Back Home with the Harlands
Christmas, 2000y

Once more it is hard to believe that yet another year has sunk slowly below the western horizon (or just about), although it certainly seems a long way from where we were at this time last year! Life seems to get faster and more chaotic, although this is probably just due to the kids ...

Taking up from where we left off last Christmas, we soon finished our spell in our small cottage in Cherry Hinton, packed up all our gear, and arranged for a significant amount of it to be shipped home. We had a couple of weeks of the desparate tourist, who has ignored local sights for months and then suddenly has to see lots of things before heading home. The Millenium Dome was a bit disappointing, (apart from the BlackAdder film), but the British Museum was a highlight, especially for Joshua who was fascinated by the Assyrian stone reliefs and the various Egyptian artefacts. Naturally we stocked up on tourist junk as well, and despite our concerted effort to ship things home in cartons rather than carrying them, we still had quite a wagon train to somehow shove into a taxi to take us to the bus station, and thence to Heathrow. Crossing the road at the Cambridge bus station with a veritable camel train's worth of gear (but, sadly, no camels!) and three children may not sound like a logistical exercise comparable to the building of the pyramids, but it certainly felt like it at the time! Before too long we managed to book all our gear onto the plane, have a last drink and chat with Jane, Robin, Thomas and Catherine, and then stumble on board. The lounge at Heathrow proved to be a Godsend (ie had food for the kids and a TV to watch) which made it a lot more relaxing than our previous flight!

Before too long we had landed in Singapore, and it was time for the next leg of the trip.

Our few days in the City of the Lion proved to be an excellent investment. We had a look at the shops, and generally didn't do much for a couple of days. Roland, a friend of ours who is now resident there, took us out to a restaurant one night, which was a small, homely place in which the dining room seemed to melt into the kitchen, giving the impression of an extended house rather than commercial premises. Roland did all the ordering in Hokkien, which meant that the food was quite a pleasant surprise, but none more so than the stuffed fish. This was filleted and tasted delightful; the main surprise was that two young boys managed to knock it off between them so quickly that the rest of us barely got a mouthful each! It has turned out to be quite a useful event to recall, especially when the conversation turns to "But I don't like fish!", only to extract the rejoinder "Well, I remember this fish in Singapore ...". We had a great day at Sentosa Island, mainly because there were plenty of opportunities for the kids to get wet, and enjoyable outings to the Botanic Gardens and the Zoo. The kids will remember the elephant ride for some time, we think!

Eventually, we boarded the plane for the final time, and headed for Oz. Naturally it was a rather bedraggled group who managed to stagger off the plane in Melbourne, and then set about reorganising things again. A day later we were shifting all our gear out of the storage shed, and back into the house. As one of the removalists said, there always seems to be more boxes than you remember, and it didn't take long for what seemed like an enormously large house compared to the Cherry Hinton place to be seemingly full again. We found that there were quite a few things to be thrown out, and a few things to be differently arranged, but it didn't take too long to get the place functioning again. This was just as well, as Joshua went back to school a few days after landing, and James went back to work around the same time only to disappear for a week to a conference in Canberra. Necessary? Apparently. Popular? Well, you can guess ...

Joshua has had an interesting year. Naturally he had to settle into Grade 2, and there was a bit of catching up to do, in a social sense. His lessons with Linda had been very productive (despite his protests to his mother about his teacher!), and had set him up very well for his return to Hughesdale Primary School. Before long he was back with his old friends (and some new ones) and generally hoeing into things with his usual enthusiasm. As ever, he always seems to find a way to be sitting at the very front and the very middle of the classroom. His teacher did make a comment at one point that for "Show and Tell" it is often difficult to get children talking in any length about whatever it is that they have brought. It is perhaps not surprising, though, to hear that this comment definitely does not apply to Joshua! He was in the extension group again, which he generally enjoyed, and the time overseas has definitely not slowed his progress. He took a liking to the Harry Potter books (as did his parents once he got them!), and generally found a way to persuade one of us to read a chapter or two to him, all the way through all four books. Guess who is hanging out for the fifth one to come out... We also got him playing soccer in the winter, and this proved to be a smash hit. A couple of his friends from school play in the same competition (though not in the same team), and whilst some of his skills were a little rusty at first, he stuck at it, and often performed very well as a goalkeeper. Given how well it went, it seems likely that this will be a permanent fixture --- oh well, there go Saturday mornings for the next 10 years!

Timothy has also had a good year. He settled into the three-year-old programme at Hughesdale Kindergarten, which is about 1 minute's walk from our place, although he had to miss the first few weeks as he was not allowed to attend until his 3rd birthday near the end of February. Once there, he settled in well, but he tended to be very quiet and observant rather than up and involved in everything. In fact ,by about halfway through the year, his teacher was little concerned about him not talking (which we found hard to believe, as at home it can be hard to shut him up, sometimes!). However, as we predicted, around two thirds of the way through the year, the dam burst, and he has been chattering away ever since. He proudly points out the way to walk there, and whilst he is still less than totally. enthusiastic about joining in all activities with gusto, he more than holds his own, and is looking forward to returning next year for the four-year-old programme. He has developed quite an imaginative aspect to his play, focused as it often is around Thomas the Tank Engine (or any other train for that matter), although there seems to be an inexplicable fascination with tying things up --- we often find a sheep, a train or a superhero hanging from a door handle by a rope of some sort. Is there an occupation which involves train drivers lassooing objects? If so, that will be the job for him. He is still a big boy for his age, but we think he will be gentle giant --- he seems to like nothing better than messing around with his brother and/or sister, and making as much noise as possible.

Emily is now a bright, bouncy toddler, with fine blonde hair and big blue eyes who is learning very quickly how to look out for herself. She began to crawl soon after our return, and was walking by about the middle of the year. She is compactly built, but more than compensates for it with her energy. She seems to find a way to get into everything, and sitting still is certainly not her style. She has continued the family tradition of emptying the cupboards, and putting spoons, cups and the like into all sorts of odd little corners. She is talking a lot for her age, and seems to be quite sharp in most respects. Recently Linda asked Timothy "Is it 3.30 yet?" and she looked straight at the clock. She loves books, and will demand that one of us read to her, usually accompanied by the kind of stare that would fry steak if it weren't for the fact that it makes you want to laugh out loud. She is quite a climber, and one of her favourite spots is on top of the dining room table; asking her to get down again gets one of the barbeque-lighting glares in return. Somehow she has worked out that girls should be interested in shoes, as whenever one of us is getting her dressed, she will, at the first opportunity, duck over to the cupboard, usually with a cheeky grin, and pull out her best shoes. Whenever anyone goes out the front door, it seems, she has to come too. Hence she has been present on many trips to get milk or other such items, but she will often settle for being able to do a lap or two of the front garden. Flowers, though, may tend to regret her passing by ...

Having the three of them certainly makes for some interesting moments, and occasionally an awful lot of noise. That is only going to get more extreme, though, as Linda is again pregnant, and due around the end of January (and yes, if it was needed, this is final confirmation that we are crazy!). Everything has gone very well thus far, although the heat of summer is not exactly something for which she is yearning. Joshua says that he wants another sister, which we thought was a little strange until we worked out that this would mean that there will be no extra person in his bedroom! It has also meant that we are now owners of an 8-seater vehicle, which seems to suit us very well (although as Linda said, the only thing bigger is a bus!).

Linda has had a busy year as a domestic engineer, and has found that the combination of pregnancy and three young children to be tiring at times. Nonetheless she has still found time to pursue two subjects for a Masters course in Education at Melbourne Uni. This, after another year of study, will qualify her to teach Information Technology in schools as well as Maths. Reluctantly her tennis had to be forsaken after a while, but she will be back on the court with a vengeance early next year.

James, as usual, has had a busy year at work. Despite all the travel last year, he still managed to spend a week in the USA in June and three weeks in Boston, Belgrade and London in July. This was all research work --- conferences, seminars and visits to colleagues, but ongoing work as Undergraduate Course Co-ordinator has meant that it is often difficult to find the time and energy for research activities. He has continued to sing with the Astra choir, as well as the Coatesville Uniting Church, though not as much as previously (although Wednesday nights still seemed to get filled up!).

Max and Melanie have continued on their merry way. They had a seemingly great time in the kennels while we were away (judging by the size of them when we returned!), but were soon settled into their old routine, and still manage to dig things up given half a chance! It be quite a sight with one child in the sandpit, one climbing a tree, one more throwing things for Max and Melanie zipping around to keep track of all of them.

We hope you have a peaceful and joyous Christmas, and we wish you all the best for the New Year.


Lynda, James, Joshua, Timothy, Emily and ???