Dear all,

That time of the year again, (well, itís July) to start trying to record the memorable happenings of this family.  This yearís effort will be a bit different, it will have some extracts from Krisís journal.

 You might remember from last yearís letter, that Michael had left for the snow fields of Colorado for a 5 month experience of a life time.  It meant he wasnít around for the Christmas/New year festivities and he was missed.  Hania, Inga and their Swiss lodger Celine came and spent Christmas with us. It was a long, hot and very dry summer.  I had refreshed my fire-fighting competencies and re-qualified for active service but it was very hard to get to training nights after that so I will probably hang up my helmet and jackets and watch from the sidelines (might join the SES instead Ė less danger and there is still a swanky uniform and flashing lights, and they train just down the road).

 New Years Eve was a quiet one, spent at home.  Did I mention it was a long hot dry summer?  After a December full of afternoon thunder storms, it began to get very very dusty as well.  Kris and I made a little escape to Newcastle for a weekend.  We had never been there and were quite taken by its own special beauty.  Nice beaches featuring a myriad of wind and surf based sports and one special ďdog-friendlyĒbeach.  The abandoned steel works had the hadwn special look, Iíll stop short of using the word beauty in this case.  Anchored off shore were 28 ships, waiting to either off-load or fill up, Iím not sure.  Looked very surreal.  Well, we ate and snacked well and fell asleep to the sounds of waves crashing on the beach and woke with many puncture marks from the feasting mossies (that we couldnít hear because of the crashing waves).  We had a little explore around Gosford on the drive up and will probably revisit there one day.

 Had a little run-in with the local BMW dealer and their lack of service in relation to a small warranty job.  In many ways, I grow more tolerant with age but I canít stomach rude, indifferent service from people whose livelihood depends on providing that service.  Oh Kim, donít sweat the small stuff.

 We got into the enjoyable habit of having weekend dinner picnics down by the lake with our sunsets.  On special days, we allowed Skye to accompany us with her own little picnic bone.  Very recommendable.

Needed to capture this next bit on film, it would have made a good comedy.  It was a nice day as Kris drove down Adelaide Avenue coming from Woden (Prestige Motors changed a window switch in SAAB  while she was waiting and this was the good part of her day!)  Near the Governor Generalís Drive, police stopped cars because Princess Mary (remember her, the girl from Tasmania who met her prince charming during the Sydney Olympics?) and Prince Frederic from Denmark were going to visit Parliament House.  Since she had to wait and it was nice day she thought why not to put the roof down, which she did. Then on she went to Mitchell and spent a very long time talking to the guy about different types of windows, glazing and a lot of stuff.  It must be said than the showroom is very good and she could see many windows and solutions. After more than an hour, Kris left very excited, holding some catalogues, CD, handbag, key and pen.  She unlocked the car and the boot, then put everything in the boot, took her jacket off and closed the boot.  Then she realised that she was only holding the pen.  Unfortunately she was unable to start the car with the pen and SAAB security feature disables boot locking button once the roof is open. So she went to the shop and asked if she can use their phone.  She did not remember Kim's mobile number and rang Kim at work.  He was not there and she left message that she had locked the car in Mitchell but forgot to mention where she was.  Next she rang NRMA and they said that someone will come within an hour.  An hour later NRMA arrived, however the guy said that opening the boot is really difficult and he would rather take Kris home (Hmmm- should I be jealous???) if there was a spare key.  And he did.  They arrived home and Kris opened the door with our hidden key and went looking for the car's key.  Unfortunately no luck.  Kris rang Kim at work to find out where is his SAAB's key and someone answered that Kim went to rescue me and he went home to get the key. Kris said to the NRMA to go, because her husband is coming.  When the NRMA left Kris noticed that the freshly wrapped Bulletin is on the table, a sign that Kim had been home already. Kris rang Alex to check if she has Kimís mobile number, but she did not have it.  A while later, Kim rang home while on the way to Mitchell, because Alex rang him and said that Kris is at home.  (are you following this ?????)  (Alex did have the number after all!!) Kim returned home and drove with Kris to Mitchell. End of the story.  This was entirely Princess Mary fault!

To top up Krisís day, during evening walk over Adelaide Avenue with Alex and Skye, saw Princess M. and Prince Charming again coming from a function in Parliament House. .  They can not leave her alone!!  It was also either a sign or the beginning of a very long and complicated windowís story (seven months so farÖand several chapters in its own rights).

The drought also claimed another victim, Kimís wedding ring.  We think it may be because we are good citizens and keep a bucket in the sink to conserve water and because I am domesticated and sometimes actually help with the washing up!  We think it ended up in the garden somewhere.  Hired a metal detector but no luck.  Oh well, the Turkish puzzle ring that my parents gave me many years ago now serves as my wedding ring. Krisís jeweler friend gave it a bit of an overhaul. (Since the extension, we removed over 60 truck loads of dirt so I donít think it is about to turn up).

 After the extended drought, our 4 birch trees, like many others in Canberra expired.  It turned out a bit for the best as 3 of them were going to be too close to where we wanted to build our extension.  We had them professionally removed and it really was the first tangible physical step for the extension.  The professional removalists also removed our brick mail box just a tad.

 We finally arranged for Krisís mum to get a unit closer to us.  It was a swap with someone who wanted a garden unit.  We moved her from Gordon to Hughes, about 1.5 km from us.  The day of the move worked out quite well with us helping the couple who were moving out while they helped us.

 A few weeks later, I took a call from a friend of Krisís mum who was worried about her health.  A few seconds later, Krisís Mum rang complaining about intense pain.  Kris and Alex were out so I rang their mobile and arranged to meet them at her place.  I got there first.  She was in intense pain holding her shoulder though she couldnít remember hurting it.  After Kris and Alex got there, we were rubbing some ointment into her shoulder when she went into a seizure and collapsed unconscious.  Oh boy!  I rang for an ambulance while the others put her into the recovery position.  The 000 operator was very good, offering advice and doing her best to keep my head together.  One problem was because the move was so fresh, I had my idea of the new address.  2 ambulances got there very quickly.  She regained consciousness and was transported to hospital.  Hospital and casualty staff were excellent except for one doctor who we lodged an official complaint against.  His arrogance and lack of compassion was fairly dreadful.  At one stage, I was the only one with Krisís mum when I heard a nurse tell another nurse that I was her husband.  Gee, the years must not have been kind to me.

 It turned out that she had totally shattered her shoulder, we think in a fall during the night before.  The pain was too much for her, especially when we were rubbing in the ointment which led to the seizure.  She was quickly scheduled for a shoulder reconstruction, including a new socket.  Wow, it was a tough period for us, especially the trauma on the day.  At least, once she was released from transitionary care, she was so close to our home.

 Kris has started keeping a journal, she is doing a better job than me.  (parts of it are here)

 And the boy wanderer returned in May.  Good to have him back.  He had a great time in the US and made many good friends and canít wait to get back and meet his friends in Hawaii.

 My secondment managing the Departmentís IT training centre came to a close.  Went through a bit of angst (dreadful 2 week holiday) as to what I was going to do next.  A job I thought would come up didnít, another offer seemed to vanish, people didnít return phone calls, so I spoke with Emergency Management Australia and arranged to go back.  Iím so glad I did.  I negotiated a move to a new area and it is working out well.  EMA has some good people and the work that is done there actually goes someway to making our country safer (I managed the Safer Community Awards Ė go on, have a look at our web site www.ema.gov.au ).

We had a weekend in Sydney, staying at Pier 1 on Sydney Harbour.  Got absolutely soaked in one of Sydneyís infamous thunderstorms, had dinner at Doyleís went to the Zoo and managed to squeeze some shopping in.  I had a special night at Pier 1 about 20 years ago so it was good to go back. (You wouldnít recognize it, Chris & Bryan)

 And the extensionÖÖ..I donít know whether Iím strong enough to go there.  Kris passed the exam and got OUR owner builder license.  It has started, we had a falling out with the builder which has ended up working out well, he wasnít up to what was required and we were introduced to another builder by the guys who did an excellent job doing the excavation.  Things were on hold for a while as we sorted out the windows and got the ACT government to approve the latest amendments.  The first plumber was also a bit shonky and set us back weeks and a few $

 When I write this (late Sept), slabs have been poured, retaining walls are up, prelim plumbing has been done.  There is mud everywhere.  Kris commenced her lengthy period of leave to Project Manage the extension.  She will return to real work in January.

Kris went to her school reunion in Poland for over 3 weeks in Sept/October.  She caught up with most of her friends and relatives in Poland and Germany and a good time was had by all (except those back here living in the war zone).  The long haul flights are not something she enjoyed but I did catch her on the web the day after returning, looking for bargain return airfares

 Ok Ė the final stretch Ė written early December.  The extension continues to lurch along.  We have had a dreadful run with the windows.  The company has failed to make final delivery a number of times.  We are hoping to have brickwork complete and roof in place by the end of the coming week but if the last 2 windows are not delivered, then all bets are off.  At the moment, all ground floor brickwork is complete, windows in place (except for the last 2), scaffolding up (to the first floor), main retaining walls in place and 2 new external staircases up to the backyard.   The place is a mud heap and it will be nice when we get our drain pipes reconnected.  Michael and Kris are up to their elbows in it, Michael getting a lot of practical experience and working very physically.

Last weekend, we had a family effort (plus Peter H, - thanks) in getting 4 pallets of bricks (which is approx 13,000 kilos moved from the front garden, up the elevator to the scaffolding. Iím sure my back will recover before too long.    The scaffolding looked like it was developing a bit of a lean so Michael and his Gym buddy Rob used their weightlifting expertise to beat it into shape.  The delivery driver who dropped off the roof tiles, managed to almost block of one of our existing garages.  I canít wait until this is over.

 Alex has finished her traineeship at work and is now studying for a diploma in childcare.

 We had our first bit of luck with the weather and our extension yesterday. Severe storms hit the ACT with 2 mini tornados cutting a path of destruction.  According to the Emergency Services Authority, one of those passed less than 500m to the south of us while the other was about 1km to the north.  As it was, we still experienced very strong cyclone force winds. A few street away a man was killed by a fallen tree, while using a leave blower. If it had hit us, we are sure walls and windows would have fallen.

 Two nights later What a night! Went to bed early with strong resolution that this night we were going to sleep through. Took St Johns Wort to help and after 2am went to bathroom and noticed disco lights outside the house. At first thought that perhaps Father Christmas is passing through the street in his full glory, but the noise coming indicated like he is perhaps riding a bike.  After checking it was 5 or 6 fireman cutting the gum tree, which huge branch fall off and blocked the road. Asked them if someone is going to collect the wood and their suggestion was wood fairies.

 I have been roped in to a corporate triathlon relay race this weekend.  They were desperate for a swimmer and failing that, got me instead.  I will have to swim some 200m in the local lake tomorrow.  With the artic conditions we are experiencing, luckily someone has lent me a wetsuit.  I have been told this is a fun event so I have worked out my strategy for surviving the swim.  I am going to go out dead-slow for the first 25m then back off and relax for the remainder.  EMA has 2 teams entered and the other teams swimmer is as competent as me. ( I survived, but had 4 days off work with a lurgy, I think related to the tasty quality of our local lake).  The good news is I am getting into the habit of swims before work.  (We won best dressed team though).

 Well, no Fijian holidays for us this year.  Summer will be spent doing the internal finishing of the house, we are laying the floor boards, plastering, painting and tiling.  You know, we probably wonít be finished by the time of the next Christmas letter.  Sigh.  The novel has just started progress again.  I am contemplating working 4 days a week and I might devote a half day per week to its progress.

 Well, Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.  We hope the New Year brings you much peace and happiness.