Life Notes 9

January 30, 2022

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

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

January 31, 2022

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

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

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

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

February 1, 2022

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

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

February 2, 2022

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

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

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

February 3, 2022

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

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

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

February 4, 2022

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

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

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

February 5, 2022

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

Instead of asking myself if ScumMo will win the election I find myself asking another question, will he even be PM when the election happens? Between the division over the religious rights legislation and the very negative character assessments of him exposed in texts by Our Glad and Baa-naby I don’t know where to look for the next disaster. Imagine being a back-bencher watching the melt-down and wondering if ditching the Scummer might help hold you on to that well-paid job…..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 Smilie: :) John asked me five times on the journey where we were going and why. I wish I could install an automatic repeater as writing our plans in his diary is no longer working.

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

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

March 17, 2022

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

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

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

March 18, 2022

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

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

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

March 19, 2022

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

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

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

March 20, 2022

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

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

March 21, 2022

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

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

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

March 22, 2022

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

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

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

March 23, 2022

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

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

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

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

March 24, 2022

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

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

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

March 25, 2022

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

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

March 26, 2022

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

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

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

March 27, 2022

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

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

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

March 28, 2022

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

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

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

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

March 29, 2022

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

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

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

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

March 30, 2022

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

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

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

March 31, 2022

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

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

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

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

April 1, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

April 2, 2022

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

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

April 3, 2022

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

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

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

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

April 4, 2022

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

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

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

April 5, 2022

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

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

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

April 6, 2022

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

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

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

April 7, 2022

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

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

April 8, 2022

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

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

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

April 9, 2022

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

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

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

April 10, 2022

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

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

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

April 11, 2022

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

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

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

April 12, 2022

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

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

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

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

April 13, 2022

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

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

April 14, 2022

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

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

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

April 15, 2022

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

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

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

April 16, 2022

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

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

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

April 17, 2022

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

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

April 18, 2022

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

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

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

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

April 19, 2022

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

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

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

April 20, 2022

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

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

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

April 21, 2022

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

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

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

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

April 22, 2022

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

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

April 23, 2022

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

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

April 24, 2022

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

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

April 25, 2022

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

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

April 26, 2022

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

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

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

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

April 27, 2022

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

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

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

April 28, 2022

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

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

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

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

April 29, 2022

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

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

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

April 30, 2022

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

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

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

May 1, 2022

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

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

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

May 2, 2022

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

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

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

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

May 3, 2022

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

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

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

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

May 4, 2022

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

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

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

May 5, 2022

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

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

May 6, 2022

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

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

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

May 7, 2022

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

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

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

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

May 8, 2022

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

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

May 9, 2022

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

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

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

May 10, 2022

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

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

May 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2022

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

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

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

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

May 16, 2022

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

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

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

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

May 17, 2022

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

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

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

May 18, 2022

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

May 19, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 20, 2022

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

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

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

May 21, 2022

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

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

May 22, 2022

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

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

May 23, 2022

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

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

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

May 24, 2022

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

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

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

May 25, 2022

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

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

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

May 26, 2022

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

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

May 27, 2022

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

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

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

May 28, 2022

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

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

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

May 29, 2022

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

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

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

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

May 30, 2022

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

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

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

May 31, 2022

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

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

June 1, 2022

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

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

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

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

June 2, 2022

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

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

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

June 3, 2022

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 8

July 3, 2021

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

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

July 4, 2021

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

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

July 5, 2021

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

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

July 6, 2021

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

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

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

July 7, 2021

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

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

July 8, 2021

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

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

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

July 9, 2021

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

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

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

July 10, 2021

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

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

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

July 11, 2021

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

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

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

July 12, 2021

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

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

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

July 13, 2021

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

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

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

July 14, 2021

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

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

July 15, 2021

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

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

July 16, 2021

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

July 17, 2021

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

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

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

July 18, 2021

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

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

July 19, 2021

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

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

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

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

July 20, 2021

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

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

July 21, 2021

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

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

July 22, 2021

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

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

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

July 23, 2021

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

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

July 24, 2021

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

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

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

July 25, 2021

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

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

July 26, 2021

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

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

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

July 27, 2021

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

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

July 28, 2021

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

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

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

July 29, 2021

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

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

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

July 30, 2021

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

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

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

 

July 31, 2021

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

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

August 1, 2021

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

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

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

August 2, 2021

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

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

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

August 3, 2021

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

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

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

August 4th, 2021

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

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

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

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

August 5, 2021

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

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

August 6, 2021

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

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

August 7, 2021

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

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

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

August 8, 2021

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

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

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

August 9, 2021

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

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

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

August 10, 2021

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

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

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

August 11, 2021

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

August 12, 2021

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

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

August 13, 2021

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

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

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

August 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

August 15, 2021

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

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

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

August 16, 2021

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

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

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

August 17, 2021

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

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

August 18, 2021

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

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

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

August 19, 2021

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

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

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

August 20, 2021

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

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

August 21, 2021

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

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

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

August 22, 2021

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

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

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

August 23, 2021

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

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

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

 

August 24, 2021

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

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

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

August 25, 2021

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

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

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

August 26, 2021

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

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

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

August 27, 2021

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

August 28, 2021

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

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

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

August 29, 2021

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

August 30, 2021

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

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

August 31, 2021

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

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

September 1, 2021

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

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

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

September 2, 2021

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

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

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

September 3, 2021

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

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

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

September 4, 2021

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

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

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

September 5, 2021

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

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

September 6, 2021

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

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

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

September 7, 2021

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

September 8, 2021

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

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

September 9, 2021

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

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

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

September 10, 2021

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

September 11, 2021

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

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

September 12, 2021

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

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

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

September 13, 2021

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

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

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

September 14, 2021

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

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

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

September 15, 2021

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

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

September 16, 2021

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

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

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

September 17, 2021

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

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

September 18, 2021

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

September 19, 2021

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

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

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

September 20, 2021

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

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

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

September 21, 2021

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

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

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

September 22, 2021

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

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

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

September 23, 2021

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

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

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

September 24, 2021

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

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

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

September 25, 2021

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

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

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

September 26, 2021

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

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

September 27, 2021

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

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

September 28, 2021

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

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

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

September 29, 2021

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

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

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

September 30, 2021

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

October 1, 2021

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

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

October 2, 2021

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

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

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

October 3, 2021

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

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

October 4, 2021

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

October 5, 2021

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

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

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

October 6, 2021

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

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

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

October 7, 2021

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

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

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

October 8, 2021

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

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

October 9, 2021

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

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

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

October 10, 2021

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

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

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

October 11, 2021

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

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

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

October 12, 2021

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

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

October 13, 2021

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

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

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

October 14, 2021

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

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

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

October 15, 2021

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

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

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

October 16, 2021

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

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

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

October 17, 2021

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

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

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

October 18, 2021

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

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

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

October 19, 2021

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

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

October 20, 2021

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

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

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

October 21, 2021

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

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

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

October 22, 2021

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

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

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

October 23, 2021

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

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

October 24, 2021

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

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

October, 25, 2021

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

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

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

October 26, 2021

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

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

October 27, 2021

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

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

October 28, 2021

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

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

October 29, 2021

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

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

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

October 30, 2021

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

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

October 31, 2021

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

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

November 1, 2021

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

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

November 2, 2021

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

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

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

November 3, 2021

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

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

November 4, 2021

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

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

November 5, 2021

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

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

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

November 6, 2021

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

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

November 7, 2021

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

November 8, 2021

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

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

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

November 9, 2021

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

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

November 10, 2021

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

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

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

November 11, 2021

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

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

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

November 12, 2021

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

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

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

November 13, 2021

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

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

November 14, 2021

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

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

November 15, 2021

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

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

THE BLOG HAS BEEN MISSING IN ACTION FOR A FEW DAYS DUE TO TECHNICAL SECURITY ISSUES AT THE SERVER WHICH ARE BEYOND MY UNDERSTANDING.

November 16, 2021

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

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

November 17, 2021

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

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

November 18, 2021

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

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

November 19, 2021

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

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

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

November 20, 2021

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

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

November 21, 2021

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

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

November 22, 2021

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

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

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

November 23, 2021

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

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

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

November 24, 2021

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

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

November 25, 2021

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

November 26, 2021

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

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

November 27, 2021

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

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

November 28, 2021

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

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

November 29, 2021

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

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

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

November 30, 2021

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

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

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

December 1, 2021

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

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

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

December 2, 2021

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

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

December 3, 2021

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

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

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

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

December 4, 2021

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

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

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

December 5, 2021

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

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

December 6, 2021

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

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

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

December 7, 2021

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

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

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

December 8, 2021

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

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

December 9, 2021

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

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

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

December 10, 2021

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

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

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

December 11, 2021

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

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

December 12, 2021

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

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

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

December 13, 2021

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

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

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

December 14, 2021

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

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

December 15, 2021

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

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

December 16, 2021

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

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

December 17, 2021

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

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

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

December 18, 2021

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

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

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

December 19, 2021

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

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

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

December 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

December 21, 2021

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

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

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

December 22, 2021

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

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

December 23, 2021

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

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

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

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

December 24, 2021

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

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

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

December 25, 2021

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

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

December 26, 2021

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

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

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

December 27, 2021

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

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

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

December 28, 2021

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

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

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

December 29, 2021

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

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

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

December 30, 2021

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

December 31, 2021

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

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

January 1, 2022

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

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

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

January 2, 2022

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

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

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

January 3, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

January 4, 2022

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

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

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

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

November 5, 2022

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

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

January 6, 2022

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

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

January 7, 2022

Feeling the need for some bush and being out of sight of civilisation for a while, I suggested a picnic at Lane Cove National Park, a close and accessible alternative to the bush proper. I was interested to see the ‘fish ladder’, a sort of byway around the weir so the native bass can get up and down the river safely. We had a good walk along the river and a simple picnic and came home feeling much improved. I have felt worse about the pandemic in the last few days than I have all through the lockdowns. Davina’s friend had Christmas dinner for 12 and every single one of them got Covid, I hope the meal was good. We know quite a number of people who are currently infected and I am troubled with the realisation that all these cases we have are the perfect vehicle for the next mutation. At least if you expect the worst you won’t be disappointed as I am prone to say, there was a wonderful article in the Herald yesterday which really made me laugh. It’s me to a T: https://www.smh.com.au/national/fellow-catastrophists-of-the-world-our-moment-has-come-20220104-p59lvu.html

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

January 8, 2022

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

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

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

January 9, 2022

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

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

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

January 10, 2022

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

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

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

January 11, 2022

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

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

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

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

January 12, 2022

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

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

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

January 13, 2022

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

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

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

January 14, 2022

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

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

January 15, 2022

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

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

January 16, 2022

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

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

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

January 17, 2022

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

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

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

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

January 17, 2022

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

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

January 20, 2022

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

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

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

January 21, 2022

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

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

January 22, 2022

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

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

January 23, 2022

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

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

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

January 24, 2022

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

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

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

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

January 25, 2022

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

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

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

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

January 26, 2022

I decided that since it’s a public holiday I wouldn’t work, but just do as I pleased. So I finished The Labyrinth for the second time and wrote a one page report on it for book group on Friday. It was hard to limit myself to a page, I could write about that book for a goodly while. A parcel arrived from my bro, posted December 16, for Christmas. It contained a Larkin poetry book and two books of the bro’s own writing, couldn’t be better. Then I attacked emails from the new cousins, seeing a short video of my grandfather walking down the street and another of my mother coming out of her house with her Pekingese Tang-See. John thinks I look very like her, perhaps I do, I’m not sure, but I certainly have the same stature and build.

Next job was as a result of an email I got from Promethease, the American outfit that did my DNA years ago. They said I hadn’t accessed the details for a while and if they don’t hear from me within 30 days they will delete my file! No way are they doing that, so I emailed them to that effect and started the long task of going through the results. It is very confusing and technical and I don’t claim to understand it all, but I understand enough. However it’s a huge task and I only got through 70 entries today, out of how many I don’t know. The genes are for characteristics both good and bad, so far there are some pretty basic ones such the fact that I don’t have Type I Diabetes or lactose intolerance and I have white skin, through to having a gene that helps protect me from getting colorectal cancer from processed meats (devon here I come, ugh) and one that makes it unlikely that I smoke. I have a lower than average risk of autism but a higher one for bipolar and schizophrenia. There are lots of genes in there for prostate cancer so I’m glad that I have neither a prostate nor any sons.

Boris has kindly sent two replies regarding appropriate university choices for Avish next door so I am excited to see what he chooses. Of course I am biased towards the biomedical science option as it’s a great jumping-off point if he decides to swap to medicine.

January 27, 2022

A couple of good jobs jobbed today, sorting out books to go to the Lifeline Book Fair next week, as Tania is taking a load and offered to take any of mine as well. Mainly very specific interests that will be slow to move in the street library, for example some on religion that I was given and some fairly technical architecture books of John’s. I tried to get John interested in sorting through the many large boxes of photographs he has, but only succeeded in having him bring even more upstairs to hang and stand in his office so I shot myself in the foot there.

Jane came over for morning tea and it turned into a light lunch on the back verandah. The weather was perfect, slightly overcast, warm but with a breeze. I am hoping that by the time the weather decides to warm up summer will be over, or close to it. Got another box of children’s clothes away to Vinnies, I rang the back door bell and handed them over but got out of there before they had time to refuse any. I can’t bear seeing people put clothes into those big carpark collection bins where they get sold for rags, so if I hear someone is planning to do that I grab the clothes to deliver to a charity shop myself.

January 28, 2022

I have been very worried about the fact that neither my brother, nor his daughters, have contacted me about why he still isn’t answering the phone at home. So I decided to wake up in the middle of the night (and did so) to ring Anne and see if she had news. (No use ringing Anne before noon her time in the middle of winter). Oh yes, she had news and plenty of it. He was moved from Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to Halifax Hospital to recover from the broken vertebrae but they were interested in why he fell down the stairs in the first place, so they did some tests and discovered that he had a problem with a heart valve, so he was moved again, this time to the Leeds Royal Infirmary. (I remember that place well from being treated there for a vestibular migraine attack which put me out of action for three days of a three week holiday. They gave me an injection of codeine to which I am allergic and worsened the situation greatly.) This also explains why I’ve had no luck ringing hospitals, he’d always moved somewhere else so I just got ‘we’ve no such patient’. At Leeds they did a valve replacement, presumably the aortic valve, but he unfortunately caught Covid in the ward and needed to recover from that, however he is coming home in the next few days. None of this was relayed to me by his daughters, despite the promises I had been given. Anne said that a newly-found (a few years ago now) cousin of his has sent two parcels of books to the hospital to which Tanya objected saying that she was ‘interfering’. Books were always a very touchy subject with his wife too, ‘get yer ‘ed out of book Kenneth’ being an oft-heard cry. But the cousin is more the bookish type as he is and as his daughters certainly are not. This ties in with Tanya’s reluctance to give me her details, saying ‘Don’t worry I’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening. I have your email and phone number’. It seems that although I am his sister I am considered, along with the distant cousin, to be an intruder into the tight family group. Perhaps they are thinking inheritance? That seems to be an obsession with some people, but sod them for putting me through all this worry for nought. I haven’t been able to discuss it as John would forget from one conversation to the next, he’s never noticed that Kenneth’s regular calls haven’t been coming in, so I just decided to leave the topic untouched.

January 29, 2022

We were invited to lunch today for Louis’s birthday and Davina used the steel tortilla press that he gave her for Christmas to make fresh tortillas with a range of fillings. It was all delicious and it was especially good for a certain person to be called ‘grandpa John’. He came out all spruced up and ready to go at 8.30 am when I was sitting on the front verandah in my dressing gown reading the papers. Um, you’re about three hours early I told him, so he changed into shorts and read the papers too. I took a box full of good hand-me-down children’s clothes for Millie and Dav gave me two garbage bags of outgrown clothes of Millie’s to go to the op shops. I am Second-hand Rose as always, which is funny really as we never had second-hand stuff when I was a child, cheap stuff yes, but not second-hand.

Tania and I texted each other at just the same time and ended up comparing dreams we’d both had about Bob Elliott, which was somewhat weird. She’s coming on Monday to take a quantity of books to the Lifeline Book Shop and I hope to dig out more tomorrow. I keep getting Mormon texts, or Hare Krishna ones, and as I’m loath to consign books to the recycling I might send them as well and put them on Lifeline’s conscience.

No answer came the loud reply on Kenneth’s phone tonight, so it looks as if he’s still in the hospital. It’s the longest period we haven’t talked since I found him all those years ago, and I don’t like it one bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life Notes 7

December 1, 2020

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

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

December 2, 2020

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

December 3, 2020

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

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

December 4, 2020

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

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

December 5, 2020

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

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

December 6, 2020

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

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

December 7, 2020

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

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

December 8, 2020

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

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

December 9, 2020

Got a surprise text from Dav saying that she was working at Rouse Hill today so we arranged a catchup out there in the afternoon. Her company GPT owns that shopping centre. I love the open nature of that place, single storey, open air places to sit, removing most of the things I hate about places like Castle Towers and its ilk. Of course there is the boring and repetitive nature of the shops but that’s the same in all centres. It seems you need to be part of a chain to get into these centres and I find there’s little I want from them. However seeing my iron packed it in this week I was able to get a new one from Target while I was there.

In the evening I was part of a lengthy online meeting with the Lost and Found group but because they had changed from Zoom to Microsoft Teams there were some technical issues like not being able to see the group as a whole, only the person speaking, and sometimes not even them. Hopefully someone more techy than me will work it out. One of our members now lives in northern Italy and she told us that in her village a law has mandated that no one is to leave their house from Christmas Eve on for a few days, to try to keep Covid at bay. She said that everyone she speaks to knows someone who is infected, if not in hospital, so she’s happy to comply. The group is caring and supportive while simultaneously being very averse to any possibility that a new member may not fit in or may be inclined to behaviour that doesn’t pass muster on the north shore. Our old Pendle Hill group was the opposite, it was all comers. Some came with annoying or even disturbing behaviour but occasional yelling or swearing was overlooked in the interests of the bigger aim of assisting them. That philosophy is something that on the whole I feel more comfortable with. As Thoreau said ‘It is possible for a man wholly to disappear and be merged in his manners. The man who thrusts his manners upon me does so as if he were to insist on introducing me to his cabinet of curiosities, when I wished to see himself’.

December 10, 2020

After telling me it was all too hard to send gifts for birthday and Christmas, the bro recanted and said he’d like another Thea Astley book, having enjoyed Drylands so much. I’ve ordered The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow from Book Depository but of course it won’t get there in time now. I am still thinking about a Christmas choice but The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan is a possibility. Despite its supernatural overtones, this was a book that kept me up late at night. Reality is depicted as capable of wielding a retributive force, also it shows us the results of a villain with an unimaginable amount of money. The mountain is said to possess a kind of consciousness and is described as if having a will of its own, usually something I would run from but the author sucked me in gradually. Totally immersive for me but not everyone’s cup of tea. Today is also a day that John’s daughter suggested as a possible meet-up for him to see his grandchildren but we haven’t heard anything so I guess we just wait and see what transpires for another day. She is currently unwell and it’s totally unsurprising at the moment if she is unable to schedule a meeting in advance.

Watched another ep of the Trump dynasty DVD and it is mesmerising in the audacity and dishonesty it describes. One particularly atrocious act was when he wanted to demolish a much-loved New York Art Deco building to build Trump Tower. There was an outcry and it seemed that the city would refuse him demolition permission. However he publicly offered the famous friezes and statues to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to install there and demolition permission was granted. However the head of the institution eventually received a phone call to say that the friezes were being destroyed. She ran from her office and hailed a taxi to the building, got caught in a traffic jam, jumped out and ran the last ten blocks, only to see the friezes and statues being destroyed with jackhammers. Trump was asked why?? Well you didn’t have a contract, he casually replied.

December 11, 2020

I was looking through my poetry and philosophy shelves to find my mainstays Seneca and Thoreau (Frost being the third) which I reread regularly, especially if I have the miseries. I found a book of poems called Killing Floor by Ai from 1979 which won a slew of awards in the US. I read it again and couldn’t find a single piece that I enjoyed, as was the case when I bought it, so I decided to get rid of it. Hardly the type of thing to cause a fist fight at the street library, I looked on eBay and discovered that this same miserable book is selling for $97 US. I shall list it today and see if I can get $5. Not because I want the money but because it needs to go to a person who really wants it, or wants to make money from it, I don’t care. Freebies end up in bins and I don’t want that to happen to a rare book even though I don’t like it myself. Talking of fist fights, I remember in the shop one Sunday a couple looking seriously at a trunk and deciding to drive up to the mountains to ‘shop around’. Late in the day I was in the process of selling the trunk to another couple when the first couple appeared, horrified that ‘their’ trunk was going to someone else. They appealed to me to give it to them on the grounds that they had looked at it early that day and were therefore first. I declined and was then subjected, along with the buyers, to a torrent of abuse. They left yelling ‘we will never come back to this shop again’ and thank goodness they never did.

Went up to Youeni at Castle Hill with my friend Christine today and caught up on all our news since we last saw each other at Jackie’s funeral. The place is always packed at any time of day and seems to have a loyal following in the vege, gluten free, organic community, lots of bowls of amazing ‘stuff’. Had smashed avo, feta and chickpeas, (see I can order things other than cake). Missing Jackie heaps.

December 12, 2020

Finished watching the Trump video epic last night and found it thoroughly worthwhile. His connections with Russia and Putin go back to 1990 when he desperately tried to get Putin to attend the Miss Universe pageant that he staged in Moscow. When Putin didn’t attend on the night, Trump attempted to get his staff to put out publicity material indicating that Putin had in fact come. Later when he was bankrupted after his three Atlantic City casinos failed he approached the Deutsche Bank’s VIP department and convinced them somehow to let him borrow millions to pay back the self same bank’s bankruptcy section. This VIP section was known to be lending to Russian oligarchs and a connection there is suspected. His plan to build Trump Tower Moscow was scuttled by Obama’s sanctions on Russia, seeding resentment to Obama. Fascinating stuff.

I am a Domain tragic. I read it every Saturday and decide on improvements that could be made to the (mostly) luxury homes for sale therein. I play a game of ‘would I swap it for mine?’ and of course there are many that I would, but perhaps surprisingly there are mansions in suburbs that I wouldn’t want to live in where the answer is nah, I don’t think so. So I started to wonder what I would say if my house appeared in Domain. Certainly I would opt for the louvres alongside my deck doors that were planned but mistakenly made as solid glass. Because the order was copied down in person, John couldn’t prove that louvres were ordered so I was stuck with plain glass or get it redone at huge cost. Secondly I’d alter the high windows in the lounge room where we used some that I already owned, better to have had others I’ve decided. In my ensuite I went for allover marble design walls and floor after telling someone that I planned a mosaic floor with white subway tiles on the walls. ‘Oh I am so over subway tiles’ was the response, but now I think of that mosaic and subway combination and wish I had stuck to my original plan, even though the decor I have turned out perfectly fine. I should learn to ignore other people’s opinions, next life I shall do that combination for sure.

December 13, 2020

Last Insiders for the year, sigh. Raced up to the nursery after finding that the leaves on my ornamental flowering gum have been decimated by a something. After inspecting a leaf, they said it was sawfly which only comes at night and the name fits the damage as some leaves are reduced just to their spines. After laying out $30 for some stuff to mix up and spray on the leaves I felt somewhat relieved as I am particularly attached to that tree. Planted out the Ruby Red cuttings that Heather left me to replace the plant stolen, but I have plenty of them so they should be everywhere if they all take. Yesterday our Saturday Paper was lifted as well so we might have another culprit to watch out for.

An article I read on Medium yesterday suggests, not for the first time, that COVID19 is an autoimmune disease. Apparently they checked the hearts of 174 people who’ve recovered from it and compared them with unaffected controls. Over 60% of the COVID group had signs of inflammation of the heart while none of the control group were affected. More concerningly, very few of the COVID patients had had it seriously enough to go to hospital and weren’t aware that they had anything wrong. In the most serious cases it was akin to the rejection seen on heart transplants. I sent it to Bob who was very interested and said he believes many currently unexplained maladies may turn out to be autoimmune, triggered by a virus. Scary stuff.

December 14, 2020

Confusion reigned supreme this morning as John was getting ready to leave for his much anticipated Tenant Advisory Committee Christmas lunch when Ann rang to tell him that it had been cancelled. He was doubtful so I suggested that he call Link, luckily the CEO came to the phone and said it definitely was not cancelled, but said that Ann had just rung wanting to attend and was told that it was for the committee only, not for tenants. This set him back timewise but ultimately he got on his way and I headed up to Castle Mall. I was parking there when he rang to say that his phone had ‘stopped talking’ to him and he didn’t know how to get to the address. After some coaching on the phone which didn’t help, I hared home only to find that it worked for me first go. By now he was very late but the gadget was going at least, however going down the M2 it stopped again and he got lost, only arriving at the lunch after everyone had had their main course and then only with the help of one of the staff who rang to find out where he was and talked him in. I seem to remember that he got lost on the way to last year’s lunch as well and turned for home, missing it completely, so I guess this year was an improvement.

Planted out some lettuces which I should have done before now to have them ready for Christmas but there you go, a lot going on. Of course the rain last night washed off all of my expensive sawfly killer and considering the clouds about today I don’t intend to spray again just yet, so it’s sawfly picnic on my gum tonight which is a shame. Tony texted to say he is watching the other copy of the library’s Trump DVD set and is as addicted as I was, saying that through our friendship he has become fascinated with his personality. Charisma’s definition includes ‘force of personality’ and isn’t necessarily a positive trait, Hitler was a charismatic leader on any definition, so too Trump.

December 15, 2020

Twice today I have had a call from someone thinking the shop is still in business. I have removed the Facebook page and the website and it’s hard to fathom where these folks are coming from but one said she found me in the Yellow Pages. In each case I was able to make some recommendations about how to find or sell a particular item, but hanging up there was a twinge of ‘I used to do this for a living’. In some ways it was the unpaid parts of the business that I enjoyed the most, finding the right vendor for something that I didn’t want in my shop or helping someone locate something that I didn’t have in the shop to sell. But we move on. I have some jewellery left over from the last auction and decided to give one piece to my friend and ex-employee. I just hope she liked it when it was in the shop. I am not into big gifts at Christmas but it just seemed to have her name on it.

Sue rang today and asked if John and I would like to go to Killcare for a few days from Saturday. We have visitors coming Saturday, a trip to Glenbrook to see John’s grandchildren on Sunday, Kirk coming to mow on Monday and an appointment with my hairdresser on Tuesday so sadly we had to decline. Until Saturday we have something on each day as well, unusual for us. I really miss Robert ringing up ‘just to bullshit each other’ as he used to say. He liked it when I asked about random medical stuff, just things that I didn’t understand or else found to be interesting that I had come across reading or on the net. He gave me many medical journals over the years and I still have many of them here unread, so much to read and so little time. He recommended The Emperor of All Maladies, written by Siddhartha Mukherjee the Indian-born American physician and oncologist, which I promptly bought and loved. It is a 600 page history of cancer and its various treatments over time which won a Pulitzer, a sad conjunction to have had it recommended by him when I think about it now.

December 16, 2020

So John’s neighbour rang and asked if she could put her car into his garage while she goes on holiday in January, of course that would leave his car outside. He immediately said yes and then asked ‘why is your car being stolen more important than it happening to mine?’ We await the answer to that one but he’s decided to say no. They should make a TV show about that block of flats.

Today we went to the Art Gallery of NSW to see the Archibald Prize entries and happened to stumble on the announcement of the people’s choice winner. It was a stunning portrait of refugee Behrouz Boochani painted by Angus McDonald. It is light years ahead of the overall winner chosen by the judges, but that is often the case. There are some amazing works in the Archibald and Wynne Prizes this year but as usual the Sulman entries leave me cold.

Later I decided to bake some coconut biscuits from frozen dough that I had stored a few months back in John’s fridge. They looked a bit the worse for wear but I assumed they had been knocked around over time. I baked them and made passionfruit icing to go on top, half to take to friends tomorrow and half for visitors on Saturday. However when I got them out of the oven they didn’t smell quite right so I cut one in half and it turned out to be…….a chicken dumpling. Neither John nor I would buy such a thing but I remember his telling me that his neighbour had given him some frozen Chinese food ready to bake. Apparently the label had come off in the freezer and when I asked for the ‘dough balls’ these were what I got. I am insisting that they go back to Lane Cove asap, ugh.

December 17, 2020

Because I ended up yesterday with chicken dumplings and passionfruit icing I cooked some choc raspberry biscuits so I could make up a mixed plate for taking to friends for morning tea. It was so lovely to sit on their deck and chew the fat. But it still leaves me short of choice of gluten free treats for Saturday’s visitors, with only Italian almond biscuits in the tin so far. I will get inspiration before then hopefully.

We were notified yesterday of Bob Flaherty’s death, his funeral is on Monday. What a year for illness and death. Now today there are six unexpected Covid cases in Sydney, just when people are letting down their guard, possibly because they are letting down their guard. My brother rang to say he has ‘a streaming cold’ but showed no interest when I told him to get tested asap. I can’t micromanage him from the other side of the world so I only say it once. John had an appointment with a specialist a month ago and was phoned a couple of hours prior to say that she was going into 14 days quarantine after treating a Covid case. The replacement appointment was today and a couple of hours before he got a call to say that she is busy treating someone with Covid and has arranged for another doctor to see him tomorrow. This indicates that at least one of the six new cases is serious as she only works in a hospital environment with inpatients or past patients like John. He’s just as well away from her at the moment I think.

December 18, 2020

I love the serendipitous encounters that blossom into friendships, but also the one-offs that go no further than the first encounter but stick in the memory. This past year I have had two such fluky relationships that blossomed into friendships. First I met Tania, in the toilet of a restaurant no less!, and then Tony when I saw him outside near my street library, in the middle of the pandemic. In the more recent case of Tony, we are constantly amazed at the synchronicities in our histories, our views and our outlook on life. Somehow I think we’ll be pouring tea and eating cake together for a good while yet. I particularly love the unguardedness of these people and the way that they jumped boots and all into wanting a relationship, and weren’t afraid to say so. Obviously there are deal-breakers that may crop up in people I meet, like far-Right views for example, but even then I would be interested in exploring the reasons for their opinions, but perhaps not so keen to have them around me much. I am a hugger and toucher, yet with these two nary a hug has been had, and I miss that. Once the vaccine is up and running that may need to be rectified to a greater degree than called for, but we’ll see. I love Tania’s 11pm calls ‘are you awake? can I phone you?’ and Tony’s texts, always about something that I’m really interested in, or proposing another tea date. I am a very lucky ducky, for a while there I thought that not having the shop anymore meant an end to providential relationships. But knowing that they can happen, just by going out to the grass verge and seeing a virtual stranger standing there, gives me a glow and makes the potential of every day something to look forward to.

December 19, 2020

I managed to get the house tidied, the verandahs swept, the tea things set up before John arrived, just minutes prior to the visitors for morning tea. I had planned to entertain them on the back deck but there was a sort of misty rain in the air that didn’t quite reach the ground, but would have made it unpleasant, so we sat indoors instead. We had a good chat and he told them of his recent diagnosis. I have been lucky to have supped with five people over three days, social butterfly at last. I had planned and bought the food for Christmas for eight, but now with a Covid outbreak on the Northern Beaches everything is up in the air, with border restrictions meaning that our three interstate visitors may not be able to come. More to the point they may not want to risk coming and then not being able to get back over the border come time to go home. It is a real bummer that this has happened right on Christmas but as with everything to do with this virus, we are better off than most. I wish Gladys were more proactive in simply enforcing rules instead of just advising people but we are stuck with her I’m afraid. There are so many multi-million dollar mansions in that area and many would be rented out at this time of year to various nabobs that I can’t help but wonder if one of them brought the virus in, seeing they have identified it as being from the US. But there are lots of other options such as air crew or people who work in hotel quarantine. We may never know. My hairdresser is at Manly and I had an appointment for Tuesday but they have closed up shop so there might be some grey roots showing up on people for Christmas, luckily that’s one problem I don’t have.

December 20, 2020

Well I really exceeded expectations today. John had worries about parking in the drive under Arvind’s tree so that my car needs ideally to go into the garage. But it has been in the drive now for years, ever since the garage was filled by all the junk from the shop, not good stock but boxes of things like plate stands and jewellery cases and cleaning cloths and shelf liners and…. So today was the day to haul out all of those boxes and put them under the deck temporarily until I can find homes for them. I did pull out a large roll of upholstery fabric, some velvet, some dress fabric and some embroidery cottons which I’ll donate to the sewing group so that’s a start. I did a ceremonial drive into the garage and John a ceremonial one down the drive and away from under the tree. Although the work is still cut out for me I will order a council clean-up after Christmas and that will encourage me to cull some more of the things. Hallelujah. My friend Michelle was here today and took a bit of stuff too. I am hoping that she likes the necklace I have given her for Christmas, I think she will. She is such a good sport and is one of the best humans.

On the Christmas front, many will be sorely disappointed with travel plans quashed, gifts unable to be bought or given and food shopping undone. Arvind said his sister lives in the Covid zone and went yesterday to try to buy meat for Christmas: she wasn’t fussy, ham, turkey, a leg of lamb, whatever she could get, but the shops were sold out of all such things. Sue has cancelled her trip down from Queensland so we are one short for Christmas Day with Carly and Danish in limbo. Davina and Louis had taken 10 days off work to spend with Sue who hasn’t seen them all since well before the pandemic. We await Carly’s decision. Postscript: At 6.40 tonight the ACT government mandated that anyone coming into the ACT from Sydney has to quarantine for 14 days, so that’s Carly and Danish out for Christmas too.

December 21, 2020

I was all positive and encouraging to the girls last night about the disappointment of Carly not being able to come for Christmas, but this morning when I phoned Natalie at the bakery to order bread to pick up today and freeze for later in the week, I ended up in tears while thanking her for all the times she drove from Dural to me with measly orders during the worst of the Covid times. All the built up stress of the past weeks came out at once, but I feel better for it now. I will be amazed if the Covid count doesn’t keep rising, Glad is diametrically opposed to telling people what to do, like old Boris in the UK, she won’t act until there’s a disaster. People won’t all obey ‘recommendations’ and it is naive to think they will.

John helped me clean out the small bar fridge in the garage which is always turned off except for when I have a function. But all this year it hasn’t been called for, so when I opened it I got a shock that the entire interior was black with mould after a can of Rekordalig cider had exploded inside it for some unknown reason. He hucked it out with bleach so hopefully if I need to turn it on, something I doubt I’ll need to do now with reduced guests, I’ll feel it is safe to use. Meanwhile I cleaned various empty picture frames and a large wall mirror, plus some china and a big collection of not-very-good landscape oil paintings. We drove up to the new Lifeline shop but they were very picky, only accepting the china and a few framed prints, rejecting all the paintings, the mirror and all the empty frames. Everyone’s a critic I thought as she rejected all the paintings, but I’ve seen worse in galleries. The Sallies seem to be the only people who take everything, so I will need to drive to Parramatta after Christmas, which is a bummer.

We didn’t get to see Martha with the sewing materials as she emailed early that Phil had been in pain and vomiting during the night, so she took him to the San at 4am. Latest news is that he is being transferred to Royal North Shore because the San doesn’t have the facility to do peritoneal dialysis which he needs regularly. So many time we hear of a private hospital, even a big sophisticated one like the San, moving patients into public because of a lack of ability to handle a complex situation. Keeps our Christmas holiday woes in perspective.

December 22, 2020

John is doing our grocery order this week and I had pointed out that I needed some of the items to cook with early in the week but the best he could do in the circumstances was opt for a Thursday morning delivery. I’m sure many people are ordering who would otherwise be going to the shops. Of course many things sell out by Christmas Eve, even in a non-Covid year, so I had to go out this morning and buy the essentials just in case, doubling up when the order arrives. I decided to do just the custard for the trifle today and also the tahini sauce which is part of an Ottolenghi green vegetable dish. The kitchen afterwards looked as if I’d cooked three courses with the Kitchen Whiz, the Kenwood Chef, sieves, saucepans and whatever else in use. I’m trying to limit actual cooking to the absolute minimum on Christmas Day and considering the mess I made with today’s effort it seems that’s a very good idea. For some reason all the changes of plan have unnerved me more than they should have. But I think they are just a proxy for everything else that’s upending our lives at the moment, personally and nationally. This is supposed to be fun, and it usually is, but this year…..

Carly just texted to say she had a tahini disaster in her good work handbag today, so I guess compared to that my kitchen disarray is not too bad. I rang my cousin Victor in England tonight, he lives where there is a stage 3 lockdown with all the pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops closed. But still his 80 year old friend died from Covid last week though the funeral has had to be delayed until New Year because the man’s son now has it too. 67,616 dead in Britain he informs me, with Boris being accused of manslaughter by Vic and many of his compatriots apparently. I think the anger at his handling of the pandemic is pretty much universal if Vic and Kenneth are to be believed. Both refer to him as Britain’s Trump.

December 23, 2020

I thought myself clever to be at Norwest Growers Market when they opened at 7 am, only to find that this week they are opening at 6. However for me that was still a good effort. Celeriac proved a stumbling block to my Potato and Celeriac Dauphinoise, of course it’s a winter vegetable, but so are Brussels sprouts and we get them all year. Sue had left me some organic onions (by far the biggest onions I have ever seen) and some fresh crispy garlic, so now it’s potato and onion instead of potato and celeriac. The garlic made me realise how stale most garlic is when we buy it, these cloves are so crisp you could snap them. I usually get some fruit and veg at a farm at Dural, but Denise has what she has, it’s not like a fruit market there you can buy anything (except celeriac) so although I usually set the menu by what’s available, this time I wanted to simply buy what I had planned. Made passionfruit jelly for the trifle and did the dauphinoise early to store and reheat on Christmas Day, trying to prepare everything possible in advance.

I had invited a few people to ‘drop in’ on Boxing Day morning but one couple (in their 50s and in good health) confessed to feeling uncomfortable about doing that in the current environment with hotspots at Blacktown, Macquarie Shopping Centre etc. I decided to pull the plug on the invitations and when I contacted people they were actually relieved, so I doubt I had takers anyway. Unfortunately we will be eating biscuits for a while yet as I had already cooked for it. We had already decided to limit Christmas Day to family for the same reasons and I am feeling a bit like Scrooge.

December 24, 2020

Up early to continue the preparations for tomorrow. Trifle finished, tick, prepped all the veges, tick, made a sauce, tick. Then a message from Davina: the Covid case she had told me about days ago at the MLC Centre food court has now been made public and there are either 2 or 5 cases attached, depending on whom you believe. Dav got an email from work advising affected staff to get tested and go into quarantine, so she walked to Prince Alfred Hospital where they were aware of that hotspot and told her the instruction is to quarantine only till she gets a negative result, not for 14 days as she had feared. So that will teach me to prep everything in advance, it’s like when I got my Toyota professionally detailed and the next day it was written off by a drunk driver. You live and learn. But I guess once her test comes back we will regroup and have some sort of Christmas, tomorrow though it will be just the two of us.

Also on the Covid front a nurse who helps transport quarantined people from the airport to hotels also did a shift moving a patient to the Anglican Church’s aged care facility at Castle Hill where three of our friends live, against government policy apparently. That must be putting shivers down the spine of management at the moment, so I guess our whinges are just that. However I still intend to whinge, but will defer as required to others with bigger problems.

December 25, 2020

What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours….. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I am like a large liner, very slow to turn, but I get there in the end. After a maudlin 24 hours since Christmas was virtually cancelled due to Dav having to isolate till her Covid test came back, this morning I woke up keen and ready to go. The obligatory Christmas breakfast of croissants and tea was followed by some FaceTime calls from each of the girls and texts came thick and fast all day. Each step in the lunch prep was sent around so we could all see each other’s food coming together and the presents as they were opened. I modified the menu somewhat to accommodate John’s preference for hot vegetables over salads, but apart from that we had the meal I had planned. With all the calls and texts it wasn’t nearly as lonely as I had expected. As my grandmother used to say ‘we’ve all done very well in the present department’. Just now I heard that Davina’s Covid test has come back very quickly and it’s negative, so we are planning a get together soon. My brother and cousin Victor in the UK laughed when I said we had 104 cases a day ago, ‘try 40,000 a day’ said Victor grimly. I think the numbers of cases we are seeing in Sydney at the moment is extraordinarily low considering the number of exposed premises. Either we are being sensationally lucky or else it is the lull before the New Year storm. I hope it is the first, because Gladys’s decisions are seriously inadequate in my view. My bro has been invited to Christmas lunch by each of two daughters, a tricky decision, and they can’t mix because gatherings are limited to a certain number of households. Luckily Victor has just one son, easy peasy.

December 26, 2020

Oh my, who thinks it’s okay to send texts intermittently from 11 pm to 1 am on Christmas night, waking me up with each one? This morning I actually read them and they were all from one person (natch) asking why she never gets invited to our functions (functions, functions, what are functions? something from the past I’m thinking…Smilie: ;). After explaining that we are not entertaining in the pandemic, I got the reply ‘but I’ve known you for 6 years and I never get invited to your birthdays and Christmases and parties’.  Both of our birthdays were celebrated with a meal at home this year and yes she has been invited to lunch here in the past. This after sending her Christmas gifts that seemed yesterday to be well received, sometimes you can’t win.

I only realised tonight how much John has emotionally invested in his new car. At the threat of hail on the weather report tonight he wanted carpets to put over it, but apart from hand-woven ones on the floors, it’s not something I have hanging around. Not to be put off he collected and piled on bubble wrap, bed sheets, cushions, a mozzie net, car mats, and the white Marcella quilt off one of the guest room beds, all covered with painter’s tarps and held down with bricks and pavers. Unfortunately the quilt was topped with deep blue pieces of foam and now is patterned with same, whether it ever bleaches out remains to be seen. It better bloody hail.

December 27, 2020

The Erko crew came for a post-Christmas celebration now that Dav’s Covid test came back negative. So I worked up a menu with a combination of new cooking, the centre of which was a boned and rolled chicken, and also mining the copious leftovers. Millie loved the cheese toastie and garlic bread. I just had the numerous veg and was more than happy with that. Louis tasted the trifle and declared that he couldn’t have a second serve and risk the breathaliser. It did have an extraordinary amount of brandy and sherry in it. Davina’s Christmas cake, swimming in cherry brandy, was a fitting dessert for me.  We really forgot it wasn’t Christmas Day and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Now we await a third Christmas when Carly is able to cross the border.  Perhaps we’ll decide to have three Christmases every year. Millie decided that she wants ‘a sleep-over at grandma’s house’ so we will organise that before too long’. When she was shown the room she commented, because of a box on the bed, that it is ‘quite a messy room’. Everyone’s a critic.

December 28, 2020

I am really over scam emails, texts, phone calls. It is totally out of hand and the government (some would say it has a considerable number of scammers within its number, looking at you Angus Taylor) should be doing a lot more than it is. So far this morning I’ve had a text from DHL telling me that I need to pay for a parcel from overseas within 7 days, an email from iCloud saying my log-in details have been altered and I will be locked out if I don’t answer and a call from Monrovia (which is where exactly?). If I answer I advise them to get a real job but I realise jobs in Monrovia may be thin on the ground, so that’s probably a bit mean. But the point is I shouldn’t have to field this nonsense every day and I pay taxes to have someone else fix it. Mmm alright, actually I no longer pay taxes, but the principle stands.

Heather came over in the afternoon and she and John commiserated with each other about difficult families. He’s been a bit down today about no communication at all from family over Christmas and no replies to his attempts, but it’s been this way every year, that’s why he says he’s always glad when Christmas is over. The numbers of NSW coronavirus cases is low again, just 5, and with the accommodation of the government to the wishes of people wanting to celebrate the season, I wonder if we are doing extraordinarily well or if the thing is bubbling along underneath and will just whoosh out all at once in the coming couple of weeks, like some sort of pent-up geyser. That word reminds me of an article in the Herald yesterday by the irksome Parnell McGuinness entitled “Top of the Pops: Gladys Berejiklian should beat Jacinda Ardern in the 2020 popularity stakes”. One’s mind turns immediately to satire, but no, she’s dead serious. I left a comment saying that I had thought it was December but clearly it must be April 1.

December 29, 2020

We started late with Ricotta Hotcakes and Blackberry Jam for brunch. I don’t normally buy ricotta but I had done so because of a recipe I wanted to do and had exactly half the tub left, just enough for four hotcakes and thankfully that removed one more container from the frig.  Then we hared down to the Sallies at North Parramatta with a bootful of stuff that wasn’t good enough for Lifeline. They took it gladly so I will go there first in future. There was a box full of empty frames and a box of paintings by an old lady in Windsor whose family begged me to buy the contents of her workshop. I don’t think I made any money but I probably got my money back. A few of the better ones sold at auction, some were hung in the foyer and stairwell of John’s building and the rest have gone to charity shops. She was a nice old thing and I just couldn’t bin them after all the effort she put in, not much talent but a lot of endeavour. A perfectly good vintage bevelled wall mirror was knocked by by Lifeline but was happily taken by the Sallie-Anns plus some nice china pieces. I noticed that everything there was spotless, the crystal positively shone, so I was impressed. If it were not for Covid I wouldn’t mind volunteering there.

Thinking back about John’s extreme reaction to the possibility of his new car being damaged by hail, it occurred to me that his other vehicles weren’t really ‘his’. The van belonged to the shop and the Suzuki was bought from his daughter as a favour to get her out of some financial scrape, so this car is perhaps the first one in many decades that was bought by him alone and was just his. Today we peeled off the pavers and wood and the many layers of protection in order to go to the Sallies and he said sheepishly ‘this was a bit ridiculous really’. Luckily my white Marcella quilt came out okay after going through the machine with a bit of bleach, so that saved his bacon. But we work on many levels and the old lizard brain is always there underneath, directing us in ways that aren’t necessarily logical but seem vitally important at the time. I know, I have been victim to it many times.

December 30, 2020

Well it seems Gladys’s insistence on accommodating people’s wishes to shop and socialise for Christmas has led us into totally predictable territory, with the virus popping up like Topsy all over the suburbs and even in Wollongong. The woman has private enterprise and commerce in her DNA and just can’t envisage doing anything just for the public good. We decided yesterday that we would spend today on a trip across the elevated road at Stanwell Park, down the coast to Wollongong for chish and fips at the beach there. But last night the Wollongong Covid hotspot was announced, including the beach, so we gave that a miss. Instead we took a drive up to Mt. Tomah Botanic Gardens where it was misty and rainy but glorious to be surrounded by all that green. On the way home we grabbed a delicious pie each from The Grumpy Baker at Bilpin, taking longer to fill in the QR code than to buy the pie. My reason for suggesting the drive yesterday was that I am forecasting another lockdown if Gladys doesn’t get real, so we may not have too many chances. Poor Davina and Louis took their annual holidays to spend with his mum, who couldn’t come down from Queensland, and now they are abiding by the suggestion that they go out only as necessary, unlike certain recalcitrant wedding guests which I won’t even mention in case my blood boils.

December 31, 2020

My bakery is closing for two weeks so we hared out to Dural and bought up as much bread as would fit into both our freezers. Later I cooked Kue Gula Merah or Palm Sugar Slice, which is about as dense with sugar as it is possible to get. Getting the palm sugar was an epic but I ended up finding it at the local Asian grocery store, happily in a pack size that was exactly what the recipe called for. It turned out fine and we repaired to Davina’s in the afternoon where she was prepping the Indonesian feast which we had for dinner, including a salad with homemade pickled veges and a homemade chilli sambal. Millie had been at Froebel, her pre-school, and it was her turn for show and tell. Did she take one of her Christmas toys? No she took a large and a small ball, to demonstrate how Ganymede travels around Jupiter. Ganywho? asked John, regretting that he hadn’t done astronomy at university. Millie didn’t countenance the possibility that we didn’t know the moons of Jupiter, but filled us in on the minor planets in order: Ceres, poor Pluto, Makemake, Haumea and Eris in case you were wondering. Why poor Pluto? because it used to be a planet so she feels sorry for it. I was super tired for some reason and, although I tried to stay up, crashed into bed at 9.30. John was coming to bed at 11.00 when he got a phone call from his neighbour, as is her want. It went to 11.30, so he stayed up to watch the fireworks. He is trying to set boundaries for acceptable times to phone and text. Good luck with that dear heart, I’ve given up. I find fireworks on television somewhat depressing, knowing what you are missing out on ruins it for me: no big bangs, no vibration, no all-around splendour, no smell of gunpowder, no thanks.

January 1, 2021

We decided over breakfast to tootle off for a few days next week. Tried a few places around Oberon to no avail, then went out to Mudgee with similar result. Still thinking about whether to persist or give it away. Beaches are a no-go obviously but I thought that the west might be a goer. I have been busy washing and ironing white linen from the storeroom with a view to keeping some and giving other bits to the sewing group, for example damaged tablecloths with plenty of lace that is still usable. Once I’ve washed, ironed and sorted all of the boxes, I intend to pull out all of the linen in my press and divest myself of some of it, either to friends (who wants it is the question?), old clients or at worst the Sallies. I have enough tablecloths to last a month changing them every day, probably more in fact, so I need to cull them down to maybe ten, in varying sizes and degrees of luxury. Will it happen? will I be able to divest? who knows. Surely the intent counts for something.

I did prawn cocktails with Marie Rose Sauce for lunch, working on my grandmother’s old saying ‘Start as you intend to continue’. Although I thoroughly enjoyed mine, John commented afterwards ‘Prawns are a bit overrated aren’t they?’ to which I answered that I would happily have eaten all of them and made him a cheese toastie. Like feeding strawberries to pigs, as my old friend Trevor used to say in such situations, but Trevor was a harsh person so I will be content with an eyeroll.

January 2, 2021

Spent some time yesterday looking up places to have a few days away. I tried Oberon but couldn’t get in, then Mudgee likewise. After eight attempts I had given up on the idea when I got an email back from Forgandenny House B and B at Mudgee to say they had had a cancellation and could do Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights next week. He said we needed to answer a questionnaire on arrival and get temps checked. Also said all bed linen is disinfected and high temp washed, plus daily cleaning of shared areas and mentioned we can have breakfast on the verandah at our own table if desired. So we thought it sounded as safe as you can reasonably get in the current circumstances and booked it. The house is 100 years old and packed full of antiques, now owned by the great granddaughter of the original owner Dr Charles Lester, a Mudgee local who was trained at Edinburgh University in medicine, pharmacy and dentistry and practised there for the rest of his life. We can do some local drives, packing our trusty Thermos and looking around the area. Yippee, thankyou for getting back to me Errol.

After getting no papers delivered at all last weekend we complained to both the SMH and The Saturday Paper and today the SMH landed half way down the drive. I suspect we have a paper thief, so I went out at 5.15 to retrieve it successfully. That gave me the opportunity to read all my Medium articles this morning before John even got up, so I am feeling pretty smug about that.

January 3, 2021

John decided that he wanted to deliver his grandchildren’s birthday presents before we go away as there’s been no response to his communications. S0 we went out to Dan’s mother’s place at Cranebrook to leave them there. She had, unbeknown to us, phoned Dan to say we were coming and he decided to bring the girls down to see John. It was great to see them for the first time in 13 months and obviously they had grown a lot, Aurora goes to high school this year. They are lovely girls and John was so pleased to finally see them. We always find out what’s going on when we see Lynne as she gets all her info from Dan, so it was helpful for John to know what is happening regarding Annabel’s treatment.

My bro rang and I asked if he had by chance got the vaccination yet. He said that his daughter Tanya looked at his phone and found two messages from the NHS telling him to ring for a vaccination appointment, he hadn’t checked his phone. She immediately rang but was told that supplies had run out and he will be contacted when they have stock again, but they didn’t know when. He knew to expect a message, they are doing the rollout by age, but still didn’t check his phone. What can I say?

January 4, 2021

Just looked up the weather forecast and it said ‘possible light rain in the afternoon, light winds’. It is 4 pm and teaming rain, with thunder like explosions, and blowing a gale. Just hoping it doesn’t hail on John’s car or else he will be tres en colere. This morning I loaded up the rolls of velvet, upholstery fabric etc along with some old embroidered tablecloths and doilies a bit the worse for wear, embroidery cottons, dress fabric and sewing bits and took them to Martha’s for her to deliver to the sewing group. She reiterated her invitation to join, despite my disinclination to sew, and suggested that my repeated donations would qualify me for admission. However the next meeting is on Wednesday and I am not inclined to go at the moment with Covid on the rise, however I have more stuff to donate so I might buy my way in another time. One scary aside re Covid is that the Berala BWS cluster was started by someone with no symptoms shopping there very briefly, giving it to the counter jockey who then gave it to his colleague. They both worked for 10 days straight, right over Christmas and New Year, with customers who were only there ‘fleetingly’ getting the virus. On this basis none of us is safe shopping anywhere. My friend only orders online and even then washes every item with metho as she unpacks it. On the BWS experience it appears she’s not extreme.

January 5, 2021

So Don Trumpone the Evil is now threatening his colleagues if they don’t ‘find me 11,780 votes’. It wouldn’t surprise me particularly if he trashes the White House when forced to leave. The ABC News and 7.30 Report give this major story the briefest possible coverage but have plenty of time to do a feel-good story on melting bread tags to make into bowls for charity! This is fine in itself but it could surely have waited for a low news day. I am forever amazed at what the ABC thinks is top priority; SBS is better but I can’t watch it because of the ads. The ABC often looks like a commercial news program without the ads. Come the Revolution, things will change, when I am installed head honcho at the ABC.

John’s Google maps on his phone hasn’t worked for a couple of weeks, well the map is there but it doesn’t speak. Davina and Louis had a go at it, then Phil said it seemed fine to him, then Arvind said to delete the app and reinstall it, but that made no difference. This morning I decided to download Waze instead, but it won’t talk either as the GPS connection isn’t working, so I rang Motorola and they said to turn the phone off and back on, no difference. A second call made it clear that they didn’t have a clue how to fix it and suggested that we post it to them, after which they would reset it, losing all the data. We gave up at this point, drove to the Good Guys and bought a Navman, thanks technology for wasting a day out of my life that I’ll never get back.

January 6, 2021

One thing that no-one seems to be talking about is certainly worrying me. If you take half a packet of antibiotics you are asking for antibiotic resistance to develop. If a whole lot of people do it you are almost guaranteeing that a mutation in the bacterium will happen. Likewise if the recommended gap between vaccination injections is 6 weeks or whatever and you increase the gap to 12 weeks in millions of people you are almost guaranteeing that the virus will mutate its way around the vaccine in that time. Especially an RNA vaccine which mutates so much faster than a bacterium. Why is no-one voicing concerns about the plan by Boris Johnson to do exactly this? It is not a medical decision but a political one to reassure the populace that everyone is going to get the vaccine. Is it like in Trumpland where no-one is game to disagree with the boss?

Happy packing for our Mudgee trip tomorrow, yippee trees and green stuff all around. Normally I would be disappointed that it wasn’t the beach but it’s hardly beach weather so I am just grateful to be going somewhere out of the city and it’s a bonus that it’s not a virus hotspot. The pesky thing is sliding northwards from Berala, now reaching  Wentworthville and Parramatta, once it crosses the river….we will be going back to online shopping only and full lockdown.

January 7, 2021

We had a breezy trip to Mudgee today with very little traffic. Amazed at the mile on mile of bushfire damaged trees through Bilpin, Bell and Lithgow, often as far as you can see in every direction, the animals wouldn’t have had a hope. Hard to believe that it was a year ago. Perhaps the roads were quiet because everyone was rivetted to the TV, watching the extraordinary events unfolding in Washington. I am not the least surprised, in fact I commented to a friend a week ago that I hoped they planned to beef up security for electoral college voting today and for the inauguration. Clearly they were woefully ill-prepared. It is terrifying to think of what other tricks he might have up his sleeve.

Forgandenny House is everything the website claims and more. Full of antiques and with vases of flowers from the extensive garden everywhere you look, including roses on my bedside table. Across the road from the river and a few blocks walk to town, it is ideal. Getting dinner here was no simple matter though. We had to leave our names on a wait list as all the eating places were booked out, on a Thursday night, I guess due to the extra space required by the Covid rules? We only entertained places with outdoor eating, but the indoor ones were packed as well. A light repast of Soft Shell Crab with Slaw was all I needed and proved excellent.

January 8, 2021

My goodness the breakfast here was something to write home about. A first course of apple and rhubarb crumble was unusual and delicious, followed by the full Monty for John of bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach while I had a modified version that was still more than I could eat. Then we went off to Gulgong, such a lovely little town. The Holtermann Collection was our focus there, a huge collection of photographs from glass plates taken over many years and depicting the area during the gold rush. They were found in the mid-fifties in the back shed of a property in Crows Nest belonging to his descendants. They didn’t know what they were and were glad when the State Library took over the crates of glass plates and saved them the trouble of getting them taken to the tip. Each business in town was photographed along with many bark huts and weatherboard houses replete with their residents standing proudly out the front. The photographer travelled to other gold fields and also cities such as Sydney where Holtermann eventually built a mansion at North Sydney with the proceeds of the famous Holtermann Nugget, a single piece of gold he unearthed, worth about $5.5 million in today’s money. The two-storey mansion with tower still exists, but is unrecognisable after being bricked up externally by the Anglican Church as part of its Sydney Church of England Grammar School. Barbarians in any language, I wonder if they tell their students about this travesty? Seeing photographs of this magnificent house makes it almost impossible to believe such a thing could have been done, but it was. Later we went to a couple of wineries, preferring the Yeates Winery to the others because of the warm welcome by Yeates family members and the fact that they had a non-alcoholic cordial for John to try, made from smoke damaged grapes, infused with wild strawberry leaves, pepper and oregano. Naturally we bought him a bottle.

January 9, 2021

Beginning the day with a banana, honey and pistachio smoothie is just the ticket, follow it with a poached pair in cinnamon and orange juice and the day is really going somewhere. After our enormous breakfast we headed off to Rylstone Markets but sadly it wasn’t on today, despite the tourist bureau’s assurances. However we enjoyed walking around and looking at the now unused railway station and the many historic buildings in the town. On to Kandos which used to have a big cement works and now appears to have nothing. Quite a drive then to Sofala, where we lunched in an open air rustic cafe, sharing a sandwich, and then chatted to a biker with the the biggest and flashest motorbike I have ever seen, namely an Indian, which I had never heard of but it is apparently big in that world. It had leather paniers with all the fringing you would expect on something called an Indian. The rider commented to John that he was staying at Sofala Gaol to which John replied ‘How appropriate’ which I thought was somewhat unwise considering the guy was a man mountain, but also unwise considering it was a sweeping judgment on bikers versus bikies. A little later we passed a house flying the Confederate flag and I surreptitiously took a pic, but John wandered over to the guy who was working in his garage and started a conversation about metalwork or something, after which I bravely joined in and commented on his garden. Trump was not brought up by either side. On again to Hill End, that wonderful almost deserted mining town from the Gold Rush, which now features Holtermann photographs at every building and every vacant block showing what business once lived there. Only about 20% of the town still exists (I am guessing here) but some buildings are empty and protected while a few houses are still occupied. I would have liked more time there but we had a dinner reservation for 7 pm and needed to get the 65 kilometres back to Mudgee. I could only manage an entree but hollow-legged John managed a meal of duck. So sad to be leaving this place tomorrow, there is still so much more to see.

January 10, 2021

After another superb meal this morning (smoked salmon, avocado, asparagus, tomato and corn cakes) we packed up and went off to a few wineries, choosing those where I had tried the wines over dinner while we’ve been here. There are so many here and no way to see them all, nor any inclination to do so, especially with a teetotaller. But we enjoyed the museum at Craigmoor Wines, owned by Robert Oatley Wines, which I love, though they don’t sell the wider range of Oatley wines made in Margaret River, the ones I particularly wanted. However they were able to point me towards a pub in Mudgee which stocks all their wines and I picked up five bottles there of the delicious cab sav, having failed to get any in the usual stores down here for quite some time. We also went to Mudgee Honey Haven and bought some of their products, but were perplexed to find when we got home that none of them have any ingredients listed, which is required by law. A flavoured honey should read for example: honey, cinnamon, but even the plain honeys don’t have any ingredient at all listed on the jar. I smell a rat and will contact them tomorrow. We had a bit of a scare when John realised he had forgotten to fill the car with petrol before we left Mudgee and when he remembered we still had 100 kilometres to go and the tank was near empty. Luckily there was a sole petrol station at Capertee, about 40 kms after the empty light came on. It was looking dire there for a while but we were in luck and didn’t run out. John said on the way home that Forgandenny was the best place he had ever stayed, quite a call.

January 11, 2021

This morning I did some work on food labelling and yes, all of the honey products we bought fail NSW Food Authority labelling laws on three counts: Description, list of ingredients and country of origin. Now this is not a big deal if bought at a fete, but this is a big company who should know better. We should know better too, but without glasses on and not looking at the small print you would never realise that they don’t mention the word ‘honey’, but just say Bush or Orange Blossom or whatever. Also there is no list of ingredients on any of them, even the blends, and no country of origin. I will ring them later and ask nicely why not. Later has come and gone and they haven’t yet answered their phone, tipped off by a blog reader no doubt.

Parnell McGuinness, hiss spit, wrote an op ed in yesterday’s Herald mentioning ‘Trump’s moderate supporters’ but this is a group I have not come across before. I wrote a letter to the SMH this morning saying ‘perhaps it wouldn’t take up many column inches for her to name them individually’. Lately I have had a long bad run of getting letters published and without local papers, where I used to have a 100% success rate (to fill column inches between the ads), it seems the world is happy to go on without my personal opinions on everything under the sun. However I shall keep writing.

Three months ago I went to a specialist at St. Vincents about a lump in the bowel. He said he didn’t know what it was and couldn’t tell without surgery, but suggested we wait three months to see if it went away. The answer today was no, but as he said ‘we could be having this conversation again in three or six months and my answer may be the same, that I don’t know. But if it is cancer, one of the possibilities, we would be kicking ourselves’. So reluctantly from both sides he decided it needs surgery to know one way or the other, and he booked me in for February 3, ho hum, life’s never simple. Like Bob he is a reluctant interventionist, has bulked billed me for both consultations and made a point of saying he will do the op in the private wing to get in sooner but charge just the Medicare rebate. I think he likes me and I certainly like him.

January 12, 2021

Technology woes. St. Vincent’s Hospital does all their admissions online now so I was given a website address to do the job. It accepted my name, address, phone etc but when it came to a validation code in order to enter a medical history the site keeps telling me the code that they’ve texted me is invalid. Repeatedly. So I rang the hospital and the techie people can’t make it work either and as I don’t have a printer they are now posting me the forms, which I could easily have filled out with pen and paper yesterday. A computer glitch she told me, I hope any operating theatre computers are working a little better.

The honey saga continues: No-one has replied to my very pleasant email or phone message. So I rang the NSW Apiarists Association, the peak body, who were shocked that honey is being sold unlabelled and said ‘unscrupulous people dilute honey with glucose or rice syrup and that’s a very good reason not to list ingredients on the label, however both are illegal’. He told me to ask for an email confirming they are selling pure honey and also asking for an ingredient list for the other products which are blended. He was pretty cross and said if that is not supplied I should report them to the NSW Government Food Labelling Authority! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but it is understandable that they are looking after their members’ interests.

On the early news this morning there was an interview with an author recommending escapist books to read at the moment and it seemed there was a consensus that we need them. The ones they recommended, cheesy love stories and their ilk, sounded enough to depress me more than watching the current news. One of the first books I read back in March was a lengthy tome on coming plagues from interaction with wild animals, followed by The Plague by Camus. If we are living through a one in a hundred year plague then perhaps we should acknowledge that and flow with it, experiencing it fully, unpleasant as it may be at times. One day some of us at least will look back on this and remember how it was: the lockdowns, the testing tents, the masks, the deep cleaning, the deaths, the premiers bickering. This process will not be helped by reading love stories I wouldn’t have thought. This is not to say we can’t have fun or enjoy the sun or our garden or travel or reading for that matter, but reading specifically to forget seems a waste of these amazing times to me.

January 13, 2021

Technology woes 2: The hospital sent the forms to John for him to print, then I was to fill them in and post them back, but last night I decided to give the online version one last try and bingo! the validation code worked. So I filled in all the personal stuff, 2 pages, then got onto the medical history questions. On page 2 of 9 it suddenly decided to stop working, just after the kidney questions, perhaps it got sick of my constant NO to every possible disease known to man that they were asking about. I emailed my previous helper, Loretta  in the patient services department, to ask if she could give it a push from her end but so far, no response. I am determined to finish the damned thing online now that I’ve got this far.

Huzzah!!! 24 hours after first starting the online admission form it is completed and sent, after phone help from Chloe at St. V’s.  Poor Chloe had to ask the questions and enter them at her end but then my screen suddenly bumped back into action. There were about 20 questions just relating to Covid symptoms. I deserve and shall have a nice cup of tea in celebration, since I’ve just vowed that I only drink two glass of alcohol a week I won’t open the Moet put in the fridge for Christmas.

A man has punched a security guard who asked his wife to wear a mask in a shopping centre, another man intervened to help the guard and got stabbed in the leg by the puncher. Where did this happen? Windsor, of course it was Windsor, right opposite my old shop, where people just go by different rules than the rest of Sydney. A friend who used to lecture at the Australian Catholic University told me years ago that his colleague in the History Department had written a paper suggesting that many of the the good folk of Windsor have a different attitude to the law because of its past as a convict settlement and it didn’t surprise me one bit.

January 14, 2021

I’ve been thinking back about the various crimes people casually mentioned in the shop over the years, of course drugs was a common and consistent one, but there was the fellow who told me that the mechanic’s quote to fix his car was ridiculous, so he pushed it over a cliff in the bush and then reported it stolen and claimed the insurance. One stylish female customer who lived in a beautiful historic home overlooking the golf course was married to a famous ‘fixer’ who broke people’s legs for a price if they owed money to the wrong people. She was lovely and her husband remained undiscussed. He was arrested in the year that I left the business so he may very well be in gaol now, but he’d been doing that work for decades, going back at least as far as the Loveboat scandal involving Labor politicians in the 80s. However there was a funny sort of ‘honour amongst thieves’ thing happening too. When my shop was burgled I was given the name of the out-of-town burglar by one of the locals who said ‘he had no right coming in here and stealing from you’. I passed on the name to the police and sure enough he was found with the goods and convicted. It really is the Wild West out there, I rarely mention it as it had to be experienced to be believed.

Today I was pleased to give my next door neighbours some chilis from my prolific bush, to mend some more linen (even though I don’t yet know whether I’ll keep it or give it away), to get a call from Sue saying she will come down tomorrow and stay overnight and to fill in my Sydney Morning Herald Weekly Poll, which used to be called Herald Insiders, but that must have sounded elitist so they’ve changed the name. Worth getting up I think.

January 15, 2021

Made another pav, they seem to happen once a month lately, luckily not more because I will always eat the leftovers, though I do try to keep the serving size small and add heaps of extra fruit. We had a Zoom call with John’s sister-in-law in California and talked Covid, Trump  and family politics, good for John to have someone to download to. Sue came in the afternoon and we polished off a good bottle of red over dinner, nice to have someone here to share a drink with, I never feel justified in opening a bottle on my own. We had salmon with salads for dinner and I messed up the coleslaw by accidentally shredding on the wrong setting of the Kitchen Wizz. Instead of looking nice and crisp and chunky it looked a bit of a soft mess, so I beat myself up for wasting half a lovely red cabbage, red onion, carrots and celery. I was shredding away without looking at what was ending up in the bowl. Anyway Sue claimed it as delicious and it didn’t put her off a second helping. We sat up chewing the fat and sorted some of the world’s problems and a few of our own. The plan for the next book group meeting at Sue’s may be stymied by the regulations, currently a maximum of five people to visit a home, but we discussed the possibility of having the whole shebang at the beach outdoor cafe, which has a maximum of thirty under the rules. We shall see, anything could happen in that two weeks.

January 16, 2021

We had another Zoom with John’s niece who is a vet and ‘bureau chief’ in the Food and Agriculture Department in California and when I mentioned the gorillas getting Covid at the San Diego Zoo she commented that ‘yes it was our department who went down and did the testing’. She gave us an insight into how such things are done with gorillas and also with infected lions and tigers from another zoo. Fascinating stuff. Her sister is an emergency doctor married to another in the same profession, specialising in pulmonary matters, so they are flat out dealing with Covid. He is especially in demand putting people on ventilators. How absolutely soul destroying to be losing so many patients but how uplifting to be able to save some as well. I so hope they both stay well.

Today Millie arrived for her first ‘sleep over at grandma’s’ in fact her first sleepover anywhere without her parents. She requested it over Christmas and today was the day. After dinner she asked if we could go on a ‘nature walk’ around the garden, choosing ‘things for a collection’. They had to be delivered to the back door where John was the curator, accepting the finds. She was very specific about our roles ‘John is to watch us from the back deck’, and each time she found a leaf, or feather or piece of bark she rushed up the back steps calling ‘I’ve got nature John’ and handed them to him singly. She wanted tomato sauce with her meat for dinner but I don’t buy it, so I made up a mix of tomato passata with a bit of brown sugar and put it in a bowl. ‘Mmm’ she said, ‘I think I prefer the one we have at home’, but this was even before tasting it, out of the bottle was more trustworthy apparently. Davina and Louis had an interesting night in a multi-storey hotel when in the middle of the night a siren screaming EVACUATE EVACUATE woke them up. Thinking it to be a false alarm, they were soon proved wrong when the hall was full of smoke. They couldn’t get the Fire Door open and had to reluctantly go down in the lift, against all normal advice. They stood in the street for two hours while the firies sorted the fire, breaking down the door in a room across the hall from them, apparently it was caused by someone leaving a plastic bag on a cooktop. But who’s frying plastic bags in the middle of the night? They are not planning a return visit and Dav informed the firies about the fire stairs being inaccessible.

January 17, 2021

I finally got a reply from Mudgee Honey Haven. I had asked about the labelling on their products, well lack of labelling actually. The manager’s reply was: ‘We are looking into the fact that our label printing is not clear and are in the process of changing them to print much clearer.’ In other words completely ducking my question. Thinking about what my response ought to be, apart from the reply I’ve already sent saying: ‘The labelling on my jars is perfectly clear, it just doesn’t give the information required by law (and also by me) when I buy a product.’

Of course the tennis influx of players and officials has turned into a farce, as many people expected and predicted publicly. What were they thinking? Oh that’s right, they were thinking about money, silly me. Britain’s NHS is admitting a Covid patient every 30 seconds, with 50% of their doctors and nurses off either sick or in quarantine. Surely at some point the system with grind to a halt in the worst affected places like London? We will be dealing with a mentally and physically exhausted workforce for years once the PTSD cases start to emerge, which they surely will. But it’s not all bad, Boris’s dad has had both vaccine doses, not that I had any doubt that he would get sorted early on. My neighbour Karen next door has just heard that her 87 year old grandmother in England is infected, so I guess worrying about a stupid decision to allow tennis players in is pretty small cheese.

January 18, 2021

Brian rang today and it got me thinking about whether or not it was safe to visit him, so I rang in the evening and it is okay as long as you book in for just an hour and answer lots of questions about suburbs you have visited, symptoms etc. I hardly see what the length of the visit has to do with anything, but whatever. He said he hardly gets out of bed as ‘there’s no reason to’ which prompted me to ask if I could have a visit in the garden, which is better for both of us anyway, and hopefully gives him a reason to get up. I also need to pick up a bottle of chardy from an old shop acquaintance who always remembers me at Christmas, here’s hoping he doesn’t want a loan, but I think he would have mentioned it as he didn’t seem in a desperate hurry for me to turn up. I’ll take out a bottle of red in Christmas wrapping and we’ll be square, funny old thing Christmas, other cultures must think it seriously weird. We celebrate a baby’s birth 2000 years ago with wine and chocolates and more, as well as decorated trees (very few where said baby was born) and a man in a red suit (likewise few in Bethlehem I would have thought, especially borne by a team of reindeers).

I hope the FBI and Capitol Police are taking seriously the risk to Biden and Harris from within the military and National Guard populations. There were people from the fire brigade, quite high-ranking ex-military and even legislative state members arrested after the protests, so a huge force like the National Guard for example is sure to have some Trumpists in their midst. ‘Remember Indira Ghandi’ should be front of mind for those in charge of security, now and into the future.

January 19, 2021

This morning I was supposed to visit Brian but he’d gone with his son to a medical appointment so I decided a visit on top of that would be too much and rebooked for tomorrow. Then I discovered I was out of one of my tablets altogether so I rang the lovely Sharif the chemist and he happily offered to make it up and wait till Thursday when I see Bob for the script. That meant a trip to Baulko shops, I usually get the meds delivered but couldn’t afford to wait, so while there I popped into Aldi for milk and yogurt. On the way back to the car the Covid Marshall was deep in conversation with a policewoman, but as I walked past her partner who was on the phone I heard him say ‘so you’ve potentially been in the shopping centre?’. I made sure I washed my already sanitised hands as soon as I got home. Sometimes you can’t do right for doing wrong as my mother used to say.

John got a speeding ticket in the mail today, unfortunately making our trip to Mt. Tomah Botanic Gardens an expensive day out. But I checked the date and place and it’s clearly right. He had commented on that trip about how frequently the speed limits changed up there, he was doing 67 kph in a 60 zone, so he’s a very, very naughty boy.

January 20, 2021

Visited my old shop regular and was gifted two bottles of chardy, a mixed box of teabags and some nougat. He never changes and never will, a loner, animal lover and misfit whose personality runs the gamut from absolutely bloody impossible to endearing. Then on to Brian’s nursing home where I waited in the garden till he was brought down in a wheelchair for my booked visit. He looks every bit of his 94 years now and unfortunately has lost a lot of cognition since I last went: he wasn’t sure who I was at first, thinking I was his Melbourne daughter (okay, masks make recognition hard). But despite being right on top of current affairs even a few months ago, chatting on about Trump and Morrison, he showed how cut off he is from current life on the outside, asking if I were planning any overseas trips this year and then querying if I have a son or just daughters. Somehow it felt as if I were visiting a stranger and I had the same feeling when I left as I used to have after prison visits: ‘That was a good thing to do but I am so, so glad to be leaving now’.

I managed to dig out the old 2002 letter from my last anaesthetist, well the last full anaesthetic anyway, you can hardly count the much lighter ones they use for endoscopy. Basically he gives advice for any future anaesthetist regarding the problems he had (or more to the point that I had) such as being unable to sit up or walk unassisted for a few days. Here’s hoping that whoever I get takes his suggestions on board. And of course that John remembers to pick me up!

January 21, 2021

Woke up early and watched some of Biden’s inauguration. You have to hand it to the Americans for pomp and circumstance, and memorials, they do both very well. I certainly felt like celebrating and was able to push down my pedantic view that if a person says her name is Kamala, pronounced ‘Comma-la’ then the judge officiating at the hoe-down should pronounce it that way, and not ‘Car-marla’. But anyway, it was so good to be rid of Trump that I forgave her that misstep. Melania was carrying a $75,000 Hermes bag , yes $75,000, I didn’t add a nought or two. Perhaps someone should send her a copy of the wonderful book ‘Sidewalk Champions’ by the Suitcase Joe Foundation, with black and white photos of the men and women who live on the streets of Los Angeles, many of them having been there for years. But I guess she’s aware of all that and still chooses luxury, it disgusts me.

Went up to see Bob and as usual we chatted on about other stuff than medical matters as well as the reasons for the visit. He discussed the eventual possibility of retirement and it saddens me on two accounts, one selfish in that I would need to look for another doctor after 42 years, and secondly that I guess he would spend a lot more time at his Toukley home and I would rarely see him. No, I just don’t want to think about it at all. John is at St. Vincent’s today having his infusion and tomorrow we are going to pick up filter candles for our water filters, something we do each January. The two topics seem remote, except that he got confused and decided this morning that he had to get them from a branch of the water filter shop inside the hospital foyer! Only later when he was having the infusion did he realise that there is no such thing and he’d conflated two different events. It’s a worry.

January 22, 2021

First off to John’s to print something out on his printer, which didn’t work. Of all appliances and technology I hate printers most, that’s why mine is sitting in the storeroom. A weird technological puzzle is that his phone GPS won’t work in his car but works perfectly in mine. Common sense (and Stephen) tells one that it is something to do with the Bluetooth in his radio as it was fine in his old car, but the mechanic doesn’t know how to fix it. My phone GPS works fine in both cars. It is so frustrating to know there’s a simple answer, but not how to do anything about it.

My hairdresser told me yesterday that the new British mutant of the virus kills 14 people for every 10 killed by the original strain. The only other person there corrected him and said that no no, it’s much more contagious but the death rate is the same. This morning in my Science news feed there was a report that ‘newly released studies have shown that the new British mutant of the virus kills 14 people for every 10 killed by the original strain’. Thankyou Martin for being ahead of the game as usual. The traffic both going and coming yesterday was horrendous, it is getting to the stage that I really don’t want to drive too far, or in this case be a passenger while John drove. It’s really nerve-wracking as impatient drivers weave in and out and we are not even at the end of the school holidays yet. Last night I was talking to Carly when her pal Lucas arrived and I had a chat to him. He is a public health supremo now working on the vaccine rollout. I didn’t tell him that I had had the good oil on the British mutant from my hairdresser.

January 23, 2021

Having a quiet one today in this awful heat. But it was good weather to attack weeds early in the day (what weather is not good to attack weeds?).  Tony texted that we (Kathleen, Tony and I) are going to The Wild Pear for lunch on Monday and they are picking me up so  that means I can have some bubbles as well. Now I have a social event of some sort tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday which must be a record for this year so far. Rereading Cloudstreet today I find that I am still of the view that I would have gone crazy in that house, all those people, all that noise, all that social embarrassment. While I can relate to their particular whims and faults and foibles, there was simply no way to turn them all off for a while and it would have been excruciating. Perhaps growing up in a big family would give you a different perspective, but despite longing as a child for siblings, even visitors, it’s all way too claustrophobic to me now.

So the Australian Open must go on, $40 million seen as a reasonable amount to pay in order for that to happen and then Japan will outlay way more than that and infect who knows how many people to hold the Olympics, against the will of 80% of the population there. Sport is truly a religion in this country and in many others and as with any religion, commitment to it can blind a person to common sense. George Orwell said: “Sport is war minus the shooting” and I suppose the whole ‘us versus them’ thing doesn’t appeal to me at all. I find the cricket sledging, the cheating and ball tampering, the football buffoons, the whining tennis players just beyond the pale.

January 24, 2021

The concepts and differences involved in retributive, rehabilitative and restorative justice have long interested me. I read that in Indonesia if you’re caught breaking the Covid rules, you have to dig Covid graves. That seems a beautiful solution to me, not risking the health of the offender but bringing their actions alive to them, well the dead to them actually, but whatever. Penalties involving money, apart from things like hauling the proceeds of crime into the public pot of gold, often seem crazy to me. The idea that a fine of $500 is applied equally to a cleaner and a millionaire is a nonsense. I think it is good for a judge to be able to keep all those options in the toolkit, swapping and changing to really let the punishment fit the crime.

We had a lovely morning at Carol’s chewing the fat. It was super hot outside, 39 degrees when we got home but, hail to the air-conditioning gods, it was perfect inside at Carol’s and soon after we were home it was good here too. I haven’t found this heatwave as taxing as usual and commented to Carol that the humidity must be the answer, estimating it at 50-60 percent. Way out on that one I discovered, it was only 29% here. It’s the humidity that would prevent my ever living in Queensland, or Florida, or Singapore, where I used to race from air-conditioned bus to air-conditioned hotel to pool, seeing what I could in between. Not for this human thanks very much.

January 25, 2021

What a wonderful day with Tony and Kathleen. We were talking from 1 pm, over bubbly at The Wild Pear, over mains, over a shared dessert and were still talking at sunset at my house, with lots more that could have been said. It is terrific to know that I get on as well with Kathleen as I do with Tony. Discussion to be continued well into the future I’m sure. It still amazes me that we came into each other’s orbit, such an unlikely event in the middle of a pandemic, a welcome piece of serendipity.

A couple of years ago, in fact when he was recovering from his last surgery, John was approached about taking part in a study of temperatures inside social housing. He was given a continuous temperature and humidity monitor from which data was downloaded periodically and I think he got some small benefit like a gift card, though he would have been happy to do it for nothing. This monitoring went on for a year or so from memory and included various questionnaires. This week I saw a write-up on the research in the Herald: “An extensive study on the relationship between energy use, indoor thermal comfort and health in social housing”, by Dr Shamila Haddad. John is very lucky that his building, a 1960s double brick number, is very well insulated and pretty good on most days, but many of those surveyed didn’t fare as well, with the maximum indoor temp being 39.8 degrees and the average 32. It is good to know that this study will help tenants and surely those in the worst cases will be given aircon? When his neighbour died unexpectedly, the housing managers discovered that she had had aircon installed at her own expense, but rather than leave it for the next tenant it was pulled out and the hole bricked up. Hopefully this report might change that attitude.

January 26, 2021

Unfortunately we weren’t able to go to the Invasion Day march this year but with the heat we had perhaps it is just as well. It really was a hot one, 41 degrees here, but as we were in the car and then at Dav’s in the aircon minding Millie in the hottest part of the day we managed okay. At one stage I asked her if she wanted me to read her a story or two and she glanced outside, almost rolling her eyes, and said ‘grandma it’s daytime!’. Clearly stories and bedtime are inextricably linked. Dav and Louis went to nearby Bitton for lunch, it is a lovely venue with French management and a favourite in the area.

Later I dropped John back at his place to get his car to follow me up to Baulko, but he wanted to try the new Navman, bought because his phone GPS won’t talk to the car’s Bluetooth. After some considerable time I started worrying about where he was and phoned. The Navman, brand new, so with no addresses already entered, took him to Bobbin Head! He assures me he entered Cross St Baulkham Hills, saw it on the display and pressed start. For some reason he followed directions along the Pacific Highway, eventually pulling up at an address in Bobbin Head when it said he had reached his destination (no not another Cross St, it didn’t even start with C). I guess he was 2 hours behind me, gosh this bloody GPS business will take years off my life.

January 27, 2021

I am so enjoying the change in the weather, 20 degrees cooler than this time yesterday. Today we were off to Michelle’s for lunch. She rang when we were on our way to find out if there was a problem, we were due there at 11.30 and John had 12.30 in his diary and was confident that it was right. The birds were enjoying their back yard and we were visited many times by kookaburras who apparently thought that a BBQ was on the go and were patiently waiting for meat. We spent a lovely (cool) afternoon with good company and delicious food and wine.

I missed a call from a person investigating the Honey Haven lack of labelling and by the time we got home she had left work, but I am sure she will ring me back tomorrow. It boils down to the fact that the NSW Apiarists, the Honey Bee Council and others say that the labelling is illegal but the only people who can investigate it are the area council who are probably less than enthusiastic as it’s a major local business. I don’t want to get them fined or in any sort of trouble, just to change their labelling to reflect the actual contents, as prescribed by law. Fair Trading said I would be entitled to a refund as things stand, but that’s not the point. It all comes back to getting the council to enforce the law. But politics reigns at council level as much as it does anywhere else. Looking forward to speaking to the council officer tomorrow.

January 28, 2021

Got a call back from the health inspector at Central West Council who went out to The Honey Haven in the days following my first call and is still on the case. She said the business is working on an exemption in the regulations which allows for no labelling on the items if the business is a single outlet where everything is produced onsite. However in that case they need to have a list of the ingredients of every product written up in a document available at the point of sale so customers can see it. But they are not doing that either, so she’s told them to correct that situation or else label the products individually, and intends going back soon to make sure that has happened. Considering the number of products they are selling it is an impractical option. The whiff of rat is still in the air because it is impossible for all of those very different honeys to be produced in the one geographical area, the hives must be all over the place, so I await the outcome of her investigations. Sometimes it’s more trouble to avoid regulations than to just do the right thing in the first place.

We stocked up on bread and groceries today so John doesn’t have to do more than go to the corner IGA next week. Got in a delayed dentist’s appointment too, so I really am getting on top of my ‘to do’ list. Arvind next door had his huge tree cut back and with five men and all the ropes in the world they still managed to drop a branch on my roof, denting the gutter in two places and breaking three tiles. Luckily I have plenty so they fixed it. Now I am teaching John to use the washing machine and dishwasher, he’s good at hanging out and loading and unloading the dishwasher but he’s never worked either appliance from go to whoa. Also I sorted out the anaesthetist issue, as I needed to send the chosen person a letter I have from a previous doctor addressed ‘to all future anaesthetists’. Basically it tells them what a difficult person I am in that department (perhaps I am difficult in all departments, but that’s another question). Anaesthetics usually set off three-day-long vestibular attacks occasioning vertigo and vomiting, called by one doctor ‘your three Vs’. He made practical suggestions, based on his experiences, regarding which drugs to use and more importantly which not to use, to avoid this happening. The surgeon’s secretary has organised to send her the letter today.

January 29, 2021

An early trip up to Killcare for the book group’s first meeting of the year at Sue’s beautiful sea-view property, however today it was a view of the sea mist, which was still beautiful but in a different way. Because we hadn’t seen each other since November, it was a bit like a bunch of excited girls at a school excursion or a camp (not that I’ve ever been on either mind you, but I’ve read about them). Sue had organised for us to get takeaway at the beachside kiosk, but heavy rain precluded that option and she decided to go down by car and bring an order back to the house. This was later followed by her home grown rhubarb pie and bottled peaches from the farm. The opinion on the book, Elizabeth is Missing, was divided. I thought it portrayed the gradual decline into Alzheimer’s as well as anything I had read. Despite some flaws, it was educative as well as entertaining. The men played pool and whoops and cries coming from the basement indicated that they were having fun. At night we gorged on two curries (one Sue’s and one mine) with all the sides and made a dent in a good bottle of Margaret River red. We just seem to fit together somehow, whether at my place or at Sue’s, and it never feels as if we are visiting, but just hanging out together naturally.

January 30, 2021

Breakfasted on toasted olive bread and tea before taking a drive to McMasters Beach for a bracing walk along the beach, watching a very high tide with some moderately big waves and absolute piles of beached bluebottles. We were reluctant to rockhop to Copacabana Beach next door in light of the many recent drownings off rocks, so Sue drove around there and interestingly it was an eight and a half kilometre drive versus the thirty or so steps across the rocks. Had another walk on that beach before heading back for lunch at Sue’s, more yummy olive bread with goat cheese and smoked salmon. Sad to be heading home, I can never get enough of a good thing.

Later I received a few texts from various relatives of John’s who were worried because someone had texted them today that there was something wrong with him, but without going into any detail. A cousin who had rung him out of the blue this morning had then sent texts hither and thither, unnecessarily causing concern to quite a few. Of course they all thought the worst, the language was apparently such that it implied he was on the way out, but I was able to reassure them that his diagnosis is now old news. Talk about Chinese whispers. What a lovely couple of days we’ve had, Alzheimer’s Schmalzheimer’s.

January 31, 2021

I’ve been thinking about a video that Sue sent me, courtesy of Robert’s friend Malcolm who lives in Thailand. It was over an hour long and purported to be informative about Covid so Sue thought I would be interested. I only got part way into it and was so angry that I turned it off in a temper and emailed Sue to say it was classic conspiracy theory stuff. The speaker, a German doctor, suggested that the British deaths from Covid were as a result of the treatment and not the disease. He claimed that many, or most, were from giving hydroxychloroquine at 10 times the usual dosage for experimental purposes. Apparently there have been 142 registered clinical trials around the world, involving the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, but most used less than 100 people in their tests, so his theory appears ridiculous considering the vast numbers of deaths. The good doctor had also done useful experiments like ringing around funeral directors in his local area in Germany and asking if they had seen an increase in business, when told that they hadn’t he extrapolated this to mean that the deaths from Covid are over-reported. The author contributed to a book called ‘Virus Mania: How the Medical Industry Continually Invents Epidemics, Making Billion-Dollar Profits At Our Expense’. Now I think I am going to have to watch the whole damned thing if I am to have any hope of refuting what I see as seriously dangerous bilge. I’m sure this is one of the many conspiracy theories that Craig Kelly is bandying about, but I spent a long time refuting some rellies’ anti-vax prognostications and got absolutely nowhere, maybe I should give up on this before I even start.

February 1, 2021

Mmm, John promised we could go off to the beach for a week or even two, once the kids went back to school and bookings freed up a bit. But life had other ideas. Hopefully we can squeeze something in soon. Made an orange cake to use up some fruit that’s been lurking a bit too long in the fridge. It’s a good recipe with pulp and rind in the cake and a goodly amount of juice poured over when it comes out of the oven. Actually the recipe says juice in the cake too but I like using the chopped pulp instead to give it more texture. The recipe calls for chocolate frosting as well, which I definitely won’t be doing. It’s in a Margaret Fulton book which I won in a story writing competition some years ago. The story had to include a reference to MF. Typically I didn’t even keep a copy of the story, not thinking that I could possibly be the winner. Bob rang me and asked ‘are you the person whose story was just read out on Radio National?’ I had no idea it was going to be on, so I missed that as well. But I have made a few good recipes out of it and I have the letter from Fran Kelly that came with it, so that’s enough. John went to an organics industry function about ten years ago and happened to sit next to Margaret. He came home agog that she had been so flirtatious towards him, but I let him know it wasn’t personal as I’d read that she was often like that with men she met, despite being well into her eighties. I think he was somewhat disappointed.

I’ve long admired Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but her actions since the Capitol riot have endeared her to me even more. While conspiracy theorist Republicans like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are trying to cosy up and show they are willing to support her views on other issues, she just won’t have a bar of them. There is always great pressure, particularly on women, to forgive bad behaviour and play nice. But there are some things that are so egregiously wrong that forgiveness is just inappropriate, despite what our Prime Minister said yesterday on another issue. So AOC, hold your line. You are giving me inspiration because I have trouble holding a grudge, even when a grudge really, really needs to be held.

February 2, 2021

Rachel came over for morning tea and it was good to see John enjoying a family visit. The orange cake proved both light and orangey. The hospital has rung me six times today. Have you been to WA? Have you been to Auburn? They asked again about allergies, about medications, etc etc despite that being in my admission file, but I guess you can’t be too careful. Then later they informed me that I am to be there at 5 pm. Surely that’s 5 am I thought? But a quick call to the surgeon’s office confirmed the time: ‘you are second last on a huge list beginning early in the morning and finishing after 8 at night’. His secretary commented that I was right to query the time, she’s never known him operate so late before. He’ll be on autopilot by then, but perhaps it’s being done by a robot? Burning the scalpel at both ends I thought. Anyway it gives me a chance to get some weeding done in the morning. I am unsure what to do about my pink star plants which I understood when I bought the seeds were a perennial. I got near 100% germination and they’ve been lovely but they seem to be dying back severely so I think I got it wrong and they are only annuals, which is a bummer as I planted a lot. I find with seeds that I get upwards of 90% germination or I get nuffin. The nuffins are very disappointing as I carefully cover them with glass, watch them every day, control the water, still get zero. Weeds on the other hand I have 100% success with.

February 3, 2021

Feeling very virtuous after both cutting back the pink star flowers and doing a good bit of weeding, a bonus from the late admission time. Decided to just cut the flower plants back severely but leave the cuttings on the ground in the hope that the seeds from them might spring up again next year, probably a forlorn hope, but anyway… The postman came and Danish has sent me a copy of his latest paper published in BioMed Central, an English medical journal. ‘The knowledge of danger signs of obstetric complications among women in rural India: evaluating an integrated microfinance and health literacy program’. Phew, I will read it soon but I am sure the major statistical side of it will go right over my head. A quick look showed a credit to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What thanks do they get for the almost $50 BILLION dollars they’ve donated so far to medical research, social, health, and education developments, including the establishment of the Gates Scholarships at Cambridge University. The answer is they are accused of sins such as profiting from vaccines right through to outlandish accusations of attempting to microchip people under cover of vaccinating them. Would make you want just sail around in a gold-plated boat eating oysters, but luckily for us they are bigger than that.

I occasionally read an article that I really, really wish I had written myself. It happened with this week’s editorial in The Saturday Paper. (I know all of those words, I know those punctuation marks, why can’t I assemble them like this?) The article is about Tony Abbott and entitled Spit into a Milkshake, funny considering I always want to spit after saying his name. The whole article is magic but the line I most like is “The Institute of Public Affairs feeds people into politics and now they return as backwash, like spit into a milkshake”. I can’t stop rereading it and it has lightened my day.

February 4, 2021

Big day yesterday with lunch at 10.30…mmm might make a smoked salmon sambo at that time a habit…to fit in with the hospital fasting schedule. As we were leaving I got a call to say that the surgeon was ‘running a bit early’ so I could come a bit sooner, such an odd situation as I was expecting her to say he was running late. I quipped to John that if I could be sure she had a sense of humour I would have asked if one of the earlier patients hadn’t made it through an op, but decided not to risk being flippant. He had to leave me in the foyer, no-one goes any further than that these days due to our friend Covid.

While waiting in the pre-op bay I was conscious of the fellow next to me who only looked about 40 or 45 at most, apparently Irish, who was clearly very nervous and told every nurse ‘I’ve got two children only 6 and 7, a boy and a girl’. Clearly he had fears and I felt like going into his bay for a chat about nothing just to take his mind off it all, but decided that was not a good idea all things considered. When he got the cannula put in he hollered as if his arm were being chopped off and having had it myself at much the same time I know it’s not a big deal. However when asked about his medical history it turned out he’d had a quadruple bypass in the past and recently brain surgery for an AVM, an arteriovenous malformation in the brain. I probably wouldn’t have remembered that acronym except that an old friend had surgery for that same condition a couple of years ago and I know it’s a big deal. Anyhow, something wasn’t quite right with it (he still had the bandage on his head), they were going in again to correct the problem and obviously the poor bastard was scared stiff. It makes you wish you were a prayer because the whole thing made me feel so helpless, unable to do anything for him at all but I thought a big cuddle from an old lady he didn’t know would likely have scared him more.

My anaesthetist ‘hi, I’m Liz’ had studied the letter from the previous one of her number who had had lots of problems with me and she promised to do all the things he’d suggested, but unfortunately anaesthetics and moi are not friends so I suffered through the vertigo and vomiting routine tra-la tra-la, prompting a decision by Alan the surgeon that I needed to stay in overnight. However it was a private room with an ensuite bathroom in the new section with a nurse to hold me up and walk me to the loo as needed, so I was perfectly well looked after there. I had a view of the top of the Westfield Tower and the top floor of the MLC Centre, so I may have been able to see Davina if she’d waved a big enough flag from the roof.

February 5, 2021

Wow, the mind can sure play tricks. I dreamed awful stuff about John taking out half a wall of my green bathroom to destroy cockroaches that he said were blocking the toilet! Then that I had a rubber band around my head and later at about 4 am I dreamed it was 7 am and the sun hadn’t come up and we were all screwed. I guess that’s how it is when you are on recreational drugs or perhaps if you are schizophrenic, anyway I woke up feeling confused and upset so I hope that’s the last of it. John took pity on me and took me to KOI for morning tea, our first trip there for 14 months. He had his favourite, the Strawberry Pillow and I tried the Moss Garden Jar, a combo of matcha, pistachio and apple, which wasn’t particularly sweet and not my favourite I discovered, but I am glad I tried it. The desserts change all the time so if you don’t try the odd ones you may never see them again. Expensive and worth every cent, even just to keep such an innovative chef afloat.

John and I have been getting lots of texts and calls from his extended family after one member set off a chain of Chinese whispers about his health. Startled messages arrived from various rellies, all of whom had been sent a text saying that John was in a bad way. I would be cross, except for the fact that he’s so glad to be getting the contact that it appears the chap has inadvertently done him a favour. I have been telling texters that the reports of his (near)death have been greatly exaggerated, as Mark Twain once wrote about himself after his obituary was wrongly published. When I was proof-reading I remember that the newspapers had obits pre-written and waiting and it was someone’s job to keep them all up to date so they could be plastered on the front page quickly when the person dropped off the perch. With that happening it is only a matter of time before one goes out on a rumour. Sort of like having hundreds of tennis players from around the world visit Australia in a pandemic, and we just wait for the inevitable leak of the virus. Dan’s the man but this decision is much more like Gladys in my view. Money, money, money is what it’s all about.

February 6, 2021

‘It’s quarter to three, There’s no one in the place Except you and me, So, set ’em up Joe,
I got a little story you oughta know’. So sang Frank Sinatra and this tune has been ringing in my head since I woke up…at a quarter to three. It’s still before 5 but I got sick of lying there wondering what time it was and periodically checking the clock. So today I am hoping to feel well enough to bake a cake! I plan to do a Karithopita or Greek Walnut Cake, or perhaps a Walnut Torte if I can be bothered going out to buy some rum for the butter cream filling.  Nuts and sugar, what a combination. I just love nut toffee of any sort, macadamia muesli, nutty cakes, just plain old raw nuts are a staple snack in the pantry.

Trying to work out if we can get away for a couple of days in the next three weeks, it’s a juggling act. One bugbear may be if the surgeon wants to see me once the pathology is back next week. If it’s good news of course I can put him off, but if it’s the other way I’ll need to go in, so it’s a bit risky paying a deposit on anything this coming week. Then there’s John’s medical appointments to avoid and Carly is coming at the end of the month.  I am always rueing the fact that we don’t get away more, but with Tony and Kathleen going to the Southern Highlands on Friday for a whole week, and then speaking to Chris who with Bernadette is camping in Byron Bay for a month, yes a whole month, has filled me with the green-eyed monster. On a positive note, I had an unexpected call from the anaesthetist Liz, bemoaning the fact that she left the hospital on Wednesday night thinking she had done everything right and avoided any side effects, but after she got home the hospital called and said I was sick. It was good of her to call and apologise but really she did as well as anyone else ever has, so job well done.

Yawn, it’s now nearly 3 pm but I have put those 12 hours to good use. Watched a Planet America rerun, about 5 am? Spread straw in the garden where I weeded a few days ago. Made the Karithopita and some food towards tomorrow when Dav and family come, both with help from John. Went with John to Spotlight to advise on purchase of fabric for a restoration job he is doing for Sue, a piece of craft that Robert accidentally fell on and broke when he was sick. Heated up some frozen Gut Repair Soup for lunch, doesn’t sound very appetising but was. Read some Elemental articles. Wrote a review of my latest read.

February 7, 2021

Considering that last time Millie was here I had to mock up some tomato sauce out of passata and tomato paste, I thought I had better buy some this morning so we walked down to the IGA and did just that. My efforts last time were spectacularly unsuccessful, with Millie taking one look at it and saying ‘I prefer the one at my house grandma’ and refusing to even try it. But this time it was the real McCoy in a red bottle and so she was happy. But when we got back I sat in front of the teev to watch Insiders at 9 am and the next thing I knew John woke me up by turning it off at the end, so I missed the week’s political cartoons, fie I say! My stamina is pretty poor right now but will pick up in no time. We enjoyed a bbq on the back deck and then Heather came over so we all had the Karithopita there with pots of tea and coffee. The only downside was the bbq oil leak receptacle overflowing, and no doubt leaving a big stain on the decking, so simple and avoidable but we both forgot. Later Millie wanted to do another ‘nature hunt’ around the garden and intends to put her finds in a ‘nature journal’ that she’s planning on starting. It exhausts me just thinking about the energy it would take to mind her fulltime. I don’t know how older grandparents step into that role, but they do.

February 8, 2021

Back almost to rights, signified by the accomplishments of the day. Drove to the bakery at Dural, pausing to look in the pharmacy there in case they had any reading glasses whose frames could be repurposed to make me a spare pair of readers. I live in fear of losing the primary pair in case I am sentenced to days of not reading because all my old pairs are now too weak to allow me to read type as small as a book with them. Success on first visit! I found a pair in a sort of washed out uncolour, perhaps dirty pond green is the best description, and drove straight to Ralph the optometrist who was impressed and will have them done in a couple of days. He commented that I embarrass him with my excellent glasses finds, which he agrees are more stylish than his stock. After that I will donate the other pairs to his collection destined for countries where any pair is a luxury. I get on with Ralph very well, as long as we don’t talk politics, where he comes across as a bit of a Trumpian. I asked where the QR Code was situated and the reply was ‘I haven’t got one’ which I suspect is illegal, but I decided I didn’t want to ruin my day by going there. Next I organised with Heather to take her out for lunch tomorrow for her birthday, then paid both my car insurance (negotiating an almost 15% discount) and the anaesthetist’s bill. Woah, going like a train here, so I rang a motel at The Entrance and booked us in for three nights next week, overlooking the ocean. I wanted the second floor, but both it and the first floor were booked out, so the choice was between ground and top, the top floor naturally being most expensive. While I was umming and aahing the lady jumped in with ‘seeing you are staying three nights how about I give you 50% off the last night?’. Well that sounds like a plan I said, the total coming in at less than the no view rooms on the ground. So we are booked, with an agreement that if I have to cancel she will move the deposit to another date, can’t fault that. I can’t wait to plunge into the nearby ocean baths, seeing the bluebottle plague was in full swing last week when we were at McMasters Beach with Sue. Worth waking up today.

February 9, 2021

Reading about the protests by Indian farmers today and it has been the biggest protest in the history of the world, on November 6 drawing in 250 million people. How can the Indian government proceed with the proposed legislation against those numbers? The new laws will help large agribusinesses to control and swallow up the small markets where Indian farmers now sell their produce, so perhaps there is some leverage from these businesses and other governments who have skin in the game? Modi invested heavily in his personal relationship with former US President Donald Trump, you have to wonder if promises were made.

A lovely but strangely exhausting day today, beginning with a trip to The Source to get some spelt flour to make damper tomorrow. The shop is good for sourcing unusual ingredients but for regular ones their prices rule out regular custom. Then on to Wild Pear for Heather’s 70th birthday lunch, where we shared the stuffed zucchini flower entree, then the salmon and finally the pav. We both agreed that eating their full size meals would be difficult and this way we got to try all three courses. It is such a relaxing place to go and I have been lucky enough to experience it twice recently, last time with Tony and Kathleen. I gave Heather a few options and I am glad she chose this one. Later we went to Mother Earth Nursery at Annangrove where I bought a Euphorbia ‘Diamond Dazzler’ to put into a pot. I had a very small metal washtub which I asked John to modify for a plant by drilling holes in the bottom and this is perfect for it. Although I love bright flowers in arrangements, I only plant white, pink, blue and mauve flowers in the garden or in pots, I just love that pastel combination against the grey house. I asked the person serving about my ‘Lime Magic’ acacia tree which had two feet lopped off the top in the storm a year ago today which also felled my huge Eucalyptus nicholii. I told her that while the tree has got wider and wider it hasn’t grown an inch and asked what I could do about it as it was planted to shade my front windows from the midday sun. The answer is zip, she said ‘it lost its leader and will never grow up, just wider’. I suspected after a year that that was the case but I still felt as if someone had told me that my kitten would never grow into a cat. I had managed to break the leather shoulder strap on my crafty woven handbag and Heather took me to her place on the way home to repair it using an old cast iron machine which insert press studs, so now it has a matching brown press stud joining the two broken ends and looks for all the world as if that’s how it was made.

February 10, 2021

Made a very passable spelt damper and served it with goat cheese, tomato and basil when Tony came during his lunch hour from the library, well his lunch hour-and-a-half in actual fact. We struggle to find a division in our thinking, but so far this is not becoming apparent so we go from subject to subject, grinning as we find that this isn’t it.

Read a fascinating medical article which suggested that the mutations in the Covid virus may be occurring in long term sufferers of the disease. While in most people it has a relatively short course, in those who are immunocompromised or chronically ill it may last for many months. During that time it has plenty of opportunity to mutate into other forms. It reminded me of when I was Karl’s carer and the doctor at RPA expressed concern about my future health. I told him I wasn’t at all worried about catching his AIDS but he quickly explained that wasn’t his worry. Because Karl was on a once-weekly low dose of an antibiotic for a couple of years or more, it provided the perfect opportunity for bugs to mutate and then infect his contacts. I was a bit more careful after that.

In the evening I had a catch-up with some friends via Meet Around, a sort of simpler Zoom that doesn’t require a download. I think we all preferred it to Zoom and will stick with it. Zoom is best suited when having a hosted meeting but this is better when you are all in ‘campfire’ mode, with your pictures set around in a circle. I am meeting the same mob at Eden Gardens Nursery for lunch in a couple of weeks.

February 11, 2021

Heather got a 70th birthday card from local State member David Elliott. It reminded me that the rotter didn’t reply to the letter I sent praising him for some rare and minor words of sense that he came out with. He always replies nastily when I criticise him and ignores my praise so I can’t win really. If the government did print me a 70th birthday card it ended up in his round file, but perhaps it’s a new thing.

Finally gave in and rang the surgeon’s office to get my pathology result and was told that ‘he will ring you on Saturday’. Mmm, not quite the week from last Wednesday that I was expecting. Not sure if he’s trying to assemble the words to let me know I won’t see Christmas (or maybe Mother’s Day) or else just loath to explain that he operated for nothing. Anyway I didn’t query it, I just don’t want to be in some noisy place when he rings, guessing at what he’s on about. The hospital has rung twice though. Apparently they think that they accidentally double charged me the $250 gap fee. I don’t have my credit card on internet banking so I had to ring the bank and yes, it was charged twice. When I rang back to tell them they were in a bit of a tizz trying to work out how to refund it without the card but I shall let them struggle with that one.

February 12, 2021

Yesterday I watched some of Trump’s impeachment prosecution and boy, the two speakers were mighty impressive. Jamie Raskin first followed by Stacey Plaskett, both superb deliverers of their speeches, with the pacing and emphasis just perfect. Of course the content was chilling, the unedited half hour of the insurgents running through the halls screaming Kill Pelosi and Hang Pence was just horrifying. How could anyone could vote against impeachment?….well politics was never about facts.

I went up to Hanly Moir for my six-monthly blood tests and was told they couldn’t be done because it was after 10 am. This has never been mentioned in the nine years I’ve been having them but perhaps by chance I have always gone before 10, though I doubt it. There were 37 tests at one stage but these have increased to 48, because he now tests for the lupus markers as well! The reason, she explained, is that about half of the tests can be done at their lab but for the rest the blood is frozen and sent to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle because the Prof likes the autoimmune antibody ones done in his own lab, which has always been the case. Whether that’s because he trusts his lab more or because he wants the samples for his research I am not quite sure. The courier comes at 2pm weekdays and they need to freeze for four hours, so before 10 am Monday it is. Another oddity was that when I rang Bob’s practice to get a new referral for my appointment next Friday. I was told that he needs to do a Telehealth consultation on Monday for that. What?? She explained that it’s new policy practice….not Bob’s idea, I can bet money on that. So two things to sort out first thing Monday.

I had a call from Morgan Gallup Polls with a slew of questions about all manner of topics. I usually agree to any polling company in case the answers influence government policy. She then asked it I would be willing to do a longer online poll and it arrived a little later. Longer was not a joke, it was the longest I have ever done and took up a goodly part of my day. Just when I thought I was done I got a message saying ‘Congratulations, you have finished the first module of six’. I had a cup of tea and persisted. I can’t begin to tell the full  range of topics but they ranged from ‘Have you seen an ad for these new biscuits?’ to ‘Tick the box for any of these illnesses you suffer from’. I came out of that feeling incredibly healthy because there were pages and pages and I rarely had to tick, some illnesses I had never even heard of (perhaps they were bogus ones, just to see if I were concentrating?). Lengthy questions on car brands ‘Driving which of these brands would make you feel good about yourself?’ Um, none, it’s a heap of metal that gets me from point A to point B. Sport questions about which teams I follow in each of endless codes were incredibly boring, but faster to answer. Then tricky ones like ‘How much did you spend on groceries in the last 7 days?’. Tricky because then they asked ‘How much on dairy products/chicken/meat/ fresh vegetables/frozen vegetables’ and of course it didn’t necessarily match up with the total. Geez I’d better win the $3000 up for grabs, I earned ever cent of it, but if the political questions are helpful it was worth doing.

February 13, 2021

The surgeon rang last night and said I have a High Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Neoplasia 3, which basically means that although it isn’t cancer yet, it almost is. He was very surprised as it was the least likely of the four possibilities: benign, a low-grade type of bowel cancer that I have now forgotten the name of, common bowel cancer or this one. An average person has a 1 in 20 chance of getting bowel cancer in a lifetime and apparently a 1 in 100,000 chance of getting this one, so I should buy a lottery ticket. Apparently it is linked to immune system problems so is usually limited to people who have had organ transplants, have HIV or lupus, as they all have trouble clearing viruses from their systems. The pathologist was concerned that the abnormality goes right to the margins of the sample so he may not have got it all. I am back there in April for more tests and possibly more surgery. I feel pretty low about it but will bounce back in a day or so and especially when my feet hit the sand in The Entrance on Monday.

David and Esther came from Callala Beach today and we enjoyed seeing them after more than a year. Both have had medical issues this past year, Hers resolved, his still current. I guess that’s the way it is from now on with us and all of our friends, we are just in the danger zone. They appear to get very good treatment at Shoalhaven Hospital so that’s encouraging. Our lunch was delayed when the BBQ gas expired but a quick trip to Baulko sorted that out. We now have two full bottles so that’s one minor problem we don’t need to face again. Would that everything were so easily fixed.

February 14, 2021

Just realised it is Valentine’s Day. This is the first year that neither of us remembered so I decided to keep mum about it to John. Watched Insiders and decided that Sally McManus is on the short list to be our second female Prime Minister. She is that wonderful combination of cool, sensible, caring and intelligent. I still smile when I think of the story of when she told her mother she was going to university. ‘What are you going to do?’ the Western Suburbs mum asked. ‘Arts’ replied Sally. ‘Oh’ said the mum, ‘I didn’t even know you were good at painting’. Boom tish.

In my garage amongst the books waiting to go into the street library I have some that have been donated and I pulled one out today, only to see an envelope used as a bookmark. I wonder if it’s full of money I asked myself and sure enough it contained a $5 note. The envelope indicated that it was from Hunters Hill Ryde Community Services, being the change from the $20 in fees paid by one Neville Burrows in September 2014. If you are ever down on your luck Nev remember that I owe you a fiver. Meanwhile it is added to my spending money for the mini holiday in The Entrance. Tossing up whether to go to the Reptile Park on the way up, never wanting to pass up the opportunity to handle a snake, though I would happily leave the funnel web exhibit to John. It depends on the weather, but as is common the forecast is rain for the entire stay. Better to go on a fine day to picnic in the grounds and enjoy the outside exhibits so if it is actually raining we will give the snakes a pass till next time.

February 15, 2021

A busy morning with medical stuff. Bob rang and I was praising Alan, the surgeon, for ringing me on the landline at night rather than the mobile when I could have been in Woolworths or somewhere, also the depth of explanation he entered into. Bob’s reply was ‘Well you can’t just ring someone up and tell them that they’ve got cancer and then try to get off the phone’ or words to that effect. Um, I thought we were talking about pre-cancer I mused with some chagrin. He also said we should have predicted it would be the rarest possible one, as I always end up with something recherche. Then it was off for the 48 blood tests in 12 bottles, great way to lose weight, before our trip to Gosford. We gave up on the idea of the Reptile Park when it was raining at Somersby and decided instead on the Gosford Regional Gallery, which was a great choice. They had one exhibition from which I wouldn’t take a picture home if I won it in a raffle, but the other ‘Antarctica’ by Ken Knight was so good that I’d be happy to see it again on the way home. There were a large series of paintings done on his 2020 visit, many on a rocking boat, and every one was a winner. What a talent he is.

Our digs, the Ocean Front Motel in Bateau Bay, near The Entrance, is just what I needed. The sea is so close it is very loud when we open the deck door, but surprisingly quiet when it’s shut. We had a walk on the beach in the blustery wind. It was worth sacrificing the convenience of being able to cook for this view, I love it. We can do our own light breakfast and lunch here and just eat out at night, as we did tonight in a local Italian restaurant where John had his fave of spag bol (or spag bog as Melburnians call it) while I feasted on a spaghetti marinara aioli, mixed seafood pasta with lots of garlic and chili.

February 16, 2021

O frabjous day, Callooh callay! This place is a restorative for the soul. The view is to die for, both surf beach and ocean pools are just a few minutes walk away. We did a long morning walk to Toowoon Bay beach, around the southern point from us, I loved finding a fat black fish in a gap between the rocks but my interest in him caused him to make a fast break for the sea. Good to check out all the oceanfront houses along the way, a few nice ones but lots of expensive dross, like the two-storey mansion with all windows tinted blue. I know it can be glary in the mornings, we eat our toast on the deck wearing sunhats and sunglasses, but gee it’s only first thing. Why would you want this amazing view to be perpetually coloured blue? I don’t like the architect on principle, nor those who appointed him either. But would I swap it for my place? You bet I would, then I’d spend big money getting all the windows replaced. At one house we saw the owners sitting on the bottom step of the steep flight of stairs from the beach to their back door, drinking their morning coffee. What a dream that would be. Later we swam in the ocean pool, the big one was was being emptied for its weekly cleaning but we were happy in the smaller, shallower one. It’s a huge job emptying the pool via the equivalent of a bath plug, then hosing and sweeping it out, but the lifeguard says it’s done weekly winter and summer before pumping it full of seawater again. We decided to try the restaurant below our room for dinner, on the ground floor but with floor to ceiling glass overlooking the beach. I had six of the best big fat local oysters you could imagine, I can’t remember the last time I indulged in oysters, but these were a welcome return and served with a finger lime dressing, mmm-mmm. I followed that with an entree-sized gnocchi with scallops and felt well fed but not full, the way I like it. John loved his roasted blue-eye on truffle mash and suggested we eat there again tonight. No arguments there.

February 17, 2021

This news addicted person has discovered that if you are in your element (the beach) and have loads of walking and swimming to do, the news fades into distant memory (Donald who?). We haven’t watched the news since we got here. Who would have thunk it? Today we did an early morning walk along the sand to the entrance of Tuggerah Lake, passing fishermen rod fishing for flathead and bream at the mouth. Apart from that we had a pretty quiet day, reading and walking and reading again. I am into a novel lent to me by Martha who insisted that I would really love it, and boy was she right. It is set in Kamchatka, a place I knew very little about, but I am finding it fascinating. The author, whom I have discovered was co-producer of films like The Sting and Taxi Driver, does characterisation so, so well. It is set somewhere extremely interesting, with great characters and has a political edge. I am entranced by the book, Disappearing Earth, perfect holiday reading. Tonight we ate again at Ocean and enjoyed it every bit as much as last night. The chef, whom I met in the driveway to the basement car park this morning on the way back from a walk, kept a serve of date and fig pudding for me after I said I regretted that it was on the lunch menu but not the dinner one. If we were staying here another night I am sure we would be eating there again. But back to my book………

February 18, 2021

We enjoyed exploring Long Jetty this morning, walking out onto the longest jetty and then reading lots about them from an artwork in the park featuring old photos of the building of the jetties. The flood of 1927 destroyed the original jetty, replete with a ferry waiting room at the end, this information was part of the display plus pictures of the early settlers of the area. I had looked up best food in the area on Tripadvisor and The Green Tangerine topped the list so we decided to lunch there. We shared a smashed avo on sourdough and it came loaded with beetroot labneh and lots of yummy seeds, bits and bobs. Later we shared a waffle and it came with caramelised banana, berries and candied walnuts. Its reputation was richly deserved so we bought some of their delicious sourdough as well. Next on to the Ken Duncan Photography Gallery where his large framed photos sell for upwards of $3000 with some over $5000. Some of them were just too saturated in colour for my taste but the detail in all of them is extraordinary. My faves were all snow scenes, one a huge picture of a wombat in the Snowy Mountains, another a standing polar bear in Canada hugging a sled dog in its massive paws and the third a shot, probably from a drone, of two polar bears on an icy expanse. Interestingly John loved the highly coloured ones, his favourite was of zebras and giraffes. On we went to Sue’s, arriving late afternoon to be told that she had booked us into Bells for dinner. We had a long slow dinner but I was careful to only eat half a main and got them to package up the rest of the delicious snapper fillet in pistou broth. However it was still too much on top of lunch and I paid for it all night. We spent much conversation on the back story behind a very beautiful young woman dressed (overdressed?) in a backless full length black number. Early in the night there was a man at the table too but he departed before the food arrived. However she ate her way through three courses alone and the man never returned. John asked the French waiter what he thought was going on and the waiter replied ‘we are wondering too sir, but if you are interested there are already five of the staff in the queue’.

February 19, 2021

No breakfast for moi, just a cuppa and a chat. Off we went to Prof. Reeves office for my 11.20 appointment. As John was parking they rang to say that a patient had had a bad reaction to a treatment so he was running an hour late. Ultimately we didn’t get in till 12.30, but it was good to see him in his Mickey Mouse tie. He went through all the usual stuff, checking the blood tests etc and declaring me stable. Then he asked ‘So has anything else happened in the last six months?’ and I told him I had just had surgery, of course he wanted to know chapter and verse. ‘So what scans have you had? What blood markers have been tested?’ He asked lots of questions and then told me he was ordering an urgent PET scan and CAT scan. Groan. And yet more blood tests for cancer markers. Just in case I wasn’t going to go ahead immediately he said that we will talk on the phone as soon as the results arrive back to him and insisted that I ring and book the tests as soon as possible, pointing out again that he had marked them URGENT. I kept explaining that it was a pre-cancerous diagnosis but he said ‘well we are not going to wait two months to find out for sure!’. Then he dictated a letter to Alan expressing his concern and pointing out that ‘I have been looking after this patient for nearly a decade’, effectively pulling rank with an equal. Oh my, battling professors at 20 paces. I just wanted to pull a doona over my head at the thought of dear Alan reading this, despite the friendly tone and the ‘I have taken the liberty’ and the ‘with your kind permission’.

On the way home we stopped in at Cake Decorating Central and I got some supplies for Millie’s cake, with some ideas now percolating about how to proceed. However by the time I had unpacked the bags I felt as if I’d had the bone pointed at me and I need to keep reminding myself that they are both very good men who only want the best for me and I should feel extremely lucky about that. But later I still felt so awkward that I shot off an email to Alan explaining the situation briefly and letting him know that a letter from Glenn is in the works. Tomorrow will be a better day, please. At least my piece of snapper in pistou broth was absolutely delicious for dinner, first meal of the day.

February 20, 2021

Up to the pathology lab to get the blood tests Glenn ordered but I won’t go on Saturdays again, I was number 19 and they were doing number 9. Then a woman was going on about people wearing masks ‘when they don’t have to’ (that was me actually) and I ignored her for a while but then she started on about the waste of disposable masks (me again) and the fact that you needed to throw them away. ‘Actually, no’ I offered, ‘if you put them outside in the sun for two hours you can kill viruses pretty easily’. She was not happy and I didn’t give a fig. Then my turn finally came and and the young lady’s name was Ipek. After commenting on the unusual name she asked if I would like to guess her origins as ‘plenty of people have tried but no-one has succeeded so far’. After some thought I offered Syria and she was amazed that I was right, so we chatted names and ethnicities as she did her work. On leaving, as we walked through the waiting room to the desk, she said ‘oh I do hope I get you next time, it’s been so lovely to talk’. The look on the blond cow’s face was worth a photograph. Maureen 1, Mask Hater nil. The question still arises: why does my wearing a mask (in a medical facility no less) get someone’s dander up?

Then we headed off to Eden Gardens Nursery for lunch with friends. They were 10 of us and the undercover outdoor location was excellent, but as last time the food leaves a lot to be desired. My smoked salmon dish had plenty of the main ingredient but the accompaniments of undercooked sauteed cauliflower and three bits of bread made it an expensive salmon sandwich. John’s fish and chips looked great though it tasted like low grade fish, perhaps basa or similar, but almost certainly frozen. Company was worth the price though.

I got a very quick reply to my email to Alan, the surgeon, last night. He said I am ‘too polite’, but thanked me for forewarning him that Glenn had sent a missive and ordered a raft of invasive tests. He has no objections, which makes me feel a little better. (Why do I feel so protective of him?) Unfortunately I also discovered why Alan has been referring to my results as pre-cancer while both Bob and Glenn have looked at the same results and called it cancer. It is all to do with the grading system. Of the four possible grades, it is universal that the first two are considered pre-cancerous. However some doctors still call grade 3 pre-cancer (as Alan did) but others call it carcinoma in situ, considering that it has already become cancer, based on the fact that it will definitely progress to other parts of the body if untreated. This is Glenn’s view and why he had a fit when I told him the news. It has been a week where I have gone from well to pre-cancer to cancer as the days progressed. My head needs to catch up with the speed of this momentous turn of events.

February 21, 2021

The ants are back! I don’t think I can bear it at the moment. They were there when I woke up this morning and so the kitchen was de-anted, the tiles and benchtops cleaned, but when I came home hours later there were twice as many, including in the pantry all over the sealed honey container. Although they can’t get into anything in the pantry they swarm longingly over everything sweet, just in case they can find a way in. It will drive me to drink.

We were supposed to mind Millie at John’s house today but she has a cold and so Louis volunteered to mind her while Davina and I used their tickets to go to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – the Musical, put on by the Lane Cove Players and featuring Dav’s friend Emily. The story raises interesting questions about personal responsibility and the combination of good and evil within a single individual. Also there are questions about culpability for crimes committed under the influence of drugs and with the burden of mental illness. All very current despite the book being first published in 1886. Of course this was a musical, not a heavy dissertation and there were some wonderful singing voices, it was an altogether excellent production. I came home excited to ring John and tell him all about the show, but there were ants. Just in the week when I will be playing around with sugar and then icing a birthday cake, of course you can’t put fondant in the fridge….

February 22, 2021

After de-anting the kitchen FIVE times last night I went for the big guns. I used surface spray clearly marked ‘Do not use inside’ and sprayed the crack whether they enter and the cornice along which they travel to the kitchen. The decision was clear: the toxicity of the spray is less likely to cause me illness and death than the continued soul-destroying visitation of the ants. So I removed all ants I could with a cloth dipped in salt and water, they hate salt apparently, and then sprayed. A few more arrived but promptly turned back to whence they came and I went to bed in peace and hope. This morning there were a few still arriving and very quickly turning back, so mission accomplished?

On Friday afternoon, as instructed, I sent photographs of the PET and CAT scan requests to St. Vincent’s Nuclear Medicine Department. I was supposed to get an automated reply which didn’t arrive, so I gave them till noon today and when none had come I rang them, only to be told that they didn’t receive the photos. The lovely man fitted me in tomorrow anyway because the resent paperwork was marked Urgent. A doctor giving me the instructions for the PET scan said I have to rest today, ‘just drink tea and read a book’, apparently this is an important part of the prep and probably the best medical advice I have ever had. Tomorrow is fasting which is easy for a 9.15 appointment, but it takes about 3 hours so I will be a mite peckish by the end. I so hate the thought of the radiation, but I am trying to look on it as an educational experience, never having had either of the procedures planned. I always refuse sedation before an operation so I can check out the operating theatre equipment, so I guess there will be things for me to learn here too.

This morning I was writing notes for the book group presentation and I realise that I am emotionally attached to both the book and the author. It isn’t just another novel for me, but an uplifting story of courage and determination to survive horrendous life experiences. It is told in such an understated and indeed funny way that it makes a greater impression then if we were plunged into horror from the beginning.

February 23, 2021

I am so glad I don’t need to battle that traffic to the city every morning, it’s horrendous. The bus is great, but it’s over a year since I used it. John dropped me off at the door of the hospital with just minutes to spare, having taken an hour and a half for a 45 minute journey. The Nuclear Medicine Department is in the bowels of the hospital, as it is in most places, along with the mortuary it is the most feared part of any hospital. I knew exactly where to go after shepherding John there so many times. I told him that god is evening the score for all the times I battled through traffic to get there when he was too sick to drive and had multiple appointments. I met the delightful Andrew with whom I had conversations yesterday when it was discovered that my email of the request forms hadn’t been received. I saw two nurses and a doctor who explained the procedure and offered Valium if I felt too concerned about claustrophobia. However I decided to refuse it and was glad I did. First was an infusion of contrast and a CT scan, the fact that there is a hole at the far end of the machine making it quite tolerable. I asked if there was an ‘eject button’ but not everyone has a sense of humour. Next I went back to the prep room and a large heavy machine was wheeled in. It contained the radioactive tracer which pumped into the cannula automatically with the nurse hiding in the corridor. I lay back relaxing and thinking of Fukushima and Three Mile Island. When it finished she removed the hefty machine and I rested there for an hour for it to circulate and then went back to the scanner. This time it was long and slow, with the bed automatically moving a short distance every two minutes until it had covered my whole body. The staff were behind a protective wall but there was a microphone to contact them if necessary. After a 10 minute compulsory rest I was free to go and John was sitting outside, visitors not encouraged to even sit in the waiting room, due I guess to the possibility of background radiation? When I was doing Biological Sciences a fellow student had trained and worked in Nuclear Medicine at Auburn Hospital but his 6 monthly blood count had shown changes that indicated he had been affected by the radiation and he was re-training in pathology. I was warned not to go near children or women who could be pregnant for the rest of the day as I was mildly radioactive but as we walked back to the car just after noon I decided that the day wasn’t nearly as stressful as I had been warned it might be. Now it’s just a wait for the results….

February 24, 2021

Making Millie’s cake was the order of the day. Decided to do a red velvet mud cake which is a strong colour to go with the bright blue of the icing. It rose well, in fact too well, one side rising to the top of the tin and the other much higher for some reason. I lopped it off level with the top of the tin, but I will need to use some of the cut off section to patch the sides a bit. Just what I didn’t need. However the tart for the book group seems to have worked out well. In this humid weather I’ve decided that icing the birthday cake tomorrow is too early, so Friday is going to be a busy day.

Today I had three calls from the Nuclear Medicine doctors, each one causing me to have more questions about why they were asking. The first was to get the date of surgery and wanting access to the pathology, to which I replied ‘just ring the surgeon’s secretary’, this seemed reasonable though pretty obvious I thought. Second was to say they couldn’t get on to her and also checking whether the surgeon believed that the problem was cancer when he did the operation, answer no. The third was wanting to know if the op was a biopsy or a resection, the latter. They asked if I were sure and also if there was only one operation or two. By the end of all this I was starting to wonder what was going on down there and what the questions signified, but I sensed I wasn’t going to get any answers. I had been led to believe that the report would be in my doctors’ hands this afternoon but I’ve had no calls so I assume no-one has it yet, waiting is such fun.

February 25, 2021

Decided to attack Millie’s cake after making a big pot of cream of zucchini soup. A big pot because Sue’s neighbour went to Melbourne over Christmas so she could rent out her Killcare house for a month for some incredible sum that I’ve forgotten. However no-one picked the zucchinis! So Sue gave me the biggest one known to man which made said large pot of soup, some of which I will be eating for dinner. Then I got on to the cake, which I needed to cut down slightly because of a baking malfunction. It isn’t a masterpiece this year, simply a fondant covered cake in dark blue with various Mario toys of hers on top and on the board and covered with gold foil covered chocolate coins and some stars with eyes painted on them. It’s all a complete mystery to me as I have never seen this Mario or the other characters, I think they are from some sort of video game.

I have heard from no doctor and when I rang the surgeon’s office this morning she said that yes the report is there and as it’s his morning seeing patients he would ring me between them. I think he was leaving at noon and it’s now 5.30pm so I still haven’t a clue what’s happening. No good saying ‘no news is good news’ because the last news I got from Alan took 13 days and it wasn’t good.

February 26, 2021

Finally a call from Alan to say that all test results are normal, so no metastatic spread. He wants me to come back in about 10 days for a check-up and then regularly for an as yet unknown period of time to ensure that it stays that way. I was girded to deal with a bad result calmly, but luckily my preparation was unnecessary. So now I can forget about it till the next visit on March 8.

Carly arrived at lunchtime from Canberra and Sue later in the afternoon. Book group was at Sonia’s and almost all either liked or loved the book The Prince of West End Avenue, while one person disliked it a lot. It made for an interesting discussion, which morphed into a discussion about drinking to excess, women’s responsibility for self care against the possibility of male violence and the differing expectations of young women in terms of behaviour. Although I didn’t think to phrase it quite this way I later thought that a man walking past my house naked and drunk would be safe from me, so I think it’s not unreasonable to expect that if our situations were reversed then I should be safe from him. It certainly wouldn’t occur to me to call the police if he weren’t behaving in an aggressive manner, knowing the lack of subtlety the police show in such matters. I think we all enjoyed the freedom of a normal meeting after a year of Covid limitations. Carly, Sue and I kicked on till the witching hour, going over discussions had earlier in the night.

February 27, 2021

We three girls decided to brunch at Wild Pear and trotted off there for about 9.30. Sue suggested the daily special of pecorino stuffed zucchini flowers with honey drizzle and then we all shared a dish of kale and zucchini fritters with a cucumber salad and yogurt. It has been lovely having both Sue and Carly here overnight and today. Sue headed off for a late lunch with her kids in town while Carly and I came back home to have a day of reading, wrapping Millie’s presents and generally relaxing. I unfortunately decided to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, just because it appeared in my street library. What a mistake. I quickly decided that the author and I are on very different paths in life. I seriously wonder whether she has some sort of mental problem as she is obsessive in the extreme. Perhaps she is in serious need of a purpose in life, apart from tidying of course. For those who get something out of it, well and good, but it just made me appreciate my clutter all the more. At least I will have absolutely no problem in tossing this book out.

I was tired from doing not much and was getting ready for bed at 10.30 pm when the bro rang and then we talked till 12.15. Lockdown is still very harsh where he is and I sometimes forget that all restaurants, pubs, libraries, cinemas, op shops etc are still closed. They are doing it so tough compared to us, due to the pathetic mishandling by Boris. My friend Anne said that she had to go just over the hill to the next village for her vaccination but there was no direct bus and she doesn’t drive. They told her to get a taxi and bill the NHS but the fare was 43 POUNDS. How could that possibly be? I asked. Because the driver had been told to wait for her in the car park and bring her back. With the metre ticking while she queued up for the shot and then waited the mandatory time afterwards, it was 43 pounds for just one person. Multiply that by the thousands who live in villages, who could all have been transported by a bus surely, and it’s a terrible waste of money due to lack of organisation.

February 28, 2021

Up early and in to Erko to assist in welcoming 14 five-year-olds, each with a parent, plus of course our little party of three and Louis’ mum Sue. As expected Louis had excelled himself in decorating the place with Mario appropriate cardboard signage, helium balloons and lots of arty touches. Sue and Dav had worked hard on the food. The parents  are a lovely bunch of people, most seen only twice a year at Millie’s parties and the Froebel Christmas party. One (handsome) dad when asked by Carly what he did, replied ‘oh a bit of acting, a bit of voiceover and I run a boutique gin distillery’. No bus drivers in this little coterie. The cake went over well and one mother came over and said ‘I honestly think that’s the most delicious cake I’ve ever eaten’, so despite the kids all having blue tongues from the icing, I can call it a success. Dropped John home where he juiced a few kilos of carrots for us to share and we had a brief encounter with Ann who was pleased to see that Carly was wearing earrings Ann had given me for Christmas and I was wearing a necklace with the same provenance. She had a gift of yet another brightly coloured necklace that she’d bought for me, so I insisted that it be my birthday present for October.

I have been surprised this year that I never seem to get a reply to my emails to Martha and at book group she asked if she had offended me with a limerick she wrote about me. I had sent not one but two positive replies so I investigated and it turns out she’s had no emails from me since December last year. The address is correct so I forwarded 16 emails only to discover that she received none. I was wondering why she never replies and she was wondering why I never do. Not sure of the answer except maybe sending them via Phil.

March 1, 2021

A day for sorting out ongoing problems, largely successfully. Finally the emails to Martha arrived to her inbox, circuitously by forwarding them to Phil, but that gives neither of us any explanation about why they won’t go through directly so it will be communication via text only from now on. It seems that the ant issue is solved, after a few attempts to enter through the crack in the wall the little blighters have come across the surface spray and decided to move to a safer environment. I wish I had done that last year when they nearly drove me crackers. Another ongoing issue is my attempts to find out how the Mudgee Honey Haven is able to sell its products without ingredients on the label. I had put in a complaint to the local council on January 27 and they promised to investigate. Last Friday I rang again to see how this was progressing and today they rang back full of apologies, effectively they had done nothing. Another set of promises to investigate why this company isn’t following the law but as it is a major drawcard in the town I understand and expected their reluctance to deal with it. The Apiarists Association head suggested that diluting the honey with glucose or rice syrup could be the reason that they are not labelling the products. Better to be fined for lack of labelling than to be caught out adulterating the product. We shall see, but I am not giving up on this one so they will have to keep fobbing me off for a lot longer yet. The other more successful work of the day was to contact the store where I bought my new microwave last May to tell them that it had bitten the dust. The electronics seemed to work, as did the turntable, but nothing heated up in it as of yesterday. I had the receipt and they didn’t flinch about replacing it with an identical new one. Carly helped me lift it into place, my arms are not what they used to be! She pointed out that I stored a heavy cast iron cooking pot on top of it and that perhaps that had had an effect on it. When I stopped to think that the major component of a microwave oven is called a magnetron….perhaps it makes sense that putting a heavy metal item on top of it may perhaps alter its workings? I don’t understand the physics of it. But certainly nothing in the manual suggests this, however the cast iron pot needs to find a new home I think.

March 2, 2021

Tomorrow is my debut at the sewing group so I decided to do an asparagus and cream cheese tart, a decision confirmed at the fruit market when I saw asparagus was 3 bunches for $5. Of course now I can’t find the rest of the cottons, fabrics and trimmings that I was going to donate but instead I did find a box of spare chandelier crystals which would be great for masking tassels or similar and a box of old empty picture frames which could be painted and repurposed. With a box of doilies that I had already put aside I decided it was enough to pay my dues. I am well on my way to another Sallies delivery, adding in a lovely 1970s pottery teapot that someone gave to Sue and she gave to me. But we discovered on Friday night that it’s a terrible dribbly pourer, which is probably why Sue was given it, however someone may like it as a decoration. The other things in the box have had numerous turns on eBay with no response, plates I got $45 each for in the shop I can’t $15 for 5 on eBay. Minimalism has a lot to answer for.

Carly and I were talking about murder (for some reason I can’t now remember) and I thought of how many murders there had been involving people I knew through the shop. First there was a famous case where a wealthy local woman was kidnapped and never seen again, presumably a ransom gone wrong. Her killer died in gaol not too long ago. Both she and her husband were regulars every Friday. Then a man about 60 who had a big collection of antiques in a shed on his property was murdered by a young fellow who was living in a caravan there, I suspect there was a sexual motive in that one. A tragic case involved a woman going to the Windsor Police to organise an AVO when all of a sudden the police flew out to their cars and took off. Later she discovered that they had gone to her house where her estranged husband had murdered her two small children and her father who was minding them. Both she and her father were clients. Another regular client whose house I had delivered to in Baulkham Hills killed her 10 year old son and then committed suicide, wrongly fearing that welfare officers were going to take him. More recently a young local drug dealer was kidnapped by four others in a drug turf war and murdered by them, in that case I knew one of the perpetrators and his family. I attended some of his first murder trial in Darlinghurst but it was a hung jury, as was the second, a result due only to the skill of their barrister and not due to their innocence in my opinion. They later did a plea deal and accepted a manslaughter conviction but I have been unable to ascertain their sentences. Another case was an upholsterer I sometimes used who was murdered in a domestic confrontation by his mother-in-law who was protecting her daughter. I know there is another, but the last one escapes me right now, which is pretty shocking in itself.

March 3, 2021

I refined my search on the net and discovered that the four drug dealers previously mentioned who agreed to a plea deal and accepted manslaughter convictions, were each given a sentence of 15 years with 11 non-parole. I doubt they’ll ever be any different when they get out but I live in hope. The one of the men whom I knew came from a family of ugly outspoken racists (not that this was a factor in the murder) who had no respect at all for the law, but of course they were able to go on their merry way while he spends the next good while in gaol.

Today was my first day at the sewing/craft group and I took along an asparagus and cream cheese tart and my mending. I was also able to dispose of a box of picture frames to Martha and the crystals and linen which were put into the group’s stores. I arrived home just in time for Christian Porter’s press conference. He is either innocent or deserving of an Oscar, but which? I noted that Police Commissioner Fullofhimself was planning to go on to the board of the Australian Rugby League Commission. Talk about conflict of interest! I can’t believe that he couldn’t see how wrong this would be considering how often footballers get into legal strife. It just confirms what I have always thought: that neither he nor Berejiklian are the least bit concerned about being dodgy or being seen to be dodgy, they will get away with whatever they can. It won’t surprise me at all if he gets a Liberal pre-selection down the track.

March 4, 2021

Today was a first for me, going to a bishop’s funeral, Bishop Bede Heather in fact. I had met him some years ago at a wedding in his family that we attended. Actually, John didn’t want to go into the cathedral at Parramatta, or any other Catholic church for that matter, so we arrived near the end and waited outside to attend the social event afterwards. I would actually have liked to see them all lined up inside in their robes but no matter. I don’t think I have ever seen so many priests in one spot before, but the one I would have really loved to see, Anglican priest Rod Bower from Gosford, left straight afterwards so I didn’t get to meet him. Dang. I get his sermons via Facebook every Sunday and I am one of his many atheist followers. Apparently, according to his nephew, a good friend of John’s, Bede’s dying wish was to have Rod Bower concelebrate his funeral service, but of course the powers that be were having none of it. When he gave his eulogy Peter related that wish to the bishops, nuns and priests present, just to rub it in. Interestingly Bede had been attending Rod’s church for some years and referred to him as ‘my parish priest’, they became very close friends. I must buy a copy of Rod’s autobiographical book as it was a library copy that I read and it moved me greatly, hence my following him ever since. Talking about books, I have decided that from now on I must record every book I lend. My friend Michelle does this and I didn’t think I needed to, but I was wrong. Last week I was offered a book to read and I immediately replied that I own the same volume, a large history of the Romanovs. On coming home I checked and mine was missing. It turns out that the person who borrowed it from me gave it to someone else to keep, but because it was about Russia that person luckily offered it to me to read first. It’s an expensive book and was a gift, but I got it back only by mere luck. I am also missing Slow and Steady by John’s nephew John de Ravin, a lifelong guide for wealth building covering everything from saving pocket money to funerals. If I had read it 50 years ago I could have been a wealthy woman now, but much of the contents was complete news to me. When my high school wanted me to go into the economics class my mother said to me: what’s the point of that? you’ll never have any money, so what good is economics? Another loss is my friend Carol’s book Happily Ever After on aged care and there are others that I can’t bring to mind right now. Oh yes I just did, a book by the hypnotherapist friend who organised treatment for my migraines. I went on TV at one stage in an interview about his unique methods but my signed copy is up in smoke. Nary a newspaper goes out of here now without it being written down. (I will weaken of course but that’s today’s resolution.)

March 5, 2021

John has had a lump on his leg for a while and when he showed Bob at the end of last year he said to watch and wait. Bob is now pretty shocked at how it has grown and referred him to RNS Dermatology Clinic. It appears it is a large skin cancer, but now it is looking red and inflamed so we are worried about the possibility of infection. He’s been listed as category one in importance but still the appointment isn’t till March 22. I decided to call his infectious diseases doc to see if she is happy with him waiting so long, but she is off sick and her secretary said to get on to Bob on Monday to see if he can ring the doctor and press for an earlier appointment. If it worsens, she recommended going to Accident and Emergency. We never seem to get much space between medical issues, perhaps it’s just the age we are. Went to visit Martha and Phil this morning and he is looking sooo thin, it’s a real worry. Their garden is so pleasant and the back deck is a lovely place to sit and take in their many birds. I can’t believe how fast the wisteria has grown to cover the deck, almost like a sun roof. After lunch of the remains of the delicious zucchini soup we attacked some branches of a bush that had grown too tall and were spoiling the outline of the hawthorn when viewed from the front verandah. Many people would say who cares? but John understood immediately and sawed them off, then we managed to get them all into the green bin so a good job jobbed. He is now on the verandah whittling chess pieces (or a chess piece I should say). He made a beautiful chess table as a project at university and whittled all the pawns but never got around to finishing it. He has always said it was a job for his retirement so about 10 years ago I bought him a very fancy knife from a specialist business which only sells knives. It hasn’t left the scabbard till today, but I hope I see it coming out much more in future.

March 6, 2021

I baked this morning in my PJs so that was a good start to the day. Then decided to contact by text or email quite a few people I hadn’t spoken to in a while. One was a friend of John’s whom I particularly like who has also had lymphoma, but more recently than John. He’s had a hard battle with treatment and recently had shingles so badly that he was hospitalised. When I read his reply out to John he said ‘oh dear, has he been sick?’. He’d completely forgotten that he’d had lymphoma and therefore hadn’t been enquiring about his friend’s condition when they spoke, despite the fact that this friend had been particularly supportive when John was sick. Perhaps I need to be in touch with his friends more often, and not just the particular ones that I have become friendly with. They are a tight bunch but it’s still possible to misconstrue things when you are dealing with people remotely.

Today I did another ABC Vox Pop survey and the questions were wide-ranging and sometimes taxing, considering that you get the choice of 4 or 5 answers and can’t frame them in your own words. Given a list of things that politicians should resign over, some like lying to parliament or misuse of funds were obvious, but how do you answer ‘if they are to appear before a corruption commission’. Well that depends on the ultimate decision, so one has to answer no, but it could be misinterpreted. Why do I take such things so seriously? It’s only a bloody survey, but once I’ve committed to do it I feel I need to answer as carefully as possible. Easier was a list of drugs I’ve used and how often. Boring person that I am I could only tick alcohol from a very long list. I have always felt that my willpower isn’t up to that temptation and have refused everything I’ve been offered, often to the derision of friends in the 1960s.

March 7, 2021

Just gave my neighbour some of the very hot Thai chilies that I’m growing and he told me that I had to put the paper bag on the fence because in his culture handing chilies to someone directly precedes a falling out. Funny to hear that a gift could cause a rift. Boom tish. A huge branch of the golden elm has landed in the back garden and flattened, without breaking it, a branch of the jacaranda. So we, mostly John, tied it back upright from its horizontal position on the grass. It reminded me to contact Kirk to do the mowing and he can use his chainsaw to cut up the branch. We had morning tea with Carol and Jack and I came home with both a book and a whole dish of rhubarb crumble as Carol had made two. Talk about making one’s visits profitable. John still has a map in his head of the places he’s been frequently and their house is in that category, however today he had no idea how to get there and I needed to tell him where to go at every intersection. I’m hoping that it is a temporary loss because otherwise it seems to indicate that his memory is failing even more. He saw Grace Tame on Insiders and asked who she was and ‘what is she famous for?’ which was fine except that we’d had exactly the same discussion a few times this week and each time I’ve told him he asks ‘how come I’ve never seen her before?’.

Tomorrow I see the surgeon again and somehow I’ve lost the list of questions I wrote out, so I will have to rely on the two or three I can remember, but probably a good thing. It’s better that I shut up and listen and base my questions on his comments. Although I go with John to all his appointments I feel better seeing Alan on my own. My concentration is derailed with someone else there whom I need to consider. As Tim used to say in the shop: ‘you are the only woman I know who absolutely can’t multi-task’. Never was a truer word spoken.

March 8, 2021

Saw Alan Meagher and he is sending me for tests to another Professor who is a specialist immunologist working with The Kirby Institute at UNSW, The Garvan Institute and The Kinghorn Cancer Centre. He has a particular interest in this virally generated type of cancer which only attacks people with compromised immune systems. Apparently over 80% of people have HPV at some point but it only rarely causes problems, because of immune suppression of one sort or another. He is also very interested in HIV and I am to see him in ‘the old St. Vincent’s HIV clinic’. I feel as if I’m going back in time, plenty of which was spent in HIV clinics with the boys, there and at RPA. Then back to Alan in 3 months. He originally said 4 months, then as I walked out he said ‘let’s make that 3 months, I need to be careful with you’. Interpretations could be made, but I am settling on the fact that I know he likes me and discarding the options that he knows that my immunologist Glenn Reeves is on his hammer or that he’s especially worried. Juggling three professors is a trick I will need to work on, I have appointments with all three coming up. If the new one is as pleasurable as the other two we will get on fine.

From there we travelled to Castle Hill cinema, downing a few quick pieces of sushi in the food court nearby, and actually went to the movies! First time since last February and there were four of us in total in the showing of The Dry. I loved it even though I had read the book and knew the story. John (as has become common with books, buildings and now movies) believed he had definitely seen it before and even though I told him it is a new film he went off to ask the cleaning up person who came in at the end. Then he loudly said ‘you’re right, this lady said it is new’, except it was a man with a high voice. Dying, I rushed us out of there as quickly as I could.

March 9, 2021

Today was the launch of the first of John’s five street libraries built for Link Housing, the installation of which were unfortunately stalled by the pandemic. He has three going up this week and two more pending. Today’s was in Eastwood outside an attractive block with a decent garden around it. They only managed to rustle up six tenants to watch but I guess some people go to work. Interestingly after professional signs were made for each side of the libraries proudly declaring that they were made for Link Housing, the tenants complained, saying that they didn’t want their homes to be identified as social housing. So all the signs were binned. John gave a short speech, the themes of which we had discussed over breakfast, then we sat in the garden and had some morning tea with the residents. The brand new housing manager whose bailiwick includes that block was also present though I noted that he didn’t say a word to the tenants, which was odd as it seemed a perfect opportunity to build some social capital. The advertising material for the launch showed John with Martha’s library which was odd considering he doesn’t remember giving them the picture, though clearly he must have. One down successfully, four to go.

I just watched the whole of a 35 minute Youtube presentation about Covid 19 by a German doctor. It was sent to me by a close friend and I poo-baad it months ago after only watching 10 minutes. However my friend brought it up again so I ploughed through the whole thing. Among other things he claims that: 1. The AIDS epidemic was caused entirely by the use of the party drug amyl nitrate. How does this explain the African disaster of deaths from AIDS? 2.’If you stop testing for Covid 19 the epidemic will be gone’. This is probably where Trump got the idea and we all laughed at him. 3.’The only explanation for deaths in the UK, USA and Brazil is from doctors giving overdoses of hydroxychloroquine’. Seeing the drug was quickly found not to work and was only given to a small group of people in the first place, how does he explain the later and the current deaths? Since the hydroxy trials ended he says there ‘are no more excess deaths than usual’. So clearly every government in the world has colluded since then in falsifying death numbers upwards, if he is to be believed. A crank pure and simple, and a dangerous one at that.

March 10, 2021

After the launch of the first street library yesterday John was contacted by someone from Channel 10 to go on the Studio Ten program this morning. The plan was for the cameraman and journalist to arrive before 7 am today, record him working at his balcony ‘workshop’, then follow him to the second launch at Hornsby at 11 and film that live. I intended to watch it at 11 of course but then John rang me to say that they’d changed their minds and filmed him live to air at 8.30, so of course I missed it altogether. Perhaps they will send him a cut, I don’t know, but he said it went well.

I sometimes read Jessica Irvine’s Money column in the Sun-Herald and I am always amazed at the lengths she will go to in order to save a small amount. But last Sunday she excelled herself, recommending that we try having extras cover on our health insurance for just two months of the year, to allow for the waiting period, then ‘quickly max out all our claims’ and cancel for the remaining part of the year. She suggests rejoining the following year and doing the same thing. I was pretty cheesed off by this suggestion and wrote a letter to the editor, copying in Medibank Private. If a company used such methods we would rightly report them to an appropriate consumer body, so why it is okay for us to use them? She ends the piece with Sneaky, no? Sneaky, yes. And morally questionable, I would add. Perhaps the column should be retitled ‘Willing to do Anything for Money’ but I guess that it shouldn’t surprise me. Years later, I still recall the dinner discussion with some ‘money’ people we know. After we commented about the terrible scenes on television of people being thrown onto the streets by sheriffs in the US due to to the sub-prime mortgage crisis one seriously asked the other: ‘I wonder if we should we be investing now in US real estate?’ A compassion-free zone is money.

Last night late my neighbour rang to ask if I knew there was a big branch on my roof. Seeing it is dead wood I think it must have come from my tree rather than Arvind’s and it was hooked around the chimney on the far side from his tree. At 7.30 am I rang the SES and before 8 someone came to assess the job, followed soon after by a compatriot to do the same. I am told a team will be here later today to get it down and check for broken tiles. What would we do without the SES?

March 11, 2021

Well the SES men came as promised, two hardy pros Paul and Joe and two older trainees, Denis and mmm, well I tried to remember all four. They put their extension ladder into Justin’s place and mmm climbed up and swung a rope around the branch, tying some expert looking boy scout knots around one end before gently lowering it down, under constant instruction from the two old hands. Mission accomplished quickly and efficiently with a branch at least 15 feet long, probably more, then Denis cut it up with a hand saw. They couldn’t see any sign of broken tiles which was a minor miracle, the first time a branch has come down without significant damage. I know from past experience that they are not allowed to accept anything, even food, so there was no point asking. ‘Instant dismissal’ was the reply last time I asked. Coincidentally Joe was one of the team who cut up the big tree which fell in February 2020, so as they left he said ‘see you next February or March’.

Last night I pored over some recipe books for a menu to serve to a friend coming to lunch tomorrow. Decisions made, I went up to the shops first thing today to get the ingredients for a two course lunch. I was back home feeling pleased with myself, just choosing a tablecloth to iron (I am trying to use my extensive collection of linen) when a text came in asking if it were okay to change to morning tea instead. I guess John will enjoy the food at the weekend but there were three salads, which I love and he is quite ambivalent about so I will need to serve one with each of three meals I think. One was a warm salmon salad and John baulks at the concept, ‘how can it be a salad if it’s warm?’ As I say to him: ‘if it wasn’t on a menu in 1953 you don’t want it’ and he agrees. I guess I am lucky that he will eat a curry.

March 12, 2021

Enjoyed the morning spent talking books and all else with my buddy. Talking about the Southern Highlands with him made me think that we are overdue for a visit, especially on a slightly overcast day like today. So I’ve looked up the place he stayed recently and it is a lot cheaper on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Easter for obvious reasons. Thinking. But there’s also Kiama….

I finally got a call from the new Professor’s office, it’s taken a week. His assistant’s first question was whether I have a problem with a male nurse, Dan, assisting with any procedures necessary, to which I replied in the negative. She sent me a lot of information about the Prof and the fact that as well as being a clinical Professor he is also involved in research on the particular condition I have, so that’s a positive in my book. She also reiterated the 1 in 100,000 figure, saying it is a very rare disease, apparently he is the pre-eminent specialist in its treatment in this country. How lucky am I that I opted for St. Vincent’s over a local hospital. Although I like to get all the facts on everything medical, I was somewhat flat after reading that there is a long term research project going on in the US to ascertain the best treatment: chemo, radiation, surgery, ablation or direct application of chemicals or a combination of these, but it will be a few years before the results are known. That’s the problem with rare diseases, statistics are hard to accumulate. As well I am still juggling with RNS to get John seen earlier than the 22nd for his leg, but that date is the first time this particular doctor is available so we are stuck. I can see my own appointments stretching forward into winter with perhaps no answers forthcoming and on top of John’s medical stuff I am finding it all a bit of a weight at the moment. Having read all the material that the Prof’s office sent me, including watching quite a number of short videos, I can see why some people just put their heads under the doona about medical stuff, but I don’t want to be that person so I just need to take a few deep breaths and look on it as an (unwanted) educational experience.

March 13, 2021

Decided to go ahead with the Bowral plan, rather than the Kiama one, mainly because Carly flagged the possibility of travelling there by train to meet us for her birthday, the day we would arrive. So we can lunch together if she is able to jag the day off. I rang Milton Park and also Briars Country Lodge and the latter was over $350 cheaper for the three nights. I was inclined to try there because Tony and Kathleen had highly recommended it. The receptionist asked if we had been before and when I answered no she asked how we found out about the place. I replied that is was a friend’s suggestion and she followed by asking who that was ‘oh, Tony and Kathleen are regulars’ she replied. It’s on 10 acres so although it doesn’t have the superb gardens of Milton Park it’s not a scabby motel either. Excited. I want to go again to Joadja, the deserted ex shale mining village inland of Bowral, haven’t been there for about 40 years. Also the tracks around the waterfall at Robertson are beckoning me. Perhaps I will even get to wear the fancy pants raincoat I bought in Bowral exactly two years before this trip. Covid conspired to ensure that I didn’t go out at all last winter and a resplendent raincoat to go to the letterbox seemed overkill.

Made soup for lunch from a fridge raid and it was a collection of allsorts: some chicken I’d cooked for John last week, cooked onion, some soft tomatoes, Arborio rice, the dregs of some chutney, a little piece of one of my home-grown super hot chillies – hey presto chef’s soup of the day with just a can of coconut milk to turn it into soup. John had said at 8 am that he was about to have breakfast and then he was coming here about morning tea time, when I rang as the soup was cooking at 1 pm he was ‘just leaving’. The problem with my wonderfully prolific chilli plant is that only my Indian neighbours next door can eat them in any quantity, I use about an eighth of a chili in a recipe and I like hot food.

March 14, 2021

Just two Liberals left in Western Australia’s parliament after yesterday’s state election. But for me, two is still two too many. They can meet in a phone box perhaps, or discuss parliamentary business at a small table in a cafe. Of course Mark’s decision to keep the borders closed because of Covid was hugely popular but I’m sure the fact that the Liberals have two lame duck ministers in the Federal sphere at the moment cost them some votes as well. Whatever the reasons it bodes well for the Left at the next Federal poll, nothing like the landslide WA experienced of course, but surely now that it seems Christian Porter has been shown to be lying about his knowledge of the accusations against him, he can’t come back from that. Bring on the election, I can’t wait.

We were invited to lunch today at the Marist Brothers Monastery at Randwick, where John’s cousin Kevin resides. There were 15 of us at lunch, replete with wine or beer. Most of the residents are over 90 but are surprisingly with it and appear reasonably healthy. Of course many are named John which made remembering all the names easier, just the odd Michael, Dennis and Vincent to recall. Apparently if they sicken they are taken to another residence at Campbelltown which is more of a nursing home. However this place is the lap of luxury compared to most retirement places I have visited, in a lovely Victorian building which has been restored and fitted with a commercial kitchen and a lift. After seeing the home cooked spread, I asked if ‘the food is this good every day or only on Sundays?’ to which they all replied that they are very well catered for at every meal. A long way from the generic sausage rolls and party pies that many of our institutionalised elderly are fed on, but I’m very glad that some folks at least are well looked after. I had the feeling that they were both glad to have outsiders to talk to, to break the monotony perhaps, while also having some concern that as outsiders we may say something controversial or mention an awkward issue. John resisted mentioning the fact that he was caned every day by Marist Brothers at high school and the fact that it still looms large in his memories of childhood.

March 15, 2021

We did a circular shopping jaunt through Castle Hill industrial estate, then on to Dural and back, first stopping at Battery World to pick up some D batteries for my antique clock. I had bought some from Aldi but the clock still wouldn’t go so I went to Battery World for their top quality ones, hoping it was a battery issue rather than a clock one. But sadly it is still not happy so it must be the mechanism. When I bought the clock over 20 years ago the seller explained that she’d taken it to 3 repairers, none of whom had ever seen one like it and didn’t know how to fix it. I took a punt and bought it anyway and luckily for me Lance, my clock man at the time, had repaired one in the 1950s and knew how it worked. It is a Eureka 300 Day Clock, made in London in 1906 and is the first clock ever made with battery assistance to the pendulum. I couldn’t find my recent clockmaker’s phone number immediately (the one who fixed it all those years ago having succumbed to lung cancer long ago) so I rang a clockmaker I found on the net. I was unable to speak to the principal and got the manager who tried to tell me first that it was a modern clock, then that it was an antique clock which had a replacement modern quartz movement ‘well, battery means quartz’ she obstinately insisted, so I decided this wasn’t a company I could trust with my precious clock. Eventually in files in the storeroom I found the phone number of my more recent fellow, but he hasn’t ever seen one unfortunately. He will have a look at it though and at least I trust him not to deny ever having received it, as I have had clients tell me has happened to them with exceptional timepieces. Clock men (always men) are odd coves in my experience, almost always 1. middle European and 2. quite besotted with their craft, they can also be a bit temperamental. A Polish one always had the opinion that a clock was either ‘beautiful mechaniz’ or ‘rubbish mechaniz’, the last ‘m’ perpetually missing in action on the word mechanism. My current guy, Macedonian I am guessing by his surname? is the sanest I’ve had.

Woah, phone just rang and it was Dan, assistant to the Professor I have to see on April 13. He’s just been in discussion with the Prof after receiving my referral from Alan the surgeon and they’ve decided I need to be seen earlier, but he goes on holiday this week so I’m now seeing him on the first day he is back, April the 6th. They are asking the St. Vincent’s pathology department if they have any tissue left from the operation that the pathologist  in their research lab can examine for a second opinion. Dan was full of questions and information and told me to take a couple of painkillers an hour before the appointment as they want to do a whole range of tests, some of which need to be done without a local anaesthetic so as not to interfere with the result. Boy, this is a steep educational process but I was glad Dan spoke to me very intelligibly and in detail for 20 minutes, but as if I were a person with some biological knowledge. It must be hard to know at what level to pitch the discussion and he was perfect. Watching the videos they sent had enabled me to ask the right questions too. I feel in very good hands.

March 16, 2021

More thoughts on the conversation with Dan yesterday, my call register showed it was actually closer to a 30 minute call. It reminded me of the constant talk about mutations and variants in Covid19. He said they will be doing virus tests because if it is variant 2 or 5 they won’t worry too much about possible spread but if it is 16 they will worry a great deal as it is the nasty one, with I think 18 as another slightly less less worrisome option. He flagged the possibility of further surgery, as Alan had already done so that wasn’t news or a shock. I’ve decided that seeing this as a first hand medical enigma or conundrum is better for me than knowing nothing about it and just worrying, so I’m trying to keep on top of everything I am being told. I hadn’t expressed that view to Dan, he just seemed to assume that I wanted to know. This wouldn’t work for everyone and I’m lucky that I genuinely find it fascinating.

Drove out to my clockmaker at Richmond and left the clock there for an opinion and hopefully repair. His wife mentioned that he has been contracted to visit Kambala School at Rose Bay every three months to attend to both their grandfather clock and the one in the tower. Meanwhile public schools put a new battery in the plastic wall clock and buy a $25 Chinese replacement one when it dies. Wandered around Richmond shops and of course bumped into an old client in an antique shop there. He remembered my name but I struggled for his. Later in another shop the owner asked if I remembered buying a big antique dictionary years ago and I did, in fact it is on my bookshelf. She said it was her grandfather’s and she wants to buy it from me. I will need to go through the old records and see what I paid for it, happy to sell it for that. Antique shops seem another world now, that lady told me she never quite enjoys holidays ‘I don’t get homesick, I get shopsick’, I knew exactly what she meant.

March 17, 2021

Made up a salad to take to sewing group, beetroot, rocket, currants, pomegranate and toasted pine nuts with a light balsamic and olive oil dressing, loved it so it may become a staple. I did have a project to take today, a very old woollen jacket with a silk lining which has shredded in vertical tears. The lining is fixed so it can’t be repaired from the inside. That provoked the idea of using some black satin ribbon, hand sewn over each tear, which occupied all of the sewing time with about an hour’s work to finish it today. I haven’t worn it for years, afraid of damaging it further, so now I will feel comfortable about bringing it back into use this winter. The conversation at the group waded into the ‘consent’ issue and everyone seemed initially to be taking a harsh view of men’s behaviour but it soon softened into ‘well girls wear shorts where you can see the curve of their bottom’ and ‘they wear a G- string under sheer dresses’. When was the last time you heard of a tradie being assaulted by a woman because his shorts were at half mast and you can see the crack of his bum? I just don’t buy this argument that men are unable to deal with temptation, therefore we all have to dress to allow for this. Judging by the sudden intense concentration on their sewing by a few, I think I was not alone in that view.

I was able to donate a couple of boxes of books to Martha’s street library as she had said  she was almost out of books. Currently I have many, but I guess I too will get to that situation eventually. John’s interview for Channel 10 on his street libraries has been sent to him, brief but good. That verandah has now been used for a couple of TV interviews, the last being by Channel 7 after the arrest of John’s neighbour Scott for a historic and famous murder. Which brings to mind the murder? of the victims of the 1979 Ghost Train fire at Luna Park. The first of a three-part series on the event has screened and it was harrowing to watch. At the time the rumour was that it was arson involving crime figures and Abe Saffron’s name was bandied about, but the police quickly announced that it was an electrical fault, before the Fire Brigade had even started an investigation. It will be fascinating to see what evidence Caro Meldrum-Hanna has discovered. Back in those days my friend Don, a real estate flipper before that even became a popular thing and now long dead, used to meet regularly with a group of police in a restaurant in Sydney, the name of which I can no longer remember. However it had a domed brick roof and was in some sort of old tunnel. I gathered that they were at the corrupt end of the force and he dropped the occasional tidbit of information that over the years proved to be true. I think the Ghost Train stories came from him. After my father died Don offered to buy his old beat up car for very little money and I sold it to him, but later I was flooded with parking tickets for it. Turned out he had never put in the transfer paperwork and I suspect he only bought the car so he could park wherever he wanted with no problems.

March 18, 2021

Huzzah! My clock man has solved the problem, it was stuck up with 25+ years of dirt and grease so he took the whole thing apart and has washed it in his secret solution. He will keep it till the weekend just to check it is keeping good time. I can’t wait, it’s like picking up Lily from the cattery. I have had a morning of catching up with emails, reading a couple of long papers online and writing book reviews. One medical paper was particularly interesting because it was on virology entitled Back to the Future: Lessons Learned From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. It was written just before the Covid19 pandemic and talked about things like where the 1918 pandemic came from, why certain people died in 1918-20 when others were mildly infected, why it particularly affected the 15-45 age group and what could be learned for future pandemics. I’ve kept it to reread as it’s all relevant to the present. Then there was our own Danish Ahmad’s paper on The Knowledge of Danger Signs of Obstetric Complications among Women in Rural India which I had already read in hard copy but needed to reread as the statistical stuff was hard going for me. Luckily the virology paper didn’t include much in the way of statistics but had a mine of references to be followed up.

Still hoping to get away in late April but between us we have five medical appointments between now and then, any one of which could result in further appointments. I think we will just have to stamp our feet and say no way can we put this holiday off, otherwise I can see the same thing happening later and it will be winter.

March 19, 2021

Every Wednesday I get the 4 questions from the SMH Weekly Poll and on Thursdays I get the Sentiments Survey. The latter involves clicking on all the emotions or feelings you are feeling that day, from a long list. I remember last week clicking calm and positive and optimistic among others, but this week I found myself clicking things like stressed and frustrated. It’s funny how things change from one day to the next. The Eastern religions call it the guna, the Philosophy School always talked about mood being ‘the changes in the guna’. Partly my frustration was due to politics and the government’s typically off key response to the women’s march on Monday and all issues a la femme. But rain washes away stress in my humble opinion so this weekend’s downpour should be good for me.

I have happily read the book for book group next Friday, made notes and was looking forward to discussing it, but a few people were unable to come that day so it looks like being changed till next month, but not on the scheduled date for April, and if that happens I won’t be able to go due to a prior commitment. It doesn’t seem logical to be losing a month’s meeting, we only have 10 a year. We would still have had heaps more people than the whole WA shadow cabinet. But (thankfully) it’s not my job to decide such things.

Omar came to John’s with the new computer he has put together for him and because we both had to leave for hairdressing appointments in Manly at 12 noon he opted to come at 8 am. When I arrived at 11.30 Omar was still tinkering with moving John’s files over and doing a similar thing with his new phone. We decided to leave him to it and left, but at one point I said to Omar: ‘I need to show you the door’ to which he replied ‘What have I done?’ and I explained that I needed to literally show him the door so he knew how to let himself out. We both love our husband and wife hairdressers to bits and couldn’t have cancelled and left them in the lurch. I wonder though how long we will be able to make that trek?

March 20, 2021

A really heavy rain day, my favourite weather, and all the balls for the day fell into the right pockets. Firstly we went over to the Chocolate Warehouse and I found some lovely boxes, one for my clockmaker Jim and two for add-on gifts for both my girls’ birthdays. Then John fancied a box of Turkish Delight so I got that too. We were in solid traffic jams from then on as folks swarmed to Bunnings, Harvey Norman, Castle Towers, anywhere warm and dry. A weird thing that on a day when we were all told to stay home because the roads would be dangerous it was much busier than usual, but we defied the order as we had tickets to an event so I can’t blame others for being out. Off then to Hornsby RSL of all places to a screening of Brazen Hussies, a history of the women’s movement in Australia, put on by Amnesty International.

Two excellent emails on my return, the book group meeting has been reinstated to the correct day, woohoo! and our doctor’s surgery contacted us with booking options this week to get the vaccine. This morning I read an article explaining the nature of the blood clot issues complicating the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Two teams of medical researchers in Norway and Germany have independently found that the vaccine can trigger a very rare autoimmune disorder causing blood to clot in the brain, and they suggest a possible treatment for it, blood thinners and immunoglobulin. These researchers openly talk about the link whereas our government has been very naughty in my view to deny it altogether. It’s one thing to talk about cost/benefit and rarity but quite another to just deny the link. One Professor interviewed for the Wall Street Journal says that it is an impossibly rare condition where the immune system attacks the platelets and to suddenly have these cases only in recently vaccinated people made it clear in his view that the vaccine is the cause. Despite all of that I signed us both up for Thursday morning.

March 21, 2021
I was reunited with my perfectly working clock at Richmond after checking with Windsor Police that we could get through the floods okay. Then we went to Windsor to check how the new $100 million Windsor Bridge was faring. The water was just under the roadway and expected to be over it by the morning. Whole trees flying down the river were hitting the bridge and coming out the other side in bits. The police had closed the bridge, the same ones no doubt who hauled away the largely elderly demonstrators who camped in a tent there for years, 24 hours a day, winter and summer, planning to lay down in front of the bulldozers when they came to attack our historic 1874 bridge. This rotten Liberal government insisted that their new bridge would be flood free and refused to listen to Labor, the Greens, Jack Mundey, engineers, the historical society, councillors, endless demonstrators over years including yours truly and the overwhelming majority of the public who pleaded with them to put a new higher bridge downstream and leave our old one in peace. The cost was very similar so I suspect some bastardry, but have never been able to work out exactly what it was. Wherever we walked today we could hear people talking about the decision ‘why did they build it here?’ ‘why wasn’t it at least raised in the middle?’ ‘why did they lie about it?’ Ray Williams, an idiot who became a state MP, swore hand on heart that it would be flood free. I’d love to see him walking over the bridge tonight and I have sent him an email suggesting that he do just that.
Because we have such a full on day tomorrow I made a cake in the afternoon to serve folks coming for morning tea Tuesday. I realised that in the next two weeks we only have one day without a commitment of some sort. I guess it is the pent up demand after the bottled up year we’ve just had when socialising wasn’t possible.

March 22, 2021

Did the blog on John’s new computer last night and the post wasn’t here today. I eventually recovered it but in a different format. How to fix? No idea. We were at RNSH by 8 am this morning and saw the dermatologist Dr Adrian Lim and his sidekick Ash. They decided the skin cancer on John’s leg needs a plastic surgeon as it’s hard to sew up the skin when over the bone, so it was arranged that we will see one on Friday. An interesting comment was ‘the highest risk for getting a skin cancer is having had a skin cancer, it’s genetically determined’. I’ve never had one so that’s one thing I probably don’t need to worry about. We were in and out of there as quickly as we’ve ever experienced which was great because we were booked to go on a celebratory harbour cruise with Captain Cook Cruises at noon. The weather was dire so I was a bit worried about getting sick, but I dosed myself up and had no problems, apart from the one occasion when I left my seat, so I remained seated for the rest of the time. Visibility was very poor, but the food and company were good so we were glad we decided to go, especially when we heard that over 30 of the 90 guests didn’t turn up or else cancelled at short notice. Of course these people were paid for in advance from the budget of an NGO, so that was a pity.

Heather’s son and his wife had a baby boy this morning, Banjo Murray Tamsett, what a fine name and a fine little chap by the looks of him. I can’t even imagine dealing with a tiny person now, I think mine were lucky to survive my ignorance and lack of help. It should be second nature after millennia of births but it certainly wasn’t in my case, I was never a natural at it, but I take my hat off to those who are. I wonder what happened in the past when hapless women were left to fend alone, I guess babies were lost as a result. My mother didn’t have a clue and told me that whenever I was sick or she didn’t know what to do she just ran down the road with me in a blanket and asked her aunt.

March 23, 2021

I’ve been asking around the folks who opposed the new Windsor Bridge to try to get a retrospective handle on the WHY? Some in the Hawkesbury community believe there was another agenda altogether behind the bridge replacement – sand extraction on the Richmond Lowlands. Premier Mike Baird, strong supporter of Our Glad, is quoted as saying: “Construction in New South Wales is facing a serious problem in that there is going to be a supply crunch as Kurnell, Penrith Lakes and the Southern Highlands supplies of sand become exhausted”. Sand is a vital resource for the NSW state government’s mega infrastructure building plans and it is apparently in critically short supply. The sand resources along the Hawkesbury River on the Richmond Lowlands are extensive and are close to Sydney. According to local sand dredging experts, replacement of the old bridge, a little higher but with wider-spaced pylons to allow barges to pass underneath, was key to cost effectively removing sand for transport by barge. Apparently the value of the sand is billions of dollars over decades. If true this is a disgusting piece of trickery of the Hawkesbury community who would have been up in arms about the real reason for the change, so were fed the ‘flood free bridge’ line to justify the build. Who votes for these people? Half the bloody population unfortunately. The greedy and the dumb.

We had Phil and Anne over morning tea today and it was great to see them after so long, the interregnum having been caused by the pandemic. They were as cautious as we were and have just gone out for a meal for the first time in over a year. He is an ex priest and she an ex nun, both full of all the goodly social mores that we value. Made a blueberry and lemon cake which went down well and morning tea went till a good deal after lunchtime, added by some cheese and crackers.

March 24, 2021

Today we went to Bronwyn and Michael’s place for lunch so I made a summer fruit tart to take. Discussion varied across the usual topics of how bad the government is and whether Albanese has the ticker to win. We all agreed that Penny Wong is the natural heir to the job but also believed that being both a woman and Asian was too big a barrier to success, even if she came down from the Senate to a lower house seat. Sad but true. She wipes the floor with the rest of them. Tanya Plibersek is doomed for the leadership too with the double whammy of being female and having a husband who was once charged over drugs. A few men are worth considering, but sadly I think Albanese has lost his mojo.

Watched Exposed last night and was again rivetted to my seat. Near the beginning John was asking me about something he had mislaid but I waved him away so as not to miss a word. Cruel, but necessary, however I found it as soon as the show was over. It will be strange if after all these years Don Simpson had the good oil on the Ghost Train fire after all. I am of course wondering how many of the police involved are still alive or perhaps even serving. Surely after this there will need to be a new inquest? To which I would require a front seat, there is nothing as exhilarating as seeing justice done. Hopefully after our vaccinations tomorrow I will feel a little more inclined to attend court again, or at least after the booster. Michelle has booked her vaccination for April 1, but I told her they will likely be giving fake needles that day.

March 25, 2021
Last night sleep was impossible to come by, thinking about Ayaz Younas, drowned in his car on Cattai Ridge Rd at Glenorie, a spot I know well. Ayaz, you were so damned unlucky. Firstly it was just half an hour before dawn so you couldn’t see the water over the road. You were in a strange place, a fairly remote place, and you were going to your first day at a new job, guided no doubt by the hire car’s GPS and trying not to be late. You knew that the Hawkesbury River was flooded, but you probably also knew that Glenorie is nowhere near the river, many, many miles away in fact. There were locked gates blocking the road because of flooding but the water was over the top of them. You didn’t have a chance. You called 000 and spoke to an operator for 39 minutes as your car was slowly sinking (or perhaps 44 minutes, depending on which newspaper you read). You tried desperately to free yourself from the vehicle, damaging the interior in the process, but the water prevented you from opening the doors and you couldn’t wind down the windows, they were electric and the power was gone. You struggled for such a long time, still talking to the operator. I cried for you and it feels so weird, crying for a man you would likely never have met, however last night it felt like a vigil.
Still with Ayaz in mind, I went with John for our vaccinations. Lots more form-filling so it was lucky that we went early. My appointment was at 9.15, the exact time I went in, and I was done and dusted by 9.18. AstraZeneca has revised the efficacy rate for its US Covid-19 vaccine trial down to 76 percent from 85, while denying media reports that the vaccine is not very effective for people over 65. In early reports back in January, German daily papers Handelsblatt and Bild said the vaccine had an efficacy of ‘8 per cent’ or ‘less than 10 percent’, respectively, in people over 65 years of age. I guess we will find out over time whether that is true, fingers crossed that it isn’t. But we both felt pretty privileged to be getting it today and proudly wore our stick-on signs while doing a bit of shopping afterwards. Later we went to see the movie Nomadland at Roseville. It was quite beautiful, even though I found the diction hard to hear, the dark lighting didn’t help. But it was a non-judgmental look at those who adopt the van-dwelling life, either by choice or because they have no alternative, set against some superb American scenery.

March 26, 2021

Another early appointment at RNSH, this time for the plastic surgeon to have a look at John’s leg. He says that it needs plastic surgery, as we expected, because he will have to have a skin graft. Then he must ‘move as little as humanly possible’ for a week or two, his leg elevated except for necessary trips to the bathroom. It will need to be wrapped in plastic from thigh to foot as it can’t get wet at all and the skin graft will be taken from high on the thigh. We were planning a two week beach holiday just about the time they will likely schedule the surgery, though we don’t have an exact date as yet. By the time it’s over with and the follow up checks are done it will be too cold for the beach and if that happens I will be spitting chips.

Came home and started work on taking up two pairs of trousers of John’s that have frayed on the bottom edge. I decided to take the easy way out and use hemming tape but either the brand is crap or is out of date, because it didn’t seem to work that well. Juggling a fruit tart and trousers will probably result in neither being spot on. Had book group this afternoon and it was the smallest group ever, as far as I can remember. But that really doesn’t matter when you are gathering to talk books and break bread with friends.

March 27, 2021

I have been exceedingly tired yesterday and today. In fact last night I went to bed straight after getting home from book group. This afternoon I was filing away my appointment card for the next vaccination when I noticed that there was an attached list of side effects, the first after a sore arm being tiredness. Aah okay, I can put up with that, small price to pay.

The book group meeting prompted John to ask me how far in the past he had met and known a new member whom he greeted last night and he also wanted to know who had introduced them. Of course I have no answer, but have enquired of Martha in case she knows. This led to his asking me how he met Martha and Phil, another question I can’t answer so I included that query in an email too. It is scary that his memory loss extends to events more than 15 or so years ago, though the distant past still seems safe. But he was very proud of working out how to drive to Carol’s last night, I kept quiet and told him that I was confident that he could work it out and he did. Sometimes when he asks a question I suggest thinking about it a while before I answer, I am not always around to be his memory so he needs to make use of what is still accessible. However the initial query about Derrian and Martha hasn’t resulted in an answer appearing, hence my action to fill the gaps.

Reading today’s paper it was interesting to see that some of Morrison’s female MPs are ‘not answering calls’ to avoid having to refuse requests to appear in the press defending him. My sense of it is that Morrison’s grip is fading as people realise that he stands for nothing at all, just his own success. I often feel out of the loop with the general public view as all my friends are of the same political mind, whereas when I was in the shop I had discussions with people of every type of political persuasion. Unlike some (many) business owners I decided early on to speak my mind and accept the small loss of business that might entail. But at one stage the secretary of the local Liberal branch was in my employ, something I copped much flak for from a Greens-leaning councillor, ‘you couldn’t have found anyone in the Hawkesbury more right wing’ she complained, not wanting to deal with her in the shop. I even gave her a dispensation to not put out the Greens electoral A-frames and pamphlets on her workdays, because she had a ‘conscientious objection’. Still wondering if I made the right decision on hiring her in the first place. Another regularly argumentative person, never a customer in the financial sense, left the area to become a staffer on the far Right of the Liberals in Western Australia. I am sure I will eventually see him pop up as a candidate. He said ‘I just come in to sharpen my debating skills’ but it always left me depressed about the future as he was so young, so hard and so lacking in empathy.

March 28, 2021

The Insiders program was gold today with three eminent female political journalists on the panel and two female Liberal MPs as guests. The latter still seem to believe that the PM gets the fact that the problems he is having are to do with the culture of parliament and of the Liberal Party in particular. I don’t believe for a second he has that insight. Queensland MP Andrew Laming has decided not to stand at the next election (as if he possibly could??) but that doesn’t let the Prime Minister off the hook, as he still chose not to sack him, in fact one of the women he was trolling had written letters to Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull about his efforts and got no response from either. How can a qualified medical doctor and member of parliament stoop to trolling women online and taking a photo up a woman’s skirt? I can’t imagine there are many women who would be happy to attend his practice as a doctor in future so I am not sure exactly what he intends to do with his time. The man must be a mental case.

I am having a tidying up odds and ends day. Answering overdue emails, doing book reviews, packing to go away and paying bills such as my house and contents insurance. Most of my bills are paid automatically but not GIO because they always tends to be receptive to discussions about discounting my premiums in view of the fact that I have been a customer for well over 50 years, but this time they couldn’t do a thing because I’ve had two claims in three years for roo