My letter for 2014

Dear Fiends and Family,

I never quite got started with 2014, and now it's gone.

Val, Dac, Daniel, Amy, Fiona

Val, Dac, Daniel, Amy, Fiona. Photo taken by Ricky, just after Christmas 2013,
at the Vietnamese restaurant at Swinger Hill (one of the few local restaurants that wasn't closed for the holidays).

Mayhem and Mischief

Mayhem helping Dac unpack nanoblocks;
Mischief, "the Audrey Hepburn of cats" (Jo B)

Blossom the possum

Early in the year, Blossom had another baby, but it died. She became an irregular visitor in February, when the weather was dreadfully hot and then suddenly dreadfully cold. We haven't seen her since our Merimbula trip, when we fled Canberra to get away from the heat - just as the heat stopped.

Sights of Merimbula

Dac on Pambula Beach; mysterious sand markings;
heron near the boardwalk; pelicans near the boat harbour.

Tea blog

As threatened in last year's letter, I started the Koala Tea Blog, to examine the difficulty of purchasing a decent cup of tea. I've barely updated it since the middle of the year, as I was distracted by making a photo book for my daughter. Helen: 40 years a NaughtyFace wasn't finished in time for her birthday in October, but I posted it to her a month later.

Helen, Helen W, Andrew W, Val

At Helen's 40th: Helen T, Helen W, Andrew W, me
One advantage of Helen's move to Tasmania: seeing Helen and Andrew W more often as well

SCUNA history

With Dac's help, I finished (ho!) the SCUNA history website in March, after making widespread changes so that it would work smoothly on a thumb drive. While I was getting around to contacting ANU to hand it over, Hartley gave me the original SCUNA songbook to add. I need to compose an explanatory page to link it to. This will be done no later than the start of the 2015 academic year.

Customary pursuits

Mainly there was exercising to stay mobile, and going to the osteopath. In between, there was drinking tea with friends and family, reading and writing (not as much as I would have liked), and going to the odd choral concert.

Dac and I enjoyed the architectural projection bit of Canberra's Enlighten Festival on a damp, uncrowded night. I hope there's some rain left for this year's festival: we're having a remarkably wet January!

Clockwise: National Library at Enlighten Festival; Fiona at the Kingston Grind; Val at Coriole

Clockwise from top: National Library at Enlighten; me at Coriole; Fiona at the Kingston Grind

Fiona visited for my birthday, which you can read all about in the Birthday Cuppas entry of my tea blog.

And Dac, Daryl, Jill B (over from England) and I attended the sixteenth Coriole Music Festival - French music this time and, as always, extraordinary performances.

The place where we usually stay was booked out - everywhere in the vicinity of McLaren Vale was booked out - so we ended up staying at a dreadful dump. Fortunately all we had to do there was sleep: it didn't impinge on the general blissfulness of Coriole.

My tea-based account of the trip appears in my blog:

  1. Saturday: arrival and Danish furniture shop,
  2. Sunday and Monday: including our meeting over the year's best (purchased) cuppa with Dac's sister, niece, and great-niblings, and
  3. Tuesday: in Adelaide, where we also caught up with Dac's parents.

Coriole isn't happening in 2015. I will miss the beauty of it all, but I won't miss the travelling.

Walks and excursions

Clockwise from top left: little suspension bridge across the Queanbeyan River;
Dac on a swing in Queanbeyan; me crossing Ginninderra Creek in Umbagong Park in Latham;
wonderful steam engine at Goulburn Historic Waterworks

Dac and I walked twice a week until I started going to the gym instead, later in the year. We also had a couple of excursions with Daryl C. In June we met him in Goulburn for the steaming at the Waterworks, and went on to the Rail Heritage Centre. We didn't realise the turntable had been wrecked a year before. It was still very interesting.

In late August we met Daryl at Trainworks, another railway museum, at Thirlmere in the Southern Highlands. We'd been trying to get there for years (and I hoped Fiona and the niblings would come too) but it always seemed to be either bushfire or flu season. On the day, the niblings had other engagements and Fiona was double-booked so we missed them. It was too long a drive for me to do twice in one day so Dac and I stayed the night in Bowral, and visited the rather sweet All Aboard model railways in Braemar on the way home.


Once again we didn't go to Denmark. It hasn't been a bad health year, but I've made no progress with my breathing. Current thinking is that I should go to Denmark regardless: one can stop to gasp for air every 50 metres just as well over there as at home.

I continue to grapple with the mysteries of Danish, watching at least an hour of Danish TV a night, and writing a small essay to read out at the weekly (lovely) Danish group at the ANU Polyglot Club.

Health Report

Added to the general merriment were two months of dizziness, and two sudden cataract operations. I am thrilled with my eyesight now, and relieved that the extended bout of BPPV (short for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, for those who are connoisseurs of these things) was eventually fixed by turning my bed around. I've had episodes of it since 2008 so it might well come back, but I expect it will again respond to the Epley manoeuvre, a simple shaking down of the rocks in my head Smiley face (or, more precisely, inner ear).


Things Dac has made at the Men's Shed

Things Dac has made at the Men's Shed:
Hanging iPad bedside stand; wooden mallet donated to the shed

Dac joined the Tuggeranong Men's Shed this year. He is teased about being tall and having the longest hair but, in between, he makes useful items and seems to have a good time. He also kept up his volunteer gig looking after computer backups at Kidsafe.

Helen and Chloe

They moved into their "house down the hill" in April and appear to enjoy being closer to town (Cygnet). People drop in! The house has a good feeling about it, and Chloe has done miracles with plants (both edible and decorative) and the happiest, prettiest, liveliest bunch of chooks I've ever met.

I went down for Helen's birthday party, as did Fiona. It was good to be there. I attended rehearsals of the choirs Helen is directing: QTas (Tasmania's LBGTIQ choir) and SwanSong (the Cygnet community choir). Some excellent music is being made. She's doing some solo singing as well, in between the work she and Chloe do for OzEarth, their natural building education company.

Chook palace in the making, with new house in the background

Chook palace in the making, with new house in the background

The fourth annual progressive cat-visiting afternoon tea

Cat-visiting afternoon tea

Helene S, Poppy gazing out the window, Camilla W gazing at Poppy

We didn't find a date that suited everyone until September. It's a pity we can't have one every weekend: it is so lovely drinking tea and admiring cats. Helene's "boys" and Annabel's Poppy are such fluffy giants compared with our short-furred, stick-tailed pusses. At least Mayhem and Mischief permitted themselves to be seen for the cat-visiting, which is more than they do for any other visitors, apart from Brian.



Daryl; tree; me, Brian

We celebrated with Annabel, Brian, Daryl, and Jo. Daryl brought dry ice and put it in all the drinks, two of which can be seen steaming on left and right above. It was a good day but I became aware, on Boxing Day, that I'd wrecked myself again. One of the reasons this letter is later than usual is that I'm just starting to get back to what I laughingly term "normal". I'll be thinking about different ways of handling Christmas this year.

Fiona came down with Ricky and the niblings on Boxing Day. Unable to straighten my back or walk without a stick, I managed to hobble around with them a bit. (Fiona, Amy and I finally got to Cooma Cottage, for example, where we had the place and the guide to ourselves!) I wasn't able to be much of a host, and I had to miss out on going to Tasmania with them in mid-January, but it was good to see them and I appreciate their coming down here (and bringing some rain!) at this hot time of year.

I don't have any plans for 2015 apart from The Usual (see above), unless we go to Denmark. Maybe I won't even have to write a 2015 letter! Smiley face Best wishes, and I look forward to hearing your news.

Godt nytår, alle sammen!



Ronald Doughton, my cousin
Michael Sawer, sinologist and SCUNA historian
Rosa Brown, magistra eximia linguæ Latinæ
And of course Gough

Page created 01 January 2015; last updated 22 January 2015