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To all our friends and family, wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year 2023!

A little update, which may be of interest to those who know us, recounting some of what we’ve been up to for the last twelve months and what’s coming up in the new year…

Anita’s year round sea swimming passion / neurosis continued, and she also continued to craft pots and mugs at a sometimes alarming rate during her Monday night pottery class. If you have not yet received some version of a handmade ceramic from us, then I’m afraid it is only a matter of time. Back at home we spent lots of cold but sunny days at the allotment (which has become a pleasingly consistent part of our life) and the kids went back to school, both enjoying a more steady year 1, uninterrupted by Covid shutdowns.

Having discussed the idea in a casual, off-hand kind of way, I sold our car while Anita was watching a film with the kids one Sunday afternoon in February. We still have no car, though occasionally borrow one from a car share club or my mum. Just in time for school half term, Covid finally got us. Though mercifully it was a fairly mild illness for us all. I had my last day at work, having decided to move on back in November last year. And at the end of the month, Anita and I spent a couple of nights in a rather magical treehouse at Blackberry Woods near Lewes, a gift from my old work.

With the longer days and warmer weather, we started spending more time at the allotment, getting ready for our second growing season. Whilst trying to figure out what the next part of my working life looked like, I started a regular delivery round distributing a local independent newspaper by cargo bike as part of Hastings Cargo Co.

At the beginning of the school easter holidays in April, we gently encouraged the kids to join us on a two night short bike tour, to test the set up with them carrying fully loaded panniers. It was great – see separate post and video here. We also had a couple of days up in London visiting friends and enjoying the sights and food, including some utterly stupendous ice creams from Milk Train. And the kids enjoyed an Easter egg hunt in the woods near mum and dad’s house, with great grandma present to watch the excitement / chaos.

As we moved into summer, we started spending more time at the beach. The paddle board was very well used this year and Anita was co-opted into a share of renting one of the solariums (basically a concrete, serviced beach hut), underneath the marina pavilion. In addition to being a vital base for the sea swimmers, we’ve used it as a family, and also celebrated Anita’s birthday there in May, before heading off to Elderflower Fields for the weekend, finally experiencing the event as a customer for the first time and getting to actually enjoy the festival for once!

As the academic year came to an end we were happy to be able to go into school to watch the kids’ sports day. In June we also started ‘looking after’ a wood fired mobile sauna which some friends had built in an old horse box – it’s way better than it sounds! Our driveway now conveniently free of a car, the sauna lives here and we get to use it more or less whenever we like.

The school summer holidays rolled around and we mostly stayed around St Leonards, with occasional days out here and there. I biked over to Wilderness Wood (where we are enthusiastic if occasional members) to help rebuild a cob pizza oven. In August we celebrated Anita and I both turning 40 this year by cycling and camping with the kids for 6 days around Sussex, punctuated in the middle by two nights at Wilderness Wood with a big bunch of our friends. More details about that little adventure here.

We also celebrated Angus and Margarita’s wedding and my own birthday weekend, with a blissful two nights kids free, spent at home and around St Leonards being kind to ourselves and relaxing.

The end of August and beginning of September saw me abandon Anita for a week while I went to work on a private festival in the Cotswolds, returning just in time for the beginning of the school term. We also popped over to Into the Trees, again in a non-working capacity, and I was elected onto the committee of the allotment, just to prove that I am now squarely middle aged. I coordinated a lovely communal apple pressing day at the end of September at the allotment and we just recently had a little gathering to share the last of the cider which was produced that day (it was stronger and more delicious than I think anyone expected).

Anita took a few days to go on a silent retreat as we moved into autumn – something she has to do once a year as part of her mindfulness teaching qualification. In half term, we made another dash up to London to visit and stay with friends, before celebrating halloween with the kids back home.

November is birthday month (the twins, my mum and a bunch of other kids in Hatty and Wilf’s class), so we were either going to parties or hosting them most weekends! This year, the kids had what you might describe as a traditional kids party – church hall, face painter, games and cake. Made possible thanks to my parent’s and Anita’s sister helping out. We also squeezed in a great visit to the science centre at Herstmonceux.

The whole year has been punctuated by lots of visits by friends, plus a small handful of cycle tourists. We love hosting people, so if you’re reading this and would like to come and hang out by the sea, our door is always open!

I’m writing this a right at the end of the school year and the kids have been busy with nativity plays and Christmas dinners. Even a rare December snow day on Monday! We’re all looking forward to the Christmas break and spending time together and with family and friends.

One big change which is coming up for us is starting home schooling with Wilf from January. For reasons too complex to go into here, we’ve made the difficult decision to take him out of school and are now looking forward to what we’ll sure will be a great adventure for us all in 2023. For now Hatty will be staying in school… I wrote some thoughts about why we’ve made this decision here if you’re interested, and no doubt this blog will become a space where I can work through my thoughts about home education as we start to find our feet after Christmas…

And that about sums things up for us – it’s been a great year for us in so many ways, but full of some reasonably big life changes. Below, in no particular order, are a small selection of photos from the last twelve months.

We hope you and yours are doing well and wish you love and joyfulness at Christmas and in the new year.

Lots of love,
Stuart, Anita, Hatty and Wilf

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