Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 Wrap Up

It’s currently 9:00pm on New Year’s Eve – my 2015 wrap up is well and truly overdue – normally I manage to get it out by Christmas but this year it’s going to sneak its way into 2016. We are currently in Nottingham and tomorrow morning we will head off to Penzance. I hopefully will get this sent from Cornwall! Update – here it is January 5th and we spent a beautiful 2 days in Cornwall catching up with Harvey and Hannah-Jane – no time to sit around at the computer! We arrived in Dartmouth on Sunday night and we have another 2 nights here.

2015 was a significant year for our family. We finished last year with Gary between jobs having completed his contract in October. The start of the year was slow job wise and although there were a few nibbles nothing panned out in terms of a new contract. In March, Gary interviewed for a job at the Playford council. Playford is an area north of Adelaide – a massive drive from the Adelaide Hills – but having a job far from home is better than no job so when an offer came through, Gary accepted the position. It was a contract that was initially only for 3 months. As it turned out, Gary loved the job – the work environment and the people so that was excellent. The commute was hard work at over an hour each way – not ideal – especially when we live in the 20 minute city! The contract was extended for an extra 3 months with the promise of a potential 18 month contract down the line. On the strength of this promise, we booked our UK holiday – obviously with the nod from Gary’s boss. It had been 4 years since we’ve been to the UK as a family – Gary has come every year but we both thought it was really important for the children to see their grandparents again, especially with deteriorating health for both of them.

In August, a job came up at Walkerville Council and I knew the agent who was recruiting (this is Adelaide after all), so I dropped them a mail to say that Gary was my husband and that I thought he had the right skill set etc. A number of weeks later, they called Gary in for an interview (in fact we had both written it off in terms of a possibility). The interview was intense (over 2 hours!) and a week later, Gary was offered the job. He is now the Finance Manager at Walkerville Council – much closer to home – and so far he is really enjoying the job. It was a tough couple of years getting steady work in Adelaide.

My work situation has been quite steady – I have been at The Beachouse for 18 months now and I still love it. My boss is fantastic – he is quite entrepreneurial and always looking for new opportunities. My work is extremely flexible and I now work a full day from home each week which provides more flexibility in terms of the kids and schedules etc. In July, I completed study to become a BAS agent – this was quite straightforward and nothing too onerous at all but something that I thought could be great to start my own business working from home, helping people out with BAS and bookkeeping services. Shortly after I finished my qualification, I snagged a job – it was a bit of a chance happening – someone put a post on Facebook asking for some training in MYOB – I sent them a message and got the gig. As it turned out, their bookkeeper then left so it has turned into an ongoing job – it’s a hair and beauty salon in Mount Barker and I do around 4 hours a week for them – just their payroll and BAS but I love it – it’s flexible – working from home and helping people out in their own business to hopefully do things in a more efficient smarter way. Ideally, I would love to get another 1 or 2 clients in 2016 where I can help out with bookkeeping, BAS and payroll for small business but I expect this will happen as time goes on – I haven’t actively marketed my business yet!

Alex was in Year 2 this year. He was in a year 2/3 combined class at Rose Park Primary and he seemed to really like it. Alex is quite involved with his friends and friendships and these are really important to him. I really liked his teacher – she didn’t seem to tolerate bad behaviour and I thought she was really good – she had a massively challenging class with mixed ages and a number of non- English speaking kids. Alex had a good year and has now finished at Rose Park – he is heading to Pembroke which is where Tara has been going for the past 2 years.

Tara was in Year 1 this year and seemed to settle in well with year 1. The resounding comment on Tara’s report card was that she has grown in confidence. Tara is naturally shy but once she warms up, you would never know it! Her teacher commented when she saw Tara interacting with Alex that this was a side of Tara she had never seen before. We are trying to work on her confidence and I think she is coming along really well. 2016 will be a challenge for her as she is in a class without her best buddy from Reception and Year 1. The great thing is she seems fine with this and we’re hoping that it will build her confidence.

One significant thing this year was the kids both started scouts. They both initially begun in Joeys which is for 5 – 7 year olds and then in term 3, Alex moved up to Cubs which is the next level up. Scouts has been fantastic for both of them. Tara has grown massively in confidence – so much so that at the end of year ceremony she was the Joey who along with a Venturer (18 year old scout), carried the flag around the circle. Alex has made a number of new friends and as scouts is run through the school (Pembroke), it has been great for Alex to feel more comfortable about changing schools. He has a couple of kids from scouts in his new class for 2016 so this should definitely help with the transition to the new school.

Holidays in 2015 – we began the year with a week by the beach in Normanville – a coastal town in SA – which was lovely. We caught up with our long standing friend Fitzy and his kids along with Anita (over from Singapore) and her brother Hobby. We spent Easter in Normanville again. On Easter Sunday we headed off to a different beach (Second Valley) and ran into people we knew from school – typical Adelaide – so we went for a cup of tea and hot cross buns at their beach house which was great fun.

In July, we took advantage of the frequent flyer points and flew up to the Gold Coast in Queensland.   We hired a car and spent 5 nights at Burleigh Heads – a beautiful part of the world. I even got my bathers on and went in the water and it was only 21 degrees but after the Adelaide winter, it felt massively warm! We also got to take the kids camping at Mount Remarkable, we have camped as a family before but this was the first exposure real exposure to the Outback. We are hoping for more camping in 2016.

Our trip to the UK has been our big holiday this year. We left home on Christmas Eve at 10:30pm – we then spent most of Christmas Day on the plane. The kids were both great on the flights – although Alex probably had a bit too much screen time! We spent our first night at the airport at Gatwick before hiring a car and beginning our tour around the UK. This is very much a tour of catching up with friends and family. After Gatwick, we headed over to the Hilton at Cobham where we also stayed on our last trip. It was lovely to be somewhere familiar and also not far from our old house in Walton on Thames. We caught up with Clare and Nick – friends from Singapore on Boxing Day for a fabulous meal. On the Sunday, we drove to Surbiton and caught the train to London. We managed to catch up with Ann – an Adelaide friend who is also visiting the UK. We then took in The British Museum – a fabulous exhibition on Celts. We caught up with Liz and Mark on Sunday night at their house in Woking for another great dinner. On the Monday, after visiting our old house in Walton, we drove to Bushy Park for some exercise and a geocache along the way. I then caught up with Mary – a friend from Singapore who is back in the UK now. Another lovely catch up.

On Tuesday morning, we checked out of the Hilton and headed off to Nottingham. The drive was good and we arrived at exactly our anticipated time. We checked into our house in Sherwood which we got through Airbnb – it was fantastic. It was a great location for visiting Ann and Jim (Gary’s parents) and also really handy for the Sherwood high street. We stayed in Nottingham for 3 nights – we visited Gary’s parents each day and also managed to catch up with Holly – Gary’s eldest sister and 3 of her children whilst we were there so this was a fabulous thing. Tara turned 7 on New Year’s Eve and had her first ever winter birthday. On New Year’s Day, we had a final quick visit to the nursing home where Ann and Jim are. It was really sad to say goodbye to Ann – she and Gary have always been close and she is someone I am really proud to call my mother in law. After a teary farewell, we set off for our long drive to Cornwall.

We had organised to call in to my friend Karen’s place in Gloucestershire on the way – Karen and I shared a flat 15 years ago – actually at the start of Gary and I being together so she was significant to both of us. We met up with Karen and her husband Pete and their daughter Ellie. What a fantastic visit – tea and croissants and non-stop talking! We then headed off to Penzance. The traffic was very good and we made it in good time. We headed over to Harvey and Hannah-Jane’s for dinner – Harvey and Gary were school friends and have kept in touch over the years. On Saturday, we went back to Harvey and Hannah Jane’s place in Penzance and they drove us around Cornwall. What a fabulous day seeing the sights – St Michael’s Mount, Portlethen (massive waves!) and then Falmouth for a walk and a bite to eat followed by shopping. We then headed back to Penzance where the kids were able to have a spa! What a fabulous catch up.  

On Sunday morning, we checked out of our Penzance accommodation and after a quick geocache we started driving to Street in Somerset to catch up with Gary’s cousins. It was a bit of a crazy day – we got caught with roadworks on the A30 heading out of Cornwall and we had tickets to Peter Pan at 2:30 in Street. The GPS kept on changing times in terms of our ‘anticipated arrival time’ – from 2:11 to 2:41 and we ended up getting there around 2:22 – not a lot of time to spare but we made it! Jo and Sarah – Gary’s twin cousins had bought us tickets to the Pantomime which Sarah was actually in as well as her 9 year old daughter Megan. It was fabulous – such a fun show and the kids are still quoting lines from it. After the show, we headed off for a meal with all of the family – 13 of us in total which was fantastic. So good to reconnect with family after quite some time. We then left Street and drove to our accommodation in Dartmouth where we are now. It was a bit of a crazy day – we arrived at Kingswear at 9:40 – those of you who have been to Devon will understand the Devon roads – arriving at night was a bit of an adventure but we made it – thank goodness for GPS. Yesterday (Monday) we had a family day and today we drove into Torquay to catch up with Lucy – Gary’s sister. It was lovely to catch up – I haven’t seen Lucy since Alex was 9 months old so nearly 8 years.

We now have 5 days left in the UK – we will head to Hampshire on Thursday – we will hopefully catch up with Gary’s aunt and uncle and also some friends from Adelaide and then off to Watford on Saturday to go to the Harry Potter Studio tour. On Sunday morning we have Eurostar tickets to Paris. We have 3 nights in Paris – our plans are for a day at Euro Disney, and a day seeing the sights – Eiffel tour and maybe the Louvre – we will have to see how the kids are travelling as we are staying out near Disney which is a bit of a trek from the centre. We fly home on Jan 13th from Charles de Gaul and arrive back in Adelaide on Jan 14th at 8:30. So far it’s been a great trip and really important in terms of connecting with family and friends.

My niece, Brigette has just moved in with us – she is from Port Augusta and finished year 12 in 2015. She plans to go to Flinders Uni in 2016. I think it will be great having her there – the kids are both excited to have a young adult staying with us. Brigette moved in just before we came away and the poor thing has had to deal with one of our chooks dropping dead on her! Fingers crossed she has a smooth 9 days till we get back.

We plan to get a new family member in 2016 – a yellow Labrador – he was born on December 9th and we will get him when he is 8 weeks old so around the first week of February. We are all very excited to have him join us – I’m sure this will be a great adventure.

Wishing all of our family and friends a fabulous 2016. Please do come to visit us – even though Brigette has taken up residence in the old ‘spare’ room, we still have numerous options for people coming to stay and we love having visitors. The Adelaide Hills are beautiful – any time of year!

Apologies for the lack of photos this year – travelling has made this so although I will try to update the blog with some photos when we are back at home.

Jo, Gary, Alex and Tara xxx

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