Nativity Window in St.Paul's Anglican Church, Gisborne, taken 27th December
Once again, this “Christmas” letter did not make it to you before the end of the year (but it is still within the twelve days of the Christmas season!) I hope that you will have sufficient leisure time now that the mad rush of the end of the year is over to enjoy reading it!
The year just past has been similar to others in recent times really - filled with school, church and my wonderful friends.
January, 2014, was quiet. It was good to “recharge the batteries”. My friend Maverick gave me a luncheon on Puffing Billy for Christmas so Satoshi and I enjoyed a leisurely day out on this Melbourne “icon”. The train always brings back happy memories for me as it is one of the few places that my parents took me as a child. My mother would be on the train with my brother and me, and my father would drive the car, waving at us from many of the level crossings along the journey. We would then have a picnic at Emerald Lake and return home by car.
It's all done with mirrors!
There were also several lunches with friends and many DVDs were watched. One of particular note was Handel’s “Messiah” - a performance by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, at Pieterskerk, Leiden in The Netherlands. We could not believe how a live performance could be so close to perfect!
Although my mother, Cecilia, turned 90 on January 24th, we did not celebrate this until February 8th so that all those who were on holidays in January could join us. Although it was an extremely hot day, everyone enjoyed a lunch at the Keysborough Hotel (which is very near to where my mother was living). Sadly, she has deteriorated markedly during the year. After several falls, it was decided that she required a higher level of care than could be provided at Parkglen Retirement Village (where she had resided since 1994) and she is now at Rosehill Nursing Home in Highett. She has become very frail indeed and can no longer walk. It is most unlikely that she will see another Christmas because she also has inoperable cancer. The good thing is that this is being managed in such a way that she is not in much pain. The staff at Rosehill seem particularly caring and, although we are not sure that she really understands where she is, Cecilia seems quite contented.
Chatham Primary School continues to be a very happy place in which to work. I was blessed with another year of sharing an office with Hannah Matheson, both of us teaching Year 3. She is a wonderful colleague who is easy to get on with, cheerful and supportive. We often shared our grades or combined them, teaching as a team. My class was made up of 21 lovely (most of the time!) students and it was appropriate for many of them to include the comment “is a delight to teach” in their reports. Sadly, Hannah is moving to Year 5 this year. My student teacher of 2014, Katherine, has been employed at the school and she will be working alongside me in 2015. Katherine is another friendly, competent and considerate young teacher and I am sure 2015 will be another great year at school!
With Hannah at the State Rose Garden, during our Year 3 excursion to Werribee Mansion, taken by one of Hannah's students!
Over the Anzac Day weekend, we travelled to central Victoria to celebrate Russell’s birthday. We stayed at Carisbrook, a small town near Maryborough. Carisbrook was severely impacted by floods in January, 2011, including a favourite eating place of ours known as “Caroline’s Colonial Restaurant”. It was so badly damaged that it took almost two years to re-open. We were delighted to find that it was put back to its original condition, including all its quaintness (refer photos!). The meal is always superb at Caroline’s! My birthday, although in July, was not celebrated until December 27 & 28. I chose to go to Caroline’s for my celebration as well so we had another two days together and another beautiful meal at Caroline’s.
There's nowhere quite like Caroline's!
At Caroline's with owners Sally and Mike Turton
We visited Bealiba (where Russell’s grandparents lived). As he has many happy memories of staying with his grandmother there many years ago, it is always very interesting to hear him speak of his experiences. Over many years we had been searching for the house where his father’s parents lived but could never find it. Russell knew that it was located several kilometres out of the town. On this visit, we met an old-timer who remembered Russell’s grandparents and was able to direct us to the house! It is amazing to think that a large family of six children once lived here without electricity, gas, or even town water! The family moved to Melbourne after severe droughts in 1914 caused their wheat crops to fail.
My Mitsubishi Magna wagon had given excellent, problem-free service for many years but was starting to show its age a little (14 years). In May, I took it for a service. I was given a long list of things which would need to be replaced/repaired in the near future together with the advice that it would be better to put the $3000 required into a new car. So, a little reluctantly, I began the search for a new vehicle. It had always been annoying to have to take two cars whenever travelling with Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell and Satoshi so I decided to purchase something in which we could all travel together. Having experienced driving one a couple of occasions when renting a car in other states, I chose a Kia “Grand Carnival”. It has the capacity to seat eight people comfortably. Although it is quite a lot larger than my previous car, it uses a little less petrol! It was only two years old when I bought it so I still have some time left in the three-year warranty period too. It is very easy to drive and everyone says how comfortable it is so I am very happy with it!
Darryl's birthday was celebrated by a trip to the Astor Theatre in St.Kilda to watch two Marx Brothers movies. Darryl loves slapstick comedy and the rest of us enjoyed it too. The Astor is one of the few suburban theatres in original state left in Melbourne. It has a wonderful atmosphere and often shows old films.
The highlight of the year was undoubtedly our trip in July to the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. We started off with all six of us in my new car, together with heaps of luggage. Travelling along the Great Ocean Road is always slow, but the views and the scenery make it very much worthwhile. As we were approaching Warrnambool, the weather became quite threatening but there were some magnificent views of storm clouds and wild seas.
Jenny and Darryl only went as far as Warrnambool with us as they were staying there with some of their children and grandchildren for the “Fun4Kids” Annual Festival. We stayed altogether one night. Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I headed off towards the Fleurieu Peninsula the next day. The fact that I took 1,447 photos over the 12 days of our holiday should give you an indication of how many things there are to do and see on the peninsula! Our base was Victor Harbour where we rented a very comfortable, fairly new home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Some of the more memorable experiences we had were:
The Horse-Drawn Tram -this goes across the causeway from Victor Harbour to Granite Island.
Granite Island Penguin Centre - a sanctuary for local injured penguins. Some of the “inmates” had been blinded by gulls pecking at their eyes - nature can be very cruel.
Steam Ranger Heritage Railway “Southern Encounter”. The train travels from Mt.Barker to Victor Harbour and return. Unfortunately, as we were already in Victor Harbour, we had to drive about an hour to Mt.Barker in order to travel back to Victor Harbour! We all love travelling on steam trains so it was worth the effort. During our three-hour stay in Victor Harbour, Satoshi and I had a ride on the camels. On our return to Mt.Barker, we drove to the summit of Mt.Lofty where we had arranged to meet Lynne, Linton, Emily and Benjamin who had been staying in Adelaide. Although it was bitterly cold up there, we enjoyed afternoon tea together and then the fog lifted, allowing us to experience the wonderful view. Later that evening, we had dinner with Jeanette and Tony Houey (friends who used to live a few doors down from us but now live in Adelaide). We then had to drive for an hour to get back to Victor Harbour!
Struan House is a large mansion which is now owned by the South Australian Department of Agriculture. It is now almost empty, housing only a few offices. We were able to explore most of this impressive building on our own. It was pleasing to see that it was being kept in very good condition. We were amazed at the size of the tree at the front of the mansion. As it can be seen in all the early photos of the residence, it must be at least a hundred years old as the mansion was built in 1876.
You can just see Joan and Russell in front of the car. That gives you an idea of the size of this beautiful tree!
Arcadia Guest House - One of Joan’s childhood memories is of her aunt and uncle staying at a guest house in Port Elliot for their annual holidays. She was very happy to find that the building still exists. Although it is now used as a Youth Hostel and known as Port Elliot Beach House, the name “Arcadia” can still be seen on the side of the building. The manager invited us in to have a look around.
Of course we visited a number of churches. In 2001, when I first visited Kangaroo Island, we visited a particularly large and beautiful church on the peninsula as we travelled towards our destination. On my return trip to Kangaroo Island with Satoshi in 2011, we searched for this church. Despite asking at several Tourist Information Centres in the area, we were unsuccessful. We were met with blank looks and assurances that no such church existed. Imagine my surprise when, some months later, I was watching some old movies which had been filmed by Joan’s uncle in the late 1920’s when I saw the church in question! It is St.Andrew’s Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church in Strathalbyn! Disappointingly, we were not able to see inside but that will be something to look forward to on our next trip to the area!
Satoshi’s love of animals meant that a trip to Monarto Zoo was included. This zoo is spread over a large area and there are shuttle buses that connect the various areas. Joan’s favourite animals are meerkats and I had found that special meerkat “encounters” were available which allowed one to enter their enclosure and feed them. I telephoned prior to check if bookings were required and was told no. It was very disappointing to find that the experience was booked out for the day when we arrived.
A yellow-footed rock wallaby at Monarto Zoo
Old Tailem Town is a rather run-down collection of buildings filled with items of historical interest. We enjoyed a number of hours spent wandering around the village. Of particular note to me was a floor polisher exactly like the one my mother had at home. It makes one feel old when you see things from your own memory in a museum!
We decided to travel home via the Grampians. When we got there, we found there is a zoo at Halls Gap. It has 160 species of native and exotic mammals, reptiles and birds, including meerkats! This zoo also has special arrangements for close-up encounters with these fascinating creatures and a time slot was available but only for two so Joan and Satoshi had an exciting 15 minutes inside the enclosure!
This meerkat was at Werribee Park Zoo
In early September, Satoshi and I went to the play, The Last Confession. The play revolves around the election and subsequent death only 30 days later of Pope John Paul I. The reason for our interest in the play was the fact that the star was none other than David Suchet who has portrayed Agatha Christie’s Poirot in so many films. Amongst the usual merchandise available after the play was a CD of the whole Bible (NIV version) recorded by David. At the conclusion of the play, David spent a great deal of time signing books, CDs and just chatting with members of the audience. It was a great delight to spend a few moments speaking with him and to find that he has a deep Christian faith.
Our next adventure was a short getaway during the September holidays. We went on a round trip to St.Arnaud, Wycheproof, Sea Lake, Ouyen, Swan Hill and Bendigo. Russell had been wanting to go to Ouyen for a long time because it is always mentioned on weather reports but he had never been there! This was a leisurely trip and we had time to explore a number of smaller towns all of which had interesting stories to tell. Sadly, much of our history is literally rotting away. Visits to Teddywaddy West School and many railway stations in the area being prime examples of this.
The township of Wycheproof is interesting because the railway track runs thorough the centre of the town, it is exactly halfway between Melbourne and Mildura (285kms each way) and it has the smallest registered mountain in the world - the 43 metres above sea level Mt.Wycheproof! The station there has recently been renovated and is to be used as a community building. As we travelled further north, we explored the sites of several towns along the railway to Kulwin. There is very little left at most of these towns now apart from the abandoned railway line and huge wheat silos. It is amazing to think that there was still a post office at Kulwin as late as 1974 (when the railway closed) when there is nothing there at all now except the end of the line!
To celebrate Satoshi’s birthday in October, we visited Werribee Park Zoo. We went on a special “safari” which allowed us to get much closer than usual to many of the animals. We also visited Werribee Mansion. The day finished at the “Cat Café” in Queen St, Melbourne. This establishment has eleven felines which you can pat or just watch as you have your cup of coffee!
Joan’s birthday was celebrated with visits to Heronswood (an historic house with a beautiful garden in Dromana) and Coolart (another historic mansion and garden, this time near Somers on the Mornington Peninsula). Both properties are very impressive with the garden at Heronswood a particular highlight.
Heronswood - house and garden
Coolart - The Hall
Jenny’s birthday was celebrated with a trip around the bay. The first stop was Rickett’s Point Tea Rooms for breakfast, then Sorrento for morning tea (the famous vanilla slices). After a trip across the bay on the ferry we went to one of Jenny’s favourite restaurant, The Dunes in Ocean Grove. The day was completed with dinner at Ripper Roasts in Geelong!
In the middle of October, David Moore’s time as Vicar of St.Paul’s, East Kew, came to an end. He was farewelled at a special Service on October 12th. He will be greatly missed as he is a very inclusive, welcoming and friendly person. Together with two other members of the Parish, I was elected to form what is known as an “Incumbency Committee” to select a new Vicar. As part of this procedure we had to write a profile of the Parish. When it was finished, the 32 page document included much detailed information about the parish including its finances, history and demographics. Needless to say, it was the product of many hours’ work. With the help of the Regional Bishop, we found a very suitable replacement. He is the Reverend Nick White, currently the Curate at St.George’s, Malvern. He will be commissioned as Priest in Charge of the Parish on Wednesday, 4th February at 7:00pm. In the meantime, the Reverend Gail Bryce has been the locum (fill-in priest). She has been particularly impressed with the music and the choir and has been very encouraging.
This, and the next photo, were taken for the Parish Profile
St.Paul’s continues to be an important part of my life. On the 20th December, the Annual Carol Service took place. This was the culmination of months of work including selection of carols, printing of music, rehearsing the Choir (since October!), organ rehearsal, typing and printing the Order of Service and organising readers. Although it was quite hot on the night, the Service was well attended (about 140 people) and the Choir managed extremely well. Very few parish churches have a choir of any sort these days and I was very proud of the effort put in by all the choristers involved. The birth of our Lord is, of course, the reason for Christmas!
The Choir, with Rev Gail Bryce, just before the Carol Service
In closing, I wish you many blessings during the remainder of this Christmas season and a very happy, healthy and fulfilling 2015.
With love to all,
You can read the letters from previous years here.