Meg and Eliot Walker
0044 (0)1453 884268
We have had some great Christmas letters and loads of cards so here I am back at the computer trying to do justice to another year. Looking back over our Christmas letters I am struck by some recurring themes, not least a disbelief at our political system which seems to churn out irritating legislation by the sackful. We had the Firearms Amendment Act in 1997 which took my beloved target pistols away, the Hunting With Dogs Act in 2004 which Meg and I were driven to march against, not because we were particularly in favour of hunting, but it just seemed grossly unfair. This year’s Government contribution to my state of near permanent apoplexy is the 36 page manual I have received from DEFRA on how to tag the sheep.
And our government has conspired to send our troops to war in the poorest country Meg and I have ever been to, Afghanistan, and to Iraq, where my uncle worked most of his life as an archaeologist. I had this feeling that the ‘war on terror’ was the stupidest notion, never mind being bad English, when it was declared and as events have panned out, the word stupid does not begin to do it justice. Meg and I did go and sit outside Fairford airbase with a group of Quakers the other day, and it was a strange little meeting. But it reminded me that, as a democracy, we are all responsible for the war whether we like it or not. So I am sharing my guilt with you all for not having done enough in protesting about it. At least Jessie went and marched for the Stop the War Coalition and I was very proud of her at the time.
And whilst none of us can solve the mess, I start by hoping that in the real spirit of Christmas we all can do our bit by at least thinking peaceful thoughts rather than aggressive ones.
Having got that off my chest, family news is moderately optimistic, well in Meg’s case very optimistic – because that is the sort of person she is.
Tom is still in London, still working at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital as a reception clerk in the trauma unit and still with Camilla. It has been a period of stability for him and whilst the pay is not wonderful and the NHS relatively chaotic it has suited him and left him with sufficient energy and time to pursue his own interests. He has been cycling, roller blading, taken up trampolining, been out socialising and of course messing about on his computers. Camilla, his girlfriend is an Occupational Therapist working in the NHS and seems to be thriving in it. She has been promoted this year and is really enjoying it. Tom, of course, has a website which he generously shares with Sam, so if you want to know more about him, at your own risk, visit www.corruptive.co.uk
Likewise, Jessie has had a year with the NHS as well. She qualified as an Occupational Therapist last year (she and Camilla were both at Oxford Brookes, although Camilla was a couple of years earlier) and since then has been living in Oxford and working at High Wycombe. She has been in mental health working in the community, which is very much the sharp end of OT work. It involves visiting depressives in their homes and working out how to get them out into the light of day. It has demanded initiative, stamina and a sunny disposition, which she has in abundance. She has been offered promotion, but decided to reject it on the basis that she really wants to work with children. So she is changing jobs and going to work in Aylesbury with handicapped children. Probably slightly less pay, but, to my amazement, the commuting will be a lot easier for her – the journeys from Oxford to High Wycombe have been a nightmare and the journey to Aylesbury is, apparently, far easier. She describes her new job as her ‘dream job’ so we really hope it works out for her. Here she is going round the lake on the quad in the summer.
Sam is still in Brighton and music remains his main passion and interest, although he also does a lot of photography as well. However, the paid work front seems to proving difficult to crack. He did pass his guitar course with distinction a year or so ago, and he has now passed his live sound engineering and tour management course with merit. And he is qualified as a barman and also in catering management. He tells me he does work with a lot of bands in Brighton. If you want to know more go to www.myspace.com/swashbucklersam and it is all there, but getting paid for the work he does is more tricky! Only very few bands make any real money so he is thinking hard about what to do next. He has started a new band and he and his friends do go and use the barn by the lake as a recording studio. I am told the CD should be out soon, but Sam has worked hard on the barn to make it useable, and great fun was had swimming in the lake in the summer!
I had my sixtieth this year, which was celebrated with a shooting party and then a family lunch the next day. I do not feel sixty, I remember thinking my parents were ancient when they hit fifty, never mind sixty. But with Meg forcing me to exercise plenty and the fields around the house providing lots of physical work, the fencing, hedging, wooding etc being never ending I am kept out of mischief most of the time. I have done a fair amount of architecture and drawing this year. Most of my drawing is on computer but I do get the pen and paper out occasionally. I was amazed to find the young architects in the office I work in have no idea how to draw with pen and tracing paper so its nice to know I can actually do something they can’t! When I am not drawing I work away on the land and my cousin Richard (co-star of the Bart and the Bounder) and his son Freddie came to visit me in the summer which was nice!
And the excitement of the year was the new studio. After a long time messing around with the local planners, we finally found a planning officer who was reasonably helpful. It was Meg again who was the key to success. I had sent some plans in to the local council and a lady planning officer turned up to carry out the site inspection. We chatted for a while, I explained I was an architect (which did not impress her at all, in fact, probably made her even more wary of what I was proposing), and then she said “Is your wife the Meg Walker?” to which I replied that she was Meg Walker and why did she ask? It turned out that Meg had been her breast feeding counsellor when she had her baby so after that it was relatively plain sailing and eventually we got our planning consent, despite being in an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and down an impossible lane.
Even more amazing, considering my natural inertia, we now have a new studio linked to the house at ground level in which Meg can teach her beloved pilates, and which can also double up as a self contained flat. It did mean shifting 500 tons of earth and a lot of awkward building work, but it got done and we are really pleased with it.
And what of the sheep you all ask? Well, there are still seven ewes browsing the fields, a couple of them very ancient, and they have a bit more land because they can wander around the lake as well. I finally bumped off the last male lamb we had left over from last year but I do find the tagging laws and endless Government monitoring pretty irritating so this year we have not had lambs. How farmers can stand it I really do not know. But vegetable and fruit wise it has been probably the most productive year we have ever had. All the apple trees produced abundantly and beans, potatoes onions did really well. The picture shows Meg and Sam with some of the home produce, which we are very proud of!
As for Meg, she has had a pretty hard year really. Her mother is 95 and her physical health has been deteriorating, not surprising really. Mentally she is 100% but walking is slow and the normal problems the elderly have have added to her discomfort. So Meg and her sister Sally have been sharing looking after her, and this has meant Meg and I have been separated during the week, which is pretty unusual for us. However, good neighbours have fed me now and again and Joan has really benefited from Meg’s efforts. So it has been worthwhile, but we are hoping that Joan’s Roumanian carer will be able to return next year, which will help with the situation.
We have met up with some friends during the year, Phillip (from the Urban Design course) and Erla came to see us, and Mike Nightingale (from my original architecture course) had a huge bash for his sixtieth. This involved dressing up in costumes of the sixties so it was out with the wigs and on with the flares! I hope the photo gives you the flavour, but it was good fun and great to catch up with people we have not seen for a long time.
And for those of you we have not seen for a while we wish you all the best for a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Eliot and Meg XXXXX