We Are Well and Truly Into The New Year

We are now well into the New Year and with a combination of cool and damp weather over the last week, along with a small rise in the number of Covid cases in Victoria we have spent a few quiet days at home but on the sunny days, managed to make the most of some of the weather by getting out and around.

In some years, the weather over Christmas can be quite hot in Melbourne, but not so this year. The temperatures have mainly been around 20 – 23 C and it will probably not get hot (as usual) until later in January and early February – just when the kids return to school.

In relation to the virus, we had accrued just over 60 days in Victoria without a new case in the community. Christmas was delightfully free of most Covid restrictions and we were able to celebrate in an almost normal way. Then around New Year’s Day, a few cases began to reappear again . They were a result of the virus escaping from quarantine in Sydney and brought down into Victoria by returning holiday maker.. Not too big a deal, it means that we are back to wearing masks when inside public places and nursing homes are now closed again to visitors. We were experiencing up to 23 new cases per day but for the last two days the number has been back to zero again.  We all know that small outbreaks will occur from time to time.

I know that we are managing this virus rather well and I hope it continues. When I first started tracking levels of international experience with the virus in April last year, Australia was ranked 49th on the list in terms of the most number of cases. We are now down to one hundredth place on the list of  countries around the world. I despair for my friends in North Carolina in the United States where the number of new cases per day has exceeded 9000! Our friends Dee and Larry have recently been diagnosed as positive and we hope and pray that they will have a very quick and complete recovery.

Our family living in Perth (where it is completely free of the virus) were able to celebrate Christmas without any restrictions at all. It was wonderful to be able to have a FaceTime session with them during the afternoon on Christmas Day. We haven’t seen them for a year now and we hope that one day we will get back to seeing them in person again.

Our grandchildren in Melbourne share alternate Christmases with their father and it was his turn to have them this year. Subsequently our Christmas lunch was very quiet with just three of us sitting around the table – ourselves and Cathy. We had a beautiful meal with a Rochford Winery Christmas Hamper that only needed to be heated and assembled. It saved all the hassles of preparation and cooking. It was a delicious meal with some wonderful flavours – appetisers of terrine, prawn salad and summer leaves, with the main course of roast chicken with vegetables and a variety of cakes and pastries for dessert. 

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In the afternoon, Cathy suggested that we should visit the city at night to see the Christmas lights. I had been in to the CBD with a friend a week or so ago to photograph them and I jumped at a second chance. Some of the public buildings were illuminated with projected images and the streets were lit up and decorated. Christmas night was a very busy time in Melbourne. The streets were full of mainly Indian and Asian families who don’t really celebrate Christmas. The balmy night had bought out some reasonable crowds.

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We normally visit my brother on Boxing Day and catch up with his family and my sister, nieces and nephews for a ‘Wilson Family Christmas’. This year we decided to defer our get-together until later in January because of some timing issues and the hassles of us all getting together immediately after Christmas Day. Instead, Jill and I went out for a picnic to the old gold mining town of Warburton.  It was a nice sunny day and it was very pleasant to sit in the park by a little stream and listen to it gurgling over the rocks as we ate.

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Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we had another day out to the old Koonwarra General Store in South Gippsland. The little cafe there is quite charming. It has recently been re-labelled the Koonwarrra Ethical Food Store (although I doubt that they would have called it the ‘unethical’ food store). I couldn’t see that much difference between what it used to be and what it is now. The food is nice and the atmosphere is quite pleasant.

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Yesterday, we had a picnic barbecue at Fernshaw picnic ground in the Yarra Ranges. It’s situated on the Watts River, in a location that was settled in the 1860s. It provided good country for orchards and berry growing. There were nearby fern gullies giving rise to the name – ‘shaw’ which is an old English for thicket or wood. By 1875 Fernshaw had a post office, two hotels, a school and stores. It was famed for its beauty, attracting many tourists. In 1886 the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works began work on the Watts River water catchment scheme – later to become Maroondah – and the Board obtained approval for the catchment country to be reserved and kept free of settlement. This required the removal of the Fernshaw township, which was completed by about 1890.

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There are some beautiful areas of forest in the surrounding area with tall trees and tree ferns.

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On one of the days in the last week we had quite some excitement when a house further up the road from us caught fire. It was a sad start for the New Year for those people as the house was totally destroyed. We could see the smoke from our upstairs window. Having seven firetrucks, two police cars and an ambulance up the road caused quite some congestion.

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We are getting back to thinking about some travel for this year. I saw that Qantas was ranked the world’s safest airline for 2020 although this may not have been too difficult an achievement as very few of the airlines flew very much last year.

We had a reservation on the Indian Pacific train from last May that we had to defer because of Covid. It is a four day luxury trip across the country from east to west (Sydney to Perth). We had rebooked it for March this year, thinking that would have been far enough ahead for the virus to be under control, but not necessarily so. 

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Continuing small numbers of new cases in Sydney have meant that the ‘Mr Quick Draw McGraw’ Premier of Western Australia keeps closing the WA border every time an outbreak occurs. It’s been open and shut more often than the swing gate at a sheep dip!  I suspect that we will probably once again have to defer this trip until another time. Anyway, we have some airfares (fully cancellable) in place just in case we can’t travel.

With the decrease in virus numbers in Victoria once again, we have been brave enough to put some time into planning a road trip to South Australia and the Flinders Ranges in May. Time will tell as to whether we can undertake these trips, but let’s hope!

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