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Dear Friends and Family,

From an Australian perspective 2002 was a very depressing year. Australia's continuing disgraceful treatment of refugees changed the world's perception of us. No longer a welcoming, caring multi-cultural society, but exactly the reverse. And our Prime Minister's blind support of the futile and un-winnable "war against terrorism", has made even our isolated island a more dangerous place. All for perceived political advantage. On the 'positive' side, we are told that our economy is going "gangbusters". But I suspect this happy state tends to benefit the big end of town - not self-funded retirees!

From a family viewpoint, 2002 has been another great year. We are all in reasonably good health and enjoying life. Betty and I are trying hard to forget that the years are passing - getting older is all in the mind - I think....

The house extensions - in progress in last year's letter were finished at last and we are really happy with them. The bow window is a great success as we can admire the birds feeding in the cherry tree from the comfort of our bed! The picture on the left was taken in our back garden. The monster en-suite (double the size of our main bathroom) is a great treat after 6 people shared one bathroom for so many years! The 24,000 Litre rain water tank works well and can replace mains water for the garden - if only we could have some rain to refill it occasionally... A month ago we finally replaced the last section of back fence with 'Colourbond' dark green metal fence and we now have a really private back garden. Needless to say, almost 12 months later there are still plenty of internal and garden jobs to be done.

Our travels this year were closer to home than our monster trip last year. Somewhat unexpectedly I heard from a cousin that a bunch of Saxons, Hornimans, and Knyvetts were holding a reunion to celebrate the 150th anniversary of my Great-Grand-Father's emigration to New Zealand (with 10 children) from England in the early 1850s. After booking our travel to the wrong island (the Internet was too informative!) we got sorted out and had a great trip to the North Island for just over two weeks in Feb/Mar. The reunion took place in a village hall at a place called Ngarua in the middle of the North Island. I found out that the 3 families had met in the Nelson area in the early 1850s but some had taken up land in the North Island later. The reunion was really well organised and I met about 150 relatives that (mostly) I didn't know I had :-) The photo on the right is just the Saxon group! We were really well looked after by many relatives (particularly in Auckland where we stayed twice). We toured the Coromandel Peninsular before the reunion and stayed in a great B & B in the Bay of islands afterwards, see www.bay-of-islands.co.nz/accomm/veronica.html. A really nice holiday and it was great to meet so many new friends and family.

In early May we climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge to celebrate Betty's 61st (Actually the climb had been promised for her 60th but we were en-route Washington to London last year). Somewhat to my surprise the climb (apart from some ladders near the start) was quite gentle and the views spectacular. I'm not a great fan of heights - but it was all very safe. Everyone had safety lines to a fixed wire for the entire trip. We had the weekend there staying in a great hotel with wonderful views of the bridge etc. Very cheap (for Sydney) found with www.wotif.com

Later in July we decided to take a trip North to warmer parts and visit friends and family around Brisbane and then back down along the East coast. We stayed with Betty's sister Colleen and husband Fred on the coast North of Brisbane near Bribie Island, and with youngest daughter Catherine in Brisbane. Along the way we met up with Nev & Susan Eyre and Neal & Verena Sandford from the Apollo days, and Penny's in-laws Iris & Ross Neuendorf in Yamba on the far North coast of NSW.  The photo is a rather nice quiet beach at Port Macquarie.Finally a days wine tasting in the Hunter Valley (NW of Sydney) certainly slipped down well. In November we spent a few days in a house right on Maloney's Beach just North of Bateman's bay which is about 2 hours drive East of Canberra. The views are magnificent and it really was a wonderful time to relax - Thanks so much to our good friends Ted and Pat. Why should retirees need to relax? Ask most of us and we'll tell you that we are busier than when we went to work - no real excuses these days.....

So how are all the family doing I hear you ask!? Starting with the head of the household (that's meant to be a joke :-) I have mostly been busy visiting peoples homes and fixing their computer problems. I thought it was 2-3 systems a week, but a rough count gives 110 in the last 12 months. More than enough really, specially as a few need more work at home.... I'm also still teaching Internet at the local library and spend one day a week with the local PC group. Sounds very PC'centric and I guess it is - but if you enjoy it, and I still do, why not? Betty has here own PC (networked to mine of course - great for backups and Internet connection sharing), but she spends MUCH less time at it than I do at mine. So she has time to get into mass production of crafty things as presents for our children and Grand children - a full time job it seems, along with waiting on me hand and foot - very hard to take!

Our eldest Hilary is battling along bringing up her 4 children single handed, plus Nursing part time, etc. I am full of admiration of her organising skills. Middle daughter Penny and husband Terry are going well bringing up their two daughters. Terry is still working out at the Tidbinbilla tracking station and Penny is trying to reduce her Massage therapy workload and concentrate more on teaching. The photo on the left is their two children, Rachael and Emily. Our youngest daughter Catherine is in Brisbane with her two Children and will be marrying her partner Michael Hollis next Friday. I'm happy to report that Michael is a great guy. He's an intensive care nurse at the same hospital where Catherine is Nursing. He has 2 children from his former marriage - so our extended family is still growing. They are off to Vanuatu for their honeymoon (was to be Bali) before Christmas. Timothy is living at home and comes complete with a cellar full of furniture and his gorgeous Alaskan Malamute who is approaching 5 years old. Tim has been working all year in the Canberra Hospital as a Wardsman and seems to regularly perform CPR (for real) etc. Seems all our children are now involved in looking after others - probably a better option than the space biz... My eldest sister Barby in U.K. seems to be going well, and next eldest Jane (who lives in Taos New Mexico) visited recently which was great. My youngest sister Anna is going rather well with her new guide dog Jeanie. But they both have fairly serious medical problems unfortunately. Still, she is doing lots of good things with various Peace groups and other noble causes - which I find quite incredible.

So that's it. Another busy year almost gone. Much Love and Best Wishes for 2003 and have a great Christmas!

From John & Betty Saxon

11 Dec 2002

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