Dear All,

 You know the drill, Christmas, all the wannbe novelists come out of the woodwork and put their efforts into producing the annual newsletter.   Well stand aside, I thought of it first so here comes the Deakin Branch version of the Fitzgerald newsletter.

 Now, those keen Fitzgerald watchers brought me to task last year for missing some of the highlights of 2000 from the 2000 tome and accordingly, they shall be recorded here for prosperityís sake.

 A key birthday present for this writer was some voice recognition software which was aimed at adding some momentum to the novel writing process that is being undertaken whenever this bunny has some spare time (therein lies the problem).  More news on the novel later.

 For those of you who know Kris well, you donít need to be told that when she thinks something needs doing, she believes it needs doing well and in mammoth proportions.   She had a cunning plan after sampling some chilli jam in a restaurant to produce the same, but of course, in industrial size quantities.  She went out and bought kilos of flaming hot tiny red chillies and the 2 of us spent the afternoon seeding the lot of them.  Of course we took precautions, we had on our little latex gloves that were shredded after the first two minutes.  We peeled and seeded all afternoon, not really noticing the glow that was emanating from our talons (at first).  BROTHER, did we know it later.  We spent the evening sitting on the couch, side by side, with all four hands emersed in a bucket of iced water.  While our hands were immersed, all was right with the world, when they came out, the agony was incredible.  I donít know how we survived the night.  The next morning, they didnít feel much better. If anyone is after the recipe for chilli jam, call here first.

 Should also have mentioned the fun of Kimís friend Davidís surprise 40th birthday party down in Melbourne.  Kim put together a little ďThis is your LifeĒ which went on for too long, but hey, give me an audience and Iím anyones.

 Kim had a work trip to Melbourne in early December.  While the Fitzgeraldís were no longer a one car family, Kris having procured for herself during the year a second hand Saab, Kimís workhorse (when he wasnít pedaling), the olí Falcon was wheezing along, making all sorts of new noises each day (the Air Con was also cactus).  All Kimís constant bleatings about having an MX5 must have done some good, because on his return to Canberra, Kris took him around to dealers looking at MX5ís with the odd BMW 318 test drive thrown in for good measure.

 Just happened to spot a Midnight Blue Saab 900 Convertible limited edition (No. 22) sitting forlornly in a used car yard without a price attached.  Further investigation revealed that he dealer was about to wholesale it somewhere else and were prepared to negotiate on price (arenít they always???) . Sorry, for those of you who havenít been indoctrinated, 2.0 l turbo (136 kw), 5 speed sensonic transmission (no clutch), leather interior, CD stacker, woodgrain interior (for those parts that arenít leather) and all the usual Saab bits.  Needless to say, the chief negotiator got them down to a more than reasonable price.  This was all happening just before Christmas and we wanted to do this through Krisís work salary packaging arrangements.  As can be expected, these things take time to arrange and despite our best intentions, we couldnít take delivery of the car before the new year.  However, early in the new year, we did take delivery so if you do see a blue flash , with a grinning bespectacled prematurely greying driver pass you by, you know who !!!

 We have discovered that with the roof down, and a slight drop of rain, those in front stay bone dry, those in the backseat get damp (sorry Michael).  It hasnít had enough highway cruising for my mind with a few trips to Sydney, the coast and one to Melbourne.  Look out Great Ocean Road, we will get there one day soon hopefully.

 The Falcon was put on the market, it had been a reliable steed and had done over 265,000 when we sold it.  There were a few anxious moments when selling it but eventually a young family took it of our hands and we still see it on the roads occasionally.  Michael took ownership of a 2 door BMW 318, not a bad effort for a first car.  Chief negotiator took a key role in obtaining a good price for it.  The young man has put a considerable effort into doing the car up and if you peek into the boot, youíll notice, there is not much room for anything because of the bloody big speaker plonked in the middle.  It also takes on a very special after dark look with the blue fluroís lit up inside the car. Errrrrr, Alexís beetle keeps on going !

 We discovered the cause of our under house flooding, which was a bit of a bugger, because it was being caused by storm water drains in Kent St backing up.  The drain under our house designed for clearing water from under the house was actually very handy for the water in the storm water drains that had nowhere else to go.  The sad thing was remembering the nights that I spent with buckets under the house trying to remove the water.  If I had known what was going on, I would have realised how futile my efforts were.  The drains have been cleared and we will shortly block the drain off permanently.

 My persistent requests to City Parks to come and have a look at the noxious weeds growing on our nature strip finally paid off, a little surprisingly at the time.  Last year was spent declaring a jihad on the bamboo.  We called for reinforcements to take on the cotoneasters that were everywhere.  Kris and Michael secretly dismantled a diseased old gum tree that was in the thick of all the other weeds.  Of course, knowing us, nothing ever is simple. I had heard the sounds of chainsaws that I thought was coming from somewhere else.  The next day I had a call from City Parks asking what I though of the progress to date. ďerr, what progress? ď I asked. Oops, they had done a little work on our elderly neighbourís nature strip.  They then turned onto our turf with a vengeance. It was quite amazing the transformation from jungle to desert in a day. We also got ACTION to move the bus stop further up the road.

 It did upset our neighbours despite our earlier conversations with them about what was going to take place.  The next weekends were spent in a flurry digging up part of our hedge and transplanting it to next to the neighbourís drive.  I think we placated them somewhat, but I have since declared, that in a manís life-time, he has a quota of how many holes he can dig.  I am very close to my limit.  Kris now has me digging trenches so as to get around that little loop-hole.

 In July, Kim got the opportunity to transfer to Emergency Management Australia (EMA), a unique organisation within the Defence Organisation with a vision of safer sustainable communities.  When things go wrong in a big way, EMA is the lead agency for coordinating Commonwealth response when a State or Territory requests assistance.  Ok, so Kim doesnít put out fires, but he does have an interesting job focusing on information management issues for EMA (Stop Press, the Prime Minister announced that EMA will join the Attorney Generalís portfolio.  This will mean significant change for the organisation and also means after 22 years, Kim no longer works for Defence).

 Kimís father has been seriously ill since August, with several lengthy stays in hospital, numerous ambulance trips and much suffering.  He has only just returned home, still in much pain but the rest of the world marvels at his strength, courage and dignity.  Kimís mother has also shown much of the same qualities for enduring during what has been a very difficult time for all of us.

 It looks like another year will pass without a proper holiday.  Work is busy for both of us.  Kim travels regularly to Mount Macedon near Melbourne with the odd trip elsewhere thrown in for good measure. Kris is just damned busy.

 Michael has moved on from McDonalds. He now works casually for the Hyatt helping chefís with food preparation at the National Museum of Australia.  It has enhanced his prowess in the Kitchen and he regularly puts on fine meals for us at home.  He continues to go to the Gym and is one healthy speciman of a man.  Year 13 is almost at a close and he hopes to continue his studies in IT next year.  Alex continues to study interior design.  She flew the coup for a record 4 weeks earlier in the year.  She has a new love in her life, Pierre from Fiji who is also a fine strapping friendly  fellow.

 I should really mention the other bargain Kris convinced Grace Brothers to part with.  We got a new 2 door Stainless Steel Fridge, which we managed to talk them into selling to us at the price they had it advertised for (and after checking with staff a few times).  The only other problem was that the fridge was 80 cm wide and our fridge cavity in the Kitchen was also 80 cm wide. Hmmmmmm. After the fridge was delivered and not surprisingly not fitting in where we hoped it would, we first took to the cavity with really coarse sand paper.  Hmmmmm, that made a real difference......NOT !  We then trotted of to the hardware shop, got some sanding disks for the drill and made further no difference to the hole.  We then tackled the walls with chisels, hired electronic planers, making a complete mess over 2 days and finally managed to squeeze the fridge in. 

This, along with the house flooding and the nature strip deforestation also highlight our new status as Kennards Hire Frequent Flyer Gold customers.  While dealing with the floods, before we knew what was causing them, Kris and Michael got to become experts at using an electric plumbing eel.  The nature strip meant Kris and Michael got to become experts with stump grinders. Kennards also supplied the electric planer for the fridge as well as the extra blade after we wore out the first one. It is a bit of worry that this Sunday morning over breakfast, Kris was to be found poring over the Kennards catalogue looking for other bits of equipment to try out.

 Of course, 2 weeks ago, the Microwave which sits above the fridge (yes I know, very ergonomic) which had been a little wonky of late, took the opportunity of declaring its own holy war on the little spud we were cooking.  After smelling some awful burning smells, we rushed into the Kitchen to see the little spud alight.  Well, we managed to dowse the spud but to remove the microwave from its perch meant unplugging it.....go on, guess where it is plugged in!!!!! yep , behind the fridge and do you think we could move that sucker????? no way.  Enter Alexís Pierre.  Did I mention he is very strong?

We now have a sytem of extension cords should we need to ever unplug the fridge or microwave again in a hurry.  Moving the fridge? Just call Pierre!

 Now I did mention the novel earlier didnít I ??? Well I have an excuse and it is not just writerís block.  With out giving too much away, my plot did involve an airplane hijacking and subsequent ditching in the ocean.  Along comes the Tom Hanks movie ďCastawayĒ and bugga, they stole lots of my stuff.  With the tragedy of September 11, I also feel uncomfortable with continuing along the hijacking theme. Dunno what Iím going to do.

 Iíll put in my 2 cents worth of opinion on what September 11 means.  Firstly, Islam gets pretty bad press these days. Mohammed preached tolerance of other religions. Bin Laden is a very powerful misguided adversary.  What happened in New York was dreadful, Michael woke me to watch what was happening, I went back to bed thinking it was not for real.  George Bush scares me with his simpleness.  I hope the US tries to understand why some parts of the world feel the way they do about America.  I know a minority in the US are trying to get their government to address this. Afghanistan? Well, how can you bomb a country into the stone age when it already there?  What the world needs now are a few more Ghandi types me thinks!  Donít get me started on the federal election.

 We hope this finds you with alls right within your worlds.