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nativity

The Nativity of Our Lord as depicted in a wood carving at Howlong Museum

Dear Friends,

I'm sorry that my letter is even later than usual this year but I hope you will now have the time to enjoy reading it!

The rush of hot air which gushed into the plane as soon as the doors were opened made it very clear that I was back in Melbourne. What a contrast the high temperature of 28th December 2016 was with what I was used to in England only hours before!

Jenny, Darryl, Joan and Russell met us at the airport and it was wonderful to see my special friends after being separated from them for three months. Satoshi and I were tired from our journey and it was good to be back in familiar surroundings. Thanks to the efforts of Katherine (a school colleague), Rhonda (our ever-helpful friend and neighbour) and Darryl (who took on most of this task), the cats looked very well cared for.

Satoshi and I had a sensational time in England. He was a great travelling companion, easy to get on with, accommodating, and tolerant. If you would like to read about our experiences, you can go here.

We held a “Clayton’s” Christmas Lunch on New Year’s Eve. It was a successful gathering and a chance for us to catch up with more friends but we quickly realised that we were still quite jet lagged! How fortunate we were to have most of January to get used to the idea of going back to school! As always, we saw in the New Year with some drinks and games with special friends.

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Activities in January included several lunches with friends, movies, sleeping in, a day down to Cape Paterson with Chris to visit Prue at her holiday house and some time at Ocean Grove with Jenny and Darryl. A highlight was a visit to the Blue Lotus Water Garden in Yarra Junction. There was a spectacular display of many varieties of this beautiful flower - the garden covers 14 acres. I had a lot of fun taking some photos!

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These lilies had a diameter of a metre or so!

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The school year began and I had a Grade 3 once again but I had two new colleagues with whom to work. It didn’t take long to realise how lucky I was to be working with such wonderful people. Chiara and Kirstie were friendly, supportive, caring, hard-working and fun to be with. The class, although quite difficult at times, was a lot easier to handle than the horror of the class of 2015 so, overall, it was a good twelve months. There were, however, quite a few changes later in the year.

You may remember that I had trouble with my leg while overseas - it was a deep vein thrombosis. Although I felt it had all cleared up, my doctor was very keen for me to get it checked out by a specialist. This involved an ultrasound on my leg and then a visit to the specialist in March. I am very happy to report that the problem has righted itself. He did mention that I have had a clot in another place in my leg for a very long time. Apparently, it is set like concrete and not going anywhere anytime soon so all is good. He advised me to take some medication if I intend going on a flight of over three hours' duration.

Russell was invited to speak at the Anzac Day Service in Bealiba this year so we travelled there the day before. We went to our favourite "Caroline's Colonial Restaurant" in Carisbrook where we are on first name terms with the owners. As always, it was a wonderful meal made all the more special because they opened especially for us!

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It is now over two years since I stopped playing the organ and directing the choir at St.Paul’s, East Kew. I thought I would miss it terribly as it was such a big part of my life. Surprisingly, this is not the case. After trying a few different churches, I have made St.John’s, East Malvern my new spiritual home. (I was organist there from 1989 - 1993 and there are some people there who remember me from that time). Satoshi and I have been made very welcome and find the style of worship suits us well. I enjoy being a member of the congregation where I can listen to the music provided by the excellent choir and the high standard of organ playing from several highly-capable organists. During the year, I played for one service at St.John’s (an investiture service of “The Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller”) and one service at Box Hill Uniting Church (to fill in for a friend). As I am still involved with The Friends of Anglican Music, I had the opportunity to conduct a choir a few times during the year and I enjoy this opportunity to “keep my hand in”.

Other musical opportunities included playing the National Anthem and exit music for school assemblies, musical evenings with Chris and Prue, and our regular music nights at which we sing hymns, eat pizzas and then sing a variety of other music. These nights are great fun.

A trip down to the Mornington Peninsula during the first term holidays gave us the opportunity to experience the new chairlift at Arthurs Seat. This has been completely rebuilt. The views of the bay are picturesque and the ride in the gondolas much improved on the old version.

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We also visited Charlie’s Auto Museum which houses a wide range of interesting old vehicles together with displays of model cars and boats and various other “old stuff”. I was aware that there used to be a tram which ran from Doncaster to Box Hill but not of the “Doncaster Tower”, an 87 metre structure which was on the site of Westfield Shoppingtown. Apparently, from the ground floor to the first gallery, the sides of the tower were encased but from then on “the tower is open to all the winds of the heaven. The ascent so far is achieved by means of a strong, winding wooden staircase but, after the second gallery is reached, enterprising excursionists must trust the safety of their necks to a nearly perpendicular ladder”! What a pity the tower only lasted from 1879 - 1914! Also, “Cabs run from Kew to Doncaster two to three times a day in the season, but good pedestrians will find the distance (five or six miles) a pleasant and exhilarating walk through the grassy, undulating country about”. I wonder what the writer of that advertisement would think now!

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Later in the holidays, I attended a conference in Ballarat organised by Jenny's and Darryl's Church. Some friends from St.Paul's, East Kew joined us. Activities included some Bible Study, a lot of hymn singing, a quiz night (which I organised) and a visit to the Ballarat Wildlife Park.

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Friend Anne and her niece Erin (from UK)

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Listening to music is an important part of my life and I was fortunate enough to attend many concerts during this year. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra continues to produce music of the highest possible standard and I enjoyed Orff’s Carmina Burana, Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Handel’s Messiah. The combined choirs of Christ Church South Yarra and St.John’s East Malvern sang Bach’s St.John Passion to a packed audience at St.John’s. As part of the Melbourne Festival, Tenebrae (a choir from England,) gave a concert (also at St.John’s). Although I did not particularly like the music performed, I did marvel at the skill involved in performing it.

In celebration of Joan's 91st birthday in May, we visited the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens in Sherbrooke. The autum colours were magnificent!

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In the June holidays, Jenny, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I enjoyed a few days staying at the RACV Resort at Cape Schanck. A highlight of this holiday was the delicious breakfasts which were included as part of the tariff. These were provided in an "all you can eat" buffet style and I think almost every possible breakfast food was included! We toured around the Mornington Peninsula, visiting many of the beaches on the ocean side which I had never seen before. The weather was very kind to us too. There was also time for a visit to the Phillip Island Wildlife Park. This sanctuary is quite small but one can get up quite close to many of the animals.

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Cape Schanck Lighthouse

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Cape Barren Geese goslings

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A Sea Eagle

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The second half of the year saw many changes at school. Stephen Rothwell (the Principal) went on leave from 2nd term and we had a series of stand-in bosses. The school has been in financial difficulties and, although some of the changes implemented were necessary, others were not. We have, however, lived through it all and hope that our new permanent principal will prove to be a positive and supportive leader in the new year. One incident that occurred is funny when looked back upon but was NOT at the time. I was reading the daily bulletin and calling out to Chiara in the other room, asking whether she thought the directive from the principal to say to children riding their bikes in the school ground “Thank you for not riding your bike” was quite sarcastic. Unfortunately, I did not realise that, as I was saying this, the principal had come into my room through the other door at exactly that time! Needless to say, I was given a lecture about how it was not sarcastic!

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra had a series of events in which they play the music associated with a movie while the movie is shown on a screen. This year I attended Amadeus, Jurassic Park (at Hamer Hall), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (at the Plenary at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (at the newly-renovated Palais Theatre in St.Kilda). It takes a lot of technology for the conductor to ensure that the music is exactly in sync with the movie - very impressive!

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After seeing live action comedy The Play that Goes Wrong in England, Satoshi and I decided to take Jenny, Darryl, Joan and Russell to see it when it was at the Comedy Theatre (for Darryl's birthday celebration). It was just as funny here as it was in England and everyone enjoyed it very much. We also went to see Aladdin here to see if it was as good as the London production. Both Satoshi and I thought that the London production had the edge in this one, particularly with regard to the choreography. We also enjoyed attending My Fair Lady and the Production Company’s performances of Hello Dolly!, Jesus Christ, Superstar! and Brigadoon.

Another of my interests is history and I enjoyed a tour of the National Trust property Labassa with a group from St.John’s. The tour included a brief lecture about the history of the building and all the work the National Trust has done in bringing it back to its former glory after it was divided into flats in the 1960s.

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It was interesting to learn that the lighter section of the wall paper has been cleaned by many hours of painstaking volunteer labour.

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The view from the tower is impressive!

In the September holidays, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I went on a trip to Corowa in New South Wales. We enjoyed excellent weather and visited many places we had not seen before. Highlights included Byramine Homestead, Howlong Museum (which is a gallery of wood carvings, mostly from the Phillipines), Corowa Federation Museum, Yarrawonga Clock Museum, and a number of wineries (mainly around Rutherglen). Many of the wineries in this area specialise in sweet wine and fortified wines which we all like so we made quite a few purchases! Later in the holidays, Satoshi and I spent a few days at Daylesford.

The clock musuem included a number of music boxes, some of which were demonstrated for us

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If you look closely at the photo, you will see who took it!

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The clock musem also had a huge collection of salt and pepper shakers (only a fraction of the 4,000 pairs were on display).

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Byramine Homestead (recommended to us by Rhonda!)

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We stayed at the Green Acres Resort which had extensive gardens.

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The driveway of the All Saints Winery.

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One way to feel old is to visit a museum (in this case the Federation Museum at Corowa) and find exhibits that one remembers! I can only just recall a time when biscuits were kept in tins like the one above at the grocers. One asked for whatever weight of biscuits one required and this was taken from the tin and sold in a paper bag!

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My mother used to polish the kitchen floor (which was made of rubber) with the exact same model of polisher seen here. There were three brushes underneath which could be changed according to the task in hand. The floor had to be "stripped" of the old polish first (with quite stiff brushes) and then softer brushes were used to buff the new layer of polish.

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We had an Astor "Mickey" radio (always called the "wireless") on a shelf in the kitchen. It was invariably tuned to "3AR" which played mainly classical music.

School lasted until December 22nd this year so it made Christmas shopping difficult. Somehow it was all accomplished and we had a record-equalling 24 people for a sit-down Christmas Day lunch. Although quite exhausting, it was a very happy occasion and many people said how much they missed the event last year (because we were in England).

We had a lot of trouble finding dates for some of our birthday celebrations this year and it wasn't until after Christmas that we celebrated Satoshi's, Jenny's and my birthdays. For Jenny's birthday, we had breakfast at the Langham Hotel in Southgate. This is easily the best breakfast place I know! The Langham provides opulent surroundings and the widest variety of breakfast foods anywhere.

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The "six" at the Langham (all looking very happy!)

For my birthday celebration we went to Woodlands Historic Park which includes "Living Legends". This is a home for retired race horses, most of which have won the Melbourne Cup or other celebrity races. It was interesting to walk around the homestead, the original section of which was brought out (in the form of a kit home) from England on a sailing ship. They have two magnolia trees which were planted in 1844 and thought to be among the first exotic trees ever planted in Victoria. After a delicious Devonshire Tea in the homestead, we went to Docklands to experience the Melbourne Star. It afforded wonderful views of the city and is certainly a great experience. Satoshi's birthday celebration was a trip to the Melbourne Zoo where we saw the new carnivore enclosures.

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This horse wears this covering to protect it from sunburn. It's not hard to see why!

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Woodlands is close to Melbourne Airport and, with the aid of my camera's zoom function, I was able to get some great photos of planes taking off.

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The cabins on the Melbourne Star are spacious and airconditioned.

The year ended with ten of us attending the Carol service at St.Peter’s, Eastern Hill on Sunday, 31st. As this was New Year’s Eve as well, many city streets were closed off and it took more than an hour to find our way there. Fortunately, we had left in plenty of time and arrived at the church a few minutes before the service. The choir of St.Peter's was joined by members of The Gloriana Chamber Choir and the music was wonderful. The readers of the lessons were also very clear and precise which added to our enjoyment of the Service. This was followed by some drinks and games at home to see in the New Year.

I have had a happy year overall and I am very conscious of how lucky I am to have a comfortble life with many things for which to be thankful. As I get older, I realise more and more how important friends are, and I feel very blessed to have such a wonderful group of people who fall into that category. I trust that you all had a wonderful Christmas and will have a happy and healthy 2018.

With love,

name

PS - Letters from previous years can be accessed here.