2008 …Would You Believe?
Thinking back over 2008 I find myself being aware of something of a blur. It just doesn't seem like a whole year could have passed since last time! It would be helpful to be able to slow it down occasionally though but perhaps the focus needs to be on living rather than remembering!!
With gratitude I can begin by saying that life at Webbs Avenue has again been blessed in so many ways. Laughter and quiet smiling have held sway and for that we are all grateful. For Elaine and Mick the deepening awareness that they really like each other and that being together is a source of quiet joy and some amusement is a delight! 2008 has been the first year of the truly "empty nest" and the realization that, while sitting together - one ensconced in the Sudoku the other pondering cyberspace - there is a sense of contentment, deep joy, love, fun, challenge and commitment is something they are both thankful for. The highlight of the year was six weeks in Europe, most of it spent travelling (very successfully – on the whole!) with our friends Brendan and Maryann. There were numerous wonderful chapters in Tuscany, Paris, the Somme and other ports all excessively documented, in the modern style, elsewhere (if you happened to miss anything ask Mick who will all too willingly supply web addresses for the various blogs, podcasts and photo sites that rival Cook's diaries in their detail). At home they have enjoyed: getting the garden in order; STC plays with the group; movies; the odd short trip; having people (including the immediate family) for dinner; having Les sleep over; improving their cryptic crosswords skills; too much good red wine; tidying up the shed and dreaming about increased water storage capacity(Mick - it's an Inner-West male compensation syndrome); gradually changing the interior colour scheme and extending the "Art Deco" feel (mainly Elaine!) and expunging all traces that the boys ever lived here - attempting to discourage any return!!
Elaine is now completely ensconced in a guilt-free retirement. There never have been many "shoulds" in Elaine's life but all traces have now disappeared as she embraces the freedom of the Senior! Availability for Les is paramount and they have spent many wonderful times cooking; playing; going to the park; watching "Thomas" and Playschool and generally matching wills - Nanna tends to prevail but her young adversary can be a challenge at times! It is a fortunate child that has a Nanna like Laine! On the self-improvement side. Elaine has attended WEA courses on Cryptic Crosswords and Family History - the latter leading to membership of SAG (Society of Australian Genealogists), a family history computer program and her own laptop! (Watch this space!). Elaine has t-shirts proclaiming her in the multi-hundred-visit group at Curves and has the body to prove it! Her dedication over several years now has firmed up most of the suspect places although those final couple of kilos sometimes seem like the last col on Everest! (Mick, in his egocentric way of viewing everything, is convinced that Laine is afraid that some widow will snatch him away and that all this is simply to keep him interested!) Elaine was Ben's research assistant through the year, driving him to Canberra and Newcastle, as well as Nanna-in-Residence for three weeks in Melbourne when the Matt’s Tent show was in town. She finds the time to keep in touch with lots of people either on the phone or at lunch and recently began as a volunteer working one morning at Anglicare (her last place of employment at Parramatta) much to their delight! Elaine is in good form and making plans for subtle changes to the domus. She remains close to the boys and interested in their lives; loves the world of lovely music; reads a fair bit and is currently cooking Christmas cakes!
Mick (and the rest of us .. remember the egocentric lens?) had to part with Ade last January - we had to choose between the dog and the grandchild!! Ade was never vicious but he was always unpredictable and was obviously jealous of the interloper. Fortunately people Ben and Maddy knew wanted him and after persevering through his stubbornness and craziness - they even sent him to "boot camp"- he is now their very much loved, much thinner and healthier, faithful hound. Ben and Maddy kept in close contact early on, walking him and looking after him when they were away but he is very much their dog now. Mick still misses him (so do the early morning park people) but has been strong! Pop is still flavour of the month with Les and they are developing a good man-to-man relationship in which the shed and Lego play significant roles. We think they are teaching each other good things about life. Recently Mick has been sent by his GP to a weight management course (Mick calls it "fat bastards") and as we all know there is no zealot like the convert. Mick now sanctimoniously eschews many culinary delights, measures his life by his pedometer and has even managed the odd alcohol free day!!! We were all amused when we finally deciphered Mark's (the G.P.& good friend) writing on the referral form, under reasons for the referral were "weight loss" and "hazardous drinking"!! - Mick was outraged! Work-wise Mick is very happy. The ever-changing cyberlandscape and the search for effective ways to help teachers and to bring these changes into classrooms is his passion. He is forever coming up with geek-like fascinations about some new fandangle in Google or showing us how to stream video from a mobile phone (don't even bother to ask "Why?") and his enthusiasm is infectious - the young guys on the helpdesk think his is a cool old eccentric (they probably phrase it differently). Mick is finding he has less certainty about the meaning of life as he ages but is enjoying the search for wisdom ....
The Prest-Brittons (aka Matt, Clare and Les) have had a busy and eventful year. Professionally there have been many highlights with "The Tent" featuring in Melbourne and Sydney and "My Darling Patricia" developing two new shows as well as several outings for Clare as designer in other people's shows. It is quite remarkable the range of things they are involved in, with Matt's face on the facade of the MCA for a month or so. "Dadda! Mumma not there?" They had "development time" (residency) in Albury and at the spectacular Bundanon as well as The Carriageworks during the year as well as a family holiday camping at Barrington Tops recently - the boy gets around!. Les started "kindy" at The Infant's Home here in Ashfield two days a week and after a somewhat difficult transition (thankfully greatly smoothed by the fact that Frances is one of the staff at Murray House) is now very much at home, enjoying the activities and the people. Naturally Les is a delight:"Nanna, I have an idea!" or "Two minutes" (with the appropriate number of fingers in the air). He is growing taller and more independent; speaks his own dialect; is never “naughty” (just occasionally “strong willed”); has opened child-proof gates deemed impregnable by kindy staff; is learning to swim and warms all our hearts!!
Jack continues to develop and perform his music with an increasing number of gigs and listings. It is difficult for your correspondent to keep up but it has been a good year for Jack's music (check for yourself). Living at Petersham, Jack now has a complete studio in his house and is able to produce high quality sound at home. Jack has continued to DJ with Good Buddha and others and has developed Flatwound with his friend Chris, having some successful releases during the year. Jack seems to have had a good year having graduated in May and is currently turning his planning eye to O/S for 2009.
Ben and Maddy are happily domiciled at Stanmore and Maddy has worked a couple of jobs while Ben has studied hard all year (and still working at Clarkies). Ben wrote his "thesis" on an Aboriginal Family Re-Settlement program that took place in the 1970s and 80s and really applied himself. Challenged by Maddy's success last year and by his own determination Ben was very satified with what he wrote (we all thought it was great!) and his hard work was rewarded with a top result! They are both enjoying some more normal life without pressure and grappling to come up with an answer for the inevitable question: "What are you going to do next year?"
Margaret turned 85 in April and we had a wonderful "garden party" here. Nanny's friends and family were here and the highlight was a performance of classical music on the back verandah by the "Inner West Strings". An ensemble led by Guy Moloney (Margaret's grand-nephew) and his wife Caron. It was wonderful. Nanny has been well through the year but took a bit of a backward step recently being hospitalised for a "slight" heart attack bought on by a prolonged chest infection. The indomitable confidence was somewhat dented but seems to be returning as Nanny ventures further and further afield. All seems treatable, thank goodness, but confidence has to grow slowly!
As I said earlier there is so much to be thankful for. We trust this note finds you also well and at peace - or if not, facing life with courage and spirit - as we travel along together. May the hope engendered by Barack Obama's election and the traditional goodwill, hope and peace of this wonderful Christmas season be in our hearts and may we journey into 2009 in friendship.
Wishing you every blessing.
Elaine and Mick
If you want to follow up the links go to http://mickprest.edublogs.org/christmas-letter-2008/ or send us an email at email@example.com and we'll send you this in electronic form - somehow it will take a long time for me not to use paper for this letter. You will also find some recent family photos here.