Christmas Letter




22nd December, 2003

Dear Friends,

It's unbelievable! It can't be true! It's ridiculous! How can it possibly be December 22nd already? At least I'm not alone in feeling that a year is not a year anymore. Everyone I talk to seems to feel the same way.

Although it was not particularly hot yesterday, it was very humid. Despite the close conditions, our Carol Service at St.Paul's was most successful. The twenty-six members of the Choir rose to the occasion magnificently and I was very proud of them all. There was an increase in the number of people who attended the Service and many of the Congregation spoke highly of our Music.

The twelve months since my last letter have been very full in many ways, but there have been no major upsets or changes. My domestic situation continues to be happy. Jenny and Darryl are wonderful friends and are easy people with whom to live. Joan and Russell (Jenny's parents) continue to enjoy good health and they are a constant blessing.

The first days of January saw a group of us in St.John's, East Malvern, making a recording of hymns. If you have never been part of such a venture, you may not appreciate the amount of work that this entails! After a day of recording, listening, re-recording,

listening, re-re-recording and then extensive editing, we finally completed a CD of twenty-four tracks, including some organ interludes as well as the hymns. The CD has been distributed to many people who enjoy traditional hymns and is still available to any who are interested.

The remainder of the holidays was spent either at home or at Ocean Grove with Jenny and Darryl. We had some lovely weather and enjoyed just "being".

This year, for the first time in about 16 years, there was no Lorne Camp. Sadly, it was a casualty of the public liability insurance issue. It was very disappointing for me because I have always loved the camp. The camp was always very popular with the children. Perhaps the best evidence of this was the story of the parents who had the exciting news for their children that the family would be going to Disneyland in the holidays. They were rather surprised by the reaction of their daughter who burst into tears. When they asked what was wrong, she replied, "But that means I won't be able to go to Lorne Camp!" The Lorne School (where the camp is held) is still in the process of deciding the future of the camp site so the long-term fate of our camp is uncertain.

When I made the move from Parkhill Drive to Arthur St more than two years ago, one of the many friends who was very generous with his assistance was Satoshi. In March this year, it was his family's turn to move and the long weekend was spent helping them achieve this. With the aid of Darryl's trailer, we managed to move everything safely without the need to hire a truck. Satoshi's new abode is complete with a prison cell as it used to be the Highett Police Station!

Following the long weekend, I had five weeks teaching at Presbyterian Ladies' College. The Computer Co-ordinator was on long service leave and I really enjoyed working in the Computer Lab and helping girls and members of staff with a myriad of computer-related challenges. In addition to PLC, I have had regular work at Rangeview Primary School in Mitcham. As the name suggests, this school has a magnificent view of the Dandenong Ranges. It is also one of the best schools in which I have taught. All the members of staff are happy and conscientious and the children are enthusiastic and respectful. My work as a Casual Relief Teacher sees me in many schools and I am constantly surprised at the huge differences between them. Some schools are so poorly run that I would not wish to teach in them again and there are others that offer superb learning environments.

Just before Easter, I was approached by a friend who teaches at Donvale Christian College to play the organ at her Church (Warrandyte Uniting) for an afternoon of hymn singing. It was quite daunting to be sight-reading hymns with which I was unfamiliar, for a room full of eager singers. It was, nonetheless, an enjoyable experience and the members of the Church were very appreciative.

A highlight of the April holidays was a bike ride from Lilydale to Warburton along the former railway line. It was a beautiful sunny day and the route was not very hilly but it was over 50km and it had been a number of years since I had ridden a bike that distance. When we finally arrived at Warburton, it seemed that every muscle and bone in my body was complaining. I don't think I have ever enjoyed a shower as much as I did that night! It was a mixed blessing when we awoke to the sound of torrential rain the next morning. After breakfast, it was clear that it had set in so we left our bikes at the hotel and caught a bus back to Lilydale. We then drove back to Warburton to collect the bikes and, finally, drove home!

In May, Darryl turned 60. I helped Jenny organise a surprise party for him at Barwon Heads. It was a lot of fun making all the arrangements and we managed to keep the secret (although there were a couple of close calls!). The weather was very kind on the day and many people made the effort to travel down to Barwon Heads for the event. It was a very happy occasion and a great tribute to Darryl.

Also in May, I spent a particularly enjoyable evening of music-making with friends Chris and Prue. After a delicious dinner, we played piano duets and then music for recorders and piano. There is nothing quite like playing music (interspersed with great food) with good friends.

We enjoyed another delicious meal in June. This time Maverick had invited us all to his place at Docklands. He went to a lot of trouble to prepare the food and everything about the meal was wonderful. The view overlooking Telstra Dome and the city is breathtaking.

At St.Paul's there is a tradition of having a Parish Dinner in association with the Patronal Festival. This year, it was decided that the dinner would be in the form of "Christmas in June". The format of the dinner proved to be so popular that, for the first time ever, the dinner was sold out and we had to turn people away. It was an opportunity for the Occasional Choir to sing some of the more secular carols such as "The Boar's Head Carol" (which we sang in procession), "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and even "Jingle Bells". Each course of the meal included some carols and some humorous readings. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time for us all.

In the July holidays, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I enjoyed a few days in a friend's house at Anglesea. A stay at the beach is always wonderful and this trip was no exception. We enjoyed walking along the beach, exploring some of the local parks and simply relaxing in the peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Also during the holidays, we enjoyed a day at Kinglake. Two car loads of us were heading to the "Dude Ranch" for horse riding. As we were running a little late, I decided that we should phone the ranch to let them know we would be late. As I did not have the number with me, I phoned Directory Assistance. There was a lengthy pause after I had spoken to the operator. When he finally came back on the phone, he was laughing. He explained that he had thought I had asked for the "Nude Ranch"! It would have been rather cold at that time of the year!

At the beginning of second term, I was responsible for a two-day computer seminar for a group of children at Donvale Christian College. The children worked on creating a "Choose Your Own Adventure Story" which could be published on the Internet. They enjoyed this challenge and everyone was pleased with the results.

The age of 43 is not usually marked by particular celebrations but my birthday seemed a special one this year. A friend of ours, Linda, shares July as a birthday month and Jenny organised a trip to the theatre to see "Noises Off" as a combined celebration. A contingent of us set off on the tram (a form of transport I had not used for years!) to the Comedy Theatre and we all laughed ourselves silly.

Satoshi organised a secret outing for me. I had no idea what was going on when, after a delicious lunch at La Porchetta in Brighton, Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell, my Mother, Maverick, Satoshi and I arrived at an unmarked building in Highett. We knocked at the door and, for several minutes, nothing happened at all.

Then, an upstairs window opened and an elderly gentlemen put his head out of the window to explain that he had a cramp in his leg and would be down to let us in as soon as he could. He looked like a character from a Dickens novel! A few more minutes passed. Finally, the door opened and we were admitted to several rooms full of clocks of all shapes and sizes. We then had a very informative private tour of this rather eccentric gentleman's collection of many time pieces.

During a day's teaching at a Catholic School, one of the Prep children came up to to say, "You're fat!". Another child, a more sensitive member of the class, came up to say that I shouldn't mind the previous child, "He's rude! It's just that you are wearing a thick jumper!"

In the September holidays, Satoshi and I went camping at Upper Yarra Reservoir (a few kilometres east of Warburton). When we arrived, we were amazed to find that there was no one else in the whole camping area. We were soon befriended by a wattle bird which was tame enough to take food from our hands and even to venture inside the car and our tent. The park has a large hall available for the use of campers. It includes a wood-fired stove, continuous boiling water, two "Coonara" style solid fuel heaters and three large fridges. As the weather was wet, we were grateful for these facilities, especially the heaters! The bird life in the area is prolific. Knowing that we shouldn't feed the birds bread, we bought a large packet of seed mix. There was a picnic table just near our tent so we kept a supply of the seed on that. There were crimson rosellas, currawongs, wattle birds, king parrots and even a satin bower bird. We enjoyed three days of tranquility and peace (and plenty of food and lots of games of Monopoly!). There were wild deer in the area and we were surprised by the loud noises they make. Even though it rained for a large percentage of our time there, we both really enjoyed it and are hoping to be able to visit again.

Later in the holidays, Satoshi and I drove up to Hanging Rock. We arrived at lunchtime and thought we would get a snack at the kiosk. Expecting to find the usual pies, sausage rolls and chips, we were surprised to find that the kiosk had gone completely upmarket. Lunch cost us nearly $40! After such a meal, the thought of climbing all the way to the top of the rock was a little more daunting than it may have been otherwise, but we set off in near perfect weather. On the way up, we paused to observe a koala happily enjoying his lunch before we continued on, ever upwards. When we reached the summit, the 360° views made the climb well worth the effort.

At the beginning of October, I attended the Synod (the parliament of the Anglican Church) as a representative of my parish. There were about 600 people involved yet everyone who wanted to contribute to any discussion was able to do so. It was very interesting to be part of the decision-making process of the Church but a little disappointing to see how politicised many of the processes have become.

For Satoshi's birthday, we went to Moonlit Sanctuary in Pearcedale. This Sanctuary is specifically for endangered Australian animals. They have tours at night so that visitors may see nocturnal animals. We chose to go on the last tour of the night because this includes the opportunity to help feed the animals and is limited to a group of six. Jenny, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I enjoyed the experience tremendously. Satoshi was especially thrilled because he was able to hold a quoll (his favourite animal).

As the year comes to a close, there is an opportunity to reflect on how fortunate I am in so many ways. The people of St.Paul's are always friendly, supportive and very appreciative of the work that I do there. I have continued good health and enjoy the love and support of a wonderful group of friends. There is much for which to be thankful.

Amidst all the commercialism and frantic pace of this time of the year, it is easy to forget the "reason for the season". I wish you all the blessings that the season of Christmas can bring and a happy and healthy year in 2004.

With love,




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