Christmas 2016
The last 12 months with Greg and Yvonne

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Here we are again at the end of another year. It hasn't been as hectic as the last few. The final stage of moving house was in December 2015, when we finally sold our old house, and last year we wrote:

On the other hand, we're not much further with the plans for the north-west side of the house. In Kleins Road we had a verandah with creepers all around, but it was open to the elements, which severely limited the occasions on which we could use it. This time we want to be able to seal it from all sides, keeping out wind, rain, cold and flies, a kind of winter garden.

And what progress since then? None whatsoever, unless you count the discovery that we can't get what we want: it seems that transparent roofs are prohibited because of the fire danger. Yes, we can have plastic foil over the roof members, but not firm plastic such as polycarbonate. So Greg is still pondering, slowly. About the only thing we have done is moved some water plants and goldfish into the trough around the verandah area. Here are photos taken this time last year and on 15 December 2016. About the biggest difference is that we now have curtains and a couple of plants in the garden. Even the damaged fly screen and the old pumps have been in the same place for over 12 months:


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And the rest of the house? Finished? Not quite. We still have disputes with the electrician and the builder. The electrician left an amazing amount of errors behind, and we had to get repairs done which cost over half of the total cost of the installation—it's no coincidence that last year's “move in” photos show incomplete electrical installation. The electrician had forgotten to wire up the water heater:


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And the builders installed some of the most amazingly inappropriate kitchen equipment. In each case, it's looking like litigation, and once again Greg has taken the easy way out and (so far) done nothing.

It's a similar story with unpacking the stuff we moved from Kleins Road. Greg promised to unpack a carton a week (or was that a day?) until they were done, but somehow that didn't quite happen like that.

We're both heading far too fast towards the biblical age of 70, and we're paying more attention to our health. Greg feels really healthy, but various incidents mean that he's constantly at the doctors. He changed GPs in September, and since then he's been in constantly for one thing or another, mainly non-age-related issues. In October a couple of dogs pulled him off-balance and knocked him over. He landed on his hand:


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They put that right quite quickly at the Ballarat Base Hospital—it was only dislocated—but the healing wasn't quite what we had hoped for, and he's currently waiting for an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon to see about improving the mobility of the joint in question. And a few weeks later he managed, in a fit of unwonted exertion, to detach the vitreous humour (but fortunately not the retina) in his right eye. Nothing serious, and it will heal, but the opthalmologist has prohibited bungee jumping.

When not in for medical treatment, Greg is continuing with his pottering around in his hole, which doesn't look greatly different from last year:


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He is gradually carving a niche for himself decrying modern trends in computers (Facebook, indeed!) and longing for the Good Old Days.

Yvonne has finally found time to get involved in many horse activities, notably classical and historical dressage, newly discovered after a lifetime of “plodding along”. She has been working with her two mounts on improving everybody's skills, and is very satisfied with the progress.

In late February she and Chris Bahlo participated in a garrocha “clinic” (training course) in Scotsburn (really called Clarendon), better known locally for the bushfires that hit the area in December 2015. The teacher was Davyd Castro, a gaucho from Argentina, whom we later invited for dinner:


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That's Yvonne on the left, with the ever-present Chris Bahlo.

That was followed by another “clinic” with classical riding master Arne Koets, probably not coincidentally also in Clarendon:


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In addition, she and Chris participated in a number of events run by the “Downunder Extreme Cowboys”, a rather misleading title: they're local (between Rokewood and Shelford, only about 20 km away). And they're very much into horse training, as she confirmed in May:

These events have shown that the horses are very versatile and always ready to try something new. Yvonne is delighted how well they do it, be it Narrawin's stallions or Yvonne's Paso mare Carlotta and Icelandic gelding Keldan.

And the other animals? Last year we were down to one cat, two horses and three dogs. But inevitably more came, if only by fractions: half a cat and a quarter horse.

Gabriella is the quarter horse. She was looking for a home, so Yvonne accepted, and we got her in late March, and then recently with Keldan:


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As if to make a point, on the same day Melinda Radus, whom Chris Bahlo knows from the horse scene, offered us half a cat:


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Why half? She was a Bengal cat, half domestic cat (Felis catus) and half Prionailurus bengalensis, the South-east Asian Leopard cat. Melinda is one of the leading breeders in South Australia. We ultimately didn't get her; the offer was increased to a whole cat (two half cats), and Chris Bahlo got this one. We ended up with Rani, whom Kelly Daly brought with her from Adelaide. That's right, the Kelly Yeoh with whom I worked at IBM Ozlabs decades ago. Australia is a small place: Kelly has known them for a long time, and has her own Bengal cats.

Rani proved indeed to be half a cat: the other half is clearly something else. Many of the photos you see of Bengal cats show them up high on some furniture, and Rani certainly agrees with that. Her behaviour as a kitten was very different from our other cats, and she taught Piccola a number of bad habits. At one point we were inclined to think the other half is devil. But she has grown up well, and those issues seem to be behind us. She also gets on well with the dogs, particularly Sasha:


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Piccola took longer to come to terms with her, though we still have the feeling that Rani has the upper hand:


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We also had our difficulties adapting, but she's now over 12 months old, and gradually becoming easier to live with.

Nikolai, Leonid and Sasha are doing well. In the past Yvonne and Nemo had joined the Delta society, a group of volunteers who visit aged care homes with dogs. And she had this crazy idea that what you can do with German Shepherd Dogs you could do with Borzois. And she managed to convince Greg to try it as well. So in April we headed off to Geelong with Nikolai and Leonid and got our accreditation more easily than with Nemo.

Since then Yvonne has been visiting the Geoffrey Cutter Centre every week, and Greg has been visiting Eureka Village Hostel every other week. Initially Yvonne took Leonid, and Greg took Nikolai, but in late October Sasha was old enough to be qualified too, and Yvonne was concerned that Leonid doesn't like it very much, so since then Sasha has gone with one of us every week.

Is it fun? Yvonne quite enjoys the visits. Greg wouldn't call it fun, though. But it's for a good cause, and it brings home to us a certain “There but for the grace of God go I”. Do the dogs enjoy it? We're not sure. Niko likes certain people and doesn't want to go near others—some because they're smokers, but others as well for reasons we haven't discovered. Leo needs lots of encouragement, usually in the form of edible treats. But so far, at any rate, Sasha seems to enjoy it. We'll see how long that lasts.

Best wishes for the coming 12 months from Carlotta, Gabriella, Greg, Keldan, Leonid, Nikolai, Piccola, Rani, Sasha and Yvonne.


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