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We're back

Usually I'm saying I can't believe it's three months since I last entered news on this page; this time I'm not all surprised. It's been a packed three months, from our departure in mid September to now, just home a few days ago. A wonderful time, recorded in a 33,000 word journal, and my usual Poem a Day, which has become a pattern over the last few years of travel, this time yielding me 65 poems for the trip. While keeping to this at times requires enormous self-discipline, it's also one of the most rewarding parts of travel for me. Even when, dead tired at night, I wonder why I'm making this effort, the moment I sit down to write, tiredness dissipates, and the poem a day becomes not only a happy writing time but also some of our best memory-joggers for the travel.

Our first two weeks in Croatia were fascinating.From leaving Venice, all too short a stay in this lovely city of old palazzi and gondolas on canals, fortunately before the massive flooding that hit the city several weeks later, we began a brief coach tour to Split, then a cruise of the Adriatic on a small boat (only 36 people - all congenial!) that took us round the Adriatic islands. A lovely time, as we explored, and sampled, oyster farms and vineyards, swam in the Adriatic (well, David did - I chickened out), and wandered around ancient Roman ruins. A final extra four days in Dubrovnik gave us the chance to visit Mostar, and the small country of Montenegro, and also taught us about the difficulties of the breakdown of the old Yugoslavia into these original individual small countries. Time in Dubrovnik also showed us the horrors of the fighting that accompanied these times, and we learned not just about the struggles in Kosovo, but also the devastation of the siege of Dubrovnik itself, and the shelling that destroyed the Old Town, now amazingly reconstructed. A beautiful place.

The following seven weeks in Germany were a very happy time, with catching up with so many friends from the past and much valued relatives. But a highlight would have to be the two weeks in Oberammergau, where the work I'd put in ahead into establishing contacts really was rewarded. Thanks to the efficient and supportive Franziska Zankl in the Press Office,  we attended the huge ecumenical service on October 20, when the original vow of 1633 was renewed. Listening to a nine year old girl speaking the words of this traditional vow for the thousands of people in front of her, rededicating the citizens of Oberammergau to the production of this 42nd Passion Play in 2020, was indeed moving. So too was being part of the excited crowd outside the Passion Play Theatre when the cast list for 2020 was revealed, one by one, on the huge front blackboards. A spine-tingling moment, for this ten-yearly event will bring half a million people from all over the world to Oberammergau. The Press Conference in the afternoon was also another tribute to German efficiency.

For the next two weeks I found myself full-time working: marketing my 2014 book, Passion Play, to shops, hotels, souvenir outlets, with a generally really pleasing response, but also interviewing the key cast members and director of the 2020 Play  - all generous with their time and great to speak to. It will be interesting to see if I can get some of the articles I have now written published in Australian outlets.

From there, further time with relatives in northern German, and a short hotel across the borders in France  - a few days in Strasbourg, using our two country Eurail Pass. Most of our travel, in fact all in Germany and France, was by train, with David hoisting heavy cases up onto luggage racks with impressive (apparent?) ease. It's really hard to  return to 'normal' life after these months away, but bit by bit we're starting to pick up the pieces.

Next job will be the final revisions on next February's book, In Search of Anna, which Wakefield Press tells me is almost through the editing process, and getting the Feb 8 book launch (cum 80th birthday celebration) organised. I think I'll be pleased when March comes. But meanwhile it's Christmas and a family gathering. Lots to do!