Tim's Christmas Letter, 2005
Once again, a year has passed and, once again, it seems to have gone faster than those preceding it. I don’t know if this is a function of old age or whether it is simply the ever-increasing pace of our lives but, whatever it is, there are times when I feel quite overwhelmed. It would appear that I am not alone in these thoughts as many colleagues at school say that they share my experiences of these things!
The year 2005 has been one of consolidation. No major changes - same residence (which I am still sharing with Satoshi), same school and same year level to teach.
The January holidays were fairly quiet. We had a pleasant day at the Werribee Zoo and Mansion. It had been several years since I had been and I thought it much improved. The areas of the mansion open to the public had been increased to the point that we ran out of time to see them all!
Early in January, I noticed a problem with (our cat) Oliver’s eye. It was quite cloudy. The next day, it was even worse. A visit to the vet and $74.40 later, he had eye-drops to fix what is, apparently, quite a common problem in young cats and not a serious concern.
Satoshi and I enjoyed several relaxing days down at Ocean Grove with Jenny and Darryl. Although it wasn’t really “beach” weather, it was wonderful to “get away” from the hustle and bustle of the city.
In what felt like only a few days, I was back at school. At the end of 2004, the room which was to be my classroom had been moved due to major building works which were to take place at school. It was fascinating to watch the double classroom being disassembled, hoisted on to the back of a truck, moved and reassembled. The downside was that it meant a lot of work just before school started to set the room up as a classroom once more.
My class was made up of a lovely group of children. They were, in general, easy to get on with and enthusiastic learners. One of the boys has a life-threatening allergy to nuts so I had to be aware of what he might eat. He has special medication to use in the case of a problem but, thankfully, this never eventuated.
About once a term during the year I met with friends Chris and Prue for dinner and an evening of music-making. Chris and Prue play recorders and I provide the piano accompaniment. These evenings are always great fun and often end quite late.
One of the leisure activities I enjoy is playing board games. To facilitate this, I invited two friends over for dinner with Satoshi and me. When I phoned her to issue the invitation, one of the friends, Valmai, said she had been very tired of late and was not sure if she would be able to stay long. Would it be OK if she left quite early? I agreed to this. The evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all and our visitors left at 3:00am! One wonders what would happen if we invited Valmai over when she was NOT tired!!
The Labour Day long weekend in March saw us at Strathbogie staying at a farm owned by a colleague of Jenny. We had a relaxing day wandering around the farm and visiting a local swimming hole known as “Polly McQuinn’s”. On the Sunday, we travelled to Benalla to spend some time with Joan and Mervyn, Lynne Roe’s parents. This was also a very pleasant day.
"Come on in, it's not cold at all!"
Later in March, I purchased a new computer. At the time it was the latest 20” iMac and it’s a big step up on the venerable machine I had up to that point. Although it was officially second-hand, it appeared to have been owned by its previous owner for only a few minutes. It even had the “new” smell. I have been very happy with it.
During the April holidays, Barbara and I decided to drive down to Altona. Barbara lived there for a time and I wanted to visit the new church at Altona because some of the furniture from my old church (St.Mary’s Chadstone, now demolished) had been installed there. We drove around for a while with Barbara pointing out places of significance to her. Then we went to the church. We tried the front door but it was locked so we contented ourselves with peering through the windows. Then we walked around the building and we came to a side door. It was open, so, in we went. After a minute or two of a much more satisfactory viewing of the furniture (and the church) there was, suddenly, an ear-piercing noise. We had set off the alarm! After a hasty exit to escape from the noise, we tried ringing the Vicar to confess what we had done but he was not there. Meanwhile, the incredible noise went on and on. As is the case with alarms, nobody took the slightest bit of notice. After a little longer, the alarm finally stopped. During our journey home, the Vicar rang to thank us for letting him know that the door had been left open!
(Hmmm.... I’m not sure about this.... Should I put this bit in? Oh, why not?!! Word processing makes writing letters such as this very easy but it is equally easy to make a mistake. Fortunately, I noted in time the omission of a single letter in one of the sentences in the paragraph above. Before the correction, it read: “We tried the front door but it was locked so we contented ourselves with peeing through the windows.”!!)
Other less-harrowing activities in the April holidays included a day at Warburton with Jenny, Joan, Russell and Satoshi and a weekend at Healesville with Satoshi.
Another notable event in April was a dinner. Neighbours across the road, Rhonda and Gary Barnes and family invited us all for dinner one evening with the idea of increasing the community feeling between us all. They went to a lot of trouble and it was a lovely evening.
Second term saw Grade 2 studying life cycles and minibeasts. Part of this topic consisted of the study of chickens. I had never had the experience of live chicken eggs before and I learned as much as the children! It is indeed a marvellous thing to watch the beginning of a new life as a chick struggles to break through the shell of the egg. Once hatched, they grow so quickly!
"Oooh, it's a big world out there!"
Our friend Maverick turned 30 at the end of April. We had a “progressive dinner” for him. Soup and nibbles were at Jenny’s and Darryl’s, main course at my place and desserts at Joan’s and Russell’s!
A few days later, on Mothers’ Day, Oliver (our young and much-loved cat) was killed by a car. We had never known him to venture on to the road so it was a great shock. It was a beautiful sunny day, typical of Melbourne in Autumn. The neighbours came to the door with a lady who said she had run over a cat but it had run into a house. She was not sure which one. We called Oliver but he did not come. A search of the garden next door revealed Oliver, barely alive. He died moments later. In vain hope, we rushed him to the Animal Emergency Hospital but all they could do was tell us what I already knew in my heart, that he had gone.
Satoshi wanted to bring him home to bury him, which we did. We chose a place in the back garden and I started to dig. After a while, i broke through a pipe! By this time, I was so distraught as to no longer be thinking properly. Ever helpful Darryl was summoned. It was only an old agricultural drain which didn’t matter. Darryl finished the digging and Oliver was buried.
Although, on one level, Oliver was “only a cat”, he was treated by Satoshi and I as “one of the family” and we both experienced a period of deep grief. It is times such as this that the value of wonderful friends is most keenly felt. We were greatly supported by many at this time and were deeply touched by the sympathy cards made for us by Kush and Isha (the two young children next door) and from Emily and Benjamin Roe.
The house seemed so empty without Oliver. On telling a colleague at school about it, she said, “I know it sounds awful but the the only thing to do is to get another cat straight away”. This seemed somehow disloyal to Oliver. I knew that I would get another cat eventually but had not really thought about when. Cathy’s words stayed with me. After a few days, I decided she was right. Satoshi and I went to a few pet shops and animal shelters before trying the RSPCA. There, we were told that the life expectancy of an “inside/outside” cat is now three years whereas a cat kept indoors can expect to live for fifteen years. This information convinced me that our new cat would be kept indoors. I decided that, if that was the case, we would get two new cats so they would have company during the day.
So after a long time (there were so many to choose from!) we arrived home with two new kittens, a tabby and white male and a black and white female. They took to their new environment immediately and have been very happy since. It took almost three weeks for us to come up with names for them but we finally chose “Min” for the female and “Max” for the male.
I’m not sure what first made me think of the idea of a cat run but, after checking out many websites full of photos and designs, we finally decided that we would build one. Once again, wonderful Darryl came to the fore and he has constructed what is surely one of the most solid, professionally built cat runs ever! There is a cat door in the window of the laundry which opens onto a caged-in ledge. This ledge leads to the cat run proper which is a large caged area measuring about three metres by six metres.
Inside there are old step ladders (retrieved under cover of darkness from the nature strip during the council hard-rubbish collection) and other pieces of wood for the cats to climb and Satoshi planted cat grass, cat nip and cat mint for them to enjoy. Min and Max can now go in and out whenever they please in complete safety. They pose no threat to the birds and, best of all, they have become accustomed to using a dirt section of the cat run for their toilet, dispensing with the need for expensive (and sometimes smelly) cat litter indoors. As I type these words, Min is on my lap purring away happily and Max is curled up on a chair.
In July, Jenny & Darryl, Joan & Russell, Satoshi and I enjoyed time at Pambula (on the south coast of New South Wales, near Merimbula). This is one of my favourite places and it was a very happy week we had together. The “Holiday Hub” Caravan Park, where we stay, is a very high-quality park and they are always adding new facilities. It was amazing to be able to sit in our caravan, within sight of the ocean, wirelessly connected to internet!
I subscribed, once again, to the “Independent Classics” series of concerts. These are very reasonably priced ($25 per concert) and, although the musicians are not absolutely top-class they are very close to it and I thoroughly enjoyed all the performances we attended.
For my birthday, Satoshi really “pulled out all stops” almost literally. He organised for me to play the organ at the Melbourne Town Hall! It was an incredible experience to play one of the largest organs in the country. The organ has recently been restored (at a cost of several million dollars) so it was in first-class condition. We were amused to find that the organ even has its own toilet and shower! The event was capped off with dinner at the “Spaghetti Tree” in Bourke St (my favourite restaurant). Satoshi filmed the occasion and Barbara spent many hours editing the resulting footage in order to produce a DVD.
The only disappointment of the day was the fact that Joan was unable to be with us. She had a fall a few weeks earlier and broke her leg. Of course, Joan being Joan went shopping at the supermarket and made a batch of soup before finally deciding she’d better do something about the pain in her leg! She was in hospital for a week or so and then in rehabilitation. The leg is still giving her trouble but is gradually improving.
The Occasional Choir sang at a service of Choral Evensong in August. As we had decided to donate the offering to the Tsunami Appeal, I chose readings and music on a nautical theme. The anthem “They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships” by Herbert Sumsion is quite difficult but the Choir rose to the challenge. The Service was well-attended, the Choir sang beautifully and we raised something in the the order of $300.
It had not been the practice at St Paul’s to include a Parish Camp in the year’s activities. I had been suggesting this change for a year or two and this year saw a group of thirty-two parishioners at Adanac Lodge, Yarra Junction over a weekend in September. Although I had planned the camp carefully, it was still a great relief that it all went so smoothly, especially considering the torrential rain we experienced on the Friday night and most of Saturday.
It was wonderful to see how well all the campers got on together. Almost everyone had a go on the flying fox (even one octogenarian!) and some hardy souls even went down the 50 metre water slide!
After a busy third term, it was lovely to spend a few days at Anglesea. This was made possible by the generosity of Jan and David Morris in allowing us the use of their house. During our stay, we visited the “Otway Fly”. This is a series of walkways constructed up to 30 metres above the ground, enabling visitors to walk among the tops of some very tall trees. The structure is designed to move with the wind - so much so that I experienced slight motion sickness! I can recommend the “Otway Fly” as a wonderful experience (unless you are afraid of heights!).
In November, we ventured down to Mornington to see Linda perform in “Scrooge” (a musical version of Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol”). For an amateur group, they presented the show very well and we enjoyed it very much.
Russell has an interest in the history of World War II and I accompanied him on a visit to the Astor Theatre to see “Downfall” which concerns the last days of the life of Hitler. The Astor is one of the last remaining “old style” theatres in Melbourne. It was great to experience the spaciousness of the foyer areas, the pleasant staff and the whole atmosphere of the theatre which added to the experience of seeing the film.
Towards the end of the year, the dreaded time of “Report Writing” arrived. This era of “political correctness” makes it almost impossible to include anything negative in a child’s report and I find it very difficult to write 5,500 words without really saying anything!
Satoshi has successfully completed the second year of his Human Movement studies at RMIT. His results included a High Distinction, Distinction and Credits. He has also had a good year at PIT Gymnastics as a coach, judge and competitor. He was very pleased to be awarded “Coach of the Year” for his level.
And so we come to end of the year and the Carol Service. The Service was on Sunday, 18th December and we were blessed with cool weather. There was a record attendance, the choir sang beautifully once again and there were many positive comments from the congregation.
All that remains is for me to wish you all a wonderfully happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!
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