At Home with the Harlands
Christmas, 1998

Dear Friends,

Once more it has been a very busy and involved year, and once more it is hard to believe that twelve more months have passed. It seems that it wasn't long since last Christmas and our previous broadcast ... (at least that is our excuse for not writing more often!).

Life has certainly been busy, in all sorts of ways. Lynda went back to work at the end of January, which meant that Timothy went off to creche. In addition, Joshua started at school, so all three had some kind of new beginning (some more so than others!). Timothy has been going to the same creche that Joshua went to, and several of the staff remember Joshua well. It seems that they felt they knew what to expect from another little boy of ours (mainly in the areas of dirt, noise and laughter!).

Speaking of children of ours, our big news is that we are expecting another child in late May. Naturally this is very good news, and this will keep us rather busy in the middle of next year (as you will see, for more reason than just that one ...) Lynda has been keeping very well, but has naturally been rather tired at times, particularly towards the end of the year when reports are due, and various other deadlines. She is very pleased to have several weeks off over Christmas, and will be returning to school next year for the first term (late January to early April) before taking leave. She is certainly looking forward to a pregnancy whose final stages is in autumn rather than summer! She is due to go for an ultrasound in a week or so, which is always a great event. Joshua is really looking forward to seeing a video of his brother- or sister-to-be! There are times when we wonder about our sanity, particularly given the noise, mess and general mayhem that the current dynamic duo manage to produce; however, that usually doesn't last too long (the feelings about our sanity, that is --- not the noise, mess, mayhem etc!).

Joshua is (again) excited about the prospects of another little playmate, and often makes sure that we count the new baby in whatever summation is going on. For example, statements such as "But there are only three people here --- Timothy, Joshua and Mummy." often get corrected with a resigned rejoinder of "No, Mum, there's four --- what about the baby?". Timothy is pretty happy about most things, although his knowledge of anatomy is still rather primitive --- he has taken to pointing an arbitrary spot on Lynda's body and stating "Baby!". No doubt he will have a more concrete idea before too long.

Timothy is now almost two, which is rather hard to believe! His hair, which originally had a rather gingery touch, has gone more towards strawberry blond, and he is nothing if not solid. He is still rather big for his age, and seems to take delight in just about everything, including messing up Joshua's room and watching his brother get the blame for it. He is very curious and playful, and has been to just about every possible square inch of the house, and then some. We often find kitchen implements scattered all over the place, as he has taken something from a drawer and then abandoned it in some seemingly unconnected corner --- wooden spoons under the couch seem to be a favourite. Nothing much gets past his gaze, and he is quick to latch onto important events, such as the arrival of ice-cream or chocolate, or someone opening the back door to go out to feed the dogs. He takes particular delight in brooms, especially when they are used to turn off an over-sensitive smoke alarm. This is also the child who one day surmounted the slide at creche and proceeded to blurt at everyone who passed by! At one point we used to call him Duracell, as he was a copper-top with a seemingly unlimited source of energy. Naturally he and Joshua are unequally matched when it comes to wrestling and general running around, but a surprise body-slam (often from behind) can generally even up the odds ... He has been slower to talk than Joshua was, but lately has come up with a flood of words, as if he has been storing them up for a long time and suddenly decided to start using them. It is not (yet) Shakespeare, but it is certainly amusing.

Joshua has taken Hughesdale Primary School by storm this year. He was in one of two Prep classes, and ended up in one with a very experienced teacher, who has been excellent. He settled in very well, and was soon reading away like he was born to it. He ended up at reading level 23 or thereabouts, which is something like the expected level of a (late) Grade 2. It was always interesting to watch him in the classroom (which James was able to do once a week, helping out with listening to children read one-on-one), as he was invariably sitting at the front and in the middle, virtually right at the teacher's feet. He takes pride in taking books and other things for show and tell (he is a natural at that!), and was able to install some software on the class computer, which was a great help and surprise to his teacher. It hasn't' all been work, though --- he has made some good friends, and there have been several visits for play and parties and the like. There was one child from his kindergarten who went to the same school, and the two of them can generally be found playing soccer together at lunchtimes and after school. He has thoroughly enjoyed what the school has had to offer, but was still glad to be on holiday after all that! We get the feeling that he will be keen to return to school when it resumes late January. He has been very good with Timothy, often sharing food and toys, and making sure that he has something appropriate to play with. If there are rules broken, though (such as sitting on the couch with shoes on), he lets us know with a vengeance ... He still loves being read to, particularly when going to bed, but will often want to read to us as well. He is still slim and lanky, and James used to call him a goanna, particularly given his affinity for climbing trees, but he began to object to that, telling us that his name is Joshua and nothing else.

As you may have noted from a comment above, we have also added to the canine population, as Max now has a companion known as Melanie. Melanie is a full cocker spaniel, and has taken to bossing Max around and chewing everything in sight. We had felt that Max was getting rather lonely, particularly with no-one generally home during the day, and we returned to the pet shop where we had bought him, intent on obtaining another spoodle (ie spaniel-poodle cross). However, when we got there, there were no spoodles in stock, but this gorgeous spaniel with a beautiful ginger coat. Joshua took one look and decided that that was the dog for him, and hence she came home with us. Naturally this meant starting the puppy-training process all over again, but she has generally been well-behaved. There are clear differences with Max, though --- Melanie is a lovely dog, and even more keen than Max on interaction with humans, but it is impossible to describe her as an intellectual giant. She and Max together form a rather frenetic team, which is generally quite amusing, but has had some adverse consequences on sections of the garden. Hence, in order to preserve the more delicate plants (which had a tendency to become the rather sad and ragged results of experiments in the arts of chewing and digging) as well as our sanity, we have had to put up some fences around certain sections. We have noticed, though, that visits from the local cats have become very rare ...

Lynda has had another busy year at work, which is always to be expected, but with a rather unpleasant twist. The numbers at the school have been steady or falling for some time, and this has had consequent pressure on staff numbers. In the Maths department, this got to the point that towards the end of the year, a decision had to be made as to which one of three people (Lynda + two colleagues) was to be reduced to part-time status from full-time. Fortunately for us, the one chosen was not Lynda, but it was not exactly a celebration to hear that the axe had fallen on a close colleague. Naturally there is little that can be done about it now, but it was a very unpleasant experience from start to finish, and hopefully one that will not be repeated. Lynda has been involved in various aspects of the school, as usual, including being a Form Teacher, a House Link and involvement in the Themes and Dreams festival. It hasn't approach the insanity levels of 1996, but it has still been busy enough. That phrase "No, I am too busy to take that on" still seems to be a very hard one to pronounce ... She has continued to play tennis, and has greatly enjoyed that, although not on days of around 40 degrees!

James has had (yet another) busy year at work, and it only seems to increase. As ever, the passport was not in cobwebs, with a month-long trip in June and July taking in a brief stop-over in Singapore, a conference in Manchester, a visit to a colleague in London, a visit to a PhD student in Serbia, more work in London and a conference in Lindau. This was all very stimulating, but on return to RMIT, it turned out that he was appointed Undergraduate Course Co-ordinator. This is a job similar to that of a head of a department, in that someone has to do it, and there is a significant amount of paperwork, meetings and dealing with people, but no-one seems to want the job! It has meant that James has been very busy with minutiae (and the phone never seems to stop ringing!), and together with some teaching innovations (which have required a lot of face-to-face contact), it has been all rather tiring. However, there is a significant prospect of this changing in the near future, as James will be on a sabbatical in the second half of 1999, which means that he will have no teaching or administration duties, and it is generally a good idea to make an extended visit to another research centre in order to stimulate one's research anew. Hence we will be heading to London for the period from July to January (roughly), in order for James to work with a colleague at the University of London. It is not clear exactly where we will be living for that period, as central London (which is where Queen Mary and Westfield College is) is expensive and not exactly the nicest place for children, but it will probably be somewhere within commuting distance in the north or north-east. Cambridge is a likely candidate, but nothing is as yet settled. Naturally this will be a great chance for Lynda and the children to travel, and we are all greatly looking forward to it. It will no doubt seem all too short, but given the various constraints (James's work, Lynda's long-service leave, for which she will be eligible by then, Joshua's schooling, etc) this seems to be the best option. James has continued to sing with the Astra choir, as well as being involved with the Coatesville Uniting Church, which basically means that Wednesday nights are either rehearsals or meetings!

The house? Well, things hasten slowly. The bedrooms and the cupboard in our room now all have doors, and some of them (but not all) have even been varnished (now there is a summer job ...) We have re-organised the study, basically by swapping a double-bed for a single one and a trundle bed, and finally discarded the old ugly clothesline. The garden has had a watering system installed, as well as various new plants (some of which the dogs haven't managed to dig out!). Hence, it is all getting closer to being finally, utterly, totally finished, but not just yet.

Naturally, the door at Hotel Harland is always open to visitors, and anyone who is passing through Melbourne is more than welcome. For that matter, anyone within a few hundred miles of London in the second half of 1999 is more than welcome. In either case, be prepared for the local wildlife, who are generally friendly but often enthusiastic.

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


Lynda, James, Joshua and Timothy (Max and Melanie send their regards whilst chasing each other around).