Letter to Ali – 1996

Paternity Leave 1996

 In 1996 I took paternity leave to look after Alissa, our second child. Here is a selection of what I wrote to her each month.I want to thank Yvonne Smith, the Principal at Northholm Grammar School, for giving me this opportunity to spend time with Alissa and Nicholas.
To January 30 1996   Waiting Lismore Nick What will two children be like? Avoca The BirthJuly 1996   My first trip away from the children ever Change in Ali
February 1996   Family Settling in      September – October 1996   Daycare Nick and Ali Baptism Gaining independence 
April 1996   Just you and me Spiritual growth New House Bowral visit Going out Another car incident Pre-renovations Port ArthurNovember – December 1996   Thinking about work Ali’s eating habits Doing more things as time runs out
June 1996 Visiting people Living with extensionsJanuary 1997   The guilts The last week The year in short

To January 30, 1996

Waiting

Alissa, I wanted to let you know a bit about myself, Jenny and Nick at the time when you were born and throughout your first year of life. I did a similar thing with Nick when he was born and I want to do the same thing for you. I do this not out of a sense of obligation, rather I find it very therapeutic and you may learn a bit about me. You have probably looked at what I did for Nick, so you may have an idea about this. It will be yours because you have offered us another new and important dimension to our lives. If I am not around when you get to read this remember that I love you, Nick and Jenny dearly and that your presence will always be with me.

You were conceived in April 1995. We were both working at Northholm Grammar School in a period of transition between a Headmaster and a Principal. We were living at St Ives and were planning to live in Galston so we could be closer to your schools, particularly in the first instance the daycare. The plan was to live there for a few years and let you go to the local school and later move if we did not think that the area was suitable for all our needs, especially our work and your education. We found a place to live in 48 Nancy Place and did move in until you were about two months old. 

I learnt very early in the piece that there are no two similar pregnancies and by implication I was convinced that there would be no two same children and nor would I want there to be. There are so many different people in the world and that is the way it should be. I tried to develop no expectations and I feel to a degree we were successful in doing this. We all have something to offer the world and at the moment I am still trying to come to terms with what I can offer and what ever you decide to do will be for you to decide. I am sure you will let me know if I try and control things and you rightly should let me know.

The best way I can show what life was like for me, while you were around and before you were born, is to let you read some of the things I wrote in the Pub Book in this period. If I have not already told you about the Pub Book I will now. It started in Bowral as a book to write my thoughts after I started teaching in Bowral in 1984. Usually I was in a hotel. To date there are 15 volumes which I have written.

September 26, 1995

Lismore

It would have been Nan’s birthday today. Yesterday we had a lovely lunch in Bowral. Little did I know how difficult it would be to get to Lismore the next day. We finally made it up the Lismore to visit Aunt Sadie the following day. My car broke down near Newcastle and we spent most of the Grand Final between Manly and Canterbury at roadside phone 605. Jenny thought I planned the break down of the car. I may have caused it by not putting the lid on the radiator. There is no doubt in Nick’s mind who broke the car. When Jenny primes him, he tells everyone that I broke the car.

Nick has not been well and this have caused us considerable anxiety, as we have to get the medicine into him and it is a real struggle at times. Also he seems to stay up later at the moment and thus is really tired at the end of the day. Jenny and I do not always agree on how best to deal with him and this is often a source of tension between us. Part of the problem is my laziness and Nick’s desire to be with one of us and not the other. There is no point forcing him to be with me when he wants to be with Jenny. Knowing why he does not want to be with me needs to be worked out. Jenny is better at feeding him. I tend to buy the food and sometimes cook it while Jenny exercises more patience in the feeding the department. Nick not being well distresses me.

September 27 1995

Nick seemed to be a little better today. We managed to get him to sleep. As a matter of fact we all had a snooze for at least two hours. So Nick should be alright for dinner tonight at Robyn and David’s place.

We drove to Astonville today, for the second time, and on the way back we called into where Neville lived as a child. The place was run down and now Wayne is trying to fix it up.

I feel like I am on a health farm. We seem to eat every two hours, unless we are sleeping. Once again I will leave rested and overweight and even though I care I know that the rest and balanced diet will be good for me, Jenny and Nicholas. Time passes so quickly and the way of life is busy yet relaxed. I need to work more towards being more like this.

Nick is getting on well with the animals. There is a shetland pony called Bluey and it is like the horse that Nick reads about at home called Snowy. We went for a walk down the track and Nick was eating a rainbow flavoured paddle pop while rounding up the cows and looking for the pony. It is all a great learning experience for him and myself as well. At the moment I am sitting on the back verandah writing while Jenny is trying to feed Nick. Soon we will be heading down to “The Boys’ Place”. He is having a ball with the cats in the house. we will have to get another cat in the not to distant future; not so much for Nick but for me- I miss Paddles.

28 September 1995

We had a great night last night and Nick had a ball. He liked playing on the skateboard and with the boys. Nick was rather unsettled during the night and at about midnight he was really disturbed with a temperature. Jenny spent ages with him and in the end when he asked for a washer we knew we were in trouble. They use a washer at school when he hurts himself. Finally we gave him some panadol- which he absolutely hates and I have to hold him down and block his nose to make him swallow it. Fortunately it worked and he and Jenny were able to sleep until 9:30 am.

We drove to Clunes to get the papers, ice blocks and a beer (lemonade) and then sat in the park on the other side of the road. Here we played a game on the red bridge. When home we organised some lunch and when we were just finished and were about to put Nick to bed “The Boys” arrived. Nick was not going to go to sleep anyway. They had brought a saddle and all the kids went for a ride on Bluey the pony. Nick loved this. In the end I watched a trashy movies called “Getting Married” with John Boy Walton the star and then I decided to have a sleep. Hopefully, after tonight’s lamb dinner, Nick will be settled and ready for a sleep where Jenny is not kept up all night. I am not kept awake because he wants to have nothing to do with me during the night, especially when he knows that Mum is around.

September 29 1995

Anthony rang in the morning with the news that the car was fixed and that I had cooked the engine and it was ready and would cost a couple of grand- and expensive lesson. It would not have happened if I was more relaxed and less hassled with life.

Nick fell asleep last night on the sofa watching a video of Play School. He woke up a few hours later to play; at least he was not sick.

n the morning we went for a drive to Byron head. I cannot remember what it was like the last time I stayed there but I think it was less developed. It is like a developing Noosa Heads with all the modern pubs and cafes and Bali like shops. Nick went to the water for a while and he also spent some time on the swings and park activities. On the way home we stopped at Bangalore to try and find a tea pot for Aunt Sadie but had no luck. We did managed to purchase a kilo of beans and the three papers. We came home and had sausage rolls, of the home cooked sausage variety and I watched Dirty Dozen 4 while Jenny fed and looked after Nicholas. I was not really pulling my weight. 

While we were away we had a good balanced diet of basics like carrots, peas, beans, potatoes and some form of meat and later desert, for breakfast was cereal, toast and sometimes bacon and eggs, and at lunch was some sort of sandwich or roll. All meals were followed up with a cup of tea. I decided to try and do the same sort of thing at home, with perhaps a reduction in the quantity of food that we eat. 

After the movie everyone else was sleeping and I went for a walk down behind the house to the railway line and followed the fence line to the wind mill and then returned up to the house. 

On the way down one of the dogs joined me and I felt reassured, as one of the bulls was eyeing me off. The dog suddenly stopped and watch me walk off into the distance, as if his duty had been done. When I first got to the fence line I stopped and sat down for a while. After observing the dead cow on the other side of the line under a tree and the remains of a horse on my side of the line I continued on with the walk. 

When I reached the wind mill I cut up through the forest towards the house. I was in a different world and I sat down to take it all in. Sitting there, on one of the many rocks that dot the country in which I was walking, with my legs crossed in a meditative position, I tried to empty my mind by focussing on the word “one”. I was so much out of practice that my breathing felt restricted and I wanted to jump up and wiggle around. My breathing was also restricted as the walk up the slope had knocked me around. 

I resisted the urge to jump about and stayed there until I felt that I was starting to relax a little bit more freely. It was not perfect as I was distracted by my own passing thoughts, the noises in the bush and I was scared that a snake or something would come up to me. Since I felt that I had made some progress, I stopped and continued up the slope, only to notice that there was some wire and a fence post. As I emerged through the trees near the top I was in line with the fence line which runs down the back of the house. I thought to myself that I must take Nick for a walk into the bush. I came back into the house and everyone was still asleep and I opened up the laptop and wrote about the walk that I have just described.

September 30, 1995 

Nick woke up late after his sleep yesterday and we went for a drive to the “The Boys” house for an hour or so. the evening passed as a quiet affair and we all had a good sleep.

Today we went to Astonville to get the papers, food and a tea pot for Aunt Sadie. Nick also got a toy truck and a spiral straw with Ernie on the top. After lunch and a forest walk where Nick was worried about tigers and snakes, we finally negotiated Nick to sleep. Soon after he fell asleep “The Boys” arrived but Nick slept through the lot, as did Jenny and me.

This morning’s paper has Jenny’s and my job advertised for next year. Unfortunately this has made me think of school.

Last night I listened to the trots at Harold Park as a lead up to understanding the form for the Miracle Mile and I spent the waking hours of the next afternoon listening to the races like the Epson and watched Carlton thrash Geelong in the AFL final. At least was not sitting on the edge of the freeway.

There was a stress test in the paper today which Jenny and I did. We had to choose from options concerning work related situations. Jenny ranked better than me on the stress scale. Both of us did not like the options. The characteristics of the least stressed people were selfish. For example, if the boss asked you to stay late one night and you said no and went home, you had the least level of stress. There was no option to choose to be helpful and not be stressed. In this situation I chose the next best option which was not necessarily the least stressed option, whereas my original choice would have been the least stressful for me. So how accurate are polls and surveys of people’s feelings when all the options are not presented?

October 1, 1995 

Nick went to bed at 11:30pm because he got up late in the afternoon. I did not feel like sleeping last night. I had too much rest during my stay. Nick got up and watched his play school video and we got ready to catch the morning flight home.

October 11, 1995

The holiday was a best break that I have had for along time. In the week after Lismore we had the Knox’s, minus Gina, over for lunch on the Monday. Nick went back to school on the next two days and I had some drinks with Burnsie, Kell, Monas and Burls. On Thursday and Friday Mat Curtis, Nick and myself went to Avoca. If you are wondering about Jenny, she spent the whole week at school working on Ilex – the school magazine. On the weekend Nick slept and on the Sunday I went to Gleebooks to look at books and I purchased a copy of Jung’s Memories, Dreams and Reflections, which I would have to admit is an autobiography with a difference. It is all about his inner life. He has scant regard and recollection of his outer life.

This good break gave me a positive start to the term. Probably the best I have felt for a long time. The week also started my planned exercise to reduce weight. I consciously did no exercise during the holidays because in the past I did a lot in the holidays and when school started I could never keep it up-so to speak. Now I will run two working days and will do something on the weekends-hopefully a bike ride if time will allow. Also I have decided to watch what I eat, with the view of balancing the diet by eating less fat and cutting down on the crap food.

October 16 1995

My birthday has come and gone and so did the diet, for a few days at least. The opening of Neville’s room at Northbridge was excellent and a worthwhile thing for Nick to be involved in at his age. I had a great meal at my parents’ place for my birthday. 

I went with Mat to the cricket on the Sunday to watch Philip’s side (NSW) defeat QLD at North Sydney Oval. I sat with some Oxley teachers and had a few beers and caught up with developments at Oxley. I also tried to find out how Chris was going. He seemed to be well regarded and was not making any big decisions at the moment. Later Mat and I went to Mc Mahon’s Point for a cuppa and then for a walk down to the water. When we got home Nick was about to go to bed and he was all excited, as he had been to the cricket and had seen Philip out on the field and wanted him to come in, like all the batsmen who were getting out by NSWs bowling and fielding. I was disappointed that I did not see him because I was watching boys and girls with their parents at the cricket and they were having a good time. I wanted to share the experience with Nick as well. We went and purchased some Indian food and then watch the Dustin Hoffman movie “Outbreak”.

Twice on the weekend I went for runs and I am starting to get into the swing of things, once again. It has helped my confidence and I hope that I can keep it up until the Nepean Triathlon. I was really pleased with the number of friends who remembered my birthday and rang to say hello. It is great that we keep in contact with each other.

On the weekend I was talking to Mat about goals and he asked me about personal goals. It struck home to me that I have deferred personal goals about life and work. The priority is the family and thus, even if I wanted to move to another school, it would not be appropriate to do so, given our increasing family commitments. This also means that there is more scope for me to really live in the here and now with my work and personal life and still have deferred long term personal goals. Accepting that I have other priorities helps me deal better with those things that I would not normally be interested in thinking about.

Nicole, my sister, and Ellen (your cousin) are coming to stay with us for for three weeks. It will be good for all of us to have them in the house. Mum and Dad will visit our place a lot more and may be we will give Nick a few days off to stay at home while there will be people there to look after him. Nicole may even have time to get back into the writing while the baby sleeps or when Mum and Dad look after her.

What will two children be like?

What are our children going to turn out like? I am starting to realise the significance that no two children are the same. Jenny’s second pregnancy is totally different and no doubt the child will be different as well. It is this understanding of differences I have to come to terms with when we start bringing up two children. I must make sure that trying the same things with a second child may not have the same result as we did with Nicholas. I must not blame the child if the responses are different. I have to develop the strategy which is suited to the personality of the child with which I am dealing.

This realisation of the uniqueness of children I need to carry into my professional career. This includes the development of an understanding of what makes teachers and students tick. There are broad parameters into which I can, for the sake of organisation, order students. However, my dealings with them must strive to understand their individuality. The balance of the combination of these two issues is something with which I have recently only identified and I must try to achieve, if I am to be a successful teacher.

I recently read in a Fun Runner magazine a view expressed by Ron Clark that Australia has lost the urge to be competitive and that we are not developing experienced and competitive runners at the elite level. I actually agree with this but for some reason, for the past couple of years, my competitive urges have declined. Part of this has been due to my involvement in outdoor education. I cannot work out if the competition is necessary or not. Ten years ago I would have said it was crucial. My thinking processes have changed a lot since then. Surely one can be competitive and still be a decent caring human being, but for some reason competition is seen as a negative thing. I cannot understand how I have come to believe this.

November 27, 1995

Avoca

We spent the weekend at Avoca and had a really good time with Nick. He spent a lot of time in the water and at times it was really cold. he did not seem to mind the weather. Monas had sealed the exchange of the contracts for Berowra and I felt good about it. We had a bottle of red wine each and a few beer while we talked about a range of things on Saturday night. Once again , even though I enjoyed the night, I was annoyed that I drank so much. Fortunately, I was able to sleep in a bit and I forced myself to go for a run. The run plus the garlic in the previous nights meals help clear out the system. We got home quite late and Nick was up till late as he had had a good sleep during the day. He was really tired this morning and i felt sorry for him.

We are in the last week and a half for school. There have been a number of jobs and opportunities for next year which I cannot consider. i knew this could be the case, but I am amazed at how many I would have considered if my circumstances were different.

Jenny is starting to get a little more uncomfortable and the holidays will be needed to escape the heat and adjust to the demands of an increased family. This is waffle. The rest will do jenny good as she tends not to rest during term time while I, when I am not stressed by houses, rest quite well.

January 30, 1996

The Birth 

I was at the first day of school and rang Jenny at 10:30am. She said every thing was fine but by 12:30 I spoke to her and she said she thought she was in labour. I left school, picked up Nick, got caught in some road works, talked to some cows with Nick, as I did not want to force him into the car, and then got caught behind two L-Plate drivers. When I arrived at home I rang Grandma and she was to meet us at the hospital so that they could look after Nicholas. I felt sorry for him as it was the first time he was away from us for an extended period of time. I drove to the hospital and I went over the speed humps a little to quickly for Jenny and you. Nick was in the labour ward with us for a while and soon your grand parents arrived.

After I saw Nick off I went into the little Chapel at the hospital and said a very quick Rosary (I wonder if you know what this is?). I could feel my heart raging and I tried to calm down. Each time I visited the hospital I made sure I went to the Chapel at least once. At 2:30 Mum had dilated 1cm, by 5:30pm 4cm and at this point she asked for some pain relieve (much to my relief, as I could not stand the pain she was going through, especially when I could do nothing at all). From then to 7:30 was a strange experience. Mum was quite drugged out. Every now and then (every five minutes) she would wince, puff on the gas and grab her leg and then settle again. At 7:30 the midwife did an examination and after a few more pushes you were past the cervix. This is when we got shock. She said to Mum “well it is up to you when you have your baby”. We both thought it would just happen with the contractions, neither of us realised that there was a lot of conscious work to be done.

At this point I felt quite ill. Throughout the labour to this point I was feeling weak and hungry and I felt guilty about this as I thought that I should not be selfish and want to eat food. Fortunately the nurses gave me some dinner. It was weird eating a meal, and watching the federal election coverage while Mum was in the bed next too me in labour. There seemed something wrong about it, but I had to eat. The whole process is rather controlled; there is time to do things even though I thought it would all be a blur. 

So at 7:30 when we realised that Jenny had to do some work I had to get a drink of water for what was about to happen. Every couple of minutes there was a lot of sustained pushing and then periods of silence while the midwifes were getting things ready for when Dr Henderson arrived. They tried to get me to go down and have a look and Jenny said in the middle of a contraction “No, he will pass out”. She was right. As the stomach gets lower towards the end you cannot avoid seeing what is happening. More of your scalp was emerging and then I heard a snip and you arrived. The next bit was very quick. There were tubes put in you to get you to breath, the Doctor was working on Jenny.

An interesting thing happened in the whole process, which I was not surprised at as it is typical of Jenny. No one knew when Mum’s waters broke. It must have happened in the pool during the last week. You had to be tested for infections and then were taken to the nursery. When I came back to see you I went to the cradle for Room 406 and there was another baby in it. They had not finished the processing. I later found you over at the reception desk in another cradle. I made sure they got the number right then I went home to bed.

February 2

You are a couple of days away from coming home and and I have nothing organised. There have been a lot of visitors at the hospital and all have been very generous with their comments about you. It was particularly nice to see the students who have come to seen Jenny and you. The warm and the genuine interest is very welcomed, if not surprising. 

When Nick was born we had just moved into a new house and there was a federal election between Paul Keating and John Hewson. You were born when we were about to move and there was an election between Paul Keating and John Howard. We will have another election night party. A few of us are spending the next four weeks trying to guess through who is going to win by looking at policies, personalities and the media coverage.

February 3

Family

You have a brother, as you know, who had to go through a rapid learning curve when you were born. I did not see him for four days after you were but the benefit was that he spent a lot of time with your grandparents. Nick was three and at this age we were able to explain things to him. He knew what was going on and all he did was show absolute love to you and he was very understanding of the division of labour that ended up happening. 

I am caught on what to write about because I want to address this to Nick as well as you. I think what I will do is address Nicks letter to the two of you and give it to you both at Nick’s 21st and then give Nick yours at your 21st. This way I can talk to both of you. It seems like I am going at considerable length to be fair, but I have to do that with which I am comfortable. At this stage you do not do any thing so it is hard to write about you but it might be easier to write about our reactions and the changes that developed.

We were living in St Ives, which was also the place where Jenny’s parents had brought her up. I never found it particularly hard living there but there was a problem of too much furniture and especially as we were moving into a smaller space and you were coming along it proved a good opportunity to throw some things away. Both of us tend not to like throwing things away but I find it a bit easier than Jenny. I welcomed the opportunity as I had slowly being trying to get things out of the house for the previous three years, with varying degrees of success. The starting point was the study which had been there for 30 years and had been one of the favourite rooms of your Grandfather Neville. This became your bedroom and to fit you in we had to remove, relocated and throw out hundreds of books. I would be interested to know if either of you can remember anything about the room or even the house itself? We did not throw enough out since there were a number of items to which were were attached and had some legitimate reason to keep. 

I want to tell you a bit about your grandparents, firstly the ones you never met. They died over four years before you were born. To me they never aged I met them when I was 19 when I first met Jenny ant Sydney University. I was a long haired guy who came to take their daughter to the beach. They were tolerant of my eccentricities and always made me feel welcomed even when Jenny and I were not going out. We did not get married for another nine years which included a three to four year break where we did not see each other.

Helen, Jenny’s Mum, was Dux for two years in a row at Abbotsleigh. She is on the Honour Board under the name Windon, which is the name of your great grandmother who was still alive when you were born – I’ll talk about Dora Edith later. She graduated as a doctor and and later became an specialist in putting people to sleep (I can’t spell the word). She managed to be a thoroughly profession women and raise two children. Helen was a very good squash and tennis player and may have even won some state squash championships. She was an only child to Dora and Bromley Windon. Helen spent all her life bar the last few weeks thinking that her mother was an only child and thus she no cousins. She was shocked to learn that her mother was one of eight children and it had been kept secret all this time. We never got to the bottom of this. You great grandmother was still alive when you were born in Lady Gowrie Nursing Home in Killara, Jenny has been managing her affairs ever since Helen died.

While Helen was busy studying at school and later university Neville was, as an 18 year old, Captaining an English Lancaster Bomber over Europe during the second world war. He was an excellent sportsmen and was often described (pre women movement of course) as “a man among men”. I got to see a little bit of the respect people had for him in the short period in which I knew him. He went on to play test rugby for Australia between 1947-1949 after which he retired with a shoulder injury. He was at Sydney University but never finished his degree. There was something to do with romance and playing and coaching rugby league for a few years in England. He returned to his old school SHORE at which he was Head Prefect, and was employed as a Head of House. He stayed there till he retired 35 years later. He had spent years as a very good English teacher and Sports Master for for thirty of them.

Ann, my Mum, was raised in a number of city and country locations. Her father was not on the scene from when she was two years old and her mother died when she was 18. So I have never really had much contact with her side of the family. Mum rarely talked about it. Mum went to school at Monte Saint Angelo, left as School Captain and she is on the Honour Board as Sullivan. She trained to be an infant school teacher and taught for a few years down the south coast before she married Ric. She stopped teaching for a number of years to raise the four of us and then finished her working career by teaching at Belfield, Enfield and North Ryde. She just loves spending time with Dad and the grand children. If you are a good reader now it is due to her effort.

Dad was born and raised in Chatswood and went to Pius X. He studied to be a chemist. Even though he had met mum at 15 at a debate they did not get married for more than a decade. They got married Ann 1960 and soon after I was born we went to Liverpool after which he established a business which he ran for 30 years before he retired. Granddad Ric, when I was young, had a philosophical air about him. Even though he did not go to church too much, as he was working seven days a week, he was always deeply spiritual. He even thought of becoming a Jesuit monk. I am glad he did not do this. He stayed working at Liverpool and we moved to Strathfield so we could go to the local private schools and I am glad they did this as we all have reaped some benefit from this decision.

February 9

This is going to be very slow as I am learning to type so that I can type this more quickly. There seems to be a few problems as I tend to go very slow, as I am at the moment an I get frustrated because of all of the mistakes, which I am not going to correct. The l’s look like ; because I am using my right little finger instead of the one next to it. I also have a lot of trouble with the left little finger as it controls the “a” and I have never had to use it before.

February 10

Settling In

You have developed the habit of sleeping during the day and not sleeping through the night. So sleeping is becoming a bit of an issue as we are trying to develop a routine which will be suitable for all of us and a little bit of sanity. I decided to get some formulae milk so that you could supplement the milk from Jenny. Besides this little problem every thing is going fine and you seem to like to be carried. I am going to work on some controlled crying, so you learn to enjoy your own company.

Your uncle Jenny’s brother Philip is a strong family man who enjoys seeing you. He is not around a lot at the moment as he plays a lot of cricket for NSW, always as wicket keeper and sometimes as the Captain when the Australian Captain is away on tour. His whole life revolves around sport and if you are good at sport you in part have the Emerys’ to thank. Nicole is my sister and she is very smart and creative. She is a novelist who had written three novels at the time of your birth. She started out with an arts law degree and just stopped to write, which I thought was a very courageous thing to do. Paul is a doctor who at your birth was living up at the Gold Coast. He use to ring Grandma to find out what sort of things that you up to. Matthew my other brother was still living with your Grandparents when you were born. He has been trying to crack a job in a merchant bank for a number of years. He will get there one day. Well that is the tally of your direct blood uncles and aunts. 

Jenny is carrying you around as you have had a feed and you do not want to be put down on the ground. I was in a bit of a down mood today. There are a few things to do before we move and I do not have the time,inclination and motivation to do it. I made a good start at it and there was a sense of achievement. I am still concerned about the problem of space at Galston. I wish I could throw out the books. That would give me a lot of space and make our living space more open and enjoyable for all of us. I somehow think that the process will not be that easy, but I will give it a go.

If you have not noticed I am typing at a rate that is very slow as I am still trying to type properly. So I think that your letter may be a little shorter than the one I sent Nick. The advantage is that I have plenty of time to think about what I want talk about. Jenny is still carrying you around and you are much more awake and, as Jenny just said ‘alert’. Part of the problem is that we don’t know what you want. We have just placed you on the ground with those hanging things. All you are doing is screaming. Please do not think that it is torture. You just stopped for a moment. It is a pleasant break from the noise and you are starting to to be more inquisitive. Thank God. You have started up again. I had better stop.

I decided to try your first ever bottle and I managed to put you to sleep through the sucking motion. You hardly drank a thing but you are asleep now. I just have to make up another bottle in case you need it later in the evening.

I have a lecture to give in a month and I am quite concerned about it. I would like to use the modem on the stage but I do not think that the technology will good enough at the scout hall. The paper is a bit long but if they stay awake during the presentation I will be happy and relieved. I just rejected an offer to write a book on world development. At this moment in my life I am operating on deferred personal goals. I started to write a book when Nick was in his first year which was all right until he started to crawl. I do not think that it will be any different with you. Also the style of the book was not to my liking and preferences. I prefer to write something more more factual. Text books tend to be more copying from a number of sources and this in a shorter period of time would bore me. Also if I did it I would not be able to spend as much time on writing to you.

I have not been to church for ages and I am feeling guilty about it. Nick seems old enough to understand and I want to expose the two of you to it. When we get to Galston I will make more of an effort. Unfortunately, you will not be baptised at the school as we no longer have a Minister and I do not think that we will have one in the near future. So I think St Judes will have to do you. The church is quite good and the Rector is good. You will not remember the process but it is quite important to be exposed to it. What you do with it in your later life will be up to you and I will have no problem if you choose another path of your own making. It is important to develop your own spirituality in what ever manner that you may deem appropriate and true to your own conscience and value structure.

I think part of my mood changes is due to my spiritual journeying and personal growth. Sometimes what I read confuses my thought processes and then I have to rely on instinct and sometimes it is good and at others I should have stuck to the reading, even if it did not seem right at the time. I am a firm believer in maturing into situations. I learnt a lot at Oxley College by been given considerable authority as a first year out teacher.

Today this sometimes leads to considerable frustration when I see things being done in a way that I believe is less than efficient and perhaps educationally unsound. We should think more about whether the time is right for an action as well as why we want to carry it out. I am purposely being cryptic as there is nothing particular on my mind and I do not want to cloud the theory of my statement with some glossy example that with time will not be very important.

April 7, 1996

I am at home now full time looking after you. Jenny goes back to work next week and then it will be you, Nick and me on a permanent basis. Nick came down with a throwing up session over the last couple of days and we had to cancel your first trip to Avoca because he was too ill. He did not eat for 36 hours and we were worried that you would come down with something.

You have been excellent for a number of weeks. You sleep and eat well and smile all the time after you have just woken up. Nick jump into the cot with you in the morning and you both seem to like the time together. Sometimes he goes in when you are asleep and this makes things a little difficult for all of us. This is nothing that we cannot handle, though at times it can be a little frustrating.

I have been a little slow on the reading front and have some catching up to do. I have finished Possession and it was really good, even though there were sections which I skipped through but for me this did not affect my appreciation of the storyline. I have been trying to find books on runners for years and have not had much luck. I came across a few books on the Internet and I am trying to get them and others through my Sydney book shop.

I used to think I was a frustrated writer. Now I know that this is not the case. I lack the technical skill and more importantly the motivation to learn the craft. This is why I dabble in letters to you and Nick and write the occasional Geography article. I find both enjoyable and I guess this is why I continue to do them. Nicole has the talent for writing. I love reading her work and I understand the sacrifices that she has made to achieve her success.

You are asleep and I am sitting in the corner of the good room typing. Jenny is cleaning and Nick is watching Play School. I have made a bottle up for you (gee I have trouble typing ‘a’s with my little finger) which I will give. We need to get you used to having a bottle or so off me during the day when Jenny goes back to school. Yesterday every one else was asleep so I walked you up to the shops and around the place. This killed a little time and made it easier for me to put you back to bed before your next feed. Jenny and Nick were able to have a good sleep. Tomorrow there will be a few people here. I am looking forward to it. We will still go ahead with it, though we are concerned that the excitement will be too much for Nick.

April 8, 1996

Well I woke up this morning and it felt like a hangover and I did not have a drink at all last night. Later I was sick in the toilet. Jenny wondered if we should have called the day off and I said if Nick was alright then we would go ahead with the day. As far as I was concerned there was no choice because we all rarely get together. I have had hangovers before and survived the next day’s entertainment. I had a panadol before everyone arrived. I felt bad until people arrived and only marginally better till lunch. I cautiously had a red, then a beer, then a red, then another beer and then more reds. This is the stage that I am at. I tried to watch Hamlet and did not have a clue what it was all about and changed the channel and then gave up to write to you, after a few ice blocks and smarties. 

Paul Keating and Bob Hawke had good people around them that they could trust and I guess it is no different with Heads. Personally this type of thinking is making me think that I do not have the qualities, drive and ability to do these sorts of things. Maybe I should get the ear ring but I feel if I do it is a statement that I will never go any further in education and this concerns me. 

Spiritual Growth

My spirituality is developing. I sort of want to go the church and feel guilty when I do not go. Guilty from the church perspective and guilty from the point of view that Jenny does not get to sleep in and I do not really want to take the children but I know that I really need to take them. I feel like I want to go to church for the wrong reasons. Basically I want to go to certain churches for political reasons. Can I have a relationship with God without going to church? If I can,how can I expose my children to the teachings of God without going to church? I got my spiritual relationship by going to church.

The same applies to my interest in information technology. My interest is in that it helps my research and I come across interesting things. I am happy if in the pursuit of my interests that I am used to serve the school. I am yet to be convinced of the real benefit of the Internet in the classroom situation. I do not feel comfortable with riding the crest of someone elses wave. I do not mind if people ride my wave.

April 9, 1996

Radio listening with you

Today 2BL drive time was hosted by Mike Carlton. He was nervous and acknowledged that he was only there because Andrew Olle died last year. The channel is trying to attract an average age in the forties rather than the fifties and not lose the older age group. There is more music and a more light hearted approach than Frank Crook in drive time. I do miss Steve Chase as I liked the job he did as a fill in host. 

I will spend a lot of time listening to the radio while I am looking after you. In the morning Philip Clark is very good but I am yet to hear the start of his programme. A 5:00am start is too early for me. Frank Crook has a good programme on the weekends which examines a year and all that happened in that year. I have already given you an example of this when I was talking about Harold Holt.

Why am I telling you this because as I take you for walks, sitting on top of the Welsh’s stroller is my portable radio and you will have spent many ours listening to it while walking and when in the car with me. I do not know while I like television and radio. It could be a desire to keep up to date with information which effects our world.

April 10, 1996

Jenny wanted to fax to Julie in the Philippines to tell her our change of address and I said you could not do that without writing. Here are some of the things which I wrote about.

We are in our new house and the family is generally well. Alissa was difficult to start with but now Jenny has whipped her into a routine which I will reap the benefits of, as she goes back to school next week. We all had one of those bugs which pass through the family but hopeful this is the end of it.

Jenny is home and she is about to go out again. She has just taken him to school which is two minutes up the road. Nick was not feeling well, perhaps he should have stayed at home. Jenny’s Grandmother died so there are things to sort out with Philip and at the moment has to go to the back. The funeral was small with only Philip, Patsie, my Mum and Dad and Jenny, I and Alissa. Philip and Patsie have another boy, Harry and they are still looking at renovating their home.

This young Newcastle band Silverchair performed at the Showground and a hundred teenagers were injured. They are talking about it on 2BL at the moment. All these young kids are ringing up and the parents are open minded about letting them go. The kids are so happy about the event and the crowd surfing and moshing seems liked fun. “Everyone has their youth and they have to live it” Richard Glover. Richard is being rather of a smart alec with his comments to the kids and they are not realising he is having a go at them. Your heard that Andrew Olle died in December and they have changed the face of 2BL to try and lower the average listening age into the forties. This is probably not the letter you would have expected but this is what I write about when I write to friends. Jana Wendt started her new programme “Witness” last night and took BHP and Rupert Murdoch to task and Murdoch gave her some stick. It was quite a good show.

New Home

We moved in in March. The house has three bedrooms with a big 6 by 7 metre good room and all Jenny’s parents and Grandmothers gear is out on display and it is good to use. The cost is the boxing of books in the garage. It is good having a garage. There is a 3 by 7 metre living area which which we will be extending to 6 by 7 metres which will make a big living area. Also we have to get plans together for the pool. Nick was last year actually swimming by himself and jumping in and out of the pool. Having the pool is something that we will just have to do. We decided to sacrifice the fourth bedroom for the pool because we did not want to over capitalise. The block is 1400 square metres and the back yard is great. If all Australians lived on a quarter acre block we would be spread out a lot more than we are now.

There are a few things about the house that we have to sort out. For the extension it was much easier to have one person who was recommended and go with him. As for the pool I have had five or so quotes and I have changed my mind as many times as to the location of the pool. I had two from bigger companies, two locals and one slightly larger and older family business. The bigger companies make a good solid pool but I do not like the impersonal nature of the whole process. The salesmen are gone once they get the sale. Then the smaller outfits have been known to go broke. I am inclined to be supportive of the smaller person it seems the right thing to do even if it costs a little more. At least I can get to know the people who are doing the work for me.

April 11, 1996

It is Nicole’s birthday today and I rang her and she was on the way to Albury to visit her in laws. In twenty minutes we will be taking you to “school” to she the students how to bath you. Jenny and I will do a tag team effort to show the students and daycare workers how we do it. Later I will be going to Canberra. 

I am still deciding whether to get an ear ring or not. In one sense while I have the time off it is the right thing to do. But I keep finding the occasional school function that I have to go to. Later on once the ring has settled I will not have much of a problem as the hole will have settled and I can take it out. Here is where I try and justify the situation. I would like to record my thoughts about the process and other people’s responses to the ring if I get it. I could say I got it to see your responses instead of the real reason being I got it because I felt I would like to wear one. It makes me different. It is sort of like growing a beard every now and then and not as severe as getting a tattoo. Don’t ask me why I want to be different.

Jenny says that you are going to think that I am an idiot (sometimes she thinks I am a jerk) and that you would not want to read this trash. Well I hope she is wrong. I am not making it up. I am a normal guy who is willing to expressing his feelings and concerns, no matter how trivial they may seem. I believe we all go though similar thought processes based on confidence, doubt and the like. Anyway I like writing, it it feels good and even if you think I am mad at least you may get a little insight into your father which you can match up to what people say about me.

April 19, 1996

Bowral Visit

Last Thursday I went to Canberra and did the big catch up with a number of friends there and in Bowral. On the way down I called into the local beauty shop to make an appointment to get my ear pierced. I did it today. In Canberra Greg was well and I appreciate the friendship and support. His wife Lindy is incredibly supportive given what she and Greg have been through. Her Mum was there and will be moving to Brisbane with them at the end of the year. It made me feel good to see such a supportive family. After a few beers and a good sleep I spent the morning with Lindy’s Mum and then left for Bowral.

I spent some time on a 150 acre property and walked around it and the bordering river. Then I went to Paul and Therese and wandered the streets to see the developments. The whole process was very good. I saw how the area had changed and was pleased that I was no longer in the area. My memories of a quieter place are memories. Now you have trouble getting a car parking spot when you go to the shops. I also visited some teaching friends from the old days. The highlight of the trip was the finding of Herb Elliot’s biography at the rare book shop in Berrima. It cost a lot but it will be great when I get to read it.

Jenny went back to school this week and I had my fist week with you. We had a great time. You would smile and speak to me and when you were asleep I just pottered around. I still had some school functions to do and watched the softball team win the Final. Officially I am finished for the year.

April 24, 1996

Going Out: another car incident

Last week I went to do a quick shop with you and Nick at Cherrybrook. I parked went in and shopped and a lady came up to me to say that I had hit her car and what was I going to do about it. I said I would buy what I had and would come out to have a look and speak to her. I got out and she had a witness to state that the yellow paint on the front left of the car was from her car and that the white paint on her car was from mine. I was at a loss and very upset. I had no idea where the paint had come from and got emotional and teary. I felt really bad because I was being falsely accused. Also I like to think myself as being very honest and my pride was hurt. Nick was telling the lady no and you were in the pouch almost asleep.

Then I realised that the paint was a different yellow and that there were marks in the three locations which did not correspond to the marks and the height of her car. She and her witness saw the colour and jumped to the same conclusion. The cover on my head light was broken and so was her break light and when I asked where were the fragments she said I probably picked them up. (I had a battery operated vacuum cleaner in the car!)

In the end after taking my name she drove off. I think she realised it may not have been my car and that it was a coincidence. Well I was an emotional wreck and spent the next few days expecting a phone call. In the meantime I conjured up all sorts of scenarios where she may have been trying to con me. Her car was in a worse condition than mine and I thought she would claim all sorts of things. Also it was so weird that I thought it was a candid camera sort of thing.

Eventually my fears subsided and I started to think about the incident more objectively and pondered the coincidence and what the messages was for me.

Firstly I reacted in a very emotional way because I was wrongly accused. The reaction was also because of my pride and feelings of self importance. I had been wrongly and unfairly accused and I was going to go down fighting. I had received an insight into what it would be like to be wrongly accused of an offence and this was as simple as an alleged knock in a car park. Even offering money to help her out would have been wrong as it would have implied I had done something and my motive would have been to get her out of my space.

Secondly, I thought more about jumping to conclusions. In this case she had jumped to the wrong conclusion but the evidence at first glance in the emotion of the time seemed conclusive.

Thirdly, the nature of the coincidence and why it happened to me captured my imagination. These sorts of things happen in life for no apparent reason and there is a message to be found in it.

I did not say this earlier because I wanted to present the facts. I pulled in passing the yellow car on the left hand side. I turned around and Nick had undone your belt and I was trying to get him to admit that he had done it. He was in tears saying that he had not and I was concerned that he was lying and was not owning up to it. While I was talking to Nick and he was crying (because I was falsely accusing him as it would turn out) I saw the owner of the yellow car. 

I got out on your side which was also the yellow car’s side and was careful that your door would not hit her door (because she was there!). I had a funny feeling about her but just left without either of us speaking. I got you and Nick organised and went shopping. I looked back and she was looking at the side of her car. On the way there Nick told me he did not undo the belt then he had done it the day before at softball. I wrongly accused him and he was only trying to do the right thing. When you stop a car you undo the belt so you can get out. He had not realised that the belt was to hold the capsule in and that you could still get out without undoing it. You might ask what all the fuss was about the belt. To fix it I had to take out the capsule and usually we were on a freeway when I realise that he has done it and then it is inconvenient to fix it. I was being selfish.

She must have been stewing it over for a while because she came and found me considerably later. I had been wrongly accusing Nick and then I was being wrongly accused.

Pre -Renovations 

I am sitting here looking out into our lovely garden and you are sleeping very well. I go through stages while I am home. Yesterday I watched four movies today I am listening to music and writing. Different things happen for different days. I do what I feel like doing as long as you are well and want to be moved around. Mostly, however, I keep put so that you have some stability and rest in these early days because next year you will be at daycare a lot and will get run down and so will we. So it is important to rest and enjoy the whole process while it lasts. 

I have read a lot. I finished Betty Cuthbert’s biography and have read two of Cerutty’s books and saving Herb Elliot untill last. I have started the first chapter of the Celestine Prophecy and would you believe that he speaks about the importance of recognising coincidence as the first of a number of steps to spiritual enlightenment.

I just went and got changed so I could go to work with Weave at Thornleigh with the North Sydney football players. I feel like I am being useful but more importantly I get to see Michael more frequently than I normally would if I was not helping him.

April 30, 1996 

Three months and Port Arthur

Ali you are three months old now and things have been going well. You are very good natured and have a beautiful smile and you and NIck were excellent yesterday in a very busy and distressing day for your Dad

I was devastated with the killings at Port Arthur in Tasmania. I spent the morning in tears listening to the radio. When they crossed to ABC in Hobart the strength of the emotion was that much stronger than the shock and more objective debate on gun control and and those with psychological problems. A lot of people were turning to something for comfort and the church provided a support structure for a number of members of the community.

Your Grandparents left for a three month trip to Europe and the incidents of the day before made the farewell for me that more emotional. On the way home you went into your first church at Epping I wanted to sit and think and say a few prayers for the victims, their friends and family, for Martin Bryant and his family and friends, and for Mum and Dad and their trip. I am glad I took you though I did not get much peace and quiet. Later in the afternoon I went to St Judes and spent some time there by myself thinking and praying not any thing in particular.

I can not understand why I am so moved by the event and why I wanted to go to the church. I felt funny in the second one because it is more like a hall. At least it was a church unlike the Baptist sports hall/church in Dural. I don’t think it would have felt right sitting in the middle of an indoor soccer game and praying.

I had a huge feeling of love for all my family and friends and even people I do not know and may never know. All the little things in life did not seem to matter yesterday. I think a lot of people thought the same way. I am pleased to experience this tragedy in the way I have. Hopefully I/we can learn from all that has happened and make the world a better place for you NIck and everyone else in years to come. I only want to know what my role is in the whole process. I want to do something and I do not know what to do and how best to make a positive contribution.

I am very sad and reflective at the moment. Jenny came home yesterday and saw and heard in my voice how upset I was. I often wonder what the purpose of being here is and I guess the whole process of being here is to “be”. I love you NIck and Jenny very much. Too often we do not say what we feel and sometimes it is too late. I don’t want that to happen to us.

May 3, 1996

Ali this month I have decided to give you some history. Years a go I started Pub Book and I have decided to type up the first couple of editions from about ten years ago. I think you will find them interesting. I was aged 25-27 years old at the time. Well here goes!!!….

June 1, 1996

Visiting People

Ali, I indulged you in a bit of my past history last month and I will give you a little more later on. Nick has been sick with high temperatures and two sore ears. You have a cold and I am hoping that you are good enough for your four month shots next week. Jenny is playing in a tennis final and Phillipa S is coming around to observe Nick’s speaking for her university course.

You are smiling a lot more and grabbing things which fall your way. Last Wednesday you rolled from your front to your back while we were making our weekly visit to Mat Curtis.

On these mornings he does not start work until 2:00pm so we go for a visit which gives you some stimulation and me a chance to catch up with my friend. Lets see if you can remember the place. He lives Eastwood in a small two bedroom semi detached house. When you come in the front door there is a small Buddha like figure. The precise name I cannot remember. When you come in you are meant to place your hand on its head and this leaves all the energy you bring into the house in the house. In the living are there is a shrine with a candle which burns vegetable oil. When we arrive he puts on calming music to keep you peaceful. Every now and then I put you in his bed to have a short sleep and he gets concerned that you cry too much. Once I did it and I did not know that his flat mate was still home and you woke him. We sit around and talk, have morning tea and soon after a salad roll for lunch. You look every where and seem to like the place and Mat. He is available to see at this time and I like the chance to catch up so it is a nice relaxing thing for all of us to do.

It is probable a little boring for you at the moment. In the day things go slowly and I intermingle all sorts of things. It is time on the computer, a trip to the shops, which you love, some TV serials or movies and reading the paper. We tend not to see a lot of people and Jenny is too tired to do any thing when she gets home. Some Wednesdays we drive to Thornleigh and take the two of you to the Pizza Hut and then maybe visit Bob and Gina. Nick and Sophie get on really well and they all like you because you are the little baby.

June 6, 1996

Living with extensions

Over the last week and a half Terry the builder has been here and they have worked at quite a pace. The other night you were attacked by mosies and your face had two big bites. It is usually at this stage that I realise that I need to clean your room a bit and spray it. Also today I was asked to attend a conference on developing home pages. I was the nominated person for geography. We wrote to Grandma and Dad last weekend and I sent a fax. You were too young to type but Nick had a go.

Ali has just cracked four months but she is not yet really interested in food- well rice cereal and I don’t blame her. Nick was at a party today and he has cracked his nose it is a little swollen and sore and it had a little blood. He has a check up to see if an ear infection has cleared up on Monday (and Ali has some injections) so I will asked the Dr about the nose then. Paul said not to worry until then. It does not look (too) crooked. Only joking Mum. Nick had a good time at the party and he was very good, despite getting a big bite on his back from the other girl. There were only three at the party. Ali’s the right weight and height for her age and Nick has jumped into the top 10% for both.

The extension may be completed by the time you get back. The only part I am not sure about is what to do with the door of the good room. Of course when the roof was off it rained for five days. The septic is still a never ending saga. I am about to order some carpet and curtains. I don’t like being on a budget but it must be good for the character – not mine! I went to a workshop in Bathurst about the HSC Online Project and I scored a free Internet connection with Charles Sturt University. I also got software for PCs so all you have to do is buy a modem Dad.

Nick is in his room with a vacuum cleaner the lights out and a torch. He is fixing it in the dark. I have stopped the newspapers so I do not know what is happening with the world. What sort of news is there about Australia? Alissa has grown up a lot and she is developing a lot more personality. She is always smiling. She was a little sick the other day so we went to the Doctor (the bus Doctor according to Nick). Nick put on a performance as I tried to explain to him that the jelly beans were for sick people. In the end the Doctor told him they were his and he should be asking him for them not me. That put him in his place for a few seconds.

July 10, 1996

My Trip to South Australia

Monas and I are in Rundle Street near where the Grand Prix takes place. The place is called Amicas and we are eating vegetarian bread – how times have changed.

Monas is at a conference and I came with him and will spend a couple of days with Nicole.

We have moved to the Grand Hotel in Glenelg. We caught the tram here and we are on our third beer. On the way home from the pub, at the end of the tram line, we went to the toilet and a guy at the other end of the urinal started to give us some lip so we got out as quickly as we could.

July 12, 1996

I have spent yesterday and today at North Haven with Nicole and Ellen. I slept a lot. Last night I was on the phone to the family. I miss them heaps and I want to get back to them. When I get back I should try and get the children away from Jenny so she can have a good rest, like I have been able to.

North Haven is at the end of the peninsular of Port Adelaide. I ran yesterday and today and was amazed at the size of the container ships which come in and out of the port. North Haven is right on the edge of the break wall, which is the gateway to the port. Ironically, Horden had to go to Sydney the day I arrived. Tonight I will be looking after Ellen while they have dinner at the Hilton.

Gee I miss Jenny and the kids. I now understand the saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. I have to make more productive use of the second half of the year. I must do more things with the children otherwise the time will be gone.

Do I really believe I am on deferred personal goals? Is it just an excuse for not being prepare to make a decision and jump? I am not sure if the internet is the way to go for me.

July 23, 1996

Changes in Ali

The Olympics have been going for three days and ironically, given the Port Arthur massacre, the first gold medal we won was in shooting. The swimmers to date have not done very well. Hopefully things will pick up in the future.

Ali you have changed a great deal. Your looks are different and we think your are even more pretty. We have just had three weeks holiday and I was away for a while. When I came back from Adelaide we went straight to Lismore to see Sadie who is Jenny’s Aunt who has cancer. We are back into a normal routine. The builders are gone, Jenny is at work. So for the first time in a couple of months the house is peaceful and calm. 

Last Friday I got you up early to go and visit your grandparents coming back from overseas and then we went to the mountains to have lunch. You no longer fit into 00 clothes so I am madly looking around the house for clothes which fit you. Also you are starting to eat more food, even though it is mainly bananas. You are sleeping well and still smiling a lot. When you do not want to go to bed you really make a lot of noise. I think we are a little softer on you. With Nick we let him cry more but with you we tend to get you up change your nappy or give you another feed. Sometimes after all of that we let you cry. 

Having Nicholas around is absolutely fantastic. He loves you so much. In the morning he will go in and see if you are awake. When you are awake he entertains you and this gives us more time to do the other things that we have to do. You always watch him as he runs around. It is great entertainment and you are always laughing with NIck about all sorts of things I would love to know what you are thinking.

I am reading Black Water, a Swedish novel. Good novels evoke a sense of place and the people in it . It comes from the detail which is described. As I lookout the window the five replanted bushes which hide the septic are dying one by one. I thought they would survive. 

I went to the shops earlier today. More people than usual spoke to me about Ali and offered their help. It is difficult to shop with a trolley and carrying Ali, particularly when you have to steer the trolley with one hand. This afternoon I took Ali to the shops and we went to the bank, news agency and then to Greenshades for a cuppa. I will have to do this again.

Ali is moving around a bit now. On her stomach moving around in a circle on a mat in no apparent order and with no conscious control. Eva at daycare has taught Nick to use words when he is angry (rather than hitting) and he seems to understand. He comes into bed with us at night and plonks himself in the middle then he jokingly pushes me out. He is a great little boy.

Keeping in touch with family and friends. I am in a nostalgic mood as I listen to the Top 100 on Galaxy. I have a degree of calmness in me at the moment. 

My finger still hurts a little bit. I don’t think I have explained what happened. I was out the back moving stones off my neighbour’s back verge so he could mow his lawns. They were left there by the back hoe that came with the installation of the septic. I had turned a rake upside down to drag some stones off Arcardia Road and a splinter went into my fingers when I pulled it back. It scraped the surface of the ring finger and the middle finger hurt a lot. That evening it hurt a lot and was swollen, so I went to the doctor. He gave me a local anaesthetic and cut into it to move as much splinter that he could see. He bandaged it up with some drawing cream. This was Saturday August 3.

Then on Wednesday while I was looking after Sophie and Anty the bandages came off. I went back to the Doctor and he gave me some Doryx antibiotics which led to a fixed drug eruption and I had to stop the treatment. My local Doctor suggested that I rested it, but after two days it was really sore again so, because it was the weekend, I went back to the Medical Centre and saw yet again another doctor. He sliced it open again and put me on another course of antibiotics. To this stage I had been to four doctors plus I spoke to Paul my brother who is also a Doctor in Queensland. When I finished the course a week or so later my finger was still sore so I went back to my local Doctor. With him I had an x-ray and nothing was revealed and I was placed back on the antibiotics.

I thought I would record the background for the records. Any way the finger is still sore, especially if I knock it or use it. As Doctor Campbell put it, it could be sore because it is healing or because there is still something wrong. I’ll keep going on with the drugs and get back to to him if it does not get better.

It is funny how I go weeks without writing and then I can write a fair bit – albeit with difficulty.

September 24, 1996

Daycare

I am sitting at home bored and feeling guilty about the kids having to go to school next year. It is hardly financially viable for me to go to school. We will be paying $300-340 per week (actually while I am typing thison January 6, 1997 the fees are now $389 per week) for both the children. I don’t know how much I earn a week (clear) but I think there will not be much change.

Nick last night had beautifully clear eyes. He had spent the night with Mum and Dad. He was very happy. Ali has been sitting for a while and is really trying to crawl. I thought yesterday a little bit of frustration was coming in or maybe I thought she was missing Nicholas.

The time at home is almost over. It has gone very quickly and I wonder where the time has gone. I reckon that I have not done too much but I don’t think I have really wasted my time, but I have not been as efficient as I have been in the past. 

“Nobody can tell what exactly will be decided. It is an open thing” perhaps this is the basis of the post modern perspective.

September, 27, 1996

Dad has been in hospital for a colonoscopy. It is 4:15pm and we have not heard how he has gone and the last time this happened he ended up having surgery after complications. I hope he has not had to have surgery again, that will really piss him off. It is moments like these when you start to think more seriously about your parents mortality. Could I have said or done any more on the last time I saw my parents? I am a bit too concerned to write any more.

October 15, 1996

They only got four inches in on Dad and they had to stop. His bowel was too hard and they were concerned, given what happened last time, they could perforate the bowel again.

Ali has been more mobile. I can almost break up her development into the stages of the terms. During the holidays and Term 3 she was sitting up well and also started to move around. At the moment she is crawling and she likes to be in the middle of the action. I said from the very beginning that every child is different . Alissa appears to be determined and happy all the time. She will let you know when she does not like something by screaming at the top of her voice. Usually this is when she does not want to go to bed. Ali does not come across as a girl as yet (neither did Nick come across as a boy at the same stage), particularly as all she wears, and willl be destined to wear for a while to come, are Nick’s clothes.

Nick has been excellent with Ali. She is now starting to move around and create havoc. Today Nick was watching TV and eating and Ali made her way over to his duplo brochure, with the intention of eating it. NIck, while still watching Noni, would take it off her and throw it across the room maintaining his concentration on the programme. He did similar evasive tactics with the ham roll and the green cordial, or was it orange juice. Sometimes he has had too much and tells us to get her away from him. He spontaneously gives her kisses and seems to love her very much. I hope this continues for along time to come. 

I purchased Nick a bike yesterday. I did not see why I should conform to the Christmas and birthday calling. He is really having fun with it and is gaining too much confidence with each ride.

Alissa has a bad cold at the moment. I gave her some stuff to clear her up and stop the pain to help her sleep. She has been a bit miserable. Nick had a good restful day at home watching TV and playing with the lions. Now he is outside riding his bike. He is a little bored, so it is good he can go to school tomorrow.

Nick does not like eating. Meat is very rare in the diet and to get him to drink milk out of a glass is almost impossible. I have been buying him flavoured milk and this has made a difference. I only wish he would drink some milk while at school. Now he is sitting next to me picking his nose and reading a book. I just read him the last sentence and he wanted to know why I put in a pretend sentence about elephants flying at the end. He recognised that I had changed the context of the sentence. 

He always gives me these huge War and Peace type novels to read. They only take 5-10 minutes but it nearly kills me to read them. It must bore him to read such lively stories in monotone. 

I just read him four stories. Gee Pied Piper and Snow White are pretty scary. He had not heard Snow White before and he was asking all sorts of questions. At the moment he is watching Play School and I am trying to feed him a rice meal I made with peas, carrot and egg. The egg has spoilt it. He sees through the trick but he is eating some of it. This pleases me. 

I am listening to the Galaxy easy music radio channel. Getting Galaxy was a great move. Last night I mindlessly watched 3-4 episodes of Get Smart. The channels with the small programmes are the best.

I will have to eat the rice meal a little faster than I thought as the egg did spoil it. If you’re wondering why I am writing so much at the moment it is because the money is now out of my hands. I have to wait for the stock market t settle before I buy the shares.

Ali is asleep, she is really quite whacked. The sleep will do her well, she needs it because yesterday she went 7 hours without a sleep.

I was just thinking about this house and how nice it is. The rooms are good and there is an open feel about the place. The hovel adds to the house. I can hear the cars on Arcadia Road, but that does not really concern me. It is not like living in the middle of the city with the noise and pollution.

I was thinking about the pool, what it would look like and how I would landscape the area around it. The grass looks so nice at the moment and I am tempted to grass it up to the edge and just level it off at the house side. I feel hungry at the moment, so I will have some food before I go for a run when Jenny gets home from school tennis. I must stop drinking.

I finished reading a 1930s book Adventures in Solitude which was an interesting description of a man’s period in hospital for some sort of surgery. What amazes me about some writing is that it can survive the test of time and not give away the time it was written.

Now this makes me wonder about the importance of technology.

October 25 1996

Baptism

Gina called around this morning and we asked her and Bob, with Phillipa, to be Alissa’s God Parents. This will happen on December 15, 1996. Nick was Baptised at school in May 1994. It seems to be the only day that Philip may be free of cricket commitments. I went to Minister yesterday to discuss a few of the issues and the meetings. I was talking to Gina about therapy. A friend of hers has had some therapy after a divorce and she ended up leaving her job and she is happier than she has been in a long time.

Alissa seems to be whingeing a lot at the moment. She has a cold and not eating as much as she normally does. She is also falling over a bit and hitting her head on the tiles. I have caught her a number of times as well. 

I just rang Mat C. he is doing it hard at the moment and I tried to encourage him to come over earlier. It would be good for him to soak up some sun and relax.

I spent some time on the internet and looked at some HTML programmes and was not interested in the technical side of things. I need to design what I am going to do in this line of work.

Ali is really quite difficult at the moment with screaming until I pick her up. Real tears. She is not well and is in some sort of discomfort or pain. I gave her something for the pain but she is fighting it at the moment.

I am on the verge of not going in the Nepean Triathlon. They seem to have changed registration to the day before, also I may have grown out of it. I only did them intensely for 4-5 years, even though I have competed in ten events. Perhaps I should spend more time working on other aspects of my health like walking and swimming. Maybe I really am at a point of transition.

I have not been wearing my ear ring for a while. People do react differently to me when I do not wear it. The GTA people have been speaking to me more. It is as if you have more respect by dressing conventionally. Maybe I am just imagining it, but I do not think I am. 

I am floundering at the moment, the ideas are as disjointed as these paragraphs. Ali just woke up in a distressed state and I gave her something for her nose. I rang up Mat C. to get him to come over and he was not prepared to “Zen it”. He said he would come over but I know he just said it to stop me from hassling him. I don’t know if it is good to be so unbending. I know it isn’t for me. 

Gaining independence

Well it is 10:52pm and I have a story to tell about Nicholas. Mat and I, when he did come over, took his bike up to daycare so he could ride home . We were crossing the main road and I trying to get him to walk the bike across. We got to halfway and I had to rush him. We got to the other side and he wanted to go back and push the bike himself. Under normal circumstances this would have been alright, but in the those conditions he would have got hurt. In the end I had to pick him up and walked away. A few metres down the road he ran back to the crossing. I watched him for a moment and saw a red 4 wheel drive coming down the hill. Just as Mat said get him I took the tangent and grabbed him. I felt he would have stopped but because he was angry there was an element of doubt. 

Well just before this he punched me in the face. After this as I dragged him towards the house screaming he bit me (and I bit him back) and near home he gouged my eye and face.

When Mat and I reflected on the incident Mat was pleased to see it happened in other families. In other circumstances I would not have been so interventionist. I had to get involved because of the danger. I feel bad about biting him but I am pleased I refrained from doing anything else. I was tempted. I will stop now as my eye is sore.

October 28, 1996

We had a very hectic weekend with the Harvey’s and a visit to Nicole for Mum and Paul’s birthdays. We stayed a little too long and after ‘pass the parcel’ Nick lost the plot. After last Thursdays bike effort we sat up talking about what we have been doing wrong. After we stopped blaming each other, mainly me blaming Jenny, we decided that we should make more of an effort to eat food at the table and that we talk to him about behaviour which is not appropriate. We agreed that we should not harp on the negatives but I think at this stage the point had to be drilled.

Today at Friscos Nick was running around a bit. I had to be a bit forceful but he responded well. I was grumpy with him today which I think was not a good thing to do. We were sort of eyeing each other off all morning. He pretends (well I think this is the case) that he does not know exactly what he has done wrong.

Anyway I really do not mind. We love him very much. I just don’t want him to get into trouble when he loses the plot when he gets older. Grandma rang up today and said he was a good boy, a bit tired and then asked if he was well because he ad a cough and whether he was eating well or not.

This afternoon when we were taking him to the shower he opened the pantry into the hallway and blocked it so Jenny and Ali could not get through. He said yes you can get through and he turned Jenny side on and she slide through. We both said that he had good spatial understanding.

At Nicole’s place all the children got on well. Nick played with Ellen and Ellen gradually got used to Ali wanting to play with her toys.

Nick is excellent with Ali. She eats and destroys almost everything that is in her path. When he sees her doing these things he just jokes that she should not be doing that and just moves her to another location. Nick calls Ali the caterpillar as she crawls around the floor.

I also need to work on the typing on the computer as well as investigating the purchase of another one. There are so many from which to choose.

I have to type all this up soon so I can finish the letter to Ali. Although the format is different to the one I did for Nick in 1993, it is an accurate reflection of what has been happening this year. I cannot remember what it is like to have no children around the place.

November 20, 1996

Ali’s eating habits

Ali is climbing all over my feet at the moment. I just finished reading Beach of Dreams I have to listen to my heart more and be happy with the simple things in my life.

My sinuses are still blocked. I have to get on top of this because it makes me feel weak and down. The house is dusty but I do not want to do anything about it because spreading the dust willl effect me.

My nose is sore, I wish it would get better. I tried to use the internet last night and only checked my mail and left. May be I have lost the drive or it is not as important as I thought it could be .

Ali just tried to eat a dead fly: time to vacuum.

November 22, 1996

I just finished I Sat crying on the Piedra River. That is two books in two days, not a bad effort. They have placed me in a reasonable state of mind and composure.

For some reason Ali will not settle to sleep. She is a bit stuffed up, but that does not normally stop her from having a good nights sleep.

I have been for a short run in the last two days and they have been enjoyable. They were rushed because I squeezed them in between Jenny getting home and taking Nicholas to his swimming lessons. He goes for 9 straight days at Hornsby and this year he is the only one in the lesson. He is going well. Jane, the instructor, says that he is very good. As long as he does not do anything silly he should be able to look after himself in the water this season. Of course we will be nearby.

Nick has just had another good day at the pool. His eyes are sore due to the diving for rings. I am sitting in the good room with Ali eating everything that she can get her hands on and Nick is watching the end of a series of programmes I taped while he was swimming.

I did the Bevans Road run today in a fast time and with a high pulse rate. I had to work hard to keep under a five minute pace. It felt good to be working hard, even though my chest was hurting from the breathing and my legs were going lactic.

December 17, 1996

Extensions complete

We are up at Avoca. The pool is finished and Ali has been Baptised.

The pool was passed last Friday and Nick was swimming in green water on the Saturday. On Sunday the water was the right colour. This was just in time for the visitors for the Christening.

The pool company got the pool finished before Christmas and they seem to have done a very good job. I learnt my place when the owner said “I am running the show”. This was good because I felt secure that he would do a good job. What I found difficult was getting advice for decisions which had to be made on the spot. I was lucky I got the bob cat in to back fill. I would have preferred the advice that the fence was coming on the day it was. If I was a little more organised I would have had the topsoil in before the fence was constructed. When the fence was put in the gaps at the back were too large.

We are doing what Jade Pools said. The pool is finished and we are going on holidays. The whole family had a swim yesterday and Ali had her first swim and after a little hesitancy she seemed to enjoy it. Towards the end she was putting her head in the water. Nick’s lessons have really paid off. He can swim across the pool with “big arms”. I would like to put him in the pool with clothes to make sure he can get out.

I am reading Home of the Blizzard at the moment. Mawson writes like Lawerence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom; not surprisingly, they were of a similar vintage. He has long sentences with commas used to reflect thoughts.

December 18 1996

Spending time with you

We will be going to the shop soon. I am not sure what we are getting but the weather is dull so we might as well head out.

Nick is at his first movie (101 Dalmatians) and I am at home waiting to pick them up. Earlier, while we were at the park on the boardwalk at Erina, we ran into Mr Butters with his two Grandsons. I went off to a book shop and there was a boy lost at the information desk. When I got back Jenny said Andrew was missing and I said where he was. Mr Butters was already on the way there. Apparently a lady in the enclosure picked him up and took him out because he was looking upset. Mr Butters was sitting right in front of the gate “looking low” and not expecting a lady to be carrying out his Grandson.

December 19, 1996

This morning I woke up to Alissa, fed her and jumped into the car and went to Galston via Hornsby. I purchased the meat for Christmas and went home Ali woke up while I was at the butchers. Mat C. was cleaning the house when I got home. We chatted for a while while he worked, Ali wandered and Jenny and Nick were in the car on the way down. We were going to Nick’s Christmas party at daycare. They did an excellent job. It was like a speech night.

Jenny was right about the pool but I don’t think I would have gone to pump out septic for it. It is really good because all sorts of people will be able to use it. Jenny’s determination paid off.

We picked up Nick from school and went back to Avoca. Life is not too hard, we are very fortunate. We went to the beach and Nick played with a girl called Kate in the “rocking pool” while her parents talked to (I think) Warren Boland.

Ali is asleep after an evening in the sand and surf and Nick is watching Aladdin and I have finished two beers.

January 15, 1997

The guilts

I am feeling for the children at the moment. My school and their’s is getting closer. We are up at Avoca for the last full week. Over the last few weeks of the holidays we will all spend a couple of days at our schools and then, hopeful, a few days back at Avoca.

I really enjoyed the other night here with Paul and Therese, Monas, Burnsie and Vonie. It was good to get everyone together and have a few too many drinks. 

The time with the family has been good. We all feel close at the moment. I guess that is the reason for having holidays. I am still struggling with the idea of ending Ali to school but I will have to come to terms with it in the same way that I did with Nicholas. Ali is spending more time walking than crawling and is climbing all over the place. She still has not learnt how to come down off chairs backwards, so we have to keep a closer eye on things when she is on the move.

I am not going to like it when I have to take her to the centre, but I have to so I can get on with the work which needs to be done in preparation for the year. As Jenny often says we just have to do it and cope with it. They will , so why cannot we. I do agree but I feel sorry for them both. Nick at this stage is not a problem at all. He wants to go back and knows he is on holidays and is waiting to get back into the fold. I will just pray to to help the children get through the first couple of weeks and then pray again for few illnesses. I have done as much as I can for the time being.

Mum and Dad will be coming up to visit us tomorrow. They have not seen the children for a while and they will be keen to see them and play with then at the beach. I might try and get some time for Jenny and me to go to the shops and perhaps go for a beach walk while the children can be looked after. I would like the chance to spend some time alone just for a change.

January 23, 1996

The last week

I am in the beginning of reading A View from the Ridge by Morris West. It is seven days Alissa till I officially stop writing to you. We had Nicholas’ birthday party last Saturday and his birthday was yesterday. We spent most of last week at Avoca and this week we sent you to school and I went to school to do some preparation. Jenny is at the moment sitting in the pool reading a book and I am about to go and pick you up. We will go to Avoca tomorrow to have a break before all the meetings start next week.

I did not want to take you to school because I did not want to see you get upset. Today Jenny said that you knew you were going to be left and when you saw the teachers you dropped the lip and started to cry. Once you are there you seem to be enjoying it and you are quite happy to be at home. 

You are walking around the house a lot and playing a lot of moving games with Nicholas. He gets up in the morning and wants to see you. As soon as he hears you he asks to go in and then you and he play in the cot till you have had enough and want something to eat.

Grandad has just had another test to check on his polyp. He knows it is there but they cannot get access to it so they will probable have to operate. He seemed in good spirits when I spoke to him today and he and Grandma always ask how you first couple of days at school have been like. This morning I ran through the gorge to Hornsby for the first time. It was only 13.4 km but it took one and a half hours. It was quite hot. Jeremy and I went to his club and we had lunch a few beers and he drove me home. I will have to go and pick you up soon. 

You have been in the pool a lot more and you like to put your head in the water. You don”t seem to mind it when I dunk you at the beginning. When you come home and run around the house you put your lips out and then tilt your head backwards looking at the ceiling. It is a very funny pose and you keep doing it because you know it makes us laugh. I have to get the landscaping done around the pool because every time you come outside you get dirty and eat the dirt. We will fix it up when we are around more often when school starts and we can water what ever we put in the garden. It will mostly be lawn.

Last night Jeremy and I met on the internet in a cafe chat site. People talk to each other by typing messages. I guess by the time you read this the technology will be greatly different. Any way most of them seemed to be university students in labs in between lectures though I got onto a few people in Alaska and Sweden. It was fun being there with Jeremy because we knew each other and the others did not realise that we did. At this stage the technology is fun but in you day in the future it will be important for work. My only problem is that the laptop is a bit slow in transferring the data and the system keeps collapsing. Or this could be the modem speed.

I will go and pick you up. 

Jenny is not ready to go she is speaking to one of your Godmothers, Philippa. I could not find my shoes because you had walked them around he house. I am applying some censorship in my writing. I want to make some comments about school but I am restraining myself. With time I will forget about what I want to say.

Jenny is off the phone.

When we arrived Nick was pushing you around on a little bike. You were very glad to see us. I want to remind you that Nick was very good to you when you were a baby. Maybe as you get older there might be some tension. Nick just asked me if I would have a swim with him so time to go.

January 25, 1997

We are up at Avoca and Bob and Gina have just left. Although the kids did not get on as well as they did last time it was a good 18 hours. It is always pleasant to be in their company. This morning we just sat around and talked. This made for a very pleasant time and after the morning sleeps we went to the beach then sat around into the afternoon and had lunch. They went home after Martina Hingis won her first Gland Slam in Melbourne.

The View for the Ridge which I mentioned earlier is quite motivating. Morris West trained to be a brother and did not take his final vow. After this he floated around doing a number of different things, but mindful of his experiences. He has written some 26 novels and the themes have revolved, in a number of cases, around Catholicism and other this he has had experience in over the years. What this said to me was that people often do their best with their work and career by focussing on what they know best. I would benefit from following this line of thought but some times it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what you can be good at.

I was filling in the filofax for the beginning of the year and I noticed that you have had a very busy few weeks. Firstly, I have been able to get in a number of runs. I did miss a few last week while I was doing school things, you went to school and it was considerably hotter. I must make sure that I keep up the running when we are back into our normal work routine. We managed to spend before Christmas Avoca and then we stayed at Galston while Phil, the family and family in law stayed at Avoca. On the second week of January we spent the week at Acoca and then over the next to weeks we moved up and down the coast depending on school and giving you both a chance to settle into school.

Most of the time you both enjoyed the company of all our different friends. Every now and then we made sure that if you were tired we had some time out by ourselves so that you could sleep and rest. The balance between being entertained and enjoying you own company is at this stage up to our discretion. I just hope that we have given you enough rest and contact with friends. We have also tried to balance the mixing with adults and young children so that there you both can gain the benefit of mixing with people of all ages.

I had to stop for a while as Nick wanted to play a game of Fish with his banana cards. He was playing in front of Burnsie the other week and he could not believe how good his memory skills were and his identification with shapes which enabled the cards to link together. For his birthday last week he was given a couple of jig saw puzzles and he did them both all by himself. To be perfectly honest I was very surprised because I find them very difficult to do. I am pleased that both the children have these obvious skills. I also know why parents can be blind to their own children’s’ abilities and weaknesses. Accordingly, it is very heartwarming for other people to notice and comment on things that Nicholas and Alissa are doing well. All Jenny and I can do is to encourage any behaviour and new skill so that you both grow up to be useful and happy members of society.

Alissa, you have spent four days at school and I am not as worried as I was at this time last week. You seem to have coped quite well and the staff and the children at the centre seem to like you. As I have said before it is an advantage at this stage that Nick is around because I am sure that his presence has made the transition all that easier. You will get a chance next year to cut your own turf when Nick goes to school. for the time being I am pleased for the both of you that you are together and let me say it is a lot easier for us.

Now I have to come to terms with my own return to school. I am looking forward to it and it has been nice all the people who have asked me how I feel about going back. Mind you I feel some of them expect me to say something different. In reality I cold not stay at home because, even though I would not be bored, I would not move in the circle of people with young families. This absence of young children would be to the detriment of both Nicholas and Alissa. They need to have the contact with younger people. Perhaps even for me it is important to have the structure of work so that the mind does not play tricks ( and slip into dark moods) and the body slip into that unhealthy state of doing nothing. Fortunately I do not need work to keep the mind active but I do need it it maintain adult contact, for it is easy to escape into my own world and lose perspective of the practical and sometimes more important thing of life.

The year in short

Consider this year in summary. We have had the birth of Alissa, moved home, added an extension, built a pool, connected Galaxy, Jenny’s grandma died, Grandad had emergency surgery, I joined the republican movement, my understanding of the internet and computers has improved…. (I can see how some of these thing can be grouped into themes but I am resisting the temptation to do this and to rank them.) Alissa’s Baptism naturally coincided with my increased efforts to attend church and to me personally this has been very important. I must resist the temptation to not go. 

I am coming to terms with the outward expression of my spiritual growth by going to church. Yet I still struggle with the guilt I experience when I do not go. As a family we still have a long way to go but at this stage the practicalities of taking children to church seem to large. I want to gain some personal satisfaction from going to church without having to worry about controlling the children as, to be honest, they get bored in a service which, at their age, is too hard to understand. With time and because the church is in the local community we will become more involved.

There are other things which have happened this year but they they are not all that tangible. I have learnt a lot about myself as I have had time to think – some would say too much. The ups and downs, which I believe are normal of all people, are obvious as you read through this year of writing. My concerns and navel gazing about my weight, school, running, the house, the pool and all those seemingly important things at the time which are now trivial. Then there are the things which I have not had the courage to write about. The self censorship which restrains what I want to write because I am writing to be read by my family and others if they wish has mean that I have had to find other outlets for the things about which I refuse to write. I do not believe in writing something and hiding it. Also I do not want to water down what I feel because I might offend someone. So I have chosen not to write if I cannot express what I feel in a way which I feel comfortable. Often how I feel has come out in the way I relate to people . I feel that is better than hiding behind words. Sometimes the manner of deliver could be better and at others it is perfect. 

I have learn a lot about our family and the and the bonds which hold us together. There is a rich history on both sides which comes to the for in moments of need. It has been a year of making new friends and catching up with some of the older ones. I have tried to be friends with colleagues with the people in our past and with those I just happen to meet in the daily happenings of our life. To me they are all important it is just that the memories of some go back further than others. There is not enough time to keep in contact with every one but I have made an effort to be a good non-judgmental friend; though I have had mixed success. Some I have seen more than others due to a merging of circumstances and this will continue to happen in the years to come.

Finally, I have been blessed with Jenny and two children whom I love unconditionally. I have been fortunate to be able to spend a year at home with Alissa. As with my time with Nicholas, I would not swap this experience for anything. Now I have to let go of some of my feelings and let Alissa ( as I did with Nicholas) experience the world in her own way bit by bit. It will be harder for me than you. The path ahead is what you make of it and guided by a positive outlook, an ability to learn from mistakes, love, tolerance, compassion, family, friendship, some luck and inner spiritual growth and strength.