Life Notes 8

July 3, 2021

I enjoyed reading the reminiscences of Meredith Burgmann in the Herald today, 50 years since the famous Sydney 1971 protests against the all white South African Springboks team. I don’t remember her from the time but she apparently got tickets to the members stand so it was easier to escape police scrutiny, just needing to jump over the civilised picket fence to get onto the ground. Most of us were in the general admission seats or sitting on the hill and had a bevy of police in front of us. There was no way we would have got into the ground with signs, so a separate group demonstrated outside. We spread out inside so when they were arresting one, the others were free to blow their whistles continuously until that person was arrested and taken away and then we went quiet again once the police were back concentrating on the crowd. I was surprised that no-one around me pointed me out to the police, but they didn’t so I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t fall foul of the bobbies. My friends Beryl B. and the Spaniard Joe P. (for whom I silently carried a torch, but he was much older) cut down the goalposts during the night before one of the games, but I was too much of a scaredy-cat to be part of that. I only found out that morning when it was all over the news and by then they had long decamped and were never caught. I was also part of Campaign Against Moral Persecution (Camp Inc.) at Glebe who were fighting for gay rights, so after the demos I went there to fold leaflets and write letters. Our days felt worthwhile back then, the apartheid action being successful and well publicised internationally. Although we hoped, none of us really expected to see gay marriage in our lifetimes and sadly one of the founders of Camp Inc., Peter Bonsall-Boone known as Bon, died in 2017 just before it became legal to marry his partner whom he had right from the 70s.

Dav and Louis dropped Millie to us and we went to the park for part of the time that they were away getting their vaccinations, something they reported as being done with military precision. It is difficult to answer some of her many questions like: Grandma why are you 73? and Why don’t I have a pink dressing gown at your house? She made a 3 year old friend at the park and though Arvica didn’t communicate verbally they had some sort of thing going. As we left Millie said ‘I’m going now Arvica so is it okay if I give you a hug?’ to which Arvica nodded and the hug was given. Later at home I gave her a plush cat in a carry cage equipped with a stethoscope, syringe, food bowl etc. and we played vets. But I was scolded when I referred to the new cat as Charlotte, the name Millie had just given her. ‘Grandma, if you were a vet and someone brought in their cat  for the first time, how would you know its name without being told?’. Point taken.

July 4, 2021

I woke up in the mood to attack boxes and John is always keen to help, bless him. So we spent quite a few hours sorting stuff and now my boot is full of things for gifting to my old restorer (crystal cupboard handles, brass bits and bobs, tools), the Sallies (lots of empty ring-back folders after I tossed old shop records, a box of old picture frames, some old linen), the sewing group (a big box of different colours of satin and velvet that I used on shelves for display) and the auctions (an antique cast iron money box, some toy train carriages, a lamp base). Also filled the garbage bin and recycle bin with decaying bubble wrap and paper respectively. Three old bottles of beer from a past Christmas went to Justin next door, he is always willing to try my out-of-date beer, which I only buy at Christmas and no-one ever seems to drink. I am enthused now to try a few things on eBay as I listed the vintage wrapping paper-roll dispenser from my shop counter which the auctions wouldn’t take and I’ve have actually had a question about it. Glory be, perhaps someone will give me a few dollars after all, though the main object is getting rid of stuff.

John has been asked to write a reference for his neighbour after child welfare and the police turned up at the door to see her. Someone had reported that the child is out and about alone at night (never) and left alone at home during the day (never). It can only be a malicious report but it is still scary for them both. She does tend to rub people up the wrong way but is absolutely cautious and watchful with her daughter, not even letting her walk to and from school alone, so I suspect it has come about as a reprisal for something or other unrelated to the child. A pretty dirty trick if so, and the fact that neither the welfare officer nor the police knew the child’s name would indicate that the report came from a virtual stranger.

July 5, 2021

So diligent today that I deserve a halo. First listing a couple of vintage 1950s aluminium kitchen pieces on eBay and offering some of my many dozens of plate holders to a bunch of friends gratis. However none of them seem to be collectors so I am not hopeful. I guess I paid in excess of $1000 for them all new but I’ll be lucky to get $20 for the lot at auction. Yesterday I unearthed boxes of tarnished silver cutlery and today I began its cleaning. Some of the better bits can go on eBay as a job lot and the rest will go to the Sallies I guess. Doing my own at the same time. Made soup for lunch and then on to write three book reviews, ranging from 1 to 5 stars, and answering many overdue emails. So lockdown isn’t a bad thing for me, it gets me doing the jobs I’ve been putting off. We could very well go into a longer lockdown for two reasons, firstly Gladys’s decision to wait too long before calling it and secondly because so many of us are idiots. Footballers having parties (is there a brain between the lot of them?), unvaccinated staff in nursing homes (how?), non-essential shops being allowed to open (why exactly is Red Dollar in Baulko open?). Surely people can cope for two weeks without plastic flowers, plant pots and greeting cards? No, apparently not, poor darlings. Brad and Gladys are always saying how pleased they are with people’s response to the lockdown but do very little about all those who ignore it altogether. Give me a badge Glad, I’ll do it without pay.

The only downside of lockdown is that instead of having four crackers and some cheese for lunch each day I cook for John and end up eating it myself. So I put on weight during lockdown and it takes me ages to get rid of it. Interesting what we crave when it isn’t available, but I have been thinking of the food at Middle Eastern restaurant Lillah in Lane Cove and I muse that when the lockdown’s over we will need to pay them a visit. It doesn’t help that they email me pictures of the cauliflower falafel, the roasted carrots with chili and hazelnuts and the beetroot basteeya with goat cheese.  We can’t even drive there for take-away, not that we ever do take-away, but perhaps I’d make an exception in this case.

July 6, 2021

John has had a two hour Zoom meeting this morning and I discovered just how many things I do in the house make noise, no unpacking the dishwasher or making a cake or playing music so  instead I quietly sorted stuff for the Sallies and ironed them. Of course it is a laptop so it can be used anywhere but for John, for both of us really so I can’t blame him, the desk in the dining room is where the computer lives and is used. I was so glad it wasn’t me on that meeting, I run out of patience with Zoom way before the two hour mark.

Haven’t had any feedback from the last cancer marker blood tests so apparently they were AOK. It’s funny that I was waiting to hear something after the first one, but I’d almost forgotten about the last until I had to ring Prof. Reeves office to move my next appointment, as it happens to be on the August book group day. I guess over time they will just become something I do, without even considering the possibility that I’ll hear back about them. Had a phone call from Terry while John was on Zoom, he’s doing it tough on a trial chemotherapy and when he went to the routine oncologist’s appointment this morning, she took one look at him and booked him straight into hospital, with the comment that maybe chemo is ‘not for him’. He is fearful, understandably, and I stressed that my phone works 24/7.

I have been trawling the Miami Herald for the latest links on the apartment collapse there. For some reason I can’t let these things go until I am happy that I understand the process that caused it. So I go off on tangents like reading their equivalent of strata minutes and reports, engineer’s reports, expert opinion. Was it the gradual sinking of the reclaimed soil, the incorrect slope on the concrete under the pool affecting the run-off, the proximity to the ocean with an underground water table, the corroded rebar or a mixture of all of these? (Rebar, now there’s a new word, we’d call it reo). I was similarly engaged with the Opal Tower construction issues but when it all became reasonably clear I seldom thought of it again. No doubt this will happen with Miami too, but there’s a lot more to read before I get to that stage I think. I have no idea why I need ‘to get to the bottom of things’, but I just accept that I do. It’s the same with airline crashes, I used to be addicted to a website that analysed them, particularly those where there was pilot error. Remembering one where the pilot and co-pilot got into a fist fight in the cockpit, all recorded, during which the plane proceeded to crash. I am not particularly technical, it’s the human errors in these things that are so fascinating, so the argy-bargy about whether to get the concrete cancer fixed or not in the Miami case is so interesting. Of course some of the owners are retirees, others are wealthy, so these decisions are bound to be seen through different lenses.

July 7, 2021

Gladys you bloody annoying woman, if you had listened to me abusing you through the telly we wouldn’t now be going into the third week of lockdown. Didn’t you concentrate on what happened in Melbourne? no it’s a Labor state so I guess not. Kenneth phoned me last night bemoaning the fact that Boris Johnson is removing every restriction while the Covid infections are on a steep rise due to the Delta strain. They will learn, unfortunately. My Yorkshire friend Anne who had a spontaneous broken arm a few weeks ago and has been found to have an affected bone in her leg as well, got a phone call from the hospital last Saturday to say that they had had a cancellation in surgery and could ‘fix your leg if you can come in today’. She doesn’t drive and lives in a small village, but they sent a car for her as soon as she accepted. Now she’s had a rod inserted into her femur to prevent a break there. You hear a lot of things about the National Health System but all of my rellies and friends have had exceptional care. It’s those who have to wait who complain and they are those whose problems are less serious, but when you really need them they are there. What Sydney or regional hospital sends a car to you pick up for an appointment? They did the same for her vaccination and for Kenneth’s too, sending a mini-bus to collect all the olds and deliver them home afterwards.

I have been doing yesterday and today what I swore I wouldn’t, listing eBays. Although I got two takers for a freebie quantity of plate stands (one of them an old staff-member and the other a gallery) I fear that giving away the sort of stuff I have is a slow process so let’s see what eBay brings about. Today I listed lots of the silver cutlery I polished yesterday, much of it Victorian. It is sooo beautiful but people don’t want to be polishing silver these days, though lockdowns are perfect for it. At least it keeps me off the internet investigating a building collapse in another land. I limit myself to less than half an hour a day doing that so it doesn’t threaten to take over my life like the causes of the Grenfell Towers fire would have done, if I had let it. Reading the Inquiry transcripts from that was time-consuming but ultimately worth it. Yes, half an hour a day is more than enough to waste on such things, but at least I’m not doing other pointless stuff like sitting in a pub or playing sport.

July 8, 2021

Did some more photography for eBay and it looks as if one item might be a sneaky find. The old corroded bottle opener which I was going to add to another lot as a freebie turned out on closer inspection to be a French TYR brand from 1927 and therefore very collectable. I’ve listed it with a starting price of $100 though on US eBay there were two, at $237 and $645 respectively. Sometimes it’s the stuff you write off which brings the best money, we shall see. Also it was always the case that the things men collect bring higher prices than the pretty stuff that the women tend to go for, in antiques anyway, probably different in fashion for example. A pair of dull wooden horse form bookends turned out to be mahogany, once a bit of polish was applied they became absolutely beautiful, so some horsey people might bid on those.

We made a brief sojourn to the shops for fruit and veggies and I resisted the temptation to go to Harris Farm at Penno. Even though that was my preference it is really outside the spirit of what we are being asked to do, to go out as rarely and briefly as possible, sticking close to home. Then I discovered that there were shoe shops and clothes shops and stationers and phone shops open. So what is locked down exactly? Hairdressers and nail salons as far as I could see. I went to the centre management office to complain but it was shut! We’ll be lucky to get out of this by Christmas if Gladys doesn’t tighten up the rules.

Had communications with Michelle and Martha and a good long chat to Steve on speaker,  which always brightens us up. Trying to focus on all the good jobs I’m getting done instead of all the people I’m missing seeing. On the day before the first lockdown I got 28 library books out, this time I only have the 7 or so that were already on loan, but I am down to the last 2 so it might soon be time to peruse the shelves in the garage with the stock for the street library….

July 9, 2021

This is fast becoming a ‘howling down Gladys’ column, but how can it not be? To stand and say that three people caught Covid at Tempe IKEA last weekend, during the supposed lockdown, is a joke. What is essential about the goods in IKEA? Why was the fecking place even open? You can’t stop people being idiots, so you just have to close down any venues that may attract them. Simple.

John just sat down with pen and paper to work out whether or not he is actually 80. He came to the conclusion that he is only 79, so if he were right we’d have an excuse for a party next year. I was able to convince him of his mathematical error, but I don’t think he was at all sure. What a strange couple of years we are in, not only with Covid but with his memory as well. I doubt that in our lifetimes we will ever again see the normal world that we were used to. But there are upsides to everything. Being at home I baked a Madeira Cake today now that the beloved Simnel Cake has all been eaten. I think Simnel is my favourite cake of any, but I can’t be eating it endlessly, as the scales attest. Last night I did my fave Lentil Rissoles and John once again mistook them for meat, it’s the umami of the heavy soy sauce I use, but everyone is happy as long as I don’t tell him they are all lentils and almonds.

My daily eBay listings continue, little and often is the go. So far only one question out of 16 items listed, but it’s early days. Today I did bone-handled knives from about 1914, three separate lots of 3 or 4. Some were by Robert F. Mosley of Sheffield, who invented the stainless steel used in the blades. This invention of adding about 11 or 12% chromium to molten iron to produce a metal that did not rust led to making the common stainless steel  for all kinds of applications that we see today. That is one of the things I love about antiques, everything has a story about times that we’ll never see again and people picking things up for $2 at the Sallies get the goods, but not the story. Those knives used to sell like hot cakes in the shop, everyone wanted them for spreading and I keep half a dozen odd ones in the drawer for just that purpose.

July 10, 2021

I started reading Station Eleven, a book recommended to me before the plague hit us but I’ve only just got around to it. It begins with a passenger from Moscow landing in Toronto with the ‘Georgia flu’, a little publicised flu variant which starts killing off her fellow passengers within 24 hours, followed swiftly by the doctors and nurses who care for them.  Timely reading. I guess it helps to think that things could be worse? She wrote this before Covid, so it will be interesting to see how it ends.

Had a lady whom I spoke to as she passed the house with her dog a couple of months ago leave a card in my letter box asking if I wanted to catch up for a cuppa. I’ve replied in the affirmative, once the lockdown ends. Funny how small serendipitous things can start a friendship, but we shall see ultimately if we have any commonality I guess.

I finally got a bid one of my 20 eBays! It is for $5 (less fees) for a job lot of stainless steel cutlery which I can’t give to the Sallies due to the lockdown. Funny that no-one has bid so far on the good Victorian stuff, but hey it’s a sale and ‘little fish are sweet’ as we used to say in the shop. I found some Dutch Gouda pottery pieces that I never use in the chiffonier today so I might put them on too. I have now gone through all but one of my library books so I can’t spend too much time reading, anyway I need to be doing something productive each day.

July 11, 2021

John is becoming very bored, bordering on depressed, asking me if I think his daughters will come to his funeral. He turns off when Covid is mentioned on the news and plays cards. We went out for a walk but 10 minutes later he was looking for a job, so I said let’s make passionfruit slices. I opened the can of condensed milk only to find that both of the passionfruit that I’d been given from someone’s vine were totally off. He went off the cooking idea but will probably help with dinner. I seem to be able to keep myself amused but he’s getting over it all and it just means that he thinks more about what is missing in his life. Tomorrow he’ll be happy as we have to go to St. Vincent’s for me to have an appointment with the surgeon, pity that’s the highlight of his week though.

I decided that rather than order yet more groceries, I will make meals just out of what we have in fridge and freezer and then buy up online when we run out. It is always tempting to buy the makings of something in particular, rather than saying I have x and y so what can I make with them. Even though we are fully vaccinated we are trying to abide by all the rules, especially since I’ve been critical of folks who are ignoring them. If I were Glad I would feel obliged to apologise for all the snarky things I said when other states were in lockdown, but I guess politicians are never of a mind to apologise for anything. It takes a particularly hard personality to go into the game.

Cooking black bean nachos for dinner and opened a new packet of cheese. Using Mersey Valley cheddar cheese (Epicure, my usual brand, was out of stock last time I shopped). Horrified to read the ingredient list which includes 2 preservatives, 3 emulsifiers, 1 colour and ‘CHEESE FLAVOUR’. Can’t even take it back to the shop because of the lockdown, bummer, but I can certainly send them an email to tell them why I won’t be buying their crap ‘cheese’ again. I still had a little bit of the Epicure left so I checked the ingredients: milk, salt, culture and rennet. Always choose a New Zealand product over an Australian one, their food rules are so much tighter.

July 12, 2021

Wow, it so improves the mood in this household when we can go out. The traffic in to the city was a breeze, just truckies and tradies in the main, so people have finally got the message about the lockdown. John was cheery all day, during and after the trip to St. Vincent’s to see Alan the surgeon, where amazingly we were the only ones in the ten seat waiting room. Everyone else had apparently cancelled, but in a call to his office on Friday I was told that he definitely wanted me to come in. On the way in we were both saying things like ’00h remember the lovely meal we had there at Apollo, remember when we bought cakes at that bakery’, but we stuck to the rules and just did what we went there for. Alan was pleased with my progress and said ‘Gosh, I think we might have got lucky with you, we may have just caught it in the nick of time’, which on one level is good and on another it is a bit scary as I’m not totally out of the woods yet. I am still to see him every two months, have a biopsy in October and another PET scan in February after which he thinks ‘we can breathe again’. He is such a delightful man that I will be a bit sad when we cease seeing each other altogether.

I think I have a bean addiction. Lentil rissoles one night, then black bean nachos the next and today for lunch I did falafel and hommus with salad. I can’t really understand the whole push to artificial meat, beans in all their iterations are just so yummy and each kind is subtly different. Lentil soup, chickpea puree, dahl, so many goodly things and so little time. The Indians and the Arabs have really perfected cooking with them, which makes me think of going to Lillah again…..

It seems as if Cap’n Rudd to the Rescue is the order of the day. My daughter really dislikes him, as do most of the public service apparently, because of his chaotic time as PM with people sleeping under their desks to get things done to his schedule. But I still blame Julia Gillard for Tony Abbott’s election, she jumped too soon and caused people to lose faith in a government that was internally problematic, but still very popular with the public. I tend to think that he would have grown into the job, but we’ll never know.

July 13, 2021

I got a reply from Mersey Valley Cheese regarding their ‘cheese-flavoured cheese’. It said: ‘Thanks for taking the time to provide your feedback. Mersey Valley cheeses are a club cheese style, some with delicious flavours added. We add preservatives to help ensure that the boldness of flavour is savoured within the cheese for you to enjoy for longer’. Sorry, not go, this was just plain cheddar, not flavoured, and I don’t want a bar of it.

My garden helper Kirk came at 8 am to mow and I got him to prune the Robinia trees while he was here. They are a bit leggy and I’d prefer them compact rather than spreading. I had to argue with him again over money, he charges me by the visit, and today took almost 3 hours, but he wouldn’t accept any more than is usual for about an hour and a half. What is going on? Do I look down on my uppers that I can’t force money on the mechanic or the gardener? He does a great job and should be adequately paid for it, I have booked him again two weeks hence for a few jobs. Then I spread a barrow full of soil collected from run-off down the sloping driveway onto the ‘grass’ verge, in actual fact the weed verge which has never recovered since they dug it up to plant a gas line.

Slept well last night and I realise that there is a pent up anxiety involved in every visit to the doctors at St. Vincent’s. I go determined not to react to any bad news, to take it in my stride, to simply say ‘thankyou Alan, what do you recommend now?’ and see it as part of life’s rich tapestry, as they say. That determination takes a bit of doing though and it’s really quite exhausting. But I think the practice serves me well for when, sooner or later, I do get bad news, if not about this then about something. I have been to so many appointments with John and seen people (not necessarily women and not necessarily young) literally shivering with fear before or after consultations with his haematologist or in the chemo suite. I decided long ago that it would be good to steel myself from that and at least leave the situation with some personal fortitude if I can’t leave with a good outcome. One person who comes to mind was an elderly priest waiting alone to see Nada (admittedly not a person with a comforting bedside manner). He was shaking so much that it was visible so I sat next to him and, not wanting to touch him for obvious reasons, just started talking about general bullshit. His shakes stopped and he went in to see her outwardly composed. But before he did so he reached out to my hand. I don’t know how he went but I think of him from time to time. I mused then about how hard life must be without a special person who is there just for you.

July 14, 2021

My friend Liz and her husband moved a couple of years ago to support her widowed mother on an outer suburban property past Galston. All their goods and chattels were stored in a shipping container on site, safe and sealed. Well perhaps not so safe as it turns out. Yesterday she sent me a video and photos of her antique furniture collection, including a mahogany wardrobe, an oak sideboard, a tall display cabinet and more, all eaten away by the white ants which had managed to get into the container. Their mud tunnels ran the six foot height of the cabinet and when she touched it gently the whole thing collapsed into a pile of dust and wood chips. Her total collection of books went the same way. It reminded me of the time I put a trunk in the back yard briefly and when I went to pick it up it was as light as a feather, white ants had eaten the base out and were working their way up the sides. The little blind buggers were running in every direction, digging their way back into the earth. Some years ago a friend down the road stepped out of bed one morning only to have both feet go through the floor, the white ants had worked their way up to the first floor sight unseen. Ugh.

Have now finished reading Station Eleven and it a weird sort of way it was comforting. In the book 99% of the world’s population succumb to the Georgia virus, so we score comparatively well there. Then all transport ceases, no planes can fly, no fuel for ships or cars, no electricity for trains, so we are well off there too. No electricity means no computers or mobile phones, no internet of course. Then there is no distribution so no food is going anywhere and survivors are reduced to hunting. After a while I started to think more about all the things we DO have rather than those we temporarily don’t. So when I wake up in the morning I am so glad not to need to hunt a squirrel for breakfast that the day looks pretty good.

July 15, 2021

Oh my you get lucky sometimes. At breakfast I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t go to the library on the the day before lockdown to stock up as I had finished all 8 books that are here. Last lockdown I got 28 books the day before. John rightly advised that I sort through the street library book stock. I know I have plenty of Dean Koontz, Jeffrey Archer, Dan Brown et al but I’m sure there are a few gems in there too. However the first email I got today was from the library offering to deliver to me again. Woohoo! So I sent them an email with about 20 suggestions and look forward to some arriving soon.

Went up to Castle Hill for a doc’s appointment this arv and the shop nearby which only sells perfume and makeup is open. Essential service? I think not. Now I’ve got a mysterious lump in my leg which normally the docs would ignore but because of this wretched cancer business it has to be investigated. Moan. Ultrasound asap (or when I can drag my carcase up to get it done). Should I be thankful that I have an excuse to go out, seeing we have decided not to go anywhere until freezer and pantry empty and force us to? I’d have preferred a different outing, but there you go. Perhaps in the waiting room I will sit next to someone who’ll explain the meaning of life and that trip will be the turning point of my existence, or not. I was at the counter at the surgery and the woman next to me was wheezing and breathless ‘I think it’s asthma’ she said hopefully, as I subtly moved away. What a funny world we are currently inhabiting.

July 16, 2021

Today I received three survey requests: a one-off from a Dr. Chen at Sydney University on street libraries, done. Most of the questions on this one were quite predictable, structure of library, turnover of books etc. But one has me puzzled, giving a list of occupations including secretary, solicitor, call centre worker, artist, company CEO and many more, it asks you to click on those occupations in which you have personal friend. I am trying to analyse the point here but the only thing I can come up with is that it is a measure of social class perhaps? I may email and ask the question as it is occupying brain space at the moment. Then another survey from the Herald about what online news sources I read and opinions of each, done. It surprised me just how many news websites I’ve accessed over the past four weeks from the list provided, which were just Australian ones plus the NYT and Washington Post. The list didn’t include British sites or some like the Miami Herald which I only looked at because of specific news events. Finally one from the Garvan Institute who want to assemble a data base of people with autoimmune diseases for research purposes, this one coming via my immunologist and I am yet to attack it. The research group is interested in ‘understanding the genetic architecture of disease through functional and cellular genomics’. They are currently studying sex differences in autoimmune diseases, where approximately 80% of sufferers are women. This is on top of the weekly survey I get, published in the SMH each Saturday, in which there are four questions on current affairs. I am always surprised by the results of this one as I am generally in the majority on any question, not a place I am used to sitting.

July 17, 2021

Just got a call from John who had gone for a walk in the bush at the end of Cross St and got lost, not hard to do there. He thought to check his location on Google maps though and discovered he was 8 kms from here, almost at Carol and Jack’s place at West Pennant Hills, so I drove over and picked him up rather than let him walk the 8 km back. It was 13 km by road to get him. I would normally go on the walk too but had decided that it was much too windy.

I looked up the Covid hotspots online today, as issued by the NSW Health Department,  just to get a sense of whether there were any new ones around here and discovered that there are so many now that you need to make a sandwich and a drink before you begin. Finally Our Glad has today put in place the restrictions which, done a month ago, would likely have stopped one case in the Eastern suburbs from becoming 1000 cases all over Sydney and many more in Melbourne. If I were related to someone in hospital I’d be after her blood.

Just last night I finished Mother Tongue by Joyce Kornblatt, a prescribed novel for our book group for later in the year. While reading I found it hard to believe that this book has no basis in fact, so accurate are the author’s depictions of the psychological reactions of the characters.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this book was momentous for me. The author’s coupling of a story about the theft of a new-born baby from a hospital with another about adoption was compelling. Her understanding of the emotional effects of these events on both the mother and child is on the mark and echoes many concepts in the real life story told in the book The Primal Wound. There are many lines I will remember from this book but one stuck out: “After some years, I learned how to pretend I was better. But I was only better at pretending.” Another about Sydney was so true yet I had never considered it before: “Sydney is always a city at one’s back, the luminous harbour and its vast mirroring heaven drawing the gaze away from the made world to the elemental one.”
Superlative writing.

July 18, 2021

John has gone out to walk the bush track again from the opposite direction in the hope he will work it out this time. Making some of my favourite things while he’s out, Caesar Salad for lunch with Passionfruit Slice for afters. Then I must vaccuum before the dust bunnies start breeding.

I’ve been thinking about why I and thousands of others are so hot under the collar about the exceptions to lockdown and quarantine rules being given to the rich and famous. Sacha Baron Cohen (who’s comedy work I love) and Isla Fisher hosting friends on a yacht were ‘just fishing’ as allowed by the rules. What are they even here for ahead of all the Australians trying to get home? Caitlyn Jenner whose claim to fame is being ‘a socialite’ allowed in likewise. Don’t get me started on Katie Hopkins. John Barilaro’s daughter was described by police as “very helpful, apologetic, polite, forthcoming and considerate of the investigation” when it was found she drove to Sydney from Queanbeyan, diverting via Canberra on the way home, a multiple breach of the rules? Still fined, but really do we need a police character assessment as well? Oh yes, the deputy premier’s daughter, now I get it. The reason for the collective anger is simple: this is the way Australian society operates, one rule for the rich and/or famous and another for everybody else. Generally it is covert but because of the quarantine and lockdown, with people being encouraged to be dobbers, it is right there in our faces. Perhaps the pandemic has had one good effect, it brings the rule-makers and the rule-breakers out into the sunlight, and it’s not pretty.

July 19, 2021

Woohoo! My return to eBay has been vindicated. A French TYR corkscrew, pretty plain and somewhat rusted, has brought $80. It was in the box to go to the Sallies and I was stressing that they would possibly toss it as it looked pretty unexciting, but a few on eBay recognised that it was a fairly rare item from 1927 and I got 80 bucks. The good thing is that I had two so I’ll wait a week or two and whack the second one on. I also have a bid on 10 Art Deco cake forks from out of the kitchen drawer, after deciding that it’s doubtful in the current times that I am going to need 22 cake forks, so 10 of them will go. Gives me the impetus to list some more stuff, which I will do tomorrow.

The library delivered ten books this morning, two from my request list and eight surprises. Just after that I saw two women loading books from the street library into a shopping bag and went out to speak to them, they were by then loading a similar number from another bag into the library, they said that they come once a week and do a swappsie with books from home. Now I know what sort of books they like by what they were putting in, I will load a few more of that genre next time I stock up.

News from Yorkshire is never dull at the moment. Kenneth’s sister-in-law comes for a week a couple of times a year to stay with him, a respite from her tiny Liverpool flat. She was due to arrive yesterday and then a phone call came to say that his nephew’s partner has come down with Covid, causing her, her partner and four kids to go into lockdown. Kenneth suggested that she delay her visit as she can’t see half the family, but his daughter argued that she should still come because ‘Covid is a hoax, it’s only flu, it’s not a serious disease and it’s all just a plot by the government to control us’. She actually had a mild dose of Covid herself early in the piece and now she and her husband have become anti-Covid warriors, much to Kenneth’s disappointment. Apparently the internet is full of this stuff over there and they have bought it hook, line and sinker. So they insisted on picking up the visitor despite his objections and are telling him that ‘it’ll be fine by Wednesday for her to visit the rest of the family’. He is cheesed off but as always reluctant to argue with the daughters. It seems to be a thing that once daughters get to a certain age some start to act like the parent and I am very lucky that mine don’t fit that category.

I had a dentist’s appointment due tomorrow which they cancelled last week due to lockdown. Last night half of one of my teeth fell out so now I am back to the old cancelled appointment to see if anything can be done. He has very little to work with so I’m not sure if I will lose a tooth. Strange timing though as if my teeth were aggrieved by the cancellation.

July 20, 2021

The dentist gave me two options, get the tooth yanked or have a stainless steel post put in and basically do a massive filling attached to that post and the little bit of tooth that’s left. I opted for the latter and he did it then and there with x-rays before and after. Took nearly an hour with him and two assistants working on it but with the Medibank Private contribution it only cost me $206 which seems a bargain really. I’m sure if it weren’t for an absence of patients due to Covid I would have had to come back to get it done, but there was no-one before or after me so I got lucky. I feel for him as his wife died very young, from an aggressive cancer that didn’t respond to any of the many treatments they tried, leaving him with primary aged twins who are now sitting for their HSC this year. Yet he went on with no visible signs of the grief he was no doubt suffering over years.

Umair Haque’s latest article entitled ‘Britain’s Jaw-Dropping Stupidity is a Danger to the World’ pretty much sums up what Kenneth and I talked about the other night: that letting the virus rip in a country half vaccinated is pretty much an invitation to produce Covid-20. But in a society where politics has trumped (Trumped?) common sense, what can we expect? In the massive apartment complex across the road from where Davina lives, where they in fact owned an apartment before they moved to the current one, someone  diagnosed with Covid visited on Saturday morning for some hours. As a result residents of the whole complex have been informed they are casual contacts, needing to be tested, then lock down for 5 days and be tested again. This is hundreds of people, perhaps more than that, so it just points out the massive job these contact tracers and Health workers have on their hands. Interestingly they must abide by those rules even if they weren’t home on Saturday, which is puzzling, but I guess they are thinking about lifts and public areas they are walking through. What a nightmare it all is, the total cost must be staggering, just the tests and vaccines alone being in the multi-millions.

July 21, 2021

My my, look who’s turned up as a Covid expert. (Let’s face it, we are all armchair experts, but we don’t write articles for the press pretending we really ARE experts). So in Crikey today there’s an article criticising Covid commentators and experts who support the lockdown, particularly Norman Swan, Bill Bowtell and Raina McIntyre. So it’s written by a doctor? an epidemiologist? a statistician perhaps? Nooo, it’s written by Adam Schwab, founder of Luxury Escapes, a Melbourne-based travel company who wouldn’t have a vested interest in ending lockdowns by any chance? The cheek of the man! Crikey needs to wake up to itself (or perhaps I should get in on the act and write an article for them on something I know nothing about… say economics or dog breeding or brain surgery perhaps).

My eBay career continues apace. One bottle opener, 10 cake forks and a job lot of odd cutlery for $5 now sold. At this rate they’ll be reassessing my pension, haha. In fact I did go to the MyGov website a few weeks ago to let them know that my bank accounts had increased a little due to interest from a term deposit being added. My honesty resulted in my pension being reduced from $753 a fortnight to $710, but at least I am not waiting for the knock on the door or the phone call from Centrelink. My friend Brian once got that call: “It’s Centrelink here, just wondering if you still have the same car as you listed 5 years ago?” He did have the same old one, but wondered why they didn’t just access government registration information online? But with all the extra benefits being paid due to Covid, I doubt they would have time to be checking up on my bank accounts at the moment, however it’s best to be sure. My brother is incredulous that my pension is dependent on my assets and keeps telling me that I must have made a mistake, because in Britain you get a full pension even if you are a multi-millionaire but of course you pay tax on the total, which seems a better system to me.

July 22, 2021

Mmm, I guess it’s all relative, My brother in Yorkshire was complaining about the ‘terrible, oppressive heat day after day’, but when I inquired about the temperature it was 31 degrees C. But with a house built for winter and no fans or air-conditioning I guess that’s warm. He is struggling to manage with a house guest who isn’t capable of helping with meal prep or cleaning up and needs assistance to get up and down the stairs. Too much for a man in his high eighties but there’s not much I can do from here. I think if I commented to his daughters it would only get him into more hot water with them.

I was staggered to read that the young woman who spread Delta from Melbourne to Queensland ‘gave in to peer pressure to go out on the town’ according to her family. She went out to a few places on the Sunshine Coast after being told she was a close contact and had to isolate. She then flew to Cairns and bussed to Mareeba. Not such an unusual story, except for the fact that she is a university student, a medical student. Perhaps re-enrolling as a nurse’s aide might be a plan? Seems a more suitable career choice.

Last night I was lucky to dream about my dear friend Raymond who died in the AIDS epidemic decades ago. I was celebrating with him his 25th anniversary with his partner, long since dead also. What a wonderful time were having and it was sad to wake up and realise it was only a dream. I must look up exactly when he died but the 25 years isn’t too far out. It’s amazing what our brains can conjure up. Somehow I went to Adelaide at the right time to be with him when he died and was able to stay on for the funeral, though it was very small considering all his friends were back here in Sydney, though many of them would have been too sick to come. It wasn’t helped when the celebrant started doing the service for the wrong person and I had to call out to tell him so.

July 23, 2021

Big adventure today when we were able to legally go out, to RNS Hospital for my monthly blood tests. The roads were blissfully quiet so it was nice to be able to drive them. I don’t really understand why I have to go to the hospital for these tests rather than just getting them done locally, but Prof. Reeves is the boss and he particularly asked me to do that, so I do. Just walked in there, no waiting, how I wish it were so simple all the time. I have been craving sushi all during the lockdown so we pulled over while I got some takeaway hot spiced salmon nigiri for my lunch as a treat, while John who’s not a sushi lover, was happy with his usual lunch at home. It looks as if he will be staying here for quite a bit longer, judging by today’s case numbers.

An epidemiologist (I’ve forgotten which one) said three weeks ago that she had crunched the numbers and it seemed to her that we wouldn’t be getting out of lockdown till the end of August and today Our Glad pretty much added weight to that. We are minimally affected compared to many people, it’s an inconvenience here but potentially life-changing for anyone facing a business collapse. The ones who are screaming most though seem to be the construction folks, who are being asked not to work for just two weeks out of the 18 months we’ve been in the pandemic. Try being a restaurant owner, a hairdresser or a musician I feel like telling them. I say nothing about the fact that building tradies always seem to feel like the most entitled people in the community, not a word do I say. But I will throw in that it was always the building tradies, particularly the plumbers, who reached for the big roll of cash (in some cases an enormous roll of cash) when they wanted to do a deal in the shop. It was usually for militaria, pot lids, old bottles and the like, speaking of which I have a lot of interest on eBay at the moment for a chrome cased razor, engraved as a gift to a Major in WWII, from his company. I was able to Google him and see a photo of both him and the men who gifted him the razor, which was touching. We’ll see if the interest turns into money though, but I will be surprised if it doesn’t.

July 24, 2021

John and I have a bizarre ritual in this lockdown of guessing the new cases of Covid each day in a sort of sweep, the winner being the closest. He has been right four times, including today when he was only one off, while I have won the remainder. Small competitions keeping us sane. We watched Brad Hazzard’s presser at 11 am, standing in for Our Glad, and it’s so refreshing as he actually answers the questions, whereas she just gives the same pat answers, regardless of the questions, often with no relationship to the answers in fact. Both my daughters have a niggling dislike for Old Brad, but I find his directness such a relief after Glad’s politicking.

Three sales on eBay today including the Major’s razor, I might have to pull my head in so as not to reduce my pension even further, so far I am only a bit north of $200 and if I sold every single item still listed it would only be $788, so perhaps I am worrying too soon. It is my nature to worry too soon I’m afraid.

John got lost again on his walk again today, taking two hours for his 40 minute constitutional but he gets home eventually. I go with him sometimes but it is so unbelievably boring to walk past the same houses every day. When we are away somewhere I will happily walk for a long time every day where there is a water view or something else worth looking at, but just houses? No thanks. It was a big mistake staying out in the west when I was young, at that time it was much the same price to rent near the city but I stayed where I was used to and regret it now. Buying this house near work was the idea but I could easily have transferred to the university faculty instead of the research farm. Next life I am definitely going east, as close to the water as I can afford.

July 25, 2021

Been listening to music all this arv, something I don’t do enough of. Going back to the favourites of my youth, Tchaikovsky and Bob Dylan, which whiled away a few hours during which I was doing the big Sunday paper crossword. Seeing I went a walk with John this morning I could do this guilt-free. I was interrupted only by a welcome call from an old friend, no doubt going through her ‘who haven’t I called since the last lockdown’ list.

I debated yesterday who would be the likely perps from the anti-lockdown march in Sydney. But reading the names and details of the arrested today it seems that the only commonality is being male and relatively young. Not very young interestingly, as they largely fall between late 20s and mid 40s with just a few outliers at both ends. Judging by the signs they were carrying it was a mix of anti-vaxxers, various yoga, ‘wellness’ and gym types, a bunch of religious bods (‘trust Jesus not the vaccine’Smilie: ;) and assorted libertarians, not to forget a couple of Trumpists (‘Trump was right about everything’Smilie: ;). Throw in some locked down business operators and tradies and that pretty much makes your crowd. And the nutters of course who turn up to whatever’s going. It will be interesting (not to say scary) to see how many of them come down with the virus, if any. But the prize for the biggest arsehole has to go to the guy who punched the horse, who by the way wasn’t there voluntarily, and on those grounds alone should have had respect. Shovelling horse poo in a stable somewhere for the next six months seems appropriate as a punishment, resistant as I am to wasting people’s abilities in a gaol cell.

July 26, 2021

One of my Windsor contacts rang to say he has a streaming cold but he’d had the sense to go up to the hospital today for a Covid test, only a queue of three people so he was lucky there. He asked how he could have caught it living alone and taking great care to mask etc. But that’s the point isn’t it, the little blighters are cleverer than us. Davina has it as well, but that’s unsurprising considering that Millie is in pre-school and brings the bugs home from there. I am so glad she isn’t in school this year so they don’t have the problem of both working from home and schooling her as well.

I am still working on using up the food in the pantry and freezer rather than buying in groceries, as I tend to have a lot of food in stock at any given time so it’s a good chance to have a clear out. Tonight I’m doing fish cakes with a tin of Alaskan red salmon from the pantry. I think of people like the nomads of Mongolia and what they would think about just opening a drawer or cupboard to make dinner and reflect on how lucky we are. We ate the last of of both of the batches of passionfruit slice and lemon slice today so baking is on the cards for tomorrow. Arvind gave me a bag of lemons so something made with them is on the cards, however I can’t give them any because none of them eat sweets….at all….something I still have trouble coming to terms with.

John had to go to the bank as he had forgotten, not the password, but the client number to check his funds online. I knew he was nervous about getting it right, but decided to let him walk up and do it on his own rather than be mother and help. He did it fine but forgot how to access it when he got home and the phone was in danger of being thrown, though eventually he got on. I asked if he managed the QR code check-in okay (always a problem) and he said he had, but when I checked the phone there was no sign that he’d done it, in or out, so I hope there’s no outbreak at the bank in the next days. There are so many things that he does easily but so many more that are a real challenge.

July 27, 2021

Absolutely ferocious about the fact that the Defence Department apparently doctored a famous photo, shown in the Australian War Memorial, of Afghanistan War Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith. The original showed him in Afghanistan wearing a Crusader’s Cross on his uniform but when Defence released the picture it was magically missing, however the original photo has now been given to the Press. Nothing surprises me any more about this repugnant man, but the fact that Defence doctored this photo, well before he got into his current troubles, shows that his antics were well-known and either ignored or as in this case covered up. Even now his defence is being paid for by the chairman of the War Memorial. Crusader crosses and other mediaeval iconography have a special place in far-right circles. White supremacists romanticise the Middle Ages and see The Crusades as a glorious race war. Unfortunately many in our military seem to be of a similar bent. Disgusting as this is, it is also stupid, setting out from the beginning to shatter any idea of ‘changing hearts and minds’ as Defence would have us believe we are trying to do.

Read the article about Richard Flanagan’s new book Toxic, about Tasmanian salmon farming. It has been apparent for many years that this has become full-on industrial farming at its worst. We watched the boats tootling out to the many salmon farms when we were in Tasmania and compared it to the lovely Tassal salmon shop in Hobart’s Salamanca Place, knowing that the two were not linked by anything but spin. I love salmon, have served it dozens if not hundreds of times, but knowing the production methods means that’s one more thing that has gone off the menu here, and has been off it for some time. Is there anything I like that they don’t manage to screw up? Chicken has long since been a no-no, now salmon, but chicken has had no taste for decades so it isn’t missed, but I do miss my salmon. Tinned and from Alaska seems like the only option.

July 28, 2021

Oh my, another four weeks of this. I could handle it much better and be much calmer if Gladys just said: Sorry people, I underestimated the Delta virus strain and I screwed up with calling the lockdown too late. We could all forgive a mistake, but as it is I just get angry every day at 11 am.

Worked out my anger cleaning out the laundry under the house, which is open to the elements and always full of leaves and dirt. There are bottles of stuff there from decades ago, I don’t have a lot of use for ammonia or drain cleaner or AntRid, which never works on my ant plagues, but I keep them ‘just in case’. However today I was able to ditch some empty ones and scrub the shelves which were disgusting. All the washed bottles back in place and I am feeling pretty self-satisfied. John was sweeper, getting all the leaves out, and I told him that ‘sweeper’ is an inmate of a prison who undertakes paid domestic tasks. It’s a job of power inside prisons, the one who can move around and is generally the eyes and ears of the place as well as a favourite appointed by the guards. Last I heard Roger Rogerson was sweeper at Long Bay, mopping floors and emptying garbage cans and I couldn’t think of a better man for the job. Long may he remain.

Last night I started reading journalist Rick Morton’s My Life of Living Vulnerably. Wow, it’s quite something. I had given myself a couple of easier titles after Mother Tongue, just to do a bit of escapist reading. Try this for size: “We are all of us pockmarked by the scars of things that should have been otherwise, the way the moon bears the craters of collisions in space that it could do nothing to avoid. Like the moon, I’m still here, bright but blemished. I lost my atmosphere years ago and the grazes with objects in space have settled below the surface.” I just wanted to give him a hug but had to settle for an email.

July 29, 2021

239 cases and counting and can Our Glad say sorry yet? Not on your Nellie. One interesting side benefit from my eBay listings is that I am exchanging emails with total strangers about the items. In one case I have been communicating with Anne from Yea in Victoria and she brought up the lockdown. I was interested in her views on Dan the Man because people in towns way out of Melbourne have suffered restrictions when there was no Covid near them, but she couldn’t have been more glowing about Dan and the government. She was in agreement about Our Glad too so we are getting on well. If she wins the bid I need to get a heavy and sizeable item to her by post or courier so I think we will be talking for a while yet.

Still marvelling at the Rick Morton book. Last night I learned a a lot about the intelligence of cephalopods and now I know why I gravitate to these interesting guys in any marine exhibits. They can recognise the faces of a limited number of humans, can eat their own tentacles if they are starved (then just grow another), can navigate a maze and remember the solution and are the most intelligent of all invertebrates. Apparently they’ve been known to climb out of their tanks and eat other exhibits and have been spotted on land up a peach tree eating the fruit (can this even be real?). I love them even more now and will read the reference books he recommends.

John is having a bit of trouble navigating my computer to do things like checking his emails, even though I open the page with his password. It’s like the CommBank story all over again, getting really frustrated at not being able to work it out. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s the same on his own computer, but I am not there to hear it. He often asks ‘have I been on my walk today?’ or ‘did I ring Joe Blogs back?’. He is also very worried that Link will take his flat away from him if they find out he is here, despite numerous reassurances that it won’t happen. It must be much more frustrating for him than it is for me. I try to be patient, but sometimes after the same question asked for the third time in an hour my voice gives me away.

July 30, 2021

Good to see the book groupers via Zoom today in a meeting that went way longer than I expected but we weren’t short of things to say. Most agreed that the book, The Weekend, was good but not a world beater. I think I liked it more than most. I was surprised how much I remembered of it which indicates that it had made an impression. Somehow I was exhausted afterwards and settled for soup and rolls for dinner.

Finished the Rick Morton book and decided I need to own it, a rare thing for me to buy two books in a week! I rang the bookshop and added it to my order for Mother Tongue, though when I actually get to pick them up remains to be seen. Two books with messages for me in such a short time, I’m amazed.

For reasons best known to the universe my pipes started banging when taps are turned on and I rang the plumber who told me to turn off the water at the meter and turn it back on halfway. No difference, and each day it gets worse. I can see now why it’s called water hammer, but no chance of getting it fixed in the foreseeable future. Also if you flush a toilet the kitchen tap starts dripping.


July 31, 2021

Well it’s been quite a morning. I usually idly check the Covid hotspots while John is making the porridge but this morning there were 476 so it took a little while. I noted a Castle Hill chemist that I hadn’t been to so that was okay. Then Davina rang to tell me that there was a new hotspot just added: Aldi at Baulkham Hills last Wednesday and what was the only time I went shopping last week? You guessed it, Aldi on Wednesday. But oddly I had filled my bags with shopping and, seeing the queue, suddenly decided that I shouldn’t be in there at all so I went around putting all my purchases back on the shelves and made for the door. John was waiting in the car and was surprised to see me return empty handed, but I explained I had just needed to get out of there, it felt dangerous and we would have to make do with what we had. So this morning we had to go to the drive through testing clinic and it was all very smooth with not a long wait. Now we are in isolation, not even able to go for a walk, till we get our results. John was classified as a casual contact of a casual contact so he can’t go out either. Dear Arvind next door went to the shops and got us 4 litres of milk and a couple of packs of long-life milk so that should see us out.

Then I found that my old shop paper roll dispenser had sold on eBay and the lady wants it shipped to country Victoria. We packed it up for sending which was a big job and discovered that at 27.5 kilos packed, it’s too heavy for Australia Post and every courier I tried, except one and they want $70 to take it. This has taken literally hours and it’s clear that the sale wasn’t worth the effort. But it’s like being back in the shop, the monetary worth of the deal isn’t always there but the satisfaction of getting the item where it belongs is huge.

August 1, 2021

This morning I had to go onto the grass verge to get the newspaper and felt very sneaky as it’s a $1000 fine for leaving the property if you are in iso, though I doubt my neighbours will dob me in for 2 metres. Still haven’t been contacted by Health about the exposure in Aldi (shown by the QR code) so it makes a bit of a mockery of the system as, although I look up exposure sites regularly, anyone who doesn’t still wouldn’t know they were supposed to be in isolation. Clearly the system has become seriously overwhelmed and once that happens a lot of contacts will be missed.

There was a good article on Michaelia Cash in the Good Weekend and it goes a way to explaining why she is so hyper, though personality is also a big part I’m sure. She has a cluster of autoimmune diseases and is on a bunch of drugs, but for sure steroids like prednisone and maybe dexamethazone would be in the mix. I was on one of them briefly and it changed my personality in a way I couldn’t stand. I was up in the middle of the night cleaning the inside of the microwave when I realised I had to get off this stuff….and fast. But to be a coffee addict and taking those as well, I imagine you would end up being quite an unpleasant person. Voila!

Just placed an order for groceries and found that we can’t get a delivery till Friday, but luckily with all the milk that Arvind got us we can manage with stocks from the freezer, pantry and fridge. Of course it was heavy with icecream and Pico chocolate for John, two of the former and eight of the latter!

August 2, 2021

It was about 9.15 am before I thought to look at my phone and see if the Covid test had come back, so clearly I wasn’t worried about it. It was back (at 3.58 am, sincere thanks to the poor buggers who work all night on this) and I am happy to say it was negative. However I still haven’t been contacted by Health so there could be many others in the same boat and who knows if they are negative or spreading the virus around? I am giving all Baulkham Hills shops a wide berth until we see whether the exposure has caused a flow on effect. Clearly Health has lost the ability to follow up on casual contacts, this can’t be good.

I sent off a letter to the Good Weekend regarding the article on Michaelia Cash, just to get the awful woman off my mind: ‘I often rank politicians by whether I’d be happy to have them at my house for a cuppa or not, regardless of their party or opinions. I’m afraid your article confirms the subject’s position near the bottom of that list.’ The mere sight of her gives me the gee-willikers. George Christenson and Craig Kelly are as repulsive, but they both have the excuse that they are stupid, which she is clearly not.

Talking about repulsive, I haven’t got to that opinion of Lieutenant-General John Frewin, head of the Covid19 vaccination task force, but so far I am not at all keen on him. Apparently he ‘was apoplectic’ when Our Glad last week asked for more vaccines to be sent to badly affected areas of Sydney. Another premier opined: ‘I would have stopped the meeting if he had spoken to me like that’. Then at another meeting when he was pressed to put professional home carers for the elderly and infirm higher up the priority list for vaccines ‘he seemed to be unaware of them’. There have been some very good military people of recent times but this bloke grates on me.

August 3, 2021

We had an exciting day ( or what we think of as one in these times) just because we ventured out to Dural to get some fruit and veg from the greengrocer there. We have a big grocery order coming Friday but I don’t like getting supermarket fruit and veg if I can possibly avoid it. We discussed the fact that we wouldn’t go into any supermarket out there, for safety’s sake (many of the local supermarkets around here are now hotspots and we don’t need another iso). John took the bags of fruit and veg back to the car while I paid ($85 sheesh) but when I followed just behind him he wasn’t at the car. After 10 minutes I rang him and he answered, sounding concerned ‘where are you? I’ve looked in every aisle in Woolies and can’t see you anywhere’. He came back with bags full of many of the things we had ordered to be home delivered. He is certainly getting more confused as time goes on. Last night he asked if I had talked to Martha and Phil lately and I had to explain that Phil had died. He has no memory at all of the funeral.

My sale of the counter paper roll dispenser, probably from the 40s or 50s, has finally been despatched. What a monumental job it was to pack it and to find someone willing to take it. They all want easy little parcels and this one wasn’t. But Pack & Send came to the party and it’s now hopefully off to Yea. I had a few lovely phone conversations with the buyer who owns a gift shop with the eponymous name Nice. Looked it up online and saw all the handmade toys, cushions and lampshades that she and her business partner make and sell there. It is a destination now if ever we get to do the planned trip driving around country Victoria. Not a way to run a business, but now I’m not in business I can happily sell things  for whatever I want and not worry whether it makes a profit or not (I think I paid about $100 for that piece 30 years ago, she paid $45 plus $70 to the courier). It pleases me no end that I can envisage it sitting happily on the counter there and hopefully assisting in the wrapping of goodies for the next 30 years.

Martha gave me a bulb of garlic for growing and I was excited to see that I got 100% germination. But although they looked fine initially the plants soon started to die off and those remaining look sick. Martha assured me that hers are the same so I don’t know what that’s about. I bludged fire ashes from Michelle to put on them for added potassium which they purportedly like, but that hasn’t helped.

August 4th, 2021

Kirk, my gardener, came at 8 am and I got him to cut the tops off my Robinia trees as I want them to grow thicker rather than taller. I moved the wire frame into position and he dug a trench along in front of it for me to plant the sugar snap peas. Last year I grew them in a pot with a metre high frame above it and it wasn’t nearly high enough. Hopefully this year I will get a much better crop. Kirk is a good scout, reliable, and does whatever I ask, hearing what others pay makes me think he is cheap too.

I have a nasty plastic outdoor table which I use as a potting table and have been keeping an eye out for a wooden one amongst people’s roadside rejects. I saw a metal framed glass topped dining table up near Old Northern Rd but there was no way I could get it into my car, so John and I carried it all the way home with a few stops to rest and now it sits proudly next to the garage. It is wide enough that I could have pots along the back and still have plenty of room to work at potting at the front. Better than I could have hoped for. My neighbour saw us trudge by his house and thought it hilarious that we carried it all the way home.

Had a Zoom meeting with the sewing group, though no-one was sewing. I did get out my skirt needing new elastic around the waist but didn’t have to produce it. People were talking about online zumba classes, online exercise classes and older people’s gyms for after the lockdown. But ‘whatever you need to feel safe’ as Robert used to say. However, I think I’d prefer to die a little sooner rather than having to go through all of that. Another month on the nursing home verandah isn’t worth going through online exercise classes.

My two new books have landed and I have little bits of paper with page numbers on them from the first readings of the library books. I tried to look up the quotes again, but so far I can’t work out which numbers refer to which book, typical of my inadequate notes. However I will reread both anyway and mark the appropriate parts then.

August 5, 2021

It occurred to me this morning, not for the first time but now with a degree of certainty, that we are up the creek with just a wooden spoon for a paddle. Consider the following: There is no more talk of ‘flattening the curve’, Our Glad was once rabbiting on about getting to zero total cases, but no more, OG was on about getting to zero cases out in the community, but no more. Then there was the ‘roadmap to getting out of staying home’ due July 7 but now forgotten, then the edict that Year 12 students would be face to face in schools from August 16, then there was the plan for Hunter Valley residents to forgo vaccinations in favour of said students. An outbreak in the Hunter Valley has put paid to that. So it appears to me that Our Glady now knows (but is not admitting) that she blew it, Delta has escaped and is running rampant and it’s just a case of waiting to see how high the death toll rises. The point that really brought it home that she knows how badly she’s stuffed up was when a reporter asked her why Bunnings and the Reject Shop were allowed to be open when both had been hotspots and her reply was: ‘Next question’. The following reporter should have asked the same one again and the next and the next until she answered. Many in the press are weak in not being willing to stick their necks out to force politicians to respond. A pox on you Gladys and on you ScumMo for wasting the fact that we are an island nation, best placed anywhere to keep this thing under control.

I am strident because it’s been a shit day. John was due for a phone consultation with his haematologist at 2.30 pm, something he must have told me ten times today. Then he went to make a phone call to someone else and his phone wouldn’t work, not in or out for calls, but fine for internet and apps. He rang Nada’s office on my phone and arranged for her to ring on that, but every time I even went out on the verandah he panicked that we would miss her call. So I looked up the Apple number for him to get some help but that didn’t last 30 seconds as he couldn’t understand what the technician was telling him. Then I took over and spent a frustrating hour and a half where I used the camera on my phone to film John’s phone as the patient guy got me to do endless things on it. One was swapping the SIM cards between phones and I managed to drop mine down between the cushions of a leather lounge and finally retrieved it, but the end shot was that it needs to go to the Apple store. I explained that I couldn’t do that because of lockdown, but he was in NZ so he didn’t seem to even understand the concept: ‘go to the Hornsby one instead’ he said helpfully. So now we have a man with an unreliable memory and no phone. In case he runs into trouble we really need to stay together, apart from him doing close walks in the neighbourhood. Some days are diamonds and some days are rust. It’s now after four and none of my planned tasks for the day have even been started. I figure that trying to plant seeds in my current frame of mind is almost certain to jinx them so I will try again tomorrow.

August 6, 2021

Last night I got in a funk over John’s phone problems combined with his memory ones, which seem to have increased in recent days. But the day looked better than the last as soon as I saw that the wind had dropped, a good omen. Sue told me that her daughter who works for the Health Dept told her that Apple can be accessed for repairs, so I rang them at opening time and they have a system where you get an appointment online, then put the phone or computer in a chute or box or something and leave it there. They will ring you when they get to it and discuss the problem, fix it hopefully and then there is some sort of pickup arrangement, neither time do you see a person. I was fine with all of that, anything to get John’s phone working again, but when I tested it for the umpteenth time the bloody thing suddenly worked. So I am going to try it for a few days before I go through that process. He asked me when he woke up this morning ‘why am I living with you now?’ so I explained that it is temporary and that he had made the decision to stay here when the lockdown happened and he seemed happy with that. Yesterday was an epic day for confusion to the point that it just wore me out.

We did a spot of gardening in the front yard while waiting for the Woolworths delivery man. I used to give such folks a piece of cake or something to eat on their rounds but I’m reluctant to do that in our current situation. Decided to put off the planting of the seeds till tomorrow, one has to have little things to look forward to. The weather is definitely looking Springy, the quality of the light has subtly changed and soon I will no doubt be whinging about the heat. However apart from a tiny whinge about wind, winter passes without complaint.

August 7, 2021

Well we sink deeper and deeper, 319 cases today in Sydney. My girls both think Old Brad is pretty hopeless but I’ve decided I prefer someone who isn’t a great public speaker (leaves the most important points to half way through the presentation, mentions deaths like an afterthought) to a sneaky ideologue like Our Glad who answers (or more correctly doesn’t answer) questions she doesn’t like with a speech on something altogether different, followed by ‘Next Question’. I don’t think I could control myself in person not to wipe that smirk off Morrison’s face so it’s good that we are unlikely to meet any time soon.

Had a planting day, so I now have coriander and dill in pots and sugar snap peas in the ground next to my commandeered reo trellis. Also planted a few various flower seeds to replant into spots in the front garden in due course. It gets springier every day now and I look forward to seeing flowers in the garden soon.

When ordering from Woolies there was a box asking if I wanted the Aussie Olympic Heroes stickers, to which I clearly answered NO, however I got 23 of the sodding things. John was about to put them into the recycle bin, but I said I would put them on eBay for a pittance in case some kid wants them. They are easy to post in an envelope after all and it’s a bit of fun, but clearly I am filling some of my time with trivia.

August 8, 2021

My relationship with our local state MP is not an easy one, in fact he doesn’t even bother replying to my letters or emails any more. David Elliott is usually on the wrong side of most arguments but today, talking about Hillsong leader Brian Houston he said this: “Last year he wanted to go overseas and wanted preferential treatment for quarantine, to go into a five-star suite. We arranged it…..he is just a suburban preacher and then he criticised our Covid policy. He’s an ungrateful twat!” I couldn’t agree more, but seeing this from a well- known Christian is interesting in itself. But the bigger question is why oh why do our governments pander to this ‘suburban preacher’ in the first place? A finger to the wind indicates that his friends in high places are starting to let him go, and not before time.

We had a lovely walk around Roxborough Park today and discovered that the local pool has been demolished in its entirety and work is under way to build a massive new $55 million complex including an Olympic pool, indoor children’s pools, a cafe and a gym (though the latter will never be frequented by this person). I can’t wait to try it out, but I suspect it will be well past this summer before it’s finished. I noted that 90% of the roses in the council rose garden have already been pruned, despite the fact that August is the month to do so and we are only at the 8th. So this afternoon I pruned the one rose in the garden, but although John was supposed to be watching, not pruning, he managed to snag himself in four places and now says he’s retired from rose pruning.

Professor Catherine O’Brien from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Canada has reported in new research that when attacked by chemotherapy, all cancer cells have the ability to start hibernating in order to wait out the threat. “The cancer cells hijack an evolutionary survival mechanism to transition into a state of ‘rest’ until chemotherapy stops.” She compared this to animals who enter hibernation to get through difficult environmental conditions. Apparently the behaviour of the cells is akin to that of bears in winter. The scientists observed human colorectal cancer cells which were treated with chemotherapy in a petri dish. This caused the cells to go into a slow-dividing state during which they ceased expanding and needed little nutrition, the cells feeding on their own proteins to survive. Such a reaction continued as long as chemotherapy was present. “The low-energy state of the cells was similar to diapause, the embryonic survival strategy of over a 100 species of mammals. They protect embryos by keeping them inside their bodies during extreme situations of very high or very low temperatures, or when sustenance is not available. Minimal cell division takes place when animals are in this state, while their metabolism slows to a crawl. The cancer cells are able to hijack this evolutionarily conserved survival strategy, even as it seems to be lost to humans.” What fascinating stuff, which goes a long way to explaining why so many people have a cancer recurrence at fairly predictable times after chemo ends, often around the five year mark in breast cancer for example.

August 9, 2021

Just finished doing the Census online, it seemed that there were a lot fewer questions than in other years. I do worry about how people with little English and few computer skills get on though, but I’m guessing that there’s a lot of publicity in other languages, at least I hope so. The religion question has caused some concerns but I’m sure many people tick their cultural religion rather than whether they in fact practice it or not.

Made a lovely lemon slice but had to get a recipe off the net to avoid using coconut, which John hates. Last week I did a lemon, condensed milk and coconut one, replacing the coconut with ground almonds but the texture is all wrong, sort of droopy instead of crisp as the almonds clearly don’t absorb as much liquid.

I think I need to give up on trying to get John to use the QR codes. We go through it each time we need to enter somewhere but by the next time he has forgotten and it only leads to his being unnecessarily frustrated. Today I set it up for him to go into a shop, opening the app etc but when he came out I checked it and there was no sign there that he’d used the code. So I am not sure how he will get around it when he goes home, I guess he’ll just have to sign in manually everywhere. Considering I am still waiting to be told I was exposed at Aldi 12 days ago it doesn’t matter much, perhaps better if I just check the Health website every day.

August 10, 2021

My pipes are in urgent need of a plumber, but not so urgent that I can call him at the moment. Every time one of the toilets is flushed the kitchen tap comes on, so I need to keep a saucepan in the sink to catch the water, plus there is a ghastly hammering noise that drives me nuts if bathroom taps are turned on. The plants in pots are happy about the situation as they are getting watered twice a day. I did call my lovely plumber for advice and he said to turn the main tap back to halfway which did absolutely nothing, so it does need a callout.

I am trying to use up samples of makeup, moisturiser, shampoo etc to free up my vanity drawers. The makeup is in all colours so one day I look like a powdered geisha and another like Michelle Obama, though no-one sees it but me so I don’t care too much. At least it covers my butterfly lupus mark (the mark of the wolf, hence the name of the disease). I love reading about wolves so it is better than having the mark of the pitbull or the cane toad I guess. Talking about the Obamas makes me think how much Barack has aged, not just his hair but his lined face, it does seem to happen early with presidents, let’s hope the vain Trump gets a double dose.

I am somewhat concerned that in talking to his son-out-of-law on the phone John discovered that neither of them are vaccinated. Hoping that they rectify that situation, but John isn’t sure of their reasons and didn’t ask. I am gob-smacked, as we all are, about the Covid denying man who travelled from Sydney up the coast to Byron Bay, clearly knowing he was in the wrong because he didn’t use QR codes anywhere along the way for his five day trip. Now all of the area is in lockdown and he is in hospital with the disease, refusing to cooperate in giving details about where he has been. Clearly he is clever rather than ignorant as he’s taking advantage of a loophole that gives an exemption to people looking to buy real estate. Clever, the twerp.

August 11, 2021

John’s haematologist Nada recommended he go to a geriatrician last January. She said the woman would ring him but it never happened. When he had another appointment with Nada he told her he’d heard nothing and now it’s been discovered that the secretary hadn’t forwarded the referral, so he can’t see her till November. Not that I’m expecting it to make much difference I’m afraid. Perhaps it is better that there is a delay because he is getting worse all the time and by then she will see things more clearly than if we’d seen her months ago. While I’ve been typing this he has come three times to tell me that he can’t understand the referral letter which he keeps rereading on his phone, though we went through it line by line yesterday. As well he wants to know what questions she will ask, what’s the likely nature of her advice, how it will help, none of which I can answer of course. He gets very frustrated with me and said ‘I am sinking into oblivion’. He is insistent that he needs to tell her all about his bike accident 50 years ago and he got very cross when I said that perhaps it wasn’t relevant to that particular appointment. He’s just come again to tell me we are not seeing her until November and that by then everything will have changed so he’s decided not to keep rereading the letter, something I have been saying since it arrived. But over lunch he had a good laugh when he asked what some crystal candlesticks were doing there. I explained that they were going to be photographed for eBay and mentioned that they are Orrefors. He totally cracked up over the concept of ‘orifice candlesticks’ and it lightened up lunchtime good and proper. I think we need to go for a walk which always settles down his anxiety, so I am off to do that now.

August 12, 2021

This morning was library delivery and they’ve come up with a bottler set of books this time. Someone has clearly gone through the authors I’ve read in the past and come up with other books by them which I haven’t read. I am still finishing one of the last lot but I was able to return 9 out of the 10 I had so she was happy. With Lionel Shriver, Joyce Carol Oates, Lucy Foley, Emily Maguire, Vikram Seth and five others ahead of me I am a happy chappy. In another lucky twist someone left five books on my verandah yesterday and one of them turned out to be the Bachman novel A Man Called Ove, which is on our book group list to read this year, plus two of the others were certainly in the readable category. Who’s complaining about lockdown?

After the library lady had been about 9.00 I suggested to John that we do a walk in the bush in the Bidjigal Reserve. I think we need to do something early in the day that lifts his mood and avoids his dwelling on the past and his current situation. It worked a treat today and we got home at ‘1 minute to Gladys’. I hate to miss her 11 am presser, mostly because it’s my main chance of the day to swear at her and that improves my mood for a few hours.

August 13, 2021

We scooted off by car to Crestwood Reserve in Baulkham Hills first thing for a walk along Toongabbie Creek. Although I’ve always known of the reserve this is the first time I’ve actually been there. The council have certainly spent some money on play equipment, shelter sheds, sandstone block seats and a little dam replete with ducks. It sets the day off in the right way when we go out first thing I’ve discovered, of course returning by 11.

Talking to Davina I asked how Millie is enjoying the five books I posted on August 5, but they hadn’t arrived. I quickly checked the tracking facility on the website to discover it had gone to Perth airport, then to the suburb of Welshpool WA, back to Perth airport, then to Mundaring WA this morning. I’ve now been on the phone to Australia Post for almost an hour but they seemed amazed, with no solution proffered so far on how to get the bloody thing back.

The thing that has upset me most in this whole pandemic is hearing that students in a school for severely autistic children have been infected with Covid. I can’t even imagine coping with that, getting them tested, trying to explain why their routine is out of whack, not to mention their illness itself. Those poor parents, as if life isn’t hard enough.

August 14, 2021

Decided to walk in the Bidgigal Reserve again, but this time on the North Rocks side of the creek. Surprise, surprise, we happened to meet up with Michelle who walks there all the time. It was a coincidence officer Smilie: :) truly. We got back in time to hurl insults at Gladys at her 11 am presser, the highlight of my day. She’s putting some of the rules in place that I’ve been suggesting to her, only a month too late baby. Commissioner Mick Fullofhimself was salivating at the thought of even higher penalties for ignoring health and travel rules, forgetting perhaps that for the wealthy this is lolly money, but enough to destroy a poor family. That’s another idea I’ve sent him, fines as a percentage of income, but does he listen? Does he what.

Carly rang with some rare good news. She has been cherry-picked for a job in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, just a phone call out of the blue ‘Do you want this job?’ I understand it’s considered the epitome of government departments so it won’t do her CV any harm and she’s always up for a new challenge. It’s a pity she doesn’t tell her mother all the inside goss, but I guess she got the job because she can be trusted not to.

Oh my, my anti-vaxxer cousin just sent me a message: ‘Naturopathic tips to keep your immune system strong’, which is good as it shows he is still talking to me after our latest contretemps over Covid. I was debating the idea of competing rights with someone else when an American friend of his started in on the conversation, banging on about Nazism, eugenics, Jews and god knows what. At least we argue here without the fear of guns and that’s a relief.

John got a bit teary this morning reading today’s Leunig: ‘You understand the many things that I don’t understand. And I can understand the things that you don’t understand. Both of us stand under things that we had never planned, How it came to be like this we both don’t understand.’ It goes on but I think the first two lines are very pertinent here at the moment.

August 15, 2021

Got a letter published in the Sun-Herald after a long drought. It was about the abhorrent Michaelia Cash, shudder. For some reason we were delivered two Heralds and two Sun-Heralds this weekend, they must think we need one each. But I was shocked to see that Peter Fitzsimons’ column wasn’t on the back page as usual but buried on page 21! I have made my displeasure known to the management and to Peter himself.

A walk in the bush revived us again today, we have to get creative when we can’t go further than 5 kilometres in the new lockdown scenario. My bakery is 7.2 km away so we raced out there yesterday before the law was gazetted and bought 4 loaves of bread to freeze. They were so good to me last year in the lockdown that I simply won’t buy bread anywhere else. They have said they will deliver to me again now, but I don’t want to resort to using their petrol before I need to.

Thinking about Our Glad (when am I not?) it occurs to me that she is still the prefect trying to impress the headmaster, even when the headmaster has changed from the task he asked her to do in the first place. Morrison will drop her like a hot rock if he thinks any ca-ca from her decisions could stick to him. It appears (if Sam Maiden is to be believed) that Kerry Chant advised OG to lock the whole state down some time before she actually did. This morning, after not attending the presser for four days straight (so she wasn’t put on the spot about her advice?) Kerry looked drained and didn’t refer to the Premier in her opening remarks as she usually does. It feels like there is something to it Sam.

August 16, 2021

We were very sneaky today and went 5.2 kilometres for fish, 200 metres outside our legal boundary under lockdown. Don’t tell anyone. I have been buying my fish at Baulko for a couple of weeks but the shop has really gone off, quite a few whole fish but the fillets were limited to salmon (acres of it), barra or flattie and none of it looking super fresh. It may have changed hands. So today we went to Norwest Fresh Seafood who certainly live up to their name. Rather than ‘mmm, what is edible here’ it was ‘oh my gosh, why can’t I have everything’. Got green tiger prawns for a Prawn Risotto tonight and a slab of beautiful swordfish which will be baked in foil tomorrow night, maybe with garlic, spinach and sundried tomatoes I’m thinking. I can taste it already.

My missing parcel with five books for Millie is still in WA, not having left Mundaring since dawn last Friday. I’ve put in a complaint and have a case number, but no-one can tell me where it actually is and if I am getting it back, now or in the future. Davina and Louis decided today to pull Millie out of pre-school for two weeks, after the Chief Health Officer recommended that course of action yesterday. They still have to pay an eye-watering $160 a day to keep her place open. It was a very hard decision as both are working from home, but they are trying (as most of us are) to take the lockdown rules seriously. Carly has had the one week lockdown extended to three weeks in Canberra. Where does it end? Not well I’m thinking.

John’s landlord rang to say that they had had a report that ‘someone’ accessed his unit at 2 am. His neighbour has a spare key so he mentioned that and was told that yes, she was the one reported to them. He texted her to ask why and she said she was ‘getting icecream out of the freezer’ and he remembered that he had given her permission to store extra icecream there, so now he’s asked he to refrain from going in there, waking other people up, at ‘that ungodly hour’. I knew that was a mistake as her next question was ‘what is a godly hour?’. You walked into that one John.

August 17, 2021

Woohoo! The parcel of five books for Millie arrived back from its holiday in Western Australia today and was delivered to her, no worse for wear. I had pretty much written it off. Today we waited in for a delivery from the pharmacy and then took off to find a different spot to walk from previous days. Just off Cook St we saw entry to a patch of bush and went for a wander along a dry creek bed but a sign warned to leave if heavy rain occurred. One of the wonders of living in the Hills is that there are hills and gullies all around. I couldn’t imagine living on flat land, so depressing, which is why I could never live in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. Just driving or travelling by train through them is a downer, to live there would be purgatory.

What to say about Afghanistan? Firstly we should never have occupied that blighted land. Secondly, for all of the evil things that the Taliban have done, and no doubt will do, they are doing it in their own land. Imagine if the Afghans had invaded this country and not the other way around. An Australian fighting off the invaders as the Taliban sympathiser Hekmatullah did, killing three Australian soldiers on their own base in Afghanistan, would be held up as a hero with a special place in the War Memorial. Just as in Syria, Iraq, Libya and more, even when it’s clear that trying to change the culture may well mean destroying the country, the West just pushes on regardless. The lack of fight in the Afghan Army may not be a lack of courage, but just an unwillingness to kill their own countrymen and after decades of living under an invasion force who could blame them for that? But my heart goes out to those women who believed that life for them had turned a corner, I suspect it may be their grandchildren who see change, if even then. Weeks ago I started rereading a book on the chaotic withdrawal from Vietnam, just because it was clear that we were going to soon see a replication. Somehow our government either hadn’t absorbed the history or else ignored that possibility so as not to have to take more migrants at a difficult time. Either ignorance of history or deliberate self-serving blindness, take your pick. In either case it is a dishonourable act to betray those who helped us in a dishonourable war, while we spent years building infrastructure for the Taliban to enjoy.

August 18, 2021

Reading back through the last paragraph of yesterday’s post it sounds a little bit disjointed but I am going to claim stream of consciousness, so there. It gets worse and worse there and rereading that book on Vietnam is just making me angrier, lots of writing in the margin happening. I even altered the title on the front cover as his words absolutely don’t justify the idea that the war there was ‘lost and won ‘. Sorry, it was just plain old lost.

I discovered accidentally that I’d had a few letters published in the Herald that I didn’t know about, back on July 10: “This isn’t a lockdown, it’s a joke. For the first time in 10 days I went to a shopping centre for food and found that people were in clothes and shoe shops, and many others. The only places closed were hairdressers and nail salons.” In March, one titled Special delivery beginning: “I can’t understand why supermarket home delivery isn’t being preferenced over in-store shopping. It gets around panic buying because amounts can be controlled; it helps those susceptible to illness by delivering to the door; and it would put some more people into jobs as packers and delivery drivers.” In March: “Why is it that Scott Morrison seems more fired up about China’s tweet than about the Brereton Report’s findings?”. I wonder how many others I’ve missed. They used to let you know by email if they published your letter but no more, the same as Health’s policy now if you are a Covid casual contact. The first time Carly brought a Canberra beau here he hardly got through the door without saying “I’ve read all your old letters to various newspapers online, you get plenty published”. Some he mentioned went back years!

I have nothing to say about the case numbers today. Wait, I will say one thing: Gladys and Scott, I curse you for this until hell freezes over.

August 19, 2021

Decided today to book a much overdue council clean-up to get rid of excess stuff stored in the garage and an old lounge under the deck which is never used. I have a number of old doors which I kept in case I ever have a garage sale but it’s getting to be a big if. Despite the website saying that it will be up to 28 days they gave me a date just 10 days hence. That gives me time to huck out more stuff. Another job is to go through the mountain of paint tins that are down there and toss to the chemical tip any that have dried out, I’m expecting there will be quite a few. How virtuous I will feel when all this is done.

My first sugar snap pea has emerged, what joy. I was thinking the seeds might be off as they were overdue coming up. Can’t wait to see them climbing the trellis. Also have a few coriander plants coming up in pots but the dill is yet to break ground. Coriander is one herb that I can’t help eating as I walk to the checkout, the smell is just divine, though some people really loath it. There is even an I Hate Coriander Facebook page. Coriander is one food that may drastically differ in taste depending on your genetic make-up. Depending on your genetics, you may experience a soap-like flavour, rather than the herby flavour others experience. I am so glad I’m in the coriander lover’s club.

Carly tried to get food delivered in Canberra yesterday but couldn’t get a time slot at all, so I thought I had better get another order happening in case the current numbers frighten the horses and they rush to home delivery. However Sunday afternoon was first available and that isn’t too bad, I can’t imagine we have ticket to anything then, or perhaps ever. When I think of going to the opera it seems like a quaint thing I did in the far distant past.

August 20, 2021

I distinctly remember when both Gladys and Kerry assured us that ‘curfews don’t achieve anything’ so of course we have a curfew. Brad said we couldn’t mandate vaccinations for hospital workers, until we can. I went to RNS Hospital today for my six monthly blood tests and the workers were talking to each other about how ‘she does everything two months too late’, I didn’t say a word. They are always shocked by the number of tests I get which used to number in the 30s but now is well into the 40s with the cancer screens added. She advised me to ‘drink plenty of water to replace all this blood’. For nine years I had them done at a local pathologist’s office but this year the Prof. asked me to go to NSW Health to get them done. There must be a reason, though I neglected to ask what it was.

Talking to my bro I mentioned going into Aldi and getting the creeps, putting my shopping back and getting the hell out of there, only to find on the Health website a few days later that one of the staff working there was Covid positive. He said he wasn’t surprised because our grandmother was a medium ‘it’s just passed down’ he said. I had forgotten that a few years ago he took me to Keighley where she practised. My adoptive grandmother used to occasionally go to a spiritualist church too, in Yorkshire where such things are quite popular. She told me that she was half-hearted about it all till the medium said as she was leaving ‘Lizzie when you get home you need to straighten that photo of your dead brother that hangs in the hall’. The photo was in fact at an angle when she got home and she never forgot it, especially since she’d never given the medium her name.

August 21, 2021

Last night I just didn’t feel like cooking anything much, so I did spaghetti with a ‘fridge raid sauce’. Cooked some broccolini and garlic in olive oil, added frozo peas and a tiny slurp of cream from the bottom of the jar, then some anchovies and leftover labneh with zaatar. Bloody beautiful if I do say it myself. Tonight we are having what’s left topped with panfried trout cooked with lemon and butter. Tomorrow our Woolies order will replenish stocks.

The Herald had a story about Mee Mee and her mother living in a converted pool room at the back of a house for which they pay an atrocious $250 a week, for a tiny bedroom and a ‘shower-kitchen’ which is a basic kitchen with a shower and toilet behind a curtain. It’s illegal to have a toilet opening onto a kitchen so I hope they don’t get thrown out as a result of the publicity. I contacted the journalist to get contact details in case I could help a little financially but got no reply, so I’ve emailed the other author. Perhaps privacy concerns preclude that but I can only ask. Got another letter up in the Herald but it was cut. The part that was left out was: ‘We were told that masks outdoors and curfews don’t work and now we have both. How can we be confident of anything we are being told?’ Michelle texted to tell me it was in the paper while I was still absorbing the fact that the delivery man left the Daily Telegraph instead and forgot to deliver The Saturday Paper altogether. Groan, I have given it unopened to Arvind so the garbage man won’t think that I read garbage.

A friend tells me that two of his friends went to an Army run pop-up vaccination hub at Macquarie Fields on different days. The first, while in line, was feeling a little faint and mentioned her concerns to the army person. The line was long and out in the elements. Soon after, a police person showed up telling her that they’d heard she was a trouble-maker and if she didn’t keep her mouth shut she’d be removed. She left the hub and didn’t receive her vaccine. Another friend reported that he was in line waiting for his second dose at the same place. The crowd was advised of two hour delays in the queue. Those lining up were then harassed and intimidated to delete any photos they had taken of the lines. I can’t imagine this happening with nurses in charge. Commissioner Fullofhimself has that mealy-mouthed look about him that would make me concerned if he arrested me. I think some of his underlings have drunk too much of his tough cop Kool-Aid.

August 22, 2021

Davina tells me that when she was at Olympic Park for vaccinations they banned photography, not because of the long lines, but to keep the workers’ privacy. That’s fair enough, so perhaps the police issue was a misunderstanding too, who knows. I got a call back from the other author of the SMH piece on Mee Mee and her mother in the decrepit housing at Blacktown (I’m always aware that Baulko is pretty much Blacktown Heights). He told me the journos are putting together some sort of help for them and he will contact me about how to contribute to that, so another win there. They must see some sights in the course of their work, some that they wish they hadn’t.

I have been thinking about comments made at the virtual sewing group about avoiding seeing too much news on Covid, not watching all the press conferences or reading too much about it. I feel quite differently. We are living through one of the great moments in history, not by choice but by circumstance. I want to be aware, to know the ins and outs of the pandemic, its biology and its effects on society. To be blind to it all doesn’t improve our lot. Optimists believe that if you look on the bright side, the other side no longer exists. It is an unnatural state to deny half of what is going on. Of course it makes us sad to look at the Covid deaths and the pain people are going through in Afghanistan for example but we need to look at life as it is, not as how we would like it to be. It’s a bit like asking people to forget that we are all dying a little every day, sorry but it’s just a fact, better to focus on staying as well as possible and keeping out of nursing homes, those bleak warehouses for the pre-dead.

John lost his beloved Akubra hat on a walk yesterday, or at least we thought he did. So this morning we went back to the spot, checked where we walked and where we parked, but nothing. That is until it turned up in the garage on top of the racks of books for the street library. Don’t ask me. But we are both very glad the universe has returned it. While I’ve been typing this John has come in twice to ask what we did this morning, the first time I explained that we went on a hat hunt and watched Insiders and watched the Health presser and went for a walk, but ten minutes later he was asking again. Life must be very confusing for him now.

August 23, 2021

My eBays roll on slowly but surely. I got 23 Olympics sticker folders with a previous home delivery after ticking a box to say I didn’t want them. I couldn’t throw them out so I put them on eBay for 99 cents and have had a first bid today. At least some kid can enjoy them, better than going to recycling. Other items that I tried in vain to give away previously, like a tapestry and some Devon ware eggcups are going too, one to Victoria and the other to WA. It keeps me busy and gives me pin money as well.

Bought Dav and Louis a home delivered meal from Glass Brasserie last Saturday night, all cooked and ready to reheat. It was a big meat and vege pie with mash and desserts. They loved it so I have done some research and found a Jewish restaurant with unusual sounding dishes to try. I’ve rung them to order, but so far no one has returned the call. I just hope they will deliver to Erko from Surry Hills but it’s really not far. We haven’t ordered any sort of takeaway for ourselves for years but then I am under no time pressure and like cooking so I haven’t felt the need.

Had a visit with Carol to discuss some legal matters and it was great to combine it with an outdoors and masked social call. How we miss spontaneous get togethers, Zoom is amazing technology and completely lacking in warmth so I’m glad we opted for a personal appointment.


August 24, 2021

I got a reply from Natassia who wrote the story on Mee Mee and her mum in Blacktown. She replied: ‘Thank you so much for reaching out and sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I just had to spend time figuring out the best way to manage donations directly to the family while protecting their privacy.’ She has set up a GoFundMe page for them plus she’s given me the address for SydWest Multicultural Services if I’d prefer to send something personally. I may do both perhaps, money to the page and perhaps some books for Mee Mee to SydWest, every kid loves to get a parcel. Last night I watched the heart-warming episode of Australian Story on the plucking from the sea forty years ago of a boat load of Vietnamese refugees and the recent reunion between them and their rescuers from HMAS Melbourne. Interestingly the captain expressed his disillusionment with the Vietnam War in general and subsequent changes to policy about picking up refugees at sea, declaring that if he were still a ship’s captain he would rescue any in peril. Bravo!

Had a discussion via email with the book groupers regarding a quote by American author Rumaan Alam. He said: “When we discuss character, we move on to the question of how one views fictional characters. How important is ‘likeability’? What, really, does that have to do with anything? There is a kind of conversation that has crept into reading in this culture, a desire to rank fictionalised people by their likeability, I don’t know anyone who is just likeable. I am really hard-pressed to think of someone who is just likeable and that’s the sum total of their existence. People are complicated and strange. Terrible people may hold the same opinions as you. People you love may hold terrible political opinions”. It pretty much sums up my thoughts on the issue.

All of us live in “polite society” and there are lots of benefits in that. But the downside is that whenever there is an opposing view on a subject there tends to be a silence, or even a change of subject, as if we are afraid of any disagreement at all. I get sick of seeing people clam up if you disagree with them even mildly. I find women are much more inclined to close off differing opinions, but men are happy to debate, or to tell you straight out if they think you are wrong. I miss both Philip and Robert who were always up for a debate.

August 25, 2021

The situation with the post is getting dire. Apart from Millie’s parcel trotting around WA for a week, an eBay client in Victoria sent me a prepaid post pack by mail two weeks ago, it still hasn’t arrived. Then John decided to change from his Lane Cove pharmacy to one here and the chemist posted all of his scripts ten days ago, but they haven’t arrived. I had to do some fancy talking to get him some of his essential blood thinner tablets from my lovely pharmacist Sharif, even though the script is in transit. Sharif has put on an assistant pharmacist, also called Sherif but with a different spelling, now that he’s extended hours to nearly 12 a day. I told him he was a narcissist and got a laugh. I love dealing with people who laugh at my jokes. A narcissist, moi?

I’ve booked a council clean-up for Tuesday so we are busy tidying up the garage and tossing stuff, hurrah! We can’t put them out yet, but have an old lounge and some doors needing to be moved on Monday, which we should be able to do with a trolley. I am making up a box for my old restorer, things like cupboard locks, hinges, tools that I don’t need or which are duplicates. One funny thing I found was the contents of the glove box from my previous station wagon which was destroyed by a drunk driver when parked out the front. I have looked for that bag numerous times, it had three pairs of sunglasses and my chamois amongst various pens and a box of Panadol. How can something be lost in a garage for years? Well here it can. One thing I am hoping to find is the ashes of my friend Mike’s dog. I inherited them when Mike died unexpectedly just a few months after his dog and I plan to add them to his grave if ever they rise to visibility again. It would help if I could remember what the container looked like, but a promise is a promise, and they must turn up eventually.

Before starting our huck out we had to ring the NRMA as a person I won’t mention had put the car lights on last time it was used, in the daytime, and left them on. The lovely NRMA man Richard started up the flat battery and left clutching a blueberry muffin to eat in the van. On Sunday when the groceries were delivered the lovely Sikh man who brought them told me he had had his vaccination that day and was feeling unwell but when he rang his boss he was told that they were too busy for him to take time off, so he had to work till 10.30 pm. He tried to give us 6 large bottles of Coke (ugh) and a 4 litre apple juice that we hadn’t ordered, so it’s lucky that I noticed before he left. I gave him a freshly cooked hot muffin to eat on his run. For some reason his story made me feel teary as he works from 6 am to late at night six days a week. A lot of workers do it very tough.

August 26, 2021

We did some more tossing of rubbish, including a few books destined for the street library that had gone mouldy, though I think they must have already been like that as the garage in general and the surrounding books were fine. I found a makeup case with various blushers, lip pencils, eye shadows etc, all new, so I put them out outside under the street library for people to take. I have no memory of how I got them but it’s not something I would buy. Listed a cargo barrier for a station wagon on eBay, it came with my car but with neither dangerous parcels nor a dog it has never been used. After all that we went up to the Cumberland Forest for a walk.

Somehow the figure of over 1000 for new cases today was confirmation that we are not going to get out of this anytime soon. Westmead Hospital, our nearest, is taking a Covid case on average every 19 minutes, day and night. You don’t need to think for long to realise that this is unsustainable, considering that many of the patients will be there for weeks. But interestingly John said coming home from the walk that he’s been happier this last couple of months than at any time in his life, so clearly the lockdown isn’t having a negative mental effect on him. In fact he loves pottering around here as he’s basically a homebody, it’s me who misses holidays and time away from home.

A lady in WA to whom I posted a parcel yesterday contacted me to say that the online tracking is showing that it has been delivered to Baulkham Hills. I was worried till I noted that the ‘delivery’ supposedly occurred before I actually posted it, so clearly an error. She replied that she’s had some crazy things happen with Australia Post lately. She  accidentally put her home address as the delivery address on a parcel, then when she took it to the Post Office she discussed what she had done and they altered it by hand. Unfortunately because of that hand written address on the printed label the computer sorting machines never picked up on the correction. It went on to travel back and forth from WA to NSW six times over six weeks, Express Post. But executives are getting bonuses.

August 27, 2021

It was great to hook up with the book group today and catch up with people’s news. Because most of us can’t get access to libraries at the moment we discussed something that we had read in the last month and I chose Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha, a fascinating book (with a bit of a silly name in my view) about interrelationships between two Korean and African-American families in Los Angeles, set in 1991 and the present day. The back story was what caused the 1991 LA riots, triggered by the shooting of a black girl by a Korean convenience store owner. Ruth asked about other books by Korean authors and I mentioned that I loved the books I’ve read by Han Kang, especially Human Acts. They made me sure that I don’t want to live in Sth. Korea though. They seem to talk about a strictly governed hyper-capitalist society where the majority of people work long hours for little pay, governed by very conservative social rules and an overabundance of strict religious sects. A capitalist’s dream, as shown in last week’s Foreign Correspondent, which delved into the lives of Korean postal delivery workers, who work inhuman hours and then get fined $60 dollars for delivering a parcel after hours, a parcel that they were paid $1 to deliver in the first place. It was an eye-opener. I also mentioned in passing Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a great novel about a respiratory pandemic which sweeps the world, written in 2015. It tied in with Jane’s chosen novel about society (and religion) being swept back into the Middle Ages resulting in science being non-existent in society. This equates with the results of the pandemic in Station Eleven where planes, electricity, internet of course, and cars cease to be available because the only survivors are people living in small numbers in remote areas. Rosanna mentioned that we are only one or two mutations away from that, something I didn’t comment on but had thought myself in recent times.

August 28, 2021

Much of the day was spent trying to work out a way to send a framed tapestry with glass to Melbourne. The lady had asked me initially to remove it from the frame for posting and this morning I had done that, but then she emailed this afternoon to ask for a quote for sending it entire. So John volunteered to do a test pack involving carving some polystyrene, cutting foam rubber to protect the glass and slicing up a big cardboard box to fit so I could get an online courier quote. After he did most of that she emailed again to say she had changed her mind and to just send the rolled tapestry, except poor John forgot that I told him about this latest email and for a while I didn’t realise that he had kept on working on the packing. So it has taken about two hours out of this afternoon for both of us for a $30 sale, but I guess we weren’t planning on having a dinner party tonight, fun though that would be. In fact I haven’t even considered dinner at 4.30 pm, by which time I’ve usually done all the prep.

This morning we dropped off an African violet that Heather had been able to procure for me at market through her florist contacts. She is so Covid conscious that she said it had to stay at her place for a week to make sure it was safe and it was then delivered to my front verandah yesterday. I have given up on being that careful about handling goods, seeing there has so far been no reports of transmission other than by breath. We went on from there to Cumberland Forest for a loop walk which was just lovely, but although we were there only last Thursday John commented that ‘it’s been a while since we came here for a walk’ and was totally amazed when I said we were there a few days ago. He still couldn’t remember it after I showed him the walk we did last time. It saddens me so much to see him like this though he certainly enjoys whatever we do, even if he can’t remember it straight afterwards.

While we were on the walk Carly rang John’s phone and said she had just rung mine but it was picked up by a stranger who said ‘Don’t hang up! Don’t hang up!’ and told Carly she had found my phone on what pretends to be my grass verge (the dirt verge) outside the house. Apparently I had dropped it getting into the car, juggling my bag, sunglasses, a letter to post and the plant. She’d rung the police who were coming to get it from her, but when Carly rang she used the opportunity to locate the owner and I was able to pick it up on our way home. What a disaster that could have been, save for an honest woman. I shall drop off something to eat for her when I get around to it.

August 29, 2021

It is five years today since the shop closed! Now I can toss all the cheque butts, day sheets, client requests in their hundreds if not thousands, GST sheets, tax paperwork etc. In a way I have come full circle as now I am having lovely conversations with eBay clients like the one buying the tapestry. She told me to forget the $12.50 worth of stamps she had posted to me and paid again the full postage to send the piece flat, instead of rolled. So I gathered she was an antique lover and packed the tapestry in half a dozen pieces of embroidered linen so she’ll get a nice surprise when she opens it. The whole performance for a $30 sale  reminded me of things I used to do in the shop, such as when a man who was looking at a walnut and curved glass china cabinet asked if I could deliver. ‘Of course’ I replied. ‘Anywhere?’ said he. ‘Yep anywhere’ quoth she, thinking it might be over the Blue Mountains but it was all doable. He paid for the piece and we agreed that I would deliver anywhere at bare cartage cost, subject to his approval of the price. Then I got the delivery address….in Jabiru. ‘Um, where exactly is Jabiru?’ I asked nervously. ‘In the Northern Territory, about 4 hours south-east of Darwin’. I gulped but was too proud to admit defeat. A van to Penrith, a semi-trailer to Brisbane, another semi to Darwin and then to Jabiru on the back of a ute. It got there in a week in perfect condition, which was lucky as the curved glass was irreplaceable, even in Sydney. One more happy customer. I used to tell the staff that whether it was a $5 or $5000 sale the service had to be the same. Which led to us sometimes gift-wrapping items from the outside ‘free’ basket, but it was all part of the fun. I was once asked on Christmas Eve if I could gift-wrap and deliver a cedar wardrobe to the man’s wife, but the catch was that it had to be delivered that day. I managed to get a client to race out for heaps of wrapping paper, while I rang around my carriers, but it got there gift-wrapped with a huge bow. In the drawer was a piece of jewellery which he also purchased to add to the gift. I suspect the wardrobe was only packaging for the jewellery. Men always trooped in on Christmas Eve for gifts, women lay-byed them in October and November.

August 30, 2021

I watched Compass last night on lack of facial recognition. It was fascinating and I was surprised to see Dr Karl Kruszelnicki on there. How difficult it would be to work as a doctor with that problem, I can’t even imagine it. There were also people interviewed who were in the top 1-2% for facial recognition including a fellow who never forgets a face, regardless of how long ago he saw it. He should be a detective. Loved the photographer host who has this problem as do others in his family, what an interesting man and what an amazing photographer. It seems that, like autism, it is a different wiring of the brain but one that would be negative in evolutionary terms I would assume. I don’t think I have that problem to a great degree, but perhaps mildly. I can never tell you who was in a particular movie and apart from a small handful of actors I couldn’t recognise them if I saw them in the street. In the shop I recognised a few people every time, but others I just couldn’t and people would come in saying ‘I’d like to pick up the item I put on lay-by yesterday’ and I didn’t have a clue who they were. I used to ask if they had their docket but if they didn’t it was tricky as they would often get offended that I didn’t know them after a long conversation just the day before. Once a woman who came in regularly said ‘oh so you recognise me today, that’s a change’ and while I tried hard it mostly didn’t work.

I’ve had a flurry of action on the eBay front today necessitating emails, packing and posting, plus John needed help with organising a phone appointment with Bob and dealing with that, only for new scripts, but he has trouble negotiating this sort of thing lately. He also had to fill out some forms to do with his super fund and found that quite taxing. Administration of any sort used to be his strong point, it’s never been mine, but I’m finding more and more that I am the one either helping him or doing most of it. However between the two of us we managed to get the items out the front on a trolley for the council clean-up, an old lounge that was outside under the deck plus some doors which I thought I’d use one day as tables for a possible garage sale, but I know now that it’s never going to happen. Actually there seems to be a lot of things now that as I think of them I decide that it’s not something that I am ever likely to do again. I guess that’s how it goes, your world just gets smaller and smaller.

August 31, 2021

A big day of work here pulling down the antique bed in the small bedroom and storing it in parts downstairs. For a while I was apanicked because the rails wouldn’t come out of the chills and although you can apply a hammer to the bed rails, the chills are cast iron and 150 year old cast shatters like glass if you give it even a gentle whack. I’ve seen many beds ruined in that way, including one that I had sold. I could never remember for sure if I had warned the lady about the need to take special care with putting it back together and I suspect she or someone hit the rail into place with a hammer. I only saw it when I was called to her house by her brother to buy furniture after she committed suicide months later. The bed was still standing in the hall where it was delivered months before, with one of the cast chills broken. Since then I’ve always equated broken chills with her suicide, seeing again the blood stains on the carpet and walls, so taking a bed apart for me is a stressful enterprise. I refused to let John do it in case of a break, I would prefer to blame myself. WD40 was my friend and after 15 minutes the rails came out with no problem.

An academic I’ve been following at ANU, Associate Professor Ben Phillips, works on economics, statistics, social policy and microsimulation. He is plotting the NSW case numbers against a simple exponential curve and so far it’s pretty much a dead match, to the point that he can predict each days numbers very closely. This is terrifying because if it were to continue, which it hopefully won’t because of vaccination, it peaks at 10,000 cases a day in October. Gladys had better be pretty damned sure of what she’s doing.

September 1, 2021

Happy Spring! My pansies are showing their cat faces at the front door, my replacement weeping acacia has grown an inch (after its predecessor was cut down by a whippy wind), the sugar snap peas are up and seeking the trellis and the coriander and dill seeds look happy. I am not sure why whippy winds can’t destroy weeds instead of the things you want, but that’s life.

John has gone to St. Vs today for his monthly IGg transfusion and is stopping at his place on the way to do some things. I was worried about the constabulary pulling him over in lockdown so I rang Services NSW who told me to write a letter explaining that he was living here for the lockdown but needs to go to his flat on the way to a hospital appointment. Hopefully that will be enough. The house is strangely empty.

Millie is very much enjoying an Enid Blyton book that Dav bought her so I went through my childhood book ands found The Pole Star Family by that author. I’ve posted it to her along with a Rupert book, a Disney one and another, all from the early 1950s. Many of my books were prizes from Granville Methodist Sunday School and have certificates posted in the front page, often with First Prize, I’m assuming from an exam of some sort. I remember the family gatherings in the hall where everyone brought a picnic to share, one of the few times my parents ever mixed socially. Well when I say mixed, they didn’t actually talk to anyone but they were there.

September 2, 2021

Huzzah! My blog has been refusing to upload for the last two days and I wasn’t sure if it was my computer or the blog host itself, but a speed test showed that while the download speed was good, the upload speed was 0.01. So I got John to bring up his machine when he called into his place yesterday and it appears that the upload speed is fine on it, so a visit by the computer guy is in order. Mine is relatively new and I’ve never had a problem before so it’s yet another worry.

Later: What a frustrating bloody day. I had an appointment with my immunologist via phone at 12.40 and it eventually happened at 2.40. No bad news there thankfully. John was apparently waiting for me to do something with him but I didn’t know anything about it, so the two hour delay pole-axed that. Then I had to enquire about something with Centrelink and after 40 minutes on the phone the person told me that the particular program she needed to help me was down, so ‘ring back tomorrow’. Later I decided to take some cake down to the lady who found and returned my phone recently, but there was no sign of life there so I walked back with the cake. Perhaps I should have stayed in bed.

But the good news is that if you are reading this my computer has fixed itself spontaneously, the upload speed now being about 18. We shall see, when I press the button it will either upload or the computer will go up in a pall of smoke as one did to me about 20 years ago. With luck however the universe may have decided to hold off on any more nasty annoyances and send them another day.

September 3, 2021

Oh frabjous day! Woke up early and had the porridge eaten and garden watered before 7.30 am. Then I decided to forget ringing Centrelink again and to try to do the job online, which was actually easier than I expected. For some reason it says I moved into this house on 28/3/14 instead of in the 1970s. I certainly didn’t tell them that and it was unable to be altered online, so I’m assuming it’s just a glitch in the program which won’t matter. I wish now that I had gone online in the first place, but you live and learn. My preference is to always deal with a real person.

John took off early to do some stuff at his flat. Now that I have written a letter saying that his address is Lane Cove but he is living here during the lockdown, he is confident about moving between the two if necessary. I see Our Glad is going to use an app to tell us if we’ve been close to an infected person, now that the contact tracing system has all but collapsed. It works well in Britain, but if the same developers who devised the CovidSafe app are involved it may well be more millions down the drain. She doesn’t seem to have an iota of guilt about the fact that she screwed up and caused so many deaths. Unlike the Samoan tree lopper who travelled from the hotspot of St. Marys to Newcastle (can you believe it!) going door to door looking for work and spreading Covid along the way. He gave a tearful interview from hospital where he is being treated along with many of his relatives who were working with him. But the man is probably little educated, had 10 children to support, is teary and remorseful and said he will accept going to gaol if that is his punishment. I will stop being angry with Gladys when I hear her say the same thing. Davina reports seeing a cop and an ADF person in blue camouflage and a face shield today at her unit block. We’re assuming this has to mean an infected person in the block as they would have been doing a spot check to check that someone was in quarantine as instructed. A bit disconcerting.

I made another trip, the third, to deliver some cake to the phone-finder but as I walked down the street with the cake under cling wrap, my elderly neighbour was at her letter box and saw me coming. ‘Here you are Jean’ I said deviously, not letting on that she wasn’t the intended recipient. The phone-finder must wait for another day.

September 4, 2021

Busy hucking stuff at John’s flat, cleaning out his food cupboards where I found spices and herbs with use-by dates of 2004 (I remember telling him to throw these same packets out when we were moving him into the flat 12 years ago). Also packets of cocoa, chai, fancy teas, oils and more that I had given him as gifts, unopened, but still in date luckily so they have migrated here. Then we attacked the linen cupboard and the shopping trolley was an ideal receptacle for all the purple, pink and puce towels and washers that have seen better days, good for rags or the Sallies. We still managed to watch Old Brad at 11, giving us the bad news about cases. The lovely Rick Morton wrote a front pager in The Saturday Paper about the fact that the hospitalisation figures conveniently ignore the two thirds of patients being treated in ‘hospital in the home’ situations, supplied with oxygen tanks and visited daily by nurses. Eight have died while in this type of care, including a couple of people in their 30s. The 1700 people getting this service were never mentioned in the hospital figures, funny that.

Back here I was putting things from the car into the garage when John moved a large old  garbage bag of mine and it split, but unluckily it was full of polystyrene beads and a few spilled from the hole. Uncharacteristically John spat the dummy and threw the whole bag in the air, resulting in a garage full of beads and an empty bag. I thought it was hilarious but he failed to be amused so I left it to him to sweep them all up and deposit them into a new bag which I kindly agreed to hold open. He sees the funny side now, but I wish I’d caught it on video for Facebook, it would have scored a lot of likes.

A friend was telling me about a good friend of hers, whom I’ve met, who won’t wear a mask or get vaccinated. She is a school teacher and my friend is naturally concerned that she will lose her job as a result. She subscribes to other conspiracy beliefs such as that the Holocaust never happened. Thinking about it afterwards I asked myself if I would be happy to have her teaching Millie and the answer has to be no. She is an advocate for refugees and a good soul in many ways and it occurred to me that this conspiracy stuff jumps the left/right divide and pulls many people into its web. I don’t know if it sheets back to the distrust of science by the religions or to something else, but I do know it’s a disease and I wish we were rid of it. We lost Robert a year ago yesterday at 6 am, he would have been appalled at the extent of the non-rationalist beliefs that are flooding us now.

September 5, 2021

Heather arrived early and left a Darrell Lea Dad’s Bag and a card on the doorstep for John for Father’s Day. He cried reading the card, knowing she was so concerned that he would spend the day without a card or gift and with no phone call. He says the words on the card moved him so much that he’ll never part with it. After a somewhat stressful day yesterday we opted for a dies non today, with a hot lunch and wine (for moi at least) to celebrate our 14 years today. Despite that decision to do not much, we weakened to hang John’s large painting of a bronze statue in the lounge room. He bought it when we were in Daylesford Victoria a few years ago and it looks mighty fine in its new home. Also I was able to put up the lovely Aboriginal bark painting and the painting of wrens by our friend Luke Kelly which was bought the day before the first lockdown in 2020. There are others to go up, but enough for one day I think.

Then I was delighted when John got his printer working, so pleased that the wi-fi travels as far as his new office. I was able to download some forms for Centrelink that have to be signed and returned tomorrow. My sugar-snap peas, or at least three of them, have worked out where the trellis is and wound their green fingers around it. A few more are reaching out in the wrong direction but I’m sure they will get with the program eventually. How do they know where to look? I ask myself. So all in all, the fates have shined on this house today, long may it continue.

September 6, 2021

My goodness, the conspiracy theorists are coming out of the woodwork. First my cousin, then Martha’s friend, now another friend of mine. He had me on the phone this morning convinced that the Post Office stopped parcel deliveries on Friday for a few days in order to sabotage Father’s Day, when in fact the warehouses were just plain full. Then he said that of the 12 people who died from Covid in Sydney a couple of days ago, 11 were vaccinated and one one wasn’t; actually it was the reverse. On top of that he maintained that 496 people had died from having the AstraZeneca vaccine, ‘check it out’ he said ‘it’s there on the TGA website’. So I did, and the statistics there are: 9.6 million AZ vaccines given so far, 125 cases of blood clotting syndrome and as a result 9 people have died. I am not sure if people can’t read, or perhaps they get the information from someone else or a devious website which has deliberately lied. But it’s a disease, it’s tiresome and it’s spreading as fast as Covid.

Fun and games with eBay of late. The lovely lady who bought the framed tapestry, and then decided to get it taken out of the frame and posted, has discovered the 1929 date on the back and now wants the frame as well. So that’s been packed up for posting and we shall see if it gets there without the glass breaking. It means she’s up for double postage, but she’s so thrilled with it that she doesn’t care. Another happy WA customer left a message that I am the best packer ever, which spurs me on to keep using unconventional packing methods that so far have resulted in nil breakages. I learned my lesson when I got one of my staff to post a dinner set and she sat it on the bottom of a box with no padding beneath, of course with disastrous results, so packing fell only to me from then on. In a first, a man in Moscow emailed to ask if I would post a rare corkscrew I am selling, if he wins the bid of course. He slept in and didn’t see my reply till the item had ended but I relisted it and hopefully it will wing its way to Moscow in due course. As usual it’s the blokey stuff that brings the money. I approached two auction houses with photos of some furniture that John wants to sell, but neither was interested. They are getting very fussy, so I will eBay that too in due course.

I gave John a little box with some morning tea to eat at Lane Cove, plus a quarter of a cake to leave outside Ann’s door, but he’s arrived home with the quarter cake and has left his morning tea outside Ann’s. Confusion reigns but there’s a funny side. Just made a fruit cake while he was gone so I will send her a quarter of that instead, though I’ll wait till I am going there to drop it off.

September 7, 2021

Today we were at John’s sorting stuff and packing boxes. I now have more tins of tomatoes and chick peas than any woman needs but we will get through them eventually. It is such a pity that the charity shops are shut as there are pots and pans, dinner ware, glasses, cutlery, you name it, that are surplus to requirements. John’s neighbour offered to try to sell a few of his things and we are so sick of packing that we said yes and he gave her a standard lamp which she likes and said she could take her pick from the leftover kitchen stuff if there’s anything of use. John left her with keys and asked her to come in after we had gone to abide by Covid rules. We are like the walking wounded tonight, but we will sleep at least. Too tired to even type.

September 8, 2021

Our decision to let J’s neighbour sell some of his remaining things proved problematic as I should have known it would. She texted to say that his dinner set for 8 had been sold for $20 but I told her that she had better unsell it pretty quickly as that was half of the minimum price in the list we sent by email. She contacted the buyer who was understandably upset. I really don’t know why we weakened to agree to the arrangement and I can only plead exhaustion yesterday. I did say to John on the way home that it will end in tears, but he’s a trusting soul bless him and assured me it would be fine. Today outside he saw another neighbour who has a Chinese catering business and offered her some excess kitchenware which was going to the Sallies, odd glasses, bowls, saucepans etc. Bad move as far as the first neighbour is concerned and he has had phone calls and texts in protest that someone else was offered anything at all. Hide and rhinoceros come to mind,

Went out to Dural to get my high dose Vitamin D from the compounder and it’s funny that the trip feels like a day out rather than a chore. I guess that’s what happens when your territory shrinks. I do abide by the rules, even to the point of getting an okay from Service NSW to go to John’s to pack, unlike certain reported religious groups in Melbourne. First the engagement party of Orthodox Jewish people and now a synagogue full of them disobeying lockdown. In that case is it religion or is it wealth I ask myself and I don’t have an answer to that one. However in some cases wealth doesn’t seem to be part of the equation, with photos of a humble suburban house where police have been called by neighbours SIX times because the positive family of five just won’t stay home. When asked why it was still happening a policeman replied ‘try getting this mob to pay fines’. It has been explained repeatedly and yet the wife replies ‘well we’ve got to eat’ despite food being delivered to them. I guess the constabulary sees the risk to themselves of just throwing the lot in a paddy wagon. Then we come to the family of the boy missing for three days who throws a party and on television, as bold as you like, invites all the rellies from south-west Sydney to come up for a barbecue. Sometimes I just wonder about the rationality of some people, especially this past year.

September 9, 2021

It seems our friends in the Orthodox community were craftier than the rest of us, registering the synagogue as a venue for AA meetings, which have a medical dispensation allowing 10 people to meet. Having got that happening they decided to ask along 60 of their brethren for a meeting of a totally different kind, what’s a few dozen more between friends? Oh, but there’s a lockdown on…..which applies to Gentiles only it seems. Now the Tasmanian Catholic Archbishop has asked for a vaccine exemption for priests entering nursing homes to minister to the elderly, on the grounds that some have conscientious objections to having the injection. Jesus F. Christ, give me a break! These are frail elderly and the priests want to risk sending them to their maker early? Surely there are enough sensible priests to take over the duties of the anti-vaxxers? If there are not, shame on the organisation. Just another example of churches still living in mediaeval times.

John went off to Lane Cove to get a car load of clothes (looks like a semi load, but whatever). Fifteen minutes after he left I saw his keys there in the door so I texted his neighbour to make sure she had replaced the spares in the key lock attached to the stairs. No response, so I had to phone John to turn around and come back for the keys just in case. When he got there he checked the key lock and no, they weren’t there. I had to send a text expressly telling her to leave the bloody keys where they belong, except playing it sweet and nice to keep John happy. The bane of my life at the moment.

Decided to use the free time today to put a few eBays on as I haven’t had any opportunity this last week. But all the boxes of eBay-able stuff have gone into the storeroom and god knows which box is which at this stage. Rather than unpacking boxes of tat to find something saleable I decided to put on an original 1960s Oroton mesh handbag and a 15 carat rose gold cased pencil from my jewellery box, meant to hang on a fob watch chain and made by Sydney jewellers Fairfax and Roberts in the late 1800s. I don’t wear gold so it’s just sitting there because it’s a gorgeous thing and I like it. It is the sort of thing my daughters might understandably put in the Sulo bin not knowing what it was, so it’s better if it goes anyway. However the punters will need to put their hands very deeply into their pockets if they want to own this 9 grams of loveliness. I also sent photos of it to my favourite jewellery auction house and we’ll see what sort of figure they come up with.

September 10, 2021

So Our Glad is too scared to face journalists, and through them the public, now that the news regarding Covid cases and deaths is likely to soar. How bloody typical of her. Perhaps she is scared of Kerry telling the truth about her advice to the cabinet, advice that wasn’t taken. As Stephen Duckett, ex head of Health remarked “one person’s freedom is another person’s going to hospital. This plan was developed by business for business”. A poll I did online recently asked if I were: looking forward to travelling? looking forward to going to a show? looking forward to going to the movies? After some thought I answered no to all of them, simply because the way the pandemic is being handled at the moment I have zero confidence in the safety of any of these. I will check it out, but from memory when I was studying we were told that 85% of a population needed to be vaccinated or have had a disease to achieve herd immunity. Our Glad doesn’t give a fig about facts if they interfere with politics. But between Covid and McGuire she has zip chance of re-election in my view and it’s well deserved.

September 11, 2021

Decided to watch 9/11 Life Under Attack on iview late yesterday and it was so rivetingly attention- grabbing that I failed to take enough notice of the fact that all the camera work was hand-held. Oops, suddenly I was diving for the loo to vomit, too sick to stand for quite a while. Some time in bed in a dark room, with a cardigan wrapped around my head to block out residual light, followed by an early night was the solution. Woke up fine this morning but it was a close shave. I just can’t afford to get sick right now.

We went back to John’s and I was feeling okay about what’s left to do till I remembered the garage. My heart sank when I saw all the stuff stored in there, including 7 large boxes full of family photos which have been there since he moved 12 or so years ago, but we put them all in the car along with piles of other stuff that I guarantee will never be looked at again. It’s a pity there are no rellies to offload some of this to, but there we are. We then filled a large Sulo bin to the top with university assignments, drawings and notes.

September 12, 2021

Did I say 7 large boxes of photos yesterday? Silly me, double that once I pulled stuff off the top shelves in the garage. Some of the boxes were packed with newspapers from year 2000 and have never been looked at since. Box after box of ‘archives’, which I’ve had to put under the house as the garage is now full. I have been putting a couple of things on eBay for him this arv, but gave up when I discovered that the box with his dinner set in it was actually packed with half the dinner set. I guess the other half has to be packed in the garage somewhere, but not findable at the moment so I’ve had to cancel the ad. I did a bit of yelling when the overloaded station wagon scraped on my uneven driveway, but peace has now been restored. Thursday can’t come soon enough.

I missed the last Gladys presser today but if I were a Labor pollie I’d institute 11 am pressers starting tomorrow. They can get the info from the Health website and people are primed to watch at that time, so why not take advantage of it? I wonder if there are going to be some more Darryl McGuire revelations this week that Our Glad is keen to avoid, I suspect it, cynic that I am. Perhaps she is trying to get to herd immunity via positive cases a la Boris Johnson, if so she’s doing a bottler of a job.

Last year in Melbourne’s outbreak an acquaintance who is a specialist doctor there said that there was a plan at her hospital to prioritise patients by age if the pandemic took off. She was told that they may need to put over 75s aside with doses of morphine, and not tell either the patient or the family that this was all that was being done. She was in tears over it. Now according to The Saturday Paper NSW Health has a similar formula which prioritises under 72s. Plans have been drawn up that life-saving support may not be offered, or may even be withdrawn, for those over 72. ” Complex ethical and clinical treatment issues can occur when healthcare demand exceeds supply. It may be necessary at some point to begin prioritising limited critical care resources to those who are more likely to survive”. I wonder where I can buy a licence which gives my age as 65?

September 13, 2021

I was happy to get some time here on my own to put some more eBays on and to get some gardening done before the rain started. I got the little bit of transplanting done in time but unfortunately then got caught up searching for some important misplaced documents of John’s which took an age and was fruitless anyway, so there goes the bulk of the day. A complete emptying of the Sulo bin failed to find them so now it’s just one of life’s little mysteries.

I see that Chris Minns took up my suggestion of an 11 am presser today in light of the premier’s decision to cease doing them, so Our Glad decided that she actually did need to do one at that time after all. If I had to use one word to describe her I think it would be ‘shameless’. Embarrassment and indeed mortification just don’t come into her self-perception at all, regardless of how blatant her dishonesty is. The best liars don’t give a fig that they are lying. She and Morrison are cast from the same mould in that respect.

The frame with glass that I posted to Melbourne arrived both quickly and safely so I am very pleased. It could easily have been broken despite being plastered with fragile stickers. I think I’ve made a friend as she emails me personally apart from the sale we have now concluded. One of the best things about selling, finding common ground with people who are also antique lovers.

September 14, 2021

The second and last of my rare French 1927 corkscrews has sold to someone in Moscow. I have my toes crossed that he’s not a scammer but looking at his feedback it seems he buys mostly from antiques or junktiques people so hopefully he is genuine. It’s terrible to have to make judgments on the basis of where folks live, but it’s also true that Russia and Malaysia and others have bed reputations for scammers, so much so that after Davina went to Malaysia the bank told her to cancel her credit card because she had used it there, though that didn’t happen with us. His English is perfect, which means nothing of course, but it seemed surreal thinking back to my trip to Moscow in 1973, when barely anyone spoke the language.

Some pretty impressive scientific commentators on Covid including all the usual suspects: epidemiologist Tony Blakely, Burnet Institute’s Brendan Crabb, the Grattan Institute’s Stephen Duckett, the Kirby Institute’s biosecurity program head Raina MacIntyre and even ANU vice-chancellor with Nobel-prize winning astronomer Brian Schmidt thrown in for good measure, have joined together to form OzSAGE, a new scientific lobby group on the pandemic. Named after its British counterpart the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, it comprises those who have serious doubts about the Doherty modelling which was based on 30 new cases a day, while we discuss opening up with an average of 1200.

The disruption here in the house is starting to get on top of me. Every time I turn around there is more stuff piling up around me. I am not a neatness freak at all, but I do need to have some rooms which aren’t affected in any disordering, somewhere to retreat to, and at the moment that’s just the bathroom.

September 15, 2021

Well it’s really happening. Jeff the removalist rang this morning to confirm the number of pieces of furniture he is bringing here tomorrow from John’s, presumably so he knows what size truck to bring. I have worked with him many times doing deliveries for the shop and I like his style. We used him to move John to Lane Cove, then to move him from the first floor flat down to the ground floor after his third knee replacement and now to here. Then I decided this morning to email the neurologist to ask whether or not she needs to see John again at the moment. Last November she said that there was a drug, Aricept, that he could have to slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s, but it can only be given once and it was too early for him to have it then. I am a little worried that we may miss the optimum time for it so I just need reassurance about when that might be. I am finding everything a struggle at the moment, navigating change of address for umpteen organisations, dealing with the bank, doctors, this on top of the disruption here which is really getting me down. All the plates on the walls have had to come down and numerous pieces of furniture moved to give the men clear access tomorrow. But after that each thing done will be towards putting my little world back to rights, so it’s all upwards from then.

Perhaps a whinge would do me good: It annoys me no end the way people talk about ‘mental health’. An expert on The Drum said ‘Mental health is going through the roof’. That has to be a good thing, right? I assume she meant lack of mental health that’s the problem, but it’s become a catch phrase and is used messily. Secondly, I can’t stand Parnell Palme McGuiness. She always trots out lots of facts, stirs them all around and ends up with a totally wrong conclusion. Plus she is as annoying as fuck. Oh, that did me good, I feel so much better now.

September 16, 2021

I think I’ve mentioned that I don’t like getting up at any time that has a 5 in front of it, but today was a special day so there was an exception. We were at John’s flat by 6.30 am and the boys in the big Jeff’s Removals van arrived just after 7. Nick and Craig did a wonderful job, as Jeff’s people always do, and it astonished me at times what one man can lift alone. Two of them managed his massive tool box full of power tools which I’d assumed they would need to unload. We beetled back here for a toastie for lunch before the truck arrived and by 2.30 pm we were waving them goodbye. Now there is probably months of sorting and finding new homes for things, but the worst is over. Hallelujah.

I am beside myself happy that a friend who disappeared out of my life in April has sent an email just now asking if he can visit me on Monday week to explain ‘what has been going on over the last few months’. Trying to pretend to yourself that someone doesn’t really mean that much to you never ever works. Now I can hopefully stop blaming myself for upsetting him in some mysterious way that I could never fathom. Weepy happy at the moment.

Now I intend to sit down and write some lists of priorities for sorting out all this stuff, but a great start is that I just today got a bid on John’s antique double bed and mattress on eBay, so that’s the first big thing out of the way.

September 17, 2021

I keep thinking of things that we need to organise and today it was his mail redirection, so we headed off to the Dural PO, a small one run by a couple and never full, whereas the Baulkham Hills one always has 10 people lined up out the door. It suited to buy bread from the bakery there now that we can use John’s fridge and freezer in the garage as overflow. We attacked putting John’s clothes into the wardrobe and discovered that I couldn’t find the only piece of outer clothing I’ve bought new in the last 5 years? 10 years? It is a delicious reversible raincoat in black/red made in the USA (and priced to match) which lives in its matching shoulder bag. I got it in Bowral in a moment of weakness and I don’t think I’ve worn it since, because of lack of rain and then the lockdown. However it is my evil treat, waiting for its day in the sun, well actually its day in the rain, but you know what I mean. When I couldn’t find it I went through the ‘am I being punished for splurging on something new and expensive?’ routine and felt quite bereft till John turned it up under a small mountain of his stuff. He’s discovered winter jumpers he didn’t know he had and some winter nightshirts that he was thrilled to buy a couple of years ago and then promptly forgot about. However I used Restorafinish on some of his office furniture and picked a bunch of flowers for his desk, the room is materialising slowly.

So now we are to have some nuclear submarines in order to put us even more in debt to the US if (or rather when) they start yet another inane war. It has always been my opinion that a leader, at the very least, should be able to pronounce the word nuclear before considering using that technology and sadly Morrison fails by that measure. How hard is it? Nu-Clee-Ar, there you go Scotty, pretty simple. The idea that Australia, or Australia plus the US, could win a war against China is too ridiculous to contemplate, but the idea of friendship with them is not. Call me a Chamberlain if you will, but I think history shows he at least made an effort towards peace, if a failed one, while we, the UK and US just rattle their chains unnecessarily. Help me down off the podium please.

September 18, 2021

We have been pretty desperate to get rid of all the lengths of timber and sheets of plywood that John had stored in his garage and I’ve had them on eBay unsuccessfully for a week. There is no option to give something away on that platform so I asked for $20 the lot. Seeing his lease is now up I decided to try Facebook Marketplace as well, a platform I don’t particularly like for two reasons: one, that the buyer pays at the door and secondly, that they seem an unreliable bunch compared to eBay buyers and often don’t turn up. But within an hour I got a message from a lady to say she could pick up today. Woohoo! We had a few interactions back and forth and then after we had agreed on the sale and a time I happen to ask where she was from. Blacktown was the answer, right slap bang in the middle of one of the hardest Covid lockdown areas and of course she is not permitted to leave home. I told her that I wasn’t prepared to meet her there, but reluctantly agreed that she could go to the unlocked garage to load up and leave the money in his letterbox. Later in the afternoon we went down there and sure enough the wood was gone and the money paid as suggested, which was a huge relief. Seeing we were on the last day we could legally be in Lane Cove with the permission of the sheet of paper we’ve been carrying around, we ordered takeaway from Lillah Middle Eastern restaurant nearby. Unfortunately I chose badly, getting a mixed plate of various bits and bobs including rice, felafel, lamb kebabs, hommous, salad and sides. I say unfortunately because it was served in a large segmented plate with things that were meant to be both hot and cold, which made reheating at home problematic. I managed to reheat some bits but it wasn’t ideal. However it was the first food I’ve ordered in this year so it was a change to eat something that I hadn’t cooked.

September 19, 2021

An 8 am party this morning (3pm Saturday their time) for John’s sister-in-law Justine’s 80th birthday in California and it worked a treat with a group of her friends and relatives attending. She had posted party favours to everyone, so many had matching party hats, candles and chocolate. Although she tried at three post offices there, all said that Australia wasn’t taking mail due to Covid staff shortages preventing parcels being unloaded at the airports. News to us, but at the main PO she was shown an email to that effect. However it didn’t affect our enjoyment of the party one bit. Perhaps naively, I had once hoped and somehow expected to be welcomed into John’s family initially and although I certainly have always been welcomed warmly by the American contingent, it was not to be with everyone here in Australia. But that situation didn’t spoil this lovely celebration today. I saw Eileen was getting teary and that made me the same, but we will catch up by email and perhaps even Zoom another time.

To our surprise John’s building manager Pauline insisted on picking up his flat keys from here tomorrow, quite out of her area, rather than having him leave them in the flat as planned. So we will have morning tea (though as yet we don’t have a time) on the front verandah and he will get to say a proper goodbye. She has always been very good to him and was the one who suggested his move from upstairs to down and had all the aids installed in the bathroom and toilet, so we are both looking forward to this unexpected visit.

Just now got a message from Kelly who bought the wood, apologising for leaving behind some offcuts and not sweeping the garage out! She was bitten by a redback spider while loading it and like me has a horror of spiders, so she hightailed it home in case she got sick from the bite. Luckily she didn’t, but I feel bad that it happened to her nonetheless. Davina just rang to say she had to take Millie to hospital during the night for a very high temperature and vomiting. Turns out it was a gastro bug but you can’t be too careful at the moment. Triage at RPA is done outside in a tent, just in case the triage nurse doesn’t have enough on her plate she is in the cold and wind to boot. Millie is home now and much recovered after administration of anti-emetic drugs.

September 20, 2021

Unfortunately John’s housing manager couldn’t come due to a problem in a couple of the buildings she manages. Some of the residents have Covid but others, who are also sick, refuse to be tested because ‘Covid is a hoax’. So her day has been taken up with calls to Health so they can see what to do about the conspiracy theorists who won’t play ball. Better their job than mine. Though I hope I wouldn’t go to the extreme taken by a cop in Melbourne who knocked a 70 year old woman over in an anti-lockdown protest, then while she was on the ground sprayed capsicum spray straight into her eyes for an extended period. The video was sickening. I am all in favour of the punishment fitting the crime so perhaps they need to hold him down and give her the can for a few minutes.

I’ve been helping John get his study to rights and quite a few things that were definitely bring tossed or given away when we were sorting at Lane Cove have materialised here, now emerging from boxes and being reinstated as valuable things that can’t possibly be parted with. I am not saying a word.

I have given a lot of thought to the issue of the nuclear powered subs and my prize for comment goes to the full page in the Herald on Saturday by the Subway sandwich people advertising ‘non nuclear powered $90 billion cheaper subs’. I rarely laugh at an ad but this one was clever. But on a more serious note, politicians need to understand that talking about a war with China over Taiwan or the South China Sea or anything else is talking about the possibility of the end of the world as we know it. Taiwan has a chequered history, control moving back and forth between Japan and the Republic of China in recent times and as with Hong Kong it is a territory whose existence has been altered by previous wars. Worth a world war over a long disputed territory? No, I’m afraid I don’t think so, but Dutton et al would go to war over less.

September 21, 2021

We had a lovely visit with Pauline who surprised John with a call from the CEO of Link Housing to say that he has been made a life member of the organisation. He was thrilled of course. He will be invited to the AGM and any other functions they hold and will still be able to participate in policy and other discussions. She was here for maybe a couple of hours and we enjoyed a light lunch on the front verandah. I think that friendship will be an ongoing one.

A big bonus for me was her discussion about having both Meniere’s disease and vestibular migraine, the latter she described as ‘doing a drop’ when she can’t walk, sit up or open her eyes without vomiting and losing control of bladder and bowels. The interesting thing is that my brother has Meniere’s and I have vestibular migraine and I’ve long thought that was more than coincidence. The professor who treats her for both is really good apparently and worth remembering if my attacks should increase. I was hopefully able to help in the respect that I showed her the anti-nausea drugs I now carry which don’t need to be swallowed, they just dissolve under the tongue, though I did wonder why she hadn’t been prescribed them before now if the Prof is as good as she says.

A parcel arrived from Kenneth for my birthday with the book Stalingrad by Antony Beevor, a scarf and one of Kenneth’s stories bound into a book called The Course, about his time in the Joint Services School for Linguists and later at Cambridge where he learned Russian and started his career as an interpreter and much more. It was a major Cold War initiative, which pushed many young National Servicemen through intensive training as Russian translators and interpreters, primarily to meet the needs of Britain’s signals intelligence operations and potentially to be dropped inside Russia if needed, able to pass for natives. His classmates included a remarkable cross-section of clever young men who went on to a diversity of glittering careers. His confreres and friends includes a remarkable cross-section of talented men who went on to disparate glittering careers: professors of Russian, Chinese, ancient philosophy and economics, authors such as Alan Bennett, Dennis Potter and Michael Frayn and screenwriter Jack Rosenthal and I think the head of the Bank of England was in there too from memory. Clever chap my bro.

September 22, 2021

We spent the morning detailing John’s antique oak bed which sold today on eBay. It’s a relief as it takes up a lot of space with the base and mattress. Pick-up in a trailer on Friday by someone from Avalon, from whom we will keep appropriate distance seeing we’ve been told by John’s ex-housing manager that the units with Covid are all on the Northern Beaches.

Paul Keating wrote an opinion piece for the Herald this morning which pretty much sets out my views on China and our response to it. Morrison, Dutton et al have demonised the Chinese publicly for so long that people have absorbed it by osmosis, especially those who couldn’t find China on a map even if there were a beer for getting it right. Yes I’ve read some good analysis, but I’ve read a lot more over the top scaremongering. Hopefully others on the Labor side will see sense.

I was feeling pretty chuffed with the day till about noon when I got an email from MyGov, always a worrying sign. They wanted some documents which I downloaded, but some of the answers were apparently hidden in John’s MyGov account, except he said he doesn’t have one. Either he does and he’s forgotten or else he never got around to opening one, so then I had to open one for him, change his address for Centrelink, alter his email address etc. One of the questions was what was the exact amount in dollars and cents of your last pension payment, so that involved accessing his online banking, for which he had forgotten the password. Finally by 3.30 pm I had all the information and sent photos of the completed forms to Centrelink. Then I discovered he’d been telling everyone that his new email is a Hotmail account when it is in fact Gmail. I was so keyed up by then that I had to do a fast walk to calm down. This move will be the death of me, she says plaintively.

September 23, 2021

Spurred on by Paul Keating’s opinion piece yesterday I wrote a letter to the Herald asking if the Chinese, who have a 99 year lease on Darwin port, will institute a ban forbidding our new nuclear powered submarines from entering it? A bit of fun at least on a bleak issue, but voters laughing at ridiculous decisions is almost as good as their criticising them. It pains me that mentioning politics in Australia can be like letting off a bad smell, whereas in Britain, well in Northern England anyway, you can go to the pub and often hear people arguing about what was said in Prime Minister’s Questions. It’s a much more healthy response and people seem to be able to argue politics without being seen as infra dig.

More admin again today, trying to let companies know that John has a new credit card number. But it’s hard when he can’t remember his passwords and doesn’t know where they are written down. We had to do this after finding regular payments being made to organisations that he didn’t know he was funding. The bank advised that cancelling the card altogether and starting a new one was the easiest solution. But of course now I have to tell all the direct debits about the change. I really hate this sort of stuff.

I have been having trouble getting up after kneeling to weed the garden but I think I have solved the problem. I took a large long carving knife out and instead of kneeling I simply slash the weed just below ground level and hoik it out. So easy and it doesn’t disturb the soil much either, works in tight spaces. I think I may patent the idea, Maureen’s Mazing Machete isn’t accurate but rolls off the tongue.

September 24, 2021

More admin again, this time organising change of address for all the organisations and companies that John deals with. He is reluctant to do any of this unless I am sitting beside him so I spent a long time this morning listening to awful music on the phone. But once it’s done it’s done and hopefully we are over the worst of it. Much could have been done online…..if only we had the passwords.

Book group was very good via Zoom with everyone speaking about a book that they have read this month. I praised The Labyrinth to the skies and remembered all over again how wonderful it was. Got some good tips on other books to look into.

Michelle came over straight after the meeting to drop a couple of books off and stayed for a chat on the front verandah, during which time the chap came to pick up the bed I had sold on eBay for John. It was outside ready for him so all good on the Covid front. Now it’s time for dinner and I realise that I have prepared nothing, but luckily I have a smoked trout in the fridge so with a bit of salad that will do the job. I have sent John downstairs to pick nasturtium leaves and flowers to be part of the salad. I loved it in New Zealand and in Ireland where every lake has a smokehouse on the side where you can pick up a smoked fish or some smoked mussels or oysters to make a quick meal.

September 25, 2021

Yesterday I had need to ring the Commonwealth Bank about something and each time the message said that ‘wait time is over 60 minutes’ so I gave up after three times and tried again this morning at 7 am, but still waited over half an hour so when I was asked if I would like to put in a complaint about the wait time I said yes. It is great that they are all in Australia but there just aren’t enough of them. Anyway my problem was solved by the man who answered so one more job off the list.

I have been banging on about the number of sirens lately so I have started counting them. My friend in Castle Hill who lives near Windsor Road agreed with me when I mentioned what an increase there had been, she also wonders if it is Covid related. Yesterday there were three just in the time Michelle was here for a cuppa, seven in total for the day and four so far today. Poor old Victoria is in trouble with 847 cases today, a record for them and so sad that it seems that they all came from a couple of negligent removalists from NSW. Dan really didn’t deserve this, unlike Gladys who was slack as a wizard’s sleeve for weeks at the beginning of the Delta outbreak, though Dan did all the right things and still lost control of it, not helped by a high rate of idiots per square kilometre.

The garden is looking a treat at the moment, my Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) which is supposed to be about a maximum of 2 metres high and wide, is now about 5 metres high and 9 metres wide! It is absolutely covered in flowers and brings me great joy every day as well as shielding the house from the street. The garlic is still pretty ordinary, but the sugar-snap peas are climbing the trellis happily. Dill and coriander are growing apace and I should soon be using them on top of fish curries and molees. Good time of the year before the heat turns the ground to concrete.

September 26, 2021

Last night we were part of an online trivia night, a fund-raiser to get David Shoebridge who will hopefully get into the Senate next election. Unfortunately for him and for the Greens it was a shemozzle due to technical problems. Quite a few people were getting antsy when they couldn’t get into the group and were taking it out on him (all this by messages appearing on the screen) so I was pretty happy when Carol rang and suggested that we just duck the whole thing and more than an hour of technology woes. I wonder if it went ahead after we left but I was glad to get back to reading my book, the wonderful Dead Man Walking by Kate McClymont. A novel with similar theme would be criticised for having no characters at all with redeeming features but this real life book is about a motley bunch of Sydney’s urgers, confidence men, drug dealers, property developers, thieves and murderers and their interactions with each other. It focuses on the murder of sociopathic criminal Michael McGurk and the numerous attempts by the multi-millionaire property magnate Ron Medich to have him killed before he finally succeeded, using a pair of dills who couldn’t run a meat raffle. I attended both of Medich’s trials, the first amazingly a hung jury and the second with a conviction. As well I saw him questioned at ICAC so when I saw this book for sale it leapt into my arms.

Today John decided that he couldn’t bear to part with his hallstand which he’d asked me to sell and which had created quite a bit of interest. We brought it upstairs and it is now ensconced in his rapidly filling study, a tiny room home to the hallstand, an easy chair, a display cabinet, chest of drawers, filing cabinet, large desk, desk chair and occasional table. He can get in there himself with some difficulty. I have spent some time today sewing up moth holes in jumpers, luckily not my best ones, and because they each happen to be a boucle type my sewing is not going to show. This happened because I simply haven’t gone anywhere all winter due to lockdown so these drawers hadn’t been opened and the little blighters had a beano.

September 27, 2021

My brother is about as incurious of anything medical as I am about anything sporting. No, more incurious I think. So a few weeks ago he had a cystoscopy after an issue of occasional blood in the urine, but he was assured afterwards that ‘everything is fine’. Except two weeks later he got a call to say he needed a CT scan of the bladder, which he had last week. Did you ask why the CT when you’d previously been told ‘everything is fine’ I asked. No, was his inexplicable answer, he just went along to the hospital and had it. Except that he couldn’t leave until he passed urine, which he wasn’t able to do. So eventually they put in a catheter and left it in so he could go home. Since then he’s had to call the hospital once when it blocked and a district nurse came and replaced it. The reason it blocked I asked? There was a blood clot in the line, he said. Now he’s been summoned to his GP on Monday to get the result, but no antibiotics have been prescribed through all of this so clearly an infection isn’t on their radar. Which leaves…..? I am thinking bladder cancer, but I am hoping against hope that I’m talking through my hat. If I were there I’d be going to every appointment with him, he’s such a doofus about anything medical.

An odd call to John yesterday from the sister of his ex neighbour who was gaoled in 2020 for the murder, more than 32 years ago, of an American mathematical genius who was tossed from cliffs near Manly in an apparent gay hate crime. Scott has not yet gone to trial and the only dealings John has had with the sister were around access to Scott’s flat and collecting his dog. So her request came as a bit of a surprise: Do you have a rubber plunger you could lend me to free up a blocked toilet? Mmm, I need to think on that one.

September 28, 2021

After a lovely morning tea with Carol and Jack (remember having morning tea with people? it is something we used to do) we came home and packed John’s patchwork bedspread which I’d sold on eBay and took it to post.

But sitting down at the computer when we came back the first email that came up was from my friends in Callala Beach with the terrible news that the elder of their two daughters committed suicide on Sunday while they were out shopping. She had been wanting to leave this world for many years, but they feel that they missed the signals that something was imminent. She lived with them, but had an unhappy existence, in latter years it was suggested that she suffered from autism. It pains me that we can’t do anything from here but their other daughter and her husband went straight down from Sydney and are still there. The self blame and grief will weigh heavily on them.

I’m really not sure what to say after this bombshell.

September 29, 2021

Remembered Danish’s birthday next Monday just in time (well considering the post at the moment, I hope it’s in time) so I donned a poncho and walked to the post box. Seeing I was togged up for the weather I decided to put in a few stakes that I’d been meaning to do for a while and to fertilize the native plants with Bush Tucker. My Michelia tree, related to a Magnolia, has never produced one single flower in the four years since I planted it, but I keep feeding it with the fertiliser recommended by the nursery and hoping I will live long enough to see a bloom. The big gum tree though, which was in serious decline a year ago, has come back very well after I followed the horticulturist’s instructions and I am now hopeful that it will see me out. Feeling as if I deserve a reward, so a piece of Carol’s cake and a cuppa could be on the cards soon.

Some figures I read recently about the genocide of the American Indian population were harrowing and almost unbelievable. Indian children were removed from their families and forced to live in largely Roman Catholic orphanages with their tribal names changed to Christian names and denied permission to speak their native languages (not pointing the finger here, we were doing exactly the same to Aboriginal people). The figure that shocked me most was that in 1491 there were believed to be a population of of 145 million indigenous people in North America, by 1691 the population had been reduced by 95 percent. That is 138 million people exterminated, by smallpox, measles, syphilis, tuberculosis, military-led massacres, burning of villages and more. I have always harboured a distrust of flag-wavers, but I wonder how anyone can possibly hold an Australian or American flag aloft knowing that the cost of that flag is untold misery of those who first inhabited these lands.

When I informed Heather of the sad news from Callala she told me that her friend’s grandson had taken his life last week largely because he couldn’t get a flight home from New Zealand to see his dying mother. I can’t imagine how the mother is coping with that. Yet another suicide in hotel quarantine has occurred in Brisbane, an aeronautical engineer who was still grieving the death of his brother in 2020. It seems to me that Covid has uncovered a basic mental instability in the population. When you consider what some people in the world are suffering all the time, think Syria, Afghanistan, parts of Africa, we are in clover. The idea that two weeks in quarantine can push people into self-destruction seems bizarre to me, unless there were severe mental problems there already. Perhaps we need to look at resilience in depth because what we are seeing is frightening.

September 30, 2021

John had a call this morning to say that one of his cousins who lived in Sydney has died, and his daughter is seriously ill in hospital, both from Covid. I had never met him but John said he was very quiet and distanced from the family as a result of being severely beaten by his father as a young person, apparently he never recovered from it. How sad after all that to end up dying from a bloody virus. The cousin who rang had been to a funeral in Dubbo this morning for another Covid victim. I had an interesting discussion with Jane this morning when John rang her. She talked about the Covid risks of the next few months and how we need to discuss openly between ourselves any risks to others that our activities may have. Things such as unvaccinated people we may live with or have mixed with or places we’ve been which might have exposed us (my two coming appointments at St. Vincent’s during October came to mind here). I had a letter published in the Herald today on a closely related subject in which I said: “I am an older person, fully vaccinated but with significant underlying health conditions. While I have already made an appointment with my hairdresser, whom I know and trust, I would not feel comfortable going into a cafe or restaurant knowing that there is no penalty for allowing non-vaccinated clientele to enter. The government can’t expect businesses to wade through this legal minefield alone and I for one will be staying away from hospitality venues and the like until I feel it’s safe to enter them with some surety.” I think the next months will be the most dangerous so far as risks go, as if any of us do get infected the chances are that we won’t be treated, considering the protocols put in place by Health around who gets intensive care treatment. Apparently the formula, devised to take decision-making away from frontline staff, adds the ago of 72 plus a figure for each medical condition on your history: diabetes, obesity, certain cancers, autoimmune diseases etc and when your total reaches a magic number, known only to Health and the treating hospitals, you will be put to one side with morphine only, no oxygen, ventilation or any other life-saving intervention. This will not be communicated to either patient or relatives. This is not a social media beat-up but came directly from a doctor working in a hospital with many Covid patients. I understand this reverse triage, but I think it is shabby in the extreme that it’s kept secret. We deserve to know that formula before we need to make a decision about whether to go to hospital or to chance it at home.

October 1, 2021

What a bummer that you can’t search Facebook easily. Then I could find the old post of nearly a year ago when I forecast Gladys’s resignation due to further investigation of her by ICAC. A right wing ex client took me on over it and I said I was willing to bet money with her on that outcome but now of course it’s too long ago to find the post so I guess I can’t collect. As soon as Our Glad (what to call her now? Our ex Glad doesn’t have the same ring) told ICAC that she kept her relationship with Daryl McGuire secret because it wasn’t important enough to mention to anyone and then a few days later told a TV interview that she was expecting it to lead to marriage, I knew she was playing ducksy weaver with the truth. My neighbour made the comment months ago that she is a very good liar and I think that stands. But on a personal level I feel sorry that her stellar career has been undone by faith in a bad man. My only hope is that Dominic Perrottet isn’t her successor. Davina says he’s a ‘cockwomble’ which is a delicious new word for me. Apparently it means: ‘A male prone to making outrageously stupid statements and/or inappropriate behaviour while generally having a very high opinion of his own wisdom and importance’. Bullseye.

We had been sorting boxes from the garage and turned up stuff that needs to find a home in the house Smilie: :(, but also lots for giving away Smilie: :).  We abandoned it though when Davina texted ‘Gladys has resigned’ and then we were glued to the teev. I treated myself to half a Violet Crumble bar as I watched, like eating food from a basket at the foot of the guillotine. I was lucky enough to be at ICAC on the day that Barry O’Farrell was called to testify and an hour later resigned (for much less than Gladys is accused of I might add). So I will be glued to ICAC when she goes into the witness box again, hopefully in person but more likely via the live streaming. Her insistence that she had to resign is a nonsense, Neville Wran simply stood aside for months while he was investigated, her decision is a political one and an indication that she expects a negative finding. Old Daryl must be pleased with himself, topping a Premier on his way down.

October 2, 2021

How quickly a day can change! Shortly after I posted yesterday’s blog John told me that he had chest pain that wasn’t being relieved with his Nitrolingual spray, something he rarely used in the past but has increasingly used in the last couple of weeks. It got gradually worse so I decided, rather than calling an ambulance who would have taken him to Westmead, to drive him to Royal North Shore instead. Westmead is overrun with Covid and is ramping ambulances, so this combined with the fact that his cardiologist is at RNS made the decision easy. I couldn’t go in and left him at the door of Emergency and came home. However after a comfortable night in a private room he says they’ve decided that he hasn’t had a heart attack so he will come out later this afternoon (keeping the hospital with as few patients as possible due to Covid I suspect) and I am to take him back on Tuesday for more tests and he will presumably see his cardiologist then or soon after.

Davina and Carly had organised a restaurant meal from Monopole in the city for my birthday today and I suggested that it be cancelled due to John’s anticipated absence but it was too late to do so, however with the latest turn of events we should both be able to enjoy it tonight. It was accompanied by a (mightily expensive) bottle of French red and separately by a bunch of native flowers so huge that I feared it might topple any vase I have so I put it to great effect in my Chinese jardiniere on stand. The place looks a treat for John to come back to so I hope that plan comes off.

I spent the morning digging out things to go to Martha’s friend Amber who has arrived in Sydney from North Queensland with her two children and rented a flat, unfurnished and with nothing to put in it. Luckily we have a lot of John’s stuff that would be suitable and with a couple of bits of mine thrown in I delivered them to Michelle’s to be picked up later today by Martha. They seem to be getting quite a reasonable amount of goods together at very short notice just by emailing friends.

October 3, 2021

Well it was a surprise to have John home late yesterday and it was easier than before to pick him up, he usually has to go through the endless ‘departure lounge’ process waiting for paperwork, but this time he just walked out the door of the hospital with a script for a new heart drug which should control his recently acquired angina. No sooner were we home than I started on the Monopole Restaurant dinner that the kids bought for my birthday. John set the table with a lace cloth and napkins and put fresh candles in the candelabra while I set to on the food. To start: Marinated Olives, Smoked Eggplant, Salmon Rillette with Cucumber and Crostini. To follow: Spring Lamb Rump + Harissa, Heirloom Carrots with Spiced Yogurt and Hazlenut Dukka, Broccolini with Pesto, Cos and Radicchio Salad with Mandarin Dressing. Dessert was a Pavlova big enough for 6 with Vanilla Cream, Berries and Passionfruit. The wine was (still is till dinner tonight) a 2018 Gevray-Chambertin, a delicious red from Bourgogne. Amazingly John decided to have a glass too after decades of abstinence. We had a little of everything provided and there’s plenty left, in fact we still have some of the starters after serving them for lunch today and there’s plenty of the mains for dinner. It was all wonderful but my special faves were the Salmon Rillette, the Mandarin Dressing on the salad and of course the pav. It was looking shaky there for a while but ended up an excellent birthday celebration.

Today I’ve been hucking out more stuff for Amber as well as cooking for a picnic tomorrow with Michelle and Kev. Made a savoury slice and a date and walnut tart while Michelle is bringing a salad, cheeses and fruit. This reads as if it’s written by someone who is food obsessed….

October 4, 2021

Seeing I had never been to Don Moore Reserve, where we were to meet Michelle and Kev for our picnic, I put the phone map function on and we found ourselves at the end of a dead end street looking into the bush. A quick phone call was all that was needed to reroute, Mr. Google had told us to turn one street too soon. Michelle luckily got us one of the few tables as most of the crowd of family groups were sitting on the grass, she just happened to jag one with the universe’s felicity. Health regulations limit outdoor picnics and the like to five people but most of the large family groups obviously didn’t get the memo, however they were all well separated so no harm was done. We all felt very privileged to be out in the sun eating and drinking under a blue sky. We went for a walk after the delicious repast and John said that he found the walk more taxing then usual. I was as full as a goog at dinner time so I just did him a sausage toastie. I’ve discovered that having a few sausages in the freezer is a help when I don’t feel like doing a proper dinner, yuck for me, but yum for him.

October 5, 2021

Up early to beat the queue as John was told his tests would take about 30 minutes ‘plus waiting time’, therefore we wanted to be first in line. At 8.05 he headed into the hospital and I went for a walk in the old Gore Hill Memorial Cemetery (a memorial to what I didn’t find out). Always happy reading gravestones, I marvelled at one for eight children, seven who died aged between one and three (three of whom were named Marie) while the eighth grew to manhood only to be sacrificed in Jordan during WWI. I couldn’t see a grave for the parents but most of the stones are very hard to read, the whole place being in a sad state of disrepair and neglect with not a single grave being looked after it seems. So much for ‘always remembered’.

Eventually I went back to the car and read, with John emerging about 10.30 saying that there was virtually no waiting time. The tests were being done pretty constantly while he was there, which I thought sounded a bit ominous, especially after he said he now had to wait for half an hour and then go back in. We chatted in the car for a few minutes and then a serious sounding woman rang to say that he must come straight back as ‘the doctor needs to see you’. I was unsurprised when John rang a little later to say that they were not letting him come back to the car because his heart was ‘very abnormal’ during the tests and he was in danger of having a heart attack. I couldn’t go in but he said that they are going to do an angiogram today and possibly a stent. I don’t know when he will come home but I can’t imagine it will be today. It is a bit like Gladys, it’s a bit of a shock but not a surprise.

It seems funny to me that although I am indecisive and dithering if I am shown a menu or asked to decide between a few options about anything, when the rubber meets the road I suddenly become quite decisive and unhesitating. Certainly that has always applied in John’s medical emergencies too, perhaps in that case though it is just a basic trust in science and medicine in particular. I am confident that whatever they are doing there at the moment it is the right and proper thing.

October 6, 2021

Never a dull moment here. Yesterday afternoon the doc at RNS rang to say that just after I left John had had ‘an emergency angioplasty with two stents inserted’ and asked if I were willing to have him home at about 5 pm ‘due to current circumstances’. So there I was at 5 pm sitting in the 15 minute parking bay waiting for him to emerge. But soon I got a phone call from a doctor, Mohammed, saying that John’s radial artery where the stent was inserted was bleeding so they would bring him down when it stopped. Numerous calls came through until around 7 pm Mohammed said that ‘I’ve been pressing on the artery for an hour and a half and it just won’t stop so we will have to keep him in overnight’. So I drove home again, not dodging the Lane Cove tunnel to save a few dollars this time.

This morning I had another call to say he could go home mid-morning with a pressure bandage on his wrist for a day. He is on three different blood thinners for a week and then it reduces to two for a year. They were very careful to give me the instructions, verbally and in writing, about his not lifting anything at all with his right arm for a week, about exercise, wound care and more, so I think they were very aware of his memory deficits. When we arrived home I made a pot of tea, as is our wont, to celebrate that once again he’s stared death in the face and won. According to Mohammed he could have had a heart attack at any time, so much for ‘he’ll be fine over the weekend’.

Yet another form arrived in the mail from Centrelink and my heart sank, but then I noticed it was written on September 22, the same day I uploaded the last forms, so I assume that it’s just a case of crossing in the mail. I decided to just write them a freehand letter explaining my theory and upload it to them on their wonderful phone app. Anything is better than hours waiting to speak to someone on the phone.

October 7, 2021

Last night John decided that because we had enjoyed my birthday dinner so much he would order another for this Saturday night. I was to choose and he to pay, sounded ideal to me. So I chose Apollo, a restaurant in Potts Point that we’ve been to and loved. When I got to the checkout I tried to book for September 9 but it wouldn’t go through and I sadly told John that the first booking available was in a month, on October 9. He reminded me that it is October now, so I quickly went back and did the deed. He is supposed to be the one with the dementia in this house!

Lovely to have Jack and Carol for morning tea today. The weather was kind and John is well and very happy to have visitors. It seems we are back to rights. Robert said to me years ago ‘you’ll take John to hospital and bring him home a number of times and then one time you will take him and he’ll stay there and you’ll come home alone’, I always think of that now when I have to take him and wonder if this is that time.

Yet another friend, not a close one thankfully, was ranting anti-vax stuff on Facebook today but it was so unintelligible that he won’t be convincing many people. As soon as you see a post with the words freedom, sovereign and including obviously American phrases you know it’s a cut and paste job. It’s like never voting for any party that uses the word family…..

October 8, 2021

Sadly yet another friend this morning turned out to be anti-vax, but unlike the other three, it’s someone I usually see regularly. She is an ex-employee and friend who became my cleaner over five years ago. I contacted her today and asked if she wanted to come back from next week, she replied that she could come any time but went on to say that she is on holiday because her main employer has told her she must be vaccinated and she isn’t prepared to do so they are currently at a stalemate. It made me really sad because as well as the fact that she’s a fabulous cleaner, I can’t see how else we can communicate in person into the future. She and John are very thick, so he’s quite disappointed. I read this morning about a man in the US (of course) who went to his pharmacist brother’s house and shot both him and his wife dead because the brother was ‘dispensing poison’ by giving vaccines. And lead shot is not a poison I asked myself?

My librarian friend came today and we supped tea and ate cake together just as we have done many times before. We covered many of the books that we’ve read since we last met and I got a few tips for good’uns. We always seem to talk politics, ethics, about making difficult decisions and much else, as well as books of course. I’ve really missed that with him in the recent past. His talk of going to a concert together sometime gives me another thing to look forward to when the world comes to rights.

October 9, 2021

Tonight we are having a meal from Apollo and were sitting eating lunch at the front when I got a text to say that the food had arrived, um no. I immediately rang Apollo and the chap said he had a photo of the delivery on a white doormat in front of a black door. For one thing who has a white door mat? and for another my door is pale grey. He quickly offered to contact the driver and half an hour later the dinner arrived. I must admit it didn’t look as impressive as the Monopole one did, but the proof will be in the eating. Nothing could impress me like that pav did.

Took photos of John’s leather lounge for an eBay ad and then sat down on it for a minute to look at the photos. That was enough for John to suggest that we leave it there under the deck to sit on and survey the estate. I think it will be rarely used, just get dirty and loaded down with boxes of something or other but he loves any idea that means his stuff doesn’t need to go, so I will hold off on the ad for now. We decided to go for a quick run to Castle Hill Heritage Park with a view to suggesting it as a venue for a picnic with Dav and Co. next weekend. It was about 3 pm but we couldn’t get a park within cooee of the place, people were lumbering Eskies in, presumably for a barbecue dinner? So we abandoned that idea and will look at it during the week as a venue for another occasion, because clearly it’s going to be too crowded for a weekend gathering. Prior to this outing John discovered that his car keys were missing and a long hunt ensued. Finally they were found inside his Irish cap, hanging on the hallstand, so the special place we set aside for keys hasn’t really worked so far.

I was thinking about the time spent with my friend yesterday and why it’s always so special and I think it’s because our interaction is a small-talk free zone as we try to pack in as many books, ideas, articles and theories as we can in the couple of hours we have. No need to think about what’s for dinner, what shopping is needed, Centrelink, how’s Christmas going to work this year? Perhaps if we met more often small-talk would creep into the mix, but not so far.

October 10, 2021

My bro in Halifax is still suffering from bladder related problems but teasing out what they might be is nearly impossible, not that he doesn’t want to tell me but because he doesn’t know himself. Infection has presumably been ruled out as no antibiotics have been prescribed, cancer has presumably been ruled out as no chemo or other therapy is being suggested, so that probably leaves prostate issues. He is still on a catheter and has been prescribed ‘a tablet’. So what is the tablet for? The doctor didn’t say. Could you read me the name of the tablet so I can look it up? Sure. Aaah, okay it’s a prostate drug, so now we are getting somewhere. It reminds me of the doctors of the nineteenth century through to the 50s who never told the patients a thing, but in this case I suspect the doctor’s attempts at explanation haven’t yielded interest so he’s given up. It’s a mystery to me, but as Kenneth says: ‘There’s nothing as queer as folk’.

Am I being a conspiracy theorist when I wonder if Pork Barilaro is somehow tainted by Gladys’s corruption investigation? His resignation is suspiciously close to hers, but we shall see if he’s called as a witness in time. Then there are the rumours about his having an affair, an affair which has led Old Barnacles to get his knickers in a knot (trying not to visualise this). Pork has now announced separation from his wife, throwing more fuel onto that fire. Time will tell on it all, that I’m sure of.

Just received a return message from my friend/cleaner to say that ‘the media has a lot to do with all this Covid stuff and the pharmaceutical companies as well’. She went on to say that ‘I will miss seeing you two’, something that had an air of finality about it. On another difficult issue John, last night at 9pm in his pyjamas, got a text message from his old neighbour asking if he would go then and there to pick up an item she’d just bought on Facebook Marketplace for $5. He said no he wouldn’t and pointed out that for one thing he didn’t want to go out at that time of night to a strange house. Then I received two phone calls from her, first on the land line and then on the mobile, that I ignored as I hadn’t tried to influence him on the issue at all. There followed a stream of texts accusing him of mixing with people like the removalists but being unwilling to go to someone’s house ‘only 4 kilometres away’ for a friend. It included the address of the seller and instructions to go ‘first thing in the morning’. John decided this morning that he’d had enough and sent a message saying that he he has ‘resigned from doing chores for you’ breaking a promise to install her new dryer on the wall and to do other handyman things once lockdown is over. Perhaps distance has enabled him to make this decision, but I know it would have been a hard one and I’m glad I had no input into it.

October 11, 2021

In to St. Vincent’s this morning to see the surgeon Alan, ‘no change there and see me again in four months’ was the crux of it. But next week I see the cancer specialist so hopefully he will agree with that assessment. One down, one to go.

Bob E. dropped in during his long break from morning surgery till his 3.30 afternoon start so that gave us plenty of time to chat and he loved the story John told him about the Centrelink officer querying his dementia diagnosis, among much else. In going through some of the questions he asked for his new address but John could only come up with 30. The lovely and patient fellow said ‘You’re doing really well John, but I need the street’ however he just couldn’t remember the rest. Then John very crankily called out ‘Maureen Maureen what street do I live in?’. The nice fellow got off the phone pretty smartly after that and I doubt we will be hearing from them again. I’m anticipating positive communication from them this coming week if I’m any judge.

One of my old clients (and I mean old, in his 90s) used to tell me about ‘the castle’ he had  owned at Gordon, looking over the bush. This before he went into a retirement unit in Dural. I must admit that despite his detailed descriptions I did wonder if it were an exaggeration. But in Domain last weekend I saw the very thing, Killarney Castle, advertised with an expected price of $6.5 million. It was built over the period 1905 to 1918 by the original owner and builder Thomas Edward Taylor, who came to Australia from Ireland in the 1880s. Taylor chose the site as it reminded him of the lakes of Killarney in County Kerry in the south-west of Ireland. Built of sandstone quarried onsite, it comes with battlements, a widow’s walk, a turret and banquet rooms. Pity the viewing is by private appointment only. No wonder his items for sale were always so good, he had mentioned that everything was ‘looked after by the servants’. I was greatly amused when he asked me to stay for lunch one day because an investment at 18% cumulative interest had matured after decades. I couldn’t help wondering why a man in his 90s would be so chuffed at getting a big payout when he was quite clearly well off already, but money can be an addiction, like a lot of things.

October 12, 2021

Off to Manly this morning to have a walk along the beach before we each had a haircut. But we chose our walk time badly, it was raining and blowing as we walked with coats, umbrella and hats. As soon as we sat back in the car to eat our bit of lunch it fined up so after that we did a walk along Manly Lagoon and I commented to John that I wanted to go there for a swim in the shallow water with a pristine looking sandy bottom. That was until we came to the sign that said ‘polluted water, do not swim’ Smilie: :( It was good to see Martin and Maria again after 4 months and certainly good to get rid of that long hair. Martin mentioned a friend of his who booked a holiday house for him, three siblings and their partners. He assumed all was fine until someone mentioned vaccination, whoops, he and one sibling are vaccinated but the other two are not so now only half the family are being part of the holiday. I am hearing more and more stories like this, including Alan the surgeon telling me yesterday that they are finding 10 percent of St. Vincent’s patients are anti-vaxxers which makes life difficult. Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher, that epitome of bland, has asked the government to allow unvaccinated priests to be allowed to go about their usual duties as a few of them have dug their heels in over having the jab. I think there will be an outcry if he succeeds.

I’ve been thinking about when it was that I forecast Gladys’s resignation last year but couldn’t be bothered going through the old posts to find out, however Facebook helped me today by bringing it up as a memory of this day 12 months ago. The Feds were up in arms about the indignity of Our Glad going before ICAC but are surprisingly quiet about members of the Victorian Government being dragged before their IBAC. Sorry, just realised, it’s a Labor state so Morrison’s view would be that they’ll get what they deserve.

October 13, 2021

I have realised there is something I love about lockdown. Driving to the city for a medical appointment on Monday the traffic, while not as bad as pre-Covid, was seriously worse than it has been throughout the last four months, so I loved the ease of going to appointments during that time, not to mention the ease of parking.

My friend Chrys in Queensland who writes an occasional lengthy blog is always well worth reading. Commenting today about an article she saw on ‘how to deal with arseholes without retaliating’ she muses: “It’s really, really dangerous to tell people they have to learn to live with arseholes without retaliating or running away. We should be running away from the arseholes in our lives at great speed. We should be encouraging and supporting legal retaliation where appropriate. And, while I’m generally opposed to dehumanising anyone, it’s a fact that some of the worst arseholes (I’m talking narcissists here for example) are really just empty human shells who walk like aliens among us. I think it’s incredibly healthy – often life-saving – to recognise that some people just aren’t functionally human. And running away – ceasing all contact if at all possible – is absolutely the best method for dealing with such people in a way that doesn’t compromise your own humanity. I’m also a firm believer that there are often branches of the family tree that should be joyously excised with a chainsaw”. This advice was timely this week and I thank Chrys for writing it just now.

I put aside some time today to deal with the Aged Care Assessment Team in regard to John’s change of address and increasing physical and mental problems. I put aside an hour or two but to my great surprise and pleasure both the numbers I had to ring picked up immediately and the people I dealt with were professional and understanding, giving me all the information I needed. Oh if only Centrelink picked up the phone in under an hour or two what bliss that would be. However dealing with them now via the app is supremely easy for me, though for John it would be near impossible.

October 14, 2021

Yesterday Sue emailed to say she could come down to visit today so, thinking she’d be here for morning tea, I grabbed a recipe book off the shelf and it fell open at Lemon, Limoncello and Lavender Tart, just when I had a good quantity of lemons, a bottle of limoncello and the lavender is in flower. As she was able to stay longer than planned we had a fridge raid lunch with Sue and she really liked the tonnato I quickly whipped up, amazing what you can do with a couple of cans of tuna in the pantry. She called the tart L cubed and we all thought it was worth doing. Great to chew the fat with her and she’s invited us to come for a weekend soon so that will be terrific.

Today I received a letter from Health to say that John has reached the top of the list for an Aged Care package. He first applied for assistance to clean his unit FOUR YEARS AGO, but it has taken this long to reach the top of the queue. Now he no longer has a flat to clean, which would be funny if it weren’t also sad, so I am tasked with the job of dealing with numerous non-profit organisations to see what other services he can utilise. There are many for-profit companies on the list as well but the mere idea of making a profit for aged care services is anathema to this old socialist. So we are looking at church and community based organisations, well I say we, but John is pretty disinterested in it all as he can’t understand the system. I’m having trouble understanding it myself so I can’t blame him for that. He thought when I was on the phone this afternoon that I was looking for some sort of rehab after his recent heart adventures. Most offerings are things I routinely do for him like taking him to medical appointments or things that he is able to do for himself like showering and dressing, so it is difficult to understand how it is all going to work. The two organisations I’ve approached so far are to ring me back so hopefully I will get a handle on the system then.

Yet another Sydney unit block built by the notorious Chinese builder Toplace is threatening to collapse. How is it possible to be so deficient in design and/or building that collapse is even a possibility? The law is an ass in this area where people can sink their life savings into a home only to end up with a mortgage on an unsaleable asset. The Taliban’s method of stringing people up on buildings suddenly seems not quite so extreme.

October 15, 2021

Davina and Co were meeting us for a picnic tomorrow but the weather forecast caused us to change to a barbecue here. It will be strange seeing them all again after four months, I’m sure Millie has grown in more ways than one over this time. Made hommus, salad dressing, marinade and cut up a pile of veges in preparation for tomorrow.

My main task today has been dealing with ACAT regarding having a new assessment done for John. The Northern Districts team rang me (not the other way around) because I had changed his address and she said that he definitely needs to be reassessed if he has obviously deteriorated since the last assessment, but then the local team rang an hour later when the case had been handed over to them and the lady said she doesn’t think he needs reassessment at all because he can still handle his own personal care. She was the exact opposite of the first caller and the implication was that I was trying to get something for nothing. I really don’t care either way at this point but I certainly don’t want to be dealing with that snotty woman again. She made me feel as if I were somehow trying to rort the system when I was simply doing what I had been told to do. Sometimes dealing with bureaucracy is just too taxing for the size of my brain.

The internet has been off all day due to work being done on the NBN service. They sent me a text saying it would be off from 7 am to 4 pm but it’s nearly 8 pm now and I still can’t use the landline or get internet on my computer or phone. On top of the ACAT issues it’s just all too much.

October 16, 2021

I have felt pretty defeated all night, what with dealing with the second impossible person this week and then the internet and phone going down. This morning I reminded John that I need to go to the doctor at St. Vincent’s on Tuesday and he was sympathetic but had no idea why I was going. I reminded him that we’d been to the surgeon last Monday and he was concerned ‘oh no, why are you seeing a surgeon?’. He has completely forgotten that I had surgery in February and I’ve realised that I just can’t talk to him about this stuff any more as he only worries without really knowing what he’s worrying about. We both got weepy when he said ‘I’m disappearing down a hole, do you want to put me in a home?’. I reassured him this wasn’t an option that I was even considering, but we both felt overwhelmed. Tried to ring Sue but she wasn’t answering so I just got into getting ready for the visitors today. Davina got onto somewhere on the Optus website to report the outage and a dear soul from Mumbai rang me, but it wasn’t an outage at all, someone who shall remain nameless had disconnected the NBN modem from the power point but left the Optus modem attached so the lights were still on. John has no recollection of touching it and I certainly didn’t so we’ve had a goblin in the house, perhaps an exorcism is in order.

Davina, Louis and Millie came for the day and Louis offered to do the bbq with John as his loyal lieutenant. Loved the watercress, green apple, fennel and mint salad which I have made a few times before, the herby dressing is just scrumptious. Davina brought cakes from Black Star bakery for dessert with my favourite, the strawberry and watermelon cake, among them. We all wandered down to the park and played shops with Millie after numerous games of hide and seek. John has been promoted to grandpa today for the first time and he was well chuffed by that.

Saddened by the apparent terrorist attack on a British MP which has resulted in his death overnight. I can almost understand stabbing someone in anger, certainly I could begin to  understand it thinking back over my week, but to sit quietly in a queue to see an MP, giving your name, waiting patiently for your turn before suddenly killing him…. that’s something else entirely. I guess it is what happens when you’ve grown up in a country where war and violence is all you’ve ever known, we have a lot to be thankful for.

October 17, 2021

Trying to help John sort through his stuff today while ignoring an assertion early in the week that everything of his belongs to his daughters. It might have been easier to have the removalist’s van drive straight to the mountains, dropping him off on the way past just with the clothes he stood up in. It is interesting that for all his many attempts to contact his family this year, the only time he has been successful is the day that they discovered that he’s living here. He forecast problems about his belongings, which is of course why he made the initial decision not to let people find out about the move until it was all done and dusted. But despite how upset we have both been this week over this latest affront, we just have to go on as if nothing was said, unpacking the many boxes with him deciding what to do with his ‘stuff’ piece by piece. Today we unearthed a blue checked rug that he said he took with him the first time he was sent to boarding school in New Zealand at age four! This because the neighbours had complained about his crying when his parents went out to social events at night and left him at home alone. He is very emotionally attached to his belongings from childhood, as well he might be given the time he spent alone in boarding schools and in other people’s houses, and his ‘stuff’ was a comfort. As much as we can possibly integrate here we will, it will just take time to unpack everything and to find new homes in the house.

I looked up MyGov today and found that it was listing two ‘tasks’ that I haven’t complied with, the first was already done on September 22 and the second wasn’t required because it was only relevant if John were still living at Lane Cove. However there is no way I can rid those big exclamations marks off the page, so whenever I open it I shudder. Perhaps I will leave it till midweek and write yet another letter, probably only to be told that the procedure has stalled because I have two ‘tasks’ yet to do. Brick wall, head, impact. Then went on to John’s MyGov to update his financial details. I wanted to update three accounts but once I did one it said I couldn’t alter anything else until that change is ‘approved’ so of course the other two are wrong at present, way wrong in fact, he hasn’t updated his financial details for many years and doesn’t seem to remember that it is required when you are on a pension. I loathe all this bureaucratic stuff and I am the wrong person to have to do it, especially for two people, but it is my job now unfortunately as John can’t make head nor tail of it, unsurprisingly.

More within my skill set, I made a banana and walnut cake this arv, beginning on the kilo bag of walnuts that came here out of John’s flat. When he doesn’t eats nuts as a snack and hasn’t baked in a couple of years I am not sure why the bulk walnuts, but I should get through them soon enough.

October 18, 2021

John couldn’t remember my name for a few minutes when he woke up this morning and when he did remember he asked if I also had a nickname that he usually called me, which I don’t. First time that’s happened.

We trundled off to the Sallies this morning with a boot full and were told that they ‘are not accepting due to the vast amounts of goods being offered’, which is exactly what I had feared might happen. Later we went to Vinnies and they took everything, but I’m always a little worried because they are much more inclined to bin things compared to the Sally Annes. But in any event the mixture of mostly my stuff and a little bit of John’s is all somebody else’s problem now. Then we headed to Carlingford to pick up some Sunshield Wax as John is going to do the deck’s jarrah top rails with it. I used to sell the stuff in the shop so it’s hard to have to go out and pay full price, but them’s the breaks. The shop had a perspex barrier across the whole doorway and everything happened through a hole at the middle of it, a very practical arrangement which I congratulated them on, I wish more businesses were as careful.

This afternoon I gave in and watched ICAC live on my computer and Our Glad is gone for all money. Office of Sport director Michael Toohey, a classic careful public servant, said without qualification that if he’d known that Glad and Dazza were in a relationship when he was being pushed to quickly process the application for funds to Dazza’s electorate he would have contacted ICAC. Ka-ching, got them right there. It was claimed that the grant to the The Australian Clay Target Association would help them get to host part of the Invictus Games…..except Invictus doesn’t do shooting, at all. What a cesspool politics is and Glad has its tidemark right up to her throat at the moment.

October 19, 2021

I have too many balls in the air at the moment so during the night I decided to remove three today if possible. Firstly I rang John’s neurologist Jennifer Massey for an appointment and this was available next week, sooner than expected. Her last words to me in November 2020 were: ‘You will know when to bring him back’ so I’ve decided now is the time. Also I need to get Centrelink sorted, as both the website and the app are saying that I have ‘2 required tasks’ not done, but both have been sorted a month ago so the only solution is to speak to them by phone, worst job ever. The third was to go today for my planned six monthly visit to the cancer specialist which involves a stressful and somewhat painful procedure as well as the consultation. Getting a microscope pushed up your arse is no fun and getting biopsies done without anaesthesia is even worse, but at least I don’t have to drink the hemlock that a colonoscopy entails or have the side effects of an anaesthetic, so there are pluses and minuses. But Richard the prof explained again today that although the initial cancer was removed, the virus which caused it is still there and there’s no cure for that, so it is attacking every day. Hence the two damaged sections biopsied last time and now another three this time which are either cancer or high grade dysplasia, which is five minutes to cancer. However Richard has applied to the hospital bean counters for funding to buy the equipment to do ‘radio frequency ablation’, a procedure not currently available in Australia which uses high frequency radio waves to burn off the whole lining of the lower bowel under general anaesthetic and hopefully it heals as normal cells. His application for funding is to be considered before Christmas and he says I would be high on the list for treatment if it is approved as the biopsies since the initial surgery have been right at the edge of cancer so he would want to get in quickly. Failing that I can get it in the US….nah, I don’t think so. But if it comes off it could be curative says Richard, which sounds wonderful, otherwise it’s a case of doing what I had done today every six months in perpetuity.

Huzzah! The lovely Victoria from Western Queensland has verified over the phone that all the required tasks have been completed and corrected the website and app to that effect. So it looks as if we’ve been in limbo for a month while a mistake at Centrelink’s end stalled the process. Don’t look back Maureen, three balls out of the air today. Good work.

October 20, 2021

Today we went out to Dural for bread and the joint owner Natalie happened to be there. As she has before, she offered to deliver to me anytime I need her to and added that she could pick up any food I wanted from a supermarket or convenience store at the same time. She is just amazing, which is why I travel out there to buy from her. The sewing group went back to face to face meetings today but I decided against going, however Natalie gets that reticence without even a discussion. Then took a picnic to Castle Hill Heritage Park, a wonderful area of rolling hills on the site of the first convict settlement and government farm. Although it is surrounded by housing, that was rarely visible as we walked around, and the facilities there for picnics, barbecues and the like are excellent. It is dotted with signs explaining the history of the settlement, including all the names of the convicts who were there. They were housed in a stone barracks, the males that is, but it mentioned in an understated way that the females were housed ‘in the guards quarters’ which doesn’t bear thinking about really.

Home after lunch to watch ICAC, my favourite pastime at the moment. Although the press makes a good effort of reporting the important revelations there I’ve found that, as in court cases, they sometimes miss what I regard as important testimony. Of course they can’t report the whole transcript, but the expression on a face can tell you crucial things about the testimony. Mike Baird looked somewhat skewered, but not guilty, I guess we’d all feel somewhat skewered before ICAC.

I got a call from Western Districts ACAT to book an appointment for John to be reassessed. I had already cancelled on Monday due to a very unpleasant interaction with their office last week when the woman who rang me implied that I was asking for more help when I hadn’t yet received the help they had approved. However it was the Northern Suburbs branch who had recommended a reassessment and not me, based on the fact that his living arrangements had changed. I declined it at this point, even though the person who rang today was quite fine, I’m still feeling the effects of her abrupt and accusatory colleague and I don’t need any more pressure at the moment. I suspect it’s the old story of what’s okay in the east and north is not okay for the second class citizens of the west.

October 21, 2021

Last night late I checked the Centrelink app and was happy to see that the application to be John’s carer seems to have been approved late yesterday, although I haven’t been officially informed as yet. One more thing off my mind. This morning we headed off to the locksmith after I discovered that there is only one key to John’s car, a potentially difficult situation should it be mislaid, which is always on the cards now. Then on to Bob to pick up a referral for him to see the neurologist next week. Surely soon all of this organisational work should settle down, though perhaps it never will now.

Carly was to appear before a Parliamentary Inquiry into Strengthening Australia’s Relationships with Countries in the Pacific Region at 10.30 am and I was set up in front of the computer to watch the proceedings but for some reason I couldn’t get the live stream happening, so I watched ICAC while I waited but eventually gave up on trying to get Carly’s inquiry. Fired off a letter to the Herald while I was waiting: “Not since living under the Askin government of the 1960s and 70s in NSW have I felt ruled by a government corrupt at its very core. The federal government’s decision to go against the Speaker’s recommendation to investigate Christian Porter’s ‘blind trust’ confirms it as corrupt, if confirmation were needed”. That is one that I really hope they print, somehow the knowledge of corruption just seeps into you and you know in your gut when things aren’t right. Askin was a criminal dressed up as a politician, just as Obeid was, but this is something else, it’s people who believe themselves to be upright citizens but who are rotten to the core. Askin at least knew he was a crook.

I’ve just finished reading a British novel, The Fortune Men, which I hadn’t realised was factual in its base. Right at the end of the book a page shows a newspaper cutting of the actual story. It is about a Somali man living in Wales in the late 40s and early 1950s who was accused of killing a shopkeeper in her business. After a trial at which he was convicted and then subsequent appeals, he was sentenced to hang and that sentence was carried out. But his white British wife fought on his behalf for 46 years till his conviction was finally  overturned and his remains dug out of the prison vegetable garden and reinterred in a cemetery. Sadly his son committed suicide and now all three of his children, who suffered from terrible racism, are dead even though they would all be younger than me. It was a harrowing read when I thought it was fiction, but I was stricken by the realisation that it was real.

October 22, 2021

Went with Tony to a Kenthurst nursery restaurant, Fig and Co, seeing Wild Pear is closed for renovations and wanting only outdoor seating. We arrived there at 10.52 (thanks Service NSW for helping me track times these days) and were told that the menu was via a QR code so we spent the next little while filling in personal details in order to get to the menu, not optional. After negotiating that by about 11 am we ordered and received a response that our food would arrive at 11.21. We waited till 11.40 to ask staff about the order but the system hadn’t accepted it for some reason and it was noon before it arrived. The scones tasted to me as if they were way heavy on carb soda, almost bubbling in the mouth, but not quite, though the jam and cream was fine. The tea was good and hot, but a morning tea shouldn’t take over an hour to be served and we both decided not to return. The couple next to us complained bitterly about the ordering system complexity when all they wanted was a coffee, which came cold so they left disgruntled and vowing never to return. The surroundings were lovely and the company excellent but they managed to spoil it as far as food and drink went. However we solved the problems of the world, reviewed books, analysed the motivation and psychology of serial killers and had a lovely morning in a peaceful and very pleasant environment.

Centrelink has now officially informed me that the application for carer status has been accepted and sent me a little money to boot, so I’ve decided to splurge it on getting my oven cleaned professionally. I use it every day and it gets a real hammering so it will be wonderful to have it clean. My friend Tim, who has had years of experience with aged care for both his mother and later his father, was horrified when I told him about Westmead ACAT’s decision not to reassess John now that he’s moved here. He pointed out that they need to inspect his environment carefully: are there dangerous steps, does he need to step into a bath to have a shower, are handrails necessary etc. Of course he is right and that was exactly what the Northern Branch did for him at Lane Cove. But I’ve decided I’m better off without them at the moment so I’m not planning to reopen that can of worms.

Listening this afternoon to ICAC and Stuart Ayres is in the hot seat, I don’t trust his evidence and suspect that Counsel Assisting doesn’t either. Counsel is so smooth, polite, understated and sharp, he doesn’t miss a trick, but a very different personality to Geoffrey Watson who was CA when I used to go in person, but still fascinating to watch. I can’t wait to see Dazza next week to see if he dumps on Our Glad just as she has dumped on him.

October 23, 2021

I woke up early and ready to get stuck into sorting some more boxes, I think going out yesterday was a great idea. To have a few hours when the words Centrelink, aged care, package and dementia weren’t mentioned once did me a world of good. I had to laugh when Tony said that he loves the fact that ‘you have an opinion on everything’. That’s the first time that particular trait has been seen by anyone as a positive. We managed to get quite a bit done this morning, moving stuff out of the garage for sorting, wrapping up John’s TV for storage, packing some charity shop boxes and then a Police helicopter started circling the house, not once or twice but continuously for 45 minutes. I locked the front door in case a Hamzy was on the loose, but otherwise just marvelled at the ability of a helicopter to stay in one place for so long. Eventually a text came to say that a 6 year old autistic girl had gone missing from her home very close by. So we set off to look for her, expecting to be two of dozens out doing the same, but we saw no-one looking at all! Eventually we got too tired on the hills and came home for a short rest, where I rang the Police who said ‘oh yes she was found half an hour ago’, nice if they’d sent out another text message I thought.

I spent some more time trying to update John’s MyGov account, years out of date with an overstatement of totals in his bank accounts, the value of his car and of his possessions. He didn’t seem to know what I was doing or why it mattered. I think I could empty his accounts and he wouldn’t notice unless has credit card ceased working. People can be very vulnerable in this situation.

October 24, 2021

Arvind from next door came in and together we solved the problems of India, China, Australia and more so it was a successful visit. I unloaded onto him an unused quantity of Indian black salt or Kala Namak, which I’ve discovered I really dislike after tasting a little from the packet. The smell is quite unpleasant and I couldn’t get it out of the house quickly enough as just opening the packet stank out the kitchen. It is volcanic and contains sulfates, sulfides, iron and magnesium which all contribute to the salt’s colour, smell and taste. I think it was the sulphur smell that got to me, but Mala uses it so nothing lost. I noticed on Friday that Tony didn’t pick up anything wrong with the scones, yet to me they reeked of bi-carb. Also I have been unpacking the contents of John’s kitchen cupboards and integrating them into my pantry today thereby doubling my supply of green and herbal teas, which is ridiculous as neither of us routinely drink either. So I offloaded to Arvind some African Rooibos tea (shudder), green tea, strawberry tea and various other ghastly sounding blends, still leaving me with a vast selection to offer guests.

Down in the back yard out of sight of the house I have long had a large cactusy plant in a pot and it is now in flower. The flowers are huge, about 20 cm across, and absolutely stunning. My phone plant identification app identifies it as Orchid Cactus or Disocactus ackermannii, an epiphytic cactus from tropical parts of Mexico. So seeing it was in such a bad position to view I toted the pot to the front garden and put it in the ground. However now I have identified it, I discover that it normally grows in the forks of trees and doesn’t usually go in the ground at all, so perhaps I’ve killed it off. I hope not as the flowers make wonderful specimens in the house, we shall see.

October, 25, 2021

I decided to set aside the morning to follow up the details I’ve been given about service providers for John’s aged care package and I did get somewhat organised. But I am stymied from going much further as I’m still waiting for one provider to get back to me by phone and waiting for written details about two others to arrive in the mail. (My birthday card to Danish in Canberra arrived late last week, posted late September, post is becoming totally inadequate). Anyway I was able to work out which criteria I want to stress in my discussions with the providers, spurred on by my friend Tania’s approach of doing a computer spreadsheet to rate the responses of each candidate. Mine is a pen and paper effort but in effect it works just as well.

Got an email from Lu in Arizona with whom I have casual communications. Many years ago I wanted to arrange a test to see whether or not I had the ‘supertaster’ gene and no companies in Australia could offer the test. I found a company in Canada who could supply one but the postage costs seemed excessive. Eventually I got onto Precision Laboratories in Arizona and dealt with Lu there to organise it. Shortly afterwards the test appeared in the post but I had not paid for it or for the postage. I contacted Lu assuming that it was a mistake, but she told me that as a result of our conversations she had decided to send it to me as a gift. Since then we have had occasional emails and sometimes we send each other small gifts representative of Australia and Arizona. The result of the test was strongly positive and Lu had a good laugh when I explained that I gagged on the bitter, caustic taste which I couldn’t wash out of my mouth yet when I tested John he couldn’t taste anything at all. She advised me not to repeat the process as a party trick as my body would be negatively affected by the chemical whereas it would have no effect on him. The relationship has meant that I’ve read more than I would have done about Arizona including novels set in that area and it seems to someone like me, where closeness to water is everything, a scary but fascinating place.

I’ve long had a set of a dozen 1960s Sebel stackable chairs on the back verandah, only used for large gatherings, so considering the unlikelihood of any sort of large event here in the foreseeable future I decided to sell them. I am on a minimalising rampage, mainly because of the extra things around the place since John arrived, so anything of mine that can be reduced will help put the place to rights, eBay is my friend at the moment.

October 26, 2021

Last night’s 4 Corners program on cosmetic surgeon Daniel Lanzer was chilling in the extreme. He absolutely gave me the creeps, aside from any purported medical misbehaviour. My overwhelming feeling was that he was actually Scott Morrison, same solid build, same solid jaw and certainly the same smirking arrogance. It seems that personality type, on the sociopathic-liar spectrum, is inhabited by people of great energy and vigour who seriously believe their own bullshit. I’d include Morrison, Lanzer, Alan Jones, Boris Johnson, Trump being the king of them of course. He has 10 children and boasts that he could easily buy a good house for each one. A funny coincidence it seems is that on the day that John went to RNS recently for his heart testing I did a walking tour of Gore Hill Cemetery while I waited. It was warming up and I’d been walking around for a couple of hours so I went back past the private hospital and sat on a seat in the shade to watch the passing parade. Along the road came a large orange convertible, like nothing I was used to seeing in either colour or style, so I took special notice. As it got closer and slowed I saw it was a Ferrari (just Googled the model, a Portofino worth nearly half a million dollars). The driver was wearing scrubs and a blue disposable hat and a woman walking past said to me as I peered at him driving into the underground doctors’ carpark: Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I replied that I was thinking that I hope he isn’t going to operate in those scrubs. Exactly, she said, hardly sterile. I didn’t know him from a can of paint but after watching 4 Corners I recognised him by both his face and his car as the infamous Dr. Lanzer.

Today we went to see John’s neurologist at St. Vincent’s and she redid his memory and cognitive testing. He has slipped a little but not a lot in the tests, mainly in not being able to recall even one of the five words she asked him to remember. She has given him a script for a drug to hopefully slow down his deterioration, though it doesn’t work for everyone. I like her very much but it seems she is now passing him over to a geriatrician as her task was the diagnosis, and now it is just a matter of management. I came out feeling as if the acute phase of treatment is over and this is the equivalent of palliative care but John, who is much more of an optimist than I, didn’t take that view so I didn’t verbalise my perspective.

October 27, 2021

I can finally see the light at the end of the aged care package tunnel. I sat my bum on a dining room chair this morning and didn’t get up till I’d read everything I had been sent on aged care packages comparing rates, services, philosophies, rules and then the answers to all the many questions I had asked over the last week or two and eventually the right choice crystalised. I had to laugh about my queries on exit fees, they ranged from zero to $350, but one organisation has a policy of charging nothing if you change providers, but $500 if you die, a sort of Final Exit Fee I quipped to the lady there. (It’s one of the beauties of being sold something that the person you are dealing with has to laugh at your jokes). At least it’s a reason to hang on to life when things are tough I guess. John went to St. Vincent’s again today for his monthly infusion while I avoided going on to the computer and getting caught up watching ICAC, rather saving it for tomorrow when Dazza will no doubt entertain us and my rear end will be glued to the chair. Book group is on Friday, on the selfsame day that they are calling Gladys, what a calamitous conjunction, but at least it covers an hour of the commission’s lunchtime.

It turns out quite by chance that the last four books I’ve read, chosen by the librarians, are novelised versions of actual events though I had no idea of that when I started each of them. Colm Toibin’s The Magician is based on the life of Thomas Mann, The Fortune Men is about the life of Mahmoud Mattan, a Somali man in Cardiff, More Than I Love My Life is based on the story of Yugoslavian Eva Nahir and Mountain Tales is about Indian ragpickers in Mumbai, particularly the real life Farzana Ali Shaikh. In all of them I query the use of direct speech attributed to the characters, but that doesn’t seem to bother other people in the way that it bothers me. I will be sad when the Stay Home and Read programme ends, as it surely will soon I suspect.

October 28, 2021

Watered the garden early in order to be all set and ready for Dazza’s appearance at ICAC at 10 am, but Gladys’s lawyer Miss Callan immediately made moves to stop either Dazza or Our Glad being asked about their ‘close personal relationship’. It seems that moniker for the affair/romance/fling/dalliance was one agreed with Glad and the Commission to save her any more embarrassment than necessary. Counsel assisting, Scott Robertson, has the brain I want if ever brain transplants become possible. He can speak all day without a single um, ah or even a hesitation. He walks all over Miss Callan, but whether the Commissioner sides with him remains to be seen, she’s out considering that at the moment. To give her her due though, there was one point a couple of days again where she skewered John Barilaro, in a way that the transcript wouldn’t have shown, you had to be there. She asked Pork Barilaro if he would have declared any intimate relationships to the Premier as he had said Glad should do. There was a long silence, a pregnant pause accompanied by a piercing look from Miss Callan, before Pork answered that the only intimate relationships he had were with his family. Miss Callan continued the stare, making me wonder if she was about to say ‘what about Miss X?’, but the moment passed and I did think perhaps that she had names and dates on her pad but decided not to use them, for the time being at least. When Pork resigned I said to John that he would be called to ICAC and of course he was, but whether he was expecting some negative publicity I don’t know, though he announced separation from his wife in the same week. Perhaps he has spilled some beans privately to the Commission, but for now they are not making the beans into soup.

Phew, the Commissioner threw out Miss Callan’s objection and we live again. Dazza has covered himself in merd and via a couple of phone taps managed to smear a fair bit of it on Our Glad, who may henceforth be renamed Used to Be Our Glad or perhaps Daryl’s Glad, but no longer Ours I fear. I have been juggling ICAC with Senate Estimates in the breaks, watching Penny Wong showing why she should be Prime Minister, leaving Albo sadly looking on at her demonstration of how a politician should perform.

October 29, 2021

Poor Old Glad seems incapable of answering a yes or no question. She qualifies everything to the point that the Commissioner has had to ask her a number of times to ‘just answer the questions without giving a speech’. It didn’t stop her though. Scott Robertson’s hook after asking a question, when the answer isn’t clear, is:  ‘I’ll attempt, if I may, to assist you here’, after which he replays some phone tap or other which seems to oppose the answer given. I am sure I could be convicted of anything if all my phone calls, emails and texts were spread out, irony could easily be taken as a genuine opinion. There’s little sign of irony here though and Miss Callan’s job is definitely a case of pushing a barrow load of shite uphill.

John is feeling off today and I’m sure it’s due to the new tablet that he began last night. It said to take it at night because it can make you faint or dizzy or tired and he’s complained of each of those today. He hasn’t done much at all today apart from a short walk while I’ve been ICACing and book grouping. The drug is supposed to slow the memory loss but it will be weeks or months before we get an indication of whether or not it works.

I just now got a call from the Professor (who conveniently waited till after ICAC finished) to say that my 3 biopsies done last week resulted in a decision of 2 ‘boring’ and 1 ‘damaged by the virus but not yet cancer’. I can’t ask for more than that. He commented that I should wait till after the next 6 monthly series of biopsies before deciding whether to undergo the full body radiation that a PET scan entails. It was booked in for February, but he thinks if the results of April’s biopsies are as good as these we might be able to avoid it, three cheers to that! I loved his parting comment: ‘you are very boring at the moment’ and that’s how I hope to stay.

October 30, 2021

It’s halloween and although we don’t celebrate it, by coincidence I ordered a part cooked Pescatarian Banquet from Long Chim, David Thompson’s city Thai restaurant. I am celebrating my medical results from yesterday as well as fending off the depression that results from a creeping feeling that the future is basically just waiting for the fruit bowl to rot. John used to ask why I didn’t close the shop down earlier than I did so we could do the European trips that we had planned, particularly seeing Vienna and Prague, visiting Ireland and France as well, and coming back via Canada and northern USA. But 12 days after I closed the shop and while we were making plans for our trip he fell ill with acute lymphoma on top of the chronic one he already had so that and its side effects put paid to travel for a few years. Then he was committed to his street library project and was reluctant to do anything else, thereafter followed the pandemic. Now I think we both realise that a big trip is beyond us, so we settled on doing a number of cross country driving trips, Adelaide, Queensland, Broken Hill, country Victoria were in the mix. But I think it is only a matter of time before John loses his licence, because although his driving is spot on and only certain parts of his brain are affected by memory loss, apparently according to the neurologist the authorities don’t see that kind of subtlety and their attitude is ‘dementia equals inability to drive’, regardless of competence. She told us that John’s licence was in the balance when she tested him the other day, but then the result was better than expected so he scraped through. I doubt that will work next time so all of our trips will be out of the window because I simply can’t drive those distances on my own. We can’t head off now because he has medical appointments every week for the next month, then it’s school holidays till February. So I am feeling a dwindling sense of investment in the future at the moment which I guess will dissipate once acceptance sets in.

I laughed at a newspaper headline: “I think I’m in love: Aussies swoon over ‘terrifying’ and ‘stern’ ICAC lawyer”. Laughing because I didn’t realise that I was in a queue, but I am in awe of him and could watch him all day, if not quite calling it love. Monday will be the last of him for a while unfortunately. He and my friend Tony are cut from the same cloth, polite, understated, proper, intense, soft-spoken and smart as a whip.

October 31, 2021

Sometime I think that I don’t really understand a lot of people who inhabit our world at the moment. Like when I browse through the Sunday magazine which comes with the newspaper. The Style My Way column each week has someone in the fashion world explaining why they dress as they do, often with a wish list of incredibly priced items of clothing, shoes or frequently handbags from names they seem to expect we will know, like Slvrlake, Esber, Monot and it goes on. I guess some readers know what these women are talking about but I can’t imagine having a wish list topped by Balenciaga sandals “a little bit orthopaedic”. It’s another world and one I wouldn’t want to inhabit no matter what I won on Lotto. And don’t get me started on the ads each week, a sample from yesterday has a pillow with a capital M…..for $555, a wool blanket for $489 and a round ceramic box with a tasselled lid in calfskin for $790. It would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that people must be buying this stuff or the companies wouldn’t be paying for the ads.

In our more humble part of the universe I packed a couple of cheese and lettuce sambos and a nut and fruit bun I’d made and we headed to Fagan Park for a walk and a picnic lunch. It was busy but the park is so big that it wasn’t a problem. John came up with the idea of inviting his clerical class to a park for a picnic and I encouraged him to suggest it to one of them, who quickly pointed out that one is suffering from cancer, another has mobility problems, another eyesight issues which prevent him from driving and so on. Realistically it would be a party for only a maximum of three out of the original eleven.

November 1, 2021

Kirk, my gardening helper, came at 7.15 am and mowed as well as cleaning out the gutter over the front verandah. He left just in time for me to watch the final episode of the Gladys soap opera at 9. She maintains she had nothing at all to report to ICAC about Maguire, despite his suggestion that they communicate via a private phone or on WeChat, so considering that she is far from stupid, my only conclusion is that she is trying to lie her way out of the corner into which she has painted herself. I’m sure by her responses and body language that she has been well trained by her barrister but she is lying through her teeth, the only question is whether she is doing it knowingly or whether she has managed to swallow her own Kool-Aid as so many in politics do. But either way the bottom line is that she is lying, no question.

John’s confusion about computer matters persists and I am about the worst person to try to solve the problems, though I’m trying. Finding particular files falls to me and if I can’t there is no one else here who is more computer literate to assist. On Saturday night we had a lovely dinner from Long Chim, a Thai restaurant whose chef is the famous David Thompson, something I hadn’t realised when I ordered it. But while John enjoyed it, he was confused about why we were having it, asking a few times if it were my birthday or some other special occasion. I guess we haven’t ever been takeaway people, I’ve always cooked every meal, so it’s perhaps understandable to query why I’ve suddenly done something out of the ordinary.

November 2, 2021

It’s been a funny old day. This morning was the appointed time for my oven to be cleaned by Oven Restore and it took him an age to get it back to rights, removing the dials, fan, glass door and shelves and putting them in a heated bath of chemicals in the back of his van. While they were cooking he scoured the oven floor and walls till it shone. While he was doing that I attacked the dusting in the loungeroom, always a big job. But when, after the best part of  three hours, I went to pay him there was no handbag to be found. It contained my wallet, glasses, vaccination card, tablets etc etc. I had a quick look for it and then asked John to pay with his credit card after which we went back to searching. After a long time I came to the conclusion that perhaps the oven man had taken it, a thought which really rocked me. But later I found it in my bedroom in a place I would never have put it, which then caused John to remember that he had thought it unsafe to leave in the dining room so he hid it for me. By this time I was in tears and about to ring the police which thankfully I hadn’t done. I feel like a rotten person for doubting the perfectly lovely tradesman and the excitement of the clean oven has turned to a nasty memory.

Then I got an email from National Parks and Wildlife to say that my application for a new annual pass had been refused because I had done something wrong when applying, though it didn’t say what and it can only be done online as of this year. John’s failed as well so I had buggered both. We went up to Service NSW (where I discovered that it was Melbourne Cup day as the female staff were all wearing fascinators) and a delightful young man called Mohan walked me through the application on one of their computers, showing me where I had stuffed up. I resisted the impulse to kiss him for which I am sure he is eternally grateful.

Went for a walk to a nearby street library which is always light on of books, donating ten or so which have been sitting in mine for a while and picking up an Ann Patchett book that I haven’t read and a poetry volume that looks worth a try. I wish I could say that I feel better as a result but at the moment I just keep coming back to the fact that I almost called the wallopers on the oven man.

November 3, 2021

My friend Tim rang this morning, he has been in a years long legal stoush with his father over a property they shared and is now in a legal battle with his siblings over the father’s will as he died mid-proceedings. Imagine his surprise when he got an email from his siblings inviting him to his father’s memorial service, the address of the function being Tim’s home, the property at the centre of the issue. He is caught really, because if he bars entry to the attendees he will be seen as a proper bastard and this is probably the purpose of the exercise. The whole thing has taken over his life for years but if he doesn’t fight on he will potentially lose his home, which all the legal eagles agree belongs to him.

Met up with the ladies of the sewing group and continued to adjust the skirt I was working on when last we met, was it six months ago? No hurry as I won’t be going anywhere to wear it for the foreseeable. Now that the waist is okay I want to cut it back to mid calf length as it’s very long and trails on the ground when I wear flat shoes. We just had a cuppa today rather than lunch as Colleen preferred that and we were perfectly fine with it. I must admit I was glad when I got home to find there had been no emergencies of any kind. John walked to the men’s shed and made himself known, he’ll go back to formally join another day and continue working on the chess set that he is carving to go on the chess table he made decades ago. It will be good on two fronts, getting the set finished and making new friends in the area.

November 4, 2021

Had an appointment here with Kirsty from Wendy’s Home Care to sign the papers for his package. After considering many of the biggies like Anglicare, Baptist Care, Uniting Care, Benevolent Society and more (he wouldn’t let me include the Catholics) I went with Wendy’s because I have known Wendy for over 30 years. I knew she’d gone from being mayor of the Hawkesbury Council to opening a local home care service, however it had escaped me that she’d later expanded it into the Blue Mountains and Hills District. As soon as I found that out I was leaning towards her service, but I was sold when they immediately assigned me a case manager with a direct phone number, answered every query in one phone call (as against 2-5 days for others), were happy to guarantee double vaccination of all staff (Benevolent couldn’t do that, eek), plus they have no exit fees. Kristy went through everything including power of attorney, will, guardianship, illnesses, drugs and what he can and can’t do, a pretty thorough rundown. Hopefully the basic help will begin next week and expand as necessary.

Arvind brought in some delicious looking Diwali snacks that Mala had made, so I might make a fish curry tonight and use them as entree and sides. I asked what time the fireworks were starting, a big deal at Diwali in India, and wished them a happy new year. His wish is to see the last of Scott Morrison, so let’s hope the Hindu gods are listening. Went up to Castle Hill to see a clothes alteration shop highly recommended online and was surprised when a middle European lady came out to serve me, I am so used to that sort of business being Asian run. What next? A nail salon which is not Vietnamese? That happened when I had my nails done in Darwin and it was a bit of a shock. She told me my favourite jeans are past repairing which is very sad, but I think I will get her to cut off and hem my skirt instead. It was second hand 30 years ago or more but still I can’t toss it if it’s wearable. Tried to organise a few days away next week before John saw the cardiologist on Friday, but her office changed the appointment and now it’s Tuesday, buggering the week somewhat. The days up to Christmas are gradually filling up one way and another.

November 5, 2021

We did a trip to Dural for bread and on the way home had a great walk at Castle Hill Heritage Park, listening to the whip birds. I get bored to tears walking around here, but John is good at going out for his 40 minute walk every day. He asked me who prescribed a recent addition to his drug regime, the GP or the cardiologist, and I said neither as it was the hospital. How could that be he asked, I’ve only just started taking it and I haven’t been in hospital recently. He’d completely forgotten going to hospital twice just four weeks ago and my explanation didn’t bring back the memory. I think if I needed to go to hospital for any reason, I’d be reluctant to leave him here on his own now.

Reading the stories about the fellow who apparently kidnapped Cleo Smith, the four year old in WA, I just want to give him a hug. He seems so lonely, isolated and odd that my heart goes out to him. Of course I hope she isn’t harmed at all, but I fear he is at risk in the prison system and later when he eventually returns home. I hope some of the elders are able to advocate for his care within the system but prison is a tough gig even if you’re relatively normal, I can’t even imagine how a black, doll-collecting kidnapper would fare. Surely we need special places for such vulnerable people.

We are invited to an outdoor birthday party on Sunday and I planned to make a tiered chocolate cake sandwiched with cream and berries. John laughed uproariously at the idea of my making something that I would hate to eat myself, while to me that seems a perfectly normal thing to do. In fact I enjoy making things for a change that I personally don’t want to eat. Anyway it’s a moot point now as the party boy has said he will decide whether it’s on or off at 10 am Sunday and I don’t want a whole chocolate layer cake here if it’s called off, so I need to change plan. Maybe a last minute salad is the go as long as I have all the makings in the fridge.

November 6, 2021

Thinking overnight about the kidnapper of Cleo Smith I remembered the famous speech by Eugene Debs when he was being sentenced to gaol in 1918 for opposing America’s involvement with WWI. “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”. Each evening when the news came on while Lindy Chamberlain was in gaol for the murder of her daughter Azaria, I checked the weather report for Darwin, knowing that the prison would be as hot as Hades. It was such a relief when she was eventually freed and later pardoned. I feel similarly sad for this chap for very different reasons. Lindy was innocent but the systems of justice let her down, we don’t yet know about this fellow but it seems that society hasn’t intervened to help him. Elbert Hubbard said wisely that “A criminal is not wholly a criminal, he is only a criminal at times…..under the same conditions, if I were of the same quality and temper, I would have done the same”. It is interesting that both of these very wise men died tragically, the first as a result of health issues which came about in gaol and Hubbard and his wife died at sea off Ireland in 1915, aboard the Lusitania when it was sunk by a German submarine. The philosophies of that era in America, from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s seem to speak to me, Debs, Hubbard, Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau. I wonder if we’ll see their like again.

Last year a relative of John’s suffered from a very rare peritoneal cancer, so rare in fact that there was only one doctor in Perth who dealt with it and she was successfully treated by him. Because of the size of the operation and the long recovery time the federal government limits the number of these operations for each state that’s capable of doing them, only three states I understand. If that surgeon in Perth had not been available there was talk of her coming to Sydney or Melbourne for surgery. Now a good friend of mine has been diagnosed with the selfsame thing. In the John’s relative’s case she had massive surgery during which litres of heated chemotherapy solution were poured into her abdomen on the operating table then it was agitated for some hours before being drained out. (My mind absorbs the fine details of medical procedures like a sponge, for some strange reason). My friend is having conventional venous chemo but has been told that the cancer is stage 4 so perhaps that’s why the approach is different. I hope to meet up with her on Monday, it is hard to know what to say.

November 7, 2021

Went to Michael’s birthday party in Lane Cove National Park today, though it was only at 10 am that a decision was made to go ahead with it as the weather forecast was dire. As a result my salad food contribution, made at the last minute, was a bit humdrum but you can’t do everything and there was a ton of food brought. The cake in particular was superb, made by Bakealicious, a young woman who runs a cake making business from home, dee-lish-us. As it was in an open shelter shed we still had plenty of protection from the occasional rain and the storms failed to eventuate. The kookaburras kept us delighted by swooping down and stealing food from the table and from our hands, neatly done without even a nip. In one case that involved taking off with a quarter of a chicken from the table, done with panache. The brush turkeys circled and got a bit too. I was very glad I went as I realise now that I having been sinking into depression and it enlivened me to meet new people and to renew acquaintances with others. One whom I’d met a few times before turned out to be a chef with three cookbooks to her name, though I found that out via someone else. Another interesting man with the slightest American accent had come here as a soldier from Chicago on R and R during the Vietnam War and contacted the government for permission to migrate. The reply was ‘yes and we will pay half your airfare’, so not a 10 pound Pom but a $350 American. Coincidentally there was another American there from West Virginia, unknown to the first, and he told of recently chatting to a friend on the phone with his wife driving towards the Newcastle Freeway when he suddenly ‘started talking in Swahili’ as he put it. She recognised that he was having a stroke and veered off to head straight to Hornsby Hospital where he was hit with a clot-busting drug and after some time in ICU lived to tell the tale. Everybody has a story and I was glad to hear all of them. John enjoyed catching up with some people he knew in Bathurst in the 70s so he judged it an excellent day too.

November 8, 2021

Hooked up with Liz at Glenorie after mistakenly going first to Galston, for some reason I always confuse the two. She has had just one round of chemo but already her hair is coming out so she’s had to buy a wig to do a wedding on Saturday. I told her about the op that Angela had for the same thing and she said that her tumours are too big to operate on so this chemo is to reduce them so perhaps then they can do that particular surgery. She really doesn’t deserve this after going through all her previous preventative operations when she discovered that she carried the BRCA2 cancer gene years ago. We had a look in Glenorie shops, the whole two of them, a gift shop and a dress shop, the owners of both looked pretty surprised to get a customer, or potential customer I should say as we bought nothing.

John brought with him a bucket full of boot brushes and tins of shoe polish and I of course have a box with the same, a lovely old ferret box in fact. I asked if he could integrate the two, checking first if the polishes were still good or had dried out, in which case they needed tossing. A few of them needed a screwdriver to open, but it confused him to work out which ones had to go where and to decide whether or not they were still usable so they were still where I left them when I got home from seeing Liz. Then he was able to do it with no problem. It is becoming more apparent that he really needs me around to do most things now, not to help but to remind him what he is doing.

Just got a call from Kristy the case manager from the home care provider to say that the new cleaner Rosalina will start on Thursday, woo hoo. Perhaps I can get back to doing some eBays so I have pulled some bits and bobs out of boxes to start with. It will be good company for John to have someone here to chat to occasionally, just as he used to with Michelle. She will clean his part of the house and the shared areas too.

November 9, 2021

We went to RNS today to see Gemma, John’s cardiologist, as a follow up to his stents. She was very happy and removed one of the three blood thinners he is taking as the neurologist had written to her worried that his blood being so thin might cause more tiny bleeds in the brain. Complex cases are such a juggling act. We stopped at Lane Cove on the way home and got some sushi from the particularly good Japanese place there. John enjoyed it but for me it was a super treat, I am the sushi lover here. Then I listed some antique  silverplated pieces on eBay, after John kindly polished them for me yesterday. But these days people just don’t want anything that gives them work and today I’ve had to email two clients who have bought silverplated cutlery this week to tell that they can’t put them in the dishwasher. It may come as a shock.

Last night’s Four Corners on the scurrilous Obeid clan was depressing and sickening so I’ve decided to organise a regular donation to the Centre for Public Integrity who are sticking their heads up more and more on all sorts of issues. I had to give it a lot of thought because it’s my rule to always give to charities that work at the bottom end of society and these are all barristers and judges fighting against corruption in politics. But I think what convinced me is that every dollar that they enable us to claw back from corruption is a dollar that the government of the day can spend on useful measures for society as well as the fact that every crooked pollie who crashes at ICAC makes room for another who might be better. Plus of course I will get even more updates on Geoffrey Watson and what good works he is up to, warming my heart no end.

November 10, 2021

A heart-warming story today when the wallopers caught Mostafa Baluch, hiding in the boot of a Mercedes loaded into a container on the back of a truck, trying to cross the border into Queensland. It beggars belief that a guy like that who bragged in intercepted phone calls that he has $30 million in cash available was allowed bail. You have to wonder. His family will likely lose the $4 million house that he put up as a bond, which is all to the good. After watching the program on the Obeid family it is at least a relief when the system works as it should.

Wendy, of the eponymous aged care provider that we are using, rang last evening and said we are to call her directly if we encounter any problems at all with the service, which was kind even though I don’t expect to need her help. She talked about inviting us to lunch soon so we look forward to that. I feel very secure in knowing that John’s care is in such good hands.

Had a lovely Zoom call this afternoon with John’s sister-in-law Justine in Davis, California. It is a pity that he is so far away from the wonderful support of his American rellies, but Zoom is certainly a boon in this situation. It seems to me an amazing coincidence that Zoom came into being just at the very moment that the world needed it so badly. Coincidentally I am planning to attend a Zoom meeting with Killara friends tonight.

November 11, 2021

The new cleaning lady Rosalina (whom I envisaged by her name would be very smiley and jolly) was sent from the aged care provider today for her first two hour shift. She is not a smiler to any extent, her first words when I showed her where to get the vacuum, mop and cleaning products were: next time have them out ready for me, oookaay I thought. Not nasty or short, just not here to be friendly but, as I said to someone this morning, she is getting paid to clean, not to be my friend. I would feel pretty foul if I were cleaning houses for a living too, but such a different kettle of sardines to my dear sadly missed Michelle who has done the job for many years, though unfortunately she isn’t vaccinated. She did both bathrooms, vacuumed the house and mopped it. ‘Thankyou very much, I will see you next time’, I said brightly as she left. ‘I come once a fortnight’ she replied bleakly as she went out the door. I will be looking forward to that.

From another planet entirely came the lovely Matt from Urban Creativity, sweet as barley sugar when he came to give me a quote to redo the broken concrete driveway in bricks. He lives just over the border in the Parramatta local government area, this house is just three streets north of Parramatta LGA and his about the same distance on the other side. They were in harsher lockdown than we were, so he couldn’t work at all for months, hence there is a long waiting time for his services, till February at least. The big gum tree next door has broken up the driveway badly and it all needs pulling up, the level raised above the tree roots using sand and road base and then redoing in brick. If his quote is affordable he’s got the job, he comes highly recommended and is delightful to deal with so I won’t even get other quotes. ‘What would the extra cost be to do it in a herringbone pattern Matt?’ I think that’s a good idea and it’s only a few extra cuts so I won’t add anything for that’. I told him that my friend Sue won’t park the Peugeot on the driveway any more as it scraped the bottom of her car. ‘Do you want her coming back?’ he asked drily. ‘Oh yes, she’s a close friend’, ‘okay we’d better fix it then’ he smirked. Please be affordable Matt. It was typical that when John and I had a sweep on the anticipated cost just now, my estimate was more than double John’s, I hope he’s right but I don’t think so.

On Monday when I had morning tea with Liz, she had lovely shoulder length blonde hair but wore a cap because it had started falling out. By Tuesday night she sent me a photo of herself bald, this after just one session of chemo, it must be a bastard of a mixture. I can’t think what to do to help, she has her sessions at Gosford Hospital as it’s quicker and cheaper to get there from her northern Sydney home. In these Covid days you can’t even offer to spend the day there with her to help pass the time, but of course when I think of it I wouldn’t be happy leaving John for that long anyway, so thinking cap on for some way to help.

November 12, 2021

Davina and Louis are having their ensuite bathroom waterproofed and retiled due to a leak in the floor, waterproofing problems seem so common these days whereas in the past I can only recall hearing of it once and that in a house built in the 1930s. The cost is being picked up by the strata fund but it’s still really disruptive. Seeing Louis is working from home they all came here at 8 am and he spent the day working in John’s office. Meanwhile Dav, Millie, John and I went on a walk, played a memory game (at which John failed to get a single pair) and then started to build a model of the Opera House which Millie had been given. By 5.30 John and I were pretty tuckered out, not unsurprisingly I guess, but it was good to have them here.

The lovely driveway guy sent in his quote which was 2.7 times what I estimated and 6 times what John estimated, so clearly we are both out of touch with building costs. It’s a pity as I was ready to say yea if it were even close to my estimate. I will have to give it a lot of thought as lovely doesn’t come at a 2.7 times premium, though I am completely confident that he’d do a good job. Then the Case Manager from the aged care provider rang to ask if I were happy with Rosalina yesterday and I said she was fine, my careful word for ‘unenthusiastic but okay’. But she had reported back to them that she had to walk downstairs to get the mop and also that she had cleaned both bathrooms when John would only be using one. So from now on she only does one bedroom and one bathroom, despite the fact that I told her not to worry about the kitchen because I had already done it. This is going to be fun I am seeing now, but better then doing everything myself I guess. However the conversation left me aware that while I covered her back for being lacklustre she was somewhat unimpressed with the conditions and told them so.

Last week I was browsing places we could go for a few days this week but it all came apart when the cardiologist moved John’s appointment to the middle of the week. So last night I browsed nearby places we could go for two nights next week (it had to be close as we only have a small window) and settled on Narrabeen where we have been a couple of times before. They happened to have a deal on that if you joined their loyalty program you got a reward of 20% off the next booking, so I booked us in on the only nights possible. It will be good to walk on sand again and for relatively little money.

November 13, 2021

We had Boris and Jane over this morning and enjoyed chewing the fat with them. I had baked a Pear and Raspberry Cake but then remembered that I needed gluten free things so I did a batch of Coconut Macaroons and Almond Rose Balls and some cheeses with gluten free crackers. I had forgotten how much I love goat’s cheese so it was lovely to tuck into some of that, so much so that I didn’t even eat any of the sweet stuff, something unusual for me.

After the shock of the price of the driveway quote I got another shock when the firm recommended by John’s neurologist to do a driving test for him came back to me with a figure of $900. It is a special two hour test of his physical and mental ability to drive including a one hour test at the house followed by a one hour drive and they report directly to the RMS, but the catch is that if we don’t get it done the doc may decide to recommend cancellation of his licence, so it’s catch 22 really. We see the gerontologist on Thursday so perhaps she may have another suggestion, however I am not hopeful.

November 14, 2021

This has to go down as one of the most frustrating days ever. After all the Centrelink stuff and the home care stuff I thought I was free for a while, but nup. I need to fill out an Emergency Care Plan for John and email it to those people who should be in the loop. So at 10am I filled it all in, eight pages worth, including the two full pages of his daily drug regime plus personal and medical contacts only for it to go back to blank when I pressed download. So I went back to the beginning and filled it all out again, this time pressing OneCloud as the source, same thing happened. A third try, filing it in documents failed as well so I told John it was beyond me, emailed the blank document to him and asked him to print it for me to fill in by hand. His printer insisted that there was a paper block when there wasn’t and after umpteen tries I gave up. Near to tears over that when John managed to knock an antique plate off the wall, the fourth one over time, and it smashed to smithereens. ‘Put me in a home’ he kept saying which was just awful and that upset us both even more. I said we needed to get out of the house immediately and so we jumped into the car and went to Dural to grab a late lunch outdoors in a howling cold wind. But at least we got out from under the damned document for a while. Now I will have to get the library to print a copy, fill it in by hand and post it to people by snail mail. Clearly there is a way to do it but I just can’t work out how and John, who used to advise me how to do such things, can now barely use a computer and printer.

When Jane and Boris were here I told them an old story from years ago about hiring a cleaner from an ad in the paper and I opened the door to a huge woman holding onto the door jamb and puffing and panting, out of breath from climbing the two steps at the front. She was hopeless, leaving the wooden floors awash when she mopped and I had to soak up all the water with a dry mop after she’d gone. Of course I had to sack her, which I did as nicely as I could by phone. At that time I had a corner cupboard in the loungeroom with antique bottles of various sorts from the 1800s on top, most with the old marble seal at the top. When I told her she couldn’t come back she immediately started verbally abusing me saying ‘Did I chip one of your old beer bottles?’ and as she got more fired up ‘I should have smashed all the fucking things while I was there’. I hung up on her but was just stunned at the hostility and bitterness she expressed. I had to get rid of the bottles via the shop to stop going over it again and again in my mind, I wasn’t used to being hated back then. I haven’t thought about her for years but retelling the story yesterday literally gave me nightmares last night about the woman coming back. Funny the things you bury at the back of your mind.

November 15, 2021

I had managed to book us two days away this week, but John has a couple of people from Link Housing coming today to do a video of him to be shown at the AGM of Link on Thursday. However he’s just told me that last week they rang him to change the date to Tuesday afternoon, right in the middle of when we are away. Now he’s rung them to change the venue from here to the place we are staying, so that cuts out half of one of the days we’ll be there, judging by the time it took for the previous video. But it’s important to John to have it done so we will persevere. Where I was when that call came through last week is a mystery as I do keep an ear out for things that I might need to know. Patience is a virtue that I am struggling to muster right at this minute. A call to the Carer’s Gateway whose form I am trying to fill in (and whose website says to call them with any technical problems in doing so) proved only partially successful ‘print the blank form and fill it in with a pen’ was their advice. That doesn’t allow me to email it to anyone but I guess I’ll have to post it by snail mail. Bigger problems exist in the world, think Syria, PNG, anywhere in Africa, but right now it feels like a weight I can’t get out from under.

4pm: Feeling human again since I just managed to fill out the 8 pages of forms, photocopy them and post them off to those who need to have the information. That’s a huge weight off my mind so soon I can start packing for Narrabeen tomorrow. I’m taking the makings of breakfasts and light lunches and we will go out to a restaurant while there, I’m thinking one with a deck and views, so hopefully the weather will be kind enough for that. It’s a pity that it won’t be swimming weather but it will be so lovely to escape onto the sand that I won’t complain if Hughie’s chucking it down. We’ve discovered that John’s lymphoma causes an incomplete result from vaccination, actually only about 38% of normal, and the booster will only bring it up to 55%, so it’s considered that he’s even then not fully vaccinated. As a result we need to be thinking that we are still in lockdown to all intents and purposes. Jane offered us tickets to a show in January, one that we’d both love to go to, but we both said that we’d need to think about it closer to the time.


November 16, 2021

It’s been a bit of a comedy of errors today but we are at the ocean so it’s all worth it. First John discovered when we got here that he’d left his man bag at home, with wallet, cards, licence, vaccination certificate etc. But most importantly his four times a day tablets. All the other drugs were packed separately but he thought these were in the bag. A call to Arvind led to him looking on the verandah, back steps and around the outside of the house which at least eased our minds that the bag must be inside. So then we walked to a pharmacy and had them fax our local pharmacy to enable them to prescribe the drugs. We could hear the call and when the pharmacist rang them and said “I have your customer John Murray here” the young girl answered “Oh, here’s trouble!” which I thought was both unprofessional and funny at the same time. Went for a walk then to North Narrabeen and came back along the sand, but the wind didn’t make that altogether pleasurable. Time for afternoon check-in at The Sands came but they wouldn’t accept our vaccination certificates, printed out by the clinic where we had them done. They had to be on our phones (what if you don’t own a smart phone I asked? with no answer forthcoming as I don’t think they had never heard of such a situation). I had to get onto Medicare online and try to download the info to Service NSW, however after multiple tries the download failed (poor internet connection maybe?) but finally she accepted seeing it on the Medicare site. Then I had to repeat the performance for John’s, all of which took three quarters of an hour. We just had time for some cheese and biscuits for a quick lunch before the Link Wentworth housing manager and a videographer arrived to do a video of John accepting his Life Membership of the organisation, celebrated with a framed certificate and a huge bunch of native flowers. The video will be shown at their AGM on Thursday. Later we had another cold and windy beach walk before dinner, a Thai seafood dish which was full of goodly seafood ingredients but was so hot that we couldn’t tell one from the other. Was I eating broccoli or a prawn? Shut your eyes and you wouldn’t know. Tonight John discovered his missing tablets….in his toiletry bag, though his man bag is still missing in action and hopefully at home.

On our long walk to North Narrabeen and back I was getting very fatigued walking on the sand and finally when we got to the set of wooden steps to go up to the road I dragged my sorry carcase up there feeling exhausted. The last half a dozen steps were concrete and I fell trying to climb them. I have had the odd clumsy fall when I have tripped over something but that’s the first time I have fallen due to exhaustion ie old age. A skinned elbow and bruises on the hip and knee still remind me of my downhill trajectory.

November 17, 2021

The day looked a bit threatening early on but we packed a Thermos and took off to Long Reef Point where we had a good walk and marvelled at the views of the Hawkesbury entrance to the north and down to Manly in the other direction. Following that we headed off to North Narrabeen beach and pool, though it was too cool to swim. I Googled reserves around here and came up with Warriewood Wetlands and what a gem of a place it was. I’m not used to natural swamps in Australia but that is exactly what it is. With an elevated walkway over the water we went for a walk for over an hour accompanied by the sounds of whip birds, bellbirds and ducks. What looks like swathes of green grass in places is actually bright green plants floating on the water. It’s a little paradise in the middle of suburbia and we will definitely return. I can see why people love the northern beaches and never leave, just as Hawkesbury people move within the area but rarely leave it. Tonight we had a beautiful dinner at Limari, an elevated restaurant on the edge of Narrabeen Lagoon where we watched the sun set over the water and it’s hard to believe we are in the same city as the Hills.

We haven’t heard radio or TV since we came here but I have kept up with some news online regarding the search for William Tyrrell. After sitting through many days of the inquest I have pages full of notes of ‘persons of interest’ but his foster parents certainly are not among them. It was a picture of contrasts in the courtroom with the very Westie natural parents and aunt sitting on one side of the room against the very stylish and elegant foster parents on the other. I didn’t see the foster grandparents at any sittings so I have no knowledge of their appearance or demeanour. It will be fascinating to find out who the informant is, but seeing the foster grandmother died only in March it may very well be someone within the family. The police seem pretty sure they are onto something when they are searching such a limited area. I hope they find an answer this time, there are a host of people out there who’ve been wrongly accused in the last seven years.

November 18, 2021

Of course the day was perfect beach weather now that we were leaving the beach, but that often seems to be the case. We did an early morning walk on the sand and I managed to scale the concrete steps safely. Later we went back to North Narrabeen to have a milkshake on the lagoon edge while we spent an hour watching the dredge working. It is very confusing as he seemed to be scooping up sand but not putting it anywhere in particular so the place looked exactly the same when we left as it did when we arrived.

Off down the Wakehurst Parkway to the city for John’s appointment with the specialist geriatrician. When we last saw the neurologist she set this appointment up and I queried why we needed it when his overall health is being looked after by so many specialists already. But off we went and she was delightful and took detailed notes on all of John’s history of many ailments, asked lots of questions about his memory etc and then the end result was her suggestion for him to read short stories instead of novels. She gave him a piece of paper saying ‘use it or loose (sic) it’ which is her other recommendation. She said at the end that there is no need for him to come back as there is nothing she can do for his brain damage or Alzheimer’s and he doesn’t need a geriatrician??? The whole thing was a sorry farce, a very expensive farce at $650. I have been paying for everything as he left his bag at home and he asked me for $50 to pay, the astonished receptionist said ‘that’s $650 John, not $50, it was a long consultation’. Did we feel somewhat ripped off? Yes we did, not because of the bill but because she had nothing to offer at all and a day at the beach would have been better therapy.Back home at 3.59 for John’s Zoom meeting at 4 pm to get his Life Membership of Link Housing at their AGM, at which he is now entitled to vote. I set it up on his computer and was able to watch it on mine as well in another room in case he ran into problems, which he didn’t. Fully chuffed to see him get the award.

November 19, 2021

Today I looked again at the note from the geriatrician and there was something important that I neglected to report: excise, she wants him to keep up his current amount of excise. Perhaps she thinks he’s in import export. I know it’s the old proofreader in me, but consistently bad spelling gets my goat.

I was off early in peak hour to get to Marrickville by 9 am to meet Davina and Millie at a uniform supplier to buy all her supplies for school in February. In my day, and my children’s day, you went to a storeroom at the school and chose either new or second hand, bought from the school via volunteer mothers. But the good thing was that the little moppets don’t need to have a dress, the girls wear culottes/shorts and a top in summer or track pants and a top in winter. No burned legs on the aluminium seats in the playground in summer and no frozen bums in the winter. My high school had a cotton dress in summer and a serge tunic in winter but thick lisle stockings the whole year round! No-one could remove them even on 40 degree days. Most schools still have dresses but Erko has enough vocal parents I suspect to see sense. Went back to Dav’s and I asked Millie what she wanted for Christmas ‘a pair of socks?’ Nein she said. ‘A new singlet?’ Nein (her pre-school teaches them some German). ‘Okay’ I said ‘no toys this year, just 9 pairs of socks and 9 singlets’. She saw the joke and laughed like a drain as we continued the joke into 9 T-shirts, 9 pairs of underpants etc.

Last night we saw the News and 7.30 after a TV respite while away. On 7.30 there was a segment on poverty in the suburbs and I saw a woman interviewed who was second in charge at the homeless charity we used to work for. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to contact her to ask if she were still with them. No, she replied, I had to get out of there to preserve my mental health. Exactly the reason we regretfully gave up on the charity, the clients were wonderful to be with but the boss lady another thing altogether. It seems that all of the volunteers have turned over since then, even the rusted on ones.

November 20, 2021

John has been busy writing a Christmas newsletter and the first draft mentioned his years- long estrangement from his daughters. Then he gave me the list of recipients to run my eye over and my first comment was that three of them are dead, in two of the cases one half of the couple is recently deceased and in the other the primary recipient is. I find it interesting that he seemed somewhat surprised when I pointed this out. I suggested that perhaps sending jolly wishes at Christmas to a person whose partner is recently missing from their lives could prove counter-productive. Secondly I mentioned that he might need to delete some family members from the list, certainly those who are already uncomfortable with any mention of his menage dissension. A second version of the newsletter now exists, not mentioning any touchy subjects and not addressed to the lost and lamented.

Today we helped Carol with her Christmas baking for the Wayside Chapel and Exodus Foundation. So far she has done over 1200 small Christmas cakes with the help of her band of volunteers, with many more to do. It was a lovely communal atmosphere while seven of us prepared tins, mixed or wrapped finished items. John was dish pig and Carol put on morning tea and lunch for us as she always does. We worked on a big table on the verandah in lovely cool conditions. Summer hasn’t started yet and the longer it forgets to come the happier I am. I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how our natural environment affects us each differently, I couldn’t live in Central Australia for example, or Afghanistan, although I love the arid beauty it is for someone else to appreciate in terms of living there. For me water is all. Rain, snow, swamp, river, ocean, however it comes I love it and my idea of a place to live is largely determined by how long it takes to get to the sea. So rain every day till Christmas would be a boon to my psyche, though it will never happen it’s a lovely thought.

November 21, 2021

Got rid of one of John’s filing cabinets on eBay for the princely sum of $20 less commission, I’m not sure if he’s decided what to spend it on. Still another one to go but it’s the smaller one so it is more portable to the Sallies if necessary. I’ve been a bit slack on the eBay front lately and I need to get some more sales happening, but the approaching of Christmas always starts to swallow up days one way or another. Today I made Annie Smithers’ recipe for Scottish Shortbread, not baked individually but in a tray, then cut into fingers while still hot. John said it was the best shortbread he’d ever tasted and I agree, that one is going into the hand-written book as a keeper.

Lovely English rain all day today, not loud enough to hear, just a persistent steady drizzle which is comforting to me. I have been thinking again about whether preference for a particular landscape could be genetic, whether humans have acquired through their long evolutionary history a strong genetic predisposition for particular types of natural settings. I think we are primed by our biology to fall in love with certain places. I considered this on the first drive from Manchester Airport to my brother’s house, where everything just seemed to be the ‘right’ shade of green. Much as I love a forest of eucalypts it can never thrill me in the way a shock of green can, which I think is why I feel so at home in New Zealand. Tramping through mist, watching the summer snow melt into the creeks in the Snowy Mountains, walking through the English fens, or seeing the wildflowers on the lower slopes in Switzerland just feels proper and comfortable. Dubai with its amazing architecture of multi-storey buildings and its surrounding sandhills feels wrong, even though it is on the sea. Reading about wet and cold places revives me, Ann Patchett’s book Run which I read recently was set in New England in winter and I just loved the descriptions of the ice and snow, while well aware that I wouldn’t want to live in it for long, but experiencing it just once would be nice. I keep glancing up to look out of the window and see the rain still tumbling down and my spirits are buoyed.

November 22, 2021

I harvested some of the garlic that I’ve been assiduously watering and fertilising, even scabbing some ashes from Michelle and Kev’s fireplace to add potassium. I could easily have eaten the cloves from four plants in one mouthful, and I may yet do so. Perhaps I should stick to herbs. I’m cooking some baked vegetables tonight, the first time I’ve risked gumming up my beautifully spotless oven with things that might splash or smoke, but it had to happen sooner or later and tonight’s the night. John did a carrot juice at lunchtime now that we’ve got his juicer set up and I so enjoyed it. He used to bring it up from his place in jars but now it’s made to order, with a salmon and lettuce sambo it was the perfect lunch.

Just watched Jacqui Lambie’s powerful and heartfelt speech in the senate and although I have differed with her on many things, today she was a ripper, tearing strips off One Nation and its divisive tactics. She said in part “People are free to choose not to be vaccinated but if you make a choice, those choices have consequences including that you can’t work where you want to work. If you want to work as a cabbie, you need a licence to drive a cab, but people without a licence are not being discriminated against. If you want to work in aged care, you need to have a flu vaccine – that has always been in place since before Covid-19 was even a twinkle in a Chinese bat’s eye, people have a right to choose, but you don’t have a right to put vulnerable people’s lives at risk.” I’ve sent her a message of support to counteract all the anti-vaxxers going berserk on her Facebook page.

Sadly my last letter with some cash inside failed to get to my friend Ram in India, but looking on the bright side it’s the very first time that has happened in the 12 or so years that I’ve been posting money to him that way, so really that’s pretty impressive. I have sent a Christmas card today with a gift inside and I can only cross my fingers that the missing one was an aberration. It reminded me of being in France in the Whitlam era when he was lambasting the French for the nuclear tests on Mururoa Atoll. I went to a post office in Paris to send some postcards and such was the anti-Australian feeling at the time that once the man behind the counter saw the destination he just threw them backwards over his head and of course none of them arrived. Funny to think of it now.

November 23, 2021

John and I did an experiment regarding division of food costs. I took over seafood, meat, bakery, fruit and vegetables and he does groceries and anything picked up from the corner shop. I meticulously recorded our purchases for a month, we reimbursed each other if we overlapped (for example if some mandarins were added onto the supermarket order or his chocolate was added at the fruit shop) and amazingly at the end of the month we were only seven dollars apart in what we had spent. So now we will stick with that system knowing that it will all work out roughly the same in the end.

So far we are very pleased with the choice of Wendy’s Home Care as John’s provider, Rosalina the Happy Cleaner notwithstanding. Kristy has sent by mail a very detailed summary of her two hour interview and even rang today just to ask how we got on at the geriatrician. He is a little improved and I’m starting to wonder if the two trips to hospital for the heart actually set him back a lot and now he’s getting back to ‘normal’. Perhaps the sudden deterioration I observed was just due to that? He is right now busy wrapping presents for his granddaughters, lovely matching dresses that we bought this morning and will probably deliver to Dan’s mum Lyn along with some old photos and documents that they may like to have.

I’ve been reading some stuff about slavery and it is shocking in the extreme. I’ve often wondered how an African American can cope with the knowledge that their ancestors were dragged in chains to the country where they now live, even the most powerful comfortably off black person must think of that at 2 am. Best estimates are that between 13 and 20 million people were made slaves over the period of around 300 years beginning in 1619 in the US during which slavery took place, but of course the majority of enslaved Africans went to Brazil, followed by the Caribbean with many later moved on to the US. Slavery was not unique to these countries, it is a part of almost every nation’s history from Greek and Roman civilizations to contemporary forms of human trafficking. A quote that stuck regarding the American experience: “A man and a woman in chains at the dawn of slavery would have been the great-grandparents of the great-grandparents of the great-grandparents of the first slaves to see mass emancipation”.  Too much to comprehend.

November 24, 2021

I set off today on a mission to find a mermaid toy whose tail and hair change colour in the bath water, something Millie asked me to get her for Christmas, the first time she’s expressed a preference for a particular gift. They were sold out yesterday at the toy shop in Castle Hill and I didn’t want to go into Castle Towers unnecessarily, so I did an internet search and discovered that K-Mart had sold out of them at all their stores so it must be the in thing. However a smaller toy shop at Windsor had five but they wouldn’t hold one till Saturday when I preferred to go. I schlepped out there two hours later to find only two left but I was told that they come in two versions, the blonde with white skin and the darker one which I got. “If they were the white ones they’d be all gone” said the helpful girl.

Of course I am rivetted to the search for William Tyrrell after attending his yet incomplete inquest. But I do have some qualms. First there were police leaks about the ‘washing machine repair man’ which naturally rendered his mobile business virtually inoperative. Then there were leaks about the neighbour across the road who had an illegal bugging device planted by the police, resulting in the sacking of detective Gary Jubelin. Then there was the fellow living in a caravan, the grandparents club which had a number of paedophile members, the fellow working in a nearby petrol station (all of whom were named at the inquest but I don’t intend to use their names here) and there were more. Clearly the only way the press got hold of these names is from police leaks and now we are assured that it looks like the foster mother was responsible all along, but there again no proof is forthcoming. Clearly they can’t all be guilty so I wonder at the wisdom of giving the press details of all of these people whose lives have been affected dramatically from being named as suspects. Any of us could have our lives ruined if we were in the situation of these suspects. Perhaps they hope the pressure will force a confession but if so that strategy clearly isn’t working.

November 25, 2021

Rosalina the Cleaner worked for just an hour and a quarter of her supposed two hour stint and did the floors, but I will need to redo whatever she thinks she did in the bathroom as it looks exactly as it was when she arrived, except the mirror which is actually much worse. I signed her work sheet without complaint to get rid of her as we were being harassed all morning by the usual suspect who makes both our lives a misery for a week at a time and then disappears for many months, please let the next disappearance begin. I have just about had it and John looked like the walking wounded this morning after a long string of abusive texts going over the last few days, followed by a hysterical phone call while Rosalina was here. We went to Carol’s to work on the Christmas cakes for charity (6 texts which he ignored came in while we were there) and it was great to be able to mix fruit and flour and deal with people who are normal. I had made some quinoa with pumpkin yesterday luckily as I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate enough to do it this morning. Too swamped by the last days to write about anything else.

November 26, 2021

I’m up early, John’s still asleep, and I am trying to work out why I feel so damned depressed. Of course John gets low when he’s being verbally attacked on a daily basis (this only lasts for a week or two and then we go into the long silence) but why does it affect me so badly when I should really be just collateral damage in all of this? Last night the text sound came on his phone and we both jumped, he picked up the phone gingerly, then smiled and said ‘it’s okay, it’s only Apple News’. We shouldn’t have to live like this. Of course my name is always mentioned in the texts and calls, but it is John whose character is constantly given a free and very negative assessment. ‘Narcissistic’, ‘playing the victim’, ‘oppressive’, ‘selfish’, ‘discounting other people as priests are taught to do’, ‘pathetic’, ‘cruel’ are just a few selections from the most recent 14 texts over a couple of days.

The only solution of course is blocking the number but I can understand that it’s a last resort and I would never recommend that he cut off any hope of reconciliation, even though we both know the chances of that are about equal to Scott Morrison resigning and joining the Greens. But back to my point. Why do I feel so gutted? Sympathy for John? Yes. Anger at the principle of elder abuse of a sick and sometimes confused 80 year old man? Yes. A natural desire for some sort of justice? I guess all of these, but it occurred to me this morning that the depth of my sadness must be more and I’ve realised it is that as an adopted person I live day and night with the knowledge that I was given away, like a dog who couldn’t learn to roll over, except I was never given the chance to make an attempt. I have always tried to ‘get on’ with people, I appreciate that not every one has to like me and that’s absolutely their right, but I do try to fit in as best I can with as many people as possible. John once asked for my name to be left out of the abusive texts, emails and calls (thereby taking it all on himself) because I was getting upset by it. The reply was ‘Talk to me something I care about’ and I think it has been worse from then on as they realised it was hitting the mark. I have tried in this case (or at least did try for many years, I’ve given up now) but I have only ever been treated as fundamentally unwelcome, as an unwanted and reviled outsider, despite the fact that they don’t know me at all and have never given me a chance. Ring a bell?

November 27, 2021

Yesterday afternoon Sue came down to go with us to the book group end of year event. That was a lovely change as she hasn’t stayed over in a while. John set up the Christmas tree and it was understated in decoration compared to how I usually do it, and looks a treat. It reminds me every year of my long dead and much missed shop client Bob Brady, lead singer of the sixties rock band The Missing Links, from whom the tree came many years ago. He was a bit of a ‘tricksy weaver’ as we used to say, he always wanted to ‘buy cheap and sell dear’ and the taxman was on his case for a huge amount, but I certainly missed him following his sudden demise. The taxman subsequently sold up his acreage and they got their owings. We arrived at Carol’s loaded with a cheese and dip platter (Sue) and a pavlova (moi) and John shepherded us down the drive singly under his umbrella. What a lovely warm occasion it turned out to be, so long since we’ve met in person. Carol cooked a turkey as she always does for our last meeting and Norma brought two baked schnapper with a tahini sauce, I’ve just emailed her wanting the recipe. Lots of sides accompanied the meal and we all had a wonderful feast of food and company. It was lovely to have Sue here overnight, though we are programmed to different hours, she is in bed very early and up before dawn, while we are 11.30 or later to bed and 7 am risers.

Today we drove out to Lynne’s to leave Christmas presents for John’s grandchildren as well as depositing with her a quantity of photos and documents for John’s children. As luck would have it, Lynne had been asked to babysit at short notice just before we arrived at her house so she was packing the car to leave for the mountains and it was just a case of putting the boxes straight into her boot before she left. We usually call in to see her for Christmas so this was a case of killing that bird at the same time. Some pumpkin soup via Carol made for a hot and healthy lunch when we got home and then we set to packing some Christmas presents now that I have the cakes that I had ordered previously and picked up from Carol last night. John is currently ironing Christmas paper which is new but from a previous year, it was somewhat damp in the storeroom and had wrinkled. Twice the safety switch has cut the power off so I am wondering if the fairly new iron has a problem, though we are simultaneously finishing off the drying of some clothes that were line-dried under the house but were still damp. I haven’t used the dryer for over a year or more, so thought perhaps it was the thing causing the electrical problem, but now both seem to be working happily so it’s a mystery. I had asked John to put the clothes into the dryer while he was downstairs (and to be fair it’s a long time since he’s used it too) but he rang me up from the laundry asking if the dryer is the same gadget as the washing machine, which was where he was planning to put the clothes.

November 28, 2021

We attacked more boxes of John’s today and I found some of Barbara’s cookbooks plus some cut out recipes from magazines so I have started another box to go to the mountains. I think a person’s inscribed recipe books are a really wonderful and unique treasure to have and I hope someone keeps all of mine, but there are so many that I can’t see it happening. Perhaps give one to each friend if I know in advance that I am going to go the way of all flesh? Though if I meet with the proverbial bus my last thought might be ‘but the recipe booookks…’. Also started another box for the Sallies so we made real progress, enough that I was able to list on eBay just now the 5 tier shelving unit that much of his stuff was stacked in under the deck, though there are two more 5 tier units left to empty. I was also allowed to toss out a mug without a handle and an empty whiskey bottle (don’t ask why he had such a thing as a non-drinker and more to the point why it was packed to bring?). By then we’d had enough for one day. John is exhausted and napping in his recliner, it doesn’t take much to tucker him out.

I’m reading Brave New Humans: The Dirty Truth Behind the Fertility Industry by Sarah Dingle and it is pretty shocking stuff. As with adoption the focus is all about the parents and no-one thinks too much about the child. Royal North Shore Hospital doesn’t come out of it well at all, having sold their entire publicly owned IVF unit to the head doctor there after which it became a very profitable business for him but in the process he kept all the records of the histories of the previous patients/clients. These records were deliberately tampered with to destroy the codes and thereby eventually the identities of the donors and many other hospitals did likewise. In one case a man managed to discover his donor father and only later found that the man was also the father of his wife, after a number of children had been born. The possibility of this happening rises the more this technology is used and it’s increasing every day. Sue told me (via information from Robert) that in Tasmania at one stage every donor conceived child had the same father! It’s all a bit Frankenstein to me, but I know I am more sensitive to this sort of issue than a lot of people are. Dingle’s book has voiced opinions that I had already embraced years ago but had never seen written anywhere before.

November 29, 2021

Busy morning started at 6 am as I had the plumber coming early to fix the water hammer problem which is so annoying. Every time anyone flushes the toilet or uses the bathroom or laundry taps the kitchen tap makes an awful vibrating racket and drips water. Aaron decided a valve under the sink could be the problem but he replaced that and it still happened. So he went off to do other jobs while we went up to Bunnings and got a new tap set which he has now as a backup if he can’t fix the valve inside the old taps. If he manages to fix it Bunnings will take the new one back. Then it was off to vote in the council elections and I wondered why there were no people there handing out how to vote cards. But as we left I saw them all outside, we had gone into the basement and up in the lift unintentionally avoiding them all, but it didn’t matter as I’d written the names out from the electoral commission website.

John is at his computer writing a Christmas newsletter and has just brought out a printed copy for me to correct the spelling and punctuation, a funny return to my old proof-reading days. Aaron has now discovered that I do need to replace the tap set so my original IKEA one hasn’t lasted as well as it might have, this one has a 10 year guarantee which may well see me out. So what with the cost of the new taps, his callout fee and labour cost, altogether $670, it’s almost as much as I used to pay myself as a salary for two weeks work in the shop. But he’s a good soul and plumbers don’t come cheap.

John Butcher rang for a pre-Christmas catch-up with John and suggested that they visit their friend Terry, but that won’t run as the docs have advised Terry against visitors due to his cancer treatment. So the two Johns arranged a meeting but it will have to be in Marrickville as John B. doesn’t have access to a car. During that call Jane rang for the same reason and invited us to lunch next Sunday. Boris is hoping I will bring the dessert, like-minded sweet tooth that he is. I need to focus on Christmas Dinner food, but at least I made the cake today, which is usually done in October, however I doubt we’ll pick the difference.

November 30, 2021

We accomplished more on the organisation front today, lugging one set of John’s garage shelving into my garage and stacking things there in a more organised fashion. How many shopping bags do two people need? Dozens apparently. I did three loads of washing, including 4 moth-eaten small blankets from his old place that are ‘too good to throw out’ which means that now I need to mend the holes. John discovered a big huntsman spider as we were sorting and helpfully threw it towards me which I wasn’t happy about, though it was as scared of me as I was of it and scuttled away, ugh.

Omicron wends its way closer at a hell of a speed. Yesterday there wasn’t a case in Australia and now somebody’s been wandering Parramatta Westfield carrying it. We were thinking of going to KOI this week for the first dessert fix in months but the same body went to Ryde shopping centre as well, right across the road from KOI. If she didn’t go to KOI while she was there she missed an opportunity. I guess we will wait and see on that front.

Now John is working again on his newsletter. One enveloped and addressed copy inside a Christmas card was torn up after he decided he didn’t want to send anything to that couple after all and three others have been taken off the list by me, due to the fact that the addressees are dead, which was a fair call I thought. One card had to be rewritten after I reminded John that the wife he sent good wishes to was divorced decades ago and the new wife might not appreciate the mistake. I have some trepidation about other errors that might slip past. It’s a funny old world that we inhabit here but given the choice to laugh or cry I’d prefer laughing (today at least).

December 1, 2021

Where has the year gone? Or my life come to that. We went up for our booster vaccine this morning and got in and out much faster than I expected, so we followed that by going over to Carol’s to work on the cakes. The nurse explained that in John’s case it’s an additional dose rather than the booster and he may need another one in three months which was news to us. At the vaccine hub I formed an instant rapport with one of the nurses during the 10 minute recovery period after the jab. She invited us to visit her home in Mt. Irvine for a cuppa. ‘Do you go for drives?’ she asked, ‘why don’t you come and visit me in the mountains’. I just love those serendipitous encounters and will certainly follow it up.

Someone mentioned Jacqui Lambie while we were doing the cakes and I forgot to say that if you follow her on Facebook or by email she often asks how she should vote on an upcoming issue. She doesn’t commit to following the majority but she will listen to the arguments from her followers. Of course I stick my bib in when she asks. The latest was the Act to require ID to be shown at voting stations, a great way to get rid of pesky Aboriginal or poor voters. She got 33,000 responses and they were heavily (65%) against the move (though less so in Queensland, surprise, surprise) so she announced today that she won’t support it. She laid out clearly and in detail the pro and con arguments she’d received and decided that the cons won. I think they call this democracy, something we rarely see with other politicians. She would get a vote from me if I were in Tasmania.

Interested to see an article about Kristina Keneally’s policeman son. He was working at Newtown Police Station when he claims he got a call from a man threatening to kill certain officers. The man was arrested by the fixated persons unit and spent I think five weeks in gaol before getting bail. He then had access to his phone and luckily for him he had recorded the call, in which no threats were made. Now the Newtown Police have investigated, dropped the charges and ‘counselled’ Keneally. It’s a classic police fit-up and if proven he should be sacked immediately.

December 2, 2021

Ho, ho, ho…..I got all of my overseas Christmas cards done this morning while waiting for the new garden helper Luke who is financed as part of John’s home care package. Lovely Luke came on time and actually did what I asked him to do, not what he wanted to do (weeding) so this has given me encouragement to ‘counsel’ Rosalina the Happy Cleaner next visit and if she doesn’t lift her game I will have a word to the very helpful Case Manager. I don’t like to complain about people unless I have to, I’ve always believed that people do the best they are capable of, in this case she’s just not a capable cleaner and would perhaps be a great vet nurse or a reliable person who holds up signs on the road. For example, you can’t tell someone how to improve their cooking if they simply don’t taste the problem for themselves. I offered to work with Luke in the garden but he flatly refused ‘I’m here so you don’t have to do it, just go and relax’ he said. It might have been genuine or perhaps he didn’t want an old girl nattering to him while he worked, but in any case I came in and did all my Australian cards. I only send them to people that I don’t see so they were all interstate and in country NSW. I enjoyed finding two Aboriginal design wooden cards lurking here so I sent one of them to my occasional correspondent in Arizona. In a recent email she mentioned that she wasn’t worried about Covid, and wasn’t vaccinated because she and her husband walk 30 minutes a day and have taken to adding weights to their ankles to improve their fitness. The other wooden card I sent to my penfriend Anne in Yorkshire. She hates Christmas (hard religious upbringing, brother a priest) so I always send her a non-Christmas card and she does the same with me.

Someone must have been listening to my whinge about Daniel Keneally yesterday. Today The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission has taken over the inhouse investigation into his apparent lies about Luke Moore having threatened to kill a detective. So instead of being ‘counselled’, my word du jour, he may actually have to explain his behaviour and take an appropriate punishment. Being the son of a Federal politician (whom I actually like) is no reason to evade sanction for such a cowardly and malicious act. As my friend Jeffrey Ludowici used to say ‘you just need to find out if people are basically honest or basically dishonest and everything’s simple from there’.

December 3, 2021

We’ve had a bit of fun and games with John today. First his leg started to spontaneously bleed from an old scratch, so I shunted him off the carpets (forever practical). But blood was then pooling on the bathroom floor and it still hasn’t stopped an hour later though it’s slowed with a cold washer over the Band-Aid. So he decided to have a rest in his recliner till it subsided but shortly after I heard desperate noises and raced in, only to find that he had gone to sleep with a barley sugar in his mouth and it had gone down his throat, choking him. A few hits on the back solved that but the sudden movement started the leg bleeding again. I think the bleeding harked back to two days ago when I discovered that he had forgotten his morning tablets and taken the morning and evening ones together that night, despite being repeatedly told (by me) not to double up. A double dose of two blood thinners ain’t a good idea. Waiting for the third thing to happen as they say.

We went to Dural for supplies this morning and on the way I was looking at the various big and ugly houses that I love to hate along the route. (There are some big and okay ones too, size is not the issue). There are a row of them which are so fugly that we always comment as we pass about what sorts of people paid big money to live in such monstrosities. All now have Vote Liberal signs out in front of them for the council elections tomorrow. So now we know.

Then we visited Service NSW to get assistance to add our vaccine passports to our Service NSW app on the phones as when we went to Narrabeen they wouldn’t accept our paper ones and I’ve tried a number of times to do it and failed. Marvellous Mohan served us again and shortly after mine was sorted, but John’s was an epic as he’d forgotten (and forgotten to write down) his passwords for both Medicare and Service NSW so I had to get new ones for both. But endlessly patient Mohan talked me though it all. I intend to send him another thankyou card as he really does go to extremes of care, even quietly getting chairs for us to sit on at a counter where we were meant to stand. I want him for a son.

When we were in India over 10 years ago we met many wonderful people that we’ve stayed in touch with ever since. Gill and Godfrey from England were one such couple and I’ve just had a message that Gill contracted a viral infection in June (not Covid) which led to viral encephalitis. Despite her making significant progress over the months, she died from it two days ago. Although we haven’t seen her since India I still feel her loss.

December 4, 2021

Decided this morning that we needed to get rid of some of the things that have been on eBay for ages. So we took my car and headed for the Sallies at North Parramatta (they will take electricals whereas Vinnies won’t). The lady there accepted a lot but knocked back a perfectly good set of double sheets and pillowcases which we gave to Vinnies on the way home. We both felt strangely lightened as we are so sick of being weighed down with ‘stuff’.

The garage Roll-a-door has always been temperamental. It has two remotes, one in the car and one in the house, plus a button inside the garage and at any given time one or two of them won’t work, it must be some sort of electrical problem as it’s worse when it’s been raining. But for the first time none of the controls work, so I have to get in the side door with a key and open the Roll-a-door manually. I have twice called the man who installed it  over the years, but each time he has come down, pressed each button and they’ve all worked perfectly. Very embarrassing and I don’t intend to do it again. It has become a standing joke about which one is inoperative but now that it’s all three it is somehow less funny.

John is so much more relaxed now that we have had over a week with no abusive texts or phone calls. I hate to do it but I think I will have to step in if it starts up again, I can’t be any more unpopular than I am now so I really don’t have anything more to lose.

December 5, 2021

Did a gluten-free blueberry and almond cake with raspberries on top to take to Jane and Boris’s new house where we were invited to lunch. It is a large level house just across the road from a small shopping centre with just about everything you could want, so ideal for them. Had a delicious meal and a good chat. Jane gave John an involved colouring book which he can use as a relaxing pastime seeing his reading ability is decreasing. He is quite keen to begin doing it and is currently downstairs searching in his boxes for coloured pencils, but so far has only retrieved a garlic crusher, a palette knife and a nutcracker.

It appears that my friend who eventually became my cleaner is unhappy with my not having her here to clean due to her decision not to get vaccinated. We’ve had good text conversations recently but she doesn’t ring back if I call her and ignored a question about getting together somewhere in the open before Christmas. Her gift is under the tree and I’d like her to have it, but it’s not looking good. I was sure we could agree to disagree on the vaccination issue, but it looks as if that’s not going to be the case. I am sure many others are having the self-same problem and it’s so sad.

December 6, 2021

I was pleased to discover today that my friend wasn’t cross with me at all, she just doesn’t have, or can’t access, the voicemail on her phone. We’ve made a tentative arrangement to see her outdoors before Christmas as she is stood down from her job because of not having the vaccination. She said she’s been there five years and if they sack her, they sack her, she’s unconcerned and isn’t willing to go to the firm’s doctor to try for an exemption.

My bro’s birthday today and his present arrived in England early, faster than I can get a letter to WA it seems. Though I just had very fast service from a company in Melbourne. I don’t usually buy online, except for the odd book. However I saw a perfect present for John, slippers with orthotics built into the sole and ordered them last week. They arrived this morning and, thinking they looked smaller than his shoes, I got him to try them on him with his eyes closed. Too small, oh rats. I rang Axign in Melbourne and they were sooo accommodating, telling me they will send the larger size as well as a post-free bag in which to return the wrong ones! Can’t ask for more than that. I offered to pay for return postage but he said ‘No, it’s all part of our service’. Impressed.

John went to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair today for a picnic with his old pal John Butcher, looking over the Opera House, Bridge and Harbour. (God they were unimaginative with names in the 40s, every second person was a John or a Kevin). The spot was chosen because John’s sense of direction has gone west (no pun intended) and it is on the route to St. Vincent’s Hospital, one of the few places that he remembers how to get to. Seeing John B’s wife wasn’t intending to go, I decided to suggest a place that JMM could do on his own, rather than taking the navigator, as he now calls me. JB is a diabetic and despite the fact that I packed a healthy picnic with no sweet stuff John said he needed an insulin jab three times in the three hours they were there. What a pain on the arse that must be, not to mention the thought of breaking down on a train or in a tunnel where you can’t get access to insulin if you run out. It’s good if John can do some things on his own as I suspect it won’t be very long before I will have to take him everywhere. Tomorrow the building manager from Link Housing is picking him up for a Christmas lunch with the CEO and a few others, which he will love. He was down in the mouth last night because he couldn’t find any coloured pencils to try out his new book, but I knew they were somewhere. I quickly turned up a box full so then he made a stand to hold them, segregated into their various colours. He won’t run out in the next ten years judging by how many I see on the dining table now.

December 7, 2021

One thing I like about Facebook is the way that it brings up memories each day and reminds you of events and people that you had totally forgotten about. Yesterday it brought up some comments I’d made on an opinion piece in The Australian two years ago entitled ‘Let’s not pollute minds with carbon fears’ by Emeritus Professor Ian Plimer. The whole article was jaw-droppingly inaccurate but this statement gives you an idea: ‘The major pollution in advanced economies is the polluting of minds about the role of carbon dioxide. There are no carbon emissions. If there were, we could not see because most carbon is black (my italics). Such terms are deliberately misleading, as are many claims’. This morning I Googled the whole article and reread it, wondering how it ever got printed, even in a Murdoch rag. So who is this dude I wondered, a professor of what exactly? Mr Google helpfully provided the information ‘previously a professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide, and the former director of multiple mineral exploration and mining companies’. Aaah right, he had payment in shares I’m guessing so he’s not a fool, he just has a financial agenda, one of those who will sell his soul for sixpence.

I am absolutely fascinated by the double murder of a couple of campers in their 70s which occurred in the Victorian high country. It annoys me daily that our newspapers are not covering the investigation, but a quick look at The Age in Melbourne brings me up to date. The fact that they’ve been working on this for two years is testament to the difficulties faced by the detectives (note to self: add detective to the list of careers for my next life). But the most fascinating bit is the fact that the accused murderer was until a couple of weeks ago a respected working Jetstar pilot. How can this not be front page news, regardless of the fact that it occurred a little bit over an artificially drawn state line? This man apparently didn’t know the campers (who were in a long-term relationship unbeknown to the man’s wife and children). So how does a man with everything to lose get angry enough to kill not one but two strangers and then cover it up so cunningly. Apparently after three days questioning, he led detectives to their remote burial place, taking advantage of the hole obligingly made by the roots of a big fallen tree in the forest to bury them, it saves time-consuming digging I guess. But then he was able to go home, have a shower and continue on as a pilot for two years as if he hadn’t just murdered two innocent people. It’s the study of the man that has me intrigued, not just the crime itself. I would love to sit down with him and get a sense of how he ticks (add forensic psychologist to the list of careers, forensic pathologist is already on there).

John was to be picked up and taken to lunch today with the Link CEO and the Tenant Network members, but a call earlier put paid to that. It was cancelled for unknown reasons, Covid scare a possibility? We don’t know, but it seems a likely candidate to me. He was so looking forward to it, but hopefully it will be rescheduled. We emptied some more boxes instead and felt pretty fine about that.

December 8, 2021

Kristy from the home care service rang to see how I had found Luke the Lovely Gardener. ‘Oh he’s great’ I enthused and then while we were trading good wishes for Christmas I was not really concentrating, stalling for time and trying to decide if I wanted to wear the hat with the big capital D for dobber. The other option is to wear the T-shirt with the sign Rorter Supporter. D or RS, which to choose? I decided that ultimately our best interests are served by my wearing the Dobber hat so I begin gently: ‘Um, about Rosalina……’ ‘Oh yes’, says the Case Manager quickly, ‘is there a problem?’ Although I said it very nicely and used all the right words it was basically: Well apart from the fact that she’s a crap cleaner there’s the issue of her leaving very early. Now I’ve done it, the Dobber hat is pulled down well over my ears. ‘Does Luke the gardener have a side venture as a cleaner perhaps?’ I asked to lighten the mood. Kristy explained that all of the workers need to ring the office if they leave the premises early, for any reason, but of course Rosalina hadn’t. Ooh this is getting worse, but Kristy then asked if I could be patient with her while she replaces Rosalina asap, probably after Christmas. I am pulled between joy and guilt, but joy is winning by a short head.

Before I went to sewing group today I told John that there was plenty of food in the fridge for his lunch ‘but don’t eat the schnapper fillets in tahini sauce that I’ve cooked for dinner’. I think we were all in a silly mood as there was much laughter and story-telling at the group today. Colleen has a laugh like a gurgling drain and once she starts she sets everyone else off. I used the time to repair some woollen rugs that had come from John’s full of moth holes. One for John’s armchair and the rest to go into the boxes for his daughter. The little buggers just take a bite here and a bite there, which I guess makes the repairs easier than if they ate a massive hole. The group decided to have one more meeting, a Christmas one, next week but we will be away. When I got home I asked John what he’d had for lunch. ‘I had that lovely chicken’ he said. Chicken? We don’t have any chicken. Sure enough it was the fish, so we had half each of what was left for dinner.

December 9, 2021

At sewing group yesterday a discussion came up about how swearing was accepted now on TV programs after certain hours. It was universally decried by those who spoke and they also commented negatively on the whole issue of swearing. I finally spoke up and said that in my opinion too much is made of the matter. There are 26 letters and they can be combined in an unknown number of ways to provide words, so how can a particular word be such a crime? One person asked if I would be comfortable if she used ‘the f word’. I wouldn’t care at all, I answered. But surely not ‘the c word?’ she responded somewhat shocked. I said I’d certainly be upset if she was hurling abuse at me whether there was swearing embedded in it or not, but in conversation it’s just a matter of preference and culture surely. I think I was the only person with that view as the subject didn’t go on from there at all. I have often heard gay men call each other poofters, though if a straight person uses it it’s considered an insult. My hairdresser who is Scottish often says ‘feckin’ and none of his Northern Beaches clients think anything of it, but if he changed one letter I’m sure he’d lose some customers. It’s all a nonsense to me I’m afraid. People need to get out more.

We’ve been down packing lots more boxes for John’s daughter which we will deliver to Dan’s mother this afternoon. It is certainly reducing what’s in the shelves and that can’t be a bad thing. Framed and unframed photographs, glasses, china, doonas, cookbooks, it’s a motley collection. After doing this John is always exhausted and needs to lie down, not that it’s physically difficult but the whole emotional issue is more than he can handle.

Back to Rosalina…. She was much more cheery today, perhaps we came across as a bit scary initially. I don’t know. She thanked me for being thoughtful after something I said and was very pleased when I offered her some of my Thai chilies straight from the bush. She did a couple of small extra things that I asked her to do and my dobber hat was squeezing my brain uncomfortably. I said to John after she left that perhaps I had acted precipitously and thereby done the wrong thing, judged her too early in fact. But then I went into the bathroom and the mirrors and shower screen are much worse than before she came. Doing it all myself looks like an easier option, a bit more time for me, but no penitence afterwards.

December 10, 2021

We went down to mind Millie from 3.30 till nearly midnight while Dav and Louis went to dinner and then a show at the newly revamped Theatre Royal. She was offered the treat of pizza and garlic bread for dinner so to make things easier we had that too, though I took a salad to cut the carbs. I told her that I would be eating all of the garlic bread we ordered, it’s her favourite thing, and she couldn’t work out whether to believe me or not. “Is it a joke grandma?” she kept asking, to which I just smiled. Come time to walk to the pizza shop she was happy to be out and about but when we got there she said seriously “Don’t forget to check in grandma….and remember, sharing is caring”. I noted that as I unpacked the dinner she snatched the garlic bread packet and took out half, just in case. John and I shared the remainder.

They have a new television and the remote baffled me. Whenever I pressed the plus sign to increase the volume I got a droning voice telling me about various features for the disabled with a box covering the whole screen. I ended up turning it off to get rid of all that and then sitting right in front of the tele to hear only half of the news with the aid of lip-reading.

For some reason their kitchen tidies were missing and a basket and bag were in the corner as a temporary replacement. John asked me repeatedly about the bins, just wanting to deposit the odd teabag or chocolate wrapper and I kept saying that I didn’t know, perhaps they were in the bin room some distance away but we didn’t need them. Then I heard him banging one after another kitchen cabinet doors and wondered what he was doing: “Looking for the damned bins” he said even though he had nothing to put in them. I must admit that I was on the edge of getting cross and said “Just forget about the bins” which he did eventually.

December 11, 2021

I was fine when I woke up but as I sat at the table waiting for the breakfast cook to serve the porridge I felt as if I were sliding to one side and off the chair and the paper I was reading went blurry. I felt off after that and lay on the lounge in my PJs for some time hoping it was not the start of a vestibular migraine attack. Although they are overwhelmingly precipitated by movement such as in a car, boat or plane it is not unheard of for them to start for no apparent reason. By almost noon, telling myself that I must get up soon but not having the energy to do so, I thought: this would be just the day that a visitor will call. Shortly after Arvind came wanting my green bin (already filled by Justin on the other side). About noon a knock on the door revealed Gail from a few doors down inviting us for Christmas drinks next weekend. John answered the door but she wisely wanted to speak to me and looked a bit shocked when she saw my dressing gown and Ugg boots. ‘Not Covid’ I was quick to announce, but accepted her invitation thankfully and went back to the lounge. Still under the weather, but it’s Tania’s party tonight so I will take it easy till shower and dress time. She was invited to a function here a few years back but during the night before ended up in hospital, sending a photo of herself in her hospital bed. I have no such excuse so we will go, even if it means a shorter than usual attendance.

While lying doggo I decided to Google Meniere’s Disease (which my brother Kenneth has) and Vestibular Migraine (which I have). It was interesting to discover that some specialists hypothesise that the two share a common aetiology and are variants of the same disease. I don’t think any of the close rellies have either but I will quiz the bro again, his grasp of medical matters is thin to say the least. The symptoms overlap almost entirely:  sudden attacks of vertigo, photophobia and vomiting alongside permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. We both have all of the preceding. One difference is that in MD the attacks last anywhere from 20 minutes to many hours whereas with VM it is classically 24-72 hours. That difference is often used to facilitate the diagnosis. Interesting.

December 12, 2021

Tania’s party last night was lovely. The decorations were super, designed I’m sure by daughter Isabella, and included the novel idea of Christmas wrapping as gifts all the artworks and photos on the walls to give the place a real festive feel. We didn’t know a soul apart from Tania but spent much of the night with a delightful Mexican couple, Manuel and Claudia whom we’ll hopefully bump into again. The Italian food was delicious and never-ending, little plates of tomato and bocconcini, arancini, frittata, tuna and more, at one stage I even saw the chef making a pot of risotto the proper way, no shortcuts being taken. Great organisation made for a very successful night.

Today I have a list of jobs a mile long, well the back of an envelope long anyway. I gave myself the job of scraping the last of the bark off the big gum tree (as high as I could reach) with a pole as Kirk comes tomorrow to mow and the more he picks up the better. It is sort of like peeling the skin after you’ve been sunburned, strangely satisfying. I am thrilled to report that my friend Michelle is going to come while we are away and clean the house for Christmas, hurrah! She should give lessons to folks like….well you know to whom I refer.

Planning to be optimistic and pack my swimmers when we go away, though last night it came over very cold and it’s none to warm today, good walking weather anyway. I was amused to hear John talking to his friend Peter about how we don’t go on long trips because his medical appointments are too close together but it’s more to do with the fact that he’s a natural homebody. The appointments could always be rearranged. He’s perfectly happy here and although he will thoroughly enjoy Narrabeen once he’s there, it is my escape more than it is his.

December 13, 2021

Had a rare treat this morning, a lovely long call from Nicholas at Copmanhurst north of Grafton, my oldest friend. I realised while talking to him that I have known and loved him for 55 years, what a scary thought. He said he thinks of me often and I him, yet we only see each other rarely, usually when he comes down to see his mother in a nursing home in Wollongong. I have promised a number of times to go up to visit him but what with illness, pandemics, whatever, it hasn’t happened and if John loses his licence I can’t see myself doing all the driving to get that far. We both lost so many of our friends in the AIDS epidemic, but strangely we don’t discuss them much, too many to think about and too painful. But I guess we all think of missing friends at Christmas time and I am so glad that he thought of me today.

So, Elizabeth Farrelly has been given the boot from her job as a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald and she is spitting woodchips. I wondered if that would happen when I saw the annotation to her column on Saturday. The week before she had written a scathing article about corrupt practices in her local council area but didn’t mention that she had registered as a candidate for the Labor Party in the Strathfield local government elections, the area she was discussing. Poor form by her I thought. Her sacking is harsh, but I can see the problem that the paper has, how can readers know if the barrow she is pushing at any given time is tied to her own ambitions? It’s a shame though, I rarely disagreed with her opinions so it pains me to be critical, however the rules of fair play must apply to everyone.

Been busy today tying up loose ends here. Had Kirk my mowing man come at 7 am, why does everyone want to see me at 7 am I ask myself? Because they are torturers and know I want to be dressed and combed before they arrive, when they really don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what that old girl looks like. Packing to go away tomorrow, catching up on umpteen emails and texts, cooking a lemon slice to take, doing four book reviews online so I can return all my books to the library today, ordering some food for Christmas, answering the same question numerous times (no, delete that!).

December 14, 2021

This morning we saw Jennifer the neurologist and she said that we don’t need to go back to her again as John is already on the only drug available, Aricept, and it will either work or not work, so she has nothing else to offer. It won’t make him better, just slow the decline hopefully, but there’s no sign of that so far. We like her a lot but them’s the unpalatable facts. As we were walking up to the hospital he asked ‘who are we coming here to see today?’.

We travelled from there to The Sands at Narrabeen, later having dinner on our verandah looking over the ocean, some supermarket hot smoked salmon that I brought with us plus a delicious beetroot and feta salad and sweet potato fries from room service. The premier in his wisdom has decided, with Omicron on the rise, that it is a good time to allow unvaccinated people to go into cafes and restaurants for the first time in months, so we are keeping well out of them. It’s a bummer that he’s timing it right when we were coming away, but that’s Dom for you. I had a letter published in the Herald today which said: “Just as I and my immune-compromised friend were considering going out again, the rules change to allow unvaccinated people to go out to restaurants and cafes. Well, that’s two people who won’t be adding to the hospitality industry’s coffers this Christmas. Thanks Dom”. In previous visits here the nights have been blissfully quiet (double glass doors to the verandah with a deep airlock between them completely remove any outside noise) but we hadn’t had neighbours with a screaming child and a potty-mouthed mother. ‘My mother wouldn’t even have known that word’ saith John the Innocent as her dulcet tones emanated from the locked door between our two rooms. I suspect that the door is the problem, breaking the sound barrier of the double brick dividing wall. Must remember to ask for a room without that door in future. But once I take my hearing aids out she will cease to exist.

December 15, 2021

Waking up late certainly isn’t an option here, even with heavy curtains. The sun is blinding as it rises over the ocean and I needed sunglasses to go onto the verandah before 6 am, such was the intense glare. We breakfasted out there, as we’ve taken all our meals so far. Fresh mango, Vegemite toast and half a scone each, all brought from home and all delicious. We drove to Narrabeen Rock Pool and Lagoon but as there was a film crew at the rock pool, and we didn’t really want to become film stars at this stage of the game, we swam in the lagoon and it proved an excellent choice. The water was warm and calm and at 8 am we were the only ones on the beach. Later a family arrived and John couldn’t keep his eyes off the young woman in a G-string, but not for the obvious reasons. She had one leg and half her backside in a total tattoo, perhaps the other side will fall victim in due course, but it was pretty startling. He had never seen anything like it on a woman and I had to remind him to lift his jaw off the sand. I can’t help thinking about how awful it will seem in 50 years time, drooping in folds. I once talked to a cop who had a huge Jesus on one arm and a huge Mary on the other. He was short but quite a muscle man, but if he gives up the weights their tattooed faces will age considerably. Some paddle boarders told us there were sting-rays sunning themselves on the rocks so we went looking, but couldn’t find them.

Later I crashed in the room and slept solidly for over an hour, something I would never do normally. I dreamed that an estate agent had contacted me to say that a house vendor in Queensland had accepted my low offer of $200,000 and I needed to pay the deposit. I was horrified to find that I had to borrow the money and complete the sale for a house I didn’t want. Where on earth I dredged up that unlikely scenario I have no idea. When I woke John told me there was a ‘big machine’ on the verandah with Actron Air written on it and he wondered if I knew what it was. An air-conditioner motor was my answer but his only response was ‘oh do we have air-conditioning here?’. Later we drove the short distance to Collaroy and walked along the beach and up along the headland where I saw a superb modernist house that I could have moved right into. It has glass walls facing east and north looking over the ocean and big metal sails that block out views to the west and the town, just what I would want in that position. Double digit millions I’d imagine. On the way back we drove to North Narrabeen to a fish market where I bought oysters, prawns and a whole smoked freshwater trout for dinner. I was stunned by the prices, everything was $15 plus more per kilo than I pay in The Hills. It’s not a tourist trap, it’s out of the way and the customers seemed to be locals, some ordering up big for Christmas. I felt like telling them they could order directly from the fish markets and have it home delivered for less. We had hoped to go out for dinner one night but bloody Dom put paid to that by allowing unvaccinated people into hospitality venues. He will rue the day, but not as much as those who end up with Covid as a result.

December 16, 2021

The swim at the Lagoon was so good yesterday that we decided on a reprise. But to our surprise and delight it was quite different this morning as the big machine working yesterday on scooping sand had succeeded in opening the lake to the ocean. It was open years ago when we were here but this year the lake has been totally sealed off with a sand mountain, presumably from a big storm. When we were swimming yesterday we debated whether the job would take days or weeks but never expected it to have happened by now. Of course the water was much saltier today with an obvious tidal influence. Even though clouds had come in from the west the water was warm, much warmer than I would have expected the ocean to be at this time of year.

Unfortunately the day went downhill from there. I packed a good picnic, leftover trout from last night’s dinner plus bread rolls and fruit. But in deciding on a venue I foolishly suggested the Pittwater side of Newport and Clareville, mainly because it was new territory to explore. Although the millionaire’s rows of houses along there have great views, there aren’t any parks or reserves by the water that we could find. Each time we headed towards the water it was a cul-de-sac with no access, I guess they don’t want people sharing their paradise unless they come by yacht. It is an appalling development failure in my opinion to have mile after mile of waterfront with virtually no access to the public, but what else would an old socialist say? However in our case those winding roads and U-turns in cul-de-sacs produced a nasty attack of vestibular migraine so I couldn’t be any help to get us the hell out of the place. Finally I managed to key in Avalon Beach into my phone and John followed the instructions to get there. He was quite cross which is unusual if I am sick and urged me when we got to the beach to ‘get out of the car and look at the view’. Of course that final movement coupled with the bright light started the vomiting which then continued all the way back to Narrabeen, into my favourite shopping bag to add insult to injury. We got home three hours ago but he still needs to walk me to the loo so I don’t fall over. Rats, if only we’d picnicked somewhere nearby and sensible. I hold the town planners responsible ultimately. John has gone for a walk, stressed by the fact that he couldn’t remember what his tablets were for and had to ask me. I need to keep on top of his meds now as even with the daily dispensing box he gets confused. It’s all very well to have boxes for morning and night, but if some are four times a day, you just have to remember.

December 17, 2021

I am hoping that John isn’t slipping onto depression. He was unnaturally negative yesterday and angry with me for getting sick, saying it had ruined our holiday and wasted the money we’d spent to be there. I understand his frustration as every little thing becomes a problem, from medications to understanding when I tell him that so-and-so has rung and he needs to be told once again who they are. Then the fact that he is constantly confused about what is happening next, where we are going and what plans are in train. It’s just that the words John and depression have never been uttered in the same sentence before, so it has come as a bit of a shock.

We went to the Lagoon and watched others swim this morning from a sheltered table and I suggested that I get some lunch for us at the lovely cafe there at about noon. ‘I could eat it now’ said John so I wandered over at a quarter to 11 and bought us some toasted sandwiches and milkshakes. When I came back he asked why we were having such an early lunch, but the sangers were delicious so who cares. Later on the way home we went to a food distributer in Brookvale to pick up some delicious looking fare that I had ordered last week as part of the buffet meal I’m planning for Christmas Day. We will be down by one as Danish is headed to India on Sunday and won’t be back till January 2.

John got a call from St. Vincent’s today to say that he can’t have his IgG infusion on Wednesday without having had a Covid test first, so I rang the medical centre and they won’t do one without symptoms. So on a 35 degree day tomorrow we’ll have to sit in a queue of cars at a drive-though for him to get one done. Then I got a ping from Service NSW (a first) to say that we may have been exposed to someone with Covid at the self-same hospital on Tuesday. We were advised to be aware of any symptoms but they didn’t tell us to isolate.

December 18, 2021

It occurs to me how different the lifestyle is here to the Northern Beaches. People are out on the street much more there (why wouldn’t you be with those views?). But a noticeable difference is that the car park opposite the hotel was full at 6 am and again late in the afternoon, mostly tradies’ utes and vans parked there while they went for a swim or a surf before or after work. The coffee shop across from the hotel was busy from dawn on. It’s just a thing, whereas our locals routinely go home after work because it’s too far to think of going to the beach. It just goes to show how your choice of suburb to buy into pretty much decides your lifestyle from then on. I made a big blunder there but it’s too late to change it now.

We managed to get John sorted with a Covid test today and on the way home I called into Woolworths to get a couple of things and was shocked that they’ve removed the QR code machine. I complained but was told that they removed it when it ceased being compulsory, which is short-sighted as not compulsory isn’t the same as forbidden, we should have the option at least. I shall contact head office today and make my views known. I saw something that said ‘This year instead of giving gifts I’m giving people my opinions’, very funny but I am routinely doing both. It seems that Dom is looking to achieve herd immunity without actually saying so. Why else would he remove the mask mandate? It’s the cheapest easiest form of protection that doesn’t cost the government a cent. It’s not Dom the Dumb but Dom the Devious I’m thinking. On the way home I turned into the street next to mine and a tradie who was tail-gating almost went up the back of me when I stopped gently to let another car go. He was beeping the horn and being a pest in general but I didn’t react. In the next street he overtook me just before a dip where his view would have been impeded and then took off at speed. I got his registration number and rang the wallopers in Castle Hill, knowing they couldn’t really do anything, but she said that they will put him on the police cars’ computers and if they come across him they will ‘have a chat about aggressive driving’. Very happy with that.

Someone sent me a book on dementia with a Christmas card inside Smilie: :(. I’m sure it will be useful but at the moment I am a little concerned about my own mental abilities. I got a book from the library by Prof. Peter Doherty called An Insider’s Plague Year and keenly started reading the inside story of the Doherty Institute’s research. Which was fine, until I got half way through and the more complex intricacies of the immune system just went over my head, despite multiple rereadings, even though I have read all this stuff in the past. Recently I found a hard copy of a paper written by my boss and myself while I was working at Sydney University. I was joint author yet when I tried to explain to John what it was about (genetics and a new gene I had fortuitously discovered while he was in the USA for 12 months) I floundered. Reading through it I couldn’t understand it myself, never mind explain it to him! I find this very worrying considering Prof Doherty is somewhat older than I am and obviously understands his work perfectly and the language of the book was deliberately aimed at an educated lay audience. I’m hoping that it’s not a portent.

December 19, 2021

Yesterday John decided that he wanted to invite his ex neighbour from Lane Cove for morning tea today but she replied that 11 am didn’t suit because she and her daughter don’t get up till 10 am. So, because we have another commitment this afternoon, we settled on tomorrow afternoon. Then today I got a message asking me to make sure all of the food is gluten free, mmm I had already planned the food so this morning I baked some wheat free biscuits. This morning I realised that her gift was a home made Christmas cake and a box of chocolates (whoops, cake isn’t gluten free). I hadn’t anticipated this as when he lived next door she always appreciated any baking I offered, none of which was gluten free. This afternoon we are going to a ‘drinks for Christmas’ event, but we are both nervous in case it’s indoors. I tried to find out but couldn’t contact the hostess, so I guess we turn up in masks and see how it goes. Entertaining used to be so simple.

John decided this morning that he wanted me get out my copy of his will to make sure that he’s still happy with it, which he is. BUT, I pointed out that the copy in the safe should be the original, not a photocopy, so he went to his filing cabinet and the blighter isn’t anywhere. I now fear that it met the same fate as the originals of the guardianship papers and ended up in the Sulo bin when he was culling his files during and after the move. It seems astonishing as he was so careful with such things and never threw anything out, he had 10 years of electricity and phone accounts filed for example and I threw them out with his approval. So hopefully numerous photocopies will equal one original, groan.

I notice that a Go Fund Me page for the families of the children killed and injured in the horror jumping castle accident has raised well over a million dollars and both the Tasmanian and Federal Governments are separately donating amounts. While this will help with funeral expenses and medical care if needed for the survivors, I am at a loss to understand how so much money is going to help them at all really. I think it would be the last thing they are thinking about at the moment. But I guess everyone wants to help and fix a situation that can’t be fixed. But ScumMo’s aides checking people out at the flower-decked memorial takes the cake, I guess they were terrified he’d be booed, but most people are more respectful than to interrupt his tragedy-driven photo op.

December 20, 2021

We enjoyed yesterday’s Christmas drinks event just down the road. I met the hostess’s daughter and son-in-law for the first time and was very impressed by them both. He turned out to be a detective at Parramatta, in the ‘pre-emptive crime command’? or something like that anyway. He works on patterns in crime with a view to anticipating where and when future crimes might be committed, a very interesting concept. One of the guests said ‘oh, I’ve been in your backyard looking at your deck so I could copy it’ which was funny. Two couples are in the process of getting their houses knocked down in order to rebuild a project home, it sounded like a nightmare to me but they were all much younger. Although we had some doubts about going, I think it did us both good. Gail, the hostess, popped in this morning to return the bubbly I took as she has so much food and wine left over.

The most enlightening conversation was when I told the story of being tail-gated and almost hit by an aggressive driver and after I described the vehicle two or three immediately said ‘gosh it wasn’t Matthew was it?’ going on to describe his ute in detail and showing me where it parks. He is the next-door neighbour of the house we were in! Apparently he suffers from brain damage and got a huge payout which enabled him as a single man to buy a place and also a tradies’ ute and sports car, which they told me ‘travels at zero or 100 kph’. I explained that I tried to speak to him when I saw him in the street but he simply drove around me and took off. This information was met with a concerned chorus of ‘no, don’t talk to him at all’ and ‘you’ve already dodged a bullet, don’t make an enemy of Matthew whatever you do’. Apparently he has loud and aggressive arguments with himself, taking both sides of the issue at hand. I am of course very pleased now that he didn’t stop since I’ve heard all of this. I am fairly used to dealing with crazies, but this one might be a step too far.

The scenes at Narrabeen and surrounds where a mini tornado deroofed homes, killed one with two others left critical are extraordinary. Especially so as the death and injuries occurred diagonally across the road from The Sands hotel where we were staying until Friday. One of the huge Norfolk Island pines crashed down onto them as they left the beach. Life is just so random and all the precautions in the world won’t help you if your number is up.

At 5 minutes to 2, with lippy on and outside table set for the 2 pm arrival of John’s ex neighbour, I got a phone call asking if our outdoor entertaining rule applies to her. Um yes, I answered. Well in that case I won’t be leaving my air-conditioning to sit outdoors in 38 degree heat, she said. I think she was expecting a back-down, but I just replied ‘thanks for letting us know’ and sat out on the back deck (in the pleasant 30 degrees with a light breeze) to have a peaceful cuppa with John, enjoying the flower arrangement I had done and the gluten free biscuits specially made. Nothing as queer as folk.

December 21, 2021

I got a letter printed in the SMH yesterday and it seems from conversations with others who’ve contacted me that it expressed the general view, at least among our cohort. It read ‘I find it almost unbelievable that our government would cease to mandate mask wearing, the cheapest and most effective protection for its citizens against Covid. The only explanation that makes sense is that Premier Perrottet is trying to induce herd immunity by stealth. Mask wearing is a measure that costs the government not a solitary cent, so clearly its decision is ideological, with no reference to community health’. Today I was sent a 15 minute video by Dr. Dan Suan from St. Vincent’s Hospital explaining why we are headed in the wrong direction re Omicron, thanks to government decisions, and suggesting how we can best protect ourselves from what he sees as ‘the coming Christmas Day superspreader event’. It is certainly worth watching and I’ve sent it on to a few others. My friend Heather was to come today but has decided to cease all socialising before Christmas (and probably after it) as her husband has discovered that he needs to have open heart surgery in January and as a result they have cancelled the family Christmas in favour of a twosome, something we were forced to do last year (or was it the one before? Covid Christmases just run into each other).

I asked John yesterday evening if he could drop a note into my neighbour’s letter box on the way past and he asked things such as how many houses down it was and what the fence was like. However he came back with the note, saying it was too confusing and he didn’t want to put it in the wrong box, which was a good decision as my phone number was on it. But the house was only four doors away and was the one where we went to a party just on Sunday. I can’t pretend that he isn’t getting worse, he knows he is and it would be foolish to deny it, so it is better to be honest and focus on all the things he can do.

I made a nectarine tart today, thinking Heather would have some, even though it wasn’t a firm arrangement in terms of a timed visit. Oddly the recipe was in the text of Nora Ephron’s book Heartburn, a novel? based on the factual story about her husband’s infidelity and eventual departure when she was 7 months pregnant. The book is peppered with recipes in the text and this is the first one I’ve tried, but I will certainly be doing more of them on the basis of this, it was scrumptious.

December 22, 2021

John’s day for his monthly infusion was today and while he was out a representative of Link Housing drove all the way from Chatswood to deliver a massive hamper, in fact two hampers. One was regular supermarket stuff: tuna, cereal, pasta, biscuits, jam, lollies, other canned food etc plus a treat hamper of morning tea things: tea, coffee, biscuits, more jam, etc. He thought when he got home that I had been for a big shop, but no. Speaking of shopping, I saw on Facebook that Christmas is when you buy 30 days worth of food because the shops will be closed for 24 hours, and of course that’s what I do every year and that knowledge didn’t stop me from doing it all over again. Nothing as queer as folk, as I’ve said before, and I certainly come under that umbrella.

I am currently reading Unnatural Causes by Dr. Richard Shepherd, a top forensic pathologist in London and loving every page. Of course it is endlessly fascinating to me and my pencil has been working overtime marking paragraphs of interest. He mentions that his interest was sparked by seeing the book Simpson’s Forensic Medicine as a child. It was shown to him by a boy whose father was a doctor and he was infatuated from then on. He did medicine not wanting at all to treat live patients, it was a means to this end. I have been idly (well no, actually fervently is a better word) looking on the internet for a copy of the 3rd Edition which he had, but so far I have only found a very expensive first edition and many later ones, so I am still thinking. I was very disappointed in 2020 when, after looking forward for months to a forensic science course at the Uni of Western Sydney, it was changed to online only. I couldn’t see the point of that so luckily I was allowed to pull out. Pathologist and forensic pathologist both feature in my top 5 careers for next life and I am nothing short of an idiot that I didn’t pursue one of them in this one. Pathology was my favourite subject in the Biological Sciences Diploma that I did, but somehow I didn’t have the confidence to ditch my position at the University and plunge into a new and much loved pursuit.

December 23, 2021

I have now finished Unnatural Causes and it was five star. I found near the end that the author actually edited the 12th Edition of the book which inspired him as a child, so now I’m hunting for that one as my preferred option. The 14th Edition is the latest and I can get copies of it for about 100 bucks, but I will hang out for the 12th I think.

Occasionally there are reasons to contact Woolworths with a brickbat or bouquet, usually a bouquet for good service or a particularly good new product. They always reply within an hour or two, but this week I sent a message saying that I was disappointed that they had given up using QR codes, that many shops were still using them and I thought they would be reintroduced very soon anyway so it was a waste of time and money to pull them all only to then have to put them back. I have had no response in 5 days, so each day I just send a one word follow-up ‘Response?’, so far to no avail.

My bro in Halifax is 87 and lives alone so this last year he has been getting some help from one daughter and her husband with things like driving him to medical distant appointments, some shopping etc. But there is a problem: they are both anti-vaxxers and he is scared witless by having them come into the house or when he has to get into their car. He has voiced this concern many times but they are staunch followers of the internet conspiracies and shrug it off. The other daughter who is vaccinated is recovering from a bowel cancer operation, so she’s out of action. I have told him that it’s better to order everything in, pay for a taxi or whatever rather than getting Covid which is rife there, but he’s afraid of offending them, saying she would just laugh and walk right in using her key if he objected (parents become children again in the face of pushy offspring, particularly daughters). I am fearful but can’t do a thing, though I feel like ordering a locksmith.

Decided to get the fruit and veges today rather than getting caught up in the Christmas Eve maelstrom. However it seems many others had the same thought and the long queue outside the greengrocer’s shop turned out to be the checkout line! So John got in the queue and I raced around the shop bringing things to put in the trolley. But every single person had a mask on so we felt pretty safe in our N95 masks. Unfortunately we are reusing them after giving them a sunbake as the ones we have are unobtainable now for any money, being reserved only for hospital ICU use, which is fair enough.

December 24, 2021

So far my day has consisted of pav making, salad prep, vege prep, making salad dressing and prawn dipping sauce, anything to lighten the load tomorrow, while John’s on tablecloth ironing and silver cutlery polishing.  I have a long list of to-dos for today and they are slowly being ticked off, but I’m starting to flag now.

I can’t believe that I used to think that Dr. Nick Coatsworth was good looking, now he seems quite unappealing. My daughter rightly points out that women’s judgment of attractiveness is tied up with personality and character and men’s is not, or at least less so. As Coatsworth becomes less attractive, Dr. Dan Suan becomes more so, funny that. I wonder if this current uptick in Covid cases will forever be known as the Perrottet Surge? A Christmas card arriving today bore the news of a cousin’s death in England, from Covid. She didn’t die immediately apparently, wasn’t in ICU or anything dramatic, she simply caught it, got sick and never really got over it.

Someone commented to me recently that I seem to bond with strangers easily and I think that’s fair comment. So far I have had a Christmas greeting text from the nurse who gave us our boosters (we swapped phone numbers), a posted parcel of homemade biscuits from someone in Victoria to whom I sold a single eBay item and a card from another eBay client. Friends arrive via all sorts of different circumstances and I hope I never stop being open to the possibility that the next person I meet could become a firm friend. When people asked me at Tania’s party how we were connected I delighted in saying that we met at the washbasins in a public toilet.

December 25, 2021

John’s Christmas was made by a 6 am call from his granddaughters, excited to tell him that they loved the gifts we had sent up. Dav, Louis, Millie, Carly and Louis’s mother Sue arrived in time for some morning tea and present opening, after which I attended to the lunch while the others played a game that was part of my gifts to Millie. Danish called in a couple of times from Kashmir, on his way back to Delhi with his parents after visiting his grandfather there. He gave everyone a cashmere scarf from Kashmir and John was particularly excited by the colour of his, a deep shade of red. Everyone seemed to enjoy the entree of prawns as well as a side of salmon baked with an orange and maple syrup glaze. Then followed a rolled stuffed turkey breast, a fillet of beef and all the trimmings. Too full of lunch we ended up eating the pavlova at 5 pm and did a fridge raid for dinner about 8.

So many communications from friends and rellies around the world, Yorkshire, Northern Ireland, the US, India, Vanuatu, New Zealand as well as lots of calls from friends out of Sydney and in other states. John showed again that as far as his condition is concerned, the more people around him the better. It was hard to pick that he had a problem today. With just the two of us he gets stuck on a particular idea, but with others around the conversations move on and he moves on with them. If this current Domicron outbreak settles I think it would be great for him to go to a day centre occasionally so he’s got new people to engage with, but somehow I can’t see it happening for a while yet. (Domicron came to me yesterday as a new word and so far I haven’t seen anyone else use it, though the universal mind ensures that they have, or will, but for now I’m enjoying it being just my own).

December 26, 2021

Vale Joan Didion and Desmond Tutu, what a terrible loss the latter is to South Africa, at a time when the country is struggling on many front, but he has done more than could have been expected of him. I will reread The Year of Magical Thinking for the umpteenth time as a tribute to Joan.

We went to Fagan Park at Galston and had a walk in the 90% humidity, though perhaps I noticed it more because I didn’t sleep well and was tired when we got there. I enjoyed our picnic of tea and Christmas cake. It really is a delightful place to spend time. Again John seemed improved showing once more that being busy is good for him. A fridge raid lunch (so love Boxing Day when a meal is easily made by opening the fridge door). Dinner was another side of salmon, this time baked with a pesto topping and served hot, along with leftover veggies and salads from yesterday.

Domicron was asked today if people should be going to the Boxing Day sales and he replied that of course they should, as everyone in NSW, in fact Australia, will get Omicron. Well some of us won’t survive it but that doesn’t seem to bother him in the slightest. John and I have each lost a cousin to Covid, so to us it isn’t just a theoretical threat ‘out there’ in newspaper land. Do I despise him more than I do ScumMo? Well he’s working his way up the scale, but at least he doesn’t smirk.

December 27, 2021

I sometimes refer to all the African agapanthus plants in my garden as being the Mandela memorial garden but now I will have to alter that to the Mandela/Tutu garden. The fact that they grow so profusely on even untended ground doesn’t affect how much I like them, that gorgeous jacaranda colour wins me every time.

Carly has been watching the ACT Covid cases rising as well as the numbers of positive cases occurring on Murray’s Coaches from Sydney to Canberra, up to three different buses in a day have had positive cases, though none coming the other way. She has a ticket to go back on Thursday but John offered to drive her instead and she jumped at the chance. She can get a credit on her ticket so no loss there. Of course she doesn’t want to catch Covid anytime but it’s particularly important at the moment because when she goes back to work on January 4 she will be standing in for her boss who’s going on holidays. We all agreed that the errors in Covid testing over Christmas at St. V’s were terribly regrettable but also understandable considering the massive volumes that they are dealing with. I feel sorry that they worked round the clock over Christmas while we were enjoying ourselves and yet they are under criticism. Yet another family has reported having to cancel Christmas: our friends Bronwyn and Michael were to go to their nephew’s, along with all other family members, but on Christmas Eve he got a positive test so that was the end of that and I guess it was too late for others to cater so they each stayed at home. For various reasons that’s the fifth one we’ve heard of so far.

Today we drove to Erko and stayed for lunch and afternoon tea there, taking a walk around the Pleasant Street Christmas decorations and having a few games of Poo Bingo which Millie got for Christmas. She reads well enough now that she could be the caller, while the rest of us matched up animals with their poos.

December 28, 2021

Reading today about Black Oxygen Organics, a product which turns out to be high in both lead and arsenic, and is being marketed as a cure for Covid. The promoters claim you can drink it, put it on your face or add it to water to wash your baby or pets. But hey, it’s ‘Corn-Free, Glyphosate Residue Free, Lactose-Free, Latex-Free, Organic’ so who gives a rat’s arse about the lead and the arsenic, it’s organic arsenic! The USFDA has put out a warning about the stuff, basically saying don’t touch it. It is marketed as fulvic acid, a compound derived from decayed plants, dug up from an Ontario peat bog. So actually the product is dirt, 130 grams of it, sealed in a sleek black plastic baggie and sold for about $110 plus shipping, or $160 if you choose to take it as tablets. This got me thinking about the relationship between alternative medicine, religion (or absence of it, particularly among those who’ve given up a pervasive religion) and anti-science. It was the basis of our discussion over breakfast, with John saying that because their organic food shop was much too big (and expensive) to sell just food as originally planned, they had to go into lines of supplements of dubious (or at least unknown) worth in order to fill the shop and keep the dollars rolling in. Try finding any sort of food in a ‘health food shop’ today. Once they were full of interesting foodstuffs but they’ve become tablet shops today.

Danish has been in touch from India and is so far safe. He decided not to remove his mask even to eat or drink all the way on the plane, an epic decision which saw him only having food and water in a quiet corner at the two stopovers, Singapore and Colombo. Considering he is both a doctor and a Public Health lecturer at university, it gives some idea of his opinion of the risks of flying. Last night we heard of the sixth Christmas Day cancellation, the son-in-law tested positive so family was out and then the other guests cancelled to be on the safe side. If we know of six family Christmases cancelled then the number across Sydney is huge.

Unfortunately I am having a general feeling of dizziness today (and yesterday) to which I can’t put a cause. But it’s bloody annoying and has kept me from doing much. Just walking with my glasses on is enough to make the world swim, hope it eases off soon and goes back to whither it came, having to ask John to pick something up from the floor for me to avoid bending over is irksome.

December 29, 2021

I was gifted the Christmas issue of the Australian Women’s Weekly recently and last night, having finally finished Professor Peter Doherty’s book An Insider’s Plague Year which taxed and then overtaxed my medical knowledge, I needed some light relief. The first 10 pages or so of the mag were ‘celebrities getting ready for Christmas’ in loaned and named frocks of course, except I’d never heard of most of them, well all of them to be honest. Then we went to decorating, yep I’m into that, but I loathed the pompous woman who patted herself on the back for decorating her house with huge bookcases with 2600 black covered books (I say it again for the slow, she actually went to op shops and bought 2600 books with black spines, not to read, not even to browse, but as ornaments, and then thought it clever). Depriving readers of those books of course but heartily congratulating herself on the money she gave to charity. But I can always find some fun in the recipe section so all was not lost. But there’s a problem here that I pick up immediately, while not declaring that there’s advertising happening the recipes in one section all have Kikkoman Soy Sauce in them, even the pastry for the plum tart dessert!! Moving on to another part I find that each recipe involves melting down a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, um I don’t even like the old Ferreros and I regift any that mistakenly come my way, but melting a box to cook with? I just couldn’t do it. They are expensively packaged for one, it’s not as if you can go to a shop and buy 500 grams of them in bulk. But what an insult to the makers to forget all that and the fancy presentation of the chocolates themselves, just to tip them into a bowl and shove them in the microwave. I am either a complete cynic or else I am out of touch with ‘Australian Women’, or both of course. I think the latter.

It did disappoint me to be flummoxed by some of Doherty’s book, particularly the very technical sections on the workings of the immune system. But I got a lot out of it nonetheless and the take home message, for me at least, is that Covid is both a lung disease and a vascular disease, something I knew but not in the same depth. Flu, though it can kill, does not show up the virus in the blood, it is restricted to the lungs. But Covid is in the plasma and therefore in every organ of the body. It causes inflammation of the vascular system, thereby causing blood clots which can be small and sometimes manageable or else large and fatal, in the brain, heart, kidneys, wherever. Even the micro clots can kill, in flu the lungs fill with fluid but in Covid the alveoli fill with micro clots until the patient simply can’t get enough oxygen interchange to survive. This is why patients are now routinely prescribed heparin on admission, but whether this will lead to less mortality remains to be seen.

We feel as if we’ve made an impression on John’s stuff today, packing another big box of china, glasses, cutlery etc to take to Lynne’s later in the month for delivery to his daughter. Last we heard the previous boxes hadn’t been unpacked but we decided that’s not our concern, our job is just to pack’em and send’em.

December 30, 2021

Off to Erko for morning tea with the fam before heading to Canberra through the new WestConnex tunnel with Carly in tow. Stopped at Berrima for lunch of sambos, nuts, Christmas cake and fruit in the park. We were very good and didn’t pay a visit to any of our favourite shops there. The traffic was mega for reasons we couldn’t work out but we got there safely which is the main thing. Carly’s cat Lola, who is terminally shy, eventually came out from under the bad to check us out. She had been fed by a daily visit from a cat sitter while Carly was in Sydney and perhaps it helped with her fear of strangers. It was saddening to hear John asking Carly about whether the ACT has a separate government, and when she answered yes he asked ‘and what is it called?’ For him to have forgotten such basic things as the structure of government is a really bad sign I think. Carly bought some very good Champagne, Fluteau brand produced in a small French vineyard, and in my humble opinion better than the Veuve that we had on Christmas Day. It was excellent with the Greek food she ordered in, calling it a New Year’s celebration as it looked as if she’d be home alone for that. However her close friend rang and invited her to his place for a NYE dinner, suggesting that they each take a rapid antigen test that afternoon. He is after all a doctor and public health expert, leading the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Primary Care Response, so you wouldn’t expect anything else.

December 31, 2021

We decided to head out of Canberra early rather than going walking as we’d discussed. It was hot and we both wanted to put the road behind us. However the traffic was about a third of what it was on the way down, so there was no problem on the journey. We stopped at a roadside rest stop for morning tea and I got a text to say that there are 21,151 new cases of COVID-19 today but I assumed that must be Australia wide, however it turned out to be just for NSW. I just did some basic maths and there seems to be a total of about 1% of the population positive at the moment, but considering that the vast majority of people are in Sydney it seems to equate to about 2%. Scary numbers. The quote from Peter Doherty’s book comes to mind ‘No sane person would risk getting this disease’.

We are just vegging out tonight, nachos with a spicy black bean sauce for dinner topped with avo and sour cream, just icecream for dessert. No fancy drinks. Happy to be home safely and thankful for little things. I fear celebrating 2022, last year we went into the new year with some promise but I suspect we are going into more of the same or perhaps worse this time. Plagues of the past have gone on for decades and in some cases much more, so with the world’s now massive population we can hardly expect otherwise.

January 1, 2022

I absolutely adore fireworks. My best NYE ever was watching them close-up from Aqua Dining right next to the Harbour Bridge a few years ago. But watching them on TV is a real downer, a fizzer of grand proportions: no bang, no gunpowder smell, no shock wave, no all-encompassing encircling awe. So I gave them a miss last night and went to bed, turning my phone to silent to avoid the expected midnight messages. What a boring party-pooper, but a well-rested one.

Michelle and Kev came over for a morning tea that lasted till a quarter to two, by which time I really should have offered lunch, but I hadn’t looked at the clock. She loaned me the book The Game, Sean Kelly’s well-received book about ScumMo which she assures me will make me hate him more than I do already but I doubt very much if that’s possible, though I’m willing to try. Arvind next door tells me his son is quite ill with a terrible cough but has tested negative twice with a RAT. He went to his school formal after which four classmates tested positive (these days there’s no need to even mention what they were positive to) but hopefully he has something else. I brought back a big bag of clothes that Carly wants to donate to a charity shop so of course I had to look before I moved them on, didn’t I? Plenty of nice togs but nothing remotely big enough for me unfortunately, which is probably a good thing considering my overflowing wardrobe, so a trip to the Sallies is on the cards for next week.

At 9 pm tonight I got a call from Kenneth’s daughter Tanya who told me that he had had a fall at home and was taken to hospital by ambulance. He broke a vertebra when he fell, getting up in a hurry to pay the window-cleaner. At 87 I think that’s a pretty big deal, but I am not sure what they’ll do for that, especially in the middle of a pandemic. She was very vague when I asked when it happened ‘oh a few days ago’, but I’ve been getting no answer from him since Christmas Eve. I tried another tack, ‘how was his Christmas? I haven’t been able to get onto him’ but she sought of ducked that question so I suspect it happened a week ago if not more. (Would window-cleaners be working between Christmas and New Year anyway?) He has told me he’d rather be dead than in a home, but I can imagine at his age and having had a fall they will be loath to send him home.

January 2, 2022

I realised as I went to bed that I don’t have email addresses for Kenneth’s children, making further communication difficult. I just hope the landline numbers I have for them are current. The more I think about it the more sure I am that he has been in hospital for a while, he just wouldn’t let Christmas and New Year both pass without calling. The fact that he was unconscious for an unknown amount of time before waking up and ringing his daughter says to me that it wasn’t only his back that he hit but his head also. Perhaps he fell down the steep staircase? I am not sure why she is being so vague with the details.

I invited a friend over for a scratch lunch today but she said that she didn’t have a car, it is with her son who is sick, likely with Covid, at his flat. He invited a friend of his to her house for two days over Christmas and the friend subsequently tested positive, so she assumes her son has the same thing. She’s been testing herself (as has the son) with RATs but they are both negative. It isn’t very comforting knowing that false negatives run at about 15%.

So the few things we had planned for January are looking iffy. Jane offered to buy us tickets to a musical based on Bob Dylan’s songs but that won’t be happening now. Plus one of John’s priest mates (retired now, but very much the entertainer) has an annual party for all of his friends at Maroubra overlooking the ocean and that was happening next weekend, likewise it will most likely be cancelled and if not I doubt John will be willing to go. Personally I feel more disheartened about 2022 than I did about 2021, perhaps I am getting gradually worn down in a way I wasn’t last year. It’s all very well for Domicron, Hazzard and co. to be saying ‘We’ll all get it eventually’ but what if they had a son with cystic fibrosis, a wife who’d had a lung transplant and a daughter with a blood cancer? Then it would be ‘We have to resist this and protect the vulnerable at any cost’, the bastards have no empathy at all, zip.

January 3, 2022

We (well I) decided that a few new plants for the front would give me something else to look at so we motored off to the nursery at the Forestry Commission and got some of the 10 for $20 specials, six pots of lobelias and four of portulacas. Keeping with the usual theme of pink, white, blue and mauve, I came home pretty self-satisfied. (Only one other car there, people are really keeping themselves to themselves). We noted the queues of cars that stretched out of sight in two directions from the nearby the Covid testing centre. On the way back we went to Denise’s fruit and veg stall at Dural to stock up so we are now fully supplied with grapes, cherries, blood plums, apples, avocados and honey but the veg available was somewhat lacking in choice so we’ll worry about that another day. Denise (possibly not her birth name) is a short, portly Greek? woman of undetermined age who is there selling every day. She is weighed down with a cross around her neck large enough for a priest and has photos of some religious person on the shelves next to her. Weather doesn’t deter her, public holidays either, she’s just a fixture on that stall whenever we pass or when we go intentionally like today. Salt of the earth comes to mind.

I found my New Year’s Resolutions easy this year:

1) Be more patient with John, who so deserves it.

2) Lose the weight I’ve put on since the pandemic started, tricky this one. I might make a cup of tea soon and have some of the fruit mince tart that I baked yesterday while I have a think about it.

3) Be less patient with those who have made life difficult for us both for the last, what is it? 12 years? 13? 14? I don’t know, but it seems like a lifetime some days. Patience with some people only means that they are more inclined to treat you like a door mat. Toxic people figured out a long time ago that decent people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep them happy. Enough. Oh I feel better just from typing that, now for that fruit mince tart…..

January 4, 2022

It’s been a funny couple of days. I got an email out of the blue from a first cousin on my mother’s side whom I didn’t know I had, he’s from Brighton UK. He immediately started sending photos, a 32 page family history report and a press cutting of my road cycle-racing champion grandfather. Meanwhile I discovered that I don’t have email addresses for my brother’s two children and the phone numbers are not current. Rats, I didn’t think to ask when Tanya was on the phone. However my snail mail penfriend, who has never befouled her hands on a computer, has a phone in her 17th century cottage so I rang her the night before last. Her son was visiting from wherever he normally resides and said she was out but would be back in the afternoon. Very odd I thought, she rarely goes out, especially for many hours, but I said I would ring the next day. Same story, she’s out, but will be back after midday. So I sat up and rang last night about half an hour after midnight here. She answered immediately and said ‘oh it’s lucky you didn’t ring earlier, I’ve just got up. It’s dark, grim and cold midwinter here and there’s no point getting out of bed’. Her ‘out’ was suddenly explained and I smiled at her son protecting her reputation to the oddly accented woman on the phone. She was able to tell me the hospital my bro is in and the facts as she knows them, he saw the window-cleaner from his upstairs bedroom and went down to pay him but fell on the narrow steep stairs after having a dizzy spell on the way down. He was initially unconscious but regained enough strength to get himself downstairs to phone his daughter, this taking about three hours due to extreme pain from a cracked vertabra. She called an ambulance and off he went, to be continued.

I have been on a crusade about bloody rapid antigen tests which everyone thinks are the ant’s pants but which are virtually useless in the way they are being used. The Doherty Institute reports that:

“The Doherty Institute’s studies, along with other evaluations performed by Australian and international laboratories confirm that the sensitivity of these tests in the early stages of infection is poor and that they shouldn’t be used for the diagnosis of acute COVID-19 infection. These tests must be used with caution due to the potential for these tests to fail to detect COVID-19 during the acute phase of the illness, prior to the development of antibodies. Their accuracy only improves 14-21 days after onset of symptoms. Based on the Doherty Institute’s findings it is recommended that serology-based COVID-19 POC tests should not be used until at least two weeks post onset of symptoms.”

But is the government telling people this? No they are not, so folks are spending their hard-earned on tests that, if they can even find one, are useless until 14 days after symptoms show and then they blithely tell you that ‘yes I’ve got a cough and I feel sick but the test says I’m fine’. No you are not, go away, far away, one feels like shrieking. If you are going to let people self-test, well force them to in fact because nothing else is available, then at least tell the buggers how to do it properly.

November 5, 2022

Luckily it’s raining, which I love, as the day hasn’t played out too well so far. The mail brought a result I didn’t want, a positive bowel screening test with a recommendation for a colonoscopy to be organised ‘as soon as possible, preferably within the next two weeks’. All fine to say, but who wants to go anywhere near a hospital at the moment, especially St. Vincent’s which is Covid Central? Anyway I’ve bitten the bullet and rung the Prof’s secretary and he wants to see me on Monday. I needed a new referral so I rang Bob, but he’s off work as a close Covid contact, not from a patient apparently as he was on leave over Christmas. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but if I do need to go to hospital for a day I can’t drive for 24 hours after the anaesthetic, which means I’ll need to depend on John to drop me there and pick me up, groan. Life is so complicated these days. Just an hour ago I asked him to pass me something from a drawer in the sideboard which he happened to be closest to, but he forgot three times what I had asked for, so it was easier to just do it myself. He arranged by phone for his medications to be home delivered from the chemist, but was quite curt in doing so and I had to gently remind him about speaking kindly to people who are doing their best to help. I don’t want the pharmacy of all people to be offside. However so far I’ve kept to my New Year’s resolution of being patient, but it’s only the fifth of January.

Covid is way, way worse than the figures are suggesting. At the fruit shop this morning (I can’t yet bring myself to order fruit or veg from a supermarket) there were signs up saying that they will be closed all weekend due to ‘staff unavailability’. The person on the checkout was new and very inexperienced, not knowing what broccolini was, nor snow peas. I asked if the weekend problem was due to staff holidays, but she shook her head and whispered ‘no, Covid’. Aah, got it. When there are families of six, where one person has been diagnosed and the rest are too sick or disinclined to sit in a car for many hours to get tested then the figure recorded is one, not six. I had a call from John’s care service who are sending a new person tomorrow to replace Rosalina the Wonder Cleaner. She said that they are all working from home and ‘last week was just unbelievable, trying to get replacement care staff for all the people off with Covid. It was something worse than we had ever expected’. We were to go to John’s priest friend’s place for a party next Sunday but John rang him to cancel and I don’t think it was taken too kindly. The conversation was quite jolly before he mentioned the party, but despite apologies it quickly ended afterwards, so perhaps we were two of many and the party is looking iffy as a result.

January 6, 2022

Since yesterday when I heard John talking down a bit to the girl at the pharmacy I’ve been thinking about the fact that he and I are an odd couple in many ways. He came from comparative wealth and privilege, brought up in Mosman and in diplomatic houses in New Zealand and Ceylon with a father widely respected as a war hero and a diplomat. He talks about getting the chauffeur to drive him to places he wanted to go, living in a luxury hotel in Ceylon, all meals provided, and how he had his posh accent beaten out of him when he came back to school in Australia. Education was highly regarded in his family. I came from the other side of the tracks in living-week-to-week poverty, a good education was seen as finishing high school as both my adoptive parents had left school before the age of 14. When I kept insisting that I wanted to do medicine my mother suggested that I try for a job in a chemist’s shop ‘because people will come in and ask you what pills to take’. But I think despite all that, what we have in common is that we are both outliers: he because he was abandoned to boarding schools and to relatives during the holidays (his niece says his childhood would these days be considered as child abuse) and me because our family simply didn’t mix, not with neighbours, or even family if we could avoid it. My mother hated people seeing our house inside, unlined with no inside toilet and no bathroom at all. So we were both lonely kids who’ve sort of met half way at Baulkham Hills, he has come well downhill in residential status and I’ve crossed the Parramatta River to the north and come uphill, which is funny really because as a child the idea of living ‘north of the river’ meant going very upmarket. In my street of Housing Commission properties and temporary dwellings, it was considered what you might do if you had won the lottery. I guess we’ve both won the lottery in one respect.

Last night at nearly midnight I saw on a website that Coles is rationing certain foods because of supply problems, so I jumped onto the Woolworths site to place an order before they did the same. However I outsmarted myself in a way as on the checkout page the first delivery available was next Sunday night and my usual practice of putting ‘no substitutions’ wasn’t allowed. So who knows what will actually be delivered and what can you do if you don’t like what they bring? All the decent brands of toilet paper were marked ‘out of stock’ along with the rice I like and much more. I noticed when scrolling through that on the lamb page it was virtually all out of stock, but I didn’t want that anyway. What a mess we are in again, but there are bigger things to worry about than toilet paper at the moment.

January 7, 2022

Feeling the need for some bush and being out of sight of civilisation for a while, I suggested a picnic at Lane Cove National Park, a close and accessible alternative to the bush proper. I was interested to see the ‘fish ladder’, a sort of byway around the weir so the native bass can get up and down the river safely. We had a good walk along the river and a simple picnic and came home feeling much improved. I have felt worse about the pandemic in the last few days than I have all through the lockdowns. Davina’s friend had Christmas dinner for 12 and every single one of them got Covid, I hope the meal was good. We know quite a number of people who are currently infected and I am troubled with the realisation that all these cases we have are the perfect vehicle for the next mutation. At least if you expect the worst you won’t be disappointed as I am prone to say, there was a wonderful article in the Herald yesterday which really made me laugh. It’s me to a T:

A week after my cousin Tony suddenly contacted me from the UK another message arrived, this time from his sister Carole who lives in Spain. He had talked to her about finding me and now we are communicating as well. If times were different I’d be planning a trip to meet them both. My main contact with relatives over there has been on my father’s side, but these are both on my mother’s. Perhaps I can get up the courage to ask why they are all so dark-skinned and brown-eyed, something that shouldn’t be a problem to ask but somehow is. They certainly look Romany or Spanish or something, certainly not typical of the Yorkshire folk on my father’s side. My mother wasn’t like that but all her brother’s family are, which adds more mystery to the situation. It is so ridiculous how skin colour could become a touchy issue, as if the wrapping is more important than the gift inside.

January 8, 2022

Off to Brighton-Le-Sands beach for a lovely morning on the sand with Dav and fam. They had a little beach tent and a chair for John and we all had a swim on a quiet part of the beach, while watching planes taking off and landing at the airport. I opined that the hotel  opposite would be a nice place to have a few days sometime, but Dav reminded me that it is where many flight crew stay so we’ll give that one a wide berth for a while. Went back to Erko for lunch and Millie was largely ignoring the conversation until I said ‘yum yum pig’s bum, that’s pork’ when the ham and salad was served up. It’s amazing how much kids love any sort of ‘misbehaviour’ of their elders.

I am usually  bored to tears by tennis but this summer I am finding that reading the tennis news is much more fun. Djokovic has made the difference and seeing Tennis Australia, the Victorian Government and the Federal Government tossing the blame back and forth across the net has been a treat. If Morrison thought that he’d get universal praise for banning him he was sorely mistaken as the former head of Immigration has caned Border Force for letting him get on the plane in the first place, a fair call I think.

Eight people in our circle are currently positive to Covid with some earlier ones now recovered and I am sick to the back teeth of hearing politicians blithely saying that we will all get it, seeing that it will be a death warrant for some people who will just be collateral damage in the poor handling of the pandemic. Domicron just stood there with his hand up, like King Canute staring at the tsunami and thinking that his powers as Premier (and the state’s god-botherer-in-chief) would make it turn around. Nah, not happening Dom.

January 9, 2022

In the shop I always had a policy of doing as much or as little as I wanted to do depending on my mood, so I was either slothful or super diligent, sometimes one of those for days at a time. Today I woke up full of beans, I suspect due to the beach day yesterday, swimming does that to you. So I happened to notice that the drain in front of the garage was full of something, it turned out to be dozens of Hypoestes plants, the seeds must have washed down the driveway in the rain recently and there was enough dirt in the drain to start a little garden. So up came the mesh cover and I transplanted them all into potting mix. I don’t know where they will all go, but as long as it’s shady they will be happy. Then I was busy packing up a necklace that I’d sold on eBay and dealing with someone else interested in a couple of bits of cutlery. It’s been quiet on eBay for a bit, but I guess people are at home and getting bored.

Then I attacked the meat safe, which is my overflow pantry, and discovered that we could probably live for months on the food here and in the freezer, seeing we can’t entertain. We’ve turned into survivalists, and there’s another delivery coming this afternoon. Then that’s it, I must stop, shortages will pass! I had asked John if we had any of the sweet biscuits that he likes to have with a cup of tea and he said two packets so I ordered more. The huck-out of the pantry revealed no less than nine! Ten if you count the pack he opened yesterday. It reminded me of when we moved all of his food here from Lane Cove and I unpacked five bottles of tomato sauce, three of them opened. I don’t even eat tomato sauce, but I am using some of it as seasoning in sauces and whatever. John gets very confused at some times and less so at others. This morning he couldn’t remember how to do the porridge (he does breakfast while I read the news headlines and check my emails and I do the rest of the meals for the day). Then he asked whether or not he has a hot drink at breakfast time and then if he has fruit. Tomorrow he may remember all of that. But it does worry me when he goes through his address book asking me who people are, that’s happening a lot more lately.

Two more have fallen sick today with the plague, this time my lovely ex-sister-in-law and her husband. Particularly worrying as he is a type one diabetic. We are hearing of various friends and relatives getting it every day now. John and I have each had one cousin die from it. But we can only take it one day at a time and keep as safe as we can, the rest is out of our hands.

January 10, 2022

Another week, another cousin. Now Lesley Dixon has contacted me as well. I had to look up the 32 page genealogy report to see the interrelationships. But an interesting fact arising from all that is that about 9 months before I was born my mother’s favourite brother Victor had a child he named Jean, but his wife died in childbirth. Jean was adopted out as a result. I am wondering if that led to my birth name of Jean, new cousin Tony is going to ask his brother for any intelligence in that regard. My brother has now been moved from Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to Halifax Hospital where he is recovering from two broken vertebrae, not one as previously reported. Now they are looking into his increasing dizzy spells, which they think resulted in his serious tumble down the stairs. His daughter tells me that he has a ‘blocked ventricle’ which I would be very concerned about if I hadn’t worked out that she means a blocked artery. Presumably they will do a stent.

A visit with the Prof at St. Vincent’s ended as expected, a colonoscopy booked on Friday week. I so hate that swill they make you drink that I am certainly not looking forward to it. Going without food is one thing, but drinking that is quite another. I told him I am more worried about getting Covid than I am about the result, so he said he will do it at Bondi Junction and keep me away from St. V’s altogether. But he also said “It’s getting to the point here that it will be easier to count those who don’t have it”. Three of his kids have had it and as a result he himself was in iso for Christmas. I commented on press reports that some hospitals are mixing Covid and Covid-free patients in the wards and he said that St. V’s ‘will never do that’. So I can only go forward assuming that all will be well.

John got in a tizz over birthday presents for his grandchildren (he is getting in a tizz more and more, understandably) but I was able to produce for him a gift for Aurora: a facsimile copy, with illustrations, of the original 1908 version of Anne of Green Gables, brand new, which I had put away for a rainy day. Two craft kits, one for making a jewelled cardboard unicorn and the other to make beaded bracelets, proved perfect for Tallulah so panic was averted. A gift box under the bed is a wonderful thing and he is now walking happily to the post box as I had a paid postage bag here as well.

January 11, 2022

I have been given a number of bags of hand-me-down clothes for Millie so today I’ve been sorting them into appropriate bags for Millie, John’s granddaughters and op shop drop-off. Getting things to people who want and need them is such a satisfying task, but I might delay the op shop delivery judging by the five metre row of boxes lined up outside of the closed Vinnies as we passed yesterday. However we can drop the Katoomba lot out to Lynne’s at some time and deliver Millie’s when they come back from their holidays, now brought forward to tomorrow due to the noise of jackhammers in the adjoining apartment as the builders repair faulty waterproofing in a bathroom.

Two lovely surprises today: Firstly, a close friend offered to drive me to and from the colonoscopy clinic next week, just as John was searching the street directory for a park nearby the place where he could spend four hours and have access to shade and a toilet. I am loath to leave him for that long now, especially in a strange place. Now he can stay at home and I can relax. Second nice surprise: I had asked our chemist to source me a pulse oximeter, just in case John should get the plague, but none were available, so I then emailed the Dural Friendly Pharmacy and got a lovely reply from the general manager of the chain: ‘The oximeters have been in high demand – and there has been trouble getting stock. Dural has sold out at the moment but to ensure you get one I will bring one from our Concord store to Dural tomorrow for you. I will be out at Dural after 2.30pm and will leave it there in the special order section with your name on it.’ Dural Friendly Pharmacy living up to its name. Feeling much better than I did this morning now that those two things are off the worrying agenda, so I could concentrate happily on weeding the herb garden.

Chris Sidoti, cousin of our friend Phil Sidoti, had a great article in the SMH yesterday entitled ‘I Hold Morrison and Perrottet Personally Responsible for Making My Grandchildren Suffer’. I wrote a supportive letter to the SMH but it didn’t get in. Phil tells me that Chris had 200 supportive messages by midday. Chris is a former Australian human rights commissioner and all-round decent human being, unlike those he mentions.

I read an article today about an event that went under my radar at the time. In 1969 Rupert Murdoch loaned his chauffer-driven Rolls-Royce to his deputy and two kidnappers mistakenly took the deputy’s wife from the car to hold to ransom, thinking she was Anna Murdoch. No body was ever found but two brothers were convicted of her murder. One kidnapper died in gaol but the other, now living in Trinidad, given the family the details of where she was buried on a Hertfordshire farm. Apparently he needs to clear his conscience before he dies. It brought up all sorts of thoughts of luck and how serendipity (and its opposite) affects all our lives. I met Anna Torv, as she then was, a couple of times when I was working for Rupert. She was a bit of a lefty then, but that soon changed, the price of being with Rupe I guess. A fascinating story to be sure.

January 12, 2022

Dural gets my rain, I’m convinced of it. I look out to the north and comment that it’s all falling at Dural, but today my theory was supported when the pharmacy rang to say the pulse oximeter had arrived (at 2.37, estimated delivery time 2.30, pretty good work). Left here in cloudy conditions, with black clouds to the north, the rain started at Rogan’s Hill, it rained heavily to Dural and back again to Rogan’s Hill. Rain at home? Zip. How can it be when the weather is coming from the north-east and yet the rain always seems to stop at the same place? It could be something to do with elevation perhaps. I bet it’s still pissing down out there.

I got a lovely surprise today, a text from Phil Sidoti to say that he had mentioned me to his cousin Chris Sidoti who said he has noticed my letters to the SMH and is appreciative of the stands taken. For some reason that was enough to bring me to tears, as was the opinion piece that Chris had published on Monday. I had sent a supportive letter to the SMH, which wasn’t published: “Chris Sidoti’s heartfelt article today brought me to tears. As the carer of a person with blood cancer, for whom Covid could likely be a death warrant, I live every day wondering how to keep him safe while also allowing him some vestiges of a normal life. It is a mentally exhausting balancing act. Perrottet’s and Morrison’s actions have made this much more difficult, if not impossible”.

I harvested the seeds off the coriander plants today, so I must think that I’ll be around next year. The flowering gum is coming out and it is my very favourite flower in the garden. I only plant pink, blue, white and mauve flowers, but at times there is an occasional red or orange one which indicates it was probably a gift. My second lot of chive seeds seem to have failed so it looks like it was a dud packet, they are within date. John’s package allows gardening help but he’s been off for holidays, now he’s a Covid contact, so no gardener tomorrow.

January 13, 2022

In news just in John’s ex-neighbour Scott White has been convicted of the murder of an American gay man, also named Scott, by pushing him over the cliff at North Head in 1988. Despite the advice of his legal team he suddenly called out ‘guilty, I’m guilty, guilty’ and the judge has accepted that as a genuine plea and convicted him. It is a sad end to a nightmare for his brother who fought the NSW Police for decades until he finally paid a US private detective to come here to get to the truth. Had the brother not been a millionaire it would still be a case of suicide or misadventure.

We had Michelle come over with a book and she stayed for a cuppa on the verandah, pleasing John no end. He certainly misses the normal interaction with friends that has largely gone by the wayside. I must think of somewhere to go tomorrow, we’ve probably been at home too much this week. I need to organise a Covid test for him before Wednesday when his IgG infusion is due and I need one myself for another appointment. I rang Bob’s surgery to see if I can get it done there and after waiting 15 minutes the phone cut out, then I tried the drive-through testing place and their phone did the same.

One of the new cousins sent me a heap of photos by email but I can’t work out who’s who and have had to ask. She also sent me a video of my mother, taken at a family wedding, but I can’t open it. The person they knew and the person I knew might be quite different so I am just listening to what I’m told and not saying much at this stage.

January 14, 2022

Yesterday was a big day in more ways than one. We went to Shelly Beach at Manly, one of our favourite swimming spots, and enjoyed a picnic, a swim (not as warm as Brighton, but good) and a walk along Fairy Bower to Manly, though we came straight back, not getting involved in the busyness there. The other reason it was a big day was that John got lost, insisting he was fine to walk up a set of stairs to the carpark in his swimmers to deposit the picnic basket in the car so we could go walking. However the 5 minute journey spread out to 45 minutes and because I didn’t want to leave our seat in case he returned, I asked a kindly person who was headed up to the carpark to keep an eye out for him and point him towards the stairs. Eventually John returned from another direction, still carrying the picnic basket, but not knowing where he had been and how he could have got lost. I went up to the car and ran into the man who was still looking for John, bless him. It has cemented my growing concern that he really can’t be left for any time at all, unless he is safely ensconced in the house and then not for too long. The day before I had bought a pulse oximeter, set it up with batteries and read the instruction book, then explained it to John. So now I wear it around my neck all the time? was John’s question. No, it’s something we will only need to use if one of us gets Covid, I replied. Oh good, now we don’t need to worry about going and getting tested, we can just use that thing, he said. I’ve put it out of sight and we’ve had no further discussion, but I think he has gone over another cliff memory-wise in the last week. Therefore I’ve decided that he can’t drive anymore and I drove us home. Even though his driving is technically perfect, I just can’t tell where this is going next and I don’t like the look of it at all.

My occasional eBay client Antonia in Melbourne sent me another bag of unfranked stamps (she must get a lot of mail). She also sent a stamped postage bag for me to send the three pieces of cutlery she has bought. I always send her a sweetener so I will use doilies as the packing and add some serving pieces like butter knives, a pickle fork and jam spoons that are surplus to requirements here. She sends me texts with photos of herself having a glass of wine, or a schnapps, or yesterday champagne and we have quite a little friendship happening. My favourite inclusion is a tiny cocktail serviette hand embroidered with a martini glass and cherry, she will love it. This has always been a bonus in dealing in antiques, it attracts a warm coterie of like-minded people. The sale is worth $15 but the bonuses are worth much more.

January 15, 2022

A trip out to Dan’s mother’s place at Cranebrook this morning to deliver another box of John’s stuff for his daughter. They haven’t picked up the very big load we left at Lynne’s many weeks ago so I felt a bit bad about cluttering up her garage. Usually we drive in, it’s five acres, but in a sign of people’s heightened concerns about Covid, the gates were shut and Lynne arrived there with a trolley, letting us know that she wanted us to stay outside, which we were quite happy to do. The sewing group next Wednesday and the book group at the end of the month have been cancelled in the first case and scheduled via Zoom in the second. When will it ever end?

I have just finished reading The Dictionary of Lost Words, a novel set amid the making of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. I had reservations about the book, though there were positives too, but I was interested to see that Carly had reviewed it in a similar way to how I had and then I got an email from Sue whose views were also very much aligned. One part of the book relates to ‘vulgar words’ and I was attentive to this part as it reminded me a lot of a conversation recently with a number of people whose attitude to women swearing was pretty much the same as Esme encountered at the turn of 1900. In some ways we haven’t moved quite as far as we think we have. I wondered what their response to the book might be, somewhat negative I’m imagining, but I don’t intend to stick my head up over the parapet on the issue again. I said my piece ‘if swearing is okay for a man, then it’s okay for a woman’, pretty obvious I would have thought. The other clear point is that words are just letters tossed together in order to communicate and can’t be intrinsically good or bad, they are what we choose to make them. The argument didn’t fly I’m afraid.

January 16, 2022

We were on the West Pennant Hills Covid testing queue just before the centre opened at 8 am, but still it snaked back onto the main road. However the line moved more quickly than I expected and we were done and out by 9.30. Both of us had to be tested for medical appointments this week, but I was expecting the result to take a couple or even a few days, but it was back by 2 pm, which was great in one way but it means it’s too early to be acceptable for my Friday appointment so I will have to do it all over again. Rats or should I say RATS! They are just unobtainable as I know too well after a ring-around. I thought they may have given us at-home tests as takeaways after I explained the tests were only for appointment purposes. Just trying to save ScumMo some dollars, but no go. Very efficient and pleasant service, a sentiment I forwarded to the queries and complaints section on their website.

I wondered what happened to the leftover salad from dinner last night but as the bowl was empty I assumed the possum had had a good dinner. That’s until I went to make a salad for lunch today and opened the bag in the fridge where the washed salad leaves reside. Out fell an olive, then some red onion and a pile of dressed lettuce. Hey presto, puzzle solved. It was still okay enough to be part of lunch so no harm done.

Interesting, though unsurprising to read the following today: “A hospital at Lismore in the anti-vax heartland near Byron Bay says that all 6 of the patients in ICU are unvaccinated. One of the people in ICU is Mullumbimby-based tarot card reader and reiki master Helen Dean who had previously protested against vaccine mandates. She caught the virus last month and has been on a ventilator since Christmas Day. In the weeks since she first contracted Covid her friends have flooded her social media pages with healing sentiments and chanting ceremonies”. Of course they did. She’s on life-support people, doesn’t that give you pause?

January 17, 2022

Off to Dural this morning to buy bread on the first day that the bakery reopened, though there was only one staff member working the counter as the others were off with Covid. The girl who served me said she and her daughter had it over Christmas, she was negative but still recovering. Then to the Vinnies with a box of Carly’s clothes that we’ve been carrying around since the Canberra visit. Unfortunately then the car wouldn’t start so I had to ask the chemist for a chair to sit John outside in the shade while we waited for the NRMA to come, just getting someone to answer the phone took 25 minutes! But the serviceman came and sorted out the problem quickly so that was a relief.

I have been feeling a bit off today after an interrupted sleep (with the added stress of John/heat/car/NRMA perhaps) and had a very rare rest after lunch only to be woken by a phone call from the surgeon’s receptionist wanting to alter my Friday appointment from 12.30 pm to 9 am. This was slightly complicated but it all worked in the end. Meanwhile she got approval to give me a RAT test at the premise that morning which means I don’t need to queue again. Whoopee.

John keeps asking me to check his emails for him and I keep showing him that it’s just one button to press on the phone, but today I got the real reason he’s not opening them: ‘I’m too scared that there will be an abusive one and I want you to read it first if there is.’ Aaah, that makes sense now. Perhaps underneath that is the possibility that he really doesn’t want me to tell him about any bad ones, but I will have to make that decision at the time, if it happens at all.

Very interesting article by Professor Raina MacIntyre in The Saturday Paper called ‘Why Covid-19 will never become endemic’ which makes a number of valid points: Omicron may be half as deadly as Delta, but Delta was twice as deadly as the 2020 virus. A US study has shown the virus persisting in the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and almost every other organ after the initial infection and found a significant drop in cognitive function and IQ in survivors. The virus directly kills heart muscle. It is too early to know if Covid-19 will result in early onset dementia or heart failure in a decade’s time. Natural infection has never eliminated itself in recorded history. Not smallpox, which displayed the same pattern over thousands of years, and not measles, which is still epidemic in many countries. Eradication occurs when a disease no longer exists in the world – the only example of this in humans is smallpox. Scary stuff. I was roundly criticised in one quarter for wearing a mask very early in the pandemic when the government was pushing the hand sanitiser line above all else, but the virus was clearly airborne spread, the government just wasn’t admitting it yet. Not a single infection has been traced back to hand contact rather than aerosol infection, so the millions spent by the government in advertising and by us for sanitiser was largely wasted.

January 17, 2022

Another of my great ideas goes to water. I got John to ask if he could transfer his monthly transfusion to a hospital closer to home now that he’s no longer driving. But it seems to do that he also has to change his haematologist, something neither of us want. Nada may be pretty brutal in the sense that she isn’t a hand-holder, you just get the diagnosis and the treatment regime, but she’s kept him alive for years when it was doubtful that would be the case, so we’ll stick with her and do the drive. While he was on the drip I took myself to the Botanic Gardens for the three hours and loved walking there in the rain. There was an artificial anthill replete with massive metal ants but an ibis was sitting staring into the hole both times I walked past him, an hour apart. I think he was waiting for the real ants to come out but he’ll have a long wait. I was so pleased to see a mystery plant from my garden which I’ve been trying to identify for a couple of years. I first thought it could be Salvation Jane, commonly known as Patterson’s Curse, but now I know it is Verbena bonariensis or purpletop vervane. The gardener said you identify any Verbena by its square stem so there’s a new piece of knowledge for the day. It was likely from a seed dropped by a bird as there are no others around that I’ve seen.

As everyone suspected, indeed expected, the missing girl at Mt. Wilson has been found dead and her stepfather charged with murder. Any missing child is a tragedy but for some reason her beautiful face struck a particular chord with me. His lawyer is claiming ‘mental health issues’ and that may be the case, but often it’s a hard call between being mentally ill and just being an arsehole. The wisdom of Solomon is required to tease out the difference, if there is one at all. No-one is born an arsehole, so one can assume that life’s journey has played into their arsedom, but then others go through a horrendous upbringing and come out battered, but triumphant. I also feel for the gay couple who have sunk a motza into building up the wedding venue from where she went missing, a massive house and superb gardens but for ever and a day it will be ‘that place for where the little girl went missing/was murdered’. Their only association was being unlucky enough to be related to the accused murderer. Who wants a wedding there now?

January 20, 2022

A parcel is always a nice surprise, but one on Monday was totally unexpected. My friend Michelle has been haunting the Vinnies each day since she noticed that our mutual friend Brian’s bits and bobs have been going on sale there. So she bought a collection of china, packed it carefully and posted it to me as mementoes of him. She has bought some for herself too, so I got to thinking: his family want rid of some of his stuff, understandably, Michelle would love it, also understandably. So, taking a risk, I texted both of his children, whom I know well, and asked if it were possible to let Michelle have first pick of anything that was going to Vinnies, explaining her special bond with Brian. Obviously that was a no-no (I’m an expert at no-nos) as neither of them replied, I guess I am off their Christmas card list as well as a few others who will remain nameless.

I’ve started planting out my Hypoestes seedlings along the driveway as they are going great guns in the seedling box, but I noted that the larger of my flowering gums looked a bit sad from the back verandah and a closer inspection showed it is as dead as a dodo. Why, I have no idea, but there’s a big hand of flowers at the top and you would think that a sick tree wouldn’t flower. Now it just a dig-out job unfortunately. I had the landscaper come back to give me a revised quote on the driveway, to be done in bricks as the big gum next door would push up and crack concrete in no time. But it’s a hell of a price so I am still thinking.

My oddball eBay customer in Melbourne makes me laugh regularly, The latest cutlery she bought was a matching cake fork, teaspoon and jam spoon, which I wrapped in embroidered table linen and threw in a few spare bits of cutlery. They were in a postpack covered in $1.10 stamps but by chance they weren’t franked. Knowing my weakness for unfranked stamps she is posting the bag back to me so I can soak off the $20 odd worth of stamps and reuse them! Then she made me laugh again ‘I’m sending stamps bag with small sample of schnapps in bag. Good idea? Yes, I’m glad you agree.’ I’m not sure if it’s her generous nature or her idiom that appeals but her messages always bring a smile.

January 21, 2022

When I bought the medication necessary to take the day before the colonoscopy the instructions said to take 1 sachet in 250 ml of water at certain listed times, but have no food at all, however the instructions from the Prof. said one and a half sachets per time and no food. The chemist commented ‘that seems an awful lot, it’s very strong’ but sold me the needed extra packet. He was not wrong, especially for someone sensitive to drugs who usually takes a child’s dose of even things such as Panadol. Suffice to say that I’m very glad I don’t have fixed carpets in the house, it was a shit-storm in every sense of the word. Poor John, he of the cleanliness schtick, coped like a trooper.

Jack kindly drove me to Bondi Junction leaving at 7.30 am and I thought we’d hit traffic but had a dream run for that time of the morning. The whole experience was infinitely preferable to the previous day, how could it not be? The anaesthetist was terrific and in conversation I mentioned Robert had once told me that the level of sedation he gave at his clinic meant that the person wasn’t fully under and if a fire broke out he could walk a patient straight off the table (with a support person each side) and they would never remember a thing. I’ve never known if he was pulling my leg so I asked this chatty guy and he said that some clinics just give a big dose of Valium and a drug to wipe the memory of the procedure and in that case what Robert said was entirely possible, but he prefers to knock the patient out altogether so even if the ceiling fell in they wouldn’t stir. I rather preferred that idea and made a mental note never to have one done in Penno. Though after yesterday’s experience I’ve decided that never having one anywhere is preferable. I woke up happy to look out over the view of downtown Bondi Junction from the picture windows of the 10th floor and wonder why on earth anyone would want to live in all the surrounding units built over various shopping  precincts, concrete jungle doesn’t come close to describing it. Perhaps the only good thing would be the ability to watch the odd medical procedure with a pair of binoculars, I would certainly be up for that. My chauffeur arrived to whisk me home after which I promptly fell asleep and woke up in time for dinner, which luckily I had prepared earlier in the week. Thank the gods that’s over with.

January 22, 2022

Last night we both watched our friend Saumya’s funeral live from London. John had spent quite a bit of time with her around 2010, helping her deal with Centrelink forms and going with her for personal appointments when she had made the perfectly understandable mistake of using a redundancy payment to pay off her mortgage, thinking that she could get Centrelink unemployment benefits if she failed to get work. However their attitude was: you had plenty of money to live on but you decided to pay it off your mortgage, so now we are giving you zip. She was reduced to living off Salvation Army parcels when she was also very unwell. But sadly, even though I showed him photographs from that time and retold stories of what he did, he couldn’t bring her to mind at all. However he wanted to watch the funeral in any event. It was a strange combination of pop music and Buddhism, with very little said about her at all really, it could have been a total stranger. I think the monk spoke in Malayalam, but I can’t say for sure. It was as emotionless as a funeral could be, so I spent the time just thinking of various times that I was with Saumya, of her infectious laugh and regretting that those times will never happen again.

This, along with news that someone else is hankering to do his eulogy, must have set John thinking because today he rang his close friend Peter to ask him if he would be willing to do it and as I write he is photocopying reams of stuff to post to him. What Peter is going to glean from public service records from the 70s I’m not sure, but I trust he will do a wonderful job having heard him do the eulogy for a bishop, managing to have a dig at the church for not letting the bishop’s close friend Father Rod Bower take part in the service because he is a priest in the high Anglican Church and not a Catholic. Peter put the boot in, but oh so delicately. I guess that’s why he was in the diplomatic service.

January 23, 2022

I remembered a conversation between two nurses on Friday, amazing what you hear if you just keep looking dumb and don’t say anything, people tend to forget that you have ears. Nurse 1: So they’re saying that the numbers in intensive care are stable. Nurse 2: My friend in ICU says it’s because they are dying so fast that they just replace them with the worst one from the ward, so yes I guess it’s stable.

One tends to forget how much time in a given day is spent cooking, serving, eating, or just thinking about food. That’s why last Thursday seemed so out of whack, John’s food already prepared, mine non-existent. I had an associate in the shop, an upholsterer, who was not able to eat but was fed through a tube and it didn’t surprise me when he attempted suicide. I can’t begin to imagine that life.

We got set up for a picnic today and then I looked out and it was pouring, so we abandoned the idea but soon after the sun shone and it was all systems go. I set the GPS to Dural Nature Reserve, supposedly a National Park, but we were directed to a residential street with no obvious entry to the bush. Driving around we came across a tradie working in a garden and he directed us to James Henty Oval and we found tracks from there. There are no signs giving directions and no signs even indicating that it’s a National Park, very odd. The walk was lovely as was the picnic, but it was weird that we didn’t see another soul, not on the walk nor at the picnic area. However the leeches were very happy to see us, I got three on the walk and John’s found one on his foot since we got home.

January 24, 2022

I’m Glad I Don’t Have Fixed Carpets MkII: Last night John stood up and one side of his shorts was covered in blood, we discovered a leech on his thigh and disposed of it, putting a Band-Aid over the bite. An hour later, after he’d changed into trousers he stood again, only to find the trousers soaked in blood on the other side, it was dripping from his leather recliner onto the floor. As we tried to clean up the mess he stepped on something which turned out to be another distended leech which exploded, sending an extraordinary amount of blood across the floor and up the side of the chair. The leeches had been feeding on him for about six hours we worked out. If I had opted for white carpet instead of polished floorboards the last week would have had me replacing the lot.

We got the place ready for John’s cleaner to come at 1.45 pm, after she had to cancel last week due to a cut finger. It’s now well after 4.30 pm and no sign of her, I’m hoping that they didn’t ring and make some change in her plan with John and he’s forgotten to tell me. I guess we didn’t have somewhere else to be but still I’d like to know if plans change. I’ve got everything up off the floors for her to vacc and mop.

John’s car has developed a weird problem, for which we had to call the NRMA last week. The steering wheel locks when parked and it takes a mammoth effort to unlock it by wrenching the wheel back and forth. I had an appointment with Bob today and when I got back to the car I couldn’t unlock the wheel whatever I did. I called our mechanic Alex who coached me in how to overcome it, but he thought it very abnormal. I found out that he has moved from Castle Hill to bigger premises in Blacktown which is a pain in the posterior, so I will need to take it out there and get him to look it over. Bob told me that if John’s new dementia drug Aricept hasn’t acted by now it’s probably not going to, which is a bummer. In fact he is worse now than when he started it. But I will leave Bob to discuss that with John and they can decide whether he should just stop taking it. I devised a clever way to avoid John forgetting to take his meds, so I thought, by his setting the alarm for 8.30 am and pm as a reminder. Except he thought that he only had to set it once and it would work every day and now that I’ve disabused him of that notion he can’t remember to reset it so that was a big azalea (as the Windsor locals used to call a failure).

Just got an email from the home service rostering team to say that today’s cleaning service was cancelled because of shortage of staff ‘due to our good ol’ friend Covid’ they said. Apologies that they didn’t contact me before now but ‘the rostering team is under such pressure at the moment’. Grrr, so am I.

January 25, 2022

Up early to mop and clean the bathrooms, iron the serviettes and tablecloth, get the food ready as we were having Jane for morning tea, possibly running into lunch. John swept the front and back verandah and I did some flowers from the garden, all finished as Jane rang to say she was sick (please not the dreaded Covid). But I felt pretty pleased that I got all the jobs done which needed to be done anyway and would have taken three times as long if we didn’t have the time pressure of a visitor arriving.

Arvind rang asking for help for his son in deciding whether to opt for a degree in Computer Science with a Masters in Mechatronic Engineering or Software Engineering with a Masters in Biomedical Science. I shot off an email to Boris and one to Prof. Munjed al Muderis, although I doubt I will get a reply from him any time soon and Avish needs to make a decision this week. It’s an exciting thing to be thinking about though, in a life that has necessarily become dull.

We went to visit Carol and Jack and spent quality time on their verandah. How lucky we are to have verandahs at this point in time, sitting inside four walls would be mortally depressing. That bloody steering wheel problem happened yet again, but had righted itself by the time we left, so I rang Alex and arranged to drive the car over to dreaded Blacktown. He thinks it’s a problem with the locking mechanism, not the steering one, so he did something to it and told me to let him know how it goes. He refused payment. I pointed out that it would be very difficult to get home from there if we ever have to leave the cars overnight, but he said he will lend me a car when that happens. Bless.

When we got home I served the prawn risotto cakes that I’d made for lunch with Jane and they weren’t bad, but I’m not sure I’d go to all that trouble again though, fish cakes would have been just as nice and a hell of a lot less work.



































Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 7

December 1, 2020

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

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

December 2, 2020

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

December 3, 2020

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

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

December 4, 2020

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

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

December 5, 2020

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

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

December 6, 2020

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

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

December 7, 2020

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

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

December 8, 2020

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

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

December 9, 2020

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

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

December 10, 2020

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

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

December 11, 2020

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

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

December 12, 2020

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

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

December 13, 2020

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

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

December 14, 2020

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

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

December 15, 2020

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

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

December 16, 2020

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

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

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

December 17, 2020

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

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

December 18, 2020

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

December 19, 2020

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

December 20, 2020

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

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

December 21, 2020

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

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

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

December 22, 2020

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

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

December 23, 2020

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

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

December 24, 2020

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

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

December 25, 2020

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

December 26, 2020

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

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

December 27, 2020

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

December 28, 2020

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

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

December 29, 2020

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

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

December 30, 2020

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

December 31, 2020

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

January 1, 2021

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

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

January 2, 2021

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

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

January 3, 2021

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

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

January 4, 2021

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

January 5, 2021

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

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

January 6, 2021

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

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

January 7, 2021

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

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

January 8, 2021

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

January 9, 2021

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

January 10, 2021

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

January 11, 2021

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

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

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

January 12, 2021

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

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

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

January 13, 2021

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

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

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

January 14, 2021

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

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

January 15, 2021

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

January 16, 2021

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

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

January 17, 2021

I finally got a reply from Mudgee Honey Haven. I had asked about the labelling on their products, well lack of labelling actually. The manager’s reply was: ‘We are looking into the fact that our label printing is not clear and are in the process of changing them to print much clearer.’ In other words completely ducking my question. Thinking about what my response ought to be, apart from the reply I’ve already sent saying: ‘The labelling on my jars is perfectly clear, it just doesn’t give the information required by law (and also by me) when I buy a product.’

Of course the tennis influx of players and officials has turned into a farce, as many people expected and predicted publicly. What were they thinking? Oh that’s right, they were thinking about money, silly me. Britain’s NHS is admitting a Covid patient every 30 seconds, with 50% of their doctors and nurses off either sick or in quarantine. Surely at some point the system with grind to a halt in the worst affected places like London? We will be dealing with a mentally and physically exhausted workforce for years once the PTSD cases start to emerge, which they surely will. But it’s not all bad, Boris’s dad has had both vaccine doses, not that I had any doubt that he would get sorted early on. My neighbour Karen next door has just heard that her 87 year old grandmother in England is infected, so I guess worrying about a stupid decision to allow tennis players in is pretty small cheese.

January 18, 2021

Brian rang today and it got me thinking about whether or not it was safe to visit him, so I rang in the evening and it is okay as long as you book in for just an hour and answer lots of questions about suburbs you have visited, symptoms etc. I hardly see what the length of the visit has to do with anything, but whatever. He said he hardly gets out of bed as ‘there’s no reason to’ which prompted me to ask if I could have a visit in the garden, which is better for both of us anyway, and hopefully gives him a reason to get up. I also need to pick up a bottle of chardy from an old shop acquaintance who always remembers me at Christmas, here’s hoping he doesn’t want a loan, but I think he would have mentioned it as he didn’t seem in a desperate hurry for me to turn up. I’ll take out a bottle of red in Christmas wrapping and we’ll be square, funny old thing Christmas, other cultures must think it seriously weird. We celebrate a baby’s birth 2000 years ago with wine and chocolates and more, as well as decorated trees (very few where said baby was born) and a man in a red suit (likewise few in Bethlehem I would have thought, especially borne by a team of reindeers).

I hope the FBI and Capitol Police are taking seriously the risk to Biden and Harris from within the military and National Guard populations. There were people from the fire brigade, quite high-ranking ex-military and even legislative state members arrested after the protests, so a huge force like the National Guard for example is sure to have some Trumpists in their midst. ‘Remember Indira Ghandi’ should be front of mind for those in charge of security, now and into the future.

January 19, 2021

This morning I was supposed to visit Brian but he’d gone with his son to a medical appointment so I decided a visit on top of that would be too much and rebooked for tomorrow. Then I discovered I was out of one of my tablets altogether so I rang the lovely Sharif the chemist and he happily offered to make it up and wait till Thursday when I see Bob for the script. That meant a trip to Baulko shops, I usually get the meds delivered but couldn’t afford to wait, so while there I popped into Aldi for milk and yogurt. On the way back to the car the Covid Marshall was deep in conversation with a policewoman, but as I walked past her partner who was on the phone I heard him say ‘so you’ve potentially been in the shopping centre?’. I made sure I washed my already sanitised hands as soon as I got home. Sometimes you can’t do right for doing wrong as my mother used to say.

John got a speeding ticket in the mail today, unfortunately making our trip to Mt. Tomah Botanic Gardens an expensive day out. But I checked the date and place and it’s clearly right. He had commented on that trip about how frequently the speed limits changed up there, he was doing 67 kph in a 60 zone, so he’s a very, very naughty boy.

January 20, 2021

Visited my old shop regular and was gifted two bottles of chardy, a mixed box of teabags and some nougat. He never changes and never will, a loner, animal lover and misfit whose personality runs the gamut from absolutely bloody impossible to endearing. Then on to Brian’s nursing home where I waited in the garden till he was brought down in a wheelchair for my booked visit. He looks every bit of his 94 years now and unfortunately has lost a lot of cognition since I last went: he wasn’t sure who I was at first, thinking I was his Melbourne daughter (okay, masks make recognition hard). But despite being right on top of current affairs even a few months ago, chatting on about Trump and Morrison, he showed how cut off he is from current life on the outside, asking if I were planning any overseas trips this year and then querying if I have a son or just daughters. Somehow it felt as if I were visiting a stranger and I had the same feeling when I left as I used to have after prison visits: ‘That was a good thing to do but I am so, so glad to be leaving now’.

I managed to dig out the old 2002 letter from my last anaesthetist, well the last full anaesthetic anyway, you can hardly count the much lighter ones they use for endoscopy. Basically he gives advice for any future anaesthetist regarding the problems he had (or more to the point that I had) such as being unable to sit up or walk unassisted for a few days. Here’s hoping that whoever I get takes his suggestions on board. And of course that John remembers to pick me up!

January 21, 2021

Woke up early and watched some of Biden’s inauguration. You have to hand it to the Americans for pomp and circumstance, and memorials, they do both very well. I certainly felt like celebrating and was able to push down my pedantic view that if a person says her name is Kamala, pronounced ‘Comma-la’ then the judge officiating at the hoe-down should pronounce it that way, and not ‘Car-marla’. But anyway, it was so good to be rid of Trump that I forgave her that misstep. Melania was carrying a $75,000 Hermes bag , yes $75,000, I didn’t add a nought or two. Perhaps someone should send her a copy of the wonderful book ‘Sidewalk Champions’ by the Suitcase Joe Foundation, with black and white photos of the men and women who live on the streets of Los Angeles, many of them having been there for years. But I guess she’s aware of all that and still chooses luxury, it disgusts me.

Went up to see Bob and as usual we chatted on about other stuff than medical matters as well as the reasons for the visit. He discussed the eventual possibility of retirement and it saddens me on two accounts, one selfish in that I would need to look for another doctor after 42 years, and secondly that I guess he would spend a lot more time at his Toukley home and I would rarely see him. No, I just don’t want to think about it at all. John is at St. Vincent’s today having his infusion and tomorrow we are going to pick up filter candles for our water filters, something we do each January. The two topics seem remote, except that he got confused and decided this morning that he had to get them from a branch of the water filter shop inside the hospital foyer! Only later when he was having the infusion did he realise that there is no such thing and he’d conflated two different events. It’s a worry.

January 22, 2021

First off to John’s to print something out on his printer, which didn’t work. Of all appliances and technology I hate printers most, that’s why mine is sitting in the storeroom. A weird technological puzzle is that his phone GPS won’t work in his car but works perfectly in mine. Common sense (and Stephen) tells one that it is something to do with the Bluetooth in his radio as it was fine in his old car, but the mechanic doesn’t know how to fix it. My phone GPS works fine in both cars. It is so frustrating to know there’s a simple answer, but not how to do anything about it.

My hairdresser told me yesterday that the new British mutant of the virus kills 14 people for every 10 killed by the original strain. The only other person there corrected him and said that no no, it’s much more contagious but the death rate is the same. This morning in my Science news feed there was a report that ‘newly released studies have shown that the new British mutant of the virus kills 14 people for every 10 killed by the original strain’. Thankyou Martin for being ahead of the game as usual. The traffic both going and coming yesterday was horrendous, it is getting to the stage that I really don’t want to drive too far, or in this case be a passenger while John drove. It’s really nerve-wracking as impatient drivers weave in and out and we are not even at the end of the school holidays yet. Last night I was talking to Carly when her pal Lucas arrived and I had a chat to him. He is a public health supremo now working on the vaccine rollout. I didn’t tell him that I had had the good oil on the British mutant from my hairdresser.

January 23, 2021

Having a quiet one today in this awful heat. But it was good weather to attack weeds early in the day (what weather is not good to attack weeds?).  Tony texted that we (Kathleen, Tony and I) are going to The Wild Pear for lunch on Monday and they are picking me up so  that means I can have some bubbles as well. Now I have a social event of some sort tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday which must be a record for this year so far. Rereading Cloudstreet today I find that I am still of the view that I would have gone crazy in that house, all those people, all that noise, all that social embarrassment. While I can relate to their particular whims and faults and foibles, there was simply no way to turn them all off for a while and it would have been excruciating. Perhaps growing up in a big family would give you a different perspective, but despite longing as a child for siblings, even visitors, it’s all way too claustrophobic to me now.

So the Australian Open must go on, $40 million seen as a reasonable amount to pay in order for that to happen and then Japan will outlay way more than that and infect who knows how many people to hold the Olympics, against the will of 80% of the population there. Sport is truly a religion in this country and in many others and as with any religion, commitment to it can blind a person to common sense. George Orwell said: “Sport is war minus the shooting” and I suppose the whole ‘us versus them’ thing doesn’t appeal to me at all. I find the cricket sledging, the cheating and ball tampering, the football buffoons, the whining tennis players just beyond the pale.

January 24, 2021

The concepts and differences involved in retributive, rehabilitative and restorative justice have long interested me. I read that in Indonesia if you’re caught breaking the Covid rules, you have to dig Covid graves. That seems a beautiful solution to me, not risking the health of the offender but bringing their actions alive to them, well the dead to them actually, but whatever. Penalties involving money, apart from things like hauling the proceeds of crime into the public pot of gold, often seem crazy to me. The idea that a fine of $500 is applied equally to a cleaner and a millionaire is a nonsense. I think it is good for a judge to be able to keep all those options in the toolkit, swapping and changing to really let the punishment fit the crime.

We had a lovely morning at Carol’s chewing the fat. It was super hot outside, 39 degrees when we got home but, hail to the air-conditioning gods, it was perfect inside at Carol’s and soon after we were home it was good here too. I haven’t found this heatwave as taxing as usual and commented to Carol that the humidity must be the answer, estimating it at 50-60 percent. Way out on that one I discovered, it was only 29% here. It’s the humidity that would prevent my ever living in Queensland, or Florida, or Singapore, where I used to race from air-conditioned bus to air-conditioned hotel to pool, seeing what I could in between. Not for this human thanks very much.

January 25, 2021

What a wonderful day with Tony and Kathleen. We were talking from 1 pm, over bubbly at The Wild Pear, over mains, over a shared dessert and were still talking at sunset at my house, with lots more that could have been said. It is terrific to know that I get on as well with Kathleen as I do with Tony. Discussion to be continued well into the future I’m sure. It still amazes me that we came into each other’s orbit, such an unlikely event in the middle of a pandemic, a welcome piece of serendipity.

A couple of years ago, in fact when he was recovering from his last surgery, John was approached about taking part in a study of temperatures inside social housing. He was given a continuous temperature and humidity monitor from which data was downloaded periodically and I think he got some small benefit like a gift card, though he would have been happy to do it for nothing. This monitoring went on for a year or so from memory and included various questionnaires. This week I saw a write-up on the research in the Herald: “An extensive study on the relationship between energy use, indoor thermal comfort and health in social housing”, by Dr Shamila Haddad. John is very lucky that his building, a 1960s double brick number, is very well insulated and pretty good on most days, but many of those surveyed didn’t fare as well, with the maximum indoor temp being 39.8 degrees and the average 32. It is good to know that this study will help tenants and surely those in the worst cases will be given aircon? When his neighbour died unexpectedly, the housing managers discovered that she had had aircon installed at her own expense, but rather than leave it for the next tenant it was pulled out and the hole bricked up. Hopefully this report might change that attitude.

January 26, 2021

Unfortunately we weren’t able to go to the Invasion Day march this year but with the heat we had perhaps it is just as well. It really was a hot one, 41 degrees here, but as we were in the car and then at Dav’s in the aircon minding Millie in the hottest part of the day we managed okay. At one stage I asked her if she wanted me to read her a story or two and she glanced outside, almost rolling her eyes, and said ‘grandma it’s daytime!’. Clearly stories and bedtime are inextricably linked. Dav and Louis went to nearby Bitton for lunch, it is a lovely venue with French management and a favourite in the area.

Later I dropped John back at his place to get his car to follow me up to Baulko, but he wanted to try the new Navman, bought because his phone GPS won’t talk to the car’s Bluetooth. After some considerable time I started worrying about where he was and phoned. The Navman, brand new, so with no addresses already entered, took him to Bobbin Head! He assures me he entered Cross St Baulkham Hills, saw it on the display and pressed start. For some reason he followed directions along the Pacific Highway, eventually pulling up at an address in Bobbin Head when it said he had reached his destination (no not another Cross St, it didn’t even start with C). I guess he was 2 hours behind me, gosh this bloody GPS business will take years off my life.

January 27, 2021

I am so enjoying the change in the weather, 20 degrees cooler than this time yesterday. Today we were off to Michelle’s for lunch. She rang when we were on our way to find out if there was a problem, we were due there at 11.30 and John had 12.30 in his diary and was confident that it was right. The birds were enjoying their back yard and we were visited many times by kookaburras who apparently thought that a BBQ was on the go and were patiently waiting for meat. We spent a lovely (cool) afternoon with good company and delicious food and wine.

I missed a call from a person investigating the Honey Haven lack of labelling and by the time we got home she had left work, but I am sure she will ring me back tomorrow. It boils down to the fact that the NSW Apiarists, the Honey Bee Council and others say that the labelling is illegal but the only people who can investigate it are the area council who are probably less than enthusiastic as it’s a major local business. I don’t want to get them fined or in any sort of trouble, just to change their labelling to reflect the actual contents, as prescribed by law. Fair Trading said I would be entitled to a refund as things stand, but that’s not the point. It all comes back to getting the council to enforce the law. But politics reigns at council level as much as it does anywhere else. Looking forward to speaking to the council officer tomorrow.

January 28, 2021

Got a call back from the health inspector at Central West Council who went out to The Honey Haven in the days following my first call and is still on the case. She said the business is working on an exemption in the regulations which allows for no labelling on the items if the business is a single outlet where everything is produced onsite. However in that case they need to have a list of the ingredients of every product written up in a document available at the point of sale so customers can see it. But they are not doing that either, so she’s told them to correct that situation or else label the products individually, and intends going back soon to make sure that has happened. Considering the number of products they are selling it is an impractical option. The whiff of rat is still in the air because it is impossible for all of those very different honeys to be produced in the one geographical area, the hives must be all over the place, so I await the outcome of her investigations. Sometimes it’s more trouble to avoid regulations than to just do the right thing in the first place.

We stocked up on bread and groceries today so John doesn’t have to do more than go to the corner IGA next week. Got in a delayed dentist’s appointment too, so I really am getting on top of my ‘to do’ list. Arvind next door had his huge tree cut back and with five men and all the ropes in the world they still managed to drop a branch on my roof, denting the gutter in two places and breaking three tiles. Luckily I have plenty so they fixed it. Now I am teaching John to use the washing machine and dishwasher, he’s good at hanging out and loading and unloading the dishwasher but he’s never worked either appliance from go to whoa. Also I sorted out the anaesthetist issue, as I needed to send the chosen person a letter I have from a previous doctor addressed ‘to all future anaesthetists’. Basically it tells them what a difficult person I am in that department (perhaps I am difficult in all departments, but that’s another question). Anaesthetics usually set off three-day-long vestibular attacks occasioning vertigo and vomiting, called by one doctor ‘your three Vs’. He made practical suggestions, based on his experiences, regarding which drugs to use and more importantly which not to use, to avoid this happening. The surgeon’s secretary has organised to send her the letter today.

January 29, 2021

An early trip up to Killcare for the book group’s first meeting of the year at Sue’s beautiful sea-view property, however today it was a view of the sea mist, which was still beautiful but in a different way. Because we hadn’t seen each other since November, it was a bit like a bunch of excited girls at a school excursion or a camp (not that I’ve ever been on either mind you, but I’ve read about them). Sue had organised for us to get takeaway at the beachside kiosk, but heavy rain precluded that option and she decided to go down by car and bring an order back to the house. This was later followed by her home grown rhubarb pie and bottled peaches from the farm. The opinion on the book, Elizabeth is Missing, was divided. I thought it portrayed the gradual decline into Alzheimer’s as well as anything I had read. Despite some flaws, it was educative as well as entertaining. The men played pool and whoops and cries coming from the basement indicated that they were having fun. At night we gorged on two curries (one Sue’s and one mine) with all the sides and made a dent in a good bottle of Margaret River red. We just seem to fit together somehow, whether at my place or at Sue’s, and it never feels as if we are visiting, but just hanging out together naturally.

January 30, 2021

Breakfasted on toasted olive bread and tea before taking a drive to McMasters Beach for a bracing walk along the beach, watching a very high tide with some moderately big waves and absolute piles of beached bluebottles. We were reluctant to rockhop to Copacabana Beach next door in light of the many recent drownings off rocks, so Sue drove around there and interestingly it was an eight and a half kilometre drive versus the thirty or so steps across the rocks. Had another walk on that beach before heading back for lunch at Sue’s, more yummy olive bread with goat cheese and smoked salmon. Sad to be heading home, I can never get enough of a good thing.

Later I received a few texts from various relatives of John’s who were worried because someone had texted them today that there was something wrong with him, but without going into any detail. A cousin who had rung him out of the blue this morning had then sent texts hither and thither, unnecessarily causing concern to quite a few. Of course they all thought the worst, the language was apparently such that it implied he was on the way out, but I was able to reassure them that his diagnosis is now old news. Talk about Chinese whispers. What a lovely couple of days we’ve had, Alzheimer’s Schmalzheimer’s.

January 31, 2021

I’ve been thinking about a video that Sue sent me, courtesy of Robert’s friend Malcolm who lives in Thailand. It was over an hour long and purported to be informative about Covid so Sue thought I would be interested. I only got part way into it and was so angry that I turned it off in a temper and emailed Sue to say it was classic conspiracy theory stuff. The speaker, a German doctor, suggested that the British deaths from Covid were as a result of the treatment and not the disease. He claimed that many, or most, were from giving hydroxychloroquine at 10 times the usual dosage for experimental purposes. Apparently there have been 142 registered clinical trials around the world, involving the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, but most used less than 100 people in their tests, so his theory appears ridiculous considering the vast numbers of deaths. The good doctor had also done useful experiments like ringing around funeral directors in his local area in Germany and asking if they had seen an increase in business, when told that they hadn’t he extrapolated this to mean that the deaths from Covid are over-reported. The author contributed to a book called ‘Virus Mania: How the Medical Industry Continually Invents Epidemics, Making Billion-Dollar Profits At Our Expense’. Now I think I am going to have to watch the whole damned thing if I am to have any hope of refuting what I see as seriously dangerous bilge. I’m sure this is one of the many conspiracy theories that Craig Kelly is bandying about, but I spent a long time refuting some rellies’ anti-vax prognostications and got absolutely nowhere, maybe I should give up on this before I even start.

February 1, 2021

Mmm, John promised we could go off to the beach for a week or even two, once the kids went back to school and bookings freed up a bit. But life had other ideas. Hopefully we can squeeze something in soon. Made an orange cake to use up some fruit that’s been lurking a bit too long in the fridge. It’s a good recipe with pulp and rind in the cake and a goodly amount of juice poured over when it comes out of the oven. Actually the recipe says juice in the cake too but I like using the chopped pulp instead to give it more texture. The recipe calls for chocolate frosting as well, which I definitely won’t be doing. It’s in a Margaret Fulton book which I won in a story writing competition some years ago. The story had to include a reference to MF. Typically I didn’t even keep a copy of the story, not thinking that I could possibly be the winner. Bob rang me and asked ‘are you the person whose story was just read out on Radio National?’ I had no idea it was going to be on, so I missed that as well. But I have made a few good recipes out of it and I have the letter from Fran Kelly that came with it, so that’s enough. John went to an organics industry function about ten years ago and happened to sit next to Margaret. He came home agog that she had been so flirtatious towards him, but I let him know it wasn’t personal as I’d read that she was often like that with men she met, despite being well into her eighties. I think he was somewhat disappointed.

I’ve long admired Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but her actions since the Capitol riot have endeared her to me even more. While conspiracy theorist Republicans like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are trying to cosy up and show they are willing to support her views on other issues, she just won’t have a bar of them. There is always great pressure, particularly on women, to forgive bad behaviour and play nice. But there are some things that are so egregiously wrong that forgiveness is just inappropriate, despite what our Prime Minister said yesterday on another issue. So AOC, hold your line. You are giving me inspiration because I have trouble holding a grudge, even when a grudge really, really needs to be held.

February 2, 2021

Rachel came over for morning tea and it was good to see John enjoying a family visit. The orange cake proved both light and orangey. The hospital has rung me six times today. Have you been to WA? Have you been to Auburn? They asked again about allergies, about medications, etc etc despite that being in my admission file, but I guess you can’t be too careful. Then later they informed me that I am to be there at 5 pm. Surely that’s 5 am I thought? But a quick call to the surgeon’s office confirmed the time: ‘you are second last on a huge list beginning early in the morning and finishing after 8 at night’. His secretary commented that I was right to query the time, she’s never known him operate so late before. He’ll be on autopilot by then, but perhaps it’s being done by a robot? Burning the scalpel at both ends I thought. Anyway it gives me a chance to get some weeding done in the morning. I am unsure what to do about my pink star plants which I understood when I bought the seeds were a perennial. I got near 100% germination and they’ve been lovely but they seem to be dying back severely so I think I got it wrong and they are only annuals, which is a bummer as I planted a lot. I find with seeds that I get upwards of 90% germination or I get nuffin. The nuffins are very disappointing as I carefully cover them with glass, watch them every day, control the water, still get zero. Weeds on the other hand I have 100% success with.

February 3, 2021

Feeling very virtuous after both cutting back the pink star flowers and doing a good bit of weeding, a bonus from the late admission time. Decided to just cut the flower plants back severely but leave the cuttings on the ground in the hope that the seeds from them might spring up again next year, probably a forlorn hope, but anyway… The postman came and Danish has sent me a copy of his latest paper published in BioMed Central, an English medical journal. ‘The knowledge of danger signs of obstetric complications among women in rural India: evaluating an integrated microfinance and health literacy program’. Phew, I will read it soon but I am sure the major statistical side of it will go right over my head. A quick look showed a credit to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What thanks do they get for the almost $50 BILLION dollars they’ve donated so far to medical research, social, health, and education developments, including the establishment of the Gates Scholarships at Cambridge University. The answer is they are accused of sins such as profiting from vaccines right through to outlandish accusations of attempting to microchip people under cover of vaccinating them. Would make you want just sail around in a gold-plated boat eating oysters, but luckily for us they are bigger than that.

I occasionally read an article that I really, really wish I had written myself. It happened with this week’s editorial in The Saturday Paper. (I know all of those words, I know those punctuation marks, why can’t I assemble them like this?) The article is about Tony Abbott and entitled Spit into a Milkshake, funny considering I always want to spit after saying his name. The whole article is magic but the line I most like is “The Institute of Public Affairs feeds people into politics and now they return as backwash, like spit into a milkshake”. I can’t stop rereading it and it has lightened my day.

February 4, 2021

Big day yesterday with lunch at 10.30…mmm might make a smoked salmon sambo at that time a habit…to fit in with the hospital fasting schedule. As we were leaving I got a call to say that the surgeon was ‘running a bit early’ so I could come a bit sooner, such an odd situation as I was expecting her to say he was running late. I quipped to John that if I could be sure she had a sense of humour I would have asked if one of the earlier patients hadn’t made it through an op, but decided not to risk being flippant. He had to leave me in the foyer, no-one goes any further than that these days due to our friend Covid.

While waiting in the pre-op bay I was conscious of the fellow next to me who only looked about 40 or 45 at most, apparently Irish, who was clearly very nervous and told every nurse ‘I’ve got two children only 6 and 7, a boy and a girl’. Clearly he had fears and I felt like going into his bay for a chat about nothing just to take his mind off it all, but decided that was not a good idea all things considered. When he got the cannula put in he hollered as if his arm were being chopped off and having had it myself at much the same time I know it’s not a big deal. However when asked about his medical history it turned out he’d had a quadruple bypass in the past and recently brain surgery for an AVM, an arteriovenous malformation in the brain. I probably wouldn’t have remembered that acronym except that an old friend had surgery for that same condition a couple of years ago and I know it’s a big deal. Anyhow, something wasn’t quite right with it (he still had the bandage on his head), they were going in again to correct the problem and obviously the poor bastard was scared stiff. It makes you wish you were a prayer because the whole thing made me feel so helpless, unable to do anything for him at all but I thought a big cuddle from an old lady he didn’t know would likely have scared him more.

My anaesthetist ‘hi, I’m Liz’ had studied the letter from the previous one of her number who had had lots of problems with me and she promised to do all the things he’d suggested, but unfortunately anaesthetics and moi are not friends so I suffered through the vertigo and vomiting routine tra-la tra-la, prompting a decision by Alan the surgeon that I needed to stay in overnight. However it was a private room with an ensuite bathroom in the new section with a nurse to hold me up and walk me to the loo as needed, so I was perfectly well looked after there. I had a view of the top of the Westfield Tower and the top floor of the MLC Centre, so I may have been able to see Davina if she’d waved a big enough flag from the roof.

February 5, 2021

Wow, the mind can sure play tricks. I dreamed awful stuff about John taking out half a wall of my green bathroom to destroy cockroaches that he said were blocking the toilet! Then that I had a rubber band around my head and later at about 4 am I dreamed it was 7 am and the sun hadn’t come up and we were all screwed. I guess that’s how it is when you are on recreational drugs or perhaps if you are schizophrenic, anyway I woke up feeling confused and upset so I hope that’s the last of it. John took pity on me and took me to KOI for morning tea, our first trip there for 14 months. He had his favourite, the Strawberry Pillow and I tried the Moss Garden Jar, a combo of matcha, pistachio and apple, which wasn’t particularly sweet and not my favourite I discovered, but I am glad I tried it. The desserts change all the time so if you don’t try the odd ones you may never see them again. Expensive and worth every cent, even just to keep such an innovative chef afloat.

John and I have been getting lots of texts and calls from his extended family after one member set off a chain of Chinese whispers about his health. Startled messages arrived from various rellies, all of whom had been sent a text saying that John was in a bad way. I would be cross, except for the fact that he’s so glad to be getting the contact that it appears the chap has inadvertently done him a favour. I have been telling texters that the reports of his (near)death have been greatly exaggerated, as Mark Twain once wrote about himself after his obituary was wrongly published. When I was proof-reading I remember that the newspapers had obits pre-written and waiting and it was someone’s job to keep them all up to date so they could be plastered on the front page quickly when the person dropped off the perch. With that happening it is only a matter of time before one goes out on a rumour. Sort of like having hundreds of tennis players from around the world visit Australia in a pandemic, and we just wait for the inevitable leak of the virus. Dan’s the man but this decision is much more like Gladys in my view. Money, money, money is what it’s all about.

February 6, 2021

‘It’s quarter to three, There’s no one in the place Except you and me, So, set ’em up Joe,
I got a little story you oughta know’. So sang Frank Sinatra and this tune has been ringing in my head since I woke up…at a quarter to three. It’s still before 5 but I got sick of lying there wondering what time it was and periodically checking the clock. So today I am hoping to feel well enough to bake a cake! I plan to do a Karithopita or Greek Walnut Cake, or perhaps a Walnut Torte if I can be bothered going out to buy some rum for the butter cream filling.  Nuts and sugar, what a combination. I just love nut toffee of any sort, macadamia muesli, nutty cakes, just plain old raw nuts are a staple snack in the pantry.

Trying to work out if we can get away for a couple of days in the next three weeks, it’s a juggling act. One bugbear may be if the surgeon wants to see me once the pathology is back next week. If it’s good news of course I can put him off, but if it’s the other way I’ll need to go in, so it’s a bit risky paying a deposit on anything this coming week. Then there’s John’s medical appointments to avoid and Carly is coming at the end of the month.  I am always rueing the fact that we don’t get away more, but with Tony and Kathleen going to the Southern Highlands on Friday for a whole week, and then speaking to Chris who with Bernadette is camping in Byron Bay for a month, yes a whole month, has filled me with the green-eyed monster. On a positive note, I had an unexpected call from the anaesthetist Liz, bemoaning the fact that she left the hospital on Wednesday night thinking she had done everything right and avoided any side effects, but after she got home the hospital called and said I was sick. It was good of her to call and apologise but really she did as well as anyone else ever has, so job well done.

Yawn, it’s now nearly 3 pm but I have put those 12 hours to good use. Watched a Planet America rerun, about 5 am? Spread straw in the garden where I weeded a few days ago. Made the Karithopita and some food towards tomorrow when Dav and family come, both with help from John. Went with John to Spotlight to advise on purchase of fabric for a restoration job he is doing for Sue, a piece of craft that Robert accidentally fell on and broke when he was sick. Heated up some frozen Gut Repair Soup for lunch, doesn’t sound very appetising but was. Read some Elemental articles. Wrote a review of my latest read.

February 7, 2021

Considering that last time Millie was here I had to mock up some tomato sauce out of passata and tomato paste, I thought I had better buy some this morning so we walked down to the IGA and did just that. My efforts last time were spectacularly unsuccessful, with Millie taking one look at it and saying ‘I prefer the one at my house grandma’ and refusing to even try it. But this time it was the real McCoy in a red bottle and so she was happy. But when we got back I sat in front of the teev to watch Insiders at 9 am and the next thing I knew John woke me up by turning it off at the end, so I missed the week’s political cartoons, fie I say! My stamina is pretty poor right now but will pick up in no time. We enjoyed a bbq on the back deck and then Heather came over so we all had the Karithopita there with pots of tea and coffee. The only downside was the bbq oil leak receptacle overflowing, and no doubt leaving a big stain on the decking, so simple and avoidable but we both forgot. Later Millie wanted to do another ‘nature hunt’ around the garden and intends to put her finds in a ‘nature journal’ that she’s planning on starting. It exhausts me just thinking about the energy it would take to mind her fulltime. I don’t know how older grandparents step into that role, but they do.

February 8, 2021

Back almost to rights, signified by the accomplishments of the day. Drove to the bakery at Dural, pausing to look in the pharmacy there in case they had any reading glasses whose frames could be repurposed to make me a spare pair of readers. I live in fear of losing the primary pair in case I am sentenced to days of not reading because all my old pairs are now too weak to allow me to read type as small as a book with them. Success on first visit! I found a pair in a sort of washed out uncolour, perhaps dirty pond green is the best description, and drove straight to Ralph the optometrist who was impressed and will have them done in a couple of days. He commented that I embarrass him with my excellent glasses finds, which he agrees are more stylish than his stock. After that I will donate the other pairs to his collection destined for countries where any pair is a luxury. I get on with Ralph very well, as long as we don’t talk politics, where he comes across as a bit of a Trumpian. I asked where the QR Code was situated and the reply was ‘I haven’t got one’ which I suspect is illegal, but I decided I didn’t want to ruin my day by going there. Next I organised with Heather to take her out for lunch tomorrow for her birthday, then paid both my car insurance (negotiating an almost 15% discount) and the anaesthetist’s bill. Woah, going like a train here, so I rang a motel at The Entrance and booked us in for three nights next week, overlooking the ocean. I wanted the second floor, but both it and the first floor were booked out, so the choice was between ground and top, the top floor naturally being most expensive. While I was umming and aahing the lady jumped in with ‘seeing you are staying three nights how about I give you 50% off the last night?’. Well that sounds like a plan I said, the total coming in at less than the no view rooms on the ground. So we are booked, with an agreement that if I have to cancel she will move the deposit to another date, can’t fault that. I can’t wait to plunge into the nearby ocean baths, seeing the bluebottle plague was in full swing last week when we were at McMasters Beach with Sue. Worth waking up today.

February 9, 2021

Reading about the protests by Indian farmers today and it has been the biggest protest in the history of the world, on November 6 drawing in 250 million people. How can the Indian government proceed with the proposed legislation against those numbers? The new laws will help large agribusinesses to control and swallow up the small markets where Indian farmers now sell their produce, so perhaps there is some leverage from these businesses and other governments who have skin in the game? Modi invested heavily in his personal relationship with former US President Donald Trump, you have to wonder if promises were made.

A lovely but strangely exhausting day today, beginning with a trip to The Source to get some spelt flour to make damper tomorrow. The shop is good for sourcing unusual ingredients but for regular ones their prices rule out regular custom. Then on to Wild Pear for Heather’s 70th birthday lunch, where we shared the stuffed zucchini flower entree, then the salmon and finally the pav. We both agreed that eating their full size meals would be difficult and this way we got to try all three courses. It is such a relaxing place to go and I have been lucky enough to experience it twice recently, last time with Tony and Kathleen. I gave Heather a few options and I am glad she chose this one. Later we went to Mother Earth Nursery at Annangrove where I bought a Euphorbia ‘Diamond Dazzler’ to put into a pot. I had a very small metal washtub which I asked John to modify for a plant by drilling holes in the bottom and this is perfect for it. Although I love bright flowers in arrangements, I only plant white, pink, blue and mauve flowers in the garden or in pots, I just love that pastel combination against the grey house. I asked the person serving about my ‘Lime Magic’ acacia tree which had two feet lopped off the top in the storm a year ago today which also felled my huge Eucalyptus nicholii. I told her that while the tree has got wider and wider it hasn’t grown an inch and asked what I could do about it as it was planted to shade my front windows from the midday sun. The answer is zip, she said ‘it lost its leader and will never grow up, just wider’. I suspected after a year that that was the case but I still felt as if someone had told me that my kitten would never grow into a cat. I had managed to break the leather shoulder strap on my crafty woven handbag and Heather took me to her place on the way home to repair it using an old cast iron machine which insert press studs, so now it has a matching brown press stud joining the two broken ends and looks for all the world as if that’s how it was made.

February 10, 2021

Made a very passable spelt damper and served it with goat cheese, tomato and basil when Tony came during his lunch hour from the library, well his lunch hour-and-a-half in actual fact. We struggle to find a division in our thinking, but so far this is not becoming apparent so we go from subject to subject, grinning as we find that this isn’t it.

Read a fascinating medical article which suggested that the mutations in the Covid virus may be occurring in long term sufferers of the disease. While in most people it has a relatively short course, in those who are immunocompromised or chronically ill it may last for many months. During that time it has plenty of opportunity to mutate into other forms. It reminded me of when I was Karl’s carer and the doctor at RPA expressed concern about my future health. I told him I wasn’t at all worried about catching his AIDS but he quickly explained that wasn’t his worry. Because Karl was on a once-weekly low dose of an antibiotic for a couple of years or more, it provided the perfect opportunity for bugs to mutate and then infect his contacts. I was a bit more careful after that.

In the evening I had a catch-up with some friends via Meet Around, a sort of simpler Zoom that doesn’t require a download. I think we all preferred it to Zoom and will stick with it. Zoom is best suited when having a hosted meeting but this is better when you are all in ‘campfire’ mode, with your pictures set around in a circle. I am meeting the same mob at Eden Gardens Nursery for lunch in a couple of weeks.

February 11, 2021

Heather got a 70th birthday card from local State member David Elliott. It reminded me that the rotter didn’t reply to the letter I sent praising him for some rare and minor words of sense that he came out with. He always replies nastily when I criticise him and ignores my praise so I can’t win really. If the government did print me a 70th birthday card it ended up in his round file, but perhaps it’s a new thing.

Finally gave in and rang the surgeon’s office to get my pathology result and was told that ‘he will ring you on Saturday’. Mmm, not quite the week from last Wednesday that I was expecting. Not sure if he’s trying to assemble the words to let me know I won’t see Christmas (or maybe Mother’s Day) or else just loath to explain that he operated for nothing. Anyway I didn’t query it, I just don’t want to be in some noisy place when he rings, guessing at what he’s on about. The hospital has rung twice though. Apparently they think that they accidentally double charged me the $250 gap fee. I don’t have my credit card on internet banking so I had to ring the bank and yes, it was charged twice. When I rang back to tell them they were in a bit of a tizz trying to work out how to refund it without the card but I shall let them struggle with that one.

February 12, 2021

Yesterday I watched some of Trump’s impeachment prosecution and boy, the two speakers were mighty impressive. Jamie Raskin first followed by Stacey Plaskett, both superb deliverers of their speeches, with the pacing and emphasis just perfect. Of course the content was chilling, the unedited half hour of the insurgents running through the halls screaming Kill Pelosi and Hang Pence was just horrifying. How could anyone could vote against impeachment?….well politics was never about facts.

I went up to Hanly Moir for my six-monthly blood tests and was told they couldn’t be done because it was after 10 am. This has never been mentioned in the nine years I’ve been having them but perhaps by chance I have always gone before 10, though I doubt it. There were 37 tests at one stage but these have increased to 48, because he now tests for the lupus markers as well! The reason, she explained, is that about half of the tests can be done at their lab but for the rest the blood is frozen and sent to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle because the Prof likes the autoimmune antibody ones done in his own lab, which has always been the case. Whether that’s because he trusts his lab more or because he wants the samples for his research I am not quite sure. The courier comes at 2pm weekdays and they need to freeze for four hours, so before 10 am Monday it is. Another oddity was that when I rang Bob’s practice to get a new referral for my appointment next Friday. I was told that he needs to do a Telehealth consultation on Monday for that. What?? She explained that it’s new policy practice….not Bob’s idea, I can bet money on that. So two things to sort out first thing Monday.

I had a call from Morgan Gallup Polls with a slew of questions about all manner of topics. I usually agree to any polling company in case the answers influence government policy. She then asked it I would be willing to do a longer online poll and it arrived a little later. Longer was not a joke, it was the longest I have ever done and took up a goodly part of my day. Just when I thought I was done I got a message saying ‘Congratulations, you have finished the first module of six’. I had a cup of tea and persisted. I can’t begin to tell the full  range of topics but they ranged from ‘Have you seen an ad for these new biscuits?’ to ‘Tick the box for any of these illnesses you suffer from’. I came out of that feeling incredibly healthy because there were pages and pages and I rarely had to tick, some illnesses I had never even heard of (perhaps they were bogus ones, just to see if I were concentrating?). Lengthy questions on car brands ‘Driving which of these brands would make you feel good about yourself?’ Um, none, it’s a heap of metal that gets me from point A to point B. Sport questions about which teams I follow in each of endless codes were incredibly boring, but faster to answer. Then tricky ones like ‘How much did you spend on groceries in the last 7 days?’. Tricky because then they asked ‘How much on dairy products/chicken/meat/ fresh vegetables/frozen vegetables’ and of course it didn’t necessarily match up with the total. Geez I’d better win the $3000 up for grabs, I earned ever cent of it, but if the political questions are helpful it was worth doing.

February 13, 2021

The surgeon rang last night and said I have a High Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Neoplasia 3, which basically means that although it isn’t cancer yet, it almost is. He was very surprised as it was the least likely of the four possibilities: benign, a low-grade type of bowel cancer that I have now forgotten the name of, common bowel cancer or this one. An average person has a 1 in 20 chance of getting bowel cancer in a lifetime and apparently a 1 in 100,000 chance of getting this one, so I should buy a lottery ticket. Apparently it is linked to immune system problems so is usually limited to people who have had organ transplants, have HIV or lupus, as they all have trouble clearing viruses from their systems. The pathologist was concerned that the abnormality goes right to the margins of the sample so he may not have got it all. I am back there in April for more tests and possibly more surgery. I feel pretty low about it but will bounce back in a day or so and especially when my feet hit the sand in The Entrance on Monday.

David and Esther came from Callala Beach today and we enjoyed seeing them after more than a year. Both have had medical issues this past year, Hers resolved, his still current. I guess that’s the way it is from now on with us and all of our friends, we are just in the danger zone. They appear to get very good treatment at Shoalhaven Hospital so that’s encouraging. Our lunch was delayed when the BBQ gas expired but a quick trip to Baulko sorted that out. We now have two full bottles so that’s one minor problem we don’t need to face again. Would that everything were so easily fixed.

February 14, 2021

Just realised it is Valentine’s Day. This is the first year that neither of us remembered so I decided to keep mum about it to John. Watched Insiders and decided that Sally McManus is on the short list to be our second female Prime Minister. She is that wonderful combination of cool, sensible, caring and intelligent. I still smile when I think of the story of when she told her mother she was going to university. ‘What are you going to do?’ the Western Suburbs mum asked. ‘Arts’ replied Sally. ‘Oh’ said the mum, ‘I didn’t even know you were good at painting’. Boom tish.

In my garage amongst the books waiting to go into the street library I have some that have been donated and I pulled one out today, only to see an envelope used as a bookmark. I wonder if it’s full of money I asked myself and sure enough it contained a $5 note. The envelope indicated that it was from Hunters Hill Ryde Community Services, being the change from the $20 in fees paid by one Neville Burrows in September 2014. If you are ever down on your luck Nev remember that I owe you a fiver. Meanwhile it is added to my spending money for the mini holiday in The Entrance. Tossing up whether to go to the Reptile Park on the way up, never wanting to pass up the opportunity to handle a snake, though I would happily leave the funnel web exhibit to John. It depends on the weather, but as is common the forecast is rain for the entire stay. Better to go on a fine day to picnic in the grounds and enjoy the outside exhibits so if it is actually raining we will give the snakes a pass till next time.

February 15, 2021

A busy morning with medical stuff. Bob rang and I was praising Alan, the surgeon, for ringing me on the landline at night rather than the mobile when I could have been in Woolworths or somewhere, also the depth of explanation he entered into. Bob’s reply was ‘Well you can’t just ring someone up and tell them that they’ve got cancer and then try to get off the phone’ or words to that effect. Um, I thought we were talking about pre-cancer I mused with some chagrin. He also said we should have predicted it would be the rarest possible one, as I always end up with something recherche. Then it was off for the 48 blood tests in 12 bottles, great way to lose weight, before our trip to Gosford. We gave up on the idea of the Reptile Park when it was raining at Somersby and decided instead on the Gosford Regional Gallery, which was a great choice. They had one exhibition from which I wouldn’t take a picture home if I won it in a raffle, but the other ‘Antarctica’ by Ken Knight was so good that I’d be happy to see it again on the way home. There were a large series of paintings done on his 2020 visit, many on a rocking boat, and every one was a winner. What a talent he is.

Our digs, the Ocean Front Motel in Bateau Bay, near The Entrance, is just what I needed. The sea is so close it is very loud when we open the deck door, but surprisingly quiet when it’s shut. We had a walk on the beach in the blustery wind. It was worth sacrificing the convenience of being able to cook for this view, I love it. We can do our own light breakfast and lunch here and just eat out at night, as we did tonight in a local Italian restaurant where John had his fave of spag bol (or spag bog as Melburnians call it) while I feasted on a spaghetti marinara aioli, mixed seafood pasta with lots of garlic and chili.

February 16, 2021

O frabjous day, Callooh callay! This place is a restorative for the soul. The view is to die for, both surf beach and ocean pools are just a few minutes walk away. We did a long morning walk to Toowoon Bay beach, around the southern point from us, I loved finding a fat black fish in a gap between the rocks but my interest in him caused him to make a fast break for the sea. Good to check out all the oceanfront houses along the way, a few nice ones but lots of expensive dross, like the two-storey mansion with all windows tinted blue. I know it can be glary in the mornings, we eat our toast on the deck wearing sunhats and sunglasses, but gee it’s only first thing. Why would you want this amazing view to be perpetually coloured blue? I don’t like the architect on principle, nor those who appointed him either. But would I swap it for my place? You bet I would, then I’d spend big money getting all the windows replaced. At one house we saw the owners sitting on the bottom step of the steep flight of stairs from the beach to their back door, drinking their morning coffee. What a dream that would be. Later we swam in the ocean pool, the big one was was being emptied for its weekly cleaning but we were happy in the smaller, shallower one. It’s a huge job emptying the pool via the equivalent of a bath plug, then hosing and sweeping it out, but the lifeguard says it’s done weekly winter and summer before pumping it full of seawater again. We decided to try the restaurant below our room for dinner, on the ground floor but with floor to ceiling glass overlooking the beach. I had six of the best big fat local oysters you could imagine, I can’t remember the last time I indulged in oysters, but these were a welcome return and served with a finger lime dressing, mmm-mmm. I followed that with an entree-sized gnocchi with scallops and felt well fed but not full, the way I like it. John loved his roasted blue-eye on truffle mash and suggested we eat there again tonight. No arguments there.

February 17, 2021

This news addicted person has discovered that if you are in your element (the beach) and have loads of walking and swimming to do, the news fades into distant memory (Donald who?). We haven’t watched the news since we got here. Who would have thunk it? Today we did an early morning walk along the sand to the entrance of Tuggerah Lake, passing fishermen rod fishing for flathead and bream at the mouth. Apart from that we had a pretty quiet day, reading and walking and reading again. I am into a novel lent to me by Martha who insisted that I would really love it, and boy was she right. It is set in Kamchatka, a place I knew very little about, but I am finding it fascinating. The author, whom I have discovered was co-producer of films like The Sting and Taxi Driver, does characterisation so, so well. It is set somewhere extremely interesting, with great characters and has a political edge. I am entranced by the book, Disappearing Earth, perfect holiday reading. Tonight we ate again at Ocean and enjoyed it every bit as much as last night. The chef, whom I met in the driveway to the basement car park this morning on the way back from a walk, kept a serve of date and fig pudding for me after I said I regretted that it was on the lunch menu but not the dinner one. If we were staying here another night I am sure we would be eating there again. But back to my book………

February 18, 2021

We enjoyed exploring Long Jetty this morning, walking out onto the longest jetty and then reading lots about them from an artwork in the park featuring old photos of the building of the jetties. The flood of 1927 destroyed the original jetty, replete with a ferry waiting room at the end, this information was part of the display plus pictures of the early settlers of the area. I had looked up best food in the area on Tripadvisor and The Green Tangerine topped the list so we decided to lunch there. We shared a smashed avo on sourdough and it came loaded with beetroot labneh and lots of yummy seeds, bits and bobs. Later we shared a waffle and it came with caramelised banana, berries and candied walnuts. Its reputation was richly deserved so we bought some of their delicious sourdough as well. Next on to the Ken Duncan Photography Gallery where his large framed photos sell for upwards of $3000 with some over $5000. Some of them were just too saturated in colour for my taste but the detail in all of them is extraordinary. My faves were all snow scenes, one a huge picture of a wombat in the Snowy Mountains, another a standing polar bear in Canada hugging a sled dog in its massive paws and the third a shot, probably from a drone, of two polar bears on an icy expanse. Interestingly John loved the highly coloured ones, his favourite was of zebras and giraffes. On we went to Sue’s, arriving late afternoon to be told that she had booked us into Bells for dinner. We had a long slow dinner but I was careful to only eat half a main and got them to package up the rest of the delicious snapper fillet in pistou broth. However it was still too much on top of lunch and I paid for it all night. We spent much conversation on the back story behind a very beautiful young woman dressed (overdressed?) in a backless full length black number. Early in the night there was a man at the table too but he departed before the food arrived. However she ate her way through three courses alone and the man never returned. John asked the French waiter what he thought was going on and the waiter replied ‘we are wondering too sir, but if you are interested there are already five of the staff in the queue’.

February 19, 2021

No breakfast for moi, just a cuppa and a chat. Off we went to Prof. Reeves office for my 11.20 appointment. As John was parking they rang to say that a patient had had a bad reaction to a treatment so he was running an hour late. Ultimately we didn’t get in till 12.30, but it was good to see him in his Mickey Mouse tie. He went through all the usual stuff, checking the blood tests etc and declaring me stable. Then he asked ‘So has anything else happened in the last six months?’ and I told him I had just had surgery, of course he wanted to know chapter and verse. ‘So what scans have you had? What blood markers have been tested?’ He asked lots of questions and then told me he was ordering an urgent PET scan and CAT scan. Groan. And yet more blood tests for cancer markers. Just in case I wasn’t going to go ahead immediately he said that we will talk on the phone as soon as the results arrive back to him and insisted that I ring and book the tests as soon as possible, pointing out again that he had marked them URGENT. I kept explaining that it was a pre-cancerous diagnosis but he said ‘well we are not going to wait two months to find out for sure!’. Then he dictated a letter to Alan expressing his concern and pointing out that ‘I have been looking after this patient for nearly a decade’, effectively pulling rank with an equal. Oh my, battling professors at 20 paces. I just wanted to pull a doona over my head at the thought of dear Alan reading this, despite the friendly tone and the ‘I have taken the liberty’ and the ‘with your kind permission’.

On the way home we stopped in at Cake Decorating Central and I got some supplies for Millie’s cake, with some ideas now percolating about how to proceed. However by the time I had unpacked the bags I felt as if I’d had the bone pointed at me and I need to keep reminding myself that they are both very good men who only want the best for me and I should feel extremely lucky about that. But later I still felt so awkward that I shot off an email to Alan explaining the situation briefly and letting him know that a letter from Glenn is in the works. Tomorrow will be a better day, please. At least my piece of snapper in pistou broth was absolutely delicious for dinner, first meal of the day.

February 20, 2021

Up to the pathology lab to get the blood tests Glenn ordered but I won’t go on Saturdays again, I was number 19 and they were doing number 9. Then a woman was going on about people wearing masks ‘when they don’t have to’ (that was me actually) and I ignored her for a while but then she started on about the waste of disposable masks (me again) and the fact that you needed to throw them away. ‘Actually, no’ I offered, ‘if you put them outside in the sun for two hours you can kill viruses pretty easily’. She was not happy and I didn’t give a fig. Then my turn finally came and and the young lady’s name was Ipek. After commenting on the unusual name she asked if I would like to guess her origins as ‘plenty of people have tried but no-one has succeeded so far’. After some thought I offered Syria and she was amazed that I was right, so we chatted names and ethnicities as she did her work. On leaving, as we walked through the waiting room to the desk, she said ‘oh I do hope I get you next time, it’s been so lovely to talk’. The look on the blond cow’s face was worth a photograph. Maureen 1, Mask Hater nil. The question still arises: why does my wearing a mask (in a medical facility no less) get someone’s dander up?

Then we headed off to Eden Gardens Nursery for lunch with friends. They were 10 of us and the undercover outdoor location was excellent, but as last time the food leaves a lot to be desired. My smoked salmon dish had plenty of the main ingredient but the accompaniments of undercooked sauteed cauliflower and three bits of bread made it an expensive salmon sandwich. John’s fish and chips looked great though it tasted like low grade fish, perhaps basa or similar, but almost certainly frozen. Company was worth the price though.

I got a very quick reply to my email to Alan, the surgeon, last night. He said I am ‘too polite’, but thanked me for forewarning him that Glenn had sent a missive and ordered a raft of invasive tests. He has no objections, which makes me feel a little better. (Why do I feel so protective of him?) Unfortunately I also discovered why Alan has been referring to my results as pre-cancer while both Bob and Glenn have looked at the same results and called it cancer. It is all to do with the grading system. Of the four possible grades, it is universal that the first two are considered pre-cancerous. However some doctors still call grade 3 pre-cancer (as Alan did) but others call it carcinoma in situ, considering that it has already become cancer, based on the fact that it will definitely progress to other parts of the body if untreated. This is Glenn’s view and why he had a fit when I told him the news. It has been a week where I have gone from well to pre-cancer to cancer as the days progressed. My head needs to catch up with the speed of this momentous turn of events.

February 21, 2021

The ants are back! I don’t think I can bear it at the moment. They were there when I woke up this morning and so the kitchen was de-anted, the tiles and benchtops cleaned, but when I came home hours later there were twice as many, including in the pantry all over the sealed honey container. Although they can’t get into anything in the pantry they swarm longingly over everything sweet, just in case they can find a way in. It will drive me to drink.

We were supposed to mind Millie at John’s house today but she has a cold and so Louis volunteered to mind her while Davina and I used their tickets to go to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – the Musical, put on by the Lane Cove Players and featuring Dav’s friend Emily. The story raises interesting questions about personal responsibility and the combination of good and evil within a single individual. Also there are questions about culpability for crimes committed under the influence of drugs and with the burden of mental illness. All very current despite the book being first published in 1886. Of course this was a musical, not a heavy dissertation and there were some wonderful singing voices, it was an altogether excellent production. I came home excited to ring John and tell him all about the show, but there were ants. Just in the week when I will be playing around with sugar and then icing a birthday cake, of course you can’t put fondant in the fridge….

February 22, 2021

After de-anting the kitchen FIVE times last night I went for the big guns. I used surface spray clearly marked ‘Do not use inside’ and sprayed the crack whether they enter and the cornice along which they travel to the kitchen. The decision was clear: the toxicity of the spray is less likely to cause me illness and death than the continued soul-destroying visitation of the ants. So I removed all ants I could with a cloth dipped in salt and water, they hate salt apparently, and then sprayed. A few more arrived but promptly turned back to whence they came and I went to bed in peace and hope. This morning there were a few still arriving and very quickly turning back, so mission accomplished?

On Friday afternoon, as instructed, I sent photographs of the PET and CAT scan requests to St. Vincent’s Nuclear Medicine Department. I was supposed to get an automated reply which didn’t arrive, so I gave them till noon today and when none had come I rang them, only to be told that they didn’t receive the photos. The lovely man fitted me in tomorrow anyway because the resent paperwork was marked Urgent. A doctor giving me the instructions for the PET scan said I have to rest today, ‘just drink tea and read a book’, apparently this is an important part of the prep and probably the best medical advice I have ever had. Tomorrow is fasting which is easy for a 9.15 appointment, but it takes about 3 hours so I will be a mite peckish by the end. I so hate the thought of the radiation, but I am trying to look on it as an educational experience, never having had either of the procedures planned. I always refuse sedation before an operation so I can check out the operating theatre equipment, so I guess there will be things for me to learn here too.

This morning I was writing notes for the book group presentation and I realise that I am emotionally attached to both the book and the author. It isn’t just another novel for me, but an uplifting story of courage and determination to survive horrendous life experiences. It is told in such an understated and indeed funny way that it makes a greater impression then if we were plunged into horror from the beginning.

February 23, 2021

I am so glad I don’t need to battle that traffic to the city every morning, it’s horrendous. The bus is great, but it’s over a year since I used it. John dropped me off at the door of the hospital with just minutes to spare, having taken an hour and a half for a 45 minute journey. The Nuclear Medicine Department is in the bowels of the hospital, as it is in most places, along with the mortuary it is the most feared part of any hospital. I knew exactly where to go after shepherding John there so many times. I told him that god is evening the score for all the times I battled through traffic to get there when he was too sick to drive and had multiple appointments. I met the delightful Andrew with whom I had conversations yesterday when it was discovered that my email of the request forms hadn’t been received. I saw two nurses and a doctor who explained the procedure and offered Valium if I felt too concerned about claustrophobia. However I decided to refuse it and was glad I did. First was an infusion of contrast and a CT scan, the fact that there is a hole at the far end of the machine making it quite tolerable. I asked if there was an ‘eject button’ but not everyone has a sense of humour. Next I went back to the prep room and a large heavy machine was wheeled in. It contained the radioactive tracer which pumped into the cannula automatically with the nurse hiding in the corridor. I lay back relaxing and thinking of Fukushima and Three Mile Island. When it finished she removed the hefty machine and I rested there for an hour for it to circulate and then went back to the scanner. This time it was long and slow, with the bed automatically moving a short distance every two minutes until it had covered my whole body. The staff were behind a protective wall but there was a microphone to contact them if necessary. After a 10 minute compulsory rest I was free to go and John was sitting outside, visitors not encouraged to even sit in the waiting room, due I guess to the possibility of background radiation? When I was doing Biological Sciences a fellow student had trained and worked in Nuclear Medicine at Auburn Hospital but his 6 monthly blood count had shown changes that indicated he had been affected by the radiation and he was re-training in pathology. I was warned not to go near children or women who could be pregnant for the rest of the day as I was mildly radioactive but as we walked back to the car just after noon I decided that the day wasn’t nearly as stressful as I had been warned it might be. Now it’s just a wait for the results….

February 24, 2021

Making Millie’s cake was the order of the day. Decided to do a red velvet mud cake which is a strong colour to go with the bright blue of the icing. It rose well, in fact too well, one side rising to the top of the tin and the other much higher for some reason. I lopped it off level with the top of the tin, but I will need to use some of the cut off section to patch the sides a bit. Just what I didn’t need. However the tart for the book group seems to have worked out well. In this humid weather I’ve decided that icing the birthday cake tomorrow is too early, so Friday is going to be a busy day.

Today I had three calls from the Nuclear Medicine doctors, each one causing me to have more questions about why they were asking. The first was to get the date of surgery and wanting access to the pathology, to which I replied ‘just ring the surgeon’s secretary’, this seemed reasonable though pretty obvious I thought. Second was to say they couldn’t get on to her and also checking whether the surgeon believed that the problem was cancer when he did the operation, answer no. The third was wanting to know if the op was a biopsy or a resection, the latter. They asked if I were sure and also if there was only one operation or two. By the end of all this I was starting to wonder what was going on down there and what the questions signified, but I sensed I wasn’t going to get any answers. I had been led to believe that the report would be in my doctors’ hands this afternoon but I’ve had no calls so I assume no-one has it yet, waiting is such fun.

February 25, 2021

Decided to attack Millie’s cake after making a big pot of cream of zucchini soup. A big pot because Sue’s neighbour went to Melbourne over Christmas so she could rent out her Killcare house for a month for some incredible sum that I’ve forgotten. However no-one picked the zucchinis! So Sue gave me the biggest one known to man which made said large pot of soup, some of which I will be eating for dinner. Then I got on to the cake, which I needed to cut down slightly because of a baking malfunction. It isn’t a masterpiece this year, simply a fondant covered cake in dark blue with various Mario toys of hers on top and on the board and covered with gold foil covered chocolate coins and some stars with eyes painted on them. It’s all a complete mystery to me as I have never seen this Mario or the other characters, I think they are from some sort of video game.

I have heard from no doctor and when I rang the surgeon’s office this morning she said that yes the report is there and as it’s his morning seeing patients he would ring me between them. I think he was leaving at noon and it’s now 5.30pm so I still haven’t a clue what’s happening. No good saying ‘no news is good news’ because the last news I got from Alan took 13 days and it wasn’t good.

February 26, 2021

Finally a call from Alan to say that all test results are normal, so no metastatic spread. He wants me to come back in about 10 days for a check-up and then regularly for an as yet unknown period of time to ensure that it stays that way. I was girded to deal with a bad result calmly, but luckily my preparation was unnecessary. So now I can forget about it till the next visit on March 8.

Carly arrived at lunchtime from Canberra and Sue later in the afternoon. Book group was at Sonia’s and almost all either liked or loved the book The Prince of West End Avenue, while one person disliked it a lot. It made for an interesting discussion, which morphed into a discussion about drinking to excess, women’s responsibility for self care against the possibility of male violence and the differing expectations of young women in terms of behaviour. Although I didn’t think to phrase it quite this way I later thought that a man walking past my house naked and drunk would be safe from me, so I think it’s not unreasonable to expect that if our situations were reversed then I should be safe from him. It certainly wouldn’t occur to me to call the police if he weren’t behaving in an aggressive manner, knowing the lack of subtlety the police show in such matters. I think we all enjoyed the freedom of a normal meeting after a year of Covid limitations. Carly, Sue and I kicked on till the witching hour, going over discussions had earlier in the night.

February 27, 2021

We three girls decided to brunch at Wild Pear and trotted off there for about 9.30. Sue suggested the daily special of pecorino stuffed zucchini flowers with honey drizzle and then we all shared a dish of kale and zucchini fritters with a cucumber salad and yogurt. It has been lovely having both Sue and Carly here overnight and today. Sue headed off for a late lunch with her kids in town while Carly and I came back home to have a day of reading, wrapping Millie’s presents and generally relaxing. I unfortunately decided to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, just because it appeared in my street library. What a mistake. I quickly decided that the author and I are on very different paths in life. I seriously wonder whether she has some sort of mental problem as she is obsessive in the extreme. Perhaps she is in serious need of a purpose in life, apart from tidying of course. For those who get something out of it, well and good, but it just made me appreciate my clutter all the more. At least I will have absolutely no problem in tossing this book out.

I was tired from doing not much and was getting ready for bed at 10.30 pm when the bro rang and then we talked till 12.15. Lockdown is still very harsh where he is and I sometimes forget that all restaurants, pubs, libraries, cinemas, op shops etc are still closed. They are doing it so tough compared to us, due to the pathetic mishandling by Boris. My friend Anne said that she had to go just over the hill to the next village for her vaccination but there was no direct bus and she doesn’t drive. They told her to get a taxi and bill the NHS but the fare was 43 POUNDS. How could that possibly be? I asked. Because the driver had been told to wait for her in the car park and bring her back. With the metre ticking while she queued up for the shot and then waited the mandatory time afterwards, it was 43 pounds for just one person. Multiply that by the thousands who live in villages, who could all have been transported by a bus surely, and it’s a terrible waste of money due to lack of organisation.

February 28, 2021

Up early and in to Erko to assist in welcoming 14 five-year-olds, each with a parent, plus of course our little party of three and Louis’ mum Sue. As expected Louis had excelled himself in decorating the place with Mario appropriate cardboard signage, helium balloons and lots of arty touches. Sue and Dav had worked hard on the food. The parents  are a lovely bunch of people, most seen only twice a year at Millie’s parties and the Froebel Christmas party. One (handsome) dad when asked by Carly what he did, replied ‘oh a bit of acting, a bit of voiceover and I run a boutique gin distillery’. No bus drivers in this little coterie. The cake went over well and one mother came over and said ‘I honestly think that’s the most delicious cake I’ve ever eaten’, so despite the kids all having blue tongues from the icing, I can call it a success. Dropped John home where he juiced a few kilos of carrots for us to share and we had a brief encounter with Ann who was pleased to see that Carly was wearing earrings Ann had given me for Christmas and I was wearing a necklace with the same provenance. She had a gift of yet another brightly coloured necklace that she’d bought for me, so I insisted that it be my birthday present for October.

I have been surprised this year that I never seem to get a reply to my emails to Martha and at book group she asked if she had offended me with a limerick she wrote about me. I had sent not one but two positive replies so I investigated and it turns out she’s had no emails from me since December last year. The address is correct so I forwarded 16 emails only to discover that she received none. I was wondering why she never replies and she was wondering why I never do. Not sure of the answer except maybe sending them via Phil.

March 1, 2021

A day for sorting out ongoing problems, largely successfully. Finally the emails to Martha arrived to her inbox, circuitously by forwarding them to Phil, but that gives neither of us any explanation about why they won’t go through directly so it will be communication via text only from now on. It seems that the ant issue is solved, after a few attempts to enter through the crack in the wall the little blighters have come across the surface spray and decided to move to a safer environment. I wish I had done that last year when they nearly drove me crackers. Another ongoing issue is my attempts to find out how the Mudgee Honey Haven is able to sell its products without ingredients on the label. I had put in a complaint to the local council on January 27 and they promised to investigate. Last Friday I rang again to see how this was progressing and today they rang back full of apologies, effectively they had done nothing. Another set of promises to investigate why this company isn’t following the law but as it is a major drawcard in the town I understand and expected their reluctance to deal with it. The Apiarists Association head suggested that diluting the honey with glucose or rice syrup could be the reason that they are not labelling the products. Better to be fined for lack of labelling than to be caught out adulterating the product. We shall see, but I am not giving up on this one so they will have to keep fobbing me off for a lot longer yet. The other more successful work of the day was to contact the store where I bought my new microwave last May to tell them that it had bitten the dust. The electronics seemed to work, as did the turntable, but nothing heated up in it as of yesterday. I had the receipt and they didn’t flinch about replacing it with an identical new one. Carly helped me lift it into place, my arms are not what they used to be! She pointed out that I stored a heavy cast iron cooking pot on top of it and that perhaps that had had an effect on it. When I stopped to think that the major component of a microwave oven is called a magnetron….perhaps it makes sense that putting a heavy metal item on top of it may perhaps alter its workings? I don’t understand the physics of it. But certainly nothing in the manual suggests this, however the cast iron pot needs to find a new home I think.

March 2, 2021

Tomorrow is my debut at the sewing group so I decided to do an asparagus and cream cheese tart, a decision confirmed at the fruit market when I saw asparagus was 3 bunches for $5. Of course now I can’t find the rest of the cottons, fabrics and trimmings that I was going to donate but instead I did find a box of spare chandelier crystals which would be great for masking tassels or similar and a box of old empty picture frames which could be painted and repurposed. With a box of doilies that I had already put aside I decided it was enough to pay my dues. I am well on my way to another Sallies delivery, adding in a lovely 1970s pottery teapot that someone gave to Sue and she gave to me. But we discovered on Friday night that it’s a terrible dribbly pourer, which is probably why Sue was given it, however someone may like it as a decoration. The other things in the box have had numerous turns on eBay with no response, plates I got $45 each for in the shop I can’t $15 for 5 on eBay. Minimalism has a lot to answer for.

Carly and I were talking about murder (for some reason I can’t now remember) and I thought of how many murders there had been involving people I knew through the shop. First there was a famous case where a wealthy local woman was kidnapped and never seen again, presumably a ransom gone wrong. Her killer died in gaol not too long ago. Both she and her husband were regulars every Friday. Then a man about 60 who had a big collection of antiques in a shed on his property was murdered by a young fellow who was living in a caravan there, I suspect there was a sexual motive in that one. A tragic case involved a woman going to the Windsor Police to organise an AVO when all of a sudden the police flew out to their cars and took off. Later she discovered that they had gone to her house where her estranged husband had murdered her two small children and her father who was minding them. Both she and her father were clients. Another regular client whose house I had delivered to in Baulkham Hills killed her 10 year old son and then committed suicide, wrongly fearing that welfare officers were going to take him. More recently a young local drug dealer was kidnapped by four others in a drug turf war and murdered by them, in that case I knew one of the perpetrators and his family. I attended some of his first murder trial in Darlinghurst but it was a hung jury, as was the second, a result due only to the skill of their barrister and not due to their innocence in my opinion. They later did a plea deal and accepted a manslaughter conviction but I have been unable to ascertain their sentences. Another case was an upholsterer I sometimes used who was murdered in a domestic confrontation by his mother-in-law who was protecting her daughter. I know there is another, but the last one escapes me right now, which is pretty shocking in itself.

March 3, 2021

I refined my search on the net and discovered that the four drug dealers previously mentioned who agreed to a plea deal and accepted manslaughter convictions, were each given a sentence of 15 years with 11 non-parole. I doubt they’ll ever be any different when they get out but I live in hope. The one of the men whom I knew came from a family of ugly outspoken racists (not that this was a factor in the murder) who had no respect at all for the law, but of course they were able to go on their merry way while he spends the next good while in gaol.

Today was my first day at the sewing/craft group and I took along an asparagus and cream cheese tart and my mending. I was also able to dispose of a box of picture frames to Martha and the crystals and linen which were put into the group’s stores. I arrived home just in time for Christian Porter’s press conference. He is either innocent or deserving of an Oscar, but which? I noted that Police Commissioner Fullofhimself was planning to go on to the board of the Australian Rugby League Commission. Talk about conflict of interest! I can’t believe that he couldn’t see how wrong this would be considering how often footballers get into legal strife. It just confirms what I have always thought: that neither he nor Berejiklian are the least bit concerned about being dodgy or being seen to be dodgy, they will get away with whatever they can. It won’t surprise me at all if he gets a Liberal pre-selection down the track.

March 4, 2021

Today was a first for me, going to a bishop’s funeral, Bishop Bede Heather in fact. I had met him some years ago at a wedding in his family that we attended. Actually, John didn’t want to go into the cathedral at Parramatta, or any other Catholic church for that matter, so we arrived near the end and waited outside to attend the social event afterwards. I would actually have liked to see them all lined up inside in their robes but no matter. I don’t think I have ever seen so many priests in one spot before, but the one I would have really loved to see, Anglican priest Rod Bower from Gosford, left straight afterwards so I didn’t get to meet him. Dang. I get his sermons via Facebook every Sunday and I am one of his many atheist followers. Apparently, according to his nephew, a good friend of John’s, Bede’s dying wish was to have Rod Bower concelebrate his funeral service, but of course the powers that be were having none of it. When he gave his eulogy Peter related that wish to the bishops, nuns and priests present, just to rub it in. Interestingly Bede had been attending Rod’s church for some years and referred to him as ‘my parish priest’, they became very close friends. I must buy a copy of Rod’s autobiographical book as it was a library copy that I read and it moved me greatly, hence my following him ever since. Talking about books, I have decided that from now on I must record every book I lend. My friend Michelle does this and I didn’t think I needed to, but I was wrong. Last week I was offered a book to read and I immediately replied that I own the same volume, a large history of the Romanovs. On coming home I checked and mine was missing. It turns out that the person who borrowed it from me gave it to someone else to keep, but because it was about Russia that person luckily offered it to me to read first. It’s an expensive book and was a gift, but I got it back only by mere luck. I am also missing Slow and Steady by John’s nephew John de Ravin, a lifelong guide for wealth building covering everything from saving pocket money to funerals. If I had read it 50 years ago I could have been a wealthy woman now, but much of the contents was complete news to me. When my high school wanted me to go into the economics class my mother said to me: what’s the point of that? you’ll never have any money, so what good is economics? Another loss is my friend Carol’s book Happily Ever After on aged care and there are others that I can’t bring to mind right now. Oh yes I just did, a book by the hypnotherapist friend who organised treatment for my migraines. I went on TV at one stage in an interview about his unique methods but my signed copy is up in smoke. Nary a newspaper goes out of here now without it being written down. (I will weaken of course but that’s today’s resolution.)

March 5, 2021

John has had a lump on his leg for a while and when he showed Bob at the end of last year he said to watch and wait. Bob is now pretty shocked at how it has grown and referred him to RNS Dermatology Clinic. It appears it is a large skin cancer, but now it is looking red and inflamed so we are worried about the possibility of infection. He’s been listed as category one in importance but still the appointment isn’t till March 22. I decided to call his infectious diseases doc to see if she is happy with him waiting so long, but she is off sick and her secretary said to get on to Bob on Monday to see if he can ring the doctor and press for an earlier appointment. If it worsens, she recommended going to Accident and Emergency. We never seem to get much space between medical issues, perhaps it’s just the age we are. Went to visit Martha and Phil this morning and he is looking sooo thin, it’s a real worry. Their garden is so pleasant and the back deck is a lovely place to sit and take in their many birds. I can’t believe how fast the wisteria has grown to cover the deck, almost like a sun roof. After lunch of the remains of the delicious zucchini soup we attacked some branches of a bush that had grown too tall and were spoiling the outline of the hawthorn when viewed from the front verandah. Many people would say who cares? but John understood immediately and sawed them off, then we managed to get them all into the green bin so a good job jobbed. He is now on the verandah whittling chess pieces (or a chess piece I should say). He made a beautiful chess table as a project at university and whittled all the pawns but never got around to finishing it. He has always said it was a job for his retirement so about 10 years ago I bought him a very fancy knife from a specialist business which only sells knives. It hasn’t left the scabbard till today, but I hope I see it coming out much more in future.

March 6, 2021

I baked this morning in my PJs so that was a good start to the day. Then decided to contact by text or email quite a few people I hadn’t spoken to in a while. One was a friend of John’s whom I particularly like who has also had lymphoma, but more recently than John. He’s had a hard battle with treatment and recently had shingles so badly that he was hospitalised. When I read his reply out to John he said ‘oh dear, has he been sick?’. He’d completely forgotten that he’d had lymphoma and therefore hadn’t been enquiring about his friend’s condition when they spoke, despite the fact that this friend had been particularly supportive when John was sick. Perhaps I need to be in touch with his friends more often, and not just the particular ones that I have become friendly with. They are a tight bunch but it’s still possible to misconstrue things when you are dealing with people remotely.

Today I did another ABC Vox Pop survey and the questions were wide-ranging and sometimes taxing, considering that you get the choice of 4 or 5 answers and can’t frame them in your own words. Given a list of things that politicians should resign over, some like lying to parliament or misuse of funds were obvious, but how do you answer ‘if they are to appear before a corruption commission’. Well that depends on the ultimate decision, so one has to answer no, but it could be misinterpreted. Why do I take such things so seriously? It’s only a bloody survey, but once I’ve committed to do it I feel I need to answer as carefully as possible. Easier was a list of drugs I’ve used and how often. Boring person that I am I could only tick alcohol from a very long list. I have always felt that my willpower isn’t up to that temptation and have refused everything I’ve been offered, often to the derision of friends in the 1960s.

March 7, 2021

Just gave my neighbour some of the very hot Thai chilies that I’m growing and he told me that I had to put the paper bag on the fence because in his culture handing chilies to someone directly precedes a falling out. Funny to hear that a gift could cause a rift. Boom tish. A huge branch of the golden elm has landed in the back garden and flattened, without breaking it, a branch of the jacaranda. So we, mostly John, tied it back upright from its horizontal position on the grass. It reminded me to contact Kirk to do the mowing and he can use his chainsaw to cut up the branch. We had morning tea with Carol and Jack and I came home with both a book and a whole dish of rhubarb crumble as Carol had made two. Talk about making one’s visits profitable. John still has a map in his head of the places he’s been frequently and their house is in that category, however today he had no idea how to get there and I needed to tell him where to go at every intersection. I’m hoping that it is a temporary loss because otherwise it seems to indicate that his memory is failing even more. He saw Grace Tame on Insiders and asked who she was and ‘what is she famous for?’ which was fine except that we’d had exactly the same discussion a few times this week and each time I’ve told him he asks ‘how come I’ve never seen her before?’.

Tomorrow I see the surgeon again and somehow I’ve lost the list of questions I wrote out, so I will have to rely on the two or three I can remember, but probably a good thing. It’s better that I shut up and listen and base my questions on his comments. Although I go with John to all his appointments I feel better seeing Alan on my own. My concentration is derailed with someone else there whom I need to consider. As Tim used to say in the shop: ‘you are the only woman I know who absolutely can’t multi-task’. Never was a truer word spoken.

March 8, 2021

Saw Alan Meagher and he is sending me for tests to another Professor who is a specialist immunologist working with The Kirby Institute at UNSW, The Garvan Institute and The Kinghorn Cancer Centre. He has a particular interest in this virally generated type of cancer which only attacks people with compromised immune systems. Apparently over 80% of people have HPV at some point but it only rarely causes problems, because of immune suppression of one sort or another. He is also very interested in HIV and I am to see him in ‘the old St. Vincent’s HIV clinic’. I feel as if I’m going back in time, plenty of which was spent in HIV clinics with the boys, there and at RPA. Then back to Alan in 3 months. He originally said 4 months, then as I walked out he said ‘let’s make that 3 months, I need to be careful with you’. Interpretations could be made, but I am settling on the fact that I know he likes me and discarding the options that he knows that my immunologist Glenn Reeves is on his hammer or that he’s especially worried. Juggling three professors is a trick I will need to work on, I have appointments with all three coming up. If the new one is as pleasurable as the other two we will get on fine.

From there we travelled to Castle Hill cinema, downing a few quick pieces of sushi in the food court nearby, and actually went to the movies! First time since last February and there were four of us in total in the showing of The Dry. I loved it even though I had read the book and knew the story. John (as has become common with books, buildings and now movies) believed he had definitely seen it before and even though I told him it is a new film he went off to ask the cleaning up person who came in at the end. Then he loudly said ‘you’re right, this lady said it is new’, except it was a man with a high voice. Dying, I rushed us out of there as quickly as I could.

March 9, 2021

Today was the launch of the first of John’s five street libraries built for Link Housing, the installation of which were unfortunately stalled by the pandemic. He has three going up this week and two more pending. Today’s was in Eastwood outside an attractive block with a decent garden around it. They only managed to rustle up six tenants to watch but I guess some people go to work. Interestingly after professional signs were made for each side of the libraries proudly declaring that they were made for Link Housing, the tenants complained, saying that they didn’t want their homes to be identified as social housing. So all the signs were binned. John gave a short speech, the themes of which we had discussed over breakfast, then we sat in the garden and had some morning tea with the residents. The brand new housing manager whose bailiwick includes that block was also present though I noted that he didn’t say a word to the tenants, which was odd as it seemed a perfect opportunity to build some social capital. The advertising material for the launch showed John with Martha’s library which was odd considering he doesn’t remember giving them the picture, though clearly he must have. One down successfully, four to go.

I just watched the whole of a 35 minute Youtube presentation about Covid 19 by a German doctor. It was sent to me by a close friend and I poo-baad it months ago after only watching 10 minutes. However my friend brought it up again so I ploughed through the whole thing. Among other things he claims that: 1. The AIDS epidemic was caused entirely by the use of the party drug amyl nitrate. How does this explain the African disaster of deaths from AIDS? 2.’If you stop testing for Covid 19 the epidemic will be gone’. This is probably where Trump got the idea and we all laughed at him. 3.’The only explanation for deaths in the UK, USA and Brazil is from doctors giving overdoses of hydroxychloroquine’. Seeing the drug was quickly found not to work and was only given to a small group of people in the first place, how does he explain the later and the current deaths? Since the hydroxy trials ended he says there ‘are no more excess deaths than usual’. So clearly every government in the world has colluded since then in falsifying death numbers upwards, if he is to be believed. A crank pure and simple, and a dangerous one at that.

March 10, 2021

After the launch of the first street library yesterday John was contacted by someone from Channel 10 to go on the Studio Ten program this morning. The plan was for the cameraman and journalist to arrive before 7 am today, record him working at his balcony ‘workshop’, then follow him to the second launch at Hornsby at 11 and film that live. I intended to watch it at 11 of course but then John rang me to say that they’d changed their minds and filmed him live to air at 8.30, so of course I missed it altogether. Perhaps they will send him a cut, I don’t know, but he said it went well.

I sometimes read Jessica Irvine’s Money column in the Sun-Herald and I am always amazed at the lengths she will go to in order to save a small amount. But last Sunday she excelled herself, recommending that we try having extras cover on our health insurance for just two months of the year, to allow for the waiting period, then ‘quickly max out all our claims’ and cancel for the remaining part of the year. She suggests rejoining the following year and doing the same thing. I was pretty cheesed off by this suggestion and wrote a letter to the editor, copying in Medibank Private. If a company used such methods we would rightly report them to an appropriate consumer body, so why it is okay for us to use them? She ends the piece with Sneaky, no? Sneaky, yes. And morally questionable, I would add. Perhaps the column should be retitled ‘Willing to do Anything for Money’ but I guess that it shouldn’t surprise me. Years later, I still recall the dinner discussion with some ‘money’ people we know. After we commented about the terrible scenes on television of people being thrown onto the streets by sheriffs in the US due to to the sub-prime mortgage crisis one seriously asked the other: ‘I wonder if we should we be investing now in US real estate?’ A compassion-free zone is money.

Last night late my neighbour rang to ask if I knew there was a big branch on my roof. Seeing it is dead wood I think it must have come from my tree rather than Arvind’s and it was hooked around the chimney on the far side from his tree. At 7.30 am I rang the SES and before 8 someone came to assess the job, followed soon after by a compatriot to do the same. I am told a team will be here later today to get it down and check for broken tiles. What would we do without the SES?

March 11, 2021

Well the SES men came as promised, two hardy pros Paul and Joe and two older trainees, Denis and mmm, well I tried to remember all four. They put their extension ladder into Justin’s place and mmm climbed up and swung a rope around the branch, tying some expert looking boy scout knots around one end before gently lowering it down, under constant instruction from the two old hands. Mission accomplished quickly and efficiently with a branch at least 15 feet long, probably more, then Denis cut it up with a hand saw. They couldn’t see any sign of broken tiles which was a minor miracle, the first time a branch has come down without significant damage. I know from past experience that they are not allowed to accept anything, even food, so there was no point asking. ‘Instant dismissal’ was the reply last time I asked. Coincidentally Joe was one of the team who cut up the big tree which fell in February 2020, so as they left he said ‘see you next February or March’.

Last night I pored over some recipe books for a menu to serve to a friend coming to lunch tomorrow. Decisions made, I went up to the shops first thing today to get the ingredients for a two course lunch. I was back home feeling pleased with myself, just choosing a tablecloth to iron (I am trying to use my extensive collection of linen) when a text came in asking if it were okay to change to morning tea instead. I guess John will enjoy the food at the weekend but there were three salads, which I love and he is quite ambivalent about so I will need to serve one with each of three meals I think. One was a warm salmon salad and John baulks at the concept, ‘how can it be a salad if it’s warm?’ As I say to him: ‘if it wasn’t on a menu in 1953 you don’t want it’ and he agrees. I guess I am lucky that he will eat a curry.

March 12, 2021

Enjoyed the morning spent talking books and all else with my buddy. Talking about the Southern Highlands with him made me think that we are overdue for a visit, especially on a slightly overcast day like today. So I’ve looked up the place he stayed recently and it is a lot cheaper on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Easter for obvious reasons. Thinking. But there’s also Kiama….

I finally got a call from the new Professor’s office, it’s taken a week. His assistant’s first question was whether I have a problem with a male nurse, Dan, assisting with any procedures necessary, to which I replied in the negative. She sent me a lot of information about the Prof and the fact that as well as being a clinical Professor he is also involved in research on the particular condition I have, so that’s a positive in my book. She also reiterated the 1 in 100,000 figure, saying it is a very rare disease, apparently he is the pre-eminent specialist in its treatment in this country. How lucky am I that I opted for St. Vincent’s over a local hospital. Although I like to get all the facts on everything medical, I was somewhat flat after reading that there is a long term research project going on in the US to ascertain the best treatment: chemo, radiation, surgery, ablation or direct application of chemicals or a combination of these, but it will be a few years before the results are known. That’s the problem with rare diseases, statistics are hard to accumulate. As well I am still juggling with RNS to get John seen earlier than the 22nd for his leg, but that date is the first time this particular doctor is available so we are stuck. I can see my own appointments stretching forward into winter with perhaps no answers forthcoming and on top of John’s medical stuff I am finding it all a bit of a weight at the moment. Having read all the material that the Prof’s office sent me, including watching quite a number of short videos, I can see why some people just put their heads under the doona about medical stuff, but I don’t want to be that person so I just need to take a few deep breaths and look on it as an (unwanted) educational experience.

March 13, 2021

Decided to go ahead with the Bowral plan, rather than the Kiama one, mainly because Carly flagged the possibility of travelling there by train to meet us for her birthday, the day we would arrive. So we can lunch together if she is able to jag the day off. I rang Milton Park and also Briars Country Lodge and the latter was over $350 cheaper for the three nights. I was inclined to try there because Tony and Kathleen had highly recommended it. The receptionist asked if we had been before and when I answered no she asked how we found out about the place. I replied that is was a friend’s suggestion and she followed by asking who that was ‘oh, Tony and Kathleen are regulars’ she replied. It’s on 10 acres so although it doesn’t have the superb gardens of Milton Park it’s not a scabby motel either. Excited. I want to go again to Joadja, the deserted ex shale mining village inland of Bowral, haven’t been there for about 40 years. Also the tracks around the waterfall at Robertson are beckoning me. Perhaps I will even get to wear the fancy pants raincoat I bought in Bowral exactly two years before this trip. Covid conspired to ensure that I didn’t go out at all last winter and a resplendent raincoat to go to the letterbox seemed overkill.

Made soup for lunch from a fridge raid and it was a collection of allsorts: some chicken I’d cooked for John last week, cooked onion, some soft tomatoes, Arborio rice, the dregs of some chutney, a little piece of one of my home-grown super hot chillies – hey presto chef’s soup of the day with just a can of coconut milk to turn it into soup. John had said at 8 am that he was about to have breakfast and then he was coming here about morning tea time, when I rang as the soup was cooking at 1 pm he was ‘just leaving’. The problem with my wonderfully prolific chilli plant is that only my Indian neighbours next door can eat them in any quantity, I use about an eighth of a chili in a recipe and I like hot food.

March 14, 2021

Just two Liberals left in Western Australia’s parliament after yesterday’s state election. But for me, two is still two too many. They can meet in a phone box perhaps, or discuss parliamentary business at a small table in a cafe. Of course Mark’s decision to keep the borders closed because of Covid was hugely popular but I’m sure the fact that the Liberals have two lame duck ministers in the Federal sphere at the moment cost them some votes as well. Whatever the reasons it bodes well for the Left at the next Federal poll, nothing like the landslide WA experienced of course, but surely now that it seems Christian Porter has been shown to be lying about his knowledge of the accusations against him, he can’t come back from that. Bring on the election, I can’t wait.

We were invited to lunch today at the Marist Brothers Monastery at Randwick, where John’s cousin Kevin resides. There were 15 of us at lunch, replete with wine or beer. Most of the residents are over 90 but are surprisingly with it and appear reasonably healthy. Of course many are named John which made remembering all the names easier, just the odd Michael, Dennis and Vincent to recall. Apparently if they sicken they are taken to another residence at Campbelltown which is more of a nursing home. However this place is the lap of luxury compared to most retirement places I have visited, in a lovely Victorian building which has been restored and fitted with a commercial kitchen and a lift. After seeing the home cooked spread, I asked if ‘the food is this good every day or only on Sundays?’ to which they all replied that they are very well catered for at every meal. A long way from the generic sausage rolls and party pies that many of our institutionalised elderly are fed on, but I’m very glad that some folks at least are well looked after. I had the feeling that they were both glad to have outsiders to talk to, to break the monotony perhaps, while also having some concern that as outsiders we may say something controversial or mention an awkward issue. John resisted mentioning the fact that he was caned every day by Marist Brothers at high school and the fact that it still looms large in his memories of childhood.

March 15, 2021

We did a circular shopping jaunt through Castle Hill industrial estate, then on to Dural and back, first stopping at Battery World to pick up some D batteries for my antique clock. I had bought some from Aldi but the clock still wouldn’t go so I went to Battery World for their top quality ones, hoping it was a battery issue rather than a clock one. But sadly it is still not happy so it must be the mechanism. When I bought the clock over 20 years ago the seller explained that she’d taken it to 3 repairers, none of whom had ever seen one like it and didn’t know how to fix it. I took a punt and bought it anyway and luckily for me Lance, my clock man at the time, had repaired one in the 1950s and knew how it worked. It is a Eureka 300 Day Clock, made in London in 1906 and is the first clock ever made with battery assistance to the pendulum. I couldn’t find my recent clockmaker’s phone number immediately (the one who fixed it all those years ago having succumbed to lung cancer long ago) so I rang a clockmaker I found on the net. I was unable to speak to the principal and got the manager who tried to tell me first that it was a modern clock, then that it was an antique clock which had a replacement modern quartz movement ‘well, battery means quartz’ she obstinately insisted, so I decided this wasn’t a company I could trust with my precious clock. Eventually in files in the storeroom I found the phone number of my more recent fellow, but he hasn’t ever seen one unfortunately. He will have a look at it though and at least I trust him not to deny ever having received it, as I have had clients tell me has happened to them with exceptional timepieces. Clock men (always men) are odd coves in my experience, almost always 1. middle European and 2. quite besotted with their craft, they can also be a bit temperamental. A Polish one always had the opinion that a clock was either ‘beautiful mechaniz’ or ‘rubbish mechaniz’, the last ‘m’ perpetually missing in action on the word mechanism. My current guy, Macedonian I am guessing by his surname? is the sanest I’ve had.

Woah, phone just rang and it was Dan, assistant to the Professor I have to see on April 13. He’s just been in discussion with the Prof after receiving my referral from Alan the surgeon and they’ve decided I need to be seen earlier, but he goes on holiday this week so I’m now seeing him on the first day he is back, April the 6th. They are asking the St. Vincent’s pathology department if they have any tissue left from the operation that the pathologist  in their research lab can examine for a second opinion. Dan was full of questions and information and told me to take a couple of painkillers an hour before the appointment as they want to do a whole range of tests, some of which need to be done without a local anaesthetic so as not to interfere with the result. Boy, this is a steep educational process but I was glad Dan spoke to me very intelligibly and in detail for 20 minutes, but as if I were a person with some biological knowledge. It must be hard to know at what level to pitch the discussion and he was perfect. Watching the videos they sent had enabled me to ask the right questions too. I feel in very good hands.

March 16, 2021

More thoughts on the conversation with Dan yesterday, my call register showed it was actually closer to a 30 minute call. It reminded me of the constant talk about mutations and variants in Covid19. He said they will be doing virus tests because if it is variant 2 or 5 they won’t worry too much about possible spread but if it is 16 they will worry a great deal as it is the nasty one, with I think 18 as another slightly less less worrisome option. He flagged the possibility of further surgery, as Alan had already done so that wasn’t news or a shock. I’ve decided that seeing this as a first hand medical enigma or conundrum is better for me than knowing nothing about it and just worrying, so I’m trying to keep on top of everything I am being told. I hadn’t expressed that view to Dan, he just seemed to assume that I wanted to know. This wouldn’t work for everyone and I’m lucky that I genuinely find it fascinating.

Drove out to my clockmaker at Richmond and left the clock there for an opinion and hopefully repair. His wife mentioned that he has been contracted to visit Kambala School at Rose Bay every three months to attend to both their grandfather clock and the one in the tower. Meanwhile public schools put a new battery in the plastic wall clock and buy a $25 Chinese replacement one when it dies. Wandered around Richmond shops and of course bumped into an old client in an antique shop there. He remembered my name but I struggled for his. Later in another shop the owner asked if I remembered buying a big antique dictionary years ago and I did, in fact it is on my bookshelf. She said it was her grandfather’s and she wants to buy it from me. I will need to go through the old records and see what I paid for it, happy to sell it for that. Antique shops seem another world now, that lady told me she never quite enjoys holidays ‘I don’t get homesick, I get shopsick’, I knew exactly what she meant.

March 17, 2021

Made up a salad to take to sewing group, beetroot, rocket, currants, pomegranate and toasted pine nuts with a light balsamic and olive oil dressing, loved it so it may become a staple. I did have a project to take today, a very old woollen jacket with a silk lining which has shredded in vertical tears. The lining is fixed so it can’t be repaired from the inside. That provoked the idea of using some black satin ribbon, hand sewn over each tear, which occupied all of the sewing time with about an hour’s work to finish it today. I haven’t worn it for years, afraid of damaging it further, so now I will feel comfortable about bringing it back into use this winter. The conversation at the group waded into the ‘consent’ issue and everyone seemed initially to be taking a harsh view of men’s behaviour but it soon softened into ‘well girls wear shorts where you can see the curve of their bottom’ and ‘they wear a G- string under sheer dresses’. When was the last time you heard of a tradie being assaulted by a woman because his shorts were at half mast and you can see the crack of his bum? I just don’t buy this argument that men are unable to deal with temptation, therefore we all have to dress to allow for this. Judging by the sudden intense concentration on their sewing by a few, I think I was not alone in that view.

I was able to donate a couple of boxes of books to Martha’s street library as she had said  she was almost out of books. Currently I have many, but I guess I too will get to that situation eventually. John’s interview for Channel 10 on his street libraries has been sent to him, brief but good. That verandah has now been used for a couple of TV interviews, the last being by Channel 7 after the arrest of John’s neighbour Scott for a historic and famous murder. Which brings to mind the murder? of the victims of the 1979 Ghost Train fire at Luna Park. The first of a three-part series on the event has screened and it was harrowing to watch. At the time the rumour was that it was arson involving crime figures and Abe Saffron’s name was bandied about, but the police quickly announced that it was an electrical fault, before the Fire Brigade had even started an investigation. It will be fascinating to see what evidence Caro Meldrum-Hanna has discovered. Back in those days my friend Don, a real estate flipper before that even became a popular thing and now long dead, used to meet regularly with a group of police in a restaurant in Sydney, the name of which I can no longer remember. However it had a domed brick roof and was in some sort of old tunnel. I gathered that they were at the corrupt end of the force and he dropped the occasional tidbit of information that over the years proved to be true. I think the Ghost Train stories came from him. After my father died Don offered to buy his old beat up car for very little money and I sold it to him, but later I was flooded with parking tickets for it. Turned out he had never put in the transfer paperwork and I suspect he only bought the car so he could park wherever he wanted with no problems.

March 18, 2021

Huzzah! My clock man has solved the problem, it was stuck up with 25+ years of dirt and grease so he took the whole thing apart and has washed it in his secret solution. He will keep it till the weekend just to check it is keeping good time. I can’t wait, it’s like picking up Lily from the cattery. I have had a morning of catching up with emails, reading a couple of long papers online and writing book reviews. One medical paper was particularly interesting because it was on virology entitled Back to the Future: Lessons Learned From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. It was written just before the Covid19 pandemic and talked about things like where the 1918 pandemic came from, why certain people died in 1918-20 when others were mildly infected, why it particularly affected the 15-45 age group and what could be learned for future pandemics. I’ve kept it to reread as it’s all relevant to the present. Then there was our own Danish Ahmad’s paper on The Knowledge of Danger Signs of Obstetric Complications among Women in Rural India which I had already read in hard copy but needed to reread as the statistical stuff was hard going for me. Luckily the virology paper didn’t include much in the way of statistics but had a mine of references to be followed up.

Still hoping to get away in late April but between us we have five medical appointments between now and then, any one of which could result in further appointments. I think we will just have to stamp our feet and say no way can we put this holiday off, otherwise I can see the same thing happening later and it will be winter.

March 19, 2021

Every Wednesday I get the 4 questions from the SMH Weekly Poll and on Thursdays I get the Sentiments Survey. The latter involves clicking on all the emotions or feelings you are feeling that day, from a long list. I remember last week clicking calm and positive and optimistic among others, but this week I found myself clicking things like stressed and frustrated. It’s funny how things change from one day to the next. The Eastern religions call it the guna, the Philosophy School always talked about mood being ‘the changes in the guna’. Partly my frustration was due to politics and the government’s typically off key response to the women’s march on Monday and all issues a la femme. But rain washes away stress in my humble opinion so this weekend’s downpour should be good for me.

I have happily read the book for book group next Friday, made notes and was looking forward to discussing it, but a few people were unable to come that day so it looks like being changed till next month, but not on the scheduled date for April, and if that happens I won’t be able to go due to a prior commitment. It doesn’t seem logical to be losing a month’s meeting, we only have 10 a year. We would still have had heaps more people than the whole WA shadow cabinet. But (thankfully) it’s not my job to decide such things.

Omar came to John’s with the new computer he has put together for him and because we both had to leave for hairdressing appointments in Manly at 12 noon he opted to come at 8 am. When I arrived at 11.30 Omar was still tinkering with moving John’s files over and doing a similar thing with his new phone. We decided to leave him to it and left, but at one point I said to Omar: ‘I need to show you the door’ to which he replied ‘What have I done?’ and I explained that I needed to literally show him the door so he knew how to let himself out. We both love our husband and wife hairdressers to bits and couldn’t have cancelled and left them in the lurch. I wonder though how long we will be able to make that trek?

March 20, 2021

A really heavy rain day, my favourite weather, and all the balls for the day fell into the right pockets. Firstly we went over to the Chocolate Warehouse and I found some lovely boxes, one for my clockmaker Jim and two for add-on gifts for both my girls’ birthdays. Then John fancied a box of Turkish Delight so I got that too. We were in solid traffic jams from then on as folks swarmed to Bunnings, Harvey Norman, Castle Towers, anywhere warm and dry. A weird thing that on a day when we were all told to stay home because the roads would be dangerous it was much busier than usual, but we defied the order as we had tickets to an event so I can’t blame others for being out. Off then to Hornsby RSL of all places to a screening of Brazen Hussies, a history of the women’s movement in Australia, put on by Amnesty International.

Two excellent emails on my return, the book group meeting has been reinstated to the correct day, woohoo! and our doctor’s surgery contacted us with booking options this week to get the vaccine. This morning I read an article explaining the nature of the blood clot issues complicating the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Two teams of medical researchers in Norway and Germany have independently found that the vaccine can trigger a very rare autoimmune disorder causing blood to clot in the brain, and they suggest a possible treatment for it, blood thinners and immunoglobulin. These researchers openly talk about the link whereas our government has been very naughty in my view to deny it altogether. It’s one thing to talk about cost/benefit and rarity but quite another to just deny the link. One Professor interviewed for the Wall Street Journal says that it is an impossibly rare condition where the immune system attacks the platelets and to suddenly have these cases only in recently vaccinated people made it clear in his view that the vaccine is the cause. Despite all of that I signed us both up for Thursday morning.

March 21, 2021
I was reunited with my perfectly working clock at Richmond after checking with Windsor Police that we could get through the floods okay. Then we went to Windsor to check how the new $100 million Windsor Bridge was faring. The water was just under the roadway and expected to be over it by the morning. Whole trees flying down the river were hitting the bridge and coming out the other side in bits. The police had closed the bridge, the same ones no doubt who hauled away the largely elderly demonstrators who camped in a tent there for years, 24 hours a day, winter and summer, planning to lay down in front of the bulldozers when they came to attack our historic 1874 bridge. This rotten Liberal government insisted that their new bridge would be flood free and refused to listen to Labor, the Greens, Jack Mundey, engineers, the historical society, councillors, endless demonstrators over years including yours truly and the overwhelming majority of the public who pleaded with them to put a new higher bridge downstream and leave our old one in peace. The cost was very similar so I suspect some bastardry, but have never been able to work out exactly what it was. Wherever we walked today we could hear people talking about the decision ‘why did they build it here?’ ‘why wasn’t it at least raised in the middle?’ ‘why did they lie about it?’ Ray Williams, an idiot who became a state MP, swore hand on heart that it would be flood free. I’d love to see him walking over the bridge tonight and I have sent him an email suggesting that he do just that.
Because we have such a full on day tomorrow I made a cake in the afternoon to serve folks coming for morning tea Tuesday. I realised that in the next two weeks we only have one day without a commitment of some sort. I guess it is the pent up demand after the bottled up year we’ve just had when socialising wasn’t possible.

March 22, 2021

Did the blog on John’s new computer last night and the post wasn’t here today. I eventually recovered it but in a different format. How to fix? No idea. We were at RNSH by 8 am this morning and saw the dermatologist Dr Adrian Lim and his sidekick Ash. They decided the skin cancer on John’s leg needs a plastic surgeon as it’s hard to sew up the skin when over the bone, so it was arranged that we will see one on Friday. An interesting comment was ‘the highest risk for getting a skin cancer is having had a skin cancer, it’s genetically determined’. I’ve never had one so that’s one thing I probably don’t need to worry about. We were in and out of there as quickly as we’ve ever experienced which was great because we were booked to go on a celebratory harbour cruise with Captain Cook Cruises at noon. The weather was dire so I was a bit worried about getting sick, but I dosed myself up and had no problems, apart from the one occasion when I left my seat, so I remained seated for the rest of the time. Visibility was very poor, but the food and company were good so we were glad we decided to go, especially when we heard that over 30 of the 90 guests didn’t turn up or else cancelled at short notice. Of course these people were paid for in advance from the budget of an NGO, so that was a pity.

Heather’s son and his wife had a baby boy this morning, Banjo Murray Tamsett, what a fine name and a fine little chap by the looks of him. I can’t even imagine dealing with a tiny person now, I think mine were lucky to survive my ignorance and lack of help. It should be second nature after millennia of births but it certainly wasn’t in my case, I was never a natural at it, but I take my hat off to those who are. I wonder what happened in the past when hapless women were left to fend alone, I guess babies were lost as a result. My mother didn’t have a clue and told me that whenever I was sick or she didn’t know what to do she just ran down the road with me in a blanket and asked her aunt.

March 23, 2021

I’ve been asking around the folks who opposed the new Windsor Bridge to try to get a retrospective handle on the WHY? Some in the Hawkesbury community believe there was another agenda altogether behind the bridge replacement – sand extraction on the Richmond Lowlands. Premier Mike Baird, strong supporter of Our Glad, is quoted as saying: “Construction in New South Wales is facing a serious problem in that there is going to be a supply crunch as Kurnell, Penrith Lakes and the Southern Highlands supplies of sand become exhausted”. Sand is a vital resource for the NSW state government’s mega infrastructure building plans and it is apparently in critically short supply. The sand resources along the Hawkesbury River on the Richmond Lowlands are extensive and are close to Sydney. According to local sand dredging experts, replacement of the old bridge, a little higher but with wider-spaced pylons to allow barges to pass underneath, was key to cost effectively removing sand for transport by barge. Apparently the value of the sand is billions of dollars over decades. If true this is a disgusting piece of trickery of the Hawkesbury community who would have been up in arms about the real reason for the change, so were fed the ‘flood free bridge’ line to justify the build. Who votes for these people? Half the bloody population unfortunately. The greedy and the dumb.

We had Phil and Anne over morning tea today and it was great to see them after so long, the interregnum having been caused by the pandemic. They were as cautious as we were and have just gone out for a meal for the first time in over a year. He is an ex priest and she an ex nun, both full of all the goodly social mores that we value. Made a blueberry and lemon cake which went down well and morning tea went till a good deal after lunchtime, added by some cheese and crackers.

March 24, 2021

Today we went to Bronwyn and Michael’s place for lunch so I made a summer fruit tart to take. Discussion varied across the usual topics of how bad the government is and whether Albanese has the ticker to win. We all agreed that Penny Wong is the natural heir to the job but also believed that being both a woman and Asian was too big a barrier to success, even if she came down from the Senate to a lower house seat. Sad but true. She wipes the floor with the rest of them. Tanya Plibersek is doomed for the leadership too with the double whammy of being female and having a husband who was once charged over drugs. A few men are worth considering, but sadly I think Albanese has lost his mojo.

Watched Exposed last night and was again rivetted to my seat. Near the beginning John was asking me about something he had mislaid but I waved him away so as not to miss a word. Cruel, but necessary, however I found it as soon as the show was over. It will be strange if after all these years Don Simpson had the good oil on the Ghost Train fire after all. I am of course wondering how many of the police involved are still alive or perhaps even serving. Surely after this there will need to be a new inquest? To which I would require a front seat, there is nothing as exhilarating as seeing justice done. Hopefully after our vaccinations tomorrow I will feel a little more inclined to attend court again, or at least after the booster. Michelle has booked her vaccination for April 1, but I told her they will likely be giving fake needles that day.

March 25, 2021
Last night sleep was impossible to come by, thinking about Ayaz Younas, drowned in his car on Cattai Ridge Rd at Glenorie, a spot I know well. Ayaz, you were so damned unlucky. Firstly it was just half an hour before dawn so you couldn’t see the water over the road. You were in a strange place, a fairly remote place, and you were going to your first day at a new job, guided no doubt by the hire car’s GPS and trying not to be late. You knew that the Hawkesbury River was flooded, but you probably also knew that Glenorie is nowhere near the river, many, many miles away in fact. There were locked gates blocking the road because of flooding but the water was over the top of them. You didn’t have a chance. You called 000 and spoke to an operator for 39 minutes as your car was slowly sinking (or perhaps 44 minutes, depending on which newspaper you read). You tried desperately to free yourself from the vehicle, damaging the interior in the process, but the water prevented you from opening the doors and you couldn’t wind down the windows, they were electric and the power was gone. You struggled for such a long time, still talking to the operator. I cried for you and it feels so weird, crying for a man you would likely never have met, however last night it felt like a vigil.
Still with Ayaz in mind, I went with John for our vaccinations. Lots more form-filling so it was lucky that we went early. My appointment was at 9.15, the exact time I went in, and I was done and dusted by 9.18. AstraZeneca has revised the efficacy rate for its US Covid-19 vaccine trial down to 76 percent from 85, while denying media reports that the vaccine is not very effective for people over 65. In early reports back in January, German daily papers Handelsblatt and Bild said the vaccine had an efficacy of ‘8 per cent’ or ‘less than 10 percent’, respectively, in people over 65 years of age. I guess we will find out over time whether that is true, fingers crossed that it isn’t. But we both felt pretty privileged to be getting it today and proudly wore our stick-on signs while doing a bit of shopping afterwards. Later we went to see the movie Nomadland at Roseville. It was quite beautiful, even though I found the diction hard to hear, the dark lighting didn’t help. But it was a non-judgmental look at those who adopt the van-dwelling life, either by choice or because they have no alternative, set against some superb American scenery.

March 26, 2021

Another early appointment at RNSH, this time for the plastic surgeon to have a look at John’s leg. He says that it needs plastic surgery, as we expected, because he will have to have a skin graft. Then he must ‘move as little as humanly possible’ for a week or two, his leg elevated except for necessary trips to the bathroom. It will need to be wrapped in plastic from thigh to foot as it can’t get wet at all and the skin graft will be taken from high on the thigh. We were planning a two week beach holiday just about the time they will likely schedule the surgery, though we don’t have an exact date as yet. By the time it’s over with and the follow up checks are done it will be too cold for the beach and if that happens I will be spitting chips.

Came home and started work on taking up two pairs of trousers of John’s that have frayed on the bottom edge. I decided to take the easy way out and use hemming tape but either the brand is crap or is out of date, because it didn’t seem to work that well. Juggling a fruit tart and trousers will probably result in neither being spot on. Had book group this afternoon and it was the smallest group ever, as far as I can remember. But that really doesn’t matter when you are gathering to talk books and break bread with friends.

March 27, 2021

I have been exceedingly tired yesterday and today. In fact last night I went to bed straight after getting home from book group. This afternoon I was filing away my appointment card for the next vaccination when I noticed that there was an attached list of side effects, the first after a sore arm being tiredness. Aah okay, I can put up with that, small price to pay.

The book group meeting prompted John to ask me how far in the past he had met and known a new member whom he greeted last night and he also wanted to know who had introduced them. Of course I have no answer, but have enquired of Martha in case she knows. This led to his asking me how he met Martha and Phil, another question I can’t answer so I included that query in an email too. It is scary that his memory loss extends to events more than 15 or so years ago, though the distant past still seems safe. But he was very proud of working out how to drive to Carol’s last night, I kept quiet and told him that I was confident that he could work it out and he did. Sometimes when he asks a question I suggest thinking about it a while before I answer, I am not always around to be his memory so he needs to make use of what is still accessible. However the initial query about Derrian and Martha hasn’t resulted in an answer appearing, hence my action to fill the gaps.

Reading today’s paper it was interesting to see that some of Morrison’s female MPs are ‘not answering calls’ to avoid having to refuse requests to appear in the press defending him. My sense of it is that Morrison’s grip is fading as people realise that he stands for nothing at all, just his own success. I often feel out of the loop with the general public view as all my friends are of the same political mind, whereas when I was in the shop I had discussions with people of every type of political persuasion. Unlike some (many) business owners I decided early on to speak my mind and accept the small loss of business that might entail. But at one stage the secretary of the local Liberal branch was in my employ, something I copped much flak for from a Greens-leaning councillor, ‘you couldn’t have found anyone in the Hawkesbury more right wing’ she complained, not wanting to deal with her in the shop. I even gave her a dispensation to not put out the Greens electoral A-frames and pamphlets on her workdays, because she had a ‘conscientious objection’. Still wondering if I made the right decision on hiring her in the first place. Another regularly argumentative person, never a customer in the financial sense, left the area to become a staffer on the far Right of the Liberals in Western Australia. I am sure I will eventually see him pop up as a candidate. He said ‘I just come in to sharpen my debating skills’ but it always left me depressed about the future as he was so young, so hard and so lacking in empathy.

March 28, 2021

The Insiders program was gold today with three eminent female political journalists on the panel and two female Liberal MPs as guests. The latter still seem to believe that the PM gets the fact that the problems he is having are to do with the culture of parliament and of the Liberal Party in particular. I don’t believe for a second he has that insight. Queensland MP Andrew Laming has decided not to stand at the next election (as if he possibly could??) but that doesn’t let the Prime Minister off the hook, as he still chose not to sack him, in fact one of the women he was trolling had written letters to Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull about his efforts and got no response from either. How can a qualified medical doctor and member of parliament stoop to trolling women online and taking a photo up a woman’s skirt? I can’t imagine there are many women who would be happy to attend his practice as a doctor in future so I am not sure exactly what he intends to do with his time. The man must be a mental case.

I am having a tidying up odds and ends day. Answering overdue emails, doing book reviews, packing to go away and paying bills such as my house and contents insurance. Most of my bills are paid automatically but not GIO because they always tends to be receptive to discussions about discounting my premiums in view of the fact that I have been a customer for well over 50 years, but this time they couldn’t do a thing because I’ve had two claims in three years for roof damage from branches falling off next door’s tree. I would feel better about that if the tree were mine, but it’s fair enough that I can’t have both discounts and claims, as I told the friendly operator. ‘You’ve been with GIO a lot longer than I’ve been alive’ he said. I am very lucky that I can just put it on my credit card without any fear about how to afford it at the end of the month. It must be terrible to be counting every last dollar and having to choose between electricity and insurance, just as an example. I used to occasionally join in an online chat between people with autoimmune diseases and I talked to a woman in the US who was ill because she couldn’t afford to keep taking her medications as it was winter and she needed to buy firewood for herself and her son. It was humbling and a stark reminder of how much worse off many people are.

March 29, 2021

Wow, 42 years tomorrow since my twins were born. A lot of water under the bridge since then and much of it I wouldn’t want to wade through again, though much joy in there as well. Davina and Louis were booked to fly to Brisbane on Wednesday for 10 days with Davina’s dad in Blackbutt and then Louis’ family in Sunshine Beach, a replacement trip for the Christmas one that was cancelled due to Covid. But now there is a snap 3 day lockdown beginning today at 5 pm due to a number of cases of the British variant escaping hotel quarantine. I texted Davina to suggest they change flights to go directly to the Sunshine Coast but she had beat me to it and had already booked to the Gold Coast which is cheaper. They will have a much longer drive but the tickets are for tomorrow so she gets an extra day on the holiday to make up for it.

I was reading through the double page of letters on women’s experience of sexual harassment and assault in the SMH and considered why I am not planning to add to the contributions. Firstly I wouldn’t know where to start…but perhaps with the guy who pressed up against me in a very crowded train where I was standing hanging on to a supportive pole with my parents, coming back from the city. I moved away from him and then he looked me straight in the face while putting out his cigarette butt on the back of my hand, giving me a nasty burn. I cried and told my parents that it was not an accident as he had quickly said, but they were mortified and told him that of course they knew that, reprimanding me for being rude to him. I learned that day, aged about six or seven, never to disclose anything that happened to me if it was an adult involved as I wouldn’t be believed. I’m sure many girls had that experience in one form or another, especially if the offender were a relative, neighbour or family friend. Fending off men is a skill most girls learn pretty early on and it becomes second nature and part of ‘normal’ experience to most.

March 30, 2021

After numerous changes to her bookings Davina had to abandon all hope of their holiday coming off after Gladys recommended no-one travel to Queensland and also the fact that her aunt up there contacted the authorities and was told that it was a fineable offence to drive the roads they would have needed to traverse to get to her father‘s place and Louis‘s family up north, even if they didn’t stop the car. Today is her birthday and she was supposed to be celebrating up there, but there you go. Lots of ripples from these decisions but many others are worse off. They decided to bring forward the planned trip in June to Canberra to go to see Carly and that made up for some of the disappointment.

We got away on time and thought we’d miss the worst morning traffic but the cars and particularly trucks coming from the south were bumper to bumper on the M7 all the way to down past Campbelltown. It must just be like that these days, I’m glad I don’t do it too frequently. Went to Mittagong where John bought me a fine pair of silver and mother-of-pearl earrings at Vinnies for $4. Then on to Bowral for lunch at Dirty Jane’s Antiques, our favourite spot, where everything is served on old crazy tea cups, saucers and plates and all the teapots are silverplate. Our highly amusing waiter Cameron had me laughing, especially when he was waiting for me to decide which tea I would have from a long list ‘drum roll…..’ he said expectantly. We shared corn fritters and then each had a serving of their delicious scones, one serve of the rose ones and one of the lavender. John found a great pair of Colorado full leather shoes in Anglicare for $35 (or at least I spotted them in the window and he bought them). Then off to our digs at Briars Country Lodge where I was somewhat annoyed to find that we can’t have breakfast as promised in the conservatory because a conference has booked it out for themselves. They will do a room service breakfast, which we both hate, so I pointed out that one of the criteria for staying there was the assurance that we could eat in a dining room. However it’s not the end of the world and everything else about the place is excellent, a good room overlooking a small lake on 10 acres of grounds set between Bowral and Moss Vale so we can go walking locally, and did so shortly after booking in. Later Davina rang to say they were booking in overnight at Bowral and then travelling to Canberra tomorrow, so we all had a pub meal at the Scottish Arms Hotel where we’d also eaten one night when we stayed at Milton Park for their 40th. As with most pub meals quantity is all, personally I would prefer less food but managed okay ordering Thai barramundi and rice, the others all having huge meaty meals, thought I’d almost bet the barra was imported.

March 31st, 2021

The last thing I said to John last night was ‘don’t fall down the steps in the night’ but I discovered that out here you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face at night and I managed to get quite disoriented getting up to the loo and was feeling my way along the wall when I realised that I was starting to fall down said steps to the lower level of the room. Luckily I recovered just in time, it would have been a nasty fall. Even after that I had to navigate by feel so tonight I am going to leave the microwave door open in the kitchenette as a night light. The stars out here are just amazing but you can’t see your way to the loo with them.

I asked at the tourist bureau about visiting Joadja, the old shale mining ghost town not far from here. Luckily I did as when I went about 40 years ago you just walked in, but apparently it is now in private hands and you need to go on a tour. It had been vandalised over time and this at least keeps it safe. I rang the number and was told that the tours are only on Saturdays. Bummer, we leave Friday, but after about 10 minutes the owner Valero rang me back and said ‘I can tell that you are passionate about Joadja so come on Friday and I will take you on a tour myself’. He said the council won’t let him open it unless people are on a tour, maintaining that they put unnecessary restrictions on him. His next door neighbour is Mike Cannon-Brooks of Atlassian fame, so that was an interesting snippet. Valero’s comment was that the ‘council doesn’t want tourists, it wants wealthy people to come and live here and that’s their focus’. ‘They don’t want people coming down this dirt road because then they have to maintain it’. Looking forward to Friday when we will get the lowdown on Joadja from him.

Took a drive to Moss Vale, then Bundanoon where we had pea and mint soup and toast at DeliLicious, and it was. Bought bread from them too and some home made raspberry jam from the next door charity shop. Off then to Berrima where I was hunting for gloves for Carly’s birthday which I found in the Alpaca Shop. Eye-wateringly expensive, they are Dents English leather lined with rabbit fur, but the only thing she asked for was warm lined leather gloves for the Canberra winter and these will last a lifetime. Tried to do the tour at the Berrima Courthouse but we were just a little too late. The next door prison doesn’t have the craft shop any more unfortunately. I used to buy many gifts there years ago and loved being served by the prisoners who actually made the crafts. I ordered a clock once from one of them and when I went down the next week to pick it up the guy remembered that I had said I would come back on my birthday and as soon as I walked in he led the team singing Happy Birthday.

April 1, 2021

Last night we went to Bowral Brasserie and enjoyed a lovely meal which John paid for with a gift card he’d got from Link Housing for coming up with one of the short listed names for consideration when they have a merger soon. They had my favourite cocktail Kir Royale which I promptly ordered, so many cocktails are out of contention for me as I don’t like gin, whiskey, vodka or any of the many chocolate or coffee liqueurs they tend to use. The owner offered John a free port and when he said he was a tee-totaller he didn’t offer me one, which was a bit 19th century. However it was a good night nonetheless.

Set off on a journey to Fitzroy Falls this morning and managed to do the walks to three of the lookouts. The falls were really tumbling after the rains. Next we drove to Robertson and I mentioned to John that I fancied some cheeses for lunch, behold around the next bend appeared The Dairy Shop in the old cheese factory, so I bought four and that with some grapes made a late lunch back at our unit, eaten outside overlooking the lake. After that we did a local walk to the site of the first European settlement in 1821, but traffic on this road is so heavy that we ended up climbing through a fence and returning across the fields, a much more relaxing experience.

Watched the last of the series on the Ghost Train fire on Tuesday night and it was as shocking as each of the other episodes. After all these years it turns out that it was likely just as Don Simpson said at the time, arson organised by Abe Saffron for the real estate. But apparently that wasn’t news, every policeman, prosecutor, National Crime Authority investigator and more said exactly the same thing during the programme. It’s pretty damning that no-one has gone to the trouble of exposing it before, after Saffron died in 2006, though I can fully understand why no-one came forward while he was alive, not wanting a pair of cement boots for their trouble. Apparently Alan Saffron, Abe’s son, was planning to reveal all about the fire and the death of Juanita Nielsen before he died suddenly last year in the US. Angus and Robertson hold his papers so I hope they are published before long.

April 2, 2021

Oh what fun! Off to Joadja to take up Valero’s offer of a look-see around the place. Stopped at the distillery where whiskey, gin, brandy, aniseed liqueur and sherry are produced from their own organically grown barley and aromatics. He explained the process but it all went over my head, he was a fast talker. They could make beer with their equipment but don’t. Apparently the State Governor ordered 100 bottles of whiskey from him, labels all printed with the State crest to give as gifts, but the same whiskey sold to the public can’t have the crest on the bottle, although they do in England when it’s a product with royal assent. When he offered it to her to taste she refused as a teetotaller. Teetotaller John bought the brandy and sherry ‘for when I entertain’.

The wander around Joadja came with a warning that we couldn’t sue Valero if we had an accident and we could go alone but had to be back in an hour and a half because there’s no phone reception out there and ‘if you have a heart attack you can’t ring me’. We obeyed instructions, getting back just before the time and his assistant Jack said if we were 10 minutes over ‘the boss said to go and look for you in the 4 wheel drive’. We wandered amongst the workers’ cottages then on to the remains of the industrial site, with the two large chimneys still extant but sadly the retorts have crumbled in the 40 years since I was there. The supervisor’s cottage is still in good shape and a scar up the steep hill behind it shows where the original incline railway carried the shale out of the valley to Mittagong to be shipped. Its installation made the journey 2 and a half hours as against 3 days by mule train. Wonderful morning, the 7 kilometres of dirt road to get into the property notwithstanding. Went back to Berrima for a late lunch at the Magpie Cafe and were amazed at both the fabulous antique display cabinet and its contents of home-made baked goods. John rated his Fig and Chocolate Meringue Cake with Fig and Honeycomb Icecream as ‘the best ever’. My Rhubarb and Raspberry Pie was pretty damned good too, though nothing is priced and the bill was very expensive and not itemised. I marvelled at a sealed off room, visible through the windows, packed with early antiques but clearly closed off now for some time and with faded labels so I couldn’t see many of the prices. I sensed a story behind all that but didn’t feel inclined to ask the two older ladies who seemed to run the place, partly because they were busy and partly because I felt that the old girls might be a bit temperamental. I have since looked up Tripadvisor and my hunch was right, too many reports of abused customers to count. One was told by the owner ‘You South African Nazis are all the same’ except they weren’t from overseas at all. ‘Basil Fawlty on a bad day’ was how the owners were described by another. A number of customers described being charged $5 to share something like a sandwich (we shared a pie so I guess we paid that as well), John said he didn’t ask for an itemised bill so we will never know. I can’t imagine not checking a bill, but there you go, we didn’t have any reason to think they could be a bit shifty. We seemed to have done well though, as when there are 115 reports of awful behaviour on a review site you have to suspect there is a real problem there.

April 3, 2021

Out to Dural to stock up on bread from Boulevarde de la Patisserie and even going quite early we got the last three loaves of the one I prefer. The centre was crazy busy, cars driving round endlessly but we were saved by the disabled pass. Buying fruit and veg at Castle Mall we were in a queue of 20, it was like pandemic lockdown all over again. People get very touchy after the shops are closed for just one day, I could see fights in the aisles if they were closed for a week. Came home and baked in the afternoon, turning out Cranberry and Almond Shortbread Biscuits (should have been Cherry but I mistook the label of what I thought were glace cherries in the pantry), Chocolate Brownies and Date and Walnut Slices. Inspired I think by the wonderful cabinet full of treats at The Magpie, now at least I have choices to offer any visitors.

Carly has become as obsessed as I am about the Ghost Train fire and sent me a petition to reopen the inquest, something I wholeheartedly support. Now that would be an inquest I would happily sit through every day. The bikies accused would only be in their late 50s by now plus some of the investigators could still be alive, though I doubt they could be proved to be corrupt with Saffron himself long dead. I hope that the coroner could access his son Alan Saffron’s papers, that might shine a light on lots of other unsolved crimes as well.

April 4, 2021

I am very sorry that Carla Zampatti fell at the Handa Opera and even more sorry that she died as a result. (It was interesting though that her family put out a statement to say that she was just in hospital as a precaution and that she thanked everyone for their concern, because it has now come to light that she was in a coma from the beginning and never regained consciousness). But whatever of that, I am wondering why we (and I speak as one of the ‘we’ paying for this) insist on giving state funerals to people who make a great deal of money in business. Good luck to them, but they can afford a funeral themselves whereas a person who gives their life fighting a bushfire or rescuing someone in a flood is surely what state funerals should be about? It is in the same family as Australia Day and other rewards, they are given to the folks who rub shoulders with pollies and others in positions of power, not to those who have served society voluntarily.

My baking seems to have been premature as none of the possible visitors materialised and John went home yesterday. However it is good to have freezeable stock here coming into a busy week. It doesn’t feel the least bit like Easter, nary an egg or a bilby to be seen here, and to top things off Insiders wasn’t on today. The hide of it, with so much material available! I shot off an email to them suggesting that perhaps next year we can avoid Easter falling on a Sunday, but I’m not sure who controls such things, certainly not the ABC, so little chance my suggestion will be implemented. It reminded me of asking a friend in his late 40s about what date Easter fell on that year and his puzzled reply was ‘the same day as every other year’. He just hadn’t noticed in 40 odd years that the date changed, and he was a religious person. So I did some disgruntled weeding instead of gloating at tumbling politicians and returned Happy Easter messages with a smiling emoji and no mention of Insiders.

April 5, 2021

Downloaded my four Service NSW vouchers, two for dining and two for entertainment, but when I went to find local places where they can be used they were largely fast food joints like McDonalds and KFC or else pubs and clubs, none of which I want to patronise even with $25 off. I’m wondering why the government wants to pay out money to get people to go to takeaway places that have been going gang-busters in the pandemic. Tried outside Sydney too but with much the same result. Eventually I found that the Woolwich Pier Hotel is on the list and with views from the balcony and excellent food it is certainly worth going to. A pity, as with many of these government ideas, that the people who could really do with the extra money in their businesses don’t seem to be the ones who are getting it. I’m not sure why more small cafes and restaurants haven’t applied, are they are not aware of it or perhaps the applications are onerous?

A knock on the door today from a woman who was trying to return a street library book, I had filled it up tightly earlier, and it turned into a bit of an epic as she told me numerous stories from her overseas trip a couple of years ago. She is itching to travel again as this had been her first ever trip, but unlike her I think I have come to the conclusion that my travelling days are over, in fact I didn’t bother to renew either of my passports. It turns out that she is the same age as me and a big reader so perhaps she will donate some books as well. Earlier I’d chatted with a man and his three-year-old (who thought he was two) and realised that I didn’t have a single children’s book there to offer him. Unfortunately the local library’s Stay Home and Read programme has ended now that Covid is less of a problem. It’s disappointing because as well as my requested books they always added a few that the librarians chose for me and I got some surprisingly good ones in that way. Currently I’m reading one of the last of their choices: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. It seemed to be set in the distant past and it was a shock to see that it begins in 1988 in the remote home of the Akha minority people in China. Although a novel, this book introduced me to many fascinating beliefs of the Akha, including putting rice husks and ashes into the mouths and noses of newborn ‘human rejects’, something that was done in many cultures, but not in 1988 I would have thought. Surprisingly, twins are considered an extremely ominous occurrence, one where spirits are considered to interfere with human matters. The Akha believe that only animals could give birth to more than one offspring and therefore consider twins as beasts. They were killed immediately and the parents banished from the village. One wonders how these people fare amongst the Chinese society of today, more reading needed on that one.

April 6, 2021

Seventeen years ago today I found my brother Kenneth, talking to him by phone for the first time after trying countless other K. Doughtys across Yorkshire. Plans were quickly made for me to fly over to stay with him and all of a sudden I had a real family, even though his wife was hardly welcoming. We still love each other to bits after all this time and speak on the phone often, though I can’t get him interested in Skype or any other means of actually seeing each other. A book happily arrived from him today for our anniversary, Thoreau’s Journal 1837-1861, just perfect, as are all the books he sends me.

Today was the long interview and procedure with the new Professor who is both a clinician and a researcher into the condition that I find myself with. He explained that I am in this position because of the suppression of my immune system by Sjogren’s Syndrome as nearly 85% of Australians carry this virus with no ill effects. However HIV, the drugs given after organ transplants or certain autoimmune diseases weaken the body’s ability to coexist with it and cancer can be the result. He said he was unhappy with the wording of the pathology report from after the surgery and spoke to the pathologist to find out exactly what he was trying to say. Still unhappy apparently, he asked for the remaining tissue to be sent to his lab for a second opinion which he got just half an hour before I arrived. Basically it was just rolling over from pre-cancer into cancer with a few millimetres of escape and it is impossible to tell whether the surgeon got all of it or not. As PET scans only show cancers 1 centimetre and above, the negative result from that test doesn’t mean much, apart from being a baseline, as microscopic spread wouldn’t show up on it. So I had numerous procedures today including a DNA test of the virus. As with Covid there are umpteen variants and with this virus number 16 is the most dangerous, he is assuming that is what the tests will show. Then I had a raft of other invasive tests, assisted by another specialist and a technician, ending with a biopsy to see what is happening since the surgery. But as he explained it is an ongoing condition which will continue to develop as there is currently no cure for the virus causing it and it will keep causing damage, so I need to go through this whole 3 hour epic again in six months and probably periodically for the rest of my life. It was all pretty much what I was expecting, except that it is much closer to invasive cancer than I had thought. He finished by saying ‘worst case scenario: more surgery, some chemo and radiation, best case scenario: we can’t cure it but it’s my job to try to keep it under control so you die from something else’. I like his style.

April 7, 2021

Sad and sorry today after yesterday’s medical procedure, or more accurately sore and sorry. Still trying to get my head around everything that was said, wish I had a tape as it was a lot to take in. I feel extremely confident in the team but I don’t like the waiting to find out the end result. Not talking about the two weeks for these immediate results, but the months and years ahead waiting to see how it unfolds. Perhaps Richard will be able to give me more info when he rings me in a couple of weeks, I hope so. Bob’s best response was ‘oh well at least it wasn’t a death sentence’, not exactly a ringing endorsement of the situation I’m in was my thought.

One funny interchange yesterday was when Richard asked if they should send John away for a coffee as it was taking quite a while. ‘Oh no’ I said, ‘he’s gone for a walk along Oxford Street so he’s fine’. ‘Will he be safe on Oxford Street?’ one of them laughed, after which I explained that we had marched together in Mardi Gras a few years back so he should be able to cope. ‘Oh Daniel here was on a float this Mardi Gras, weren’t you Dan?’ came Richard’s response, confirming my observation that Dan was likely gay and in fact the easy repartee made me think that the three of them possibly were. Seeing the condition I have is most often seen in people with their immune systems shot by HIV, it makes sense that gay doctors could very well be attracted to working in this space. Whatever of that they made things a lot easier than a stuffier trio would have. Did I mention sore and sorry, more Panadol in order.

April 8, 2021

Feeling better today luckily as Alison was coming for lunch and last night I wondered if I’d have to cancel. However it all turned out okay, as did the recipe for the Pea and Mint Risotto Cakes which I had never done before. A bit of a faff but worth doing I think. I had some left over so we dropped them round to Heather’s for their dinner or at least part of it. The recipe was supposed to make six but was severely over-qualified and easily made 10 of the quoted size. I know they say not to trial a recipe for visitors but if I keep making the old faves I will never get through my mountain of recipe books and anyway I thought Alison would be forgiving of a flop. After my bake-a-thon of the weekend I was able to offer five different types of cake as a dessert. She brought a delicious bunch of pink tulips so what with the big bunch of Lasiandra I picked this morning and the posy of flowers Heather gave me I am one happy chappy as far as floral decoration goes.

Far out! I just now found I had missed a call at 6.30 pm from Alan the surgeon to say that the Nuclear Medicine Department has notified him that the PET scan solution that they injected me with a month or so ago had a bacterial contaminant!! He wanted to know if I had had a temperature or any illness, to which the answer is no, so I emailed him to that effect. On top of still suffering the effects from Tuesday, it is a bit of a medically negative sort of day.

While on medical topics, I am really pissed off with the federal and state governments for the lack of transparency over the serious AstraZeneca vaccine side effects. Weeks ago I  read two papers online from doctors in Germany and Norway, both independently coming to the same conclusion about the blood clotting issue. They found that the vaccine induces a very rare autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the platelets, with no symptoms at all until it causes widespread blood clots when the platelet level falls low enough. It is a totally different situation to a random blood clot that you might get after surgery or from a long plane trip for example. No other brand of vaccine has caused this effect and it makes sense that it is in younger people and women, because that is the exact cohort that gets any other autoimmune disease. Yet no-one in government nor in the press has discussed this fully (barely at all) and I don’t believe for one minute that they are unaware of the European findings. This is based I think on the fact that they can’t offer an alternative brand and they don’t want to spook the horses. Politicians I can understand, but doctors? No valid excuse exists for keeping this story under wraps and even now that they are bringing in restrictions they are still not telling the full story. Unconscionable.

April 9, 2021

Today in the Herald John’s haematologist Nada Hamad did an opinion piece on the AZ blood clotting issue, elucidating it a little but still not mentioning that it has autoimmune causation. People will be heading away from vaccines in droves, sensing that there is doubt about it all and that they are not getting the whole story, throwing the baby out with the bathwater and scuttling any hope of economic recovery and overseas travel for those who still want to go. We’ve gone from ‘perfectly safe’ to ‘not recommending it to under 50s’ almost overnight. Morrison must be shitting himself in terms of his election prospects, which is the only good thing.

Seven pm tonight I sat down to the news and the phone rang. After missing the surgeon’s call last night I raced for it, all the while knowing it can’t be him again, but it was. He was asking again about whether I am feeling well in light of the bacterial contamination of the PET scan contrast. When I reiterated that I am fine, he asked if Richard had found anything in his examination on Tuesday (the real reason for the call?) an odd question to be asking me I thought. Why didn’t he just ask Richard? I told him that yes, more abnormality was discovered and he replied that ‘this is an interesting and tricky case so Richard and I will need to discuss it and come up with something. We may need to do more surgery’. He told me that the sample is now being examined by a third pathologist to try to assess the risk of the cancer cells having spread. Oh my, this gets worser and worser as I am not sure that there is going to be any unanimity in what to do when the pathologists can’t agree. I remember a pathology technician whom I studied with who worked at Lidcombe Hospital. He told me about three staff members looking at a sample and having different views about whether it was cancer on not, the patient was on the operating table and a fast decision needed to be made. They voted two to one to take off his leg, luckily the patient would never have known, but these things are often not clear cut despite what medical shows on TV would have you believe. This is the same thing, only I do know.

April 10, 2021

John was going home for the weekend, he’d loaded the car and started it and I was waving from the back door. He suddenly turned it off, said I looked terrible and insisted we go out to lunch, despite my attempts to dissuade him. We decided on Woolwich Pier Hotel (pronounced by the Navman as Wool-witch) as we could use one of our $25 Dine and Discover vouchers. We got a lovely verandah table upstairs and discovered that you now order on your phone with an app! I managed it okay but after I had sent off the order I asked at the bar how to claim on the voucher and of course it was then too late. We laughed that John had said he’d shout me and then prudently left behind his phone and wallet, so I shouted him, not that it mattered in the least. After lunch we did a local walk around the harbour edge and John pointed out again where he used to live with a postcard view of the city and Harbour Bridge, they used to watch yacht races from the loungeroom window. I can’t even imagine what his upbringing was like, as I am sure he can’t imagine mine. But I was never left alone in the house from the age of four while my parents went to dinners and cocktail parties, these days it would be cause to call in the authorities. He often says that many aspects of his young life bordered on child abuse.

I’m sure Scott Morrison has lady luck on his side. The Duke of Edinburgh has died and taken the lack of vaccines off the front page of the papers and from the headline of the news. They will all make a huge fuss, as if it were unexpected that a 99 year old would die. Every channel will become royalist for a day or three and then we will go back to bitching about the vaccine rollout, but it gives Scott some undeserved R and R.

April 11, 2021

It has really turned into autumn today, quite nippy around the ankles inside the house. It looks like time to close the windows which are locked about six inches open, at the bottom, for all of spring and summer. Perhaps I will just wear socks and leave them a little longer as I like the outside coming in as much as possible. This morning I deadheaded all the agapanthus which I had deliberately left till now so the seeds were dry and mature. I scrunched the heads over the garden in the hope that a few new aggies will eventuate. Looks neater now.

Read this morning in Pearls and Irritations, the wonderful Menadue blog that ‘The Princeton University philosopher Harry Frankfurt, author of On Bullshit, distinguishes the liar from the bullshitter. The liar engages in a conscious act of deception, whereas the bullshitter has no concern for the truth – perhaps not even a concept of the truth. On the distribution of vaccines it would have been easy for Morrison to have said “sorry, we got it wrong, we didn’t realise that it would be so hard for firms to ramp up vaccine production”.  But such is Morrison’s learned behaviour as a political salesman that the idea of speaking the plain truth is an alien concept.’ I smiled to myself at the photo of Morrison and Jenny (she dressed all in black) looking as mournful over the Duke of Edinburgh’s death as if they’d lost their granny, perhaps more than if they’d lost both their grannies. How terrible it would be to be in politics and have to act as total fakes for so much of your time. This applies to any party, never being able to call a spade a shovel would be my idea of a living hell, but Scotty revels in all that fakery it seems.

Trying to treat my current medical situation as an educational opportunity, but only partly succeeding so far. However given time I intend to achieve it. When the Prof last week said ‘You might want to look away for this bit’ (seeing me looking at his screen as he took a biopsy) I determined to do no such thing and told him so. It hurt no more nor less I suspect and I got the benefit of seeing how such procedures are done. If I can treat it all as receipt of a free bit of arcane medical knowledge it will be a bonus I think. Better than the ghastly Catholic concept of redemptive suffering anyway.

April 12, 2021

My Facebook friend in Queensland Chrys Stevenson, a freelance researcher for authors, film makers, pollies etc, posted yesterday that there had been a cleansing of both Van Badham’s and Josh Bornstein’s Twitter accounts. Neither had posted for hours, unusual apparently, and loads of their tweets were being deleted. How she gets onto this stuff I don’t know but when she smells a rat, there is usually a rat to be found. Chrys opined that ‘the right-wing media are about to do a hatchet job on Josh’. This morning Josh announced that he is no longer seeking a Senate spot for Labor at the next election after The Australian published many of his tweets, nothing spectacular, but many critical of various Labor pollies. Van’s link to this hasn’t shown up and perhaps it is coincidence. It doesn’t pay to put your fingers to the keyboard if you fancy to enter politics in the future, the internet has a long memory. Chrys suggested a possible link to the mysterious 60 Minutes programme being screened last night, so I watched that and was disgusted by the claims of obstruction of justice levelled at VC recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, accused of hiding incriminating evidence in a plastic lunch box buried in his back garden to avoid its exposure to police and the current inquiry into illegal killings in Afghanistan. Pictures of drunken men drinking alcohol out of the prosthetic leg of a deceased Afghan man and in one case a soldier dressed in Ku Klux Klan regalia do nothing to change my opinion of the inhumane and misogynist culture of parts of the Australian military. That segment was followed by a piece on double murderer of his children John Edwards and surprise, surprise, he was ex-military too. Easy to teach a man how to kill, harder to control him after you’ve done so.

My need to sort through the remaining goods in my storeroom has acquired a new urgency, yet I feel the old need to have them go ‘to the right place’ rather than to someone who might just bin them through ignorance or convenience. The sewing group has taken cottons, fabrics, crystals, linen and other bits and bobs and there is more of that still, but I need to do another Sallies run. The auctions are all still online and I suspect that will affect the clearance rates quite a bit. Motivation on my part is the biggest hurdle though.

April 13, 2021

Updates on old posts: 1. The ants didn’t come back after one only spray with an outside insect repellent, how I wish I’d known two years ago that there was such a simple solution! 2. Honey Wars: Still getting none of the promised feedback from the council out in Mudgee about the mislabelled honey, despite her regular promises to ring me back with an update. So today I rang the Honey Haven and asked about the labelling and they are still selling all their products without the word Honey on them. Why? I asked. That’s just how we do it here, was the reply. I call bullshit, no-one sells eggs without calling them eggs or lamb without calling it lamb, just because the shop is a butcher. So once again I rang the council and clearly she’s had enough of me, beginning ‘oh I’ve been away for a week’. Well yes but you haven’t called me in two months. She said they’ve changed their labels. ‘No actually, I just spoke to them and they haven’t changed them’. An almost audible groan? So she promised to speak to them and get back to me, which would be a first. The business is bringing in money to the town and she just won’t rock the boat, Health Inspector though she is. I don’t know why they make laws if they have no intention of enforcing them.

Drove over to Willoughby to meet up with Di for morning tea at her favourite cafe. She loves the scones there and they were very good, homemade, though the remaining cakes looked bought in. We spent two hours chewing the fat over a couple of hot drinks and some scones, but there were many vacant tables and she is a regular so I didn’t feel bad about taking up space. On the way home I stopped at Baulko to feed my sushi addiction, getting four pieces for an easy dinner while calling the scones lunch. While there I picked up a colouring book of Australian animals and birds, some crayons and a kit to make paper flowers from Kaisercraft and posted them off to Millie as I won’t see her this weekend. We are hoping to go to Canberra on Friday morning but can’t book a hotel in case one of the doctors rings and wants another appointment asap, so I will book somewhere about 8pm on Thursday, an hour after Alan’s usual time to call. Then we will stay till Monday and hopefully continue on our trip from there, heading south to Cooma, Tumut, the Snowies or else across to the coast depending on our whim and the weather at the time. I don’t really care as long as there are trees, water, walks, animals and a change of scenery. It’s a pity we can’t get away earlier but John has his monthly infusion at St V’s tomorrow and a Link Housing function at Parliament House on Thursday so Friday is the go. His leg has done a dramatic reversal towards normality this past couple of weeks, as Bob always said this type of skin cancer occasionally could, so we can now happily tell the plastic surgeon that his op, his skin graft and his long recovery period are surplus to requirements. I don’t think he will be happy but I’m confident it is heaps better and so is Bob so that’s enough.

April 14, 2021

I got a confusing message from Optus telling me they had cancelled something to do with my NBN, as requested. No request from me so after trying twice to get them on the phone and giving up I toddled to the Optus shop in Baulko and showed it to them. ‘You need to ring Optus’. ‘Yes I have but they took too long to answer so can you help me?’ ‘No sorry I can’t.’ ‘Why is that?’ ‘Because this is the Telstra shop.’ They took it over months ago apparently and I didn’t see the changed signage. Duh.

About three years ago I got the Aged Care Assessment Team out to see if John could get some help with the heavier housework. We haven’t heard a word since but I am conscious that he needs to be pushed up the queue considering his recent problems so a few months back I rang them again for a reassessment. Today they finally called and said there is a one year wait for household help, um I don’t think so I replied, he’s been waiting nearly three. She ignored that and made an appointment to see him again in early May. Now I need to explain it all to him again as he will have forgotten, better still perhaps don’t explain it till the day before she is coming. At the moment he doesn’t need anything but if and when he does the records need to be up to date. One of my old (not in years) customers has been approved for the NDIS and now needs both a wheelchair and oxygen. Because she didn’t need either when she first applied they are not included and she has to pay for those herself to the tune of $4000. The problem with these things is that you deal with box-tickers, not thinkers, one wrong box and you are in a world of pain.

April 15, 2021

Last night I went to a meeting at Killara that hasn’t been held in person for 14 months due to Covid. Panicking not to be late, as usual, I arrived to total darkness and sat on a seat there for 40 minutes, realising belatedly that we meet at 7 not 6.30 as I had thought. I will not talk about John’s memory, for 24 hours at least. Another problem that afflicts both our memories is the whereabouts of the Thermos. We needed it for the Bowral trip and need it again tomorrow, but the kitchen, storeroom, garage and cars have been searched with no joy. The last thing we remember is that we found a good place to keep it, but we have no idea where that good place might be.

I decided a couple of days ago that I should ring the Nuclear Medicine Department at St. V’s to ask exactly what the bacterium was that contaminated the radioactive infusion I was given in the PET scan. I am well and not particularly concerned at this stage but I think they have a duty to let me know exactly what it was in case problems arise in the future. The person acknowledged that she knew what I was talking about but said ‘I need to get a doctor to discuss that with you’. I’m curious if it applies to just me (unlikely) or to 100 or 1000 patients. I left my number but so far no response. Perhaps I should email so they have to put the response in writing, still thinking. It is number 237 on my list of priorities just now so no rush.

Magda Szubanski is in hot water over her comment that the photo of Morrison signing Prince Philip’s condolence book looked like a meme from The Handmaid’s Tale with Jenny standing meekly in the background. I must admit that I did a second take when I saw it, thinking it had been mocked up, and making exactly the same assumption as Magda did. A friend who is a royalist told me even she was shocked when the ABC ceased broadcasting the TV show Vera half way through to announce that Philip was dead. Whose crazy idea was that? Did they think we would don widow’s weeds or shave our heads or wail? No, even the royalists just wanted to see the rest of the episode of Vera. God help us when the Queen dies.

April 16, 2021

Our trip to Canberra, and onwards from there to places yet to be decided, had to be cancelled because I got my winter coughing and gasping condition, despite it only being half way through autumn. Our bags are packed and carried into the spare bedroom awaiting my improvement. Feeling rotten about having to postpone the much awaited trip, I suggested that we see a movie as I can just about stop coughing if I sit still and don’t attempt to talk. We saw The Father and both gave it a 5/5, in fact John said it was 5.5/5 for him. However the subject was dementia and it really upset him, in fact he was sobbing at the movie’s end. He feels, and I tend to agree, that it was a catharsis that he needed to have. You can only be brave for so long about these things, eventually you need to look the devil in the face and say ‘I’m scared’. Other movie goers probably though it quaint that two oldies had an extended hug and kiss in the foyer afterwards.

Last night I got a call from the surgeon Alan, fourth call from him over time in the evening around 7pm, it must be his ‘catch up all the loose ends before the weekend’ time. He said that the third pathology report, sent to an outside company, unequivocally called the lump I had removed as cancer, agreeing with the second pathologist’s opinion. But he is still ‘reasonably confident’ that the surgery and cauterisation got it all, so he said that in his opinion he can’t ‘medically justify’ putting me through a harrowing chemo and radiation regime for something that’s possibly cured. He brought forward my next appointment so I will ask more questions then. The virus itself can’t be cured so it will continue to attack and no amount of chemo etc will prevent that. Next step is hearing from the second Professor, results due Tuesday, about the second patch of abnormality that he found. I hadn’t realised that my immune system is as compromised as they now tell me it apparently is, as I have had fewer problems than others with autoimmune diseases. I remember asking my immunologist on the first visit if Sjogrens could be fatal. He replied that no, you will never die from it, but you may die from other things (like lymphoma he said, which is 40 times more likely) due to having a poorly functioning immune system. Perhaps even if I pick up we should wait for Richard’s report before leaving, just in case we have to hightail it back to Sydney for some reason. At the moment I am in no state to travel so it may be that Tuesday will come around before I am better anyway.

On a happier note, two lymphoma patients, one in the UK and one in the US, caught Covid and survived, only to find at their next haematology visit that their lymphoma had completely gone! Apparently the immune system rush caused by Covid had incidentally cured them. Surely that could be used in some way as a therapy, perhaps with Interferon injections or similar. I’m sure folks are working on it as we speak.

April 17, 2021

Not much to report, lying low and reading the paper, John is attending to the cooking etc with a bit of gratuitous advice from me. Bad news in that Alison had collapsed at home on Thursday, was unconscious and then had a heart attack in hospital, luckily at RNSH. She was here in good form last week and John called in on her on Wednesday, the day before the attack. She remains in ICU. Kenneth rang at night. One of my old clients rang to ask if I could lend him $400, or $300, we settled on $200. I belatedly thought to ask what the problem was, usually it is car rego. ‘Lotto is worth $80 million this week and I want to make a big investment’. Aah, understood.

April 18, 2021

Watched Insiders in my jamies, loving Amy Remeikis’s comment that she opposes bonuses on principle, woohoo, why should well remunerated people get extra for doing what they are well paid to do? Feeling a lot better and John is of a mind that we should head off tomorrow. Heather dropped around some apple and carrot cake and a card.

This morning I got a phone call from John’s closest friend Terry, from hospital. He’s had back and abdomen pain for 6 months and the GP sent him to a physio back then. He’s stuck to the exercise regimen with no improvement so he mentioned it to the doc again. He went for a CAT scan on Thursday and at 7pm Friday (as I was talking to Alan) he got a call to say that he needed to go into hospital. The CAT showed bowel cancer plus metastases in the liver, lumbar vertebrae and hip bone. Who knows when it spread, but one thing is for sure, it was better treated 6 months ago. I would say that it dented my opinion of the usefulness of physios, but that was already so dented that you wouldn’t notice another ding. I love Terry and am so sorry that this wonderful, caring man has such a difficult time ahead of him.

Did some much needed watering in case we can get away tomorrow, we shall have to see what the morning brings, but at least the packing is all done and ready to put into the car.

April 19, 2021

We are still here. After deciding to head to Canberra this morning I had my finger on the button to book the hotel which is just a 7 minute walk from Carly’s place, but thought I had better check her availability over the evenings this week, seeing we missed going at the weekend as planned. But she said she is doing 12 hour days prior to a big announcement and so my finger was reluctantly withdrawn. Then we went through a panoply of options from going slowly to Canberra via Oberon, Cowra and Boorowa to going via the coast and up through Braidwood and then I found when I looked at availability of places to stay that some were booked out till mid May. As I have read, regional travel is booming. I thought of our fave, Bannisters at Mollymook, but was shocked at the tariff  increase since we were last there pre-pandemic. It was at least double, so I queried the massive rise and she said ‘yes our rates increased a good deal after the pandemic’, no link explained. I decided that to accept it would only encourage them to fleece people but it’s disappointing as we’ve stayed there three times before, including with all the family, and loved it. Unfortunately there are these days enough rich people around for businesses to charge whatever they like, high prices just make a place ‘exclusive’ no matter the quality. Another factor in my indecision is that I was told Richard would contact me in 2 weeks with test results, that passed this afternoon (not that I’m counting, ha). What with finding out that Terry is seriously ill, our Canberra plans being up in the air and the test results due, I am abstracted. John is super understanding that I am indecisive and puts it down to my having been sick, but he leaves any sort of bookings in my basket so I can’t offload the task to him. To top it off I dropped my new second pair of glasses and broke the frame after which I burst into tears of frustration. I had recently promised Ralph the optometrist some home made biscuits and luckily had them ready so I went up and asked him: ‘Do you want the good news or the bad news?’ He chose bad first so I showed him the glasses and then gave him the biscuits. We get on so well, as long as I steer him off politics, he’s an arch- conservative and Trumpist by nature and if I let him start on politics I would probably have to cease going there, so I go armed with a bunch of non-political stories to cut him off at the pass.

Tony texted and told me that following his recent long hours Castle Hill Library reopens after a renovation tomorrow. I have had an ongoing difference of opinion about the library’s decision to use ‘genre classification’ as they call it for their adult fiction, I call it a bloody stupid system. If I want a book by Maeve Binchy for example I have to look under B in the usual racks, then if it’s not there go to Romance or whatever boneheaded ‘genre’ someone has ascribed to it. My cogent arguments against the system cut no ice with the head, so we have to live with books being tagged with Hearts for Romance, Guns for Crime and Kangaroos for Australian, amongst many other symbols too annoying to list, and shelved accordingly. I was hoping his long hours lately involved pulling off the stickers and tossing them into the round file, but no. Asked how she would categorise Anna Karenina brought stony silence from the head. I wonder how The Dutch House would fit in this scheme, perhaps an emoji with a tear? Poor Tony has to listen to my complaints but as I told him there is no point in having your own personal librarian if I can’t get him to pull some strings or at least to listen to my bitching.

April 20, 2021

A decision has been made! We go directly to Canberra tomorrow. We will want to visit two lots of friends there and we can get that done early on and see Carly and Danish at the weekend and whatever nights she is able to get off work at a reasonable hour. The timing of the big government announcement that she’s been working on was unfortunate but so was my getting sick. The long touring holiday we had planned to northern Victoria and perhaps the Snowies, returning via Canberra, has been curtailed, but it’s been replaced by an initial 5 night stay in Canberra visiting friends and day-tripping. I had found a quite new hotel near to Carly’s place, a very walkable 7 minutes even at the forecast 1 degree evening temperatures. So I rang them and negotiated free parking (saving $10 a day) and then discovered that all of their standard rooms were booked out. Luckily it was the manager I jagged on the phone and he gave us a good price on a one bedroom apartment with full kitchen, washing machine etc. so we are very happy with the outcome, at a fraction of the nightly price that Rick Stein wanted for a basic room at Bannisters.

No word yet from Richard but I decided that if he had all the results he would ring, so I must be patient, never my strong suit. I have signed papers to permit him to use any results in his papers and research so I asked if I could expect to see my insides plastered on his Facebook page. No, he quickly replied, but I’m in talks with the people who lease that huge illuminated Coca-Cola sign at Kings Cross. Boom-Tish. One of the tests is a genomic analysis of the virus, something that wasn’t even a possibility when I studied genetics all those years ago. When Watson and Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA in the 1950s I wonder if in their wildest dreams they thought that the human genome could be fully revealed. When I was watching 4 Corners last night on the beginnings of the pandemic in China, it showed parts of the the genome of the Covid19 virus, that repeating mixture of adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine that controls us all. To think back in the 60s and 70s when I was working in a genetics lab, the idea that one day I would be having a full viral genome tested to aid in my medical treatment would have seemed unbelievable.

April 21, 2021

John woke up with a cold and we had to decide whether to cancel again. I felt it was the best move to cancel, despite losing our $200 deposit, but he suggested that seeing he usually doesn’t suffer badly with colds it was better to push on, however it means no visiting people as we had planned. I dosed him up with Codral Cold and Flu tablets and was surprised that it was the first time he had ever taken such things as Barbara felt it was a waste to take a tablet that doesn’t cure you but only makes you feel better, a logic I neither understand nor share. The trip was happily uneventful without too much traffic. We stopped at Bowral and bought two ready made meals from Flour, Water, Salt, our favourite foodie place at Kiama which now has an outlet in Bowral as well. This meant we could just reheat one, cook some rice and toss a salad and dinner was ready. We went to the tourist bureau and got a heap of brochures, looking up outdoor venues to visit where John wouldn’t be a risk to anyone else.

Our apartment was an OMG reveal, top floor looking over Mt. Ainslie, with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, laundry, loungeroom, study and a big deck! The decor is divine, black, grey and white with burnt orange highlights and everything is co-ordinated, right down to the crockery and cutlery. I doubt there is much marble left in the country after they did the bathroom, kitchen benchtops, splashbacks, dining table, coffee table, occasional tables, bedsides and more, yes I could happily have this as a second home and wouldn’t need to change a thing. Carly came over after work and we met in the bar of the hotel as she naturally didn’t want to risk catching John’s virus, a pity though when this place is made for entertaining. We had a drink and I was finally able to give her the birthday gifts that have waited since March 30, over which she was genuinely ecstatic, the gloves being a major success.

Highlight of the day was hearing that George Floyd’s murderer will face the consequences.

April 22, 2021

Had a call from Terry to say they have found more cancer in his spine and he will be having a spinal fusion on Saturday before they even get around to doing surgery on his primary cancer. They said that later they will ‘lop off the affected part of your liver’ as well. It looks worse each time we hear from him. He is a fulltime practising psychotherapist so his patients will all be suffering in a different way.

Today we went to the National Rock Garden, an unusual display of huge boulders of different sorts of rocks from around Australia, set in the open air, each with a small section highly polished to let people see how they can be used in architecture, sculpture or whatever. Tactile, stunningly beautiful and educational all at the same time. Then to the nearby Arboretum where forests of some of the world’s most famous trees have been planted, including the wonderful Himalayan Cedars through which we walked. These are fairly mature but much of the pine forests, 60% in fact, were destroyed by bushfire in 2001 and 2003, and these new forests have been planted to replace them. With over 44,000 rare and endangered trees across a 250-hectare site and a couple of really impressive sculptures, there was plenty to keep us occupied till about 2 pm. We are eating in, so a baguette with cheese and salad made in the apartment did the job for lunch. Another trip in the afternoon and then a call from Carly wanting to know if I could come out for dinner after work, about 7.30, which I answered in the affirmative. She picked me up in an Uber and we went to Zaab, a modern Thai place in Braddon, which was the fourth one she’s rung for a booking…..on a Thursday night. Every place along the strip was packed, she said you need to book a week ahead in Canberra on a Friday or Saturday night. Compare that to India where they are dying in the streets, we don’t know how lucky we are.

April 23, 2021

We called Terry first thing and the news from him gets worse every day. They had reported cancer in two lumbar vertebrae which he is due to have fused tomorrow but an MRI has shown cancer also in two high vertebrae which they need to operate on tomorrow as well as he is currently at risk of becoming quadriplegic if they collapse, which they well might. So it will be pins and rods at two places in the spine tomorrow just to avoid his spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair, then they think about treating the cancer. His prognosis even with all of this surgery has to be grim.

Finally I got the call I’ve been waiting for, from Dan whom Richard refers to as ‘my right hand man’. The genomic analysis of the virus came back as expected, it is strain 16, the one mainly responsible for causing cancer. The third biopsy came back as ‘superficially invasive cancer’ which seems a contradiction when you think of superficial versus invasive but I guess it’s better than it could be. Dan explained things fully and offered to send me by mail a copy of Richard’s report (sent already to Bob, Alan and Glenn Reeves) so I happily accepted that. He also asked on Richard’s behalf if I wanted to be considered for two upcoming clinical trials, one via a Dutch doctor for an anti-viral drug targeting strain 16 virus. It won’t undo the existing damage but if successful would prevent the virus attacking even further. The second is a clinical trial for using radiofrequency ablation to destroy any remaining tumour cells, something that has much less in the way of side effects compared to radiotherapy. I have put my name down for both, but they probably won’t be approved till late in the year. At least there is some possible good news in the pipeline.

As John is understandably reluctant to mix with people we went to the CSIRO Discovery Centre where he left me to discover while he set out on a walk. However it was closed due to COVID, do they know something that we don’t as everything else in Canberra is open? So we abandoned that idea and both went to the Botanical Gardens, doing the rainforest walk and then the 1.5 km circle walk, both delightful. Had lunch at Silo at an outdoor table and then wended our weary way home. While at the gardens we got a call from Dav to say that they were taking Millie to hospital. She developed gastro last night and was vomiting endlessly this morning. It was lucky they did as she had developed hypoglycaemia from dehydration. They immediately put her on an IV drip and eventually into a ward, where she remains. Apparently a small number of kids get this problem if dehydrated but most don’t, they don’t know why. So they are both at the hospital, taking turns being with Millie due to restrictions on visiting. We are so lucky to have places like RPA at hand. While Indians drag their relatives from hospital to hospital, looking for places which still have oxygen, I can’t even imagine the suffering. At one hospital an oxygen leak caused 22 deaths before it was repaired. Considering that three people mentioned in this blog today are receiving consummate medical treatment, I ask myself why we were born into such advantage and our brothers and sisters elsewhere were not? No concept of god or religion can explain this, it is simply kismet, and I hate it.

April 24, 2021

Off to the Gallery this morning for the Botticelli to Van Gogh Exhibition which John particularly wanted to see. He feels safe enough to others now if he’s wearing a mask. But no, even though we got there first thing the earliest bookings available were 4.30 pm till 6. Okay, apparently we should have booked, but who knew? So we went off to Old Parliament House and saw the annual exhibition of political cartoons, which were great, particularly the Cathy Wilcox ones. Then we went walking and ended up at the National Library where we started to look at an exhibition there, but soon John had had enough so we went on another big walk. Eventually 3.30 came around and we went back to the Gallery for a cuppa before the exhibition, but the cafeteria is not open unless you are booked in for one of the four sessions of high tea, mmm sounds more like a money-making issue than a Covid one, but anyway. Despite being ticketed the exhibition was crowded beyond belief, no social distancing possible there, then each room had a huge queue to enter it, monitored by a guard. John announced ‘it isn’t doing anything for me, I’m getting out of here’ and waited for me outside. So I pretty much gave up at that point, only having seen two out of about five rooms. Unfortunately all of the later pieces that I really wanted to see were in the last three rooms so it was pretty disappointing. I think in future I need to go to things like this alone. At one point he rang Lyn whom he had called just yesterday but she wasn’t answering. I commented that probably not much had happened since yesterday but he had no memory of that call at all, querying me whether I was sure he’d rung her as he thought he hadn’t spoken to her for weeks. Things are crook in Tallarook but we muddle on.

April 25, 2021

Last night we had dinner at Carly’s and she ordered in Messina Anzac biscuit icecream for dessert. This morning we plus Carly and Danish headed off to Lanyon an 1830s convict built property south of Canberra, still in the ACT but on the way to Cooma. It is surrounded by the Brindabella Ranges and is an idyllic spot, not far from Farrer’s farm where he began his wheat breeding. We took a guided tour and John Ambler our guide was taken with the fact that we both came from the Leeds area in England. I had commented that the layout of the farm buildings was just like those in Yorkshire, he agreed and said that the first owner set the farm up like the ones he knew ‘at home’. It was wonderful to tour the house with him and particularly to understand the convict experience there. The owner regularly complained to the local magistrate, his friend, that the convicts weren’t badly enough injured by the lashings they were given, up to 150 at a time. One died in a Parramatta hospital not long after getting 150 lashes, he was 30. The penalty for being too sick to work was 25 lashes, 150 was for letting sheep get away, despite the fact that they had no pens and were watching them at night in the open air. It doesn’t bear thinking about. An interesting aside was that the guide used to work at CSIRO Discovery and I mentioned that I had been and it was closed due to Covid. He scoffed at the idea and said that successive Liberal governments had slashed the staff by hundreds and now will only ‘invest in things that make money and education isn’t one of them’. He claims they are using Covid as an excuse so as not to have to admit to the real situation. Hardly surprised of course.

On the way home I got John to pull up at the Gallery and I told them about our curtailed viewing yesterday. They were quite happy to let me in to see the rooms I had missed. John wasn’t keen to go back in and went for a walk. The queues were even worse than yesterday but at least I didn’t have to do many of them. Perhaps I am a Philistine, but although others have raved about this exhibition we were both underwhelmed compared to others we have seen. My all time favourite was Orientalism at the AGNSW, this was nowhere near as impressive as that one for me. I saw the famous Turner painting of a ship in London in 1973 and was somewhat disappointed then, it hasn’t improved 50 years later. Yes I must be a Philistine. At least all of the paintings are infinitely preferable to some of the modern things just outside the door of this exhibition…..

Terry’s surgery was ‘successful’ but took 14 hours, a clear sign of how badly his spine was damaged. John’s daughter is suffering badly from the effects of the heavy chemo that she is still on, with severe mouth and lip ulcers and her fingernails are falling off. We thought 2020 was a bad year, but so far 2021 has been much worse in our personal circle and disastrous in the wider world.

April 26, 2021

It is a fact that the sky in Canberra is way bluer than Sydney’s. I commented about this to Carly this morning and she agreed that she likes to get home to Canberra to see the proper colour of the sky, declaring Sydney’s ‘permanently discoloured by pollution’. The difference is dramatic. This morning we had breakfast at the hotel instead of the usual Vegemite or jam toast in the room and discovered that we could have had a newspaper each day if only we’d known. After breakfast we met up with Carly and did a long walk around the east side of the lake, more than 7 kilometres we discovered after she showed us that our Apple phones have a built in walking tracker. Heard a recital at the Carillon on the way back and enjoyed the stunning public walkways, apparently you can do the whole circumference of the lake, 28 kilometres in total.

I hadn’t heard anything from the sewing group last week and assumed that either it was off or else I had been excommunicated. But Martha emailed to say that they were concerned that I neither replied to the circulars nor turned up on the day. Later she realised that she had used a group email without my name on it, hence I received nothing. Dan, Richard’s right hand man contacted me again to say that he had sought, and received, approval to send me my pathology reports so that was a positive. It always amuses me that doctors think that their reports should be kept secret from the subject of the report, luckily Richard is an exception. If my Medicare account is being used to pay, then I would think that the report is legally both mine and the doctor’s, but how would I know the legal technicalities. However attitudes to things like that help me to know whether the doctor is transparent and in this case he is.

April 27, 2021

Sad to be leaving our comfy pad in walking distance of both Carly’s and the city, but all good things must end. Called in to her office on the way out with a vase of flowers from a divine florist in Braddon called moxom + whitney. I Googled for a nearby florist and the first one that came up was all cardboard boxes of flowers with coloured cello in pretty ghastly arrangements. Then I turned up m + w whose ad said ‘We don’t overly work our flowers, we prefer a more organic and lush look to our bouquets and you will never ever see a cardboard box stuffed with oasis and garish cello here’. Deal done. Headed off to Bowral to get a spot of lunch with Cameron at Dirty Jane’s. John went to the loo inside the building and then didn’t appear at the table so I rang him and he was wandering around outside looking for me. He has been having a very vague day. In the meantime I made an executive decision and ordered a single high tea, with pinwheel sandwiches, tiny quiche tarts, a cheese scone, a rose scone, a macaron and a range of tiny sweets. Plenty for us and it added up to less than if we’d had two Devonshire teas. On the road John suddenly said: How come I’m driving this new car?  Well you had an accident in the old one and it was written off. Oh, did I? Was anybody hurt? No, just the cars, all good. Was the other car written off? No, just dented. Who did I hit? A taxi. So what car did I have then? A blue Suzuki. So where did I buy this one? From Alex. Who’s Alex? Our mechanic. Oh, your mechanic, sorry I don’t know him. How did I pay for it? The insurance money plus $600. Oh that was good then. Later in the day I asked him if he knew where he got the new car and he looked at me as if it were a silly question and recited the story. He had no idea that we had discussed it earlier or that he hadn’t known the story then. It’s as if his memory turns on and off, he has vague days and good days, but his geography is universally bad.

Many years ago, almost 10 I’m guessing, a friend who is an Army major told me that he and Mike Pezzullo worked together and he knows him well. Apparently Mike was roundly mocked for his extreme social conservatism and his war-mongering attitudes. When they all went out for a beer Mike could never turn off and used to get them laughing with his diatribes against gays, foreigners, tattoos, clothes, whatever was the bitch of the day. Fast forward to his appointment to Immigration and those attitudes took no time to surface, for example stopping staff running at lunch time because he didn’t want them in the lifts in running gear, prescribing how many earrings staff could wear, setting dress codes for work including putting the higher ranking public servants into uniform and much more. My friend said he’d be happy there making stupid rules and keeping refugees out and so it proved. But he also warned that if he ever got into Defence we could be at war with New Zealand, or anywhere really, he just wants a war. Fast forward to today with Dutton as Defence Minister and the Pez talking about ‘the drums of war’, hoping to get a guernsey as Dutton’s department secretary. The China hawks are in the ascendance and the Pez is itching to get the boys and girls into uniform. If we were looking to end life as we know it on earth, starting a war with China would be a good start.

April 28, 2021

Had a satisfying day weeding, washing clothes and sorting the books given to me by Alison. Many are great to read and then put in the street library but I’ve decided that the heavy religious ones, academic ones really, are better to go to the newish Lifeline Bookshop at Lindfield. I just can’t see John’s fellow housing tenants or my library clientele going for those texts. I guess I could put one or two in and see what happens.

I see Scott Morrison has been talking about the ‘the Evil One’ using social media to his/her benefit. I come across a lot of evil stuff on the internet but it’s usually from the far right of politics, a place which Morrison inhabits. He also claims to practice the ‘laying on of hands’ when victims of disaster think they are just getting a hug. Perhaps those folks out at Nelligan after the bushfires got a sense of that before they told him to ‘fuck off’, or perhaps it was just his woeful performance during that crisis that prompted them. Whichever it was I still delight in seeing the replay. My Facebook friend Chrys Stephenson, freelance researcher extraordinaire, came up with the fact that Scott Morrison’s honours thesis was written on the Exclusive Brethren’s history in Australia from 1964 to 1989. Commonly known as the Plymouth Brethren (named after the English town where the group began), the Brethren spread its conservative brand of Christianity around the world from the early 1800s. The highly secretive, strictly patriarchal Exclusive Brethren had a small community out at Windsor and I met some of them from time to time, the women always wearing a small head covering, causing the locals to refer to them colloquially as ‘the hankie heads’. Apparently Morrison was part of this church as a teenager before moving to the Baptists so no wonder he thinks of himself as fairly moderate, considering the strictures that he grew up with. They eschew radio, television, newspapers and ‘breaking bread with non-believers’ so eating out is a no-no. At one stage having cut flowers in the house was also a sin, but that was later overturned. They are often in business so mixing with non-believers is limited, keeping the Evil One at bay is a full-time job in itself.

April 29, 2021

Woke up with a blocked parotid gland once again (always after a day when I didn’t drink enough) and so now I can’t eat without excruciating pain. I have Pyrex straws here somewhere for just such occasions, then at least I can drink hot milk, but do you think I can find them? Perhaps when I do they will be hanging out with the missing Thermos. The straw helps the milk bypass the part which triggers the gland to operate but anything stronger than milk, like soup, is a step too far. I was baking a cake and without thinking I licked the spoon, a mistake I will not make again after the pain it caused. But water and tea are both doable and milk at a pinch so I just need to be patient until it spontaneously sorts itself out. I hope we are not looking at the record of five days as I’d like to eat at book group tomorrow.

Saw an article in the Good Weekend about the secrecy and lies involved in the IVF business. A woman fathered through a donor, Sarah Dingle, has written a book: Brave New Humans: The Dirty Truth Behind the Fertility Industry which sadly relates the lies she was told by Royal North Shore Hospital while trying to access her donor’s details. After discovering her father, with no help from them, she found that he had made hundreds of sperm donations at a number of Sydney hospitals so she could potentially have many, many half-brothers and sisters out there. I guess the chances of marrying one of them has to be considered. I know in the US there have been cases of unintentional parenting between related people and knowing the power of seeing someone who looks like you do, this is not at all surprising. A must read for me, I hope I can wait long enough to get it through the library, but perhaps I will weaken.

April 30, 2021

Had a scheduled 20 minute phone consultation with my immunologist today and as previously he wasn’t happy with what is being done for me at St. V’s, so the battle of the professors continues, but now it is three rather than two. Glenn: So what’s the final diagnosis? Haven’t you got the letters from both the doctors yet? Letters? What century are they living in? I want emails. Sorry I think the reports were posted. So, tell me the diagnosis. ‘Superficially invasive cancer’. Well that diagnosis presumes no visible or palpable lump! That’s not your situation. True. Wait till I dictate this bloke a letter! (He does so while I listen). So has the surgeon operated a second time, it’s not a big deal to do that? No, he doesn’t feel it’s necessary. Wait while I send this bloke a letter too. (He does so). Your GP needs to be acting as an advocate for you, I’ll just dictate him a letter. (He does so). The letter to Richard was particularly cringe-making, in part: “I am only a humble immunologist who can’t operate as a surgeon, but I can operate Google which tells me that ‘superficially invasive cancer’ has as its first criterion that it is microscopic and has ‘no visible or palpable lump’ which is not true in Maureen’s case, so how is this diagnosis even possible?” and “I have looked after this patient for 10 years and now she has the sword of Damocles hanging over her head which is upsetting both for her and for me”. I see Alan on the 10th by which time he will have have received this letter. What fun.

He has changed my appointments with him from 6 monthly to 4 monthly and wants blood tests every month to look for cancer markers, these to be done at RNS instead of the local pathology outlet. Also he has put me back on hydroxychloroquine because a paper has been published indicating that it helps suppress early cancer. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea considering that it stops me getting blocked parotid glands like I had all day yesterday. I went off it because I didn’t want to take a drug every day to avoid something that only happens 3 or 4 times a year, but if it works on cancer cells it’s a different argument. He also sent a ‘note’ to all three doctors explaining that decision and giving them the reference for the paper, with the journal, author and name of the paper, from memory! He’s a gem, but I am not so sure the other two Profs would agree with me. We ended with ‘Can we have a virtual hug?’ to the great pleasure of us both I suspect.

May 1, 2021

Terry has been told he will soon go home ‘for a while’, arrangements are being made for palliative care, so it looks like they are not even going to bother with treatment. I can’t think of it without tears, he’s a man who’s probably never done a bad thing in his life. Karma is such bullshit. But Heather tells me this morning that a friend of a friend fell in the Castle Towers fruit market (on a banana skin?) and is now quadriplegic. I comfort myself with the thought that there are worse things than death.

On a brighter note (struggling) I seem to have had a win in the Honey Wars. After countless emails and phone calls the Mudgee Council has finally agreed to enforce the law,  talking the Honey Haven into complying with legal requirement to label their honey correctly, recording additives if appropriate and listing the contents as Bush Honey for example rather then just Bush as they are now. Their website is still showing incorrectly labelled honey but she’s given them the option of changing the labels as the label supplies run out, something I wouldn’t have done, but I decided a win was a win and left it at that. However I will check in there occasionally and make sure they don’t renege. One of my many folders can be released from the In Tray.

Book group last night was warm and talkative, though perhaps a bit more time analysing the book would have pleased me, it was so so good. Sue stayed here and we had lots of laughs and storytelling as always (though I miss Robert’s ironic input so much). Norma was quite concerned about driving home in the dark and seeing that it was a genuine trepidation has made me rethink my opposition to going to lunchtime meetings. We can’t be responsible for an accident so easily avoidable. We were just seven, with Alison in hospital, Rosanna feeling unwell, Brigitte also indisposed and Martha looking after her sick husband, it seems to have happened very suddenly that we and our partners are one by one falling apart. On which topic, it appears that I am going back on the Plaquenil just in time. I was breathless last night and worse today, so my staunch opposition to the drug of a year ago has now come around to being thankful that there is at least some sort of relief.

May 2, 2021

I spent some time this morning helping John by phone to edit, mostly spelling gremlins, a document that he is writing about the effects on him of his unusual childhood. It dovetailed with thinking about the book we just did in our book group, The Dutch House. One character, Elna, could be seen as either a near saint or a derelict abandoning mother, or perhaps both? In totally different circumstances, John’s lack of his father’s presence as he grew up, firstly due to war, secondly due to his father’s appointment as a Trade Commissioner overseas and lastly due to his illness and subsequent death, affected him profoundly. Whenever we are observing someone’s personality and deeds we are seeing the influence of their parents’ decisions and their parents before that. While it is impossible to unpick all of this exactly it is a fascinating subject.

While watching Insiders this morning (not in my dressing gown as usual, but actually clothed) it occurred to me that the issues being discussed probably interest what, maybe 10 or 20 percent of the population? Or am I being too harsh? I am still getting over a vox pop interview recently where the woman had no idea that Bill Shorten was no longer Opposition leader. Although I move in a political circle of people now, I was always stunned by some of the comments I heard in the shop and particularly so one election time when a close relative of John’s had no concept of the Senate, what it is and how it operates. I can’t remember ever learning about parliament and its structures at school and my parents didn’t have a clue, once telling me they had voted Democratic Labor Party because ‘it sounded nice’ and thinking that CP next to a candidate’s name meant Communist Party when it stood for Country Party. I know nothing about sport or cars or video games, but that lack of knowledge has no bearing on my life and the future of the country, whereas an understanding of politics is vital in that respect. Without compulsory voting, which forces people to listen in the weeks, or at least days, prior to an election, we’d be totally stuffed. The widespread idea that ‘all politicians are corrupt’ means that people don’t demand any action from government when one of their number (or in the case of this government, quite a few of their number) are guilty of it.

May 3, 2021

A successful appointment this morning at John’s with Anna from the ACAT team. She asked him a host of questions and decided (rightly in my view) that he qualifies for a level one aged care package. At the moment he doesn’t need any help but he should have a foot in the door for when he does. She said that he should come to the top of the queue in about six months (think a year maybe) and then he will get some help with things like changing the sheets and cleaning the bath and toilet. She did a memory test and he only remembered two out of five things on a shopping list but hey, that’s better than none. I was originally unsure about writing about his memory loss but then one day he said I hope you are putting this in the blog in a factual way and not sugar-coating it, so from then on I did. I am forced to be less than honest sometimes where other people are concerned but gladly that doesn’t apply to us.

After that we went for an hour’s walk down Stringybark Creek and it was great to be in the bush, even in suburbia. After a couple of Saos and cheese and a cuppa we went off to Roseville Cinema to see The Courier which was much better than I expected from the shorts, Cumberbatch really is the goods. Then John photocopied all the pathology results kindly sent to me by Richard in the mail last Friday. I know that Glenn was copied into the accompanying letter but it didn’t seem that he got the original five pages of pathology so I will mail them to him tomorrow. He had said to send him ‘any results at all that you get’ so that’s what I will do. Somehow it seems weird to get a letter saying that your diagnosis is ‘carcinoma’, even though I’d been told over the phone, it sort of makes it definite when it’s on a piece of paper. I’ve been thinking a lot about an old shop client M…… who used to come in regularly over many years and was always a cheery soul. Then she came in one day and told me that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, she was sobbing and I wasn’t surprised considering the implications of that. But I was surprised that I never ever saw her happy again, a simple ‘hello, how are you’ always plunged her into floods of tears for the next couple of years, even though her prognosis was good according to her doctors. She stopped coming eventually but by then I had made a firm decision that I would never let a diagnosis ruin my life like M…… did. I hope I can stick to it.

May 4, 2021

I don’t exactly know what it is about Thoreau but he has always spoken to me somehow. Even when I discovered him over 50 years ago there was a connection to his words, so it was very exciting to get The Journal 1837-1861 plonked onto my front verandah, sent by my brother and arriving last month exactly on the 17th anniversary of my finding him. It is the sort of book that you dip in and out of but I am in the habit of reading some of it every day, last night till 12.30 am. We are different in every way, born 130 years apart, different sex, different nationality, certainly different in courage, self-sufficiency and abilities, yet in many ways I feel at one with him. The journals cover over 7000 pages and have been abridged in this version to nearly 700, daily covering the weather, the botany and animal life of his region but spiked with philosophy unexpectedly dropped into the musings. “There is no such thing as pure objective observation. Your observation, to be interesting, to be significant, must be subjective”. His detailed botanical knowledge made me assume botany as his major at university, but he studied rhetoric, classics, philosophy, mathematics, and science. He seems to know Latin, French and Greek so these were probably studied in his classics courses at Harvard. I wish the arts and sciences were more integrated these days, rather than turning out people who are singularly scientists or just commerce or law practitioners. These days we would say he was ‘on the spectrum’ due to his almost obsessive detailing of the natural phenomena around him, from measuring the heights of cliffs to counting the scales on turtles to recording the first flowering of every plant in his local area from year to year or measuring the depth of snow and ice regularly each winter. His generosity, shown to his neighbours and to escaping slaves from the South whom he assisted to flee to Canada, opposes his reputation as a difficult and cranky man, though at some times he was clearly that as well. “The oldest, wisest politician grows not more human, but is merely a gray wharf rat at last. He makes a habit of disregarding the moral right and wrong for the legal and political, commits a slow suicide and thinks to recover by retiring on to a farm at last.” Nothing changes it seems.

Had a long call today from my friend Tim who is in the middle of a years long legal battle with his father over a property promised to him in the father’s will in exchange for his free labour over many decades. His father has now reneged and left the property to others. At a mediation hearing last week, costing Tim $10,000 for his barrister, his father didn’t appear by video as arranged, so it was a disaster in terms of both extensive preparation and money. It is due to go ahead again at the end of the month, his father apparently hoping he will run out of money, which he very well might.

May 5, 2021

Just when we felt safe going to the movies again someone in the eastern suburbs tests positive after going to the selfsame movie we saw on Monday, albeit at a different cinema. He also went to four different sellers of barbecues over various suburbs and then to a butcher, so it seems he was planning a meat fest this weekend that won’t be happening. It will be interesting to see where his infection has come from when he has no connection with quarantine hotels and the like. At sewing group today Colleen said that her brother in India has Covid while I have not succeeded so far in getting Ram on the phone over there but I’ll keep trying.

For some reason I was thinking about the time I offered to take a fellow from Windsor to the theatre as a thankyou for something he had done for me. He was very excited, but once the play started (I think it was at the Nimrod, but can’t exactly remember) he couldn’t keep still, bouncing his feet all over the place like a five year old and grinning from ear to ear. At interval I discovered that it was the first time ever that he’d been to the theatre and he talked about it endlessly afterwards. He would have been in his 40s then. We take so much for granted. I didn’t go as a child but took my parents to see Fiddler on the Roof with Hayes Gordon in 1967 and they were enthralled, but never have I seen the excitement that Noel displayed that night. He’s still there in Windsor, a single man working as a very skilled tradesman, smoking pot and drinking bourbon every night and I’ll bet he’s never been to the theatre since. An ambulance just raced past my house to Aminya down the road with its siren going, a regular occurrence, but I never hear the siren on the way back.

It becomes easier to see how Thoreau’s Journal was edited from 7000 pages to 700. After discovering a fish he didn’t know in a nearby pond he draws it and gives a detailed written  explanation of it, then the editor states (in italics): There follows 57 pages of drawings and measurements of examples of this fish over a period. Mmm, easy to see where to cut in that instance. But hooked as I am I would probably have read the 57 pages just in case there was some gem hidden in there somewhere. Oops, there goes a second ambulance so perhaps this person is the exception.

May 6, 2021

I think we have all become a bit lackadaisical about hand sanitiser, QR codes and the like. I noticed the difference when we were in Canberra, there a person on the door is just as likely to ask to see your phone to make sure that you’ve checked into a place, at the least they will ask if you have done it, whereas here nobody seems to bother. Ultimately we will pay the price for that, if we haven’t already. I was thinking of suggesting a movie in Paddington after seeing the surgeon on Monday but that’s out the window now. It is reported that the man infected went to an optometrist underneath and outside of the Wentworth Hotel building which is a quarantine hotel. If this is all you need to do it’s pretty scary, though there may well be another explanation. I’m afraid the feds have been pretty lax with forward planning, we need to get quarantine out of the central city into purpose built accommodation, this bloody disease is going to be around for a long time yet, not to mention an entirely new one.

Sat up till I finished Thoreau last night. His encyclopaedic knowledge of all sorts of ‘stuff’ means that there are an array of wonderful tidbits in the book, such as the following: “porcelain vessels of Chinese manufacture have been repeatedly found in the catacombs of Thebes, in Egypt, some as old as the Pharaonic period, and the inscriptions on them have been read with ease by Chinese scholars”. What a different view of history and travel that provides, but whether true or not it gets me thinking about all manner of things. His death at 44 mirrors so many of his period and what a loss he was. It is said he died of tuberculosis but it is hard to understand where he caught it, such was his solitary life. TB is not an easy disease to catch unless in very close proximity to sufferers, but he did make occasional trips to lecture on his many interests. Now I need to reread Walden, I only have a book with some excerpts, so I hope the universal mind will decide to plonk it into the street library as a library copy just won’t do in this case.

May 7, 2021

On Wednesday Colleen mentioned that her brother in Mumbai had a mild case of Covid, last night she emailed to say that he had died. I am in a Facebook group called Anglo-Indian Cookery Group and last night two people posted. I was expecting recipes but it was a notice of the death of the father of one member and the brother of another, both of Covid in India. This morning I asked Heather if she could do me a bunch for Colleen and when we went to pick it up she had done a vase full of purple honeysuckle with a few kinds of foliage and mint, just gorgeous, so we delivered that on the way to town.

Today was our Captain Cook High Tea Cruise, won in the RFS raffle in Katoomba early in 2020 and delayed by the pandemic. John parked up past the Argyle Cut and as we were early we wandered in to the Museum of Contemporary Art, always useful for toilets, with the first exhibition entitled Anywhere But Here and that’s exactly where I wished we were when I saw it. Upstairs some Aboriginal art was interesting but as usual I was glad they don’t charge for entry. We went for a walk around to the Opera House and arrived at the wharf at 2.10 for our 2.30 cruise, only to be told that it had left at 2 pm. I had asked over the phone when I booked what times the cruise was on and was told ‘only one per day at 2.30 pm from Friday to Sunday, the cruises have been cut back due to Covid’. But now they are running four days a week at 1 pm and 2 pm, but nobody had bothered to let us know. They gave us new tickets for Thursday next week but that doesn’t pay for the tolls, the (small) cost of the lippy I put on and the hour spent in the MCA. We drowned our sorrows with tea and a Goya each at La Renaissance and saw the funny side. John had no clue where we were parked but luckily one of us is still okay with directions.

Started reading Sarah Krasnostein’s book The Believer: Encounters with Love, Death and Faith, a study of the thought processes of people who believe in all sorts of oddnesses such as ghosts, UFOs or that nothing in the world can be true if it disagrees with a statement in the Bible (think geology, evolution). From two Australians who built an exact replica of Noah’s Ark in the US replete with dioramas of dinosaurs and humans together to a six times married Buddhist who helps people through the dying experience, there are certainly some characters here. My main concern so far is that the ghost folks seem to be able to put the wind up the author which makes me wonder how easily influenced she was or is. Her book The Trauma Cleaner was one of the best I’ve read in recent years so I am feeling a little let down, but I’m only a quarter through, perhaps she pulls it all together in the end.

May 8, 2021

Out to Dural for a bread run and rang Martha to see if they were up for a visit on the way back but her phone didn’t connect so I sent a text. After we got home she replied, but didn’t know who I was as my number had come up as unknown, despite it not having been changed. By then we were involved in other things so we didn’t end up going. I had been given eight big quinces from someone’s tree and John obliged by peeling and slicing the hard buggers. I am experimenting with cooking them in the slow cooker as I can never justify the oven being on for eight hours or whatever, so they are simmering away in some honey and water. Next I made raspberry brown sugar muffins to take to Davina’s tomorrow, the recipe says it makes 12 but always makes 22 in my tins. British muffin tins must be like the huge ones you get in some cafes, which I avoid as I usually find them dry and tasteless. I had plans to cut back my Grevillea and make some vases of flowers for the house but before I got to that there was a knock on the door and Interflora delivered a vase from Carly of roses, chrysanthemums and another flower I can’t recall so I left the Grevilleas for another day. Spoke to Terry who is at home and has been advised not to have any visitors, including family. He starts radiotherapy Monday.

Still going on the Krasnostein book. The stories themselves, while worth reading, seem oddly chosen to fit the category of The Believer. I can’t see how the ‘death doula’ quite fits the mould and did we need two UFO stories? Though the young pilot who went missing in Bass Strait was interesting to me, especially the theory that he simply saw natural phenomena prominent at the time but because of his belief in UFOs he called in to the air traffic control that one was hovering over him. He was never seen again so the mystery remains. I’m sure she is linking together interesting people she has met or heard about, whether or not they really fit the title. There are quite a few fundamentalist Christians in there too, certainly they fill the bill, but America (and increasingly here) they are as common as fleas on a dog, so probably one or two examples would have sufficed.

May 9, 2021

Down to Dav’s for a brunch consisting of sausage rolls, mini quiches and vege patties with a spinach and artichoke sauce on the side, followed by my muffins. Sue made it down from Sunshine Beach in Queensland yesterday so Millie had both grandma and nanny. After that we all played games such as Memory and a jigsaw puzzle and John gave Millie the cow figurine and book he had bought her at the delightful toy shop in Moss Vale. Millie has now been enrolled in school for next year and Dav was surprised by the pages of questions on the forms including what problems existed at home. She is a sensitive little person and is dealing with a girl at pre-school who calls her names like ‘banana wee’! I can remember my mother just taking me to the principal’s office and I was in, I can’t remember any forms at all but perhaps the principal wrote on them. I do remember her asking where we lived and when my mother said Bright St she replied ‘ah you poor woman’ as it was mostly housing commission places though our half house was not. Times have changed.

John dropped me home and then went up to Castle Mall to buy one thing in a particular shop at 2.45, but was still not home at 4.45 so I was wondering how to proceed when he didn’t answer two phone calls. Then the car pulled in and it turned out he got caught up in Castle Towers looking for a shop that is in Castle Mall, then worked it out and went back to the Mall to find they didn’t have what he wanted so it was back to the Towers to buy it from Myer. All perfectly explainable but I was worried nonetheless.

I have three remote controls for my garage door: one in the house, one in the car and one in the garage. At any given time I am lucky to have a random two of them working, for reasons as yet unexplained. But in the last few days all three are non functional and I need to access the garage via the side door, manually unlocking the roller door and then doing it again in reverse afterwards, all of which is somewhat annoying. I once had all three inoperable for a couple of months so I called the man who installed it, he pressed the button once and it worked perfectly, so I am reluctant to call him again. Clearly it’s an intermittent signal fault but I am wondering if the recent rain has exacerbated it?

May 10, 2021

Went to St. Vincent’s today to see Alan the surgeon and will be going again in two months. He said he is ‘pretty confident’ of having removed all the cancer but can’t be 100% sure as the pathology says it was too close to the margin, but if he operated again he would be working blind as the remaining cancer would be microscopic. There are two options: either he and Richard monitor me closely for some time or else I have chemo and radiotherapy 5 days a week for 3 weeks as a precaution against any having been missed. I chose the first option and he said he totally agreed with the decision. So now it’s Alan every 2 months, Glenn Reeves every 4 months, and Richard every 6. I’m also having monthly blood tests for cancer markers, biopsies every 6 months with Richard and Alan said he may do another PET scan in 6-12 months as well. When he said mine was a most unusual case I said that I want a copy of any paper he writes about me, autographed. If any symptoms arise or cancer markers show up then we reassess. Makes for a somewhat uncertain future but he says that some of his cancer patients who have had radiotherapy in the same area have many side effects. The prospect of radiation damage that never heals, affecting quality of life permanently as he described, instils confidence that it’s the right decision for me. We were planning to visit Martha and Phil, taking some of the poached quince, but Phil isn’t having a good day so we’ve put it off.

I was surprised to learn from Thoreau that even back in his day people went in for ‘artificial exercise’. He rants: “I see dumb-bells in the minister’s study and some of their dumbness gets into his sermons. Some travellers carry them around the world in their carpetbags. Can he be said to travel who requires still this exercise? A party of school-children had a picnic the other day and they carried bags of beans from their gymnasium to exercise with there. I cannot be interested in these extremely artificial amusements”. Oh Henry you should try walking along Art Gallery Road or through the Domain and seeing the personal trainers putting some poor sods through their paces. I shall think of you each time I see them now, saving John from listening to my harping on ‘artificial exercise’.

May 11, 2021

Had a boring morning waiting for John’s cardiologist at RNS as I had forgotten to take my book and now no-one has magazines in their surgeries. We got there at 10 am and left at 12.15 as Gemma was running very late. Then in the afternoon we were waiting for his car to be ready from the mechanic’s but ultimately they rang to say that they needed it overnight, so it was a waiting day all round.

I finished Sarah Krasnostein’s book The Believer and found it ultimately disappointing. I found the individual stories in this book interesting but the book as a whole was not successful. It seemed as if the author, whom I loved after reading The Trauma Cleaner, chose some interesting personalities and then tried to link them all into the theme of being a Believer, whether they quite fitted or not. I found her scattered approach of splitting the stories up and treating them like a page-turning novel rather annoying. Her writing is very good, but the book needed a damned good edit, at the very least making the stories run from beginning to end without splitting them up. However, I still don’t quite understand what held these stories together, interesting as they may be individually. I thought the goal was to examine the whole idea of belief, but that certainly didn’t happen. People believing in UFOs, ghosts, some Mennonites, people building a life size model of Noah’s Ark using biblical measurements, someone who helps people who are dying and another who spent 34 years in gaol seemed like a grab bag of ideas to me: Hey, I met some cool and different people, how can I somehow link them into a book? There was no analysis of the individual beliefs nor anything about the whole concept of belief. Why exactly were the ‘death doula’ or the long term prisoner convicted of murder included? The book seems to be more of a collection of short stories of some folks with interesting lives rather than a serious attempt at explaining belief, something that would have interested me more.

May 12, 2021

We got John’s car back in time for him to get in to town for his 2 pm infusion appointment at St. Vincent’s, fitting in morning tea with Michelle in between. She brought me a couple of pressies from Melbourne and a book that she’d snaffled from a street library.

I have just finished Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor, a book from the 80s that I’ve been aware of but didn’t really know anything about. I had no idea if it were autobiographical, about a real place or simply fiction. It took me a while to catch on that he is having a piece of us, that the reader won’t really know if any of it is truth or fiction. He had me in for quite a while (even when he was carefully explaining the American Indian roots of the word Wobegon I still didn’t twig!). I have no idea if the historical statements are true or a complete burlesque, but the book as a whole is an absurd and comical parody.
But I have to say that despite its unusual format it holds some real zingers within its pages that made me laugh out loud. To explain the luck of being born American, Chinese, Russian or African: “In heaven are millions of souls lined up waiting to be born, and when it’s your turn, you go down the chute like a gumball to whoever put a penny in the slot.” Or to explain the result of a land survey that was miles off: “an error that lives on in the FAA Course Correction, a sudden lurch felt by airline passengers as they descend into Minnesota airspace on flights from New York and Boston”. An enjoyable farce.

May 13, 2021

Today was the rerun of the harbour cruise we were supposed to do last week but missed by 10 minutes. The lady on the desk had tried to convince me that it was my mistake that the cruise we thought was leaving at 2.30 actually ran at 2 pm. As we sat on the wharf waiting for the boat today I noticed a fancy illuminated sign reading ‘High Tea Cruises leave at 2.30 pm’. Methinks you fib my lady. Anyway it was a relaxing little adventure with a glass of bubbly and a selection of savoury and sweet goodies, some of which, like the sausage rolls and meat pastries, I packed up for John’s dinner, adding a scone and a fruit tart that we couldn’t manage to eat either. Got a close look at Packer’s Pecker from the water and although I wouldn’t have allowed it to be built there, I must admit its twisting form has some attraction architecturally. We get to do it all again in September (if I’m spared, as my grandmother used to say) as I won two separate cruises as my raffle prize. We won’t eat breakfast or lunch next time though.

John has written a document about his childhood and seems quite focussed on it lately, often saying that he feels his mother’s criticism in his head ‘John! don’t lick your fingers, don’t pick up that drumstick, don’t talk while you’re eating’. I told him that I had never had such instructions as a child because my parents didn’t know what was good manners and what wasn’t, which compared to his upbringing was a blessed relief. Last night I met with five friends and three of them had a close relative in dementia care, one a husband, the other two mothers. The prices they quoted for getting them in ranged from $450,000 to $700,000 to $1.1 million, so counting John’s problems that’s four out of six people affected, which I found extraordinary. Is it just because we are living longer? I’m not sure.

May 14, 2021

Drove out to Richmond to get my beautiful clock back from the clockmaker. He fixed it for me weeks ago but then it came to a stop and this time he can’t fix it. He offered me the money back but I declined, he’s spent ages on it. I’m not sure what to do next, a non-working clock is just a useless ornament, but I don’t have another clockmaker that I can trust with a rare clock. Pondering. The traffic going out there at 10.30 am was amazing, where are they all going? I used to take off at the lights at Kellyville and not stop till I reached Windsor, but not any more. Picked up a reserved book from the library and it happened that the librarian is reading The Believer, so we had a good chat about that. I vacuumed the house just now, a job I always hate, but realised that I most hate ‘thinking about vacuuming the house’ rather than actually doing it, whereas washing up, washing clothes, cooking etc I am quite cool with, both in anticipation and in actuality.

I had assumed that John would like a big party for his 80th, but he decided that it is too fraught what with his family circumstances, but expressed the wish to spend time with Stephen and Deborah. So I have booked us into Rydges Newcastle for three nights and planned a lunch with them on his birthday, they have come up with the idea of a bush barbecue the following day so that ticks all the boxes for him. Usually we stay at Noah’s right on the beach so I can whip over and swim as the mood takes me, but this time chose Rydges right on the harbour edge as it will be way too cold for swimming. Also we have a tiny lounge area separate from the bedroom which means we don’t have to sit on the bed to entertain visitors as we did at Noah’s. One complaint on Tripadvisor was about ships sounding their horns in the middle of the night but I kind of like the idea of being on the edge of a working harbour. The restaurant there has really bad reviews however, so we will give that a miss, there being plenty of places to eat in walking distance. I had suggested as one option that he have a friends only party, but now with Terry so sick that would be somewhat hollow, so I think we’ve come up with a perfect solution.

May 15, 2021

Every time I walked into the loungeroom I spied Christmas presents there for our Blackheath friends and made a mental note to do something about it. They have been in hard lockdown due to one being particularly susceptible to the virus so I haven’t wanted to deliver them in person. Finally today I settled on delivering them to his mother who will take them up for a Christmas in July celebration planned when they complete their vaccinations. Job done as of this morning. Then I headed over to Harris Farm at Pennant Hills and stocked up there before visiting Martha and Phil as planned. Phil was abed and so I had a cuppa with Martha until we heard a faint call from the bathroom, only to find that he had fallen into the bath on the way to the loo and split his head. We managed to get him out and Martha attended to his head wound which luckily didn’t need stitching, but he certainly got a shock and his cries for help were almost inaudible. I’m sure Martha will now be rethinking whether she can leave him alone as he never would have been able to haul himself out if we hadn’t been there. It reminded me of Barbara falling, very close to that same spot, but luckily John was able to catch her and she wasn’t injured.

I have been idly looking in op shops for a two tier cake stand as the one I use came from my shop and it hadn’t sold because it is pretty plain and boring, though a decent brand. Martha offered me a brand new one, still in its box, which is allover floral and just my taste. It had come from a mutual friend’s house when he was moving to a unit and came with a matching milk jug and sugar pot, just the ticket. It inspires me to have a morning tea soon. I took over to Martha’s the last of the muffins so I need to bake again soon, though I made up a tart recipe this afternoon to take to the planned picnic with Dav and Co tomorrow. It’s filled with a mixture of cream cheese, cheddar and leftover Brie beaten up with eggs and yogurt and topped with tomatoes, shallots etc. It looks good so hopefully tastes the same.

May 16, 2021

Off to Centennial Park this morning and we were astounded at the crowds there. We needed to park a long way from the agreed meet-up point but we eventually got there, however John suggested he go back to the car for five books he had brought for Millie. I should have gone with him in hindsight, but it was a straight road. However after half an hour Louis and Millie went to the car but didn’t see him so I rang but he didn’t know where he was. I enlisted help from a young man, describing his surroundings, and we worked out that he had overshot us and was about a kilometre away. Eventually with a few phone calls we met up and I’ve certainly had my walk for the day and then some. We had a lovely picnic, with Louis’s mum Sue with us, and then the kids hired a family bike and rode around the park twice, about 4 kilometres each circuit. On the way back to the car after a lovely afternoon I was idly looking at the cars, massive BMW and Mercedes 4WDs, Teslas, a 2 door Bentley! So then I decided for fun to look for a car as old as mine on the walk back, but no, mine won the prize by years. I am constantly amazed at the money floating around this town. You only have to look at the ads in the Good Weekend, water bottles for $300, handbags for $2000, shoes for a similar price. Some people seem to measure their worth by brands, not quality necessarily, but being seen with something expensive is what it’s all about. So buying a beautiful hand made leather handbag from a craftsman or woman has no cachet compared to one made in a sweat shop but with a sort-after label (on the outside of course). I am bewildered, baffled and bemused by it all.

May 17, 2021

Asked Martha last week if she’d like me to come over each week and she said she would. Luckily I chose today, even though I had just been there on Saturday. Martha looked very worried when I got there and Phil was again worse. He was supposed to have an appointment with the oncologist today but Martha had to ring and ask for a Telehealth appointment instead as he could hardly walk or talk. We debated whether to call an ambulance, but they would only take him to the San where for some weird reason they are unable to do his peritoneal dialysis and always have to transfer him to RNS, so much for a major private hospital. So she decided that we should just up and take him to hospital and we managed to get him into the car, she drove while I sat in the back with Phil. Luckily they weren’t too busy, up to no. 15 while he was no. 20, but a kindly staff person offered to get him bumped up the queue as he was so obviously unwell so we didn’t wait long at all. I left them to it at this point, after texting Lucien that he needed to come to the hospital if at all possible. After swearing off the hospital’s $9.90 milkshake last Monday I needed another today and sat outside considering my options: a train to Penno, a bus to Penno or a phone call to see where John was up to at the men’s shed. He answered saying that it was a good time to ring as he’d just glued something and so was planning to leave to let it set. So he picked me up and delivered me to Martha’s to get my car. I am still no wiser about the outcome as I don’t want to ring, but I’d be very surprised if they don’t keep him in.

Last night I watched Compass and was deeply moved by the story of a number of women and families who are in a quandary about whether or not to have children given the climate crisis. One family already had four, but the mother regretted this in the light of the worsening scenario. Others wanted children but were concerned about the ethics of bringing them into the situation which is unfolding. I would be in exactly the same boat if I were young and didn’t already have children, not wanting to plunge new lives into the world as it is. The family with four children, at the end of the program, was seen boarding flights for New Zealand, to which they were emigrating, keen to be in a country that takes climate change seriously. It reminded me of the first time I went to New Zealand in the 1970s, at the time working as a volunteer for Ecology Action, back in the days when we thought our biggest problem was the hole in the ozone layer, supersonic jets and coloured loo paper. I absolutely loved the place and felt much more at home than I did in Australia. I was sitting in the lounge at the Mount Cook Hotel crying at the thought of coming back to Australia, when the manager approached and asked me what was wrong. I explained that I didn’t want to go back to Australia and felt much more at home in NZ than I did in Sydney. To my great surprise he said: ‘Don’t go back, I will give you a job here and you’ll have room and board as well’. Oh how I wish I’d had had the courage to stay, but once again a feeling of responsibility to my parents kept me from starting a whole new life.

May 18, 2021

Boring household tasks today interspersed with attempts to get on to Ram in Kerala. Still unsuccessful, the phone just rings out, so I have emailed a businessman we met over there asking if he would try phoning from Bangalore to see if he can get through. It comes after repeated emails have failed to get an answer, but a lot of things could be happening over there that we know little about. Apparently 1600 Indian teachers have died of Covid after being called up for election duties by the government. Some pleaded not to have to go because of medical conditions but their entreaties were ignored. Modi, constantly in the public eye, has gone to ground, as well he might.

Martha texted that the docs seem to think Phil’s kidneys are a big problem and he has high calcium levels in his blood, so we shall see what they decide to do. I had left a note for Claude at Martha’s house when I got back to her place to pick up the car, assuming he would arrive home from school before she got back, but she rang from the hospital and arranged for a neighbour to pick him up and feed him. That was smart as it was 9.30 pm before she got back, after a long and stressful day. It is hard to adjust to the idea that Claude is only just 11, he could pass for 15 easily and it would be easy to assume a much greater level of knowledge and maturity. It reminds me of my daughters’ teenage friend Ryan, still a close member of our extended ‘family’ who was always both tall and mature. I once asked him to run my car up to the shops to pick up something I was missing while in the middle of cooking. There was a long silence before he said ‘But I’m not 16 yet so I don’t think I should drive’.

May 19, 2021

Last night we used the first of my $25 Dine and Discover vouchers towards dinner at Lillah in Lane Cove. We haven’t been there for 18 months, though last October John asked me what I would like to do to celebrate my birthday and said I would like the banquet from Lillah, which we ordered online. He picked it up and brought it to my house, feeding us well for a couple of days. However John was insistent that we had been there to dine in the last two weeks and it took me all my time to convince him that we hadn’t. In fact I couldn’t get him to even look at the menu as he kept saying ‘but I remember those rendered walls’, ‘we sat at this same table’ and ‘I think it was about 10 days ago’, so in the end I ordered the meal for us to share and he was very happy with that. Later as we were leaving he was very discombobulated and didn’t know where we were, asking if it were Lane Cove and where we had parked. I am not sure how much longer he will be able to find his way around when walking. On another related note, a friend said he tried to download the vouchers and failed the first time so he’s not going to bother, $200 worth for both him and his wife, people are funny.

Sewing group was today and somehow I am always turning up with something to sew, to my great surprise. Today it was John’s work jeans which are fashionably torn across the knees, but he complains about the draught. So I tore up an old denim shirt and am putting in patches to the reverse but leaving the ragged tears to the front. Michelle arrived saying she spoke to Phil in hospital so clearly he is vastly improved as there was no way he could hold a conversation last Saturday or Monday. He is having more tests but they seem to have narrowed it down to a parathyroid problem, unsurprising in the circumstances. It is incredible that organs the size of grains of rice can be so instrumental in a person’s wellbeing, the body and its workings never cease to amaze me. Colleen talked about the problems her boys had at school due to their race, including a teacher marking down her son’s exam result so that a white boy was seen to have come first, incredible to believe.

May 20, 2021

Still trying ways to contact Ram. Today I decided to put a message on his actual Facebook page and was very surprised to see that his main picture at the top of the page is actually a photo of me. It was disturbing, as though he were trying to get a message to me, yet I have no idea what that message could be. So I wrote a message asking him to contact me, but more than that, asking any of his Facebook friends to contact me if they know his whereabouts. So far no result but most would only speak Malayalam so I am just hoping for an English speaker to see it and answer.

Recently at a sewing group Fran tried to give away a copy of the book Shuggie Bain, the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize. As soon as she said it was bleak or dismal or whatever word she used, everyone said they had no interest in reading it, so I was the lone interested taker. I am finding it so rewarding, bleak is certainly a good word for it, unremittingly bleak so far, but such an eye-opener to life in Glasgow’s slums during Thatcherite Britain. I am pretty good about reading this sort of real life stuff, but I must admit I have winced quite a few times. Up with the best reading this year.

Had an appointment with Bob to discuss the surgeon’s offer of chemo plus radiation or nuffin but with increased oversight and testing. He agreed with my decision of nuffin, as I knew he would.  Next week I need to go back to him to get a couple of tests that Richard wants done. I am certainly well aboard  the medical train for the foreseeable future.

May 21, 2021

Decided to do some more cooking for Martha today but with my car in for service I don’t have wheels, so I made do with ingredients from the freezer and pantry. However Michelle rang about something else and she offered to drop the cooking off over there and to do a batch of pumpkin soup as well. I texted Martha for permission to enter her house, which she happily gave, so just now Michelle picked up the casserole which should do the two of them for many meals. Then I started a boiled fruit cake and got annoyed by the lack of glace cherries in the mix. I rang Sunbeam a few years ago and complained that the cherries had been reduced but the haughty woman on reception told me that the recipe had never changed. I’m calling bullshit on that one as I used 454 grams in this recipe and only sighted only one miserable cherry falling into the mix. Now I will have to buy some cherries before I bake it, so in future I think I will just make up my own mixed fruit from the separate ingredients. Instead of raising the price many companies take short cuts with the quality and this is a prime example. I’ve sent them an email to say I am jumping ship to other brands after many decades, not that I think they will care, but it gives me satisfaction.

May 22, 2021

Oh how much better the world looks after you’ve had a decent sleep! Thursday night I didn’t sleep till after 4.30 am and yesterday I was actually nodding off from time to time while actually doing things, lucky I didn’t have my car all day really. When I picked it up after 5, Alex was dragging on a ciggie as usual and looked as tired as I felt. He only has Sundays off to spend with his wife and three children and I guess he takes holidays sometimes, but I’ve never been to the workshop and found him not to be there. I will try to think of a way to help but apart from taking him food occasionally I am a bit stumped. After I got home and studied the invoice I discovered he hadn’t charged me for the rego check or for labour to put a new O ring in to fix an oil leak, so typical of him.

Went to Dural for bread and discovered two Aldi trolleys in the carpark. Nowhere else but Dural would people not bother to claim their $2 back, well perhaps Double Bay, but anyway it’s rare. So it was a positive start to my shopping trip and I even left the second one for someone else to cash in, not wanting to keep all the good luck to myself. The docket lying in the bottom was for $948 at Aldi! All ski stuff, parkas, gloves, socks etc which are on special there this week. Surely she is reselling, or else has a mountain of kids. My lucky find prompted me to go to Vinnies where I have had very good bargains at times. (Always donate at the poor suburbs and buy at the rich ones is my motto, the rich often abandoning clothes brand new or close to it). My luck did continue as I found a new Rodney Clark jacket, still with its original $125 price tag, for 20 bucks, plus a top for $8 and a Cotton On jumper for $18, all stripes as are so many of my clothes. Then to my amazement I found a pair of Diana Ferrari flat red winter shoes, the exact mates of which I had just thrown out after wearing them as gardening shoes for a couple of years following 15 years of constant use. They came from Vinnies in Fairfield for $15 all those years ago and this as new pair cost me $18, that’s inflation for you. She must have had them in the back of the wardrobe all this time as I’m sure that style is long gone. Unfortunately I also bought a $10 handbag (shame, shame) because it was too cute to pass up. Guilt made me decide to cull my handbags this afternoon ready to make a run to the Sallies, but as I got each one down it was either too worn for them to take or else had sentimental value (bought in Florence in 1973, bought in India 10 years ago, it was a gift etc etc). But I did discover that of the 29 handbags, 8 vintage or antique evening purses and 6 baskets those that were bought new were less than I could count on one hand and these were all overseas in places like India, Thailand or Vanuatu, so the total cost to me is quite negligible. So how many did I cull? Well perhaps we won’t go into that but let’s say that I don’t need to go to the Sallies any time soon.

May 23, 2021

Yesterday John wanted to go to see Phil in  hospital but I suggested he ring Martha first and it was lucky that he did, as she said he isn’t well enough to have visitors. Last night John and I planned a lovely day out for today. He was at his place so he suggested that he arrive here by 9 am, then we watch Insiders and leave at 10. So this morning I was up and ready to go, but no John. He had left his mobile here accidentally, but had the landline which he wasn’t answering. At 11 am I rang Ann but woke her up so I let that pass and spoke to Chris his next door neighbour instead and he spoke to John, assuring me he was ‘on his way’. He eventually turned up at 1 pm all smiles. ‘What’s happened?’ I asked. ‘Nothing, why?’ was the reply. He had NO recollection of our plans and didn’t know why he hadn’t answered the phone. I was incredulous as he had been the one to specify the times. Of course the day out was off, but a bigger worry was the fact that even when reminded of the discussion he couldn’t remember what we had planned to do or anything about arranging times. Last week we each received return thanks cards from Bishop Bede Heather’s funeral, a huge occasion with more nuns and priests than non pareils on a batch of birthday cupcakes. Oh dear, said John, Bede Heather has died and they’ve sent me a thankyou card but I didn’t go to his funeral. This thing is moving apace.

So I spent the afternoon sorting clothes, putting summer ones in a bag for next year, hanging all knits together, dresses together etc. I’m beginning to cull some old tops and things to go to the Sallies and I decided I will never again fit into my beautiful French layered skirt which is a very small size, but it is so sad to see it go. Tomorrow we are going to try to have a day out. Perhaps in future all excursions need to start when we are sleeping at the same house or they may never start at all.

May 24, 2021

Had a good conflab with Sue over last night’s episode of Compass featuring Albury Anglican priest Peter MacLeod-Miller, another Rod Bower in terms of his activism. I thought him incredibly handsome, but that’s another issue. She told me that her brother has met him a number of times in his work for the governor and wasn’t keen on him at all. I will pump him for details when I see him. However I would be happy to give a little  donation to his work in exchange for a few hours mooching around his fabulous house and antique collection. The program mentioned an identical twin brother but I haven’t been able to find anything on the net about him at all. She’s invited me to go to a book launch at the Sydney Jewish Museum in June. It is about the father of Robert’s friend Dr Kerry Goulson, Stan was also a doctor and the book is called Humanity in Medicine. Introduction is by Norman Swan so it’s a win-win.

We managed to get John’s birthday gift to Annabel posted at Dural, I love that little post office where you never have to wait, unlike Baulko with queues out the door. Then we went off to Fagan Park at Glenorie and had a good walk in the extensive gardens. Lunch at Wild Pear was too too tempting on the way home: zucchini and kale fritters with salad for me and cutlets with gnocchi and vegetables for John. It was packed as it seems to be every day, it has been well and truly discovered. Got some more potting mix and planted the garlic I’ve been encouraging to shoot in the kitchen, got 100% of the cloves sprouting so I filled two pots with them and am looking forward to a Christmas harvest. Apparently it loves potash so I need to get the ash from someone’s fire. My cyclamen continues to flower despite all the books saying it’s best to ditch them and buy another as they are too hard to keep over winter. Mine is almost 10 years old and makes me think of Terry each time I see it. John is suffering because Terry isn’t allowed any visitors and he often says ‘I just want to give him a hug’.

May 25, 2021

Brian turned 95 today so I visited his nursing home and it’s still like a fortress (not that I’m unhappy about that). The front door was locked and I communicated with someone by intercom ‘Just leave your gift on the seat outside and I will pick it up shortly’. Moving on I visited an old contact and picked up some bucks that he owed me, so I was smiling. Then out to Richmond to deliver a huge dictionary from the late 1800s, the first one published in the US, long before Webster’s.  It runs to 2200 pages and weighed a ton. I had been in an antique shop there some time back when the owner explained that she was saddened to lose her grandfather’s dictionary which had ended up with another family member after he died. That lady had sold it to me years ago and amazingly I had it on my bookshelf as it hadn’t sold in the shop. So I went back through the stock books and ascertained what I’d paid for it and now it is in the place where it rightfully belongs. Loved talking to her minion Scott about some of their stock and we bemoaned the fact that many people just can’t appreciate the wonder in holding an item a hundred, or a few hundred, years old. For a moment it crossed my mind to say ‘if you ever need any help….’ but stopped myself just in time. The owner smartly has Scott there every day and she comes in and out as needed, something I never seemed to make enough money to do, but which would have suited me perfectly.

I am getting peeved with the money being spent by the government on State Funerals. The funeral directors would be rubbing their hands when they get a call from a government department, adding in every optional extra possible, and running up the bill to stratospheric levels. Dress designers, football players, what next? Spend on the homeless, not the dead.

May 26, 2021

I was annoyed to find out that Brian wasn’t even at the nursing home when I went yesterday, he’d been taken to hospital that morning not long before I arrived. No-one told me, this privacy business goes too far at times. Today I am getting some tasks out of the way: finishing a book report for Friday, making some food for Martha and Claude and delivering that, working out what to cook for book group and buying the provisions and catching up on some owed phone calls. My friend Tim was one, he has been immersed in a long legal battle with his father who has now died this week, leaving him in legal limbo. But his siblings who have avoided any negotiation in the matter suddenly want a mediation hearing, now that a financial settlement to each of the children is in the offing. Another doctor’s appointment this arv, more tests to be done by Bob at the instigation of Richard, but with a few different boxes ticked by the end of the day I will feel as if getting up has been worthwhile.

John is making some friends at the Men’s Shed now that he’s been a few times. He had felt initially that they weren’t very friendly. Jack, one of the Link Housing employees, has made a short video of John’s place with a voiceover of John reading a poem about home which he liberally amended from an existing verse. The result is excellent in my view and I can’t wait till the titles go on it so I can share it around. It captures John so well and shows those parts of his home that are particularly important to him.

May 27, 2021

Poor Victoria. It seems that it should be someone else’s turn. The hotel quarantine system was a very good idea which in hindsight has caused more than enough problems. The best way to catch Covid recently is to go into a quarantine hotel, not what was intended. I am not sure if it was the health people who were too slow in picking up that the virus is aerosolised or the government being reluctant to change the system, but I suspect the latter. Davina is involved through her work as an HR person for the company that owns the shopping centre which was an early hotspot. Anyone who was in there during three hours last Thursday has to isolate and be tested, so that of course includes the centre management team for whose welfare she is partly responsible. They will bring in staff from other centres but it’s a juggling act I guess and worrying for them. I think the guy who bar-hopped for seven hours in inner city Melbourne maybe needs to spend his lockdown having a chat with AA. I couldn’t have done that even at 25.

My Facebook friend in Queensland is a freelance researcher working from home and a fun person at any time. Her post yesterday interested me: “I rarely leave the house these days. But, as I had a visitor this morning, I had to get out of my pyjamas and didn’t want to waste all that effort. So I took myself to lunch at the Palmwoods Tavern and enjoyed Oysters Kilpatrick and Sri Lankan Prawn Curry with a nice glass of rose. Added bonus – I won’t have to cook dinner tonight”. It was accompanied by photos of said courses and wine and it made me think about that attitude to life: I’m all dressed up so let’s find something fun to do. Too often we neglect fun as part of life, focussing always on the shoulds instead of the coulds.

I mentioned delivering the early US dictionary to a dealer in Richmond on Tuesday after discovering that it was her grandfather’s. In a rush of bonhomie I had promised to sell it to her for whatever I paid for it. To keep myself honest I made a point of not looking it up online before I delivered it, which was lucky for her as they are for sale from $750 US to $3000 US depending on condition and this one was very good. I am not losing sleep over it as it is important for things to go back to where they belong, but I was right not to let temptation come into the equation before the deal was done.

28th May, 2021

We have been waiting 60 days for surgery on the skin cancer on John’s leg, despite a promise that it would be done within 30 days. But in the meantime it has miraculously reverted and healed up almost completely, aided no doubt by his monthly immunoglobulin infusion. After discussion with Bob we decided that when they eventually rang John would thank them very much and say that surgery was no longer necessary. However they rang him this morning when I wasn’t around and told him that the surgery is next Thursday and he needed to come in for an anaesthetics appointment on Monday. “So what did you say?” I asked. “I told them that’s fine” he said proudly, totally forgetting everything we had talked about. So I rang the hospital back, apologised and explained. This arv a surgeon rang me and asked a few questions, but was perfectly happy to cancel the procedure and just check him out in July. It makes me sad that he would have fronted up for such surgery without complaint.

On Wednesday night, having finished my current read, I went over to the big pile of 30 or so books on a sofa and to my horror discovered that every one of them was non-fiction. I read about 1 non-fiction to every 20 fiction, which is why that pile goes down slowly. I could have read about Guantanamo Bay, Aboriginal cultural sites, many biographies, British colonialism in India, CRISPR technology or a couple of medical books, but I was hanging out for fiction. Aghast I went down to the garage late at night and scanned the titles waiting to go into the street library. I found Catcher in the Rye and as it was a classic that I’d missed I clutched it to my breast in relief. (Most of the novels donated are of the ‘turn them out like sausages’ variety, but I do get a few goodies). I found Catcher such an odd book, but I kept on reading because it reminded me of an oral history, the whole thing is just as a person would repeat a story, doubling up on saying the same thing, using colloquialisms, swearing, changing perspective. It is really like a mental breakdown from the inside and I admire the author’s ability to pull it off, never wavering from the voice of a seventeen year old. A quick look at Goodreads reviews tonight shows me that they are either 1 star (“worst book I ever read”Smilie: ;) or 5 stars (“a work of genius”Smilie: ;). The worst one star review said that they would have put the main character (and narrator) into the army, which made me cringe.

Book group was at lunchtime today and was a small group of seven, but the discussion was good and Ruth described the book, American Dirt, as ‘a triumph’. Rosanna brought a divine dessert of caramel, topped with apples and meringue and I am not embarrassed to say that I had two helpings. You’re a long time dead I decided.

29th May, 2021

The other day I was passing Sydney Car Wash in Castle Hill and they had a sign out ‘$10 wash special’ and seeing the car was going into service the next day I drove in on a whim and had it done. Only when I got home and it had dried did I realise that the bonnet and roof were filthy, so I took a photo and then proceeded to wash the car myself with a bucket of water, a Chux and some washing up detergent. Presto it was super clean, so the dirt wasn’t baked on by any means. Today I went up and showed the manager the photo of the dirty car after he’d washed it and his reply? You should have got the full price one, no guarantees on being clean on the $10 wash. Talk about customer service! Next time check it’s clean before you leave he advised. No next time pal.

Why is it that my pantry, fridge and store cabinet are always chockers yet every time I go to the supermarket it costs me $75 or more? Today I went to buy two punnets of raspberries and it still cost that, because bottled whole beetroots were half price so I got four, then I remembered I was out of chickpeas and blackbeans, both used frequently in this house, oh and milk and cream were a bit low, yep $75. Michelle rang and asked if we would like to come for lunch tomorrow, Kev is doing a barbecued trout, yes please. I had made a pot of seafood mornay for Martha, so I did two small ones for myself and ate them Wednesday and Thursday nights, tonight I am making baked barramundi with spinach and on Monday doing a side of salmon when friends come for lunch. You can bet there will be an article in the papers this weekend about the dangers of eating too much fish, but it’s something I never tire of.

30th May, 2021

Had a lovely lunch with Michelle and Kev and chewed the fat over a bottle of Robert Oatley wine which we picked up on the Mudgee trip. It has suddenly turned to winter here and we commented on the before and after temperatures when leaving Michelle’s after lunch, the change was remarkable. I usually turn the fire on after June 1 so it has come cold just about the right time. Michelle had lent me a book by Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son, a memoir set in Scotland, which I decided to knock over quickly so I could give it back to her today. It was a worthwhile read and explored his relationship with his angry, cruel father and his attempts as an adult to come to terms with the physical and mental abuse. It was so commonplace in the 40s and 50s to have a father who was alcoholic, cruel, overbearing, abusive…fill in the rest of the words…but back then it was just considered an okay way for a father to be. Certainly no-one would have thought of involving police or welfare workers, as long as the kids were being fed and maybe not even if they weren’t. Where I grew up absent or abusive fathers were the norm, not really anything to make a fuss about. Slowly that has changed, there are still isolated families that are ruled this way, but it is more hidden than it once was, as social mores have changed.

31st May, 2021

Lunch with Bronwyn and Michael. Did a large piece of salmon baked with orange juice and maple syrup, some asparagus and of course a chickpea salad which seems to feature in more meals than it probably should at the moment. Raspberry Eton Mess proved a popular dessert, Michael eats raspberries every day that they are in season. I get runs on cooking certain things, sicken myself of them and move on, but chickpeas are triumphant currently. The best news of the day though is that Ram in India is alive and well. He sent me a Facebook message just before the guests arrived, which brought me to tears. I rang him immediately and he picked up first ring. It is funny how, although I only knew him face to face for under three weeks, he still means so much over ten years later, and it appears he feels the same way. He is in Covid lockdown but no-one in his family has been affected. Since the call I’ve had three emails from him. Hallelujah!

In the Domain on Saturday the cover story and a double page spread inside featured the Sirius building, sold by the government after they chucked out all its Housing Commission tenants. I remember well visiting the last tenant there, black plastic covering the windows of the Phillip Room, the major common room, cyclone wire fences surrounding the building, numerous security guards vetting those who entered. This is the legacy these well-heeled buyers will inherit as they wander around their units, some priced in double digit millions, the knowledge that a vibrant community was broken up and the tenants dispersed to widespread suburbs. The advertising talks about the One Way! Jesus sign that stood for as long as I can remember in a window overlooking the Harbour Bridge, but no mention of its owner, removed against his will. The thought of the less well off having harbour views stuck in the craw of this government and the new incarnation of the building sticks in mine.

June 1, 2021

Oh my, great excitement on the blog front last night. I tried to upload yesterday’s post unsuccessfully and then received an email from Michelle saying that, looking at the blog for the first time in ages, she got the message ‘Bandwidth Limit Exceeded. The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.’ If I tried to reopen it I got the same message, so I contacted my pal who helped me to set it up in the first place and he was stumped. My bandwidth shouldn’t have been exceeded so he contacted the server and shortly after he got the reply that the blog was being hacked at that very moment. A hacker had a robot pointed at my website and it was trying every combination of letters and numbers and symbols over and over again to attempt to crack my password by ‘brute force attack’. This attack was using all the available bandwidth. They fixed it quick smart but said they may keep trying in which case this could be repeated, so we can only see what happens. Apparently mine was the only one this was happening to so I am not sure whether to be appalled or flattered, but I think I will go with appalled.

I am not one for ‘trading up’ in terms of appliances, cars or the like but I was sorely tempted to buy the four slice whizzbang de Longhi toaster on special at Aldi this week. Being able to do the toast as we like it, John’s more heavily toasted than mine and all at the same time, was too tempting. Luckily though I looked at appliance reviews online and Choice at the library and soon saw why they are dumping them at less than half price. Most of the online reviews talked about toast being black on one side and uncoloured on the other, about the settings being meaningless as the toaster seemed to decide its own doneness each time and many mentioned throwing it to landfill. Some returned them to the stores but got another one that was faulty also. Choice marked it down severely for exactly the same reason. So I will stick with my old Breville which is not perfect but is at least usable.

June 2, 2021

Decided to make a pot of Cream of Celery Soup with the whopping great bunch I bought for $2. Lovely to have soup in the freezer. Also did some Anzac Biscuits from the recipe I’ve been using since school days, from the same Commonsense Cookbook that we had as a textbook. But this time I did them with gluten-free flour, because of the needs of a visitor coming tomorrow, and they spread out to one giant thin biscuit per tray so I had to cut them into squares when they came out of the oven. Obviously that flour doesn’t have the density required to hold them together so that was disappointing, they looked identical to usual going into the oven.

Watching Love on the Spectrum has been a treat, though John can’t bear the program, describing it as ‘cringe-making’. It has made me do some more reading about autism and it’s very interesting stuff, particularly a paper by Bernard Crespi in Frontiers in Neuroscience in 2016, in which he discusses the paradox of autism as ‘a disorder of high intelligence’, despite the level of low IQ in people on the spectrum being around 40%. He believes autism commonly involves enhanced, but imbalanced, components of intelligence. His thesis is that there is evidence showing that autism and people with high IQs share a diverse set of correlates, including large brain size, fast brain growth in childhood, and many increased abilities which he outlines. He believes that autism and schizophrenia are actually opposites with autism ‘a disorder of high intelligence and low imagination and schizophrenia a disorder of high imagination and low intelligence’. Close relatives of autism sufferers have a statistically higher IQ than average and those of schizophrenia sufferers show more cognitive deficits. Autism rates are highest in high socio-economic areas and mental retardation and schizophrenia are highest in low socio-economic areas. It’s all fascinating stuff, but it will take me an age to read all the supporting papers he cites. I wish I had studied statistics, I feel the lack of that knowledge whenever I read scientific papers.

June 3, 2021

Watched Senate Estimates last night as Carly was there and felt a bit sorry for Jackie Lambie who means well and Veterans Affairs and Defence are her passion, but her disorganised questioning and presentation show her lack of education. However considering the nasties in the Senate whose lips curl at their opposite numbers I think that a well-meaning, forthright but somewhat disorganised person is infinitely preferable, despite my needing to shift in my chair during some of her questions.

I have been a social butterfly this week, breaking bread with friends more days than not. Today was no exception, with a welcome scrambled egg and smoked salmon brunch with friends, accompanied by croissants and jam and good conversation. I used to work at the university with a member of the Exclusive Brethren and in nearly 13 years he sat in his car winter and summer for every meal break including those which celebrated retirements and significant appointments. How sad it seemed even then, but it was typical that it was his son, working there as a casual in his holidays, who grabbed me sexually as soon as everyone’s backs were turned. I should have decked him, but in those days you didn’t, you just pushed them off. I added that to my mental file of ‘always watch the religious ones and the more religious they are the more you need to watch them’. Over my lifetime that’s been proven over and over again. Safer in a pub full of bikies than with a roomful of Brethren.

Rereading Atul Gawande’s great book Being Mortal and along with Melbourne oncologist Ranjana Srivastava I find him to be a wonderful source of wisdom about illness, end of life decision-making and much else. It always interests me that doctors are the people most open to discussions about euthanasia and ending treatments if you approach them the right way. They are the ones who see the worst outcomes and a carefully worded question about ‘what would you want if it were you we were talking about’ can work wonders.

June 4, 2021

Had fun yesterday at Manly, lunching at Garfish using one of our Dine and Discover vouchers (thankyou Gladys, I know I don’t thank you for much). This is about the fourth time we have eaten there over many years and the food is always top class, the wide-ranging fish menu changing daily according to what’s plentiful. They had a two course special on so we both had that, sharing an entree of Zucchini Flowers stuffed with salmon and prawn, then each had the Wood-fired Barramundi with mash and spinach, sharing the Sticky Date Pudding with orange segments, fig & brandy ice cream and butterscotch sauce for dessert. I can happily say that neither the meal nor the service could have been improved and it was worth every cent and more. I noticed though the number of people walking around Manly wearing white soled joggers, they must buy a new pair once a month as they were all pristine, unlike their compatriots in the burbs where they only seem to look clean in the shop windows.

Last night I got a surprise call from Alan the surgeon, asking how I am but really ringing because he had had a love letter from my immunologist Glenn querying my treatment and asking why Alan doesn’t operate a second time. He explained again in detail his reasoning: not being able to know where to start and stop because it is microscopic now and not wanting to risk damaging essential muscle by cutting any deeper, plus he can’t get rid of the virus because there is no cure, so it will keep on its carcinogenic way whatever he does. Apparently Richard has had a love letter too and they’ve compared notes, Richard will reply, but I can’t be worried about any bruised egos. I have to let that little squabble take place between them, way too far above my pay grade.

Trivia question: Considering that the fly of trousers is never an ideal visual centrepiece (or shouldn’t be) why does Graham Creed choose suits with jackets that cut away neatly to expose the fly? I wonder this every night.

June 5, 2021

I’ve decided to stop trying to coach John in using the Service NSW QR code app to log in to premises. He forgets how to do it each time and has trouble doing it even when I’m peering over his shoulder. He just needs to do what he can do and ditch the stuff he can’t. Most places have a manual option anyway. We went up to Service NSW to organise my being a proxy for John over the phone, but it doesn’t work with them. I have to be at the counter, though NRMA were happy to take his instructions to let me do his calls. We are working through all the companies he normally deals with, like phone, electricity, bank etc as he finds phone queries and transactions really taxing, though he often introduces himself and then asks if he can hand the phone over to me and it’s usually okay.

I did some sorting of stuff from the storeroom today and found a few small things to offer to particular old clients as gifts, plus I packed the boot with a load for Bargain Hunt Auctions, including my jewellery case display items and heaps of gift boxes for rings and earrings, plus my old wrapping paper dispenser from the counter (sniff). But as I was checking each empty box (knowing how hard pressed I was packing up the shop) I discovered one had a ring in it that appears to be diamond, and not too small either. However I will need to run a diamond tester over it somewhere to be sure. So the Universe may have sent me a bonus for putting in some time in the storeroom and if it has I will send that off to auction and it may grace someone’s hand as a moderately priced engagement ring.

June 6, 2021

Dav and Louis picked me up for a drive to Cumberland Forest where we did a couple of walks and I happily found a weeping Acacia Lime Magik to replace the one that the wind destroyed back in March. It was a weird injury, not snapping the top off as a wind had done the previous February, but splitting the stem low down into three parts so you could see right through it. I hoped it would somehow survive but no, it died very quickly. Since then I haven’t been able to get one, but struck lucky today. Millie loved the walks and was tickled that there was a Cheese Tree, she set off looking for a cracker tree to go with it. Her reading is amazing, she called all the tree signs as we went along, only missing the most difficult of words. Davina bought her a plant and pot for her bedroom after Millie announced from a sign ‘through here to indoor plants’. Had some falafel at the cafe and a good day was had by all.

I went to the MyGov site to alter my bank account balances and discovered that I hadn’t done that for a while. There isn’t anything there to allow you to calculate how much pension you are supposed to get so I used a site called Age Pension Solutions to work it out. According to them I should be getting almost a hundred dollars a fortnight more than I am getting, so I am puzzled as to why this is the case. I don’t really want to go to Centrelink to tell them they are wrong according to a private site, so I will see what adjustments they make, if any, with the new figures. Keeping my head below the parapet seems like a good idea with Centrelink, although there used to be a lovely old chap at Windsor office who was super easy to deal with. I remember him telling me that back when Whitlam got in the great man addressed all the employees and said ‘you don’t work for the government, you work for the people who come in through the door’ and he said it had framed the way he dealt with clients all through his career. He would have had that silly idea bashed out of him with this government, but he’d be retired by now I’m sure.

June 7, 2021

On Saturday I went to Bunnings to look for a Carbon Monoxide Meter but they only had alarms whereas I want one with something that tells me the parts per million of CO, not waiting till an alarm goes off when it’s critical. Note to self: Do not go to Bunnings on a Saturday to avoid the smell of disgusting cheap sausages filling the air, gross. The winter before last I went through almost all of it with no fire after getting a notice to say not to use the gas fire until it had been inspected for leakage of CO. Of course all gas appliances leak it, but the Victorian Government has regular inspections of fires and had found many were dangerous (trust them to be the ones….Gladys are you listening?). Then a few weeks ago I read that the Victorians are on the warpath again abut fires, so instead of getting the company out again, this time at my expense because it’s not a recall, I thought I would just buy a meter and do it myself. Looking online today I found one in Victoria with $12 postage, another in Pendle Hill with $10 post, then another in Villawood, the same brand but $10 cheaper and free postage. I ordered it and 10 minutes later got an email to say it had been posted. That’s service. It has a digital display with the ppm and runs 24/7 on batteries or you can just turn it on when the fire is going.

I’ve been hunting another Acacia Lime Magik for so long but as of this afternoon my new one is planted in the front garden and acting as a wind indicator, its graceful weeping arms sway with the least breeze. After the bad luck with the last one I only hope this one grows well, it has an over-qualified stake so it shouldn’t break off in the wind (she says optimistically).

Ann rang asking if I would go with her to KOI for a dessert and suggested a date but I am busy every day this week and three out of five weekdays next week so we settled on June 24. Somehow I must be making up for 2020 because I seem to be unusually busy. I can’t wait till I get the second vaccination next week and then I can go back to my usual programme of court visits, planning on taking in the Roberts-Smith defamation action for a few days, plus some ICAC, though it’s not the same since Geoffrey Watson ceased his tenure there. He was ace.

June 8, 2021

Drove in to the Maritime Museum with John and Carol and managed to get there in time for the 9.15 start. First it was tea and pastries with a chat to the staff of IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, who were hosting the event. Then to the theatre for a discussion with an expert in whale entanglement and damage from collisions with ships along the busy Canadian and North American coast. Our National Parks and Wildlife Service was ably represented by the woman in charge of NSW whale disentanglement teams, a topical subject after a whale was caught in ropes and buoys off Clovelly just yesterday and released by maritime police. (Irrelevantly, I love the US and Canadian pronunciation of buoy, boo-ey instead of boy, which is totally logical). Eventually we moved on to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition entries, always a highlight of the year. There were some amazing photos, too hard to pick a fave, but two of the fox photos and some of the underwater ones were pretty special. The animals in captivity for profit, such as bears, chimps, an orangutan, tigers, kept in appalling conditions, were memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Talking about unpleasantness reminds me of Scott Morrison and I’m hoping that the 4 Corners programme on his friendship and association with Tim Stewart and his wife will be aired soon. Stewart, who is a promoter of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory that contends a cabal of Satan-worshiping paedophiles rule the world, has made extensive claims online claims about his influence over the PM. QAnon also believes there was a secret “deep state” plot against Donald Trump and that there is a “cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles whose activities extend to trafficking children through a secret labyrinth of tunnels under Melbourne and Sydney”. (I’d be looking in the Tank Stream first up, but in Melbourne it might just be the sewers). Stewart’s wife was in the employ of Morrison from 2019 on, working at the PM’s Sydney residence Kirribilli House on the recommendation of Morrison’s office, but now seems to have been purged since questions were raised about her husband and son. According to journalist David Hardaker (ex 4 Corners, 7.30, Foreign Correspondent) in Crikey, Stewart’s wife is best friends with the prime minister’s wife, Jenny Morrison, a relationship which goes back to teenage years and the two women have been bridesmaids at each other’s weddings. I look forward to the programme with great interest.

June 9, 2021

Sewing group at Colleen’s saw me repairing a shirt of John’s, funny how there’s always mending appearing on the eve of the meetings, I suspect these damaged pieces went into work wear before. Then I started work on my 20 year old Jules of Morocco skirt, part of a suit, which was always a bit too long but has become way too long now that I’m not wearing heels. Colleen lent me her ‘ripper’ to unpick the waist band and I managed to impale my hand on it fairly quickly, the gadget went in far enough to be sticking out of my hand at right angles though little blood appeared, I suspect due to the super cold conditions out on the deck. Because I had a bag of gorgeously fresh green beans I did a Salade Nicoise to take for lunch and wonder why I don’t make it more often. Using canned tuna it is a quick and easy meal or a more luxurious one when using a slab of fresh tuna.

I fight back tears every week watching Love on the Spectrum but last night’s final episode had me sniffling most of the way through. The delightful Jayden with his linguistics fetish made me laugh, though how he even picked up such correct English usage at school these days is a wonder. I used to have a copy of Fowler’s English Usage when I was proof-reading but it’s long gone unfortunately. The wedding of Jimmy and Shanae finished me off, but I do miss having company watching it as John finds it much too awkward and embarrassing. We are so enculturated towards a particular set of behaviours that it can certainly throw us when we come across people who have never read the instruction book.

Sent a message to one of my old clients asking if she would like a particular Crown Devon bowl that I unearthed in the boxes. She was thrilled and asked to meet for a catch up, so that will be a pleasure when we can find a day. Another couple of friends want to meet up and I am looking as far out as July 4 now to do that, these last weeks have been full on. But I decided to cancel an event tonight, it is just too much what with commitments tomorrow and then going away and considering the cold this morning I’m glad I did.

June 10, 2021

They say things come in threes and yesterday they did. I found out that the husbands of two close friends have been diagnosed with serious medical conditions, then I got a call from Brian Curtin’s son Mark to say that he had died from pneumonia in Windsor Hospital. Ninety-five is a pretty good age for a man who was an alcoholic till his 40s and was told then that his next drink would be his last. In and out of hospitals and psychiatric centres, given LSD experimentally to try to cure his alcohol addiction, until one day with the aid of AA he finally got sober. We go back an awfully long way, over 40 years in fact, beginning when he came to inspect my small collection of handicrafts set up on a little table in the bedroom (the table in fact that my father had made for me as a child). Brian said ‘it’s all lovely, I’ll take the lot’ and placed a big order for more to sell in his well-known craft shop in Windsor, Jumbucks. He was my first big customer. He sold pottery, silver jewellery, hand-knits, dried flowers and the whole 1970s-80s rustic craftshop fare. Soon he had asked if I could run the shop on their rare weekends off and once while they went overseas for three weeks, much to the horror of my husband who didn’t approve of my working. He told me later that I got the job because he couldn’t trust his usual staff not to pinch anything while he was away. ‘What did you pinch when I was on that trip?’ he asked me years later. ‘Just a couple of dried flowers that I accidentally broke the heads off’ I said. He replied that he’d expected to lose some silver earrings at least, so he was pretty happy about that.

We went into a small business venture together, making pot pourri and bottling numerous fragrance oils in my garage, then hand writing the labels and delivering them around the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains. Come to think of it, I mixed the pot pourri, filled the bottles and wrote the labels, but Brian had a lot of the contacts and did the driving. Once in his brand spanking new Ford station wagon I vomited into the door pocket as we went around the bends coming down from Springwood, but he didn’t get the least annoyed. The car only lasted a couple of months as he left it outside his house in Windsor, just up from the shop, motor running and key in ignition, while he raced back inside for forgotten glasses. You can’t do that in Windsor, it was never recovered. Later, after he sold the shop (at a good profit as he was a natural businessman, unlike me) he was asked by a country friend if he would manage an antique shop in Windsor if she set it up with stock. He knew next to nothing about antiques but everything about selling so I was offered a job there one day a week, as I wasn’t much of a seller but knew more than he did about antiques. One of his favourites when seeing a woman walk in was ‘oh what a lovely brooch you are wearing, can you tell me anything about it?’. Twenty minutes later they were the best of friends and she had bought something for a couple of hundred dollars. But in his defence, he really was interested in people and their stories and would remember her name a year later when she came back in, slapping an arm around her and asking ‘Beryl why have you been away so long? Have you still got that lovely brooch your mother gave you?’. Still later I started my own shop and he came to work a day a week for me for many years, until he was over 80, and was by far my best seller. We did a few road trips together including down to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road and once drove around New Zealand together. On the Victorian trip we were in Port Fairy when Bush attacked Iraq and Brian was pretty pissed off when I went to a newsagent, made some signs and started a demonstration in the town, soon joined by a few dozen locals. ‘But we’re on holidays’ he said morosely. If ever I complained about anything his answer was ‘I’ll do a decade of the rosary for you’ so I told him to do that for himself, which didn’t improve his mood. So it’s all over now my dear friend, little did I know as I drove away on your 95th that we would never see each other again, but I kept the list of funeral music that you gave me in December 2015 and which we have discussed occasionally ever since, so I hope your family decides to use it. I told them it had to be the Gounod Ave Maria, just as you said.

June 11, 2021

Last night we attended the Link Wentworth Art Exhibition and the video made by Jack was played on a big screen. Unfortunately for Jack a speaker jumped on the podium and started talking before it had quite finished, so the credits were missed. Today we set off early and went to the Reptile Park soon after it opened. It has certainly gained some sophistication in the 35 or more years since I was last there. I distinctly remember the sight of dead mice being fed to the snakes in their cabinets but no sign of that on this visit. Loved the bats, not behind glass, the huge crocodile, the American alligators and particularly watching the lady whose job it is to milk the funnel web spiders of their venom to make anti-venin. Worst job on the planet, no contest. The lack of our Thermos was duly noted as we sat in the car eating some bits we’d brought with us.

Our hotel in Newcastle is lovely, right on the water with the occasional tug going past the window. It is sooo windy and cold that we didn’t venture too far, though John found a convenience store to stock up on Kombucha (ugh) and Yakult (ugh), but he bought me two Peppermint Crisps so I say nothing. The hotel gets good reviews and the restaurant very bad ones, but as we did a little tour of place the lady in the bar told us that tonight is the new chef’s first night and would we like to be the first to see the menu. Well of course we would, and it’s bitter outside so eating in suddenly became an option. She had to go and print it out as that hadn’t yet been done ‘First Copy!’ she proudly declared and (if she can cook) it looks as if a good feed is in the offing.

Postscript: She can’t cook. I would apologise for that meal if I cooked it on a Thursday night at home. Veges cold, but cooked okay. Sauce so bland I don’t even know what she was attempting. John had a chicken breast and veg, with a little jug of thin white milk-like sauce. ‘What is the sauce?’ I ask. He tastes, ‘I have no idea’ he replies, ‘sort of maybe milk with a hint of lemon?’. I am able to laugh as I had joined the Rydges Priority Guest club so we got free drinks and 20% off the food.

June 12, 2021

Went for a blustery walk along the harbour front first thing, it really is a wonderful spot here with tugs, yachts, barges and huge ships passing by the windows. Stephen and Deborah arrived with a birthday cake, balloons and a pile of presents. We went off to East End Hub, our favourite eating place in Newcastle, introduced to us years ago by S and D and visited each time we are up here. They had been there earlier and fixed a helium balloon with 80 on it to our seating. The food was divine, I had the Seven Spices Bass Strait Calamari with Asian cucumber salad, peanuts, nahm jim, lemon and aioli, the same dish I had last time and every bit as amazing. Our wonderful waiter Nitin kept us laughing, as did the lady who came over and congratulated Stephen on his 80th, commenting that he didn’t look 80 at all! I’m thinking to suggest to the new ‘chef’ here at the hotel that I would be happy to chip in for her to have cooking lessons there, but I think you either have a palate or you don’t. It’s a pity they can’t test for that somehow before people go into the food game. Imagine the advertising signs ‘Our chef scores 9.25 on palate gene test’. But I digress. We came back to the hotel after an amble along the amazing Newcastle Memorial Walk, overlooking the ocean, to open the mountain of presents accumulated on the coffee table. We now have a Thermos again!! Not only a Thermos for drinks, but also two for insulated food and a picnic basket to boot and that was only the start of the gifts. We had tea and birthday cake late in the day and chewed the fat in our room, oohing and aahing as each ship went by.

As we were booking in on Friday we were followed in four huge men with tattoos up to their chins and I wondered if they were part of the cast of a movie about bad guys, but I hesitated to ask, because as Falstaff advised us, in other words, the best part of courage is caution. Later, about 9.30 pm, I went downstairs to get a couple of plates for the room and the lift doors opened (2 only in the lift the sign says) and nine of these cloned men emerged from the small lift, all tattooed and of a similar ilk, heading out on the town. Not wanting to cover up their art, most had short sleeves in a bitter wind. This time I couldn’t resist it: ‘You are going the wrong way chaps, it’s nearly bedtime’. One replied, not exactly in words, but with the sort of gravelly noise, a guttural growl, that a bear might make. The valet parking man at his desk had his mouth gaping open at the sight of them and we discussed the fact the boys looked in for a big night. Hotel staff must see it all.

June 13, 2021

We had an early walk again but it was not quite as blustery as previously. Had a chia seed and berry bowl at The Hub, a cute little kiosk along the waterfront where lack of space doesn’t stop them from baking their own banana bread, muffins, cakes and much else besides. A huge coal ship arrived as we were eating just to provide entertainment. I can’t help wondering about conditions on board these ships as there seems so little space for people aboard them, just a massive hold and little else. I imagine the crew sleeping in cramped conditions with no privacy, no union to protect them, basic food and much loneliness. Perhaps it’s not like that at all, I’d love to know but doubt I will ever meet anyone who can enlighten me.

Today was another bumper day, Stephen and Deborah picking us up for the drive to Mt. Sugarloaf where we gathered wood for a fire and cooked the barbecued lamb and potatoes that she had brought preceded by cheese, crackers and olives. We spent the afternoon around the fire, toasting marshmallows and sharing stories. Stephen downloaded something onto John’s phone which means I can track his whereabouts, just in case that’s ever needed. Late in the afternoon the cold came down like a curtain so we packed up and headed home, finishing the evening with drinks in the hotel bar, a whiskey, passionfruit and honey cocktail pour moi and rollicking hot chocolates and chais for my non-drinking companions. Deborah and I were both pretty buggered by about 7 o’clock so we reluctantly said goodbye till next time. Between illness and Covid we’ve seen far too little of them this past year.

June 14, 2021

A lovely sunny walk along the Harbour this morning. It’s become a habit here to identify ships arriving and departing and use the net to discover their home ports, tonnage, current destination etc. I think I could live quite happily on that Harbour edge with a good set of binoculars set up on the deck. Newcastle seems to be divided into the delicious beach and harbour suburbs with their historic houses and great views and then some pretty awful suburbs on the flat with really terrible architecture, surrounded by light industry and ugliness in general. At its best it is a beautiful city. As we were checking out John left me in the foyer holding his bunch of birthday balloons while he went back upstairs briefly and I joked that ‘I bet someone will congratulate me on my 80th’ and actually three people did. I was pretty keen to get them into the car. Unlike Noah’s where we usually stay, the service at Rydges was excellent, with someone leaping to our assistance to load the car with all our luggage and wish us safe travel. At Noah’s we were always left to our own devices. We then did the walk along the breakwall, past Nobby’s Head and right to the end, watching a Navy ship leaving as we walked. It seems that in Newcastle, as in Sydney, every second person has a dog or three, some of which looked quite mean and scary while others were the size of large rats, but loved as much as the Great Danes. We ended up back at East End Hub for lunch, a very poor decision as it turned out, they were closed for the holiday despite my checking on Saturday that they would be open. So we wandered around till we found Scotties, a takeaway fish place with outdoor seating, where we had barra and chips for John and fried mussels for me. With a 15% surcharge for the holiday it cost as much as the restaurant, if not more, but we enjoyed it and were thankful of a seat after our long walks. Met up with John’s cousin Teresa and her husband Stephen in King Edward Park, a beautiful place to sit and have a cuppa from John’s new Thermos with some of his birthday cake. Left there about 4pm and joined the 52 kilometre traffic jam that was the M1. We’ve learned our lesson and won’t do that again, we had to resort to playing I Spy to keep ourselves awake during the three hour ordeal in bumper to bumper traffic. Next time we will spend on an extra night.

June 15, 2021

Catching up with the boring after-holiday tasks like garden watering and washing but had time to fuss over a special homecoming dinner. We had pan fried trout with a sauce I made up and which I will do again: mayonnaise with anchovies, garlic and walnuts, the trout served on spiced rice with brussel sprouts and pan fried carrots. Note to self: carrots taste so much better if you don’t let water near them. Had a phone call from Brian’s daughter in Melbourne to let me know that Brian had died a week ago. When I said I was informed last week and mentioned the message I had sent regarding his choice of funeral music, she had seen that, so I am a bit confused. She said they chose not to put a notice in the paper ‘because people don’t do that any more’ so I have tried to message as many people as I can and have put a notice on Facebook with the details. A number of friends had been ringing round trying to find out when the funeral was, so I was glad I did both. I had rung the local Windsor funeral director (but it was the wrong one as it turned out) and the church, but the church gave me the wrong time, half an hour later than it is actually booked for!

June 16, 2021

Michelle kindly picked me up to go to lunch at Boronia Kitchen at Gladesville for Colleen’s 70th birthday lunch. Ten of us gathered, unfortunately the eleventh, Martha, had to cancel at the last minute when her husband Phil, just out of hospital, developed severe pain in his shoulder and thought it could even be broken. Still waiting to hear the result of that, but it didn’t sound good. The food however was top class, I had Roast Schnapper with daikon, dashi and aged mirin which was beyond delicious, followed by the daily special of Charred Pavlova with Blackberries. Wow, will add this to the list of favourite places and perhaps finish using our remaining Dine Vouchers there. I intended to use them in Newcastle but Stephen sneakily paid our bill before I got the chance.

I realise that next week I have a meeting to go to which is being held at the Australian Museum. This will involve getting a bus, the first time since February 2020 that I will have been on public transport. Better check that I still have an Opal card in my wallet. By then I will have had the second vax, but it still seems very out there.

June 17, 2021

What can I say? The saddest day saying goodbye to Brian. Having the full catastrophe of a Catholic mass eased it in one sense, the service is so much about the religion and so little about the person and soooo loooong, that it deadens the sadness eventually and you just desperately want to get out of there. The fact that the priest had a heavy accent (don’t they all now?) plus the bad acoustics made his personal reminiscences of Brian unintelligible to me and I was too far back to lipread. There were at least 150 there, including the ex mayor and councillors who were both friends and neighbours, and I am not surprised. Brian made a friend of every person he met and many of his friends became friends of mine over the years. I guess that’s the end of my connection with his family too, another sadness. One pew was taken up by nurses from his care home where he was much loved. He usually ended our conversations with ‘See you in church’ and I always replied ‘Never!’ but I guess he’s had the last laugh.

Being in that church reminded me once again about a Philistine priest who was there years ago. He removed the original beautifully carved cedar stations of the cross and commissioned a parishioner to make new ones, in nasty store bought frames. Someone stored the old ones for years hoping the church would want them back but I don’t know if that’s still the case or if they have sold them. Then he gave the wonderful cedar vestment cabinets from the vestry to someone who used to bring him a baked dinner on Sundays. He gave the cedar pulpit to the Catholic school for the scripture room, the cedar chairs were left outside and stolen and he sold the marble font. That eventually ended up in my shop so I visited the priest and offered it to him for what I had paid. No, no, no he said, ‘the parish council were so upset that I sold it and I don’t want to reopen old wounds’. He had the hide to give me a booklet on the church, with the photos showing all the magnificent 1840s inclusions that he destroyed or gave away. I hate going to that church because it just dredges up the story and he’ll never get forgiveness from me, hard woman that I am.

Wow, I just read an article in the SMH entitled Siriusly Sydney? which makes exactly the same points, in much the same order, as a letter to the editor that I wrote about two weeks ago. It wasn’t published, but this is just like the letter in long form. I hope that’s coincidence. It occurred to me that the article mentioned just two of the former residents of Sirius (the same two I mentioned in the letter), the One Way Jesus sign in the window of one unit and Jack Mundey, all of which were referenced in the letter. John says I should be flattered.

June 18, 2021

Vaccination completed at 9 am this morning. Easy peasy and out by 9.15. This was despite getting an email last night from my relative warning me of the dangers, including the ‘fact’ that 236 people have had a heart attack since being vaccinated. A discussion about cause and effect is in order but I haven’t the energy.

So far the day’s been pretty dismal. Phil is still in the San and has been in intense pain, apparently from a pathological break in his shoulder. (The pathological break is an assumption on my part, because Martha said he didn’t have a fall or a bump, it just broke). They are doing scans to see if it’s possible to do a ‘spot weld’ on the break using radiation!! I’m assuming this is to avoid surgery but I’ve have never heard of it before and will look into it. He is on opioids and it seems less likely that Martha can manage him at home. I went there this morning to take some food over and noticed wheelchair ramps had been installed. Expecting the house to be empty I was greeted at the door by a tall, dark and extremely handsome stranger who turned out to be Ven, a friend of Lucien’s. That was convenient as the casserole was still hot and I didn’t want to put it in the fridge, but didn’t want Caesar eating it either, Ven to the rescue. We had considered going to the hospital, not to see Phil but to see Martha, though when we found out that Lucien was with her there we changed our minds.

Unfortunately on the way over there, in the two lanes turning left off Aiken Road onto Pennant Hills Road we had a minor collision on the driver’s side. A white van on our right came over the lane line and impacted us side to side. John was driving my car and he immediately hopped out to speak to the young driver who had pulled over. As I was getting out of the car I heard him saying ‘Don’t worry, there’s no damage, it’s all good’. I leapt out quickly to say that I’d heard crunching metal but of course by then the fellow had high-tailed it back into his van and driven off. I was flabbergasted as John told me not to worry, ‘I looked and there was no damage at all’ but by this time John had driven off too. When we got to Martha’s I jumped out to find a scratch along the driver’s door, lots of white paint and damage to the bumper and a broken headlight. Woe is me, the guy must have thought all his Christmases had come at once.

Next we went to Bargain Hunt to deliver a wagon load of stuff to the auctions. Two Victorian paintings, an antique cast iron money box, some antique lace-making equipment, a kitchen grinder, a quantity of jewellery display equipment and more. I was met by my old pal Charles who told me that sadly new rules apply there, a minimum estimate of $200 for each individual item, so they took nought. I noticed Charles was walking with one foot at a 45 degree angle so I asked how he’d been keeping. ‘I’m screwed’ he said and the story brought me to tears. He fell off a ladder at home onto concrete and his ankle turned 180 degrees so his foot was facing backwards. When they operated and cut his foot open bones were dropping onto the floor of the operating room. So they put it back together with plates and wires but there isn’t enough bone left to make the foot easily usable so they plan to amputate his foot soon. He suffered damage to his heart as well and has had heart surgery four times to correct the resulting arrythmia (unsuccessfully) and is expecting another heart operation soon. This is when I lost it and started crying, quite unexpectedly, and I couldn’t even give him a hug. That’s three shit happenings today so I guess we are done.

June 19, 2021

Well the first vaccination had zero effect on me, but this one did. I felt mildly woozy last night but then slept for 12 hours, waking at 10.30 am, to find that John had been repeatedly checking since 7 am to see if I were breathing or not. He was very pleased when I finally got up, totally shocked by the time, saying that he was worried about how he would manage if I had died and asking whether he should have rung an ambulance or Bob if I had. Glad to be alive after that conversation I did toast of Italian bread with cream cheese and chili jam for breakfast (he had waited for my ascension to have breakfast together).

Soon we got a message from Martha to say that Phil has been moved into palliative care at the San, so I am assuming efforts to ‘spot weld’ the break have been overtaken by his deterioration. What a bloody awful year this has been and looks like continuing to be. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so glad to see the back of 2020. This Delta variant is more than 50% more infectious than the original, the latest outbreak in the Eastern suburbs showing camera footage proving that just walking past an infected person in a department store or sitting at another table in a coffee shop is all that’s needed to be infected. Hotspots have been declared locally too, at the Northmead Club, walking distance away, Plants Plus where I bought a tree two weeks ago, Spotlight and the Hills Super Centre which we visited in Castle Hill last week. We were planning to go to the cinema at Castle Hill last Friday but cancelled in light of all of this. I am currently planning to go to a meeting in the city on public transport next Tuesday (first time on the bus since February 2020) but it’s just a case of wait and see how it all evolves.

Caught up on my book reviews, 3 needed doing, and left Tripadvisor reviews for Rydges Hotel Newcastle (a 5) and their restaurant (a 1). I always feel so virtuous when the book reviews are up to speed, but am trying not to think about my wagon full of good stuff that the auction house won’t take. Perhaps my mate David Barsby at Artarmon might help, he owes me a favour, but I am not at all confident.

June 20, 2021

Last night we went to Thai Skybar Restaurant at Roseville for Ann’s birthday, along with her parents and two of her friends. We had a private room so it made conversation easier. One very weird thing was that the toilets had not one, but two toilets, facing each other. We all thought it hilarious but John didn’t notice at all.

Today we were at St. Mary’s Cathedral just after 9 am for a ceremony giving Terry a Dempsey Medal, a high order for lay Catholics who have given outstanding service to their parish over many years. John asked me how to get there from his place where we stayed last night and I told him it was exactly on the way to St. Vincent’s Hospital, to which he goes unaided every month at least. That journey passes the Cathedral, yet he couldn’t work it out when the destination was different. He got there in the end without much help as I am trying to get him to think his way through gaps in his memory without relying on me automatically. We saw the last of the 9 am mass and at the end they played an extraordinary piece of music on the organ, a booming, almost atonal piece which sounded like something from the soundtrack of a horror movie, but it was mesmerising. I was dying to know what it was so I can listen to it again, but the fellow who promised to find out for me was never seen again. I intend to follow it up though, by phone or email. Terry’s high mass began at 10 am and went till 12 noon and the Cathedral was packed, so clearly there is no shortage of the faithful despite everything. I had said Brian’s mass was long, but it was nothing like this one! The organ and the singing were divine, no pun intended, but boy those Catholics can go on, it felt as if I had time-travelled to the 15th century, which I guess was interesting in itself. Archbishop Anthony Wetfisher gave the sermon and I must say his elocution is nigh on perfect, enunciating every word perfectly and slowly, so I had no trouble picking up every word. At one point John turned to me and asked ‘can you remember what Jesus was tried for? I know there was a trial but that’s all I can remember’, this after eight years of theology. Afterward we went to Terry’s but John’s Satnav was trying to take us onto the Cahill Expressway headed for the Bridge to get to Rockdale, so we turned that off and used an iPhone which wouldn’t talk so I had to follow it on the screen. However we got there eventually after much frustration and swearing on both our parts.

Many of Terry and Jude’s family turned up at the house to celebrate and his daughter Maureen went out for pizzas for twenty or so people. So much for Terry not having visitors due to his chemo. They are such a warm, welcoming mob, from the oldies to the kids. One little guy spontaneously donned gloves and washed up as if that were the most normal thing in the world to do unasked, he looked about seven. But my most interesting conversation, barring Terry, was someone I’d met a few times before who works for the Crime Commission. I commented that he was likely having a busy week and he explained a bit about how they work and the feud between the Hamzy and Alameddine crime families, which I of course found fascinating. He confirmed what I’d been told from another source entirely about the linkage with serious crime and the unchecked mass migration of Lebanese in the 1970s. The Fraser government’s decision to allow migration by people who were not refugees became known as the “Lebanon Concession”. All they had to do was to state that they were fleeing the civil war and that they had a relative in Australia. Many Lebanese from deprived rural areas learned of Australia’s Lebanon Concession and decided to seek a better life in Australia, few if any were refused. They comprised Sunni Muslims from northern Lebanon and Shias from southern Lebanon, long time foes, a high proportion of whom were illiterate. The balance between Muslim and Christian applicants rose quickly to 90 per cent Muslim as the Christian mostly preferred to stay in Lebanon. It is the children and grandchildren of these migrants, largely settled in the south-western suburbs, who are now the main targets of the Crime Commission. I hadn’t realised that the normal right to remain silent doesn’t apply to Crime Commission matters, if you are hauled in and asked a question but refuse to answer, or lie, you are immediately charged with perjury. However what you tell them can’t he used against you in court, which seems very different to usual procedure. He spoke of people casually mentioning that they had killed a person here or there. I could have talked to him for hours.

June 21, 2021

Went to see June Again at Castle Hill’s poxy cinema, the decor of which gets worse every time I go. Who wrote the rule book that cinemas have to be so appallingly tasteless? The film was a bit of a tear-jerker but with some good lines and had the bonus of being set in Sydney. I hope it gave John some heart as it was about a woman with dementia who has a reprieve from symptoms and reengages with her family. He had said he wanted to see it when we saw the shorts some time ago but had forgotten that.

While there I got a text that indicated that something was wrong and after checking my emails I found that Phil had died last evening. He had dictated a message to Martha to be sent out to certain friends after he died and we had both received that while in the cinema. I feel so sorry for Martha, but wouldn’t have wanted him to suffer any longer than he has. I got a call from Martha later and we discussed his wishes re a funeral (he didn’t want one) and his decision to offer his body to the hospital where he was primarily treated, for research and education on his rare cancer. He was told 10 days ago that he only had months to live, it’s always a hard call, but I think they usually err on the side of optimism. However unlike a body donation to a university, he will still be buried afterwards at the Sydney Natural Burial Park located at Kemps Creek. Martha plans to have a memorial at their house later.

Ann was coughing mightily at her birthday dinner on Saturday night and assured us all that it was ‘just bronchitis’ which she gets every year. Today she texted me that it is actually a ‘really bad cold’ which she caught from her daughter who had it the week before. I will go nuts if I get the bloody thing, on the cards as I was sitting right opposite her at the table.

June 22, 2021

My first trip on public transport for 15 months was almost aborted when Andrew Constance appeared on the early news talking about the particular Covid risks aboard buses and mentioning Baulkham Hills in particular as a hotspot. But seeing I had replied in the affirmative to a fairly important event being held in a private room at the Australian Museum (and having now been fully vaccinated) I felt obliged to go. On the walk to the museum I bought a Big Issue and discovered it was just a self-congratulatory blurb for their 25th anniversary. Happy to give the money, but it isn’t the edgy mag about issues that it used to be. Typically I was there way too early but visited the Unsettled Aboriginal exhibition until the appointed time. Ah, first there I thought as I entered the room, admiring the wonderful view, but a staff member assured me I was at the wrong museum so I double checked the email and no, I was at the right one. Further enquiries led to the discovery that the event was cancelled late yesterday! I checked my emails for one from the organisation but nothing appeared. When I rang them they assured me that everyone was notified, and they were, the email arrived just now, two hours after I got home from the city, presumably it went via Kazakhstan. So, disappointed but determined not to waste the trip, I shlepped down to the Law Courts to see the Roberts-Smith defamation trial. No go there either, the court being closed to the public today for security reasons. Drat, even when I smilingly told the official that I wouldn’t put anything I learned on Facebook he surprisingly still denied me entrance. Had a laugh with the cameramen patiently waiting outside and headed off towards the bus stop, feeling disgruntled.

Later I discovered that in a nearby court Charlie Teo’s daughter Nicola had all charges dropped by the DPP after crashing into Jock Ross while driving on the wrong side of the road and then driving home to the city, later refusing to give any interview to police. Police alleged that she was driving on the wrong side of the road for at least 100m before striking the motorcycle and there were questions about whether she was on her mobile phone. He was injured massively, almost fatally. Jock was once a bad boy and a Comanchero but in recent years was well known and loved as captain of the local bushfire brigade at Wiseman’s Ferry, something he’s had to give up due to his injuries. A friend of mine is a close friend of Jock’s and has often talked about the dire effects that the accident has had on his life. Apparently the facts of the case weren’t disputed but her lawyer was mounting a defence of ‘automatism’ and once again we see the benefits of very deep pockets over the pursuit of justice. It sticks in my craw and it’s probably lucky that I wasn’t there when the case was dismissed or I might very well be banned from going to court in future.

June 23, 2021

Washed my long black woollen coat which accidentally got a dunk in the toilet when I didn’t pull it up fast enough. Judging by the colour of the water the wash was somewhat overdue, which can be the way of things when they are black. I watched Gladys at 11 am and discovered that although we are not in lockdown (as yet) gatherings in private homes are limited to five visitors, so book group is out the window on Friday. It was just after I chose what to make and checked the pantry for the ingredients. It looks as if Carly’s flight will need to be cancelled as well and Dav may cancel their weekend away. She suffers at every lockdown, as if they are checking her holiday dates before they act.

Then Martha contacted me to ask if I could come over for lunch and stay for her appointment with the funeral director at 2 pm. Kathryn from Picaluna Funerals was delightful, natural, knowledgeable and not ‘directive’, constantly asking Martha what she wanted, rather than suggesting. Martha sorted out Phil’s warm burial clothes, a sheet and blanket to line the cardboard coffin and a beanie and scarf to keep the winter chills away. She has changed her mind from no funeral to inviting people to the burial but with no ceremony as such, very informal as he would have wanted. Kathryn shared pumpkin soup with us and I was very pleasantly surprised when she toted up the clearly specified costs, 5% of the profit going to a charity of Martha’s choice, Medicin Sans Frontieres. I thought it would be a grim job but she made it a very positive experience, unlike the woman when I was organising my mother’s funeral who commented ‘Oh she was born in England. I’ve been over there for a holiday but there were too many people with a dark tan for my liking’. I didn’t say anything but gave her my best death stare and she quickly moved on.

June 24, 2021

I’ve been thinking about the young tradie sitting near me on the bus back from town on Tuesday, sans mask after the rule came back in to wear one on public transport. The driver didn’t say anything to him and I decided to follow suit after seeing that he had a large hammer hanging on his belt and he looked a bit aggro. Just before he got off he dropped some coins onto the floor accidentally and when he walked towards the door I called out to him that he had dropped money. He positively glowered at me and I decided I had made the right decision about not mentioning the mask. When an old lady got on at the next stop I told her there was some money under her seat and she happily scrabbled it up.

We finally got John’s rego sorted, what a saga it has been. Not because there was a problem, just that John has been so mightily confused about the process, repeatedly asking what has to be done. Even after it was all completed he was asking Alex whether we needed to go to Service NSW and what else he had to do. Our beautiful mechanic Alex wouldn’t accept the $115 for the rego check and a small repair that was needed, it’s just impossible to press money onto him at times and it gets embarrassing, anything under about $150 or so he won’t accept. The staff tote it up, I go to pay and he gives them the nod so they won’t charge me. I’ve never come across it anywhere before and when I insisted on paying today he said ‘Shhh I’m talking to my boyfriend on the phone, don’t interrupt’, beaming across at his wife who also works there. He loves us and we can’t work out exactly why.

We went to RNSH for my monthly blood test, some 13 days late because I’ve just been too busy, and there was a long queue just to get into the place. Then we went to Barsby  Auctions nearby with the same goods that were rejected at Bargain Hunt a few days ago. To my great surprise they accepted almost all of it. What a turnup for the books, BH was always happy to take almost everything and BA was the upmarket firm, how times change. We did a Woolies shop on the way home in case we go into lockdown soon, but didn’t buy a single roll of toilet paper so we felt virtuous.

June 25, 2021

Made a Chestnut and Almond Cake to take up to Alex, our mechanic. During the making I was fielding a few texts from Dav about the lockdown, as I was supposed to be going in there tomorrow but she checked and the locked down suburbs can’t have visitors so that’s out. Millie was so looking forward to Carly and moi looking after her this weekend, but Carly can’t come due to the outbreak and now I can’t even go there for a day visit. At the same time I was fielding emails from Martha about catering arrangements for Phil’s ‘not a funeral’ on Monday. She has wisely decided not to explore the club option, considering that the suburb where the cemetery is located is the one where 17 out of 30 party-goers have so far come down with Covid. I suggested my doing sandwiches but she felt it was too big a job for one person, so then I countered with the idea of buying numerous long Subway rolls and just slicing them up. She liked that idea so I will change tack and do a cake instead. Which brings me back to Alex’s chestnut cake….when it was nearly cooked I found the chestnut puree measured out in a bowl, but it didn’t actually get into the cake, so now it is an almond cake, the other main ingredients being ground and chopped almonds. I will use the chestnut puree to do the same cake for Monday but hopefully with all the ingredients present. It just doesn’t work if I cook without focussing totally, all other things have to wait, including John asking ‘How long is it till lunch?’.

I haven’t had time to focus on the building collapse in Florida or read any articles as yet. But the first thing I thought of was the book The Water Will Come which so impressed me a few years back. It explained why the lower east of the United States will be more affected by rising water due to climate change, with the Gulf Stream having a big effect. It was complicated science but from memory had to do with a faster Gulf Stream pulling water away from the US east coast and as it slows down it wells up, raising sea levels there. Some US sea levels on that coast have risen 3 or 4 times the global average. But I distinctly remember the author saying that condominiums in Florida for example will find their subterranean carparks flooding and was amazed that such building were still allowed. Also the ground will become waterlogged, causing buildings to slowly sink….. Perhaps this may end up being faulty workmanship, though that’s hard to believe in a building that they said last night was built in 1981. But I hope they start to look seriously at the fact that all of that area is probably at risk now, because professionals who have highlighted the risks, according to the book, have been ignored by the Republican government who are climate change deniers.

June 26, 2021

I am currently reading Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna and I’m finding it harrowing. The descriptions of child sexual abuse and the interior dialogue of a person who is clearly mentally ill is just excruciating to read, but I highly recommend the book regardless. Decided to reread The Water Will Come when I can get it from the library as it is so topical now after this building collapse. I had not realised till I read it that developers are still building high-rise apartments on the water’s edge in Miami despite the now regular flooding with every king tide. The author discussed how reclaimed swamps now support skyscrapers, as in this case, and what that will mean in the future. But it is the scientific explanations that I find I can’t remember well enough. It appears that many of the missing fall into two large groups, central Americans from Cuba, Venezuela etc and Jewish people. One chilling story emerged of a man on a business trip to Washington whose wife rang him at 1.30 am to say that the building was shaking and it collapsed as they spoke. Just unbelievable, he’ll never get that call out of his head.

Well Gladys has done what we were all expecting and called a lockdown, but it is for two weeks, longer than I was expecting. It was obvious that they were all rattled at the 11 am presser so this was pretty clearly coming. Funerals are exempted so presumably Phil’s will go ahead on Monday. News that a miner in the Northern Territory is infected is a big worry, especially as it appears he caught it in quarantine. I guess now I have no excuse not to list some of my stuff on eBay, something I have put off doing because I don’t want to go back to work mode, but I have no excuse with a vacant diary for the next two weeks. So I started with just one thing this afternoon, a pair of Chinese marble BaoDing balls which are very decorative but which were used as some sort of meditation aids I think. I will begin with the rejects from Barsbys this week, the few items they wouldn’t take, then move on to some store room bits. I rang John whom I knew wouldn’t be watching our Glad and told him he needed to decide whether to be alone at home for two weeks or to put up with me for two weeks but he needed to decide before 6 pm. He’s decided to come here, after he only left today at lunchtime.

June 27, 2021

John has been waiting and hoping for some response from his daughter after he sent a parcel containing a gift-wrapped woollen poncho and a pair of insulated winter gloves for her birthday, but the day came and went with no response, though he knows it was delivered. His phone calls on the day went unanswered. His pain is a daily one unfortunately but his birthday and hers are especially difficult times.

I finished Infinite Splendours last night and it was literally heart-rending. I don’t think I can be with a mentally ill person again without those images coming back to me. But I would hesitate to recommend it to people who have had certain experiences described in the book, it acted as a trigger for me so I can’t imagine what it would do to them. We travelled with Lawrence through his life, in many ways though he was always the ten year old we met at the beginning.

Perhaps the book was the reason I couldn’t sleep last night but I’m more inclined to think that it was Phil’s funeral tomorrow, coming so closely on top of Brian’s and also thinking about Terry’s recent diagnosis. His family is an interesting mix, Terry eight years in the seminary, then a priest for some time and then six years in Geneva studying to be a Jungian psychoanalyst. He is urbane, gentle, philosophical, metaphysical and always up for a deep and meaningful on life in general. His brother and sister took different routes, his brother selling and servicing venetian blinds, his sister a homemaker, both valuable paths. But seeing them interacting the difference is stark, however the family is clearly close and loving. There are many paths to the top of the mountain and it is wonderful to see people who are comfortable with others’ choices.

June 28, 2021

Sue arrived from Killcare in time for us to set out for Phil’s funeral in plenty of time, according to Mr. Google at least. Traffic was heavier on the M7 than we expected, there are only 16 exemptions to the lockdown I was thinking, but that still leaves an awful lot of folks out and about. We came across a minor roadworks detour but arrived to some confusion about where we were to be going, partly caused by an inadequate map and partly due to a sign showing the way to the funeral of Philip Copper, not Cooper, but we eventually found the right place. All of that meant we were far from the first there, despite our good intentions with Martha handing out the brochures that I was supposed to be doing. The burial field was much smaller than it looked online, but the upside was that we didn’t have far to walk to the graveside. The cardboard casket was set up as planned with textas for guests to write their final messages to Phil and we did so immediately. John soon went over to the grave site and peering into the hole asked the diggers ‘Where is the body?’ to which they patiently replied ‘Over there in the box’. ‘Oh yes’ John exclaimed, ‘I just signed it’. I’m sure that story will do the rounds of the diggers, but in any event, it will certainly do the rounds amongst our friends as John can now see the funny side. The service went off well with Carol officiating, an extraordinary mix of informality, respect and reverence with loving friendship thrown in. I can’t praise the funeral director Kathryn highly enough, so much so that I’ve booked her for mine (on a date yet to be confirmed) and checked that she’ll travel as far as Gerringong. Tick.

Sue, John and I chewed the fat for the afternoon in front of the fire, the first time I’ve put it on this winter now that I have my carbon monoxide meter set up, telling Phil stories. We followed up with a simple dinner with a special wine with which we toasted Phil. Whenever I go to the bottle shop at Berry, and sometimes also at Leura, I ask the owner to choose half a dozen good bottles of red, after telling him my preferences as to grapes and areas. These are my special occasion wines and last night’s, the last from Berry, was a ripper. A John Duval Wines 2015 Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre which I will try to buy again when next we are there. Cellar 5-6 years, he told me and by chance more than plan that’s exactly what I did.

June 29, 2021

Sue told me she always gets up at 5, which I certainly wasn’t going to do but set the alarm to 6.45. She appeared in time for a hot breakfast about 8.30 and we stoked the coals of the funeral again before moving on to other topics including the many late texts last night from Ann asking (yet again) why she hadn’t been invited to our various birthday celebrations. I pointed out that apart from John’s 75th and his 80th both our birthdays are usually celebrated at a favourite restaurant, on our own. She still wasn’t happy so I quoted Oscar Wilde’s dictum: ‘If a friend of mine gave a feast, and did not invite me to it, I should not mind a bit. But if a friend of mine had a sorrow and refused to allow me to share it, I should feel it most bitterly.’ She neither agreed with the concept nor understood it, so I really had to give up explaining at that point.

A sleepless night after going over silly things that seemed perfectly sane at the time. Like why did we leave Phil behind? why didn’t someone stand vigil overnight? won’t he be cold? Of course by morning that all seemed pretty obvious, but it gives some idea of how a death throws us off kilter, two in two weeks seems too much, but I guess I had better get used to it, it’s the price of living past the three score and ten.

June 30, 2021

Oh my, I actually got a traffic fine in the mail. I thought it must be a mistake, but no I checked the date and I had taken John’s glasses up to Ralph to fix, went up the hill past St. Bernadette’s School and apparently I was a bit over the 40 kph limit at school exit time. As well as the $203 fine it puts up my third party insurance on the car for three years but as they say, you do the crime and you do the time.

I read in the news today that the nurse in Queensland who caught Covid at a hospital where she works caught it from a man who has made multiple trips out of, and back into, Australia during the pandemic, staying in hotel quarantine in Brisbane each time. In South Australia a family, all suffering from Covid, came in this week on a chartered jet and went straight to hospital. These exceptions were all approved by the federal government. This is what encourages people to flout the rules, as ever one rule for the rich and well connected and one for everyone else. We went up to get the food shopping at Baulko and although all the clothing shops were closed the el cheapo shop was open and I wondered why cards, decorations, plastic containers and flowers, plant pots and their motley assortment of goods qualified as essential items? Bigger brains than mine work these things out and I guess there can be loopholes. One job I really do fancy in all of this is contact tracing, I would enjoy that detective work a lot I think, but sadly at my age I am over the hill for just about everything.

July 1, 2021

Kenneth has been ringing me all het up about his daughter’s situation with their foster child reaching the age of 18 next month. She has had him for 11 years and the problem is that the allowance she gets for him is usually a major part of the family’s income and now her husband has lost his licence and therefore his job, the allowance is 100% of their income. I keep telling K. that it’s up to them to work it out but I now discover that he has been subsidising them financially for some time and once this payment ceases they will be down on their uppers, having spent all of their earnings. The British system seems incredibly generous now that I know how much they are receiving. Having looked up the NSW rates, I find that they get in pounds per week as much as people here get in dollars. But it’s sad to see K. so perturbed about it all.

In more bad news from the Odd Dart, my friend Anne recently broke her arm getting off a bus. When she said that she didn’t bump it or fall, I theorised to myself that the only two possibilities were cancer or osteoporosis. Now further investigations have diagnosed the latter, finding that the same thing is now threatening to occur in her leg. I don’t know how Anne would cope if she became disabled, she is an extremely private person, living alone with her books in a 17th century stone cottage in a village and happiest when she is not around people, or folk as she always calls them. She is hardly shy, but just finds many people so annoying or stupid and she is anything but that. I can only hope that treatment is possible and that it works fast, but I can’t say I’m too confident.

We watched the video of Phil’s not funeral and cried again. But were so impressed by the filming and particularly the editing. He was in the background barely noticed, but turned out such a wonderful result. I wondered if I could book him for mine but then decided it would be a bit pointless if I can’t watch it!

July 2, 2021

A bit of a fuss this morning when my internet, landline and mobile all went off together. I assumed it was an Optus problem and after some considerable time it rectified itself, apparently they had a massive outage. It meant that John couldn’t Zoom in to see the funeral of a friend in Canberra, yes another, which was unfortunate timing. But he has a two hour Zoom meeting with his seminary classmates this arv and hopefully it will stay afloat till then.

Dav has asked if I could mind Millie while they get their vaccinations tomorrow arv so I am making a curry for them to take home because she feels, rightly I think, that having dinner here afterwards breaks the spirit of the lockdown. They were going to take Millie with them to Olympic Park but an email today tells them not to bring children, so if needed the bobbies can be told that the visit here was necessary in order for them to get the vaccine. A segment on the teev last night explained that in New York, you can just ring the authorities and they send a vaccination team to your house, they even turn up at sports events and vaccinate all comers, while we give it out at some inconvenience to the recipients. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the video online of the owners of a Bowral organic food shop being trundled into a paddy wagon and fighting the police all the way, with much scuffling and swearing. They had installed a sign outside their shop  refusing entry to anyone wearing a mask or anyone who had been vaccinated. (It looked as if it were straight out of southern USA, but no, we have our home grown idiots thanks very much). The poor cops talked to them for an hour and a half inside the shop, trying to explain that their actions were illegal, but they refused to take the sign down or close the shop. A customer filmed their arrest and put it online and it made me glad that I didn’t go into the police force, though I briefly considered it. I made the assumption then that a regular anti-Vietnam protester wouldn’t get past first base and I still think that was the case as I was filmed often. When the government and the people are on different sides on an issue the police have to side with the government right or wrong and I don’t think I could stomach it, even though in this case they were unscientific fools. It raises so many questions around freedom of speech and freedom to be a numbskull. Just sometimes the dingbats are right.





































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Life Notes 6

April 1, 2020

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

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

April 2, 2020

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

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

April 3, 2020

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

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

April 4, 2020

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

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

April 5, 2020

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

April 6, 2020

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

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

April 7, 2020

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

April 8, 2020

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

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

April 9, 2020

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

April 10, 2020

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

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

April 11, 2020

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

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

April 12, 2020

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

April 13, 2020

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

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

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

April 14, 2020

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

April 15, 2020

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

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

April 16, 2020

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

April 17, 2020

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

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

April 18, 2020

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

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

April 19, 2020

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

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

April 20, 2020

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

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

April 21, 2020

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

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

April 22, 2020

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

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

April 23, 2020

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

April 24, 2020

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

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

April 25, 2020

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

April 26, 2020

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

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

April 27, 2020

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

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

April 28, 2020

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

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

April 29, 2020

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

April 30, 2020

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

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

May 1, 2020

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

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

May 2, 2020

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

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

May 3, 2020

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

May 4, 2020

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

May 5, 2020

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

May 6, 2020

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

May 7, 2020

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

May 8, 2020

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

May 9, 2020

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

May 10, 2020

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

May 11, 2020

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

May 12, 2020

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

May 13, 2020

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

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

May 14, 2020

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

May 15, 2020

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

May 16, 2020

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

May 17, 2020

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

May 18, 2020

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

May 19, 2020  (written 21/5)

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

May 20, 2020  (written 21/5)

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

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

May 21, 2020

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

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

May 22, 2020

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

May 23, 2020

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

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

May 24, 2020

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

May 25, 2020

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

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

May 26, 2020

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

May 27, 2020

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

May 28, 2020

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

May 29, 2020

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

May 30, 2020

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

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

May 31, 2020

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

June 1, 2020

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

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

June 2, 2020

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

June 3, 2020

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

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

June 4, 2020

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

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

June 5, 2020

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

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

June 6, 2020

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

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

June 7, 2020

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

June 8, 2020

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

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

June 9, 2020

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

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

June 10, 2020

I bit the bullet and launched into people-land as I couldn’t see another way to get my pink slip for rego without taking the car to the mechanic’s. However they were fast and ef