Life Notes 7

December 1, 2020

A trip to Eden Gardens Nursery today for an outdoor lunch with my Killara pals. Seven turned up and we shared some arancini balls, salads and chips between us. The food was okay but they don’t really cater for people wanting a light lunch, it was either breakfast or a  pricy main meal, hence our decision to share some sides. However it was primarily a people event, not a foodie one, so the venue was perfect for that with a breeze protecting us from the heat. I thought I may get inspiration for some Christmas gifts in the nearby retail section but nothing appealed.

I have been carefully watching for anything looking remotely like an ant inside the house but so far not one spotted. This time last year I was deluged with them and it didn’t let up till late autumn. I don’t think I could go through that again so at the first sign of an ant I will be on the phone to the pest man, which is a pity because I love the diligent little guys in theory, it’s just that I can’t live with thousands of them.

December 2, 2020

At Hillsong last Sunday they streamed a video in their service which contained the following story: “A used car dealer who earned only $640 in a difficult week donated his usual tithe of $64. The very next day he got a refund cheque for an overpaid water bill. You’ll never convince me in a million years that is a coincidence.” I am never sure whom to blame for this nonsense, the perpetrators of religious scams or the lemmings who suck it up. I have only just discovered via the Facebook page of freelance researcher and friend Chrys Stevenson, that both of the Hillsong heads are ex-Salvation Army. The Booths must be spinning in their graves. To go from a religious organisation which spends the vast majority of its donations on ‘good works’ to start one which is the opposite of that is, well, I always hesitate about using the word evil, but….Hillsong Church’s revenue was $95,903,071 in 2019 with 76 per cent from ‘tithes and offerings’, according to its own figures. Where did you last see their soup kitchen? or its members helping bushfire victims? Oh that’s right, it’s a prosperity gospel, that distinctively American theological tradition. Believers in the prosperity gospel like winners. Instead of structural inequality playing a part in personal problems, all are seen as perceived failures of the individual. That is why it is easy for them to be devoid of empathy, if people are sleeping in a doorway they probably asked for it. Since the election of Donald Trump, thanks in large part to evangelicals, we have seen the result of American-style capitalism fused with ‘prosperity gospel’ religion. One solution is to end all tax exemptions for religions, including income taxes, property taxes, the lot. Then the scammers may simply move on to another line of business.

December 3, 2020

Martha came over and we had fun cooking a pav from my usual recipe, putting a sliced mango and some berries and cherries on top and keeping half each, using our standard rule of ‘one person cuts and the other decides which half they want’. It kept my kids from hostilities whenever we cooked. It is a failsafe recipe which I did for the book group end of year party, thinking it was something different, only to see in photos that came up on Facebook that I did the same dessert last year for the same function. Mmm, talking about John’s memory while my own isn’t that great.

Reading the new Bob Woodward book on Trump, Rage, I have discovered some gems of information. I like it particularly because it was written from 17 taped interviews that he did with Trump in 2020, so it is a fly on the wall look at real conversations, not just the author’s opinions. Give him enough rope and you get a very disturbing picture of the real Trump behind the scenes. An interesting aside about Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centres for Disease Control, caught my eye though. Redfield, a devout Catholic, says he went through a ‘religious awakening’ during a 10 minute conversation with Pope John Paul II in 1989, coming to believe in ‘the redemptive power of suffering’, a somewhat concerning view when you are in charge of the nation’s health I would have thought. In March Fauci’s task force predicted 100,000 deaths from Covid with full mitigation measures and 1.5 to 2.2 million deaths without any mitigation. We are approaching three times the first figure. Obama had left a 69 page document called ‘Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents’ that included instructions for dealing with a novel influenza virus but neither the funds nor the inclination to act on the plan were forthcoming.  Not only is Trump a walking disaster, he is a walking disaster at the worst possible time.

December 4, 2020

I had an appointment a couple of days ago with Bob, who opined that John taking anti-epilepsy drugs on top of everything else he is on is premature, before any proof at all that his amnesia episodes were due to a brainwave problem. I agree, his EEG is on the 15th so I’ve convinced him to hang off taking them until then. If that shows an abnormality, or he has more events, then we’ll reconsider, but so far so good. The drug wouldn’t have any positive effect on cognition. He gave me the two full pages of the neurologist’s opinion which makes interesting reading. When John had radiotherapy in 1983 he asked the specialist about side effects and was told there were none. Pressing the point he asked What about my teeth? No, no he replied radiation doesn’t affect teeth. A few years later the teeth on that side began to crumble and a dentist’s opinion was: radiation injury. The brain damage took somewhat longer to show up.

My brother’s demeanour has altered a lot of late, not surprising considering he is in third level anti-Covid restrictions in the most affected part of the UK. Months of downplaying the risks has altered into a tangible fear of the disease but also a fear of what will happen when and if the UK crashes out of Brexit. He is already having great difficulty getting a prescribed drug (Brexit effect? who knows) but more worrying is the fact that he simply cannot get a doctor’s appointment, for anything. The NHS requires patients to attend their chosen doctor so he can’t shop around for an appointment, phone calls to the practice are met with ‘sorry, we are only accepting appointments for emergencies and Covid19’. At home alone, with a daughter currently suffering the disease, it is understandable that his stress levels are rising. Mine would be too with Boris in charge. We are talking every few days and this week his computer has decided to refuse his long-established password and as we all know a non-functioning computer is a special form of hell. He told me last night that he doesn’t want anything for his birthday or Christmas because ‘I’ve got too many other things to worry about’. I’m not sure what the end result is here, but I am not liking the looks of it at the moment.

December 5, 2020

Some people, for understandable reasons, have urged me to ‘plan ahead’ with regards to how we will handle deterioration of John’s medical condition. Although that sounds like sense, it seems impossible to me for us to plan for an unknown situation at an unknown time in the future. I think it’s better to just monitor things week by week and adjust ourselves to changes as they happen. Plus of course it would mean I’d have to dwell seriously on future possibilities, just too hard for me at the moment.

I’ve decided that the forget-me-not seeds have had over 4 weeks to germinate when the packet said 2, and I wasn’t prepared to wait any longer. So the pot has been given over to a gerbera, sorry guys, you had your chance. Seeds are an all or nothing proposition, I either get dozens or none so the forget-me-nots have been relegated to just forget-mes. In our family secret Santa this year I requested a 2 year sub of the Diggers Club, seeing my membership is overdue and it happens to be almost the amount that’s been settled on for each person. If we were in Melbourne there are numerous historic houses and garden to which we could go for free but I can’t see that happening any time soon, so I will have to be thankful for the bonus seeds that come with the renewal.

December 6, 2020

We minded Millie yesterday while Dav and Louis went for a swim and did some Christmas shopping. We had a good walk in Sydney Park, followed by she and John sharing a muffin for morning tea at Blackbird, then Millie gatecrashed a birthday party whose little guests had gone but the bouncing castle remained awaiting disassembly. She had a great time on it and the host parents were keen to press some food onto Millie before we left ‘otherwise it’s all going in the bin’. Later we played some games including soccer in which she made up the rules, hide and seek and I Spy ‘I spy some something blue which you will see if you look straight up’ was one classic clue. John has recently bought a new frig and was interested in its relative size to the one there. ‘Oh this one’s 440 litres and mine is 414 litres’ he said to me. After a long break Millie who was absorbed in a game piped up straight faced: ‘Mine’s 4000’

John decided to iron a shirt for tomorrow and after a while noticed the iron was going cold. Upon checking, all the power points in the kitchen and dining room were off so I figured the iron was cactus and had set off the safety switch. He went out torch in hand to reset it but actually turned off the main switch instead, so we were temporarily plunged into darkness. However it was easy to rectify and just means resetting the clocks on phone and microwave. How we depend on electricity without even giving it a thought. Thankyou Nikola Tesla  and all those other known and unknown people who contributed to this amazing blessing which we only appreciate when we are deprived of it.

December 7, 2020

Last week I spoke to a lovely man named Mustapha at the Australian Maritime Museum and booked a disabled parking spot for us so we could view the Wildlife Photography Exhibition there. I got to meet him today as he was rostered on, so that was lucky. The exhibition was as breathtaking as it is each year, but the winner this year, Yonqing Bao from China, captured life in the wild as well as I’ve ever seen it. A Himalayan marmot was not long out of hibernation when it was surprised by a mother Tibetan fox with three hungry cubs to feed. Yongqing captured the moment of the attack, the power of the predator baring her teeth, the absolute terror of her prey, the looks of exhilaration and terror written on their respective faces. So many superb photos, from rats on a New York street to rare animals that most of us wouldn’t ever see in a lifetime, all playing their part in this amazing world ecosystem. Afterwards we ducked around the corner to Malaysian cheap and cheerful restaurant Nur Muhammed which is a bargain of a place with very authentic halal food. A bain-marie full of spicy curries and veggie dishes is always on hand, a plateful served with rice for $9.50. Even asking for the small serving I needed to bring half home. How do they serve swordfish curry with an eggplant side and a potato side for that price?

We beat the peak hour to get home in time to pop in to the library to borrow the last Choice magazine with irons in it. The highest score went to a $29 Target number which just pipped the $199 second placegetter, so I shall hightail it to Target at some point this week and pick one up. It is very common for the very expensive to be outscored by the very cheap so it’s always worth consulting Choice, as I did just recently for John’s frig. A separate article judged dishwashing powders and tablets and it said that a wet tablet held in gloved hands makes an excellent oven cleaner, will try next cool day.

December 8, 2020

The librarian rang a while back and asked if I would like the brand new DVD on the Trump dynasty that they had just bought. Absolutely I would! So we watched the first episode and it was fascinating, so far mostly about his grandfather and father. The grandfather was amazing, emigrating from Germany alone at age 16, just leaving a note for his mother to say he was going. He soon found a way to earn money in the Gold Rush, travelling up to the Yukon and providing meals and accommodation, and later prostitutes, to those going to the goldfields. When the railroad was planned, bypassing the town where he had built a weatherboard 2-storey hotel, he simply (well not quite simply) put the whole hotel onto a raft and had it towed to the town where the railway was headed, setting it up for business before the rail even arrived. He came across as a very smart man as well as one who was dead set keen to make a lot of money.

Today was a busy one, firstly with a visit from the maintenance man from the security company who comes once a year to do a routine check. He normally takes 15 minutes but today he was fussing with it for well over an hour, ringing back to his base a number of times, so something appeared to be wrong but he didn’t share what it was and okayed it all as he left. Then Heather arrived unexpectedly with cuttings of the same plant that the plant thief relieved me of, so I will end up with a lot more of them than I had initially. Heather had barely gone when Sue Read arrived for a catchup, but because of previous visitors the cherry shortbread I was making for her visit was started, but hadn’t got as far as the oven, so we munched on cheese and crackers instead. She thinks I should contact the ACAT team to assess John but I did that two years ago when he had no knee and he was assessed as needing household help, but he still hasn’t got to the top of that list! I’m not sure if I want to get embroiled in that again, but wheels move slowly and I know if he does need help in the future he needs to be in the queue for a looong time. Something for another day, I can only deal with this thing in little chunks.

December 9, 2020

Got a surprise text from Dav saying that she was working at Rouse Hill today so we arranged a catchup out there in the afternoon. Her company GPT owns that shopping centre. I love the open nature of that place, single storey, open air places to sit, removing most of the things I hate about places like Castle Towers and its ilk. Of course there is the boring and repetitive nature of the shops but that’s the same in all centres. It seems you need to be part of a chain to get into these centres and I find there’s little I want from them. However seeing my iron packed it in this week I was able to get a new one from Target while I was there.

In the evening I was part of a lengthy online meeting with the Lost and Found group but because they had changed from Zoom to Microsoft Teams there were some technical issues like not being able to see the group as a whole, only the person speaking, and sometimes not even them. Hopefully someone more techy than me will work it out. One of our members now lives in northern Italy and she told us that in her village a law has mandated that no one is to leave their house from Christmas Eve on for a few days, to try to keep Covid at bay. She said that everyone she speaks to knows someone who is infected, if not in hospital, so she’s happy to comply. The group is caring and supportive while simultaneously being very averse to any possibility that a new member may not fit in or may be inclined to behaviour that doesn’t pass muster on the north shore. Our old Pendle Hill group was the opposite, it was all comers. Some came with annoying or even disturbing behaviour but occasional yelling or swearing was overlooked in the interests of the bigger aim of assisting them. That philosophy is something that on the whole I feel more comfortable with. As Thoreau said ‘It is possible for a man wholly to disappear and be merged in his manners. The man who thrusts his manners upon me does so as if he were to insist on introducing me to his cabinet of curiosities, when I wished to see himself’.

December 10, 2020

After telling me it was all too hard to send gifts for birthday and Christmas, the bro recanted and said he’d like another Thea Astley book, having enjoyed Drylands so much. I’ve ordered The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow from Book Depository but of course it won’t get there in time now. I am still thinking about a Christmas choice but The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan is a possibility. Despite its supernatural overtones, this was a book that kept me up late at night. Reality is depicted as capable of wielding a retributive force, also it shows us the results of a villain with an unimaginable amount of money. The mountain is said to possess a kind of consciousness and is described as if having a will of its own, usually something I would run from but the author sucked me in gradually. Totally immersive for me but not everyone’s cup of tea. Today is also a day that John’s daughter suggested as a possible meet-up for him to see his grandchildren but we haven’t heard anything so I guess we just wait and see what transpires for another day. She is currently unwell and it’s totally unsurprising at the moment if she is unable to schedule a meeting in advance.

Watched another ep of the Trump dynasty DVD and it is mesmerising in the audacity and dishonesty it describes. One particularly atrocious act was when he wanted to demolish a much-loved New York Art Deco building to build Trump Tower. There was an outcry and it seemed that the city would refuse him demolition permission. However he publicly offered the famous friezes and statues to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to install there and demolition permission was granted. However the head of the institution eventually received a phone call to say that the friezes were being destroyed. She ran from her office and hailed a taxi to the building, got caught in a traffic jam, jumped out and ran the last ten blocks, only to see the friezes and statues being destroyed with jackhammers. Trump was asked why?? Well you didn’t have a contract, he casually replied.

December 11, 2020

I was looking through my poetry and philosophy shelves to find my mainstays Seneca and Thoreau (Frost being the third) which I reread regularly, especially if I have the miseries. I found a book of poems called Killing Floor by Ai from 1979 which won a slew of awards in the US. I read it again and couldn’t find a single piece that I enjoyed, as was the case when I bought it, so I decided to get rid of it. Hardly the type of thing to cause a fist fight at the street library, I looked on eBay and discovered that this same miserable book is selling for $97 US. I shall list it today and see if I can get $5. Not because I want the money but because it needs to go to a person who really wants it, or wants to make money from it, I don’t care. Freebies end up in bins and I don’t want that to happen to a rare book even though I don’t like it myself. Talking of fist fights, I remember in the shop one Sunday a couple looking seriously at a trunk and deciding to drive up to the mountains to ‘shop around’. Late in the day I was in the process of selling the trunk to another couple when the first couple appeared, horrified that ‘their’ trunk was going to someone else. They appealed to me to give it to them on the grounds that they had looked at it early that day and were therefore first. I declined and was then subjected, along with the buyers, to a torrent of abuse. They left yelling ‘we will never come back to this shop again’ and thank goodness they never did.

Went up to Youeni at Castle Hill with my friend Christine today and caught up on all our news since we last saw each other at Jackie’s funeral. The place is always packed at any time of day and seems to have a loyal following in the vege, gluten free, organic community, lots of bowls of amazing ‘stuff’. Had smashed avo, feta and chickpeas, (see I can order things other than cake). Missing Jackie heaps.

December 12, 2020

Finished watching the Trump video epic last night and found it thoroughly worthwhile. His connections with Russia and Putin go back to 1990 when he desperately tried to get Putin to attend the Miss Universe pageant that he staged in Moscow. When Putin didn’t attend on the night, Trump attempted to get his staff to put out publicity material indicating that Putin had in fact come. Later when he was bankrupted after his three Atlantic City casinos failed he approached the Deutsche Bank’s VIP department and convinced them somehow to let him borrow millions to pay back the self same bank’s bankruptcy section. This VIP section was known to be lending to Russian oligarchs and a connection there is suspected. His plan to build Trump Tower Moscow was scuttled by Obama’s sanctions on Russia, seeding resentment to Obama. Fascinating stuff.

I am a Domain tragic. I read it every Saturday and decide on improvements that could be made to the (mostly) luxury homes for sale therein. I play a game of ‘would I swap it for mine?’ and of course there are many that I would, but perhaps surprisingly there are mansions in suburbs that I wouldn’t want to live in where the answer is nah, I don’t think so. So I started to wonder what I would say if my house appeared in Domain. Certainly I would opt for the louvres alongside my deck doors that were planned but mistakenly made as solid glass. Because the order was copied down in person, John couldn’t prove that louvres were ordered so I was stuck with plain glass or get it redone at huge cost. Secondly I’d alter the high windows in the lounge room where we used some that I already owned, better to have had others I’ve decided. In my ensuite I went for allover marble design walls and floor after telling someone that I planned a mosaic floor with white subway tiles on the walls. ‘Oh I am so over subway tiles’ was the response, but now I think of that mosaic and subway combination and wish I had stuck to my original plan, even though the decor I have turned out perfectly fine. I should learn to ignore other people’s opinions, next life I shall do that combination for sure.

December 13, 2020

Last Insiders for the year, sigh. Raced up to the nursery after finding that the leaves on my ornamental flowering gum have been decimated by a something. After inspecting a leaf, they said it was sawfly which only comes at night and the name fits the damage as some leaves are reduced just to their spines. After laying out $30 for some stuff to mix up and spray on the leaves I felt somewhat relieved as I am particularly attached to that tree. Planted out the Ruby Red cuttings that Heather left me to replace the plant stolen, but I have plenty of them so they should be everywhere if they all take. Yesterday our Saturday Paper was lifted as well so we might have another culprit to watch out for.

An article I read on Medium yesterday suggests, not for the first time, that COVID19 is an autoimmune disease. Apparently they checked the hearts of 174 people who’ve recovered from it and compared them with unaffected controls. Over 60% of the COVID group had signs of inflammation of the heart while none of the control group were affected. More concerningly, very few of the COVID patients had had it seriously enough to go to hospital and weren’t aware that they had anything wrong. In the most serious cases it was akin to the rejection seen on heart transplants. I sent it to Bob who was very interested and said he believes many currently unexplained maladies may turn out to be autoimmune, triggered by a virus. Scary stuff.

December 14, 2020

Confusion reigned supreme this morning as John was getting ready to leave for his much anticipated Tenant Advisory Committee Christmas lunch when Ann rang to tell him that it had been cancelled. He was doubtful so I suggested that he call Link, luckily the CEO came to the phone and said it definitely was not cancelled, but said that Ann had just rung wanting to attend and was told that it was for the committee only, not for tenants. This set him back timewise but ultimately he got on his way and I headed up to Castle Mall. I was parking there when he rang to say that his phone had ‘stopped talking’ to him and he didn’t know how to get to the address. After some coaching on the phone which didn’t help, I hared home only to find that it worked for me first go. By now he was very late but the gadget was going at least, however going down the M2 it stopped again and he got lost, only arriving at the lunch after everyone had had their main course and then only with the help of one of the staff who rang to find out where he was and talked him in. I seem to remember that he got lost on the way to last year’s lunch as well and turned for home, missing it completely, so I guess this year was an improvement.

Planted out some lettuces which I should have done before now to have them ready for Christmas but there you go, a lot going on. Of course the rain last night washed off all of my expensive sawfly killer and considering the clouds about today I don’t intend to spray again just yet, so it’s sawfly picnic on my gum tonight which is a shame. Tony texted to say he is watching the other copy of the library’s Trump DVD set and is as addicted as I was, saying that through our friendship he has become fascinated with his personality. Charisma’s definition includes ‘force of personality’ and isn’t necessarily a positive trait, Hitler was a charismatic leader on any definition, so too Trump.

December 15, 2020

Twice today I have had a call from someone thinking the shop is still in business. I have removed the Facebook page and the website and it’s hard to fathom where these folks are coming from but one said she found me in the Yellow Pages. In each case I was able to make some recommendations about how to find or sell a particular item, but hanging up there was a twinge of ‘I used to do this for a living’. In some ways it was the unpaid parts of the business that I enjoyed the most, finding the right vendor for something that I didn’t want in my shop or helping someone locate something that I didn’t have in the shop to sell. But we move on. I have some jewellery left over from the last auction and decided to give one piece to my friend and ex-employee. I just hope she liked it when it was in the shop. I am not into big gifts at Christmas but it just seemed to have her name on it.

Sue rang today and asked if John and I would like to go to Killcare for a few days from Saturday. We have visitors coming Saturday, a trip to Glenbrook to see John’s grandchildren on Sunday, Kirk coming to mow on Monday and an appointment with my hairdresser on Tuesday so sadly we had to decline. Until Saturday we have something on each day as well, unusual for us. I really miss Robert ringing up ‘just to bullshit each other’ as he used to say. He liked it when I asked about random medical stuff, just things that I didn’t understand or else found to be interesting that I had come across reading or on the net. He gave me many medical journals over the years and I still have many of them here unread, so much to read and so little time. He recommended The Emperor of All Maladies, written by Siddhartha Mukherjee the Indian-born American physician and oncologist, which I promptly bought and loved. It is a 600 page history of cancer and its various treatments over time which won a Pulitzer, a sad conjunction to have had it recommended by him when I think about it now.

December 16, 2020

So John’s neighbour rang and asked if she could put her car into his garage while she goes on holiday in January, of course that would leave his car outside. He immediately said yes and then asked ‘why is your car being stolen more important than it happening to mine?’ We await the answer to that one but he’s decided to say no. They should make a TV show about that block of flats.

Today we went to the Art Gallery of NSW to see the Archibald Prize entries and happened to stumble on the announcement of the people’s choice winner. It was a stunning portrait of refugee Behrouz Boochani painted by Angus McDonald. It is light years ahead of the overall winner chosen by the judges, but that is often the case. There are some amazing works in the Archibald and Wynne Prizes this year but as usual the Sulman entries leave me cold.

Later I decided to bake some coconut biscuits from frozen dough that I had stored a few months back in John’s fridge. They looked a bit the worse for wear but I assumed they had been knocked around over time. I baked them and made passionfruit icing to go on top, half to take to friends tomorrow and half for visitors on Saturday. However when I got them out of the oven they didn’t smell quite right so I cut one in half and it turned out to be…….a chicken dumpling. Neither John nor I would buy such a thing but I remember his telling me that his neighbour had given him some frozen Chinese food ready to bake. Apparently the label had come off in the freezer and when I asked for the ‘dough balls’ these were what I got. I am insisting that they go back to Lane Cove asap, ugh.

December 17, 2020

Because I ended up yesterday with chicken dumplings and passionfruit icing I cooked some choc raspberry biscuits so I could make up a mixed plate for taking to friends for morning tea. It was so lovely to sit on their deck and chew the fat. But it still leaves me short of choice of gluten free treats for Saturday’s visitors, with only Italian almond biscuits in the tin so far. I will get inspiration before then hopefully.

We were notified yesterday of Bob Flaherty’s death, his funeral is on Monday. What a year for illness and death. Now today there are six unexpected Covid cases in Sydney, just when people are letting down their guard, possibly because they are letting down their guard. My brother rang to say he has ‘a streaming cold’ but showed no interest when I told him to get tested asap. I can’t micromanage him from the other side of the world so I only say it once. John had an appointment with a specialist a month ago and was phoned a couple of hours prior to say that she was going into 14 days quarantine after treating a Covid case. The replacement appointment was today and a couple of hours before he got a call to say that she is busy treating someone with Covid and has arranged for another doctor to see him tomorrow. This indicates that at least one of the six new cases is serious as she only works in a hospital environment with inpatients or past patients like John. He’s just as well away from her at the moment I think.

December 18, 2020

I love the serendipitous encounters that blossom into friendships, but also the one-offs that go no further than the first encounter but stick in the memory. This past year I have had two such fluky relationships that blossomed into friendships. First I met Tania, in the toilet of a restaurant no less!, and then Tony when I saw him outside near my street library, in the middle of the pandemic. In the more recent case of Tony, we are constantly amazed at the synchronicities in our histories, our views and our outlook on life. Somehow I think we’ll be pouring tea and eating cake together for a good while yet. I particularly love the unguardedness of these people and the way that they jumped boots and all into wanting a relationship, and weren’t afraid to say so. Obviously there are deal-breakers that may crop up in people I meet, like far-Right views for example, but even then I would be interested in exploring the reasons for their opinions, but perhaps not so keen to have them around me much. I am a hugger and toucher, yet with these two nary a hug has been had, and I miss that. Once the vaccine is up and running that may need to be rectified to a greater degree than called for, but we’ll see. I love Tania’s 11pm calls ‘are you awake? can I phone you?’ and Tony’s texts, always about something that I’m really interested in, or proposing another tea date. I am a very lucky ducky, for a while there I thought that not having the shop anymore meant an end to providential relationships. But knowing that they can happen, just by going out to the grass verge and seeing a virtual stranger standing there, gives me a glow and makes the potential of every day something to look forward to.

December 19, 2020

I managed to get the house tidied, the verandahs swept, the tea things set up before John arrived, just minutes prior to the visitors for morning tea. I had planned to entertain them on the back deck but there was a sort of misty rain in the air that didn’t quite reach the ground, but would have made it unpleasant, so we sat indoors instead. We had a good chat and he told them of his recent diagnosis. I have been lucky to have supped with five people over three days, social butterfly at last. I had planned and bought the food for Christmas for eight, but now with a Covid outbreak on the Northern Beaches everything is up in the air, with border restrictions meaning that our three interstate visitors may not be able to come. More to the point they may not want to risk coming and then not being able to get back over the border come time to go home. It is a real bummer that this has happened right on Christmas but as with everything to do with this virus, we are better off than most. I wish Gladys were more proactive in simply enforcing rules instead of just advising people but we are stuck with her I’m afraid. There are so many multi-million dollar mansions in that area and many would be rented out at this time of year to various nabobs that I can’t help but wonder if one of them brought the virus in, seeing they have identified it as being from the US. But there are lots of other options such as air crew or people who work in hotel quarantine. We may never know. My hairdresser is at Manly and I had an appointment for Tuesday but they have closed up shop so there might be some grey roots showing up on people for Christmas, luckily that’s one problem I don’t have.

December 20, 2020

Well I really exceeded expectations today. John had worries about parking in the drive under Arvind’s tree so that my car needs ideally to go into the garage. But it has been in the drive now for years, ever since the garage was filled by all the junk from the shop, not good stock but boxes of things like plate stands and jewellery cases and cleaning cloths and shelf liners and…. So today was the day to haul out all of those boxes and put them under the deck temporarily until I can find homes for them. I did pull out a large roll of upholstery fabric, some velvet, some dress fabric and some embroidery cottons which I’ll donate to the sewing group so that’s a start. I did a ceremonial drive into the garage and John a ceremonial one down the drive and away from under the tree. Although the work is still cut out for me I will order a council clean-up after Christmas and that will encourage me to cull some more of the things. Hallelujah. My friend Michelle was here today and took a bit of stuff too. I am hoping that she likes the necklace I have given her for Christmas, I think she will. She is such a good sport and is one of the best humans.

On the Christmas front, many will be sorely disappointed with travel plans quashed, gifts unable to be bought or given and food shopping undone. Arvind said his sister lives in the Covid zone and went yesterday to try to buy meat for Christmas: she wasn’t fussy, ham, turkey, a leg of lamb, whatever she could get, but the shops were sold out of all such things. Sue has cancelled her trip down from Queensland so we are one short for Christmas Day with Carly and Danish in limbo. Davina and Louis had taken 10 days off work to spend with Sue who hasn’t seen them all since well before the pandemic. We await Carly’s decision. Postscript: At 6.40 tonight the ACT government mandated that anyone coming into the ACT from Sydney has to quarantine for 14 days, so that’s Carly and Danish out for Christmas too.

December 21, 2020

I was all positive and encouraging to the girls last night about the disappointment of Carly not being able to come for Christmas, but this morning when I phoned Natalie at the bakery to order bread to pick up today and freeze for later in the week, I ended up in tears while thanking her for all the times she drove from Dural to me with measly orders during the worst of the Covid times. All the built up stress of the past weeks came out at once, but I feel better for it now. I will be amazed if the Covid count doesn’t keep rising, Glad is diametrically opposed to telling people what to do, like old Boris in the UK, she won’t act until there’s a disaster. People won’t all obey ‘recommendations’ and it is naive to think they will.

John helped me clean out the small bar fridge in the garage which is always turned off except for when I have a function. But all this year it hasn’t been called for, so when I opened it I got a shock that the entire interior was black with mould after a can of Rekordalig cider had exploded inside it for some unknown reason. He hucked it out with bleach so hopefully if I need to turn it on, something I doubt I’ll need to do now with reduced guests, I’ll feel it is safe to use. Meanwhile I cleaned various empty picture frames and a large wall mirror, plus some china and a big collection of not-very-good landscape oil paintings. We drove up to the new Lifeline shop but they were very picky, only accepting the china and a few framed prints, rejecting all the paintings, the mirror and all the empty frames. Everyone’s a critic I thought as she rejected all the paintings, but I’ve seen worse in galleries. The Sallies seem to be the only people who take everything, so I will need to drive to Parramatta after Christmas, which is a bummer.

We didn’t get to see Martha with the sewing materials as she emailed early that Phil had been in pain and vomiting during the night, so she took him to the San at 4am. Latest news is that he is being transferred to Royal North Shore because the San doesn’t have the facility to do peritoneal dialysis which he needs regularly. So many time we hear of a private hospital, even a big sophisticated one like the San, moving patients into public because of a lack of ability to handle a complex situation. Keeps our Christmas holiday woes in perspective.

December 22, 2020

John is doing our grocery order this week and I had pointed out that I needed some of the items to cook with early in the week but the best he could do in the circumstances was opt for a Thursday morning delivery. I’m sure many people are ordering who would otherwise be going to the shops. Of course many things sell out by Christmas Eve, even in a non-Covid year, so I had to go out this morning and buy the essentials just in case, doubling up when the order arrives. I decided to do just the custard for the trifle today and also the tahini sauce which is part of an Ottolenghi green vegetable dish. The kitchen afterwards looked as if I’d cooked three courses with the Kitchen Whiz, the Kenwood Chef, sieves, saucepans and whatever else in use. I’m trying to limit actual cooking to the absolute minimum on Christmas Day and considering the mess I made with today’s effort it seems that’s a very good idea. For some reason all the changes of plan have unnerved me more than they should have. But I think they are just a proxy for everything else that’s upending our lives at the moment, personally and nationally. This is supposed to be fun, and it usually is, but this year…..

Carly just texted to say she had a tahini disaster in her good work handbag today, so I guess compared to that my kitchen disarray is not too bad. I rang my cousin Victor in England tonight, he lives where there is a stage 3 lockdown with all the pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops closed. But still his 80 year old friend died from Covid last week though the funeral has had to be delayed until New Year because the man’s son now has it too. 67,616 dead in Britain he informs me, with Boris being accused of manslaughter by Vic and many of his compatriots apparently. I think the anger at his handling of the pandemic is pretty much universal if Vic and Kenneth are to be believed. Both refer to him as Britain’s Trump.

December 23, 2020

I thought myself clever to be at Norwest Growers Market when they opened at 7 am, only to find that this week they are opening at 6. However for me that was still a good effort. Celeriac proved a stumbling block to my Potato and Celeriac Dauphinoise, of course it’s a winter vegetable, but so are Brussels sprouts and we get them all year. Sue had left me some organic onions (by far the biggest onions I have ever seen) and some fresh crispy garlic, so now it’s potato and onion instead of potato and celeriac. The garlic made me realise how stale most garlic is when we buy it, these cloves are so crisp you could snap them. I usually get some fruit and veg at a farm at Dural, but Denise has what she has, it’s not like a fruit market there you can buy anything (except celeriac) so although I usually set the menu by what’s available, this time I wanted to simply buy what I had planned. Made passionfruit jelly for the trifle and did the dauphinoise early to store and reheat on Christmas Day, trying to prepare everything possible in advance.

I had invited a few people to ‘drop in’ on Boxing Day morning but one couple (in their 50s and in good health) confessed to feeling uncomfortable about doing that in the current environment with hotspots at Blacktown, Macquarie Shopping Centre etc. I decided to pull the plug on the invitations and when I contacted people they were actually relieved, so I doubt I had takers anyway. Unfortunately we will be eating biscuits for a while yet as I had already cooked for it. We had already decided to limit Christmas Day to family for the same reasons and I am feeling a bit like Scrooge.

December 24, 2020

Up early to continue the preparations for tomorrow. Trifle finished, tick, prepped all the veges, tick, made a sauce, tick. Then a message from Davina: the Covid case she had told me about days ago at the MLC Centre food court has now been made public and there are either 2 or 5 cases attached, depending on whom you believe. Dav got an email from work advising affected staff to get tested and go into quarantine, so she walked to Prince Alfred Hospital where they were aware of that hotspot and told her the instruction is to quarantine only till she gets a negative result, not for 14 days as she had feared. So that will teach me to prep everything in advance, it’s like when I got my Toyota professionally detailed and the next day it was written off by a drunk driver. You live and learn. But I guess once her test comes back we will regroup and have some sort of Christmas, tomorrow though it will be just the two of us.

Also on the Covid front a nurse who helps transport quarantined people from the airport to hotels also did a shift moving a patient to the Anglican Church’s aged care facility at Castle Hill where three of our friends live, against government policy apparently. That must be putting shivers down the spine of management at the moment, so I guess our whinges are just that. However I still intend to whinge, but will defer as required to others with bigger problems.

December 25, 2020

What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours….. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I am like a large liner, very slow to turn, but I get there in the end. After a maudlin 24 hours since Christmas was virtually cancelled due to Dav having to isolate till her Covid test came back, this morning I woke up keen and ready to go. The obligatory Christmas breakfast of croissants and tea was followed by some FaceTime calls from each of the girls and texts came thick and fast all day. Each step in the lunch prep was sent around so we could all see each other’s food coming together and the presents as they were opened. I modified the menu somewhat to accommodate John’s preference for hot vegetables over salads, but apart from that we had the meal I had planned. With all the calls and texts it wasn’t nearly as lonely as I had expected. As my grandmother used to say ‘we’ve all done very well in the present department’. Just now I heard that Davina’s Covid test has come back very quickly and it’s negative, so we are planning a get together soon. My brother and cousin Victor in the UK laughed when I said we had 104 cases a day ago, ‘try 40,000 a day’ said Victor grimly. I think the numbers of cases we are seeing in Sydney at the moment is extraordinarily low considering the number of exposed premises. Either we are being sensationally lucky or else it is the lull before the New Year storm. I hope it is the first, because Gladys’s decisions are seriously inadequate in my view. My bro has been invited to Christmas lunch by each of two daughters, a tricky decision, and they can’t mix because gatherings are limited to a certain number of households. Luckily Victor has just one son, easy peasy.

December 26, 2020

Oh my, who thinks it’s okay to send texts intermittently from 11 pm to 1 am on Christmas night, waking me up with each one? This morning I actually read them and they were all from one person (natch) asking why she never gets invited to our functions (functions, functions, what are functions? something from the past I’m thinking…Smilie: ;). After explaining that we are not entertaining in the pandemic, I got the reply ‘but I’ve known you for 6 years and I never get invited to your birthdays and Christmases and parties’.  Both of our birthdays were celebrated with a meal at home this year and yes she has been invited to lunch here in the past. This after sending her Christmas gifts that seemed yesterday to be well received, sometimes you can’t win.

I only realised tonight how much John has emotionally invested in his new car. At the threat of hail on the weather report tonight he wanted carpets to put over it, but apart from hand-woven ones on the floors, it’s not something I have hanging around. Not to be put off he collected and piled on bubble wrap, bed sheets, cushions, a mozzie net, car mats, and the white Marcella quilt off one of the guest room beds, all covered with painter’s tarps and held down with bricks and pavers. Unfortunately the quilt was topped with deep blue pieces of foam and now is patterned with same, whether it ever bleaches out remains to be seen. It better bloody hail.

December 27, 2020

The Erko crew came for a post-Christmas celebration now that Dav’s Covid test came back negative. So I worked up a menu with a combination of new cooking, the centre of which was a boned and rolled chicken, and also mining the copious leftovers. Millie loved the cheese toastie and garlic bread. I just had the numerous veg and was more than happy with that. Louis tasted the trifle and declared that he couldn’t have a second serve and risk the breathaliser. It did have an extraordinary amount of brandy and sherry in it. Davina’s Christmas cake, swimming in cherry brandy, was a fitting dessert for me.  We really forgot it wasn’t Christmas Day and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Now we await a third Christmas when Carly is able to cross the border.  Perhaps we’ll decide to have three Christmases every year. Millie decided that she wants ‘a sleep-over at grandma’s house’ so we will organise that before too long’. When she was shown the room she commented, because of a box on the bed, that it is ‘quite a messy room’. Everyone’s a critic.

December 28, 2020

I am really over scam emails, texts, phone calls. It is totally out of hand and the government (some would say it has a considerable number of scammers within its number, looking at you Angus Taylor) should be doing a lot more than it is. So far this morning I’ve had a text from DHL telling me that I need to pay for a parcel from overseas within 7 days, an email from iCloud saying my log-in details have been altered and I will be locked out if I don’t answer and a call from Monrovia (which is where exactly?). If I answer I advise them to get a real job but I realise jobs in Monrovia may be thin on the ground, so that’s probably a bit mean. But the point is I shouldn’t have to field this nonsense every day and I pay taxes to have someone else fix it. Mmm alright, actually I no longer pay taxes, but the principle stands.

Heather came over in the afternoon and she and John commiserated with each other about difficult families. He’s been a bit down today about no communication at all from family over Christmas and no replies to his attempts, but it’s been this way every year, that’s why he says he’s always glad when Christmas is over. The numbers of NSW coronavirus cases is low again, just 5, and with the accommodation of the government to the wishes of people wanting to celebrate the season, I wonder if we are doing extraordinarily well or if the thing is bubbling along underneath and will just whoosh out all at once in the coming couple of weeks, like some sort of pent-up geyser. That word reminds me of an article in the Herald yesterday by the irksome Parnell McGuinness entitled “Top of the Pops: Gladys Berejiklian should beat Jacinda Ardern in the 2020 popularity stakes”. One’s mind turns immediately to satire, but no, she’s dead serious. I left a comment saying that I had thought it was December but clearly it must be April 1.

December 29, 2020

We started late with Ricotta Hotcakes and Blackberry Jam for brunch. I don’t normally buy ricotta but I had done so because of a recipe I wanted to do and had exactly half the tub left, just enough for four hotcakes and thankfully that removed one more container from the frig.  Then we hared down to the Sallies at North Parramatta with a bootful of stuff that wasn’t good enough for Lifeline. They took it gladly so I will go there first in future. There was a box full of empty frames and a box of paintings by an old lady in Windsor whose family begged me to buy the contents of her workshop. I don’t think I made any money but I probably got my money back. A few of the better ones sold at auction, some were hung in the foyer and stairwell of John’s building and the rest have gone to charity shops. She was a nice old thing and I just couldn’t bin them after all the effort she put in, not much talent but a lot of endeavour. A perfectly good vintage bevelled wall mirror was knocked by by Lifeline but was happily taken by the Sallie-Anns plus some nice china pieces. I noticed that everything there was spotless, the crystal positively shone, so I was impressed. If it were not for Covid I wouldn’t mind volunteering there.

Thinking back about John’s extreme reaction to the possibility of his new car being damaged by hail, it occurred to me that his other vehicles weren’t really ‘his’. The van belonged to the shop and the Suzuki was bought from his daughter as a favour to get her out of some financial scrape, so this car is perhaps the first one in many decades that was bought by him alone and was just his. Today we peeled off the pavers and wood and the many layers of protection in order to go to the Sallies and he said sheepishly ‘this was a bit ridiculous really’. Luckily my white Marcella quilt came out okay after going through the machine with a bit of bleach, so that saved his bacon. But we work on many levels and the old lizard brain is always there underneath, directing us in ways that aren’t necessarily logical but seem vitally important at the time. I know, I have been victim to it many times.

December 30, 2020

Well it seems Gladys’s insistence on accommodating people’s wishes to shop and socialise for Christmas has led us into totally predictable territory, with the virus popping up like Topsy all over the suburbs and even in Wollongong. The woman has private enterprise and commerce in her DNA and just can’t envisage doing anything just for the public good. We decided yesterday that we would spend today on a trip across the elevated road at Stanwell Park, down the coast to Wollongong for chish and fips at the beach there. But last night the Wollongong Covid hotspot was announced, including the beach, so we gave that a miss. Instead we took a drive up to Mt. Tomah Botanic Gardens where it was misty and rainy but glorious to be surrounded by all that green. On the way home we grabbed a delicious pie each from The Grumpy Baker at Bilpin, taking longer to fill in the QR code than to buy the pie. My reason for suggesting the drive yesterday was that I am forecasting another lockdown if Gladys doesn’t get real, so we may not have too many chances. Poor Davina and Louis took their annual holidays to spend with his mum, who couldn’t come down from Queensland, and now they are abiding by the suggestion that they go out only as necessary, unlike certain recalcitrant wedding guests which I won’t even mention in case my blood boils.

December 31, 2020

My bakery is closing for two weeks so we hared out to Dural and bought up as much bread as would fit into both our freezers. Later I cooked Kue Gula Merah or Palm Sugar Slice, which is about as dense with sugar as it is possible to get. Getting the palm sugar was an epic but I ended up finding it at the local Asian grocery store, happily in a pack size that was exactly what the recipe called for. It turned out fine and we repaired to Davina’s in the afternoon where she was prepping the Indonesian feast which we had for dinner, including a salad with homemade pickled veges and a homemade chilli sambal. Millie had been at Froebel, her pre-school, and it was her turn for show and tell. Did she take one of her Christmas toys? No she took a large and a small ball, to demonstrate how Ganymede travels around Jupiter. Ganywho? asked John, regretting that he hadn’t done astronomy at university. Millie didn’t countenance the possibility that we didn’t know the moons of Jupiter, but filled us in on the minor planets in order: Ceres, poor Pluto, Makemake, Haumea and Eris in case you were wondering. Why poor Pluto? because it used to be a planet so she feels sorry for it. I was super tired for some reason and, although I tried to stay up, crashed into bed at 9.30. John was coming to bed at 11.00 when he got a phone call from his neighbour, as is her want. It went to 11.30, so he stayed up to watch the fireworks. He is trying to set boundaries for acceptable times to phone and text. Good luck with that dear heart, I’ve given up. I find fireworks on television somewhat depressing, knowing what you are missing out on ruins it for me: no big bangs, no vibration, no all-around splendour, no smell of gunpowder, no thanks.

January 1, 2021

We decided over breakfast to tootle off for a few days next week. Tried a few places around Oberon to no avail, then went out to Mudgee with similar result. Still thinking about whether to persist or give it away. Beaches are a no-go obviously but I thought that the west might be a goer. I have been busy washing and ironing white linen from the storeroom with a view to keeping some and giving other bits to the sewing group, for example damaged tablecloths with plenty of lace that is still usable. Once I’ve washed, ironed and sorted all of the boxes, I intend to pull out all of the linen in my press and divest myself of some of it, either to friends (who wants it is the question?), old clients or at worst the Sallies. I have enough tablecloths to last a month changing them every day, probably more in fact, so I need to cull them down to maybe ten, in varying sizes and degrees of luxury. Will it happen? will I be able to divest? who knows. Surely the intent counts for something.

I did prawn cocktails with Marie Rose Sauce for lunch, working on my grandmother’s old saying ‘Start as you intend to continue’. Although I thoroughly enjoyed mine, John commented afterwards ‘Prawns are a bit overrated aren’t they?’ to which I answered that I would happily have eaten all of them and made him a cheese toastie. Like feeding strawberries to pigs, as my old friend Trevor used to say in such situations, but Trevor was a harsh person so I will be content with an eyeroll.

January 2, 2021

Spent some time yesterday looking up places to have a few days away. I tried Oberon but couldn’t get in, then Mudgee likewise. After eight attempts I had given up on the idea when I got an email back from Forgandenny House B and B at Mudgee to say they had had a cancellation and could do Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights next week. He said we needed to answer a questionnaire on arrival and get temps checked. Also said all bed linen is disinfected and high temp washed, plus daily cleaning of shared areas and mentioned we can have breakfast on the verandah at our own table if desired. So we thought it sounded as safe as you can reasonably get in the current circumstances and booked it. The house is 100 years old and packed full of antiques, now owned by the great granddaughter of the original owner Dr Charles Lester, a Mudgee local who was trained at Edinburgh University in medicine, pharmacy and dentistry and practised there for the rest of his life. We can do some local drives, packing our trusty Thermos and looking around the area. Yippee, thankyou for getting back to me Errol.

After getting no papers delivered at all last weekend we complained to both the SMH and The Saturday Paper and today the SMH landed half way down the drive. I suspect we have a paper thief, so I went out at 5.15 to retrieve it successfully. That gave me the opportunity to read all my Medium articles this morning before John even got up, so I am feeling pretty smug about that.

January 3, 2021

John decided that he wanted to deliver his grandchildren’s birthday presents before we go away as there’s been no response to his communications. S0 we went out to Dan’s mother’s place at Cranebrook to leave them there. She had, unbeknown to us, phoned Dan to say we were coming and he decided to bring the girls down to see John. It was great to see them for the first time in 13 months and obviously they had grown a lot, Aurora goes to high school this year. They are lovely girls and John was so pleased to finally see them. We always find out what’s going on when we see Lynne as she gets all her info from Dan, so it was helpful for John to know what is happening regarding Annabel’s treatment.

My bro rang and I asked if he had by chance got the vaccination yet. He said that his daughter Tanya looked at his phone and found two messages from the NHS telling him to ring for a vaccination appointment, he hadn’t checked his phone. She immediately rang but was told that supplies had run out and he will be contacted when they have stock again, but they didn’t know when. He knew to expect a message, they are doing the rollout by age, but still didn’t check his phone. What can I say?

January 4, 2021

Just looked up the weather forecast and it said ‘possible light rain in the afternoon, light winds’. It is 4 pm and teaming rain, with thunder like explosions, and blowing a gale. Just hoping it doesn’t hail on John’s car or else he will be tres en colere. This morning I loaded up the rolls of velvet, upholstery fabric etc along with some old embroidered tablecloths and doilies a bit the worse for wear, embroidery cottons, dress fabric and sewing bits and took them to Martha’s for her to deliver to the sewing group. She reiterated her invitation to join, despite my disinclination to sew, and suggested that my repeated donations would qualify me for admission. However the next meeting is on Wednesday and I am not inclined to go at the moment with Covid on the rise, however I have more stuff to donate so I might buy my way in another time. One scary aside re Covid is that the Berala BWS cluster was started by someone with no symptoms shopping there very briefly, giving it to the counter jockey who then gave it to his colleague. They both worked for 10 days straight, right over Christmas and New Year, with customers who were only there ‘fleetingly’ getting the virus. On this basis none of us is safe shopping anywhere. My friend only orders online and even then washes every item with metho as she unpacks it. On the BWS experience it appears she’s not extreme.

January 5, 2021

So Don Trumpone the Evil is now threatening his colleagues if they don’t ‘find me 11,780 votes’. It wouldn’t surprise me particularly if he trashes the White House when forced to leave. The ABC News and 7.30 Report give this major story the briefest possible coverage but have plenty of time to do a feel-good story on melting bread tags to make into bowls for charity! This is fine in itself but it could surely have waited for a low news day. I am forever amazed at what the ABC thinks is top priority; SBS is better but I can’t watch it because of the ads. The ABC often looks like a commercial news program without the ads. Come the Revolution, things will change, when I am installed head honcho at the ABC.

John’s Google maps on his phone hasn’t worked for a couple of weeks, well the map is there but it doesn’t speak. Davina and Louis had a go at it, then Phil said it seemed fine to him, then Arvind said to delete the app and reinstall it, but that made no difference. This morning I decided to download Waze instead, but it won’t talk either as the GPS connection isn’t working, so I rang Motorola and they said to turn the phone off and back on, no difference. A second call made it clear that they didn’t have a clue how to fix it and suggested that we post it to them, after which they would reset it, losing all the data. We gave up at this point, drove to the Good Guys and bought a Navman, thanks technology for wasting a day out of my life that I’ll never get back.

January 6, 2021

One thing that no-one seems to be talking about is certainly worrying me. If you take half a packet of antibiotics you are asking for antibiotic resistance to develop. If a whole lot of people do it you are almost guaranteeing that a mutation in the bacterium will happen. Likewise if the recommended gap between vaccination injections is 6 weeks or whatever and you increase the gap to 12 weeks in millions of people you are almost guaranteeing that the virus will mutate its way around the vaccine in that time. Especially an RNA vaccine which mutates so much faster than a bacterium. Why is no-one voicing concerns about the plan by Boris Johnson to do exactly this? It is not a medical decision but a political one to reassure the populace that everyone is going to get the vaccine. Is it like in Trumpland where no-one is game to disagree with the boss?

Happy packing for our Mudgee trip tomorrow, yippee trees and green stuff all around. Normally I would be disappointed that it wasn’t the beach but it’s hardly beach weather so I am just grateful to be going somewhere out of the city and it’s a bonus that it’s not a virus hotspot. The pesky thing is sliding northwards from Berala, now reaching  Wentworthville and Parramatta, once it crosses the river….we will be going back to online shopping only and full lockdown.

January 7, 2021

We had a breezy trip to Mudgee today with very little traffic. Amazed at the mile on mile of bushfire damaged trees through Bilpin, Bell and Lithgow, often as far as you can see in every direction, the animals wouldn’t have had a hope. Hard to believe that it was a year ago. Perhaps the roads were quiet because everyone was rivetted to the TV, watching the extraordinary events unfolding in Washington. I am not the least surprised, in fact I commented to a friend a week ago that I hoped they planned to beef up security for electoral college voting today and for the inauguration. Clearly they were woefully ill-prepared. It is terrifying to think of what other tricks he might have up his sleeve.

Forgandenny House is everything the website claims and more. Full of antiques and with vases of flowers from the extensive garden everywhere you look, including roses on my bedside table. Across the road from the river and a few blocks walk to town, it is ideal. Getting dinner here was no simple matter though. We had to leave our names on a wait list as all the eating places were booked out, on a Thursday night, I guess due to the extra space required by the Covid rules? We only entertained places with outdoor eating, but the indoor ones were packed as well. A light repast of Soft Shell Crab with Slaw was all I needed and proved excellent.

January 8, 2021

My goodness the breakfast here was something to write home about. A first course of apple and rhubarb crumble was unusual and delicious, followed by the full Monty for John of bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach while I had a modified version that was still more than I could eat. Then we went off to Gulgong, such a lovely little town. The Holtermann Collection was our focus there, a huge collection of photographs from glass plates taken over many years and depicting the area during the gold rush. They were found in the mid-fifties in the back shed of a property in Crows Nest belonging to his descendants. They didn’t know what they were and were glad when the State Library took over the crates of glass plates and saved them the trouble of getting them taken to the tip. Each business in town was photographed along with many bark huts and weatherboard houses replete with their residents standing proudly out the front. The photographer travelled to other gold fields and also cities such as Sydney where Holtermann eventually built a mansion at North Sydney with the proceeds of the famous Holtermann Nugget, a single piece of gold he unearthed, worth about $5.5 million in today’s money. The two-storey mansion with tower still exists, but is unrecognisable after being bricked up externally by the Anglican Church as part of its Sydney Church of England Grammar School. Barbarians in any language, I wonder if they tell their students about this travesty? Seeing photographs of this magnificent house makes it almost impossible to believe such a thing could have been done, but it was. Later we went to a couple of wineries, preferring the Yeates Winery to the others because of the warm welcome by Yeates family members and the fact that they had a non-alcoholic cordial for John to try, made from smoke damaged grapes, infused with wild strawberry leaves, pepper and oregano. Naturally we bought him a bottle.

January 9, 2021

Beginning the day with a banana, honey and pistachio smoothie is just the ticket, follow it with a poached pair in cinnamon and orange juice and the day is really going somewhere. After our enormous breakfast we headed off to Rylstone Markets but sadly it wasn’t on today, despite the tourist bureau’s assurances. However we enjoyed walking around and looking at the now unused railway station and the many historic buildings in the town. On to Kandos which used to have a big cement works and now appears to have nothing. Quite a drive then to Sofala, where we lunched in an open air rustic cafe, sharing a sandwich, and then chatted to a biker with the the biggest and flashest motorbike I have ever seen, namely an Indian, which I had never heard of but it is apparently big in that world. It had leather paniers with all the fringing you would expect on something called an Indian. The rider commented to John that he was staying at Sofala Gaol to which John replied ‘How appropriate’ which I thought was somewhat unwise considering the guy was a man mountain, but also unwise considering it was a sweeping judgment on bikers versus bikies. A little later we passed a house flying the Confederate flag and I surreptitiously took a pic, but John wandered over to the guy who was working in his garage and started a conversation about metalwork or something, after which I bravely joined in and commented on his garden. Trump was not brought up by either side. On again to Hill End, that wonderful almost deserted mining town from the Gold Rush, which now features Holtermann photographs at every building and every vacant block showing what business once lived there. Only about 20% of the town still exists (I am guessing here) but some buildings are empty and protected while a few houses are still occupied. I would have liked more time there but we had a dinner reservation for 7 pm and needed to get the 65 kilometres back to Mudgee. I could only manage an entree but hollow-legged John managed a meal of duck. So sad to be leaving this place tomorrow, there is still so much more to see.

January 10, 2021

After another superb meal this morning (smoked salmon, avocado, asparagus, tomato and corn cakes) we packed up and went off to a few wineries, choosing those where I had tried the wines over dinner while we’ve been here. There are so many here and no way to see them all, nor any inclination to do so, especially with a teetotaller. But we enjoyed the museum at Craigmoor Wines, owned by Robert Oatley Wines, which I love, though they don’t sell the wider range of Oatley wines made in Margaret River, the ones I particularly wanted. However they were able to point me towards a pub in Mudgee which stocks all their wines and I picked up five bottles there of the delicious cab sav, having failed to get any in the usual stores down here for quite some time. We also went to Mudgee Honey Haven and bought some of their products, but were perplexed to find when we got home that none of them have any ingredients listed, which is required by law. A flavoured honey should read for example: honey, cinnamon, but even the plain honeys don’t have any ingredient at all listed on the jar. I smell a rat and will contact them tomorrow. We had a bit of a scare when John realised he had forgotten to fill the car with petrol before we left Mudgee and when he remembered we still had 100 kilometres to go and the tank was near empty. Luckily there was a sole petrol station at Capertee, about 40 kms after the empty light came on. It was looking dire there for a while but we were in luck and didn’t run out. John said on the way home that Forgandenny was the best place he had ever stayed, quite a call.

January 11, 2021

This morning I did some work on food labelling and yes, all of the honey products we bought fail NSW Food Authority labelling laws on three counts: Description, list of ingredients and country of origin. Now this is not a big deal if bought at a fete, but this is a big company who should know better. We should know better too, but without glasses on and not looking at the small print you would never realise that they don’t mention the word ‘honey’, but just say Bush or Orange Blossom or whatever. Also there is no list of ingredients on any of them, even the blends, and no country of origin. I will ring them later and ask nicely why not. Later has come and gone and they haven’t yet answered their phone, tipped off by a blog reader no doubt.

Parnell McGuinness, hiss spit, wrote an op ed in yesterday’s Herald mentioning ‘Trump’s moderate supporters’ but this is a group I have not come across before. I wrote a letter to the SMH this morning saying ‘perhaps it wouldn’t take up many column inches for her to name them individually’. Lately I have had a long bad run of getting letters published and without local papers, where I used to have a 100% success rate (to fill column inches between the ads), it seems the world is happy to go on without my personal opinions on everything under the sun. However I shall keep writing.

Three months ago I went to a specialist at St. Vincents about a lump in the bowel. He said he didn’t know what it was and couldn’t tell without surgery, but suggested we wait three months to see if it went away. The answer today was no, but as he said ‘we could be having this conversation again in three or six months and my answer may be the same, that I don’t know. But if it is cancer, one of the possibilities, we would be kicking ourselves’. So reluctantly from both sides he decided it needs surgery to know one way or the other, and he booked me in for February 3, ho hum, life’s never simple. Like Bob he is a reluctant interventionist, has bulked billed me for both consultations and made a point of saying he will do the op in the private wing to get in sooner but charge just the Medicare rebate. I think he likes me and I certainly like him.

January 12, 2021

Technology woes. St. Vincent’s Hospital does all their admissions online now so I was given a website address to do the job. It accepted my name, address, phone etc but when it came to a validation code in order to enter a medical history the site keeps telling me the code that they’ve texted me is invalid. Repeatedly. So I rang the hospital and the techie people can’t make it work either and as I don’t have a printer they are now posting me the forms, which I could easily have filled out with pen and paper yesterday. A computer glitch she told me, I hope any operating theatre computers are working a little better.

The honey saga continues: No-one has replied to my very pleasant email or phone message. So I rang the NSW Apiarists Association, the peak body, who were shocked that honey is being sold unlabelled and said ‘unscrupulous people dilute honey with glucose or rice syrup and that’s a very good reason not to list ingredients on the label, however both are illegal’. He told me to ask for an email confirming they are selling pure honey and also asking for an ingredient list for the other products which are blended. He was pretty cross and said if that is not supplied I should report them to the NSW Government Food Labelling Authority! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but it is understandable that they are looking after their members’ interests.

On the early news this morning there was an interview with an author recommending escapist books to read at the moment and it seemed there was a consensus that we need them. The ones they recommended, cheesy love stories and their ilk, sounded enough to depress me more than watching the current news. One of the first books I read back in March was a lengthy tome on coming plagues from interaction with wild animals, followed by The Plague by Camus. If we are living through a one in a hundred year plague then perhaps we should acknowledge that and flow with it, experiencing it fully, unpleasant as it may be at times. One day some of us at least will look back on this and remember how it was: the lockdowns, the testing tents, the masks, the deep cleaning, the deaths, the premiers bickering. This process will not be helped by reading love stories I wouldn’t have thought. This is not to say we can’t have fun or enjoy the sun or our garden or travel or reading for that matter, but reading specifically to forget seems a waste of these amazing times to me.

January 13, 2021

Technology woes 2: The hospital sent the forms to John for him to print, then I was to fill them in and post them back, but last night I decided to give the online version one last try and bingo! the validation code worked. So I filled in all the personal stuff, 2 pages, then got onto the medical history questions. On page 2 of 9 it suddenly decided to stop working, just after the kidney questions, perhaps it got sick of my constant NO to every possible disease known to man that they were asking about. I emailed my previous helper, Loretta  in the patient services department, to ask if she could give it a push from her end but so far, no response. I am determined to finish the damned thing online now that I’ve got this far.

Huzzah!!! 24 hours after first starting the online admission form it is completed and sent, after phone help from Chloe at St. V’s.  Poor Chloe had to ask the questions and enter them at her end but then my screen suddenly bumped back into action. There were about 20 questions just relating to Covid symptoms. I deserve and shall have a nice cup of tea in celebration, since I’ve just vowed that I only drink two glass of alcohol a week I won’t open the Moet put in the fridge for Christmas.

A man has punched a security guard who asked his wife to wear a mask in a shopping centre, another man intervened to help the guard and got stabbed in the leg by the puncher. Where did this happen? Windsor, of course it was Windsor, right opposite my old shop, where people just go by different rules than the rest of Sydney. A friend who used to lecture at the Australian Catholic University told me years ago that his colleague in the History Department had written a paper suggesting that many of the the good folk of Windsor have a different attitude to the law because of its past as a convict settlement and it didn’t surprise me one bit.

January 14, 2021

I’ve been thinking back about the various crimes people casually mentioned in the shop over the years, of course drugs was a common and consistent one, but there was the fellow who told me that the mechanic’s quote to fix his car was ridiculous, so he pushed it over a cliff in the bush and then reported it stolen and claimed the insurance. One stylish female customer who lived in a beautiful historic home overlooking the golf course was married to a famous ‘fixer’ who broke people’s legs for a price if they owed money to the wrong people. She was lovely and her husband remained undiscussed. He was arrested in the year that I left the business so he may very well be in gaol now, but he’d been doing that work for decades, going back at least as far as the Loveboat scandal involving Labor politicians in the 80s. However there was a funny sort of ‘honour amongst thieves’ thing happening too. When my shop was burgled I was given the name of the out-of-town burglar by one of the locals who said ‘he had no right coming in here and stealing from you’. I passed on the name to the police and sure enough he was found with the goods and convicted. It really is the Wild West out there, I rarely mention it as it had to be experienced to be believed.

Today I was pleased to give my next door neighbours some chilis from my prolific bush, to mend some more linen (even though I don’t yet know whether I’ll keep it or give it away), to get a call from Sue saying she will come down tomorrow and stay overnight and to fill in my Sydney Morning Herald Weekly Poll, which used to be called Herald Insiders, but that must have sounded elitist so they’ve changed the name. Worth getting up I think.

January 15, 2021

Made another pav, they seem to happen once a month lately, luckily not more because I will always eat the leftovers, though I do try to keep the serving size small and add heaps of extra fruit. We had a Zoom call with John’s sister-in-law in California and talked Covid, Trump  and family politics, good for John to have someone to download to. Sue came in the afternoon and we polished off a good bottle of red over dinner, nice to have someone here to share a drink with, I never feel justified in opening a bottle on my own. We had salmon with salads for dinner and I messed up the coleslaw by accidentally shredding on the wrong setting of the Kitchen Wizz. Instead of looking nice and crisp and chunky it looked a bit of a soft mess, so I beat myself up for wasting half a lovely red cabbage, red onion, carrots and celery. I was shredding away without looking at what was ending up in the bowl. Anyway Sue claimed it as delicious and it didn’t put her off a second helping. We sat up chewing the fat and sorted some of the world’s problems and a few of our own. The plan for the next book group meeting at Sue’s may be stymied by the regulations, currently a maximum of five people to visit a home, but we discussed the possibility of having the whole shebang at the beach outdoor cafe, which has a maximum of thirty under the rules. We shall see, anything could happen in that two weeks.

January 16, 2021

We had another Zoom with John’s niece who is a vet and ‘bureau chief’ in the Food and Agriculture Department in California and when I mentioned the gorillas getting Covid at the San Diego Zoo she commented that ‘yes it was our department who went down and did the testing’. She gave us an insight into how such things are done with gorillas and also with infected lions and tigers from another zoo. Fascinating stuff. Her sister is an emergency doctor married to another in the same profession, specialising in pulmonary matters, so they are flat out dealing with Covid. He is especially in demand putting people on ventilators. How absolutely soul destroying to be losing so many patients but how uplifting to be able to save some as well. I so hope they both stay well.

Today Millie arrived for her first ‘sleep over at grandma’s’ in fact her first sleepover anywhere without her parents. She requested it over Christmas and today was the day. After dinner she asked if we could go on a ‘nature walk’ around the garden, choosing ‘things for a collection’. They had to be delivered to the back door where John was the curator, accepting the finds. She was very specific about our roles ‘John is to watch us from the back deck’, and each time she found a leaf, or feather or piece of bark she rushed up the back steps calling ‘I’ve got nature John’ and handed them to him singly. She wanted tomato sauce with her meat for dinner but I don’t buy it, so I made up a mix of tomato passata with a bit of brown sugar and put it in a bowl. ‘Mmm’ she said, ‘I think I prefer the one we have at home’, but this was even before tasting it, out of the bottle was more trustworthy apparently. Davina and Louis had an interesting night in a multi-storey hotel when in the middle of the night a siren screaming EVACUATE EVACUATE woke them up. Thinking it to be a false alarm, they were soon proved wrong when the hall was full of smoke. They couldn’t get the Fire Door open and had to reluctantly go down in the lift, against all normal advice. They stood in the street for two hours while the firies sorted the fire, breaking down the door in a room across the hall from them, apparently it was caused by someone leaving a plastic bag on a cooktop. But who’s frying plastic bags in the middle of the night? They are not planning a return visit and Dav informed the firies about the fire stairs being inaccessible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 6

April 1, 2020

Not making any April Fools calls today, I think we are all the April Fools for trusting our governments to protect us from what was always just over the horizon. As I wrote here in January: ‘I continue to shake my head at the lacklustre Australian response to the corona virus outbreak. While the scientists are doing amazing work, as usual, the policy makers and their publicists stumble along. Potential pandemics, as this clearly is, need action that is both strong and meteorically fast’. Luckily for their residents Singapore understood this and acted accordingly, including having a fully stocked 300 bed pandemic hospital sitting empty, waiting for just this occurrence. Had we had a similar hospital set up (and we can afford it) we would now have it occupied by those initially infected, with no community transference occurring.  But experts like Prof Raina McIntyre, who workshopped this eventuality with international colleagues in a week long conference just last November, were ignored. As usual the government gets off scot free and the populace pays bigtime for their mistakes, pays in lives and pays in money, more money than ever we could have imagined. A stitch in time Scotty, didn’t your mother ever tell you that proverb?

One of John’s ex priest mates helpfully sent around to their group Pope Francis’s Urbi et Orbi Vatican speech, retelling the story of Jesus sleeping in the helm of a little boat when it hit rough weather. The disciples woke him in a panic and he replied famously ‘why are you afraid, oh ye of little faith’. Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm. Perhaps they won’t be expecting his reply: ‘I’m not going to read any nonsense about Jesus and corona virus. If Jesus is in charge, why did he let it happen in the first place? Stay safe boys. The only people who are going to save us from this plague are ourselves and our wonderfully skilled and dedicated health professionals.’ He has certainly left that culture waaay behind.

April 2, 2020

I was looking forward to gardening this morning but a neighbour across the road, who obviously doesn’t smoke inside and pads the pavement with her cancer sticks, was on the prowl. She came over straight away and gave me her news ‘Did you know that between 5 and 14% of people carry coronavirus naturally in their blood, so what we are seeing is all the false positives from those people and we are being kept inside as a result?’. It is so true what Elizabeth used to tell me in the shop, I thought: ‘You are a crazy magnet’. So I gently disagreed with her and her retort was: ‘Yes most women would agree with you but men see through what we are being told’. Ah, not only unscientific I am, but a woman to boot. Then she went on about vaccination not being the answer, so I suggested that we do nothing and let it rip, killing off the weak and susceptible. She was nodding in agreement when I remembered I had left something on the stove…..  Shit, I can’t even go into my front garden in peace now.

I was thinking about which things we are loath to give up in our current situation and how we are altering our lives in regards to consumables. I am certainly using up all the stuff that was too good or too new to be used, so the packets of bath salts and lip gloss and chutney in pretty packaging that I had been gifted over time are being ripped open and used. Treats like the more expensive Kumato brand of tomatoes, black skinned beauties, are now bought despite their higher price. (This is both a taste and an aesthetic choice, they look sooo beautiful that I smile as I put them on crackers for lunch). However there are some things I refuse to give up such as Epicure cheese, which Kevin managed to score for me at Coles North Rocks today, and which was home delivered by Michelle. (She asked me for self-raising flour that he couldn’t get, but sadly I was out as well). At this stage of the pandemic I simply decline to eat any other cheddar, though I realise that may have to change one day. Likewise Chux, I could have bought purple ones but am hanging out for blue or green to tone with all my crockery and kitchenware, but if I must buy purple in extremis they will need to be kept inside a cupboard, wet or not. Similarly bread, bought from a good bakery, will be among the last things I surrender, Tip Top will not be entering this humble abode until we are barred from leaving our homes and have the doors welded shut. Which is not out of the question I have to say.

April 3, 2020

John’s neighbour, who has now lost her job and in the past occasionally caused us to connect our heads to the wall forcefully, has come into her own in this crisis. First she insisted that she do all his shopping as well as things like going to the Post Office or to the chemist for scripts. She also has him on a short lead, ringing him if she hears his garage door going up to ask ‘why are you going out?’. Yesterday his excuse that he was off to get a flu vaccination apparently passed muster and he was allowed to proceed. Davina has decided that because of my immune system issues I am taking too many risks by going out shopping at all, even walking to the corner IGA for milk as I told her I was going to do this arv. So they will deliver for me tomorrow and after that I will use priority delivery from Woolies, current wait 2 weeks! The jaws of the coronavirus trap are closing slowly but surely.Going to Bob’s surgery was certainly different, with patients needing to line up outside for temperature checks and symptoms quizzes, only allowed in at the exact appointment time. Then Bob did our injections himself because ‘I don’t want you sitting in the waiting room with sick people until the nurse can see you’. We go back in 2 weeks to have the Pneumovax, of course not effective for coronavirus, but preventative for 23 types of bacteria that could cause bacterial pneumonia as a complicating factor.

It occurs to me that coronavirus could very well equal creeping socialism. Whereas weeks ago the government called the idea of subsidised pre-school education ‘communism’ they have now made it altogether free. Jobseekers were dole bludgers, now they are suffering Australians. The idea of evicting unemployed tenants is not on, hoarding is infra dig when once it would have been boosting the economy, private hospitals are being temporarily taken over by the government, discussions of nationalisations abound, soldiers are helping manufacture needed supplies. Well I never, so it’s true that every cloud has a silver lining.

April 4, 2020

We all need something to look forward to and my thing at the moment was Mondays when I ventured out, early and briefly, to buy those things that I can’t order in. But both my daughters are of the view that I am playing Russian Roulette. So today Davina, Louis and Millie turned up with a heap of groceries on the proviso that I don’t even walk down to the corner IGA in future. I know a number of others in the same situation, including John whose neighbour keeps him honest, watching out her window to ensure compliance. I think I probably need that policing as I am already thinking wistfully of Monday, oh the bakery…..and what about KOI where my weary carcass has not been sighted in all of two months? Not dead though, so there’s that.

One good thing about the current situation for me is that I am now using all the things that were ‘too good to use’ or had to be held back for some impending emergency… so this evening I used the Molton Brown bubble bath left over from our last visit to Treasury on Collins and stepped into my best fancy hotel pyjamas, now known as my everyday pyjamas. Pity you weren’t here to smell and to see but there you are.

April 5, 2020

Spoke to my bro last night and as usual he is the most un-medical person I’ve ever come across. Doesn’t have any interest whatsoever, even when it pertains to him and he doesn’t ask questions when he goes to the doc. Have you had a flu vax? ‘I don’t know.’ He’d told me his daughter brings groceries twice a week but I know a lot of it goes to feed squirrels and foxes…..and he has a cold. Okay, so you’ve not been going out? No I haven’t he says, apart from getting the bus into Halifax last week. Telling him that it might not be just a cold is a complete waste of time. He did mention though that the daughter who works in a Bupa nursing home has complained that they have no protective equipment. None at all? I asked. That’s what she said, he replied. This is the daughter coming twice a week with groceries, but I can do nothing from here I’ve decided, apart from gritting my teeth and ringing more often. The saddest thing I’ve heard in the last few days, and we are all hearing plenty, was the black American bus driver complaining in a Facebook post about the woman on the bus who had coughed all over him. I must admit I had been concerned about the fact that during the post he was constantly wiping sweat from his face and it’s not particularly hot anywhere in the US right now. I actually looked up temps in various places in the hope I would find a heat wave somewhere, but no. It was a giveaway that he wasn’t well, but I tried to imagine he’d just had the bus heater turned up, sadly no. Three days later he was dead. The story today of Ged Kearney’s father-in-law was sobering. He had panic bought and they had teased him for filling the cupboards for just him and his wife. But he had ventured out to the shops, just twice, and that was enough for infection and death. How unlucky can you be? It’s a tenacious little bastard this virus, you have to give it that.

April 6, 2020

It is a funny thing but the more I am restricted in what I can do, the more I think of to write about when I sit down at the computer. Anyway one funny thing is that I noticed that the latest script for hydroxychloroquine, Donald Trump’s purported cure for coronavirus, which I have been taking on and off for 8 years is marked ‘take in the morning with food’. I always take it at night so, being a curious person, I asked Dr Google why I should change and the answer came back that it can cause nightmares which is less likely if it’s taken in the morning. Ah, I have had a few nasty ones lately so I will be trying something that simple to avoid another.

I am having increasing doubts about NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. He was Mr Nice-and-Helpful early on but now he seems to be enjoying the spotlight a tad too much and I worry that he may be becoming Commissioner Full-of-Himself. His blustering about Carnival Cruises indicates that perhaps he’s already holding them responsible for the Ruby Princess disaster, even before the ‘criminal investigation’ into the matter has barely begun. Can anyone really believe that he will find his boss, the NSW Government, was responsible? Or the woman who appointed him, Gladys Berejiklian? The government clearly knows where the blame lies and if it wanted us to know it would have appointed someone outside of its sphere of influence. My money is on Carnival being called out as the culprit, regardless.

April 7, 2020

I was curious as to how I made the mistake of not reading the label on the drug I take which the script now says must be taken in the morning. But I found a repurposed bottle and it simply says to take one a day, so no-one had told me otherwise. It gives me the creeps that it is working on my brain and thinking as well as whatever else (perhaps I can use this as an excuse for something down the line) but I didn’t have a nightmare last night so that’s an improvement. I had put them down to a subconscious anxiety about coronavirus, which I think I am handling reasonably well at a conscious level. I teared up though when I heard that Boris Johnson had gone to intensive care. He is a goose, but to get to that position which he’s aimed for his whole life, and which his father also coveted, only to be struck down at the peak of his powers is mammoth. His statements about only having mild disease showed how totally out of his depth he was/is about the course of this virus, the progression of which basically seems to fall into three phases: Week 1, mild symptoms for almost everyone Week 2, either progression to serious disease or gradual improvement Week 3, either deterioration to ventilation and possible death or else recovery. Clearly he just didn’t understand the thing when he happily admitted to shaking hands with victims, but ignorance shouldn’t bring a death sentence. The chief health officer of Scotland has been sacked for twice retreating to her holiday cottage against their current laws and also the health minister of New Zealand has barely escaped sacking for going out bike riding on one occasion and for taking his family on a bushwalk, after a drive 20 km from home, on another. NZ’s PM has promised punishment and says he deserves to be sacked but she can’t put in a new health minister in the middle of a pandemic. These people were both responsible for giving out the segregation message publicly, as was Boris, but it just shows the delusion that the rules don’t apply above a certain rank. Which brings me in a natural segue to Pell. I grieve for his victims, including those who came forward last week in the last episode of Revelation. No-one could ever look at their faces and see a liar, just as the jury said about the victim at Pell’s trial. But he could afford the best of barristers, and as I have seen happen many times before, the best of barristers can get a defendant walking swiftly out the door scot free as John Marsden did a few times for Ivan Milat. The serial killer didn’t slow down afterwards, such was his compulsion to kill, but Marsden gave him the opportunity to go on to murder many more. John Marsden said he had always been plagued by his decision to represent Milat on rape charges in the 1970s, saying on his deathbed that the backpackers might be alive today if Milat had not been acquitted. Solicitors and barristers are between a rock and a hard place in representing people they know or suspect are guilty and Marsden took his own responsibility to his grave.

April 8, 2020

Some silliness in a sea of death and misery can only be a good thing, right? So I set my mind to finally deciding between my two toy boy candidates of the moment, Hamish Macdonald from the ABC (yes I know he’s gay, but I don’t choose to complicate matters) and Chris Moller of Grand Designs NZ. The problem is that on Monday nights Hamish is far away the winner, but then I watch an old episode with Chris and I’m back with him. What a lovely problem to be having.

I’m currently reading Thomas Keneally’s novel Three Cheers for the Paraclete from 1968, one of two he wrote based on his time at St Patrick’s Seminary in Manly. Of course this is where John studied and he tells me that Keneally’s novels were well reviewed at the time but considered exaggerated, one review in the Bulletin reading ‘this is a metaphysical novel about a place that couldn’t possibly exist’, despite the fact that the characters were based on real people whom the seminarians could identify by name and the setting describes the seminary in detail. I go from grinning to sadness as he explains the dark, confined, narrow and oppressive surroundings and the people, who can be portrayed by the same words. Very much enjoying the book and I think I appreciate it more now than I would have when it was written, due to John’s horrific tales of the place. On the subject of Catholicism, I’ve read a fair bit over time about Pope Francis and tried to understand his difficult struggles with the Curia, but his indecent haste in coming out with support for Pell means I’ve written him off now and won’t waste my time and sympathy on him in future. Francis did not mention Pell by name at mass, but compared the suffering of those inflicted with “unjust sentences” to the way Jewish community elders persecuted Jesus with “obstinacy and rage even though he was innocent”, adding “let us pray together today for all those persons who suffer due to an unjust sentence because someone had it in for them”, so it didn’t take a seer to read his meaning. Dead to me now Franky boy, you’ve shown your true colours.

April 9, 2020

I woke up this morning completely oblivious to the fact that it was Easter as of tomorrow. I had thought all the Easter holiday warnings were in advance of next weekend. So I was more than a little pissed off, no Simnel cake made, no seafood or treats of any sort procured. I phoned John who didn’t know either but couldn’t care less, then the other phone rang and it was Michelle who told me she was shortly going up to the seafood market at Castle Towers. So the hand of something, ‘god’ or fate or serendipity or Lady Luck will do as explanation in this instance, pushed Michelle into the breach and not long after I was the adoring owner of one whole trout, some giant green prawns and 4 pieces of excellent barramundi. That should see Easter out with the trout baked for Saturday lunch with all the trimmings. I have been eating from my liberal stock of veggies all week so some seafood will go down very nicely. I had even sorted an order from the bakery for next week, thinking that it would cover me for Easter weekend, but I’ll let that stand now.

April 10, 2020

I’ve been waiting for a rainy day, and a few showers was close enough, to replant the naturally occurring Hypoestes plants that have self seeded along my driveway. These are the pretty shade-loving guys that look as if someone has splashed pink housepaint on them accidentally. I had two plants appear a couple of years ago down my driveway near the garage apparently from seeds washed under the fence from next door, but they don’t like the full heat of summer so I transplanted them into the front garden where they are doing much better. But now I have about a dozen more of them coming up from where I removed the first two, so this morning I moved every second one to the front and I will give the others a chance to remain where they are with some help by watering them in hot times. Love these donations from the universe so I will try to help them survive. After that I went out for a walk, which is tres ennuyeux in this area, and living on a ridge means a climb back up from wherever you go, which I suppose is a good thing in one way. But it goes to show what I have always thought, that if you can afford it you should live in an area of natural beauty such as along the beach or harbour or in the mountains because you have your recreation right at hand. Next life I am definitely doing that.

Decided to do Jamie Oliver’s Baked Whole Trout served with a potato, pea and broad beans combo with mustard sauce. The recipe is supposed to have a whole bunch of mint but sadly every time mine gets healthy some mint-coloured grubs descend on it and the whole bush gets eaten to soil level overnight, so perhaps it will be a bit bland I’m thinking now. More research may be needed for a new accompaniment. Bloody virus puts paid to everything when you can’t go to the shops or even ask your neighbours. Bah humbug.

April 11, 2020

The universe provided again in the form of Heather who rang for no reason (love people who ring for no reason) so I was able to ask if she had mint and yes, she had a motza. I said I would drive over to get it but she offered a bicycle delivery courtesy of her husband David, so that happened this morning just as I started the food prep for lunch. We lit a candle, in the middle of the day no less, had a lace tablecloth and cloth serviettes and really enjoyed the trout with an unusual veggie combination of potato, broad beans, peas, lettuce and mint, all served with a yogurt based horseradish sauce followed by baked custard and hot stewed plums. John then went for a SCAN, a senior citizens afternoon nap. I think coronavirus is knocking him around more than it is me, not the isolation, which he quite likes, but the fear factor.

I had trouble sleeping last night due to a silly thing, but the sort of thing that always leaves me wakeful. Yesterday I had a call from John’s closest friend about identification of the timbers on the mantelpieces in his Federation house. He mentioned that John had sent him an extract from my blog a few days ago regarding George Pell. John doesn’t normally read the blog, but was interested in looking at anything I wrote about Pell so I sent him just that day. His friend then mentioned that he’d seen a good interview from Sky News with Father Frank Brennan, a longtime defender of Pell in this case. He asked if I would read it (I haven’t as yet) and I see it popped into my inbox immediately after. Part of the interview deals with Brennan’s assertion that the accuser was defending his dead mate who was actually abused by someone else, somewhere else, not in the cathedral at all. In other words he was trying to punish the church by punishing Pell. I don’t know the source of his evidence for this but will look at the interview in due course. My lack of sleep was engendered by the fact that John’s friend is a beautiful person, intelligent, a deep thinker, yet he is in my opinion grasping at straws to find Pell innocent and if he of all people is doing that, then so many others in John’s circle are likely doing it too. I mentioned all the other accusers but he let that go and seemed locked onto this interview as evidence of innocence. It just made me feel disturbed and unutterably sad.

April 12, 2020

Night time is thinking time and a thought suddenly came upon me at 2am: Don Harwin, who was until yesterday a NSW government minister, is now a backbencher after being found in breach of current regulations regarding staying at one’s primary residence. He was sequestered at his holiday home on the coast, apparently in the company of a man recently returned from the UK, another breach if true. But what came to me was his physical presence: he has fairly suddenly become fat, not fat all over though, but just fat around the middle, something like a child’s swim ring. It didn’t seem quite right when I replayed in my mind the pictures of him being interviewed yesterday. Fat doesn’t float around when you walk and his did. So I think it is not fat at all but ascites, that dreaded accumulation of fluid that comes with cirrhosis or abdominal cancer or end stage heart failure. The latter is ruled out by his walking ability, but I think he could be in real trouble medically. I hope for his sake though that I’m proved in time to be talking through my hat. That happened once before, I think in 1970?

April 13, 2020

I finally got to looking at Frank Brennan’s interview on Sky News and replying to the friend who recommended it. A brief excerpt is as follows:

“Firstly, neither you, nor I, nor Frank Brennan heard the evidence of the complainant in all of this. The only ones who did were the judge and 12 members of the jury. Pell chose not to defend himself, as is his right. The Appeal Court and the High Court were discussing matters of law, not only matters of guilt. Secondly, he says that the witnesses for Pell and his movements had ‘no skin in the game’ which to me is a nonsense. Monsignor Portelli, the main defence witness in regard to Pell’s movements in the cathedral was an old friend and colleague. For five years he spent time as Pell’s ‘driver, editor, ghost-writer, ceremony-preparer and proof-reader’ and he and Pell worked together from Thursday to Sunday for 50 weeks a year, with Portelli putting onto computer all of Pell’s handwritten speeches because Pell is a technophobe. Hardly someone with ‘no skin in the game’ as he has frequently described himself as a close friend. The Appeal Court judges found that ‘in our view the jury were entitled to have reservations about the reliability of Portelli’s answers under cross-examination.'”

Somehow just typing about this stuff makes me want to have a shower. Everyone will choose which court to trust, but he has had his day thrice and as the lyrics of the old song declares “Now don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad”. Here endeth the Pell discussion.

April 14, 2020

Just finished reading Me, Myself and Lord Byron (2011) by Julietta Jameson, a sometime travel writer and journalist. My neighbour across the road lent it to me, I took it reluctantly, but I’d mark it as a fail. Her writing skills are not in question, and she is particularly candid about her own shortcomings, but I was underwhelmed and wondered if Elizabeth Gilbert read this before writing her book Eat, Pray, Love (2016) which was similarly underwhelming. They both have something for everyone: failed love affair, travel, spirituality, new love affair….but pretty boring for all of that. The concept is suspiciously similar, a midlife crisis solved by a trip which shows the writers that they were pretty much alright before they set out. More interesting was Audience of One, written by chief NYT film and TV critic James Poniewozik, in which he examines the last 40 years of American media and relates it to the phenomenon known as Donald J. Trump, the ‘volcanic, camera-hogging antihero’. Some of the early references were lost on me, partly because I knew all the names of the shows but hadn’t taken enough notice of them to fully understand the characters mentioned, but later when the focus was closer to Trump’s campaign and election I was more attuned to it when he talked of Fox News etc. It appears little Trump watched endless TV in his mansion as a kid, often with his father, including hour after hour of Billy Graham Crusades which, having seen old Billy perform in person, would be enough to warp anyone for life. So the author postulates that Trump is lead character in his own imagined ‘raging, farcical reality show’, still wanting to yell ‘You’re fired!’ as he famously did in The Apprentice, something he does with monotonous regularity in the White House with each appointment worse than the last. I am predicting that even Fox News will peel away from him in coming months, not wanting to be seen as a laughing stock along with the 45th President. I must make a list of these predictions somewhere so I can gloat if they come about and confine them to junk if they don’t.

April 15, 2020

Each day I am trying to cook a mildly ambitious meal, something new from a recipe I hadn’t got around to trying for example, and also make a staple of some sort. Yesterday it was houmous, today it was rock cakes. One of my favourite small cakes, made from the same recipe for about 50 years, yet they turn out slightly differently very time, from dry and needing butter to moist and delicious as they were today. Oh and I also boiled and mashed and froze a lot of potatoes that I had here, because John got his first online grocery order yesterday and it included two huge bags of same, perhaps he ordered two potatoes I don’t know, but he is bringing up one of those huge bags to me tomorrow as a result. Potato curry, potato bread, potato whatever is on the menu from tomorrow on.

Spoke to my bro in England again last night, something we do frequently of late. His libertarian streak means that he’s ignoring the stay at home advice and doing his own shopping, both at the supermarket and at the corner shop, though he rails about having to wait outside till someone else comes out. Isolation suits him very well as a loner and a thinker and a reader, he is very happy with his own company, even complaining about the weekly visit by his daughter and her husband because they stayed for an hour and a half. I know he would have been itching for their departure but not showing a thing on the surface, I’ve seen it all before, ‘Bloody hell I thought they’d never go!’ I sometimes wonder how many people really know the man that I know, I suspect maybe one other, but certainly not his children. His final comment was that the shutdown was ridiculous and they should just let the virus rip to save the economy and let those who die die, ‘people die every day, so what’s the difference?’. I didn’t waste my breath, I have to be in the mood to argue which I often do, but not last night.

April 16, 2020

John rang at 8.30 am to say that he’d be here shortly as he only had to have a shower and then wash up. At 1 pm he rocked up, by then I was near starvation but I had cheese and salad sambos and rock cakes at the ready. Had a long discussion about the Pell matter and my ongoing correspondence with his best friend around it. He had commented little so far and admitted that he sees his lack of belief and his friend’s enduring belief as a ‘gulf between them’ which meant he didn’t want to enter into the debate with him, despite being CC’d into all our emails. Interesting, but typical, in that he doesn’t want to rock the boat with close friends and family and admit to views that they may find unpalatable, though he would argue those same views enthusiastically with anyone else. Later we toddled off to Bob’s to get our pneumovax injections, lately when we go I keep trying to stand up and go but Bob always has more stories to tell or jokes to share and is in no hurry to see the back of us. I suspect we are a welcome relief to the horde of worried well who came at the beginning of the pandemic wanting to be reassured that they won’t get coronavirus, plus of course the fact is there are very few patients game to enter a medical centre now. For us it was a huge social occasion, masked up and sanitised, his surgery is the only place we’ve gone together since March 12. We are very lucky that when we get there it appears that Bob feels the same way about the get-together.

April 17, 2020

Had a Facetime talk with Millie this morning but she was much more interested once I asked if she wanted to speak to John. Carly has adopted a desexed and immunised feral cat through an organisation that traps the kittens and rehomes them. Though she’s 11 months old, she has been absolutely traumatised by the move from her foster mother’s home and has been under furniture, neither eating nor drinking, since Wednesday afternoon, poor little mite.

I read a novel in one night this week and although it was short, only 186 pages, I couldn’t have stopped reading even if I’d wanted to. Cormac McCarthy is a favourite of mine, The Road and No Country for Old Men being just two of my favourites. All of his novels are bleak, but boy this one was the darkest, not of course in terms of numbers of people affected in the tale, The Road takes the prize for that, but certainly by the depths of human experience he trawls. Shocking doesn’t come anywhere near to explaining it, perhaps horrifying, disturbing, grisly, terrifying, overwhelming might come closer. Certainly not one for my book group, many of whom favour more uplifting or edifying fare, but as a chilling narrative of someone cut off from society and eventually from societal norms, it’s a ripper. Too believable in fact.

April 18, 2020

I’m ropable after reading about a guy with practices in Canberra and Bowral who is claiming cures for coronavirus. Bill Giles is the dude’s name and when I looked at his website last night I almost levitated. Firstly he explains that the coronavirus is just ‘one of your everyday cold viruses’ which can be treated with echinacea, vitamin C, olive leaf extract, colloidal silver, multivitamins etc etc, all of which he conveniently sells of course. But he goes on, ‘the single most important thing to do is to avoid all grains’, ‘plus drink warm water or tea’ with occasional ‘small nips of brandy’. On his website he throws in cancer and autoimmune diseases as his specialties and claims to be a ‘clinical immunologist’, but he has no, nada, zip, zero medical training at all. Why didn’t I hang out a shingle decades ago I ask myself? This guy’s been in business 30 years. How can these people get away with it? But they seem to until someone is killed by following their advice, then they get sent home with a slap on the wrist. Did I say that I’m angry? It’s taking me all my time not to ring him and if I do it won’t be pretty and I’ll bet I’d be the one charged, for harassment.

Back in the real world, in a Boston homeless shelter officials decided to do testing and the results caught them, and the CDC, off guard. Of the 397 people tested, 146 people were positive. Not a single one had any symptoms. This is a terrifying set of statistics as it means that the underground infection level in the US could be massive. Whether these folks are spreading the virus remains to be seen, but it is quite possible that they are. Meanwhile Trump tweets in support of those demonstrating against the lockdowns. Perhaps this is social Darwinism in action, survival of the fittest and the rest can go to hell.

April 19, 2020

I’ve been noticing a difference in my huge gum tree in the back yard lately. The leaves are a paler green than usual, there are masses of flower buds on every branch and whole dead branches have been dropping out of the tree for no apparent reason, each loaded with buds. The latter fact lulled me into a false sense of security as I thought it must be healthy if it’s producing flowers, right? Well wrong it seems. As I have a good relationship with the horticulturist at a nearby nursery I rang him and explained the problem. Ah, severe stress he said, you need to call in an arborist to cut it back by 10%. Okay, so Arvind has a very good arborist and I rang him yesterday afternoon, luckily for me he wasn’t far away and offered to come within the hour. Halfway down the drive he looked up and said ‘that tree’s in a mortality spiral’, a phrase I’d never heard before. Apparently when a tree thinks it’s going to die it produces heaps more seeds in the hope that it can at least reproduce its kind by seed, so my positive view of the flower buds was sadly awry. When mature trees are exposed to stress from environmental factors, wounding, pest infestations or other causes, growth rate slows and the declining tree has less growth, smaller and paler leaves, abnormally heavy crops of seed and branch dieback. Tick, tick, tick, tick. He believes the cause is twofold, the drought and particularly the building of units at the back of my property a few years back, effectively removing a third of the tree’s roots in the deep excavations. The knocking down of a house and subsequent grading below me two weeks ago would have killed off even more. Expecting a mammoth bill after treatment of the tree I was amazed to hear him say ‘I’m not willing to prune it and cause further stress, but I’d recommend putting the sprinkler on it and throwing handfuls of sugar all around it to try to give it a bit more energy’. I couldn’t force money on him, yet he asked me to keep reporting in to him about the tree’s progress. How do I find these simpatico souls?

On the other hand, I heard on the American news that it is a conspiracy theory website that organised and is promoting the US demonstrations, possibly independently or possibly at Trump’s behest, who knows? Seeing there are quite a few Australian followers of this site, including a few of my Facebook friends I suspect, I won’t be surprised if we see an outbreak of this stuff here. Would I be an evil person to think that a surge in coronavirus cases in that cohort might be a benefit to Americans as a whole?

April 20, 2020

I just started to do an order at Harris Farm but not sure if I will finish it, have the prices of fruit and vegetables really gone up 100% since I’ve been away from the shops? $4.50 for a small cos lettuce? (I interrupted typing to check a couple of prices at Woolies and I couldn’t order a cos there at all so it looks like I am snookered).

I received a Sydney University Public Health survey on COVID19 and boy they wanted to know the ins and outs of a duck’s bum in the questions. Apparently I will get them for the next 12 months, which I am happy to do, egocentric enough to think that my opinions matter. For example, some of the odder ones with a scale of responses: How confident are you at using fractions? Can you work out with mental arithmetic the price of a shirt if there is 20% off? (Is mathematical incompetence a first sign??) More to the point were things like: List 3 symptoms of COVID19, Do you think the restrictions are too harsh/don’t go far enough, How many times have you been out this week and where were you going? How are you feeling right at this minute? with a range from calm to extremely stressed. Ha, I was fine because I was concentrating on the flipping survey wasn’t I? I’ve forgotten most of the questions but it took me 42 minutes to answer all of them. John seems to get a heap of phone surveys and I never do, or else when they get to my age they say ‘we have enough people in that demographic’, so I feel my 42 minutes on the computer evens it all out. I remember when my kids were little and a man came to the door doing a survey on bananas. I welcomed him in, an actual adult to talk to, but he asked me eventually ‘are you sure you are not connected to the industry? you seem to know an awful lot about bananas’. I was racking my brain for banana opinions to keep talking to him for as long as possible.

April 21, 2020

We did a sneaky drive to the Cumberland State Forest and took a walk that claimed to be 1 km but must have been double that I think, as we were buggered by the end. I just got so sick of walking around the burbs that I suggested a forest walk would be just the ticket and luckily it’s a very short drive. Being in the forest really lifted our spirits so it was worth the risk. If a bobby had pulled us over I was planning to discuss the philosophy of whether we have an obligation to obey the law or the right, which may have got us in deeper but was worth a try. Did some gardening and then cooked a tagine of barramundi for dinner, the last of the fish Michelle brought me before Easter. All out of fish now but I’ve plenty of other options, so I will just wait till John does a Woolies order and break my long-standing rule never to buy seafood from a supermarket.

I am thinking that there is one way in which coronavirus has done me a huge favour. Previously I lived in fear of catching a cold and getting the dreaded cytokine storm that always comes with it. It is a constant fear in the back of my mind as I know how ill it will make me for a couple of weeks, followed by a recovery period of over a month or more. Now I am self-isolating I can’t get coronavirus, but I can’t get a cold either so I am free as a bird. No more ducking and weaving when I hear someone sneeze, bliss.

April 22, 2020

Woken up early this morning by a text from Harris Farm Markets to say that my order was being packed, then another later to say the truck was on its way. The technology is pretty good, with a tracking device that tells you exactly where the truck is, where you are in the queue and the minutes to arrival. The masked delivery guy brought splendid fresh vegetables so now I am not whingeing about the price and just being thankful that they are so reliable and efficient. I made soup for our lunch with some of the produce before John left for home.

I jagged an intriguing book on the last day that the library was open. I decided to grab a couple of wild cards amongst the 26 books I chose, this one an Australian novel with an appealing picture of a jellyfish on the cover and considering my longtime love of jellyfish of all kinds, that was enough. It is The Trespassers by Meg Mundell, published only last year, and would you believe it? it’s about a ship full of British folk coming to Australia during a plague. They have been quarantined and repeatedly tested before boarding the ship to come here as workers, a strange cross between refugees and ten pound Poms. I’m not far into it but so far I am enjoying not knowing where the story is headed as well as having some curiosity about how the plague is being dealt with. I don’t believe in karma, the good seem to die young and the bad seem to prosper, but the true story of a gentleman in Ohio has me wondering if I rejected the philosophy of karma too soon. He posted on Facebook dismissing the killer virus as a ‘political ploy’ that he said officials were using to exert control over the public and claimed that the state governor didn’t have the authority to close businesses. “Prove me wrong,” he wrote in a March 13 post, well I think it just did my man. He died of the virus in hospital in late March.

April 23, 2020

Listening to the earthmoving equipment down below my house as they dig up more roots of my eucalyptus tree but of course there isn’t a thing I can do about it when it isn’t on my land. I will be devastated if it dies but it is out of my control I’m afraid, as is so much else at the moment. Somehow I have become used to isolation though, I can’t actually remember everything I used to do, so that has to be a good thing I guess. My morning routine is usually to search through the SMH then one other overseas paper, then read one or two of the daily suggestions from Medium, which is delivered to my inbox every morning. It is a selection of newspaper and magazine articles from the US which may include longform features from the NYT, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and my favourite, The Atlantic, interspersed with pieces from lesser known journals. Then a walk (boring) followed by a bit of weeding and watering by which time I do some basic housework or washing, ring one person who doesn’t have much happening right now and then it’s lunchtime. I may sneak in the headlines of the US news on SBS at either 12.30 or 1 pm, then decide on dinner, looking through my recipes for something I haven’t tried which fits with my fridge and freezer contents. Do the dinner prep, then perhaps make a cake or cheese biscuits or a salad and then a late afternoon retreat to the sun of the back verandah to read before dinner. No wonder I get tired!

April 24, 2020

Now I’m convinced that Trump is actually barking mad as well as all the other things: narcissistic, egomaniacal, corrupt, malicious, contemptible etc etc.  He has brought up the possibility of the use of ultraviolet lights or injectable disinfectant as a cure: ‘I see that disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that? By injection inside?’ ‘Supposing we hit the body with tremendous ultraviolet or just very powerful light?’  How long before some idiot takes him up on it and dies trying? Rabid barking mad.

His encouragement of hydroxychloroquine has made for a worldwide shortage, the White House buying millions of doses and even Clive Palmer buying millions of dollars worth and donating it to our government. I left my name at a couple of pharmacies to get supplies but I’m not in great need, having about 90 tablets left. Yesterday a pharmacy rang to say she had had some of the generic form of the drug come in, which is interesting as I’ve never been offered a generic in the 8 years since I started taking it. So I photographed the script and emailed it to them and they will deliver free by courier this afternoon. Recent research in the US has indicated no positive effect from its use as in the study of 368 patients the 97 patients who took it had a 27.8% death rate, while the 158 patients who did not take the drug had an 11.4% death rate. This is not at all compelling evidence when you consider that it was data from after the event, not randomised, not double blind testing, so perhaps the doctors only gave it to the worst cases? Looking at the actual data, rather than the news reports, it is impossible to tease out that information, so for me the whole thing is still in the ‘don’t know’ department.

April 25, 2020

Today I decided that I should rearrange my day from the usual so I don’t risk becoming institutionalised, so I baked a cake first thing instead of doing my walk as the primary task. I did the old fave Blueberry Cake, but as I had none of that fruit I replaced them with frozen raspberries which worked a treat. The icing is just icing sugar and fruit whizzed together so it looks pretty violently pink, even though it’s all natural. The icing was a bit quantity poor though so I have added that staple to my next food order. (Such highlights of my day must surely be of interest, but to whom I can’t think). I hope there will be enough Domestos left by the time I put in my next shopping order as it will be like toilet paper all over again now that Trump’s let the injecting secret out of the bag. Then instead of phone calls I emailed my overseas contacts in NZ, England and Northern Ireland and I just hope all are doing okay. I downloaded a plant identification app on my phone after seeing Danish using one and it was a bit tricky, saying it was free and then after you downloaded it saying it was $29.99 after the 7 days free trial. I shall delete it by then but I had fun trying it out in the garden. It correctly identified the majority but was totally wrong on the weeping acacia, calling it a teatree. It does weeds, flowers, whatever and it is a nifty piece of kit, but I am not sure I would use it often enough to pay that.

April 26, 2020

I’ve been having fun trying a new recipe for dinner every night but last night’s was a disaster. It was a French prawn dish, Shrimp with Sour Cream Blesoise, which I thought was very different but it turned out to be different in a bad way. Fry onion, fennel seeds and parsley in butter, add raw prawns then when they are nearly cooked stir in some red wine vinegar and sour cream. So far so good, but the last step was to add fresh breadcrumbs which immediately turned the sauce into clag, killing the flavour of the prawns and all else. A big azalea (a failure) as the Windsor regulars used to say. I’ve never known a place where Pommy rhyming slang is more commonly used, outside of Pommy land of course. Always put it down to the fact that many of the area’s antecedents were convicts, and possibly East Londoners, with the same convict names cropping up repeatedly in the area.

One thing that I’ve found puzzling and disappointing recently is the small but consistent minority of my Facebook friends who instigate or disseminate unfounded rumours and fake news on their pages. In the last week I’ve had someone suggest that China propagated the coronavirus to overtake the US economically and another that the deaths in the US are being deliberately overstated by adding in mortality from all other causes (this one was originally posted by US Attorney-General Barr, presumably to get some heat off his pal Trump) and reposted by a relative of mine no less. A couple of weeks ago a rellie of John’s posted something from a friend saying that we should all let the virus rip to save the economy, but I let that one go through to the keeper for obvious reasons. I usually do take the time to refute this stuff online though, otherwise it just gets carried further without dispute, but it’s emotionally tiring dealing with it and I’ve got better things to do, like stuff up some really good prawns.

April 27, 2020

Today we broke the rules, went to the Cumberland Forest nearby and did a short bushwalk. Apparently in Queensland the rules from today allow picnics of household members only, so we are awaiting that change here and are planning a picnic at Bilpin or Mt. Wilson, both places where we can be completely away from other people. I can’t wait. It did us both good to get out into the bush, even if it is only a bit of bush in suburbia. It prompted me to do some gardening when I got home and tomorrow I plan to sow some seeds for lettuce, rocket and spinach for salads.

I was thinking this morning about how I misinterpreted my gum tree’s health based on the fact that it was producing copious quantities of flower buds. It shows how a little bit of knowledge can often lead us astray. It reminded me of when the Prof asked if I needed a new script for daily eye drops and I said proudly that ‘no thankyou, I don’t get dry eyes, in fact they are the opposite, with tears running down my face at times’. ‘Is that so?’ he replied ‘well then you really do need a script, because if your eyes get severely dry your brain reacts by producing a liquid to stop them seizing up, but it is devoid of the lubricants that should be there, so don’t neglect the drops in future’. Okay, understood.

April 28, 2020

Was pleased to sow my greens this morning and I look forward to eating them over time. Jane rang and said she was culling out some various creepers and she could drop off some cuttings, so shortly after she arrived with Boris and a box full of cuttings, which I can now use my plant identifier app to record, before I delete it that is. I threw caution to the winds and invited them onto the back verandah for tea and cake so we were able to have a good chat but unfortunately John had gone to RNSH for a blood test before a routine doc’s appointment tomorrow so he couldn’t be at the tea party. We all agreed that the risk was very small but it felt very daring nonetheless.

Last night talking to my bro in Halifax I posed the question of whether or not there was pushback or even demonstrations in the UK over the strict lockdowns there. Oh no he said, rather shocked, nothing like that! It goes to show the deep divisions between the societies of the US and UK. I’ve found it quite surprising and somewhat heartening when I’ve been visiting my brother that you are just as likely in the local pub to hear folks discussing Prime Minister’s Questions as football or the weather. There seems to be a much higher level of civic awareness there which would tend to make ‘fake news’ laughable rather than believed. Sadly we fall somewhere in between with a population more interested in real estate and sport than in how we are governed.

April 29, 2020

I used my free trial of the Picture This Plant identification app to identify all the cuttings that Jane brought over yesterday, which is very handy because it tells me heaps including their names, origins, as well as what position they like in the garden. I could get quite attached to it but I’ve deleted it for now. I am sometimes wondering if I am a bit peculiar, not for the first time I must say. Amongst my friends quite a few are feeling quite anxious and stressed about this whole coronavirus business, but after the first couple of weeks I sort of sank into it and now it feels like normal. Not to say that I am not horrified by the external things, the loss of life, the job losses and much more, it’s just that the effects on me personally seem to be much less than my friends in terms of worry and fear. Of course if I got the damned thing it would be a different story, but I think the chances are very very low while I am totally isolating, so I am just getting on with enjoying life under the new regime. Perhaps the fear will hit me all of a sudden, who knows. But once we start going out again, if we do in fact, I think that will be much more challenging as the bloody virus is hiding under every rock and living on every handrail, just waiting to welcome us. Now that’s what I call stressful, perhaps I’ll decide to just stay in.

April 30, 2020

I have been keen to see some discussion about the decision last Friday afternoon to include priests, nuns and pastors in the JobKeeper scheme. Did it slip past the attention of journalists, as it was meant to do by releasing it quietly late on a Friday? Does no one think it peculiar that people who don’t normally get paid can qualify for $750 a week of government funds? Or shouldn’t we ask the question because it is churches who are appear to be rorting the system?

While I am on my soapbox…… I am getting mighty sick of the China bashing happening every time I pick up a paper or turn on the news. No one turned a hair when SARS or MERS or swine flu or bird flu were ravaging Asia, no one except the epidemiologists called for investigations into its source, but now Australians are affected everyone is in the game. Yes we need to look into the source, as we needed to on all the other occasions, but it should be a medically led investigation, not a politically led one. Do they not see the effects on Chinese Australians on public transport, in the streets and even having their homes vandalised? The press picks up the raised temperature in Canberra so that when Twiggy Forrest donates millions of dollars worth of tests and invites a Chinese official to the publicity event the headline is ‘Chinese official gate-crashes Hunt’s press conference’, um he was invited. If you object, take it up with Forrest privately Greg Hunt. In any event Forrest is hardly ‘donating’ the millions of tests as the government intends to repay him in full. One radio person even accused Forrest of treason! It has gone beyond the bounds of reason and all the usual suspects jump on the bandwagon. There are very valid political and social issues to be taken up with China but this foghorn ‘diplomacy’ is not the way to reach the best outcome and I for one am in danger of throwing something at the television very soon if it continues. Postscript: Dr Stephen FitzGerald, Canberra’s first ambassador to Beijing, must read my blog. He just wrote an article for the SMH agreeing with all the above but putting it much more eloquently than I ever could.

May 1, 2020

What an odd and ultimately uplifting day. It started when I decided to have hot milk at breakfast and discovered that the microwave lit up, buzzed and went around but the milk didn’t heat so I tried it again but it had gone to its eternal reward. So I started hunting for a new one online and discovered that the vast majority won’t fit on the purpose built shelf that John designed in the kitchen. It took literally hours to go through all the options, reading the specifications of each until I finally made the decision. Rang Winning Appliances and Appliances Online, my favoured retailers for such things, both of whom offer free delivery. Nup, can’t supply till June and as I steam veggies in it almost every night I can’t wait that long. But they did tell me not to buy any other brands than Panasonic and Sharp for microwaves, saying that LG and Samsung were the ones they have trouble with. This fitted with what I was told by one of my friends who is a kerb crawler who has warned me never to buy LG as they were the electricals most left out for council cleanup.That led me eventually to the ghastly Harvey Norman (Gerry Harvey I hate giving you even $1) as the only place with that Panasonic model in stock, but they wanted $59 to deliver, so I baulked at that. The lovely salesman agreed to meet me in the carpark with the machine so I could pass the money through the window and not enter the store. He was a darling plump man with a decided limp and a big smile who made me feel as if this arrangement was the highlight of his day. He had paid for the microwave on his own credit card before I even arrived and I reimbursed him with cash! I was delighted to find his name was George Whippy so I have dealt with Mr Whippy for electricals instead of icecream. I was impressed enough to give him big praise on the HN Facebook page.

Then my bakery delivery arrived from Dural and after paying her at the door I went back inside only for her to return with the offer ‘If you ever need groceries when I am coming I am happy to pick them up for you on the way’. I seem to come across lovely people lately, perhaps I am starting to look very old and they’re all taking pity, I don’t know, but it warms my heart every time I meet another.

May 2, 2020

After yesterday’s lovely people, today I watched the American ABC News on SBS and was horrified by the people demonstrating against the lockdowns there. It is their right to protest, but the gun-toting, Nazi flag-waving, aggressive, disrespectful attitudes made me feel sick. One can’t help pondering a clear out of their ilk by the virus and frankly I won’t be losing sleep over some of them. Standing without a mask screaming into the faces of young police officers is way more than they should have to put up with. What other country on the planet has anti-lockdown protestors waving guns? Or a head of state who would support them?

Also on the bulletin was a story out of China about a small family who went from Wuhan to a restaurant in Guangzhou, not knowing they were infectious. Fifteen other people in the restaurant caught the virus from them, despite no physical contact and sitting up to 15 feet away, which is just more evidence that it is likely airborne as well as droplet transmitted. Also tests on infected airline passengers show a likelihood of 85% of catching it if you are sitting 2 rows ahead and behind or across the aisle, as happened to those passengers seated near Peter Dutton, but only 1% if you are sitting in the rest of the plane. I have had continuing online discussion with my second cousin (or first cousin once removed, I can never work it out, but anyway he calls me aunty) who is strongly anti-vax. I discovered that neither he nor his sister were ever vaccinated for anything due to his mother’s belief that it was detrimental and it’s true they are each as healthy as a horse, but I suspect genes and not lack of vaccination is at play here. But it is fun parlaying with him and his Byron Bay friends over the issue. They are convinced they will be lined up and forcibly vaccinated, one of them telling me I’d been ‘Sco mowed’ for downloading the app, which I had to laugh at.

May 3, 2020

We took  a drive to Parramatta Park to go for a walk, but so did half of western Sydney apparently. So we parked over near the gate into the mental hospital which has nice gardens and a walk ‘to the head of the river’. We promptly got lost and ended up on a long walk through the hospital grounds, happily free of knife-wielding psychopaths this morning, and ended up on a sort of history tour encompassing the delicious sandstone buildings including the infamous Parramatta Girls Home. Growing up it was common knowledge that being incarcerated there meant physical and sexual abuse, it was a given, but it was only a few weeks ago that its 82 year old ex-superintendent was gaoled for 20 years for rape, buggery and assault occasioning actual bodily harm for the beatings that the girls sustained in a locked cellar in the 60s and 70s. However it was much earlier than that when I was aware of it so it appears it was the culture of the place for decades. We came out near the stadium and then wended our weary way back to the car and home for a lunch of leftover Cheesy Spicy Black Bean Bake with rice, a recipe I saw in the NYT last week. After that walk I felt totally justified in spending a couple of hours reading Malcolm Turnbull’s new book A Bigger Picture, which I am enjoying more than I expected. He certainly has led a big life, with contacts in all sorts of fields and friendships with all sorts of people, many of whom are on the opposite side of politics.

May 4, 2020

Today John went home to be part of an ’email meeting’ of the Tenant Network. Pretty much as expected it was cancelled at the last minute, it seems such a disorganised mob which he threatens to abandon after every misspent gathering. I’m so glad that I steer clear of organisations which suck your time for very little result. They are more interested in navel gazing, rewriting the constitution or such things, with virtually no movement forward for the public housing tenants they seek to further. Luckily his involvement with the Link Housing tenant advisory group does produce results for his compatriots. I have no inclination to continue hucking out the storeroom as the charity shops are all closed and the auctions are all online only now so prices are very low. Luckily I did get in early and sell some stuff before the crash, but the remaining items went for next to nought once the onlines began eg today I got a cheque for $13.40 for the remainder of the lots. It comprised a mug, bowl and 3 plates of Royal Doulton Bunnykins ware as well as 2 pieces of Royal Worcester, a cigarette box and a cigarette container. Any one of those 5 pieces in the shop would have brought triple what I got for the lot at auction and most would have brought more. But it is Larrakia that misses out in all this and of course their needs are constant.  I achieved an acceptable apple and maple cake to use up a few apples in the fridge before I reorder from Harris Farm later in the week. Discovered my very recently planted rocket seeds (expiry date 2014) have come up so that’s a pretty exciting end to the day.

May 5, 2020

Michelle offered to coach me with Zoom so, after a few stumbles, that took up the middle of the morning and we got to talk in the end. Then on to the Harris Farm order which takes me longer than it usually does to go out and do the damned shopping, but there you are. They charged me for delivery after saying last time that it was free for the first 3 orders over $80. So I rang and got to speak to a lovely lad in lockdown at home in the Philippines who refunded the delivery, so that made the error into a positive. I have been thinking with all this talk of businesses and schools reopening, no-one is spelling out what happens to the over 70s and those with existing illnesses. I suspect we are down for the count until such time as a vaccine or treatment is discovered, unless of course we choose to play Russian roulette each time we go out. If that is the case I for one can deal with it, but I just wish someone would have the guts to say so. I also spent time today checking on annual death rates in the UK for the last few years because my cousin keeps putting up dodgy ‘statistics’ on Facebook, sent to him by people with an axe to grind over coronavirus. His numbers claim to show that the death toll in Britain this year is actually lower than in previous years. So I wasted my time getting averages for the last 3 years for the month of April and comparing it to this year. The figures were 57,254 for 2020, versus an average of 31,322 for the last 3 years, an excess of 25, 932 extra deaths just for April! So I’ve emailed him spouting a version of the saying that you can choose your own opinions but not your own facts. This whole thing has brought out people who are just a bloody menace and it is time-consuming to refute every claim. I guess eventually I will give up and leave them to just keep convincing people who don’t have the energy, time or smarts to refute their nonsense.

May 6, 2020

In the shop I always left the glass cleaning to the staff because I always made things look worse than before I started. No staff here, so today I decided to clean the four glass doors and panels to the deck. First I washed them with hot soapy water, a cloth and one of those wipery things that window cleaners use. Five minutes later I discovered that all the dirty spots are now smeared evenly over the glass so I did it all again with window cleaner and newspaper and while not perfect at least I can now see through them. Next job is my bedroom window but not today Josephine. However if I am housebound it may as well be in a clean house. I am so enjoying Malcolm Turnbull’s book and learning about the decision making behind the scenes on things like how to handle Trump (don’t give in to a bully pretty much sums it up), what needs to be taken into account when ordering a submarine and what world leaders are really like one on one. Merkel, Obama, Jokowi and Abe come off particularly well, though Obama’s comment to Turnbull at the White House “Don’t worry Malcolm. The American people will never elect a lunatic to sit in this office” proved somewhat innocent in hindsight. But when MT asked why the US insists on supporting the Saudis despite their many human rights and other abuses he was spot on: “One word Malcolm. Oil”.

May 7, 2020

Thinking more about the length of our lockdown so I sent a message today to someone in a similar situation as us, she with an autoimmune disease, he with other health problems. His reply was that they had decided to sit it out, having only contactless deliveries done, no visitors etc. They’ve decided that life together alone is better than life with the constant underlying fear of infection, which would likely prove fatal in both instances. Clearly people are coming to individual decisions and it seems from the very small straw polls I am taking that most are staying in lockdown, one said that they will review it if things are still the same after a year! A specialist doctor from Melbourne was on last night’s news saying that she left work at her hospital immediately due to having an autoimmune disease and won’t be going back. I’d seen a fuller interview with her elsewhere and she indicated that having an autoimmune disease means it would likely be a fatal outcome despite her young age. But it is remiss of the government not to address this situation publicly, by all means let folks come to a decision themselves, but some guidance should be given by the medical experts as has been done in the UK where they were flatly told to stay locked down for the foreseeable future. Plain speaking is so refreshing, more leaders of the likes of Daniel Andrews and Shane Fitzsimmons and less like slippery ScumMo please.

May 8, 2020

I’ve been struggling with a few low level lupus symptoms these past days but this morning woke up with my face swollen up, a rash and feeling pretty crook. Had a Facetime call with Millie who said ‘open your eyes grandma’ and found it hard to understand that I couldn’t, well not to her satisfaction anyway. By 12.30 I’d accepted that nothing was happening in this house today and lay down, waking in the late afternoon. Tonight was our book group Zoom meeting which I thought I’d have to bow out of but with a shower and a good slap of makeup I managed it okay. I was worried that Kenneth might ring in the middle, but luckily he rang at 6. I had sent him the Thea Astley book Drylands and last week I asked how he found it, Dry was his response. I was puzzled until I realised that as a man who’s always made all his own decisions and kowtowed to no-one, the idea of a woman not being able to do as she pleases is a mystery to him. But tonight he told me that Anne, who lived for decades with a dominant and violent husband, had borrowed the book and thought it wonderful, so I think my reading of why he didn’t like it is accurate. I got my Harris Farm order today and am luxuriating in a fridge full of beautiful produce, the fact that it comes straight from the markets shows in the freshness. This time I risked seafood as well, green prawns and fresh sardines, so I will cook the latter for dinner tomorrow night. Tonight all I could manage was a piece of peanut butter toast, but hopefully the flare will pass by tomorrow.

May 9, 2020

Still feeling off so had a quiet day. Made mushroom soup for our lunch and at night I did Sicilian Stuffed Sardines, oh my gosh, heaven on a plate. I am so pleased I can get fresh sardines from Harris Farm as they don’t appear in the fish shops around here very often. In the evening I finished Malcolm Turnbull’s book and despite what the critics say, and I doubt they’ve read it, only a small section is about the coup which overthrew him. He is a big thinker who delves deeply into many things that politicians would usually leave to the public service or advisers, from the new door required at the Lodge to the design of a hydro plant in the Snowy Mountains. I would have liked to see an Australia where he was able to run the show unencumbered by the right wing of his party, always dragging us backwards. In some ways he is a statesman, but we will never know how he’d have gone with no anchors trailing behind him. His behind the scenes cameos of various world leaders and their wives were worth the read on their own. Would I rather spend a long  evening over a bottle of wine with him, or with Bill Shorten? MT no question. While not agreeing with his politics, I commend his vision.

May 10, 2020

Hurrah! Mr Lupus has left the building and gone home to wherever he lives between flares, so I woke with plenty of energy for the day. Cooked black bean nachos and we had a garden party Mother’s Day in the front yard with a lovely bottle of Barossa GSM red that Dav brought. Then her carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and toffeed walnuts, plus I got a jar of the leftovers of toffeed nuts, mmm. Millie was happy to play in the garden while John and I sat on the verandah. Tonight John rustled up a fridge raid for dinner, he the leftover mushroom soup and me a couple of leftover sardines. Millie was asking today to see ‘the little blue man in the shiny bucket’ but we couldn’t work out what it was. Clearly she knew but didn’t have the words. She was recently talking about the ‘rainbow circles’ which turned out to be CDs, logical really, but the little blue man in the bucket? We will find out in due course.

May 11, 2020

I fear we are following the US down the path of craziness when the NSW Health Department has to do a press release to let the population know that COVID19 isn’t caused by wi-fi, in this case 5G. Perhaps 5G does have negative health effects, how can we know without evidence that can only be provided with research and time? But last time I read anything about pandemics it appeared that we didn’t have 5G in 1918-19, nor during the AIDS or ebola crises. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it can be, but not nearly as dangerous as no knowledge at all. One Republican senator who is a doctor claimed that the number of COVID19 victims is being wildly exaggerated, it gets picked up by Fox News and before you can say ‘reelection’ it is all over the world as a fact. The protesters in Sydney and Melbourne this weekend were the usual suspects: the libertarians, the extreme right-wingers, the anti-vaxxers, the QAnon maddies (more wicked than mad I suspect) and a scattering of the ‘I should be able to open my business no matter what’ folks. I think the days of patiently arguing with any of these folks is coming to an end in this house. It’s like a religion and we all know that you can’t sway anyone about religion with logical argument.

May 12, 2020

As John and I talked early this morning he noticed a policeman right outside his window. ‘Open it and ask him what the f**k he’s doing there’, I helpfully advised. No more jokes when not long after it all became plain, his neighbour Scott was led down the steps outside John’s flat in handcuffs. Of course John was curious but it became clear very soon after when channels 9 and 7 turned up to record the arrest of the accused murderer of Scott Johnson, US citizen, brilliant mathematician and PhD student who was apparently pushed or thrown off North Head in 1988 in an apparent gay hate crime. His deep-pocketed brother had recently added $1 million to the existing $1 million reward offered by NSW Police, who at the time had insisted it was a suicide. Three inquests later, despite police disagreeing with a murder scenario, the coroner found it was in fact a homicide. There are so many questions here: is he guilty? is the first and if he is, how do you live your whole life with that on your conscience? how can you live for 32 years waiting for that knock on the door? if the reward is a material part of the story, how do you go for 32 years knowing that a murder is unsolved, but fail to put your hand up till $2 million is in the offing? The crime was deplorable and the family deserves justice. If they hadn’t persisted against police intransigence the suicide assumption would never have been put aside. But I can’t help thinking of Scott too, sans his beloved little dog Jazz, who is spending possibly the first night of his life in gaol.

May 13, 2020

Feeling virtuous because I got my sweet pea seeds in, under a spiral frame to support the lush growth I am forecasting. One of my long-term acquaintances in the shop used to tell me every year that sweet peas had to go in on Anzac Day, it was one of his life’s rituals, but I’m sure with weather changes the mid May sowing will do the job. I have mixed lettuces, rocket and spinach coming up as well, have made Anzac biscuits this morning, as well as redoing the glass in the back doors with Windex (I don’t have good cleaning genes) and writing a couple of letter to pollies, so I think I’ve justified my existence temporarily.

I’m still thinking a lot about Scott’s arrest yesterday and the fact that someone is hoping to pocket a cool $2 million out of it, mulling what sort of person it would take to sit on that information. It occurred to me that a particularly nasty fellow who lives in John’s block had recently been having some contact with Scott and the fellow’s partner has confirmed in an interview that Scott had discussed a possible accusation of murder going back to the 80s. Though I could imagine this obnoxious fellow trying to profit from hearing a person’s secrets it’s likely just coincidence. Nearly midnight now and I’m still mulling over all my earlier thoughts, it is too easy to knit a possible scenario together, my mind wants to sort it out, get the facts, ask the questions, solve the puzzle. One day soon we may have a better idea of whether Scott is a murderer or just a gentle helpful neighbour, or both perhaps. As the wise Elbert Hubbard once said: ‘The criminal is not wholly a criminal, he is only a criminal at times. Under the same conditions, if I were of the same quality and temper, I would have done the same’. That quote always helped me decades ago when, under the auspices of Justice Support, I was writing to and sometimes visiting murderers and other serious offenders in prison, and it helps me tonight.

May 14, 2020

A funny day which started when I cooked pikelets in expectation of a garden visit by friends Greg and Luke. When whipping the cream I accidentally used the wrong container with the electric whisk and managed to spread cream around the room, walls, cupboard doors, shelves, self. What’s more it formed a 3 metre circle which sprayed the kitchen and dining room floors, with some intrusion into my bedroom through the open door. A massive cleanup followed, so glad that it wasn’t blood as it was a fine imitation of a chain saw massacre, an excellent spray pattern exercise for a forensic scientist. (Incidentally the forensic science course which I was so looking forward to doing this year at UWS has been converted to online, so nah. Luckily I hadn’t yet paid. I can study forensic science on my own online, I want to put the skills into some sort of practice.) Anyway John arrived at the end of the cleanup followed soon after by the boys, who were delivering John’s gorgeous wren painting, bought from Luke back in February. I apologised for the coronavirus precautions but Luke made the point that he wouldn’t be happy any other way. He is a clever boy, a wonderful artist but also a virologist whose work focussed on both AIDS and influenza, particularly the 1918-19 pandemic. He told us the story of that flu virus being found in the lungs of 10 Danish people dug from the permafrost for research purposes a few years ago. The expedition was designed specifically to isolate it for study at his London Hospital because no other examples existed. They fully expected the current pandemic, without knowing the exact form it would take. His summary: Don’t hold your breath for a vaccine, it’s a very hard one to develop and even if they do succeed, an RNA virus mutates so easily that it will get around the vaccine pretty smartly. We just need to learn to live with it until some anti-viral treatments are developed.

May 15, 2020

Thinking back to yesterday when John asked Luke ‘how long do you think before we get back to normal?’. ‘Never’ he said, ‘this is the new normal. We will get treatments but the virus will continue to be endemic across the world, with flareups happening from time to time until it mutates again and then……’. Viruses are ancient, starting as a fully functioning self-replicating cell that lived  billions of years ago, shortly after life first emerged on the planet. From this cell, bacteria have evolved in the direction of increasing complexity while viruses have gradually shed genes they found they didn’t need until they could no longer even reproduce on their own. Which got us onto the perennial question of whether viruses are ‘alive’ or not. Luke leaned somewhat to the no case, because they can’t survive independently, but we agreed that this is more a philosophical question than a biological one, they are on a continuum with prions on one end and us on the other. Which still begs the question of when is it safe to go out again, in some ways the answer seems as far away as ever, but in others I think it is right there on the wall. We can go out all we want, but will never be safe from infection. Had a visit from a friend this arv and we quaffed tea and the remaining pikelets from yesterday with jam and cream, just the thing for a cold afternoon. Good to have two visits in two days, perhaps there is some life to be had in due course, even within the limitations.

May 16, 2020

Writing this a day late after feeling pretty flat yesterday. I am quite content to be at home but find it increasingly problematic that no-one is able to say how long my particular lockdown is likely to last. In a straw poll of three others with lupus I discovered that all of them have been totally locked down on doctor’s orders since mid March, not expecting the current easing of restrictions to apply to them at all. Carly spent the afternoon with her friend from Health, a doctor who is heavily involved in the COVID19 planning. She asked him in conversation about my query ‘when is it safe for people with immune problems to begin coming out of their foxholes?’ His answer was far from promising: ‘It is one of the trickiest questions we are being asked’ (that’s why we hear no-one in government addressing the issue!), ‘we will need to keep researching which interventions have been most effective and why’, basically indicating that at this stage there is no answer available. Okay, I can deal with long term lockdown but it would be so helpful if someone qualified gave some guidance on the issue. Made a crumble with two persimmons given to me by my friendly baker when she delivered last time. I’d never eaten one in my life but it worked okay cooked with two apples, though my decision to use honey and cinnamon on the fruit was a dubious one. Long live nutmeg, that queen of spices.

May 17, 2020

Watched Insiders but was disappointed by the sabre-rattling about China. It is so easy to get people angry about a particular country and its people but very hard to stop the racist attacks that bubble up as a result. I have had a number of very aggressive Facebook posts about China sent to me by people who should know better. By all means let the scientists (including the three Americans working in the Wuhan lab) investigate the pandemics origins, but just keep it non-political, as it should be. No-one seems to be asking why governments took no notice of all the epidemiologists who’ve been telling us for decades that a pandemic was on its way, but everyone is pointing out where this originated, even though a pandemic could equally (and may still) come out of Africa as did Ebola and AIDS before it. Somehow I think that we would likely feel sorry for an African country, but it’s much more politically acceptable to kick China in the shins at the moment. In last year’s pandemic preparedness meetings the UK failed miserably and the US didn’t take part because Trump had fired the whole long-standing Pandemic Preparedness Team in 2018. I rests me case because I am sick of arguing it.

May 18, 2020

Went for a walk around the local burb with John and along the way I found a perfect spiral metal CD stand out on the footpath for council cleanup, just the ticket for supporting the sugar snap peas I intend to sow, once I get the seeds. Recently I also found a perfectly fine cane chair with a ‘free’ sign on it which now resides on the front verandah so the boring walks are proving profitable. I think the universe is trying to encourage me, particularly now that The Hills has today been declared a Red Zone for coronavirus. Jimmy from the bakery came with my order, just as I was in the garden cutting some camellia branches for his wife Natalie to put in the shop. They always include a treat, today it was two apples picked just yesterday. Baked a loaf of banana bread for afternoon tea and tonight I am cooking a recipe sent from London by my friend Mustapha, a cardiologist who has come out of early retirement to help treat people in the pandemic. I fear for him and was glad when I saw he is feeling positive enough to bother sending me a recipe.

May 19, 2020  (written 21/5)

John thought we were well overdue for a picnic so I suggested Mt Wilson, prompted by the beautiful pictures of Bebeah garden that Facebook sent as a memory from this same week last year. So a picnic I prepared, smoked salmon and lettuce sambos, banana bread, fruit and a thermos of tea. An uneventful but partly beautiful drive ensued but by the time we reached Kurrajong I was feeling very odd and by Mt Wilson turnoff I realised that the car had provoked an attack of the dreaded vestibular migraine. For the last 18 months or so I have never left the house without the two medications to help control it, but I not only forgot to pack them, but actually forgot that I have the condition! That’s what two months in iso does I guess, not leaving the house has its benefits and one is that I don’t get motion related illness. The day passed with difficulty but John enjoyed being away and particularly his solo picnic in the beautiful surrounds, however the thing didn’t abate and by late afternoon he told me I would just have to bite the bullet for the trip home. I’d have happily paid for a motel in order to forego the drive but of course there are none there to go to. So lying down on the reclined seat I travelled what seemed like the distance from Melbourne to Sydney with numerous sick stops whenever he turned the wheel. I will certainly never forget in future and I won’t leave the house without those drugs, in fact I am feeling at the moment that I never want to leave the house period, but I guess that will pass. Isolation is sweet I’ve decided and I will not be complaining in future.

May 20, 2020  (written 21/5)

After a 12 hour sleep I awoke to my resident nurse, the best one ever, with tea and toast. Apart from the usual odd symptom of finding it hard to recollect words, Sard soap became ‘gluestick’, the stepladder was a ‘climbing frame’, I enjoyed the peaceful second day calm. It is as if the mind is emptied of all worries and excitements, with just a clean slate of peace and tranquility where anger or worry is an impossibility, quite pleasurable in fact. The neuro’s explanation when I saw him last was ‘well, your brain’s just been zapped so it’s time to relax and get over it, but don’t make any important decisions in the two or three days afterwards’. As if I even cared enough about important decisions, I felt like saying.

John had noticed that my bulging pantry is so heavily stocked that I can never find the ground almonds or whatever, even though I know they are in there somewhere. I love to be able to do any recipe I fancy without pre-planning and that’s even more important when nicking to the shops isn’t an option. So he suggested repurposing my meat safe as storage for unopened goods, using my current pantry drawers for everything that’s on the go. Brilliant decision which just involved my sitting on the lounge while he brought me the endless folders of paperwork currently stored there, 95% of which ended up in the recycle bin. Currently I am inclined to toss out the maps and tourist guides to places I thought we’d definitely go again, but it’s pretty clear that’s off the agenda for a number of reasons. I turned up lots of long lost oddments in the process though and now I have a veritable Woolworths in the meatsafe and my kitchen pantry is a pleasure to use. My hero to the rescue in more ways than one.

May 21, 2020

My weather app told me there would be showers around 10/11 then fine till a later storm and more rain, so being a trusting soul I spread sugar around under my ailing tree as advised and hey presto! it rained on cue. I am lucky enough to have food cooked for the next few days, so I decided to attack a job emanating from the reorganisation of the meat safe. I had numerous newspaper and magazine cuttings of recipes in a big folder, but I now have numerous cuttings sorted into separate labelled folders according to desserts, seafood, etc. I managed to cull some recipes that I’ve done and some I will never do. The system is that once tried they go into the bin, unless they are extremely good in which case they are copied into my hand written recipe book. There are hundreds so I need to get speedy if I want to finish them in this lifetime.

I got an update from GIO regarding my claim for tile and water damage from the storm in early February. It said they are waiting for the assessor’s report, which was the exact same message I got a month ago. I am not trying to hurry them up as I don’t really want painters in here at the moment but I wouldn’t mind being repaid for the money I spent on roof repair and plumbing over three months ago. Whatever, life’s little issues are not feeling very pressing right at the moment, I am already saving money by being at home.

May 22, 2020

Still sorting stuff from the deconstructed contents of the meat safe. I found an Aboriginal themed book I had bought for Millie at some point so I added another from my gift box, a Ruth Park story, and packed them up, walking down to the corner shops to post them at the PO box there. Trying to send her a card or a parcel every week or two so she has something from grandma until things free up in the visiting department. I deliberately don’t take my purse with me so that I can’t be tempted to go into the corner shops and break quarantine, therefore abiding by my promise to Davina that I wouldn’t. Then I attacked the fern that constantly grows up in the herb garden, feeling pretty good about life by the time I’d finished that and restocking the street library. Apparently libraries open on June 1 so I’d better get weaving and finish the 26 books I borrowed as I want to take them all back as soon as they open and there are still half to go. I deliberately interspersed them with some of mine so I didn’t feel bereft of library books, but now I have a return date I shall attend to them with delight. Waiting impatiently for the sweet pea seeds to come up so I can see them start to climb their fancy frame, then I will plant some sugar snaps and the pink star flowers which I ordered. It’s funny that I pace the fun things so I have a couple each day rather than racing down and planting them all at once as I would have when time was short.

May 23, 2020

China has much to answer for: the treatment of its Uyghur people, the Hong Kong situation, capital punishment and more, but I can’t see the justice in blaming them for the pandemic as the US has tried to do. China has multiple centres constantly testing for novel viruses spread across the country, yes they missed this one initially and local authorities are guilty of covering it up and not referring it up the chain, but the aggressive tone of the foghorn diplomacy regarding an inquiry was unnecessary and counterproductive. One of the European countries, Belgium from memory, quietly asked them to agree to a scientifically led investigation and they immediately signed on, later voting as part of the unanimous decision for an inquiry. Mary-Louise McLaws, a professor of epidemiology at the University of New South Wales who also sits on the WHO’s health emergencies program experts advisory panel for Covid-19, was one of the few willing to call this out: “The only unprecedented issue  is the politicising of the source country,” she said. “We’ve had swine flu, we’ve had HIV, we’ve had Ebola, we’ve had mad cow disease, you name it, and we’ve never politicised the source before”. Hear hear to that.

I am still sorting my pantry situation and now I can see them properly I discovered that I have 10 cans of butter beans, one of 4 bean mix, 3 of lentils, 5 of chickpeas and 1 of black beans. I do love all beans and legumes, but that’s a little bit over the top. Planning to do Jamie Oliver’s butter bean mash with chili and garlic instead of potato or rice tonight, too easy. Since the pandemic started I’ve been getting the Herald delivered on both weekend days and The Saturday Paper as well. Somehow a story is always more meaningful on paper than online, in fact if I read a particularly interesting one online, I reread it on paper if I can and always enjoy it more the second time. Anyway I tried to duck out surreptitiously to get the papers today as I was still in my dressing gown at 9.30. Mission accomplished, but I had to smile when I saw my neighbour in the yard wearing hers at 11.06.

May 24, 2020

Decided to walk up to the bank this morning as I seemed to remember they had a chute to deposit when the bank is closed but no, apparently now there’s just an ATM so I will ask someone to drop it in for me next week. At least it gave my walk an excuse. Then I decided to type up a review of a book I finished just last night, for the book group virtual meeting next week. It wasn’t my favourite of recent times but by the time I’d finished writing I’d realised that some parts of it will stick in my memory for a long time and perhaps I will give it a second go at some point. Then Carly asked me to nominate a book and write a review of it for her Book Challenge on Facebook. I nominated A Manual for Cleaning Women and fell in love with it all over again as I wrote. Note to Self: Reread it soon. Oops, I just checked my diary and the book group is in a fortnight, not next Friday as I’d thought. There I go, reinforcing my reputation as not being quite with it, but unfortunately there isn’t a countermand button on Hotmail to suck back emails sent in error. Spoke to the bro at length last night, he seems well but I sense he really, really wants us to get together soon and I just can’t see it happening in the foreseeable future which saddens me beyond imagining. He always finishes the call with: ‘Well we’ll just keep loving each other till we get together won’t we?’ I miss him so much, I’ve missed him all my life in fact, before I even knew he existed.

May 25, 2020

For some reason I choose to have my Harris Farm order delivered in the early morning and the text to tell me they are leaving wakes me up. Somehow it is a nice start to the day, this time it came at 6.25. Then I have time for breakfast, sorting space in the freezer and washing out the fridge crispers while he’s on his way so when he arrives I am ready to go with loading the delivery into its appropriate places. Today unfortunately the fish was missing, although the prawns were there, so a call ensued and they were able to contact the driver to make sure it wasn’t left in the truck. No luck, but they are going to do a refund so I changed the menu for tonight from fish to parmigiana pasta, with an eggplant and tomato sauce. Doing Margaret Fulton’s bread and butter pudding which has sherry (or whisky) added to the milk, eggs and sugar. I soaked the sultanas in a bit of sherry too, so I am looking forward to that.

I have been trying to get my head around the mass social activities going on in the US this weekend, as shown in their ABC News which SBS broadcasts at 12.30 each day. I refuse to watch ads, but all I need to know is in the first 15 minutes before the first ad comes on, so I sometimes flick it on to see what bastardry Trump is up to today, I am rarely disappointed on that score. But today it was all about the packed long weekend beach, pool and park congregations, not to mention the churches. I wonder what it is that makes these people tick? Lack of science education? blind adherence to Trump? faith in their religions? the confidence of youth? the libertarian streak which is so prominent? I don’t know but I fear some will suffer for it, or perhaps not them but their parents and grandparents. Of all political philosophies, apart from fascism, I think libertarianism is the one I find most objectionable. I know I’m an old socialist but the idea that people could demonstrate against public health is anathema to me. Meanwhile a church congregation in Germany went back together for the first time after lockdown and infected 40 of the faithful in one service, what can you say?

May 26, 2020

Planted my sugar snap peas and lemongrass but the lettuce and spinach seed trays are looking very light on. I am afraid they are almost a fail, but I will give them a bit longer before writing them off and starting again. John was very taken by the bread and butter pudding, saying it was ‘as good as my mum’s’ which was pretty good considering the extra shine we always put on things from the past. There’s been some correspondence re having the next book group meeting in person, but I won’t be participating despite the general acceptance of the idea. I’ve learned (well more truthfully I am still learning) to trust my gut and it is telling me that it wouldn’t be a good idea and would defeat all the other things I am doing to stay out of the firing line for coronavirus. I remember an excellent article this month written by a Yale epidemiologist who said: “If your son visits his girlfriend and you later sneak over for coffee with a neighbour, your neighbour is now connected to the infected office worker that your son’s girlfriend’s mother shook hands with.” I don’t want to be a link in that chain, much less the end recipient, so no I won’t be participating.

May 27, 2020

We decided to go out again today despite the disaster of last week’s journey. This time we chose somewhere closer to home, the walks at Sydney Olympic Park. First stop was the Brickpit Walk which goes around the edge of the massive old brickpit, with a suspended walkway over the pit which is home to threatened species of frogs. That was a big failure as the walk was closed ‘for urgent maintenance’. So we tried another walk and unimpeded on this one we went around the edge of Homebush Bay, seeing the rusting hulks of many boats, then along to a tower on which someone had written at the top ‘nothing to see’ which was pretty accurate as the view was basically the same as on the ground. It smacked of a grant looking for a purpose or perhaps the need to use an amount of money before June 30. But a nearby bird hide was well worth its dollar value, with a man secreted there using a camera with a massive telephoto lens focussed on the shore birds in a sheltered backwater. Next time I will take binoculars as I love birdwatching. John is going to try to download a map of the area because directions to the start of walks weren’t signposted, you just stumbled on them and after that the instructions along the way were fine. We had our picnic on seats near the carpark as we had walked quite a way by then and were ready for a sit. I am looking forward to seeing more of the area and especially the frogs once the ‘urgent maintenance’ is complete. I’m hoping that isn’t code for ‘the suspended walkway is dangerous’ in which case it might be a while. There were signs warning against going on it if you have a fear of heights.

May 28, 2020

I have been tossing up whether I should write to John’s neighbour Scott in Silverwater Remand Prison but I’ve been told by another neighbour that he is illiterate, so that put me off the idea in case it caused embarrassment at his end. But as we passed right alongside the prison yesterday John told me he had booked a video call with Scott for today. He had contacted Corrective Services for Scott’s location at my suggestion and they had suggested it as a means of contact. John was nervous about the technology and also about what to say, so I reminded him that the call would be listened to and probably taped, so he shouldn’t mention anything about the crime at all. Poor John sat at his computer for over an hour waiting and eventually rang them only to be told that Scott had turned up late for the call so it was refused, he booked another for 9.30 am tomorrow. It is funny, and typical, that we were each contemplating separately what to do about Scott and I think John’s call will  turn out to be the best outcome. Baked an orange and almond cake using a foil butter wrapper to line the base of the tin as I often do, but when I tried to turn it out the butter wrapper had stuck unusually and I ended up with half the cake coming out and the other half was firmly stuck to the tin. It tastes fine but is a mess to cut and looks disastrous, so now I won’t enjoy eating it anyway Smilie: :( six eggs wasted too. John will end up with it I think.

May 29, 2020

Last evening I got both an email and a text from the company that GIO has deputised to fix my storm damage. For some reason it threw me into a funk, actually I know the reason, it was because in order for the job to be done I need to have two men in the house for a day or two. I know I can stay away from them, but it unnerved me nonetheless. So today I contacted the company with my concerns and was assured the men would wear masks and social distance at all times, so I am less bothered than I was. GIO still hasn’t paid me for my outgoings after the storm, but I am assuming they have accepted the claim or else the tradesmen wouldn’t be scheduled. I have something that I want to show the sewing group without actually attending it, so today I dressed up (well nice cardigan with my jeans, makeup and perfume) and rang Jane to say I would drop it in. She had just arrived in the mountains visiting friends so I was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Eventually I decided I should go while in the mood and did so, hanging the bag on her door, making for a lovely little outing, which is pathetic really. Sue rang me for an opinion on whether to read Lincoln in the Bardo which had been deposited in her street library, so I read her my Goodreads review seeing I was already seated at the computer. I had spoken to Robert for half an hour yesterday and he seemed not substantially different but Sue says he’s gone down this week.

May 30, 2020

Natalie delivered my bakery items and as usual undercharged me. She always rounds it down but today it was by $4.80 and she deliberately hides the docket in the the bottom of the box so I can’t see the bill till she’s gone. She and her husband are such lovely people and deserve to do well. Davina, Louis and Millie came for a garden afternoon tea, bringing beautiful citrus cupcakes which Millie had helped make this morning. Louis is going for a fourth interview for a job, how can it take four interviews I ask myself? Last week he had the third interview for another one but didn’t get it, so here’s hoping this one comes up trumps.

I don’t know what to say about the American demonstrations and riots except that I would be demonstrating too in their place. The only police murder that I can recall where the perpetrator went to gaol was a coloured man last year who had killed a white woman, so I don’t expect much from this trial. It doesn’t seem we have moved far from when as a child I was horrified by the Ku Klux Klan and their murders, now it’s murder in uniform instead of in robes, but the intent is the same. In my teens we sang: My brothers are all others forever hand in hand, Where chimes the bell of freedom there is my native land, My brother’s fears are my fears, yellow white or brown, My brother’s tears are my tears the whole wide world around. Now we only watch and wait for the next.

May 31, 2020

Had a friend over for morning tea and had both Millie’s cupcakes and my orange and almond cake to offer. We canvassed the US nightmare, the China/ Hong Kong nightmare, books, the government and more, so it was a pleasurable and interesting rendezvous. Martha messaged to ask the four of us who had qualms about going to the book group meeting (the recalcitrants in Keating’s terminology?) if we want to join in via Zoom. When the first proposal came in about meeting face to face after we had previously agreed to a Zoom meeting, I said to John that I hoped that the group wouldn’t potentially cleave into the happy goers and the hesitant non-goers. This puts us back on a more inclusive pathway which is all to the good. Who knows what future meetings will look like? Now that people are mixing more and going on public transport it is anyone’s guess where we end up. John has already lost a distant relative in a retirement village to the virus, but interestingly she was an isolated case and no other cases appeared there. Similarly the gentleman in Canberra who caught it while shopping for masks and hand sanitiser despite being in lockdown for everything else. The vector was never found and no-one else was affected. Just bloody bad luck in his case as he didn’t survive. They will be writing about this pandemic in 100 years and it pains me that I won’t get to read it all! But it is becoming clear that it is not just a respiratory virus, it has vascular and autoimmune involvement in a way that its predecessors SARS and MERS didn’t have. I hope I’m around long enough to read the science at least.

June 1, 2020

Nearly Christmas I’m thinking, aagh. Walked down to post a letter, I seem to have a letter to post each Monday for some reason. A recent card posted to Castle Hill took 3 weeks, which is a very very long time, I could have walked there and back at a pinch. Replanted my lettuce and spinach seeds alongside the pathetic showing from the last planting. Not sure what went wrong, but these seeds were fresh whereas the rocket seeds which came up beautifully were years out of date. Then decided to split my spices into Indian/Middle Eastern/North African and what do we call it? traditional European cooking. Found two lovely tins which took all of them and now theoretically it takes half the time to find what I want.

John, some years ago, did a design for a 5 bedroom house for his cousin, who didn’t pay him a cent for the plans despite being on a contract to do so and then eventually dropped dead (no, I don’t believe in karma but…..gosh). I pushed him to claim on the estate which he did but more than two years went by while the Public Trustee fiddle-arsed around, always promising to ‘ring back in 3 weeks’ but never once doing so. John let it ride as he tends to do with anything financial, while my ardent desire not to let weasels, knaves and miscreants go unpunished caused me to nag about it. Finally I said he needed to threaten them with the local Member of Parliament and goodness me it worked like a charm. The ‘really complex affairs’ of his cousin suddenly became simple and an email informed him that there was money in his dwindling bank account, with the mere mention of the Member’s name enough to sort the knotty problems out. I shall remember that in future but the best bit was when John said ‘thank you for nagging me’. Unfortunately I didn’t tape the moment.

June 2, 2020

Had a phone appointment with Service NSW today (I couldn’t forget because I had FOUR text reminders) to make sure I was claiming all possible pensioner discounts. The vast majority of things I already knew about, like discounts on licence, rego, electricity, gas, Opal card, country train travel etc, but they got me with a couple that I didn’t know. I can get a 40% discount at Good Guys if my fridge is over 10 years old and packs it in, plus a 50% discount on a new TV in similar circumstances. Free parking for 3 hours at the outrageously expensive public hospital carparks was another new one on me. I am constantly critical of this privatisation-mad premier, but the Service NSW idea is a beauty and I wish those who train its friendly, efficient staff could have a crack at Centrelink. The old RTA staff were surly and slow and the wait times were horrendous but the people at the one-stop-shop at Service NSW act as if you’ve made their day by just turning up. I didn’t ask for this appointment, I rang about something else altogether, but I was asked if I’d like to book a phone session just to ‘make sure you’re not missing out on anything’. That’s service. Thanks Julie.

June 3, 2020

An early call alerted me to the fact that the building company wants to come tomorrow to repair the storm damage from February, mainly painting two ceilings but also replacing broken pavers. I had insisted on masks etc and they weren’t fazed at all. We had planned a bushwalk so we continued with that idea, heading off to Bobbin Head to do the Mangrove Track. It begins at the river and winds all the way up to Wahroonga eventually but that was way too far for today. However I would like to do it in reverse, so it’s mainly downhill, at some time in the future. We came upon a large Aboriginal rock carving of a man as well as axe sharpening grooves in the rocks, which they used to sharpen their blades made from volcanic rock with a wooden handle attached. It was a good place to sit quietly and say sorry we stole your country, your way of life and, in many cases, life itself. A highlight was seeing a new bird I’d never recorded before, a Rock Warbler, which only lives on Hawkesbury sandstone and makes its nest in caves using rootlets stuck together with spider web, so that was quite a find for me. In the afternoon we moved all the smalls in the dining room, put the table and chairs out on the back verandah and took all the plates and pictures off the walls. Prepared.

The cafe at Bobbin Head seemed pretty full but I had packed a picnic. I am just not prepared to take the risk for something so fleeting. To go somewhere important (and it would need to be really important) is one thing, but to be sitting there wondering if you are picking up a potentially fatal illness just to eat out, nah. Our picnic of sambos, apples, cake and tea was guaranteed virus free and delicious.

June 4, 2020

The repair men arrived at 7.30 as planned and covered the ceiling water stains with some sort of sealer to stop them leaking through the paint. Then they repainted the ceilings and we finally moved everything back into the rooms later in the day. However it’s now some hours after and I can still clearly see through the paint to where the sealer was applied. I’m hoping that it takes some time to dry, but somehow I doubt it, I will be hopping mad if it all has to be done again. My feeling was that they weren’t painters by trade, unlike the last time I needed insurance repairs and the man mixed the colour perfectly by eye, saying he’d been painting for decades and didn’t need the name of the colour.

I’ve been reading some new research just out of Oxford, trying to quantify the risks of COVID in relation to age, sex, ethnicity, socio-economic status and with many individual pre-existing illnesses. The comparisons which they recounted are worth thinking about: a healthy man aged 80 has a 1200% higher chance of dying than a healthy woman of 50, with his chance of dying approximately 25% with no pre-existing illnesses, which is 100 times his chance of dying from the common flu. The highest risk of death, at any age, is for someone who has had an organ transplant or has had blood cancer within the last 5 years, the latter of course applies to John. The report comments: “At such a high level of risk, it would be prudent for this man and any of his close contacts to scrupulously exercise precautions avoiding exposure to SARS-CoV-2 until an effective treatment, proven vaccine, or natural herd immunity arrives”. As they stress, there is rarely a mild dose for someone over 70 or with one of these and other high-risk conditions.

June 5, 2020

Thinking about America (aren’t we all?) and it occurs to me that the similarities to Germany in the 1930s are worrying. Blacks and Latinos are seen by some as the equivalent of Jews at that time. It is easy enough to build a wall to keep out the Latinos but what to do about the blacks and browns who are there under sufferance to many people, who see them as folks who shouldn’t have escaped from slavery in the South in the first place? Perhaps keeping them poor or jailed and killing those that step out of line, and even a few who don’t? Because there was once a feeling that these people didn’t deserve health care or a good education or assistance in retirement, these things have over time been effectively denied to everyone giving Americans a much less secure life than someone in the European Union for example. And then along comes Trump, the man who in 1983 refused an engineer, who was part of a work team, permission to come aboard his yacht because he was black. The company leader Jesse Pariseau cancelled the contract of work and was sued for breach of that contract by Trump, who thankfully lost. But of all people he is one who could never have been expected to lift people up, the poor are to him commodities in the cogs of business, slaves even, needed to work for wages that no-one could comfortably survive on. When a society divides its citizens into Jews and non-Jews or white and black it is bound to be less inclined to provide for its citizens in general if the current legal framework doesn’t allow outright discrimination. Hence all of its citizens suffer ultimately. We are so shaped by our histories, the US as a conqueror of Native Americans and then a slave nation. We in Australia were first a conqueror and then a convict colony and these histories show every day in our respective political and social lives.

Participated in a Zoom meeting with my book group, though most were physically in attendance. Somehow or other we’ve gone from last Friday every month to first Friday and next month the second one for reasons I seem to have missed, but I guess it will all sort itself out in the end. It has been suggested that we meet at midday instead of in the evening in future, but I pointed out that one of our number is still working so I am not sure where that idea will go. There was an assumption that we will all be in face to face meetings by next month, but neither Rosanna nor I were prepared to commit to that at this stage. I have no idea how I will feel tomorrow, never mind in a month. But considering the limitations the meeting worked well I think.

June 6, 2020

I really missed being part of the Black Lives Matter demo today, but I just couldn’t justify joining a crowd of what turned out to be 10,000 people in Sydney. I’m afraid I am going to have to leave it to the young ones at the moment, however I’ve kept up the Facebook posts and letters. Proud of the turnout and the peaceful march in difficult circumstances, but I am hoping we don’t see a surge in COVID19 in a couple of weeks.

My bro is ringing more often of late and last night’s call was an example of where we differ, he is defying restrictions and doing his own shopping. K: They only let 11 people on the bus into town now, I can’t even go on the bus if I don’t wear a mask and I’m not going to wear one, blah. There will be plenty of people dead if they are confined any longer in tiny flats, blah blah (this referring to his sister-in-law who doesn’t leave her tiny flat at all, not even for a walk, because of the publicity about coronavirus). I think it’s all a big con and the suckers are falling for it, I refuse to take it seriously like you are, blah blah blah. After about 10 minutes of this I replied, very cool, not cross: I think you should go to town whenever you want and insist on getting on the bus without a mask. K, taken aback: Really? Me: Yes and you should lick all the handrails while you are in town as well and send me some pics of your valuables so I can choose a few things. That shut him up temporarily but of course he didn’t agree. But we still love each other don’t we? he said as we ended the conversation some time later. Yes I love you, I said, even when you are infuriating.

June 7, 2020

After some weeding in the sun I came in to order my (and John’s) fruit, veggies and seafood from Harris Farm. It works quite well as he is doing the same for Woolworths today and then we’ll swap goods. Trying to work out how to celebrate his birthday next Friday. No restaurants or cafes, no opportunity to go out to buy a gift. Perhaps a drive to the Southern Highlands or the mountains or the coast? Still thinking it through and waiting for a brainwave. Yesterday he rang in the afternoon and asked if I wanted to go with him to look at a house in St. Ives for which is is doing some architectural drawings. It may or may not turn into a DA, of course if it does it will be a much bigger job, but currently it’s just a concept. The people were away for the weekend but we had permission to go into the garden to look around at the rooflines etc. The job came about when previous happy clients for whom he’d done an extension mentioned his name to a builder who was looking for some architectural work on a job. He was recommended and hey presto a job out of the air. It is such a lovely area and a lovely big house as well, I was bedazzled by the size of the camellias growing all around, many of them 10 metres tall at least. It must be deep volcanic soil as no matter how old the house you would never see that around here. Afterwards we drove to the nearby Wildflower Garden, I had packed a thermos as is our habit these days, and we sat in the car watching wallabies feeding for an hour before they closed the gates at 5pm.

June 8, 2020

Well as expected the brownish patches on the ceilings that were painted last week have not dried out with time as I was told they would, but are clearly visible to me. John assures me that no-one looks up which is hardly the point. I contacted the ‘painter’ who has promised to come back and fix it by overpainting those areas without need for me to strip the rooms again, a fine solution, if it works.

As a result of the decision to change book group meetings from night time to noon, one of our number has pulled out and two are unhappy with the change. This was predictable, and in fact was predicted, but it goes to show how important it is that big changes are put to the group as a whole and not passed by a vote with only half of the membership present. We shall see what happens but at the moment it’s just a confusion for everyone and an upset for some. I took about 20 books back to the library yesterday to put into the outside return box, but the box was sealed and inside the whole place was empty apart from some painters’ ladders. Clearly they took advantage of the closure to have a redo and thank god I’m not one of the librarians who had to empty every book, desk, computer and shelving unit from the building. Books now happily sleeping in the sun in my car boot, no wonder they haven’t been on my back to return them. I am currently reading Andrew McGahan’s last novel The Rich Man’s House. It is so different, so unpredictable, that I am not at all sure what I will rate it in the end, but 5 Stars for ingenuity and imagination.

June 9, 2020

Oh my, the book group is imploding for reasons that aren’t clear to anyone and who knows what the final upshot will be? I am still riveted by The Rich Man’s House. It is so beautifully descriptive that I go to bed with clear images of the inside of the house and how the rooms relate to each other and on one night I dreamed that I was in it, scary though that was I found it intriguing. I wonder about a mind that can even begin to formulate that story, with its creeping dread that combines elements of science fiction, adventure, the supernatural (something I usually groan about) and rolls it all into a chilling and scary story that makes you glad to live in an unremarkable weatherboard house in an unremarkable suburb. I hope he managed to pull together an ending that fits the rest of the book, I should get there tonight.

I’m sending my bro the Australian Story episode on the 1918-19 pandemic in Australia. He seems to think that we are all over-reacting and that back in those days everyone was cool about it. Hardly, as that program shows. He is refusing to wear a mask, doing his own shopping, whingeing about the bus being restricted to 11 people, so I am sure he’ll enjoy? seeing how Australia coped last time. Every 3 weeks I fill in a COVID-19 survey sent from Sydney University. This last one asked whether the pandemic was caused by 5G, a Chinese lab, Bill Gates and a few other possibilities. If you answered to none of these, there was a box to fill in with your theory, I bet they got some doozies.

June 10, 2020

I bit the bullet and launched into people-land as I couldn’t see another way to get my pink slip for rego without taking the car to the mechanic’s. However they were fast and efficient, just a brake light needed, and I came back confident that I had taken no unnecessary risks. Got them to check the tyres which saved me another trip to a garage. A friend was planning to come over for afternoon tea but too much landscaping at the weekend left her in no fit state to go out. We have planned a morning tea for Monday instead. Tonight I have a Zoom meeting at 7 pm for which they have scheduled 3 sessions cumulatively, perhaps a little ambitious I suspect as being rooted to a chair is hardly the same as being able to move about in a room. Anyway we’ll see how it goes, one of our number now lives permanently in Europe so it will be different to have her join the group after a year or two’s absence. John’s drawings for the St Ives house weren’t quite what they were after so he’s redoing them today and will come up here tomorrow. He’s taken to feeding milk to a cat which often hangs about his door, it’s guaranteed that it will be permanently there from now on.

June 11, 2020

The Zoom meeting last night was technically fine, hosted from London by someone who lives now in the hills above Florence, but was caught in the lockdown there and is now stuck. With an expired visa, the only solution is to apply for residency, an expensive and time-consuming option which leaves her with no passport while it’s being considered. So many people affected in so many different ways. I decided that a couple of hours on the computer for Zoom isn’t something I will be doing again if I can avoid it, I prefer to replace it with one-on-one get-togethers with those who are available. Admittedly I wasn’t really feeling very social last night for other reasons, but I think it will be my attitude going forward. On other social media matters, what to do about an old client who asked to friend me on Facebook when I was closing the shop? Not a person I would socialise with at all given the option, I cringe when I see her posts. A fews days ago it was an exalting post about cops (they are neither all good nor all bad, but unfortunately the bad ones have great power over us) and today she put up Pauline Hanson’s miserable speech to the Senate on Black Lives Matter. I have resisted unfriending her, something I’ve never done to anyone, but I don’t need to be riled up every few days either and debating the issues is a complete waste of time. Ah, isolation has its merits, the oven and the book never rile me; well maybe a book sometimes does but I can even the score with a scorching review, but that’s more tricky with folk. A review site for people? Now that’s something worth a thought.

June 12, 2020

John’s 79th birthday! How did that come along so quickly, I can’t believe he’ll be 80 next year. I decided to do a special picnic and we went to the Australian Botanical Gardens at Mt. Annan. It was a new place for us and we loved it, especially the garden of ancient plants like the cycads and ferns and the Wollemi pines, plus the signage which gave a description of the evolutionary course of life on earth from floating elements in the soup of earliest time through to current species. Fascinating but humbling when you think 79 years is a big deal and it’s telling you that actually 500 million years is more like a big deal to the earth. Makes you realise how little we mean in the whole scheme of things yet we are conditioned to believe that we are important. If I burn a cake I think it’s a big deal but whether we burn a cake, a house, a cathedral or half the country it’s of little relevance in the bigger scheme of things. We really enjoyed our picnic (irrelevant after what I’ve just said) and learned yet again how great a whole trout is as a meal as the leftovers make great sambos the next day.

June 13, 2020

I’ve been thinking about the differences between people and the fact that they seem to be divided into investigators and sweeteners. Both John and I are investigators I think, well I know we are. But so many people we come across just want things to be lovely and run from any deeper discussion about an issue (the ‘never talk religion or politics’ crew are a subset here) preferring to paper over things as quickly as possible, make nice, but not acknowledge differences. I see it in the sweeteners’ eyes when they disagree with me but nothing comes out of the mouth, though I’m sure it does when they retell the conversation later. Geoffrey Ludowici, who like his brother died way too young, neither living to take over their father’s highly successful company, used to tell me that ‘you only need to discover if a person is basically honest or basically dishonest and everything else becomes simple’. But I think knowing if they are investigators or sweeteners is perhaps the next step, as investigators will expose their true feelings whereas sweeteners will always try to please. Big lies are not their thing, but big truths aren’t either. Pity I didn’t put this to Geoffrey all those years ago, he would have given me an honest opinion on whether I’m right or talking shite.

June 14, 2020

Well what makes your heart sink more quickly than the computer dying? It’s not the money as much as the fear that it’s unfixable or that the potential fixer will baffle you with terms you can’t understand and then charge a bomb. I got the blue screen of death but Louis suggested I take it down to him to have a look. He’s a software engineer not a hardware man but he said he’d have a go. So this morning I made a batch of chocolate brownies and then went to Erko. This was made possible because they all came down with colds earlier this week and had COVID19 tests which proved negative. Poor Louis was downloading something or other onto his computer to be uploaded onto mine, but when I left more than three hours later it was still downloading so he said he would bring the computer back to me on Tuesday, either fixed or still cactus. He has had the good fortune to get a new job after his recent retrenchment but explained to them that he has to mind Millie for two days a week until her day care can take her back to her pre-virus routine. The new boss accepted this arrangement, proving what a catch Louis is. Amazingly Millie let me shampoo her hair in the bath, usually hair washing is the source of much upset. An unusual day compared to the last few months.

June 15, 2020

A busy day compared to usual in that I first prepped a slow cooker meal so I can give it to Louis to take home tomorrow and it will also serve as my dinner tonight. Then Arvind came over in his morning tea break working from home and sat on the front verandah shooting the breeze for what was a very long morning tea. As usual he rejected the offer of either a drink or food and he doesn’t eat sweets at all so tea and cake isn’t an option anyway. We continued to chat on the front verandah after another friend arrived for a planned morning tea. She brought a photocopy of Carol’s article just published in the Australian Women’s Weekly which was thoughtful of her. That encounter then spread to a couple of hours and she showed me how to use voice recognition to send messages which I’ve just tried successfully on an email but haven’t yet mastered on a text message. I’m wondering how long it will be before the library gets on my back about all these books, but I’m lying low now until I finish a couple more. Currently reading the magnificent Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. Set in the same grand but tumbling down house in both 2016 and 1871, it has me in its thrall. It exposes the difficulty of middle class comparative poverty in a society where you are always just one illness away from bankruptcy. It ties in with the report of a man on the US who spent 72 days in hospital with covid19, only to be sent home with a $1.17 million bill itemised over 181 pages.

June 16, 2020

I am typing this on………….my computer! Louis brought it back today working perfectly and I am so happy that my daughter paired up with a genius. His genes are setting Millie on the path too, her comprehension of the digital world is just amazing. I was able to bring out the huge 2-storey Barbie House that John discovered recently on a walk nearby and snaffled for use as a grandma’s house treat. She loved it and we had a good game of girl and grandma, which included cooking in the well equipped kitchen and using each of the rooms for its purpose. She enjoyed her peanut butter sandwich lunch and then asked for crackers with peanut butter which were licked clean and then reloaded. Before their arrival, again at dead on 7.30, the painters came back to redo the ceilings that were subpar originally. With another coat they’ve turned out fine. It’s been my day.

Reading Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, which has to be a 4.5 in terms of reading enjoyment for me. Set both in the period leading up to the election of the current president, ‘The Bullhorn’ as she aptly names him, and also in the 1870s it thrilled me to the point that I was scribbling down quotes on scrap paper as I read. The title wisely gives us the feel of the fragility of living week to week, despite one reasonable salary, in a house where the rain comes in, plaster ceilings collapse and cracks in the walls are stuffed with socks. The parallel Victorian story, of a teacher trying to open children’s eyes to science in the face of dogmatic religious beliefs that deny it altogether, could well have been set in modern day USA rather than in 1871.

June 17, 2020

I decided it was unfair to keep getting the bakery to deliver if I could work out an alternative, so last night I placed an order and then drove today to Dural and they delivered it to me in the carpark, everyone happy. But I have to say those people wouldn’t have complained if I’d kept up delivery till 2030. On the way back I went to the nursery and bought some Charlie Carp fertiliser using the same technique. John seems more affected by the lockdown than I am, so he is quite disappointed if for example a Zoom meeting falls through, but we are all different in these times. I get a kick out of getting around the lockdown as I did this morning but it doesn’t bother me when I can’t, the BLM marches being a big exception. On that note, my bete noire on Facebook sank to new lows yesterday asking why ‘a thug and felon gets 7 funerals and a gold-plated casket’ but I’ve decided I need to keep her on for the same reason that I read Murdoch papers in a cafe (well I used to….). You always need to know what the enemy is up to.

Having a conversation with Woolworths after they substituted the barramundi with saddletail snapper in John’s and my shared online order. Normally I would never eat fish from a supermarket, having known someone who worked at Woolworths in the fish section, but it was on a half price special and I weakened. I was okay with trying a new fish, until I tasted it that is. Oh my god, I have no words for how disgusting it was and the texture meant it could easily be used to retread my car tyres. Mine went to the birds, but although John hated it too he ate a little. So I asked Mr Google where it is caught, thinking it must be in the Mekong, but no, it is a tropical reef fish from Nth Queensland and the Northern Territory. But more interestingly I turned up countless Facebook posts going back to 2013 of people warning others never to buy it. The keywords were ‘disgusting, rubbery, stinks’ which are all understatements, but it didn’t smell when it was raw so clearly it wasn’t off. Anyway I sent a nice friendly missive to Woolworths telling them that they’ve upset a usually happy customer but that I would be happy to return the unused portions, which I froze, to their Norwest headquarters. They could come out to the carpark to collect it, he he.

June 18, 2020

I decided that today was cooking day so it began with making a traditional egg custard using frozen egg yolks that were left over from pavlovas or whatever and it worked a treat. I put the end result through a fine sieve though just in case, but there were no problem bits in the bottom so that’s one more use for accumulated yolks. Then on to a 4 bean stew with tomato, chili, paprika etc which will come in handy as a topping on corn chips for an easy nachos meal, freezer for that one. Next to a cake, mmm would I do a fruitcake, an orange and almond? But seeing I am supposed to be working my way through my untried recipes I opted for a Stephanie Alexander orange cake with icing. The batter seemed awfully stiff as I mixed it during a phone call from John (hint, I can’t do two things at once) so I added a little more orange juice and then some water and popped it into the oven. As I began to do the mountain of washing up and cleaning of the bench I found to my horror the two eggs that were meant to go into the cake! Whipping the partially risen cake out of the oven I hastily threw the hot batter into the Kitchen Whiz with the eggs and returned it to the oven before you could say IDIOT. It is now beautifully risen and doesn’t seem to have suffered for the experience. Now for the icing, surely I can’t mess that up?

June 19, 2020

So I’ve been thinking about why race relations in America don’t seem to improve, in fact they seem to be worsening. Rather than improving because they had a black president, perhaps they’ve worsened for that very reason. Now if you’ve grown up in a racist community perhaps getting a black president was just the last straw and firmed your sense of an invasion of ‘the other’?  Also thinking about Trump’s cold inhuman attitude to the loss to COVID-19 of 116,702 lives as of today. One explanation is that the man is in fact a sociopathic malignant narcissist, but what if his mindset makes it impossible to feel any kind of empathy at all? I feel as if I’ve known Trump for decades, but in another body, as a friend’s father was long ago diagnosed as a malignant narcissist and despite being well treated and looked after into his dotage by his son he is bitter in the extreme and makes a life of misery for his son and his family. Just sitting at the dinner table with him is frightening, as he looks around the table for the weakest person to verbally attack tonight. I was lucky, being a guest, that it was never me but I had to stop going because it was too awful to watch and I suspect he liked the audience. If in fact Trump’s fear of being the loser in any encounter is so strong, then why feel pity for the ‘losers’ who succumb to this illness, largely people who are old or black or Latino? It is statistically a killer of minorities, just those people that largely vote Democrat in fact. This disease could be seen in that sort of mind as separating the weak from the strong, winnowing those frail and feeble and minorities. Just as Ronald Reagan refused to stump up money for AIDS research and was reported to see it as a gift towards ridding the US of homosexuals, perhaps Trump with his refusal to wear a mask and organising mass political gatherings is simply helping to sift the superhumans from the subhumans. We all know the end result of that thinking.

June 20, 2020

Martha gave me a couple of recipe books from 1980 and tonight I am doing dinner from one. It’s funny how you can date a recipe book almost exactly by just looking at the ingredient list and the pictures of a few dishes. I now need a bottle of Barossa Pearl or Sparkling Rhinegold or Porphyry Pearl to go with it. I noticed a press article about an upcoming inquest (that I can’t attend) into the death of my sometime upholsterer in the shop. He was a troubled young soul who attempted suicide at one point, almost succeeding, but damaged his oesophagus so badly that from then on he had to be fed through a tube into his stomach. The medicos told him that this would shorten his life considerably, of course human nature being what it is he then wanted very much to live. He descended into alcoholism and domestic violence until, during an attack on his wife, an intervention by her mother ended in his death. A sad waste of his young life and a tragedy for his wife, his 13 year old daughter who witnessed it all and of course his wife’s mother. With any such tragedy, including his suicide attempt, it is natural to ask yourself if you could have done anything that might have made a difference. But I know others who tried, including people who gave him work and the upholsterer who apprenticed him, and somehow it never seemed to make a difference. There was something deep in his psyche that just kept pulling him down.

June 21, 2020

Woolworths responded positively to my comments about the fish, not looking for a refund but a reason why they sell this stuff to unsuspecting customers. We had a to and fro about it, my last email complimenting them on their response to COVID-19 and saying that I enjoyed the weekly email from CEO Brad which was just the right combination of encouragement and information. I tried to give the remaining now frozen fish to Justin next door for his dog but as he took it he said ‘I might just throw it on the barbie and try it’…mmm I will see how that works out. I finally signed up to Medium, an American outfit printing the best of US journalism delivered to my phone each morning, via blogs plus The Atlantic, Business Insider, Huff Post, Vanity Fair, and all the newspapers of note. Lots of scientific links on COVID-19 which I can then follow up by reading the original research, plus heaps of political long-form articles and analysis. You can choose subjects you like, so I am sticking to science and politics for the moment but there are dozens to choose from. There are no ads and they don’t sell your details on to anyone, plus the author gets a small commission from every article you read. I am a bit addicted to Umair Haque’s blog, he seems to read my mind on political matters and then writes an article based on that in his unmatched style. I should get a comm for the seed ideas in his articles seeing he downloads some from my brain.

June 22, 2020

Our bushwalking day saw us drive to the National Park at West Head and the weather was perfect. We did the Red Hand Cave Walk and the Koolewong Track and the moss and lichens on the first walk were just spectacular. The bush was so silent. We had our picnic at the lookout and later were driving within the park when clouds of steam erupted from under the bonnet and the temperature gauge was seen to be at maximum. Rang the NRMA but had to guess our exact location, waiting time 60 minutes. An hour and a half later the patrol man told us that the radiator, which we had been warned not to check, was completely empty and he doesn’t carry enough water to fill it and therefore see where a possible leak is coming from, therefore the car must be towed. Problem: By now it was after 4 pm and the park gates close at 6 pm. How do we get out of here if the truck doesn’t make it I asked, ‘walk the 5 or 6 kilometres to the gate and ring a cab’ he replied, telling me that ‘maybe it’s not a good idea to bring your fella out into the bush if he can’t walk far’. Nothing to do but wait and cross my fingers, with John wanting to play I Spy or else perform The Man From Snowy River in its entirety, but I wasn’t in the mood for anything except making sure that the towie didn’t go right past us in the dark. He almost did, so my concentration and mad waving was the right decision. At a quarter to 6 I asked John what to do if he didn’t make it and he said we either ring the police or else sleep in the car (on a 2 degree night with no blankets). Amazingly the tow truck arrived at 10 to 6 and he had warned the gate that we were stranded so they left it open for us to get out. Patrick, born Pasquale, broke COVID-19 rules to take us with him rather than leaving us in the bush, even though we offered to get a cab from the gates, so then began 50 kilometres of conversation about all manner of subjects. He had done a real estate investment course with Donald Trump in Sydney in 2011, had bought a terrace near Hyde Park back when it was ‘full of junkies and pros’ and now it’s worth a packet. We talked concrete, real estate, caravans, odd accidents, the English language, Ralph Nader splitting the Left in a Presidential election, night shift and more until we arrived at my mechanic’s and then he brought us home about 8 pm. He lifted me bodily from the truck with ease (even though I could have climbed down backwards) further breaking his isolation and ours. What a wonderful interaction, which almost made up for the scary few hours watching night settle in the park.

June 23, 2020

Norma’s John died this morning at 4 am, within that renowned couple of hours in hospitals everywhere. I go back to the perennial questions: where is he now? how do the mind and the brain relate to one another? is it even remotely possible that the mind goes somewhere else? Poor Norma after all those years.

Thinking back over yesterday I remembered the klaxon-like horn at fire alarm pitch that went off in the tow truck every time we approached a speed camera, very discombobulating the first time. Today we went up to get some things out of the car and Alex tells me po-faced that it’s the radiator and hoses and is going to cost $5000. Knowing him as I do I replied asking if credit card is okay for that, then I get the big smile and ‘You know I will do it for you at the best possible price’. Yes I do, bless him and I will be happy with whatever he says. John had a doc’s appointment with Bob and I sat in the car reading for the hour and a half he was away, they chat a lot and it’s always an hour or more. It was very cold and not helped by the book which was set in France in winter and every page was ice and snow. We ended the day with a trip to the bakery for my order, now that I have worked out a system and they deliver to the car park I don’t need to feel bad about their petrol and time for which they wouldn’t charge me.

June 24, 2020

I’ve been sorting out some linen to give to Michelle W. who passes it on to the many mostly migrant women she works with, it’s become my fall-back since the charity shops closed. She says they positively leap on the boxes as she puts them down, this time some old towels, tablecloths, throws etc, but who cares where it goes as long as the recipient has a use for it and these women clearly do. My obsession with finding a use for things can be a millstone around my neck sometimes but in this case everyone’s happy. Of course I add to the problem by picking stuff up on the roadside and then I need to find those things a happy home, which used to often be the auctions but even that’s stymied at the moment. Had an interesting conversation in a call from John’s neighbour who sometimes shops for him for things like the pharmacy. She told me that she unpacked his pharmacy order (why?) and found dishwashing liquid which she told me would have been much cheaper at Woolworths (she had been there to check). I tried to explain that he always favours small shops over conglomerates and she couldn’t understand it at all. ‘I don’t care if all the small shops go broke’ she said ‘because then we would get everything cheaper from the big ones’. I tried to explain his attraction to service over price but the concept was lost on her. I am somewhere between, sticking to small shops as long as the price difference isn’t tooo great, whereas John just doesn’t look at the price at all. We are all so different in our responses to even simple things.

June 25, 2020

Decided to make the Parsnip, Apple and Lime Cake that I’ve been hankering for and it was an absolute bottler. I remember having a similar combination as a steamed pudding at Sean’s Panaroma last year and I wouldn’t mind betting that it’s the same recipe but steamed in moulds. I am going to try some of it as a dessert with custard and see how it goes. My car is finally home, fortuitously they rang this afternoon while Heather was here so she dropped me up there to pick it up, $629 but could have been worse. I forgot to take the chocolates I intended to give the boys there so I’ll drop them in another day. Feeling too clever I tried to do some work on the computer late in the day but it had gone kaput. Louis had fixed it two weeks ago but now it is out of action again so I suppose I will need to get ‘the man’, groan. While I’m bitching, the latest Coronavirus case is at a school just near John’s place. But looking on the bright side I have ocean trout for dinner, so things are not all bad in the world.

June 26, 2020

The best of people and the worst, let’s get the worst out of the way first. In the US there are actually rallies against wearing masks, in the middle of a bleeding pandemic. It does my head in. Then on the news in Melbourne there were people interviewed on the streets of the suburbs with renewed outbreaks who said they would refuse testing ‘because it’s a democracy and we don’t have to’. On that basis the ambos don’t have to pick you up you idiot and the medical staff don’t have to risk their lives to care for you if you get sick, it’s their democratic right to refuse isn’t it? But it won’t be that silly witch who gets a severe dose, it will be her neighbour who did everything the right way and caught it nonetheless from a Covidiot. Steam coming from ears.

Turning to lovely people, my friend’s brother has advanced Parkinson’s and suffers from hallucinations. He has been convinced for some time that they are caring for a refugee and expects his wife to provide meals for him. Currently in a short residential respite he has asked for mattresses to be put on the floor of his room so all the little people he looks after can sleep there comfortably. It’s a sad story but speaks so well of his intentions. They say dementia intensifies existing personality and if that’s true it speaks so well of this man. Steam out of ears receding somewhat.

June 27, 2020

Lovely day cooking for the Erskineville mob who came after lunch and stayed for dinner. Millie was still entranced by the Barbie house which occupied her afternoon. ‘Where do you think this doll ought to go grandma?’ ‘In the kitchen Millie.’ ‘No grandma she goes in the bathroom ‘. I was never right but I think that was the point of the game. Beth came over later and was entertained on the very cold back verandah but luckily she’d worn her mountaineering jacket. Her mum has MS so she’s fully across lockdown and happy to take precautions. The parsnip pudding went down really well with custard although John, who was aware of the main ingredient, wasn’t keen. Psychology of food is a real issue, as I’m only too aware when I think of eating anything that scrunches up its nose, like bunny rabbit or kangaroo. A butcher once gave me a taste of something and I stupidly took it, only later being told it was kangaroo and it nearly ended up on his floor. In France I almost ate horse, misunderstanding the menu. Also in Europe I ordered steak and thought to check what it was, ‘beel meat’ he said, only later finding out it was reindeer and my immediate thought was ‘oh god I’ve eaten Rudolph’. Knowing how silly that is doesn’t change the way you feel. As a Muslim friend told me in relation to pork, it’s as if you came to my house and I served you rat. Point taken.

June 28, 2020

So 30% of those in Covid19 quarantine apparently refuse to be tested…..what the ****? We suckers pay for them to watch Netflix for a fortnight while they whine about the food and the room and whatever else and it’s too much trouble for them to open their mouths for a test? Easy fixed, there’s a big hospital at Long Bay, stick them all in there till Christmas on prison rations. Sorted.

While I’m on my soapbox here’s another thing. Those on Newstart have struggled for years to survive on $40 a day and were considered bludgers to boot, but now that there are thousands more unemployed we just change the name of the benefit and this is considered a boon for real people who are suffering, the rate increasing massively. The poor can’t believe their luck, caught up with the middle class and now able to pay their bills. But don’t get used to three meals a day people, the bastards will put it back down by and by, as soon as their traditional voters are back in work and then the poor be damned.

June 29, 2020

A couple of weeks ago my computer died and Louis made a valiant effort to fix it, but sadly it has croaked again after working fine for a week or so. I contacted a technician, Omar, with trepidation as they have a habit I’ve found of either being a bit odd, talking over my head or expecting decisions faster than I can provide them. But I’ve had a long talk to Omar who was very helpful and not at all a pressure person. He’s saying that if it needs a new hard drive as he suspects he can do that but all the other parts are old so there would be no guarantee on them. On the other hand if I wanted a new computer he would check suppliers for the best deals/ specials on a touchscreen model, deliver it and transfer the data over. But the best part was that he told me not to rush into a decision and to ring him back when I’d thought about it, which was generous. So I’ve decided to take a gamble and get it fixed if he can, I am at heart a fixer rather than a replacer. I will be happy if I’ve found a computer tech that I can trust who is understanding of my preferences, that’s worth a lot on its own. The last time I called one he was very odd and just didn’t want to go home, sitting on the floor nursing my computer for hours, it got quite creepy in the end. Omar comes later this arv so we shall see.

It occurred to me that I haven’t eaten a meal cooked by someone else since the beginning of March, nor a drink either when I come to think about it. I’m happy with my own cooking but gee a treat from KOI or some sushi will go down a treat once it comes to pass. I’m thinking the citrus jar from KOI and some tempura veggies sounds like a meal, note dessert is mentioned first.

June 30, 2020

Omar was neither weird nor did he talk over my head. But my computer is sunk despite his best efforts. Now comes the tricky job of buying another one when I can’t go to the shops. I must pick things up, I read quality through my hands. Omar has recommended one that he can get for a reasonable price but alas it’s not a touchscreen, which I love. Louis has recommended one for twice the price that is a touchscreen. Although I don’t believe in astrology I know I’m a classic Libran, agonising over every decision to a ridiculous degree, in fact to the point that I can easily make myself sick over it. With people dying in droves all over the world the decision is very much a tiny First World one, but today it is like a lead yoke on my shoulders nonetheless.

July 1, 2020

We decided to take a drive to Wiseman’s Ferry today and I appreciated the opportunity to get into a computer-free zone and loved picnicking by the Hawkesbury River under the trees. Seeing I can’t do my online fruit and veg order easily I took the opportunity to pull over at a small roadside stall on the way to restock. The lady told me that they grow everything on the property but when I saw the bananas I had my doubts. But whatever of that I am now flush with good quality produce without needing to go to the shops. Tried out the new Thermos, bought after the old flask was accidentally knocked over and broken at Mt Annan. The tea was as hot or hotter than the freshly made one we had at breakfast and was still very hot when we had a second cup at 4pm so very pleased with the new purchase. I think Omar is fed up with my computer questions as he didn’t answer the one I sent last night. I know I’m a pain in the arse with details but in business you have to deal with all sorts. I guess it gives me more thinking time if he delays replying but I really do want it done and dusted.

July 2, 2020

Louis came out to show me Dav’s Microsoft computer which coincidentally is also the one that Carly bought. One of the features they like is that it is light and thin so they can use it easily on their laps, something I never do. So I’m still waiting for Omar’s reply and then I’ll go from there. Louis stayed for lunch and it was good to spend some time with him. The library has offered a delivery service so I am getting the book group choice delivered next Tuesday. I told them that I had 20 returns here and they said they could take a bag of 10, but 20 was too many?? Three months ago they would have fined me big time for having all these overdue books but now I’m having trouble returning them, funny times we are living in. I am constantly amazed by the lengths people will go to in order to avoid covid19 restrictions. People changing the suburb on their driver’s licence to avoid lockdown, trying to sneak around the restrictions by coming into NSW by overnight train, it never ends. I am generally supportive of people who ignore laws that are morally suspect, such as those forbidding outside surveillance of animal cruelty on farms for example, but those who break reasonable laws just for their own comfort and convenience need a legal kick to the seat of their pants in my view and I hope Daniel Andrews has the ticker to give it to them.

July 3, 2020

Speaking to the bro last night he was complaining that now he can’t get on the bus without a mask, but then he began complaining that they should have brought this in three months ago and they wouldn’t be in the tragic situation that they’re in. I’m detecting a distinct shift here from ‘it’s all an overreaction’ to ‘what were they thinking to let it get this bad’. Perhaps I can take a little credit for this change, but then again perhaps not. What to do with the 10,000 Victorians who have refused testing? No, throwing them in the Yarra is much too brutal, it’s winter after all. Publishing their names and addresses perhaps so people can avoid them? Withdrawing their AFL viewing rights? Creative thinkingmy son, you’ll come up with something.

My computer obsession is hopefully drawing to a close because this morning I decided to apply my restaurant rule. Have just a soup at a top restaurant rather than three courses at a mediocre one, so I bought Louis’s recommendation of a Microsoft Surface Laptop which was 20% off at JB Hi-Fi but still more than double the price of the one Omar could get for me. But I went with Louis’s suggestion 7 and a half years ago when I bought the Toshiba and it didn’t see a serviceman until it died, so hopefully I’ll still be using this one when I’m 80. Oh dear that’s a scary thought.

July 4, 2020

Election night for Eden-Monaro, we are eating early so as not to miss a single syllable of Antony Green’s analysis. Barramundi with warm potato salad and broccolini, but I’m afraid I didn’t plan ahead well enough to have a sweet ready. At 11pm it was obvious that no result would be known tonight but Labor was leading by a bilby’s whisker so I’d rather be on our team than theirs. The Nationals president hadn’t cared enough to learn how to pronounce the Liberal candidate’s name, calling her something like Korvoyages, so that was an indication of their level of interest. At 12.15 my possum family had a punchup on my bedroom roof. It was very noisy and I’m sure it was the male giving the female what for due to some perceived slight. I’ve renamed him Dyson, not after the vacuum.

July 5, 2020

It looks as if we’ve won Eden-Monaro. Woo-hoo, about time something good happened in 2020. Serves the Libs right for all sorts of reasons, the fact that they air-brushed the wrinkles out of their candidate’s photos not the least of them. We headed off to Pitt Town (Piddown in local tradie parlance) to deliver some more goods to Michelle for her work mates. I love relocating things to where they are most needed and this was a three way transaction which pleased the donor, me and no doubt the recipients, four way if you count Michelle. From there we went to Cattai National Park which meant our picnic was had overlooking the Hawkesbury again. Arndell’s house within the park was the home of the surgeon on the First Fleet, then it passed down through 7 generations of his family. It is a fine example of Georgian architecture but unfortunately is currently closed for restoration. John is finding these excursions illuminating as they are mostly to places he’s never been, I think he’s somewhat surprised to find anything worth looking at in western Sydney, Mosman boy that he is at heart. The new Thermos is proving a real boon.

July 6, 2020

I am getting just a teensy bit nervous because the Liberals haven’t yet conceded defeat in Eden-Monaro and there’s no news on Antony’s blog about the count. I thought they’d all  tempted fate a little by declaring it won so quickly but In Antony We Trust. Gladys is the Queen of Backflips it seems, first on the Powerhouse Museum (a backflip which I applaud, but that’s $40 million she’s wasted on the ill-fated project, yet if I pinch a biro from the government I could be charged…Smilie: ;) and now on border closures. They were the work of Satan a week ago, but when it is NSW that’s threatened by creeping COVID from the south it’s a whole different box of frogs. No doubt she will spin it her way but I am afraid she will never win me over, she has privatisation where her heart should live. And while I am on that, I am livid that she has sold the Sirius building for gazillions after turfing out all of the public housing tenants to the western suburbs. There is nothing that would get under their skins more than having the poor in a building with amazing harbour views. The rabble can’t be allowed to think they are the equal of Mr and Mrs Moneybags, the mere thought would give Glad the vapours and she’d need an extra G and T to settle down.

This morning Omar came first thing and did the ceremonial opening of the new computer, tearing the cello covering from its box. It works and I am fully back in the world so I did a couple of online book reviews just to get used to it. He charged me about half of his original quote so it was clearly easier than first predicted. It is a huge relief to me to have a close, trustworthy computer person who distils what I need to know into words I can understand and is available by email and phone as well as in person as necessary. So far so good on the new girl but he’s there if I run into problems.

July 7, 2020

Looking at those poor souls locked up in the Housing Commission buildings in Melbourne is heart-wrenching. I know it had to be done, and fast, but surely getting every community service worker masked up and door knocking was preferable to having them see it on the news or looking out to see the place crawling with police, my first thought as a resident would have been the Grenfell Towers fire in London. But full marks to the folk who raced there with car loads of food and other necessities for them, I’m hoping that outreach will continue once the virus is behind us. I continue to be fascinated with the science of this thing; the latest report on the cluster of six genes which raises people’s risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes is that it occurs in an online database of Neanderthal genomes. The researcher found that the gene version is the same as that found in Neanderthals who lived in Croatia 50,000 years ago. People who carry two copies of the variant are three times more likely to suffer from severe illness than people who do not. It’s possible that an immune response that worked against ancient viruses has ended up causing an overreaction against the new coronavirus. People who develop severe cases of Covid-19 typically do so not because of the virus per se, but because their immune systems launch uncontrolled attacks that end up scarring their lungs and causing inflammation all over the body. I want to read the ultimate textbook on this disease but, although a few people have rushed to print, it will be years before a definitive volume emerges.

My day began with an email to Omar describing a couple of problems I’ve had working out the new computer. He phoned back and sorted one out remotely and he will call in tomorrow to see if he can solve the other. Bless. Then I decided that there was a dearth of sweet stuff here so I did an orange and almond cake which has just come out of the oven and looks good enough to eat. Caught up on some overdue emails including to the bro who has had the trifecta of computer, hot water system and phone issues all at once. I would be spinning. Decided not to go to book group this month after John expressed the view that he would be anxious about my going, at least that settled the issue and made it one less thing for me to agonise over.

July 8, 2020

Talking today to John’s niece Teresa, one of the very few people I know who has gone into almost complete lockdown, and she confirmed that nothing’s changed in their household. Like us they go out occasionally to a bush idyll for a picnic but otherwise it is just staying home. She mentioned asking her GP this week if she should start coming in to the office but the reply was ‘no way with an autoimmune condition’. She also said that she was told, as I have been, that most deaths occur from immune cytokine storms, not pneumonia or the more predictable flu type complications. I have had a theory that the young people who die could be pre-symptomatic autoimmune patients, considering that apart from a few things like juvenile type 1 diabetes, most of these conditions don’t show up till the ages of 50 or over, but the genetic predisposition to them is there from birth. Just a theory, but a story in The Age this week about a young plumber who had his 23rd birthday while unconscious on a ventilator in Melbourne discussed the fact that while he was in ICU they discovered he had an autoimmune disease from which he’d had no previous symptoms. Time will tell. None of the groups of which she is a member are meeting face to face, all sticking to Zoom. So my decision not to go to book group this week was considered by her to be a no-brainer. We have been invited to a first wedding anniversary party in October and considering there seemed like hundreds at the (outdoor) wedding I am still reluctant to reply at this stage. Who knows what the situation will be by then.

Last night I watched the Foreign Correspondent programme on children stolen from Timor Leste by Indonesians during the invasion of that blighted country. I found myself sniffling and then sobbing as those poor souls went back to visit their families, now speaking a different language, worshipping a different religion, with many of their relatives having died. The reconciliations reminded me of meeting Kenneth in the arrivals lounge at Manchester Airport, just hanging on to each other for dear life, but with none of the language and cultural divides that these people face. At the end I contacted my adoptive Timorese cousin Cal to express my love and appreciation of what he and Domingos went through in that war, resulting in their evacuation to Australia during the initial bombing raids and subsequent adoption by my cousin Ruth and her husband Greco. They both converted to Islam so there remains that division between their familial religious and cultural background and their current beliefs, another similarity to the stories told in this moving doco.

July 9, 2020

Had a friend over for morning tea and the handle suddenly broke off my teapot as I was pouring it, spilling the lot onto the table and floor, but it pains me to think that I could have been pouring it over her lap when it happened. However the glass insert which didn’t break will make an unusual vase. It’s made me realise that I need to clean my silver tea service so I can bring it back into the fold. We went for a walk later and John suddenly told me how much he loves me so some combination of sun or exercise or morning tea was obviously good for him. I finished reading the book group choice but it feels strange not to be going to the meeting tomorrow, I think it’s the only meeting I’ve missed except when we were overseas a couple of times. Food delivery day today with Harris Farm in the morning and Woolies in the afternoon. Normally the Woolies order goes to John’s and then we swap but they had sent me an offer of $20 off and free delivery which was too good to refuse. I just couldn’t have let that money slide past for exactly the same amount of groceries. So now my fridge is groaning but much will go back to John’s house when he leaves on Sunday. A Dutch friend of mine was always bemused at my desire to land a special and used to ask ‘and on what are you going to spend the money you saved?’ but he missed the point. I think it’s a class thing and he was firmly into the middle class. We once went to a restaurant in Crows Nest and became chatty with the Bangladeshi waiter who invited us to stay back and have free drinks at the bar with him and the owner after closing. Things went well until JanBert asked the Bangla guy what he was doing in Australia. Studying fashion design he replied, after which my Dutch friend spurted the alcohol out of his mouth in a guffaw saying ‘Just what Bangladesh needs, a fashion designer!’ We left soon after, thank goodness. The Dutch are known for saying what they mean.

July 10, 2020

Decided to get our picnic day in before the rain starts, but first stop was an old shop contact in Windsor to pick up the last instalment of the bucks he borrowed over a year ago, he’s always as good as his word but it takes time. He had also managed to sell an old briefcase of mine in a garage sale for $25 so that was an unexpected bonus. He was a bit downhearted because a neighbour had reported to the council his habit of feeding birds every afternoon and he’d had a cease and desist letter from them as well as from the landlord. Buying stale bread from a bakery to feed them he was getting huge flocks of parrots and galahs and corellas coming every afternoon, they classified him as a ‘bird nuisance’ which is funny in itself. From there we set out to find the lovely rockery and garden we spied earlier when we were in Cattai, it was on the other side of the river and on the way we looked in at the old Ebenezer Church and wandered around its cemetery. Many of the pioneers, including First Fleeters,  are buried there and the first service was held under a tree there in about 1804. Lachlan Macquarie visited in the early days of the colony arriving by boat up the Hawkesbury. But still no rock garden. We tried various roads to the river finally ending up on private property and the owner came out to see us, explaining that the rock garden we’d seen is on another private property and unreachable. John commented that had we been in the US we might have been shot but he was a cheery fellow. A further drive took us to the old Tizzana Winery, the proprietors of which were longtime clients of the shop, but it was closed, not that we would have gone in anyhow. Driving through Sackville we came upon the car ferry and took it for a lark, coming home via Maroota and Dural, making it a round trip. Thinking of doing some transplanting tomorrow and putting in some seedlings I’ve grown before the days of rain arrive. My pink speckled Hypoestes were transplanted to the front garden last year but they are not happy so I want to move them back out of the sun. The Pink Star packet said 500 seeds but because I’d had bad luck with the spinach and germinated zero, I planted them all and it looks like 1000 came up, so I need to find quite a few homes.

July 11, 2020

Got my gardening done early and then after lunch Heather came over for a cuppa but she decided not to come in after John thought it was a bit too cool out on the verandah. She said she will come by another day, being uncomfortable with the risk (to us) of being inside in the current environment. She had brought a big coat to sit outside as we have been doing recently but we will catch up on a sunny day, hopefully this week. We find such a huge range of responses amongst our friends from the super cautious who allow no one inside and carefully disinfect everything that comes in via home delivery to the gung ho ‘it won’t happen to me’ folks. I think we fall into the pretty cautious camp but not at the extreme end, though I don’t criticise whatever responses people have, I think it’s largely a personality thing in combination with how much (or how little) they’ve been reading about the virus and how to avoid it. Apparently at the book group meeting on Friday a suggestion was made about having meetings outdoors somewhere but it was kiboshed by someone on the grounds that carrying picnic baskets from the car was a nuisance. A pity as that would have gone a long way to making me feel comfortable about going back to the meetings. The way things are going in Victoria though, we may well be in lockdown again by August so the venue could be a moot point. I’m happy to play it as it comes.

July 12, 2020

John surprised me by saying he would like to do another walk and picnic today and that was well-timed considering we had a baked trout for dinner last night with enough left over for sambos. We decided to dispel the West Head jinx and do a walk from the exact point where we spent many hours waiting for help when the car broke down last time. It was uphill to the highest point in the park and we had our picnic at the trig point on top, looking out at Lovett Bay in the distance. A whip bird decided to do his whip thing right next to us, the first time I’ve heard it so close by and boy it’s loud. Later we drove to Akuna Bay and Illawong Bay and decided to spend some time there in the future too, though there aren’t many walks on that side. Some very handy looking yachts were moored there, another thing alongside fancy cars that I have no desire to own, regardless of how much money I come into. But we’ve realised that going on a Sunday, indeed any time at the weekend, is not for us because we couldn’t get a park anywhere near the lookout and there are just too many people about. Luckily our particular walk didn’t attract them though. I accidentally put my fancypants water bottle down on a rock and left it there for a while and when I went back someone had pinched it, yuk I can’t imagine doing that at the moment, but I hope they enjoy my favourite bottle as much as I did.

July 13, 2020

Facebook popping up random memories is always interesting and sometimes a surprise. Today some pics from 3 years ago came up, John with walking stick in his recliner chair, and it was such a contrast to the man who walked up to the trig point yesterday. I don’t think either of us thought that we’d see him as he is today. Perhaps that’s why the thought of getting the virus knocks him about a bit, coming so far and then getting knocked down by a tiny guy he can’t see and feels somewhat powerless to fight off. A report in the Lancet today about a woman who gave the virus, via elevator buttons, to 71 people she had never met is probably a story that fuels paranoia in some and gets a mere shoulder shrug from others.

I suddenly remembered fruit mince the other day. It isn’t even Christmas but I recalled a lovely mince tart I once baked that had grapes in it and decided to replicate it decades later only this time I added cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to the pastry. Even turned up the original recipe in Cordon Bleu, that delicious series of 18 books that I ordered monthly from England in my early 20s and use still. It is just out of the oven so I can’t comment on its taste but it looks damned good. The fruit mince has been macerating in the fridge for 48 hours since I made it on Saturday, using a Bangor Primary School Centenary Port from 1994. Clearly port is not my tipple so it’s lasted well, since I bought it about 20 years ago in a deceased estate sale from someone who’d never opened it. At least that’s one thing less to feature in my deceased estate sale as there’s only another nip left in it. It is a very weird idea that we spend our lives collecting stuff that then goes to charity or the bin in many cases, losing its significance entirely. I can remember how I came into possession of almost everything I own and the story that goes with it, but those stories end with me of course. As I said when Alex Hendriksen, a very knowledgeable antique dealer, died years ago ‘it’s a pity we can’t download his knowledge onto a computer somehow, replete with stories’. Like when he bought an antique hearse and had great fun lying in the back in full view while being slowly driven through the streets of Windsor. People stopped on the footpaths as a mark of respect, well the first couple of times anyway. He had a penchant for alcohol and often walked home from the shop on a Friday night holding onto a Coles trolley because he couldn’t stand. He asked me to spread the rumour that he had Meniere’s Disease to explain his lack of balance but I could never do it, always feeling he should own his alcoholism, as he did his other peculiarities. We won’t see another character like Alex any time soon.

July 14, 2020

Julia Gillard appeared one-on-one last night on Q and A. I decided that my unbroken  sleep was more important than listening to her, despite my general support and interest in much she would have to say. I was, and still am, totally opposed to her overthrow of Kevin Rudd. Despite his faults and foibles he was elected and popular, his overthrow resulted in a broad and long term distrust of politics and politicians and we ended up with Tony Abbott, a fact that ultimately I sheet home to Gillard (and the gullibility of the populace to the lies of the Murdoch press). Rudd’s unpopularity with public servants was well known, due to his unreasonable requests and lack of planning resulting in some sleeping under their desks in order to produce work that was asked for at 5pm and expected first thing the next morning. He was a micro-manager, he had a temper, but are these sufficient to overthrow a sitting PM? I would answer strongly in the negative.

A communication from my virologist friend today about the fact that there are reports of people getting COVID19 a second time and also that the second infection proves worse than the first. This is common to dengue fever as well where reinfection leads to severe illness. “From what I know about all the other Coronaviruses, reinfection is quite common due to a couple of factors, the variety of its surface proteins (small variations in strain as it spreads) and how our immune system clears the infection, as a lasting immune response is not always triggered. Both are very bad news for hopes of a vaccine.” At best it would indicate that it would need to be an annual vaccination, allowing for the changes of the previous year, somewhat similar to the flu vax. I think we have all battened down for a long wait for a vaccine but few of us have considered the long-term changes in our lives that may be necessary if a vaccine proves impossible: no overseas travel, constant preventative measures, limited personal contact, getting used to the uncertainty of outbreaks occurring and so much more. I think it is probably better to adapt to these changes as if there won’t be a quick fix and then if there is a workable virus produced it will be a nice surprise.

July 15, 2020

I’ve read recently that Andrew Dolt keeps calling Dr Karl Kruszelnicki a ‘scientific fraud’. Here is the educational comparison: Dr Karl completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in Physics and Maths followed by a Masters of Science in Astrophysics, followed by a Masters in Biomedical Engineering. He then completed a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery and practised as a doctor until he saw a child die of whooping cough and decided to go into medical journalism as a pro vaccination campaigner. Andrew Dolt on the other hand began a BA but dropped out. Well that’s that sorted.

COVID19’s tentacles reach far from the Crossroads Hotel (previously famous as a bikie pub and the preferred watering hole of Ivan Milat). My neighbour came home from work yesterday because a colleague of his had a pizza there last week. Now he’s been told to work from home until told otherwise. Too close for comfort, should I disinfect the fence? It’s easy to be wise after the event but I have been screaming at our Glad to close the Victorian border for a while. If she’d done so we may not have had the Crossroads cluster at all. How hard is it to insist that truck drivers head straight to their destinations without stopping at any other businesses on the way? There are plenty of truck stops, and an Esky solves the food issue. Sometimes I think that Glad is so business oriented that she just can’t bear to do what she knows is the right thing, in just the same way as I can’t bear to throw things out. But I do know it’s irrational and sometimes the throw out has to be done. Glad needs a good behaviour therapist at her elbow reinforcing the idea of commitment to society and cheering her on ‘Good girl Gladys, you can do it, have a Mintie’.

July 16, 2020

A win to report today. Ever since I got the NBN my Caller ID and answering machine haven’t worked, so I finally got around to sorting that out. Optus is only taking ‘urgent requests’ by phone and an email query didn’t work, so I reverted to that old trick (which I should have done first) of putting the problem on their Facebook page. Voila! Within an hour Kartik had called and said he would refer it to the technicians and today Huy rang from Melbourne and with a bit of toing and froing he fixed both problems remotely. So I’ve just praised them both on the Facebook page for good measure. Now Kenneth will get off my back about having no answering machine for the rare times that I miss his calls. He seems very sentimental lately, often saying how much he misses me and reminiscing about our early separate lives and how much he wishes we had been together. He told me yesterday that he had just read through every email I had ever sent him and that must have taken hours. I can’t let myself spend too much time thinking about how different my life would have been with him in it, not to even mention our dad, who so valued education that he put Kenneth into a good school and fully supported his move to Cambridge. But there’s no good crying over spilt family, it gets you nowhere and doesn’t change a jot. However I am finding I am close to tears now every time the bro rings, he isn’t far behind.

John is having a Zoom meeting today with his seminary buddies, chaired by the indomitable Dally, which has a firm agenda. First each is to talk about what they have been up to for the last year (I guess for those few who’ve been out of their loop), then another round to talk about coronavirus and the impacts on each of them of the lockdown, then a third round which I’ve already forgotten. Only after all that do they get into general discussion. How good it would have been to have suitably chaired book group meetings, but it’s not to be unfortunately. It does strike me as odd that the men’s group allied to our book group is only meeting remotely, yet the women only want to meet in person. Another win today was that I phoned a restaurant at Church Point and explained that we would love to come for lunch one day but are not happy to dine in. They immediately had the solution: order and pay by phone from the car and they will pack our food into takeaway containers which they will bring to the door so we can eat them at the outdoor tables in the adjacent park. This was so quickly suggested that it led me to believe that we were far from the first to ask. Some people get it, some don’t.

July 17, 2020

John’s car needed a check-up so we dropped it in and then headed off to Curl Curl and Freshwater to watch the waves in this week of above average highs. Did the cliff-top walk from Curl Curl and at one stage I sat to watch for a while till a lady asked, pointing to the edge: ‘Is he yours?’ and I looked up to find John on the rocks calling ‘Take my photo’. I quickly did and he was soon back on the path, good that he still surprises me sometimes. Later he walked the full length of the beach while I sat in the glass bubble of the car with a point blank view over the ocean. Drove to Freshwater and ordered some lunch at our fave, Pilu Barretto on the beach, eating in the shelter shed with the trusty Thermos, watching the wild weather. First food I’ve eaten since March that I didn’t cook myself, first a delicious cannellini bean and potato soup with home made bread, followed by one of their famously amazing salted caramel tarts, so that was exciting. John’s car needs a new clutch and the lock for the rear door is buggered, both of which we knew, so those things will be done next week. John watched the football while I read at night, the usual procedure. I am engrossed in a book chosen for me by the librarian: Joyce Carol Oates epic ‘Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars’. She does an amazing job with family dynamics, I feel as if I’ve known these characters all their lives, but their issues are set against a background of racism, police brutality, corruption, business, wealth, complete with a detailed two and a half page description of a feral cat. I will be sorry when I leave them all.

July 18, 2020

Michael and Bronwyn are looking for a new table/desk so I cleaned up a cedar one that I have in the garage and John was going to take it to show them but once again he couldn’t get the rear door of the car open, thankfully Alex will see to that next week. Cedar really is the queen of woods, the grain is beyond beautiful. Then he glued on the head of one of my garden statues which fell over and decapitated itself somehow, looking more like a Roman original in the process. He loves all of those annoying little chores that I would never get around to, like working out why the hose fitting is leaking or correcting the way I’ve loaded the tape dispenser. However I sew on his buttons and get stains out of his jumpers so I suppose it all works out in the end. Not to mention dealing with anything financial, something that John finds incredibly taxing: negotiating with a company over a faulty purchase or service, getting some action out of a government department, complaining about almost anything. I write the email and he adds his name and sends it, but he is always cock-a-hoop when it results in the problem being fixed. Perhaps they did too good a job of pushing humility in the seminary as he has no sense of entitlement, of course this in part makes him the lovely amenable soul that he is. When I asked what he would like for lunch today he answered ‘Whatever you most want rid of’.

July 19, 2020

Doesn’t it really give you the shits when you see something that you should have written yourself? I love this post which was written by Peter Graham and sent to me via Facebook. It hits the nail on the head I think:

Before we get too hung up on blaming the state govt, or the federal govt, or China for our COVID situation let’s review some facts: 1. We had to bring in mandatory quarantine in hotels, because we couldn’t trust people to stay home after returning from overseas. 2. We then had to bring in security, because we couldn’t trust people to stay in those hotels. 3. We then had to bring in ADF, because we couldn’t trust the security guards not to have sex with those in quarantine in the hotels. 4. We had to get police to door knock and check up on people, because we couldn’t trust those who were meant to be self-isolating to actually stay at home. 5. We also have to have police and ADF reinforce the metropolitan Melbourne zone and state borders, because we can’t trust people to follow the restrictions. 6. We are now being asked to use masks, because we cannot trust people to social distance when they are in public. 7. Through it all, our supermarkets have had to introduce shopping restrictions because we couldn’t trust people to not to take more than what they needed. So we can get as mad as we want at politicians or health officials for imposing restrictions, or the country where the virus originated, but essentially it’s our own fault that we find ourselves here.

Overnight 60 people were fined for being at a wild party in Schofields and I ask myself (apart from why anyone would rent an airbandb in Schofields at all?) do these people not listen to the news? I was a news junkie even at the age of 20 so I find it hard to understand. But I guess it’s like me and sport, when it comes on the news it’s time to make a cuppa or go to the loo, anything but watching that tedious stuff, perhaps they are the same about things that bore them: like life, death and disease.

It seems the blog might come in handy for John as he is forgetting the dates and incidents in his long and complex medical history of the past 4 years or so. He keeps asking ‘did I get the septicaemia once or twice? before the knee replacement or after?’ so I have suggested going to the blog which documents chapter and verse of his travails. Getting him organised for appointments gets problematic so I ask him to record everything in his diary, however he forgets to look there and has been known to turn up a week early, or even a week late, for an appointment. Not sure what the answer is there.

July 20, 2020

So the day can only look up when first thing in the morning you grab your toothbrush to find a big cockroach on the handle, right? Dispensing him to his maker, I decided this bad omen was a oncer and was glad to get it done with early and to move on to a good day. Later I went to the storeroom to pack away some bits and bobs cluttering the house. There is only one key so it is longtime policy to leave it in the lock at all times when the room is open, except hours later the key is missing and I have a sinking feeling that it is inside. Paying a locksmith $200 to open the door isn’t an idea that I relish and it may be that the lock will need to be drilled out and another one put in, but realistically no one would want anything stored therein so perhaps I just drill it out and leave it. I am now waiting for the third disaster to befall me today, but looking on the bright side I did have a new toothbrush in the drawer and now have the two roach-loved ones in the ‘handy items I may need’ box. (Could I throw them out? No I could not).

Reading my current novel till late, I went to bed last night on a high point of the plot. The children of the main character are incensed, appalled, disgusted by their mother forming a relationship with a man soon after the death of their father. (At what point would they not have felt any of these things?) The eldest son is sent by the girls to ‘fix the situation’ and decides to offer the interloper money to withdraw. After a bidding war the amount is settled at $35,000, a cheque is written and the man in question simply folds it in two and announces that it will never be cashed, but if ever the children approach him again he will show it to his partner and explain to her what types of people her children really are. Now why should I have felt so good about this outcome I ask myself? I was never offered money to desist and if I had been I wouldn’t have had the acuity to react as he did, but it buoyed me no end to see this fictional character do it. Rather than being seen as a money-grabber it was the reverse, I was told directly that John only espoused me because I was rich and he wanted a comfortable retirement. Poor darling was duped about the ‘rich’ bit but he has stuck around all these years in any event.

July 21, 2020

I watched Dan the Man at his 11 am briefing, not something I usually do but I happened to look at the clock at 10.59, though I had to turn off soon after when his address was cut short because the PM was announcing further financial matters to do with coronavirus. How can I listen to a man who set Newstart at starvation level (because it was seen as a dole bludger’s benefit) but almost doubled it when the virus came along (because these were now struggling workers dispossessed by cruel circumstance)? No doubt it will head south again in due course. Folks I know are thrilled that they can now get a haircut when they need one or buy groceries without fearing having to return some at the checkout when the money runs out. But of course they are the scruffy poor not the upscale smartly dressed beneficiaries of recent times.

I sadly finished Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. last night and after 787 pages I feel as if I’ve been banished from that now well-known family. How will the children react after their mother and Hugo married while away on a holiday together? What does Virgil’s future look like? How will Sophia do at medical school? I intend to ring the librarian who chose this book for me ‘based on your previous reading’ and tell her she’s a genius. It did give me a sense of the difficulties of being in a large family though, people worrying when they see two of their siblings deep in conversation, even more terrifying if there are three. The competition was fierce in this family of five children and none of them came out of it well adjusted. Just like the combination of susceptible host and virulent pathogen in disease formation, it is likely that a susceptible child will succumb to a much less virulent home life where a stronger one would have thrived on the challenges. Considering myself and Kenneth, both effectively only children, but the results were very different: he super confident, happy in solitary pursuits, self-regulating, whereas I was totally lacking in confidence, lonely and unable to cope with any emotional situation. Certainly being together would have helped enormously but perhaps I was just a ‘susceptible host’ from the start?

July 22, 2020

John asked at breakfast today what I was most missing (probably expecting I would say going to Bennelong on my birthday as planned) but I said a haircut. So he suggested I ring Martin and Maria and see what we could do. Maria was extremely sympathetic and has arranged for me to go at 2 pm tomorrow, when I will be the only person in the salon with Martin, with everything disinfected just before arrival. Luckily I bought two boxes of German cherry liqueur chocolates the other day, one was for our mechanic when we pick up John’s car and now the other can go to them. I feel better already, but if lockdown is coming back in I might get my head shaved and be done with it.

Watching the teev last night I struck two excellent programmes, one on Falun Gong which was as expected, only worse, and the other a doco on Putin. The Putin one went a long way to explaining that stoic personality and cold demeanor with details of his early life. Brought up in a war-damaged shared flat with only 7 square metres of space to themselves, he and his mother lived a miserable existence with a leaking roof and water dripping down the walls when it rained. Add to this a shared kitchen and no bathing facilities at all, Leningrad in winter would have been hell. But the mental damage was done early and nothing will make a jot of difference now (my summing up, not the programme’s). Then we come to the show on Falun Gong which confirmed my gut feeling when seeing these people that it is a cult. Though they play nice and seem to be just a meditation organisation, the focussed attention they display is scary and their hatred of the Chinese government all-encompassing. Their anti-medicine stance is not unlike the Christian Scientists, in both cases keeping people within the cult being more important than their lives. From time to time I’ve seen ads for the Shun Yen dance group and have been tempted to get us tickets, however my feeling that it might be somehow linked to Falun Gong prevented me from picking up the phone for tickets. Occasionally I get in my letterbox a copy of the Epoch Times, John gets it too, but despite its rabid anti-Chinese rhetoric I had no idea it was Falun Gong too, though I’m not surprised now when I think about it. They are ploughing millions into getting Trump re-elected, just on the basis of his conservative thinking and current Sinophobia. Strange bedfellows indeed, but consistent with the concept that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

July 23, 2020

I am a new woman! Short hair means I can now abandon the plan B, to shave my head in order to get rid of the perpetual beanie that I’ve been wearing to avoid seeing the old lady in the mirrors as I pass. Let’s hope that my transgression of the rules won’t bring a retribution. We cracked the Thermos and had lunch in a shelter shed at Freshwater, watching the young on boards in the surf. Later we picked up John’s car and as usual Alex had worked his magic. After he quoted $190 for a new lock for his rear door, he told us that he ‘had sat and taken it apart, fiddled with it for some time and found it had a broken spring’ which he was able to source and then replace. ‘So there’s no charge for the lock’. We argue, but he says he can’t alter it because he’s typed up the invoice. You can’t win an argument with Alex when it comes to money. On the way to Manly we called in to see Michael and Bronwyn and were interested to discover that they haven’t seen their children and grandchildren since March, with the family deciding to stay away to protect them. They concurred with our view that the problems we are facing are largely because of people not wanting to comply with even the somewhat inadequate restrictions. Lack of trust in government seems to be a significant cause of that and with trust now at an all time low, this pandemic is ill-timed. Folks will comply by choice with adequate trust, such as in Taiwan and Singapore for example, or by force if the penalties are severe enough, such as in China for example. We sit between those bookends with a poor level of trust and inadequate penalties, so people just thumb their noses.

July 24, 2020

Rang the library to congratulate whoever chose my home-delivered books last month, the librarian I spoke to will check it out and pass on my thanks. I’ve also requested another by Joyce Carol Oates after reading Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. but they only had the one I wanted as an ebook, so I settled on ‘any others of hers that have real pages to turn’. Although I was vaguely aware of this author, I had thought her very prolific writing perhaps meant that she was one who turns out a predictable novel in time for Christmas each year. However now the kind librarian pointed me to this, her latest, I am keen to attack the back catalogue. In the novel Whitey McClaren is the linchpin of a privileged white family but he dies as a result of attempting to intervene when police are bashing a “dark-skinned young man”. That in itself makes the novel worth reading at this time. But there is so much else here to love, because once that linchpin is removed there is a necessary reconfiguration in this large family of wife and five adult children. It lurches from drama to something like a Moliere comedy at times, with an extraordinary two and a half page description of a feral cat being just one of the highlights. Perhaps the only character who seemed a bit over-drawn was Lorene, but I’ll forgive that as just a matter of opinion. Can’t wait to start another by this author, there are plenty to choose from, over 100 published pieces including 58 novels as well as a number of plays and novellas, many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction.

Perhaps John is coming under my influence because he picked up a near new bicycle off the street today and brought it home to give to his neighbour Ann to sell. She immediately put it on eBay and was contacted by a kindly man who said the wheels were back to front, offered to come around and fix them for her and promptly did so. Perhaps that’s the reason it was being thrown out? When John had the van I often suggested that he kerb crawl as a means of getting pocket money but he wasn’t keen, but when he can do it to benefit someone else he is happy so perhaps it was my suggestion that he make the money that was a mistake. As long as it saves good stuff from land fill who cares?

July 25, 2020

I see that a woman in her 40s with COVID19 attended 5 churches and funeral homes in the western suburbs over 5 days. Now she’s either extremely unlucky to have so many deaths around her or else she is like a person I met once who looked up local funeral services in the paper and went along for the free drinks and food. They commented that ‘it feels like you really know them sometimes’. I can sort of understand wanting to be part of a little community where everyone will be friendly and sympathetic. ‘Don’t you worry about being asked where you fit in?’ I queried, but was assured that it rarely happens and if it does a generic answer usually suffices. I always find out something new about the deceased when I go to a funeral, no matter how well I knew them so I guess it isn’t too much of a stretch to say ‘Gosh, I didn’t know Mary was an astro-physicist, I haven’t seen her since we were young’. One strange funeral John and I went to was for a woman friend who had been going to a Baptist church for many years. Unbeknown to us her husband apparently disapproved and arranged the funeral in a Catholic church (he was a Spaniard after all). Her Baptist minister and her Maori family objected verbally but they could hardly whip the coffin away from under the eagle eye of the priest. I will always remember the Minister in tears afterwards saying ‘but I baptised her….’. We gave the wake a miss.

It is 4.21 pm and I am wondering if in the middle of a pandemic it is acceptable to have a bath at such an hour. It sort of signifies that I don’t intend to do any work for the rest of the day and also means frying fish for dinner in my dressing gown, but it is getting chilly and will save my putting on the heater for another couple of hours so that’s an upside. God life is so hard for a Libran, endless options to be canvassed.

July 26, 2020

Well the pan-fried whole leatherjacket tasted wonderful despite being cooked wearing pyjamas, dressing gown and Ugg boots. I must get more of this neglected fish from Harris Farm on the next order. So sweet and white and delicate, not in the same universe as the dreaded saddletail snapper. Just made a broccoli and coconut milk soup for lunch, spiced up with a bit of garlic, chili, ginger, lemongrass and fish sauce. Mmm-mmm.

I am seeing already in my mind’s eye the government’s coming response to the pandemic’s fiscal problems, rubbing their hands together at the opportunities the virus has presented. Cuts to the ABC (It’s because of COVID19). Cuts to public schools (We had no choice). Cuts to universities (Sorry but we are broke). Cuts to the public service (You know we hate having to do this). Josh says he will emulate Thatcher and Reagan. In other words, screw the workers. Some of my British family members live in South Yorkshire mining towns (well, ex-mining towns) and they told me seriously when I mentioned Thatcher’s name that ‘we don’t use her name at the table’. She gutted the whole area by closing the mines and bought coal from Russia instead, the boarded up shops even now tell the story of livelihoods ruined. She tried to abolish the welfare state and replace it with an attitude of materialistic individualism. Ronald Reagan was president for nearly five years before he said the word AIDS in public and it was nearly seven years before he gave a speech on a health crisis that would go on to kill more than 650,000 Americans. Trump is following the Reagan mould. So these are your heroes Josh? May they both roast in hell.

July 27, 2020

Got my mojo back to do some put-off tasks so I started early with making a Rhubarb Jam Shortbread Slice which I did in a tart tin. It appears okay though I haven’t tried it yet. Then I took advantage of the rain to plant out some of my Pink Star Flower seedlings while the ground is friendly, plenty more to go in though. Later I got a call from the computer boffin replying to my email query about all the missing photos from my old computer which didn’t come across to the new one. I pressed this, that and the other under instruction and after more than half an hour of downloading the photos finally appeared, woo-hoo. Except now I can’t for the life of me find where they are, despite trying for nearly two hours. I am giving up and the computer boffin is on another job. I wish I were in some job of work in which you just dial a number if you run into problems and some dude (it’s always a dude) arrives to fix it. Bah humbug, enough computing grief for one day and I will focus on the more easily solved problems.

When I was a kid I thought that anyone living north of the Parramatta River was rich, not filthy rich, but rich. When our next door neighbour sold up and moved to Ermington, right on the north bank of the river, we were somewhat aghast. Where had they suddenly got all that money from? I asked my mother. She had no insight and it remained a mystery, though their large block was later subdivided into two, so clearly that was part of the answer. Now we have COVID19 cutting a swathe across the southern suburbs and as it inexorably inches its way north I find myself illogically thinking that we are fine here as long as it doesn’t cross the river. The Maronite cathedral cluster is awfully close to the river but I envisage a police line along the banks vigilantly beating it back. With tear gas, batons, water cannon? I am not sure, but it is a reassuring image in any event. Hold the line guys, (cops are tops, all that rubbish) but just don’t let it cross the Barry Wilde Bridge.

July 28, 2020

Took advantage of the light drizzling rain to do a bit of weeding and to plant the agapanthus seeds that I harvested from the front garden last summer. Also direct sowed some Californian Poppy seeds, but kept back over half the packet in case of a failure, if so I will plant the rest in  trays and put them out as seedlings. I am finding that I get two possible results with seeds, hundreds of germinations or nix, so we shall see. My father refused to grow poppies or have them as cut flowers in the house because they reminded him of the fields of France in WWII, but I love their happy faces and look forward to producing enough for some cut flowers.

Oh no, I thought, not The Apollo! It is one of my very favourite restaurants in Sydney and during the night I was thinking about what I’d love to order there, the Taramasalata, the Saganaki Prawns, the Chargrilled Octopus, bliss. So I formulated a mid-night plan: to drive over to Potts Point and dumpster dive for all the delicious things they’d had to throw out due to their coronavirus closure yesterday when a staff member tested positive. Not such a good idea when I reconsidered it in the morning light but boy it seemed like a plan at 2 am. It is a spot for the super cool, which we are certainly not. But both staff and guests alike seemed happy to share the joint with a funny old couple with the wrong haircuts and clothes. Last time we couldn’t get a table and sat at the bar to eat, but managed to have conversations with the barman and the odd customer. I hope to go there again……one day.

July 29, 2020

Well my shortbread slice was a dry as a pommy’s bathmat so I had to make a fruit cake yesterday in order to have something else to share when Bronwyn and Michael called in this morning. Bronwyn declared the slice lovely but I found it almost impossible to swallow, though perhaps it was that Sjogren’s makes it difficult to eat dry stuff and I usually end up with a coughing fit. I’d give the recipe 4/10 if that. John has gone home with some of each though.

I got a message from Ram in Kerala yesterday saying that they are not allowed out if over 60 due to COVID and that deaths are at 1000 per day. So I rang him today but the language barrier makes it difficult. The first minute of the call was taken up with a recorded message which he told me was Kerala Government advice about the virus which goes at the beginning of every phone call. I think he was saying that they get food from markets delivered to the post office, but I am not entirely sure. I had thought his English had improved a lot over the last couple of years in messages but he told me to write some of my questions so his friend can help him. I guess that’s what the apparent improvement was all about. My Malayalam doesn’t even stretch to one word. But when I asked if he was working the answer was clearly no, because of COVID. Now that I’ve (almost accidentally) sold a cedar desk I had in the garage, I will take it as an auspice and send some money off to him. I send cash in an envelope marked ‘card only’ and so far it has always got to him, touch wood, although if it is a larger amount I send it in two or three cards. I hate to think that we will never see each other again although I am sure it is the case.

July 30, 2020

Well any bright idea I had of sending a card to India came crashing down after deciding to check the postage cost online and coming up with the message that You Can’t Send a Letter Here. How lucky that my memory is so poor that I had to check the cost, otherwise goodness knows what they do with the letters. I’m assuming it’s either an infection control issue or due to the suspension of flights and rail freight, but it’s a huge decision. Now I wish I hadn’t told him to watch out for a delivery and will have to eat humble pie later today.

We were talking yesterday about our biggest fear, of being put into a nursing home for some reason. Both Michael and John have had a series of illnesses which could have ended up with that result. Bronwyn reminded us that most nursing homes have just one registered nurse on staff with the rest basically domestics. Apparently they visited a close relative where there was only one nurse and she had a sign around her neck that said ‘don’t ask me anything I am doing medications’ and no one else was allowed to answer questions. The whole concept of a nursing home as a profit making business is anathema to me. I’d be glad to see all private nursing homes and hospitals gone. Every baked bean they put on a resident’s plate is a cent less they earn so it doesn’t take Einstein to work out why the food allowances are around $6 a day. I can’t put many single meals on the table for $6, never mind an entire day. The proprietors are the equivalent of slum landlords and I am sure that in an enlightened future people will wonder how we could ever think that essential services could be profit making ventures. We went a while back to The Swifts in Sydney, a mansion once owned by the Catholic Church and now the home of the Moran family, owners of private hospitals and nursing homes. As I looked around at the luxury there, replete with a pipe organ in the main room, I couldn’t help wondering how many underfed patients it takes to accumulate that sort of wealth.

July 31, 2020

So, my optimism about the virus stopping at the river was misplaced. Now it’s travelled as far as my local shopping centre and though I haven’t been there since March it is still much too close for comfort. I am really not sure where it will all end, but certainly there are a lot more oldies in nursing homes who won’t see their next birthdays.

Heather came over for a cuppa this morning, always insisting that we sit outside. She spoilt me with a lovely bunch of Bromeliad, hellebore begonia, kale, little ruby and jade succulent flowers. Then I had a call from Omar who remotely found all the missing files on my computer and stuck them on the desktop so they won’t go missing again. I offered to pay him but he insisted that it was part of his initial setup of the new computer. I had to email Ram and tell him that I can’t post his money for the foreseeable future and his reply was typical of him: ‘Don’t worry, we can still contact. Your thoughts and mind is with me, so I am happy’. I am trying to take that as a pointer in my thinking. There could be so many complaints about people I can’t see, outings I can’t go on, meetings I can’t attend, celebrations that won’t now be taking place, travel that won’t occur, theatre I won’t see, but ‘Don’t worry, we can still contact. Your thoughts and mind is with me, so I am happy’.

August 1, 2020

I was once told that August 1 is the date to prune roses so I did my only one, which was a 70th birthday gift from Heather. There was a pair actually but I managed to kill the other. However I am watering my seeds every day in the hope that the garden will be full of flowers in spring. I have treated myself to a special gift, getting the windows professionally washed for the first time ever as my pathetic efforts have not improved them. Kenneth tells me that he has his done once a month for 6 pounds, an astonishingly low figure compared to what I am paying, but perhaps it’s extra when you only get it done once every 45 years. However I would snap up the 6 pounds a month if I could.

Well, well, well. Kenneth in our phone call last night had moved from a position of ‘how ridiculous, I can’t even get on the bus without a mask’ to ‘why didn’t Boris bring in masks in March and stop this thing in its tracks?’. He then commented that ‘I don’t think we understood how bad this thing would be’ but I didn’t let him get away with that one, replying that I had been trying to convince him of that for 6 months, a fact he reluctantly agreed with. The night before last, news had come through at 9 pm that masks were compulsory everywhere, no meetings of more than two people and no visits inside the home by anyone who doesn’t live there. This is only for Manchester and Calderdale areas where he lives and it applied immediately. He asked if I thought we would be alive in a year and my reply was ‘only if we avoid getting the bloody thing’, hopefully he will take more care than he has been doing, almost daring it sometimes. On my walk this morning I passed the local IGA and noticed that all of the staff are wearing masks now, this is new. Perhaps the reporting of a case in Miller’s Fashions in Baulkham Hills has put the wind up them. My longing for sushi from the shop nearby Miller’s has waned as a result I must say.

August 2, 2020

Harris Farm delivery day and I requested it between 10 and 2 so it didn’t interrupt Insiders, so of course he came at 9.30 but I threw it all in the fridge to sort out later because I need to divide things like the fish for example between the two households. Got Orange Roughy, a deep sea fish, for dinner tonight plus prawns, leatherjackets and sardines which I froze, so I am spoiled for choice. John came up and he gave moral support as I planted out more seedlings in the front garden, then Davina, Louis and Millie arrived for a short notice visit, bearing sweet treats which we ate in the garden. Millie is always taken with John and when she saw him called to her parents ‘look who I’ve found!’. I have now finished reading Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy, a book someone donated to the street library months ago. I thought by the name that it may be a historical novel, of which I am not a particular fan, but it turned out to be contemporary, set in Dublin and about two young people who are setting up a catering business, though it’s about so much more than that and I enjoyed it immensely. I have raved about it enough to have two takers for it now that I am finished. So the last two books I have read would be in the top few for this year so I am very lucky. When the librarian rang on Friday to ask what I want for the next delivery I requested the book group choice, plus anything by Maeve Binchy or Joyce Carol Oates (the authors of my last two novels) and The Plague by Albert Camus published in 1947, the year of my birth, which tells the story of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran. La Peste is the French title and they are not wrong there. I love his spare writing and am sure this one will be as good as The Outsider was. Unfortunately the most recent American translation has it named The Stranger which doesn’t capture the theme nearly as well and did make me wonder a little about the rest of the translation, which I am not in a position to judge of course.

August 3, 2020

John has gone home to put the finishing touches to his five street libraries, after which he had promised we would be going on a little holiday. But I am not sure it is the time, with the COVID outbreaks from Victoria meaning that staying home is being encouraged and could soon be mandated. I was interested to read about the Mosman doctor aged 50 who was a super fit cycling enthusiast, caught the virus and was bedridden for 29 days. Now he finds himself unable to cycle even a kilometre on flat ground and has been diagnosed with heart damage and later epilepsy, so now he can’t ride, drive or take any exercise and that may very well be permanent. It is so random in its effects this disease.

I love looking in my freezer and having lots of choices, so I am doing grilled spiced sardines with a Moroccan orange salad, something that suits my single status tonight as John isn’t a salad person and certainly not in winter. He queries if something is a salad if it doesn’t have lettuce in it. As a child ‘salad’ at my house was a fixed dish: lettuce, tomato, canned beetroot, Kraft cheese and onion pickled in malt vinegar, maybe a radish. Voila! Salad. It was a meal, not something on the side. So I think John has his territory shaken when I describe something as a ‘warm salad’ or when it doesn’t have any of the 1950s ingredients he was once used to. Even potato salad stretches the friendship. But Thai salads, German potato ones with anchovies and egg, poke bowls of all sorts are my go to dishes. John was mighty happy with last night’s effort though, Baked Orange Roughy with Garlic Butter and served with veg, right up his alley he declared.

August 4, 2020

I have been musing about how it is possible, and it often seems to happen to me in fact, that a person can connect with another in a fleeting moment or even from a photo. We are all familiar with the ABC’s We Are Australian videos. Whenever I see one I search for the young man in red, whose face I connected with on day one. Now after months of looking out for this fellow every time it is shown, and feeling warmed by seeing his face, I discovered today that he is an Aboriginal singer named Isaiah Firebrace. Nothing will ever come of that realisation but knowing he is in the world is somehow soothing and harmonious. I can’t explain everything, I can only record it. Similarly seeing the photograph of Steve Jobs on the cover of his biography made me want to encircle him somehow, I felt protective of him via the photo, which seems ridiculous. I am not a techy person as my son-in-law would attest, but I decided I needed to read this heavy tome, not to work out how to become a billionaire or to understand how Apple was formed, but to see what in this man’s face was the essence that I was picking up on. I didn’t get more than a few pages before I found similarities in both our lives (despite many differences). Learning to read before starting school led to both of us being bumped up the grades, initially dealing with boredom with the work but ending with social isolation from the more mature students, resulting in becoming an awkward loner who didn’t fit in with peers, the clever kid with no friends. He talks too about the moment he realised that he was smarter than either of his parents and the shame of that realisation. One thing I totally identified with was his youthful abandonment of religion, which almost exactly echoed mine. Life magazine published a shocking cover in 1968 of starving children in Biafra so he took it to Sunday school and asked the pastor ‘If I raise my finger will god know about it?’ The pastor answered ‘Yes, god knows everything.’ He then pulled out the magazine and asked ‘Does god know about this?’ When the pastor answered ‘Yes god knows about that’, Jobs announced that he didn’t want anything to do with worshipping such a god and never went back to a church. Some years earlier I had had a similar experience, giving away religion forever after realising that the appalling treatment of black Americans was justified by religions, I wanted no part of them. I later realised, more importantly, that they were simply attempting to sell the solution to a need that I didn’t have. It’s easy to walk past a brewery if you have no desire for beer. Can all of this be transmitted through a black and white photo of a very famous person? I don’t know. I can’t explain everything, I can only record it.

August 5, 2020

I’m still thinking about faces and what they tell us or in some cases don’t tell us. I am sure my facial recognition skills are well below par, I’d never make a politician, and that used to get me into a lot of trouble in the shop. Someone would come to the counter beaming ‘I’m here to pick up my lay-by’, but I had no recollection of seeing them before, ever. What to do? Was I looking for a pair of earrings or a sideboard? ‘Do you have your docket with you?’ ‘No, sorry I left it at home’. So I would search the lay-by book hoping for a bolt of recognition, but sadly that didn’t always help and I had to ask their name or what it was they had bought. Feelings were hurt: ‘You served me just the day before yesterday’ or worse ‘I’ve been buying here for years’, but try as I might those people were total strangers to me. Others though, despite years of absence, were recognised instantly and often greeted by name. The brain is a funny old machine. Another more recent case was when John was in ICU at Royal North Shore Hospital last year with no gilt-edged guarantee that he would survive, blood pressure down to unimaginably low figures in the 30s, heart almost stopped, and a priest entered the room. John had given strict instructions about end of life scenarios and a priest didn’t come into it at all. Assuming he was the hospital chaplain coming to give the last rites, I opened my mouth to tell him in no uncertain words to be gone when he uttered ‘Hello Maureen, how are you?’ and only then did I recognise John’s old friend whom I’d met before and entertained in my home. Close call, but I scraped through by a whisker.

My journey into the Steve Jobs biography has led me into his fanaticism and extremely difficult personality traits. I did get a laugh though about his agonising over the colour of beige for the Mackintosh plastic case. There were thousands of shades of beige in the Pantone collection, yet he couldn’t find the right one. It reminded me of John driving me all over Sydney looking at tiles for the kitchen (which could unfortunately be described by some as beige). I had the colour in my head, as Jobs did, but I could only describe it as the colour of buttermilk or clotted cream, not off-white, nor beige, nor cream. Finally in a tile warehouse in Blacktown the man pulled out a tile from a box and I shrieked, it was the one. I don’t think John has ever looked so relieved. I knew it existed but it was a question of whether we would ever find it. So Steve, I do understand and I’m so glad that you found your colour too. Parts of this book make me think that we are both mad but that he was much, much madder than I am, this being somewhat of a relief.

August 6, 2020

The window cleaners have just left and I can now relax. I was nervous about them coming inside but they were two lovely young people who were careful and took their time so it was worry for nothing. They had masks, gloves and overshoes and did a good job. It cost way more than by bro pays but that’s Pommyland and this is here, so there you go. I can see out.

I’ve been thinking about our premiers (who hasn’t?) and without a doubt Dan’s the standout. I want to hug him till his ribs bend, but that will have to be put off till it’s safe to go to Melbourne. I really miss our trips to Melbourne and have been looking back at photos from recent visits there. The last was an odd one in some respects but we still managed to have fun. We travelled from Melbourne by train to country rellies of John’s to attend the 90th birthday party of his cousin, a Marist brother of very gentle demeanour, who was clearly too nice to fill us in on the family dynamics. Despite many phone calls over days to the hostess about how to get to the property, we got no call back, even as we were on the train getting there from Melbs. Finally I suggested calling the birthday boy who had his friend and driver swing by the station to take us out to the property. We immediately felt somewhat less than welcome and it was very confusing until one of the younger generation sidled up and explained: he told the story of being admonished for mentioning John’s name in the house ‘Don’t ever say that name here again, he left the priesthood and he doesn’t exist for us’. Wowsers! Now it all made sense and at least we were in the know. With difficulty we managed to get a lift back to the station and are not expecting a reprise of the visit. But back to the premiers. I am getting seriously annoyed with Gladys’s inability to foresee her next moves. She is constantly ruling things out and then doing exactly that two days later. More importantly she refused Annastacia’s offer to temporarily move the border just a couple of kilometres to avoid dividing Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. The same could have been done between Albury and Wodonga, but our Glad is resistant even when it would have saved the wages of so many police on border control and eased passage for the beleaguered residents. Politician to her bootheels is our Glad, when what we need at the moment is so much more than that. But at least Dan is in the place where he’s most needed, more power to his arm.

Dan’s the Man!

and Mark’s a Bright Spark and Anna’s a Pal,

but with Glad we only know what she’ll do tomorrow by looking back to what she said she’d never do yesterday.

August 7, 2020

John sent an email to my bro and as an aside he mentioned that it seemed I had convinced Kenneth to take the pandemic more seriously, or words to that effect. Ooh dear I said, that was a bad move, he won’t like the imputation that I taught him something or made him change his behaviour. Sure enough, when he rang last night he happily told me the story of going to the corner shop and being advised that he should be wearing a mask to be admitted, as current rules apply in Calderdale. He ignored that, got his purchases and was served without an argument. Two fellows were outside queuing to come in and gave him the death stare for not wearing a mask. ‘Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?’ was Kenneth’s retort. John, do not bait the bear, I intend to tell him. I happen to have exactly 100 Facebook friends so these calculations are easy: I have 2 who are radical COVIDiots sending me the full panoply of conspiracy theory websites and 2 who post pretty silly stuff in the same vein. So that’s 4% of my friends, a frightening proportion in my view. I lost it with one this week and just replied CRAP to a video he sent, he can be offended or not as it pleases. Extrapolating that 4% to Melbourne’s population is 198,720. If they have that many who are working against the government’s efforts, then they have no chance of succeeding.

I am of the view that NSW is in deep do-do. We’ve had more than 150 cases in the last 2 weeks and, unlike they initially were in Victoria, these are not centred in certain buildings and postcodes but are scattered like hundreds and thousands on a badly iced cake from Wagga to Port Macquarie and all over the place inbetween. No ring-fencing as a possibility here. That’s 50% more cases than Victoria had on June 18. So don’t make any plans for a holiday or a party or a wedding (and certainly don’t die) because I see another lockdown peeking over the horizon.

August 8, 2020

I probably should wait for later in the day to write this as I am feeling disgruntled right now. Disgruntled that I didn’t retire earlier and get in the travel that we’d always planned, disgruntled that now I am free to do it (and John is well again, which stopped us for 3 plus years) the pandemic means we are confined to barracks. The last year or so when we were in a position to do some modest trips has been taken up with his street libraries projects and now he has just finished a big order for five, we can’t even go to the local shops. Occasionally I had come up with a suggestion about going away just for a day or two, but there is always a TAG meeting or a hospital appointment or a crucial juncture in the library project. He simply doesn’t get cabin fever, being perfectly happy either here or at his place, while I am sometimes ready to explode, like today.

I finished the Steve Jobs biography last night and I hate to admit it but I cried when he died at the end. I clearly knew what was going to happen, but it seemed such a rotten waste. He was an artist even more than a technology wizard and had the personality to match. My pen worked overtime marking great swathes of text, sometimes because I totally understood him and other times because he baffled me. But for all of that I can now understand the world-wide outpouring of grief at his death. When a particular speech or ad was mentioned I could look it up on YouTube as I went along, helping me to understand why he fought for just silhouettes in the animation of an ad or some other artistic decision. When I am feeling up to it I will watch the memorial service, hankies at the ready, but not today.

August 9, 2020

What a difference a day makes…. 24 little hours….I just made that line up. When John came yesterday I thought I was all smiles but he reads me like a book, so I had to fess up that I was disgruntled. We sat down and talked it out and he too is disgruntled in the knowledge that he won’t ever get to see his American rellies again, though he admitted that he doesn’t feel as sad as I do that we won’t ever see Vienna or Venice as we’d planned. (He reminded me that when I asked him what Indian city he would like to see if we returned there, his answer was Prague). He made the point that even if the pandemic ended tomorrow he doesn’t feel up to that amount of travel, just as Kenneth told me he can’t stomach another trip out here. So we both agreed that we made a big mistake in not doing our planned European and American trips earlier but also agreed that it’s now crying over spilled air tickets and we just have to learn to live happily, while also regretting past decisions. We decided because of the rain that we would stay in today and sit down to a main Sunday meal at lunchtime, a baked dinner with all the trimmings. We are now both gruntled, definition: pleased, satisfied, and contented. He is watching the football and I will soon be sitting in front of the fire reading. What’s to bitch about?

Yesterday I attacked the shop filing cabinet now ensconsed in the storeroom, tossing out 95% of its contents, only holding back a few letters written years ago by my prison penpals and a few important bits of antiques info like how to date Singer sewing machines by serial number. I also kept the prison manual we were given at training: What To Do If You Are Held Hostage, just in case the situation arises in the future. Probably foolishly, I always felt I could talk my way out of that one, with the proviso that the inmates weren’t on drugs which is certainly not a given inside prisons. I think being a prison visitor and penpal was probably the best work I ever did and I often wonder where they all are now, hopefully on the outside. I felt so freed of weight when I was able to toss that quantity of unwanted paperwork and I look forward to the day 5 years after the shop closed when I can toss everything to do with it which resides in a second cabinet: day sheets, group certificates, tax details. Whoosh, I shall have a bonfire and maybe toast marshmallows on top.

August 10, 2020

With my current commitment to simplification, I decided to attack my bureau, the drawers of which could barely be opened. I haven’t finished yet but I already have a huge pile of paper recycling, plus all of the stationery, wrapping paper, cards, endless lovely writing pads and notebooks are stored sensibly in the main three drawers. All the hand written letters are now in three folders, including a lovely one from author Elizabeth Harrower which I received in answer to one of mine a few years ago. I need to start seriously writing letters if ever I am to use up all the notepaper and envelopes therein, but my only regular letters are to Anne in the UK and I shan’t live long enough to use them all up on her. Perhaps it will encourage me to send messages to English rellies in between the usual Christmas cards and letters.

I made an exception to the rule of never watching commercial TV last night to see the 60 Minutes report on the deliberate separation of many sets of twins and a set of triplets, to be farmed out by a mad psychiatrist and a New York adoption agency. They planned to answer once and for all the question of nature versus nurture but no papers were ever published. The children were interviewed throughout their childhoods but neither the relinquishing mother nor the adoptive parents were in on the scam. Some found each other after incredible coincidences or cases of mistaken identity, but of course many were reunited because the doctor refused access to the records and has since died. The case of the triplets was particularly tragic with all three of them spending in time in psychiatric hospitals in their teens and one suiciding after they had been reunited. How the doctor wasn’t prosecuted I don’t know but I guess the crime is so rare that it’s probably not even on the statute books.

August 11, 2020

I’ve decided that coronavirus is Protestant. It seems that by far the most affected places are Catholic schools and churches and the most affected school in Victoria was an Islamic one. A shaky theory you may say, but I will stick to it until I see the Prodos even up the score a bit.

Our Woolies order went a little awry this week. John assures me that I asked him to order two of many things like leaf tea, teabags, cherry tomatoes, jars of peaches etc, but I am innocent on this occasion your honour. We also got about 1 and a half kilos of a fish that was supposed to be half a kilo, so this afternoon I’ve made fish curry and a fish pie, the latter for dinner tonight but it would serve 8. Sometimes life is easier if you just go to the shops. We had a lovely surprise when Sue rang to say she was visiting her mum and two brothers while her daughters looked after Robert. So she swung by afterwards and we had a good chinwag, a hoot as it always is with her. I do miss them so much but it is hard for him to communicate on the phone now so even that is no longer possible. So glad that she got some time to herself finally.

August 12, 2020

Had a lovely visit from Jack and Carol sitting on the back verandah. Huey didn’t oblige with sending sun as ordered, but he didn’t send rain or strong wind either so we were content. Naturally we discussed the pandemic and the fact that most people seem somehow ignorant of what a pandemic even means and it all appears to have come as a terrible shock to them, despite the effects of the 1918 one being so widespread and devastating. I think the widespread sense of entitlement is also a huge problem: what do you mean the border is closing? are you serious that I need to go into quarantine? a mask? you must be kidding. My friend’s 40 year old daughter refused to wear a mask just this week going to a specialist’s appointment because she didn’t ‘want people to think I’m sick’. She refused to believe that it is now normal practice. Tangara School apparently ignored government health guidelines and allowed students to go on a spiritual retreat and now those same students are the centre of the outbreak. I hope their prayers save them, or more particularly their older relatives. Classic example of religion versus science and I am afraid to say that science will always win.

It’s funny how my behaviour has changed in subtle ways. When cooking old recipes from my hand-written book I find myself writing in ‘cook 10 minutes less’ or ‘add 1 teaspoon baking powder.’ These are recipes I’ve done for years yet I am aware that if I get the virus someone else will likely be doing them and they need to know the little tweaks I have made. Likewise my spring cleaning (more spring tossing) which is to get rid of unnecessary paperwork to save someone else doing it. Probably a good thing anyway.

August 13, 2020

My Facebook page was apparently hacked, though what that actually looks like I have no idea. It was locked until I changed my password and then I was asked half an hour later to change it again. Now everything seems cool, but I wonder at the motivation of these people? Clearly it has benefit, so I changed my Hotmail password as well lest they change tack to that one. If you are reading this Mr Hacker, good morning to you. My paperwork war has continued this morning, when I sorted lots of hand written letters going back years, not throwing out but sorting into folders, most from my Lancashire penfriend Anne but others also from England, Vanuatu and India. Just a cursory glance reminds me of what a wonderful correspondent Anne is and although I sent a birthday card a week ago I realise it is a while since I sent a proper letter. Hers are always full of book recommendations, observations of those she meets or sees in the course of daily life, astute political opinions and historical bits of fascination. Her loungeroom is lined with bookcases floor to ceiling with an armchair and a side table. I think there may have been a second chair for a visitor as I don’t remember standing, but nought else. As we walked around in Yorkshire on our last visit she was giving John a running lecture on the fenestration tax,  a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. In England and Wales it was introduced in 1696 and enables historians to date buildings by the number of windows and bricked-up window spaces, left in the hope that the tax would ultimately be repealed and therefore the glazing could be completed. John said it was all news to him and he found it like a lecture from an architecture professor one-on-one. She lives in a 17th century stone cottage, the disadvantage of which is the fact that she can’t install heating and gets through winter with a small radiator. When it’s especially cold she lies in the pillow lined bath to read because the tiny room is the only one that heats up acceptably. Anne used to work at one of Halifax’s museums and would have been a wonderful knowledgeable guide. My offer of a holiday in Australia was turned down though, because she didn’t think she could survive the flight without smoking. I shall write a long letter in the next couple of days.

August 14, 2020

A few days ago I read that if we like 90% of a person we should just forget about the 10%. I think it’s good advice. We have all had days when our 10% came to the fore. We were tired or upset or sick or just plain feeling disagreeable. We certainly don’t want our friends to be saying ‘I really liked her, but last night she was so churlish/rude/mean-spirited or unkind that I think I will cut her loose’. So why should we think about doing the same thing to other people? Perhaps we should be celebrating having a 90% compatibility and just roll our eyes at the 10%.

Thinking again about Melbourne and missing it, but gosh it has to be said that those northern and western suburbs are pretty, well what can I say, …unlovely? Coming into Melbs by train from Sydney is enough to make you wonder if it’s really such a good idea. The real clincher for me has been seeing reporting of COVID down there with the camera scoping over dead flat, boring suburbs as far as the eye can see. Not only that, but nary a tree, just oversized McMansions, cheek by jowl, with nothing living to be seen. If you fart in the morning your neighbour two doors down hears it over his Weet-Bix. But go a bit further out and rolling hills abound, Mt Macedon, the Dandenongs frame the city’s outskirts, but gosh it’s a depressing trip to get there. I once went south and booked a motel from here, at Sunshine, (must be lovely, beautiful name?). Oh dear I had to stay the night but got out fast the next morning. Sure we have lots of depressing suburbs here too, Rooty Hill and Mount Druitt among them, but see the difference? A clue is Hill and Mount (a friend of mine has I Climbed Mount Druitt on a T shirt), they may be pathetic rises in elevation terms but at least they rise, whereas any marble rolled in the Melbourne basin would come to a stop very quickly. I guess it is just sad to me that some architects and planners couldn’t manage to adorn a very ordinary landscape by filling it with beautiful buildings, built around parklands with tall trees and curving, not straight, roads. Such a waste and we commit our young people to growing up in a world devoid of beauty.

August 15, 2020

Decided to bake another orange cake so I can give half to Heather who gifted me the bag of Valencia oranges I am using up at the moment. I’ve run out of ground almonds (remember when that happened and we used to just go up to the shops? ha ha how innocent and spontaneous that seems now) so I couldn’t do the old fave. Got a recipe for an orange upside downer from the internet and it was easy and successful, but as usual my heart overtook my head and I couldn’t leave it long enough to cool in the tin, so of course it split when turned out. Luckily one side was much worse than the other so I still had half an intact cake to give. Martha came over to return a book and have a chat so the broken half came in handy. I lent her the Steve Jobs biography and foolishly felt sad about it going out of the door even temporarily. John had said we could go away for a few days when he finished the Link street libraries but by then our Glad was saying that ‘it’s not the time to go on a beach holiday’, obviously she has my new computer if not my whole house bugged, as that was exactly what we had planned. It was a tossup between the flat we stayed in at Sawtell, the cabins at Kiama, Noah’s Hotel at Newcastle or else the luxury of an apartment at Bannisters at Mollymook. Well Bannisters is now a COVID hotspot as of today and they are calling for all clients at the hotel and restaurant to go and get tested (boy I would have been cross about that after paying Bannisters rates!). No doubt Kiama and Sawtell will be announced as hotspots in coming days, Newcastle having been already marked off the list as a flashpoint.  John asked me this morning what I was planning to do today and I said quite without thinking ‘either bake an orange cake or slit my wrists’. Luckily he didn’t take me seriously but I think we are all on that sort of spectrum sometimes.

August 16, 2020

John came last night and I cooked a dinner that I gave a 4/10 and he admitted to it being a 3 for him, but you can’t win them all, roll on the 9s and 10s though. This morning we intended to have the ritual watching of Insiders in our jamies, but he didn’t wake till it was half way through (is this signalling the approach of his 80th I ask myself?) so we saw it in the afternoon on iView instead. We made up for it by having a rare hot breakfast of Cheese and Shallot Omelette with the fresh eggs Carol had given me followed by toast and Heather’s orange marmalade and delicious it all was too. We used to have a cooked breaky once a week but somehow we’ve let that tradition go, I think it needs to be resurrected occasionally. I packed up a box full of linen and a few other bits for Michelle to take in to her workmates, they jump on these boxes fervently apparently. I always think of her work pals as being Filipinos, though she’s told me they are a league of nations, but as I was packing the linen I found myself sorting out bits that would suit the Filipino taste. Also packed a box full of antique and vintage lace with some delightful lace attachments to go onto clothes such as collars and epaulettes. There were some good lengths of fabric as well so all of this went to the sewing group. Amongst it I found a delightful Victorian cotton service apron, embroidered white on white on the bib front and going down to my ankles, of course I am keeping that and hopefully will wear it one day if entertaining ever becomes possible again. Once upon a time antique lace would have brought a very good price in the shop or at auction but it’s not that way now so I don’t want them to be slaughtered at auction to a stranger, better to give them away. We delivered the box over to Martha’s in the afternoon and sat outside with a cuppa chatting to them both. Spoke to Kenneth again regarding details for Carly’s epic security clearance which is currently being updated and this time they want the ins and outs of a duck’s bum. He is not immune from the questions despite being in Pommyland. Giving his details has made me realise that he’s turning 87 this year, no wonder he is getting a bit nostalgic and misty-eyed.

August 17, 2020

Oh boy! I need a sitdown. I’ve spent the morning filling an entire Sulo bin with records from the shop, day sheets, banking records, lists of every item sold, correspondence with police, Fair Trading, clients, auctioneers etc etc, keeping only things from the last 5 years as I am legally obliged to do, with those in a jumbled mess that I doubt I could sort out anyway. Also came across lots of other bit and bobs, like a letter from Elizabeth Harrower and one from Michael Kirby, those can go into the bin after my demise. I decided I had to stop because any more would mean I couldn’t wheel the bin out to the kerb, I’m sure I’ll get a ‘bin over weight’ notice anyway. At least they don’t slap one of those sticky signs onto me when they see me out in the garden, that would be a tad embarrassing. All the tossing out made me think of John’s friend Dally whose unit balcony overlooking Southlands in Melbourne is taken up with box after box after cabinet of records, covering every transaction he’s ever made or letter he’s ever written by the looks of it. It did make me wonder if his girls would be cursing him, carrying loads and loads down to the bins. I am trying to make sure that mine have no more stuff to get rid of than necessary, a pre-mortem disbursement so to speak.

The bloody Californian Poppy seeds haven’t come up in the garden so far. I only planted half the packet in case, but now I can’t find the remainder to sow in seed boxes. Somehow, although I have heaps of other seeds, this one pack is missing. Sow directly my arse, why do I believe the packet instructions? Grrr. Martha gave me some dahlia bulbs to plant but I need to be sure that the poppies have gone to god before I plant them as I would use the same spot.

August 18, 2020

I had a funny little exchange when I rang back a missed call on my mobile. It was a young sounding Irishman who assured me he hadn’t rung me, even accidentally. Mmm odd, so then I listened to the left message and it was someone speaking in Chinese language, sounded like the same person who regularly calls my land line and I just get a Chinese recorded voice who goes on and on. So I texted the fellow back to let him know that someone somewhere is hacking into his phone and he said a couple of mates had reported a similar thing happening. I assured him that I wasn’t intending to report him to ASIO as a potential spy, considering the political climate at the moment. We wished each other ‘keep safe’, something that would have sounded odd a few months ago and the mystery remains unsolved.

I ordered some clothes for Millie today from Rock Your Baby, a company owned by two daughters of my friend Sheila. A few things were out of stock in her size, my gosh she’s going into size 5, but I was still able to buy half a dozen nice bits. I wanted a dress with unicorns on it but unfortunately it stopped at a 4. When asked to make three wishes yesterday Millie replied ‘to ride on a unicorn, to walk on a rainbow and to fly on a cloud’.  Davina told me she just doesn’t like wearing dresses and even for a party turns them down for some leggings and a top, so perhaps it was just as well they were out of stock. I cheated though and got what they called a T shirt dress, which I can pass off to Millie as just being a long T shirt. I know there are heaps of places I could buy stuff online but I love their designs and it’s good to help the little guy. Following that mini shopping spree I made a Belgian Lemon Cake with some of Carol’s lemons, planted some Agapanthus seeds I’d harvested from my plants months ago and also some purple basil. Not falling for the ‘sow in place’ idea any more so I put them both into seed trays. Yesterday I offered John’s neighbour a crystal dressing table set I had unearthed and her reply was that she hated it but could sell it for me on eBay. Mmm it got me thinking this might be the answer to getting rid of stuff, I discussed it further with her and we settled on a 50/50 split, I supply and she sells. Might work or could be a disaster, time will tell. Anyway I have dug out 5 things as a trial, which John will take back to her on Thursday. Nothing to lose but my smoker’s cough, as the old ads for cough lollies used to say.

August 19, 2020

Went on our weekly outing, this time to Warragamba Dam, a place neither of us had been for decades. Since our last visit there has been a visitor’s centre built but sadly it was closed because of Covid. However we were able to walk across the dam and have a gander at the newish spillway built at the side to allow flood water to bypass the dam wall. It is a massive chute, approximately 200 metres wide, but the best part of the design for me was that it has a ‘flip’ at the end meaning that floodwater would be shot into the air so as not to damage the banks of the river as it would if it flowed unimpeded. I just love industrial design, massive stuff like this floats my boat, makes me feel so proud of the engineers both then and now. We got chatting to a worker there and he filled us in on some of the internal details such as the 3 lifts inside the wall and a small tunnel right at the base that he has to shimmy through every so often to check something or other. Claustrophobia on steroids I would imagine, being inside 3 million tons of concrete. A memorial names the 15 men who died working on its construction, from 1938 to 1958. We had our picnic at the excellent facility there before driving out to a nearby lookout to view the dam from the other side. On the way home I suggested that we go to Badgerys Creek and see how the new airport is coming along. It was an obvious site I think, bearing in mind that it is a flat area amid undulating country all around, rare in Sydney but everywhere in poor old Melbourne. I guess they chose it using a topographical survey as there wouldn’t have been too many areas of Sydney with that consistently flat ground. There were huge roadworks going on and then we came to the massive area of the runways, driving right around the perimeter and through the area set aside for the aerotropolis. So all in all a fascinating day as well as an enjoyable one. On the way home through Blacktown we stopped for petrol and I noticed a bedraggled middle-aged man standing there, but I was reluctant to speak to him in case he was just messy. But after paying and coming back to the car John told me he had been going through the bins, but by then he’d left and we lost him. I have felt bad ever since that I didn’t just overcome my reticence to offend him and asked if he were hungry, there was a food outlet right next door. I wish I could just learn to go with my instincts as they rarely lead me astray.

August 20, 2020

We were in PJs late today trying to establish a way to play CDs now that my player has gone to god. Worked out they will play through the TV so that’s a saviour. I could get most on YouTube but some, like my Dave Alexander compilation, were created by his friends in our folk club after his death so wouldn’t be otherwise available. Having achieved that I rescued the old shop CD player cum radio cum tape deck from the garage. The CD is RS but the tape works okay, now giving me the opportunity to play many compilation tapes that are unobtainable. Particularly I wanted this in order to play the tapes of my dad that Kenneth had copied for me. He is talking, not singing of course, but it’s the only chance I have ever had to hear him. So I am feeling quite clever, the only fail was trying to get the VCR to play, I am sure it is working, I just need a techie person to plug it in properly.

Arvind and Mala came in to get me to witness some legal documents and I washed my hands thoroughly afterwards as he had brought his own pen. Pathetic isn’t it? I am weary of all this precaution. Sent John home with a box of 6 things for Ann to try on eBay, please work as it will be the answer to my prayers. I have so much stuff because often people insisted that I take all of their goods, even if I only wanted two or three of them, so I ended up with boxes of stuff that is second hand and not really old enough to be any use to me. This is mostly what I am sorting. Also my spotters, often people who didn’t know shit from clay, used to travel to the shop with junky stuff and it was my policy to always send them home with something, even if it was $10 or $20, sort of petrol money (or sometimes train fare) so they felt as if the trip hadn’t been wasted. I miss those dear souls so much.

August 21, 2020

Up early for a change and took a drive to Erko to show Millie the new clothes I had bought for her which arrived a bit less than two days after I ordered them. She liked them all luckily and when she saw one piece with Bambi on the front she read the label and said ‘oh it’s Disney’, so she’s certainly reading well for age four. Sat in the garden and played hide and seek, blocks and listened to Dav making up stories for her. They are off this arv to Bundeena in the Royal National Park for the weekend and she chose the Bambi dress to wear going down in the car. On the way home I called in to John’s and he was waiting for Link Housing to pick up the five finished street libraries which almost fill his lounge room. Ann had been dying to give me the 10 pairs of earrings she had bought for me as a gift (for no particular reason) so I collected them from her while I was there. They are all big to huge, so she correctly homes in on my taste. I haven’t been wearing earrings for months now, but I will certainly get back to doing so as soon as going out is an option. I am jealous that the folks in the Blue Mountains look like getting snow tomorrow, I was hoping his nibs might feel like another drive but he hasn’t mentioned it, though I would go up for a few days given half a chance. PS: John is off the hook without even knowing about it because I just looked up various accommodation sites to tempt him with and there was nothing above youth hostel or really crummy hotel available for tomorrow night. All of Sydney must have had the same idea. Coincidentally I just got an email from a friend up there saying it is going to snow tomorrow and asking if we wanted to come up. I was inordinately excited until I read on and found that she’s been sick and her COVID test came back negative this morning….ah, no. Early testing is notoriously unreliable so even snow won’t get me to risk that one. Pity.

August 22, 2020

Trying (and failing) not to think about the fact that snow is thick on the ground in Katoomba and Blackheath. At 9.30 am John told me he’d seen it on the news and offered to take us for a drive up there today, but he was at home and by the time he got organised it would have meant leaving about noon, hardly the time to be tripping off to the mountains. Ridiculously I feel like crying.

Thinking about the 1976 vaccine debacle in the US and wondering why no-one has brought that up in the current discussions? In 1976, multiple recruits at Fort Dix army base in New Jersey were hospitalised with respiratory ailments arising from a swine flu virus and one died. Scientists predicted a possible pandemic and the US government made the decision to protect the public and quickly advanced the manufacture of a vaccine that, in hindsight, resulted in more injuries than it had been intended to prevent.  President Gerald Ford announced an initiative to vaccinate “every man, woman, and child in the United States,” but manufacturers were nervous about the haste so Congress passed emergency legislation giving pharmaceutical manufacturers immunity from legal liability. The potential for liability was significant given the many millions of people who would be immunised, the uncertainty of the risks in a large population and the pressure to produce a vaccine as quickly as possible. Clinical testing, which had involved only a limited number of volunteers, would not reveal rare adverse events that occur only when millions of people use a therapy. Shortly after the vaccine program began, three elderly people died after receiving the vaccine and more than 450 people who received it developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare and serious neurological disorder. The immunisation program was halted because, among other reasons, the swine flu pandemic never emerged. The immunisation program cost $100 million for manufacture but the US paid out more than $83 million to settle the claims for death and injury. A scary result which is never talked about these days but it surprises me greatly that it is been forgotten.

August 23, 2020

Oh my, yesterday was a shocker. First an email from the person who gifted me earrings the day before, asking if I could pay for them as she is a bit short. Since yesterday? Then later another communication: I had sent a box of 6 items home with John for her to sell online, as a money-making hobby for her and a lifeline for me to get rid of some of the goods I have in storage. But, as I should have anticipated, it proved more than a little problematic. I had provided detailed descriptions and prices in an email so they could be lifted straight into the ads. I can’t expect someone else to have the knowledge required to give ages and discuss brands. However I got a text to say that the first piece had sold, an item I’d listed for $50 which sold for $20. Thinking it was a mistake I replied that I had asked for more, but soon got the answer that she had altered the description, the age (1930s-40s) and the price, ‘because it looked modern to me’. Ah, problems coming I think. I decided to look up all the other items online but none fitting my descriptions showed up. However I did find my 4 pieces of Wade china by accident, looking under the word ‘Irish’. Why didn’t you include the word Wade I asked, ‘because it didn’t say that on the bottom’ she answered. No, it had their trademark instead. I can either demand the ads be cancelled and the goods returned or write off the $200 plus to experience, my current state of mind favours the latter. Why do I always think that people will do the reasonable thing? The noise you can hear is the connection between my head and the wall.

Today I am experiencing that empty feeling that comes with receiving emails about how much people enjoyed playing around in the snow yesterday and how it was so worth the drive up. My bucket list has a major item in bold: be in heavy falling snow for 24 hours. It followed: go to the midnight fireworks on NYE in Sydney, close enough to feel the bangs. That one was achieved a couple of years ago and so it can be happily put to bed. I enjoy seeing others having that experience now that I have had it, but the snow still evades me. Perhaps I’ve left my run too late I wonder.

August 24, 2020

Oh I am so glad to leave that problematic weekend behind me. A new week full of positivity and potential, woohoo! Thankfully I have had no more emails about earrings nor goods for sale and hopefully I get a rest from it after the constant barrage on Saturday and Sunday. Poor John had a bad weekend as well, with an out of the blue abusive text from the usual source. When are they going to put a sock in it and leave the man alone? What has it been going on, 12 years? More? Anyway he says he will take my advice and ignore it, though there’ll be another along soon I’m sure and every one cuts him as badly as the last. Positive news from the garden in that a few tiny spinach and lettuce are raising their heads above the soil, promise of a spring harvest, though still waiting on the basil.

I am currently reading The Plague by Albert Camus, published in 1947 about a plague in Algeria, and it raises just the same issues that are in play today: ‘We find it hard to believe in a pestilence when it descends upon us’, ‘Plagues and wars always find people unprepared’, ‘They continued with business, with making arrangements for travel and holding opinions’. COVID-19 is pretty nasty but I’d opt for it over the plague any day given the choice, with a death rate of 50-90% for the latter, up there with Ebola. Looking at it like that we are pretty lucky really, an opinion I may have had trouble with over the weekend, but it’s all about frame of mind. I’ve finished the book group novel, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was almost operatic in style, certainly with an opera’s tragic ending, but its main theme to me was not the power of music to uplift, but the power of proximity to others to allow people of totally different groupings to form bonds with each other. Whether the differences be rich/poor, educated/peasant, left/right politically, the forced closeness of living means that the people are seen in their essence, leading to some unexpected friendships and romantic pairings.

August 25, 2020

This morning at breakfast I noticed that the Japanned black legs of a Victorian occasional table seemed to be peppered with rust-coloured spots. To my horror I discovered that it was actually borers eating through the Japanning and showing the rusty coloured wood beneath. I immediately took the table outside and washed it with kerosene, the tried and true cure, but it is very difficult to get the kero into the tiny holes, a syringe being the best method. I dusted those legs only a few weeks ago and I know it was okay then, so where did the blighters come from and more importantly what else have they attacked that I don’t know about?  We got away late due to this distraction so opted for a close trip, just up to Bowen Mountain park and then Kurrajong village, having our picnic on the north banks of the Hawkesbury, where we were amazed at the height of the flood debris in the trees, at least 20 feet above ground. I went into the tiny chemist in Kurrajong to ask if he’d sell me a syringe with needle and he did so without asking to inspect my arms, so I must look kosher. When we got home John loved injecting kero into all the dozens of holes in the table which is currently quarantined in the garage. At least the top is safe as it is papier mache and I don’t think they’d like the taste of the glue involved in the making. I got lucky in my decision to let things ride in the contretemps over selling some of my things online. I got a text saying that there’d been no interest so far which let me reply to the effect that returning the goods to me seems the best thing to do. Better than a fight that’s for sure but I still need to decide the best move in the earrings department. At least I can smile about it now and realise that I was never going to come out of it well, so just learn the lesson.

August 26, 2020

A worrying couple of days in terms of John’s memory. He got lost on a walk from his home along the Lane Cove River on Monday and only realised it when he noticed that ‘the water was flowing the wrong way’ so he was on the opposite bank to where he should have been with no memory of how he got there. Then last night we were having dinner and he suddenly went very strange, saying ‘I just lost a chunk of my memory’. When I asked what he meant he explained that instantaneously the whole day had disappeared in his mind and he had no recollection of what we’d done (a picnic), even after I went through it in detail. I then mentioned in a conversation the town of Bowral and he asked where it was. Near Mittagong was my answer, but he’d never heard of that either. I explained it is in the Southern Highlands, to which he replied ‘Is that up north? how would we get there from here?’ Later in the evening the memory came back and he just snapped back to normal. I am reluctant to advise a raft of medical tests as I suspect that there won’t be a treatment anyway. I’ve advised that he take an old licence with him whenever he goes on a walk in future and I will have a quiet word to Bob, who has said previously that his memory issues are probably the result of a lot of anaesthetics and drugs, which of course is why he is still here at all. I’ll ask if he is still of that view considering recent events. This old age business is a shocker, until you consider the alternative.

This morning we did a good clean of the barbecue, with John scrubbing the plates in the laundry tubs while I washed and then oiled the metal inside and out. It’s now good enough to eat from. We decided to take it easy today in the light of last night’s episode, but he has just gone for his walk armed with his licence and phone in case of a repeat. I think an afternoon of reading for him would be a good idea as he is loving the book Scarlett Feather which I pressed on him, knowing he’d be tickled pink by it. I am still loving The Plague and the similarities to Victoria are endless. ‘The increases in deaths were convincing– but not enough for the townspeople to abandon entirely that it was merely an incident, annoying of course, but nonetheless temporary. So they went on walking around the streets and sitting on the cafe terraces’. Human nature changes not. I am a bad person in that the mention of the Melbourne millionaires who evaded the lockdown and fled to the Gold Coast being taken off their yacht to quarantine in Brisbane brought a smile to my face and put a spring in my step. Yes schadenfreude is sweet sometimes.

August 27, 2020

A funny appendix to the story about trying to sell some things in partnership with a third party. I arranged for her to give the things back but when asked I said that it was up to her whether she left them up for sale or not. She did so and got some interest in one item of Wade out of a collection of four pieces advertised together. Would I sell just one? Sure why not, so a price was reached and then the issue of postage came up after our previous decision not to bother with sales that couldn’t be picked up. The lady pleaded that she was an old Irish person in country NSW and she really wanted the Wade piece so we agreed to post it at cost. Now we are only talking about a $15 item so there is nothing in it financially, but I was so pleased to get the thrill that I used to have in the shop when a person found something that meant a lot to them. It amazes me that I have gone from the depths of frustration to an intense pleasure over one of these bits and bobs from the storeroom. It has filled me with enthusiasm for the idea that lots of other things have a home if only I can find it.

I had a good laugh about the high ranking government official in the Philippines who forgot to turn off the camera after a Zoom meeting, only to begin having sex with his secretary in front of his stunned (and I suspect amused) colleagues. Neither he nor his secretary have been back to work since and the government is seeking to replace them both. It made me think of all the myriad instructions provided for a Zoom meeting of our book group tomorrow and the one thing that was missed was ‘turn off the camera if you intend to do anything you don’t want broadcast’.

August 28, 2020

Made a Lemon Slice which actually didn’t have any lemon in it at all, but had lemon icing on top, so on that basis anything with lemon icing could be so named. Anyway this was a base crust with a walnut, coconut and brown sugar topping, probably too intensely sweet with icing over a brown sugar mix, but very nice nonetheless. Not one for diabetic friends. I always feel safe with a cake or slice sitting there, waiting for a visitor to knock at the door. My aunty married a second time (to the minister who did her husband’s funeral, no less) and he was sent to Bega. There she kept one of those old-fashioned three tier aluminium cake tins marked Cake, Scones and Biscuits and her role was to keep them full for drop ins who needed to talk to her husband. It occurs to me now that doing funerals, either as a minister or celebrant, is a good hunting ground for a partner as I know another person who married a woman after being the civil celebrant at her husband’s funeral. I often joke to John that if he spoke at my funeral he could cast an elevated eye over the congregation for just this purpose.

Our book group meeting was successful and it reminded me of early meetings where the proposer spoke followed by each member in turn, uninterrupted. The mute facility actually makes that easier to do, so people get to express their view of the book without distraction. I’ve finished The Plague and it was a worthwhile read. The priest thunders from the pulpit that the plague is the wrath of god coming down on sinfulness but the good doctor, a staunch humanist and atheist, just puts one foot in front of the other, the model of scientific but humane and supportive medicine. The last paragraph is worth thinking about: ‘And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperilled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city’. Then we lost Camus to a simple old car accident. Interestingly, Camus himself is reported to have said that the most absurd way to die would be in a car accident.

August 29, 2020

Got a bit of gardening done today on a beautiful morning, putting Charlie Carp onto my peas and sweet peas as well as on the lettuces and pot plants. Michelle had asked what date I planted the peas and I was able to answer after looking at the blog, so at least it comes in good for something. Then I was surprised by a call from Mary in New Zealand, what a great friend she is. Chatted with Martyn about Robert’s condition today, not good, but Sue is surrounded by her four daughters and has always risen enthusiastically to the sad task she has been given. Later I caught up with Carol so it was a pleasant morning in that respect. Now I have been trying to use the old tape deck from the shop in order to listen to ancient folk club and other tapes but it is touch and go, the volume is set at full but can either be quite loud or non existent at will, so there seems to be an electrical fault there somewhere.

I have been the recipient of many online survey requests lately for reasons I can’t explain, this morning a Voxpop from the ABC on coronavirus which went into lots of weird and wonderful conspiracy theories and whether or not I believed them. The usual suspects: 5G, the Chinese lab, Bill Gates wanting to microchip everyone etc. Plus lots of questions about moods such as anxiety, fear, stress etc (perhaps surprisingly I listed the answer to most questions positively at about an 8 out of a possible 10) and what my sources of information are, press, TV, internet etc. I get a regular one from Sydney University with similar questions, usually once every 3 weeks. I am not sure how I got on their lists but I don’t mind doing them, but not to be ‘in the draw for a $20 gift card’ which the Uni one amusingly offers. It acts as a counter to the conspiracy theory links I keep being sent by two of my cousins, I try to be reasonable in my responses but sometimes it’s trying…… Unfortunately there does seem to be a concerted effort to suppress information coming out of the CDC and the FDA, something I’ve never seen before. First, the FDA gave the green light to plasma therapy before it was proven effective for Covid-19. Then, the CDC changed its recommendations and said asymptomatic people with possible Covid-19 exposure do not need to get tested, presumably to keep the numbers down leading up to the US election. The advice goes against what science says about the spread, and already multiple states say they will not follow those recommendations. Please just get rid of this buffoon before he corrupts every organisation we could trust in the US.

August 30, 2020

John surprised me by saying he didn’t want to watch Insiders this morning (he refers to this ritual every Sunday as going to Mass) because he doesn’t want to hear anything about the pandemic or politics today and preferred to put some fallen tree branches into the bin, so we worked on that instead and I’ll watch it later. Unfortunately the gum is constantly dropping branches so there’s a never ending supply of wood, pity we don’t have a fire. Heather came over for morning tea and that lasted till lunchtime. Then I decided to take some photos of things I want rid of, some glass, crystal and a Pentax camera. Tried listing just one thing on Facebook Marketplace and it is sooo much quicker and easier to do than eBay that I can see why people have gone over to it. Of course you don’t get the advantage of auction running away with the price but that happens so rarely anyway that I don’t think I would bother with it unless it was something of high value where there could be really serious interest. So I put one thing on as a trial, a piece of Imperial Glass that happened to have the impressed trademark for 1920 so the age is indisputable. We shall see.

Carly had some luck yesterday. She got her cat Lola from the Canberra Street Cat Alliance, a bunch of people who trap wild cats, get them desexed and rehome them. She supports them financially and went into their big 50/50 raffle, the idea being that you get half of whatever the raffle brings in. It raised $1262, half was a tidy sum, but she decided to donate her winnings back to the organisation so I didn’t get chance to suggest any lovely treats she could indulge in with some of the money. That will pay quite a few vet bills so it puts them in a good position to continue the work and rehome lots more Lolas.

August 31, 2020

Well there are lots of firsts to report: yesterday was the first time since last autumn that I left the doors open all day, also the first day without any form of heating, the first blowfly of the season (a black monster) and today was the first day that I haven’t worn socks. So spring has officially sprung. Kirk came this morning and did the mowing and I’ve booked him to come back next Monday to help me with cutting up the bigger tree branches for the bin, thinning out and replanting some clivias and also to use his little auger tool to dig holes deep enough for the dahlia bulbs. After he went we drove to North Head to mooch around, luckily we went when we did because later it came up very cool and blowy and we needed to decamp to Curl Curl to shelter from the southerly. Last time we were at North Head John said it would be lovely to stay at Q Station for a couple of nights and he said exactly the same this time, so perhaps it may come to pass. John’s memory came to the fore again today when he rang Steve and sang two verses of Happy Birthday, except it is next Monday, which he had already double-checked in his diary last night. The same diary where he has two Nelune appointments for his infusion, this Wednesday and the following one, but he only goes once a month. I noticed a September echocardiogram appointment at the heart specialist which was a worry too as she’d told his to come back early in the new year. However a couple of phone calls sorted that out and cancelled the phantom appointments, but he does need a diary secretary badly. I guess that’s a job for moi.

September 1, 2020

Yesterday when we went to North Head we had no idea that the 1988 murder of Scott Johnson there would be the subject of last night’s Australian Story programme. We did discuss it as we looked down over the cliffs and I said that it would be an awful long way down, knowing that only pain and death awaited you at the bottom. There are a few connections between us and the case, the main one being that Scott White, John’s upstairs neighbour and erstwhile friend, was arrested for the murder recently. John watched his arrest from his bedroom window and later from his balcony, though he had no idea why he was being taken away. John’s bedroom window featured in the coverage aired last night as they bundled Scott down the stairs. My surprise connection, which I only discovered when viewing the show, was that ex Coroner Jacquie Milledge was helping the victim’s brother navigate the NSW legal system and in convincing the police that a crime had actually been committed at all, something they steadfastly refused to believe for over 30 years. Jacquie was, and perhaps still is, a serious antiques collector and although she was never a customer we both frequented John Williams Auctions over many years and often communicated there. I remember times while she was waiting for a particular lot to come up (I was watching every lot by contrast) she would immerse herself in autopsy reports and legal paperwork and I would remind her when her lot was approaching. We always sat near the front and John Williams, apart from some other positive personality traits, was a terrible snob and sycophant who loved having ‘famous’ people on show at his sales. He would mention Jacquie by name often just in case anyone missed the fact that she was there and was well known to him. I of course was fascinated by her autopsy reports and fantasised that one day she would say ‘I’m just going to the loo for an hour, could you please mind these reports for me’. Needless to say she guarded them closely. I found her to be smart, empathetic, tenacious and just the sort of person you would want in a coroner’s job. In an aside, the most memorable example of John Williams’ sycophantic behaviour came when a certain very elderly gentleman would arrive part way through the sale (parking his white Rolls-Royce illegally as often as not) at which point John would stop the bidding and declare loudly ‘Oh Sir Les, welcome! Please come down the front, we’ve saved a seat for you. Thankyou Sir Les, thankyou thankyou’. Of course the seat business was total BS as there were often single seats available at the front, just by chance. I often chatted to Sir Les as well and he struck me as a humble old chap who was probably mortified by the attention. He had an ill and house bound wife and took the opportunity to buy her antique treats from the sale. He once said that he had sealed off a large part of their harbourside house because there were just two of them and it saved on heating and cleaning! I could never do the networking thing, probably stupidly, so in the cases of people I met there I didn’t even give them a business card as it seemed like trying to steal business from JWA. I guess Sir Les has gone to his reward by now, as has John Williams, but the memories still exist thankfully. Last night my John asked me what his relationship with the murder accused should now be, but he is still only accused, and in any case the man of 50 isn’t the same person as the boy of 17, so I told him that and whatever he chooses to do is okay by me.

September 2, 2020

Spring must agree with me because by not long after 7 I had sent off a missive to that rotten Tony Rabbit, so angered was I at his latest opinions, to wit ‘letting the elderly die naturally’ during the pandemic. Nothing like some righteous anger to start the day off at a clip. I put the letter into the Guardian Facebook page comments as well and so far I’ve had over 20 responses including some lovely replies. Angered too by the failure of my basil seeds to germinate so I sowed the second half of the packet and if they fail I shall buy seedlings and be done with it, so there. Then on to a job that’s years and years overdue. I recently decided to bring up the old tape deck that I used in the shop so I could listen to tapes that can’t be accessed online, for example those made at folk club concerts or of people who never rose to fame. But I have oodles of old tapes and with gritted teeth I began hurling them into the bin. No one needs classical music on tape these days, nor Bob Dylan either (but I just couldn’t bring myself to toss his in case the internet crashes permanently). There were meditation tapes and the chants of Paramahansa Yogananda (didn’t we all go through the Eastern religion thing?). These ended up in the street library as they can do no harm. Next I found I had numerous unmarked tapes and lots of empty cases, none of which matched up, so they went to the bin too. Gosh it’s only a little after noon and I’ve done years worth of tossing already.

Thinking back to the days of John Williams Auctions after yesterday’s post and some of the crazy stuff that went on there over the years. I had often noticed that if I bid against a gay person or couple John could never seem to see my hand waving in the air while others could bid with a raised eyebrow. On one occasion I had called out loudly to register a bid he’d missed and later I heard him apologising to the couple that ‘I’m sorry, I had to give it to her, she was so persistent’. So I stored it away that for whatever reason he was especially keen to keep gay customers happy. He was married, as I found out when his wife rang me once to castigate me for my failure to pay the bill before taking the goods. I let her finish her rant and then calmly said ‘Perhaps you need to talk to your front of house manager as I paid him in cash last Sunday’. No apology, just a promise to look into it. But one day when I was dropping off things to sell, I couldn’t see anyone in the office so I wandered into the saleroom to see said office manager and John playing tip, chasing each other around the antique furniture and collapsing into hugs and giggles when one caught the other. I went back to the office and rang the bell. It was some years later that I read in the press that there had been a huge hoo-ha when John left his wife and harbourside apartment to live with ‘little John’ as he was known by one and all. That they were madly in love was something I had seen in that game of tip years before and managed to keep mum about. He was quite the rock star of auctioneers at this stage and often mentioned in the press. Once I was invited to John’s house, St. Kevin’s in Queen St. Woollahra, but I can’t now remember if he was personally buying something from me or I from him. It was a gorgeous place but much in need of renovation and decoration. I longed to have a go at it but was shy of suggesting it, particularly as he was married at that stage. He later sold St. Kevin’s to his friend, non other than Prime Minister Paul Keating. John had been Keating’s personal dealer for a long time, especially noted for searching for his precious clocks. I wonder if Paul used his great aesthetic prowess to decorate it?  I hope so.

September 3, 2020

My dear friend Robert died at 6.10 am this morning. Vale good man, your life was worthwhile and the long queue of people you helped, both in your career as a doctor and as a friend, goes way over the hill and out of sight.

First the librarian came with six new books, including two about Trump, they know my  tastes! Then a  friend visited and brought figs, blackberries and a dragon fruit. I’d only seen the ones that are white inside but this one is a deep majenta. Apparently they are a form of cactus without spikes and are so beautiful inside and out. Then Heather came to the door with goodies, having made the recipe for the slice that I served to her last week, but she’d altered the walnuts to pistachios and left out the coconut so I am keen to try her version. I was able to send her home with some mandarin cake. All in all I’ve had a profitable day for lovely food, I am very spoilt. In the afternoon I went to see Bob about John’s recent memory issues and he is of the opinion that considering lymphoma, chemotherapy, heart problems, heart surgery, many anaesthetics, knee surgery, infections, a mountain of drugs and his family issues it is hardly surprising. I just needed to make sure that there wasn’t any silver bullet that I had overlooked but everything he said was as predicted. He also thinks that the loss of memory for a few hours last week could be a vascular event which blocked blood flow to a small part of the brain temporarily. I wasn’t going to tell John why I was going to Bob today but he asked why I wasn’t just getting scripts over the phone, so I explained that I wanted to make sure we were doing everything possible for him and when I got home I told him fully what Bob had said. He was cool with it and glad that there wasn’t any suggestion of yet more drugs, tests or interventions.

September 4, 2020

There are two pharmacies in Baulkham Hills, one of which I don’t use any more after I discovered at the beginning of the pandemic that the ‘anti-viral hand sanitiser’ they were selling hand over fist contained very little alcohol with a main ingredient that seemed in my searches to be okay for bacteria but not for viruses. When I asked my friend the virologist he told me ‘you would need to bath in that for a week to kill a virus’. When I spoke to the pharmacist about it she said ‘but it says on the label it’s for viruses’ totally ignoring my point, so I decided she wasn’t up to the task and stopped going there. The other has been owned for decades by the son of a once prominent local politician who has all the facial expression and charm of Melania Trump so I don’t like shopping there either. However now that my chemist’s needs are home delivered it doesn’t really matter if he’s nice to deal with or not. This morning I rang to place an order and instead got a very cheery and chatty man whom I knew would never have been hired by that owner. In the course of identifying myself I gave my age and on the spur of the moment asked how old he was: ‘I can be however old you want me to be’ was the reply. Mmm this fellow is fun I decided, so I suggested 25 would be good and he announced that was fine with him. It was the next line that made me really laugh: ‘I’m not sure what sort of line you thought you were ringing but this is the pharmacy’. I later had to send off a photo of the scripts I wanted and received back a photo of him, beaming in the dispensary with the message: ‘I have taken over this pharmacy. You are safe with me and I will always be here to give you service with a smile’! Now some would find this an odd exchange in the circumstances but I think he is over the moon to have bought his own business and is probably operating on adrenaline. Anyway it gave me a much-needed smile this morning and I won’t hesitate to shop there in person now.

 

September 5, 2020
Yesterday was stressful in the extreme after we decided to book somewhere to stay on the Central Coast to be nearby for Robert’s funeral and also to have the first break away for a year. As we want to do all our own catering it was a unit or house that we needed so I went to Airbnb and found a lovely unit in The Entrance. What a kerfuffle it turned out to be with the request to the property owner being misconstrued so the dates were wrong in the confirmation. Then he had trouble with the system and it took some time as he had to cancel the first booking and then rebook the correct dates. The next hurdle was that they wanted a photo of my licence which was problematic, but finally we got the booking. In the middle of all of this I got a phone call from a woman who said that she had just had a call from someone pretending to be the Taxation Department and when she called the number back to see if it was genuine she got me!! So someone is using my phone number for scams. That was the last straw yesterday. I’ve got Optus working on that now but it is very disconcerting. However a sleep last night seemed to make these mountains into molehills. One of the books the library sent was a biography of Melania Trump, mmm, not quite my thing but I am ploughing through it quickly. According to the author, a journalist who has travelled widely with her, she always  knows exactly what she is in for and accepts it as the price of a life of luxury. The flowers for the wedding table decorations, each eight feet high, numbered 10,000 and were transported from New York to Florida in specially adapted refrigerated trucks. What more need I say? Except perhaps that both her sister and her parents live in Trump properties and spend a lot of time at Mar-a-Lago so it seems she’s bought a lifestyle for the whole family that would have been unimaginable in Communist Slovenia.

This post above somehow disappeared from the system and I could only recover it in this form, sigh, technology.

September 6, 2020

Interested to read Julia Baird’s piece about the lovely Jerry Falwell, erstwhile president of the Christian college Liberty University and now the recipient of US$10.5 million smackers courtesy of his severance pay due to numerous sexual and financial allegations. It is just more evidence towards my theory that the last place for women and children to be safe is with the ‘super religious’. I could give many personal examples, but I won’t, however I agree completely with Julia’s quoted assertion that ‘those who believe most strongly in taboos are likely to be most thrilled by breaking them’. Just think of Catholic priests for example! I wish I had put it in those words myself when I warned off people after they told me they had confidence in being safe with someone because they are a Christian/evangelical/youth leader or whatever. For me that is a red flag.

I am in the process of packing all the food necessary to go away tomorrow so we won’t need to shop up there, apart from any small thing I’ve forgotten. I’m packing everything from swimming togs to jumpers as the weather is forecast as changeable. The unit has no wifi though so I may not be able to blog, we shall see. I don’t think I will bother taking the computer at all.

September 7, 2020

The unit was everything we had hoped for, a lovely fresh beachy decor with views to die for. It has everything we need bar Wi-Fi for me but I’ve decided to just write some notes and put it in when I get home. We are right opposite the entrance to the lake so walking on the beach is just a matter of crossing a road. I can’t imagine a more peaceful setting in easy proximity to Sydney. I had to smile when we pulled in to The Entrance and John said “so this is where the working class have their holidays, it’s nice that they can go somewhere”. His view of the place changed once we turned off the main drag and came to the area where our unit is. When I looked around later I saw that the main street does look pretty sad with about 20% of the shops empty, but I suspect this downturn was pre-Covid. Tonight confirmed that view, I can remember when the street was really busy at night but even the ice cream parlour was shut. The two fish shops who used to do great dinner trade were both closing at 3:30 pm. It’s certainly down at heel in a commercial sense. Our first Indian meal since February was a bit of a disappointment, pretty bland with no complexity in the flavours so I will be doing all the cooking from here on in, no problems in such a well equipped kitchen.

September 8, 2020

Walked on the beach just after dawn and it truly is a delightful place to be. Took a short drive to Bateau Bay but it wasn’t pleasant walking on the beach due to the wind, so we headed home and into our books, looking out periodically at our superb view. John had just bought The Altar Boys and I browsed it but was soon committed to reading it. We had been introduced to, and had lunch with, Geoffrey and Audrey who feature prominently in the book. This was when we went to Newcastle for the Cunneen inquiry into abuse by priests and brothers in the Newcastle Maitland area, so seeing Geoffrey on the cover and reading his story right from page one made a big impression. I will say more when I’ve finished the book. No wonder the commercial part of The Entrance is so down at heel. We are in a block of six units and we are the only people here. The luxury block of three units next door is totally empty, though the spa bath on the balcony of one unit is bubbling away day and night, much to my annoyance at the waste of power. Their windows are dark tinted and I would hate that, seeing the world artificially coloured defeats the purpose surely. On the other side there appears to be one unit occupied in a block of eight. This is an area for retirees as well as holiday makers, I guess the retirees don’t have the money to spend and the holiday makers are not coming, or perhaps only at weekends. It’s lucky that we brought all our own food including baked goods because there isn’t a decent bakery here any more. They are full of iced donuts the size of teaplates and cakes with icing the colour of bile, ugh. However for our needs this place has been perfect with every piece of cooking equipment one could ask for, except that I hate the induction cooktop and even more so after trying to read the instruction book which might as well have been in Latin. Loving my own gas cooktop even more than usual.

September 9, 2020

We had a walk on the beach this morning and it started to rain just at the end of it, then we headed back for an early lunch and to tart ourselves up for Robert’s funeral. The place at Kincumber was absolutely spectacular, a deep wooded valley with a glass chapel overlooking it. It was certainly the best funeral venue I’ve seen and the man next to me was musing about how he could have his own funeral there. Sue’s brothers Steven and Martyn were in good form as ever, making their eulogies funny as well as heartfelt. We didn’t go to the wake for a few reasons, one being that there were plenty of other people whom Sue won’t get to see very often, if at all. We on the other hand will catch up with her easily. Another reason was that because of the rain it would have to be held indoors and there was obviously a lack of social distancing at the funeral and very few wore masks so we decided bearing all that in mind that we would come straight home, tonight I am feeling downhearted and not in the mood for social chitchat so I think that confirmed the decision was the right one.  Nothing worse than small talking when you are beyond sad. The thing that will always stick in my mind about Robert is the fact that he was unafraid. Whether it was climbing mountains, visiting remote places, striving for excellence in many ways, he was confident and wouldn’t let life give him no for an answer. As someone who is quite the opposite of that I found it inspiring. The other memory is that he didn’t hold back his opinion, I tire of knowing people disagree on something but watching them politely swallow their opinions for fear of offending. Robert was quite happy to make himself unpopular if he needed to, what is the point of having an opinion if you are too afraid to share it? Of course there is a time to hold one’s tongue for specific reasons, but generally I think we should have the courage of our convictions, as he had.

September 10, 2020

We did a drive over to North Entrance to show John where I spent each Christmas holiday in a tent when I was young. Then off to Toukley and Budgewoi where we found a lovely riverside park which had a bridge over to an island in the river, which we explored after a simple lunch of Jatz crackers, cheese and fruit. No sweet treats here either as looking through the bakery window brought no joy, just more psychedelic disasters a la the 1960s. Later we drove to Norah Head and wandered around the lighthouse, marvelling at the list of ships that had foundered nearby, including a couple of merchant ships sunk by the Japanese in WWII, something that was far from uncommon but suppressed during the war and then not well publicised after it. When were were at Mallacoota in Victoria a few years ago we were stunned in the little military museum to see how many ships the Japanese and even the Germans had sunk so far south. In the afternoon Stephen and Deborah came down from Newcastle and we shared food and stories into the evening. Deborah now has great trouble hearing after potent antibiotics destroyed the sensory cells, she is currently waiting for the NDIS to organise hearing aids. It was great to spend time with them, a pleasure denied recently due first to her illness and later by COVID. The barramundi I cooked on that stupid cooktop was more boiled than fried as the maximum heat is totally inadequate so if we go there again I will only use the oven. When we camped as a child everything was cooked in an electric frypan and it’s a shame they fell out of fashion as I found them a very useful appliance, making the best baked dinners ever and even cooking cakes in a separate cake tin inside.

September 11, 2020

What a load of stuff we took away, clothes for every season, funeral outfits, pillows, books, plenty of food, and it all needed loading back into the car this morning, less much of the food obviously, going down three flights of stairs each time. We arrived at Sue’s (until recently Robert and Sue’s, perhaps always Robert and Sue’s in the future?) by 10 am and stayed there chatting a while with her and Anna, the only daughter now left in residence. Sue is coming to Sydney next Thursday for an appointment and I have invited her to come and stay that night, or before and after, but I won’t mention it again and she can decide how she feels at the time. It might seem weird for her to be out in the world and have options after so long looking after Robert. On the way home John and I discussed strategies to deal with his memory loss, such as only going out for walks with his licence and phone, this was after he said that he didn’t think he should be driving anywhere unfamiliar in future unless I am with him. His driving and reflexes are good, probably better than mine, but who knows where he would end up alone as he has no idea which way to turn when we reach an intersection that we had used just the day before. His concepts of direction are failing badly, not really having a general sense that he needs to go south for example. I hope it slows down a bit because at this rate I can’t see him being able to drive too long at all. One day at a time though, perhaps it goes in fits and starts rather than a linear progression and he’s had a recent dip so it might plateau, hopefully.

September 12, 2020

We decided that because we’ve pretty much used up all our fruit and vegetables, we would drive out to a farm at Dural which we frequent, where we can replenish without going to the shops. Denise serves there on her own and always wears a mask so we feel it is a safe option. She doesn’t have every option but enough choices that we can restock our fridges more than adequately. After that I tied up my massively grown sugar snap peas which have sadly keeled over in my absence. This was done with the aid of a wooden venetian blind slat poked through the middle and then the plant was tied to it at numerous points with cord, what would I do without venetian blind cord? It solves so many problems at this house. Next I sat my dahlia bulbs on a bed of potting mix and watered them, covered with a sheet of glass, getting ready for planting next week. Passionfruit biscuits were the remaining task as I bought a big bag of those delicious fruit from Denise. Passionfruit icing must be close to heaven I think, so I will ice them tomorrow as well. Question: Who loses weight on holiday? Answer: A person who goes to a bakery desert. After all of this I sat on the back verandah and read the Herald, while taste testing the biscuits with a cup of tea.

September 13, 2020

I watched the recorded book launch of The Altar Boys at the recommendation of Stephen, who had been there in person supporting his friend. Geoffrey’s speech was deeply affecting, especially heartfelt when he angrily mentioned Andrew Murray (John’s nephew who is a priest) in a very negative light. Both the priest and Geoffrey’s deceased brother share the first name Andrew. The priest Andrew wasn’t accused of any child abuse related matters but he does stand accused by Geoffrey of recently contacting his elderly and still grieving mother twice with two different and unrealistic explanations for the child Andrew’s death in 1974. Geoffrey believes he is still trying to absolve the church of any responsibility for his brother’s suicide and asked publicly that Andrew ‘never mention my brother’s name again’. He also read a very long list of priests, brothers and lay teachers, including school principals, who have been convicted of child abuse in Newcastle, the number was almost unbelievable. Multiply that by the many victims of each and then extend that out to their families and friends, it must affect a huge number of Newcastle’s residents. Chilling.

September 14, 2020

John watched The Altar Boys book launch this morning and I could tell by his voice that he was as deeply affected by it as I was, probably more so given the unexpected mention of a family connection. He decided to spread the video widely amongst his ex-priest mates. I have been baking again, this time cheese and walnut biscuits, and gardening, potting up some flower cuttings that came into root while we were away. Some of my dahlia bulbs are shooting too which is a good sign for the rest. The front garden is looking fine, so many white flowers out including gerberas, may bush and of course the massive Rhaphiolepis which stretches right across the front yard. I would trade a white flowered plant for any number of red ones, somehow white flowers are so soothing. I sent a photo off to Ram in India so he gets an idea where I live and got a reply back straight away. I am hoping he may send a pic so I can visualise his place. I have good memories of the guest house in Kannur where he worked but his home was some hours south on the train in Kozhikode. When I rang a few weeks ago the call was prefaced by a COVID safety message in Malayalam which apparently begins every local and overseas call. I think some of the Asian countries are way ahead of us in ideas for day to day handling of this thing. On which subject, I think Scott Morrison’s repeated bullying of the Queensland premier will go down as on a par with Tony Abbott’s appalling behaviour towards Julia Gillard. I hope female voters there will remember it in the ballot box.

September 15, 2020

Last night was the perfect example of why Robert’s confidence in life was a good influence on me. I decided to try to sell a few bits and bobs that can be posted in a normal envelope without needing to go to the PO. So I listed on Facebook Marketplace four military medallions. I got plenty of response but sold them to a chap whom I later discovered was in Malaysia. After a gap of some time occurred following putting in my bank details I decided he wasn’t a buyer at all but a scammer and was toying with warning the bank. (This because after visiting Malaysia briefly the bank rang Davina and told her that scamming is so rife there that there were cancelling all of her cards and reissuing new ones, despite no problem occurring). Now someone like Robert (or Michelle) would have assumed the best while I assumed the worst and got myself into a right tizz late at night. However he eventually sent his address and paid for the goods. Phew. It turned out he is the defence attache at the Malaysian High Commission in Canberra so I am posting them to him there. I was so relieved that I cheekily asked if a tour of the embassy was part of the deal and he replied that it was. He must have looked up my profile because he referred to me as Madam rather than Miss, later saying ‘next time you come to Malaysia Madam I will show you around like a Queen’ and I’d take him up on it too if I thought I would ever go there again. The disappointed string of men who missed out on the medallions indicates that I probably underpriced them quite a lot but as that old crook Rene Rivkin used to say ‘always leave something in a deal for the next person’ and somehow that always stuck with me. Message to self: take a deep breath, everything is usually okay.

Kirk came this morning and used his battery operated augur to dig the holes for the dahlia bulbs, also replanting some Clivias from the back yard to the front, a job that’s beyond me now because it involved consistently bending low under the tree to plant them, something that always ends up with my feeling too dizzy to continue. He gave me a price less than what I was expecting and when I insisted on giving him a higher figure he seemed bemused, but as I told him it means I can ask him to do something extra another time without feeling bad about it, so it was really a selfish move. Had two different friends pop in today so that meant the passionfruit biscuits were a helpful addition to the comestibles.

September 16, 2020

Unfortunately it seems to be a fact of life that it is the authoritarians amongst us that sign up for the police force and the military. Although they often say it is to help the public, to be of service, etc it doesn’t take much for that disciplinarian streak to emerge, something that we rarely if ever see in firies or ambos who deal with many stressful situations without resorting to violence. The current situation in some ways is a policeman’s dream, not only catching bad guys but keeping the rest of the populace in trim. I am sure I would be tempted to give some of these ‘sovereign citizens’ a whack, but I am not in the police force where turning the other cheek to verbal abuse should be part and parcel of the training. Seeing a police car running into a mentally ill man who’d waited over 24 hours for help at a hospital emergency department, then seeing colleagues pile onto him while one stomps on his head, is just the latest manifestation. Another NSW policeman who chased a woman into her garage and pulled a gun to her chest, threatening to shoot her for a minor traffic offence later handcuffed and arrested her and pepper-sprayed her dog. She has just been awarded $115,000 plus legal costs but that doesn’t get the bloke out of the force, something governments are very reluctant to do after they have invested money in their training and are also under pressure from the powerful police union. I remember meeting the mother of my daughters’ school friend who told me she was just back from Goulburn to watch her other daughter graduate as a detective. ‘I pity anyone she arrests’ she told me ‘she’s been pushing her sister and us around her whole life, so she’s perfect for the job’. Ouch. I didn’t feel as much confidence as the mother did in her being right for the job, just that she was more of the same.

My career on Facebook Marketplace has ground to a halt after the three things I listed yesterday: a wartime Japanese document, 40 various coins and some wartime Japanese and Korean banknotes were all rejected as listing because they didn’t pass a review of ‘inappropriate listings’. I appealed but apparently it broke some rule, though I am unable to find the grounds for the rejection as a reading of the rules shows no reference at all to any of the items. Each had WWII in the title so I can only assume it is something to do with that. No discussion will be entered into. Sighs. However the medallions went into the post box this arv so at least I had a win there.

September 17, 2020

I hadn’t started the book group novel as yet but having read it years ago I thought I could cheat a bit, look up my review and then perhaps speed read it. But that came to nought when I discovered I’d read it before I started reviewing. However now I have started it I remember how funny and insightful it was so I’m not regretting having to read it carefully. I think that although it was pre-Trump it delves into the mindset of people who may well have become his supporters. Just finished reading Coetzee’s Summertime, courtesy of Sue, a strange mix of novel and fictionalised autobiography in which a narrator interviews people who were important in his life in South Africa. Supposedly written after Coetzee’s death it is a very odd concept, but somehow it works.

John’s neighbour Tammy who was carted off to hospital by ambulance a few months ago with chest pain thinking she might have COVID, has died of the widespread cancer that was discovered on her admission. The lease on her flat has been transferred to her eldest daughter who can’t be more than about 18, there is no husband or male partner on the scene. She will look after her high school aged sister and a small brother with autism? intellectual disability? What a life some people get. I can’t even imagine how I would have coped with that at 18, but not well is the broad answer. The report that ‘the kids didn’t seem that upset’ says a lot about their expectation of, and resignation to, what life will hand out, rather than their feelings for their mother I suspect. I hope that social services are provided in spades, but in these times of overworked child welfare staff it may be a vain hope.

September 18, 2020

Yet another funeral today, that of Patricia, wife of John’s friend Kevin. We are tuning in via Zoom, which was invented just in time for the pandemic, it’s a wonder no-one has found a conspiracy in that. We missed Tammy’s funeral when we were away though I doubt that would have been Zoomed.  Talking about conspiracy theories I think that the current push-back against the lockdown in Victoria is fuelled by a grab bag of ‘antis’, anti-vaxxers, libertarians (hiss), white supremacists, far Righters and the rest. While I have always maintained a right to breaking the law over a principle (and taking the consequences) I find it difficult to understand these protesters who seem to me to be fighting against the public good. Hasn’t anyone else noticed how quiet the far Right is at the moment? And the anti-Muslim crowd? I think they are working full time on the anti-Andrews campaign.

A nice relaxing day after all the busy-ness yesterday. Heather came over for morning tea but apart from that it was just a case of hanging about and pottering. Both the WWII banknotes and the Japanese document sold, each bring in the mid to high $20s. Now I am going to try my sets of WWI postcard sets. It was always my view when I was on ebay previously that it’s better to aim at men. If they want something they will just buy it, whereas the women are more tentative to spend. Often I was asked in the shop to write a receipt for much less than the amount paid, so I split the purchase over two receipts, one the woman threw away and one for much less money that she left lying around for the husband to see. The Trumpster seems to be worse than they are wanting to say: hospital, experimental treatments, remdesivir. From what I have previously read about that anti-viral drug in The Lancet, very early treatment substantially decreases viral titres compared with control, but this effect was completely lost when the drug was administered even 8 hours after infection. Clearly Trump was infected long before that, seeing he already has symptoms, but I guess they are throwing everything at him and seeing what sticks. My friend Tim’s GP has retired early because of having had lung cancer and feeling that he was ‘100% likely to die’ if he caught the virus from a patient, a sad end to a career of a man who

I think that we are in a dire state in the world at the moment. In my humble opinion it is partly due to the failed ideology of the supreme power of the rights of the individual over society. When Margaret Thatcher said there was no such thing as society we were all shocked and scoffed at her, but these days that idea has borne fruit. The rise of Trump, the crisis of climate change, the calamity of private aged care, the issue of refugees, even the scourge of clerical child abuse can be linked to the idea that ‘I have a right to…….’ (lie my way to power, pollute the planet, mine coal, buy a Lamborghini with the money given to house old people, lock people up indefinitely, use that kid…. you fill in the blanks). Religions haven’t helped us avoid these pitfalls and they are, like many other institutions, afraid to make themselves unpopular by calling out the failures of the prevailing norms. The worst case of Covid in Victorian nursing homes was in the St Basil’s Home for the Aged owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. They paid more than $14 million to the church in rent in the past 5 years (apparently a vastly inflated figure and a nice little earner for the church) yet the home was run on a shoestring budget. We have all become so used to capitalism that we don’t even recognise it any more, it’s become unremarkable to us. The classic divide between the churches and science is also a big part of our current problems. Trump’s evangelical followers are only too happy to believe that climate change is a myth and Covid is a Chinese plot because scientists have been mistrusted forever as anti-biblical. Just look at that evil Darwin! I am pessimistic about our future, but there is some hope in isolated pockets. However the job of getting us out of all this is monumental and climate change won’t sit back and wait till we get our act together. As I said to a cockroach walking across my front verandah yesterday: ‘I will let you keep going because your lot will be here long after we are, just keep out of the house in the meantime’.

September 19, 2020

John slept in till after 9 this morning and I had done some watering and read the Saturday Paper cover to cover before he woke, so we were still in our jimjams at 10 having eaten tea and toast in the sun on the front verandah on a day we were led to believe would be raining heavily. Browsing the Diggers Club catalogue over breakfast I discovered a tool that I could use, a gas powered weed wand, which zaps weeds with flame instead of bending too much or using some dreaded poison. I do hate gas cylinders though and wonder if I really want to be lugging one around? But I was heartened to see that they have the South African Cape Chestnut tree available, this after I spent two years trying to find one, ringing around all the nurseries and being told they were unavailable due to the difficulties of propagating them. So I put two blueberry ash in the possie I wanted for the chestnut, grrr. Now debating whether to find another spot or just write it off. It’s a slow grower, less than 30 cm a year, so perhaps I’ve missed the boat on that one, do I have 30 years to see it to maturity? Does that matter? Still thinking.We decided to go to Castle Hill because I wanted to see in person a huge McMansion I had happened on in an ad on the net. It appeared to be painted bright fluoro pink in a sea of beige houses but the agent has clearly hyped up the colour in the photos because it is in fact a strong deep berry pink and not the garish psychedelic shade he advertised, so I think he did the sellers a disservice. The inside is apparently full bottle Versace, but I guess if you love OTT decorating but don’t have self-confidence in your talents you might go that way, trusting Versace’s taste instead of your own. Full marks for being different, though I can’t even imagine what that decor cost. Then it was time to try the Salted Honey and Tahini Biscuit recipe from the colour supplement in last week’s papers. Different would be my single word description but not in a bad way, worth doing. Tonight I am doing dinner from the paper as well, as if I don’t have a zillion recipes in my own books to try.

September 20, 2020

Loving all the 20s in today’s date for some unknown reason. John asked what we would normally do on a wet day (hint hint) and I answered go to the movies, but as that isn’t an option we watched Rams on SBS On Demand, an Icelandic movie which is mistakenly listed as a comedy but is anything but. I really enjoyed it and it has prompted me to use this medium occasionally to feed John’s longing for the movies. In some ways it reminded me of people’s reactions to the pandemic, only in this case the disease was amongst sheep, but there’s the same range of those who follow the rules, those who are totally broken by it all and those who will go to ridiculous lengths to evade the laws, with devastating consequences in this case. I raked up under the camellia and filled the bin with dead branches, errant jasmine and more, but kept the rest, dead leaves and flowers, for mulch in the front garden but I will wait a week or two to make sure no live jasmine is cottered up in it all. So much for all the promised rain though, it barely left a puddle in the bucket I had outside. Pursuant to that, where is the ABC weather man Graham Creed these days? He’s a funny stick, always on about the weather ‘on the waters’, but still I would miss his oddness. Nothing was said about illness, holidays, death…..he just disappeared, I suspect part of the constant cost cutting measures though I may be wrong. If Graham had promised rain he would have delivered I tell myself. As long as they don’t get rid of Nate, the morning weather guy, who is like the Eveready bunny, always bursting with energy and smiles and just the ticket for that time of day. He has his quirks as well such as when any high ranking military person comes on the show and he almost faints with excitement, being ex-Navy himself. Ann has asked us to go to the Archibald Prize with her, no sorry. David asked if we wanted to go to the pub in Balmain where his crowd meets every Wednesday, no sorry. It gets so tiresome.

September 21, 2020

For some reason I was thinking about the years I spent attending The Philosophy School in Sydney, now known as The School of Practical Philosophy. Lessons began at Castle Hill and later as I moved up the ladder they were held at their headquarters, ‘Mahratta’ in Fox Valley Rd at Wahroonga. It was slanted almost exclusively to eastern philosophy but I still found it worthwhile, Plato, Shakespeare and Mozart and a few others got an honourable mention for reasons that escaped me. However as I went through the course for almost 3 years, I started to have my doubts. By then the class had shrunk to about half a dozen people and I would be interested to know if anyone lasted the whole 5 years. One incident sparked my skepticism at first, on the evening of a heatwave day when the wife of the deputy of the school was red-faced and stressed. She told me that Tuesdays were the days that she cleaned her mother-in-law’s house and she’d been scrubbing her floors on her hands and knees in the heat. But why not go another day I asked? Oh no she said, my husband would never allow that, it has to be Tuesday. My antennae went up then as I had noted that all of the lecturers were men and all of their wives were ‘servers’, doing the cup of tea afterwards and selling books etc. Near the end of my time with them I had a private evening lesson at the head tutor’s home and his 18 year old daughter, who was in her last week of high school, asked if she could please go out for a coffee with a couple of her school friends but it was refused point blank. Less than a year later I saw she was married to one of the tutors. I think I got out of there just in time, added to the incidences mentioned there was an unusually high linkage to the services, especially the army. Popular music was considered if not evil then strongly discouraged, there were so many clues when I look back that it was a cult of some sort and I am amazed that I stayed as long as I did. Late in the last year I was ‘received’ into the School by a visiting guru who came from India for that purpose, so I guess I am on a list somewhere as a convert to something or other. My natural inclination to not be a joiner let me down this time but I got out unscathed.

September 22, 2020

My attempt to sell some WWII coins, banknotes and a Japanese document of unknown purpose all failed due to some obscure rules forbidding them on Facebook Marketplace so today I did what I had said I wouldn’t do and listed them on eBay. Not that I have anything against them but I spent so much time on eBay when I was in the shop I decided I was past all that. My only intention in selling them is to get them out of my house and into a place where they will be appreciated, even if it’s into a child’s first collection, they aren’t worth much. So we shall see, I do like the fact that the auction format always gives you the chance of two or more competing buyers pushing the price up, but not on these particular items I’m sure, though my inability to read Japanese makes the document hard to value. Perhaps it’s the peace agreement in which case I am rich? Someone texted me yesterday pleased that she had sold ‘an old watch’ for $50 on Facebook and I queried whether she had researched it before listing, but no she hadn’t, replying that there are always old watches for sale in op shops for $5 so she’d done well. Yes there are, that’s why antique jewellery dealers trawl those shops, knowing that the people pricing them have no idea. Some shops appoint volunteer valuers, I did it for St. Vincent de Paul at Windsor for years, but I doubt any of them are in a position to pay a professional. She sent me pics of it belatedly and with a new band and a battery it was probably worth about $200, but that’s in a shop. However it isn’t a good idea to sell old things without doing your research as a rare one of that brand would have been worth about $4000. I once accepted an offer on eBay for a fairly ugly pottery ashtray with a crack in it and posted it the same day. I then got abusive emails from potential bidders who were watching it, one reading ‘you stupid woman, that was a rare Harvey School piece worth at least $500 damaged and you sold it for a song’. I pointed out to the buyer by email that I was now aware of what I had sold him for $25 (from memory) and he asked me to send him my ring size. In the mail I received a beautiful black diamond ring, which I still wear. It turned out he was a diamond dealer, with a guilty conscience.

September 23, 2020

After a minor fiddle fixing a burst hose, which reminded me of an aortic aneurysm but with less disastrous results, we headed off to the Kuringai Wildflower Garden for a planned picnic with Jane and Boris. Afterwards we went for a couple of walks there but the wildflowers were less than splendrous, in fact a couple us asked if we knew where the wildflowers were and I replied that you have to look pretty carefully to see them. Jane reported that she is getting a watering system put in which is connected to the internet and doesn’t turn on if rain is forecast. Sounds luxurious. I have been considering a flame weeder from The Diggers Club and was all set to buy it but then reminded myself that I am not that keen on gas bottles at the best of times, so lugging one around the garden may not be such a bright idea. Pity because it looked like fun. It looks as if I am the only taker for Zoom at the book group meeting later in the week so I think I will dip out, it’s hardly worth doing for one. I did casually mention to Bob that book group is now meeting in person and he immediately expressed a strong view that I shouldn’t participate, ‘not with your medical history’ he said definitively. So that’s that then.

September 24, 2020

Had a lovely visit from Bob and Judy from Millthorpe who have come to Sydney visiting family and called in for morning tea, my all those half cakes in the freezer come in handy. It turns out that a man a few doors up from John who has a street library is an old friend of Bob’s from school days. John had befriended him a few months back to discuss respective libraries and didn’t know the connection. That’s the third household in Mowbray Road who all have Bathurst connections as John often visits Bronwyn and Michael up the road as well, they were friends in Bathurst. B and J have a home in Melbourne as well so they packed up and bolted within hours when the lockdown happened, getting out just before the deadline. So many lives affected in so many different ways.

Well my foray into eBay has proved successful with the coins selling immediately for $20 to a coin dealer in South Australia and now I have bids from others on both the bank notes and the mysterious Japanese document. I have a motza of stuff I could sell but I am sticking to things that can be posted in an envelope at the local post box, but with 3 out of 3 lots selling I may need to rethink that. How lovely to think that you have contributed to someone’s collection, even bearing in mind that the coin dealer says he only deals in rare coins. I am tempted to email after he gets them to ask which one/s were rare, just out of curiosity. The other good thing is that there are three of us for book group Zoom tomorrow so I get to hear what others think about the book rather than just putting in my thoughts by email.

September 25, 2020

More problems today with John’s memory and consciousness. He is at Lane Cove and he rang me about 11.30 am, saying he couldn’t remember what day it was and what he had done and was supposed to do today. I explained that his Link street libraries were being picked up and then he was going to work on his current library project. He replied that the five libraries had gone from the flat ‘so the man must have been this morning’ though he couldn’t remember that happening. He was very discombobulated and not sure what was happening. I offered to go down and pick him up as I didn’t think he should drive but after about half an hour on the phone he decided it was best if he just continued to do his woodwork as he thought he would feel more grounded (my word) if he could get back to what he was supposed to be doing. It fits all of the criteria of transient global amnesia but I did worry the first time that he was having a TIA or mini-stroke, which would be more problematic. Bob thought that either was a possibility when we spoke about the similar experience he had a month ago but also that it could be due to all the chemo and anaesthetics he’s had. I think I need to go and speak with him again next week now that it’s happened again. Perhaps it’s an allergy to the number 25, the date of both episodes.

Book group went well with a discussion of Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver, a book I read when it came out, but enjoyed rereading. Her depiction of somehow being in a marriage that is all wrong resonated with me and its simple four page explainer on climate change is one of the best I’ve read for people who are not into science. Her recent book Unsheltered was similarly good, on the theme of the crumbling of American society. Friends who visited yesterday spoke of an American citizen friend who received his voting papers, along with an unexplained cheque from the US government. No, not a bribe from the Donald, surely….

September 26, 2020

News out today is disturbing, that The Donald is considering Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. She is a member of the conservative religious group People of Praise that inspired the book The Handmaid’s Tale. They are a small but extreme offshoot of the Catholic Church and believe that a wife must obey her husband in everything, even the way she votes. Both her husband’s parents and hers are members of the group and they couple met doing law at Notre Dame University. When she was questioned by the Justice Committee in 2017 about her associations, as all judicial appointments are in the US, she didn’t disclose her life long membership of the group, something that may cause her problems if she’s suggested, but the committee will need to frame their questions carefully in religious America, so as not to be seen as applying religious bias. Tough one.

I’ve spent the morning (after the usual water and weed) trying to organise my books, particularly the unread ones that sit there month after month waiting for their turn. Often these are non-fiction but not always. Giving preference to library books because they are time limited, or book group selections, or ‘books of the moment’ such as The Altar Boys, or something loaned by a friend, these poor old neglected books keep getting pushed out of contention. Often when I finally get to them I enjoy them and wonder what’s taken me so long. Our latest book group suggestion is The Offing by Benjamin Myers, one and the same author as the book The Gallows Pole sent to me by the bro. It shits me to tears that a good writer could have been born in 1976, but there you are. Policemen and doctors and politicians are getting younger all the time, I can’t work it out.

September 27, 2020

We decided to do the Platypus Walk in the nearby Bidjigal Reserve and so did quite a few others it turned out. It is a loop walk with lovely rock platforms and a creek, quite up and down and worth doing. There hasn’t been a platypus there since the 1970s but it was a good walk anyway with tall timbers and plenty of birds. I discovered when we got back that the wind had carried off two pots of cuttings and blown away both the pots and the potting mix leaving the plants bare-rooted on the ground. I’ve repotted them and hope they survive as I have been having good luck striking plants lately. John decided to order a meal for us at lunch next Friday when Carly will be here. After much discussion we decided to get a banquet from Lillah, a Middle Eastern favourite at Lane Cove, but we’ve discovered that since Covid they only open for lunch on weekends, mmm that plan is now out the window.

Well my comments yesterday about Amy Barrett are sadly relevant now. She is paradoxically pro-life regarding abortion but has participated in trials leading to the death sentence. Tony Abbott (spit) had similarly illogical views. In a dissenting opinion in 2019 Judge Barrett said she would have limited the sweep of a federal law forbidding people with felony convictions from owning guns, apparently supporting the rights of every citizen to own guns. “History does not support the proposition that felons lose their Second Amendment rights solely because of their status as felons”. Oh my, poor America.

September 28, 2020

Two different wins today! Firstly I had an email from Lillah yesterday saying they couldn’t do a feast on Friday because they were closed for lunch, however they suggested night time or Saturday lunch. I replied that I would think about it and shortly afterwards I got another email saying that they would in fact do the order because the chefs will be in from 11 am prepping for the evening and we could pick up from 12.30 onwards. Wahoo, that was exactly the time we had in mind as Carly is due to arrive from the train at about 1pm. So it’s all done and dusted, I can already taste the falafel and toum. This morning I was hunting in the storeroom for anything else I could list on eBay that is able to be posted in a local post box ie in an envelope. I discovered over 100 WWI era sets of postcards, mostly military, but some just greetings. They are in sets of 3 or 4, the military ones telling a story on each card, usually involving a girlfriend, a family, a doting mother or Jesus. Most are exceedingly maudlin by today’s standards but are highly collectable relics from that war, sent from Europe back to the families at home. I checked for other similar listing and there were dozens, but every one was in the UK so getting them here saves quite a bit of postage for the buyer. They have only been on a few minutes but have already got 7 interested lookers, perhaps it’s a good time for eBay with more men than average browsing the net. My Japanese document of unknown content has 64 lookers right now so we shall see.

It seems to me that the Federal Government is using Covid-19 as an excuse to do all the things it was hoping to do anyway prior to the pandemic. Tax cuts for the rich, new gas plants, loosening of banking and credit restrictions, allowing businesses to trade while insolvent, the list goes on. Covid-19 is the lipstick on this pig, but some of us can smell the pork crackling regardless.

September 29, 2020

This morning I had a good chat with a street library browser who took a book plus some plant cuttings while she was here. As she left a man pulled up outside and asked from his car ‘are you Maureen? I’ve come to look at the books’ so I assumed he got my name from the street library website, but then I looked it up in curiosity and my name doesn’t appear anywhere, so I wish I had asked him now. I love these little interactions that the library provides.

At risk of repetition, I need to once again complain that something is failing badly in the training and supervision of our police forces. After watching the video of police waking up the footballer Curtis Scott and order to handcuff, pepper spray and then taser him (for falling asleep in a park!!!) I think the arresting officers should be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. They claimed they did so to prevent the possibility of his waking up and walking onto the road, which is too ridiculous to even contemplate as an excuse. The magistrate made the point that it may have been less dangerous for him to have been hit by a car than what actually happened to him, all charges against him were dropped. Under police guidelines a taser should only be discharged ‘to protect human life, prevent actual bodily harm, or during a violent confrontation’, but officers frequently use them as a compliance tool. Police Commissioner Fullofhimself has said “I’m sympathetic to the police who had to do something with him”. Why? Since when has it been a serious offence to be fast asleep in a park, in fact why is it any offence at all? Then we come to the Victorian inquiry into the escape of COVID-19 from quarantine hotels. My suspicion a couple of weeks ago, conveyed to a friend in Melbourne who has good political contacts, was that the police were the ones who refused the job of hotel security, forcing the government to end up passing the job on to private security guards. I got a reply yesterday “I am hearing from several quarters that it is the police who refused to participate and Dan does not want to get offside with them. They can be powerful enemies and he needs them at the moment to enforce his program.” Which makes me wonder if Jenny Mikakos was thrown under the bus just because no-one wants to get into a fight with the powerful police union when so much of the response depends on them. I hope the inquiry gets to the truth but it seems everyone’s gone to ground.

September 30, 2020

Whenever I have prawns for dinner, which is not infrequently, I put out the heads and shells on the bird feeder and often they attract a raven. But immediately he is bombarded with native minors who don’t want the prawn heads but don’t want him to have them either. They divebomb and swoop until either he finishes or gives up, but he never retaliates. Clearly it isn’t in his nature to bite one of them, he just keeps ducking, interesting to compare the pesky minors and forbearing raven with their human counterparts.

Talked at length by phone last night to Anne, my penfriend in West Yorkshire who doesn’t have or want a computer. We compared COVID lockdowns, apparently Melbourne has been all over the news there. Wales, Lancashire and West Yorkshire are all under the tightest regime in the UK at the moment: no visits between households, masks compulsory, spacing on transport and in shops. She commented, as has my brother, that Britons ‘wouldn’t put up with police arresting people for violations of the rules’, and as far as she can see they are not policed at all. Which brought us to discussion of our police forces, hers akin to a friendly public service of Bobbies, no guns, no tasers, and ours in my opinion following the American model of being heavily armed and aggressive. I saw a clip yesterday of US police heavily tackling a man to the roadway and then screaming at him to get up, it seemed like sport as he was standing still and offering no resistance at all in the first place. British Police can apply for arms for something like a terrorist raid but they need to justify it with a proven expectation of violence. Thinking later about my bro’s attitude to it all and I suddenly understood. He is a natural risk-taker and a natural nonconformist. How else would he have signed up for being dropped into Russia in case of war or headed off to the African jungle for six years on government business? I realise now that my entreaties to be careful were always a waste of time, that would spoil all the fun. It lets me off the hook really as if he gets the virus and dies it will be something he chose and he wouldn’t be the least bit repentant about, seeing he is always right.

October 1, 2020

I don’t usually write this before dawn but there’s a first time for everything. John went to St. Vincent’s yesterday for his monthly IgG infusion and a routine visit with Nada, the haematologist. Well ‘routine’ he thought. Nada was very concerned about his recent memory blackouts and wants an MRI done as soon as practicable. Then depending on the result, it’s off to either a neurologist or else a neuropsychologist. So despite Bob’s initial ‘let’s not get back on the medical merry-go-round’ approach, we are on it anyway. But to be fair the second memory blackout last Friday raised my level of concern a lot and would raise Bob’s as well if he knew about it. I decided not to consult with him in case Nada had an opinion yesterday and she sure did. Trying not to jump ahead of what we know at this point (while quietly panicking).

But to more mundane matters, it’s a pity (but totally understandable) that Biden couldn’t find it in himself to be the adult in the room during the debate yesterday. It is impossibly difficult to deal sanely with someone like Trump. I would probably have socked him one so I can’t criticise. His invocation to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” was clearly a call to arms to the far right to be ready for action if he loses the election, but after an outcry he now says he’s never heard of them and doesn’t know who they are. How exactly can a person name a group that they’ve never heard of?? I’ve just finished a Kathy Reichs’ whodunnit, because I am interested in all things forensic science it’s a bit of light relief to read a murder mystery with some science thrown in. An interesting aside is that it focuses on a religion/cult that is ‘uber-Catholic…some sort of splinter faction that is charismatic or Pentacostal’. Sounded awfully like what I’ve been reading about the Supreme Court nominee’s mob.

October 2, 2020

A bit of a tumultuous day which panned out okay in the end. Carly texted from the train that she was the only person in the carriage without a mask, a four hour journey with no opening windows. She was glad to get off but then disaster struck, she left her luggage in the boot of a taxi. Immediately ringing every taxi company she could find turned up no knowledge of her suitcase and she paid cash, removing the ability to trace a card payment. She’s since tried two police stations and Central Railway Lost Property as well  but the missing suitcase is currently…..missing. Eventually she arrived at Baulko sans luggage but with her wallet and keys luckily stashed in her handbag. A hurried call to her doctor in Canberra was made to organise a prescription to be faxed to the chemist here so an irreplaceable drug could be sourced. John arrived at the same time bearing the lunch from Lillah, the most unusual dish being the Cauliflower Falafel, a whole slow-cooked and then fried baby cauliflower with a crispy falafel crust, served with hummus. It looked for all the world like a (round) piece of roast beef. Everything was delicious and a bottle of French bubbly helped it all slip down. There was enough left for our dinner and Carly and I will get another meal out of the remainder. I was spoilt with gifts, though the present and card from Danish went missing in the luggage. Seventy-three, three years past the biblical figure, who would have thought. Davina texted with the news that The Trumpster out-trumped himself and came down with Covid. I refrain from gloating or making comment, schadenfreude being such a negative emotion. 

October 3, 2020

Methinks that they are downplaying The Trumpster’s condition just a tad. Hospital (from an abundance of caution we’re told), then experimental treatments and remdesivir. In something I read a little while back in The Lancet, early remdesivir treatment substantially decreases viral titres compared with control. But the effect was completely lost when the drug was given more than 8 hours after infection so it was only considered useful as prophylaxis or for someone who has just been knowingly exposed. Clearly Trump has well passed this time as he is apparently symptomatic, but perhaps they are throwing everything at him in the hope that something will stick. I wouldn’t like to be the doctor in that situation, everyone will remember the name of the doctor who lost a president, just as anyone in the medical community can still quote the name of the thyroid surgeon who lost Neville Wran’s voice. Still eating Lillah leftovers tonight and it feels strange not to be cooking. The library delivered 8 books on Thursday and so tonight I am reading A Very Stable Genius in honour of the patient.

October 4, 2020

Carly and I took ourselves off to the nearby Bidjigal Reserve to do the Platypus Track that John and I did last week, but we did it in reverse to last time. Both times I found the rise up out of t.he valley taxing, but at least Carly didn’t ask if I thought I should go to a cardiologist as John had. He made it easily with help no doubt from his stents, but that’s a procedure I could do without, as I plan to do without any medical interventions if I possible can. The valley was full of bird calls and full of people too but interestingly all but us and one man were going in the direction of the arrow, while we went in the direction  less travelled. Which reminds me to read some Robert Frost, something I haven’t done for ages, I always get so much out of his poems. I kept feeling last night that I had read A Very Stable Genius before, but it is just that the authors recount the same and other very similar episodes in the White House to the other books I have read. A constant litany of sackings, new appointments, more sackings, rehirings, all with monotonous regularity. The White House doctor saying about Trump back in February that “if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old” and that he was “the healthiest President ever” made me consider the details that are being released now in an even more sceptical light. QAnon on the other hand is saying that he doesn’t have the virus at all, it is all part of his devilishly clever plan to expose Hillary Clinton’s paedophile cult, we shall see about that one. In any event, coronavirus could not have visited a more deserving host.

October 5, 2020

Davina, Louis and Millie arrived mid morning with a giant lime meringue tart from The Grounds, plus flowers, a cheese platter and some dried cornflower petals for baking. Cooking and food has featured high on the birthday present list with Carly giving me a huge box full of Spicy Sauce Co. spices and meal bases and some wonderful passionfruit fudge and Heather giving me a cake tin (for storage) and a unique slice-baking tin which expands according to the size needed. John broke the mould, giving me a big heavy box which contained an amplifier to enable me to listen to music and DVDs through my quality speakers. These had been out of use all year since my old CD player/amplifier died and went to electronic recycle heaven. Being totally inept about such things it needed to be explained to me before I mistakenly tried to push bread into it to make toast, but now it is up and happening and Leonard Cohen has never sounded so good. I am told that this is old technology, everyone gets their music through a computer these days, but the sound just doesn’t compete. Can’t wait to try some cello. For lunch I made Bobotie with rice and a salad using my own lettuces with edible flowers that Heather dropped over a few days ago, followed of course by the lime tart. The afternoon news that Trump had insisted on going out for a drive just confirms, if ever that were needed, that the man has no internal life at all, his view of himself is just a mirror reflected back by those who love him, and without that he is nothing in his own eyes. If it were not so serious it would be sad.

October 6, 2020

We sorted a few things like John’s car rego, getting the pink slip done okay but he couldn’t remember if he had paid the related insurance, nor whether he had received an account for it. Checking with the NRMA revealed it was unpaid and that was rectified. We are still waiting nearly a week on for an MRI appointment so he rang St. V’s and was told that the request from Nada was marked Urgent yet so far the doctors who triage and rank the appointments haven’t considered John’s. She was very surprised by this and promised to talk to them and ring back, however by the day’s end she hadn’t, so I tried and got a similar response from another lady who again promised to speak to the doctors and ring back, a call I am waiting on as I write. He is a bit confused by it all and keeps asking whether it has been sorted yet and if we have an appointment so I hope she rings soon. The place seems so quiet after having had Carly here since last Friday and everyone here yesterday. She didn’t get her suitcase back and considering physics tells us that matter can’t be destroyed I can’t help wondering where exactly it is. Is someone in the surf at Bondi in her swimsuit? Wearing her undies in the city? Using my birthday present from Danish, whatever that was?  Oh dear, just got a call from Myra at St. V’s to say that John has been deemed urgent for the MRI but she can’t tell us when he will ‘get to the top of the urgent pile’. Which is fair enough, as long as they keep us in the loop.

October 7, 2020

John got a call from St. Vs to say that his appointment is on October 26, hardly an urgent timeframe but of course we can’t judge without knowledge of the urgency of others in the queue. He has given the date to Nada’s nurse and if she isn’t happy with the date she will no doubt intervene, otherwise the 26th it is. Today has been a day of invitations. First Carol for a cuppa next week, then Arvind for dinner on Saturday night, then Stephen and Deborah for a picnic at Somersby on Saturday week. Keepem comin is all I can say. I’ve had to put off an answer to Arvind until we see when John’s meetup with his grandchildren is happening but hopefully that will be sorted by this afternoon. He has finished the latest street library project today and that clears the decks of his carpentry obligations. I have been busy letter writing today, one to the Diggers Club magazine about an interesting article last month, a few to various newspapers about the budget and the nonsensical (in my view) decision to focus on tax cuts for those with a job and more likely to save than spend their winnings, as against giving it to those on the lowest rung of the ladder who would no doubt spend every sou. I have a bad run of letter publications lately, the local newspapers were my best bet but they are all suspended. My morning reading today focussed on Trump (surprise, surprise, but why do I torture myself?) and the comment by a woman who reported being in the room when Trump asked the doctors whether COVID is really worse than the flu? YES !! they replied, much more contagious and much more deadly, so he then put out a message denying both of those facts.

October 8, 2020

As I have recorded previously for some reason I get a number of regular surveys about COVID to fill in. The one from Sydney University Health Sciences is about precautions, mood, activities, eating, drinking, exercise etc and another from the Sydney Morning Herald which landed yesterday questioned things to do with the recent government budget as well as changes in activities over the last month, such as whether you are dining in restaurants, going to supermarkets etc. Most of these are tick box answers but the last question was one to fill in. It was the general question ‘what are you feeling optimistic about?’ Um, I struggled to find something, mentally scrolling through things like the future for my children and granddaughter, seeing my brother, small personal hopes like having a holiday or being able to go to the theatre again or to dine out, getting back int0 my routine of life, government policies, seeing Trump defeated, climate change…..all of them are things I wish would turn out okay, but I realised that none of them am I ‘hopeful or optimistic’ about. After trying to come up with something positive I ended up with three words ‘Not a lot’.

We have sorted out our weekend plans, dinner with Arvind and Mala Saturday night, then Sunday to Cranebrook to meet up with John’s grandchildren at Dan’s mother’s place, ‘neutral ground’ as she describes it. I sent Arvind a text last night reminding him that Castle Towers is a hotspot again but this morning when I was working in the garden he popped over to tell me that he had dropped his phone last night and had been to Apple this morning to try to get it fixed. ‘Not at Castle Towers I hope’, said I. ‘Yes of course why not?’ said he. Of course, he didn’t get the text. ‘Oh so that’s why it was so deserted’ he commented. Now it is settled that John’s test is definitely not till the 26th, he is hankering to get the latest street library installed before then, so I will have a look see if there is somewhere we can rent down there for a couple of days. Sun and fun would go down nicely at the moment.

October 9, 2020

Spent yesterday afternoon with Sue who came down for a visit. She declined the offer to stay overnight but said she wants to do that soon. Today I managed to get three barrow loads of mulch spread on the front garden, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while and the end point of all the weeding. Then John decided that he really wanted to get the Bundeena street library installed asap, so he rang Bill and next week suited them. As we’d previously discussed, we will make it a little holiday so I got on to the computer and found a studio apartment under a private home that has a gate opening directly onto the beach. It is at the end of a dead end street meeting up with the National Park, exactly where the walks begin in that area, so it’s the best of both worlds, beach and bush and only 5 minutes walk from Fran and Bill’s. It will be good to be in such a natural location rather than near the town and ferry end of the place. It looks very small but location, location, location.

I was appalled, but not surprised, to read about the white supremacist plot to capture and kill the Michigan Governor. It takes a level of bravery for the FBI officer to get mixed up with men like that, all the while taping them, when one slipup could mean death. I don’t know how she will continue her career, forever looking over her shoulder for the next bunch of crazies that perhaps the FBI weren’t lucky enough to be made aware of. There seems to be no shortage of them and I can’t see that altering, no matter who wins the election.

October 10, 2020

Going to dinner tonight with Arvind and Mala next door and looking forward to genuine Indian home cooking. They eat no sugar, repeat NO sugar at all, and hate Bengali cooking because they apparently put sweet stuff in their curries. I have told them in the past that the one thing wrong with them as neighbours is that I can’t pass still warm biscuits over the fence. So what to take? Arvind already refused wine as he likes his merlot and I had offered from the cellar (okay the pull-out wine storage under the meatsafe) a choice of cab sav, shiraz, chardonnay or French Champagne, but no he wants to stick to his merlot. A fruit basket seemed the best as I am not sure if they like cheese, so I have just finished digging out a basket from the storeroom and filling it with a fruit selection. The storeroom always offers up such things as a basket, it has its uses. Tomorrow’s picnic meeting at Lyn’s to see John’s grandchildren is off, Lyn rang to tell John that the kids have friends visiting their area tomorrow and want to stay home for them instead. That actually gives me time tomorrow to bake something to take to Bundeena so it’s not all bad, but John is naturally disappointed. Covid cases are hovering around our beat, Castle Towers earlier in the week and now a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Three months ago when cases were popping up everywhere I instructed John not to take off his mask during the three or so hours it takes for his monthly infusion. A nurse told him ‘take that mask off, you’re in a hospital, you won’t get Covid here, we are all too careful’. I was cross that he obeyed her instruction and would be interested to now hear her view on the infected nurse situation. No-one is immune and a hospital seems to me to be logically one of the most dangerous situations of all. I am glad that it is two weeks before John needs to go back there and I shall superglue the mask to his face.

October 11, 2020

Wowsers, how it makes one feel human to put on a dress for the first time since March and wear fancy earrings and perfume, even if it is only to go next door. Mala cooked up a storm of butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, a vege dish, rice and salad. If that family had moved in 20 years ago my daughters would have been agog over the fence at their two tall, dark and handsome sons, one at university doing engineering/robotics and the other planning to do medicine next year. I refuse to contemplate his having to jump the fence to resuscitate the old lady next door….but perhaps it would have its positives. No one mentioned Trump last night, even though he is a common topic of our conversation over the fence, however Morrison got a couple of good serves from our hosts, interestingly they held the Hawke years in highest esteem as the period ‘when we were all most equal and it wasn’t all about money’.

Although John was disappointed at not seeing the grandchildren today he said just now that it is good that I am able to take some ready-cooked meals to Bundeena tomorrow and that I can have a relaxing day of preparations such as getting the watering done, as always he sees the silver lining. So we have spent the afternoon in the kitchen making a meat loaf and roast vege, a favourite of John’s, an orange and almond cake and an apple crumble. He was on peeling duty and I on measuring and mixing, so it was done in a trice. Next job is deciding which books to take, a lovely task. Currently almost finished Call Me By Your Name which is beautifully written but perhaps I am getting too old for a teenage falling-in-love story, although I can recognise the feelings well, it is a big ask to read an entire book of them. I intend to feel the sand under my feet for as many hours as is possible, day and night if possible so perhaps reading will be somewhat curtailed. Davina has just told me that there are fires in the Royal National Park (we have been out of touch with news since Friday I realise) and along with road closures there due to roadworks there are now closures due to bushfires, including the road to Bundeena, so a call to the RFS in the morning is on the cards. I may not blog while I am away, the website is always a bit touchy on my phone without wi-fi and even with it, so I may email the posts to myself daily and put them up when I get home.

I was somewhat horrified when I looked up the Covid diagnoses and deaths in my brother’s area of Calderdale, one of the most affected districts in the country. More worrying still was the public instruction by the NHS: test stocks are limited so do not come for a test unless you have lost your sense of smell and have a temperature and consistent cough. Also the fact that all statistics in the UK apply only to people in hospital, not in the community, so if you die at home or in a care home your death doesn’t get added to the stats at all, even if it is confirmed as definitely caused by Covid. How out of whack are their numbers then if you can’t even get a test? Scary.

October 12, 2020

Well an interesting start to our holiday when Davina let us know that there were fires in Royal National Park, so I rang the firies who said the road may be open to residents only and to check with the police, then I rang the police and they told me to check with the firies so we just headed off. Then just after we left at 9:30 am our host Jadranka rang to  say that it’s such a lovely day we should ignore the normal time to get into the unit and just come straight away. I told her we were on our way and would be there within two hours. She was waiting for us and couldn’t have been more obliging, leaving us a bowl of fruit, a loaf of bread, 2 litres of milk, a litre of orange juice, a dozen eggs, chocolate bars and more. The apartment is a studio, very tiny but with everything we need as I brought cooked food considering we don’t have an oven but the microwave and the barbecue will do everything we want. A manta ray was swimming up and down in front of our digs, apparently he’s a regular there. A walk on the beach set the day off, a kilometre each way to the end. Being on Port Hacking the water just laps the shore, perfect for swimming and not as cold as expected. Lunch on our deck, which opens right out onto the sand via a little gate, was smoked mackerel and salad, somehow a packet of smoked fish always seems to fill the bill for lunch and tosses in pasta or makes a sambo, a great standby. For some reason our walled deck makes me feel as if we are in the south of France or Italy, anyway somewhere on the Mediterranean. John made the point that by lunchtime we had had our money‘s worth already.

So what about Gladys? What a bombshell. I don’t have any hard feelings towards her for having chosen a bad man, but it was obvious that she wasn’t going to fess up until she got notice that she was going to be called to give evidence to ICAC. So really we would never have been any the wiser without phone taps and it puts her whole persona into doubt for me. She was self justifying in the evidence that I saw and referred to him as ‘that person’ rather than using his name, giving me the feeling that she was just trying to make it all go away, whether she made his situation worse or not. It didn’t say a lot about loyalty. Privacy is one thing but being sneaky is another. She will go, as she should.

October 13, 2020

Today is the big day for John to install Fran and Bill’s street library. We had a bit of a delay early on because we couldn’t find the car keys, but after an extended hunt around the unit and on the beach they turned up. John dropped me into town while he went to work with Bill installing the library. It took about 2 minutes to walk around the town, then I went down to the ferry wharf and the main beach which was surprisingly quiet. It really is such a lovely quiet spot here but I guess it is anything but on a weekend in summer. I walked back to our digs and went down to the beach for a walk and a swim. John was happy with the installation of the library and it does look really good on the black fence so I am hoping it will be painted black to match but I held my tongue on that one. In the evening we went to Fran and Bill’s house again and enjoyed looking out over Port Hacking over which they have a fantastic view, including of the ferry arriving from Cronulla on the hour, something one can set a watch on apparently. We were visited by a couple of young grey butcherbirds, both of whom apparently come there every day. We had an enjoyable evening and it was good to catch up.

October 14, 2020

We decided today to take a trip to Maianbar to see what it has to offer. There was one small shop cum cafe but it was shut so the locals have no access to even milk and bread on a daily basis. Davina had said there was a lovely beach we could walk to that was covered in shells but a local was no help knowing where that was so we continued along a track  down to Bonnie Vale, walking along through the mangroves. It was an interesting walk to Bonnie Vale beach, part of the Royal National Park. The beach was home to a number of fibro shacks that were built there during the Depression and used to be let out by national parks as holiday rentals in the past, but currently they not used because of the asbestos they contain. There is some talk of keeping them as a historical link to the past, apparently those who live in them cannot pass them down to another generation but can live in them for the remainder of their lives. We never did find the beach full of shells, not sure if we were in the wrong place or whether the shells had simply been swept away in a high tide since Davina was there. After a steep walk back up the hill to the car we headed home for lunch overlooking our beautiful beach. Later Fran and Bill came for afternoon tea after which we all took a walk right along Gibbons Beach and up onto the headland to look at some fairly difficult to see Aboriginal carvings. One of them was of a manta ray which are held in high regard by Aboriginal people there, so clearly the one we saw was part of a long line. Our landlady had to come down and assist us with starting the BBQ which was a bit embarrassing, but it’s always easy to do things when you know how. She is very obliging and will come at a moment’s notice if needed. Listened to the news about Darryl Maguire’s testimony at ICAC and it is perfectly clear that the man is basically dishonest, something that would be fairly hard not to see if you are spending any amount of time with him. As Geoffrey Ludowici told me 45 years ago ‘first find out if a person is basically honest or basically dishonest because really that’s all you need to know’.

October 15, 2020

The wind has changed from the south to the north so our beach is a bit choppy now. We decided to head south a little and went to Wattamolla. Took the top track to the headland and stayed there a while overlooking the rugged cliffs, ultimately joined by an Indian? family who turned out to be from Westmead. After chatting a while they offered to share their lunch with us, which was something I would have loved to do, but I felt bad about scabbing their food as they clearly would have catered for six, not eight. Also I thought John would have felt a little uncomfortable just lobbing up with total strangers. On the way back there was excitement in Bundeena with two fire engines attending a local cafe with the road blocked, necessitating a diversion to get home. John had a swim and then we walked the full length of the beach yet again, and I followed that with a glass of cab sav while watching a yacht race from the balcony, as you do. Living in a waterfront property is a different lifestyle altogether and one I shall make sure I get in the next life. What a pity that we have to leave tomorrow, a month here would be just about right.

October 16, 2020

Jadranka helped us carry our goods and chattels as she did when we arrived, she keeps an eagle eye out for when she may be needed. The drive home was interesting in that there was a big delay near Bankstown Airport, I suspect due to an accident as an ambulance later passed us at speed, but we had the GPS on so it took us on a diversion through the airport roads to get around it, while everyone else sat in literally kilometres of traffic, it surprised me that no-one else did the same. I said to John when we got home ‘I wonder if I could start watering a little bit early today as we’ve been away all week and it’s all so dry?’ He replied gravely that ‘what you’ve said is ICAC-able and I don’t want to know anything about it’. I wonder where he got that from? I have a bet on with him that Gladys will resign, my prize is a large bottle of Nudie Juice and his a large bottle of Kombucha. It is pretty clear that she ignored whatever she didn’t want to hear from him, never in a million years thinking that her private phone calls would one day be listened to by a room full of lawyers and staff. Cringe-making.

October 17, 2020

On the way home yesterday we detoured slightly to look at what remains of the house I grew up in. I thought by now (what is it? 4 years?) the fire-ravaged house would have been demolished and rebuilt. The fact that it hasn’t made me remember that when I visited the fire station to ask about when the fire had occurred they intimated that it might have been arson. If it was an insurance job that the company queried and wouldn’t pay out it would make sense that it’s in legal limbo and nothing has happened. Someone, the council I am assuming, has put up a substantial fence around it, another indication that it is going to be like that for a while. I will get onto the council and see what I can find out, if anything.

Today we met Deborah and Stephen at Somersby Falls near Gosford for a long-awaited picnic. Driving through a particularly awful industrial area I was a bit worried about the state of the picnic area, but once into the National Park it was pristine bush where we were visited by lots of brush turkeys, some water dragons and a big goanna. We feasted on a shared table of food and drink spent the day jawing about all sorts, from Gladys onwards. We were all of the view that she chose not to know about the corruption of her partner and that it pretty much seals her fate. It is great to spend time with people who are so close that you don’t need to be cautious of what you say, about any topic. After lunch Deborah and I went down to the falls, but the steepness and lack of handrails made it too difficult for John. We will reprise the day before Christmas but at another venue next time, although I am really glad that we discovered this place and I would be happy to go again in the future.

October 18, 2020

Martha and Phil visited this morning and came with hands full, bringing the next book group novel, a couple of Maeve Binchy novels, my scarf which Colleen had hemmed at the sewing group, plus a wire cupcake stand that will be just the ticket when I get to entertain again. Perhaps I will make some cupcakes deliberately, just to christen it. It was like my birthday had arrived again. We pulled down the sugar snap pea plants and harvested the last of them for dinner, then were sitting out on the deck when Michelle arrived with some books for the library so we’ve had a mega social week for a change. Good news today that Labor triumphed in both New Zealand and in the ACT election, so woohoo, something positive for a change. If they had voted against Jacinda I think what’s left of my faith in humanity would have been totally destroyed.

October 19, 2020

I am getting pretty p’d off at the gratuitous advice about our COVID-19 precautions. We do what we think is appropriate to our circumstances and we have friends and family who do much more or much less than we do, yet we don’t keep on at them to change their course of action. I have a friend who chooses not to enter my house, but happily sits outside, having brought her own mug for a cup of tea. Do I encourage her to come in? to drink out of my cups? to be less careful? No, I mind my own business and let her do what she’s thought through, decided on and feels comfortable with. I admit to speaking out of turn to my brother in England about taking more precautions (he is notoriously ignorant and slack about all things medical) but I am no longer harassing him, it’s his life after all and he is a born risk-taker, so I respect his decision and good luck with it. So please people, just do whatever you think fit and let us do the same.

Before we went away I noted an unusual plant coming up where I planted the dahlia bulbs, a purplish stem with green leaves. Not sure if it were a dahlia or a weed I let it be, but sadly by the time we got back it had disappeared, courtesy of the snails I assume. Now another has emerged, just the same and in a place I would expect a dahlia to arrive, so I assume that the first one was in fact the same. Now I am scouring the ground for new arrivals and sprinkling snail bait around so as not to lose another. If all come up I will have a lovely display this summer, but let’s not speak too soon.

October 20, 2020

Ooh all the 20s today. This morning I made an apricot and coconut slice as unusually there wasn’t a crumb of cake or biscuit left in the house. After doing the base with white sugar I discovered that I only had brown for the topping so I rang Mala next door looking to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar. When they told me that they don’t eat sugar they were being quite literal as she didn’t have any, but offered to go and get some for me. Of course I refused and managed perfectly well using brown. I arranged yesterday for a pharmacy delivery to come today and left my front door open all day to make sure I heard the person’s arrival, but still missed them. The goods were left on a chair outside, but I was supposed to give them the scripts, so I’ve had to call and ask them to come back. Luckily they are very obliging. While I was working this out I went outside only to find the librarian from Baulko on my grass verge (well I say grass, but weed and dirt verge is closer to the truth). I apologised that I didn’t know it was library delivery day and said that I hadn’t yet finished all the books, but he replied that it wasn’t pickup day. It was only then that I remembered asking him to come in for a cuppa next time he delivered and so I quickly put the invitation and he was delighted to come and chat on the back verandah for an hour. We covered books, Trump, cooking and more. As he left he said ‘is it alright if I bring my wife next time?’ so I think I have made a friend there. I love that he came on the offchance and I was lucky to go outside and see him at the right moment because he strikes me as shy and I doubt that he would have knocked at the door. I have been extraordinarily social this past week, seeing people every day, which has been great. I read the Domain every week looking at the decor and design of the mega expensive homes listed there. I play the game of ‘which one would I be happy to swap for where I am’ and although there are many properties in the multi-millions it always surprises me how few I would actually swap with. No south-western or far western suburbs, no inland places far from the ocean, no units unless in the city or around the harbour, no 2 storey, I am getting pickier as get older I think, which is good considering that I don’t really want to move and it’s unlikely that the owner of a mega expensive property would want to swap with me in any event, but it’s fun window shopping.

October 21, 2020

In my dreams I was fretting about what to serve friends who are coming for morning tea on Saturday. As if it matters, but in dreamland it mattered very much: should I serve all sweet? should I make cheese biscuits? will I add fruit to the platter? Honestly I waste so much good sleeping time agonising over trivia. I am reading a book at the moment where the main character discovers in her 40s when going on a trip to Brazil that the malaria preventative drug Lariam gives her debilitating and terrifying nightmares and, looking back on her youth, realises that whenever she went to see her father and his family in India she had the same problem. But as a child and young woman no-one ever explained that the nightmares were caused by a drug, she had thought it was something to do with India itself and hated going there. There have been many suicides associated with Lariam and it made me ponder how a drug, prescribed or not, can change our whole view of the world and how fragile our psyches really are.

To my great delight one of the three sets of WWI postcards that I put on eBay has sold, for $10 for the set of three cards. I have numerous sets so I am really pleased that there are collectors out there for them. I discovered some mint stamps in my storeroom today so I am trying to decide whether to try to sell them or to just use them on mail and only get their face value. I was never interested in stamps and didn’t sell them in the shop so apparently these have come in with other things and therefore I probably only paid face value for them. While selling some coins, banknotes and a Japanese document a few weeks ago I managed to make good contact with a coin dealer in South Australia and a Japanese WWII ephemera collector in Victoria, so now I have outs for two types of goods at least. The document I sold turned out to be a Japanese war bond. It was “the 50 yen Greater East Asia War Treasury Bond ‘ships and tanks’ type, issued 1941-43 and sold at post offices” according to my buyer who helpfully informed me when he received it. I love getting an education from buyers, I miss that.

October 22, 2020

In a phone call from Kenneth last night he bemoaned the Covid situation in Britain, using words like bedlam and chaos for the state of things over there. Rules and guidances change so fast that no-one knows exactly what they currently are and most take no notice anyway. He mentioned going to a restaurant in Halifax for lunch yesterday (for fish and chips, natch) so I asked if they recorded the patrons’ names and phone numbers. ‘They are supposed to I think, but no-one bothered’. Then he got onto Brexit. He takes a medication called Metformin which was always easily obtained with a script at the pharmacy but lately he has to go to the doctors’ office and fill in forms, then wait usually a couple of weeks for supply. ‘So what is Metformin for? ‘I can’t say I remember’. ‘Would you like me to look it up?’ It turns out it is for Type 2 Diabetes. ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had diabetes?’ ‘I don’t think I do have it, but I have taken the tablets since 2014. I rather think that everyone who sees a GP gets a similar diagnosis and as with most things these days it is better to take no notice and carry on regardless.’ His reaction to all things medical is denial. Woe is me, but at least I am not his doctor. Back to Covid and one interesting thing was that he hadn’t heard that New Zealand had eliminated the virus. ‘How on earth did they do that?’ he asked. An almost total lockdown of course, but he hadn’t considered the possibility that it could be so effective. Poor Britain, the government has stuffed it up right royally every way you look at it.

October 23, 2020

Had a funny (as usual) phone call with Sue about all manner of stuff. Hopefully she will come down for a couple of days soon. I am thinking that one of her brothers is somewhat like mine in that he swims against the tide, he seems to be against whatever opinion is currently mainstream. I fondly remember my bro arguing with Robert and Sue when he was over here and trying to convince them that smoking and lung cancer were in no way connected. We took off for Manly this morning and then went on to Balmoral for lunch, the weather was nigh on perfect, sunny and warm but with a cool breeze that put me off swimming. It appears that there is no longer any good time for driving in Sydney. Once you could get a good run if you let the morning peak go and then returned before the afternoon one, but no more. The traffic is either bad or horrendous, unless you plan your travel in the middle of the night. I can see why people give up and head for the country, though being more than an hour or two’s drive from the ocean would cut many places out of consideration for me.

October 24, 2020

Had Bronwyn and Michael over for morning tea today and Michelle dropped in by chance so she MT’d as well. Bronwyn has just completed her novel set in and around Mosman and Balmoral and I am so hoping it gets into print. Many of the characters are based on people she sees on her daily 7.30am swim at Balmoral, including ‘Hello Girls’ as they call the gentleman who stands on top of the pipe entering the ocean there and elaborately rubs his nether regions dry with his towel, it takes some time…. Love to see him buy the book. I have been waiting for a run of rainy days to plant out some seedling in the front garden, just Alysum which should naturalise there. Also moved the plant which apparently died a year ago because, according to the nursery, it doesn’t like full sun. Miraculously it reappeared recently so I decided it was giving me a second chance to plant it in the shade where it belongs. Done.

I’ve been thinking today about John’s neighbour Tammy who thought she had Covid about six months ago and called an ambulance when she had a coughing fit. Poor Tammy, only in her 40s I would guess, was quickly discovered to be riddled with cancer and is now long dead and buried. From her fear of Covid as a worst case scenario, she found something altogether more serious. I hope her primary school age youngest child remembers something at least of his mum as he grows up.

October 25, 2020

My list of jobs to do has been dented today, always a positive feeling. Planted the Alysum seedlings here and there in the front garden and planted the cornflower seeds into a large pot on the front verandah. Then did photographs and listed on eBay some more WWI postcards, seeing one set of three has sold for the princely sum of $10 less commissions. Also found some mint unfranked stamps from 1982 and 3 in the storeroom and put a few sets of them on as a trial. Because I know very little (nothing) about stamps I rarely sold them in the shop, but some must have gone as the folder has quite a few gaps of stock ranging from $5 to $75 so I clearly did some stamp business it seems. I think John’s memory issues are catching, must tell the doc.

Peter FitzSimons has never really been on my radar as I tend to turn off the news when sport comes on and I never read about it. But gosh he’s a pretty shrewd political commentator. His take on Gladys-gate in the paper today is spot-on. She can’t simultaneously not care about/want to marry/ be in love with/ have a relationship not worth mentioning with old Daryl. She needs to pick one, because clearly she is looking like a liar, and a bad one at that. She dumped him like a hot rock, not because he was a crook, but because she discovered they had been phone-tapped. In any event her claim to be hard-working pales in view of what she was actually working hard at: knocking down perfectly good stadiums, knocking down the historic Windsor Bridge, chucking social housing tenants out of their city homes in order to sell their properties for multi-millions of dollars, doling out grant money almost exclusively to Liberal electorates. Jeez Gladys the more time you sit on the lounge watching television, the better off some of us citizens would be.

October 26, 2020

Today is John’s MRI and not before time. He had been looking forward all week to watching the football grand final last night. But he rang me up in the afternoon wanting to know firstly if it was Sunday and then how come the football was on that day, what channel was it on and what time. All of these things he had told me himself the day before. He also couldn’t remember whether today was the day he was having the MRI, and more concerningly, wanted to know which hospital it was at. I decided it was best if I went with him but he was quite insistent that he can manage because he goes to that same hospital once a month for his infusion. So I’m just insisting that I go with him to get the results. I think the issue is that he’s seeing a possible curtailing of his independence and is resisting that till the last day possible, in the same way that he sees his driving days as possibly numbered and so he really likes to drive wherever we go. Later in the evening he was quite bemused that he had forgotten about the football details and which hospital he was going to and this morning was on top of it all. None too soon to be getting this jolly thing done I’m thinking.

October 27, 2020

I forgot to mention the weird coincidence of John’s three amnesia attacks, they occurred on the 25th of August, 25th September and 25th October. Ooh spooky, I’m sure the New Agers would have an explanation, possibly to do with past lives and almost certainly bunkum. Anyway we got good news today in that Nada’s fear that the lymphoma had spread to his brain has proved to be unfounded. But because of other, less catastrophic, changes in his brain she is sending him to a neurologist at St. Vincents soon for an opinion. Phew and double phew, the lymphoma threat has hung over our heads for a month now, but finally we can breathe again. To celebrate I made cauliflower, pea and spinach soup for lunch, which sounds grand but was actually a case of throwing some leftover cauliflower au gratin, some frozen peas and some spinach in a pot, adding milk and seasoning and grizzing it with the stick blender. If you have veges in the fridge or freezer you have soup, I love it.

I also got lucky today when Bob rang and answered my query about going back to book group. ‘How many are going? How big is the room? Is it a private residence? Will they be social distancing?’ I guessed at 8 people, 20 feet by 40 feet, yes and yes. The result was a qualified endorsement so it will be very weird, but exciting, to be back at book group this Friday.

October 28, 2020

I am currently reading American Dirt, a novel so far about a woman whose family were massacred by narcotraficantes in Acapulco and her desperate efforts to leave Mexico for the US, hindered by checkpoints and walls wherever she turns. It is a compelling introduction to the desperation of the people trying to get to safety and a huge contrast to the almost meditative mood of my last novel The Offing. That one was set in post-war Yorkshire with scenes set in places I am very familiar with like Whitby, Castle Howard and Harrogate. It even references the extraordinary winter of 1947, the year I was born, when snow came half way up the houses in Harrogate and Leeds. It is good to move through different worlds, but especially so when we can’t even think about exploring them ourselves.

John now has an appointment with a neurologist at St. Vincent’s late in November so as usual Nada clicked her fingers and it all fell into place. She never mucks around. He had his infusion today and was somewhat shocked when an ambulance arrived to take away the man on the next chair who looked perfectly fine, but by then he had a crew of doctors and nurses around him, one identifying himself as the anaesthetist, so it seems there was something serious going on. I on the other hand had a cruisy day with a bit of weeding and a bit of cooking and a bit of catching up with work on the computer, including sending a love letter to Dan Andrews with a request that he overthrow Gladys and become our premier but somehow I think that’s a longshot. I did get a text from Australia Post this afternoon though, telling me that my parcel is on its way. Perhaps Dan is sending a love letter back, because I am not expecting anything. Chocs, Champagne, who knows? I await its delivery with pleasure.

October 29, 2020

We decided to go to Service NSW to renew our drivers’ licences, thinking that we needed both eye tests and photos, but were surprised to find that they didn’t bother about photos at all. Mine will be 10 years old by the time this licence is due for renewal, ‘if I’m spared’, as my grandmother always used to say. Or ‘if I’m not called home’ was another one. It puzzles me why religious people aren’t stepping in front of buses all over the place to get ‘home’, which always sounds so much nicer than a lot of places down here. I guess that is why suicide is a no-no in most religions. The places are rationed and you need to buy your ticket and wait your turn, like at the cinema. Remember the cinema?

Asparagus is sooo thin and green and gorgeous at the moment, I think I will make an asparagus slice or tart or something for book group tomorrow. Maybe with cream cheese? Or parmesan? Or both? Thinking maybe both. I am on a bit of a cheese thing at the moment, I can’t get enough. I’ve planted a small Rose of Sharon and three purple leafed shrubs this morning, all grown from cuttings, so I feel very accomplished. I downloaded a plant identifier app onto my phone but it is pretty useless, not being able to identify the purple shrub at all (calling it Tradescantia or Wandering Jew when it was nothing like) and mis-identifying the Rose of Sharon 3 times out of 4 photos. The excellent identifier I trialled for a month came in too expensive when the trial ended so I didn’t join, but it certainly worked really well.

October 30, 2020

I had made the parmesan pastry last night and the mix of cream cheese and yogurt for the filling so it was just a matter of rolling out, pouring on the filling, adding a couple of bunches of chopped asparagus and baking, voila! Ready for book group. Sue came in the morning and said she would like to stay over, then we went in to North Sydney with Michelle. The meeting was pretty much unanimously favourable about the book but Alison thought the language of the young man was somewhat beyond the abilities you would expect from someone with his education. Sadly the Zoom link with Carol failed so I will need to discuss her opinions separately. Unfortunately I got more gratuitous advice about my decision to wear a mask at the meeting, but it was limited to one person, everyone else was very supportive. When gardening on Thursday a passing neighbour whom I haven’t seen in months told me that because she cares for her 80 odd year old mother she hasn’t been out AT ALL since March. All of her groceries are delivered from the local IGA down the street and the butcher next door. Did I give her a lecture about using Harris Farm? or the fact that she is overly careful? No I minded my own beeswax, enough said. Sue and I curled up on the lounge and sank a good 2014 bottle of red in the afternoon and over dinner. It was wonderful to have her here for a whole night.

Britain’s ridiculous Eat Out to Help Out scheme managed to spur on the coronavirus pandemic it seems. Up to 17 per cent of cases over the summer have been linked to the deal as diners crowded into restaurants for a 50 per cent discount on their bill in August. A study by Warwick University looked at footfall in the restaurants which took part in the scheme across more than 6,000 areas in England. It then analysed the number of clusters where three or more got infected. In areas where large numbers of meals were claimed through the deal, more people tested positive. The study, which suggests the scheme led to crowds of people being too close to each other, concluded that it accounted for an extra 8 to 17 per cent of infections during August and into early September. Cases apparently rose within a week of Eat Out to Help Out starting and began to decline a fortnight after it ended. It never fails to amaze me that governments are so blind to unintended consequences of their actions. This one was predictable a mile off.

October 31, 2020

Sue rose early as usual but I slept in till after 8 because I had a bad night, though she seemed happy reading a book from my shelf till I emerged. Then we had blinis with cream cheese and smoked salmon and a pot of tea for a late breakfast, discussing the book and book group as well as lots of other things. She is going to come down again on the night of the end of year meeting, which we are no longer to call the Christmas meeting. Perhaps book group will be the starting point of her coming down once a month, which would be terrific. John and I were to go to Erskineville this arv for Halloween celebrations for Millie, seeing she can’t go trick or treating this year but as I was heading to the car Dav rang to say that Millie had come down with diarrhoea so she thought a postponement was in order. This unexpected free time was filled by finishing American Dirt, a book which involved me virtually in the refugee experience in a very powerful way. I don’t think I have read a more forceful book or article about the Mexican and Central American situation than this one, which left me on the edge of my seat for days. Apparently the author has been criticised because she is not ‘brown’, but I doubt anyone else could have done a better job.

November 1, 2020

John has been super excited waiting for the Zoom meeting with his American relatives this morning. We met with Justine, Lisa and Mandy as well as other members of their families. John asked what they planned to do if Trump won and comments were made that Australia was an option. Apparently Covid isn’t too much of a problem where they are, which is good because both Lisa and her husband are emergency doctors. We talked for about 45 minutes and planned to do it again soon. After lunch we headed in to Erskineville and spent the afternoon, noting the intensity of the rain there, it was teeming. Compared to the soft and steady precipitation that we usually get out here it was good to see, I love a deluge. I was able to get my cornflower seeds planted during the week with rain on the horizon and I see more and more dahlias are poking their heads up in the garden. A couple of the Alysums have gone to snails but mostly my plantings are holding up. This changeable weather with spasmodic rain and sun is just perfect, from both a gardening and a preference point of view. The Agapanthus are all in bud so I looked out my tall vase in readiness. Spring has well and truly sprung.

November 2, 2020

The library did their monthly delivery today, and bless them they managed to find yet another Trump book, this time the one by Mary Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. It is brand new and I am its first reader so I’m pretty happy with that, all crisp and unadulterated by human hands. They rang back later to say they had found an Elena Ferrante that I haven’t read so that’s coming too, plus their other selections. John has been getting water into both pairs of shoes he has here, the soles have worn through on both, so we masked up and went to Baulko shops where he got a pair of black leather Hush Puppies and a pair of brown Colorado boots. We were lucky that they had a ‘second pair half price’ sale on so he saved a goodly amount. Later I made a Pineapple cake which had fresh pineapple and spiced brown sugar in the bottom of the tin. I thought it was a bit unusual because of the fennel seeds etc but John only gave it a seven, so I tossed the recipe which I’d cut out of the Good Weekend. I seem to do at least one recipe from the Herald each week, mostly well worth doing.

November 3, 2020

We made a decision to go out for lunch for the first time since February but the venue, Wild Pear, has a big outdoor deck where we sat and felt perfectly safe. The food as usual was fantastic, Lamb Cutlets with Roast Pumpkin, Roast Tomatoes and Gnocchi for sir and for me a delicious Fillet of Tasmanian Salmon with Orange, Beetroot, Watercress and a Beetroot Sauce. We followed with a decadent Pavlova with Turkish Delight, Strawberries, Watermelon, Pistachios, Persian Fairy Floss and Icecream. John scored both of his at ‘eleven out of ten’, I am not sure Masterchef would accept that as a score but I certainly did. We were so out of the loop that we didn’t know it was Melbourne Cup Day, the first time ever that’s happened, we wondered why the ladies who lunch were wearing hats! Afterwards we collected the six capsules of compounded Vitamin D that Glenn Reeves always prescribes and that I get made up at Dural. It doesn’t keep so I only get six capsules per visit and then they go into the fridge to be taken at one per month. John is now sleeping off the meal in his recliner chair while I am waiting for the washing machine to do a load. Lately he is spending much more time at my place and so things like washing and cooking are appreciably greater, but it suits me fine to have him here and I can see that increasing into the future.

November 4, 2020

Woe is me, woe is us and woe is the US of A. Whether or not Biden can win by a fingernail, the country is screwed. It needed a handsome majority for Biden to stamp his authority on the White House and clearly, as of 3.45 pm today anyway, that isn’t going to happen. It is the Civil War all over again, although I was horrified to see that it seems Michigan will go to Trump. Every country gets the government it deserves, but if you are black, poor, sick or unemployed, that’s not much consolation when you wake up to another four years of this bastard. If the popular vote persists as it is at the moment it goes to prove that, despite the old saying, you really can fool most of the people most of the time. Still trying to fool people are the scamsters who ring almost every day, the latest purporting to be from Telstra about my internet connection, except I am with Optus. Sigh.

Planted forget-me-nots and nasturtium seeds then washed up three boxes full of shop leftovers which I offered to friends, failing that they will go to the Sallies. Fran took a silverplate serviette ring for her granddaughter Frankie and Tania is taking the dressing table set for her daughter. That’s a small advance at least, but still so much to go that I get disheartened. My stamps didn’t sell on ebay so I might just use them for posting letters, even though they are for amounts like 27 cents and 34 cents they are still legal tender.

November 5, 2020

Another ‘sale’ of my bits and bobs, this time a jug and some mulga wood bookends to Jane. Every little helps. Today’s US election news is better, though still not good as far as a clearcut outcome is concerned. In a post on Medium a couple of weeks ago it was reported that Trump was telling his staff that 1. He was going to declare victory on the night of the election, regardless of the results at that time, and 2. That he would challenge every state count if the result was close. Voila!

John had a minor accident today while we we out. He was coming out of a parking spot and a taxi behind him pulled up to let him go but then decided to go around him. The result was a dent in the front door of the taxi and John’s headlight mechanism coming out in one piece, which did look pretty funny I must admit as he carried the whole headlight and blinker section and put it in the boot. We drove home with no headlight but when John rang NRMA to lodge a claim they said it is illegal to drive it even in the daytime so they are sending a tow truck to take the car to the repairer even though it is just in Castle Hill. Fun and games and $695 excess, ouch. Despite the fact that the taxi had stopped to let him out, the law says he had right of way so John is at fault. So be it, at least no one was hurt.

November 6, 2020

Bright and early a tow truck arrived to take John’s car, but before that I took some pics of the damage, clearly vastly more than the $100-200 he suggested to the insurance company. Headlight mechanism totally detached, dented mudguard, broken grille, mangled bumper and misaligned bonnet. Repairs may very well end up more than the car is insured for so we will have to see how it all pans out. I made some Italian almond biscuits, pasticcini di mandorle, before heading over to Carol’s for a cuppa and a chat about the book group, which she missed due to a Zoom problem. Cooked a whole sea mullet in the fish poaching pan for dinner, covering it with shallots, ginger and coriander after cooking, with just a splash of soy sauce. Sadly it was a bit underdone at the thickest part (luckily there weren’t any guests) but we had enough to feed us tonight and the other half will bake perfectly tomorrow night. Served it with rosti potatoes and asparagus.

Started Trent Dalton’s latest book All Our Shimmering Skies and although I loved Boy Swallows Universe this one is just too far into the magical end of magical realism for me. BSU was leaning into this genre by the end, but the rest of the book so delighted me that I could contain my strong preference for realism. He is a clever boy but this one must remain forever unread, I just hope it doesn’t come up as a book group choice because then I would have to finish it on principle.

November 7, 2020

The smash repairer in Castle Hill hadn’t contacted us about the car so we rang him, only to be told that the car has been written off and didn’t even make it off the tow truck. So where is it we asked? At Milperra at the premises of Pickles Auctions was the reply. I was pretty cheesed off as they hadn’t had the decency to inform us. So we drove up to our trusty mechanic Alex who immediately got on the phone to the proprietor of the smash repairer who told him we had a right to have it brought back for a second opinion. Unfortunately NRMA claims department isn’t available at the weekend (one of the reasons I am happy to be with GIO who are available 7 days) so we are stuck till Monday. What a pity because John got new shock absorbers a year ago, a new radiator a few months ago and a new clutch weeks ago and has been saying that the car is mechanically in top condition now.

I am seeing a lot of publicity for the new Australian movie Rams, but nowhere do they say that it is a takeoff of the wonderful Icelandic movie of the same name. It irks me that they wouldn’t just fess up and say it’s a remake. Similarly it irks to see Aldi copy the logos and design of many products which are popular in other supermarkets, instead of designing their own advertising material and packaging. It is the one thing that annoys me about the company, I think I shall write a letter. Copycats are dirty rats as we used to say at school.

November 8, 2020

When I got up this morning there was an email from Eileen in San Francisco saying: Joe won!!! So I turned on the teev and yes we had. The whole world won, by overturning Trump we can now breathe again, but the reality of the situation will soon sink in. A raging pandemic, race relations at a low ebb, widespread poverty, no health care, probably a hostile senate, but at least we know someone is trying, rather than golfing. We sat through an extended Insiders, then later watched the victory speeches live and I teared up at both. Good luck to them, they are going to need it.

I hucked out another box of oddments and photographed them, Heather claimed a couple of pieces from that lot, small gains but better than nothing. Made raspberry muffins for when my librarian friend comes on Tuesday but had a bit of a disaster when I decided to put the excess mixture into a small cake tin and bake it separately, it overflowed in the oven making a right royal mess and then wouldn’t come out of the tin leaving me with 1 fractured cake plus 12 muffins. However John opted for the messy cake for afternoon tea and pronounced it delicious. My Tuesday visitor is one of the local librarians who came in for a cuppa a couple of weeks ago and then left a note in my letter box last week asking if a return visit was on the cards to discuss the election result rather than books. Of course I said yes and I look forward to the drop in on Tuesday.

November 9, 2020

An early call to NRMA to find out why no-one has contacted us about the car being  written off. They promised someone would ring back soon and they did, to tell us that the cost of repairs is more than double the insured value due to damage to the chassis, it isn’t just a matter of panel beating and painting. Also availability of parts means it could be quite a long business. Sigh. Our second opinion confirmed that it isn’t a viable proposition BUT things improved when Alex told us of a car that he services which is for sale at about the price we will get from insurance. He sent us photos and we will inspect it tomorrow. It is a Toyota Corolla and seems like a good solution.

I drove John to RNSH this morning for his blood tests and then dropped him off at his place afterwards as he has a TAG meeting tomorrow which he can get to via a bus at his door. Home by lunchtime, but no lunch possible due to a sudden attack of parotid gland inflammation, an intermittent but pesky part of Sjogrens Syndrome which comes on suddenly and makes eating impossible due to intense pain and swelling if I try to put anything but water into my mouth. It begins in an instant and lasts somewhere between half an hour and many days, the record so far is 5 days. Needless to say hunger is visiting now in the late afternoon.

November 10, 2020

My face ache disappeared by 7.30 last night so I was pleased to have a very small evening meal about 8pm, the day without food aiding my bid to get back to normal after John was here for a week. Because he likes bigger meals and more between meal snacks than I usually allow myself I fall into the pattern of eating more than I need, so today the universe made a small correction. Perhaps it could make the correction pain free next time if at all possible.

Busy morning. Ann kindly offered to drive John to his TAG meeting and to pick him up afterwards so that worked out well. Alex rang to say that the car we are to view isn’t available until tomorrow but hopefully some action may have happened on the insurance claim by then. I reminded John at 9am that he had to ring NRMA, then again at 2pm and when he rang me at 4.30 I asked if he’d remembered to do it, but no. I photographed a decanter, stein, candlestick and statue to try to sell online and wrote descriptions for that. Ann has offered to put them online for me and despite our differences of opinion when we did this last time I think our roles are now better defined so I’m willing to give it another chance. The advantage for her is a commission and for me it is the fact that I can sell fragile things without the need to pack and post them as she negotiates only to have them picked up from her in person, something I am less inclined to do. Tony came for a cuppa in his lunch hour and seemed to like the raspberry muffins which I topped with icing and dried cornflower petals. He brought me as a gift 3 books by his favourite author, Dervla McTiernan, whom I haven’t read before and I gave him 6 books to return to the library, hardly a fair swap but he seemed happy. We talked books, Trump, racial discrimination, religion, cooking and more and I think we may be on the way to becoming pals. He said he wants to bring some of his fruit cake ‘next time’.

November 11, 2020

I picked up his nibs and we went up to inspect his new car, a Toyota Corolla which seems in excellent condition, you could eat dinner off the motor. We agreed to go ahead with the sale and Alex offered to do a complimentary grease and oil change so we will pick it up tomorrow. This morning I had done an online search of the car’s rego, followed by a search on the Personal Property Securities Register to make sure that it wasn’t stolen or had money owing on it. Phew. Then off we went off to Service NSW to cancel the rego on the poor old Suzuki, sort out the CTP Insurance and order a new toll dooverlackie as the old one went to the wreckers with the car. This afternoon there was much time spent getting insurance quotes, not helped by the fact that twice the phone cut out when I was talking to NRMA Insurance, leaving me to start all over again. I decided instead to send a message to them via Facebook saying that if they want to give us a quote my phone number is blah. I am past caring today, I’ve done nothing but talk cars the whole day, and nothing bores me like talking cars. In the wonderful words of Lawson: “For I have gone past carin’, Past worryin’ or carin’, Past feelin’ aught or carin’, But from my heart no tear nor sound, For I have gone past carin’.” Lawson always seems to have some lines for whatever you are feeling.

On another topic altogether, we have been debating whether it was safe to go to The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay where we have had a table booked for New Year’s Eve. We booked it last NYE as we were leaving the restaurant, one of our favourites. But that debate ceased when we saw that it has gone under, the victim of Covid and a rapacious landlord. Well now the landlord gets ‘sweet Fannie Adams’ and we get no oysters, fish pie or New Zealand wild trout, as we’ve had in the past. It looks like a quiet night at home for us, nothing at all for the restaurant and nix for the landlord as well. What a shame all round.

November 12, 2020

Last night I decided to tackle the car insurance issue again, this time online. I found the NRMA website very easy to navigate and got a very competitive quote of $624, a huge amount less than GIO. But every time I got to the Buy Now button and pressed it I was taken back to the Get a Quote page and had to fill it all in again. This happened three times over 55 minutes until I swore at it and gave up. First thing this morning I rang them, told a tale of woe of five attempts to buy the insurance and got a lady working from home in Cronulla who said that yesterday they ‘had issues’, ‘as did I’ was muttered under my breath. But after reapplying his No Claim Bonus (despite having a claim last week? how does that work?) she also gave us $100 off that again and charged $403 in total, just 40% of the cost of the exact same policy at GIO. Business is a weird thing, I must get a quote from NRMA next time mine comes up. The whole exercise got me thinking about a First Saturday meeting a few years ago when the very techie speaker was horrified to hear that I go to the Opera House in person to book seats rather than doing it online. Each time I have done so I first looked up my favoured seats online and then went to the box office and invariably some lovely person volunteered that they could find me better seats that weren’t on the online plan. It was always worth it. Doing it by phone today saved John $221 on what he would have paid if the transaction had gone through successfully last night, so I will stick to dealing with real people thanks very much Mr. Techie Guy. We picked up the car and gave Alex a good bottle of red, only to discover that he’s a teetotaller, but his wife drinks so I will take him a cake later.

John was walking out the door this afternoon to go to his infectious diseases specialist who monitors his lifelong antibiotic therapy after the knee infection when she phoned and said she and her family had just been put into 2 weeks quarantine after she had a possible Covid19 exposure. I’m guessing it must be for a hotel quarantine patient or one who is still in hospital from a while back as the officials are saying we have no new cases. I think her husband is a doctor too so that’s both a huge problem and a welcome rest I would think. So he had a phone consultation and was spared a trip to the hospital. Win/win.

November 13, 2020

Oh the joy of being able to eat your dinner at 4.38 pm, just because you only had two SAOs at 11.30 am. John would think I’d gone stark raving mad if I did that when he was here, so I observe regular mealtimes with him and go rogue when I am by myself. I have had a quiet day but a pleasant one, having morning tea (the said SAOs) in Heather’s  garden, then buying some fruit and veg on the way home. Stone fruits are just starting so I got some nectarines plus a punnet of raspberries of which I will partake for dessert tonight. The day began with an attempt to water the front garden but the hose had been disconnected from the tap and I couldn’t get it back on. A later inspection with glasses on showed that they had wrenched it off without pulling back the clasp, breaking it in the process, so I am back to bucket watering for now. No-one needs a mouthful of water in that much of a hurry so I am crooked on the perpetrator of this heinous crime. Not as bad as the day someone turned the meter off and I was ready to ring the supplier or a plumber or whoever, till I thought to check the main, only to find it turned off. Actually when I think about it this will cost me a little money and time whereas the main tap cost me nought. I was expecting a friend in the late afternoon but she is on sick report so I will catch up with her another time, by which time it was dinner, at 4.38.

My bro tells me that the lockdown in Calderdale is now extreme with a 10,000 pounds fine for breaking it, which in itself seems extreme. Apparently someone local who had friends over for a party was just hit with the maximum fine and I hope the party was an excellent one as it has cost more than a flash wedding. I read of a dentist in WA who left quarantine numerous times to see patients, 41 of them in fact, and was given two months in the slammer as a reward. I imagine that deregistration may be on the cards when she gets out. A goose having a party I can understand but a dentist??

November 14, 2020

I was just filing a document and came across a photo of my grandmother’s sister Ethel and her brother Albert standing outside the railway station in England, probably Harrogate Station. She is dressed in a white sheet by the looks of it and is holding a sign that says ‘self denial’ in support of Mahatma Ghandi. Judging by his clothes I would say it looks Edwardian but that would be very early for them to be supporting Ghandi, though I doubt it would be past 1920. I wish that sort of sentiment and bravery had seeped down to my parent’s generation, I certainly got a ton of derision for demonstrating against the Vietnam War. I remember my father telling me that after getting off the bus on his way home from work at Guildford a policeman in uniform, also getting off the bus, addressed him by name. My father asked ‘how do you know my name?’ and the policeman replied ‘we are watching your daughter Maureen’. My parents were furious that I had brought the family into disrepute. Arguing my case brought no respect for a principle, just a shower of rebukes, I never did win that argument. It saddens me sometimes to think that John was there in those marches and signings, I should have scooped him up then.

The Guardian reports that Fr Dave Smith, an Anglican priest in Dulwich Hill of 30 years standing, has been forced to resign from his church or face the sack because his wife left him. He is a two-time Australian of the Year nominee but that won’t prevent his sacking, loss of income and possible homelessness with his primary school aged child. ‘The conservative evangelical diocese’s controversial doctrine of “male headship” holds that men are the undisputed heads of their households, wives must “submit” to their husbands, and only men can lead in church’, says the article. I have seen this happen at close quarters when the father of a friend was sacked from his post in Castle Hill back in the 70s, causing grief for him and his children when they were unceremoniously tossed out of their home and his father was left without work. Gee Christians can be so un-Christian can’t they? It is always the ‘conservatives’ who fit this description, whether it be in churches, government or society in general. A pox on the lot of them, she says biblically.

November 15, 2020

We went to Erskineville to mind Millie so Davina and Louis could have a rare night out, the first this year in fact. They chose to go to a relatively new restaurant called Arthur in Surry Hills which has a degustation menu, with matched wines if desired. Millie was fine about them going out but at bedtime insisted that she sleeps under, not on, the bed. So I just passed her a pillow and let her do just that. Then she called to say ‘you’ve put me to bed with no socks on and I might get cold’ so socks were applied to two feet sticking out from under the bed. After washing up from dinner I sat down to read my book, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, when I noticed Millie lying quietly under the dining room table. How long she had been there I don’t know. Finally after a couple more tries to get her into the bed I said ‘I think I might lie in your bed for a while seeing you’re not using it and quick as a flash she was in it with me. I stayed there till the fam arrived home about 9.25 pm and considered the ploy as a total success. While we were there my neighbours next door rang. They were trying to deliver some Diwali treats but I wasn’t answering the door, though they could see the car was there. When we got home we found a wrapped plate of fritters with some sweet treats alongside. They would normally celebrate with fireworks, sparklers and lights but Hindu tradition forbids it this year because of the recent death of their aunty. We’ve agreed to celebrate with lots of food and sparklers next Diwali.

November 16, 2020

John is on the hunt for a frig and I can’t dissuade him from an immediate purchase. I jokingly blamed the ‘car high’ he is on. So we masked up and went to The Good Guys to look at the two models he was considering. One outshone the other so now he wants me to do a check in Choice tomorrow to make sure it’s not a lemon, then he will order it. The online reviews are uniformly good but they are from new purchasers, so they don’t tell us anything about how the item wears, or doesn’t. A walk to nearby Bunnings followed to buy a new hose fitting to replace the one broken by a passer-by, I bought two in case the rotter does it again. Lunch was Indian fritters gifted by the neighbours, with a salad. I am keen to get back into my book tonight, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, a gift from Tony and it’s really got me in, such a step up from the very ordinary Ruth Rendell that I just finished. It was her last book and it shows, one-dimensional characters and a silly plot. Makes me wonder if she really wrote it at all.

November 17, 2020

A trifecta of car, frig and now vacuum cleaner! John tried to vac the flat and a loud bang and a puff of blue smoke ended the reign of his current machine. Now can we have some peace on the motor front? Thankyou. He rang me with the idea of buying a Miele, but I convinced him that my old shop vac, admittedly a very basic one but currently ensconced in the garage, would do the trick for no bucks at all. I did the Choice check and it gave us a tick of approval on his preferred frig, so I expect he will order that pretty soon.

I see that our SAS and commandoes in Afghanistan had a ‘kill board’ on which they entered scores in some sort of grotesque competition for the most Afghans they murdered. I don’t understand why it has taken 4 years to complete a report on this or why we now have to have yet another body to investigate. Why can’t it be handed to the Federal Police in just the same way it would be if they were picking people off in Canberra? Morrison frowns and warns us of the shock when the details come out and military types and their journalistic friends are excusing the men already on the grounds that ‘they had too many rotations’. I think that’s for a jury to way up, but thanks anyway. I hope I am wrong but it seems like dragging it out as much as possible is the aim until one day someone says ‘But it was all such a long time ago…..and witnesses have died….and it’s too hard to get convictions now.’ It is much easier to teach people to kill than it is to teach them when to stop.

November 17, 2020

Today we had plans to go to a friend’s place for lunch but John rang to say that his new car door was locked and couldn’t be opened with either the clicker or the key. I headed off down the M2 to pick him up but he rang to say his neighbour Chris had managed to get the car open. So I turned around and started for home, only to get another call to say that now the car wouldn’t start. Turned back and got onto the M2 again, picked him up and amazingly we got to the friend’s place right on time. We had a lovely lunch and chat and later I drove John home. I assumed an electrical fault was responsible but the NRMA man (bless all NRMA men) said it was that he had left some internal lights on, lights he somehow wasn’t aware of. The door lock had a totally separate issue which was rectified on the spot. To all this was added the fact that John left his mobile on the floor of my car this morning so I could only get him on the landline. It seems a boring set of circumstances but somehow I am exhausted by it all.

Tony texted to say that the library has bought a DVD on the Trump family going back to the 1800s in Germany up to the present so he has put it aside for me, that’s six hours of my life accounted for. He also put a reserve on Fear by Bob Woodward, another Trump book and is asking the library’s buyer if he wants to get Plaintiff in Chief, a book about Trump’s 3400 litigations. It’s like having my own personal librarian. The crazy one last week considered launching a strike against Iran’s main nuclear facility Natanz before senior advisers talked him out of it, according to the New York Times. Talk about going out with a bang.

November 18, 2020

I have long been saying that it is a contest about who will survive longest, me or my beautiful 70 foot high and wide gum tree. Well it looks as if I might be in the lead, the back yard is ankle deep in gum leaves and short branches, plus there were two more large branches there today, probably each 10 feet long. The two of them cut up filled an empty Sulo bin. The horticulturist pronounced the tree to be in ‘terminal decline’ months ago and it is much worse now. I guess I am in terminal decline too, but it’s progressing at a slower rate. It will be a sad day when I go out and find no leaves left at all, the sound of a chainsaw will become its dirge.

John ordered the groceries this week and they were delivered here this morning, including 12 blocks of his favourite Pico chocolate, along with a note to say that the other flavours he ordered were out of stock. I don’t know how he can eat a BIG bowl of icecream every night, followed by half a block of chocolate on top of his dinner and not be fat. Good genes for weight control. I wish I had them, though I would choose different poisons.

We are supposed to take a piece to read at book group on the theme of Thanksgiving and I have been going through shelves of poetry books with no luck at all. It’s just not the sort of thing I would buy or read. Plenty on death or war or nature or injustice but thanksgiving, not so much. But I need to rustle something up that doesn’t sound too mawkish and maudlin. Christmas themes were so much easier I think, or we could do Hannukah maybe?

November 19, 2020

My search through the poetry shelves for something representing Thanksgiving in any form has led to my reading some Walt Whitman, my fave Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson (why did I buy this exactly?), Tennyson, Ai, Thoreau, Brooke, Auden, Betjeman and others. I even looked up a wonderful poem in an email from my friend, poet and percussionist Gabrielle Journey Jones, but decided that it was too ‘dark’ for the topic and for this group. But that rereading in itself made the whole search worthwhile. Apparently my tastes run into the ‘dark’ rather than the radiant and shining but I am what I am. Come to think of it all the poets I was searching through are on the dark side too, so I’m in good company.

If I want to research a medical question I usually start with the website of the Mayo Clinic so it was a shock to read today that there are over 900 staff there who currently have Covid19. If their capable and professional staff can’t avoid it I wonder what hope the rest of their community have. In my Medium feed today came a paper from a researcher who says that those with autoimmune conditions risk the vaccine triggering a ‘potent type I Interferon response’, in other words a cytokine storm, exactly the thing that the vaccination is seeking to avoid if you contract Covid. The CDC also has a webpage entitled Who Should Not Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines, which includes people with autoimmune diseases. Mmm, some serious reading to do before making a decision on that one.

The ADF report on the murder of civilians in Afghanistan by Australian forces is shocking but hardly a surprise. The racism in the army in particular is well known and added to the pressures of warfare it is a toxic mix. A friend whose son joined the army a few years back commented that within a very few months he had changed from being a reasonable young man to one transfused with racist and particularly anti-Islamic prejudice. A longtime acquaintance whom I talked with in my shop over many years had an important role in the RAAF. He resigned from a job he loved after seeing the appalling treatment of Afghan locals by army personnel while working there. He told of them wearing offensive T shirts with anti-Muslim messages and was critical of the lack of discipline there. This was probably 10 years ago so if a shopkeeper near the base knew things were going wrong back then, so did others who had the power to intervene. If it were not for whistleblowers and the ABC nothing would ever have been done for fear of damaging the ‘holy’ reputation of our military. It is a universal tactic in wartime to dehumanise the enemy in order to overturn soldiers’ basic reluctance to kill, this sort of behaviour is a natural result of that strategy. A more realistic view of the military may prove to be the only positive outcome of this tragedy.

November 20, 2020

A call last night from Kenneth brought to reality the fear of his daughter Tanya contracting Covid19 at the aged care home in which she works. So far she isn’t too bad, just suffering from a cough, but it’s early days. Of course she and her husband are in quarantine. Six patients and staff there are so far infected, but Kenneth has long told me of the inadequate protective equipment supplied, for many weeks at the beginning they didn’t even have masks so we are both surprised that it’s taken this long for the pandemic to hit there. More concerning though has been her habit of visiting him twice weekly over all these months, by chance it has been over a week since she was there, so it appears he has dodged a bullet. Even more concerning in some ways was his comment about medical care under the NHS. He has had some problems with his ears and hearing aids may be on the cards, but when I asked if he had been to the doctor he told me with a grim laugh that it is nigh on impossible to get an appointment due to all of their efforts being geared towards people with Covid. Even my doughty brother is starting to sound rattled.

Making a pav today for the book group ‘end of year’ celebration. I hope the fact that I’m using only red fruit doesn’t give it too much of a Christmas air. I could eat pav every night but I haven’t made one since the pandemic started, because I know I would eat whatever was left from the occasion and I’m trying to be good as often as possible. For some reason I find getting pomegranate arils out of the skin is a luscious job, almost meditative, separating every last bit of pith from them needs concentration and is beautiful at the same time. I seem to remember doing it as a kid, though I have no idea how they were served, just to eat as fruit perhaps.

November 21, 2020

Last night’s end of year book group meeting was the best of the year I think, with a depth of warmth and camaraderie that hasn’t always been present of late. I needn’t have worried about my lack of a suitable reading, my flippant one went over well and all of the others were appropriate and well worth hearing. Sue arrived in a hail storm in the afternoon and I was sitting on the front verandah while hailstones pinged off the roof and occasionally into my glass, a new experience. I wasn’t even aware that Sue was outside in her car waiting for the rain to end. After the meeting we chewed the fat with John and enjoyed a leaisurely breakfast together this morning. I suggested we ring our friend who missed last night’s meeting and invite her to morning tea, which she was happy to accept. Sue has suggested that we go to Killcare for a little holiday which was timely considering that I had tried to get us into one of the usual haunts from Jimmys Beach down to Kiama, but all of them are booked pretty solid till February, by the usual Gold Coast-ians and Bali-ans presumably.

Thinking about the SAS report and one of the issues is that in wars such as WWII and Vietnam the troops were from all walks of life, conscripts or enlisted, but from farms and cities, all levels of education, various ages, life experiences and mindsets. But in the SAS I suspect it would be almost all career soldiers from the get-go, with no broad experience of the culture of the civilian populace in the same way that priests are trained in a bubble apart from the wider culture. So training to be a commando, a professional killer in fact, could be happening in a closed society where moral judgments have not been formed by previous life experience. Only a theory but worth thinking more about.

November 22, 2020

We decided to visit Terry and Jude at Arncliffe, via La Perouse. Had a look through the Museum there and then did a tour of Bare Island Fort. Apparently dodgy builders were around way back then, because the guide explained that back in the 1800s when it was built it soon began to leak. Concrete was a new and expensive commodity but it was specified by the government for the walls and roof of the building. But after the leaks a Royal Commission was established which found that the scoundrel builder had formed the place out of sandstone rubble rendered over to look like concrete, which of course absorbed water easily. The effects were still causing problems into the 1980s when the fort cracked and some parts collapsed as a result of the Newcastle earthquake, resulting in the need to reinforce parts of the fort for safety reasons. I wonder if the dodgy builder went out of business or just went on to be a very rich man? Talking of rich men, I saw a man in his 30s next to a low and luxurious looking two-door sporty car. Never having seen the like of it I wandered over to read the label, it was a Bentley so I googled the price: from $400,900. Is it possible to get that sort of money legally? I guess it is, but I was curious to know how. On my own I might have asked him, I didn’t want to embarrass John, plus it is easier to get information from people when you are on your own. Jude and Terry were in good form, along with their family who come regularly to swim in the pool. Their grandson, who is all of 13, is concerned about the war in Azerbaijan and he seems to know a lot about it apparently, I say apparently as I wouldn’t have a clue. He is a history nut, 13 going on 50, I look forward to hearing of his future progress, but I am sure it will be rosy.

November 23, 2020

Out to Dural to the bakery for bread, I got to try John’s new jalopy which is extremely comfortable to drive. Then I stocked up the cake tins by baking rock cakes and cheese shortbreads, which I topped with either cayenne or fennel seeds. Now I am ready for drop-ins. Tomorrow is John’s neurology appointment so I have been thinking about that and wondering if Bob’s suggestion that we just accept his memory loss without investigation had a motive behind it. Anyway Nada wasn’t having a bar of that and insisted on the MRI and the neurologist. But I remember my friend from a few years back who said that he wished he’d never had his memory loss investigated. He was diagnosed with Alzheimers and was depressed from then on, I do think making it official speeded up his decline but John is such a positive person so he wouldn’t necessarily react the same way. He asked me today what we would do if she announced she was putting him straight into a home, a highly theoretical question, but I answered we would bolt for the exit and tear off down Victoria Avenue at great speed.

It was interesting in observation of Terry and Jude’s family yesterday that their grandchildren are strikingly mature for their ages. Two are the same ages as John’s grandchildren but their ease with adults and the topics they discuss are years ahead. The 7 year old boy mentioned that one of his friends at school had been wearing a dress for 2 years and identifies as a girl and the 12 year old girl commented on her friend’s father leaving the family because he discovered he was gay. Her mother asked if the friend was embarrassed by this but she replied: ‘why on earth would she be embarrassed?’ They were quite happy and comfortable to sit around joining into group discussion with an old couple whom they don’t know and their comments were always mature and relevant.

November 24, 2020

John’s neurologist appointment didn’t go quite the way I expected. Firstly his doctor was one of the best I have ever been involved with, we were in there for over an hour and all of our questions and more were answered in detail. Prior to that she had been ensconced with a medical student looking at the latest MRI. I had girded myself for a diagnosis of vascular dementia because of both his symptoms and the fact that his vascular system is damaged by repeated bouts of chemo. Her very first question was: ‘have you ever had any radiation to the brain?’ Then she surprised us by saying that she believes that the primary cause of his problems is the radiation to his face (and therefore to his brain) which he had for the first bout of lymphoma in his parotid gland back in the 1980s. The micro-haemorrhages on the MRI are typical of radiation damage and were also showing on the last MRI done in 2016, when he got the most recent and more serious B cell lymphoma. I was surprised to learn that radiation brain damage takes a long time to manifest itself in visible damage and symptoms, so that sort of delay is entirely typical. She explained that there is a continuum with this damage from MCI (mild cognitive impairment) to Alzheimer’s Disease and John is on that path and has been for many years but it has only now become obvious. Traumatic brain injury, such as he had in his bike accident in 1970, also raises the long-term risk of Alzheimer’s so he has had a double whammy. She did a cognition test which involved drawing a clock face with hands at a particular time, copying a drawing and other tasks like remembering a string of words, in the last task he did pretty poorly. Asking what word he first thought of beginning with the letter ‘f’ brought a typical male response but asking him to then quote as many words as possible beginning with that letter seemed pretty easy for him. So what to do? Basically nothing. She thinks that his three amnesia events are probably a rare manifestation of the same thing, likely akin to a seizure with a disruption of brainwaves, so she’s putting him on an epilepsy drug to avoid them happening again. But apart from that it is a wait and see situation. She doesn’t think driving is an issue at this stage because his implicit or unconscious memory is still intact, that type of memory is affected at a later stage in the disease. There are drugs to help if and when it gets more serious but she doesn’t recommend those now. She doesn’t need to see him again until ‘things have deteriorated’. Looking at me at the end of the appointment she said ‘you will know when he needs to come back’.

November 25, 2020

Tony called in for a cuppa on his way to work at the library today in what has become an occasional break from my customary routine. We originally started off only discussing books though that has widened as we get to know each other better, but today it was nice to talk to someone who doesn’t know anything about John’s medical issues so I could ignore it for a while. I am feeling quite hollow after the revelations yesterday, thinking about the future is so confusing and terrifying and open-ended that sometimes it’s better not done at all. It is ‘one day at a time’ territory. Sometimes I am feeling as if a 10 ton weight is on my shoulders but perhaps the best approach for now is to ignore it and think of jokes instead: ‘My doctor diagnosed me today with cancer and Alzheimer’s. It was a lot to process and the road ahead won’t be easy, but hey at least I don’t have cancer!’ Yeah funny, but when you are living it, not quite as funny as it would have been six months ago.

November 26, 2020

Clearing out my in-tray is a boring but necessary task. I found stuff that I thought was lost and was able to file some poems and book review notes so probably worth doing. Tried again to tie Kirk down to a day for mowing my lawn. I used to be able to get him at a day or two’s notice but he says he is as busy as he’s ever been so he is coming next Monday after a two week wait. The grass will be higher than the mower but that’s his problem. Luckily I don’t need help anymore with the front garden, I manage it perfectly well on my own, whereas initially I did need physical assistance with building the rockery, spreading the pebbles etc, now it’s basically just weeding. I am not looking forward to summer watering though, that’s a real trial. Gosh I am being boring, my head is too full of questions and concerns so I can’t really focus on much else.

So now it’s 9.21 pm and I am dabbling on the computer. Usual stuff, write a letter to the Herald, check the US papers, check ours, get depressed. How can Kathy Jackson get a suspended sentence for ripping off $103,000 from union funds? How can Amy Coney Barrett vote in the US Supreme Court in favour of churches in New York against the restrictions on numbers at religious venues during the Covid lockdown? How can the federal government be paying for Mathias Cormann to fly around Europe on a VIP jet with an entourage of 8 full-time staff? He is not a government employee. Enough to be depressed about in politics and health at the moment without even starting on things at home. Perhaps that’s a blessing.

November 27, 2020

Interesting to see a Brett Whitely painting go for $6.136 million. But even more interesting was the story that barrister Clive Evatt, the previous owner, had called on Whitely who was bemoaning the fact that a gallery wanted him to paint out evidence of drug use on the coffee table in the painting before they would pay for the piece. Evatt offered to buy the painting for himself, to which Whiteley agreed, but said ‘it will cost you a bootful of money’, after which Evatt took him to his car and literally paid him with cash from his boot. Um, do all barristers drive around with a ‘bootful of money’? And if so, why? Taxation officials please note.

I was watering out front and noticed some landscapers working across the road so I asked for a quote to re-turf my grass verge which is a bit of a barren eye-sore. They came up with $1895 which shocked me, but I will ask Kirk about doing it next year, I am sure for much less. Then off to Service NSW to renew my free pensioner’s National Parks Pass. I wanted to get one a few years back and John talked me out of it, but I went ahead eventually and we’ve used it a bit this year. Because they need to sight the pension card it makes it a bit difficult to do online, though a paid pass is easy to do that way. I am always pleasantly surprised at how helpful the staff are there. Services NSW is the only good thing I can think of that this lousy Liberal state government has ever done. They are also very Covid aware, with security guards allowing people to enter only as others come out, so I feel safe in going there.

November 28, 2020

Last evening and night were shockers, aloneness when you’ve had bad news is not a good idea. I slept only from 4 am till quarter to 6 and got up feeling scummy. Every possible bad thing that could happen following John’s diagnosis was contemplated in detail during the night, but no solutions were in the offing. I realised in the light of day that maybe the best thing is to simply ignore the issue altogether and worry about any problems as and when they crop up. Trying to muster enthusiasm for Christmas cards, or gifts, or Christmas anything come to that, but so far it’s not working. I guess this feeling of gloom will lift all of a sudden, when it wants to and not before.

John came up after lunch for a few days and is busy raising the railings on the pull-out corner shelves in the kitchen where I keep all my plastic boxes, this to stop them falling off the back and needing Houdini to recover them (or at least someone with arms much longer than mine). I am wasting time on the computer to avoid going out in 40 degree heat to hang out the washing, but soon it must be done. It wouldn’t occur to me to put off the job if it were cold out, my genes being Viking via Yorkshire. I’m thinking that John has answered my question about what we should do about his having the bone pointed, just go on doing what we normally do. It doesn’t occur to him to do anything else, perennial optimist that he is. I on the other hand was dealt the pessimist cards, but I can learn.

November 29, 2020

John finished the job of raising the kitchen’s pull-out shelves and I repacked the plastic containers, discovering a very large lid with no container, a smaller lid likewise and two storage containers with no lids. How can lids be lost inside a kitchen I ask myself? No answer has yet appeared. It is 41 degrees in the shade outside, 105.8 in real terms, which sounds so much hotter. I keep hearing sirens and considering the strong wind outside it could very likely be fires. This is February weather, but let’s build a few new coal and gas plants and see if we can rev it up a bit more shall we? Good work Scotty.

I have been ironing various pillowcases and cushion covers, which I washed yesterday, to give to the Sallies. I have given the workers at Pepe’s Ducks enough for a while I think. Also a lovely shirt of John’s which he won’t wear because it has no top pocket, mmm, I tried to tell him how nice it was but ‘no pocket, no keep’ I was told. Next I will attack my clothes and see if there are any that I will never wear again. Unfortunately there rarely are, because I have clothes for going out and clothes for around the house and although they get moved downward from out to house, the house ones stay until they self-destruct, after which there is a ragbag in the garage for dirty work. I ironed a house shirt today with two holes and one stain but decided it wasn’t bad enough to dispose of. I pity my executors.

November 30, 2020

John put up our Christmas tree and found we have enough decorations to cover 10 trees of the same size so I have packed up a boxfull for the Sallies, along with a Christmas design coffee pot and the base for holding a real tree, something I am unlikely to use again in this lifetime. Added to the linen I washed, plus about 10 pairs of vintage gloves (some unused with David Jones price tags still attached) and a bedspread I no longer use, it makes a trip to the Sallies worth the petrol. John’s car is with Alex to get the locks cleaned and lubricated, they will work with the clicker but not with keys for some reason so we will go to North Parramatta Sallies on the way to collect his car. I opt for Parra because with all of those units around there I am sure there are some needy people in the mix, whereas I am sure Castle Hill Vinnies caters mainly to bargain hunters. So many considerations to weigh up in being a Libran, it’s tiring.

This morning I discovered that my green bin lid was up and as I closed it I noticed a bag of dog poo on top of all my weeds and cut up branches. Just as I was thinking up choice words of abuse to use if I catch the sod doing it again I noticed that one of a group of three lovely plants that I had grown over months from cuttings and then replanted into the front garden has been dug up and removed. Presumably they will return for the other two, knowing how appealing my little triangle looked. So the question is: am I looking for a plant thief with a dog or two separate suburban miscreants? I shall keep my eyes peeled and will peel theirs to match if I catch them.

Time to start a new Life Notes, due to the size of LN6, number 7 is now up and running.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 5

July 30, 2019

I know I am supposed to eat small meals and not eat for many hours before bedtime, but I thought sharing one entree and one main with some rice and half a piece of roti at 6pm should be okay. But no, I guess because it was Indian food (and I did have one glass of red wine). I suffered last week after we went to Abhi’s, but I expected that. However I didn’t expect I would be sick for 24 hours after last night’s meal, although that’s exactly what’s happened. Can’t be food poisoning as John is fine so I might just have to do what I’m told for a bit. I’ve made pumpkin soup for dinner tonight and have eaten very little else today. As a result of all that I’ve been nowhere and done nuffin, apart from reading wrapped in a blanket. Luckily I decided to donate books for the charity dinner tonight and not actually go to it, good forward thinking two weeks out.

July 31, 2019

We decided to go on the new Metro today but went west instead of east to avoid a long period in the tunnel, as it goes above ground from Bella Vista onwards. The design of the stations is very attractive and the train has all the bells and whistles, but all the seats are along the sides so I needed to stand to avoid the motion causing problems. We enjoyed the run but I wouldn’t go all the way to Chatswood on it, a bit too claustro for me. Got back to Castle Hill just in time to see The White Crow, about Rudolph Nureyev. Ralph Fiennes directed it and also acts, he is such a master who looks and acts differently in every role, unlike some who carry themselves from movie to movie. I wish I had held on to all the Nureyev books I had as a teenager, I was besotted with him and Margot Fonteyn despite never doing ballet. Oleg Ivenko is just stunning as a dancer and pretty easy on the eye as well.

August 1, 2019

How the hell can it be August? Three years ago today I closed the shop and we were flat out packing everything to go to auction. Now that the local Sallies has closed down, I have finally decided that ebay may be the only way to get rid of some of the stuff in the storeroom, something Tim has been urging me to do for those 3 years. I tried giving a few bits from the first box to friends but got rid of exactly zero. I don’t really want to get into the bigtime ebay selling I have sometimes done, but I think I will just put a few things on each week and see how it goes. Since I had even forgotten my password, it took me a while to get it happening, but now I’ve downloaded the app onto my phone I should be able to list more easily, selling them of course is quite another matter. Pleased to see a big gap in the street library today, with a few including a large Jonathan Franzen gone (it was only in there because I have it on the shelf already). The latest donation of 7 or 8 bags of books seems to be very much in the populist line, large forgettable books churned out like sausages, but as long as people are reading, it doesn’t much bother me that the quality is somewhat questionable, I don’t want to be a book dictator.

August 2, 2019

Still August, so it wasn’t a mistake. Very excited about Greg and Luke’s wedding tomorrow, their joy is infectious. Their Facebook posts have included Greg’s suit, secretly hanging inside a dust cover, the horse paddock mown and ready for guests and yesterday even photos of them going through the checkout at Woolies buying food for the wedding. This morning I baked 3 kinds of biscuits to make up a platter for tomorrow. John has come here with his wedding clothes, but now he’s up getting a haircut and then going to see The Lion King. I declined as I was so amazed by the stage show that I don’t want the movie to take the gloss off the memory. No bites on my eBays but anything that doesn’t sell is headed to a charity shop. However I know how itchy St. Vinnies are to toss things so I will have to drive to a Sallie Anne’s to ensure that they don’t get junked. Waste makes me literally feel ill and I’ve always had a special dislike for people who casually ditch usable goods, a dislike I could never fully hide in the shop when people said ‘if you don’t buy this, I’ll throw it in the bin’. I always wanted to say ‘Vinnies are across the road you lazy cow’ but I had to be nice, though my views are always written on my face.

August 3, 2019

Had a good run of an hour and 3/4 to get to Hidden Valley for Greg and Luke’s wedding. Gorgeous warm day as ordered, though the sun goes over the cliffs at 3pm after which they lit the huge bonfire. The boys were wandering around in jeans and t-shirts for the first hour, in what was a very informal day, and then they raced in to tog up for the ceremony. Tents held all the savoury food at one location and sweets at another and it was remarkable how much trouble people had gone to, including topping cupcakes with photos of the boys. I was reminded that Luke comes from Halifax UK and he knows the actual street where my brother lives. He was a corporate type till he met Greg exactly 10 years ago, but he has adjusted to Greg’s rural lifestyle surprisingly well, earning his living now as a massage therapist and by selling his paintings of wildlife, particularly birds, which are seriously good. We left in time to get to First Saturday, which was given by Nirjala on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) which she will be joining soon. I am awed by her commitment and bravery, but I think it would be very difficult to see all of the things that are happening over there and still remain only an observer, which of course they are meant to do, reporting but not in any way becoming a player.

August 4, 2019

John stayed over so we watched Insiders together before he moved a painting that we both agreed needed to go a little higher and slightly left, we always seem to agree on this sort of stuff but without him I might just put up with small errors. He went home while I went to the nursery to buy a couple of gardening bits and bobs, including spray for black spot on my one lonely rose. I have never had luck with roses but I am persevering with this one because it was a gift, actually the gift was a pair, but one bit the dust very early on, I suspect they were both greenhouse bred and the shock of the open air nearly killed them. I wish now I had pinched some of the horse poo lying around at the farm yesterday, it would have been great for the garden but tricky to conjure away in one’s wedding clothes.

August 5, 2019

Mondays tend to be the days I ask myself who I need to visit this week and all were in Windsor or on the way there, so I went to see Brian and Fay, a customer and friend of at least 25 years who has now joined him in the same nursing home. Her husband died just after I closed the shop so I wasn’t up with her new circumstances. Caught up with Tim whose family problems have not eased. Last week he gave me a painting he had done, in fact he gave me a choice of four different ones, but his current issues have made it impossible for him even to countenance lifting a brush. Saw Bob as well and got scripts for drugs to take on the plane so it was a friend visiting day from go to whoa. Spring feels as if it’s well and truly sprung so I’m fertilising and watering a bit each day and crossing my fingers that Chris is still coming to help me with the heavy stuff on Saturday.

August 6, 2019

No word from Chris, so I’m still not sure about Saturday. John is off to Gerringong to discuss his concept for the extension to Peppercorn Cottage which the owners like in theory. It remains to be seen whether the heritage architect is happy, but that is further down the track. Called in to Heather’s briefly and was impressed by the care she gives her little dog, a whippet or small greyhound? It has severe arthritis and can only just walk, regularly falling over and unable to get back up. I was scared to walk too close in case that alone was enough to make it fall. Reminded me of the residents at the nursing home yesterday. Somehow our species, and dogs too, have a long old age, slowly sinking into decrepitude and occupying the resources of the middle aged to look after them whereas birds or fish just die when they lose the ability to fly or swim. Perhaps one day there will be so many on the planet that once you can’t cross the road on your own you’re out, but nah climate change will have defused the population bomb before then.

August 7, 2019

Oh Happy Day! Had a good mag to Deborah in the morning before going to Dural Library for a change, two books borrowed and three put on reserve, so a successful jaunt. I was in Dural to meet up with Heather as we had decided to go to The Wild Pear cafe for lunch, reminded of its existence when the very young daughter of the owner won Masterchef a week or two ago. We got a lovely verandah table and though the property is unprepossessing at first blush, it proved pleasant as the sun poured in with a slight breeze and we looked out over the nursery grounds. The meal was sensational, barramundi and prawns for me followed by Turkish Delight Pavlova, a traditional pav with strawberries but with rosewater, turkish delight pieces and a topping of rose Persian fairy floss, it is totally worth sacrificing a few weeks on the verandah of the nursing home for this dessert. Did I mention the glass of moscato? Something I don’t usually drink but it was so good that I intend to ring them to get the name, a perfect summery drop for this meal.

Then I went to the loo. Admittedly one doesn’t normally think of any sort of excitement happening in the loo. But as I was leaving, the other lady there asked if I were Maureen. Puzzled, because I couldn’t remember her face, I replied in the affirmative and to my great surprise she told me that she follows my blog. But I don’t have a photo on it I replied, but she had looked me up on Facebook, seen the somewhat dated photo there and still recognised me. Hugs ensued and since I got home I have received a friend request from Tania and discovered that we live less than 5 kilometres apart so I’m sure we will catch up again soon. As I said Oh Happy Day!

August 8, 2019

Idly musing, something I do a lot of, on what career I should have taken up, with the benefit of hindsight of course. Nursing and police work were of interest, though the latter pales when one thinks of the things government asks/allows police to do. I remember well my friend Colin going to the corrective services academy at Eastwood and graduating, keen to put his theory into action, only to last a week at Long Bay after being told on day one how to upturn the dinner tray of people in solitary confinement and then to give them a penalty for making a mess in their cells. He was of the view that most of the officers he came across there were on the wrong side of the bars so I can’t see myself fitting into that milieu. Law interests me, but only criminal law, and I don’t have the right temperament at all for the job.

Medicine has always been my major interest, though I did once apply to be an ambo, encouraged by a friend in the service. That was scuppered when they told me I had to do a defensive driving course, eek, I was a very nervous and defensive driver already so that gave me the collywobbles and I pulled out before they made a decision. Thinking back I don’t believe I had, or have, the physical capabilities to abseil down cliffs, crawl into narrow spaces and do much of the work that ambos are required to do so luckily the driving issue pushed me in the right direction. Although I was attracted to general medicine by the science along with the personal interaction, I also love pathology which formed a big part of the electives I chose in the Biological Sciences Diploma I studied while working for Sydney University. So pathology and particularly forensic science still dominate my retrospective wishlist. I studied with a woman who worked in forensic science at the morgue and coroner’s court and told her it was my dream job, so she suggested I apply and offered to put it a good word. Then I excitedly told my mother, who was horrified by the thought of my digging around in the bowels of dead folk and told me so in no uncertain words. I was, despite being in my mid twenties, still unaware that one’s parents can’t dictate every aspect of their child’s life, so I told my acquaintance that I would withdraw from the plan. The story of my life it seems. I well remember my friend Diana telling me in my 30s that she had never known anyone so polite and deferential to their parents and it was a shock: wasn’t that what was expected, presumed in fact? No, apparently not, but it came as a huge surprise to me and by it was too late, the pattern of submissiveness was too well ingrained by then. So back to the dream job, perhaps that congruence of medicine and detective work involved in forensic science is right up there. Next life, for sure.

August 9, 2019

Had Martha and Phil over for morning tea and a chat, she bearing some lobelia seedlings  for my garden and I was able to hand over a bag full of empty pots for her use. She suggested we both take her book out to Brian in a few weeks, though whether he will even remember doing the interview is another story. Had a long talk to my neighbour Arvind who is not only politically aware and interested, but exceedingly knowledgeable about any country you care to name, always a pleasure to talk to him. John came over in the afternoon and while he watched the football at night I finished The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundati Roy. It was a big, baggy novel where I sometimes lost the plot about the characters, but in all of that there was a wonderful sense of messy, contradictory, but always exciting India. Her focus on Kashmir went a (little) way to my understanding that sad and seemingly intractable conflict.

August 10, 2019

John was off early to Gerringong to see his new clients about their extension and renovation. Their son is the builder and John’s first choice of plan was least favoured by the son as not being the best value per square metre. John disagrees and will still draw up the three options in the hope they will come around. However he coped with the drive well and was back here at 5 pm ready for the fish chowder to be finished. It was a good choice for a meal that can happen at any time as you cook up the stock and spices with the coconut milk then add potato and corn and just drop in the fish pieces 3 minutes prior to sit down, yum it was too. I was musing about the fact that each winter when it snows in the Blue Mountains I get so excited and promise myself that next time it is forecast I will just go up and stay, hang the expense and hang whatever else I needed do. It was forecast (and came in spades) this weekend yet I stayed here and did what was planned. Sometimes I am just a dope.

August 11, 2019

Off to Erskineville to see Millie and co, meeting up with Louis after he ran in the City to Surf race. Millie refused to use toilet paper after a wee and when asked why said ‘I don’t like it’ but then when offered wetwipes she said again ‘I don’t like it’. Reasoning was a waste of time but you have to smile when she announces loudly: ‘I don’t like it EVERYTHING!’ Though what she doesn’t like varies constantly and can’t be assumed from day to day. Certainly not shy of opinion, I can’t imagine my disagreeing with anything as a child, although I was sneaky enough to secretly pour the dreaded whooping cough medicine into my mother’s 21st birthday wooden candlesticks every day and thereby ruin them. But opposing taking the medicine, or anything else, would never have occurred to me. My father used to sit at the table and read the Daily Mirror from cover to cover waiting for me to eat the small meal I was served yet I struggled a tiny spoonful at a time till it was gone. Davina and I struggled to remove a half dead bougainvillea from their little courtyard garden this afternoon and succeeded in getting it all out, feeling it quite an achievement.

August 12, 2019

Spent just half a day in court due to it being closed to hear argument for a name suppression order, then closed again to hear the media appeal for publication, so we spent more time out of court than in. One interested family group (not accused of anything, more sinned against than sinning one suspects) in their joggers and bad hair dye jobs were care-worn, wearing signs of entrenched disadvantage, western suburbs written all over them. In the long break I chatted to Peter, one of the solicitors representing a ‘person of interest’, and it occurred to me once again that both defending and sentencing people are the prerogative of the privileged. Most of the judges I see are fair to the nth degree but occasionally I cringe at one who is so out of touch with the real world that I fear for the accused if that judge (it’s usually a he) is making the decision without a jury. In this case though there is no such issue, she is one of the good ones. We need to remember Goethe’s words: There is no crime of which I do not deem myself capable, more colloquially put in the idea of walking a mile in another’s moccasins.

August 13, 2019

Spent another half day in court, this afternoon being given over to evidence from the man for whom the police successfully applied to have the court closed while he gives evidence. The Channel 9/SMH/Age lawyer continued to fight the order today but was overruled. During the breaks I attacked my current read A Spy Among Friends about Kim Philby. It focuses on how easy it was to get into the British spy service with virtually no checking, you just needed to be part of the upper classes, preferably with parents who were in the colonial service (especially in India), the military, one of the top universities or the church. Once you’d jumped that hurdle your past didn’t really interfere, Philby was a known communist supporter at Cambridge yet his pedigree was such that this was seen as a youthful indiscretion. He once said that the best asset for a spy was to be easily liked, but I imagine being able to compartmentalise one’s life would be right up there. It is not something I have ever been able to do yet my brother does it easily, slipping assuredly from one situation to another, never letting his real feelings or opinons be known. I still smile at his exchange of views with Sue, explaining to her patiently that smoking was actually beneficial to health.

August 14, 2019

John went to see his haematologist Nada at St Vincent’s today and she said he was in the best health that he’s been in the three years she’s been seeing him. ‘You were rubbish the first time I saw you’ she rightly but quaintly put it. She says he is ‘one of my success stories’. We then took in a movie at Roseville, Palm Beach, the story of a bunch of flawed middle aged characters having a reunion at the home of one well-heeled couple who live at the fabled beach. Speaking to a man on the way out I discovered that he hadn’t seen a movie in 10 years but came because he lives in Mona Vale and wanted to see it because it was filmed near(ish) to his home. I treated myself to some sushi on the way home for an easy dinner tonight.

August 15, 2019

Keen to go back to the court case I’ve been following but knowing that the court was having some closed sessions I rang first, only to be told to ‘ring back after 9am’, despite the fact that time was long past. So I drove over to find the dreaded ‘closed court’ sign up (is there anything more frustrating than that sign when you are mere feet away from getting in?). The office assured me the phone was working but then checked and apologised profusely as someone had forgotten to turn off the answering machine. So I went home and baked a Walnut and Marmalade Tart with some of the marmalade Heather had made and given me earlier in the week, inviting her over for first slice and sending some home for David. Almost finished the Philby book, amazed at how many household names were his colleagues in the spy service. Peter Ustinov’s father Klop, Ian Fleming of James Bond fame, Graham Greene, Peter Wright were all contemporaries of Philby’s. Spy books have always fascinated me, I guess because their skills are so far out of my toolbox that I have a somewhat grudging fascination with their abilities. And that was even before I actually met one in the flesh, he who was quite bemused by the spy section on my bookshelves.

August 16, 2019

Sad to see Virginia Trioli finish up on News Breakfast this morning after 11 years. She is such a decent person and can skewer the politicians better than almost anyone. I shed a tear. Sat up late last night finishing the Philby book and the last chapter, written by John le Carre, who of course was also a contemporary spy whom I’d left out of my list of yesterday, said it all. He had asked a senior MI6 officer why Philby wasn’t arrested and charged after confessing to spying. but allowed, even perhaps encouraged, to flee to the USSR. Others who had also confessed  were gaoled for long periods up to 42 years when their actions, unlike Philby’s, hadn’t caused mass deaths. He replied ‘yes, but they weren’t top league’. As ever, class won out for Philby. Began the novel The Mars Room, dealing with the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, the world of drugs, prostitution, crime and women’s gaol in San Francisco. No martinis and gallons of champagne in this one, just beer and cheap takeaways.

I had hoped to try out a new gardener tomorrow, a refugee friend of a friend who has gone into business, but he hasn’t answered the phone nor replied to my messages during the week, so once again it’s a letdown. I will get the right one eventually, always on the lookout for people who enjoy what they do as well as the money they earn from it, but it takes time to find them.

August 17, 2019

Jane came over in the morning with some Cordylines that her gardener had culled. I made some brown sugar meringues with a few walnuts and some cinnamon to liven them up and they were a success. Not a recipe, just an idea, which proved to be a keeper. We discussed amongst other things the need to make our funeral wishes known, bearing in mind the current illnesses being suffered by her sisters I guess. The discussion prompted me to email Carly with a brief rundown of my wishes: where my will is, burial in Gerringong Cemetery, get David Barsby in to auction all the antiques, give my Aunt Ada’s Salvation Army Commission to the Sallies Headquarters in Sydney, that sort of stuff. I once had a Salvationist officer here for some reason (my father’s funeral perhaps?) and he was astounded that I had hanging on the wall a Captain’s Commission from Mrs Booth in 1909 (despite the fact that she died in 1890, they were still using her name on the Commissions). He asked if I would bequeath it to the Sallies archives as he’d never seen one before. Aunt Ada, my adoptive grandmother’s sister, was a SA Captain in England and as a young woman was sent to Belfast at a time of strikes and rioting, when sectarian animosity was real and visible. She once told me that the police used to ask her to walk with them on patrols, especially at night, so they would not be shot. The Salvation Army was highly regarded by both sides and she did so happily. In 1914 she was summarily sent from there to Lithgow NSW, travelling all the way in a blacked out ship during the war. Getting into a cab at the docks in Sydney, she asked for an address in Lithgow and was told it was a long train journey, so she was taken to Central train station instead and went off alone into the unknown. Quite a woman, I can’t even put up with a narcissistic leader in order to do ‘good works’, I need some of her courage and endurance.

August 18, 2019

I dreamed last night that when I got up this morning a middle aged couple were working in my garden and said they had been there since 6.30 am and were nearly finished. It was 6.30 when I woke and I realised then that it had been a dream and no-one but me could plant the Cordylines and do the rest of the gardening, so I had better just get up and do it. I worked from then till Insiders came on at 9 (tea and toast as I watched) and at 10 I went back and did some more till noon. I feel somewhat virtuous and even though I had to give up on some of the digging which proved too difficult, I did achieve much. I finished the book The Mars Room last night and was so impressed with the author resisting the temptation to make the prisoners in the book into innocents wrongly incarcerated. She told their stories with empathy but with clear eyes. They were crooked cops, addicts, thieves, violent offenders and vicious murderers yet in the milieu from which they came their acts were just normal behaviour, fanned by intergenerational poverty and drug addiction. It could be a depressing book in some senses (not one I would ever recommend for my book group) but I enjoyed every word and admired the author for not making at least a couple of her characters into the cliched hungry thief who steals a loaf of bread to survive. We need more realistic, astute and savvy work like this to help in finding solutions for the entrenched problems of crime and new judicial approaches to appropriate penalty.

August 19, 2019

Did a Windsor run to visit Brian and now Fay at the nursing home. Brian was still abed at 1 pm when I left, depressed and not wanting to go on. Last week he was chirpy and it seems to go up and down like this, the issue being more about motivation than about health. Looking around the day room I understand totally, it is depressing there in the extreme, despite the fact that he is in a better than average facility. Fay on the other hand was really glad of the visit and confessed to an old anger directed towards me. She had come into the shop when I had gone away for Christmas (a rarity) bearing a gift for me, but I had already left. She saw that I had left gifts for the staff but nothing for her and felt rejected as we had exchanged gifts in the past. Sometimes such things can come between friends without anything being said so I was glad that after years she’d decided to mention it and we were able to laugh about it and put it to bed. The shop was a bit of a lifeline for her and it was common to see her many times every week over more than 20 years so she ended up a friend rather than a client. I also called in to see an old contact who periodically borrows some bucks when his car needs rego or a medical bill comes in. He always pays me back a bit at a time on pension day, promising to pay it as a lump sum if his Lotto gets up. Suggesting that he bank his weekly Lotto investment as rainy day money has never met with enthusiasm for some reason. Back to gardening this afternoon, trying to get things shipshape before Darwin, while simultaneously trying to ignore Darwin and the flight.

August 20, 2019

Did the Manly haircut run and discovered as I was leaving that I had misread the clock and it was an hour earlier than I thought, however I decided to go anyway and park by the beach to read for that hour. When we were in India our compatriot Rob was reproached by his partner for sitting reading at sites where there were historical things to see. His reply stuck with me: ‘one of my joys is reading in all sorts of different surroundings, so I will continue to do that’. Full stop. After Manly I headed as usual to Freshwater where I read for half an hour till the wind got to me and then had a magnificent lunch of Cured Salmon with Sweet Potato Fritter, Pickled Beetroot and Ricotta. Did I say magnificent? It is such a wonderful place with food of the same quality as its big brother Pilu next door, but at a much lower price. Made my routine work in the afternoon a pleasure just thinking about it.

August 21, 2019

So, I have drunk that piss weak light milk for years and now the Health Department says that newer research shows you are better off with full fat, thanks for nothing guys. At least I didn’t fall for the ‘margarine is better for you than butter’ trick, seeing through that one on the grounds that anything artificially coloured and flavoured can’t be as good for you. Not to mention the fact that the ophthalmologist told me that only butter and olive oil are safe for anyone with a family history of macular degeneration. He showed me slides of vegetable oil build up in the macula of sufferers, ugh, that was enough.

So Pell is guilty once again. Of course the Bolts and their ilk are crying foul, but my question would be ‘did you actually see the accuser give evidence?’. If not, then none of us are in a position to judge definitively except the jury and the appeal judges. That is why I like to see the evidence given in court in person, the short precis given by the press is often not in keeping with hearing the whole evidence as given, you need to look the witnesses and the accused in the eye. I am surprised he hasn’t come to grief in gaol and hope that situation continues, even protective custody isn’t very protective.

August 22, 2019

So now I have to face the fact that we are going away, clothes must be packed, tickets must be found, gardens must be watered, panic must be restrained. I wish to be there, I just don’t wish to fly there. I will not get sick this time, I tell myself repeatedly. John has heaps of conference stuff printed up to read and I just have two books, the book group selection and a Tim Winton, that should do me with all the other things available to eat up my time. Speaking of eating I’ve discovered that Darwin has lots of seafood restaurants, though one I saw listed prawns (imported), crab (imported), etc. Nah, I think I might pass on that place, they are sure to have the dreaded basa too, dredged from the bowels of the filthy Mekong, I’d rather eat a stranger’s sock. Tonight though we are having some lovely freshwater trout fillets, served up with a melange of odd veggie bits to clear out John’s fridge.

August 23, 2019

All went to plan with the pickup guy a few minutes early but we were waiting outside. A leisurely cuppa at the airport filling in time till departure half an hour late. Takeoff to the west meant the pilot didn’t have to do that awful banking which doesn’t agree with me. Later a delicious feta quiche with potato and beans was a great breakfast. The flight was calm and smooth, Australia as flat and red as always while I pondered what future trips I might take, considering the drugs were working a treat. Reading my book in the sky was quite fun I decided.

Coming into Darwin for what John says was a ‘perfectly normal landing’ I developed the dreaded photophobia followed quickly by vomiting and vertigo. As a result I had to be wheelchaired off the plane, parked in the terminal in full view of planeloads of passengers, constantly vomiting. Eventually John and a security person got me into a cab to our hotel, but of course no wheelchairs here, so staff held me up in the lift to our apartment with its glorious king size bed, on which I was promptly sick. Poor John’s first meal here was a $25 room service club sandwich because he was afraid to leave me alone. Back to the drawing board on the drug front and another plane trip home to look forward to, sigh. But loving our water view and seeing the bats swooping amongst the palm trees below our seventh floor room, this written the next morning obviously.

August 24, 2019

What a difference a day makes. Slept 12 hours and went at 6 am for a walk in the lush waterfront park across the road. Couldn’t convince John to come but I saw the sun rise and the birds waking up. A sign explained that due to the fact that we are so far north, the sun rises from that direction, which it did. I am still trying to get my head around that. Had a wonderful brunch after the walk, home made granola with pannacotta, apple, blueberries and strawberries at Ray’s bakery near the hotel. Now we have done some shopping we have breakfast makings in our apartment. Later we went to Crocosaurus to see, amongst so many others, the giant croc that appeared in the Crocodile Dundee film as well as 750 kg 5 metre long Leo who used to kill and eat cattle before he was captured. Lots more animals  including a reptile exhibition and some fish which spit at flying insects to catch them. As I peered over the tank one got me fair in the face, though luckily I had on my sunglasses. Got to hold a baby croc and learned a bit about the speed and power of these prehistoric looking creatures which can’t fail to fascinate. We are going to look into a day’s car hire to get a taste of the outback, with eyes peeled for crocs.

August 25, 2019

Observations: Darwin’s economy isn’t too flash, there are an awful lot of empty shops. Territorians are very noisy people, just walking past a pub or social venue is deafening, especially the men. Singing out to people in the street is at maximum decibels. Looking through a real estate magazine I discovered that although most homes don’t have insect screens (neither does our apartment and we haven’t seen flies or mozzies so far) they mostly have security grilles. Leaving a restaurant tonight the owner told us how to get home via the best lit streets, wishing us ‘stay safe’ as we left. All of this indicates quite a burglary problem to me. There are Aboriginal beggars everywhere. In Sydney when people ask me for change I often reply ‘no, but I will buy you something to eat if you are hungry’. Few take me up on it, but here the response is quite the opposite, we have had three people today want some groceries so we’ve been to Coles buying bread, milk, sugar, chicken, whatever was asked for but the requests were modest. There are so many on the streets here that there’s a limit to what you can do. It’s a tragedy. We spent the day at the Darwin Military Museum, taken by a WWII Studebaker truck as it’s out of town. John discovered a book there which mentions his father who was Commander of the Northern Territory Force from after the Japanese attack till 1946, of course he bought a copy.

August 26, 2019

It is late at night and I can’t begin to record all of the mega day we have had. But it included 1. Hiring a car and going bush 2. Seeing three large long black things in the clear shallows of a deserted beach we were walking on and bolting because the signs everywhere say the crocs will run up the beach to get you. 3. On another remote beach a couple of hundred kilometres from Darwin seeing a sign which mentioned Jack Murray, John’s father, heading the Black Watch Aboriginal regiment after the Japanese attack in WWII. So random that we came across that, I can’t believe it. 4. Coming upon a bushfire being attended by water bombers and eventually getting past it and pulling into a mango farm in the sticks for a mango smoothie, but soon the firies rang the farm to evacuate immediately as the fire had jumped. We and the owners took off in our separate cars but John clipped a log and scratched the bumper. 6. Now the car company says we voided our insurance by hitting a stationary object and have to pay for it. It was excitement overload all day. Phew.

August 27, 2019

Today was the first day of John’s conference so I’ve been doing a few things on my own. First job was to meet the manager of the car hire company at our hotel at 9 am to discuss the minor damage. He surprised me by saying that because I had rung him and reported the damage instead of sending the car back and hoping they didn’t notice, he would ‘look after’ us. I don’t know if that means charging us the $100 excess or wiping the slate altogether, but in either case we are happy compared to the original decision that we’d have to pay it all. Went to the police station and Aboriginal Justice office enquiring about shelter for the homeless and it seems the Sallies and an Aboriginal aid group have accommodation, whether it is adequate or the people just don’t want to use it remains to be seen, will try to have that conversation with some people tomorrow. John rang tonight to say he was going to the conference dinner so I walked into town and had a lovely meal including a watermelon feta almond and mint salad which was divine and I brought half home for tomorrow. Then had mango and ice cream at home using the mangoes we got at the farm yesterday. We haven’t seen the news since Thursday and it’s a relief not to know what garbage Trump is disgorging.

August 28, 2019

John enjoyed the first day of his conference, meeting pals as well as visitors from the UK and US. He said the food at the conference dinner was the usual crap lukewarm chicken, but sadly the dinner tonight at the famed Peewees Restaurant is booked out so he got a ticket to the wrong dinner it seems. I made a momentous decision this morning: I want to stay on and complete my list of must dos. John said I should definitely stay but he has an appointment in Gerringong on Sunday that can’t be put off as the clients are going away soon. So with a bit of juggling I was able to keep our seventh floor unit and change my flight till Tuesday. Yippee! Now I can do a full day in the museum instead of a few hours and also I want to go to the headquarters of Larrakia Nation to talk about possibly organising some bucks for their service. I was lucky enough to see their work with the homeless Aboriginal people around town and was very impressed by their low key approach. They have a van which picks people up off the streets and delivers them home, to a hostel or a dry out place if alcohol is an issue. Also they repatriate people to their home areas, even interstate, just the sort of outfit that’s needed.

I caught the bus to Cullen Bay (all seniors travel free) and arrived just in time for a cruise on the harbour so I quickly downed some tablets and jumped on, as always it’s a very different view of the place. Paspaley Pearls is a huge outfit here, 17 boats I think and we saw part of the fleet on the cruise. The weather has become more humid and summery than when we arrived and a local commented that ‘it’s turning’. Heaps of American servicemen on the streets today, perhaps newly arrived.

August 29, 2019

A huge day, I could write a small book on it. I got a bus out to the burbs and was on the doorstep of Larrakia Nation at 9 am and they turned out to be just the down to earth team of people I was hoping for. As well as the van picking up people from the streets seven days a week, ‘long grass people’ in their parlance, they provide tenancy services such as interest free loans for bonds, help with removals, sourcing furniture and white goods, even have a trailer to help folks clean up their properties and take junk to the tip. Add to this assistance with Centrelink, aged care and disability services and more. I left with the annual report and a pile of reading so hopefully I can turn this into money for them somehow but in the meantime I’ll do a monthly pittance.

From there I went to the Museum and Art Gallery, which is out of town on the edge of the harbour. I spent the rest of the day there, learning so much about the geology, wildlife and history of the Northern Territory. I was scribbling in my notebook all afternoon, so many amazing pieces of information. One which beat all others I think was the fact that the aboriginal people have named a remote spot ‘sun walk fire devil rock’ and scientists have discovered that it is the site of a meteorite collision and was obviously named after that event, which occurred 4700 years ago! This name has been handed down over all that time, a fact that blows me away. We went to Mindil Beach at night to watch the sunset and ate at the market stalls there, tempura veggies and crispy chilli anchovies for moi. I had to bring half the anchovies home, too hot to eat all at once. My night was then taken up trying to confirm John’s flight. I tried online and it wouldn’t work so I rang Qantas and the wait was announced as 2 and a half hours, but what choice did I have? At 11.30 they answered and it turned out that when they split me off the ticket they gave him a new number but thank goodness his flight was correct, phew.

August 30, 2019

Haven’t been watching the teev since we got here but happened to see the news on my phone that the Biloela Four were being deported from Melbourne to Sri Lanka overnight when a court order restrained Border Force from continuing and they landed in Darwin. The government is always trying to get people to live in the country right? So I decided a trip to the airport was in order to try to point that out. Trying to find where they were I went to the terminal and two airport hotels, asking two Federal Police on the way who had ‘never heard of them’, lying buggers. Anyway by this time a further order had stayed the deportation till next Wednesday and I discovered they had been moved. Later intelligence is that they are at Larrakeyah Naval Base, close by and in my line of view from the balcony. Tomorrow I am away all day but I may pay them a visit on Sunday. Got an airport bus back and bought a hat for tomorrow from the Red Cross, walking home via the foreshore beach in my hat and two very under the weather Aboriginal people said ‘are you 55 sister?’ and when I said almost 72 they said ‘oh nana sit down with us , you need to be sitting down’, so I did and they told me all about the worms that can get into your feet in wet season and ‘eat you up from the inside’. They warned me to always wear thongs in the wet season and not to sleep on the ground without a blanket. Kenneth told me a similar story about Africa when he was there, you couldn’t swim in the rivers because of the worms that entered through your feet.

August 31, 2019

I am too tired to type but don’t want to forget anything. Picked up at the hotel in a small bus and lucky enough to be the first so I got the best seat, next to the driver with a great view from the windscreen. Down the Stuart Highway then left onto the Arnhem Highway through tropical savannah forest with some kapok trees and Kakadu plum to Humpty Doo and eventually across the Adelaide River, stopping at Corroboree for a drink break. On to the Billabong near Mary River and part of it in the wet season. Here there are four ‘seasons’, wet over the summer, dry over the winter, breakout  during October when it is very hot and 100% humidity and runoff in April when the monsoon wet drains away. Apparently breakout is the worst with a rise in crime and suicides. There have been two letters in the NT News this week complaining about the COLD weather we are having here, dropping to 18 degrees some nights to the horror of the writers.

I was somewhat taken aback by the boat, a flat bottomed low job from which one could drag a hand on the water, but strongly advised not to. There were life jackets but our guide suggested it was madness to struggle to put a life jacket on in a croc infested waterway. Better to swim to shore, run away from the water and climb a tree he helpfully suggested. Yikes. Anyway before long I was so captivated by the wildlife that I ceased panicking. We saw wild buffalo, agile wallabies (too far north for kangaroos) before getting into the wetlands and once in the boat the bird life was stunning. It included jabirus, brolgas, brown and whistling kites, sea eagles, spoonbills, lapwings, egrets of three types, ibis, azure kingfishers, barn owls, a Nankeen night heron and one of my favourites, the comb crested japanas which have huge feet to walk on the lotus leaves. Lots more besides but I’ve forgotten the names.

Then there were the crocs, omg the crocs. I discovered that the advantage of our boat over the weekend cruiser looking jobbies was that we could sight an animal and immediately go right up to it so when we saw a bird, or a croc, our guide had us alongside in seconds. If I’d stretched my arm out further I could have patted one on the nose, but I’m kind of attached to my left hand so I desisted. We ate out packed lunch on board sitting right alongside a four metre one and I kept my eye on him just in case he leapt across to those having cut meat with their salad, though I think the eater would have been more of interest. Occasionally he looked over and that eye just freezes you. They are perfectly evolved, outliving the dinosaurs they so resemble. It was an amazing trip and the three hours of animal hunting on the billabong will remain in my memory.

September 1, 2019

Three years ago today we were packing up the shop with the auctioneer today. Started the day with a walk to the Waterfront complex where a P and O ship was sitting at anchor. Intended to go to the WWII Japanese attack exhibition there but discovered it was virtual reality, so I withdrew my $22 faster than the best thief, my head and virtual reality are certainly not friends. Then to what passes for a beach in Darwin, a pool at the waterfront with an artificial wave machine, which was great fun and a bargain at $5 including a life guard (who minded my gear), flotation rings and boards. Lunched right royally in the aircon at Snapper Rocks, right at the beach, reef fish croquettes with cole slaw and chili which was more than delicious and a bargain at $17 with the aircon and iced water thrown in. Spent the afternoon in the adjacent waterway, no waves, but plenty of sand, slippery dips and other fun stuff in the water and no chance of sharks, box jellyfish, or more importantly, crocs. However I discovered that the barrier is inadequate to keep out sea lice, which got me around both ankles. Walked home tired but happy, regretting I didn’t ask Mr Qantas to extend for a week instead of just four days. Darwin isn’t dessert paradise but has fabulous savoury food, so I’ve worked out a plan: go to Ray’s for a lemon meringue tart and a pot of tea in the morning and then eat savoury for the rest of the day. Yesterday after my restaurant lunch I just ate watermelon for dinner. Trying to stick to one meal a day supplemented by fruit, of which there is plenty. Had a call from one of the rangers at Larrakia Nation wondering if I were still in town and saying he might give me a ring to go for a coffee before I go. Big surprise in the evening when I got a Facebook friend request from Ram, the manager of the small guest house on the beach in Kerala where we spent a couple of week about 10 years ago. He had joined Facebook and found me accidentally, I am not sure who was more excited, but I’ve had quite a few messages overnight including a video call which I slept through at 2.38 this morning. We have corresponded by letter and talked on the phone a few times, language difficulties exist as he speaks mainly Malayalam, but the short messages of Facebook better suit our circumstances. He offered last night to try to teach me Malayalam but languages were never my forte, we will stick to basic English I think. Perhaps I will see him again after all, I badly need a brush up on his instructions on how to wrap my sari, unworn since he wound me into it 10 years ago.

September 3, 2019

Funny start to the day when I decided to get a massage, choosing one about 1 and a half kilometres away. When I had walked there in the heat I discovered it was a unit block not a shopfront. Mmm, a bit sus perhaps, so I rang them and they said they wouldn’t be ready for me for 15 minutes which gave me thinking time and I decided it was definitely iffy, no signage, no nothing. So I texted them saying I was expecting a street front business and was having second thoughts, no reply which pretty much confirmed my suspicions. The window cleaner who had overheard my first call commented ‘if it’s unit 609, lot of men go there’. Okay thank you my friend.

Spent the morning in the local court, witnessing justice NT style. The magistrate freed a man from gaol for stealing a banana from a small shop and abusing police when they were arresting him. A banana, value $1, but the point of the story is that it happened on May 24, over three months ago. A prize of one banana for anyone guessing his ethnicity…..

I have avoided knocking about the streets alone at night after dark but on the last night I threw caution to the winds and I’m so glad I did. Walked to the waterfront for dinner and on the way I noticed that a lady who had been doing a painting since late Sunday had nearly finished it. On my way home she said ‘it will be finished in half an hour grandma ‘ so I sat and watched. I bought the painting and carried it home by the corners of the dry section. Then she pulled out some old pillows and a blanket from behind a bush and bedded down. What a place of contrasts this is.

September 3, 2019

I arrived here with a suitcase and a cabin bag and John with a soft zippered carryall. For reasons best known to him (probably thinking I would find the luggage difficult to manoeuvre) he insisted that we swap luggage and that he take my paper souvenirs, 3 children’s books bought on our car trip and all the Larrakia Nation paperwork. All good except that he arrived in Sydney without the bag containing all this. I’ve rung the police, the cab company and soon will check with airport lost property but he has no idea where he left it. He only knows it wasn’t in the overhead locker when the plan arrived, no time to go out to the suburbs and get the Larrakia stuff, great start to that association.

Hurrah!!! The check-in didn’t know about the bag, neither did security but the airport admin office had it, but hadn’t contacted me despite my name and address being on paperwork inside. Anyway, it matters not, the bag she be safe. Had a good flight, doubled up on the meds, but it was smooth so perhaps I would have been okay anyway. John was up at the door when I came off the plane, expecting a wheelchair I guess. He asked if I were happy to be home and I had to be honest and say another week in Darwin would have been great but I was certainly glad to see him at the exit door.

September 4, 2019

John stayed over and then drove me to Artarmon to get the train in to the rally for the Biloela Four. The government is always ralphing on about getting people to live in remote and regional areas so here we are with a family who love it there and the community loves them, voila. Not to even mention the ghastly treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka. John wants to go to Melbourne for the 90th birthday of his cousin Kevin Murray so today while filling in time at Central I booked us on the train in late September and then into our old faithful Treasury on Collins. Toying with getting a one way car hire on the way back but trying to speak to someone at a car rental company for a quote is nigh on impossible, I left my number with two of them hours ago. The weekend after we come back it is Teresa and Stephen’s wedding in Newcastle so that’s another trip away already booked, I will have to stop bitching about never going anywhere.

September 5, 2019

Unpacked, washed, sorted. Had a win on the burglar alarm front. I rang to order the new one I was assured I required before I got the NBN but spoke to a different person this time and she offered me a deal. Sign up for monitoring for three years and they will pay for the conversion of the system, saving me $900. Yes please, where do I sign? So then I was able to get onto Optus and let them know that there is action on the connection front. That $900 bucks pays for my trip to Melbourne pretty much, although the car is still an unknown amount, as a one way hire adds a lot. Emailed Larrakia Nation with some questions arising from reading their annual report, as transparent as a muddy billabong I find financial reports. So a good lots of jobs done today despite fielding two calls and eight texts from a friend who is struggling at the moment. The calls I answered but the texts I let go, bad person that I am, but I needed a break.

September 6, 2019

Did my Annangrove/Windsor run, visiting Tim, then Brian and Fay. Tim believes he has acquired an original Grecian bronze and wanted my opinion, despite my repeated attempts to explain that authenticating such an item is an academic specialist’s job, not that of a humble suburban antique dealer. However I went to look at it yet again and it certainly has many design and structural attributes of great age, but original Grecian? I just don’t know, but he is looking at many, many millions if he is right (and he has done a heap of research). Since then I’ve had 10 texts with photos of features I may have missed but after the tenth I replied ‘you are obsessed, leave me alone’ which should work till the morning at least. Brian was still looking unwell but pleased with the visit and Fay was happy to see me, who wouldn’t be happy to see anyone in a nursing home, so I don’t take that too personally. I am cross that my physical weakness meant I may have ruined the cuttings I planted this morning. I have nursed them since spring and got a 5/5 strike rate, but when I tipped the large pots out to plant them they were too heavy for me and I ended up with a pile of soil and roots alongside a rootless cutting, just needed another pair of hands but sadly they weren’t available. Now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t wait for help.

September 7, 2019

Woo-hoo, it appears I’ve got myself a gardener! I was advised by a friend of a possible candidate and waited in for him to call today, to see what needed doing. So I bit the bullet and he’s coming Tuesday morning at 8 to make a start. Champagne is in order. (It does annoy me that one can’t just have a glass of champagne and the consumption of a whole bottle is way beyond me, even to celebrate a new gardener). Note to self: bake biscuits before Tuesday.

This travelling business does discombobulate me. I’ve been waking each night not knowing if I am in Darwin or here and going in the wrong direction to find the loo. Certainly felt a little sad when I realise that Darwin is past tense. However I was able to find a book on crocodiles in the library which focuses on their evolution, so that will help. Currently reading Dirt Music by Tim Winton which, although set just north of Perth, has a character who goes to the top end and lives off the land, or off the ocean more to the point. Just reading about the Pandanus trees, the birds and of course the crocs made me feel right at home. One thing that really disappoints me is finding the perfect organisation to volunteer with, full of people I relate to, and yet it is 4000 kilometres away. Wouldn’t that rot your socks.

September 8, 2019

Went to First Saturday last night and saw happy snaps, more truthfully happy video, of a trip by two members to northern Canada. There were polar bears aplenty and it was great to see them up close, but was I jealous of the trip? Not really, the sight of Inuit staff with guns ready to shoot the bears if they attacked would be enough to put me off enjoying the experience. Even if it never happens, it is the potentiality of one being killed just to enable a group of tourists to eyeball them that doesn’t go down well. Spent the day at Erko and we took Millie for a walk to the park, followed by lunch at Foodcraft, which is such a lovely little restaurant. Had pumpkin ravioli with goat cheese and it was delicious, though my difficulty swallowing dinner last night has persisted into today, the ravioli chosen as the easiest thing to slip down, but it proved an inspired choice. Millie got quite jealous when I helped a little boy at the park ‘that’s MY grandma’ she said indignantly and repeatedly.

September 9, 2019

Luckily my friendship with Tim is long lasting enough to take my frustrated text to him last week to give me a break from the constant texts, emails and photos in his attempts to convince me that he’s discovered an incredibly rare artwork. I had 24 hours without contact after that. It will make a good story if it turns out he is right, I’ll hit him for a large donation for Larrakia Nation. (Gosh, two texts while I’ve been typing this paragraph, aaagh). Getting ready for the new gardener tomorrow and I discover that my next door neighbour has borrowed and filled my green bin which the gardener will need tomorrow, it had to be this week he took it didn’t it. (Another photo just arrived). A rare trip to KMart this morning and I discovered that it is run now on a skeleton staff, self serving checkouts, no one to ask except security at the door, I’d rather pay more and deal with real people thank you. This is what happens when people are too lazy to join the union and fight for their jobs. (That’s it, I give up, another photo so I’m putting the phone under my pillow to give myself a rest).

September 10, 2019

So the gardener and I hit it off big time. He spent 2 and a half hours clearing privet and vines from the back corner and cutting dead fronds out of the palm with a natty little mini chainsaw on a long stick. I would love to get my hands on that little beast to take out some small dead branches in the gum tree, accessible from the deck. I shall keep that idea warm for the future. He only lives a few streets away and will come again next week to continue. Third time lucky I think.

It is bizarre the way I am dreaming of Darwin every single night, going over every aspect: the landscape, the people I met, the wildlife, not necessarily as it happened but always positively. Made biscuits for the gardener then later a batch of a dozen scones, though when I went to wash up I found the sugar still in the measuring cup. So I had one with goat cheese for lunch and one with strawberry jam later, nothing if not versatile the old scone, they were particularly good despite their lack of sugar.

September 11, 2019

Last night on 7.30 Report there was a fellow with the same lymphoma as John, Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, but he hadn’t responded to three different treatment cycles of chemo. It is in his bones, which break easily and he looked pretty done in. He was diagnosed just in April. So here’s the rub: he wants the government to pay for an experimental treatment which is his only chance, two treatments at $250,000 each, with no guarantees of success. What to do? Which will better value society: One human or a bridge in the country? a house for a family who lost theirs in a bush fire? or another cancer researcher’s wages? I don’t know and I’m glad that decision doesn’t fall to me. But it brought back memories of Nada telling John he had weeks to live without chemo, he was obviously one of the lucky ones. She refers to him as ‘one of my success stories’, indicating there are quite a few with that disease who don’t survive.

I was given a ticket for a musical show at Chatswood today and was amazed by the crowd contrast inside and outside the theatre. In the streets it was Hong Kong without the tear gas. Every restaurant and food bar is Asian as are 90% of the people, the streets actually smell like Asia with its spices overwhelming even the car exhausts. But in the theatre it was a different demographic altogether: virtually 100% elderly whities, (ahem, myself excluded from the elderly part) with only a few middle-aged, who were accompanying older folk. I wondered if they were bussed in from nursing homes, such was their advanced years. I guess I love diversity, so both situations are less than ideal.

September 12, 2019

The burglar alarm man came today and was both on time and efficient. I mentioned that I was unimpressed that the first person I spoke to said I had to pay for a whole new system yet the second said I could have it changed over free if I signed a three year contract. He made the point that the first person was probably younger and didn’t take into account the financial situation of a pensioner, interesting conclusion. Pretty disgusted by the political news today: Sidoti in Sydney accused of using his inside knowledge to buy up land near intended metro stations and Liu in Canberra looking suspiciously like an influence pedlar for the Chinese government. In both cases, if true, it is amazing that they thought they could get away with it. Life is so much easier if you play with a straight bat, but we humans can’t help complicating things once money or politics become part of the equation.

September 13, 2019

Back into the Music Festival Deaths Inquiry this week and have heard interesting medical testimony about the adequacy or otherwise of the care given in the medical tents. In 4 out of the 6 deaths it seems the care was as good as could be provided but in the case where two young people became ill at much the same time in Sydney the doctors on duty at the festival were inexperienced and unable to provide some treatments like intubation which could have saved lives. The professor gave evidence that the ambulance paramedics would have had better skills in that sort of emergency. I heard the testimony of each of the doctors some weeks back and felt particularly sorry for one of them who was a GP with no drug experience and clearly out of his depth. I read in a book on emergency medicine recently that a heart attack victim has a better chance of survival in an ambulance than in a hospital emergency department because they  are staffed by the most junior doctors, a rather sobering thought.

It is funny at this time of the year how people dress for the weather, not yet decided if it is winter or spring. There were all manner of outfits today from bare legs, short skirts and skimpy tops to velvet trousers and heavy jumpers (me). I guess in a few weeks we’ll all be complaining about heat and humidity, we’ll at least I will be.

September 14, 2019

Well I survived Black Friday and full moon both occurring last night. No lunatics raging up the quiet streets of Baulkham Hills. Still dreaming of Darwin every night though the images are becoming less real. Still haven’t had a reply from Larrakia which is bloody annoying; the people I met are sympathetic but the people I need to speak to haven’t met me and so I’m just a pesky person asking questions when they’ve got better things to do.

Spent most of the day at Carol’s working on Christmas cakes for the Wayside Chapel and Exodus. It was a lovely sunny but pleasantly moderate day to be doing it, enjoying the company of Carol, Heather who came along for the first time and two Finnish helpers. A lovely lunch on the deck, along with Jack, was a highlight. I went to the nursery on the way home planning to pick up some Pandanus for the back corner but Kelly talked me out of it because in Darwin they thrive with lots of summer rain which we don’t get. So no Darwin corner for moi, I guess it was a silly idea, but seemed a good one at the time.

September 15, 2019

It is so lovely to have a neighbour who just lobs at the door for a chat for no reason. This happened today so Arvind and I sat on the front verandah and in the conversation he mentioned his brother in Melbourne who went broke years ago in a service station and was forced to sell his house to pay his debts. The Sallies dropped off a couple of food parcels to them and he’s never forgotten, now in a successful business he donates $10,000 a year to them. He has investment properties and refuses to claim the negative gearing benefits because he doesn’t believe in them. (Here I’d take a different view, claim any legal money you can from the government and redirect it to where it should rightly be going, but that’s nit-picking). I like the man already and told Arvind ‘when your brother visits, send him in here for a cuppa, I think I like him even more than I like you’. He grinned and assured me he would.

Began reading Cardinal by Louise Milligan (an Irish Catholic) tonight and it makes for extremely depressing reading. Many events she describes have not been published before to my knowledge and the book is gripping. Even leaving clerical abuse out of the equation Pell is the type of person I want to positively run from. That arrogant overbearing authoritarian manner gives me the shudders. I’ve only come across a few people like that in my life but it gives me goosebumps just thinking about them. But there have been many others with leanings in that direction that I can think of as well, somehow they freeze your feet from running away, even as an adult. I can’t even imagine what a child would feel in their presence, a terror indescribable. I don’t think Pell has any idea whatsoever about the feelings of others and probably sees himself as a victim and martyr.

September 16, 2019

The dentist today inspected the massive hole in my tooth and said it wasn’t a filling that had fallen out, but that the tooth had split in half, just leaving the front like one of those awful buildings where only the facade is original. So he remade the inside of the tooth with some sort of white stuff which set in a trice but warned that if it cracked again I was looking at a crown. At my age that seems a terrible waste so I will be careful and gnaw my bison ribs on the other side. Which brings me to my current thinking on meat eating. I have sort of settled on not buying it for home, I live on fish and vegetables, but accepting it if I am eating at someone else’s house or going out for a special meal. I can’t stomach the idea of chicken, too many nightmarish pictures absorbed, but it tastes of cardboard anyway. No one cooks plain chicken any more, it’s either curry or honey or chili or crumbed or anything at all to give it some hint of taste, so what’s the point? I did a plain roasted organic chicken for Carly last year and it was delicious, so perhaps that’s enough.

As I was driving home from the dentist Michelle rang to say that there was a pile of stuff in her street waiting for council cleanup which included three large plastic boxes of books, so I diverted and came across an interesting assortment of loot. A large trunk with a broken leather handle was very difficult to gutbust into the car but I got it in eventually. Then there was a dropside table which wouldn’t fit in along with the trunk so I went to the door to ask if they could keep it for me till the morning. A fellow emerged from under the shrubbery, keeping his head down to avoid any obligation to help presumably, and was willing to let me deposit the table in the garage till Wednesday. I suspect he has inherited the house, judging by the gear on the kerb and because he made such a specific time that he would meet me there. The books were a mixed bunch, many too large for my street library, WWII books particularly, and the selection indicated an older person’s taste too (I didn’t read Sherlock Holmes for nothing). I couldn’t lift the boxes and my friend wasn’t of a mind to help me so I unloaded many of the books loose into the car and was off. But guilt overcame me and I went back to get the rest of the books to take to the Sallies, only to find to my horror there was just a pristine patch of grass with nary a sign of the goods ever having been there at all. Grief, now I keep thinking of the old bibles, the WWII books in quantity, the travel guides, even the ghastly Dan Brown novels, someone somewhere really wanted all of those but now they are landfill because I was tired and also didn’t want to annoy the selfish coot who couldn’t be bothered to drive up to a charity shop. Stop obsessing Maureen. (Still obsessing).

September 17, 2019

I had two things planned to do today: wash all the winter jumpers that have been worn and help the new gardener, both scuppered by the lovely rain. Gardener texted at 8 am to say it was too wet which meant I had got out of my jamies an hour earlier than necessary, but that’s life. Then mid-morning I made passionfruit biscuits and texted a female friend something along the lines of ‘hi darl, djawanna come over for a cuppa, passionfruit biscuits in the oven’. The reply was fast: ‘No sorry, have to see a real estate agent about work, but save me some biscuits’. Odd I thought, as my friend is retired……but then I realised that I had sent it to the new gardener. A hurried explanation was sent to disabuse him of the notion that I was on the make. Très embarrassant! This got me to thinking about working at Sydney University on wheat genetics at the Plant Breeding Institute where almost every academic had come from a farm. They positively scoffed at building workers and others who downed tools during rain or high temperatures. We were expected to work outdoors rain or shine in any temperature, and we did so. I once fainted outside in 40 degrees plus temperatures and someone suggested I be taken to the local doctor. ‘What’s the point of that?’ my boss said, ‘he’ll only tell her to go into the cool.’ They were extremely socially conservative as well as socially inept in many ways. If they were entertaining overseas scientists I was dragooned into serving them morning tea or lunch as although they were brilliant in their fields, they seemed incapable of social smalltalk.

September 18, 2019

Today I had to pick up the table put aside for me on Monday and decided I couldn’t resist talking to the donor about waste! So I explained that I had come back to rescue what I could from his council cleanup to take to a charity shop but had sadly arrived too late. Charity shop? he said somewhat confused, you mean like Lifeline or something? Yes I said, I am still smarting about the waste of all those books. Oh he said do they take old glasses and stuff? Yes they certainly do I replied, after which he lugged out a huge box full of stuff which he put into my car saying that it was all going out in the next cleanup. Of course I decided to sort and wash the stuff and pack into manageable containers and I now have some bits for the charity shop but also a number of boxes of cups and saucers, vases, ornaments and glasses packed and ready to take to auction. Larrakia Nation will do well from that little haul, so thankyou Michelle for the original tip off. My new friend didn’t take offence at my remarks and took my phone number in case he comes up with more ‘junk’, he’s got the bug perhaps.

September 19, 2019

Managed to get on to the chief financial officer at Larrakia and he answered some of the questions I had, but he will need to speak to someone else, perhaps the CEO, to get answers for a couple of things. However on one issue his answer and the annual report are at odds, so I need clarification on that. Managed to get all the jumpers washed so need a dry day to finish them then it can pour for as long as it likes. Had a call around lunchtime from the lady I met in a cafe a while back who reads the blog, she had some free time as her work computer was down and wanted to catch up. Amazingly it turns out that we share an old friend, in my case back to my teens, a fact we stumbled on taking about a totally unrelated topic.

Got a receipt by email today for the full price of our accommodation in Melbourne so I rang them immediately to see what was going on. It turns out that being grand final weekend for the AFL there is no cancellation ability such as usually applies and the tariff is charged in full 7 days before arrival. I knew it was finals weekend and we were paying a lot more than usual, but had no idea about paying in advance. Who puts on a party on that weekend, I ask myself. Anyway while I was happy to pass on the party altogether, John was keen to go in case he bumps into distant rellies there, which is fair enough so we are going despite the cost.

September 20, 2019

Late last evening Kirk the gardener called to see if he could come today after being rained out earlier in the week. Of course I was delighted and at 10 to 8 we were hucking out the overgrown almost herbless herb garden. By 10 it looked a treat with a pile of fishbone fern and weeds you couldn’t jump over. Now it is up to me to replant it after we get back from Melbourne. We gel, thankyou gods. Then I loaded up the wagon with stuff for auction and dropped it at Bargain Hunt, sitting down with the owner Mark for a chat and reminiscence over old times. It was great handing stuff over with no real concern about what it brings, seeing most of it cost me nothing. Then off to Erko for Millie’s Special Person’s Day, necessary because mother’s day and father’s day can get a bit tricky around that area. There was an Aboriginal man there to do a smoking ceremony and I got to thinking about the fact that Aboriginal people didn’t once get a guernsey in my education, apart from cameo roles as people on the headlands looking out at Captain Cook et al. The fact that the preschool is German owned probably helps their attitudes as I think often foreign born people, particularly the Germans and Dutch, have a more respectful view of our past than those of us brought up here and never taught a scrap about the real history of Australia. Later we all, including Carly who came up to be a special person, went to Foodcraft for dinner. It is such a lovely local bistro of the type we rarely see, not in a shopping precinct, just on a street corner, where everyone coming in, including Millie, greets the owner by name and he often returns the favour.

September 21, 2019

Thinking during the night about the Aboriginal man from yesterday who told us he was separated from his mother at birth in 1971 and never found his family again. In 1971 I was still a member of the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs, having joined about 1965/6, trying to get some action on what we now call the Stolen Generation. The idea behind it was that if black children were separated out and brought up white they would assimilate and the blacks would eventually die out. Charles Perkins, that wonderful angry young man, was at our head and I can remember a particular meeting at Parramatta Town Hall (in a crumby little room out the back) at which we had an invited public servant come from Canberra to address us oh so politely about the justification of what the government was doing. I was too young then to give an important person any stick but at the end of his talk an old lady there asked a question: ‘Are you the person who drags screaming children onto the trains to bring them to Sydney, leaving their mothers collapsed hysterical on the platform?’ ‘Uh, no’ he answered, ‘that’s not my job, I’ve never seen that’. ‘Well in that case’ she said, ‘send us the person who does, because I have seen it and I want to look that person in the eye’. He skulked to the door and left red-faced. I’ve never forgotten it, it was an inspiration in how to speak truth to power. But unfortunately those thousands of Aboriginal children suffered, and this man was clearly still suffering, despite a handful of people in a back room. Today I have felt so powerless in a world that can’t even begin to see how wrong we were, and are, on so many issues. I think we are at a low ebb as a planet and I certainly am today as one single impotent part of it.

September 22, 2019

Reading an interesting novel, Dinner with the Dissidents, set both in Moscow in the 70s and Canberra in the present. It got me to thinking about the morality of the whistle-blower versus those who stay loyal to the regime of the moment. Perhaps reading about a whistle-blower is just what I need to put a positive spin on my thinking at the moment, but let’s see how it ends. Shopped and cooked today for visitors coming for lunch on Tuesday and as I was dropping unbeaten eggs into the good old Kenwood Chef a yolk came flying out of the bowl and hit me mid chest, bursting and then slowly dripping down my top. That was my excitement of the day, but now I see why a recipe always says to lightly beat the eggs before adding them, took 60 odd years of cooking to get the flying yolk though.

September 23, 2019

Tuesday will be quieter than expected as I got a text just after I finished making food for the lunch tomorrow that my guests are unable to come, leaving me with more food than I can possibly eat before we go away. I have texted Heather asking if she can come and collect the products of a fridge huck out on Wednesday afternoon. It’s nobody’s fault but it fits the pattern of the last few days.

So, they have made a movie of The Goldfinch, one of my top 10 books. It hasn’t had good reviews but I will still give it a look. It is such an epic story that it would be very hard to cram into movie length without needing to leave out considerable parts of it, so perhaps that’s where the criticism lies? I am currently reading a book which has a character whose reactions are so like mine that it is creepy. It begs the question of whether we are unique individuals or really fall into archetypes as Jung proposed. I can identify so totally with this woman’s thinking that I can forecast what she will do next in the book, just by anticipating what I would do in the same circumstance and I am often saying nooo, don’t go there, but of course she does because that’s how she is wired.

September 24, 2019

Had a call from Brendan and it lasted an hour and 35 minutes, realising how long you’ve been on a phone call is sometimes a shock, followed by annoyance, but not in this case. H. called in and I started hauling all the salads out of the fridge for lunch but she is on a water diet so that blew that one out of the water so to speak. We are trying to work out how to come back from Melbourne: train? one way car hire? hot air balloon? The cost of a one way car hire has stopped us doing that in the past, but a ring around proved interesting, the price varying by more than a factor of two depending on the company, Thrifty being the most expensive funnily enough, thrifty by name but not by nature. The discussion continues.

September 25, 2019

Poor H. came to grief on her water cleanse, vomiting all night and looking awful today when she came around to pick up the food, which at least she can eat now. Spoke to Deborah, Sue, Brian, texted with Stephen and Tim and generally cleared the decks. Today has been a political junkie’s dream, you just don’t know where to look, Trump impeached, Johnson overruled by the Supreme Court, no wonder I’ve had a better day. I seem to have come up out of the murky depths to which I have been consigned since last week, actually quite enjoying packing and tidying up. Dug out from the freezer a curry and some rice and lentils to take to John’s for dinner. I love it when you just open a drawer and there is your meal entire. Also pleased that Bargain Hunt seem to have made sensible decisions regarding the lot division of the goods I took over last week. Bad lotting can reduce the prices considerably.

September 26, 2019

Arrived at Central Station at 6.30 am and our train left right on time. We had a bit of light entertainment when the couple sitting directly in front of us were told that they were in the wrong seats. They absolutely refused to move to their allocated seats in another carriage, insisting they should be in first class and not in economy despite what their tickets said. I was half expecting some racial slurs to start but happily only one passenger got involved and race wasn’t raised. The rail employee eventually threatened to call the police to meet the train at the next stop but that didn’t faze them a jot. Eventually three employees including a heavily tattooed member (and that was the woman) persuaded them, still complaining bitterly, to move back to economy. Apart from that bit of fun the other issue was in the row behind with a mother and three young children taking up residence. I am sure Isaac, Andy and Ann were lovely little people but 12 and a half hours in their close company was about 11 and a half hours too long. Glad I packed us a picnic lunch for the train so we didn’t need to eat the canteen food. Walked from the station to the hotel to give ourselves some much needed exercise after arriving at 7.30.

September 27, 2019

Decided to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol and it won my heart just by spelling gaol properly, why that changed I will never know. On past trips we trammed everywhere so I assumed we would be doing the same thing again but no, the boy wonder announced he is fit enough to walk the couple of kilometres each way so that’s what we did. The cells, exercise yards and padded cell were seriously disturbing, especially knowing that they were in use till 1994. In the watchhouse it was up to 12 to a cell, no bunks they were just given a foam mattress each to sleep on the floor and the open toilet in the corner was flushed externally by the guards who apparently did that rarely as a punishment, there was no wash basin. Across the road is the old police headquarters, the site of the 1986 Russell St bombing. Afterwards we went to the Hopetoun Tearooms for lunch of asparagus, pea and mint soup, which was delicious but lukewarm. We sent it back to be warmed up, the chef was mortified and as we were leaving, despite our saying that the soup was terrific, he insisted on giving us some of his pistachio and cranberry shortbreads to take away. We will be returning as we do every visit to Melbourne.

Sometimes mobile phones are a pest, just had two calls in succession while typing this: one from someone wanting me to organise some legal advice for him pronto and the other from a person wanting to borrow money urgently to register his car, the latter missing the boat considering I currently can’t remember my internet banking password. Both calls emanating from Windsor of course. But back to Melbourne: it was a public holiday here today with a big parade for the football, which we were happy to miss. Nevertheless the city was packed with people and most businesses were open. Ate a delicious share meal at Rice Paper Sister just 10 minutes walk from the hotel.

September 28, 2019

Thinking about how the heck old Windsor contacts get my mobile number and of course it’s Brian, who wouldn’t think to say he didn’t have it. I only ever gave out the landline. I tried to ring back the person who needed rego money to say I wasn’t able to do it (somewhat cross at the interruption) only to get a recorded message saying that his phone had been disconnected. So now I’m feeling guilty about the fact that he doesn’t know what’s going on about the money (and more than a little cross that I can’t ring and get it off my mind).

Took a train 45 minutes north to Wallan expecting to go to John’s cousin’s 90th birthday party in the burbs, but it turned out to be on a 175 acre property. Kevin is a retired Marist brother and the party was at his niece’s place. We almost didn’t make it as she had said to call from the train for a lift (John actually started ringing 24 hours before that as well as from the train) but the phone was always turned off and we didn’t have an address. Finally I suggested ringing the cousin, the only other person he had a number for, and luckily he answered so we got there in the end, otherwise it would have been a train back to Melbourne. Got back in to Melbourne about 7 pm.

September 29, 2019

Walked to the Art Gallery around 10 am and the streets were so crowded I couldn’t believe it, this town is super full. Enjoyed the Terracotta Warriors Exhibition, I hadn’t realised that the warriors were life size and more. The artefacts including a jade handled dagger, a large necklace and a jade belt buckle particularly impressed me, especially the fact that they were made around 700-1000 BC. Then we went to the Imari exhibition and marvelled at the wonderful fine painting of the pieces. Apart from that, John was taken by a painting of a heretic being murdered on the altar of a church, no doubt seeing himself in the picture. Talking of heretics, yesterday one of his rellies told him that he remembered an argument in his house as a child when someone mentioned John and his brother Paul and the husband bellowed ‘you will never mention their names in this house again’, this due to the fact that they had both left the priesthood. Until yesterday John had no idea that he had been persona non grata in that family since 1971, a sobering thought even after so many years.

September 30, 2019

Met up with Dally and Remi and went to lunch at Red Spice Road nearby. They are great to spend time with, we always have fun when we get together. The food there is just my style, spicy and rich and sweet and salty and luscious. Remi asked to take the remainder home, which is outlawed in Victoria, but the waitress weakened and gave her a length of foil and she surreptitiously tipped it in. Apparently it’s to do with insurance against poisoning but we promised not to sue. John told the story of the odd birthday party on Saturday and it all seemed to slot into place in the retelling. We were invited by the guest of honour, not by the hostess, which perhaps explains why we could never get a call returned, right from weeks ago when we were first told about the party. Ah well, it makes for a funny story over lunch at least. Tonight we are eating in, I bought us a salad to share from a nearby coffee shop and that will well and truly do in the food department. We have free Netflix here but as at home I intend to watch things but never do as it means sacrificing book reading time and John is the same apart from the football.

October 1, 2019

One of the many things I love about this hotel, Treasury on Collins, is the fact that the staff never seems to change. The front desk is manned by the same team, similarly the person in charge of the breakfast team and the barman who does the free wine service every evening, the so-called Wine Down. It is lovely to be greeted by name each time you see someone in the lift or go out past the desk. Sure it’s good PR and training, but the difference here is that they are all genuinely social and lovely people to boot (and the fact that they routinely give us a room upgrade is fun too). We went on a trip to Williamstown which was the original port of Melbourne before they cut a wider channel into the Yarra to allow ships to come closer to the city. I took us to the wrong wharf to get the ferry so we decided to get the train there instead and come back on the ferry to see the city from a different angle. The train went through many suburbs that looked pretty depressing but when we finally got to Williamstown there were some lovely old houses and shopfronts from the mid 1800s so we wandered the streets and decided it wouldn’t be a bad place to live, looking across the bay to the city proper. We lunched at an old pub ($12 mains at lunchtime!) and took a late afternoon ferry ‘home’. Fun it was, but sadly I fell asleep soon after we embarked and John woke me up at the wharf in Southbank, so much for seeing the city from a different angle. Then it was a rush back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading to the theatre to see Come From Away, one of the best shows I’ve seen in years, which ended with a whole house standing ovation which was well deserved. John has cancelled our plans for a French dinner tomorrow night for my birthday as I am so restricted in what I can eat at night these days, so we are going to Hopetoun Tearooms for lunch instead, which suits me down to the ground.

October 2, 2019

Well lunch at Hopetoun lived up to expectations, Pea, Mint and Feta Fritters with Green Goddess Sauce and Microherb Salad was made with fresh peas and the Mixed Berry Frangipane which followed was magnificent. Weird food experiences of the day: 1. At breakfast the man at the next table got two plates, one piled high with fried eggs, bacon and tomatoes, the other piled high with sausages, mushrooms, baked beans and scrambled eggs….and ate both, followed by pastries and fresh fruit. 2. The couple sitting next to us at Hopetoun ordered Mirror Dory with Tomato and Broccoli and a piece of Chocolate Raspberry Cake and shared them. That was fine, except they both ate them concurrently, a mouthful of one then a mouthful of the other, seriously stomach churning. 3. Two women at Hopetoun ordered six large and varied servings of cake, the table was covered, and were devouring them as we left. I wish I had the courage to order three pieces of cake at once, but on the other hand my hips are glad I don’t, though all the big eaters I’ve described were thin, life is so unfair. We have been watching a live website of a preregrine falcon living on a window ledge of a building nearby, so after Wine Down at about 6 pm we wandered there to see where it lives, but it was sitting on its one remaining egg so we didn’t see it swooping down. Every day it does so to attack an unsuspecting pigeon and returns to its nest with a wing or some other body part to chew up and then feed to the babies. Wild goings on in the city.

October 3, 2019

Couldn’t sleep last night for a really stupid reason. As we were peering into the sky watching for the falcon the previous evening a man approached us asking for money for a coffee, but we had come out penniless. I then thought to tell him we were only across the road from our hotel and to offer him a coffee there, but in the 30 seconds it took to think this through he had disappeared into the crowd. So last night my head just wouldn’t let it rest, why don’t I think more quickly? did he think we were lying about having no money on us? By now it was old news but somehow my mind didn’t think so. We left the hotel at 7 am, picking up pre-ordered sandwiches for the train on the way. Just got to the station in time to check in the luggage and then we were on our way. I find watching the countryside, and the small hamlets we pass through, very relaxing but of course when the journey is extended due to a previous freight train dripping canola oil on the tracks and thereby reducing our speed, it becomes tiring. A 7 am start ended up as a 9.45 pm finish by the time I got the Hillsbus home. I did love looking at the canola fields everywhere in Victoria, the combination of green leaves and yellow flowers makes for acre upon acre of lime green, unexpectedly shocking in the brown or green landscape we are used to. No sign of drought in any of the areas that the train passed through, it was lush and the dams were full.

October 4, 2019

The garden has survived my absence happily, even the parsley seeds have germinated to restart the new elevated herb garden. The bane of my life now I am back (and before I went come to that) is trying to get some information out of Larrakia Aboriginal Corporation. When I went there in August the staff I met with were really helpful and encouraging when I mentioned raising funds for them, but getting any sort of response from here is like sending emails to Mars. I don’t want to cancel but I will if the buggers don’t respond soon, as I’ve just told them in yet another email. I’m sure I would have heard if the Japanese have bombed all communications infrastructure as in 1942. When I reopened my birthday gift from John, two pairs of funky earrings from the Quick Brown Fox shop in Flinders Lane Melbourne, there were four pairs inside. Two more had been sneakily added by him before the parcel was deposited in my suitcase. He is such a sneaky present giver and I love all four.

October 5, 2019

Lovely to wake up with no pressure to be somewhere and my favourite weather to boot so I gardened in light rain, planting more herb and edible flower seeds in pots and moving three plants that I’d decided don’t like their previous positions. Then I had a mind to totally empty my antique apprentice chest of drawers, which acts as my jewellery cabinet, polishing it with lemon oil, cleaning out the drawers and rearranging the jewellery in a more organised fashion, one drawer for silver only earrings, one for silver plus coloured stones, one for funky costume pieces etc etc. I toted up the earring collection which currently stands at 49 pairs, so I’ve decided that better be the limit because I am sure there would be a pair lurking in a handbag somewhere and 50 is enough for anyone. I won’t mention the current scarf numbers, but it puts the earrings well into the shade. Then I wiped over the perfume bottles which stand on top and felt my day was fully worthwhile. In the evening I went to Carol and Jack’s place for a charity dinner and decided to wear my grey polo neck jumper, realising only after getting dressed that it’s the only piece of clothing with which I can’t wear earrings, the very high collar routinely hooks them off, so my earring collection stayed home and rested in its new sense of order.

October 6, 2019

Watching Insiders in my jamies was almost (but not quite) interrupted by phone calls from the same two people who coincidentally rang me in tandem in Melbourne last week, they each have no idea that they manage to seek inopportune times to ask where their particular issues are up to. Managed to be patient with one and a bit short with the other but it’s like water off a duck’s back, so I have no doubt that the calls will continue. Did my shopping out at Dural and came home with lots of lovely veggies begging to be cooked and eaten, perhaps too many considering that we go away to Newcastle on Friday, but a veggie curry seems in order in the circumstances.

Dying to get back into my current book tonight, reading The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein and it is an absolute joy. The subject of the biography, Melbourne trauma cleaner Sandra Pankhurst, is a trans woman, who was a battered child, a husband and father, then a prostitute, funeral director, hardware shop owner and so much more. But it is her huge heart that gets me teary. Imagine lying on a rubbish covered, bug infested bed alongside a hoarder, trying to gently convince her that yes, the dozens of rotting bags of never unpacked groceries lining the rooms really do need to go into the skip. No talking down, no lectures, no superiority, just a friend explaining that these things can no longer be of any value, but understanding the value that they have to this particular person. She has that rare and most impressive quality of being able to talk to, in her words, Mrs Rich Bitch and Mr Penny Pauper, each in their own language. I humbly dips me lid.

October 7, 2019

I finished The Trauma Cleaner and feel like starting it all over again, which I may well do. I want John to read it but getting someone with a cleanliness fetish to dive into rat infested houses is a big ask, despite the wonderful uplifting messages it includes. He would get to the story of the woman who spread her cats’ poo on the floors of her house and just covered it with newspaper, layer on layer like a giant lasagne, and that would be it for him. I need to rearrange my Best Books Ever list so this one can be included. Perhaps if I count the Neapolitan novels of Elena Ferrante as one instead of four novels (they are continuous after all) I could squeeze this one into the list. It is not a list of the best ever works of literature but a list of the books that impressed me most at the time I read them. Did I mention that it was fantastic?

Cooked an Indian cauliflower recipe last night but the amount of tamarind was a bit much for someone who can’t handle bitter. Also did a carrot salad with Dijon mustard and honey in it so that toned down the cauli a bit. I plan to do the lentil ‘meatball’ recipe from the latest Animals Australia brochure tomorrow and have those with dahl and the leftovers of both the cauli and the carrot salad when John comes, though I expect he will ask ‘where is the protein?’ but with a bit of luck the lentil balls might fool him.

October 8, 2019

Once again it proves that being nice and polite doesn’t always get you far, but one complaining email sent to two people at Larrakia on Friday resulted in a phone call yesterday (which I can’t believe I missed at 6.30 pm while having an early shower, due to being over enthusiastic with some glue). But an apologetic and lengthy message was left by the caller, giving two people’s mobile numbers, with a request that I send them some questions in an email which was then answered promptly today. Hurrah! Perhaps the remark that getting on to the CEO (or anyone else who was allowed to answer questions) was as difficult as getting a direct line to the Pope did the job.

For some stupid reason, if I set my alarm I then either can’t sleep or else I wake up really early and don’t sleep again. I had the alarm set this morning as the gardener was coming early but I woke at 4.30 am and didn’t sleep after that. Then he didn’t turn up! At 9 am I rang him and he had mistakenly put me down for next Tuesday, which didn’t matter a fig, but now I will no doubt be awake at 4 am that day too. Spent the afternoon listening, while doing other things, to the Aged Care Royal Commission where Carly’s department secretary is giving evidence and Carly assisting her. It is a gruelling business and one I wouldn’t want to go through.

October 9, 2019

Went up to Castle Hill to see a picture framer whom I found on the net, looking to get my Darwin painting framed. I drove round and round looking for a building called Home Hub but in the end had to ring them. Oh, she said breezily, it isn’t called Home Hub any more, it’s the Supercentre. Perhaps change it on the website? I suggested. Anyway she understood the way I want it framed, floating on a matte, rather than with a cutout matte as is usual. However the price was more than expected so I am thinking. On the way home I pass Heather’s house and as her car was in the drive I popped in and she recommended another framer nearby who does all her work so I will get a quote there. I had an excellent artistic framer for the shop for years but he once did a job for a client and buggered the bleaching of a large old lithograph which had foxing. Accidents happen, but then he claimed to have never had the piece and only after a lengthy legal stoush with Fair Trading who wanted him to pay the clients compensation did he finally produce the damaged litho and return it to them, still wanting his fee for framing it. Nah, don’t think I will rekindle that relationship, similarly with the jeweller who ‘lost’ a very good antique diamond ring I put in for repair, but sent me a modern inferior one in exchange. I never did get the ring back and suspect he resold it for a tidy amount.

October 10, 2019

Last night I served Lentil and Almond Rissoles with Indian spiced cauliflower, rice and salad. John commented on how nice the rissoles were, with no idea at all that they weren’t meat, that recipe is a keeper. I think it is the umami of the soy sauce that tricks the palate. Today was a busy one, first putting his nibs’ car in for service and rego, then the gas fire technician came to replace the fan which has made a racket ever since they did a service in July, a freebie so that was nice. Then off to Heather’s framing man who quoted almost exactly half of the lady yesterday so I left the painting with him, to pick up next Friday. Then to Barsby’s Auctions to put in some quality china and glass for their next sale. John had an appointment nearby at RNS with the infectious diseases specialist who was very pleased with him and reduced his antibiotics from 8 a day to 4, but said she was too scared with his history to take him off them altogether. Picked up the car on the way home and packed for the wedding in Newcastle on Saturday, as we leave in the morning. Hoping to catch up with our friend Jackie at Caves Beach on the way but she didn’t sound the best on the phone and will tell us tomorrow morning if she feels up to a visit. She has been ill for many years now, but sounded worse today.

October 11, 2019

Jackie rang to say she was keen for a visit so we tootled up to Caves Beach and had morning tea with them. She is thin and frail but bursting with her own special Jackieness and love of life. We have both always found her to be wise counsel in any situation. Carl showed us a video on proton radiation treatment, unavailable in Australia but widely used in the US. Its benefits include being much better targeted and not damaging surrounding tissues so higher doses can be given. Carl contacted the Mayo Clinic to see if Jackie was eligible and they said to come over just for an assessment appointment, at a cost of $25,000 US with no guarantees that she is a suitable candidate, they’ve decided against it. He researches possible treatments constantly and was the one who asked her oncologist about a trial treatment which hadn’t been offered to her but proved to have the best results so far. Toes crossed for her.

Booked into Noah’s on the Beach at Newcastle and went for a long walk along the beach in a cold and unpleasant wind. Later we went around the corner to a Thai place and just had a soup each, with me fishing out the slices of chicken in mine and dumping them into John’s.

October 12, 2019

Rain descended on Newcastle but didn’t do anything to dampen Teresa and Stephen’s wedding at Corpus Christi Church. Her brother Andrew officiated and a nice touch was singing by the Tongan church choir. The reception was at the Apollo Hotel with a sit down meal of very good food, all gluten free to suit the bride and some other relatives. We caught up with many of John’s family members and met many of Stephen’s family for the first time. He told me how they met, her saw her in a doctor’s surgery and asked the doctor for her contact details. The doctor said to write her a letter, leave it open so he could read it and if acceptable he would pass it on. Now they are going to send wedding pics to the doc.

October 13, 2019

Went out to Islington to the antique shops looking for a battery acid jar to replace the one I broke a few months back. I always used it for large flowers especially agapanthus. I bought the previous one here in Newcastle and thought because they came out of old power stations I might be lucky again. However no one has seen one for years so I left disappointed. Met up with Deborah and Stephen and had lunch at East End Hub, where the food is always both healthy and delicious. Afterwards we went down to Belmont on the shores of Lake Macquarie, then towards evening to Stockton where we walked along the break wall which is the mouth of the harbour, watching a huge freighter passing with tugs aplenty on its way to load. Interesting to see the rusted wreck of a ship from 1905 half way along the walk. By the time we got back from our walk it was totally dark with a full moon. After a long and happy day we got back to the hotel fairly late.

October 14, 2019

I suggested a visit to the wedding couple after we had looked around at a few of the historical Newcastle buildings that I’d vainly attempted to see on the last two visits there. So John rang Teresa immediately and left a message to say we’d be there in an hour! I was signalling ‘two’ while he was speaking but he couldn’t understand what I was saying and got quite snappish, all of which was recorded on the phone message along with my reply ‘are you letting all of this go on the tape?’. I will laugh about it eventually. We tried to find the cathedral I’d seen on the top of a hill but John couldn’t remember where it was so I settled for the Baptist Tabernacle which sadly was locked up, just as I had an urge to convert, so they missed their big chance. The building is in ornate classical style but the back is pretty plain brick so perhaps facade is important to the Baptists? But apparently they believe literally in all 66 books of the bible, which is pretty scary when you consider the permission to beat one’s wife and kill one’s servants. But as I have neither wife nor servant conversion wouldn’t be of much use to me after all. We then went over to Teresa and Stephen’s to observe newly married life up close and they still seem very happy, so it appears they’ve made the right choice. On the way home I picked up the newly framed painting from Darwin and was pleased with the result. The framer said that their prices are so good because everything is done in their workshop on site, with a choice of 500 frames available in any size.

October 15, 2019

Kirk the gardener was arriving at 8 am but I was good and ready for him, weeding in the front garden. He cut down a privet that had grown up in the back corner and was putting pressure on the fence, two Sulo bins full of cuttings. (WOW, right this minute I had a call from the head of the tenancy program at Larrakia Nation, returning my call from early September. She will speak to the CEO tomorrow about the information I asked for in my message back then. If I get every call returned I will be a busy woman this week). John went to his clerical mates’ monthly lunch today but it was at the Baulkham Hills home of one of them instead of the club where he complains about the food every time. Phil has lymphoma and can’t go into public places, how I remember that scenario with John and how I did lunch for the boys here during his illness. It seems years ago now but it was not quite three years since we were in that position. I came home from the weekend absolutely whacked and if I sit down I fall asleep straight away so I’m trying to keep active, but doing easy stuff like unpacking and putting the washing on. Amazing to think that we push the clothes into a machine and come back and get them sometime later, so different from in the past (and the present in many places in the world).

October 16, 2019

So the message yesterday from Darwin was that the CEO was going to ring me today…….I carried the phone around all day like the trusting dill that I am, even had it on the side of the bath during my ablutions, along with a pad and pen for taking notes. I still haven’t had replies from 17 people about the morning tea, so the numbers right now are anyone’s guess. If they all come we’ll have to keep cutting the Vegemite sandwiches into eighths and perhaps sixteenths as more folk arrive and perhaps cut the Iced VoVos into quarters. Speaking of Iced VoVos, they look now as if they’ve been run over by a steamroller. Not that I buy them, but always reach for one if they appear at someone’s house. Methinks the Arnott family would quake to see the fate of their beloved Voey. Still feeling below par and hoping that it’s the busy weekend and not the fact that I tossed the autoimmune medication a while back. I plan to put off my next specialist visit till after Christmas, wimping out on telling him that I threw them out instead of doubling the dose as instructed, but revelling in my small defiance. He calls me ‘a minimalist’, little knowing the state of my underwear drawers, my shoe cupboard and my garage, but as far as drugs go, yes a minimalist I certainly am.

October 17, 2019

Almost beyond words tonight after watching the 7.30 Report on the murder of racehorses at knackeries in Queensland and NSW. One of the sites, Burns Pet Foods at Riverstone, I drove past every working day for 27 years, knowing full well they were killing horses there, and I guess I should have known racehorses would be among them. Someone who worked for the local council told me that he was tasked with picking up euthanased dogs’ bodies from vets and delivering them to Burns, astonishing when you think that they would be full of toxic drugs which were then going into pet food. He mentioned that they had picked up a German Shepherd as road kill the night before to add to the load. I once drove in and asked about the paddock full of horses near the road, only to be told that their owners had left them there for agistment, not believing a word but unable to prove that they were lying. They were all gone within the week. Sometimes I think that the planet will be better off once it divests itself of humans.

October 18, 2019

Thinking about how simple life was (and how dull and less interesting in so many ways) before we had access to all the information the internet provides. I must wear my glasses in the supermarket to read all the labels because now I know what all the additive numbers mean (beware E700-799 which are the antibiotics). Then there may be countries of origin one wants to avoid or products from a particular country like basa fish from Vietnam. I avoid anything made by Unilever after asking the people at the guest house I was staying at in India what tea they were using (it was foul) and discovering that despite living not far from tea plantations the poor were using a Unilever product in a jar, ingredient list was: 100% TEA DUST. Yes dust off the floor of the tea plantations, well probably off the conveyor belt, but it tasted as if it were off the floor, so no Unilever. Of course we have the businesses to steer around as well like Harvey Norman, just because Gerry Harvey is a whinging pest, and Kennards Hire who are always pushing the interests of rich white men. Radio 2GB is out, as are all TV channels with ads, but that’s just my personal preference, the ads drive me to drink. I cringe when I think of how many Melbourne Cup sweeps I’ve organised, but I’ve sworn off horse racing quite a time ago and was never into the dogs, not since the pet cats started disappearing from Berala when I lived there in the early 70s and then were discovered at a nearby greyhound track, declawed and ready to be used as lures. That track was just near the headquarters of the RSPCA but of course nothing happened in those days, no Facebook to post it on. So life is tricky negotiating all these obstacles, but so much better than when it was all happening, but we just didn’t know.

October 19, 2019

John was here overnight and he helped me with two jobs this morning that I’m very thankful for. One was to hang my much prized and newly framed Aboriginal artwork, Damper Seeds by Patrina Kitson, and the other was to help put some photos of Darwin into a frame I had scored on a council cleanup many months ago and had sitting around waiting for a use. I later went to Officeworks to print out two photos of Patrina actually doing the painting and was embarrassed after I’d used the machine, queued up and was asked to pay……20 cents. I can’t remember the last time I paid 20 cents for something but I certainly felt I’d had my money’s worth.

October 20, 2019

The loathsome Gerry Harvey, that whingeing billionaire, was in the news again today in a different context. He was the owner of one of the racehorses seen being killed at an abattoir for pet mince. Abominable people seem to manage to be abominable in so many different ways during their lives. In my list of things to avoid I forgot to mention franchise businesses. They often manage to be the meat in the sandwich between odious franchisors and the public, so they tend to be squeezed at both ends, hardly a recipe for good service. Michel’s Patisserie, Jim’s Mowing (in fact Jim’s anything), Krispy Creme Donuts, Wendy’s, Donut King, Coffee Club, all good examples of places I avoid like the plague. Of course it goes without saying that Gloria Jeans has pride of place, Nabi Saleh outclasses most comers in the contemptible stakes. Phew I feel so much better after that rant, I think I shall have a cup of tea.

October 21, 2019

After so much negativity I will only say nice things today. Woolly lambs, edelweiss, raindrops on a tin roof, waves lapping up the beach, I can do it if I try. Went to see Brian and Fay today. He has been quite negative the last few days but got up with the walker and went down to lunch so that is an improvement. He is so thin and frail that I sadly ignored his comment about wanting to go to the zoo. I’m afraid his family would freak out considering his current condition but I hope they will take him, and soon. He told me to go to his garden and pick some gerberas which I did, a little bunch for him and a little bunch for me and enough left to keep his garden looking good. I noticed Burns Pet Foods have taken down all their signs facing onto Windsor Rd, probably in expectation of demonstrations, but I am being nice today so that’s all I am saying.

October 22, 2019

Food shopping today for cooking days later in the week sent a thought across my mind that maybe I should just have sent a decent donation to Larrakia instead of involving other people at all, but it’s a social event as well and probably overdue. Looking forward (with some trepidation) to Senate Estimates tomorrow night when my daughter will be a witness for the first time in her latest role in the public service. It’s an incredibly public way to do your job, in front of television cameras in a room full of reporters. I am glad I’ll be at home on the couch watching the live feed rather than in her position.

October 23, 2019

Writing this in the 15 minute break while watching Senate Estimates. I kind of love Jackie Lambie’s mispronunciations and stumbles in amongst her undoubted passion. It is worth all of that to have someone real in parliament, despite the fact that I often disagree with her. Even when she’s wrong she’s interesting. Senator Roberts on the other hand is just plain unpleasant and a fool to boot. Diplomacy and weasel words are so tightly linked as to be inseparable. My friend Owen in the late 60s and early 70s who was a master at Kings School told me that they were there to teach the boys to speak in such a way that they never offended anyone and never told them anything meaningful either. I’m sure that’s a training ground for politicians and diplomats. Government language often drives me mad, but at the other extreme you have Trump with ‘Don’t be a fool!’. It’s a fine balance and one I’m glad I don’t have to negotiate.

October 24, 2019

Up at the fruit shop at 7.30 am, most unlike me, and home with the goods before Aldi even opened. Baking all day today. Tania came over with a basket full of ingredients to donate to the cause and made delicious looking Italian almond biscuits, which we were self-controlled enough not to sample at lunch. There was a major disaster when the sponges blew up like souffles and then crashed, the end result suitable to retyre a vehicle or use as a discus. I’ve never ever had it happen before and don’t know how to prevent it happening again, so sponges have slipped from the repertoire for a while. I thought a lot had been achieved but I realised there is as much to do again tomorrow, without my sous-chef who has gone back to her secondary career of accounting.

A disturbing message from my indigenous friend in Vanuatu this afternoon, part of which reads: “Chinese are invading our country, we women are fighting to get into parliament in 2020. Chinese are everywhere, starting to do business reserved for indigenous people eg: small livestock, farming, kava bar, taxi, they’re getting through Vanuatu with green passport, our government is very corrupted.” It absolutely sickens me that they would use these beautiful, unsophisticated, generous people for money and at the same time ruin their magnificent landscape and economy. I feel much worse about it than anything they could do to us. Hopefully we can help in some way, but how I am not quite sure yet. Will ring her after the weekend.

October 25, 2019

Up at 6 and baking till about 1 pm to avoid the heat of the afternoon. I’ve had a few guests pull out today for the morning tea which always happens, but I hope we keep a critical mass. Sue rang and said they were back and looking at options about book group so I suggested they stay here and come to the function in the morning. I had idly thought of doing this fundraiser every 3-4 months and asking a different crew of people each time, but no, I think I’d rather just give a donation myself and keep up the kerb trawling. I don’t want to look at cake for a while either. Book group at Brigitte’s was gentle and most enjoyable with mixed views of the book from very positive to ‘I didn’t finish it”. We didn’t sit up for the usual nightcap, with Sue going to bed as soon as we walked in. Good to have them back safely. I was too dog tired to lie awake stressing about tomorrow which was a bonus.

October 26, 2020

Up again at 6 and I left the guests to their own devices apart from boiling Robert a couple of eggs. They went to visit Sue’s mother while I iced, filled and plated the cakes. It took more time than I’d expected and I just managed to beat the first guests, getting out of the shower less than 10 minutes prior to their arrival. My plan to ice the fruit cake with an Aboriginal flag made out of fondant came to nought because of time pressure and was probably a tacky idea anyway. I had received a text during the night to say that Tania was in hospital with kidney stones, a withdrawal at the barrier in horseracing parlance. So unexpected as she was fine when we communicated yesterday afternoon. Life can turn on a dime as the Americans say, and isn’t it the truth, but later she messaged to say she had been discharged which was reassuring. It was particularly great to see Jackie again so soon, having been to Caves Beach to see her only a couple of weeks ago. She holds a special place in my heart and it pains me to see her so ill. The guests all seemed to mix and there was plenty of food, too much in fact, so we did a cake run dropping off at Tania’s, Heather’s and the Fire Station. Unfortunately the firies were otherwise engaged and the station empty so I took two boxes of scones and cupcakes to my next door neighbours who are always happy beneficiaries. Those on the other side who are Indian don’t have a sweet tooth which I told Arvind is the only thing wrong with them as neighbours.

October 27, 2019

I was in bed at 9pm last night, unable to go a moment longer. Astonishingly the day raised $715 !! People were generous in the extreme and I sensed they were enjoying themselves (except perhaps the gentleman I asked John to introduce around when he arrived, John had to ask him his first name and he is probably more John’s friend than mine, oops, awkward moment). Bob offered to be scrutineer of the money counting in the absence of Jack who had left earlier and I thought he just wanted to write the total down so I gave him a scrappy offcut of paper. I should have known that he’d itemise every note and coin, sign and date it like a prescription. It’s funny but I’ve been craving salty food instead of the usual sweet. I don’t want to look at the leftover cake yet. It is almost painful for me to see waste, so I took another boxed lot of cakes down to Davina’s today and John also took a box for himself and one for his next door neighbour, my ex gardener. Perhaps I was thinking about whether we’d have enough if the 11 folks who hadn’t replied turned up, but of course we would have been fine.

When in Erko today I took Millie to the park then out for a babychino followed by a play in the fountain at the apartment complex. I took her home dripping wet and put her into the bath, after which we played a few of her favourite games. In the park she was talking to a man, it’s always a man, and asking him to play with her, calling him dad. When he was leaving she said ‘thankyou, it was nice to meet you’ and shook his hand formally. He was bemused.

October 28, 2019

I asked John to ring Larrakia to find out when the board meets and it’s Wednesday of next week, giving me time to send a formal letter requesting retrospective permission to hold a fundraiser. Playing by the rules is fine as long as someone explains the logic, something that hasn’t happened in this case. I would never have survived in the military.

Decided I wanted to go to the Tchaikovsky concert at the Opera House next month. He was the favourite classical composer of my youth and I’ll enjoy it I know. However I don’t seem to have a musical memory at all and despite loving opera and classical music I couldn’t hum a tune from any classical piece from memory, nor name a famous piece that I hear on the radio. While waiting on the phone they had a piece from opera playing, I couldn’t tell you what, but I knew it was from an opera I’ve seen more than once, which one is a total mystery. That was why I always failed music at school I think. John’s been complaining lately that we don’t get to enough concerts so he’s pleased that I’ve booked.

October 29, 2019

Last night Stephen rang about 7 pm to say that Deborah’s lung operation had been completed successfully but at 9 pm he called back to say that she had had a bleed and the surgeon and team were racing back from home to operate again. About 11 he called to say that they had taken out a 500 ml clot from her lung, rendered her unconscious and intubated her with a respirator. Very worrying news, but it seems that today she is off the breathing tube, having had three units of blood. She fainted when they got her up this afternoon so she may have more blood tomorrow. It will take a lot of rest to get over this very big hump but Stephen will be an excellent nurse.

Went this afternoon to see the acclaimed doco The Eulogy and it was an awesome piece of work, not least because it opens with Paul Keating giving his famous eulogy for pianist Geoffrey Tozer. It was a poignant film both from the point of view of Tozer’s life and in seeing Richard Gill back on screen a year or so after his death. Tozer’s downfall is investigated in detail but to me it all seemed to hark back to a self-indulgent mother who wanted to live out her dreams through her son, never considering the effects on his overall development as a person. He was fatherless, with a dominating mother whose ambitions for him created a one trick pony, despite the fact that that one trick was so breathtakingly good that the music world looked on in awe.

October 30, 2019

I posted off a very official sounding and extremely polite letter to Larrakia asking for retrospective permission to have the event I’ve already had and saying that I will send a cheque as soon as more promised funds arrive and the permission is granted. Very diplomatically put of course, but underneath it all saying ‘I’ll swap you the money for the permission’ so it’s in their court now.

I remain Facebook friends with a woman from a country town who was a regular browser in the shop, her suggestion not mine. She is extremely politically conservative but I keep her as a friend partly in order to see what the bad guys are up to. But I’ve discovered over time she is also virulently anti migrant, despite being one herself, and oh so racist. Today she posted a story about a government plan to rename some cities with Aboriginal names (I don’t believe a word of it). She of course commented negatively, but in browsing through hundreds of following responses I was taken aback at the spite and vitriol ‘they never built any cities so they don’t deserve to have any named after them’ was one of the nicer comments. Her comment was pretty vicious, but what really gets me is that she is a parole officer for her local gaol, imagine going to her for a parole assessment as a black Australian, it makes me shudder. I think we live in a bubble, surrounded by intelligent and gentle people, underestimating the nasty, racist, misogynist rabble at the gates, sadly they are winning.

October 31, 2019

Deborah is improving slowly but has had four blood transfusions now, about half her total blood volume as I calculate it. I however am a lucky duck today. I was full of angst about the NBN man coming after all the horror stories I’d heard and my own experience with the connection to the shop. The man was called Van and he was a sweetie ‘would you like it here or do you prefer it somewhere else?’. He shook my hand before leaving and said he was pleased to meet me. Van’s the Man. Now just the Optus man on Monday and I’m done. Then I went out to check the car oil and couldn’t find the piece of timber I always use to prop up the bonnet because the supports had died before I bought the car. Absolutely a conundrum as the wood never leaves the car, but when I opened up the bonnet it rose automatically and stayed up. My lovely mechanic Alex (he of the constantly coal black hands) had apparently installed new gas filled bonnet struts when I put the car in for rego, but the amazing thing is that he didn’t charge for the rego check saying it was a freebie, but didn’t tell me that he’d done the struts for nothing too, previously quoted value $90 plus fitting of double that. He’d thrown the bit of wood out I’m assuming, probably figuring that if he didn’t do the job for nothing I would never get around to it, probably the truth as anything to do with cars that doesn’t involve safety seems a waste of money to me. Alex is the Man.

November 1, 2019

Irrelevant issue 1. My lush mint plant on the front verandah has been looking a little piquey lately and inspection hasn’t turned up any insects, but this morning it had gone from piquey to skeletal. Putting on my glasses I discovered a large family of mint green caterpillars living under every remaining leaf. I removed them and took them out to the grass verge, explaining that they were welcome to eat there but the mint is sacrosanct. Irrelevant issue 2. My NBN man Van told me that my system would work as normal till the Optus man comes on Monday. Naughty Van. Last night the internet wouldn’t work at all and neither would the landline but I had a card with a new Wi-fi code and password to use after Monday, so I tried that and bingo by jingo it all works fine, though marginally slower than before I had the NBN connected. Dang you Malcolm, why couldn’t you have left it alone.

Important issue 1. After watching the disgraceful police abuse, intimidation and threatening behaviour by two Parramatta police constables against two Afghan women (caught on their own body cameras, stupid doesn’t even go close to describing them) I was white hot. But figuring that being disingenuous might work more effectively than abuse I rang Parramatta Police Headquarters to ask if the pair had been stood down yet, as I didn’t want to drive through the area if they were still operating. Unsurprisingly the Force representative had no idea at all what I was talking about, so I suggested he Google it when he got home or just watch ABC News on his phone. Then I rang the Minister for Police, sadly my local member, and insisted that they be dismissed or relegated to ‘other duties’ (cleaning the toilets comes to mind). Another call to his ministerial office with the same suggestion was greeted with a dour ‘I’ll pass that on’.

November 2, 2019

So, I am not imagining that the internet speed is slower on NBN. Tests over the past couple of weeks on cable have produced speeds varying from 28.8 Mbps to 52.9, averaging around 47.4. Since I got NBN on yesterday the speed has been tested four times, from 13.2 to 24.7, about half what was promised. I intend to complain strongly to the Optus man on Monday which will get me absolutely nowhere.

Went to First Saturday at Michelle’s bearing a mushroom stroganoff from a new recipe, which I was sadly unable to taste as my parotid gland went on strike in the morning. This means I can’t eat or drink anything but water without experiencing excruciating pain, triggered by chewing or even simply mouth contact with food or drink other than water. Presumably this came about because I’ve stopped taking the Plaquenil, as it used to occur periodically but I’d sort of forgotten about it since I’ve been on the meds. Especially disappointing as Michelle had made her famous quiche. The talk concerned me in that it focused totally on assistance for veterans and remembrance without any reference to avoiding the pointless and spurious wars since WWII which created unnecessary grief for our young men and women. I’ve written to the presenters to express this view.

November 3, 2019

Hurrah, after 24 hours without food I luxuriated in tea and toast for breakfast. Food tastes so good after a break. Once when the spasms continued unrelentingly for 5 days I had visions of it never going away and having to be tube fed. Had an enjoyable day cooking Christmas cakes for Wayside Chapel and Exodus Foundation with Carol, Amy and Kath, the latter a woman born the same year as me in Harrogate so we told stories of places we both knew. She was from Starbeck, the village in which my adoptive cousins lived and which I visited in 1973. Reminded me to ring the bro tonight, as if I needed reminding.

November 4, 2019

More NBN goings on. The Optus man came today to make sure everything is okay with the changeover. Me: I’m not happy about the speed. Him: It’s dropped by 50% right? Me: How did you know? Him: Because everywhere I go they say the same thing if they were on cable before. He is getting speeds at his home of 100-110 on cable and fears the NBN coming to where he lives as he’s young and does a lot of streaming, he’s with Telstra which amused me no end. So, I rang Optus to complain and it’s obvious they’ve heard it all before. Not our fault, it’s because the government changed the system etc etc. However Ahmed on the phone offered to become my ‘case manager’, is sending a new modem (which we both know will make no difference) but I am hoping when it doesn’t he may agree to bump me up to the speed I am paying for at no extra charge. He is Indian, living in Punchbowl so we chatted India, food, culture and more and I am in with a chance as he is a lovely helpful person. What a complete fuckup this NBN has been with Malcolm the Technology Guru, who clearly was as useless as a marshmallow hubcap in decision making on this issue. I think I shall write and tell him so.

Fascinating teev tonight with Australian Story featuring Mark Morrison, the astounding principal of a Kempsey school, who does everything from going to court with his students, rounding them up from home, feeding them, setting up a creche for their children and being a last chance for them to get an education. Respect. Following this was 4 Corners which looked at the police investigation into Bill Spedding, the repairman suspected in the disappearance of 3 year old William Tyrrell. I was surprised and pleased to see his lawyer Peter O’Brien with whom I chatted during breaks at the Coroners Court a couple of months ago (not about the case, just passing the time) but I took his card as I’d picked him as a good bloke to know if you got into deep doodoo. When I win Lotto I am going to have a million or 10 put aside to hand out as needed to fund cases like the ones O’Brien does. He is a specialist in miscarriages of justice, particularly involving the police. Perhaps I will put him on retainer. Yeah, dream on girl, you need to buy tickets to win, but the thought of millions to give away is my ultimate fantasy.

November 5, 2019

Yay! A big win, my spy tells me the Anzac sign has been removed from Kiama Lighthouse so I can cease and desist writing letters, emails and phoning the mayor. The RSL asked the council for permission to put the sign there for 2018 only, then applied to make it permanent against the wishes of Crown Lands, National Trust and many others. They have their own perfectly good memorial in the centre of town but got to use a historic building as a billboard for well over 18 months. Hurrah that the council were forced to see sense.

Up gardening with Kirk from 7.30 am to nearly 10, then we went to Bondi to walk the Sculpture by the Sea. Not as exciting as some other years, but we enjoyed it nonetheless, despite ferocious winds. Had a lovely morning tea at Bronte Bogey Hole, the first cafe on the strip and still the best, then drove to Bondi and got a park right near the start of the walk. I’d figured that Melbourne Cup Day would be an excellent time to do it and that traffic would be light if we came home about 3.30 when everyone was watching tele, right on both counts. It’s Nup to the Cup for me in future, actually I beat the rush and pulled out of it a couple of years ago, an early adopter so to speak.

November 6, 2019

Went to the nursery to buy an Acanthus after seeing one at Carol’s in full flower, then wandered around with it in my hand looking for a spot to plant it. It’s a wide spreader and so are many other things I’ve planted recently but finally I found the perfect spot. A few of the books that came into the street library during the week had a Bookcrossing.com number inside the cover. Intrigued, I put the number into their website as instructed, to discover its history and was amazed to find that it went into that system in Geelong, then went to Rooty Hill and then into my library which was pictured on the site! So I registered on the website and I suppose now I will be deluged with emails about where these five books end up. But also in the box yesterday was the book Australian Gypsies by Mandy Sayer, interesting to me as many settled in western Sydney, particularly around Liverpool, where they were discriminated against, even to the point of keeping their children out of some public schools. We went a couple of years ago to a talk in the city on that book but I kept my wallet firmly shut on that occasion as I am downsizing right? However it has been on my ‘to read’ list and I am super glad the universe landed it to me in its own good time. With it was the novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist which was also on my list.

November 7, 2019

Became inexplicably ill this morning so the usual hour of gardening was out. Decided I would likely just be lying down if I stayed at home so I jumped in the car and went to court at Lidcombe, air-conditioned, quiet, with lots to focus my mind on. By lunchtime I was feeling well enough to do a bit of gardening so I came home and did just that. Court as therapy? It occurs to me that I am lucky so many things appeal to me to occupy my time because, in the reverse of Bill Clinton, John’s become a hard dog to get off the porch. We’ve had three lovely trips away but each was occasioned by work (Tenants Advisory Group conference) or by two different celebrations in his family. When I suggested that the morning tea we had on Tuesday at the Bogey Hole was so good that we ought to consider having lunch there, my shout, his response was oh, I’d need to look in my diary, I’m pretty busy at the moment. I’m not telling anyone yet……..but it looks as if my pal Ahmed at Optus, after numerous phone calls and texts from him to me over three days, may have fixed my internet speed……..shh, I don’t want to jinx it. Bless you Ahmed.

November 8, 2019

I bought tickets a few weeks ago for A Russian Gala, Sydney Symphony Orchestra with Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 followed by the full Symphony No. 2 by Rachmaninoff. His playing was sublime, four curtain calls, and it took me back to my youth when Tchaikovsky was number one on my hit parade. Did I fall in love with him or Dylan first? I can’t remember, but they were in tandem for a long time. It was partly him and partly Tolstoy who convinced me to go to the USSR in 1973, just wanting to be where those masters had been, and I was lucky enough to visit Tchaikovsky’s house in Klin, north of Moscow, to sit at his piano and to look at the remaining hand-rolled cigarettes on his desk (whether or not they were genuinely left there when he died is another question which I didn’t press). Unfortunately I didn’t get as far as Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy’s house, which was somewhat further afield and in the opposite direction. The two of them met and admired each other immensely, Tchaikovsky saying of Tolstoy that he was “the greatest of all writers and artists ever to have existed anywhere”. Tolstoy was such a supreme student of human nature who could, I assume from his writing, put himself into anyone else’s shoes. Last night’s concert was a wonderful experience and made me realise that I should seek out his music every time it is scheduled. Tchaik 1 and Rach 2, what a double. It also confirmed that when I go ahead and plan an event John not only comes, but enjoys it immensely, so I just need to do so more often.

November 9, 2019

Stayed at John’s last night and went to Erskineville to see the fam today. First thing this morning I got a message from my cousin Angela saying that her brother Jimmy is in town from his home in Byron Bay and all the family are meeting tomorrow for a picnic in Royal National Park so we agreed with pleasure to attend. Worked out the food we would take to share as two of their brothers and their families are Muslim converts and it needed to be halal. Met Dav, Louis and Millie at Sydney Park and Millie thoroughly enjoyed the face painting, Elsa of course, and the various child centred activities. About lunchtime we headed back to Lane Cove to shop for the avocado and bean salad and the beetroot, sweet potato and ricotta salad for tomorrow, plenty of fruit and cake in my freezer to take too. Just sitting down to lunch when Angela rang wanting to know where we were, I was aghast to find that she’d sent the message on Friday night and the picnic’s ‘tomorrow’ meant ‘today’. They had been waiting for us to arrive to serve the lunch. What a bummer, I was so looking forward to seeing them and having a swim to boot. I am doing this on John’s computer which is so slow as to be barely believable since he got the NBN. It took an hour and 10 minutes to upload a short video of this morning’s event to Facebook. At home it would be one minute if that. He needs an Ahmed but as he’s with TPG Ahmed’s no help.

November 10, 2019

Still rankling about the mixup of days for the picnic but I need to let it go, not something I’m good at. Went to Carol’s on cake duty along with Kath and Virginia. We got through quite a bit of work and had a lovely lunch to boot. Did a detour to look at a desk I was tipped off about, put out for the council cleanup, but it was much too big for me to wrestle. A glance at my phone told me that the Liberals have elected Jim Molan as a Senate replacement. He was disloyal to them once before and is an extremist in my view, so clearly this is the type of person they like. I shall turn off any electronic device which shows his face or voice for the sake of my mental health, I despise him with every grain of my being.

November 11, 2019

A mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes attention. Yesterday when I went to water the front garden I discovered that the connection between the hose and the tap was missing. This morning I searched through my hose bits and bobs but couldn’t find a replacement so a trip to Bunnings was on the cards, however when I went out to lay some mulch the fittings had been replaced. So did the heinous thief suffer guilt overnight? Who borrows one’s hose fittings and puts them back the next day? Life’s little mysteries abound. Martha came over to deliver our copies of her book When I Was Ten, for which both John and I were interviewed. Fifteen years in the making, it is a volume which charts the changing lives of Australians across the 20th century. I did have serious reservations about how much of my early life I had exposed but I’ve come to terms with that over the last few months.

November 12, 2019

Decided to stay close to home today considering the catastrophic bushfire warnings we are under, but early on I hosed the garden in a probably futile attempt to appease the fire gods. Then went up to Service NSW because the National Parks website said I could renew my concession parks pass there. Unfortunately I discovered you can only pick up the form there and must send off a coloured photocopy of both sides of your pension card to apply, a bit tricky when you don’t have a printer, so another favour to ask of John. I must say that coordinating all state government service at one office, where they are helpful in the extreme, was a very good idea. In fact the only good idea I can think of that the Liberals have had in the last decade (except banning dog racing, which they then reneged on). But seeing all National Parks are closed in NSW because of fire danger, I guess there is no rush on that account. Making a fish and prawn curry for dinner tonight, sauce already done so I just need to heat it up and drop in the small pieces of mullet and the tiger prawns at serving time. The recipe comes from a book of Indian recipes, one of a few my friend Ramachandran has sent me over the years. It’s called Indian Non-Vegetarian Delights, I love the way that in India vegetarian is the norm, and the first on any menu, then non-vegetarian comes at the end.

November 13, 2019

Had a sudden insight that I don’t need a printer for the National Parks pass, I just need to photograph the form and the pension card and email them, feeling very technological. Decided that I have so many summer clothes that I need to get them out and iron a few so I don’t keep wearing the same old, same old. So I ironed about 15 tops ranging from 10 to 30 years old and and hung them in the wardrobe. Most are house or going to the supermarket tops, though I did wear one of them out tonight, but even so they need to be cycled. Feeling virtuous. It is now a week since the Larrakia board met and no reply to my letter, what to do? Apart from banging my head against a rock, I just don’t know. Trotted into town on the bus and went to Cafe Chino in the Hilton for a sweet treat before meeting Carol for a movie, but sadly my query about whether a particular tart contained chocolate was wrongly answered in the negative so that was a waste of money and anticipation. The movie, a doco about a small medical service in New Mexico which treats the poor and drug and alcohol addicted folks, was both depressing and inspiring. Depressing that a country like the USA can always find money for prisons, wars and walls yet no money to help its citizens. Inspiring that the same country produces medicos and nurses who have come from hardscrabble backgrounds themselves, yet rise to help others overcome the same social problems which afflicted them. Inspiring too to see the folks trying their best to get well, not always successfully. Discussing the movie afterwards we noted a man in what appeared to be a red Trump hat, he was black. I have no words.

November 14, 2019

Decided to do my weekly ringaround and had spoken to Brian and Jackie, when as if by magic the call was interrupted by an incoming from…drum roll…Larrakia Nation. Not the CEO or anyone on the board, but from the head of HR who has been my best contact all along. She explained that the CEO has no secretarial support, is massively overworked, that the organisation ‘lurches from one crisis to the next’ and that he is currently in Alice Springs trying to help folks affected (who isn’t affected?) by the police shooting in Yuendumu. So, where does that leave us? Lee asked me to email her a copy of my written letter to the board and is going to attend to it if she can. I guess the answer is that if you are one person with massive responsibilities you need to delegate and I haven’t seen much willingness to do that so far. I said to Lee that I wish I could just come up for a month and work fulltime to which she answered ‘oh god we would so welcome that’. The saga continues.

John and I went in on the bus to the Sydney Peace Prize lecture. Michelle is a fixture at this event but sadly missed it this year due to being in hospital, a lame excuse. We enjoyed a speech by Aboriginal woman Antoinette Braybrook of Our Voice, Our Visibility, to whom Tracey Spicer later donated her part of the prize money. While Tarana Burke spoke well too, I didn’t think that she outlined her organisation in the way that perhaps Hanan Ashrawi or Patrick Dodson did, partly because it was almost an accidental movement, they lit the spark but millions of women spread the fire. The prize organisers recognised this by giving it to the movement rather than one individual. Perhaps less speakers, eight plus a musical interlude which I could have happily missed, would allow the featured speaker to spend more time on the matter at hand. Do we really need speeches by the Lord Mayor and local member, however distinguished? I would argue not. But I am not running the show, however I think I shall nominate Bill Crewes for the prize next year.

November 15, 2019

Visited Michelle in hospital and she looked right spritely for someone a couple of days post surgery. Then on to UNSW through heavy traffic to our concert venue. Had a meal at the student food court and it wasn’t bad at all. Ordering a cup of tea I asked the lady what they had and expected the usual two choices but she waved her arm across two whole shelves of Twinings varieties, plus Asian and Egyptian teas. When I commented on her selection she gave me a sample of her favourite Egyptian tea to take home, ‘it’s strong so sit down to have it’ she said. What a sweetie. The concert was wonderful, beginning with Sibelius’ Finlandia, followed by Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and after interval a new work to me The Great Animal Orchestra – Symphony for Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes, written in 2014 and performed only for the second time in Australia. It is set to a background of wild animal noises, taped in America, Borneo, Zimbabwe and the Amazon. There are five movements with compelling sounds and intricate layering of music. I am a hard one to please with modern music but I was enthralled and hope to go again to hear this excellent orchestra.

Checked my Facebook when I got home and had three messages from friends who have fires approaching tonight. Greg and Luke whose wedding we went to at Webbs Creek a couple of months ago have a fire 20 km away and have had 5 RFS guys there today helping them to prepare the house. They have 4 horses, 2 dogs and 6 chooks to worry about as well as themselves. Simon is on the northern edge of the same fire at Wollemi, though they are 280 km apart by road. His fire is 18 km away and Mark near Gundaroo also has a fire 18 km away. All are out of control and a sleepless night is expected by each of them. To give an idea of the scale of current fire events, if the currently burning area was in the UK, it would cover the entire land surface and then some. Terrifying, the animal loss must be in the millions.

November 16, 2019

After forecasting a sleepless night for friends with fires nearby, I managed to be a bit sleepless myself just lying thinking about it. Mid morning I got a message from Davina saying they were going to Macquarie Centre with Millie to see a place which had bears dressed as Elsa from Frozen so I met them there despite loathing that particular centre. It is completely mystifying in its design and apart from always getting lost, I am very conscious of looking for exits all the time as I find the place really claustrophobic so never go there by choice. It was good to get together though and Millie was happy to have the bear, but they get you coming and going, because the boots, dress and even the hair come as extras to the base price making it a pricey Elsa in the end. It morphed into her Christmas present as a result. Clever marketing.

November 17, 2019

It was the day of Link Housing’s annual picnic and as John is on the Tenant Advisory Group we had to be there from 11 till 3, which was fine but tiring towards the end, especially during the talent quest….however there were a few people who could actually sing or dance so it wasn’t all bad. Lunch was included at various mobile units selling Malaysian food, paella, pizza and the Oz Harvest truck which I chose, having some nice tacos there. The preponderance of chicken dishes at every stall reminded me that chicken has gone from food for the rich to food for the poor in my lifetime. I was surprised at how many disabled people there were, but John tells me that Link has quite a few disabled tenants, they provide the real estate and other organisations provide the live-in carers. It was an event with lots of games for children, an Aboriginal dance troupe, the talent quest, Santa, a sort of liquorice allsorts selection of what people might like, not to mention the lunch, desserts and drinks. I did speak to one worker who said that the entire staff has been given over to working on this for a month, that did give me pause for thought about how internally focussed government and semi-government organisations can become, plus the cost of today must have been phenomenal.

November 18, 2019

I find myself absolutely fuming about the corruption arrest of Paul Whyte and an associate in Western Australia. He was responsible for ‘internal governance, standards and integrity’ in the Department of Community, he who sets the rules knows best how to get around them. But it gets worse, he was responsible for public housing, it gets even worse, in charge of Aboriginal Housing. He apparently spent the money on a high end house, lifestyle and racehorses while many Aboriginal people in that state live in poverty. If guilty I would volunteer to help tar and feather him. I know, I know, I am against capital punishment in all its forms, but today I am making his case the one exception. One paper is showing a video online of a man kicking the gates of his mansion and calling ‘come out you bastard’. Was it a disgruntled neighbour or member of the public who’d read the news? No, it was another high ranking public servant from the same department who reported apparent corruption to Whyte in 2017. Whyte supposedly investigated it and told the man he was mistaken. Bastard indeed if he’s found guilty. But I was able to let my ire go down to simmer for a wonderful lunch with a friend for her birthday. We went to Wild Pear and I swear it has to be one of the best lunch venues in Sydney, a big call but the food is top city restaurant quality. No wonder the daughter of this family won Masterchef this year. Bravo!

November 19, 2019

I have cooled off a little and tar and feathering is out the window in WA, replaced by public stocks and egg throwing. By the end of the week perhaps I will accept gaol as an option. John, out of the blue, asked me a question during the week that is perhaps relevant here. He said ‘if there is a place in the brain for religious belief and you don’t have one, what would you put in its place?’ Without even thinking I said Justice. I think that’s one reason why I love going to court, seeing people getting some little justice for acts committed against them or their families. But it applies too in hatred of injustice, seeing corruption in any form, but especially in government, just makes my blood boil. ICAC hearings are probably the most satisfying court proceedings and the Police Integrity Commission would be too, but I am reluctant to go (if in fact it is even public) in case I bust my foo-foo valve listening to the evidence.

I am battling an ant plague and have been for a month. Every time I pick something up there’s an ant or two or six under it. Today I discovered they are all over the cans in my pantry, everything is sealed in there but they are on the hunt nevertheless. I had some meringues in a clip-lock cake tin on the bench and they somehow managed to get inside the sealed tin, currently the box is in the fridge and they are cooling their heels. I don’t want to poison their nest, I actually like ants, but they are driving me to distraction in the kitchen.

November 20, 2019

Hallelujah! An email arrived from the CEO of Larrakia Nation, headlined Grateful. Not looking for gratitude, just answers to some questions, but I will take gratitude as well if it’s going free. Then another from the woman who’s been of most assistance there, apologising for the fact that ‘your experience with us has been so poor’. So the cheques are wending their way to Darwin as we speak, a weight off my shoulders. Coming up to wet season (if ever it arrives) they need all the help they can get.

I may, I repeat may, have had a win with the ants. I asked professor Google about ways to get rid of them and he said they hate peppermint oil. Well I happened to have some so I added a few drops to a spray bottle of water and every time I see an ant I give it a shower. So far, so good, they don’t like it and this morning I only had three instead of 50, so I am spraying the inside of the pantry as it’s harmless and smells nice anyway.

My street library has slowed off of late, since I bought the Bunnings shelves for all the stored books, bloody typical. However today I’ve had a lady called Rosie at the door with donations and another called Rita looking for a particular book, so it has its benefits socially. I do get some good books to read myself in the donations, recently reading a few interesting novels and a book on Australian Gypsies that I had wanted for a while, so while my library has slowed, all books are appreciated and will find their way to homes in the end.

November 21, 2019

John went this week to his monthly meeting of ex priest friends. They lunch together, chew the fat, criticise the church and sympathise with each other about the trials of their time in the seminary. But this week John was disappointed to find that the view was widely abroad that the church was somehow badly done by in relation to the child sexual abuse scandal. He kept his powder dry for now but he felt he will need to address that view at some point. It’s the old story of putting on a uniform, in cases as wide as the military, the police and even among priests (ex priests in this case) the loyalty always wins, regardless of how serious the transgression it will be forgiven by those who wear or have worn the uniform. This is why prosecutions are rare, no one wants to testify against their compatriots. Governments cynically use this loyalty to keep the lid on scandals by their police and military and priests have benefited too. John tells the story of being pulled up for speeding and when he handed the cop his licence the only response was ‘on your way, you should know better’. A priest ‘in uniform’ wasn’t an appropriate target.

November 22, 2019

Yesterday I accompanied Martha to Windsor so she could deliver a copy of her book to Brian. He was surprised and delighted by it and thrilled that he got to keep his copy. Martha expressed interest in giving a talk to the residents and Brian pointed out the appropriate staff member to speak to. She took Martha’s number and was very positive about the idea. We repaired to the sushi train but for the first time I was disappointed by the food there,typical if you suggest a place.

Working on the ant issue and a combination of leaving the pantry open and spraying the blighters with water and peppermint oil as soon as I see them is having some effect. I’m hoping to gradually reduce them but I’m darned if I know what they’re after, even found one in a letter I was about to take to post.

November 23, 2019

Left early for Erko to wrangle Millie for the weekend, meeting Carly there as she arrived from Canberra to be joint wrangler. Dav and Louis headed off for a weekend at Manly beach, with swims and a fish restaurant in the planning. I took along a bottle of bubble liquid, a large floor puzzle of the planets and a Wiggles activity book, all of which together occupied many hours of the weekend, as well as snap cards and other games, so a success on three fronts there. She is into looking at and identifying flowers at the moment so a walk to a small reserve with flowers was a must. Very declamatory at the moment so there was a lot of ‘sit there grandma with your hands down by your sides’ and ‘okay guys, let’s take turns, I’m first’ both of which I suspect come from pre-school. I was exhausted by the time she went to bed and don’t know how on earth I would manage her alone these days.

November 24, 2019

We made cupcakes this morning with Millie an active part of the making, including icing them with a blueberry on top. Later we went to the park where, as usual, she cosied up to a man there, linking arms with him as he sat on a seat trying to look at his phone. His son played chasings and other games with her, but on leaving commented ‘goodbye Millie, I like you even if you’ve got nits’, presumably referring to her curly hair. The father insisted on an apology, but it shows how early this stuff starts. I felt much better after a sleep, but it was interrupted in the early hours by a call from Togo, I needed Carly to remind me exactly where Togo is, and as far as I know I have no friends there. I suspect he has a million or two in the bank for me but it will have to remain where it is I’m afraid as I was too sleepy to respond. Although our charge was happy to see mum and dad return, she didn’t query their absence as she has in the past, just decided they were ‘at work’.

November 25, 2019

Made quite some progress on clearing my storeroom today. Threw out boxes of day sheets, lay-by books and receipt books from the shop, only keeping the last two years of trading. Then packed up all my plate stands and racks of various sizes and half of the jewellery display material, boxes, stands etc and all these will go to auction. I discovered I have got three Christmas trees and boxes and boxes of decorations, when only one tree and one box of decos gets used each year. I am far from a minimalist and have no desire to become one but I need things organised to a point that I know what’s there and how I can access it easily and quickly. My plastic and foil bulk cooking platters and dishes remain in case I go back to cooking for a horde.

My internet speed has been ploughing along around the 46 mark but last night and tonight it’s dropped to 26 for reasons I can’t fathom. However John must have the slowest NBN in Sydney, dropping yesterday to 0.2 download and 0.0 upload, he’s still waiting for a pic I sent yesterday.

November 26, 2019

With the car filled to the brim with an assortment of goodies from my storeroom, plus a few things from council pickups, I trotted off to Bargain Hunt to put them to auction. Larrakia will get another cheque before Christmas I’m thinking. However I now have a car full of lifejackets, signs, a lamp, a 6 foot Christmas tree with decorations, Christmas ornaments, collectable matchbooks, postcards, jewellery point of sale goods, plate stands and lots more. I was only hoping for about $20 a lot, but the owner told me they had lots of good stuff coming in at the moment, so only the wall mounted bronze animal head passed muster. ‘big Christmas tree with decos and ornaments $20 bucks’ I wanted to shout from the car as I came home. Not sure what the next move is, but the only good news is that they gave me a $200 reserve on the bronze.

I had rung my optician friend a few days ago complaining that although I keep cleaning my glasses to get rid of a blur, there doesn’t seem to be much improvement afterwards. Could I need a new script I asked? He mentioned cataracts as a possibility as well as the obvious, a new script. So this morning I went to his eye test person who confirmed that my eyes had deteriorated somewhat and she bumped up the script 2 points. However then she asked if I go to an ophthalmologist, which I do as the drug I have been on for years for Sjogren’s/lupus can damage your eyes, part of the reason I stopped it about 6 months ago. She suggested I see him soon, but it was hard to get out of her exactly why. Seeing she was Asian it brought to mind Robert and Sue’s difficulties in getting the truth out of his oncologist, something they’ve put down to cultural differences. So I trotted out to Ralph who said he’d put new lenses in my old glasses as he always does and then I left with my referral from her, which I promptly opened to find that she thinks I have glaucoma, which of course has an initial symptom of blurry vision. A bit annoyed as I am not a Nervous Nellie regarding medical matters. Anyway I rang the ophthalmologist’s office and was offered an appointment next year, but when I told her I had opened the referral and glaucoma was suspected she put me in this Thursday. All the more reason that the optometrist should have been upfront, though she did say I have cataracts now but apparently wasn’t game to mention the G word.

November 27, 2019

Ant update: I wasn’t here all weekend and there was no chance of the little blighters getting anything to eat, so I thought I was shot of them. Then yesterday one only knife was left on the breadboard and the whole damn nest appeared. This morning I decided that I had put up with this for 5 weeks and enough was enough, so I reluctantly went down to the laundry and got the Ant Rid, putting it on a piece of foil where they congregate on the kitchen bench. So far, they have walked around it, searching everywhere else for a crumb.

Reading George Pell’s 2002 hagiography, ahem I mean biography, by Tess Livingstone and it is as if Louise Milligan’s recent excellent book about him is referring to another person altogether, though at one point Tess does say that many people report his serious bullying and strict adherence to the rulebook when he was a prefect at school. I am inclined to email her and ask her whether she’s read the Milligan book and what her view of him is now. I did get one laugh out of it though. Pell’s father, not a Catholic and with high regard for his son’s intellectual ability and ambitions for his son professionally, greeted the announcement that he was going into the priesthood with the words ‘you might just as well have been a bloody dill’. I am toying with wrapping it up as part of the book swap for our Christmas book group celebration on Friday, there has to be one booby prize in the pile doesn’t there?

November 28, 2019

Just back from the ophthalmologist, always a trial, but today I arrived at 1.30 and left at 4, groan. About 15 minutes was spent having tests done and the rest of the time waiting. I left my book in the car and was afraid to go and get it in case I missed my turn so I read every magazine there that didn’t involve sport, a pile a foot high. He is very good at what he does, but 27 people in a waiting room indicates to me that attention to the bank balance is crucial. Anyway, good news, I have neither glaucoma nor cataracts but age related deterioration of the lens. He said I would be lucky to pass a driving test without glasses and was surprised that I didn’t have difficulty driving. So I sailed through that one unscathed. Praise be.

Thinking today about my encounter years back with Clive James, in Castle Hill of all places. Back in the day there was a very good restaurant in the Plaza there and I frequented it for dinner if I saw a movie. At the time Clive was living in Dural with a woman whose name I’ve forgotten and one night I was surprised to see them at the next table. I ignored them but as they left he said confidently ‘hello, you know who I am’. ‘Yes’ I replied and we had a short chat, about the food from memory. A couple of weeks later he was at the next table again and greeted me like a long lost friend, asking what I had ordered and chatting for some time. His lady friend looked bored and didn’t engage, I suspect she’d seen it all before. He was charming, clever, entertaining and had an ego the size of a house. When he left he stood and said goodbye loudly to the owner from across the room, judging by the bemused looks on the patrons they didn’t have a clue who he was. Postscript: while looking up his obit online I accidentally discovered by way of a photo that the woman he was with on those two occasions was Leanne Edelsten, his longtime girlfriend of the time and the reason his wife tossed him out, after discovering emails and photos on his computer.

November 29, 2019

Deborah is still in hospital after a month, having been transferred to rehab for a week, deteriorating and being raced back to hospital for a third go at surgery. Apparently the rehab doctor was clueless and told her she was fine to go home, despite her complaints of being too sick. He left to go on holiday at 3pm and the replacement doctor realised straight away that she was in bother, rang the surgeon who didn’t have visiting rights at the rehab centre, and presto back to hospital and into theatre immediately. They drained over two litres of fluid from her lung, followed by two more the next day. She’s there still, but this time will leave to go to a different rehab hospital, apparently the previous one is geared up for joint replacement and just weren’t with it for a lung problem. Big teaching hospitals have their problems too, but curious registrars are always hanging around to pick up things that may have been missed by someone else, that’s a big enough reason for me to prefer them over the privates every time.

Book group Christmas party with just two members absent was a warm and relaxed affair. Carol did the customary Thanksgiving turkey and we exchanged books as is our tradition. I got Bernardine Evaristo’s for Girl, Woman, Other about which I know nothing, but I look forward to reading it. I decided to give two books from my bookshelves rather than from the street library collection, The Romanovs 1613-1918 and the novel The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser. Both were enjoyable but I can’t see myself rereading either with so much wonderful stuff coming onto the market every week. Just reading  every Trump book released keeps me out of trouble. I am attracted to reading about bizarre personalities, forensic psychology fascinates me. Which leads me to the Claremont killings trial in WA where the prosecution is trying to link particular domestic stresses in the accused’s marriage to the actual dates that the girls were murdered. His wife had an affair, later becoming in pregnant to her gentleman friend and subsequently leaving her husband. She testified that at each of these junctures the husband was calm and no argument ensued. The judge made the comment to the effect that if the accused didn’t react it was hard to believe he was upset enough to cause him to go out and commit a murder. I would have thought that failure to react in those circumstances would be quite an abnormal reaction, especially as he had in 1990 been convicted of going into a hospital and gagging a social worker, dragging her to another room before she managed to escape. All this immediately after he discovered his then girlfriend had been cheating on him…. but he didn’t react. It’s surprisingly similar to the common ‘kick the cat’ scenario, displacing  frustrations by abusing a lower-ranking person than the one who has caused you grief. The judge maybe needs to get out more.

November 30, 2019

Library run this morning and all’s well with the world. I began an unusual new book tonight, Quiet Until the Thaw, about American Indians living on a reservation in the 1960s and 70s. The similarities with Aboriginal experience are many, loss of language and culture, use of their people for war but with no respect or rights attached, removal from family and abuse in the institutions into which they were placed.A depressingly familiar scenario. Talking of depressing people, I had a communication late tonight from Chrys in Brisbane to say that the depressing figure of Angus Taylor may have had a secretive motive for his attacks on Clover Moore, using forged documents. Apparently his wife, barrister Louise Clegg, was planning a tilt at Clover’s job as Lord Mayor, giving him the motive everyone’s been looking for. If true, he’s toast and she has to be under suspicion as an accomplice. Contacted all the journos I could think of to ask if it’s true.

December 1, 2019

Oh no, 24 days to Christmas and I haven’t given it any thought at all. It will be a smaller gathering than usual and I think the first time that Dav won’t be home for Christmas, although one year John and I were away and the girls spent it together. On cake duty at Carol’s today in a big group of seven, it’s looking as if she’ll be finished earlier than usual this year. I probably needed a stiff Drambuie tonight after a big black spider came up the inside of the armchair I was sitting in. I didn’t know I could move so fast. I’m good with most critters but oh my goodness I’m a big coward with spiders and had to ask Mr Mortein for urgent assistance. Bless you Mr Mortein.

December 2, 2019

Interesting morning as Jane had asked me if she could bring over the wife of an American friend who is spending 5 weeks in Australia. So they came for morning tea, the primary aim being for  us to discuss antiques, which are her passion. She is well versed in the subject and made knowledgeable comments on my bits and pieces. She is booked to go on a tour to England for a week of antique hunting, the tour guide said there is absolutely no sightseeing involved. I had sent Jane an email detailing the best auctions houses and a rundown of their upcoming sales in the period she is here, but I’m not sure that she’d received that. We seemed to hit it off well in the time we spent together and ended up furiously agreeing about the madness of Trump and the dangers he poses on so many levels. Perhaps we will meet up again before they go back or at least become distance friends. Later John arrived after a Tenant Network meeting in Parramatta which seemed to be a waste of a morning as is often the case. They are fixated on procedure and constitutions and whatever and never do a thing that helps anybody. He asked if I wanted to join some other homelessness action group but I said a resounding NO as I think it will be another jawfest.

We went to Newtown for a late session of the movie Farming for which I had cheap tickets. It was the story of how Nigerian families in Britain farmed out their children to working class white families for profit, in this particular true case it was so the parents could study there. It was harrowing, and I doubt John would have gone had he known the content was so violent. It was the time of the skinheads and in Essex they were dominant in the generally right wing and racist culture of the 60s. His adoptive parents, who were illiterate Gypsies, took in ten Nigerian children from different families for payment and the children were routinely abused on the street by white locals. However that paled compared to the suffering the skinhead gangs inflicted on them and eventually, I guess to save himself from beatings and to find some sort of family, he became a member of Tilbury Skins himself. Eventually a devoted teacher at a prison facility encouraged him to get his O levels, then to study at university where he ended up with a Masters in Law. He played his own father in the movie and went to a lot of trouble to exactly represent the home in which he grew up, replete with china ducks on the wall. I don’t think I will forget it for a long time. Home after midnight but we didn’t turn into pumpkins.

December 3, 2019

A trip to Windsor today to  dump all my auction rejects on a contact there who has regular garage sales, mostly junk but very cheap. I gave him some of the stuff and said we can go halves in some other things. He filled me in on a couple of very recent deaths out there. The first was of a bikie local whose most memorable line in the shop was ‘I want a pair of earrings for the missus that don’t come off when I’m humpin’ ‘er’. I obliged and found a pair of silver ones with clip hooks. His son is currently in gaol for murder awaiting trial, after the first jury was strangely unable to reach a verdict. His excellent legal aid barrister was able to instil doubt in them, but certainly not in me. It was a drug dealers’ argument after which he has admitted putting the body into an old car and towing it to the wreckers at Penrith to be crushed. I wondered why he admitted that bit, until a lawyer explained to me that for murder with a missing body the penalty is higher, so he is taking a hit for disposing of a corpse and still hoping to get off the murder charge. A sad day if he succeeds. The second was Horrie, only in his 50s, a local boy who somehow or other managed to get a lovely Finnish girl to fall for him years ago, they married and now have an 18 year old son. He had an op 6 months ago and had complained ever since of chest pain which the doc ultimately decided was emphysema, sadly he was wrong and poor Horrie died at home suddenly, suffering in fact from sepsis from the operation. I think about both of these flawed characters with some sadness, yet in life I disliked both quite intensely. The former was probably the worst racist I’ve ever dealt with and the latter I had long ago nicknamed Horrible. Yet it just shows that for all of that we still regret a life ending, one that could have been so much more, yet they were both hidebound by their own upbringing and now it possibly flows on to the next generation, certainly it has gone even further downhill in the case of the bikie’s son. Perhaps they did their best with what they were given.

December 4, 2019

Sometimes you get a win. On Saturday an auction house rang me to say that the highest bid on the bronze I had put in their sale was $100 and they were hoping I would accept that. ‘I’d rather use it as a doorstop’ I said and planned to pick it up today. Yesterday I had a message not to come in because they had sold it for $200 post sale. I replied that the charity the money was going to would be pleased and a message shot back ‘if it’s going to a charity we won’t charge the commission’ so I will get the full $200. Of course she asked for the charity details and presumably will make the cheque out to them. Bonza.

We went in to the city on the bus and had an early dinner at The Grounds in the City. I don’t know why we don’t eat there more often, yes I do actually, it is because we are usually going to the Opera House and it is just a bit too far away when you are hurrying to a performance. I had a salad which was all nuts and grains and shoots and herbs and roasted baby carrots with not a lettuce leaf or a slice of tomato or cucumber in sight, it was fabulous. Went on to the Recital Hall at Angel Place to see Vivaldi’s opera Farnace and what a performance it was, both musically and dramatically with a dark, but arresting design. The joy of not one, but two, counter tenors was a rare treat, though to my ear it was the smaller part of Gilade which was the highlight of the night. Max Riebl you can sing under my window any night that suits you. What a talent he is. It is interesting that I am usually the opera person in the family, yet because it was John’s favourite composer, he dismissed all his usual complaints about the length, the unlikely storyline etc and just immersed himself in the music. I hope he feels the same way about those I have booked on subscription for 2020.

December 5, 2019

Went up to see Bob Elliott with John at 8.30 and then continued on to Ralph the optician where I had my glasses upgraded to the new lenses, the third set in these frames now. He charged me the Medibank rebate only until I asked what the proper price was and found there was a difference of $30. He is a great optician but not much of a businessman, always finding ways to do things cheaper for me. This time I stuck the 30 bucks in his pocket and his answer was ‘thanks, it’s a lean time right now’, so even when things are tight he is still trying to save me money. Love dealing with the same reliable good people, it takes decades to find them all, but then you don’t have to think about looking around for any service from then on. Heard a god-awful crash tonight and thought it was another branch down on the roof, but it was a large painting in the dining room which had come down due to the eye hook failing. Luckily it didn’t smash the glass but sadly it took off the top of one of my ladder back chairs c1700, which fills me with guilt as they’ve survived over 300 years and now one comes to grief on my watch.

December 6, 2019

I was so happy when my pal Ahmed, my ‘case manager’ at Optus, got my internet speed up to a steady 46, but suddenly and for no apparent reason it has dropped to about 25 so I phoned him up and it appears it is 48 when it leaves Optus but only 25 when it gets here. So after a bit of trying this and that he decided to get an engineer out here on Monday to have a look see. If you need help at Optus insist on Ahmed is my advice, just tell him Maureen sent you.

Went to Erko to Millie’s pre-school Christmas party which had loads of food and activities, including biscuit making which involved the staff baking the results. I must admit ours were more flour than dough but whatever. Had dinner with Dav, Louis, Sue and Millie and still got home in time to read a few chapters of my latest Trump book. The librarian asked if I ever read pro- Trump books and I pointed out that I hadn’t heard of one, a point she acceded.

December 7, 2019

Talked to Deborah who is back in rehab from hospital, a different one this time after finding the previous one lacking. Then I was just about to leave for Carol’s to do some cake baking when Arvind next door rang to see if he could come in to see me. I judged rightly that he had some concern and it was that someone had thrown two eggs at his house, one hitting the upstairs balcony and one the downstairs one. We were both at a loss to guess who might be responsible, but I think he needed to sit and talk about it. A mighty effort at Carol’s over the last many weeks means the cake baking is finished, about 5000 small ones made for distribution to homeless people on Christmas day and other larger ones to be sold to donate cash to the two charities involved. What an amazing commitment successfully completed. Carol cracked two bottles of champagne for those of us there today to celebrate.

December 8, 2019

Millie is a bit obsessed with poo at the moment, understandably for a 3 year old. Last week she gave me a painting of 4 poos: cat, dog, Millie and one of her pre-school friends, in various shades of brown. This last was the biggest, as the little girl had apparently pooed her pants one day, much to Millie’s delight, not too young for schadenfreude. On Friday the Mooch was very excited that she had got up from a nap, pooed in the potty and wiped herself without assistance, a fact with which she regaled her teacher as soon as we got to the Christmas party. On the walk home she spotted a dog poo and pointed it out to me: ‘Look grandma, that’s a dog poo!’ Yes it is Millie, but don’t worry it’s on the grass so we won’t step in it……long pause…..’It’s not as big as the one I did grandma’.

Still reading Siege by Michael Wolff and the Trump stories abound. I’m up to the part where the ghastly Kavanagh is appointed to the Supreme Court with Trump trying to get an assurance that he would find in his favour if he is impeached, tried over his business dealings or charged with any other offences but Kavanagh is on record supporting the idea that a President can’t be charged while in office so he seemed a safe bet, ‘you want judges who owe you’. The man is beneath contempt. On a lesser scale but shocking nonetheless, the father of the former NSW Police Minister Troy Grant has finally handed himself in to police today over the hit and run killing of a man back in November. But the thing that shocked me most was that he was chased by the police on the night and charged with drink driving but wouldn’t admit to being the driver responsible. Investigations have continued but it’s taken him till now to hand himself in. He’s a former cop, an inspector would you believe? Actually, yes I would.

December 9, 2019

I have often told people that the koel is a very honest bird. The only time it calls ko-el is when it is about to rain in the next 24 hours, the rest of the time you don’t hear a thing. But the koel has blotted its copybook, calling every day in the last month or so with not a drop of rain arriving. So has the constant smoke confused the poor bird who thinks it is cloud? I don’t know, but I can’t trust its forecasts any more and that’s sad. Now I am glad I didn’t vote for it in the best bird stakes recently.

Bright and early came the Optus man, sent by the lovely Ahmed, and it seems the distance from the gadgetry to the computer is a small part of the problem and Malcolm Turnbull the bigger part (computer has been in the same spot all this time). But the solution to getting back my 46/47 speed seems to be plugging it into the modem, (wi-fi speed of 25, cable speed of 47 when he was here testing it). Sort of defeats the idea of wi-fi doesn’t it? But whatever, at least I can go back to good speeds if I simply move my carcass to the desk, which is probably where I should work anyway.

December 10, 2019

The New Zealand volcano disaster dominates the thinking of everyone today, that and the smoke which is the worst ever. I wore a mask just to go out into the front yard. But regarding the NZ tragedy I hope we can accept that it is just the might of nature showing its hand and not that someone is to blame. Volcanoes are amazing things, we all want to see them and walk on them if we can, the website of the tourist company clearly states that there can be an eruption at any time, not just in times of perceived increased risk. Part of the reason we love volcanoes is the danger factor, so blame shouldn’t be our primary concern. When Robert and Sue went to Vanuatu they took a helicopter to a volcanic island and hiked up with a guide. Robert jokingly asked the guide how many people had fallen in after observing that there was nothing to stop a slide into the crater. The guide casually replied that a young Japanese couple had fallen in a few months back and their bodies were never retrieved. Didn’t even make the news. It is a tragedy, but the earth is a harsh mistress. As well as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, flooding, drought and bushfire there are cyclones, thunderstorms, the list goes on. This is why religion was invented, to give us some surety in an unsure world and to give us the hope of seeing our lost relatives and friends again, but I cling to the reality of just accepting these things, tragic as they are, as bloody bad luck. Our sensitive prime minister chose today to ralph on about 11 changes to the religious freedom bill. I sometimes wonder if he’s on the spectrum, so out of touch with the zeitgeist he is.

December 11, 2019

A trip to Windsor through appalling smoke to visit Brian and see Martha give a talk to the residents. They were very dynamic and keen to discuss the slides she showed. The manager said to me ‘you can bring her back whenever you want, they never respond as positively as this to talks’. I think the fact that she asked them to relate stories from their lives to the slides she was showing was the key. John came up and we headed into town by bus to see Cosi at the Drama Theatre. It stands up well after all these years, as an autobiographical look at Louis Nowra’s production of a musical in a Melbourne psychiatric hospital in the early 70s. It doesn’t glamourise the patients, but it certainly finds their humanity and was hugely funny. Beforehand we ate at Salt, Meats, Cheese at the Quay. We were home again at 12.30am and it seems that’s the third time lately that we’ve arrived after midnight, but luckily before the witching hour. I am starting to think about Christmas but that’s as far as I’ve got, thinking.

December 12, 2019

My bro’s 85th birthday and the British election both. He is very anti-Brexit but hates both Johnson and Corbyn. I sent him the book The Dry which, despite being a murder mystery, gives an accurate picture of the country in drought. Decided to head to Rozelle with some donations for the Gunawirra charity which supports Aboriginal mothers and their young children. I had quite a bit of stuff such as tinned formula, clothes, toys etc to drop off but unfortunately missed crossing paths with Graham with whom I’ve been dealing. Then into town to the Rocks Christmas Markets which were advertised as being on daily, instead of just at weekends, up till Christmas. However it eventuated that there were just three stalls! Oh the big markets are on the weekends the tourist office said, well why do you bloody advertise them as on every day I was wondering. So I hopped straight back onto the bus home, bah humbug.

December 13, 2019

Well the bro’s birthday is over and with it any chance of the British avoiding Brexit. But they clearly understood the result of their decision and that’s what they want, a Donald Trump but with a better vocabulary. The UK will not only lose duty-free access to the EU’s single market of over 500 million people, it will have to renegotiate every single trade deal with the rest of the world. Good luck then. It all comes back to immigration of course and you only need to spend a few days in England’s north to know how hated migrants are.

Went to lunch with Tania at Sarino’s where the food was very good but the atmosphere, we both agreed, was far south of the prices. Very noisy, no clothed tables, no outlook or architectural artistry to keep the diner entranced. But looking around at the diners, I suspect we were the only ones who noticed. Am I pompous and old-fashioned to think that denim shorts are perhaps not the best choice for a restaurant lunch? Yes, okay I am pompous and old-fashioned. The waiter was a tall Brazilian with good looks and a mouth full of teeth and he took his job of schmoozing two lunching ladies seriously. After a bubbly and a glass of limoncello to finish, on the house, plus birthday cards for each of us signed by all the staff, I was buoyant enough to put the Brexit vote aside and to smile benignly as I watch Britain begin her unceremonious slide into the sea.

December 14, 2019

Drove down to Erko to give them their Christmas goodies and Millie was thrilled with her gifts ‘grandma, a Frozen dress!’ she said excitedly, actually a nightie, but that didn’t dent her enthusiasm. She packed it to go on the plane to England on Monday. Got home in time to attend the late afternoon auction of no. 20 Cross St, a house on a small corner block, the backyard having been chopped off years ago. I was amazed at the quality of the restoration, obviously gutted and rejigged to include a walk in wardrobe, 2 ensuites and a full bathroom, plus a divine kitchen with marble benches and a super cooking range. The young buyer, a single man, paid $1.43 million with his steel-eyed mother doing the bidding for him. I picked her as the winning bidder immediately, she was not going home empty handed judging by the set of her jaw. One wonders how a man in his 20s gets $1.43 million, but I’m guessing rich parents is the answer. Cooked fettuccine with broccoli sauce for dinner and splashed a tiny spot of boiling water on my hand while testing the pasta, it hurt a lot and made me wonder how a human could even survive the pain of being caught in a volcanic eruption as happened in New Zealand. It is unimaginable that shock didn’t kill them.

December 15, 2019

Yesterday I saw a Noisy Miner going to each agapanthus flower in the front garden and sticking its beak in. I hadn’t seen that happen before and was pleased, but decided it was a dangerous occupation so close to the ground. This morning I found the little fellow dead next to one of the plants, looks like a cat was watching as well. Life’s cruel out in the wild, you will be missed little friend.

Just got a text with a photo of me nursing a friend’s toddler son about 30 years ago. I was blown away by the resemblance to Millie, the same teeth but more particularly the masses of dark curly hair. I had simply forgotten that I used to look like that, never having seen this picture before it was quite a shock, but certainly a pleasant one. I have the Christmas cake in the oven, the fruit macerated in port from a 1994 bottle that’s lived in the back of the liquor cupboard after I got it at a house clearance about 20 years ago. Seeing I don’t drink the stuff neat it may as well be used up in the cake, smells damn good in the oven anyway, starting to smell like Christmas.

December 16, 2019

Had lunch with a friend today at Geranium Cottage, a restaurant at Middle Dural where we sat outdoors under an umbrella and enjoyed food, wine and a gentle breeze. I am becoming quite ‘the lady who lunches’ lately, though we discussed the group Christmas functions that she goes to and I never have. I am not really a joiner so there aren’t the invitations flowing at this time of year, something that I’m perfectly fine with as I really prefer small more intimate encounters.

I saw with horror the racial abuse hurled at an Aboriginal artist couple in their home in Mildura and I’m so glad he filmed the whole thing. Very pleased that McDonalds were so quick off the mark to sack the man as franchisee of two of its restaurants. His recent online posts exhibit more racial taunts attacking Chinese, plus posts supporting the coalition, particularly Dutton and Abbott. His lovely wife is past president of Gold Coast Young Liberals, why am I not surprised by this fact? Got a call from one of the agents who sold the property near me on Saturday. Of course they follow up the attendees but I must say this agency, which came out of nowhere a couple of years ago, seems to be better at it than most, not putting the hard word on you to buy or sell, just a low key ‘what did you think of the auction? what price did you think it would go for?’. Apparently the vendors are moving to New Zealand and all the high end furniture and fittings were included in the sale, lucky young buyer indeed.

December 17, 2019

Davina and crew left for England last night at 9.45 and just after I remarked to John that they would be on the ground in Doha I got a text to say they were in the airport there having a coffee and waiting for the onward flight to Birmingham. The thought of being in the air from last night to 1.35 pm today is almost unbearable for me now. She reports Millie vomiting numerous times even though it wasn’t turbulent, so it appears she has inherited the motion sickness gene along with the dark curly hair one, the former she could have done without.

Just finished reading The Costello Memoirs about Peter Costello’s long stint as treasurer. Yes, the GST, WMF, GDP and the rest of the financial hooha glazed me over a bit but I read it to get a sense of the man. On the good side he is certainly loyal, patient, steady and a self-confessed ‘tax law addict’, well I guess someone has to be. On the negative, if one judges a person by the company he keeps he is a bit of a worry. Thick with the parliamentary ‘God squad’ he cites Michael Kroger, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, Peter Reith et al as allies and friends so with those dubious characters as intimates you have to be wary of his perspective. I was willing to give good works their due, but I’m afraid I saw a classic conservative who can’t see past the monetary aspects of society and with little human empathy, unlike his famous brother. His vigorous support of all of the American wars is in itself a damning summation of his inability to see outside the conservative package. Having said that he has a wry sense of humour and showed incredible patience and forbearance not to out John Howard for reneging on the deal they made for Costello’s succession. Eventually it was a witness who made the agreement public, though JH still welched on it anyway, losing the election and even his own seat in the process.

December 18, 2019

Just back from a visit to Bob and I had a winge about the fact that I was unable to eat for about 20 hours after consuming a bowl of pasta, garlic bread and a dessert for lunch on Monday. Same thing last week when I went out to lunch, so the restrictions on what I can eat at night have morphed into what I can eat at noon as well, which is a pain in the butt for someone like me who lives to eat. One option is to go back to the gastroenterologist who will have me in hospital for an endoscopy before you can say garlic prawns. Bob said that when I had it done last time the doc said that he went down looking for one problem and came out looking at four, so no doubt he’d be keen for a reprise. So I can expect to be in pain on Christmas afternoon and just need to cop it sweet. It was a medical day all round with John going to St Vincents at 9 am for the monthly transfusion of blood products to keep his immune system strong, then seeing the orthopaedic surgeon for a check on his knee at 1.30, followed by the public dentist at 3.30. No wonder the country’s in a mess, it well never get back into the black while John is draining Medicare like he has the last three years.

My seeds arrived from the Diggers Club and I planted the Four O’Clocks out near the street in a raised bed. I have no idea what they look like but they open in the late afternoon, so that’s fun. Then put the Salad Burnet into pots as my mixed lettuce leaves are getting close to their end. The Zinnias were put into seed trays to be transplanted later, I remember calling them ant flowers when we had them in the front garden as a child, they were always crawling up and down the stems. Purple Basil will go in later once my current green basil finishes, good work but now I need to keep the water up to them, not simple now we are restricted to watering cans only.

December 19, 2019

The story of the leaf blower so far: A brand new boxed McCulloch leaf blower appeared under my deck some weeks back and I immediately phoned my friend Tim who admitted to being the trespasser and culprit. It is my Christmas present he said, from someone with whom I’ve never exchanged presents at Christmas or any other time. It is a 2 stroke machine about which I know nothing, but my occasional gardener informed me that it isn’t the sort of thing I could use easily and I should ask for it to be exchanged for a battery one. Undefeated I went to Bunnings and bought 2 stroke oil and a petrol can with a spout, but the Bunnings man told me the same thing as Kirk, it’s not for someone who doesn’t understand using 2 stroke. So after some thinking I finally decided to return the bits and bobs to the hardware shop and email Tim to thank him profusely, but explain that I wanted him to take it back. NO came his response, but he kindly offered to give me a coaching session which he did today. He came armed with earmuffs, a petrol can and some of the oil. I managed with some difficulty and blew the leaves out of my open laundry and under the deck then took the mess off the pebble paths at the front. Maureen 1: Leaf Blower 0, but whether I can start it on another occasion is a vexed issue. (Press the button 6 times, not 5 or 7, then move the choke to N then back to the start, then press the trigger and pull the starter cord hard, or was it the cord and then the trigger……Smilie: ;).

December 20, 2019

During a wakeful night I had the sudden realisation that Christmas was on Tuesday and I’d miscalculated my preparations as I was a day short. Then I really couldn’t sleep trying to work out a timetable to fit in food shopping, cooking, a trip to Windsor and more. Half way through this morning I glanced at my diary and discovered that it’s actually on Wednesday and my preparations are all in order. Talk about wasted angst.

On my way to Windsor to distribute a few small presents I called in at the Headquarters of the Rural Fire Service in the Hills at Kenthurst. I was surprisingly met by the commander wearing more epaulettes and cloth badges than I’ve seen outside of television. I asked how to best help and he was so positive, telling me exactly what food carries well in the trucks and what the fire fighters like to eat on duty. Muesli bars, poppers of juice, sandwiches are preferred to taking say a cake or a box of biscuits, unless those things are individually wrapped to pop into their tucker boxes. I broached the subject of their receiving pay from the government for days worked but he said unequivocally ‘no, they would all refuse it, they take pride in being volunteers’, so a letter writing campaign on their behalf would be redundant. A few loaves of sambos seems a poor thank you for what they do, but he assured me that they would be well received. Blinded by the bling, I didn’t even get his name.

December 21, 2019

Well I never! The zinnia seeds I planted on the 18th are well and truly up on the 21st. I don’t think I’ve ever had any seeds grow that fast before but as it was new potting mix they can’t be weeds in those neat little rows. Now I have to decide where to put them which is more of an issue. Contacted our friends in Blackheath and they have decamped to a hotel with cats in tow until the bushfire emergency has passed. I can’t ever recall both the Great Western Highway and Bell’s Line of Road being closed at the same time, making it impossible for them to head to Sydney rellies even if they were of a mind to. I’m not sure how else you would get to Sydney as the Putty Road via Singleton is closed too. Unprecedented, and it must make the mountains folk uneasy knowing that they are trapped both ways. Ben Quilty came out with a scathing attack on the government over its lack of action on climate change which, as one would expect from Ben, hits the nail right on the head.

December 22, 2019

Whinge whinge, I may have to go back to the gastro next year after all, ate dinner last night before 5 pm and was still suffering at 2.30 am, what a pain in the arse (no, in the stomach actually). I might even have to take the medication he prescribed, ha ha. As Professor Reeves once commented I am a minimalist when it comes to drugs, so I can hardly go back and claim that I’m sick if I haven’t continued to take the tablets he prescribed. Anyway next year is soon enough.

Yes the little green shoots in the seed tray are actually the zinnias, which are extraordinarily keen to come into the world, haven’t heard about the fires obviously. I watched the presser that ScoMo gave at the RFS Headquarters this morning and checking out the fixed faces of the staff, they weren’t actually too keen to see him. He waved as he left and was met with blank dials, no one jumping up for a chance to shake the Prime Ministerial paw. Even if you accept the ‘can’t let the kiddies down’ response, which has some merit, that doesn’t explain his department’s evasion and downright lies regarding his whereabouts. The Hillsong NYC theory still bounces around the net, with the Hawaii trip a cover or add on to that, but one thing is for sure, the truth will come out eventually. It doesn’t make any sense at all to hide a simple beach holiday so a whiff of rat is definitely in the air. My friend Tim, he of the elaborate conspiracy theories, would be able to link it in effortlessly with Kabbalah, child abuse rings and crooked judges but I think the fact the ScoMo is naturally as cunning as the proverbial shit-house rat is probably closer to the truth.

December 23, 2019

Did my fresh food shopping today so I can have an uninterrupted cooking day tomorrow. Thankyou, to whoever organises such things, for the cool weather which made my shopping trip a pleasure instead of a trial. I have just four takers for Christmas but enough food to feed quite a few more of course. I took a gulp when the fishmonger gave me the price of the side of salmon I bought, but will have forgotten that when it comes out of the oven all dripping in honey, lime juice, garlic and coriander, I can taste it already. The Christmas cake however looks dry, yet it’s the recipe I’ve made for years. My oven is like the bowels of Hades and if you give something another 15 minutes it can be catastrophic. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

Got a good laugh at a Canadian tourist who bears quite a resemblance to ScoMo wearing a T shirt announcing ‘I Am Not Scott Morrison’ because he kept being abused on the street in the Gold Coast, which by extension means that the real one is copping some abuse too. (I shouldn’t like that idea but I do because I am a bad person.) He is unable to change his behaviour because he just doesn’t see where he’s going wrong and why people fuss, in that respect he is like Tony Abbott.

December 24, 2019

So glad that the weather has changed for the better, for the firefighters in particular. Spent the day cooking and preparing for the festivities. Carly arrived about 6 pm and we enjoyed the baked salmon, just the right laid back food for Christmas Eve. I think I shall have a day or two with no news, no politics, no getting angry, just relaxing and enjoying life. Strange to have no one else here but we three enjoyed ourselves immensely.

December 25, 2019

After the traditional Christmas breakfast of croissants and jam (as distinct from the usual breakfast of toast and jam) Carly and I prepped for the main meal while Danish was travelling up from Canberra. Lunch of roast beef porterhouse with Yorkshire pudding, bread sauce, roast veges, snow peas and sugar snap peas ticked all the boxes. We followed up with spiced creme brulees but unfortunately the heat gun misbehaved and doing the brulee topping was a bigger job than usual. Present opening filled much of the afternoon and I was lucky to receive some unusual ones like the hand knitted house socks from Himachal Pradesh, plus a hand painted duck from Kashmir, both from Danish. His mum sent me a beautiful scarf from northern India too. Too much food but I am assured calories don’t accumulate on Christmas Day so that’s a relief. As my grandmother always said after every present opening…’we’ve all done very well’. Davina rang with a Facetime call so we saw Millie at Christmas but had no other communications which was unusual.

December 26, 2019

Luckily I bought enough croissants that we could indoctrinate Danish into the Partridge Boxing Day breakfast even though he missed the Christmas one. He is lovely to have around, very accommodating, easy to be with and happy to discuss any topic in a relaxed and intelligent way. In the afternoon Heather came over, shortly followed by Robert and Sue, so we had a house full for a while. Robert seemed well and was sparking on all cylinders. We did a strange fridge raid for dinner, having Yorkshire puddings and gravy as an entree and baked salmon and veggies for main followed by Christmas pudding and brandy custard. Danish told us about a 6 month post-graduate course for doctors in Varanasi to treat people who believe they are possessed by demons, something he might like to do once he has finished his PhD. What a weird intersection of science and belief. I rang the restaurant that I am taking John to on New Years’ Eve and asked if we could have a window table. They replied that we already have a corner window seat ‘the best table in the house’ which shows there is benefit in booking in the first week of January for NYE 12 months hence.

December 27, 2019

Danish went back to Canberra this morning to continue his studies and John went off to RNSH to visit his friend who broke a femur and wrist just before Christmas playing street cricket. I had had 5 texts during the night about the fact that the burglar alarm battery was down and it wasn’t communicating with them. The texts woke me each time but I just thought it was some idiot up very late and ignored them. But sure enough it was security so they sent a techie this morning and it was promptly fixed, the speed due to the fact that most businesses are shut and so I was near the top of the queue. He was a lovely young man and we talked antiques for some time. I have his phone number and promised I would look through my reference book collection with a view to passing a couple of books on to him. Next we drove to the nursery, taking my very dead Acanthus plant to see what I did wrong. Turns out I was ill advised about the position it needed by the person I asked when I bought it, so it basically fried to death. By rights I should have asked for a replacement but I let it go. Then we went to Wild Pear and shared a meal and a dessert, being served by Larissa Takchi, the owner’s daughter and winner of Masterchef 2019, who is the restaurant manager. The dessert of Lemon Parfait was extraordinary in that it came with a lemon and black olive compote, a black olive madeleine and was ringed with olive oil. Not hugely sweet but absolutely delicious and very Masterchefy. She is just amazing, not that I watched the series this year, but I did watch her once at the beginning and then the final. To cook like that at 22 just blows my mind.

December 28, 2019

We tossed around the idea of going to Balmoral or Manly and decided that the traffic and the parking issues weren’t really worth it, so we went to Baulko Pool and had two good swims. The shade has improved since my girls went there as kids and we enjoyed it immensely. Also went to a strangely situated pharmacy in Norwest Business Park that is the only place in the area to sell Passport brand glasses. I had rung the company in Adelaide to find their stockists as I am hoping Ralph will be able to put my new script for long distance glasses into these funky $20 frames after passing on all the boring ones that optometrists sell. Perhaps he’ll say no, but the chemist will take them back in that event. The only nearby business is a medical practice and both are accessed by a lift so I really don’t see how she would stay in business if the surgery moves out, but perhaps the doctor is her husband? No passing trade at all seems risky to me.

December 29, 2019

We three went into the city to the Art Gallery for Carly to see the Japan Supernatural exhibition and for us to go to the Quilty one man show there. The Kenthurst boy has certainly made good, always on the compassionate side of any argument and a wonderful portraitist. Do I like the more recent surrealist ones….no I can’t say I do, but his earlier works sustain me. Then we doodled around the exhibition of Kaldor Public Art Projects, no doubt funded by John Kaldor, and I constantly asked myself WHY? Why is wrapping the coast important? why is a dog made of flowers earth shattering? why is some dude baking multiple loaves of psychedelic-coloured bread consequential? I got as far as the photos of society matrons munching the vile looking bread at the art gallery (bread they would rather die than touch anywhere else) and decided Kaldor can keep the plurry lot of his artworks, wouldn’t take any of them as a gift. Wandered down to Boy Charlton Pool and had some lunch at their cafe overlooking Garden Island Naval Base. Carly and I fared well but John’s barramundi, plainly garnished with some tired rocket and two orange segments was a rip off. Then we had a swim in the pool while John minded the gear and it was noticeably colder than the water at Baulko yesterday, but good all the same. As usual the RAN ships Canberra and Adelaide were in dock opposite, a permanent situation since early this year when the navy discovered that these brand new bits of gear have major faults, so they sit in the aptly named ‘graving dock’ as $3 billion dollars worth of scrap metal. (Hint to navy brass: check if any of the designers have Russian names).

December 30, 2019

My conspiracy theorist friend often regales me with tales of child abuse by the judiciary and prominent politicians (Hillary Clinton features), of the killing of babies in order to drink their blood, of successful Jewish efforts to control the world via financial markets, of surveillance within our homes and lots more besides. These theories have led to a restaurant in the US being invaded at gunpoint by people looking to free child slaves which some idiot had tweeted were being held there by Clinton, Obama et al. Increased anti-Semitism in the US may also be related. My eyes glaze over at this sort of stuff, even when Trump is retweeting their rubbish, but now it turns out that the Australian promoter of this group, QAnon, is an old friend of our PM and his wife and has been appointed to Scott Morrison’s staff, working out of Kirribilli House. His wife, a lifelong friend of the PM’s wife, has also been given a job. They put a lot of store in symbols and one of these is to refer to child abuse as ‘ritual child abuse’ a phrase which QAnon is claiming they influenced Morrison to use in a speech and which he did in fact say, to the puzzlement of many. Red shoes are apparently a sign, so now Julie Bishop is suspect according to them…. This is getting a bit too close for comfort, I prefer my ratbags well and truly over the water, not sitting on the verandah looking over the harbour.

December 31, 2019

Talking about ratbags looking over the harbour, my friend Judith alerted me to a post on Twitter that she wrote about Smoko using Kirribilli House on New Years Eve as the venue for a private party for his rellies and friends to watch the fireworks. Her post went ballistic and every response was hugely negative, excoriating him for everything from holding a private party at our expense to queries about the invitees, some asking if Tim Stewart, the QAnon conspiracy theorist was attending. Clearly that association has been widely publicised, and of course Brian Houston of Hillsong was another name widely bandied about. There were hundreds of responses, every single one critical of Scotty from Marketing. If only the election were next weekend….

I booked the best table for New Years Eve at The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay back in the first week of January 2019 without telling John so he was super pleased that our NYE was sorted. It was in the front corner with our backs to the restaurant proper and plate glass on both sides, looking out over the back harbour and city, apart from the noise we could have been the only people there. Oddly in all three course I preferred his meal to mine, but that’s the luck of the draw and my choices were perfectly fine, it’s just that his were better. We were between courses when the 9 o’clock fireworks went off and saw the aerial ones but of course not those on the Bridge. We decided to book for next year as we were leaving, same table thank you garcon.

January 1, 2020

My god, 2020’s a weird thing to type, sounds like an eye test. The bushfire disaster is just unbelievable, even with everything I’ve read about the sorts of fires climate change could produce, this was still hard to believe. I know all those little towns well, we holidayed in Mallacoota for a week just before John got sick and travelled back staying at Bermagui and spending time in Mogo and Lake Conjola. Mallacoota is memorable particularly for the wilderness cruise we went on from Gypsy Point, west of the town, where Captain John was so knowledgeable pointing out lots of birds such as sea eagles, kites and azure kingfishers as we travelled along the river. I suspect all that beautiful bush is now gone.

We decided today to go on the Rivercat from Parramatta to the city and take in a movie at Opera Quays. Loved the lazy trip in, but discovered that the last boat goes to Parra at 4.07 so we had to train back unfortunately as we’d parked at the wharf. Shocked to find out that the cinema has lost its lease and now the only Dendy will be at Newtown from February, our favourite cinema destination bites the dust. We planned a quick lunch at Renaissance which was closed so ate some sushi standing up at the quay. Good day out though the city was packed.

January 2, 2020

I am finding myself quick to anger about the bushfires and those suffering as a result, but I guess anger is more healthy than depression. I do believe that there is a place for anger, after a certain point of being nice and patient and accommodating, a short sharp burst of anger can help everyone. In my household as a child it was an absolute no-no to show anger about anything. But to paraphrase Malcolm X, “There’s a time and a place for anger, where nothing else will do.” I salute those who made their views known to the Prime Minister today at Cobargo, I can’t imagine Jacinda Ardern running off with her tail between her legs if faced by a few angry fire victims, but that’s what he did, of course making the people more angry than they were in the first place. Apparently at a fire station one of the volunteers refused to shake his hand, this will not go unnoticed in the Liberal Party upper echelons. But any changes will be superficial and only enough to pacify a few gullible voters. If only the election were next weekend, the government would sink like a stone.

January 3, 2020

THE ANTS ARE BACK!!! Just when I thought that the peppermint oil spray had deterred them, I discovered a track across the kitchen opening to the pantry where they had forced entry into an unopened $15 bag of almond meal and were feasting inside the bag. I upended it into a salad bowl, trapping the little monsters at the bottom if the bowl and later in the day I found a sieve appropriately sized to filter them out. Anyone objecting to this practice should perhaps avoid my almond meal cooking for weeks/months. Their buildup escaped me this time by going higher than my eyes could reasonably detect and coming down into the pantry from the top, but I’m a wakeup to that tactic now and my spray bottle is refilled and in use again this morning. Not giving a hoot about their lives anymore puts me in mind of our PM who, when told by a weary firefighter that he had had nothing to eat that day, replied ‘well, I’ll let you get back to it then’ and walked off. If the man is suffering from some variation of psychopathy perhaps I could spare him some sympathy, but his psychiatrist should have warned him that public service probably wasn’t a good idea. But David Elliott is back from holidays so an improvement in the fire situation should follow, not. If I can contribute to getting that bloke out of parliament and into street sweeping my life has not been in vain.

January 4, 2020

At home today, 46 degrees C currently on my shaded back verandah, 48.7 degrees in Penrith, the hottest ever recorded in Greater Sydney, that’s 119.66 Fahrenheit. It’s a day of huge news interspersed with the domestic, the ants are in retreat, Australia is burning, idiots (whom we are paying to govern us) talk about fires starting from self-combusting cow manure. I just noticed that my deciduous trees are dying back severely, the PM says everything possible is being done for the fire refugees yet he won’t call in the Defence Force apart from two ships to get people without enough food, water or medications off a beach. Well there seem to be a disconnect here between reality and what is coming out of his mouth. Welcome to 2020.

It seems somehow important that my garden is watered, yet what does it matter in the scheme of things in Australia on this awful day? It’s a bit like knitting through the Blitz, keeping something small and controllable happening normally. It pains me to hear that Southern Ocean Lodge, the place at which I’d intended to spend a month when I won Lotto, is just a blackened ruin. Six staff stayed back to fight the fire, but ended up in a bunker built for just this eventuality, thankfully safe. Strangely the thought of Champagne bottles exploding as they heated comes to mind, a macabre version of the celebratory popping corks. I think of Walt Whitman’s words in Leaves of Grass for some reason: ‘Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.’ I think we need to be large at the moment, moving from the huge and impossible to control, to the minutiae of life to keep ourselves sane. Having said that I think I need to make a cup of tea before I face looking at the News.

January 5, 2020

The importance of donating appropriately came to mind today. Bilpin Rural Fire Service had a Facebook post asking people to come to their hall to take away donations of toys, clothes, food. Not fire victims mind, just anyone, they want their hall back and it’s full of stuff donated by well-meaning people, but there were only a handful of homes lost in Bilpin and a heap of donations left so it was really a wasted exercise. Bearing this in mind I rang RFS local headquarters in Kenthurst first to see if they could use some sandwiches, fruit and biscuits packed into individual lunches today, as I had a free day and was available to help. No they said, nearly all of our trucks are at Mittagong so there’s no one around to eat them, yet on other days they were more than happy to have them.

I could see various black marks on the kitchen cornice this morning so I got the steps and a wet Chux and climbed up to wipe them off. But they were not just marks, they were groups of 20-30 ants, not moving, just in a tight mass. It’s as if they had drawn the wagons in a circle, were having a meeting triaging new tactics or perhaps they were having a prayer meeting, I don’t know. I am starting to get paranoid, they are smarter than I am and get around every stratagem I dream up. The pantry doors are left open, the steps are permanently in place so ten times a day I can climb up to where I see, or imagine I see, a solitary scout looking for a new way in. All the while an open sugar basin for guests sits on the shelf and nary an ant goes near it, so perhaps not quite so smart. I had these tiny buggers once before and they had a taste for flour, not sugar and I am wondering if these are the same when they bit their way into almond meal yet left the sugar packets alone. I will win, not immediately, but definitely.

January 6, 2020

John came up and fixed the frame of the picture that fell off the wall a couple of weeks ago, half demolishing a chair and then we went to a movie in the afternoon, Knives Out, which was a ridiculous premise made into a funny film. It stars Daniel Craig who needed to spend more time with the voice coach, but because he’s a big star no one wanted to tell him. His Southern drawl veers too close to Cheshire England on many occasions, but all in all it was an antidote to the grim news surrounding us at the moment. I was unable to sleep and ended up in the spare bedroom, still only getting a couple of hours. I think this whole fire disaster has really got to me and it feels hopeless at times, so I intend to go to the Sack ScoMo rally on Friday night, it won’t rid us of the smirking bastard but will be a good morale booster, for me anyway.

January 7, 2020

Sue texted early to see if we were home for visitors so I invited them to lunch, arriving less than two hours hence. A quick trip to the corner shops provided leg ham and pate, the garden provided salad greens and the rest was a fridge raid, luckily I made another batch of tahini sauce yesterday. Along with six eggs halved and stuffed with anchovy and a few cheeses from the fridge it made a meal which catered for Robert’s keto diet, high fat, no carbs. We laughed and played up as usual, not much talk of the fires, which was a good thing as I’d been obsessing about it all. We took a nap in the afternoon, a rare event, but a welcome one today. John also plastered up a few match head size holes at cornice level through which ants may be entering. Yesterday they ate their way into a new packet of honey coated cashews with heavy packaging. I washed them off then dried the nuts in the oven and put them into a tin. They rarely find food, it is the constant scouts that drive me mad, I picked up my glasses to read and one walked across the lens, mocking me. Sigh.

January 8, 2020

No ants this morning, for an hour anyway. Then they came streaming in from the direction which John thought he sealed off yesterday, the top of a door jamb. I am now spraying with vinegar and water, too much needed to keep depleting the peppermint oil, which is too good for them anyway, vinegar works just as well.

The expectation with the government’s plan to pay the firefighting volunteers was that they could claim once they’d spent 10 days on the fire line and any days thereafter. Wrong. The first 10 days makes the volunteer eligible, but those first 10 days cannot be claimed, only day 11 onwards can be claimed. Also the expectation was that the volunteer could claim $300 per day. Wrong again. The volunteer can only claim their normal working day wage, after tax. The expectation was that the volunteer could claim for the day they spent on the fire line. Wrong three times. If the volunteer’s normal working day was 9.00am to 5.00pm and they spent from 6.00pm to 10.00am fighting fires and then turned up for work, they can only claim the one hour out of their normal working day – 9.00am to 10.00am. If the volunteer is retired and does not have a ‘working day’ then they too are not eligible to claim compensation. God, I hate this government and all members of it with every fibre of my being.

January 9, 2020

Michelle rang with another ant tip, tea tree oil on cotton balls left in their path which I will try. I think I am ahead as I was out all day and expected heaps when I got home but none so far, perhaps they just like me and want to hang out. I went to Erko to meet Davina after her holiday. I thought we were going for a swim at Marrickville but it was Mahon Pool at Maroubra that she had in mind, so we tootled off there instead. The water was cool under the overcast sky and we were initially the only ones swimming but soon a couple of other hardy souls joined us. I remembered to take my goggles so I got to observe all the sea life clinging to the walls, reminding me of one of the many benefits of a sea pool over a tiled one. Today a message came from Anglican Parish Gosford that I have reached Top Fan status, acquired by the number of times I’ve accessed the website or shared a Facebook post. They asked if I minded them adding Top Fan to my shares which when you think about my religion, or lack of it, is pretty funny. The fact that I once posted ‘Father Rod for PM’ didn’t hurt I guess. I was sold on him once I read his autobiography and get his sermons sent to my page each week, although I must admit that I gloss over the religion and focus on the politics, but I suspect his sizeable atheist following does the same.

January 10, 2020

The protest against ScumMo was huge, stopping the trams as it spread out across George and Park Streets. The square isn’t really big enough so there ended up being three different protests, one in the square itself, one on the Town Hall steps and one on the Park St corner, but all for the same purpose. I’m sure it suits the powers that be that the plaza there can only hold a modest crowd. It didn’t appear as if they had permission to close the roads, it was just a case of people swarming over them. Very few police and no counter protesters so that was good on both counts.

I have been teased in the past for reading the Daily Mail and I don’t defend their trashier moments. However when I want to know fast about what’s going on or when I just want a leisurely browse I find it worth the $0 it costs me to look. Anyone reading early this week would have seen an article saying that Harry and Meghan would be moving part time to Canada in a deal worked out with the government there during their six week holiday. The DM is often (rightly) criticised for robbing stories from other papers, but here was a case where the other papers ignored their story, to their cost. Now we have a shock horror reaction from most media to something that’s been in the press for days. In the days prior to that the DM also pointed out that the Queen had photographs of William and his family on her side table during her Christmas speech, but none of Harry with his. They speculated about a rift and were proved right. I’m not sure why they are often first with a story but I suspect they are willing to rush to print and will wear the opprobrium of being wrong on occasion.

January 11, 2020

Went in to town on the bus to the once a year meet up of a group of women I’m friendly with, almost all north shore ladies, for lunch in the kiosk at the Botanic Gardens. It was interesting that their criticism of ScumMo was unanimous even though they are not at all a political group. The Gardens were looking a bit tatty, many of the tropical plants browning off and two very tall palms lying where they had fallen, dead as dodos. Then I wandered to Circular Quay to meet John for the movie Sorry I Missed You, another Ken Loach classic, this time on the subject of the working poor in northern England, specifically contract home nurses and delivery drivers. It was gut-wrenching and so well acted that you would be forgiven for assuming it to be a documentary. Our future, if we keep electing conservative governments. Dinner was at Jimmy’s Recipe at the Quay, which cost all of $20.80 for us both, including card surcharge. A new bus service from the city right to John’s door whisked us home.

January 12, 2020

We exchanged gifts with John’s neighbour Ann this morning. She doesn’t do Christmas but does celebrate Ded Moroz, Father Frost in Russia. I was spoiled rotten with a plaque reading ‘I’m not old, I’m vintage’, a delicious Donna Hay Seasons Cookbook and some earrings, actually 12 pairs, twelve, one dozen, the number of months in a year, a duodecim of earrings. These range from tomato slices, goldfish in plastic bags, pineapples, daisies to various shapes and colours in plastic, metal and stone. Each was bought separately online on ebay or from retailers. I bought her a bottle of perfume that she didn’t like so now I have that too. A somewhat asymmetrical Ded Moroz.

We went to Narrabeen, potentially for a swim, but it started to rain as we got there, quite a downpour in fact so we retreated to Driftwood Cafe to share some banana bread and a cuppa until it stopped, except it didn’t, so then we drove to Curl Curl and read in the car looking out over the ocean and luxuriating in the rain on the windscreen. Both beaches were closed for swimming but they looked fine to us, a rip perhaps? I read that Rise Up Australia Party leader Danny Nalliah, who once claimed the Black Saturday bushfires were God’s payback for Victoria having decriminalised abortion, has closed down the party because “Rise Up was formed almost a decade ago because of a vacuum in Christian-conservative politics, which has now been filled. There is no need for us to continue because Scott Morrison was elected,” the pastor said. So nice to know that’s all sorted and God’s happy.

January 13, 2020

John woke me between 12 and 1am to ask if I’d slept well, which I had up till then, but didn’t afterwards. He thought it was 6 am as it’s a pretty full moon. We loaded into the car the painting that fell from the wall recently and the sad chair that it broke on the way down, so I am set to take both to my old restorer tomorrow. I did some food shopping and decided to cook a meal from my new Donna Hay cookbook for dinner. It includes a tzatziki which has honey and cumin in it as well as the usual yogurt, cucumber and garlic. I like I’ve decided. Picked up my new distance glasses today and I’m very happy with the funky $20 frames, not to mention the fact that I can now see sooo much better at a distance. I get on so well with my optometrist who is a very generous and helpful soul, as well as a homophobe, a Trump supporter, a climate denier  and of course in this quadrella…..an evangelical Christian. Aaagh.

January 14, 2020

Went for a run to North Richmond to see John Koster and leave my painting and chair for repair. Followed this with a visit to Brian, taking a selection of fruit, which he always loves. Had a glimmer of hope in the ant situation after ringing the Department of Primary Industries for advice. They put me through to an entomologist in Orange who was helpful, conceding the possibility I raised that they could be Argentine ants. Their nests are so huge that they need to need to utilise every available food source to feed the vast numbers of ants that eventually build up. Argentine ants become a major pest by invading houses and swarming over everything, including entering fridges, unopened packets and have even been known to follow the spiral down inside screw-top jars to get at the contents. When I told her that they have managed to eat through plastic to get into sealed packets and that they’ve invaded clip lock sealed cake boxes she suggested that she send me a pack to catch some of the tiny blighters to return to her for identification. When I was a kid we were always searching for them as there was a cash reward, but I never succeeded in finding one. I told her I’d killed thousands but she said it’s pointless because they will just organise the queen to lay that many more eggs. They also use pheromones to tell the other ants which areas they’ve already checked and which areas are most dangerous eg my kitchen bench. Now they only travel at cornice height, so at least that’s somewhat of a relief because I can cook without interference. They walk around Ant Rid, teatree oil likewise, Mortein barrier spray didn’t work under the house so I am just left with my trusty vinegar and water spray bottle if they come down below the cornice.

January 15, 2020

A trip to the nursery yielded just a Thai chili plant for $4.70 after loyalty discount. I looked at the succulents, trying to get more of the ones I have in already but there were none there, nor at the nursery at Windsor yesterday. I had bought some on special there before Christmas, typically I didn’t buy up when they were cheap. But I am looking forward to getting chilis as I need them because fruit shops sell them en masse in packets and I only want them intermittently. Trying another recipe tonight from the Donna Hay book that Ann gave me, Salmon with Lemon Cream Sauce on a bed of greens. I now have my pantry slide-out baskets spread around the house, cake icing things in my bedroom, cake cooking ones on the chaise in the loungeroom, others on my desk or in the spare bedroom. So far the ants haven’t twigged and it’s a nuisance getting the flour from the lounge, the nutmeg from the desk etc but it seems to have fooled their limited language capabilities as they are still going to the empty pantry. He he, primates rule, so far today.

I came across yet another article from Quadrant written by John’s football friend who is so opposed to everything we believe in that I can no longer safely be in his presence. He rails against the gullible people who believe this climate change nonsense, in the past writing scathing articles on unions and racial diversity on the ABC. Everything is a Communist plot as far as I read his meaning, but he’s way smarter than me and wouldn’t be crass enough to put it that way. One article explains how the current climate hysteria is born out of the anti-nuclear movement of the 60s, carried on through the generations by leftist Teachers Federation apparatchiks. Last night as I sat reading it on the net I was as angry as a hornet in a bottle, but he refuses to debate his views with anyone, or at least not with John. He is the intellectual darling of Catallaxy, the IPA, climate deniers and libertarian causes, justifying with excellent writing skills the attitudes of his friends Gina Rinehart and Christopher Monckton. Deep breathe Maureen, deep breathe.

January 16, 2020

Decided to go in to town to the Police and Justice Museum which is always worth a look for the old photos from Sydney’s early days, apart from any current exhibitions they may have. Then I got a welcome call from Sue beginning ‘have you got time to talk?’ so we spent a while chewing the fat. I was still in my nightie at 10 with good intentions lagging, when I looked up the hours and discovered the museum only opens weekends now, so that was that. Did some weeding, to find that the light rain we’ve had only dampened the top centimetre of soil. It was as dry as a pommie’s bathmat underneath, then the postman brought my water bill and I discovered that my usage was way up on last year, so much for my saving water. The postman also brought the ant kit from DPI so I am closer to getting them identified, if not to getting rid of them. They haven’t discovered my pantry contents hiding in plain sight, so that is a win of sorts.

Continuing to enjoy the Harp in the South trilogy, read as a 20 odd year old and totally new to me as I read it now. I am taken with the way the characters address each other and half of me thinks that we have patently improved in our civility, while the other half wonders if it were better to be able to state one’s opinions forcefully and then come back the next day with no hard feelings. I can’t even imagine the response if I addressed someone in my book group with the equivalent of ‘shut your ugly face you skinny slag’, but I don’t think I will do so, even as an experiment.

January 17, 2020

Lucky me! I have had a grey butcher bird on the deck twice this week. Wondering what attracted it, I looked up my bird books and it appears they will eat grains if meat is not available and I had put out some leftover savoury rice. My two magpies have brought their big adult size baby and it sits, as its parents used to when young, on my outdoor chairs to avoid the rain. The parents sit out in the tree despite the rain, watching over it just as their parents used to do for them. It squawks to be fed rather than bend its head to eat what is right there, I feel like telling the parents that they are being used but I think perhaps they know. Making an old fashioned baked rice pudding for tonight as I had some perfectly good cream that was out of date but I didn’t want to push my luck, so just added some milk and cooked it up with the rice, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg, yum. Will serve it warm with fresh white peaches and raspberries, but John will still want his icecream later I know.

January 18, 2020

As predicted John said he liked the rice pudding last night, but would have preferred his usual icecream. Ah well, I did predict it. We checked online for trackwork on the rail to Katoomba and there appeared to be none, so off we went on the bus to Parramatta only to be told that we needed to catch a bus to Penrith due to trackwork. Felt a bit cheated but as it turned out we were only a few minutes later than expected as the bus left before the train had been due to leave. We were meeting up with Annabel, Dan, Aurora and Tallulah to celebrate the children’s birthdays, both this week. John had the brilliant idea of inviting Dan’s mother Lyn and her sister Pat, both of whom we get on with very well, and the whole event went off without problems. We had lunch in the lounge of the Carrington Hotel, replete with many people in vintage clothing for the 1950s festival this weekend. Lots of vintage cars in the closed off street and markets selling vintage clothing and jewellery, which I was self-disciplined enough to avoid. A tent with 50s live music completed what seemed like a very good event. By the time we negotiated a train and two buses to get home it was after 7pm, tired but a good day had.

January 19, 2020

Drove to Erskineville to see Dav and Co and to give Millie the gift I’d bought of a box of yucky, creepy stuff like a plastic poo, a cockroach, some blow flies and maggots and a slippery tongue, all the correct sizes and very lifelike. It went well till I suggested she trick mummy and daddy by quietly putting the cockroach in the fruit bowl but the concept didn’t appeal and she pulled a blanket over her head and looked upset. She was fine with doing it openly though and spent the next couple of hours finding funny places to deposit them, such as a blowfly on biscuits Dav served up with a cup of tea. So she got the joke, just didn’t want to do it surreptitiously, which was interesting. Afterwards we went to see the film Jo Jo Rabbit which was clever and superbly acted by its young lead, but I am afraid I just can’t get used to the idea of joking about Fascism, and Nazism in particular. Although I can see what he was trying to do and most of the audience found it funny, I was often cringing, as I always did with M*A*S*H and Hogan’s Heroes in decades past for the same reasons. Not sorry I saw it though, but not my fave by any means. We went to it because Carly texted to warn me not to go to 1917 which she saw last night as she’d had to leave due to motion sickness, so I would certainly be affected by it too. Pity, as John was looking forward to it, but he can go alone through the week.

January 20, 2020

Rang the Sydney Festival for tickets to Betty Blokk Buster Reimagined after a very positive review from Michelle who went last night. I was a regular for years at all of Reg Livermore’s shows in the 70s, seeing some of them twice, and once when I visited his open garden in the Blue Mountains he came wafting out of the house to the gazebo in a heavy mist with a tea tray and invited me to share a cuppa. One of life’s highlights was seeing him appear out of the those tiny droplets of water suspended in the air, just like an entrance from one of his shows. He may have been a few inches above the ground, but perhaps I imagined that. Drove out to pick up my damaged chair from the restorer and confirmed that he is a genius, it’s impossible to pick where it was broken even though I took a bag full of pieces for him to put together like a jigsaw. Then I called in to see one of my contacts theoretically just to pick up a payment on a loan we’d negotiated last year. Seeing he now has no car, that turned into a trip to the post office, the real estate (to pay the rent), pet food store (meat for magpies), the bulk bird seed place at McGraths Hill (seed for the hundreds of other birds he feeds every day), the bakery (stale bread, ditto), then to Aldi for his fortnight’s groceries. Pension gone, he’ll now live with just small change till next pay. It is the life many lead and few understand.

January 21, 2020

Had an exciting morning making a cake from the Donna Hay book I was given recently. It is unusual because it is cooked in the oven in a heavy frypan after cooking the orange slices in said pan with sugar and vanilla and then pouring the almond cake mixture on top. I used blood oranges and it looks superb, waiting for sir to arrive before I spoil it by cutting, but he needs to get his skates on as it looks too good to resist. The excitement came when, half way through making the cake, a nasty big spider ran across the kitchen bench and when I screamed it reared up on its hind legs and presented its large fangs, reminiscent of funnel web behaviour. I couldn’t hit it because of all the cooking equipment between us but finally it ran into the flour sifter (ugh) so I cleverly placed a plate on top and sprayed it through the mesh base. Primate 1: Spider 0, but where are his loved ones I ask myself? Why has the world of insects and arachnids got it in for me at the moment? Ants I can deal with, just, but spiders creep me into a shrieking mess. On the ant front I am still seeing outliers but the constant trails seem to have been stopped by separating all food sources into different rooms, although I did open my morning jam jar to find it full of the little bleeders. The lid was firmly tight, so that goes to show these little ants can and do travel around the thread of the jar to get in, as I had been warned, so all jam goes in the fridge now. Note to self: Screaming indoors does not bring help of any kind and may in fact precipitate a cardiac event.

January 22, 2020

For some reason I like typing 2020 as I can do it so quickly, pathetic typist that I am, 2020, 2020, 2020. There, that’s it for now. Well with John’s help and advice I succeeded in getting a lot of stuff out of the garage today. Firstly we decided that my beautiful hand woven Persian carpet which has remained rolled up there ever since the loungeroom was extended should come back up to live in the dining room as I just can’t bring myself to sell it. Vacced front and back it looks a treat. Huge spacemaker in the garage too. Then I unpacked numerous boxes and repacked them for auction, gift giving and to keep. Tossed lots of packing paper into the recycling and felt suitably virtuous. Later we went to the framer and I chose a frame for the broken painting that came down off the wall, a nice silver painted wooden one which is much more suitable to a modernist painting than the poor choice in which it was originally framed. Later we went to Riverside Theatre to see Bran Nue Dae and enjoyed it very much but I thought the crowd was a bit disappointing. I booked it as part of our Opera Australia subscription and splurged on the best seats in Row C, but most other takers were much further back with only 4 people in Row A, 3 in B and 4 including us in C. It was well received but the turnout reminded me once again that I live in a cultural wilderness. Ernie Dingo did a good job, though I was a bit shocked at how old he is looking and hoped it was makeup, but the star of the night was male lead Marcus Corowa who was able to go from a gawky schoolboy to a man before our eyes. The lyrics are often memorable: “They taught me the white ways, and bugger the rest, Cause everything white is right and the best. So learn all the white things they teach you in school, And you’ll all become acceptable coons.” Late in the piece blown up condoms showered the audience so I grabbed a couple and as we wandered back to the car through Prince Alfred Park a drag queen (pneumatic lips and skimpy outfit) was headed to the St. Vinnies food van there. ‘Are those condoms?’, she asked. ‘Yes they are’, I replied and she responded ‘aren’t you sweet’ and began to surreptitiously take some photos of us. ‘Do you want to come for a coffee at the food van?’ came next, but we were both bashful about scrounging drinks meant for the homeless. Later we regretted that decision as we could have just paid for them with a donation and continued parleying with our new friend, with whom I’d disagreed about the bats in the park, specifically in relation to whether they were cute or repulsive. I also wanted to suss out the van because I was thinking about joining that team, but the 9.30pm start put me off. Perhaps a smiling face or two would have changed my mind.

January 23, 2020

Somehow or other this day pales into insignificance because I updated this blog on my phone rather than the computer and have now discovered that the three days on which I did this have disappeared, but I am sure it consisted of sending off letters or emails of protest, cooking then reading at night. They’re all safe bets.

January 24, 2020

I WON! I WON!
Got a call from the vice-captain of an RFS brigade to tell me I’d won their raffle. I’d joked with him at purchase that Purple 76 of the many I bought was the winning ticket and by George I was right. Perhaps predestination is a thing after all. I shall ponder the question while aboard the High Tea Cruise on Sydney Harbour which was the prize. Plenty of anti-nausea drugs will be consumed to make sure the food stays where it belongs. Discussed with Carol her similar experience of just ‘knowing’ that she would win a raffle (with a much bigger cruise as the prize) and being totally unsurprised when it actually happened. Instinct can be odd and unexplainable sometimes.

Went to the amazing play The Visitors at Carriageworks tonight. John booked it as a surprise and I had no idea what we were going to. It was about the day in 1788 that the Aboriginal clans gathered to watch huge ships appearing in the harbour. Where are they from? Who and what do they carry? Should they be welcomed or treated with suspicion or attacked? Seven senior law men (cleverly dressed in business suits to indicate their power and position) meet to decide how to respond. Their decision must be unanimous. They are pulled between fear of the consequences of a wrong decision and their culture of welcoming visitors to their land. The play ends with the decision to welcome the visitors because everyone knows that visitors are just that, visitors, and they do not stay. I was wet-eyed by the end, but the two young Aboriginal women sitting in front of us were wiping away tears all through the second half of the play, perhaps seeing their alternative destinies playing out, 10/10 from me.

January 25, 2020

Another day where the post went up in smoke after being done on the phone. But I know I had stayed at John’s overnight, did some food shopping on my way home, watered my garden after 4pm and read into the evening. I am currently reading Ronan Farrow’s amazing book Catch and Kill about his near year-long investigative reporting on the victims of Harvey Weinstein. He was working for MSNBC and CBS News who encouraged him all the way until phone calls from Weinstein to executives caused them to can the TV program that was ready to roll. Farrow documents the day to day experiences in detail until the point that he realised the work would never come to air and jumped ship to The New Yorker who, after much fact checking and legal work, embraced the project. And the rest is history. Farrow received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, which he fully deserved in my opinion for the way he ignored legal threats and physical surveillance for a year, to the point that he needed to move to a safe house, in order to publish.

January 26, 2020

A huge day beginning with the Invasion Day March. After many speakers in a very hot Hyde Park we trudged off towards Victoria Park somewhat the worse for wear (in my case at least). Later we discovered that the trams weren’t working due presumably due to the crowds at the Quay but eventually got there by train and lunched at Renaissance. Later in the afternoon we headed back to Hyde Park to see Betty Blokk Buster Revisited, which was very good in itself but not a patch on ‘our Reg’ whose delivery snapped from aggressive, sad, sympathetic and bitingly cruel. This version was a great reminder of Reg, but never a replacement.

January 27, 2020

Up early to email the honours division of the Governor-General’s Department to complain about the awarding of an OAM to the horrendous Bettina Arndt. I suggested that they rescind the honour under Section 4 which says this is possible if the recipient brings the awards into disrepute. Also requested the details of those who put her name up and I suspect somehow that they will be from the usual suspects of the Right. But this is not just a political matter, she is also an apologist for paedophiles, is a promoter of the Men’s Rights Movement who believe that children of physically and sexually abusive fathers should remain in their custody and refuses to accept that misogyny has any bearing on violence against women, ‘except in countries like Saudi Arabia’. The woman has been peddling this stuff for nigh on 50 years to my knowledge and the award gives her views credence.

My neighbour came in to tell me that his house has again been the target of egg-throwing. What to do? he asked. My suggestion was 1) Notify the police and get a name of the investigating officer and 2) Visit the three townhouses from which the eggs were apparently thrown (they were at the back of his property, not from the street) and give each resident a slip of paper with the name and phone number of the officer, as well as his own name and number, with a request to contact either if they observe anything suspicious. This will put them on notice that he is a wakeup to them as well as making them aware that their neighbours are also watching them. He liked the plan but said he needed someone to go with him, so I volunteered and we plan to put the scheme into action next weekend.

January 28, 2020

A fun day all round with a train trip to Leura to pick up my raffle prize. John couldn’t come as he was picking up Ann and Karina from the cruise terminal after their latest of their frequent trips to sea, then was on standby to take a friend’s wife to chemo if needed, both part of his ‘pastoral care’ I told him. The friend is in hospital with a broken femur and wrist after falling while playing street cricket, he is John’s age. I say nothing about the pitfalls of playing sport, nothing. Met the RFS vice-captain at Sparrows cafe and it turned out he is a local architect and all round nice guy. So we talked architecture, building, bushfires, roll bars on their trucks, and face masks and their undersupply, while the government keeps a store of a million of them for ‘an emergency’. The waitress at the cafe, seeing him handing me the big envelope, got excited and took about 20 photos, so I said I would mention their great service on social media and give her praise on Tripadvisor. Then I wandered Leura shops, finding some beautiful salad bowls made of bamboo and decorated with Aboriginal designs by the Utopia Community with a photo on the base of each of the person who did the work. Rang Carly to see if she wanted one, but she has a Kashmiri theme happening (funny that) and said no, so I was forced to buy myself one. Then purchased a pair of huon pine ‘salad hands’ from the lovely wood-working shop after querying whether they would stain with say, balsamic vinegar. Assured that it wouldn’t happen, I invested in them and will be mightily pissed off if they do. Next was a dress for Millie’s birthday and then lunch at Leura Deli which was fabulous, as always. It looked like a delicious quiche but was actually caramelised onions topped with goat cheese and not eggy at all, happy to have one for lunch every day. Declined a sweet, I am getting so good. Late at night when the Canberra bushfires worsened I mentioned in a call from Carly that friends Peter and Dawn lived in that area and her immediate response was ‘tell them to come here if they need a bed’ so I sent off a text to Peter. They are packed and ready to leave. It took me back to their wedding, a wonderful occasion where a believing Catholic ex-priest married a Communist atheist. Speeches were given by a Bishop and by Dawn’s Communist father, what a treat it was.

January 29, 2020

Now I am finished the amazing Catch and Kill, I have started another non-fiction book, Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman. Although the explanations of Facebook, Twitter and the Australian law (or lack of it) regarding trolling are of some curiosity, it is the personal contact with the trolls themselves that has me really interested. I love people who can deal with the ‘bad guys’ as humans and interact with them, this provides the key to motivation. It seems there are many different reasons but it’s not unsurprising to find that they are almost all white males (Bettina Arndt, note well). They mostly tend to be right wing, though there are exceptions, with an almost fanatical desire to uphold free speech at any cost. Ginger’s ability to maintain internet friendships with these guys, genuinely curious about them and their lives, makes her quite different to someone who just researches them like lab animals. I noted today that I suddenly have 2,186 spam comments on this blog, a massive increase. So I checked them, expecting them to be mostly ads, and discovered that there are great slabs of what looks like lifts from academic medical journals with no comments attached. The WordPress system has rightly identified them as spam and removed them before I was even aware, but still I wonder why would someone send such stuff, what was their purpose? Unlike Ginger I don’t intend to reply, though I might have if there had been 3 instead of 2,186, so it remains one of life’s little mysteries.

January 30, 2020

In the light of Ginger Gorman’s book and seeing I am constantly reading about, and writing letters about, Bridget and Bettina (spit, spit) I started to wonder if perhaps I have troll tendencies. But I guess the difference is that I am not putting my opinions of them on their Facebook pages or on Twitter, which I don’t use, but writing to the powers that be trying to get their worst excesses curbed (let’s face it, to get them sacked). Perhaps that just makes me more two-faced in that I am not taking the argument up to them directly, but in each case they have shown no inclination to listen to critics, however they are approached. My New Year’s resolutions were 1. Swim more and 2. Call out bullshit every time you see it. The second has kept me quite busy of late.

The Australian response to the novel corona virus outbreak has been less than stellar with an academic a few days ago saying that the Chinese had ‘overreacted’ by sealing off Wuhan and being very critical of them. Then our Health bureaucrats said that there was no evidence of transmission before patients were symptomatic, despite publicised Chinese advice to the contrary. Now they’ve changed their tune on that one too. I know it’s fast moving and changeable but one reading of the excellent 1995 book The Coming Plague answers a lot of questions about previous epidemics, animal causation and spread. I’ve reread it each time there’s been an outbreak of Ebola, Lassa, SARS or whatever and it is invaluable. Though writing in the early 1990s, Garrett discusses the effects of global warming on pathogen populations and spread and following up the more than 100 pages of footnotes could easily keep me reading from now until I pop off.

January 31, 2020

Arvind and I did our neighbourly visit to the townhouses below our properties to see if we could ascertain who was responsible for the twice repeated egg-throwing incidents emanating from one of them. At each of the four doors he did the same spiel, ‘hello I’m your neighbour over your back fence and someone has been vandalising my property by throwing eggs. Would you please keep an eye out for anything suspicious and ring me or Detective Bloggs whose phone number I am providing’. Three of the places were super friendly, asking questions about what happened and when, commiserating etc. At the fourth, number X, both the husband and wife came to the door, she asking when and what time this happened and her head positively whizzed around to her husband as if to say ‘was that you?’. One resident had suggested we be careful at number X because the man there had left a nasty note on his door telling him not to wheel his rubbish bin in after 7pm. Sherlock and I agreed that we had probably found our man and doubt if there will be any more problems in the future. When asked by the suspect who I was Arvind quickly responded ‘she’s a distant aunt’ which was funny considering he is a dark Indian and I a white Brit, but he was protecting me from a neighbour whose property is also close to mine. Quick thinking 99.

All of this paled against the fact that a crack has appeared in a wall close to the previous crack from which all the ants descend. Also the door jamb is away from the wall and it appears something is eating at the gyprock. I called the pest controller and he said he was busy for a few weeks but could come then. In the meantime he suggested I send photos of the damage and immediately after I sent them he replied that he would come late afternoon tomorrow as it looked like white ants. Groan, my heart went through the floor and stayed there. John helped me clear much of the storeroom contents to under the deck  and we relocated the rest to the centre to let him inspect, which was all we could do, between spraying ants. Book group was good but termites were never quite out of mind.

February 1, 2020

A hot and restless night imagining the house crumbling around me then we started early on the garage, which took till well after lunchtime to partially clear the walls, by which time the temperature in there was 46 degrees or 115 in the old money. Jeff came in the afternoon and after a limited inspection told me he thinks it’s a giant ant nest and because I removed all possible food from them they’ve begun to eat the gyprock paper and the silicone which seals the door frame (kind of makes me sorry they are starving, but my mental health demands a cure). I had left the ants I’d killed this morning with my vinegar spray on the benchtop and I think he was pretty shocked. Apparently when I had termites in the garage he used a chemical (banned later that year because some pest people were spraying it instead of drilling into the ground and pouring it in as he did) which has a half life of 25 years. He was able to say that he did it in 1995 and it’s probably still working fine so he is reasonably hopeful that there aren’t termites but will do a complete inspection and ant treatment later this month. I could easily have kissed him but controlled my joy and kissed John instead. I feel as if I might get my life back after all. With all this happening and 46 degree heat to boot, I had cancelled a visit by the Erko fam but we’ll reschedule next weekend.

February 2, 2020

Ant report: Swarms came down on the bench within half an hour of my cleaning up the dead ones I’d left to show Jeff. I sprayed hundreds more and left them there to clean up this morning as I’d already done it so any times yesterday. But this morning the bench was sans dead ants, which were apparently raised from the dead Lazarus style or eaten for breakfast by the hundreds of live ones that arrived overnight, eew. February 19 come quickly before an admission to Callan Park is required. Oh, that’s right, we rarely admit people to psychiatric hospitals any more, leaving them to struggle alone in the community.

My instincts failed when I made a bet that Bridget would be sacked by last Tuesday at 5pm, but luckily I won’t have to pay out on a loss because I only bet myself this time. I continue to shake my head at the lacklustre Australian response to the corona virus outbreak. While the scientists are doing amazing work, as usual, the policy makers and their publicists stumble along. Potential pandemics, as this clearly was, need action that is both strong and meteorically fast because anything else will let the disease run in any number of directions. This has been shown over and over but we still put in good policies, but way too late. No one will complain about rigorous safety precautions in this sort of event (oh well there was that academic who said China had ‘overreacted’, but leaving her aside…Smilie: ;). When at the library today a fine young Chinese schoolboy apologised to me in the lift ‘I’m sorry, I should have put my mask on’ and promptly did so. I understood then just a little about how we have made Chinese Australians feel that they are the bogey men in this outbreak, I told him that I didn’t have a mask on either and that I was as big a risk to him as he was to me, he smiled and carried it from then on.

February 3, 2020

John and I went in the afternoon to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood with Tom Hanks, who performed admirably as Mr Rogers, the American children’s show host from the 1960s on. It walked a fine line between ‘schlock and soppy’ and ‘erudite’ or sometimes profound, falling only just within the latter two. A dream scene where Hanks’ character was seen as a miniature person in the childrens’ show fell definitely into the soppy camp and needed to be left on the cutting room floor, but all in all Hanks’ acting lifted it over the line. I am interested now to read the Esquire article on which the story is based and to learn a bit more about the real Mr Rogers, so I guess the film did work for me. Had some more communication with my ex sister-in-law, with whom I am becoming closer over time. We reaquainted a few years back courtesy of Facebook (her approach, not mine) and this also led to my becoming friends again with her two sisters. She and her husband came to visit last year from Brisbane and plan to do so again later this year. I wish now that I had reached out to them years earlier but for all its faults Facebook made it easy and has allowed me some amazing connections with people whom I wouldn’t be talking to on a regualar basis otherwise, such as John’s sister-in-law in the US whom I’ve never met but  communicate with at some level every few days at least.

February 4, 2020

After breaking my rule not to watch Q and A because of its effect on my sleep, I watched last night out of interest in its theme of the bushfires and to see how young Hamish equipped himself in the role of host. Am I in love with young Hamish? Possibly, yes. But it was the diabolical Jim Molan, with his lounging posture, his superfluously overlong legs dominating the set, that sent lasting shivers of disgust up my spine and ruined my sleep. I guess iview, not at bedtime, is the only solution, though I did read till midnight to try to wash him off. The general thrust of my sleeplessness was a feeling that we are already ‘rooned’ as Hanrahan would say. But it seems we’ve dodged a Barnaby today, but by how much remains to be seen. The figure is important because it will influence his decision on whether to keep trying. These ego-driven politicians are like my ants, they only know ‘barge straight ahead without stopping, no matter what’. Those sorts of people put me off in everyday life as well, the Gladys Lius and their more mundane counterparts in this world will never end up in my phone directory. A couple in my sphere of aquaintanceship give me the gee willikers after a short time in their company, they are like human steamrollers.

February 5, 2020

It was lovely to get a call from Robert for no apparent reason other than to chew the fat, which we did, covering a myriad of topics for over an hour. This morning Michelle rang from hospital after an eye operation “I thought I’d ring someone since I can’t read” she said, which reminded me that she had done the same in the afternoon after her morning hip replacement. Perhaps it’s a sign of friendship when a person rings you for no reason at all, there should be more of it. I headed to Windsor today to see Brian and got there just after his daughter had taken him out for lunch, but at least I was able to pick up $100 from my old shop associate, almost clearing his lastest loan. It’s always a good feeling to get back to tors before the next calamity hits him. I was thinking on the way home that I need a short list (or perhaps a long list) of people I refuse to watch before bedtime for my self protection. Jim Molan, Judith Sloan, ScumMo, Angus Taylor, that Witch from the West Michaelia Cash, all the Queensland Nationals, Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and their ilk, it goes on and on. Barnaby is such a fool that I can laugh at him so that lowers the pressure, unless of course he succeeds in his Lazarus attempt, in which case he will need to be added. Gosh, life is a series of mini labyrinths which one needs to negotiate for sanity. Or perhaps it’s just me?

February 6, 2020

Unusually I was up at 6am, but for some reason I wasn’t hungry so I gave my usual jam on toast breakfast a miss. Later in the morning I suddenly realised that I needed to go and get the 36 blood tests which I have every six months before seeing the immunologist. The phlebology technician asked if I had fasted, no I said, I haven’t, before remembering that it was 9.30 but I still hadn’t eaten as yet so I changed the answer and wondered yet again about instinct. Although I’ve had these done twice a year for 7 years, the staff query every time that some of the tests have to be done in his lab in Newcastle. I’ve never jagged the same staff member twice so it needs to be explained and the same furrowed brows appear and phone calls are made but eventually it gets done.

My kitchen tap has gradually become loose and a close inspection reveals that neither my tools (nor John’s) will fix it, as they need to go into a deep channel to tighten the screw. So I rang 3 plumbers and asked about the cost of this very simple job. They all quoted about $80 to come out and then $50 per half hour and I was hesitant. But the last chap, when I said I would think it over, asked what I’d been expecting. I told him honestly that I was hoping to find a plumber in the street doing a job for someone else and I was going to offer him $50 to come over and tighten the screw. He immediately said ‘you’re not far away so I will come and fix it for the $50’ and was there in 20 minutes. It was even more complicated to access than I’d thought and it took him half an hour, but he insisted on sticking to the quote and I sent him home with $50 plus some baking from the fridge. I now have myself a plumber for life as he’s just a young fellow and will see me out, though I am happy to pay his normal rate for bigger jobs of course.

February 7, 2020

Lunched with a friend at a tiny Japanese place at Cherrybrook. It was my first ever visit to the town centre there but I didn’t explore as I was reluctant to hold up my friend whose car I was in, but I shall return. My dessert was unusual, a green tea lava pudding which I’ve never had before. I am a bit besotted with the book I am reading, Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World by James Boyce. He traces the journey from Adam and Eve through St Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley and more, all the way to Adam Smith, Billy Graham and on to Richard Dawkins in his story of this idea and its influence over 1500 years. I have learned so much from this book but one fascinating piece of information is that “In God We Trust” only became America’s motto in 1956, subsequent to the Billy Graham crusades from 1947 and every year from then on. The founding fathers were particular in not mentioning God in any of the original documents because of their agnosticism and their strong desire for separation of church and state. Then along comes Billy, who wheedled his way into every White House until his son Franklin took over the family business and continues to this day. The chapters on early Protestantism were absorbing and I couldn’t help seeing the face of Eric Abetz, (small eyes, tight mouth, grim) whenever those hardline witch-burning Scottish Protestants were mentioned. So perhaps this Tasmanian author was thinking of that connection as he typed. Wesley bragged that none of his 10 children dared cry after the age of one as he deliberately ‘crushed their spirit’. One daughter eloped and had a child but the father failed to marry her and she went home in disgrace, only to be refused entry. She married a local plumber and was the victim of domestic violence from then on, losing subsequent children to miscarriage. I will reread this book again soon, it is one of the most enlightening (no pun intended) philosophical books I have read in quite a while.

February 8, 2020

In a bit of a funk today that just wouldn’t lift, despite it being my favourite weather. Sadly I didn’t get to enjoy it as a result. Sometimes it is just so hard to pull yourself out of a hole that you’ve dug for no tangible reason. Prepared food for the Erko crew for dinner and was pleased to hear Millie’s newest phrase “so, what’s the situation?” which she recycled when Heather arrived at the door to visit late in the afternoon. I found a box of china animals in the storeroom, Wade Whimsies from the 1950s or 60s which she enjoyed playing with. Sleep was elusive while my mind tried to solve the corona virus situation single-handed.

February 9, 2020

Dav, Millie and Louis left early and I attacked the grate in front of the garage which had filled with soil and as a result the garage was flooding. Managed to drag the grates off and then used a hoe to pull out all the dirt and throw it into the barrow. After that I lost some enthusiasm for the garage work I was planning to do, as I was soaking wet. Went to a movie with John in the arv, Bombshell, which was interesting from a historical point of view but not a masterpiece. The movie stopped three times due to power outages which didn’t help. When we got out there had been a call from Justin next door, a fact that worried me, rightly as it turned out. The Eucalyptus nicholii had crashed onto the street library and the grass verge, severing the power lines at my house and Justin’s, as well as our NBN and internet. It had been there 45 years so it was very sad as it protected my front windows from the northern sun in summer. The SES informed me that they wouldn’t come if I had been in China recently, so clearly they don’t trust the government’s quarantine policies. Live power lines in the front garden wasn’t enough to get Endeavour Energy here in a hurry so I hope I don’t go out to find a black figure attached to the wires. I made the worst pumpkin soup ever, can’t cook when stressed apparently.

February 10, 2020

Restricted now as I have no power, no water, no phone and no internet. SES is cutting down the tree, but into huge unmovable sections that 3 men couldn’t lift, and the council informs me they won’t help with removing the wood piled on the grass verge, let alone what’s on my property. They’ve turned off the water as the tree crashed onto the metre area, but it will be back on when they finish, unlike the power as I am in a queue for that. NBN and Optus can’t do the phone and net till the power’s on so there we are. I am at the library waiting while my phone charges as I’ve spent so much time, hours, ringing all the services. The SES opined that the drought had killed most of the tree roots and it was a moral to fall in the first wind.

February 11, 2020

John in his usual calm and methodical way decided that the only way to clear up the wood was to tear off all the leaves by hand and then saw up the branches, so by the end of the day we had just three piles of branches looking like stork nests and two green bins chockers with leaves. If I had been in charge I’d still be standing there wondering what to do. Of course the huge logs are a different matter, but I’ve decided to rename them ‘garden feature pieces’ and they can sit where they fell. In between I took up Michelle’s offer to put all my freezer contents into her spare, and luckily empty, fridge. So I did that and fortuitously most of the important stuff was still frozen, while the lesser things like bread, berries, cakes etc could be used by them as they were already thawing. We thought we were going to spend another night with candles but right at the end of the day Endeavour Energy arrived and spent a couple of hours redoing the power lines. The boss man looked up at Arvind’s tree and said ‘I wouldn’t want to sleep under that’ so I explained that I had moved into the back bedroom for just that reason. I put the point to them that in the old days when government controlled electricity, crews could be moved around to places where there were issues but now that they are all different companies we just wait. They agreed. I think I hate privatisation more than any of the other myriad problems government and the markets have conspired to cause. Come the revolution, I’ll be putting them all back in government hands so be warned Gladys!

February 12, 2020

Someone has put a hex on my house apparently and when I went to get the vacuum cleaner out of the front bedroom the lock had mysteriously collapsed so I can’t get into the room. I’ve doused it in WD40 but so far no luck, the key just won’t move it, so I swept instead. I will be mightily pissed off if I have to get a locksmith. Waited in for the NBN man who was booked to come between 8 and 12 this morning, but didn’t. Just before 12 NBN rang to ask if the power was on, they’d been notified of this fact by both phone and email yesterday and that’s when the appointment was organised. No I will not scream or swear, I know there are more important issues, but patience is wearing thin on the ground here. Now I’m stuck at home again tomorrow when I had plans for this week, of which not one has materialised. Finding it impossible to get Dark Emu, our next book group volume, in any of the four library services I have access to. Great that it’s popular. Then John just rang to say he has bought it, even though he’s already read it, because he feels he will want to reread it at some time, so problem solved.

February 13, 2020

I am wondering what sort of person, driving a garbage truck, reverses at speed into a passing jogger, gets out to see what he has hit, rolls the body out of the way and continues his garbage run? I think I make a lot of allowances for people’s upbringing, life experiences, IQ etc in any circumstance I come across, but still I am constantly amazed when people do these things, despairing actually. Started rereading The Coming Plague, the 768 page epic which I bought about 1995 or so and which is still the bible for understanding plagues, new diseases, pandemics, the interaction between humans and animals resulting in disease and the functions of the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control amongst many related topics. One chapter describes the issues which cause epidemics to be much more serious in cities than in villages, relating incidences going back to the Roman Empire and before and listing many disease outbreaks in China over the centuries which resulted in massive population drops, casualties in the millions. The story of the sudden emergence of the Ebola virus in Zaire in the mid-1970s has a Joseph Conrad-esque feel and is as scary as a novel. The first people to see the outbreak were Belgian nuns who were running a remote hospital with very limited or no medical training and no doctor within cooee. When told by radio communication to put up a ‘quarantine cordon’ they just strung bandages around the trees with signs not to come in, brave women but most died as a result. No sign of the NBN man, no opportunity to go out in case he comes, but tomorrow is an appointment up the coast with the Prof so Saturday is looking like the first opportunity, groan.

February 14, 2020

It is a week of disasters. Apart from the tree, now a huge stain has appeared on one ceiling so a roof leak has occurred. I wasn’t going to claim on insurance for anything but it looks as if I will have to now. Then Millie’s portrait fell off the wall, bringing down a smaller picture of her that was beneath it, but I can fix that myself. Then John rang to say his car had broken down in Lane Cove on his way to seeing me and had to be towed to our lovely mechanic at Castle Hill. The NRMA man was interesting and dropped J at my house on the way, which he didn’t have to do. They had deep and meaningful discussions about religion on the way, he is a Baha’i and it seemed to John that the values they discussed: internationalism, lack of discrimination on the basis of sex, colour, race etc, support of minorities, world cooperation and peace, were pretty much aligned with our views, except that we are without the god aspect. Anyway they swapped emails and phone numbers to keep up the conversation so whether we end up meeting him again remains to be seen. This morning we went to the mechanic’s to collect the disabled parking sticker from his car and Alex the mechanic said that he didn’t think it was a big deal so he could fix it on the spot. He charged $51 which was for the part and nothing for the half hour’s labour. This is the umpteenth time he’s done something like this and won’t be argued with. So Valentine’s Day was spent on a trip to Erina to see the Prof. I pointed out to John that I have seen him up there 15 times over 7 years and we have never taken the opportunity to stay a couple of nights at the beach while we were there. Except the first time, when Robert and Sue came with us, and we went back to their place overnight but I had to be at Windsor at 10am the next morning so it was hardly a relaxed break. We couldn’t stay anywhere this time because the NBN guy is due at 8 am Saturday. Anyway, the Prof said that my blood tests were slightly better than 6 months ago despite my stopping the medication, so he didn’t go crook about my doing so, which surprised me. He gave me a kiss as I left, the first time that’s happened!! Went on to Killcare and had some lunch before visiting Robert and Sue. He looks somewhat more frail and tired but apart from that was his usual funny self. Sue holds up magnificently. We departed before dinner as we didn’t want to add any pressure to her existence.

February 15, 2020

THE NBN MAN CAME AT 8AM AS PLANNED AND SAID: ‘I CANT FIX IT BECAUSE THE LINE IS DOWN AND IT NEEDS TWO MEN AND A CHERRYPICKER TRUCK’. Which is what I’ve been telling them all f*****g week by phone and email. He is the second NBN man to come and say the same thing. I despair of the stupidity. Despairing as well about human? nature after discussing with Arvind the truck driver who rolled the corpse out of the way and continued his garbage run. He countered with a story almost as bad in that it was premeditated. He is an electrical engineer and he got a new assistant, a young man with a recent degree from UNSW. He always has a number of phones so Arvind asked him why. He explained that he has a girlfriend but goes on dating sites, telling the unsuspecting girls that his car is in dock so he gets them to pick him up and suggests a walk in a park. His girlfriend follows in his car and robs the vehicle of cash or phones through a window which he has cleverly left open. Arvind told him how disgusted he was and when he told the assistant that he didn’t want to discuss anything with him again, apart from work, the guy appeared shocked. Beautiful Arvind was in my house to try to set up internet for me using his wifi, but try as he might the double brick of his place defeated it. How can these two people be part of the same human race? It was noted though that the country from which the thief originates is one which has been in chaos for decades and I guess as a result it is dog eat dog from birth. How lucky we are, we decided, to have grown up in different circumstances to the thief.

February 16, 2020

I decided to shop for ingredients for the ‘flexitarian’ week of recipes I saw in Good Living online, well a few of them at least. So I made for dinner a Salade Nicoise with fresh tuna and some of the eggs Sue gave me and plan to do some falafel stuffed mushrooms, a green bean dish cooked in coconut cream and some fish skewers later in the week. Managed to sort out a few more things for charity, including five lampshades which were taking up a  lot of room in the storeroom, plus  a folding camping chair and a box of china. Each dispersal gives me inordinate pleasure. The leaves on my beautiful healthy blueberry ash trees have become covered with a white powdery film which I assumed was some sort of powdery mildew, however when I asked Mr Google two different websites said it is common with this tree and to simply ignore it. Hard when the leaves are yellowing and the trees are looking mighty unhealthy, but I do remember how hard it was to treat when we got this fungus on wheat at the University farm so I guess some harsh sun will do the job when the weather goes back to usual.

February 17, 2020

NBN sent me an email saying that since my case was ‘now closed’ would I like to fill in a survey about my contact with them. Actually, no. No, I won’t do the survey and no, my case is far from closed. I can’t be bothered replying. Spent 1 hour and 45 minutes on the phone to GIO putting in the insurance claim for the watermarked ceiling, but once I got on the response was excellent. She asked what else was damaged and I mentioned that the garden tap now won’t stop dripping since it was hit and she replied that we need to get a plumber on to that quick smart, something I wasn’t even going to claim for. Then she pressed me for more, well I said 5 of the pavers were broken, no problem she replied, we’ll put that down. So all in all it was a time-consuming but successful call. Picked up my painting from the framer’s and asked the nearby locksmith how much it would cost to get the door to my spare bedroom opened, but beat a hasty retreat at $165! I bet a house burglar could get it done in a trice.

Still bothering anyone who will listen with facts from the book The Coming Plague. Today’s beauty is that when Belgian, American and African doctors wrote a paper about the AIDS outbreak in Zaire in the early 1980s, 13 medical journals worldwide refused to print their research because…..the US epidemic was among gay men, so therefore it couldn’t be the same disease if it were occurring in heterosexuals, despite laboratory tests confirming that it was. The other widely known story is the neck and neck race between France and the US to find the causative agent of AIDS. The French scientists had the virus cultured but Robert Gallo in the US insisted that no, it was actually his leukaemia virus which was responsible. He asked the French for a sample of theirs and when the French published Gallo suddenly announced (wow, amazing) that the virus he had was identical, even though theirs was certainly not a leukaemia virus. The French suspected strongly that he had simply stolen the sample they had happily provided to him. As a result the two shared the Nobel prize, which should by all accounts have gone to the French team.

February 18, 2020

To overcome a generalised feeling that I have wasted my life (prompted by watching programs on my usual Monday night tv binge and seeing lots of professions that I probably could have done, but didn’t) I decided I had better go out and sod any NBN men who hadn’t notified me that they were coming. Went to Dural to put in my script for the 50,000 unit tablets of Vitamin D which the Prof prescribes. They need to be compounded and cost less there than at the Castle Hill equivalent, then off to Glenorie where I bumped into an old client with whom I remain friends on Facebook so we sat and chatted for a while. Back via Warrah, a Rudolph Steiner home and organic farm for people with intellectual disabilities, where I was able to get a few things I’d had trouble buying elsewhere. On the way home I got a call from the Optus guy to say that NBN will take up till the 28th to reinstall the downed cables, then arrived to find two of them up their ladders doing just that! Now I just need the connections man and we’re done. Praise be.

It appears that the novel coronavirus may be even more novel than it first appeared. If people were in quarantine for almost the entire 14 day incubation period on the Diamond Princess and yet more are being found to be positive every day, then perhaps either the incubation period is much longer than was estimated or else it is able to be spread via air-conditioning, neither option is advantageous to control of the virus. Perhaps those that have been released from quarantine are still contagious at some level, a sobering thought. It’s looking more and more like a pandemic, despite eventual good moves from the governments of China and Australia. Being an island has benefits, but we are still welcoming people from countries where the health protections are sub-optimal. Time will tell.

February 19, 2020

Jeff the pest control man arrived at 6.45 am but I was actually dressed and waiting. No termites, yoohoo! But a very wet patch inside the roof just near the front door which will need attention. He was supposed to charge me $250 to get rid of the ants, which I had accepted, but decided to use a little tube of attractant/poison in just two spots and see how we go. If that fails he will come back and do more, but for the ant job today he charged nix. What is it with tradesmen, they either rip me off (rarely) or else give me unexpected bonuses (mostly). Met up with John at Renaissance and we lunched there, then went to the architectural photographic exhibition at the Museum of Sydney. Finished there in time to see the 4.40 session of Richard Jewell, the new Clint Eastwood movie. A lot to think about in this film which has echoes of the Lindy Chamberlain story and is wonderfully acted, particularly by the Jewell character and his lawyer. I need to read up some more on the story, there is a Vanity Fair article and a book which I hope to source. Bussed home to arrive just as the sun was setting with a red glow.

February 20, 2020

Asked Sue if some food would help matters and she said yes, it would, so I offered a couple of suggestions and was happy that she chose Neil Perry’s Massaman Curry, which I enjoy doing. It is the ridgy didge Muslim version with no onion or garlic to inflame the passions, but tastes amazing anyway with all the spices, peanuts and coconut. Also cooked a pot of Coconut and Spinach Dahl which is so good I could plunge my face into it. I kept a little back and had it for dinner with extra spinach and some tomatoes, mm-mm. The beauty of this recipe is that you can water it down and call it soup just as well. Sue’s brother is going up on Monday so he will take whatever I’ve made by then. It appears that Woolies may be cutting back on the organic Macro lines, so I was able to pick up lots of their frozen spinach and peas at a good price. My friend JanBert used to ask me what I was going to do with the pittance I’d saved by buying specials but it is ingrained in me to buy cheaply as long as quality isn’t compromised. I am still deep in The Coming Plague and it just gets better and better.

February 21, 2020

One of those days when I’d answered half a dozen emails and messages by 8 am, but hey who’s arguing about having friends? Went to the cake decorating shop and agonised over how I will do Millie’s cake but they were able to print the image I had emailed them to go on top of the cake, so now it is just a matter of working out how to do the rest. I will have a practice on a few ideas on Monday. Then out to the compounding pharmacy at Dural to get the 50,000 unit Vitamin D tablets made up, as ordered by the Prof. Dicky immune systems use a lot of Vitamin D apparently. Turned around to come home and fire engines were racing, police everywhere, one of whom indicated I had to turn around so as not to run over the fire hose running across the road. It turns out that the squash courts and fitness centre was up in flames (dangerous places fitness centres, so I never go there). What to do? It’s an awfully long detour if I can’t go that way so I decided to wait it out at Wild Pear just up the road. Had a rose milkshake and then they said that the date and orange scones were just cooked so I weakened……but I am blaming the police. It was delicious but had to serve as both morning tea and lunch. Cooked some Harissa Eggplant and a batch of Chocolate Brownies to send up to Sue.

February 22, 2020

Thinking about the coronavirus (who isn’t?) and wondering whether it’s possible that it can live in the body asymptomatically like TB or Herpes. It seems odd to me that it’s a new virus yet many people are having hardly any symptoms while for others it’s fatal, and not only the elderly as we’ve been told. Usually a new virus cuts a swathe through almost everyone as there is no resistance in the community, but if it can secrete itself away and wait for the person’s immune system to labour, due to another illness or lack of food or stress or whatever…..then we could be in knee deep do-do because these people would be in the community as time bombs. If its spread continues, which I am sure it will, I think I will get the flu vaccine early as it should give limited protection to something of the same family, theoretically at least.

On another issue, I am waiting for a man to come to clean the gutters. Sounds simple enough, but the chap who was given the job rang yesterday and said he’d done his back in and would be sending his offsider instead. Later I remembered he had told me that he had ‘a couple of young fellows’ who work with him but that ‘I do all the roof work’. So now I’m imagining the offsider splattered on the concrete at worst and doing a really bad job at best, but Arvind has a much better view of my roof than I have so I’ve asked him to keep an eye out for what’s going on. However he’s in and out today and they may not coincide. Somehow I’ve got a feeling that maybe the boss isn’t sick at all and this is a way to fit in a few extra jobs, but I may be totally wrong there, so we shall see. I’ve booked a plumber for Monday to repair the bent and dripping tap at the front, damaged by the tree, as I haven’t yet had the GIO assessor come, but they did say I could get urgent work done and they would pay the invoice so I booked the lovely fellow who did my kitchen tap a couple of weeks ago. I am a tradesman’s dream at the moment, one trade after another, but hopefully GIO will come to the party for the plumbing and ceiling repainting. POSTSCRIPT: The gutter boss man came because he ‘woke up feeling fine’ so my worries and night terrors were in vain. He discovered two broken tiles and replaced them for me as part of the job, though I tipped him for that, so pleased was I that none of my worst nightmares had befallen me. Now I’ve added a gutter, roof and pressure cleaner man to my endless list of tradies to contact when things go wrong, which they are doing at an alarming rate right now.

February 23, 2020

Today we went to the Opera House for a special subscribers event Behind the Scenes at the Opera where we got to try on costumes, watch makeup being applied, watch wigs being made and ask questions about stage managing, conducting, singing, direction etc. It takes 40 hours to make one wig by hand and they make them for each new opera. The hand embroidery on the costumes was stunning and I got to wear a few examples. It reminded me why the sub is so darned expensive and I will stop bitching about it (for a while anyway). It was a lovely afternoon which we capped off with a ferry ride to Watsons Bay and fish and chips in the park there.

I haven’t spoken here about the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children a few days ago, simply because the appalling nature of their deaths is outside my ability with words. But we must realise that it is as a result of pushback against the idea that a man no longer owns his wife and his children, after thousand of years of that being so. Fred West in England who raped and murdered 12 young women including his own children apparently told them ‘I made you, so I can do anything I like with you’ and that is fundamentally the view behind these crimes, the rights of men over those of women and children. Bettina Arndt’s children are both sons and you have to wonder at their attitudes with the sorts of ‘male rights’ lessons they are learning from their mother, but hopefully they will see things differently. I can only beg that her award is reversed, a possibility which seems more and more likely given the public outcry.

February 24, 2020

Last night John’s 90 year old cousin Kevin rang and invited us to morning tea at his ‘priests and brothers retirement village’ at Randwick, which I am sure has a fancy name but I don’t know what that is. We had attended his 90th in Wallan in Victoria last year but the order has moved him to Sydney for easy access to medical treatment. It was lucky that although we each had an early morning appointment, both of those went to plan and enabled us to get there right on the appointed time of 10.30. Two other Sydney cousins Gai and Brian came as well and it was the first time in 12 years that I’d met them, such is the polarised nature of his family. Kev is planning to come to watch football on Friday nights with John once the season starts. My appointment was with the plumber and it was lucky I went ahead with it as he dug down and found a rupture in the pipe a foot underground where it was leaking water, as well as the bent pipe and drip which I thought he was fixing. So now I have a taller, more practical, non-leaking, non-dripping garden tap and hopefully my good friends GIO will reimburse me for that. Now my computer battery seems to have gone as it only charges up to 4% and goes no higher, what was I saying about all my money going out to tradesmen at the moment? Funnily I got a long letter from a NSW politician whom I don’t remember writing to, but seeing the reply was about something I am very interested in, I can only assume that I did in fact write.

February 25, 2020

Cake making day! I did a mud cake for Millie’s birthday because it needs a dense cake to hold fondant and they don’t like fruit cake, much as it pains me to report that. I’m told young people don’t go for it and it seems that’s the case, as weddings and other celebrations all seem to have the dreaded chocolate mud, but at least this one’s caramel. The cake decorating shop where I buy my supplies and get advice told me the trick to making a flat topped cake for icing: start it at 120 degrees C and then gradually increase it to 130, 140 etc so it doesn’t dome in the middle…..and it worked, that cake’s tall but as flat as a pancake. Now for the icing later in the week. Dav asked all the class, so as not to discriminate, and 22 kids are coming along with their parents, plus us and Louis’s family from Queensland, in a unit, should be fun. I offered to do a Valium cake but haven’t heard back.

We have got out of epidemics really cheaply in recent years, HIV excepted, but I am not so sure that applies this time. It seems a mordant factor that the church in South Korea, which is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak there, is a doomsday cult. A senior health official in Daegu, the city that lies at the centre of South Korea’s outbreak, confessed to being a follower of the controversial doomsday church cult only after testing positive for the virus, so 50 other high ranking health officials have needed to be quarantined. They believe that Jesus will return soon and take only 144,000 people to heaven, so a lot of us will be left behind to manage climate change, environmental degradation, disease, wars etc I guess. The way this thing’s going he might get them in one hit, but there are 250,000 in the cult, so some must be secret unbelievers. We could do a lot worse in terms of epidemics. In the 1970s an apparently harmless squirrel monkey virus infected other primates in a Boston Primate Research Centre and turned out to be an extraordinary cancer-causing Herpes which killed the monkeys there within weeks from a strange contagious lymphoma. The virus was 100% fatal to any other primate which caught it, other than the original host animal species. The virus was airborne and terrified researchers as a squirrel monkey simply had to breathe near any other type of monkey to cause death from cancer in five weeks. Now if that one had got out of the lab……..

February 26, 2020

Woke up fine, breakfasted, watched the 7am news, then started to feel very seedy indeed. I lay down and slept from 9 till 11, then proceeded with my day. While shopping at Castle Mall I half filled a trolley with fruit and veg and then had to alert the staff that I was sick and needed to abandon it. Hopefully they put the goods back on the shelves because I wasn’t well enough to go back. The rest of the day was pretty much written off and I had to email Mary and cancel our lunch date in the city tomorrow. They are only here from NZ till Saturday and I don’t have any time to reschedule, so that’s it for seeing her this visit. John came up to work on the street library repair (if the GIO come to the party I will pay him for this, but so far no GIO assessor has contacted me but I appreciate that they are busy after the storm). John got another nasty communication from guess who, deriding him for going off to university to do architecture at age 53 (what, 25 years ago and still aggrieved?), leaving the family with insufficient ready money. So much for the nice family event last month, clearly it was only the presence of others that kept it civil. I don’t know why I bother, but of course I do know why he does, he’s living in hope of a change in attitude but also knowing it will never happen, poor lad.

February 27, 2020

Headed up to Castle Mall and bought the same fruit and veg that I abandoned yesterday, plus a bit. Hope I didn’t infect the last lot with a 24 hour virus as I am fine today. I complained to the owner, whom I deal with a lot, that the mint wasn’t very fresh and he gave it to me for half price, but it pains me to buy it at any price since I managed to kill off my plants at home by spraying with my vinegar and water ant-killer solution in order to kill the big green grubs which were eating it. It killed the grubs alright and the plants as well within an hour or two. John is working on the repair of the street library and finding it somewhat difficult whilst I am making the decorations for Millie’s cake, fondant snowflakes in press out moulds. First the springs kept popping out of the two larger size moulds, then to my horror I discovered that I’d given my whole collection of small paintbrushes to John when I was cleaning out the garage two weeks ago and needed one to apply silver sparkle to said snowflakes. I was forced to use a pastry brush and so it didn’t give me near the result I was hoping for. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and I am fart-arseing about with glitter on snowflakes, but I guess it keeps disaster and death somewhat out of mind. I would have more faith in the WHO if they still had active teams of scientists on the ground and testing labs and whatever, but now I think it’s more of a giant health bureaucracy than anything else. When asked yesterday why he hadn’t declared a pandemic when it clearly is one by their own definition, the head replied ‘because we don’t want unnecessary panic’. Aah, okay I shan’t panic till I’m told to by Geneva. Sorted.

February 28, 2020

Last night Sue’s brother rang to let me know that he is going to Killcare on Monday and is able to take food if I have any ready. My first thought was ‘aaagh’ because I am on cake icing duty today, then Millie’s party tomorrow and Luke’s art exhibition Sunday, so cooking time is limited. But I said yes, figuratively crossed myself for inspiration and decided to cancel the exhibition opening and go later on, as it’s on till the end of March. But then I realised I was a dope as my Crockpot can work night shift if necessary. So I raced up to Aldi (it was late night shopping, something I never avail myself of but exceptions need to be made). Midnight found me chopping and dicing to make a Crockpot piled high with lamb shanks, sweet potato, lentils, dates, nuts and spices. Robes will love it I think. Dinner tonight was a pasta bake so the rest could be frozen to make a second dish, so I soon recognised that the time frame was doable after all.

The cake went ahead more easily than anticipated, my only self criticism being that the snowflakes I made yesterday were a mite bigger and clunkier than I’d imagined in situ, but four-year-olds won’t pick it. I have such a collection of cake icing paraphernalia that I used to use often for birthday cakes for children and others who came to the meal service at Windsor, but now that’s ended I rarely use it. Carly arrived just as I finished the cake and later we went to book group which was a small but sympatico gathering.

February 29, 2020

Headed in to Erko with gifts and cake in hand and met up with Louis’s mum, sister and nephew who flew down from Sunrise Beach in Queensland for Millie’s party. At 2 pm the barrage of little people arrived, 22 in all, accompanied by parent/s and the odd sibling. Then arrived the Elsa-dressed entertainer (is that the real Elsa? one little boy queried). She sang with them, blew bubbles, made ‘snow’ out of some chemical or other, played games and finally did some cracker face-painting, all this spanning two hours, after which I was exhausted from doing very little. John asked me if Millie will remember the day as she grows up and my answer was ‘sadly, it is doubtful’. But there will be photos, hundreds I suspect. We decided to go back to plan A and go to Luke’s exhibition tomorrow, cooking at night to be ready for Monday.

Peter Hartcher has done it again and I am sick and tired of his mind-reading. His column today pretty much mirrored discussions I had yesterday with Carly, and earlier with John, regarding the WHO and their tardy action in calling a pandemic. Perhaps he has my house bugged, but it has to stop. It is reported that a dog has caught coronavirus and while this may eventually prove untrue, it could also mean that dogs are the mysterious vector between bats and humans that they have been looking for in China. That doesn’t bear thinking about for pet owners if or when it starts here in earnest.

March 1, 2020

Saw Carly off back to Canberra before taking a leisurely drive to Blackheath, with a stop at Patisserie Schwarz in Wentworth Falls for the obligatory cherry crumble slice for me and fruit tart for John, washed down with a pot of Irish Breakfast. At Blackheath I found a world globe in an antique shop which was closing down and had 50% off everything. John had been looking for one for a while, just to grab when a particular country is mentioned in a book or on the teev, enabling a quick location check. Off to the Heritage Centre at Govett’s Leap for Luke Kelly’s art exhibition, after having sent our apologies on Friday night. I had told John not to let me buy anything, but hadn’t counted on his falling in love with a dear little painting of two baby fairy wrens, which he bought as the first sale of the exhibition. Then at Gleebooks he saw the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia, completing the trifecta of pieces he took home today. Later he asked what would happen if we both got the coronavirus together and his will then had no executor, no doubt considering the new purchases in the light of current events. I told him we’d have a few days notice to attend to that possibility which seemed to satisfy him. I think a few people might be heading to their solicitors in coming weeks, as well as stocking up on canned chick peas that is. One friend has already told me her husband is (unnaturally or naturally?) very, very afraid of catching the virus. I would far from relish that possibility, but be more concerned for the young whose world seems to be crumbling in so many different ways. The fatality rate for the under 9s is about 1% while it is 15% for the elderly so perhaps it will eventually improve the bottom line by ridding the country of all those pesky pensioners?

March 2, 2020

Up early to ferry the food for Sue and Robert to her mum for pickup by brother Martyn. I had last night got a late night message from Tania wanting to know if I would come on a taste testing adventure to Blacktown, sampling a local pasticceria’s cannola with a view to ordering them for a big party she is planning (and I mean big). So we sat down to five of same, one of each flavour, tasting a small sample of each and taking away the remainder. Although they were certainly crisp and varied, we decided that perhaps the fillings were made on the cheap and a better source could be found. Blacktown hasn’t seen me for about 40 years and likely won’t see me again for a goodly while without a specific reason, but it is certainly a multi-cultural hub where I will go if I need a Pakistani salwar kameez or my eyebrows threaded. At first I thought this was to bulk them up but now I know it is to slim them down, a service nature is providing for me unpaid. We retreated to my place for a bit of a fridge raid lunch, just a hurriedly made repeat of the Green Counterbalance Salad of lettuce, watercress, mint, fennel, green apple and onion, which I did for book group last week and can’t get enough of at the moment. I had expected the computer man with a new battery in tow between 4 and 5 but at 6 he rang to say the battery hadn’t arrived in his post box, which didn’t matter particularly but would have been handy to know at 4.

March 3, 2020

A shock message from Carl to say that our friend Jackie from Caves Beach died yesterday. Last weekend she had planned a trip to Sydney to meet up with city friends for a ‘coffee day’ as she always called it, a drop-in over many hours at a venue in Lidcombe where people could turn up for a little while or for longer. Unfortunately it coincided with Millie’s birthday so I wasn’t planning to go, but then on Wednesday came an email from her saying she had fallen over in the middle of the night and Carl had called an ambulance, but it just required a check over and 6 hours later she was home. The email to all her friends said in capitals DON’T RING, YOU HAVE ALL THE NECESSARY INFORMATION NOW, so I abided by that and hoped to see her in a month when she planned to reschedule the event to celebrate her 70th. Now we meet on Friday to celebrate her funeral instead. I have no idea yet if the fall contributed to her death or if it was just the cancer she had fought for so long, even travelling to Latvia to join a program of immunotherapy which did wonders for her for a few years, but sadly wore off gradually after that. Still, she had been given only months to live before going to Latvia, so she bought herself another few years by taking Rigvir, astounding her oncologist. Vale dear wise perceptive Jackie, she was always there to be a trusted confidante to her friends, but there no longer.

March 4, 2020

Last night I went with Carol and Jack to see the film A War of Compassion about the life of Rev. Bill Crews of the Exodus Foundation. He is a man of incredible energy, compassion and love. Also he is a driven man and I think the film showed that his work with the homeless is not a choice, but a compulsion, an addiction almost? Does this make him some sort of ‘saint’ or martyr perhaps, as he has never really made a life outside his work? I am interested in the forces that drive this very complex man. It appears the work is not an option for him and will remain so for as long as he breathes.

I am both bemused and amused to read that there was a skirmish in the toilet paper aisle in Woolworths at Parramatta involving a woman pulling a knife. Police were called, six of them, and the store barricaded each end of the aisle and were handing toilet paper to customers over the barrier. How thin is our veneer of sophistication and savoir faire. Brought up with newspaper squares in an outdoor toilet I can’t see myself getting into a fight over toilet paper somehow, jam perhaps, dairy products maybe, but loo rolls? Nah, that’s just common. Sue went shopping and had rice on her list. In the large supermarket at Erina she found one lonely 5 kilo pack of (brown) rice and, unable to shop at leisure while coping with a sick husband, bought it. This is with a handful of cases of coronavirus, imagine how it will be if/when the pandemic hits with a vengeance. Apparently the supermarket runs are worse in some suburbs than in others, Cherrybrook, Pennant Hills, Chatswood were named as particularly bad. Anyone waiting to buy cherries in a fruit shop behind a Chinese lady checking each cherry one by one will understand. On the basis of what we’ve seen we will need to lock our home against grocery thieves who will only take our jewellery incidentally if it is in their way.

March 5, 2020

So ScumMo has finally heard me yelling at the TV and telling him to quarantine arrivals from South Korea and Italy. The right time to do that has come and gone I’m afraid, we already have people who’ve come here from those two countries and have tested positive. They started off so well, but then lost courage to continue. It is easier for a wealthy island nation to quickly bring in travel rules to stem this outbreak at the border, putting returning citizens in quarantine and refusing entry to tourists, but they squandered that chance. Now I can’t even buy a kilo of flour to bake a cake.

On a more important note, who will send me emails and texts now that begin ‘hi sister’? Who will counsel and advise John not to give in when he is monstered by an errant relative? What a philosophical giant you were Jackie Patricia, with skills learned in spite of little education but with a lot of scholarship in the school of hard knocks. I am suffering that same lack of understanding that always comes when someone you love dies, where has she gone? I guess that’s why we have funerals, they are proof that the person is there, in that box at the front, and they are never ever going to walk through your door again. I am doing my best to continue as normal but so far it feels like I’m walking through honey.

March 6, 2020

Jackie’s funeral today and it was one of those that did absolutely nothing to ease the heartache, but many in the packed church, standing room only, were part of the congregation so I am sure they felt differently. The minister, or priest as she called herself, was a bit of a control freak (6 minutes each for a family member and Jackie’s two closest friends, but no time restriction for the priest to bang on and on and on). The whole shebang was a very long two hours where we heard stories about little leaves, big leaves and autumn leaves, which drop softly onto the earth. In case we missed the point she cleverly explained that the little leaves were young people, the big leaves were big strong people and the autumn leaves were grey-haired people like herself who drop softly onto the ground, ‘that means they diiiee’ she said ‘and that’s all very natural and as god planned it’. Helpfully she had brought along a shoe box covered in red cello and was able to produce the appropriate leaves as she yammered on. Oh please god I prayed, save me from this woman who would presumably have been a fair age when she became a priest and must surely have been a pre-school teacher before that. Plus she had a snappy streak (where’s the banner! I thought we had a banner! undertakers come to the front!). So I spent most of the funeral deciding whether to sit in the car or see it through in case it improved, sadly I chose the latter. Not a speck of you came through Jacks.

John got another noxious message which, while being abusive and accusatory, simultaneously asked for money for school camp fees and swimming lessons, plus a design and drawings for a studio to be built on the new block of land. How he will respond without Jackie saying ‘no John, you just cannot reward bad behaviour’ I have no idea.

March 7, 2020

Survived a 5am alarm to get the 7.05 train from Central. Almost empty in First Class, but I’m not sure if the early hour or the Coronavirus scare was responsible, certainly the least passengers I’ve ever seen on that route. Passing Canberra Gaol I noticed the large grounds, with trees and fields but not a soul visible. Seeing it is surrounded by high fences and razor wire I don’t see why the poor bastards can’t be outside enjoying some sun and nature, but the way we treat prisoners is appalling in most respects. No wonder so many come out worse than when they went in. John packed me some of his sultana cake which was a lovely morning tea on the train and I was met at Canberra Station by Danish and Carly in his car. Later we went to the Spy exhibition at the National Archives and I saw a covertly taken photo of Laurie Aarons taken in the street amongst the historical photos. A woman looking over my shoulder asked as a joke ‘can you see anyone you know?’ and I was able to reply that yes, I did. Loved seeing the spy paraphernalia such as the tie with microphone and the book with embedded camera, both used by ASIO agents in the 1950s-60s, but so primitive by today’s standards. Carly told me she needed a pack of toilet paper so we tried the supermarkets but no chance, then walking home we called in at the Caltex servo on the offchance and got 30 rolls for $14 on special, the only size available and the biggest pack she had ever bought. Dinner at Pilot, highly recommended by Carly’s winemaker friends, but while the food was inventive and delicious, the portions were tiny, tiny. Our wine serve was so small I thought they were offering me a taste, and that at $20 a glass. Ordering two mains and two sides to share, the waitress informed us ‘that won’t be enough for three people’ and she was right. We repaired afterwards to Frugii for the best icecream in the world, frankincense in my case, omg it was stunning. Messina is the best icecream available in Sydney but Frugii is another world above, just eight flavours at any time, changing daily, each with a single natural ingredient for flavouring such as cherry, pear, white chocolate, caramel. Died and gone to heaven.

 

March 8, 2020

Got Jackie’s story in my inbox this morning, written late December to be read at her funeral. It was discovered on her computer on the morning of the funeral but for unexplained reasons they decided not to read it out. The reasons given were that it was long and had some typos, neither of which is a valid excuse from where I stand. It is just inexplicable. She talks about going for the Public Service exam just before she turned 15 at the family’s insistence and coming ’22nd out 0f many thousands’. She was offered a job in an office and her mother wrote to the school the next day to say she would be finishing immediately and starting work the following Monday, much to the horror of her teachers. We had never discussed this but her experience mirrors mine, except I had just turned 14 and hadn’t sat for any exam. There was so much more in her document that I am sure many people wouldn’t have known about, such as being told after her 50th birthday party that she was adopted and her sister wasn’t, which explained the preferential treatment her sister always had and which seemed inexplicable. She left out the fact that she collapsed and was admitted to a psychiatric centre for six weeks, but did include the story of going to her birth father’s funeral and remotely identifying her brothers for the first time as the pallbearers. I hope they were at the funeral, but have no way of knowing, not wanting to ask Carl on the day. Not having her hurts more keenly than I’d expected.

We spent the day at Canberra Zoo and it has been extended and has more animals than when we last went. Asked for my three favourite animals on the day I had to nominate four: white lions, tigers, black and white Colobus primates and meerkats, though the runner-up list was huge. I’d hoped to handle some snakes but the reptile handling opportunity was at 1pm and we were at the opposite end of the zoo so we gave it a miss. Dined royally at Blackfire, delicious Angus the Bull Cabernet Sauvignon is one I will try to track down and the food certainly made it a ‘must return’. The bill was half of what we paid last night and the wineglasses filled amply.

March 9, 2020

Up early for the Canberra balloon festival and so was everyone else in this city it seems. Beautiful to see mass hot air balloons crossing the lake and then to see the huge Tyrannosaurus rex and Skywhale on the ground and to marvel at their size. I’ve never been up in one but I’m sure it would be quite an experience. We all went to The Cupping Room in the city for an amazing breakfast afterwards with Potato, Leek and Jalapeno Fritters winning out, just ahead of the Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and Caramelised Peach on Sourdough. We shared one of each between the three of us and it was more food in total than we had at Pilot for dinner the other night for a fraction of the price. Do they do bad food in Canberra? They must somewhere I guess. Carly and I went to IKEA where we sourced a pair of cane armchairs for her deck as a very late housewarming present. On the way home we had to walk through Braddon and Frugii has some of the frankincense icecream left…..so we were obliged to partake.

March 10, 2020

Got in late last night after a good trip from Canberra on the train. Danish had driven me to the station and as usual called me Aunt Maureen, though occasionally it is Maureen Auntie. He is such a sweet person and apart from his not liking cats I can’t find fault in him. Today John had a routine morning appointment with Bob who was so late that John fell asleep in the waiting room. I had counselled John not to mention the dreaded virus at all because I’m sure Bob is sick of hearing questions about it. So true it turned out, but as he was leaving Bob volunteered that ‘this virus will be the death of me, I am run off my feet’, though it was the worried well rather than the sick who were taking his time. I spent most of the day on hucking the storeroom (in haste now, before the virus gets me I’m telling myself) and was able to half fill the bin with old receipt books, dirty paper items, unwanted metal tent poles and the like. I found my 1995 diary, written every day till Karl’s death in the early morning after Mardi Gras, just the same as Jackie, and then abandoned for the rest of that year. I immediately went out and bought a black kitten then, my beautiful Isis, because the risk of infection from animals had been too great to have one in the house all the time he was sick, but no kittens will be bought this time.

March 11, 2020

Went to Castle Towers to see Dark Water and we were both blown away by it. The storyline, the acting and the filming were as good as they could have been and it was interesting at the end to discover that some of the ‘actors’ were real people affected by Du Pont’s pollution in West Virginia. Of course we now know that this wasn’t limited to that area and that almost every creature on the planet, including 99% of Americans, have PFAS or PFOA chemicals in their bloodstreams. These chemicals pass on to the next generation, and the next and the next, no-one is currently able to tell how many generations will be affected. For a complete change of pace we went in the evening to the City Recital Hall to watch Xavier de Maistre playing his harp with the Brandenburg Orchestra. Loved that they played the first movement of Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor, Paul Dyer now at the organ instead of the harpsichord, but to my mind the piece was played more than a touch too slowly. However the Vivaldi pieces were wonderful and high spirited. It occurs to me that the CRH people are the most musically educated audiences around, never a soul clapping in the wrong place. The full house went wild over Xavier and incidentally I noticed, as is always the case there, many of the women wear a few thousand dollars on their backs. The young woman next to John wore the most beautiful silk dress in a pale green floral, but I resisted asking who designed it, now I wish I had. Got home absolutely buggered but worth it for such a day.

March 12, 2020

I think I deal with some things better by getting angry rather than scared or nervous, some examples for starters: 1. How about the fact that the US had a Department of Homeland Security Pandemic Preparedness team in place. They were the people who understood best how epidemics and public health works. Then Trump said that ‘as a businessman I didn’t like it when people were just sitting around’, so he defunded them. Ahem, firemen ‘just sit around’. 2. At the CDC the head can’t speak unless Mike Pence sees everything he wants to say first. The CDC has been financially gutted under Trump. 3. I just paid $40 for the last bottle of hand sanitiser at my local chemist, the same bottle I’d bought for John before Christmas for $18, but the chemist just shrugged when I pointed it out. 4. The same pharmacy is selling ‘eco-friendly herbal hand sanitiser’ for $12.99, with no apparent anti-viral or even anti-bacterial ingredient that I could see. Once again the chemist pointed to the label and said ‘look, it says it works on viruses’, when I asked which particular ingredient was anti-viral. It was selling out. Capitalism, you’ve gotta love it. I guess it’s more healthy to be angry, at least you are inclined to do something rather than falling into a slump. Making a curry for Sue and Robert, he likes them and it’s very different to the last one, so stuff the virus this afternoon.

March 13, 2020

Wow, Friday the 13th is living up to its reputation. Where to start? I just sat through ScumMo’s press conference and my eyes were rolling back in my head at its idiocy. (I wish I’d known it was in Parra, I’d have seriously considered demonstrating just as a single person, sometimes that catches more attention than a crowd). But anyway, missed opportunity, though I might have ended up in the watch house if I’d been close enough to him. I have learned to tell though when he is lying or evading or exaggerating or understating…his mouth is open…boom tish. But what a scatty, disorganised, muddled, shambolic address it was. We are getting a lot of local transmission so we close down events over 500, but not tomorrow lest the PM looks like a goose for going to the football. Could he please catch it there? No, be careful what you wish for as we’d then get a bigger goose, his deputy.

Interestingly, John who has faced death numerous times over the last three years with great equanimity has decided he definitely doesn’t want to go out with coronavirus. He rang yesterday to suggest we start limiting our social interactions to the necessary (there goes La Traviata on the Harbour, blubber) and has even cancelled his very first football night of the season with the execrable Rafe. We were/are going out to lunch for St Patrick’s Day with his ex-priestly mates next week, the first time the partners have been included. It was moved from the Irish pub at Ryde to a yacht club somewhere to enable us to be somewhat spaced but I suspect even that may now be cancelled. Then we had a play later in the week at the Belvoir. I had suggested having a couple over for afternoon tea next week but now I don’t know whether to invite them or not. Perhaps my anger is prophylactic as I haven’t yet succumbed to much fear of the virus but it could be just around the corner, as John’s wasn’t here two days ago. But the quote of all time was at the end of the conversation “If I died there would be no-one to finish the street libraries” and no, it was not a joke.

March 14, 2020

Martyn, Sue’s brother, rang to say he will be able to pick up food on Tuesday, and ended with ‘and that cake last week was really lovely’, so I took the hint and made some date and walnut slices and a raspberry coconut slice, some of that one will stay here though as I am particularly partial to it. I still have lots of baking supplies to get through, but I understand flour is now restricted so I might need to do a hunt for some soon. I rang the bakery where I buy my bread to put a couple of loaves aside today but it was all sold out. Had a good long chat with Deborah this morning and then I was sent a piece by Dr Dan Suan, an immunologist of renown at Westmead Hospital, asking people to have minimal contact with each other and to ‘cancel unnecessary things’ in order to slow the virus. Just before I sent this message around to contacts I got an email that our St Patrick’s Day lunch at a yacht club on Tuesday has been cancelled, a good move I think considering one attendee is on dialysis and two have lymphoma! I think we need to make judgments sensibly one day at a time, weighing up the dangers to ourselves, and more importantly to susceptible others, about every event. Life was so simple in December, but hang on, we were in the middle of bushfires then, so no, not so simple at all. Father Rod Bower just sent around a simple picture being circulated by doctors in Greece. It is a row of blackened matches, then one unburnt one pulled almost out of the row with the caption “The one who stayed away saved all the rest”.

March 15, 2020

When we were in Vanuatu for a couple of weeks many years ago we had a lovely unit on the edge of the harbour. From there I used to swim past the nearby kustom village where I would hear wonderful hymn singing first thing in the morning. Then one day at the end of a wharf nearby was a man in a little boat heading out to fish. I introduced myself and said that I would buy a fish or two if he came back with some. A few hours later he appeared at the door of our unit with a huge fish, but when I tried to pay he wouldn’t accept money initially because ‘I can’t charge you money because now you are my friend’. Eventually I convinced him that in our culture it would be very bad form if we didn’t pay him the full value he would have got from the local restaurateur to whom his fish are usually destined. From there the relationship developed to his bringing his wife and sons for afternoon tea, causing incredulous reactions from both the French owners and the local staff. Later they drove us around the island of Efate, stopping to meet various relatives in villages on the way, and admiring the pig at each home. I have remained in touch by letter and later Facebook with Alice, who speaks fluent English, French and Bislama. John is a bit more restricted language-wise so we don’t communicate at distance. Now this month Alice is standing for parliament in their elections for the electorate of Tongoa Islands. There are no women in Vanuatu’s parliament and I am so hoping Alice may be the first. I offered to contribute to her campaign, but only after she looked into the legality and propriety of foreign donations. This deeply religious woman has the motto ‘better to fail with honour than to succeed with lies’ so how could you not support her elevation to government? Anyway it was a problem to send her money, but eventually we worked it out. Her daughter-in-law is in Sydney at the moment, staying for some reason at a conservative Orthodox Jewish shule at Dover Heights, but not wanting to do the slog over there as things stand, I arranged to pay the money into the account of a Russian-sounding lady there, who then paid it to someone else who got it to John in Vanuatu by 3pm that day and he sent it off to the islands where Alice was campaigning. I think it must all have been on trust, I’ll pay you X when I get back and on and on from there, but Alice had it by dusk. Please do well Alice, your country certainly needs leadership right now.

March 16, 2020

Wow, it’s been a day of fast moving situations. First a call from the organisers of a luncheon I had been invited to attend at Parliament House on Friday, it has been cancelled after discussions with the Health Department, even though there were only about 100 people going. Then later a call from Carol to discuss cancellation of the Open House at Gerringong next weekend, something both John and I (to a lesser extent) were involved in. It came on the back of an email from Sonia to say that she is ill and had a coronavirus test today. All of this in the space of an hour so my head was spinning. I wonder if in a hundred years a text book will talk about the incredible response to the pandemic in certain Asian countries and the pathetically late and inadequate one in Europe, the US and Australia? Somehow on the basis of our piecemeal response so far it is looking more likely. The Asians, both Communist and capitalist, have a certain disciplined response to government edicts while we tend to take a more individualistic reaction. By the way, where are all the anti-vaxxers at the moment? Praying that they get a vaccine developed asap I suspect. So lunch is off tomorrow, play off Thursday night, lunch off Friday and open house off at the weekend. Thanks coronavirus, you just wrote that week off pretty effectively!

March 17, 2020

Love to say we went to the planned St Patricks Day lunch but of course it was cancelled, so I didn’t even remember that it was St Pats until I saw someone on the news in a silly hat. Instead, at 6.45 am I lined up with about 150 others at Woolworths for the early preferential shopping for pensioners and the disabled.  After showing my pension card I went in to find a very busy situation, with a security guard handing out single packs of toilet paper which wasn’t even on my list. But as far as rice, pasta, flour, hand sanitiser and much more, the shelves were already bare so clearly no stock had come in overnight. The whole thing wasn’t worth setting my alarm for. Martyn came dead on his appointed hour of noon to collect the food for Sue and Robert. Although I am here alone, I’ve often been cooking for three so things like rice and flour have been used more quickly than usual. I will need to cook with what I have in future, rather than planning a recipe and then trying to buy the ingredients. Martyn’s take on the coronavirus situation surprised me and I am still thinking it through. As a medical specialist I expected to hear what we’ve been hearing from all the others: get in fast with restrictions and closures to stop the spread. But no, his take is that the collapse of the economy which we will see if widespread shutdowns occur is much worse in the long run and that we should effect total home quarantine on the over 65s and then let the virus rip. This means no restrictions on travel, large groups, shops, cinemas etc in fact we should encourage them and build up the herd immunity (he didn’t mention herd immunity himself, but that is basically what he’s talking about). Then in 6 months or whatever, after which some vulnerable younger people have died, we let the oldies out and by then we will have enough hospital availability to treat them if and when they fall ill. I am glad I am not the one who has to make decisions like that. But he feels that if we continue as we are going ie following Italy, we will see poverty, homelessness and crime rise to epic proportions ‘they will be breaking into your house for food’ he surmised.

March 18, 2020

Decided to do a meat loaf for Sue and Robert and, not prepared to battle the big shops, I walked to the corner IGA and butcher. I know him because he’s been there a long time but I wouldn’t call myself a customer as I rarely buy meat anyway and not from him as his prices are way high, but quality no better than elsewhere. ‘Half a kilo of mince please’ I naively asked. He smiled and said that all the mince was gone by 9 am as there were 40 people waiting outside when he opened. ‘And I doubt I’ll have the meat to make any more for a couple of days’ he breezily said as I left, I suspect cheesed off that I never buy there. Touche.

John had his monthly IgG infusion today, his only break from self-isolation, so I sent him with a list of questions. Q. Is the blood used for this tested for coronavirus? A. I don’t know, no-one’s asked that question before.Q.  Can you find out? A. Goes away, returns with we don’t know but this batch would have been made last year before it was an issue. Q. As it comes from America, that makes future batches somewhat suspect? A. Don’t know, sorry. I have told him to contact the blood bank and get it in writing before next month’s infusion. John: but they wouldn’t give it to us if it wasn’t safe. Me: Yeah, there were the 12,000 that got AIDS that way in the US alone, and then there’s the hepatitis cases, but nothing to worry too much about I guess.

March 19, 2020

I don’t want this to become a shopping blog, but boy a kilo of mince is hard to find (up from the half kilo I was aiming for yesterday you’ll notice). I was at  Castle Mall at opening time and managed to score a kilo, just. But both butchers were serving huge orders, hundred of dollars, mine was a bit of a joke I think. But with NO PRICES on anything, and no-one was asking. I later emailed centre management to complain, as the fruiterer advised me to do when I told him. If he can find time to put prices up in the rush so can they. Perhaps people are all buying chest freezers, I can’t see any other way they could be storing these meat mountains. The chemist was my only other stop, almost everything restricted to one per customer and many shelves bare. Don’t anyone tell me in a hurry how great Australians are compared to everyone else in the world, because I didn’t buy it before and I certainly don’t buy it now. We are better than some and worse than many. Shelves in South Korea are full apparently, the government told them not to panic buy and they didn’t. In some supermarkets today the police were dealing out the toilet paper, I kid you not.

Two tales from the front: 1. A friend of someone I know is the bestie of a well known immunologist who yesterday commented privately that if we don’t ALL isolate for the next two weeks, we are Italy. 2. The specialist medico daughter of a friend says her hospital has today put in plans not to treat anyone 70 and over come the rush. Pain relief only. Jeez, it’s a bastard that you can’t even spend up on good wine and restaurants when you are looking down the barrel. Quay one night, Bennelong the next, every show at the Opera House, go out with a bang at least. Bob said to me years ago that ‘anything you want to do you should do now, you never know when life could change in an instant’. Wise words unheeded.

March 20, 2020

This morning it was confirmed that the reports I’d been reading online were correct: hydroxychloroquine is the new big thing in coronavirus prevention and treatment. Trump has just announced government support for the drug to be used so I guess it will become as hard to find as hand sanitiser. I am lucky to be ahead of the game, as this is the drug that I decided recently to quit using, so I have a bottle in my medicine chest and a script for more. It is used to treat the autoimmune diseases Sjogren’s Syndrome and lupus, but I suspect that now the president has wrongly claimed that the FDA has already approved it for coronavirus the pharmacies will be swamped with desperate buyers.

It is so hard being unable to visit Davina and particularly Millie now, I am trying not to think into the future to speculate how long this situation may last. She came home from daycare talking about germs and coronavirus which is both good and sad. I phoned Kenneth in Halifax last night and we spoke for an hour and a half. As usual he takes the libertarian view that he is entitled to go out if he feels like it but was shocked at our food restrictions, the only thing in short supply in Halifax is toilet paper. I told him that may change very soon as it did here but he thinks Yorkshire people are too sensible for that, I hope he’s right. Instead of the usual ‘when are you coming over?’ discussion he volunteered that ‘I don’t think you would be able to get into Britain now, probably the whole year is like that’. Not wrong I thought. Emailed Tom in Northern Ireland to quell ideas that we might be able to take him up on the offer to stay with them in Northern Ireland. Look at all the money we’ve saved, to spend on luxuries such as……well maybe it can just sit in the bank in fact.

March 21, 2020

John is taking advantage of isolation by trying to learn The Man From Snowy River by heart. All good, except I think I am the test vehicle for his learning and that may end up affecting my mental wellbeing if I need to listen to it each day on the phone….today I got the whole thing, read of course, but I fear the days ahead. A later call began ‘just listen to how much I’ve memorised now’.

Today I filled the day by writing a story for the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Seniors Stories competition, the prize being publication in a book of 100 short stories in October. The pessimistic me thinks that I probably wouldn’t be able to go to the launch at Parliament House anyway….. and I’d have preferred it if the comp were an open one, but the timing was right so I plunged in. I recounted an actual event, recorded at the time because of the effect it had on me and it still caused the odd tear while typing. Also shed a tear watching The Scribe on ABC, a wonderful doco about Graham Freudenberg, Whitlam’s speechwriter who went on to write for Hawke and Carr. Particularly affecting was his last message to Gough just prior to the great man’s death: ‘My Leader as ever’. It reminded me of Gough’s custom of referring to supporters as comrade. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of that greeting in 1969 while working on the federal election campaign handing out how-to-votes in his electorate of Werriwa. I have never forgotten the sentence and the heat of that day ‘Can I interest you in a chicken sandwich comrade?’. Those were the days when politics really meant something.

March 22, 2020

They will still be writing books about the times we are living through in 100 years. I suspect as well as the colossal figures of deaths, they will be talking about the laid-back attitudes of the West to the coming plague, leaders who believed nothing could touch them because they were rich and money controls everything, right? Whereas the Asian countries with their greater focus on elders and obedience to rules might just find they jumped onto a higher rung on the world’s ladder, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. As ever it will be the poorest and weakest who suffer most: the homeless, the prisoners, the refugees, the old and the ill. I idly wonder if one day in the far distant future someone will get excited doing their family tree ‘Oh wow, my great-great-grandma died in the Plague of 2020. How cool is that!’ The reply from his friend may very well be ‘Well everyone has rellies who’d died in the Great Plague, it’s no big deal’.

I signed up for Woolworths home delivery today, something I didn’t think I would do before I was very old and infirm. Although I don’t inspect every single cherry like some do, I still like to handle and sniff my apples, if they don’t smell like apples they’ve been in cold storage. I guess I will have to accept purple Chux as well, though my preference is green or blue. I smiled at myself when I refused to take the purple ones off the shelf on Tuesday during the pensioner shopping time, normally we lose important things one at a time but this week we seem to have lost a motza. Naively I thought we could drive to a beach somewhere for a swim, the salt water is disinfecting after all, but now that’s been canned. Or perhaps get a cabin down the south coast as we were supposed to be doing from tomorrow, taking our own food so we don’t have to mix, but no, travel is banned too.

March 23, 2020

Ended yesterday in a funk after a big fail in the Woolworths online ordering system. I got a text to say I was approved and went online to order but when I got to choosing the delivery time I discovered every time for every day was taken so I cancelled the order and walked down to the IGA to pick up butter for baking today. It looked like a Beirut shop looted after an earthquake with almost every shelf empty, no dairy, no canned fruit or vegetables, no frozen food, no meat, no nuffin, except for some ghastly looking biscuits, dog food and some rusty lettuces at $6.50 a pop. Actually when I think about it, very like Moscow’s GUM department store’s food section when I was there in 1973. At the time it was basically tins of fish or….tins of fish. Then decided to treat myself to some Indian food for dinner so I rang, ordered and paid only to discover when I tried to give the address that ‘oh it is pickup only, we have no drivers’ so I just got her to do a refund. Then Planet America wasn’t on at it’s usual time…..I had an early night. The Eastern philosophies talk about the Guna, or mood that rises and falls, well mine went way down last night.

But this morning was another day! I was on the pensioners’ queue at 6.45 am and lo and behold there was food. Chicken and meat aisles were virtually empty but I didn’t want those anyway and 75% of the things I did want were there. Hallelujah. Came home to cook Choc Chip Muffins for Sue’s pick up tomorrow, the meals having already been cooked and frozen. I got a call today from my ex-husbands wife to see how I was doing. This on top of a friend request on Facebook yesterday from someone who unfriended me years ago….seeing if I am still above ground perhaps? Anyway I am not averse to friendship so I accepted and we shall see how it goes. Strange times.

March 24, 2020

Busy busy morning for a change. Firstly I rang GIO to pay my home and contents insurance and struck a chatty person immediately, no waiting. Forty minutes later we had been through coronavirus, school closures, working from home, Trump, Morrison, panic buying and more. She explained that she always works from home and I told her I had imagined her in a smelly, dreary little booth somewhere in a nasty office building, but no she is ensconced at home as are 75% of her colleagues regularly in that office. Also she told me she had dealt with a woman this morning who was canceling her car insurance policy as she had just got the sack, she is going to leave her car in the garage from now on. Anyway at the end of the discussion she put my payment through, $1265 instead of the invoiced $1489. That wasn’t my devious plan as we chatted, but I was very happy that she did. Sue told me at the petrol station this morning the attendant asked if she had a Coles docket. She didn’t but the girl said ‘it’s okay I’ll put it through as illegible’. Perhaps we are feeling a bit more obliging to each other. Then arrived Martyn for food pickup and while he was there the assessor from GIO arrived to look at my ceiling water damage etc. He told me it was easier to ask the questions on the phone as he needed to wear a respirator to come into the house! He then got on the roof, went through every room drawing a plan of the place (he said many people object to his doing this, but I was fine with it) and then photographed the damage. He was here for about an hour and a half and I don’t expect any issues in pursuing the claim.

Trump last week talked about the current research showing that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine may be both preventative and useful as a treatment for coronavirus. ‘I’ve got a hunch it will work’ the cretin surmised publically to the horror of his medical advisers. Well now an elderly pair of Trump watchers saw the containers of chloroquine phosphate they had on the fishtank for cleaning the water and, deciding this must be the stuff, downed some of it. Both dead now, so in fact they didn’t get coronavirus and I guess Trump has been proved right in a grisly kind of way. I now foresee difficulties in getting my prescribed supplies of hydroxychloroquine as a result of a worldwide shortage on the horizon. When will they staple his lips together and let the medicos handle this? Professor Fauci always looks ready to explode when he stands behind the imbecile during press conferences and I am hoping to be watching live when he does so, figuratively of course.

March 25, 2020

I decided this morning that I need to get back into my gardening before the weeds cover the house. Also I want to be able to sit on the verandah peacefully and enjoy a tidy front yard without the silent accusation of the plants. But first I rang the council chambers as soon as they opened to ask when the library is closing. They didn’t know but soon rang me back to let me know that today is the last day, so I was at Castle Hill library, all masked up, when they opened. They have a much better selection there, I usually go to the closer one and have them sent over but today that wasn’t an option. I filled my shopping bags with 20 books and hoped she would approve, but the librarian offered to let me have even more if I wanted, so I ended up with 26 after she did an overide on the system. Mostly they are old favourites: Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwen, Elena Ferrante, Barbara Kingsolver et al but of course only those I hadn’t yet read. I picked up an early Thomas Keneally, the one he wrote after leaving the seminary in Manly. The critics commented at the time that it was too unbelievable because a seminary couldn’t possibly be as bad as he portrayed, but of course it was all factual stuff but with names changed. Then I got a few random picks, just in case I pick up a five star book that I had not heard about before, it has happened a few times in the past. One random was an Australian novel about people fleeing from England to Australia due to a pandemic over there, should be fun. Cooked up a pile of baked potatoes, pumpkin and eggplant to have in the fridge as meals or sides or even soup.

March 26, 2020

I was thinking this morning that I should make a point of speaking every day to someone I rarely see, just a random person from my directory. A couple of days ago I got a call from my ex-husband’s wife in rural Queensland, then a person who unfriended me on Facebook years ago suddenly sent a friend request and just now I got a call from an old acquaintance whom I last spoke to 18 months ago, so perhaps lots of people are thinking along the same lines. I’ve just finished reading Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee a Queensland lawyer who, as a judge’s associate, sat through many, many rape and sexual assault trials where she believed justice was not being done. She decided to stand up and have charges brought against the teenager who sexually abused her as a primary school child. I found interesting her descriptions of circuit court and her comment that in Gympie she saw not a single rape or sexual assault defendant found guilty, of course many in the the jury knew the men accused. Similarly in Warwick it was extremely hard to get a conviction. Her descriptions of the cases heard were disconcerting, all the more so for her as a survivor, but her respect for the judge for whom she worked helped her to tackle her own case. Inspiring reading.

March 27, 2020

Saw a photo this morning of a gowned and masked doctor working on coronavirus patients in London and around the eyes he looked awfully like my friend Mustapha who is a cardiologist who took an early retirement or at least a stand down from medicine about 5 years ago when his partner was given a promotion to Singapore. Sure enough there is a photo on his Facebook page showing him in his gear, but I had been unable to read all of the comments as he speaks many languages and none of the respondents had posted in English. He has volunteered to go back to work in an NHS coronavirus hospital in London, a fact which made my stomach sink, but all power to his healing hands in this situation. Only yesterday we were in contact discussing onions of all things and he sent me a recipe for his favourite tagine, with not a mention of his work. Then I got a text from a friend who let someone rent a cottage on their property while they did their 14 days isolation after coming back to Australia. Now the property owner and the tenant have tested positive, despite very little contact between them. Sheesh, this thing is sooo infectious.

Tried to contact Optus to get caller ID put back onto my phone so I can avoid callers from Chad and Burundi and wherever. The country of origin shows on my mobile but not on my landline since the NBN was connected. But the phones to Optus are impossible and the email page just says urgent communications only, which I don’t understand really as people could be working from home. Book group tonight, but by email. Perhaps I will make something to take as per normal and then eat it all myself. Or make an exception and have a glass of wine all by myself.

March 28, 2020

A lovely interlude this morning when I went for a walk for the first time in ages and came upon an old Chinese man sitting on the bus seat in my street singing out across the road to no one. I stopped to listen and indicated with my phone that I would like to take a photo of him but he seemed to have no English at all and instead wrote down his phone number on a scrap of paper for me. On the way back he had moved seats and wasn’t singing so I sang la-la-la and he got the message and gave me another song in his not at all bad voice. Glad I went out. I am pissed off with the confinement of the last 16 days but not panicking about the disease, though for the last two nights I’ve had nightmares which both involved coronavirus in some form so perhaps I am kidding myself about the concern. It’s just not there consciously.

Planning to make nachos for dinner with a can of black beans that has cluttered up my pantry for the last couple of years. I don’t cook Chinese so I don’t really know why I bought them, but finally I stumbled on a non-Chinese recipe to use them up. Missing an avocado to put on top, but isolationists can’t be choosers. I do have the cheese and sour cream though. Sue’s Kate is arriving shortly to return a heap of plastic boxes, cold bricks etc from the food deliveries. It’s a pain to have a visitor finally and not be able to invite them in. Martyn has gone back to Orange so I need another person to deliver, I guess I will try to tee something up with his brother Stephen, even if it means meeting him halfway between here and the Hornsby area where he lives. PS Kate arrived with two organic pumpkins picked this morning from Robert’s garden and a big tub of Sue’s pumpkin soup, so that’s tomorrow night’s dinner sorted. She will also be food courier next week, so a very successful visit.

March 29, 2020

The nachos recipe was a keeper, great with the black beans, better than the usual kidney beans I think. I was planning to make soup for Sue this arv but she contacted me to say they still have plenty of meals in the freezer and to give myself a rest, not accounting for the fact that I actually enjoy doing it, but she’s the boss. Surprised that one of our book group today offered her home for our June meeting, something I really can’t see will be going ahead, but I hope she’s right and I am wrong there. I was good this morning and continued an overdue weeding of the front garden, which gave me much pleasure as I saw flowers up close that I have been walking by this last week. One of Millie’s confreres asked her mother if they still had to stay at home because of the corona pirates, the mother went with this and said yes.

I am still on the coronavirus rollercoaster as are we all, but I must admit that I enjoy getting the spontaneous youtube message from the Prof to all his patients which arrives each Sunday afternoon, in which he discusses the week’s events in his usual calm and encouraging style. This one was much longer than the last and covers things like the hydroxychloroquine shortage, a drug many if not most of his patients would be on. Apparently the government has restricted the writing of prescriptions to appropriate specialists, which will take the pressure off GPs being pressured by the mob. John’s upstairs neighbour was taken away by ambulance during the week with chest pains and there was naturally speculation that she might have the big V, but unfortunately it is worse than that, it is the big C, in her liver with spread to her shoulder. With two kids that I have met, plus apparently two more that I haven’t, and with no father around their future is grim indeed. Everyone has a story at the moment but that is one of the more tragic ones.

March 30, 2020

Forty-one years at about noon today since my twins were born. I’d like to do it all again, but do it better this time (not the birth though, no, certainly not the birth). It is a weird birthday in that we had a family dinner planned and booked for Saturday night and Carly should have been here for the weekend, but they are each working from home in different state capitals. We will certainly talk every year about ‘that 2020 birthday’. Following the last few days of happy contact surprises I got a message from Sheila in Blackheath sending a photo of me when I had the best of grey hair, naturally evenly grey but no white, pity I couldn’t have kept that look I decided.

Monday is my appointed ‘getting whatever you can’t order in’ day, my only venture out in the car for the week, so I look forward to it now as if it were a huge social occasion: a ceilidh, a mardi gras and a soiree all rolled into one. Today I got three loaves of bread from the bakery I frequent, (1 to eat, 2 to freeze) seeing my freezer capacity makes it slightly more feasible now. I’ve had to give my Lane Cove baker away due to distance, this one is much closer and was always a close second. Their sweet stuff is miles ahead of his too, forcing me to purchase a small lemon meringue tart to eat during 4 Corners tonight. Lane Cove has Sydney’s third highest concentration of CV infections incidentally, so I am glad John is getting his shopping brought in and not going to shop there anymore. It is 3 years today since he went into remission for lymphoma after months of heavy chemo. Bravo, celebrations all round!! Arvind arrived from next door with four hot curry puffs straight out of the oven, bless. Good day.

March 31, 2020

I had booked an appointment with Bob a couple of weeks ago, hoping he might have flu vax by then. I was told it wouldn’t be here till mid April but insisted on making the appointment anyway as I knew there would be a rush once it came in. I could check each week and keep moving the appointment forward if necessary. But today when I rang to move the appointment it appeared as if their phone was down for many hours, but when I finally got through I discovered that the vaccine arrived today, so I wasn’t so silly after all. John wanted an appointment too so I halved my double one and now we will each get jabbed on Thursday. Stephen rang later and asked if we’d had our pneumovax….um, flu vax I asked? No pneumovax, which I discover protects against 23 types of pneumonia and according to Health NSW should be given to everyone over 65. Bob has never mentioned it, but I will ask him on Thursday. We had planned a picnic today, somewhere closeish, with no people or homes in sight. But the new rules and regs made that impossible so we had it on the back verandah instead. Pumpkin soup spiked up with chili and garam masala with Arvind’s curry puffs on the side. Sir is visiting today and declaimed it to be a perfect lunch. I took a bow.

April 1, 2020

Not making any April Fools calls today, I think we are all the April Fools for trusting our governments to protect us from what was always just over the horizon. As I wrote here in January: ‘I continue to shake my head at the lacklustre Australian response to the corona virus outbreak. While the scientists are doing amazing work, as usual, the policy makers and their publicists stumble along. Potential pandemics, as this clearly is, need action that is both strong and meteorically fast’. Luckily for their residents Singapore understood this and acted accordingly, including having a fully stocked 300 bed pandemic hospital sitting empty, waiting for just this occurrence. Had we had a similar hospital set up (and we can afford it) we would now have it occupied by those initially infected, with no community transference occurring.  But experts like Prof Raina McIntyre, who workshopped this eventuality with international colleagues in a week long conference just last November, were ignored. As usual the government gets off scot free and the populace pays bigtime for their mistakes, pays in lives and pays in money, more money than ever we could have imagined. A stitch in time Scotty, didn’t your mother ever tell you that proverb?

One of John’s ex priest mates helpfully sent around to their group Pope Francis’s Urbi et Orbi Vatican speech, retelling the story of Jesus sleeping in the helm of a little boat when it hit rough weather. The disciples woke him in a panic and he replied famously ‘why are you afraid, oh ye of little faith’. Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm. Perhaps they won’t be expecting his reply: ‘I’m not going to read any nonsense about Jesus and corona virus.  If Jesus is in charge, why did he let it happen in the first place? Stay safe boys.  The only people who are going to save us from this plague are ourselves and our wonderfully skilled and dedicated health professionals.’ He has certainly left that culture waaay behind.

 

It appears that it isn’t always obvious that I have started a new post, Life Notes 6, as this one was getting too slow to load. Just go to the main page on the right and click on Life Notes 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 4

 September 27, 2018

Decided that the meltdown of the server a day ago may have been due to the post getting a bit too big to handle, as that had happened once before. The solution? The birth of Life Notes 4. Tech stuff is not my forte but if this works, that’s good enough for me.

Today was a bit of a setback with John, a fact that showed in his face when I got there at 10am. Partly this was due to his coming off the morphine pump, but mostly because they removed the noradrenaline one, due to potential negative side effects of the drug. When I got there his BP was 95/55 but that soon slid, going down to 71/40 eventually before the nurses threw in the towel and put him back on the drip, no doubt to try again tomorrow. Dr Bindhi’s offsider came and explained that doing a TAVI (inserting an artificial valve) is a tricky procedure that needs a substantial ‘workup’ involving xrays and scans as well as cognitive testing to make sure he is able to have the procedure. Although that can’t take place for months, they’ve decided to do the workup now in hospital rather than getting him back in later when transport for all these tests will be a problem. Woo-hoo to that, just getting him into a shower will be a marathon, never mind repeated trips to RNSH. Today the nurses washed him and he was absolutely exhausted by it, even though they were doing all the work, so clearly a lot of improvement is needed before going home. At one point I turned to see a man with a cross on his jumper standing in the doorway and was just about to point out that we had no need for a priest, when luckily I looked up to his face and saw it was Pat Hurley, John’s priest friend. My first thought had been ‘gosh, the nurses have called for the last rites because of his blood pressure’ forgetting we weren’t in St Vincent’s this time but in Shore. Dally Messenger (who was in Sydney for the Dally M Awards) and later Terry McBride made up the trio of old mates in the afternoon, following earlier visits from Fran and Jane. Usually he rings me at bedtime even though I’ve been there all day, but tonight that was 7.30 and he sounded as if he were falling asleep then. Onwards and upwards tomorrow, but his poor old body has had a hiding.

September 28, 2018

Got to the hospital at 9.30 today but they had his nibs upstairs having respiratory function testing, in preparation for his eventual valve replacement. It was 11 before he came back to the ICU but that gave me time to finish the book The Standing Chandelier and to write a few notes on it for book group tonight. He was very dopey, a combination of Endone, Gabapentin, Panadol and another nerve pain med I’ve forgotten. I always ask when he is dopey ‘do you remember I lent you $5000?’ and he opens one eye and replies ‘no, good try, but I’m not that dopey’, then I feel confident he is with it. The pain doc says it is at its worst now but will recede by Tuesday, a week after the operation. He had calls from Carly and Terry and then his pal Chris Geraghty walked in for a visit. Shortly after, I left them to it and headed home to find a birthday card plus a parcel from my brother in the letter box. It contained the book A Life Like Other People’s by his university friend Alan Bennett. Carly’s card gave me a list of birthday present options including a book, theatre tickets or a meal out. I think I will opt for the book Anaesthesia by Kate Cole-Adams, topical at present I know, but I’ve wanted it ever since it came out last year.

September 29, 2018

John looked a lot more like himself today. He has graduated from ICU to a private room with bathroom. Carly had asked me if he would get one and I said public patients need to be infectious or dying to get a private room but I was wrong! The only downside is that from one on one nursing it is a comedown to wait 40 minutes for a nurse to answer the buzzer. Also his antibiotic drip was an hour and a half late, they apologised but it is really important so I hope it doesn’t happen again. The nurse made the comment when checking his catheter that ‘we see more penises than a prostitute does’ which I thought was funny. Another older nurse commented that they get prisoners in there and they are the easiest, most uncomplaining patients because they are so happy to be out of gaol. Which are the worst I asked? Mosman women, without a doubt, she replied, constantly complaining and threatening to report you. A bit like my friend who is an airline steward, he said the same about working in Qantas first class.

Davina took me out for dinner for my birthday tonight, to Courtney’s Brasserie. Delicious food, great wine and excellent service, feeling really spoiled. Millie gave me one of her paintings which I will get framed.

September 30, 2018

Feeling that I lack conversation when I’m visiting John as he now has a TV at some considerable cost ($9Smilie: 8) so I can’t regale him with the news each day. How long did you book it for I asked? I took a guess at how long I’d be here, he replied. He can’t get up and have a wander around the ward so he has only seen the four walls and I’m not sure I add much interest while there, need to think of some ideas. I bought him a huge Sudoku book, only to discover that the first few puzzles had been filled in! Will take an eraser tomorrow, but there are 600 in the book so he has plenty to be going on with. At least tonight he has his beloved football, the only ‘cultural pursuit’ we disagree on, now he has warmed to opera. Opera House has been on the phone about renewing the subscription for 2019, but I can hardly do that the way things stand. No docs of course at the weekend and this a three day one, so we have no idea of the CRP, hopefully it will be a pleasant surprise when it comes. I am having concerns about how I am going to manage at home when I see it takes two nurses and a wardsman to move him two steps from bed to chair. Bought sushi for dinner on the way home, just not into cooking right at the minute.

October 1, 2018

It is so much easier getting to the hospital on a low traffic public holiday, pity there aren’t a few more coming. John was ok when I got there, too early I discovered, as the visiting hours are 11-8 and I got there at 10, assuming the hours were the same as ICU. But apart from a couple of glances at the clock from nurses I escaped without punishment. After he had been in the chair for a while a nurse came and did a BP, saying ‘ooh only 80. I’ll come back and do it again in 15 minutes’. We never saw him again, but an hour later John started to feel weak and dizzy and I got another nurse who was concerned to find it was now 71/44, so they put him back to bed. This low BP doesn’t seem to be improving. The nursing has definitely gone south from ICU levels too, they are very forgetful or maybe just over-stretched. Once again I have concerns about how I will manage him at home. Left about 2.30 and ended up buying sushi again as I just don’t feel up to much cooking, mildly depressed I’m thinking. I had decided to cook some barramundi in coconut milk and lime, but the fact that the fishmonger only had imported barra today was enough to send me to the sushi counter, whereas usually I’d just change the menu.

October 2, 2018

I decided to treat myself to a very special birthday present — a car wash at the hospital facility, not just the wash but the internal vac and dust. To get into the car wash you have to go into the parking station and pay for that as well, but a trip to their office and a wave of John’s disability sticker meant I only had to pay for the wash. I can’t say how much it raised my spirits, knowing I was coming out to a car without gravel underfoot. If only I could get it into my garage it would stay clean for a bit, but the good news is there is another birthday next year. John was a lot better today, both in spirit and in medical terms, BP stable, not dopey, pain under control. He was taken off for a scan of the carotid artery, to do with the valve replacement and then fitted with a new knee brace, less cumbersome, no metal and with a dial which allows slight movement of the knee. Perhaps we shall cope after all! Dav rang to see if I wanted to go there for dinner but I didn’t take the usual suitcase along today as Heather is coming with me to the hospital tomorrow so I need to sleep at home tonight. Spoke to Steve and brought him up to date on everything. To cap off a good day the fishmonger had fresh Aussie barramundi so I will bake it in coconut milk and lime for dinner.

October 3, 2018

Heather came with me today to the hospital and on the way we stopped in to John’s to pick up a few things and then went to Lane Cove shops to buy him some treats. At Flannery’s I got him some cheesey quinoa crackery thingies and some almond cookies but Heather went all out, buying 6 different blocks of his favourite Pico chocolate, lemon biscuits, chocolate biscuits and some savoury stuff as well. The dieticians are trying to fatten him up and so we felt well justified. About 2pm he reminded the nurses that his antibiotic was 2 hours late and was told ‘no, don’t you remember we gave it to you early today at 11am?’ We disagreed but she was adamant showing us it had been signed off by two nurses. At 2.30 a nurse came with the antibiotic drip saying she had set it up at 11 and then got caught up. Then the cannula blocked again (a new batch of cannulas where the needles bend really easily, she said!) so a doctor had to be summoned to put in yet another. Then it was shift change…….. so when I saw the ortho passing I finally complained, overheard by the grimacing nurses, but they are way too casual so I can’t be worrying about that. I told him John missed a whole dose last evening because the cannula blocked and he is going to stress the importance of timely doses, getting me a reputation as a complaining old cow in the process. We hung around waiting for the doc to insert the new cannula but he still hadn’t come when we left. Grrr.

I haven’t been able to eat since breakfast due to a sudden and random attack of swelling of the parotid gland, something I’ve been free from lately. Trying anything other than water or milk through a straw is excruciating but it will pass just as suddenly and randomly as it started. That put paid to a diversion to Koi on the way home for a sweet treat, but anticipation of the next visit is sweet in itself.

October 4, 2018

I haven’t been able to put in any time at the homelessness charity we support for a few weeks now and I’m pretty sure that the clients won’t have been told why we’ve suddenly disappeared, based on past experience. One person we won’t get to see again is Kimbo who died last Saturday from lung cancer, just 3 months or so after diagnosis. He lost one leg at the age of 21 after a swim in the polluted Hawkesbury River left him with an infection that resisted antibiotic treatment for months. Then many years later he lost the ability to speak after throat cancer, so all discussion was enacted on little pads he carried. Ten years sleeping on the riverbank ensued before he rose to the top of the public housing list and he made a life for himself in a small mowing business until lung cancer claimed him. Not a life anyone would choose but always a cheeky grin and a mad scramble to write on his pad whenever I arrived at meal service. When I last saw him in hospital he asked me to draw all but $1 out of his bank account for him which I duly did. He hid his last $500 under the mattress. Vale Kimbo, life dealt you a shit hand and you played it the best way you could.

My intervention with Dr Matthew yesterday has apparently worked wonders with every dose of antibiotic since then delivered dead on time. Well worth having the nurses looking at me askance. Mary, who is visiting from NZ for a couple of days, came about noon and she is so much fun (and sooo beautiful) that it lifted John’s spirits yet again. We were with them in the city on their last visit a few weeks ago, the night before he was due to go into hospital, when we got the call about his heart problems, letting us know that the operation had been cancelled at the last minute. I took him on a trip around the ward on his forearm walking frame today and just before I left this arv they came to take him off to have a PIC line installed, so no more bent cannulas. One touching aside is John’s story that yesterday afternoon he fell asleep in his chair and woke to find Dr Ellis and his two registrars lined up sitting on his bed, waiting for him to wake, three sensitive ‘bone boys’.

October 5, 2018

All good at RNSH today with John complaining about being cooped up in his room, a good sign I think. I suggested he get a nurse to take him to the airy windowed lounge on his floor tomorrow and then ring the ward clerk when he needs help to return. As it is where the lifts open, any visiting docs will see him immediately anyway. He was visited today by the geriatric specialist, but I told him he must have come to the wrong room as we were way too young to need one. He smiled and said ‘well you are younger than most of the people I see’. Not sure what his purpose was really, but it passed the time. The ortho team are making noises about him being okay to go home in about a week, subject to being able to use crutches and move about, something he is far from doing right now, but improving all the time. Our friend Fran has offered to loan us the wheelchair he used last year, so that would be a help.

October 6, 2018

Last night Davina, Louis and Millie arrived to stay overnight to prepare for her friend Beth’s baby shower today. Dav cooked lemon friands and pork and veal sausage rolls, plus she took loads of decorations, goodie bags, games etc. with her. Louis, Millie and I spent the afternoon at home chilling.

John had a couple of visitors today but at one point his BP dropped to such low levels that they called the emergency docs and FOUR of them came. Not sure how I’m supposed to deal with this recurring problem at home? In the evening I went to Martha’s to listen to talks by friends Ruth and Alison about The Grail and their lives within it.

October 7, 2018

The boy rang for me to come equipped with more pencils for Sudoku, so the book of 600 puzzles is clearly getting a workout. John was well and cheerful today, though he keeps having these low blood pressure events regularly, with the rapid response team of 4 docs called yesterday, so I asked what it went down to and it was 70/40, anything under 90/60 considered dangerous. We walked to the lounge with his walking frame and sat watching the rain for a while after I managed to reach up and turn off the infernal television at the power point as it was driving us both mad. I shall do so regularly as no-one ever watches it and it destroys the peaceful benefit of looking out over the view, even if it is only the local Post depot and Chatswood on the horizon.

Today I bumped into an old client whose daughter aged 45-50 or so is on the same floor as John. I went to visit her briefly and she thanked me for recommending she see Dr Glenn Reeves, my immunologist, some years ago (I had totally forgotten having done so). He diagnosed lupus and Addison’s Disease and she seems very unwell, but was glad to have finally found out why and spoke very highly of Glenn, as does everyone. I see him Friday all being well.

October 8, 2018

Bussed into town for an appointment with Tricia but when she didn’t turn up they rang her and she said it was next Monday, but I had put it down as today. Not sure who stuffed up and it doesn’t matter. An unusual thing happened while I was there when a boy of 12 or so asked if he could take photographs of me with my phone because I ‘looked great against that coloured wall, as if you dressed like that on purpose’. He did a series and I put my fave up on Facebook, thanks Flynn. The mix-up gave me a chance to have morning tea with Carol at her building, to chew the fat with her and to enjoy name-calling some politicians over the projected advertising on the Opera House. Trained to St Leonard’s and walked to the hospital just in time to eat John’s pumpkin soup. He orders it every day for my lunch, as well as what he wants for himself, weird that they only do pumpkin every day but as it’s free I’m not complaining about the menu. He was waiting to go for a CAT scan of his heart, part of the workup for the new valve, so when they came at about 3pm I decamped getting the first bus directly home, a peak hour only service which begins in the afternoon at 3.30. The physio had said last week that she wanted to start working with him today to perfect what he needs to be able to do to go home but he hadn’t sighted her all day. No crises today thankfully. My new neighbour next door caught me arriving home and asked if I minded if he had his giant gum tree pruned so it wouldn’t fill our gutters as fast and risk dropping branches on our houses. My goodness, I asked the previous neighbour for years to trim the overhang of my house after a falling branch damaged my roof and caused me to make an insurance claim but he refused point blank for financial reasons and then put in a heated pool and bought two new cars.

October 9, 2018

Woke feeling a bit odd after a relatively sleepless night, but soon realised that sleep, or lack of it, was not the main issue. Spent the morning throwing up into a bowl while seated on the throne, periodically ringing John to tell him how ill I was and to elicit sympathy. Decided that the sushi I brought home from St Leonard’s station concourse for dinner last night was the only possible culprit, just two nori rolls but that was well enough to ruin a morning. As I needed to be at Windsor for Kimbo’s wake at 1.30 I used the power of positive thinking and drove with a bucket on the passenger seat and a spare pair of jeans on the back seat, but by the time I arrived I was a bit better. Linda arrived with a van full of sandwiches as well as a trolley load of Woolworths cakes, discounted the previous afternoon to $2 each, the sight of which as I was slicing them enough to cause a relapse. About 35 people turned up but it wasn’t till 3pm that people got up to tell a few Kimbo stories, the theme being his technical skills, his willingness to help anyone and the fact that he never seemed to charge for work done. He had thought that after 18 years sleeping rough, his life would be perfect once he was given a housing commission flat. It did improve his life, though he had precious little time to enjoy it before lung cancer claimed him.

John had an eventful day, with the infectious diseases registrar telling him that when she rang Westmead Hospital to organise nurses for his daily drip of antibiotics at home, she was told that ‘we don’t have any infectious diseases specialists at the moment, they both left, so don’t even bother doing the paperwork’. The specialist came and rang Westmead back, finally doing a deal that the nurses would come, but I will have to take him back to RNSH once a week for supervision by their ID specialists. Then she said that the usual way to tell if a knee is free of infection would be to stop the drip for two weeks, do a biopsy on his knee, and if okay proceed with the heart valve op. However after the septicaemia this caused last time, she is unsurprisingly unwilling to do that again. Therefore they will judge by CRP alone, eek, but this means he will need to be on antibiotic tablets 4 times a day for life, as he has been for the last 18 months. So never free of this damn-blasted knee, what a huge mistake it was.

October 10, 2018

Westmead have reneged on the hospital in the home deal struck yesterday, so now we don’t have the treatment in place for him to come home. He’s been told that the only alternative at this point is to go to rehab, at least until he is fit enough to climb the stairs to his flat, as RNSH is able to treat him there. A disappointment but it is the only option right now. On the bright side, his angiogram today was the last step in the valve workup and they’ve said he is now ready to go with the TAVI  as soon as the infection situation allows. I didn’t go today as I’ve been sick again, spent all afternoon shivering in bed fully dressed with three blankets on, though slightly better tonight.

October 11,2018

Now I have a rotten cold on top of everything else. Rang and cancelled my immunology appointment tomorrow, usually a fun day out by bus and train to Gosford. Sue and Robert had offered to pick me up at Woy Woy, take me to the appointment and then back to their house overnight but there’s no way I can manage that right now. Coincidentally Robert and Sue came with me to the first appointment with the Prof, 6 or more years ago, and took me back to their house afterwards, somewhat shell-shocked that after countless specialists over 15 years or more, he diagnosed me in 15 minutes. Later today Naomi, the practice nurse, rang  at the behest of Professor Reeves to ask what was wrong with me and came back with his explanation that the food poisoning linked up with the stress of John’s illness was enough to lower my immune system so I got the cold. The Prof is unusual in that he always wants to heal people whether it comes under his specialty or not, often querying John about his treatment and throwing his 10 cents worth in, he’s a pearler. Whatever the cause of this malady, it has kept me from the hospital and John was unhappy that when he got back to his room today they had thrown out his flowers, a beautiful display in a ceramic pot, sent by my daughters, which he had intended to keep as it was full of proteas and natives which would have dried over time. Small things upset him more than big ones sometimes, he was really enjoying them each day. I have been good for nothing today, getting up at 1.30pm and now after 3pm, dying to go back to bed. Hopefully I will be well enough to go to the hospital tomorrow, wearing a mask of course.

October 12, 2018

Woo-hoo, John’s CRP is down to 14, the lowest since his knee infection began. A cardiac surgeon visited and told him ‘we hope to be able to do a TAVI, but if that’s not possible how do you feel about open heart surgery? I’m part of the team just in case’. Eek, let’s cross that bridge when we have to. As well as tossing John’s precious flowers, the nurses also lost his phone charger in the room change, so a bit of a messy job. My day began with a call from Sue and Robert wanting to drive down from Killcare to pick me up and take me to the immunologist at Gosford! Robes thinks I have a Sjogren’s flare up from stress of the food poisoning and John’s situation and thought I needed to see the doc immediately as ‘the cold’ had become vocal chord dysfunction, cold sores, mouth ulcers and much difficulty breathing. Firstly I didn’t feel up to travelling, secondly I doubt the doc could do much other than say it will pass and thirdly it is a huge ask, so I refused. Tonight I got up at 6pm to watch The Drum and was railing at Philip Ruddock, which is a sign that I’ve returned to the world. Feel bad about abandoning John this week, but it was unavoidable.

October 13, 2018

John is looking so much better, he got up on crutches for the first time with the aid of the physio today and is now confident in the prospect of going to rehab for a couple of weeks and then going back to his flat with a 6 week package from the hospital which includes help with showering, shopping and cleaning as well as nursing services. That should hopefully take him up to having the TAVI with a bit of luck. After seeing him I went to see Julian Burnside’s film Border Politics put on at Hornsby by the local Amnesty group. Met up with a few pals there and ate a homemade biscuit with a cup of tea, my first food for a while apart from hot milk. At my lowest weight for over 10 years so every cloud has a silver lining, but starvation always seems to cause the body to grab every calorie when you eat again so my loose duds will no doubt be short-lived. Happy to be back into life again and able to visit with John as usual.

October 14, 2018

An odd thing happened today while visiting John. I mentioned what a good hospital I had found RNS to be when I was a patient. When was that? he asked quizzically. It was only last year that I was there for 5 days but he couldn’t bring it to mind, despite the fact that he drove me there from my doctor’s surgery, waited in emergency for a few hours and then visited me each day and ultimately drove me home again. I discussed various things to prompt his memory but nup, all gone. But apart from this he was improved and I think he will likely be out this week.

October 15, 2018

There has been some difficulty getting enough hands on deck for meal service lately, particularly last Saturday when boss lady had to reduce the menu because she was the only cook. Though I have a valid reason to withdraw for a while I still feel as if I’m letting the team down. It’s unclear how this will pan out over time, especially if John goes home instead of to rehab. I don’t think he fully realises how much work is eliminated by hospital staff: food, bathing, physical assistance, medication, all thrown back on us once he goes home.

October 16, 2018

I am sure the almost daily rain showers lately have made a huge difference to my mood over the past couple of weeks, I never tire of rain and to have it little and often has been delightful. I really feel it when we have long dry spells, which are enervating in the extreme. Perhaps it is my Yorkshire genes, but the dry areas of Australia have never appealed either, a deserted beach always my sanctuary.

John goes from strength to strength, now learning to walk up and down stairs on his crutches so we can get him into his flat safely. The rehab doctor came and announced him too fit to go there, they want people with problems that can be solved with physio, which of course his heart cannot be. So occupational therapists will come and set up some sort of seat across his bath and a flexible shower hose and off we go, as soon as Friday I’m suspecting. I ended the day by going with the film group to see Custody, a realistic portrayal of the terror of domestic abuse. While it wasn’t a pleasant experience to watch, it was superbly acted and hence was a chilling reminder of times past for me and of the current experience for so many women every day. Really enjoyed a meal with friends afterwards, great company and my snapper with asparagus, roasted tomato and potato was as good as every meal has been at Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg.

October 17, 2018

Oh bliss, a shower of rain again, it is so lovely. John is pretty sure Friday is the day, just waiting for the ‘compact’ of home help to be organised with the social worker. He is such an optimist that even though the surgeon initially said he needed 12 weeks on the drip instead of the usual 6, someone has told him it is 6, so then he has reduced that by the weeks in hospital and I heard him telling Philip on the phone ‘I’ll only be at home a couple of weeks, then I will be back here for surgery’. I hope he’s right but I’ve noticed he always tells people the most positive view of any given statistic. The joys of an optimistic personality. I counted today how many rooms have a notice outside instructing staff to fully gown up before entering, 7 out of 30 beds. I asked the nurse if that meant all of them had antibiotic resistance and she said yes, mostly MRSA. Holy sheet, 7 out of 30, nearly 24%, that’s terrifying and this isn’t even an infectious diseases ward. The estimate is that by 2050 10 million people a year will die from previously curable diseases, back to the dark ages. Is there anything in this world we don’t stuff up? Pessimist personality showing here.

October 18, 2018

Fun day out to Gosford, I do enjoy the train trip especially when everything is green from recent rain. Mooched through the op shops and my favourite second hand clothes shop buying nothing at all, which is a win/win. My appointment with the Prof was edifying, his news delivered during a violent  electrical storm. He continues his opinion that I’ve gone from Sjogren’s to Sjogren’s/Lupus Overlap Syndrome, something new he hit on 6 months ago, expecting that it will convert fully to lupus over time. My CRP is now three times John’s which is a funny turn up for the books, considering all the stress of waiting for his results these past months. BUT the important news is that my severe reaction to the common cold is a typical lupus flare situation where the immune system malfunctions and attacks the healthy tissues it’s supposed to be protecting from the virus. This causes more inflammation, pain and tissue damage, so it’s not actually a cold anymore but an autoimmune flare. I hadn’t fully understood this before, so it was a real eye opener and shows I’ve had this for 40 years as that’s when it first started happening. Only solution is avoiding infection ie using masks when needed. John’s discharge has been put back to Monday to allow the hospital more time to organise home help and nursing. He said he was bored today because I didn’t go.

October 19, 2018

I can hear properly again since this afternoon when I picked up my spanking new hearing aid at Macquarie Hearing Hub. They were forced by the fault to replace it entire rather than repairing. I can now hear that the computer has a fan, that the neighbours’ dog barks and the new boys next door play basketball in the afternoons. My $45 per year insurance policy has proved a windfall, I don’t know what a new one costs but it exceeds that figure by well more than a power of 10 I’m sure. Since receiving a $150 debit for tolls spent solely on the M2 I have been travelling to the hospital on Epping Rd and worked out that if you choose your times carefully it isn’t too bad a trip. Leaving there by 3 is essential, but today I managed to include a trip to Macquarie and still get home in a reasonable time.

John was well though apologised that he was nodding off at the end. I was relieved to get away as I could barely keep awake myself, something that has plagued me lately. I came home, sat down and was off in seconds. Tasks like going to the letterbox or putting washing in the machine seem massive, my meals consist of two ingredients because that’s all I can be bothered preparing, when a chair is beckoning. I used to cook fish and a few veges every night at the very least, then do a dessert and often a batch of muffins or a cake. That seems too taxing to even think about now, so dinner tonight is a piece of monkfish with a squeeze of lemon and some coconut milk poured over, which I will put in the microwave. I hope this exhaustion lifts soon, like before Monday as John thinks I will be looking after him, but I secretly hope he will look after me.

October 20, 2018

Well, even though I was predicting an outright win by Kerryn Phelps to anyone who would listen this week, I’m f-f-f-flabbergasted by the size of the swing. Looking like well over 20%, the largest ever. It restores faith in the middle voters, the sensible, decent, ordinary (well actually, very rich) middle. Now we just need the Daily Telegraph reading, Alan Jones listening suburbanites to follow suit, always a harder task. I go to bed tonight full of optimism, not my default setting. While watching the results I was dipping into Outspoken, the autobiography of Father Rod Bowers, the Gosford Anglican priest well known for his socially progressive billboards. My sort of priest, if there is such a thing.

October 21, 2018

Well what a turnup for the books, now the by-election is in doubt due to postal votes favouring the Liberal. Orthodox Jews who were not able to vote on a Saturday make up part of that number and it stands to reason that Sharma would be favoured over a woman, even a Jewish one. This brings to mind that nail-biting US election when the disastrous George W. Bush got in on a series of ‘hanging chads’. I decided that after seeing John this arv I would take in a movie on the way home, which indicates that perhaps I am returning to normal after two weeks of being sick. I went to see Ladies in Black at Roseville and though it was light as a bubble in one sense, it was a nostalgia trip back to the grand era of department stores, when they were actually staffed by people who knew the stock and were there to help. The sight of trams back in the city was heart-warming in itself. The city burghers who ripped them out should be shamed. Oh, that’s right, John’s father was one of them, so perhaps let it pass.

October 22, 2018

Arrived at the hospital at 9.30am, in time to meet with the lady organising the home personal care and then the nursing team who will come each day to change the antibiotic drip. This was all done by 10.30 so we’d be home for lunch, right? Wrong. As with all hospitals it seems, the pharmacy department is the weak link. Couldn’t be discharged without his meds, including a week’s supply of antibiotic drips, but we waited till lunchtime and then afternoon teatime and still no meds. Finally at 4.30pm I asked a student nurse to help and she walked down to the pharmacy and there it all was, dispensed and ready. The same happened when I left RNS and when John left St Vincents, discharge is a full day event. Finally, after picking up essentials in Lane Cove, with John sitting awkwardly across the back seat of the car, we finally arrived home. He managed the stairs okay and luckily I was helped with the copious luggage and shopping by his neighbour Chris, who told me later he’d just finished chemo for pancreatic cancer last Thursday, bless him. John is out for the count in his La-Z-Boy chair and it’s 7.30pm, waiting for him to wake up to put him to bed if that makes sense. Been on a bit of a high thinking about the book I’m reading, Outspoken, the Anglican priest author is one of those rare churchmen who is also a humanist, more interested in the welfare of people than in doctrine. I am so impressed that, after following him on Facebook for the past couple of years, I might even darken the door of his church sometime soon, not for the religion but just to be in the presence a seriously uplifting person.

October 23, 2018

Phew! It is full on here. From 9.30 till 11 we had the physio’s first visit, followed soon after by 2 nurses for an hour and a half, not only changing the drip but going over every medication, doing the obs and asking a million questions (including do you have a gun in the house??). We had time for half an avocado each before the occupational therapists arrived to install the bath seat ($20 for 3 months) and instruct us in safely getting him into and out of the shower, which unfortunately is over the bath. Now it’s 3.30, we are pooped and John is out for the count. Tomorrow we have a domestic helper coming at 8am and nurses later in the morning. I can’t see that I will be able to go home at all in this period because he can’t do something as simple as getting a glass of water while walking with crutches, let alone boiling a jug. I’ve suggested to his friend Rafe that coming over to visit Friday night would be good, freeing me up to go to book group, he will get back to me. I have succumbed again to a cold sore invasion and mouth ulcers, but the Prof tells me to call it a lupus flare, whatever different symptoms arrive.

A quote from Outspoken: ‘No reasonable Australian could consider Scott Morrison or Peter Dutton fit and proper persons to function as Ministers of the Crown’. If he were a minister in the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church instead of the Newcastle one, I’m sure he would have had a call from the archbishop by now.

October 24, 2018

The care worker came this morning and there was a bit of a problem with the hose purchased to attach to the bath tap as the tap is oval and the plastic junction round. It leaked copiously and I was dispatched to Bunnings to buy a $16 rubber replacement. Oh yes I know what you want the man said, they were $16 but we don’t have any….so I bought instead a roll of duct tape which now makes the tap look as if it’s bandaged for a serious injury but it works, sort of. John is improving in mobility and actually got dressed for the first time in over a month as he knew Jack was coming to visit. He came bearing a freshly picked lettuce, a dozen of their own eggs and a large porcini mushroom lasagne that Carol had cooked for us, enough for about four meals for two people. The day passed pleasantly and I was able to attack half the kitchen, hucking out the microwave and tidying the benchtops to make cooking easier.

I woke up with a face like a horror movie character and realised that the lesions on my face had trebled overnight, it is actually the malar rash of lupus but worse than I’ve ever had it before. I rang the Prof’s surgery and asked if I could get some advice to ameliorate it, but was archly told that ‘we don’t give telephone advice between consultations’ and I can’t be going to Gosford at the moment so that’s that until Bob comes back I guess.

October 25, 2018

First up I decided to try again at Prof Reeves office and got a different receptionist who was very sympathetic and put me on to the nurse. Upshot is she had me send a photo and will show it to the Prof between patients for advice. Heather visited and then the nurses came for an hour or more, after which Heather and I repaired to Lane Cove to get shopping and fill up the fridge so I don’t need to leave John any more than is necessary. He had another visitor, Michael, in the afternoon who made the suggestion that when John is well enough we both go to their house just up the road for lunch.

Just after Michael left John said I hadn’t given him a warm enough shirt that morning and asked for a football jumper to put on. A minute later he lay on the bed and asked for a blanket, getting cross when I wasn’t fast enough. He started shivering from head to toe so I took his temp which was normal, but within minutes he developed pain in his hip so I decided to call the ambulance. The woman was unconvinced by the seriousness and put me on to a Health Direct nurse who quickly put me back to the ambulance line and I was told they were on their way. Two paramedics quickly decided he needed to go in, but by then he was unable to go down the stairs on his crutches so two more paras were summoned to carry him down. In the interim he was given the ‘green whistle’ a Penthrox inhaler for pain. I can only assume at this stage that it was referred pain, as he has had no issue with the hip. I followed the ambulance and he was already in an emergency bed by the time I got inside, in typical efficient RNSH fashion. They did a knee Xray and blood tests and cultures, which will take a day or two to process, but by then his temp was up to 38.5 and his CRP up from 4.2 to 30, so something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Left late and decided to go back to John’s in case I was called in overnight.

October 26, 2018

Finally got a call back from the Prof’s nurse, going back on to Plaquenil for the lupus, nothing else he can do. Pottered off to the hospital to find John reading the paper, no high temp, no pain, all smiles. Stayed there most of the day, then repaired to his flat to quickly prepare some food to take to book group. At 4.30 he rang me to say that the shakes and pain had recurred at 4.15, just the same time as yesterday. He was calling the nurses who were pretty casual and offered Panadol, later a passing doctor heard him groaning and rang another doctor, they offered a slow acting pain killer which would have taken hours to work. Finally the rapid response team was called and they gave him Endone, but all of this had taken an hour due to the bureaucratic tangle around giving pain relief. I said I would come straight in but he didn’t want anyone near him when the pain was so severe. Later calls established that another ‘last resort’ antibiotic drip had been added to his existing regime trying to fix whatever it was causing the pain. An emergency whole body MRI was done at night and it was discovered he has an infection in the muscle at the front of the hip which has spread to his bloodstream, probably why he hasn’t been able to raise his bad leg by himself since the surgery. How did that happen? Why does it happen at 4.15 when he’s fine the rest of the day? What bacterium is responsible? Will it delay remaining surgery? All questions John didn’t think to ask when the big cheese doctor came to call. The doc’s comment was ‘John, you are stronger than a polar bear’, unfortunately John listens but doesn’t ask anything and the docs come in very early before visitors are allowed. Book group was a welcome respite from the horrors of the last two days, well the last two months actually. My dear friends have offered to ‘John-sit’ when he comes home to give me some time off.

October 27, 2018

This morning I penned a series of 9 questions for John’s doctors and tonight one of them answered them all. Basically the infection was caused when they removed his knee and some of the infective material went up to his hip in the bloodstream, settling in the hip muscle and lurking there for a month before spilling into his bloodstream causing septicaemia. Logically there must have been more than one type of bacterium present or the antibiotics he’s been on ever since then would have hammered it, but so far the blood cultures haven’t isolated a culprit. They have no idea at all why he got sick two days running at 4.15, describing it as ‘curious’ and they don’t understand how he was perfectly well inbetween. Unfortunately it was confirmed that his heart and knee surgery is now on hold until they are sure he is infection free once more, could even be starting the 6 weeks antibiotic regime all over again, but this time on two powerful types at once. Glory be, what else can go wrong? This afternoon John casually said ‘you know, I may not get out of hospital alive this time’. He’s never said that before though we have both thought it I suspect. After visiting I went to see Dav, Louis and Millie and I stayed there for a lovely snapper curry, rice and sambals. Millie is jigsaw mad and her latest trick is mixing 4 smaller puzzles together and then doing them all simultaneously. Came home to Baulko tonight, first time in a week, blissful.

October 28, 2018

Sometimes I am asked why I am knocking around in a 3 bedroom house and wouldn’t I be better off in a unit. My answer is always a resounding ‘no’ and after spending a week at John’s place I realise I’m just not cut out for that life on a permanent basis. One of the things I asked him for when he designed my extended loungeroom was to have windows in all four directions, something only achievable in a penthouse unit I imagine. I want to see the weather coming from any direction, follow a plane’s journey as far as possible, be able to sit on front or back verandahs depending on the weather, plant trees in my garden, even if in some cases I may not live long enough to see them mature. Perhaps I was influenced by watching Dark Victory as a kid, that old Bette Davis movie where she plants the daffodils as she succumbs to death from a brain tumour……… But today back in Baulkham Hills I feel as if I am inhabiting a harbourside mansion and joyfully planted the blueberry ash tree I bought a month ago and hadn’t had the opportunity to plant till now. Clearly my health has improved a lot as some of the tasks I was unable to do a fortnight ago seemed easy-peasy today. However I will follow the Prof’s instructions so I went to buy the Plaquenil tablets which hopefully will ward off impending lupus flares. Great news today: Father Rod Bower is planning to stand for the Senate next year. He has my vote and any small amount of support I can provide. Fancy having a politician who approaches issues on moral grounds, it will be seriously weird, but wonderful.

October 29, 2018

Crossed paths with John’s doc in the hall and was able to ask about his blood cultures, which unfortunately came back negative. He confirmed that they are using Vancomycin just in case there is an antibiotic resistant bug there, but they have no evidence of that. I decided to come home again tonight, making the most of being here while I can. The young nurses there are a League of Nations with Chinese, African, Thai, Malaysian, New Zealand, Indian and Nepalese represented, while most of the domestic staff seem to be from the subcontinent. The patients on the other hand are almost universally old and white, apart from a couple of youthful ones who have had accidents, including one young man who fell from a ladder painting his new house and broke both wrists and an elbow, ouch. Ladders have a lot to answer for.

October 30, 2018

John is a member of the Tenants Advisory Group and today for their monthly meeting he was included in deliberations by some sort of phone hookup, so I was able to spend the time on a well overdue visit to Brian in Hawkesbury Hospital where he has been for six weeks waiting to go to Westmead for the selfsame aortic valve replacement that John is to have. He was sitting in the sun, in good spirits but naturally anxious for an outcome. Before I left I had a call from Chris Geraghty and we happily chatted for just on an hour but he chose the right day when I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. Michelle rang and intended to visit John today so that also was well timed. I’ve been doing the maths to see if Fr Rod Bower has enough votes from his Facebook friends to get a quota in the Senate election, but sadly no. He needs 4.22% of the votes ie 4.22% of roughly 2,225,000 electors in NSW, which is about 94,000, but he has 65,000 Facebook friends so if each corrals a family member, he’s in. Now with Dr Brian Owler standing in Bennelong it’s looking like a very interesting election indeed!

October 31, 2018

I can’t believe it, but just after Michelle and Kev visited John yesterday afternoon he again came down with the mystery fever and extreme pain. So it’s now happened three times and again it was late afternoon, not quite 4.15 but just after, that is enough to be seriously creepy. Docs are shaking their heads, though this morning they did another echocardiogram, so I am assuming endocarditis is in their thinking, even though the pain is all in his hip area I think they are looking for heart infection as a possible byproduct. Unfortunately Matthew was in surgery so I didn’t get to speak to anyone today. I’m really not liking the way this thing is headed. Carly is deep in consideration of floor areas, aspects and layouts as she struggles to choose a unit to buy in Canberra. So far she favours one in Braddon, a very short walk to the centre of the city and larger than most others she’s seen. The market there has slowed so she’s getting time to consider each one without a rush to decide. Always a tense time, but especially on your own.

November 1, 2018

Yesterday John had an appointment in pre-admission, made in the few days he was at home. The registrar said he should keep the appointment as it saves my dragging him back later when the TAVI is scheduled. The nurses were tasked with organising them to come to his room because he is hooked up to two drips and it was too difficult to take him down. I suspected this was going to be one of those things put into the too hard basket and so it proved. So at the appointed time I went downstairs to the department and reminded them that he was now an inpatient and would not be there when his name was called. Oh you’ll have to organise that on the ward they said. I already have I replied and took that message upstairs to the ward sister. Ooh I think we’ll have to get a registrar to sort that out, but no one’s here right now. Back and forth it went till the clinic closed at 5pm with no resolution, now I will have to rebook the appointment and drag him in here by car from home, it was so damned simple to just have someone ride up in the lift but he might as well have been on Mars.

November 2, 2018

Summer has started, dammit. My Yorkshire genes just don’t get with summer, unless I’m on a beach holiday and can dip into the ocean at regular intervals. Even that is under threat now the Prof tells me to keep out of the sun, lest it trigger a lupus flare. John, who doesn’t care for the beach, seemed quite amenable to that idea. Another reason to cancel the potential holiday in Saudi, apart from the thought of dismemberment in the customs hall of course. Speaking of contemptible humans, I was mighty pleased to see Ross Cameron sacked by Sky News yesterday. I had dealings with his father Jim who was a smooth but loathsome individual, his son managed only rough and loathsome. Jim was probably the single most negative advertisement for Christianity I’ve ever come across, for reasons I won’t reveal here as I suspect the old Ross may be friendly with too many lawyers and I don’t want the expense of mounting a truth defence.

Yesterday I went to John’s so a plumber hired by Link Housing could install a new shower with hand held head which will make life a lot easier. The current leaky plastic hose on the tap was a damned nuisance. As I got to the hospital late John was out for the count so I let him be, he had a visit from Rachel earlier so he wasn’t Nigel Nofriends. Went to dinner at Carol and Jack’s, a lovely repast of prawns with peas and a broccoli mornay ably assisted by a Hunter Valley Vedelho. Where would I be without good friends? Speaking of which, I had a call from Chris Geraghty (the emergency medicine specialist not the judge, a gaggle of Geraghtys in my address book). We chatted for a very pleasant hour and I marvelled at how good it feels to fit in so naturally with one of John’s rellies. It’s like the Newcastle Anglicans versus the Sydney ones, must be something good in the water up there.

November 3, 2018

All good at the hospital today, though John received a letter from the pre-admission clinic saying he was due to have surgery ‘sometime in the next 3 months’ which made me gulp. Hopefully we can get some clarification next week on that one, though the docs are honestly confused about when he will be fit to go ahead. I came home with a list of simple chores to catch up on eg change the sheets and put them in the machine. I hit a wall of exhaustion which happens occasionally with this damned disease and was physically unable to do something that strenuous, so all I could do was sit on the lounge for a couple of hours, it is very frustrating. A cool shower woke me enough to go to First Saturday, though I was still sub-par. A very interesting talk by Dr  Wesumperuma who is Social Protection Adviser for the Ministry of Social Welfare in Myanmar. He spoke on the effects on the societies of South East Asia of the rapidly growing percentage of elderly in those countries. It was interesting to hear his opinions on why Aung San Suu Kyi is unable to act to help the Rohingya people. It is basically, as suspected, that any move in their direction would result in her being ousted immediately due to the Rohingya’s unpopularity with the citizenry and because of the the tight control of the military on parliament. For her any action is sadly beyond the bounds of possibility.

November 4, 2018

Feeling better today so I changed the bed first thing and did the washing before the energy tap turned off again. John was told by a kindly nurse that we could go down to the cafe if desired and he immediately developed a craving for pasta, so we hid his tuna salad lunch, got him into a wheelchair with dripstand and headed downstairs before she changed her mind. The cafe has a limited menu on weekends but I managed to find penne with creamy tomato sauce which was a winner. Then we went for a walk outside which he really enjoyed. I arrived home to find my gardener here for the first time in a month. He had brought me a mower, given my grass a haircut and announced it is now my mower. He is a bowerbird who moves soil, plants, pavers and now a mower from places where they are unwanted to new homes, a real recycler bless him, and I am often the beneficiary. He doesn’t refuse gifts and went away the happy recipient of John’s boxed tuna salad which I’d earmarked for the birds and possum. An odd swap for a mower but he seemed more than pleased with the deal.

November 5, 2018

I got a welcome dispensation from hospital visiting today to feed one of my addictions, going to interesting court cases, in this case the Geoffrey Rush’s defamation trial. I got there early and the only other person present was ABC reporter Jemelle Wells, carrying her plastic box of lunch. This case was on the 18th floor, using a separate high speed lift to the ones I’d used before. The upper courtrooms are surrounded with windows, in one case along two sides, facing east and south with glorious views forever. Geoffrey Rush and his wife sat immediately in front of my seat and I noticed he has hearing difficulties as he cups his hands on his ears regularly. The evidence was mainly about calculating his future earnings and the damage done to it by the Telegraph article. Discussion included such issues as the likelihood of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise  continuing! The intense interest of the judge in this evidence made me think that he is seriously considering a large payout.

From the lunch break on I headed to the Art Gallery to see the John Russell exhibition and took quite a few pics of the favourites to show John tomorrow.  Last time John was sick I remember taking him to the Archibald in a wheelchair, but unfortunately not today. Perhaps he’ll be well enough to go to the Hermitage Exhibition later in the year. I would have seen the paintings in the Hermitage itself in Leningrad in 1973. I remember we visitors having to tie sacks over our feet to protect the floors from scratching, but I can’t see that happening in Sydney 2018.

November 6, 2018

I’ve created a monster in that John told me there was nothing he wanted on the hospital lunch menu today so we must go to the cafe. After a mushroom tortellini he opted for a double icecream and a chai latte. At least he will be putting on more weight. His CRP is now down from 104 two weeks ago to 15 today, it needs to be under 5 for surgery so we are close but I’ve been unable to find anyone who can tell me all the criteria for deciding when to proceed. I’m hoping they will go ahead at this admission but perhaps I am being too optimistic. I missed the Melbourne Cup driving home and realised I don’t care any more. I was always the one organising the sweeps and wearing the funny hat, but I think animal welfare worries as well as the collection of urgers and crooks involved in the game have overcome any joy in the racing. A Four-Legged Lottery as Frank Hardy so rightly told us in 1969, a book worth rereading today and one I owned at the time.

November 7, 2018

So many thoughts swirling tonight. Glad I said nup to the Cup after yet another magnificent creature fell victim to our greed on the racetrack. Angry too about discussion on killing sharks so tourists in Queensland won’t be put off travelling there. When I went to an island on the reef in the early 70s I raced down to jump into the water only to be told that you can’t swim due to the blue ringed octopus, I was shocked but that’s why all the resorts up there have pools. When the sharks come walking up Pitt Street I’ll be in favour of shooting them, maybe.

John finally remembered to ask what the criteria are for going to his next op and was told: a  CRP under 10 for two weeks, stable and symptom free. Ok, now we know what we are aiming for. He will probably remain in hospital this time till that’s achieved. Today when we went for a walk I saw a little person in a wheelchair with no hair and with severely damaged skin all over. Assuming she was a child from the NSW Burns Unit on the floor above John’s. Can’t even begin to imagine how her life will be or how her parents will ever recover. Life is so hard for so many.

November 8, 2018

Just back from a somewhat depressing appointment with Bob. Firstly we discussed my recent illness about which he had received a report from the Prof. He commented that it is possible that the immune system mechanism which makes me sick is a reaction to the natural interferon produced when I get a virus, pointing out that when they give hepatitis C patients Interferon injections they get severe flu like symptoms but the reaction is variable from person to person, that was just a theory though. I made the casual comment that I would be somewhat concerned to travel overseas alone now in case I had a flare. To my surprise he agreed, saying that perhaps my travelling days are over which, if true, is deeply depressing. He suggested I could take a companion to look after me in case I fell ill, ‘ugh’ was my reaction. While discussing the vagaries of immune systems I opined that while John’s haematologist says he is in remission from lymphoma and his blood tests look normal, I thought that there may be a functional immune system problem which is allowing him to pick up infections so easily. He agreed wholeheartedly, saying that the immune system is complex and not clearly understood and John may be missing something that we don’t even know about and therefore cannot test for. This is another terribly depressing notion, but one I’ve been harbouring ever since I had to call the ambulance two weeks ago. I do not now have confidence, even with the expert care he is getting, that he won’t get another serious infection, even when the heart op is done, perhaps even triggering endocarditis. Before I even mouthed that fear Bob read my mind and said ‘endocarditis is a very serious possibility in someone with immunodeficiency’.  I love the fact that we think alike, but today I’d have been happy to have my fears poo-pooed. However John was happy today having a rum and raisin icecream downstairs and I don’t need to burden him with all this.

November 9, 2018

Justice Wigney, I dips me lid to your patience, wisdom and calm. I am tipping he will find for Geoffrey Rush and give him millions. Whenever he agrees with a barrister’s opinion he just slightly nods his head, almost imperceptibly, but it’s there and there were quite a few nods during Rush’s barrister’s summing up. I love the summing up in any trial, because you get an overview of the evidence you missed and it puts the whole trial in perspective. At one stage the judge was handed a printout of a complete chapter in a book on defamation ‘I am not suffering from insomnia my learned friend, but if I were this would be very helpful’, he dryly replied. I shot off a letter to the local paper regarding our bully boy local member, the unpleasant David Elliott, who saw fit to out Ashleigh Raper’s sexual harassment complaint against her wishes. He is a meat head and totally unrepresentative of the area, hopefully the pre-selection committee will think likewise but I won’t hold my breath.

November 10, 2018

Just when we were settled with the plan that John was to stay in hospital for two weeks on the drip until his heart surgery, it all changes. Now he is to go home early next week for a month on three different antibiotic  tablets and if there are no further issues he will come back in the week beginning December 10 for the heart. There are pros and cons to each approach. Naturally he wants to go home but that brings with it many physical challenges requiring round the clock care, which was why the docs gave him the option of staying where he is for the month but he declined. I was surprised they gave him the choice considering the economic pressures on hospitals to meet budget. I had made some minor plans in the next two weeks, boring stuff like haircuts and dentist’s appointments as well as good stuff like a folk concert, a morning tea with friends and a gallery visit sandwiched of course around visiting the hospital each day, but nothing that can’t wait.

November 11, 2018

My normal hospital routine changed today as John’s daughter and family texted yesterday to say they planned to visit. As this was their first contact for 18 months I decided not to go in, despite having told a couple of our friends that I would be there as usual and missing them as a result. However John rang to say that the visit had been cancelled so it was all for nought anyway. The food service at Windsor was fully covered so catching up with the clients out there wasn’t really an option. I do miss them, especially as I’m sure my absence hasn’t been explained at all. If you are not there working you are a non-person and not mentioned at all, though come to think of it you are a non-person when you are there a lot of the time. I wish the Gosford Anglican Church’s welfare arm were closer, even though I normally resist religious organised bodies I think I might fit in better there.

November 12, 2018

John was a bit sub-par today and seemed somewhat miffed that I hadn’t turned up with the car packed with all my gear and ready to take him home. As he had to have the power line removed today and appointments with the social worker, OT, home nurses and home helper to get through, I rightly assumed that there was no chance that he would be released. ‘Are you cross?’ I asked, ‘No just bemused’ he replied, ‘I thought you would come all ready just in case’. I am hoping that his lack of appetite and general malaise today are just part of the change in antibiotics, but time will tell. Caught up with my Goodreads reviews when I got home, added 3, leaving me just 19 behind for the year. Looks like I will miss my target of 100, not that I’m concerned.

November 13, 2018

Had a productive day at home watering the garden, clearing my desk of a pile of paperwork and generally cleaning up. John rang to say he was organising the home help at his place for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week, so we can go to Baulko when we want to on other days. This motivated me to clean up my place in readiness, though most of it was just things in the too hard basket rather then mess. The discharge procedure took all day as expected, so we didn’t leave the hospital till 6.30pm. It seems discharge is the least efficient process in every hospital, particularly discharge notes and pharmaceuticals. Except of course when years ago I went to Westmead Hospital by ambulance with double pneumonia and was woken at 2am by a nurse with my clothes in a bag, pulling off the oxygen mask and telling me they needed my bed due to a car accident in Seven Hills and had called me a cab, no problem with discharge then. Bob was fuming when he came to visit the next day as the physio he called in refused to treat me at home because I should have been in hospital and it might void her insurance. He visited me at home for weeks afterwards. John is more mobile and feels better now than last time he came home and I think it will be much easier to look after him than it was then, which is a huge relief.

November 14, 2018

Stayed in today apart from a trip to buy groceries, feeling quite confident enough to leave John here for an hour so that’s an improvement on last time he was home. The highlight of his day was a survey call from Bunnings, discussing what he had bought over the last 12 months and the two of them waffled on about all his bits and bobs for the street libraries, guessing he’d spent about $700 on them alone. Reading his discharge notes I realised that he’s only been supplied with 4 days worth of drugs, so we needed to make an appointment with Bob on Friday for scripts which happily fits in well with the plan to go to Baulko for the weekend. His drugs fill the largest size of plastic cake tin available……

November 15, 2018

This morning we were expecting the home helper from 10 till 11, so we decided a thorough vaccing of the flat was the best use of her time. We piled onto the bed, the lounge and dining table everything that lives on the floor or under the desk and bed, plus things like stools and a magazine rack. At noon I rang the service only to find that the woman had mixed up the days and thought she was coming tomorrow. Seeing John has a doc’s appointment then, we decided to repair to my house, leaving his in disarray and sorting it out after the helper comes next week. The joy of two premises. John is now sleeping off the effort of being transported here, he tires easily. The luggage when we move is amazing, an Esky, a box of food, clothes, books, drugs etc so it keeps me fit lugging 3 loads of bags downstairs and the reverse when we go back.

I put a call out to friends to see if someone could John-sit tomorrow night while I go to see my friends Margaret and Bob Fagan sing at Hornsby Folk Club, a place I haven’t visited in years. Almost immediately Michelle and Kev volunteered and I had a number of apologies from people who were happy to come but had prior engagements. I am looking forward to hearing them again, the previous time was when they sang at my 70th party last year.

November 16, 2018

Went for an appointment with Bob to stock up on John’s drugs and now they won’t all fit in the largest plastic cake box. I had to throw out three Baxter bottles of IV antibiotics from his fridge yesterday, which made me sad considering they were worth $135 each and he used to be on one bottle a day. Now he’s on the same drug in tablet form at 8 per day, plus two other high dose antibiotics. He was feeling quite unwell this morning and I left him standing on a corner after he saw Bob while I got the car less than a minute away. When I drove up he was on his crutches but bent over nearly double so I was half expecting him to fall before I got to him, it varies so much from day to day. Glad I have minders for tonight or I’d be reluctant to go out. John’s daughter emailed to ask if he could go to Glenbrook to meet the family and he replied that the only way to get there was if I drove him so that scotched the invitation very smartly. I continue to be as popular as a pork hock in a mosque, but I should be used to it after more than 10 years.

November 17, 2018

Enjoyed seeing the Fagans last night but the club I went to every month for over 10 years in the 80s is, unsurprisingly, peopled by a whole new crew these days so the only folks I knew were the musicians. Judging by the difficulty I had being admitted to any of the tables ‘OK, you can sit on our table but at the back, it’s first in best dressed you know’ I’m not in a raging hurry to return and was quite content to leave at interval after the Fagans’ set. That said, many of the members I really enjoyed listening to are dead and gone now, Danny Spooner and Dave Alexander always held the room spellbound, I remember the club members ‘singing him away’ at the graveside in Rookwood’s Jewish cemetery in 1997. John had a good night chewing the fat with Michelle and Kev and I was grateful for the break. This morning Sue and Robert came early and when I lent them a recent novel I’d enjoyed about the residents of a luxury Jewish retirement village in New York, he casually suggested we all go there as part of his bucket list. Yeah, well, mmm, let’s see about that, I’d be content with a cabin in Kiama as things stand. One mystery remains to be solved. Who owns the modern smart phone which emerged from the bowels of the old lounge on my back verandah? I thought Robes was a possible but he said nay, how long has it been since we entertained out there? Not since last summer, that’s for sure. I will see if I can get it opened and look at the photos.

November 18, 2018

We decided that writing a timeline for John’s drugs would be a help, considering there are 27 tablets a day to be taken some required to be before, with or after meals and 14 of them vital antibiotics. So now he just needs to look at the clock and his running sheet to see what to do. I see the new Northern Beaches Hospital is in a world of pain with supplies running out and vital equipment unavailable. Privatisation, don’t you love it? The whole idea of making money out of an area hospital runs counter to my DNA. Every essential service should be in public hands, let people make money selling holidays or jewellery or handbags, but hospitals? Nah.

Making a quick trip to the shops this morning I was confronted with a wandering brass band playing Christmas carols, followed by Santa and his missus, various elves and goblins, some girls in tutus and other characters I could not fathom. It is November people, November. But I was bemused about what constitutes Christmas these days, anything that might bring in a quid I think is the answer. My fervour at seeing the band didn’t encourage me to spend more than intended, just butter, milk and cockroach baits as planned. I haven’t seen a cocky yet but I’m hoping they are not around to celebrate Christmas.

November 19, 2018

Seeing I had a letter printed in the local rag last week, I decided to update my little folder of cutout letters that I’ve had printed in various papers, one more job off the list. There seems to be a theme, surprise surprise. Animal welfare, anti-militarism (people welfare), anti-privatisation (also people welfare) and anti-Right wing politics (definitely people welfare). I know from replies received from David Elliott, my local representative of the Nasty Party, that he dislikes my letters to him, so it give me perverse pleasure imagining his breakfast being spoilt when he opened the Hills Shire Times. “That bloody woman again” I hear him rant in my imaginings. Must send off another letter.

Heather popped in for a cuppa and approved the lemon friands. Her daughter Amelia has come through the tricky brain operation that she has been facing for the last three years, while they tried alternative medical treatments. She had tidied her house in readiness, to the point of sorting every cupboard and drawer, ‘just in case’. What a hard thing for a young mother to face, glad it is behind her now and hopefully successful. We live in such an amazing medical era, with advances that seemed impossible even 10 years ago, though they are so unevenly spread that I am reluctant to discuss John’s treatment in detail with my correspondents in India and Vanuatu when it would be impossible for them to access similar treatment if needed. I won’t get started on the idiocy of spending millions on a building for the APEC meeting while the health services of PNG are barely existent, not to mention Australia’s recent cynical interest in PNG’s ‘welfare’.

November 20, 2018

Had a couple of wins today. John had a home helper coming at 11.30 but also his pals were meeting at noon for their monthly lunch. Solution: Phil picked him up to go to lunch while I met the helper at the flat. Got her to vac thoroughly while I put things back in a way that gave us some space on the floor, though John complained when he got home that he needs the shopping trolley accessible along with various other things I had stashed under the desk and drawing board. ‘When will you be needing the trolley next?’ I asked, ‘February maybe? I will get it out for you then’. Similarly for many other items which have been under our feet. I had planned to go to film group tonight but the two mates John invited over were both busy, so we agreed that I will go to see the film at Roseville tomorrow morning while the home helper is here, timing works perfectly. I am conscious of missing the Financial Services Royal Commission hearings in Sydney this week, something I had long planned to go to, but that’s an all day affair and I doubt anyone would see value in staying with John for that reason (not surprisingly). I really miss my weekly or fortnightly visits to ICAC or court, bit of a law junkie I’m afraid, but I guess people will still be committing crimes next year.

November 21, 2018

Got away as planned to see Boy Erased, a moving depiction of the horrendous gay conversion therapy. I knew a few victims of the Australian version in times past and currently know one survivor. He was abused by a Catholic brother at boarding school and while he was on his way home for Christmas holidays, the only ones he spent at home as his parents travelled the world, the brother rang his mother and suggested he had suspicions that the young teenager was gay. Presumably he was getting in first in case he was accused, but it led to a psychiatrist and then conversion therapy, something he struggles with even now in his 60s. In every country that Britain colonised, as well as those colonised by other Europeans, the acceptance of homosexuality in the dominated country was stamped out in favour of religious Puritanism. In India the British laws were only struck out this year. It is telling that the depicted fearsome head therapist at the Love In Action programme, Victor Sykes, is in real life now married to another man. He has apologised for the his part in the programme and says ‘it never worked’, though this is hardly comfort to the 700,000 Americans who went through similar organisations, some of whom escaped only by suicide.

November 22, 2018

Watched a programme on TV the other night called Are You Autistic? and it posed various scenarios to test if people are on the spectrum. I don’t consider myself affected, but did find one part of the show very interesting. Those being assessed had to make packed lunches from phoned orders as if in a sandwich bar. The two people later diagnosed as autistic were fine until calls came in that involved changes to already completed orders, then they became flustered very quickly and couldn’t cope. I was feeling stressed just watching as I was having exactly the same reactions. I have always said that I am a slow liner to turn, sudden changes of plan always throw me off kilter. Another segment that rang true was inability to multi-task, a not unrelated skill. Tim used to tell me in the shop that I was the only woman he’d ever met who could only do one thing at a time and he was dead right. If two people were waiting to speak to me and the phone rang I just lost the ability to calmly deal with it and ended up serving nobody well. People are happy to cook dinner and watch TV, anathema to me, or to talk on the phone and check their emails. No, my brain has one track only. It is fascinating to me how different brains allow different skills to develop. My IQ tests always collapsed in the mechanical section and assembly of things like IKEA furniture is nigh on impossible for me yet others do it in a trice. A few days ago I cooked John some sausages on the BBQ while I had some fish and later I tried to put the cover on, but after three tries I just couldn’t work it out. John came and took one look, laughing and saying ‘isn’t it obvious it goes this way?’ No, not at all.

November 23, 2018

Today we finally made it to Bronwyn and Michael’s for a meal, something that’s been on again/off again due to John’s illness. Had a lovely Salmon Wellington for 4, a salmon fillet with sauce in puff pastry, which Bronwyn confessed she bought in Aldi for $10, barely the price of the piece of salmon. It was served with one of her delicious salads a la Ottolenghi. Then we did a trip to Lane Cove’s independent bookshop to choose books for John’s granddaughters for Christmas and their birthdays in January. After nearly an hour of browsing we were still undecided but had a pile of possibles when the lady came up and said ‘why don’t you take them all on consignment, decide which you want and bring the rest back?’ No payment, just a phone number. I used to do similar things and only got burnt twice, but of course with furniture it is a bigger risk. Two chairs out of a set of 6 disappeared with one couple, plus a butcher’s block sent home with a vet’s wife. She moved house and I didn’t see the piece nor the $695 again. Years later she came into the shop on crutches with a broken leg and I said ‘oh excellent, you’ve come to pay for the block’. I’ve never seen anyone move as fast on crutches before or since, she must have temporarily forgotten she had diddled me.

November 24, 2018

So tired last night after driving home through horrendous Friday peak hour traffic. I avoid it like the plague but yesterday we had a few extra things to do and were caught, it’s no wonder people are crooked on politicians about the increasing size of Sydney. Today I had the family for lunch, first minding Millie while Dav and Louis went to visit Beth’s new baby Elliot. Millie managed to find one of her Christmas presents, a matching jigsaw puzzle and book, in the trunk where I keep gifts under the bed in the front bedroom, so that kept her happy for a while. Then I gave her my stethoscope and she happily listened to John, me, Teddy and the toy cat for some while. Lunch went off well and I was particularly fond of a salad I did with charred corn (left on the gas jets and turned often) with avo, shallots, mint, parsley and tomatoes. Finished with meringue shells (I cheated and bought some due to time constraints) with cream, home made lemon curd and strawberries. Now looking forward to seeing Daniel Andrews win the Victorian election tonight, surely no-one could vote against the lovely Daniel?

November 25, 2018

Oh what a beautiful morning………oh what a beautiful day. Watched the Libs being smashed for four hours straight last night in the Victorian election and then had a great sleep. While I am sure Turnbull’s overthrow had a bearing on the result, they just don’t get it that the 1950s are over and won’t be coming back. When you campaign against proven life-saving injecting rooms, the already passed euthanasia legislation, the Safe Schools programme and then want to bring religious education into the classrooms of public schools, you are in for a hiding in socially progressive Victoria.

We went to Glenbrook today to meet up with John’s daughter and family so he could give his granddaughters their Christmas gifts. It was suggested we meet at Jellybean Pool, which I discovered is inside the National Park and on arrival we were taken aback to find it was down a steep stone path into a deep gully, which John couldn’t dream of attempting on crutches. He rang while they were still on the train and the venue for the picnic was altered to a park. However it was suggested we meet for a coffee first near the station and that’s as far as we got, having various drinks and food over a couple of hours. My picnic food made for an easy dinner. The kids were very pleased with their books and enjoyed the visit and I breathed a sigh of relief that it went off well. I happened to meet up in the cafe with the former moderate Liberal NSW Opposition leader Peter Collins and his wife, old clients of the shop. I restrained myself and didn’t crow over the Danslide in Victoria, ahem, restraint not usually my strong suit.

November 26, 2018

Enjoyed a visit from Deborah and Stephen for lunch and the afternoon. It was such a relaxing time after the various stresses inherent in yesterday’s rendezvous. Such a pity that our long held plans for Christmas together have had to be put on hold due to John’s expected residence in hospital for the festive season, Christmas in July perhaps? Another win on the political front now that the nasty far Righter Senator Jim Molan has been relegated to third spot on the election ticket for next year, an unwinnable position. So only for another few months will we have to endure his ugly physog on the teev. Small mercies always appreciated. Yesterday when inspecting the track to Jelly Bean Pool I was approached by a lady who asked if she could take my photo because ‘you are a picture of coordination, from your hair down’ (I was all in grey). Today she sent me the pic and it turns out she is a professional photographer, love those random meetings with beautiful humans.

November 27, 2018

Bad news today from my friend and gardener John D. He had a doc’s appointment yesterday and was diagnosed with prostate cancer with a Gleason Score of 8 in severity out of a possible 10. On Thursday he goes for an MRI to see how far it has spread, if at all. But still he was his cheery self, finally planting my camellia after I don’t know how long, but really he came for a hug I think. After checking the car’s oil and water, putting drain cleaner in two blocked drains, packing enough luggage for an overseas trip including emptying the perishables from my fridge into cooler bags, we got away to John’s late and then needed to go to the pharmacy for his drugs plus other shopping so by the time we got here I was tired and starting to get cross. But his neighbour Chris came down and helped bring all the bags up so then I was a happy camper. I hadn’t realised how many things John used to do around the place till he was unable to do any of them, even carrying a cup of tea isn’t possible when you are on crutches. Started reading Everything Trump Touches Dies by Rick Wilson, a conservative Republican who has links with campaigns of many past presidents. I try to recommend political books for purchase at the local library and this was one of those, the third anti-Trump book they’ve bought at my request so I should probably diversify and recommend anti-Morrison ones, though that seems such a waste when after next March no-one will even remember who he was.

November 28, 2018

Woke up at 5am and decided to spend the early morning getting into my Trump book and had read a third by the time John woke at 9am. Jane came today for lunch and to stay with John while I darted off to Roseville Cinema to see The Children Act, the film of a book I’ve recently finished and much enjoyed. It was as true to the book as any film I’ve seen, the dialogue and scenes lifted exactly, so well worth seeing. Busy tonight choosing 6 books from those submitted for our book group next year, strangely I never vote for my own recommendations (because I’ve read them and want something new). Though we’ve had some rain here today, we’ve not had the pelting that other suburbs have had so I’m a bit jealous that I missed the pounding that the Hills apparently got as I just love heavy rain and storms, preferably without wind though as I worry about tree branches on the roof.

November 29, 2018

When I began this little exercise I determined that the blog would tell the truth: fearlessly and as fully as a few paragraphs can. A doughty dispatch, to echo my original name. But I’ve discovered that it isn’t always simple to do that, so perhaps we will poke about in fiction tonight and see how we go. Imagine a seriously unwell man seeing his daughter again after 18 months of stony silence. They meet in public and her first words are about how terrible he looks, but there is merit in straight talking, it can be refreshing in a world of weasel words. Shortly after though the questions begin: Who is getting all the stuff in your flat when you go? Where is that painting of the flowers? Why did you give away that book I liked as a child? To whom? And then the statements: We are entitled to everything there, it’s our heritage. Don’t give anything away in future without consulting me first. Perhaps I am not such a good fiction writer after all? Such a conversation couldn’t happen, surely. Nah, I think in future I will stick to fact.

November 30, 2018

I looked at the above and it bothered me that I had written ‘dispatch’ where perhaps it should have been ‘despatch’ so I compared the meanings and I am off the hook, exactly the same only American versus British spelling, so despatch it is from now on. Made a strawberry and Drambuie trifle for the book group Christmas party and nearly everyone else thought strawberry too in some form, but it is that time of year. Carol excelled with not one but two roast turkeys, stuffing, roast veges and salads. This year has seen our number battered by the winds of fate, John sick all year, Phil with pancreatic cancer, Robert a brain tumour, Norma’s John with dementia and Sonia a heart attack. We are very lucky that all of us are here to celebrate another year’s end and we know it!

December 1, 2018

Robert and Sue stayed overnight and had the traditional single malt whisky nightcap, hopefully they will finish off the bottle soon, an unwanted gift as I hate whisky but it was too good a brand to go in cooking. Made a bacon, egg and avocado breakfast for three and I stuck to my toast and jam. As usual we magged till they were out the door after 10 am and we were still magging on the driveway till John reminded me we were late for morning tea at Kathie and Ian’s house. They are new friends we met when she wrote me a letter after seeing my pic on the front page of the Hills Shire Times when the street library brought me my five minutes of fame, she was fan club member number one. I still have a folder full of cards and letters which came at that time. Letters went back and forth between us, then emails, then phone calls till I invited them for morning tea here and now they’ve returned the invitation. Funny how a box out on the street can start whole new friendships, as John and Ian hit it off too.

Then on to John’s as he had left his phone charger there as well as the high vitamin drinks prescribed by the hospital. The foyer was full of police and we had to ask to get inside. It turned out John’s neighbour immediately below had died in her unit and the police had apparently forced their way in after her mother couldn’t raise her on the phone or by knocking. Later as we were leaving we saw the coroner’s men taking her away, the second of his close neighbours whom we’ve seen depart on a trolley, though the one next door a while back was almost my age while Camilla downstairs was only in her late 30s at best guess. Watching them wheel away someone whom you spoke to only days a go is a weird feeling. Combined with the total destruction of the unit next to hers by fire, that makes a disaster on each of the 3 sides, hopefully the third is the last and the ‘disasters come in threes’ rule is satisfied.

December 2, 2018

We were lucky enough to have another visit from Stephen today and he came laden with gifts including a lovely elephant design metal caddy of Kenyan tea for me, plus hand cream and a fluffy black eye mask with ‘catnap’ written across it in gold, very movie star in effect. I’m hoping it’s not actual cat fur, but it’s certainly soft enough to be so. John got a smart phone which Stephen spent much of the afternoon trying to set up, unfortunately without success, it seems to be faulty and will need to go back but I’m sure the return will be no problem. We both have big days tomorrow, John is going to a Tenants Network meeting, unusually being held in Parramatta, and they are organising transport, so I am hareing off to the city while I have the chance.

December 3, 2018

Well I said I had a big day on today and I wasn’t wrong. John went off to the Tenants Network meeting by taxi and I headed off to town for a meeting, followed by a proposed morning tea with Carol in her Circular Quay building. The bus trip in was marked by many jerky stops and starts courtesy of a bad driver and I arrived feeling quite sick. But worse was to come. I tried to continue with my plans but soon started vomiting and then got vertigo so badly that I couldn’t bear to stand, sit or open my eyes. This has happened many times before but not recently and never from a simple bus journey, it usually takes a boat or plane ride to bring it on. (The most memorable event for John, which he loves retelling, was our bumpy arrival in Dublin, after which I vomited into his prized Akubra hat. Later the airport people insisted on calling an ambulance as I was unable to walk out of the terminal, or at all, for 24 hours, that event really spoiled our trip as it took me days to recover). So yesterday I asked Tricia, whose office I was visiting, to phone Carol and explain that meeting her wasn’t a possibility and Carol took it upon herself to come to the building and then promptly called an ambulance. The trip there was highly problematic for me as it involved yet more motion, but it had to be gone through. The first anti-emetic injection didn’t work but later drugs through a drip did, so eventually the situation righted itself, or more accurately the wonderful docs and nurses righted it. John meanwhile had returned home and was sensible enough to ring his niece Jane who picked him up and took him to her house for a T-bone steak dinner and a sleep-over, so he had a positive outcome to his day. She also picked me up about 8.30pm from the hospital after the doc finally agreed to let me go despite very low potassium levels with a promise to take the meds provided and go straight home to bed (no dancing, I felt like asking?). So the day turned out very differently from that intended, I didn’t get to eat cake while chewing the fat with Carol, something I intend to rectify, and I have a date with a neurologist in a couple of weeks.

December 4, 2018

Feeling floaty and strangely calm today, the usual serene state on the day after a vertigo attack, long may it continue. I am thinking more and more that it might turn out to be Meniere’s Disease as I have all 3 symptoms: tinnitus, hearing loss and attacks of vertigo, especially so since my brother was diagnosed with it at about my current age. His attacks are, strangely, related to high atmospheric pressure not motion, but both are possible triggers. We shall see, but I am forecasting that as an end result, but hoping I am wrong because it usually ends in total deafness in the ear affected by the tinnitus and mine is bilateral. Kenneth is now totally deaf in his affected ear and it took less than 5 years for that to occur. My lovely new neighbour came in to tell me he is getting his huge gum tree trimmed so it doesn’t overhang my house. The old neighbour refused my request to do it on financial grounds, he was only the chief financial officer in a minor bank, poor thing, but Arvind is keen to do it ‘because I would be really upset if a branch fell on your roof’. Bless. Double bless for Heather who turned up this afternoon bearing pikelets!

December 5, 2018

I wish I could say that I felt totally better but that would be a lie. However I baked blueberry muffins, chosen just because I had all the ingredients and didn’t need to drive, as two of the women from the Link Housing office are coming to John’s tomorrow for morning tea. I went to see Bob this arv and he had the report from the hospital which recommends my going to the RPA Balance Clinic and Lab, the so-called dizzy clinic, to see Dr Nham so I will book that tomorrow. Apparently vertigo is all they do there so it sounds like the right place to get a diagnosis finally after years of forgetting about it till it happens next time. I’ve been getting it for about 30 years so not before time I guess. Complicating that, and concerning in itself, is the fact that John had a call to tell him his surgery is on January 18, after we’ve been informed it is definitely next week by three different docs. Calls to their secretaries, who promised to get back to us have so far produced no calls back, but I am not liking the smell of stuff up on the wind. Strange that today he felt able to drive for the first time in months, just as I am unable to, so he took me to Castle Hill to see Bob.

November 6, 2018

Success! I decided to embrace the squeaky wheel policy and so this morning we headed to the office of the TAVI doctor whose secretary appeared to be giving us the run around. Shirtfronting the counter, we asked when John was going to hospital and she explained that the TAVI co-ordinator, an admin worker, had been off all week ‘so who is doing her job’ I asked? Well no-one it appears. The secretary said John wasn’t on the list for this week but she would speak to the doc. Surprise! An hour later we got the call: he goes to hospital on Monday for a new heart valve at 6.30am Tuesday, followed closely after by a new knee we are assured. Not sure if the early start is because he was added on to the list, or if they always start at that ungodly hour. Came home to his flat and had a social visit for afternoon tea from two of the Link Housing managers, who get on well with him because he serves on committees with them. He was immediately offered the mirror image flat downstairs where the lady died last Saturday and he accepted happily. No more flight of stairs to get up, but he needed a doc’s report justifying it on medical grounds so he doesn’t have to compete with other tenants, it would be an administrative transfer and a new tenant would get his place. Bob did a report immediately so it looks as if it will happen, but the timing will be subject to his fitness to be here to supervise the movers. As I said, success!

November 7, 2018

Had a surprise call from Dr Nham the neurologist from RPA asking how I was feeling and saying he would definitely like to see me before Christmas (perhaps he has a special gift for me or is expecting one?). When do you want me to come I asked? I can fit in with you, he said. He could have seen me this coming week but because of John’s schedule I suggested the following Monday the 17th. What time would you like to come? he said. How does 2pm sound? I answered and he replied in the affirmative and said to see him in the neuroscience laboratory. I’ve never had a doctor ring me personally to make an appointment before, certainly never been asked to choose any day and time, most unusual but I’m not complaining. Perhaps he is doing research on this problem as he introduced himself as Dr Nham Neurologist and Research Fellow. I may get a Bunnings card at the end of the appointment, which I shall ask to be exchanged for one for a good restaurant. I was still feeling off this morning but had to cater for two of John’s friends coming for lunch, one of whom was over from WA so we could hardly cancel. They are lovely fellows, friends since school and the seminary and we all had a good day. But part way through the washing up afterwards I noticed a strange lifting of the feeling I’ve had since Monday of not quite being me. It was odd, sort of ethereal and light, but as if I suddenly got myself back. Noice one!

November 8, 2018

Headed off to North Richmond to visit my old restorer of 27 years, John Koster. Not a social call, but to take one of my carver chairs that a certain gentleman managed to snap the joints on by dragging it under his seated weight. At least he has an excuse, and a good one. Then we called in to see Brian who has been in Hawkesbury Hospital for 10 weeks waiting for just the same heart fix as John, a TAVI, which was done at Westmead a couple of weeks ago. He happened to be at home for a few hours on a test run to see if he can manage. He looked old and frail and despite the TAVI I just can’t see him managing alone, even with outside help, but I hope I’m wrong. Had a sushi lunch out there and wended our way home. Received a call today from Goben, the ortho registrar, to tell John that the TAVI doctor has convinced them that it is too dangerous to go ahead with the knee for a few weeks because he will need to be on extra blood thinners and he will now get it done when ‘Dr Bhindi gives us the green light’. Disappointing, but safer in the long run, however it means that he is now on the crutches into January. When we were out at Windsor today John asked if we should visit Donna and Roger while we were there. I said I would leave it up to him, but he commented that ‘I think I am too tired, but it is possible I will never see them again’.

December 9, 2018

Woke to the sound of Jim taking branches off next door’s giant gum tree. His assistant was like a tiny animal moving around in the crown. He stuck strictly to the law, only reducing the bulk by 7% and favouring those branches liable to fall on my roof. I had big plans for a gardening hour or two but it was raining sawdust and I washed my hair last night…..pathetic, but true. Sent off separate thankyou cards to Tricia and the ladies who were so kind to me last Monday when I was indisposed, to put it mildly. Decided to take John out for a casual lunch at Circa in Parramatta before he goes to hospital. We both had Pan Fried Cone Bay Saltwater Barramundi with brown rice, pine nuts, chili, asparagus, broccolini and radish with tahini lemon dressing, 10/10. John would have been happier if it came with mash and peas but he has very conservative tastes in food, however he raved about the pot of chai and friand afterwards even though there were no chai or friands in the 1950s, well not in Sydney anyway. I love the atmosphere there, it is actually a garage with a roller door at front and the tiniest kitchen imaginable. The staff are a league of nations and I love that about the place too. As we left they were doing staff meals and they all looked just as great as ours. It is lucky John is going to hospital tomorrow as his aerobic capacity has taken a sudden turn for the worse, no doubt due to his required reduction in blood thinners prior to the op. He can hardly get in and out of the car due to breathlessness. Finished reading Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell, quite a memorable novel and not at all what I was expecting. The ice and snow of Sweden will stick with me for some time but particularly the interrelationships and characters he made real. I will recommend it to Robert, not exactly sure why, but the main character has some of his strength and no bullshit mien.

December 10, 2018

Picked up my hearing test results from this year and last from the Hearing Hub at Macquarie Uni, as requested by Dr Nham, one more job out of the way. Then went to John’s so he could pack his meagre bag for hospital and he made sure we arrived spot on the requested hour of 3 pm. I thought of suggesting that we take a breather and have an icecream in the foyer before entering the fray, but John is so particular about punctuality, as I am, but I just knew we would be in for a long wait. Sure enough we sat in the hospital’s ‘transit lounge’, which sounds as if we are headed off on a major trip, till 6 pm (so the plane must have had mechanical problems) and the icecream became a distant dream. Eventually he was put in exactly the room in the cardiac ward that I occupied for 5 days a couple of years ago, while they did all manner of tests on my heart and discovered a hernia and an ulcer were to blame for the chest pain. When I mentioned this to John he looked totally confused and said he didn’t remember my ever being in hospital. ‘Did I come to visit you?’ he asked. ‘Yes, every day’, I said. He still had no recollection at all and clearly doubted that it ever happened. I have been missing the meal service at Windsor on Saturday nights for some months now, so I’ve just heard of the events of last Saturday night. They were in the middle of service when they heard screaming from straight across the river and looked to find a man in trouble in the middle of the river and his friend screaming for help. The volunteers and patrons watched in horror as the man disappeared under the water, not to be seen again. Police divers recovered his body at 11.30 pm that night. The currents are strong there and the river bed is full of deep holes, but it was a very hot night and just misjudged the dangers. He was a healthy 45 year old whose son graduates from Year 12 tomorrow.

December 11, 2018

What a day. John was due to go to theatre at 6.30 am but it ended up being 3 hours later. While he was in recovery I was entertained by a large female choir singing in the foyer. I was expecting Christmas songs but was very pleasantly surprised to find it was a mix of everything from ABBA to musical theatre to We Are Australian. It was a show of my lack of emotional strength at the moment that I was sniffling in the latter, tearing up in Your Love Puts Me at the Top of the World and positively crying in the last song, Hallelujah. By the time John arrived in his room I had got it out of my system and was as cool as a cucumber. His TAVI went well with no unpleasant surprises apart from quite a lot of pain over the femoral artery entry point which was stopped with a mechanical external pressure device which is pumped up to press on the opened artery. He also had smaller devices on both wrists, which were similarly painful. He had to lie perfectly still for 4 hours which is hard when you are in pain. I stayed till mid afternoon and was glad to get home after an almost sleepless night. While I was on the phone filling Deborah in on the day, I got yet another call from RPA, the third, regarding my appointment with Dr Nham next Monday. It is the sort of service you expect at a cosmetic surgery clinic anxious that you don’t cancel, rather than a free public hospital department, though I am not complaining. I had asked Jane to mind John if he is home by then and she had happily agreed, but I just had an email to say she needs to go to NZ urgently as she has a cousin there who is dying. I will have a think about Monday as it is easy to get someone for a couple of hours, but harder to ask for the best part of a day, though I’m sure it will all work out.

December 12, 2018

John saw all the docs today and they are happy for him to come home tomorrow, amazeballs. I put up the Christmas tree in the afternoon, I had decided not to bother since I wouldn’t be entertaining here this year, but now it’s up I’m glad I expended the effort. Sent off some money to Getup to help pay for an ad to go in cinemas in Warringah to try to unseat Tony Abbott (spit, curse). Just watching it makes me confident that it’s possible. Reading a book which talks about research on Pompeii and apparently early tourists paid an entry fee and were allowed to take home anything they found, gold, jewellery, even skeletons. Also they lowered dogs into holes where the fumes were rising and guessed how long before they died. Perhaps we have added a little more civilisation, not a lot, but a little.

December 13, 2018

Met Dav in Baulko early and drove her over to Beth’s to visit with her and baby Elliot, who is a groaning, grunting, rooting bundle of loveliness at 5 weeks. Just about to tell Dav about the four calls and a letter from RPA Balance Clinic when the phone rang and, sure enough, it was Dr Nham asking how I am feeling today. ‘Very well’ I said, ‘and how are you?’. He ended the call with ‘Stay well and I look forward to seeing you Monday’. If he were not 40 or so I would start to think he was about to plight his troth (or at least invite me to lunch) but I think he is just super nice, maybe he doesn’t have a heap of patients yet? I don’t know, will work it out Monday I guess, but I felt I had let him down with no symptoms to discuss Smilie: :) Then repaired to the hospital as John rang to say he was in the transit lounge and ready to go. I should have known that was too good to be true and of course it turned out he had to wait for some drugs from pharmacy, a delay of a couple of hours ‘in transit’. Came home to an email from Dally whose spy had told him Cardinal Pell was found guilty on all charges, the news suppressed in Oz because he has more charges to face, but widely reported overseas. When I think of him refusing communion to gay men I could spew, but I am always deeply suspicious of those who decry homosexuality fervently, wondering what their own closets contain.

December 14, 2018

I parked John in the library to read the papers while I went to an appointment with my dentist, it finally came off after having to cancel twice due to John’s circumstances. The bill of $650 was written off for the measly $156 rebate from Medibank Private, a huge discount not asked for, but given. He reminded me that I had been going every 6 months for 19 years. While I was away John got a call from Link Housing to say that he has been given the flat downstairs and can move as soon as they clean it out and do any repairs or redecorating needed, naturally he is pretty pleased, no staircase plus a garage. Later I went up to Bob’s surgery to pick up John’s new script and asked whether we can expect an improvement in his breathlessness and weakness, but Bob said that he thought that was mainly from the cardiomyopathy, not the valve. ‘The replacement stopped him from dying when the valve finally gave out, but the cardiomyopathy, which isn’t treatable, causes his symptoms’ he said. We had been hopeful of improvement, but it is what it is. Someone put ‘War and Peace’ in the street library today, after I’d been mulling over whether to reread it after nearly 50 years. A sign from the goddesses perhaps? I brought it in and will begin over the Christmas break. No call from dear Dr Nham today.

December 15, 2018

Oh, what a night, late December back in ’63. No, not that one but 15th December ’18 doesn’t have quite the same ring. The day was spent pleasantly, a trip up to North Richmond to pick up my broken chair in time for Christmas saw John Koster announce that the repair was my Xmas present, which was unnecessary but lovely. When we came out of his house my John and the car were nowhere to be seen, till we finally spotted him parked in the driveway of the Jehovah’s Witness Hall next door. Two men were watching him with interest but not bombarding him with tracts to read thankfully. He had no idea that he wasn’t in John’s driveway despite the grounds being 10 times as big as John’s block. Anyway, he was found. I did some good work cleaning up the back deck and scrubbing bird poo off the boards, my pet magpies sit there looking in the back door to see what I’m up to. Then just as I was making dinner a huge storm blew up in a few minutes, landing branches on the roof, coincidentally one week exactly since the tree was cut back, and letting water in to the front bedroom ceiling. No mobile reception on either phone, no landline, no internet, no power. So the whole baked trout became pan fried trout cooked on the gas and eaten by candlelight but even more delicious for that. Worked out we could finally use John’s phone to text so I contacted Dav, who repeatedly phoned the SES for help and finally got through. Early night was had when the power didn’t return.

December 16, 2018

Got onto GIO after waiting from 7.09 till 8.25am for them to answer, snowed under not surprisingly. Paid my $200 excess and waited for the SES to arrive to tarp the roof, but then 2 fire trucks and 6 firies turned up and went to work. One was straight onto the roof ‘got any spare tiles love?’ ‘sure, under the house’. Next there were tiles aflying and 2 of them on the roof fixing the damage. ‘Not worth tarping, we’ll just fix it’ and soon it was done. The other 4 dragged all the branches from the yard to the kerb to be mulched by the council and then they were gone. Shortly after GIO’s tiler rang to say he was on his way so I told him it was all sorted. Now if the ceiling dries ok I will cancel the painting too, get my $200 back and be a winner all round, we shall see. John had a plan to tie a tennis ball to a tarp, throw it on the roof and do it ourselves, the firies looked at him, looked at me and laughed about that one. Always a trier. Went to Stockland Mall for internet but theirs is out along with their aircon and lifts, so repaired to my second home, the library. Optus Shop tells me no phone or internet till Tuesday at least, tower down or hit by lightning. Completed cleaning the deck of poo, this time scrubbing the chairs and handrail, but we have power, how delicious is that?

December 17, 2018

Dropped John off at the Lane Cove home of Bronwyn and Michael while I got the train from Artarmon into town. Walked from Newtown to the hospital and was early, as usual, for my appointment with Dr Nham. He asked a lot of questions, sagely murmuring ‘interesting’ every now and again. Then he put me through a battery of neurological tests which I didn’t even try to understand, before announcing I am at the extreme end of the range for motion sickness, what a surprise! His diagnosis though is Vestibular Migraine, ruling out Meniere’s Disease from the audiology patterns. It is a hereditary form of migraine without headache where the brain begins to ‘chemically misfire’ for up to 72 hours. It involves the eyes, ears and brain but it is in the brain that the problem exists, causing a ‘brainstorm’ of vertigo, vomiting, sensitivity to light and difficulty walking straight, yep sounds about right. He has given me two scripts for drugs to carry for when it happens again, which is comforting. If I ever plan to travel overseas again, he said to see him a month before and he will put me on preventative drugs, but I don’t really want to take them all the time, which is the other option.

December 18, 2018

John went off with his seminary friends for the usual monthly conflab but decided he is well enough now to cope alone, so arranged for one of their number to take him grocery shopping and then home after the lunch. I had a surge of enthusiasm for what I could complete around the house but the surge soon dwindled to a trickle. At the moment I feel directionless without any enthusiasm for the new year. We were due to be post surgery by now but it stretches ahead, likely to end of February, ending our plans to head to Melbourne for a while including seeing Miriam Margolyes in The Lady in the Van. John I suspect is quite relieved at some level when plans fall through as he really prefers pottering and getting small projects completed. However I regret all the lost opportunities which don’t seem to offer themselves a second time. I shouldn’t be blogging tonight, the world is looking bleaker than it should.

December 19, 2019

A good cure for the Poor Mes (looks funny but I refuse to use an inappropriate apostrophe) is a trip into town so that’s exactly what I did. I could probably have found the particular elusive gift I was searching for at Castle Towers, but a visit there would have left me feeling more depressed than I was, whereas a trip into town is always a boost to the spirits (ahem, excepting of course my visit two weeks ago). It took visits to three shops but then I found what I was after and managed to pick up a second item for the same person in The Rocks. I love to visit Crafts NSW while there but their premises were empty and they had moved from their central position to Argyle Place, out of the way and in premises less than a quarter of the size, with much reduced stock. I can’t see them making a success of it there, such a shame after a history dating back to 1906. Met up with Carol for lunch at our usual haunt and we tossed around the issues of the day while eating delicious vege quiches and salad.

I spoke to Kenneth and reported Dr Nham’s long distance diagnosis that he probably has the same genetic brain problem as I have, although his attacks are triggered by high atmospheric pressure cells. The good doc assured me that he has patients with that same trigger and that it is the brain chemistry which is the problem and what actually starts it off is irrelevant and makes no difference to the diagnosis. One of his patients has attacks if she drinks white wine for example, somewhat easier to avoid than transport or weather variations. Bob has said that we are land animals and it is unnatural for us to sail or fly, so perhaps some of us just didn’t evolve to be able do that easily, closer to the Neanderthals we are and I’m ok with that if he’s right.

December 20, 2018

There are a few things that rile me to my core and waste is one of those. John reports that two men came to clear out the flat beneath him, into which he will move in the new year. The deceased tenant’s family didn’t want any of her things, so whether they were responsible for what ensued or it was Link Housing is unclear. But a skip was positioned underneath the balcony and everything: clothes, furniture, a TV, microwave, pots, pans, kitchen appliances, crockery, cutlery and personal effects were thrown into it. I couldn’t have watched without challenging them to stop, but somehow John didn’t feel he could intervene, even only with some abuse from above. How they could do that without salvaging all the useful items for the Sallies or Vinnies completely baffles me and signifies a life without empathy. I am tempted to hope that they learn one day what poverty is like.

Heather rang early and invited me to her house for brunch, toasted baguette slices topped with home made pesto followed by Pear Clafoutis, sprinkled with Curacao, straight out of the oven and accompanied by a pot of Russian Caravan tea. Superb. We took off from there to Castle Hill industrial area to browse a wholesale and retail lolly and chocolate business and pick up a few last minute items, so much more fun than shopping in the big stores. I was happily able to get sugar-free chocolates to take to Brian tomorrow.

December 21, 2018

The insurance assessor came first thing and photographed the ceiling damage, it will be repainted after Christmas. Surprisingly, he was amenable to fixing the floor damage at the back door too, though we will wait a while to see if the boards flatten out spontaneously, an unlikely prospect in my view. I certainly can’t fault the speed with which GIO has acted, especially considering the massive amount of storm claims it is currently handling. I hared out to Windsor to take Brian out for a sushi lunch as arranged but he seemed surprised I was there and declared he wasn’t up to going out. However he was pleased with my suggestion that I get takeaway sushi and we eat it on his front verandah. Received an unexpected parcel in the mail, a book from Pam, the only Liane Moriarty novel that I haven’t read, even though she had no idea that I even like her or which ones of hers I may have read. Although they aren’t considered high art, I find her understanding of human nature and Australian culture to be extraordinary and she never fails to be believable. In person at a literary event I found her somewhat flat and uninteresting, yet she turns out very readable novels centred on Australian suburban life.

December 22, 2018

Trying to complete some visits before Christmas so this morning I went to see Phil and Martha, via the the Sweet Chocolate Warehouse where I was able to duplicate Brian’s gift of chocolate for diabetics for Phil and some Belgian hearts for Martha. The roads were just lined with branches and whole trees and Koala Park was closed to visitors due to storm damage, I hope all the animals fared well, but sad for the owners to close at their busiest time. Saw Michelle W. in the afternoon and gave her an innocuous looking gift which has hidden inside something of mine that she’s long admired, a tiny, tiny four note Hohner mouth organ from the 1920s or 30s. I so love it when I can find a home where a special item will be loved and appreciated. Organised to mind Millie overnight next Thursday at Erko so Dav and Louis can have a night out in town. Terribly excited to be told today that John has a treat organised for us for New Year’s Eve. The anticipation coloured my whole day and I got a lot done as a result. Last year we went to the high part of The Rocks for the 9pm fireworks, but this year it is impossible for John to be standing on crutches for any length of time so it is a seated wine and dine.

December 23, 2018

Without really making a conscious decision about it, I have managed to contact most friends this year with either a card, gift, visit or phone call. I don’t want to get into a tit-for-tat gift thing, so I just gave gifts where I thought of something appropriate and had a cuppa and catchup with others. Spoke tonight to my ex-husband’s second wife and also messaged his sisters with whom I’ve reconnected via Facebook. I’m sure I’ve left some people out but I can correct that for New Year. I am aware of how suddenly people can disappear from our lives and I don’t want too much grass to grow between visits. Picked John up today and we stopped in Lane Cove for him to get a couple of scripts, at least I thought that’s what we did, but he disappeared for the best part of an hour and I was getting worried as his phone went unanswered three times. Spotted two Maori men wandering and asked them to keep an eye out for a man on crutches and let him know that I was at the car, but couldn’t get in as he had the keys. In typical Maori fashion they decided off their own bat to set off on a search, looking in the toilets and the streets and eventually arriving back with John in tow, ‘I had things to do’ he remarked enigmatically.

December 24, 2018

The Tale of The Glue, both funny and true. John wanted to use my excellent Selley’s spray glue on some paper but I discovered too late he had done it directly on the outdoor table leaving an aurora of glue around the work. I tried hot water, Jif, a scourer, steel wool, but to no avail. So I asked him to have a go with my cure-all, eucalyptus oil. He decided to put some oil soaked paper towels on top of the glue and, because it was slightly windy, weighed them down with four very old rulers from my desk (you can guess the next bit I’m sure). Some time later he discovered that the rulers were glued fast to the paper yet there was no sign of it coming off the table. So he then began to clean the rulers with eucalyptus, which removed the numbers, until I asked him to desist. So I have 4 rulers still, with a choice of those too sticky to use or those with no divisions or numbers, a conundrum to be sure. My respect for Selley’s glue increased though.

Apart from that the day progressed well, this morning just as I was thinking I hadn’t spoken to Bob, he materialised on the escalator in Castle Mall on his way to his practice and we got to have a hug for Christmas after all, love that man to bits. Rang my dear friend Jackie and ralphed on for an hour after partly cooking the dessert for tomorrow and shovelling soil and gravel from the driveway, washed down by the storm. A lot of good jobs jobbed today. Overheard John taking a call, sotto voce negotiations transpired regarding New Year’s Eve, the plot thickens.

December 25, 2018

I was slow to warm to Christmas 2018, but as with any slow cook the result was much improved. After finishing the dessert and packing two poly boxes full of presents we repaired to Erskineville through very little traffic and wished for Sydney to return to that state. Millie was more than ready for the present opening which occupied us for some time. I scored a copy of Lucia Berlin’s latest book, a bottle of French blackcurrant liqueur to make Kir Royale, my favourite drink, and a card from John promising a holiday in our fave hotel in Melbourne, Treasury on Collins, plus a reveal of our NYE plans, a degustation dinner with a view of the fireworks, too spoilt. Davina did a Southern American lunch of prawns with ranch dressing, Cajun snapper, cornbread, corn and avocado salad and coleslaw followed by my watermelon and strawberry cake, her Drambuie soaked Christmas cake and homemade rocky road. Groan, but in a good way. We met and loved Carly’s friend Danish who settled right in as if he were here every Christmas, 10/10. John rang Stephen at 9pm when we got home and they were still flapping their gums at 11, when I retired for bed.

December 26, 2018

Yesterday when we girls went for a walk I scored a book in a street library, Writing Home by Alan Bennett who, apart from being a wonderful memoirist  and playwright, was a friend of Kenneth’s at Cambridge. I own the book but noticed this one was much thicker so I grabbed it. When I checked it was 634 pages as against my copy’s 417. It was a later edition of his autobiographical stories including The Lady in the Van, that beautiful true short story now a film and soon to be played on the stage by Miriam Margolyes. We had planned to go down to Melbourne for it but it now seems John will still be in hospital or rehab then. So I’ve scored the updated version and my old one will go into my library.

I did a good job today moving all my winter clothes to the spare bedroom and all my summer ones into mine. So exhausting was it that I had to spend the rest of the afternoon finishing Henning Mankell’s novel The White Lioness, no guilt at all seeing it was Boxing Day, traditionally set aside for reading and I even had tonight’s dinner already made in the fridge. I had pressed John this morning to come to Olympic Park to ogle at the building which has been partly condemned due to cracking. He didn’t find the prospect at all exciting whereas I am somewhat obsessed by it. If a dodgy certifier isn’t in the mix I’ll eat my hat. The idea of privatising certification is a joke, the one who certified my deck didn’t come closer to it than the driveway before getting Peter the builder to sign that he’d been there, but luckily I know Peter is fastidious. Peter was disgusted, as was I. Who would hire a certifier who found fault with one of their buildings? Next time you just hire a different and more compliant one. Governments who privatise such things are naive in the extreme, if not unscrupulous. Come the Revolution t