Our beautiful family together, celebrating my 60th birthday
Happy festive season!
Beginning with my usual caveat, those of you who see us regularly or follow our lives on Facebook may notice that much of the information in this missive is old news. Sorry about that but at the risk of gloating, some of our stories are worth telling again.
Frances and I are very fortunate to yet again be able to look back over the past year with a great sense of achievement, pride and enjoyment. As always, our jubilation is tempered by the loss of some dear friends along the way and by some of the sad things humanity keeps doing to itself. But on the whole, the Brodie family has had another great year in 2015.
As always, the year has been dominated by travel and adventures; and a bit of personal growth and development. I also turned 60 this year, so I am now officially a senior citizen!
Among other things we camped with friends at the beautiful Bittangabee Bay in the Ben Boyd National Park near Eden, did a couple of wonderful over-night hikes in the Blue Mountains and spent countless hours kayaking on the glorious waterways around Sydney. In late November I also did an excellent three-day hike around Wilsons Promontory in Victoria with a friend.
Frances and Emma had two weeks in the UK in May, spending time in Brecon with Frances’ mum and visiting family and friends around the country. Frances then headed to Capestrano for several weeks, while Emma made the journey home to Sydney on her own (with a bit of help from the Qantas staff). This was a huge achievement for Emma, and further proof of her growing independence and life skills. While in Italy, Frances and our friends, Cheryl and Brian joined an agri-tourism group for a four-day trek through the mountains with some shepherds, sheep dogs and a large flock of sheep. In doing so, they walked part of the route shepherds have followed for centuries moving sheep to and from the alpine pastures of Abruzzo as the seasons change (called the transhumance). By all accounts it was a magnificent experience.
Later in the year Frances returned to Europe, not only to spend time in Capestrano but also to join six of her kayaking girlfriends from Sydney for a week-long adventure paddling along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. The girls lived and travelled on a sailing boat, complete with a skipper, a guide and a chef (all males, of course). The weather was not completely kind to them, but they were still able to do some great paddling, and some lovely treks around the various islands along the coast. Wonderful memories. After that, Frances and one of her kayaking buddies, Nicole and her husband, Dave, travelled to Capestrano, where I was waiting for them. After Nicole and Dave left, we were joined by James and Monique who had made a whirlwind visit to Italy with stops in Rome and Venice and Capestrano. What a joy.
The day after we returned to Sydney in mid-October, Frances slipped and broke a bone in her foot. It was painful and inconvenient, but it didn’t slow her down very much. Fortunately, she had a very capable and willing personal assistant to help her recovery process. She’s almost back to full fitness, having resumed Bikram yoga and most of her regular activities.
Working for Check-6 in the off-shore oil and gas industry was great fun but it became problematic as the year went by and the price of oil continued to slump. After two month-long work trips off the east of coast of India in the first half of the year, my work opportunities dried up completely, and apart from a couple of short training events I haven’t worked at all in the second half of the year. But just as things were beginning to look grim I received a call from a friend in the security industry in Asia who asked me to join his team as the head of security in China for the US engineering company Caterpillar. I accepted the offer and will return to live and work in my old stomping ground, Beijing in late January. This is a long-term arrangement that hopefully will see us through to retirement. Once again, Frances will continue to live in Sydney while I commute to home from Beijing as often as possible. Frances will also spend time with me in Beijing, and will continue to travel to Capestrano and the UK several times a year. In fact, she already has two separate trips to Europe booked for next year.
The rest of the family has continued to thrive in 2015. Emma and Rhiannon are still flat mates (with a third young woman) at Abbotsford in Sydney’s inner west. Emma thoroughly enjoys her independence and the diverse lifestyle she leads that includes work, creative writing, netball, film-making etc. A particular highlight this year was the completion of a project with Bus Stop Films in which Emma had an acting role. The short film called Heartbreak and Beauty premiered in February this year and has since been shown at a number of prestigious short film festivals around the world, winning several awards along the way. The achievements of Bus Stop Films were recognised recently by the Governor of NSW and his wife, who hosted an afternoon tea party for the cast, crew and supporters at Government House. Not surprisingly, Emma was in her element; when it was her to turn to receive an award from the Governor she curtseyed and put her hand out for the Governor to kiss - which obligingly he did! Emma has also been involved in another film project called Inside Out, which is a documentary that follows the lives of Emma and three other young adults with Down Syndrome who all have artistic and creative personalities. The project has been on-going for the past four years and hopefully will be completed in 2016 (you can have a sneak peek at the documentary trailer at http://www.insideoutthedoco.com/trailer/).
Rhiannon has had another busy year of work and travel, especially in her role assisting her close friend, Nathan (a young man with Down Syndrome who is in great demand as a motivational speaker). James and Monique are well settled in Coogee and continue to enjoy their eastern suburbs lifestyle. And Oliver has finally left home, moving to Brisbane to work for his cousin Cameron; which seems to have been a great success. So Frances and I are finally empty nesters.
We are celebrating Christmas/New Year with a 10-day family holiday in Tasmania with all the gang (except Oliver who will be house-sitting for Cameron in Brisbane). We will also have the pleasure of Monique’s mum, Christine joining us from Perth. And in mid-January, Frances and I will once again go camping for a week on the NSW Sapphire Coast with some dear friends from Melbourne; this time at Hobart Beach in the Bournda National Park near Merimbula.
Please have a wonderful, joyous and relaxing Christmas and New Year, and have a happy, healthy and rewarding year in 2016.
Lots of love,
Neil and Frances xx
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