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…..you’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 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. https://victorchurchill.com/pages/sydney
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’ 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’. 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.
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 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.