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Dear friends and family,
I vowed I would not consider the annual letter until we were into December - bah, humbug, etc…. Actually that's a lie - I have even taken to mowing the weeds, and other jobs I hate, to avoid working on this. But it is great to think that we can keep in touch - even if it is only once a year.
This year I became a fully qualified old fogie. Also because it was just too hard to continually fill out forms for me to retain my miniscule Aussie part pension, Betty retired from her part time employment as a medical coder, and I stopped teaching evening classes. For those overseas - old age pensions are both income and asset tested here (whichever is worst…). Luckily I have been paying into the British pension system for the last 15 years or so, and with the current exchange rates, that has proved to be one of our best investments!
I always thought that being "fully retired" would give us some time to slow down and occasionally "smell the roses" - but nothing seems to be further from the truth. I can certainly relate to the old phrase "I don't know how I found time to go to work". The answer seems to be not to volunteer - but I always have a hard time saying no!
Sadly this year we lost my 95 year-old Mother who certainly had a "good innings". In April she went into hospital with a mild infection - but with some senile dementia, and zero short-term memory, she went downhill rapidly and stayed in for 23 days (they will insist on trying to cure everything). We were able to maintain her in her flat for another 2 months, but the problems were mental rather than the expected physical ones and we had to move her to the Hostel area of the retirement village. She hated it there (particularly as she had been going to classes and catching busses late last year), and went downhill faster, finally dying in her sleep on 20th Aug. The picture was taken on her 95th birthday in Jan this year. Per her wishes, we planted a Cherry tree in our garden for her ashes, and my sister Jane is quite correct when she commented that the tree "will no doubt grow strongly and live to a ripe old age"!
Our eldest daughter Hilary has finished her Nursing training, and is really enjoying her new job at the main hospital here in Canberra. She is looking after her 4 girls most of the time, but they are so short of Nurses that she can virtually work whatever hours she likes. She and Michael have parted and I think she is very much relieved.
Coincidentally our youngest daughter Catherine asked her husband Jon to leave (the same weekend as Hilary - without collusion). Both Catherine and Hilary had ultra-possessive husbands to the point of obsessive behaviour. Both H. & C. seem to be managing O.K. and are much happier. All the children seem to be taking it well - perhaps they are pre-conditioned these days. The picture is a reasonably recent one of Catherine and I.
Middle daughter Penny and husband Terry are going well. Penny is still teaching and running her massage therapy business at home when Terry has time away from shift work to help with the child minding. Terry is still working at my old place of employment - the Canberra Deep Space Communications Centre.
Timothy (at last!) found full time employment in security with a large counrtywide department store chain. He transferred to Melbourne at his request and has been there for a few months and seems to be enjoying the work. His massive Alaskan Malamute dog (Sampson) stayed with us for a few weeks, but Timothy was able to take the dog to Melbourne when he came up for my Mother's funeral. However the dog has been getting into mischief when T. is working all day, and it is getting too hot for him in Melbourne. So Betty and I are going down to Melbourne next weekend (via the Mt. Kosciusko national park and the Snowy river road) to bring the dog back to Canberra. The garden has only just recovered from his previous visit!
Apart from doing loads of work on my own and many other P.C.s (20-30), I have been involved with many media (radio & print) interviews, and giving talks and lectures, partially on the subject of the new Aussie film called "The Dish". If you have not seen it yet, it's certainly worth a visit to the movies. It's a nice gentle comedy, full of 60's nostalgia - but they never let the truth get in the way of a good story! We lent the producers (Working Dog) quite a lot of memorabilia and interpreted logs, etc. for them, and only asked them not to perpetuate the myth that the CSIRO radio telescope at Parkes broadcast those first Apollo-11 pictures to the world (it was Honeysuckle) - so what did they do.....? Even used "our" footage as if it was originating in Parkes. One of our number here in Canberra has written a web page The Dish - The Truth! you may find it interesting - it has copies of my log, photo's from Honeysuckle etc. Thanks to Hamish Lindsay for the Honeysuckle picture.
This and last year were a good ones for nostalgia. I organised a 3 day reunion in April 99 for people who worked on the Blue Steel project in U.K and at Woomera. It was very successful (many of us had not met since the early 60s) and now the South Australian contingent are planning another in October next year. Also in April this year we held the first of our (hopefully annual) Honeysuckle reunion picnics at the old site - again, many of us had not met since the late 60s, or early 70s. The site was extensively vandalised in the early 80s and only a few concrete slabs now remain. But we did talk the local environment Minister into spending $60K or so on some "interactive" signs up there, and we officially opened those in early October - hopefully they will resist the vandals for a while.
Betty has had a production line going ever since she retired making children's clothes, dolls, teddy bears, needle point, tapestries, etc. Mostly for our children and G'children - but some are too nice to part with…. The picture is two (of many!) jesters.
We went to Tasmania for an 11 day holiday in early November. We really enjoyed it. Flew to Hobart, rented a car and drove around 1,800 Km (sort of) anti-clockwise. Stayed at B & B's mostly. The weather was mixed but we were only really rained on once which is pretty good for Tassie.
Next year (early April start) we plan to set out on a round the world jaunt. Probably starting in L.A. then to the Canadian Rockies, then back down to (New Mexico and the mid west?), back up to Toronto then down the East coast to Maryland and Washington. Then over to U.K for 2-3 weeks and then down to Cape Town and Johannesburg then back to Australia via Perth or possibly Japan?(If we can last the distance). So look out… We could be passing your way!
With love and best wishes for Christmas and 2001 from John & Betty