Dear Friends and Family,
The year 2001 (where did it go?) has been a bad one for the world in general. September the 11th, the "War against terrorism", and Australia's disgraceful treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. But for us and many of our friends it has been a year of many joys and happy reunions. Betty and I took a big trip, a HUGE trip actually, and got to see many of our overseas friends and families that we had been threatening to visit for so long..... We also got to Adelaide and the second Blue Steel reunion - friends from 40 years ago! And we held the second of our annual Honeysuckle Creek tracking station picnics - friends from 30 - 35 years ago!
Late in 2000 we started planning for the BIG TRIP.... We organised Star Alliance 34,000 mile "round the word" tickets. The beauty of this type of ticket is you can virtually fly anywhere on United (where we have our mileage), or any of the associated airlines, providing you only cross each major ocean once. We did run into a couple of other bits of "fine print" which clipped our wings slightly. The first was "only 5 stops in the USA and Canada including points of entry & exit" - this sadly caused us to abandon plans to visit friends and family in the mid-west of USA. Also we had hoped to visit Cape Town, but found that Star Alliance did not have a partner for internal South African flights. So in the end (being the cheapskate that I am) we only managed 22 flights on everything from 747s to Cessna 180s.... For our "net enabled" friends who might be interested - the full report can be found at www.pcug.org.au/~jsaxon/personal/trip2001 To keep this letter to a reasonable length I'll mention only a few highlights.
The most incredible thing was to meet my eldest Sister Barby (half sister actually) for the very first time. My eldest full sister Jane had tracked her down in Norwich while she was on a visit to UK from her home in the USA. Our family had lost touch after WW2 and it was really wonderful to meet her and all our various cousins, etc. around Norfolk and Northamptonshire. We spent about 20 days in England and Scotland catching up with family and good friends. Some we had not seen for 35 years or more. We also caught up with old friend Clive Nicholas in Scotland who had suffered two major strokes but is making remarkable progress. While there we visited the Scottish Museum of flight and renewed acquaintance with a 60's missile project that we worked on in UK and Australia. In UK there were too many friends & family to mention individually, but it was a great time.
In USA our old friends the Risk's put us up for the longest stay of our trip - 11 days in their 1900's house in a really beautiful part of Pasadena. Thanks guys - it really was "above & beyond". That stay let us catch up with many of our 200 plus friends in the LA area. We even got to the new John Paul Getty Museum - a "must see" if you are in LA. On the East coast we stayed with my Niece Melissa & her husband in NJ and made new friends in DC. On the tourism front, a 2 day trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train, then bus through some terrific scenery, was wonderful. And then 3 nights of total luxury and many close encounters with the wild life in a game lodge just outside Krueger National park. It was just as I had imagined it would be - sitting on a terrace, gin & tonic in hand, watching the animals at the water hole! And the "Game drives" in the early morning and sunset in open Land Rovers were incredible - but freezing cold...
Enough of the travelogue. We are all rather well and trying not to notice the years passing. Betty and I are in full retirement mode and too busy to scratch ourselves. Betty with production line craft work, mainly presents for the 8 Grand children. Me with 2 - 4 PC systems per week to fix at home or in other people's places. Also teaching Internet to Senior Citizens and many other PC related activities. All the children are well - Hilary and Catherine in the throes of reasonably amicable divorces, Penny going well with her two, and Timothy back living at home, complete with Sampson the Malamute who is a great joy (most of the time).
We were going to renovate the Bathroom this year, but as house prices have sky-rocketed in the last few years we decided to build a new Master Bedroom & bathroom instead. It should be a good investment as everyone seems to expect these luxuries these days and we can enjoy them in the meantime. The building industry is really busy, so we had a lot of problems getting quotes and getting started (took roughly from March to October). But once we did start it has moved along quite rapidly and should (we hope) be almost complete by Christmas. Along the way we added a Bow window, and a 10,000 litre rainwater tank which should help us pay some of the ever increasing water bills.
So that's it. A very small snapshot of a terrifically busy year. So many people were so kind to us, putting us up and helping during our travels - I'd love to mention you all, but it would probably be too boring for others - but you know who you are!
So much love to you all - have a great Christmas and super 2002!
From John & Betty in Canberra, Australia.
15 December 2001