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21st December, 2009

Dear Friends,

It’s over. Yes, as in most years, I’m writing to you on the day after the Carol Service. This is a major focus of my life for the last three months of each year. It starts with selecting the music. There are literally thousands of pieces of choral music suitable for Christmas and it takes ages to make a selection. Criteria such as level of difficulty, musical interest, variety of styles and the need to illustrate each particular reading must be considered carefully. Then the choristers need to be invited to attend the weekly rehearsals. The first practice, in mid October, always seems such a long way from Christmas but then, seemingly in a flash, here we are! Last night’s Service was a great success: the Choir sang very well and the Church was almost full. Many people expressed their appreciation. Being part of such an occasion helps one remember “the reason for the season”.

choir

A large group of friends and I enjoyed a festive Christmas lunch. Each person contributed to the meal in some way and it is a wonderful thing to share a meal with all those who are closest to me.

January was a time for rest and relaxation. Satoshi and I did the “Alpine Book Trail”. This begins at Seymour and finishes at Bairnsdale, a distance of 450km. This trail is for those who enjoy second-hand book shops - there are ten listed on the map to visit along the way and we found several others too. I had never driven all the way along the Great Alpine Road before and found it a very enjoyable experience. At Mt Hotham, it was almost cold, even though it was much hotter at lower altitudes. We stayed one night at Omeo in a very small motel. We were amazed to find that we were next door to two of the members of FOAM. It certainly is a small world!

Other outings in January included a day at Cape Patterson with friends Chris and Prue (with whom I continue to enjoy a meal and evening of music-making several times a year). It was a beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed a peaceful walk along the beach after a delicious lunch at Prue’s holiday house. Later in the month, I went with Joan and Russell to Darnum Musical Village. This is a museum devoted to all things musical, especially pianos and organs of every description. I had been looking for a new piano stool for some time and was delighted to find exactly what I was looking for at a reasonable price. The stool is made from Australian hardwood and goes with the piano very well. A happy day was spent down at Ocean Grove with Jenny and Darryl.

pianola

February brought me back to reality very quickly! Once again I had a Grade 2 class. This group of children included several who were “challenging”. (That’s teacher code for absolutely hideous!!) These children were difficult to discipline and needy in terms of learning. It is very difficult when children refuse to follow instructions. On more than one occasion, the Principal had to be called to remove a defiant child from the class. Fortunately, there were many in the class who were delightful, enthusiastic and conscientious and they helped maintain my sanity and love of teaching.

My involvement with “FOAM”, the Friends of Anglican Music, continued during the year and I conducted Choral Evensong at St Peter’s in Mornington, St Paul’s in East Kew, St Margaret’s in Eltham and Tarrawarra Abbey near Yarra Glen. These occasions can be somewhat nerve-racking as there is only one reherasal (immediately before the Service) and it is often difficult to ensure that all the music is covered in this short time-frame. Add to this the complexities of working in a new place and often with a different organist, and a choir of 60+ and you may understand why my hair is getting whiter! Many people these days have not experienced Choral Evensong (from the Book of Common Prayer) and it is rewarding when they comment on the beauty of the words and music which are such an integral part of this service.

The catastophic bushfires of February 7th affected the lives of many people. For me, the worst part was the destruction of Marysville (together with the site of our Church camps of recent years). Our camp was due to take place on Labour Day weekend so it had to be cancelled. It is difficult to comprehend what some people had to endure over this time. The only good thing was to see the generosity of so many people who came together to help in so many different ways in the days and weeks following the tragedy.

After Easter, Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I travelled to Myrtleford. We hired a house a little way out of the town and enjoyed several days of peace and tranquility. On one day, Jenny, Darryl and Satoshi chose to ride their bikes along part of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. This bike trail begins at Wangaratta and extends all the way to Bright, following theroute of the old railway. I chose to drive to Wangaratta and ride back towards Myrtleford to meet the others. Joan and Russell spent the day in Myrtleford.

bike

Jenny and I decided to subscribe to a series of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concerts this year. We enjoyed a wide variety of music in a number of different locations. In our busy lives, it is not always easy to allow enough time to travel to events. One one such occasion, after finding a parking spot quite close, we ran all the way to the Melbourne Recital Centre (a superb new venue opposite the Art Gallery) and were seated with at least two seconds left before the conductor strode onto the stage!

Satoshi spent the first term working in a variety of schools. Then he was given the opportunity of a whole term’s work in a Grade 1 at Wheeler’s Hill Primary School. This was extended into Term 3 and then Term 4. Many of the parents of children in the class had been unhappy with the teacher of the class during Term 1 and some were threatening to remove their children from the school. Satoshi worked extremely hard to turn the situation around. In the words of a colleague he was “a lifesaver to Level 2”. We are all proud of Satoshi’s achievements in his first year of teaching. Satoshi’s Graduation was a dignified ceremony at the Melbourne Town Hall in May.

 


In June, Joan, Russell and I travelled to Swan Hill. We enjoyed a day exploring the Pioneer Settlement which includes much history about the local area. We found a restaurant built around two old Melbourne “red rattler” railway carriages. Aptly named Carriages, the restaurant is run by the local TAFE College and staffed by students. The food was excellent and the service was attentive. All this was a fraction of the cost of a similar restaurant anywhere else. We enjoyed it so much that we went for dinner there the next night also!

Joan and Russell

My birthday included a weekend away. I had no idea where we were going on the Friday night as we headed into the city. We ended up in Torquay where we stayed the night. The next day we headed down the Great Ocean Road and revisited many familiar places around Lorne such as Teddy’s Lookout and Erskine Falls. It was a great way to celebrate my birthday!

In the September holidays, I went to Sydney with Jenny, Darryl, Satoshi and Rhonda and Gary (who live opposite). Rhonda organised the first part of the holiday with a view to doing some of the walks along Sydney’s northern beaches. We began at Manly and headed north. The track included some magnificent views of the coast and took us through a variety of terrain. During our time there, we experienced an amazing dust storm. When we got up one morning, everything was completely covered in red dust. It was so bad that we were advised to remain indoors. It was amazing how quickly it all cleared away during the day.

The next stage of the holiday was spent in Sydney itself. We enjoyed a cocktail cruise on Sydney Harbour and a dinner in a converted ferry. While Jenny and Darryl visited relatives, Satoshi and I headed up to Newcastle. There is a cathedral in that city and we happened to be there for a special service. The Cathedral Choir was joined by the Choir of Christ Church, South Yarra. The music included a spectacular setting of the Mass by Vierne (Messe Solemnelle). The music was superb and I enjoyed every moment of the Service. It was the highlight of the whole holiday for me. From Newcastle we headed back down the coast meet up with Jenny and Darryl. We drove to Merimbula to meet Joan and Russell (who had travelled up from Melbourne by coach) and had an enjoyable few days together. Linton and his children Emily and Benjamin were also staying at Merimbula and we enjoyed a day with them at Magic Mountain (a local amusement park). The caravan park had resident Rainbow Lorikeets who were tame enough to eat from one’s hand!

birds

October was Satoshi’s month! First there was his birthday which was celebrated at Gumbaya Park. We played mini-golf, viewed a variety of native animals, enjoyed lunch together, and the more adventurous among us went on the toboggan, cars and the paddle boats!

joan

We were not sure that Joan had quite grasped the concept of mini-golf!

emu

A bad hair day?

Earlier in the year, Satoshi had made the decision to be baptised. This Service took place on the last Sunday in October and was attended by his family and many friends. So many members of the congregation who attend the early service wanted to be part of this celebration that the 8:00am Service was cancelled for the day. The Choir sang special music and we all enjoyed a morning tea together at the conclusion of this very memorable and happy event.

baptism

Jenny turned 60 at the end of October and so a very special celebration was in order. For a very long time, she had been wanting a holiday on a houseboat so we decided to give her just that. Over the Cup Day weekend, we travelled up to Echuca and experienced four days on the Murray River.

houseboat

The houseboat had four bedrooms and all mod cons and was very comfortable. There were a few anxious moments due to the inexperience of the various “captains” but overall we had a great time. Jenny was thrilled with the experience!

Jenny & Darryl

houseboat

 

The rest of the year was incredibly busy with assessment, report writing, moving classrooms (and even the odd moment of teaching!). Somehow, I have come through it all in one piece and now have the holidays to enjoy.

It is difficult to believe that another year has gone by. 2009 has been a good year. I am very thankful to have such a wonderful, supportive group of friends with whom I can share so much. I am fortunate to have stable employment and that I can enjoy so much of what I do each day.

I trust that each of you has a wonderful Christmas, a relaxing holiday period and a very Happy New Year!

With love,

Tim

Read the Christmas Letters of Previous Years