2017 has been another year full of wonderful adventures and great joy. But it was also another year during which we said goodbye to some dear friends – their loss softened by the fond memories of them we will always cherish.
China and Italy continued to feature prominently in our lives. I had another successful and enjoyable year living and working in Beijing, and Frances once again spent a couple of months in Capestrano during the European spring and summer. In the meantime, the rest of our gang continued to flourish in Sydney and Brisbane. And despite all the amazing things Frances and I did and the fabulous places we visited this year, the best fun is always had when all the family gets together – and the highlight this year was a special gathering to celebrate Frances’ 60th birthday.
We started the year with a great trip to New Zealand visiting friends in Wellington, Papamoa and Auckland and enjoying the beautiful scenery and Kiwi friendliness along the way. Not long after that we were in the UK to visit Frances’ mother, Liz Elston and to help with her transition into a nursing home; we also got to spend some quality time with family and friends in Brecon, Oxford and London. We then travelled to the Somme region in northern France to attend the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Villers Bretonneux, and to commemorate the centenary of the WW1 Battles of Bullecourt in the lead up to which my grandfather, Henry Scales, was killed. Henry’s remains were never found and his name is one of 11,000 names on the Commemorative Wall at Villers Bretonneux. Having done some research, we walked the ground where we believe he died, and found a Commonwealth War Cemetery nearby and hope he may be buried alongside his comrades in one of the many unnamed graves there. A truly moving experience.
Our journey then took us to Lausanne in Switzerland to stay with friends while I had a work visit to nearby Geneva. This was followed by a delightful train trip to Venice and several lovely days there. We then made our way to our second home in Capestrano for a week.
In June Frances and I, and our Kiwi friend, Rob, did a six day hike on the famous Jatbula Trail in the Nitmiluk National Park, near Katherine in the Northern Territory. There are not enough superlatives to describe the magnificence and historical significance of this part of Australia. We are truly honoured to have visited and hiked in an area that has been so sacred to the traditional owners - the Jarwoyn people - for thousands of years.
As usual Frances spent the middle part of the year in Italy, and once again enjoyed the company of a host of visitors and her local friends. She also had the pleasure of a week-long trip to Portugal with a couple of her girlfriends.
Not surprisingly, the year flew by and in late November we arrived at a significant milestone; Frances’ 60th birthday. Along with our dear friend Diana (who Frances has known since childhood in Brecon), and some friends from Canberra, the whole family gathered for a week-end at a beautiful AirB&B property at Gerroa on the coast, about two hours drive south of Sydney. It was a very special and enjoyable celebration.
We are now preparing for more family time at Christmas, including hosting Frances’ cousin, Amanda, and her partner and daughter visiting from the USA. Some camping, beach time, and watching the cricket are on the agenda.
Emma has successfully made the transition to the new federal government funded NDIS program, with new funding arrangements that give Emma greater flexibility and a broader range of support options. She still lives in the same apartment in Abbotsford with Rhiannon, and another new flatmate from early 2018.
Rhiannon had yet another career change in 2017, moving back into a role in the public disability sector where she has so much experience and expertise.
James and Monique still live in Coogee and continue to enjoy the inner eastern suburbs, coastal lifestyle. Monique also had a career change during the year (and graduated from her MBA program), while James continued his part-time degree studies.
The technology company that Oliver works for in Brisbane has continued to grow and expand, providing him with even more opportunities to develop his experience and skills. His work has brought him to Sydney a few times so he’s been able to see more of his Sydney-based family and friends.
I seem to say the same thing at this time every year, but 2018 will likely be just as busy and adventurous for all of us, including planned visits to India, the UK and a big family gathering in Italy in August.
Please have a wonderful, joyous and relaxing Christmas and New Year, and have a happy, healthy and rewarding year in 2018.
Lots of love,
Neil and Frances xx
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