Tim's Christmas Letter 2007

nativity_window

18th December, 2007

Dear Friends,
I don’t know why it’s Christmas again already. It feels like it ought to be about September but the calendar says otherwise, so, here is another Christmas letter! I hope you don’t remember much from last year’s letter because 2007 has been very similar to 2006 for me. I’m not unhappy about this since 2006 was a good year!

The New Year was welcomed in at my place with several good friends. We played some trivia games and ate and drank – a very satisfactory arrangement. The holidays were peaceful and relaxing. I didn’t go away but I did go on several day trips. These included a trip (recommended by the RACV) around Ballarat and Skipton. We saw part of the old railway line (now a “Rail Trail”), including this grand old trestle bridge. If you can see Satoshi standing on the bridge, you will get an idea of the size of this structure!

trestle bridge

A few days later we ventured out (on a very hot day) to Maldon and Castlemaine. On the way we stopped at Malmsbury viaduct – another very impressive structure! If you note that Russell is in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo, the scale of this still-used railway viaduct is very evident.

viaduct

Just outside Castlemaine is the Forest Creek Diggings Park which includes relics and information of the gold digging days together with an elaborate rock labyrinth. Despite the fact that it was 40°+, Satoshi wanted to try it out. So while Joan, Russell and I waited in the shade, that’s exactly what Satoshi did!

School began late in January. Once again, I taught Grade 2. I discovered a few weeks into the term that one of the girls in the class is the daughter of a man who was a chorister in my choir at St.Mary’s, Chadstone about twenty-five years ago. I felt old!

Music remains one of my favourite past-times and I belong to two informal groups which meet several times each year. One group enjoys singing a mixture of hymns and traditional songs. We have dinner together (invariably pizza to make it easy) and some people prepare items such as a song, a poem or a reading. The other is a much smaller group, consisting of Chris Hepworth, Prue Field and myself. Chris and Prue play recorders and I play the piano. The host for the night cooks a delicious dinner and the other two bring dessert and drinks. By the end of dinner we don’t feel like playing much so by the time we actually start it is already quite late and then we keep going!

On a very hot Saturday in March, I was director of music for a service of Evensong at church. The choir was made up of members of Friends of Anglican Music (FOAM) and St.Paul’s Occasional Choir – totalling over 60 singers. Having never conducted a choir anything like that size, I was extremely nervous. Despite the heat, everything went very well. Cathy Dikmans, a soprano in the St.Paul’s Choir, sang the solo section of Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer (known as O For the Wings of a Dove) very beautifully and Gillian Whitaker accompanied on the organ. It was wonderful to experience so many voices singing with so much enthusiasm. Just as well the roof of the church is securely attached!

The long weekend in March saw us at Warrnambool. It took a long time to get there on the Friday night and it was well and truly dark. It’s not easy putting up tents in darkness while trying to be as quiet as possible for the sake of the neighbours, but we did our best. It was a restful and happy time together. Warrnambool has plenty to offer, including the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village where the famed ceramic peacock from the wreck of the Loch Ard can be seen. It is quite eerie to stand looking at this magnificent piece of art which survived the wreck almost completely intact while fifty-two lives were lost.

My good friend Russell turned 80 in April. As part of the celebrations, we spent several days in and around the town of Bealiba, where he has happy memories of his times on holiday there staying with his grandmother. It is always interesting to hear him speak about travelling by steam train and living in a house with no electricity. We pottered around old railway stations – some now almost falling down and others, such as the grand example at Maryborough, which have been carefully restored.

old shed

The Maryborough station includes a restaurant at which we enjoyed several meals. Our accommodation was in a house over 100 years old in Carisbrook. It was once the police station and residence. Carisbrook boasts one of our favourite restaurants - Caroline's. This is a very small restaurant and on this visit we were the only customers. The meal was superb and we enjoyed playing on the pianola!

The month of May included the saddest part of the year. One of our cats, Max, had to be put down as he was persisting in unhygenic habits despite help from two vets. It was particularly hard on Satoshi as Max used to sleep on his bed and demonstrated much affection towards him. We were very grateful to wonderful Jenny who took him to the RSPCA as neither of us could cope.

Russell and I share a love of old steam engines and the two of us had a great day out at the Lake Goldsmith Steam Rally in May. There was a huge array of live steam traction engines, a steam powered digger, vintage cars, displays of horse-drawn ploughing and even a collection of piano accordions. The highlight of the day was a grand parade of steam traction engines and a variety of other modes of locomotion, including a penny-farthing bicycle.

In July, The Phantom of the Opera returned to the Princess Theatre. This is one of my favourite musicals and I greatly enjoyed seeing it again. Later in the month, my birthday celebration (organised by Jenny and Satoshi) included a trip on Puffing Billy. What made the trip so special was that we travelled in the first-class dining carriage and were served a delicious meal as we travelled along the familiar, picturesque track.

One of Min’s (our remaining cat) favourite games is to try to get wherever she thinks she is not allowed. It doesn’t matter whether it is into a room or out through the front door. For many months getting in or out of the house was a bit of a circus act. It was finally decided that Darryl would install an extra door between the hallway and the entrance area of the house so that Min could be excluded from the area near the front door. This has been accomplished and life is now a lot simpler. But, as you will see, the work was not done without some drama!

Darryl was installing the door just as the July holidays started. I was going to Sydney and Satoshi was in Brisbane for a gymnastics competition so Darryl and Jenny agreed to look after Min. One night, Darryl was in the house adding the final touches to the door. He glanced out the window and saw what looked like Min outside! In a trice, Darryl opened the door to try to get “Min” back in. Imagine his horror as he saw the real Min make a rush for the door just as he realised that the cat outside was not Min. Try as they might, Jenny and Darryl could not find Min. More than 24 hours passed with fruitless early morning and late night searches At this stage, Jenny decided that I had to be told. I had made it as far as Goulburn when I received the news. I was, of course, distraught and immediately set off for home. I asked Jenny to leave the front door of the house open so that, on the off chance that Min found her way back, she could get in. I drove down the Hume Freeway all night in pouring rain trying to dodge enormous semi-trailers, As I drove into the driveway at about 5:30am, Min wandered nonchalantly out of the door with a “Well, where do you think YOU have been?” sort of look on her face!

After all that had happened, I didn’t really feel like going away again, but Joan, Russell and Satoshi had organised to meet me in Sydney as we had planned to drive down the coast back home together. So, reluctantly, I headed up the Hume again the next day. I planned to arrive in Sydney in plenty of time to find my accommodation in the daylight. Tragically, there was a fatal accident on the freeway only a few kilometres from Sydney. The traffic was down to a trickle. It took over two hours to travel a very short distance. In the end, I arrived in Sydney in complete darkness, during peak hour on a Friday night and in the pouring rain! I will leave it to your imagination rather than attempting to describe trying to find my motel! Suffice to say that I was completely exhausted when I fell into bed that night. Fortunately, the rest of the holiday was very happy and relaxing!

Satoshi & Tm

In August, as part of the Melbourne Film Festival, there was a special screening of the original 1925 silent film of The Phantom of the Opera. This took place at the Regent Theatre. It was great to experience this film exactly as it would have been seen in 1925, complete with accompaniment on the theatre’s pipe organ. I was amazed at the skill of the organist who played for the entire 90 minutes of the film. The full range of the organ was employed: sometimes huge waves of sound seemed almost to engulf us but at other times just a single flute stop was used.

For the holidays at the beginning of October, Joan, Russell and I drove up to Dubbo, via Albury and Bathurst. We met up with Jenny and Darryl who had gone ahead to visit friends in Mudgee. Of course the day we visited the Western Plains Zoo (our reason for travelling to Dubbo) had to be the hottest October day in Dubbo for 120 years!!

For Satoshi’s birthday, “the six” as Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I call ourselves went to
Bimbimbie Fauna Park in the Dandenong Ranges. We had a very pleasant time wandering around this well-kept establishment. The highlights were holding a python and the wonderful display put on by several peacocks.

Satoshi holding a puthon

Later in the day, we went to Mt Dandenong where Satoshi led us through a newly-created maze. The day was capped off by dinner at the Skyhigh restaurant.

friends

November was, as usual, very busy with report writing for school. Weekends became busier with practices for the Carol Service becoming a major focus.

And now it’s December once again. The Carol Service took place on Sunday night and was a great success. For the first time, we were joined by two trumpeters which certainly added a new dimension to the opening Fanfare.

Choir

Satoshi has had a successful year at ACU (Australian Catholic University). He is now half-way through his Bachelor of Education course. His marks included a high distinction, a disctinction, four credits and two passes. Satoshi contiues to enjoy coaching and training in gymnastics. He competed in the Victorian Championships where he came first on parallel bars. He was voted “Coach of the Year” at his gymnastics club.

coach of the year

There has, once again, been much to be thankful for this year: good health, happy employment and wonderful friends. At this Christmas season (as a prayer from the Carol Service puts it:) “Let it be our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the babe lying in a manger.”

I wish you all a happy, peaceful and joyous Christmas.

With love,

Tim

Letters from other years can be found here.