Christmas Letter 2003

Christmas 2002: Jonathan, Camilla, Brian, Annabel, Helen, Dac, Val. Antlers supplied by Brian.

The thumbnails below are linked to bigger versions - except for Daniel's birthday, the windows, and the bathroom, which link to pages.

New basilAnnabel gave me a beautiful pot of basil plants last Christmas, and put it on the front steps in the sun. By keeping a bottle of water next to it, I managed to remember to water it every day. While the rest of the garden turned to dust in the drought (including the big gum tree in the back yard) we had sprigs of fresh basil for months and months, and Helen and I had a pestofest at Easter. Annabel has just provided new basil plants, so I'm looking forward to another triumph. It's right up there with the devil's ivy Jo gave me in 1986, which is still going strong, albeit with only one stalk.

Daniel's first birthday - 82K pageIn January, thinking it was a normal year, I went to Sydney for my nephew Daniel's first birthday. More photos from the party are linked to the thumbnail (82K page). It was a lovely party, and Daniel is an exemplary nephew. For one reason and another, I haven't seen him since then, but I'm looking forward to visiting for his second birthday.

When the Canberra fires happened, Dac was here by himself with Mount Taylor ablaze, three cats to carry, no means of transport, and no available emergency services. The fire came very close. (Not as close as it came to Jo's place, which is - thanks to her courage - still standing, unlike most of the houses around it.) The sky was pitch black at 3pm and full of burning twigs and leaves. Our neighbour, whose only prior involvement in our lives had been necessitating the cat prison, kindly came over with his partner and their ladder and clambered about on the roof, blocking the downpipes and filling the gutters with water. It was about three more weeks till we felt that the fire danger was over, and at least that long before I could comfortably leave the house for any length of time. I didn't feel much like leaving Dac here by himself ever again.

In March, however, I flew down to Melbourne for two days to visit H and hear her first Masters recital, which had been postponed from December. It was terrific. Then H came up for Easter and we had a big garage cleanup so we'd be ready to store her stuff when she went overseas later in the year. H, Dac and Brian (who arrived with his ute just as we realised the "trash pak" was far too small) worked like lunatics. I, being barely able to move, supervised. We all chucked things out, but Dac chucked the most. Knowing his furniture might be useful to people who'd lost everything in the January fires was some compensation.

Aunty Val and AmyAmy's picture of the catsMy sister Fiona and my niece Amy flew down from Sydney for a weekend in April. It was wonderful to see them, and Amy was very pleased to meet all the cats at last. Back in Sydney, she made a wonderful picture of "my Aunty Val's three cats" but the pre-school teachers didn't believe anyone would have three cats!

In June, I flew down to Melbourne again for two days for Helen's final Masters recital. Also in the audience were Margaret Brown (H's grandmother), Jill B (visiting from England) and Alison W (now living in Melbourne). The recital was wonderful: they'll tell ya, or you can go to H's website and listen to some sound files. The next night, H had a gig with Triptych - a perfect jewel of a concert. (Louisa, where's the CD?)

Later in June, it was time for H to move out of her Melbourne eyrie and prepare to go to Holland in August. She'd be based in Canberra but popping back to Melbourne for the odd gig, so we hoped to make one last Mother and Daughter Road Trip. The fantasy was that we'd hire a campervan and go to Moree, then visit Dad and Eva, and Fiona and family. We'd buy a flatpack kitchen in Sydney, drop it in at home, then go on to Ballarat (because I've never been there) then maybe Hepburn Spa (because we'd always intended having rest cures there while H was living in Melbourne!) then return the van in Melbourne.

View from the campervanI was such a wreck that we decided to do a short trial run to the South Coast in the van H used to transport all her gear to Canberra. We drove to a caravan park in Tuross Head, parked the van pointing at the ocean, and lay around watching a DVD of Series 1 of the West Wing on H's laptop. From time to time, we wandered along the beach or up to the shops for fish and chips. I was getting better, but it was nevertheless clear that the longer trip wasn't going to happen.

In July, there were two notable occurrences. H was one of the soprano soloists in the Intervarsity performance of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, and that went very well. (Follow the link to Canberra Intervarsity Festival Concert 2 - Monteverdi Vespers on SCUNA's review page.) And, after nearly eight years, I stopped looking after the WEL Australia website.

By late July, my state of health was starting to get back to what I laughingly term "normal", so I promptly leapt into overcommitment again. I started working towards the long-awaited home renovations, and started a project of putting online historical documents about my university choral society, SCUNA, which I hoped would hold a reunion for its 40th anniversary in 2003.

In August, Dac, Brian and I were part of the winning team at the Tax Office IT Staff Trivia Night. Brian is an absolute star at these events: he knows all about politics, religion, history, geography and sport! Dac has the science and popular culture covered, and I'm pretty good on the unpopular culture, as is Brian. He listens to the nightly quiz on ABC local radio, and often tells me how astonished he is that callers didn't know X. As I often don't know X either, I never cease to be amazed at what he regards as general knowledge.

Helen, Val and Fiona at the Big Potato at RobertsonH and Hartley at Rama'sH was keen that I get on with plans to renovate the kitchen, and although we ran out of time for the flatpack plan, we did go out and choose all the appurtenances I'd need for a kitchen renovation. After a lovely Mother-Daughter-Aunt weekend in the Southern Highlands with Fiona, and an excellent farewell dinner at Rama's, H left Canberra on 22 August, and flew next day to Zurich for a brief stay with Mick the Merciless, before travelling by train to the Hague to start a course in Sonology at the Royal Conservatorium. Read all about it in HT's Travel Blog.


Dac and Val and the big purple glittery motortrikeDac took some time off work in September, during which we spent a nostalgic weekend in Kiama. Out on Blowhole Point, there was a man advertising rides on his blue sparkly motortrike. Dac wanted to go, I was extremely dubious, but the man joined in and talked me round. We made a stately progress through Kiama and into the hinterland, where there are sweeping hills. I dare say the usual run of customers enjoy hooning up and down these, but we didn't get above 60, for which I was grateful. It was the best value we'd had out of $20 in a long time, and we liked the views so much we staggered back to the motel and drove out there again. Our motel room had a spa bath and a bottle of bubble mixture, and that night I tipped it all in, nearly managing to fill the whole bathroom with suds. We drove down the coast next day, having a look at some places we'd never seen, and it was very enjoyable apart from the driving.

New windows - 30K pageIn late September, I had (just about) all the windows in the house replaced with windows that I could actually operate. Fixing the bathroom had to be next: over the past three years, various lower back flareups (and other associated and unassociated problems) have made climbing over the side of the bath into the shower extremely painful and difficult. The problem isn't going to go away. Specifications for the "new" bathroom were drawn up - more or less the whole room was to be a shower recess! - and on 13 October, work began.

Bathroom renovations - 62K pageMy bathroom builder had been telling me I needed to get a wriggle on if I was going to have the kitchen done this year, but I decided to take my time and see how the bathroom went first. Although it was a remarkably painless experience, it was busy: tradesmen kept popping up like jacks-in-the-box. They were all absolutely charming, and all very good at their work, and they even finished on the appointed day, but it was a very wearing fortnight. I now have a beautiful, spacious, safe, accessible bathroom, and find myself spending an inordinate amount of time in the shower!

My sister came down for the day on 6 December to have a squiz at the long-awaited bathroom. She also helped me do nearly all my Christmas shopping while she was here! Without her, I would have been totally unprepared - new depths of Christmas unreadiness were plumbed this year because of...

...the SCUNA reunion. One way or another, this filled every waking moment of the last few months and nearly drove me stark, raving mad. (The demise of my hard drive in mid-October didn't help, and I've yet to get it back the way it should be!) I wish, instead of attempting to involve SCUNA, that I'd just gone ahead and organised something with a little help from my friends. The work would have been spread across 15 months instead of three, and I'd have avoided a truly startling array of bureaucratic bastardry, time-wasting, and ill-will. SCUNA's 40th birthday celebrations finally took place on 12-14 December, and miraculously there was a reunion dinner that was a truly joyous occasion.

Christmas 2003 has also been a joyous occasion (especially as Helen rang up during lunch) but I'll tell you about that next year. I hope you're all enjoying the holidays and wish you all the very best for 2004.


Page created 27 August 2003; last updated 31 December 2003