Christmas Newsletter

The year kicked off dramatically enough. Sharon and her partner Bill came over from Sydney to stay with us for Christmas 2004. The Tsunami hit on Boxing Day and within 48 hours Bill, who works for Médecins San Frontieres, was on his way to Sri Lanka to help with building shelters and temporary homes for the victims. He was away for the next three months.

Tracy was also with us as her partner Tim spent Christmas and New Year with his family in Western Australia.

In February, our old (as in long-standing) friends from school days, Greg and Chris came out to visit at long last as part of their post-retirement round-the-world trip. Highlights of their visit included an Aussie back-yard barbecue for them to meet a group of our friends, a few days on Kangaroo Island admiring the scenery and wild life (in between unseasonable downpours), a very funny day wine-tasting in the Barossa Valley, and a few well-lubricated evenings playing Trivial Pursuit.

Other travel highlights for us during the year included a visit to Sydney for Maz and Mike’s combined 60th birthday party. And a long weekend in the Barossa with Father Greg and Sister Rae in adjacent cottages was very pleasant. We had booked it months previously for the Barossa Music Festival. The Festival was cancelled with only a few weeks to go, but we kept the accommodation booking and went anyway.

A sad occasion was a one-day visit to Brisbane to attend Sandy’s funeral after she lost her long, brave battle with many complications following a kidney transplant. Sandy was the partner for some years of Lady Fogg’s brother.

Sharon finally decided she had had enough of working for the New South Wales bureaucracy and took a separation package in August. She and Bill began an epic journey to South America. First they spent some time in Europe. Then, interrupting their journey from Amsterdam to Madrid, managed an unscheduled two-day visit to Birmingham to visit our UK family: my sister Ruth and Aunt Else, and Ruth’s daughter Mandy and her family.

Sharon and Bill then spent some time in Cuba, around the time Hurricane Katrina was heading towards New Orleans, then they flew to Buenos Aires in Argentina. Sharon took some Spanish lessons while they rented an apartment there. Now they are in Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of the continent. Soon they will be heading back to Buenos Aires. In the New Year, they will spend a month working as volunteers on the turtle conservation project at Karumbé in Uruguay.

Tracy’s year was also eventful. Tim, an RAAF pilot, was deployed to the Middle East for a three-month stint in the early part of this year. Tracy lived in his house during that time. Shortly after his return, Tracy began her own long-awaited European trip after quitting her job. She was away for two months, seeing parts of France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, England and Scotland. She also spent some time with Ruth and Aunt Else, so they got to see both of the girls during the year.

On her return to Australia, Tracy moved back home. She is now undertaking the NEIS scheme which trains young people to set up their own small business. She will build on her former freelance work to establish her own graphic design business.

Our biggest event of the year was Lady Foggs’s retirement. She finished on 22 October after 22 years at the Council where she started as Chief Librarian and ended as Director of Community and Recreational Services. The Mayor gave her a farewell reception in the Town Hall. All six mayors with whom Lady Fogg has worked were able to attend. It was a great send-off and acknowledgment of her career achievements.

Lady F is enjoying retirement more than she imagined she would. Continuing her involvement with the PLAIN Central Services steering committee, she also has recently taken a Board position with the Seniors Information Service, a not-for-profit, non-government organisation. She is also regularly going to exercise classes and rediscovering her talents as a cook.

2005 was my first full calendar year as a retiree. Most enjoyable. I joined the Board of CISA (Community Information Strategies Australia) in the latter part of 2004. It’s another non-government, not-for-profit organisation which provides information and IT services to the community sector. Also I’ve managed to pick up a few consultancies here and there, with a focus on professional writing. Father Greg and I have just started a joint consultancy to review the operation of the Development Assessment Panel for a local Council.

Meanwhile the band is playing well but struggles to maintain a consistent line-up. Anybody know any good bass players? We keep losing them. As well as rhythm guitar, I also do a couple of numbers on keyboard and sax. I took some harmonica lessons during the year and also give that a go on a couple of songs.

Around the domestic scene, we demolished then rebuilt our old front garden wall. We re-used the old sandstone in the new wall. The stonemason told us that it wasn’t local stone, it came from Sydney. Probably as ballast in a cargo ship. You could see that the faces of the sandstone blocks that had been facing into the old wall were originally the outside faces of a house or other building. So we have a part of old Sydney town in our garden wall. Once the wall was done, we had the front garden landscaped – we got rid of the old lawn and replaced it with a garden of mixed natives and exotics complete with sub-surface drip lines for water economy. It’s the last stage but one of our 20 year renovation program – only the laundry left to do now.

The year ended on a sad note as dear old Tessa, our 14 year old miracle dog, left us. A diabetic for the last three years, her quality of life deteriorated in the last few weeks and we asked the vet to put her to sleep.

Looking forward, we will have Christmas lunch at our place this year, with Lady F’s sister and her family and their mother, Agnes, now 92 not out. Then we have Sharon and Bill coming back sometime in March. Also in March we have booked for several shows in the Festival the Arts and at the same time that we’ll be busy with the State General Election.

Hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable festive season and a happy New Year.

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