Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Readers Write


Vale Charles:

In the Oz part of the post Those We Lost in 2019 I included my friend Charles. The following emails commented.

From Deb, beloved wife of Charles: 
Thank you so much for this. He is in stellar company.
Love to you and yours, and may 2019 bring us more joy than sorrow.
Thank you Deb, but it is the others who are in stellar company.

Robyn T also commented: 
I was immensely saddened to learn from Leo about Charles and your inclusion of him in a recent Bytes was most poignant. 
As did Shirley G: 
Thanks for the Bytes – as always and for so many years now the ritual for starting each working day - a cup of coffee and the day’s Bytes. I wonder how many Byters are out there? 
I hope you’ve had a good 2018 with happy family times. 
I was very moved to see Charles Xuereb in your Byte of people who have died this year. He was a very good man. 

Merry Christmas:

From Tim B: 
And a safe and Happy Christmas and New Year to you and your family Otto. 
Thanks Tim.

Dutch Christmas:

Prior to Christmas I posted some comments about what is was like for my brothers and I growing up at Christmas in a Dutch household: 
You kids who grew up in Oz had it easy compared to my brothers and I. We came from Holland, where Santa Claus is known as Sinterklaas, the inspiration for today’s Santa. He too wears red, has a white beard and traditionally arrives in Holland in December by boat from Spain. He then travels on a horse from house to house before Christmas, leaving gifts for children. The little Dutch children leave their shoes beside the chimney filled with straw and a carrot for Sinterklaas’s horse. The next morning when the children awake they find that the straw and carrot are gone, replaced by a present and/or candy. Cute, sure.

But this is where it becomes really creepy.

Sinterklaas has an offsider named Zwarte Piet, meaning Black Pete. He is black with curly hair and red lipstick (I kid you not) and carries a big sack. It’s his job to check which children have been good and which have been bad. The good receive lollies and gifts, the bad get stuffed into the sack and taken away to Spain. Children taken to Spain would be returned the following year if they had been good for that year. A sort of Sinter parole. If the kidnapping of little children isn’t enough, Zwarte Piet traditionally also carried a collection of birch branches for punishing naughty children. 
Diane M, a friend from Holland who used to live in Oz, sent me an email where she commented: 
Hi Otto 
I thought that your card was done by someone very creative. 
In regards to Sinterklaas, so true and so scary, I used to hide under the kitchen table. 
It’s not done so scary today but still, as I attend the celebrations at our primary school, I see so many children who`ve had sleepless, scary nights, so you see the tradition still lives on through Mums and Dads or brothers and sisters. 
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Great New Year. 
Thanks Diane.

Tobye P from the US also commented on that aspect, as well as on father in law Noel convincing his four infant daughters that what Santa really appreciated when he visited on Christmas Eve, and therefore would engender a lot more goodwill for them, was a glass of red wine. Not surprisingly, it was always empty in the morning. Noel also convinced his daughters that a glass should be left out for the Easter Bunny. Tobye's comments:
“the Rambo version of Santa”. HAR! Good one, and I’m sure too true.
I love Noel’s red wine gambit-what a card-thanks for sharing.
Speaking of cards-the Death Star is perfect.
Merry Christmas! Tobye 
Thanks, Tobye.

Oz Christmas:

Byter David B in England commented on my observations of Christmas in Oz that rather than being snow and sleighs, Christmas Day here is one of the hottest days of the year . . . 
Your Bytes on the Australian Christmas reminds me of an occasion about ten years ago when I was still working at Jodrell Bank Observatory. Some equipment that had been supplied to us from Parkes Observatory in NSW broke down on Christmas Eve. My oppo, Christine, and I struggled out through a blizzard to try and fix but couldn't see what was wrong. "Well", said Christine, "Bruce said we could ring him anytime we had a problem, so let’s try him". We put the call through to Australia and Bruce was perfectly affable when we explained the problem. "That is easy enough to fix. Just let me tend the barbie and make sure someone is watching the kids in the pool, then I'll sort it." A few minutes later he talked us through the fix and we went back out into the blizzard glowing with a little bit of Australian sunshine. :-) 
Thanks, David, you have described a typically Australian Christmas.

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