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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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……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,
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!