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Dear Friends,

For a few years now I have been thinking of writing a letter instead of sending cards at Christmas. I decided that 2001 would be the year! The only problem is that it has taken me until now to get organised enough to actually do it. My apologies for being so tardy but, with all the rush of the end of the year behind us, you might have more time to read it now!

I shared the beginning of 2001 with friends at my house. We had too much food (what a lovely problem!), lots of chatting and catching up (it’s the only time of year I see some of these people) and plenty of fun. The early part of January was relaxing - time at home, time with Jenny and Darryl at Ocean Grove and generally unwinding.

Later in January, Jan and David Morris (Jan was Principal of Chatham Primary) invited me to use their holiday house at Anglesea for a few days. Joan and Russell accompanied me and the three of us thoroughly enjoyed a peaceful, relaxing time together. We had visits from Margaret & Matthew Kelly and the Priem family. It was good to spend some time with them too.

Towards the end of January, it was time to prepare for the Lorne Camp. I have been running this camp for at least 15 years now. Children attend from PLC and from Donvale Christian College. Ever faithful Val and Iain McKenzie were there once again to look after the culinary side of things, Darryl drove the bus and Jenny helped with the children in a myriad of ways. Iain had been unwell immediately prior to the camp but came along anyway. A couple of days into the camp, he became so anaemic that he had to be taken to hospital. In typical style, he discharged himself from hospital the following day and was back at the camp that afternoon as though nothing had happened! The Camp was very successful once again and a wonderful time was had by all.

February saw me back at school. With a change in Principal came a change in my role. I found myself as the Librarian! Quite a change from teaching Information Technology but, with help from other members of staff, I think I managed everything satisfactorily. Having had a year in the Library, I was just feeling settled when I was informed that I will be teaching a class in 2002. Being a teacher is never dull!

The long weekend in March was spent at Cape Schanck. We stayed in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage. The rent was not inconsiderable but, when divided among the ten of us who went, it worked out to be quite a cheap holiday. One afternoon, I thought I would go for a quiet walk by myself. As I headed towards the track to the beach and the longed for solitude, I passed by the Lighthouse and I heard a small voice, “Mr.Clarke, Mr.Clarke!”. It seems that, wherever I go, I always meet someone from school!

The Occasional Choir rehearsed Stainer’s oratorio “The Crucifixion” diligently for many weeks leading up to Easter. As Gillian Whitaker, the Assistant Director of Music, was overseas at the time, I had to find another organist. Having found one in the person of Janet Gibb from Holy Trinity, Kew, we were dismayed when she broke her toe only a week before the performance! Fortunately, John Cleghorn kindly stepped in at the last moment and the performance went ahead. The Choir rose to the occasion magnificently and we received many positive and encouraging comments from those who attended.

choir

During the Easter holidays, we visited Cape Conran, a beautiful area by the beach, not far from Orbost in country Victoria. The cabins in which we stayed are set in quite remote bushland, very close to the beach. There was abundant wildlife and we enjoyed hand-feeding kookaburras and possums. One hungry possum happily came right inside the cabin to feast on muesli and an apple, even allowing us to pat it. The holiday was a welcome respite from the pressures of day to day life.

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scrabble

Soon after returning home, I was informed by my landlord that he wanted to move into my house! Over the next few weeks many possible residences were considered. Jenny and Darryl then asked if I would like to move in with them. It was a big decision to make but, having made sure that Jenny and Darryl actually wanted me to move in with them (foolish people!) I gratefully accepted. Darryl then set about preparing a room in the house for me. He constructed a built-in wardrobe, changed two doors and built wall to wall shelving in another room to accommodate my seemingly endless collection of sheet music and books.

The week leading up to the Queen’s Birthday in June was spent preparing to move. Joan Collins (Jenny’s mother) together with my mother spent many hours packing up crockery, cutlery, china and glassware ready to be put into storage. Maverick (a student from Malaysia who had been sharing my house) worked tirelessly packing music into boxes, loading the boxes into the car, driving the 250 metres to 39 Arthur St, and unpacking the music onto the shelves. During the long weekend, it was all hands on deck as we moved everything from 6 Parkhill Drive to 39 Arthur St, or to 35 Arthur (where Michael is living) or to storage. Somehow, a home was found for everything. Linton and Lynne had been borrowing a piano which was due to be returned so they were very happy to provide a home for my piano and I was very grateful that the piano would have a home where it would be looked after and used. I don’t know what I would have done without the help of such good friends as Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell, Maverick and Satoshi! It was sad to say good-bye to 6 Parkhill Drive. I had almost seven very happy years there and there are many, many happy memories associated with the house including Christmas dinners, pool parties for my class, Kathryn’s and Sam’s Engagement party, New Years’ Eve parties, dinner parties, and Lorne Camp departures and reunions.

I was concerned that “Psalm” (pronounced puss-ah-luhm), my 16 year old cat, would not take kindly to moving as it had taken him months to get used to living at Parkhill Drive. To my relief and delight, he seemed to feel at home straight away at 39 Arthur St. He had a cushion right next to the fire place and he seemed totally contented. As it happened, he had only a few months to live. He became increasingly frail and finally collapsed on Cup Day. The next day I had to phone the Vet to ask for “Psalm” to be put to sleep. Although it was not unexpected and it was obvious that it had to be done, it was still one of the hardest phone calls I have ever had to make. Dr Hardham was at the house 20 minutes later and “Psalm” departed this life very peacefully. The care, sympathy, thought and consideration shown by Dr.Hardham and his assistant were remarkable.

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"Psalm" at Parkhill Drive

One of my roles at Chatham Primary School is to format computerised reports for the whole school. This task seemed to consume most of my time during the remainder of June as well as writing my own 415 Library reports. It felt like the July holidays would never come but, of course, they did. The first part of the holidays was spent unpacking remaining boxes and sorting things out. Satoshi and I travelled to Pambula for a few days in the latter part of the holidays. We had planned to go horse-riding, walking and canoeing. As it happened, it rained solidly for the four days we were there so many games of Monopoly were played! We did manage two walks along the beach without getting too wet.

This year for my birthday, Jenny & Darryl, Satoshi and I went on a steam train trip to Warrnambool. We were in an old fashioned carriage which had a corridor on one side and compartments on the other. It was fun to have our own compartment and we enjoyed watching the scenery go past, playing games and eating the snacks which Jenny had provided for us. I had a wonderful birthday dinner at Joan and Russell’s with my friends from No.39, my mother and Maverick.

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A game on the train

Kangaroo Island (off the coast of South Australia) was our destination for the September holidays. Unfortunately, we experienced a very rough ferry trip across to the island and many people (including me!) were rather ill. As there were 10 of us (Jenny & Darryl, Joan & Russell, Joan & Mervyn, Linton & Lynne with Emily; and myself), it took quite a bit of organising to get all the accommodation and travel requirements sorted out! It was wonderful to spend two weeks in a place with such a small amount of traffic. There was an incredible number of animals. Returning to our caravan park one evening, we decided to count the number of animals we saw. Over the hour drive, we saw 51 live animals! We also enjoyed beautiful unspoilt beaches, plenty of food and good company. A highlight of the holiday was a visit to “Paul’s Place” which is a wildlife park. Paul has a large collection of animals including chickens, cows, donkeys, turkeys, native birds, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, reptiles, goats, horses, donkeys and alpacas. Many of the animals were roaming free. We were able to hold and feed baby koalas, possums and wallabies. Jenny was holding a baby kangaroo upside down to bottle-feed it when Paul sat Emily on the kangaroo’s belly. Darryl had a python draped all over him and an emu used his head for a plate! We were grateful that the trip on the ferry back to the mainland was considerably calmer than the outgoing journey.

emu

Jenny, Darryl, Satoshi and I spent the weekend before Cup Day on a farm near the Strathbogie Ranges. We set up tents in one of the paddocks and cooked our meals on a camp fire. It was very relaxing to be away from the demands of school and the fast pace of city life. Satoshi and I spent an hour or two kayaking up one of the local rivers and, despite finding ourselves IN the water instead of ON it at one stage, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As I had to be at school on the Monday, Satoshi and I returned to Melbourne on the Sunday night. It is said that bad things come in threes and it seems that that is often the case. On the way home, a cat ran in front of the car. There was nothing I could do and it was killed. On the Monday evening, Russell cut himself quite badly on the circular saw. I drove him to the doctor’s surgery but the doctor decided the injury required hospital treatment. Joan took Russell to Box Hill Hospital at 8:00pm and they arrived back home at 4:00am. Fortunately, Russell’s finger has healed completely. The next day, “Psalm” collapsed. What a weekend!!

Beginning at the end of October, the Occasional Choir began rehearsals for the Christmas Carol Service. I am most fortunate to have a wonderful group of people in this Choir. Rehearsals always include moments of fun and laughter as well as a lot of hard work and we all work together harmoniously(!). Many choristers also spend time at home working on the harder sections of the music. There were times when I thought we would never get some parts right but it all seemed to come together in the end. The Service went really well. One of the highlights was the carol “Abraham” which was written by Jenny (words) and Linton (music).

lunch

Twenty-two people sat down to Christmas Dinner at 39 Arthur St. The meal was a combined effort and my part was to set the table.I had fun creating place cards on the computer and, together with traditional Christmas crackers provided by Russell, candles and Christmas table cloths, everything looked wonderful. We all enjoyed a scrumptious meal. How wonderful it was to wake up rather late on Boxing Day knowing that there was nothing that had to be done! The last few days of the year were spent at home relaxing and unwinding in the wonderful cool weather!

I hope that your Christmas was at least as lovely as mine and that 2002 will find you happy and well.

With love,

Tim

Read Christmas Letters from other years