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  • Carol Duval

Farewell 2020, Welcome 2021

Bellinger River swimming hole

I admit to not entirely looking forward to this year after Australia's horrendous bushfires in 2019 not to mention the crazy political scene in the US but nothing prepared anyone for what was to come. Our plans to go to the Northern Hemisphere were of course cancelled but there have been silver linings and plenty of gratitude to spare.

First off, we had Andy, Noah and Milo stay for a few days. Just as well they came in late December because three months later the border between Queensland and NSW was slammed shut and only reopened a few days ago.

This was a great opportunity to explore the wonderful state of NSW and spend some quality time in our own backyard. In between Richard's part-time job as Official Visitor at a couple of prisons, my battling with book #2--School Gaze, gardening, yoga and walks around the Sydney beaches, we did our bit to keep the local economy afloat by doing some short trips.

It's been years since we visited the Hunter wine region so that was definitely a must although the heatwave conditions weren't ideal. Still, we made the most of it, especially the balmy evenings when the kangaroos were out grazing and we could enjoy a glass of the local drop beside the vineyards.

The Waterfall Way between funky Bellingen and ugly sister Dorrigo was next on the list and a just the place to relax with a Moscow Mule or two and use up some of the limes that are abundant that time of year. We usually just stop over in this neck of the woods on route to Brisbane to see Andy and the boys but with the border closed, we could at least get this far north in NSW.

A couple of pet sitting stints rounded out the program and were a great way to spend time in the Southern Highlands without the eye-watering accommodation expense. It's always swings and roundabouts in these situations and this was no exception. The first dog and cat sit in Moss Vale turned out to be in the somewhat ramshackle, dilapidated home of an American expat raving mad conspiracy theorist. At least we only had to listen to her unhinged craziness for a couple of hours before she left. She did have a very nice, wild English meadow garden but we won't be returning. We explored the area and enjoyed an excellent brunch at the heritage Burrawang General Store, all very COVID compliant, and Richard checked out nearby Berrima Gaol--now closed.

The next dog and chook sit high on Berry Mountain overlooking Kangaroo Valley made up for the crazy house though and we can't wait to go back in autumn. Fun dogs, lovely house, spectacular views and the local black snake who lives in the pond stayed out of sight. We were glad to welcome the nightly wombat visitors though. Four legs good, no legs bad in my book.

Richard has new eyes thanks to his wonderful recent cataract surgery. He's cut off his beard and I've let my hair grow out during COVID but it turns out it's not grey anyway so that's something. We're grateful that we've had some rain lately so with luck the fires won't be so bad this year and Warragamba dam is 95% full! Even though it's a tad too cold yet for swimming at our beloved Bilgola we can go for rock walks at Curl Curl which are always fascinating. And then of course there's lunch at Avalon or Harbord Diggers to look forward to.

So this has been a year of feeling grateful--for the cooler weather; rocks, sea and sky; parrots; wine and Moscow Mules; living on an island, self sufficient in food, with the majority of citizens who are willing to obey health regulations and not carry on about loss of freedom blah blah; a government that acted quickly, listened to the science and put in place financial aid straight away for anyone who needed it -- and most of all, grateful for our friends!

Wishing everyone a healthy and hopefully saner new year in 2021 from Carol and Richard.

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