Friday, November 21, 2008

Xmas letter 2008

This first blog entry is Nicky and Stuart’s 2008 Xmas letter for family and friends, most of whom are in the UK. This is the first year we have tried a blog – how exciting! We gave up sending those little CDs - many of you put them in the toaster and other interesting places!! Those of you who take the time to read this – thank you! Pls leave a comment on this blog on blogspot.

2008 was a year of being busy, going on some great trips and seeing lots of family and friends. And there should be much more of the same in 2009.

Nicky is still working hard and threatening to retire – Stuart is resisting this at all costs. But Nic might be winning – read on. Nic had another 2 PhD students finish this year, to bring her total to 4. Nicky is finally off the Medical Staff Association at the Kids Hospital – she has been chair for the past 3 years and on the exec for 9 years. This is the first of her 3 or 4 jobs to go - she is a new woman. One of the reasons for her “spring cleaning” her life will become apparent later in this blog.

2008 was busier for Stuart on the bass than with Bass Data. The software work chugs along, but Stuart was on a full time contract with Orchestra Victoria (OV) for most of the year. OV is the performance partner for Opera Australia (who performed Carmen, Masked Ball, Arabella, My Fair Lady, Madame Butterfly, Otello and Orlando in 2008) and the Australian Ballet (Swan Lake (yet again!), Celebrations, Ballet Imperial, Interplay, Manon), among other things. There were lots of other gigs beside OV, including a recording session with Judith Durham – the older readers of this blog will know of Judith as the lead singer with the Seekers. “Hey there Georgie girl....”

The Parkville Ensemble did another 2 programs in 2008 – in March we did a windie program including Mozart's Oboe quartet. In Nov back to strings with the Bach double concerto and octets by Bargiel and Shostakovitch. That should make sure we lose our audience!! The photos shows Stuart and Rohan doing the Rossini Duo, again!

We returned up to Far North Queensland (FNQ) in late June for holiday on Lizard Island and Port Douglas. In the middle of the year the weather is cold and wintery in Melbourne and the South, but the tropical North has its “cool dry” season, ie 25-28 degrees. Lizard was glorious. We were boringly predictable every day – breakfast, in the dinghy, round to an empty beach, set up the camp, snorkel, lazing around, deluxe cool box picnic, back to base, supper, bed. Bliss. Except for the day that Nicky went checking out the wildlife on wet rocks. She slipped and hurt her wrist, feeling very sorry for herself for a week or so. She complained that it hurt when fishing in Port Douglas. It was not until two weeks later that she had it X rayed and found an undisplaced fracture!! The wildlife was spectacular, both above and below the waterline, as you can see from the pictures in this blog.

We did lots of sport again in 08, both as spectators and participants. Nic did another half marathon in October and a week later Stuart did Around the Bay in a Day, 210km bike ride. The low point of the latter was when a stupid cyclist pulled out then slammed on the brakes. Stuart was bruised and a bit scabby, but the other bloke was to experience 17 stone travelling at 28km/hr on top of him! Ouch!!

The Boxing Day Test was awesome as ever – we shared Tendulkar’s last Boxing Day in Melbourne with another 110,000 people. The Auzzies were very bullish about the cricket at that time – this has waned significantly as the year progressed! We had two magnificent sessions at the Australian Open Tennis in January, seeing Ana Ivanovich, Baghdatis v Safin (there were lots of broken rackets on the court), Ana Ivanovich, Gonzalez v Cilic, Federer v Tipsarevic (Fed almost lost that one, a 4:27 min epic) and Ana Ivanovich. Did I mention that we saw Ana Ivanovich?

Stuart went to the UK for a week in Nov 08 to help his father Graham get thro his carotid endartorecomy. He looks a bit like Frankenstein but is recovering well. Manchester is cold in Nov, brrrrr!

We had lots of visitors thro the year, including Nicky Rumsey, Nick Beach, Helen and Brian and Mink and Paul + kids. And we are expecting many more soon – there is no room at the inn until late March after Udo and family, Mark Peters and the tribe, Liz and Ian and Nor have all been thro. But we are looking forward to seeing everyone.

We are writing this blog from Fitzgerald, our holiday home. As you can see from our online agent, at, it’s getting pretty popular – we now need to enter our own bookings before someone else takes it. We are getting better at spotting local wildlife - there is a mob of 40 or so roos about 10km from the house. Most Auzzies are flippant about kangas, but we are still excited to see them. And they taste delicious, medium rare on the BBQ! We managed to get down to Fitzy 12 times in 2008, good for the soul and the blood pressure.

In March 2009 Nic will have been at the Royal Children’s Hospital (the Kids) for 10 years. Time flies. There are many great things about Australia but one of them is the concept of long service leave (LSL). After 10 years many employers, especially in the public sector, offer LSL, which for Nic is 17 weeks fully paid holiday. And this will be spent from June 2009 doing what is called, the Big Lap, ie driving around Australia. We have bought a Toyota Landcruiser and are in the process of kitting it up for river crossings (not that we have any water in Australia any more) and 4WD conditions. The plan is to go anti clockwise - leave Melbourne in early June, to work our way up thro NSW and Qld to Port Douglas by early July, thro Kakadu and croc country to Darwin by August, thro the Kimberley to Broome by early Sept, the Pilbara, then South to Perth and Margaret River, before nipping across the Nullabor (all 3000km of it) thro South Australia and home some time towards the end of 2009.

We see this as a trip of a lifetime and want to do it now rather then when we retire, ie in 2010! Stuart that is!! Much of the latter part of 2008 has been spent in planning, buying "toys" and learning how to use them. We have joined the Toyota Landcruiser Club of Australia and will do a training course in late Jan 09 where we take the "truck" thro water, up sand dunes, get bogged and recover etc.

We will keep a travel blog of our exploits for the amusement of anyone wishing to find out who gets taken by a croc first!

Finally we wish you all a happy, safe and healthy Xmas and 2009.

Lurve, Nicky and Stuart

Boring PS – pls change our postal address to PO Box 818, Parkville VIC 3052


Rob said...

Excellent news from Down Under. Sounds like you had a terrrific 2008 and you've got an even better 2009 lined up.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Rob Shrimpton and family, Texas.

Stuart Riley said...

Hey Rarb - thks for reading our stuff and for commenting. Had a look at your Tavi and Hawaii trips - awesome! The kids are growing and you look just the same. Dashing and handsome!!


Dave Morris said...

Great idea! I've just completed 10 years service in Leeds - must see what "long-service leave" they'll offer me!!
Good to hear that your'e taking things quiet......
All the best,

Dave & Sarah Morris
Wetherby, West Yorkshire, UK