This year, with everyone going away for Christmas, we had our family gathering on the Saturday before, the 16th.

We spent the week arranging presents, the Christmas tree went up on the morning of the 16th, the house was tidied and decorated, and all was ready. It did seem strange though, doing our last minute shopping when everyone else was yet to do theirs…

We gathered in our family room – my Mum, Rob and I, Jeanette and Christopher, Tristan, Blaine, toddler Tom and baby Alythea, and of course Elwyn by video chat on Jeanette’s laptop. It was a noisy, happy gathering, first of all for afternoon tea, then giving out the gifts that we had all put much thought into, then some of us “helping” Tom to play with the water table he’d been given (somehow Tom soaked Tristan with the hose…), then an early barbecue Christmas dinner.

When it came time for everyone to go home, there was a great feeling of peace amongst us, peace from sharing time and gifts given with love, peace from connecting with each other with love.

It was a good Christmas, and the family room held that feeling of peace for a few days afterwards.

Rob’s birthday

This year, every time we asked Rob what he would like to do for his birthday, he said “I don’t want presents, I want to have time with all of you”.

So we took him at his word and planned some gatherings for him, as surprises.

About a week beforehand he told me that the new James Bond movie, “Casino Royale”, was coming out in time for his birthday. That would be one of my presents to him! So the day before his birthday, the 9th, we looked like having a quiet day. When I saw him looking at the movie timetable in the paper I thought is best to let him in on his first surprise – tickets to the afternoon session of Casino Royale. We met Jeanette and Christopher there and really enjoyed seeing the “new” James Bond in action!

Next morning (Rob’s birthday – 10th) I let him in his next surprise – a brunch at Tristan and Blaine’s. They put on a great cooked brunch of eggs, bacon, mushrooms with bread and birthday cake (Rob’s favourite – chocolate – cooked by Blaine). Rob really enjoyed playing with Tom and spending time with our growing family.

The next Tuesday had taken more planning. As Rob would be working that day I had spoken to his secretary to ensure that he would finish in the operating theatre in time for me to take him to the special “Twenty Legends Cricket Match” at the WACA, with legends like Dennis Lillee. I told him that morning what would be happening, so he could look forward to it all day. As promised, when he came home from work, I took him into the WACA where Tristan, Jeanette and Christopher were waiting with a picnic tea and seats taken. They all enjoyed a memorable evening watching this memorable match, then brought Rob home.

And then his birthday was over – we’d given him exactly what he’d asked for!

The Whale Lady

Somehow I’ve become known as the Whale Lady amongst our sailing friends. OK, I’m not exactly a light weight, but it’s not because of that. It’s because I love the whales and dolphins we share the ocean with, and do a very short “Whale Watching” segment in the annual 2-hour briefing for the Quindalup Cruise which Fremantle Sailing Club organises each year from 26th December to early January.

So tonight I was up there again, having included whale watching sheets in the briefing notes for people to refer to. Rob had prepared a DVD of the blue whale at the start of David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet” that we’ve watched countless times. My message was that (for me, anyway) it’s a privilege to share the ocean with these magnificent creatures, so recording our sightings and passing them on to Western Whale Research to include in their database is the least we can do to ensure that they are around for our grandchildren to enjoy.

As usual, some people were really enthused and took the brochures I had ready.

Listening to the rest of the briefing I thought about the first time we’d attended a Quindalup briefing in 2001. We’d been really nervous about going that far south. Now, we were planning to attempt to get to Albany while the formal fleet sailed to Quindalup! And we were going to do it by ourselves. I hope we see some whales…