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  • Carol Duval

Season's Greetings 2019

John Olsen's Five bells--'...the Harbour as a movement, a sea suck, and the sound of the water as though I am part of the sea...'

This has been one of those consolidation years, settling back after last year's wonderful house swapping experience with Elaine in Catalonia and then Chichester--seen below at the Kirribilli Club as we reconnected before she headed back to the UK.

Christmas this year, without those imaginatively decorated National Trust properties to visit, has been a much hotter, drier and windier experience. At least we're not so close to bush as to have packed bags at the ready if we learn a fire is headed our way, as is the case with some of our friends. It did rain occasionally and when it did, the balcony plants enjoyed it.

Our first job when we got back in February was organising our bathroom renovation with the next few months taken up with living on a building site. Not that we're complaining, especially in the current circumstances with so many homes lost in NSW. It was wet--of course--the entire time the work was being done though we'd give anything for some of that rain right now. But at least we have a lovely new bathroom to show for all the jackhammering, dust coating every surface and tradesmen tramping in and out for weeks on end.

Richard started right back as an Official Visitor at Parklea and Long Bay prisons which keeps him busy one day a week. I started back at French and yoga while Rick has joined a couple of camera clubs, all of which are easy on the planet and good for our physical and mental wellbeing.

On our 'spare' days we've enjoyed hanging out at the tidal pool at Bilgola, especially when the tide is coming in with lots of spectacular waves to watch, followed by lazy lunches at Avalon or the Newport Arms, with amazing views over Pittwater. Occasionally we spot a lizard trying to blend in with the foliage.

Balmoral Beach is another favourite especially for lunches looking out over the sea and a newly rediscovered spot, the Harbord Diggers at Freshwater beach. For years I'd dismissed it as the tatty old RSL I remembered from the early '70s, only to discover it's been reincarnated as a wondrous space full of eating and drinking spots, with a new boardwalk opposite running from Freshwater to Curl Curl beaches.

Harbord seems to have avoided much of the hideous architecture sprouting up all over Sydney of characterless cement fortresses. Instead, locals favour soft pastel timber cottages surrounded by hedges, trees and grasses that are so much more suited to their hot beachside setting.

Thanks are owed to our valued friends, Helen and Robert, for all those fantastic days sailing, eating, drinking, chatting and wallowing in the cool green depths of Pittwater.

Following the example of my oldest school friend, Julianne, we've been taking short getaways around Sydney, which we've found are perfect for recalibrating and also seeing parts of the country we've not been to for years. First up was the Southern Highlands staying at Bundanoon, which we loved but were shocked by the dry landscape in an area usually so lush and green.

Second up was Batemans Bay, the gorgeous Hyams Beach and the long expanse of beach at Moruya. I'm sorry to say that are all close by areas that are now being burned to a cinder. Check out Rick's phone in this photo at a Japanese restaurant in Batemans Bay.

Rick and I both worked for the first few months on publishing Trying Lives: A Housesitter's Tale, with me doing the writing and Rick the layout. We were very happy with the result and have been gratified by the kind comments from those friends who went to the trouble of ordering and reading it. Monica Morrow--seen here in London.

The next, School Gaze, is coming along nicely and should be published early next year. We just have to figure out how best to go about it this time. FeedaRead did a lovely job but the distribution and fulfilment was too complicated and expensive. Milson's Point Primary, North Sydney Girls, St George's, Glenaeon, Green School... they're all in it and more but I'm finding the last few the trickiest for obvious reasons.

Andy is doing fine in Brisbane, enjoying his job but can't find enough hours in the day what with work, dance, gym, family, walking Daisy the dog and occasionally making it to Sydney to visit the oldies.

Noah has just finished his final high school (IB) exams at Churchie and is looking forward to starting at Queensland Uni next year. He was selected for Queensland's debating team earlier in the year so had an opportunity to check out the crocs in Darwin while there for the National competition. He was also kept busy as debating captain and of Magnus House.

Milo has now finished Year 9 at Mansfield High and was thrilled to be selected for the Young Symphonists in the Australian Youth Orchestra next year so will be attending their music camps in Adelaide and Canberra. Both boys learned something about what it's like at the lower-paid end of the workforce, which should be a compulsory experience for all kids, as McDonalds' employees.

Heather finished her treatment in January and is looking great. So far, so good.

Next July we'll be off again for a few months, starting with a trip down memory lane in Copenhagen, the city where we first met, followed by some house and pet sitting in favourite spots in England.

Wishing everyone a merry Christmas and happy New Year,

Carol and Rick

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