The snowy white egrets have returned to our little valley after spending the summer and autumn elsewhere. However, next month, we’re going to have to say goodbye to them and the rest of the Meon Valley’s inhabitants, as we will be moving to another rental property, having failed to buy a house in 2011. It has been a beautiful place to live, and we’ll miss it.

The old Volvo estate isn’t coming with us. After 237,000 miles, the equivalent of driving around the world nine times, the shock absorbers finally gave up and we decided that it was time to send her to the scrapheap in the sky.

For the first time since we got married, we are downsizing. It has come as a bit of a shock, but with one son already at university, we don’t need such a big car and, like all rural dwellers, we do need a bit more fuel economy. Following much deliberation, we’ve bought a VW Golf and, after the long service of the Volvo, it has a lot to live up to.

One thing that never fails is Christmas. Every family has its rituals, quirks and variations, but that’s what makes it so special and unique. Whatever yours are, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.