presents perhaps. Now there’s an idea.) OK let’s continue with that box ticking: Heart light? Troubles out of sight? Faithful friends dear and near? Yule-tide gay? (Ooer… let’s leave it there shall we!)

Here we go again then, Christmas eh? Seems like the last one has only just finished! Possibly this is because some shops over here started marketing Christmas ‘crap‘ first week in September (see photo),

Chocolate Santas for sale in September! And what happened to Halloween? No, don't ask!

which was only a couple of months after they had finally got exhausted the January sales of the stuff they didn’t manage to sell last year. This may mean that if global warming conspiracy theorists have their way then we may be entering into a quasi-anti-Narnia era where it’s always Christmas but never winter. Not sure which is worse. Is that what it’s like in Australia and New Zealand anyway? Answers on a post-card… no forget I wrote that… comments below please.

Actually we quite like the changing seasons generally and although being placed in the outflow of the North Atlantic Drift and thus warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream the Channel Islands maintain a fairly temperate, mild maritime climate – frost is rare, few hibernating animals, plants which are generally annuals in Northern Europe become perennials, palm trees proliferate, high annual sunshine hours – a tax-haven and a veritable subtropical paradise I hear you think…

Summer time at Cobo: 2 min walk from our house

but don’t forget that the word Atlantic is hidden away in North Atlantic Drift!

Cobo Coast road in the winter

So despite the warm ground temperature and blooming flora and fauna nevertheless during the winter months we do get buffeted by incredible thumping, agitating, penetrating, debilitating, tempestuous, progress-defeating winds from the West and Sou-West, like the storm which is upon us now as I write, and which has succeeded in cancelling out ferry sailings to and from the UK for the past three days! Now on a day like today when you get to the top of the hill behind our house and stand (if you can!) and watch that same majestic wind pummeling the sea into shape, seeing great walls of it flung 30ft high and over the coastal defenses, chucking huge 14lb pebbles, along with flotsam and jetsam over the road and onto the roofs and into the gardens of homes on the western seaboard, feeling that same cyclonic blast sweep up the rain to send it horizontally into your face, actually then you can appreciate being alive, and the beauty of the changing the seasons.

Cobo Bay: West coast in the Spring

I love the Spring, the Autumn and the Summer, don’t misunderstand me – from that same vantage point hidden in the little pine copse at the summit of Ruette de la Tour, on a Summer’s day you can see children playing in the sand at Grandes Rocques, fishing boats bobbing for their crab-pots out by Les Grunes, Nor-West of Cobo, picnickers at Port Soif, even hear the smack of leather on willow from the cricketers on La Mare de Carteret – that’s fine and majestic also. But on a day like today you hear nothing but the scream of the wind and your own heartbeat. How wonderful to be alive. Beautiful in every season.

West coast late Autumn

So it was nevertheless a little odd for Guernsey to be gifted with not one but two dollops of snow last winter, just after the time I was writing the GG10. My father said that in his 98 years he had never seen snow before Christmas in the islands. Then in January this year we had some more. Which was entertaining enough in the UK but here in the Channel Islands we just have no real plan for snow; not even 2.5 inches of it (which was about all it amounted to at worst!) So the kids enjoyed snow days, transport came to a standstill on and off the island, everyone stayed indoors and generally one came to the conclusion that just maybe we weren’t living in the 21st Century after all.

2011 was the year we celebrated 25 years of marriage – a quarter-century of coupleness – and fittingly, thanks to the generosity of friends we were able to celebrate this with an out-of-this-world-but-very-much-still-in-it holiday at a resort aptly named Couples in Jamaica. For two weeks. Two weeks?! Just the two of you? What on earth did you do for two weeks? I again hear you think. Well the answer to that is for us to know and for you to guess. Suffice to say we feel suitably qualified to host fulfilled married life seminars for a few more years to come.

We got married in August 1986, but the holiday offer was for February, so that is when we went, which included Valentines Day thrown in, so… Ah! all sweet and nice and romantic, slushy-wushy, nostalgia-isn’t-what-it-used-to-be, and the like. Yes, it was beautiful and for us very timely as the latter months of 2010, over the Christmas period and into January 2011 we had begun to struggle to look after Dad at home. On Christmas Day last year he was feeling pretty weak, but decided to sit up in his chair for lunch, and we gathered around him and his beloved Hammond as a family in the morning to sing a few carols and songs (happily andtearfully!) with Dad lifting up his hands at certain points and crying out “Take me Jesus!” in Guernsey French! Yep! Just a little on the emotional side.

Papa Le Tocq with his family, Christmas Day 2010

We had the kindly help of a fantastic bunch of Care Attendants and Nurses who would drop by three times a day towards the end (not forgetting Betty who had been Mum and Dad’s Home Help for over 14 years!), but even then when you’re caring for someone near and dear to you, knowing he is finding it difficult to live on another day, emotionally stretched endeavoring to keep him stimulated, comfortable, interested in eating even, being on call via a bell/life-line system, waking sometimes three times in the night for toilet lifts, or to pick him up off the floor because he ‘didn’t want to disturb us again’ and had fallen down trying to do it himself, clearing up after accidents, hosting a regular stream of visitors to see Dad (some with strong if genuinely concerned ‘opinions’ as to how we should be caring for him), as well as looking after a teenage family, doing a fair day’s work both in ‘caring professions’ too… it’s not just the physical tiredness that builds up! Dad could appreciate this too, long gone were the times where we could leave him with a family member and although he did not like hospitals, when the opportunity for two weeks respite care came up he encouraged us to take it. With Dad safely in hospital while we were away, this helped us to find space and time to think, pray and consider how we would face the future. We had checked out a few nursing homes and in direct answer to prayer, on our return the one that was top of our list informed us that Dad could move in within a few days. He spent exactly one month there before slipping peacefully away in his sleep one night in April, and like Mum three and half years earlier, we were happy that we had cared for and nursed him at home with us all those years excepting just a few weeks near the end. It was a great celebration at Church on the Rock, too many happy funny memories to recount, but Lucy and I shared from our perspectives and Grace led the singing of one of Papa’s (and his Mum before him) favourite old French hymns “Christ est ma vie” [Christ is my life].

I share this not so much to air my confession to the world, but because I know that many of you dear folk out there are either going through similar times with loved ones, or will face it sooner or later. We faced it early compared to most because of the peculiarities of my adoption and my parents age and longevity. But it amounts to the same thing. Be encouraged, we felt stretched in every way – you will too – but it’s worth it all, we feel alive, satisfied, fulfilled, and we’ve been able to grieve healthily with no regrets.

Also finally we were able to resolve the tombstone problem which had irked us since we buried Mum in 2007. In digging Mum’s grave they had hit rock and so had informed us that there would not be room for another coffin in the same grave, Dad would probably have to buried alongside when the time came. This unexpected problem was compounded by Dad’s realization that the cost of the masonry, already causing him to be aghast, would now be doubled. So he had insisted that we put one stone, in between the two graves, with engraved arrows pointing the relative direction of the respective deceased, e.g. “Millie, here ->… Will, there <-" As you may imagine, this did not exactly meet with our approval, but never mind how much we tried to persuade him otherwise, he insisted he would not have us waste our money on two headstones. As a result no stone was erected in the last four years. However when the time came this year the sextant informed us that there was in fact room for Dad's coffin after all, and so that is where we laid him, with no need for two stones, nor directional arrows, etc. Phew!

Judith got a permanent job this year (she had been working in two part-time casual positions since returning as a qualified nurse – a few hours per week in Community and a few in a Clinic). She now works for the Medical Specialist Group – the private group of consultants and specialists that are contracted to do the work normally undertaken by NHS at Hospitals in the UK. It involves seeing both private and government-funded (through public insurance) patients. It is not a lot more in terms of hours (20 per week) but now these are contracted hours so we have to plan time off a little more carefully in advance. She's really enjoying it though and she's part of a great team of nurses.

Our boat, Bare Necessities, has not been used so much this year, or should I say Judith has not used our boat so much this year! Read GG10 from last year to discover perhaps one reason for this. However despite the wicked winter we had an incredibly mild Spring and Jon and the girls enjoyed a few excursions on the water, taking friends over to neighbouring islands, and in the Easter holidays even a wonderful evening sunset picnic (lovingly prepared by loving daughters) on a beach on the east coast of Herm overlooking St Peter Port – absolutely delightful!

Sunset picnic in Herm, April.

Judith has however overcome some of her conservative inhibitions and ventured into the Apple Mac world through the acquisition of an iPad – which she loves. Although I am still trying to get her to do a tutorial. It really bugs me when she discovers something simple by accident and exclaims “Oo! Look! It can do this!” Still, this is progress.

This has been a year of shedding pounds, not only if you, like us, hold shares in European equities, but for Judith and me, also shedding weight, real body mass. Without going on a diet! Yes. We have just consumed a bit less, and week by week we have ballooned a bit less. We’re thinking of marketing this incredible technique, so here’s a sneak preview of the opening chapter:

“Eat a little less.”

Revolutionary & remarkable eh? Wonder why no-one’s thought of that before. To be fair we have also been going to talk to someone each week about what we’ve been eating and getting ourselves weighed which brings me to a sneak preview of the second chapter. Here it is:

“Talk to someone about this.”

Oh yes, I can see this book really selling in the millions. I wanted to call it “The Dunce’s Diet” but Judith tells me we’re not really on a diet, and she’s right, I don’t feel like I am. Which is good news indeed. Not much exercise has accompanied this weight reduction experience although Judith did go to a couple of Zumba sessions with Lucy. I did not accompany them, but was sufficiently bemused by the fact that my wife crawled back into the house each time, exhausted, panting, red-faced, sweaty (sorry, glowing) complaining of aches and pains, and yet my daughter’s comment was “Mum, you’re not even trying!”

Emily became a voter this year (in Guernsey Politics) and also has begun driving! “Our baby is driving cars! Arrhhh!” But don’t worry, so far she’s only managed to drive one at a time. And only with supervision. [Interesting word that, supervision. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds is it?] But returning to our baby Ems, what happened to all those years? She’s now passed her GSCEs and moved on to Guernsey Grammar’s Sixth Form Centre where she’s studying Art, Photography and Media Studies.

Grace had a bit of an up and down year at Uni, partly because she was away for a lot of the time her Papa was dying (although she miraculously made it back on the boat in stormy seas to say ‘goodbye’ a few hours before he passed away), but she has now entered into her final year in London and has great prospects of a job with Sovereign Trust, a young up and coming outfit based in Guernsey where she has had a holiday job for the past two years. She seems to have taken an interest in actuarial science. Hmm… suppose someone has to. In the Summer, as part of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain Grace sang in a BBC Prom at the Albert Hall. Now we try never to boast about our kids here so, let me just say that it was Mahler 2 “Resurrection Symphony” and Gustavo ‘The Dude” Dudamel was conducting the Simon Bolivar Orchestra. You can hear the incredible finale here. It is probably my favourite symphony of all time, but the day was made that much more memorable by the fact that Judith and I could not get seats (all tickets went within a few minutes of the box office opening months before!) and so we had to do like all good promenaders do and queue for seven hours or so outside to pay £5 each for a standing-room-only ticket and hope to get in. They turned over a thousand away. Fortunately we did get in. The last time we did this we were students! We were entertained during the long, hot day of standing/sitting/lying in line by happening to be positioned near a stalwart promenader who also happened to be Mahler’s greatest living fan. You can guess the rest.

Lucy, now 22, we are proud to announce… invested in a classic British Mini this year, which means she has enjoyed all the thrills of classic British motor car ownership including uncomfortable driving positions, being nearly impossible to get in and out of, unpredictable suspension, rust, water seepage, breakdowns, expensive repairs, with enough storage capacity for a couple of sandwiches, along with the knowledge that she is driving a car everyone double-takes, admires and coos at, and is privately thankful that they do not own. Seriously, though, we are proud to announce that Lucy has got engaged to her long-standing and only boyfriend Luke Vidamour (of CourageHaveCourage fame – a Guernsey band that played at Reading/Leeds Festivals this year for those of you in the know! Grace’s boyfriend Ollie is also in the band. We’re in the process of considering Emily’s options.) We are absolutely delighted, over-the-moon, and hey-diddle-diddle about them! What a great year! A wedding is being planned for late next summer.

We renovated the flat in the wing of Feugré Villa that we original established for Dad and Mum to move into in 2004, and now we have a useful little one-bedroom unit (with space for a few little’uns if necessary) for friends to use. You read that correctly. Since the summer we have also had a lodger living with us in the rooms above the flat. Luke, an unfortunate choice of name for a Le Tocq lodger (earning him the nicknames Luke No.2, or Luke-the-lesser) is a great bloke who just happens to be a manager at Waitrose too, which, shall we say, comes in handy from time to time.

We paid the regular annual visit to the White House, Herm, on our actual Wedding Anniversary in August, also a family holiday in France, around St Palais-sur-Mer as usual.

Les belles filles, Talmont-sur-Gironde

This was an historic year as we finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia, having read one book in the series virtually every year we have been on our annual French holiday since Emily was old enough to join in. It was of course the Last Battle this year. Laughs were laughed, tears were shed, and there were the usual requests late in the night for “just another chapter, oh pleeeeease!”

Other countries have also featured significantly in our forays this year, especially Romania, to visit our growing gang or friends in Brasov and Iasi – what incredible saints! Also we enjoyed sorties to Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands for the first time. The Low Countries trip was initiated by our developing friendship with New Wine Europe, and was especially fascinating and encouraging. Brussels, Amsterdam & Eindhoven featured, along with a stop in Den Haag to check out Chris Taylor’s excellent Redeemer International church. All opening up warm new friendships in ministry and mission. We feel very much at one with our brothers and sisters in these nations often facing very similar issues to us. France increasingly features again on the ministry radar as we work with the Newfrontiers churches based there to see more mission, growth, leadership development and church planting in that nation ripe for revival.

One of the factors which has released Jon more outside of the local church this year has been the addition of Paul Chesworth to our staff as executive pastor. Paul and Jon have known each other for over nine years as Paul has been a Methodist minister in Guernsey during that time and worked with Jon in Evangelical Alliance and New Wine environments. Paul and Liz have been an immediate huge asset to the church and we are so grateful that miraculously they have been granted permission to remain here with us.

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much name-dropping in this GG. I’ve really come to dislike name-droppers, as I was telling the Queen only a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted recently by the media to ask me to comment on why I was the third most followed Guernsey personality on Twitter. Of course that was easy; #1 & #2 aren’t real Guernsey personalities! Jenson Button (#1, with a mere 706, 103 following him – it’ll be over 750k by the time you’ve read this I guess!) is a UK ex-pat who moved here only 12 months ago, and Andy Priaulx (#2, with a meagre 14,432) is just his friend. Priaulx is a French name anyway. I’m only 13,583 behind too. They’re both into motor racing, now where can you do that in Guernsey? So they spend all their time elsewhere. Yes, and there are at least two other Guerns I know who tweet regularly, not counting Judith who is on Twitter but regularly forgets her password so does not. [Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter by the way – here!]

So that’s it for this year folks! Drink up that mulled wine now and get back to some proper work. Your country needs you. And even if not, the EU does.

Much love to all of you this Christmas – May the God of all grace grant that you defy the current economic logic of the prophets of doom and let Peace and Prosperity be yours in the New Year!

JJLGE

(We’re still here)