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10 December 1998

Dear everyone,

So here we are again – old "left it till the last minute, then panics very easily….", is back here to wish you a fabulous Christmas and superb 1999. As usual I expected to do a "multimedia" production, but end up with a letter and a few pictures. The good news is that we are all well here down-under, and the better news is that we are keeping busy and enjoying life.

The first major event of the year was Granny’s 93rd birthday last January. One of the few occasions that we got the whole family together – so naturally we took the obligatory photos in the back garden!

Granny's 93rdThis is not the greatest picture, but sitting in the middle is my mother, flanked by me and Betty. Betty is holding Samantha – Catherine’s eldest. Beside her is Amanda – Hilary’s eldest. In front from left are Jessica, Emma, and Tamara – Hilary’s other girls (youngest through oldest but one).

At the back from Left to right are Timothy (#1 son), Hilary (our eldest) with Michael her husband behind her. Then Catherine (our youngest daughter) holding her second child Andrew, with her husband Jon. Finally our middle daughter Penny with her husband Terry. Catherine and Jon live in Brisbane with their family. All the others in our growing clan are currently in Canberra.Rachael at one day old

And growing is the operative word – a few months later on Bastille day, Penny gave birth to Rachael – her and Terry’s first. The picture here was taken the next day and like the previous picture includes 4 generations. Now of course, Rachael is sitting up, smiling and looking highly adorable.

All Hilary’s family are going well. Hilary is working part time as a Medical secretary with a local Pathology company, Michael has been given the dreaded redundancy package from the public service, and is really enjoying setting up a "flourishing" gardening business. And they both share in the home care business of looking after other children as well as their own 4! Can’t imagine how they do it – but they seem to survive. 

Son Timothy is still working in security at the new Parliament Samson at 6 weeksHouse. But unfortunately the work is fairly "seasonal". Lots of it when the members are sitting, but almost nothing when they are not – and unfortunately our politicians only sit for a very limited time every year. But despite all that, he is living independently nearby and has acquired a gorgeous Alaskan Malamut. This picture was taken at about 6 weeks old. He is now 7 months and about 2/3rds grown at 40 Kg approx. But T. has him very well trained and although a little clumsy he is a joy to "dog sit" from time to time. Even Betty is enthusiastic, but B.J. our 16 year old Siamese is not totally impressed – tolerant but armed is the technique.

Betty and Granny on Maloney's beachMy mother is now approaching her 94th birthday. We see her (generally for lunches) at least twice a week. She remains incredibly fit for her age – still lives in her "Self care" unit at the nearby retirement village. She doesn’t want to do too much cooking and cleaning (who could blame her?), but is able to get "hostel services" in her unit and eat in the restaurant at the hostel. She still catches busses to various U3A (University of the 3rd Age) classes and until recently went to a weekly Yoga class, but has stopped going as it is not "proper" Yoga. We took her down to the beach recently (as you can see), staying in a friend’s delightful house right on the beach for a couple of nights. Betty is sitting with her, and taking a day off from work – she is still working part-time 3 days/week at Medical coding and still enjoying it. Goes berserk at her various crafts for at least 60% of her remaining time.

Betty on the beach at Heron IslandWe took a holiday in late October/early November. Driving 3650 Km to see Catherine and John (Plus Samantha and Andrew) in Brisbane, and then up to Gladstone to catch the 2Hr Cat trip out to Herron Island. One of only 4 resorts actually on the Barrier reef. "Walk out of your suite onto the reef". The resort is run by P & O and we had 4 nights of total indulgence. It was everything (and more) than we expected. Even (almost) ran into a 2m Eagle ray while snorkelling – but that is nothing compared to the 6-7m Manta rays + Turtles + reef sharks + 1000’s of fish and wonderful coral that we saw from the semi-submersible. The picture gives you an idea of the uncrowded beaches!

I seem to be busier than ever – as with many retired people, I constantly wonder how I got time to go to work. Doubt if I’ll get any more at JPL – but it was great while it lasted J . Most of the things I am doing are related to computers (PCs) and the Internet. I convene a Coffee and Chat sub group of the local User group. Over 50 turned out for our last meeting. Then every Monday morning I help Senior citizens get familiar with the Internet at the local library. I’m on a Help team to assist people get onto the Net in their homes and have been teaching an "Introduction to the Net" course at the local college in the evenings. Then I have been on a course to Ballarat Uni to learn techniques for connecting isolated families to the net. Due to harvest and the rainy season further North – I haven’t been out into the bush yet – but expect to "get the call" next year. Finally I’m on a steering committee for a new non-profit association to help local community groups with Information Technology. Our aims will include Service, training, Networking, Web Hosting and design, etc. etc. So it’s been a busy year! I’m also organising a reunion for the 35 or so English people who came out to Australia to work in the late 50’s early 60’s. We hope to get some interstate and possibly even some overseas attendees for that towards the end of April next year.

But before all that I hope that we will all have a really terrific Christmas and a safe and loving New Year. With much love from John & Betty.

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