Life Notes 11

February 1, 2023 expanded

It seems I had inexplicably lost the entry for January 30 and the last two days’ posts are a bit bunched up and the spacing seems unfixable, so I’ve decided to start a new post in the hope that whatever problem exists will sort itself out. I went back and rewrote January 30 from memory but I’m sure I must have said something else so profound that it would echo through the ages, which at this point is lost.

Today I had a home appointment with a My Aged Care operative who rubbed me up the wrong way at the outset by suggesting that I needed to put John into a home because: ‘you only get one life and he’s just going to get worse over time’. This was after: ‘I had to step over a plant to get in here’, later investigations proved that it was one single Agapanthus head that had fallen over the path. Anyway I’ve decided it would have been better not to have her here at all, but you live and learn. John has a haematologist’s appointment with Nada soon but today they rang to say she’s still too unwell with long Covid and hopes to be back in March, they’ve been saying next month since August. So we have a Zoom with a different doc which that saves me the drive into town anyway.

February 2, 2023

This morning I headed into the city on the bus for the protest at Pell’s memorial service. I have never in my life seen so many police in the one place, streets blocked off and shoulder- to- shoulder cops all around the cathedral, both sides of the road lined with vehicles. I had pre-cut plenty of ribbons to go on the fences but my first attempt was thwarted by cathedral security. However I managed to find a spot on the inside of the queue of people heading into the cathedral and luckily they were mild-mannered folk, although one man of Middle Eastern appearance objected, but the police sided with me. A young woman approached and asked what I was doing and why and, apparently satisfied with the answers, she announced that she was a journalist and requested a photograph. During the protest in Hyde Park somewhat later she came up again and gave me her name, phone number and email address so then I knew she was from the BBC. When I got home I looked up Apple News and her article was the first one on top of the list, including the photo she had taken. The speeches at the rally were interesting and gave some personal details about Pell and Cardinal Gilroy that I won’t discuss here, considering Australia’s strict libel laws. When we marched along College St most of the people sitting outdoors ignored us but some of the Lebs went wild, as is their want. Police had to restrain a few of them who would have gladly belted us to kingdom come. All in all we made our point and I was very glad that I went.

So to the watercolour class last night….. The building faces west and it was early evening on a fairly hot day. I tried the door at 6.45 but it was locked, however the teacher was inside. A few others did the same but then we repaired around the corner into the shade and at exactly 7pm she unlocked the building, No welcome, just ‘find yourself a seat’. Not looking good so far. There were 12 students, 6 returning and 6 newbies. Firstly she gave the old hands a photo each and they were instructed to paint that ocean scene. Then to us: despite having bought umpteen colours as requested she said that we only need 2 blues, 2 reds and 2 yellows and will mix all other colours from them. We then used the very expensive paper to paint a colour wheel (which could have usefully been done on the back of an envelope). She showed us some exercises she had set in the past and they were all very realistic, often figures of people, not at all the style I’m trying to learn. As tactfully as possible I suggested that I presumed she taught all different styles and she replied firmly: ‘No, I only paint realistic pictures and that’s what I teach’. So I am stuffed, having already paid for 8 weeks. Now I can only hope that some techniques applicable to this realism will be useful in what I want to do, simply to paint as beautifully and sensitively as my friend Di.

February 3, 2023

Sometimes you start to read a book and decide straight away that you have a lot in common with the author, in this case it was the reverse. Heather Rose’s ‘nothing bad ever happens here’ left me rolling my eyes in every chapter, but I persevered to see if things changed closer to the end. In some ways the chapters seemed like separate essays and one near the conclusion, where she walks a remote trail in Tasmania with her son, was interesting. Another chapter, about her chronic pain, again seemed like an essay unrelated to the chapters before and after. Her constant pain from ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease, is barely mentioned through the book and then there’s a whole chapter on it. But back to the eye-rolling. After a period in a Buddhist monastery she relates that she can ‘suddenly eat whatever I want…that I can speak with people…that I do not have to wake at 3 am to meditate or chant…that I can drink beer…wear whatever I like’. Yes, that’s why the rest of us are not living in a monastery. Before going to an American Indian sweat lodge she buys a new dress ‘long and tie-dyed’, well of course it was. Back in Australia she goes ‘sun dancing’ exposing herself to 48 degree heat in Central Australia: ‘to survive, some part of me has to leave my body’. Don’t try this people, the part that leaves may very well be your mortality. ‘Of the 42 people there, 12 of us lose our faculties for days or of us ends up in the psychiatric ward of the Alice Springs hospital. Some of us go mad years later’. Yes well, what can I say? Apart from the fact that a psychiatric assessment may have been warranted before setting out. Being a pedant, I want to criticise the misuse of the word ‘enervating’  when she means its opposite, but even though a good editor would have picked that up, it is such a small thing compared to the enervating effect this book had on me.

It occurred to me that yesterday I was filmed close up by a huge video camera operated by two people and it had on the top in navy blue AFP, which at the time I assumed was some news outlet that I’d never heard of. But on the news last night in an unrelated article I saw the logo of the Australian Federal Police and….kerching, they were one and the same. It’s just like the old Vietnam protest days all over again, glad to see a new generation hard at work, though I am hoping that they got some good footage of the febrile Lebs across the road, who were much more of a worry I’d say.

Speaking of irksome acronyms, this morning I had an email telling me that I’d have a visit from APM Assessment Services on February 1 and giving me a list of things I need to assemble for their inspection eg Medicare and pension cards, home care documents etc. There were also three videos explaining what would happen and why, none of which I’ve watched as it’s all past tense now. Firstly the person came two days before the email, secondly I collated no documents and was not asked for any and thirdly, who the hell is APM? Further research discovered that they are a multi-national company who ‘undertake My Aged Care Home Support Assessments on behalf of the Australian Government’, something brought in by Tony Abbott in 2015 apparently. When John was first assessed years ago we had a public servant who was endlessly helpful, but clearly things have changed and this explains her disagreeable comments. Interestingly they have not been allowed to take that role in Victoria or WA, both with Labor governments. Without the benefit of getting the email before the visit, I had no idea that I was dealing with a company and not a government official and apart from giving her name there was no introduction, business card or paperwork to allow me to find that out. I’ll be more wary about who I let into the house next time.

February 4, 2023

Planning to barbecue some corn as part of dinner, my recipe book says it is more ‘corny’ if barbecued in its husk so I’m trying it out, though I’m doubtful I’ll pick the difference. It is part of a Mexican salad with avocado and other things and it has a chili mayonnaise dressing. I opened a jar of jalapeno chillies as apparently they are the closest to the poblano ones in the recipe, and supposedly mild, but these are very hot so I will just use my normal ones out of the garden.

I’m feeling sorry for the poor old minks. Firstly they were bred for their beautiful fur and killed en masse with carbon monoxide, then they caught, and formed a reservoir for, Covid19 and in Denmark alone 17 million were killed. Now they’ve caught jolly bird flu H5N1 and 50,000 minks have been killed in Spain as a result. It may have marked the first known case of mammal-to-mammal transmission of this deadly virus. Avian influenza has a near 100 percent mortality rate in birds and while mammals apart from minks aren’t catching the virus at the same rate as birds, it’s still a serious problem. Bird flu has a global mortality rate of greater than 50 percent for humans so I won’t be cuddling a mink any time soon. The two books which forecast many of our problems at the moment I read decades ago, The Coming Plague and The Population Bomb, but I don’t hear anyone praising the authors’ foresight. Some books from the 1980s and 1990s forewarned about climate change but it was much earlier than that when scientists first began discussing the issue. We are slow learners, especially if we think we’ll be disadvantaged, we are like Horatio Nelson when he said ‘I see no ships’, looking at the evidence with a blind eye.

I’ve had a few emails and texts from people who saw the BBC article and every one has been congratulatory, but then I realised that anyone who doesn’t approve wouldn’t call so it means nothing at all. However Stephen was very pleased that I’d hung green ribbons because of his Irish heritage, so that’s the only person I need to worry about.

February 5, 2023

I am wondering how on earth Facebook has worked out what sort of clothes I like? I’ve never once bought a piece of clothing online, but a couple of companies are now constantly putting ads on my Facey and the clothes are divine, just my taste, and cheap to boot. I met a woman a while back whose clothes always fitted perfectly. Asking who her tailor was I got the reply: ‘I buy everything cheaply online, mostly from China, two sizes too big, then I take them to an alteration place and get them adjusted to fit’. I am itching to try that idea but as I’m still on a ‘buy no new clothes’ bender the ads are deeply frustrating. Stop before I weaken people.

I had another attack at some boxes in storage today and managed to scrounge some Singer sewing machine accessories and manual, an antique cut throat razor, an antique set of steak knives never used, a darning mushroom and two boxes of genealogy computer disks, never used. All are now up for sale on eBay. John came down with me and wanted to cut back a small branch, so I sent him to the garage for secateurs to do the job. Sadly both sets are missing from their usual place, apparently since we were both cutting a few things back in the front yard and he offered to put them away. A search of the garage and elsewhere has proved fruitless so we now have no secateurs at all, at least for now.

In clean-up mode I finally got around to trying out the Planet Ark recycling service at Baulko. Even though I downloaded the app months ago I’ve been reluctant to go there in case I can’t work out how to use it. I had no reason to be concerned, it’s as easy as, and there were plenty of people there to help me out, even offering to let me go first with my miserable seven bottles against their trolley or van full. Either people are besotted with soft drinks or else they are scrounging the bins. By the time I got home the 70 cents was deposited into my account, so now I can start taking up the many boxes under the house. They are all John’s kombucha bottles as neither of us drink any sort of pop. I really dislike his kombucha, though it’s not quite as disgusting as the Bambu he drinks daily. I don’t fare well in the drinks department, disliking many more beverages than foods. Coffee, all chocolate drinks, kombucha, whisky, gin, vodka, Ouzo, Sambuca, Pernod, absinthe, limiting my choices to tea and milk in the hot drink department. I well remember going with a group for an evening meeting and they ordered, in fits of laughter, 12 cappuccinos and a milk shake.

February 6, 2023

Lovely time at Boy Charlton Pool today while John was at Nelune. I think I will keep going there while ever the weather holds out. I parked as usual at Woolloomooloo and then walked to the pool, the walk was a lovely part of the occasion and much easier than driving back to town and then getting parking near the gallery. The water was divine, with views to match and a little cafe to have a snack afterwards. It’s called Oh Boy and is new as the old one fell over during Covid, however the staff were seriously wanting, though trying hard. Perhaps Oh Dear would have been a better name than Oh Boy. I’m reluctant to give them a bad review as I think the place is understaffed but there’s certainly no chef judging by what I saw coming out of the kitchen. Better to stick to a milkshake and enjoy the view. Pity as it’s a perfect spot for a beautiful lunch.

I got a thoughtful call this afternoon from Therese at the ACAT team who valiantly attempted to get John’s package through more quickly. She just wanted to make sure that our needs were met by the new package and reminded me to contact them again if that ceases to be the case. She also recommending counselling for me, something I don’t intend to take up, but I thanked her without mentioning that fact. I can’t imagine getting a follow up call from that bloody APM woman who came the other day.

I’ve been reading How to Catch a Killer by Katherine Ramsland, the famous professor at  DeSales University. She teaches forensic psychology, focusing on extreme offenders and as she has written 69 books on related topics, I was expecting more than a long list of serial killers and their crimes, something I could have Googled. Many of these people live on my bookshelves and much has been written about them, so I was expecting more of the why and less of the what, but sadly no. However it is fair to say that having them all in the one place enabled me to appreciate once again the things that they have in common: overwhelmingly male, many having done military service, though not necessarily in conflict zones. A large number were adopted and those who weren’t come from homes where the parents separated when the child was young or else they stayed together in a violent or abusive relationship. Many were farmed out as children to drunken or abusive grandparents or other relatives. So it seems that the same circumstances that produce borderline personality disorder sets up children for the risk of becoming serial killers. Perhaps they are extreme versions of borderline personality? But you would never glean any of that from this book which is simply an extended list of facts without much analysis.

February 7, 2023

So the balloon came crashing down after a missile strike (remind me how much missiles cost again? oh I looked it up, an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile is about $400,000, not as much as I was expecting). Considering that in the 1970s I read that American spy satellites could read something the size of a number plate over the entire world, I wonder if this response just comes down to PR and target practice. That fact about the number plates was in the context of the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland when the Brits got the US to track IRA cars by number plate so collaborators with the IRA could be identified. Presumably by now it’s the size of a stamp. In 1998, a technical malfunction meant a Canadian research balloon accidentally drifted across towards Norway before finally landing on Finland’s Mariehamn Island. Panic? Non. Missiles? Non. But of course the Scandis are a very different breed of human.

I’ve gone back to my Cormac McCarthy book, but I’m still struggling. But how can you put aside a book which has lines like: ‘he watched the lights moving along the causeway like the slow cellular crawl of waterdrops on a wire’? or this about an underwater view of a plane crash: ‘The people sitting in their seats, their hair floating. Their mouths open, their eyes devoid of speculation.’ I can see that image so clearly. So I will keep going in the hope of reading memorable lines like these even if at the moment I don’t know what the hell is going on.

Talking of mysteries, I’ve just been on a hunt for the person who made John’s dentures, such is the way of my life these days. When we were at Sue’s another tooth fell out, this time at the front so I had a battle royal getting him in to the public dentist, though I succeeded in the end. But after he gets the rest of the tooth removed (surgery possibly?) he will need new dentures to include that tooth. Back in the mid 2000s he had dentures made which were totally useless and as they were plastic they weren’t adjustable, so he just threw them out and went elsewhere. The second chap was fabulous, making them quickly and then adjusting them over weeks, they were metal based so easy to alter till they were perfect. But of course John has no idea who the chap was or where. I sort of thought Chatswood and started ringing around, finally finding the helpful Nikki who got into the records and discovered that it was her boss David Rozen who did the teeth. But then I had to make sure he was the good one and not the dodgy one (41 reviews of the practice, all 5 stars, made me think I’d got it right) and yes he made them largely in metal. Phew, now we just need to get the dentist out of the way on Thursday and we’ll head to the splendid Dr. Rozen.

This morning I went to Pine Coffee and Tea to get some of my favourite smoky Russian Caravan tea and also found some very coarse sugar crystals that I’ve been trying to source to pop on top of cakes or buns, recipes show them but I never see them for sale. Also they have very fine filters to put into a teapot for particularly small leaf teas, of which I have one that was gifted to me, but it comes through the strainers I’ve got so it tends not to get used. I will take the teapot up to them and get the right size that fits inside the pot. Next to the Sallies where I dispensed with a dress and a vase, but came away with four rolls of loo paper, two tubes of toothpaste (they always have some new stuff at the Dural one) and a 1000 piece jigsaw for John. He was playing with one that Sue had going, but had said before that he can’t do jigsaws any more, so we’ll see. It’s a scene of Santorini, brand new and unopened, $4. Pay dirt.

February 8, 2023

Gosh I didn’t think I’d ever give a Cormac McCarthy book two stars, but there it is. After finishing The Passenger I needed to read some other (smarter) reviewers to discover that it was actually about what I thought it was about. Clearly I am not smart enough for this book. I did love the other one I’ve just finished though, a yellowed 1968 copy of Philby: The Spy Who Betrayed a Generation. I loved this detailed account, not just of the actual spying and capture, but of the background story. Well stories actually, because the authors go into great detail about Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean as well as Philby, covering their interrelationships and backgrounds. It is as good as the best spy thriller, though if it were a novel we would all be saying that MI6 could never have ignored the suspicions about Philby’s guilt for so many years, disregarding their sister agency MI5 who were repeatedly telling them that he was spying for the Russians. Fascinating stuff and a lesson to the Brits: the assumption that choosing your spies almost entirely from the upper echelons of society guaranteed loyalty was never a smart idea.

I’ve just been photographing three pieces of jewellery and offering them to Bargain Hunt and Barsbys auctions for appraisal. A solid opal brooch set in gold, opal earrings also gold (neither of which I’ll ever wear as I don’t do gold) and a chunky Georg Jensen 1960s silver bracelet which I love, but have almost lost twice when the catch came undone unexpectedly. But now Bargain Hunt has replied and they weren’t keen to suggest a reserve, so I think I will wait for Barsbys. If they feel the same way I may eBay them to have more control of the prices, particularly as old Jensen pieces are super popular these days, some rarer ones selling in the thousands. I had an old darning mushroom and darning egg on eBay and it was spied and commented on by my customer and now friend Antonia in Melbourne so I’ve taken the ad down and will pack them up and gift them to her. She’s a good stick.

What can anyone say about the massive Middle Eastern earthquake, particularly after talking about jewellery? Not only those who’ve lost loved ones, but the rescuers, will surely be damaged by this for the rest of their lives. I can’t even imagine the state of a person’s body in a collapsed high rise building. I guess the only feature that slightly eases the situation is the fact that it is a natural occurrence and not deliberately caused by anyone, something that those in collapsed buildings in Ukraine must surely be more pained by. Not much of a consolation though.

February 9, 2023

A bit of a frustrating trip to RNS for John’s appointment at the public dentist. He saw a lovely woman who did X-rays and said that what’s left of his front tooth has to come out, which we knew. She was very thorough and I thought we were home and hosed, but then when she went to do an appointment for the extraction she saw John’s address on his pension card and said that we have to ‘get that changed back to Lane Cove’ otherwise we can’t go any further. So I’m flummoxed about what to do, Bob’s away till next week so I can’t discuss it with him. Thinking, thinking, waiting for a lightning bolt.

Then we went to Barsby’s Auctions and I announced: ‘I have an appointment with Alex, she knows I’m coming’ which produced a puzzled look on the face of the young man I was dealing with. When Alex with a beard arrived to meet me I understood why. Funny how you make assumptions and then it tips the applecart briefly when the assumption proves wrong. But what a wonderful Alex he turned out to be! His family own the Mayfair jewellers G. J. Dennis, his father and brother both high-end silversmiths and goldsmiths. He showed me photos of the FA cup, many other important trophies, a brooch made for Camilla Parker-Bowles and lots more. They make and repair jewellery for the royal family. He took one look at my Georg Jensen bracelet, declared it was made in the 60s, designed by Ibe Delquist and gave me a dissertation on Jensen jewellery and its designers. How do you know all of that off the top of your head? I asked. I wrote a book on Jensen, he replied. Enough said. So the bracelet, which I almost lost when it fell off while we were with Mary and David recently, is listed for sale with an estimate of $650 to $1200 but may go higher. I was also happy with the estimate of $150 to $300 on my opal brooch, however the opal earrings, while also 1960s and good quality, are plated so they didn’t pass muster.

Last night’s painting class was somewhat the same and somewhat different to last week’s. Same: The door opened at 7 pm, not a minute before. No chatting, just go in and set up. End of night is 9 pm, doesn’t matter if you are half way through doing something, as I was, you are out the door. I carried a palette of wet paint to the car but it spilled over and mixed the colours together, hugely frustrating. I’ve decided to redo all the work we did at class so I can make a better job of it without time pressure. Different: I did try to adapt to the situation as it is and to absorb as much as possible, even though the style and copying photos isn’t what I was hoping for when I signed up. I did learn a bit and I’m persevering to try to get the most benefit possible.

Hawkesbury Library is offering a course in Eco-Dyeing, at least I think that’s what it is. It was advertised as Eco-Dying and that’s what caught my eye, thinking that it was ‘weave your own casket’ or ‘paint your own coffin’, but no. It turns out to be printing on paper or fabric using the natural dyes of leaves and flowers, right up my alley. So I will organise a carer and then book in, a full day on February 25.

February 10, 2023

Kristy informs me that the cost of a carer on Saturdays is $86.55 an hour, as against the usual $60.05, so although John’s package would cover it, it seems a profligate use of his funds to go to the workshop . However the alternative is either not going or else asking someone to take him for the day, neither option appeals, so I’m thinking.

I’m thinking also that the option requested by the dentist yesterday, to ‘get the address changed back to Lane Cove’ on his pension card is a bad move as it looks dodgy, even though ultimately it’s even stevens as the government is paying his dental bill whether we go to RNS or wait on the list at Westmead, possibly for months if not years. I will have a chat to my private dentist and see what John’s looking at in terms of the cost to at least get the extraction done. Currently his bank balance is $17.82, but his pension is due tomorrow, bless.

Shopping this morning I wanted to buy corn chips to do a dish for dinner tonight but couldn’t find the Mission brand I prefer (answer from the staff, oh they are in the Mexican section, not the chip section). Then to the soy sauce department where there was absolute rows of different permutations of soy sauce, but not the Kikkoman brand I wanted (answer from the staff, oh it’s in the Japanese section). Clearly I need a map of the store with a key for each brand, but John plods patiently behind me with the trolley while I read descriptions, agonise over brands and try to find clandestine labels. Last night we watched You Can’t Ask That, a programme we usually ignore but it was on dementia. One man made me laugh, he has Lewy Body Dementia, probably the worst one, as it involves hallucinations. He regularly sees crocodiles in the loungeroom so when he saw a donkey in the backyard he ignored it, assuming it was more of the same. That is until his wife came out and asked: why is that donkey in the backyard? He got LBD at the age of 42, what a tragedy. All of the folks interviewed commented that losing their licence had a big effect on them, mentally and practically. There were profound differences in their symptoms and limitations.

I have avoided unpacking the stainless steel railing for the front steps that was delivered last week, as I am so unmechanical that I know I won’t understand it. I am reluctant to ask Arvind for help unless I have it all laid out in the place it needs to go and he only needs to do the screwing in. I will tackle it, but not for the time being. Dentists and soy sauce have used up all of my available mental assets for today, wimp that I am.

February 11, 2023

I was right about not understanding the instructions for the railing and I’ve sadly discovered that John is now worse at these things than I am. Too hot today to bother Arvind so I have emailed the company telling them that I am as dumb as a doorknob and can’t work it out. The handrail will have to wait. Maybe I need to hire someone who knows what they are doing, which would of course mean that I made the wrong decision on paying for it myself, as if I’d gone through Wendy’s they would have covered a handyman too. But I baulked at wasting $330 of government money on an OT to say that an 81 year old demented man needs a handrail. I know, I know, it’s all part of the paperwork, but still.

Thankfully the farmer’s markets were on again today so I can get inspired with cooking (Nagi’s Island Bliss Prawn Salad with Coconut Lime Dressing for dinner tonight). Apart from reading it seems to be the only source of joy for me at the moment. I forgot that I needed one lonely apple for the recipe but Mala next door had one so I didn’t have to go out again. I swapped her two tomatoes, which seemed fair. Jane and Boris came last Saturday so John spent all morning today (exaggeration, but I can’t help it) asking about when they are arriving. No that was last week, no it’s not today, no look in your diary, just NO.

The Briars at Bowral must be having a bad week as they sent an email offering 2 nights’ accommodation, 2 breakfasts, a gift and a bottle of wine for booking any nights from tomorrow to Thursday for $329 all up. I grabbed the diary in anticipation but medical appointments preclude every bloody day. I’m consoling myself with the fact that the Southern Highlands needs cooler weather, fog, rain, snow even. I might get just off their mailing list in silent protest.

Just finished reading This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, made up largely of diaries he kept during his training as an NHS doctor. At first I thought it was pretty flippant and irreverent (it is) but he grew on me and it is obvious that his sense of humour is his way of coping with appalling hours, low pay, massive responsibility and the anxiety that comes with having a big heart and fearing that at any moment you may do someone harm. Picked up two more non-fiction books yesterday so I’m looking forward to getting into Raina MacIntyre’s book on pandemics and biosecurity. It has become obvious that the advice to government about the ‘short and sharp’ Covid surge over Christmas was a pot of wishful thinking, giving the government what it wanted to hear perhaps. Paul Kelly didn’t convince me back then and as a result I will take his words with more than a pinch of sodium chloride in future.

February 12, 2023

I got cross with John again this morning and I have to stop before it becomes the usual. I explained that I wanted an hour to watch Insiders, for the first time this year, but 10 minutes in I hear sawing coming from the kitchen and get up to find him cutting off the tops off milk bottles with my good Global knife, the best way to blunt a sharp knife is to cut plastic. So I went off about my sacred hour and using my best knife to cut milk cartons for no explained purpose. Turned off the telly and gave up on seeing Jim Chalmers’ interview. Later I asked if he still wanted the half cartons and the reply was: ‘I don’t know, what are they for?’ Note: Patience (noun) = the ability to wait calmly; if you have patience, you are able to stay calm and not get annoyed, for example when something takes a long time, or when someone is not doing what you want them to do. Where do I go to buy a packet of that stuff?

I put the abandoned telly time to good use and photographed four pieces of jewellery to send to my new mate Alex at Barsbys. A very large sized ring with sapphires and diamonds, another with an old cut diamond and rubies, a Victorian lava cameo ring with an intaglio unicorn and a gold necklace with a jade pendant replete with a pearl to one side and a Chinese character to the other. Pity that I don’t wear yellow gold as some of the rings are decent stones and all have age. I so miss the thrill of auctions, but that’s all in the past now. I well remember thinking I would bid on a small page size piece of calligraphy in Arabic if it went for $100 or so, within the estimate, but two foreign phone bidders from Malaysia pushed it up to over $10,000 very quickly. It was an antique page of the Koran which I’m guessing is now in the wonderful Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur. Those were the days.

The leftover prawn salad from last night made an absolutely delicious lunch today, the dressing is a keeper with garlic, ginger, lemon and fish sauce in a coconut cream base, making it good enough to drink. John of course had forgotten that we had it last night and thought it was just a plain green salad, until he delightedly announced: ‘I found a prawn!’ He has also forgotten that he doesn’t eat prawns ‘because they are bottom feeders’ and I don’t intend to remind him as it opens up the menu to lots of delicious meals. At this stage of the game, from a health point of view, I doubt that it matters much what we eat.

February 13, 2023

Decided that we each needed some time away from home so we went to see The Whale at Castle Hill. I am still reeling from it. I hadn’t even realised that it was a Darren Aronofsky film or I would have been there on day one. If that isn’t Oscar material I’ll eat my ticket. Apart from the main character Charlie, I just loved Liz, his friend and nurse. I don’t want to write a spoiler, and anyway if I did write more I would start crying again and seeing John’s relative from Narromine just rang to say she’d be here in an hour, it wouldn’t be a good look.

Yesterday Arvind came over and looked at the handrail, he thinks that between the three of us it’s a snack to put up, so the search for a handyman is off. Then I discovered accidentally that the workshop I want to go to is March 25, not February 25, so the search for a carer is also off, at least temporarily. Thank goodness for small mercies.

The jewellery auctioneer replied to my photos that all four items are saleable and the lava cameo ‘will do great things’ so, seeing we have another hospital appointment tomorrow, I will take them over to him if he has free time. Often in the shop I was forced to underprice things just to get turnover, while consigned items had to go for the agreed prices as often the consignee wouldn’t budge, hence my preference to own everything.

I’ve been thinking about all the sympathy I wasted on Rachelle Miller (not to mention my wasted share of the government payout that she got). After watching her at the Robodebt Inquiry all commiseration for her circumstance ran down the gurgler. Similarly with the people who climbed to successes on the back of their Whitlam-funded free education and then cut it off to all those who came after them. The appalling Clarence Thomas in the US had the benefit of a Jesuit school, taken in as part of a black recruitment programme, then he did law at Yale on a programme for minorities, but turned his back on his people and his class once he got where he was going, sadly ending up as a Supreme Court judge always backing the wrong team. How did a judge with barely a year of experience in the judiciary get nominated, never mind elected? How did a judge accumulate assets of over $10 million? A cynic could say that it’s the price of going over to the dark side. Sadly it seems that riches will almost always win over principle.

February 14, 2023

Off to RNS again today and while John was down having his yearly heart ultrasound (to check the stents and replaced valve) I went back to the dentist to see if I could at least persuade them to share his x-rays, but nah, no can do she says. I pointed out that they are part of his medical record and that too many x-rays are not a good idea, but all I got was a phone number for the patient advocate, Julie. I raced back in time to go in with John to see his cardiologist Gemma who was sporting a buzz cut. It turns out John’s tests are fine but Gemma has breast cancer and is undergoing chemo, while still working. Gosh, Gemma with cancer and Nada with long Covid. I don’t have the puff to deal with the dentist issue again today but Julie sounds like a good start. Then on to see Alex at Barsby’s and he was happy to take my pieces and of course was full of information about them. The lava cameo ring is in his opinion obsidian, which occurs when lava cools rapidly at the edges of a lava flow or during sudden contact with water or air, he could tell this by the slight shine versus the matte finish of straight lava. Of course, silly me. The ‘jade’ pendant seems to be Peking glass, though still valuable, but apart from those two details my descriptions were accurate. I held back the diamond and ruby ring to wear for a bit and I will give it to him next sale next time. From there to Oriental and Continental Foods at Artarmon where I really could go bananas with a credit card. I told the owner that one day I’ll get lucky and win the prize to fill my trolley for free. I was able to get lots of goodies that are unobtainable in the usual shops, like frozen peeled broad beans, canned kippers, sweet chestnut puree and Gochujang, that delicious red chili paste which is a savoury, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment popular in Korean cooking but adaptable to other cuisines. Apparently the ingredients are gochu-garu, glutinous rice, meju powder, yeotgireum and salt, none of which means anything to me, apart from the salt, but it tastes great and with a bit of garlic it can double for sriracha. Stocked up on other goodies too, like fish stock cubes for when I run out of prawn heads, risoni pasta and preserved lemons. Bliss.

The rain is increasing my optimism by the minute, feeding off John’s natural optimism isn’t working lately but rain always bucks me up. I redid my painting work from last class as it was rushed and wrong, hopefully she will okay this version. Not that she refused to accept the last one, but said if you never get it wrong you don’t learn anything, which is pretty much saying the same thing.

Yesterday we got a surprise visit from John’s first cousin Madeleine from Narromine. She at 80 next month is a force of nature, having driven down here for a week or two to visit friends, she found her way here with a malfunctioning satnav, talked non-stop and complained that after bringing her boogie board all this way, no one wants to go surfing with her. She still works, as a nurse at the gaol, lives alone on her property, still rides her horses ‘I’ve had to rig up a pulley system to put the saddle on’, is writing a book and if I’d asked her to put up the handrail I’m sure she would have done that easily. I should introduce her to Michelle.

February 15, 2023

Wow, what a morning. Louis sent me a YouTube link to the talk he gave at a conference in Sydney a little while ago. It blew me away in that all of the ancients he quoted live on my bookshelves, but in the 15 plus years that I’ve known him he has never mentioned anything remotely philosophical, so it would never had occurred to me to discuss anything like that. He is certainly quiet and shy but in this case the ‘still waters run deep’ saying certainly applies. I must admit that I cries while watching it as it reminded me of the discussions John and I had regularly when we first met and for years after. How things have changed, now it’s: do we need to water? do you have any washing? would you like trout for dinner? This video led me to look for my trusty Seneca, that beaten up little book which has been with me over 50 years and is my guide to life, but somehow it is missing. I am trying to be Stoic about its peculiar disappearance, but if it isn’t found soon I will need to replace it for sure, though I hope that won’t be necessary. I am such a proud ma-in-law today but conscious that given the circumstances of our lives, I doubt that we’ll ever sit down and discuss these ideas.

Wow number two: I watched the beginning of the ‘Parliamentary Inquiry into Allegations of Impropriety Against Agents of the Hills Shire Council and Property Developers in the Region’ and what a beginning it was. Businessman Frits Mare told the inquiry that he was approached by Jean-Claude Perrottet, along with Christian Ellis, son of a Hills Shire Councillor, and asked for a $50,000 contribution to help unseat Alex Hawke. All happy Liberals here, but from different factions. The fact that both Perrottets and both Ellises are in hiding, with a hope of dodging the summonses, is enough to suggest that there is truth in at least some of the allegations. The fact that accused developer Jean Nassif is hiding in ‘a remote part of Lebanon’ is no coincidence. Here’s hoping that the inquiry is able to flush some of this scum out of the Hills altogether. For reasons that escape me the papers haven’t featured this evidence, at least so far.

Just had John’s appointment with the lymphoma specialist via telehealth, and oh that is so much easier. His blood tests and lack of symptoms indicate that he’s still in remission, unlike his regular doctor Nada whose long Covid persists. Her replacement may have been a 15 year old on work experience judging by her looks, but she was absolutely delightful and very professional. Great to get his check-ups over before mine begin.

February 16, 2023

Finally got on to Julie, the patient advocate at RNSH, and wow was she good! I explained about the problem with getting John’s X-rays from the dental people and she asked me to hang on while she rang the clinical director of the department. I thought she was just going in to bat for the X-rays but she came back quickly to say that this ‘series of treatment’ will be completed at RNS and can we make his next appointment now? So it’s not just getting the tooth out, it is the fillings she recommended as well. It’s not what you know but who you know and I’m so glad to know Julie now. The only downside is that that dentist is part time and only works on days when John is at care, but we’ll just have to apologise for that to the day care people.

Had lunch with Carol which was delightful as always, a great escape from the varied  restrictions on both our lives. I came home feeling much lighter and unencumbered by the usual stresses. Missed Michelle Byrne at the Hills Inquiry but will be able to catch up with it once the transcript is published in a day or two. The committee has cleverly adjourned to February 23, two days after the next Hills council meeting which the missing councillor Ellis is due to attend, so she either has to come out of hiding or miss both events. Rats, I’m seeing the surgeon that day so the transcript will have to do, however the masochist in me likes to watch and it is so much easier to tell truth from lies if you are eye-balling the person.

Millie’s birthday this year is at some sort of kids function place and the family party is the following day so I am freed from the full fondant decorated cake and I think I’ll do a carrot hummingbird one, with cream cheese icing. Much easier and less fraught. I have loved doing the heavily decorated cakes each year but I do find it nerve-racking in advance wondering how it will turn out.

February 17, 2023

Sue called in unexpectedly while John was off with Greg, his usual Wednesday outing being delayed due to medical stuff. I was having a painting day as somehow whatever I paint at class is awful so I redo it in peace at home, after which it is a bit less awful. I find the environment at class rushed and a bit stressful but maybe that’s just me as everyone else seems to cope with it. Oddly I’ve been deluged with offers of painting classes on Facebook, all watercolour, some online and some in person, which is very, very weird as I’ve never accessed anything like that online. Yesterday I had a dozen posts in the first few minutes of checking my page.

Briefly: 1. President Biden looks to me like someone with incipient Parkinson’s. 2. Perrottet will lose the election. 3. Charlie Teo was saying something often said by doctors: that ‘a brain tumour is the best fucking way to die’ (perhaps they say it without the cursing, but still). Brain tumour patients often tend to sleep themselves away and this comment can’t be regarded as an unusual one, I’ve certainly heard it before. Let’s stick to the warranted criticisms and not resort to sillyness. 4. I’m sick and tired of people falling over themselves to insist that we are at imminent risk of invasion by China. I feel as if I’m back in time, just replacing whoever we were hating last time with the new enemy, enough. 5. Do NOT offer to buy a friend or relative a balloon ride when they are visiting the US.

So Biden has said that the intelligence community’s current assessment is that the three objects recently shot down were “most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.” Now I suppose the government will need to reimburse the owners of these perfectly innocent airborne items, at least they should be paying considering they were nothing threatening or even unusual. It’s just part of the current China hysteria, shall we discuss how many countries China has invaded in the last 50 years compared to the US? That question always shuts down the debate doesn’t it. It won’t surprise me at all if yum cha restaurants become frowned on pretty soon if this madness continues. Stock up on five spice and oyster sauce people and have a covert meal at home.

February 18, 2023

Last night I finished reading Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper, a book where I decided to forgive the coincidences that occur in order to just wallow in the narrative. It dives deep into both the Holocaust and the injustices of America’s treatment of its black population, bringing together both of these major stories of the 20th century. These two heinous episodes were major influences on my youthful understanding of racism and injustice and the dangers of both in a population, particularly when combined with sympathetic political regimes. Perlman lays out the intergenerational effects of both, in a 544 page epic that won’t be easily forgotten. I am committed to newspapers tonight as I can’t imagine starting something else until it has stopped washing over me.

It seems that the missing Perrottets are in deep cover, but surely someone knows where they are and can make a surreptitious phone call. I can’t believe there would be many people who would countenance their behaviour so where are the curtain-twitchers, snoops and informers when you need them? Paparazzi do your thing! I penned a line to the SMH on the matter: “May I suggest a solution to the problem of the mislaid Perrottets? Their brother the Premier could pretend that there is a serious health issue with someone in the family and ring his brothers. When they answer he could inform them of the subpoenas outstanding for their attendance at the Hills Council Inquiry and at the same time ask why they have ceased reading newspapers, watching television and listening to the radio. Because surely they must be completely oblivious to the proceedings.” No publication, but half the fun is in the writing.

Today is one of those days when I can justify being indoors quite easily, 38 degrees outside but I don’t have to consider what time it would be reasonable to start the aircon as John is a master of the handset these days, sneakily turning it on and lowering my usual temperature until I suddenly realise that the thing is pushing out arctic air, then I just as sneakily turn it up, if not off. Apart from doing some watering early I have devoted time today to clearing the decks, my desk, dressing table, vanity etc, dealing with all the things I was gunna attend to when I got time, that time is now. Too hot for baking so that’s out, therefore I will get to the papers earlier rather than later. Life’s good.

February 19, 2023

Unfortunately the manager of the new care home that Kenneth is in is a far cry from the last super helpful one. In reply to the email I sent each of them months apart, the first offered to take him in to her office so I could ring him on their landline. This one replied: ‘We have checked your brothers mobile phone, which is fine and working, may I suggest you keep ringing it as the signal is quite bad at the moment’. I have done as she suggested but he hasn’t picked up once. I think it’s too complicated now for him to ring me with all of the codes required to get out of Britain. His friend tells me that he is complaining that I am not ringing him. She also told me that he gets very confused, for example he rang her upset that he’d lost his phone, yet he was ringing her on it. Managing dementia face to face is difficult, managing communications problems due to dementia from 17,000 km away is just about impossible without help at the other end. I have no solution, emails to his daughter remain unanswered.

It seems that stories about the capability of American spy satellites are coming to me unasked for. After reading that in the 60s and 70s they were capable of identifying a number plate in Northern Ireland when Britain was opposing the IRA, I have now come across a story about US spy satellites identifying a biological leak from a bioweapons facility in Russia in 1979 after spotting road closures around the plant. Then Martha told me that when she was growing up it was reported that the Americans could read a newspaper being held by a person in Moscow. All of this makes a mockery of the whole spy balloon business, if the US has that capability then you can bet your sweet bippy that the Chinese and Russian have it too.

Raina MacIntyre’s new book Dark Winter is fascinating and not all about Covid as I had expected it to be. She discusses advances in genetic engineering, past deliberate and accidental releases of viruses, bacteria and toxins from various countries including a 1950 event where a biological aerosol spray of bacteria was silently pumped from a ship in San Francisco Bay, untold people were infected and one died. It was the son of the man who died who persisted with a lawsuit that took 27 years to prove that his father’s death was caused by Operation Sea Spray, a US Navy biological warfare experiment. They had released enough bacteria to infect the entire population of San Francisco as well as cities and towns beyond. Similar events occurred in the UK. The conspiracy theorists actually get it right sometimes.

February 20, 2023

Interesting that John is happy with the temperature in the house on a hot day then at about 8 pm each night he complains about being hot and puts the cooler on. I wondered if it were night sweats, but his temperature has been normal each time I have checked it. Perhaps it’s digestion related after dinner, I’m not sure but it’s as regular as clockwork. He has finally decided to stop drinking the ghastly Bambu that replaces tea for him after I contacted the distributor and there isn’t a single place in the area that sells the stuff. Now I might get some of the packets of herbal teas used up as no visitor ever wants one. Still can’t believe that a book I read recently was recorded on Goodreads as having been read in 2020, I had written a review then but I had completely forgotten about it till I wrote a second one, at least the scores and comments coincided. No comments about John’s memory for a while I think.

Finally got to book for the Eco Dyeing Course at Hawkesbury Regional Gallery in March as Jane has said she will take John for the day. I like the fact that all materials are included, especially after I have invested in so much stuff for the painting classes which I may or may not continue. I have done the next steps in the landscape that we started last week but I’m still not happy with it. I’ve already redone it once so it will have to stay as is now, too much else happening this week to be bothered with it. Got to get back to Raina’s book, I may have to buy a copy to indulge my itchy underlining finger. There’s certainly lots that I want to remember.

February 21, 2023

I took a shopping list of queries to Bob regarding John’s preparation for the dental treatment and he’s now faxed reports to the dentist so I can tick that off. Talked about getting the fifth vaccination, which John has already had due to his medical conditions, and it’s up to me whether to go with Moderna or Pfizer, so that’s another job to do, looking into both and making a decision. For someone pretty well I spend a hell of a lot of time making medical decisions lately, though most are not my own.

I’m thinking of penning a note to John’s amazing orthopaedic surgeon Andrew Ellis whom we no longer see. This has bubbled away in my mind ever since John started telling people that his knee was replaced over 50 years ago when he had his bike accident, when of course the second and hopefully last op was in 2019 and the first about 2017. It pains me to hear him tell that story as Andrew was so awesome and, although I wouldn’t let him know that John has completely forgotten him, I would feel better knowing he’d got a blast from the past communication from a thankful patient.

So back to Raina. In September 2019 she wrote a paper about one of only two labs in the world that house smallpox virus, one being the CDC in Atlanta and the other the Vector Institute in Siberia. Of course both house samples of many other dangerous bacteria and viruses as well. There had been an explosion that September (presumably noted by the spy satellites) in which all of the glass in the 6-storey Vector building was blown out by a huge explosion. Both the Russians and the US downplayed the incident saying that any viruses released would have been destroyed in the ensuing fire. Raina disbelieved this and consulted engineers who said that the shock waves carrying the virus and bacteria samples would have been propelled well in front of the flame. In the paper published in a Global Biosecurity editorial she stated that diseases may take several months to be detected and advised Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan to monitor closely for serious emerging epidemics for the next three months (that is till the end of December 2019). We all know what happened during that period. She is not saying that this is any more than coincidence, but what an interesting coincidence in any event. She was howled down for even mentioning this as a possibility. Trying to avoid buying this book, but it’s only the lack of a local bookshop that’s holding me back at the moment.

February 22, 2023

I spoke too soon about ticking off the dental stuff. Bob rang last night and said it would be better if John didn’t have an extraction if there is an alternative. I didn’t ask why as I was a bit taken aback, but I’m assuming it’s the infection risk after two previous bouts of septicaemia. Of course I couldn’t sleep and feel like a soggy doormat this morning (I know that doesn’t make much sense but the words came unbidden). So do I contact the dentist by phone or email asking if there’s an alternative? Do I go back to Bob for elucidation? I don’t know.

Nearly a month after emailing my niece in England for details on my brother and getting no reply, I went through the whole search procedure again, turning him up this time in a home near Bradford. He isn’t answering his mobile so I emailed the home and asked if I could ring him on their landline at an agreed time, but they replied that ‘there is nothing wrong with his phone’. Still no answer on the mobile so I emailed again and asked them if they could help him to dial my number, something that could be difficult for him now. Reply: they have spoken to Tanya who will ring me. No call, but an email from her this morning to say that he’s been back in hospital with bladder problems and has now returned to the home. But this circuitous route to get a simple reply to my emails to Tanya is ridiculous and I still haven’t spoken to Kenneth. It is very interesting though that we both have ongoing bladder problems and also brain issues in relation to movement, his being Meniere’s Disease which the neurologist told me is closely linked to what I have. In the old Nature versus Nurture argument I see so much that comes down on the side of Nature. The way things are going I am expecting not to hear anything until he dies and I just don’t know how long I can keep playing nice. Is it fear of a claim on his estate? What have I ever done to raise that as a possibility though? Jealousy maybe? That’s not unknown. I need an advocate in England but have no idea how to organise that. I know he wants to hear from me regularly, something he voices vigorously when I manage to speak to him.

I had plenty of time last night to think, probably unfortunately. The world seems to me to have got to its peak and is now tipping over to a big slide down the other side. Consider overpopulation, climate change, pollution, widespread hunger, war, species extinction and the rise of Fascism in many places. Now for the up side, well there’s incredible scientific advances, particularly in medicine with CRISPR technology for gene editing which will lead to cures of genetic diseases, but these advances will be limited to the wealthy countries and can also be used negatively in eugenic type experiments or to artificially create desired traits in a population. So it’s not a clear benefit. Huge leaps in information technology are also in the positive/negative basket depending on use so I am struggling here in trying to find outright positives. The fact that a country can justify war over any issue at all in the current state of the world is mind-boggling to me. We are talking our way into a war with China which might just be the end of everything. So the best I can hope for at this point is that the downhill slide will be slower than I’m thinking and that our grandchildren get some sort of life before the roller-coaster picks up speed. I’m afraid our great-grandchildren are screwed whichever way I look at it though. So unbearably sad.

February 23, 2023

Today the gods shined on me in a few ways. It was fine when I left to go to the hospital so I took no jacket or umbrella, then it teamed all the way down the M2 to the city where I got a close park, and thankfully no sign of rain. As soon as I got inside the hospital it poured again until I came out by which time it had fined up. So the joy of rain but not any of its inconvenience. But most importantly Alan the surgeon said I will live the six months till the next appointment. So good news all round.

This morning Bob rang again about the dentist issue, sounding even more reluctant for John to proceed with it. We’ve decided that if it boils down to just a cosmetic issue he will say no (or more to the point I will) and the dentist needs to show some clinical reason for an extraction that is problematic enough to risk an infection. Bob pointed out that John’s had septicaemia from a much less invasive procedure in the past. I said ‘we have to go for safety in the end Bob’ and his reply was ‘yes, and it could be the end if it goes wrong’. That pretty well made the case.

I have been trawling the net for a second hand copy of Dark Winter and of course it’s too soon after publication to get one, but Big W of all places has copies for $24, so I can’t argue with that and bought one, big spender that I am. I planned to do a cake for book group this arv but have come home to a blackout, so I think it will have to wait till the morning, giving me an excuse to finish the picture I’m working on. Somehow I still need excuses to do things that are not ‘work’.

Thinking about the rise of Fascism in many places I went back to reread a well-known assessment of Hitler: His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never concede that there might be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it. Hitler touched on these principles in Mein Kampf, a book that almost got me thrown off a bus from Parramatta to my work in Castle Hill in the early 1970s. A very aggressive man asked the driver to put me off but I accepted the compromise of putting the book in my bag for the duration of the journey, though even then I was roundly hissed when I alighted. But back to the assessment: I was amazed at how Trumpian it all sounded, I would suggest that he’d read Hitler’s book except it was widely reported that he simply doesn’t read. The line never concede that there might be some good in your enemy is an interesting one and always something that we need to watch out for personally. It has come to the fore recently in discussions about Charlie Teo for example, it’s easy to be ‘for im or agin im’, but harder to tease out the faults from the virtues. An important strategy used to soften people up for an impending invasion or war is covered by concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong. Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan anyone? In fact the recent rhetoric regarding China involves good examples of both of the last two propositions. But I won’t go any further on the China issue right now as I don’t want to spoil the good run that the gods have provided today.

February 24, 2023

There are some wonderful spoofs on Facebook on the subject of the missing Perrottets and Ellises, the best being a take on the famous parrot scene from Fawlty Towers where the shopkeeper is looking into the cage held by John Cleese and saying: ‘No sir, they are definitely not dead. What would seem to be the case is that your Perrottets are simply missing.’ Classic. Another shows Jean-Claude dressed in drag as a participant in the World Pride March, an excellent disguise I would think. I joined the fun and added a piece to the mix. Perhaps they all (coincidentally of course) developed a longing to return to lockdown and those simpler days when one’s choices were limited and we led uncomplicated lives.

Book group was fun and very welcome after such a long break. Our numbers are shrinking slightly but that’s not surprising considering our ages and the various situations of our lives. It was good to have Sue here for the afternoon and overnight, before she goes to Kirribilli to check on the work the painter has been doing this week. She’s left colour decisions up to him as those details aren’t of much interest to her, but I’ll bet it will be various shades of white which has been all the goes for many years now. I wonder what Dulux colour consultants do these days? Not a lot I suspect. The only downside of the day was that John’s precious diary has gone missing. He consults it many times a day to know what we are doing and I have no idea what could have happened to it. As I was doing his checklist before leaving we went through hat, glasses, water bottle, coloured pencils and paper. He waved the diary at me saying I’ve put the paper in here and I almost said that I don’t think it’s a good idea to take the diary out of the house, but thought better of it. When we got to Carol’s the diary wasn’t with him and when we got home it wasn’t here either, a complete mystery. The evening was spent disposing of a very good shiraz.

February 25, 2023

Sue brought with her some tomatoes, eggplants and a pumpkin from the farm, as well as the heaviest watermelon I have ever picked up. It was a round one, not terribly large , but it weighed more than my scales were happy with, so I knew it was over 5 kg. After cutting it I weighed the pieces and it was nearly 8 kg, so at $2.99 a kg that makes it a $24 melon. I insisted that she take some, or most, of it to give her daughter as we would never get through it. I hope she is happy at Kirribilli after I went in to bat for it so strongly against the alternative of Marrickville. I’m really looking forward to seeing the unit after the carpet layers are done. Funny that she’ll just be a short walk from the ‘lady’ who ripped her and the hospital off to the tune of $5000 for a painting never delivered.

Carly arrived late morning after a flight from Canberra. I always half expect a plane crash and hate knowing that anyone I love is in the air. Yes I know the statistics but that doesn’t ease the anxiety. I loved getting the rundown on her meeting this week with one of our political icons and she was excited to tell me how sharp and intelligent the person was at a private level, just as we’d guessed would be the case. Yesterday I did a cake for book group that did all the right things but today I failed to repeat the performance doing one for Millie’s party tomorrow. It is a hummingbird cake and I had put it back in the oven a couple of times before deciding that the moisture on the skewer must be either pineapple or banana and, afraid of drying it out, I took it out of the oven looking perfectly level with the top of the tin. Sad to say it proceeded to sink in the middle so I misjudged that it was cooked. Now it’s either fill the hole, cut it down in height or take a circle out of the middle and make it a ring cake. As it is going to have cream cheese frosting, the latter seems the best choice.

Still no communication from the niece who promised to call me in a conversation with my brother’s care home manager. I keep saying ‘no more Mr. Nice Guy’ but then I keep being nice, just in case my displeasure gives her an excuse to cut me out. However I adopted that tactic with some of John’s family for years and it didn’t do us any good at all.

February 26, 2023

Managed to salvage the cake by cutting out the centre and making it look as if it were cooked in a ring tin, iced with cream cheese frosting it looked the goods. Louis’s mum Sue and nephew Beau were down from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for Millie’s 7th birthday party and we also welcomed old friends Ryan and Terry and Beth and Andre with their son Elliot. Unfortunately John couldn’t remember any of them and kept asking me ‘who is the lady in the black dress?’ (Louis’s mum whom he’s met many times over 16 years) and despite my answering that question repeatedly he was none the wiser when we got home. He couldn’t keep up with the fast moving conversation and it was obvious that he felt out of it so sadly we were the first to leave. I left a present for Louis, a book from 1940 with the complete extant works of the four Stoic philosophers on which he based his recent talk at a conference.

For some weird reason I was feeling exhausted when we got home and, strangely for me, not at all hungry despite only eating one piece of cake at the party, though that won’t do me any harm.

February 27, 2023

Despite being very tired I couldn’t sleep for more than half hour stretches last night but luckily we had no plans for the morning. Sold a German cut throat razor on eBay and got that posted, hopefully solving the recurring dream from last night that I’d forgotten to do so. I’m wondering if I have sleep apnoea as I am sleeping so badly but don’t want to go through the testing procedure as it would mean finding someone to mind John all night.

We met up with his old neighbour at Lane Cove and that went well. We were to meet outdoors at 1.30 but when she hadn’t turned up by 2pm I texted her and luckily she was in town but had mixed the time or the date or something. However we had afternoon tea at Cake Time and all went well after that. I took the opportunity to peruse the Lifeline store which is a cut above most of them in quality. I eyed off a Stella McCartney coat without initially knowing who designed it, just that it was stylish, but resisted the temptation. There were lots of cookbooks there, all in mint condition: Heston, Damien Pignolet, Gary Mehigan, Curtis Stone and many more. I got books by the latter two, for the vast expense of $5 and $8, but resisted all else. On the way home there was an almighty traffic jam for a long way till we came to Beecroft tunnel where a bus, a couple of tradie’s vans and a car had had an end to end pile-up, quite seriously damaging all of them. I’ve been wondering how the passengers got out but I suppose the police would have stopped traffic for them when a replacement bus arrived.

Just had a knock at the door and it was a man returning John’s diary! He lost it last Friday and I have been saying that the only possibility could be that he had put it on the car roof, so I’ve driven slowly along our route but failed to see it. Huge relief to know what actually happened and to get it back as it holds all his contact information as well as forward appointments.

I realise I hadn’t commented on Mardi Gras. It was great to have it back on Oxford St and I did love many of the participants, excepting Look at Me Thorpe who becomes more annoying all the time. However I did miss the edgy political floats of years ago and some of the over the top costumes which were in short supply. I guess that many of those grand costumiers are dead and gone now. Great to see Dawn marching as a 78er, all in all a great night, even if only vicariously via tv.

February 28, 2023

Luckily it is the start of 3 days when John is taken care of. I can’t eat so I’m living on milk. Pretty wobbly and very tired so I’ve spent the day in bed. Not sure what’s going on but I’m sick of it now. Debating whether to text Bob or assume it will resolve.

March 1, 2023

Texted Bob and he came at 7.30 this morning. Says I have a kidney infection and wanted to put me in hospital for IV antibiotics. I did a deal that we’ll try drugs by mouth for a couple of days and see how we go and if that fails I’ll have to go to hospital. Greg, John’s carer, drove up to Baulko and got the drugs so I’m on them already.

March 2, 2023

Poleaxed. No food since Monday, except milk.

March 3, 2023

Well I’m out of bed and camping on the lounge on the back verandah pain free. John looked surprised when I refused breakfast, he seems to have little or no recollection that I’m sick. His comment on Tuesday was that it was nice Bob had come to see him. I think his main concern is that the standards at this hotel have slipped dramatically. It’s so different to the way he used to be, and I know he can’t help it, but it hurts just the same.

March 4, 2023

I am back at the computer briefly and also able to read now, both massive improvements. Although it’s strange, I’m not concerned about the no food thing, but happy to accept the eight pounds I’ve lost so far and any more to come. It’s currently a mystery to me how I could ever have been so focussed on food and sweet stuff in particular. I had a recipe book open on the coffee table with a meal I had been planning and I was happy to fold it up and not to have to see the pictures. But I guess eventually I will be having daydreams about Dolcettini and KOI, I just can’t imagine it right now.

The Monthly arrived in the post yesterday and is the best issue I can remember. Cover story by my fave Rick Morton is worth the sub on its own, then a surprise article by Elliot Perlman reprising his marvellous book 3 Dollars, published 25 years ago. Good timing as I’ve not long finished his great novel The Streetsweeper. Then on top of all that comes a lengthy story on author John Hughes and his long career as a plagiarist. All of his excuses are gone into, but none of them washed with me. I could be a great author too if I copied great swatches of The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina and All Quiet on the Western Front and so many, many more wonderful novels. My question is how he got away with it for so long? Surely agents and publishers are well read people? A mystery.

I watched the news last night and unfortunately saw a promo of Annabel Crabb’s new show Back in Time for the Corner Shop. God I’d hoped I’d never again see that ghastly overacting, lay-it-on-with-a-trowel woman that they use for these shows, but we’ll be deluged with promos of her and her family for weeks now. Any audition person would ring the bell at the first utterance, but apparently the ABC finds her appealing. Hit the mute button and shut your eyes, all things must pass. Until someone rings me to ask if I’m watching it…..

If anyone dreams of burying me in a lime green coffin remotely like the one used today for the chap shot outside the gym in Sefton, be warned. You will be found, you will be haunted, it really isn’t worth the risk.

March 5, 2023

Highlights today: Watching Insiders and enjoying it (apart from the ghastly Angus), being able to drive up to Baulko to pick up a massive bag of medications for John and then Dav and family coming in the afternoon armed with a pile of bananas, oranges and a bowl of stewed apple. I had asked for two bananas and two oranges but got 8 bananas and six oranges, loaves and fishes. We sat on the back deck and chewed the fat, metaphorically only! The drive was fine for that short distance but it convinced me that taking John to St. V’s tomorrow for his treatment is definitely off, I was going to make a decision in the morning. I’ll ring them to postpone but they won’t be happy, as it will be an 8 am cancellation of an 11 am appointment, but better than wiping out some poor soul on the way. I wonder how John would get this treatment if he were in aged care? I suspect he just wouldn’t as I can’t see them organising a driver once a month. Perhaps that’s why people often go downhill fast in a home, because their treatments and specialists’ appointments end and they get treated by the visiting GP. Also cancelled the replacement art class that they were letting me attend tomorrow night, we’ll see if they offer another alternative or if I just miss the boat for that one. Pity if so as I’ve done the sky and background for a picture of the Swiss Alps at dawn or dusk but I have no idea what to do next.

Stewed apple for dinner and life’s good.

March 6, 2023

Last night I had a call from Michelle telling me in part that she was sorting out her jewellery and deciding who she should leave it to, with a view to writing her will. This reminded me that I was also involved in a pre mortem clearance, with my jewellery sales at auction coming to fruition yesterday. Goodness knows when I would have checked the result otherwise, as it was not in my mind. I went online and discovered that to my surprise all six of the pieces had sold. I was very happy with the results, particularly the Georg Jensen bracelet which went for four times the reserve! I hope that the new owner gets as much enjoyment from it as I’ve had. So now I will send another tranche, after first checking if there’s anything that my girls want, though our jewellery tastes are fairly different.

It was planned today that John go to St. V’s for his treatment but it was clear this morning that driving to the city was far beyond my capabilities but they are unusually busy at the moment so he must wait till next Monday, which is probably a good thing from my point of view. Mid-morning I got a phone call from someone saying ‘I’ve got a flower for you’. I repeatedly asked for his identity, thinking it a scam, but all I got was ‘I’ve got a flower for you’. He asked if I were at home as he was outside and then the penny dropped that it was a florists’ delivery driver. Going outside I saw a van parked in next door’s driveway and soon saw the driver with a huge bunch of flowers from Carly which he had been trying to deliver next door! Two strokes of luck there, one that it could have been on my neighbour’s porch all day in 38 degree heat and barring his address mistake that if we’d gone to St. Vs it may very well have been left on mine. The bunch is so sizeable that I didn’t have a vase big enough, but they look wonderful in an antique wash jug.

March 7, 2023

I have managed to dip in and out of the Robodebt Royal Commission live feed and I’ve decided that if brain transplants become possible in my lifetime I will opt for the one currently owned by Commissioner Catherine Holmes, thanks very much. She misses nothing, she’s deadpan in a way I could never be, she’s just bonza. I think if Stuart Robert called her ma’am one more time she may have leapt the bench and pulled his throat out, but then she’s so cool that I can’t be sure. Today Kathryn Campbell, former secretary and one of the founders of the scheme, was brittle and rigid, clearly wanting to be anywhere else in the world. After Robodebt collapsed in a fireball she was moved to Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, despite a complete lack of experience in the field, reportedly as a reward for her support of Morrison and the programme. Thankfully for this family she no longer resides there. It is pretty obvious where Holmes’ axe is going to fall and it is amongst particular politicians and public servants who are now being recalled for second or even third appearances. One of those who hasn’t appeared at all, Malisa Golightly, died at an early age from unknown causes some time after Robodebt had been found to be illegal. I’m not sure how Holmes will handle that tricky one but I trust it will be totally appropriately. Perhaps Morrison, followed by Robert and Tudge, were the most slippery of witnesses, but Rachelle Miller was irksome and downright nasty, with no apparent understanding (nor care) of how her actions had affected victims. She was responsible for digging dirt files on any person who spoke negatively to the Press about Robodebt and she was totally unapologetic for that action, or any other. I would like to have the 65 cents I contributed to her settlement (basically for having an affair with her sleazy boss) returned post haste. Robert helpfully pointed out that if a person was on benefits for 11 months and earned $1 million in the 12th month (not a totally impossible scenario) the programme would have shown that they earned $83,333 per week and were scamming the government. I don’t think this is more than high school maths, yet no-one in the department or the various ministers’ offices considered that the idea of income averaging simply couldn’t be reliable. It is apparent that they are not all stupid, so the only explanation is that they knew but just didn’t care.

March 8, 2023

I was totally disgusted by the war-mongering story on the front page yesterday, unsurprisingly authored by the China hawk Peter Hartcher. There are a lot of issues I would like to take up over Chinese actions, but I am hamstrung defending them for those things they are accused of but haven’t done. I penned a letter to the SMH  as follows:

Dear Editor,I often tell people of the TV ads that the government ran trying to bolster support for the war in Vietnam. They showed troops of Chinese soldiers carrying rifles, marching south across the Harbour Bridge. Though laughable at one level, they were in fact a cynical attempt to terrify the populace into supporting a war which we should have refused point blank to join. I didn’t think that decades later this tactic would be repeated on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald.

It followed a previous letter a few weeks back which listed the countries China has invaded in the past 50 years compared to the same list for the USA, apologising for taking up so much of the Letters page with the latter list. I feel as I did prior to the Vietnam and Iraq invasions and I suspect our voices will similarly be ignored. America lives on having enemies and has a misplaced and inflated self-belief which clouds all judgments. Usually they attack people over whom they can ultimately prevail, despite the ruination of the country concerned. This time they are biting off a much bigger mouthful than they can safely swallow.

Saw Bob this morning and told him that if I could have the current zero pain, zero discomfort and zero loss of control for the rest of my life I would be a very happy camper. But I have finished the antibiotics now and we can only wait and see, I accidentally typed ‘wait and wee’ which is possibly more accurate. He can’t the drug as an ongoing medication in case we lose this last line of defence. We should know in a week if it’s going to hold, toes crossed. But on the exhaustion and eating front there is only minimal improvement, strangely I only want fruit or fish, so it’s fruit for breakfast and lunch and a tiny portion of fish for dinner, but there’s plenty of food in the freezer for John.

Over the last months I have been interested in the trial of Alex Murdaugh, the wealthy scion of a North Carolina legal family for the murder of his wife and son. To see his conviction taking the jury only three hours was surprising. The judge’s remarks were memorable: that he had had to remove the portrait of the accused’s great-grandfather from the court in the interests of justice as his family had dominated the court for generations as prosecutors and judges. It was also a black judge sitting over a very famous white man and the profound message in that must have been obvious to everyone. But perhaps it was his final word that were most disquieting: “I sit here in this courtroom and look around at the many portraits of judges and reflect on the fact that over the past century your family, including you, have been prosecuting people here in this courtroom and many have received a death penalty for lesser conduct.”

March 9, 2023

Well Andrew Wilkie has come out with serious accusations against Hillsong under parliamentary privilege, and none too soon. He said: “I am shocked that when (the documents were) offered to the ATO, ASIC and ACNC last year, under whistleblower legislation, not one of those agencies acted. And that is a failure of regulatory oversight every bit as alarming as Hillsong’s criminality.” Hear, hear to that. I interviewed Wilkie at his Sydney home (was it in Waverley? somewhere over there anyway) for a Sydney public radio station many, many years ago and found him forthright and honest. It was in relation to the false US intelligence reports coming out of Iraq. He commented at the end that it was a very good interview, though I’m sure he says that to everyone as he’s a nice man, but I had his mobile in my phone for years after and perhaps I still do. He would be my go-to guy if I stumbled on any sort of serious malfeasance that could be exposed in parliament. Hillsong’s business model was explained to me years ago by an ex-member. They pay huge honoraria to their overseas pastors, along with business class travel to Australia and luxury accommodation, and then the overseas pastors give the Houstons similar gigs with similar conditions in their countries. Accommodation vacancies currently exist in Long Bay, Silverwater and Parklea I understand, transport included.

I have spent the whole day doing Sweet Fanny Adams, watching the Robodebt Royal Commission and seeing Mr. Greggery ever so politely pull the ex-Ombudsman into small pieces, reading a couple more articles in The Monthly, wanting to paint but the effort of setting up the paper and brushes seemed too difficult and finally sitting on the front verandah just waiting for John to come home. Bob, Kristy and others think it wise that I take a break and give John a week in respite. Apparently it’s a matter of ringing around one’s chosen facilities and discussing their rules and regs and more crucially, their availability. So on Monday I rang ARV, the place I have most knowledge of, and asked for assistance. I was assured that I would get a call by Wednesday morning, but despite ringing again I’ve heard nothing. (I’m glad I didn’t say yes to hospital and have to do this from the back of an ambulance!) This was why I ruled them out as home care providers, their appallingly lax administration. So this arv I tried again, this time with Baptist Care’s Gracewood at Kellyville, recommended by Tania, who is in the know about such things. They rang back in five minutes and were helpful: yes to private rooms, yes to ensuites, yes to an accessible garden, but they require a minimum of a three week stay. Too long I think, and I’m not prepared to pull him out early as they will charge for that time and as he only has approval for 61 days a year in total I don’t want to waste virtually half of it. So we begin again. Perhaps the gods are thinking that by the time I sort it out I will be well enough not to need it? They have a sense of humour those gods.

March 10, 2023

Today Jane and Boris offered to take John for a drive in the afternoon, so I took the opportunity to use the family Christmas gift of a massage. Because the local Endota Spa is in the dreaded Castle Towers, I had planned to find one in a main street setting, in Balmain for example, but that’s not an option today so the Towers it is. I must admit that once inside one could be anywhere. Rooms are labelled with names such as Believe and Breathe (I don’t need to be reminded, but thankyou for the tip) so it’s very New Age and not really my scene. But the girl was nice enough in a totally impersonal way and explained that after the massage she would advise me on ‘products’. Not wanting her to get excited about this idea, I mentioned that I had no need of products so that was unnecessary. The massage was very relaxing and when I commented on the lovely scent of the oil (ylang ylang and patchouli) I was reminded that I could purchase some as either oil or as a room infuser, so I decided to cease all comment from then on. On leaving I was approached at the desk with ‘I know you said that you weren’t interested in products but these three are highly recommended based on my experience of your skin’. A shake of the head was enough I thought, but then ‘would you like to book your next appointment while you’re here?’. No thankyou and I am off into the melee of the Towers, deleting their survey from my email when I got home. This pleasant afternoon completely buggered me and I was in bed and asleep by 8 pm, but very pleased that John reported a lovely visit to the Botanical Gardens and came home a happy chappy.

John’s carer Greg was off this week (was it a colonoscopy?) so he was replaced by a lovely Indian lady from South Africa. It was only when they came back that she divulged that this was her very first solo caring appointment, having been trained by Wendy’s but previously working with a buddy. She’s actually an accountant. They got on well and it’s good to add another familiar person to the list of possibilities for the future. It’s slightly worrying that Greg is now not working next week either so there’s concern that he’s had a negative result. We have no personal contact number as part of company policy so I could only send a message to him via the office but I really hope he’s okay. Next week I need to take John to appointments previously cancelled so every day is taken, either by those or by home  carers or day care. I know how lucky I am to have these options and even though the government’s intent is to keep him out of care for financial reasons, they’ve done a good job of setting up the alternatives.

Sadly the same can’t be said for the Robodebt scheme. It is patently clear that the planning was deliberately cruel and punitive and intended to punish those who were relying on Centrelink benefits. I watched the very end of the Royal Commission yesterday with an appearance by the mother of a boy who suicided hours after receiving two notices, one that he owed $2000 because his income and benefits didn’t tally and another to say that his Newstart Allowance was cancelled because of said debt. After he died his mother got a letter to say that his debt had been recalculated to a little over $1000, for no apparent reason, but also saying that it would be wiped due to his death making it ‘uneconomic to pursue debt recovery’. Who sends such a letter to a grieving mother? I hope once the Hillsong crew go to some ‘correctional facility’ there is still room left for Morrison, Tudge, Robert et al. They can all pray together and speak in tongues, just as they did at the Commission. Catherine Holmes was in good form at the end, when her lackey announced that ‘the Commission is now adjourned’ she snapped ‘no its not, it’s ended’. Ouch.

March 11, 2023

Up early to get the respite emails written and out of my hair for the weekend. With ARV I gave a blow by blow account of my attempts to connect, not exactly complaining but asking for email answers to my six questions as I’ve been unable to speak to a person. Then, in case I need to go with Gracewood, I sent them all the documents they had asked for. I am wondering if they want these details to weed out anyone who looks as if they might cause a bit of work for the staff. I don’t know, but I won’t hear from either till Monday so that is somewhat of a relief in that I can safely leave my phone in another room without panicking about missed calls. Heather rang this morning and I asked her about the Brethren home. She said that they had received so much bad Press that they opened it at much the same time they were bringing across hay from WA to help drought-stricken farmers. It was all over the news at the time but apparently it was almost all going to Brethren farmers. She surprised me by saying that she wouldn’t get involved with them, this from someone who spent her first 20 years or so in that faith, it was the religion of her parents and grandparents. We went up to the shops briefly and ran into John’s pal from day care, Logan. I always wave to him when I’m seeing John off as he sits right behind the driver. His wife was with him and I’ve decided to have them round soon for a cuppa as it would be good for John to bolster that friendship. He is back to his old self now that I’m doing the things I normally do around the house, even though that’s precious little as yet. The papers are getting well read though.

I painted a card this afternoon of a beach scene and it was pretty crap so I’m glad I didn’t attempt to finish the Alps picture for which the teacher has sent instructions. I missed two classes but made sure that the owner of the school knew exactly what was happening, however Krista said she had no idea why I didn’t turn up and whether I was coming back. Surely this is not such a massive operation that two messages can’t be passed on? Back in my day…. well I guess in my day with no email and no phone in our house there weren’t any messages passed on so I’d better shut up.

March 12, 2023

John has just packed up the 1000 piece jigsaw that I bought him recently. It had become obvious that I was the only one who was doing a bit and he now says it’s too much for him. Was worth a try though. He must get so sick of playing patience and colouring. Even the papers are too much now, though he looks at the headlines. Yesterday he unusually looked at the deaths and commented that there was a Peter Downie there, the name of a close friend. I told him that I think we would have heard if it were our Peter but he wasn’t convinced, so I asked if it listed the man’s wife’s name. Yes, Rosalie, he said questioningly. Well if it’s not Dawn we’re okay I answered, but he wasn’t happy till he checked the birth date, oh it’s 1933 so it’s not him he said happily. I’m not sure I’ll tell Peter. John phoned Stephen this morning and it ended up with me doing all the talking as when I prompted John to talk about his escapades out with carers or with Jane and Boris for example he couldn’t remember any of them, so it came back to me telling his stories.

Carly rang last night and she isn’t getting a weekend, needing to go in to work both days. It’s all about the May budget and submitting figures for what her department wants to do. I guess it wasn’t long ago that I needed to work 7 days at times, though I can’t imagine what that was like now. I feel as if I have gone so far downhill since then. I think there’s truth in the idea of never retiring because all the passion goes and the energy with it.

Although I stuck to my plan of not worrying about John’s respite over the weekend, I did have a sneaky look at the online reviews for both of the homes in question. The ARV ones were a mixture of good reviews and others like ‘Absolutely pathetic RNs here. Do not send your elderly relatives here – unbelievable lack of empathy from staff. Would rate 0 if I could’ and ‘Most frustrating place to try and speak to a resident outside working hours. Only public number is a central Anglicare number and goes nowhere on a weekend or after hours. Even when I finally found a number to a ‘nurse on the floor’ it went to message bank. This is simply unacceptable for any retirement home’ and ‘Can never get through to reception. Being an aged care facility, you should be able to get through to reception at all times’. On top of my experience with their administration phone, this is looking a bit too much like a pattern. The Kellyville one was pretty uniformly good. I’m glad I looked.

March 13, 2023

Well the angels were smiling today as I left Baulko in rain to drive John to St. Vs for his belated treatment. But when I’d dropped him off and got to a parking spot at Woolloomooloo there was still some blue sky there, but with big black clouds rolling in from the west. I hurried to the pool and managed six slow laps in that divine saltwater pool but the rain still hadn’t hit so I was able to camp there and read for a bit. Met a chap called Peter in the pool who couldn’t wait to tell me that he’d been to Harry Triguboff’s 90th birthday party at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday night ‘amazing food, the entertainment was unbelievable with scantily clad acrobats hanging from rings in the ceiling’. He was joined by 420 of his ‘closest friends’. Apparently it was very political as one would expect, Morrison, Dutton, Howard, the usual suspects. He was welcome to it, although I didn’t burst his bubble by telling him that as he seemed pretty happy about it all.

I was disgusted to read that the Herald wouldn’t print any of Paul Keating’s scathing rebuttal of last week’s Red Alert series, Peter Hartcher’s desperate attempt to scare us all into a more aggressive stance on China. I think I shall have to wipe Hartcher’s other articles in future, if I don’t agree with his assessments on this so how can I trust anything else he writes about? I disagree with PK on a lot of things but he’s usually spot on about foreign affairs (as he was about the colour of my loungeroom).

Yesterday we had a long chat with Stephen and he asked John if he had been lost on his walks lately. John had forgotten ever being lost but replied that he always stuck to the same route. Shortly after he went out and an hour later rang me from the other side of Castle Hill, lost 6.2 kms from home, but happily sitting on someone’s front fence waiting to be picked up.

March 14, 2023

Well today I was determined to finish the painting that I missed doing when I wasn’t there for two lessons. Krista kindly sent me a video of her online students doing the same work and I can see how it has its benefits to do it that way. You can stop and start the video as you work or go back if you need to, perhaps it’s worth considering this as I wasn’t going to continue next term as I have to get an evening carer but now I will have another think. Although I see faults in my painting of the Alps, I also think it’s probably the best one I’ve done.

Quite an interesting conversation with Iris whom we bumped into at the shops the other day with her husband Logan, John’s friend from day care. She has taken two weeks off work looking for respite care for him and she rang ARV as her first choice, but has had no reply in 12 days! She is excited by the possibility of he and John going somewhere together, which would be wonderful if it could be worked out. So I’ve given her Gracewood’s details and she’ll follow it up. I’m still waiting for the ‘clinical team’ there to decide if they can take John……

I say this with a gulp but I think I have just read a book worthy of Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, big call. I have been trying to get a copy for a while and Hills Library acceded to my request to buy it. Called A Guardian Angel Recalls by Willem Frederik Hermans, written in Dutch in 1971 but only recently translated. It is narrated by a guardian angel sitting on the shoulder of a public prosecutor during the days prior to and just after the German invasion. The angel tries valiantly to keep its charge safe and ethical and just, but with the accent on safe, however humans being as they are the successes are hard won. If I could give this book 10 out of 5 I would, despite it being a subject not usually within my style. It is all written as a contest between the inner voice of Bert who sinks into his obtuse fantasies and resurfaces to think sensibly, for short periods at least. Who could think sensibly with Hitler on the doorstep? The author describes the Dutch Army as ‘ninety percent conscientious objectors in uniform’, high praise in my opinion and I suspect in the author’s. A couple of lines meant for me: ‘One often suffers bitter tears, from suffering one only fears.’ I cried a few times, not least when I finished it.

March 15, 2023

Someone from Gracewood rang at 8 am and asked a motza of questions about John. I have no idea which criteria they are using to decide so I just answered everything honestly and we shall see, though she certainly didn’t indicate that there were any problems. I think she said there is a room in the dementia locked section and one in the ‘normal section’, but surely that’s a no-brainer? Now it goes to the manager for decision apparently. Yesterday afternoon I told John that Heather was popping in shortly and his answer was: Do I know Heather? That’s the first time he’s failed to recall someone that we know well and see often.

Today was a return to the dentist for John at RNS. I explained that Bob was wary about her pulling his broken tooth out lest septicaemia is the result. But she thinks it’s risky to leave it as it is, so she’s going to ring him. Let them fight it out. She took an age to very thoroughly fill two teeth so that’s another job off the list. Then to the auctions where I put in a clean-up of my jewellery drawers, but nothing as exciting as the last lot. While there I was invited to look over the upcoming antique sale which was a big mistake on my part. There was a delicious sampler from the 1800s that I couldn’t go past without leaving a bid. Where I will hang it I have no idea, but it spoke to me and as I’ll be cashed up from the jewellery…..

March  16, 2023

Momentous day as I was invited to Gracewood at 9 am to inspect the facilities, so clearly his respite application was looking good. They are meticulous about taking temperatures, supervised RATs and hand sanitiser. But most of all meticulous about paperwork, I came out with a bundle, he’s starting there next Monday, woo hoo. One reads: If you were ill and couldn’t go to breakfast what would you like on the tray brought to your room? The list was longer than a motel breakfast chitty, but it seems such a hypothetical…. The best bit though is the place itself, quite new, spotlessly clean, the staff professional at the same time as being very warm and the facilities are amazing, from the hairdressing salon to the coffee shop to the dining room with chefs cooking food from scratch in an open kitchen, multiple choices at each meal and a menu that changes daily. Downsides? Just one and we’ve managed to dodge it. The dementia unit was straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. As we walked into the locked unit a lady came up to me distressed saying ‘My husband died last night’ so of course I was sympathetic. But as we moved away Anu whispered ‘Her husband is alive and well, he visits her every day’. Add this to the moaning and noises and people wandering aimlessly and I was very glad to get the hell out of there. So when I said yesterday that it was a no-brainer which section he would go in, I was clearly wrong. They’ve decided that he’s not demented enough to go in the locked ward thank Buddha, with one proviso: If he goes out through the front doors of the building it will be assumed he’s ‘absconding’ and he’ll go to the locked rooms. So I’ve been explaining this to him constantly, not as a threat or mentioning the dementia unit, but saying that they are frightened he may get hit in the carpark and be sued for millions. He agreed that would be a terrible outcome and promised to stay away from the foyer, but we’ll have to see how we go there.

Spent the afternoon beginning the ‘urgent’ forms needed for them to draw up the contract before Monday. I signed him up for the ‘special extras’ such as the roving icecream cart and drinks at Happy Hour, just in case he decided not to stay a teetotaller (he did after all join in the wine tasting at Murrumbateman). Perhaps now I can sleep without this weight of guilt about putting him in some place that turned out to be dodgy, I’d be happy to go for three weeks if I had to.

March 17, 2023

This morning at 9 am we were both at Gracewood to submit the most important of the documents and Anu offered John a tour and showed him his (lovely) room, introducing him around as we went. John was very happy with it all and I think he was genuine in saying that he’s looking forward to going on Monday. He asked if he could go there permanently if I were unable to take care of him and the manager answered ‘I’m sure we could arrange it’. It is such a weight off both our minds as when I was really sick I considered the possibility that the treatment wouldn’t be successful and John would be left high and dry. Now it’s all about getting everything in order for Monday, from paperwork to clothes etc. I suddenly realised that having John included in my forward legal planning no longer works so I need to have those documents redone, as clearly they can become very important very quickly.

I just got a call from Iris. Her husband Logan has finally decided that he wants to go to Gracewood with John after initially resisting it. So she rang Anu immediately and had his clinical assessment done, but they’ve refused him on the grounds that he needs a bigger bed! He’s not huge by any means and neither of us is sure whether that means forever or just that the bigger beds they have are in use. So disappointing and I wasn’t surprised that there were tears, she’s exhausted, working full time while he goes to day care five days a week and then looking after him nights and all weekend. I don’t know how to help.

John’s carer came today because he missed out on Wednesday due to the dentist. Debbie said that it was too hot to go walking about so she suggested tenpin bowling, as it was in air-conditioning, something that John was very excited about. I am so grateful to Wendy’s for the quality of the people they send. My Vanuatuan friend Alice messaged this morning: “I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy.” It lifted my day.

March 18, 2023

The paper screamed this morning that: ‘Army investigates neo-Nazis in its ranks, the Australian Army has launched an urgent investigation after discovering serving soldiers have links to neo-Nazi groups’. Yes well perhaps if they had taken notice of that trend ten or twenty years ago they may have less of a problem now. Is it because people of a domineering and authoritarian nature are attracted to the police and military (particularly the army) or is it because they go into the service young and innocent and are swallowed up by the prevailing culture? I have personally known incidences of both. But the uninhibited racism and far right views of members of the services is apparent and very depressing. I think the army has Buckley’s chance of rooting them out now.

It seems that it’s a hard time for a number of people at the moment. A friend, who has looked after her mother for years at home, rang to say that her mother is fading fast. Bob was there Friday and Saturday, despite the fact that both of those are his days off. Iris, a community nurse, tells me that he is the only doctor doing home visits in this area, hence he gets all the palliative care work. I have recommended him over the years to three people who have been looking after dying relatives and he has attended all of them until their deaths, often daily at the end.

March 19. 2023

Iris brought Logan over this morning to see John before he goes away. Logan got up early to make us some sun-dried tomato pesto which we sampled at lunch and very good it was too. Currently we are doing John’s packing, as well as clothes there is all his drawing and colouring equipment and enough drugs to tide him over the first week at least, and of course the chocolate stash. He is happy about it now which is a huge relief and a credit to the staff’s welcoming attitude.

One comment that Iris made chilled me somewhat, that when they arrived from South Africa she couldn’t understand ‘why white people were being nice to us, what they wanted from us’ so they were naturally suspicious of any positive attention. What a sad commentary on their previous lives that they felt that way, it’s a terrible burden to live under and sadly many people all over the world have to bear it. When will people get past racism? Sadly in recent years we seem to have slipped backwards with all the uber nationalist and anti-Semitic groups popping up.

I sold a 1920s cutthroat Bengall razor on eBay and the fellow will pick it up in the next day or two, a rarity as almost everything gets posted. Because I will be here on my own, the thought crossed my mind that he might take its use literally and cut my throat with it. Such a thing wouldn’t even cross my mind normally and it’s quite silly really, as how would John protect me from a knife-wielding psychopath?

March 20, 2023

What a damned depressing day. We were both quite positive this morning, but that diminished as the day went on. First they took all of John’s clothes to label, which was fine in principle, until he got cold in the air-conditioning so I had to go hunting a jumper for him from the laundry where such activities take place. No biggie. Then they took all his medications, despite his having them sorted into a Webster box, and knowing clearly what to take when. I could foresee an initial stuff-up and it wasn’t long coming, no-one appeared with his pre lunch antibiotic until I asked about it. I decided to stay with him for lunch and the staff had kindly seated him with two men and I was added to the table, though I didn’t eat. Neither was very friendly so I started a conversation with one: ‘How do you find the food here?’ Reply: ‘It would make a dog sick, never mind a human.’ Okay, perhaps I’ll try the other chap. ‘So how long have you lived here?’ ‘I don’t remember, a long time, maybe 13 years but I want an end to it.’ Um, the place has been open for less than 5 years, but it occurred to me if this is the chosen pair to meet John on his first day, what are the rest of them like? (A strange woman came up and told me how glad she was that we’d met up again and how she looks forward to seeing more of me). The food looked perfectly fine, lots of choices, he picked Indian lamb curry, rice and vegetables followed by banana caramel pudding. He rolled his eyes during grace, I hadn’t thought of grace when promising him there would be no religion and it won’t take much to start him on an anti-religion roll. Unfortunately Tuesday morning’s activity is Devotions….but it seems to be only once a week. He looked so sad when I left, saying at the lift ‘Please don’t die before me, I don’t want to stay here’. So now he’s sad and I feel like a heel, great outcome.

I was planning to do my painting ‘homework’, the sky and clouds of a new picture, a seascape with lighthouse. I have till Wednesday night to do it, but thought it would be a good way to spend the afternoon after a taxing day. However I feel I would stuff it up right now, so I will do other things which need less concentration. Like ringing John, who enjoyed a concert that happened this afternoon and met someone he knows, Harry who was a worker (the best one) at Orange Blossom Cottage, but left last year. Two positives I am trying to hang onto, he liked an activity and if Harry is there it’s an okay place.

Well you wouldn’t read about it. On the very day that John goes into Baptist Care, Anglicare finally rings, two weeks late and only because I added a comment to their Facebook advertising asking for a call back. (I’ve been deluged with Anglicare ads ever since I’ve been trying to get through to them, go figure?). I explained that John was now sorted but pleaded with her to ring Iris to try to get Logan accommodated. She must have rung straight away as Iris texted from work to say she’d had a call. I should have used that technique earlier as it’s worked so well in the past with Optus and others. Those monitoring Facebook are much more responsive than others in an organisation, fearing you will give them bad comments publicly, something I had refrained from doing. It’s not about satisfying the client, it’s all about PR. I think that minor victory entitles me to a bath, with some smellies and bubblies in it. I’d have a glass of wine too if I were game, but better not tempt fate.

March 21, 2023

Off to a long-planned lunch with Di, Jenny, Greg and Linda at Cockatoo Island. Initially it was planned for John to go too, but we can do the trip another time as I would really like to climb up and revisit the seagull rookery which I discovered accidentally last time we were there. I seemed to field a lot of calls and texts today but they were ones I couldn’t ignore. Iris rang as my pleas to Anglicare on Logan’s behalf bore fruit today when he was offered a place at ARV, but it is in the dementia unit and he doesn’t have a diagnosis of dementia, it’s Parkinson’s. She is naturally wary and asked for a tour, which was denied unless she makes a commitment to admit him. This sounds so unreasonable that I suggested she make the commitment verbally and then do the tour, only going ahead if she’s happy that it’s suitable for him. Also I missed a call from John’s floor at Gracewood which worried me a lot as when I rang back it went to message bank. However the RN Cecelia rang me back to say that John had eaten breakfast and lunch and was socialising and joining in the games. It was good of her to take the time to ring. My sense of it today is that his anxiety is less and he told me he’d had porridge for breakfast and sat next to an ex- fireman, so thankfully he got away from the negative pair he was with yesterday.

I gave up watching Q and A when Stan Grant became the host, he’s just too overbearing and it drives me nuts. Now he’s in bother for talking over Geoffrey Robertson. Why don’t they get rid of the guests and rename it The Stan Grant Show? I’m curious too that he gets darker and darker, I don’t know what that’s about but I watch with interest.

March 22, 2023

The IPCC Report is deeply depressing but not nearly as depressing as the knowledge that it won’t be heeded. How can countries who wage war possibly be interested in climate change and the welfare of the planet? Likewise countries who manufacture weapons (as we do) or plan to spend multiple billions on submarines with highly enriched weapons-grade uranium for fuel? We’re screwed in my humble opinion. By all means continue the protests, but also realise that we’re likely to get the same result as we did trying to stop the Iraq War.

Looking at the photos of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh, his son Buster and son Paul, whom Alex was convicted of murdering, it occurs to me that they are all very unpleasant looking people. I’m sure that they were all lovely babies, but somehow in that family the boys are clones of a father with very disagreeable looks. Now the bodies of both the family maid and a friend of Buster’s are being disinterred as their deaths are considered suspicious, one already listed by the police as a homicide. Could be more to come in this grisly tale.

This morning I rang John who asked ‘Why am I in hospital when I feel fine?’ so I explained for the umpteenth time that it’s not a hospital and why he is there (‘it must be, there are nurses here’ he said) . He asked again how long he’ll be there and then ‘How many weeks have I been here now?’ Francis the nurse told me that ‘it usually takes a week for people to get used to things and feel more settled’. Luckily I remembered today to notify Centrelink about where he is, so my carer’s allowance can be stopped for the duration. Headed to pre-polling after the visit and gave some assistance, as well as voting. Luckily I had ordered John a postal vote as I’ve seen no messages about voting at Gracewood. He was very clear about his vote and understood the ballot paper perfectly, it’s so strange that he can do that but not remember a phone call he’s had two minutes ago.

10.30 pm: Painting was cancelled tonight due to the teacher being sick, which was a huge relief as I hadn’t done the homework and wasn’t up to being with other people after today. I had looked forward to tonight as I didn’t have to book a carer for John and could just mosey up and back without rushing, but it was not to work out like that. I hadn’t counted on how mentally taxing visiting him would be, but not visiting him is worse. In tears tonight after five phone calls from John between 6 and 8.45 asking where a particular medication is. Each time I explained that all his meds are being held by the nurses and he needs to go and talk to them, each time the answer was ‘Okay I will do that as soon as I hang up’. Then an hour later the same question and he had no idea we’d already discussed it. Finally on the last call I said to take his phone to the nurse while I was on the line so I could ask her myself, but she saw him coming and I heard her say very nicely ‘John I told you before that I’m bringing your medications at 9.30’ so he had probably been asking her after each time he rang me. He is getting worse by the day, but it’s not because of the respite, it’s been happening for a few weeks now. Perhaps it will be a blessing for him when he forgets even more and gets past obsessing about everything.

March 23, 2023

There had to be a crash day for me and this was it. The realisation of how much John’s condition has deteriorated hit me like a hammer, but I think not going to visit today and leaving him with a bus excursion, a visit from Jane and a movie, was probably good for us both. He was so looking forward to the excursion but afterwards he didn’t know if he’d been or not.

When watching the riot outside Mark Latham’s Belfield talk I had the distinct feeling that the people there were the same mob who tried to terrorise us at the Pell demonstration, but dismissed it as unlikely. However my first instincts were correct, when police revealed that the man arrested for assault was also cautioned at the Pell protest and the night before that for cutting down ribbons attached to the cathedral fence. There was a photo and he was the same chap struggling against the police cordon, attempting to get to us. There were no women amongst the group (surprise), they were all dressed in black and all ‘of Middle Eastern origin’. I ask myself if aggression is part and parcel of Lebanese culture or is it a heritable trait? Whichever way I want nothing to do with those passionate religious men of either the Maronite or Muslim bent. I’m sure Chrys Stevenson didn’t realise how prescient her last week’s article on Christofascism would be:

March 24, 2023

I was gently chided today for arriving at 8.30, before the admin staff start, so it’s after 9 am from now on. Kevin arrived about 10.30 and he’s so good with John and with the staff, calling them all by name and having a chat. Just what you’d expect from an ex-priest and then hospital social worker, he had the morning tea server eating out of his hand and we were served tea and pumpkin scones along with John. I left them before lunch, chatting out in the garden. Next week Kevin is bringing Pat, the only remaining serving priest from John’s class and a beautiful human who insists on being called Brother Pat by his flock as he feels Father is a patronising title.

I had some extraordinary luck today. I have been trying to get a ticket to see Joseph Tawadros playing his oud in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons either at the Recital Hall or the Opera House, willing to break my ban on going to concerts for him (I’ve kept a couple of the now unobtainable duck-billed masks for just such a circumstance). But when I tried to get into any of the concerts they were booked out, even the standing room. I mentioned it in passing to Jane and told her that I was surprised that there wasn’t even a solo seat. It turns out that she and Boris had booked and he insisted on giving me his ticket on the grounds that they had also been invited to the rehearsal and he had therefore already seen the concert in its entirety. Talk about serendipity! So Jane and I will be going and I am completely stoked.

Kevin rang to say how much he enjoyed seeing John and acknowledging how much he had deteriorated. At lunch he had no idea where to sit until guided by Kev. Tonight at 10 pm on the dot John rang to say he couldn’t find his medications and we went through the whole scenario of the nurses dispensing them, but he said they hadn’t. Half an hour later he rang again with the same concern so I got him to find a nurse who assured him that they had been given earlier in the evening, so I can only trust that the staff are right on this one and my boy is confused as he doesn’t know his arse from his elbow at the moment.

March 25, 2023

A weird election day when I’m not handing out, but somehow that date didn’t occur to me when I booked the eco dyeing workshop. There was certainly plenty of plant material to choose from, eucalyptus leaves, maples, grevilleas, plus flowers like roses and irises. The first project was a cotton square about the size of a cushion which we covered with leaves, rolled around a fat dowel, tied up and boiled for a couple of hours in a solution with a mordant, in this case alum or another solution made with rust in water. One mix was boiled avocado seeds which put a pink cast on the fabric. Then we attacked a white silk scarf using the same method, only this time I used a mix of leaves and brown onion skins. This one gave a wonderful result that I was very happy with. Next came boiling sheets of  watercolour paper, pressed and tied between two tiles, into which I had pressed a grevillea flower and leaves. This was the least successful, but I can paint over the sections I’m not happy with. Another technique involved hammering flower petals between pieces of paper until the colour leached out into the paper, giving an abstract colourful design. I am fired up by the possibilities of these techniques and enjoyed it more than the painting.

On the way home I visited John with a leftover rose from the class and stayed till his dinner was served. He was the best I’ve seen him so far, quite relaxed and happy. Woo-hoo we might be over the worst.

March 26, 2023

John and I had a wager on the election result but it’s too soon to know who collects the prize. John said Labor would pick up 11 seats and I said 7, we shall see later in the week who won the bet but the most important contest is for the government of NSW, now firmly back in Labor hands. Perrottet’s concession speech was the most gracious I’ve heard and Minns followed suit. It was a very satisfying evening despite the lack of the usual seafood and champagne. I’d had cheese and crackers at the dyeing workshop so I settled for a glass of milk and called it dinner.

Carole invited me over to watch Insiders on a day when that invitation worked perfectly with the existing plans, going with Jane to the Tawadros brothers concert with the Australian Chamber Orchestra at the Opera House. The doorman to our section was none other than my friend Robert Tuzee so a big hug ensued and that was a wonderful start to the event. Richard Tognetti, playing a 1743 violin, was superb as always, he seemed to lock eyes with Joseph Tawadros through the whole performance and clearly they love playing together. A weird looking instrument sort of like a long necked oud or lute turned out to be a theorbo, who knew? The concert was a great end to a pretty ratty week. Here’s hoping it is a sign of things to come. John didn’t have visitors today as far as I know yet he seemed happy and settled at 6 pm. He wants me to bring a print from his wall tomorrow, a Rembrandt that he lately tells people is a Picasso. I think that indicates that Gracewood is feeling a little more like home to him. I was going to pack the car tonight but apart from his print and some clothes on hangers I’ve decided I’m too tired and it will all have to wait till the morning.

March 27, 2023

Last night I crashed at 8.30 which is pretty pathetic but it’s been a big two days. But this morning I was up early and energetically packing the car in the rain, but who cares about rain when I am getting away? Loaded up summer and winter clothes, books, all the weekend papers and the house insurance bill to pay. Got to John at 9.15 and he was happy, particularly because I brought his print to hang. Later I found out that he’d requested a handyman to come to his room to move the picture-hanging cords together so the hooks are all behind the picture and not visible. I could have done that but I think that he was enjoying the idea of getting someone in there to talk about the picture. Francis his nurse came and sat with us for a chat, he’s such a lovely young man who said he could earn a lot more money elsewhere but he loves working with old people. He used to be an agency nurse and has worked in about 30 aged care homes from Wollongong to Newcastle but says Gracewood is the best by far, citing the quality of the nursing and the food as standouts. My drive to Leura in rain was uneventful and I decided to have a salad for lunch at Leura Deli but it was on more of a platter than a plate so I had to ask for a takeaway box for half of it, there’s more than enough for lunch tomorrow. Posted Carly’s birthday presents at Leura, after adding a magpie brooch and a small rusted metal bird figure that I saw in With Max and Me, a favourite shop in the Mall. Then to Fairmont where the concierge unloaded my car and took everything to the room while I booked in, commenting on the big pack of rocky road he saw at the top of a bag, a gift for Dav and Louis as I explained, though I’m not sure he was convinced. Cecilia from Gracewood rang to say that the Valium, which John takes very rarely to sleep, wasn’t in his drug supply though I am almost certain it went in with him. I’m either mistaken or it walked before she came to lock it up as required, but I promised to take more in on Thursday. Went for a walk in the grounds here and although the pool looked inviting I decided to leave that till tomorrow and just enjoy a restful time in the room catching up on the weekend papers which I’d had no time to read.

Dinner was a small bowl of soup and I was hoping to have the delicious sounding caramel tart with champagne sorbet, but no way could I fit it in. No wining and dining here by the looks of it but in some ways that’s a good thing, although I know that when I am craving these lovely dishes some time later at home they won’t be an option. Still haven’t got to the papers, but will try before next weekend’s arrive. On 7.30 tonight there was a report on killing pigs with CO2, just appalling stuff, which must be devastating to the brave man who broke into the piggery to film. Made me glad I keep up my contributions to Animals Australia and very glad that I had corn soup for dinner.

March 28, 2023

I’m not at all sure that I agree with Minns’ decision to keep Gareth Ward out of Parliament if he wins his seat. Accusations are not a finding of guilt, he needs to be given the benefit of the doubt until he’s convicted, unless of course there is filmed proof of violence for example. John went to a Housing Conference years ago and was very impressed with Ward’s address, he was the relevant minister at the time. He said it was as if he were listening to a Labor pollie. But we’ll see how it all plays out, he may yet lose to the Labor candidate which solves that immediate problem, but if he is acquitted after losing his seat due to the charges it will leave a sour taste.

This morning I wanted to go to the bank but the Leura one has long closed, so I went to Katoomba for opening time. The main street is a sad affair now, quite a lot of shops for lease, the poor old Paragon Cafe still vacant after all these years. It was such a drawcard, its 1916 Art Deco interior as well as the lovely sweet offerings saw a line out of the door every weekend. The landlord refused to repair the water damage or reduce the rent back in 2018, so he’s had no money coming in ever since then, which seems a ridiculous business decision. While waiting for the bank to open I wandered up to an antique shop to see what he had but it was closed, however the cafe was open and the waitress informed me that ‘he’s retired but he comes in and opens at the weekends….sometimes’. I have had dealings with the chap and he’s at the chancy end of the dealer population so I’m not sorry to hear that he’s getting out of the game, however the 2 storey shop seemed packed with stock so who knows what’s going on. There was a free paper there that looked a bit interesting and so it proved to be. Called The Light it’s a 16 pager with anti-vax articles, anti-WHO, one on the New World Order which manages a large photo of Hitler and Mussolini, anti-trans, anti-refugee, anti pretty much everything really. I tried to pick up a copy without being seen, not that anyone would care as they were proudly holding copies but perhaps they were just curious like me. Katoomba is a hotbed of hippies and alternatives so they have a ready made market. Remember when the hippies were all for inclusion and loving their fellow man?

Just rang GIO to somewhat alter and then pay my home and contents insurance. Speaking to Darren in the Philippines I as usual asked simple things like the time there, the temperature, his city etc. At the end of the transaction he said ‘I’m sending virtual hugs to you’ which I of course sent back and then got off the phone in tears, not that he would have been aware. Somehow those distant contacts with a disembodied voice in a far-off land always make me feel wistful, imagining their different lives and circumstances, such as riding a motor bike through Manilla traffic as in this case. His virtual hugs really hit the target today.

March 29, 2023

I always enjoy hearing the views of constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey, but today I was particularly pleased to see her on the front page of the SMH echoing my opinion regarding Gareth Ward’s exclusion from parliament due to historical sex charges, which he denies. As Twomey says, the voters went into the election ‘with eyes wide open’ about the accusations, and wanted him anyway, so in one way I’m kind of glad that he’s cocked a snoot at the Liberals by standing as an independent and I doubt he will be too keen to side with them after the way he’s been treated. Minns needs to rethink his exclusion policy.

I think if I owned this place I would employ a painter fulltime and then a peeling exterior wall or handrail could be attended to without waiting till there was a heap of work to do. There seems to be a very big staff about the place and one lowly painter wouldn’t add too much to wages bill. The cost of running this outfit is a bit mind-blowing to think about, all the reception, catering, pool maintenance, gardening people everywhere. All things considered I think the tariff is reasonable and I just love the spaciousness of the place, its bush outlook and the grounds.

I did a stupid thing this afternoon and watched half of a 4 minute police video which was on the news on the computer. It was bodycam and I suddenly realised that I was falling sideways off the chair so I turned it off immediately. But the damage was done. I decided to walk it off, which sometimes works, and went outside to pad along a bush track and around the little lake, but unfortunately the world was spinning so I came back to the room, darkened the place and had a short sleep. You’d think I would have learned by now, but later I went to the pool and did some swimming so all was not lost.

John seems to be quite settled. He had four visitors today and when I rang him this afternoon he didn’t seem to want to talk but I discovered I’d interrupted a game of bingo so I will ring later.

March 30, 2023

My twin girls birthdays today and I managed to call them both early. Carly had received a text about her gift parcel posted on Monday but dismissed it as a hoax, so now she won’t get it till tomorrow. Davina is flying to Canberra tomorrow for a long weekend with her sister, the first since Millie was born. Louis took her out for the day to a movie and lunch with some perfume shopping as well.

My trip home was very smooth until I hit Blacktown where I went the wrong way trying to get to Gracewood despite the phone guiding me. Doing a back road detour to get on track I passed Crudge Street and boy it was indeed pretty crudgy and I’m thankful that I don’t live there, even though I often refer to Baulko as Blacktown Heights. But I made it eventually after getting reminder calls from John’s nurse Cecilia to bring more Yakult and a particular medication they were missing. Took both but when I got home again I had another call from her to say that the meds were out of date so they will have to be thrown out, here we don’t worry too much about such things but of course she has to play by the rules. While I was there I reminded John that it was afternoon tea time and he had no idea if it would be brought to his room or where it was likely to be served, or if it needed to be ordered in advance, in fact he said he didn’t know afternoon tea was served at all. He commented ‘I live in a total state of confusion’. He had filled me in on the bus tour to the men’s shed last Thursday but when I mentioned it to Donna who organises such things she told me it had been cancelled due to rain! So he obviously feels as if he needs to remember things if asked, even if they didn’t happen.

Thinking on the Gareth Ward situation and somehow it seems that a fundamental point has been made by the vote for him despite his upcoming court case and perhaps that principle is more important than getting Labor over the line, seeing it still wouldn’t give them a majority. I hope Minns does the right thing and lets him take his place in Parliament despite the hysteria that would bring.

While it’s sad that the roof is leaking in the National Gallery, the $14 million dollars it has just paid for the Lindy Lee sculpture would surely help its bid to waterproof the building. I simply can’t get my head around a sculpture costing that much money, how is that even possible? Twenty-three outdated Australian bridges are being replaced in a $50.3 million government programme, that’s about $2.2 million per road bridge, so the sculpture is the price of about 6 and a half road bridges. Sorry, fix the roof and then bargain her down if there’s money left over, much as I like her work.

March 31, 2023

Oh what a night. I can only describe it as severe anxiety, expecting Gracewood to ring to say John has Covid, worrying about Millie if Davina’s plane crashes today, worrying about the weeding of the front garden for Pete’s sake. So I got up and attacked the weeding, the only problem I can control, cutting back may bush with an old breadknife as John put both pairs of secateurs in a safe place weeks ago and a thorough search has failed to turn them up. Unfortunately weeding is more tricky as bending over causes an attack of vertigo so I have to pull some weeds, stand up, cut some bushes for a while, then weed again, all a bit tedious. But putting things in perspective, Doug Mulray died today and that knowledge really hurt. He was a rare shop customer and a delightful man. I fondly remember one quiet Saturday afternoon when he had nowhere special to go and with Miss Lizzie, his adored partner, we had a long discussion on his dealings with the vile Kerry Packer, on love at first sight (with special reference to Miss Lizzie), on comedy and how it changes us and gives us new perspectives. I wish now I’d accepted your offer of a cuppa next time I was in the Northern Beaches. Vale good man, I haven’t seen you in years but it was wonderful just knowing you were out there.

Interesting to see the Foreign Correspondent programme on the rise of Welsh nationalism and the effects of Brexit. Come to think of it, I don’t hear much from the few pro-Brexit folks of my acquaintance these days. Having buyer’s remorse are we? A figure of one child in three living in poverty in Wales is depressing in the extreme. Wales was one place where I was really happy to travel, driving and enjoying the unpronounceable signs in Cymric on every corner and hearing the language routinely spoken.

It’s weird that I can’t seem to either cook or read, my two favourite activities. Managed to finish last weekend’s papers last night but couldn’t manage to reread the book for today’s meeting, nor to cook something to take. It would have been easy to make a few coconut macaroons, but easier to pick up some coconut scrolls from Panetta’s. But the book group was a small intimate affair at Jane’s and I was glad that I went and enjoyed it very much.

April 1, 2023

No-one has pranked me yet for April Fool’s Day but there’s time yet. I went out to see John and was approached again by the lady who thinks she knows me declaring ‘I am a police officer you know and my husband is on a submarine’. I’m thinking that both of those are in the newspapers a fair bit, but it’s so hard to tease truth from fiction that it’s not worth trying. She has fastened a label to her chair so no-one else sits there for meals, thank goodness that we ensconced ourselves at another table for morning tea. The menu said tea and shortbread biscuits and although I was expecting Arnotts or something worse they turned out to be delicious home-baked ones still warm from the oven. I keep being surprised by this place. There are few activities but a host of religious ceremonies there over Easter, going through from Thursday to Monday, which is a pity as he loves the games. John was working out how to avoid the religion as they will knock on his door to remind him. I suggested picking up his phone and pretending to be deep in a phone conversation with his cousin Enzo from Swaziland, a plot he enjoyed. I plan to go to the Christian Men’s Choir on Sunday as I always love a choir, whatever they are singing about. Their motto is ‘Proclaiming Jesus – No Other Name’ which is enough to put off any Hindu or Muslim people who just want to listen to the singing I would have thought, but anyway we shall see.

April 2, 2023

Spent yesterday afternoon polishing all that remains of my sterling silver, including the superb four piece tea service which rarely gets used these days. I don’t know what it will bring but I am guessing somewhere between $1500 and $2000, perhaps more. There are a few Georgian spoons and sauce ladles as well as some Victorian and Edwardian teaspoons. I may take the remaining jewellery as well if I can bite the bullet and get rid of all of them at once. Sue came yesterday to stay overnight and insisted that we go out for dinner, so I booked La Boucherie, the newish place in Baulko as she loves all things French. I apologised for the fact that I would only be able to eat an entree and then foolishly ordered a main course, a decision that I have paid for all night, waking every hour and feeling quite sick. Totally self- inflicted and stupid after I managed to eat so little at the Fairmont and stayed feeling fine while there. We then came home to watch the Aston by-election which I wasn’t too worried about because of the recent Melbourne hoo-ha after the anti-trans campaign, assisted by various balaclava clad neo-Nazis. I just couldn’t see young people voting for a party which is following the American conservative playbook and using social issues as a cover for their lack of real policies, thankfully that was right. I am always fascinated by Kosmos Samaras and Tony Barry, strategists from the opposite sides of the political divide, who agree wholeheartedly about the demographics and the likely future decline of the Liberals. I occasionally dip into the blog Kos writes and find myself thoroughly agreeing with both of them, so different to listening to the excuses and justifications of the pollies themselves. I loved Barry’s comment on the future of the Liberal Party: ‘It’s going to get worse before it gets worse’. Sue is going to lunch today with her next door neighbours who have a poster in their front yard for the Liberal candidate for Terrigal. I think she’s kind of hoping that politics doesn’t come up, but I told her not to be so reluctant to espouse her views. Perhaps being the only girl in a family makes it harder to go against the prevailing perspective, but her neighbours are not backward in coming forward so she needs to stand on her dig and I’m sure they will respect her for it.

I didn’t go to see John today as I wasn’t feeling great, but sadly no-one else did either and he’s missing his games. ‘It must be Sunday today as it’s all religion here’ he rang to say. It’s such a pity that so much of his last week at Gracewood will be bereft of his beloved games and full of religion instead. Yesterday he was told there was a game of bingo going on the second floor and so the nurse took him up, but he took one look at the ‘high care’ patients and announced that he didn’t want to play bingo with them as they are all ‘too old and decrepit’. These weren’t even the folk in the dementia unit, just those in wheelchairs or with mobility difficulties, so I’m not sure that he could manage at all with the locked ward crew. I was planning to go in the morning before heading to the city to see Millie go for her martial arts white belt, but he tells me that he’s going on a bus tour for the morning so that complicates things.

April 3, 2023

Well I thought that I may have overstepped in telling Sue to stand on her dig with the neighbours but she says that she took the advice to share her views and it seems it improved her enjoyment of the lunch and possibly improved the relationship. I find the neighbour a bit hard to take but I think I will follow my own advice next time we meet up. It looks as if Sue is coming back tomorrow but it depends on the weather as she had a horror trip back in the rain on Saturday.

Wrote a letter to the SMH so I must be improving. It baffles me how the Libs didn’t take on board the result of Labor bringing in an out of area but popular ex-premier in Kristina Keneally last election, only to see her crash in favour of a local candidate. Why would bringing in a barrister from Brunswick to the outer suburbs of Melbourne have a different result? This is apart from the farce of electing Moira Deeming who said in her first speech that ‘equality has been taken to extremes’. When they get this rubbish into the party they can’t expect to have a chance at winning. Not that it’s new, Greg Mirabella and his gonzo wife Sophie have been at the centre of Victorian Liberal politics for decades, a new broom is needed down there if ever they hope to turn things around.

April 4, 2023

Yesterday afternoon I went to Erko and took Louis and Millie to her yellow belt grading at the Australian Martial Arts Academy in Marrickville. It was an eye-opener to me as I know nothing about this stuff. Millie was confident and able to do all the moves required of her, eventually resulting in her getting the yellow belt, along with a medal and certificate from the Grand Master. I was impressed about the subtle guidance included along the way about not using the skills to fight with siblings and only using the defence moves if attacked or bullied. She seems very keen and it will be interesting to see if she keeps it up when her after-school coding classes start next term.

Saw Bob who thinks my lack of appetite and energy has gone on too long to be put down to the aftermath of the kidney infection, though it is an extraordinary coincidence if I got two things at exactly the same time. He’s ordered blood tests and the note on them listed anorexia as a symptom, technically correct but a hoot when I am usually such a glutton. Possibly another ulcer and probably a worsening in the 2009 diagnosis of gastroparesis and oesophagus problems linked to Sjogren’s. Still think it’s a huge coincidence though. I told Bob that I don’t have time for anything serious at the moment so hopefully the tests will show that this will go away or at least minimise in its own good time.

I was expecting Sue this arv so I left John this morning cooking cake and some sort of little nests for Easter eggs. He was a bit reluctant as the other takers were all women, but Donna had set up a little oven, an electric beater and ingredients so I encouraged him to have a go. I know he’d rather that I sit there with him all day but it really defeats the purpose. I had a long list of things to do while he was at respite but apart from going to Leura they haven’t happened. Some people have broached the subject of my making his stay at Gracewood permanent. The advantage of that is that he’s guaranteed a place, whereas if we apply for him to go at some future time he may be rejected due to all the places being filled. It’s not a case of all the 120 odd rooms being full, but whether the small number of rooms put aside for government funded residents are full. He would be able to come and go, say come home for a weekend or a few days, or go on a holiday, but of course he doesn’t see any admission problems up ahead and isn’t ready for that option. I am not really ready either, but having found a place that ticks all the boxes I don’t want him to miss a place there and end up in some dive. Sue has rung to say that she is coming late afternoon today and staying over.

April 5, 2023

Sue’s birthday today and we were both up at 6 for an early breakfast of toast and a pot of tea, as against a mug, because it was her special day. She drove me to my appointment with the lovely Alex at Barsby’s Auctions where I deposited the sterling silver tea service and a bunch of silver spoons. David rejected the mid-19th century European hand-painted ceramic teapot and sugar due to the damage to the spout of the pot. This was entirely expected but it was worth a try. He said it might bring $30 but people wouldn’t understand what it was and it was better to enjoy it at home, a sentiment I agreed with. From there we went to Sue’s unit at Kirribilli which I was surprised to see was right next door to Kirribilli House with a bird’s eye view from the side windows of what is going on in the grounds there, so she could have overlooked Obama in the garden with Albo the other day. From the loungeroom and Sue’s bedroom there is a point blank view of the Harbour overlooking Fort Denison with Garden Island in the distance. We went down to the Kirribilli Wharf Cafe and shared some smoked salmon, asparagus and poached eggs on toast (with Sue having the poached eggs, but everything came with eggs as all were too big a serve for me). We got back past North Sydney when Sue remembered that she had opened the big windows in the loungeroom to show me the view, so she had to turn around to go back and close them. It was lovely having here here, especially celebrating her birthday together.

I just looked at the list of things I set myself to do while John was away and discovered that although some were achieved, many weren’t. A movie, a ferry trip on the harbour to Watson’s Bay or Cockatoo Island, a mooch in Cabramatta or Auburn to take in the multicultural flavours, a visit to the State Library and the new Art Gallery extension were all listed but these can be achieved over time. The next few days are hardly the right time as the city will be overrun with holiday makers and ideally I’d like to do these things with as few other people as possible.

April 6, 2023

Whew, what a day. It’s 19 years today since I found my brother but I didn’t tell anyone as I think John has forgotten all about him and there’s no point in going through the whole saga again when he will forget it instantly, so I just carried it with me all day. I got a call from Kerry at Baptistcare to discuss John’s exit from respite on Monday. She pointed out that there’s no guarantee that he would get a room, either as respite or permanently, when it was needed in future. But she said that if we went for permanency he could come home for 52 nights a year and any amount of day trips and his place would be guaranteed for life. It was quite a shock in one way yet not in another, I didn’t think that I’d be facing this decision so soon. So I said I’d think about it and drove to Gracewood, but then I couldn’t bring myself to go in and broach the subject with John. Luckily for me, I was able to speak to Carol and then Bob rang to say that my blood test results were ‘missing’ so I told him where I was and what I was thinking of doing. He had said to me a year or more ago that he would tell me when he thought John should go into care and apparently he’s been working up to telling me these last few weeks, so he was totally of the view that it’s time.

I brought up the subject with John and he was more accepting of the idea than he had been when we discussed it only theoretically. He was very keen on keeping that same room that he’s become accustomed to, so during his lunchtime I went to see Joanne the manager and explained that the room number was important to him as ‘When I’m 64’ was the way I’d told him to remember it so it’s the Beatles room to him. She told me to go to Centrelink first thing Tuesday to get a Means Test Assessment done so when I got home I rang for an appointment as you have to deal with an Aged Care Specialist not a counter jockey. After waiting only 20 minutes or so (much better than usual as everyone is out buying groceries and Easter eggs this afternoon and not ringing Centrelink) Nicole told me that the first appointment is not for 2 weeks. I explained that nothing can happen till I get the form so she rang John to get permission to speak to me and then did the lot over the phone herself so now it’s a done deal and she will send Gracewood the necessary paperwork and send a copy to me. I don’t know how I feel now, relieved, guilty, elated, exhausted, optimistic, sorrowful, probably all of them at once. But on a positive note John rang to say he’s counted the hooks on the wall and he can hang six pictures there so he’s looking forward to coming home and choosing them. Also he hadn’t realised that he can sit wherever he wants for meals and today he was again stuck with the miserable Ken so he’s told Jenine and Ray, the latest permanents, that he is joining their ranks and asked if he can sit with them for meals in future. She is a good scout and quite with it, but I suspect Ray has dementia. So now I will be accused of dumping him in a home once his daughters find out, but I have weathered everything else they’ve blamed me for, so I will weather this as well.

April 7, 2023

Big news last night was a call from Kenneth on his mobile. Tanya had dialled for him and it was our 19th anniversary so it couldn’t have been more perfect. At the end of our call I spoke to Tanya and asked again if she knew why he never answers his phone. The reply was that he has a new phone and number because he dropped the old one in the sink (how many months since he had a sink I ask myself?). She promised to email me the new number, but I am not holding my breath. The call came to my landline so I couldn’t save the number unfortunately. At least now I know I was right when I thought that I had been given a wrong number so it is great to know that I’m not going completely mad and imagining things. Why I didn’t get the new number is a different question of course, but one I will probably never get a decent answer to.

Last night John told me he is so pleased that he can keep his room as he loves watching the trains going past at night and the cars as they go on the overpass. It is actually the construction of a dual carriageway road, any railway is miles away, but I didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm. I went out to Gracewood this morning and we sat in the garden for tea with half a hot cross bun each. He is still confused about everything but it will settle in time. Apparently part of the extras package I purchased is postage and there’s a little post slot near the lifts, so I am encouraging him to write letters on the backs of his colouring pages which will pass the time and also be exciting if he gets any replies. As I was leaving Logan rang and was very disappointed to find that John is becoming permanent and will no longer be going to day care, but he insisted that Iris take him out to visit John this afternoon, so that’s a bonus for them both.

4pm Things were going too swimmingly. Just had a call from John asking why he’s been put into an institution and saying that he hadn’t been asked and hadn’t agreed to it. Neither are true, but they are in his mind. It has all happened so quickly and perhaps too quickly for him to absorb. He asked if they will hold his room for the future if he comes back to live here and I had to tell him (as I had explained before) that there is a limit to the number of nights that he can stay away from Gracewood. I can’t believe how things have changed since I left at lunchtime. I was afraid of this happening but we had gone over the pros and cons so thoroughly yesterday and he seemed content, but what a pig’s breakfast it is now.

April 8, 2023

Last night I got a few calls from John, quite the reverse of his 4pm call, saying how pleased he is that ‘the government has bought me a unit’. I guess all of these positions are simultaneously true. Jane is visiting today so I don’t need to worry about him too much. He is very keen to get some of his artworks hung in his room, so I will bring him home on Sunday to organise that.

Went down to Erko and Dav and I went out for the day to Woollahra for her birthday, while Louis took Millie to the Museum. She’s very keen on minerals and crystals so that was their focus. It was a very interesting day, observing that no-one over there has a car more than two years old, a range of Mercedes, a brand new Rolls Royce, BMWs, Porsches, Teslas and even a Polestar which was of interest as Carly’s pal Lucas has just bought one. I was kind of sad that we’d got an Uber as my car would have been considered a vintage one and would perhaps have drawn a crowd. Most of the fashions in the shop windows I would not have bought in the Sallies if they were on the $2 rack, so no tears that they were out of my price range. The only remaining antique shop, Michael Greene Antiques, was crammed with stunning things, especially silver, and it was lovely that he remembered me after all these years. He used to occasionally buy from me at Windsor and seeing the prices I understand how that would be economic. Perhaps I should have offered him my silver rather than going to auction as he could have made 200% easily, but it’s too late now. Interestingly I was able to buy two items that I haven’t been ably to find out here for years: Irrewarra granola/muesli and Dutch fruit loaf, both from Victoria. The granola is packed with whole macadamia nuts and fruit so I’m hoping it will encourage me to have more for breakfast than just the glass of milk that I’ve been having of late. The fruit loaf is edge to edge fruit in this brand with just enough dough to hold it together, rather than a few sultanas being thrown from the Eiffel Tower as most other brands appear to be. We lunched at Bistro Moncur and I had the best fish dish I’ve eaten in a long while, Murray Cod with Vongole in a sot of saffrony, lemony sauce. Bob’s new drug worked a treat and I didn’t need to ask for a doggy bag, I would have licked the plate had I not been in Woollahra. At a nearby table a woman in her 30s had such a deep cleavage that I needed to glance over every now and again to make sure she hadn’t sneezed and had a wardrobe malfunction but her husband, closer to 60 than 30, seemed quietly confident. An interesting shop was Tanora, who make woven raffia items, bags, cushion covers, placemats, hats, in their family atelier in Madagascar. I got Dav a couple of placemats to use on the table for hot items, they are tea- dyed and very finely woven. What an interesting and productive day.

April 9, 2023

No Insiders this morning because of Easter! They need to move it to a Wednesday, Easter I mean, not Insiders.

Well we achieved something today in that John came home for lunch (precious little here, just crackers, cheese and avo, though the freezer is chockers) and then we loaded his chess table, rocking chair and a small antique table for his colouring work as well as some pictures for the wall. The hooks were too high for us but Francis has booked a visit by the maintenance man for Tuesday. All the activities will resume then so he’ll have more to do. Even though he missed lunch they saved him a cupcake with an Easter nest on top from afternoon tea. Plenty of visitors around this weekend whereas I am usually the only one, people have time to visit the olds I guess. I suggested that we plan a trip of a few days away for his birthday in June and suggested some venues, but he said he wants the destination to be a surprise till he gets there. I think the southern highlands will be perfect for that time of year so I will look into options, though I have a sneaking suspicion about where we will end up.

April 10, 2023

I’m not going to Gracewood today as I had Kirk here in the morning to cut the grass and Arvind in the afternoon to put up the handrail, with me as his able assistant, well assistant anyway. John has rung eight times so far today, mostly querying the whereabouts of his drink bottle, so I’ve told him to write the answer in his diary but then he goes out of his room and rings again. He had wanted some small family photos hung up in his room but then decided that it looked ‘too busy’ so I’ve brought them back and he just wants one of his father in uniform and one of his parents and siblings all together. Martha came over in between the two jobs so that worked out well, we had tea and some cake she brought out on the front verandah. The handrail took longer than I thought to put up but looks good. John rang three more times while it was being done but I had left my phone indoors, however he then texted, reminding me to bring his drink bottle……

This last few days there has been the case of the Brisbane woman who police suspect may have been murdered due to her obsession with going through people’s bins and separating their rubbish into recycling and non-recyclable. Then yesterday a ‘high-flying executive’ apparently stabbed his partner of 13 years and killed her, there were other cases too, already half forgotten. I can understand being angry, I can understand being really, really angry, but surely once the blood starts flying we all have an automatic off switch that kicks in and shuts us down, except some of us don’t apparently.

April 11, 2023

Last night on Australian Story there was a story about a man who suffered sepsis originating from a sore throat but spreading to his limbs, resulting in all four being amputated. His wife had taken him to Canterbury Hospital on Christmas night due to leg pain, but it was misdiagnosed as sciatica and sadly he was sent home. By Boxing Day he was in agony and he ended up in Concord Hospital where sepsis was diagnosed but by then it was too late and by New Year’s Day he was a quadruple amputee. It took me back to John’s two bouts of sepsis, both amazingly occurring while we were together so it meant he went to hospital fast. The first was when he became suddenly ill here and went to bed at 6pm without dinner, an unheard of situation. At 11 pm it was obvious that he was very unwell so I drove him post haste to St. Vincent’s, not wanting to sit hours in Westmead as had been my experience in the past. By the time we got there he couldn’t walk and was wheelchaired in, the staff recognising serious illness when they saw it. Weeks of hospital ensued but he pulled through. The second time we were at Lane Cove when he snapped at me ‘you haven’t dressed me warmly enough, I’m freezing and need a jumper’ which was bizarre as I neither dress him nor choose his clothes. A few minutes later I found him in bed under a quilt shivering from head to foot, totally different symptoms from the first time but concerning enough to ring 000 for advice. They dispatched an ambulance immediately and he was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital, again an A grade establishment, where sepsis was diagnosed and treated. Had he been alone on either occasion we could have been looking at a very different outcome as I doubt he would have recognised the seriousness of his condition and was too sick to think clearly.

I’ve arranged with John that he will come home next Monday, stay here overnight, and then I’ll take him for his monthly treatment on Tuesday, returning him to Gracewood after that. I’ve managed to juggle his appointment so it coincides with my own six-monthly check-up. His takes roughly three hours and mine about two so it should work out well. I missed two calls and an urgent-sounding email from Gracewood, it was Anu the client liaison officer who has been off work for two weeks and she was in a panic that John hadn’t been picked up yesterday! No one had told her that he was made permanent last Thursday and she was very worried that he’s there without a contract having been signed. She wants me there first thing in the morning to sign the contract, but I will be taking it home to read before I sign anything. I rang John to fill him in but he said ‘Sorry I’m at a very interesting talk on Morocco so I’ll ring you back’!

April 12, 2023

It’s now well into the afternoon and so far the only things I have done since I got up today have been to do with Gracewood. I visited John, saw Anu and was given a massive contract to sign, which I refused to do seeing it went over 60 pages and needed careful reading. I find it has a bill of $750,000 for his accommodation, which I don’t intend signing up for as his guarantor! They haven’t yet been notified by Centrelink that the government are picking up the bill, so all of the figures in the contract are the normal prices, not the Commonwealth supported ones. I hope that Centrelink gets some notification to Gracewood quickly so the contract can be altered, signed and done with as I am already sick to death of the many phone calls and emails. One was from My Aged Care to say they have cancelled all of John’s home care services, they can only have had notification from Centrelink as I certainly didn’t call them, but Centrelink hasn’t informed me, John or Gracewood that he’s actually permanent. All my intentions for this afternoon are blown out of the water and I’m so sick of talking about it all that I am going to have a bath and will be leaving my phone out of earshot.

April 13, 2023

Last night after failing to speak to a real person, I came up with a cunning plan, to go to the MyGov website and click on document upload, then send a hand-written note to Centrelink asking them to fax Gracewood with acknowledgement of John’s permanency. Once this is done we should be able to sort out this contract stuff. Having got that done I felt okay doing a couple of cards this morning: beating tibouchina flowers and Brazilian nightshade berries from the front garden onto wet watercolour paper. I wanted to use my big wooden mallet for the job as we did at the dyeing workshop. It lives downstairs and after we got the driveway done John was convinced that it had been left behind by the landscaper. I convinced him eventually that it was an antique mallet that I’d had for decades but the one time I needed to use it, it’s missing in action. I was able to do the job with a hammer but it split the paper and wasn’t really the right tool for the job. Hopefully he may remember where he put it but I think it’s unlikely.

This afternoon I am going to Dav’s to mind Millie so they can go for dinner and a concert at the Enmore Theatre tonight. It is Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats as well as St. Paul and The Broken Bones, I have never heard of either of them but somehow I’m glad that I’m not going. It’s going to be a late night so I will sleep over and go to see John straight from there. He’s asked me to take all his figurines but there’s no way he has enough shelf space, so I have packed up half of them and he can keep half in his room, if I’ve chosen the wrong ones that can be redressed on Monday when he comes home. On Tuesday my artist friend Luke Kelly is giving a bird-painting demonstration at Parramatta Arts Society which I’d really like to attend. Pity it’s after a big day at St. Vincent’s for us both, but I will do my best to get there. Most of Luke’s events are in the Wiseman’s Ferry area and this venue suits me much better.

I respect the work of artist John Olsen, though I am divided between those works I love, like the Lake Eyre series and Sydney Sun, and some others like his Archibald winning portrait that I wouldn’t hang as a gift. His work has always made me think of Aboriginal art, it’s as if he sees landscape from a plane or somewhere in the air, just as First Nations artists do. However despite the esteem in which he is held I hope no-one comes up with the idea of a state funeral. We paid $1.6 million for Shane Warne’s funeral and I for one resent my 60 odd cents worth (though perhaps it was only Victorian tax-payers who got slugged). The man was a multi-millionaire whose family could well afford a planting and associated celebrations. Likewise for Olsen, say thanks, have a function at the Art Gallery or in the park nearby, BYO, costs zip.

April 14, 2023

Spent the night at Dav’s wrangling Millie. She asked ‘who is the first person in my family?’, confused by the question I said her dad as he is the oldest but she corrected me, ‘no all my ancestors’. I asked if that meant right back to the caveman and she said yes, she hoped so. She came out from bed and slept across my lap while I read. I’ve been having problems concentrating on reading and tried A History of Opium but let it go, interesting as it was. Then another non-fiction and a fiction I’d got in from the library with ditto result. Finally I got Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, she can always get me involved in the family dynamics of her characters and she has done it again, dying to know the end.

Went straight to see John who was being tested for memory, he passed all of the why was Stalin famous? type questions but couldn’t remember the words apple, table, penny for even a minute despite getting hints from the nurse. I took out half of his figurine collection and set them up in the shelves, it’s looking more like a home each time I take something else out, making sure I leave at least half of the items here so as not to spoil his room display. He seems much more relaxed with the staff who are so uniformly good it’s hard to have a favourite, but Francis is the titleholder for me as he actually sits down with John and has a conversation, something that can be missing in his circumstances.

I flipped on the 1pm news and saw the Secretary of the Health Department tearfully announcing the death of a paramedic attacked at McDonalds while getting a 5.30 am coffee after his shift. I don’t know the details but who cares, it’s a tragedy whatever they are. If there are ill-natured paramedics I have yet to meet one, I had a weep with her.

April 15, 2023

Michelle W. arrived early bearing a very tall glass vase she had found at Vinnie’s to replace the battery acid jar which I sadly broke some years ago. It is 18 inches or 46 cm tall, perfect for agapanthus which was one of the main uses for the antique one. I’m spoilt by Michelle every time I see her. I pointed out the 1837 needlework sampler that I have just bought and as expected she loved it, so it confirmed my decision to give it to her come her birthday or Christmas, if not this year then next.

I got a text from Logan (‘hi sweetheart’Smilie: ;) inviting me to go for afternoon tea today at 2 pm, a request I immediately acceded to, but later there was another from Iris saying that he had sent the text while she was out and asking if it could be tomorrow instead and for both of us! It’s hard to know what to do in a situation where there is a bit of cognitive impairment, do you assume the other half knows or not? Perhaps not is safest, but I didn’t want Logan to hear a text coming in to doublecheck the arrangement. So I will pick John up tomorrow arv and take him for tea with them. Today I took out yet more figurines to him, but I am scared of the cleaner’s feather duster snagging them with disastrous results so I will need to make a sign asking her (all the hers) not to dust the shelves.

It was a mistake to look at the Facebook page of murdered ambo Steven Tougher, but I did. His donations to various charities, his solid support for his union, pics with Julia Gillard and the ACTU president, happy snaps with colleagues and from his recent wedding all point to a genuine decent bloke. Life just isn’t fair.

April 16, 2023

I am not at all sure that we made the right decision about John staying at Gracewood now. I think we will only know as we look backwards from the future. Although I go nearly every day the initial surge of visitors ended very quickly, so it’s becoming a routine of seeing me in the morning, playing games or doing activities in the afternoon, followed by a very long evening and night. We speak on the phone numerous times a day, sometimes eight or ten times if he’s forgotten our previous conversations. I am not using the free time to any great advantage, so was it worth it? Perhaps that’s why Centrelink is taking its time to send the paperwork so we can duck the whole idea? But then how will that work when he does need to go into care, I’m sure there is a cost to reneging and they have already cancelled all his home care services, they did that immediately. That is the only way I know that I didn’t dream the whole approval conversation with Centrelink as I can’t get anything from them in writing, as much as I try. I only started feeling somewhere near normal this week, before that I was still having the aftereffects of the kidney infection, so maybe I just needed extra help until that occurred. Emails to some of John’s friends and relatives updating them on his changed circumstances have gone unanswered, something I am taking as disapproval, but then they haven’t contacted him either so perhaps they are just slack.

Reading Apples Never Fall I came across a few words that immediately made sense of John’s inability to defend himself when verbally attacked, something that is a puzzle to him as well as to me. The author describes a main character as having ‘a defenceless ego’, saying that he had always known that ‘women had the power to draw blood with their words’. This phrase echoes John’s comments about verbal attacks within his family, something he says he is powerless to defend himself against. ‘He had no arsenal of clever words with which to defend himself. He quailed and recoiled. He shut down and went silent. He took it and he took it.’ I have watched this play out at times and not intervened, trying not to make matters worse, seeing him struggling to handle the attacks. In latter years he’s asked me never to let a situation arise in which he has to deal with this on his own. It’s something I’ve done ever since that request but of course if it should happen at Gracewood I’m just not there. God what a mess.

April 17, 2023

Picked John up first thing and headed home. We just had a relaxing day here, with Michelle and Kev coming over for afternoon tea before their trip to Japan. Happily John got a message from Services Australia confirming that he will be a Commonwealth supported resident but Gracewood is still to be informed, however there is still pressure on me to sign the contract for him to pay the full price of $750,000. “In the meantime, please I need the original contract to be signed. I will do a variation agreement once I receive our copy of the letter.” This doesn’t seem right to me and I am ignoring it, but it’s awkward.

I’m not sure what’s happening about Carly’s three birthday presents, posted in late March. She got a text to pick up the parcel and dismissed it as a scam. This morning I got a genuine-looking Australia Post text saying that a parcel couldn’t be delivered, so I assumed it was kosher and clicked on it. Only when the website came up did I notice that it was sent from Texas, so I deleted it immediately. So we are between a genuine text and a scam one but who knows where the parcel is, I hope Carly went to the PO today to sort it out. Tonight’s Four Corners is on the topic of scamming I think and I hope there is government action on it soon as it’s getting to be a pain in the arse.

Cooking a favourite dinner for John tonight, but I think I made enough for a party, luckily it will freeze. He is very confused about how long he’s going to be here (only until tomorrow afternoon) but hopefully his enjoyment isn’t overshadowed by the confusion. I am working out how to return him without being seen by the woman pushing me regarding the contract but I need to walk right past her open door. A balaclava perhaps?

April 18, 2023

It worked well to align my appointment at St. Vs with John’s just down the road. As I was picking him up I ran into Fran and Bill coming out of the centre. I asked Bill how he was and the reply: How would I be coming out of the Kinghorn Cancer Centre?’. Apparently the radiotherapy hasn’t worked so they put him on immunotherapy at $16,000 a pop and it didn’t work either. He’d just been told that he must start a stronger regime of radiotherapy tomorrow and then another drug in tablet form that is so expensive that the oncologist asked the drug company to let him have it as a humanitarian gesture and they’ve agreed. I guess if you don’t have the dough for these expensive treatments you just miss out, more likely you never find out they they exist. My appointment was a bit disappointing in that he found an area of bowel that wouldn’t take up the iodine, apparently normal tissue stains and abnormal doesn’t, but there was quite an area where there was no uptake. He’s taken a biopsy (ouch) and I’ll get the results in a week or two. All I need at the moment is another bout of surgery. I guess everyone says that as there’s no good time, but perhaps there’s another explanation for the anomaly. John seemed happy to get back to Gracewood, which he routinely calls Gracelands, particularly as they had locked his room in his absence and the precious figurines were safe. I snuck past Anu’s room while her head was turned.

April 19, 2023

Last evening I was due to go to the Parramatta Art Society to see my friend Luke doing a demonstration painting of a cockatoo. I was certainly not in the mood to go out but I forced myself and was glad I did. The universe approved apparently as it provided a parking spot right at the door so I didn’t need to fantasise about hooded stalkers on my way there. Seeing him painting in acrylics made it obvious to me that I chose the most difficult medium when I went to classes in watercolour. Perhaps I will do his workshop there in May but I am always reluctant, the way life is at the moment, to agree to anything in advance.

I decided to try to get some pressing jobs out of the in tray today so, seeing my printer is stuffed at the moment, I went to the library to use theirs for a couple of things. John wanted to post out some letters to friends letting them know that he is at Gracewood, so I typed that up from his draft and got a dozen copies done. Then I reread their bloody contract to get my head around it. Next a knock on the door proved to be his ex-carer Greg, just calling in to say hi. He’s going to try to get permission from Wendy’s to visit John in a private capacity, which would be much appreciated. The ADT man came right on time to change the burglar alarm from 3G to 4G, thankfully at no cost to me. I didn’t even try to get an explanation of what it all means which is unlike me.

Father Bob Maguire has died and it will be interesting to see the church back-peddling over the way he was treated by them. It wouldn’t surprise me if they want to make him a saint now he’s out of their way. I must reread his biography which is on the shelf. The news also delivered the expected report that Fox News and Dominion have reached a settlement. This was always on the cards as it would have been even more damning to have their star attractions having to admit under oath that they were lying. Even more embarrassing for its head, Murdoch, who never likes to have his nose rubbed in his own shit. Pity though as I would happily have watched them squirm, however the $1 billion plus settlement must smart and that’s a good thing.

April 20, 2023

Today I so keenly wanted to get that damned contract off the desk and now it is done. Went to see Carol who echoed my concerns about the wisdom of signing my assets away to keep Baptistcare happy until the approval letter arrives from Centrelink. But when I got to Gracewood neither Anu nor the manager were in, so I had the damned thing put into Anu’s locked office and emailed her that I had done so. This morning there was a snafu when John was told that he alone couldn’t board the bus for the outing because he ‘is on respite not permanent’ but a staff-member intervened and sorted it out. It didn’t make sense as he was going on the bus when he was in respite, but by the time I arrived to see him he’d forgotten all about it, so I couldn’t get any more details or find the person responsible. Staff were wearing perspex full face covers as well as the usual masks so I assumed they have a Covid case there. I asked the lowest ranking person, the lady replenishing the water jugs, as I was more likely to get the truth that way. She confirmed that there was, ‘but in the other side of the building’, which of course is on the same floor with a corridor meeting the combined living and dining areas.

Rang Kevin McC to see how his hospital stay was going and learned the shocking news that he is at home with a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer, mesothelioma. Thanks Hardie Industries. That company claimed that when they first started manufacturing fibro cement sheets they had no idea of its dangers. Bunkum. An early 1950s medical book I once owned had a large section on the dangers of asbestos and the effects including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Speaking later to Peter D. he mentioned that Dally and Father Bob McGuire were good friends. Apparently Bob would contact Dally when he was approached by divorced Catholics who wanted to remarry and Dally would do the services. But later Bob decided to do the weddings himself, further deepening the rift with the conservative wing of the church. I bet they will want a state funeral (if anyone deserves one he does) but I maintain that it’s a political decision and so best not embarked on for anyone, by any government. Peter commented that it’s always a worry when Christians get to positions of power in the church, so Bob had to be eliminated by the hierarchy as best they could achieve it.

April 21, 2023

Well what a day it’s been. Off for my 10.30 am appointment with Louise Herron, CEO of the Opera House, regarding an offer made by the previous CEO Richard Evans. John had written to him in 2010 asking for permission to have his funeral somewhere, anywhere at the OH, citing the reason that he wanted it in a ‘sacred space, but one which isn’t linked to religion’ or words to that effect. Richard invited us for morning tea in his office overlooking the harbour, agreed to the request and showed us to the ‘cleavage’ where the sails meet. He offered seating, a lectern, a microphone and facility to play John’s choice of music, all in exchange for an unspecified donation, also saying that if it were raining he would relocate the ceremony to the Drama Theatre. Unfortunately when John moved here he filled two Sulo bins with the contents of two of his three filing cabinets and many important documents were lost, including the OH confirmation letter. So I emailed and then phoned to get a copy and to my amazement was told that they could find no record of it. I smelled a rat immediately and my sense of smell was very accurate.

Today I approached the stage door as requested and told a security guard that I had an appointment. Who with? he asked. The look of disbelief on his face when I said Louise Herron was worthy of a photograph but I didn’t have my camera out. Does she know you’re coming? he said (I would have thought that’s what an appointment means, but anyway). I was ushered upstairs by her EA and Head of Protocol, the charming Anthony, and as soon as I walked into her office she said how very nice my blouse looked and commented on the unusual buttons, so I knew the venture was doomed. In short order she said that they can’t find any letter received or sent but she had spoken to Richard Evans who confirmed the arrangement made with John. However she said she didn’t agree to it and would never have agreed to it. As an alternative she offered a function room with tea and biscuits for 40 people….for a donation of $10,000. I refused of course, after which she asked what kind of donation John was willing to give and I said that it would depend on what was left of his finances at the end of his life, to which she replied ‘so we’ll probably get nothing’. She opined that ‘Richard didn’t last long in this job because he was too nice (or soft, I can’t now remember which) and that’s typified by the agreement he arranged with John’. I couldn’t resist saying two things at the end: Firstly that I knew as soon as she invited me to tea that she was unwilling to honour the deal and secondly that I am not the type of person to publicise this as I don’t want to bring the reputation of the Opera House into disrepute. I also asked what her attitude would be if I could find the letter and she said it would be exactly the same. Then Anthony took me to the cleavage and offered a standing room only assembly for 40 people with no chairs, lectern, microphone or facility for music, but for free or whatever donation John could come up with. But how did he know the exact spot Richard had offered if he’d never seen the correspondence? They were lying through their teeth in my view. I accepted on condition that he put it in writing, we shall see if he honours that. Richard was a lovely welcoming man who entertained us warmly, talking to John about religion and how one loses faith, amongst other things. The morning tea with Louise consisted of a cup with no saucer and Louise instructing Anthony to ‘just add some hot water to that pot on my desk’.

Coming home I spied a pile of stuff outside a house that included a very nice crystal table lamp and a crystal clock, not working but it probably only needs a battery. They looked particularly good quality lead crystal and so I lugged them home, only to discover that they are both Irish Waterford! What sort of person puts out Waterford to be munched up by a garbage truck? An ingrate who doesn’t appreciate the fact that soon lead crystal will be a thing of the past due to the dangers of its manufacture. I feel sorry for the person who bought them originally for very big money, clearly not the same person who put them out for the tip. I feel like going up there and telling them off for being lazy coots who can’t be bothered driving a kilometre to the Vinnies and the way I’m feeling tonight I might yet.

April 22, 2023

Picked John up for the day at 9 am and we just poked around at home, made mushroom soup for lunch, he collected a couple more pictures for his wall, plus his childhood toy koala, delivering him back in time for dinner. I had queried John twice about whether he’s told the nurses that he was going out for the day, but shortly after we got home the charge nurse rang to say they couldn’t find him. I will need to notify them myself in future. I photographed the cleaned up Waterford lamp and some plates for Barsbys to consider, as well as an antique Irish Orange Lodge collarette which would be quite sought after in far-right Protestant circles I imagine.

Thinking back to yesterday I am reminded of those people coming through the stage door who were clearly from the ballet, one man in particular was well over six feet tall but super-slim, with the longest thinnest legs I’ve ever seen. Also remembered Louise complaining about people wanting the sails of the Opera House lit up for their particular cause or occasion: ‘You let one do it and now everyone wants it’ which I’m sure is true. When I got home I saw that the sails will have the NSW Ambulance symbol on them for the weekend, in memory of Steven Tougher so I suspect that’s why she was antsy about the sails. Also she was going on about how she’s used to dealing with famous people ‘We had Barack Obama here last week’, yes I do read the papers Louise. I felt like saying that she had invited me to tea, not the other way around, so she had nothing to bitch about. The fact that she was slumming it was her choice. When I got home I had a call from Tim about the verity that we are all sovereign citizens and the police and courts have no authority over us, about an American spy base in Exmouth W.A. shaped like a Star of David and the fact that the world is run by the Masons who underneath it all are the Jewish Kabbalah, it was not a good day.

While in town I did attend to one issue that’s been left too long, the Captain Cook Cruises High Tea Cruise tickets that were sitting here since the booking was cancelled by them due to Covid in 2021. The girl didn’t quite roll her eyes but close to it, however when she rang the boss he said I could rebook if I paid an extra $20 each to allow for the increased price over time. I didn’t mention that he’s had my money over time just thankfully coughed up and we are going on May 3. Walking through the QVB I played my game of pretending that someone runs out of each shop offering me the choice of any item in the window for free. Sadly the clothes were so awful that I didn’t score anything there but came home with a lovely imaginary emerald ring from a jeweller.

April 23, 2023

Every ANZAC week, it’s never a day let’s face it, I look out for the person that the ABC or other media outlets have dragged out of obscurity with a new and unheard story. There was always one to be found and John used to laugh when I announced each year’s winner. But they have outdone themselves this year with not one untold story but a whole ship full of stories. The location of the wreck of the Montevideo Maru has been a mystery for more than 80 years, but how they managed to conveniently find it in ANZAC week will remain forever a secret I expect.

John’s dear friend (and mine of later years) Kevin was hospitalised last year with breathing difficulties and had two litres of fluid drained off his lung. The docs took a ‘wait and see’ approach and nothing was done till last week when, at RPA’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, they finally did a lung biopsy. It revealed terminal mesothelioma, caused by asbestos. Kevin has communicated by phone a couple of times this week but I was reluctant to ask about the asbestos contact, however it was by email that he explained: “When asked where I worked with asbestos, I explained that when I was a curate in an early parish an old fibro parish hall had to be demolished to make way for a new church. To save parish finances, I led the demolition with the safety gear of a pair of shorts and T-shirt, without knowing the dangers of asbestos. Throwing myself into physical activities, both in the seminaries and in parishes as a priest, had been my habitual and totally ineffectual way of trying to resolve struggles with my vocation and to prove that I had a vocation. Now mesothelioma! An unusual and ironic way of giving one’s life for the church. God has a strange sense of humour – a bit like mine, I think. 

Kevin’s unique sense of humour aa well as his sense of obligation to his friends and relatives (and strangers with whom he comes into contact) has always been part of the wonderful package that makes up his personality. Who else when visiting John for the first time at Gracewood would seek out the manager and the chaplain to commend them on the running of the place? After being a priest, he was a social worker in hospitals and nursing homes, so he knows a good one when he spots it. Let’s hope that those who now have the responsibility of looking after him are as skilled and empathetic as he has always been.

April 24, 2023

When we were in Woollahra I managed to spot two products that I used to buy regularly but haven’t been able to find for years. So I Googled Irrewarra Granola and discovered that the only place around here to stock it is Woolworths Metro at Knightsbridge and sure enough they had it, at $1.85 more expensive than in a Woollahra boutique grocer! Still trying to source the Dutch Fruit Loaf made in Victoria though. They put me on to a distributor in Adelaide who hasn’t got back to my email and phone call, but I will persist. I made do for a long while with Aldi’s fruit brioche loaf until they replaced the fruit with choc chips, ugh.

I have sent pics to David Barsby of the Waterford crystal lamp and clock that I found on the kerbside and he is keen to have them, so on the way to John’s dentist appointment on Thursday I will drop them in. My silver all sold over the weekend with the tea service bringing $1900 and the six silver serviette rings with an estimate of $80 brought $240. The remainder sold but at the lower end of the expected range, still I’m very happy.

I have been snappily deleting emails and texts from a company in China telling me that my delivery is arriving soon, of course I thought it was a scam. That is until DHL arrived this morning with a piece of hardware that I’d ordered from Melbourne. Carly made the same mistake with an Australia Post text and as a result her birthday presents are on their way back here from Canberra. Sod the wretched scammers.

Yesterday John was at a loose end in the morning, hunkered down in his room avoiding the religious service, but looking forward to the 3 pm movie. However he rang me very disgruntled because ‘the movie was stupid’, this at 10 minutes after 3. He was wanting to know why he’s there at all and can’t we just forget about it all and I can bring him home. I’m wondering whether getting him home on Sundays in future is a good idea as there are less activities on the weekend and so he has more time in his room to think about things. But today has turned out to be similar because he didn’t want to go to the ANZAC ceremony which occupied the morning. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time doing Gracewood stuff and making phone calls, this morning it was Centrelink ringing me asking why I hadn’t cancelled my carer’s allowance when John went into care. I was able to assure them that I had and also to give them the date of the online communication which obviously wasn’t acted on, so she apologised. It pays to write these things down. Sensing an opportunity, I asked if she could speed up their approval of John’s permanency but she said she can’t discuss his issues as they don’t have a copy of the Power of Attorney, so now she has to send a form for John to sign and I will post it back but that will take weeks. Of course the printer croaked with a ‘paper jam’ right when I started needing a lot of printing done. I certainly can’t see any paper so it needs a more technical head than mine.

April 25, 2023

I noticed how quiet it was today, then saw that the neighbours’ cars were all there and decided that perhaps they were sick so I brought in their numerous bins. Eventually realised that it’s a public holiday. No noise there at all so I suspect they’ve gone to the club, my worst nightmare, a club on Anzac Day. I was confused because John had an Anzac service at Gracewood yesterday so in my mind it was done and dusted. It surprised me that he didn’t want to go, I imagined him sitting there proudly with his father’s portrait on his lap, but he was adamant about not going. I suspect it was the expected religious content. I’ve always been puzzled about the tight connection between Anzac Day and religion, as if there were some sort of integral link. So I have discovered that I’ve carried the phone around all day in case the hospital rings with the biopsy results and now late in the afternoon I find it’s flipping Anzac Day and it was never going to happen.

I spent the morning doing a little gardening (very little) then putting some stuff on eBay, starting with a few books such as a signed copy of Alcatraz from Inside as well as a 1300 page tome called A Dictionary of Dairying, with loads of diagrams and photos. It’s a 1950s one that could be a collector’s item or could be worthless yellow bin material, we shall see. Also put on some jewellery that the lovely Alex rightly rejected as not valuable enough, such as a tooth (boar?) on a gold plated chain and a carved bone necklace. EBay wouldn’t accept bone in the description as it violates their code (I’m assuming because people use it as code for the banned ivory, so that’s fair enough). However whether folks will buy now I’ve relisted it as just a ‘carved necklace’ remains to be seen. Did some painting in the arv, pretty ordinary results, but I like letting the paint just run where it will. I’m calling it Blue (and red and yellow) Poles and some poor bastard will get it as a card down the track.

Jane commented a while back that I seem to have an awful lot of friends that I keep up with, I can’t remember the context now, but I decided to count up how many people I regularly or occasionally visit, email or ring. I stopped counting at 150. But what is the solution? Reply to an email ‘sorry I’m over budget for friends at the moment so I won’t be replying, try again in 2024’? I’m thinking it’s a good problem to have, although any more long conversations about sovereign citizens, kabbala domination of the world etc may change my mind.

April 26, 2023

Brought John home today via a visit to Logan in respite at Warrina Village, run by Anglicare. This was the one I tried to get John into but no one would reply. Logan seems okay there but complained that he is lonely because all meals are being served in his room due to the place being in lockdown due to a Covid outbreak. (Might have been nice to know that before we went in there Anglicare!). While the communal area was attractive enough, his room was quite a bit smaller and darker than John’s so although it’s fine for a couple of weeks it’s not big enough to be a home in my opinion. When we got home I decided to hassle Centrelink again about the damned confirmation letter. I struck a goodie, Gordon, who checked and found that it was marked as posted on April 12, two weeks ago. When I told him that there was pressure on me about it he said he would post them again today just in case they had gone astray, unlikely considering I was supposed to get a copy too, but perhaps they only post in bulk but rarely? Anyway I am hugely relieved that he told me not to worry because it’s all sorted at their end. Bless.

So Julie Bishop has another career, as an influencer apparently. What a comedown for a woman of her ability. She is promoting her freebie stay at a five-star hotel in New York, which costs around $2,800 a night and of course her freebie Louis Vuitton earrings, which retail for $36,910 and her $800 scarf. It won’t surprise me if she’s plugging her knickers next. Jacinda Ardern, on the other hand has been appointed to dual fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School, a contrast which says it all really.

Just got a reply from Anu at Baptistcare after I informed her of the date of postage of the missing letter. She said: ‘Other fees are building in his account but not charged and will be cleared once we get the letter.’ What fees I wondered? Has he been going out with a paid carer? Having massages? Running up a tab at the coffee shop? No, when I queried the charges she replied ‘It’s the room charges, which was mentioned in the contract which you crossed off. To remove those charges, I will have to wait for Centrelink letter.’ So they are being accrued even though I ruled them out on the contract. See you in court on that one my dear. Talking about court, my pal Tim was in the Supreme Court yesterday in his ongoing fight with his siblings over the property he built and has lived in for 28 years. Neither barrister turned up and the judge was not happy. Tim’s barrister sent a replacement who knew next to nothing about the case but the other barrister was absent ‘because the firm closes down today’. The judge wasn’t having a bar of it and said they were ‘delinquent’ so Tim’s back in court today. The beak made it very clear that neither law firm was to charge its client for yesterday. Never a good move to make the judge cross I would have thought.

April 27, 2023

Off to Barsbys with a few low grade jewels and both of the Waterford pieces that I found on the council cleanup, plus a Loyal Orange collarette and a Victorian photo album with a non-working musical mechanism in the back. I’ve had the latter two for too many years but now they can be someone else’s responsibility. I may have done my dash with Alex when I commented that older people of the right would possibly like the Loyal Orange piece, he bristled and told me about his Lodge in the centre of London, clearly a young Mason, who then filled me in about how the Masons set the Enlightenment in motion. The man never ceases to astound me, and educate me. Is there a subject he knows nothing about? I suspect that not only is he from a family of London jewellers, but that he could very well be from the nobility end of the spectrum as well. His manners are impeccable.

From there I took John to the dentist to have his broken front tooth removed, a fraught undertaking weeks in the planning as Bob and the dentist debated the likelihood of his getting an infection leading to septicaemia, with the added problem of his having to go off his blood thinners for a couple of days despite his stents and artificial heart valve. Right up to going through the door I was fielding calls and texts from Dr Castro, Gracewood’s medical officer, about when he should go back on the drugs. Too soon and he may bleed profusely, too late and a clot may form. We decided to let the dentist be the decider and she opted for tomorrow morning. While in the waiting room a doddering, shaky man, whose age was indeterminate, came in to make an appointment. It is all done via a call centre and the staff were much less than helpful, sending him downstairs to look for a phone. Eventually he came back with a female security guard who pointed out that the man has no mobile or home phone, but still they were disinterested. I offered him John’s phone (mine still being in use due to the great tooth debate) and the guard dialled for him, but then we were called in. I wondered if we’d seen the last of his phone but during the procedure she came in to return it and we agreed that the lack of empathy was pretty poor. Finally, with no answer from the call centre, she had shamed them into contacting the centre themselves while the poor soul waited. I just don’t understand how you can work in a hospital without doing everything for a man who was so clearly in need and perhaps even homeless. But all credit to the security guard, she was a champion.

Drove John back to Gracewood and stayed a while to make sure he had no symptoms that needed action. He is so vulnerable now. When we arrived at RNS he realised that his partial dentures weren’t in, which wasn’t a problem except that we didn’t know where they were. He rummaged in the bag we’d taken and then rummaged in the glove box, to which I said ‘They wouldn’t be in there’, knowing his tendency to germ phobia, but then that’s exactly where they were, kicking around with maps and used masks and all manner of crap. He started to cry, saying ‘Why would I put my teeth in the glove box, nothing I do makes sense anymore.’

April 28, 2023

Made passionfruit biscuits for book group and then fielded a call from John saying that he doesn’t want to stay at Gracewood any more and that it was a bad decision to agree to residency. This after yesterday saying that he had settled in, loved coming home, but was very happy there as well. I know he’s having Bronwyn and Michael visit today but I didn’t tell him as the surprise is better. I didn’t have an answer though to the question: ‘Why have none of my family offered to take me, even part time?’ I booked myself for a flu vax next week and suddenly thought that perhaps I should have booked John in as well, but a quick text to Cecelia reassured me that they will be doing that for the residents, with their own doctor.

The Barry Humphries controversy burbles along. I saw him live a few times in the 60s and 70s and found him incredibly talented and side-achingly funny, but it was humour based on cruelty and I wouldn’t have wanted to be a member of the audience that he picked on. Dame Edna was based on his snobbish mother and as he aged I think he became more and more like her. So you can’t really enjoy Edna and Sir Les without realising that Barry shared their values, also looking down on others who were less intelligent, less stylish, lower class, less like him in other words. Two sides of the one coin.

April 29, 2023

Lovely warm book group meeting at Rosanna’s yesterday. Sue was here and drove Carol and myself so that was great. She had brought some cooked chicken for dinner so I heated that up for her and made some veges for myself. Sue slept over and this morning we went over to see John, then to Pine Coffee and Tea to get her some of the Russian Caravan blend tea that she enjoys so much here. Nobby Kitchens at Castle Hill was the next stop to look at possibilities for Kirribilli. Most are too modern for my taste but there were a couple of options that might work and Sue took samples of cupboard colours and benchtop finishes. I had the feeling that she would be looking at big dollars there, but the reviews were very good unlike another local firm who had an average score of one, which is pretty appalling considering that it’s not possible to give a nought. Photos of cupboard doors that don’t meet in the middle, showing the pantry contents through the gap, stories of kitchens taking 12 months to finish, shoddy workmanship, wrong measuring of benchtops, it sounded like a nightmare for each of the reviewers. Seeing it’s still raining heavily this arv Sue has decided to stay tonight as well to avoid the M1 in these conditions. We may go up to Andaz Indian restaurant tonight for dinner I think.

John was cheery, one never knows how it’s going to be. We discussed his visit from Bronwyn and Michael yesterday and a few minutes later he said ‘Gosh it’s a long time since we saw Bronwyn and Michael isn’t it?’ Reminded that they visited yesterday he went quiet and I wished I had shut up. Later at lunch he rang to ask if he is allowed to have a hot drink after his dental work despite the fact that he had a hot tea with us this morning. His friend Garry who has been having chemo for three years has just been diagnosed with fast deteriorating Alzheimers, not a coincidence according to my recent reading.

April 30, 2023   (written on May 4)

Well a lot has happened since my last post. On Saturday afternoon after Sue and I had visited him in the morning, John rang crying, saying that he had made a big mistake in going to Gracewood, that he hates it there, and that it reminds him of being abandoned to boarding school at age 4 and a half after the next door neighbour in New Zealand complained to his parents about his crying at night while they were out at diplomatic functions. Although a babysitter would have been an option he was shunted off to boarding school almost immediately. It broke my heart when he said ‘Please bring me home, I’ll be really good’, echoes of that little boy and what he couldn’t say to his mother. Shortly after I started to feel sick but I had already booked to take Sue to the Indian restaurant and didn’t want to be ‘an Indian giver’ (is that racist? yes I guess it is) so we went. However I could barely eat anything and ended up bringing the leftover food home to freeze. It’s quite put me off going there again as just the smell of curry is offensive at the moment. Sue headed off back to Killcare about 10 am Sunday and I headed off to bed.

May 1, 2023   (written May 4)

Slept all day yesterday and today but no improvement. Unable to walk a straight line, falling if I don’t hang on to furniture, pain, here we go again. Difficult to keep drinking as water tastes foul. Late in the day I was wondering if hospital might be on the cards, so I texted Bob who prescribed antibiotics and Arvind went up to Sharif to pick them up. Bless them both. Bob was on his way to the Opera House to sing with the London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Sir Simon Rattle, he certainly moves in high circles.

May 2, 2023   (written May 4)

Went to pathology and as I was leaving Bob rang and said to come up for a consultation. He’s sticking with a kidney infection diagnosis but said he’s also considering the possibility that it’s an autoimmune attack on the kidneys. Apparently bad tasting water and aversion to food is known to be linked with kidney failure yet recent blood tests don’t seem to support this in my case. Cancelled our much anticipated harbour cruise booked for tomorrow, adding another $40 in alteration fees, but I made the new booking for the end of the month so hopefully we won’t need to cancel again.

May 3, 2023   (written May 4)

Thank goodness, the pain has eased. The relief is amazing. Able to get up for a while in the daytime, though reading or doing anything useful is still out of the question, but watching the wind in the trees was lovely. John has been really good, ringing me numerous times a day. He complained once about wanting to come home but I told him that I can’t deal with it at the moment and I’ve heard no more of it.

May 4, 2023

Well it seems the government has responded to my communications about banning vapes (of course I’m sure that they could see the madness of them without my assistance, but nice to be on the same page). Greg Hunt needs a mention as he was passionately opposed (perhaps due to his nurse wife?) but that disgusting excuse for a human Senator Hollie Hughes was so vigorously campaigning for vaping that it’s hard to believe she isn’t on someone’s payroll. She is on the wrong side of every argument and it’s a worry to know that she’s a close friend of our current speaker, how could be in the same room I ask myself?

This last week has made me realise that the decision we took for John to go into care was the right one. Back when I first got sick on February 28 I had a feeling that this was not a one-off and the recovery was so slow that it made me suspicious as even after the treatment I just didn’t get completely better. Seems that feeling was well justified (perhaps my body just doesn’t like the last couple of days of a month?). I was in Leura for those days in March so perhaps that’s the antidote, head there on the 26th of every month and stay till the 3rd of the next one. In some ways it’s a huge relief to know that my instincts were right and that we did need a backup plan for John to be looked after. I’ve often told him that he will outlive me and right now that seems very likely.

Peter has organised a roster of John’s friends to ring him each weekday, all of them are interstate, which is why visitors are not frequent. But Michael, a friend from a different group, went from Lane Cove to Chatswood a few days ago, then got a metro to Bella Vista Station and then walked 3.5 kilometres to Gracewood, a mammoth investment in time and energy for a man his age. Many of my friends are interstate or in coastal NSW too so that doesn’t help, funny that I had never realised till now what a disparate lot we are.

Saw Bob again late this afternoon and he’s written Glenn Reeves a love letter so I will ring tomorrow and get an appointment hopefully. Afterwards I tried to buy 2 litres of milk in Castle Mall. Sounds simple? No, not at all. The Indian supermarket had none, the Chinese supermarket only had A2 or soy (yuk) and the now Chinese run fruit market no longer sells milk at all. Clearly milk doesn’t play an important role in the day to day shopping of those cultures.

May 5, 2023

Rang Glenn Reeves’ office at 9 am and there were no appointments to be had in the next while so she put me in for his lunch hour next Friday, poor man. Then I got onto paying my hearing aid insurance, then John’s pharmacy bill, then got a call from Gracewood because their pharmacy was having trouble working out the formulation for a medication John gets, so I phoned them and was able to sort that out with some help from our pharmacy in Baulko. Tried ringing St. Vs to see if my biopsy result has come back but got a recorded message from that office. Next I filled in Centrelink forms necessary to be able to deal with them by phone on John’s behalf so now he can sign them tomorrow. John used to call all this ‘domestic administration time’ and it seemed to take most of the morning, however I am thankful that I had enough oomph to get this backlog reduced, even if I am buggered after doing it. I have had an ebay sale today of a book, Inside Alcatraz, a signed copy for 10 bucks, but I can’t do any more today. It will wait till Monday for the next ‘domestic administration’ session.

Just got a call from St. Vs, my biopsy is a low grade abnormality, not cancer (though perhaps pre-cancer) but caused by the same virus that was responsible for the previous cancer and not unexpected. So the doc wants to discuss it with the Prof. next week and they will decide how long to wait before I get tested again. It’s a lifelong ferris wheel that I’m on with them as they can’t get rid of the virus, but I’m very lucky and glad to have their expertise. The Prof. is just back from Washington where he was at a conference which was on cancers caused by this virus, his micro-specialty.

May 6, 2023

Picked up the boy wonder about 9.30 am and brought him home, then before noon I took him to Jack and Carol who will transport him to the newly revived First Saturday, this time at Jane’s and in future held at lunch time due to the difficulties we olds have of driving at night. He is happy to be home but commented that he is best at Gracewood in current circumstances. It makes me wonder if he’s got over his emotional meltdown last week or forgotten all about it but either way I don’t intend to raise it.

I am very attached to my glasses and they are on their third set of lenses, so it was very upsetting when they and their case disappeared last Saturday. Sue rang the restaurant and later in the week I tried the tea company and the kitchen place we had been to that day. But this afternoon I spied them between the legs of the teddy who sits in a highchair in the loungeroom. The little blighter was doing his best to hide them but in the end it was unsuccessful. Great to have a win this week.

Terry Lewis, corrupt police commissioner and buddy of Bjelke-Petersen, has died at 95. As usual the good die young and the mongrels go on forever. Putrescet in infernum.

Carly rang with the news that she went to Flight Centre to get her tickets for the NZ holiday on May 20, only to find that they had done nothing. The excuse was ‘not enough staff’, but she had taken a day off work to sort it all out and now it’s budget week so there’s no chance of getting even an hour off. Every other agent is closed till Monday and Qantas Travel works Monday to Friday.

May 7, 2023

What to say about the Coronation? Well heaps, but it’s being said by everyone at the moment. One thing though, the verb is crowned, NOT coronated! I can’t remember which journo was guilty, but the proof-reader must have been drunk. I hadn’t intended to watch but John seemed mildly interested so we did, and every hour or two I said ‘I think I’ve had enough now’ but he hadn’t so we watched till the flypast. Perhaps of all the words written and spoken these by Rob Harris stuck in my mind “A man was given a hat. He didn’t seem overly keen on this hat. But he embraced the moment. For all its quirks and oddities, this was a spectacle for the ages” and it was. I am a Republican of course but a ceremony with that sense of history and majesty, with traditions going back 1000 years, can’t be disregarded. I have a false memory of seeing the last Coronation but perhaps it was a long news cast at the movies, because there was no TV. I do distinctly remember reading aloud The King Is Dead on a banner outside the Berala Newsagency and my mother being aghast, ‘What a thing to say’ she said before I pointed to the sign.

It was lovely having John home for the weekend. He said this afternoon that we got him in there just in time as his memory is so much worse. This was after I found him in his room carefully packing a suitcase with everything from thongs to undies, shirts and trousers, plus a pillow. Gently asking what he was doing he answered “I think I’m going to live somewhere else but I don’t know where or what I’m supposed to take”. When I explained that he was living between two homes now and has a full set of clothes at each he started to cry and said ‘It’s all so confusing, I don’t know what’s going on most of the time’. A cup of tea and a Scotch Finger biscuit after we unpacked the case seemed to improve matters. I’m sure those he socialised with yesterday would have no conception of how much he is struggling.

Seeing something on the news about Russia reminded me how much I hate flat land. The bus travel across Russia seemed endless, it’s somehow depressing to me to see flat land to the horizon in every direction. I could never live in such a place. Arriving in Melbourne from the north is similar, with depressing treeless black-roofed houses edge to edge as far as you can see. They use the image of this urban ghetto (one of many I suspect) repeatedly on TV when reporting on housing or finance, I can’t help but wince. One of the criteria of buying this house, hose out wreck that it was, was being on the top of a rise.

May 8, 2023

I’ve been thinking a lot about the many public servants in past couple of weeks who were sentenced to death or serious injury for their trouble. First the ambo stabbed to death for no reason, then the two SA Police similarly attacked, followed by the Fire Brigade officer killed fighting a fire with her partner badly injured, and again a Service NSW employee critically injured in a stabbing attack in Sydney. The fire case was an accident but the other three were attacks by ‘crazies’, which begs the question of why there are so many of them around. There is the argument that in the past many of these people would have been in asylums, but I think it’s more than that. As a society we have been inured to believe in the rights of the individual over the rights of society and now we are seeing the end result in people who have grown up in a world where just paying tax is seen as an imposition. Libertarianism, the sovereign citizen movement and far right politics are the consequence of many factors but surely the cult of individualism is a big one.

Centrelink’s internal machinations are a mystery. After contacting them a second time to ask about John’s permanency arrangements, I was told that confirmation letters were sent on April 12, along with forms to seek approval for me to handle his dealings with them. The chap promised to resend both sets of documents and this week two copies of the power of attorney documents arrived (sent by each of the operatives I’ve dealt with) but no copies of the Gracewood permanency documents. I do not intend to stab anybody in order to achieve my aim here, but if I happened to do so I would claim ‘mental health issues’ as this seems de rigueur now whether you are charged with domestic violence, murder or stealing a packet of biscuits. Mad or Bad? I suspect the judges roll their eyes whenever they hear ‘mental health issues’ just as I do.

May 9, 2023

Carly is in in Budget Lockup all day today until the Treasurer begins speaking. It is a literal lockup, you can’t get out, even to eat and your phone is confiscated. It’s a mix of pollies, senior public servants and journos who can write their stories all afternoon, seeking any clarification from the pollies and public servants about any details that they don’t understand. At the same time she is trying to organise a holiday in NZ for when this is done with, but the folks at Flight Centre took all the details and then did nothing, claiming understaffing. Now she is using a friend of Sue’s in Sydney but of course without a phone Carly can’t liaise with her today, so I rang to make sure the agent got all the appropriate information and is acting on it, which she is, thanks to Sue.

John has a note in the diary for 2.30 pm today: ‘filming bucket drum’ but neither of us has the least idea what it means. It will be interesting to talk to him later and find out what it’s all about. Clearly Centrelink read the blog yesterday and were shamed into acting; John’s formal approval for Gracewood arrived there late yesterday afternoon, though John’s copy hasn’t turned up yet. So he’s secure there now and I can breathe again. I sign the reworked contract tomorrow.

Crime in Queensland and the NT has reportedly surged in the last six months but that situation isn’t helped by the vigilante group in Rockhampton harassing those accused at their homes. Then of course we discover that the instigator of the ‘public meeting’ is a local gym owner, past One Nation candidate and the national president of the Patriots Defence League, an anti-Islam group linked to the American Proud Boys. Maybe not just the general public after all then.

May 10, 2023

I picked John up and brought him home for the day. The ‘filming bucket drum’ turned out to be someone coming in with a whole bunch of buckets for them to use as drums, with proper drumsticks, and it was filmed by Baptistcare staff. He must have had a ball because he rang me three times to tell me about it. One of the staff showed me a photo of John drumming with a bright green staff scarf tied around his head, looking like some sort of rock star. I hope I can see the video! He seems very happy at the moment telling me that he’s enjoying Gracewood, long may it continue.

Carly had an amazing time at Budget Lockup being quizzed by Steven Dziedzic, Matthew Knott, a fellow from the AFR whom I’ve forgotten and a heap of others. She said it went against the usual rules about not being able to talk to journalists and she enjoyed it immensely, all those late nights were worth it apparently. But she’ll be glad to get off to NZ in a couple of weeks. I so wish I were going with her, having seen the itinerary it’s just my idea of a trip, moseying down the east coast of the south island bussing between destinations, as sadly the train along the coast only runs from September to March.

Trying to decide whether to drive to Erina on Friday, then stay over at Sue’s and come home Saturday or to stick to plan A and get the train tomorrow, but that means Sue picking me up and then driving me to the Friday appointment as there isn’t any appropriate public transport. Still cogitating, but it’s great to have feel well enough to have the choice.

May 11, 2023

Today I decided to go through some paperwork of John’s and arrange it in some sort of order…..and bingo, I found the two missing letters from the Opera House confirming their assent to John’s request to have his memorial service there. They were mixed up in the file of copious legal letters regarding the theft of a large amount of money invested with the disgraced solicitor John Lundy, but that’s a story for another day. A few weeks ago I was invited to ‘morning tea’ at the office of Louise Herron, CEO of the Opera House (just as an aside ‘morning tea’ is not a saucer-less cup of half cold tea from a pot left over on the CEO’s desk). She assured me that although her predecessor Richard Evans’ letter agreeing to the arrangement may well have been written (she had confirmed this with him by phone, but couldn’t find a copy), a 2014 letter while she was CEO certainly wasn’t. There was no such letter in their files she assured me and said she would never have agreed to such a thing. I didn’t believe a word of it as I had seen both letters and now I have them in my hot little hands I’ve sent photographs of each to her Executive Assistant for comment. What’s the betting that the email goes astray too? But I am happy to keep sending copies by email, text and snail mail until the lying coots admit that they made this commitment to John. A deal is a deal is a deal.

I actually did some house-cleaning after this as I was so buoyed by my find. Many dust balls are now stowed in the bin and the place feels a lot better. It’s amazing how much better I am feeling, I am sure I will look like a total fraud seeing Glenn tomorrow. I emailed Sue to ask what she preferred me to do transport-wise as I feel I am up to driving now. She replied that a few things have come up at her end so if I can drive up there tomorrow it would be good for her, but she’s willing to pick me up at Woy Woy station if things go pear-shaped. I will come back sometime Saturday.

The current charges against celebrity jeweller Elias Germani who was arrested this week and charged with aggravated robbery, depriving a person of liberty, attempting to dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, publishing false misleading material to obtain property and participating in a criminal group contributing to criminal activity related to a ‘fake robbery’ after which Germani allegedly claimed $2.8 million dollars from his insurance company. If he’s convicted, he’s a very naughty as well as a very stupid man. His poor shop assistant who was tied up and threatened by knife-wielding ‘burglars’ had no idea that it was possibly an inside job. It reminded me of a similar event from decades ago which was miniscule in comparison but gave me a huge laugh at the time. It concerned a laneway coffee shop in Baulkham Hills owned by a gay couple whom I didn’t know personally, but they were friends of friends. Late one night the place went up in smoke from an apparent arson attack. Commiserating with my friends they laughed uproariously, telling me that the boys had set the fire themselves as they were going broke, only later when they claimed the insurance did they discover that neither of them had paid the premium. Ooh I just love justice, however it’s delivered.

May 12, 2023

Nervous about driving to Erina, but then I’m nervous about everything at the moment so that means little, however I had a perfectly fine trip arriving early (natch) so I went to Terrigal to watch the ocean for a while. Went to the Surf Spot cafe right at the beach and noticed a special of avo and tomato on a bun with a coffee for $13 so I ordered that, but telling the girl that I didn’t want the coffee. She charged me $15 because I didn’t want the special and it was only later that I realised I should have had the coffee, given it to a stranger and saved myself $2. But I was slow on the uptake. However the ocean looked divine and it was a perfect spot. Then driving back to Erina Gracewood’s pharmacy rang and said his Duodart medication is unobtainable at the moment and the replacement is $40 a packet, not on the PBS, so not wanting to fall for a trap twice in one day I said to leave it with me while I rang our pharmacy to check. They had plenty of supply so I bought two months worth. Perhaps the $2 was well worth paying to motivate me to querying the pharmacy.

Waited till 1.30 to see Glenn who listened to the symptoms without saying much and then asked ‘How’s John?’ I explained about the respite and the permanent care with no detail or discussing his difficulty settling in and he said that it appeared to him that my immune system had ‘gone over a cliff’. He said negative emotions can cause people to have sudden lower levels of certain immune system cells, including natural killer cells and lymphocytes, allowing inflammation and infection to occur very rapidly. He then shocked me by saying ‘I usually see this in cases of grief, loss or guilt, do you think any of these could apply to you?’ He talked about mind-body connection and the fact that it isn’t psychosomatic but an actual physical reaction to overpowering negative emotion. So his recommendation to Bob was to concentrate on supporting the mental side in the hope that the physical will rectify itself. Not what I was expecting but probably accurate.

Sue and I had a quiet night in, I didn’t even take a book with me, but we were both happy to chat. Slept like the dead in that lovely airy upstairs room.

May 13, 2023

Up early for olive toast and fromage dauphinoise with a pot of Russian Caravan. We went over to the farm and netted a lemon tree that the cockies are attacking before settling in to read the paper while Sue did her French lessons. We met Anna at Mooney Mooney for a spot of lunch and then she drove Sue back up to Killcare while I headed for home, arriving at 4pm. A chap started randomly talking to me about having had lunch at the Mooney Mooney Oyster Shed next door, sitting at a table in the shallow water with some sort of waterproof pants on while eating prawns and oysters, fresh shucked off the rocks around them and throwing the shells into the river as they ate. He wanted to know where I lived and commented that it wasn’t far from him, at Blakehurst! Mentioning that the lunch was $200 a pop made me think that it was all a pick-up line so I said I was in a hurry to catch up to my friends. Dav has invited me to Millie’s martial arts in the morning, followed by the markets at Marrickville, after I’ve promised John that I’d pick him up at 9.30, caught in the vice once again and I hadn’t even got home. Why are so many things lose/lose at the moment?

May 14, 2023

Made the lose/lose situation into a win/win by going to Dav and Co in the morning and then picking John up after lunch, he didn’t seem upset at all but I’m never sure. I make the vice (or as the Americans spell it, vise) for myself, no one is pressuring me to do competing things but I always feel as if when I make a choice I’m letting somebody else down. Watched Millie’s Ta Quan Do lesson and again I am impressed with the discipline regarding not using the skills for anything other than defending themselves. Then we had a little look at Marrickville Markets next door but I only got bread (which is delicious) because none of the many fruit and veg stalls had prices on anything. When there is a queue to be served I didn’t want to get to the top of the line and then hold people up asking prices. Clearly that doesn’t bother their clientele because they were doing good trade which suggests deep pockets in that area. Lots of computer boffins maybe.

John has had what was happening today written in his diary for a week but since we got home he’s asked me ten times if he’s staying here tonight. We found a beautiful bunch of flowers on the front verandah, from my girls, and I came inside to bring in my handbag before getting them. When I did so it was a surprise all over again to John and again when I put them in a vase. So far he’s had three pleasant surprises regarding the flowers and I expect there will be more to come, one of the few advantages to dementia.

May 15, 2023

Wow I don’t think I want to drive anywhere at all tomorrow after trips up and back to Killcare over two days, followed by two trips to the city in the next two days. I almost fell into the garden coming in just now but I’m pleased to have got all those jobs done and dusted and by tomorrow I will be back to rights. Had a bite to eat in the cafe at the National Art School opposite St. V’s. The cafe is probably the worst I’ve ever been in, three dishes comprised the total menu: all wraps, two veggie or one ham and cheese. I had the falafel wrap and could only eat half, it was so dry and tasteless. I was watching people putting their leavings in the bin but wasn’t quick enough to grab them for the possum. No wonder the students were eating things brought in from the cafe over the road, but you live and learn. Just love the buildings and it would be great to have a tour around the historic gaol. One very small stone building near the gate had a skull and crossbones carved over the door along with an hourglass and another thing that I couldn’t make out. I am assuming it would have been the mortuary but why would you put it just inside the gates? No refrigeration would have meant a ghastly smell in summer, but perhaps it was so the people picking up the bodies didn’t have to enter the compound proper and risk escapes? I don’t know but want to find out, there were no plaques to explain the history, except on the building housing the cells from the early 1800s. On the way home I called in at the library to pick up a couple of things and reserved The Island of Missing Trees which is due back in 4 days. No definite word on what we are supposed to be reading for book group but Ruth, Sue and I will all be reading this one rightly or wrongly.

May 16, 2023

Carly is on holiday and back in the land of the living after months of work almost every day. It seems so weird to ring her and get an answer. She had a strange experience yesterday with Appliances Online, which I have used and recommended, when her purchase of a vacuum cleaner failed to materialise on the due date for delivery. She rang them and was told that the order was cancelled by their fraud department, but they still have her money! No explanation was given but the bank says if she can’t get the vac or the money then they will retrieve it from them seeing she paid with a credit card. She is counting down to her NZ holiday, beginning in Wellington next weekend. Tragic news from there today after the oddly named Loafer’s Lodge went up in smoke killing at least six and probably more. Arson is suspected because fires were reported in two different locations in the building. The place is used for those waiting for public housing, newly released prisoners, hospital staff and people who have been deported from Australia, so a motley crew. I hope the name isn’t some sort of sick joke to describe the underprivileged who reside there, but perhaps there’s a totally different reason for that name, apparently tourists don’t stay there so it’s likely all Kiwis who have died.

Peter and Dawn contacted me by WhatsApp from Japan where they were about to board a bullet train to Hiroshima. In Paul Ham’s fascinating book Hiroshima Nagasaki he posits that the atomic bombs were dropped on those poor souls at the time they were because US intelligence considered it possible that the Russians may invade from the north, claiming Japan for themselves and the Americans wanted to beat them to it. Whether that is true or not, the suffering then and for many generations due to radiation induced disease and abnormality makes those attacks one of the lowest points in the history of the human race, targeting civilians and killing at least 215,000 in the initial attacks alone. Peter, who speaks fluent Japanese after working there as a diplomat, will be the most wonderful guide for their trip. Dawn has a long history as an activist in many fields, particularly in gay rights as she is one of the revered 79ers who were arrested at the very first march and who are lauded each year in Mardi Gras, but also in the anti-war movement and supporting Aboriginal rights. She is following in her mum’s footsteps. June was a nursing sister during the war when she organised a clandestine cell of the communist party at the Alfred Hospital and she had a lifelong abhorrence to war, racism and inequality. When Frank Hardy’s book Power Without Glory was banned during the Cold War her mum secretly worked with others to hand print and distribute the book. When she learned of Stalin’s atrocities June left the communist party and was shunned by most of her lifelong friends from then on.

May 17, 2023

Just finished reading A Serial Killer’s Daughter, written by the daughter of the American BTK serial killer who murdered at least 10 people from the 1970s to the 1990s. She had a pretty normal home life and writes about her own life growing up at the same time that her father was doing the murders. He was caught in 2005 and sentenced to 175 years in gaol. It made me think about a lot of things, but particularly what triggers someone to go over into psychopathy, how clever and devious psychopaths can be, in this case being a scout master and church congregation president. It made we wonder also if people like Trump and George Santos are part way down that road, narcissistic in the extreme and pathological liars. His daughter stayed sane, but only just, using her religious faith to get through the shock and trauma of finding out exactly what her father had done. She continues to write to him, feeling that she has an obligation to forgive, though his replies make it clear that he doesn’t have any empathy, either for his victims or for his family. What to do with a person without empathy? I guess try to lock them up as soon as possible and throw away the key, sad as it is I can’t see another solution. But I came away from the book with a lot of admiration for her and her struggle over decades to stay sane and somehow move on.

Sadly today I emailed both Orange Blossom Cottage and Wendy’s Home Care to confirm that John’s permanence at Gracewood has become official. They were notified by Services Australia that their funding must stop from April 10, weeks before either Gracewood or we were informed that he was permanent. I am sorry that our association with the wonderful people at both organisations has had to end. Also today I was sent the minutes of the Residents Meeting held last week at Gracewood and my gosh they either need a proof- reader or else a new minute taker. It is hard to work out much of what was discussed but ‘screening more scutinize and carefull with alchoholics, aggressive behaviour’ was an interesting one, though it’s anyone’s guess what ‘followed up Snake Update- Machine from Bunnings are bought and put around the facility’ could possibly mean. Taking notes when your English isn’t that great is a hard task, but there needs to be a way for someone else to make sense of the meeting’s decisions or there’s not much point in reporting them to an aging and overwhelmingly Anglo audience. I considered offering to proof-read them but it would probably mean I’d have to go to every meeting as I couldn’t possibly work out what was said from these notes, best to pull my head in I think.

May 18, 2023

After trying really hard to take Glenn Reeves’ advice to avoid anxiety-producing situations and engage in activities that give me pleasure, I was plunged into hyper-anxiety after John rang me last evening to say that his daughter has found out where he is and wants to take him out for lunch on Sunday, the first such offer in at least 15 years. He said he wants me to come, probably the last thing I would opt to do this weekend after walking barefoot on a bull ants’ nest or being water-boarded. So that was the end of a pleasant day today as I was worrying about what has occasioned this and whether it’s all about his ‘things’ as usual. After a fitful sleep I realised that this is just the sort of thing that will put me back in bed if Glenn is right about the cause and that will not help anyone. So I’ve tried to focus on things that need doing like checking who was listed as the beneficiary of my super account. The bank couldn’t tell me, I had to ring Commonwealth Super directly, but was pleased to find that all is in order there. Lots of phone calls this morning, none of them of the cheering up variety. A close friend told me that her husband has been the victim of a scam and lost bigtime, but he won’t reveal to her how much has gone, just saying ‘everything I had’. Here’s hoping the bank can claw some of it back but it isn’t sounding promising. The same person told me of a close friend of hers who has a serious cardiac condition but has no will and keeps putting it off, ah the old ‘death will wait if only I don’t make a will’ idea seems to be a common pipe dream for some people. Then Tim rang and told me I was sounding like Ita Buttrose, with a lisp, querying whether I could have had a stroke. The sassy statistician sailed the Mississippi, no lisp. My goodness perhaps I should get into my PJs now at 4 pm and send this day off into the s-s-s-s-sunset or should I say thunthet.

May 19, 2023

My friend’s husband just got a call from NAB to say they have retrieved his scammed money, so that’s a relief for them. I fear we are in for more and more of this and it will be a wild ride.

I see that the Powerhouse Museum is running an extravaganza entitled just Zampatti. It’s so disappointing to see what subjects they are choosing in recent years. The old museum was a wonderful display of all sorts of technology but it has gone downhill into some sort of fashion/pop culture display. It was Carla Zampatti who said, when asked why her sizes stopped at 14, that she wouldn’t want anyone over that size wearing her clothes. I found her a terrible snob, but apart from that I wonder why any designer is getting megastar treatment in a what is supposed to be a science and technology museum?

Derrian, on hearing on the grapevine that I had been ill lately, emailed me asking if I would be willing to have a free consultation with her. She has been a practising herbalist for 40 years and said she was sure she’d have something to help. My inclination is to respect double-blind controlled trials as gold standard, so this was certainly outside my usual panorama. However I don’t want to keep going the way I am (up sick at 4 am again this morning and I’m putting that down to trepidation about Sunday’s lunch). So I went today and will take the herbal remedy she has made up for me. If in fact Glenn is right and there is a psychological involvement in my immune system crashes, then perhaps I just need to have faith that she knows what she’s doing and give it a try. It was good of her to offer and I want to take her contribution seriously. As often happens my worries about the lunch may be unnecessary anyway. Davina and Louis are booked to go to a B and B in Bundeena tomorrow night while Millie goes to a sleepover with her friend. But Millie has come down with a cold and Dav has asked if we can potentially take the booking, though a final decision will be made in the morning. I was bringing John home first thing tomorrow anyway, so it will be a case of driving down there instead of home. He is quite prepared to ask for a postponement of the lunch if that happens so it’s in the lap of the gods now.

May 20, 2023

While I was picking John up I got the message to say that we are appointed recipients of the Bundeena weekend so it was a quick trip home arriving at 9.25 am and I was packed and on the road by 10.05. I texted his daughter on his phone (John’s instigation) apologising for the postponement of Sunday’s lunch and suggesting next Sunday instead. The reply came from Dan, totally fine and they will be in touch. Carly meanwhile left Canberra on the 6 am flight to Sydney and was ensconced in the Qantas First Class Lounge courtesy of her friend Lucas. She texted me the menu which was heavy on things like egg white omelette (eye roll) and lots of gluten free options. I noted there were no prices but she said it’s all included, natch. She flew off safely to Wellington about when we set off for Bundeena. I found the drive via Auburn, Bankstown, Menai and Sutherland quite stressful and was really glad to get there. We had a walk on the beach and wharf, then some lunch at a food van in the main street before driving to our digs. The two units were attached to a private home and access was through their living spaces. It was an architect designed build and interesting in many ways with dry stone feature walls and zinc cladding, very Grand Designs. However there were some weird aspects, such as the bathroom being completely open, no door. Later we were to discover that the two recessed lights in the high ceiling coupled with the fancy pants globes in the bedside lights were totally inadequate for reading. I tried to read the newspaper at 5 pm but couldn’t make out more than the headlines, unable to check whether my letter was published though a text informed me that it had been. John was completely thrown by the bathroom situation and asked me constantly where the door was. If a person came to the door of the unit, their eyeline would be directly towards anyone perched on the loo, so I understood his confusion. We went for a walk through the Wiggly Forest, a large woodland of Angophora costata and went through them to Jibbon Beach and then back via the road. The trees have amazing horizontal branches going out double the height of the tree, they are really something. Later in the afternoon, after I had booked us a table at the Bundeena Community Club, Fran rang, just a coincidental social call. It turned out they were at their Bundeena house and she suggested that they join us for dinner at the club, barely a block from their home. I had a dozen oysters and after I saw the size of John’s meal I was pretty glad that I hadn’t ordered a main. Bill and John were both very quiet but Fran and I found plenty to natter about. She commented that they don’t go to their daughter in Richmond in one trip any more, the road is too taxing so they stay at Elizabeth Bay overnight on the way. This made me feel much better about my reaction to the drive. A funny aside: when we arrived at the club we were asked to sign in and to show a photo ID. Of course John doesn’t have one any more so he tried his pension card, credit card etc to no avail ‘sorry sir we can’t let you in without photo ID’. ‘Okay’ I said, ‘we’ve booked a table in the dining room for four people but I guess we’ll just have to go somewhere else’. Shrugging his shoulders he groaned ‘just go in, we’re pretty lax here anyway’.

May 21, 2023

The bed was comfy, the room warm with underfloor heating and cooling (don’t ask me how the latter happens) and we got used to the bathroom. In the bright light of morning I was able to read the home-produced colour brochure about the accommodation, which had some zingers. A sample: Brightwater Retreat, now referred to as BRW; trees berried in sand; you can hear whiplash birds and rare specifies like oyster catchers; there is a Webber baby Q for your use (this one freaked me out thinking of slow roasted babies). Bless him, I shouldn’t laugh but I can’t help it, I’m a bad person 🥴 Breakfast was served in his kitchen, eggs, bacon, tomato or any combination of these with a mug of tea. Perfectly adequate, but no sign of the usual juice, cereal, jam etc though we weren’t complaining. Headed off to the National Park nearby for a walk to The Balconies, towering cliffs over the ocean. It is only about a kilometre each way but is the beginning of the 26 km coastal walk, which some were perhaps starting seeing the size of their packs. I have always hankered to see Wedding Cake Rock which is about 6 km return further on but decided 8 km on a rough track was a bit much for us. Drove back to the big smoke of Bundeena and on the off chance I went to the IGA in the hope of finding some of the Dutch Fruit Loaf that I’ve been trying to buy ever since I spotted it and bought some in Woollahra when I was there with Davina weeks back. I’ve emailed and rung the makers in Kilsyth Victoria and they have given me Adelaide and Brisbane suppliers but nothing for NSW. Now I think I see the reason: the manager says he orders large quantities and gets them delivered directly from Victoria so clearly there mustn’t be a local distributor. So I bought 36 dollars worth and I shall freeze them, eureka! Decided to come home via Heathcote Rd, the M5 and M7 and boy was that an improvement, 20 ks longer but a much easier drive. My favourite nurse Francis welcomed John home and enquired about whether he was hungry after the drive, quickly producing a plate of sandwiches, a piece of lemon cake and mug of tea, he’s a very sweet man. John is completely confused about what the weekend entailed, firstly asking as I drove home if we had been on a Gracewood bus trip, then if we’d been to book group, then if we had travelled down there this morning. I got him to write some details about it in his diary when we got to Gracewood as the whole weekend has completely gone for him now. It makes me doubt the wisdom of the four days I have planned at Bowral for his birthday, perhaps it’s a waste of time (and money) for him to stay that long?

May 22, 2023

I planned to get the car rego done today but they are a bit busy, so that’s on tomorrow’s agenda instead and I will get the flu vax today, always something. It’s a pain in the butt having to schlepp to Blacktown now that Alex had moved his business to there but I don’t want to change mechanics. I asked John to walk down the corridor and ask Francis if he will be getting the flu vax there or whether I need to organise it, but by the time he walked back to his room he’d forgotten the answer, so I rang him and they will sort that out there.

I received on Facebook an invitation to participate in a double-blind placebo controlled trial for a new vaccine to prevent urinary tract infections for women over 60. No one else I know who’s on Facebook seems to have got this, clearly it is targeted to women over 60 who get UTIs and live near Westmead Hospital. So how exactly did they know to send it to me I wonder? I expressed some interest in finding out what it is all about and now they are haranguing me about joining up. It is a study which begins with the participant getting an experimental vaccine and then being followed for three years. But of course 50% of the people get a placebo but still have to have all the follow-ups etc. Still thinking about whether I will do it or not.

Thinking about the two police attacks on female nursing home residents and pondering the fact that if every ambo in NSW were given a Taser and handcuffs tomorrow to protect themselves it would be unthinkable that either would ever be used in these circumstances. If you have a Force you will undoubtedly attract a minority of people who want the job because of their attraction to the force element. Just look at the stats for the NT Police where a big majority of serving members are ex-military. I once visited the old Rydalmere Psych Centre and one of the patients, a man in his twenties who seemed quite normal, asked me if I would be interested in going out with him. I replied that I’d have think about it and shortly after the poor fellow came out dressed in a suit and tie, ready to go. I was hugely embarrassed but it got worse. Because he walked up behind the male nurse who was sitting down (apparently they had to approach nurses from the front or side) the ‘nurse’ jumped up, pulled the man’s arm up behind his back and threw him to the floor very roughly. I was mortified and sorry for my own part in the fiasco but the nurse shrugged his shoulders and said ‘They know the rules’. None of the other staff seemed to think it was any way unusual and I realised that sadly the culture of psychiatric nurses was a very different one to what applies in dealing with medical patients.

May 23, 2023

Monday night is my weekly TV binge and last night didn’t disappoint. Australian Story featured a woman with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer who took part in a trial to assess the usefulness of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, combined with psychotherapy to relieve mental anguish in the terminally ill. Her husband has early onset dementia so she will be leaving her children effectively orphaned. It reminded me of Brian’s stories of being given LSD at a private hospital where they were trying to treat his alcohol addiction. Considering that this is touted as a first, it made me wonder if that hospital were doing it on the quiet. St. Vincent’s on the other hand took 9 months just to write the proposal to have it approved. It appeared to have been very useful and the woman’s comment that she couldn’t put the experience into words echoed Brian’s attempts to explain it.

After that on 4 Corners an investigation into the cocaine trade, unusual in that it consisted of interviews with the actual dealers and a ‘door’, someone who gets the drugs through the airport. They were all masked of course, but although many had their words printed on the screen, others didn’t and I missed a lot of the dialogue from those people, a fact I pointed out to the producers and the journalist by email after the show. One part showed a man making ‘cocaine’ by crushing aspirin and covering it with hairspray to get it to clump in the way that the real stuff does. Amazing that people trust these folks and ingest what they sell, real or fake. It really was a doorway into another world and the journalist Mahmood Fazal deserves plaudits for getting so many people to cooperate in the making of the program.

I had plans to get the car rego done today and to pick something up from the council chambers but unfortunately the Norfloxacin honeymoon which has kept me well for weeks came to a crashing end last night and I have been in pain since 2 am. I am hoping to recover by tomorrow as our harbour cruise has been cancelled three times already due to illness and I can’t bear to cancel it again, not to mention the $40 fee that yet another change will bring. Not sure how to move forward here, waiting to hear back from Bob who must be heartily sick of me by now.

May 24, 2023

Bob worked his magic yesterday and I was well enough to do the long-awaited Captain Cook High Tea Cruise this afternoon. So then I could focus on the important things in life, such as seeing nurse Francis without his mask for the first time and discovering that he is handsome as well as kind and efficient and then the fact that three people on the bus to town were reading actual books, with pages! Throwing in a third piece of trivia, I am amazed that Jeremy Fernandez’ thumbs are so ‘opposable’. I know that’s a good thing and helped us make tools and whatever and get where we are in an evolutionary sense but goodness, that man could hold a jeroboam in one hand.

John was most confused about why we were in the city but eventually cottoned on to the boat trip idea, commenting that he hoped it wasn’t going to be on the Carnival Splendour which was in dock. We got window seats due to the few takers today and were presented with three tiers of yummies: hot veggie morsels on one, cold savoury things like prawn blinis and sandwiches on another and a range of sweets on the third. I planned ahead and took a plastic box for leftovers and they were all sweet things which I divvied up between us when we got back to Gracewood. I certainly won’t be having dinner but I bet John does because he will have forgotten about the high tea. It was a lovely afternoon and if Sue were in residence at Kirribilli today we could have waved as we went past. Sydney Harbour looked a treat, we had the perfect day for it.

So Rolf Harris has ended a life of highs and lows, once again showing that being an arsehole is the trick to getting a long life. I took the kids to see him in Parramatta Park when they were very young and although I would never say I had any idea about his offending, I somehow felt a resistance towards him that I couldn’t explain and didn’t go back to see him when he appeared on future occasions.

May 25, 2023

So today I was catching up on all of the things I planned to get out of the way on Tuesday. First to Blacktown for car rego, but alas the mysteriously broken glass on one headlight and one taillight has to be fixed. It’s a mystery how both were broken while parked with no damage to the car, almost as if someone had pushed a screwdriver through them. I sat for an hour while they rang around trying to get replacements from the wreckers, which they ultimately did, but it was going to be up to two hours before they could collect them so I will go back next week. While I was waiting I pored over a hardcover large format book about the Black Saturday Bush Fires in Victoria. The photos and articles were quite incredible, including about one couple’s horror ride, passing four cars which had crashed into each other in the darkness taking six lives. Put out by the Country Fire Authority, I think it was the best description of those tragic events that I’ve seen. Next to the Hills Council Chambers, the road to which took me right past John’s window at Gracewood, though he was out on his weekly bus trip. The organisers of last year’s carers’ retreat had left Mother’s Day gifts for all the attendees and it turned out to be matching slippers, eye mask and hot water bottle cover, I feel undeservedly spoilt. Next to the Chocolate Warehouse to pick up John’s bulk barley sugars (and a little block of mango macadamia nougat for moi). Then to the library where I thought I was picking up my latest reservation. Unable to find it on the shelf I asked the librarian who said I picked it up on Monday. I didn’t believe her and thought it was a mistake but it’s on the dining room table so clearly I did! This made me remember a recent event where I was sure I had been overcharged at a shop, just $26 odd in total, but for the life of me I couldn’t add up the three items in my head in order to query it. Later looking at the receipt I found I was overcharged on one thing, but by then I decided I couldn’t be bothered going back. For some reason mental arithmetic is now outside my skill set, along with brain surgery and sport of all types. When John was asked by the neurologist to count backwards from 100 in 7s and I only got to 93 without a struggle.

Totally pissed off that the decision of the Coroner in the Melissa Caddick inquest was announced today at Lidcombe when I understood it was to be in the city and so decided against going. The last hearing days were in the city, probably due to her brother the Ghastly Grimley monstering people at Lidcombe where there are few security staff. But I rang the court a while back to check the date and venue of the decision and was told it would also be in the city. Grrr…after going to the inquest as many days as I could I wanted to hear her full findings. From the little I’ve seen I think they were the correct ones though much of the mystery remains. But the things we discovered without doubt are that her husband is somewhat slow, but perhaps also devious, her brother a nasty piece of work and her parents very hard people, certainly not a family you would want to mix with if you could avoid it.

May 26, 2023

No clarity about whether the book group was going ahead today after a suggestion it be changed to next month due to the low number of people available to go. A couple of opinions each way but no conclusion so I decided to stay in my dressing gown until it was sorted and at 11am, two hours before I intended to leave, it was decided to go ahead, but whether we are discussing the book or not is still up in the air.

Carly’s photos and descriptions of NZ are buoying me at the moment. A huge factor in the beauty of that country is the ban on advertising hoardings, it is pristine in that respect. Although some are seen in the cities the country is delightfully free of them, but sadly we have followed the US (naturally) and favoured commerce over all, ruining our country scenes with billboards. Today’s pics show her at dawn in Kaikoura on the pebble beach and rocks watching the seals cavorting unrestrained and footloose, if you can be footloose without feet. I am soooo envious, it’s my dream trip. Perhaps it will be possible one day though I somehow doubt it.

When I was told recently that my killer T cells are ‘depleted’ it reminded me of looking after dearest Karl-Heinz at the end of his life, cruelly cut short by AIDS. It was always about what the T cell count has gone down to. I think normal is up to about 1000 per cubic ml but people used to start getting really worried when they dropped to the low hundreds. It was always the first topic of conversation when the boys got together, ‘what’s your T cell count this week?’ Oh 150, that’s not too bad, then some downhearted soul would report a count of 60 and we’d change the subject. I think Karl got down to 17, although I met people who were down to zero, but of course not for long. I would buy the Sydney Star Observer each week and look through the obits to see if any more friends had gone, it got to the point that I didn’t go to funerals unless they were very close and there were quite a lot of them. Somehow Covid, as bad as it was, never hit me like the AIDS epidemic did, a diagnosis then was a definite death sentence.

May 27, 2023

Tried to ring Milton Park a few times over hours regarding the latest date and time we have to cancel the trip planned for John’s birthday next month. Eventually I emailed them and a fellow rang me shortly afterwards. So I have till Tuesday to decide whether to cancel the trip due to my unpredictable health and be on the safe side, or persist with the booking and risk a more than $500 cancellation fee if we can’t go. In the middle of last night I was definitely cancelling, but this morning I just don’t know what to do. I have to see Bob again on Monday and perhaps he’ll have some opinion, though last week he was confident that the current treatment would work, at least for a time.

I am glad I went to book group even though we couldn’t discuss the novel because the member who suggested it wants to introduce it herself. Ruth has missed her calling, she definitely should have been a diplomat. Between pleasing the aforementioned member who wanted the book delayed and dealing with a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the recent planning, she hosted an afternoon tea while very firmly pushing future arrangements into a more organised pattern. I dips me lid. Unfortunately the meeting clashed with the final verdict of the Coroner in the matter of the seaplane that crashed on the Hawkesbury. From what I’ve heard briefly it seems that the findings fit exactly with those of the ATSB’s inquiry, odd and non-standard bolts were used by the company’s maintenance contractors, allowing carbon monoxide to infiltrate the cabin because they couldn’t be properly screwed in. Despite the difficult technical aspects, which were patiently explained to me at the time by the ATSB chief investigator, during the breaks, it was one of the most fascinating inquests I’ve been to. It was frustrating that it clashed with book group and I was very tempted to go, even though that would have been the end of the quorum I suspect. I look forward to reading the full transcript, sadly without my technical advisor on hand. I predict the beginnings of a huge lawsuit emanating from the British families of those who died in the plane, presumably against the maintenance company as well as the seaplane operators who hired them. There were always people rivetted to the evidence and writing feverishly in notebooks, and they were certainly not casual observers like me. Perhaps I’ll get to go to the court cases that ensue.

May 28, 2023

Had a lovely morning, till into the afternoon in fact, with Carol and Jack. It reminded me how much I miss talking to people about ‘stuff’. John’s wits are about him in terms of logic but he can’t remember anything he’s heard on the news, been told, or thought about yesterday, so it limits our conversations a lot. It was lovely for both of us to have him here for the weekend, just pottering. I needed to wake him up to go out this morning so he had a good rest as well, not that sleep has been a problem at Gracewood. I commented to Bob last week that he will probably outlive both of us and he said that in his experience people’s physical health improves when they get dementia, high blood pressure often becomes normal and other illnesses recede, so although I was speaking in jest he agreed in fact.

Carly is in Akaroa tonight, somewhere I remember well from my NZ travels. In the ocean-filled core of an extinct volcano it is a divine little village, with a cemetery for each religion and ‘dissenters’. Despite being tiny there is an English and a French quarter, with heritage buildings celebrating its 19th-century British and French colonial history.

I’ve given up on the idea of going to Vivid tonight or in the next day or two but I’m hoping for Thursday night, fingers crossed. We used to go a few years back but got out of the habit, though I think it has improved a lot now. I planned to go through the light show in the old railway tunnels which you can do day or night but Dav and Louis did it yesterday and said there were signs warning people about the flashing and strobe lights and telling them to stay still and put their hand up if affected and someone would come and rescue them. Dav seemed to think it was iffy for me to do it and sadly she’s probably right, but there are plenty of other options in the open air.

May 29, 2023

Feeling much more optimistic now that I’ve seen Bob and he has put me back on industrial strength antibiotics (the usual phone call to Canberra for permission took place) with an immediate follow up of a more common antibiotic daily for the foreseeable future. So I’m not cancelling our trip to Bowral in two weeks and as well as that I’ve booked a room at Swissotel in the city for Thursday night to see the judgement in the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case in the morning, then on to Vivid in the evening. Perhaps I will go to the Archibald or the new gallery, or both, on Friday. Woo-hoo, I know from experience that I will have at least a couple of weeks with no symptoms on this drug, and perhaps quite a few weeks, so I will pack in as much as I can in that time. Bob agreed with me when I said I think it’s time to start spending my super a bit more freely so I may go to see him singing with the SSO next week as well. While I was there the receptionist came to the door twice about the previous patient who was insisting on getting an Endone script. Bob said he’d just spent 15 minutes telling the patient why he won’t give it to her, but soon she was back again saying that the pharmacist had said the one he had prescribed was the wrong drug for her and she really needs Endone, so Bob said that the pharmacist could give it to her if he wants but he certainly wasn’t going to prescribe it.

John had ‘pet therapy’ on his itinerary today so I said to ring me as soon as it was over to tell me if the pet was a rat, a wolf or crocodile. He did ring straight away but couldn’t remember anything about it, not if it was a dog and what kind or even if he went. I am trying to get him to take photos so he can show me and we can discuss it but he can’t seem to remember to do that.

My cousin Domingos who was battling bowel cancer all last year has died. He and his brother were rescued from a tinny in which they were out fishing when the Indonesians invaded in 1975, watching the planes and knowing that their family was being attacked, They were brought to Darwin and then Villawood from where they were adopted by my cousin Ruth and husband Greco. The boys both converted to Islam and Domingos was particularly devout, which I hope gave him some comfort through his illness and early death, leaving 7 or was it 9 children? I think 9 was the last count.

May 30, 2023

So pleased to have scored one of the last tickets to Mozart’s Mass in C Minor on Thursday next week. I haven’t been to hear Bob singing since Covid started so I’m really looking forward to it, despite the need to be heavily masked. I decided to cram in as many good things as possible in the next two or three weeks while I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be feeling fine. Folks can keep their heroin and fentanyl, I will stick with my drug of choice, norfloxacin, love it to bits.

Very disappointing news that Uganda is once again cracking down on gay people while the ghastly Florida Governor de Santis signed a bill that will let the state take transgender minors away from their families if they are supporting them in their aim to change. Social morays seem to be circular not linear and just when we were congratulating ourselves about gay marriage it all heads back the other way. In fact I think it is likely because of gay marriage that the wheel turned backwards. Watching the documentary Folau it occurred to me that before colonisation the South Pacific had such liberal customs around sex and marriage, but now they cling tightly to the philosophy of the oppressors, which of course is a similar story to Uganda. The zeal of the convert is common in many faiths, something particularly noticed in Britain where Muslim converts have been more likely to show extreme devotion than those born into the belief and are more likely to become jihadis. African Catholicism is renowned as being more hard line than it is in other countries and it seems that Italians are much more inclined to adopt a laid back attitude to the rules of the faith, having been immersed in it for two millennia. However we can’t wait and watch these extremists for two thousand years and hope that their faith wears off over time. The answers are far from simple, but keeping Trump and de Santis out of the White House would be a good start.

May 31, 2023

Whew, just home at dusk after taking John for his last dentist’s appointment at RNS. The car almost knows its own way to Gracewood and back now. I find the driving exhausting so I’m glad to only be using the bus tomorrow, split infinitive but who cares?

Talking to my friend David from the south coast who tells me that his wife Esther has been called to her twin sister in Canada who is suffering the last weeks of breast cancer, to the point that her body is no longer making red blood cells and she needs to have regular transfusions. Thankfully their daughter has made that taxing journey with her. Her sister is in a care home and apparently the doc there didn’t notice anything wrong until it was far too late. It got me to thinking that I am taking John to his specialists’ appointments and to the dentist but I have never once observed any other resident being taken out except for one couple who are picked up regularly by one or other of their children for social reasons. Of course I’m not there all the time so I don’t see everything. I don’t know what people do there if they need a specialist’s opinion rather than having a full on emergency in which case an ambulance is called. If they don’t have immediate family around to take them, I suspect they just don’t go. Worth asking.


















































Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 10

July 11, 2022

So off to Service NSW to which we’d made two unsuccessful visits last week, both our fault, not theirs. We had to renew John’s Disability Parking Permit and cancel his licence and both were achieved, though it was lucky that I kept the accompanying letter from them as they announced that he would have to be reassessed by a doctor to confirm the state of his disability. I pointed out that the letter states: If you are renewing the permit you need to fill in page 1. The doctor’s pages were 2 and 3 which are definitely required for the initial permit. She went off to consult a higher power but came back saying ‘Well the letter’s wrong but we are going to renew it for you anyway’. So thankfully we don’t need a doctor’s visit and a fourth trip there. Then off to the Chocolate Warehouse to get some gifts for visits we are making today and tomorrow. I am a keen consumer of marzipan but it is always coated in dark chocolate if you get it as confectionery, however I spied a block from Lubeck in Germany coated in milk chocolate so I snaffled that for myself. Years ago I used to go the Dutch Shop over the back of beyond in Fairfield somewhere, they sold Dutch marzipan pigs with no chocolate on at all, bliss. (I just looked up that Dutch shop, it still exists but it’s now called Holland House and one day soon I will make the trip and stock up on the pigs.)

Thank the gods that Wimbledon is over and now I won’t have to look at Kyrgios’s face on the front page every day, in the Sunday paper he was on both covers, back and front. Let’s get back to what’s really important AMA vice-president Dr. Chris Moy saying: ‘Unfortunately we’ve been like frogs boiled slowly and we’re accepting this death rate.’ Every health officer and the government knows that masks in shopping centres, theatres and the like will save lives, but the ‘freedom’ lobby is pretty quiet at the moment and I think they just want to keep them that way. John went into Terry’s party all masked up. I mostly sat outside, but when I went in there he was with no mask in a room full of people ‘No-one else had one on so I thought I was doing the wrong thing and took it off’ he said. We were visiting a man with cancer who has refused visitors for many months in fear of getting Covid yet no-one seemed to worry about the risk to him, let alone to themselves.

I watched a little of the Barilaro Inquiry today before going for afternoon tea at Brigitte’s. I was shocked to learn that not only did Ms. West miss out on the plum New York posting but then she wasn’t put back into her Deputy-Secretary post at Investment NSW, so her public service career ended through no fault of her own. She was told her job offer was being rescinded because the role was going to be “a present for someone”. Most of the questions were reasonable and respectful but one National on the inquiry, MLC Wes Fang, lived up to his name.

July 12, 2022

Watching the film of the Hawkesbury floods reminds me of speaking at a council meeting many years ago against a planned development in Pitt Town on the grounds of possible flooding, but no one wanted to know, least of all the developer who was a councillor. All of that estate went under in March and again this time, but I’m afraid some responsibility must go to the buyers who just don’t want to face the facts of their proximity to the River or to South Creek. Wishing and hoping doesn’t do a great job of holding back water I’m afraid. Some who live by the river are there because the rents are cheap and that’s all they can afford, but the folks in the new homes had choices, weighing up a new home in a possible flood zone against a pre-owned or smaller one in a safer spot. It’s late in the day to try to fix decades of bad decisions, but I suspect it will be taxpayers, not developers, who will foot the bill.

An advertisement for a 34th floor unit on George St in Sydney lists ‘amazing panoramic views’ but from that high up you might as well be looking at an aerial photograph, nothing looks real, not a person can be seen. I play a game each week reading the Domain: 1. Would I swap it for my place (to live in, not sell) and 2. How would I redecorate it. The best ones of course are those where I would happily move but not touch a thing. Many fantastic properties need a top to toe redo for my taste I’m afraid, while a few are just delightful as they are.

I was cheesed off this morning when I discovered that the Barilaro Inquiry wasn’t sitting today, I just happened to jag it yesterday. (Hint: It’s good to include the next planned meeting of the committee on the website as the Federal Government committees do. I couldn’t find a hint on when or if they sit again.) In the afternoon we visited with Bronwyn and Michael, after our many attempts to have a picnic were washed out we settled for a delicious lunch at their place instead and their back verandah proved a superior spot in the sun and out of any wind. Bronwyn, like me, tears out recipes from the weekend papers and both main and dessert proved well worth it. They will come here over the next few weeks and bring their new whippet with the unlikely name of John.

July 13, 2022

Oh I see now, maybe it’s because today’s the 13th that two things went belly up. First the car battery was flat (my bad for not running it often enough) then when I tried to get the NRMA app working to call them it wouldn’t cooperate. So I tried to ring them, nope she’s a no-go as well, it’s now a phone that doesn’t make or take phone calls. So later I went to Apple who said it was an Optus problem, then to the Optus shop who said it was a phone problem and back to Apple who said I needed to come back for an appointment in the afternoon. Grr, my day is shite now I decided and we won’t be taking a little run somewhere as planned. Back at 3pm and someone at the Genius Bar decided that the phone had in fact gone to god so then I had to buy a new one and wait interminably it seemed for the data to be transferred from old one to new one. They are certainly on top of their products there and I am thankful for that and the ability to save all of the data, but it would have made the day a breeze if someone had said in the first place ‘it’s cactus, buy a new one’ and let me out of there in 10 minutes, still with eyes watering at the price of a new phone though. Now I am too mentally exhaustipated to cook what I was going to do for dinner so I’ll will do something easy instead and save the culinary arts for another night.

That Barilaro is a ton of fun who keeps my small mind amused. His qualifications were previously listed as a Certificate IV for Construction and Building Services that the former Deputy Premier used to claim himself as a tradie apparently. But now he’s sporting three new Graduate Diplomas ($3500 each from Churchill Education) and an Advanced Diploma ($2000, also from Churchill Education). Barilaro bolstered his CV ahead of his sadly cancelled trip to New York it seems. Churchill Education offers certifications such as the Diplomas of Management (Learning), Strategic Leadership and Portfolio Management that he received based on ‘recognition for past learning’ and they are intended for those wishing to transition careers. Ouch, $9000 for a few now useless qualifications, but I guess he can afford it. I’m going to give this mob a ring and see if I can get a Diploma or two or maybe even a Master’s, once I decide which subjects I have ‘past learning’ in. Proofreading sounds a bit lame but I guess forensic science might be tricky to arrange, however if I added a couple of grand to the fee……

July 14, 2022

When are we going to find something better than LGBTQIA+ &%@!*^#. I mean even LGBT was maladroit, but to keep adding on the end is just plain silly. It will take a cleverer person than me to come up with a word that everyone is happy with, but please people, start the process.

I’ve been thinking about China, it seems everyone is at least thinking, if not obsessed. It is the one topic on which I part company with new PM Albanese. He is so afraid of being painted ‘weak on China’ that he falls into the trap of the public humiliation and criticism of that country instead of saying the same things, but through diplomatic channels. I think about other regimes which we were unhappy with and publicly vilified: Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, just to name a tiny few and I wonder which one is better off now than before the interference? Syria, Iraq and Libya were laid waste by the decision to disrupt the existing regimes but in the case of Taiwan we are not looking just at that country’s future, but of the future of the world if China and the US were to go to war. Instead of lining up as supporters our government should be telling both sides to put on the brakes. Ukrainians are suffering and their country has become, essentially, a US proxy (as US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has acknowledged) in a war that helps achieve America’s long term goal of weakening Russia. Taiwan is an excuse for a war with China and they should be very careful what they wish for when asking other countries to come to their defence. Both China and Russia are attempting to reclaim territory that they claim (rightly or wrongly) to be part of their remit, a somewhat different case to an invasion of an unrelated country but a potential tragedy nonetheless. Russian invasions have occurred in the past but beside Tibet I can’t think of a country that China has invaded. ‘We’ however have serious form in this department. Just as we look back at the disasters of Chile, of the countless souls trying to flee Libya now and the wreckage of both Syria and Iraq, we may very well look back at the wreckage of the planet and ask whether it was really worth it.

July 15, 2022

Today was John’s carer outing day because his usual man Greg couldn’t come on Wednesday due to looking after his wife after a fall. So we had a replacement, another John, but it didn’t go well. I packed them a picnic but the new chap had no idea where to go to have it it, unlike Greg who comes up with a different excellent suggestion every week. So I suggested Fagan Park and off they went while I left to meet up with my friend Di. But about noon John rang to say he was at home alone, he’d asked the carer to bring him home without even opening the food as he said they were ‘not a good fit and too culturally different’. Apparently John couldn’t find any topic to discuss with him and he says the fellow didn’t attempt to communicate. Really the carer should have stayed here till 2 pm as planned, by which time I would have been home, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt as it could be, in fact it’s likely, that John told him to go. My outing was truncated as I came home as soon as he rang. So here’s hoping Greg is only off for one week. I was idly thinking of going to North Shore Craft Group’s exhibition cum sale tomorrow at Thornleigh so now that our meet up today was shortened we’ve decided to go there tomorrow and take John.

It’s funny how recipes are fixed yet every time you cook with one the result is different. I did an old recipe for corn fritters last night which I had marked in the book as ‘brilliant’ but the result seemed stodgy and pretty boring. Now I’ve got a box full of them in the fridge but luckily John thought they were okay. The bakery at Dural is now gutted and I asked workmen the other day what was happening as they had ripped out all the showcases, racks, preparation tables and ovens. It’s going to be a deli, which is good, but seeing the premises all awry made me sad, a dream gone up in smoke. The men said that ‘they’ve gone back to the homeland, Vietnam’ but whether that’s fact or a guess I don’t know. I’ve been able to find excellent fruit loaf at Aldi and good whole grain bread at Coles, but I still can’t find a white loaf that I’d want to buy on a regular basis. Whole grain is fine for savoury things, but for jam it just has to be white. The search continues.

July 16, 2022

A few changes today after Di was unwell and couldn’t come to the craft exhibition, then Dav couldn’t come for lunch as planned because Louis has been up half the night trying to fix some mutinous website. But they are now coming for dinner so all is not lost. We just loved the exhibition especially a watercolour artist who had me drooling over a fish she’s painted, a textile artist whose scarves were divine (can a woman who sports over 100 scarves justify another, no matter how fabulous? answer no), a delicious pottery jug influenced by Japanese patchwork and a host of other things I could happily have bought. I weakened for an outrageous large beaded fabric brooch which I will give as a gift. When I sent the photo to Davina she beseeched me not to give it to her, we have very different taste in jewellery and clothes. So now I am waiting for 4 pm when they draw the prize for $200 worth of the goods for sale, but I am agonising over what to choose. The jug is right up there, plus the orange scarf I think.

Some friends opined that Tony Abbott might be looking for a comeback, so reasonable was he in a TV interview this week. It hadn’t occurred to me that he could be so bold, but a man brought up to believe he is god’s gift to whatever role he takes on might just consider it. I wonder how much it costs to hire a plane to write ‘Tony Abbott is an inveterate liar’ over whatever electorate he might decide to accurse with his attempt? Let’s remember that he supports ‘religious freedom’  organisations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom who describe their mission as “seeking to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries”. My spellchecker doesn’t even recognise Christendomic, that’s how far out of sync these souls are. Abbott is obsessed with “the challenge to Western civilisation of Islam” and sees same-sex marriage as “a consequence of our civilisational self-doubt”. (Spellcheck doesn’t like civilisational either, it must be just his schtick to use big words). He supports the Ramsay Foundation’s sponsored university course covering “the best that has been thought and known in Western Civilisation”. A one-trick pony you’re thinking? You would be about right. How easy is it to wage war, or even think of waging war, against people if we fail to see them as our equals? To think of wiping Iraq or Syria or even China off the map, as some hawks seem to be pushing towards, is made easier if we come to believe that their millenniums long culture just doesn’t stack up next to our own. The idea of Western supremacism is downright embarrassing and Tony Abbott is its archduke.

July 17, 2022

This morning we chuffed off to Parramatta to look at the various high rise buildings which we see from the back deck. We wandered around and compared them to a sketch made on the deck this morning as it was something I thought John would enjoy. Which he did to an extent, but he was very slow and needed help getting up or down stairs. He just isn’t himself today so perhaps he’s coming down with something, he’s retired to bed for a rest and has slept through my neighbour banging loudly on the nearby door. Amazed at the number of restaurants lining Church St, it’s so long since we’ve been there and things have changed a lot. I looked inside a restaurant calling itself a ‘dessert bar’. I was foolishly thinking it might be something like KOI, but they had great wodges of cheesecake and big chocolate buns that looked as if they could double as bowling balls, but it seems that they were just directed towards filling up the customers rather than tantalising their taste buds. I’ve been thinking about John’s inability to relate to the carer on Friday and I can understand it to an extent but going on a picnic and then insisting on coming home without feeding the chap even a morsel shows how ill at ease he was. Telling the home care provider not to send him again is going to be a bit tricky so I won’t go there unless they suggest the same person again in the future. I’m not sure that I would send him off with confidence with any new carer which makes it tricky if I have an important commitment. Greg is an absolute gem for John so hopefully we get him back this week and he continues well into the future.

Unfortunately I didn’t win the prize at the craft fair which was a big disappointment, I had my choices sorted and was just waiting for them to call at 4pm. But artistic inspiration is a good thing even if I don’t have anything tangible to show for having been. I got chatting to a woman there about getting rid of lots of collectables she has and almost offered to help till I bit my tongue and realised that I have enough of my own to dispense with. However I gave her my phone number and she may yet ring, so I need to be measured in what I offer to do, perhaps teaching her to use eBay and some advice about good auctioneers might suffice. But I’ve had 3 eBay sales today which buoys my dispersal efforts a tiny bit: a bag of antique shirt studs for $5.50, a souvenir from a cruise in the 1930s for $5 and an Australian Army Driver’s Licence from WWII for $10. Three less things that the universe has gifted me along with the expectation to look after them. Unfortunately the charity shops would bin all of the stuff I’ve just sold as they don’t value paper ephemera or bits and bobs.

July 18, 2022

John woke up sick this morning with a headache and cough but I wasn’t surprised after his weakness walking along the river yesterday, so I whisked him off before breakfast for an 8 am PCR test which will pick up Covid, flu or RSV (RATs are not worth a rat’s arse early in the disease). It was a fast and efficient process, though for some reason they couldn’t get their text to come through to John’s phone but were able to send it to mine with no problem. So now we wait, if he’s Covid positive I’ll race up to Bob and get the anti-virals quick sticks. Luckily I had bought painkillers, gargle, cough lozenges etc ages ago so I wouldn’t need to go shopping if he got sick. In the meantime we are eating on the verandah, wearing masks indoors and distancing. We had tickets to go to the Archibald today but the Art Gallery were very nice about taking a rain-check even at such short notice.

I decided to write to each of the neighbours across the road about the leak in the driveway coming from their hydrant seeing the buggers haven’t done anything about fixing it. Perhaps the body corporate of such a small block doesn’t meet very often. I think after all these months I am entitled to give them a push so I included my phone number and we’ll see what eventuates. The driveway man won’t start till it is 100% fixed so that’s another reason to press them.

It was spew-making to watch Biden fist-bumping the Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman. It shows, as if we ever doubted it, the appalling double standards that the US applies, not that I’m naive enough to think that we wouldn’t do the same. What must Jamal Kashoggi’s fiance be thinking? ‘Oil trumps human rights’ as we always knew. As an aside, observing Biden’s walk and hearing his hesitant speech would lead a lay person to question whether Parkinson’s Disease is a possibility. If that is the case, it’s a dangerous situation as even early sufferers of the disease have a lower cognitive reserve and difficulties with memory, attention and judgment similar to other types of dementia. I am still cogitating about John’s decision to cancel his carer last week before the guy even had a bite of a sandwich, I doubt he would have done that pre dementia but he didn’t feel even slightly uncomfortable about doing so.

July 19, 2022

John got a fast reply to his Covid test: POSITIVE delivered at 3.25 pm yesterday. Then there was a text to Bob and he faxed a script for Paxlovid to our pharmacy which I collected post haste and he was dosed up before 5 pm. He spent 24 hours in bed quite sick but when I got up this morning he was in the kitchen eating a mandarin, he had beaten me by 5 minutes and asked “Did you say I’ve got Covid, I think I’ve just got a cold” so that was quite a turnaround from last night. He ate breakfast after nothing but milk yesterday and was quite chirpy, but by 9.30 am he was back in bed and I am back in my nurse’s uniform. It’s a funny old disease. So John’s outing with the carer is off this week of course and the day care centre is out for 2 weeks, according to the different rules for each. I really appreciated Bob’s support yesterday, 3 texts and 3 phone calls is above and beyond customary ministrations, especially when one call is from the Opera House where he is singing in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 every night this week. He’s nothing if not versatile, not to mention being a qualified electrician on top of medicine and the Philharmonia Choir. Makes me look even more like a slacker.

Feeling very ordinary by lunchtime so I took myself off to the Covid testing centre as I’m sure a close contact is allowed to go out for that reason. It’s a very efficient process and I’m glad I went when I did as I wouldn’t have been well enough to be safe to drive later in the day.

July 20 and 21, 2022

I would not want to repeat yesterday as I was very sick before and after discovering at 2 am that I have Covid too. I’ve also discovered that it isn’t workable to lie down in my room for half the day as John needs constant watching. I don’t think he’s got worse due to Covid, I just think I hadn’t fully realised how bad he is now. Yesterday has shown me how confused he really is. I’m normally watching everything he does but yesterday he tried twice to go for a walk (‘what do you mean isolation?’Smilie: ;), then I found out he’d gone out to chat to men I’d organised to pick up a piece of furniture for the Sallies from under the deck (this after I told him numerous times not to answer the door or go outside if they came while I was lying down) and now I discover he didn’t take the antivirals this morning despite my reminding him. Why ? He says he doesn’t have Covid any more. Also I’d had some flowers delivered, apparently tied in a beautiful scarf. I found the flowers in a vase with the ribbon and scarf on the floor. He said he doesn’t know where they came from. The sound of head banging against wall should have ricocheted down the street. So then I realised that I would have to get up and watch him from the loungeroom sofa. Bob organised Paxlovid for me and Heather collected it, after having to ring Bob’s office four times as the fax hadn’t come through to the pharmacy. It has certainly improved the way I feel but the downside is a constant terrible bitter taste in my mouth which is a side effect of the drugs apparently that only occurs in 6% of people, but my natural distaste for anything bitter probably makes it worse.

Just got a call from Wendy’s Home Care to say that John’s account with them is nearly dry. It’s topped up every month from the government but he’s using funds more quickly than they’re coming in, so I can no longer get the cleaning or gardening help I’ve been getting and they are going to cut his weekly outing with the carer from 4 hours to 2 or even 1 and a half hours. This is hopeless as Greg always takes him for a drive which is the highlight of his week. I just don’t know how I will manage for the many months that it will take to get an appointment for a  higher package and then the many weeks it will take to institute the change if it’s approved, but perhaps it just feels worse because I’m not well. Wendy’s put in for an upgrade before and were told by the department that they couldn’t apply till his money was down near zero, which it now is. I feel gutted but some lunch might help.

July 22, 2022

Just been watching the January 6 Capitol Riots Commission live and it’s amazing how many people are testifying about how hard they tried to get Donald Trump to condemn the riots as they were occurring, which is admirable in itself. But they were all involved in his election campaign or in his administration or both, when it was clear to anyone what sort of a man and what sort of a president he was. They were the propagandists and apologists for him from day one. Sorry, too little too late, trying to dodge any blame.

I didn’t need anything else this week but here we are. After writing to all the neighbours in the units across the road on Monday about the water leak, their plumber arrived on Wednesday asking what the problem was. He assured me (from a distance) that he would find the leak and fix it. I didn’t check his truck to identify him as I assumed that he would come back and tell me when the job was complete. Now of course the driveway man has just emailed to say he wants to start this coming week. I’ve had a look at the leak and it doesn’t seem any different to me, it’s a bog. But how long the water would take to dry up in this situation of sprinkling rain is way above my pay grade, however other parts of the garden are much dryer. I just wish he had come back to tell me if he’d successfully traced it or not as now I can’t go across the road to ask the residents who he was. I can’t see the driveway going ahead as the situation is at the moment. Perfect bloody timing, not.

I don’t know if you would call it brain fog, though I doubt it, but I can’t settle to read, watch TV, listen to music or do anything much. It’s taken so much mental energy to type this that it’s ridiculous.

July 23, 2022

Back on election day I saw Morrison during a press conference smirk like a cat who’d seen a fat bird fall out of the sky right in front of him. He had been asked a very specific and knowing question by a reporter about a Sri Lankan asylum seeker boat at that moment being dealt with by Border Force. I turned to John and said ‘That question was set up by him’ and so it’s proved today after an inquiry showed that the information was released to his favoured news outlets as a last ditch attempt to sway the election result. The depth of cynicism shown by this man (and his benefactor, the too long-lived Murdoch) is Trumpian in its sweep. There isn’t an institution, individual or group whose interests he won’t surrender for his personal gain. On that day I could have backhanded him happily and knowing what we know now, it would almost be worth the short gaol time that might ensue.

This morning by chance we had two tradesmen arriving at exactly the same time. As John likes to be in charge of alarms I asked him to set one and then quietly checked that it had been done. But when I woke this morning it was well past the alarm time so I asked John if he’d slept through it. ‘No’, he said, ‘I couldn’t remember why I set it so I just turned it off’. It was raining so I texted the roof repairer to let him know, in case he lived out of area, which he did. ‘You’ve broken my heart’ he said ‘I’m all dressed and ready to walk out the door’. Turns out he lives in Regents Park and it was sunny there. He will try again tomorrow. Then the driveway man came and looked dolefully at the driveway leak. But luckily I had been able to locate the plumber who came the other day and he told me he’ll be back on Tuesday with two pieces of equipment to locate the leak, but if it’s under the road he’ll need to get permission from the council to dig it up, thereby adding weeks to the process. Even worse, Grant told me that the tipping fees for all the soil he has to remove to do the driveway have increased from $125 to $364 per load. Oh I can manage $239 I mused, but no, it is at least 12 loads! Adding about $3500 to the job on his estimate. Apparently they don’t like wet soil and some places aren’t taking it at all. Sometimes I wonder if this project is jinxed.

Yesterday was my worst day of this whole Covid journey. But not with Covid symptoms, I think it is a reaction to the drugs, kind of odd to think that poor old Biden and I are having something in common at the moment (I noted this week that his walk looks very Parkinson’s to me, that sort of classic hesitation of step). Bob had told me Paxlovid can come with side effects and I purposely didn’t ask any more so as not to encourage suggestibility, but I’ll bet my nausea and general unwellness is coming out of a packet, though I’m hugely thankful for all the good effects it’s having. Anyway only one more day of the stuff.

The bigger problem yesterday was a feeling of absolute grief to realise that I have lost my best friend who is here and yet not. I can’t discuss anything of a serious nature with him, in fact when I was rearranging an appointment due next week with the surgeon he was quite worried ‘You’re not having surgery are you, what’s wrong?’ I explained that I’d had surgery last year and this was just another check-up but he had no memory of it. ‘I hope it was nothing serious’ he said, but I couldn’t see the point of upsetting him with any details as it would just add to his insecurity about not being looked after. This is the crux of it, I can’t discuss things in depth, or much at all really, and it just happens that my brother has become hard to communicate with this year as well after his fall and subsequent long hospitalisation, so I’ve lost two stalwarts at once. The bro never rings me much now and when I ring him he’s a bit vague and our conversations are pretty shallow, no more debating politics, international affairs or his fascinating career/s.

July 24, 2022

It was a funny morning as the gutter cleaning man came but was absolutely determined not to get Covid, which is perfectly fine, but ringing me from the roof warning me not to open the doors for infection reasons seemed a bit OTT. He certainly wouldn’t accept payment and rang to ask me to fix him up using bank transfer. Arvind, who can see my roof from his decks, thought he had done such a great job that he’s booked him a fortnight hence. Unfortunately though he couldn’t fix the broken tiles as they go under the roof cap and also need to be cut. He is as perplexed as I am regarding how the damage happened, saying it was almost as if something small but heavy had dropped from the sky, exactly what I had jokingly said. Anyway he’s recommended a tiler so it’s an ongoing issue. I was intending to do some weeding in the front garden today but after his reaction I think I had better stay in the house and not pollute the suburb.

Yesterday Heather turned up with a gorgeous brown sugar pavlova, strawberries, blueberries and a passionfruit which we had for dessert last night and which raised my spirits no end. Sugar addiction, moi? John had spent most of the day in bed yesterday so I used the time to laze around reading the Saturday papers and then to do some cooking. Luckily I don’t have the level of fatigue that he is experiencing.

I’ve just downloaded the full Pezzullo Report from the Home Affairs Department website to read later. I know from going to court sittings that the things journalists pick out to write on are often the most important parts, but it’s certainly not always the case. I prefer to read from the primary source if it’s possible rather than see it through the prism of the reporter. Same with ICAC, the transcripts are much better reading than even a long form journalistic article. All of us tend to incorporate some bias or other into a retelling, despite our best intentions.

July 25, 2022

A fascinating article in the Sun-Herald yesterday relates the story of a neuroscientist who, researching psychopathy and Alzheimer’s at the same time, came across an MRI of someone who was clearly a psychopath. The scans were anonymised but he sought the name of the individual because ‘I knew this was a bad case’ only to discover that it was his own, presumably inserted as a control. He was later diagnosed as a high-functioning psychopath and discovered that he is descended from ‘three lines of murderers’ as well as being a distant cousin to the famous Lizzie Borden. This is right up my alley in terms of interests and I plan to get his book, The Psychopath Inside, though unfortunately the library doesn’t have it so far. But it raises all sorts of questions about the justice system and how we deal with people who commit crime due to genetic or other abnormalities. While studying genetics we had to analyse the chromosomes of unidentified male prisoners from Long Bay Gaol. My goodness what a pool of genetic oddness we discovered, lots of trisomy of 47,XXY, 47,XYY and a few outlying abnormalities that I can’t now remember. There is evidence that aggressive crime, sexual abuse, burglary and arson are all committed at a higher rate by those with chromosomal aberrations. So rather than the devil made me do it, a theory which would appeal to our erstwhile PM, it is a case of my abnormal brain made me do it. Clearly these people are victims and as such deserve our care, though we can’t obviously have them running around with axes, a la Borden. So what to do? Perhaps we need some kind of mental institution where affected serious criminals are housed but in a humane, caring and dare I say loving environment? It’s a hard one and I doubt that there is much electoral desire to spend the money to achieve it.

Next week I am due to take John to see his haematologist Nada. Apparently she has had Covid twice, the second time falling victim to autonomic nerve dysfunction, which is usually caused by diabetes or is an autoimmune condition, but in this case was caused by Covid. It affects all the nerves for the ‘automatic’ processes of the body such as blood pressure, temperature control, digestion, etc. She was in hospital for two weeks and still has respiratory, cardiac and other symptoms. She’s in her 40s at my guess with small children so we should think ourselves lucky with our Covid experience so far. Whether she will be seeing John next week remains to be seen.

I said yesterday that after the gutter man’s reaction I decided not to weed in the front garden but a particular patch was annoying me so I did it anyway. However I completely forgot that I can no longer get up from kneeling and John was inside having a shower, so I had to crawl through the dirt to reach a tree and pull myself up, a very bad sight if observed by the neighbours. I’ll have a reputation as a lush if I’m not careful. I need to speak to Mr. Bunning about a gadget which will enable me to push myself up without wallowing in the dirt.

July 26, 2022

Well it’s time to face head-on a problem that has occupied many of my night times this year, that of my brother. After a fall around Christmas time he was hospitalised and while there they investigated why he was having repeated dizzy spells. They discovered a heart issue and treated that by inserting a stent, but then he got Covid there. His stay stretched out to a month and when he got home he was understandably in need of short term assistance so his daughter started staying overnight initially ‘for about a week’. But as time went on he didn’t improve and he has gone consistently downhill since then. Seven months later his daughter still needs to stay overnight, he is unable to hold a conversation for long, has totally stopped reading and using his computer, and for the last few weeks he has stopped ringing me at all. This past week he hasn’t answered the phone once so I finally decided to ring his friend Anne to find out what the hell is going on. Her first words were ‘I’ve been planning to write you a long letter, but I just didn’t know where to start or what to say’. She agreed that he is suffering from some sort of fast moving dementia but has no idea exactly what it is. Theories have been put forward by doctors that it is caused by: the fall, the stent procedure, Covid, mini strokes and more but no definite answers have been arrived at so far. She says he hasn’t rung me because he would have trouble making an overseas call by himself and has gone from constant contact with her to calling her once in a few weeks. When she visits she sees he is unable to work out how to use the TV remote or turn off the gas fire and when the phone rings he may pick it up, but at other times does not seem to understand where the noise is coming from. It is absolutely typical that none of this has been conveyed to me by his daughter who, when I have spoken to her on the phone at his house, always promises to keep me fully informed but never rings. Anne’s in much the same boat and commented in her always careful and precise phrasing that ‘there exists in that family a certain amount of possessiveness’ and don’t I know all about that in another context! Usually he and I talk books, politics, ideas of all sorts, but when we’ve spoken recently it is limited to weather and what Tanya is getting him for breakfast, though I’ve noticed that he’s much more talkative when he’s there alone, the possessiveness being subtly applied perhaps? This towering intellect has finally come to rest in the suburban environment that he’s railed against his whole life. Kenneth has filing cabinets full of his writings which he planned to begin packing up and sending to me late last year saying “I could never get my daughters to even look at my writing all these years, so I know it will all end up in the recycling when I go. Would you like to have it all?’ I was of course delighted by this and offered to pay for the parcel postage though he assured me he would cover that, but his accident ensued and the rest is history. Poor Anne who lives alone in a small village of disparate souls, sadly told me that ‘I’ve got no one to talk books to any more’ and I genuinely sympathised, though I wanted to scream and reply: ‘But I haven’t got a brother any more’.

July 27, 2022

It’s been a day of ups and downs, the first up being that I am now Covid negative as was John yesterday, so I suggested that we make use of our one month of resistance and go to the movies. Nothing on at Castle Hill so decided on Roseville. I wanted to give my car a run but when it came to leave my keyring with house and car keys was missing from the back door. John had locked it but has no idea where they went after that, so we turned over every piece of clothing, opened every drawer, but at time of writing they are still missing which made me nervous all day.

On Tuesday we are going for an appointment with Nada, prior to which John has to have a few blood tests. I rang and told them that we had Covid and that I was not prepared to drive to St. V’s just for the tests, which this time would have to be done elsewhere even though Nada doesn’t like using other companies. I couldn’t believe it when they reeled off various places that we could go for the tests which are part of Sydpath, St. V’s own pathology service. Most are in inner Sydney but just one is in the west, at Carlingford. I don’t know how many times over the last 5 or 6 years that I’ve schlepped John into town for blood tests and only now they tell me it was all for nought and could have been done locally.

Then on to the movies where we saw Falling for Figaro, a predictable and often monotonous film with wonderful operatic singing, which was lucky because without it I’d have given it 0 stars instead of the 2 that it earned. But it was dark and there was a big screen so we are not complaining, the first movie we’ve been to in well over 2 years. Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg was unusually closed so we ended up only having a milkshake for the day and we did grocery shopping on the way home. I was wondering what to make for dinner when I discovered a text from Heather saying she had left dinner on the front verandah. It turned out to be a casserole, mashed potato and two greens, all cooked. Couldn’t have come on a better day as I am feeling pretty exhausted tonight, which will no doubt improve if the keys materialise.

July 28, 2022

Disappointed to read that Stan Grant is now the permanent host of Q and A, I headed to their Facebook page to leave a few comments about why he is an unsuitable choice. But imagine my surprise when after commenting I checked what others have been saying and discovered that at least the next 30 comments after mine expressed the same sentiments for the exact same reasons. I didn’t keep going, trying to find a congratulatory post, but I am always amazed when I’m in the majority, in this case the vast majority, as it’s never been my usual position on the field. Grant is a poor interviewer, always trying to rephrase the questions in his own words and keeping himself as the focus instead of the guests. He will always use 10 words if two would do and doesn’t respect the intent of an inclusive interview program, always trying to steer the discussion towards the Gospel according to Stan. The fact that he threw out a questioner recently should have been enough to ensure that he didn’t get the job. Plus he’s a hawk, as are so many these days.

A couple of months ago John complained that his old electric razor took forever to recharge but unfortunately it couldn’t be repaired so I bought him a new one which he loved. But one of the blades popped out accidentally and I wasn’t mechanical enough to replace it. Today was the first time we’ve been able to go to the shops to deal with that so I went to get the shaver, but it was missing. All drawers and cupboards in the bathroom were searched to no avail and then John said that I’d taken it to be fixed. After a search of his bedroom I turned it up in a cupboard but with no charger, however ultimately the charger turned up in a different place. So off we went to the Shaver Shop where the man fixed it quickly (I’m the world’s most unmechanical person). I proudly set it up for him in the bathroom when we got home but he didn’t look happy, he said he’s decided that he wants to use a safety razor from now on and promptly put the new electric one away in a drawer. I spend a good part of my week looking for ‘the disappeared’. We are both feeling overwhelmed at the moment and for the first time today he said ‘If I’m getting too difficult just put me in a home’.

The plumbers have been over the road all day trying to find the water leak. About 3 o’clock Paul came to the door and said ‘I’ve got good news and bad news’ so I asked for the bad and it was that they’ve found no leak and suspect it is not coming from the fire hydrant at all but from a ‘blocked storm water pipe somewhere’ though they have no idea where that could be. ‘So what’s the good news?’ I said, ‘well we’re still trying to find the leak’. Hardly my idea of good news. I’ve told the paver that he can’t start work tomorrow as he wished and we are now waiting for a breakthrough, as he needs to wait until it’s dry.

July 29, 2022

Woke up feeling wretched and was not surprised to hear John say ‘I think I’ve caught a cold’, even though we’ve really had no opportunity to catch one. I said we needed to do a PCR post haste but he didn’t think it necessary, so I had to simply insist. Got to the testing centre just after it opened and there were plenty of others with the same intention, however as always the line moved quickly and efficiently. Those folks in the testing team work outdoors with just a tent like covering over them in all weathers, I hope they are well paid. Came home and skimmed the book Mother Tongue for a few particular favourite passages which I had luckily marked previously. I was determined to make my comments dispassionately at the Zoom meeting but a combination of feeling unwell and thinking about the similarities with the character Alex/Hector finding his sister and my finding my brother made my good intentions falter. Just minutes before the meeting started we each got our Covid results, positive as expected. I asked the pharmacist if we needed another script for Paxlovid but she said she hadn’t come across anyone else getting it twice, so then I rang the Healthline number that was sent with the positive result text, however the lady hadn’t heard of Covid rebound, ‘except that I saw something about it in the paper’. However it didn’t appear in her notes so she wasn’t much help. I reluctantly texted Bob on his day off and he called me to say that Anthony Fauci has Covid rebound now and he’s taking a second round of Paxlovid, however in Australia the rules don’t allow a repeat or second prescription, presumably for reasons of scarcity or cost. So it’s a case of treat the symptoms and hope for the best. John is a bit better than the first time while I am considerably worse. I thought we’d got out of this a mite too easily and so it appears. Went to bed after book group and stayed till morning after telling John what to heat up for his dinner and crossing my fingers (blessed be the microwave when the cook be abed).

July 30, 2022

It seems John coped okay on his own last night and he seems better this morning, I wish I could say the same. His haematologist Nada has been ill with a second bout of Covid which triggered a rare disease, autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy, that she didn’t have previously. It affects the autonomous nerves controlling heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and digestion. Yesterday I’d tried three times to ring her office to cancel an appointment that John had with her on Tuesday, but no one answered so I left it to try again Monday. But today John got a voice message to say that Nada is off sick till the end of September and making a new appointment with another doctor for August 11. After a two week stint as an inpatient at St. Vs her problems are clearly nowhere near resolved. She was adamant to John that he must ring her immediately if he caught Covid because of the dire possibilities but in a turn up for the books she has ended up to be the one with the serious health problems while he is okay so far. It really is an unpredictable (and fascinating) disease. One good thing has been a call from the Aged Care Assessment Team to say that John has been placed on an urgent footing for extra assistance, so instead of a wait of months they expect he will be assessed in about two weeks. This is due to pressure from Kristy our case manager at Wendy’s Home Care and it takes a huge weight off my shoulders as I just can’t see myself managing if his current rate of decline continues. I’m hoping he will go from a Level 1 package to a Level 3, but that remains to be seen. I know that he will gather all of his wits to try to impress the lady when she comes, falling back again after she’s gone but I just need to explain that to her, I don’t think it’s a rare phenomenon. I will tell her about how much time I spend looking for things he’s lost, I still haven’t found the house and car keys and perhaps never will.

July 31, 2022

John is thankfully well again while I have gone in the opposite direction. I now add to the symptoms a blocked parotid gland so I look like I’ve got the mumps but just on one side. Eating is impossible as putting the tiniest morsel of food in my mouth causes excruciating pain, so it’s been water only all day and I hope it subsides overnight. This used to happen occasionally as part of Sjogren’s but it has been controlled by the drug I take for it. Bob rang on his way home from the Opera House rehearsal and said that the virus has played havoc with my immune system and restarted a number of autoimmune problems which should settle over time. Davina asked me to use my oximeter to get oxygen saturation and we were both a bit shocked that it was 92, the cut-off point recommended by the Health Department website for calling an ambulance. I really think I am safer here though, especially after Sue’s doctor daughter in a major Covid treating hospital was told to put people over 70 in a room with some morphine to ease their symptoms and use the ICU to attend to younger patients! My aim tomorrow is to get out of pyjamas for the first time since Friday and then to pack a parcel that needs to be sent to Victoria for an eBay client. If I do both of those I will be a happy chappy.

I have had to write the last days retrospectively but that didn’t matter as I discovered that the blog had been hacked again. It is beyond frustrating but this time I wasn’t in a position to be using it anyway. I contacted Mark who said that it was “an attempt to hack your site (a robot sends stacks of password attempts – millions of them) until you run out of bandwidth or it gets the password right and gets in”. There was nothing he or I could do until the moderator decided to restore my bandwidth. I suspect that it only occurred today because it’s the first of the month and perhaps that’s when they do it routinely? When I asked Mark how to avoid it happening his reply was: “It’s unfortunately a fight you cannot win. You are striving to keep things secure against the inexhaustible numbers of people who want to try to rip off a rich Westerner and until you solve global inequity you’ll be staving off attacks from people in poorer countries….and there are lots of them.” The political becomes personal.

August 1, 2022

Pleased to manage a piece of raisin toast for breakfast and didn’t that taste good! But unfortunately that was enough to start up the pain again so now I’m back on the water. At least I’m losing a bit of weight I guess. I’ve spent the morning cancelling and rebooking medical appointments for myself and for John, cancelling his day care, and putting pressure on the tiler to come and fix the bloody roof. Just can’t deal with the water leak today, there’s a limit. But I succeeded in getting out of pyjamas today so that’s a win.

Last night I finished a book I randomly chose by the cover, Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller, and it was such luck. She had me with the opening lines: ’The morning sky lightens, and snow falls on the cottage. It falls on the thatch, concealing the moss and the mouse damage, smoothing out the undulations, filling in the hollows and slips, melting where it touches the bricks of the chimney. It settles on the plants and bare soil in the front garden and forms a perfect mound on top of the rotten gatepost, as though shaped from the inside of a teacup.’ I loved every single word of this book. I was there, with all the smells and sounds and sights in that abject thatched cottage and on the block of land where vegetables are grown to feed the family and to keep the wolf from the door with the profits from those few veggies and eggs sold to the local deli ‘selling posh bread, cheese and olives, fancy coffees and pastries’. Although this was a contemporary story it was like a trip back in time to an almost Mediaeval poverty of rural life on land owned by and adjoining the squire’s house. The main characters, 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius, were constantly making decisions against their own interests, but decisions totally in keeping with their background and lack of education. It’s not often that a book makes me break down and howl but this one certainly did, more than once. Mother Tongue did the same but for very different reasons. Now I want to read everything she’s written.

August 2, 2022

Yea! I can eat again after the problem resolved itself overnight. I had two slices of raisin toast this morning just in case it decided to come back. Rang St. Vinnies to pick up John’s leather perfectly good two seater lounge which hasn’t sold on eBay. They said they would come tomorrow so, even though it looked fine, we cleaned it thoroughly including underneath and sent photos as requested. Only to come back upstairs to find an email to say they had cancelled ‘because the photos show it is soiled’. Soiled my arse, I don’t know why I waste my time with Vinnies, I really don’t, they are sooo picky.

Got a call from Grant the paver who realistically said that we may never track down the source of the leak in the driveway. He has suggested putting in an ag line under the bricks where the water comes up, running into the garden where he will install a pit to take the water so when it overflows it’s in the garden and not on the driveway. I’m so sick of the whole thing that I agreed that it sounds like a plan, more money of course but probably not as much as the neighbours just paid for plumbing that was all for nought. I do feel bad for them but it was Sydney Water, not me, who insisted they do it in the first place. So it looks like the team will be starting on Monday if the bricks arrive by then. Roof tiler is expected next week too so it’s all systems go here.

Just read the new documents on the Barilaro Inquiry website and came to the conclusion that Amy Brown is not to be trusted to give a straight answer. She is back on tomorrow so I hope dear Daniel Mookhey gives her a right Mookheying. She often says ‘I was asked to….’, our Daniel requests ‘who exactly asked you?’ and the response is ‘Oh I’ll have to take that on notice’. Even the simplest question she takes on notice, I doubt if she were asked the date she could give an unequivocal answer. Protecting the bosses shouldn’t be the first priority of a supposedly independent public servant. At least Dom has scrapped the $250 million which was going to rebuild suburban football grounds and that nasty piece of work Peter V’landys is having a huge tantrum over it, which is something to put a smile on my dial. I think he makes Dom look positively upright by comparison but V’landys is a dirty player and Dom might rue the day he crossed him.

August 3, 2022

What a luxurious day watching the Barilaro Inquiry, though I did race outside and prune the rose bush during the lunch break if that accounts for a day’s work? Amy Brown, (perhaps relieved of pressure by Ayres departure?) was happy to answer anything today and only resorted to taking questions on notice on a couple of minor and quite reasonable occasions. Our friend Fang managed to keep his teeth tucked inside his mouth and was relatively passive (again, because Ayres is now gone?). One interesting aside concerned the Agent-General appointment in London, a job given to one Steven Cartwright. Apparently he, like Barilaro, was a late entrant and was a stickler for more, more, more in contract negotiations ‘throwing his toys from the pram’ in his desire for more money and threatening to go to Perrottet and Barilaro if he didn’t get what he wanted. It seems Cartwright was pally with Pork B. and perhaps their appointments were a slam dunk of jobs for the boys. Then we come to the references for PB and surprise, surprise one is from good old Arfur Sinodinos. If you see a bucket of feculence and stir it, you will likely turn up our Arfur, so it was only a matter of time before his name came up. Oh dear, what a venal, sad, naive bunch they are. Of course all parties have a corrupt element but the Libs and Nats have made such an artform out of it that you’d think by now they would cover their tracks somewhat more professionally.

So Nancy Pelosi got her face in the spotlight and bugger the consequences. I’ve always worked on the idea that if you’ve got a cross bee in a bottle, you don’t shake the bottle. But it seems that the US is determined, under any government, to face off with China. You can brace for a war without provoking one Nance. It would be trivialising the issue to say how much I hate watching an 82 year old teetering and struggling not to fall in her high heels, but it indicates a lack of judgment which would only harm herself, unlike the disaster her political lack of judgment may cause.

August 4, 2022

The Daily Mail published an article yesterday with a video taken at the Sydney Boat Show of a stallholder making racist comments to a Korean man who was walking along holding a fishing rod. Obviously the stallholder thought this was some unimportant tyre-kicker, but he made a big mistake there. John Lee is an angler and an ambassador for Whittley Boats in Sydney, he has a website and Facebook page for his business, and shares his fishing adventures and tips. He filmed the encounter and put it on his pages. I felt the need to email him and apologise for their behaviour and since then he has sent a few messages back. The offenders are now claiming they can’t be racist because they have Asian people in their extended family, I think they got that one from Tony Abbott who said he’s not a misogynist because he has daughters. What a shit society this is at times, but the minorities are starting to fight back which they never did in the 1950s. All power to them. We thought in the 60s that this stuff was all behind us when we sang those immortal words: “My brothers are all others, forever hand in hand, Where chimes the bell of freedom there is my native land, My brothers’ fears are my fears yellow, white or brown, My brothers’ tears are my tears the whole wide world around”.

I had an appointment with my surgeon Alan last week which has been rescheduled till next. It is perhaps odd that in between appointments, which are occurring less and less frequently, I rarely consider the word cancer but it does come to mind as the date approaches. Last week I was so sick that I just brushed it off as ‘too sick for cancer this week’ and at other times it is ‘too busy with John’s issues to have cancer right now’. The author Samuel Park made the observation that “Cancer is death by promissory note” and I so wish I had written that line. He says that we use survival statistics not as a piece of scientific information, but as a coping mechanism. By whatever yardstick and for whatever reason I think I am coping very well, on that score at least.

August 5, 2022

Free at last! John’s carer Greg came at 10 am to take him out so I hightailed it to browse for fruit and veg on my own. Then I took myself over to Norwest with a view to buying some of the wonderful fresh fish there, both to drop some off to Heather and for us over the next days. I did a walk around the so-called lake, a pond with a central fountain in fact. It has never seemed like a particularly attractive place to me as it is the ‘lake’ overlooked by Lakeview Private Hospital where I have anaesthetised a few times, so it has negative connotations for me. However I was surprised to find that the opposite shore is a mecca of restaurants. Though I knew there was a restaurant precinct I had no idea there were so many or that they were so popular, today there were numerous groups arriving to dine. Interestingly they seemed to be groups of women or groups of men, not many were couples. However there is a Messina Ice Creamery which made my heart bounce as it is a place we have often frequented in Darlinghurst. Perhaps we will give one of them a try as there were many places with reasonable lunch specials, all of which I managed to ignore today, coming home without having eaten a morsel.

We have a new verb in this house: ‘to Mookhey’, meaning to give something a thorough red hot going over. When John pulled from downstairs a hand-woven Pakistani rug which may have been dusty, I suggested that before it came upstairs it needed a ‘right royal Mookheying’ and he knew exactly what I meant. I am watching more of the inquiry this afternoon but it is extremely annoying because the sound is constantly breaking up and sometimes the picture as well. It is being filmed from a totally different angle this time and perhaps in a different room but it’s pretty poor reception all round today. Though poor old Mr. Fang hasn’t achieved a single point of order so it has had some positives. The highlight of the sessions from my point of view was Kathrina Lo, who has dumped a load on the whole recruitment process. She for me is the most direct and trustworthy of any of the witnesses so far.

I’ve been thinking a lot about John’s best friend Terry whose funeral we will be going to next Wednesday. He was an intellectual in the best sense of the word, a deep thinker. We got on so well and used to laugh about the fact that we both had the text book character profile for Librans. We both loved meeting new people and had an aversion to injustice in all its forms, but on the downside we both spent hours weighing the pros and cons of even the smallest decisions, even if they seem inconsequential. I well remember the agonising that went on over the colour scheme and finishes for their new kitchen and even when I thought the whole thing was done and dusted a call would come in months later from Terry….’now about that colour for the kitchen…’ He could put off difficult decisions for as long as possible, and all decisions were difficult ones for him. At one stage Terry, who was a privately practising Jungian analyst and analytical psychologist, was president of the C.G. Jung Society of Australia and we had the privilege of attending an address he gave to that group at their headquarters in the city. I can honestly say that I didn’t understand a single word he said past ‘Good Evening’. I had refreshed my memory of Jung’s theories prior to the talk, even reading a book of letters between Jung and Freud which is here on a shelf somewhere, but it didn’t help me an iota as I was forced to admit to Terry afterwards. However there wasn’t any sense from him that I had failed, he just replied that he’d had the benefit of five years fulltime study of Jung in Zurich and about 40 years in practice. His talk might as well have been in Latin from my point of view, but giving it in Latin was quite within his range of abilities as languages, particularly Latin, were another well-honed skill. Vale good and decent man.

August 6, 2022

I decided this morning that I really need to winnow my scarf collection which threatens to take over the bedroom cupboards. I suggested to John that some sort of rod under my window on which I could hang the most loved would be useful. Before long he had rigged up such a rod and I began sorting and ironing scarves. Unfortunately there are as many piled on my bed at this point as there are on the new rack so that has only been a partial solution. However it is now up to me to decide which are ‘lesser favourites’ and which can be dispensed with altogether. The trials of the first world woman never cease.

Michelle my friend of yonks has kindly agreed to come back as my cleaner and today was her first day. What a relief to have her back. The first hour and a half were spent at table catching up on news from both sides. I was excited to have a delicious original Art Deco glass powder bowl to give her (she is a collector, with superb taste) but I can never trump Michelle, she arrived with a bag full of chocolates, rocky road, coconut ice and a small cheesecake for me. How lucky I am with friends and how important they have been over recent weeks.

Thinking back over the Barilaro Inquiry I am pleased that my first impressions were accurate (Brown and Bell covering for the minister and Lo having been misled into signing off on the final choice). A department secretary suggesting that a minister release a press statement at 4.30 pm on a Friday to avoid media scrutiny goes way above the role she’s there to do, that’s clearly a political matter, not a public service one. I can’t see her keeping her place in the department after this, but perhaps a sideways transfer and a rap on the knuckles would do.

August 7, 2022

We bid farewell to Michelle at 7.30 last night, all encouragement to finish up and go home were ignored until the place was ship-shape to her exacting standards (she is paid by the visit, not the hours). John saw her washing the plates that hang on the walls! I suggested that the glass table didn’t need a go but she produced one of the pure white nappies she brings with her and a wipe told her that it did in fact need a serious clean, she’s a wonder. So for the first time in forever it seems the whole house is clean at the same time and I’m loving it.

Just been cancelling our visit to the Archibald and two doctor’s appointments yet again, but the lady at the Art Gallery listening to my coughing on the phone said ‘I think you are making a very wise decision’ which I thought was funny. At least they weren’t cross that I was altering it for the third time. I’ve moved everything forward by two weeks and surely by then I will be able to breathe and talk, or breathe and walk, simultaneously. Seems so simple in theory.

Got a rare call from Kenneth’s daughter in Bradford this morning to say that he’s been in hospital for a week and a half. He was unable to judge the distance to put a cup and saucer on the table for example and would drop it a foot away from its target. She worried that he’d had a stroke and called 999. Now he’s in Calderdale Infirmary, he hadn’t had a stroke but it is part of this unnamed creeping dementia and they are talking about sending him home with daytime carers, but she has been staying with him for three months and doesn’t think he is safe to stay overnight on his own. I can see a nursing home on the horizon very soon, but she’s trying to come up with some other solution if possible.

August 8, 2022

The upside of cancelling going to the Archibald today is that I’m free to watch Pork B’s testimony in full, we are now on lunch break. Damn, I feel justified in doing what I feel like doing in current circumstances so my bum is glued to the chair today. I have been taking notes as usual and I ask myself why? Am I expecting the ABC to ring and say ‘Ashleigh Raper has the gastric, can you do the live cross for the 7 pm News?’ No, it’s just habit from going to court, though I usually throw them out once the trial ends, all except those for the William Tyrell inquest which is still live and still fascinating. I was thinking of Ashleigh and the cut of her perfectly made jackets as I watched the inquiry (hint to Sarah Ferguson: ask for the name of her tailor). Barilaro (bad jacket) was less Bolshy than I expected initially, perhaps he’d had his medication. Fang (bad jacket) was his usual combative self. Barrels has refused to name his third referee (after SIN-odinos and Garry Barnes, who was appointed by Barilaro, oh the incestuous relationships never end). Cate Faehrmann, cool as an iceblock as ever, calmly defended his right not to answer and then went on to say ‘but if you choose not to we will summons you and get the answer that way’. Barrels decided to ring the referee during lunch and get his/her permission. I’m betting on a public figure here, probably a political one, and look forward to PB spilling the name shortly.

Yep Barry O’Farrell, not surprised, now in his own sinecure as High Commissioner to India. I remember well being at ICAC when BO’F denied any knowledge of an expensive bottle of wine he’d received and not declared. While I was still in the hearing room he was forced to resign due to the donor of the wine giving journalists Barry’s thankyou letter, thereby ending that little friendship. So two out of three of the referees have form at ICAC and the third is a PB appointment. If Barrels says ‘eckspecially’ one more time….. Now it turns out that the person responsible for choosing the Trade Commissioner, public servant Amy Brown, was asked by Barrels to consider his girlfriend Jennifer Lugsdin for a media role in Brown’s department, a role which she subsequently got (did I mention incestuous relationships).

John has today been installing a shelf under my street library so people can more easily pull out books for perusal. Firstly I found him stirring a tin of stone coloured paint but luckily I pointed out in time that the house and library are grey so a bit more digging turned up the right colour. I said I was happy to help him install the shelf but it had to be in the inquiry lunch hour. However he went ahead and did it somehow on his own and did it beautifully, he said he didn’t remember my offer to help.

August 9, 2022

Terry’s funeral tomorrow will be an epic, full mass at Arncliffe, then to Rookwood, then back to Bardwell Valley for the wake. There will be interstate friends there so it isn’t really possible to miss any of it. After waiting months for the paving contractor to come, he rang this morning to say they are starting tomorrow. Natch. As if that weren’t enough the tiler rang late this arv to say he’s coming at noon tomorrow to fix the roof. I have never met him but he seems happy to do it while we are not here and to let me pay him by bank transfer, so that’s a plus.

John announced today that he found doing the shelf yesterday too stressful so he has  asked if I could only give him simple jobs to do in future: namely: washing up, putting out bins and hanging out washing. I pointed out that I had idly wished for a shelf, not asked him to make one, and was surprised when he offered. But it’s no good letting him do things that cause him grief so point taken.

Brigitte rang but it’s so hard to have a conversation with this breathing issue. Grant the paver said he has a friend who’s a schoolteacher and she hasn’t been able to talk at all since getting Covid, so she’s on Worker’s Compensation with no idea of a timeline to return to her job as the docs think it’s a brain issue. I’ve said it before, weird disease.

August 10, 2022

Terry’s funeral was in a very big church which was packed, only a couple of rows of the 150 or so people were wearing masks and they were all people we knew. There were six priests and a Carmelite monk doing the service. Apparently Terry was a lay Carmelite, whatever that means, and gave talks to their congregation. Because it was a Catholic mass we didn’t really hear much about Terry at all, as is usual with these things, but I gleaned much from talking to various people afterwards. The part at Rookwood where he was buried was bleak and desolate, perhaps the grave had been handed back to the cemetery as all around it was used, mostly decades ago. I couldn’t get over the impoverished soil they had dug up for the grave, a barren clay. It made Gerringong Cemetery look like paradise. Then back to Canterbur-Hurlstone Park RSL for the wake. Normally I wouldn’t have gone, the last wake amongst John’s friends resulted in 10 cases of Covid, but I understand we have a month where it’s unlikely that we’ll catch it again. At one point during the wake I wondered why Terry hadn’t come, such is the nature of death.

When we got home it was dark, so I asked John if he could do a couple of boiled eggs for his dinner as I wasn’t hungry. He was fine with that, but then needed coaching about how to do them. Thinking it was all under control I sat down but then wondered why I heard the microwave going. He had turned it on with nothing in it to time the eggs cooking on the gas.


August 11, 2022

A funny exchange when I went up to get a car key cut at Platinum Locksmiths. It wasn’t the press button locking mechanism, that gave up the ghost long ago, but just the key. I was expecting it to be about $5 so when he said ‘one-ten’ I said ‘that seems cheap, are you sure that’s right?’ but it turned out to mean one hundred and ten! He explained that Toyota keys have a chip in them and they won’t start the car without it. All this to replace just one of the keys which went missing in the house a few weeks ago. He must have felt bad then as he discounted it to $88 and I agued that he should charge me the $110, a funny old conversation that we both laughed about.

Came back to find that the pavers had come across a large terracotta storm water pipe barely under the ground. This had to be smashed up and will be replaced lower down with a poly one, which will need to drain into a pit which they will build. Then they found what looks like an old water pipe going who knows where. They are still trying to work out if it has water in it or is just an old redundant pipe. I’m not even asking how much all this is adding to the cost, but I can see that the finds are genuine so I can’t expect them to foot the extra cost.

I decided that it is about a month since I baked and with Carly arriving tomorrow and the Erko family coming for the day on Saturday I had better get moving. Made a ginger and salted caramel tart, but it decided to boil, leaving burning sugar all over the previously clean oven, creating a house full of smoke for some time and of course setting off the smoke alarm. Now I have an orange and almond cake in the oven so let’s see what can go wrong there.

Well, I didn’t have to wait long for the next disaster. The paving men just got back from Belrose tip where they attempted to dump a truck and a trailer load of soil. The tip man found a tiny piece of fibro in it and refused the lot. Now they have to go out past Penrith tomorrow to a special asbestos tip in a quarry….at huge expense, the details of which I chose not to ask about.

August 12, 2022

After sleeping in till 7.30 am expecting the men to start late today I found the paving contractors hard at work, deciding to go to another tip at Lucas Heights this afternoon instead of the Penrith one. They put in new plumbing all the way down the drive to drain off excess water into the storm water system. I’m sure it’s costing heaps extra but at least they could do the plumbing themselves, not having to call in an outsider should keep it down a little bit.

John went off with his carer and I headed to Dav’s to pick up Carly who flew up yesterday for the weekend. The traffic gods were kind so I got there in record time. I was planning to read the Barilaro Inquiry transcripts tonight but poor old Pork got the heeby-jeebies about testifying today and pulled the plug on mental health grounds, as well he might considering the evidence coming out against him on many fronts. So we wait with some anticipation for the day that he’s strong enough to face continued scrutiny.

I am so breathless that holding a decent conversation is well nigh impossible, but at least I can do other things, such as picking enough sugar snap peas for dinner tonight. Just needed to throw that detail in somewhere.

August 13, 2022

Saddened to hear first thing that Salman Rushdie had been stabbed in the neck but it got worse as the day progressed with news that he’s on a ventilator, may lose an eye and use of his arm. For some reason it reminded me of the fanaticism of the Trumpists, who can’t see truth because of blind adherence to the Trump cult and are calling for the death of FBI personnel.  All religions are cults of some sort, though many are benign, and why bother with a god at all when a Donald will do. Hillsong is in bother again, this time for its accountancy practices (read rorting the system). An ex member told me that the practice is to move the pastors around the world with some fancy expense accounts paying for luxury accommodation, food, alcohol and god knows what else. A pox on them for the money they skim from their members to fete those at the top.

Great to have Carly overnight and Dav and Co. here for the day. Lunch went well and while there was plenty, there was nothing left over apart from some sweets, probably a good sign. Carly downloaded A Wunch of Bankers by Daniel Ziffer after seeing my library copy and was giggling away at the footnotes. Last night I began a crime novel that I gave up on after a few chapters when a madman murdered a young model in gruesome fashion (I can accept that) but when he went on to put her pet cat in the freezer I called time (gratuitous violence against an old cat, I draw the line right there).

We walked down to the park with Millie for an hour but coming back up the hill was hard work. I know we have a month before we need to worry about catching Covid again but I need to get some stamina if we’re going out and about and I can’t go to a restaurant or theatre while I’m coughing so much, so I need to speed up the recovery somehow.

August 14, 2022

Watching Insiders this morning it seems as if everyone is on the war with China juggernaut. I’ve always felt that poor old Chamberlain got bad press for trying to stave off a world war and I guess I am cut from the same cloth. While I might be dragged reluctantly to support a war if China invaded Japan or India or the US, I am less inclined to support one in what I see as basically a long drawn out civil war between China and Taiwan. It has been accepted since 1949 that Taiwan is disputed territory and we should butt out of it, sad as that may be for the Taiwanese it is better than a world war over one of the smallest countries in Asia.

On Friday I changed John’s bed linen then today I went down to do the washing, but he stripped the bed again and added the fresh linen, forgetting that we had already done it two days ago. Multiply that sort of confusion by many times a week and you have my life in a nutshell. My task this afternoon is to keep sorting and ironing my scarves. So far, after the few Dav took yesterday and those going to friends or the Sallies, there are 92 remaining. That’s summer ones, I haven’t started on the winter. I wonder why I do this to myself, but at least there are only two fetishes, scarves and earrings, could be worse.

I am still perplexed about the water in the driveway. It seems relatively dry at the top now, but if you step on the clay where they have skimmed off the soil water oozes up, particularly at the driveway end. There are puddles there that haven’t dried up in the sun of the past few days, it’s a geological mystery that I could do without.

August 15, 2022

Got an invoice for the next payment tranche for the driveway, adding $975 for the extra plumbing on account of the water issue and $375 for the time spent tipping the dug up soil a second time when the first tip wouldn’t take it. Let’s not even mention the extra tipping fees. However they are doing a good job as far as I can see and to be fair the problems have not been of their making, but it seems to be a rule that every renovation or alteration costs way more than expected. I shall park myself on the finished driveway in a bikini for the whole of summer to get my money’s worth.

Kelly, a neighbour from a few streets away, came for morning tea and saw the pile of freshly ironed scarves from the pile I have decided to part with. She happily took two silk ones which made my long stance at the ironing board seem worthwhile. I want them to go to people who love them, not people who buy them because they’re cheap. We talked about the problems with vaping at schools and I lent her John Safran’s enlightening book Puff Piece. Apparently the manufacturers make them in the shapes of coloured pencils and erasers so kids can easily hide them in their pencil cases, a positively wicked idea but absolutely typical of the big tobacco companies behind this craze. She teaches Japanese, French and English so we discussed the different brains which make certain subjects easier or harder. She went to a Japanese speaking school and her daughter goes to a bilingual English/Japanese school. Today her daughter was having a science lecture all in Japanese. Phew.

Talking of wicked, what’s going on with the revelations at The Australian? That bastion of the Liberal Party has put out two stories in as many days involving corruption or shady behaviour by top Libs. First the sneaky doubling and trebling up of portfolios by Scott Morrison, unbeknown to the rest of the government, bar Christian Porter. Now today they are reporting that James Packer paid Peter Costello $300,000 to act as a secret lobbyist for him. These people would sell their grandmothers if there were a quid in it, yet they still get votes. The voters are almost as culpable as the crooks they vote in.

August 16, 2022

And so it goes on…. the skip company picked up just one of the two hired skips on the grass verge and totally uprooted the grass and dirt, including breaking the concrete footpath. I’ve sent photos as asked by the pavers but I am not sure who will take responsibility for the damage. Once again it wasn’t the pavers’ fault, they weren’t even here. How did I get talked into this?

Morrison was once again exposed as a bare faced liar when he told a radio interviewer this morning that he ‘can’t remember being signed in to other portfolios’ than the ones already exposed. How can a person forget going to Government House and being made Treasurer and Home Affairs Minister, among others? The man is a pathological liar a la the Trumpster. But I am not at all surprised by the Governor-General’s involvement. Certain people, unlike Morrison, give their views away on their faces. Leigh Sales was one, David Hurley is another. He was all smiles whenever he was swearing in a Lib, but seemed to be sucking on a lemon when doing the same job with Labor members after the election. This can be very handy as we know the allegiances, but Morrison has the bland face of a classic con artist. A pox on him.

Today we had to see the replacement for John’s doctor Nada Hamad who is very sick with long Covid. That went well and he then had the monthly IgG infusion, during which I drove to Woolloomooloo Wharf to meet up with my cousin Angela who lives nearby. We lunched on the wharf at Manta and loved the swordfish and barra, getting one each and sharing along with a side salad. It was perfect weather and I really appreciated the time out.

August 17, 2022

The skip men collected the second one and managed to crack two more panels on the footpath. Grant the paver is going to repair the path and then try to get reimbursement from the skip company. The saga continues…

I received a letter today from Transport NSW asking me to get a medical to continue driving. I was pleased that I could tick NO to every medical box, now I just need to get it signed and sealed by Bob. I dread the day in the future when I will have to have a road test, not because I can’t drive but because the mere idea of it makes me nervous.

Trying to factor in a haircut but because I’ve rescheduled so many appointments from when we were sick, there never seems to be a day when we are not committed to be somewhere. I have managed to reduce my cull pile of scarves by quite a few this week, some to a visitor on Monday, then a couple to Angela yesterday and another half a dozen today at Colleen’s. I will still get to enjoy them when I see them being worn by others.

Interesting that there are now rumbles about Amy Brown being moved from her job as CEO of Investment NSW. She was professional sounding in a clipped, proper public service way at the beginning but as other evidence came to light she opened up more, pouring a bucket on the Agent-General in London and to a lesser extent Stuart Ayres. So she was telling the truth and nothing but the truth perhaps, but not the whole truth, at least in the beginning. Too influenced by politics to be a good public servant.

August 18, 2022

Watching the Barilaro Inquiry would seem to indicate that Amy Brown may be looking for new employment before too long. Dear Mr. Cartwright, our agent-general in London, should perhaps start to look for someone else who is prepared to pay him $800,000 plus a year. I just can’t see any firm will be jumping to get him considering the aggressive performance he put on to get a higher salary and perks. What a bunch of deadbeats some of these candidates are, yet no-one thought that their behaviour should rule them out of consideration, which leads me to believe that this conduct is considered the norm, or at least acceptable. I’m listening now to Warwick Smith AO who is unduly verbose and loves to pat himself on the back, perhaps people who are attracted to this high life are hubristic in most cases.

Talking about deadbeats, Morrison’s explanation of the reasons behind his secretive behaviour as Prime Minister hasn’t gone down too well, even with right wing commentators. When Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin don’t buy the arguments of a right wing PM I think he’s in bother. But how people couldn’t see his megalomaniac leanings before this is something of a mystery.

August 19, 2022

The pavers came this morning to repair the footpath, broken by the skip truck man who isn’t returning their calls. Hopefully they will start laying bricks next week. No disasters in the last few days so perhaps we had them all at once. I gave them some orange cake this morning and interestingly they both scraped off the thinly sliced orange slices dipped in Cointreau, then John did the same this afternoon. ‘Oh I didn’t know you could eat it’ he said.

We finally went to our third booking at the Art Gallery to see the Archibald. As usual we differed from the judges but such decisions are intensely personal. Loved the Robert Hannaford self-portrait, in fact I think I’ve always voted for an RF portrait if he has one in the finals. Whenever I go to the Portrait Gallery I search for Hannafords and pay my respects, similarly at Parliament House and the High Court. I found the walking quite taxing today and was pretty exhausted by the time we got back to the car. However a sit and a milkshake from the kiosk at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair soon brought things back to rights. It’s interesting that we always look towards the Bridge and Opera House, whereas her seat faces the opposite way, I’m sure she wanted to catch sight of any sails on the horizon, coming through the Heads.

The Anglican Church’s split is concerning for those who still believe. It’s always sex that they get hot and bothered about, a throwback to the Catholics perhaps, who’ve never got over sex at all. If they split I think it’s a downhill path for the church, not that the idea upsets me, but it’s a shame for those decent people who support it. My sister-in-law in England stopped going to church because they put in a black woman priest….. All of this reminds me of studying English for Scientists in Year 1 at the Institute of Technology. We were asked to choose a topic and write an essay debating both sides using only biblical references. I thought it would be difficult but it was sooo easy. I particularly remember a section of the bible forbidding any body markings and tattoos (don’t ask why that comes to mind). ‘Thou shalt not kill’ versus many parts of the Old Testament saying whom you can in fact kill. It amazes me that people are still debating the fine details of this stuff after 2000 odd years.

August 20, 2022

Thinking more on the Anglican split and the fact that the current Archbishop Kanishka Raffel has very similar view to the splitter, former Archbishop Glenn Davies. It seems to me that the stayers are smart, anchored where they are to hold on to the keys of the real estate. Perhaps it’s just a clever approach to have two Anglican options, but with just one set of views. Should we now expect a third for those Anglicans with moderate views?

Back on Morrison, one possibility that no one has canvassed, even in jest, is that he’s actually batting for another team and his whole career is a front for another government. When I put that proposition to Bronwyn today she ruled it out because she said he simply isn’t smart enough, though he’s certainly devious enough.

One somewhat concerning tendency is my sudden loss of the appropriate word. I won’t say it’s never happened before but it has certainly happened a lot more over the last couple of weeks. We were having a couple of friends over for lunch today so last night I made a short list of what needed to be done and what had to go on the table, but it contained items like __ paste and the dessert was _____ and pomegranate. I couldn’t look up the words because I wasn’t even able to guess the first letter. This morning quince paste and Persian Love Cake came back to mind, but it’s the first time I’ve written a list with dashes in it. Similarly I am having trouble with certain words in conversation, I know there’s a perfect word for what I want to say but just can’t find it. I am not jumping to unpleasant conclusions.

August 21, 2022

It seems there’s never a week anymore where the diary has days clear, surely soon we’ll get to catch up on all the cancelled appointments. Today John decided at noon that he wanted to ‘go to the beach’ but the drive and thoughts of the traffic on a Sunday put me off. Because he no longer drives John doesn’t take time, distance or traffic into account if he wants to do something. So I countered with the idea of a picnic along the river at Mortlake or Cabarita (hey, there’s lots of water and a little strip of sand) which we subsequently did but the traffic to get there was horrendous too, though at least it was not as far as the beach. I was impressed with some of the unit blocks at Breakfast Point, some in weatherboards with delicious decorative wooden rooves over their balconies. I asked some walkers about the absence of any houses and they told me it was once the gasworks until about 25 years ago when the huge site was decontaminated and turned into a massive waterfront housing estate. It is rare for me to comment favourably on any block of units but I found the neighbourhood quite pleasant. Just near where we parked there was a family where the father, aged 60 or so, was smoking a hookah. He was constantly smoking it from when we got there about 1 pm to when we left about 4. I can’t imagine the colour of his lungs but it wasn’t intermittent like cigarettes, the only time he took it out of his mouth was when he spoke.

It’s funny that whenever we go for a walk from home John focusses on just two properties in the street and asks about the house and the people who live there, ignoring every other place in the street. But today even as we walked at Cabarita Park by the water he asked again ‘Have you ever met the people in the fibro house on the corner of Cross and Jenner Streets?’. It’s interesting to me why those particular houses have settled in his mind and why he keeps asking despite my answering the questions countless times already. It’s the same in the yard, almost every day he asks the name of two trees in the backyard, then comments on how fast they are growing and asks what height they will get to. All other trees are ignored. He hasn’t been able to read for a long time now but still browsed the newspapers, however lately I’ve noticed that it’s only a brief look at the front page. He commented after friends left yesterday that ‘I can’t keep up with people’s conversation any more’.

August 22, 2022

Tomorrow we have an appointment with a member of the ACAT team to judge whether John should be on a higher Home Care Package. Unfortunately she wants it to be via phone, not at all my preferred option. I have been trying to explain to John that it’s not a competition in which there’s a prize for him if he can show that he’s very capable. I asked if he could qualify his answers fully rather than giving just a yes or no, the example I gave was ‘yes I organise my own tablets, but I need help to remind me to take them’. But he got upset and said ‘I never lie, I’m not going to lie to this woman to get more help’, quite missing my point about full and complete answers. It won’t surprise me if he maximises his abilities to try to impress her but there’s not much I can do about that except disagree with him at the time, which could be touchy. I wish we could be interviewed separately.

I am currently reading a spy novel Rip Tide by Stella Rimington, who was former Director General of MI5, the first woman ever in that job. Perhaps that’s why the scenarios seem so realistic, she has plenty of experience to draw on. It involves many current issues such as Somalian pirates and young British citizens of Pakistani origin who are involved in terrorism. It is interesting that a British spy in the book deliberately avoids telling the CIA operative about issues in Somalia ‘so the Americans don’t go in guns blazing like they did in Iraq’. Not hard to imagine that this was a view held by MI5?

The paving men have had a few slices of various cakes for morning tea over the last couple of weeks (some out of the freezer before I was well enough to cook) but today they both said that it was the best one yet, so because it was the last two slices I’ve baked another banana cake this arv as well as roasting a whole sliced pumpkin while the oven was on. Dinner tonight is a couple of small whole red fish which I got out of the freezer but couldn’t identify. I texted a picture to Michelle whose husband caught them and she replied that they are pig fish, apparently a fishermen’s delicacy. That’s a new one on me, but the internet says they are often a favourite catch and often kept by the fisherman for himself.

August 23, 2022

Phew!! The ACAT appointment this morning was nothing if not thorough. The lady rang on the dot of 10 am as planned and hung up at 12.05. We don’t know the result, she will send us her report after talking to Bob as well, but I think he should at least be bumped up by one level, if not two. It was awkward in the sense that I didn’t want to complain about the things that drive me nuts, like his constantly losing things and getting obsessed over the same small details, but she did ask if he could cook, answer ‘no’ or help around the house, he answered ‘just the washing up and hanging out clothes’. I was able to explain that he can’t work out how to use the stove, dishwasher or washing machine so hopefully we get some more help.

Still enjoying the spy book Rip Tide by Stella Rimington ex MI5. In one scene where it is being decided whether they or the CIA should handle a particular rescue in Somalia she muses ‘It would be disastrous for the CIA to come charging into the case. Now was not the moment for their bombs away approach’. These asides are peppered through the story and it’s pretty clear that it was the author’s view in real life. I wish I could discuss the book with my bro but its subtleties are way outside his abilities now.

The bricks have arrived and the driveway paving begins. They are meticulous in the spacing and cutting of the bricks, which all looked white when they arrived due to the cement dust on them, but now after rain yesterday their subtle colours are showing. I can never understand red paving or red rooves for that matter. In a hot country red just gives an even greater perception of heat, so I specified no red bricks to be used. Ditto the red pebbles on the courtyard of Parliament House, which is barren, hot and unpleasant in my view. I once gave that opinion to John’s friend Rodney, a Canberra architect, but I think he was offended by my implicit criticism of his friend who designed it.

August 24, 2022

Very sorry to hear of John Farnham’s cancer operation. I was a follower of his concerts in my youth and his soaring voice rang through my speakers many a time. The fact that the cancer was in his mouth freaks me out as I’ve always said I could cope with cancer from the shoulders down but anything to do with the face, mouth or throat gives me the absolute heeby-jeebies. I well remember a shop client who had a tiny ulcer on his tongue which was diagnosed as cancer and he took his surgeon son with him to the appointment regarding his options. The son sat quietly through the discussion but after the surgeon explained that they would take most of his tongue out, his son said ‘I can’t allow my father to have that operation as it isn’t curative and he’ll have a miserable life from then on’. The surgeon reluctantly agreed that this was in fact the case and no surgery was performed, however he was dead when I rang to check on his welfare a few months later. JF’s wife has issued a statement saying there were 26 surgeons operating on him over 12 hours but that is impossible, however 26 people in the operating theatre in that time is entirely possible.

The paving men like their cake at 9 am, their morning teatime. However the caramel tart had too much ginger in it according to Grant and funnily I disliked it for the very same reason. However the banana cake got full marks and they seem happy to get the same one each day. The baking dish full of roasted pumpkin made a delicious pumpkin soup for dinner last night, just the pumpkin, onion, baharat spice mix and coconut milk. I’m glad that gradually cooking has gone from impossible, to a chore, to a pleasure as I recovered from Covid.

John found Terry’s funeral brochure this morning and was saddened all over again as he’d temporarily forgotten that Terry had died, he can’t remember going to his funeral at all. Whether it comes back to him remains to be seen but it must be so terribly confusing to have forgotten one of the biggest things that’s happened in his life this year. I’m thinking that by the end of the 3 to 6 month period that we’ve been quoted for implementation IF indeed he gets a better Home Care Package, we will need to apply all over again as it will probably be inadequate.

August 25, 2022

My six-monthly follow up with the surgeon today at St. V’s and he commented that he was glad that he didn’t go back and operate a second time when a cancer diagnosis was given by pathologists, as it seems that he achieved the purpose with the first op. There was debate about it between him, the specialist in viral cancer that he referred me to for follow-up, my immunologist and me. I got the last call and decided against more surgery, trusting in Alan’s belief that he ‘got it all’. The vote between the specialists was 2:1, so not a unanimous decision, but it seems the right one. I’m a bit surprised that after so long Alan still wants six-monthly visits to both him and the cancer specialist, but I am happy to comply. I grabbed a bit of lunch at bill’s cafe in Darlinghurst while reading Artichoke, a glossy magazine dedicated to interior architecture. It documented the prize-winners in their annual competition for designs of bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. The winning restaurant design was in… drum roll … Parramatta so I must go and have a squiz at that sometime. Most were depressingly brutal, one particular business in Manly, a clothes shop which I will also go to look at, would turn me off ever entering the premises. It was very weird to turn a page and discover the very table I was sitting at portrayed, bill’s having won an award. I hadn’t realised that before starting the cafe with $20,000 as a 22 year old Bill had done an interior design degree. Then I wandered up the road to the car and to my delight found a tiny antique shop that I had gazed into in the past was actually open. The French owner stocks all manner of quirky things and I bought a pair of sunglasses which he said he’d just put out, having bought them in France on a trip from which he only returned two days ago. I resisted the taxidermied turtle, the various dentist’s teeth moulds, the battered lampshades, the monkey’s head film prop and more, but I’m very happy with the pair of vintage Dior sunglasses for $35.

More problems on the driveway today, but they are Grant’s problems not mine thank goodness. Yesterday he put in a drain halfway down the drive and carefully cemented it in, but since he left someone has stepped on one end, pushing it out of alignment and then the concrete has set overnight. Now he has to use a concrete saw to remove it and reset it, apparently a very tricky job to avoid damaging the remaining part which is not askew. It wasn’t me and it wasn’t John so we can only assume a passer-by was sticky-beaking and trod on it. Grant said he’s had a lot of interest from people passing and a request for a quote, which he didn’t take up as he’s booked out for months. But coming half way down the drive and walking on wet cement is a bit much.

John arrived home from day care and asked how I’d gone at the doctor’s. I repeated Alan’s comments and he asked, confused ‘But why are you going to a cancer specialist?’

August 26, 2022

Michelle called in sick this morning so there was a hasty rearrangement of the car-pooling plans but we all managed to fit into the station wagon, albeit with some discomfort. Dropped John off to Bronwyn and Michael and the three of them went off walking after having lunch together. We were very early to the meeting, victims of my fear of being late, but it worked out well as we could chat in the meeting room without being in anyone’s way. I thought I would be the only one who didn’t like the book so I must admit it was a bit of a relief to find that, though there was one appreciative reader, no one else finished it apart from me. There was general agreement that the author was somewhat pushy and self-aggrandising so I think her husband managed to gain a bit of sympathy. (There’s a lovely story about the author David Sedaris who noticed a woman in the queue to have his latest book signed, she was complaining about the wait and trying to queue-jump. When her turn came he smiled up at her, asked her name and signed the book, closing it as he handed it back to her. He’d written ‘You are a really horrible woman, David Sedaris’. Apocryphal perhaps, but I loved it anyway.) It was a lovely warm meeting, though there was some discussion about aging, going into care and the perils of same. Perhaps that’s an inevitable subject going forward.

Sue stayed overnight and graciously accepted the glass of rose with dinner, though I’ve discovered that it is her least favourite wine. The salmon baked with a lime and honey sauce went down well though. I’ve been buying the Aldi frozen Norwegian salmon in the hope that it is better than what I’m hearing about its Tasmanian equivalent, but in any event it’s a good staple to have in the freezer. Great to have Sue here after a break of a few months.

August 27, 2022

I got up at 6.30 as Sue is such an early riser but she’d been up since 5. After a leisurely breakfast we went down to the corner bakery for Sue to get some bread to take to her mum’s for lunch. I felt I had to apologise for its quality, I usually refer to it as ‘the bakery of last resort’, better than Tip-Top White but not by a lot. Saw John’s carer Greg down there, so he must live very close to us. I had never thought to ask him exactly where he lives (perhaps he’s not supposed to say) though I knew it was in the general area. Later in the morning John started to feel unwell so we cancelled the plans we had for later in the day. I think I may have found the culprit for treading on the newly cemented drain though, I saw that the fuse box was open so clearly the meter reader had been, only about 3 feet from the scene of the crime.

Sue mentioned that her brother Martyn had sent her an article  agreeing with his views on vaccination and Covid precautions. She sent it to me and I was somewhat surprised that there were no references for any of the figures provided. But when I looked back to see the author and their credentials I discovered to my horror that it was written by the infamous Rebecca Weisser, neo-con and Trump apologist, member of the Centre for Independent Studies, executive associate of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, fervent critic of the ABC, the WHO and the UN generally and pal of Tony Abbott. One of her many helpful suggestions includes recruiting ex-Liberal Party staffers to co-host the Insiders program!! I had long imagined Michaelia Cash as the nastiest woman in Australian politics and political commentary, but that was before I heard and read Rebecca Weisser. (I couldn’t bring Cash’s name to mind when typing this so I just Googled ‘nasty WA female politician’ and bingo, up came her photo).

August 28, 2022

During the week I mentioned to John that a friend’s husband is in a nursing home overlooking Sirius Cove. He remembered that his brother used to take him swimming there when he lived at Mosman so I promised to take him there on Sunday. He recalled the promise today so after we watched Insiders we chuffed off there. (After Insiders finished he said: ‘Well I didn’t understand any of that’Smilie: ;). So we parked at the Cove and walked the track round to the Taronga Wharf, seeing hordes of people lined up to enter the Zoo. When we got there the sign said Bradley’s Head was another kilometre so I thought we could do that with no problems. We made it eventually only to find that the toilets were out of order due to a rock fall, but we had passed a track up to Athol Hall Cafe on the way so we went back to there, but they were closed due to a wedding so it was off again to the ferry wharf, where I discovered there are no toilets at all! We discovered that an 8 km walk with no toilets is probably past us, certainly past me anyway, though it was very beautiful along the walk and the weather was perfect.

Coming home to my lovely, if half-finished, driveway is a treat and I’m sure that I will eventually forget the cost and all the extra problems we encountered and just enjoy it. I remember reading that bricks and tiles are the only building materials that don’t shrink, in fact they swell. I was once sitting on the toilet in a rented unit in Westmead when the whole floor popped and the tiles flew off the floor. Apparently the builder hadn’t allowed for expansion, it was a memorable lesson.

August 29, 2022

I made sure I was up and breakfasted in time for the driveway men to arrive by 7 am, except they didn’t. Then a text came from Grant, Perry has Covid and Grant dropped something on his foot on Friday and can’t walk. It made me realise that I will miss these men when they finish, we have a lot of laughs and the money seems worth it now that I see how meticulous they are. Grant expects to be back on Wednesday so I’d better get cooking as they love their morning teas. I commented to Grant that I thought I had found the culprit for spoiling his freshly-concreted drain, the electricity meter reader, and he remembers her coming on the day that they laid it. Mystery solved.

John has been on top of things for the last few days, from Friday to Monday his memory seemed improved, aided by visits from Sue and to Bronwyn and Michael, plus a long walk yesterday. However this morning he’s been all over the shop, asking what we usually have for breakfast, where we went yesterday and seeing things around the house that he thinks are new. He keeps asking when we are leaving to go out today, but there was no plan to go out as I’m waiting for someone to pick something up from me and starting to get annoyed that they haven’t indicated when they are coming, despite my emailing them to ask. But I hasten to add that it may be the pot calling the kettle regarding John. I just went to Goodreads to write a review of Stella Rimington’s book Rip Tide, only to find that I had read and reviewed it already, in 2018! I thoroughly enjoyed it this time and had no memory of having read it before.

That wretched Morrison has charged the taxpayers a motza for his trip to Japan. After emphasising that his and Jenny’s trip was “privately funded” it emerges that it will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars because a team of AFP close personal protection officers travelled with them. Apparently he trousered about $50,000 for speaking in Tokyo. I am so looking forward to his exit.

August 30, 2022

This morning I decided to take John to Auburn Botanic Gardens where the cherry blossom is out. Discovered that the blossom is very nearly over, but that didn’t stop us enjoying our walk around the various water features and gardens. It was very busy on a Tuesday so it’s a place I wouldn’t recommend at the weekend. On the way home I pulled up in Granville, basically for old times’ sake, and noticed among the many Arabic food shops the Fiji Supermarket and the Island Food Company, each stocking things like cassava, taro and kava. I’ve never tried kava but had both of the others in Fiji and never want to repeat the experience. I am finding that the best thing I can do for John is to keep him busy, he loved the outing today but couldn’t quite understand when I said that Granville Station was where I left for school and work each day, insisting that ‘I don’t think you’ve ever lived in this area’. We went to Moran & Cato supermarket in Granville every Saturday morning, followed by the butcher and the greengrocer, then lugged all our shopping for the week home. I told him that I was sitting in a hairdresser’s chair there when it came on the radio that Kennedy had been shot, I’ll never forget it.

I was conscious that the judge was handing down the verdict in the Dawson trial today. He started talking at 10 am, broke for lunch and resumed, but only now at 3.20 pm has he given the verdict. What a marathon for the accused to sit through, not to mention of course their children and Lyn’s other family. I had formed the opinion that if he were going to come out with a guilty verdict he might have announced it and then given his reasons, but no, he made them squirm the whole day. Hopefully one day they will discover where her body lies.


August 31, 2022

I have always thought that imprisonment was a crude tool for changing behaviour, and I still think that. But recently I’ve noticed that while the judiciary has extensive powers to ‘make the punishment fit the crime’ they don’t seem to use those powers often or wisely. Take the case of gangland widow Roberta Williams, who received a two-year community-based order after pleading guilty to blackmailing and recklessly injuring her victim at Collingwood more than three years ago. The victim was lured to a video production studio where he was tied to a chair, had his and his family’s lives threatened and was bashed over the course of about three hours, sustaining visible injuries. The judge’s summing up astonished me, she went over Roberta’s rough upbringing at length then basically gave her a slap on the wrist, saying she was unsuitable for community service (which I can understand as I wouldn’t want her helping out in St. Vinnies where many of those on community service​ end up). The young men who assisted her in the crime got similarly light sentences. If I were the victim I’d be looking over my shoulder considering their underworld links. Surely there is the possibility of weekend detention in cases such as this? I know that convicted  people hate that as a sentence, it ruins their weekends which is a good punishment in itself. One of the thugs was pictured leaving court grinning from ear to ear, as well he might.

The internet was off today due to some NBN maintenance but we had a Zoom call planned with John’s sister-in-law in the US at 2.30. I went to the library to pick up books and thought of using the computer there, but alongside me was a pesky woman who was having trouble sending some sort of communication to 52 people. I know this because she was talking to herself about it endlessly, ringing someone for help using the speaker phone and finally asking the librarian for help (at least he told her to turn off the speaker phone that was echoing the conversation through the library). Ultimately I just emailed Justine to cancel the Zoom and came home glad to be shot of her. But librarians are endlessly patient, which is why I love them. Nice people register: Librarians, ambos and firies. Not so nice people register: well I think we all have our own list and seeing there are always exceptions to the rule so I will stay mum.

September 1, 2022

I had plans for a drive and a walk while John was at day care but then Michelle rang to say she could come to clean today (now we are on a monthly clean the place is so much more liveable) so I changed tack and did some ironing of outgrown clothes of Millie’s that I’d washed for the Sallies, baked a cake, did a few jobs alongside Michelle in the cleaning department, plus caught up with some food shopping. I must admit I feel virtuous about having stayed here, after eating cake together and seeing her leave with some scarves, some tiny clothes for her dolls as well as some food. What a good stick she is.

The cake was Papa’s Apple Pound Cake, a French recipe from the New York Times Cookbook which I use a lot. It involved boiling raisins, then soaking them in a little rum and the topping is just icing sugar and rum. Being a French chef the recipe’s creator is pedantic about how the apples are cut even though they are inside the cake ‘cut the cored apples into 12 and stand them curved side up along the middle’ then the rest of the batter goes on top with another apple cut into 16 pieces topping the mix. I make a point of doing a recipe exactly the first time, then I can waver the ingredients or method however I want from then on. I may throw caution to the wind and also cut the second apple into 12 pieces next time. Anyway it is absolutely delicious and will no doubt please the pavers when they come back tomorrow after the stint with Covid.

I asked a friend who is a medical specialist in public health, a researcher and lecturer in global health and developmental epidemiology to look at an article in The Spectator about the evils of vaccination for Covid. It was written by Rebecca Weisser, she of the neo-con persuasion whose very being causes my marrow to curdle. His first reaction was that it was ‘scandalous’. Apparently the lead story in the article about the death in the US of Bobby Bolin seems to be a lift from the Conservative Daily News website. Bolin had his second Moderna vaccination on April 17, 2021 and died on August 20. He had a pulmonary embolism (along with deep vein thrombosis a not uncommon problem on long flights) while flying back from a holiday in Jamaica and the pilot got permission to fly at a lower altitude as a result. He was already on the waiting list for a double lung transplant, was on blood thinners, had atrial fibrillation and a stent and was on 31 prescription medications. Despite all of this and the four month interval from vaccination to death, the conclusion Weisser draws is that the vaccine must be the cause of his death. This woman is an absolute menace because most people just won’t take the time, or have the ability, to dissect her claims. Of the last 7 articles she penned for The Spectator, 5 are on the dire effects of vaccination and one is entitled ‘Where have all the babies gone? Progressives rage about the right to abort while birth rates tumble’. I need a stiff drink.

September 2, 2022

The driveway men didn’t come again today, Perry is apparently still sick or else still testing positive. So I decided to take John for another walk, this time around the harbour at Clontarf. I’m sure I’ve never been there in my life, it’s amazing how big Sydney is and how many little pockets get overlooked. We managed to get lost on the track but the phone enabled me to get us back to the car eventually. As we drove through Neutral Bay and Mosman John commented how long it had been since we were there, in fact we went walking along the harbour front there last Sunday. I explained that to him but he has no memory of the outing at all.

Last night I watched Foreign Correspondent, a program I enjoy when I watch it occasionally. It was on the problems Chinese people have looking after the elderly, bearing in mind that only 2% reside in care homes. But I couldn’t sleep after watching a blind man caring for his blind wife who has dementia. He was cooking with a wok of oil over gas…while unable to see what he’s doing. I was waiting for him to spill it but he handled it all beautifully. However the enormity of seeing them struggling in their humble life kept me awake and I shan’t complain for at least a week.

More news has come to light about how Roberta Williams managed to avoid gaol last week. Roberta did a deal with police, pleading guilty to blackmail and recklessly causing injury on the promise she wouldn’t do jail time. Judge Fiona Todd sentenced her to a two-year community corrections order (yet didn’t force her to do any community service at all) adding that she would have been sent to jail for 12 months if she had been found guilty at trial. The victim is victimised all over again with this outcome. A funny aside is that at her husband’s funeral, mourners were led in the front entrance of the church, then out the back and around again to make it appear to be a packed crowd. Apparently, the gold cross from the casket was stolen, as well as money of the priest’s from the rectory.

September 3, 2022

Last week when I picked John up after he stayed with Bronwyn and Michael while I went to book group she was eager to tell me when I arrived that ‘John wants you to cook lamb shanks’ so I bought some (at the astronomical price of over $30 for 4). They are so big that with vegetables I can barely fit them into my large slow cooker. I’m going to put them on tonight and let them cook overnight and Boris and Jane will join us for lunch tomorrow. Then we had a call from Peter and Dawn who are in Sydney and will come to lunch on Tuesday, so I don’t need to dream up things for John to do for a little while. Today we had a Zoom call with John’s sister-in-law Justine in the US and it always brightens him up to hear from her, though I had to remind him of his nieces’ names before the call.

I am constantly amazed at how long things take to sell on eBay these days, even at very low prices. I have just sold a small pair of Orrefors crystal candlesticks for $20, they have been listed for all of this year. I try to keep 20 items for sale all the time but that doesn’t take much work as they are there for many months if they sell at all. I am thinking of taking a pair of French plates to the antique shop in Darlinghurst, run by a Frenchman, where I got a beautiful pair of sunnies a week ago for a very good price. I’m happy to give them to him, he’ll have better luck selling them there than I will.

Reading the recently released ‘August in Kabul’ by Andrew Quilty and it is amazing to me that while people were desperately fleeing that city before the Taliban takeover he was hurrying back there from a wedding in France to witness that very event. It appears that everyone seemed to be predicting the government’s downfall for some time, except the allies supporting it. While I find the Taliban as terrifying as most others do, I can’t help feeling thankful that finally that blighted country is being governed by its own people rather than a regime held up by its invaders. Perhaps many others there feel the same way.

September 4, 2022

Well I ended up cooking the lamb shanks for 15 hours on low with carrots, pumpkin, Puy lentils, onions, dates and almonds and they went over very well. I couldn’t quite come at them (too much like legs of lambs!) but the accompanying veggies were delish and the dogs next door were extremely happy with the bones apparently. It has fined up today so Grant will be happy to get back to work on the driveway tomorrow. It is an awful lot of money which I would never have spent on my own account, but it pleases John every day to see it happening so it’s money well spent in that respect.

The My Aged Care people passed on our details to the Anglicare Dementia Advisory Service (it might have been nice to ask us first guys) and one of their staff rang me last week. She wanted to visit us at home but I said I’d prefer to find out about what they do via mail and then make a decision. However when their brochures arrived their ‘tips’ included Smile! and Be patient and calm. Mmm, I guess I was more thinking about how to be patient and calm rather than knowing that it’s a good idea. However I am feeling patient and calm today after finding my keys this morning, pushed behind my recipe books. Don’t ask, I don’t know. I just wish I had found them before I had new ones cut, but I suspected that would be the case. The other thing this group offers is Connections Groups where carers meet (for a whinge fest maybe) or others where the carers and the person with dementia come together with others for a couple of hours. Neither appeal to me at this point, but perhaps that will change one day, so I will thank them for what they do but say no to a visit I think.

I see Gary Jubelin has written a book ‘Badness’ about his past investigations and the subsequent relinquishment of his position as a detective after he was found guilty of illicitly recording conversations with a witness in the William Tyrrell case. I sat next to him a couple of times at the Coroner’s Court and he seemed intense and passionate about that investigation, which ultimately led to his leaving the force. The families of victims hold him in very high regard, so I would be interested in reading his version of events.

September 5, 2022

Reading ‘August in Kabul’ by Australian photographer Andrew Quilty is quite an eye-opener. One of the many things I didn’t know is that the ominous-looking barren mountains around Kabul were once covered in forests with ski-trails through them, that is until the Russians napalmed them. Heaven knows, but I’ve been unable to ascertain, how long the land is rendered barren after a napalm attack. In regards to the August Taliban retaking of Kabul, it seems it was more that the locals who supported them finally came out, so when the exhausted fighters drove and walked into the city there were plenty to welcome them, and those that didn’t pretended they did for their own safety. Quilty reports people seeing their neighbours suddenly wearing clothes associated with the group and with Taliban flags on their cars. All of the long-rumoured nepotism and patronage is described in the book, with government ministers demanding commissions, police chiefs taking a cut of the opium profits and army officers pocketing the salaries of ‘ghost soldiers’. ‘Revenge was meted out, often under the guise of anti-terrorism’ he says. People offered up to the credulous American intelligence gatherers business rivals or families with whom they had feuds. The author quotes a Taliban commander: ‘At first there was no support for the Taliban. It was when the Americans started killing civilians that people started supporting us, giving us food, bullets, and offering men’. In July 2002 seven 900 kilogram bombs were dropped on a wedding celebration when celebratory gunfire was mistaken for hostility, dozens were killed. This was far from an isolated event. For the 70% of people who live in rural areas, the experience of war was marked by incidents, whether deliberate or not, that resulted in injury or death to civilians from bombings to small scale attacks by ground troops. This drove people towards, rather than away from, the Talibs. Somehow we never seem to learn that invasions produce resentment, not approbation and the blessing of the populace. Vietnam Mark II it certainly was.

The paving boys are back, but Grant’s wife has put him on a diet so it was awkward giving morning tea to just Perry. I intended to make a chocolate cake for them today but in light of this news I only I made a date and caramel rum tart for tomorrow’s lunch visitors and Perry can have what’s left over from that. Then we went off to Norwest to walk around ‘the lake’, trying to keep up my practice of taking John somewhere different every day. I was naively hoping he might have had a call or text for Father’s Day yesterday but then I realised that he’s never had one in 15 years (birthdays and Christmas included) so why would it start now?

September 6, 2022

We were lucky to have Peter and Dawn from Canberra for lunch while they are staying in a caravan in Lane Cove National Park for a few days. They are between homes, their house settled last Friday and their new residence isn’t ready for a couple of weeks. Lots of laughs as always with them. I was telling Dawn, who used to be in the Democratic Socialist Party, about my friend Gail Lord who was a 40 year stalwart of that party until she died in 2007. She was a committed socialist and when she was in hospital she used to ask the nurses if they were in the union. Her father Edgar Penzig was once a socialist too, until he left his wife and married a woman with allegiance to what Gail considered far-right causes and he joined his views with hers (echoes of Sir John Kerr here) beginning a schism with Gail that was never settled. I knew Edgar when he ran a small museum in Katoomba, he was a collector of colonial artefacts, particularly firearms, and gave lectures on colonial history. I came to know Gail through the peace movement and over the many years I got to know them both I had no idea that they even knew each other, certainly not that they were related. During the Iraq War I suggested that we weave flowers through the wire fence of the Richmond RAAF Base on my day off, so I put up appropriate signs in the shop and had a few leaflets printed. Edgar happened to come in and with a scowl took a leaflet, then two hours later a couple of police arrived to question me, clutching the leaflet. As it turned out the big demo was me, a couple of my staff, one or two others and Gail and her husband Ted, plus two police cars and an SBS film crew who looked very disappointed and left shortly after they arrived. Gail was such an inspiring and compassionate woman who felt for others in a way few people do, while Edgar was a man who was firmly focussed on his own success.

September 7, 2022

A very thick letter arrived from the Department of Health and sure enough it was the adjudication of the long interview with the ACAT team. To my surprise and pleasure John has been judged suitable for a Level 3 package, up from Level 1. I was expecting a 2 and hoping for a 3 because I realised that in the 3 to 6 month time frame for the package to be put into effect he would likely have deteriorated more and we’d have to go through the whole thing again. I’m sure the assessor realised that too. This will mean that I can go to book group, medical appointments and the odd function without imposing on friends to take John, I can simply organise a carer. I’ve realised that I definitely can’t leave him alone now, as when Sue was here last week I went with her to the corner bakery as she wanted to buy bread to take with her, telling John where we were going and estimating how long we’d be away, 15 minutes. But when we got back he was upset, saying that he didn’t know where we were or why we’d gone and left him. Similarly I tried to show him how to boil an egg yesterday, he’s done it countless times before, but he couldn’t remember the instructions and kept getting the egg out, at 1 minute and then at 2 minutes, despite my repeated telling that eggs need to boil for 3. He went off with the carer today and was due home at 2pm and I was about 5 minutes late getting home so I was worried he would be confused, though luckily he was talking to the driveway men till I got here shortly after him.

I am excited to say that I’ve booked for us to go to the Blue Mountains next week, it will be a lovely couple of days away and a great celebration of getting the Home Care Package finally sorted.

September 8, 2022

I thought we’d try for a movie at Castle Hill tomorrow, foolish in the extreme of course as unless you are a teenager, like animated, high action or horror movies or speak Hindi or Punjabi, there isn’t anything worth seeing. Well there’s Where the Crawdads Sing which got an average of 2.5 out of 5 across the review sites, with one reviewer saying: ‘This movie is cheesier than a quattro formaggi! Like the backdrop of the film – marsh or swamp – it’s all a bit soggy’, that was enough to put paid to that one for me. Sixteen screens and not one worth going to.

I am getting fed up with seeing the way those who can afford high powered lawyers are walking out of court unscathed, it’s certainly becoming a two tier legal system. Solicitor Bryan Wrench of Murphy’s Lawyers seems to be able to polish the image of his clients to a shine radiant enough to dazzle the judge. A recent client admitted hijacking an Uber while three times over the limit after having 30 drinks, he had also taken the drug Stilnox and then fled from police on foot when apprehended, but our pal Bryan managed to convince the judge that despite the guilty plea his client deserved some sympathy and he was not convicted of stealing the vehicle. He was put on a bond and his licence was cancelled for six months, but here’s the kicker, he hasn’t held a licence since 2018. Bugger the poor Uber driver and the fact that he lost work time once when the car was pinched and again to go to court. My friend who is in a long-running estate battle with his siblings has just discovered that they have now hired the lawyer who represents Clive Palmer, not feeling too confident about the outcome right now.

September 9, 2022

After attempts to contact my brother by phone had failed, I rang his paramour Anne last night. He is no better and despite a sojourn in hospital there is no definitive answer as to the reason for his sudden cognitive decline. Interestingly she commented that she thought the Queen was dying as the tone of the language had changed and the statements that ‘doctors are concerned for her health and recommended she remain under medical supervision’ were euphemisms for that fact. Once again Anne’s perceptions proved correct, I so wish she were closer as I admire her intelligence, knowledge and insight.

The hospital gave Kenneth two choices: agree to home visits every day or go to a care home, which he was very much against. But apparently he resents the carers who come a number of times a day. There was some debate at the hospital about whether he was competent to make that decision, with staff voting opposite ways on the question. She recounted how K’s daughter Tanya is again staying with him, but he rang Anne saying that Tanya had left him and gone home and he was distressed as he couldn’t manage alone. As requested she rang Tanya, only to be told that she she was in fact at his house, but temporarily upstairs. Anne is going there to visit tomorrow so I might get the latest news after that, certainly the family doesn’t think I warrant the expense of a call. He has gone downhill so suddenly and I can’t bear to think about it for very long, I just have to block it out. To aid in that I decided to take John to a movie at Roseville, Full Time, a French film which effectively displayed the desperation of a separated mother trying to manage two children, a low paid job and a long commute, all in the middle of a train strike. It worked its magic and I didn’t think about any other situation once in 83 minutes.

September 10, 2022

I would be interested in talking to Sue’s brother Stephen about how he feels regarding ceremony and protocol, now that he no longer works for the Governor. He was up to his eyes in it when he was her private secretary or perhaps charge d’affaires, I’ve forgotten his exact title now. I find it all laughable when taken to extremes (this prompted by the report that the Prime Minister’s and Governor-General’s staff had to make sure that they always  had black ties available in case the Queen should die). I just can’t imagine anyone outside that lofty circle being shocked if they saw that the G-G was announcing the Queen’s death IN A GREEN TIE. How would mere mortals even know about the policy, a monarch’s death hasn’t happened since 1952? If I went to the palace, or to parliament, or something similar I would be pleased to be told where to stand or where the loos are, but if someone told me how to address the person I was visiting or how to curtsy or what to wear I think I would ignore them totally, well I hope I would. When my father worked for the Daily Mirror in the 1960s he told me that the paper had already typeset the front page for the Queen’s death, as well as for those of other various dignitaries. This I can understand, each paper wanting to get a jump on its rivals, but the colour of ties, puh-leeze.

I am used to making small eBay sales for whatever base bid I nominate but today I actually got 8 bids on an item, I’ve forgotten the last time that happened. It is a Glomesh handbag, brand new, but bought in 1980. It still has the original labels and a receipt from Grace Brothers in December of that year, an unwanted Christmas gift perhaps? We’ll never know the story.

This morning we went to the Castle Hill Farmer’s Market but kept the purchases to a minimum due to the impending break from Wednesday. I was amazed that the only stall selling baked goods, apart from bread of which there were four, was all sugar-free and gluten-free. I was reaching for a packet of lovely looking tarts when this was proudly conveyed by the stall-holder and I’m not sure if she noticed the speed with which I withdrew my hand. Lemon tarts with no sugar and no gluten equals no thanks. By 9 am we were on the road to Box Hill to pick up wood with Arvind so he can rebuild the fence panels which are missing due to the fact that his tree formed part of the fence. My station wagon was up to the job of taking the long lengths and once again it justified my decision to hang on to it. The pathetic number of dollars I would get for it is nowhere near its value in these situations.

September 11, 2022

I was looking forward to Insiders but had to turn it off when they said they were wheeling out old Howard to wax lyrical about the Queen. It’s going to be a long fortnight. But I am finding it absorbing to see the reactions of different folks. A leftie friend has responded to statements about Her Maj by Green’s Senator Mehreen Faruqi on Twitter. She said: “Condolences to those who knew the Queen. I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples. We are reminded of the urgency of Treaty with First Nations, justice & reparations for British colonies & becoming a republic”. He took issue with this and pointed out that she’d sworn allegiance to the Queen in parliament. Many others highlighted that with three investment properties and a primary residence, she is benefiting from stolen land more than most others. I don’t take a hard view on all of this, neither criticising Faruqi nor condemning her critics, but I find it all very interesting, more interesting in fact than much of the overblown commentary which I am now tiring of. If John’s day care is cancelled the week of the funeral it will be the last straw.

It’s funny how spring always puts me in gardening mode. I’ve planted seeds today of lettuce, coriander and spinach plus some strawflowers for the front garden. Today I’ve also cut back the Hypoestes, pulled out the sugar snap peas, done some weeding and decided to remove the big woody rosemary, so I’ve planted a cutting from it in the hope of starting a new one. And it’s only 10.45, there are benefits to canning Insiders.

Thinking back to when I decided I had had enough of the Queen’s ‘celebrations’, it was the moment when King Charles III snottily fanned his hand to get an underling to move an inkwell that was in his way on the desk when he went to sign the proclamation. The fact that he couldn’t simply slide it across the desk himself told me a lot about him and the fact that none of the press seems to have thought that behaviour unusual indicates that any form of criticism is currently unacceptable.

September 12, 2022

Today was John’s Nelune day so I walked down to Hyde Park from St. V’s passing Alex Greenwich’s office. Just as I was thinking ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I bumped into him’ I almost did, as he was coming the other way armed with a coffee, but he wouldn’t have seen my smile as I was wearing a mask. However I noted that he’s even more handsome in real life than on the teev. The last time that happened was as I approached The Ivy in George St. and idly wondered if Justin Hemmes might come out, which he duly did and I was amazed at what a beanpole he is. Later I went to bill’s and had a pot of tea and some of his amazing peanut brittle, reading The Ratline as I did so. There is much about Ukraine in that book and once again a lot of reference to the support for the Nazis, before, during and after WWII, so I will recommend it to Boris whose family comes from that region. But we did get home just in time to see the pavers before they left and to give each of them a hug, they are going to come for morning tea soon. It transpires that Grant goes to the same mechanic as we do and I found out only because he was raving about how good Alex is.

I have been waiting for batteries for my hearing aids to arrive by mail, they were posted last Monday but alas they are still not here. It looks like I will have to drive to Macquarie Uni to pick some up tomorrow before we go away as I will be lost without them and I doubt the ones I’m using will last much longer, rats. Someone could have crawled here in that time.

I read the SMH deaths every week but rarely see someone I know, however this week I stumbled on Nort Crossley’s name. He was an old friend from out of Windsor where he and his wife Carrie had a pottery-making business. They rented a property near Kurrajong Village for many years with a large shed for their kilns, but eventually the owner surprised them by wanting to sell and they weren’t in a financial position to afford the market rents so they relocated to a property in Bellingen, after which we eventually lost touch. I always remember a conversation about the fact that they regretted never buying real estate when they were young and feeling anxious about that as they got older. One memory that sticks is when they came to dinner and I cooked Moules Mariniere because they were Kiwis, but they both hated them as they were cheap and plentiful when they were young and they’d had a gutful. They mostly ate bread, wine and dessert but we had a good laugh about it. Vale Nort.

September 13, 2022

I was troubled during the night about the hearing aid batteries not arriving, my brother’s poor condition, painting the steps into the garage this morning and much more, not in that order obviously but when you are generally anxious somehow it all melds into one ball of apprehension. Last night, well about 12.30 this morning actually, I rang the bro and his daughter picked up. She put me on to him and he commented that he’d slept in and the phone had woken him up, it was only later that I worked out that it was 3.30 pm over there! He told me that he is absolutely exhausted and when I asked if he’s lost weight he said he had, now weighing 7 stone 7 pounds or 47 kilos which totally shocked me. He has no appetite and has to force himself to eat. His daughters had never mentioned any of this on the occasions I’ve spoken to them. He claims the doctors don’t know what is wrong, though he seemed less confused this time compared to previous calls, constantly repeating ‘I love you, I miss you, when can you come over?’.

I decided that I needed to cross some things off the stress list so by 8 am I was painting the metal steps to the garage, after having coated them with rust converter yesterday. Far from perfect, but certainly a lot better than they were. A helpful person ‘touched up’ part of one step, but the paint was already half dry, so the touch-up just made the finish lumpy instead of smooth. Luckily I intervened before any more was ‘bettered’. I wanted to get that job done before Grant comes back to do the concrete around the garage with paving paint. John is right this minute acting as advisor to Arvind who is building a small section of fence between our properties and he is being quite helpful in terms of technique and method, with Arvind providing the muscle. Arvind this morning: ‘I’m sorry that the queen died but I’m afraid I’ve had enough queen now’, a sentiment that I’m sure is being recited around the nation. Personally I don’t understand why the Australian Parliament shuts down when the British one doesn’t, countries seem to be trying to outdo each other in devotion, with government here trying any means to get us to buy into it: free public transport to see the NSW ceremony, a public holiday ‘to mourn’ (since when do people need a holiday to mourn? will we get a holiday in future if our mother dies?). Yes Arvind, I think I’m getting over it too.

A miscalculation on my part has resulted in the Melissa Caddick inquest sneaking up on me. There isn’t a single day this week that I can go and I can’t believe that I planned a holiday for the very week it is on. Unlike parliamentary inquiries I can’t access the transcripts (well I could for $94 for the first 8 pages, and $11 for each page after that, so no thankyou). I am thinking that it will flow over into next week, even though it’s mentioned for only five days, so I live in hope. How I will get a carer is something I refuse to worry about until it happens.

September 14, 2022

First stop in the mountains was Schwarzes at Wentworth Falls for morning tea. This German bakery is a favourite and we usually have one of their cherry specialities, as we did today. On to Blue Mountains Heritage Centre at Blackheath to see Luke Kelly’s exhibition, which was all excellent, but somehow none of the pieces were as good as his painting of the fairy wrens which is hanging in the hall at home. After a picnic lunch I noticed on the town clock that the time was getting on and we should be moving towards our hotel, the Fairmont Resort in Leura, but when we got there we realised that their clock was working but wrong so we could have spent more time there. The features of the hotel are many and varied, including indoor heated pool, sauna, spa, outdoor pools, a skating rink!, ponies, a train to take kids around the grounds and a miniature railway which takes up a whole room. As we wandered around we noticed a sign showing that a conference for Link Housing was underway. An extraordinary coincidence as John was last year made a life member and has been to prior conferences. When I remarked on the coincidence he said ‘oh yes they rang me last week and invited me but I told them we were going away and I couldn’t go’. This was news to me and in the past preparations for the conferences have gone on for months beforehand. So there seem to be two possibilities: 1. He was invited last week, perhaps as a replacement delegate for someone who had to cancel or 2. It is a false memory (these happen) which arose when he saw the sign and he simply filled in the details of what must have happened. I am intrigued to know as the delegates were leaving as we arrived and sadly we didn’t come across any people we knew. I think I will have to contact Pauline and work out which scenario is the right one. If he were invited we could have had five days here, three gratis with the conference and two afterwards at our own expense.

In the evening, after suggesting she come here to the restaurant, we ended up going to our friend Sheila’s at Wentworth Falls for a night of delicious food and stimulating company, although I was somewhat embarrassed when she served individual pear and chocolate puddings with chocolate sauce and choc-chip ice cream and I had to decline. At one point Sheila, in her very English accent, said ‘I was over all this Queen business after a day’, which surprised me. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a majority view, so often am I hearing it. John was good while we were there but a little later asked ‘what did we do tonight and who were we with?’. The last couple of weeks has shown a noticeable decline in his condition.

September 15, 2022

John was really bad this morning asking what we are doing here, what we’d already done and what we are still to do. He said before we came that he hadn’t been sleeping well for  worrying about meeting with his daughter/s tomorrow for the school open day, but this morning he didn’t have a clue about it. We had asked a week ago for details of the school and the class but nothing’s come, so I’ve sent off another message. After a breakfast in the hotel we went off to Sublime Point to go for a beautiful walk, looking out over the valley full of mist and low hanging clouds. By the time we got to Katoomba Falls to do the same the rain had started so we didn’t get far and repaired to the car to look out over the valley and the Scenic Skyway while drinking piping hot tea from the Thermos. Later in Leura we bought a few makings from the deli including a delicious artichoke and green apple salad. We had lunch in our room, but discovered that, this being Leura, the very few things we bought at the deli cost as much as lunch in the hotel coffee shop would have, but c’est la vie. I love the architecture here and it is a very warm and comfy place to be, with a library and a bar as well as the large foyer with lots of sofas, though we are sticking to those places less frequented, no one seems to want the library, preferring the bar, sigh. A full sized ice skating rink has been built here as well, but is waiting on final council approval to open. When the weather seemed to clear we went out for another walk but the rain bucketed down as soon as we got outside so we thought better of it.

September 16, 2022

Well we have an answer to the conference conundrum after a fortuitous email from Jack at Link Housing. He is writing something about John and his Life Membership of Link for the Annual Report and wanted to check a few details with me. So when I replied I asked if he’d been at the Fairmont Conference (he had) and whether John had been invited as he had explained to me that he was. NO said Jack it was a staff only conference and no one else was asked to go. So John’s recollection of the invitation, specifically one that came by phone while he was being driven last Wednesday by his carer Greg, was all a false memory. He doesn’t lie, so in his mind it all happened, and he related both sides of the conversation to me in detail. That in itself was odd as he can’t remember conversations. The mind is an amazing thing as well as a complete mystery.

After a delicious breakfast we headed off to Katoomba North Public School for Tallulah’s open day and visited the classroom to see her work, followed by morning tea, then a whole of school concert including singing, dancing and a recorder ensemble. It is a small school, just 160 students, which has a really warm and inclusive feel to it. At lunch time Dan went to get Aurora from her high school in Katoomba so we all, including his mum Lynne, had lunch together from the canteen. John commented how different it was to his school, where he was caned almost every day and went each morning in fear. It was lovely to see the girls and hear how well Tallulah is doing, particularly in music and art, but she is doing year 6 maths in year 4 so she’s no slouch in that department as well. Tired but happy campers at the end of the day after the drive home.

September 17, 2022

John asked me at breakfast where we went yesterday and I said ‘to the school open day’. He then asked if he’d met Millie’s teacher and I replied that it was the Katoomba North School. After a few minutes he asked why Dav and Louis had moved to Katoomba and I realised that he had no memory of the event at all. With the help of some photos I’d taken and talking through the events I was able to remind him of the day but he has no independent memory of it and asked me who else was there. He also asked if we drove up and back yesterday, so the memory of the hotel stay has gone too. I have thought for a couple of weeks that his memory had declined a lot, but in the last week it has absolutely plunged. Going away seems to have made it worse, but perhaps that’s just coincidence. He fell over in the hotel room and kept asking ‘where am I?’ I had no idea that it could progress this fast.

Arvind and John are working on the fence today so he’s a happy chappy. I’ve been planting strawflower seeds in the front garden but decided he was fine outside with Arvind so I could get some other things done. A lady I didn’t know came from over the road to complain about the plumber’s bill they got for investigating the water leak. Apparently it was over $3500, divided by 9 units: ‘We’re not happy’ she said, which I assumed anyway but hadn’t been told directly. There’s not much I can do but suggest they speak to Sydney Water who were the ones who said it was from their property in the the first place. Not a popular neighbour right now, but Grant the paver said they should be glad they didn’t discover anything or else the bill would have been much higher, though I doubt that’s much consolation.

Peter and Dawn from Canberra rang to say that they are going back home on Tuesday and asked if they could come to visit tomorrow, so I raced up solo (John still occupied with helping Arvind) to Panetta’s to buy salad stuff, olives, cheese, rolls etc for lunch and then I remembered that I had three ripe bananas in the freezer so I will do Banana, Walnut and Honey Puddings in the morning. At Embers Restaurant at the Fairmont where we had dinner on Thursday night I had a really bad dessert, the wondrous-sounding Saffron Poached Pear with Rose Snow, Turkish Delight and Pistachios. Delish, non? It turned out to be a quartered still hard pear with an odd tasting white shaving foam looking stuff on top, barely a 1/10 and something I’d be ashamed to have served up. I should have been warned when John pointed out that the Embers sign was roughly attached to the wall with blue masking tape. The fried brussels sprouts with garlic, chili and honey were 9/10 though so it certainly wasn’t all bad.

September 18, 2022

Lunch here with Dawn and Peter was full of good conversation as is always the case.  They are off home to Canberra to move into their new place at the end of the week hopefully. Just did a salad for main but the banana puddings were well worth doing, there’s something about a hot dessert that eclipses a cold one, excepting pav of course. For fun I looked up the Tripadvisor reviews for Embers Restaurant and lo and behold there were many others complaining about their desserts. I read as far as hard rhubarb in one and hard apple in another so it seems to be a tendency. One unhappy diner sent her rhubarb dessert back and was told that ‘the chef is still working on getting this one right’ but the patron noted the worn state of the printed menu…..

Last night I finished reading The Ratline, about the movement of Nazi war criminals out of Europe, primarily to Argentina where Peron, the Fascist dictator, welcomed them. This was organised through the Vatican and the US government who recruited these virulent anti-communists, regardless of their crimes, to work for the CIA as informers and spies. Included were  Commandants of concentration camps, including Buchenwald. A figure of 10,000 Nazis is mentioned as having been spirited out via Italy in the immediate post-war years. The book is beyond depressing in one way but crucial reading for anyone interested in politics and post WWII history.

I was a bit shocked to hear in an interview that the Governor-General is younger than me, yikes. Also discovered that he isn’t a particularly articulate person. He’s okay at reading a proclamation but in an interview he is hesitant and not a comfortable speaker. I suspect he won’t be reappointed somehow, what with his dubious involvement with ScumMo, so it won’t be a big issue into the future. I’m all for no head of state at all, let the Prime Minister be our representative where one is needed.

September 19, 2022

Feeling pretty smug after doing a decent amount of weeding in the front garden today. Then Brigitte rang and said she could return my book, so we had her for morning tea but I had not a scrap of home-baked goods to offer. What with being away and then visitors yesterday I just haven’t had time to bake, but the company was the main thing. She sat down and immediately made reference to ‘the overkill about the Queen’ which seems to be a recurring opening line with everyone I meet this past week. Despite the fact that in terms of an interviewer Stan Grant is not my favourite person, I was brought to tears by his heartfelt article in the Herald over the weekend, beginning with the story of his mother initially being denied an opportunity to stand by the roadside to see the Queen in 1954 because she didn’t own a pair of socks. I well remember standing in the sun on Woodville Road at Guildford in my school uniform waiting for her to pass and waving my flag. On another occasion in the 70s or early 80s I was driving home from the beach when the lights went red on the corner of Anzac Parade. I waited…and waited…and decided that they had malfunctioned, but suddenly the Queen went past in an open convertible, right in front of me. Luckily I hadn’t decided to ignore the light that was apparently broken or perhaps the Queen’s funeral could have happened way back then and I might just be getting out of gaol.

I think it is very short-sighted of the Palace to restrict any country from attending the Queen’s funeral as it just makes a joke out of those not on the restricted list yet have appalling human rights records. Russia, Syria, Afghanistan, Belarus, Myanmar and Venezuela are non grata but of course Saudi Arabia is on the list of those welcome. You have to hand it to those Teflon Saudis, the shit never sticks. There are benefits in owning all that oil.

I thought Michelle might be bothered by the negative reports on her surgeon Munjed Al Muderis this morning so when she rang me from hospital today I didn’t say a word. However she brought it up and wasn’t fazed by the criticism. Apparently she started to watch 60 Minutes on him last night and a nurse said that everyone on the ward was watching it. Better that they’d had the surgery rather than still waiting for it I thought.

September 20, 2022

I was curious about the owner of the Fairmont Resort as it is a single person rather than a big conglomerate. Dr. Jerry Schwartz it turns out is a cosmetic surgeon, mmm, not a good start. He came from a wealthy Hungarian-born family, the father was a dentist but they owned a number of hotels and pubs. The name kept ringing a bell until finally I looked up his mother Eva and then remembered instantly why the name was recognisable. I had followed with interest Eva’s inquest in 2013 which resulted in an open finding and some very harsh words from the coroner about one Jerry Schwartz, in fact he was referred to the Medical Council for possible misconduct.

The problem was that Jerry (I am feeling as if I know him personally by now) had signed the death and cremation certificates for his wealthy mother Eva at Point Piper and three weeks later her best friend Magda Wales in Rushcutters Bay. Seventy-six year-old Eva had died in unusual circumstances at her home. Her wrists had been slashed but no blood was found on the bed where she lay. Dr Schwartz listed his mother’s cause of death as due to a collapsed lung and lung cancer and that of Magda Wales as caused by heart disease, obesity and diabetes. He aggressively tried, but failed, to gain entry to her apartment before he visited her body in the morgue and wrote the death certificate there. The coroner said Dr Schwartz was an unsatisfactory witness who gave vague and evasive answers and that his behaviour did little to dispel the impression he did not want to co-operate at the inquest. “I do not accept that the causes of death given by him for each of the deceased were either accurate or based on proper medical investigation. There was insufficient evidence in each case for him to have stated the causes of death as he did, or indeed the times or dates.” Cremation covers a multitude of sins doesn’t it?

Good old Jerry had a former partner, Liliane Viselle, who went to the police to allege that, after initially claiming his mother had committed suicide, he had confessed to killing her and Ms Wales. Ms Viselle told police he had said ”My mother was in the way, Magda knew too much, I had to get rid of them.” The inquest also heard allegations that Eva Schwartz was thinking of changing her will to include her estranged daughter, but sadly for her daughter it was all too late. Jerry inherited $70 million from his mum and bought Fairmont shortly afterwards for $24 million, though recently he added a harbourside mansion for $67 mil. Fascinating stuff indeed.

What to say about the funeral? Well as a ceremony it was pretty impressive, though I wished I still had my childhood books which explained all the different palace uniforms and their histories (I was immersed in Royal information as a child). I texted my daughters to say I hoped they were jotting down ideas for my funeral, the reply: ‘yes, closed casket, no snacks’, which wasn’t at all what I had in mind. But the ABC’s reporting all this week has been shamelessly sycophantic and over the top. Last night I sent off numerous letters to the Herald, none of which will see ink as it is infra dig to criticise at the moment. Who even wears black to funerals in Australia? I wanted to see one brave soul, just one, who had the intestinal fortitude to wear another colour, but I was sadly disappointed.

September 21, 2022

Apparently the time taken to reply to Freedom of Information requests to the Federal Government is getting longer and longer, with 51% refused altogether, making a mockery of the legislation. I remember discussing this some time ago with a high ranking public servant in Defence. ‘Oh, we’ve fixed that problem’ he said, ‘we just have one staff member whose job it is to answer all requests, then we can say that the request is being dealt with and will be responded to in due course’. I suspect that’s the lurk that all departments are using.

Normally I don’t have any interest in articles about sport, but one caught my eye yesterday. It was about Mario Fenech, long time rugby league player, who was diagnosed with early onset dementia at 53 and now at 60 is seriously affected by it. His wife told the story of his looking forward to his son’s wedding for months, then on the day he gave a reasonable speech and the event went off very well. However the next morning Mario woke up and asked ‘Oh, I’m really excited about the wedding, when is it?’. This is John exactly. In an interview with his neurologist she said: ‘Mario’s condition is advancing. It won’t long before he needs care’ and that comment really threw me.

September 22, 2022

Yesterday was my lowest day since I got back pain after gardening on Monday morning. I couldn’t drive as turning my head too far was painful. People garden all the time, I garden all the time, but for some reason I have upset the muscles bigtime. The pain affected my cooking today when the kids came for lunch, so much so that when I made some meringue with five egg whites I put them in the mixer with the sugar right at the start, a mistake I have never made before. They did whip up stiffly but somehow the meringue didn’t taste right. Then I followed the recipe for Queen Pudding and the meringue on top torched a bit, normally I’d have seen that coming and lowered the temp, it’s hard to think straight when you are in pain. The kids didn’t seem to mind and Millie opted for bread and jam instead so she certainly didn’t care. We played a game of charades after lunch and she is very good at it.

I have been thinking that Ita Buttrose was likely to blame for the all black livery on the ABC of recent times, coming from the Australian Women’s Weekly where she was used to 12 pages of Royals for no real reason at all. But I read that the protocol for the Queen’s death was written under Howard and nobody has thought to change it apparently. The government needs to be going through the things left behind by that sleazy Morrison to make sure we don’t get any surprises in the future.

September 23, 2022

Feeling a lot better this morning so I was pleased to see that Carol was cake-making today as we’ve been unable to help before for various reasons. Had a very pleasant time with just Jack, Carol and Madeleine. John was very good and was happy helping. Michelle, who is recovering from surgery,  rang and asked if I could ‘mind’ her next Tuesday while Kev goes out for a few hours. I said I could but it will have to be the two of us. On the way home I picked up a book from the library and blow me down there’s a portrait of the Queen and a condolence book to sign, will it ever end?

One of my tables in the back yard on which I have herb pots is just about to collapse after years of service outdoors, so I need to keep my eyes open for a replacement on the council clean-up heaps. It’s easier when everyone puts their stuff out on the one day as we used to, rather than ordering a pick-up individually as we do now. One day when I went to Jane’s there were numerous excellent pieces of furniture put out over there but I had taken John’s car and couldn’t fit anything in it. She is in Hornsby Shire where everyone puts out on the one day, a much more efficient choice for we scavengers. I am planning to pull out the big woody rosemary bush (and the weeds and fern around it), then grow a new bush from cuttings, freeing up room for other herbs to grow there. My lettuce and spinach seeds are going great guns in seed trays, but I’m not sure if the strawflower seeds in the ground are coming up or whether what I’m seeing is just weeds. Time will tell.

Just got an email inviting me to a Carers Relaxation Retreat, a ‘weekend of relaxation and social activities’ with respite provided for John. It goes on to say: ‘We know caring for a loved one may be challenging at times and would like to take this opportunity to give you a break for a few days. The weekend is free of charge to our carers but spaces are limited, so book your spot as soon as you can’. Believe it or not it’s at the Fairmont Resort! But the ‘relaxation’ includes ‘yoga and meeting other carers’, neither of which sound at all relaxing to me. They almost had me in with the free transport and gourmet meals though. Why can’t they just take me there and dump me, I’d be in like Flynn if I didn’t have to worry about anyone else for a whole weekend.

September 24, 2022

Well yesterday afternoon was a bit of a flurry. John went for a walk, I got a call from Tania while he was away and we talked about her recent trip to Rome and Venice (great, apart from catching Covid on the plane). Midway through the conversation John rang and was lost, but I didn’t know the street he was in at all. Looking it up on my phone it turned out to be way past Castle Hill, but in a dead end street where all the streets off it were cul-de-sacs due to a nearby creek, so the only way out was to turn around and retrace his steps and of course he didn’t know how he got there. So I jumped in the car and it took about 15 minutes to drive there but he was in a bus shelter where he’d described. On the way home I pulled into the street with our corner shop in it and it was wall to wall police; uniforms, plain clothes on walkie-talkies and an unmarked police car as well as regular ones. It didn’t seem to involve any of the shops, they were outside a private home and of course I was itching to quiz them about what was going on, but didn’t, just got the milk and came home wondering. Then, after sending an email replying in the negative regarding the carer’s retreat invitation, I got a phone call from Leeing, the Hills Community Care Co-ordinator urging me to rethink my decision. I pointed out that John had been reluctant to stay at day care for three weeks in the beginning and then refused to stay with a carer on the one time they sent a replacement, so having a stranger come here just wouldn’t work. She countered with an offer to add another day at day care just for that week and suggested canvassing friends who might be able to come here or take him to their homes for the two nights. So this morning I rang Sue who agreed happily to stay over on one night and I’m sure I will be able to get someone who would be willing for the second one. Being weeknights rules out Davina coming. Sue was on her way to Sydney when we spoke as she flies to Melbourne tomorrow for a holiday and she surprised us by popping in on her way through. Now it really seems possible that I can go to this turnout, I am getting quite excited at the prospect, yoga notwithstanding. Maybe I can say it’s against my religion?

Made a fruitcake and it was just slightly underdone so I left it for another two minutes….which turned into five and now it’s just a bit over. I hate cake overdone, the whole smell and texture changes, so I’m cross with myself. It develops a bitterness and I just hate bitter, but I’m sure the middle will be fine. I was wondering whether the leftover Coronation Chicken that Davina brought would work heated up, but when I asked Chef Google he said that it is terrific over rice, so there’s dinner with a few greens on the side.

September 25, 2022

We decided at breakfast that seeing it was such a nice day we would do some outdoor jobs after watching Insiders, but John said very quickly that he couldn’t understand what they were talking about on the program (the first time he’s said this) so I turned it off and we repaired downstairs. I had a few little jobs down there that needed two pairs of hands but he said he didn’t feel like doing any of them, so I changed tack and did some photos of bits and bobs for eBay. I had discovered an old jewellery box from the shop that I used to keep all of the costume pieces in and some leftovers were still inside it, so I’ve put them on as a job lot of 9 pieces for $25, a good score if you have a market stall or similar. We had afternoon tea at Ryde with John’s ex neighbour Ann today, so I packed a few pieces to offer her and her daughter as gifts. However her daughter didn’t come and Ann doesn’t wear gold (or in this case case gold-coloured), so she only took one piece, a bead necklace. Afterwards we walked around Ryde park three times as we chatted so that’s my day’s exercise. Spoke to a lady who was walking her obviously impaired husband around and she mentioned that she works in the kitchen at Ryde TAFE where the chefs are trained. She talked to us about coming to their luncheons, 3 courses for $25, with all of the food cooked by the students. I remembered trying to get a booking there decades ago and giving up after umpteen tries, perhaps it’s easier now.

The man who is carving John’s chess pieces texted to say they are finished after months. Neil was doing the turning and Dave the carving, but Dave only did one and threw the job in, returning them to Neil, who kindly offered to finish them. We are busy for the next two days so we’ve arranged to pick them up the following week as Neil is going away for a few days.

September 26, 2022

I have realised that although I accompany/drive John to a few family and friend gatherings I rarely ask him to tag along to things that I want to do. So today I said I wanted to go to the Melissa Caddick inquest and he was happy to come. Just as we were going in I got a phone call from the lady organising the carers’ retreat and I didn’t want to miss that, or a spot in court either, so I asked John to go in and get two seats. When I went in he had opted for back right whereas I always opt for front left, perhaps because I’m left handed and he right? Unfortunately though it meant that we were far from the witness box and many witnesses tend to speak softly. Also we were looking at the backs of the barristers’ heads so I couldn’t lip read if I missed hearing. The first witness was an AFP officer who took part in the raid on Melissa’s house on the day before her disappearance. Her husband and parents are blaming the AFP and ASIC for her disappearance, saying that she wasn’t allowed food or water for the 12 hours they were searching her house. This seems bunkum as they gave her a document saying she could either leave or stay and she had access to her own fridge and food cupboards. Their barrister Judy Swan tried to accuse them of unfair treatment but really made herself look pretty silly, in fact she was corrected a number of times by the coroner. They videoed much of the raid and we saw some of those films, so it was pretty obvious that they were searching the premises carefully and respectfully, not at all upending drawers and tipping out cupboards in the manner of Windsor Police. John slept through much of the evidence but it was understandable considering the difficulty hearing. At morning tea time Anthony Koletti, who was seated with Melissa’s parents and brother, held open the heavy door for me with a smile, which I returned.

After tea we moved to the front left and it was a different experience with sound. The next witness was an investigator for ASIC who was a very impressive witness, never needing to refer to notes. ‘When did you get that email Ms Allen?’ ‘On the 14th of July’ she answers, never blinking. What was Caddick doing during the raid? ‘She was observed filing her nails from time to time and taking a nap in the afternoon’. Not quite the ‘torture’ her parents are suggesting. Clearly the phone was monitored prior to the raid as Allen reported that Shred-X had been contacted, so there was concern about what might disappear before they got there. She also said that the CCTV cameras were removed because Caddick refused to give them the password, so the film was viewed after the code was cracked by the IT specialists. All in all there was not a riveting breakthrough moment, but lots of little insights into how the system works. (Their risk assessment included looking out for dangers to the police and ASIC staff from things as obvious as aggression from the investigated right through to the less likely electrical and radiation injury!). The funny part came as we were leaving at lunch (there’s a limit to the torture that I’m willing to put John through). He wanted to go to the loo, so I positioned myself at the corner of the corridor leading to the courts so he could clearly see me when he got out, yet I wasn’t standing outside the men’s. But I hadn’t realised that Judy Swan, Caddick’s parents and her husband Koletti were going to go into an unmarked door right near where I was standing, some sort of meeting room I’m guessing. A little later along came a man pulling a suitcase (the attending solicitor?) who growled at me ‘So are you going to loiter there all day?’ before going into the room. No time to explain that I had no idea they were going to use that room, perhaps he thought I’d planted myself there to listen to the conversation inside? Who knows, but he was a very cross man who maybe knew that his boss had had a bad day in court.

September 27, 2022

This morning Kirk came to help in the garden and I got him to dig out the huge rosemary bush that had taken over the herb garden over time. After hurting my back last week weeding I wasn’t going to attack that job. There is a limit to how much rosemary you can use in a lifetime and I need space to grow other herbs. I can’t wait till John’s new funding comes through as it will pay to get Kirk on a more regular basis. Now I just need to pick up a table or two from council clean-up in order to have my pots elevated. Went over to ‘mind’ Michelle for the day after her knee surgery while Kev went to town for a meeting. Took some cheeses, crackers and fruit for our lunches and got stuck into the book group book later in the afternoon while Michelle had a nap.

Naturally everyone is getting into a flap over the Optus hacking and my account is one of the ones most exposed. Optus sent me an email saying that the hackers have my date of birth, email, phone number, address, and the numbers of my driver’s licence and passport. I haven’t panicked over it because there’s really not much I can do, apart from changing my banking password and lowering my internet banking limits and I did both as soon as I got the email. I will trust the government to go in to bat on my behalf and sort it out.

September 28, 2022

I used my four hours today to race to the Coroner’s Court and catch up with Mr. Koletti. Luckily they started a bit late, so I didn’t miss anything. Bemused by the fact that he seems to have many shirts in an identical and unusual shade of navy, either that or he rinses the one out each night. I am starting to think that the man has very limited intellectual ability and his weird behaviour may perhaps be explained largely by that (he told us that his father thinks he’s stupid, which may explain why the only support he gets in court is from his wife’s parents). However being stupid is not a crime but a disability and he shouldn’t be criticised for that. At one stage Koletti replied to a question: ‘Your questions are confusing, the way you talk is not the way my mind works, everyone has got a different mind you’ve got to understand that’. The form of words made me think autism spectrum may be the issue, but who knows. The poor counsel assisting tried asking questions in many different ways but he didn’t succeed in getting any direct answers, yet I sensed confusion more than evasion. He asked Mr. K. if he could read and I don’t think it was entirely a sarcastic throw-away line, a note to Melissa Caddick was tendered and the spelling was lower primary level. He maintains a weary affect as if somehow none of this tedious questioning is his affair at all. At one stage his barrister tried to answer for him until the Coroner chipped in “I don’t need you to repeat the evidence Miss Swan”, ouch. At morning tea, taken early because Mr. K. couldn’t follow proceedings, I chatted with Peter and Tracey, fellow court junkies each there alone, and asked what they thought of Judy Swan: ‘hopeless’ and ‘useless’ were the simultaneous replies. That’s a trifecta then. Perhaps she isn’t used to this type of proceeding, maybe her talents lie elsewhere, but her clients here must be wondering what all their money is achieving. Tracey pointed out a fellow who had had a go at her last week and lo and behold it was the same one who had said to me: ‘So are you going to loiter there all day?’. I said I thought he was some sort of assistant to the family’s barrister as he was following her wheeling a black suitcase, but I was wrong, she informed me that he’s Melissa’s brother. I had to leave by 1 pm to get back before John’s carer left, but I went 15 minutes early because Mr. K. was taking yet another mental health break, I suspect he will soon call it quits a la Barilaro.

Greg informed me when I got home that there are three weeks in October and November that he can’t come, gulp. I will need to talk to Kristy and see if she can get one person to do those three days considering the problems we had when we had a replacement last time. That extra funding would be really handy right now so we could get a secondary carer.

September 29, 2022

I seem to be living it up this week as I went again to the Caddick inquest this morning. Koletti came back to finish his evidence, such as it is. But today three of us were shepherded to Court 2 to watch via video, which I thought was odd as it didn’t seem at all  crowded. We were encouraged to sit in the barristers’ seats with headphones and a screen each, but I decided to ask the court officer why we were being so privileged. ‘Oh just to be extra Covid safe’ she said, which I didn’t swallow for a minute because every second seat in Court 1 always has a sign on it not to be used. When she had gone Peter (whom I met yesterday) told me that after I had left at lunchtime Caddick’s brother, who had been a bit aggro with me on Monday and with someone else the next day, was stalking up and down swearing and having a go at people who were not court officers. Apparently the sheriff was protecting us from his antics, which was much appreciated. I started to hum the old Dylan number I Shot the Sheriff and got a laugh out of him, the poor soul weighed down with handcuffs, a gun, communication equipment and whatall else. Koletti was as unreliable as ever, not only claiming lack of memory of events two years past, but of what he put in an affidavit last week. ‘Did you go out on the day of her disappearance?’ ‘No, except for taking her son to and from school.’ ‘But you previously agreed with the police that CCTV footage opposite Rodney Reserve showed you in Melissa’s Mercedes.’ ‘Oh yes, that was me.’ It turned out that he’d told police in his statement that he’d been out numerous times that day. I don’t think you can rely on a single word he says, but the reasons for that remain elusive. It is somehow comforting to be with another couple of people who have the same level of interest in this as I do and it was a change to sit with someone at the tea break and discuss the evidence. Peter commented that he feels very much at home in the Coroner’s Court and I was able to admit that I do too. I still remember telling my mother when I was in my twenties that I wanted to apply for a vacancy in the old Glebe forensic science lab and being told how strange and weird I was (I still am, but thankfully now I care less about other people’s opinions).

Had a word with Kristy about trying to get a suitable carer replacement for Greg’s absences and she recalled someone called Libby whom John liked a lot way back at the beginning, so hopefully she may be available. I told her about his somewhat sudden deterioration but there’s nothing she can do to speed up the funding. She suggested a period of respite but I am reluctant because the big change could push him further in that direction, plus I doubt I would get any say in where he went and I imagine some One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest scenario which wouldn’t do either of us any good.

September 30, 2022

I went to the bank this morning to find out what ‘two stage authentication’ actually is, but there was no help available as they didn’t have a clue either, which is quite funny seeing all the papers are saying we need to use it if our data has been stolen in the Optus hack, as mine has. So I’ve decided that I would have to be very unlucky to be targeted and I will just worry if it happens.

Book group was at Carol’s with six of us, three able bodied members assisting three who have mobility issues, so we were well matched. No one was as keen on The Caregiver as I was, but I’m not sorry I recommended it as I appreciated his wisdom all over again on rereading it.

I wasn’t able to go to the inquest today, which may be just as well. The Police Barrister Lachlan Gyles was having a sarcastic shot at Koletti, presumably in a tit-for-tat attack after Koletti’s criticism of the AFP, in which he asked: ‘You’re not very numerate, are you? You didn’t win any academic prizes at school? You were at the bottom of your class in maths and English, weren’t you?’. I would have found it hard to listen to this without comment, it was a pathetic attempt to intimidate a witness for no good reason and makes me wonder if Gyles was a police officer before going into law. Yet another barrister struck from my list of options if I ever find myself facing charges, Swan for incompetence and Gyles for being a bully. Caddick’s brother was making mischief again today and was told by the coroner that if he didn’t behave he would be tossed out, so he absented himself before she sent him packing. It is now in abeyance until late November, I wait with bated breath.

Tomorrow three of John’s friends are coming for lunch and I had written a shopping list for bread rolls, cheeses, cut meats, salad. ‘Can’t we have a leg of lamb and veggies, a roast dinner?’ said John. Seeing they were coming for afternoon tea but leaving the city at 1pm, I suggested a light lunch simply because it would be too early for them to eat before leaving home. John wasn’t dazzled by that argument so I relented and said I’ll do a chicken with veg and salad instead. He is so keen to impress them even though they’ve all been here before and I don’t recall John worrying about the food before. This morning he couldn’t work out how to open his phone, the first time that’s happened.

October 1, 2022

Whoa! I just lost the whole of what I’d typed for the day for reasons I can’t fathom, so it might be a truncated version now. Dally, Kevin and John B. are here chewing the fat after lunch so I’ve repaired to the computer. Dally is here from Melbourne for the Dally M Awards and the football tomorrow where he is a guest of the NRL. They are all lovely men and a pleasure to have here. Terry is obviously the missing person at the gathering.

Tomorrow we were to go to the Botanic Gardens with Dav and Co. but she has a cough and is worried about meeting with us so John wants to go out for lunch for my birthday. I tried Sails at Lavender Bay but it was booked out, so I suggested the Public Dining Room at Balmoral and luckily we got in there. I had hoped for a big party for my 75th but it was not to be so it’s something to plan for the next life. I was looking forward to asking all the people I wanted to be with, but not feeling obliged to invite any that I didn’t. (You can do that when you’re 75).

I’m not sure what else I had written and lost, but clearly it was superfluous to requirements.

October 2, 2022

What a lovely day. John kept asking when his carer was picking him up but once we got going he had a handle on what we were doing. He doesn’t know what has happened, or what is going to happen, but is across what IS happening, so as long as we keep things moving he’s fine. We had a noon booking at Public Dining Room and I was surprised to see that it was quite full when we arrived on time. The food was wonderful, especially the taster of Fish Mousse on a Blini with Cod Roe and the Cauliflower and Smoked Mozzarella Souffle. John was quite confused by the menu and asked me to order for him, he gave his meal 9.5/10 so I must have chosen well, especially his Spaghettini with King Prawns and Trout. They make a mean White Peach Bellini so I indulged in two and then we went for a wander around Balmoral until I was sure I was under the limit to drive home. A very happy birthday was had by me and John looked relaxed and happy as well. One funny thing happened when I recognised a waiter two tables away and he recognised me. It was Mark, the owner of my once favourite and much missed restaurant in the Hills, Trellini’s. He came over for a chat and asked what we were doing so far from home. I explained it was a birthday lunch and he produced a Happy Birthday message written in chocolate on a big plate, which John was more than happy to scoff. It turns out he owns Public Dining Room which is why he closed our local, something I could never understand. Another reason to make PDR a special occasion favourite.

Last night the bro rang, accompanied by his daughter Tania and friend Anne, so I was able to have three conversations in one. He has carers coming four times a day and his daughter stays overnight. None of this waiting 3-6 months as we are currently, he needs help so it happens straight away, as it did when Mary got sick. I think Tania said he was sleeping downstairs now and as there is no bedroom down there I’m assuming they’ve also got in a hospital bed or similar in the dining room so he doesn’t have to access the stairs unless he does so supervised by a carer for a shower. Things are getting pretty grim for him but there really is nothing I can do from here.

Strangely I keep thinking about Anthony Koletti and wondering how he is now he’s got a break from the witness box and the ghastly Mr. Gyles. If he were trying to edge Koletti towards suicide he couldn’t have done a better job. Perhaps my empathy is misplaced but I do feel for him despite his transgressions, minor or major as they will be shown to be.

October 3, 2022

Last night the bro rang again to wish me a happy birthday, totally forgetting that he’d rung the night before. I ended up in tears after the call with him saying repeatedly ‘we will be together again, won’t we?’ and reminding me that he had taught me how to build sandcastles on the Lincolnshire coast the year we met, ‘making up for what I should have taught you when you were a little girl’. Of course the upset meant that I didn’t sleep till after 4.17 am (the last time I looked at the clock) but luckily there was no need for an early morning start.

Today we went to Jane and Boris’s house for lunch and she had invited Martha and Lucien as well after Claude didn’t turn up yesterday from Townsville as planned. He missed the flight, a reprise of so many other journeys. John commented that Lucien is a man now and fitted in well with the oldies, something he says hadn’t occurred to him before. It was a relaxed and enjoyable occasion, our third day of functions in a row, social butterflies that we’ve become lately.

October 4, 2022

Today’s task was to go out to Windsor to meet up with Neil who has been working on carving John’s chess pieces. He was as good as his word so now the table and pieces are finally completed. Begun as a project for his architecture degree, he finished most of it at that time but didn’t finish carving half of the chessmen and now that task is past him. Later I planted another batch of lettuce seeds, the first lot having come up nicely. All of the coriander seeds that came up have disappeared and were replaced by weeds, snails? insufficient water? I’m not sure so I need to do some replanting. Today I also planted out the Clivia seeds which took about two months to germinate, but finally did. Mr. Google says they will take about five years to flower so I hope that’s an exaggeration. Went to Plantmark at Vineyard to try to get some white flag irises to put down the driveway but they had none, nor have the Digger’s Club or elsewhere that I’ve tried online. Wrong time of year I’m afraid.

It is a bit worrying that John is having trouble opening his phone, for some reason his finger is not doing it (mine still does) and he can’t remember the password, so having it with him on a walk is a bit of a waste of time. He regularly gets lost so he needs to call me to pick him up or provide directions as he’s also unable to use the map function.

I’ve decided not to go to Colleen’s for sewing tomorrow, there are heaps of little jobs I need to do and it’s faster when I’m on my own. When I need to speak to J’s doctors, home care service or whatever by phone it’s difficult to explain things as he’s always within earshot. Similarly when people ask how he is, I routinely say he’s well and leave it at that, when  sometimes that’s far from what they are asking.

October 5, 2022

Whoa, it was jam-packed at Services NSW this afternoon when I went to renew our National Parks parking permits, which I had tried and failed to do online and then with the help of a NP person on the phone. Services NSW staff are so helpful and so patient that I always end up wanting to give the server a hug. ‘So why are you so busy today?’ I asked naively and of course it was because of all the leaked ID documents courtesy of Optus. It is totally unfair that individuals or the government (ie me) should have to pay for all of this. Optus should be footing the bill 100%. I have had a couple of lousy little one paragraph texts from them all through this, none of them telling me much at all, but I am certainly not planning to get a new licence or passport at this stage of the game.

Castle Hill Medical Centre, which we attend, has let us know that their patients over 65 had an almost 50% lower risk of mortality compared to the state Primary Health Network average over the last 12-month period. Mmm, there’s something about living in a middle income, relatively safe area with an abundance of medical care available isn’t there? I am interested to see the figures from other areas of Sydney as a comparison.

While I am generally very impressed with the government’s progress on the national integrity commission, they are making a big mistake by restricting the public hearings to exceptional circumstances (yes I know I have a vested interest, but the point is bigger than my desire to attend ScumMo’s downfall). The only person who can and should decide whether the hearings are public or private is the person reading all the evidence, the commissioner. I have complete faith in ICAC’s past commish, the lovely David Ipp who was totally in favour of public hearings, the crossbench shouldn’t budge on this one.

October 6, 2022

I find I spend a lot more time thinking on the days I’m by myself, obvious I guess, but I must have my thinking time or I sorely feel the need of it. I don’t know how very busy people manage in that respect. Today I have been tossing around the thought that the press hasn’t yet (to my knowledge anyway) pondered the question of whether Charles will join/has joined the Masons. The Queen’s father was a ‘devout’ member, her husband apparently a half-hearted one, her cousin the Duke of Kent is the current Grand Master in the UK and the Queen herself was the Grand Patroness (strange in an all male organisation), this now falling to Charles. However Lord Mountbatten, Charles’ favourite uncle, was very much against The Brotherhood, so perhaps that will influence him. The Church of England, of which Charles is now titular head, has been a bastion of Freemasonry for the last 250 plus years, so that’s a pull in the positive direction. Apparently according to Stephen Knight, somewhat of a Masonic expert, in the 1950s there were only half a dozen C. of E. bishops out of over a hundred in the UK who were not Masons. They banned books exposing or critical of Freemasonry from sale in C. of E. bookshops and I understand this still stands. I await the Guardian filling us in on Charles’ intentions when they get around to it.

I spent a few hours photographing and listing eBays so I now have 28 items listed from $5 to $500 with the majority around the $20 mark. I may live long enough to see everything sold but I doubt it. The main thing is to get them into the hands of new owners who will appreciate them. One item is a medallion from the 1st Psychological Operations Battalion in the US, listing Haiti, Panama and GTMO ( Guantánamo Bay) among their areas of operation. It is chilling stuff as their aims show: “Operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning. The purpose is to induce or reinforce behavior perceived to be favorable to U.S. objectives”. Now I’m wondering if I should even be listing the bloody thing.

October 7, 2022

We watched the first episode of The Australian Wars on SBS on Demand (free of ads, what a blessing, perhaps I can go back to watching SBS this way). It brought me to tears and I abandoned the idea of watching two episodes straight as too emotionally wrenching. Only recently a friend of a friend commented to me that ‘you shouldn’t feel guilty for what was done so long ago’ to which I replied that I live every day benefitting from what was done, so I do feel guilty. I don’t know how anyone could watch that programme and not feel the same way. It was interesting that North Rocks got a mention as the site of conflict with Aboriginal people early on in the piece, long before any of the other suburbs around here had a name I suspect. Rachel Perkins is a credit to her father’s memory.

So far I have $265 worth of bids on the eBays I listed just yesterday, with nine more days to go! Of course they are all things of male interest, as per usual. I think if ever I started dealing again I would only sell those things that appeal to the male of the species, they are happy to pay whatever is necessary to get what they want. Pretty bits are a dead loss, even rare ones. I often had women in the shop asking me to give them a paper receipt for less than they actually paid for something, then they threw away the credit card receipt in case the husband saw it, often it was for a pathetically small amount. Some told their husbands that they picked up the item in St. Vinnies, but never once did a man ask me to downplay the cost of something.

Noticing that a protester in Scotland was tackled to the ground and arrested for calling out “Andrew, you’re a sick old man” as Prince Andrew passed was quite disturbing. No violence, just a bit of truth telling it could be argued. I thought generously that perhaps he’d been put into ‘protective custody’ considering the Royal fervour of the time but no, he was subsequently charged with something like breaching the peace or similar, I can’t remember the charge exactly now. When in Thailand I was shocked to find that criticising the Royal family is a criminal offense, the so called “lèse-majesté” laws: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The code however doesn’t include a helpful definition of what actions constitute defamation or insult, so it is a dangerous business to test the law in Thailand. However I hope that the public solicitors in Scotland jump all over this charge and give the young man and the population generally the right to heckle without threat, anything else would be a travesty.

October 8, 2022

It was fine in the morning but rain was forecast for the afternoon, so I accepted a lift to town with Jane who was taking John to the Art Gallery for the morning while I met my girls at the Queen Victoria Building prior to my birthday lunch. I bumped into them upstairs on the way to the loos so I didn’t need to text that I’d arrived. The destination was a secret so we set out from there walking west (I had assumed we might be headed towards Darling Harbour but I was wrong there). We passed Chinatown and headed still further west, finally stopping at Gavroche in Chippendale. An upstairs room furnished very much in the French bistro style greeted us, with some parts of the decor actually taken from Brasserie Georges in Lyon (which must look very much depleted now I’m thinking). The wine list was exclusively French and judging by the excellent two glasses I had, at the upper end in both quality and price. It was a lovely afternoon with my girls, something we rarely get any more. I am very thankful to Jane who took John out and then to her home for lunch and the afternoon. He was totally confused this morning thinking I was going to book group ‘no, I’m going out to lunch’ and a bit later ‘why isn’t Jane going to the book group lunch?’. We repeated this conversation or a similar one many times over until Jane walked in the door and we were off. My red raincoat, equipped as it is with its own carry bag, proved invaluable as it was in fact pouring by the time I was leaving to come home. Numerous buses pulled up and I asked for the QVB but the drivers all said a simple no, it was only when I got to the eighth bus that I was told that ‘buses haven’t gone along George Street for three years’, aaah so I could have got on any of the previous seven, grrr. But it’s so long since I’ve wandered around town that it wasn’t at all a problem to walk from Elizabeth. One the way down Cross St in pouring rain the paper gift satchel (in which I was carrying my gifts and some table scraps supposedly for the possum) disintegrated. Luckily I was able to catch the breakable gift before it hit the concrete but the food, some of which, like the delicious remains of a baguette and some garlic croutons may have constituted my dinner, splattered on the road and even I was not prepared to scrape it up. Now I’ll just have to go back and eat another of their delicious baguettes.

October 9, 2022

Woohoo, I am up to $400 in bids on the blokey stuff I just listed on eBay, plus I’ve had some nice email exchanges with people who are bidding. One man who’s the lead bidder on a Sydney brass tram ticket is planning to write an article on it for a transportation journal and says he’ll send me a copy. I so miss the interaction with passionate collectors.

I’ve just finished reading a book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by the American poet Ocean Vuong. It’s an autobiographical story of his journey to the US as a small child with no English, living in poverty with his mother and grandmother, neither of whom were literate in their own language and never mastered English, his mother breaking a pencil as she wrote “a b c” over and over, trying to teach herself the alphabet. He learned to read at the age of eleven and is now a professor of English, quite a journey, but neither his mother nor grandmother ever got to read his work. The book impressed on me yet again the damage done to people by war, he was physically and psychologically abused by his mother and his grandmother was schizophrenic, with bizarre behaviour characterising their relationships. It brought to mind the damage being done to Ukrainians and Russians at the moment and the profound psychological damage to Putin wreaked in WWII. Vuong is clearly a poet and the language is luscious at times. I was taken with the idea that that everyone who has ever lived has seen the same sunset: “Cleopatra saw the same sunset. Ain’t that crazy? Like everybody who was ever alive only seen one sun.” Or try: “An American soldier fucked a Vietnamese farmgirl. Thus my mother exists. Thus I exist. Thus no bombs = no family = no me.” The book covers so much, the material differences in the US population, racial inequality, drug use, gun violence, as well of course the plight of the Vietnamese. “Here, good is finding a dollar caught in the sewer drain, is when your mom has enough money on your birthday to rent a movie, plus buy a five-dollar pizza from Easy Frank’s and stick eight candles over the melted cheese and pepperoni. Good is knowing there was a shooting and your brother was the one that came home and was already beside you, tucked into a bowl of mac and cheese”.

October 10, 2022

Answering an email from a friend caused me to consider which people if any I’d have trouble sharing a room with. Of course the temptation is to jump to extremes, think Donald Trump for example, but I’m inclined to think I would stand my ground and argue in that particular case. The names of those who would make my skin crawl are all women interestingly, Michaelia Cash, Amanda Stoker, Hollie Hughes and Teena McQueen all qualify, but I would be more minded to stand and fight with men of similar ilk, I am not sure exactly why.

Although I am fully supportive of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in principle, I was somewhat shocked to discover that it’s not means tested at all and has no upper limit for benefits as does the Home Care Package for those over 65. I realise that people with profound disabilities need huge amounts of care, but it worries me to hear that the government is now thinking of including things like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in its gambit. I was recently talking to someone who was pleased at having just received a diagnosis and I now wonder, somewhat cynically, if the satisfaction had anything to do with the benefits soon to accrue. It seems that we could find a pathology for half the population if we tried hard enough and it worries me that in future restrictions will be applied to the absolutely worthy because the scheme is stretched beyond its budgetary limits. I hope not.

October 11, 2022

Lunch today with my cousin Angela at China Doll at Wooloomooloo to celebrate both of our birthdays. I had indicated to her in the past that Chinese is not my favourite food by a long way and she was keen to convince me that China Doll is a long way from your suburban Chinese, where the food always seemed as if it were cooked in a factory somewhere and dealt out to every Chinese restaurant in Sydney in a delivery truck. Well she was right, the food was beyond delicious, with no sign of chow mein or sweet and sour fried short soup on the menu. (This was the first Chinese food I ever ate at age 16 in Parramatta. On telling my mother with excitement about this new cuisine I’d discovered her reply was ‘don’t be ridiculous, you can’t fry soup’Smilie: ;). It was pretty packed but we sat outside on the wharf so that wasn’t a problem. We ate lots of different bits but roast duck and watermelon salad is something I will try to replicate.

Angela showed me photos from last Sunday’s wedding of her nephew, my Timorese cousin Domingos’s son Ibrahim. What a league of nations it was as the bride is from South Africa with Malaysian heritage, her two sisters are married to a Kiwi and a South Korean, all of whom were present. I think back to when Domingos and Callisto joined the family straight from Villawood after being evacuated to Darwin when the Indonesians were invading Timor Leste. They have made good lives for themselves from tragedy, divorced from their families and culture.

Professor Brian Cox got a short interview on 7.30 tonight with the lovely Sarah, but short is the operative word, five lousy minutes. I shot off an email telling the producer that we can listen to talk of recession, power prices etc any night but we don’t often get Cox’s wisdom, it was a bit of an insult really and I think his face showed it.

October 12, 2022

Woohoo, today I finished organising for John to have people here when I go away in November. Sue is coming Thursday until the book group event at Carol’s on Friday afternoon, then Jane will bring him home from there and stay till I get back on Saturday at a time to be confirmed. She thinks he will be less confused if he’s in his own home and I think she’s right there. Both were happy to help so now it’s just a case of not getting sick and then it’s all systems go.

This morning I collected bit and pieces to go to the Sallies and seeing I would be passing Brigitte’s I offered to pick her up for the ride, which she gladly accepted. I managed to get rid of an all-weather coat I was given which proved to be too small and a few bits of costume jewellery that hadn’t sold on eBay. It seemed light on but when I got home I found the blouse and straw hat that I had intended taking as well. We had a cuppa at Dolcettini’s and there was just one person serving, the other had been called away to her child’s school so I told the man behind the counter that if I’d been there alone I would have been happy to fill in for a few hours unpaid, to help out and for the experience and I think he would have been happy to let me. In the course of our conversation I discovered that one of Brigitte’s neighbours is the mother of an old friend of mine who is now a Church of England minister so I Googled him to find that he’s at Panania church after being at Casula and Liverpool in the past. David and I worked together at Sydney Uni until he announced that ‘I’ve been called to the ministry’, something he swore he would never do after growing up as a minister’s son. It took me back to our philosophical arguments while working in the fields of wheat at the farm, gosh it was 50 years ago. Must ring him and catch up sometime, though I guess we are further away from each other now than ever we’ve been.

October 13, 2022

Decided to head to the Coroner’s Court today for a look see, though I knew there were no vitally important cases on the go, an opinion confirmed by the total lack of press there, however any case is someone’s relative so in that sense they are equally important. On the way on James Ruse Drive there was an end to end six car pile-up involving three tradies’ vehicles and three cars, one poor sod in a recent blue sedan was stove in heavily both front and back so that baby is on a one way trip to the wreckers. So there were at least six folks having a very bad day. I arrived in time, before the Coroner emerged and noted that the only other people present were 8 or 9 police, uniformed and plain clothes. They looked at each other and were clearly a little discomforted by the presence of a ‘foreigner’. Finally one of the plain clothes men came over and asked, with a smile that was terrifyingly like Barnaby Joyce’s grin, if I needed any help. ‘No thankyou, I’m just an interested member of the public’ I answered. He tried again: ‘So you’re here for the Ellis inquest?’ he asked, ‘I thought perhaps you were in the wrong court?’. By then he had convinced me that I was in fact in the right one. It was a pretty simple case of death following a vehicle hitting a tree at over 140 kph late one night in Yass. However the police had seen Mr. Ellis driving erratically and called on a nearby highway patrol to give chase, by that time the fellow had shot out of sight and was subsequently killed hitting a tree in a single vehicle event. Despite my Googling the event with name, dates, location etc there doesn’t seem to have been any publicity that I could find and I’m sure they are hoping to keep it that way. The chap was driving at high speed, was 3 and a half times over the limit, on bail for other offences and in my mind I am writing a brief report to compare with Magistrate Kennedy’s, pretty much an open and shut case I would think. From there I came home to bake rock cakes and wash up many crystal glasses with a view to finding them all a home, a day of some variety.

October 14, 2022

Managed to get a bucketful of weeds before a shower of rain stopped me and perhaps prevented the strained back I got last time I did some serious weeding, so I decided to accept the hand of fate and leave it at that. We had planned to go to a movie, The Stranger, which is a somewhat fictionalised version of the book The Sting which I read recently and was very impressed by. So at breakfast and at lunch I went through the story with John, hoping it would help him understand the movie better. Off we went after lunch but when buying the tickets I wasn’t wearing my glasses……so we were in the wrong cinema which resulted in a totally different movie coming on after the endless ads, but by then I was afraid that the movie we actually went to see may have already started, so I stayed there and hoped for the best. We were lucky that it was Amsterdam, a most unusual film that I wouldn’t have set out to see but which I am not sorry we saw. Afterwards I asked John if he’d noticed any difference to the plot I’d described but he said he couldn’t remember anything I’d told him so he didn’t know it was the wrong movie. I’m not sure how to describe Amsterdam, perhaps as a black comedy about the true events prior to WWII when there was a Fascist plot to overthrow the US government. An attempted Fascist takeover of the United States is something one would likely remember, but I had completely forgotten that it even happened so the movie has done me a favour as I will seek out more information about the actual event. I’m sure that the director’s intention was to focus our minds on the events of January 6, Trump and the threat to American democracy, but whether people will link this given his humorous approach remains to be seen.

I posted off two eBay sales, one a 1938 commemorative coin and the other a brass finial of an eagle. The latter had a slightly military feel and could be from the US or Nazi Germany or neither, though exactly what it was once attached to is a mystery to me. The coin was cast for the 150th anniversary of Australia and after it sold for $15.50 I happened to see one advertised at a coin dealership for $85, so perhaps a dealer bought it and good luck to them. My Dead Man’s Penny keeps going up, now having reached $415 with the same two bidders pushing it north, so hopefully they will continue.

October 15, 2022

Dead Man’s Penny now at $495 with 18 hours to go. If I were of a mind I could game the system as I can see the leading bidder has another higher bid in the pipeline which will only take effect if someone bids against him. Who knows what his top bid is? But I’m happy as it stands.

I’ve been thinking about the Brittany Higgins jury and feeling glad that I’m not on it. Usually it’s the reverse, I am cracking my neck to be there. But the more the trial goes on the more confusing it gets and considering that the job of the defence is to cast just enough doubt on the accuser’s story, this is not a good sign for her. Under the Scottish system of Innocent, Guilty or Not Proven there is scope for the jury to say that they think it may have happened but there isn’t enough evidence, but this jury doesn’t have that option. Bruce Lehrmann’s barrister needs to find answers to the question about why he walked into Parliament House at that hour of the night to ‘get documents’ but walked out 20 minutes later with none. Why did he leave without the person he had arranged to be signed in? Why did he say she didn’t appear particularly drunk when CCTV shows her barely able to walk and unable to put her shoes back on? On the other side Higgins barrister needs to find an explanation as to why she refused to do a police interview until she had spoken to journalists and why she insisted on the story coming out in the first week of Parliament. She did have a motive to lie, fear for her job after her behaviour came to light. Considering the competing stories and no witnesses or hard forensic evidence it seems that a cautious jury would be loath to convict, however I’ve only heard part of the evidence, just what the journalists highlight to put in print, and there are more witnesses to come. But if I were having a bet at this stage I’d go for Not Guilty, not because it didn’t happen necessarily but because it hasn’t been proven to the required degree, considering the penalty is 12 to 20 years. As I said I’m very glad it’s not down to my decision.

October 16, 2022

Millie was on the sick list Friday night and Saturday with vomiting and was sleepy and generally unwell. We were going to go to visit her this morning as she was a bit better, but just before we were to leave she said she was too sick for visitors so we changed tack. It’s a constant battle for kids, getting one thing after the other for years, I remember it well both as a child and with my children, no fun.

Well the Dead Man’s Penny sold today ….. drum roll ….. for $567 and the buyer had more bids up his sleeve. Also sold were a 1966 set of pre-decimal and decimal coins for $41 and a brass ticket for the Sydney trams for $27.20, blokey pieces all. Unfortunately I don’t think I have any other similar bits to sell, but I am flush after this little flurry so I can’t complain.

After catching up on some emails I am now looking for a nice recipe for dinner combining barramundi and trout as I have a fillet of each in the fridge. Lurve mixing seafood, just wish I had a few prawns hanging about as well. I’m still thinking about the fish dumplings and prawns in a lobster bisque that I didn’t have at Gavroche (diner’s remorse), might have to make a return visit to rid that from my culinary wishlist. I could use one of my smaller sales to finance a kir royale (or two) while I’m at it.

October 17. 2022

I wish I could stop worrying about shit and only focus on worrying about important stuff. Yesterday I sent an email around with photos of some glasses to give away (drinking glasses not eye glasses, of which I have a few pairs as well). It was a case of first in, best dressed but I didn’t check for responses for a few hours. The first email was from person A who asked for the set on the left, so I immediately replied in the affirmative only to open the next email from person B who wanted the same ones. But she had replied within minutes of the photos going out so in fairness they should be hers. I replied to person B explaining that they’d already gone but got no response, so went to bed assuming that I am a bad person for not informing person A that I had awarded them to her in error. I am still thinking about what I should do, even though person B may not have even thought about it since. On the other hand she may feel quite cheesed off, perhaps justifiably, as the process was unintentionally inequitable. Why does any kind of injustice eat my soul to this extent? I know not, but I wish I could channel it to more important issues.

Today we went to see the movie I intended to go to last week and stuffed up the theatre number. It is The Stranger, a version of the events surrounding the undercover police case in trying to bring to justice the killer of Daniel Morecombe. Out of respect for his parents the names were changed and it doesn’t focus at all on the murder, just on the police work, which is astounding and a story in itself. I realised when it was over that I hadn’t taken a deep breath through the whole film, it was so suspenseful despite the fact that I knew the story well and hence the ending. It was filmed in low saturation colour as well as being mostly filmed in dark places or at night, it’s a brooding, gloomy film with full understanding of the idiom of the criminal underclass. Eleven out of ten from me with full credit to the amazing men who formed the actual covert police team and closed this case when it looked as if a man had committed the perfect murder.

An exciting day for Carly’s closest friend Dr. Lucas de Toca who, as I type, is at Government House receiving the Public Service Medal for his work in keeping Covid out of Aboriginal communities. Carly was lucky enough to go along as his guest. Quite an experience I imagine. I watched proceedings on the G-Gs youtube channel, without Carly’s tip I would never have thought he had one. Apart from a constantly fretting baby it all went off very well.

October 18, 2022

Sad to be informed that my favourite cousin in England, my mother’s brother’s son Victor, died on Sunday after a stroke. I loved Vic and so enjoyed spending time with him and Sandra when I was in the UK. He was the first person in my mother’s family that I met and through him I got to know lots more. When I was visiting the UK I cold called him after finding his number on British Telecom and he knew exactly who I was. He said he used to look surreptitiously at my Christmas and birthday cards to my mother every year to see what I was up to. Even though I was supposedly a huge secret as far as my mother was concerned, he’d been told about me decades previously, probably by his mother. A few weeks ago I wrote to him, a common way to connect as he wasn’t on email, but didn’t get an answer which was most unusual. I had been thinking that I should ring to make sure that there was nothing wrong but expected a letter to come any time. I have been debating whether to tell John as he enjoyed Vic’s company when we visited England, but I would have to explain in detail who he was and then he would immediately forget about the death anyway, so there doesn’t seem much point.

We went out to Fagan Park for a walk, the quietist I have ever seen it there. On the way home I had a funny call from a friend and as a result of my uplifted mood I decided on the spur of the moment to pull in to Wild Pear for a Peach Bellini and lunch (Barramundi on Beetroot Risotto with Roasted Beetroot and Goat Cheese for moi). We both gave our meals 11 out of 10, a score we’ve succeeded in achieving for two meals and a movie so far this week. A party of about ten women managed to confirm that this configuration is the noisiest grouping possible, but luckily there was some distance between us and the shrieking so I was able to avoid taking out my hearing aids.

October 19, 2022

John had a replacement carer for John today but Becky was just the ticket, telling him she’d had a lovely time and hoped to come back and take him out again. They went to nearby Cumberland State Forest, did all the walks and had lunch at the cafe there, he brought me a brochure about the place not realising that we have been there numerous times. I’ve decided not to tell him about my cousin Vic’s death at all, he’d either not know who he is or else be upset that he’s died, so lose/lose.

I am currently reading Talking with Psychopaths by British criminologist Christopher Berry-Dee. It isn’t well written at all, has numerous errors that any basic proofreading would pick up quickly and it’s full of self-promotion ‘if you want to know more about this read my book Blah or watch my Youtube video Blop’. But the worst thing about it is that, as often happens with people who are involved with crime for a long time, he has become way too cynical for my taste, expressing pleasure at capital punishment and harsh treatment by prison officers. He delights in US prison officers commonly addressing inmates with “hey fuckwit”, ‘none of this leftie human rights stuff’, he says. He refers to prison penpals as ‘murder groupies’, eyeroll. Did I stop reading? No I did not, because he does have a wealth of experience in the field and I don’t have to like him to benefit from that. While the common wisdom about psychopaths is that they emerge from a childhood of abuse, mistreatment and misery I was fascinated to read about one Russell Williams, Colonel in the Canadian Air Force and Commander of Canada’s largest military base. As a pilot he flew the Queen and Prince Philip, the Canadian Governor-General and the Prime Minister in the Canadian Forces VIP aircraft. But old Russell had a nasty evening hobby, breaking into homes and stealing women’s underwear, which graduated to sexual assault, rape and then to murder. One of his victims was a female serving air force officer unknown to him. So where does his psychopathy originate? We’ll never know. Functional MRI studies show that scans of psychopaths taken while they are viewing horrific, violent images show their amygdalae remaining dark with reduced activity, whereas ‘normal people’ show a lighting up in sections which are believed to generate feelings of empathy. It gets us back to blame; how much blame can we ascribe to someone born without empathy? I hope we will eventually find a way to keep these people safely away from harming others, but without the further dehumanising treatment that prisons provide.

October 20, 2022

Excited to get the chance to go to the Coroner’s Court today for part of the inquest of  pilot Gareth Morgan and his passengers Richard Cousins, his sons Edward and William, his fiancee Emma Bowden, and her daughter Heather. They had been on holiday from Britain when on New Year’s Eve 2017, ahead of Richard and Emma’s planned wedding in 2018, they chartered a seaplane from Rose Bay to take them to lunch at the Cottage Point Inn before a planned evening watching the fireworks on Sydney Harbour. Sadly, on the return flight the pilot circled unexpectedly then took the plane up Jerusalem Bay and it finally crashed there killing all on board. Tests on the plane found no mechanical problems and there was nothing in the pilot’s autopsy or medical history to explain what had happened. Two years later, still without any explanation, it was suggested that tests for carbon monoxide be done on reserved blood from the autopsies. Surprisingly it was found in all six, with levels ranging from 4 to 11%. The evidence today centred on what three experienced forensic pathologists thought about the causes and effects of these amounts. They were interviewed together (a process oddly described as a hot tub!) and all agreed that the amounts of carbon monoxide are usually tested in suicides, after fires or similar, so the levels are always 50% and above, however the tests are very inaccurate at levels of 20% and less. So explaining exactly what the effects of 11% could be is difficult, plus the blood was two years old and had been frozen and the apparatus used doesn’t give accurate readings at low levels. This was debated three ways for three hours and I was fascinated. At the lunch break the man next to me in court held out his hand, introducing himself as being from the Australian Transportation Safety Board. He said the after lunch evidence would be really interesting too and I so wanted to stay on, but the maths told me I’d only get half an hour before having to leave for John’s return from daycare. This story has all the elements of a novel: New Year’s Eve, an impending wedding, three much loved children, a pilot who has never put a foot wrong in his career and a family with oodles of money, but sadly that made not a whit of difference to their fates. Could I possibly go again tomorrow and take John I’m asking myself……

Back to the glasses issue over which I agonised. Person A decided they were a bit too fine and delicate so I went back to Person B who jumped at them because they were fine and delicate. She also kicked off the Bill Crews collection box with a massive tin of coffee and a clutch of cans of fish, baked beans etc. Win-win.

October 21, 2022

I weakened and dragged John along to court. He was quite chuffed and got dressed up in good pants and a jacket. I must have the luck of the Irish, because as we were going up in the lift, only two floors, a man asked if we were going to the plane crash inquest and when I said yes he announced that he was the doctor who gave evidence all afternoon yesterday. I said that I had left before he began and so he filled me in on all his evidence. Talk about personal service! He gave us his history at length: medical degree, joined the army, helicopter pilot, later forensic investigator specialising in aircraft issues. I think he was delighted to have a new audience. However I think John found today’s evidence a bit dry, centring as it did on how the carbon monoxide got from the engine into the cabin. Apparently any replacement parts are supposed to be authentic ones from the manufacturer, not random ones that happen to fit, so there was a long discussion about the bolts attaching the firewall, between the cockpit and the engine. All of those recovered from the wreck were non-standard (not even matching each other) and could have allowed leakage of gases into the cockpit, three were missing altogether. The person relaying all this from the witness stand was my pal from yesterday, the investigator from the ATSB and before proceedings began he came up and introduced himself to John and filled us in on what I missed yesterday afternoon, though I didn’t tell him we’d already had it from the horse’s mouth. I’m realising that these people are besotted with what they do and are overjoyed to be able to explain it all to anyone who will listen, in this case us, as the only two people present who aren’t already party to the proceedings. So different an attitude to criminal proceedings. One of the legal teams is representing the father of the little girl who died along with her mother. Presumably if he is funding a team in Australia to represent him he is planning to sue whoever is found responsible for the crash, again deep pockets allow such options. Apparently it will go on into next week so if the gods are kind I will get an opportunity to go again.

Currently reading the novel Bon and Lesley and wondering exactly why I am doing so. It is a surreal story set in a dying town in central western NSW with four characters who drink, argue, eat junk food, drink more, watch TV, drink again and at one point burn the contents of abandoned houses. Where is it going? Why am I still reading it? There must be a point and I am keen to find it, but somehow suspect I never will. However the characters remind me strongly of people I have met in the past, particularly through the shop, whose interests are negligible and who are substantially focussed on day to day survival. I’m so far into it now I may as well continue.

October 22, 2022

Enjoyed the Farmer’s Market at Castle Hill this morning, coming home with lots of fresh goodies and an empty wallet, some of the cheeses (which I resisted) were $12 or $15 for a piece. Since then I’ve been cooking for visitors coming for lunch tomorrow, so the place is full of mess and a pile of washing up. But at 2 pm John’s friends from Melbourne rang to say they were coming at 3 pm for a cuppa, so there’s been a whirlwind of vaccing and kitchen cleaning. Not a piece of anything to give them I’m afraid so they’ve had to be content with packet biscuits. I had a pav cooling in the oven but it ain’t going to be cut today.

Doing a bit of a Google search on my new pal Duncan, the lead investigator from the ATSB, and discovered that he was instrumental in the hunt for MH370. Gosh I would love to invite the three of them here for a meal, especially seeing they are all put up in hotels and away from home, but the next few days are spoken for and they may misconstrue the invitation. I’d be happy to talk about any topic with them, such an interesting bunch they are.

I finished Bon and Lesley and am none the wiser. There are three themes that I identified with, firstly the way we take beautiful natural places and deface them with ugly service stations, shopping malls, Colourbond fences and whatever else. Secondly the appalling stuff that passes for food for some people, the ‘meals’ described are cringe-making ‘a packet of cabanossi, a bag of lettuce and some finger buns’ although others were worse, from memory hot chips, a packet of Burger Rings and some dried wasabi peas was one, anything available close by and cheap seemed to be the criteria. Thirdly the totally depressing and dysfunctional rum-soaked lives that he’s describing: ‘Freedom is having a job and not being bashed’. These four can’t manage a job between them (apart from at one point being paid to pointlessly torch abandoned houses) and freedom is hardly a word I’d use to describe their lifestyles. However I still struggle with the motivation for this book, though I may find that he’s a genius, that the surreal parts have some deep psychoanalytic reasoning, but I’m just not smart enough to interpret it.

October 23, 2022

Enjoyed lunch with Boris and Jane, did Bobotie with Ginger Coconut Rice and sides of asparagus and a salad, plus a pav to finish. They brought a lovely pinot noir which went perfectly. It finally rained as forecast so I was pleased for the basil and lettuce that I planted. I had to smile at something I saw on Facebook today “Some people want a big house, expensive car and designer clothes. Others have a garden where they can avoid those people”.

I wish I could keep my focus on the important parts of a story but I’m afraid that during Liz Truss’s famous resignation speech I couldn’t take my eyes of that god-awful podium. Who on earth thought that could be attractive? It was a different one to the one Boris always used so I wonder if it’s just been made? There is a fence on the way to Killcare that I try to avoid looking at which has a similar design and somehow I always have to look to see if it’s been bulldozed, though sadly not.

It was very interesting to watch the program about Medicare fraud and it reminded me of something that happened a few years back. A doctor whom I knew as a client and with whom I became friendly told me he was looking for a receptionist and shortly after the wife of a Group Captain from the air base told me she was looking for work so I introduced them. She got the job and a few weeks later I asked her how it was going. She confided that the doctor was running a counselling practice, no medical appointments were accepted, but once she realised this she pointed out that having clients attending for long sessions every week couldn’t be charged to Medicare as GP appointments under the rules. She said if he continued she would have to resign as she didn’t want to be caught up in Medicare fraud. He let her go and went his merry way. Only later I remembered his telling me that he never wanted to be a doctor but his famous medico father pushed him in that direction, he’d always wanted to be a psychologist or a counsellor and finally he had the bucks behind him to do what he’d missed out on earlier in his career.

October 24, 2022

With the obvious proviso that I wasn’t in court to hear the evidence, I am somewhat encouraged to hear that it’s taking the Lehrmann jury a long time to decide his fate. Sentencing someone for 12 to 20 years is an onerous task and they are right to take all the time they need, you’d need to be damned sure with that amount of time hanging over the person’s head. I am betting on a hung jury and I myself am a hung jury in this case, swaying back and forth as arguments were played out one way and another.

I’ve lived all my life with the ‘blood’s thicker than water’ idea in my mind but it seems that still isn’t enough, even when you’ve got the blood presence is also required apparently. My brother wasn’t answering his phone for a long time earlier in the year and I finally found that he was in hospital. I explained to his daughter that is difficult being so far away and not knowing what’s happening and I gave her my email address so she can notify me easily and without cost, which she indicated she was very happy to do. For the last two weeks there’s been no answer yet again, and no call or email, so I stayed awake till 2 am to try ringing at a different time to usual. Still no answer so I rang Anne and she was shocked that I hadn’t been told: he’s been in hospital for two weeks. Apparently he had carers coming four times a day, plus his daughter staying over every night, yet Kenneth got it into his head that he needed to go to the corner shop, Sharma’s, to get milk even though there was always milk in the fridge. Despite being told that it was too dangerous for him to leave the house, after the carers left he headed to Sharma’s but only made it half way up the driveway before falling and either breaking his hip or his femur, Anne wasn’t sure which. He lay there until his daughter arrived, no one apparently passed by in the street so it probably wasn’t too long, and an ambulance was called. I can’t imagine that he’s going to be allowed home after this as he’s confused as well as physically weak. He has rung Anne from hospital to say that no one ever visits despite his daughter going every day and he rings her on his mobile to complain that he can’t find his phone. As he turns 89 in December I think he’s headed to care, something he will rail against. A sad end for someone so intellectually brilliant.

October 25, 2022

Went to Plants Plus at the Forestry to ask advice about my pathetically sad Michelia which keeps growing but has hardly any leaves and has never had a flower in the four or five years I’ve had it. The young man looked at the photo and said that I shouldn’t have let grass grow up to the trunk, it’s taking all the goodness out of the soil before the tree gets any, so I will try clearing the grass and see what ensues. I am thinking of buying a snowball tree but I’ll have to find a spot first. I did weaken and buy a tall white delphinium and took great care getting it home in one piece but as I was repotting it the main stem snapped, not broken off but seriously bent at right angles, which I think will end up killing off the flowers. Some days are rust….

This didn’t help my already flat mood and I got cross with John which he doesn’t deserve. He is constantly querying what we are doing so I get him to write everything in his diary, but now he keeps asking ‘are we still going to the nursery today? are we still going to be having book group on Friday?’ so it hasn’t solved the problem. Add this to the fact that the Home Care Package was approved over two months ago and despite three phone calls this week to see where it’s up to there’s been no return call so far (well not true actually, there was one when I was driving and I missed it). He’s been invited to a school reunion in the city and is very keen to go, announcing that he’d be fine going in on his own on the bus, despite the fact that he can’t find the exit of a business or the way back from a toilet. So I’ll take him there on the bus and pick him up afterwards, finding something to occupy the three hours in between. I’ll need to speak to someone about not letting him leave the venue for any reason, everything seems to involve so much planning these days. I’d better shut up, it’s just a whinge fest today.

October 26, 2022

Had an appointment with Bob today to appraise him of the fact that I self-medicated with antibiotics for a suspected UTI and he was fully supportive of that. (The antibiotics are a couple of years out of date but Dr. Google assures me that they only lose 5% efficacy per year after expiry so I wasn’t too worried about that). The drastic improvement signifies that I was right about the cause of the pain and he’s organised for pathology to be done after two courses of antibiotics. He had a doctor with him whom he is supervising, a middle aged Indian man, so I suspect he’s a migrant applying to practise here, but that’s only a guess. Bob introduced me as one of his oldest patients, having been in his care since 1978 when he started in Castle Hill. Of course the My Aged Care people rang in the middle of my consult with Bob as I’d predicted. However I managed to get onto them again later and he is still on a wait time of 1-3 months to get to Level 3. I told her that he’s much worse than he was at the assessment and the paperwork says that he’s approved for Level 2 so I tried to get that instituted while we are waiting. But that’s not a goer as Level 2 packages are currently on a 6 month wait time and would not be actioned until after we were already on Level 3. But she said she would try to get him moved from Medium Priority to High Priority and if it’s approved that should speed things up. I had a bad day with him yesterday and that’s motivated me to persist and try to get something moving. I felt so under the pump last night that I didn’t even watch the budget as I couldn’t handle any bad news.

My friend who is in an ongoing legal contretemps with his siblings over his house is almost on his uppers financially. He’s gone from $220,000 in the bank to zero and it’s all gone in legal fees over a number of years. He built his house on his parents’ land with a granny flat for them, at their request, but after he’d been looking after them for many years his father changed his will leaving the land, and therefore the house, to his two siblings. Both parents are now dead and as well as suing him for the house they are now asking for $200,000 in back rent for a house he paid to have built. They are using top lawyers and when one move fails they just begin another. I fear for my friend’s sanity as he can talk of nothing else and he rings me almost every day going over some legal detail (this didn’t help my state of mind yesterday when other things were going wrong). He is so much more au fait with it all than I am, yet he asks me for advice and I’m never sure if I’m helping or giving him a bum steer. He feels he’s looking bankruptcy in the eye at the moment. Affidavit, subpoena, caveat and mediation have become words I am unfortunately listening to many times a week, but I’m reluctant to refuse these discussions as his mental state is deteriorating. Perhaps that’s how they are hoping to win, if he collapses and simply can’t go on. Porsche- driving mongrels doesn’t even come close.

October 27, 2022

What a disaster of an outcome in the Lehrmann trial. It couldn’t be worse really than a dismissed jury at the very end of proceedings. One of them is not telling the truth, either the accuser or the defendant, and the innocent party will now suffer for many months before the thing is retried. I thought they were heading for a hung jury, but even that is a better option than what’s occurred now, as with that the ACT legal eagles would have decided whether to have another go at trial, but the way I read this is that it will be retried in February. What a mess.

My friend who is in dispute with his siblings over property has told me today that the Supreme Court judge shook his head in disbelief at the amount being contested, about $3 million. His comment was that he’d never seen the big-shot barrister representing the siblings in any case worth under $30 million (he used the barrister’s name which I won’t). It makes you wonder if gold’s been found beneath the soil of the disputed five acres.

I chuffed off to the Coroner’s Court this morning and sat at the end of the front row only to hear Duncan calling ‘We’ve missed you’ and motioning to a seat next to the ATSB team. He briefly filled me in on what I’d missed before the Coroner arrived. The witness today was the Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (or Lammy as they pronounce the acronym) employed by AirAg, who were responsible for the repair and maintenance to the plane which crashed. It was at times disturbing testimony, although I thought the witness was an honest and credible one. He explained his using the wrong, and not permitted, bolts in question as being because ‘I didn’t have any of the approved ones so I used the ones in my toolkit that I thought should do the job’. He reported replacing aluminium parts in the engine with rubber hose, ‘because I didn’t have any of the right aluminium bits and pieces that didn’t have damage to them’. Counsel assisting asked if he realised that in each case he was breaking Civil Aviation Safety Authority rules, to which he answered ‘yes’ both times without trying to defend himself. I’m not sure about the penalties for these breaches, but surely there must be some. No accident has just one genesis, it always seems to be a cascade of things coming together, but today I think we saw one of those clearly exposed.

October 28, 2022

Because Endeavour Energy chose to replace a nearby power pole on book group day, we were forewarned that there would be no power from 8 am till 4 pm and it took them all of that time. As I result I did the cooking yesterday: an old fave, a Blueberry Almond cake, as well as a new recipe for Pear and Oat Slice, which didn’t look too exciting so I won’t do it again. John judged it ‘okay’ which makes it not worth the trouble in my opinion, although others at book group seemed to like it. It was annoying that Optus and the burglar alarm company wanted to know why I had no power but I guess that’s what they are being paid for. More of a problem is that I can never remember how to turn off the annoying power interference warning beeps from the alarm, so I always have to hunt out the instruction book to work out how to stop it. The street was full of about ten trucks and four wheel drives and some visitors had to explain to the men why they needed to access the house, important when three of our number were using a cane or a walker and one had luggage in order to stay the night. The meeting went well and the discussion was interesting, most of us found the book tongue in cheek and very funny but though Martha enjoyed it, she read it without seeing it as humorous and put that down to the difference between the American and British/Australian sense of humour. We discussed the lengthy passages on literary theories, especially deconstructionism, which I read in the novel as being as send-up of these latter day approaches to literature. All-in-all a good meeting I thought. John was tea and coffee server and then went for a walk during the discussion but Sue told me later that he’d got lost and had to ask a man to direct him home. Sue brought a ready prepared dinner which she’d made at home, all we had to do was to pop it in the oven and delicious it was. As usual we chatted into the night over the leftover wine and made plans for next weekend when we are going to stay with her.

October 29, 2022

Sue was here for the morning till her mother’s 97th birthday lunch, leaving just after noon. Her brother chose the Saligna Cafe next to Plants Plus Nursery for a large gathering and I told her that the food isn’t much chop there but it’s a nice setting. She texted me later to confirm my opinion of the food, saying that her sister-in-law had commented to the waiter that the corn fritters weren’t very nice and he replied ‘No they’re not the best, but they could be worse’!! I had worked out by viewing the menu and looking in the prepared dessert cabinet in the past that it is a shop where you can buy food, rather than being a real cafe or restaurant. But they managed to have a good time despite the food.

We went to Erko in the late afternoon to mind Millie while Dav and Louis went to dinner and a show. Carly came to Erko from Canberra for the weekend to go to a birthday party on a chartered boat on the harbour and she had a beautiful day for it. She sent photos of people jumping off the boat at Camp Cove which I wouldn’t be game to do because of fear of sharks. We wandered to the nearby pizza place at dinner time and Millie enjoyed a bambini pizza and John a spag bol, his fave. My fettucine with pesto and (frozen) prawns was edible but that’s the best I can say. Unfortunately good food and ordinary food cost just the same. Millie insisted on John reading the bedtime story as she usually does. John had been so good on book group day and during the day today, but the separate nights out for the girls just wouldn’t settle in his mind. So he spent all the evening asking if Carly is in Canberra or Sydney, whether she is with Davina at the concert, if Davina is on the boat and every other possible permutation of where they each were, ending with Carly’s arrival home and his asking her at near midnight whether she was catching a plane back tonight. I was glad to get home.

October 30, 2022

This morning Arvind gave us a barrowload of good composty soil to fill the narrow gap between the driveway and the fence. I intended to plant white Dutch irises there but I’ve missed the boat timewise. Michelle offered me some reddish ones that are excess to her requirements if we wanted to dig them up, but I have my heart set on white flowers. I have also been thinking about the delicious snowball trees we saw in flower at Fagan Park and decided to go back to the nursery this morning and get one. As well I bought a packet of 1250 Alyssum seeds to put in the narrow garden, I just love them and they are so hardy. John was digging a hole alongside Arvind’s back fence to replant a dwarf conifer to make room for the snowball. Arvind’s head popped over the fence looking a bit concerned. ‘What are you planting there John?’ ‘Oh a pine tree Arvind’. ‘How big does it grow?’ he asked with some disquiet. ‘It’s like that one there’, says John, pointing to a conifer in the yard that’s at least 25 metres high, probably more. The look on Arvind’s face was priceless before I corrected the estimation of height to about 1 metre.

I have long thought that my brother and Vladimir Putin share some physical characteristics such as size, body conformation, movement style and there is some facial similarity. When Sue was here she saw the photo of both of us on my desk and was astonished, saying that it looked like a phot with me and Putin. I’d better not let the right wing press see it or I could be in trouble. Speaking of which, Fox News is blaming Biden for the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband and the potential attempt to murder her. He’s too soft on crime they chortle, not blaming at all the Q Anon madness and Trumpism which festers in the US. It’s getting to the point that the society could become (has become?) irrecoverable, something unimaginable just 20 or 30 years ago.

October 31, 2022

Well I sent some fuel to waste today, totally unintentionally. I really wanted to hear the summing up of the seaplane inquest so I dragged John (quite willingly, he dressed up) over to Lidcombe. As soon as we entered court I knew we were in trouble, wrong barristers and no Duncan. They unexpectedly wrapped up on Friday while we were book grouping. Expected findings in April 2023. Later today I discovered that the expanded Barilaro inquiry is back on, broadcast from State Parliament House, but I missed that and will miss it again tomorrow as we have other plans. But at least today I got 1250 Alyssum seeds planted (sounds so much better than one packet). I deliberately planted them before the rain expected at 1 pm, for which at 9.25 pm we are still waiting.

I am currently reading The Witness by an American woman who speaks for defendants in the mitigation phase of trials, where the accused has been found guilty and is facing the death penalty. It’s sad when victory is seen as getting LWOP, life without parole. I’m not far enough into the book to give an opinion, but I was interested in the opening comment that: “All capital murder cases are decided upon the emotional reaction of jurors to evidence presented to them. Jurors then search the evidence for facts which support their emotional decision”. This makes a need for a spectacle, a dramatisation which may or may not be accurate, but could sway a juror. With the prosecution batting first and showing gruesome autopsy and crime scene photos, perhaps that’s when juror’s minds are made up, before the defence even stands up. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it certainly makes the defence’s job difficult if it is. She states: “In over a hundred capital murder cases I’ve worked on about 97 per cent had very poor attachments with their parents or parent figure”. The idea is not rocket science, but the figure surprisingly high.

Louis, who loves dressing up as much as any gay man, made an elaborate outfit for himself and Millie for Hallowe’en tonight. I haven’t see the movie, but it’s a Ghostbusters theme with Louis in a blow-up ghost outfit and Millie in a boiler suit with an elaborate backpack, a proton pack with particle thrower, designed and made by Louis. He’s a dress up genius. One sorry incident was when Millie got a trick instead of a treat, an onion, and sobbed because she didn’t understand, though apparently that was short-lived.

November 1, 2022

Tell me it isn’t so, it can’t be November! Today we went for a drive to Manly and Freshwater, doing a walk along Freshie Beach and watching all the school children learning board riding, water safety and rescue. How different life is when you live somewhere like that, always a beautiful walk to be had, your kids go to beach sports instead of rotten netball and the like. I made a big mistake when I opted to stay in the west, but it’s too late now. John looked sadly at the seminary on the hill at Manly and wondered yet again why he didn’t just walk out of the place when he could. ‘Four long years’ he said dismally.

Sorted out the food donations for the Bill Crews Foundation this afternoon and found a few out of date things so I replaced them with similar items from my pantry and we’ll happily knock off the out of date ones. I emailed them this morning and asked if any of their staff happened to live out this way as I could deliver the food to them instead of to Ashfield, otherwise I would take the boxes there this week. They replied immediately that they will send a driver here to get them tomorrow, so of course now I’m weighing up their petrol costs to do so. I hope I have enough to justify the trip. Another scrounge in the pantry coming up.

At Freshwater we saw the lines of people going into the Harbord Hotel in their finery for a Melbourne Cup lunch, but I wasn’t the least bit envious. As someone who always organised the sweep every Cup Day wherever I worked, I’ve gone to being the person who doesn’t want to be involved at all. I found a dollar on the beach today and John said: ‘Put a bet on the Cup, one dollar straight to win’ but my first thought was ‘What if my horse breaks a leg?’. Nowadays I just can’t do it. As Frank Hardy said in his book of the same name back in 1976, it’s The Four Legged Lottery, but sadly the horses don’t get a say.

November 2, 2022

Boris is a bit of a volcano buff and I asked him if he’d been to Peat’s Crater and Muogamarra Nature Reserve near Cowan. It is an old volcano, yet it’s rarely mentioned. When I was going one night a week to a jewellery course at the Gemmological Association of Australia in the city a few years back we did geology as a subject and there was a hike involved to see Peat’s Crater. The teacher was a professor of geology but I can’t remember his name now, he’d written a great book on Australian geology which I wish I had bought at the time but money was a bit tight and it was $125. It nearly killed me getting back up the hill from the crater and without John’s help I may still be down there! So sadly I wouldn’t attempt it again. The other students had no problems but they were all less than half my age and the lecturer had no trouble either, but he was as fit as a flea. The lecturer stopped every now and again to discuss the terrain and he explained that the only two gems that come from the centre of the earth, and are therefore thrown up in volcanic eruptions, are diamonds and peridots. He found some tiny peridot fragments on the walk and I bought a peridot ring soon after that as a result of that information. I already owned a couple of diamond ones, one with blue and yellow pave set diamonds and the other a black diamond. Gemmological people deride many of the diamonds now sold as gems, ‘champagne’ diamonds in their view are just plain old brown industrial ones with a fancy name. I recently read of some well-known person and their brown diamond engagement ring, gemmologists would shriek. I remember seeing one of the students slowly sliding her left hand under her bum during this discussion and felt very sorry for her as her fiance probably paid a bomb for her ring nonetheless. Perhaps I will try to get that book, now that I’m a pensioner and can afford it.

I am reluctant to describe anyone as evil, but today I was sorely tempted. Trump is spreading the rumour that Pelosi’s window was broken from the inside (denied by police), that he and the assailant knew each other (also denied) and intimated some sort of homosexual tryst as the cause of the attack. Trump you are driving me very close to the edge here….

November 3, 2022

It is John’s day care centre today and I’d hoped to go out, but the world thought otherwise. First there’s the Bill Crews pickup of food and then the pavers rang to say that they could come today to do the painting of the concrete around the garage. If the plane crash inquest were finishing today I’d have been upset but as it finished up last Friday it doesn’t matter much. So I’ve got some book reviews written and uploaded, a fruit cake made to take to Killcare this weekend and some watering and weeding done, but now it’s after 3 pm and John’s home and neither the food pick-up nor the paving men have eventuated. Exodus are on their way now and the pavers came but think that the chance of rain is too great and are coming Monday instead, so I could have been out on the harbour drinking champagne and eating oysters all day.

Sooo, the Crime Commission has nabbed William Tyrrell’s foster parents for lying to them. This after police had bugged the foster parents’ homes with nine listening devices and eight hidden cameras and heard her admitting to her husband on the phone that she had hit another child with a wooden spoon, after denying that very same act occurred when talking to the CC. I am amazed that the authorities gave them more children to foster when the coroner has still not pointed the finger at anyone for William’s disappearance and they were two of many suspects. I have a pile of notes here somewhere from that inquest and I was staggered by how many suspects there were. I am desperately intrigued at how the Crime Commission people got in and out of their home undetected. Their neighbours must surely be watchful considering the wide publicity about the case. Do they use some sort of burglar’s universal keys or climb in through tiles on the roof ? Do they pose as foster care authorities? Or something else entirely? It’s spy stuff really. I know an investigator at the Crime Commission but it’s hardly a question you can ask over a glass of wine is it? I’d happily ply him with a case to get the answer though, even a generic answer as to how one would approach the problem. I guess he’s the investigator and I’m not precisely because he’s able to keep those sorts of secrets.

November 4, 2022

I am struggling today but it’s been improving as the day goes on. Being forced to do some things towards going to Sue’s tomorrow is helping but I know if I were here alone it would be a bleak time. I’m finding the death of my British cousin Victor particularly upsetting as he was the person who knew my mother well and was able to remember lots of things prior to and after my birth. His mother, now dead, remembered seeing me in hospital and tried to convince my mother to leave me with my father as originally agreed to. Vic said he followed my life by reading the birthday and Christmas cards that I sent mother, sneakily peeking at them when she was out of the room, as my existence was not something he could allude to. The three ‘new’ cousins who contacted me earlier this year from Britain and Spain are his much younger siblings who didn’t know about me until recently. I succeed in letting all of this go for a while but then it bubbles back up when something happens, like losing Vic. “You always order fishcakes Maureen, every time we go out for a meal, you love your fishcakes”. I did them for lunch today Vic my love, nothing’s changed.

This morning I copied an idea from Facebook, planting seeds in potting mix in half eggshells, which you then plant holus-bolus in the ground or pot. I’m sick of putting seeds in the ground and just getting weeds so I’m trying this trick in the hope I have better luck. I know I’m not much of a gardener, so I need any tricks I can find. But it appears that the 1250 Alyssum seeds are coming up in half the time specified on the packet, either that or 1250 weeds. I should be able to tell definitively by Sunday.

I commented recently about the absolutely ghastly lectern that the last British PM used (forgotten her name already) and then noticed that Rishi Sunak (remembered that one) used a totally different one. So either Number 10 reads this missal and junked it or else they just happened to buy a new one. So I did a bit of a squizzy and discovered that every recent PM, I went back six, has a new and different lectern! Are they desperately trying to find things to spend money on? Or perhaps it’s another example of their grandiose and pompous ‘protocol’. I’d happily dispose of the old one for them, my green bin is only half full.

I really am trying to keep buoyant today, but when John offered to take my library books back and pick up the new one on his walk just now I unwisely agreed. The library books arrived there okay but he somehow lost my card on the way. He only took his phone in one pocket and my library card in the other, so how? I guess it would be worse if he lost the books, but these things add up and just make life wearying, however I managed to say it didn’t matter and hopefully someone will hand it in.

November 5, 2022

We left early and were relaxed and ready when Bob and Nancye arrived. We had agreed to have lunch at the beach to make things easy but Sue had felt energetic that morning and made salmon quiche and salad and rhubarb crumble, so we ate in style on the verandah overlooking the ocean. It seemed to be a laugh a minute and I think we all had a great time. Clearly Sue’s place is too clean as Nancye walked into different glass doors three times and then later John did the same, but carrying a jug of milk in one hand and a cup of tea in the other and almost knocked himself out, amazingly not breaking either of the things he was carrying despite both hitting the ground. But there’s no good crying over spilt milk as they say. I wasn’t happy when I was told that I had to have stickers across my glass doors for safety reasons, but now I can clearly see why the builder insisted, saying ‘it’s the law’, though it seems not to be so on the central coast. Mine would be less of a problem though as they are never as clean as Sue’s. Woohoo, the library rang during lunch to say that my lost card was handed in so they ‘uncancelled’ it. After farewelling our friends we spent a calm evening reading and chatting and I went to bed wondering why I get so stressed at home.

November 6, 2022

I woke at dawn to watch the sun coming up over the water and was very glad that I chose the ocean side bedroom. Unusually I was up before six reading my gripping John le Carre novel. When John got up he asked when I had bought this house and after I explained that it wasn’t mine he congratulated me on choosing an excellent rental for the weekend. After further explaining that it is Sue’s house and we are visitors, he thought about that for a minute and said ‘I don’t think so, she was here visiting us yesterday, but I remember waving goodbye to her’. Later, after speaking to Sue, he accepted that my version was the correct one. After breakfast we went down the road to Bell’s, a luxury hotel, which has a small shop attached selling their own bread and baked goods as well as many gorgeous refrigerated and dry deli goods as well as wines. I intended to buy some of the wonderful olive and tomato fougasse that Sue had served yesterday and which we finished for breakfast, but they looked a bit overcooked and too brown so I gave that idea away. The server explained: ‘We have two bakers and one cooks it more than the other’ but I can pick some up another time. Then we went off to the beach and sat watching the few board riders (the flags weren’t up today so it must have been a bit dangerous). Sue and I went for a walk along the beach while John minded the bags and my water bottle. When we got back to Sue’s the water bottle hadn’t come with us so I drove him back down some time later and it was still on the seat. The man next to it said ‘Don’t drink out of it because I’ve been using it to feed my dog some water’ which I was glad to know!

Bob texted his thanks to Sue for yesterday and mentioned the Laurel and Hardy events with the glass doors. John queried what this was about and despite Sue explaining about Nancye’s three bumps and his more dramatic one, he has no recollection of any of that happening, which is so surprising seeing we were all on our hands and knees mopping up the tea and milk off the wooden floor. It has been surreal in many respects this weekend and I can only put it down to his being away from normal routine. Coming home was uneventful but traffic was heavy and bumper to bumper from the Berowra turnoff to the end of the highway.

November 7, 2022

I wish now that I had stopped to pick (read dig up) some of the thousands of tall yellow flowers growing in the bush and on verges in Killcare, Woy Woy and down the highway as far as the Hawkesbury River. I didn’t have any sort of digging tool with me and along the highway it seemed dangerous to stop. Today Mr. Google tells me they are Ranunculus lappaceus which is a native Australian buttercup. If I go up again in the next few weeks I am going to grab some for my yard, they are so happy and bright, so I’ll put them across the front near the street. My eggshell grown seeds haven’t come up yet, understandably, but the seeds along the drive are looking good.

The driveway men came back today to paint the concrete around the garage with paving paint and they are doing the back steps for me as well, using my leftover house paint. I will paint the uprights later as it is not possible for John to do that sort of thing now. We can’t walk on it for 24 hours or drive over it for a week. Today I have been sorting out a few antique Chinese coins I had saved and I’ve put four of them on eBay as a job lot. I loved holding them and imagining the hands that have held them in a different world that I’ll never know. Because they used those large bronze coins with a square hole in the middle for hundreds of years, from the 4th century through to about 1900, I have no idea of their actual age but someone who can read the symbols will know. They could be worth $5 or $500 or more, but I’ve listed the four for $20 and I’m sure eagle-eyed people will run them up a bit if they are rare ones. John offered to go to the corner IGA and the bakery just now for milk and a loaf of bread, seeing I need to be here for the men while they’re painting. He’s rung three times asking again about what I wanted, despite my having written it on a piece of paper for him to take. Then I told John just now that I had locked the back door and put the key away so we couldn’t accidentally walk on the back stairs, but when I came in from watering out the front for no more than 10 minutes he’d found the key and opened it again, though I can’t see any damage to the paint. This is getting so scary as it’s hard to think of every possible eventuality.

November 8, 2022

Today was John’s much awaited school reunion so we went to town on the bus for him to attend. He had assured me a couple of weeks ago that he’d be fine going on his own but that was clearly not the case as I needed to help him even tap on the Opal card and finding the Castlereagh Hotel in the city would have been impossible. There were a bunch of men in the foyer when we got there who were part of the reunion but John didn’t know any of them, however I asked if he could sit with them till someone he knew arrived (it turned out there was only one other person attending that he knew). They didn’t look too keen so I hung near the door watching, just long enough to see them up sticks and head for the bar without him, which I thought was pretty indifferent to his situation as I clearly wouldn’t have asked the question in normal circumstances. So I went back in and took him to the fourth floor where the lunch was being held and had a quiet word with the organiser who pointed out to him the table where he would be sitting with his only other classmate. I didn’t feel confident in going to court as I would have had to turn my phone off and I wasn’t sure that he’d want to stay. So I took off wandering around the city, much of it changed since I last went in February 2020. The Hilton loos are always lovely so that was the first stop, then I headed to see how David Jones has shrunk to one building, seemingly catering only for the well-heeled judging by the roped off Dior stand as soon as I walked in the door. In fact the whole city seemed to be given over to luxury brands so it wasn’t very interesting to me. The DJs food hall is a pathetic shell of its former self and I wasn’t even tempted to drool over anything, never mind buy. Back to the QVB (luxury brands all over again) but at least the Palace Tearoom hasn’t changed. For lunch I had a roasted vegetable tart which anywhere else could have been dull and humdrum but here was extraordinarily good, as is everything they serve. Pumpkin, caramelised onion, tomatoes, asparagus, feta, with a side salad, oh my giddy aunt it was good. I watched with interest two female tourists who ordered high tea. They each drank concurrently a glass of champagne and a pot of tea, then had a green salad which they ate alongside their double-decker plate of cakes. Trying not to stare, but I did notice they they left the macarons, a capital offence to me, perhaps they were the wrong flavour to go with the dressed rocket? I resisted the temptation to ask the friendly waiter for them and regretted that it’s taken me two and a half years to go and enjoy the place again. Another good walk before picking John up, he’d had an okay time but said that as he only knew one person he wouldn’t consider going again. Are we in Canberra? he asked as we left. Bless him, I need to take great care from now on.

November 9, 2022

Lovely day today as although John’s carer had to be cancelled due to his routine hospital appointment, I was able to catch up for a couple of hours with my cousin Angela and we went to lunch at The Butler, self-described as an Ibero-American restaurant. It has wonderful views of the city from its open deck and unsurprisingly my outgoing cousin made friends with the waitress who has an Italian/Hungarian/Aboriginal/Irish history and is stunningly beautiful. They turn out to be neighbours in Potts Point and by the time I see Angela next they will probably be friends as she was already showing Ange the dog pics on her phone. Yesterday Angela had gone to lunch at China Doll and left the pub across the road from there at 7 pm after spending the afternoon with people she’d met, who just happened to be sitting at the next restaurant table. I love the openness that allows her to ask a person their background or why they are in Sydney and then take it from there.

I have been reading with horror the book QAnon and On and I’m afraid to say that the American pile-on that we’ve sadly come to expect is taking over here as well. It’s horrendous what is being said about Dan Andrews by his Liberal opponents in the state election, backed in by Murdoch newspapers of course. One ghastly woman candidate is querying how he could have broken his back falling down so few stairs at a holiday house in 2021, trying to turn his accident into some sort of conspiracy and bemoaning the fact that he was off on sick pay at taxpayers expense! I’m afraid reading that book has made me feel even more strongly about the fact that we need to punish people who lie in a deliberately unscrupulous way. Why there are not more libel cases seems to be because of the cost of legal representation, but allowing these people to keep going costs the society bigtime.

My heart is in my mouth about the result of the US midterm elections tonight, I am almost too scared to look at the results, though I’m sure we’ll be bombarded with them soon enough. Perhaps I will focus instead on the Medibank hack and see if any of my colonoscopy photos have made it online yet. I’m lucky that I don’t have anything medical to hide, but I feel for those poor sods who have undisclosed HIV, drug addiction or who have had an abortion. It is beyond cruel to even consider exposing people in those situations and I damn to hell those wretches responsible.

November 10, 2022

Yesterday while walking around Potts Point I saw on the footpath the perfect table for my herb garden but bemoaned the fact to Angela that I wasn’t in my station waggon to pick it up. Whenever I drive locally I have been taking that vehicle in the hope of finding a small table, hopefully glass and metal, but wooden at second best. So after picking John up I drove along Victoria Street to show him ‘the one that got away’. However he was convinced that it would fit if we could disassemble it, and we did! So now my metal and glass table is sitting in the car and later today we’ll put it together,  my herb garden will be extended by whatever pots will fit on it.

This morning at dawn my bedroom smoke alarm went off and I spent a while trying to turn off the noise on my phone before realising that it was the alarm. It was a terrible racket that would wake the dead but John slept through it and eventually it stopped. The mystery is that I rang the alarm company and they had nothing on their screens to say it had gone off. They only record one alarm in the hall, so it’s a mystery why the second one isn’t connected to the system, something I will ask on the next free service rather than paying now for a technician. I hope it’s the last time I hear it.

Woohoo, we managed to get the new herb table set up down the back and then I planted some coriander seeds in an unused ceramic water filter. I love using oddball stuff that wasn’t designed for plants. I asked my neighbour about the Return and Earn app and now I’ve downloaded it I can scan bottles to test whether they are accepted by the system. Mostly they are John’s kombucha ones, and yes they can go into the reverse vending machine for reuse which is great, as I’ve got crates of them under the house.

November 11, 2022

I don’t know where to start with my bitches today, but let’s give Senator Jacinta Price that dubious honour. She objects to a government plan to appoint an ambassador to represent Australia’s Aboriginal people, referring to government Senator Wong’s Malaysian background and asking effectively if she would be happy to have an ambassador representing the Asian community. Hang on, last time I looked at history the Aboriginal folk were the original people of this land, not the Malaysians, so her smart aleck remark is a nonsense, but that won’t stop her I’m sure.

Next we have Kelsey Turner, an American woman who killed a child psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Burchard, who had been paying her $3200 monthly rental for over a year. He made the mistake of telling her face to face that he could no longer afford to pay and was allegedly beaten to death with a baseball bat by the former Playboy model and a former beau. (How long does it take to kill someone that way? Long enough to change one’s mind and call an ambulance I’d suspect. He insisted on being driven to hospital after the first time he was hit, walked to a car and they allegedly finished him off inside it). Turner entered an Alford plea which means that she avoids a trial and maintains her innocence but accepts the punishment of a guilty verdict on a second-degree murder charge. An Alford plea apparently means that you claim innocence but admit that on the evidence a jury is likely to find you guilty, this is available in all but three US states. It’s an odd concept to me, but plea deals seem to happen more and more frequently and I guess courts decide on accepting them rather than taking the risk that the offender gets off completely.

So Covid is well and truly on the rise again apparently. Tangara School had to close last week when 15 teachers and some pupils came down with it. My friend who travelled to northern NSW for a wedding last weekend got an email from the bride a few days later to say she was positive as were other guests, so my friend and his wife did a test and yep, they had it too. They had an unfathomable episode on the way to the wedding when they had a tiny bump with another vehicle in a car park, but with no apparent damage. They exchanged details but the other driver wouldn’t accept the licence on my friend’s phone, saying it could be a fake and insisted on calling the police. Then the driver and passengers immediately attached themselves to my friend’s car, sitting on the bonnet and banging on panels to stop him from leaving. The police duly arrived and verified his licence as genuine, asking if he wanted to press charges against the people involved in the incident but he was in a hurry and wrote it off to experience. Later he discovered there was damage to his car caused by their efforts to restrain him but he hasn’t decided whether to do anything about it, they are obviously people not to be tangled with.

Sue called in briefly today and reminded John that she’d asked him last weekend to show her how to give the last rites, but he’d forgotten about doing it and in fact he can’t remember going to Sue’s at all. This was discussed because he’d told her that the church says that as far as the last rites go it’s ‘once a priest, always a priest’ and he retains the right and responsibility to do that even though he’s a non-believer, weird as that may sound. In fact he has given them once since he left the priesthood. She asked him to do it in Latin but he’s forgotten how, however he did it with no problems in English. I can now relax about one of his friends choking on a fish bone over lunch.

November 12, 2022

Early trip to the Farmer’s Market where we soon bumped into Heather, she leaving, we arriving. The place was just packed with delicious stuff and it was timely with friends coming for lunch tomorrow. I spent just under $100 on fruit and veg, it doesn’t seem long ago that I was spending $40, but the bounty was so wonderful I wanted to start eating it right there. The baby truss tomatoes, baby carrots, raspberries and asparagus were probably the pick of the crop but everything was good. When we got back to the car the glass on the back tail light was stove in, but no damage to the car, as if it had been poked with something. Luckily I’m not fussed about how cars look but I’m not sure if it will be legal next time it is being registered, however I’ll worry about that next year. After depositing the goodies at home we went to Carol’s to help with cake-making although we left before lunch to attend to some chores before beginning the food prep for tomorrow. I did a red cabbage slaw with cranberries and walnuts which looks good enough to plunge your face in, so I’ve robbed a bit for our dinner.

In its wisdom our government has allowed 800 people with Covid to walk off a cruise ship in Sydney, advising them to ‘use private transport to get home’. Many people fly in to board cruises so they will be free to infect hotel staff, airline staff and whoever else has to deal with them. It is so short-sighted, if people want to cruise then they should have to pay for quarantine so the rest of the population is protected from them. When politics versus health, politics always wins.

First World Whinge coming up: I love bread, all sorts of different types of bread, but since the Dural Bakery closed down I haven’t been able to find a decent white loaf that isn’t sourdough. I’ve had Italian loaves like ciabatta and others which are all okay in their way, but nothing like that delicious crusty loaf with a soft centre like Jimmy made. I love sourdough with cheese, peanut butter and the like but with jam it has to be something like Jimmy’s. Sue was eating olive bread with lemon curd on it last weekend which gave me pause….oh dear no, but the only one I’ve found that I like in these last months was Aldi’s Brioche Fruit Loaf, which they’ve now replaced with Choc Chip Brioche, so I’m on the hunt again.

November 13, 2022

What a lovely day it turned out to be with David and Esther. We ate lunch indoors and then spent the afternoon on the deck. They were able to talk about their daughter Mary’s death and the lack of help they got from everyone they approached. Her psychologist and psychiatrist said they couldn’t discuss her at all for privacy reasons, even after they said she was threatening suicide. One of them actually hung up on them. We decided that in a future new administration Esther would be Health Minister, David Education and Science, John Social Security and I struggled, but settled on Attorney-General seeing the Feds don’t have a Justice Minister these days (no law degree but plenty of good advisors I reasoned). It is a pity they don’t live closer as we all get on so well.

I see that the Powerhouse Museum is doing an exhibition of Carla Zampatti clothes and it occurs to me that her very negative quotes about not wanting to see her clothes on larger size women (I can’t even find them on the net to quote exactly, but certainly remember them being said) are airbrushed from history. It seems, as often happens (think Shane Warne), that it becomes a sin to speak the truth about someone once they have checked out. I am happy to praise the praiseworthy elements of her career, but surely a retrospective doesn’t equal a hagiography? A friend commented recently that my outfit was ‘very much the fashion’ and ‘very edgy’ and although I didn’t say so, I thought that the last thing I think about when I get dressed is fashion, in fact I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about it. Fashion changes to keep people buying, no other reason, and seeing I don’t buy it’s irrelevant. If I am accidentally in fashion it’s a pure fluke.

There have been a plethora of people attempting to get off criminal charges lately (and succeeding) because of ‘mental health issues’. This is something that could affect penalty, but shouldn’t affect whether a person is found guilty or not, except when the person is so mentally ill as to be oblivious to consequences. It seems as if it happens with high-profile people who can afford expensive lawyers and judges are swallowing it more than I am comfortable with. I doubt that too many legal aid lawyers are getting people off this way, but I’d be interested to see the figures.

November 14, 2022

We had a long home visit from John’s case manager Kristy today. He told her ‘I am in a bubble of now, with no before and no after’. I think she saw how much he’s gone down as he couldn’t understand some of her questions. She’s going to push My Aged Care to try to speed up the already approved package. Hallelujah if she succeeds.

Thinking back over yesterday’s conversations and the fact that Esther had been in 10 different foster homes from the ages of four to fourteen. Her siblings had been in different ones, even her twin sister. Her brother was turfed out of a foster family he loved when he turned sixteen and the payments stopped. A trip to Canada a few months ago has enabled her to assist in getting her twin and another sister moved from a prison-like nursing home into one with very good care, it seems that they have suffered in the social security system there at both ends of their lives. It is hard to imagine the pain and the lack of support that the system imposed on them when they were all separated as children.

I finally got a response from my brother’s daughter, I guess I should say my niece though it hardly feels like that, after leaving a voicemail on her phone yesterday pleading to be informed about Kenneth. I got an email back saying that he’d broken his hip on the front path a month ago (which I knew from Anne), had surgery, was in hospital three weeks and is now in a care home for six weeks having rehab. See, it wasn’t so hard to type that out was it? The old downhill slide of the elderly: hospital, care home, ‘sorry you won’t be well enough to go home’. He will be doing it tough, he hates interference in his private life, even visitors unless he’s invited them, even family up to a point. He is a loner through and through so I hope I can get on to him there by phone, but at this stage I don’t even know the name of the home so I have to play along nicely, at least until I can get on to him directly.

I’m lucky to have a car. As we were driving in Norwest a BMW came out on our left, from Carlile Swimming not from another street, and we both slammed our brakes on. It was on John’s side and he swears there wasn’t two inches between us, in fact she had to reverse into the carpark to let me continue. On the phone? Daydreaming? I’m not sure, but it was the closest thing I’ve ever had to an accident that didn’t actually connect.

November 15, 2022

I have the gardener here and I was pretty proud of what we’d got done in the weeding and cutting back department this week, filling the green bin to the top. But I asked him to weed under the trees at the front and although he was willing and is doing it, he was pretty down in the mouth: ‘I’ve been doing that somewhere else for the last 4 hours’ he said glumly. But he’s at it with a vengeance poor man.

I asked John to add sliced almonds to the shopping list and I just noticed that he did: ‘sylid almonds’ he wrote. This from a man with umpteen degrees, it’s a shitty disease. I’ve sent my bro’s birthday card off today but had to send it to his daughter’s place as she hasn’t told me yet the name of the home he is in. Also sent my Indian friend Ram his birthday gift and card and an old customer of the shop has messaged to say he is collecting baseball and football cards if I have any, which I don’t, so I’ve sent him a collection of 1954 Royal Visit match cases which he can keep or use as swaps to get cards he’s more interested in. ‘Thanks mate. You’re a legend’ he replied and being a legend to Dave was worth much more than the cards and the postage.

It occurs to me often that being a good journalist or feature writer requires a very broad knowledge of all sorts of different subjects. A recent interview in the Good Weekend mentioned the art works on the walls of the home of the interviewee and made me wonder if she had told him about the paintings and the artists or if that was just part of his knowledge base. It brought to mind a searing interview a few years back, I think in the same publication. When the reporter arrived to speak to the newly appointed head of an arts body (Australia Council or something similar?) there was music playing in the background. Aaah, said the scribe, Andrea Bocelli. Yes said the hapless man, I love her voice and it’s amazing that she can sing like that when she’s totally deaf. The feature included those words with no comment, but I’m sure the man is still cringing, I certainly am on his behalf all this time later.

November  16, 2022

Well I had a call from Kenneth’s daughter last night and the news is not good. He is a difficult patient (that’s almost a given) and in the hospital they had to have him sitting in the doorway of his room so they could watch him at all time as he kept trying to get up, with a broken hip. Now he’s in a very small care home, only 8 rooms, and seems to be well looked after but his mind is still all askew. He was told that he was having a memory test the next day and Tanya found him reading Crime and Punishment, in Russian, and very upset that he wasn’t able to memorise it for the upcoming test. This is the most intelligent person that I have ever met, it’s a tragedy. I have sent Tanya some photos of us to show him as he isn’t using his email or texts, just like John. I’ve also asked her to take a pic of him to send to me, so hopefully I will have that soon.

Kenneth always told me that reading John le Carre was a good way of finding out how the Intelligence Services really work, considering that the author, whose actual name was David Cornwell, was an operational spy in both MI5 and MI6. MI6 would not allow him to publish his first novel, ‘Call for the Dead’, under his real name so he went with John le Carré, I am currently reading The Night Manager and as usual with his more recent books there is an underlying contempt for the American equivalent services, referred to in this book and others as ‘the Cousins’. I think the contempt flows too towards the UK spy services when he feels they are too often in bed with the wrong people. I am enjoying it thoroughly but disappointed that I can’t discuss it will Kenneth as per usual.

I’ve been thinking about Julia Baird and her ongoing absence from her usual column in the Herald and from The Drum on the ABC. I am assuming, hopefully wrongly, that her ovarian cancer has returned. It was particularly nasty last time and I’m not sure that I heard she was in the clear after her surgery, not that you ever know for sure with that bloody disease.

November 17, 2022

It occurs to me that while I am very sympathetic to people who have had or continue to suffer from cancer, it rarely occurs to me that I am also in that boat. Somehow my life is so busy with other things (perhaps this is fortuitous?) that I don’t have time for cancer, which is what I told the doctor when my results came through in the first place. I’m not sure that it’s wise to ever put cancer into the past tense, though many people do, but it has a habit of tapping you on the shoulder later on when you are having a good time. So I think it’s best to assume that once diagnosed, you just consider that you have it and get on with life, rather than pretending that it’s done and dusted after treatment. That’s best for my disposition anyway.

Saw Bob yesterday and ascertained that John qualifies for a fifth Covid vaccine so I rang to organise that and they asked me to choose between Pfizer and Moderna, a decision way above my pay grade I decided. So then I had to contact Bob again for that ruling and he’s gone for Moderna, which I would have done if pushed, simply because it gives a more diversified antibody responses, therefore providing broader protection. However I’d only read that in the literature a little while back, so it could have been out of date by now and I was glad to know via Bob that it’s correct. He has an appointment tomorrow morning so I feel pretty happy about that. Next I rang Link Housing to ask why John doesn’t have an agenda for this afternoon’s AGM online. She told me it had been posted by mail in October and while she was still on the phone I rummaged in John’s room and found the paperwork on his chest of drawers. I’m doubtful he will be across the meeting but it’s not my place to tell him that, if he can’t follow it he’ll cut the link presumably.

I see the contemptible Murdoch dynasty has switched horses and is now kvetching against Trump. Vanity Fair’s headline ‘Rupert Murdoch Knees Trump in the Balls While He’s Doubled Over Coughing Up Blood’ probably explains the effect of the change better than I could ever do. While some things like their headline Trumpty Dumpty could be mildly amusing it is beside the point, which is why a billionaire can call the shots about who should or shouldn’t be the next President. Speaking of billionaires I saw that the abominable and downright creepy Gina Rinehart was in the audience when the ‘stable genius’ made his election call. What a wonderful double they make.

I asked John if we had ever been to Eugowra and he said no, but when I saw pictures of the flood it seemed recognisable and I was sure we had been there. So I searched my emails and yes, in April 2010 we spent a couple of days in that little town and in Millthorpe. With 95% of the buildings wrecked or damaged it won’t look like the same lovely little town now, it’s hard to believe that a body of water could travel across country like a rogue wave at Bondi.

November 18, 2022

We went to Castle Hill for John’s fifth Covid injection this morning. He qualifies for the extra one but I don’t, however I think it would have been very easy to get it if I were of a mind as John didn’t have to justify his. I just told them that the doc had approved it and they took my word. Before that I tried to get Millie’s Christmas present, she wants a long-sleeved nightie, but the worker at the first shop asked what a nightie was so I didn’t have any luck there. Tried Myer who had some really cute ones but nothing in her size, long sleeves are all on sale as summer approaches so I am still nightie-less. Then off to Carol’s to work on cake baking with a small team, but I think we achieved a fair bit despite the low number of helpers today.

I went to write my review of QAnon and On and found that all of my notes about the book have disappeared. This is a minor tragedy as I’d wanted to go over certain sections again, but if I have to read the whole book again it won’t be a bad thing seeing I gave it five stars.

People are funny creatures and this has been reinforced during the week when John Didion’s personal possessions were sold off at auction. Everything went for way over reserve and some things went out of the park. A pair of her Celine faux tortoiseshell sunglasses sold for $27,000 (I did say faux tortoiseshell, otherwise known as plastic), her desk clock  “that does not appear to be in working order”, was estimated to sell for between $100-200. It sold for $35,000. A pair of leather wastebaskets went for $5,500, a Random House dictionary for $11,000 and a group of desk items, including scissors, a box of pens and a clipboard, brought in $4,250. A collection of seashells went for $7,000. I have been to auctions like this in the past, when the run is on it’s an exciting place to be, sitting there watching people throw their hard-earned at stuff they will look at in the morning and say ‘whatthefuck did I want an $11,000 dictionary for?’ Of course the resale value will be in the $20-30 range at most as the provenance has gone out the window, unless of course she had signed it in which case it might bring $100. Caveat emptor. But I must admit that I would have bid on the small drop-leaf table where her husband John Gregory Dunne was sitting when he had his fatal heart attack back in 2003, an event Didion wrote about at length in one of my favourite books, The Year of Magical Thinking. It sold for $4,250 and perhaps I am as silly as the rest of them because that seems somehow worth it.

November 19, 2022

We went on a nightie hunt at North Rocks K-Mart and TK Maxx but scored zip, so we opted for the other choice, a game of Monopoly. I already had a brand new one here, it was a gift, but it turned out to be an Officeworks version that looked the part but instead of Pall Mall etc it had Officeworks Blakehurst and Officeworks Parramatta! Not quite Millie’s cup of tea so later in the morning we dropped it and a few other things (a heated curling wand, a too-small straw hat and a too-small jumper) to the Salvo’s. Weird that I haven’t thought about Monopoly for years and then deal with two brand new boxes of it in a day, synchronicity. Also chose Christmas gifts for John to post to his granddaughters, a watercolour kit with paints, paper, brushes plus a book on this artform and a biography of Truganini for Aurora. For Tallulah we got a weaving kit and a Colosseum 3D model that you build. I hope I’ve got it right but with two things each, at least one should work hopefully.

I’m reading a memoir by a British neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, And Finally by Henry Marsh. He is a philosophical man who actually gave up philosophy at university to study medicine. He is somewhat shocked by his diagnosis and to realise that he had previously assumed: ‘Diseases only happen to patients, not doctors’. He realises now that his practice has always been to separate the two tribes in his mind. This causes him to reassess the way he has handled patients in his long career. But there are lots of interesting asides, such as a basic explanation of how an MRI works and the fascinating bit of data that up to the age of two all children can imitate the sounds of all languages, but after that they home in to the dialect of their background, so for example Chinese children lose the ability to distinguish between l and r. He repeats the famous quote from zoologist J. Z. Young that ‘We are risen apes, not fallen angels’. Loving it.

I have been thinking about a comment this week during a discussion about the release of Prof. Sean Turnell from gaol in Myanmar. I said that now it is time to release Julian Assange, but the person replied that ‘He should never be released, just like those ISIS women in Syria, he made his choice and now he has to live with it’. What is it now, 10 years? 11? 12? since he saw freedom. For the life of me I can’t see that penalty fitting his crime, if crime it is at all. We bleat about illegitimate locking up of people in China, in Russia, in North Korea, yet we feel morally justified in doing the same. The biblical quote comes to mind:  “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye”.

November 20, 2022

Finally got around to splitting my big orchid on the back verandah. I had noticed that I didn’t get the usual number of flowers this spring and then Esther remarked on the fact that the pot had cracked due to its growth so I was shamed into doing something about it. Now I have three orchids so that was a job worth doing. It’s as windy as hell here, I hate wind, bring back some drizzling rain (or even better mizzling rain as it was called in Yorkshire).

I’ve skimmed Van Badham’s QAnon and On again and boy, what a read! It begins with our own ScumMo and his QAnon pals but goes into so much more. There’s the Australian psychiatrist Russell McGregor who was struck off the medical register in February 2020. The NSW Medical Council had been alerted to his odd behaviour and theories and during the investigation McGregor produced 600 pages of QAnon material to the assessing psychiatrist, who found him paranoid and mentally unfit to continue treating patients. Some of the bizarre Q beliefs include that John F. Kennedy’s son, who died in a plane crash in 1999, is still alive and will emerge to support Donald Trump and become his running mate, this after having located a photograph of him with Trump. Others have insisted that Hillary Clinton was behind the plane crash that killed him, as well as believing that JFK was about to reveal the existence of a secret government when he was assassinated. Of course the poor old Jews suffer from QAnon, they claim ‘Jews function as dissembling Demons using their whiteness as a cover to stir up trouble among the subhuman dangerous base of the other races’. This presumably means black people for whom they also have their knives out. “This is the same old stuff we’ve seen down the centuries, Romans against Christians, then Christians against Jews, then Christians against witches, and then Catholics against perceived heretics”. Although QAnon embraces anti-Semitic myths it also includes the ranks of white nationalists and the racist Right, but it could be seen as people concerned less with racial supremacy but simply feeling a loss of cultural supremacy. In the US, Australia, Britain and Canada QAnon followers are “predominantly white, Christian, patriarchal, heteronormative, property owning and xenophobic”. In a QAnon piece for the Atlantic Adrian la France has described it as “the birth of the new American religion”. In 2020 a researcher was discreetly attending services at the Omega Kingdom Ministry and writing about how it functions as a QAnon church. It is a charismatic home-based Protestant religion running Zoom services focussing on QAnon conspiracy theories and the Bible (helpfully beginning with an opening prayer to protect the Zoom link from Satan). I was curious to see if this abomination had reached Australia and it took me but 2 minutes to find a congregation of OKM, in Blacktown.

November 21, 2022

The wind is really foul here, the price of living on top of a hill. Eucalypt branches that normally sit over the deck roof are banging on it constantly and giving me the creeps. My Acacia cognata out the front is being hit by the whippy wind in exactly the same way as its predecessor, which suffered a fracture to the trunk just wide enough to pass a business card through, yet it ended in the tree’s death a week later. So I replaced it with yet another expensive cognata and I will be cheesed off of it suffers the same fate, I’ve had to stop looking out of the window to see it being blasted and whirled. However I did suffer the wind long enough to top up the potting mix in the pots of the orchid that I divided yesterday, after making a quick trip to Bunnings to buy same. It was morning peak hour and it reminded me yet again not to tangle with folks late for work, I can do without testy drivers and the delinquent citizenry weaving in and out to get there 30 seconds earlier.

Last night I broke my own rule and watched commercial television (how do they bear it??). But in this case it was obligatory to watch the bizarre story of Renee Heath, the number one candidate for Victoria’s Upper House election on Saturday and a moral to win. Nine Liberal Members had previously expressed concerns to their embattled leader about the views of her and her father, the pastor of City Builders Church, but did he listen? No he did not. It’s another evangelical Protestant, tongues-speaking, exorcism- inclined, gay-hating church (are there other types of Pentecostals? perhaps not). This one’s a doozy though, in that the good pastor encouraged his other daughter to marry a man he was trying to save from a gay lifestyle. Mmmm, I’m afraid that one was doomed to fail Pastor Heath, as it surely did. Now they are spilling the beans on him and the Malaysian pastor who runs a global network of ultra-conservative churches which includes City Builders. These people are spreading like the plague it seems, or perhaps it’s that legalising gay marriage has brought them all out of their lairs.

Sue has decided to come here on Wednesday and stay till Friday, obviating the need for Kev to come and see John safely onto his daycare bus on Thursday morning as I’d arranged, so I’m busy cooking so that Sue has meals already prepared. I’ve written out a program for the days, who’s here and what’s happening, and put it on the fridge. But John keeps querying why he is going to daycare twice this week. When I remind him, he says ‘oh that’s right, you’re going away to learn how to look after me better’. Then later he asks why he’s going twice to daycare this week and we start again. Funny that I am being infinitely patient because I know that it’s only a couple more days till I go away……

November 22, 2022

Millie’s first tooth fell out yesterday and she wants the tooth fairy money to go to the Zoo ‘to buy more animals’. Kid’s on the right track. Although I must admit that in latter years I have wondered about the wisdom of locking animals up in order that we can gawp at them. Certainly the big cats, elephants and the like have very restricted lives, but places like Dubbo Zoo are headed in the right direction.

My trepidation about going back on antibiotics is playing out as expected, the interstitial cystitis is giving me a walloping today. It always seems to be that the symptoms come back worse than ever, despite the wondrous 10 days while I’m taking them. I’m just hoping it gets no worse before Thursday or I might be forced to take them again, just kicking the can down the road with a decision to suffer later rather than now.

A visit to the audiologist today was the first since Covid and I came out of it pretty well. The tests are long and interesting, though I don’t understand much of what he’s doing. My hearing isn’t down by much, a surprise, but he said that under government rules I’m entitled to a new set of hearing aids after the time I’ve had them. But there’s no point in trying to live with all my existing goods and not buying new ones yet expect Albo to fork out to replace hearing aids that work fine, so I told him I’ll wait till they play up and get new ones then. He was surprised and said most people jump at the opportunity to get new replacements, which made me more confident that I’d made the right decision. Albo will probably pop a thankyou card in the mail. Speaking of our glorious leader, I dreamed that I went to Albo’s house and he was showing me his huge collection of antique glass, all inherited from his father he said. Which is ridiculous considering his back story, with no father ever in this country. Terry would have put his psychoanalyst hat on to explain it, but sadly that will never happen again.

November 23, 2022

Last night I was as close as I could be to tears after discovering that the tube of one hearing aid, replaced by the audiologist yesterday, was falling out constantly to the point that it wasn’t usable. Try as I might I couldn’t fix it so I went to bed thinking that on top of all else I had to do today, within my four hours of freedom, I needed to go back to Macquarie University to get it sorted. But this morning I thought of Michelle who also has hearing aids from the same place so I fronted up there, getting her out of bed, and by a wondrous coincidence she had a spare tube for the left ear, which worked fine. A life saver.

I have been wondering why I have heard nothing more about the retreat in the past two weeks but then the organiser rang me today to get my car rego so it can be parked at council while I’m away. Apparently some people have had to pull out due to Covid and other medical issues so we are down to eight and the organiser. I think all are from John’s dementia day care service. So I’m packed and ready, bring it on! Where is the cocktail bar again?

What to say about the assault on local protestor and wannabe comedian Danny Lim? But it’s a curious coincidence that an old man carrying a Smile Cvnt sign is then thrown onto a tiled floor by two of them, as I’ve written to the SMH this morning. It was astounding to me that people were walking past and not intervening. The government who changed the name of the New South Wales Police Service to Police Force years ago did the community a great disservice as so many of their number take the word very seriously. Sadly only a person in uniform could get away with throwing 78-year-old man onto a tiled floor and severely injuring him, giving him a fractured skull and a brain bleed. without being charged with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm. And get away with it they no doubt will. The QVB is also at fault, it needs to lighten up and realise that Danny Lim is a loved part of Sydney‘s rich culture. The proposed snap demo this evening is a reminder that we’re not all cvnts though.

November 24, 2022

Well it’s been a funny old day. Of all times to get my Sjogren’s symptoms by the bucket load, it had to be this week. Sue was here overnight and it was a great relief to know I was leaving with somebody here who fully understands the situation and is capably in charge. I got away on time and boarded the minibus feeling wretched and drugged up. There are eight people going on the retreat, seven women and one man, plus the driver and two staff members. Unfortunately I had to ask twice for the driver to pull over so I could use a loo and no one else got off the bus so that was a bit embarrassing, but I’m used to being the nuisance unfortunately.We pulled in at the Three Sisters for a while and then went off to the Hydro at Medlow Bath for an absolutely delicious high tea of which I could only sample a few pieces sadly. While we were there Bob rang and I told him that I felt woeful, so he advised me to take the drug we keep on hand for emergencies only. It is banned in Australia, but sold over the counter in the US and it works a treat. Luckily I have been able to import a stash of it with the help of someone in the US and using it very rarely I have plenty available. Apparently it has been found to cause liver cancer if taken for a length of time but it is the only thing that works. His comment that ‘you probably won’t live long enough to get the liver cancer, so just take it’ raised a smile. By the time we got to the hotel it was 3.44 pm and the first session began at 4. It was a woman from the Carer Gateway who talked about the services that they can provide. It was interesting but they were all things I wouldn’t need if I could only get John’s package sorted, things like home help, visits to take John out etc, so I was reluctant to sign up with another organisation for help when the package that’s already been approved is so close (hopefully). She was quite an unusual person though and sparked my interest. She is only 25 but is the foster mother of a 17-year-old with autism. She had been looking after the girl as a carer on odd occasions for a few hours at a time, but the girl’s situation at home became so intolerable that she wanted to leave and Julia applied to be her foster mother. She was able to get all sorts of government help, but that will all disappear overnight once the girl turns 18 so as well as  supporting herself and paying a mortgage on a small unit, she has to look after the needs of the girl who cannot work. So she’s not just a person working for a caring organisation, she is also a dedicated carer herself and it occurred to me that it’s probably a lifelong commitment.We all had dinner in the hotel restaurant after that session which would have been in normal circumstances a delight, however although I managed a main course I had to say no to an entree and dessert and wine, all of which was included and paid for. I was a little bit shocked, knowing that the council is footing the bill for all of this, that people at the high tea and also at dinner asked if they could have wine as well, yet made no attempt to pay for it. Clearly what was provided was what was on the menus we were given  and I would have thought that anything else would come at our own expense, but no one offered to pay for the alcohol so it was paid for as part of the bill by the organisers. I was very glad to be refusing it as it felt like a bit of a corruption on the goodwill of the council. I had an early night, leaving everyone at the table ordering their dessert, tea and coffee, but when feeling unwell there is a limit to how long I could discuss the best things to binge-watch on Netflix and the relative merits of various football teams. I guess I haven’t so far found someone I feel totally comfortable with, although they are all very friendly people in their own way. Bath and bed at 9pm was bliss though.

November 25, 2022

Well two days could hardly be more different. This morning I decided not to have any tea or wine just to be on the safe side, but I was very much improved. Had a lovely breakfast overlooking the view with the group leader as we were the first arrivals and Lee talked me into getting WhatsApp on my phone and set it up for me. My cousins in England and Spain have been on my back about getting it but I didn’t really understand what it was all about and didn’t know how to do it anyway, but she has sorted all of that.After breakfast we all trotted off to the Ubika Spa which is on the grounds of the property, as is all else including swimming pools, (one heated), horse riding, a full golf course and a jolly ice-skating rink for Pete’s sake. We each got a complimentary massage which was just amazing. The last one I had, in fact possibly the only one I’ve had, was an Ayurvedic massage in India nearly 15 years ago. It was really relaxing despite being interrupted twice by phone calls before I got the masseuse to turn my phone off. It ended up being Orange Blossom Cottage ringing because the Friday group of which John was a part today was going on an excursion and wouldn’t be back in time for Sue to pick him up. So they wanted my permission for him to join a “normal” recreational group for today so he would be able to be picked up early as planned. It was good of them to ring, just bad timing.Then we had a buffet lunch, again delicious, and after that a painting opportunity. We were to paint a landscape and so I opted for what I could see out of the window, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to paint in the big gumtree which dominated the view. However I got the sky, the distant mountains and some foreground done. I could have given it another couple of hours happily and ended up with a much better result, but I may be able to finish at home. It was fun anyway. As soon as we finished the painting I raced to the pool area, had a sauna then a swim, then a spa, then another sauna to finish off. But it left me just enough time to dress for dinner which was in the little Italian restaurant in the hotel. We tried to order from the menu but then discovered that we were having a group sharing menu where they bring three different salads, garlic bread, four different pizzas, a couple of different pastas and a risotto and we all share. Our gluten-free person and our vegan person were well accommodated. Seeing I’m not that fussed on pizza I let that pass  and went straight to the salads, gnocchi and risotto, all of which were excellent. There was so much pizza left over that we asked for boxes to take it away, but we got a long story about why they are not licensed to do takeaway and all the dangers involved in transporting food etc etc but I persisted because I can’t stand waste and eventually they brought out pizza boxes, which just happened to be sitting there in the kitchen.I find Russell has the best sense of humour in the group and we have had some good laughs during the day and evening. His wife has aphasia from a stroke but most of the women have husbands with dementia. I am more than ready for bed at 10.30 and my book hasn’t been opened since I got here. It is sad that I couldn’t enjoy yesterday, but today more than made up for it. (Separately, five of the women have come up to me and said that I seem like a different person than the one they met yesterday, which I am, thanks to a banned drug).

November 26, 2022

Unusually I got up very early and was out just after dawn walking the wonderful grounds of the Fairmont in the morning mist. I didn’t see a soul except for a lady sweeping the paths as I was returning, it was weird to see the usually buzzy foyer totally empty with no one on the desk and no concierge. The most beautiful sight was a pair of black swans swimming through the mist on the lake. Back in time to pack up and go to breakfast at 7.30 where I mentioned that I should send a tip next time I pay my rates, but it turns out that the money for our jaunt comes from the Feds who allocate funds to the council to support carers and because they haven’t had a retreat during Covid we were the eight who benefited. Our driver on the way up was the loquacious and jokey Alastair and on the return trip it was the very quiet Vang, both were excellent drivers. We arrived back to Hills Council at noon and there was a certain sadness that the diverse group was splitting up. We had a Cambodian, an Indian, a Sri Lankan and a Chinese, a vegan, and just one man. As we were saying goodbye the Chinese lady, the director of a pre-school, asked: Do you mind telling me what you did before you retired? So I answered 27 years an antique dealer and 12 years as a technical officer in a scientific lab. Aaah she said, that’s why you’re different. Different from what I don’t know, but she was smiling.

Jane was here with John, having spent the night here, and we had a brief chat over a cuppa before she left. Seeing me with a suitcase he asked: Are you going away somewhere? I think he was pleased when I said I had already been. He has forgotten yesterday’s party already so when I asked if he’d enjoyed himself he had to ask Jane if he had.

I am going to stick my neck out and confidently predict that Dan Andrews will be comfortably returned in the Victorian elections today. It has been a bitter (bordering on wicked) campaign with the Murdoch media hounding the man on everything from daring to break his back to an accident his wife had years ago. The Liberals are desperate and I think people will see that and turn on them, proving the polls inaccurate in the end.

November 27, 2022

Well you read it here first folks, Dan is the Man. I am very happy to be right this time but I was despondent to be right when I forecast Trump’s 2016 victory in these pages. The Herald-Sun and The Australian newspapers were vicious every day in their failed attempt to dent Dan’s popularity, even though they must have known that their views went against those of most of their readers, proving that it is not an economic imperative but a political one that impels them. The Liberal Party polls apparently expressed the view last Wednesday that the Libs were going to win, other polling companies gave them a chance and once again I am of the view that the polls are rigged to suit their audience, either deliberately or to please their masters who are picking up the tab. No scientific method in evidence. Matthew Guy is an enigma, he looks so benign, like a very decent fellow in fact, but his actions tell a different story, good riddance to him.

Today I’m back to taws on the health front and that’s pretty disappointing, more drugs ingested and no end in sight at the moment, rats. But I’ve managed to put up and decorate the Christmas tree (with John), send off replies to numerous texts and emails that came in over the days I was away and now I am cooking a pile of duck legs which Michelle W. left in my fridge on Friday, using a Jamie Oliver recipe: Sweet Duck Legs with Plums and Star Anise so dinner is looking pretty special. Not that I should be eating anything at all after the last few days of gluttony. John has just rung to say he’s lost, in the same street and on the same corner that Sue had to pick him up from last Thursday, so I’d better go pick him up, see you!

November 28, 2022

This morning  was a bit of a farce but it worked out okay in the end. I had asked John to accompany me to the last two days of the Caddick inquest as I couldn’t bear to miss the end, but when we got there I was very suspicious as there wasn’t a TV cameraman in sight. We arrived at the appropriate court room to discover alas that it was being held at the Downing Centre instead of Lidcombe. The court officer had no idea why, but I suspect that it is for security reasons as her brother Adam was quite aggressive towards people so they had to bring in two sheriffs to keep an eye on him. Normally there are no sheriffs at Lidcombe so I think they’ve moved it to the city court where they are plentiful. So seeing we had travelled over there anyway I asked a chap in the office to recommend an alternative case and we went to that. Seeing it was just starting today we heard counsel assisting’s opening remarks (which went for over two hours) and then left. I will have to give tomorrow a miss as I don’t want to drag John into town.

Seeing my suitcase at the back door this morning, waiting for me to put it away in the storeroom, John asked ‘Are you going away somewhere?’. ‘No’ I answered, ‘I’ve just come back’ and he seemed quite relieved. I am still waiting for the wretched aged care team to get back to me about his package upgrade, but it’s no good talking to John about it because he’s forgotten what a package is and what it does, so I have to whinge here instead. I thought the retreat might be a bit of a whinge fest with all the carers together but we didn’t even want to talk about it and just tried to have a break from worrying about home care packages, aged care homes, day care, what to do when our charges decline and all the things that normally fill our minds. I am extraordinarily lucky to have gone.

November 29, 2022

Decided to head to the dreaded Towers this morning to pick up the requested gifts for our family Secret Santa, it’s good that everyone has been very specific. I have asked for two books, the new Niki Savva, Bulldozed which comes out Thursday and Clinton Fernandes’ new one Sub-Imperial Power: Australia in the International Arena. It is a sad comment on this area that we no longer have a bookshop and half of those in Parramatta are either New Age crystal-bashers or Christian bookshops. Dymocks closed a long time ago and no one replaced them, so the books are on order at The Bookery at Lane Cove. But it seems that as soon as I get back to health the old Japanese bladder packs it in again, so I’m having two good days at most and then a badden as soon as I stop taking the drugs. I’ve made another appointment with Bob though he’s already said that he’s run out of options, but I can’t go on like this. The Big C wafts across my mind and I will bring it up on Thursday, I have every symptom that’s for sure.

I am getting fed up to the teeth with that menace Jacinta Price. As soon as she came on the scene I recognised trouble with a capital C. When Nick Cater, Rebecca Weisser and all the Sky News extremists are singing her praises it’s pretty much a given that she’s an extremist too. Someone is going to have to call her out sooner rather than later, we’ve all been hesitant because she is Aboriginal let’s face it, but she is the proverbial bad apple and needs to be labelled as such before she ruins the whole barrel. I feel so sorry for all the Aboriginal people who’ve worked and struggled to get the Uluru Statement up and happening, it must be a stab in the heart to have that work pulled down by one of your own. Charlie Perkins would be spinning in his grave, I’m sure he would have called her out quick smart were he still here.

November 30, 2022

So, it seems someone has been brave enough to take on Jacinta Price after all….Noel Pearson has stepped up to the plate and good on him. While we are speaking about abhorrent people, I was pleased to be able to watch the censure motion in parliament this morning albeit on the small screen of my phone. John went off with his carer and I wasn’t up to going anywhere so I spent the time on card-making, managing to finish eight, though a number had been started previously. No red and green to be seen, no mangers either, but a card to write on and send my good wishes to friends and rellies overseas and interstate. I like using up odds and sods on my cards and my favourite of them features one of the cardboard and foil pieces that go under cakes at a patisserie, in this case Dolcettini, cake presentation boards I think they call them. I used it to glue onto the card and decorated it with some beautiful mirror-like paper that was once around a gift and too good to throw out. Apart from some watering, that filled the four hours that John was away, cutting and pasting (no, not on a computer haha, but paper and cardboard) while watching the censure speeches and finally the vote on my propped up phone, with Bridget Archer the only Liberal with the intestinal fortitude to support the motion. The guns will be out for her next preselection time.

Last week I had an audiologist’s appointment and Andrew kindly changed the tubes for me but one started falling out straight away, then I replaced it with one purloined from Michelle C. However, that one repeatedly fell out too, so I had to email Andrew for help. He said that they sometimes wear loose (it was rock solid before) and that the tubing adaptor in the hearing aid itself needed replacement. So, it must go back to Macquarie to be fixed, but how glad am I that I took out insurance on them. The repair fees on hearing aids over five years old, as mine are, is $350 to $450!! Why it matters how old they are I have no idea. So I said to them that I may as well take up Andrew’s (well in fact Albo’s) offer of new ones for free, but I was quickly told that the cost doesn’t apply to me as I pay the $45 a year insurance, which includes unlimited batteries, tubes etc as required, with postage thrown in. Now I won’t bitch about having to drive there and back to get the job done. I can also pick up the books I’ve ordered at Lane Cove on the same outing. It will kill me to let John wrap up the Niki Savva one till Christmas though…..I am just in the mood for some serious Morrison hammering.

December 1, 2022

At the visit to Bob this morning I didn’t need to ask for any investigations of my ongoing malady, I think he took one look at me and decided it had gone far enough. So I’m now back on antibiotics at an increased dose, plus the pain-killing tabs, plus a scan tomorrow at Westmead Private Hospital. I don’t have a carer for John but I’m sure he’ll be fine in the waiting room for that amount of time. (Did I mention the buggers at ACAT who never ring me back re getting more care?? Yes, I think I may have). However after Christmas Bob wants me to have a cystoscopy as well and he won’t be able to wait around for that one, however I will cross that bridge when I come to it. I came home straight after that and didn’t feel like doing anything standing up so I did some more cards, this time watercolours and some with pressed leaves. They are not at all Christmassy so I may keep them for other occasions, they are wish-washy pastels as I was in that sort of floaty mood. That’s the good thing, the cards reflect a mood at the time and so are always different.

John came home from day care to sing me a song they had done about an Australian Christmas, lots of koalas, utes and swaggies in the lyrics. They also decorated the centre’s Christmas tree and he enjoyed doing that. When I was on the retreat Lee signed me up to WhatsApp and used it to transmit messages to us all as needed. I have watched it since then, waiting to see if anyone would want to keep in touch, though I didn’t initiate any contact myself. But last evening one person sent a message around and the thing was pinging away for an hour or two as everyone else replied. It seems this disparate group has somehow coalesced into a coterie of carers plus our two advocates. Let’s hope it continues in similar vein.

I am proud to say that I think I have finished all of our Christmas shopping. We have the Secret Santa gifts from each of us sorted, plus the Millie gifts and some for each of John’s grandchildren. I found a new shop in the dreaded Towers called The Uncommon Collective and just loved the bits I bought there, a cardboard put-together pirate ship with textas to colour it, this from Denmark, a gorgeous unicorn toy made in wool from a women’s collective in the Himalayas and some divine cards printed from black and white pen drawings by an Australian artist, these of animals but with their fur or scales made of intricately drawn flowers (these are for a gift, not to use myself). Commendation to self for getting the gifts sorted, now to planning the food.

December 2, 2022

Phew! Just home at 3.30 after getting a motza of assorted jobs out of the way. First to Officeworks to pick up my diary pages, always a priority at this time of the year. Next to Westmead Hospital for a bladder scan but despite drinking one litre of water as requested, when we arrived they were running very late and said to go to the toilet and then start the one litre guzzle all over again. We got there early for an 11 am appointment but didn’t leave till 12.30, however the scan itself went off without problems, results next week. Then to the Hearing Hub to pick up the repaired hearing aid, followed by the Bookery at Lane Cove where we got two books, my Christmas presents from John. We shall see if the wrap stays on the Niki Savva one till then….

In the press there’s been a huge fuss about the royal household’s Lady Susan Hussey asking a Caribbean woman where she was from. Admittedly she laboured the point, but that’s something I do all the time. It’s a conversation starter and I did it as recently as last week. My daughters are mortified if I ask a taxi driver where his family is from yet I’ve never felt the slightest reluctance from the person asked, in fact they are usually more than keen to talk about their country of origin. I guess I will have to curb my tongue in future if it’s now become such a sin, even though I am delighted to be asked when travelling.

Currently reading Somebody I Used to Know by Wendy Mitchell, who has early onset Alzheimer’s, and it’s been helpful in understanding John’s confusion and memory loss. Some things she mentions haven’t happened to him, but others are very familiar. One strange experience was when she looked outside and saw that her garage ‘had been stolen’, just a concrete slab remained. She was deciding whether to ring the police or her daughter when it suddenly ‘reappeared’. She has also seen both her mother and father at different times in her home, both of them are long dead. John said today that it would be good to get a brain transplant so I’ve said I will keep an eye out for one and we laughed about trawling hospitals and cemeteries looking for one that’s no longer being used, preferably younger and fitter. He’s been asking me all day what we are doing and now we’re home he’s asking what we did, where we’ve been is a total blur to him. Tomorrow we go to Dav’s place and he enjoys seeing Millie so I keep reminding him of that.

December 3, 2022

Card-making on the agenda today before we went to Erko. I think I’ve made a rod for my own back as I intended to do just a few and now I feel as if it’s a slight to send printed ones to the remaining people so I’ve committed to make them all. But at least it’s only the overseas ones that need doing by Monday and I don’t send them to Sydney folks whom I see routinely, just those somewhat distant. Luckily I had a supply of pressed dried leaves and decided to leave some natural and paint some, so that has worked nicely. I don’t even know where to send my brother’s card (I’m not risking a gift just yet) as I still haven’t been given the name of the care home, but I’ve emailed Tanya and asked for an address. We shall see. Another job out of the way was a hand-written letter to the ACAT team explaining my need for John to be put on a high priority list and letting them know that my three phone calls so far have gone unreturned. I think I’m whistling Dixie there but anything’s worth a try. Apart from going down and making a fuss in person I don’t know what else to do. I’m trying to be the squeaky wheel, but it’s feeling more like the screeching and grating one.

Davina made a lovely paella and Millie wasn’t keen until she said it was Spanish, whereupon Millie asked if her friend from school Francisco would be eating it in Brazil where he is currently on holidays. Once it was established that yes, he may very well be eating it, Millie decided it was good stuff. Carly emailed to say she’s got the dreaded Covid but her symptoms seem to lean more to exhaustion than to coughing, however she’s been in bed constantly.

December 4, 2022

John seems to have gone downhill again this weekend. He has spent months colouring in cards to send at Christmas but yesterday he managed to write only two before getting distressed and deciding it was all too hard, as he couldn’t work out who people in his address book were and even whether or not they were alive, some of these were close friends seen only recently. Luckily just then Lynne rang and said that she’s not sending any Christmas cards this year so I suggested that he abandon the idea, as Lynne had, and it gave him an out which he happily took. I’ve done six more cards with painted and natural leaves and I’m quite in the swim of it now, having finished all the overseas ones and made a few now for interstate. Rang Jane at the hospital and she’s coming along as expected after her knee replacement, however John has forgotten about where she is so they chatted about general stuff and we left it at that, no point upsetting him unnecessarily. He was quite chuffed when the Link Housing annual report arrived (a thick glossy tome which would have cost plenty) and he was featured with a double-paged spread thanking him for his work for them over 12 years as a tenant advisory group member, going to conferences on their behalf and making street libraries for their tenants. Well-deserved recognition.

December 5, 2022

I’ve been harping on this for years but I’ll do it again: There should be a ban on breeding or selling dogs with killing in their nature, starting with pitbulls but not necessarily ending there. There dogs were purposefully bred to possess aggressive and violent characteristics and it is not wrong to stereotype certain breeds of dogs as being inherently dangerous. Pitbulls caused a whopping 71% of fatalities in the US where figures are kept, despite the fact that they only account for 6% of the total U.S. dog population. Perhaps the biggest reason for their violent behaviour is the task they were bred for. Every dog was bred to accomplish a specific task and pitbulls were historically bred to kill. They were initially bred to bite and hold the head and face of large animals such as bears and bulls (ringing any bells here?) but when this practice was outlawed in the 1800s they started being used in the ‘sport’ of dog fighting. This resulted in deliberate breeding based on the degree of aggressiveness. Then of course there are rottweilers, Rhodesian ridgebacks, American bulldogs and dobermans (should that be dobermen?) but let’s get rid of pitbulls first and then see how we go. When was the last time you heard of a labrador ripping a person apart? Charging those whose dogs cause injury or death is an important step too. I couldn’t believe the police quoted this morning after the tragedy of the meter reader’s death: “The owners of the property are very upset because they really loved their dogs”. Give me a break, a man died here people.

This is becoming a boring blog about Christmas cards but it’s also a mirror of what’s happening in this house. Yesterday we had the great Christmas card meltdown when John got so upset about the mechanics of actually writing them that some were torn up and a decision made to abandon the process, but this morning he calmly announced: ‘I think I might do my Christmas cards today’, apparently forgetting yesterday altogether. I couldn’t think of anything to say but okay, however it’s afternoon now and it hasn’t been mentioned again. It must be so terribly bewildering to be in his shoes at the moment, so discombobulated all the time. In some ways it will be better when he forgets that he forgets, if that makes sense. It is paradoxical that I only started making my own cards as company for him while he was sitting colouring in and now I am the only one making them.

I spoke too soon. He has now done the list of who to send to and I’ve interfered by removing the dead, the ex-wives (that might have caused some consternation) and the relatives who have clearly indicated that they don’t want any communication. Thank god they are not being written today as well.

December 6, 2022

Off to St. V’s for John’s monthly treatment and I wandered in to Ovolo Hotel at Woolloomooloo as usual to use the loos, but enjoyed their Christmas decos and the sculpture exhibition in and around the hotel. I asked about non holiday room rates and found they are about $400 a night so I can’t see we’ll be going any time soon, perhaps for a celebration sometime. Met up with Angela for a Christmas lunch and had a crab lasagne and a salad, though it was disappointing that we has to ask for dressing on the rocket salad, the chef’s day off perhaps. I had some port glasses I had promised her from my overstocked collection of glasses and I put them under the table, I thought out of sight. But the maitre d spied the nasty plastic bag and almost insisted on putting them in the storeroom, but I suspect it was the plastic bag rather than a parcel that offended, a Hermes bag would have looked the part at the venue and remained there. We usually have sweets but unfortunately this was the one day that John was finished in 2 hours instead of 3, I had to leave as soon as he rang and so our Christmas lunch was foreshortened. Next time.

We went then to Millie’s school where she was doing athletics. Her face dropped when she saw us, not happy as we expected, but it turned out that she was disappointed, thinking we were taking her away from athletics. We watched till she was done and then took her for an iceblock and to the park while mum and dad were working at home. It’s a different world down there, with mums with blue hair and covered with tattoos picking up their kids. Whatever they do is accepted thereabouts, whereas around here it would cause a few funny looks. Just the driving and walking absolutely exhausted me (only one drink I promise) and I was in bed by 8.30, sad geriatric that I am becoming.

Justin next door told me he is doing a bit of landscaping with a friend in Rose Bay. The owner bought a harbourside house for $6 million, demolished it and built twin four storey apartments at a cost of $3 million. He’s going to live in one and sell the other for $12 million, another world again. The view looked divine in the pic, but four storeys sounds like a pain in the butt, though I guess there’s a lift. I would never get in a private lift without my phone though, I’ve read too many creepy stories I’m afraid.

December 7, 2022

This morning John’s replacement carer Beckie came and suggested that she take him to Newport for a walk on the beach and fish and chips. First she had to clear it with Wendy’s Home Care to make sure he had the funds in hand for the petrol. They said it was okay but the funds are low and they probably can’t do it again till they are topped up. This made me hopping mad but I told Beckie to take him anyway, then I got onto My Aged Care and struck a lovely man in Queensland who spent half an hour going over the boring story. He was shocked that no one at ACAT ever returns my calls or the hand-written begging letter (using my good fairy wren stationery no less!). He told me to get my home care provider to ring them but I explained that they don’t answer her calls either. He went off for some time, perhaps trying the number himself, but came back saying he would email them marked URGENT to get them to call me. When John was at Lane Cove he got fabulous service from the Northern ACAT, it’s only the Western Suburbs one that we’ve had trouble with, not a coincidence I’m sure. I was still as cross as a hornet so I rang the local Federal Member Alex Hawke’s office and got a good hearing. I was very pleased to discover it is a federal issue as the State Member and I do not get on due to my letters to the press about his government and him in particular. But Hawke’s office said that they would ring his Parliament House office and try to get some action. Bless.

Pastor Brian Houston, ex Hillsong, is in court this week charged with concealing a serious indictable offence for not reporting his father Pastor Frank Houston for abusing a boy in his congregation. Houston Jnr allegedly told the man “you know this is all your fault, you tempted my father”, the abuse occurred when the man was seven. He was paid $10,000, in his view to keep quiet. Another pastor Rose Hardingham told the court that she didn’t report the abuse to police either, because it should be sorted out within the church “not in the secular courts”. What planet do these people live on?

December 8, 2022

I had some more interesting things to talk about but as happens at the moment ACAT dominates yet again. Kristy rang them three times today and left messages so finally the assessor got back to me. Hallelujah! I thought, but after lots of questions she said that ‘the criteria for raising a package to high priority are very tight’ and she doesn’t think that it will be approved. She also wrongly claimed that she’d told me it would be at least 6 months before the funds become available but as I’ve said to her it was definitely 1 to 3 months, which is exactly where it stands now. At least she rang me on a mobile so I have a more direct number now, but for what?

December 9, 2022

It was interesting to read of ‘Prince’ Reuss and his Reichsbuerger and QAnon pals who are accused of trying to overthrow the German government by violent means, January 6 in the US probably having given them courage. Various supporters in the police and army were also arrested as well as a judge. The army people had been ‘procuring equipment, recruiting and holding shooting lessons’ according to reports. It seems that around the world the ‘forces’, be they police or armed services, are the centre of right wing thinking. I can’t forget my friend’s quite normal son who became a racist and right wing conspiracy theorist in a matter of months after joining the army and a school pal of my daughters who was described by her mother as having become a ‘very tough nut’ after only a few weeks of training in the police force. I am so glad that neither of my girls showed interest in either career. Journalist Umair Haque has been warning of the rise in this thinking and action for a few years now and I totally agree with the proposition that the times are getting more and more like the 1930s.

In similar vein, a report on ABC news breathlessly proffered the idea that if inmates were well treated in gaol they may have a better chance of rehabilitation. My goodness, who would have thought? A pilot project has prisoners working in the mornings and doing art and other classes in the afternoons. They live in dorms instead of cells and the problems in the gaol have halved. Sometimes I wonder at the mentality of the officials who think they’ve reinvented the wheel with this stuff. If you treat people as people they will respond, unless they are impeded by mental illness, in which case they shouldn’t be there at all, but being looked after in a forensic mental health facility. Prof. Tony Vinson taught us all this stuff in the 70s and yet Corrective Services has gone down the retribution road ever since. I doubt I will see an improvement in my lifetime.

Medibank Private has kindly informed me today that the following personal details are now showing on the dark web: My full name, gender, date of birth, email, residential address, phone number, policy number, all health provider numbers, dates of hospital admissions and discharge. Well it could be worse I guess…..what have they missed? Passport perhaps, credit card details perhaps, but really it is such a huge thing that I don’t have the mental energy to del with it. I am more concerned about why John is getting so exhausted. Today he sat in the car while I went to the Post Office, then drove to the print shop and then the library, now he’s sleeping it off. It’s another thing that’s come on suddenly, but is now consistently happening.

December 10, 2022

We were at the Farmer’s Market at 8 am and got lots of lovely stuff including zucchini flowers which I adore and will stuff with goat cheese and anchovies and cook for dinner tonight. But when we unpacked the car the beautiful Irish bread, a loaf of which weighs a ton, had disappeared as well as the cloth bag it was carried in. If someone found it and took it home I’m delighted, but people are so germ averse that it may very well end up in a bin which pains me to think about.

John asked me to help him write a newsletter to send in his Christmas cards and I was able to copy his hand-written draft into a document complete with a couple of photos. But when I printed a test copy it was grey rather than black and the photos’ colour was distorted, but try as I might I couldn’t fix it. So I got Arvind to have a look and he couldn’t fix it either. He came up with the idea of emailing it to a neighbour and getting him to print a copy, it was perfect. So it seems that the brand new cartridge I bought on Friday is faulty perhaps? Printers are demonic, I got rid of mine to the storeroom years ago and now John’s is here to drive me deranged. This bloody Christmas card business will be the end of me.

Alex Hawke’s staff were as good as their word and got onto My Aged Care for me yesterday. Not that it helped, Therese from ACAT is still saying that they won’t review the timing of John’s package because he is too close to getting it (in one to three months) and an appointment to review his case can’t be organised until, you guessed it….one to three months. I think I’m vanquished, but at least I can stop carrying my phone in my bra on the off chance that the good Therese will ring.

December 11, 2022

I beat the demon inside the printer with the help of the Cartridge World owner Jeff whom I emailed in desperation. Not expecting a reply till Monday I was very surprised when he replied, despite the shop being closed on weekends. Have you shaken the cartridge hard? he asked. No, I hadn’t, nor did I know I was supposed to, but clearly the demon who lives within is a delicate soul and once shaken vigorously his powers were crippled and I reigned victorious…..this time…..John’s newsletters are done and posted. Sue rang asking if we wanted to do a house swap with her Kiama daughter in mid-January. Kiama, omg how I’d love to go, but I think we need to continue pulling our heads in for a bit and not tempting fate. John is getting exhausted about lunchtime every day and needs a long sleep, plus I could see him being upset if his room is annexed and with a family of five that’s inevitable. Best to say no and hope for an opportunity to get away when he is a little more relaxed.

I was thinking about our interview in August with Therese and whether or not I imagined an intake of breath when John divulged his past employment and offered “But I’m an atheist now though”. Surely that wouldn’t have had an effect on the outcome? No, that’s too close to a conspiracy theory to entertain, though thinking back the intake of breath and the hurry to the next question sticks in my mind.

Thinking this morning about the people I’d be really happy not to hear about again when I open a newspaper. Meghan Markle of course, but Lisa Curry is right up there. There are various Kardashians and Hiltons and that ghastly woman from the Eastern Suburbs whose name I am happy to have forgotten, David Warner, of course Shane Warne absented himself from the list. Many of these sporting has-beens (think Curry) suffer from irrelevance syndrome and for some it is actually pathological, they simply can’t live out of the limelight. So we are constantly bombarded with articles, pictures, interviews with people who will go to the opening of an envelope. But at the other end of the spectrum is the decent and impressive actor Richard E. Grant whose book, A Pocketful of Happiness, I am currently reading. Of course he’s in the limelight, at the Oscars, whatever, but he just seems to be a mere mortal doing a job to the best of his ability. His openness and honesty are disarming. I loved the story of his lifelong adoration of Barbra Streisand and the letter he wrote to her as a small boy, asking if she wanted to come and stay with his family for two weeks. Even now the fascination persists, he has commissioned a bust of her and it stands in his garden. Bless.

December 12, 2022

Well Bob has decided today that it’s probably the anti-inflammatory part of Keflex rather than the antibiotic part that’s working on me as I don’t have an infection, just all the symptoms of one. So we are having a trial of a low dose of the antibiotic for 40 days (sounds very biblical, but actually it’s just the maximum he can prescribe). We shall see whether this works but the upside is that if it doesn’t I can self-medicate to full dose until I can see him again to rethink. While I was seeing Bob Heather came and stayed with John, bringing sandwiches and cake for them. She was early and this allowed me to also duck into Alex Hawke’s office to thank his assistant Linda for shaking up My Aged Care for me last week. I am not usually of a mind to praise young Alex and his team, but credit where it’s due. I explained to her that I didn’t get a satisfactory result, but that I was more than pleased with the fact that she’d tried and put a slight tremor in the voice of the chap who rang me: ‘ah um Alex Hawke’s office asked me to ah um ring you’. Great work Linda, you did well even though I told you that I bat for the other team.

Finished the Richard E. Grant book and it was heart-warming to read that Prince Charles, on a number of occasions, had his secretary ring to ask if he could come around to visit Joan, arriving with an armful of roses and produce, both from his farm. Richard praises Camilla highly as a warm and caring person. It’s good to hear of people from the inside and to hear of their human characteristics. The finger-licking Nigella Lawson is given high praise too, regularly sending a home cooked meal in a taxi to their home. His wife Joan, a dialect and voice coach to the stars, had an interesting theory that landscape and climate directly affect accents. Flat Norfolk accents parallel flat US mid-western ones while up and down accents are typical of hilly places like Wales. She says the nasality of New York and Liverpool accents are related to the fact that both cities are ports with sea air. I will have to try thinking of exceptions to that but one that comes to mind is the Caribbean, you can’t get much more up and down than West Indians. Needs more cogitation.

I texted our friend Kevin yesterday to get an address for someone who has moved and he called back to say that he’s been in hospital since Thursday for breathlessness. They’ve drained two litres of fluid off his lung but don’t yet have a diagnosis. He doesn’t have any flu-like symptoms so pneumonia isn’t the cause. I don’t like it.

December 13, 2022

What to say about the Queensland shooting tragedy? I sent off a letter to the Herald which pretty much corrals my thoughts, apart from feeling gutted by it all. It read: “I fail to see how a call out to the remote property of a known conspiracy theorist with a hatred of police and a wife who left her government position over the vaccine mandate could in any way be seen as ‘routine’. The tragedy seems to hark back to inadequate intelligence, much more needs to be done federally to identify and monitor those who have gone down this rabbit hole before we lose more innocent people to this madness”. I think that both state and federal governments have failed to understand the ferocity of feeling that these people have for government in all its forms. This puts all public servants in danger of at least aggressive behaviour, and at most murder, as we saw in this case. It takes a depth of callousness to look into the eyes of a young woman begging for her life and to fire your gun into her anyway.

Well after a 45 minute consult with Bob on Monday in his confined office he went home and tested Covid positive. We had quite a few texts flowing back and forth yesterday and I laughed as he described his ‘covert operation’ to get a packet of Paxlovid in the carpark of his local pharmacy. It involved hanging a bag with the script on the external rear vision mirror and having the assistant deposit the drug and remove the script from the bag in a socially distanced operation. He is missing three rehearsals for singing at the Sydney Festival. I am not too concerned about catching it, but it will indeed be a test of the N95 mask’s effectiveness. another friend was testing herself last night too as she had a sore throat. Personally I wouldn’t trust a RAT very early in the piece, too many false negatives.

Late yesterday I wrote three book reviews before returning the books to the library today. Mere hours later I saw that someone had ‘liked’ my review and to my great surprise it was the author! It was the New Zealand novel Paper Cage by Tom Baragwanath, which I had given 4.5/5. I try not to just talk about the plot in the reviews, but to try to get to what was the overall intention of the author, it seems I may have hit on it with this one, unless of course he sits on his computer excited to see anyone at all who has read and liked his book.

December 14, 2022

I’ve been watching Scott Morrison on the Robodebt Royal Commission and he just waffles on and on and doesn’t answer a simple question. The commissioner has called him out a few times but it’s like water off a dog’s back: “You come from a background where rhetoric is important, but can you please….. Just answer the question”. He’s not listening and doesn’t look the least bit chastened, his pouty lips looking scarily like John Howard’s.

An hour later: God, he just won’t be told. Counsel assisting just said that Morrison had taken 10 minutes to give a simple answer of No to a question. He intimated that Morrison was dragging out his answers in order to run out of time, which had occurred to me. He is enough to drive the Counsel to drink. I am screaming at him just before the Commissioner says the same thing to him more politely. He’s started again: “I’ll give you an example…” No, don’t give us an example Mr. Morrison! she retorted. He knows he’s doing it and he knows it’s driving everyone nuts, but the showman in him keeps pushing him forward. I’ll have to turn it off before I have an apoplexy.

In the last day or two John has had a couple of texts from his granddaughters, I have had some messages from one on Facebook Messenger independently and he’s had a good long phone call with both of them. It turns out that their mother went to a conference in Wollongong at which everyone in her group caught Covid, but further communication has established that virtually everyone at the conference got it. So until she recovers, the girls and Dan are sleeping in a ‘studio’ that he has built in the backyard, complete with a shower and gas cooker! That’s the first time they’ve communicated with me directly and I’m chuffed. Long may it continue, though I think things will revert to usual once their lives get back to normal and the studio is not their interim home.

December 15, 2022

Sometimes there isn’t much of interest in the Good Weekend magazine, apart from the recipes, but last week’s was a bottler. First was an interesting story about the child of a GP and a cancer researcher who sadly suffered from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a childhood brain tumour that is always fatal. It raised interesting questions about the parents’ desire to keep the child alive for as long as possible. It seemed to me that, despite the natural desire to have her with them, it didn’t do the child any favours to extend her life. Her father goes on to say that his life has been overtaken by the desire to find treatments, and hopefully a cure, for other sufferers and that the only time he is not thinking about the disease is when he’s running or playing football. That is hardly a healthy situation for a man with three surviving children, though it’s a totally understandable way to deal with the grief from his personal point of view. The next article was about the life and character of golfer Greg Norman, in which people referred to him as ‘an arsehole’ and described his obsession with money and power. I can only say that anyone who has listened to GN over the years and not realised this obviously has their arsehole detector permanently turned off. Let’s waste no more time on him and go to his diametric opposite. This was a lovely story about Matt Green who has given up his apartment and possessions and walked nearly every street in the five boroughs of New York, carrying a little spiral notebook and copying details of animals and birds, people and buildings and even bits of metal he finds on the road as he passes them. He is dismissive of people saying things like, “You’re white, so you can’t walk through that neighbourhood.” His answer is: “Yes, you can feel tension sometimes if it’s a neighbourhood that’s predominantly one race, and you’re not that race. Someone might walk down the street towards me, and they might be glowering. So I just put a smile on my face and say, ‘How’s it going?’ and it’s amazing. Nearly every time they’ll smile back, and sometimes they’ll even start a conversation. We’re so quick to judge people, but you’re half of any interaction with someone else. So, if you make your half of the interaction a 100 per cent positive, that’s a lot of power towards winning over that situation.” How uplifting is that statement? I loved it, it made my weekend.

Rats, I’ve accidentally done something to my Hotmail and it’s only showing me the unread emails (some old as the hills) but I can’t get the current ones back. I tried sending one to myself and it didn’t appear, yet it shows up on my phone.

December 16, 2022

It has always seemed to me that evangelical religion and conspiracy thinking are close bedfellows and so it seems in this terrible case of the murders in Queensland. The father and father-in-law of the shooters was interviewed on television and seems blissfully unaware that his background of writing books about the ‘Masons being the children of Lucifer’, preaching about demons and devils and whatever, has led to bringing up children who believe implicitly in this tosh and then take it to the next level. The videos and online statements that they have produced over years clearly show that they believed that ‘God’ is on their side. Various friends of mine who were or are steeped in religion are the only people amongst my acquaintance group who subscribe to conspiracy thinking. The religions are different, varying from Pentacostal to Baptist to Seventh Day Adventist but the common thread is that they are deeply immersed in religion now, or at some previous part of their lives, and they have a terror of the consequences of a lack of religious faith and a fear of this other world of the occult. The father of one of them commented to me years ago that his greatest fear was of being put in a gaol cell with a non-believer, it struck me as weird then and even more weird now, considering all the terrible things that could befall a person. He too was a ‘demons and devils’ believer and I recall him burning beautiful and valuable old items from his home because they ‘were possessed’. In the 1990s 55% of Americans believed in the Devil as an actual being, that rose to 70% in 2000s. The belief in the concept of religious evil has been increasing in recent times, hand in hand with conspiracy theories like QAnon and others which thrive in evangelical communities. I don’t think we have yet seen the peak of this phenomenon.

December 17, 2022

In the oven as we speak (I guess I’m doing the speaking, rather than both of us) I have a pavlova made to a new recipe by Adam Liaw and featured in the Good Weekend. It throws out the universally accepted method of whipping egg whites and then adding sugar a spoonful at a time. This recipe tosses everything in together, but using icing sugar. I had my doubts that it would work but it certainly looks the part, we shall see how it cuts and tastes. Another rigid rule bites the dust.

A friend from Grafton sent me a pic today of flowers on the grave in Macksville of VC winner Frank Partridge, a cousin of my very ex husband. When I told him the relationship, he replied that he thought FP was my uncle and he’d wasted his money on the flowers. I shot back that if he raced to the shop and explained they may give him a refund, though judging by the look of the flowers I think they were actually left a while back, by someone else entirely. Nick was always a tease.

I came across an Oliver Sacks quote: “If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self – himself – he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it”. It made me think of John and the fact that he does know it. He has been complaining about not being able to turn off the taps in his bathroom, I’m always finding them dripping. So he asked me to get the plumber because they need new washers and he’s forgotten how to do it, but unfortunately the plumber showed me that they are severely corroded inside and need replacing altogether. This morning when I said I have to go to the plumbing supply place to choose new taps, John told me I was wasting money and that he can turn them off, if he just puts his mind to it. I went in and found them still dripping, so I will go to get new ones after all and end the tap discussion.

December 18, 2022

Last night late (I was finishing Holly Throsby’s wonderful new book ‘Clarke’ till midnight) I checked the news before going to bed and the lead story made steam come out of my ears. Apparently Nathaniel Train, the person whom the Queensland Police were looking for in a ‘routine welfare check’ which ended three people’s lives, was known by the police to have travelled illegally into the state during the Covid lockdown. He was seen by a local farmer trying unsuccessfully to break through a locked border gate between the states, then cutting off the padlock with an angle grinder and driving through. He then stalled his 4 WD going through flood waters and tossed the contents of his car into a nearby flooded creek before phoning someone who then came to pick him up on the Queensland side. Once the water went down locals discovered loaded guns, ammunition, ‘Rambo’ knives and a crossbow along with medical and other paperwork clearly marked with the man’s name. The farmer reported the illegal entry, filmed by government installed security cameras, to local police who ignored it. Later he reported the guns as they emerged from the flood, but the police allegedly said ‘the car’s not stolen so we can’t do anything’. I was flabbergasted at this and the fact that not only had his actions been identified twice to police, but it was all on file 12 months before they were doing a ‘routine welfare check’ at the property where the shootings took place. No wonder the police were cagey when asked about whether they had had been any previous interactions with the brothers. On Thursday, not 24 hours after the murders, police turned up asking the farmer to show them what had been retrieved from the vehicle a year ago, but he had disposed of it all long ago. If I stole a packet of biscuits from the IGA I’d be in more bother than this bloke was for illegally entering Queensland, destroying government property, being in possession of loaded weapons, having unlicensed guns and I’m sure they could dredge up a few more charges than those. What a debacle.

When I read the guts of the article out to John this morning his reply was ‘what siege is this you’re talking about?’, he’d forgotten it entirely since Thursday. Something still zinging my brain has already gone from his, which reminded me how much we are losing. Communication, shared passions, shared memories. He asked me at breakfast this morning if the 2001 Toyota he owns now was the first car he bought after his motor cycle accident, in 1971, and if he’d owned any other cars in the interim. He’s asked a few times if it is right that Terry, his closest friend, has died as he doesn’t want to make a mistake about that when three other friends come to visit on Tuesday, one of whom he can’t remember at all apart from the name being familiar.

December 19, 2022

I have been puzzling about why NO other media outlets had repeated the ABC’s story about Nathaniel Train illegally crossing into Queensland, with a cache of guns. I couldn’t understand it as to me it was front page news. I checked every news outlet and the only one running it was in New Zealand. So I started to think that maybe they were waiting until the State funeral planned for Wednesday, out of some erroneous idea that telling the truth would offend the police department. (Am I becoming a conspiracy theorist?) But now the story has been picked up (modestly) by a few outlets and while I can’t understand their reticence at least it’s out there at some level.

Seeing something online about radio man Doug Mulray yesterday reminded me of an incident decades ago when he came into the shop on a quiet afternoon and we just hit it off. He stayed for some time and I remember we discussed the idea of ‘love at first sight’. He had just hooked up with Miss Lizzie, later to be his wife, and explained that he went to a party (Christmas party perhaps?) at his radio station and saw her across a room. They walked towards each other and both expressed the view right then that they were meant for each other. They are still happily married by the way. He is the second person to tell a similar story, the other is a psychotherapist who met his now wife across a crowded room at a psychology event in London. He wrote a beautiful poem about their meeting but sadly I lent the book of poetry to Brian once and while he was away for a weekend his son and girlfriend ‘cleaned up’ for him, tossing a number of my books in the process, including a first edition Graham Greene. Grrr, it still rankles.

I recently came across the words ‘like a stork that’s fallen through a wardrobe’ in a fiction book. Now every time I look at Dominic Perrottet I can’t not think of it. There are parameters of size and shape that we get inured to and for me he always makes me want to say ‘gosh you’re tall….and thin’ which is pretty pathetic really.

December 20, 2022

Expecting a number of John’s priestly pals for lunch, all ex-priests not current ones. Two people have said that the name of the only one of them that I don’t already know is shared with another priest whom I have been told by one person is ‘very conservative’ and by another is ‘intellectual and conservative’. So I hope we are getting the other one who’s moderate and if not he’ll have to take me as he finds me. Unfortunately John can’t remember the chap at all so that’s no help. He’s been beyond delighted about them coming and asks about it every day, though today he saw me in the kitchen cooking but still asked: Are we going anywhere today or just staying here? I’ve tried a new coleslaw recipe with a dressing of coconut cream, very crunchy peanut butter and sweet chili sauce which tastes alright but looks a bit stodgy, so I’m not sure I’ll do it that way again. But the potato and asparagus salad and the avocado and mango one both look good and should go well with the fried trout fillets. (When Boris came I did a baked fillet of salmon with asparagus, which he relayed to Jane as baked salmon with asbestos). Made a Lemon Polenta Cake for dessert. My Kitchen Whiz has carked and after chopping everything by hand today I decided to break my usual rule of not buying new stuff and have just ordered a Continuous Grater and Slicer Attachment for my Kenwood Chef. Stupidly excited, and if it comes before Christmas I shall wrap it up and give it to myself.

Yesterday we had a call from John’s case manager from Wendy’s Home Care to say that his regular Wednesday carer Greg has come down with Covid last weekend, which means he got it just about the last time he was here. That was a close shave. She also relayed that John’s Home Care Package increase is showing on the My Aged Care website now as ‘less than 1 month’ instead of the previous ‘1 to 3 months’. After the call, which was taken in the car with the speaker on, John asked who it was and what she was talking about. I explained, but he didn’t understand and said he didn’t know anyone called Kristy at all. She was here in the house in early December for a couple of hours and he has often spoken about how much he likes her and how good she has been for us. Later in the day I had a text from the ACAT assessor to say that he had moved up into the ‘less than 1 month’ category. Is this just natural movement up the list or due to intervention by Alex Hawke’s office? Who knows and who cares, but it’s coming at the right time.

Well it was a lovely gathering this afternoon, lunch went off well and it turns out that the visitor was the ‘good’ John after all. When it was said to him that there are two he laughed and said he knows the other one and he’s a ‘very scary priest whose parishioners are all afraid of him’. We got on famously and there’s talk of him coming back with his wife. I think I’ve made a pal there. As soon as they left we darted up to the Farmer’s Market, but there were limits to what I could buy, too early for berries and greens for Christmas Day for example.

December 21, 2022

Glad to see Julia Baird’s name on an opinion piece in the Herald today. She disappeared from The Drum so suddenly and without explanation so I’ve been worried that it was due to a return of her cancer. and suspect it must be. Her comments were as usual wise and valid, regarding the contemptible criticism of Meghan Markle by that awful excuse for a human, Jeremy Clarkson. It’s true that Meghan isn’t someone I’d want to spend a lot of time with but I don’t ‘hate’ her or hope that she has shit thrown over her, I’d simply like to hear less of her and about her. But just as my mind filters out ads I can quite easily filter out Harry and Meghan so it’s no big deal.

John’s latest carer Rochelle, here because of Greg’s bout of Covid, was lovely and happily took him on a drive. Now we have four people that he’s happy to go with and one that he never wants to see again, so that’s a pretty good team. Bob is back at work after his second Covid and rang yesterday evening, his morning shift finished at 5.30 pm and he says Covid is ‘rife’. I have been ‘making a list and checking it twice’, not of Christmas wishes but things that I want to do once I’m left to my own devices for longer next year. Swimming is a high priority, I haven’t even seen the new Waves centre at Baulkham Hills yet, then I’m hoping to do some art classes, preferably watercolour. The Botanic Gardens has some classes in January in botanical watercolour but they are for Intermediate and High Level not beginners, so they are not for me. Then of course there is court, ICAC, lots of interesting stuff to do. There’s a Chinese lantern-making workshop on in Glebe in January that I’d like to go to, but I’m getting ahead of myself. If I get too excited John’s Home Care Package will take even longer to come through.

Last year I ordered a turkey breast for Christmas and did the same this year. My preference is for seafood but I’m trying to please everyone. But today I realised that I had accidentally bought a 1 kilo one when I’d assumed it was the same size as last year, 2 kilos. Stupid mistake, but I have over a kilo of duck drumsticks in the freezer courtesy of Michelle W. so I’m going to bake them in red wine and quince as well as the turkey. Perhaps we’ll be glad about the mistake on the day.

December 22, 2022

Out visiting this morning when Australia Post sent a message to say my Kenwood attachment was being delivered this morning but it had to be signed for or they would take it back to the PO. Grrr, I came home to find it on the doorstep (not signed for, don’t tell Kenwood). They are a great company to deal with, sent it Express Post and free postage, can’t ask for more than that. Guests this week had supermarket coleslaw with a homemade dressing, but now I can go back to pushing cabbage and carrots through a machine which I find strangely satisfying. Then went back to buy yet more food! Which is ridiculous as the fam is only here for one day and I have bought jointly from the Farmer’s Market and today: watermelon (John has forgotten that he doesn’t like it), four big mangoes, nectarines, peaches, bananas, grapes and blueberries. Making a whole cauliflower au gratin tonight with a few soft tomatoes pushed into the gaps, looking yum.

The Queensland Police Commissioner said today that four police were sent to the Train property because of an arrest warrant issued for Nathaniel after he dumped loaded weapons and crossed the border illegally a year ago. Which contradicts her answer to a reporter’s question about whether there was a reason four police were sent to the job and she answered: No, a risk assessment was done and it was decided it was safe. They were just helping each other on a routine call. Mmm, not so sure about that and I doubt the Coroner will be either.

John, who more than once insisted on my picking him up from Orange Blossom Cottage because ‘I hate it there’ arrived home today full of the fact that they had a Christmas party today ‘with three singers and games and a special lunch’. ‘I love going there’ he announced while unpacking his lolly bag and putting his present under the tree. He assures me no one else got a gift, it looks like a Christmas cake so perhaps he won it, I don’t know, but anyway he’s a happy chappy tonight.

December 23, 2022

When I saw the folk demonstrating in China’s streets about the harsh Covid lockdown conditions I immediately thought ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Now there is talk of a million people dying in coming months. Although a British professor of public health says that it is not because they lifted the restrictions too soon, but because it was too late. The protective effects of the massive vaccination program have now worn off, as it was not topped up with the effects of natural infection. As my mother would have said: Sometimes you can’t do right for doing wrong. I feel for the Chinese who did whatever seemed feasible to avert this tragedy but ended up just kicking it down the road.

So it seems that I wasn’t too far out when I predicted the truth would come out about the Queensland police murders pretty quickly once the funerals were over. It’s pretty clear that the police are on the back foot over sending four innocents into a situation that two would never come out of alive. The police commissioner it seems speaks with forked tongue (how I love that American Indian expression). Before the funerals: It was just a routine welfare check. After: The police were attempting to serve an arrest warrant. Before: There were four police because in the country they help each other. After: Four police were sent because of an outstanding warrant for the arrest of Nathaniel Train. Before: There was no evidence that police had been to the property prior to that day. After: They admitted that, although wrongly interpreted by the conspiracy theorists, the killers were right when they said police had attempted to come on to the property a number of times prior to that day. When something like this happens it serves no one for authorities to duck and weave when clearly all of these facts were known to police on day one. One wonders how the parents of those poor young coppers feel now they know the truth.

Just back from the final, final, final food shop at Aldi. All out of sour cream but apart from that we dun good. The parking took longer than the shopping. I think the Aldi checkout operators are hired for speed. I can never get the goods packed before they’re handing me the bill. We got another call from Aurora and Tallulah, seems to be very frequent now while mum and dad are at work, probably the first year they have been old enough to leave at home. We are both thrilled about this development.

December 24, 2022

Taking a break from Christmas food prep, it’s 3 pm and the duck legs are baked, ready to be reheated in the red wine and quince sauce. Potatoes par-boiled and coated with the duck fat from the legs, ready to roast tomorrow. Turkey breast ready to roast, cauliflower au gratin made, dipping sauce made for the prawns, pavlova in the oven, mango, strawberries prepped to go on top, passionfruit can be added last. I think I can take a break.

Tired because I got up at 4.30 to ring Anne in Ripponden UK to see if she has news of the bro, but she’s been kept out of the loop as well and could only say that he’s in a care home in Mount Tabor, a biblical sounding small town on the outskirts of Halifax. However the British directory of care homes doesn’t show any homes in that town, so I decided to email some random business and see if they knew its name. The main business seems to be the pub, but its website says ‘Permanently Closed’ so perhaps it’s a ghost town with a ghost home as the photos of the place are only of the pub and fields and a Methodist chapel. Talking through how we’ve come to this it was suggested by Anne that it’s a case of wanting total control, keeping out anyone but the daughters (now where have I come across this before?).Kenneth discovered an older cousin a few years ago, he had been adopted out of the family but he’s since died at the age of 90, though his daughter has kept in touch with Kenneth and they were fond of each other. Apparently she either came over or phoned, I can’t remember which, and Anne said the response from the daughter who was there at the time was so ‘snippy’ that she’s unlikely to try again. Perhaps they are worried about a claim on his estate? There’s never been any suggestion of that so it doesn’t make sense, but what other explanation is there to cut out family? So I’m reduced to emailing any small care homes in the general area (Anne said she was told there are only 15 or 20 beds) in the hope that one will come up as correct. But what with privacy laws being what they are, will they even tell me if he’s there? Anyway all that occupied me till morning, with the occasional wasted call to his landline and mobile just in case.

December 25, 2022

Well things don’t always turn out the way we expect do they? At a little past 7 am Davina rang to say she had tested positive for Covid, so the family Christmas went out the window there and then as Carly had stayed with them overnight. They were planning to drop her back to Canberra on Tuesday on their way to Jindabyne for a week. This had to be cancelled but luckily it was within one day of the cancellation time limit, otherwise it would have cost them $3000. So now she is flying home tomorrow. John, who has been beside himself with excitement about Christmas, was morose and just standing about with a faraway look in his eye. He was sitting sadly on the back verandah when Jane rang to wish us a happy Christmas. They’d had their family celebration the night before and hearing John’s tale of woe she suggested that they come for lunch, a change of plans that we both welcomed. So they came straight over and we sat down to a platter of prawns and dipping sauce with a glass of bubbly, followed by the traditional two meats and lots of veggies with a pavlova to follow. Prior to this we had a good conversation with John’s granddaughters, calling while their mum was on a run. Of course we are disappointed at how the day turned out, but it is what it is and we were delighted to be able to share the meal and company with Jane and Boris. However I feel for Dav and Louis who were so looking forward to their holiday and now will go back to work having had no relief from routine, better to have had Covid on the boss’s time but it isn’t optional.

No joy from any of the care homes I’ve contacted in the UK trying to find the one my brother is in, I guess it’s a busy time for them but still I’d hoped to hear something by now. I’ve sent another pleading email to his daughter but it’s the last. If I don’t get a reply to this one I shall move into FU mode.

December 26, 2022

We have now planned to drive to Canberra for a few days next Saturday, leaving enough days before we go to make sure that Carly hasn’t caught the wretched plague. Yippee, I will get to see the Cressida Campbell exhibition after all! Managed to get an apartment in the Deco Hotel for three nights, after which the place is booked out for all of the following week. We’ve stayed there before and although it’s on Northbourne Avenue, it backs onto Carly’s street so her place is only a five minute walk. Then we will catch up with Dav and family after that. Carly is flying home as I write. All of these changes have discombobulated John, who asked today why the gifts were still under the tree and why the girls haven’t come. I was distracted and just answered: Covid and then he asked if they didn’t come because we both have it. I’ve explained what day we are going away and returning, where we are staying etc and got him to write it all in his diary. However I should know by now that it’s a bad move to flag something that far ahead because he keeps asking: are we staying there overnight? should I pack now? is it tomorrow we’re going? and getting upset because he can’t remember the answers. Writing things down is less effective than it was as he can’t understand the meaning of it anyway. The ACAT assessor asked me if he paces which he’s just started doing, as when you can’t read or concentrate on TV and it’s too hot to go for a walk the answer seems to be to pace. As a result I can’t relax and read because I feel I need to entertain him. It reminds me of a tiger in the zoo and it’s a natural reaction to boredom. It is so disappointing that our much anticipated Christmas didn’t come off, I can’t help wondering if he will understand and be up to celebrating Christmas at all by the time it rolls around again.

December 27, 2022

I am actually getting excited about Canberra, especially since I booked the three of us into the National Gallery at 10.30 am Sunday for the Cressida Campbell exhibition. I realised I could get in free as a carer but decided it would be a bit mean for a one off visit and paid up. My logic for the time slot is that a lot of folks will get up late on New Year’s Day, but we’ll see. Carly got a bottle of very good Champagne when she left her previous department so we plan to try that out on NYE and I will take some food from here in the Esky to have for dinner as she says all the restaurants will be booked out by now and it’s safer eating at home anyway. Canberra has a very vibrant restaurant and bar scene and it’s hard to get in at any time. I am enjoying not getting back out into the rat race, no shopping (food or otherwise), no driving, just hanging here doing some watering, enjoying the garden, reading and painting the odd card. Fridge is still full of food so I don’t think I will need to get back into society before Saturday.

I learned a trick yesterday with John: he constantly gets stressed about anything ruled out in his diary, was it intended? why did things change? so finally I went through it and hit any changes with white out, he immediately stopped stressing and doesn’t even notice the changes now. I wish I could work out a few more tricks like that one. Interestingly John has forgotten that he doesn’t like raw tomato and watermelon (he’s disliked both all the time I’ve known him) so I am serving them both regularly, in case he remembers and I have to take them off the menu again. Makes lunch an easier proposition.

Yesterday his nephew Damien rang and we both had good conversations with him. He is such an interested and interesting person with a real joie de vivre, although he was bemoaning having turned 65 recently. He’s now into vintage cars, collecting the model that his father had when he was young, plus he runs a thriving business and has six hours a week of one-on-one Chinese language lessons direct from China, this on top of learning Thai after meeting his Thai wife. As a result he has made a number of Chinese friends and is able to ring them and polish his skills. He says even those in remote Western areas are suffering badly from Covid, so sad.

December 28, 2022

Okay, so I’ve played nice and got nowhere. Not one of the care homes in Halifax has answered my emails asking for an address or phone number of any home in Mount Tabor. Tania isn’t answering my emails either so this morning I have emailed West Yorkshire Police telling them that I can’t locate my brother in the place I’ve been told he is staying. My experience of British Police has been very good in the past and I am hoping that they keep up that reputation by at least replying and making a suggestion.

It was John’s carer day today and we had Karen, a very nice Korean-born lady. She was a bit nonplussed about where to take him so I suggested either Koala Park or Parramatta Lakes, but in the end she took him to both, coming home with photos on his phone of their adventure. It’s good to see that he managed yet again with a new person, it’s always a bit iffy. Martha came over for a cuppa, it’s been a while trying to get our schedules to coincide. Then I had another go at a small painting of a stormy sky, it’s far from great but as good as I can get it with my lack of skill. I’ve emailed the Sydney Art School asking about their watercolour classes, which are showing as only available at night. Hopefully a day class may pop up while I still have the motivation to attend.

Froze the rest of the turkey, going back to fish tonight, woohoo. Still loads of veggies to get through, but we are getting there. I am really enjoying the Simnel Cake which I did in lieu of Christmas Cake, but I’m conscious of making it last till the fam can come.

December 29, 2022

Well the good old Bobbies came to the party in as much as they replied immediately, but said that ‘due to data protection requirements’ they couldn’t help. So I wrote back explaining that I don’t want them to find my brother, just find me the details of any home in Mount Tabor or its vicinity. Another reply came: ‘I am sorry Maureen however like previously said by my colleague, due to data protection we would be unable to provide this information’. So apparently the location of British care homes is secret stuff, perhaps they have the old folks locked up in classified locations, behind razor wire. So I am waking every morning about 4 am to try ringing his mobile, which always goes to message bank.  When I was once contacted by a complete stranger in Britain to try to find a long lost friend who’d migrated to Sydney in the 1960s, I did internet searches and finally drove to Bondi to do a house to house, eventually putting them back in touch. I need someone like that in Halifax, other than my two nieces of course. I was able to find my niece Jane’s address but sadly it seems as if her landline is extinct as British Telecom doesn’t list it, bugger. I thought she may be more helpful than her sister. There must be a way.

Now it looks as if Louis might be getting the plague too, just as Davina was hoping to salvage something out of their holidays. We also heard from our friend John who was one of the ex-priests who came for lunch on the Tuesday before Christmas. He was hospitalised with Covid before Christmas and has just come out. So if he was so sick before Christmas, it’s a moral that he had it on that Tuesday, another bullet dodged. I read an interesting article by Peter Doherty, the Nobel Prize winning medico, who says it’s a mistake to think of Covid as being somewhat akin to pneumonia. “It took us a while to work out that unlike influenza, but like measles or polio, Covid-19 causes a systemic infection, with the virus distributed to internal organs via the blood and it can have the added complication of being a coagulopathy, a blood-clotting disease, via mechanisms that are yet to be understood”. With so many folk we know falling victim at the moment, I wonder if this wave is actually the biggest wave we’ve had.

December 30, 2022

News from my cousin Angela on holiday in Melbourne, she has Covid and managed to give it to her cousin on Christmas Eve. She’s holed up in a two storey luxury unit overlooking the Yarra and the city, but not able to see the extended family since Christmas. I think it must be grossly underreported by people only using RAT tests and not bothering to notify Health.

Busy packing for us both as John asks: Is Davina coming with us? (no, she has Covid) and Are we going for 1 night or 6 nights (it’s 3 actually so he’s maybe half right). Yesterday he said: Don’t worry that the watering can is not on the front verandah, I’ve found a new home for it down the back. Today we’ve both searched, but the new watering can is nowhere to be found. Sort of like my brother, no luck there either, with emails and calls to various organisations being a waste of time. The Halifax NHS Headquarters can’t even be contacted by email with a message coming up: ‘This site can’t be reached, took too long to respond’ and I am not talking about once, but constantly. It would be funny if not so tragic.

For Christmas John got me a book by former Intelligence Officer Clinton Fernandes, whom I’ve been following for a while but no one seemed to have heard of him. Yesterday he had an Opinion piece in the Herald and today there’s another article about him and his book Sub-Imperial Power. The unfortunate thing is that I haven’t even been able to open it, what with everything going on with the bro, Covid, John and all the other shit clogging up my bandwidth. I need to go on a retreat, oh hang on I’ve already done that, seems like a year ago. One positive today is that I found a friend willing to look after John while I go out on January 9. Orange Blossom Cottage can’t take him because it’s a women only day there on Mondays and it was looking a bit dicey that I’d find somewhere. A group of women who used to meet monthly have being getting together on Zoom for nearly two years, but it’s just not the same and it’s awkward now with John. They’ve decided to get together face-to-face for the first time and I have been hoping to go, now it’s looking possible, if I can dodge Covid. Feeling pretty negative, I need to buck up to go away tomorrow.

December 31, 2022

Sue popped in yesterday and complained about the traffic being horrendous going both ways, so I was expecting it to be heavy coming to Canberra. However it was no different to usual so that was a pleasant surprise. We stopped a few miles (miles is a blast from the past, but just came into my mind) after Berrima at a little picnic spot and enjoyed our Thermos tea and some Christmas cake. It was wonderful to see Lake George so full of water after decades of seeing it as a dead flat feeding spot for sheep. I wonder where they’ve taken them all? I kept thinking of the couple who rolled their car in WA just 10 km from their destination and were killed on Christmas Day, trying to keep my concentration up, this drive seems to get longer as I get older. We arrived at Carly’s on time and shared our provisions with hers for lunch. Booking in to our apartment I was a little disappointed to find it was facing west and hence didn’t have the great view we had last time, but we were lucky to get in at such short notice so I can’t complain. Carly came over bearing a bottle of very good French champagne and I heated up food brought from home and made rice, asparagus and salad to go with it. We watched the 9 o’clock fireworks and with the rider that fireworks on TV are just a tiny fraction of the experience of the real thing, it was an excellent show with just glorious colours. I had no inclination to see the New Year in and neither did John or Carly so we all opted for an early night. However, this building has fancy schmancy light switches that control electric curtains, a fan, mood lighting etc, which are fine enough in the daytime but I sadly discovered that at night they light up like Christmas trees, on the wall near the door and on either side of the bed making sleep impossible. After a long time awake I relocated to the lounge but couldn’t sleep much there either so it was not the restful night I needed. I vowed to have words with the lovely man on the desk tomorrow.

January 1, 2023

Gawd 2023, I can’t believe it. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. The new year seems very like the old I’m afraid, but we feasted on avo toast and tea before picking Carly up and heading to the NGA for the wondrous Cressida Campbell exhibition. There was not a single painting that I didn’t like and so many that I simply adored. My faves are the room interiors and the still life masterpieces. Who paints a vase of flowers and just focuses on the stems in the glass vase? Her nasturtiums could almost be picked off the painting. Her taste in interiors is just divine and when she paints a wall of her house it has half a dozen of her paintings hanging on it, those same paintings that we’ve just looked at in a previous room. If I could do just one of those pictures I’d consider my life to have been worthwhile. Off to the Botanic Gardens for a light lunch outside before walking through the delightful Rainforest Gully, misted with water and glistening with life, lots of birds, reptiles and insects, especially butterflies. Home for a rest and a change of clothes before heading off to Monash in the south of the ACT for dinner with Peter and Dawn in their new home, but before we left my pal on the desk came up and taped folded sheets of newspaper over the offending switches, solving the problem. Querying ‘I’m not the first one to complain about this problem then?’ and he admitted that was the case. I guess the architects wanted all mod cons but they don’t sleep there so the issue wasn’t anticipated. We sat outside and had a lovely meal and the conversation was wonderful as always. They are off to Japan soon and in February Dawn will be part of Mardi Gras as a 78er, one of those arrested in the first ever gay rights march which eventually became Mardi Gras. I remembered to ask Peter if I could look at his watercolours and enjoyed seeing those he’s done on his travels, my favourite is from Moscow, but others were from Italy, China and South East Asia. He is very talented and along with his skills in languages and as a diplomat I guess you’d have to call him a polymath. The trip home was a bit hairy as I am no longer happy driving any distance at night, but it was safely accomplished and the sight of the papered over switches made me smile.

January 2, 2023

This morning we decided on a trip to Murrumbateman with Carly, just a tiny village surrounded by rolling hills with wineries and vineyards everywhere. First to Clonakilla which Carly and I had visited many years ago but now it has a much bigger tasting room set-up with a verandah overlooking the vines and a stone fireplace for winter. John amazed me by being part of the tasting and though the wines were excellent the reds are not my favourite styles. However we got a bottle of 2015 riesling and eventually moved on to Gallaghers Wines, who specialise in riesling as well as bubblies, which was the attraction for me. They were excellent and I bought a bottle of Duet, their sparkling white pinot noir and chardonnay blend and a 2015 Blanc de Blanc bubbly. Carly bought  sparkling shiraz after the owner convinced her by offering it with a piece of dark chocolate and she agreed with him that it was just like a Cherry Ripe. She’s looking forward to sharing it with her friend Lucas who is both a wine buff and a dark chocoholic. Back for a late lunch, just a fridge raid at our apartment after which I fell fast asleep on the lounge. Later John said he’d like to go for a half hour walk, which I was a bit dubious about, but he promised to stay on Northbourne Avenue for 15 minutes, then turn around and come back, but half an hour later he rang up lost. He can’t use the maps on his phone but clearly he’d turned many times judging by where he was. He was able to ask a lady where Northbourne was and I could hear her directing him to go to the next lights and turn left. I told him that he needed to head west and despite the fact that the sun was setting he couldn’t work out which way west was. It took a number of calls before I finally found him, and certainly not anywhere near where he was meant to be. Clearly I can’t let him go off by himself again unless it’s from home, and perhaps even that won’t be possible for much longer. I was sure that if he stayed on the one street he couldn’t get lost, but he’s lost any sense of direction at all. After all that we walked to Carly’s and she ordered in some Greek food for dinner, but walking home it was clear that John didn’t have a clue, even when we got to the hotel he didn’t recognise it. He asked if we are going to the art gallery tomorrow but I explained that we went yesterday, however he’s forgotten going to the exhibition altogether. I want to weep, but seeing I wasn’t in a helicopter at Sea World today, I don’t have anything to complain about.

January 3, 2023

We called in to see some friends on the way out of Canberra but only stayed briefly before setting out for Berrima. Although they are my friends originally, John has had a bit to do with them and we’ve visited a number of times before, but he didn’t remember them at all and was out of the conversation really. Went for a walk through Berrima, very warm there, and found that my favourite shop The Little Hand-Stirred Jam Shop has closed, as I’d been told. For decades there was Mrs Oldbuck’s Pantry who sold out to the above business and I understand there was an agreement not to set up in opposition for a period of time, but soon after that the original one reopened (dirty pool?) and although the two have coexisted in the same street for quite a few years now it seems that Mrs. Oldbucks has won out. It’s a shame as I always preferred the Hand-Stirred products. Off to the Gumnut Patisserie for lunch but as John had asked me for a meat pie and they were sold out I went outside to ask if he wanted a sausage roll, a pastie, a quiche or whatever. But a big family got in the queue and said ‘we’ll have the lot and we’ll divide them up’, so that was that. Ended up having a picnic of leftovers from the food we took to Canberra, cheeses, avocado etc which we had on bread and decided that we enjoyed that more than the absent pastry goods, loving the Maggie Beer Truffle Camembert. The traffic was pretty bad but moving and in a way it’s less stressful driving at 80 than at 100 so I wasn’t complaining. When we got home about 4.30 the television had turned itself on, something it mysteriously does but hadn’t done for the past couple of years. I went to turn it off and realised it was a program from Britain about people finding their long lost relatives separated by adoption, in one case a sister found in New Zealand by the program was reunited with her brother in Wales. So of course I sat down and watched it in a gush of tears. Wendy’s Home Care rang to say that John’s carer for tomorrow has been altered to someone he’s never had so it’s touch and go whether that will work out, but here’s hoping.

January 4, 2023


After emailing many care homes before we went away looking for Kenneth, without a single reply, I noticed that one, Valley View in Moor End Rd Pellon, had a different email address on its Facebook page to the one I’d used so I sent off a message and within 15 minutes I’d had a reply. Yes he is there, but had been taken to hospital on December 30 and was expected back that day. Julie the manager suggested that we make a time tomorrow for me to ring him. Unfortunately she sent another email to say that although he had been brought back briefly he ‘needed admitting back to the hospital ward he was on, but he was muddled up about where he is, bless him’. But oh joy, finally I’m dealing with a human. I have replied asking for the name of the hospital and the ward. Only a day or two and we’ll be back in touch. Still deciding whether to keep that fact a secret from the daughter or not, I’ll be advised by him.

John’s replacement carer was a lovely Korean lady, somewhat older than the other girls he’s had but very kind as I could see by her eyes. She took him to Parramatta Lake for a walk and lunch, Orange Blossom Cottage is still on holidays so he won’t be going there tomorrow. I went to ‘sewing group’ at Colleen’s but I’ve decided that I’m not even attempting to do any dreaded sewing, so I took the dried leaves I’d collected and traced copies of them onto cardboard which I will cut out and paint to intersperse with the real ones on some cards. The huge eucalypt ones I got in Canberra are too long for my normal cards so I will need to make some bigger ones and use business size envelopes for them. It would be a tragedy to cut them. On the way home I stopped at a house where bark is peeling off a tree in great swathes. I knocked and asked if I could have some of the bark and collected half a dozen pieces, some as long as I am tall. Delicious.

January 5, 2023

It has become my usual practice now to wake in the middle of the night, ring Kenneth’s mobile (always unsuccessfully) and go back to sleep. Julie from the care home hasn’t replied as yet to my email about the name of the hospital he’s gone to so I am sending emails to the likely candidates, or at least trying to. I’m having difficulties because none of the hospitals have an email address separate from the NHS itself and of course they’re not answering. But I think I have some terrier genes as the more they block me the more determined I am.

John can’t turn off the taps in his bathroom properly and the plumber couldn’t fix them with new washers as they are all corroded up inside. He needs to replace all the piping underneath as well as a new spout and tap handles, but the local plumbing supply place didn’t have the right gear. So today I went to Cook’s Plumbing at Windsor and got all the right bits, confirmed by sending a photo of them to the plumber, three cheers for modern technology, hip, hip hooray. Of course it turns out that he leaves for two weeks’ holiday today so he can’t come till the 25th, but at least it’s in train. Unusually John stayed in the car at each place we went, first calling in to check that an old customer in South Windsor didn’t have anything valuable in a raft of pictures he’s been given that were on their way to the tip from a deceased estate, then Cook’s, then Woolworths. He said he was too tired but I wonder if he’s not sickening with something as now he’s abed, but before he went he asked if we had been out today, he gets worse by the day but I keep saying that don’t I? The only pictures that were interesting were a few pretty embroideries of old cottages, but they are frightfully unfashionable these days and not worth much, if anything, and a fetching decoupage of flowers which I could have bought for $20 and still may, there again worth $150 or more back in the day and a measly 20 bucks now, despite the many hours of work that went into it. The rest of the stuff was pretty much unsaleable, the old girl who died had pretty bad taste bless her. It occurs to me sometimes that craft is what humans do in order to fill in the hours till death, and I suppose that I could buy cards for $1 instead of spending a long time making them. Our labour-saving devices just give us more time to fill with stuff that will be tossed into the Sulo bin when our kids are trying to clear the house for sale.

January 6, 2023

Well am I the cat that swallowed the canary? You bet I am. This morning at 6 am I got an email from Julie, that gem of a manager at Kenneth’s care home to say that he was still in hospital and giving me the name of the hospital, the ward number and their phone number. By 6.05 I’d rung them and confirmed his presence there but the phone was a desk one that can’t be moved. Eventually she came up with the idea of giving me a hospital mobile number and she took the phone to him. He was in good form as I told him the hoops I’ve jumped through to find him. The reason that his mobile doesn’t answer is that he left the charger at home. He told me he’s been in three care homes and two hospitals since we last spoke and he seemed quite lucid, discussing his time with me in Australia and our adventures in England. I really don’t care what he tells his daughters, they are as useless as marshmallow hubcaps as far as imparting information is concerned. Dads and daughters, harrumph, I think Freud had something there, they are as green-eyed and distrustful as can be from my experience, both here and in Halifax. Kenneth said I’d have been good in his job, I’m assuming he meant the intelligence service rather than surveying! I’ll take that on board as a compliment Kenneth my darling brother, thankyou.

All else pales beside this morning but I have been more patient and obliging with John now that my mind isn’t half occupied with the search. I didn’t even complain when I saw that the alarm man had ticked off a lot more tests on the system than he’d actually done. He helped me make a slice, prep dinner, we did a load of washing and hung it under the deck, dealt with the alarm maintenance man and I put together my Christmas present to myself, the Kenwood Chef Continuous Grater and Chopper and with it made a carrot salad. As usual the busier John is the happier he is. I did get a letter off to the Herald but I’m sure it won’t get in, however it keeps my letter-writing neurons active. It read in part: “‘Simple, sombre and sober’ funeral with 130 cardinals, 400 bishops, 4000 priests and a pope. I will now put ‘simple, sombre and sober‘ into my funeral instructions as I know what it means in practice.”

Did I mention that I spoke to Kenneth for 20 minutes?

January 7, 2023

Aurora rang this morning to let us know that she and her sister were at their grandma’s house for a couple of days so we planned to go there to visit them this afternoon. Lovely visit from Carol and Jack for morning tea discussing books and much else and I was glad to get the visit in before Jack goes to Gerringong for two weeks, and happy that he took a couple of good books to go down with him. After that I got things together to drive to Cranebrook but discovered John had changed into ‘house clothes’ and was playing cards so it took a bit to get him organised to go out, he had completely forgotten and couldn’t remember the arrangement even after I mentioned it. The visit enabled us to deliver the girls’ birthday presents, they are 3 days apart in mid January, with 4 years difference in age. They are delightful children and loved being with John. Lynne showed me some of the many things that Ivan had collected, books, pewter, an English pub style bar well stocked with every type of liquor and every type of glass, a huge model car collection, hundreds of videos and CDs, a Gestetner machine and so much more. Then there are the vintage cars and the guitars……

I’ve realised once again that both of my girls consider my kitchen practices very lax. Apparently you can’t freeze something you’ve cooked if any of the ingredients were previously frozen (oops) or use a board to cut something if it’s had meat or chicken on it, thawing must only be done in the fridge, not on the cupboard top no matter how briefly, anything spilt onto the table can’t be eaten (is the floor alright?) and use by dates, my goodness they are immutable. But even though I am lax no one has ever got poisoning from home cooked food here though I myself have had it badly three times, every time from a restaurant or caterer. Perhaps I’ve built up a resistance, yes I’m sure I have, so that out of date sour cream that tastes and looks fine can still go on my potato tomorrow night, or later in the week maybe, anyway next time I do jacket potatoes.

The beautiful Julie from Valley View Care Home emailed me again, I get some correspondence daily, to say that the hospital has decided that Kenneth isn’t well enough to return there, as it’s a home for the ‘medically fit’, they will be placing him somewhere else where I am unlikely to find another Julie. However she volunteered to find out where that place is so I don’t lose him again. What a trooper.

January 8, 2023

I’ve had an eBay drought for about a month, but now a small vintage flag for an Italian soccer team has sold, to an Italian of course, then 50 cigarette cards from 1930 went to a good home in the central west. All this for a massive $40 less fees, but satisfying nonetheless. Seeing the stuff that Lynne’s husband left behind for her to deal with has once again focussed my mind on finding homes for things.

We had a belated Christmas at Davina’s today though of course timing is everything and this was sans tree, Christmas fare and champagne, but we made the best of it. The most appreciated gift was Millie’s Monopoly set, she was wildly excited and we all played during the afternoon. She has a good understanding of the concept and was muttering ‘I need to get rich’ and did so, ending up with hotels on Mayfair etc and skimming us all of our hard-earned Monopoly money.

A few people have recommended that we watch Our Dementia Choir on ABC and we’ve caught a couple of episodes on iView. But I just can’t get past the 31 year old former drummer suffering from Alzheimer’s, diagnosed at age 30, close to the first birthday of his twins. His father died at 36 from what has been retrospectively diagnosed as dementia and it’s clear by the severity of his disease after just one year that his life will be short and brutal. After that I just couldn’t muster up any sympathy for those in their 80s I’m afraid.

January 9, 2023

Today I went off to Killara to catch up with some folks I used to meet with pre-Covid. Dropped John off with Bronwyn and Michael at Lane Cove and while I was away they spent time playing Scrabble and then went for lunch at a nearby cafe. I enjoyed seeing friends again, though as a larger number than usual turned up (10) I didn’t get to talk one on one really. Will plan to see Jenny, Di and Greg separately at some point. This month is extraordinarily busy with only a few odd days blank in the diary till the end of January. Boring medical stuff, minding Millie some days, friends from New Zealand visiting Sydney, book group at Killcare, phew! I’ve told a few people today that we’d have to plan something in Feb as this month is a wipeout. After so much anticipation, today was a bit of a let down really, sometimes you can wait for something so long that it doesn’t live up to the internal hype.

Just read The Premonitions Bureau which was an odd book in many respects but I did find some interesting facts in it. It tells the true story of John Barker a British psychiatrist who in 1966 set out on a project to establish if peoples’ premonitions came true. So folks logged their premonitions with him and he recorded them to see which if any materialised into fact. His methods were totally unscientific in my view and it seemed he just set out to prove his own theories (whether or not all psychiatrists are a wee bit mad is a subject for another day). He began retrospectively asking people if they believed they had a premonition about the Aberfan mining disaster, guaranteed to bring all the crazies out of their wardrobes. Then he followed up with those who said they did and added more over time. He was a show-business fanatic, appearing in every article and on every television programme who would have him. He pioneered aversion therapy (boo hiss) and seemed to have an abiding interest in the occult. He had an interest in ‘psychiatric orchids’, or unusual mental conditions. Barker had conducted studies on Munchausen syndrome, sufferers of which feign illness and was in the midst of researching Scared to Death, a book about people who accurately foretold their own deaths. Yes I have had premonitions by the way, and some have come to fruition, but I would not for a minute think that this proves anything one way or another and his research, set up so haphazardly, would not either. Some Yorkshire relatives of both the adoptive and natural families attended Spiritualist Churches and it seems that was a fairly common thing in that part of the world. Kenneth and I attended his grandmother’s church in Keighley one night and were overcome by stifled giggles when the person leading the meeting was desperately trying to find connections that weren’t there. (I’m hearing from a Bernard, does anyone have a Bernard? No, well there’s also a Peter? Anyone waiting to hear from a Peter?). Eventually we had to flee when her desperation and the bizarre nature of the service got the better of us. We sat in the car and laughed till we cried. But back to the book….I did learn about the nocebo effect which describes adverse symptoms induced independently of the active component of a treatment, the opposite of a placebo effect. This occurs due to negative expectations or perceptions of a treatment, which can be influenced by factors such as healthcare beliefs, media, or suggestions of adverse possibilities from a medico. All of this stuff is fascinating to me but it needs to be studied very carefully, and not by a devotee of a particular theory.

January 10, 2023

A couple of people have suggested that John should maybe go to respite occasionally to give me a break, but I have reservations about it after hearing plenty of stories of people deteriorating rapidly once they spend time in an institution, even temporarily. I think that he would see it as the thin edge of the wedge, which in a sense it is. There is a harm in ‘incarceration’ regardless of the setting. The strange surroundings and people, the enforced change to normal routines can cause a person to give up on a confident idea of the future. Of course if I fell ill for an extended period that would be different but as things stand I’d prefer not to do it, even though I crave some time when I don’t have to clock watch for the end of the carer’s time. Yesterday I had to leave early from the group so as not to stretch the friendship with the friends who were looking after him.

Well before John’s dementia took hold he had a strong tendency to drop everything if asked to do something, particularly for any family member, but even a doctor’s receptionist could give him a totally inappropriate date yet he would accept it without a peep, even though another date would be perfectly fine with them. Yesterday his cousins from Narromine rang and said they would be in Sydney on Friday and could come and visit at ‘any time of the day’. His immediate reaction was to say he’d cancel his carer for the day, but eventually they said they could come after 2 pm so he was convinced not to do that. Once off the phone he asked: ‘Remind me who those people are who just rang’. They have rung again this morning to say that their plans have changed and they will come in a couple of weeks so I’m glad he didn’t cancel Greg.

We will be staying with Sue for a couple of nights at the end of the month and I’m thinking that seeing we are more than half way to Newcastle we should use that opportunity to go and see Stephen and Deborah which was on the cards to do early in the year. So I rang Rydges Newcastle where we stayed last time and they had rooms available. I like it there as it’s right on the harbour edge and I love watching the ships going past the windows. I joined their loyalty programme last time and it does mean a decent discount, which is a help as being a sort of holiday weekend the normal rates are a bit steep. Looking forward to it all very much.

January 11, 2023

I’ve been trying to decide what to do about a workshop I’d signed up for last year to make a Chinese lantern for their New Year. I had hoped then that John’s new package would have come through by the time it came around, but sadly no, it’s still showing as under one month, the same as in December. I was going to cancel but then this morning I thought of asking if he can come too, something he is quite amenable to, and the answer was ‘yes of course’. So we are off to that next Tuesday. One of the hard things about looking after him is never being able to do anything spontaneously, even it’s planned way ahead as this was you can’t just say ‘Oh I think I’ll visit so-and-so on the way home’ or go out for dinner afterwards for example as there is a committed time to be home to relieve the carer. That won’t improve with more hours on the new package as each respite time will be from x o’clock to x o’clock, but it will help as I can allow extra time just in case.

All the usual suspects are singing the praises of George Pell of course, as people always do once you are dead. I’ve yet to see a notice in a Saturday Herald saying ‘Joe Blogs he was a thief and a career criminal, but much loved by his wife’. I feel sorry for those who are currently suing the church and Pell as his absence will make their case more difficult. But it did firm up my resistance to ever having a joint replacement. I’d need to be in agony, having seen how badly they can turn out. Luckily I’ve never played sport and it seems people who have are more likely to end up under the knife.

Today I got the required raft of blood tests done before I see Glenn Reeves on the 27th. The phlebotomist was a man in his 50s with an unusual name, so I asked about his origin (my kids would be mortified) and it turned out he was an Afghan. It seemed perhaps an odd career for a refugee, which he was, and I guessed correctly that he had been a doctor in Afghanistan. Once here he did a medical science degree intending to do research, but couldn’t get a job anywhere. I asked why he thought that was and he replied that ‘contacts are everything’ and he’s not wrong there. We talked about charity workers in Afghanistan, though perhaps I won’t go into his comments here. I felt right from the get-go that there was a real sadness about him and his lost opportunities career-wise seem to account for it. Although I agree with the government’s strict criteria for approving doctors trained overseas, there must be many stories of failed ambitions as a result and being there with all the young people doing the same job, when he is a medico with a medical science degree on top, must rub salt in the wound every day.

January 12, 2023

What to say about Pell? Tony Abbott thinks he’s a saint, which says more about him than about Pell. Now they are saying he came from humble beginnings….excuse me, his father owned a pub! He was the sort of person that any normal person would resile from on first meeting and I can’t think of a single priest, ex-priest or nun out of John’s many friends who has a good word to say about him. Peace to those who are suffering, perhaps it’s a comfort to know that he’s no longer looking up at the same moon as you tonight.

Tried to get hold of Stephen and Deborah but so far haven’t succeeded, however Pell’s surprise death may have meant a few press interviews are happening which involve him, I don’t know but hoping that’s the answer. Today I decided to paint for the morning and although my bunch of leaves looks seriously like a bunch of spinach, I decided that renaming the picture simply Spinach would solve the problem. I shall try again and hopefully get it more like what was in my head. If the image is there, why can’t I reproduce it, the way I can with colours for example? Following that I took myself off to the movies (gasp) to see The Banshees of Inisherin at Castle Hill. The rest of the films are either in Indian languages or animated so I was lucky that it was there at all. The only way this story makes any sense to me is to view it as a message about the pointlessness of simply disagreeing to the point that mutual destruction results, that view seems all the more apposite when during the film we are periodically hearing gunfire and explosions from the mainland due to the civil war. So here you had two sides, almost as close as relatives, who decide to destroy each other rather than find a way to solve their differences, is that not war in a nutshell? Perhaps the director sees it differently and the reviewers too, I deliberately haven’t read any reviews, but that reading seems like the only way the movie speaks to me.

January 13, 2023

As soon as I heard of Dominic Perrottet’s fall from grace I immediately said ‘that smells like David Elliott’s work’ and so it has come to pass. It is one thing to have made an appalling decision at the age of 21, it is quite another to be a back-stabbing disloyal wretch at the age of 52 (I was going to use the word weasel instead of wretch but I’m trying not to attach any derogatory human term to an animal). But now exposed, I hope any future employer will discount him as totally unable to show any sort of allegiance.

The Pell caravan rolls on, now he’s been outed as the author of an anonymous and highly critical public letter criticising Pope Francis. The poor old Pope now has to be part of the mourning ceremonies for Pell, knowing that he’s a back-stabbing disloyal wretch. If the rumours are true that the federal government is paying for the repatriation of the body of George Pell, then it is certainly time that we think about withholding our taxes, not that I pay any I hasten to add. The current estimate of the wealth of the Catholic Church in Australia is $30 billion, that’s billion with a B. Surely they can afford to transport a box by air freight.

I have resisted reading Julia Baird’s article on Prince Harry and his book, simply because I don’t want my feelings on the matter to be coloured by her views, especially as I respect her greatly. I feel for him and am sad that his pain is on such public show. But he is a man who lost his mother twice, once to separation and again with her death, whose paternity is so publicly in doubt, a victim of primogeniture, who along with his wife has been pilloried in the gutter press. With all of this in his past and present I can’t bring myself to criticise his lashing out, I just want to give him a hug, a glass of plonk and a home-cooked meal. Anytime Harry.

While we are on about justice, and I guess that’s the theme running beneath the previous  paragraphs, it is so concerning to me when magistrates seem to be hoodwinked by pathetic excuses dreamed up by defendants and their lawyers. Perhaps it’s because prisons are so crowded and so unnecessarily punitive in themselves that they are reluctant to send even the deserving there. I am not a Laura Norder zealot, however I am a believer in restorative justice and I’m seeing too many escape both types of justice. Go figure how a self-identified Nazi who attacked a coloured security guard, punching him in the face six times and knocking his head against concrete, was given 150 hours of community service in part because his partner is 36 weeks pregnant and it would be stressful for him to be in gaol at that time. Who exactly is he going to do his community service with? Working in the Sallies shop? I think not. He showed his thanks for the break he got by giving a Nazi salute on the court steps on his way out.

January 14, 2023

The Pell extravaganza rolls on. The gubmint has decided in its wisdom that we needed to send some ‘Australian officials’ to supervise his body being brought back here. What an absolutely ridiculous waste of money, not just because it’s Pell, but for anyone. Have they not navvies in Italy who can carry a heavy box? Surely a couple of burly chaps from the fruit markets should be able to heave him onto the jet and all the paperwork can be done online. At least we don’t have to suffer a state funeral, in fact why does anyone need a state funeral? Except for a pauper who can’t be buried any other way. Which brings me to a memory from a Coffs Harbour guest house I stayed in a few times in the 60s. One old man who lived there died unexpectedly and no relatives could be found so a pauper’s funeral was arranged. The sole people at the funeral were the elderly proprietor of the guest house and a couple of other folks who also lived there. The proprietor went up to the funeral director and told him that she thought it was the wrong coffin as it was small and the man was very tall. No it’s the right one he said, they only pay for the cheapest coffin so we just cut his feet off and put them under his arms.

My brother’s daughter finally got in touch with me to let me know what is going on with him, after he’s been in three different care homes and two hospitals. She says he has Alzheimer’s, though I’d been told that his brain scans just a few months back didn’t show any signs of it. His cognitive decline came on so suddenly a year ago after an operation to replace a heart valve so I suspect it is actually related to that and not Alzheimer’s at all. Perhaps she is using that as a generic description for dementia, I don’t know. However it’s pretty clear that once he goes my contact with the family will fizzle instantly. On my mother’s side though, despite the loss of my cousin Victor a few months back, the other three cousins who appeared out of the ether a year ago have continued to stay in touch, Carole in Spain contacting me almost every day. A parcel arrived from her this week containing a ceramic plate with a symbol on it that is only found in Almeria Province where she lives and is thought to bring good luck and good health, so aye to that.

After surprisingly getting a booking to go to Newcastle following the stay at Sue’s at the end of the month, we discover that Stephen and Deborah are going away for most of those dates. I was sooo looking forward to it and it had the advantage that I don’t have to drive so far, as Sue’s is already half way there. Not sure what to do now as I had primed up Damien that we could be in town then and he was going to tell his brothers as well. We’ll have to have a think, of course John says he’ll do whatever I want, so really it’s only up to me. One of his questions today: Are we a republic now or are we still under Queen Elizabeth?

January 15, 2023

John had no prior mental image of Mary and David from New Zealand whom we met today for lunch, but luckily remembered them as soon as he saw them. He couldn’t though remember anything about the two week holiday we had with them in NZ, their house or anything about where we went while we were over there, in fact he doesn’t remember going there at all. But we had a lovely time, the food at The Palace Tearooms is always great and the salmon fishcakes hit the spot perfectly for me. The staff there are particularly good and it was funny when David dived to the main counter to pay while I dived to the till at the front with the same intention, we couldn’t agree so we just laughed and went halves. They are off to Griffith tomorrow where he has a job as a mediator for a family wine company that is in serious financial trouble. I wish they lived closer, I just love being with both of them and we get to see them so rarely. First we wandered around the QVB shops and wondered at some with hardly anything to sell, probably 50 items of clothing in the whole space and the only way to make that a feasible proposition with those rents is to sell everything at 1000% markup. I didn’t feel at all envious as the dresses in the windows of some of the shops I wouldn’t wear at a gift, or even on the $2 rack at the Sallies, but it takes all kinds. In one shop they were selling the most impractical shoes I’ve ever seen, covered in purple fabric, they had huge bows in front that literally dragged on the ground, so every step you take that’s not on white carpet soils the shoes irrevocably, I don’t even want to consider rain. What would possess someone to spend nearly $1500 on shoes to wear two or three times? I did see though a piece of solid opal in matrix that had been polished as a whole. Paperweight? Just a beautiful thing? I didn’t ask the price and they don’t have prices visible in those sorts of shops, but I could see myself fondling its lustrous surface while reading and enjoying it immensely. I guess not everyone could understand that, so I can’t criticise.

January 16, 2023

Whoa, what a day. We were at Erskineville a little after 8 am and walked up to St. Peters Station with Millie for the train ride to Town Hall, then down to Darling Harbour which looks a mess due to various construction projects. There is a Sydney Festival event there called Cupid’s Koi (the name relates to nothing I could see) which is a series of large blow-ups which sporadically emit water. But first we went to two permanent water features in the park which Millie loved to play in, particularly one with moveable dams, pumps etc to control the water flow. After a couple of hours there, we headed off in search of the ferry to the Quay, but the usual wharf was now a private one and a walk to Bararangaroo ensued. Stressed, hot, confused, I took a call from Sue and misinterpreted what she was trying to tell me. Wrangling two people, a biggie and a littlie, is hard work. Eventually we took a leisurely ride to the Quay and looked for another ferry to take us to Watson’s Bay for lunch. There I encountered a surly employee, unusual for ferry people in my experience. We had gone to the right wharf but were on the wrong side of the central dividing fence so I said to the fellow ‘I think we are on the wrong side of the barrier?’ it was meant as a question I guess. The reply was ‘well wadda ya want me to do about it? just walk around like everybody else does’. Seeing I didn’t expect him to bodily lift the three of us over the fence, I thought it was the reply of someone not comfortable with customer service. The ferry across to WB was a delight, stopping at Rose Bay next to Sydney Sea Planes terminal where I said a little prayer? entreaty? appeal? (what does a non-religious person do?) for those folks whose inquest I’ve been going to, who came to grief along with the pilot in Pittwater. How can a sea plane crash on water I kept asking myself, answer: quite easily if the pilot succumbs to carbon monoxide in the cabin. But I’m jumping the gun, the coroner will hand down her decision next month, wise woman that she is. Note to self: follow up on when the finding comes in, I want to be there.

My Opal card chose today to malfunction, but when I tried to top it up manually instead of by automatic bank transfer as usual, it came up as an invalid card, despite being used on Sunday to go to the city. So I got through using Millie’s and carrying her, which we needed to do in any event as she’s frightened of the barriers coming in and squashing her. Her fears are diverse. On the way home I tried to hold on to her Opal card in case she lost it, but was told that ‘you can’t have it grandma, because it’s MINE’. Not wanting to make a fuss I let it pass till we got to St. Peters and saw it being entered into a drink machine, and then a gap between two bins, so I was mean and confiscated it. This got me a lecture about property, ownership and rights, however I still held firm to the card. John insisted on holding her hand along a very busy road and she appealed ‘grandma, he’s breaking my wrist’ so I decided it was a good time to return the Opal card and suddenly holding hands ceased to be a problem. All in all a great big day out which she enjoyed and which totally exhausted me. No dinner and a flop on the lounge ensued, thank goodness for home made cole slaw and a tin of salmon which made an easy dinner for John.

January 17, 2023

Yes I will speak ill of the dead, George Pell and Jim Molan gone to their rewards in the one week? Let’s hope their respective replacements will be more gracious, kind and fundamentally decent human beings. I have to add that Renee Geyer’s passing after a hip replacement kind of caps off a weird week.

Well the long-awaited Chinese Lantern Workshop was…how to describe it…a fizzer, a debacle, disaster is perhaps too strong a word. After driving all the way to Glebe with John in tow it was a bit surprising that the ‘Chinese’ design was a floral one with a rabbit which we were to colour in. Despite John colouring in every day he didn’t do more than 5 minutes before he declared that he didn’t like it and sat there with his eyes shut. There were folks at home on Zoom too which was a bit disconcerting, but I could have managed. However after half an hour or so I could see that this wasn’t going to work so I gave our apologies to the somewhat nonplussed group. I was kind of glad I’d kept a mask on so people won’t recognise me if we meet again, haha. Feeling sorry for the lady who tried so hard to involve him but I could hardly say ‘don’t worry he’s got dementia’. On the way home he kept saying ‘I don’t want to join that group’ despite my saying repeatedly that it was a one-off. Then later he kept asking where we had been and I just said I’d forgotten as I didn’t want to keep going over it again.

Made a call to the St. Vs clinic for an appointment for my 2 year check-up after the bowel cancer op, waiting for a call back. I hope it’s not going to be from February 14 till the end of the month though as they are all gay in that clinic and it’s the period of World Pride, somehow it doesn’t seem auspicious or opportune, or something, but tricky to say that. Perhaps I can just be busy all February. Anyway it takes some hours so unless John’s funding comes through I can only do Thursdays anyway and that may not suit them.

January 18, 2023

No call back from St. Vs so perhaps they are already in party mode and I get a leave pass till March? I saw John’s haematologist reported in the Herald this morning saying that fatality from Covid for people with lymphoma is 30%, so John was extremely lucky to come through it as well as he did. The doctor herself suffers from long Covid.

I sent an apologetic email to the artist from yesterday and got a lovely reply back saying that she’d like to keep in touch. Gosh that happens a lot, but I’m getting hard pressed fitting in all the people I need to keep in touch with. I have followed her on Facebook and that’s probably enough, then I can see when she has an exhibition or whatever. Some of the designs she’s done for Maxwell Williams China are really pretty. I have cut out and painted some of the designs from the lantern project and will use them on cards with a watercolour painted background, so it hasn’t all gone to waste.

Apparently there was a birthday party last Sunday for John’s granddaughters at Bronte Beach. I know they would have been delighted to see their grandfather there, but we only heard after the event from others who were invited. They had to drive within two streets of our place on the long drive from their home to the beach, so picking him up and taking him with them was a very easy option. I decided not to even mention it to John, why upset him for no purpose?

I’ve typed out the cancellation email to the hotel in Newcastle but just couldn’t press send so it’s sitting there as a draft just in case it all turns around and we can go. John has never been as keen to get away as I am and now he wouldn’t care if we never went anywhere but I need to, so another holiday plan will need to replace this one.

January 19, 2023

Well I’m too cool for school now that I was told this morning that John’s home care package has come through (vale little old man or lady who either died or went into a home for this to happen). I immediately rang Sydney Art School who informed me I’d better get weaving as the class I wanted has a maximum of 12 students and they already had 11 enrolled. Communication with Wendy’s assured me that there would be ample funds so I booked the classes and Kristy will sort out a roster of carers next week when she’s back from holidays. I would have much preferred daytime but it was better to start somewhere.  St. Vs rang me back and I didn’t need to worry about seeing the docs during World Pride as they’re already booked out till April, enabling me to kick that can down the road. It’s a Tuesday and I will be able to get a carer with no problems now. Bragging here…

My cousins in Spain and England who first contacted me just a year ago have become my most frequent correspondents. I have been able to ascertain that my mother’s brother was short and dark and they used to joke after his visits to his sister in Florida that he’d have trouble getting back into England as he looked for all the world to be another ethnic group after just three weeks in the sun. I’ve sent them a photo of my feet which have brown stripes after one day in the sun in sandals last week, thanks for those tanning genes mother. My DNA showed about 26% old Roman genes and I wonder if that’s where their dark skin and eyes came from? Mine is diluted via my dad, but mum and her siblings were short and dark, her brother could have got a bit part as a Calabrian don. I was able to dig out photos taken in 2005 in England with my cousins Vic and Brian and noticed that the dress I was wearing still hangs in my wardrobe and it doesn’t look the least bit fetching in the pics. So yesterday I washed it and it’s now headed for the Salvos, well done good and faithful servant. It is very freeing to be able to part with something and not feel wasteful so I’m glad I dug out those pics.

These blessed sovereign citizens are becoming a pain in the neck. An extension of the bleeding libertarians and often tied up with the QAnon conspiracy movement, this group is much more dangerous than their petty arguments would indicate. We only need to look at recent events in Tara to see that. I have always maintained a right to ignore dangerously bad laws BUT I realise I must accept the penalty attached to making a protest by breaking those laws. It often seems to me when looking at video of these people arguing with police or whomever, that they are far from bright and of course it’s impossible to argue with people with no relationship to logic. A pox on them.

January 20, 2023

So John tells me this morning that I ‘need to do a workshop about looking after a person with no memory’ after I requested for the hundredth time that he write down the answers to frequently asked questions on a little pad, which I have provided. The little pad idea is clearly a no-go and to him just represents my failure to happily keep repeating answers endlessly. We took his car to the mechanic for service this morning and are waiting for a call to pick it up. I loathe driving other people’s cars as I know I’d be sleepless for weeks if I had an accident. It wasn’t an issue when Alex was in Castle Hill but now he’s in Blacktown it’s a pain, however he’s too good to change mechanics so no point whingeing. He’s just rung to say the car needs new brake linings and discs for a total of $1450, which is a neat figure seeing John has $1558 in total in his bank till next pension day. As long as there is enough, who cares? But even if there were $10 in the account he’d happily flash the card and attempt to pay, money matters are beyond him now. That $100,000 that he’s been deplorably accused of stealing would be very handy for him right at the minute.

John’s friend John de Luca, a retired priest, died yesterday at his home in Maroubra. His family was from Salina, an island north of Sicily and were famed here as high end greengrocers in the city. His cleaner alerted the concierge of the apartment complex when she could not gain entry to John’s apartment. Together, the concierge and cleaner, found him dead at his desk. He had bought that loft style unit with a view of the beach and with very high ceilings to take his pipe organ which graced the loungeroom, alongside the grand piano and the harpsichord. While studying and later working as a priest he simultaneously studied for a Master’s and then a PhD in music at Sydney Conservatorium. Christmas carols around his piano with his sister singing were really something else. I put off telling John till after dinner, thinking he would be very upset, but he just said: That’s no good, are you right for me to wash up now? It’s very difficult knowing how things will go.

For the first time I can remember all five books that I ordered from the library today were available, as in they exist in the catalogue, even if they are out on loan. Perhaps I’m reading more popular and mainstream stuff these days? There were no classics in my requests this time but I was particularly glad that they had How To Catch a Killer by American criminologist Katherine Ramsland, with whom accused murderer Bryan Kohberger was studying for his PhD in criminal justice. She is a forensic psychologist which serves to  remind me of the forensic science course I had signed up for at UWS which was sadly cancelled due to Covid. Decades ago I did a great forensic psychology course which  sparked my ongoing interest in reading about the subject and I can’t wait to get into this book.

Pretty pleased with the two cards I’ve made from the artwork provided at the ill-fated Chinese lantern workshop. I’ve cut the pieces up and painted them, then made collages. It was fun and I’ve still got quite a few more bits to work with. Some good comes out of everything as they say. But I am loathe to part with some cards for a while, they’re my babies till new ones surpass them.

January 21, 2023

Good day with Greg and Linda, friends from Sans Souci, who came for morning tea at 10.30 and left at close to 4 pm after a hastily prepared lunch of cheese and tomato toasties with a bit of salad. They are great company and we learned a bit about life in Switzerland where they lived for many years. Apparently everyone must carry photo ID at all times, everyone does military service with their salaries paid by their employers, initially for 3 months and from then on for 3 weeks every year. Those over 40 work at fire stations, a disaster organisation or in hospitals. Greg worked as a medical assistant at a hospital that is completely underground, safeguarded from atomic fallout or biological weapons by elaborate systems. I was interested to know that every house and public building must have a functional bomb shelter underground, fully stocked at all times with water and food. Linda likened it to a police state in some ways, but interestingly commented that unlike Australia and the US ‘there are no crazies’ and people respect the laws. Switzerland breeds sane people due to the quality of its societal rules: discuss. Apparently much of the Swiss military apparatus is kept under mountains, including massive hangers for their fighter planes. It was not only a fun day, but an educational one.

We raced up to Castle Mall after they had gone and I expected it to be very quiet. But due I guess to Chinese New Year the place was rocking, a big queue for barbecued duck and a maze of barriers to walk through to get to the seafood shop counter. But I got the last of the black tiger prawns to toss through some fresh pasta for dinner so no complaints. The fruit market had navel oranges for $1.49 a kilo, as distinct from $7.99 in another shop a few days ago or $5.99 at the supermarket for American ones, which I would never buy as it’s always better to simply wait till local produce is available again. Don’t get me going on that disgusting Chinese bleached garlic, ugh. I started wishing random Chinese people a Happy New Year and got a number of beaming responses and good wishes and left the shops feeling well blessed.

January 22, 2023

Sent off a card to Duncan, the friendly Australian Transportation Safety Board investigator whom I met numerous times at the inquest into the Pittwater seaplane disaster. He was so helpful, unasked for, in explaining the more technical parts of the evidence and he introduced me to the doctor who first promoted the theory that the pilot may have been accidentally under the influence of carbon monoxide, this after the investigators had run out of feasible theories. I asked him for the date of the coroner’s final decision as now John has more hours of care available I want to be there. He is past being able to come with me, it is just too confusing for him these days, even on the only time I took him last year he told Duncan that his evidence was ‘too boring’, while I was enthralled.

Tried to read Christos Tsiolkas novel 7 1/2, but had to pack it in. I like his writing usually but in this one he is the main character and his efforts to write a novel are explored, however I decided that he is so full of himself that he doesn’t really need me as a reader, if that makes sense. Also an example of ‘autofiction’ is The Eulogy by Jackie Bailey. In contrast this was a book that I really didn’t want to finish and thought about for days afterwards. It documents what could only be described as child abuse by the mother character which each of the children deals with in their different ways as they grow up, however none of them take the perfectly understandable choice to cut ties with her altogether. Of course the questions remain about what parts of this ‘autofiction’ are true and which are fictional, but that’s something we’ll never find out I suspect. This is the problem with the genre and why I would prefer a straight out memoir, but in this case I just considered it all as fiction and got around the problem that way.

I know everyone is sick of Harry and Meghan (or Ginger and Whinger as my friend David calls them) but I keep coming back in my mind to exactly what he’s being criticised for: telling the truth as he sees it, exposing the back room secrets of the Palace and its intrigues, but most of all for having the temerity to put a number on the people he’d killed in Afghanistan. Apparently that is a no-no, of course it is, it humanises the enemy and we can’t have that! It is considered ‘bad taste’ to reveal how many people you kill, but not bad taste to kill them in the first place, in fact if you kill enough (and keep the number secret) you’ll get your own little window in the War Memorial. Killing is not beyond anyone, but I’d like to think that I could choose my own target, not just be sent out with an assignment on behalf of faceless superiors and government ministers. Soldiers suffer PTSD for a very good reason, they have been asked to do what is forbidden in any other walk of life and I commend Harry for having the courage to put a number on his trespasses.

January 23, 2023

I’ve been awake since 2 am due to forgetting to take my once a day antibiotic on Saturday night. I had cleaned up when we were expecting visitors that day and put my tablets in a drawer in my bedroom out of sight, clearly out of mind as well! It just goes to show that the treatment is barely holding the problem at bay and it isn’t really a long term solution. I can’t bear the thought of going to a fourth urologist when the first three did nowt that worked. But after a couple of extra doses I’m feeling fine now. Sue popped in to give me the key to her place in case she’s down here seeing her mother when we are due to go to her on Thursday. It’s a bit of a nuisance that we can’t just cancel, but I need to see the immunologist at Erina near her place on Friday morning and I can’t really afford to put it off as the wheels are falling off a few things at the moment. It was perfect timing with the book group meeting at Sue’s which has now been cancelled, but them’s the breaks.

I’ve spent sooo long on phones today juggling the pharmacy order, trying to get a phone appointment for John with Bob, trying to see if the new home care package will fund a handrail at the front steps (yes they will) and dealing with the offer of an extra day a week at dementia care and then after accepting it, trying to alter all the appointments for the next two months that fall on that day of the week. The catch with the handrail is that they will pay only if I get an occupational therapist to come and then write a report to say that he needs a handrail. I’ve decided that the government paying someone $330 to approve it is wasted money from his package so I just ordered and paid for the bloody thing myself. I know she (OTs are always shes) would just be one more person to deal with and it’s worth the price of the handrail not to have to answer another whole raft of questions.  So I ordered it and paid for it online and it should be here from Melbourne this week. John is out of money till pension day thanks to the car repairs and his card bounced at the pharmacy so that was something else to sort out. What also prompted me to refuse the OT was a series of messages from an acquaintance urging me to apply for a government grant that she herself had just received. It wasn’t peanuts, but went to six figures, and I can’t for the life of me stomach anyone freeloading a system designed to help those at the bottom of the pile. Frustrating too that I applied for the council’s day bus trips for the over 65s to give John another day out opportunity and was told I had to get permission to use the service from My Aged Care. Jumped through those hoops and got the permission numbers but now the council has rung to say that John is ineligible because he’s on a Home Care Package, but I am welcome to go, hardly the point. I had told the council person on day one about his package, but clearly the message didn’t get through. Pity as it would have saved me driving him places, but fair enough now that he’s getting the other assistance that he needs. I need to apply for a secretary to deal with all this bureaucracy, perhaps I could get a six figure grant for that…..

January 25, 2023

Went up to Castle Mall to pick up John’s scripts from Bob’s office and came across a Chinese New Year celebration with lion dancers, drummers and percussionists. Who needs to go to Chinatown? Followed them through the centre and particularly liked seeing them behind the counter of my usual fishmonger. What fun, I’m happy to celebrate whatever’s going, apart from Australia Day obviously.

John’s latest thing is the inability to dress appropriately for the weather. Yesterday when we were taking Millie out all day, including the beach, he was dressed in singlet, warm shirt and jumper. I advised him at breakfast that it was too warm, but he said a bit grumpily: ‘I’m dressing for now, not the middle of the day’ and then complained all day about being too hot, despite the fact that I had talked him into leaving the jumper behind.  He did the same thing this morning for going out with Greg and often wants the aircon on at 8pm when it’s quite cool. Another oddity to deal with.

I was pleased to discover that the messages about government grants that I had thought were from my acquaintance weren’t at all, but from a sophisticated hacker/scammer who seemed to know her quite well, perhaps via her Facebook posts? It irks me no end that I actually communicated back and forth with this person, but thankfully showed no interest in what he (it’s usually a he) was peddling. I was surprised though at how easily he gave up when I said I had no reasonable criteria for applying for a grant, usually they are much more persistent than that, so it won’t surprise me if I hear from him again.

Mmm, got an email from The Painting Teacher telling me what to bring next week. The brand of paints I bought previously and have been using, Reeves, isn’t in her list of preferred ones and the colours don’t cut the mustard either (Don’t buy cadmium lemon yellow, oops). No one told me that there would be a list of things to bring so that’s a bit annoying, I’ll have to top up at Eckersley’s next week with a few more colours and turn the brand over on the existing ones in the hope she doesn’t notice. My paper probably isn’t up to scratch either though it works fine for the cards I’m making. I wonder if Van Gogh and Monet had the right brands?

January 26, 2023

Off, along with half of Sydney, to the central coast. We pulled in at Woy Woy for a break and I was amazed at the two pubs we saw, both full of early drinkers quaffing schooners. No entertainment as far as I saw, just boozing. Is Australia Day becoming like Anzac Day? Just an excuse for a piss-up. We enjoyed milkshakes by the water and I considered going on a round trip to Empire Bay on their little ferry but it only goes a few times a day and it just didn’t suit timewise. However we drove on to Umina, where I tried to get a park from one end of its long beach to the other to take a dip, it was wall to wall people on the beach and the streets were parked out for miles so that plan didn’t germinate. On again to Hardys Bay, not far from Sue’s, where we enjoyed a walk on the wharf and a bit of lunch at the cafe, an okay salad for an okay price but a $10 surcharge for Australia Day! Nothing else was open so no other choices. I can’t understand why so many businesses were closed, why would you pull up the drawbridge on one of the most popular summer days of the year, unless of course you were objecting to the day on principle and I very much doubt that was the reason.

The side of salmon I took up for dinner was amazingly still mostly frozen so no need to worry there. Sue added green beans picked from her farm a couple of hours previously and a potato and parsnip bake made with similarly sourced veggies. It was a Nagi recipe that I intend to emulate once the markets reopen and I can get lovely fresh parsnips. We watched a couple of episodes of the ABC programme Better Date Than Never which was somewhat excruciating, seeing the lack of confidence of the people shown. I can’t see that having your shyness and diffidence exposed on national tv can be a positive experience, but I hope I’m wrong. These people are at the extreme end, really needing a lot of help, which I hope materialises as a result of the programme. John found it so mortifying that he asked if he could wash up instead. Sue and I both had the same reaction, wanting to hug them, especially the young Chinese man who is pathologically shy.

I wish George Pell were still alive. I should probably qualify that to: I wish George Pell were alive long enough to hear Pope Francis say that homosexuality should not be against the law and that gay people should have all of the benefits of the church. Perhaps Pell would have keeled over there and then, making it doubly newsworthy, but perhaps Francis has found his voice because he hasn’t got Pell looking over his shoulder, who knows? But one thing is for sure the Pope seems infallible only until some cardinal or other disagrees, then they ignore that concept entirely. You can’t have it both ways boys, sorry he’s either infallible or he ain’t.

January 27, 2023

Off to Erina to see Prof. Reeves for an appointment that ran to half an hour. He has another idea to try for the interstitial cystitis, something that ‘calms the mast cells’, another thing I’ll need to read up on. So if the antibiotics fail to work long term at least I know that there is something in reserve. His dictaphone letter to various other doctors is always amazing, he is so good at covering every aspect of the half hour of discussion and putting his views and mine cogently so others know exactly how the appointment unfolded. A funny thing happened at the desk when I was paying. There were three women there instead of the usual two and one asked how I was and if the appointment had gone well. ‘Oh yes’ I replied ‘it always does, he’s such a lovely man I could happily take him home with me’ I said. ‘Well maybe not’, the new woman laughed, ‘I’m his wife’. But her sense of humour matches his, so I was very happy to have met her and had the interaction.

In the afternoon Sue took us to Patonga, somewhere I hadn’t been since my girls were born. I took note of the ferry which travels between there and Palm Beach, another possibility for an outing with John. We also drove down to Pearl Beach and through Umina again, marvelling at the numbers of people on the beach. We decided to eat at the local Empire Bay Tavern at night and then watched a doco on Netflix that I had read a review of recently. Into the Deep was about the murder of a journalist in Denmark on board a home made mini submarine. It was as riveting as the review claimed and I’d happily watch it again if we had Netflix. Reading about psychopaths is fascinating but seeing an interview with one is totally engrossing.

January 28, 2023

This morning we headed down to the beach and I had my first swim of the year in delightfully warm water. This after a walk along Killcare Beach to Putty Beach and back. Then by chance we got into conversation with a couple from Lane Cove, she a retired teacher, he a history academic, specialising in India and the relationship between Christianity and other faiths. I wrote his name down, particularly to look into his books but he warned me that ‘they are heavy’. It turned out that he was best friends with Charles Birch, the amazing biologist, entomologist, ethicist and theologian who was an idol of mine back in the 60s and 70s when I was working at the University of Sydney, where he was a professor. A huge cat lover to boot he always had a cat with him when he was interviewed. So we ended up exchanging phone numbers and we’ll see where that goes. If it’s nowhere we still passed a lovely morning with them. The trip home was a dream compared to the trip up on Thursday, partly due to traffic and partly due to the fact that I’d just had an invigorating dip.

I have been having trouble sleeping for months, waking at 2.40 am most mornings and often failing to get back to sleep, however at Sue’s I slept like the proverbial fallen tree trunk both nights. I’m sure this was due to the fact that I relaxed up there with no concerns about appointments, home care plans, prescriptions, ACAT etc. I noticed as soon as we got home John was getting back into the habit of asking the same questions repeatedly, whereas at Sue’s he was much more relaxed too. Moving in with Sue is perhaps the answer I’ve been looking for. She has taken up my suggestion of keeping her Kirribilli unit rather than buying a place in the inner west and is now looking to furnish it. It appears she will take John’s leather sofa which I’ve been trying to offload for months, woohoo!

January 29, 2023

I got an offer on eBay for three non-working watches, $15 instead of the advertised $20, which sounds like an offer I can’t refuse. In fact any offers fall into that category at this stage. We got a phone call yesterday asking if John’s Narromine relatives could come for morning tea and it was good to see them after some time. He doesn’t know exactly how they are related but that proved not to matter. Chris is a truck driver and has offered to take John with him on a trip, but then I think he wondered how that would work and said he’d just take him to Campbelltown and and back next trip. Perhaps he’s seeing how it goes before doing a longer country journey, which is wise. Their lives are so different to ours, with crops, horses and various jobs all competing for attention. But I think it would be great for John if a longer trip ensues, giving him different experiences and someone new to talk to.

Outside at the car I heard my name being called and eventually realised it was Paul who used to live across the road. Many years ago he had a disastrous and life-changing accident when he was working as a self-employed builder and was hit by a car while standing at the back of his trailer. His legs were terribly damaged and his career cruelled, but luckily he had invested in excellent insurance which paid him his normal wage for a few years and then negotiated a lump sum because he would never be able to go back to working. He used the money to buy a boat and now lives on it with his partner in North Queensland, while his daughter and family rent his house here. He loves the life, fishing for their food, travelling up and down the coast at times and he says he thinks that they will live on the boat indefinitely, they’ve already been on it for ten years and he’s only in his 50s. Different lives, but a success story from a catastrophic accident.

Started reading a Cormac McCarthy book, The Passenger, and I don’t think there’s another author who does suspense like him. I don’t mean suspense as in some criminal creeping up behind you, but suspense in an ordinary situation that will probably come to nothing…..yet you are holding your breath just in case. I remember Bob discovering my blood pressure soaring and it was purely because of No Country for Old Men, so gripping that I could barely breathe, I’m not sure he believed me but it was way lower next time I saw him. This one has alternate chapters describing the illusions (or more properly delusions) being experienced by his sister and these are disturbing in a different way. But just a description of his diving with scuba gear is creepy as you are always waiting for the calamity to occur.

January 30, 2023

This post was gobbled up by something in the blogosphere, so I’m post-dating my recollections. I went to Eckersley’s to fulfil the obligation to the painting teacher and have all the items she prescribed. The staff there were great but on eyeing the list they rolled their eyes and said: ‘is this really for a beginner class?’. I wasn’t expecting a sheet of watercolour paper to cost $55, maybe $5. But ever helpful they rustled around out the back and found a leftover pack of one of the approved brands (must be 100% cotton, must be cold pressed) in a 3 pack that was previously on special for the same amount. Paints are priced depending on the pigment, except the Reeves range which I’d already bought and which is apparently infra dig, but the list has specific colours and brands which vary from $15 to $50……per tube. No wonder Blue Poles is worth $550 million, it’s the paint. Anyway I was lucky in two respects, one that the two women were super helpful and two that we were the only people in the shop. An hour later I exited with paints, paper, tape, whatever and with a somewhat reduced bank balance.

Next I attacked the Dental Clinic at RNSH and was told that despite John having been on the waiting list for 4 years he now has to go to Westmead and start over because of the change of address. Feeling confident after my success at Eckersley’s perhaps, I simply refused and after some consultations I was told he could have an appointment in 6 months. Nope, not good enough, I replied, his teeth are falling out, no doubt a result of radiotherapy. How about February 9 she said and I accepted immediately, despite it being the day care bus trip to St. George Rowing Club, I thought I’d pushed my luck as far as I could.


January 31, 2023

The Catholic Church has clearly had a word in the ear of the police who have applied to the Supreme Court to ban a demonstration passing the cathedral on the day of Cardinal Pell’s funeral. How bloody typical. As Frances Sullivan, who was CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, pointed out last week when the church was cutting down ribbons tied to the cathedral’s fence in memory of victims: they have learned nothing. This follows the appalling ‘revelations’ in last night’s 4 Corners programme about the work of Opus Dei, particularly in respect of its schools, sadly located not far from here. Every man and his poodle is acting surprised about this organisation, do they not read? Opus Dei supported Franco in the civil war in Spain, supported various right-wing dictators in South America who murdered thousands and still support corporal mortification (read self-harm here). But we as tax-payers support them financially, along with Scientologists and other crazies. A pox on the lot of them, but please don’t say ‘we didn’t know’.
I scored a leave pass today and it was revitalising. It is John’s friend John de Luca’s funeral today and I intended to take him over to Coogee, however last night his friend Phil rang and asked if he’d like a lift. It freed up most of the day and I have put it to good use making pikelets and a batch of coleslaw, getting my stuff sorted for painting and doing some hand washing. Sue called in briefly to inspect the colour of the lounge which she may take for Kirribilli but I couldn’t press her into having a pikelet as she’s trying to lose weight. I explained that death is a certain weight loss method and she should wait for that, but she looked unconvinced.
February 1, 2023
A message from a good friend this morning freed me of the (very pleasant) obligation of lunch with her tomorrow, if I wanted to go to the Pell protest. I like to be known as someone who doesn’t renege on an arrangement, a friend years ago used to call it ‘always waiting for a better offer’ so I hadn’t brought up the possibility of going. But I really DO want to go to the protest and especially so now that the police are trying to have it banned. So I’ve been down in the storeroom cutting lengths of ribbon to tie onto the cathedral’s fence and I assume my friend will act for me if I happen to get arrested. Looking at the diary for the first few weeks of February it is following last month in filling up fast, mostly with medical appointments for John. His carer today has said he will do some of the stints needed for my painting classes so it will be good to have his familiar face. Yesterday John got home from the funeral with Phil after 6 pm but by 7 he asked ‘where did I go today?’. When I filled him in, thinking that he would then remember, he replied ‘but how did I get there?’
After watching the absolutely horrible murder of Tyre Nichols I thought it couldn’t get much worse, but I doubted the depth of America’s plunge into oppression by police. I just watched video of the murder by cops of Arthur Lowe Jr, a black man of course, a double amputee who got out of his wheelchair and was chased by police while running away on his stumps, I repeat that, while running away on his stumps. He was killed with eight bullets to the chest ‘because the police feared he might throw his knife at them’. What a gutless bunch, words fail me.
Typing this while listening to the Robodebt Royal Commission, currently speaking is the Dishonourable Alan Tudge. He’s doing a Morrison, slow to answer questions, wavering, sorting through papers, trying to get through the day saying as little as humanly possible. Yesterday his former media adviser (and lover) Rachelle Miller told the Commission that she had leaked to the ‘right-wing press’ personal details of welfare recipients who had spoken out against the Robodebt scheme, in order to discourage others from coming forward. The Federal Government (ie us) has recently paid Miss Miller $650,000 for hurt, distress and humiliation she alleges she suffered while working for Tudge and another minister whose name I choose not to type on an empty stomach. Just wondering why we need to pay this woman, in a relationship with her boss, against all protocols of government?






































































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Life Notes 9

January 30, 2022

Last week after as I was unpacking the shopping I asked John to take some stuff down to the freezer in the garage. Today I went down to get the garlic bread to go with dinner tonight but it wasn’t there. Searched the car boot, back seat and garage but no garlic bread. However in the hunt I discovered a whole tuna casserole sitting on a shelf, one I’d made for John in case the anaesthetic sent me haywire last Friday and they didn’t let me come home (it’s happened twice before, so I was being cautious). Of course it was totally rank and I threw it out, even the container. He must have been reorganising to fit stuff in, but it reminded me that I have to check everything and not assume it’s all gone well, which is a bit of a blow. Though then I remembered when decades ago there was a terrible smell in the garage and I assumed a rat. I set a rat trap, but no catch, so I pulled the freezer out to discover a meat tray with no meat left, but teaming with huge maggots, it made me gag. So I am also conscious that anyone can make that mistake. I need to not put everything down to dementia, while also being on the lookout for things that can maybe go wrong.

Finally I got on to Kenneth after a month. He got home from hospital on Friday but when he got undressed for bed and pulled his jumper off his arm dripped blood, they’d forgotten to take the IV out! So Tanya had to turn around and drive him back to Leeds (an hour?) to get it taken out. Clearly her 25 year nursing role at the Bupa home didn’t stretch to removing a fluid line. So that’s why he didn’t answer the night before, they didn’t get back till midnight. He wasn’t himself, unsurprisingly, saying things like ‘I don’t know what I’ll do for meals, they just put them in front of you at the hospital’. Tanya called out that she was staying there with him for a few days and would get all his meals but clearly he wasn’t understanding as he later said ‘I suppose I could eat Shredded Wheat’. I’m not sure yet if this trio of accident, operation and Covid has set him back too far to live alone, that remains to be seen. He couldn’t tell me his mobile number and had to get Tanya to give it to me. I’ve discovered now the drawback of only using a landline in our communications, with the mobile I could have been talking to him regularly. So now it’s just a matter of wait and see.

January 31, 2022

A bit of a technically frustrating day in that I had tried numerous times over two days to connect to iView to watch yesterday’s Insiders program, but it failed to connect to the TV. So eventually I emailed Louis who got me to photograph the back of the set and thereby discovered that an unnamed person had disconnected the gadget that makes it possible to cast to the TV. On top of that the blog is not working (again) for reasons I can’t fathom but last time it self-corrected so I can only hope that it does the same again. But Tania came and picked up the books so that was a huge advance. Now I am emptying some boxes of glass, plates and bowls from the storeroom and trying to decide what to do with them. I suspect many will have to go to the op shops as I just don’t have the energy to eBay them all.

I rang Nada’s office and told them that John’s haematology appointment on Thursday should be by Telehealth and not in person, something they were quite fine about, however getting them to fax his pathology request to a local company to be done here proved trickier. I had a promise at 9 am that it would be done post haste, but at 4.30 pm it still hadn’t been done. Another phone call to a flummoxed secretary ensued and he seemed not to even remember his promise to do it. However I’m assured it will be done now, so I can take him for the test tomorrow.

I managed to get on to Kenneth again last night and suggested he organise Meals on Wheels but he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Surely the service exists there but perhaps it’s called something else. I am not the one who should be looking for services from here, when his family would be au fait with what’s available. I cheekily suggested that when Tanya has to go home Anne might be willing to come and stay with him for a while, an idea he was naturally very keen on and the bonus is that he can blame me for suggesting it.

Sue called to let me know that she is positive for Covid, although feeling relatively well. It seems that the book groupers dodged a bullet as the meeting was supposed to be held at her place last Friday and she first got symptoms on Saturday morning. Her doctor daughter told her that she would have been most infectious on Thursday and Friday. She had had a busy week, going to the Opera, having visitors and going to a luncheon for Australia Day not to mention working at the farm every day, so it’s hard to know where she got it but the Opera is a prime candidate timewise. I have been tempted to go to an outdoors meeting of the sewing group on Wednesday, but I’m now having second thoughts.

February 1, 2022

As it was so hot and humid I decided it was a perfect beach day but first we had to organise a blood test for John which had been faxed from Nada’s office. A queue that ran into the hall made me turn and go back to the car, it was Covid soup there. Headed off to Balmoral (the traffic on Military Road, omg) but once we got there it was all worth it. The sun was glinting on the ocean, the beach wasn’t too crowded, we got a good park…bliss. The water was warm enough, though quite powerful for a harbour beach. The swimming was divine, just what I needed. We took a walk onto the island and decided to have our picnic there, right at the point watching the boats and the paddleboarders. The pandemic is saving us heaps of money, usually we would get fish and chips from Bottom of the Harbour to eat on the boardwalk but our cheese and lettuce sambos and rock cakes from home saved us 40 bucks and tasted just fine. Eventually we headed homeward via the pathology office which was by now almost deserted. There was a bit of a problem finding the fax, apparently they are deluged with faxes for house calls, which I didn’t even know they did, but they found it in the end.

Jane communicated about John and offered to take him out for a bushwalk/picnic sometimes when their cleaners are there, which happens every second Monday. I don’t feel the need to ‘get away’ at the moment but I happily accepted the offer as I don’t know when I may start feeling that way! She also suggested having a loose roster of people available to call if I need time away from home, I guess I had that in my head to an extent when Michelle visited with John two weeks ago while I was indisposed. A couple of my friends are more Covid-cautious than I am, another is undergoing chemo, so the plague has a bearing on these possibilities, but it’s worth thinking about. However Jane is the only relative who could ever be called on, which is sad.

February 2, 2022

Decided to ‘risk’ sewing group after all. I took a top which had lost a few buttons and replaced them with some random decorative ones which actually makes it look more interesting. The group was seated outside and everyone wore masks so I felt at home, though I didn’t stay for lunch. Carly was fronting a Senate Committee on Job Security which was focused on the various visas to bring in agricultural workers, hence Carly’s involvement. I was aware of the allegations relating to the way workers have been treated here, but today was a real eye-opener which kept me watching till nearly 4 pm: people being forced to work with Covid, a house with 77 workers living in it, people in caravans in 36 degree heat, pastoral care workers for south sea islanders being raided by Border Force, but most shocking to me was the government-sponsored posters put up with the bold title ABSCONDING showing a coloured man holding his hands over his face. The campaign warns pickers they may “bring shame to their families” if they run away from their jobs and they risk having their visa cancelled. It warned they may “damage the relationship between your country and the employer, and you may bring shame to your family’s reputation.” This for fleeing dangerous working conditions or unfair work practices such as under-payment. These schemes seem to be as much about keeping wages low as about getting the crop picked. Amazingly the deputy chair of the committee was Matt Canavan, with whom I disagree on almost everything, but in this case he used words like “slave labour” and I found his comments perfectly valid.

The blog righted itself after being out of action for days, or perhaps it was righted by my blog advisor who informed me that it had been hacked and he would look into it. Whatever happened I’m grateful for its reappearance and grateful to him if he paid a ransom of millions to the hackers.

There is another storm in a wine glass at book group, this time over some suggestions that a planned meeting was too food-focussed, rather then book-focussed. I am keeping right out of it, the troops will no doubt divide on party lines and some will come to the aid of the offended who has dramatically resigned in protest. Others however will yawn and go back to their previous occupation.

February 3, 2022

Today John was to have a Telehealth appointment with his haematologist. It all went well but I was surprised when she said that ‘if you should get a positive Covid test, you must contact me as we have special arrangements for people as immunosuppressed as you are’. This was news to us and a bit of a relief in some ways as she would negotiate with the hospital to ensure he was admitted or carefully monitored at home, no-one would argue with Nada! ‘Now contact me immediately if you get sick with Covid John!’ was her parting message. Yes ma’am.

A letter appeared in the mail for John from Riverstone Police and we were both mystified by its contents. I had driven John’s car through Riverstone recently and thought I was in bother for a driving issue. It thanked him for ‘joining our Next of Kin Program’ and included a keyring with a phone number on it which turned out to be Riverstone Police. I joked to John that it was a tracking device. They couldn’t tell me who initiated his membership so it’s still an enigma, though they had my details and Bob Elliott’s on file. He said it is usually initiated by the next of kin, but it lists me in that role and it twernt me. And why Rivo of all places?

A parcel arrived from my eBay client in Melbourne with some hand cream, a quantity of unfranked stamps and a small bottle of schnapps. She is quite a character. The parcel was wet to the point of disintegration but had been repacked into a clear plastic bag, hence the delivery delay. I have instructions from her to try the schnapps and report back.

February 4, 2022

I tried the schnapps and she’s right, it does almost ‘knock your socks off and send shockwaves throughout your body’ but unlike whiskey and some other strong alcohols, I quite like the taste. I had a small glass of white wine with lunch today so I don’t think I’ll be hitting the schnapps before dinner. Bronwyn and Michael came for lunch and I was able to resurrect the remains of the Christmas turkey from the freezer to go with various salads. Opened a jar of liqueur plums to have with icecream for sweets. Amazing what you’ve got in the pantry and freezer to make a lunch at short notice.

I rang the Riverstone Police Station again as I really want to know who signed John up to the Next of Kin Program. I looked up the joining forms online and either the person or their next of kin have to sign the forms allowing the Police Department to share their details in case of accident and emergency, so who signed if neither I nor John did? Who gave them his address, my phone number and Bob’s details. I’ve asked the person in charge to find out and get back to me.

After years of saying he wanted to be cremated John decided today that he wants to be buried with me at Gerringong and have his Akubra hat on the coffin and then in the grave. I commented that it was a waste of a good hat, so he said that I can overrule him and keep the hat if I want to wear it, but no-one else can! He liked the idea that we could chat. He asked me a couple of weeks ago: ‘why did I want to be cremated?’ and obviously wasn’t happy with the answer.

February 5, 2022

I read in the SMH that Denmark has dropped all of its Covid restrictions and is ‘treating it like a cold’. It’s all fine for the fit, but it too casually accepts the deaths of those who aren’t and I baulk at that. There was something in the Guardian about a woman in Melbourne who had survived non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for 10 years with much treatment, was in hospital for a burst eardrum, caught Covid and died. As her daughter said, now she’s just a statistic with ‘underlying health conditions’. To me the Danes and others of their ilk seem to be saying that it’s fine for those who are disabled, old or sick to be sacrificed so the rest can shop at will and eat out wherever they want. If I were a young, healthy person who knew that Covid could be a killer to others I would willingly wear a mask, use QR codes and socially distance to protect those more vulnerable, it’s not much to ask really, but it seems not everyone is willing to do that. It’s a sad reflection on the selfishness of the many.

Instead of asking myself if ScumMo will win the election I find myself asking another question, will he even be PM when the election happens? Between the division over the religious rights legislation and the very negative character assessments of him exposed in texts by Our Glad and Baa-naby I don’t know where to look for the next disaster. Imagine being a back-bencher watching the melt-down and wondering if ditching the Scummer might help hold you on to that well-paid job…’d have to think it was worth a try. There’s not much loyalty in politics.

I think the best political ad Albo could come up with is a big photo of a grinning ScumMo with a sign over it: ‘Would you buy a used car from this man?’. I know people have short memories and vote with their hip pocket and all the rest of it, but surely there can’t be many people left who would vote this government back in?

February 6, 2022

Oh my, I need a secretary to keep on top of my correspondence at the moment. About a month ago I was contacted by one, then two, then three first cousins in as many weeks. Since then I’ve had 18 emails from one and 17 from another, not counting Messenger and Facebook contacts from them all. I’ve been sent a 32 page family tree, some short video clips of my grandfather and my mother, a newspaper article on my grandfather who was a champion bicycle road racer, numerous photos and maps to locate the house of one of them in Spain. Each evening I get a pretty picture of a scene from somewhere in the world from Tony, the first of them to turn up. I understand why I am keen to answer them all but a bit nonplussed about what they get out of it, though I’m not arguing.

A few years ago I had my DNA done and as a result was contacted by a man in South Africa who has 45 units of DNA in common, making him a 2nd to 4th cousin, although we couldn’t exactly find our common ancestor we narrowed it down to a particular village. Now I find yesterday that another man, this one in Redcar in Yorkshire, has 95 units in common. We are now exchanging emails also. He’s a psychotherapist and counsellor who sees patients face-to-face and online so if I go into a downhill spiral I can call on the cuz to sort me out. It remains to be seen where he fits into the picture but he’s listed as a 2nd to 4th cousin also. I was into all this stuff before I found Kenneth but haven’t worried about it much since, though these latest developments have sparked my interest.

Baked a fruit cake from the Mary and Vincent Price Cookbook, a 1965 heirloom book that I acquired second hand more than a decade ago. He was a famous actor in the 50s and 60s, very wealthy, and they travelled all over the world eating in the best places and recording the menus and recipes. I often do his Mexican Creamed Corn recipe with chili to which he adds a heap of cheese at the end, yum. This cake recipe was collected when he was entertained at Woburn Abbey (he includes a pic with the Duke and Duchess to prove it) and it will certainly be added to the regular cakes in the baking calendar.

February 7, 2022

A few weeks ago we were having someone over for afternoon tea so I baked gluten-free goodies as required. After I’d set the table on the verandah, got out the food and was expecting the visitor in a few minutes, I had a call to say that it was too hot to eat outside (it was 30 degrees) so she cancelled at about 10 to 2, arrival time was 2pm. We rescheduled last week for a picnic today, noting that the weather forecast was for rain, so I chose a large shelter shed in Lane Cove National Park where we had been to a party for 40 people late last year in the rain and were completely dry. This morning I texted regarding food, sent a map showing the exact location, packed the picnic (a salad, fruit and gluten free treats) and was just about to make the Thermos when I got a text to say that ‘it’s too wet, I’ve never been to a picnic in such weather, it’s just odd’. All sentiments that could have been expressed a week ago with no problem, but I guess we will be having a picnic lunch on our own, whether here or somewhere else. Grrrr.

I must admit that I was shocked but not surprised that Peter Dutton is being accused of having texted very negative character assessments of ScumMo. When he was asked by the beautiful Laura on Insiders about whether or not he was the mystery texter he replied that she may not have noticed that he’s a Queenslander, not from NSW, an evasive answer considering no-one had suggested it originated in NSW. It’s a classic liar’s move, answer a question that you weren’t asked and ignore the one you were, Laura should have jumped on that, I was yelling loud enough for her to hear.

Well I think I’ve put the day to some use after finding a folder full of hand written book reviews while dusting the loungeroom (yes, dusting, as against the preferred picnicking). I decided to add these to the brief reviews online that I had written on Goodreads for the same books. Had a long talk to Heather who rang and we agreed that many people are quite crackers but that each of us is not, a comforting conclusion, even if perhaps a delusional one. I have also had another careful look through the Vincent Price Cookbook, deciding on quite a few ‘must try’ recipes though I will probably leave the whole lobster ones for the minute. Though practically it would still beat the cost of going to a restaurant by miles.

February 8, 2022

I woke up to three emails from my South African perhaps-cousin who has been doing more work trying to find our connections. He rightly found my mother’s birth, marriage and death and comes up with correct assumptions about the new cousins who have appeared. When I was replying separately to the three emails which asked different questions, the first two went off fine but I was half way through replying to the third one when my reply and his email just disappeared. No worries I thought I will answer it on my phone but it had gone from there as well. How can that happen?

I was toying with what to cook for dinner when one of my stack of recipes, cut out of various newspapers and magazines, wafted to the floor from the cookbook shelf in a puff of wind. Okay I said, the universe has spoken, so it’s Barramundi Curry with Tomato and Coconut for dinner. I shall leave out the optional okra though, but if it hadn’t said optional I would have added it, following my long-held policy of doing a recipe exactly as written the first time out of respect for the chef and then adapting it to suit me from then on. The Vincent Price recipes will still be there later in the week, when I will also make a tray of slices for the mechanics whose boss Alex seems to have fixed John’s car gratis when the steering wheel kept locking a couple of weeks ago. John finally unearthed the slippers that I gave him for Christmas and which have been missing almost ever since, pushed right under a chest of drawers, no doubt by the vacuum. We had both searched for them a number of times with no luck. So providence seems to be with us today.

I have rung another two landscapers to weigh up costs for a new driveway against the eye-watering quote from the person who was recommended to us and whom we like a lot. The neighbour down below told me that his concrete one cost a substantial amount and bricks cost more. It is the missing link in getting the place both looking good and being functional, seeing the broken bits of driveway are starting to jag people’s cars underneath if they are low slung. Thinking of all the money I’m saving from opera tickets, movie tickets, restaurant meals, holidays I guess I can afford to do it.

February 9, 2022

I am really not cut out for some of the jobs that fall to me now. Lots of driving (ugh), working out why the steering wheel locks when the car’s parked (happily solved by our trusty mechanic), why the printer is malfunctioning (when I loathe everything to do with printers), working out why the home care package charges don’t seem to add up (admin that is boring but necessary) etc etc. We had everything divided neatly according to skills: cooking, gardening, entertaining, buying (whether grocery shopping or bigger purchases), dealing with tradesmen was my area; driving, car stuff, filing, administration, computers, printers etc was John’s. But now I am doing all this stuff that I am really no good at and what’s more, jobs that make me tetchy at best. So I drove to the printer place today and the guy showed me how to fix the bleeding thing, but when I opened the guts of it at home, it looked totally different and didn’t have the same internals as the one in the shop, so now I have to lug the whole bloody printer back to him to fix.

The excellent gardening person who helped just once on John’s package has quit because he no longer has other work in this area. Might have been nice if I’d known that two months ago, the last time he was here. This package is more hassle than it’s worth at the moment, see bitching above. But I reduced my angst by washing the walls of the front verandah so that when I have a cuppa out there I am looking at weatherboards and not dust and spiderwebs. One useful thing achieved is probably the best I can hope for. Oh I forgot, I wrote a slew of emails on the issue of the religious discrimination bill, the most important to Anthony Albanese urging him to vote against it so that may or may not be useful, we shall see.

John decided he didn’t want to go ahead with the picnic idea with his friend (note I said HIS) but now she is making overtures about going tomorrow. However I came across something that I wrote a while back about ‘the importance of friendship to our lives and the acceptance of the foibles and weaknesses of our friends’. Mmm, that puts me in a difficult position, do I want that to only be a theoretical position or do I mean it? If she pulls out at the last minute this time due to the angle of the sun or the direction of the wind, that’s it, finish.

Postscript: I just learned that Albanese is going to support the religious discrimination bill with amendments, so that’s another waste of my day: here’s hoping he is just trying to tie them in knots with the amendments and isn’t seriously planning to pass it.

February 10, 2022

After all the boring and frustrating stuff yesterday I decided we should go for a swim today. John wanted to drop off his unfinished chess pieces to his pals at the Lane Cove Men’s Shed and they are going to finish the turning for him. So then it was a case of where is best for a swim so I Googled ‘swimming pools near Lane Cove’ and Woolwich Baths came up, however they were marked as permanently closed. Next best was Greenwich Baths and what a great little spot it turned out to be. The water was delightful at 24.5 degrees, there were a few only mums and pre-schoolers there, plenty of shade and seating, a great spot for the picnic. I was amazed at the size of the fish swimming around and I felt guilty at how many times a week I eat their relatives. Managed to catch a couple of jellyfish in my hands for long enough to have a really close look at them, in the water of course. I have a great love of jellyfish in all their forms and loved collecting them in buckets to examine when I was on holidays at The Entrance as a kid. The temperature forecast for today of 34 degrees gave me a perfect out about meeting up with John’s ex-neighbour as she’s said she won’t sit outside if the temperature is over 26. Thankyou BoM.

I was delighted to look at the wonderful stone mansions surrounding the baths, one was three stories and high Victorian from the front, but I drove around to the street at the rear and it looked decidedly Georgian so it’s probably on the turn. I would just love to get a look-see into one of those divine places, but I can’t see that happening. They look over the water to central Sydney, so they have the best of worlds.

Michelle dropped in during the afternoon to drop a book and borrow another so that added to the pleasure of the day. In a lovely surprise Bronwyn has suggested that she and I go out to lunch somewhere outdoors next week, while Michael and John have lunch here. It will be a wonderful thing to do and I am so excited, it’s a very generous offer.

February 11, 2022

Martha came over for morning tea and then she took me with her for a short visit to a refugee family from Afghanistan at Seven Hills. I was able to rustle up some crystal bowls and a set of glass dessert dishes, a bread knife and a few bits and bobs from the storeroom to take over with us. The young woman spoke excellent English, having been involved with the Australian Embassy there for quite some time in Kabul. I regret now all of the stuff I’ve taken to the op shops but I didn’t know where else to take things.

Decided that I needed to use up half a dozen passionfruit which were in the fridge, but unfortunately I’d thrown out the recipe for the passionfruit cake that I made recently, so I did a double sponge instead with cream and passionfruit in the middle and icing on top. I follow the Anglo-Indian Cookery Group and every day they send recipes, but I only make them rarely. However I wanted to try one that I saw a few weeks ago and couldn’t find it, so I posted a message asking if anyone remembered it. I got a heap of responses and someone sent me the full recipe, they are a jolly helpful group.

I suggested to the home care person that I have a very good mowing man who could perhaps be interested in taking on the fortnightly gardening role from the absentee gardener and she is going to contact him to see if his insurances and rates are up to scratch but so far I’ve heard nothing. It would be great to have help a couple of hours a fortnight if they can come to an arrangement. I’m already planning his first session.

I think I need a secretary to handle communications from the ‘new’ cousins. I have had photos to look at, videos to watch, lots of emails and communications on Messenger and Facebook. Plus there are the two ‘maybe cousins’ in Redcar and South Africa and we are still trying to work out where exactly we are related. My dad was a bit of a lad to say the least, so a brother or sister popping up is not out of the bounds of possibility.

February 12, 2022

Had another person come early to look at the driveway job. He made some interesting observations that the first chap hadn’t mentioned such as the need for a drain halfway down so the sand isn’t washed out from between the bricks and the need to concrete the last little bit as there is a downpipe there that runs overground. John kept telling him we have bricks stored under the house, in fact they are tiles, so I had to keep correcting that. I’ve decided to get it done, it’s just a matter now of getting the right person. Then we lugged the printer up to be fixed only to find that he is closed on Saturdays, as was the locksmith where I wanted to get a key cut. But the framer was open (weird that the three are in the same complex) and he had my antique French Sainte Suzanne picture repaired and ready to rehang after it crashed off the wall and broke the frame. Twice now that has happened with different pictures so he’s getting good business from my poor old picture cords. I have used the opportunity to give it a better spot, moving a picture I am much less keen on to its usual spot outside the toilet door!

Carole and Jack came for a cuppa and I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t offer them lunch till I saw the late hour as they were leaving. We had fun covering recent goings on, both personal and political. Caught up on my book reviews and correspondence, while looking forward to watching four by-elections for the State government tonight. I am predicting that Labor will win Bega and Strathfield, with the conservatives getting the other two, but it’s really a hard call. Carly was surrounded by noisy protestors headed for the Canberra ‘freedom rally’ this morning. She walked along with the phone on Facetime so I could watch the motley crew with their Eureka and Red Ensign flags a-waving. They had quite a long walk from there to Parliament but I guess that is part of the show of strength. If Albo gets in at the Federal election he has his work cut out dealing with that lot, who are angry in general, rather than being angry with anything specifically.

February 13, 2022

Spoke at length to my bro last night and came off the phone feeling as if I’m in a lose/lose situation. He made the comment that ‘I wish you could come over and look after me for a while’ then there was quite a pause before he added ‘but I know you can’t’ as if he were hoping that I would jump in to say that I’m on my way. He was much more natural than in the last few calls and I picked this up immediately, eventually working out what the change could be and asking if his daughter Tanya was still there doing for him. She is, but was out having lunch with her sister in a cafe and it made all the difference. The problem is that he’s always lived two lives, a domestic one and an extrinsic one. This applies to his career: cover as a surveyor in Africa/with spying juxtaposed and his home life: wife and children/external pursuits. To be fair he was gagged by the Official Secrets Act regarding his undercover activities so I guess it suited him to have a family who weren’t inclined to ask too many questions. It also applies to his day to day life: writing, studying languages, politics and world affairs in his office/being a husband and father who fixes the garage roof and drives the family to the shops. When I first knew him he had a false employer set up who would occasionally email him to request a survey of the Isle of Man or somewhere remote so he could duck off for a few days and dig for fossils or explore Hadrian’s Wall. He’d leave the printed email lying about and act surprised when he was asked about it, as if he’d just forgotten to mention it. In planning our very first meeting he suggested we meet in Spain and looking back I sometimes wish I had. He wanted me to meet the brother of audacity and derring-do, not the man in the pebble-dash house with wife who barely looked up from the television. I insisted on seeing him in situ and meeting the family, but in retrospect I think Spain would have been a lark, since Mary was initially convinced I was someone trying to enter Britain to sponge off their government and never showed any curiosity about me, my family, Australia or anything else. Luckily for me, and for him, I have known both sides and learned very quickly to change the conversation as we walked in or out of his front door. Sadly his wife and now his daughters have had no interest in his writing at all and have never shared his passions, so when he’s tried to give them his written work or old memoirs or books to read they have made it very plain that they are simply indifferent to it all. There are only two people now who know the real Kenneth, seeing him from both sides of the fence, and I am lucky enough to have the other one as a penfriend. I am sure that he could have chosen to live a wonderful creative life with his pals from earlier years, the writers Alan Bennett and Michael Frayn among many, but subterfuge and legerdemain are intrinsic to his personality for whatever reason and juggling identities is somehow part of the game. However, now he is trapped in the least exciting part of his persona and it saddens me to see him reduced to conversations about just pills and dinner and sad too that his daughters will never know what a fascinating and brilliant man they have for a father. This morning at breakfast I repeated his comments to John who naturally espoused the view that I shouldn’t go and sadly he’s right. It isn’t a two or three week job, it’s a commitment of months or even years, so I am certainly in a lose/lose situation as far as looking after my brother is concerned, though I would love to sit listening to him in front of the fire and arguing the toss about the few issues on which we disagree.

February 14, 2022

We dropped the wretched printer off to the fix-it man and headed to Dural for the bread and a bit of other shopping. John was surprised when we arrived there, not having noticed that we were headed somewhere else than home, despite the fact that we’d discussed today’s plans over breakfast. He didn’t want to come into the shops and waited for me in the car. When we got home I went down to the garage to reorganise the freezer and load the bread in, after asking John if he could put the fridge stuff away. I did a couple of other chores downstairs and when I got back he was standing where I’d left him and said ‘I didn’t understand what to do so I haven’t done anything’. It wasn’t an issue of memory but an issue of confusion about how to interpret instructions, something I’m noticing more and more.

I’ve finished the book for our next group meeting and was glad when Michelle texted to say she’s coming over later to borrow our walking poles as previously arranged because I can return the book to her for a second reading. Thankfully there is no need for me to read it again. I will keep my powder dry on it till book group but let it be known that Pollyanna and Disneyland are words that come to mind.

My new Spanish cousin sent me nine emails yesterday, including a real estate video of her house, Wikipedia entries on cave houses and troglodytes and many maps and tourist details of the area. She and many others live in cave houses, partly due to the intense heat, but she has recently moved to one with a pool for that very reason. Not at all how one imagines the hordes of Britons who migrate there, living in Benidorm type areas and existing within little clusters of other Britons, eating fish and chips and drinking British ale. She and her husband are living the real Spanish life in a village of just 292 people. Brave I think, though I did do the maths on one of the real estate ads and the house was A$273,000, the prices would certainly help the decision.

February 15, 2022

Met up with my cousin Angela who has moved from Glenalpine out near Campbelltown to Potts Point. I struggle with titling relationships, despite reading the criteria many times, but I think it’s first cousin once removed, she’s my mother’s brother’s granddaughter but I think just plain cousin is easier. She is right in the middle of restaurant and cafe paradise with Fratelli Paradiso and Apollo five minutes walk away, plus French bistros everywhere you look. Boy Charlton pool and the Art Gallery are walkable and buses and trains are handy, plus the complex itself has a pool. We caught up on her family stuff and then did a walk along Victoria Street and Challis Avenue drooling over the amazing four-storey terraces. The nearby garden is atop the Navy staff carpark, a great idea and I didn’t even realise it was there despite having driven past the ugly thing dozens of times. They cleverly put it at the foot of a steep hill so you can walk out onto the garden at the top. We plan to do it all over again next month and in the meantime I will dig out any photos I have of her immediate family and give them to her, otherwise they’ll all go in the Sulo bin once I’m dead.

Talking of photos……I suggested that John sort the boxes and boxes of photos and albums that he has and send some photos to those pictured therein. He thought it a great idea, but I had proposed doing it a box at a time in case he found it too taxing. So of course he gut-busted every single box upstairs, sorted half a dozen photos and decided it was too mentally demanding, however he wants to leave them all sitting there in case he changes his mind, so I shot myself in the foot there. I knew he would want to keep most but he can’t bear to part with a single one, which is fine, but now it will be tricky to get them rehomed and off the dining room table.

Another case of shooting myself in the foot occurred yesterday when I finally got on to the police constable who had signed the letter to John thanking him for joining the Next of Kin Program, which neither of us had ever heard of before the letter arrived. The idea is to use the keyring provided which has a code number on it, which could be used if the person became ill or had an accident and was unconscious, then the paramedics could contact the next of kin. She told us that Wendy’s Home Care had signed him up (it would have been nice for us to be consulted by them) and then she started asking questions about why I am listed as his next of kin. Fair curiosity question perhaps, but really none of her business, however she just wouldn’t let it go, and then wanted his doctor’s and solicitor’s phone numbers to boot. We kept saying ‘well thanks very much, now we understand who enrolled us in the program, that’s all we wanted to know’, trying to get her off the phone but she was having none of it. Finally after 15 minutes at least she trilled ‘Well youse both have a lovely day now, won’t yers’. Oh it would have been so much better if I hadn’t decided to ring youse I thought.

February 16, 2022

Made a gluten-free peanutty cakey biscuity thing to take to sewing group but I don’t even like the look of them so I didn’t try one. I had some coconut flour that I wanted to try and the last of the peanuts before I refill the jar with cashews. So I Googled coconut flour and peanuts and hey presto, up came this recipe. But that flour is so dry and moisture- devouring that the recipe had four eggs for just half a cup of flour. Anyway people ate them but I shied off. I took a top that was at least 30 years old as the fabric keeps self-destructing into holes. I had previously patched two holes using decorative iron-ons in the shape of cherries, the top has a fruit design. But this time I sewed another piece of fabric behind the two holes and sewed around them as if they were little openings that were meant to be there. It wouldn’t pass going-out muster but is fine for around the house or going to the shops.

Got the second quote for the driveway and it’s even more expensive than the first. So I emailed him with a series of questions about why he had done things a certain way and an hour later on his way home from a job he was here with the answers, not by email but standing in the driveway and showing us exactly what he meant. I think I will go with him as the reasons he gave for departing from the way the first guy planned to do it passed muster. He invited us to look at a job he’s working on at Oatlands tomorrow because it’s a similar situation, only the people are replacing their existing brick-paved driveway which was only done recently but they weren’t happy with it. We’ll have a look but I think I will go with this guy, he’s knowledgeable but also very responsive.

I read about a retired police captain in the US being tried for the murder of a man who was texting at the movies. My I thought, that could have been me except for two things 1) I don’t carry a concealed firearm to the movies and 2) he was texting in the previews, not in the movie itself. Murder for texting in the previews is a bit severe in my view and I would have to condemn him to life. In the movie itself, well that’s another ballgame altogether.

February 17, 2022

Some days are diamonds and some days are rust as the song says. Today was a diamond day. We left early to see the new paving man’s current job at Oatlands, but the GPS in my phone went rogue and took me for a Cook’s Tour around North Rocks, actually going in circles before I decided to ignore it, get onto the road towards Oatlands and hope it would right itself, which it duly did. What that was about I have no idea, but it confirms my view that I couldn’t ever have let John drive relying solely on a GPS or it could have been Ayer’s Rock here we come. We were very pleased with what we saw on the site and he showed me a before picture of this same driveway completed only last March by a landscaper, compared to the very professional job he is doing. There was no contest. Apparently the client could have demanded it be redone by the original landscaper (whom Grant chose not to name) but I would agree that if a person doesn’t know how to do a job properly in the first place, there is no point in asking them to do it again. However she must have lost a lot of money on the job. Anyway I have bitten the bullet and will go with him, gulp.

Wendy’s Home Care emailed to say that they have been in touch with my mowing guy and got a quote from him to come fortnightly doing both mowing and gardening. Woohoo. Now it’s just a matter of them doing the paperwork and then he can start. It means I can leave those heavier tasks for him and just do the weeding and any replanting.

Bronwyn and Michael came and she and I went to Wild Pear for lunch, while I left lunch for the boys in the fridge. We shared a Spanner Crab Omelette with salad and a plate of Sweet Pea Falafel, Avocado and Halloumi, also with salad. Desserts were a must-do, Baked Cheesecake and Figs for Bron and a Watermelon and Strawberry Pavlova for me. It is on an open verandah so we were pretty safe I think. We planned to go for a picnic soon, but the four of us will go at that time. New woman me!

February 18, 2022

Seeing I had such a positive day yesterday I decided it would be a good time to put the picnic with Ann back on the agenda, after a few cancellations for various reasons. We met at Lane Cove National Park and found that the large shelter shed we’d planned to meet in was booked, by a delightful group called Sing Australia, who began their practice just before we left. Ann left her email address so she can consider joining them. We found another table in the shade and it was a relaxing lunch and catch-up. I took the rest of the gluten-free peanut biscuits that I made and finally tried one, they are dis-gust-ing, spit-out disgusting. I can’t believe the people at sewing group ate them, though Ann who is fussy about food judged them ‘nice’. De gustibus non est disputandum. Ann’s daughter Karina has gone into year 7 at Masada College, a Jewish school in St. Ives, where she got a scholarship. For a ‘belligerent anti-religionist’ as she describes herself it is difficult to accept an hour of prayers by the cantor every morning. She has already written a note to the science teacher asking how the children can reconcile her teaching them evolution in one class when they are taught in another that the world was made in six days. It was not well received. But that’s what you would have to accept if you send your child to a religious private school, so I’m not sure what she expected.

So how come Kiev has become Kyiv? Must I change all of my recipe books? I remember eating an amazing Chicken Kiev in 1973 but find it hard to imagine it was in the USSR where the cuisine wasn’t as sophisticated as that. I think perhaps it was in Communist Poland as it was then, where the food was excellent. The waiters loved to say ‘I bet you didn’t get anything this good in Russia’. Though I well remember slathering caviar on black bread in the railway cafes in Russia, mmm I can taste it still. Trying to get milk to go in tea proved problematic though, the closest I got was buttermilk, ugh. Sausages that you needed a saw to cut through the skin, oh my they were awful.

February 19, 2022

Why is it I wonder that Nick Dole and the ABC in general as well as the Herald journalists when reporting on the Ukraine situation never mention the fact that when the USSR agreed to break up, the US assured the Soviet leader Gorbachev that NATO would never be allowed to expand into Eastern Europe. Those countries could be part of the EU, but not NATO. The US Secretary of State famously promised “not one inch eastwards”. It is understandable that Biden and Johnson conveniently leave this fact out, but we are paying our journalists to do research, not to just mouth platitudes from one side or the other. I guess the Ruskies are repeating this pledge, but of course nobody here is reporting it. I am no fan of Putin but it seems to me that ignoring the fact that the west are reneging on this deal is completely dishonest and relies on short memories.

I have just finished reading the novel Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down and it will stick in my mind for a long time. Josie grows up shunted from foster care to residential homes and back again but after finding a happy life with a husband she loves, the loss of her newborns to cot death causes her life to implode. The thing that will stick with me is the author’s ability to get inside the head of her character, to understand how a simple thing like the sight of a crystal ashtray or the look of a certain whorl in a person’s hair can take her into a different world of her past and make her plunge down a wormhole, experiencing those terrors all over again. How did the author know how to describe that feeling of being sucked back into previous unbearable memories unless she herself has experienced it? How did she even know that phenomenon existed? The character is constantly struggling to forget, pushing down flashes of the past. I wonder if this is something normal people have to deal with, constantly pushing down puckers in the fabric of their lives, only to turn around and have an undulation come up somewhere else altogether?

February 20, 2022

Happily I spoke too soon about commentators ignoring the facts about Russia’s dispute with Ukraine. Michael Costello, former secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has written a long article about the west’s ‘failure to see things through Russian eyes’. He comments that with a 2300 km border with Ukraine, Russia has every reason to be wary of NATO admitting ‘a corruption-ridden, desperately poor country, and certainly no model democracy’. He asks how the US would feel about Russia or China setting up bases in Mexico, they certainly reacted very badly when the same thing was proposed in Cuba in 1962. How would Australia react to a naval post in Papua-New Guinea for example? The equivalent possibility is being faced by the Russians should the current NATO application proceed. It is complex, but it suits the press (and our government) to simplify it all as just ‘bad-guy Putin’.

We minded Millie last night at Erskineville and she wasn’t happy at the idea of her parents going out without her, but 30 seconds after they went out the door she was as right as rain. It was Dav and Louis’s 15th anniversary and they dined at Otto at Woolloomooloo, a ritzy Italian place on the wharf. We celebrate the same milestone in September so I will have to think up something special. I am over-ready for a little break away now, so come March I think I will look at a few days in either Kiama or The Entrance, while it’s still warm enough to swim. We need to go while John can still enjoy it and I have no way of knowing how long that might be. His memory is much worse, in the last hours he’s asked about two people who’ve died in the last six months, one very recently. He had forgotten they were dead and maybe it will get to the point where I shouldn’t remind him, I don’t know.

This morning we went to Forestville where Martha is cat-sitting in a lovely house with views over a steep decline to the river. The cat wasn’t anywhere to be seen and it only comes out for food when she’s not nearby, a rescue cat like Carly’s is and the past has taught it that people can’t be trusted. How long those early experiences shape us, cat or human.

February 21, 2022

Today John had a routine hospital appointment at RNSH and it took us nearly 2 hours bumper-to-bumper to drive there on the M2!!! Usually it takes about 30 minutes but of course there was a sudden train strike which explained it. We were late, then we waited another hour for the doctor so I was glad to eventually be out of there. John didn’t know why we were there (even though I’d explained repeatedly) so I had to do all the talking but it was a satisfactory conclusion. He asked me to handle all appointments, talking to doctors etc from now on as he gets so confused by it all. The doc commented ‘so John’s the patient and you’re the memory’. He is particularly smooth-skinned and good looking, a fact I mentioned to his registrar, to which she replied ‘Oh yes, he’s good friends with the laser’. I assume this is some sort of cosmetic procedure, which clearly works.

It is disingenuous for Zali Steggall to say that she split a $100,000 donation towards her campaign from the notorious Kinghorn family into eight equal donations of $12,500 for any reason other than to keep the amount under the minimum required to be disclosed. I expected better and hope she’s learned her lesson. Better to say ‘yep, I stuffed up’ than to try to convince people that each member of the family just happened to donate an equal amount that served the purpose of hiding the source of the money. After watching Kinghorn senior at ICAC a number of times I wouldn’t believe him if he said that the sun comes up in the east. Independents need financial backing but if you get mixed up with dodgy people like him it can only bring problems.

February 22, 2022

Every year I do Millie’s birthday cake and the theme is Millie’s choice (I am waiting to do a zoo one or a rainbow one but no luck). This year I thought it was little Lego men but I assured that it is a computer game called Minecraft. I tried my usual cake decorating shop for Minecraft cake toppers or anything else but they were sold out so I rang another business in the same area and he had a pack of 10 Minecraft plastic toys for $17.95, done deal I said and off we went to pick them up. They were exactly the same as the set I’d looked at online for $27.95 plus postage and I am always happier to have something in my hand to look at rather than order online so that suited me. It will save a lot of study of how to depict the characters and she gets to play with them afterwards. Before we left I thought to ring the printer-fixer-upper who is nearby the cake place to ask when the printer will be ready. “I spoke to John last week and he was delighted that it was ready so soon’ he said, very slightly put out. John has no memory of the call and was asking this morning why it was taking so long.

John’s friends from Victoria rang yesterday to say they were arriving in Sydney today and could drop in, so I made a chocolate cake this morning and intended to fill it with cream and put chocolate icing on top. The mix seemed way too liquid to me but I did it as instructed and it ran under the lining paper, causing it to break as I took it out of the tin. No way am I game to slice it in half for cream, so it is patched together with the icing and looks a bit askew but it’s unlikely they will notice while chatting. As my new cousin Tony opined to me this morning ‘Nobody’s perfect but if you’re from Yorkshire you’re pretty close’. This is now a Yorkshire cake in my mind.

Although I loathe Clive Palmer I intended watching him today at the National Press Club just for the journalists’ questions. But he pulled out a couple of hours beforehand citing ‘Covid symptoms’. Seeing he is an anti-vaxxer and general pain in the arse it wouldn’t surprise me if he says later that he tested negative and has pulled out just to cost the Press Club a motza in catering and staff. We shall see. Or perhaps the gods are sick of him mouthing off about vaccinations being a waste of time and….. no, it would be mean to finish this sentence, aloud anyway.

February 23, 2022

Yesterday we had a visit from John’s friends from Victoria, with whom I’ve always got on very well. The dodgy-looking cake I made went over a treat, being like a dark chocolate fudge inside, they loved it and had two pieces each. They told us a bit about their son who, when invited some years ago to come back from an important job in London to join the state public service, told the premier that he’d only work for a Liberal government (his parents are lefties, but didn’t seem to mind). He’s just taken a CEO job in the private sector but in the same area of expertise, so perhaps he thinks this government is on the way out? Let’s hope he’s right about that.

A bit of a frustrating morning doing administration, which I hate. But firstly John announced that he’d lost his debit card which wasn’t in his wallet so I spent a long time looking for it, turning out clothes, going through his office, checking in the washing etc. Then I went to the IGA where it was last used and the bank in case it was handed in.We were just going back to the bank in the afternoon to cancel it when John announced ‘here it is, in my wallet’, the one place I didn’t look because he’d assured me it wasn’t there! Then I got an email from the home care people to say that the gardener still hasn’t sent back the forms required to enable them to pay him on John’s package. He doesn’t live far away, I feel like marching in and sitting down at his computer to do it. He’s just not the type of guy who wants to do paperwork but in this case it isn’t optional. Next was the driveway man wanting to know details about colour of bricks and commons versus new and gord I wish John could do some of this stuff. Then a conversation with my neighbour over his plans to get the big gum tree trimmed back. Then after ringing a locksmith yesterday because the security door won’t lock I discovered it had righted itself (for how long?) so I rang again and cancelled him, not wanting to waste money if I can help it. I can’t get this day back and it annoys the heck out of me to waste it on all this garbage, but what can you do?

February 24, 2022

Rang the bro last night and he sounds worse than last time. His daughter is still there and he did seem more himself on the one occasion that I rang when she was out, but usually I just need to throw a prawn-head like ‘Why do you think Putin has decided to go now?’ or ‘Do you think Boris will survive?’ and he’d be back to his old self. Perhaps he is embarrassed to talk about such things with his daughter present, emphasising the difference in his conversations with her, or perhaps he just isn’t up to it because he’s so unwell. She won’t stay forever, he needs to improve enough to be able to do for himself or else the dreaded home is on the cards.

I found Brian’s house for sale on the Belle Property website. Belle? For a Windsor property? Interesting. After reading the ad I wouldn’t trust them at all. Two/three bedrooms….mmm the possible third is a hallway in the centre of the house, so no window. It is a tiny square with four doors going to a family room, a bathroom, the loungeroom and a kitchen, not a lot of sleep likely there, not to mention the legality. The original bathroom, c1930, has a fully tiled bath with a shower over, except it leaks like a sieve and hasn’t been used in the last 20 years at least as the water drains under the house, no mention of that little detail. There is a huge fig tree nearby and it cracks the walls of the double brick house regularly, no sign of any cracks so I guess they were filled and painted over. Every single thing of Brian’s has been removed and it’s been tastelessly refurnished with modern stuff, much of Brian’s stuff having gone into a skip I understand. But I suspect because it’s on a corner near the main Windsor shops that it will sell to demolish, however if I’m wrong the buyer could be in for a few surprises.

Well I have sent off the deposit to the paving man this afternoon, eek. He has been exemplary in answering my many queries. However after committing to bricks because of the huge tree next door pushing its roots up on the driveway, my neighbour is making noises about getting it cut down! I disapprove and have told him so but I understand that it’s pushing up his water and gas lines which will cost to be rerouted, plus he is paying occasionally to have it trimmed so it doesn’t drop branches on his roof or mine. However, even if he does that the roots will continue to rot away for years, collapsing and breaking any concrete laid above it, so I think bricks are still the safest option. Nothing’s simple.

February 25, 2022

What to say about Putin? A lot of course but it changes nothing. Why do people still choose to call him a Communist leader when it’s been obvious for decades that he is a Fascist? (It is a bit creepy for me to see him constantly on TV as physically I’ve always seen some physical resemblance between him and my brother. They have steely determination in common as well.) In terms of Ukraine though he is right to say that the Soviet Union under Gorbachev was tricked about breaking up, with a promise of the breakaway states never becoming part of NATO, something the West has decided to forget. But an invasion is a different and deadly response. After having contributed to getting Trump elected and seeded division in the US and then supported Brexit and seeded division in the UK, it seems that he had a long-term purpose in mind. His Russian uber patriotism and desire to see the USSR somehow put back together has dominated his political life and this is step one. It will be a rocky road ahead, for all of us.

There’s nothing like the feeling of having a cull. This morning I sorted all the bank statements from 2004 to now, personal ones not related to the business. I don’t feel comfortable putting a laundry basket full into the recycle bin so I will have to burn them, which I hate to do. Perhaps I will dance around the flames and give the neighbours something to think about. Next I plan to empty a drawer in one of my filing cabinets in the storeroom which is chockers with shop statements, cheque butts etc. That account is long closed so I don’t mind recycling them. I am leaving it to boy scout John to work out how to burn them, I guess in some short break in the rain.

The book group seems to be shrinking little by little, our meeting today is via Zoom after the host pulled the plug. Now another is taking leave of absence. But our meeting today was interesting, three loving the book and three not, one disliking it enough not to read past the first few chapters. Next month is Hamnet, a book I decided that I had no interest in reading after I read the review, but them’s the breaks. Occasionally such a book comes up trumps, though historical fiction is close to my lowest category, only slightly above fantasy.

February 26, 2022

This morning John was a bit down in the mouth over his problems so I made a hasty decision to pack the Thermos and head down to Picton. I try to organise a once a week outing and although this was only one day over the week the slide in his mood was noticeable before we went, but once we were on our way he was fine. He had forgotten how far it was, thinking it was just a suburban destination. However despite the heavy rain we got there in an hour and a quarter and headed to the Thirlmere Railway Museum. Interesting all round but particularly the section on the railway strike of 1917. Returning strikers, who became know as ‘Lily Whites’ were stripped of any seniority and their superannuation rights. Loyalists, those who hadn’t gone on strike, had their jobs  confirmed. Three thousand men had their employment records marked “not to be re-employed” or “dismissed by Proclamation”, despite the Railway Commissioners having agreed that “work shall be resumed without resentment and employment offered without vindictiveness”. I was shocked to find that school boys from local Sydney schools Newington and Sydney Grammar helped to keep the workshops open, working as scab labour. One of the results of all this was the rise of unionist Ben Chifley, later to become Prime Minister of Australia. We took a ride on one of their trains, the 4807, which had few passengers so we felt pretty safe on it. Neville, our conductor, was a mine of information, as were the many volunteers working there. I’m guessing most if not all are retired railwaymen. We drove back to Picton for lunch and then home along the highway in torrential rain, so bad that it was too dangerous to change lanes at times. I noticed that the water thrown up by cars and trucks particularly, was much worse on concrete parts of the road than on asphalt sections. Good to know if I ever become a traffic engineer.

February 27, 2022

My worst fears have been realised as far as the tree next door is concerned. Today the copper water pipe near the foot of the tree on Arvind’s side finally sprung a leak, sending a pretty shower of water into the air, exactly what he’s been fearing for months. The gas pipe is nearby and that’s a bigger worry. So Arvind called me to meet him for a discussion and I knew straight away what it was going to be about. He’s had enough expense and the tree has to go. So now I need to contact the paver and explain that we can’t go ahead till the job’s done and it needs to go to council, so who knows how long that will be. Just two days after paying the deposit, it would rot your socks. Later in the afternoon Mala sent over some fresh made pakora (the BEST PAKORA EVER), she’s a great cook.

I did some culling of the storeroom and made a box of practical stuff for Martha to take for Afghan refugees and another box for Vinnies at Dural, where the lady seems to have some appreciation of antiques and will sell them accordingly. Then I put a few postables on eBay so I feel as if it was worthwhile getting up. Random as a Mini Minor do-it-yourself manual to some French plates with automobile themes from 1890. I can start pulling all the baskets, cushions etc out to get them into some sort of order now that all of the china and glass seems to be headed to a home. John wanted an incense burner from the goodies to go in his study but after thinking it through I told him it’s too dangerous to have a naked flame in there and he was okay with that.

Wrote some letters on the Ukraine issue but I think I am wasting my finger-ends. (Which just reminded me of Sir John Betjeman’s wonderful poem On a Portrait of a Deaf Man):

“He would have liked to say goodbye, Shake hands with many friends. In Highgate now his finger-bones Stick through his finger-ends. You, God, who treat him thus and thus, Say, ‘Save his soul and pray.’ You ask me to believe You and I only see decay”.

February 28, 2022

Funny old morning in that I was meeting Martha for morning tea at a patisserie that she found on the internet at Dural. I took a candle and holder to put in her cake for a birthday celebration. However I was half way there when she rang to say that she’d discovered that it’s closed on Mondays. I asked her to choose somewhere else and she picked, from the internet, The Centre Cafe but although it appeared that my GPS was okay with the entry it let me sail past the street and I overshot by about 10 minutes or more. Finally I got suspicious and reprogrammed it, only to have it tell me to do a U-turn and go back. By the time I arrived Martha had had coffee and cake so it was a bit of a balls-up. It turns out The Centre is a combination of a Christian church with attached sporting facilities, a bit of a weird set-up, so it was empty when we got there and full when we left as the adult students were by then at lunch. However the rear deck worked for a chat but the food was bought in and pretty ordinary, which was a shame as Dural is full of great food places. When I got home John said he was depressed and scared about his mental state, I don’t think it does him any good being left even for a short time.

I got back in good time to chat with Justine on Zoom and she talked about the importance of living in the ‘what is’ instead of the ‘what if’. It was interesting to find out that she spent a long time in Kiev with the Peace Corps and knows the city well. Dally rang up to ask John if he could go up to Officeworks to get a high-resolution scan of a portrait John has of Roger Pryke, to go in the new Wikipedia entry that Dally is currently working on. I’m not sure he (or anyone) realises that asking John to do something means his turning to me to get it done. Off we went to O/works but the scan was too large to send, so we bought a thumb drive to send it by snail mail. Nothing is ever simple, especially technology. On the way home from there I ducked into the library to pick up a book I’d ordered and saw Tony, my erstwhile? current? friend. He usually works at Castle Hill so it was a surprise to both of us to see each other there. No mention was made about the fact that he hasn’t picked up the Christmas gift here for him, so of course I didn’t raise it. Odd little encounter but perfectly amicable.

March 1, 2022

Today was designated as the day for picking up the presents for Millie’s birthday, a dark green raincoat for school and a particular book that she wants. I thought I was clever going to the internet to find the raincoat and it was Target at Castle Hill which had the right colour, but when I got there I found there wasn’t a single raincoat for a child in any colour, unsurprisingly I guess. Then we headed off for Lane Cove shops as John drinks a ghastly brew called Bambu and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere out here. (He informs me that ‘this jar should see me out’!!). The other reason to go was that there is no longer a single bookshop in the Hills since Dymock’s closed before Christmas, but I was able to pick up her desired book in the excellent bookshop in Lane Cove while we there. A bonus was getting some delicious sushi to bring home for lunch. A couple of interesting snippets from the shopping morning: while asking directions to Target (I keep out of the dreaded Towers if at all possible so never know where anything is) the people ahead of me at the enquiries counter were an apparent married couple, well dressed but lacking proficiency in English, possibly Iranian? He was asking if any of the businesses in Castle Towers were for sale. ‘What sort of business are you looking for?’ the lady asked. ‘Oh we don’t mind but we want it in here’ he answered ‘we have funds to purchase’. She sent them off to the centre manager’s office, but it got me thinking about how different migrants to this country are these days, gone are the 10 pound Poms with all their goods and chattels in a couple of suitcases, now the rules allow them enter more easily and quickly if they have significant financial backing, something that sticks in my craw. The next encounter was at the health food shop at Lane Cove where John buys his Bambu. For all the years we have gone there I have had a feeling about the owner, that somehow he is a bad egg, not that I could have put that feeling into more words than that. Today he had a pal there, a big man in a suit, who introduced himself as Robert and said ‘I am standing for election next time, against Trent Zimmerman’. We said hello and had a chat and I asked which party he was standing for, almost knowing in advance, and it was United Australia. I quickly said that we are at the opposite end of the political spectrum to him and not in this electorate so we won’t be voting for him. He waffled on about Freedom until I said that ‘personally I don’t vote for any party pushing either Freedom or Family, as you can be assured that they are from the extreme right’. It sounds harsh in the retelling but it was part of a to-and-fro about how bad the government is, with which we agreed completely. He was very nice and just said God Bless You which was enough to send John scurrying for the door saying ‘You’ve always said that man was a bad egg’.

March 2, 2022

It was sewing group today and many pulled out for reasons of weather, but I figured that from here to Eastwood is almost totally on a ridge, so how can I get caught in a flood? I really don’t mind getting wet anyway, I’m more likely to cancel going to an event due to heat. So it was just our host, one other and me and discussion turned immediately to Putin and his sanity or otherwise. I had sent a letter to the SMH on Ukraine earlier in the week which read in part: “The appalling scenes we are seeing of missile strikes on a large, heavily-populated, sophisticated city can only remind us of one conflict in recent times, the US invasion of Iraq. It is Shock and Awe Mark II and rightly has as little public support as that invasion had. Putin is moving into Ukraine because he can, just as we invaded Iraq because we could. The US and Russia both carry the big stick of nuclear weapons and therefore feel as if they can do as they please. Public condemnation worldwide did nothing to stop the attack on Iraq and sadly, will likely have no effect this time”. It came as a surprise to hear our host’s husband voicing almost exactly those sentiments and mentioning the promises given to the USSR if they devolved. Interesting when you listen to your own arguments being bounced back to you. I had some frozen food being delivered today and had instructed John on getting it straight into the freezer, but when I came home it was sitting on the kitchen bench (luckily in dry ice). I asked why he hadn’t put it away as we’d discussed and he said he had phoned me but I hadn’t picked up and so he didn’t know what to do. I saw there had been a missed call which I simply didn’t hear, I need to have the phone in my pocket when I’m away from him I’ve decided.

On a slightly less serious note I have been puzzling about how to do Millie’s birthday cake. I have the Minecraft figures to go on top but the icing of the cake will need to be done at the last minute (Friday) as this weather won’t do it any favours. One of the symbols I’ve seen in the game is a square pack of TNT (don’t ask me, I don’t know) so I’m thinking of painting some licorice allsorts red and putting little TNT labels on them, don’t know if it will work, but I’ll give it a go. I always like doing her birthday cake and one day I’d love to do a circus theme or a fairy one or something, but her choice is always the current passion in films or computer games. I guess it keeps me on my toes trying to work out the symbolism of something I know nothing about.

March 3, 2022

A busy day (well busy for these times) with a cake to bake, a Mississippi Mudcake, which turned out inches above the tin so I had to slice it off level with the top so it will be flat to ice tomorrow. Then I made little boxes of TNT out of licorice allsorts, a very weird way to spend time. The security company phoned to ask if I wanted my free annual maintenance check done today as they had a spot due to cancellation. A nice South African man came so I showed him the book I’ve just finished, The Promise, which is set near Pretoria and he photographed the cover to show his wife who’s a big reader. Then John’s cleaner came so I simultaneously cleaned my bedroom and bathroom so all of the house is clean together, well cleanish is probably a better term as I have since cleaned up cobwebs next to the meat safe in a place that was supposedly vacced and mopped, but I’m being thankful for any help I get at the moment. She only does his bathroom and the floors so the kitchen cleaning, dusting etc still needs to be done. Meanwhile John was searching all day for his drafting tools as he wants to draw something, but I have no idea where they are despite being asked 15 times already. Gosh it’s a pretty boring day when I look back on it, but we are not in the floods, Ukraine, Afghanistan or any other nightmare scenario so I am not complaining.

March 4, 2022

Stan Grant is in a bit of bother for his hosting of Q & A last night after he tossed out a man who had asked a pro-Putin question. All questions from the audience are vetted by the program in advance and his had been approved, but Stan took it on himself to evict him anyway. I have never been a fan of Stan as an interviewer because he is more interested in telling the interviewee and the audience what HE thinks, rather than listening to them. This is okay if you are arguing the toss with someone in the pub but hardly appropriate if you are trying to tease out the facts on a program designed for that purpose. In fact it was a very Russian TV approach that he took but he probably can’t see the similarity. I’ve written to the ABC, the Herald and one other outlet, but an online poll about whether he did the right thing is running at 51% against him and 49% for, so at least it’s provoking debate.

I am often seeing press reports about some celebrity or other going through an airport or into a restaurant and the journalist rhapsodises about the Prada coat and the Gucci bag and the Manolo Blahnik shoes that adorned them. I am mystified how these reporters know. I wouldn’t have a clue about brands but it would take hours and hours of  research to learn, and it would need to be a constant study to keep up with every dress, coat, hat, bag and shoes sold by numerous brands and then to identify them on a quick walk-past. I dips me lid. Just recognising the faces would be more than I could manage.

Got the cake almost done, but it is getting shiny due to the 100% humidity, so who knows if it will droop by tomorrow. The little TNT packet decorations wouldn’t dry and the labels have had to be changed twice because the colouring leaked into the paper. Now I’ve frozen them and I plan to put them on the cake at the last minute so they don’t drip red colouring all over the cake. But compared to the floods…….

March 5, 2022

The mothers of Millie’s friends will be cursing me tonight. The dark green icing on the Minecraft theme cake won’t dry despite having a fan on it all night, so every kid will end up with green fingers and worse, green clothes. I don’t own a hairdryer otherwise I’d give that a go. I will cringe if I see a little girl in a white dress.

The risks of nuclear reactors are many: tsunamis, earthquakes, operator incompetence, now war, perhaps it’s time we realised that the benefits, huge as they are, just aren’t worth the risks. The idiocy of shelling or bombing near a nuclear reactor is unbelievable, but sadly we are living in unbelievable times. Perhaps Umair Haque’s view has merit, that Putin deliberately destabilised the US via Trump and the UK via Brexit for just this masterplan.

Later: The party went off well, 10 delightful, warm, friendly children, each with a parent whom I see just once a year. Millie said that she didn’t get an award at assembly on Friday, she “was disappointed, but resilient”. I didn’t know how to use that word at six, I doubt I’d even heard it in fact, possibly not my parents either. Judging by the kids at the party, the pre-school that they all went to did a fantastic job, not only with learning but with socialisation. John was fairly out of it, not feeling confident to approach either the kids or the parents to start a conversation. By the end of the day I was knackered and would have loved to have another driver, but he heated up some soup for our dinner when we got home and that was a blessing.

March 6, 2022

I am clearly a Chamberlain rather than a Churchill (I’ve always felt that Chamberlain got bad press, so easy to be a critic with hindsight). The vision of crumbling buildings in Ukraine is so dispiriting, if the attack ended tomorrow and the people all returned, the damage to the country’s soul will take decades to repair and of course the families who have suffered will take much longer. In one way it shows the inherent danger of nuclear weapons but in another it shows that having them is the ticket to doing exactly what you want to do. Perhaps they will be the end of civilisation before climate change gets that guernsey.

But if anything could trump the Ukraine war and the floods and get them off our TV screens it is the death of Shane Warne, 15 minutes on the news last night and an hour this morning after Insiders devoted to him, no doubt with much more to come. I’ve never thought that much of the man on a personal level, but it is still sad to think of him, or anyone, dying alone in the lap of luxury. My friend Chrys (she who is a professional researcher and seems to have early intelligence on everything) tells me that he had Covid in late September and sent me a paper from Nature saying that there is a 10 times higher risk for a heart attack or myocarditis in the 12 months after having Covid, regardless of its severity. Being 5 days into a rigorous weight-loss / get fit programme mightn’t have helped either. Attention Maureen: forget any weight loss / get fit ideas for now.

Last night I watched Mardi Gras on the ABC, having given it a miss for years when it was on channels with advertising. Once I’d never have missed being there, but all of my companions are now gone, though John and I marched together one year. I made a T-shirt with the names of my pals written in Texta back and front. This year it was slick, professional and sadly non-political. Where were all the wonderful send-up floats of the pollies and the Fred Niles et al? They were highlights in the old days. It’s great to see floats from Minter Ellison and Optus and whatever and even better seeing Police, AFP, SES, Fire Service and more but the edgy sarcasm of yore was missing. It was amusing to see Jeremy Fernandez, who is straight, sound more and more camp as the night wore on, just the way we start to say ‘fush and chups’ if we spend some time in New Zealand. But in one night Jezza? Methinks he’s been practising, bless him.

March 7, 2022

Nothing here stays simple for long. About a month ago John’s home care service signed him up (without any consultation) to a fairly recent NSW Police initiative aimed at elderly people who live alone. It consists of a pendant for their keyring which has a code number on it linking to a database, enabling ambulance officers to identify a person sick or injured but unable to speak. At least that’s how it was explained to us. It all makes sense doesn’t it? Except that the officious Constable in charge of the programme in that particular police station decided she should ring both John and me and ask why his carer was nominated as the person to contact, a decision made by the home care people not by either of us. She badgered John for some time about his daughters and whether one of them should be the contact person but he stood his ground, explaining that there were past problems and he didn’t want that to occur. Eventually she said ‘oh we are saying ‘she’ John, but tell me your daughters’ first names?’ Big mistake here, but we didn’t know that for sure at the time, though we thought it suspicious. Fast forward a month and John gets a call yesterday from a very angry daughter to say that the police had contacted her on a Sunday afternoon and asked ‘Did you know that your father doesn’t want anyone to contact you if he dies?’ The cop’s used her policing powers to hunt down his daughter from just the name, no address, no phone number, no email, all of which he had resolutely refused to give. How she did it I’m not sure, but Facebook or the electoral rolls are a good start. Dying wasn’t the issue here, there are a host of people able to contact them if that happened, the purpose was getting onto someone who knows his medical history and medications in case of illness or accident. His daughter was naturally angry as it was the first she’d heard about it and it was put to her in the most ham-fisted terms, deliberately one might ask? As I read it the cop is in serious breach of both NSW privacy legislation and the terms of the particular service he was enrolled in, which states: ‘any information provided will be securely stored and only accessed by NSW Police’. Not to mention the fact that she’s unleashed a hornet’s nest of aggro against John for no reason that he could have avoided. No-one slept well in this house last night as a result. I am holding my fire till I decide the best way to proceed.

Amazing how many best friends Shane Warne had. At least eight have claimed the honour since I’ve been counting, I’m sure there will be more. The first ten pages of the Sunday paper were fully devoted to Warne and then two full pages in the sport section. I doubt the death of the Prime Minister would have been so fully covered. Apparently he had been on a 14 day juice diet, not a great choice if you’ve got a dicky heart I wouldn’t think, but whatever the reasons for his death, it’s wiped Ukraine off the map journalistically speaking.

March 8, 2022

Just had an energising walk in the rain, it really is pouring. Two bodies have just been found after a car was discovered yesterday in a canal in Wentworthville, I suspect the same canal in which Davina’s favourite high school teacher drowned after jumping in to rescue his dog after it fell in. As often happens, it was the rescuer who perished, the dog clambered out but the teacher didn’t. I would love to go out to watch the water engulfing the new ‘flood-free bridge’ at Windsor, but Davina extracted a promise that I wouldn’t go.

A friend expressed surprise when I referred to Putin as a Fascist leader. I was surprised that she was surprised. Surely he isn’t still considered a Communist after he sold off all the important assets to the oligarchs? It got me thinking about the differences between Fascists and Communists, not only the philosophy but the practical implementations of the systems. Both can end up as one party states but Fascism to me is a top-down system, with strong links to corporations and private property. While a Communist government will centralise the means of production, a Fascist one will sell to the highest bidder, conditional on the submission of the company to the state and its leader, while opposing trade unions. Ultra-nationalism and a strong attachment to a historically linked religion (in Putin’s case of course the Russian Orthodox Church) is usual with a Fascist government, think past governments of Chile, Argentina and Spain, whereas a Communist one will likely ban or heavily discourage religion. Theoretically under Communism all are equal but in practice some are much more equal than others, with higher echelons of the Party living in superior circumstances while under Fascism there is a strong bias towards kinship and a bias against difference (both currently and in past regimes homosexuals, Jews, Roma, those with physical or mental disabilities). Yes, the more I think about it, Mr. Putin fills the bill as one of that small group of leaders in the 20th and 21st century defined as Fascist. However there’s an argument that the Roman Empire was a Fascist one, long before the term was invented.

March 9, 2022

I’ve just read The Premonition by Michael Lewis and it was unputdownable. It’s a gripping tale and falls right into my field of interests. When this book was written last year the US, with a bit more than 4% of the world’s population, had over 20% of the world’s deaths. The book catalogues the story of a small group of American scientists who are happy to bear the label ‘misfits’ and who had, all their lives, been obsessed with viruses and pandemics. This group knew there was a pandemic coming, and knew we weren’t prepared for it. One of these misfits, Dr. Charity Dean, had made model viruses and had them hanging from her bedroom ceiling as a child and from a young age, when she was feeling low, had ‘cheered herself up by reading books on bubonic plague’. My kind of girl. The plague of 1918 resulted in 40-60 million dead and this fact had been conveniently lost from the public memory over time. The US Pandemic Plan had been conceived by the Bush White House and named Predict as it set out to test animals around the world to predict which viruses among them might jump across into humans, however it failed to predict anything leading up to this pandemic after Trump removed its funding. Charity Dean and the others whom this book focusses on are pretty scathing of the Centres for Disease Control (CDC). She says the name should be changed to the Centres for Disease Observation and Reporting because that is what they do very well. Planning and recommending countermeasures to the pandemic fell well behind other country’s agencies, even a reluctance to use the word pandemic was noted. Zoom meetings were held often, many times with black screens where attendees chose not to be identified. Regularly there were 14 black screens and only later did they discover that behind one of these was Tony Fauci, others were members of the president’s coronavirus taskforce, unbeknown to Trump one assumes. So much new information in this book and much of it makes the reader wonder how the US managed to bumble its way through the pandemic with state against state in the hunt for tests, vaccines and equipment. This state versus state approach was seen here also, though the Federal government put in strict border controls. It seems there is no central organisation in either country able to step in and handle a disaster like this, either back in 1918 or now.

It is strange how we rate the relative importance of deaths. Shane Warne of course trumps all else, and by the way the 14 day juice diet he was supposedly on turned out to be a 14 day tea diet prescribed by a Chinese herbalist (rolls eyes). A Baulkham Hills Chinese herbalist is currently on trial in Sydney over the death of a diabetic patient after he told her to stop using insulin and go onto his no doubt expensive herb regime. She lasted a week. Deaths in Ukraine have been almost wiped off the news because of the floods, but the loss of two people in a canal in Wentworthville, just 15 minutes drive from home unexpectedly grieved me yesterday. First it was ‘two people missing from a car washed into a canal’, that’s sad. Then ‘a mother and adult son’s bodies found 1.5 km down the waterway the next morning’, that’s very sad. But it was the knowledge that the son was ‘in his 40s, autistic and non-verbal’ that really brought it home as a tragedy to me. How much suffering and rotten luck does one person deserve in a lifetime? Was god’s eye watching sparrows fall? I will never understand the disparity of people’s differing experiences of life and death, but I don’t think anyone with a PhD in theology, or a white collar and black suit, understands it either.

March 10, 2022

Off to Dural (which John now calls Cudal for some reason) this morning to post an eBay parcel, pick up the bread and give some antique items to Vinnies. The lady there is someone who understands antiques enough to realise what is worth something and what’s not, whereas at some branches you get work-for-the-dole people, those doing community service through the court system or quite young volunteers. Dural however seems to have middle-aged to elderly ladies who know a thing or two and the displays show it. Then I met up with Martha for a cuppa at Dolcettini Patisserie which she’s been keen to go to. Before she arrived I needed a loo and the one at the bakery was out of order so I trekked into another business selling trail bikes and off-road vehicles (he did tell me what they are called but I’ve forgotten). ‘What are you supposed to do in these?’ I asked, ‘Just drive very fast around paddocks’, was his answer. So what was the cost of one of these things? North of $50,000 each, to chew up a paddock, it seems insane. ‘It seems they’re designed for people with more money than sense’ I suggested and he laughed and agreed with me. He showed me around the extensive stock of dirt bikes and vehicles of all sorts, knowing I was never going to be a customer and we had a few laughs. Having got rid of another box of bits I was enthused in the afternoon to huck out some stuff in the storeroom and vaccuum it (well I hucked and John vaccuumed to be honest). I promised Vinnies I’d be back next week with more and I intend to keep that undertaking.

I have somehow become a clearing house for ‘stuff’. Knowing I can’t bear to throw stuff out, people throw theirs my way instead of giving it to charity shops. I got a text with a mile of goods that someone is getting rid of and am now looking to find homes for it, beginning with a friend of a friend who has a garage full which is destined to go to refugees. Hopefully she will take some at least.

I laughed at a friend’s comment that we should ‘pray for Scott Morrison Psalm 109:8’. It apparently says ‘Let his days be few and brief; and let others step forward to replace him’. Amen to that.

March 11, 2022

I thought I was doing a good thing by searching the net for colouring books for John and finding some beauties at Kaisercraft, a favourite shop in Baulko. He seemed to appreciate them with lots of ‘wows’ as he went through them, but after a short walk he came back to tell me that I need to return them as he prefers geometric patterns and is working on his own designs. That’s fine, but the fact that he had to go for a walk to get up the courage to tell me is a bit sad.

I’ve been listing on eBay some Figgjo Norwegian plates I dug up in the storeroom, 1960s designs which I think are quite fashionable at the moment, but we shall see. I sold a little ceramic plaque a couple of days ago in the same brand, but that’s more unusual than a plate. I got $35 for it but it’s the satisfaction of sending it to somewhere it will be loved that’s worth a heap more than that. It went over to WA, I never seem to send things to NSW, usually it’s to Victoria or Queensland for some reason. An eBay client in Melbourne to whom I sent some doilies as a gift along with her order has sent me photos of them in use, washed, starched and looking a million dollars on her antique furniture. Now I have someone who really appreciates such things I can send her more.

March 12, 2022

The son of my friend and long-time employee Meriel has rung to say that she has died. Her memorial service is at a time next week when we will be at St. Vincent’s for John’s infusion appointment. However Robert has kindly sent me a link to watch it online any time in the next month, so I am happy to be able to do that. I have a copy of her memoir written some time ago which lists her long and interesting life from Britain to Holland, Indonesia, Rhodesia and finally Australia.

We have had a morning of John repeatedly losing things around the house, mostly inconsequential (phone, water bottle, hat, jumper) until we needed to go out briefly and the car keys were missing, my car is blocked in by his. After an unfruitful search I dug out the spare which I recently insisted he buy and we went anyway, but now it’s taken an hour after we got home to find the keys, in a basket in his toilet. John then said ‘okay, we can go now’, having completely forgotten that we had already been. On Thursday he had a telephone appointment with our GP and since then he’s been forever reminding me that we need to talk to the doctor for some scripts, having completely forgotten the conversation with Bob even happened despite numerous reminders. ‘What did he say about my dementia?’ he asks. Which of course was nothing, because he seemed perfectly fine during the appointment. What did we do before? I can barely remember, but movies and theatre and galleries come to mind. Blast Covid and blast dementia.

Unfortunately I’ve had lots more time to experiment with recipes lately, from a very stable weight over many years, I have gone up slowly but consistently since day one of the pandemic. I love to cook and even love making things I don’t even like, much to John’s amusement. But still I eat enough to stack the pounds on. Question is should I care if the funeral directors need extra Weet-Bix to shift my carcase around? I don’t do drugs, barely drink, so I think I am entitled to some joy in these increasingly difficult times. When I worry about it, I always make a cuppa and have a piece of cake to calm my nerves.

March 13, 2022

My friend Chrys in Queensland is always one full of ideas. Her latest was to contact an Airbnb in Kiev and book three nights, then to contact the woman and say that she won’t be coming and to keep the money. The woman replied that she would donate the money but Chrys replied: Spend it however you want, but if you buy a good bottle of Champagne and toast ‘Fuck Putin’ I’ll be happy. Now a Greek radio station, having seen Chrys’s post, has publicised the idea and it’s been written up in a newspaper there. Little waves have to end somewhere.

Feeling quite down today, so I ended up following my friend Kedarnath’s suggestion of 45 years ago: First make a list of all the things troubling you, not in any particular order (I had 16), then do something to fix the easiest one (his example was always the fly that’s annoying you), then fix a second one if that’s not enough. By then you’ll be feeling more positive about the possibility of fixing all or most of them. It always seems to work for me, so I attacked the fact that the house needed cleaning and hucked out the fridge wiping all the shelves and crispers, then did the same on my bathroom vanity and the floors. John helped with the mopping. The act of ruling one line out is such a positive experience, even though it took being depressed from 7 am till noon before I had the motivation to put his plan into action.

We had been invited to a wake last weekend which I decided was too risky to attend as it was at a golf club and since then I’ve been wondering if in my caution I deprived John of an afternoon out with his mates. News came to us yesterday that by Friday four of the attendees had come down with Covid. Then just now Sue rang and said that her daughter Kate’s ex has caught it from his grandfather and given it to their son Harvey, now Kate is feeling very off. The bloody thing is everywhere and Hazzard refuses to bring back compulsory masks, the dickhead. Sue’s family is interesting, views range from her front-line doctor daughter’s idea of ‘don’t catch it at any cost’ to Sue’s psychiatrist brother’s ‘let it rip’ philosophy. Christmas must be a hoot I imagine. Martha gets a text from Pennant Hills High School every time there’s a Covid case there, she says there’s rarely a day passes without one or more being reported.

March 14, 2022

Did a run to the library four in, four out, and then I decided to go up to the nursery at the Forestry Commission with a view to going for a walk there. We bumped into Boris and Jane who were shopping there and decided to have lunch together, seeing it was that time of day, so the day turned out quite differently than planned. Just leaving there are the mirror door fixer-upper rang to say he could be there in 40 mins, now the bedroom mirror doors are sliding with one finger after years of stiffness, ending with one of them being virtually immovable. How easy is it when people know what they are doing. The wheels on both doors are replaced, ‘See you in another 35 years’ I said to the serviceman as he left, that’s about how long it is since they were installed. Happy camper me.

My cousin Jimmy in Mullumbimby sent me a 10 minute YouTube video of his pals making temporary bridges over flooded creeks, installing signs guiding people away from dangerous deep mud and clearing tracks. They looked a force to be reckoned with. He also sent a photo of a cow settled happily on the roof of a building, getting it down might tax people’s skills though. His Labor electorate received no payments after the floods while the adjoining Liberal one did, artificial lines drawn on maps cause grief once again.

Recently I decided to destroy decades of bank statements and mentioned to John that I intended to burn them instead of putting them in the bin. Just now I went to the storeroom where I keep some rarely used cooking equipment including my mother’s 1950s steamer, which sits over a matching saucepan for the boiling water, something I use whenever I make a steamed pudding. The steamer was there but not the base part, then I found it under the deck, burnt black. ‘What on earth happened to this?’ I asked aloud. ‘Oh,  that’s just some old saucepan that I burned all of your bank statements in’, John calmly replied. I doubt it even holds water now, but I’ll try to clean it up if it does. I’m gobsmacked, but more from the point of view that I need to be here all the time to see what’s going on, but then this happened when I was in the house and John was in the yard.

March 15, 2022

Off to Nelune for John’s monthly treatment and meanwhile I spent a few hours with my cousin Angela. She had put aside some things for me to donate to charities and I will deliver them tomorrow. However some of the offered things are at Glen Alpine, way down south west of Sydney so she’s going to hire a Go-Get one day and deliver them here. Then we took a walk to Rustic French Bistro on Victoria Street and had some delicious crepes for morning tea. Ange baffled the Frenchman saying ‘They were like velvet’, and he was most concerned till she explained how smooth and luscious they were ‘so not at all like fabric’ he replied. Cultural confusion in practice. We went for a walk to shed some of the calories and then she showed me the view of the Bridge and Opera House from her unit. The owner of the apartment is an Australian living outside Venice and she was here recently and wanted to visit her premise. She was so delighted about the state of the place that she took Ange out to lunch as well as organising for new blinds and kitchen linoleum to be installed. That’s the sort of landlord all renters need.

Home to do some potting, make an Anzac slice and a pie for dinner. I am spoilt this week as we had an impromptu lunch out yesterday, then I had morning tea today, plus friends Jenny and Di have asked if I can go to lunch with them on Friday. I was a bit dubious but whoopee!! I have a minder for John, my friend Heather is coming, armed with some sandwiches and cake, to have lunch with him so I can go out. Eventually I will need to get a carer in if I want to go anywhere, but at the moment it only happens rarely and if someone is here for say an hour in the middle of the time I’m away, that is enough….I think.

March 16, 2022

Took a trip to Cherrybrook to drop off the donations I picked up yesterday and Helen took them all with enthusiasm into her garage cum stockroom Smilie: :) John asked me five times on the journey where we were going and why. I wish I could install an automatic repeater as writing our plans in his diary is no longer working.

Reading some historical fiction at the moment, a genre I usually avoid but this author, Anya Seaton, prefers to call it ‘biographical novels’. Written in the 1950s and a dense small-typed 557 pages, The Winthrop Woman seems very well researched and the author says ‘I have never knowingly deviated from the facts, nor changed a date or circumstance’ and lists copious references. My main beef about historical novels is that I don’t know if I can trust the author to have really researched thoroughly, so it may be all novel and little history. However with this book I am confident and I’m learning so much about England in the 1600s, the journeys of the Puritans and others, the history of the American Indians at that time, Antinomian beliefs, the Gospel of Grace versus the Gospel of Deeds and much more. The whole philosophy and practice of religion at that time is claustrophobic just to read about, what it was like to live through is terrifying to imagine, but with this background it is somewhat easier to understand the appeal that religion still has for Americans, long after the Europeans have largely left it behind. I need to get on to the book group novel, unfortunately two historical fictions back to back, but I am keen to get to the end of this one first, even though I fear that the burning of so-called witches might be coming before too long.

Today I wore a freshly ironed top and jacket that had been hidden by the inability to get the wardrobe doors open easily. It seems such a silly thing, but I could only push the doors so far before giving up and there was a foot or two in the centre of the two which never got exposed, so it’s as if a whole new wardrobe has emerged. Best money spent since the oven-cleaning man.

March 17, 2022

I was woken early this morning by a pain in the stomach which closely resembled the pain that came with the ulcer I had about four years ago so I resorted to hot milk for breakfast and by 10 am it was gone, which only served to cement my suspicions somewhat as milk was my go-to restorative. However if it continues I don’t intend to go through another endoscopy but just get the required medication from Bob. As I was lying on the lounge feeling sorry for myself and wishing that I didn’t have to lift things up for the cleaner to mop, a call came from the home care provider to say that the cleaner is a Covid contact and can’t come. The gods were listening and I breathed a sigh of relief. They are looking for someone else to come next week instead.

My burnt saucepan didn’t clean up so I decided to put some carb soda in it and bring it to the boil, which may have worked if the water hadn’t pissed out of a peppering of holes in the side. Mmm, that’s one family heirloom that my daughters don’t have to worry about getting rid of, but I will miss it next time I feel like steaming. This afternoon John washed up for me after I’d made a blueberry cake and afterwards I found one of my antique measuring spoons was in the sink without its bowl. As I lifted it out of the sink with a puzzled look he said ‘oh, metal fatigue’ but I had to laugh as it was so fast that he’d obviously thought it through in advance. I’m waiting for the third thing.

A friend sent me six photos of destroyed buildings in Kiev, except he also sent identical pictures of the same destroyed buildings in Beirut after the massive explosion there. Clearly some of the images being bandied around are fakes and how are we supposed to decipher the difference apart from trying to stick to a variety of news outlets? But they are so pushed for content that they may not have the time and energy to verify every photo and video.

March 18, 2022

What a lovely lunch catch-up with Jenny and Di today! Heather came to stay with John armed with a pile of egg and lettuce sambos and a whole banana cake and was still here when I got home, despite my telling her that an hour or two was plenty. I have contacted Anglicare regarding enrolling him in an occasional day programme which I understand he can do with them despite being with a different care provider. But so far they haven’t responded to a phone message or an email which may mean that the service isn’t available due to Covid, or may mean they are just slack about replying. The cleaner is rebooked for Tuesday, well a different one as the first is a Covid contact, but we still wait for the first visit by the gardener, no wonder John has unspent funds in the home care account, so many cancellations.

Tomorrow we have two people coming for lunch and there is a long list of things which one of them can’t eat at the moment. It sent me to the recipe books so I have planned some new dishes which fit her needs. One is Golden Winter Puree, a mix of equal amounts of carrots and turnips cooked together and pureed with a ripe pear, ginger, nutmeg and cream. Another is baked eggplant with a sauce of Chinese rice wine, apple cider vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter and sesame seeds. I’m sure there’s another couple of ingredients too but I can’t remember them right now. I looked up my Lebanese cookbook for ideas as the main item is going to be trout fillets with a tahini sauce (a recipe the chef at Wild Pear once shared with me) and I thought Lebanese sides would be the go, but not a single vege dish was without garlic or onion or both and these are on the banned list. It’s amazing how much we use garlic now, my household as a child didn’t use it once, but I seem to give it a hammering.

It is now 3.25 am and I am following the same annoying pattern lately, go to sleep about 11.30 pm, wake up at 2 am and stay awake for hours, then go to sleep near dawn and wake up a bit later, ragged. Not sure how to get around this but it’s very tiresome, literally.

March 19, 2022

I was thinking today that it’s the first time ever that St. Patrick’s Day has passed without comment on the ABC News. I didn’t remember it till it was over, though I wasn’t planning an Irish feast. I’ve decided I need more visitors on special diets as everything I cooked today was delicious and I wouldn’t have tried those dishes otherwise. Particularly loved the tahini sauce and the sauce on the eggplant, either of which would do me for a lunch with a chunk of good bread. I got to thinking about all my cookbooks and how attached I am to them and had the (silly) thought that if I were dying I would really miss them!!

My friend Di whom I lunched with yesterday showed me the magnificent cards she makes, hand painted in watercolour. I would want to frame every one. Today she’s emailed me that she used to teach card making and she has a bunch of papers and some card stock which she’s offered me to ‘have a mess about with’. She wants to get rid of a lot of her teaching stuff, so I’ve said yes as I’d love to have a crack at it. I’ve always wanted to paint jellyfish and bluebottles and that family of creatures for some reason so I’d start off trying that, if it’s not too ambitious.

John was absolutely on the ball today when we had visitors, it is amazing how he pulls it together when he has to. If only I had the trick of getting that to happen for the rest of the time. I think I will apply for him to be reassessed to go to a Level 2 Home Care Package as apparently it’s a 6-9 month waiting time even when he’s been assessed as needing more help. Then of course he could be ready for Level 3. If he’s as good as he was today he may be refused anyway, but I can only try.

March 20, 2022

After giving away some frames from my storeroom I suddenly decided today that I wanted to frame my favourite photo of my brother and myself but of course the right size frames had all gone to charity, so I robbed the frame from another photo that I can live without seeing every day. Every time I see Putin on TV I think of my bro who is so like him in build, body language and I think in looks too and of course they could converse as he’s a fluent Russian speaker. Perhaps I could suggest him as a neutral arbiter in the current war, someone who has no confidence in, nor allegiance to, either side.

Today I watched the memorial service for my friend Meriel, unfortunately it was held last Tuesday when I had to take John for his infusion. The first 29 minutes was an ad for religion and as I refuse to watch ads on television I resented being forced to listen to them here, but it is often the admission price you pay in going to a funeral. I wondered if they’d ever get to Meriel, but finally they did and three of her five children spoke beautifully and at length, as I would expect from that family. Her life across Britain, India, Holland, Indonesia, South Africa and Rhodesia before their arrival in Australia was discussed. Her father was in both world wars and served in India, finishing as a colonel. One story that I’d heard before was from Indonesia where an insurgent broke into their house, held Merial and her baby at gunpoint and robbed them. She said she reacted calmly because she knew how much the Indonesians loved children, so she doubted the baby would be killed, however the man was shaking so much she feared he would drop the gun and shoot her accidentally. Her parents owned a mill in Yorkshire and I used to joke with her that they probably employed my family who were either coal miners, railway workers or slaved in ‘the dark Satanic mills’. Vale Meriel.

March 21, 2022

I think I’m not the only one who sees the vision of bombed out buildings in Ukraine and thinks it must be recoloured pictures of WWII. How could anyone be so stupid as to wage war in this day and age, knowing what we know, that in the end the two sides will negotiate a settlement. If climate change or a nuclear blast knocks man off the planet it would be quite reasonable to say: Good riddance, they deserved it.

Today, despite barely sleeping last night, I decided to take us off to Wiseman’s Ferry for a picnic. Where we usually sit, down near the ferry, was covered in sand and few tables were available, most of the park was taped off due to the floods. The little kiosk was closed as the water had reached the roof level and all their cooking and refrigeration equipment was piled up in a heap for pick-up by the council. More surprisingly there were about a dozen plastic shrink-wrapped bundles of bottles of water, about 30 bottles in each. They weren’t damaged and just needed a hose on the plastic, so I am puzzled about why they were discarded. I’m guessing that the folks just don’t have the emotional energy to do it, but that level of waste disturbs me, so when I saw a man with Air Crew on a government logo I told him about them and he asked where they were in detail, so I am hoping he retrieved them. I would have been happy to bring them home, clean them and donate them but I didn’t want to be accused of looting. We went to the Ferry Gallery where our friend Luke exhibits and managed to keep the credit card unused, which was easy as I discovered that I’d left it and my cash in another handbag.

I seem to have got into the habit of going to sleep straight away about 11.30 pm, waking up around 2 am (earlier today) and then not going back to sleep again till dawn. I think it might be an anxiety issue as I am going over every large and small event and can’t turn off the over-active brain. But even when I’m awake I spend way too much time weighing everything up. Being a Libran is a full time job, even for one who doesn’t believe in astrology.

March 22, 2022

Sarah Ferguson’s report from Ukraine only served to cement in my mind how brave these people are (and how brave she is to go there come to that). Letting go of nationalism altogether seems just as elusive as it was when John Lennon wrote Imagine, perhaps even more so.

So the NSW Government has set up an inquiry into the “causes of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from the catastrophic flood event” which is all good, but unfortunately it will be headed jointly by Mick Fullovimself along with the state’s chief scientist. Perhaps I am too cynical, but will a former Police Commissioner find fault with a government service, or with the role of his personal friend the Prime Minister? Nooo, I don’t think so.

I decided this morning to ask Kristy, John’s case manager, whether she thinks that I should apply for him to go onto a Level 2 package. She replied immediately in the positive and said she thought it was time that he had a carer coming to the house or taking him out for 2 hours a fortnight, which that package would provide. She indicated that she could apply on my behalf which is even better. I’ve suggested that it would be much better from my point of view if we could use that service on an irregular basis rather than two hours on a particular day. For example, having a carer when I have medical appointments or social events? That would be a much bigger help to me than a regular time each fortnight. For example I have a six-monthly medical investigation at St Vincent’s due and it takes a few hours. Last time John sat reading in the waiting room and coffee shop but I don’t think he’s safe doing that now and he can no longer read, so getting a carer for that day would be wonderful. I’m awaiting her reply, and I hope it’s in the positive. His cleaner is here as I type this, the regular one is a Covid contact so it’s a new lady today. I put out all the cleaning stuff for her, but she’s just asked for the ‘toilet cleaner’…. hesitation on my part. Well what do you usually use? she asks, um bleach I replied. There was no eyeroll but clearly it was not the right answer. She is a big, tall lady and very nice but I am noticing how noisy she is compared to the little Asian woman we usually have, who makes no noise at all apart from the vac. We all occupy space so differently.

March 23, 2022

Oh what a delicious own goal by Hornsby Mayor and bigtime Liberal Philip Ruddock. Folks are putting anti-Morrison stickers on their bins “Chuck Them Out” and “Bin Him” and Ruddock has announced that the council won’t empty their bins. Which naturally has led to a huge demand for the stickers, the source of which I am still trying to track down. What a cheek that man has, that stickler for free speech.

The sight of the Chinese plane headed vertically into the ground yesterday is enough to make anyone’s stomach turn, but it is exactly what I picture every time I board an aircraft. I know little about aeronautics but it seems to me that there are two leading scenarios, 1) deliberate murder by the pilot and 2) a malfunction of the computer system. A plane in trouble doesn’t head south like that at full speed. But those poor souls aboard suffered the worst two minutes that any torturer could ever have envisaged.

Speaking of torturers, it appears that not every Ukrainian is brave, decent and forbearing. A doctor in an eastern Ukrainian hospital has announced that he’s instructing the castration of every Russian military casualty admitted. A constitutional lawyer turned volunteer frontline medic, it just goes to show how quickly war can destroy a person’s moral framework. As Bob Dylan said all those decades ago in Masters of War: “You fasten all the triggers For the others to fire Then you sit back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion While the young people’s blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud”. A pox on war-mongers of every stripe.

On to more everyday matters. One of the things I like about Facebook is the memories it throws up each day, often of things I had totally forgotten about. Yesterday it was a post about a big jam-making day I had because peaches were 90 cents a kilo, after I made the jam they went down to 60 cents. Fast forward to today when I am paying $8.99 a kilo for peaches and not for a minute considering jam. How could a family with children possibly keep up with fresh fruit at current prices, a jar or can being a much better option. Plus I have had a few stone fruits this year, peaches, plums and nectarines, that were pretty tasteless, though the cherries were divine.

March 24, 2022

In the last few days I have seen three appalling dog stories, of course both of them concerned pit bulls. In the first were harrowing pictures of what is left of a young woman’s face after she took a job as a dog sitter and was assured that the two dogs would be chained in their kennels when she arrived. She opened the door with a key and was immediately attacked, the dogs eating off her ear, lips and cheeks. Think about that for a moment. The next was two laughing people who let their pit bulls off their leads on a walk to deliberately set them on a cat in its own yard. It is critical in a vet’s surgery. The third was an owner in her unit, tying her shoelaces and about to take the beast for a walk, when it attacked her for no reason. She only survived by dragging herself to the lift, dog still attached, knowing there was a camera there so she would be rescued. There is no valid excuse for owning a pit bull, they can never be trusted to overcome their breeding.

We were looking forward to a trip to Killcare tomorrow for book group as well as being a bit concerned about the drive, considering the weather report. However Sue’s family circumstances as well as the weather have meant that it has now been rescheduled to take place at Martha’s, only 20 minutes away. Perhaps some who were not able to travel that far will now change their minds.

After saying yesterday that my six-monthly medical check-up was overdue and asking Kristy about the possibility of a carer coming to stay with John, this morning the hospital rang to ask why I hadn’t made an appointment yet. I explained the situation and the fact that I’d only received an okay from the home care service late yesterday. Kristy had said she could organise a sitter if she had enough notice, so I made the booking for April 26 and advised her accordingly. It will be a big relief if I can rely on this service regularly. But unfortunately being canny with his funds, as I have always been, is making it harder for Kristy to justify getting him a higher amount. But in the meantime we can use the excess in his home care account for this coming situation, so I guess that’s a positive.

March 25, 2022

Writing this on the 26th as I was on the sick list yesterday. I woke up feeling fine, but got out of bed and fell over with awful vertigo and nausea. Unusual for me to get this unrelated to transport or movement of some sort but there you go, it happened. As I was planning to pick up Michelle to go to book group, John rang her to say that we had to pull out, telling her in my hearing “she’s got a funny pain in her leg and can’t walk” but I didn’t have the capability to argue with his summation, she knew we weren’t coming which was the main thing. Luckily there was food in the fridge for John’s lunch and in the evening I got him to thaw out and microwave a tuna casserole, which coincidentally had been made for him weeks ago when Jack drove me to Bondi Junction for a test and I covered the possibility of the drive causing this exact problem. So a day out of the rest of my life and not a damned thing could be done about it, just a pity it was book group day though.

John said in the evening that my being sick made him feel nervous, despite the fact that he managed his food needs perfectly well and looked after me with water, blankets, tablets etc with no apparent problem.

March 26, 2022

Still a little wobbly today, but fine sitting down so I decided to take my car, which has been sitting in the garage for about three weeks, and go to my restorer John Koster in North Richmond with a papier mache occasional table from the loungeroom which has started to lose lacquer on one edge. It also has, or hopefully had borer, which I treated with kerosene months ago, so I was a little nervous to see if that is the problem, but JK thinks the kero may just have caused the papier mache to swell a bit and therefore lose some finish. Unfortunately I’d left the car too long and it was as flat as a  flounder, so we went in John’s and it was good to see JK again, he is such a decent man and a good tradesman. It occurred to me that in skill, physical build, personality and integrity he reminds me of builder Peter Dykers, both of them are of Dutch heritage. Then to Woolies for another shop, because there are certain lines that Aldi just doesn’t sell. However, let loose in Woolies I still managed to spend $138, just topping up an already big shop earlier in the week.

It seems my being sick yesterday has unnerved John as he asked me today “What is the tipping point for you to put me in a home?” I answered that it would only be if I couldn’t look after him safely here and he seemed satisfied with that. It is all so unpredictable that I can’t spend too much time worrying about the future as it would be out of my control if he or I got seriously sick.

The Ukraine situation goes from bad to worse, but I did catch a snippet on the ABC news that Mariupol was being defended by the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, which is interesting because Putin has been saying that he wanted to end the Nazi influence there. Facebook bans extremist groups from its platform yet is allowing its billions of users to praise the Azov Battalion, previously banned from being freely discussed under the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy. Azov soldiers march and train wearing uniforms bearing icons of the Third Reich and the battalion’s first commander and  former Ukrainian parliamentarian, Andriy Biletsky, stated that Ukraine’s national purpose was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen (subhumans).” So these are the Ukrainian folks we are now siding with. What happens when a group you’ve deemed too dangerous to freely discuss is defending its country against a full-scale assault by Russia? It seems that the public is considered too dumb to unpick all of this so you just don’t mention it perhaps?

March 27, 2022

Yesterday I commented on the worsening Ukraine situation, which is much more complicated and nuanced than press reports would lead us to believe. One thought: how does the Jewish leader of a country feel about a large neo-Nazi group, with well-publicised anti-Jewish views, playing a big role in its armed forces? Here is the rub: if you are fighting a determined and persistent external invader, you can’t afford to be picky about who you let into the army, you need every man you can get. But how does that work once the fighting is over? It seems that whether it is Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the old Yugoslavian countries or Ukraine it is a given that a rump of far-right philosophy and practice exists. The parallel with the 1930s is not exaggerated in my view.

Recently John managed to burn through my mother’s steamer saucepan, setting alight in it a box full of old bank statements that I wanted to get rid of. Today I decided to put a plant in the now holey pot, but it was nowhere to be found. Last time I saw it John was heading downstairs to relocate it to the potting table waiting for me to transplant something into it. Deciding it’s just temporarily evading me, I went to the storeroom to get the undamaged steamer section and lid, with a view to seeing if it would fit on any other pan in the house, but mysteriously it has disappeared too, from the place where it’s been stored for 30 years. I’m perplexed. Sue rang yesterday and mentioned to John that she thinks of him every day when she uses the clothes line he designed at Killcare. Afterwards he said: ‘Apparently I designed a clothes line for Sue, was it on two sticks in the yard?’. It was much more sophisticated than that on her side verandah. Thankfully today Sue sent him a picture of it to jog his memory, though I’ll need to open the email for him as he never looks at emails or texts any more. It is getting too sad and the laughs we both had about odd things happening are sounding hollower by the day.

Looking forward to some diversions this week with lunch with friends tomorrow, two friends for morning tea on Tuesday, a drive to Manly on Wednesday and the birthday picnic for my girls on Saturday in the Botanic Gardens.

March 28, 2022

I have now left three phone messages and sent one email to Anglicare to get John into a lunch and activity programme that his home care is happy to pay for but does not itself provide. So today I went to their website and sent an email in its complaints section, we’ll see what action that brings, but I am really glad that I didn’t choose them as primary care providers. His case worker at Wendy’s Home Services gets back to me by email or phone within the hour if I have a question.

It is 4.20 pm and we are not long home from lunch with Jack and Carol at Wild Pear. Barramundi with shaved fennel, smoked anchovies, capers and preserved lemon followed by pav, life’s good. Coming home with Jack driving I noticed the Anglicare sign in front of a driveway at Glenhaven, the premises of the day program I’ve been trying to contact! I’d never noticed it before because I am usually watching the road. I felt like lobbing up in person and may do that yet if they don’t reply soon.

Martha emailed me a picture of a sad looking drop-side tea trolley that hasn’t had any TLC for a long time. Someone is donating it to refugees but she asked me if I wanted it as she feels it isn’t appropriate as a donation. I have nowhere to put it, despite loving them, so I offered to restore it as best I can and then I will try to sell it with the funds going to a refugee charity of some sort. I hope it doesn’t need any work beyond my abilities. The three tier white-painted display table I picked up from a roadside clean-up and hosed off to put plants on has developed an evil looking orange fungus which I’ve never seen before. I will let it grow so I can see how it develops and might dig out my microscope to get a better look at it. Mycology has always interested me but I know zip about the taxonomy so I wouldn’t be able to identify it, but I’ll still enjoy cultivating and observing it.

I developed a cold sore on my eyelid on Saturday and have been slapping Zovirax cream on it every four hours till this morning when I happened to be talking to the pharmacist to order John’s drugs. I queried whether I was doing the right thing and he said ‘Nooo, you can’t put an anti-viral cream anywhere near your eyes, it says that on the pamphlet in the box’. Yeah well I threw that out didn’t I, but I have ceased now and so far I can still see.

March 29, 2022

Kirk the gardener texted to say it’s too wet, grrrr! All the Hypoestes I’ve grown in pots are waiting to be transplanted. I’ve done some in the easy spots but I want some under the hawthorn tree, which is a kneeling down job and my knee (patella tendonitis according to Bob) ain’t up to it. They will have to sit in their pots a bit longer.

Jenny and Di came over for morning tea at 10.30 and were still here way after lunch. Di used to do card-making and calligraphy classes and had promised to buy me some water-colour pencils and paper and show me how to use them, but she came loaded as well with bags of paper offcuts for me to practice on or use to make cards when (or if) I get more proficient. Her work is just gorgeous and it takes her a full day to make a complex card, but they deserve to be framed. With Di and Luke around I am very lucky to have such artistic friends, not to mention Colleen and Manjula. Jenny was a probation officer and we had a good discussion about Prof. Tony Vinson, the last person in the state or federal government who was serious about prison reform.

I have been searching the net intermittently for months to get the 12th edition of Simpson’s Forensic Medicine but all the usual book haunts had no copies. However this morning I happened to check again about 7 am and bingo! Where does it ship from you ask? Manchester? Los Angeles? Buenos Aires? No, bloody Leichhardt in inner Sydney. How lucky can you be. I emailed the chap instantly and told him not to sell it till I could sit down and attend to the payment on the computer, which I’ve now happily done. Not much change out of $100 but hopefully worth it.

Why does the government bring down the budget at 7.30 pm and spoil the current affairs programme after the news? Okay it is big news, but I never watch the budget as I spend the whole time screaming at the treasurer of the day for wasting money on so many useless things while not doing the things that are crying out for attention. They are planning to give me $250 cash as a sweetener to vote Liberal in the upcoming election which I wouldn’t do for $2500 and not for $25,000 either, although I’d need to weigh it up for $250,000.

March 30, 2022

Forty-three years ago today my darling twin daughters were born. Happy Birthday to you both!!! Davina is getting a bicycle from us all and considering how close she lives to Sydney Park I think it will get a work-out. Carly has to appear at Senate Estimates for the Foreign Affairs Department on Friday so she will fly up just in time for the planned Saturday afternoon picnic. It was going to be in the Botanic Gardens but even if there’s no more rain the ground will be too soggy, so it will be a house picnic at Dav’s now.

I have been cultivating Hypoestes and Kirk came just as we were leaving this morning and has transplanted them all into the garden front and back, but all out of the sun as is their want.  Finally, and in great damp soil which they will love. We went off to Manly for my haircut and then to Freshwater for a lovely walk along the beach, which was closed for swimming, and lunch on a picnic table overlooking the beach. Sue rang and we had a good long ‘talk with a view’.

But my day has been made by Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who stood in the Senate and gave a 10 minute character assassination of the ghastly human? being we have as Prime Minister, describing him as ‘an autocrat and a bully with no moral compass’. I can see the copywriters at the Labor Party’s advertising firm, not knowing which insult to pluck from her speech for use in the coming election campaign. It is the most ferocious speech I’ve heard in all the time I’ve followed politics and I can only assume that she is hoping it will add to the chances of her own compatriots overthrowing him before the election.

March 31, 2022

Made a Hummingbird Cake today for the birthday celebration on Saturday, but though I’ve made it a number of times before, it chose today to sink in the middle this time. I’ve turned it over but I think it will eventually sink down that way too. I’m planning to do cream cheese frosting so it may have to be a tad thick in the centre, or perhaps a pool of passionfruit in the middle might work. One thing is guaranteed though, hummingbird always tastes great.

This arv I have spent making birthday cards for my girls, one is a collage for Carly on heavy brown paper and the other is a watercolour, intended to copy the wild colour scheme of the wrapping paper used for Davina’s gifts. Not professional quality by any means, and not a patch on Di’s masterpieces, but not too bad for a newcomer to card- making.

Today was cleaner day but Karen is sick so we are getting Deanne tomorrow. Somehow I am always relieved when they tell me that the cleaner is not coming, I think it is because I am feeling guilty that someone is ‘doing for me’ and asking myself if I shouldn’t be ‘doing for myself’. While they clean certain things I busy myself with doing what they don’t do (a lot), but still the feeling persists.

Reason to smile: ScumMo was roundly booed at Shane Warne’s memorial service, though that fact wasn’t mentioned on the TV news I noted.

April 1, 2022

Oh April Fool’s Day and I forgot to play a trick. I watched/listened to Senate Estimates on my phone while doing other jobs this morning but must have missed Carly who was going to be there today representing Foreign Affairs. While I was watching it I was again taken by the smarts of Penny Wong, she doesn’t let them get away with an evasive answer and keeps on top of a basket of issues all at once. Senator Jim Molan (belch, heave, spit), military man that he was, was also present but just couldn’t keep up with her on Defence issues. I would opt for her as PM, no question.

Deanne was the cleaner again today and she is by far the best we’ve had. She engages in conversation and was happy to sit with us (including Sue who arrived just after her) at the table for morning tea. The bath in ‘John’s bathroom’ never gets used but she was on her hands and knees scouring it anyway. She does the mirrors with metho and newspaper, which I’ve always done too, although she gets them much cleaner. I actually saw her dusting as well, something neither of the others have done. Perhaps I might suggest to Kristy that she’d be good as a companion for John in future when I need to go somewhere as they seem to click.

It was great to see Sue who had a huge programme of things to get through today: Pennant Hills, here, Castle Hill, as well as two stops in Hornsby before the drive back to Killcare, in peak hour no doubt. We went into John’s office to chat when Deanne was vaccing the loungeroom and as a result I forgot that I had a chicken in the oven, part of the food for the party tomorrow, and as a result the honey glaze blackened it in parts. Grrr. She’s such a good stick Sue. When Robert was alive we had a friendship with both and with each of them individually, which was lovely. I miss him.

I read that a restaurant in the city, the Botswana Butchery in Martin Place, is serving a 1.6 kilogram Wagyu Tomahawk steak coated in gold leaf. Also on offer is gold-topped caviar with vodka shots, a heavily gold-coated chocolate dessert and gold-flecked martinis. The meal costs $500 per person. The most shocking thing to me is that the chef himself admits that the gold doesn’t do anything for the flavour, it’s just a mark of luxury to appeal to those with more interest in impressing someone with their wealth than in gastronomy. I would be deeply insulted if someone took me for that meal, not that anyone I know would dream of doing so.

I’ve bought sushi for dinner tonight as I am juggling a few balls and I will be waiting for the look of horror on John’s face when he realises dinner is not hot. Dinner was always hot in 1953 and in John’s view that situation should forever remain. However if he’s deeply unhappy, there’s soup.

April 2, 2022

Very happy little birthday party for the girls today. Dav insisted that everyone do a RAT in the morning which made communications a bit easier (though I’m not silly enough to think it’s a guarantee of safety from the virus). As well as the family, we had Beth, Andre and toddler Elliott as well as Ryan and Terry. Because of Ryan’s health vulnerabilities, they are in almost total lockdown in Blackheath so it was a huge event from their point of view. It has been traditional that Ryan (and for the last 15 or so years Ryan and Terry) comes in the afternoon of Christmas Day and he talked about how much he’s missed that in the last two years. Millie was listening to Ryan with great attention and I overheard just a bit of what he was telling her, that he was so old that he used to live in a pyramid and wrap bandages around himself for pyjamas. She loves his enthusiasm and was all ears. John was fine with one-on-one communication but was totally nonplussed when there was an all-in robust discussion, which is the norm with Ryan and the three Partridge women all together. He just couldn’t follow the conversation. Five minutes after the cake was cut, the sparklers lit and the birthday song sung he asked: ‘When are we going to sing Happy Birthday?’ We just did, someone called out.

Raina MacIntyre wrote an article for The Saturday Paper yesterday in which she said: “If you do not fill your glass with water from the toilet bowl, then during this pandemic think of the air you breathe in the same way. Be aware that shared indoor air is the greatest risk for transmission, and take simple steps to reduce that risk.” I had wondered if she were lying low because it’s now the accepted wisdom that the pandemic is virtually over apart from mopping up, and so it seems. “For most of this year, I have decided to not comment further on Covid-19. Given the lack of appetite for truth about the pandemic, I have declined all media requests. There seems to be a dogged determination to pretend everything is okay. Anyone who suggests otherwise is shot down in flames.” She remains my go-to person for the right information on the pandemic and it’s sad but understandable that she’s side-lined herself.

April 3, 2022

Breakfast was a hoot today as John asked what he should do if he wakes up and finds me dead. I laughed but he assured me that he was serious, so I suggested an ambulance might be the first call as I doubted his ability to decipher dead from almost dead. But he went on ‘what should I do after they say you are dead?’ Well then you would ring the undertaker after which he grabbed his diary to write down her name and phone number. I reminded him that I want the best sea view in the Gerringong Cemetery and that he shouldn’t worry too much as the girls will be all over it. ‘Yes I suppose they would be’ he said seriously as he noted down some more details. I still managed to enjoy my toast.

Spent the morning making a couple more cards in watercolour and decided that if you can’t bloody draw then you can’t paint either. The watery abstract backgrounds turned out fine, I like that look and am able to achieve it, but adding a couple of fish just pointed to my lack of ability. I’m wondering who of my acquaintances is sufficiently disliked to be sent them. I will think on it.

Well Anglicare has completely lost favour with me. Now we are up to three left phone messages, one email and a comment left in their website complaints box over a period of two weeks, all to no avail. Thank goodness I didn’t opt for them as John’s home care providers, they were the second on my list on the spreadsheet and the only religious one to get in the top three. John was very pleased that two out of three were secular, including the one we chose.

I went to bed early last night, despite having only two glasses of Bolly at the party as I had to drive, bummer about that when someone’s bought good booze. But I was awake at 3 am and decided to just make the time useful so I took the computer into my bedroom and answered some back emails, texts and Facebook Messengers till 7 am (really 6 am as it was the first night of daylight saving). Felt virtuous when I got up though.

April 4, 2022

Feeling pretty exhausted after a big day. We drove to Jane and Boris, then Jane drove to Woolwich Wharf where we caught a ferry to Circular Quay, then another to Watson’s Bay. I had dosed up on my anti-vertigo tabs and made the journey with no problems at all. Saw four men abseiling down the biggest sail of the Opera House, apparently cleaning the tiles, eek. Had a fishy takeaway lunch from Doyle’s in the park and later did the trip in reverse. Beautiful weather and a top day out.

I have always been taken by Karina Carvalho when she is on the ABC News. I want to pull one of her curls out and watch it spring back, but that’s another story. However in an interview she admitted to NEVER VOTING. She gets her name ticked off but doesn’t write on the ballot paper. ‘I am not political, I don’t care who wins elections’, she announces. I’m sorry but she has done her dash with me. Vetoed, embargoed, outlawed, she will forever annoy the crap out of me when she comes on screen. That is the behaviour of a complete idiot and with her education there is just no excuse.

This morning John’s car keys went missing….again. I refused to spend more than 15 minutes searching and we went out in mine, even though there is a spare. After we got back he found them in a bowl in the back room, covered over with another container, a sauce boat. Why? Who knows, but at least they are found.

April 5, 2022

The NRMA has emailed offering me a $50 Woolworths voucher in exchange for ‘a 45 minute Zoom call with us discussing an upcoming creative campaign’. How silly of them to even ask a know-all if they want to share an opinion, the answer is a no-brainer. Little did they know that I’d spruik opinions for nix, and often do. So now we are just settling on a good day and time for them and for me.

Another hideous pit bull story, this time a young woman in the US who was attacked walking down the street. She came out of a coma to discover that she’d had both arms amputated at the shoulder, had some of her colon removed and may need an operation to remove her oesophagus. The owner of the dogs is up for a possible $15,000 fine which might cover one day of this woman’s medical care. Get rid of all of them, it’s the only way.

Some months ago I made two predictions to a friend: Just before the election was called the government would take up the refugee resettlement offer by New Zealand and closer to the election they would free the Biloela Four to go back to Queensland. Half right, let’s hope the second half follows soon. What cynical bastards they are. While we are on the subject of predictions here’s another: Michael Towke will want to finally get payback for his treatment at the hands of Morrison et al and will do a major interview in the week/s ahead, perfect timing. Think 60 Minutes, the ABC’s 7.30 or perhaps an in-depth interview in News Review or The Guardian. The $50,000 defamation figure he got from the Murdoch press was just the pre-dinner nibbles, he’ll go all out to eat Morrison and Hawke as the main course.

April 6, 2022

Sewing group day — I can’t think of a more inappropriate group for me but I am getting all of my long-needed mending done, so it works out well. There were only four of us at the group, so I didn’t feel wrong to just be repairing jumpers. On the way I had a very strange experience. I never turn the radio on in the car, I like my whole attention to be on the road, but something told me to turn it on exactly as former Chief Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi began discussing his new book: Missing, Presumed Dead. I had to pull over when he described how the multiple murderer Bruce Burrell chose his victims, including my shop client and friend Kerry Whelan. Kerry was a very social woman who lunched with a group of her friends (many also my customers) at the New Street Cafe opposite my shop every Friday. I could hear their roaring laughter, Kerry’s often at the top, and smiled to myself as I knew that after the wine bottles were empty and her girlfriends had left she would come over to the shop for a chat and a browse, it was her Friday pattern. I got to know her over years as well as her husband Bernie, who was an executive at Crown Forklifts, as he occasionally asked for help to choose a birthday or Christmas gift for Kerry. He was always charming and full of good stories. To a lesser extent I knew their daughter and the horse-person from their property (this wasn’t her title, but I can’t remember now the words that Kerry used to use to describe her). This groom became a big help to police in pinning down Burrell as the probable murderer. Tedeschi’s description of Burrell as a complete narcissist was spot-on and he mused that others he had prosecuted suffered from the same delusions, believing that they were so much cleverer than police that they would never be caught. Of course I must have the book and thought of asking for it for Mother’s Day, but I can see the girls may think of it as a weird choice so I will just order it. Two books in two weeks, that hasn’t happened in years, though I’m still waiting for the Forensic Science text, post is agonising these days.

We had our flu vax yesterday and are booked for the fourth Covid vax next Thursday. It shocked me to read that one in 13 people in the UK had Covid on Monday. Not had had Covid, but have it currently. Shanghai has 13,000 cases among 26 million people and is shut down totally, we have 25,000 cases in NSW alone and all restrictions are off. Go figure.

ABC had a segment on Hillsong and its property interests tonight. It included a Ukrainian couple who were Pentacostal pastors over there and they showed threatening emails from both Brian Houston and George Agharjanian about what would happen if they didn’t hand over property and assets to Hillsong. Old George has come to notice before, he was the dude who some years back wrote a contract on the back of a serviette in a coffee shop, agreeing that Hillsong would pay $10,000 to the survivor of sexual abuse by Houston’s father, of course in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. In a book I read some time back Old George was named as the person who keeps Brian at arm’s length from dirty business. He must be paid well. I have been to Hillsong twice, the first time was decades ago when they were holding services in a factory unit in Castle Hill, this to please a friend who is an acolyte. The second was at one of their big conferences at Olympic Park where an old friend from Queensland who is a drummer was playing in their band and staying with me while he was here. On both occasions my skin crawled when Houston appeared, he had con-man tattooed on his forehead in my view. Finally others starting to think the same thing.

April 7, 2022

Eighteen years ago today I was recovering from an attack of vestibular migraine occasioned by my discovery the day before, on the microfiche at the State Library, of my father’s death details and the existence of my brother in Halifax UK. Not long afterwards I jetted over to meet him in Manchester Airport and the rest is history. When we talked last night I didn’t mention the anniversary as he is always a bit stilted when his daughter is there. ‘Oh Maureen! It’s been a while since we spoke’ he greets me, when in fact it was only a week ago (code for my daughter is here and I can’t talk freely?). He never calls me Maureen in our conversations, always darling or our Jean, his usual enthusiasm was certainly absent and he didn’t stay long on the phone. No doubt I will be filled in at an appropriate time. I’m now wondering though if I got sick two weeks ago as a result of everything that’s going on here, as I’d forgotten that an emotional trigger had caused it once before.

On Tuesday last week my friend Di came over for morning tea and left at 3.30 pm. We covered lots of topics but especially her art which is inspiring. She had encouraged me to pursue card-making and brought some paints, pencils and paper which she’d offered to pick up for me from an art supplies shop. Today she contacted me to say she is quite sick and has tested positive to Covid. She wears a mask everywhere, sanitises and buys most things online, so she has no idea where she got it, perhaps she wondered if it were here? I am becoming a bit of a card bore, looking out for plants I can press for collage (whatever happened to my flower press? I’m using newspaper and a pile of books), trying different papers, different painting methods, scrunching watercolour painted paper with cling-wrap and bubble wrap for texture. I made a successful one yesterday from the cardboard lid of a food container. Makes a change from cooking I guess, though the food I cook is almost always edible, however the roast turnip from last night went to the possum as it was so hard and tasteless, but some of these cards are a bit how’s-your-father and may never be sent to anyone.

April 8, 2022

Had a call from a police sergeant at Riverstone with a grovelling apology about their misuse of John’s private details, given in relation to his membership of their next-of-kin programme. The apology was accepted and she assured us that this will never happen again, so he has decided to remain in the programme. The police officer involved will be ‘counselled’ which I am assuming is the equivalent of being given a bollocking, a richly deserved one in fact.

Planned to go to North Richmond today to pick up my papier mache table from John the restorer, but news is that the bridge there is underwater again so that’s off the agenda for a bit. Instead I got out my old microscope and had a look at some mould growing outside on a plant stand. The movement screws for the stage are not working correctly, I am getting side to side movement but not front to back so I might ask Boris if he knows what’s going on. I had trouble remembering how to set it up initially, even though I worked on a microscope for over 12 years at the university and for 6 years as a student. There are a couple of bits of equipment in the case that I simply can’t work out, what role they play is a mystery. My friend Bronwyn was a pathologist so she might know how to adjust the stage and what the bits are. Then I made a collage card with some nice textured papers, my pressed leaves and flowers will need another week or so to dry before I can use them.

I rang the Hills Community Care people to see what the story is with a day programme for John and they were helpful and will ring back later today. Which gets me back to Anglicare, who still haven’t replied to the 3 phone calls and 2 emails, so I left another bland message without saying who I was, we’ll see if this one works. A bigger problem though is whether I should be sending him at all. What is the point of all the care we take if I am going to send him off on his own with a bunch of olds who may or may not be Covid safe? I won’t be there to remind him about masking etc., it’s a quandary that I haven’t yet sorted out in my mind.

April 9, 2022

So Friday was supposed to be the day that Arvind’s big gum tree was coming down but the team had to attend to a tree of similar size in Hornsby which had fallen and demolished a house. So Saturday was the day, with five men, one huge crane, a wood-chipping machine and two big tip trucks. The two trucks only took the smaller chipped branches so more trucks will come on another day to take the big ones and the trunk. They will also need a bigger crane because of the weight of them, although the crane they had was about 100 feet high and I think it can lift 130 tons. One man abseiled the tree aided by boots with huge spikes and a sling hanging from the crane, all while wearing a chain saw dangling from his belt. I have been dreading the job, I’ve looked at that tree every day for nearly 50 years, but once it started to happen the interest in method and safety kicked in and I was able to watch the team at work. I was amazed at the power of the shredder which took very large branches and made mincemeat of them in seconds. Note to self: good gadget for getting rid of a body if necessary, though you wouldn’t want to be too close to the exit chute. I was told once that the grinder used for making the lion’s food at a western Sydney zoo had been put to that use a couple of times. Last week a minister of our philistine federal  government (female, but I just can’t remember who it was) said that ‘trees were meant to be cut down’. Clearly she is not a fan of Thoreau who said ‘Every creature is better alive than dead, both men and moose and pine trees, as life is more beautiful than death. It is the poet who makes the truest use of the pine….who loves it as his own shadow in the air and lets it stand.’ But I chose to defend the friendship with my next-door neighbour rather than to go against him at council about cutting the tree down. I overheard him with the boss man, asking him to grind the stump just on my side so it doesn’t interfere with my new driveway, at an extra cost of $300 on top of the $6000 he’s paying for the cut down. Thoreau wouldn’t approve but I think I made the right decision in the circumstances.

We went to lunch at Bronwyn and Michael’s which is always a treat. Mushroom pasta, salad and garlic bread followed by a delicious apple and blackberry strudel. As usual it was politics for befores, durings and afters, apart from discussion about their poor whippet which has come down with lymphoma and is on chemotherapy for 19 weeks, the very same concoction of drugs that John had for the first rounds of his chemo in the 1980s.

Millie this morning was reported as saying ‘Why has Scott Morrison had a bad week?’ Ha, where do you start answering that one?

April 10, 2022

Currently reading Diagnosis Normal by journalist Emma Jane, who was once known as Emma Tom. She relates a history of child abuse and has had a late diagnosis of autism as well as suffering depression. Her life has been/is chaotic to say the least. In fact so much so that my quite boring one looks a dream in comparison. One thing I did identify with though was her statement that ‘as a tiny person’ she felt ‘profound melancholy and existential dread. I was lonely all the time. Especially when there were people around.’ Her statement that she was always ‘outside the world looking in’ resonated with me completely. She clearly has a brilliant mind, but it is so disorganised and haywire that even reading the book makes me giddy. What it must be like to live in that headspace is pretty scary, she’s had a wild ride by anyone’s metric. Was she an autistic child and then abused or did the abuse trigger the autism, I guess she doesn’t know and it hardly matters at this point. She’s been seeing her current psychologist for 22 years and it seems that is likely to continue.

So this is a weird one I know. The women filmed in reports on Ukraine seem to fall into two categories, older village women and younger extremely stylish and well-dressed ones, presumably from the cities. In the latter, every one I’ve seen has a pristine manicure, even after days or weeks of travelling, living in underground bunkers, whatever. Once you notice it you can’t help looking. I’m not drawing any conclusions here, but it is odd.

We have had the situation since last Tuesday that John’s credit card is missing. I was reluctant to cancel it again, we’ve been there before and it’s a mile of hassle. So this time I just checked every day that there were no spends on it and hoped for the best. This afternoon it turned up, in his wallet. I had repeatedly asked him to check his wallet and each time he did. I am planning to get a second one tomorrow, so when it is missing I have a spare.

April 11, 2022

I can’t win a trick today. Drove out to Dural to stock up on bread for the week and rolls for a picnic at Easter, only to find that the bakery is closed for two weeks due to illness among the staff, Covid I’m guessing. Then Arvind came in to tell me that he confirmed with a photo that I have a number of broken tiles on my roof, something I first saw when watching the tree men on Saturday. Normally they are an easy fix, but it appears as if it’s right next to the ridgecap and perhaps even including part of the ridgecap, so that makes it a much trickier job. Now a text to the gutter cleaner cum roof tile man refuses to go through. Next I tried to paint two cards on my good watercolour paper (I should know never to paint, ice cakes or try to do anything creative when I’ve already got the shits, it never works). Now I have two unusable ones that I wouldn’t send to my worst enemy and they were done on the best paper. The NRMA emailed me last week to ask if I would take part in a 45 minute Zoom meeting regarding some new initiative they are planning. In return I was to get a $50 Woolworths voucher so I made sure I left the suggested afternoon free for the call to start the meeting on the computer. When no one rang I rang them, only to be told that they had booked out all the spots and I wouldn’t be needed. An email to inform me of that would have been nice so that I didn’t spend hours carrying the frigging phone around. I was going to make a Simnel Cake for Easter today but I’m not at all sure it will turn out considering the rest of the day.

I was thinking again about fingernails and Ukraine, as you do. The only explanation for the perfect nails is that it’s usual there to have fake nails applied, they would then remain perfectly painted regardless of the conditions. The news last night showed where a large group of old people and women and children had been holed up in a cellar by the Russians, cheek to jowl, and had been there in appalling conditions for over a week. It’s beyond belief that someone could command people to do that and I suppose it’s the 20 year olds who are ordered to do it. It puts my shit day into perspective, so I guess I should attempt the cake at least.

The cake turned out fine, so that’s a positive. But the rare book I ordered hasn’t arrived so I emailed the seller and it was sent to my old shop in Windsor, now empty, and has been sitting at the post office there unclaimed for 11 days despite the fact that I told the seller that I now lived in Baulkham Hills. Some days it’s better to stay in bed.

April 12, 2022

I wish I hadn’t watched the news last night, seeing Anthony Albanese stumble over two answers to journalists at his press conference yesterday. It was too, too distressing and depressing. We can’t get this government back, we just can’t.

Then it was 4 Corners investigative report into Australian soldiers’ cruelty and illegality in East Timor when they were over there supposedly keeping the peace. The thought of a 6 foot 8 inch soldier monstering a 5 foot Timorese is just disgusting. Trust the New Zealanders, decent souls that they are, to dob them in. War creates so many more problems than it solves, I think about the 20-year-old Russians in the Ukraine, learning techniques that they’d be ashamed to tell their mothers about. It will affect them their whole lives, not to mention their victims. You can pretty easily teach a person to kill or torture or assault, the trick is getting them to stop, as people in every country have found after a war.

This morning St. Vincent’s rang to say that John had unfortunately been exposed to Covid but I assured her that would have been a month ago and he’s testing negative so no harm done. Then she told me that no, it was last week, amazingly they informed the wrong John Murray! Today was John’s Nelune day at the hospital, so I met my cousin Angela again in Potts Point. She had planned a walk to Elizabeth Bay, down endless steps and past Elizabeth Bay House and the famous home Boomerang, in its day in 1926 the most expensive house in the country. It traded last year for $80 million. We each had a milkshake at the waterside and enjoyed watching the boats rising and falling on the bay. Angela is a social butterfly and had been to a George Benson concert last night, on her own, followed this morning by a trip to watch the sun rise from 80 odd floors up at the top of the new Crown building at Barangaroo, leaving home at 4.30 am. This week she is also going to the ballet, out to dinner and then a second George Benson concert. Phew, I am exhausted just thinking about it.

Last night and this morning emails were traded think and fast with the rare book dealer over my wrongly delivered book. Luckily he works from home so he is open all hours. At 8 am I was on to Australia Post and discovered that the book was due to be returned to sender today, so I pleaded to hold it till I could get there this afternoon. So after walking miles with Ange I had to drive to Windsor to retrieve it, but it all ended well, though I haven’t had the energy to open it, such was our day.

April 13, 2022

It has taken a while, but the penny only just dropped regarding the 4 Corners programmes on East Timor. The soldier they were trying to mention, nudge nudge, wink wink style was Ben Roberts-Smith. This would explain why the Kiwis have decided to speak out now, seeing his current court case is all over the news and there are similarities in the allegations of torture and unlawful killing. Perhaps everyone recognised this and I was the only slow learner, I don’t know. But the two most obvious pointers are that a 6 foot 8 inch Australian SAS member was responsible (how many of those would there be?) and the comment by one of the investigators along the lines of ‘if something had been done about the crimes in Timor we might not have had the same things happening in Afghanistan’. I decided to check his war record and yep, he was part of the ‘peace-keeping’ intervention at that time. It set me wondering about sociopaths and their choices of employment. I once talked to a psychiatrist working at Cumberland Hospital (no, I was not a patient!) and mentioned a conversation I’d heard on a bus between two men who worked at the old Homebush Abattoirs. I wondered aloud if some people got off on cruelty to animals and he jumped in to say that it was surprising how many patients he saw who worked there, opining that it was lucky for the public that they did, because otherwise they would be looking for victims on the streets. That conversation chilled my marrow and I’ve never forgotten it. It came back instantly in regards to R-S.

Last Christmas the cleaner was due on Christmas Eve and called in sick, she was due to come this Thursday, Easter Eve, and called in sick so my leisurely afternoon plans for the day are out the window while I clean the house. John took the call (they usually ring me). I asked if a new cleaner or a new date had been offered and he thought they had, but he told them not to worry about it and just to come again in two weeks as scheduled. So now I need to do it John, I said, yeah that’s okay he replied. I decided it wasn’t worth countering his decision, he doesn’t get to make too many, so it was best left.

April 14, 2022

Up to the medical centre for our fourth vaccination for Covid, as usual we have had no ill effects although John went for a nap before noon, which is a bit unusual. Pulled a cake out of the freezer and frosted it for tomorrow’s picnic, love it when you get too busy to cook and can just pull something out like a rabbit out of a hat. It is banana cake so I upscaled it with some banana frosting, over the top of the existing walnuts.

A friend has offered a computer and a leaf blower/vacuum gratis so I have put my hand up for them and will pass them on to a refugee organisation or similar. Then another person rang today with handbags, clothes etc so I need to put my thinking cap on for those. I’ve become a St. Vincent’s substitute lately which makes me wonder a bit if the charities are not trusted as much as they once were to find good homes for things. But I’m making sure that everything ends up in a place where it’s really wanted and that’s the main thing.

Last night I started the forensic science book I bought and realised it needed to be read when feeling stable, physically and mentally, not late at night if you’d had a bad day. Some of the situations portrayed are pretty confronting but yesterday I could cope with it without a problem. I wondered why the first few chapters focussed on medical ethics, especially informed consent, somehow I think there would be a long wait for a signature from the patient of a forensic scientist medico. But the legal aspects were of interest to me so I was happy to learn about them.

April 15, 2022

Our picnic with Jane and Boris today morphed into a slightly bigger event when Martha contacted me and I asked her to join us. Fagan Park was buzzing, the top carpark was already full when we arrived and we managed to get a park in the bottom one, but it wouldn’t have mattered as there is parking outside. We scored a table in the shade and enjoyed a picnic lunch and afternoon tea there, going off in turns for walks. The weather was perfect so it was a relaxing day over all. Boris took my microscope home to have a look at it after I asked him about the stage, which moves left to right but not front to back. I have no idea where one goes to get a microscope fixed these days, no sending it off to a technician at the university now.

It looks as if I’m up for money with the plumber as the plughole in my ensuite sink now empties into the drawer below! I can see the problem, the pipe has disconnected itself. I could probably fix it myself just by screwing it back on, but because the drawers of the vanity don’t come right out I can’t get access to it. Bummer, so near and yet so far. Not convinced he will be able to get into it either, but we shall see.

Just finished Ann Patchett’s book Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Irish American poet Lucy Grealy. Two books in a row about mental illness and depression and reading forensic science in between is a lot to handle. I’m choosing a cheerier one next. Then I texted my lovely baker’s family to wish them a happy easter. Seeing the shop is shut for two weeks due to illness I thought they may have Covid but didn’t ask. That would have made a trifecta amongst my friends at the moment. But no, a reply came back saying that she’d had to take time off due to her mental health issues and she needs her husband’s support, he of course is the baker so the shop had to close. I know I’m a bit on the edge of crackers sometimes but I always manage to get up in the mornings, however many others are a lot worse off. In fact in the two most recent books I’ve read I was shocked by the depth of the subject’s problems. Lots to be grateful for.

April 16, 2022

I decided to have a go at fixing the leaking, in fact disconnected, drainage pipe in the vanity. If I succeed I’ll donate the plumber’s fee to GetUp as they are doing some great ads for the election and I’ve just done a donation to them this morning. First step was to try to get the drawer out and I’ve managed to do that by undoing a screw at the rear side panel of the drawer. The pipe was totally undone and hanging loose, so I tried just jamming it back in. Now the water doesn’t pour out but it isn’t a good connection so it still drips. Not sure what the next step is? Some sort of tape perhaps? Will think on it, but I might still need the plumber. Then I asked John to help me clear out a shelf in the garage which had a lot of old stuff of his as well as mine. He got quite rattled and asked why we had to do it at all, but I got a washing basket full of empty or near empty bottles (one was a Sapphire Gin bottle with blue liquid in it??) as well as placing various laundry items into the laundry and other cleaning products with their mates. Who knew we had borax and old-fashioned starch powder? So now the shelf is half empty with only another half a dozen shelves to go. John asked me not to get him to help me with those tasks anymore, “let me stick to washing up and pulling the beds up, I just can’t understand what to do” so I can see that the plumbing job was way outside his comfort zone and I am glad I didn’t ask for help there. Once he’d have fixed it in a flash.

Then I treated myself to some time card-making. Well I did one new collage card using the decorative jewelled bits from an old pair of shoes I found on a shelf in the garage. The sole had come off one and I must have been going to fix it years ago, but today I decided to toss them and use the bits for cards. The other two cards I worked on were fails from another day. I redid parts of them but I’m still not happy, so they might be in for a total repaint, we shall see. Or I could send them to two people I dislike perhaps.

Yesterday I commented to Boris that Zali Steggall has won Warringah already due to the now deleted posts on Twitter by Morrison’s hand-picked candidate Katherine Deves. Where do they dig these people up? Surely someone would have done a Twitter and Facebook search before she got the guernsey as a candidate? Nope, either that or else they agree with her unpopular views and hoped no-one had saved the old comments. Not much chance of that these days.

April 17, 2022

Dav, Millie and Louis went walking at Parramatta Lakes then came here for a casual lunch of various rolls followed by cake and hot cross buns. I’d hidden around the garden a few wrapped lollies, some new pyjamas and a plaster statue of a bunny with paints to decorate it for her to discover. They were impressed by the walks at the lake and plan to have a picnic or bbq there for Mother’s Day when Louis’s mum is planning to come down from Queensland as well. I gave them half a Christmas pudding and some custard to take home as we had eaten a couple of bits, but it was too big for us to eat it all, plus a bunch of hot Thai chilies from my prolific bush. Planted two pots of snow peas this morning with frames for them to climb and decided that was pretty good work for the day. A client once told me to always plant sweet peas and snow peas on Anzac Day but I’m only a week early.

What to say about the book Diagnosis Normal? It is somehow discombobulating to read a book by someone with precarious mental health, it certainly isn’t a relaxing memoir. But I found it educational and it gave me an inkling of what it feels like to be that disordered mentally, in this case her daughter is similarly affected. Hospital admissions, being repeatedly sectioned, literally dozens of psychiatrists over years for PTSD, anxiety, depression and finally a diagnosis of autism on top. But for all of that Emma Jane, aka Emma Tom, writes with candour about many things in a way that we can see her strong points such as a passion for knowledge and an ability to research and find out what she needs to know, whether that is about deleterious drug combinations or the work required to hold her position at a Sydney university. Another case of ‘thank goodness I don’t walk that path’.

April 18, 2022

We attacked some more boxes of John’s and mine today and discovered some favoured rugs of his which are now washed and hanging on the line. Discovered that a big plastic wrapped parcel in the storeroom which I assumed was John’s contained Millie’s bassinet so that’s off to charity hopefully. A couple of ergonomic stools that we used to use at our computers will go likewise. I have been offered a PC for giving away and have been on the hunt for a mouse and keyboard, both now found from different people, so I’ve sent off some emails trying to source a monitor. I have a taker for the PC, just want to make it as complete as possible then it can go to its new home.

I am trying not to be cynical about the young lady who allegedly had acid thrown at her outside a restaurant in Chinatown a few days ago. She was filming on TikTok when it happened and continued filming in the aftermath, as you do. Then filmed herself in hospital where she had a patch over her left eye but I see in the press today the patch has moved to the right. Perhaps it’s just me…..but it smells sus.

Arvind tells me that they wanted to go away to a hotel in Terrigal for Easter with his wife and two adult sons but the bill would have been $7000. Davina told us yesterday that she was planning to go to Canberra for the June long weekend but two nights in the hotel she looked at came to $2000. What are the working class supposed to do for a holiday? Pitch a tent I guess.

Carrick Ryan, a political commentator I sometimes follow, said last November that Morrison was ‘waiting for a culture war’ and would try to wedge Labor in the election campaign using ‘the issues of Australia Day, or kneeling at sport or a trans issue’. It looks like he was right about the last one at least. Climate change action? No, too busy worrying about unisex toilets so we can’t deal with it.

April 19, 2022

On Sunday Carly let me know that she and her partner of nearly four years had separated at her bidding. I respect her choice but by dinner time last night it all got too much and I cried for the loss of him. I had envisaged his being part of the family into the future, perhaps both of them ending up in India at some point, but now it seems that won’t be happening. I want to reach out to him but I think it’s too soon. Who is going to call me Aunt Maureen or Maureen Auntie now?

I opened a floodgate asking for a monitor to hook up with a donated computer, so far I have been offered three and a $100 donation to buy one if needed. A trip to Sans Souci and Chatswood may be on the cards or else I might be able to meet both people at a central point, then deliver the total to Cherrybrook. I sent off emails early this morning hoping to achieve this in the coming days. Now I need to start looking for a home for the leaf blower and the heater and the toys and…. As quickly as I empty my storeroom it fills up again with goods in transit. Later: Why do I get myself into these things? It’s like herding cats. Now the keyboard person says she doesn’t think she’s got one after all and the computer person wants to take all the parts home to his place in Sans Souci to test that they are compatible before the donation goes ahead. So there’s two trips to him instead of one, delivering the bits then picking up when they’ve been tested. Tentatively arranged to deliver them to him Thursday, subject to sorting out the keyboard issue. Note to self: Restrict yourself to collecting things for charity that come intact. But then I got two lovely emails from Helen thanking me in advance for the computer and hoping to take me up on the lounges if a particular family succeeds in getting a rental. Mmm, maybe it is worth it after all.

Feeling toey after so many texts, emails and calls today so I sat down and did a few cards this afternoon. One was for a particular person, Antonia in Melbourne, an eBay contact who sent me a little bottle of schnapps in the mail recently. I glued on a picture of a cup of tea, then drew a cup of tea and attached some teabag labels to them. Sounds tacky and probably was, but she will like it. Another was made of some dried leaves and flowers with ‘shadow’ leaves cut out of card and glued into the design. Happy with that one too. Makes a change from two I did last week that I had to overpaint several times.

April 20, 2022

Went to Jane’s for sewing group as Colleen is still recovering from Covid. I had a skirt to repair so it motivates me to look out things that have been sitting around waiting for a fix. I didn’t stay for lunch as I needed to get back for John. After lunch we did a trip to Parramatta Lakes and I was pleasantly surprised at how different it looked after decades of being away. We decided to pack a picnic on a cooler day and do the two hour circumnavigation of the lake. The dam built in the late 1800s as the drinking water source for Parramatta but hasn’t been used for that purpose since 1909. All the time we were there the police helicopter was circling noisily overhead and a police car drove through, so something was going down. I worked out that I was last there in about 1978. John of course swears we were there recently, as he does with each new place we go.

Apparently more than twice the number of people have died from Covid in Australia this year than in the entire history of the pandemic, 4,547 so far in less than four months. The politicians are all saying that the pandemic is over but nobody told the virus. It is there in front of us every day, we all have positive friends, but the powers that be blithely declare it’s not happening. Perhaps when one of their relatives dies there will be a return to mask mandates but I doubt it.

I was surprised when I was browsing the fish at Baulkham Hills (but didn’t buy because I am sus about that shop lately) to see behind the counter someone who often came into my shop. He had a fish and chip shop in South Windsor and apparently sold it in 21019. I hoped to get away unrecognised but he picked me instantly despite the mask. He commented that his wife every day wears a ring he bought from me and it is always commented on. When he asked if I had any rings left, I wasn’t quick enough to evade the question, he would have picked an evasion anyway, so I told the truth that I had a few. He asked if he could come on Anzac Day and look at them, to which I reluctantly agreed. However he was one of my least favoured customers and now I really regret having any more to do with him. One of the good things about not having the shop any more is not having to see the 4 or 5 people I had come to dislike over the 27 years, all pushy and overbearing people of various sorts. Sigh.

April 21, 2022

I think my reluctance yesterday to say no to the man about the jewellery was partly due to an ethnic difference, I didn’t want him to think he was being discriminated against for race, rather than just being an annoying person.

Today we met up with Greg and handed over all the computer bits. He in turn filled my station waggon with stuff he wants rid of, ranging from sporting clothes, a cricket bat, various racquets, softballs and mitts as well as kitchen equipment and a heater. I’ve sent a list of 21 items to Helen, excluding many items I know she won’t want, and will need to find homes for what she rejects. We had a walk round Eden Gardens Nursery then a drink each and one scone to share from their cafe. As in the past they charge like the Light Brigade, the single scone was over $10!! I should never patronise the place so it’s my own fault, although it is always full of people having lunch and the food’s not even good. When we came home the tree men weren’t far behind us to finish cutting the trunk and getting rid of all the huge branches. John had been asking ‘what’s for lunch, I’m hungry’ so I did an avocado and crackers but can’t get him to come in, he’s on Arvind’s verandah watching the men work and it’s much too enthralling.

We were supposed to go to the council’s Social Day Centre for a tour today but John’s decided he doesn’t want to go there after all. In some respects I’m relieved, the way Covid is going, but in another way I would be so glad of that couple of hours to myself occasionally. I need some new bras and every time I put an old one on I think of going to to the shops for some new ones, but even if I’m ducking up to the chemist or the fruit shop John doesn’t like me to leave him here, he prefers to sit in the car and wait. However I’m reluctant to leave him in the car to do something that might take a little while.

I was talking to Jenny and said that I am getting more and more anxious about minding Millie this weekend. During the day it’s sort of okay, but nights are spent thinking of boiling jugs, tablets left lying around, speeding cars on a walk. I will be glad when it’s done, which is terrible as it should be all about joy. However Jenny, who also suffers from anxiety, said she is exactly the same, dreaming of incidents like the pram rolling down a slope into the pool. It was kind of comforting that it’s not just me. If I book an airline ticket I dream every night of the plane flying between two sheer cliffs, wingtips right up to the edges and it seems to go on for hours, this can last for months which is why I hate to book a flight well in advance. She’s had therapy, which didn’t help, and that made me feel better about never having had any.

April 22, 2022

Enjoyed a trip out to Warrah Farm at Dural this morning with Carol. Superb range of high-quality fruits and vegetables on display but at eye-watering prices. We had morning tea at Dolcettini on the way home and a good time was had by all.

Thinking a lot about Morrison and his innate craftiness and basic dishonesty. He knew full well Katherine Deves’ views, in fact that is why he chose her. Good to stir up a debate that takes the focus off his government. Then there are his comments on the disabled, classic prosperity gospel, if you have a disabled child then you must deserve one. My friend Chrys says in an email: “I understand this aspect of Pentecostalism from bitter experience. When a member of my family began experiencing worrying symptoms, they were referred by their church to a church-approved Pentecostal psychologist. The verdict, after much probing into the piety of my relative, was that the symptoms were a punishment for the fact one of our ancestors was a Grand Master of the Freemasons. Ardent prayer was prescribed. (In fact, as it turned out, my relative had a malignant tumour.)” I have heard it said by people in Hillsong that if you don’t tithe your 10% then you will suffer financially and if you do, your income will improve. There is a belief that disease and disability are either self-inflicted or the result of some kind of ancestral sin and this is causing havoc in African countries that have been effectively colonised by evangelical Christians of the Pentecostal variety. In a paper on Pentecostalism Luke Thompson from the University of South Florida explained how Pentecostals think about sickness and disability: “Well established within Pentecostal theology is the belief that the presence of suffering (sickness or debilitating conditions) may indicate personal sin, symbolize unholiness, or result from demonic influence.” In Western Australia an inquiry is ongoing into the Esther Foundation, who run a home for young women suffering from eating disorders, addiction, mental health problems. Their form of medical treatment would be all-night prayer meetings, talk of demon possession, exorcisms, no qualified staff were employed, yet the money still flowed in from this government. Given $4.6 million recently by Scott Morrison, it has been accused of being a cult and it is run by his mates the Pentecostals, surprise surprise.

April 23, 2022

Minding Millie for the weekend so we started off with a walk to her school. Sadly part of a weatherboard building had such dry rot that you can literally see right through the wall. Someone had inexpertly screwed the boards together but it must have taken years to get that bad, which makes me hopping mad when I see the luxury that is private schools. I could climb into that school in 10 minutes, not even that, with just a crowbar. I read recently that public schools got about $3600 per pupil last year from the government and private schools almost $10,000 on top of parent contributions so we have theatres and swimming pools versus see-through walls. The Finns have the right idea, not allowing private schools at all. One of my first jobs when I become PM is to rectify that, after action on climate change, an integrity commission, banning live animal exports, yep perhaps put the schools fourth. Maybe the nursing homes have to go high in to-do that list, so it’s a toss-up for fourth. We had a spot of lunch outside at Foodcraft because Millie always wants to say hello to the owner, Christian. She call the cafe Christian’s. I said she could order anything (what are grandparents for?) so she settled on chips, bacon and tomato sauce, not on the menu but happily provided. We shared Zucchini and Corn Fritters with Avocado and a Poached Egg. I cut it horizontally to share and John said ‘but then you don’t get any of the white stuff on top’ which turned out to be the egg. I was perfectly happy with no egg but I wondered what on earth he thought the ‘white stuff’ was.

Last time we were there I couldn’t work the TV properly and gave up, so this time Louis tutored me but when we sat down to watch the news I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to get any volume so we watched nothing in the end. I was happy to finish my book Son of Sin by Omar Sakr, fiction but based on his life. I wasn’t keen initially, because there were so many family members and I couldn’t fathom who was related to whom, but as it went on I became more involved in this story of a gay Muslim man in western Sydney and his trials to be accepted within his culture and particularly his family. There were many Arabic words that I had never come across before and he doesn’t spoon feed us, if you want to understand you Google as you go along. It covered the period of the Cronulla riots and the gay marriage plebiscite with references to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think at the end of it I had a slightly better understanding of the Lebanese Muslim community and their thinking, so it was certainly a worthwhile read. One passage which I found illuminating was this: “Unlike their parents who had been dragged to the other side of the world, Jamal’s generation rarely left the area, let alone the country. None of them had been further than Queensland. They got married and moved into houses as close to their mothers as possible, making clusters of convenience and closeness. Jamal sometimes wondered if a map of Lebanon’s villages before the war would match where families had ended up in Sydney, as if they had unconsciously replicated a way of being that no longer existed.” It isn’t hard to believe that the author is primarily a poet, his telling of the story is hard, actually quite brutal, as well as showing us the vulnerability of a sensitive young man living in poverty in a society rent by racism, Islamophobia and homophobia. Special.

April 24, 2022

During a terrible night I checked the clock wide-eyed at 1.47 and 4.30 and finally got to sleep a couple of hours before Millie came in. I know it’s anxiety but I don’t have a ready cure and don’t want to go down the medication route. After breakfast I suggested a walk but Millie was resistant so we did some Lego instead, though she eventually saw that the walk wasn’t going to be optional. We went to Sydney Park and it was crowded, seemingly two dogs for every walker, though I did see a cat cuddled close to an owner’s chest. We played a game of guessing the airline of oncoming planes, the park overlooks the airport a few kilometres away, and Millie has mastered telling Jetstar from Qantas, then asking ‘why does it matter grandma?’ which is a good point. She was so happy when Dav and Louis came home, fresh from an overnight stay at the new Kimpton Hotel in the city. Last night at dinner Luke Mangan, who is chef at the restaurant there, came over to ask how the food was. Louis thought he was the waiter and was about to ask for the bill, but luckily caught the vibe that he was somewhat higher on the ladder than that and was relieved that he avoided the embarrassment. They rated both the hotel and the restaurant as excellent so that’s something to file away in case an opportunity arises. They arrived home with books and games for Millie and Haigh’s Chocolates for us both. All in all the visit was a successful one and no disaster came to pass, though driving home so exhausted wasn’t fun, but I managed not to hit anyone.

Home sweet home, where we know how to work the TV, can find where things are kept and can relax without angst about failing at grandparental duties.

April 25, 2022

Last night Peter and Dawn from Canberra rang to say that they will be in Sydney for a day or two this week. They wanted to come for dinner tomorrow night which was problematic as I will be at the hospital all afternoon, but they can come Wednesday for lunch so that’s even better. For some (stupid) reason I worried all night about what to serve/when I could get to the shops/anything else remotely connected. Then got up this morning to a fully developed plan to serve trout, asparagus and a beetroot, rocket and pomegranate salad followed by a self-saucing walnut caramel pudding. Did I think it through? Not really, it was fairly obvious once I gave it five minutes consideration, but during the night it seemed more than I could possibly cope with. Such is my state of mind at the moment.

Did a bit of weeding out the front and replanted the grass I pulled out of the garden into the trench dug across the grass verge by the wheels of the arborist’s truck. Then Arvind saw what I was doing and came out with a sack of soil to fill in the depression so we did it together. I said we needed some light rain to water it in and he said I was lucky that Monday is his prayer day, so he had spoken to the boss this morning. From memory Monday is the Hindu day for praying to Lord Shiva and I think it is also the day of the week that the family fasts. My neighbour on the other side was filling his truck with a mountain of bottles, presumably going to a recycling centre, and I marvelled at how many years it would take us to accumulate such a pile. Luckily we don’t have either soft drink or beer but clearly they make it up to the manufacturers for our lack of each. They are off to the club after doing that job and I thought about how much I like living between such opposite but equally warm-hearted neighbours.

April 26, 2022

John last night: Have you booked the Uber? Me: Excuse me, what Uber? John: The one to take you to the hospital tomorrow. I have never booked an Uber in my life and neither has he, in fact a couple of hours previously we had discussed which car to take, mine or his, and decided on his as it’s smaller and easier to park in the inner city. Sometimes it’s hard to work out where these ideas come from, perhaps he’s seen something about Uber on TV, but it does worry me that when I’m not here, like today when a carer is coming, he could inadvertently lead the person up the garden path about what’s going on without their knowing. I have to trust that she will keep him safe, but I will be glad when I’m home tonight and know it’s all gone well.

My laundry, under the house and open to the weather, has had water on the floor for weeks, or maybe months. In persistent wet weather some water can leach through the back wall, but it drains out of the open doorway into the garden so it doesn’t matter. Lately I’ve been commenting to John that it seems too much water for the weather but he disagreed, until yesterday when I finally pulled out the washing machine and found there is a leak coming from the cold water inlet pipe to the hot water system. I tried to tighten the bolt but it seemed very secure already so I am afraid that there’s a leak inside the tank, in other words it’s stuffed. I can’t complain if that’s the case, I think the last tank I bought was about 20 years ago. Anyway the plumber is coming on Saturday so we’ll find out then.

Glad to have that hospital appointment over with for another 6 months, I am getting really fond of the same two doctors and one nurse that I see each time. Very professional, yet with a real human touch as well. I don’t even mind the male nurse calling me ‘lovey’.

Later: John arrived home with the carer 5 minutes after I got back from the city. He’d had a lovely time, enjoying their picnic together, going for a walk with her and using every last minute out. He wants to get Libby again if I need to leave him. Success. (She later rang to say that he’d had a phone call from the chemist while they were out to say that the prescription he’d been promised for delivery today wasn’t yet ready. John had just finished telling me that he couldn’t understand why it didn’t arrive, so without her call I would have had to investigate tomorrow).

April 27, 2022

I have been processing a comment by the docs from yesterday: ‘It’s looking as if the surgeon got it all, we’re not seeing any sign of cancer’. After the surgery in 2020 I was given the option of doing no more or having both radiation and chemotherapy at the same time for six weeks. When I opted for no further treatment the surgeon said that he thought I was making the right decision, banking on the fact that he had got it all. Yesterday was the first time they’ve been willing to say that it looks as if he was right.

I have been fielding calls all day from Kristy at the home care service, Vanessa at the Orange Blossom Cottage social day service for dementia sufferers and Belinda at ACAT. Some good news, some not so good. Kristy has managed to negotiate a deal with ACAT which means that instead of paying $30.90 an hour for John to go to the cottage, they will fund him to go for $20 per day, a huge difference. Tick. So I arranged for John to go there for morning tea next week to get to know the staff, with a view to his going there from 9.30 to 2.30 every Wednesday. Tick. Then ACAT rang and said he’s been refused the possibility of a higher package because he hasn’t spent all of the money accrued in his old one. I thought I was doing the right thing and being frugal with the government’s money, keeping it saved up for a rainy day, but apparently that’s not how the system works. You have to show that you are not managing on the current package before you can get a higher one, so I shot myself in the foot there. Cross, but two out of three ain’t bad. So apparently I now need to engage a carer regularly in order to dissipate the balance and then apply again. It’s a bit of a nightmare negotiating the system.

Dawn and Peter from Canberra came for the day and we loved having them here, despite the number of interrupting phone calls. Served Panfried Trout with salads and a Caramel and Almond Self-Saucing Pudding for afters. The bloody thing boiled over in my clean over, but it was delicious so I forgive it. I look forward to going to Canberra to see them at some time, though the thought of all the driving puts me off. Carly is in Bowral for a few days at the moment and if I had known that getting a carer for a full day was a possibility I would have driven down to see her, but I am learning as I go along.

April 28, 2022

Position Vacant: Administrative Assistant. Duties include endless emails and phone calls to and from Home Care Provider, Dementia Day Care facility and ACAT. Pay nil.

Hopefully I may get an assistant from the above as it seems that since last week I have been constantly on the phone trying to get John a higher package, failing, then trying to make the best use of the package he does have. End result: We have an appointment to go for morning tea at Orange Blossom Cottage, a dementia day care facility, next Thursday and if we like it John is pencilled in to go there every Friday from then on. (Can I see some days at the Coroner’s Court beckoning? It’s been sooo long). Then from next Wednesday a carer named Greg is coming in the morning to take John out somewhere. His favourite girl Libby is the favourite of many others as well apparently and unavailable, so we are trying Greg out for size. At least I feel we are getting somewhere now and hopefully we can apply to ACAT again in three months and we’ll see what they say then about more assistance.

I’ve been painting cards again today with limited success but I did try to do one inspired by the bushfires at Mallacoota seen from the sea and I am reasonably happy with the clouds and fire on that one. I so wish I could get better at painting but I don’t think that will happen without lessons of some sort, and probably not even then.

Thinking about the Ukraine situation and I just hate the ‘all Ukrainians are martyrs and all Russians are bastards’ narrative. As in all wars the politicians make the decisions. But we always denigrate the man and woman on the street when they have little agency.

April 29, 2022

Today we had a small book group at Jane’s and Boris took John with him to Petersham to pick up a new coffee machine while we had our meeting. They got back just as we were about to have a cup of tea and attack Jane’s pavlova and other excellent treats. Brigitte brought up Ukraine and asked Boris his opinion, which is that the country is basically in a civil war between right and left factions and that elections there are usually divided 51% to 49% between Russian-leaning and West-leaning politicians. He says the Russians are correct in saying that there is a significant extreme right part of the population and has been since WWII. His people are from Kyiv and he has relatives on both sides of the border. He says there are a lot of refugees crossing the border into Russia according to his people there. It is a very different view to what we hear on the news.

I had a sale on eBay for 48 antique crystals and amazingly they are to be delivered to the 17th floor of the same building in Norwest where Michelle’s relatives are staying on the 19th floor, so she offered to drop them into their mailbox tomorrow. I’ve just spent some time searching, but although I can find every other item up for sale, the crystals are not there. I just don’t know where else to look so maybe I will have to contact the buyer and return the money, after which she will be entitled to leave negative feedback.

John got an email invitation to an art exhibition in Balmain and the paintings look really interesting. I asked who the person is but he can’t remember him, though the man’s number is in his phone, so it is a genuine contact. We might mosey down there next week and have a look, he might recognise him in person.

April 30, 2022

Just finished letter-boxing some of Cross St for the Greens but we ran out of leaflets, they didn’t leave us enough, I guess they are expensive to print.  I have just emailed them for some more and we’ll see what happens.

The plumber came and, as expected, told me that the hot water service is kaput as the tank is leaking. He will order one on Monday and fit it on Tuesday, you can’t ask for more than that. Apparently Reece Plumbing has their own brand made by Rheem, exactly the same and made in their Rydalmere factory but somewhat cheaper, so I will go with that. It will be a handful of coins under $2000 all told which was pretty much what I expected. I guessed that the current one was 15 years old and he found a date on it which showed it is 16 years, about par for the course. This is my third in 45 or so years so I can’t complain really. One bonus was that I showed him the repair I did on the pipe under the vanity which had been leaking and he volunteered to make it more secure, even though it hadn’t leaked since I fixed it, so that saves a callout if my repair didn’t last. He’s a good chap.

After being told on Tuesday that tests showed I was cancer free, on Thursday I noticed what looks to my untrained eye like a melanoma. I couldn’t get an appointment with Bob till Wednesday but he said he’ll try to fit me in on Monday if he can. Rats, it’s one thing after another here. I am not going to tell John as he always worries about having to go into respite if I got sick and he will forget about the details anyway so I just won’t go there till I have something definite to say. He totally forgot why I was going to the hospital last week so I didn’t even bother mentioning the good news, he was just happy for me to be home. My receding anxiety levels just went up more than a notch. Something goodly but mind-numbing like letter-boxing is appropriate medicine at the moment.

May 1, 2022

Mmm, I didn’t even know it was May Day till I started typing this. A few weeks ago we took the papier-mache inlaid occasional table to my friend and restorer John Koster as it was splitting at the edges. I had already treated it for borer in the legs, but today we finally picked it up and he had re-treated the borer just in case, repaired the edges and re-blackened the legs, stretcher and underside. He only knows one way to do things, the right way. We were due to pick it up earlier but the flood prevented us from crossing the river. Seeing we had to go up that way we spent some time at Kurrajong where we had a bite of lunch in the courtyard of Schembrae’s restaurant, run by a Maltese family and with some unusual dishes on the menu. John had Imqarat which turned out to be Maltese pastry triangles filled with a date paste and served hot. I got some jams and chutneys from a stall, some for John K. and also for Michelle C. who has been on the sick list since Friday. Perhaps it was food poisoning from a restaurant meal she had Friday night but it could just be a virus, hard to tell. Dropped in to briefly visit her on the way home.

An Australian Defence Force review of our participation in the war in Afghanistan has found that the overall strategy in the conflict, driven by the US, was “confused and kept changing” and “a naive Western aspiration for Afghanistan” with a failure to consider “local history, culture, politics and capacity” led to “overly ambitious and unsustainable national and military strategic objectives”. Well the rest of the country were on top of this years ago, it has taken the Defence Force a long time to admit that our troops (and countless Afghans) died for no real purpose. Unfortunately the government is still in denial on this point and will be only too willing to jump the next time we are asked to join some pointless war.

The election is getting interesting as far as the independents go, four Liberal seats are under threat from good independent female candidates. I am wondering whether to throw a vote towards Jane Caro in the Senate, an eminently sensible candidate but I need to look at the ballot paper carefully and see where the Greens have put her.

May 2, 2022

Bob called me in early and initially said I was right to come as the lesion looked nasty, however on further investigation with his illuminated magnifier he was happy to diagnose a haemangioma which is a nothing basically. One less thing to agonise over. We commiserated with each other about the ridiculous worries we both have in the middle of the night and joked that we should email each other at 3 am when that happens. It wasn’t the fear of surgery or treatment that got to me so much as the fear of having John looked after while I attended to it. This morning he rang the pharmacist to order his prescriptions, which was fine except he already did that on Saturday and we picked them up yesterday. I told him just to treat them as spares because by the time I realised what he’d done they were probably already dispensed.

I have had another spot of luck today because the missing crystals finally turned up in a place they should never have been, my fault entirely. The buyer has been very disappointed and urged me to keep looking for them, so I am going to deliver the parcel to her in person at Norwest this afternoon. Phew!

I am so looking forward to seeing the new ABC four-part programme The Family Court Murders beginning next week. I distinctly remember them happening and went to part of the trial of the man convicted of executing Family Court Judge David Opas, the attack on his associate Judge Richard Gee and the murder of Pearl Watson, wife of a judge who had taken over the cases of the other two. Add to that the bombing of the Family Court in Parramatta, the attempted murder of a Family Court solicitor and the bombing resulting in the murder of a Jehovah’s Witness minister and injury to 13 of his congregation. The thing that astonishes me still is how Leonard Warwick got away with it for so long, but having seen him defending himself in court I realised that he is nothing if not clever. He was acquitted of also murdering his brother-in-law but it was highly likely that he did, however it didn’t quite reach the standard of proof.

Later: Because of the Missing Crystal Saga, I went to the 17th floor of a new building at Norwest to deliver, rather than delaying their receipt further by unreliable post. I knocked on her door and open sesame , it unlatched itself. A call came from deep in the unit “Is that you Maureen? Please come in, I’m disabled”. In I went and eventually came to a large room with a hospital bed containing a bright-faced lady who introduced herself as Bronwyn. She had bought the crystals to make a hanging to go on a window which gets sun the whole day, the unit faces north-west. I realised then what a disaster it would have been if I hadn’t found them. We chatted and she told me that carers come to her a number of times a day and to my great surprise I learned that she uses the same service as John. She positively raved about her carers and their service in general. Apparently she was forced into a tiny nursing home room for three years but now absolutely loves the large and well-designed disability unit she rents in this building. When I got home I discovered that one lonely crystal of the 43 was sitting on the kitchen bench, perhaps willing me to go back to visit.

May 3, 2022

So John’s ex-neighbour Scott White has finally been sentenced for the 1988 murder of American PhD student Scott Johnson. His sentence of 12 years takes into account his youth at the time, his low IQ and his guilty plea. My question goes to his ex-wife who came forward to testify against him only after the $2 million reward was announced. The whole thing is sickening, but dobbing someone in after all those years, only when a large reward is offered, is not exactly free of suspicion either. No winners in this sorry saga.

This morning we were to meet our friend who is putting together and testing the computer going to a refugee family. We were to meet at a park in Ryde but when I texted him from there to say where we were sitting it emerged that he was inadvertently expecting to meet tomorrow, so that meant I had to cancel the delivery for this afternoon too. Hopefully we will get it happening on Friday, this whole thing seems to have gone on for weeks, in fact it has.

The papers are lit up with SHOCK INTEREST RATE RISE!!! when every commentator has forecast it for weeks. I am very lucky that it doesn’t affect me, but it will certainly hurt those who accepted more loan money from their bank than they could easily pay back. Such a tempting thing for those who’ve never seen a recession, but so many want to start with a big, new, expensive house without considering a future lack of employment or a rise in interest rates. The renters are even worse off again now that so many have fled to the regions to take advantage of working from home, so now those pockets of housing for the less well off have dried up.

Yesterday when I met the lady while delivering the crystals I asked if there is anything else that she is looking for and she mentioned wanting a small leadlight to put against a window to shine colours on to the walls. Her crystal hanging will be designed to ‘throw rainbows onto the walls’ and she has the perfect situation for that so high up with all day sun. I have two small leadlights here so I’ve sent pictures of one and if she likes it I am happy for her to have it. My other eBay ‘friend’ in Melbourne texted today to ask if ‘the postman has delivered anything to you? Hick hick’ so it appears she’s sent me a gift of some sort of alcohol, following a previous little bottle of schnapps. Funny how connections with people happen.

May 4, 2022

Packed a picnic for John and his new carer Greg, who turned out to be a very personable older man and came replete with ideas for their four hours out. He suggested the picnic area on the Parramatta River and John was happy with that, next week he’s going to take him to Geranium Cottage for lunch so it seems that I won’t have to scratch my head for suggestions. Perhaps I need a carer to take me out for lunch once a week, a young handsome one perhaps, haha. When John was first assessed for care the person asked if I had put my name down for a package too and I was quite insulted, but if going to a restaurant each week is part of the deal I may have to rethink. Of course the food cost is not included but still….it sounds good to me. I went off to Colleen’s and rather than sewing I did some cutting out of paper leaves to paint for my cards, planning to intersperse them with real pressed leaves. Unfortunately I had to come home before lunch because an email alerted me to the fact that a food delivery was waiting on my front porch and it had frozen stuff in it, the one time a delivery comes early. (Note to self: avoid every second Wednesday for deliveries). I decided to use the extra time to make some Lemon Squares for a picnic on Saturday with Dav and family and had only just started that when Greg and John returned with positive things to say about their morning. I’m so glad that seem to hit it off, although John didn’t have a clue what they had talked about, no matter.

The puzzle of the bird bath continues: A few days ago I went out to find the top of my bird bath had detached, despite having been full of water with a heavy stone in the centre. I asked my garden helper to bring some two-pack glue to fix it (using the microphone on the phone the message read Tupac Glue, which is hilarious). He had Liquid Nails which he assured me would be just as good and he fixed it last Monday. This morning the top was lying in the garden. I had wondered if someone was trying to steal it, but surely they would have managed to take it the second time? Now I am wondering if it’s next door’s cat who often hops up and drinks out of it. Clearly this glue isn’t up to the job so I’ll do it myself with some Tupac.

It is 3.27pm and I missed lunch altogether, breakfast was at 7am and that seems a looong time ago. Perhaps a handful of cashews will see me till dinner, or perhaps I need to check if the lemon slices are up to scratch….I’d hate to serve them without testing.

May 5, 2022

A full day today beginning with a booked visit to Orange Blossom Cottage for morning tea (mug of hot tea and a much better than average blueberry muffin). John was quite impressed with the place, which looks like a very dour rectangular box from the outside but is light and bright inside from big windows to the rear, overlooking an oval. The staff were very welcoming and he will start there next Thursday, which just happens to be the very first time they’ve organised a bus trip in the two years since Covid started. These will happen every three months or so, but it may be a jolly introduction to the other participants. I had to smother a laugh as we left and John said with no obvious grounds: “I think they need a bit of brightening up, but I don’t know what I’ll talk to them about as they all look very working class”. Reverting to his Mosman roots.

When we were there I got a call from my good friend Mary from New Zealand who is in Sydney with her husband, staying at the Hilton. She sent an email last week to set up a meeting for the four of us but unfortunately it went to junk so we didn’t get to do that before they leave, however she jumped onto a bus and came here for a hastily put together lunch. I was lucky enough to have some goat cheese and caramelised onion tarts in the freezer, plus I had the ingredients for a new potato salad and a rocket and beetroot one, and a cheese and fruit platter, all of which managed to be completed while she was on the bus. I do miss them both and wish we were geographically closer as I can talk to her about matters both serious and trivial. She told us of her husband’s daughter suggesting that they go out for dinner and as soon as the wine was poured asking “Who is the beneficiary of your estate dad?”. David was taken aback but when he went to the loo Mary replied “We are each other’s sole beneficiary, but if you want to put your name on anything in particular I’ll make sure it comes to you when I die”. It must be considered normal behaviour to do this as we’ve heard so many reports of it and experienced it in relation to John. Thankfully my daughters would consider it infra dig to even ask.

May 6, 2022

Our weeks seem to be getting busier and busier. This week we had appointments of one sort or another from Monday through to Saturday and next week from Tuesday to Friday. I am hankering to get back to card making but I guess it will happen. Today we met Greg and had lunch with him at an outdoor cafe, with a nice sunny setting but very ordinary food, to exchange the finished computer from his car to mine and then we delivered it to Helen. It has proved a bit of an epic but now it is done and we got rid of all the other things she chose from my storeroom at the same time. Helen tells me the recipient is an Afghan family with four kids who have finally managed to get a rental at Blacktown on their twelfth application. He is a doctor, a communicable diseases specialist who set up the first AIDS clinic in Afghanistan, not something highly thought of by the Taliban I’m assuming.

Decided on how to spend my $250 bribe from the government for their vote in the upcoming election (purportedly a cost of living supplement for pensioners which just happened to arrive three weeks before the vote). I am dividing it between GetUp and The Centre for Public Integrity and the best part is that I intend to send the receipts to my local Liberal member Alex Hawke with a thankyou note.

Reading more about the wife of Scott White dobbing him in for the reward, she says she sent her concerns anonymously to the task force investigating the murder (of course it would be pretty easy for them to trace her) but that being the case I don’t criticise her actions at all. However the fact that it needs a reward for any case in order to urge people to come forward with information on serious crimes is pretty disheartening. Another case involving a reward is that of Amber Haigh who went missing in 2002 and a couple have been charged with her murder after a new witness came forward via Crime Stoppers, just a week after a $1 million reward for information on the case was announced. The police apparently have very incriminating phone intercepts and allege they captured the couple discussing getting rid of her body. How after 20 years they have been able to access these phone calls is a mystery which will no doubt be revealed in due course.

May 7, 2022

After promising myself not to get dragged down into melancholy I slipped this morning after our Mother’s Day picnic was cancelled due to Millie waking up with a cold and Davina worrying about her sneezing around John when there is Covid at the school every few days. It had been planned for weeks and Louis’s mum Sue was down from Queensland too. I’m finding it very hard to work out acceptable risks for John now that he can’t navigate that for himself. Perhaps I am generally too conservative, I don’t know, but I would have risked it today seeing it was an outdoor event. Next I got a reply from the friendly plumber, to whom I had complained last night about the water not being hot enough. Apparently he was forced by law to put a temperature limiting device in the new heater which sets the maximum at 50 degrees C. When I ran a bath last night at the usual setting of both taps on full it was way too cool so I topped it up with straight hot water but it got to the top and was still not as hot as I’d like it. It shits me that I’ve spend two grand for water so much cooler than what I had last week. Apparently it is to avoid the extremely rare event of a thermostat failure which could bring the water to 99 degrees. I’ve never hear of it happening and neither has he. I replied that I want it removed (it cost $123 plus labour to fit it) but he hasn’t got back to me which I’m taking as a no. Next I decided that seeing our day was now free (read sad and empty) we should go to Dural and get the week’s bread but when I tried to order it just said that the number has been disconnected. After a few tries I rang the fruit shop next door only to be told that they have closed up the bakery for good due to Natalie having ‘mental health problems’. That was the last straw and I’ve been in and out of tears ever since. She delivered bread to me all through the first year of the pandemic and I became a rusted on customer and dare I say friend? I’ve offered any support I can via her mobile number but haven’t had a reply as yet. To have such beautiful people lose their life’s dream after roaring back into business once the Covid restrictions were lifted is just too sad.

I am wondering if John realises that he is in the dementia programme at Orange Blossom Cottage from next week. I explained that to him initially, but when we were on the tour there was another room full of people and he asked the staff member who they were. She hesitated and answered “They are the mainstream group”, he looked puzzled but didn’t comment. I didn’t have the heart to say “They are the people without dementia” so the moment passed. They were more animated and cheery and I suspect he will come home next week saying that his group doesn’t seem all that sharp, but it’s hard to tell. I do know that if he asks me one more time what a Teal Independent is in this election I may commit harakiri.

I recently read a book called Love and Virtue by Diana Reid and rated it a one star and DNF, did not finish.  I just couldn’t relate to, or get excited by, any of the characters who were undergraduates at a Sydney University college. I think I am just the wrong demographic to be interested in students getting drunk and sleeping around, but thinking it through further, I was the wrong demographic for that when I was young and working at the self same university. Drugs and getting plastered just never appealed to me. Anyway it has won her Best Young Australian Novelist so there you go.

Later: Well the day had gradually improved until John went out for his walk, calling in to the corner shop on his way home. He rang me from there to say that he’d lost his debit card but I didn’t sweat it too much initially as he’s ‘lost’ it twice before and it’s eventually turned up, in one case after I’d cancelled it. But he assured me that he had taken it with him in his jeans pocket. Me: But your jeans pockets are deep, I don’t think it could fall out. John: It could because there’s a hole in the pocket that I usually put it in. Me: Then why do you put it in that pocket? John: That’s a good question. Eventually I rang the bank and sat waiting for over an hour to report it lost. John had to come on the line and answer some security questions because he had no record of the card number. One was ‘what high school did you go to?’ John: I can tell you a funny story about my high school. Bank Man: No John I need to…..  John: It’s a really good story, which he proceeded to tell despite the man’s protests. In the end the card was cancelled but from now on I can’t risk his having a card at all, now it involves a visit to the bank on Monday to confirm it all in person and then ringing all of his direct debit companies, which last time couldn’t be changed over the phone and needed written authorisations. Harakiri imminent.

May 8, 2022

A good sleep left me deciding not to go for the ritual disembowelment just yet but I did think during the night that I spend way too much time weighing up risks. We cancelled the outdoor picnic yesterday because Millie had a cold and was a risk to John then I am sending him to indoor day care on Thursday with a dozen oldies and a few staff, it doesn’t compute. The only disaster today (so far, it’s only mid-afternoon) was one I had forecast but the advice went unheeded. When John set up his office we left the top of the chest of drawers pretty free as it is under the window and he needs to be able to pull the blind up and down. But since then it has been covered with literally dozens of framed family photos, pushing to the back a beautiful hand-painted Portuguese charger of his, sitting on a wooden stand of mine. Today was the day that the blind caught the charger and now it is in the Sulo bin in many pieces, the unusually large stand was damaged but hopefully it can be repaired.

All of this set me in a mood to divest stuff from the house, if I can’t persuade John to do it I can surely start myself. So I have just listed on eBay an antique highchair which is currently in the loungeroom, home to a few old soft toys (not legal for a baby without a modern harness). It was made in Vienna in the late 1800s by a very famous father and son and luckily still bears their paper label underneath so hopefully someone might appreciate its rarity and pay the rather large price. Next I decided that a brass standard lamp from 1900 was surplus to requirements so that’s gone on eBay too. Finally I am getting rid of the petrol driven leaf blower that I am too scared to use. It has literally been used once and comes with original box and instruction books in any language you like to name, except English weirdly, but that’s how it came from Sweden. It’s also too heavy for me to use for long and the gardener has a better one anyway, so I’m going with the old principle of why keep a dog and bark yourself. Only the highchair will pull the heartstrings if it goes, but the money exchanged will let me know that the buyer appreciates it and won’t let it come to harm, which is my main concern.

May 9, 2022

We had to go to the bank first thing which was confusing as John had correctly answered all of the security questions when we reported his lost card, however they explained that the phone people are supposed to hang up if they think the person is being prompted, and he certainly was being prompted. But now it’s done and dusted, so at the moment I have John ringing all the direct debit companies to change the transactions from a debit card to his actual account number. He’s doing the hard yards listening to the endless elevator music and I’m jumping in when a person comes on the line. Waiting on endlessly is the most depressing way to spend an afternoon.

Next, off to Vinnies with an array of goods that I sorted out yesterday. They grabbed the clothes and linen but rejected the stool, electrical items and the perfectly clean bassinet (health and safety??). It is annoying that I need to go to various charity shops with different acceptance criteria before I get rid of everything, but it’s always the same. We discovered the carcase of a large ringtail possum downstairs while going through boxes yesterday. It must have gone to hide from something, a cat perhaps?, but it’s unlike a possum to go down as far as ground level so I don’t know how the poor thing met its demise.

Yesterday on the news they were doing a vox pop on the streets of Wentworth asking folks who they planned to vote for: Spender or Sharma. Many were quite decided but one oaf said quite seriously that he would vote for whoever had the most signs up at the polling booth. Perhaps an IQ test for voting might be in order?

May 10, 2022

Just back from one of those days I dread, but despite my worries it all went like clockwork. First an early appointment for his nibs at RNSH for a heart ultrasound and a follow-up with cardiologist Gemma. She says his heart muscle is a bit weaker, but we discussed altering his medications and adding another however I agreed with her summing up that he is doing well and we shouldn’t rock the boat by changing things. He’ll go again in 9 months. Then across town, off to St. Vincent’s for an 11 am session, his monthly IgG infusion. This time I decided to fill in the time (3 and a half hours) by driving to Woollahra, once the antiques capital of Sydney, and drooling on the windows. Except there were no antiques shops to drool over, not one, which was very disappointing but I walked up and down Queen St. to see what gives in loaded-land. When I had my shop and before I got hooked on the courts and ICAC, I would go on a Tuesday day off to mooch antiques and pick up a few foodie bits to bring home. The foodie shops are still there but the prices are waaay out of my reach now now, indeed they are nothing short of laughable. The only butcher, all marble and glass has a floor-to-ceiling glass walled cool room. Cuts of meat slowly pass by, hung from a cog gear and metal chain rack all backed by the floor-to-ceiling Himalayan salt brick wall. This wall, built out of salt bricks imported from the Himalayas in Pakistan, acts as a natural air purifier and reduces air humidity, thus helping the meats dry-ageing process. They were asking from $80 to $140 A KILO for their meat and people were buying. No mince and sausages here, apart from the string of bronze ones which formed the door handle. I’ve included a link which is worth looking at for the decor alone.

The fish shop, which seemed to have a lot of imported and therefore frozen fish, averaged $50 t0 $75 a kilo with local flathead fillets at $105. So off to the fruit and veg market where carrots were $8.99 a kilo so I didn’t get much past the door. A sign requested that people spend no more than 10 minutes browsing, so at least I was able to oblige. I then decided to partake of a filled baguette, of which there were a dozen different kinds in the window at the Queen St. Deli. No prices but hang, it would have to be cheaper than a cafe I thought. So I ordered one to eat on a seat in the street and asked for it to be cut in half as they were rather large. No, she said, we don’t sell them cut in half. But I want to buy a whole one says I, just cut across, but no dice. I left then, only to see her taking it out of the bag and putting it it back in the window, so much for customer service. So lunch in Woollahra didn’t happen and eventually I walked back to the car and read my superbly interesting book until John rang to say he was done. A tiny peek into the way the other half lives.

May 11, 2022

The carer Greg came and took John to Geranium Cottage for morning tea then they had a walk before heading home via the corner bakery where John picked up pies for them both for lunch. I meanwhile went out to the Salvo’s at Dural for the first time and I will certainly be using them in the future. There are two separate doors for the shop and the intake of goods with a pair of enthusiastic older men in charge of accepting donations. Everything the Vinnies turned their noses up at the Salvo’s grabbed enthusiastically. No problems with electricals, no ‘health and safety issues’, just yes please. Then off to the pre-poll voting at Norwest where I met up with Matt Cox, the Greens candidate, and loaded up with more leaflets to letterbox. Tomorrow I go back for some more handing out and seeing the number of voters trooping through I am pleasantly surprised that so many have made up their minds already, despite seeing a lot taking the Liberal how to vote exclusively. I am getting just a tiny bit excited that we may be close to tossing Morrison and Co. out.

On a human level I am sympathetic about the two career criminals, one the sergeant-at-arms of the Comancheros bikie gang, gunned down last night at the gym (gyms seem to be a venue for this sort of thing, another reason not to darken their doors). However I must admit that this retribution is getting so frequent and the crimes they’ve been involved in so egregious, that I shrug and think ‘well that’s two less Hamzy and Alameddine baddies on the street. I wonder how many more to go’. Not approving of capital punishment here, but gosh they are pushing their luck. Yet their families seem staunch in their support, which says a lot about the values they’ve come from.

I am getting that way that if I see Kathy Lette or Lisa Curry in an article or on a TV programme I immediately shy away from it. They are both so ‘look at MEEE!’ that I don’t care if I never see either again.

May 12, 2022

All excited about my first day to myself while John was out on a day bus trip with Orange Blossom Cottage. First off I finally went to David Jones and bought some new bras, whooppee! All but one of my old ones went to the charity shop this week. Then I was heading to Norwest to do the rest of the day handing out how-to-votes as arranged, when I got a call from Vanessa at OBC to say that John was refusing to get on the bus. I had missed three calls from him while in DJs but then picked up another desperate one asking me to pick him up immediately. I drove straight over there and Vanessa had stayed back with him when the bus left. He told me he didn’t want to stay because 1. It was an institution and he’d spent too long in institutions, such as boarding schools and the seminary and 2. The stainless steel kitchen reminded him of the seminary and 3. He wanted to be with me and not with people he doesn’t know. I was on the verge of tears of disappointment, but then I saw that he had tears in his eyes when I arrived and I melted with sympathy for him, thinking of the confusion and bewilderment that he must have been feeling to refuse point blank to stay. He is welcome to go back, Kristy has put in so much work to get him in there in the first place and the staff are keen to have him, but whether he will go again remains to be seen. I’ve suggested that I go with him next week and join in the games and whatever, but I’ll need to run that by the management and he may not agree anyway. That posed a real problem as far as the Greens were concerned as I had no phone number to let them know I wasn’t coming to help, so I drove over there and explained in person, which was difficult as John was right by my side so I had to be a bit vague. I am really surprised with what happened as we had been last week to an introductory morning tea and he was fine, but as Vanessa said ‘you were with him then’.

May 13, 2022

I was already so deflated by the events of yesterday that I was able to handle a nasty incident on the way home without getting upset about it. I pulled up at the shops and parked well between the parallel lines but at a slight angle. When I came back with the trolley load I waited at the boot while the car to my left reversed out. As she drew close and level with me she said ‘you old people shouldn’t be on the road if you can’t park’. I was taken aback but didn’t respond, then she hurled something else I didn’t fully catch, but it included my being old and fat (both of which I happily put my hand up for) so I just turned and quietly said ‘and why don’t you just get fucked’ which really stirred her up, and she was still yelling as she drove away. It felt strangely satisfying I must say. Somehow it was a neat coda to a generally unsatisfactory day, however I was neither outraged nor even mildly perturbed. John was in the car and missed it entirely.

Today I have been emailing back and forth with the day centre and asked if John could go into the ‘mainstream’ (read ‘normal’Smilie: ;) group who are more chatty and friendly. They replied that “Unfortunately John would not be a suitable candidate for our mainstream programs. His memory is not at a level that could manage the activities, discussions and skills required by those who attend” so we’ve settled on a plan that I will drive him next week and stay with him while he has morning tea and starts the activities, then hopefully I can go and they will drop him home on the bus at three. Perhaps it will work, but if he digs in and won’t stay there’s nothing I can do about it and they will cancel his place.

The Herald today ran a half page article on the front page sympathetic to the ghastly Deves, aspiring member for Warringah. They have been pretty critical of her anti-trans stance up till now so I don’t know what went on behind the scenes for them to give her such a boost. However the prize for the most appalling visuals this week go to Morrison’s beefy minders who clearly manhandled Trevor Sofield, a previous Australian diplomat to the Solomon Islands, when he tried to speak politely to the illustrious PM. In such a close seat as Lyons that might be enough to get the opposition a few more votes.

May 14, 2022

We had a lovely morning tea and chat with Carol and Jack before coming home to cull the broadleaf weeds out of the grass verge. I didn’t rope John in, but he likes to be doing whatever I’m doing whether it’s weeding or doing dinner prep. But we discovered that however we sat, knelt or bent it was just too awkward/painful to keep it up for long. Perhaps we got a quarter of it done, maybe less. I am trying to avoid spraying so will have to attack it again another day.

Our friend from Canberra rang and of course we discussed politics and the election. A former diplomat to Russia and China and I think also Japan, he laughed about the commotion because a Chinese ship is cruising along the WA coast past a ‘secret’ military base (if it were secret before it certainly isn’t now). He pointed out that when he was a diplomat Australia had a listening post in Hong Kong, not 45 km from China but 4 km! The government must have been desperately wanting a refugee boat to come over the horizon during the election campaign but sadly for them it hasn’t happened so far and a Chinese cruiser in international waters will just have to do. Perhaps they should have organised it better with the Sri Lankan president, who would have been happy to oblige.

Reading a book about WWII I was shocked to learn that black US soldiers “mainly tasked with organising camp sanitation and building ammunition dumps” were segregated in Britain in WWII, with certain pubs, dances and restaurants being off-limits to them, their military police enforcing the restrictions to the amazement of the locals. They tried to segregate the cinemas as well but failed. It mirrors the treatment of Australian Aboriginal troops who were only equal as long as the war lasted.

There are a lot of people who promote an eyeroll whenever their names are mentioned: Mel Gibson, Barry Humphries, Alan Jones, Greg Norman among them. Good Old Greg has excelled himself this week promoting Saudi as a destination (for his golf tournament of course). He commented that “we’ve all made mistakes” as he attempted to rebuff questions over Saudi human rights abuses and the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Perhaps a Saudi theme park is a possibility Greg, with a horror ride through the Turkish Embassy? Perhaps a bone-saw throw as a sideshow stall? The possible variations are endless. I’ll book a ticket to Riyadh now and beat the rush.

May 15, 2022

Dav and family came for afternoon tea and we drew up a sweep for 29 of the electorates most likely to change hands. Whoever gets the most right wins $100 worth of grog or chocolates, the latter added to be fair to John. Millie only had one vote: Morrison or Albo and went for Albo. She is a funny kid, Dav told us about last week when she took Millie for a flu shot. All the other kids were accepting it reluctantly but Millie took three goes in the chair, negotiating with a doctor and nurse: ‘Guys, guys, guys, I will get it but I’m not ready right now. Just wait guys’. Where she got the guys from is a mystery, but not from home.

Thinking about the election (when are we not?) I am afraid that it could be a poisoned chalice for Labor. With massive debt, galloping climate change, massive problems in aged care thanks to privatisation, stupid commitments to lower taxes, rising interest rates, prices bounding upwards, fuel on the rise, not to mention international tensions, Albo and his team would have their work cut out to keep a majority of voters happy. I am really hoping that Dutton is defeated so we keep the worst of the Liberal leadership hopefuls out of contention.

I’ve just finished reading the memoirs of my pal Michelle C. and as usual she astounds me with her memory, her breadth of interests and her eternal optimism. Who remembers the names of their childhood neighbours and of all of their children? Who is a Brownies leader, a yoga teacher, works night shift in a nursing home, runs a small business, then goes to university at an older age after leaving school at 16 and becomes a published author? Well, you guessed it and that’s only scratching the surface, all this while bringing up six children. Hats off to you Michelle.

I have had no luck ringing my brother lately, I get a recorded message saying that ‘either there is congestion in the overseas network or else the number is engaged’. I’m thinking that the old coot has left the phone off the hook but how to let him know? I will be in all sorts of bother as he’ll say I hadn’t rung him.

May 16, 2022

The staff at Orange Blossom Cottage have been in touch again about plans for Thursday. No bus pick-up or return for John, I stay till after morning tea and pick him up at 2.30 before the others leave on the bus. I hope it works as I really don’t want them cancelling the approval for the federal funding that we may not be able to get back later on if it’s needed. With such things it’s always better to stay under the radar.

We’ve been weeding the verge again, it sounds so simple yet it is so hard to do. Getting up from my knees is a task in itself, due to tendonitis. I don’t know how I would have got up without John’s help. John: I love it when we do things like this as little mates together. 

Shocking news that the mayor of the Hawkesbury was stabbed in the arm last night during a home invasion, then the five men escaped in his car. With a wife and four kids in the house I guess it could have been much worse. It will be interesting to see, if they catch them, whether they are Windsor’s bad guys or imported ones from another area. Bligh Park isn’t a suburb most people would even be aware of so I’m thinking locals, but the boys in blue are saying it might be a case of mistaken identity, which could happen to any of us.

Currently waiting for the cleaner to come which will give me two free hours to help with handing out how-to-votes I’m thinking. Sneaky, but I have to grab time as I can find it and John should be fine here with her. It’s a selfish decision as I just don’t want the guilt trip that would ensue if a candidate were to miss out by one vote. Unlikely I know but I couldn’t bear it.

May 17, 2022

The blog website is down again so yesterday and today I am doing it as emails to myself. I’ve sent an email to my blog technical helper in Canberra and we’ll see what he says. All this technical stuff is such a bore, as are many things if you can’t understand them.

Boris came over this morning for tea and cake and talked about the history of Ukraine and of the conflict over time. He has a special interest as it’s the city of his birth and he has relatives on both sides of the conflict. He began with the Mongols in the 1300s. Particularly fascinating were his stories of the Scandinavian slave trade in the 1500s when Swedish children (blond-haired and blue-eyed) were sold in Constantinople as novelties. I choose not to think about the purpose they were sold for, but you don’t need blond children for heavy work. He mentioned the fact that after WWI the Germans set up a puppet government in Kiev but the Communists took it over in about 1920. (Interestingly the change of spelling and pronunciation of that city is part of the Ukrainian government’s differentiation between them and the Russians, Ukrainian being simply a dialect of Russian. So no, I don’t need to change the spelling of my Chicken Kiev recipes as it may well change back). The predominant Ukrainian religion is an amalgam of Catholicism and Orthodox with aspects of both. Apparently the reason that the USSR had some of its states as separate countries was to maximise the number votes at the UN, which makes sense but was totally news to me. The Nationalist Ukrainians supported Germany in WWII and acted as the police force for Nazi Germany as they had the language to deal with the population, but many still have considerable support for Nazi philosophy today. Boris says he’s sending me some more interesting articles on the subject. I could listen to Boris all day on any subject, he’s always a fount of knowledge with a memory I’m envious of.

Jane sent some photos of Leo’s wedding this morning and it looked a great celebration, held at The Mint. In one photo there were eight people in a row and I enlarged it on the computer for John to see. He said he didn’t know any of them so I enlarged the faces one at a time but he still couldn’t recognise them. I then named them from left to right, two of them were his daughters. His response was ‘you’re having me on’ when I pointed them out. He said he wouldn’t recognise them if they passed in the street and he subsequently had no luck trying to work out who the rest of the party were. I was shocked as I had no idea that he’d lost that ability. His losses are so random that it’s hard to keep up. But seeing the photos made him very sad and I don’t know if it’s wise to keep showing him family stuff in future, hard call.

May 18, 2022

Last night was the second episode of The Family Court Murders. It took me back to the 1980s when we were incredulous about the crimes as they occurred one by one. Then a couple of years back I was attending the judge only trial of Leonard Warwick, until Covid intervened, so I didn’t get to finally see the murderer brought to justice in a videolink from court. It is the only time in going to many trials that I have felt I was in the presence of a psychopath. Sometimes I felt an accused was clever, or completely amoral or perhaps cruel, but he was a stunning example of all three, a man of such narcissism that he didn’t believe he could ever be convicted. He believed for over 30 years that he could outsmart the entire NSW Police Force, and for all that time he did, despite the fact that many police were convinced that he was the culprit. He defended himself in court very capably without assistance from a lawyer on the days I was there, supremely confident in his own legal abilities, which were pretty impressive for someone who was a fireman. The only downside to the programme is the insistence of Debi Marshall in having her head in every second shot, but she did write the book and conduct the interviews so I guess that’s fair. I can’t wait to see the rest of the series as he changes weapon, type of explosive, method, in a pattern very unusual for a serial killer. It is chilling that he almost committed a perfect series of murders.

May 19, 2022

In a story about children in the US with white mothers and absent Saudi fathers one of the men, in his 40s now, related almost word for word the fantasy that I lived with as a child. “[I was] daydreaming that, maybe some day, I’ll walk outside and there’ll be this long, black stretched car pulling up in front of my house with diplomatic flags lining the vehicle. And then he would get out wearing, you know, his thobe and shemagh and kneel down and greet me.” In my version it would be a British diplomat or minor Royal who would apologise for the mistake and take me home. But perhaps delusions of grandeur play a part, as in both cases it’s a big black car and those driving it are prestigious officials. As my brother slowly fades from his irrepressible, rambunctious self into a man more typical of his age, I think that perhaps the vision of that big black car grows again in my imagination.

Thursdays are becoming more than interesting. I delivered John to Orange Blossom Cottage this morning with a view to easing his transition into the group, but unfortunately the other new man who started today proved to be a difficult choice to introduce him to. Firstly I noticed that the man, let’s call him ‘Roger’, couldn’t sign the roll when it came around, but was encouraged to just initial it instead. His name tag said ‘Roger (James)’ which we were told were his first and middle names, but when John tried to engage all he got was the poor fellow picking up his name tag and rereading his names. (John leans in and whispers to me ‘I think there’s something very wrong with this chap’Smilie: ;). I later found that his dementia has resulted in aphasia.

So we try ‘Betty’. ‘Hi Betty’ I say, ‘this is John’s first day. We live in Baulkham Hills, where do you live?’ Betty: ‘It’s near here somewhere, but I can’t remember the name of it’. Moving on we meet ‘Paul’ who seems perfectly okay and chatty, telling us about his life at sea, and telling us and telling us and….. (John leans in to say that Paul is self-obsessed). I leave at this point, by now it’s 11 am and my departure involves taking his phone as instructed by the staff. I can’t see at this point that I will be bringing him here next week on the strength of associations made so far, in fact I’d want to get the hell out of there too.

So I tootled off to the dressmaker and picked up the jeans I’d left there last week, too baggy and with cuffs, to be narrowed and cuffs removed. ‘You do realise you can buy new ones in Target for $35?’ she queries. She doesn’t understand that I can’t even throw out 20 year old ill-fitting jeans, silly moo. I leave her with a skirt that also needs repair and go off to the Salvo’s with a donation but come out with an $8 pair of shoes and a $4 pair of brand new socks. Moving on to the Vinnies, I come home with a brand new jumper for $30. Lunch isn’t in some fancy restaurant on my first full day on the loose, I just come home for a bread roll and a cuppa before picking John up at 2.30 as arranged. The lovely Vanessa meets me in the hall and I can hear John in the meeting room reciting ‘The Man From Snowy River’ to the group. ‘He’s reciting Clancy of the Overflow’, says Vanessa.

She tells me he has been very, very cranky most of the day (totally out of character I assure her) standing by the wall with arms folded, demanding to go home, demanding his phone, demanding to speak to the management, demanding to see ‘that woman from administration’ (Vanessa, who’s actually a diversional therapist). At one point someone had to take him outside for a walk to calm him down, he then wanted to walk home alone but Vanessa told him that he was there till 2.30 come hell or high water.

Eventually she got him to participate in a game after he’d previously refused point blank and then late in the day, once he decided to do the poem, he was fine. I watched him start to tell the story of the bike accident to his captive audience but suddenly most of them got up to leave as the bus had arrived ‘I’ll finish it next week’ he called as they departed po-faced. Vanessa commented: ‘That’s his go-to story’, she’s nothing if not perceptive. She told me that he will forget the awful day and only remember the end of it and so it transpired. The other advice was to ‘tell blatant lies if you have to’, just get him here each week and trust us to do the rest.

May 20, 2022

Seeing I was not needed by the Greens today I took on a Sherlock Partridge assignment on behalf of my friend Sue. Her sadly now deceased husband was defrauded out of $5000 for a painting he commissioned which was never delivered, and probably never even painted. Sue had three possible addresses for the accused and sought my help to discover at which premise, if any, she resides. The first two were fizzers, but the third proved worthwhile. It  is a large, absolute waterfront luxury block of 36 units built in 1908, the closest building along the water from the Sydney Harbour Bridge so we can safely rule out poverty as a mitigating factor. It is architecturally very interesting, featuring wrought iron interior security doors through which can be seen luxury light fittings and further wrought iron embellishments. The property has c/c tv in the foyer which activates when any buzzer is pressed. On pressing the buzzer for Unit 36, a friendly male person answered. I informed him that I had business with Ms. B. and he happily informed me that she was at Unit 1. On pressing the buzzer for Unit 1 a male person answered and I repeated my request. He immediately said: “I’ve opened the wrought iron doors, come down the stairs”. Somewhat nonplussed, I decided to ask if Ms. B. was currently in and then a woman came on the line asking “Who are you?”.  I said my name was Maureen and I wanted to discuss her art and she immediately hung up. I think in all the circumstances it is reasonable to assume that she does live there and that I have spoken to her today. Mission accomplished and over to Sue.

Vanessa was on the money when she said John would only take home good memories from yesterday. John’s version of yesterday is “My nurse Lucy took me out for a walk on my own, I’m not quite sure why, but it was lovely. I got her home address so I can send her one of my cards. I think I’ll be fine going there now I’ve made a friend of Lucy.” So we posted her card on the way to the city this morning. Lucy is a temporary agency worker, (not a nurse though, I’m not sure where John got that idea) who will only be there for one more week, but I am not going to discuss that detail. Vanessa said that I’ve got to start telling white lies and importantly, know what not to talk about.

I think election campaigns are such a bag of tricks to run, but Martha’s experience in Berowra and mine in Mitchell have been quite different. I struggled to get enough leaflets to letterbox, Martha had boxes of them delivered to her. Then we had to guess where to letterbox, Martha got a detailed map showing which streets and which sides of streets to do. I was so sure that I’d have to pick John up yesterday that I didn’t put myself down to work at pre-polling, but they are right for staff today.

May 21, 2022

Getting some pre-election household chores finished: putting an electric blanket on John’s bed, pulling out all of the blankets to send any with no holes or marks to Helen for the refugees (which means all of those left for us have at least one moth hole or mark, but who cares), putting a new battery in the kitchen clock, doing two loads of washing. It’s a good question as to what this has to do with the election, the answer is not clear, except that there could be positive change afoot and the house needs to be ship-shape and ready for for it, or at least a little more so than it was. Both of my girls commented on the long length of the queues to vote, whatever that means. Davina discovered that her neighbour, a university maths tutor, is on the ballot paper for the Socialist Alliance. Kev and Michelle called in for a cuppa on the way to vote. That’s about all the voting news I can pull together.

Foreign Correspondent had the story of the US man I have mentioned whose father was a Saudi. I hadn’t realised that the article I read was based on a television programme. The difference in the man before and after his trip to Saudi to look for his father was immense. Even though he didn’t get to meet him, he met a cousin who accepted him and that made all the difference. His face was peaceful and he seemed released from the weight of his obsession. Seeing him dressed in his Middle Eastern togs made me smile.

May 22, 2022

We did it! The bulldozer has gone to the wrecking yard, long may it rot there. Last night didn’t look too good early on, but it improved as it went along. I thought that the ABC was strangely flat about the change of government, commenting on the effects of the loss of Josh to the Liberal party but not making much of a deal about the fact that they had a minister in the new government sitting right there on the panel and rarely speaking to her. My kids inform me that the discussion was somewhat more perky on the commercial channels but I can’t handle the ads, so I can’t comment. Up till now there is no decision on the sweep, too many seats are still in play. Davina and I are neck and neck so far, but Carly was the only one to pick Dai Le in Fowler and I was the only one who picked the Greens in Brisbane. Both of my kids think that Labor got its just desserts in Fowler for putting in a candidate from out of area, but I think the punishment exceeds the crime here. Dai Le is a turncoat Liberal standing as an Independent and has form in looking after number one as a first priority, but them’s the breaks. All in all it was a wonderful night, but strangely downplayed in the commentary, so it wasn’t the same atmosphere as Kevin 07 for example.

But for the next three years the sun will be shining here, whatever the weather, now that we have Morrison off our backs. However the reaction to the community’s rejection of the Right philosophy could very well end up being an Opposition even further to the right with Dutton as Liberal leader, but that remains to be seen.  I was surprised that Albanese didn’t mention the Biloela four in his victory speech but I guess he couldn’t fit in everything. I’m guessing they will be released from their long travails at the hands of the Australian government early this week. I am strangely weary after yesterday even though it was just one late night, it was emotionally exhausting.

May 23, 2022

The day is looking good, just waking up without Morrison in my life makes all the difference. I skimmed the book group selection, Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days, before passing it on and even though I’ve read every story before I still teared up at a few of them. We had morning tea with Carol and Jack and delivered the book and on the way home we pulled up for petrol. John’s car needed oil but he was convinced that it is a sealed system to which we can’t oil, so I drove home where I knew I had oil in the garage. Arvind saw the two of us under the bonnet of the car and came out, he was able to tell John that I was doing the right thing by adding it. The thought of my becoming the car expert of the household is mildly terrifying.

My bro definitely seems to be going backwards. I email him but get no replies, he has apparently given up the computer, as has John. But even when we talk on the phone the conversations are pretty basic now: weather, health, if he’s had any visitors. It used to be international affairs, politics, books. I feel as if I’ve lost half of him, the best half.

ICAC seems to be taking an awful long time to come down with a finding on Our Glad. Two possibilities perhaps: that they didn’t want their determination coming out before the election and bringing down more abuse from Morrison, or else other issues have come to light and are being investigated, but of course other possibilities exist. It is often hard to work out how such things can possibly take so long, some of the cases I went to years ago are still not finalised, but when you see the amount of detail in the findings it becomes apparent.

May 24, 2022

I decided we needed a trip out so we went down to Balmain and took a walk from one end of the Darling Street shopping precinct to the other. We planned to also do a walk down near the harbour end but it rained cats and dogs so we retreated to an outdoor but undercover table at C’Est Bon for tea and cake after jumping over a metre of water in the gutter. I didn’t buy anything apart from a couple of loaves of delicious looking bread, one white and one olive sourdough, from an organic bakery, Bonfire Bread. Walking past many dress shops I wasn’t at all tempted till I saw Johnston & Bell, where I wanted everything. The most gorgeous jackets were $149 but jackets are not thin on the ground at my place, so I resisted. A dress covered in a pattern of vines and various birds was delicious, but a bit thin for winter. However if I ever need a new dress or jacket I’ll know where to go. At a small art gallery I saw a wonderful large painting of a yacht in rough sea, if I’d had a spot I would have been tempted, it even had paint thrown at the canvas to represent splashing water, which it absolutely did. Loved it, but someone else can buy it. John had a great time today so we need to do more of it.

While we were there John’s phone rang and it was an unlisted number so I answered it. It was someone from IAG regarding the accident John had in his old Suzuki 18 months ago. His car was written off and he bought his current one as a result. Apparently the other driver is taking legal action against John, even though the NRMA paid the fellow’s claim within a couple of weeks. Stephan didn’t know why they would be doing this after the claim was settled, he’s hoping that it’s a mistake, but it seems very odd. However he said John shouldn’t worry about it, the NRMA will handle it.

Governor-General David Hurley is, like Leigh Sales, someone who’s opinion is written clearly on his face. I’ve noticed before when he’s not happy and saw it again as he did the swearing in of the new PM and ministers. Clearly he’s a Lib, not surprising considering his military background, but he should probably practice the false smile for such occasions. Trying to find out how many votes the Liberals got on their own in the election but haven’t been able to turn up the figure yet. When we make comparisons it should definitely be with Labor versus Liberal, not Labor versus the Coalition.

May 25, 2022

Two days in and Albo is already falling into bad habits. When a country with whom yours has had strained relations sends a positive message to your new government, why would you respond publicly with implied criticism? The only communication with China in this situation should be via diplomatic and inter-government links, not via loudspeaker. I would have thought that was a pretty basic principle for an incoming government.

I have been thinking about how much personal relationships count in politics and wondering to what extent the contretemps between Simon Holmes a Court and Josh Frydenberg contributed to the whole Teals movement. I’ve not seen any commentators discussing this, but there is surely a link between the beginning of Climate 200 and Holmes a Court being tossed out of Frydenberg’s fundraising group Kooyong 200 for pushing for more climate policies. Simon certainly took his bat and went home, but came back with a much bigger bat and hit Josh about the head and body with it.

Watching The Family Court Murders last night was just as riveting as previous weeks, in fact I find I’m holding my breath more than is healthy while watching it, even though I know the facts of the case well. I’ve even forgiven Debi for having her head in every shot, she has certainly crafted a compelling series. The disappearance of Leonard Warwick’s younger sister adds to the story, as does the coincidence of another convicted murderer having grown up just a few doors along the street. Guildford was a pretty rough place to live, but Helensburgh sounds like the sort of place I am really glad not to have grown up in. Warwick and I were born just a few months apart.

May 26, 2022

I was a bit concerned how today would go but as soon as Lucy opened the door at Orange Blossom Cottage John was in and didn’t look back, so I left him to it. I spoke to Vanessa about noon and he was eating lunch and chatting so I was happy to go off to Carol’s for book group. Just four of us, one of the smallest meetings ever, but the lack of bums on seats was more than made up for by the warmth and enthusiasm of the attendees. I had left John a big notice about where I was and what to do and he said that without that he would have been confused about what was going on. I can’t assume he will remember anything. So a very successful day all round.

What is there to say about mass shootings in America? Who knows how many crazies there are per head of population in respective countries, but our crazies just don’t have the means to do what is done in the US. I can’t help thinking though that there are societal differences as well in which homelessness, lack of free medical care, immigration problems, racial bias and drug addiction make for a fractured culture with more unhappy folks in the mix. As usual the culprit is described as a loner