My letter for 2013

...which I have mistakenly linked to in my mailout for 2014!
Here's the 2014 letter.

It was a pretty good year. :-) I've written far too much, but mercifully you can pick and choose. There's this page and then there are separate rants.

On this page:

On separate pages:


Tales of Helen and Chloe are to be found on the Trips page.

Fiona and her whole family, including Cody, came down in January for a couple of days at a pet-friendly cottage on the Wallaroo Road. One very hot afternoon, we took Cody to the dog beach at Uriarra Crossing, which he appeared to enjoy.

Birthday cake bought by Fiona

February visit

Here's Fiona, lighting the token candle on the birthday cake she bought me. Inset: Mayhem, sitting in the cake box, as you do if you're Mayhem.

We had a lovely birthday dinner at the new (to us, anyway) Santa Lucia at Swinger Hill.

The quilt Helen W made me for my birthday

The quilt Helen W made me for my birthday

First working day after my birthday, this arrived in the mail! Helen W counts as family: I've known her since I was 14. I caught up with her on the January trip to Tasmania but I had no idea she was going to make me a quilt. Apparently she conspired with her namesake, HT, to decide on the suffragette colours. HW is a prize-winning quilter and this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever owned.

Niblings at Skate in the City 2013bowral (19K)

In the July school holidays, Fiona came down with Amy, Daniel and Cody, to stay a couple of nights at a dog-friendly cottage near Carwoola. A & D liked the cottage despite its lack of signal. Fiona believes the attraction was the two black labradors which were staying in the grounds at the time. They visited Cody on a couple of occasions.

Skate in the City was a success again (see Daniel and Amy, left) but it is getting harder to drag the young people away from their social lives and Internet connections. Shades of things to come! For the first time, Fiona was unable to get them together for a visit in the spring holidays.

Instead, we arranged to meet up in Bowral for a day. It was supposed to be everyone except Amy, who was "stalking One Direction" at the time, but it ended up being just Fiona, Dac and me. We had a good time, even though our initial meeting place, the Marmalade Cafe, is no longer festooned with pictures of cats.

It was a very hot day for early October, and I was struck by the busyness of Bowral. Traffic on the main road was bumper-to-bumper and the footpaths and shops were thronging. There were more shops - chainstores rather than small businesses - than I remember. Fiona managed to find me some excellent summer pedal-pushers at a discount, a few other purchases were accomplished, and Dac was very patient.

We found a nice lunch place, and then we ventured over to Corbett Gardens to Tulip Time. The flowers had suffered from wind and rain, what we could see of them through the crowds! I enjoyed tea and scones at the Country Women's Association tearooms in the park. Fiona took the photo on the right of Dac and me in front of a barrel of black, frilly tulips - with one orange and red sport.


SNAFU on the pain and breathing front, but nothing life-threatening. I had to be irradiated in July to knock off some excess thyroid cells. Apparently it all worked as planned. The only difference I can perceive is that I now feel the heat a little less, and the cold a little more.

Dac's retirement

Also in July. In the early weeks (after a trip to Adelaide so as not to be irradiated along with me) Dac fixed everything in the house, including the wheeled table I read with. It's now a spectacular two-tiered item with a handsome grey vinyl surface. I'd had the second tier (a slide-out keyboard tray) sitting in my wardrobe since our Ikea flurry in 2008. Theoretically I can now easily use my little Aldi computer (with plugged-in proper keyboard and mouse) while sitting in my comfy chair. O'course by the time I'm sitting in my comfy chair, I'm usually thinking about Viewing something in Danish. And we have finally tracked down what keeps resetting Dac's media player - my little Aldi computer. :-/

When people ask Dac how he's liking retirement, he beams and tells them he loves it. He does seem to be enjoying not having to go to work, apart from the work-anxiety dreams! He has volunteered to help with the computers at KidSafe, at the Pearce Community Centre, up the hill from here. Every so often he wanders up there and sees how they are getting on with the new hardware he helped them buy and the backup plan he instituted.

He is now free for walks - see separate page on exercise, but in the meantime, here's a picture from our stroll around Floriade:

Dac and friend at Floriade 2013

Speaking of Danish...

This will be my fifth year of grappling with Danish. The Danish conversation group at the Polyglot Club continues, and I pick up a little more all the time, though I'm not good at understanding Jutland accents - or at finding things to say. I spend Mondays cobbling together a little story to read out to my Danish-speaking friends in the evening. They tell me my pronunciation is improving.

And I watch every Danish show SBS can offer, and generally end up buying the DVDs so I can watch them again. Every little bit helps. I'm not as brave as Hartley, who turns the subtitles off. I've been lent a couple of untranslated DVDs: I watch them with the Danish subtitles turned on, and the pause button under my finger!

As foreshadowed last year, we may make a European trip in 2014, spending six weeks in Denmark, two weeks in France, and another month in England. We'll find a base and stay there for about a week, visiting everything within reach. I don't intend to drive on the wrong side of the road - I've never done it, and it seems a bit late to start now - so we'll be catching trains in Denmark and France.

Mid-2014 is the current thought, but we haven't managed to do anything about it yet. I've been holding things up, trying very hard to finish the SCUNA history pages before the end of 2013, SCUNA's 50th birthday year. The history pages were supposed to be added to the ANU's electronic archive. They're very close to done, and if I've missed the chance of proper archiving, I will at least put them on a thumb drive and give them to the ANU archivist for safe keeping.

Speaking of SCUNA...

The 50th birthday celebrations took place in August and I was very moved when SCUNA made me a life member. They made Judy Clingan a life member at the same time - distinguished company indeed.

SCUNA Life Membership awards

SCUNA Life Membership awards at the SCUNA 50th Birthday dinner:
Judith Clingan AM, SCUNA President Charis Messalina, me
Photo by Peter Hislop, reproduced with permission

Speaking of music...

For me, the best concert I heard in Canberra in 2013 was the Tallis Scholars'. They looked as if they'd just wandered in off the street, they were all shapes and sizes, and none of that mattered because they sang sublimely. Novelty and "keeping up appearances" take such a dominant role in concerts these days that I wondered if I'd be the only person who liked this performance, but there was a standing ovation. Good!

See Trips and So Good A Thing for more about wonderful concerts and singing.

If I ever manage to finish the SCUNA history pages I'd like to write a blog - for one year, at least - about all the concerts I go to. And another, less benign, blog about the trouble I have getting a decent cup of tea in Canberra. (It's the same the whole world over, though.)

Cat-Visiting Afternoon Tea

The third and definitely not the last of these extremely pleasant occasions. I enjoy getting out my best cups and saucers. It's a bonus that Mayhem and Mischief, usually nervous as cats, put in an appearance. When visitors sit at the table, the cats think there might be something for them as well.

Cat-visiting 2013

Clockwise: Annabel, Fred and Camilla; Fred and Dac; Helene and Poppy; Fred and me

We went to Helene's place second this time, with the ever-sociable Fred and George, and then finished at Annabel's place, where we drank a toast to her cat Marco, who died earlier this year, far too young. His sister Poppy is flourishing on her own, and graced us with her presence instead of staying outside. Speaking of Marco reminds me:

Goodbye to Teesy

Chloe and Helen's Great Dane, Tia (aka Teesy McSqueezy Wolsey Thomson), reached a great age for her breed, but her health deteriorated beyond endurance. She was a great character and we miss her.

More about Mayhem

At around the time of the Cat-Visiting Afternoon Tea, Dac and I were trying to decide what to do about a growth that had been found in Mayhem's ear. We hadn't realised he was crook (though in retrospect, his ear was definitely bothering him) so it was hard to take in his need for an expensive operation. Eventually, believing that it wasn't all that expensive averaged out over the ten more years Mayhem will probably live, we went ahead. After months of buster collars and antibiotics, he's all better and is only rebuked for being an expensive cat when he knocks things over...


Wayne Myles, Allan Darrow, Andrew Butterworth, Max Huntington

Season's Greetings

I hope you've survived the 2013 festive season well. My favourite greeting was from my friend Birthe, and I'd like to share it: may the New Year treat you gently.

- Val

On other pages:

Page created 31 December 2013; last updated 24 January 2015