At the bottom on the left is an alphabetical list of the pages in this web site, to help you navigate if you feel so inclined.
A guide to our family photo album covering 1994-2010, showing the principal themes, is here.
A year by year guide to our family time-line from 1994 through 2007 is here.
A photo journal beginning in 2008 is here.
The most recent pages of the album, copies of posts from my WordPress family blog, http://ianstock.wordpress.com/, are linked here:
1994: Like a Hurricane!
We moved in together in late August 1994, and all hell broke lose.
Or should we say that all hell was breaking lose when we moved in together. Marie-Hélène was breaking up with her ex, and Ian and his ex too were still separating. As you can imagine, neither ex was entirely thrilled with the direction that we were taking. Neither hesitated to make known their respective points of view.
The first day that they were together in their first joint home, Le Tahu, Alban and Tom found some panes of glass leaning up against a stone wall in one of the outbuildings, and promptly and gleefully picked up the rocks that just happened to be lying around and smashed all the panes of glass to bits. We only left them alone for ten minutes!
We're not sure what exactly is happening in the picture above, but you can get an idea of the energy level. Tom's right leg is laying on Alban's right arm, Marie-Hélène is looking in a worried manner at Tom, as is Daphné, Nick and Daphné have their thumbs up and Tom his finger up, and we can't remember what Alban was doing. That was the way it was much of the time: too much going on to keep track of. There's another photo from the same . . . dare we call it sitting? . . . here.
It was a hurricane that lasted for the rest of the year. Blending families is a poorly understood art: no guidebooks, no do-it-yourself references. The children effortlessly amplify whatever is going on around them, and divorces are not very good things to amplify!
No annual update was sent to friends and family at year end: in fact, no Christmas or New Year's cards from that year are to be found. Some perhaps came and went, but no trace remains. It was that sort of year. Needless to say, there were Christmas presents, even in 1994, and a few can be seen here.
But warm moments do stand out. There were visits to Chartres and its heart-warming Cathedral, not 45 minutes away from Le Tahu, home from 2004 until 2006. We have a video of one of those visits, with the children taking turns to roll down the grassy hill below the Cathedral and in its garden. Yes, children, that is exactly what one of the most beautiful and unspoilt cathedrals in the world is for!
Then there was the day of the photo to the right, the first day that Ian's mother met Marie-Hélène, Daphné and Alban, and a very successful meeting it was. We had tea at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, Grandma could not communicate properly with any of her visitors, they each had to struggle to communicate with her, and yet everyone was as happy as a clam.
What made that success so surprising is that Grandma was a true English woman (in her head, that is: she was Irish by descent!), and was thus out of principle not particularly partial to the French. Here is an extract from a 1994 letter that Ian sent to a friend, commenting on Anglo-French relations and other aspects of life in that year:
How hard it is for a "bloke" to live in France, with all those French people!
Of course, I am not personally responsible for this senseless and unfair prejudice. My mother is. Her obsession about the Channel Tunnel is that it will permit French rats to crawl through it into England's green and pleasant fields, where they will promptly infect every mammal, and probably a few trees, with rabies. The psychoanalytic underpinnings of this kind of concern would appear obvious (rats penetrating tunnels - need I say more?), except that the concern is sufficiently general that the Tunnel builders have installed electric fencing to impede (get it?!) the rats' passage. No, it's not psychology, rather a thousand years of similarity and mutual contempt. So I can hold England and History responsible for my prejudice, absolve my mother and sleep well tonight.
It was thanks to Grandma that we began our visits to Disneyland in Paris. If the traffic cooperated, it was only about an hour away from Le Tahu, and we could fit in a visit on Wednesday afternoons, when there was no school, or on weekends. Tom, Goofy (called "Dingo" in France) and Nick celebrated Grandma's birthday in January 1995 at the California Grill. She turned 68. Other pictures of that day can be found here. Our Disney days were the highpoints of that year.
The year ended, normally enough, with the Christmas holidays. Our first Christmas together played out warmly and with very happy children, but getting there illustrates the complexities of blending families. It turned out that in Marie-Hélène's French family, the presents were traditionally opened late on Christmas Eve, culminating a family reunion and dinner. In Ian's English family, the presents were traditionally opened early in the morning on Christmas Day.
Not a big deal to figure out, you would say, and you'd be right, ultimately. But getting there involved a lot of give and take. For example, Nick and Tom were at their mom's apartment until Christmas Day, and Daphné and Alban were staying with their father after Christmas. If we had opened the presents late on Christmas Eve, Nick and Tom would have missed a piece of Christmas if they opened theirs alone the next day. So we had the family reunion and dinner on Christmas Eve, and very warm it was too, but put off opening the presents until the next morning. It all worked out. Grandpère had a blast, as you can see in the photo, as did the children, as you can see here.
Listing of Pages in the Site
. . . with Alban