Sunday, 27 October 2013

Family Day

Our whole family gets together in autumn once every year.  It's a great idea, and usually a great occasion, though it never quite fulfills its full eligible quota.  When I say our family, it's really Mary's immediate relatives.  I only have two living cousins on my father's side, though twelve on my mother's.

At the risk of sounding like the genealogy of the seventy persons who came with Jacob to Egypt, I'll list them.  Ted and Win Haines (both deceased) had Mary, Tony and Mick.  Mary married Ian and had Ellen, Gav, Viv, Kat and Lizzie.  Tony married Diane (her parents, living with them, are Ted and Irene), and had Jon, Dan, Jess and Emma. Mick is unmarried - single for the Lord.  Ellen married Andrew and has Ben, Ryan, Dean and Faye; Gav married Georgie and has Neive, Elise and Nate; Viv - like his uncle Mick is committed single; Kat married AJ and has Zeb and Zane; Lizzie's partner is Col.  Jon married Emma and has Suzy and Imogen (twins) and Lara; Dan married Tam and has Lois and Bay; Jes's partner is Tom; Emma married Dan (they now live in New Zealand).  That's 38 souls.  Though the names don't spell it out, there have been no divorces, and neither are there currently any step children. 

Then it get's interesting.  Sometimes Diane's sister Gayle has come with her husband Tony, and their three children, of whom the eldest is Gareth, and the next Ellen.  Do you notice there are two Teds, two Tonys, two Emmas, two Dans and two Ellens; with each pair in the same generation?  Tony and Diane have five grand children, all girls.  Lizzie met up with Gareth in - of all places - Banff, Canada; and Jon and Emma lived there for six month before they married.  Georgie's Dad, Jerry, lives at Burnham on the nearby coast.

The customary meet-up is at Tony's and Diane's home in Corston near Bath.  Three of their brood (plus Diane's parent, if you've been paying attention) live locally, making a home team of 15.   Then Mick, Ellen and Gav plus crews live in the midlands (12 more).  So the northerners (just seven of us) draw the short straw of having to travel furthest.  We're lucky if we see the out-of-UK contingent of Lizzie and Col and Emma and Dan.  (Let's check if that adds up to 38?)  Yes, we've had the get-together at Mick's place, Cornerstone, and once even in the Manor, Leeds, when Mary and I lived there.  But the arrangement seems to have settled into a routine, and it suits our busy church diary.  We usually get some sunshine, allowing lunch outside.  If we're lucky, it coincides with Tony's Men's Fellowship monthly breakfast meeting, and the guys get a 'full English' in a pub in Bath, too. 

Tony's birthday, back in May, found Mary and I and Mick joining him for a family finance trust AGM in Cheltenham.  This is dictated by the terms of their aunt Mabel's will.  We compared diaries and picked a free Saturday in October to get the family day together.  I banged off text messages to our various offspring, but omitted to email too.  This left space for some last-minute consternation in September, and a strident outcry from Lizzie.  Meanwhile, Mary and I arranged to be in Coventry for their Sunday morning meeting on the day following.

Then Ellen's car's cam belt broke.  Being a 'Mum's taxi' type of MPV meant that they wouldn't be able to fit six - plus Holly the mongrel - into Andrew's work car.  Gav wasn't able to offer more than one spare seat, and Viv was going to travel straight from Northampton on Friday night.  So I asked to use Kings House minibus.  Kat and AJ decided to jump a lift, too, and we stayed over at Kings ready for an early getaway.  The Men's Breakfast would have to be sacrificed (though Viv and Tony got to attend).  I had wanted to find out how they manage regularly to get about a hundred blokes along, when we get minimal interest in our annual Men Alive event.

The most direct route Bath-wards is along the Fosse Way and A46.  I've driven it before, but a long time ago, so brought a map.  We had a bright morning and made good time.  Ben squeezed next to me and I discovered what a good map reader he is.  "We take the A429, then get onto the A433, the we join the A46.  After we've crossed the M4 we come down to the A420, turn west and then look for a white road - past Sir Greville Fox's monument - that leads to other white roads that take us down through Weston to the A4.  Got that?"  He had.  I was impressed.  Then he lost interest, as he had to do an interview with Mary about the Second World War.  I had to fill in directions with snippets from the satnav.  Then we had temporary panic.  Mick texted that he was left without a lift at Bath station, at precisely the moment the 'white roads' failed to yield a network signal.

The sunny weather granted time for relaxed conversations.  The three dogs competed for chasing balls.  We cooed at Lara and Bay, just weeks old.  Tony and I discovered that he'll be in Lilongwe, Malawi, in November, and I next March.  Nate pushed the plastic lawnmower up and down with great joy.  AJ ran a treasure hunt involving jumbo Lego, which Lois won.  Lunch straggled on to afternoon tea, with more home-baked recipes spread on the table.  We gathered for the obligatory set-piece photograph.  Viv left earliest to set up for the evening's Arena meeting in Sheffield Jesus Centre.  I eventually got the minibus underway, and dropped off Mick at Hopwood services on M42.  It was pitch dark at Bascote Moorings when Ellen and crew disembussed.  Mary and I earned a muted cheer when we joined Kings' household meeting.  Job done.

Same again next year, no doubt.  Shall we match 34 out of the 38?  Or will it even be more than that?

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