Tim's Christmas Letter 2010

23rd December, 2010

Dear Friends,

The week before Christmas has been very busy, as always. The Carol Service at St Paul’s last Sunday was a wonderful occasion with a large number of people in the congregation, and a larger choir than the last few years. As Gillian Whitaker was in USA, we missed her greatly. Fortunately we were able to find another organist, Richard Hoy, who accompanied the choir ably. Many people commented on the standard and choice of music.

Because 2010 has been a very full year, it seems a long way to go back to January. With Satoshi and Barbara, I attended the Royal School of Church Music Summer School in Adelaide. We decided to take two days to drive so it made the trip pleasant and relaxing. The ten days of the summer school included a rich variety of activities, musical and otherwise. It is a wonderful experience to sing in a large choir (about 180) under the direction of a skilled conductor. Jeffrey Smith from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is a superb musician, always using humour and encouragement to get the best out of the singers in his charge. A musical highlight for me was the opportunity to try ringing handbells for the first time and a non-musical highlight was a trip to the Barossa Valley. The extreme weather (around 43°C) made some aspects a bit of a trial but, overall, we had a most memorable and happy experience.

Back to school at the end of January. Once again, I taught a Year 2 class. In a contrast to 2009, this year’s children were settled, happy, enthusiastic and generally very easy to teach. Teaching is becoming increasingly demanding over the years and I come home each day having earned my pay well and truly. There are those who think that teaching is a slack job with short hours and many holidays. I would invite them to try it for a day and see if they still hold that view!

Our first “Music Night” of the year was in February. This evening sees a number of friends get together to share a night of music, singing, readings, laughter and food. We sing people’s favourite hymns and a variety of old songs from the Victorian era. These include such gems as Come into the Garden Maud and The Lost Chord.

I enjoy going to live shows and this year I saw the musicals Cats, West Side Story and Mary Poppins. The pick of the three was undoubtedly Mary Poppins. It was one of the best, if not the best musical I have ever seen. The singing, dancing, sets and special effects were all superb and the mixture of old and new songs added musical interest. Unusually for me, I also saw two ballets The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet. Both of these were excellent productions. Even more unusually, I attended two operas. Tosca was quite disappointing as the setting had been changed in terms of time and place to the 1940s. The scenery and costumes were dull and the more violent aspects were (in my opinion unnecessarily) emphasized. The other opera was Benjamin Britten’s The Turning of the Screw. This production was superb and told the eery and unsettling story very well, leaving the audience to decide what had actually happened.

Other musical activities during the year included a number of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concerts (all wonderful), a performance of the oratorio The Crucifixion by the Melbourne Singers and Bach’s St John Passion at Scots’ Church.

My involvement with The Friends of Anglican Music saw me conducting Choral Evensong at Holy Trinity, Williamstown and St Paul’s in Kyneton. It is quite challenging to rehearse a choir of 50 two hours before a service - it can also be scary and/or exhilarating - and is always exhausting. Both these events went well. I was invited to the home of friends and Occasional Choir members Jacci and Chris Simpson after the Kyneton event. I had a very relaxing and enjoyable evening there before driving back to Burwood ready for Church the next day.

I organized the Church Camp which took place at the YMCA Camp at Lake Dewar Lodge (near Bacchus Marsh) over the Anzac Day weekend and was attended by 24 people (ages ranging from less than 1 to 80!). Everyone participated enthusiastically in activities such canoeing, archery, walking, a camp fire and quiz night. There was also ample opportunity for less adventurous pursuits such as jigsaws, reading, crosswords, board games and quiet chats. The accommodation and food were of a very high standard and I’m sure that I was not the only one who went home with a little extra padding!


Satoshi and Chisato enjoy a jigsaw at the Camp

It takes much work to organise a camp such as this so it is always a relief when everyone has an enjoyable experience (even if our rooms were invaded by centipedes!) and the finances work out!

One weekend in May I attended an IT conference run by Apple for teachers. It was a full-on time with a number of presentations and hands-on sessions. It is amazing what can be done with technology in the classroom and I went away newly-inspired and with many creative ideas.

In the July holidays, I travelled to the Gold Coast with Barbara. We had excellent accommodation (a penthouse no less!) near the centre of the town. We enjoyed trips to several national parks and towns in the hinterland, a river cruise, the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, the Q1 Building (tallest in Southern Hemisphere) and a wildlife sanctuary. The highlight of the trip was a night at the Outback Spectacular. This is a show, largely on horseback, which chronicles some of the history of the Australian outback. The meal was superb and the horsemanship displayed was amazing.


The view from our "penthouse"



The last part of the milk shake is definitely the best!

I approached my birthday this year with mixed feelings. 50 sounds so OLD! Friends organised a whole weekend of fun which began with a smorgasbord breakfast with a group of friends at the Langham Hotel in Southbank. Unless you have experienced this, you don’t really know what breakfast is! Every possible breakfast food is included in the vast array of choices and everything is of the highest quality and the service is attentive without being intrusive. The whole experience is highly recommended!

Breakfast at the Langham

From there, Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I travelled on to Daylesford where we had a walk around Jubilee Lake. The weather was warm and sunny - absolutely perfect. We moved on to Carisbrook, a very small town near Maryborough, where we had dinner at Caroline’s Colonial Restaurant. Dinner here is always simply perfect! After staying the night in Carisbrook we drove on to Castelmaine the next day where we boarded the steam train to Maldon. First class tickets had been procured and we all enjoyed the journey and the lunch break at Maldon. For me, it was a perfect birthday celebration!

A peaceful scene at Jubilee Lake

at lake

At Jubilee Lake


Breakfast at Castelmaine


Life as a teacher tends to be marked out term by term. At the end of third term, almost a year of planning and saving came to fruition with our train trip to Perth. We flew to Adelaide where we were met by friends Jeanette and Tony Houey and Ian and Edward Miller. While Jenny, Darryl, Joan and Russell spent time with friends, Satoshi and I enjoyed a day at the Zoo (to see the Giant Pandas, in particular). The next day was spent with Jeanette who accompanied Satoshi and I to a Choral Eucharist at the Cathedral (where the music was of a very high standard) and then the Adelaide Library, Museum and Art Gallery.


The pandas are a major attraction at Adelaide Zoo


This flamingo has been at the Adelaide Zoo since 1934!


After dinner at the Miller residence

That evening, we boarded the train bound for Perth. What a wonderful experience it was! Our “gold class” fares included comfortable cabins and all meals in the restaurant. What a luxury it was to sit back and watch the world go by while enjoying breakfast or lunch! We were on the train from Sunday night until Tuesday morning and the trip included short stopovers at Kalgoorlie and Cook.

rail track

There was mile after mile of this type of vegetation as we crossed the Nullarbor Plain

At Kalgoorlie we took the opportunity to go on a bus tour. We saw the huge open cut mine there. Even in the dark (it was 10:30pm at night) one could hardly fail to be impressed by the huge scale of this enterprise. Although the train stops for a relatively short time at Cook, there is enough time to explore this very isolated and lonely place. There are less than ten people living there now so the school and many other public buildings are closed. On our arrival in Perth, we had a bus tour of the city before being dropped where we were to pick up our hire car. This was a Kia Carnival which was big enough to seat all six of us comfortably as well as accommodating all our luggage. We then headed down the coast to our first night’s accommodation - Evedon Park Bush Retreat.


On the Kalgoorlie Coach Tour

We did far too many things to record here but we all enjoyed everything we did. The highlights for included:

•St.George’s Cathedral - a splendid building with many stained glass windows and works of art.

•Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse - located at the most south-westerly point in Australia, 39 metres high. Wonderful views from the top - 186 stairs!


Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

•Lake Cave - as the name suggests, includes a lake. Large variety of formations and opportunities for photos with reflections in the water.

•Bellview Shell Museum - the largest in the southern hemisphere. A huge range of shells from Australia and the rest of the world. To give you some idea of the size of the collection, it takes 7 years to dust and oil them all!
•Wonerup House and School - a National Trust property begun in 1838. Many original items can be seen in the house.

•Eagles Heritage - the largest collection of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls in Australia. Impressive free flight display and the opportunity to have a bird of prey sit on your arm!

•Sizzler’s Restaurants - mouth-watering steaks and smorgasbord including lovely fresh salads.

•Camel Ride at Kalamunda - I think this was the top item for the whole trip! Camels are such placid, peaceful animals - they just plodded through the countryside along part of the Bibbulman Track.


A Relaxing Ride on a Camel

•The Bell Tower - this building, specially designed for the purpose, houses the bells brought from England. Change ringing demonstrations are provided daily as is the opportunity to ring a bell yourself.


Bell ringing requires concentration and care

•New Norcia - a working monastery, founded in 1846. We had a tour of the whole complex, including several chapels. One had an organ built by the same builders as St.Paul’s East Kew (Bellsham). I was invited to play it (as part of the tour). There were many works of art and beautiful buildings. Satoshi and I joined the monks for one of their services.

olive tree

This 150 year old Olive Tree at New Norcia still produces Prize-winning fruit

After two weeks of adventure, we flew home ready for 4th term and the business of report writing and end-of-year events.

One of my favourite books is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. As this year drew to a close, I had the opportunity to see two versions of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation from stingy miser to generous benefactor. The first was a musical version performed by the Mornington CEF Players (of which friend Linda is a member). The second performance was in the form of a “reading” as Charles Dickens himself would have done it. It was amazing to see the skill with which the sole performer told the story and literally “became” each character.

As I finish typing this letter, I look back at everything I have done this year and find it little wonder that I have decided to spend January at home, quietly doing as little as possible! What a busy, but fulfilling and interesting year it has been.

As we come to Christmas once again, I think of the words of the “Bidding Prayer” at the Carol service, “At this Christmastide let it be our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the babe lying in a manger.” And to borrow words from Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”

With love,


Read previous Christmas letters