So I'm on a plane to Australia's capital of country music, Tamworth. For work, not guitars, I'm afraid. Cracking view of Sydney Harbour as we take off. I remember Tamworth for many summer days spent with cousins, riding around the property on a tiny motorbike that felt pretty big at the time, playing backyard cricket with a taped up tennis ball, getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Some of Mum's relatives are still around town these days. It's always nice to go back.
Masumi and the kids are in Tokushima. Work is why I'm not there with them, and I miss them, though I have to admit I don't miss the bitter Shikoku winter. Separated by 60 degrees of latitude, 40 degrees of temperature, and 9 hours of flying time, we're spending Christmas and the New Year apart for the first time since we got married. Which is... over 9 years now! How time and the world march on. It hasn't been 9 years since I last blogged, but it feels like that long. I know I shouldn't leave it to Christmas to make the effort, but sure enough, it's that time of year again already. And I digress.
There's a 70th birthday in Tokushima, which is young by the standards of Masumi's grandmothers - yes both, both still with us - and not as auspicious as 77, but still cause for celebration. And although the school year has wound up in Australia, our two eldest children are off to school in Japan, soaking up the language and culture and all that right up to Christmas. All three kids are happy and healthy and loving it as far as I can tell over Skype. When she's not thinking about the cold, I'm pretty sure Masumi's enjoying the catching up and the food, too.
Although I miss them all terribly, to be honest, I've been so busy travelling for work and playing the drums that, even if they were here in Oz, I probably wouldn't have seen much of my family these past few weeks anyway. A slightly nostalgic day trip to Rockhampton, where we lived for a few years when I was very young. Couple of trips to Sydney and Canberra, always good for building relationships in a business where relationships are sometimes an afterthought. Taiko gigs in Brisbane and Byron. Sunday drinks with old mates from school. And we're gearing up for performances at the Woodford Folk Festival just after Christmas, so lots of rehearsals with the drum team right through this month. I've never been to Woodford, but I've heard lots about it. I'm taking gum boots and expecting to come back a changed man!
There's been lots of taiko, but not a lot of dancing. I hope 2018 will change that. In fact I'm sure it will. I can't say too much, but if you're watching the ceremonies for the Commonwealth Games in April, look out for my shiny head somewhere in the crowd of volunteer performers. We haven't given up on Awa Odori on the Gold Coast, by the way, though we're not getting any younger. We just need somewhere decent to practice and get people together on a regular basis. There's a couple of things in the works that may help on that front this year, too.
What else is there to say? 2017 has been another year filled with the joy and angst of raising our three darling children, the frustrations of commuting up and down the M1, catch-ups with old friends, and occasional wonderings about whether we'll ever move back to Japan. It was punctuated in June by a couple of fascinating work trips to Christmas Island and Norfolk Island. My job has taken me to corners of this beautiful country that I never imagined I could possibly visit. Still so much to see, but I'm very grateful, for this and all the little blessings of my life.
And I think that says it all for me at the moment. Masumi and I have our kids, family close by, good friends, a roof over our heads, food on the table, and each other. We'll be reunited soon enough. Plenty to be grateful for this Christmas. And now that I own a pair of gum boots, I reckon I'm ready for whatever 2018 throws at us. See you there.