This Wednesday, January 8, marked 12 months since I started work with the Cootamundra Herald. It's been the custom for new journalists to introduce themselves, after a while, so here's a belated introduction and some 2019 reflections.
2019 was the 50th year since mankind took its giant leap onto the Moon, but more remarkably still (at least for me!) my own 50th year in journalism.
I was a cadet journalist on the Narrabri Courier on July 21, 1969, the day of the Moon landing, when the editor went to the owners' house to photograph the event on their TV.
The junior staff, me and a couple of mates, strolled down to the Niagara cafe in Maitland Street to witness it on a tiny black and white TV.
The picture was so grainy and blurred that it was hard to make out what was going on, but the world was never the same.
I progressed to the newspaper at Armidale and the radio and TV station at Tamworth before making it to the Big Smoke, where I worked with ABC TV and radio News in Sydney.
Then followed ten years at Sydney University, editing their weekly newspaper, four years at CSIRO in Canberra and, having developed a passion for science writing, two years as science reporter for the Melbourne Herald.
To cut a long story short Rupert Murdoch had a financial crisis and I was made an attractive offer to work with BHP, moving to the Illawarra where I was media officer for the steelworks for a couple of years.
Married with three daughters, we decided on a further move to settle in Canberra, where I found employment doing media work with government departments.
Our marriage didn't last, and after the kids had grown I found it easier to live away from Canberra, moving to the southern highlands where I did some marketing work from home, and then to Wallendbeen after the rentals in the highlands became prohibitive.
That's my career, in a nutshell. But although I was semi-retired for a few years, a new chapter opened a year ago when I successfully applied for this position, as the Herald's main journalist.
It's been quite a year. I've had to learn how to write for a newspaper surviving on the most slender of resources, in an industry cutting costs relentlessly to cope with competition from the internet.
It's also been a steep learning curve getting to know the community.
Never the best at remembering names, I've met hundreds of new people whose names often escape me when I bump into them in the street - how embarrassing - but gradually I've gotten to know many as friends, and I've been just blown away with what a wonderful bunch they are, the people of Cootamundra, who make working in this town such a pleasure.
To this outsider you have been very welcoming, and what has impressed me more than anything is the way you get together to help others less fortunate and to contribute to good causes.
After 12 months I can now look forward to events coming around that at least I know something about - who are the main organisers, what I can expect to be the highlights, what are the "must shoot" photographs and what people's expectations are of their local paper.
One highlight of my year has been coming across a facsimile of the first edition of the Cootamundra Herald, on January 30, 1877, which included an account of "Anniversary Day" - now Australia Day - celebrating the 89th year since Captain Arthur Phillip took formal possession of the Colony.
The Herald noted that there had been "commendable patriotic rejoicing" in Cootamundra, including a horse race, a "pic-nic" to Salt Clay Creek and a "tea-party at the Wesleyan Church".
The Herald reported that the railway had already reached as far as Binalong, noting that "the iron horse will doubtless supersede our present means of locomotion by about June next".
In setting out its "political principles and the general policy we intend to pursue" the Herald stated "local matters deserve and demand first attention", and sang its praises of decentralisation, free trade, and non-sectarian public education.
Being able to peek back into the days before motor cars and even before the railway was for me a fascinating experience and I've been hugely impressed with the care and attention that the Cootamundra Local History Society devotes to preservation and communication of our rich pioneering history.
Our Cootamundra Heritage Centre, with its unique "one-room-to-a-theme" layout is a great community asset and the mighty effort by volunteers in keeping it and the Information Centre open 9am - 5pm seven days a week is amazing, as is the help by volunteers in keeping the Bradman's Birthplace Museum open the same hours.
Speaking of cricket, I was intrigued to learn during the year of the incredible story of Australia's second cricket captain, Billy Murdoch, who was a solicitor and very active community member in Cootamundra for almost five years.
Murdoch's story was told in a brilliant U3A lecture at the Stephen Ward rooms by the authors of the book about him, Richard Cashman and Ric Sissons.
Murdoch was the first batsman in the world to score a double Test century, and captained Australia in the famous match in England in 1882 that began the "Ashes" tradition.
It seems to me Cootamundra could make much more of this remarkable connection, as we could of our connection with another little-known historical figure I learned about in 2019, the extraordinary Australian aviator Arthur Butler.
Butler ran an airline from Cootamundra during the 1930s, picking up international mail from Charleville and bringing it to Coota to connect with Sydney-Melbourne express trains.
The events that stick in my memory from the beginning of 2019 are the beautiful Australia Day ceremony and the Coota Beach Volleyball Festival, while from the end of the year I especially liked the Coota Cup Races and the Lions Christmas Fair with its fireworks.
In between, all sorts of great happenings - a visit by Dawn Fraser, the revival of the Cootamundra Rodeo, the State and federal elections, the Picnic Races, TACC's Secret World project, the undefeated Tri-Colours and nearly undefeated Blues, the Cootamundra Business Awards, "Big Stuff" at the Arts Centre, Bollywood Crazy at the Town Hall, the refurbishment of Parker Street, the launch of Edward's Oil and Maliyan Horizon and expansion of JLW's recycling business, E A Southee's 50th and Coota Red Cross's 100thanniversaries, to name but a few.
Roll on 2020!