Life Notes 10

July 11, 2022

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

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

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

July 12, 2022

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

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

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

July 13, 2022

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

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

July 14, 2022

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

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

July 15, 2022

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

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

July 16, 2022

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

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

July 17, 2022

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

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

July 18, 2022

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

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

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

July 19, 2022

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

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

July 20 and 21, 2022

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

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

July 22, 2022

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

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

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

July 23, 2022

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

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

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

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

July 24, 2022

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

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

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

July 25, 2022

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

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

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

July 26, 2022

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

July 27, 2022

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

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

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

July 28, 2022

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

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

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

July 29, 2022

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

July 30, 2022

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

July 31, 2022

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

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

August 1, 2022

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

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

August 2, 2022

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

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

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

August 3, 2022

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

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

August 4, 2022

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

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

August 5, 2022

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

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

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

August 6, 2022

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

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

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

August 7, 2022

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

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

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

August 8, 2022

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

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

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

August 9, 2022

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

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

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

August 10, 2022

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

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


August 11, 2022

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

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

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

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

August 12, 2022

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

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

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

August 13, 2022

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

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

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

August 14, 2022

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

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

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

August 15, 2022

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

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

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

August 16, 2022

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

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

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

August 17, 2022

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

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

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

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

August 18, 2022

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

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

August 19, 2022

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

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

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

August 20, 2022

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

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

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

August 21, 2022

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

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

August 22, 2022

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

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

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

August 23, 2022

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

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

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

August 24, 2022

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

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

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

August 25, 2022

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

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

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

August 26, 2022

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

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

August 27, 2022

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

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

August 28, 2022

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

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

August 29, 2022

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

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

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

August 30, 2022

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

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


August 31, 2022

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

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

September 1, 2022

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

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

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

September 2, 2022

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

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

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

September 3, 2022

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

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

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

September 4, 2022

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

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

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

September 5, 2022

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

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

September 6, 2022

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

September 7, 2022

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

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

September 8, 2022

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

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

September 9, 2022

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

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

September 10, 2022

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

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

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

September 11, 2022

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

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

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

September 12, 2022

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

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

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

September 13, 2022

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

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

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

September 14, 2022

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

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

September 15, 2022

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

September 16, 2022

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

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

September 17, 2022

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

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

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

September 18, 2022

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

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

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

September 19, 2022

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

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

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

September 20, 2022

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

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

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

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

September 21, 2022

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

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

September 22, 2022

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

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

September 23, 2022

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

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

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

September 24, 2022

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

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

September 25, 2022

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

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

September 26, 2022

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

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

September 27, 2022

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

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

September 28, 2022

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

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

September 29, 2022

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

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

September 30, 2022

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

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

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

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

October 1, 2022

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

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

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

October 2, 2022

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

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

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

October 3, 2022

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

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

October 4, 2022

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

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

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

October 5, 2022

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

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

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

October 6, 2022

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

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

October 7, 2022

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

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

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

October 8, 2022

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

October 9, 2022

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

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

October 10, 2022

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

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

October 11, 2022

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

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

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

October 12, 2022

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

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

October 13, 2022

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

October 14, 2022

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

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

October 15, 2022

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

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

October 16, 2022

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

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

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

October 17. 2022

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

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

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

October 18, 2022

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

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

October 19, 2022

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

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

October 20, 2022

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

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

October 21, 2022

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

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

October 22, 2022

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

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

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

October 23, 2022

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

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

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

October 24, 2022

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

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

October 25, 2022

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

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

October 26, 2022

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

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

October 27, 2022

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

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

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

October 28, 2022

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

October 29, 2022

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

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

October 30, 2022

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

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

October 31, 2022

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

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

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

November 1, 2022

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

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

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

November 2, 2022

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

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

November 3, 2022

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

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

November 4, 2022

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

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

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

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

November 5, 2022

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

November 6, 2022

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

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

November 7, 2022

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

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

November 8, 2022

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

November 9, 2022

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

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

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

November 10, 2022

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

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

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

November 11, 2022

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

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

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

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

November 12, 2022

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

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

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

November 13, 2022

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

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

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

November 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

November 15, 2022

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

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

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

November  16, 2022

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

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

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

November 17, 2022

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

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

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

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

November 18, 2022

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

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

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

November 19, 2022

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

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

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

November 20, 2022

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

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

November 21, 2022

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

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

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

November 22, 2022

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

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

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

November 23, 2022

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

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

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

November 24, 2022

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

November 25, 2022

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

November 26, 2022

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

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

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

November 27, 2022

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

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

November 28, 2022

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

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

November 29, 2022

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

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

November 30, 2022

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

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

December 1, 2022

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

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

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














































Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 9

January 30, 2022

Last week after as I was unpacking the shopping I asked John to take some stuff down to the freezer in the garage. Today I went down to get the garlic bread to go with dinner tonight but it wasn’t there. Searched the car boot, back seat and garage but no garlic bread. However in the hunt I discovered a whole tuna casserole sitting on a shelf, one I’d made for John in case the anaesthetic sent me haywire last Friday and they didn’t let me come home (it’s happened twice before, so I was being cautious). Of course it was totally rank and I threw it out, even the container. He must have been reorganising to fit stuff in, but it reminded me that I have to check everything and not assume it’s all gone well, which is a bit of a blow. Though then I remembered when decades ago there was a terrible smell in the garage and I assumed a rat. I set a rat trap, but no catch, so I pulled the freezer out to discover a meat tray with no meat left, but teaming with huge maggots, it made me gag. So I am also conscious that anyone can make that mistake. I need to not put everything down to dementia, while also being on the lookout for things that can maybe go wrong.

Finally I got on to Kenneth after a month. He got home from hospital on Friday but when he got undressed for bed and pulled his jumper off his arm dripped blood, they’d forgotten to take the IV out! So Tanya had to turn around and drive him back to Leeds (an hour?) to get it taken out. Clearly her 25 year nursing role at the Bupa home didn’t stretch to removing a fluid line. So that’s why he didn’t answer the night before, they didn’t get back till midnight. He wasn’t himself, unsurprisingly, saying things like ‘I don’t know what I’ll do for meals, they just put them in front of you at the hospital’. Tanya called out that she was staying there with him for a few days and would get all his meals but clearly he wasn’t understanding as he later said ‘I suppose I could eat Shredded Wheat’. I’m not sure yet if this trio of accident, operation and Covid has set him back too far to live alone, that remains to be seen. He couldn’t tell me his mobile number and had to get Tanya to give it to me. I’ve discovered now the drawback of only using a landline in our communications, with the mobile I could have been talking to him regularly. So now it’s just a matter of wait and see.

January 31, 2022

A bit of a technically frustrating day in that I had tried numerous times over two days to connect to iView to watch yesterday’s Insiders program, but it failed to connect to the TV. So eventually I emailed Louis who got me to photograph the back of the set and thereby discovered that an unnamed person had disconnected the gadget that makes it possible to cast to the TV. On top of that the blog is not working (again) for reasons I can’t fathom but last time it self-corrected so I can only hope that it does the same again. But Tania came and picked up the books so that was a huge advance. Now I am emptying some boxes of glass, plates and bowls from the storeroom and trying to decide what to do with them. I suspect many will have to go to the op shops as I just don’t have the energy to eBay them all.

I rang Nada’s office and told them that John’s haematology appointment on Thursday should be by Telehealth and not in person, something they were quite fine about, however getting them to fax his pathology request to a local company to be done here proved trickier. I had a promise at 9 am that it would be done post haste, but at 4.30 pm it still hadn’t been done. Another phone call to a flummoxed secretary ensued and he seemed not to even remember his promise to do it. However I’m assured it will be done now, so I can take him for the test tomorrow.

I managed to get on to Kenneth again last night and suggested he organise Meals on Wheels but he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Surely the service exists there but perhaps it’s called something else. I am not the one who should be looking for services from here, when his family would be au fait with what’s available. I cheekily suggested that when Tanya has to go home Anne might be willing to come and stay with him for a while, an idea he was naturally very keen on and the bonus is that he can blame me for suggesting it.

Sue called to let me know that she is positive for Covid, although feeling relatively well. It seems that the book groupers dodged a bullet as the meeting was supposed to be held at her place last Friday and she first got symptoms on Saturday morning. Her doctor daughter told her that she would have been most infectious on Thursday and Friday. She had had a busy week, going to the Opera, having visitors and going to a luncheon for Australia Day not to mention working at the farm every day, so it’s hard to know where she got it but the Opera is a prime candidate timewise. I have been tempted to go to an outdoors meeting of the sewing group on Wednesday, but I’m now having second thoughts.

February 1, 2022

As it was so hot and humid I decided it was a perfect beach day but first we had to organise a blood test for John which had been faxed from Nada’s office. A queue that ran into the hall made me turn and go back to the car, it was Covid soup there. Headed off to Balmoral (the traffic on Military Road, omg) but once we got there it was all worth it. The sun was glinting on the ocean, the beach wasn’t too crowded, we got a good park…bliss. The water was warm enough, though quite powerful for a harbour beach. The swimming was divine, just what I needed. We took a walk onto the island and decided to have our picnic there, right at the point watching the boats and the paddleboarders. The pandemic is saving us heaps of money, usually we would get fish and chips from Bottom of the Harbour to eat on the boardwalk but our cheese and lettuce sambos and rock cakes from home saved us 40 bucks and tasted just fine. Eventually we headed homeward via the pathology office which was by now almost deserted. There was a bit of a problem finding the fax, apparently they are deluged with faxes for house calls, which I didn’t even know they did, but they found it in the end.

Jane communicated about John and offered to take him out for a bushwalk/picnic sometimes when their cleaners are there, which happens every second Monday. I don’t feel the need to ‘get away’ at the moment but I happily accepted the offer as I don’t know when I may start feeling that way! She also suggested having a loose roster of people available to call if I need time away from home, I guess I had that in my head to an extent when Michelle visited with John two weeks ago while I was indisposed. A couple of my friends are more Covid-cautious than I am, another is undergoing chemo, so the plague has a bearing on these possibilities, but it’s worth thinking about. However Jane is the only relative who could ever be called on, which is sad.

February 2, 2022

Decided to ‘risk’ sewing group after all. I took a top which had lost a few buttons and replaced them with some random decorative ones which actually makes it look more interesting. The group was seated outside and everyone wore masks so I felt at home, though I didn’t stay for lunch. Carly was fronting a Senate Committee on Job Security which was focused on the various visas to bring in agricultural workers, hence Carly’s involvement. I was aware of the allegations relating to the way workers have been treated here, but today was a real eye-opener which kept me watching till nearly 4 pm: people being forced to work with Covid, a house with 77 workers living in it, people in caravans in 36 degree heat, pastoral care workers for south sea islanders being raided by Border Force, but most shocking to me was the government-sponsored posters put up with the bold title ABSCONDING showing a coloured man holding his hands over his face. The campaign warns pickers they may “bring shame to their families” if they run away from their jobs and they risk having their visa cancelled. It warned they may “damage the relationship between your country and the employer, and you may bring shame to your family’s reputation.” This for fleeing dangerous working conditions or unfair work practices such as under-payment. These schemes seem to be as much about keeping wages low as about getting the crop picked. Amazingly the deputy chair of the committee was Matt Canavan, with whom I disagree on almost everything, but in this case he used words like “slave labour” and I found his comments perfectly valid.

The blog righted itself after being out of action for days, or perhaps it was righted by my blog advisor who informed me that it had been hacked and he would look into it. Whatever happened I’m grateful for its reappearance and grateful to him if he paid a ransom of millions to the hackers.

There is another storm in a wine glass at book group, this time over some suggestions that a planned meeting was too food-focussed, rather then book-focussed. I am keeping right out of it, the troops will no doubt divide on party lines and some will come to the aid of the offended who has dramatically resigned in protest. Others however will yawn and go back to their previous occupation.

February 3, 2022

Today John was to have a Telehealth appointment with his haematologist. It all went well but I was surprised when she said that ‘if you should get a positive Covid test, you must contact me as we have special arrangements for people as immunosuppressed as you are’. This was news to us and a bit of a relief in some ways as she would negotiate with the hospital to ensure he was admitted or carefully monitored at home, no-one would argue with Nada! ‘Now contact me immediately if you get sick with Covid John!’ was her parting message. Yes ma’am.

A letter appeared in the mail for John from Riverstone Police and we were both mystified by its contents. I had driven John’s car through Riverstone recently and thought I was in bother for a driving issue. It thanked him for ‘joining our Next of Kin Program’ and included a keyring with a phone number on it which turned out to be Riverstone Police. I joked to John that it was a tracking device. They couldn’t tell me who initiated his membership so it’s still an enigma, though they had my details and Bob Elliott’s on file. He said it is usually initiated by the next of kin, but it lists me in that role and it twernt me. And why Rivo of all places?

A parcel arrived from my eBay client in Melbourne with some hand cream, a quantity of unfranked stamps and a small bottle of schnapps. She is quite a character. The parcel was wet to the point of disintegration but had been repacked into a clear plastic bag, hence the delivery delay. I have instructions from her to try the schnapps and report back.

February 4, 2022

I tried the schnapps and she’s right, it does almost ‘knock your socks off and send shockwaves throughout your body’ but unlike whiskey and some other strong alcohols, I quite like the taste. I had a small glass of white wine with lunch today so I don’t think I’ll be hitting the schnapps before dinner. Bronwyn and Michael came for lunch and I was able to resurrect the remains of the Christmas turkey from the freezer to go with various salads. Opened a jar of liqueur plums to have with icecream for sweets. Amazing what you’ve got in the pantry and freezer to make a lunch at short notice.

I rang the Riverstone Police Station again as I really want to know who signed John up to the Next of Kin Program. I looked up the joining forms online and either the person or their next of kin have to sign the forms allowing the Police Department to share their details in case of accident and emergency, so who signed if neither I nor John did? Who gave them his address, my phone number and Bob’s details. I’ve asked the person in charge to find out and get back to me.

After years of saying he wanted to be cremated John decided today that he wants to be buried with me at Gerringong and have his Akubra hat on the coffin and then in the grave. I commented that it was a waste of a good hat, so he said that I can overrule him and keep the hat if I want to wear it, but no-one else can! He liked the idea that we could chat. He asked me a couple of weeks ago: ‘why did I want to be cremated?’ and obviously wasn’t happy with the answer.

February 5, 2022

I read in the SMH that Denmark has dropped all of its Covid restrictions and is ‘treating it like a cold’. It’s all fine for the fit, but it too casually accepts the deaths of those who aren’t and I baulk at that. There was something in the Guardian about a woman in Melbourne who had survived non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for 10 years with much treatment, was in hospital for a burst eardrum, caught Covid and died. As her daughter said, now she’s just a statistic with ‘underlying health conditions’. To me the Danes and others of their ilk seem to be saying that it’s fine for those who are disabled, old or sick to be sacrificed so the rest can shop at will and eat out wherever they want. If I were a young, healthy person who knew that Covid could be a killer to others I would willingly wear a mask, use QR codes and socially distance to protect those more vulnerable, it’s not much to ask really, but it seems not everyone is willing to do that. It’s a sad reflection on the selfishness of the many.

Instead of asking myself if ScumMo will win the election I find myself asking another question, will he even be PM when the election happens? Between the division over the religious rights legislation and the very negative character assessments of him exposed in texts by Our Glad and Baa-naby I don’t know where to look for the next disaster. Imagine being a back-bencher watching the melt-down and wondering if ditching the Scummer might help hold you on to that well-paid job…’d have to think it was worth a try. There’s not much loyalty in politics.

I think the best political ad Albo could come up with is a big photo of a grinning ScumMo with a sign over it: ‘Would you buy a used car from this man?’. I know people have short memories and vote with their hip pocket and all the rest of it, but surely there can’t be many people left who would vote this government back in?

February 6, 2022

Oh my, I need a secretary to keep on top of my correspondence at the moment. About a month ago I was contacted by one, then two, then three first cousins in as many weeks. Since then I’ve had 18 emails from one and 17 from another, not counting Messenger and Facebook contacts from them all. I’ve been sent a 32 page family tree, some short video clips of my grandfather and my mother, a newspaper article on my grandfather who was a champion bicycle road racer, numerous photos and maps to locate the house of one of them in Spain. Each evening I get a pretty picture of a scene from somewhere in the world from Tony, the first of them to turn up. I understand why I am keen to answer them all but a bit nonplussed about what they get out of it, though I’m not arguing.

A few years ago I had my DNA done and as a result was contacted by a man in South Africa who has 45 units of DNA in common, making him a 2nd to 4th cousin, although we couldn’t exactly find our common ancestor we narrowed it down to a particular village. Now I find yesterday that another man, this one in Redcar in Yorkshire, has 95 units in common. We are now exchanging emails also. He’s a psychotherapist and counsellor who sees patients face-to-face and online so if I go into a downhill spiral I can call on the cuz to sort me out. It remains to be seen where he fits into the picture but he’s listed as a 2nd to 4th cousin also. I was into all this stuff before I found Kenneth but haven’t worried about it much since, though these latest developments have sparked my interest.

Baked a fruit cake from the Mary and Vincent Price Cookbook, a 1965 heirloom book that I acquired second hand more than a decade ago. He was a famous actor in the 50s and 60s, very wealthy, and they travelled all over the world eating in the best places and recording the menus and recipes. I often do his Mexican Creamed Corn recipe with chili to which he adds a heap of cheese at the end, yum. This cake recipe was collected when he was entertained at Woburn Abbey (he includes a pic with the Duke and Duchess to prove it) and it will certainly be added to the regular cakes in the baking calendar.

February 7, 2022

A few weeks ago we were having someone over for afternoon tea so I baked gluten-free goodies as required. After I’d set the table on the verandah, got out the food and was expecting the visitor in a few minutes, I had a call to say that it was too hot to eat outside (it was 30 degrees) so she cancelled at about 10 to 2, arrival time was 2pm. We rescheduled last week for a picnic today, noting that the weather forecast was for rain, so I chose a large shelter shed in Lane Cove National Park where we had been to a party for 40 people late last year in the rain and were completely dry. This morning I texted regarding food, sent a map showing the exact location, packed the picnic (a salad, fruit and gluten free treats) and was just about to make the Thermos when I got a text to say that ‘it’s too wet, I’ve never been to a picnic in such weather, it’s just odd’. All sentiments that could have been expressed a week ago with no problem, but I guess we will be having a picnic lunch on our own, whether here or somewhere else. Grrrr.

I must admit that I was shocked but not surprised that Peter Dutton is being accused of having texted very negative character assessments of ScumMo. When he was asked by the beautiful Laura on Insiders about whether or not he was the mystery texter he replied that she may not have noticed that he’s a Queenslander, not from NSW, an evasive answer considering no-one had suggested it originated in NSW. It’s a classic liar’s move, answer a question that you weren’t asked and ignore the one you were, Laura should have jumped on that, I was yelling loud enough for her to hear.

Well I think I’ve put the day to some use after finding a folder full of hand written book reviews while dusting the loungeroom (yes, dusting, as against the preferred picnicking). I decided to add these to the brief reviews online that I had written on Goodreads for the same books. Had a long talk to Heather who rang and we agreed that many people are quite crackers but that each of us is not, a comforting conclusion, even if perhaps a delusional one. I have also had another careful look through the Vincent Price Cookbook, deciding on quite a few ‘must try’ recipes though I will probably leave the whole lobster ones for the minute. Though practically it would still beat the cost of going to a restaurant by miles.

February 8, 2022

I woke up to three emails from my South African perhaps-cousin who has been doing more work trying to find our connections. He rightly found my mother’s birth, marriage and death and comes up with correct assumptions about the new cousins who have appeared. When I was replying separately to the three emails which asked different questions, the first two went off fine but I was half way through replying to the third one when my reply and his email just disappeared. No worries I thought I will answer it on my phone but it had gone from there as well. How can that happen?

I was toying with what to cook for dinner when one of my stack of recipes, cut out of various newspapers and magazines, wafted to the floor from the cookbook shelf in a puff of wind. Okay I said, the universe has spoken, so it’s Barramundi Curry with Tomato and Coconut for dinner. I shall leave out the optional okra though, but if it hadn’t said optional I would have added it, following my long-held policy of doing a recipe exactly as written the first time out of respect for the chef and then adapting it to suit me from then on. The Vincent Price recipes will still be there later in the week, when I will also make a tray of slices for the mechanics whose boss Alex seems to have fixed John’s car gratis when the steering wheel kept locking a couple of weeks ago. John finally unearthed the slippers that I gave him for Christmas and which have been missing almost ever since, pushed right under a chest of drawers, no doubt by the vacuum. We had both searched for them a number of times with no luck. So providence seems to be with us today.

I have rung another two landscapers to weigh up costs for a new driveway against the eye-watering quote from the person who was recommended to us and whom we like a lot. The neighbour down below told me that his concrete one cost a substantial amount and bricks cost more. It is the missing link in getting the place both looking good and being functional, seeing the broken bits of driveway are starting to jag people’s cars underneath if they are low slung. Thinking of all the money I’m saving from opera tickets, movie tickets, restaurant meals, holidays I guess I can afford to do it.

February 9, 2022

I am really not cut out for some of the jobs that fall to me now. Lots of driving (ugh), working out why the steering wheel locks when the car’s parked (happily solved by our trusty mechanic), why the printer is malfunctioning (when I loathe everything to do with printers), working out why the home care package charges don’t seem to add up (admin that is boring but necessary) etc etc. We had everything divided neatly according to skills: cooking, gardening, entertaining, buying (whether grocery shopping or bigger purchases), dealing with tradesmen was my area; driving, car stuff, filing, administration, computers, printers etc was John’s. But now I am doing all this stuff that I am really no good at and what’s more, jobs that make me tetchy at best. So I drove to the printer place today and the guy showed me how to fix the bleeding thing, but when I opened the guts of it at home, it looked totally different and didn’t have the same internals as the one in the shop, so now I have to lug the whole bloody printer back to him to fix.

The excellent gardening person who helped just once on John’s package has quit because he no longer has other work in this area. Might have been nice if I’d known that two months ago, the last time he was here. This package is more hassle than it’s worth at the moment, see bitching above. But I reduced my angst by washing the walls of the front verandah so that when I have a cuppa out there I am looking at weatherboards and not dust and spiderwebs. One useful thing achieved is probably the best I can hope for. Oh I forgot, I wrote a slew of emails on the issue of the religious discrimination bill, the most important to Anthony Albanese urging him to vote against it so that may or may not be useful, we shall see.

John decided he didn’t want to go ahead with the picnic idea with his friend (note I said HIS) but now she is making overtures about going tomorrow. However I came across something that I wrote a while back about ‘the importance of friendship to our lives and the acceptance of the foibles and weaknesses of our friends’. Mmm, that puts me in a difficult position, do I want that to only be a theoretical position or do I mean it? If she pulls out at the last minute this time due to the angle of the sun or the direction of the wind, that’s it, finish.

Postscript: I just learned that Albanese is going to support the religious discrimination bill with amendments, so that’s another waste of my day: here’s hoping he is just trying to tie them in knots with the amendments and isn’t seriously planning to pass it.

February 10, 2022

After all the boring and frustrating stuff yesterday I decided we should go for a swim today. John wanted to drop off his unfinished chess pieces to his pals at the Lane Cove Men’s Shed and they are going to finish the turning for him. So then it was a case of where is best for a swim so I Googled ‘swimming pools near Lane Cove’ and Woolwich Baths came up, however they were marked as permanently closed. Next best was Greenwich Baths and what a great little spot it turned out to be. The water was delightful at 24.5 degrees, there were a few only mums and pre-schoolers there, plenty of shade and seating, a great spot for the picnic. I was amazed at the size of the fish swimming around and I felt guilty at how many times a week I eat their relatives. Managed to catch a couple of jellyfish in my hands for long enough to have a really close look at them, in the water of course. I have a great love of jellyfish in all their forms and loved collecting them in buckets to examine when I was on holidays at The Entrance as a kid. The temperature forecast for today of 34 degrees gave me a perfect out about meeting up with John’s ex-neighbour as she’s said she won’t sit outside if the temperature is over 26. Thankyou BoM.

I was delighted to look at the wonderful stone mansions surrounding the baths, one was three stories and high Victorian from the front, but I drove around to the street at the rear and it looked decidedly Georgian so it’s probably on the turn. I would just love to get a look-see into one of those divine places, but I can’t see that happening. They look over the water to central Sydney, so they have the best of worlds.

Michelle dropped in during the afternoon to drop a book and borrow another so that added to the pleasure of the day. In a lovely surprise Bronwyn has suggested that she and I go out to lunch somewhere outdoors next week, while Michael and John have lunch here. It will be a wonderful thing to do and I am so excited, it’s a very generous offer.

February 11, 2022

Martha came over for morning tea and then she took me with her for a short visit to a refugee family from Afghanistan at Seven Hills. I was able to rustle up some crystal bowls and a set of glass dessert dishes, a bread knife and a few bits and bobs from the storeroom to take over with us. The young woman spoke excellent English, having been involved with the Australian Embassy there for quite some time in Kabul. I regret now all of the stuff I’ve taken to the op shops but I didn’t know where else to take things.

Decided that I needed to use up half a dozen passionfruit which were in the fridge, but unfortunately I’d thrown out the recipe for the passionfruit cake that I made recently, so I did a double sponge instead with cream and passionfruit in the middle and icing on top. I follow the Anglo-Indian Cookery Group and every day they send recipes, but I only make them rarely. However I wanted to try one that I saw a few weeks ago and couldn’t find it, so I posted a message asking if anyone remembered it. I got a heap of responses and someone sent me the full recipe, they are a jolly helpful group.

I suggested to the home care person that I have a very good mowing man who could perhaps be interested in taking on the fortnightly gardening role from the absentee gardener and she is going to contact him to see if his insurances and rates are up to scratch but so far I’ve heard nothing. It would be great to have help a couple of hours a fortnight if they can come to an arrangement. I’m already planning his first session.

I think I need a secretary to handle communications from the ‘new’ cousins. I have had photos to look at, videos to watch, lots of emails and communications on Messenger and Facebook. Plus there are the two ‘maybe cousins’ in Redcar and South Africa and we are still trying to work out where exactly we are related. My dad was a bit of a lad to say the least, so a brother or sister popping up is not out of the bounds of possibility.

February 12, 2022

Had another person come early to look at the driveway job. He made some interesting observations that the first chap hadn’t mentioned such as the need for a drain halfway down so the sand isn’t washed out from between the bricks and the need to concrete the last little bit as there is a downpipe there that runs overground. John kept telling him we have bricks stored under the house, in fact they are tiles, so I had to keep correcting that. I’ve decided to get it done, it’s just a matter now of getting the right person. Then we lugged the printer up to be fixed only to find that he is closed on Saturdays, as was the locksmith where I wanted to get a key cut. But the framer was open (weird that the three are in the same complex) and he had my antique French Sainte Suzanne picture repaired and ready to rehang after it crashed off the wall and broke the frame. Twice now that has happened with different pictures so he’s getting good business from my poor old picture cords. I have used the opportunity to give it a better spot, moving a picture I am much less keen on to its usual spot outside the toilet door!

Carole and Jack came for a cuppa and I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t offer them lunch till I saw the late hour as they were leaving. We had fun covering recent goings on, both personal and political. Caught up on my book reviews and correspondence, while looking forward to watching four by-elections for the State government tonight. I am predicting that Labor will win Bega and Strathfield, with the conservatives getting the other two, but it’s really a hard call. Carly was surrounded by noisy protestors headed for the Canberra ‘freedom rally’ this morning. She walked along with the phone on Facetime so I could watch the motley crew with their Eureka and Red Ensign flags a-waving. They had quite a long walk from there to Parliament but I guess that is part of the show of strength. If Albo gets in at the Federal election he has his work cut out dealing with that lot, who are angry in general, rather than being angry with anything specifically.

February 13, 2022

Spoke at length to my bro last night and came off the phone feeling as if I’m in a lose/lose situation. He made the comment that ‘I wish you could come over and look after me for a while’ then there was quite a pause before he added ‘but I know you can’t’ as if he were hoping that I would jump in to say that I’m on my way. He was much more natural than in the last few calls and I picked this up immediately, eventually working out what the change could be and asking if his daughter Tanya was still there doing for him. She is, but was out having lunch with her sister in a cafe and it made all the difference. The problem is that he’s always lived two lives, a domestic one and an extrinsic one. This applies to his career: cover as a surveyor in Africa/with spying juxtaposed and his home life: wife and children/external pursuits. To be fair he was gagged by the Official Secrets Act regarding his undercover activities so I guess it suited him to have a family who weren’t inclined to ask too many questions. It also applies to his day to day life: writing, studying languages, politics and world affairs in his office/being a husband and father who fixes the garage roof and drives the family to the shops. When I first knew him he had a false employer set up who would occasionally email him to request a survey of the Isle of Man or somewhere remote so he could duck off for a few days and dig for fossils or explore Hadrian’s Wall. He’d leave the printed email lying about and act surprised when he was asked about it, as if he’d just forgotten to mention it. In planning our very first meeting he suggested we meet in Spain and looking back I sometimes wish I had. He wanted me to meet the brother of audacity and derring-do, not the man in the pebble-dash house with wife who barely looked up from the television. I insisted on seeing him in situ and meeting the family, but in retrospect I think Spain would have been a lark, since Mary was initially convinced I was someone trying to enter Britain to sponge off their government and never showed any curiosity about me, my family, Australia or anything else. Luckily for me, and for him, I have known both sides and learned very quickly to change the conversation as we walked in or out of his front door. Sadly his wife and now his daughters have had no interest in his writing at all and have never shared his passions, so when he’s tried to give them his written work or old memoirs or books to read they have made it very plain that they are simply indifferent to it all. There are only two people now who know the real Kenneth, seeing him from both sides of the fence, and I am lucky enough to have the other one as a penfriend. I am sure that he could have chosen to live a wonderful creative life with his pals from earlier years, the writers Alan Bennett and Michael Frayn among many, but subterfuge and legerdemain are intrinsic to his personality for whatever reason and juggling identities is somehow part of the game. However, now he is trapped in the least exciting part of his persona and it saddens me to see him reduced to conversations about just pills and dinner and sad too that his daughters will never know what a fascinating and brilliant man they have for a father. This morning at breakfast I repeated his comments to John who naturally espoused the view that I shouldn’t go and sadly he’s right. It isn’t a two or three week job, it’s a commitment of months or even years, so I am certainly in a lose/lose situation as far as looking after my brother is concerned, though I would love to sit listening to him in front of the fire and arguing the toss about the few issues on which we disagree.

February 14, 2022

We dropped the wretched printer off to the fix-it man and headed to Dural for the bread and a bit of other shopping. John was surprised when we arrived there, not having noticed that we were headed somewhere else than home, despite the fact that we’d discussed today’s plans over breakfast. He didn’t want to come into the shops and waited for me in the car. When we got home I went down to the garage to reorganise the freezer and load the bread in, after asking John if he could put the fridge stuff away. I did a couple of other chores downstairs and when I got back he was standing where I’d left him and said ‘I didn’t understand what to do so I haven’t done anything’. It wasn’t an issue of memory but an issue of confusion about how to interpret instructions, something I’m noticing more and more.

I’ve finished the book for our next group meeting and was glad when Michelle texted to say she’s coming over later to borrow our walking poles as previously arranged because I can return the book to her for a second reading. Thankfully there is no need for me to read it again. I will keep my powder dry on it till book group but let it be known that Pollyanna and Disneyland are words that come to mind.

My new Spanish cousin sent me nine emails yesterday, including a real estate video of her house, Wikipedia entries on cave houses and troglodytes and many maps and tourist details of the area. She and many others live in cave houses, partly due to the intense heat, but she has recently moved to one with a pool for that very reason. Not at all how one imagines the hordes of Britons who migrate there, living in Benidorm type areas and existing within little clusters of other Britons, eating fish and chips and drinking British ale. She and her husband are living the real Spanish life in a village of just 292 people. Brave I think, though I did do the maths on one of the real estate ads and the house was A$273,000, the prices would certainly help the decision.

February 15, 2022

Met up with my cousin Angela who has moved from Glenalpine out near Campbelltown to Potts Point. I struggle with titling relationships, despite reading the criteria many times, but I think it’s first cousin once removed, she’s my mother’s brother’s granddaughter but I think just plain cousin is easier. She is right in the middle of restaurant and cafe paradise with Fratelli Paradiso and Apollo five minutes walk away, plus French bistros everywhere you look. Boy Charlton pool and the Art Gallery are walkable and buses and trains are handy, plus the complex itself has a pool. We caught up on her family stuff and then did a walk along Victoria Street and Challis Avenue drooling over the amazing four-storey terraces. The nearby garden is atop the Navy staff carpark, a great idea and I didn’t even realise it was there despite having driven past the ugly thing dozens of times. They cleverly put it at the foot of a steep hill so you can walk out onto the garden at the top. We plan to do it all over again next month and in the meantime I will dig out any photos I have of her immediate family and give them to her, otherwise they’ll all go in the Sulo bin once I’m dead.

Talking of photos……I suggested that John sort the boxes and boxes of photos and albums that he has and send some photos to those pictured therein. He thought it a great idea, but I had proposed doing it a box at a time in case he found it too taxing. So of course he gut-busted every single box upstairs, sorted half a dozen photos and decided it was too mentally demanding, however he wants to leave them all sitting there in case he changes his mind, so I shot myself in the foot there. I knew he would want to keep most but he can’t bear to part with a single one, which is fine, but now it will be tricky to get them rehomed and off the dining room table.

Another case of shooting myself in the foot occurred yesterday when I finally got on to the police constable who had signed the letter to John thanking him for joining the Next of Kin Program, which neither of us had ever heard of before the letter arrived. The idea is to use the keyring provided which has a code number on it, which could be used if the person became ill or had an accident and was unconscious, then the paramedics could contact the next of kin. She told us that Wendy’s Home Care had signed him up (it would have been nice for us to be consulted by them) and then she started asking questions about why I am listed as his next of kin. Fair curiosity question perhaps, but really none of her business, however she just wouldn’t let it go, and then wanted his doctor’s and solicitor’s phone numbers to boot. We kept saying ‘well thanks very much, now we understand who enrolled us in the program, that’s all we wanted to know’, trying to get her off the phone but she was having none of it. Finally after 15 minutes at least she trilled ‘Well youse both have a lovely day now, won’t yers’. Oh it would have been so much better if I hadn’t decided to ring youse I thought.

February 16, 2022

Made a gluten-free peanutty cakey biscuity thing to take to sewing group but I don’t even like the look of them so I didn’t try one. I had some coconut flour that I wanted to try and the last of the peanuts before I refill the jar with cashews. So I Googled coconut flour and peanuts and hey presto, up came this recipe. But that flour is so dry and moisture- devouring that the recipe had four eggs for just half a cup of flour. Anyway people ate them but I shied off. I took a top that was at least 30 years old as the fabric keeps self-destructing into holes. I had previously patched two holes using decorative iron-ons in the shape of cherries, the top has a fruit design. But this time I sewed another piece of fabric behind the two holes and sewed around them as if they were little openings that were meant to be there. It wouldn’t pass going-out muster but is fine for around the house or going to the shops.

Got the second quote for the driveway and it’s even more expensive than the first. So I emailed him with a series of questions about why he had done things a certain way and an hour later on his way home from a job he was here with the answers, not by email but standing in the driveway and showing us exactly what he meant. I think I will go with him as the reasons he gave for departing from the way the first guy planned to do it passed muster. He invited us to look at a job he’s working on at Oatlands tomorrow because it’s a similar situation, only the people are replacing their existing brick-paved driveway which was only done recently but they weren’t happy with it. We’ll have a look but I think I will go with this guy, he’s knowledgeable but also very responsive.

I read about a retired police captain in the US being tried for the murder of a man who was texting at the movies. My I thought, that could have been me except for two things 1) I don’t carry a concealed firearm to the movies and 2) he was texting in the previews, not in the movie itself. Murder for texting in the previews is a bit severe in my view and I would have to condemn him to life. In the movie itself, well that’s another ballgame altogether.

February 17, 2022

Some days are diamonds and some days are rust as the song says. Today was a diamond day. We left early to see the new paving man’s current job at Oatlands, but the GPS in my phone went rogue and took me for a Cook’s Tour around North Rocks, actually going in circles before I decided to ignore it, get onto the road towards Oatlands and hope it would right itself, which it duly did. What that was about I have no idea, but it confirms my view that I couldn’t ever have let John drive relying solely on a GPS or it could have been Ayer’s Rock here we come. We were very pleased with what we saw on the site and he showed me a before picture of this same driveway completed only last March by a landscaper, compared to the very professional job he is doing. There was no contest. Apparently the client could have demanded it be redone by the original landscaper (whom Grant chose not to name) but I would agree that if a person doesn’t know how to do a job properly in the first place, there is no point in asking them to do it again. However she must have lost a lot of money on the job. Anyway I have bitten the bullet and will go with him, gulp.

Wendy’s Home Care emailed to say that they have been in touch with my mowing guy and got a quote from him to come fortnightly doing both mowing and gardening. Woohoo. Now it’s just a matter of them doing the paperwork and then he can start. It means I can leave those heavier tasks for him and just do the weeding and any replanting.

Bronwyn and Michael came and she and I went to Wild Pear for lunch, while I left lunch for the boys in the fridge. We shared a Spanner Crab Omelette with salad and a plate of Sweet Pea Falafel, Avocado and Halloumi, also with salad. Desserts were a must-do, Baked Cheesecake and Figs for Bron and a Watermelon and Strawberry Pavlova for me. It is on an open verandah so we were pretty safe I think. We planned to go for a picnic soon, but the four of us will go at that time. New woman me!

February 18, 2022

Seeing I had such a positive day yesterday I decided it would be a good time to put the picnic with Ann back on the agenda, after a few cancellations for various reasons. We met at Lane Cove National Park and found that the large shelter shed we’d planned to meet in was booked, by a delightful group called Sing Australia, who began their practice just before we left. Ann left her email address so she can consider joining them. We found another table in the shade and it was a relaxing lunch and catch-up. I took the rest of the gluten-free peanut biscuits that I made and finally tried one, they are dis-gust-ing, spit-out disgusting. I can’t believe the people at sewing group ate them, though Ann who is fussy about food judged them ‘nice’. De gustibus non est disputandum. Ann’s daughter Karina has gone into year 7 at Masada College, a Jewish school in St. Ives, where she got a scholarship. For a ‘belligerent anti-religionist’ as she describes herself it is difficult to accept an hour of prayers by the cantor every morning. She has already written a note to the science teacher asking how the children can reconcile her teaching them evolution in one class when they are taught in another that the world was made in six days. It was not well received. But that’s what you would have to accept if you send your child to a religious private school, so I’m not sure what she expected.

So how come Kiev has become Kyiv? Must I change all of my recipe books? I remember eating an amazing Chicken Kiev in 1973 but find it hard to imagine it was in the USSR where the cuisine wasn’t as sophisticated as that. I think perhaps it was in Communist Poland as it was then, where the food was excellent. The waiters loved to say ‘I bet you didn’t get anything this good in Russia’. Though I well remember slathering caviar on black bread in the railway cafes in Russia, mmm I can taste it still. Trying to get milk to go in tea proved problematic though, the closest I got was buttermilk, ugh. Sausages that you needed a saw to cut through the skin, oh my they were awful.

February 19, 2022

Why is it I wonder that Nick Dole and the ABC in general as well as the Herald journalists when reporting on the Ukraine situation never mention the fact that when the USSR agreed to break up, the US assured the Soviet leader Gorbachev that NATO would never be allowed to expand into Eastern Europe. Those countries could be part of the EU, but not NATO. The US Secretary of State famously promised “not one inch eastwards”. It is understandable that Biden and Johnson conveniently leave this fact out, but we are paying our journalists to do research, not to just mouth platitudes from one side or the other. I guess the Ruskies are repeating this pledge, but of course nobody here is reporting it. I am no fan of Putin but it seems to me that ignoring the fact that the west are reneging on this deal is completely dishonest and relies on short memories.

I have just finished reading the novel Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down and it will stick in my mind for a long time. Josie grows up shunted from foster care to residential homes and back again but after finding a happy life with a husband she loves, the loss of her newborns to cot death causes her life to implode. The thing that will stick with me is the author’s ability to get inside the head of her character, to understand how a simple thing like the sight of a crystal ashtray or the look of a certain whorl in a person’s hair can take her into a different world of her past and make her plunge down a wormhole, experiencing those terrors all over again. How did the author know how to describe that feeling of being sucked back into previous unbearable memories unless she herself has experienced it? How did she even know that phenomenon existed? The character is constantly struggling to forget, pushing down flashes of the past. I wonder if this is something normal people have to deal with, constantly pushing down puckers in the fabric of their lives, only to turn around and have an undulation come up somewhere else altogether?

February 20, 2022

Happily I spoke too soon about commentators ignoring the facts about Russia’s dispute with Ukraine. Michael Costello, former secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has written a long article about the west’s ‘failure to see things through Russian eyes’. He comments that with a 2300 km border with Ukraine, Russia has every reason to be wary of NATO admitting ‘a corruption-ridden, desperately poor country, and certainly no model democracy’. He asks how the US would feel about Russia or China setting up bases in Mexico, they certainly reacted very badly when the same thing was proposed in Cuba in 1962. How would Australia react to a naval post in Papua-New Guinea for example? The equivalent possibility is being faced by the Russians should the current NATO application proceed. It is complex, but it suits the press (and our government) to simplify it all as just ‘bad-guy Putin’.

We minded Millie last night at Erskineville and she wasn’t happy at the idea of her parents going out without her, but 30 seconds after they went out the door she was as right as rain. It was Dav and Louis’s 15th anniversary and they dined at Otto at Woolloomooloo, a ritzy Italian place on the wharf. We celebrate the same milestone in September so I will have to think up something special. I am over-ready for a little break away now, so come March I think I will look at a few days in either Kiama or The Entrance, while it’s still warm enough to swim. We need to go while John can still enjoy it and I have no way of knowing how long that might be. His memory is much worse, in the last hours he’s asked about two people who’ve died in the last six months, one very recently. He had forgotten they were dead and maybe it will get to the point where I shouldn’t remind him, I don’t know.

This morning we went to Forestville where Martha is cat-sitting in a lovely house with views over a steep decline to the river. The cat wasn’t anywhere to be seen and it only comes out for food when she’s not nearby, a rescue cat like Carly’s is and the past has taught it that people can’t be trusted. How long those early experiences shape us, cat or human.

February 21, 2022

Today John had a routine hospital appointment at RNSH and it took us nearly 2 hours bumper-to-bumper to drive there on the M2!!! Usually it takes about 30 minutes but of course there was a sudden train strike which explained it. We were late, then we waited another hour for the doctor so I was glad to eventually be out of there. John didn’t know why we were there (even though I’d explained repeatedly) so I had to do all the talking but it was a satisfactory conclusion. He asked me to handle all appointments, talking to doctors etc from now on as he gets so confused by it all. The doc commented ‘so John’s the patient and you’re the memory’. He is particularly smooth-skinned and good looking, a fact I mentioned to his registrar, to which she replied ‘Oh yes, he’s good friends with the laser’. I assume this is some sort of cosmetic procedure, which clearly works.

It is disingenuous for Zali Steggall to say that she split a $100,000 donation towards her campaign from the notorious Kinghorn family into eight equal donations of $12,500 for any reason other than to keep the amount under the minimum required to be disclosed. I expected better and hope she’s learned her lesson. Better to say ‘yep, I stuffed up’ than to try to convince people that each member of the family just happened to donate an equal amount that served the purpose of hiding the source of the money. After watching Kinghorn senior at ICAC a number of times I wouldn’t believe him if he said that the sun comes up in the east. Independents need financial backing but if you get mixed up with dodgy people like him it can only bring problems.

February 22, 2022

Every year I do Millie’s birthday cake and the theme is Millie’s choice (I am waiting to do a zoo one or a rainbow one but no luck). This year I thought it was little Lego men but I assured that it is a computer game called Minecraft. I tried my usual cake decorating shop for Minecraft cake toppers or anything else but they were sold out so I rang another business in the same area and he had a pack of 10 Minecraft plastic toys for $17.95, done deal I said and off we went to pick them up. They were exactly the same as the set I’d looked at online for $27.95 plus postage and I am always happier to have something in my hand to look at rather than order online so that suited me. It will save a lot of study of how to depict the characters and she gets to play with them afterwards. Before we left I thought to ring the printer-fixer-upper who is nearby the cake place to ask when the printer will be ready. “I spoke to John last week and he was delighted that it was ready so soon’ he said, very slightly put out. John has no memory of the call and was asking this morning why it was taking so long.

John’s friends from Victoria rang yesterday to say they were arriving in Sydney today and could drop in, so I made a chocolate cake this morning and intended to fill it with cream and put chocolate icing on top. The mix seemed way too liquid to me but I did it as instructed and it ran under the lining paper, causing it to break as I took it out of the tin. No way am I game to slice it in half for cream, so it is patched together with the icing and looks a bit askew but it’s unlikely they will notice while chatting. As my new cousin Tony opined to me this morning ‘Nobody’s perfect but if you’re from Yorkshire you’re pretty close’. This is now a Yorkshire cake in my mind.

Although I loathe Clive Palmer I intended watching him today at the National Press Club just for the journalists’ questions. But he pulled out a couple of hours beforehand citing ‘Covid symptoms’. Seeing he is an anti-vaxxer and general pain in the arse it wouldn’t surprise me if he says later that he tested negative and has pulled out just to cost the Press Club a motza in catering and staff. We shall see. Or perhaps the gods are sick of him mouthing off about vaccinations being a waste of time and….. no, it would be mean to finish this sentence, aloud anyway.

February 23, 2022

Yesterday we had a visit from John’s friends from Victoria, with whom I’ve always got on very well. The dodgy-looking cake I made went over a treat, being like a dark chocolate fudge inside, they loved it and had two pieces each. They told us a bit about their son who, when invited some years ago to come back from an important job in London to join the state public service, told the premier that he’d only work for a Liberal government (his parents are lefties, but didn’t seem to mind). He’s just taken a CEO job in the private sector but in the same area of expertise, so perhaps he thinks this government is on the way out? Let’s hope he’s right about that.

A bit of a frustrating morning doing administration, which I hate. But firstly John announced that he’d lost his debit card which wasn’t in his wallet so I spent a long time looking for it, turning out clothes, going through his office, checking in the washing etc. Then I went to the IGA where it was last used and the bank in case it was handed in.We were just going back to the bank in the afternoon to cancel it when John announced ‘here it is, in my wallet’, the one place I didn’t look because he’d assured me it wasn’t there! Then I got an email from the home care people to say that the gardener still hasn’t sent back the forms required to enable them to pay him on John’s package. He doesn’t live far away, I feel like marching in and sitting down at his computer to do it. He’s just not the type of guy who wants to do paperwork but in this case it isn’t optional. Next was the driveway man wanting to know details about colour of bricks and commons versus new and gord I wish John could do some of this stuff. Then a conversation with my neighbour over his plans to get the big gum tree trimmed back. Then after ringing a locksmith yesterday because the security door won’t lock I discovered it had righted itself (for how long?) so I rang again and cancelled him, not wanting to waste money if I can help it. I can’t get this day back and it annoys the heck out of me to waste it on all this garbage, but what can you do?

February 24, 2022

Rang the bro last night and he sounds worse than last time. His daughter is still there and he did seem more himself on the one occasion that I rang when she was out, but usually I just need to throw a prawn-head like ‘Why do you think Putin has decided to go now?’ or ‘Do you think Boris will survive?’ and he’d be back to his old self. Perhaps he is embarrassed to talk about such things with his daughter present, emphasising the difference in his conversations with her, or perhaps he just isn’t up to it because he’s so unwell. She won’t stay forever, he needs to improve enough to be able to do for himself or else the dreaded home is on the cards.

I found Brian’s house for sale on the Belle Property website. Belle? For a Windsor property? Interesting. After reading the ad I wouldn’t trust them at all. Two/three bedrooms….mmm the possible third is a hallway in the centre of the house, so no window. It is a tiny square with four doors going to a family room, a bathroom, the loungeroom and a kitchen, not a lot of sleep likely there, not to mention the legality. The original bathroom, c1930, has a fully tiled bath with a shower over, except it leaks like a sieve and hasn’t been used in the last 20 years at least as the water drains under the house, no mention of that little detail. There is a huge fig tree nearby and it cracks the walls of the double brick house regularly, no sign of any cracks so I guess they were filled and painted over. Every single thing of Brian’s has been removed and it’s been tastelessly refurnished with modern stuff, much of Brian’s stuff having gone into a skip I understand. But I suspect because it’s on a corner near the main Windsor shops that it will sell to demolish, however if I’m wrong the buyer could be in for a few surprises.

Well I have sent off the deposit to the paving man this afternoon, eek. He has been exemplary in answering my many queries. However after committing to bricks because of the huge tree next door pushing its roots up on the driveway, my neighbour is making noises about getting it cut down! I disapprove and have told him so but I understand that it’s pushing up his water and gas lines which will cost to be rerouted, plus he is paying occasionally to have it trimmed so it doesn’t drop branches on his roof or mine. However, even if he does that the roots will continue to rot away for years, collapsing and breaking any concrete laid above it, so I think bricks are still the safest option. Nothing’s simple.

February 25, 2022

What to say about Putin? A lot of course but it changes nothing. Why do people still choose to call him a Communist leader when it’s been obvious for decades that he is a Fascist? (It is a bit creepy for me to see him constantly on TV as physically I’ve always seen some physical resemblance between him and my brother. They have steely determination in common as well.) In terms of Ukraine though he is right to say that the Soviet Union under Gorbachev was tricked about breaking up, with a promise of the breakaway states never becoming part of NATO, something the West has decided to forget. But an invasion is a different and deadly response. After having contributed to getting Trump elected and seeded division in the US and then supported Brexit and seeded division in the UK, it seems that he had a long-term purpose in mind. His Russian uber patriotism and desire to see the USSR somehow put back together has dominated his political life and this is step one. It will be a rocky road ahead, for all of us.

There’s nothing like the feeling of having a cull. This morning I sorted all the bank statements from 2004 to now, personal ones not related to the business. I don’t feel comfortable putting a laundry basket full into the recycle bin so I will have to burn them, which I hate to do. Perhaps I will dance around the flames and give the neighbours something to think about. Next I plan to empty a drawer in one of my filing cabinets in the storeroom which is chockers with shop statements, cheque butts etc. That account is long closed so I don’t mind recycling them. I am leaving it to boy scout John to work out how to burn them, I guess in some short break in the rain.

The book group seems to be shrinking little by little, our meeting today is via Zoom after the host pulled the plug. Now another is taking leave of absence. But our meeting today was interesting, three loving the book and three not, one disliking it enough not to read past the first few chapters. Next month is Hamnet, a book I decided that I had no interest in reading after I read the review, but them’s the breaks. Occasionally such a book comes up trumps, though historical fiction is close to my lowest category, only slightly above fantasy.

February 26, 2022

This morning John was a bit down in the mouth over his problems so I made a hasty decision to pack the Thermos and head down to Picton. I try to organise a once a week outing and although this was only one day over the week the slide in his mood was noticeable before we went, but once we were on our way he was fine. He had forgotten how far it was, thinking it was just a suburban destination. However despite the heavy rain we got there in an hour and a quarter and headed to the Thirlmere Railway Museum. Interesting all round but particularly the section on the railway strike of 1917. Returning strikers, who became know as ‘Lily Whites’ were stripped of any seniority and their superannuation rights. Loyalists, those who hadn’t gone on strike, had their jobs  confirmed. Three thousand men had their employment records marked “not to be re-employed” or “dismissed by Proclamation”, despite the Railway Commissioners having agreed that “work shall be resumed without resentment and employment offered without vindictiveness”. I was shocked to find that school boys from local Sydney schools Newington and Sydney Grammar helped to keep the workshops open, working as scab labour. One of the results of all this was the rise of unionist Ben Chifley, later to become Prime Minister of Australia. We took a ride on one of their trains, the 4807, which had few passengers so we felt pretty safe on it. Neville, our conductor, was a mine of information, as were the many volunteers working there. I’m guessing most if not all are retired railwaymen. We drove back to Picton for lunch and then home along the highway in torrential rain, so bad that it was too dangerous to change lanes at times. I noticed that the water thrown up by cars and trucks particularly, was much worse on concrete parts of the road than on asphalt sections. Good to know if I ever become a traffic engineer.

February 27, 2022

My worst fears have been realised as far as the tree next door is concerned. Today the copper water pipe near the foot of the tree on Arvind’s side finally sprung a leak, sending a pretty shower of water into the air, exactly what he’s been fearing for months. The gas pipe is nearby and that’s a bigger worry. So Arvind called me to meet him for a discussion and I knew straight away what it was going to be about. He’s had enough expense and the tree has to go. So now I need to contact the paver and explain that we can’t go ahead till the job’s done and it needs to go to council, so who knows how long that will be. Just two days after paying the deposit, it would rot your socks. Later in the afternoon Mala sent over some fresh made pakora (the BEST PAKORA EVER), she’s a great cook.

I did some culling of the storeroom and made a box of practical stuff for Martha to take for Afghan refugees and another box for Vinnies at Dural, where the lady seems to have some appreciation of antiques and will sell them accordingly. Then I put a few postables on eBay so I feel as if it was worthwhile getting up. Random as a Mini Minor do-it-yourself manual to some French plates with automobile themes from 1890. I can start pulling all the baskets, cushions etc out to get them into some sort of order now that all of the china and glass seems to be headed to a home. John wanted an incense burner from the goodies to go in his study but after thinking it through I told him it’s too dangerous to have a naked flame in there and he was okay with that.

Wrote some letters on the Ukraine issue but I think I am wasting my finger-ends. (Which just reminded me of Sir John Betjeman’s wonderful poem On a Portrait of a Deaf Man):

“He would have liked to say goodbye, Shake hands with many friends. In Highgate now his finger-bones Stick through his finger-ends. You, God, who treat him thus and thus, Say, ‘Save his soul and pray.’ You ask me to believe You and I only see decay”.

February 28, 2022

Funny old morning in that I was meeting Martha for morning tea at a patisserie that she found on the internet at Dural. I took a candle and holder to put in her cake for a birthday celebration. However I was half way there when she rang to say that she’d discovered that it’s closed on Mondays. I asked her to choose somewhere else and she picked, from the internet, The Centre Cafe but although it appeared that my GPS was okay with the entry it let me sail past the street and I overshot by about 10 minutes or more. Finally I got suspicious and reprogrammed it, only to have it tell me to do a U-turn and go back. By the time I arrived Martha had had coffee and cake so it was a bit of a balls-up. It turns out The Centre is a combination of a Christian church with attached sporting facilities, a bit of a weird set-up, so it was empty when we got there and full when we left as the adult students were by then at lunch. However the rear deck worked for a chat but the food was bought in and pretty ordinary, which was a shame as Dural is full of great food places. When I got home John said he was depressed and scared about his mental state, I don’t think it does him any good being left even for a short time.

I got back in good time to chat with Justine on Zoom and she talked about the importance of living in the ‘what is’ instead of the ‘what if’. It was interesting to find out that she spent a long time in Kiev with the Peace Corps and knows the city well. Dally rang up to ask John if he could go up to Officeworks to get a high-resolution scan of a portrait John has of Roger Pryke, to go in the new Wikipedia entry that Dally is currently working on. I’m not sure he (or anyone) realises that asking John to do something means his turning to me to get it done. Off we went to O/works but the scan was too large to send, so we bought a thumb drive to send it by snail mail. Nothing is ever simple, especially technology. On the way home from there I ducked into the library to pick up a book I’d ordered and saw Tony, my erstwhile? current? friend. He usually works at Castle Hill so it was a surprise to both of us to see each other there. No mention was made about the fact that he hasn’t picked up the Christmas gift here for him, so of course I didn’t raise it. Odd little encounter but perfectly amicable.

March 1, 2022

Today was designated as the day for picking up the presents for Millie’s birthday, a dark green raincoat for school and a particular book that she wants. I thought I was clever going to the internet to find the raincoat and it was Target at Castle Hill which had the right colour, but when I got there I found there wasn’t a single raincoat for a child in any colour, unsurprisingly I guess. Then we headed off for Lane Cove shops as John drinks a ghastly brew called Bambu and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere out here. (He informs me that ‘this jar should see me out’!!). The other reason to go was that there is no longer a single bookshop in the Hills since Dymock’s closed before Christmas, but I was able to pick up her desired book in the excellent bookshop in Lane Cove while we there. A bonus was getting some delicious sushi to bring home for lunch. A couple of interesting snippets from the shopping morning: while asking directions to Target (I keep out of the dreaded Towers if at all possible so never know where anything is) the people ahead of me at the enquiries counter were an apparent married couple, well dressed but lacking proficiency in English, possibly Iranian? He was asking if any of the businesses in Castle Towers were for sale. ‘What sort of business are you looking for?’ the lady asked. ‘Oh we don’t mind but we want it in here’ he answered ‘we have funds to purchase’. She sent them off to the centre manager’s office, but it got me thinking about how different migrants to this country are these days, gone are the 10 pound Poms with all their goods and chattels in a couple of suitcases, now the rules allow them enter more easily and quickly if they have significant financial backing, something that sticks in my craw. The next encounter was at the health food shop at Lane Cove where John buys his Bambu. For all the years we have gone there I have had a feeling about the owner, that somehow he is a bad egg, not that I could have put that feeling into more words than that. Today he had a pal there, a big man in a suit, who introduced himself as Robert and said ‘I am standing for election next time, against Trent Zimmerman’. We said hello and had a chat and I asked which party he was standing for, almost knowing in advance, and it was United Australia. I quickly said that we are at the opposite end of the political spectrum to him and not in this electorate so we won’t be voting for him. He waffled on about Freedom until I said that ‘personally I don’t vote for any party pushing either Freedom or Family, as you can be assured that they are from the extreme right’. It sounds harsh in the retelling but it was part of a to-and-fro about how bad the government is, with which we agreed completely. He was very nice and just said God Bless You which was enough to send John scurrying for the door saying ‘You’ve always said that man was a bad egg’.

March 2, 2022

It was sewing group today and many pulled out for reasons of weather, but I figured that from here to Eastwood is almost totally on a ridge, so how can I get caught in a flood? I really don’t mind getting wet anyway, I’m more likely to cancel going to an event due to heat. So it was just our host, one other and me and discussion turned immediately to Putin and his sanity or otherwise. I had sent a letter to the SMH on Ukraine earlier in the week which read in part: “The appalling scenes we are seeing of missile strikes on a large, heavily-populated, sophisticated city can only remind us of one conflict in recent times, the US invasion of Iraq. It is Shock and Awe Mark II and rightly has as little public support as that invasion had. Putin is moving into Ukraine because he can, just as we invaded Iraq because we could. The US and Russia both carry the big stick of nuclear weapons and therefore feel as if they can do as they please. Public condemnation worldwide did nothing to stop the attack on Iraq and sadly, will likely have no effect this time”. It came as a surprise to hear our host’s husband voicing almost exactly those sentiments and mentioning the promises given to the USSR if they devolved. Interesting when you listen to your own arguments being bounced back to you. I had some frozen food being delivered today and had instructed John on getting it straight into the freezer, but when I came home it was sitting on the kitchen bench (luckily in dry ice). I asked why he hadn’t put it away as we’d discussed and he said he had phoned me but I hadn’t picked up and so he didn’t know what to do. I saw there had been a missed call which I simply didn’t hear, I need to have the phone in my pocket when I’m away from him I’ve decided.

On a slightly less serious note I have been puzzling about how to do Millie’s birthday cake. I have the Minecraft figures to go on top but the icing of the cake will need to be done at the last minute (Friday) as this weather won’t do it any favours. One of the symbols I’ve seen in the game is a square pack of TNT (don’t ask me, I don’t know) so I’m thinking of painting some licorice allsorts red and putting little TNT labels on them, don’t know if it will work, but I’ll give it a go. I always like doing her birthday cake and one day I’d love to do a circus theme or a fairy one or something, but her choice is always the current passion in films or computer games. I guess it keeps me on my toes trying to work out the symbolism of something I know nothing about.

March 3, 2022

A busy day (well busy for these times) with a cake to bake, a Mississippi Mudcake, which turned out inches above the tin so I had to slice it off level with the top so it will be flat to ice tomorrow. Then I made little boxes of TNT out of licorice allsorts, a very weird way to spend time. The security company phoned to ask if I wanted my free annual maintenance check done today as they had a spot due to cancellation. A nice South African man came so I showed him the book I’ve just finished, The Promise, which is set near Pretoria and he photographed the cover to show his wife who’s a big reader. Then John’s cleaner came so I simultaneously cleaned my bedroom and bathroom so all of the house is clean together, well cleanish is probably a better term as I have since cleaned up cobwebs next to the meat safe in a place that was supposedly vacced and mopped, but I’m being thankful for any help I get at the moment. She only does his bathroom and the floors so the kitchen cleaning, dusting etc still needs to be done. Meanwhile John was searching all day for his drafting tools as he wants to draw something, but I have no idea where they are despite being asked 15 times already. Gosh it’s a pretty boring day when I look back on it, but we are not in the floods, Ukraine, Afghanistan or any other nightmare scenario so I am not complaining.

March 4, 2022

Stan Grant is in a bit of bother for his hosting of Q & A last night after he tossed out a man who had asked a pro-Putin question. All questions from the audience are vetted by the program in advance and his had been approved, but Stan took it on himself to evict him anyway. I have never been a fan of Stan as an interviewer because he is more interested in telling the interviewee and the audience what HE thinks, rather than listening to them. This is okay if you are arguing the toss with someone in the pub but hardly appropriate if you are trying to tease out the facts on a program designed for that purpose. In fact it was a very Russian TV approach that he took but he probably can’t see the similarity. I’ve written to the ABC, the Herald and one other outlet, but an online poll about whether he did the right thing is running at 51% against him and 49% for, so at least it’s provoking debate.

I am often seeing press reports about some celebrity or other going through an airport or into a restaurant and the journalist rhapsodises about the Prada coat and the Gucci bag and the Manolo Blahnik shoes that adorned them. I am mystified how these reporters know. I wouldn’t have a clue about brands but it would take hours and hours of  research to learn, and it would need to be a constant study to keep up with every dress, coat, hat, bag and shoes sold by numerous brands and then to identify them on a quick walk-past. I dips me lid. Just recognising the faces would be more than I could manage.

Got the cake almost done, but it is getting shiny due to the 100% humidity, so who knows if it will droop by tomorrow. The little TNT packet decorations wouldn’t dry and the labels have had to be changed twice because the colouring leaked into the paper. Now I’ve frozen them and I plan to put them on the cake at the last minute so they don’t drip red colouring all over the cake. But compared to the floods…….

March 5, 2022

The mothers of Millie’s friends will be cursing me tonight. The dark green icing on the Minecraft theme cake won’t dry despite having a fan on it all night, so every kid will end up with green fingers and worse, green clothes. I don’t own a hairdryer otherwise I’d give that a go. I will cringe if I see a little girl in a white dress.

The risks of nuclear reactors are many: tsunamis, earthquakes, operator incompetence, now war, perhaps it’s time we realised that the benefits, huge as they are, just aren’t worth the risks. The idiocy of shelling or bombing near a nuclear reactor is unbelievable, but sadly we are living in unbelievable times. Perhaps Umair Haque’s view has merit, that Putin deliberately destabilised the US via Trump and the UK via Brexit for just this masterplan.

Later: The party went off well, 10 delightful, warm, friendly children, each with a parent whom I see just once a year. Millie said that she didn’t get an award at assembly on Friday, she “was disappointed, but resilient”. I didn’t know how to use that word at six, I doubt I’d even heard it in fact, possibly not my parents either. Judging by the kids at the party, the pre-school that they all went to did a fantastic job, not only with learning but with socialisation. John was fairly out of it, not feeling confident to approach either the kids or the parents to start a conversation. By the end of the day I was knackered and would have loved to have another driver, but he heated up some soup for our dinner when we got home and that was a blessing.

March 6, 2022

I am clearly a Chamberlain rather than a Churchill (I’ve always felt that Chamberlain got bad press, so easy to be a critic with hindsight). The vision of crumbling buildings in Ukraine is so dispiriting, if the attack ended tomorrow and the people all returned, the damage to the country’s soul will take decades to repair and of course the families who have suffered will take much longer. In one way it shows the inherent danger of nuclear weapons but in another it shows that having them is the ticket to doing exactly what you want to do. Perhaps they will be the end of civilisation before climate change gets that guernsey.

But if anything could trump the Ukraine war and the floods and get them off our TV screens it is the death of Shane Warne, 15 minutes on the news last night and an hour this morning after Insiders devoted to him, no doubt with much more to come. I’ve never thought that much of the man on a personal level, but it is still sad to think of him, or anyone, dying alone in the lap of luxury. My friend Chrys (she who is a professional researcher and seems to have early intelligence on everything) tells me that he had Covid in late September and sent me a paper from Nature saying that there is a 10 times higher risk for a heart attack or myocarditis in the 12 months after having Covid, regardless of its severity. Being 5 days into a rigorous weight-loss / get fit programme mightn’t have helped either. Attention Maureen: forget any weight loss / get fit ideas for now.

Last night I watched Mardi Gras on the ABC, having given it a miss for years when it was on channels with advertising. Once I’d never have missed being there, but all of my companions are now gone, though John and I marched together one year. I made a T-shirt with the names of my pals written in Texta back and front. This year it was slick, professional and sadly non-political. Where were all the wonderful send-up floats of the pollies and the Fred Niles et al? They were highlights in the old days. It’s great to see floats from Minter Ellison and Optus and whatever and even better seeing Police, AFP, SES, Fire Service and more but the edgy sarcasm of yore was missing. It was amusing to see Jeremy Fernandez, who is straight, sound more and more camp as the night wore on, just the way we start to say ‘fush and chups’ if we spend some time in New Zealand. But in one night Jezza? Methinks he’s been practising, bless him.

March 7, 2022

Nothing here stays simple for long. About a month ago John’s home care service signed him up (without any consultation) to a fairly recent NSW Police initiative aimed at elderly people who live alone. It consists of a pendant for their keyring which has a code number on it linking to a database, enabling ambulance officers to identify a person sick or injured but unable to speak. At least that’s how it was explained to us. It all makes sense doesn’t it? Except that the officious Constable in charge of the programme in that particular police station decided she should ring both John and me and ask why his carer was nominated as the person to contact, a decision made by the home care people not by either of us. She badgered John for some time about his daughters and whether one of them should be the contact person but he stood his ground, explaining that there were past problems and he didn’t want that to occur. Eventually she said ‘oh we are saying ‘she’ John, but tell me your daughters’ first names?’ Big mistake here, but we didn’t know that for sure at the time, though we thought it suspicious. Fast forward a month and John gets a call yesterday from a very angry daughter to say that the police had contacted her on a Sunday afternoon and asked ‘Did you know that your father doesn’t want anyone to contact you if he dies?’ The cop’s used her policing powers to hunt down his daughter from just the name, no address, no phone number, no email, all of which he had resolutely refused to give. How she did it I’m not sure, but Facebook or the electoral rolls are a good start. Dying wasn’t the issue here, there are a host of people able to contact them if that happened, the purpose was getting onto someone who knows his medical history and medications in case of illness or accident. His daughter was naturally angry as it was the first she’d heard about it and it was put to her in the most ham-fisted terms, deliberately one might ask? As I read it the cop is in serious breach of both NSW privacy legislation and the terms of the particular service he was enrolled in, which states: ‘any information provided will be securely stored and only accessed by NSW Police’. Not to mention the fact that she’s unleashed a hornet’s nest of aggro against John for no reason that he could have avoided. No-one slept well in this house last night as a result. I am holding my fire till I decide the best way to proceed.

Amazing how many best friends Shane Warne had. At least eight have claimed the honour since I’ve been counting, I’m sure there will be more. The first ten pages of the Sunday paper were fully devoted to Warne and then two full pages in the sport section. I doubt the death of the Prime Minister would have been so fully covered. Apparently he had been on a 14 day juice diet, not a great choice if you’ve got a dicky heart I wouldn’t think, but whatever the reasons for his death, it’s wiped Ukraine off the map journalistically speaking.

March 8, 2022

Just had an energising walk in the rain, it really is pouring. Two bodies have just been found after a car was discovered yesterday in a canal in Wentworthville, I suspect the same canal in which Davina’s favourite high school teacher drowned after jumping in to rescue his dog after it fell in. As often happens, it was the rescuer who perished, the dog clambered out but the teacher didn’t. I would love to go out to watch the water engulfing the new ‘flood-free bridge’ at Windsor, but Davina extracted a promise that I wouldn’t go.

A friend expressed surprise when I referred to Putin as a Fascist leader. I was surprised that she was surprised. Surely he isn’t still considered a Communist after he sold off all the important assets to the oligarchs? It got me thinking about the differences between Fascists and Communists, not only the philosophy but the practical implementations of the systems. Both can end up as one party states but Fascism to me is a top-down system, with strong links to corporations and private property. While a Communist government will centralise the means of production, a Fascist one will sell to the highest bidder, conditional on the submission of the company to the state and its leader, while opposing trade unions. Ultra-nationalism and a strong attachment to a historically linked religion (in Putin’s case of course the Russian Orthodox Church) is usual with a Fascist government, think past governments of Chile, Argentina and Spain, whereas a Communist one will likely ban or heavily discourage religion. Theoretically under Communism all are equal but in practice some are much more equal than others, with higher echelons of the Party living in superior circumstances while under Fascism there is a strong bias towards kinship and a bias against difference (both currently and in past regimes homosexuals, Jews, Roma, those with physical or mental disabilities). Yes, the more I think about it, Mr. Putin fills the bill as one of that small group of leaders in the 20th and 21st century defined as Fascist. However there’s an argument that the Roman Empire was a Fascist one, long before the term was invented.

March 9, 2022

I’ve just read The Premonition by Michael Lewis and it was unputdownable. It’s a gripping tale and falls right into my field of interests. When this book was written last year the US, with a bit more than 4% of the world’s population, had over 20% of the world’s deaths. The book catalogues the story of a small group of American scientists who are happy to bear the label ‘misfits’ and who had, all their lives, been obsessed with viruses and pandemics. This group knew there was a pandemic coming, and knew we weren’t prepared for it. One of these misfits, Dr. Charity Dean, had made model viruses and had them hanging from her bedroom ceiling as a child and from a young age, when she was feeling low, had ‘cheered herself up by reading books on bubonic plague’. My kind of girl. The plague of 1918 resulted in 40-60 million dead and this fact had been conveniently lost from the public memory over time. The US Pandemic Plan had been conceived by the Bush White House and named Predict as it set out to test animals around the world to predict which viruses among them might jump across into humans, however it failed to predict anything leading up to this pandemic after Trump removed its funding. Charity Dean and the others whom this book focusses on are pretty scathing of the Centres for Disease Control (CDC). She says the name should be changed to the Centres for Disease Observation and Reporting because that is what they do very well. Planning and recommending countermeasures to the pandemic fell well behind other country’s agencies, even a reluctance to use the word pandemic was noted. Zoom meetings were held often, many times with black screens where attendees chose not to be identified. Regularly there were 14 black screens and only later did they discover that behind one of these was Tony Fauci, others were members of the president’s coronavirus taskforce, unbeknown to Trump one assumes. So much new information in this book and much of it makes the reader wonder how the US managed to bumble its way through the pandemic with state against state in the hunt for tests, vaccines and equipment. This state versus state approach was seen here also, though the Federal government put in strict border controls. It seems there is no central organisation in either country able to step in and handle a disaster like this, either back in 1918 or now.

It is strange how we rate the relative importance of deaths. Shane Warne of course trumps all else, and by the way the 14 day juice diet he was supposedly on turned out to be a 14 day tea diet prescribed by a Chinese herbalist (rolls eyes). A Baulkham Hills Chinese herbalist is currently on trial in Sydney over the death of a diabetic patient after he told her to stop using insulin and go onto his no doubt expensive herb regime. She lasted a week. Deaths in Ukraine have been almost wiped off the news because of the floods, but the loss of two people in a canal in Wentworthville, just 15 minutes drive from home unexpectedly grieved me yesterday. First it was ‘two people missing from a car washed into a canal’, that’s sad. Then ‘a mother and adult son’s bodies found 1.5 km down the waterway the next morning’, that’s very sad. But it was the knowledge that the son was ‘in his 40s, autistic and non-verbal’ that really brought it home as a tragedy to me. How much suffering and rotten luck does one person deserve in a lifetime? Was god’s eye watching sparrows fall? I will never understand the disparity of people’s differing experiences of life and death, but I don’t think anyone with a PhD in theology, or a white collar and black suit, understands it either.

March 10, 2022

Off to Dural (which John now calls Cudal for some reason) this morning to post an eBay parcel, pick up the bread and give some antique items to Vinnies. The lady there is someone who understands antiques enough to realise what is worth something and what’s not, whereas at some branches you get work-for-the-dole people, those doing community service through the court system or quite young volunteers. Dural however seems to have middle-aged to elderly ladies who know a thing or two and the displays show it. Then I met up with Martha for a cuppa at Dolcettini Patisserie which she’s been keen to go to. Before she arrived I needed a loo and the one at the bakery was out of order so I trekked into another business selling trail bikes and off-road vehicles (he did tell me what they are called but I’ve forgotten). ‘What are you supposed to do in these?’ I asked, ‘Just drive very fast around paddocks’, was his answer. So what was the cost of one of these things? North of $50,000 each, to chew up a paddock, it seems insane. ‘It seems they’re designed for people with more money than sense’ I suggested and he laughed and agreed with me. He showed me around the extensive stock of dirt bikes and vehicles of all sorts, knowing I was never going to be a customer and we had a few laughs. Having got rid of another box of bits I was enthused in the afternoon to huck out some stuff in the storeroom and vaccuum it (well I hucked and John vaccuumed to be honest). I promised Vinnies I’d be back next week with more and I intend to keep that undertaking.

I have somehow become a clearing house for ‘stuff’. Knowing I can’t bear to throw stuff out, people throw theirs my way instead of giving it to charity shops. I got a text with a mile of goods that someone is getting rid of and am now looking to find homes for it, beginning with a friend of a friend who has a garage full which is destined to go to refugees. Hopefully she will take some at least.

I laughed at a friend’s comment that we should ‘pray for Scott Morrison Psalm 109:8’. It apparently says ‘Let his days be few and brief; and let others step forward to replace him’. Amen to that.

March 11, 2022

I thought I was doing a good thing by searching the net for colouring books for John and finding some beauties at Kaisercraft, a favourite shop in Baulko. He seemed to appreciate them with lots of ‘wows’ as he went through them, but after a short walk he came back to tell me that I need to return them as he prefers geometric patterns and is working on his own designs. That’s fine, but the fact that he had to go for a walk to get up the courage to tell me is a bit sad.

I’ve been listing on eBay some Figgjo Norwegian plates I dug up in the storeroom, 1960s designs which I think are quite fashionable at the moment, but we shall see. I sold a little ceramic plaque a couple of days ago in the same brand, but that’s more unusual than a plate. I got $35 for it but it’s the satisfaction of sending it to somewhere it will be loved that’s worth a heap more than that. It went over to WA, I never seem to send things to NSW, usually it’s to Victoria or Queensland for some reason. An eBay client in Melbourne to whom I sent some doilies as a gift along with her order has sent me photos of them in use, washed, starched and looking a million dollars on her antique furniture. Now I have someone who really appreciates such things I can send her more.

March 12, 2022

The son of my friend and long-time employee Meriel has rung to say that she has died. Her memorial service is at a time next week when we will be at St. Vincent’s for John’s infusion appointment. However Robert has kindly sent me a link to watch it online any time in the next month, so I am happy to be able to do that. I have a copy of her memoir written some time ago which lists her long and interesting life from Britain to Holland, Indonesia, Rhodesia and finally Australia.

We have had a morning of John repeatedly losing things around the house, mostly inconsequential (phone, water bottle, hat, jumper) until we needed to go out briefly and the car keys were missing, my car is blocked in by his. After an unfruitful search I dug out the spare which I recently insisted he buy and we went anyway, but now it’s taken an hour after we got home to find the keys, in a basket in his toilet. John then said ‘okay, we can go now’, having completely forgotten that we had already been. On Thursday he had a telephone appointment with our GP and since then he’s been forever reminding me that we need to talk to the doctor for some scripts, having completely forgotten the conversation with Bob even happened despite numerous reminders. ‘What did he say about my dementia?’ he asks. Which of course was nothing, because he seemed perfectly fine during the appointment. What did we do before? I can barely remember, but movies and theatre and galleries come to mind. Blast Covid and blast dementia.

Unfortunately I’ve had lots more time to experiment with recipes lately, from a very stable weight over many years, I have gone up slowly but consistently since day one of the pandemic. I love to cook and even love making things I don’t even like, much to John’s amusement. But still I eat enough to stack the pounds on. Question is should I care if the funeral directors need extra Weet-Bix to shift my carcase around? I don’t do drugs, barely drink, so I think I am entitled to some joy in these increasingly difficult times. When I worry about it, I always make a cuppa and have a piece of cake to calm my nerves.

March 13, 2022

My friend Chrys in Queensland is always one full of ideas. Her latest was to contact an Airbnb in Kiev and book three nights, then to contact the woman and say that she won’t be coming and to keep the money. The woman replied that she would donate the money but Chrys replied: Spend it however you want, but if you buy a good bottle of Champagne and toast ‘Fuck Putin’ I’ll be happy. Now a Greek radio station, having seen Chrys’s post, has publicised the idea and it’s been written up in a newspaper there. Little waves have to end somewhere.

Feeling quite down today, so I ended up following my friend Kedarnath’s suggestion of 45 years ago: First make a list of all the things troubling you, not in any particular order (I had 16), then do something to fix the easiest one (his example was always the fly that’s annoying you), then fix a second one if that’s not enough. By then you’ll be feeling more positive about the possibility of fixing all or most of them. It always seems to work for me, so I attacked the fact that the house needed cleaning and hucked out the fridge wiping all the shelves and crispers, then did the same on my bathroom vanity and the floors. John helped with the mopping. The act of ruling one line out is such a positive experience, even though it took being depressed from 7 am till noon before I had the motivation to put his plan into action.

We had been invited to a wake last weekend which I decided was too risky to attend as it was at a golf club and since then I’ve been wondering if in my caution I deprived John of an afternoon out with his mates. News came to us yesterday that by Friday four of the attendees had come down with Covid. Then just now Sue rang and said that her daughter Kate’s ex has caught it from his grandfather and given it to their son Harvey, now Kate is feeling very off. The bloody thing is everywhere and Hazzard refuses to bring back compulsory masks, the dickhead. Sue’s family is interesting, views range from her front-line doctor daughter’s idea of ‘don’t catch it at any cost’ to Sue’s psychiatrist brother’s ‘let it rip’ philosophy. Christmas must be a hoot I imagine. Martha gets a text from Pennant Hills High School every time there’s a Covid case there, she says there’s rarely a day passes without one or more being reported.

March 14, 2022

Did a run to the library four in, four out, and then I decided to go up to the nursery at the Forestry Commission with a view to going for a walk there. We bumped into Boris and Jane who were shopping there and decided to have lunch together, seeing it was that time of day, so the day turned out quite differently than planned. Just leaving there are the mirror door fixer-upper rang to say he could be there in 40 mins, now the bedroom mirror doors are sliding with one finger after years of stiffness, ending with one of them being virtually immovable. How easy is it when people know what they are doing. The wheels on both doors are replaced, ‘See you in another 35 years’ I said to the serviceman as he left, that’s about how long it is since they were installed. Happy camper me.

My cousin Jimmy in Mullumbimby sent me a 10 minute YouTube video of his pals making temporary bridges over flooded creeks, installing signs guiding people away from dangerous deep mud and clearing tracks. They looked a force to be reckoned with. He also sent a photo of a cow settled happily on the roof of a building, getting it down might tax people’s skills though. His Labor electorate received no payments after the floods while the adjoining Liberal one did, artificial lines drawn on maps cause grief once again.

Recently I decided to destroy decades of bank statements and mentioned to John that I intended to burn them instead of putting them in the bin. Just now I went to the storeroom where I keep some rarely used cooking equipment including my mother’s 1950s steamer, which sits over a matching saucepan for the boiling water, something I use whenever I make a steamed pudding. The steamer was there but not the base part, then I found it under the deck, burnt black. ‘What on earth happened to this?’ I asked aloud. ‘Oh,  that’s just some old saucepan that I burned all of your bank statements in’, John calmly replied. I doubt it even holds water now, but I’ll try to clean it up if it does. I’m gobsmacked, but more from the point of view that I need to be here all the time to see what’s going on, but then this happened when I was in the house and John was in the yard.

March 15, 2022

Off to Nelune for John’s monthly treatment and meanwhile I spent a few hours with my cousin Angela. She had put aside some things for me to donate to charities and I will deliver them tomorrow. However some of the offered things are at Glen Alpine, way down south west of Sydney so she’s going to hire a Go-Get one day and deliver them here. Then we took a walk to Rustic French Bistro on Victoria Street and had some delicious crepes for morning tea. Ange baffled the Frenchman saying ‘They were like velvet’, and he was most concerned till she explained how smooth and luscious they were ‘so not at all like fabric’ he replied. Cultural confusion in practice. We went for a walk to shed some of the calories and then she showed me the view of the Bridge and Opera House from her unit. The owner of the apartment is an Australian living outside Venice and she was here recently and wanted to visit her premise. She was so delighted about the state of the place that she took Ange out to lunch as well as organising for new blinds and kitchen linoleum to be installed. That’s the sort of landlord all renters need.

Home to do some potting, make an Anzac slice and a pie for dinner. I am spoilt this week as we had an impromptu lunch out yesterday, then I had morning tea today, plus friends Jenny and Di have asked if I can go to lunch with them on Friday. I was a bit dubious but whoopee!! I have a minder for John, my friend Heather is coming, armed with some sandwiches and cake, to have lunch with him so I can go out. Eventually I will need to get a carer in if I want to go anywhere, but at the moment it only happens rarely and if someone is here for say an hour in the middle of the time I’m away, that is enough….I think.

March 16, 2022

Took a trip to Cherrybrook to drop off the donations I picked up yesterday and Helen took them all with enthusiasm into her garage cum stockroom Smilie: :) John asked me five times on the journey where we were going and why. I wish I could install an automatic repeater as writing our plans in his diary is no longer working.

Reading some historical fiction at the moment, a genre I usually avoid but this author, Anya Seaton, prefers to call it ‘biographical novels’. Written in the 1950s and a dense small-typed 557 pages, The Winthrop Woman seems very well researched and the author says ‘I have never knowingly deviated from the facts, nor changed a date or circumstance’ and lists copious references. My main beef about historical novels is that I don’t know if I can trust the author to have really researched thoroughly, so it may be all novel and little history. However with this book I am confident and I’m learning so much about England in the 1600s, the journeys of the Puritans and others, the history of the American Indians at that time, Antinomian beliefs, the Gospel of Grace versus the Gospel of Deeds and much more. The whole philosophy and practice of religion at that time is claustrophobic just to read about, what it was like to live through is terrifying to imagine, but with this background it is somewhat easier to understand the appeal that religion still has for Americans, long after the Europeans have largely left it behind. I need to get on to the book group novel, unfortunately two historical fictions back to back, but I am keen to get to the end of this one first, even though I fear that the burning of so-called witches might be coming before too long.

Today I wore a freshly ironed top and jacket that had been hidden by the inability to get the wardrobe doors open easily. It seems such a silly thing, but I could only push the doors so far before giving up and there was a foot or two in the centre of the two which never got exposed, so it’s as if a whole new wardrobe has emerged. Best money spent since the oven-cleaning man.

March 17, 2022

I was woken early this morning by a pain in the stomach which closely resembled the pain that came with the ulcer I had about four years ago so I resorted to hot milk for breakfast and by 10 am it was gone, which only served to cement my suspicions somewhat as milk was my go-to restorative. However if it continues I don’t intend to go through another endoscopy but just get the required medication from Bob. As I was lying on the lounge feeling sorry for myself and wishing that I didn’t have to lift things up for the cleaner to mop, a call came from the home care provider to say that the cleaner is a Covid contact and can’t come. The gods were listening and I breathed a sigh of relief. They are looking for someone else to come next week instead.

My burnt saucepan didn’t clean up so I decided to put some carb soda in it and bring it to the boil, which may have worked if the water hadn’t pissed out of a peppering of holes in the side. Mmm, that’s one family heirloom that my daughters don’t have to worry about getting rid of, but I will miss it next time I feel like steaming. This afternoon John washed up for me after I’d made a blueberry cake and afterwards I found one of my antique measuring spoons was in the sink without its bowl. As I lifted it out of the sink with a puzzled look he said ‘oh, metal fatigue’ but I had to laugh as it was so fast that he’d obviously thought it through in advance. I’m waiting for the third thing.

A friend sent me six photos of destroyed buildings in Kiev, except he also sent identical pictures of the same destroyed buildings in Beirut after the massive explosion there. Clearly some of the images being bandied around are fakes and how are we supposed to decipher the difference apart from trying to stick to a variety of news outlets? But they are so pushed for content that they may not have the time and energy to verify every photo and video.

March 18, 2022

What a lovely lunch catch-up with Jenny and Di today! Heather came to stay with John armed with a pile of egg and lettuce sambos and a whole banana cake and was still here when I got home, despite my telling her that an hour or two was plenty. I have contacted Anglicare regarding enrolling him in an occasional day programme which I understand he can do with them despite being with a different care provider. But so far they haven’t responded to a phone message or an email which may mean that the service isn’t available due to Covid, or may mean they are just slack about replying. The cleaner is rebooked for Tuesday, well a different one as the first is a Covid contact, but we still wait for the first visit by the gardener, no wonder John has unspent funds in the home care account, so many cancellations.

Tomorrow we have two people coming for lunch and there is a long list of things which one of them can’t eat at the moment. It sent me to the recipe books so I have planned some new dishes which fit her needs. One is Golden Winter Puree, a mix of equal amounts of carrots and turnips cooked together and pureed with a ripe pear, ginger, nutmeg and cream. Another is baked eggplant with a sauce of Chinese rice wine, apple cider vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter and sesame seeds. I’m sure there’s another couple of ingredients too but I can’t remember them right now. I looked up my Lebanese cookbook for ideas as the main item is going to be trout fillets with a tahini sauce (a recipe the chef at Wild Pear once shared with me) and I thought Lebanese sides would be the go, but not a single vege dish was without garlic or onion or both and these are on the banned list. It’s amazing how much we use garlic now, my household as a child didn’t use it once, but I seem to give it a hammering.

It is now 3.25 am and I am following the same annoying pattern lately, go to sleep about 11.30 pm, wake up at 2 am and stay awake for hours, then go to sleep near dawn and wake up a bit later, ragged. Not sure how to get around this but it’s very tiresome, literally.

March 19, 2022

I was thinking today that it’s the first time ever that St. Patrick’s Day has passed without comment on the ABC News. I didn’t remember it till it was over, though I wasn’t planning an Irish feast. I’ve decided I need more visitors on special diets as everything I cooked today was delicious and I wouldn’t have tried those dishes otherwise. Particularly loved the tahini sauce and the sauce on the eggplant, either of which would do me for a lunch with a chunk of good bread. I got to thinking about all my cookbooks and how attached I am to them and had the (silly) thought that if I were dying I would really miss them!!

My friend Di whom I lunched with yesterday showed me the magnificent cards she makes, hand painted in watercolour. I would want to frame every one. Today she’s emailed me that she used to teach card making and she has a bunch of papers and some card stock which she’s offered me to ‘have a mess about with’. She wants to get rid of a lot of her teaching stuff, so I’ve said yes as I’d love to have a crack at it. I’ve always wanted to paint jellyfish and bluebottles and that family of creatures for some reason so I’d start off trying that, if it’s not too ambitious.

John was absolutely on the ball today when we had visitors, it is amazing how he pulls it together when he has to. If only I had the trick of getting that to happen for the rest of the time. I think I will apply for him to be reassessed to go to a Level 2 Home Care Package as apparently it’s a 6-9 month waiting time even when he’s been assessed as needing more help. Then of course he could be ready for Level 3. If he’s as good as he was today he may be refused anyway, but I can only try.

March 20, 2022

After giving away some frames from my storeroom I suddenly decided today that I wanted to frame my favourite photo of my brother and myself but of course the right size frames had all gone to charity, so I robbed the frame from another photo that I can live without seeing every day. Every time I see Putin on TV I think of my bro who is so like him in build, body language and I think in looks too and of course they could converse as he’s a fluent Russian speaker. Perhaps I could suggest him as a neutral arbiter in the current war, someone who has no confidence in, nor allegiance to, either side.

Today I watched the memorial service for my friend Meriel, unfortunately it was held last Tuesday when I had to take John for his infusion. The first 29 minutes was an ad for religion and as I refuse to watch ads on television I resented being forced to listen to them here, but it is often the admission price you pay in going to a funeral. I wondered if they’d ever get to Meriel, but finally they did and three of her five children spoke beautifully and at length, as I would expect from that family. Her life across Britain, India, Holland, Indonesia, South Africa and Rhodesia before their arrival in Australia was discussed. Her father was in both world wars and served in India, finishing as a colonel. One story that I’d heard before was from Indonesia where an insurgent broke into their house, held Merial and her baby at gunpoint and robbed them. She said she reacted calmly because she knew how much the Indonesians loved children, so she doubted the baby would be killed, however the man was shaking so much she feared he would drop the gun and shoot her accidentally. Her parents owned a mill in Yorkshire and I used to joke with her that they probably employed my family who were either coal miners, railway workers or slaved in ‘the dark Satanic mills’. Vale Meriel.

March 21, 2022

I think I’m not the only one who sees the vision of bombed out buildings in Ukraine and thinks it must be recoloured pictures of WWII. How could anyone be so stupid as to wage war in this day and age, knowing what we know, that in the end the two sides will negotiate a settlement. If climate change or a nuclear blast knocks man off the planet it would be quite reasonable to say: Good riddance, they deserved it.

Today, despite barely sleeping last night, I decided to take us off to Wiseman’s Ferry for a picnic. Where we usually sit, down near the ferry, was covered in sand and few tables were available, most of the park was taped off due to the floods. The little kiosk was closed as the water had reached the roof level and all their cooking and refrigeration equipment was piled up in a heap for pick-up by the council. More surprisingly there were about a dozen plastic shrink-wrapped bundles of bottles of water, about 30 bottles in each. They weren’t damaged and just needed a hose on the plastic, so I am puzzled about why they were discarded. I’m guessing that the folks just don’t have the emotional energy to do it, but that level of waste disturbs me, so when I saw a man with Air Crew on a government logo I told him about them and he asked where they were in detail, so I am hoping he retrieved them. I would have been happy to bring them home, clean them and donate them but I didn’t want to be accused of looting. We went to the Ferry Gallery where our friend Luke exhibits and managed to keep the credit card unused, which was easy as I discovered that I’d left it and my cash in another handbag.

I seem to have got into the habit of going to sleep straight away about 11.30 pm, waking up around 2 am (earlier today) and then not going back to sleep again till dawn. I think it might be an anxiety issue as I am going over every large and small event and can’t turn off the over-active brain. But even when I’m awake I spend way too much time weighing everything up. Being a Libran is a full time job, even for one who doesn’t believe in astrology.

March 22, 2022

Sarah Ferguson’s report from Ukraine only served to cement in my mind how brave these people are (and how brave she is to go there come to that). Letting go of nationalism altogether seems just as elusive as it was when John Lennon wrote Imagine, perhaps even more so.

So the NSW Government has set up an inquiry into the “causes of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from the catastrophic flood event” which is all good, but unfortunately it will be headed jointly by Mick Fullovimself along with the state’s chief scientist. Perhaps I am too cynical, but will a former Police Commissioner find fault with a government service, or with the role of his personal friend the Prime Minister? Nooo, I don’t think so.

I decided this morning to ask Kristy, John’s case manager, whether she thinks that I should apply for him to go onto a Level 2 package. She replied immediately in the positive and said she thought it was time that he had a carer coming to the house or taking him out for 2 hours a fortnight, which that package would provide. She indicated that she could apply on my behalf which is even better. I’ve suggested that it would be much better from my point of view if we could use that service on an irregular basis rather than two hours on a particular day. For example, having a carer when I have medical appointments or social events? That would be a much bigger help to me than a regular time each fortnight. For example I have a six-monthly medical investigation at St Vincent’s due and it takes a few hours. Last time John sat reading in the waiting room and coffee shop but I don’t think he’s safe doing that now and he can no longer read, so getting a carer for that day would be wonderful. I’m awaiting her reply, and I hope it’s in the positive. His cleaner is here as I type this, the regular one is a Covid contact so it’s a new lady today. I put out all the cleaning stuff for her, but she’s just asked for the ‘toilet cleaner’…. hesitation on my part. Well what do you usually use? she asks, um bleach I replied. There was no eyeroll but clearly it was not the right answer. She is a big, tall lady and very nice but I am noticing how noisy she is compared to the little Asian woman we usually have, who makes no noise at all apart from the vac. We all occupy space so differently.

March 23, 2022

Oh what a delicious own goal by Hornsby Mayor and bigtime Liberal Philip Ruddock. Folks are putting anti-Morrison stickers on their bins “Chuck Them Out” and “Bin Him” and Ruddock has announced that the council won’t empty their bins. Which naturally has led to a huge demand for the stickers, the source of which I am still trying to track down. What a cheek that man has, that stickler for free speech.

The sight of the Chinese plane headed vertically into the ground yesterday is enough to make anyone’s stomach turn, but it is exactly what I picture every time I board an aircraft. I know little about aeronautics but it seems to me that there are two leading scenarios, 1) deliberate murder by the pilot and 2) a malfunction of the computer system. A plane in trouble doesn’t head south like that at full speed. But those poor souls aboard suffered the worst two minutes that any torturer could ever have envisaged.

Speaking of torturers, it appears that not every Ukrainian is brave, decent and forbearing. A doctor in an eastern Ukrainian hospital has announced that he’s instructing the castration of every Russian military casualty admitted. A constitutional lawyer turned volunteer frontline medic, it just goes to show how quickly war can destroy a person’s moral framework. As Bob Dylan said all those decades ago in Masters of War: “You fasten all the triggers For the others to fire Then you sit back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion While the young people’s blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud”. A pox on war-mongers of every stripe.

On to more everyday matters. One of the things I like about Facebook is the memories it throws up each day, often of things I had totally forgotten about. Yesterday it was a post about a big jam-making day I had because peaches were 90 cents a kilo, after I made the jam they went down to 60 cents. Fast forward to today when I am paying $8.99 a kilo for peaches and not for a minute considering jam. How could a family with children possibly keep up with fresh fruit at current prices, a jar or can being a much better option. Plus I have had a few stone fruits this year, peaches, plums and nectarines, that were pretty tasteless, though the cherries were divine.

March 24, 2022

In the last few days I have seen three appalling dog stories, of course both of them concerned pit bulls. In the first were harrowing pictures of what is left of a young woman’s face after she took a job as a dog sitter and was assured that the two dogs would be chained in their kennels when she arrived. She opened the door with a key and was immediately attacked, the dogs eating off her ear, lips and cheeks. Think about that for a moment. The next was two laughing people who let their pit bulls off their leads on a walk to deliberately set them on a cat in its own yard. It is critical in a vet’s surgery. The third was an owner in her unit, tying her shoelaces and about to take the beast for a walk, when it attacked her for no reason. She only survived by dragging herself to the lift, dog still attached, knowing there was a camera there so she would be rescued. There is no valid excuse for owning a pit bull, they can never be trusted to overcome their breeding.

We were looking forward to a trip to Killcare tomorrow for book group as well as being a bit concerned about the drive, considering the weather report. However Sue’s family circumstances as well as the weather have meant that it has now been rescheduled to take place at Martha’s, only 20 minutes away. Perhaps some who were not able to travel that far will now change their minds.

After saying yesterday that my six-monthly medical check-up was overdue and asking Kristy about the possibility of a carer coming to stay with John, this morning the hospital rang to ask why I hadn’t made an appointment yet. I explained the situation and the fact that I’d only received an okay from the home care service late yesterday. Kristy had said she could organise a sitter if she had enough notice, so I made the booking for April 26 and advised her accordingly. It will be a big relief if I can rely on this service regularly. But unfortunately being canny with his funds, as I have always been, is making it harder for Kristy to justify getting him a higher amount. But in the meantime we can use the excess in his home care account for this coming situation, so I guess that’s a positive.

March 25, 2022

Writing this on the 26th as I was on the sick list yesterday. I woke up feeling fine, but got out of bed and fell over with awful vertigo and nausea. Unusual for me to get this unrelated to transport or movement of some sort but there you go, it happened. As I was planning to pick up Michelle to go to book group, John rang her to say that we had to pull out, telling her in my hearing “she’s got a funny pain in her leg and can’t walk” but I didn’t have the capability to argue with his summation, she knew we weren’t coming which was the main thing. Luckily there was food in the fridge for John’s lunch and in the evening I got him to thaw out and microwave a tuna casserole, which coincidentally had been made for him weeks ago when Jack drove me to Bondi Junction for a test and I covered the possibility of the drive causing this exact problem. So a day out of the rest of my life and not a damned thing could be done about it, just a pity it was book group day though.

John said in the evening that my being sick made him feel nervous, despite the fact that he managed his food needs perfectly well and looked after me with water, blankets, tablets etc with no apparent problem.

March 26, 2022

Still a little wobbly today, but fine sitting down so I decided to take my car, which has been sitting in the garage for about three weeks, and go to my restorer John Koster in North Richmond with a papier mache occasional table from the loungeroom which has started to lose lacquer on one edge. It also has, or hopefully had borer, which I treated with kerosene months ago, so I was a little nervous to see if that is the problem, but JK thinks the kero may just have caused the papier mache to swell a bit and therefore lose some finish. Unfortunately I’d left the car too long and it was as flat as a  flounder, so we went in John’s and it was good to see JK again, he is such a decent man and a good tradesman. It occurred to me that in skill, physical build, personality and integrity he reminds me of builder Peter Dykers, both of them are of Dutch heritage. Then to Woolies for another shop, because there are certain lines that Aldi just doesn’t sell. However, let loose in Woolies I still managed to spend $138, just topping up an already big shop earlier in the week.

It seems my being sick yesterday has unnerved John as he asked me today “What is the tipping point for you to put me in a home?” I answered that it would only be if I couldn’t look after him safely here and he seemed satisfied with that. It is all so unpredictable that I can’t spend too much time worrying about the future as it would be out of my control if he or I got seriously sick.

The Ukraine situation goes from bad to worse, but I did catch a snippet on the ABC news that Mariupol was being defended by the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, which is interesting because Putin has been saying that he wanted to end the Nazi influence there. Facebook bans extremist groups from its platform yet is allowing its billions of users to praise the Azov Battalion, previously banned from being freely discussed under the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy. Azov soldiers march and train wearing uniforms bearing icons of the Third Reich and the battalion’s first commander and  former Ukrainian parliamentarian, Andriy Biletsky, stated that Ukraine’s national purpose was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen (subhumans).” So these are the Ukrainian folks we are now siding with. What happens when a group you’ve deemed too dangerous to freely discuss is defending its country against a full-scale assault by Russia? It seems that the public is considered too dumb to unpick all of this so you just don’t mention it perhaps?

March 27, 2022

Yesterday I commented on the worsening Ukraine situation, which is much more complicated and nuanced than press reports would lead us to believe. One thought: how does the Jewish leader of a country feel about a large neo-Nazi group, with well-publicised anti-Jewish views, playing a big role in its armed forces? Here is the rub: if you are fighting a determined and persistent external invader, you can’t afford to be picky about who you let into the army, you need every man you can get. But how does that work once the fighting is over? It seems that whether it is Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the old Yugoslavian countries or Ukraine it is a given that a rump of far-right philosophy and practice exists. The parallel with the 1930s is not exaggerated in my view.

Recently John managed to burn through my mother’s steamer saucepan, setting alight in it a box full of old bank statements that I wanted to get rid of. Today I decided to put a plant in the now holey pot, but it was nowhere to be found. Last time I saw it John was heading downstairs to relocate it to the potting table waiting for me to transplant something into it. Deciding it’s just temporarily evading me, I went to the storeroom to get the undamaged steamer section and lid, with a view to seeing if it would fit on any other pan in the house, but mysteriously it has disappeared too, from the place where it’s been stored for 30 years. I’m perplexed. Sue rang yesterday and mentioned to John that she thinks of him every day when she uses the clothes line he designed at Killcare. Afterwards he said: ‘Apparently I designed a clothes line for Sue, was it on two sticks in the yard?’. It was much more sophisticated than that on her side verandah. Thankfully today Sue sent him a picture of it to jog his memory, though I’ll need to open the email for him as he never looks at emails or texts any more. It is getting too sad and the laughs we both had about odd things happening are sounding hollower by the day.

Looking forward to some diversions this week with lunch with friends tomorrow, two friends for morning tea on Tuesday, a drive to Manly on Wednesday and the birthday picnic for my girls on Saturday in the Botanic Gardens.

March 28, 2022

I have now left three phone messages and sent one email to Anglicare to get John into a lunch and activity programme that his home care is happy to pay for but does not itself provide. So today I went to their website and sent an email in its complaints section, we’ll see what action that brings, but I am really glad that I didn’t choose them as primary care providers. His case worker at Wendy’s Home Services gets back to me by email or phone within the hour if I have a question.

It is 4.20 pm and we are not long home from lunch with Jack and Carol at Wild Pear. Barramundi with shaved fennel, smoked anchovies, capers and preserved lemon followed by pav, life’s good. Coming home with Jack driving I noticed the Anglicare sign in front of a driveway at Glenhaven, the premises of the day program I’ve been trying to contact! I’d never noticed it before because I am usually watching the road. I felt like lobbing up in person and may do that yet if they don’t reply soon.

Martha emailed me a picture of a sad looking drop-side tea trolley that hasn’t had any TLC for a long time. Someone is donating it to refugees but she asked me if I wanted it as she feels it isn’t appropriate as a donation. I have nowhere to put it, despite loving them, so I offered to restore it as best I can and then I will try to sell it with the funds going to a refugee charity of some sort. I hope it doesn’t need any work beyond my abilities. The three tier white-painted display table I picked up from a roadside clean-up and hosed off to put plants on has developed an evil looking orange fungus which I’ve never seen before. I will let it grow so I can see how it develops and might dig out my microscope to get a better look at it. Mycology has always interested me but I know zip about the taxonomy so I wouldn’t be able to identify it, but I’ll still enjoy cultivating and observing it.

I developed a cold sore on my eyelid on Saturday and have been slapping Zovirax cream on it every four hours till this morning when I happened to be talking to the pharmacist to order John’s drugs. I queried whether I was doing the right thing and he said ‘Nooo, you can’t put an anti-viral cream anywhere near your eyes, it says that on the pamphlet in the box’. Yeah well I threw that out didn’t I, but I have ceased now and so far I can still see.

March 29, 2022

Kirk the gardener texted to say it’s too wet, grrrr! All the Hypoestes I’ve grown in pots are waiting to be transplanted. I’ve done some in the easy spots but I want some under the hawthorn tree, which is a kneeling down job and my knee (patella tendonitis according to Bob) ain’t up to it. They will have to sit in their pots a bit longer.

Jenny and Di came over for morning tea at 10.30 and were still here way after lunch. Di used to do card-making and calligraphy classes and had promised to buy me some water-colour pencils and paper and show me how to use them, but she came loaded as well with bags of paper offcuts for me to practice on or use to make cards when (or if) I get more proficient. Her work is just gorgeous and it takes her a full day to make a complex card, but they deserve to be framed. With Di and Luke around I am very lucky to have such artistic friends, not to mention Colleen and Manjula. Jenny was a probation officer and we had a good discussion about Prof. Tony Vinson, the last person in the state or federal government who was serious about prison reform.

I have been searching the net intermittently for months to get the 12th edition of Simpson’s Forensic Medicine but all the usual book haunts had no copies. However this morning I happened to check again about 7 am and bingo! Where does it ship from you ask? Manchester? Los Angeles? Buenos Aires? No, bloody Leichhardt in inner Sydney. How lucky can you be. I emailed the chap instantly and told him not to sell it till I could sit down and attend to the payment on the computer, which I’ve now happily done. Not much change out of $100 but hopefully worth it.

Why does the government bring down the budget at 7.30 pm and spoil the current affairs programme after the news? Okay it is big news, but I never watch the budget as I spend the whole time screaming at the treasurer of the day for wasting money on so many useless things while not doing the things that are crying out for attention. They are planning to give me $250 cash as a sweetener to vote Liberal in the upcoming election which I wouldn’t do for $2500 and not for $25,000 either, although I’d need to weigh it up for $250,000.

March 30, 2022

Forty-three years ago today my darling twin daughters were born. Happy Birthday to you both!!! Davina is getting a bicycle from us all and considering how close she lives to Sydney Park I think it will get a work-out. Carly has to appear at Senate Estimates for the Foreign Affairs Department on Friday so she will fly up just in time for the planned Saturday afternoon picnic. It was going to be in the Botanic Gardens but even if there’s no more rain the ground will be too soggy, so it will be a house picnic at Dav’s now.

I have been cultivating Hypoestes and Kirk came just as we were leaving this morning and has transplanted them all into the garden front and back, but all out of the sun as is their want.  Finally, and in great damp soil which they will love. We went off to Manly for my haircut and then to Freshwater for a lovely walk along the beach, which was closed for swimming, and lunch on a picnic table overlooking the beach. Sue rang and we had a good long ‘talk with a view’.

But my day has been made by Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who stood in the Senate and gave a 10 minute character assassination of the ghastly human? being we have as Prime Minister, describing him as ‘an autocrat and a bully with no moral compass’. I can see the copywriters at the Labor Party’s advertising firm, not knowing which insult to pluck from her speech for use in the coming election campaign. It is the most ferocious speech I’ve heard in all the time I’ve followed politics and I can only assume that she is hoping it will add to the chances of her own compatriots overthrowing him before the election.

March 31, 2022

Made a Hummingbird Cake today for the birthday celebration on Saturday, but though I’ve made it a number of times before, it chose today to sink in the middle this time. I’ve turned it over but I think it will eventually sink down that way too. I’m planning to do cream cheese frosting so it may have to be a tad thick in the centre, or perhaps a pool of passionfruit in the middle might work. One thing is guaranteed though, hummingbird always tastes great.

This arv I have spent making birthday cards for my girls, one is a collage for Carly on heavy brown paper and the other is a watercolour, intended to copy the wild colour scheme of the wrapping paper used for Davina’s gifts. Not professional quality by any means, and not a patch on Di’s masterpieces, but not too bad for a newcomer to card- making.

Today was cleaner day but Karen is sick so we are getting Deanne tomorrow. Somehow I am always relieved when they tell me that the cleaner is not coming, I think it is because I am feeling guilty that someone is ‘doing for me’ and asking myself if I shouldn’t be ‘doing for myself’. While they clean certain things I busy myself with doing what they don’t do (a lot), but still the feeling persists.

Reason to smile: ScumMo was roundly booed at Shane Warne’s memorial service, though that fact wasn’t mentioned on the TV news I noted.

April 1, 2022

Oh April Fool’s Day and I forgot to play a trick. I watched/listened to Senate Estimates on my phone while doing other jobs this morning but must have missed Carly who was going to be there today representing Foreign Affairs. While I was watching it I was again taken by the smarts of Penny Wong, she doesn’t let them get away with an evasive answer and keeps on top of a basket of issues all at once. Senator Jim Molan (belch, heave, spit), military man that he was, was also present but just couldn’t keep up with her on Defence issues. I would opt for her as PM, no question.

Deanne was the cleaner again today and she is by far the best we’ve had. She engages in conversation and was happy to sit with us (including Sue who arrived just after her) at the table for morning tea. The bath in ‘John’s bathroom’ never gets used but she was on her hands and knees scouring it anyway. She does the mirrors with metho and newspaper, which I’ve always done too, although she gets them much cleaner. I actually saw her dusting as well, something neither of the others have done. Perhaps I might suggest to Kristy that she’d be good as a companion for John in future when I need to go somewhere as they seem to click.

It was great to see Sue who had a huge programme of things to get through today: Pennant Hills, here, Castle Hill, as well as two stops in Hornsby before the drive back to Killcare, in peak hour no doubt. We went into John’s office to chat when Deanne was vaccing the loungeroom and as a result I forgot that I had a chicken in the oven, part of the food for the party tomorrow, and as a result the honey glaze blackened it in parts. Grrr. She’s such a good stick Sue. When Robert was alive we had a friendship with both and with each of them individually, which was lovely. I miss him.

I read that a restaurant in the city, the Botswana Butchery in Martin Place, is serving a 1.6 kilogram Wagyu Tomahawk steak coated in gold leaf. Also on offer is gold-topped caviar with vodka shots, a heavily gold-coated chocolate dessert and gold-flecked martinis. The meal costs $500 per person. The most shocking thing to me is that the chef himself admits that the gold doesn’t do anything for the flavour, it’s just a mark of luxury to appeal to those with more interest in impressing someone with their wealth than in gastronomy. I would be deeply insulted if someone took me for that meal, not that anyone I know would dream of doing so.

I’ve bought sushi for dinner tonight as I am juggling a few balls and I will be waiting for the look of horror on John’s face when he realises dinner is not hot. Dinner was always hot in 1953 and in John’s view that situation should forever remain. However if he’s deeply unhappy, there’s soup.

April 2, 2022

Very happy little birthday party for the girls today. Dav insisted that everyone do a RAT in the morning which made communications a bit easier (though I’m not silly enough to think it’s a guarantee of safety from the virus). As well as the family, we had Beth, Andre and toddler Elliott as well as Ryan and Terry. Because of Ryan’s health vulnerabilities, they are in almost total lockdown in Blackheath so it was a huge event from their point of view. It has been traditional that Ryan (and for the last 15 or so years Ryan and Terry) comes in the afternoon of Christmas Day and he talked about how much he’s missed that in the last two years. Millie was listening to Ryan with great attention and I overheard just a bit of what he was telling her, that he was so old that he used to live in a pyramid and wrap bandages around himself for pyjamas. She loves his enthusiasm and was all ears. John was fine with one-on-one communication but was totally nonplussed when there was an all-in robust discussion, which is the norm with Ryan and the three Partridge women all together. He just couldn’t follow the conversation. Five minutes after the cake was cut, the sparklers lit and the birthday song sung he asked: ‘When are we going to sing Happy Birthday?’ We just did, someone called out.

Raina MacIntyre wrote an article for The Saturday Paper yesterday in which she said: “If you do not fill your glass with water from the toilet bowl, then during this pandemic think of the air you breathe in the same way. Be aware that shared indoor air is the greatest risk for transmission, and take simple steps to reduce that risk.” I had wondered if she were lying low because it’s now the accepted wisdom that the pandemic is virtually over apart from mopping up, and so it seems. “For most of this year, I have decided to not comment further on Covid-19. Given the lack of appetite for truth about the pandemic, I have declined all media requests. There seems to be a dogged determination to pretend everything is okay. Anyone who suggests otherwise is shot down in flames.” She remains my go-to person for the right information on the pandemic and it’s sad but understandable that she’s side-lined herself.

April 3, 2022

Breakfast was a hoot today as John asked what he should do if he wakes up and finds me dead. I laughed but he assured me that he was serious, so I suggested an ambulance might be the first call as I doubted his ability to decipher dead from almost dead. But he went on ‘what should I do after they say you are dead?’ Well then you would ring the undertaker after which he grabbed his diary to write down her name and phone number. I reminded him that I want the best sea view in the Gerringong Cemetery and that he shouldn’t worry too much as the girls will be all over it. ‘Yes I suppose they would be’ he said seriously as he noted down some more details. I still managed to enjoy my toast.

Spent the morning making a couple more cards in watercolour and decided that if you can’t bloody draw then you can’t paint either. The watery abstract backgrounds turned out fine, I like that look and am able to achieve it, but adding a couple of fish just pointed to my lack of ability. I’m wondering who of my acquaintances is sufficiently disliked to be sent them. I will think on it.

Well Anglicare has completely lost favour with me. Now we are up to three left phone messages, one email and a comment left in their website complaints box over a period of two weeks, all to no avail. Thank goodness I didn’t opt for them as John’s home care providers, they were the second on my list on the spreadsheet and the only religious one to get in the top three. John was very pleased that two out of three were secular, including the one we chose.

I went to bed early last night, despite having only two glasses of Bolly at the party as I had to drive, bummer about that when someone’s bought good booze. But I was awake at 3 am and decided to just make the time useful so I took the computer into my bedroom and answered some back emails, texts and Facebook Messengers till 7 am (really 6 am as it was the first night of daylight saving). Felt virtuous when I got up though.

April 4, 2022

Feeling pretty exhausted after a big day. We drove to Jane and Boris, then Jane drove to Woolwich Wharf where we caught a ferry to Circular Quay, then another to Watson’s Bay. I had dosed up on my anti-vertigo tabs and made the journey with no problems at all. Saw four men abseiling down the biggest sail of the Opera House, apparently cleaning the tiles, eek. Had a fishy takeaway lunch from Doyle’s in the park and later did the trip in reverse. Beautiful weather and a top day out.

I have always been taken by Karina Carvalho when she is on the ABC News. I want to pull one of her curls out and watch it spring back, but that’s another story. However in an interview she admitted to NEVER VOTING. She gets her name ticked off but doesn’t write on the ballot paper. ‘I am not political, I don’t care who wins elections’, she announces. I’m sorry but she has done her dash with me. Vetoed, embargoed, outlawed, she will forever annoy the crap out of me when she comes on screen. That is the behaviour of a complete idiot and with her education there is just no excuse.

This morning John’s car keys went missing….again. I refused to spend more than 15 minutes searching and we went out in mine, even though there is a spare. After we got back he found them in a bowl in the back room, covered over with another container, a sauce boat. Why? Who knows, but at least they are found.

April 5, 2022

The NRMA has emailed offering me a $50 Woolworths voucher in exchange for ‘a 45 minute Zoom call with us discussing an upcoming creative campaign’. How silly of them to even ask a know-all if they want to share an opinion, the answer is a no-brainer. Little did they know that I’d spruik opinions for nix, and often do. So now we are just settling on a good day and time for them and for me.

Another hideous pit bull story, this time a young woman in the US who was attacked walking down the street. She came out of a coma to discover that she’d had both arms amputated at the shoulder, had some of her colon removed and may need an operation to remove her oesophagus. The owner of the dogs is up for a possible $15,000 fine which might cover one day of this woman’s medical care. Get rid of all of them, it’s the only way.

Some months ago I made two predictions to a friend: Just before the election was called the government would take up the refugee resettlement offer by New Zealand and closer to the election they would free the Biloela Four to go back to Queensland. Half right, let’s hope the second half follows soon. What cynical bastards they are. While we are on the subject of predictions here’s another: Michael Towke will want to finally get payback for his treatment at the hands of Morrison et al and will do a major interview in the week/s ahead, perfect timing. Think 60 Minutes, the ABC’s 7.30 or perhaps an in-depth interview in News Review or The Guardian. The $50,000 defamation figure he got from the Murdoch press was just the pre-dinner nibbles, he’ll go all out to eat Morrison and Hawke as the main course.

April 6, 2022

Sewing group day — I can’t think of a more inappropriate group for me but I am getting all of my long-needed mending done, so it works out well. There were only four of us at the group, so I didn’t feel wrong to just be repairing jumpers. On the way I had a very strange experience. I never turn the radio on in the car, I like my whole attention to be on the road, but something told me to turn it on exactly as former Chief Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi began discussing his new book: Missing, Presumed Dead. I had to pull over when he described how the multiple murderer Bruce Burrell chose his victims, including my shop client and friend Kerry Whelan. Kerry was a very social woman who lunched with a group of her friends (many also my customers) at the New Street Cafe opposite my shop every Friday. I could hear their roaring laughter, Kerry’s often at the top, and smiled to myself as I knew that after the wine bottles were empty and her girlfriends had left she would come over to the shop for a chat and a browse, it was her Friday pattern. I got to know her over years as well as her husband Bernie, who was an executive at Crown Forklifts, as he occasionally asked for help to choose a birthday or Christmas gift for Kerry. He was always charming and full of good stories. To a lesser extent I knew their daughter and the horse-person from their property (this wasn’t her title, but I can’t remember now the words that Kerry used to use to describe her). This groom became a big help to police in pinning down Burrell as the probable murderer. Tedeschi’s description of Burrell as a complete narcissist was spot-on and he mused that others he had prosecuted suffered from the same delusions, believing that they were so much cleverer than police that they would never be caught. Of course I must have the book and thought of asking for it for Mother’s Day, but I can see the girls may think of it as a weird choice so I will just order it. Two books in two weeks, that hasn’t happened in years, though I’m still waiting for the Forensic Science text, post is agonising these days.

We had our flu vax yesterday and are booked for the fourth Covid vax next Thursday. It shocked me to read that one in 13 people in the UK had Covid on Monday. Not had had Covid, but have it currently. Shanghai has 13,000 cases among 26 million people and is shut down totally, we have 25,000 cases in NSW alone and all restrictions are off. Go figure.

ABC had a segment on Hillsong and its property interests tonight. It included a Ukrainian couple who were Pentacostal pastors over there and they showed threatening emails from both Brian Houston and George Agharjanian about what would happen if they didn’t hand over property and assets to Hillsong. Old George has come to notice before, he was the dude who some years back wrote a contract on the back of a serviette in a coffee shop, agreeing that Hillsong would pay $10,000 to the survivor of sexual abuse by Houston’s father, of course in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. In a book I read some time back Old George was named as the person who keeps Brian at arm’s length from dirty business. He must be paid well. I have been to Hillsong twice, the first time was decades ago when they were holding services in a factory unit in Castle Hill, this to please a friend who is an acolyte. The second was at one of their big conferences at Olympic Park where an old friend from Queensland who is a drummer was playing in their band and staying with me while he was here. On both occasions my skin crawled when Houston appeared, he had con-man tattooed on his forehead in my view. Finally others starting to think the same thing.

April 7, 2022

Eighteen years ago today I was recovering from an attack of vestibular migraine occasioned by my discovery the day before, on the microfiche at the State Library, of my father’s death details and the existence of my brother in Halifax UK. Not long afterwards I jetted over to meet him in Manchester Airport and the rest is history. When we talked last night I didn’t mention the anniversary as he is always a bit stilted when his daughter is there. ‘Oh Maureen! It’s been a while since we spoke’ he greets me, when in fact it was only a week ago (code for my daughter is here and I can’t talk freely?). He never calls me Maureen in our conversations, always darling or our Jean, his usual enthusiasm was certainly absent and he didn’t stay long on the phone. No doubt I will be filled in at an appropriate time. I’m now wondering though if I got sick two weeks ago as a result of everything that’s going on here, as I’d forgotten that an emotional trigger had caused it once before.

On Tuesday last week my friend Di came over for morning tea and left at 3.30 pm. We covered lots of topics but especially her art which is inspiring. She had encouraged me to pursue card-making and brought some paints, pencils and paper which she’d offered to pick up for me from an art supplies shop. Today she contacted me to say she is quite sick and has tested positive to Covid. She wears a mask everywhere, sanitises and buys most things online, so she has no idea where she got it, perhaps she wondered if it were here? I am becoming a bit of a card bore, looking out for plants I can press for collage (whatever happened to my flower press? I’m using newspaper and a pile of books), trying different papers, different painting methods, scrunching watercolour painted paper with cling-wrap and bubble wrap for texture. I made a successful one yesterday from the cardboard lid of a food container. Makes a change from cooking I guess, though the food I cook is almost always edible, however the roast turnip from last night went to the possum as it was so hard and tasteless, but some of these cards are a bit how’s-your-father and may never be sent to anyone.

April 8, 2022

Had a call from a police sergeant at Riverstone with a grovelling apology about their misuse of John’s private details, given in relation to his membership of their next-of-kin programme. The apology was accepted and she assured us that this will never happen again, so he has decided to remain in the programme. The police officer involved will be ‘counselled’ which I am assuming is the equivalent of being given a bollocking, a richly deserved one in fact.

Planned to go to North Richmond today to pick up my papier mache table from John the restorer, but news is that the bridge there is underwater again so that’s off the agenda for a bit. Instead I got out my old microscope and had a look at some mould growing outside on a plant stand. The movement screws for the stage are not working correctly, I am getting side to side movement but not front to back so I might ask Boris if he knows what’s going on. I had trouble remembering how to set it up initially, even though I worked on a microscope for over 12 years at the university and for 6 years as a student. There are a couple of bits of equipment in the case that I simply can’t work out, what role they play is a mystery. My friend Bronwyn was a pathologist so she might know how to adjust the stage and what the bits are. Then I made a collage card with some nice textured papers, my pressed leaves and flowers will need another week or so to dry before I can use them.

I rang the Hills Community Care people to see what the story is with a day programme for John and they were helpful and will ring back later today. Which gets me back to Anglicare, who still haven’t replied to the 3 phone calls and 2 emails, so I left another bland message without saying who I was, we’ll see if this one works. A bigger problem though is whether I should be sending him at all. What is the point of all the care we take if I am going to send him off on his own with a bunch of olds who may or may not be Covid safe? I won’t be there to remind him about masking etc., it’s a quandary that I haven’t yet sorted out in my mind.

April 9, 2022

So Friday was supposed to be the day that Arvind’s big gum tree was coming down but the team had to attend to a tree of similar size in Hornsby which had fallen and demolished a house. So Saturday was the day, with five men, one huge crane, a wood-chipping machine and two big tip trucks. The two trucks only took the smaller chipped branches so more trucks will come on another day to take the big ones and the trunk. They will also need a bigger crane because of the weight of them, although the crane they had was about 100 feet high and I think it can lift 130 tons. One man abseiled the tree aided by boots with huge spikes and a sling hanging from the crane, all while wearing a chain saw dangling from his belt. I have been dreading the job, I’ve looked at that tree every day for nearly 50 years, but once it started to happen the interest in method and safety kicked in and I was able to watch the team at work. I was amazed at the power of the shredder which took very large branches and made mincemeat of them in seconds. Note to self: good gadget for getting rid of a body if necessary, though you wouldn’t want to be too close to the exit chute. I was told once that the grinder used for making the lion’s food at a western Sydney zoo had been put to that use a couple of times. Last week a minister of our philistine federal  government (female, but I just can’t remember who it was) said that ‘trees were meant to be cut down’. Clearly she is not a fan of Thoreau who said ‘Every creature is better alive than dead, both men and moose and pine trees, as life is more beautiful than death. It is the poet who makes the truest use of the pine….who loves it as his own shadow in the air and lets it stand.’ But I chose to defend the friendship with my next-door neighbour rather than to go against him at council about cutting the tree down. I overheard him with the boss man, asking him to grind the stump just on my side so it doesn’t interfere with my new driveway, at an extra cost of $300 on top of the $6000 he’s paying for the cut down. Thoreau wouldn’t approve but I think I made the right decision in the circumstances.

We went to lunch at Bronwyn and Michael’s which is always a treat. Mushroom pasta, salad and garlic bread followed by a delicious apple and blackberry strudel. As usual it was politics for befores, durings and afters, apart from discussion about their poor whippet which has come down with lymphoma and is on chemotherapy for 19 weeks, the very same concoction of drugs that John had for the first rounds of his chemo in the 1980s.

Millie this morning was reported as saying ‘Why has Scott Morrison had a bad week?’ Ha, where do you start answering that one?

April 10, 2022

Currently reading Diagnosis Normal by journalist Emma Jane, who was once known as Emma Tom. She relates a history of child abuse and has had a late diagnosis of autism as well as suffering depression. Her life has been/is chaotic to say the least. In fact so much so that my quite boring one looks a dream in comparison. One thing I did identify with though was her statement that ‘as a tiny person’ she felt ‘profound melancholy and existential dread. I was lonely all the time. Especially when there were people around.’ Her statement that she was always ‘outside the world looking in’ resonated with me completely. She clearly has a brilliant mind, but it is so disorganised and haywire that even reading the book makes me giddy. What it must be like to live in that headspace is pretty scary, she’s had a wild ride by anyone’s metric. Was she an autistic child and then abused or did the abuse trigger the autism, I guess she doesn’t know and it hardly matters at this point. She’s been seeing her current psychologist for 22 years and it seems that is likely to continue.

So this is a weird one I know. The women filmed in reports on Ukraine seem to fall into two categories, older village women and younger extremely stylish and well-dressed ones, presumably from the cities. In the latter, every one I’ve seen has a pristine manicure, even after days or weeks of travelling, living in underground bunkers, whatever. Once you notice it you can’t help looking. I’m not drawing any conclusions here, but it is odd.

We have had the situation since last Tuesday that John’s credit card is missing. I was reluctant to cancel it again, we’ve been there before and it’s a mile of hassle. So this time I just checked every day that there were no spends on it and hoped for the best. This afternoon it turned up, in his wallet. I had repeatedly asked him to check his wallet and each time he did. I am planning to get a second one tomorrow, so when it is missing I have a spare.

April 11, 2022

I can’t win a trick today. Drove out to Dural to stock up on bread for the week and rolls for a picnic at Easter, only to find that the bakery is closed for two weeks due to illness among the staff, Covid I’m guessing. Then Arvind came in to tell me that he confirmed with a photo that I have a number of broken tiles on my roof, something I first saw when watching the tree men on Saturday. Normally they are an easy fix, but it appears as if it’s right next to the ridgecap and perhaps even including part of the ridgecap, so that makes it a much trickier job. Now a text to the gutter cleaner cum roof tile man refuses to go through. Next I tried to paint two cards on my good watercolour paper (I should know never to paint, ice cakes or try to do anything creative when I’ve already got the shits, it never works). Now I have two unusable ones that I wouldn’t send to my worst enemy and they were done on the best paper. The NRMA emailed me last week to ask if I would take part in a 45 minute Zoom meeting regarding some new initiative they are planning. In return I was to get a $50 Woolworths voucher so I made sure I left the suggested afternoon free for the call to start the meeting on the computer. When no one rang I rang them, only to be told that they had booked out all the spots and I wouldn’t be needed. An email to inform me of that would have been nice so that I didn’t spend hours carrying the frigging phone around. I was going to make a Simnel Cake for Easter today but I’m not at all sure it will turn out considering the rest of the day.

I was thinking again about fingernails and Ukraine, as you do. The only explanation for the perfect nails is that it’s usual there to have fake nails applied, they would then remain perfectly painted regardless of the conditions. The news last night showed where a large group of old people and women and children had been holed up in a cellar by the Russians, cheek to jowl, and had been there in appalling conditions for over a week. It’s beyond belief that someone could command people to do that and I suppose it’s the 20 year olds who are ordered to do it. It puts my shit day into perspective, so I guess I should attempt the cake at least.

The cake turned out fine, so that’s a positive. But the rare book I ordered hasn’t arrived so I emailed the seller and it was sent to my old shop in Windsor, now empty, and has been sitting at the post office there unclaimed for 11 days despite the fact that I told the seller that I now lived in Baulkham Hills. Some days it’s better to stay in bed.

April 12, 2022

I wish I hadn’t watched the news last night, seeing Anthony Albanese stumble over two answers to journalists at his press conference yesterday. It was too, too distressing and depressing. We can’t get this government back, we just can’t.

Then it was 4 Corners investigative report into Australian soldiers’ cruelty and illegality in East Timor when they were over there supposedly keeping the peace. The thought of a 6 foot 8 inch soldier monstering a 5 foot Timorese is just disgusting. Trust the New Zealanders, decent souls that they are, to dob them in. War creates so many more problems than it solves, I think about the 20-year-old Russians in the Ukraine, learning techniques that they’d be ashamed to tell their mothers about. It will affect them their whole lives, not to mention their victims. You can pretty easily teach a person to kill or torture or assault, the trick is getting them to stop, as people in every country have found after a war.

This morning St. Vincent’s rang to say that John had unfortunately been exposed to Covid but I assured her that would have been a month ago and he’s testing negative so no harm done. Then she told me that no, it was last week, amazingly they informed the wrong John Murray! Today was John’s Nelune day at the hospital, so I met my cousin Angela again in Potts Point. She had planned a walk to Elizabeth Bay, down endless steps and past Elizabeth Bay House and the famous home Boomerang, in its day in 1926 the most expensive house in the country. It traded last year for $80 million. We each had a milkshake at the waterside and enjoyed watching the boats rising and falling on the bay. Angela is a social butterfly and had been to a George Benson concert last night, on her own, followed this morning by a trip to watch the sun rise from 80 odd floors up at the top of the new Crown building at Barangaroo, leaving home at 4.30 am. This week she is also going to the ballet, out to dinner and then a second George Benson concert. Phew, I am exhausted just thinking about it.

Last night and this morning emails were traded think and fast with the rare book dealer over my wrongly delivered book. Luckily he works from home so he is open all hours. At 8 am I was on to Australia Post and discovered that the book was due to be returned to sender today, so I pleaded to hold it till I could get there this afternoon. So after walking miles with Ange I had to drive to Windsor to retrieve it, but it all ended well, though I haven’t had the energy to open it, such was our day.

April 13, 2022

It has taken a while, but the penny only just dropped regarding the 4 Corners programmes on East Timor. The soldier they were trying to mention, nudge nudge, wink wink style was Ben Roberts-Smith. This would explain why the Kiwis have decided to speak out now, seeing his current court case is all over the news and there are similarities in the allegations of torture and unlawful killing. Perhaps everyone recognised this and I was the only slow learner, I don’t know. But the two most obvious pointers are that a 6 foot 8 inch Australian SAS member was responsible (how many of those would there be?) and the comment by one of the investigators along the lines of ‘if something had been done about the crimes in Timor we might not have had the same things happening in Afghanistan’. I decided to check his war record and yep, he was part of the ‘peace-keeping’ intervention at that time. It set me wondering about sociopaths and their choices of employment. I once talked to a psychiatrist working at Cumberland Hospital (no, I was not a patient!) and mentioned a conversation I’d heard on a bus between two men who worked at the old Homebush Abattoirs. I wondered aloud if some people got off on cruelty to animals and he jumped in to say that it was surprising how many patients he saw who worked there, opining that it was lucky for the public that they did, because otherwise they would be looking for victims on the streets. That conversation chilled my marrow and I’ve never forgotten it. It came back instantly in regards to R-S.

Last Christmas the cleaner was due on Christmas Eve and called in sick, she was due to come this Thursday, Easter Eve, and called in sick so my leisurely afternoon plans for the day are out the window while I clean the house. John took the call (they usually ring me). I asked if a new cleaner or a new date had been offered and he thought they had, but he told them not to worry about it and just to come again in two weeks as scheduled. So now I need to do it John, I said, yeah that’s okay he replied. I decided it wasn’t worth countering his decision, he doesn’t get to make too many, so it was best left.

April 14, 2022

Up to the medical centre for our fourth vaccination for Covid, as usual we have had no ill effects although John went for a nap before noon, which is a bit unusual. Pulled a cake out of the freezer and frosted it for tomorrow’s picnic, love it when you get too busy to cook and can just pull something out like a rabbit out of a hat. It is banana cake so I upscaled it with some banana frosting, over the top of the existing walnuts.

A friend has offered a computer and a leaf blower/vacuum gratis so I have put my hand up for them and will pass them on to a refugee organisation or similar. Then another person rang today with handbags, clothes etc so I need to put my thinking cap on for those. I’ve become a St. Vincent’s substitute lately which makes me wonder a bit if the charities are not trusted as much as they once were to find good homes for things. But I’m making sure that everything ends up in a place where it’s really wanted and that’s the main thing.

Last night I started the forensic science book I bought and realised it needed to be read when feeling stable, physically and mentally, not late at night if you’d had a bad day. Some of the situations portrayed are pretty confronting but yesterday I could cope with it without a problem. I wondered why the first few chapters focussed on medical ethics, especially informed consent, somehow I think there would be a long wait for a signature from the patient of a forensic scientist medico. But the legal aspects were of interest to me so I was happy to learn about them.

April 15, 2022

Our picnic with Jane and Boris today morphed into a slightly bigger event when Martha contacted me and I asked her to join us. Fagan Park was buzzing, the top carpark was already full when we arrived and we managed to get a park in the bottom one, but it wouldn’t have mattered as there is parking outside. We scored a table in the shade and enjoyed a picnic lunch and afternoon tea there, going off in turns for walks. The weather was perfect so it was a relaxing day over all. Boris took my microscope home to have a look at it after I asked him about the stage, which moves left to right but not front to back. I have no idea where one goes to get a microscope fixed these days, no sending it off to a technician at the university now.

It looks as if I’m up for money with the plumber as the plughole in my ensuite sink now empties into the drawer below! I can see the problem, the pipe has disconnected itself. I could probably fix it myself just by screwing it back on, but because the drawers of the vanity don’t come right out I can’t get access to it. Bummer, so near and yet so far. Not convinced he will be able to get into it either, but we shall see.

Just finished Ann Patchett’s book Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Irish American poet Lucy Grealy. Two books in a row about mental illness and depression and reading forensic science in between is a lot to handle. I’m choosing a cheerier one next. Then I texted my lovely baker’s family to wish them a happy easter. Seeing the shop is shut for two weeks due to illness I thought they may have Covid but didn’t ask. That would have made a trifecta amongst my friends at the moment. But no, a reply came back saying that she’d had to take time off due to her mental health issues and she needs her husband’s support, he of course is the baker so the shop had to close. I know I’m a bit on the edge of crackers sometimes but I always manage to get up in the mornings, however many others are a lot worse off. In fact in the two most recent books I’ve read I was shocked by the depth of the subject’s problems. Lots to be grateful for.

April 16, 2022

I decided to have a go at fixing the leaking, in fact disconnected, drainage pipe in the vanity. If I succeed I’ll donate the plumber’s fee to GetUp as they are doing some great ads for the election and I’ve just done a donation to them this morning. First step was to try to get the drawer out and I’ve managed to do that by undoing a screw at the rear side panel of the drawer. The pipe was totally undone and hanging loose, so I tried just jamming it back in. Now the water doesn’t pour out but it isn’t a good connection so it still drips. Not sure what the next step is? Some sort of tape perhaps? Will think on it, but I might still need the plumber. Then I asked John to help me clear out a shelf in the garage which had a lot of old stuff of his as well as mine. He got quite rattled and asked why we had to do it at all, but I got a washing basket full of empty or near empty bottles (one was a Sapphire Gin bottle with blue liquid in it??) as well as placing various laundry items into the laundry and other cleaning products with their mates. Who knew we had borax and old-fashioned starch powder? So now the shelf is half empty with only another half a dozen shelves to go. John asked me not to get him to help me with those tasks anymore, “let me stick to washing up and pulling the beds up, I just can’t understand what to do” so I can see that the plumbing job was way outside his comfort zone and I am glad I didn’t ask for help there. Once he’d have fixed it in a flash.

Then I treated myself to some time card-making. Well I did one new collage card using the decorative jewelled bits from an old pair of shoes I found on a shelf in the garage. The sole had come off one and I must have been going to fix it years ago, but today I decided to toss them and use the bits for cards. The other two cards I worked on were fails from another day. I redid parts of them but I’m still not happy, so they might be in for a total repaint, we shall see. Or I could send them to two people I dislike perhaps.

Yesterday I commented to Boris that Zali Steggall has won Warringah already due to the now deleted posts on Twitter by Morrison’s hand-picked candidate Katherine Deves. Where do they dig these people up? Surely someone would have done a Twitter and Facebook search before she got the guernsey as a candidate? Nope, either that or else they agree with her unpopular views and hoped no-one had saved the old comments. Not much chance of that these days.

April 17, 2022

Dav, Millie and Louis went walking at Parramatta Lakes then came here for a casual lunch of various rolls followed by cake and hot cross buns. I’d hidden around the garden a few wrapped lollies, some new pyjamas and a plaster statue of a bunny with paints to decorate it for her to discover. They were impressed by the walks at the lake and plan to have a picnic or bbq there for Mother’s Day when Louis’s mum is planning to come down from Queensland as well. I gave them half a Christmas pudding and some custard to take home as we had eaten a couple of bits, but it was too big for us to eat it all, plus a bunch of hot Thai chilies from my prolific bush. Planted two pots of snow peas this morning with frames for them to climb and decided that was pretty good work for the day. A client once told me to always plant sweet peas and snow peas on Anzac Day but I’m only a week early.

What to say about the book Diagnosis Normal? It is somehow discombobulating to read a book by someone with precarious mental health, it certainly isn’t a relaxing memoir. But I found it educational and it gave me an inkling of what it feels like to be that disordered mentally, in this case her daughter is similarly affected. Hospital admissions, being repeatedly sectioned, literally dozens of psychiatrists over years for PTSD, anxiety, depression and finally a diagnosis of autism on top. But for all of that Emma Jane, aka Emma Tom, writes with candour about many things in a way that we can see her strong points such as a passion for knowledge and an ability to research and find out what she needs to know, whether that is about deleterious drug combinations or the work required to hold her position at a Sydney university. Another case of ‘thank goodness I don’t walk that path’.

April 18, 2022

We attacked some more boxes of John’s and mine today and discovered some favoured rugs of his which are now washed and hanging on the line. Discovered that a big plastic wrapped parcel in the storeroom which I assumed was John’s contained Millie’s bassinet so that’s off to charity hopefully. A couple of ergonomic stools that we used to use at our computers will go likewise. I have been offered a PC for giving away and have been on the hunt for a mouse and keyboard, both now found from different people, so I’ve sent off some emails trying to source a monitor. I have a taker for the PC, just want to make it as complete as possible then it can go to its new home.

I am trying not to be cynical about the young lady who allegedly had acid thrown at her outside a restaurant in Chinatown a few days ago. She was filming on TikTok when it happened and continued filming in the aftermath, as you do. Then filmed herself in hospital where she had a patch over her left eye but I see in the press today the patch has moved to the right. Perhaps it’s just me…..but it smells sus.

Arvind tells me that they wanted to go away to a hotel in Terrigal for Easter with his wife and two adult sons but the bill would have been $7000. Davina told us yesterday that she was planning to go to Canberra for the June long weekend but two nights in the hotel she looked at came to $2000. What are the working class supposed to do for a holiday? Pitch a tent I guess.

Carrick Ryan, a political commentator I sometimes follow, said last November that Morrison was ‘waiting for a culture war’ and would try to wedge Labor in the election campaign using ‘the issues of Australia Day, or kneeling at sport or a trans issue’. It looks like he was right about the last one at least. Climate change action? No, too busy worrying about unisex toilets so we can’t deal with it.

April 19, 2022

On Sunday Carly let me know that she and her partner of nearly four years had separated at her bidding. I respect her choice but by dinner time last night it all got too much and I cried for the loss of him. I had envisaged his being part of the family into the future, perhaps both of them ending up in India at some point, but now it seems that won’t be happening. I want to reach out to him but I think it’s too soon. Who is going to call me Aunt Maureen or Maureen Auntie now?

I opened a floodgate asking for a monitor to hook up with a donated computer, so far I have been offered three and a $100 donation to buy one if needed. A trip to Sans Souci and Chatswood may be on the cards or else I might be able to meet both people at a central point, then deliver the total to Cherrybrook. I sent off emails early this morning hoping to achieve this in the coming days. Now I need to start looking for a home for the leaf blower and the heater and the toys and…. As quickly as I empty my storeroom it fills up again with goods in transit. Later: Why do I get myself into these things? It’s like herding cats. Now the keyboard person says she doesn’t think she’s got one after all and the computer person wants to take all the parts home to his place in Sans Souci to test that they are compatible before the donation goes ahead. So there’s two trips to him instead of one, delivering the bits then picking up when they’ve been tested. Tentatively arranged to deliver them to him Thursday, subject to sorting out the keyboard issue. Note to self: Restrict yourself to collecting things for charity that come intact. But then I got two lovely emails from Helen thanking me in advance for the computer and hoping to take me up on the lounges if a particular family succeeds in getting a rental. Mmm, maybe it is worth it after all.

Feeling toey after so many texts, emails and calls today so I sat down and did a few cards this afternoon. One was for a particular person, Antonia in Melbourne, an eBay contact who sent me a little bottle of schnapps in the mail recently. I glued on a picture of a cup of tea, then drew a cup of tea and attached some teabag labels to them. Sounds tacky and probably was, but she will like it. Another was made of some dried leaves and flowers with ‘shadow’ leaves cut out of card and glued into the design. Happy with that one too. Makes a change from two I did last week that I had to overpaint several times.

April 20, 2022

Went to Jane’s for sewing group as Colleen is still recovering from Covid. I had a skirt to repair so it motivates me to look out things that have been sitting around waiting for a fix. I didn’t stay for lunch as I needed to get back for John. After lunch we did a trip to Parramatta Lakes and I was pleasantly surprised at how different it looked after decades of being away. We decided to pack a picnic on a cooler day and do the two hour circumnavigation of the lake. The dam built in the late 1800s as the drinking water source for Parramatta but hasn’t been used for that purpose since 1909. All the time we were there the police helicopter was circling noisily overhead and a police car drove through, so something was going down. I worked out that I was last there in about 1978. John of course swears we were there recently, as he does with each new place we go.

Apparently more than twice the number of people have died from Covid in Australia this year than in the entire history of the pandemic, 4,547 so far in less than four months. The politicians are all saying that the pandemic is over but nobody told the virus. It is there in front of us every day, we all have positive friends, but the powers that be blithely declare it’s not happening. Perhaps when one of their relatives dies there will be a return to mask mandates but I doubt it.

I was surprised when I was browsing the fish at Baulkham Hills (but didn’t buy because I am sus about that shop lately) to see behind the counter someone who often came into my shop. He had a fish and chip shop in South Windsor and apparently sold it in 21019. I hoped to get away unrecognised but he picked me instantly despite the mask. He commented that his wife every day wears a ring he bought from me and it is always commented on. When he asked if I had any rings left, I wasn’t quick enough to evade the question, he would have picked an evasion anyway, so I told the truth that I had a few. He asked if he could come on Anzac Day and look at them, to which I reluctantly agreed. However he was one of my least favoured customers and now I really regret having any more to do with him. One of the good things about not having the shop any more is not having to see the 4 or 5 people I had come to dislike over the 27 years, all pushy and overbearing people of various sorts. Sigh.

April 21, 2022

I think my reluctance yesterday to say no to the man about the jewellery was partly due to an ethnic difference, I didn’t want him to think he was being discriminated against for race, rather than just being an annoying person.

Today we met up with Greg and handed over all the computer bits. He in turn filled my station waggon with stuff he wants rid of, ranging from sporting clothes, a cricket bat, various racquets, softballs and mitts as well as kitchen equipment and a heater. I’ve sent a list of 21 items to Helen, excluding many items I know she won’t want, and will need to find homes for what she rejects. We had a walk round Eden Gardens Nursery then a drink each and one scone to share from their cafe. As in the past they charge like the Light Brigade, the single scone was over $10!! I should never patronise the place so it’s my own fault, although it is always full of people having lunch and the food’s not even good. When we came home the tree men weren’t far behind us to finish cutting the trunk and getting rid of all the huge branches. John had been asking ‘what’s for lunch, I’m hungry’ so I did an avocado and crackers but can’t get him to come in, he’s on Arvind’s verandah watching the men work and it’s much too enthralling.

We were supposed to go to the council’s Social Day Centre for a tour today but John’s decided he doesn’t want to go there after all. In some respects I’m relieved, the way Covid is going, but in another way I would be so glad of that couple of hours to myself occasionally. I need some new bras and every time I put an old one on I think of going to to the shops for some new ones, but even if I’m ducking up to the chemist or the fruit shop John doesn’t like me to leave him here, he prefers to sit in the car and wait. However I’m reluctant to leave him in the car to do something that might take a little while.

I was talking to Jenny and said that I am getting more and more anxious about minding Millie this weekend. During the day it’s sort of okay, but nights are spent thinking of boiling jugs, tablets left lying around, speeding cars on a walk. I will be glad when it’s done, which is terrible as it should be all about joy. However Jenny, who also suffers from anxiety, said she is exactly the same, dreaming of incidents like the pram rolling down a slope into the pool. It was kind of comforting that it’s not just me. If I book an airline ticket I dream every night of the plane flying between two sheer cliffs, wingtips right up to the edges and it seems to go on for hours, this can last for months which is why I hate to book a flight well in advance. She’s had therapy, which didn’t help, and that made me feel better about never having had any.

April 22, 2022

Enjoyed a trip out to Warrah Farm at Dural this morning with Carol. Superb range of high-quality fruits and vegetables on display but at eye-watering prices. We had morning tea at Dolcettini on the way home and a good time was had by all.

Thinking a lot about Morrison and his innate craftiness and basic dishonesty. He knew full well Katherine Deves’ views, in fact that is why he chose her. Good to stir up a debate that takes the focus off his government. Then there are his comments on the disabled, classic prosperity gospel, if you have a disabled child then you must deserve one. My friend Chrys says in an email: “I understand this aspect of Pentecostalism from bitter experience. When a member of my family began experiencing worrying symptoms, they were referred by their church to a church-approved Pentecostal psychologist. The verdict, after much probing into the piety of my relative, was that the symptoms were a punishment for the fact one of our ancestors was a Grand Master of the Freemasons. Ardent prayer was prescribed. (In fact, as it turned out, my relative had a malignant tumour.)” I have heard it said by people in Hillsong that if you don’t tithe your 10% then you will suffer financially and if you do, your income will improve. There is a belief that disease and disability are either self-inflicted or the result of some kind of ancestral sin and this is causing havoc in African countries that have been effectively colonised by evangelical Christians of the Pentecostal variety. In a paper on Pentecostalism Luke Thompson from the University of South Florida explained how Pentecostals think about sickness and disability: “Well established within Pentecostal theology is the belief that the presence of suffering (sickness or debilitating conditions) may indicate personal sin, symbolize unholiness, or result from demonic influence.” In Western Australia an inquiry is ongoing into the Esther Foundation, who run a home for young women suffering from eating disorders, addiction, mental health problems. Their form of medical treatment would be all-night prayer meetings, talk of demon possession, exorcisms, no qualified staff were employed, yet the money still flowed in from this government. Given $4.6 million recently by Scott Morrison, it has been accused of being a cult and it is run by his mates the Pentecostals, surprise surprise.

April 23, 2022

Minding Millie for the weekend so we started off with a walk to her school. Sadly part of a weatherboard building had such dry rot that you can literally see right through the wall. Someone had inexpertly screwed the boards together but it must have taken years to get that bad, which makes me hopping mad when I see the luxury that is private schools. I could climb into that school in 10 minutes, not even that, with just a crowbar. I read recently that public schools got about $3600 per pupil last year from the government and private schools almost $10,000 on top of parent contributions so we have theatres and swimming pools versus see-through walls. The Finns have the right idea, not allowing private schools at all. One of my first jobs when I become PM is to rectify that, after action on climate change, an integrity commission, banning live animal exports, yep perhaps put the schools fourth. Maybe the nursing homes have to go high in to-do that list, so it’s a toss-up for fourth. We had a spot of lunch outside at Foodcraft because Millie always wants to say hello to the owner, Christian. She call the cafe Christian’s. I said she could order anything (what are grandparents for?) so she settled on chips, bacon and tomato sauce, not on the menu but happily provided. We shared Zucchini and Corn Fritters with Avocado and a Poached Egg. I cut it horizontally to share and John said ‘but then you don’t get any of the white stuff on top’ which turned out to be the egg. I was perfectly happy with no egg but I wondered what on earth he thought the ‘white stuff’ was.

Last time we were there I couldn’t work the TV properly and gave up, so this time Louis tutored me but when we sat down to watch the news I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to get any volume so we watched nothing in the end. I was happy to finish my book Son of Sin by Omar Sakr, fiction but based on his life. I wasn’t keen initially, because there were so many family members and I couldn’t fathom who was related to whom, but as it went on I became more involved in this story of a gay Muslim man in western Sydney and his trials to be accepted within his culture and particularly his family. There were many Arabic words that I had never come across before and he doesn’t spoon feed us, if you want to understand you Google as you go along. It covered the period of the Cronulla riots and the gay marriage plebiscite with references to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think at the end of it I had a slightly better understanding of the Lebanese Muslim community and their thinking, so it was certainly a worthwhile read. One passage which I found illuminating was this: “Unlike their parents who had been dragged to the other side of the world, Jamal’s generation rarely left the area, let alone the country. None of them had been further than Queensland. They got married and moved into houses as close to their mothers as possible, making clusters of convenience and closeness. Jamal sometimes wondered if a map of Lebanon’s villages before the war would match where families had ended up in Sydney, as if they had unconsciously replicated a way of being that no longer existed.” It isn’t hard to believe that the author is primarily a poet, his telling of the story is hard, actually quite brutal, as well as showing us the vulnerability of a sensitive young man living in poverty in a society rent by racism, Islamophobia and homophobia. Special.

April 24, 2022

During a terrible night I checked the clock wide-eyed at 1.47 and 4.30 and finally got to sleep a couple of hours before Millie came in. I know it’s anxiety but I don’t have a ready cure and don’t want to go down the medication route. After breakfast I suggested a walk but Millie was resistant so we did some Lego instead, though she eventually saw that the walk wasn’t going to be optional. We went to Sydney Park and it was crowded, seemingly two dogs for every walker, though I did see a cat cuddled close to an owner’s chest. We played a game of guessing the airline of oncoming planes, the park overlooks the airport a few kilometres away, and Millie has mastered telling Jetstar from Qantas, then asking ‘why does it matter grandma?’ which is a good point. She was so happy when Dav and Louis came home, fresh from an overnight stay at the new Kimpton Hotel in the city. Last night at dinner Luke Mangan, who is chef at the restaurant there, came over to ask how the food was. Louis thought he was the waiter and was about to ask for the bill, but luckily caught the vibe that he was somewhat higher on the ladder than that and was relieved that he avoided the embarrassment. They rated both the hotel and the restaurant as excellent so that’s something to file away in case an opportunity arises. They arrived home with books and games for Millie and Haigh’s Chocolates for us both. All in all the visit was a successful one and no disaster came to pass, though driving home so exhausted wasn’t fun, but I managed not to hit anyone.

Home sweet home, where we know how to work the TV, can find where things are kept and can relax without angst about failing at grandparental duties.

April 25, 2022

Last night Peter and Dawn from Canberra rang to say that they will be in Sydney for a day or two this week. They wanted to come for dinner tomorrow night which was problematic as I will be at the hospital all afternoon, but they can come Wednesday for lunch so that’s even better. For some (stupid) reason I worried all night about what to serve/when I could get to the shops/anything else remotely connected. Then got up this morning to a fully developed plan to serve trout, asparagus and a beetroot, rocket and pomegranate salad followed by a self-saucing walnut caramel pudding. Did I think it through? Not really, it was fairly obvious once I gave it five minutes consideration, but during the night it seemed more than I could possibly cope with. Such is my state of mind at the moment.

Did a bit of weeding out the front and replanted the grass I pulled out of the garden into the trench dug across the grass verge by the wheels of the arborist’s truck. Then Arvind saw what I was doing and came out with a sack of soil to fill in the depression so we did it together. I said we needed some light rain to water it in and he said I was lucky that Monday is his prayer day, so he had spoken to the boss this morning. From memory Monday is the Hindu day for praying to Lord Shiva and I think it is also the day of the week that the family fasts. My neighbour on the other side was filling his truck with a mountain of bottles, presumably going to a recycling centre, and I marvelled at how many years it would take us to accumulate such a pile. Luckily we don’t have either soft drink or beer but clearly they make it up to the manufacturers for our lack of each. They are off to the club after doing that job and I thought about how much I like living between such opposite but equally warm-hearted neighbours.

April 26, 2022

John last night: Have you booked the Uber? Me: Excuse me, what Uber? John: The one to take you to the hospital tomorrow. I have never booked an Uber in my life and neither has he, in fact a couple of hours previously we had discussed which car to take, mine or his, and decided on his as it’s smaller and easier to park in the inner city. Sometimes it’s hard to work out where these ideas come from, perhaps he’s seen something about Uber on TV, but it does worry me that when I’m not here, like today when a carer is coming, he could inadvertently lead the person up the garden path about what’s going on without their knowing. I have to trust that she will keep him safe, but I will be glad when I’m home tonight and know it’s all gone well.

My laundry, under the house and open to the weather, has had water on the floor for weeks, or maybe months. In persistent wet weather some water can leach through the back wall, but it drains out of the open doorway into the garden so it doesn’t matter. Lately I’ve been commenting to John that it seems too much water for the weather but he disagreed, until yesterday when I finally pulled out the washing machine and found there is a leak coming from the cold water inlet pipe to the hot water system. I tried to tighten the bolt but it seemed very secure already so I am afraid that there’s a leak inside the tank, in other words it’s stuffed. I can’t complain if that’s the case, I think the last tank I bought was about 20 years ago. Anyway the plumber is coming on Saturday so we’ll find out then.

Glad to have that hospital appointment over with for another 6 months, I am getting really fond of the same two doctors and one nurse that I see each time. Very professional, yet with a real human touch as well. I don’t even mind the male nurse calling me ‘lovey’.

Later: John arrived home with the carer 5 minutes after I got back from the city. He’d had a lovely time, enjoying their picnic together, going for a walk with her and using every last minute out. He wants to get Libby again if I need to leave him. Success. (She later rang to say that he’d had a phone call from the chemist while they were out to say that the prescription he’d been promised for delivery today wasn’t yet ready. John had just finished telling me that he couldn’t understand why it didn’t arrive, so without her call I would have had to investigate tomorrow).

April 27, 2022

I have been processing a comment by the docs from yesterday: ‘It’s looking as if the surgeon got it all, we’re not seeing any sign of cancer’. After the surgery in 2020 I was given the option of doing no more or having both radiation and chemotherapy at the same time for six weeks. When I opted for no further treatment the surgeon said that he thought I was making the right decision, banking on the fact that he had got it all. Yesterday was the first time they’ve been willing to say that it looks as if he was right.

I have been fielding calls all day from Kristy at the home care service, Vanessa at the Orange Blossom Cottage social day service for dementia sufferers and Belinda at ACAT. Some good news, some not so good. Kristy has managed to negotiate a deal with ACAT which means that instead of paying $30.90 an hour for John to go to the cottage, they will fund him to go for $20 per day, a huge difference. Tick. So I arranged for John to go there for morning tea next week to get to know the staff, with a view to his going there from 9.30 to 2.30 every Wednesday. Tick. Then ACAT rang and said he’s been refused the possibility of a higher package because he hasn’t spent all of the money accrued in his old one. I thought I was doing the right thing and being frugal with the government’s money, keeping it saved up for a rainy day, but apparently that’s not how the system works. You have to show that you are not managing on the current package before you can get a higher one, so I shot myself in the foot there. Cross, but two out of three ain’t bad. So apparently I now need to engage a carer regularly in order to dissipate the balance and then apply again. It’s a bit of a nightmare negotiating the system.

Dawn and Peter from Canberra came for the day and we loved having them here, despite the number of interrupting phone calls. Served Panfried Trout with salads and a Caramel and Almond Self-Saucing Pudding for afters. The bloody thing boiled over in my clean over, but it was delicious so I forgive it. I look forward to going to Canberra to see them at some time, though the thought of all the driving puts me off. Carly is in Bowral for a few days at the moment and if I had known that getting a carer for a full day was a possibility I would have driven down to see her, but I am learning as I go along.

April 28, 2022

Position Vacant: Administrative Assistant. Duties include endless emails and phone calls to and from Home Care Provider, Dementia Day Care facility and ACAT. Pay nil.

Hopefully I may get an assistant from the above as it seems that since last week I have been constantly on the phone trying to get John a higher package, failing, then trying to make the best use of the package he does have. End result: We have an appointment to go for morning tea at Orange Blossom Cottage, a dementia day care facility, next Thursday and if we like it John is pencilled in to go there every Friday from then on. (Can I see some days at the Coroner’s Court beckoning? It’s been sooo long). Then from next Wednesday a carer named Greg is coming in the morning to take John out somewhere. His favourite girl Libby is the favourite of many others as well apparently and unavailable, so we are trying Greg out for size. At least I feel we are getting somewhere now and hopefully we can apply to ACAT again in three months and we’ll see what they say then about more assistance.

I’ve been painting cards again today with limited success but I did try to do one inspired by the bushfires at Mallacoota seen from the sea and I am reasonably happy with the clouds and fire on that one. I so wish I could get better at painting but I don’t think that will happen without lessons of some sort, and probably not even then.

Thinking about the Ukraine situation and I just hate the ‘all Ukrainians are martyrs and all Russians are bastards’ narrative. As in all wars the politicians make the decisions. But we always denigrate the man and woman on the street when they have little agency.

April 29, 2022

Today we had a small book group at Jane’s and Boris took John with him to Petersham to pick up a new coffee machine while we had our meeting. They got back just as we were about to have a cup of tea and attack Jane’s pavlova and other excellent treats. Brigitte brought up Ukraine and asked Boris his opinion, which is that the country is basically in a civil war between right and left factions and that elections there are usually divided 51% to 49% between Russian-leaning and West-leaning politicians. He says the Russians are correct in saying that there is a significant extreme right part of the population and has been since WWII. His people are from Kyiv and he has relatives on both sides of the border. He says there are a lot of refugees crossing the border into Russia according to his people there. It is a very different view to what we hear on the news.

I had a sale on eBay for 48 antique crystals and amazingly they are to be delivered to the 17th floor of the same building in Norwest where Michelle’s relatives are staying on the 19th floor, so she offered to drop them into their mailbox tomorrow. I’ve just spent some time searching, but although I can find every other item up for sale, the crystals are not there. I just don’t know where else to look so maybe I will have to contact the buyer and return the money, after which she will be entitled to leave negative feedback.

John got an email invitation to an art exhibition in Balmain and the paintings look really interesting. I asked who the person is but he can’t remember him, though the man’s number is in his phone, so it is a genuine contact. We might mosey down there next week and have a look, he might recognise him in person.

April 30, 2022

Just finished letter-boxing some of Cross St for the Greens but we ran out of leaflets, they didn’t leave us enough, I guess they are expensive to print.  I have just emailed them for some more and we’ll see what happens.

The plumber came and, as expected, told me that the hot water service is kaput as the tank is leaking. He will order one on Monday and fit it on Tuesday, you can’t ask for more than that. Apparently Reece Plumbing has their own brand made by Rheem, exactly the same and made in their Rydalmere factory but somewhat cheaper, so I will go with that. It will be a handful of coins under $2000 all told which was pretty much what I expected. I guessed that the current one was 15 years old and he found a date on it which showed it is 16 years, about par for the course. This is my third in 45 or so years so I can’t complain really. One bonus was that I showed him the repair I did on the pipe under the vanity which had been leaking and he volunteered to make it more secure, even though it hadn’t leaked since I fixed it, so that saves a callout if my repair didn’t last. He’s a good chap.

After being told on Tuesday that tests showed I was cancer free, on Thursday I noticed what looks to my untrained eye like a melanoma. I couldn’t get an appointment with Bob till Wednesday but he said he’ll try to fit me in on Monday if he can. Rats, it’s one thing after another here. I am not going to tell John as he always worries about having to go into respite if I got sick and he will forget about the details anyway so I just won’t go there till I have something definite to say. He totally forgot why I was going to the hospital last week so I didn’t even bother mentioning the good news, he was just happy for me to be home. My receding anxiety levels just went up more than a notch. Something goodly but mind-numbing like letter-boxing is appropriate medicine at the moment.

May 1, 2022

Mmm, I didn’t even know it was May Day till I started typing this. A few weeks ago we took the papier-mache inlaid occasional table to my friend and restorer John Koster as it was splitting at the edges. I had already treated it for borer in the legs, but today we finally picked it up and he had re-treated the borer just in case, repaired the edges and re-blackened the legs, stretcher and underside. He only knows one way to do things, the right way. We were due to pick it up earlier but the flood prevented us from crossing the river. Seeing we had to go up that way we spent some time at Kurrajong where we had a bite of lunch in the courtyard of Schembrae’s restaurant, run by a Maltese family and with some unusual dishes on the menu. John had Imqarat which turned out to be Maltese pastry triangles filled with a date paste and served hot. I got some jams and chutneys from a stall, some for John K. and also for Michelle C. who has been on the sick list since Friday. Perhaps it was food poisoning from a restaurant meal she had Friday night but it could just be a virus, hard to tell. Dropped in to briefly visit her on the way home.

An Australian Defence Force review of our participation in the war in Afghanistan has found that the overall strategy in the conflict, driven by the US, was “confused and kept changing” and “a naive Western aspiration for Afghanistan” with a failure to consider “local history, culture, politics and capacity” led to “overly ambitious and unsustainable national and military strategic objectives”. Well the rest of the country were on top of this years ago, it has taken the Defence Force a long time to admit that our troops (and countless Afghans) died for no real purpose. Unfortunately the government is still in denial on this point and will be only too willing to jump the next time we are asked to join some pointless war.

The election is getting interesting as far as the independents go, four Liberal seats are under threat from good independent female candidates. I am wondering whether to throw a vote towards Jane Caro in the Senate, an eminently sensible candidate but I need to look at the ballot paper carefully and see where the Greens have put her.

May 2, 2022

Bob called me in early and initially said I was right to come as the lesion looked nasty, however on further investigation with his illuminated magnifier he was happy to diagnose a haemangioma which is a nothing basically. One less thing to agonise over. We commiserated with each other about the ridiculous worries we both have in the middle of the night and joked that we should email each other at 3 am when that happens. It wasn’t the fear of surgery or treatment that got to me so much as the fear of having John looked after while I attended to it. This morning he rang the pharmacist to order his prescriptions, which was fine except he already did that on Saturday and we picked them up yesterday. I told him just to treat them as spares because by the time I realised what he’d done they were probably already dispensed.

I have had another spot of luck today because the missing crystals finally turned up in a place they should never have been, my fault entirely. The buyer has been very disappointed and urged me to keep looking for them, so I am going to deliver the parcel to her in person at Norwest this afternoon. Phew!

I am so looking forward to seeing the new ABC four-part programme The Family Court Murders beginning next week. I distinctly remember them happening and went to part of the trial of the man convicted of executing Family Court Judge David Opas, the attack on his associate Judge Richard Gee and the murder of Pearl Watson, wife of a judge who had taken over the cases of the other two. Add to that the bombing of the Family Court in Parramatta, the attempted murder of a Family Court solicitor and the bombing resulting in the murder of a Jehovah’s Witness minister and injury to 13 of his congregation. The thing that astonishes me still is how Leonard Warwick got away with it for so long, but having seen him defending himself in court I realised that he is nothing if not clever. He was acquitted of also murdering his brother-in-law but it was highly likely that he did, however it didn’t quite reach the standard of proof.

Later: Because of the Missing Crystal Saga, I went to the 17th floor of a new building at Norwest to deliver, rather than delaying their receipt further by unreliable post. I knocked on her door and open sesame , it unlatched itself. A call came from deep in the unit “Is that you Maureen? Please come in, I’m disabled”. In I went and eventually came to a large room with a hospital bed containing a bright-faced lady who introduced herself as Bronwyn. She had bought the crystals to make a hanging to go on a window which gets sun the whole day, the unit faces north-west. I realised then what a disaster it would have been if I hadn’t found them. We chatted and she told me that carers come to her a number of times a day and to my great surprise I learned that she uses the same service as John. She positively raved about her carers and their service in general. Apparently she was forced into a tiny nursing home room for three years but now absolutely loves the large and well-designed disability unit she rents in this building. When I got home I discovered that one lonely crystal of the 43 was sitting on the kitchen bench, perhaps willing me to go back to visit.

May 3, 2022

So John’s ex-neighbour Scott White has finally been sentenced for the 1988 murder of American PhD student Scott Johnson. His sentence of 12 years takes into account his youth at the time, his low IQ and his guilty plea. My question goes to his ex-wife who came forward to testify against him only after the $2 million reward was announced. The whole thing is sickening, but dobbing someone in after all those years, only when a large reward is offered, is not exactly free of suspicion either. No winners in this sorry saga.

This morning we were to meet our friend who is putting together and testing the computer going to a refugee family. We were to meet at a park in Ryde but when I texted him from there to say where we were sitting it emerged that he was inadvertently expecting to meet tomorrow, so that meant I had to cancel the delivery for this afternoon too. Hopefully we will get it happening on Friday, this whole thing seems to have gone on for weeks, in fact it has.

The papers are lit up with SHOCK INTEREST RATE RISE!!! when every commentator has forecast it for weeks. I am very lucky that it doesn’t affect me, but it will certainly hurt those who accepted more loan money from their bank than they could easily pay back. Such a tempting thing for those who’ve never seen a recession, but so many want to start with a big, new, expensive house without considering a future lack of employment or a rise in interest rates. The renters are even worse off again now that so many have fled to the regions to take advantage of working from home, so now those pockets of housing for the less well off have dried up.

Yesterday when I met the lady while delivering the crystals I asked if there is anything else that she is looking for and she mentioned wanting a small leadlight to put against a window to shine colours on to the walls. Her crystal hanging will be designed to ‘throw rainbows onto the walls’ and she has the perfect situation for that so high up with all day sun. I have two small leadlights here so I’ve sent pictures of one and if she likes it I am happy for her to have it. My other eBay ‘friend’ in Melbourne texted today to ask if ‘the postman has delivered anything to you? Hick hick’ so it appears she’s sent me a gift of some sort of alcohol, following a previous little bottle of schnapps. Funny how connections with people happen.

May 4, 2022

Packed a picnic for John and his new carer Greg, who turned out to be a very personable older man and came replete with ideas for their four hours out. He suggested the picnic area on the Parramatta River and John was happy with that, next week he’s going to take him to Geranium Cottage for lunch so it seems that I won’t have to scratch my head for suggestions. Perhaps I need a carer to take me out for lunch once a week, a young handsome one perhaps, haha. When John was first assessed for care the person asked if I had put my name down for a package too and I was quite insulted, but if going to a restaurant each week is part of the deal I may have to rethink. Of course the food cost is not included but still….it sounds good to me. I went off to Colleen’s and rather than sewing I did some cutting out of paper leaves to paint for my cards, planning to intersperse them with real pressed leaves. Unfortunately I had to come home before lunch because an email alerted me to the fact that a food delivery was waiting on my front porch and it had frozen stuff in it, the one time a delivery comes early. (Note to self: avoid every second Wednesday for deliveries). I decided to use the extra time to make some Lemon Squares for a picnic on Saturday with Dav and family and had only just started that when Greg and John returned with positive things to say about their morning. I’m so glad that seem to hit it off, although John didn’t have a clue what they had talked about, no matter.

The puzzle of the bird bath continues: A few days ago I went out to find the top of my bird bath had detached, despite having been full of water with a heavy stone in the centre. I asked my garden helper to bring some two-pack glue to fix it (using the microphone on the phone the message read Tupac Glue, which is hilarious). He had Liquid Nails which he assured me would be just as good and he fixed it last Monday. This morning the top was lying in the garden. I had wondered if someone was trying to steal it, but surely they would have managed to take it the second time? Now I am wondering if it’s next door’s cat who often hops up and drinks out of it. Clearly this glue isn’t up to the job so I’ll do it myself with some Tupac.

It is 3.27pm and I missed lunch altogether, breakfast was at 7am and that seems a looong time ago. Perhaps a handful of cashews will see me till dinner, or perhaps I need to check if the lemon slices are up to scratch….I’d hate to serve them without testing.

May 5, 2022

A full day today beginning with a booked visit to Orange Blossom Cottage for morning tea (mug of hot tea and a much better than average blueberry muffin). John was quite impressed with the place, which looks like a very dour rectangular box from the outside but is light and bright inside from big windows to the rear, overlooking an oval. The staff were very welcoming and he will start there next Thursday, which just happens to be the very first time they’ve organised a bus trip in the two years since Covid started. These will happen every three months or so, but it may be a jolly introduction to the other participants. I had to smother a laugh as we left and John said with no obvious grounds: “I think they need a bit of brightening up, but I don’t know what I’ll talk to them about as they all look very working class”. Reverting to his Mosman roots.

When we were there I got a call from my good friend Mary from New Zealand who is in Sydney with her husband, staying at the Hilton. She sent an email last week to set up a meeting for the four of us but unfortunately it went to junk so we didn’t get to do that before they leave, however she jumped onto a bus and came here for a hastily put together lunch. I was lucky enough to have some goat cheese and caramelised onion tarts in the freezer, plus I had the ingredients for a new potato salad and a rocket and beetroot one, and a cheese and fruit platter, all of which managed to be completed while she was on the bus. I do miss them both and wish we were geographically closer as I can talk to her about matters both serious and trivial. She told us of her husband’s daughter suggesting that they go out for dinner and as soon as the wine was poured asking “Who is the beneficiary of your estate dad?”. David was taken aback but when he went to the loo Mary replied “We are each other’s sole beneficiary, but if you want to put your name on anything in particular I’ll make sure it comes to you when I die”. It must be considered normal behaviour to do this as we’ve heard so many reports of it and experienced it in relation to John. Thankfully my daughters would consider it infra dig to even ask.

May 6, 2022

Our weeks seem to be getting busier and busier. This week we had appointments of one sort or another from Monday through to Saturday and next week from Tuesday to Friday. I am hankering to get back to card making but I guess it will happen. Today we met Greg and had lunch with him at an outdoor cafe, with a nice sunny setting but very ordinary food, to exchange the finished computer from his car to mine and then we delivered it to Helen. It has proved a bit of an epic but now it is done and we got rid of all the other things she chose from my storeroom at the same time. Helen tells me the recipient is an Afghan family with four kids who have finally managed to get a rental at Blacktown on their twelfth application. He is a doctor, a communicable diseases specialist who set up the first AIDS clinic in Afghanistan, not something highly thought of by the Taliban I’m assuming.

Decided on how to spend my $250 bribe from the government for their vote in the upcoming election (purportedly a cost of living supplement for pensioners which just happened to arrive three weeks before the vote). I am dividing it between GetUp and The Centre for Public Integrity and the best part is that I intend to send the receipts to my local Liberal member Alex Hawke with a thankyou note.

Reading more about the wife of Scott White dobbing him in for the reward, she says she sent her concerns anonymously to the task force investigating the murder (of course it would be pretty easy for them to trace her) but that being the case I don’t criticise her actions at all. However the fact that it needs a reward for any case in order to urge people to come forward with information on serious crimes is pretty disheartening. Another case involving a reward is that of Amber Haigh who went missing in 2002 and a couple have been charged with her murder after a new witness came forward via Crime Stoppers, just a week after a $1 million reward for information on the case was announced. The police apparently have very incriminating phone intercepts and allege they captured the couple discussing getting rid of her body. How after 20 years they have been able to access these phone calls is a mystery which will no doubt be revealed in due course.

May 7, 2022

After promising myself not to get dragged down into melancholy I slipped this morning after our Mother’s Day picnic was cancelled due to Millie waking up with a cold and Davina worrying about her sneezing around John when there is Covid at the school every few days. It had been planned for weeks and Louis’s mum Sue was down from Queensland too. I’m finding it very hard to work out acceptable risks for John now that he can’t navigate that for himself. Perhaps I am generally too conservative, I don’t know, but I would have risked it today seeing it was an outdoor event. Next I got a reply from the friendly plumber, to whom I had complained last night about the water not being hot enough. Apparently he was forced by law to put a temperature limiting device in the new heater which sets the maximum at 50 degrees C. When I ran a bath last night at the usual setting of both taps on full it was way too cool so I topped it up with straight hot water but it got to the top and was still not as hot as I’d like it. It shits me that I’ve spend two grand for water so much cooler than what I had last week. Apparently it is to avoid the extremely rare event of a thermostat failure which could bring the water to 99 degrees. I’ve never hear of it happening and neither has he. I replied that I want it removed (it cost $123 plus labour to fit it) but he hasn’t got back to me which I’m taking as a no. Next I decided that seeing our day was now free (read sad and empty) we should go to Dural and get the week’s bread but when I tried to order it just said that the number has been disconnected. After a few tries I rang the fruit shop next door only to be told that they have closed up the bakery for good due to Natalie having ‘mental health problems’. That was the last straw and I’ve been in and out of tears ever since. She delivered bread to me all through the first year of the pandemic and I became a rusted on customer and dare I say friend? I’ve offered any support I can via her mobile number but haven’t had a reply as yet. To have such beautiful people lose their life’s dream after roaring back into business once the Covid restrictions were lifted is just too sad.

I am wondering if John realises that he is in the dementia programme at Orange Blossom Cottage from next week. I explained that to him initially, but when we were on the tour there was another room full of people and he asked the staff member who they were. She hesitated and answered “They are the mainstream group”, he looked puzzled but didn’t comment. I didn’t have the heart to say “They are the people without dementia” so the moment passed. They were more animated and cheery and I suspect he will come home next week saying that his group doesn’t seem all that sharp, but it’s hard to tell. I do know that if he asks me one more time what a Teal Independent is in this election I may commit harakiri.

I recently read a book called Love and Virtue by Diana Reid and rated it a one star and DNF, did not finish.  I just couldn’t relate to, or get excited by, any of the characters who were undergraduates at a Sydney University college. I think I am just the wrong demographic to be interested in students getting drunk and sleeping around, but thinking it through further, I was the wrong demographic for that when I was young and working at the self same university. Drugs and getting plastered just never appealed to me. Anyway it has won her Best Young Australian Novelist so there you go.

Later: Well the day had gradually improved until John went out for his walk, calling in to the corner shop on his way home. He rang me from there to say that he’d lost his debit card but I didn’t sweat it too much initially as he’s ‘lost’ it twice before and it’s eventually turned up, in one case after I’d cancelled it. But he assured me that he had taken it with him in his jeans pocket. Me: But your jeans pockets are deep, I don’t think it could fall out. John: It could because there’s a hole in the pocket that I usually put it in. Me: Then why do you put it in that pocket? John: That’s a good question. Eventually I rang the bank and sat waiting for over an hour to report it lost. John had to come on the line and answer some security questions because he had no record of the card number. One was ‘what high school did you go to?’ John: I can tell you a funny story about my high school. Bank Man: No John I need to…..  John: It’s a really good story, which he proceeded to tell despite the man’s protests. In the end the card was cancelled but from now on I can’t risk his having a card at all, now it involves a visit to the bank on Monday to confirm it all in person and then ringing all of his direct debit companies, which last time couldn’t be changed over the phone and needed written authorisations. Harakiri imminent.

May 8, 2022

A good sleep left me deciding not to go for the ritual disembowelment just yet but I did think during the night that I spend way too much time weighing up risks. We cancelled the outdoor picnic yesterday because Millie had a cold and was a risk to John then I am sending him to indoor day care on Thursday with a dozen oldies and a few staff, it doesn’t compute. The only disaster today (so far, it’s only mid-afternoon) was one I had forecast but the advice went unheeded. When John set up his office we left the top of the chest of drawers pretty free as it is under the window and he needs to be able to pull the blind up and down. But since then it has been covered with literally dozens of framed family photos, pushing to the back a beautiful hand-painted Portuguese charger of his, sitting on a wooden stand of mine. Today was the day that the blind caught the charger and now it is in the Sulo bin in many pieces, the unusually large stand was damaged but hopefully it can be repaired.

All of this set me in a mood to divest stuff from the house, if I can’t persuade John to do it I can surely start myself. So I have just listed on eBay an antique highchair which is currently in the loungeroom, home to a few old soft toys (not legal for a baby without a modern harness). It was made in Vienna in the late 1800s by a very famous father and son and luckily still bears their paper label underneath so hopefully someone might appreciate its rarity and pay the rather large price. Next I decided that a brass standard lamp from 1900 was surplus to requirements so that’s gone on eBay too. Finally I am getting rid of the petrol driven leaf blower that I am too scared to use. It has literally been used once and comes with original box and instruction books in any language you like to name, except English weirdly, but that’s how it came from Sweden. It’s also too heavy for me to use for long and the gardener has a better one anyway, so I’m going with the old principle of why keep a dog and bark yourself. Only the highchair will pull the heartstrings if it goes, but the money exchanged will let me know that the buyer appreciates it and won’t let it come to harm, which is my main concern.

May 9, 2022

We had to go to the bank first thing which was confusing as John had correctly answered all of the security questions when we reported his lost card, however they explained that the phone people are supposed to hang up if they think the person is being prompted, and he certainly was being prompted. But now it’s done and dusted, so at the moment I have John ringing all the direct debit companies to change the transactions from a debit card to his actual account number. He’s doing the hard yards listening to the endless elevator music and I’m jumping in when a person comes on the line. Waiting on endlessly is the most depressing way to spend an afternoon.

Next, off to Vinnies with an array of goods that I sorted out yesterday. They grabbed the clothes and linen but rejected the stool, electrical items and the perfectly clean bassinet (health and safety??). It is annoying that I need to go to various charity shops with different acceptance criteria before I get rid of everything, but it’s always the same. We discovered the carcase of a large ringtail possum downstairs while going through boxes yesterday. It must have gone to hide from something, a cat perhaps?, but it’s unlike a possum to go down as far as ground level so I don’t know how the poor thing met its demise.

Yesterday on the news they were doing a vox pop on the streets of Wentworth asking folks who they planned to vote for: Spender or Sharma. Many were quite decided but one oaf said quite seriously that he would vote for whoever had the most signs up at the polling booth. Perhaps an IQ test for voting might be in order?

May 10, 2022

Just back from one of those days I dread, but despite my worries it all went like clockwork. First an early appointment for his nibs at RNSH for a heart ultrasound and a follow-up with cardiologist Gemma. She says his heart muscle is a bit weaker, but we discussed altering his medications and adding another however I agreed with her summing up that he is doing well and we shouldn’t rock the boat by changing things. He’ll go again in 9 months. Then across town, off to St. Vincent’s for an 11 am session, his monthly IgG infusion. This time I decided to fill in the time (3 and a half hours) by driving to Woollahra, once the antiques capital of Sydney, and drooling on the windows. Except there were no antiques shops to drool over, not one, which was very disappointing but I walked up and down Queen St. to see what gives in loaded-land. When I had my shop and before I got hooked on the courts and ICAC, I would go on a Tuesday day off to mooch antiques and pick up a few foodie bits to bring home. The foodie shops are still there but the prices are waaay out of my reach now now, indeed they are nothing short of laughable. The only butcher, all marble and glass has a floor-to-ceiling glass walled cool room. Cuts of meat slowly pass by, hung from a cog gear and metal chain rack all backed by the floor-to-ceiling Himalayan salt brick wall. This wall, built out of salt bricks imported from the Himalayas in Pakistan, acts as a natural air purifier and reduces air humidity, thus helping the meats dry-ageing process. They were asking from $80 to $140 A KILO for their meat and people were buying. No mince and sausages here, apart from the string of bronze ones which formed the door handle. I’ve included a link which is worth looking at for the decor alone.

The fish shop, which seemed to have a lot of imported and therefore frozen fish, averaged $50 t0 $75 a kilo with local flathead fillets at $105. So off to the fruit and veg market where carrots were $8.99 a kilo so I didn’t get much past the door. A sign requested that people spend no more than 10 minutes browsing, so at least I was able to oblige. I then decided to partake of a filled baguette, of which there were a dozen different kinds in the window at the Queen St. Deli. No prices but hang, it would have to be cheaper than a cafe I thought. So I ordered one to eat on a seat in the street and asked for it to be cut in half as they were rather large. No, she said, we don’t sell them cut in half. But I want to buy a whole one says I, just cut across, but no dice. I left then, only to see her taking it out of the bag and putting it it back in the window, so much for customer service. So lunch in Woollahra didn’t happen and eventually I walked back to the car and read my superbly interesting book until John rang to say he was done. A tiny peek into the way the other half lives.

May 11, 2022

The carer Greg came and took John to Geranium Cottage for morning tea then they had a walk before heading home via the corner bakery where John picked up pies for them both for lunch. I meanwhile went out to the Salvo’s at Dural for the first time and I will certainly be using them in the future. There are two separate doors for the shop and the intake of goods with a pair of enthusiastic older men in charge of accepting donations. Everything the Vinnies turned their noses up at the Salvo’s grabbed enthusiastically. No problems with electricals, no ‘health and safety issues’, just yes please. Then off to the pre-poll voting at Norwest where I met up with Matt Cox, the Greens candidate, and loaded up with more leaflets to letterbox. Tomorrow I go back for some more handing out and seeing the number of voters trooping through I am pleasantly surprised that so many have made up their minds already, despite seeing a lot taking the Liberal how to vote exclusively. I am getting just a tiny bit excited that we may be close to tossing Morrison and Co. out.

On a human level I am sympathetic about the two career criminals, one the sergeant-at-arms of the Comancheros bikie gang, gunned down last night at the gym (gyms seem to be a venue for this sort of thing, another reason not to darken their doors). However I must admit that this retribution is getting so frequent and the crimes they’ve been involved in so egregious, that I shrug and think ‘well that’s two less Hamzy and Alameddine baddies on the street. I wonder how many more to go’. Not approving of capital punishment here, but gosh they are pushing their luck. Yet their families seem staunch in their support, which says a lot about the values they’ve come from.

I am getting that way that if I see Kathy Lette or Lisa Curry in an article or on a TV programme I immediately shy away from it. They are both so ‘look at MEEE!’ that I don’t care if I never see either again.

May 12, 2022

All excited about my first day to myself while John was out on a day bus trip with Orange Blossom Cottage. First off I finally went to David Jones and bought some new bras, whooppee! All but one of my old ones went to the charity shop this week. Then I was heading to Norwest to do the rest of the day handing out how-to-votes as arranged, when I got a call from Vanessa at OBC to say that John was refusing to get on the bus. I had missed three calls from him while in DJs but then picked up another desperate one asking me to pick him up immediately. I drove straight over there and Vanessa had stayed back with him when the bus left. He told me he didn’t want to stay because 1. It was an institution and he’d spent too long in institutions, such as boarding schools and the seminary and 2. The stainless steel kitchen reminded him of the seminary and 3. He wanted to be with me and not with people he doesn’t know. I was on the verge of tears of disappointment, but then I saw that he had tears in his eyes when I arrived and I melted with sympathy for him, thinking of the confusion and bewilderment that he must have been feeling to refuse point blank to stay. He is welcome to go back, Kristy has put in so much work to get him in there in the first place and the staff are keen to have him, but whether he will go again remains to be seen. I’ve suggested that I go with him next week and join in the games and whatever, but I’ll need to run that by the management and he may not agree anyway. That posed a real problem as far as the Greens were concerned as I had no phone number to let them know I wasn’t coming to help, so I drove over there and explained in person, which was difficult as John was right by my side so I had to be a bit vague. I am really surprised with what happened as we had been last week to an introductory morning tea and he was fine, but as Vanessa said ‘you were with him then’.

May 13, 2022

I was already so deflated by the events of yesterday that I was able to handle a nasty incident on the way home without getting upset about it. I pulled up at the shops and parked well between the parallel lines but at a slight angle. When I came back with the trolley load I waited at the boot while the car to my left reversed out. As she drew close and level with me she said ‘you old people shouldn’t be on the road if you can’t park’. I was taken aback but didn’t respond, then she hurled something else I didn’t fully catch, but it included my being old and fat (both of which I happily put my hand up for) so I just turned and quietly said ‘and why don’t you just get fucked’ which really stirred her up, and she was still yelling as she drove away. It felt strangely satisfying I must say. Somehow it was a neat coda to a generally unsatisfactory day, however I was neither outraged nor even mildly perturbed. John was in the car and missed it entirely.

Today I have been emailing back and forth with the day centre and asked if John could go into the ‘mainstream’ (read ‘normal’Smilie: ;) group who are more chatty and friendly. They replied that “Unfortunately John would not be a suitable candidate for our mainstream programs. His memory is not at a level that could manage the activities, discussions and skills required by those who attend” so we’ve settled on a plan that I will drive him next week and stay with him while he has morning tea and starts the activities, then hopefully I can go and they will drop him home on the bus at three. Perhaps it will work, but if he digs in and won’t stay there’s nothing I can do about it and they will cancel his place.

The Herald today ran a half page article on the front page sympathetic to the ghastly Deves, aspiring member for Warringah. They have been pretty critical of her anti-trans stance up till now so I don’t know what went on behind the scenes for them to give her such a boost. However the prize for the most appalling visuals this week go to Morrison’s beefy minders who clearly manhandled Trevor Sofield, a previous Australian diplomat to the Solomon Islands, when he tried to speak politely to the illustrious PM. In such a close seat as Lyons that might be enough to get the opposition a few more votes.

May 14, 2022

We had a lovely morning tea and chat with Carol and Jack before coming home to cull the broadleaf weeds out of the grass verge. I didn’t rope John in, but he likes to be doing whatever I’m doing whether it’s weeding or doing dinner prep. But we discovered that however we sat, knelt or bent it was just too awkward/painful to keep it up for long. Perhaps we got a quarter of it done, maybe less. I am trying to avoid spraying so will have to attack it again another day.

Our friend from Canberra rang and of course we discussed politics and the election. A former diplomat to Russia and China and I think also Japan, he laughed about the commotion because a Chinese ship is cruising along the WA coast past a ‘secret’ military base (if it were secret before it certainly isn’t now). He pointed out that when he was a diplomat Australia had a listening post in Hong Kong, not 45 km from China but 4 km! The government must have been desperately wanting a refugee boat to come over the horizon during the election campaign but sadly for them it hasn’t happened so far and a Chinese cruiser in international waters will just have to do. Perhaps they should have organised it better with the Sri Lankan president, who would have been happy to oblige.

Reading a book about WWII I was shocked to learn that black US soldiers “mainly tasked with organising camp sanitation and building ammunition dumps” were segregated in Britain in WWII, with certain pubs, dances and restaurants being off-limits to them, their military police enforcing the restrictions to the amazement of the locals. They tried to segregate the cinemas as well but failed. It mirrors the treatment of Australian Aboriginal troops who were only equal as long as the war lasted.

There are a lot of people who promote an eyeroll whenever their names are mentioned: Mel Gibson, Barry Humphries, Alan Jones, Greg Norman among them. Good Old Greg has excelled himself this week promoting Saudi as a destination (for his golf tournament of course). He commented that “we’ve all made mistakes” as he attempted to rebuff questions over Saudi human rights abuses and the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Perhaps a Saudi theme park is a possibility Greg, with a horror ride through the Turkish Embassy? Perhaps a bone-saw throw as a sideshow stall? The possible variations are endless. I’ll book a ticket to Riyadh now and beat the rush.

May 15, 2022

Dav and family came for afternoon tea and we drew up a sweep for 29 of the electorates most likely to change hands. Whoever gets the most right wins $100 worth of grog or chocolates, the latter added to be fair to John. Millie only had one vote: Morrison or Albo and went for Albo. She is a funny kid, Dav told us about last week when she took Millie for a flu shot. All the other kids were accepting it reluctantly but Millie took three goes in the chair, negotiating with a doctor and nurse: ‘Guys, guys, guys, I will get it but I’m not ready right now. Just wait guys’. Where she got the guys from is a mystery, but not from home.

Thinking about the election (when are we not?) I am afraid that it could be a poisoned chalice for Labor. With massive debt, galloping climate change, massive problems in aged care thanks to privatisation, stupid commitments to lower taxes, rising interest rates, prices bounding upwards, fuel on the rise, not to mention international tensions, Albo and his team would have their work cut out to keep a majority of voters happy. I am really hoping that Dutton is defeated so we keep the worst of the Liberal leadership hopefuls out of contention.

I’ve just finished reading the memoirs of my pal Michelle C. and as usual she astounds me with her memory, her breadth of interests and her eternal optimism. Who remembers the names of their childhood neighbours and of all of their children? Who is a Brownies leader, a yoga teacher, works night shift in a nursing home, runs a small business, then goes to university at an older age after leaving school at 16 and becomes a published author? Well, you guessed it and that’s only scratching the surface, all this while bringing up six children. Hats off to you Michelle.

I have had no luck ringing my brother lately, I get a recorded message saying that ‘either there is congestion in the overseas network or else the number is engaged’. I’m thinking that the old coot has left the phone off the hook but how to let him know? I will be in all sorts of bother as he’ll say I hadn’t rung him.

May 16, 2022

The staff at Orange Blossom Cottage have been in touch again about plans for Thursday. No bus pick-up or return for John, I stay till after morning tea and pick him up at 2.30 before the others leave on the bus. I hope it works as I really don’t want them cancelling the approval for the federal funding that we may not be able to get back later on if it’s needed. With such things it’s always better to stay under the radar.

We’ve been weeding the verge again, it sounds so simple yet it is so hard to do. Getting up from my knees is a task in itself, due to tendonitis. I don’t know how I would have got up without John’s help. John: I love it when we do things like this as little mates together. 

Shocking news that the mayor of the Hawkesbury was stabbed in the arm last night during a home invasion, then the five men escaped in his car. With a wife and four kids in the house I guess it could have been much worse. It will be interesting to see, if they catch them, whether they are Windsor’s bad guys or imported ones from another area. Bligh Park isn’t a suburb most people would even be aware of so I’m thinking locals, but the boys in blue are saying it might be a case of mistaken identity, which could happen to any of us.

Currently waiting for the cleaner to come which will give me two free hours to help with handing out how-to-votes I’m thinking. Sneaky, but I have to grab time as I can find it and John should be fine here with her. It’s a selfish decision as I just don’t want the guilt trip that would ensue if a candidate were to miss out by one vote. Unlikely I know but I couldn’t bear it.

May 17, 2022

The blog website is down again so yesterday and today I am doing it as emails to myself. I’ve sent an email to my blog technical helper in Canberra and we’ll see what he says. All this technical stuff is such a bore, as are many things if you can’t understand them.

Boris came over this morning for tea and cake and talked about the history of Ukraine and of the conflict over time. He has a special interest as it’s the city of his birth and he has relatives on both sides of the conflict. He began with the Mongols in the 1300s. Particularly fascinating were his stories of the Scandinavian slave trade in the 1500s when Swedish children (blond-haired and blue-eyed) were sold in Constantinople as novelties. I choose not to think about the purpose they were sold for, but you don’t need blond children for heavy work. He mentioned the fact that after WWI the Germans set up a puppet government in Kiev but the Communists took it over in about 1920. (Interestingly the change of spelling and pronunciation of that city is part of the Ukrainian government’s differentiation between them and the Russians, Ukrainian being simply a dialect of Russian. So no, I don’t need to change the spelling of my Chicken Kiev recipes as it may well change back). The predominant Ukrainian religion is an amalgam of Catholicism and Orthodox with aspects of both. Apparently the reason that the USSR had some of its states as separate countries was to maximise the number votes at the UN, which makes sense but was totally news to me. The Nationalist Ukrainians supported Germany in WWII and acted as the police force for Nazi Germany as they had the language to deal with the population, but many still have considerable support for Nazi philosophy today. Boris says he’s sending me some more interesting articles on the subject. I could listen to Boris all day on any subject, he’s always a fount of knowledge with a memory I’m envious of.

Jane sent some photos of Leo’s wedding this morning and it looked a great celebration, held at The Mint. In one photo there were eight people in a row and I enlarged it on the computer for John to see. He said he didn’t know any of them so I enlarged the faces one at a time but he still couldn’t recognise them. I then named them from left to right, two of them were his daughters. His response was ‘you’re having me on’ when I pointed them out. He said he wouldn’t recognise them if they passed in the street and he subsequently had no luck trying to work out who the rest of the party were. I was shocked as I had no idea that he’d lost that ability. His losses are so random that it’s hard to keep up. But seeing the photos made him very sad and I don’t know if it’s wise to keep showing him family stuff in future, hard call.

May 18, 2022

Last night was the second episode of The Family Court Murders. It took me back to the 1980s when we were incredulous about the crimes as they occurred one by one. Then a couple of years back I was attending the judge only trial of Leonard Warwick, until Covid intervened, so I didn’t get to finally see the murderer brought to justice in a videolink from court. It is the only time in going to many trials that I have felt I was in the presence of a psychopath. Sometimes I felt an accused was clever, or completely amoral or perhaps cruel, but he was a stunning example of all three, a man of such narcissism that he didn’t believe he could ever be convicted. He believed for over 30 years that he could outsmart the entire NSW Police Force, and for all that time he did, despite the fact that many police were convinced that he was the culprit. He defended himself in court very capably without assistance from a lawyer on the days I was there, supremely confident in his own legal abilities, which were pretty impressive for someone who was a fireman. The only downside to the programme is the insistence of Debi Marshall in having her head in every second shot, but she did write the book and conduct the interviews so I guess that’s fair. I can’t wait to see the rest of the series as he changes weapon, type of explosive, method, in a pattern very unusual for a serial killer. It is chilling that he almost committed a perfect series of murders.

May 19, 2022

In a story about children in the US with white mothers and absent Saudi fathers one of the men, in his 40s now, related almost word for word the fantasy that I lived with as a child. “[I was] daydreaming that, maybe some day, I’ll walk outside and there’ll be this long, black stretched car pulling up in front of my house with diplomatic flags lining the vehicle. And then he would get out wearing, you know, his thobe and shemagh and kneel down and greet me.” In my version it would be a British diplomat or minor Royal who would apologise for the mistake and take me home. But perhaps delusions of grandeur play a part, as in both cases it’s a big black car and those driving it are prestigious officials. As my brother slowly fades from his irrepressible, rambunctious self into a man more typical of his age, I think that perhaps the vision of that big black car grows again in my imagination.

Thursdays are becoming more than interesting. I delivered John to Orange Blossom Cottage this morning with a view to easing his transition into the group, but unfortunately the other new man who started today proved to be a difficult choice to introduce him to. Firstly I noticed that the man, let’s call him ‘Roger’, couldn’t sign the roll when it came around, but was encouraged to just initial it instead. His name tag said ‘Roger (James)’ which we were told were his first and middle names, but when John tried to engage all he got was the poor fellow picking up his name tag and rereading his names. (John leans in and whispers to me ‘I think there’s something very wrong with this chap’Smilie: ;). I later found that his dementia has resulted in aphasia.

So we try ‘Betty’. ‘Hi Betty’ I say, ‘this is John’s first day. We live in Baulkham Hills, where do you live?’ Betty: ‘It’s near here somewhere, but I can’t remember the name of it’. Moving on we meet ‘Paul’ who seems perfectly okay and chatty, telling us about his life at sea, and telling us and telling us and….. (John leans in to say that Paul is self-obsessed). I leave at this point, by now it’s 11 am and my departure involves taking his phone as instructed by the staff. I can’t see at this point that I will be bringing him here next week on the strength of associations made so far, in fact I’d want to get the hell out of there too.

So I tootled off to the dressmaker and picked up the jeans I’d left there last week, too baggy and with cuffs, to be narrowed and cuffs removed. ‘You do realise you can buy new ones in Target for $35?’ she queries. She doesn’t understand that I can’t even throw out 20 year old ill-fitting jeans, silly moo. I leave her with a skirt that also needs repair and go off to the Salvo’s with a donation but come out with an $8 pair of shoes and a $4 pair of brand new socks. Moving on to the Vinnies, I come home with a brand new jumper for $30. Lunch isn’t in some fancy restaurant on my first full day on the loose, I just come home for a bread roll and a cuppa before picking John up at 2.30 as arranged. The lovely Vanessa meets me in the hall and I can hear John in the meeting room reciting ‘The Man From Snowy River’ to the group. ‘He’s reciting Clancy of the Overflow’, says Vanessa.

She tells me he has been very, very cranky most of the day (totally out of character I assure her) standing by the wall with arms folded, demanding to go home, demanding his phone, demanding to speak to the management, demanding to see ‘that woman from administration’ (Vanessa, who’s actually a diversional therapist). At one point someone had to take him outside for a walk to calm him down, he then wanted to walk home alone but Vanessa told him that he was there till 2.30 come hell or high water.

Eventually she got him to participate in a game after he’d previously refused point blank and then late in the day, once he decided to do the poem, he was fine. I watched him start to tell the story of the bike accident to his captive audience but suddenly most of them got up to leave as the bus had arrived ‘I’ll finish it next week’ he called as they departed po-faced. Vanessa commented: ‘That’s his go-to story’, she’s nothing if not perceptive. She told me that he will forget the awful day and only remember the end of it and so it transpired. The other advice was to ‘tell blatant lies if you have to’, just get him here each week and trust us to do the rest.

May 20, 2022

Seeing I was not needed by the Greens today I took on a Sherlock Partridge assignment on behalf of my friend Sue. Her sadly now deceased husband was defrauded out of $5000 for a painting he commissioned which was never delivered, and probably never even painted. Sue had three possible addresses for the accused and sought my help to discover at which premise, if any, she resides. The first two were fizzers, but the third proved worthwhile. It  is a large, absolute waterfront luxury block of 36 units built in 1908, the closest building along the water from the Sydney Harbour Bridge so we can safely rule out poverty as a mitigating factor. It is architecturally very interesting, featuring wrought iron interior security doors through which can be seen luxury light fittings and further wrought iron embellishments. The property has c/c tv in the foyer which activates when any buzzer is pressed. On pressing the buzzer for Unit 36, a friendly male person answered. I informed him that I had business with Ms. B. and he happily informed me that she was at Unit 1. On pressing the buzzer for Unit 1 a male person answered and I repeated my request. He immediately said: “I’ve opened the wrought iron doors, come down the stairs”. Somewhat nonplussed, I decided to ask if Ms. B. was currently in and then a woman came on the line asking “Who are you?”.  I said my name was Maureen and I wanted to discuss her art and she immediately hung up. I think in all the circumstances it is reasonable to assume that she does live there and that I have spoken to her today. Mission accomplished and over to Sue.

Vanessa was on the money when she said John would only take home good memories from yesterday. John’s version of yesterday is “My nurse Lucy took me out for a walk on my own, I’m not quite sure why, but it was lovely. I got her home address so I can send her one of my cards. I think I’ll be fine going there now I’ve made a friend of Lucy.” So we posted her card on the way to the city this morning. Lucy is a temporary agency worker, (not a nurse though, I’m not sure where John got that idea) who will only be there for one more week, but I am not going to discuss that detail. Vanessa said that I’ve got to start telling white lies and importantly, know what not to talk about.

I think election campaigns are such a bag of tricks to run, but Martha’s experience in Berowra and mine in Mitchell have been quite different. I struggled to get enough leaflets to letterbox, Martha had boxes of them delivered to her. Then we had to guess where to letterbox, Martha got a detailed map showing which streets and which sides of streets to do. I was so sure that I’d have to pick John up yesterday that I didn’t put myself down to work at pre-polling, but they are right for staff today.

May 21, 2022

Getting some pre-election household chores finished: putting an electric blanket on John’s bed, pulling out all of the blankets to send any with no holes or marks to Helen for the refugees (which means all of those left for us have at least one moth hole or mark, but who cares), putting a new battery in the kitchen clock, doing two loads of washing. It’s a good question as to what this has to do with the election, the answer is not clear, except that there could be positive change afoot and the house needs to be ship-shape and ready for for it, or at least a little more so than it was. Both of my girls commented on the long length of the queues to vote, whatever that means. Davina discovered that her neighbour, a university maths tutor, is on the ballot paper for the Socialist Alliance. Kev and Michelle called in for a cuppa on the way to vote. That’s about all the voting news I can pull together.

Foreign Correspondent had the story of the US man I have mentioned whose father was a Saudi. I hadn’t realised that the article I read was based on a television programme. The difference in the man before and after his trip to Saudi to look for his father was immense. Even though he didn’t get to meet him, he met a cousin who accepted him and that made all the difference. His face was peaceful and he seemed released from the weight of his obsession. Seeing him dressed in his Middle Eastern togs made me smile.

May 22, 2022

We did it! The bulldozer has gone to the wrecking yard, long may it rot there. Last night didn’t look too good early on, but it improved as it went along. I thought that the ABC was strangely flat about the change of government, commenting on the effects of the loss of Josh to the Liberal party but not making much of a deal about the fact that they had a minister in the new government sitting right there on the panel and rarely speaking to her. My kids inform me that the discussion was somewhat more perky on the commercial channels but I can’t handle the ads, so I can’t comment. Up till now there is no decision on the sweep, too many seats are still in play. Davina and I are neck and neck so far, but Carly was the only one to pick Dai Le in Fowler and I was the only one who picked the Greens in Brisbane. Both of my kids think that Labor got its just desserts in Fowler for putting in a candidate from out of area, but I think the punishment exceeds the crime here. Dai Le is a turncoat Liberal standing as an Independent and has form in looking after number one as a first priority, but them’s the breaks. All in all it was a wonderful night, but strangely downplayed in the commentary, so it wasn’t the same atmosphere as Kevin 07 for example.

But for the next three years the sun will be shining here, whatever the weather, now that we have Morrison off our backs. However the reaction to the community’s rejection of the Right philosophy could very well end up being an Opposition even further to the right with Dutton as Liberal leader, but that remains to be seen.  I was surprised that Albanese didn’t mention the Biloela four in his victory speech but I guess he couldn’t fit in everything. I’m guessing they will be released from their long travails at the hands of the Australian government early this week. I am strangely weary after yesterday even though it was just one late night, it was emotionally exhausting.

May 23, 2022

The day is looking good, just waking up without Morrison in my life makes all the difference. I skimmed the book group selection, Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days, before passing it on and even though I’ve read every story before I still teared up at a few of them. We had morning tea with Carol and Jack and delivered the book and on the way home we pulled up for petrol. John’s car needed oil but he was convinced that it is a sealed system to which we can’t oil, so I drove home where I knew I had oil in the garage. Arvind saw the two of us under the bonnet of the car and came out, he was able to tell John that I was doing the right thing by adding it. The thought of my becoming the car expert of the household is mildly terrifying.

My bro definitely seems to be going backwards. I email him but get no replies, he has apparently given up the computer, as has John. But even when we talk on the phone the conversations are pretty basic now: weather, health, if he’s had any visitors. It used to be international affairs, politics, books. I feel as if I’ve lost half of him, the best half.

ICAC seems to be taking an awful long time to come down with a finding on Our Glad. Two possibilities perhaps: that they didn’t want their determination coming out before the election and bringing down more abuse from Morrison, or else other issues have come to light and are being investigated, but of course other possibilities exist. It is often hard to work out how such things can possibly take so long, some of the cases I went to years ago are still not finalised, but when you see the amount of detail in the findings it becomes apparent.

May 24, 2022

I decided we needed a trip out so we went down to Balmain and took a walk from one end of the Darling Street shopping precinct to the other. We planned to also do a walk down near the harbour end but it rained cats and dogs so we retreated to an outdoor but undercover table at C’Est Bon for tea and cake after jumping over a metre of water in the gutter. I didn’t buy anything apart from a couple of loaves of delicious looking bread, one white and one olive sourdough, from an organic bakery, Bonfire Bread. Walking past many dress shops I wasn’t at all tempted till I saw Johnston & Bell, where I wanted everything. The most gorgeous jackets were $149 but jackets are not thin on the ground at my place, so I resisted. A dress covered in a pattern of vines and various birds was delicious, but a bit thin for winter. However if I ever need a new dress or jacket I’ll know where to go. At a small art gallery I saw a wonderful large painting of a yacht in rough sea, if I’d had a spot I would have been tempted, it even had paint thrown at the canvas to represent splashing water, which it absolutely did. Loved it, but someone else can buy it. John had a great time today so we need to do more of it.

While we were there John’s phone rang and it was an unlisted number so I answered it. It was someone from IAG regarding the accident John had in his old Suzuki 18 months ago. His car was written off and he bought his current one as a result. Apparently the other driver is taking legal action against John, even though the NRMA paid the fellow’s claim within a couple of weeks. Stephan didn’t know why they would be doing this after the claim was settled, he’s hoping that it’s a mistake, but it seems very odd. However he said John shouldn’t worry about it, the NRMA will handle it.

Governor-General David Hurley is, like Leigh Sales, someone who’s opinion is written clearly on his face. I’ve noticed before when he’s not happy and saw it again as he did the swearing in of the new PM and ministers. Clearly he’s a Lib, not surprising considering his military background, but he should probably practice the false smile for such occasions. Trying to find out how many votes the Liberals got on their own in the election but haven’t been able to turn up the figure yet. When we make comparisons it should definitely be with Labor versus Liberal, not Labor versus the Coalition.

May 25, 2022

Two days in and Albo is already falling into bad habits. When a country with whom yours has had strained relations sends a positive message to your new government, why would you respond publicly with implied criticism? The only communication with China in this situation should be via diplomatic and inter-government links, not via loudspeaker. I would have thought that was a pretty basic principle for an incoming government.

I have been thinking about how much personal relationships count in politics and wondering to what extent the contretemps between Simon Holmes a Court and Josh Frydenberg contributed to the whole Teals movement. I’ve not seen any commentators discussing this, but there is surely a link between the beginning of Climate 200 and Holmes a Court being tossed out of Frydenberg’s fundraising group Kooyong 200 for pushing for more climate policies. Simon certainly took his bat and went home, but came back with a much bigger bat and hit Josh about the head and body with it.

Watching The Family Court Murders last night was just as riveting as previous weeks, in fact I find I’m holding my breath more than is healthy while watching it, even though I know the facts of the case well. I’ve even forgiven Debi for having her head in every shot, she has certainly crafted a compelling series. The disappearance of Leonard Warwick’s younger sister adds to the story, as does the coincidence of another convicted murderer having grown up just a few doors along the street. Guildford was a pretty rough place to live, but Helensburgh sounds like the sort of place I am really glad not to have grown up in. Warwick and I were born just a few months apart.

May 26, 2022

I was a bit concerned how today would go but as soon as Lucy opened the door at Orange Blossom Cottage John was in and didn’t look back, so I left him to it. I spoke to Vanessa about noon and he was eating lunch and chatting so I was happy to go off to Carol’s for book group. Just four of us, one of the smallest meetings ever, but the lack of bums on seats was more than made up for by the warmth and enthusiasm of the attendees. I had left John a big notice about where I was and what to do and he said that without that he would have been confused about what was going on. I can’t assume he will remember anything. So a very successful day all round.

What is there to say about mass shootings in America? Who knows how many crazies there are per head of population in respective countries, but our crazies just don’t have the means to do what is done in the US. I can’t help thinking though that there are societal differences as well in which homelessness, lack of free medical care, immigration problems, racial bias and drug addiction make for a fractured culture with more unhappy folks in the mix. As usual the culprit is described as a loner who was bullied and left school early, apparently with a grudge. It appears to me that as well as revenge on society, another purpose of these crimes is to be remembered, simply recognition, which at a much less dangerous level, is also part of the whole influencer cult. They are faced with a choice between a society where people accept modest sacrifices (such as curtailment of gun rights) for a common good (less murders) or a more contentious society where groups selfishly protect their own benefits (gun rights). I wouldn’t want the job of trying to unravel American social problems, I wouldn’t know where to start apart from the obvious task of legislating the banning of guns, which is never going to happen, at least in my lifetime.

May 27, 2022

Tried to deliver the blankets for refugees today but Helen was out, so I have added a couple more. Amongst the last lot was my childhood single-bed chenille bedspread, white with a basket of flowers in the centre, which is 70 years old. Perhaps it should be going to the Powerhouse Museum instead. The blankets are mostly from the same period, the 1950s, pink and blue checks or pink and green checks by Australian company Onkaparinga. Why do I still have them? Because sticking them in the Vinnies is somehow less personal than giving them to known Afghan families perhaps?

Thinking about the Taliban and the grief they are causing and although I am totally against their philosophies I can understand that while our societies were modernising and becoming more liberal, they have been in a battle to save their country from invaders, for nearly 150 years! Of course they needed to grip their culture with both hands while they fended off one colonialist power after another. In that respect I have some sympathy for them and regret that we were part of the tail end of their woes. Just leave them alone and give them a hundred years of peace before we make comparisons.

John’s electric shaver barely recharges so I rang The Shaver Shop to order a new battery. Nup, he is just supposed to throw it out and buy another. Then we took my bedroom cedar venetian blind to the very good blind repairer who said that he can’t buy the mechanism for this one any more. At least I was able to pick up my skirt from the dressmaker and it will see me out. Not that things need to be that long-lasting to see me out these days.

May 28, 2022

The blog has been hacked, again. So my blog helper is working on it but is not sure if or when he can fix it. I don’t understand what the hacker gets out of it in this case? But clearly something.

Yesterday we happened to bump into an old antiques contact who specialises in rustic stuff, tools, kero lamps and the like. He said he and his wife would like to visit and then I got to thinking about all the sorts of things lying about which are in his line but no good to me. He is handy at repairing stuff and I know I have a shovel blade with no handle, likewise a pick with no handle, some hammers, a pump, odd lamp parts, old shelf brackets and I’m sure there’s lots more. I will put a boxful together and he can have it, I’m not interested in selling those bits. A win in the decluttering stakes, all due to a casual encounter.

I finally got the blankets to Helen and then did some shopping, but while I was in the fruit market Jane rang John and he told me that they were coming over this afternoon so I needed to ring her once we got home. I thought it odd as they are in iso due to spending time with Martha when she was Covid positive. But I rang as asked, only to find that they were never coming over, it was just a social call. I will really need to double check messages carefully in future.

May 29, 2022

Seeing it was such a lovely day we headed off to Lake Parramatta to do the walk right around the lake. It is 4.6 km and took us 2 and three quarter hours with a couple of rest and fruit stops which sounds a lot, but it is quite uneven, slippery and undulating. You would never know you are in Parramatta, with plenty of birdlife and in a stroke of luck we came across a patch of Cortinarius archeri or violet webcap mushrooms, brilliant bright purple ones which sometimes appear in autumn in eucalypt forests. They look exceedingly poisonous though I don’t know if they are or not, certainly some of that genus is though. I was pretty knackered at the end of the walk but glad we did it. When we got home Arvind had been digging to find the source of the slow leak of water in our driveway, but couldn’t find it. Very annoying as the brick driveway will start soon and the last thing we need there is running water.

Thinking about a little holiday for John’s birthday which is what we did last year, but then realised that it’s a long weekend so everything is booked out. I’m guessing it was doable because it’s a city hotel and they lose all their business clients at the weekends. Greg recommended a place in Leura but when I looked it up there were only a few vacant nights between now and September! Perhaps we can go the weekend after.

Apparently the blog hacking allows the baddie to “take over your site to use it to host illegal material or ads, send spam or to launch attacks on other sites” according to my blog master friend. He is working on getting it back up but it’s happened a few times now, yet it went for years with no problems at all.

Albo has commissioned a report from Mike Pezzullo about Border Force’s outrageously political announcement of the interception of a boat of refugees, conveniently occurring on election day. There’s little chance of any criticism of the previous government from The Pez, that ultra-conservative Dutton supporter. His view of the world is a dark one, constantly seeing life as a struggle between the good, spiritual (religious) world and the evil material world. Two people who have worked with him, one an army officer and one a public servant, have commented on his obsessive, militaristic, religious, socially conservative view of the world. It shows up in his control-freakery and his petty views about such trivia as men wearing earrings and people having tattoos. Apparently his views on gays are pretty predictable too. Hopefully his days as head of Home Affairs are numbered. No friend of this government, that’s for sure.

May 30, 2022

We had a garage hunt this morning, digging out stuff to give to my ‘rustic antiques’ friend Bob. My joke with him was always: Bob who buys old junk and sells antiques. It’s totally selfish on my part to offload this stuff as I so badly want to clean up my storage, but I think he’ll be more than happy with his spoils. In the process I found my key collection which has been lost for years! Now I need to find a nice frame to hang them in, some are antique gaol keys, others brass ones from a ship replete with brass labels. My favourite is the Schwimmbadschluss which is apparently ‘swimming pool drain’, though there are some from officers’ cabins as well. Also I turned up a quantity of old coins and jewellery, but three pairs of earrings begged to stay with me, so I relented and now they are ensconced in my jewellery cabinet. More eBaying is on the agenda.

Made a big pot of Greek Lentil Soup for lunch, with tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, chili and lemon, topped with feta cheese to serve. We had it an hour ago and John just asked if we’ve had lunch yet.

Well the results of our election sweep are now finalised and I won!!! There is one more question to go but even if I got that wrong the second place getter can’t overtake me so I’m doing an Antony Green and calling it. John came second but it’s winner take all. I think I should also get a bonus prize for picking that Brisbane would go to the Greens. However seeing them get it was prize enough. Davina’s friend has just been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and she is a single mum using IVF, so no dad on the scene. There is a gofundme page for her so some of my winnings can go there.

May 31, 2022

Well, as many times before, Facebook has proved the very best way to contact big companies or corporations. I spent some time yesterday waiting on the phone to Sydney Water to report the water leak in my driveway, but as soon as I was answered the line dropped out, grrr. Then I tried reporting the problem online but it didn’t want to take the complaint because it is on private property. However there are no water pipes on that side so it clearly has to be coming from either next door or from the street. Having dug down around the fence with Arvind’s place it seemed dry, so logic told me it’s a water main. As has worked so often before, I put the problem directly on their Facebook page and a man arrived at 7 pm! As it was raining he couldn’t do much but promised to return and did so at 11 am today. He has found a slow leak in the pipe coming from the main across the road (using a gadget that senses vibration in the copper pipe through the ground) and it is in the hands of their plumbers now. But they’ll have to dig up the road and Arvind’s grass verge to fix it so that might take a while. I suspect that it was the weight of the crane used to lift the massive tree branches that has caused a pressure fracture in the pipe, though I didn’t want to mention that and get the crane man or Arvind in trouble.

We were planning to go out today but I got suddenly and inexplicably sick just after breakfast so we decided to stay home. Lucky we did, as we got to see the Sydney Water man Josh, who was lovely and had coffee and cake with us on the front verandah, then the pharmacy rang to say that John’s prescriptions are being delivered, even though we didn’t request that. So I spent some time weeding the grass verge of broadleaf weeds and felt better over time. Josh has just had Covid and complained of terrible cramps crippling his hands that no one could explain, but they disappeared as the Covid got better. We currently have three friends with Covid, the most worrying being my old client Annette who has a medical condition that requires her to be on oxygen permanently and now she has Covid on top. Then Sue rang and asked if she could come over, so perhaps I got sick for a purpose as it all worked out fortuitously.

June 1, 2022

The first day of winter, the day each year that I feel as if it’s reasonable to put the fire on, and boy we could do with it today. However I try to avoid having a gas fire going any more than necessary, for both climate and health reasons, so I am pulled in two directions. But I don’t think a low oxygen, high carbon dioxide environment is good for anyone for long periods.

John went off with Greg to Richmond and they ended up having lunch at a cafe owned by one of my old shop clients. Greg had suggested lunch at the Richmond Club which neither John nor I was keen on because of the Covid risk. They seem to get on well and Greg comes up with good suggestions for trips they can do, next week it’s Wiseman’s Ferry. I wish I had someone to drive me about like that, it would be wonderful.

The Sydney Water plumbers came but decided that fixing the piping for the water leak was too big a job to do without a road crew to control the traffic as they need to dig across the road. So we are in the dark about the next step but it’s all happening faster than I expected, thanks to Facebook.

I was planning to have morning tea tomorrow with my friend Di but yesterday she fainted while cutting up a banana for breakfast, hitting her head against a glass cupboard door and smashing it (the cupboard glass, not her head, although she now has an egg sized lump). Could have been much more dramatic but now she’s in the San while they try to work out what happened with brain and heart tests. 

June 2, 2022

John was happy to go to day care on the bus today. Vanessa rang to say that due to staffing problems no one can come next Thursday, which is a shame as it was going to be a day trip to a Bobbin Head. I’ll have to think up an outing for next Thursday to make up for it. She also said that they did some dancing to old music in the morning and John was sitting with his head in his hands, but later brightened up when they did painting and then played a game of bowls.

I met up this morning with a friend who used to work for me. She has the Braca2 gene and after a double mastectomy years ago she then came down with cancer of the diaphragm, also caused by that bloody gene. She’s had massive surgery this year and is now without her spleen, appendix, gall bladder and rectum, all of which took over 12 hours. Her mum, her twin sister, aunts and grandma all had breast cancer, it doesn’t spare anyone who carries that gene. Also saw Bob B. and he told me that the underbidder for Geranium Cottage where he has his little shop was…. boom tish the owners of Wild Pear. So clearly they are in a mind to expand, although I was very surprised at that after doing a new kitchen, bar and extending the seating only recently. I wish in a way that they had bought it because I know it would be a magic property where they could expand to doing dinners, I suspect the nursery where they are now wouldn’t want people wandering about at night pinching plants and plaster statues of Jesus.

I’m currently reading a book in which the main character, after committing suicide, is allowed to make a list all the decisions in life that she’s regretted and then try that life on for size to see if she would prefer it. It got me thinking about the major regrets I’ve had and how life would have worked out if I’d gone down the other path. I came up with quite a few I must say.

June 3, 2022

I got to sleep at 4 am and John woke me as agreed at 7, as we needed to take my car for a rego check and service. Since Alex moved his business to Blacktown it’s a real pain in the pinny to get there. The loan car he gave me wouldn’t get out of first gear so I travelled slowly there and back, with much stress as I really hate driving other people’s cars, even hire cars. John’s car is due in a couple of weeks so I asked him to go out with a piece of paper and pen to write down the odometer reading and the due date for the service, found on a sticker inside the windscreen. “No sticker there, it must have fallen off” he told me, but a quick check proved that there was in fact a sticker so I noted the number. I find it exhausting that I just can’t assume any more that what he tells me is fact. Alex mentioned the possibility of selling one of the cars, something I have been thinking about, and offered to sell it for me on his business website and Facebook page, it’s tempting as he would know how to answer any questions.

Almost finished The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, the book I mentioned about someone getting to go back and relive the lives that she regretted not taking up. Of course to stay strictly by the criteria I couldn’t choose to stay in England with my family as that wasn’t my choice and I was too young to press the point, but I could certainly insist on staying at school despite my mother ringing and telling them that I would be leaving as soon as I turned 14. Another would be in my twenties, to ignore my mother’s distaste and apply for the Forensic Science Technician’s job at the morgue as I had the qualifications they were asking for and one of my Institute of Technology classmates worked there and said she’d put in a good word. Perhaps I’d have a go at refusing to get married too. The book has its issues but it certainly got me thinking about which lives I’d maybe have preferred, but as in the book those can turn out to be much better in imagination than in fact.

Made a Persian Love Cake for lunch tomorrow, so I just need to add some pomegranate in the morning. I don’t know why I don’t do more of them as they are pretty easy and foolproof. I was going to do the tidying up, dusting etc as well, but after the two trips to Blacktown and not enough sleep I just need a sitdown job for a while.

June 5 to June 12, 2022
I have been reluctant to write since the blog crashed on June 4, deleting every post from 2016 to the present. Not knowing if it will ever be restored to its former self has sapped my inclination to add anything, knowing that it can all vanish in the blink of an eye. But Mark is still working on fixing it, bless him, so there must be some hope. There was clearly no chance that I could have fixed it.
Last weekend was a shocker, what with the blog going down and John regressing even further, all together more than I could cope with. I often ask him to take care not to overfill the water filter as it’s on top of an antique cabinet and if overfilled it leaks through a gap in the boards on top, flooding the contents. Last Sunday he did it again and everything inside was soaked. I yelled at him (yes, I know full well that he can’t help it, thanks for reminding me) and I just felt like going out and leaving him to it for a while, but of course that’s not an option. By Monday I should have been over it but, because he likes to be the alarm person, I asked him to set it early as the gardener was coming at 7 am. Next thing I knew I’d slept in till 7.30 and the gardener was well and truly into working, but not on the things I most wanted done. ‘Why didn’t you set the alarm?’ I asked. ‘Oh I did, but I couldn’t remember why, so I just let you sleep’ says he. Tuesday picked up, it was John’s infusion day so I met my cousin at Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Point where we had lunch. There are outdoor tables, though it was very cold and blowy. As we were leaving a fellow diner approached and said ‘Has anyone ever told you how much you look like the queen?’ and I was able to relate that in my shop it was a regular question when my hair was a little longer than usual and showed the curl. Angela pulled out her phone and showed them photos of me as a teenager and they swooned ‘Oh so like Princess Elizabeth!’ Perhaps we’re related I suggested. The other frequent question I got in the shop was ‘Has anyone told you how much you look like Miriam Margolyes?’, though I can see the latter more than the former.
Davina and Millie have been sick all last week and on Thursday they were diagnosed with Influenza A. Dav had booked a holiday house in Kangaroo Valley for four days but it was past the cancellation window so she offered it to us. I had been musing about a weekend break soon but with the planning, driving, packing, cooking etc all falling to me, it seemed to be more than I could cope with. However when the opportunity fell into our laps it didn’t seem too hard at all, in fact because I didn’t have time to worry about it the issues seemed to shrink. So off we went on Friday morning, stopping in Kiama for a picnic lunch by the beach and then driving through Berry and along the narrow, windy road over Berry Mountain into Kangaroo Valley. Someone in a four-wheel drive (a local I’m sure) tailgated me down the mountain, finally overtaking on a blind hairpin bend which would have sent any car coming the other way off the cliff. That was one hairy drive and I think I will go the long way via Nowra to avoid a repetition going home as many people will be checking out tomorrow and in a rush to get home. This house is in a blissful position on the Kangaroo River, with the escarpment of the mountain in the distance. It is a four bedroom two bathroom house and the kitchen is fitted out with every culinary gadget known to man, but the wood fire is perhaps second to the view in terms of importance. We go walking and collect kindling too lovely to burn, all covered in lichen. I think the break is doing us both good, I am only making very simple food, we go for walks, read, John does his colouring and we are happy. It is his 81st birthday today and after breakfast we went to the tiny farmer’s market nearby when it opened at a cold and blowy 9 am and scored some pumpkin, onion and gorgonzola frittata for dinner tonight, so I only need to make a salad and that’s another meal that I don’t have to worry about. We also picked up fabulous scones and some sweet pastries that will mean there’s plenty of treats to have with cups of tea and also for a picnic on the drive home. The town is replete with any number of cafes and restaurants but ingredients are very hard to come by, though luckily I brought plenty from home so we haven’t starved. There is a television here but no free-to-air reception, only Netflix, it’s in a separate room without the view or fire so we haven’t bothered with it. We are a short walk from the historic stone suspension bridge which replaced an earlier wooden one which was washed away in a flood just one week after the stone one was opened in the late 1800s, rare perfect timing by the flood.
June 13 to June 15, 2022
There is a huge mounted photo by Jon Frank on the wall of the cottage, but it doesn’t give any indication where it was taken. So I Googled him to try to find out and came across some company registration or similar which gave his address, only to find we have been staying in his house! Sorry to be saying goodbye to our cosy little, well not so little, house. Just as I was putting the bins out and almost ready to leave, the cleaner arrived and I was shocked to discover that she comes all the way from Dapto, 70 km over that terrible Berry Mountain road to clean one house for four hours, it can’t be worth it with the current price of fuel. It adds over two hours in driving to four hours work. I was glad I could tell her which rooms weren’t used at all so perhaps she could get away a little earlier, I don’t know. I decided to drive via Nowra to avoid the dreaded mountain but of course we had to cross the Cambewarra  Mountain anyway, however the road was wider and safer than the way we came. We joined the highway to bumper to bumper traffic, long weekends have their downsides. In Berry we laughed at the block long queue for the Hot Donut van but once we walked through town it was obvious that was par for the course. People were ordering takeaway coffees at a hole in the wall place to drink while waiting in queues for a seat at the many cafes. We decided it wasn’t for us and headed to Kiama where we picnicked again at the beach on the same table we had sat at on the way down. On the way past a couple of collieries on the Picton Road I wondered why it’s colliery and not coalery, that thought kept my mind occupied for quite a few kilometres.
Over the weekend John had three calls from his grandkids, plus he was sent numerous photos of them, their artworks etc. Aurora shows great talent as an artist, I loved her work. They said that their mum was away with her sister for the long weekend so they were home with their dad and this coincided with more contact than John’s had with them the whole year so clearly they normally feel constrained.
Sadly, the day after we came home was a really bad one for John, he was so confused and going over and over things to the point that I got impatient with him. We are in the process of converting his study back to a guest bedroom and although we tried, it just wasn’t possible for us to do the heavy lifting of furniture that was required. I suggested that we needed to get my friendly removalists to come and help and hang the expense, something he was quite open to doing. So I rang Jeff and luckily he was able to come the next day, but shortly afterwards John came in from the neighbour’s house and told me that he’d asked Arvind to come and move the furniture for us. Yeeks, it was way too awkward and heavy to expect him to do it, so I had to apologise and withdraw the request. As I said it was a bad day in many ways.
However today John went out with his carer Greg and the removalists finished and were driving off just as they returned. Woohoo, it was done so easily and professionally, it really is better to cough up and pay the professionals. Now John is busy putting all his beloved figurines back into the relocated display cabinet, but I have had to ask Arvind’s help to wire up the transformer and dimmer, I can’t fathom it but it’s easy-peasy for an electrical engineer.
John came home today with a funny story: His carer Greg took him to the beach for a drive and John needed the loo. Once inside, he saw a cubicle with a long drain in the floor and, thinking that it was some upmarket new urinal “well it was in Coogee” he used it. But when he pressed the flush it turned out he was in the shower, so he came home pretty wet. He just doesn’t see things at times, in this case a shower head coming out of the wall. They both had a good laugh over that.
June 16, 2022
Oh my goodness, Mark has fixed the blog as he always said he could.
Now I just need to work out how to get some spaces happening between paragraphs, apart from that it’s just as it was.
John enjoyed his time at day care today. They sent me a photo of him grinning broadly because he’d won some game they’d been playing. He looked really relaxed and happy.
I stayed at home weeding the grass verge, sorting out more ‘stuff’ of John’s and finding homes for his things, packing an EBay parcel to go to Colorado Springs, but somehow having been away I didn’t feel a pressing need to go out on my ‘day off’.
June 17, 2022
Today we’ve had a lot of success with getting jobs done and out of the way. First a trip to Blacktown to see the lovely Alex and get John’s car registered. I thought to show him the pic of John’s desk, actually a 1950s pine dining table, in case he had a use for it. He did and his dad will come and collect it, whoopee. It wasn’t worth paying a carrier to take it to the auction so he’s doing us a favour. Then off to The Chocolate Warehouse in Castle Hill to get a bunch of chocolates to post to Mark for his help. I offered him a bottle of Irish Whisky but he wouldn’t tell me the name of the one he likes, however they had some Dublin Irish Whisky Chocolates so I got them and a couple of other sorts. At Dural I posted off the chocs and the parcel to Colorado Springs (makes me think of poor old John Denver). It was an eBay sale of a cased antique Meerschaum cigar holder with an amber mouthpiece, sold for the princely sum of $30 and worth five times that, but who’s counting? As long as the buyer appreciates it and looks after it I am happy. The same applies to the 1905 brass standard lamp which has lived in the loungeroom for years but rarely if ever gets used. I sold it on eBay for too little money but was happy to see how pleased the buyer was when he picked it up this afternoon. He’s an antique lamp collector so I couldn’t be more pleased. Then to St. Vs at Dural with a box of vintage china to donate. I prefer the Sallies for a number of reasons, but anything old and with value I take to Dural because the ladies who work there are older and understand what they’re looking at, whereas those at the Sallies are all young and don’t know anything about the good old stuff. The Sallies is a better charity, always looking after people in prison, in the courts, in natural disasters. When people went to St. Vs in Windsor looking for help they used to send them to us at Hawkesbury Helping Hands! We had no income, no shop, no wealthy church behind us, we were all just volunteers, it used to stick in my craw and still does.
What is it with Australian / Ukrainians, real and imagined, and literary swindles? Coming on top of the disgraceful Demidenko affair where the author stressed her Ukrainian ancestry as the source for the vile anti-Semitic material in her novel, only to be exposed as the daughter of English parents with no links to the Ukraine at all, we now have half Ukrainian John Hughes caught in the midst of a plagiarism scandal. I’ve been having a good laugh about John Hughes, an English master at Sydney Grammar no less. His book The Dogs has been withdrawn from the long list for the Miles Franklin award (Demidenko got to keep her Miles Franklin) after an investigation “uncovered 58 similarities and identical instances of text between parts of The Dogs and the 2017 English translation of Belarusian Nobel prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich’s nonfiction work The Unwomanly Face of War”. But it gets worse……it has now been revealed that the book also contains passages which are very similar or almost identical to sections of  The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina and All Quiet on the Western Front. He has good taste in the material he rips off, I’ll say that for him. I am miffed though, because I could have written a stunning novel and been long-listed for the Miles Franklin, if only I had thought first of cutting and pasting great wodges of famous books and passing it off as all my own work. Rats! I wonder what Hughes’ colleagues and students make of it all? When Carly was at uni years ago all her essays went through a program designed to pick up plagiarism, yet apparently that doesn’t happen with publishers. His apologia is detailed and clever but ultimately unconvincing, as Carly said “Lord give me the confidence of a mediocre white man”.
June 18, 2022
Last night I finished reading Missing Presumed Dead by former Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, but whether it was wise to read it remains to be seen. One of the two murdered women it focusses on, Kerry Whelan, was a longtime customer in my shop, as was her husband Bernie, and reading it took me back to the time that she was missing and the dawning realisation that she was surely dead. I was driving some weeks ago when I turned on the radio and heard Mark discussing his book and from then on I’ve debated whether it would be too upsetting to read or too fascinating not to, both turned out to be true. So I was fascinated with the path the police and lawyers took to finally get a conviction of the murderer Bruce Burrell, but also near tears at seeing Kerry’s photo, hearing her words recounted and imagining her terror when she realised that she was about to be murdered. In the days after her disappearance, a close friend of hers told me the words Kerry spoke to her horse groom about Burrell and there they were on the page, almost word for word. However something else that she told me then doesn’t appear in the book at all and I spent last night tossing and turning, thinking of Kerry and wishing I’d resisted the temptation to read the book at all. I have already bought a ticket for the author’s talk at the library on Tuesday and it remains to be seen whether or not that was a good decision.
Ever since I signed up for the new iteration of the ABC’s iview system I haven’t been able to access programs on demand despite having been able to do so easily ever since it was introduced. So I asked my neighbour, an electrical engineer, to help, thinking that John had been messing with the wires (an unjust thought in this case). After quite a palaver we managed to get a code to appear on screen and I entered this where required on the app, only to be told that it was wrong. After some time Googling the instructions Arvind informed me that it appears that you now need a smart tv to access it. These things just sap my will to live. It’s an odd phenomenon that I can stand an awful lot of misfortunes but then occasionally a small thing happens that just pushes me over the edge, and this was it. I spent much of the rest of the day feeling pretty hopeless, though still functioning, but with no joy there. Perhaps it was reading about Kerry that started the process but the bloody iview finished it. One thing is for sure, I’m not buying a new tv just because I can’t access programs on demand, yet it I will certainly miss the  documentaries that I love if I can’t get them to view them when it suits me. Sodding ABC technical department, I shall let them have both barrels when I write to complain.
 June 19, 2022
Thinking about all the excuses that politicians are coming up with for the rapid increase in power prices: war, use of renewables, the cold snap, insufficient gas after the exports are deducted, but no one wants to mention the bleeding obvious, that governments sold off our resources and have lost control of how they are used, transmitted and exported. Essentials should always be under government ownership, luxuries can look after themselves. It’s pretty simple but rarely adhered to. All power generation and transmission, provision of water, one telecommunications company, one insurance company, one airline, one bank, the steelworks, airports, schools and hospitals should all be public (have I missed any?). Apart from that you can have your glorified free market for everything else.
We went to Erko today for a traditional Sunday lunch with Dav and family. I took Millie a couple of books and she was able to read one of them to me with no problems with words like ‘porcupine’. It is The Lilac Ladies and tells the story of four older women who spend time together each week, swimming, dancing and eating, but then one of them sickens and dies (although the word is never actually used, she is ‘no longer there’Smilie: ;). The remaining three are sad and don’t know how they will cope, but gradually they bind together again and do the same things in her memory. It is sensitively handled but introduces the concept of loss. How I wish it were that simple, but perhaps we just need to make it that simple. Death isn’t optional, so we need to have a toolkit for when our friends and partners are ‘no longer there’.
I have puzzled somewhat over what happened with the lady whom I met a few months back when I delivered an eBay parcel to her and discovered that she lived alone and was completely bedridden, with carers coming in numerous times a day. We exchanged phone numbers and she seemed keen for me to come back for a visit, bringing a piece of stained glass that she had been hoping to find on eBay to sit on a window ledge to reflect the colours into her room. I also offered a quilting pattern book which I had as she is a quilter. But despite leaving a couple of messages in the coming week or two I didn’t hear back and although that’s perfectly fine and her choice, I can’t help wondering what happened when she’d seemed so keen. Perhaps she decided that it wasn’t a help having a reasonably fit person fifteen years older coming and going when she can’t leave her room, perhaps someone suggested to her that I could be after something from her and she lost trust, or perhaps she got sick and I’ll never know. I think about her from time to time and hope she’s well.
June 20, 2022
I picked a novel off the shelf at the library last week when I was in a hurry, just because I liked the cover, a branch of an orange tree with fruit and blossom. But what a lucky strike it was, I just couldn’t put it down. On page one I came across the Portuguese word ‘saudade’, which has no exact English translation, but the nearest analogy is ‘the presence of absence’, a longing for a happiness that has passed or that possibly never even existed. In the non-fiction book ‘The Primal Wound’ by Nancy Verrier, the psychologist author expresses the view that an adopted person always knows deep down that they are missing something, even if they have no idea what that something is. Page one of All My Mothers has the sentence: “My saudade was like travelling in a car on a dark road and seeing, for a second, a lit window, and then, very quickly, not seeing it”. Eva knows she is different, knows that somehow she doesn’t fit, and the book is about her slow and sometimes agonising unpicking of the life story that she has been told is hers. Coincidentally Julie-Anne, my pal from the library with whom I share an interest in books and baking, was coming for morning tea today on her way to a midday start. She mentioned (not knowing anything of my history) her friend, one of four siblings, who has always looked after her youngest brother who lives in a caravan on her property. Her brother is single and somewhat unsettled in life. Recently at the age of 52 he got a letter from someone purporting to be his sister and he contacted her, finding out for the first time that he was in fact adopted. Other family members and friends had known this all along but he was never told. I can count so many people who have been in this position, somehow not fitting in, often not finding a partner or a life of their own yet never knowing what it is that they were missing, ‘the presence of absence’. My friend Jackie felt this ‘absence’ her whole life yet she didn’t know she was adopted till she was told by her sister on the night of her fiftieth birthday party. Her life went into a downward spiral and she was admitted to a psychiatric centre soon after, from the pain of that lifelong deceit. I sat listening to Julie-Anne’s story but resisted the temptation to say very much, although it took me all my effort not to cry as I grieved for this poor man whom I will never meet. Perhaps at a later date I may recommend this book ‘All My Mothers’ to Julie-Anne as something her friend could benefit from reading.
We’ve finally completed the rebirth of the guest bedroom, making the bed up today, setting up a lamp on one side and a lovely Victorian washjug to sit on the opposing bedside cabinet. The paintings are not what I would have chosen but I need to accommodate some of John’s as well as my own, overcrowding the walls a bit but that’s not a huge deal. Sue will come on Friday and stay overnight so it was finished just in time, although that is a coincidence.
June 21, 2022
Today has been one of those days. I went to the dressmaker to pick up a skirt she was altering, closed on Tuesdays. Then went to the lighting shop to get some new globes for my kitchen ceiling lights but they said that sort is not made anymore so I took the replacement type and they scream at the old ones, with a light perfectly suitable for a public toilet. Sue is coming here to stay overnight on Friday and it was a big mistake to tell John that this morning. Ever since he’s been asking me what time she’s arriving, thinking that it’s today. I am trying hard to be patient but this afternoon is not going well either. Yesterday when I was hucking out in the storeroom I came across a box of tiles that were left over from the kitchen renovation. As I have a particular spot under the house where boxes of leftover tiles from various rooms are kept, John offered to move them there, only 20 feet from where we were standing. I was under the house looking for something else this morning when I noticed that they weren’t there, so I asked John where he’d put them but he doesn’t remember or even remember any tiles at all.  I’ve searched everywhere I can think of but so far no luck. The bins went out this morning so if he put them there, it’s too late.
Last night on Australian Story there was a wonderful program about a not-for-profit funeral service called Tender Funerals, begun in Port Kembla but now spreading more widely. As well as a few trained staff they have lots of volunteers (something which surprised me) and even the sdmin people and drivers muck in to help with the bodies when needed. They showed a graphic demonstration where people were being taught to remove pacemakers from a chest. I was trying to see if they were using human tissue but I suspect it was probably just pork belly or similar for the prac lesson, though I’m intrigued to know. I am amazed that they get any takers for this considering the community in general doesn’t want anything to do with death, but it’s a good thing to be surprised by such a positive venture. Though I wonder how many volunteers will stick around after the first heavily decomposed corpse is wheeled in? This is an odd segue into the fact that in many ways I feel my life is effectively over. I am finding it very hard to get enthusiastic about anything at the moment, though I try to jolly myself into being so. I can remember particular things in the past that made my spirit really soar but it seems so long ago since that happened that I am doubting it will happen again. Perhaps at my age I’ve passed the end point of real enthusiasm.
June 22, 2022
Last night I attended a talk at Castle Hill Library by Mark Tedeschi QC on his book Missing, Presumed Dead. It was such a full house that they needed to use the Pioneer Theatre and even that filled. My impressions of the author are many but particularly his small and expressive hands and his ability to talk non-stop for 45 minutes without notes and without a single um or ah. I guess that’s a skill you learn after 40 years as a QC, but then I’ve heard plenty of bumbling barristers. (I was once very excited to attend a trial where the Defence was the famed Charles Waterstreet and what a messy and disorganised presentation it seemed to me, the client was found guilty and got a long gaol sentence, not helped much by Defence I thought at the time). But back to ‘my learned friend’. At the end there was an opportunity to ask questions but he chose everyone but me, the lady across the aisle commenting that ‘he won’t look at you, will he?’. But I was saved at the death knock when he called an end to questions, only to have one of the library staff point to me and say ‘This lady has had her hand up for a while’. I asked a legal rather than a factual question about why the judge refused to admit three vital pieces of evidence: Burrell’s possession of a half used bottle of chloroform, his list of jobs including ‘clean front passenger area 1/2 an hour’, and the marked street directory route from the hotel in Parramatta to a deserted part of Smithfield. His answer was that judges fear a trial verdict being overturned at appeal with the judge blamed for admitting evidence that shouldn’t have been admitted. I understood that already, but my point was that an acquittal may very well have been the result of not admitting that evidence. Though that ultimately didn’t happen, there was a hung jury at the first trial which perhaps wouldn’t have occurred if all the evidence had been presented. I assumed most people would have read the book already, but not so as when I left there was a queue of about 50 people waiting to buy a book and have it signed. Worth going to, but of course the question of why Kerry got into the murderer’s car is still unanswered and will ever remain so.
A while back John got a call from Stephan from NRMA’s insurance arm to say that the other party in an accident that he had over 18 months ago is claiming he was never paid for the damage. NRMA has records to prove he was in fact paid and sent those to the man’s solicitors, but the claim on John remains outstanding. Finally, losing patience, the insurance company gave them 7 days to withdraw but they still didn’t do so and the matter has been referred to a legal firm acting for NRMA. Stephan rang to explain in case the firm, Turk’s Lawyers, called John to discuss anything. I couldn’t believe that out of all the legal firms in Sydney they had sent the matter to the one where John’s grandnephew Leo works. I mentioned it to Stephan and he said ‘Oh that’s interesting, what’s his name?’ Believe it or not they know each other, which is why it never pays to bullshit.
This morning John’s carer Greg was coming to take him for his weekly drive, so I thought it would be a good idea to suggest they go to Koala Park to use up his Discover vouchers before they expire on June 30. I rang Koala Park and asked if it were possible to use both of them as one would be for his carer, but they said that they were perfectly happy to let his carer in for free. Off they went and apparently had a lovely time, lunching at the cafe there.
June 23, 2022
I delivered a car load of stuff to the Sallies today: unwanted games of Millie’s, clothes from various sources (much of which I’ve washed and ironed), John’s dinner set which I’ve had on eBay for over a year (not old enough to pass on to the auctions), and some crystal and a decanter  that won’t get used here any time soon. I wonder if we will ever host a party again? I can’t imagine it somehow, so perhaps the glasses could be culled soon as well. I go to the Sallies at Dural which is 9.8 kms away, when there is a branch at North Parramatta 5.4 km distant. But the drive to Dural is semi-rural and relaxing while the journey to Parramatta is pretty boring with no outstanding features, strangely the staff at each could possibly be similarly described. So it seems worth the little bit of extra petrol to come away feeling a little better than when I left home. Little things matter at the moment.
I have over the last year or so developed a habit of sizing up jackets. Not on real people but on those flat people who inhabit our televisions, both male and female. So every time a newsreader or commentator comes on I immediately go ‘shoulders check, drape of jacket front check, sleeve length check’.  There are some pretty terrible sights on people who obviously never look at themselves on the teev, but Ashleigh Raper is the top performer. Having seen her many times at court, I can attest that she has the body shape of a breadknife, tall, thin and almost invisible from side-on, but she could still have ill-fitting clothes if she chose badly. However I’ve come to the conclusion that she gets all of her togs tailor-made as there’s no way she could score a consistent perfect 10 otherwise. I am actually not that keen on many of the things she wears but we’re talking only fit here. But some of her compatriots……no names, no packdrill…..look as if they’ve bought their clothes in Vinnies on the day when the mirror was broken.
While on the subject of television, I heard that the best new talent award went to the delicious Tony Armstrong, who first came to light for me on ABC News Breakfast, but apparently he was known to others for playing some sport or other. The thing that is so engaging about him is his total relaxation in front of a camera, it’s just as if he were sitting with you on the lounge having a chat and so you relax in his company. This is the diametric opposite of Lara Hyams, the recently appointed successor to ABC weatherman Graham Creed. She is so uneasy with herself that she makes me uneasy, so instead of making a cuppa during Finance I’ve changed to making it during the Weather so she can keep her edginess to herself rather than gifting it to me. Recently at a friend’s house she commented out of the blue that Lara makes her feel uncomfortable, so we are either a pair of petty nit-pickers or onto something (or both of course).
June 24, 2022
John has been hankering to go to a movie for well over two years now and I wonder how long this bloody pandemic will prevent it because I doubt it will be over in our lifetimes. So today I looked up movie times that would be relatively unpopular and sessions nearing the end of a movie’s run which are likely to be poorly attended. No luck at all. There’s the choice of Elvis (brand new, so no good), a redo of Top Gun (yawn), Jurassic World (purleeze!), two various animated films (nup) or FOUR various films in Hindi or Punjabi. I’m sorry but when I walk down the street I don’t see that there are 4 Indian people out of every 9 people I pass, so why exactly are 4 out of 9 films in these languages? There are plenty of Chinese people for example but not a single film for them. Very odd, but I had to rule out the possibility of a film for John for a while yet.
Today was book group at Michelle’s house and for the first time for a while I felt some enthusiasm. Everyone loved the book, The Promise by Damon Galgut, some reading it twice. It was one of the very few books I’ve given 5 stars to in the last year. Heather came over to stay with John while I was out and when I got home she’d brought a high tea for them both on a two-tiered silver server, loaded with turkey and cranberry sandwiches, date and walnut sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and pumpkin fruit cake. I was expecting my mechanic’s father to come one day to pick up John’s desk, but it was understood I thought that he’d ring me first. However he came while I was out today so I didn’t get to meet him and didn’t get to offer him other things that I had in mind, which was a shame on both counts. It could have been the case that we were both out which would have been worse. I was lazy and put the remaining sambos in the sandwich press and called it dinner, with a wisp of salad on the side. Not Masterchef but sometimes it’s just chef’s night off.
June 25, 2022
We got a few jobs done today including planting pots of spinach and coriander and carefully putting Feed and Weed on the bloody broadleaf weeds which infest the grass verge all of a sudden, though that’s an endless pursuit. I’ve noticed lately that if I call out to John he answers ‘What have I done?’ or if something is broken/damaged/misplaced he always asks ‘Was that my fault?’ even if I’m berating myself for it. It’s sad that he feels he’s always in trouble, even though I haven’t been cranky with him at all lately (yes I’ve spat the dummy a couple of times in the past). I’m not mentioning the missing antique cast iron moneybox. I asked if he were able to remove the painted price and he took it away, later I asked it it had come off okay and he said yes it had been easy with a wire brush. ‘So where have you put it?’ I asked. That was 3 weeks ago and it hasn’t turned up yet. I had promised it to the auction house for a toy auction which is now past, but I had to say that I will bring it for the next one when it turns up, if it turns up at all of course.
John made a beautiful chess and backgammon table as a project when he was doing architecture and it is all finished apart from some of the hand-whittled chess pieces that fit onto pegs on the sides. He did all of the pawns, but life overtook and he didn’t finish the other pieces. Years ago I bought him an expensive whittling knife from a knife place upstairs in Blacktown (it looked like the sort of place frequented by types of people I wouldn’t like very much). But what with illness and arthritis in his hands the carving still remained undone. So this year I suggested that seeing he can’t carve safely any more we give the wood to the men’s shed in Lane Cove where he was a member and asked them to finish it. Months passed and it sat there underneath their counter but no one attacked the job, so then we picked it up and then I asked my friend and restorer John Koster to do it. He no longer has a lathe and passes all of his carving to another man Neil Collier, so now I’ve contacted him. Apparently he won the woodwork section of the Sydney Royal this year so I suspect he won’t come cheap. The saga continues.
What to say about Roe v Wade? Not a lot, except that I feel so sorry for the poor in America and for those unwanted children who will be born and have miserable lives as a result. It seems in America life begins at conception and ends in a mass shooting, or a pointless war or in a legal murder in gaol. Consistency demands that they now ban all weapons, foreign wars and capital punishment. Bring it on!
June 26, 2022
A trip out to Windsor today to meet the delightful woodworker Neil, show him John’s chess table and ask him to finish the remaining 16 chess pieces. He was totally sympatico, understood without being told how John wanted them done and made useful suggestions. He asked if he could borrow the project design book that John drew up as he went along, to see how he had made the table and his design influences. So Neil will do the turning and Dave, whom we also met, will do the hand carving to finish them off. He told us that his wife’s father died 8 weeks ago and they are going to sell up their Kurrajong property and buy her dad’s 60 acre farm at Nabiac, presumably from her sibling/s., so we are getting this job done just in time. It’s a pity that John isn’t up to doing woodwork any more as Neil and a few pals meet twice a week out that way and work on projects side by side. ‘Sort of a men’s shed with women’ was how he described it.
After that we went for a walk through Windsor Markets and I was surprised at the new shops since my time there, including one called Manor which, although their things were new, appealed to me a lot. I could have spent a fair bit of money there, but didn’t. A large wooden articulated Pinocchio really appealed, but various metal crowns with glass ‘stones’ embedded were fun also as well as glass domes with odd collections of items inside. One shop selling odds and sods, like a charity shop but privately run, had signs saying ‘China, save it from landfill’ and others for glass and all sorts of bits and pieces like odd balls of wool, buttons and whatever. I am still thinking about a delightful framed embroidery I saw there but I have nowhere left on the wall to put it, so I need to think of who would like it as a gift and then I’ll have to go back. We did a walk along the river and were amazed at how high the floods were, evidenced by the grass and debris in the fences. We only spent $16 for some honey but considered it a successful day, if not a profitable one for the traders there.
June 27, 2022
This morning Kirk and Dean (I always think it’s funny that their names sound so Presbyterian) came to help with the gardening and I did the bend-over weeding while they did the kneel-down weeding (do Presbyterians usually kneel? I think they do as they are basically Calvinists but it depends I guess whether you’re kneeling in humility to God versus kneeling in adoration of an image, like those pesky Catholics do, but I digress). As a result of the bending and kneeling combined we got quite a bit done. Then John and I went off to do a major food shop and we chose just the right day apparently, as at Coles every second thing seemed to be on special. It took me a while to realise that it would be End of Financial Year, trying to get as much stock off the shelves as possible to keep their tax down. We were able to assist in that regard and on a spend of about $320 we managed to get about $80 in discounts. I think that’s the biggest single shop we’ve ever done and as John said: ‘Now we just need to live long enough to eat it all’. I’ll do my best, in both the living and the eating.
I am nearly finished the Forensic Science text that I bought a few months ago, I read it in small snatches of a chapter or two at a time, hopefully assisting in committing more of it to memory and to avoid getting too depressed about the terrible things humans do to each other and to themselves. Coincidentally last night’s section was on Pregnancy and Abortion including Methods of Performing Illegal Abortion with lists of possible causes of death as a result, including septic uterus, gas gangrene, haemorrhage, air embolism and more, complete with photographic examples of each. Perhaps the US coroners will be needing this information more frequently in the near future, but illegal abortions in the UK are now more of a historic than a current issue. The book is an English publication and it specifies that legal abortions there must be performed in a ‘Health Service hospital’ ie a government facility, what a difference.
Last night, bereft of library books till this morning and trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms, I was reading old New Yorker magazines and laughing at the competition they always have on the last pages. Their cartoonist draws an image for which readers are invited to submit a caption, then the editors choose the best three and invite readers again to choose the final one. The best one was a drawing of a woman in a tower a la Rapunzel but in this case the man at the tower’s base has the long hair. The winning caption was: ‘It is I, Manbunzel’ which had me snort-laughing. Another was a woman on the phone in her loungeroom telling a friend that she is surrounded by a flock of sheep, caption: ‘I don’t know how many there are, I’m trying to stay awake’. This is why I must never be left without library books, I sink to the ridiculous. At this point I gave in and went back to forensic science, hardly a snort-laughing undertaking (no pun intended).
June 28, 2022
I wasn’t going to let my final Dine voucher amount go back into consolidated revenue when they expire on Thursday, so today I booked a restaurant for lunch with an outdoor eating  option, found via Tripadvisor. It was Deckhouse at Woolwich which has wonderful views towards the Bridge and the city and is right on the water. The weather at that point was fine and sunny so it seemed the perfect day for it. Just as we were walking from the car to the restaurant there appeared a big flat barge with about a dozen people on board. It pulled up at a wharf right in front of us and I noticed then that the people had various Navy uniforms. Because I am as curious as a cat I had to go down and ask what the heck it was and was told the name of the vessel, which of course I’ve now forgotten. But it is to transport tanks and other vehicles to shore from ships. Amazingly this huge thing is fastened on its side on the ship and lowered as needed. The Leading Seaman explained that he was teaching the folks aboard to operate it, they would need some careful attention as it has no sides so I guess it doesn’t work in rough weather. I can’t find a photo of this baby online, the ones there are all in one piece, whereas this one is a collection of floatable sections joined together to make whatever size vessel you need and in this case it was very large. It was great to get the lowdown on it from the boss man. Lunch followed at the Deckhouse and we sat out on the sunny deck which soon became very cool as the clouds and breeze joined us. The waitress was about as capable as I would be, that is: willing but hopeless. When I asked for a wine list she said ‘Oh you want wine‘ as if it were the first time anyone had asked. When she brought the glass of prosecco it was ‘Is that some sort of champagne? I know nothing about wine’. We both ordered the Barramundi with mushy peas and roasted fennel with a side of Roast Pumpkin, maple tamarind glaze, pepita seeds and coconut yoghurt, all of which was delicious but unfortunately our friend forgot to order the pumpkin so it came as we were nearly finished the meal. Thankfully she suggested taking it home and it will probably be reheated as dinner. It had turned very cold by then and she asked if we would prefer to be inside where it was toasty warm but she kept pushing when we declined, saying that we preferred to be outdoors for Covid reasons. ‘Oh don’t worry about that’ she replied ‘it’s the needle that causes people to die, not the disease’. After all this we decided to leave their desserts to savour another day and have dessert at KOI which we were driving right past on the way home. The waiter with whom I settled the account was fully professional so I think we struck an exception. Dessert at KOI was delicious as always so a good day was had by all.
Carly phoned to say that she went as usual to pub trivia last night and was picked up in a friend’s car then sat with him for an hour and a half while playing. Halfway through the night he got a call from his partner to say that she had tested positive for Covid. He headed off immediately and this morning he contacted Carly to say he too is positive. She’s lucky to have in her friendship circle a doctor who is at the forefront of Covid knowledge and he’s said it’s okay to work today when it’s too early to transmit the disease even if she has it, but she’ll have to work from home after that as a close contact. I had read yesterday that the percentage of hospital-admitted Covid patients who die has gone up 10% this year on previous figures, despite the various drugs now in use, so it appears that the bugger is getting nastier.
June 29, 2022
Martha had mentioned last week about some photos that she might donate to the museum at Windsor so this morning she texted to see if I wanted to go out with her for the drive. Just before she came to pick me up I checked my Facebook messages to find that one of my old shop clients had posted a positive Covid test result but although she had 98 (yes 98 !) responses, not one of them commented about whether she needed anything. I sent her a message and she had no Panadol or cough medicine, so I offered to pick up both. Sharif our pharmacist said that with Covid it’s important to take both Panadol and Neurofen as they work differently and can be taken together. He also recommended another product so I got that as well. We tootled out to Windsor and I knocked at the doors, both front and back, but with no answer. I had taken a few soups and a packet of crackers as well so in the end I hung the lot on her front door and sent her a message. I was quite worried that she may be seriously unwell, however later she messaged to say she’d been asleep. Martha and I had lunch in Windsor and then had a look around the museum which I thought underwhelming apart from some videos of past floods.
When I got home I discovered that I had received over 20 identical emails from a friend. Suspecting she’s been hacked I tried to find some way of sending them automatically to junk but so far I haven’t worked out how and I am getting one every 2 minutes or so which will fill up my inbox overnight. Simultaneously John is searching the house for his beanie, sunglasses and handicapped parking permit which he took on an outing with his carer today. I’ve rung the home care service and they said that the carer remembers John taking them out of his car so only the gods know where they are.
Coda: John just found all of the missing items inside the garage, on the bonnet of my car. Why you may ask? I’m still asking the same thing, but it seems that every time the carer leaves I need to call about something that’s missing which eventually turns up here, very embarrassing but I guess they are used to it happening and they are very patient about it.
June 30, 2022
Good to wake up and know I don’t need to start a stocktake, June 30 is just another day on the calendar. We were to go to Bob’s place at Toukley tomorrow but I decided to check with him last night as they are forecasting a rain bomb starting then. He thinks we should postpone, as does Sue where we were staying over the weekend as she’s driven on the freeway in those conditions and doesn’t recommend it. So I am not committed to packing and baking today, which is the upside. I decided to organise something with our remaining Discover vouchers so I spent a long time on the phone booking tickets for the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery, but sorted it eventually. Next I contacted Sydney Water about the ongoing leak and was sorted there very quickly, the helpful girl rang their contract plumbers and gave them a push so hopefully they will come to fix it next week. The last call was less successful, to the ABC about my inability to get iview. First she  insisted that I hadn’t signed up to an ABC account and was a bit pooey at my ignorance. Luckily I persisted in saying I had and it turned out she’d mistyped my email address (no apology). Then she said it is my Chromecast which is at fault, which I find hard to believe as it ceased working exactly when I signed up to the new ABC account. Now I have no idea what to do so I guess we manage without iview until I come across someone techie.
Shocking to read the accusations about Trump’s behaviour on January 6, though thinking it through it shouldn’t be shocking at all, it’s the typical behaviour of an extreme narcissist. I smiled grimly at the image of him throwing his meal against the wall when he didn’t get his way ‘ketchup dripping down the wall onto the smashed plate’. Oh I’ve seen it more times than I can count in the past, the unacceptable meal flying across the room. Once I recall my beautiful hand potted mugs being thrown at the gum tree in the back yard, smashing against the trunk, because of some imagined slight. It amazes me now that I put up with it for as long as I did, but there’s no point looking backwards. If Trump doesn’t end up in gaol there’s no justice in the world, actually when I think about it there is no justice in the world so he should be fine.
I was concerned about the emails coming in every couple of minutes yesterday (now happily fixed) as my friend had a close call with scammers this week. She got an early morning text supposedly from her son, saying he’d changed phones and needed to pay an Afterpay account linked to his old phone. She agreed to pay the amount after some to and fro messages and gulped when it was $2500. She paid it by bank transfer to the link in the text. Luckily she emailed him, rather than texting, to say it was done, only to find he knew nothing about it. She contacted her bank who told her that they hold money for 24 hours if deposits are to go to new accounts that a customer hasn’t used before, so luckily they reimbursed all the funds to her account. Later the scammer kept texting ‘Mum, the money hasn’t arrived yet’ till she blocked their number. What a way to earn a crust.
July, 1, 2022
I’ve come across a new word, a ‘multipotentialite’ for a person who has many different interests or creative pursuits. It’s so much better than my usual description of myself as a gig, or a busybody or ‘wanting to know the ins and outs of a duck’s bum’, as I have been described. I can’t help being curious. If I see workmen looking down a hole I can’t avoid asking them what they are doing there and why, likewise if someone has a job I know nothing about. I once went into a paint shop in Castle Hill looking at colour charts and got talking for half an hour with a tradesman house painter about colours and the benefits of using Porters Paints. A few years ago one of my clients was head of the Sydney Masonic Lodge and I asked so many questions that he offered to take me on a tour of the building and the museum. The staff almost genuflected as we passed. So now I can just say ‘Sorry, I’m a multipotentialite so could you explain what you’re doing there’. Perfect.
Seeing our weekend away was cancelled we went in to the Ervin Gallery to see the Salon de Refuses, chosen from those artworks that were refused a place in the Archibald and Wynne Prizes. There were a number that I would have chosen over the actual winners, but that’s always the case. Unusually this year we are seeing this exhibition before the Archibald itself, but having seen the winners on the teev I can safely say that some here suit my taste more, art’s so subjective though. However I think the Archibald Prize is very political and the winners are often predictable just from keeping an ear open to the zeitgeist.
July 2, 2022
Had a big culinary fail today making honeycomb to take out tomorrow. I’ve done it successfully before, but this batch is sticky to the point of being difficult to even get off the baking paper, didn’t hold the air bubbles and won’t go crisp. It’s like the old stickjaw toffee. Apparently it happens when the temperature doesn’t get up to 165 degrees on the sugar thermometer according to Mr. Google. But in this case it did, though I thought it was happening way too fast so I took it out and put it back in again just to be sure, clearly there was a ‘thermometer malfunction’. If it doesn’t firm up at least a little bit I’m afraid I’ll have to use it as animal treats (in very small doses).
But I did have minor success in painting cards this morning, one of Monstera leaves is good enough to use and the other, a combination of pressed leaves and paper ones cut out and painted is an okay. I got a letter this week from MADRA, the Mallacoota and District Recovery Association, thanking me for the small painting I did of the bushfires as seen from the sea. I had forgotten about it altogether, but I was both pleased to hear from them and embarrassed that I didn’t do a better job, however I did the best I am capable of. I think a few lessons in watercolour painting would do me a lot of good though I don’t know anyone doing that at the moment. My friend Luke does lessons in acrylics but it’s a different style altogether to what I am trying to do.
So this week we will achieve the 10,000th death from Covid, half of them having occurred in the past six months. But according to governments of all persuasions we are ‘post-pandemic’. ‘Post-pandemic’ is not a phrase anyone should be using to describe the current situation. A doctor from the Burnet Institute says we could see a total of 15,000 deaths in 2022 alone. It amazes me that when the figures get higher and higher the population chooses to burrow deeper and deeper into denial. No one enjoys harsh control measure but few people enjoy death either, so I can only assume that because the dead are likely to be your ‘olds’ rather than your peers, it makes things like wearing masks not worth the trouble. It seems China is the only place where the government is serious about keeping the death toll down, even though they have plenty of folks in reserve. There’s no talk any more about herd immunity. Prof. Raina McIntyre has always said that this idea is a myth, it can never happen with a virus as prone to mutation as this one is. Why did we ever expect it with Covid when we knew that it was impossible with the flu? If governments and individuals came out and said ‘Look we think people just need to take their chances with this thing’ as many of my friends have effectively said of themselves, then that’s a point of view worth discussing, but this ‘post-pandemic’ nonsense is just denial pure and simple.
My old customer at Windsor, who’s not old at all, is recovering from her bout with the dreaded virus and I noted that she had 133 responses to her Facebook post about being positive with 113 people actually leaving comments. Did every friend reply I wondered? No, not even close. I discovered when I visited her page today out of curiosity regarding her wellbeing, that she has over 2,800 ‘Facebook friends’. I find that I miss much of what my 106 friends post, the thought of 2800 just makes me feel tired. I read recently that most people can handle relationships with about 150 people, the author suggesting that this somehow relates to the size of a village in ancient times, though I remain to be convinced of that theory. But toting up I think I came to about 180 people who wouldn’t be too surprised to get a call or an more likely an email from me and I do find it hard to keep up regularly with that many. Perhaps I came from a slightly bigger village as apparently the Vikings, whose blood is the largest percentage in my veins according to DNA analysis, have villages typically housing 150-250, so I can theoretically cope with a few more friends yet if the theory is to be believed.
July 3, 2022
During the night I was planning some more cards, this time I think watercolour paintings of various sorts of autumn leaves. I can see the result in my mind but I’m not at all sure I can get the brush to cooperate. It’s frustrating, but I can only keep practising and see where I end up.
I read this morning that a paper has been written showing that vaccination for the flu can deter Alzheimer’s Disease. Using data from patients ages 65 years or over and free of dementia they created two groups, each consisting of 935,887 patients. The study showed that patients who received at least one flu vaccine were 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the 4-year follow-up period than those who had not received the vaccine. The risk was lowest in patients who had received a flu vaccine every year over the 6-year look-back period. But it seems that vaccinations for tetanus, shingles or other diseases has the effect of lowering dementia as well. I am at a loss to work out what the mechanism could be, and it seems the medicos are as well. Medical detective work is always fascinating, but this one is a particularly engrossing study.
Jane and Boris, like us, were set to go away for the weekend but the rain changed their minds. Instead we were invited for Sunday lunch and enjoyed a lovely meal and company while the sky gave us its best. Davina went to visit Ryan and Terry at Blackheath by train and sent photos of the flooding Nepean River as well as local floodwaters next to the tracks at St. Marys. Windsor Bridge is under again, what a complete waste of millions that replacement bridge has turned out to be.


July 4, 2022

Oh my, John is obsessing so much about whether or not he’s picked up his pharmacy order (not at all urgent) that I’ve sent him there for a walk (and a mental health break for me). He gets one thought going eg have I picked up the medicine? and asks me constantly until it’s just  easier for me to do it and get it over, but today he can combine it with a walk and kill two birds. I usually go with him when it’s raining as I actually prefer walking in the rain, but not today, I need an hour free.

The honeycomb saga continues: After the mix clearly failed on Saturday I Googled ‘why did my honeycomb fail’ and it is a thermometer problem apparently. I didn’t get the temperature high enough despite the reading telling me that I had, so I turned it out onto a board with a view to cutting it into squares to take to Jane’s as ‘honey toffee’. However it welded to the board and both John and I spent an hour levering it off a millimetre at a time, trying to get pieces to use. We managed to get some reasonable looking bits which we placed on a plate in the fridge ready to take, except they all melted into one plate-sized piece and welded to the plate! It’s impossible to get it off without breaking the plate so it sits there looking evil, like something that could expand and take over the kitchen, indeed the house, while we sleep. I could put it under the tap and soak it off and down the drain but I don’t want to let some honeycomb defeat me.

My card painting this morning was a partial success, four different types of leaves attempted with two of them not too bad and two needing more work. I decided that when it’s finished I will send it to someone in Windsor whose backyard overlooks the floods but is high enough to stay out of the water, in the past anyway. I now plan to do another using only the leaves that I was happy with, but painting them larger and in more detail. (Wowsers! The type problem that has been annoying me ever since the blog came back up suddenly rectified itself and I think that the spacing between paragraphs might have fixed itself as well. I did nothing but type as usual and it reverted to original half way through, this blog is possessed). But back to the cards. I was faced with a dilemma, how to address the envelope. It’s fair to say that I am closer to the wife than the husband, though I like both very much. He is a professor at Western Sydney Uni with degrees that go right down the page, so do I address the card to Professor and Mrs.? No, that sounds bad, she is a clinical psychologist with degrees of her own so perhaps I should send it to her and just mention him inside the card? That doesn’t quite feel right either, perhaps he’ll think of it as ignoring him. I tossed it around for a bit, thinking of the time my boss at Sydney University actually yelled at me for addressing mail of his to Mr. instead of Dr. “If you’re not sure you call him Dr. and if you think he’s Dr. address him as Professor!” he shrieked. I hadn’t realised that academics in science could be so easily slighted about titles but I learned fast and everyone was Professor to me after that. (When writing to my friend Robert I always used to address the envelope to Professor and I think he quietly enjoyed it.) So back to my friends. In the end it was all too hard, so I left the titles off totally and just addressed it to Donna and Roger. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

July 5, 2022

I’ve read a number of books about Trump’s reign but the one I’ve just finished is by far the scariest. In the transition period following his election Trump sent just one man to the US Department of Agriculture for the handover from the Obama administration, then appointed to important positions in the department a long-haul truck driver, a clerk, a gas meter reader, a cabana attendant and the owner of a candle company. None of them had experience in agriculture, many had not finished college, but all were Trump loyalists. The skills on the resume of one of them included ‘pleasant demeanour’. Multiply this through the departments and you see the problem. Trump thought and said he was so smart that ‘we can leave the victory party two hours early and do the transition ourselves’. The person tasked with the handover from the Department of Energy came alone without a pen or paper and left after an hour, not having asked a question. Half of the DOE budget is spent maintaining and guarding the nuclear arsenal and tracking weapons grade plutonium and uranium at loose in the world. a quarter of the budget is for ‘cleaning up the mess left behind by the manufacture of nuclear weapons’. Radioactive waste is stored in barrels with ‘inorganic kitty litter’ but when a contractor accidentally scribbled down ‘organic kitty litter’ the barrels burst causing the entire site to be closed for 3 years and the clean-up cost was $500 million. Obama had a nuclear physicist running the organisation with a budget of $30 billion and 115,000 employees, but all Trump wanted was a list of any employees who had attended ‘anything to do with climate change’ in the last 5 years. This is what happens when you elect someone with no knowledge of, or interest in, public policy and government administration.

It was John’s Nelune day but the weather limited my options for the three hours that I wait for him, so I went to nearby Darlinghurst Court to see what was going on. The friendly security guard said it was a bad day with only one bail application happening. But he did tell me that today was the very first day that people other than those connected to a case could be let in. Here am I, thinking that for years I’ve been showing restraint in not going to court for fear of the virus, and they wouldn’t have let me in anyway! (By the way the beautiful Victorian iron railings around the perimeter of the court complex are in serious need of de-rusting and painting Mr. Perrottet). So then off I went to the Jewish Museum where I watched an interactive presentation with a Holocaust survivor from Sydney who had been filmed for a week answering endless questions so that when an audience member asks her something the film automatically goes to that or a similar question and she answers. Technologically brilliant and a way to preserve the stories of the last remaining survivors who work as volunteers guides. Looking through the museum I was reminded again of all the similarities between Judaism and Islam, the head coverings for women, the food rules, the way they nod constantly while reading scripture, the ban on worshipping graven images, the command on circumcision, the reverence for the physical expression of their holy books. What a pity that they can’t celebrate those similarities.

July 6, 2022

Finally Sydney Water came to fix the leak that’s plaguing my driveway. They dug up the grass verge next door and then tested at various points with an instrument that picks up sound in the pipes. Woohoo I thought, now we can get the driveway done, but not so fast. Eventually they came with the bad news, the leak is from the hydrant installed directly across the road, the private property of the units there, therefore not Sydney Water’s responsibility. They’ve left a message explaining the situation in the letter box of their strata, but it’s up to them when they get a plumber to fix it. Back to tors.

My old customer Dave, well more a drop-in pal than an actual customer, sent me a video taken from his back verandah of two rookie police officers responding to his emergency call about someone trapped in a ute in the flood waters behind his house. With no ropes or equipment the two waded into the floodwater and eventually rescued the chap. I hope that they are given recognition for what was a very brave act by them both and I hope Dave pats himself on the back too as the man would have died very soon without his intervention. Now I’ve had a message from Bob, whose house we were supposed to go to last Friday. The lake has climbed up his back yard to the ground floor of the house and inundated it for the first time ever. Luckily the floor is tiled but still everything has had to be relocated upstairs. We live in interesting times.

John is getting more inclined to obsess about things. Yesterday it was his ‘lost’ wallet which couldn’t be lost as it hadn’t left the house. Telling him that it will turn up doesn’t work, he just goes searching over and over in the places he’s already searched multiple times. I end up getting cross when he won’t let it go and we have the same conversation repeatedly. I haven’t yet worked out how to get around the problem and it’s getting worse. Today his carer came with a list of what John needed to take with him: phone, sunglasses, money purse, beanie etc and insisted on them ticking it off when leaving and again when they came back. I guess he’s had one too many phone calls about things supposedly left in his car when they are here all the time.

July 7, 2022

I could have gone out today as John is at care till 3, but somehow I didn’t have the energy. I decided instead that I wanted to have achieved something before he came home so first I painted, making two very ordinary cards but getting some pleasure from the process. Then my big achievement was listing 8 eBays! All small value items but things that deserve good homes such as a 1923 book on Vaucluse House (replete with insect holes and severe foxing), a Palace Theatre programme from the 1890s, a bag full of shirt studs (a bargain at just $5 the lot), a 1952 military driver’s licence, a vintage hand-beaded belt and more. The most expensive item is $10 but I can’t throw them out, the Sallies won’t understand their value and I don’t want them here for the kids to bin when I die. It occurs to me that much of what I do these days is pre-mortem clearout.

Yesterday both Albo and Pero were in Windsor doing a walkabout, looking at the floods. Both the News and 7.30 showed them at the headquarters of Hawkesbury Helping Hands and although I could see Linda talking, thankfully what she was saying was covered by the voiceover. Even now seeing her on the teev makes me feel stressed, others I know who left the organisation feel the same way and poor Frank died waiting for an apology for being publicly abused. Yet the organisation goes from strength to strength and her work with the homeless is very much needed and rightly recognised. I guess you need to be homeless to be treated well, though I’ve seen some people in that situation being abused as well. I guess it’s like Nick Kyrgios, he can play tennis really well but hasn’t mastered being pleasant to those around him. (I’m trying to be nice here, what I really want to say is that he’s a self-entitled little prick and I’d volunteer to box his ears for free, but I won’t say that).

The lake has retreated from Bob’s Toukley house, luckily he now has three days off and will go up there tonight to start the cleaning. I wonder how all of this will affect the properties for sale along the waterfront there and in the Hawkesbury. An agent once told me it is best to hold off selling in the Blue Mountains for two years after a bushfire, by that time people forget and think it won’t happen again. I am struggling to feel pity for the buyers of the 200 year old Doctor’s House on Thompson Square at Windsor, the closest house to the Bridge and therefore the river. ‘Before it flooded last year there hadn’t been one since the 1990s so we thought that would be it, flooding is done,’ said the owner. Mmm, perhaps walking two doors up the street and reading the sign affixed to the wall there, showing the highest flood level since white settlement may have helped. If we had a repeat of that one their whole house, not just the cellar, would be underwater. It beggars belief that their solicitor didn’t point out that the house floods every time the water rises, not just in a big flood like we’re having. That’s why a 3 storey 200 year old waterfront house only cost you $2 million folks.

July 8, 2022

I woke up smiling this morning after having a dream about my friend Robert, now sadly gone. We were at a restaurant or party and he was wearing a pair of coffee coloured chinos with little pleats at the front and a dark navy checked shirt. I seemed to know the owner/host well and introduced him and Sue to her, telling her that ‘Sue’s a bit sozzled’. We were all having such fun together and the dream kept a smile on my face into the morning. I think the memory of Robert probably came about after Martha commented on a particular First Saturday group and I remembered it well as he was trying to get me to laugh by making sotto voce silly comments while the speaker was talking. Eventually he won and I got the giggles, something he could always achieve when he put his mind to it.

July 9, 2022

The wonder of technology. Yesterday the half-typed blog post disappeared while I was gas-bagging in the sun with my neighbour who had knocked on the door, but today it tells me it had saved some of it so I posted that part instead of the whinge I had put up about it disappearing.

Today was a dear friend’s 80th birthday party at noon. It is unusual to like the children of friends and their husbands equally. In this case they are a friendly, warm foursome who always seem to greet us as if they couldn’t think of anyone they would rather see. I guess it follows considering their warm and caring parents. I was able to put on my ‘multipotentialite’ hat and chat with one husband about cooking, he’s a chef who wants to borrow my New York Times Cookbook, and then move on to the other who has already been appointed to the new Federal ICAC before it has even been brought into law. Talking to him is always a special treat as he is up on all the ICAC investigations past and present and the gang warfare in South Western Sydney which seems to be his specialty. It gives me great confidence that someone like him will be in the forefront of the investigations.

The drive there took an hour and a quarter in heavy traffic but coming home was worse, ending up on Parramatta Rd in bumper to bumper traffic, facing the setting sun and barely able to see the lane lines. We passed one bad accident on the way over and I decided to stick to a safe speed for the conditions and damn those behind. John suddenly asked ‘What did you do today while I was at Pentagon House?’ ‘What’s Pentagon House?’ I asked, confused and thinking it could be something from his past, but he didn’t know either and then he remembered where we had been and laughed about it. I told him he was getting ideas above his station.

July 10, 2022

I need to go to Life Notes 10 as I’m up around 65,000 words on this one. I’m always a little afraid to rock the boat by starting a new one but it has to be done. This morning we had a cleaning blitz because Karen had to cancel for tomorrow. We are vacced and dusted, the mould has been cleaned off the ceiling of John’s bathroom, luckily reachable on the low side of a sloping ceiling, my bathroom is bleached and shiny, so I can relax.

This morning I discovered that the whole street library has been cleaned out, from full to empty overnight, except for a few children’s books. John thought that was great but I am more suspicious as it ranged through non-fiction and fiction, from Dickens to James Patterson and I just don’t believe that one person could possibly want that range of content. So either someone has raided it for their street library or else they’ve all gone to a second-hand book shop perhaps. Either way it will be interesting to see if it keeps happening.

I was reading about how the US military targets schools in low-income areas to sign up recruits and I started to wonder if that has some bearing on the trigger-happy nature of the police force there. When someone leaves the army I’m thinking that their training could lead them naturally towards police work and their military background could incline them towards a shoot first and ask questions later mentality. Possibly on the wrong track but if you don’t go up a track you don’t know if it’s the wrong one.

I think I could live on books and articles about Covid, it is both fascinating and somehow sinister in equal measure. A new and interesting article yesterday talked about a study at St Vincent‘s Hospital on 128 patients who had mild or moderate Covid and then long Covid symptoms. They checked them regularly for 12 months after their long Covid diagnoses. There were small, but persistent, declines in their cognitive function and this equated to the extent of the brain fog that they reported. This finding suggests that there is an ongoing pathological process which is affecting these patients and is independent of their pre-Covid cognitive functioning. They have no idea whether this decline will continue after the 12 months that they were monitored. Sinister doesn’t begin to describe how what was initially thought of as a respiratory virus is acting on the brain.Another study at Swinburne University looks at Covid‘s ability to attack the central nervous system and they propose that this mechanism ‘may be similar to Alzheimer’s Disease, proteins in the virus can build themselves into amyloid assemblies which then have toxic effects on the neuronal cells in the brain. The cytotoxicity of these assemblies may result in their persistent presence in the brain of patients post infection. This will be particularly important in older people who get mild Covid but are entering the dementia range range and therefore are at risk of early onset cognitive decline’. Yeesh, a horror movie scenario.
























































Posted in Uncategorized

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.<