There's been an upsurge in Christmas letters this year, and an upsurge in email addresses. Since I'm doomed to be the world's worst correspondent (five minutes' handwriting or ten minutes' keying before my arm seizes up) I enjoy the unearned privilege of reading what people are up to, and I'm glad to have the email addresses, even if I'm constrained to use them sparingly.
My initial attempt to respond to the flurry of Christmas letters led me to the conclusion that a busy life can in fact be fairly uneventful. So much of my time is spent in managing my physical problems (swimming, going to the osteopath, keeping still, recovering from not keeping still) and in responding to the enormous clerical demands of C*mc*re (the agency for wreaking revenge on those injured at work) that there ends up not being much to write home about - even if writing were unproblematical.
Nevertheless I'll have a go. The good thing about a web page is that you can fill it out with pictures.
1999 was a year of travelling. It started with a trip to Sydney in January, something Helen and I would never normally contemplate because of the heat. Dad and his wife Eva came down from Queensland for the tennis. We all stayed with Fiona (my sister) and Ricky - the last time we would see their house before it was extended, and the last family get-together before the birth of their first child.
Dad became ill some weeks after the visit - stressful weeks which included the purchase of a neighbouring house - and was later diagnosed as having suffered a stroke. It was worrying to be so far away while this was going on, so I travelled up twice in 1999 (in March and in September) to check up on him. Things seem to be going reasonably well now.
Plane fares are beyond us, so Helen and I share the driving when we go to Queensland. She does all the hard bits, I do all the straight bits, we take regular rest breaks, and we stay two nights in Moree, coming and going, to "take the waters". I don't know what's in the artesian spa baths at Moree and I don't care - they make the long drive almost tolerable. Spa baths followed by jumping about in the sea at Dad's, and compulsive lap-swimming every day at Currumbin.
While we were up north in March we met some new-found "Internet cousins": Stephen Hart and his family kindly invited us to lunch at their place near Ballina. There's a photo among my family history pages (and photos of meeting Topfer cousins in February 1999).
I found Stephen just before Christmas 1998 on RootsWeb, where his surname interests were listed as Thomson and Hart. I knew that one of my grandfather's sisters had married a Hart, and Stephen's email address was in the Northern Rivers area where the family comes from, so I emailed him. It was very exciting to confirm that we were related. I've since found (or been found by) a number of other cousins via the Internet.
Travel is exhausting, though! I arrived back from the March Queensland trip in surprisingly good physical nick, but took at least a fortnight to get my brain back into gear. Which is awkward, because I need my wits about me to make my contribution to society: maintaining a major website for the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL). This all started in 1995 when I got Internet access and realised there was barely a mention of Australian women on the World Wide Web. WEL has goals and values that I respect, so I asked if I could put up a home page for them in exchange for membership. They, somewhat bemused, agreed.
Originally the website consisted of a few pages of relatively static information, but it has since developed into a large resource on all manner of topics, from childbirth procedures to superannuation. While I can't take any credit for the content, I'm proud of my contribution to publicising WEL's excellent work.
Until recently, the website resided in my personal account with the local computer users' group. Obviously this was going to be a problem if I got run over by a bus. In June, the website moved to a new home with its own domain name (a proper, guessable address). The move has involved many learning curves, for me and for our new host. Nerveracking but fun! 1999 has also been the year of converting the site to best practice for accessibility: it's a matter of separating layout from structure, and it's still very much a work-in-progress.
That's probably more technobabble than you wanted to hear, but before I stop, I'd like to pre-empt the question:
"If you can't key, how can you maintain a website?"
The answer is, little by little. I don't have to type anything: people send me files containing the material; I turn it into web pages using software that contains heaps of shortcuts. I'm dependent on:
A Christmas letter is a much trickier proposition.
On with the travelogue!
Page created after Christmas 1999; last updated 20 July 2002