Tim's Christmas Letter


A window at Christ Church, Hamilton

Dear Friends,

Firstly, my apologies for the lateness of my letter this year. School did not finish until December 22nd and there was simply no time to get everything done!

The year 2011 has been another stable year. All the important things such as school, church and housemate remain unchanged and happy. For the first time, I tried keeping my diary on my iPhone and iMac. This has been only partly successful as things have not always synced properly and then, in November, all the activities from earlier in the year disappeared! I have decided to go back to a hard copy diary for 2012!

The year began with the holiday period. As usual, a number of friends shared a happy time seeing in the New Year with Satoshi and me. January was spent mainly at home with a day or two at relaxing at Ocean Grove with Jenny, Darryl, Joan and Russell. Some energy was expended in tidying the house - a task becoming increasingly difficult because the number of books, DVDs and pieces of music continues to grow but the storage space doesn’t!

February saw school starting again. My class of twenty-four Grade 2 children were, as usual, a mixture. Among them were a girl with Down Syndrome from Japan who spoke almost no English, a boy with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), a girl with social and learning issues and a boy who, in his own eyes and those of his parents, could do no wrong. Despite all these little hurdles and the fact that I had to move classrooms twice during the year because of a new building program, we all had a happy year together and I was sad to see the children go at the end of the year. I will particularly miss the little girl from Japan. She has such a lovely, caring nature and I was told several times a day, “I love you, Mr Clarke!” This was a good balance for the “I hate you and I’m never coming to school ever again!” that I heard on a regular basis from the other girl mentioned above! One thing that can be said about teaching is that it is never boring!

In April, to celebrate Russell’s birthday, Jenny, Joan, Russell and I travelled to Dunolly for a weekend. We stayed at a lovely old cottage called “Hunt’s Folly” which was built in 1859. Russell spent much time in the area as a boy and it is always interesting to listen to his stories of travelling on steam trains and staying with his Grandma in Bealiba before the town even had electricity! We timed our visit to coincide with a “Back to Bealiba” day so there were plenty of activities and an exhibition to enjoy.

hunt's folly
Joan, Jenny & Russell at the front of "Hunt's Folly"

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

old train seats
Trying out the old carriage seats at Maryborough Station

To celebrate Joan’s birthday, we went to “The Briars Park” on the Mornington Peninsula. “The Briars” is an 1840s homestead which houses a world-renowned collection of Napoleonic memorabilia and is surrounded by a lovely garden. The outbuildings also house a number of interesting artefacts. We enjoyed a very elegant lunch at Josephine’s Restaurant which is within the converted stables. On the same property is the “Eco Living Display Centre". This is a purpose-built house to display ideas for sustainable living ideas. I have to admit that I was not especially interested in going there but we have a saying, “It’s not YOUR birthday!”. It turned out to be very interesting and I learnt a lot. For example, you can get flooring made from bamboo. It comes in many colours and is extremely durable and looks great! We missed Jenny on this occasion - her son Michael and his wife had taken her to New Zealand!

The Briars
The Visitors' Centre at "The Briars"

On the Queen’s Birthday holiday, I took Joan and Russell up to Castlemaine to see the homestead and garden “Buda”. It had been many years since I had been there and I was disappointed to see that the house and, particularly, the garden were not in very good order. When we visited the station at Castlemaine, we discovered that the steam train to Maldon was operating but that the only remaining trip would terminate at Maldon. I bought Joan and Russell tickets so they could have a ride while I drove the car. I had a lot of fun trying to find roads that followed the railway so I could wave as the train went past!

"Buda" at Castlemaine. Note the weeds on the steps!

Steam Engine
I had a lot of photo opportunities as I waited for the train to pass.

For my birthday, in July, my friends organised a ride on Puffing Billy to the converted packing shed at Nobelius Siding. We had an excellent smorgasbord dinner and there were displays about the history of the Nobelius Nursery and its relationship with the railway. Unfortunately, despite Jenny being told that it would be “quiet”, there was a band that played gradually louder and louder until it became most unpleasant. I would certainly not want to be there on a night which was not “quiet”! Nevertheless, it was a great night and a ride on Puffing Billy is always a wonderful thing to experience. There is nothing quite like the sound and smell of a steam engine!

The highlight of the year was definitely a trip to Kangaroo Island with Satoshi in September. The wonderful thing about this island is that there are no foxes or rabbits to interfere with the native wildlife. Consequently, there are so many animals that one has to be very cautious when driving in order not to injure things! The island is quite large (155km east to west and 55km north to south) so we stayed at three different places during our visit. We were there for twelve days and only just managed to fit everything in. We enjoyed spectacular ocean views, walks, quiet roads, friendly locals, tours of various wildlife parks, a eucalyptus distillery, two honey farms, a lavender farm, three lighthouses, Kelly Hill Caves, a spectacular garden of Australian native plants, Seal Bay, Admiral’s Arch, a penguin tour, a nocturnal animal tour, a raptor show (birds of prey) and more! Needless to say, I can highly recommend the island to anyone interested in wildlife, coastal scenery, native plants or just a place to “get away”!

black board
"Old Tailem Town" near Tailem Bend is claimed to be Australia's largest Pioneer Village.
It had many buildings and interesting collections but much of it was in poor repair. Judging from this blackboard, it is no wonder that the school no longer operates!

One of "Old Tailem Town's" many collections

methodist church & nun
We wondered why there was a nun in this Methodist Church at "Old Tailem Town"!

Tim with Python
Paul's Place: The best wildlife park ever!

Detour here for more photos of Kangaroo Island - You can come back here when you have seen them!

Satoshi turned 30 in October and his birthday was celebrated at “The Cuckoo” in Olinda. Much went into the planning of this event as it was to be a surprise for Satoshi and we wanted everything to be good. I thought that email would be the best way to invite people to the event. Email is a wonderful tool in that you can send the same message to many people at once. Using my list of people in the Occasional Choir and the Church, I happily emailed the invitation. The only problem was that I had neglected to consider that among the names on the list was... Satoshi!! I received an email from him a little later saying that he didn’t think he was supposed to get that! Jenny commented that she had thought of this possibility but she didn’t say anything because she didn’t think I could be that stupid!!! In the end, fifty of Satoshi’s family, friends and work colleagues shared a sumptuous Afternoon Tea together and we all had a great time!

Satoshi with some of his friends and his "Quoll" birthday cake!

I am still the Director of Music at St Paul’s, East Kew. The choir, although small, is enthusiastic and we manage to sing some good music. I am also the President of the Friends of Anglican Music. This group meets four times a year to sing Choral Evensong. More often than not I am called upon to be the conductor at these events. It can be quite scary because you never know who is going to turn up or what their capabilities might be. Although there are only 90 minutes of rehearsal time, we always manage somehow and there is nothing like a choir of 60 or more people singing some of the wonderful hymns and anthems of the Anglican tradition.

Occasional Choir
The St Paul's Occasional Choir on the night of the Carol Service 2011

So, here we are at the end of another year. It has been very full and busy but it has included some wonderful experiences, great fun, laughter, and the company of my special group of friends. The season of Christmas is a very special time. It gives us an opportunity to spend time with loved ones and friends and to consider again the great gift of the child in the manger. I hope that you had a wonderful day on the 25th of December and that you will have a happy and healthy 2012.

With love and good wishes,


Read letters from previous years