In typical storyteller-style, this year’s roundup begins with a Previously on… moment. You will remember that last year the series ended just as the kitchen was stripped down to plaster and awaiting a new kitchen. The kitchen was fitted just five days before Christmas, with lovely, very strokable oak sides. My parents came to stay, and Emma’s family came over for the day, squeezing a total of 9 adults, five cats, two fish, and one (very nervous) dog into the house with a couple of chickens out in the garden.

This year was always going to be quite a year, in anyone’s book. There have been highs and there have been lows. The first of the most notable lows was Emma’s dad being treated for prostate cancer early in the year – thankfully he has been given the all clear. The second came just one week before the wedding, when in a gardening-related incident Emma’s mum broke her ankle. We got her to the wedding – well nothing was going to stop her – if with a plaster colour-coordinated to her dress. In between these lows, we had the highs of the stag and hen parties; a day on the Oxfordshire canal. Starting at Lower Heyford, Emma went north, and I went south all the way to Gibraltar before we met up again for a combined stag’n’hen meal in Bicester; not that we didn’t have an honouree-hen on Emma’s boat and I had an honouree-stag on my boat.

The biggest of the year’s highs was of course the wedding, although before we do, it should be noted that as an appetiser to the main event I did celebrate my birthday in a very nice country retreat in North Wales with just about the most people I’ve ever celebrated my birthday with, on possibly the wettest day that you could have dreamt of – I’m talking a full 24 hours of horizontal wetness, before…

…Saturday 23 May 2009 came. The morning was a little grey, but we were at the foot of Snowdon, at the National Trust’s Craflwyn Hall, which we took over for the whole of the bank holiday weekend. The day was just perfect, the best day of our lives; truly. No exaggeration. Both of us can remember not one thing from the ceremony or what we said, apart from Lucy playing the flute solo from the Third Entr’acte from Carmen, which we had playing during the signing of the register. Another particular highlight was when, after the formal photographs, Phil coaxed us, despite yesterday’s weather, to don our walking boots (in Emma’s case under her dress), and walk up the hill for more photos. We didn’t get as far as the giant seat to be photographed but we did get to the wall that we built. We even managed to get a sheep into a few of the shots!

Following the wedding, we honeymooned for a couple of week’s, making our leisurely way up to the remote Scottish isle of Eilean Shona by way of the Lake District and Glasgow, and back via Edinburgh and Yorkshire. It was a wonderful and relaxing time, just the kind of holiday we needed after the pre-wedding build-up. What’s more the first rain we had was a small amount as we crossed Scotland from west to east, and after we left Yorkshire!

During the year, I’ve had three months of temporary work, and three months made to feel like a criminal, signing on at the jobsworth centre, before returning to OUP for another 6 month contract which I ended up leaving at the beginning of October … for a full time, permanent job with holiday and sickness and a pension and everything! I’m now a Web Designer for the School of Social Sciences & Law at Oxford Brookes University. It’s kind of weird being back at Brookes, but I’m loving it! Whilst I would have preferred not to have the uncertainty of unemployment during the year, it was, I have to admit quite usefully timed as I was able to devote my time to wedding planning, and then relax and enjoy some quality Wimbledon time! One of our wedding presents was tickets to the Ladies Quarter finals which was fun.

Our autumn was again, a little bit fraught, when another garden-related incident, this time involving Emma, myself, and a garden can resulted in several visits to the eye hospital for Emma! Following this, Emma’s had a couple of week’s in Stoke Mandeville after he had to have a metre of colon removed following a blockage of some sort or other.

I began writing, in earnest, the curious tale of Mr Tumnal, the man who married his imaginary friend and started an imaginary family, and I am now about a tenth of the way through his story. And as for our menagerie of pets, all are thriving well, and (mostly) happy. Bicester Zoo now consists of 6 cats, 4 chickens, 2 bunnies and 2 fish!

We hope your year has been as enjoyable as ours, but with fewer hospital visits!

With every best wish (and a smile),

Emma & Thomas