Press STOP icon on your Browser's tool bar if you can't stand the music! 3 Dec 2003
Dear Friends and Family,
No 'Political' comments from me this year - altogether too depressing ......
So right into our update for 2003. But before I start, on the good news side, I'm delighted to report that 3 days into official Summer here - we are finally getting some good rain and our 2000 Gal, 10,000 litre plus rainwater tank is full. But according to the powers that be - we may be on permanent water restrictions (at one level or another) for many years. Australians are amongst the heaviest water users per capita in the World on the driest continent.....
I guess the big news for the year happened on the 18th January. We had the Canberra fires - candles in the house at Midday because of the smoke and electricity failures. Son Timothy blocked the gutter downpipes and hosed the roof and surrounding gardens. At about 2pm the fire raced down the nature strip that crosses our street about 6 houses down - well above the 10-25 M high eucalypts. Almost simultaneously Mount Taylor (the peak is about one KM SW of us) exploded into flames and was burnt out in about 20 mins. All this time and for hours before, we had been bombarded with burning gum leaves. In the event we were extremely lucky and only really suffered the loss of power and phone for 3-4 days. Not as lucky were many people from the NW to SW of us where 500 houses were lost and 4 lives (why no more were killed is incredible if you watch some of the video). At least 4 of our friends were burnt out. All our neighbours helped put out the minor fires on the Nature strip at the end of Mauldon St - but in the end we had to get a builder friend to scoop up the burning Tan Bark mulch into piles with his BobCat where it smouldered for days.
Five days later we took middle daughter Penny's daughters Rachael & Emily about 100 Metres up the road to the slopes of Mt. Taylor to put out food and water for the Kangaroos and birds - here they are looking like genuine refugees! (If you are looking at this on the web you can click for a bigger picture). You can just see a tree or two still smouldering. Then about 2 months later, Betty and I went up to Honeysuckle Creek about 50 Km S. of Canberra where I used to work. We went to check out the damage (which was confined to vegetation and wildlife). The regeneration of the Eucalypts was already underway. Nearly a year later the road to Honeysuckle is still closed. No vegetation to hold up the rocks!
We went on an Australian holiday this year for nearly 3 weeks in September. We had a super time staying with friends all the way up the NSW coast and in Southern Queensland. Thanks so much to everyone who offered us such great hospitality :-)) As they were all retired from Canberra, most gave us the Real Estate tours! Also favourite beaches, and the sightseeing in each area was great! Betty would like to move to the coast (and to a warmer climate) but my feeling is that I'm having too much fun here and really like the Canberra Climate. Plus after 36 years in the same house, the thought of moving is absolutely horrifying. Not to mention all our good friends and neighbours here. We went on to Hervey Bay in Queensland to go Whale watching and were not disappointed. Saw more Whales doing more Whaley things than 4 other Whale watching trips (in various parts of the world) put together. Including going under the boat, breeching, fin flapping, singing (via Hydrophone) etc.
We then stayed with Betty's eldest sister who was celebrating her 70th Birthday. All Betty's family were there and we had a great lunchtime meal on Bribie Island which is 50 Km or so N. of Brisbane. Then we stayed with youngest daughter Catherine and her new husband Michael with their 4 children. We met Michael's Chris (13 yo) and Samantha (12) for the first time, and were there for Catherine's Samantha's (9) and Andrew's (6) birthdays which fall on the same day. As well as other relatives, we also met Michael's Father who is Speaker of the Queensland Parliament. Who gave us a superb BBQ (2 chefs :-) prepared in his private gardens in the Parliamentary precinct, plus a great 'behind the scenes' tour. Finally we journeyed back to Canberra via Lightning Ridge in N. NSW (the home of the Black Opal) - very hot but interesting, and Wellington caves out to the NW of Canberra. A little altitude and 1/2 days driving really provided some temperature contrasts - 35 deg at the Ridge, and -5 deg at Wellington the next morning. We have now 'done' all 3 of the main caves at Wellington - really quite spectacular, and not too many visitors.
Catherine & Michael visited us without the children for a really short trip in April. They are due here on 15th of this month for early Christmas Celebrations with their 4 Children and all the Canberra contingent. Should be interesting having another 6 more people staying here! On the 21st December we are hosting a street party for Mauldon street and half of the other street (we live on a corner block). December is beginning to fill-up rapidly!
Number one Son Timothy (he prefers Tim) is still living with us - and his Malamute dog Sampson. He turned 30 in October and decided to try a tandem jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane to celebrate.
It was quite a cloudy day so he was a bit sick, but survived O.K.
He seemed quite pleased with himself and said he was ready to do it again. A week later he flew up to the Gold Coast and did a type of reverse bungy jump. Not something I would enjoy these days!
Our eldest daughter Hilary seems to be enjoying life as a Nurse (all our children are in health care), and single Mother bringing up her girls. She had a car accident about a month ago when someone decided to pull out of a side road without looking. Her almost new 'people mover' sustained more than $20,000 worth of damage. Neither Hilary or any of her children were badly hurt. The car is still being repaired. Luckily an off-duty policeman was in a car behind her so she had a good witness. Middle daughter Penny and her family are putting an extension on their house and she is going to borrow our spare room to do a very occasional massage, but she mostly teaches these days. Her husband Terry is still working at CDSCC (Canberra Deep Space Communications Centre) and has recently returned from a few weeks at NASA's JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) and out at the sister tracking station in the Mohave desert.
I am flat out as usual, fixing PCs (Hardware and Software) in people's homes, here in Chifley, and via phone and Email. I have also been busy maintaining 3 Emailing lists and member lists for ex-Blue Steel and Honeysuckle Creek workers, plus our large 'Coffee and Chat' group which is part of the local PC User's group. I'm still teaching Senior citizens about using computers and the Internet in the Library. Betty works twice as hard looking after Me and Tim + the house, garden, and mass produces craft work mostly as presents for special friends and our extended family.
Timothy's dog Sampson is a delight (except when he is moulting!). Betty and I walk him a bit, and once a week we walk him in a park which he really loves as he can go into the lake (At least up to his stomach) He gets bathed in a mobile dog wash very infrequently as he absolutely hates it. His howls can be hear streets away! His greatest love is to go for a drive in the backseat of the car. He is extremely well behaved.
So there it is. Another year has rushed by. Do hope you and yours are at least as well as us and enjoying life as much as we do. Perhaps next year will be a better one for Peace and Goodwill, and the environment survives our best attempts to destroy it.
Much love and have a great Christmas and Superb 2004 from Betty and John
P.S. Thanks to Betty for all the photos!