Phone                    03 58212091 (Skype name: aneaum)                             

Email Andrew       andrew.neaum@gmail.com

Email Diana         diana.neaum@gmail.com

Web page              http://www.andrewneaum.com/

Postal Address:     P O Box 471, Shepparton, Victoria, 3632 Australia


4 December, 2011

Hello from Shepparton,


I listen to the Gloria from one Haydn’s Masses. I have no idea what will follow this glorious composition. It could be a Broadside Band version of a nursery rhyme, an austerely dry recitative from a Bach cantata, or an energetic Scottish reel. When listening to music while I write, I tend to set my computer’s iTunes on “shuffle”. Unpredictability rules. There are the most incongruous of conjunctions. So too life!


The past year has been good to both Diana and myself. We appear to be kindred spirits indeed. To decide to marry after so brief a re-acquaintance would be considered foolishness by cautious, po-faced, pre-marriage counsellors. However, too much caution and too great an aversion to risk leads to a dull life with opportunities missed only to be regretted. The old reprobate Jeffrey Bernard once said that skating on thin ice is a far better exercise than jogging. It prevents life from degenerating into a dull seventy year long coma.


Diana and I continue to laugh a lot, collaborate hugely and enjoy each others company enormously. We are kindred spirits in the truest of senses, that is, not so much in sameness as in difference, complementing each other rather than duplicating each other. On the way to Wangaratta for an ordination yesterday, so animated were we in conversation that we missed the turn-off on the Benalla road and had to do a quick U-turn to make it to our destination on time.


I returned from New Zealand a week ago with a Sheila on my arm. We had left Australia two weeks earlier for a holiday with English Diana travelling on a Visitor’s Visa. We returned with her on an Australian Permanent Resident’s Visa, albeit a provisional one. For this change to take effect she was required to leave Australia and return, and so we took it as an opportunity to have a holiday.


One of the differences between us that contributes to our happy complementarity is that Diana is not daunted by legalese, form-filling, officialdom and red-tape. Most prospective immigrants resort to specialised and expensive immigration experts, but not Diana. She systematically worked her way through the crazily convoluted complications of a tortured immigration system and triumphed. An illustration of just how crazy the system appears from an applicant’s perspective, is that being here on a Visitor’s Visa she was required to lodge her application from outside the country. On receiving the Visa she was obliged to leave the country and then reenter it again. Why we wonder? One assumes a good reason, but cannot see it.


She was able to lodge her application in London, during a three months stint abroad from June to August, where she delighted in family and friends. Her sojourn began briefly and happily with family in Canada and was confined to England and Wales thereafter.


Having now reached what is retirement age in our diocese, I view the prospect kindly and begin rather to relish the prospect of possibly taking on less onerous church appointments, perhaps in more exciting parts of the world, remunerated or not. However at present the Bishop appears to want me to carry on in Shepparton to initiate and oversee some interesting developments in the parish, I shall therefore probably remain here for a year or two.


Germane to this letter is only one of those interesting parish developments. Our three-day-a-week parish secretary has resigned to move to Melbourne. Because Diana’s change of visa status allows her to accept paid employment, she has agreed to take on the job, initially for six months. As such she will be able to tackle diocesan and parochial legalese, form-filling, officialdom and red-tape as efficiently as she did the immigration department’s, and in this regard as well as other be a curate of curates.


My four children, now our four children, continue to prosper. Peter has just acquired a job after his own heart. In January he moves to Tamworth in New South Wales to take up a position with the government as a monitoring officer with the N.S.W. Office of Water. He is provided with a car and decent salary and looks forward to the change. Once he has settled in Tamworth it will be fun to travel the nearly 1000 kilometres to visit him, and then possibly to press on and see my brother and his wife in Brisbane. David and Rachel appear to continue contentedly in their joint chaplaincy at the University Church in Oxford, while at the same time pursuing their doctorates. David has now also been appointed an assistant chaplain at Keble College. Elizabeth and Nathan are still absorbed in their two lovely little ones, Meg and Susan while developing their very fine home and garden. Nathan has become a partner in the accounting firm for which he works and Elizabeth expects their third child around Easter next year. As I write Rachel is in Israel working temporarily at St George’s College and waxing lyrical about “Jerusalem the Golden”. She appears very relaxed as to her future, still dilly dallying as to where to apply or direct her very many talents.


Diana’s two children, and now mine, also prosper. Pula and Olga, like so many of their generation, are busy studying as well as parenting and pursuing careers. They manage their lives in Tooting well, enjoying their winsome little girls Mariana and Zoe. Pula studies for his MBA while working as a lobbyist with “Which?” a Consumer charity. Olga is now in charge of the Art Department in her school and continues to study for her MA in Art Education. Martha and Llew with lively Max and Bella join us for an Australian Christmas in about a week’s time. Llew is now a qualified tree surgeon in North London and Martha remains the Picture Editor of a publishing company while also studying Shiatsu massage.


We are blessed in our talented children, all of them good and stimulating company. We hope next year to be able to arrange a visit of decent length to enjoy again those of them not resident in Australia. I will have to take some unpaid leave to pull this off. Cheap at the price.


I listen now to a glorious aria from Bach’s Cantata No 74. It was preceded by one from HMS Pinafore. Ridiculous. However, the randomness of my “shuffle” is not quite total. Just as the arbitrariness of life allows for, or at least suggests the possibility of an overriding framework, or a limit to total disorder (which we Christians call God), so too with my shuffling music. Every single item of the eight thousand, one hundred and one pieces of music on my computer did not just appear there. All of them were put there by me. So although a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song might follow a Bach solo cello adagio, and a Scottish reel, a piece of operatic recitative, there is no techno rock, heavy metal, John Cage or Schoenberg. My musical world, for all its arbitrariness is congenial, makes some sort of sense, I am at home in it.


So too life itself’s randomness and arbitrariness for Diana and myself is not debilitatingly total. There is that sweet, overriding Christian framework and narrative that continues to make our lives congenial, and to grant them a hint of purpose, meaning, and homeliness. Deo gratias.


We wish you a blessed Christmas and new year,

         Andrew and Diana.