Tim's Christmas
        Letter 2023

nativity window

Dear Friends,

Christmas Greetings to you all! The year 2023 was mostly happy for me with one big exception:

My dear friend, Joan, passed away at the beginning of December. She had been in quite good health up until about a month before she died. I had known Joan for over 30 years, and she became one of my closest friends and a wise mentor. She was always more concerned about others than herself and was a wonderful example of how to live a Christian life. I shared innumerable fun-filled experiences with Joan, Russell, Jenny, Darryl and Satoshi over the years. These included day trips, holidays, musical experiences, church conferences, hymn singing, and weekly shared meals. Joan and Russell were happily married for 75 years and, in all the thousands of hours I have spent in their company, I never witnessed an argument. What an amazing achievement and example to us all! Needless to say, I miss her so much.

Joan Collins 20th May, 1926 to 2nd December, 2023

Jenny has been caring for her parents for a long time now and was the recipient of the "Carer of the Year" award from the Continence Association of Australia. The award was richly deserved. The details can be downloaded here.

There were several outings and trips in January. The first was my traditional visit to Cape Paterson, near Wonthaggi. My friends Chris Hepworth, Prue Field and Barbara McSkimming and I meet at Prue's holiday house for lunch, lots of catching up, and a walk to the beach.

At Cape Paterson with Prue and Chris

I had a very pleasant three-day road trip to Port Campbell with Caroline and James (our friends from England) and Satoshi. James organised our accommodation. As we were getting near, he told us that he chose the property because it was claimed that there was a koala in the backyard! You can imagine our response to that! As soon as we arrived, before even entering the house, James went in search of the koala. Not surprisingly, there was no koala to be seen!

James, Caroline and Satoshi at Teddy's Lookout, Lorne

Erskine Falls, Lorne

James and Caroline with alpacas.

Port Campbell National Park

When we arrived back at our accommodation for the second night, James again went in search of the koala. Surprise, surprise...

this time, there WAS a koala in the backyard!! We couldn't believe it!

It was quite misty at The Otway Fly.

On January 14th, I was greatly privileged to be present at Emily Roe's baptism. It was a wonderful and moving experience to witness this young lady make her commitment to God in front of many family members and friends. She was baptised by her father, Linton, in the Barwon River.

On January 25th, Satoshi and I hosted a games afternoon for the members of the St John's Choir. The event was well attended and everyone enjoyed playing a variety of games and sharing pizza for dinner.

In early February, Satoshi and I took Caroline and James to Philip Island. During the afternoon, we visited the Philip Island Wildlife Park.

A goanna

In the evening, we went to the Penguin Parade. Although it was drizzly and quite cool, we all enjoyed watching the little penguins make their way up the beach to their burrows.

It was sad to say goodbye to James and Caroline when the time came for them to leave Australia. Satoshi and I got on really well with them and, although we have known them for less than a year, a strong friendship was forged between us.

At the beginning of February, the time came for the newest member of the family, Fudge, to be spayed. This operation, as all do, carried a certain amount of risk so I was grateful that she made it through the surgery. When we went to collect Fudge from the vet, she had a plastic cone on her head to prevent her from licking the wound. The vet told us, quite cheerfully, that she should be kept quiet for the next 10 days. The only problem with this was that he seemed to have forgotten to instruct Fudge about this. Within seconds of getting home, she had removed the cone and was scurrying around the house as is her wont. It was a constant battle of wills. Once, she managed to get the cone off long enough for her to remove the bandage from her wound, necessitating a further visit to the vet. Fudge had had enough of this cone so, the next time she removed it, she cunningly hid it so well that neither Satoshi nor I could find it! It was a great relief when the period of recovery was over! Butterscotch is seven years older than Fudge and is, therefore, not always particularly eager to entertain Fudge's playful advances. In the main, though, they have become good friends and clearly keep each other company.

Fudge prefers to sleep between my legs rather than on my lap. She also likes to sleep on my chest!

On February 17th, I had lunch with Andrew St John who was vicar of St Mary's, Chadstone East, from the the late 70s. I was the Director of Music there at the time. It had been more than 25 years since we had last met so there was a lot to chat about! Andrew is now a retired bishop based in New York.

Our quarterly "Music Nights" continued in 2023. On these evenings, about 16 friends join Satoshi and me for an evening of hymn singing, a meal consisting of pizza and ice cream, recitation of poetry, joke-telling, musical items and the singing of music from the Victorian era by composers such as Sir Arthur Sullivan. It is always great fun!

I returned to teaching three days a week at Chatham Primary School, sharing a Grade 3 with another teacher, Sue Minshull. It took a little while for me to get used to this but it worked quite well. The 24 students in the class were generally well-behaved and responsive. Our school buildings have been upgraded and this process took most of the year. At times, it was quite difficult because of the noise, dust and general disturbance these works caused.

Chatham is a great place to work and my fellow staff members are excellent. I am in awe of the amount of work done by Chris Cotching (Principal) and Georgie Kirwan (Assistant Principal). Although they have so much to do, their doors are always open, have a great sense of humour and are very supportive. I appreciate them both enormously.

A particular responsibility given to me was to co-ordinate the school’s participation in NAPLAN. Tasks associated with this included:
• studying information provided by NAPLAN to ensure that Chatham would complete all tasks required before the running of the tests
• liaising with the ICT technician to ensure that our school IT infrastructure and laptops would be suitable for a large number of students to be online simultaneously
• working with the Assistant Principal to decide on suitable dates and times for the testing
• ensuring that parents were provided with the information they needed
• providing training for the members of staff who would be involved in administering the tests
• liaising with the Assistant Principal and Principal to ensure that those students who required any of a number of possible special considerations, such as extra time or particular assistance, were provided for
• administration such as assigning students to particular test sessions and creating the associated entry slips for each test for each student
• fulfilling the role of NAPLAN co-ordinator during test sessions (student supervision, assisting test administrators, working with the technician to solve computer issues as they arose)
• collecting entry slips after every test session and recording absences
• providing catch-up opportunities for students who were absent for certain tests
• completing post-test administration tasks as required.

Needless to say, I was happy when NAPLAN was over! Satoshi's school, Wheelers Hill Primary, was the highest-achieving government primary school in the state! Chatham was 101st. At first, I thought this was quite depressing but, when I realised that there are over 1900 primary schools in the state. This puts us in the top 6% so I felt much better!!

Later on in the year, it was my responsibility to organise the camp for the Year 3 and 4 classes. Involving 90 students and nine members of staff, the camp was held at Arrabri Lodge in East Warburton.  There was much to be done including:
• liaising with the staff at the camp concerning camp activities, sleeping accommodation, food allergies of staff and students, and risk assessment documentation
• liaising with our school leadership team, those members of staff attending the camp, office staff and the school nurse concerning a myriad of aspects for the efficient running of the camp
• organising and leading planning meetings
• creating various groups (cabin groups, activity groups, duty groups)
• providing documentation for parents
• answering emails from parents

In the end, all 90 students and 9 members of staff enjoyed the three-day experience. The children were well-behaved and the camp staff and members of our own staff worked together well, ensuring the success of the venture. It was, nonetheless, a great relief when we arrived back at school safely!

My lovely friend, Anne, volunteered to help out in my class one day a week. It is wonderful to have another adult in the room. Anne also attended the camp. The students accepted her as a member of staff and there were always plenty of "Where's Anne?" questions on the days when she couldn't be there! I am most grateful for her help, support and enthusiasm!

The month of March passed very quickly as final preparations were made for the major event of the year: a trip, with Satoshi, to the UK from April 1st to July 5th. You can read all about it and see many photos by clicking here. Overall, it was a wonderful, happy and memorable adventure which has provided a wealth of memories that will last a lifetime. We are so grateful to friends Abbie, Sam, Ben, and the ever-faithful Darryl, who looked after our cats and the house during our time away. We arrived home in the early hours of 6th July and had only a few days until returning to school on the following Monday. This event brought us back to reality very quickly!

Ready to depart!

After a tiring but successful Term 3, Satoshi and I ventured to Merimbula, a favourite holiday destination, in September. We enjoyed a very happy and relaxing 10 days away, stopping for a night at Lakes Entrance on both the forward and return journey.

We were happy to find the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge (a few kilometres beyond Lakes Entrance) still standing. At 247m long and 20m high, it is the largest standing bridge of its kind in the State, and is listed on the Register of Historic Sites.

Sadly, despite its importance, it is not being maintained and it is not clear for how much longer it will remain upright.

A new sculpture at Cann River

We were very fortunate with the weather, as can be clearly seen at this wonderful stretch of coast at Short Point Beach, Tura.

The view from our very comfortable accommodation

We took a two-hour drive north to Mogo in order to visit the wildlife park. We elected to pay for an extra experience that allowed us into the serval enclosure. Satoshi and I thoroughly enjoyed our time with these cats, who had been reared by hand and were totally domesticated. There were plenty of other animals to see and, as always, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to take good-quality photos!

A silvery gibbon

A meerkat

An Indian star tortoise

An Asian small-clawed otter

A Bolivian squirrel monkey

A golden lion tamarind

A southern white rhinoceros

On the way back from Mogo, we stopped at Narooma which boasts the aptly-named "Australia Rock".

One can usually find Australian sea lions basking on the rocks at the Narooma heads.

Another wildlife park in the area is "Potoroo Palace" just out of Merimbula. This park houses a small collection of Australian fauna and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the property one afternoon.

An Eclectus Parrot

A Gang-Gang Cockatoo

A common wombat

A rainbow lorikeet

A coastal carpet python

The Lions Walk is a short pathway from Pambula Beach to the Pambula River. Note the colour of the water and the seagull which flew past at just the right moment!

We enjoyed a whale-watching cruise on the "Cat Balou" during which we saw several humpback whales.

The Merimbula Aquarium is worth a visit. We went one morning just as it opened so we were able to take photos without the problem of hundreds of fingerprints on the glass of the tanks! This is a southern pygmy leatherj.acket

A North Pacific Sea Star

These Hippeastrum were in the grounds of All Saints' Anglican Church Bermagui

Camel Rock is located a little north of Bermagui, near Wallaga Lake.

The Genoa Falls are located just off the Princes Highway, a few kilometres west of the small township of Genoa. The area around the falls was badly damaged in the bushfires of 2019. We feared that the Eastern Water Dragons that inhabit the river would have been wiped out. We stopped on the forward journey but couldn't find any (perhaps because of the presence of a young couple who had a dog with them, illegally). Our stop on the homeward journey was much more rewarding. Although we were lucky to see several "dragons", they were not as large as we had seen in pre-2019 visits. The animals seen below were about a metre in length.

The cats were pleased to see us when we returned home.

A number of concerts and musicals were enjoyed during the year including a performance of "Oliver!" with the lead being played by a boy from my class, "Miss Saigon", "The Phantom of the Opera", several concerts in which my friend Ben played the oboe, "A Christmas Carol", and Handel's "Messiah". Of course, music, particularly choral music, was a big part of our time in the UK. See the link above to find out more.

I have continued playing the organ at St John's Church, East Malvern about once a month and Satoshi sings in the choir. The choir is one of the best parish choirs in Melbourne, the style of the service suits me, the preaching is of a high standard, and I am very happy worshipping there each week.

The console of the organ at St John's

The last major event of the year was lunch on Christmas Day. This year, there were 20 of us. As usual, I provided the meat (ham, lamb and turkey) and mashed potato. Satoshi experimented with his new air fryer in order to contribute honeyed carrots and our guests brought more vegetables and other culinary delights. A good time was had by all!

The sad events occurring in the Middle East and Ukraine give us good cause to appreciate, perhaps more fully and gratefully, just how lucky we are to live in such a wonderful country as Australia. Although we might grumble about it, our health system is one of the best in the world and our living standard is very high by comparison with most other countries. There is much for which to be thankful. For me, it is you, my friends, for whom I am most grateful. I wish each of you a very merry Christmas season, a restful holiday period, and a most happy, healthy and successful 2024.

With love to you all,

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