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22nd December, 2008

Dear Friends,

School has finished for the year, the Carol Service took place last night and today I finally have the time to “put pen to paper”!

The year 2008 has been a positive, happy year. The first few days were extremely hot and I enjoyed being at home in close proximity to the air conditioner. Satoshi, Jenny and Darryl and some other friends chose this time do the “Great Ocean Walk” which is a 90km+ hike along the coast, beginning at Apollo Bay. Walking in 40° heat with a 30kg pack on one's back, surrounded by swarms of flies, is not my idea of a great time but they all enjoyed it!

walkers

The rest of January was quiet. We went on a some day trips. On one such excursion, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I travelled down to Gippsland. We visited a couple of camps in case they were suitable for our Church Camp (they weren't) and then drove back along the coast. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we all enjoyed the plentiful views of the ocean. At Walkerville, we saw the remains of the Lime Kilns which were a major part of the industry in the area at the turn of last century. The ruins were very interesting and impressive.

kiln

My mother celebrated her 84th birthday with us on the 24th January. Overall, she still does pretty well.

mother

Late January saw me back at school. My class was a happy group of children and, although some of them needed “encouragement” not to behave in a manner similar to a troop of baboons, the year was very successful. At the end of the year, the children created a movie about their experiences in Grade 2. Usually, they make comments such as “I like Mr Clarke because he is kind (or “funny”, or “reads us stories”...). This year, one of the girls said, “I like Mr Clarke because of his superb knowledge of language!” And this from an 8 year old!

On February 14th, there was a teachers' strike. Victorian teachers were the lowest paid in all Australia. It was interesting to hear the comments of parents who were, overwhelmingly supportive. Most believed that teachers were very much underpaid. I never understand why the government and the unions can't negotiate more professionally. They both have ridiculous starting positions and gradually work towards an agreement but the fact that it takes months and months and sometimes includes strike action is most unfortunate. Nevertheless, the significant pay rise that followed several months later was very welcome indeed! Hooray!

I continue to be very involved in a variety of musical activities. The Church Choir is the one that takes most of my time in this area. I have now been at St.Paul's for 14 happy years and my work there is always greatly appreciated. At school, I play the National Anthem for each Monday morning assembly and accompany the choir. I meet with friends Chris and Prue several times during the year for a night of food, relaxation and music making. (Chris and Prue play recorders and I play piano.) With a larger group of friends, I enjoy a different kind of musical evening - it includes food (of course!) and then the singing of hymns, individual items (perhaps a song, a poem or a reading) and the singing of old songs from the Victorian era such as Come into the Garden Maud and The Boys of the Old Brigade. It's always a great night's entertainment!

choir

Continuing on the musical theme, during the year I was honoured to be asked to be the President of “The Friends of Anglican Music”. This group, consisting of 130 members, meets four times a year to sing Choral Evensong. Sixty or more choristers arrive at 2:00pm, practise for an hour and a half and then sing Evensong at 4:00pm. Lately, it has been my privilege to conduct the choir. As the music is often challenging, we meet in a different church each time, and there is so little time to get it right, it can be very hard work! We always seem to manage it somehow!

During the holidays after Easter, Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I had a wonderful holiday in Tasmania. We travelled on the “Spirit of Tasmania” during the day, as it is much cheaper. It takes all day and, if you tend towards seasickness, it is not that much fun! We spent twelve days on the “Apple Isle” and explored much of it. Tasmania has many old churches and we visited 62! Each one was very different and interesting in its own way. There were many highlights of the holiday, far too many to record here but here are a few:

We had a memorable lunch at the beautiful Cataract Gorge. One of the resident peacocks took a liking to Joan’s lunch and snatched it from her plate. Unperturbed, Joan snatched it back!

peacocksparrow

We visited one of the oldest churches in Tasmania (St.Luke's, Richmond, built in 1834). We were lucky enough to be there on a Sunday when they were having a special Evensong. We didn't know what to expect as we entered the church that evening. We found that our party made up a large part of the congregation. As the Service progressed, it became apparent that the organist was struggling. It was noted that we were more than average singers. Halfway through the Service, we were asked where we were from. On being told I was an organist, the Vicar asked if I wanted to play the organ for the rest of the Service! (I declined!)

After the service, we were invited to climb the tower of the church to see the workings of the original clock. It had recently been restored but it still needs to be wound by hand once a week.

church

I was able to play the organ of many of the churches we visited. The most notable of these was the instrument at St.John's in Launceston. This is one of the largest pipe organs in Tasmania and it was a privilege to be able to play it for an hour or so. The church has several historical items on display including the workings of a clock built by a convict. He was pardoned for his trouble so it must have been a good clock!

organ consoleclock

The Church Camp took place on the Anzac Day long weekend. This year we went to ESA Christian Camp at Marysville. It was a most successful three days with around twenty parishioners attending. The food was excellent and we enjoyed a quiz night, several hikes, community jigsaws, low ropes course, board games and more.

archery

Satoshi competed in the Victorian Gymnastics Championships in June. He came third in the state (at his level) on the Rings.

satoshi on rings

On the night of 16th June, we enjoyed a journey on Puffing Billy. It was a very different experience travelling in the dark through the forests of the Dandenongs. There were no lights in the carriages and we could see outside quite clearly. It was very cold and we were pleased to warm up at Gembrook Station where we had dinner (part of the trip).

Satoshi and I enjoyed our trip to the Gold Coast in the early part of July. It was lovely to feel the warmth of the sun again. We found out that if we sat through a 90-minute presentation on “time share” real estate, we could get free tickets to MovieWorld. A different company was offering a similar deal to Dreamworld. So, after sitting through three hours of hard sell, we were given free tickets to two of the theme parks. We had a great time!

On my birthday, my friends had organised for us to go on a mystery train trip. The train was hauled by a steam engine and we ended up at Moe for dinner at the local pub. The carriages were the old-fashioned type with the corridor on one side and separate compartments on the other. Even though the train was held up on the way home (we didn't arrive at Spencer St until 2:00am!) it was a great night!

dinner

My friend Maverick, who used to live at my place, has been in Australia for ten years. To celebrate and to thank those who supported him, he arranged a dinner at the Cuckoo Restaurant in Olinda. This was another great night out. We all enjoyed the wonderful smorgasbord and the entertainment.

Maverick

Joan and Russell celebrated 60 years of marriage this year. Among many celebrations was our trip to Carisbrook to go to Caroline's Restaurant. We had
the restaurant to ourselves and enjoyed a superb meal together.

Satoshi's birthday was celebrated with a visit to Grant's Picnic Ground (in the Dandenongs). Birds such as rosellas and cockatoos congregate at this picnic ground and will eat from one's hand. We then had lunch at “Miss Marple's”. From there we moved to Emerald Lake where we looked over the model railway (one of the world's largest!). There was then an evening of board games at Jenny and Darryl's.

birdsAt Miss Marple's

The rest of the year was filled with report writing for school, preparations and rehearsals for the Christmas Carol Service, a number of end-of-year break-ups etc.

Satoshi has continued to be the best of housemates. He is always very easy to get on with and enjoys being part of whatever is going on. He has completed his Master of Teaching with excellent results and is now in the process of looking for a job.

This year has been another happy, stable twelve months. I am happy in my work; I have a wonderful circle of friends and good health. I am grateful for all of this. As we come close to the celebration of Christ's birth, may I wish you all a wonderful Christmastide and a happy and healthy 2009.

With love,

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