Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

    This is a bit like our annual report card - sent with Christmas cards to most of the people to whom we send Christmas cards - published here for posterity (?). 

   Greetings and best wishes for the Christmas season!  We hope you are enjoying your celebrations and will have a wonderful year in 2013.

   In the era of Twitter and Facebook, the concept of a letter printed on ordinary paper and posted with a stamp is all a bit "last year", but I intend to persevere in a spirit of "making contact by any means is better than none at all"!

   The year was mostly taken up with visits to hospital for treatment.  In mid-year, the treatment became ineffective (some cancer cells mutate and resist the drugs) and I switched to a clinical trial which required weekly visits to the Frankston Private Hospital for a fortnightly infusion of a whole cocktail of drugs for about five hours and a shorter treatment in the off-week.  That has now finished after twelve weeks, the PICC line is removed and no infuser bottles to bring home (and sleep with!).  Bliss!  As part of the trial, I'm still on weekly maintenance treatment for as long as it is effective.  Side effects have been manageable except that numb tingly fingers and feet have been with me since I had oxaliplatin in the first half of last year - I'm still waiting for it to go away and let me lead a more normal life.

   One project we got out of the way this year was to get all our old 8mm films converted to DVD.  A bloke down at Tyabb did them for us and he did a great job.  It was fun to see again the old movies of family life when I was single, and ones of our kids when they were little.  I've also scanned all of our slide collection and put them onto USB memory sticks that can be plugged straight into the TV for viewing.  At present I'm in the process of scanning all the photos in our photo albums for the same purpose.  While it's nice to thumb the pages of an album, it's also great to see them as a slide show on the TV.  An added incentive was that many photos needed to be removed from albums that were deteriorating badly and put into new ones.

   Doortje and I have done our bit to keep the arts and entertainment industry afloat.  During the year we've been to WOMAD in Adelaide as well as music festivals at Frankston, Mordialloc and the Aboriginal arts festival at Federation Square in Melbourne.  For the latter we stayed in a motel in Southbank near the river and enjoyed three days of such performers as Dan Sultan and Archie Roach as well as great restaurant meals and generally living it up.

   In March we went to Womadelaide.  We drove over and stayed a week in a motel close to the Botanic Park venue.  Staying in the same motel were Alan and Kim from Darwin,  Peter and June from Tweed Heads and for part of the time, Jan and Ebony from Port Pirie.  We spent an evening before the festival with John and Sue, so it was a real family affair and we had a great time.  We were able to walk into the CBD for meals, as well as to the festival, although I had my bike for the latter, riding being easier on my feet than walking.  We saw some great performers - some favourites were Jinja Safari, Dirty Three, Tinariwen, Anda Union, Dobet Gnahore and the Pigram Brothers, but there were heaps!

   In June, we even went to the opera in downtown Frankston.  We saw Bizet's Carmen at the Arts Centre and enjoyed it very much.  The orchestra was only a dozen or so and complemented the voices of the Melbourne Opera very well.

   We made several trips during the year to a variety of interesting places.  Early in the year we stayed a few nights at Jill Redwood's b&b cottage at Goongerah.  We had booked to go there in 2010 but didn't make it when ill-health intervened.  Then Helmy and Perran asked us to join them there so we did.  Goongerah is a very secluded, peaceful place amongst the mountains and forest on the Brodribb River.


   During the winter we stayed in a holiday house on the side of the hill at Walkerville with spectacular views of Waratah Bay and Wilson's Promontory.  The weather wasn't great but we had a fire and were able to get out for walks occasionally.  Just to sit and look at the view (and parrots!) was wonderful.  We had a similar experience at Metung when Perran's parents, Rob and Anna, left their house empty and invited us to use it.  The house is set in the bush on Box's Creek which runs into Bancroft Bay at Metung.  It's a beautiful house - a feature is the breakfast nook which was perfect for sitting in the winter sun.

   Another trip we did between treatments was to spend five nights at Tooleybuc in NSW.  What's at Tooleybuc?  Nothing, really!  It simply had the property of being not far from Swan Hill, where I tried to book on what was a long weekend with the annual race meeting being a feature.  "Not even the locals like to spend five nights in a row in Tooleybuc!"  It has a sporting club and hotel (we had two evening meals in each and could walk to both), about 250 people, and a bridge across the Murray.  We enjoyed relaxing and exploring in every direction.  Except for the first afternoon, we gave Swan Hill a miss!

   The kids are all doing well.  Daniel continues to make trips to China with his work.  Monika's mother and step-father, Gunhild and Kjell, were here from Sweden at the beginning of the year and we spent a bit of time with them.  Monika's daughter, Wendy, was married in September - the weather was beaut, which is surprising!  Wendy and Jakob seem very happy and make a great couple.  William came home from Sweden in time for the wedding after being in Africa and Europe for about eighteen months.  Ronja, now fourteen and in her second year of high school, changed schools at the beginning of the year and is now going to Frankston High, which has an excellent reputation, and she is very happy with the change.

   Helmy and Perran and the boys have been in Denmark since July.  Perran has six months sabbatical leave and is doing some research at the university in Odense.  Harvey is going to school and Theo to pre-school but language has been a bit of a problem.  Helmy has been doing some laboratory work at the uni.  They all got bikes when they arrived there and have no car.  The most recent photos show the first snow of the season.  We're looking forward to them being home in January.

   Jac and Pat's kids are growing up too fast.  Mason is now thirteen and Sullivan is five, with the girls in between - Amelia nine and Nara seven.  In September, all six of them flew to Europe for a holiday in Paris and to visit the Odense relatives.  We took them to the airport and after hanging around for a while, Sully asked "Mum, are we in Paris now?"  Anyway, they had a great time, not least going up the Eiffel tower.  Mason started high school this year and is an enthusiastic cricketer, while Millie is into basketball.  I think Jac's cakemaking and decorating has taken a back seat to crochet which she is keen on.  We celebrated her fortieth birthday in May (I wrote a song which the grandkids all performed).

   Since Helm's family went to Denmark we've started using Skype to keep in contact.  Doortje loves it!  Harvey and Theo are able to show us their latest Lego models and school stuff.  We should have started long ago with Andrew and Sarah in Alice Springs because we don't see them often.

   Andrew and Sarah, apart from their bush trips to Aboriginal communities in Pitjantjatjara country, have recently been busy rehearsing their two-person show in preparation for the Darwin season of three shows which they performed a couple of weeks ago.  Those we know who went, including Alan and Kim, say it was very successful, and Andrew and Sarah were happy with the effort they put in.  They've also been to remote communities in the Top End, including Maningrida in November.

   Enough!  You can find more detail and photos on my Flickr site and blog page:

lots of love,
(and generally signed by Doortje and, possibly, Rob)

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