nativity scene
I photographed this Nativity window in Tewkesbury Abbey on the 9th December, 2016     

Dear Friends,

As you are all too aware, 2021 turned out to be a lot more like 2020 than any of us would have wanted. We all know why so I won’t go there.

Every year, when I come to write this letter, I am amazed at how many wonderful experiences I manage to cram into 12 months. It took me ages to look through all the photos I took during 2021 in order to choose the best ones to publish here. They are only a small fraction of the available photos!

January was, as usual, mostly quiet and relaxing. There was the traditional visit to Ocean Grove to spend the day with Jenny and Darryl, in the company of Satoshi, Joan, Russell, Alan (Jenny's brother) and Valmai (Jenny's sister). Also, as usual, I spent a day with Prue at her place in Cape Paterson with Chris Hepworth and Barbara McSkimming (all past teachers at Chatham).
School was mostly good this year. On the positive side, I had a small class of only 17 Year 3 students and the members of staff with whom I worked were all wonderful colleagues. On the other hand, I had one very difficult student who was very disruptive almost all the time. Fortunately, I had strong support form the Principal who understood the situation and the student was removed from the class when things got really out of hand. My friend Anne Geddes visited my grade once a week in the early part of the year before lock down. She helped with correction, answered multitudes of questions, supported some students who needed assistance and read some picture-story books. The students enjoyed the times she was with us and it was lovely to have her there. During the last week of school, Anne ran a very successful art lesson for both Year 3 classes during which the students created a centrepiece for their Christmas table. Anne is a natural with children!

Anne with Satoshi and me enjoying lunch at "Miss Marple's" in Sassafras.

Once again, many weeks of the year were spent working from home. Remote teaching does have positive aspects such as not being ruled by the school bell, increased flexibility, no yard duty, greatly reduced discipline issues, being able to eat when hungry, and going to the toilet whenever the need arises! It was, however, good to get back to face-to-face teaching for most of Term 4. Those students who chose their parents wisely, or were very conscientious, flourished during remote learning. Those who lacked a strong work ethic, or who need the social contact of others, found life very difficult.

Having very much enjoyed our silo art experience last year, Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I decided to follow the North East Victoria Silo Art Trail
over the March long weekend. We were not disappointed. The trail includes painted silos at the small towns of Goorambat, Devenish, Tungamah and St James and the significant Winton Wetlands. We were amazed and delighted by what we found.

The art work at Goorambat

Silos at Devenish

The art work on the silos at St James is dedicated to Sir George Coles, the founder of the Coles retail group.

The artwork at Tungamah

Our visit to the area also included some time spent at the Eldorado Dredge. This huge machine only operated from 1936 - 1954 but it dredged 30,000,000 cubic metres from the river flats on the plain from which 70,664 ounces of gold and 1,383 tons of tin concentrate were extracted. It was the third largest consumer of electricity after Melbourne and Geelong! Some idea of the scale involved can be ascertained from the picture of Satoshi in one of the buckets. I have visited this remarkable relic several times over the last 50 years and it was good to see that it is being looked after and that one can now gain access onto it via a gangway.

You may need to zoom in to read these interesting facts, not the least of which is that the machine could be heard from 11.3 km away!


As Satoshi had never been to the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo, he and I decided to go on a road trip over 12 days in the April holidays. The route included Holbrook, Gundagai, Young, Cowra, Bathurst, Milthorpe, Orange, Wellington, Dubbo, Parkes, Forbes, Darlington Point, Jerilderie, Tocumwal and Kyabram.

Although I have travelled through Holbrook a number of times, I had never had time to explore the Woolpack Inn Museum (despite it being there since 1971!) This old pub was absolutely crammed with interesting exhibits.
The "Gestetner" was used for printing multiple copies of printing on paper. It works by the use of a wax paper stencil. The stencil was put into a typewriter like a piece of paper. As one typed, the typewriter keys cut holes in the wax paper. When the stencil was put onto the Gestetner machine, one would turn the handle (seen on the machine on the right. This caused a piece of paper to be pressed against the stencil forcing ink through the holes of the stencil onto the paper. I used to create documents for the choir and congregation at St Mary's in Chadstone using a machine like this in the mid 1970s.

The museum also includes an extensive collection of buildings, including this old school room.

A highlight of Bathurst was Abercrombie House, a grand home built in 1870, in "Scottish Baronial" style. It is still lived in by its current owners, only the second family to reside there. Visiting the house is an unusual experience because its contents include items of great historical interest all the way down to what can only be described as junk!

The pipe organ in the ballroom is one of the oldest in Australia having been built in England in 1840 and installed in the newly-erected St John's Anglican Church in Canberra.

Housed in a lovely old school building dating back to 1876, the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum contains
, not surprisingly, a collection of fossils and minerals. I am not particularly interested in either but this collection is truly worth a visit. Satoshi and I spent at least two hours there.

We thought it likely that the gentleman depicted here was not quite ready for the size of the tyrannosaurus rex when he entered the room!

It is possible to drive around the aptly-named Mount Panorama Circuit where the famous Bathurst 1000 car race is held.

The views were wonderful!

Chifley Dam supplies the people of Bathurst with potable water. One can drive across the wall and, again, there were lovely views. It was a very peaceful and quiet place to visit.

The Bathurst Historical Society has several museums including the Bathurst Historical Museum and the Bathurst Rail Museum. The Bathurst Historical Museum is housed in part of the Court House building, the left-most section in the photo.

It holds a small but interesting collection of artefacts including the one below. Can you guess what it is? You will find the answer at the bottom of the page.

The Bathurst Rail Museum includes Australia's largest model railway. It was difficult to photograph it in its entirety!

From this map, showing the railway lines in NSW in 1930, one can get an idea of how many lines and stations have been closed.

When researching things to see at Bathurst, we noticed that there is a Japanese Garden. It was not easy to find because it consists only of several boulders and a couple of bushes!

Although somewhat underwhelmed by the garden, I did manage to get a photo of this resident cockatoo!

The town of Milford has a lovely old station building which is now a café, and an extensive museum.

What an enormous traction engine! Such a pity it is not operational!

In Orange, we caught up with Kaylyn and Clyde Roe (Clyde is Darryl's brother) at Lake Canobolas. We went for a stroll around the lake and then enjoyed morning tea at the café. It was great to see the water flowing over the wall.

The nearby Lake Canobolas lookout was very impressive!

We enjoyed lunch at the café at Orange Botanic Gardens. during which I managed to "snap" a local galah.

Having watched an interesting episode of "Restoration Australia" concerning Emmaville Cottage, it was interesting to see it "in the flesh".
There is considerable controversy over whether it was a childhood home of Banjo Paterson or not. It is now located just outside the Orange Botanical Gardens.

The Orange Society of Model Engineers operates at Matthews Park in Orange. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were not able to get a train ride but it was great to see the engines steamed up and to chat with a couple of drivers. The engines are worth around $30,000 each!

The Wellington Caves Complex is located near Apsley, between Orange and Dubbo. There are a number of caves at the complex and we were able to enjoy a tour of the Cathedral Cave...

...and the old Phosphate Mine which includes a large number of fossils.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo did not disappoint. Unlike most zoos, the most common way of viewing the animals is to drive around the property, stopping at given places to see some of the 350 species housed there. There were many great photo opportunities and the animals all appeared to be looked after really well. One can also walk or cycle.

Dubbo Regional Botanic Gardens provided a peaceful place to visit. As you can see, we were so lucky with the weather!

The Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Experience, provided an opportunity to learn about this vital service to those living in remote areas of the country. It is one of the best-designed museums I have ever visited.

In the Bible, Isaiah 6, one reads about the six-winged seraphim or "fiery angels". I had never seen a representation of them until visiting the lovely Anglican Church at Dubbo.
There were many other beautiful windows there.

Dundullimal Homestead is a National Trust property on the outskirts of Dubbo. It is believed to be the oldest sophisticated slab house in Australia. "Built in the early 1840s as the head station of a 6,500 hectare (26,000 acres) squatting run, the homestead is Dubbo’s oldest building that is open to the public. Its interior is remarkably sophisticated for its genre, with louvres and multiple-pane glazed openings onto the verandah. The imposing sitting room is noted for its ‘tent’ shaped plaster ceiling and wallpaper, reproduced from an 1850 patent. The master bedroom is complete with an iron bed and a campaign chest." The land now occupied by the Western Plains Zoo was once part of the estate. We watched a video which showed some of the restoration work which was required on the house. It was almost a total wreck when the task was begun. We were amazed that the homestead could be saved.

This is definitely the largest Coolgardie safe I have ever seen. It was almost the size of a small room!

What a great idea!

Our final visit during our stay in Dubbo was to the Old Dubbo Gaol. It was quite an eerie, sobering experience to see the conditions in which prisoners were kept, especially considering that the gaol did not close until 1966.

The huge radio telescope at Parkes was another interesting place to visit.

While I agree that rubbish bins should be provided for the use of visitors, having almost one bin per car parking space is perhaps a little over the top?

The Henry Parkes Museum contains another large collection. Although all these "local" museums are somewhat similar, there are always two or three things of particular interest in each. At this museum, two such items were the emu egg and the clock below. The clock itself is nothing special really until one reads its amazing story!

The Forbes Historical Society Museum is yet another interesting place which is well worth a visit.

The exhibits included the old wood-burning stove above together with the rather wonderful "instructions" below.

When one finds things from one's own lifetime in a museum, one starts to feel one's age! We had a kettle exactly like this one. It was used for camping when we used to go to Wilson's Promontory in the 1960s.

Another example of a "Gestetner" machine. It's easier to see the two rollers in this photo.

McFeeters Motor Museum houses a large number of beautifully restored cars, all of which are in working order. The building was purpose-built. The owner's wife provides the mannequins, all correctly-attired to suit the period of the cars.

A very good year!

I can remember desperately wanting a pedal tractor exactly like this one when I was young child!

Altina Wildlife Park is a place I had not heard of before this trip. It is located on the Sturt Highway. This zoo operates like a safari park. Visitors are taken around in a motorised vehicle, or by horse-drawn vehicle. Sadly, we did not book ahead of time enough to enjoy the latter option. An advantage of this modus operandi is that the animals have been trained to come up to the fence of their enclosures as the vehicles arrive. This means visitors can get a close-up view of creatures which would otherwise be hiding somewhere at the back. Also, keepers can command the animals to stand up against the fence and open their mouths. This allows the keeper to check paws and teeth without the need to tranquillise the animal first. (It also means, of course, that the animals get lots of treats!) Once again, the animals appeared to be in a very healthy condition. We hope to visit Altina Wildlife Park again!

Satoshi is very interested in railways (both old and new) so we often venture a little off the beaten track to search for relics. This is the old station building at Jerilderie.

Our last stop as we travelled homewards was Kyabram Fauna Park. This park is more traditional in that one wanders around the property at will. Happily, the animals here appeared to be healthy and well-looked after.

Our next outing was later in April, over the Anzac Day Long Weekend. This time, we had the pleasure of the company of Jenny, Darryl, Joan and Russell. Russell spent many of the school holidays during his youth staying with his grandmother in the town of Bealiba. He likes to attend the Anzac Day ceremony there because he meets people that he knows from that time (or their relatives). This year, the ceremony was very brief and informal due to COVID-19. There was no band or march down the main road.

The three photos above are of Maryborough Railway Station. The first was taken during breakfast in the café (which used to be the Tea Rooms in the days of the Victorian Railways).

The panoramic view from the Bristol Hill Pioneer Memorial Tower at Maryborough.

Whenever we stay at Maryborough (or anywhere nearby) we always have dinner at Caroline's Colonial Restaurant in Carisbrook (about 5kms from Maryborough). The food here is always wonderful, the garden a peaceful place to wander around between courses, and we are on first name terms with the owners, Sally and Michael.

Russell's uncle and brother went to the First World War and their names are inscribed on the pillars in front of Bealiba's Town Hall.

Although the population of Bealiba appears to be growing, the main street is always very quiet. Even the pub has closed now!

The station at Bealiba is leased out to a local couple who keep it in excellent repair. They have done a lot of research to find what colours the station was painted in originally.

This is Violet Cottage, which used to belong to Russell's grandmother. The current owners could be considered to be "Bohemian" and had an collection or artwork and junk for sale in the front garden.

Sadly, during 2021, a number of friends died. I felt the passing of three of these particularly:

Bill Adams lived in Moe and was a stalwart of the church music "scene". He was a regular at RSCM (Royal School of Church Music) events from as early as I can remember, and a strong supporter of FOAM (the Friends of Anglican Music). He had moved from his house into a retirement home and had given me much of his huge collection of choral music and books on various subjects in which he and I had a shared interest.

Iain McKenzie was probably the most loyal chorister in any of my choirs. He was in the choir at St Mary's in Chadstone from when I reformed it in 1977, moved with me to St John's East Malvern in 1989, and was a member of the St Paul's East Kew Occasional Choir for all the 23 years I was there. He was renowned for his quick wit. An example of this was an occasion when two ladies of the choir were having a disagreement. One, of a quite substantial build was addressing an older lady who was short and slim, 
"I suppose you are riding home on your broomstick you old hag!" Iain, without missing a beat, commented,
"Yeah, it's parked right next to yours. Yours is the one with four engines!"
I don't know how he got away with this activity but his comments were always accompanied by a twinkle in his eye. Iain and his wife, Val, were the cooks for many of the Lorne Camps I used to run. Every year, Iain would tell the children that he was writing a book entitled "101 Ways to Get Rid of Small Children". Some of the brighter children caught on to his wit and would ask questions such as,
"What's No. 55?". Iain would always respond with methods such as "put piranhas in the toilets"! Iain always cooked bacon and eggs or French toast for breakfast. Many a child was introduced to these foods at camp and went home to ask his or her parents to do likewise!

I had known Pat Wood since 1989, when I made the move to be Director of Music at St John's, East Malvern. Pat's daughter, Linda, sang in the choir. Pat was born in the same month and year as my mother (January, 1924). She shared many Christmas and New Year celebrations with us all. Those of you familiar with hospital routines will be aware of "Pat Slides" which are used to help move patients from trolley to beds or vice versa. It was Pat's husband, George, who invented this now commonly-used equipment and he named it after his wife. His invention was never patented, he preferred to let everyone have use of it freely. George died a number of years ago now.

All these friends had long, happy, and fulfilling lives so I couldn't be too sad.

During the July holidays, I was fortunate enough to travel to Phillip Island for a short stay and then to Warrnambool for a longer trip.

On the way to Philip Island, we had lunch with Daphne and Joe Proietto who have a lovely property at Woolamai. Jenny worked with Daphne (a piano teacher who specialises in teaching students who are profoundly disadvantaged by autism, often achieving outstanding results). She now runs a program called "Keys of Life" through which music teacher and therapists can be trained to "cater to the unique abilities of their students, using Daphne Proietto’s ‘Pro Method’ of piano teaching". Joe is a renowned medical expert who has published over 200 articles and several books on obesity and diabetes. They are very gracious hosts who went to a lot of trouble to ensure that Jenny, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I enjoyed our time with them very much. It was most interesting to hear of some aspects of their work. We had a happy couple of days exploring Philip Island, including a visit to the Phillip Island Wildlife Park.

A honey eater at the property of Daphne and Joe.

Pyramid Rock

So that's why it's called a "Blue Tongue" lizard!

After a day at home, Jenny, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I headed off down the Great Ocean Road to Warrnambool. Jenny was hoping to see a whale but, although we visited the viewing platform a number of times, we had no luck. Despite the cold weather, we had a great time over the next week exploring Warrnambool and its surrounds. We particularly liked the
Gourmet Trail! As always, it was a delight to spend time with my closest friends. We all get on really well and there is never a cross word between us. We do share crosswords as we travel though!

Satoshi and Jenny at Teddy's Lookout, Lorne.

Some of the remaining "Twelve Apostles" near Port Campbell.

Still smiling despite another failed attempt to see any whales!

Satoshi made a new friend at one of the wineries on the Gourmet Trail.

A view over Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, an extinct volcano near Warrnambool.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is located at Warrnambool. We attended the sound and light show one night and then walked around the township the next day. The museum contains several relics from the wreck of the "Loch Ard".

Remarkably, this magnificent peacock survived the sinking of the "Loch Ard" and is displayed at Flagstaff Hill. It is insured for $4,000,000!

I wish some of my students obeyed these rules!

I'm too cute to eat on Thanksgiving Day!

During a quick visit to Port Fairy, we walked across the causeway to Griffiths Island.

Starlings used to be very common in the garden but I don't see many of them these days.

It is a 400 metre walk to the lighthouse. Joan and Russell did amazingly well considering they are both well into their 90s and they were using their walkers on a rough track!

There's not a whole lot left at Inverleigh Railway Station!

Victoria is sometimes known as the "Garden State", with good reason. We are so blessed to have many beautiful gardens to visit for free. One of these is the "National Rhododendron Garden" in Olinda which we visited one day in October.

To celebrate being let out of lock down, Satoshi and I spent the second weekend in November at Macs Cove, near Mansfield. We stayed in a very comfortable converted barn with a friendly donkey and three alpacas for company. We explored Mansfield, Jamieson and Eildon.

Satoshi is standing at the junction of the Jamieson and Goulburn Rivers.

Some residents of the small zoo at Mansfield

There was a LOT of water going over the Snob's Creek Falls.

Lunch on Christmas Day - a happy gathering to celebrate the birth of our Lord with my closest friends. It is a wonderful privilege to be able to host this special occasion each year.

I count myself very blessed in so many aspects of my life. A lot of people have been doing a lot of whinging about all aspects of the way various governments have handled the epidemic but, really, is there any other country you would rather live in right now? I work at a great school with friendly, caring and supportive colleagues. I live in a comfortable house surrounded by excellent neighbours in a pleasant suburb. I have enough money to buy anything I really need. I have the best friends anyone could hope for. I thank God for all this but, especially for Satoshi. He is such a caring and supportive friend and I'm sure there is not a more patient, contented or easy-going person in the whole of Australia! He is so easy to live with!

I hope each of you has had a wonderful Christmas and that 2022 will bring you health and happiness.

With love,


The answer:
It's a water filter! It's made from porous rock. Water added at the top would seep through the rock and drip out a the bottom, thus removing any impurities.

PS: If you would like to read my letters from previous years, please click here.