On the 24th July my children started arriving from around the globe for the wedding of my son Grant and his partner Enrica. My eldest, Maxine, was the first to arrive from California, followed by my son Guy, his wife Milou and their daughter, Ona, from New York. And then, the next day, my daughter Jenna, her husband Bear and their children – four-and-a-half-year-old Jack and two-and-a-half-year-old Stella – arrived from Australia. Their destination was our house in Buckinghamshire, which our kids have nicknamed Southfork, as it’s set on three acres and big enough to house them all. Justin, my stepson, is living with us at the moment so he was also in residence with his three boys Sebastian, Fabien and Raphael.
Lorna and I had applied for a license to have the marriage ceremony at the house, and Grant and Enrica’s wedding was a very special day, full of happiness, and a wonderful focal point to this family gathering. Having my family around me makes me feel whole. I think it may have something to do with being divorced and not really living with my children when they were younger. We lived on different continents much of the time, although we have always been close. Then, as now, we talk often. But perhaps more than that it is about the fundamental joy of being together and seeing the brothers and sisters, full-, half- and step-siblings, all getting along, because they don’t get to see each other that regularly these days. On top of that, Lorna and I got to enjoy the wonderful sight of all of our grandchildren playing together.
The day after the wedding we caught our breath and then left for France and our home in Beaulieu, which is where we are all now. In total there are nine children (including ‘in-law children’) and four grandchildren. We’re spending some wonderful lazy days heading off on our boat around different Caps, visiting different beaches and beach clubs and anchoring in the warm Med waters of bays along the Cote d’Azur. For lunch we make reservations for local restaurants that send small boats to come and pick us up. It is pretty idyllic and a complete change of pace.
Enrica told me that she had never seen me happier than when I was driving back from the beach the other day. These are the simple, profound pleasures. Ambitions and striving to create a business bring one kind of satisfaction, but this is a different kind of happiness. One that is about emotional warmth and being with family and kids. And it’s times like these that put everything into perspective. Spending time with the children and grandchildren I feel ‘topped up’. It is a big dose of what I need very much – emotional bonding. Business can wait.
We are spending real time together (and trying hard to not to get on each other’s nerves!), and it underlines the great feeling of pride and respect I have for them all. They are all good citizens, concerned for their children and bringing them up well. They all work hard and give back. And that gives me a huge amount of pleasure. They are all out in the world. Independence is the big thing. As a father you want to be needed and at the same time not to be needed – which is the paradox of parenthood. I hope I have succeeded in this.
Watching this amazing tribe together, all with links to us and to each other, is the sum of a a journey – the partners, the history, the experiences and the future. It is the definition of life energy for me. And I can’t wait until the next time we get to do this ‘big family do’ all over again…