nativity window

Nativity Window in Nelson Cathedral, New Zealand

Dear Friends,

Once again, twelve months have gone by in what seems to have been the fastest time ever! The year 2012 has been another settled and happy year for me. My life has continued, as it has in recent years, to be very busy - full of a wide variety of work and leisure activities - but essentially peaceful and fulfilling.

Chatham Primary School continues to be a great place to work. All the teachers work well together and support each other. The students are mostly from supportive families and are usually happy to be at school.

I have been the Director of Music at St Paul’s, East Kew, for 18 years now. The musical life of the parish is strong - as witnessed by our most successful Christmas Carol Service last Sunday. The church was full, the choir sang very well and even the weather was kind to us! Music is important to the members of the congregation and they are always very appreciative of my work for the parish.


St Paul's Choir, November, 2012

Part of this work is to select the hymns to be sung each week. This involves studying the Bible readings for the Sunday in question and considering the “season” of the church’s calendar together with any local event to take place. It is not always an easy task to find hymns which complement these criteria!

The highlight of the January holidays was undoubtedly my trip to Canberra with Barbara and Satoshi. The reason for this expedition was to visit the Renaissance Exhibition at the National Gallery. This included works by such masters as Raphael, Botticelli, Bellini and Titian. The paintings are usually housed in Italy so it was really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view them! It is only when one sees the paintings in “real life” that their beauty and the skill of the artists can be truly appreciated.

An unexpected (and exciting!) part of the trip was our visit to the Canberra Zoo (which I hadn’t even heard of until we were in Canberra). Satoshi and I went on what is called the “Zooventure Tour”. This involved touring the zoo with a small group led by a keeper. We were taken to parts of the zoo usually off-limits to the public and had the wonderful experiences of hand feeding


a lion,


a tiger,


a cougar,


a giraffe

and other animals.


Bears licked honey from the palms of our hands


and we were able to hold a python.

It was truly a memorable tour!

The rest of the trip included visits to a number of churches, historic railway stations and towns such as Gundagai, Cooma, Bombala and


Sunset at Gundagai


It's a long wait for a train at Nimmitabel Station!

The remainder of January was a time of rest and relaxation. I enjoyed a day at Ocean Grove with the Roe family and several dinners with friends.

The arrival of February meant I was back at school. This year, I was fortunate enough to have a double classroom for my grade. Having the extra room meant increased flexibility in the delivery of lessons and there were noticeably fewer quarrels between the children as they had the space to get away from each other more easily.

As usual, I subscribed to a number of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concerts during the year, all of which were excellent, some being outstanding! There were three that I especially enjoyed. The first was in the “The Plenary” (part of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre). This space seats over 5,000 people and there were not many empty seats for this concert of music from the television series “Dr Who”. The MSO was conducted by Murray Gold, the composer of the music in the recent series. Clips from some of the episodes were shown and the orchestra played the soundtrack. Some of the characters were there “in the flesh”, including the infamous “Daleks”. The second concert was in the Melbourne Town Hall and included “Belshazzar’s Feast” a large-scale work for orchestra, two brass ensembles and choir by William Walton. This is a very complex piece of music but the MSO and Chorus handled it superbly! The third concert of particular note was in the newly-renovated Hamer Hall. This concert featured a showing of the film version of “West Side Story”. The orchestral section of the sound track had been removed and was played by the orchestra as the film was showing. Of course, in the original film, the music was recorded over many different sessions but the MSO had to play it all as the film rolled on. This was an extremely difficult feat and again, the MSO was faultless.

In early March, there was the Church Camp. This time it was held on a farm near Mt Macedon. It was a happy weekend filled with the usual activities such as board games, walking, jigsaw puzzles, the trivia night and opportunities for worship.

Leading up to Easter, the Occasional Choir rehearsed Stainer’s oratorio “The Crucifixion”. This was performed
on the Sunday before Easter. We were fortunate to have excellent soloists and the Choir rose to the occasion magnificently. There were many kind words of thanks and praise from those who attended.

The mid-year holidays included a trip to Queensland. I travelled by train with Jenny, Darryl and Satoshi. The journey was broken by a day spent in Sydney. The time in Queensland was spent at a church Convention, a few days at the Gold Coast (Movie World and Sea World!), and then some time enjoying the spectacular natural features of the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast and a visit to Australia Zoo.


Dolphins at Sea World


Brolga at Australia Zoo


Purling Brook Falls in Springbrook National Park

The highlight of the year came in September when Jenny, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I travelled to New Zealand! We spent two weeks touring around the South Island. The months of planning for this trip were rewarded by breathtaking scenery, a train journey from coast to coast, a cruise on Doubtful Sound, a trip on the 100-year-old steamship the TSS Earnslaw, a dinner and a night at Larnach Castle and many happy meals together at some of the country’s restaurants.

all of us

On the way to Doubtful Sound

m moeraki boulders

Boulders on the beach at Moeraki


Larnach Castle and its Dining Room

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

Kingston Flyer steamship

The Kingston Flyer and the TSS Earnslaw


1000kg of molten chocolate at the Cadbury Factory!

blossom tree tulips

Huge blossom tree and tulips at Walter Peak High Country Farm

We travelled around in a large motor-home which I drove. Most of the time, this was fine. On one occasion, however, I had great difficulty parking at the station for our train trip. After much forwarding and reversing, I managed to get more or less stuck. I had at least 5 millimetres between the motor home and the adjoining car. Luckily, I managed to get the vehicle out without any scraping of paint (or worse!). Having managed this driving feat, I noticed that Jenny was missing. It was getting quite close to the departure time of the train and I was becoming a little concerned. We decided that she must have gone to the platform. When we arrived at the station booking office, Jenny was just concluding the purchase of tickets (an expense of over $1000!). The only problem was that I had already purchased tickets months in advance! We did
get a refund but it took some days to come through!

We visited several churches and three cathedrals. At Nelson Cathedral, I was able to play the organ because I am acquainted with the immediate past organist. This was a great treat!

organ console

The organ and console of Nelson Cathedral


Our time together in New Zealand was very happy and the best part was that, because we had all been contributing to a joint bank account, it felt like the trip cost nothing! I had budgeted carefully and we ended up with a little left over in our holiday account! New Zealand is a wonderful holiday destination and I certainly hope that this was not my last visit.


Near Picton

On the appropriate date of the 13th October, the same happy travellers ventured to Ballarat. This trip was partially to celebrate Satoshi’s birthday so we enjoyed walking around the beautiful Botanical Gardens, an excellent lunch at the restaurant near the lake and an afternoon at the “Tangled Maze” (just a few kilometres out of Ballarat).


Poppy and visitor at the Botanical Gardens, Ballarat

At this point, Joan and Darryl having “chickened out”, the remainder of the party drove to Ararat to the Aradale Asylum for a night tour! The asylum was built in stages from 1864 and finally closed in 1998. As we arrived, it was getting dark and the deteriorating façade was a forlorn and eerie site. The tour was disappointing in that the guide seemed to have little knowledge of the building and spent much of the time hiding behind doors and popping out in (mostly failed) attempts to scare people. It was, however, very interesting to see inside some of the empty buildings, imagining what a dreadful life it must have been for the poor “inmates”. It was getting towards midnight when we left and we still had the two-hour drive home! Having not had much sleep, my performance on the organ at Church the next day was not one of my best!


Aradale Asylum, Ararat

My mother is now 88 years old and is beginning to fail. She has moved from her unit into the hostel section of the Parkglen Retirement Village (the same village where she has been). She gets all meals provided and doesn’t have to do washing or cleaning. She spent a while in hospital in October following a suspected stroke but has now recovered almost completely - to the point where the doctors are not sure that she did have a stroke. It could have been a serious urinary tract infection. She can walk with the aid of a frame but is quite unsteady and frail. Although she is beginning to be forgetful (especially about current or recent events), she seems happy and settled.

A trip to the theatre is always a great way to spend an evening and I have been very fortunate to see a number of shows this year. These included “Yes, Prime Minister!”, “Barry Humphries”, “Sir Richard Attenborough”, “South Pacific” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”. I also enjoyed a performance of “Beauty and the Beast” which was a combined effort of PLC and Scotch College. Although “only” a school production, the cast, orchestra and sets were all excellent.

For the first time ever, I have had some Long Service Leave this year. My last day of teaching was on 7th November. Although I have not done anything particularly notable during this time, I have loved the opportunity to get up whenever I feel like it, have breakfast in a leisurely fashion and enjoy each day as it comes. I did make several visits to school in order to play the piano for the choir and attend some other events. It is said that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and every time my class saw me there was a chorus of cheering!

Because of the Long Service Leave, the lead up to this Christmas has been far less stressful than usual. I have done all my Christmas shopping! I am going into the holiday period already feeling relaxed and rested. As usual, I am looking forward to Christmas Day Lunch with many of my special friends. I am very grateful to be part of such a special circle of friends. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, safe and relaxing holidays and a happy and healthy 2013.

With love,


Read Christmas Letters from other years