What a year! Some descriptive words for 2020: unprecedented,
exhausting, surreal, stifling, missing. One of the representations
I liked the best was that 2020 was similar to "looking both ways
before crossing a street and then being hit by a submarine"!
The year began ordinarily enough with our customary New
Year's Eve event which
included a happy gathering of friends, the consumption of
"nibblies", the playing of a trivia game, and some drinks.
New Year's Eve at home
January was fairly quiet. A day was spent at Ocean Grove to
visit Jenny and Darryl and other members of the extended
family. They have been holidaying at the same place for about
60 years and I have been either staying or visiting for about
30 years. Time goes by so quickly!
At Ocean Grove, near the Dunes
Restaurant (L to R: Russell, Joan, Emily, Jenny,
this time, friends Elsa and John became very frail.
Although we were not aware, they were not eating
properly. After a couple of falls, John was taken to
hospital. Elsa became very confused and did not
understand where John was. She phoned Jenny and she
tracked down John via the Ambulance Service. Jenny
took Elsa to visit John, but she became even more
confused and ended up being admitted herself. Sadly,
neither of them ever returned home. For several
months, I looked after John's finances, paying bills
etc. I was reimbursed from an account that John gave
me access to. It is not easy dealing with
institutions when one is not the account holder and
there were occasions when I was thinking "Please
understand before one of us dies" while trying to
deal with their representatives on the phone! John
grew weaker and weaker until he passed away. Elsa
has dementia and is in care. Unfortunately, the
couple did not make a will so their affairs were
looked after by the State Trustees. Most of their
possessions were removed by a contractor and their
home was sold. This was a very powerful lesson about
the importance of having a will. Satoshi and I have
now had ours done through State Trustees (we even
got them on "special"!!).
Our two cats continue
to be a very important part of our household. Min (black) is
now almost 16 years old and beginning to show signs of old
age, and Butterscotch is 5 years old. Although neither of them
is very friendly towards visitors, Min almost always sits on
my lap when I'm sitting in the loungeroom and Butterscotch
sits either on Satoshi's lap or on her favourite cushion on
the couch. At night, Min sleeps on my bed and Butterscotch can
be found on Satoshi's bed.
Min and Butterscotch practising social
Satoshi and I spent much
of January in arranging the details of our planned trip to
England which was to have begun on April 1st and to have
lasted for three months. Long service leave had been applied
for and granted and our level of excitement was growing.
Unfortunately, through February the likelihood of actually
going on the trip began to fade and, inevitably and
eventually, we had to cancel the whole experience. Although
we were very disappointed, we were glad that we had not
planned to leave a month earlier. In that case, we would
have probably found ourselves stranded in England which
would not have been fun at all. Luckily, each of our schools
agreed to cancel our leave and we got most of our money back
(although it took quite a bit of effort to retrieve some of
My photo of the full moon in
During the long weekend in June, Jenny, Joan, Russell,
Satoshi and I ventured down to Tyabb to visit Tyabb
Packing House Antiques. This establishment has over
5,000 square metres of antiques, bric-a-brac, books, and
junk. We spent a few hours there. Lunch was enjoyed at the Rattling
Red Café which is housed in some old railway
Joan and Russell at the Rattling
After lunch, we made our way down
the coast to Kilcunda. Although it was quite cold, we
enjoyed the invigorating ocean air.
We were fortunate to squeeze in two short trips in the July
holidays (in between the two lockdowns). The first trip took
The Silo Art Trail
which "is Australia’s largest outdoor gallery. The trail
stretches over 200 kilometres, linking Brim with neighbouring
towns Lascelles, Patchewollock, Rosebery, Rupanyup and Sheep
Hills. Providing an insight into the true spirit of the
Wimmera Mallee, the trail recognises and celebrates the
region’s people through a series of large-scale mural
portraits painted onto grain silos, many of which date back to
the 1930s". Our first night was spent as Carisbrook. We dined
at my favourite restaurant "Caroline's of
Carisbrook" which opened especially for us. As always,
the meal, ambience and service were all superb.
We always enjoy a reunion
with our special friend who just hangs around waiting
for us. (Be sure to play the above video!)
Caroline's Restaurant (L to R:
Joan, Darryl, Russell, Jenny, Satoshi, Sally and Michael
The next day, we headed towards Sea Lake where we were to stay
the night. As we travelled towards Nullawil, the start of the
trail, we passed by the wonderfully-named Teddywaddy West. There is nothing there other than the
ruins of the school.
Teddywaddy West School was built
in 1888 and closed around 1976.
Silo at Nullawil
After a comfortable night in a large "airbnb", our
first stop was Sea Lake for breakfast and then the
The Big Mallee Fowl at Patchewollock
The Silo at Patchewollock
The Silo at Patchewollock (detail)
The Silos at Lascelles
Smaller but still eye-catching artwork at Woomelang
The Silos at Rosebery
The Silos at Brim
The Silos at Sheep Hills
Detail from silo at Sheep Hills
At this point in
our journey, we were starting to lose light but
we experienced a particularly beautiful sunset.
By the time we got to Rupanyup, there was very
little light left but Satoshi managed to get this
photo with the "night vision" feature on his new
After staying the
night at Stawell, we headed towards the Grampians. We
had thought to visit the Halls Gap Zoo but, when we
arrived, there was a huge queue of people waiting to
gain entry so we decided to give it a miss. We had
some lunch at Halls Gap and then headed up to
"Zumsteins" which is now a picnic ground but used to
be a camping ground. It has a very interesting history
which can be read about on Wikipedia. I have stayed
there a few times in the past. It used to be really
good because there were always kangaroos around. When
we were there, not a kangaroo was in sight...
...but there were some
The six at McKenzie's Falls
The view from Reed's Lookout
After Reed's Lookout, we had a four-hour drive to get
home. The silo trail was a great thing to do but, if I was
to do it again, I would break it into two days. Although
200km doesn't sound too far to go in a day, we would have
liked some more time. It would be easier in summer when
the light would last a lot longer.
A couple of days later, Jenny, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and
I headed out again. This time we were going to Middle Arm,
near Goulburn, so that Jenny, Joan and Russell could meet
their newest grandniece/great granddaughter. After dinner
there, Satoshi and I left to stay the night at Goulburn
before making our way south east towards the coast the
next day with the ultimate goal of Merimbula in mind. As
we travelled, we saw evidence of the fires that devasted
huge areas of the east coast during summer. We arrived at
the coast via the town of Bateman's Bay and continued
southwards to Mogo. This town is famous for its wonderful
zoo. Once again, it did not disappoint. It was clear that
the animals are extremely well looked after and we
thoroughly enjoyed our visit. It is not always easy to
take good photos of animals at zoos because of glass
(reflections and evidence of grotty children's fingers
and...), wire cages and the seeming reluctance of some of
them to be "captured". Of the 272 photos I took, these are
Two gorillas - the one on the
right is clearly a thinker!
There were several Lemur
Meerkats are SO cute and they stand still long
enough to get great photos!
The otters were very playful and can move very
quickly both on land and in water.
Giraffe have the same number of vertebrae in their
necks as humans!
Southern White Rhinoceros
The snow leopard is one of the rarest species kept
at the zoo.
What a galah!
A Silvery Gibbon
We then proceeded south towards Narooma where we stayed
for the night.
Although I had checked that
the beautiful church at Bodalla had not been
destroyed in the fires, it was,
never-the-less, a relief to find it still
It was great to find that the chef at Narooma
Golf Club understood the correct ratio between
meat and vegetables when serving Roast Beef!
The next morning, we explored the heads at Narooma
and discovered a number of sea lions basking in the sunlight.
Like the sea lions, we enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and
warmth. It was a pleasant change not to need a jumper!
Sea Lion or Seal? Sea Lions have
visible ear flaps.
The aptly-named "Australia Rock". The land seen in the
distance is Montague Island.
The view from the lookout at Narooma
Narooma, we continued south toward Merimbula via Central
Tilba, Tilba Tilba, Cobargo (where there was more evidence
of the bushfires, including the loss of "The Train Cafe"
which we had stopped at in previous visits), and Bega. Our
accommodation in Merimbula was excellent. The apartment
included not only a bedroom for each of us but also two
bathrooms! We were pleased to find that Merimbula had
escaped the wrath of the fires. The next few days were
spent relaxing and enjoying more sunlight and warmth. On
the 8th July, we ventured to "Potoroo Palace"
which is an animal sanctuary catering predominantly for
Australian animals. Once again, we spent a pleasant few
hours wandering around viewing and photographing animals
and birds. This time, I only took 199 photos! Again, the
best of them are below.
When threatened by a predator, the
Stone Curlew's defence is to stand very still. This has, not
surprisingly, led to falling numbers of these birds!
The Quoll is Satoshi's favourite animal.
You can see the blue sky behind the kookaburra!
There were several Pademelons enjoying the beautiful weather
The koalas looked very happy and healthy.
Did someone say KFC?
Multifunctional Satoshi with friend
I can't remember what species of lizard this is but it's a
Some of the aviaries were walk-through which made taking
It took several tries before I managed to get a photo of the
snake with its tongue out!
We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time
for the keeper's snake demonstration.
He was encouraging the snake to come towards me as I was
It was this goanna's time to get up (12:32pm!)
In the afternoon, we
visited Merimbula Aquarium. A variety of interesting fish and
other marine animals is housed there.
We spotted this Sooty Oyster Catcher as
we left the aquarium
After the aquarium, we went for a drive through Pambula and a
little further south down the coast. We stopped near the mouth of
the Yowaka River.
water was absolutely still, giving me the opportunity to
take some photos involving reflections. I am quite proud
of the results!
9th of July, we explored some of the coast to the north of
Merimbula, including Tathra and Bermagui. We were treated to
another day of absolutely glorious weather.
The view from the wharf at Tathra
A resident cormorant drying its wings.
Looking south from Bermagui
The "Blue Pool" at Bermagui
A new discovery in the area for us was the Montreal
Goldfields near Lake Wallaga. Volunteers have spent
innumerable hours clearing bush and making the myriad of
mine shafts in the area safe. It was a most interesting tour
and all for a gold coin. The goldfields were in operation
for just three years from 1880-1883 but 250kg of gold was
extracted using simple picks and shovels. It is the only
goldfield site in Australia located so near the sea.
been enjoying the hospitality in the area until the night of
July 8th. We arrived at the Bowling Club in Merimbula for
dinner, only to find a sign clearly indicating that visitors
from Victoria were not permitted to enter! The situation with
COVID-19 in Melbourne had deteriorated, harsher restrictions
were in force in Victoria and New South Wales had closed the
border to Victorians! Fortunately for us, the border was still
open for people to move from NSW into Victoria. We were happy
that we were leaving the next day. The experience of being
denied entrance to a restaurant through no fault of our own
was quite confronting. We learned that Jenny, Joan, Russell
and Jordan were leaving Middle Arm earlier than planned.
Jenny's sister-in-law, Joan, drove them to the Victorian
border where they were met by Jenny's daughter, Kathryn. They
arrived home before us. We departed Merimbula, somewhat
reluctantly, on the morning of July 10th.
We stopped at Eden Wharf for a break. We saw some pelicans
which were feasting on offcuts of fish being thrown to them by
Other residents of Eden Wharf
As we approached the
Victorian border the devastation caused by the fires became
all too apparent. We drove through mile after mile of
blackened forest which was showing little recovery even 6
months after the event. The old bridge at Genoa had gone. At
Genoa Falls Reserve (where we used to go to view and
photograph eastern water dragons) we found total destruction.
We took the detour to Cape Conran. Everywhere was the same -
just blackened trees and no undergrowth at all. There was
nothing left of the cottages where we stayed a couple of
times. It was a very sombre experience. The little township of
Cann River had been spared so we stopped at the Pelican Point
Coffee Lounge for lunch.
Closer to our
destination of Lakes Entrance, we found that the Wairewa
trestle bridge had been partly destroyed.
The heat of the fire was evident and we were amazed that
any of the bridge was left.
Our last stop before Lakes Entrance was the Nowa Nowa trestle
bridge which, we were delighted to find, had been spared.
I have been visiting this bridge for
about 30 years. At first, it was still possible to walk
across it but I wouldn't do so now!
It is sad to see such a huge (did you notice the man in the
first picture - it shows you the scale of the structure!)
piece of our history just left to decay.
drive home the next day was uneventful but it was a little
confronting driving into Melbourne's "iron ring" knowing that
we would not be allowed to return to regional Victoria or eat
out at restaurants for the foreseeable future. We felt very
lucky to have been able to have time away from home as we did
not know how long we would be "confined to barracks" at home.
Undertaking remote teaching was certainly a new and unexpected
experience during the year. It required learning how to use
"Webex" and "Zoom" in order to interact with the students. I
also learned how to add a voice-over to PowerPoint
presentations and how to convert the presentations into
movies. It was great to be freed from some of the rigour of
school life. There were few meetings, no parents and no yard
duty. Freedom from the "bell" meant I could go to the toilet
whenever I wanted and to tailor each day according to how I
was feeling. The staff of each year level at school were
required to make a "Take Home Learning Pack" for the students.
This involved a huge amount of work in a very short space of
time but it meant that the rest of the term was free of
planning. Each morning, there was a "Webex" meeting for the
students. They were expected to wear their uniform and to
behave in a similar manner to what is expected in the
classroom. During this meeting, the class was shown what was
expected of them during the day. In the afternoon, there was a
further online session at which the students could share their
work. Most of the children were quick to adjust to the new
paradigm. Some excelled but others did very little. After the
end of the first lockdown, the parents and students made
"welcome back" placards which were festooned along the school
fence. It was such a touching thing and news of it even found
its way to the front
page of The Age!
Chatham continues to be a wonderful place in which to work.
The Principal, Chris Cotching, is very experienced, fair,
supportive and friendly. I am amazed at his willingness to
work such long hours and his ability to remain calm and
friendly. I have reduced my time to four days a week. This has
been wonderful. I don't work on Wednesdays meaning that I only
ever have to work two days in a row - so much better than
five! This year has been a new experience for me in that I
shared teaching my class with another teacher. Cathy Townsend
taught the grade on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and I
taught the class on Thursdays and Fridays. Cathy was so easy
to work with. We have very similar views and expectations
about teaching which made sharing the class very simple. I
really enjoyed the experience of working with her and I will
miss her very much next year as she moves into a different
role in the school. The rest of the Year 3 team, Sam and Chris
in the other class, were also great colleagues. The Year 3
team ran like a well-oiled machine! Thank you, Cathy, Sam and
Lockdown had many challenges and disappointments. Our weekly
dinners with Jenny, Darryl, Joan and Russell were not possible
but we worked out that we could share meals via Zoom (each
household partaking of the same food). Although not perfect,
it was a way of keeping in touch. Being locked up with someone
for basically 24 hours a day would be a test for any
relationship. Satoshi and I had to work out how we could both
be on "Webex" at the same time and not get in each other's
way. We managed the whole time with barely a cross word
spoken. I am so fortunate to have such an easy-going,
supportive and caring housemate. Lockdown also taught me how
important it is to have contact with people I care about. It
was so good to get back to school and church and to be able to
meet friends for meals.
Lockdown provided extra time and, like many other
intellectuals, we completed several jigsaw puzzles!
Some "losses" during the year included the last of the
"Sizzler" restaurants closing. After all the Victorian sites
closed quite a few years ago, those in Queensland survived and
I looked forward to dining at the one on the Gold Coast each
time I was there. This is to be no more. We were also very
disappointed last week when we headed off to the Caribbean
Market. On arrival, we were confronted with a large notice on
the gate explaining that it had permanently closed in July. I
had been visiting this place since it opened in the 1970s. The
chairlift, adventure cruise and train ride were great
favourites during my childhood and many bargains had been
purchased at the market over the years. Apparently, it has not
been decided what will happen to the 500-acre site but I would
imagine that it will be hard to ignore offers from land
developers. I can't begin to imagine how much all that land
might be worth!
I turned 60 during July. My "Zoom" birthday party was not
quite what had been planned but it was still good to "see"
At the invitation of Emily Roe, I attended an online quiz
which was a fundraiser for Scripture Union (a Christian
organisation). The quiz was very well run and enjoyable. It
occurred to me that I could do a similar thing so, after
researching the mysteries of "Google Forms", "breakout rooms"
in "Zoom" and other IT considerations, I ran a "dummy" quiz
for a few friends. This was an utter debacle but it taught me
all the things I needed to fix before a more public event
could be envisioned. (Thank you, poor friends, who were the
guinea pigs during this process - you were very patient!)
Perseverance paid off and I hosted several quizzes over the
months of lockdown: two for St.John's, East Malvern, one each
for St.Paul's, East Kew; Chatham Primary and Wheelers Hill
Primary, and a fundraising quiz for Australian
Cambodia Collaboration, a small charity which works to
assist the poor in that country. All the events were very
successful and there was a lot of positive feedback from
participants. This made the hours of work preparing the
Of course it was not possible to attend Church services during
most of the lockdown. St.John's, East Malvern, made the
decision not to offer Zoom or streamed worship so we looked
elsewhere to fulfil this need. We watched streamed services
from St.John's, Camberwell; St.Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne,
and St.John's Cathedral, Brisbane, but none of them was very
satisfactory because it was not possible to be a real part of
the worship. My friend, Anne, told me about the "Zoom"
services being offered from our old church, St.Paul's, East
Kew. We found that this was a much better option as we could
interact with others before and after the services and
participate within each one. It was good to catch up with the
members of the congregation and I was able to offer some
technical support to Rev. Gail Bryce who put in hours and
hours of work preparing the weekly services. Thank you, Gail!
It was wonderful to be able to return to "proper" Church at
the end of November. Satoshi and I have continued to attend St.John's Anglican
Church, East Malvern. I was asked to play the organ on
the second Sunday of our return. After not touching the organ
for months, it was somewhat of a challenge and I was very
nervous. I managed quite well overall, apart from completely
losing my place in both the words and music during the Psalm!
It must have been OK because I was then asked to play at the
Christmas Midnight Service. This involved much more
complicated music but, because school finished on December
18th, I had the opportunity for much more practice time.
During the year, our clothes dryer stopped working. I have
owned this machine since 1994 and it was well and truly
second-hand even then. A decade ago, it used to make a
dreadful noise but it seemed to recover from that all on its
own. I started the process of choosing a replacement. As a
matter of interest, I searched the internet to try to find the
age of the machine. The most common information found was
about the fan belt and its replacement cost. I wondered
whether this could be the problem in our machine. Removing the
back of the machine proved that this was indeed the case so a
new fan belt was purchased for about $20. When it arrived, it
seemed far too small to stretch over the two driving wheels. I
couldn't make it fit. Satoshi, however, persevered and, after
quite a struggle, managed to fit the replacement belt. So now
the ancient old machine is functioning as well as ever! Sadly,
we were not so lucky with the washing machine when it had its
turn at failing. It got to the point where it stopped and
beeped up to 10 times each wash, requiring that the clothes be
evened up inside. It was very annoying! As the machine was 8
years old, it was decided that repairs were not worth it so a
new machine was duly purchased. It is slightly larger than the
old one so fewer loads are needed. Hopefully, the laundry will
be settled for quite some time!
As many of you know, I am an avid collector of DVDs. For many
years, I had been looking for the "Chester Miracle Cycle", a
BBC production made in 1976. I remember seeing it on TV in
1979! Searches for it had been fruitless. It was one of the
first times that real life actors were merged with cartoon
sets. I could remember the actor Michael Hordern as the Voice
of God calling Noah. Finally, I found that it had been part of
a BBC series "Play of the Month" and had never been repeated
since. I gave up hope that I would ever see it again. Imagine
my surprise when I found it listed on a site called Old Time TV. I was
somewhat dubious about the shonkiness or otherwise of the site
but enquiries proved to be fruitful and the price asked for a
copy was very reasonable. I was warned not to expect too much
(it was, after all, a copy of the program which someone had
recorded on their VHS in the 1970s). The DVDs finally arrived
and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of both the
video and audio. I was also surprised at how accurately my
memories of the program were considering that I had not seen
it for forty years!
During the year, I discovered that I suffer from severe sleep
apnoea. This is a condition in which the walls of one's throat
come together during the night, blocking off your upper airway.
You stop breathing for a period of time (generally between
ten seconds and up to one minute) until your brain registers
the lack of breathing, or a drop in oxygen levels, and sends
a small wake-up call. This causes you to rouse slightly,
open your upper airway, possibly snort and gasp, and then
drift back to sleep almost immediately. In most cases, you
don’t even realise you are waking up. I had a sleep study at
Epworth Box Hill Hospital. It involved staying in a hospital
bed for a night with all sorts of wires attached. It showed
a great deal of information about my sleep. The result of
all this is that I need a CPAP machine. This pumps air into
one during the night, causing the sleep interruptions to
disappear. Because of being claustrophobic, it was very
difficult for me to wear the mask through which the air is
pumped. I felt like there was an alien on my face sucking
out my life force! I would wake up and rip the thing off my
face. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, I did not have
the proper session with the provider to learn all about the
machine and the different options available so it was not
until a second sleep study was undertaken, just before
Christmas, to see what effect the machine was having on my
sleep, that I had the opportunity to try a "nasal pillow"
mask. This is much less obtrusive, being a small device that
fits into one's nostrils rather than almost your whole face.
I have found that I can put this on quite easily and,
increasingly, can wear it for the whole night without waking
in a panic.
The "alien" on the left has been
replaced by the minor discomfort of the nasal pillow.
Although Christmas seems
to come around more quickly each year, I was somewhat taken
aback to find this in Woolworths on the 22nd of September!
As Christmas approached, we wondered whether or
not we would be able to host our traditional lunch on the
25th. As it happened, we were permitted to do so. Plans were
made to include all 22 of those wishing to attend. As usual, I
provided meat, mashed potatoes and most of the dessert and
others brought various vegetables, drinks and desserts. It was
a very happy time and I think everyone found it even more
special than usual because of the year we have had and the
fact that our feast may not have happened at all.
Joan's special icecream pudding!
The Christmas Tree of 2020
We are very blessed to
live in Melbourne, one of the most liveable cities in the
world and, in particular, to live in our little pocket of it
where we have such lovely neighbours.
Two days after Christmas, we took
part a picnic in the local park which was attended by a
number of these friends.
there's another year gone. I think we were all glad to
see the back of most aspects of 2020. As I mentioned
above, though, it did serve as a reminder about what
is important in our lives - each other. I thank each
one of you for your love and friendship. My wish for
you all is that 2021 brings you good health and
PS: If you would like to read my letters from previous
years, please click here.