For anyone who has ever received, or sent, a Christmas round robin letter

2013– a Year in the Life of The Montgomerys

Well what a year that was! And it’s not even over yet. 2013 has brought both tears of laughter and tears of sorrow to all of our eyes as well as tears of excruciating pain to Maria’s (more on that later!). It was also a year in which we learnt to appreciate what we all had a little more; the simple things in life, and all of you.

So where to start? – Well for those whom we haven’t caught up with for a while, we’ll start in January (Sorry Russ & Liz – we know you’ve heard this bit more than once!!! But we think you’ll agree it’s worth it).

Usually a relatively uneventful month, January 2013 was far from that in the Montgomery household.  A mixed bag of a month in fact – on the one hand Maria started to develop an in-growing toenail that was later in the year to cause us so much inconvenience and anxiety (see August / September / October), on the other hand Isabel (now 3 years old – can you believe it?  It seems like only yesterday that she was so crassly removed from her mother in such barbaric circumstances – we refer you to 2011’s round robin letter) uttered her first sentence with a complete subordinate clause – you can probably only imagine how proud we were!

February and we hosted our first dinner party of the year. Maria treated our guests (a motley crew from Adam’s work) to a truly exquisite feast. Well you’ve all sampled Maria’s culinary expertise over the years, but let me assure you that she surpassed herself this time (yes Jane, it was even better than the Haunch of Venison you were so rightly pleased with back in 2008!) with a lobster Vichyssoise, a terrine of ox tongue and a brandy tarte au tatin (recipes by request only please!). To be honest the rest of the month passed by in a giddy whirl after this!

March saw Amy come a disappointing third in the school talent show. Bless her! We still get a few tears now and again, some eight months later. I can only assume that her teachers were not ready for such a contemporary interpretation of Swan Lake. More fool them I say – and indeed Maria did indeed say just that at parents evening not long afterwards – what is it about teachers that they just won’t admit when they are wrong? (Not you of course Russ !)

April – The Easter bunny came as usual (By the way Amy still believes in the Easter bunny and we would urge you to speak to your older children before you visit us next time and implore them not to reveal the truth of this matter – you know how desperate we are to preserve our childrens’ innocence for as long as humanely possible and how difficult it has been since we saw Santa Claus smoking a cannabis joint outside The Co Op last year). There was still no sign of the forthcoming toenail ordeal and family life continued as normal for the meantime.

May – Isabel started her cello lessons. Despite being only half the size of the cello she is coping amazingly well – her teacher says she’s got more potential than any of her former pupils had at this age (and I’ve heard she once taught Jacqueline Du Pre!). Amy has finally settled on a career choice. She wants to be a lexicographer when she completes hers studies at Cambridge (I know still some 11 years away before she even gets an interview there but she’s so focussed. Who are we to crush her dreams?). Maria still worries obsessively that they are falling behind their peers and we are considering getting extra Mandarin tuition for Isabel (they are like sponges at that age) and we are trying to find some voluntary work that Amy can do at weekends which we hope will not just be good for her CV but will help to instil a sense of just how lucky she is – we are even considering a trip to a sub-Saharan orphanage, rife with AIDS and leprosy next year for all of us – just to put things into perspective. God we are so lucky here in Worcestershire where all we have to be concerned about is whether or not Worcestershire County Cricket Club will ever regain Division one status or what the English Philharmonic – based here in Malvern as I’m sure you all know – will be playing at the Winter Gardens in the Autumn Festival.      

June and talking of God – Maria began to attend church. Many of you, I know, have long been aware of Maria’s spiritual leanings, but in June she channelled her energy directly into The Church of Saviour on Spilled Blood (the literal translation from French – not as macabre as it sounds!) a Baptist denomination currently making ground in the UK. It really has changed all our lives and I would urge you all to attend a service with us next time you are up – we’d be surprised if it doesn’t change all your lives as well. Yes I go too – although in the church’s terms I am still a “filthy unbelieving child of Satan” (another direct translation – and again not as bad as it sounds)

Other highlights in June included Amy achieving straight 3s in her SAT results. A fantastic achievement for her and we are all extremely proud too. So Graeme, now try telling me that 10 hours extra study a week wasn’t going to make any difference to the rest of her life! Please do not send her any money as a reward but instead send any donations to either the Church or the orphanage in Africa we hope to visit next year (addresses below).

July – Maria won the mother’s 100m sprint at Amy’s school sport’s day (It should be said that this decision was subsequently reversed and Maria was disqualified, after an accusation that she deliberately tripped up one of the other mothers, yards from the finish line – a matter Maria refutes and that is still the subject of an ongoing internal school investigation. News next year on the outcome – watch this space). On that note I would like to add that being subject to these allegations and feeling as though one’s whole life is in the balance pending the outcome of this verdict, we `have all been able to empathise more than ever with some of the higher profile miscarriages of justice such as the Guildford 4.

August – Montgomery holiday time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If there’s one time of year we, the Montgomerys, love more than Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Lent, it’s the summer holidays. We spent a week camping in a yurt (a Mongolian nomadic tent) in Cornwall. Despite raining for the entire week and a small feud with the neighbours over the language (I’ll leave it up to your imagination!) of their 13 year old son which admittedly made the last 5 days a little awkward (we insisted the kids stayed in the tent all day so that they were not exposed to such ignorance and filth) – we had a brill time and have already booked up for next year.

And then of course came the toenail!

September   

In late August it became apparent that Maria’s toe had developed a severe infection and indeed her foot swelled up so much that by the end of the month, we had to get a specially made shoe for her from the hospital, which of course was impossible to match with any of her existing shoes. In pretty much continual pain, only ever relieved by several straight Sherries, life became almost unbearable for us all (Russ how we now all much admire the spirit you showed whilst you endured your stiff shoulder for all those months. We simply hadn’t realised at the time just how much of an impact something so innocuous can have on family life). We’d like to thank the many of you who showed us great support during this difficult time and just add that we will return the favour whenever the opportunity arises (Although God forbid it takes such unpleasant circumstances to bring us together next time). These testing times continued throughout October and November, although in order to preserve a sense of balance here I have focused on the positive sides of those months – needless to say they were truly some of the most miserable and difficult times any of our family have experienced.

The kids were already excited about the pantomime trip in December though – this year it’s Puss in Boots starring Linda Lusardi (Adam made sure of his ticket early on!) and Little Cook from Big Cook, Little Cook. (Why do they always make such sweet food on that programme?  Haven’t they heard of the obesity epidemic?)

October and Prometheus, Amy’s beloved stick insect, passed away on Halloween night – well we think it was then; it was tricky to tell at exactly what point it died as it so rarely moved anyway. Anyway that’s when she noticed it, stone cold dead in its cage. We gave it a proper burial in the garden (pets are so important to teach kids about life and death – if you no longer have any elderly relatives left alive, I urge you to consider a family pet if only for this reason) and you may visit the memorial when we next see you here – it’s so sweet – Amy constructed a headstone from a spare roof slate in which she etched the words:

“Prometheus – Oct 24st 2013- Oct 31st 2013 – I will never forget you”

I really do sometimes think that she has a higher calling, that one.

November – Really not much to say about November – we spent so much time trying to get this round robin letter just right (hard to pitch to so many potentially different audiences, don’t you think?). Just one little (hehe) event of note – Adam had his vasectomy! We had discussed it for a long time – most of you know how I (Maria) was not prepared to make love again with Adam until he had had “the snip” so to speak – I had simply heard one too many of those horror stories about split condoms and, Vicki, you can vouch for just how badly I reacted to those pills all those years ago – so much hair!. Anyway irony of ironies, now that I am finally willing to make love to Adam again, he can’t because of the pain! Oh dear, it really tickles me that one.

For those of you desperate for the outcome of the in-growing toenail saga, I can thankfully say that we are all safe in the hands of the NHS and particularly those of Dr Graham Foster – the surgeon who performed my operation this month and who has won himself a place on my Christmas card list for all time (Hello Dr Foster!)

December and we can already taste the mince pies and turkey gravy – Whoops! Just read that last sentence – I didn’t mean taste them together of course, but I kept my mistake in because I hope it amuses you as much as it did me when I read it.

So here we are again – another year – how many more to come I wonder? I hope that somehow I’ve managed to convey some of the tragedy, fear, joy and exultation that our family has experienced over the last 11 months in this simple document. If I have, then I have achieved all I could hope to do with it and I will rest easy over the festive period.  May all your New Year wishes come true in 2014.

Adam (42), Maria (21 – again!), Amy (7) and Isabel (3 going on 16!) Montgomery

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About adammontgomery2013

Adam Montgomery has been or still is a stand up comedian, private investigator, comedy promoter and a management trainer. He, like everyone else, is writing a novel, and he is currently studying Design Thinking at the Open University. He likes books, film and music, spending time with his kids, nights out with his friends, watching TED videos and good food. He dislikes corporate jargon, leaf blowers and those car parking machines that make you enter your number plate details just so that you can't give your ticket to someone else on your way out.
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