Great-Uncle Vasily & Friends, c.1910

Great-Uncle Vasily & Friends, c.1910
Justin at The Tar Baby Festival, Horncastle 2009

Saturday, 19 December 1998

Our first family Newsletter - Christmas Eve, 1998

Dear Distant Kin or Absent Friend,
This year we’ve decided to keep in touch with a round robin. Since he lives in the ivy which is slowly pulling down the stable block (or, possibly, holding it together), this is reasonably easy. The rest of you will have to make do with a cheap Christmas card and this word-processed circular.
Well, this year we have certainly had some ups and downs.
By the end of January, Roger’s post-doctoral thesis Non-Structuralism and the Determinist Ethos In Mixed Farming  finally went to the publishers. There was an attempt on Xavier’s life in Buenos Aires, we think because of the old extradition problem. Thankfully he was just a shaken up, and only one of his bodyguards was killed.
In February, when draining the lake after Wilhelmina’s pet mackerel disappeared, Roger and Uncle Igor found the old stained-glass windows which have been missing from the chapel since the Reformation. Bonham’s have made us a very good offer but we’re still waiting to hear from the Heritage Lottery Fund before we commit ourselves to a final decision.
In March, molehills began to appear on the tennis-court, containing pieces of Roman tesserae, suggesting the mosaic floor of a villa beneath. Charles was consecrated as the new head of his Order. We weren’t allowed to attend, of course, but it must have been a very happy day for him and we’re sure you’ll  join us in wishing him every success for the future.
April was very quiet. Hermione gave birth to five adorable little ones in the observatory. They choose the oddest places, don’t they? Tasha’s dirigible was sighted off Taiwan on the 26th.
In May, the Barguests finally went away! We all sleep much better now but the hole in the roof is going to be a problem for some time to come.
June: Olivia and Oscar jointly won the Gamage Cup at Hurlingham! Hurrah!
In July, the family triumphed again: Aunt Eudora’s ironing was awarded First Prize at the Institute’s  annual Sale of Work and Uncle Igor’s  Premier Grand Cru Sparkling Kale Wine received an honourable mention. He was awfully grumpy about it though, and it's as well the judges didn't understand Ukranian.
A very successful trout shoot on the river was organised in August by Roger and the boys for dear Count Mussorgsky and the Argentinian Defence Attache, a charming friend of Xavier’s. They got on surprisingly well together, and a glorious day’s bag was made even more memorable by the presence of the Bain Valley Mink Hounds, who kindly consented to act as beaters for us.
September was largely taken up with the removal of the tennis-court in numbered sections and its re-assembly on the other side of the orchard. The mole-hill tesserae turned out to have been a practical joke no-one will own up to. There are no moles on that part of the estate.
October saw the heaviest rains in living memory for this part of  Lincolnshire. The cellars were flooded all month, so dear Uncle Igor’s still was an absolute godsend.
In November, we finally had to let old Mr. Kesteven go. A sad day. Eighty-seven years of loyal service. We understand he has a great-grand-niece in Mablethorpe who will look after him.
And here we are, nearly at the end of December, and the badgers are still using the dining-room carpet. Little Wilhelmina is getting over her fear of bicycles. The Grey Lady has been screaming down the Yew Walk again, so some national disaster is expected before the New Year is very old. Let’s hope it isn’t us! So - all the very best for the season from
All the Kirov-Renshaws.

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