Happy New Year 2019-2020
The last 12 months with Greg and Yvonne
Christmas 2012
Christmas 2013
Christmas 2014
Christmas 2015
Christmas 2016
Christmas 2017
Christmas 2018
End of 2019
End of 2020

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A Happy New Year from (left to right) Valeta, Yvonne, Greg and Carlotta. This is our replacement for the Christmas messages that we have been sending for the last 7 years. Sending them just before Christmas meant leaving out part of the story, so now we're going to send the messages out just before the New Year. Sorry if you've been waiting...

There are a number of photos in this message. Click on them, maybe several times, to enlarge them. That's why the message is a web page, not a PDF document.

House

After last year's fracas with getting the builder to fix problems with the house, we just gave up. Life's too short to fight with brainless bureaucrats.

On the other hand, we finally had a photovoltaic (“solar”) electricity system installed. The preparations were the biggest problems: where do you find a vendor of PV systems that understands what he's selling? We haven't found any salesman yet who understands the difference between a kilowatt and kilowatt-hour, and the best company I could find came back after I had accepted the quote and wanted more money.

We finally sorted that out, and they did a partial install in April, with the rest (a second battery) due in October (believe that?).


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On the other hand, April to October are winter, so we didn't really need a second battery then. So we paid a progress payment and waited. In the meantime it became clear that the calculations in the proposals were demonstrably incorrect, and the second battery could never pay itself off. So when October came and went, but no battery came, we had no problems: after all, we hadn't even paid the full sum.

Photovoltaic power is interesting, and they've made a lot of progress since we first considered it five years ago. The inverter has a web server in it, and Greg is happily sniffing traffic and storing it in a database, in the process discovering things about its behaviour that the techies didn't know: an endless source of fun. And, of course, it looks like it's making itself paid.

On the other hand, we're still waiting for other electrical work, including the work in the kitchen that we mentioned last year. Where do you find a good electrician who's also prepared to come and do the work?

And as a special Christmas present, our air conditioning system failed completely on Sunday, 22 December, at least an electronic problem. And the air conditioning people were on holiday until 6 January, so we suffered the rest of the year in temperatures up to 42°. We bought a portable air conditioner, which proved to be completely useless, so we're hoping that the beginning of January won't be quite so hot.

Health

After last year's problems, our personal health is looking better. The various problems that the specialists feared last year, notably pancreatic cancer, weren't confirmed. But it's clear that we're getting old. Greg is 71, and Yvonne is 70, and we'll be more and more dependent on good medical care as time goes on.

On the other hand, Greg's mother, Audrey Eileen Lehey née Herbert, died in February shortly before her 95th birthday. We were at the funeral, of course, and were forcibly reminded of how many relatives we hadn't seen for a long time—in some cases, over 60 years.

As a result, Greg's sister Bev, who lives in the UK, also visited us for the first time in nearly 20 years, but only briefly, and atypically Greg forgot to take any photos. Somehow we're not a very sociable family.

Yvonne

Since her accident two years ago, Yvonne has not stopped riding, but she has changed her habits. She still enjoys her daily ride on Carlotta, and Valeta, our young Paso Fino-Icelandic cross mare, is coming along nicely. It looks like she will be an outstanding future riding horse for Yvonne. Only two more years to wait for her to be old enough to be started under saddle.

Yvonne and Carlotta are making good progress in their journey of classical dressage, with the help of their favourite teachers, Arne Koets and Anke Hawke, who comes to Victoria for clinics two or three times a year:


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In the process, Yvonne is taking more and more photos and videos of horse training and events to the point where she is a semi-official photographer at Kryal Castle, the home of the current world jousting champion Phillip Leitch.


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In late August Yvonne went to the Gold Coast for what proved to be a less-than-useful seminar on problem horses, but she met up again with Julie Lannen, who suggested more equipment to improve her videos, in particular a PIXIO “Robot Cameraman”, an automatic rotator for the camera that follows the movements of the rider and horse.


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It's somewhat complicated, but the results to date have been encouraging, for example this video, where Anke is teaching Yvonne:

Dogs

We've also had some interesting experiences with the dogs. Since our problems with our then-neighbours five years ago, we've kept the dogs on leads when walking them. But they're not really a danger to anybody; we just need to ensure that they don't run off after a kangaroo.

So we started off by letting Nikolai loose, in the expectation that one dog wouldn't run off by himself. It worked well for about 50 m, and then he exercised his new-found freedom and headed off into a paddock with horses in it, in the process getting bitten by an electric fence. OW! Suddenly the horses were no longer interesting, and Greg had to crawl under the fence and rescue him, while Yvonne used a tree branch that happened to be lying around to hold the wires up so that they could get out.

Since then, Niko hasn't run off anywhere. In fact, he's terrified of going for a walk without being on a lead. So we've let Leonid free instead, which he definitely enjoyed, especially after finding a dried-out kangaroo bone:


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Yvonne has also been doing a fair amount of painting. There have been a few commission requests, so she did a few horse paintings, but also some Borzois. Here's one inspired by the photos above:


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We've also had a dog visitor towards the end of the year. Our neighbour Kim Stanley had to go into hospital for an operation, so we looked after her dog Davey for the best part of a week, much to the enjoyment of all three dogs:


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Greg

It's now been over 12 years since Greg retired. It took a while for him to adapt, but it's probably over and done with now. He's still working with computers—Kirk McKusick has pointed out that he's now the only active member (“committer”) of the FreeBSD project older than he, and that he should stay that way, so from time to time he still tweaks something. But apart from that, he sees computers are a way of life, not an occupation, which allows him to grumble about the way the computer industry is going.

Instead, he has been playing more and more with photography, trying to make up for his lack of artistic talent with technology, occasionally with some success. He's no longer riding since having some issues with his eyes that could be related to sudden motion of the head, and he also hasn't played any musical instrument in over a year.

Visitors

We keep pretty quiet nowadays, and we haven't had many visitors apart from horse-related events. Just before Christmas Greg's cousins Brendan and Robert Herbert came by briefly to bring an incredible number of photos that Greg's mother had left behind.


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As a quirk of Greg's travel history, he hadn't seen either of them for over 40 years until his mother's death in March. Processing the photos will keep him busy for quite some time. And a few days later our daughter Yana came over from Adelaide to visit us. As usual, we ate:


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As always, if this letter isn't long enough, you can read about our 2019 in excruciating detail in Greg's diary. A very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all from Greg, Yvonne, Carlotta, Nikolai, Leonid, Piccola and Valeta!


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