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Simon Benson & Alison Edwards
Year End, already!

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(Simon) We have been busy. Too busy to sit down at the computer and write a bit more. Now we are sitting on a plane, on a 4-hour trip across to Perth to see Alison's father Bruce, for his 90th birthday. A good period of forced inactivity.

Our trip for next year is booked - the main legs of it, anyway. It goes like this: fly out on 11th May, to Zurich. Have a couple of weeks in Europe before then flying to Iceland (via Copenhagen) for 3 weeks. (We plan to rent a camper vehicle of some sort here, and drive around the place and do some walking; we're taking backpack / tent / sleeping bags / stove).

Back to Copenhagen for a few days, then on to New York. We have four weeks in USA / Canada then before flying home from Vancouver, arriving home on 22nd July. This is so far unplanned though we hope to see friends in Washington DC and on Vancouver Island. How we get from East Coast to West we don't know yet.

(This means that we escape the ten weeks of short daylight hours in Australia. I recently realised that, having been born very close to the longest day of the year, I am less happy with short daylight hours because my subconscious thinks they should be as they were when I was born.)

But we have been busy. Alison went off on a conference to Sri Lanka for two weeks; I missed her but my life was very productive in her absence. Amazing how much time you have to do things when you there's just you. I went to my 40-year medical reunion - it was good, but there was the sobering fact that over 5% of us are no longer here. I'm glad I am still here.

Castlemaine continues to take a lot of our time, in a nice way. We've taken our kitchen apart and had it repainted. The horrible purple it used to be is finally gone. Castlemaine is a very social sort of place,so we have enjoyed lots of visitors and there's been a lot of grass to mow as well. And we have been getting the new house in order - it's now had the floors in the front sanded and sealed, the front rooms are being painted, and the renovations at the back are set to start before Christmas. And next weekend I'm going off motorcycling up to the Snowy Mountains with four others from Castlemaine, leaving Alison (this time) at home alone.

Having written this - over a month ago - we've been just as busy. The motorcycling trip was good - the only problem being running into the Great Victorian Bike Ride, which had 8,000 cyclists riding along the same way we were going. Most of them were fine, but you never knew when one would suddenly cross the road in front of you; it was too stressful, so we had to modify our route to avoid them. Then builder started on the new house, by demolishing a lot of the back. It had to be done, but made quite a lot extra for us to do as well.

And then Christmas has come along; we feel more than ever this year that Christmas is designed for the Northern Hemisphere - holding it in the middle of summer, near the longest day, is just silly!

(Alison) The plane flights may cause forced inactivity - but the visit to Perth has been very social. Dad is looking better than I have seen him for years - he may be 90 but he can still get round the block, cook dinner, play with the dogs, read, and carry his end of the far reaching conversations. We have seen several old friends as well as been to a Noel Coward play -:, "Hayfever" ;, been out to lunch and breakfast and had several special dinners,, lots of walks, been for a swim etc . It is not worth trying to adjust to Perth's 3 hours behind timeframe when we are only here for a few days, so we tend to start early (5 am local time but an 8 am sleep-in) for us - but we are getting old - by 10 pm local time it really feels like 1 am etc

Castlemaine is just as social - and we are having a ball there.This year we went back for more" preparing for puberty "classses - this time the kids knew what to expect or at least last year's grade 5's did. We still go to our bookclubs and the Hub and for bike rides and champagne evenings with our lovely neighbours..We even helped put out a small grass fire on a neighbouring block after mowing sparked the dry grass. Thes is not much gardening apart from mulching and a bit of watering as it is so dry. We decided that employing a professional painter and earning the money to pay her would be cost effective. It is but I am feeling very guilty that our plans to have the rooms prepared etc before she started have evaporated. Perhaps with Simon away this weekend , I can also get more done!

Sri Lanka was an interesting place to visit - and there were some special bits like the wild elephants - but I am looking forward more to travelling with Simon next year.