Christmas 2005

Well, what a year 2005 has been! By no means all good but there have been quite a few wonderful moments. In order to not leave everyone depressed, we’ll start with the not so good and finish with the better…

Nadia’s Mum had a total hip replacement which was both a difficult time and also a real boon. It has been a while coming but will really improve the quality of her life as she was in considerable pain prior to the operation. She recuperated quickly thanks to many of the family taking turns to travel to Bundaberg and assist – mainly by stopping her overdoing things like push starting the car (yes, she tried to do this but was stopped!).

Towards the end of November Nadia’s Dad had a fall and broke one arm and the other wrist. Again with the help of the family, her Mum and Dad are now both recovering well and we are looking forward to catching up with them during our week in Bundy just after the start of the New Year.

For Rob, the year hit a real low point in mid November when his Mum, Helen, passed away. She had major surgery about 18 months ago but recovered well and enjoyed, for her, really good health until November. She was admitted to PA hospital with some bronchial problems (these were perennial) and appeared to be recuperating well. Fortunately the consultant on her case was very conservative and stressed to us that she was very ill which prompted Bruce to travel up for her birthday. The day after spending her birthday with all the family (albeit in hospital) she passed away peacefully from heart failure.

Since Helen’s passing, the year has been frantic with her funeral in Brisbane and memorial service in Canberra to say nothing of tidying up her affairs etc.

Rounding off 2005, Rob just received news from the USA that Betty Allington passed away. She was a very good friend who took him under her wing when he first travelled to the States. At 89 she had a very full life and had touched many people’s lives in wonderful ways (not unlike Rob’s Mum). We will be toasting both Betty and Helen this Christmas for Lives well lived.

As we mentioned at the beginning, 2005 has not been all bad. Through the year, we had a great social schedule which included catching up with many friends – local, interstate and international – and attending a number of wonderful events.

One notable event was the annual Rotary Opera in the Vineyard in Stanthorpe in May. This event is held on the first weekend in May and just seems to get better and better. As always, a great time was had by all.

The trip south for Rob’s Mum’s memorial service was sweetened by being able to join in the 20th wedding anniversary celebrations of our very good friends, the Goodmans. We were also fortunate to be able to catch up with some of our friends in Canberra as time permitted.

Probably (definitely) THE most notable event for us was attending the wedding of our very good friends Paul and Jodie in late October. Following a wonderful ceremony in the Botanical Gardens was a spectacular reception across the road in the Royal on the Park. The most outstanding aspects apart from the perfect flow of the event were the speeches (no, we’re serious! they were all spectacular) and Paul’s nephew, Arnie’s, wonderful tenor rendition of The Prayer. The next day we packed up and joined the crowd going up to Noosa for the honeymoon (that’s right – they’re really good friends!) where we spent a great week relaxing, eating, drinking, fishing and catching up with friends.

What was the best part of 2005? That would have to be our friends and family. There have been some pretty hard times this year but we have been seriously blessed with great family and wonderful friends without whom it would have been a very rough year. As it is, we survived and are really looking forward to 2006.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, safe and healthy New Year.

New Dog!!!

Christmas 2004 and Nadia found the perfect present for Rob.

She searched the web high and low (not a trivial persuit for a technophobe) and found Tara the Red-Brindle Bullmastiff pup. She is 20 weeks old and we are just talking with the breeder to arrange transport to our home from Ballarat.

Here are some pics of our new family member…

Tara as a new born
7 weeks old – how cute!!!
7 weeks
still 7 weeks
15 weeks – ignore the dates
Still 15 weeks
Tara just before Christmas

Happy Birthday Rob!

I think it’s a safe bet to say that it takes a REAL friend to hack into your blog to post a birthday message, compared to just sending an email.

So … happy birthday mate. Hope you have a great time, and I look forward to celebrating with you when you get back!



Now, you’d think that keeping to a ring-road that is about 60km from the centre of Rome would be safe, right? Well! Italian drivers in the rest of the country had just been softening us up for the main course…

In Rome, if you can’t fit six or seven cars into three lanes along with various motor cycles, push bikes and a bit of traffic debris, you’re just not trying! The 1/4 hour trip around the “ring-road” takes nearly two hours when what looks like a ring-road on the map actually turns out to be a car park!

Of course, about 50m from the airport turnoff when Rob needed to get across a lane or two was when traffic sped up. Still, we didn’t hear any crunching of metal as such so it must have been all right! And, we’re sure they’re over it by now, anyway!

Having returned our car to Avis, we set off to find the train into the city (and to find out just why you shouldn’t carry around any more luggage than you absolutely have to)! The train was great but the change to local trains, of course, involved walking a fair way. Not as far as getting to the B&B however which we made OK but swore that, when we left, we were going to get a taxi!

Arriving at the B&B, we encountered the Italian version of the Concierge. This was a really lovely lady who guarded the front door to the apartments. She immediately spotted us and said (in Italian) you must be the Australians. She then popped us into the lift and sent us up to the 7th floor to meet our host.

The actual B&B was great and run by a middle aged lady who was about the most hospitable host we had encountered. Rob waited a while to find out what her angle was and whether she was going to be another B&B Nazi, but she was entirely genuine and just lovely.

After a simple lunch at the local bar, Rob was absolutely shattered (actually, as he was a bit ill, this was the case before the lunch but worse after) and Nadia was getting worried about the number of clean clothes we had (about a pair of sox between us and nothing else – not a good look in a big city). While Rob crashed on the bed, Nadia set off on a mission to find a launrdomat that was “somewhere in that direction” and returned a few hours later with a bag of freshly washed clothes. We finished off the day with a reasonable pizza (not as good as Luigino’s but not bad) at a local pizzaria.

Next day (Wednesday) saw us heading for the Vatican City. We had heard that the Pope addressed the general rabble every Wednesday and wanted to be part of it. From our B&B, getting there was quite a pleasant 25 minute walk if you don’t include waiting at a Post Office to be ignored, insulted and ignored again by the worlds most incompetent postal official (which was neither part of the 25 minutes nor pleasant).

Despite the postal official’s best efforts to stop us, we arrived at Piazza San Pietro and made it through the metal detectors in good time to see the Pope who was quite amazing for a man his age. The appearance lasted probably an hour and a half or more during which he responded and prayed in five or more different languages. Not surprisingly, the place is pretty well set up for the appearances and, even though we were about 100M away, we had a great view on the huge screens and could hear just fine.

After seeing the Pope, we headed for the Sistine Chapel. You get to this by degrees by going through the Vatican Museums. These are immense and filled with the most stunning collection of art and antiquities. The collection was started in 1506 by Pope Julius II and is a serious 4+ turtle collection with paintings, statues, furniture… There is a separate “room” (and by room, I mean pavillion) dedicated just to maps and globes of the world. Yes, it’s THAT big and even more impressive. Even the steps are an artwork. The main spiral staircase was created by Bramante and could be ridden up on horseback in case of Papal emergencies.

After about an hour of following the route (one of the routes) through the museums, we finally came to the Sistine Chapel. This was being cleaned (just about finished) when Nadia last visited some years ago and to say that the colours are bright and vibrant is an understatement. The traction you have to go through after standing there gawking at the ceiling is well worth it. The best thing about it being packed was that you would need to really search to find room to fall over from looking up. We’re sure that a serious art student would have gotten more out of the experience, but we know what we like and that is definately included!

Another hour saw us out of the museums (and fed and souvenired) and off to St Peter’s Basilica. The line was immense but moved quickly and any wait was well rewarded when you get inside. The first Christian basilica was built on the site by Emporer Constantine in 324 AD. Pope Julius II comissioned Bramante and Raphael, amongst others, to rebuild it in 1506. Michaelangelo also worked on it sporadically and it was consecrated in 1626. This building has to be seen to be believed. The 150m cupola tops the largest brick dome ever built (more traction required!). The highlights for us were the Piet

Quick entry from Cinque Terre

Just a quick entry and a promise of more… We have made it to Cinque Terre alive (a real feat considering how fast Italians travel!!!) and are staying at a Caffelletto (bed and breakfast) in Fosdinova. We have just shared a great meal with our hosts who questioned Nadia mercilelly on Australia. They have generously allowed us to use their Internet access for a moment so this will be very short.

Just to let you know, we DO read and enjoy your comments, so keep them coming!

The idea of opening an Australian destination here in Italy is VERY appealing except for the communication (Nadia is finding it constant being the only one who speaks any Italian). We could yet be talked into it though!!! Looking at real estate offices where ever we go!!!

We will get back with more soon.

Love to all…