The Nativity Window at Christ Church, St.Kilda

Dear Friends,

As at this time every year, it seems scarcely credible that it is time to send you Christmas Greetings but the calendar and the relentless “carols” blaring at the supermarkets bear witness to the truth of the matter.

The year 2022 has been another full and fulfilling twelve months. My role at school has been different in that I opted to take leave without pay from my ongoing teaching position at Chatham Primary School. In negotiating this with the Principal, it was agreed that I would be “first cab off the rank” with regard to providing casual relief teaching at the school during the year. This meant that I taught all grades and specialist areas (even Physical Education!) at various times. There was freedom from meetings, planning, writing reports, dealing with parents and a host of other tasks associated with full-time teaching. I found that this allowed me to concentrate on the needs of those students who were in my care at any particular time without all the other extraneous tasks competing for my time. It was surprisingly refreshing. It also worked well for the school as it has been very difficult to procure the services of casual relief teachers during the year. The negative aspect to this has been quite a hit to the bank balance! Although one is paid a little more per day as a casual teacher, one is not paid for holidays, sick days or non-teaching days. In 2023, I have opted to return to standard teaching for three days a week (which will be in a Year 4 class) and to be available for casual relief teaching for the other two days. This, I hope, will maintain a good work/home balance. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful Principal in Chris Cotching and Assistant Principal in Georgie Kirwan. They are so easy to work with, as are all my colleagues.

The key event in January was a trip to Tasmania with Satoshi. We had wanted to fly and hire a car but found that the price of car rental was prohibitive (almost ludicrous in fact) so we opted to travel on the Spirit of Tasmania and take my car with us. Unfortunately, we had left it a little late to book. Availability of passage and commitments for Satoshi later in the month combined to limit our visit to only eight nights. Nevertheless, we had a very enjoyable and relaxing time. As is usual with us, we visited a number of wildlife parks and other sites relating to animals and also several places of historic interest. I was not looking forward to the voyage very much as I have a tendency to feel seasick. As it happened, I was fine but Satoshi felt a bit queasy. As he was having trouble sleeping, he got up to go for a walk. He got talking to one of the crew who suggested that he should try sleeping with his head towards the centre of the ship rather than towards the window of the cabin. He found that this worked really well for him!

A highlight of Devonport was a visit to Home Hill. This fascinating timber house was home to Prime Minister Joseph Lyons and Dame Enid Lyons together with their 12 children. As our tour progressed, our admiration for Dame Enid only increased. She was the first woman to serve in Federal Cabinet, one of the first two women to be elected to Federal Parliament and was made a Dame twice. These feats were impressive enough but it was what she managed to do around the house that impressed us the most.

The house was built in 1916.

The Dining Room

Dame Enid wanted "crazy paving" so she laid it herself!

Originally, this table was double this size and it had four legs. It wouldn't fit where she wanted it in the house so she simply sawed it in half. The table now leans against the wall!

She changed doorways into display cabinets (doing the work herself).

During works on a nearby freeway, cracks appeared in the wall. Enid fixed this by painting this tree - the large bough on the left covers the crack!

The family enjoyed putting on amateur theatricals. The boy on the right is a very young Errol Flynn!

Highfield Historic Site is near Stanley in the northwest-corner of the state. Here we were able to explore the Regency period homestead (built from 1826 for the Van Diemen's Land Company) as well as various outbuildings and some gardens. The history was fascinating and everything was in excellent condition. Originally, the site included a staggering 350,000 acres. These days, it claims only 9.5 acres. During our visit, it was lovely to catch up with long-time friend, Rosemary Murphy. Rosemary sang in the choir of St Mary's in Chadstone so I have known her for about 45 years. We enjoyed dinner with her at a local pub.

The School Room

This instruction for children is, sadly, not followed very much these days!

Rosemary and Satoshi

The town of Stanley is famous for "The Nut", a volcanic plug that rises high above the surrounding area. One can hike up to the top, or travel via the chairlift.

The Nut viewed from Highfield

The view from half way up the nut, from the chairlift.

A few kilometres to the east is Table Cape Lighthouse. We were pleased to find that the lighthouse was open for tours. As we were the only visitors at that time, we had a private tour! Sadly, it was SO windy that it was not possible to even open the door to the balcony at the top, far less step outside!

Unusually, the internal wall has had all its white paint removed. This cost an enormous amount of money and was necessary because the bricks had become damp and the water couldn't get past the paint. The effect was quite pleasing, I thought.

The View near the Lighthouse

This photo shows how strong the wind was!

Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary is located at Mole Hill and is dedicated to looking after native Tasmanian wildlife.

A resident Tasmanian Devil

Quolls are Satoshi's favourite animal.

What big (and very clean) teeth you have! The quoll was yawning!

And what sharp claws you have!

In Launceston, we went on a Tamar River Cruise. This was a very pleasant experience and we saw a variety of interesting sites.

There were a number of lovely old homes perched on the banks of the river.

A view through the window of the ferry.

These silos have been converted into a hotel. A very imaginative re-purposing, I thought.

This playground is provided by the hotel.

There are actually three bridges which cross the South Esk River.

The first one-lane span was imported from Manchester and constructed in 1864.

The second span (also one-lane) is an almost exact copy of the first but this one was made in Launceston. The third span, is a much more modern structure but SO ugly in comparison!

Penny Royal is a tourist complex located near Cataract Gorge in Launceston. It includes a recreation of the infamous Sarah Island (where female convicts were kept), a "river caves" type boat ride depicting some convict history and a cliff walk along rope bridges which includes some "zip lines" (similar to a flying fox). I generously chose to forgo this last "pleasure" in order that I could take some photos of Satoshi completing the course!

The waterfall is artificial (runs by a pump) but quite nice nevertheless.

"Sarah Island" in the middle of the lake.

Located on the wharf at Beauty Point is Seahorse World which is dedicated to seahorse breeding, education and conservation. Seahorses are bred here on a massive scale for export to aquariums all over the world. The tour was fascinating. A sideline of this enterprise is an attempt to save the Spotted Handfish from extinction. This species is only found in the estuary of the Derwent River.

The Spotted Handfish is one of the rarest species of fish in the world.

Tasmania Zoo is located at Riverside, near Launceston. We were impressed by the quality of care provided, range of animals and ease of viewing in this wildlife park as in others in the state.

A capybara is related to guinea pigs. They are little over a metre in length and are native to South America.

A lemur

Tasmania Zoo has several "experiences" which can be purchased in addition to the entry fee. We didn't choose the giraffe experience, but this person did.

We opted for the Tasmanian Devil Experience which enabled us to get up close and personal with one!

This was a huge tiger lily bush, the flowers were magnificent!

A meerkat on lookout duty

Pearn's Steam World can be found in Westbury. It has a huge range of steam-driven machinery together with a range of early diesel motors. There are also some displays of a domestic nature.

This was a small, but working model of a traction engine. The seat at the rear (between the engine and the trailer) gives perspective of its size.

Some of the collection of early diesel motors which dated around the1920s.

This is easily the largest tractor I have ever seen. The driver is a life-size mannequin!

At Bicheno, we spent several hours at Natureworld. Although there was quite a bit of drizzle around, we enjoyed our visit very much.

The ponchos I keep in the car for emergencies came in handy.

A Cape Barren Goose

This Tasmanian Devil didn't seem to mind getting wet.

There were lots of quolls for Satoshi.

Who needs a head anyway? (A guinea fowl)

Oh, I found my head!

An advantage of the drizzle!

This peacock had plenty to say.

An Eclectus Parrot

A galah

A Corella

A Gang-Gang Cockatoo

Also at Bicheno is a blowhole. This was quite spectacular! It was quite fun waiting for just the right moment to take a photo.

This local resident is possibly a Purple Rock Crab.

Located on the east coast of Tasmania, 7.5 kilometres from the town of Swansea, the aptly but unimaginatively named "Spiky Bridge" was built by convicts in the mid 19th century. It is a testament to the skill of the builders that it remains in use around 175 years later!

Richmond Bridge is the oldest in Australia having been built over a 17 month period and opened in 1825. It is a very tranquil and peaceful place.

Dawn Day Cottage at Chauncy Vale was the childhood home of Nan Chauncy, a children's author. Probably her most famous book is "They Found a Cave" which was made into a movie in 1962. The house and large acreage of land was given to the local council so that it could remain a haven for wildlife. Apparently, it is possible to see platypuses in the creek within the property. We had a tour of the house. When they first moved in, there was no running water or electricity.

This tree was planted in 1918 to commemorate the signing of the Armistice. As you can see from the relative size of Satoshi, it's grown a little since then!

I'm sure that the many loaves of bread that would have been baked in this oven were absolutely delicious!

It does make one feel old when one finds familiar objects in museums. My father had a kerosene heater very similar to this out in the garage for when he was working on the car (a 1951 Wolseley 6/80).

Sadly, not many of the churches in Tasmania are kept open for visitors these days. We were able to visit St Michael and All Angels Church in Bothwell. This beautiful sandstone building was completed in 1891. For an interesting history and more photos, please click on the link.

Not many churches have a fireplace!

There were many lovely windows including "The Good Samaritan" and...

this Nativity window.

On our last day in Tasmania, as we were driving back towards "The Spirit of Tasmania", we only had enough time to visit either The Tasmanian Arboretum or go somewhere nice for dinner. I voted for the latter option but Satoshi wanted to visit the Arboretum as his research indicated that we might see a platypus. I thought that the likelihood of this was 0% but, begrudgingly, agreed to what I thought amounted to a wild goose chase. As it happened, the moment we arrived at the lake, we saw not one but TWO platypuses! The Arboretum was definitely worth a visit. It was quite late in the day so the birds were singing and there were hardly any other visitors present. There were some wonderful trees and plants. The website has some wonderful photos. And so it was McDonald's for dinner before boarding the ferry for our return home!

Steamrail is an organisation dedicated to the preservation of steam locomotives and anything to do with railways. On the Saturday of the Labour Day Weekend, Jenny, Joan, Russell, Satoshi and I ventured to the old Newport Railway Workshops for Steamrail's Open Day. There was a lot to see - many steam locomotives in steam and being shunted around. an old Tait "red rattler" train, various locomotives and carriages at various stages of restoration and many other interesting exhibits. It was a great day out! This is an annual event - highly recommended for those with even a passing interest in steam!

In one of the workshops

A current XPT train was one of the exhibits. The drivers' cabin was very comfortable!

This locomotive (Y112) was built in Ballarat in 1889. It was in use until 1961, a period of 72 years. I don't think any of our current locomotives will last anywhere near that long!

We were able to have a turn at operating this engine's whistle!

It was wonderful to be able to get so close to so many steam engines.

During the Easter holidays, Satoshi and I travelled to Sydney. The purpose of the visit was to attend an outdoor performance of the musical "The Phantom of the Opera". We had been looking forward to this as it had been booked months prior to the event. The big day came. The weather forecast was not promising. We had been advised that the performance would go ahead, even if it rained so off we went. The production was excellent. The set was imaginative and impressive; and the sound quality superb. Interval came. A check of the weather radar showed one of the largest storms I had ever seen approaching. At the end of interval, we returned to our seats and, along with almost every member of the audience, dressed ourselves in plastic ponchos. By this time the wind was getting up and even the most optimistic person would have worked out was was to happen. However, not the producers of the show, it seemed. Interval had now been much longer than advertised but we were assured by several announcements that the show would go ahead. Then, the only expression that comes anywhere near an apt description of what happened was "the heavens opened". The wind howled around us. Finally the announcement was made to evacuate the area! Despite the ponchos, we were already soaked to the skin. Then there was the problem of how to get back to the motel. An Uber was called. I was sure they would refuse to come out in the chaos but, fortunately, the car arrived in about 20 minutes. Although we had water pouring off us, we were allowed into the car and were whisked away. We wondered why they had kept us there for so long when it was obvious that the show would not be able to continue. Then the thought of a refund entered my mind - we had spent an enormous amount on the tickets. Delving into the fine print on Opera Australia's website, I found the information I was looking for and I was not happy. Provided that the show had been able to proceed to the interval, no refund would be offered. So that's why they kept us there, I thought: to make sure we were not eligible for a refund. Needless to say, Opera Australia was not my favourite organisation at this point! I tried phoning them on and off through the next day but could not get through. Clearly I was not the only disgruntled customer. I did spare a thought for the people answering the phones - it would not have been a great day for them. The next day, I saw that an email had arrived from Opera Australia. They had decided that we would get a refund even though they were not legally obliged to offer one. Well, not an actual refund it turned out but a credit that had to be used by the end of 2022. Not much use really when the only production to take place in Melbourne was... The Phantom of the Opera! (We had already booked for this too!). A little while later, the credit came in the form of a gift voucher. There was no mention of a "use by" date so I called. The gift voucher would be valid for three years! This, I thought, was more than fair - Opera Australia had redeemed itself!

We were in Sydney for six days so we had the opportunity to enjoy a range of experiences. The Royal Easter Show was a great experience. We travelled by public transport and joined what appeared to be thousands of people in a line to get in. Fortunately, the line moved quickly and we were soon inside the showgrounds. As with the Melbourne Show, there were show bags, exhibitions, animals, arts and crafts, cookery, rides and a range of entertainment. Highlights were the evening entertainment which included a hot-air balloon, a stockman show, precision driving and a fireworks display.

A "lasagne" pie was both new to me and delicious!

One of the winning cakes

The full size hot air balloon

The stockman show

The fireworks were worth waiting for!

We spent a couple of hours at Sydney Aquarium. There were hundreds of different sea creatures on display and all seemed to be looked after very well. It's not always easy to take photos through glass but I was pleased with some of the results.

Taronga Park Zoo is probably the most famous of the zoos in Sydney and it did not disappoint. We enjoyed several hours looking around there. It was difficult to choose just a few photos from the hundreds that I took!

When I saw this, I immediately thought of "Mr Toad" of "The Wind in the Willows"!

It was definitely worth taking a tour of the Sydney Opera House.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge (taken from the Opera House)

Although I've had this camera for six years, I'm still amazed at the capabilities of its zoom feature! The people in the photo were part of a tour of the bridge. We elected not to do it as the price was exhorbitent. It looks like fun though!

One does not get many perks as a teacher, so we were very pleased when we found we could get a half-price yearly ticket to all the "Merlin" attractions in Australia. This includes the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife, The Sydney Eye, Sydney Madame Tussaud's, Melbourne Aquarium and the Otway Fly (as well as some attractions in Queensland). We used all the Sydney options and have also visited the Otway Fly and Melbourne Aquarium. Our visit to Wildlife Sydney is recorded, photographically, below.

This is a stone curlew. Their principal means of defense is to stand totally still so it's no wonder that they are endangered!

Madame Tussaud's would probably not have made it onto our list of places to visit had it not been part of the package. We were very glad we did take the opportunity to go - we couldn't believe the number of famous people who were there too - and they were all willing to have their photo taken with us! (A bit eerily... "we could see dead people"!)

Bert Newton

Dame Edna Everage

Banjo Paterson

Henry Lawson

St Mary McKillop

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

Sally Pearson

Johnny Depp

Audrey Hepburn (I can't believe how slender she is - she sat there eating the whole time we were there.)

Leonardo DiCaprio

Vaucluse House was completed in 1839. It was owned by William Wentworth, one of the wealthiest men in Sydney at the time. It is now a museum and open to the public.

The Powerhouse Museum had many artefacts of interest and we enjoyed out time exploring each floor.

I did not know that Sydney had an Exhibition Building similar to ours. It was constructed in 1879 but burnt down only three years later, in 1882.

This collection of speakers, we were told, is "Art"!

It's always nice to meet up with old friends. My first computer, purchased 2nd hand in 1986, was exactly like this exhibit!

I have a reed organ similar to this one but, sadly, mine does not have the decorative pipes like this one.

Wise advice!

We laughed at the "Mr Bean" truck!

On the day I got home, I went to a Conference organised by Jenny's and Darryl's church and Satoshi went off to judge at a gymnastics competition the next day.

The Quizmaster

Jenny enjoyed at least one moment of the Quiz!

Unfortunately, Satoshi began to feel unwell during that day and tested positive to COVID when he returned home. This meant a week home from school for both of us. I did not get the disease but didn't want to go to school in case I was carrying it. Satoshi was very good at isolating in his bedroom and I provided cups of tea, bowls of soup and meals as required. Luckily, Satoshi had only a mild dose, probably due to being fully vaccinated.

In the July holidays, Satoshi and I travelled to Adelaide via the coast. As always, the drive along the Great Ocean Road was spectacular. We stayed at Apollo Bay for the first night.

At Teddy's Lookout, Lorne

The view from Teddy's Lookout towards the St George River.

The short boardwalk at Maits Rest meanders through a patch of remnant rainforest. There are beautiful fern gullies and tall trees some of which are thought to be over 300years old.

The next day, we visited the Otway Fly, on the way to Portland. This is a walk through the tree tops, 25-30 metres above the ground. It is another worthwhile experience!

Our next stop was the Twelve Apostles. It was getting late so we didn't see all that this spectacular place has to offer, but what we did manage to see, we enjoyed!

After spending the night at Portland, we went on the Portland Cable Tram. It is not, in fact a cable tram at all, being actually pulled by a diesel engine but it was quite fun rattling on the track. The trip lasted about an hour and took in most of the township.

Whaler's Bluff Lighthouse, Portland

The next stop was the "Petrified Forest" at Cape Bridgewater. It is, in fact, not a petrified forest as such, but has been caused by erosion from rainwater.

In Mt Gambier, we visited the Umpherston Sinkhole. This used to be a cave but the roof collapsed. It is a beautiful, peaceful garden.

The Blue Lake in Mt Gambier did not disappoint!

Towards the end of the day, we arrived in Kingston SE where one can find "The Big Lobster". It is, indeed, big!

Although it was getting dark, we still had a little over 200km to drive to our destination, Meningie. Being aware of the possibility of hitting an animal, I was driving at 80km (rather than the 100km limit), imagining that I would be able to stop in time. Suddenly there was a large "thud" and I realised that we had indeed hit something. At this point, I think I was in shock because I didn't think to stop, I just kept going. We were only about half an hour from the end of our trip. The next town was Salt Creek which seemed to be totally free of street lights. We found a closed service station and inspected the car with the light of our phones. There appeared to be only a little amount of damage but there was water leaking from the radiator. In the apparent absence of a tap, we continued on our way. I kept a careful watch of the temperature gauge but it hardly went above normal. On arrival at our accommodation, The Meningie Waterfront Motel, the lady at the desk asked how I was. When I told her what had happened, she called her husband who got under the car to check what had happened. By this time, all the water had drained out of the radiator and he pronounced that we were not going to be driving (even the 1 kilometre into town to get dinner). He said that they would provide dinner. The fish and chips, which arrived at our door a little while later, were delicious!

After a 45-minute wait to get through to AAMI Car Insurance, I spoke with a very helpful agent. The upshot of the conversation was that I was covered for this kind of accident, and it would not cause my premium to increase or my rating to go down. A hire car would be provided and we could drive that back to Melbourne. My car would be transported back to Melbourne for repairs. Excellent! The only problem was that they could not provide transport to get us from Meningie to Adelaide Airport (where we could pick up the hire car). That's a distance of 155km and we were thinking we might have to get a bank loan to pay for an Uber or taxi! We were due to meet our friend, Ian Miller, in Adelaide, the next day. As soon as he heard of our predicament, he offered to drive from his place (in Adelaide) to Meningie to pick us up and then drive all the way to Adelaide Airport. Now that's a friend! He said that he could not get to us until about 3:00pm so, the next morning, I went to reception in order to pay for the dinner they had so kindly provided and to ask if we could pay extra to stay in our room until 3:00pm. They wouldn't hear of us paying for dinner or for the extra time in the room. They also provided us with a cooked breakfast for free, saying that we would be up for quite a bit of expense and they wanted to help. Not many accommodation places would provide that kind of service. Needless to say, I wrote them a glowing review on "Trip Advisor"!

It was quite sad and a little unsettling to watch my car being towed away at 8:00am the next morning.

It was not until we opened the curtains in our room that we fully appreciated why the word "waterfront" was included in the name of the motel. If we had been any closer, we would have been IN Lake Albert!

We had plenty of time to enjoy the bird life while waiting for Ian.

During our stroll to the town to find some lunch, we found this ostrich. It commemorates South Australia's one and only true bush ranger, John Francis Pegotty (1864 – 1899). Can you work out his mode of transport?

Ian duly arrived later in the afternoon and somehow we managed to get all our luggage into his car for the trip to Adelaide. Thanks, once again, for coming to our aid, Ian. We really did appreciate it! We were given a very nice Hyundai Sante Fe at the airport. This suited us very well for the rest of our time in Adelaide, the trip back to Melbourne, and the several weeks that went by before I was finally able to collect my car from the repairers. It was very easy to drive and had several features new to me such as Lane Keeping Assist which, as the name suggests, kept your car in the current lane. If driving with Cruise Control, the car automatically braked if the car in front slowed down, and automatically sped up again if the car in front had done so. Amazing!

Our accommodation for the next 8 nights was at a comfortable Airbnb home in Victor Harbor. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Adelaide, some of it shared with Ian. Highlights were: The Victor Harbor Horse-Drawn Tram, Urimbilla Wildlife Park, Ingalalla Falls, Rapid Bay Jetty, Waterfall Gully, Cleland Wildlife Park, some photos of each of these places will be found below.

Having almost finished completing the new Victor Harbor-Granite Island Causeway (very solid concrete), works were going ahead to remove the old one (a much more "romantic" wooden construction).

Ingalalla Falls

The old wooden jetty at Rapid Bay has also been replaced with a shorter concrete design.

It was not too hard to see why the old jetty had to be replaced.

Rapid Bay Jetty is a world-renowned diving site.

Satoshi with a new friend at Urimbilla Wildlife Sanctuary.

Just a few guinea pigs!

The opportunity to pat a koala was part of the admission fee at Urimbilla! As there were only two other people in the enclosure at the time, we could stay as long as we liked.

At Waterfall Gully with Ian

This koala at Cleland wildlife Park had a very contented sort of look!

A Regent Parrot

This koala was a little more active!

We had to pay a little extra for the privilege but we were able to hold a koala at Cleland Wildlife Park. They are SO heavy!

The picturesque town of Strathalbyn boasts a particularly beautiful church. I had seen and photographed the exterior of St Andrew's Uniting Church (was Presbyterian) on several trips but had never been inside. We hatched a cunning plan to achieve this - we would attend a Sunday Service. We duly set off from Victor Harbor on a Sunday. When we arrived, it seemed like our plan had been thwarted - the congregation was filing into the church hall instead of the church! We decided to give it a miss. As we headed back to the car, we noticed that one of the church doors was open. At that point, a gentleman came back to his car which was parked near ours and began a conversation. When I heard that he was an official of the church, I asked why the church was not being used for the service. The answer was that the heaters were broken and it was a lot warmer in the hall! We asked if we could see inside the church but he said he didn't have time to show us. When I mentioned that one of the doors of the church was open, he was surprised and asked us to show him which door. We took him to the door and we were allowed inside! It has to be said that the interior of the building does not really match the grandeur of the exterior but at least I could tick something off my "bucket" list!

St Andrew's Uniting Church, Strathalbyn

The older part of Strathalbyn has a number of antique shops and museums to cater for tourists. We visited Gilbert's Motor Museum which houses a large number of cars, all of which have been beautifully restored.

We arranged to meet Jeanette, a long time friend and ex-Melburnian at Hahndorf and enjoyed sharing lunch with her at one of the many restaurants.

Old Tailem Town is an incredible collection of historical buildings (more than 100) all of which are literally crammed full of "stuff". We spent almost a whole day wandering around and still didn't see it all. The town is owned by a gentlemen in his 80s and he has no hope of maintaining it properly. As a result, everything is becoming very run down. This is disappointing because the collection is, I think, of great interest. The cliche "it has to be seen to be believed" is very apt for this place! I took hundreds of photos and, once again, it was a difficult task to choose just a few to include here.

The motto seems to be "why have only one of something when you can have ten or more"?

An attempt at an artistic bicycle photo. Again, note the quantity!

The general store

This brought back memories of the free milk in schools program. I can well remember having to drink milk that had been left outside on warm days! Apparently the scheme was first suggested by Robert Menzies. The program was abolished by the Whitlam Government in 1973.

The exterior walls of this house are made of cow dung!

Apparently, when tar was first used to seal roads, farmers would flatten the tins with the steam rollers and make use of them for the walls of buildings.

Never have just one of anything!

We had a floor polisher exactly like this in my childhood home. The orange disc was a light. Underneath there were three brushes which could be easily removed so that different kinds could be used according to the task being undertaken.

You think this is a lot of different kinds of barbed wire? This is only a tiny part of the collection at Old Tailem Town! Who knew there were different kinds of barbed wire anyway?

I disapprove of traps such as these, but the quantity of them!! Note the condition of the railway carriage in the background. If you are thinking about visiting Old Tailem Town, my advice is to not leave it too long!

One does not walk around Monarto Safari Park. It is billed as "the largest safari park outside Africa" and this is probably correct. There is a bus which takes you to the different sections and, in same cases, drives right through the enclosure. The size of these enclosures, while being great for the animals, is quite limiting for viewing or photographing. The highlight of the visit was "Lions 360". In this experience, one is inside a cage within the lion enclosure. The lions are attracted to the cage by the use of pieces of meat. It was a wonderful way to get closer to lions than I ever had before. We were warned, however, of the possibility of being peed on!

It was a requirement to wear a mask during "Lions 360".

The words "you might get peed on" are not often foremost in my mind, but they were at this moment!

This lioness was "hiding" behind this tree. The bus was between her and another lion. As the bus passed, she pounced on the other lion! It seems that cats are the same regardless of their size.

Clayton Farm Heritage Museum is located near Bordertown. We could not find whether or not it would be open and so we phoned. The President told us a lady would meet us at the gate. Once again, we had a private tour. This lady had been associated with the town and the farm since she was a child. She appeared to be around 70 and she knew everything and everyone! Everything was explained in great detail and she was able to answer all our questions. The history of the farm was fascinating and it is well worth a visit.

The Homestead

This bag was made by weaving a number of shoelaces together!

We had a concrete trough like this at home but it was a set of two rather than three.

The silage barn was where feed for the cattle was kept.

This trough was made by hollowing out a log and then adding each end.

Inside the barn

We admired the Silo Art at Kaniva

Serviceton has a population of 120 and a huge railway station. This is because the states of Victoria and South Australia had different railway gauges (the distance between each track on a railway line). South Australia had standard gauge (4 ft 8 1⁄2 inches) and Victoria had broad gauge (5ft 3 inches). This meant that all passengers and all goods had to change trains on the border. Serviceton Station was where this happened. It was in use for almost 100 years (1889 - 1981). We arrived at the station and nobody was around. After a while, a rather rough looking man came over and just stood near us. I was a little unsettled by his unexplained presence so I asked him if he knew whether there were tours of the station available. "Yeah, I can show yous around" was his drawled response. Whereupon a large bunch of keys was retrieved from his pocket and he opened the front door and spent the next hour or so showing us every aspect of the station. At its height, it included a kitchen for customers' refreshments, dining area, ladies closet and waiting areas, booking rooms for Victoria and South Australia, general waiting areas and a customs office. In the basement were large cellars for storage, guard areas, a mortuary for bodies being shipped across the border and a lock-up which was used for prisoners who were being transported interstate. We were shown all these aspects of the building and also the small flat for the use of the Station Master. We found out that this gentlemen lives in the town and took over custodianship of the station because "there was nobody else to do it". He was full of knowledge about the building and his love of the place was palpable. I was reminded of the saying "Never judge a book by its cover."

All stations should be equipped with a piano!

I'm pretty sure this item would not be for sale anywhere now. I remember it from my childhood though!

On our way through Nhill, we stopped at the Australian Pinball Museum. This is a collection of about 50 pinball machines, the earliest from 1931. It was possible to play most of them for $1.

Note the "flippers" on the driveway!

The oldest machine at the museum

The Giant Koala at Dadswell's Bridge was almost a casualty of the 2020 bushfires.

Our last zoo visit for this holiday was to the Halls Gap Zoo. This is another well-run wildlife park and it has a wide range of animal species.

The first wattle of 2022 (for me anyway)

A Currawong

I can remember these amusements well. They were in shopping centres in my childhood and required a sixpence to operate! How amazing to find one at Halls Gap Zoo!

We chose to do the meerkat "experience" at this zoo. It was great!

A lovely rainbow, seen from the township of Halls Gap.

Towards the end of May, our Director of Music at St.John's, Lachlan McDonald, went on leave. We were without an official Director of Music until August when James Leitch, who is visiting from England, was appointed for the rest of the year. James has fitted in with the choir and organists really well. Having been an organ scholar at Carlisle Cathedral, he knows his "stuff" but leads with encouragement, gentleness and sensitivity. Satoshi and I took James and his fiancée, Caroline, to Phillip Island for a day. As we chose to go on Thursday, 22nd September (the beginning of a long weekend) we found that a LOT of other people had the same idea so it took quite a while to get there. We visited the Koala Sanctuary (where we found James had a great skill for spotting koalas before anyone else), Pyramid Rock, and the Penguin Parade. It was fortunate that I had booked for this as all the tickets were sold by the time we arrived. I assisted James to catalogue all the choral music at St.John's. This was a bigger task than we thought and took many hours to complete. I enjoyed spending time with him because of our common interest in Anglican Church Music.

James and Caroline

Our second Steamrail event this year was a train ride to Ballarat. The train was hauled by two steam locomotives, and Russell, Linton, Satoshi and I enjoyed our time together in one of Steamrail's old-style carriages with a corridor down one side and individual compartments. After a very nice lunch at a local pub, it was time to make our way back to Ballarat Station for the journey home.

My friend Chris Hepworth celebrated her 70th birthday this year and Barbara McSkimming, Prue Field and I treated her to lunch at Cloudehill Gardens in Olinda. We met each other through teaching at Chatham in the middle 90s and the friendship has endured. We had a lovely lunch and then wandered around the beautiful gardens.

Prue, Tim, Barbara and Chris

Musically, I enjoyed a variety of concerts. These included MSO concerts where the orchestra played the music during the showing of a film: "Fantasia" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1". The MSO chorus sang Rossini's "Messe Solennelle" at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Other choral concerts included Mendelssohn's "St.Paul" and Haydn's "The Creation". The Gilbert & Sullivan Society put on a concert at a private garden in Sassafras called "Come into the Garden, Maud". This included a number of old Victorian Songs and was most enjoyable. The musicals "Cinderella", "A Christmas Carol" and "The Phantom of the Opera" were all great (the last being an indoor production at Melbourne's State Theatre, not the one in Sydney!). There was an organ recital given by Thomas Heywood in the Melbourne Town Hall to celebrate the organ's 150th birthday. It was also a pleasure to attend several concerts in which Jenny's and Darryl's grandson, Ben, participated. Ben plays the oboe and has been studying music at Monash University.

Very sadly, I had to say goodbye to my lovely cat, Min, on October 10th. She was over 17 years old which is a pretty good innings for a cat. I was, of course, very upset about her passing. Her main objective in life (apart from eating) was to sit on my lap. She loved nothing more than sitting there while I watched TV or DVDs and she slept on my bed almost every night. It's easy to say "Oh, she was only a cat" but she was really part of the family. She had been gradually failing (from kidney disease) for several months so it was not a sudden shock when she needed to be put down but the final parting was still very difficult. Because she hated going the vet, the vet came to our house and Min passed from this life laying on my lap in familiar surroundings.

My favourite photo of Min as a kitten

Min in 2014

The last photo of Min, a little over a week before she died.

After about a month, I began to think about a new kitten. A search of pet adoption websites was fruitless. I found an advertisement for kittens at a pet shop (on behalf of an adoption agency). I visited the shop and found some lovely black and white kittens together with a sign that read "No further applications for adoption will be received". Asking at the counter, I found that there had been 100 applications for those 5 kittens! Oh dear. A little while later, we heard that one of Satoshi's sister's cats had had a kitten but that they were going to keep it. A little while passed and then we heard that they had decided not to keep it. We made the trip to Chisato's place in Melton on Saturday 19th November. I decided that the little kitten would certainly "do"!

The first meeting with Fudge

Two weeks later, we made another trip to Melton, this time bringing Fudge home. She has been very confident and curious since the moment she arrived. Butterscotch, on the other hand, was not so sure - there was a bit of hissing at first. We kept them separate for a while, then gradually allowed them to see each other a little more each day. After about a fortnight, they got on very well. Now, there are just a few hisses from Butterscotch when Fudge jumps on her (fair enough, I'd say!)

Fudge learning to use the iPad

Fudge has grown a lot in the month we have had her. She was born on the 20th August so she is four months and two weeks old as of 6th January. As you can see at the top right of this photo, the curtains have suffered a bit!

The end of 2022 did not turn out as expected at all. I tested positive to COVID (for the first time) on Tuesday, 13th December. Fortunately, although I had most of the classic symptoms, they were mild. Unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of teaching and many of the “end of year” functions at school. It took until Wednesday, 21st December for the RAT to return a negative result.

The worst aspect of the above was that I was unable to attend a Nine Lessons and Carols Service at Christ Church, St.Kilda, on the Sunday afternoon. I had organised this because the locum at that Church, Rev Gail Bryce, was at St.Paul’s, East Kew for our last Carol Service there and had been so very supportive of the music at that Church. I wanted to be able to provide some support for her in return. Many hours had been put into finding choristers, selecting carols, visiting the church, finding an organist, selecting readings and collating sheet music. Fortunately, my good friend, Linton Roe, agreed to step in to conduct the Service and Satoshi distributed music, provided transport, and undertook a myriad of other responsibilities, including reading one of the lessons. I heard later that one of the churchwardens at Christ Church said that it was the best Carol Service he had ever been to!

Luckily, I had recovered in time for our traditional Christmas celebration. There were 19 of us for lunch on Christmas Day and, as always, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. This year, we had a "repeat performance" on Boxing Day. Satoshi invited his sisters, their partners and children, and his father to a Christmas Lunch. There were 12 of us. Chisato had been worried about delays on the Westgate Bridge and so left Melton with plenty of time to spare. They arrived here two hours early!! Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, many went for seconds and there was very little left over.

The last few days of the year went quickly. On December 31st, eleven of us had dinner at Chen Yuen Restaurant (a favourite) and returned to our house for the celebrations leading to 2023.

This year has been another good one for me. There is plenty for which to be very thankful, especially when considering what awful things have happened to so many people, particular in Ukraine. I am so fortunate to have a lovely place to work, a safe and secure place in which to live, and wonderful friends. Weekly dinners have continued with Jenny, Darryl, Joan, Russell and Satoshi; and I always look forward to Saturday breakfasts at local cafés with Russell, Darryl and Satoshi. Satoshi is a constant blessing, always supportive, patient, reliable and kind. I have been very lucky this year, also, to experience some of God's natural world and to marvel at some of his Creation. What a beautiful world we have to enjoy!

If you have not read them already, my letters from previous years can be accessed here.

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas and that 2023 will be a happy, healthy and joyful time for you.

With love,