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 actually been spotted on land up a peach tree eating the fruit. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 7

December 1, 2020

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

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

December 2, 2020

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

December 3, 2020

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

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

December 4, 2020

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

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

December 5, 2020

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

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

December 6, 2020

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

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

December 7, 2020

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

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

December 8, 2020

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

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

December 9, 2020

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

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

December 10, 2020

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

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

December 11, 2020

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

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

December 12, 2020

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

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

December 13, 2020

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

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

December 14, 2020

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

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

December 15, 2020

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

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

December 16, 2020

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

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

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

December 17, 2020

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

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

December 18, 2020

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

December 19, 2020

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

December 20, 2020

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

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

December 21, 2020

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

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

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

December 22, 2020

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

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

December 23, 2020

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

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

December 24, 2020

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

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

December 25, 2020

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

December 26, 2020

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

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

December 27, 2020

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

December 28, 2020

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

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

December 29, 2020

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

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

December 30, 2020

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

December 31, 2020

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

January 1, 2021

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

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

January 2, 2021

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

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

January 3, 2021

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

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

January 4, 2021

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

January 5, 2021

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

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

January 6, 2021

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

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

January 7, 2021

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

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

January 8, 2021

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

January 9, 2021

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

January 10, 2021

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

January 11, 2021

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

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

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

January 12, 2021

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

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

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

January 13, 2021

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

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

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

January 14, 2021

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

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

January 15, 2021

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

January 16, 2021

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

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

January 17, 2021

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

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

January 18, 2021

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

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

January 19, 2021

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

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

January 20, 2021

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

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

January 21, 2021

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

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

January 22, 2021

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

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

January 23, 2021

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

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

January 24, 2021

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

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

January 25, 2021

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

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

January 26, 2021

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

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

January 27, 2021

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

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

January 28, 2021

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

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

January 29, 2021

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

January 30, 2021

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

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

January 31, 2021

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

February 1, 2021

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

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

February 2, 2021

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

February 3, 2021

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

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

February 4, 2021

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

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

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

February 5, 2021

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

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

February 6, 2021

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

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

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

February 7, 2021

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

February 8, 2021

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

February 9, 2021

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

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

February 10, 2021

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

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

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

February 11, 2021

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

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

February 12, 2021

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

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

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

February 13, 2021

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

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

February 14, 2021

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

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

February 15, 2021

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

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

February 16, 2021

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

February 17, 2021

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

February 18, 2021

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

February 19, 2021

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

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

February 20, 2021

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

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

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

February 21, 2021

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

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

February 22, 2021

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

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

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

February 23, 2021

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

February 24, 2021

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

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

February 25, 2021

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

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

February 26, 2021

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

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

February 27, 2021

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

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

February 28, 2021

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

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

March 1, 2021

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

March 2, 2021

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

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

March 3, 2021

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

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

March 4, 2021

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

March 5, 2021

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

March 6, 2021

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

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

March 7, 2021

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

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

March 8, 2021

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

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

March 9, 2021

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

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

March 10, 2021

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

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

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

March 11, 2021

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

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

March 12, 2021

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

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

March 13, 2021

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

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

March 14, 2021

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

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

March 15, 2021

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

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

March 16, 2021

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

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

March 17, 2021

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

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

March 18, 2021

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

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

March 19, 2021

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

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

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

March 20, 2021

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

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

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

March 22, 2021

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

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

March 23, 2021

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

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

March 24, 2021

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

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

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

March 26, 2021

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

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

March 27, 2021

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

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

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

March 28, 2021

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

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

March 29, 2021

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

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

March 30, 2021

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

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

March 31st, 2021

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

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

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

April 1, 2021

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

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

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

April 2, 2021

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

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

April 3, 2021

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

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

April 4, 2021

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

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

April 5, 2021

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

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

April 6, 2021

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

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

April 7, 2021

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

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

April 8, 2021

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

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

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

April 9, 2021

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

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

April 10, 2021

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

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

April 11, 2021

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

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

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

April 12, 2021

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

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

April 13, 2021

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

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

April 14, 2021

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

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

April 15, 2021

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

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

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

April 16, 2021

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

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

On a happier note, two lymphoma patients, one in the UK and one in the US, caught Covid and survived, only to find at their next haematology visit that their lymphoma had completely gone! Apparently the immune system rush caused by Covid had incidentally cured them. Surely that could be used in some way as a therapy, perhaps with Interferon injections or similar. I’m sure folks are working on it as we speak.

April 17, 2021

Not much to report, lying low and reading the paper, John is attending to the cooking etc with a bit of gratuitous advice from me. Bad news in that Alison had collapsed at home on Thursday, was unconscious and then had a heart attack in hospital, luckily at RNSH. She was here in good form last week and John called in on her on Wednesday, the day before the attack. She remains in ICU. Kenneth rang at night. One of my old clients rang to ask if I could lend him $400, or $300, we settled on $200. I belatedly thought to ask what the problem was, usually it is car rego. ‘Lotto is worth $80 million this week and I want to make a big investment’. Aah, understood.

April 18, 2021

Watched Insiders in my jamies, loving Amy Remeikis’s comment that she opposes bonuses on principle, woohoo, why should well remunerated people get extra for doing what they are well paid to do? Feeling a lot better and John is of a mind that we should head off tomorrow. Heather dropped around some apple and carrot cake and a card.

This morning I got a phone call from John’s closest friend Terry, from hospital. He’s had back and abdomen pain for 6 months and the GP sent him to a physio back then. He’s stuck to the exercise regimen with no improvement so he mentioned it to the doc again. He went for a CAT scan on Thursday and at 7pm Friday (as I was talking to Alan) he got a call to say that he needed to go into hospital. The CAT showed bowel cancer plus metastases in the liver, lumbar vertebrae and hip bone. Who knows when it spread, but one thing is for sure, it was better treated 6 months ago. I would say that it dented my opinion of the usefulness of physios, but that was already so dented that you wouldn’t notice another ding. I love Terry and am so sorry that this wonderful, caring man has such a difficult time ahead of him.

Did some much needed watering in case we can get away tomorrow, we shall have to see what the morning brings, but at least the packing is all done and ready to put into the car.

April 19, 2021

We are still here. After deciding to head to Canberra this morning I had my finger on the button to book the hotel which is just a 7 minute walk from Carly’s place, but thought I had better check her availability over the evenings this week, seeing we missed going at the weekend as planned. But she said she is doing 12 hour days prior to a big announcement and so my finger was reluctantly withdrawn. Then we went through a panoply of options from going slowly to Canberra via Oberon, Cowra and Boorowa to going via the coast and up through Braidwood and then I found when I looked at availability of places to stay that some were booked out till mid May. As I have read, regional travel is booming. I thought of our fave, Bannisters at Mollymook, but was shocked at the tariff  increase since we were last there pre-pandemic. It was at least double, so I queried the massive rise and she said ‘yes our rates increased a good deal after the pandemic’, no link explained. I decided that to accept it would only encourage them to fleece people but it’s disappointing as we’ve stayed there three times before, including with all the family, and loved it. Unfortunately there are these days enough rich people around for businesses to charge whatever they like, high prices just make a place ‘exclusive’ no matter the quality. Another factor in my indecision is that I was told Richard would contact me in 2 weeks with test results, that passed this afternoon (not that I’m counting, ha). What with finding out that Terry is seriously ill, our Canberra plans being up in the air and the test results due, I am abstracted. John is super understanding that I am indecisive and puts it down to my having been sick, but he leaves any sort of bookings in my basket so I can’t offload the task to him. To top it off I dropped my new second pair of glasses and broke the frame after which I burst into tears of frustration. I had recently promised Ralph the optometrist some home made biscuits and luckily had them ready so I went up and asked him: ‘Do you want the good news or the bad news?’ He chose bad first so I showed him the glasses and then gave him the biscuits. We get on so well, as long as I steer him off politics, he’s an arch- conservative and Trumpist by nature and if I let him start on politics I would probably have to cease going there, so I go armed with a bunch of non-political stories to cut him off at the pass.

Tony texted and told me that following his recent long hours Castle Hill Library reopens after a renovation tomorrow. I have had an ongoing difference of opinion about the library’s decision to use ‘genre classification’ as they call it for their adult fiction, I call it a bloody stupid system. If I want a book by Maeve Binchy for example I have to look under B in the usual racks, then if it’s not there go to Romance or whatever boneheaded ‘genre’ someone has ascribed to it. My cogent arguments against the system cut no ice with the head, so we have to live with books being tagged with Hearts for Romance, Guns for Crime and Kangaroos for Australian, amongst many other symbols too annoying to list, and shelved accordingly. I was hoping his long hours lately involved pulling off the stickers and tossing them into the round file, but no. Asked how she would categorise Anna Karenina brought stony silence from the head. I wonder how The Dutch House would fit in this scheme, perhaps an emoji with a tear? Poor Tony has to listen to my complaints but as I told him there is no point in having your own personal librarian if I can’t get him to pull some strings or at least to listen to my bitching.

April 20, 2021

A decision has been made! We go directly to Canberra tomorrow. We will want to visit two lots of friends there and we can get that done early on and see Carly and Danish at the weekend and whatever nights she is able to get off work at a reasonable hour. The timing of the big government announcement that she’s been working on was unfortunate but so was my getting sick. The long touring holiday we had planned to northern Victoria and perhaps the Snowies, returning via Canberra, has been curtailed, but it’s been replaced by an initial 5 night stay in Canberra visiting friends and day-tripping. I had found a quite new hotel near to Carly’s place, a very walkable 7 minutes even at the forecast 1 degree evening temperatures. So I rang them and negotiated free parking (saving $10 a day) and then discovered that all of their standard rooms were booked out. Luckily it was the manager I jagged on the phone and he gave us a good price on a one bedroom apartment with full kitchen, washing machine etc. so we are very happy with the outcome, at a fraction of the nightly price that Rick Stein wanted for a basic room at Bannisters.

No word yet from Richard but I decided that if he had all the results he would ring, so I must be patient, never my strong suit. I have signed papers to permit him to use any results in his papers and research so I asked if I could expect to see my insides plastered on his Facebook page. No, he quickly replied, but I’m in talks with the people who lease that huge illuminated Coca-Cola sign at Kings Cross. Boom-Tish. One of the tests is a genomic analysis of the virus, something that wasn’t even a possibility when I studied genetics all those years ago. When Watson and Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA in the 1950s I wonder if in their wildest dreams they thought that the human genome could be fully revealed. When I was watching 4 Corners last night on the beginnings of the pandemic in China, it showed parts of the the genome of the Covid19 virus, that repeating mixture of adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine that controls us all. To think back in the 60s and 70s when I was working in a genetics lab, the idea that one day I would be having a full viral genome tested to aid in my medical treatment would have seemed unbelievable.

April 21, 2021

John woke up with a cold and we had to decide whether to cancel again. I felt it was the best move to cancel, despite losing our $200 deposit, but he suggested that seeing he usually doesn’t suffer badly with colds it was better to push on, however it means no visiting people as we had planned. I dosed him up with Codral Cold and Flu tablets and was surprised that it was the first time he had ever taken such things as Barbara felt it was a waste to take a tablet that doesn’t cure you but only makes you feel better, a logic I neither understand nor share. The trip was happily uneventful without too much traffic. We stopped at Bowral and bought two ready made meals from Flour, Water, Salt, our favourite foodie place at Kiama which now has an outlet in Bowral as well. This meant we could just reheat one, cook some rice and toss a salad and dinner was ready. We went to the tourist bureau and got a heap of brochures, looking up outdoor venues to visit where John wouldn’t be a risk to anyone else.

Our apartment was an OMG reveal, top floor looking over Mt. Ainslie, with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, laundry, loungeroom, study and a big deck! The decor is divine, black, grey and white with burnt orange highlights and everything is co-ordinated, right down to the crockery and cutlery. I doubt there is much marble left in the country after they did the bathroom, kitchen benchtops, splashbacks, dining table, coffee table, occasional tables, bedsides and more, yes I could happily have this as a second home and wouldn’t need to change a thing. Carly came over after work and we met in the bar of the hotel as she naturally didn’t want to risk catching John’s virus, a pity though when this place is made for entertaining. We had a drink and I was finally able to give her the birthday gifts that have waited since March 30, over which she was genuinely ecstatic, the gloves being a major success.

Highlight of the day was hearing that George Floyd’s murderer will face the consequences.

April 22, 2021

Had a call from Terry to say they have found more cancer in his spine and he will be having a spinal fusion on Saturday before they even get around to doing surgery on his primary cancer. They said that later they will ‘lop off the affected part of your liver’ as well. It looks worse each time we hear from him. He is a fulltime practising psychotherapist so his patients will all be suffering in a different way.

Today we went to the National Rock Garden, an unusual display of huge boulders of different sorts of rocks from around Australia, set in the open air, each with a small section highly polished to let people see how they can be used in architecture, sculpture or whatever. Tactile, stunningly beautiful and educational all at the same time. Then to the nearby Arboretum where forests of some of the world’s most famous trees have been planted, including the wonderful Himalayan Cedars through which we walked. These are fairly mature but much of the pine forests, 60% in fact, were destroyed by bushfire in 2001 and 2003, and these new forests have been planted to replace them. With over 44,000 rare and endangered trees across a 250-hectare site and a couple of really impressive sculptures, there was plenty to keep us occupied till about 2 pm. We are eating in, so a baguette with cheese and salad made in the apartment did the job for lunch. Another trip in the afternoon and then a call from Carly wanting to know if I could come out for dinner after work, about 7.30, which I answered in the affirmative. She picked me up in an Uber and we went to Zaab, a modern Thai place in Braddon, which was the fourth one she’s rung for a booking…..on a Thursday night. Every place along the strip was packed, she said you need to book a week ahead in Canberra on a Friday or Saturday night. Compare that to India where they are dying in the streets, we don’t know how lucky we are.

April 23, 2021

We called Terry first thing and the news from him gets worse every day. They had reported cancer in two lumbar vertebrae which he is due to have fused tomorrow but an MRI has shown cancer also in two high vertebrae which they need to operate on tomorrow as well as he is currently at risk of becoming quadriplegic if they collapse, which they well might. So it will be pins and rods at two places in the spine tomorrow just to avoid his spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair, then they think about treating the cancer. His prognosis even with all of this surgery has to be grim.

Finally I got the call I’ve been waiting for, from Dan whom Richard refers to as ‘my right hand man’. The genomic analysis of the virus came back as expected, it is strain 16, the one mainly responsible for causing cancer. The third biopsy came back as ‘superficially invasive cancer’ which seems a contradiction when you think of superficial versus invasive but I guess it’s better than it could be. Dan explained things fully and offered to send me by mail a copy of Richard’s report (sent already to Bob, Alan and Glenn Reeves) so I happily accepted that. He also asked on Richard’s behalf if I wanted to be considered for two upcoming clinical trials, one via a Dutch doctor for an anti-viral drug targeting strain 16 virus. It won’t undo the existing damage but if successful would prevent the virus attacking even further. The second is a clinical trial for using radiofrequency ablation to destroy any remaining tumour cells, something that has much less in the way of side effects compared to radiotherapy. I have put my name down for both, but they probably won’t be approved till late in the year. At least there is some possible good news in the pipeline.

As John is understandably reluctant to mix with people we went to the CSIRO Discovery Centre where he left me to discover while he set out on a walk. However it was closed due to COVID, do they know something that we don’t as everything else in Canberra is open? So we abandoned that idea and both went to the Botanical Gardens, doing the rainforest walk and then the 1.5 km circle walk, both delightful. Had lunch at Silo at an outdoor table and then wended our weary way home. While at the gardens we got a call from Dav to say that they were taking Millie to hospital. She developed gastro last night and was vomiting endlessly this morning. It was lucky they did as she had developed hypoglycaemia from dehydration. They immediately put her on an IV drip and eventually into a ward, where she remains. Apparently a small number of kids get this problem if dehydrated but most don’t, they don’t know why. So they are both at the hospital, taking turns being with Millie due to restrictions on visiting. We are so lucky to have places like RPA at hand. While Indians drag their relatives from hospital to hospital, looking for places which still have oxygen, I can’t even imagine the suffering. At one hospital an oxygen leak caused 22 deaths before it was repaired. Considering that three people mentioned in this blog today are receiving consummate medical treatment, I ask myself why we were born into such advantage and our brothers and sisters elsewhere were not? No concept of god or religion can explain this, it is simply kismet, and I hate it.

April 24, 2021

Off to the Gallery this morning for the Botticelli to Van Gogh Exhibition which John particularly wanted to see. He feels safe enough to others now if he’s wearing a mask. But no, even though we got there first thing the earliest bookings available were 4.30 pm till 6. Okay, apparently we should have booked, but who knew? So we went off to Old Parliament House and saw the annual exhibition of political cartoons, which were great, particularly the Cathy Wilcox ones. Then we went walking and ended up at the National Library where we started to look at an exhibition there, but soon John had had enough so we went on another big walk. Eventually 3.30 came around and we went back to the Gallery for a cuppa before the exhibition, but the cafeteria is not open unless you are booked in for one of the four sessions of high tea, mmm sounds more like a money-making issue than a Covid one, but anyway. Despite being ticketed the exhibition was crowded beyond belief, no social distancing possible there, then each room had a huge queue to enter it, monitored by a guard. John announced ‘it isn’t doing anything for me, I’m getting out of here’ and waited for me outside. So I pretty much gave up at that point, only having seen two out of about five rooms. Unfortunately all of the later pieces that I really wanted to see were in the last three rooms so it was pretty disappointing. I think in future I need to go to things like this alone. At one point he rang Lyn whom he had called just yesterday but she wasn’t answering. I commented that probably not much had happened since yesterday but he had no memory of that call at all, querying me whether I was sure he’d rung her as he thought he hadn’t spoken to her for weeks. Things are crook in Tallarook but we muddle on.

April 25, 2021

Last night we had dinner at Carly’s and she ordered in Messina Anzac biscuit icecream for dessert. This morning we plus Carly and Danish headed off to Lanyon an 1830s convict built property south of Canberra, still in the ACT but on the way to Cooma. It is surrounded by the Brindabella Ranges and is an idyllic spot, not far from Farrer’s farm where he began his wheat breeding. We took a guided tour and John Ambler our guide was taken with the fact that we both came from the Leeds area in England. I had commented that the layout of the farm buildings was just like those in Yorkshire, he agreed and said that the first owner set the farm up like the ones he knew ‘at home’. It was wonderful to tour the house with him and particularly to understand the convict experience there. The owner regularly complained to the local magistrate, his friend, that the convicts weren’t badly enough injured by the lashings they were given, up to 150 at a time. One died in a Parramatta hospital not long after getting 150 lashes, he was 30. The penalty for being too sick to work was 25 lashes, 150 was for letting sheep get away, despite the fact that they had no pens and were watching them at night in the open air. It doesn’t bear thinking about. An interesting aside was that the guide used to work at CSIRO Discovery and I mentioned that I had been and it was closed due to Covid. He scoffed at the idea and said that successive Liberal governments had slashed the staff by hundreds and now will only ‘invest in things that make money and education isn’t one of them’. He claims they are using Covid as an excuse so as not to have to admit to the real situation. Hardly surprised of course.

On the way home I got John to pull up at the Gallery and I told them about our curtailed viewing yesterday. They were quite happy to let me in to see the rooms I had missed. John wasn’t keen to go back in and went for a walk. The queues were even worse than yesterday but at least I didn’t have to do many of them. Perhaps I am a Philistine, but although others have raved about this exhibition we were both underwhelmed compared to others we have seen. My all time favourite was Orientalism at the AGNSW, this was nowhere near as impressive as that one for me. I saw the famous Turner painting of a ship in London in 1973 and was somewhat disappointed then, it hasn’t improved 50 years later. Yes I must be a Philistine. At least all of the paintings are infinitely preferable to some of the modern things just outside the door of this exhibition…..

Terry’s surgery was ‘successful’ but took 14 hours, a clear sign of how badly his spine was damaged. John’s daughter is suffering badly from the effects of the heavy chemo that she is still on, with severe mouth and lip ulcers and her fingernails are falling off. We thought 2020 was a bad year, but so far 2021 has been much worse in our personal circle and disastrous in the wider world.

April 26, 2021

It is a fact that the sky in Canberra is way bluer than Sydney’s. I commented about this to Carly this morning and she agreed that she likes to get home to Canberra to see the proper colour of the sky, declaring Sydney’s ‘permanently discoloured by pollution’. The difference is dramatic. This morning we had breakfast at the hotel instead of the usual Vegemite or jam toast in the room and discovered that we could have had a newspaper each day if only we’d known. After breakfast we met up with Carly and did a long walk around the east side of the lake, more than 7 kilometres we discovered after she showed us that our Apple phones have a built in walking tracker. Heard a recital at the Carillon on the way back and enjoyed the stunning public walkways, apparently you can do the whole circumference of the lake, 28 kilometres in total.

I hadn’t heard anything from the sewing group last week and assumed that either it was off or else I had been excommunicated. But Martha emailed to say that they were concerned that I neither replied to the circulars nor turned up on the day. Later she realised that she had used a group email without my name on it, hence I received nothing. Dan, Richard’s right hand man contacted me again to say that he had sought, and received, approval to send me my pathology reports so that was a positive. It always amuses me that doctors think that their reports should be kept secret from the subject of the report, luckily Richard is an exception. If my Medicare account is being used to pay, then I would think that the report is legally both mine and the doctor’s, but how would I know the legal technicalities. However attitudes to things like that help me to know whether the doctor is transparent and in this case he is.

April 27, 2021

Sad to be leaving our comfy pad in walking distance of both Carly’s and the city, but all good things must end. Called in to her office on the way out with a vase of flowers from a divine florist in Braddon called moxom + whitney. I Googled for a nearby florist and the first one that came up was all cardboard boxes of flowers with coloured cello in pretty ghastly arrangements. Then I turned up m + w whose ad said ‘We don’t overly work our flowers, we prefer a more organic and lush look to our bouquets and you will never ever see a cardboard box stuffed with oasis and garish cello here’. Deal done. Headed off to Bowral to get a spot of lunch with Cameron at Dirty Jane’s. John went to the loo inside the building and then didn’t appear at the table so I rang him and he was wandering around outside looking for me. He has been having a very vague day. In the meantime I made an executive decision and ordered a single high tea, with pinwheel sandwiches, tiny quiche tarts, a cheese scone, a rose scone, a macaron and a range of tiny sweets. Plenty for us and it added up to less than if we’d had two Devonshire teas. On the road John suddenly said: How come I’m driving this new car?  Well you had an accident in the old one and it was written off. Oh, did I? Was anybody hurt? No, just the cars, all good. Was the other car written off? No, just dented. Who did I hit? A taxi. So what car did I have then? A blue Suzuki. So where did I buy this one? From Alex. Who’s Alex? Our mechanic. Oh, your mechanic, sorry I don’t know him. How did I pay for it? The insurance money plus $600. Oh that was good then. Later in the day I asked him if he knew where he got the new car and he looked at me as if it were a silly question and recited the story. He had no idea that we had discussed it earlier or that he hadn’t known the story then. It’s as if his memory turns on and off, he has vague days and good days, but his geography is universally bad.

Many years ago, almost 10 I’m guessing, a friend who is an Army major told me that he and Mike Pezzullo worked together and he knows him well. Apparently Mike was roundly mocked for his extreme social conservatism and his war-mongering attitudes. When they all went out for a beer Mike could never turn off and used to get them laughing with his diatribes against gays, foreigners, tattoos, clothes, whatever was the bitch of the day. Fast forward to his appointment to Immigration and those attitudes took no time to surface, for example stopping staff running at lunch time because he didn’t want them in the lifts in running gear, prescribing how many earrings staff could wear, setting dress codes for work including putting the higher ranking public servants into uniform and much more. My friend said he’d be happy there making stupid rules and keeping refugees out and so it proved. But he also warned that if he ever got into Defence we could be at war with New Zealand, or anywhere really, he just wants a war. Fast forward to today with Dutton as Defence Minister and the Pez talking about ‘the drums of war’, hoping to get a guernsey as Dutton’s department secretary. The China hawks are in the ascendance and the Pez is itching to get the boys and girls into uniform. If we were looking to end life as we know it on earth, starting a war with China would be a good start.

April 28, 2021

Had a satisfying day weeding, washing clothes and sorting the books given to me by Alison. Many are great to read and then put in the street library but I’ve decided that the heavy religious ones, academic ones really, are better to go to the newish Lifeline Bookshop at Lindfield. I just can’t see John’s fellow housing tenants or my library clientele going for those texts. I guess I could put one or two in and see what happens.

I see Scott Morrison has been talking about the ‘the Evil One’ using social media to his/her benefit. I come across a lot of evil stuff on the internet but it’s usually from the far right of politics, a place which Morrison inhabits. He also claims to practice the ‘laying on of hands’ when victims of disaster think they are just getting a hug. Perhaps those folks out at Nelligan after the bushfires got a sense of that before they told him to ‘fuck off’, or perhaps it was just his woeful performance during that crisis that prompted them. Whichever it was I still delight in seeing the replay. My Facebook friend Chrys Stephenson, freelance researcher extraordinaire, came up with the fact that Scott Morrison’s honours thesis was written on the Exclusive Brethren’s history in Australia from 1964 to 1989. Commonly known as the Plymouth Brethren (named after the English town where the group began), the Brethren spread its conservative brand of Christianity around the world from the early 1800s. The highly secretive, strictly patriarchal Exclusive Brethren had a small community out at Windsor and I met some of them from time to time, the women always wearing a small head covering, causing the locals to refer to them colloquially as ‘the hankie heads’. Apparently Morrison was part of this church as a teenager before moving to the Baptists so no wonder he thinks of himself as fairly moderate, considering the strictures that he grew up with. They eschew radio, television, newspapers and ‘breaking bread with non-believers’ so eating out is a no-no. At one stage having cut flowers in the house was also a sin, but that was later overturned. They are often in business so mixing with non-believers is limited, keeping the Evil One at bay is a full-time job in itself.

April 29, 2021

Woke up with a blocked parotid gland once again (always after a day when I didn’t drink enough) and so now I can’t eat without excruciating pain. I have Pyrex straws here somewhere for just such occasions, then at least I can drink hot milk, but do you think I can find them? Perhaps when I do they will be hanging out with the missing Thermos. The straw helps the milk bypass the part which triggers the gland to operate but anything stronger than milk, like soup, is a step too far. I was baking a cake and without thinking I licked the spoon, a mistake I will not make again after the pain it caused. But water and tea are both doable and milk at a pinch so I just need to be patient until it spontaneously sorts itself out. I hope we are not looking at the record of five days as I’d like to eat at book group tomorrow.

Saw an article in the Good Weekend about the secrecy and lies involved in the IVF business. A woman fathered through a donor, Sarah Dingle, has written a book: Brave New Humans: The Dirty Truth Behind the Fertility Industry which sadly relates the lies she was told by Royal North Shore Hospital while trying to access her donor’s details. After discovering her father, with no help from them, she found that he had made hundreds of sperm donations at a number of Sydney hospitals so she could potentially have many, many half-brothers and sisters out there. I guess the chances of marrying one of them has to be considered. I know in the US there have been cases of unintentional parenting between related people and knowing the power of seeing someone who looks like you do, this is not at all surprising. A must read for me, I hope I can wait long enough to get it through the library, but perhaps I will weaken.

April 30, 2021

Had a scheduled 20 minute phone consultation with my immunologist today and as previously he wasn’t happy with what is being done for me at St. V’s, so the battle of the professors continues, but now it is three rather than two. Glenn: So what’s the final diagnosis? Haven’t you got the letters from both the doctors yet? Letters? What century are they living in? I want emails. Sorry I think the reports were posted. So, tell me the diagnosis. ‘Superficially invasive cancer’. Well that diagnosis presumes no visible or palpable lump! That’s not your situation. True. Wait till I dictate this bloke a letter! (He does so while I listen). So has the surgeon operated a second time, it’s not a big deal to do that? No, he doesn’t feel it’s necessary. Wait while I send this bloke a letter too. (He does so). Your GP needs to be acting as an advocate for you, I’ll just dictate him a letter. (He does so). The letter to Richard was particularly cringe-making, in part: “I am only a humble immunologist who can’t operate as a surgeon, but I can operate Google which tells me that ‘superficially invasive cancer’ has as its first criterion that it is microscopic and has ‘no visible or palpable lump’ which is not true in Maureen’s case, so how is this diagnosis even possible?” and “I have looked after this patient for 10 years and now she has the sword of Damocles hanging over her head which is upsetting both for her and for me”. I see Alan on the 10th by which time he will have have received this letter. What fun.

He has changed my appointments with him from 6 monthly to 4 monthly and wants blood tests every month to look for cancer markers, these to be done at RNS instead of the local pathology outlet. Also he has put me back on hydroxychloroquine because a paper has been published indicating that it helps suppress early cancer. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea considering that it stops me getting blocked parotid glands like I had all day yesterday. I went off it because I didn’t want to take a drug every day to avoid something that only happens 3 or 4 times a year, but if it works on cancer cells it’s a different argument. He also sent a ‘note’ to all three doctors explaining that decision and giving them the reference for the paper, with the journal, author and name of the paper, from memory! He’s a gem, but I am not so sure the other two Profs would agree with me. We ended with ‘Can we have a virtual hug?’ to the great pleasure of us both I suspect.

May 1, 2021

Terry has been told he will soon go home ‘for a while’, arrangements are being made for palliative care, so it looks like they are not even going to bother with treatment. I can’t think of it without tears, he’s a man who’s probably never done a bad thing in his life. Karma is such bullshit. But Heather tells me this morning that a friend of a friend fell in the Castle Towers fruit market (on a banana skin?) and is now quadriplegic. I comfort myself with the thought that there are worse things than death.

On a brighter note (struggling) I seem to have had a win in the Honey Wars. After countless emails and phone calls the Mudgee Council has finally agreed to enforce the law,  talking the Honey Haven into complying with legal requirement to label their honey correctly, recording additives if appropriate and listing the contents as Bush Honey for example rather then just Bush as they are now. Their website is still showing incorrectly labelled honey but she’s given them the option of changing the labels as the label supplies run out, something I wouldn’t have done, but I decided a win was a win and left it at that. However I will check in there occasionally and make sure they don’t renege. One of my many folders can be released from the In Tray.

Book group last night was warm and talkative, though perhaps a bit more time analysing the book would have pleased me, it was so so good. Sue stayed here and we had lots of laughs and storytelling as always (though I miss Robert’s ironic input so much). Norma was quite concerned about driving home in the dark and seeing that it was a genuine trepidation has made me rethink my opposition to going to lunchtime meetings. We can’t be responsible for an accident so easily avoidable. We were just seven, with Alison in hospital, Rosanna feeling unwell, Brigitte also indisposed and Martha looking after her sick husband, it seems to have happened very suddenly that we and our partners are one by one falling apart. On which topic, it appears that I am going back on the Plaquenil just in time. I was breathless last night and worse today, so my staunch opposition to the drug of a year ago has now come around to being thankful that there is at least some sort of relief.

May 2, 2021

I spent some time this morning helping John by phone to edit, mostly spelling gremlins, a document that he is writing about the effects on him of his unusual childhood. It dovetailed with thinking about the book we just did in our book group, The Dutch House. One character, Elna, could be seen as either a near saint or a derelict abandoning mother, or perhaps both? In totally different circumstances, John’s lack of his father’s presence as he grew up, firstly due to war, secondly due to his father’s appointment as a Trade Commissioner overseas and lastly due to his illness and subsequent death, affected him profoundly. Whenever we are observing someone’s personality and deeds we are seeing the influence of their parents’ decisions and their parents before that. While it is impossible to unpick all of this exactly it is a fascinating subject.

While watching Insiders this morning (not in my dressing gown as usual, but actually clothed) it occurred to me that the issues being discussed probably interest what, maybe 10 or 20 percent of the population? Or am I being too harsh? I am still getting over a vox pop interview recently where the woman had no idea that Bill Shorten was no longer Opposition leader. Although I move in a political circle of people now, I was always stunned by some of the comments I heard in the shop and particularly so one election time when a close relative of John’s had no concept of the Senate, what it is and how it operates. I can’t remember ever learning about parliament and its structures at school and my parents didn’t have a clue, once telling me they had voted Democratic Labor Party because ‘it sounded nice’ and thinking that CP next to a candidate’s name meant Communist Party when it stood for Country Party. I know nothing about sport or cars or video games, but that lack of knowledge has no bearing on my life and the future of the country, whereas an understanding of politics is vital in that respect. Without compulsory voting, which forces people to listen in the weeks, or at least days, prior to an election, we’d be totally stuffed. The widespread idea that ‘all politicians are corrupt’ means that people don’t demand any action from government when one of their number (or in the case of this government, quite a few of their number) are guilty of it.

May 3, 2021

A successful appointment this morning at John’s with Anna from the ACAT team. She asked him a host of questions and decided (rightly in my view) that he qualifies for a level one aged care package. At the moment he doesn’t need any help but he should have a foot in the door for when he does. She said that he should come to the top of the queue in about six months (think a year maybe) and then he will get some help with things like changing the sheets and cleaning the bath and toilet. She did a memory test and he only remembered two out of five things on a shopping list but hey, that’s better than none. I was originally unsure about writing about his memory loss but then one day he said I hope you are putting this in the blog in a factual way and not sugar-coating it, so from then on I did. I am forced to be less than honest sometimes where other people are concerned but gladly that doesn’t apply to us.

After that we went for an hour’s walk down Stringybark Creek and it was great to be in the bush, even in suburbia. After a couple of Saos and cheese and a cuppa we went off to Roseville Cinema to see The Courier which was much better than I expected from the shorts, Cumberbatch really is the goods. Then John photocopied all the pathology results kindly sent to me by Richard in the mail last Friday. I know that Glenn was copied into the accompanying letter but it didn’t seem that he got the original five pages of pathology so I will mail them to him tomorrow. He had said to send him ‘any results at all that you get’ so that’s what I will do. Somehow it seems weird to get a letter saying that your diagnosis is ‘carcinoma’, even though I’d been told over the phone, it sort of makes it definite when it’s on a piece of paper. I’ve been thinking a lot about an old shop client M…… who used to come in regularly over many years and was always a cheery soul. Then she came in one day and told me that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, she was sobbing and I wasn’t surprised considering the implications of that. But I was surprised that I never ever saw her happy again, a simple ‘hello, how are you’ always plunged her into floods of tears for the next couple of years, even though her prognosis was good according to her doctors. She stopped coming eventually but by then I had made a firm decision that I would never let a diagnosis ruin my life like M…… did. I hope I can stick to it.

May 4, 2021

I don’t exactly know what it is about Thoreau but he has always spoken to me somehow. Even when I discovered him over 50 years ago there was a connection to his words, so it was very exciting to get The Journal 1837-1861 plonked onto my front verandah, sent by my brother and arriving last month exactly on the 17th anniversary of my finding him. It is the sort of book that you dip in and out of but I am in the habit of reading some of it every day, last night till 12.30 am. We are different in every way, born 130 years apart, different sex, different nationality, certainly different in courage, self-sufficiency and abilities, yet in many ways I feel at one with him. The journals cover over 7000 pages and have been abridged in this version to nearly 700, daily covering the weather, the botany and animal life of his region but spiked with philosophy unexpectedly dropped into the musings. “There is no such thing as pure objective observation. Your observation, to be interesting, to be significant, must be subjective”. His detailed botanical knowledge made me assume botany as his major at university, but he studied rhetoric, classics, philosophy, mathematics, and science. He seems to know Latin, French and Greek so these were probably studied in his classics courses at Harvard. I wish the arts and sciences were more integrated these days, rather than turning out people who are singularly scientists or just commerce or law practitioners. These days we would say he was ‘on the spectrum’ due to his almost obsessive detailing of the natural phenomena around him, from measuring the heights of cliffs to counting the scales on turtles to recording the first flowering of every plant in his local area from year to year or measuring the depth of snow and ice regularly each winter. His generosity, shown to his neighbours and to escaping slaves from the South whom he assisted to flee to Canada, opposes his reputation as a difficult and cranky man, though at some times he was clearly that as well. “The oldest, wisest politician grows not more human, but is merely a gray wharf rat at last. He makes a habit of disregarding the moral right and wrong for the legal and political, commits a slow suicide and thinks to recover by retiring on to a farm at last.” Nothing changes it seems.

Had a long call today from my friend Tim who is in the middle of a years long legal battle with his father over a property promised to him in the father’s will in exchange for his free labour over many decades. His father has now reneged and left the property to others. At a mediation hearing last week, costing Tim $10,000 for his barrister, his father didn’t appear by video as arranged, so it was a disaster in terms of both extensive preparation and money. It is due to go ahead again at the end of the month, his father apparently hoping he will run out of money, which he very well might.

May 5, 2021

Just when we felt safe going to the movies again someone in the eastern suburbs tests positive after going to the selfsame movie we saw on Monday, albeit at a different cinema. He also went to four different sellers of barbecues over various suburbs and then to a butcher, so it seems he was planning a meat fest this weekend that won’t be happening. It will be interesting to see where his infection has come from when he has no connection with quarantine hotels and the like. At sewing group today Colleen said that her brother in India has Covid while I have not succeeded so far in getting Ram on the phone over there but I’ll keep trying.

For some reason I was thinking about the time I offered to take a fellow from Windsor to the theatre as a thankyou for something he had done for me. He was very excited, but once the play started (I think it was at the Nimrod, but can’t exactly remember) he couldn’t keep still, bouncing his feet all over the place like a five year old and grinning from ear to ear. At interval I discovered that it was the first time ever that he’d been to the theatre and he talked about it endlessly afterwards. He would have been in his 40s then. We take so much for granted. I didn’t go as a child but took my parents to see Fiddler on the Roof with Hayes Gordon in 1967 and they were enthralled, but never have I seen the excitement that Noel displayed that night. He’s still there in Windsor, a single man working as a very skilled tradesman, smoking pot and drinking bourbon every night and I’ll bet he’s never been to the theatre since. An ambulance just raced past my house to Aminya down the road with its siren going, a regular occurrence, but I never hear the siren on the way back.

It becomes easier to see how Thoreau’s Journal was edited from 7000 pages to 700. After discovering a fish he didn’t know in a nearby pond he draws it and gives a detailed written  explanation of it, then the editor states (in italics): There follows 57 pages of drawings and measurements of examples of this fish over a period. Mmm, easy to see where to cut in that instance. But hooked as I am I would probably have read the 57 pages just in case there was some gem hidden in there somewhere. Oops, there goes a second ambulance so perhaps this person is the exception.

May 6, 2021

I think we have all become a bit lackadaisical about hand sanitiser, QR codes and the like. I noticed the difference when we were in Canberra, there a person on the door is just as likely to ask to see your phone to make sure that you’ve checked into a place, at the least they will ask if you have done it, whereas here nobody seems to bother. Ultimately we will pay the price for that, if we haven’t already. I was thinking of suggesting a movie in Paddington after seeing the surgeon on Monday but that’s out the window now. It is reported that the man infected went to an optometrist underneath and outside of the Wentworth Hotel building which is a quarantine hotel. If this is all you need to do it’s pretty scary, though there may well be another explanation. I’m afraid the feds have been pretty lax with forward planning, we need to get quarantine out of the central city into purpose built accommodation, this bloody disease is going to be around for a long time yet, not to mention an entirely new one.

Sat up till I finished Thoreau last night. His encyclopaedic knowledge of all sorts of ‘stuff’ means that there are an array of wonderful tidbits in the book, such as the following: “porcelain vessels of Chinese manufacture have been repeatedly found in the catacombs of Thebes, in Egypt, some as old as the Pharaonic period, and the inscriptions on them have been read with ease by Chinese scholars”. What a different view of history and travel that provides, but whether true or not it gets me thinking about all manner of things. His death at 44 mirrors so many of his period and what a loss he was. It is said he died of tuberculosis but it is hard to understand where he caught it, such was his solitary life. TB is not an easy disease to catch unless in very close proximity to sufferers, but he did make occasional trips to lecture on his many interests. Now I need to reread Walden, I only have a book with some excerpts, so I hope the universal mind will decide to plonk it into the street library as a library copy just won’t do in this case.

May 7, 2021

On Wednesday Colleen mentioned that her brother in Mumbai had a mild case of Covid, last night she emailed to say that he had died. I am in a Facebook group called Anglo-Indian Cookery Group and last night two people posted. I was expecting recipes but it was a notice of the death of the father of one member and the brother of another, both of Covid in India. This morning I asked Heather if she could do me a bunch for Colleen and when we went to pick it up she had done a vase full of purple honeysuckle with a few kinds of foliage and mint, just gorgeous, so we delivered that on the way to town.

Today was our Captain Cook High Tea Cruise, won in the RFS raffle in Katoomba early in 2020 and delayed by the pandemic. John parked up past the Argyle Cut and as we were early we wandered in to the Museum of Contemporary Art, always useful for toilets, with the first exhibition entitled Anywhere But Here and that’s exactly where I wished we were when I saw it. Upstairs some Aboriginal art was interesting but as usual I was glad they don’t charge for entry. We went for a walk around to the Opera House and arrived at the wharf at 2.10 for our 2.30 cruise, only to be told that it had left at 2 pm. I had asked over the phone when I booked what times the cruise was on and was told ‘only one per day at 2.30 pm from Friday to Sunday, the cruises have been cut back due to Covid’. But now they are running four days a week at 1 pm and 2 pm, but nobody had bothered to let us know. They gave us new tickets for Thursday next week but that doesn’t pay for the tolls, the (small) cost of the lippy I put on and the hour spent in the MCA. We drowned our sorrows with tea and a Goya each at La Renaissance and saw the funny side. John had no clue where we were parked but luckily one of us is still okay with directions.

Started reading Sarah Krasnostein’s book The Believer: Encounters with Love, Death and Faith, a study of the thought processes of people who believe in all sorts of oddnesses such as ghosts, UFOs or that nothing in the world can be true if it disagrees with a statement in the Bible (think geology, evolution). From two Australians who built an exact replica of Noah’s Ark in the US replete with dioramas of dinosaurs and humans together to a six times married Buddhist who helps people through the dying experience, there are certainly some characters here. My main concern so far is that the ghost folks seem to be able to put the wind up the author which makes me wonder how easily influenced she was or is. Her book The Trauma Cleaner was one of the best I’ve read in recent years so I am feeling a little let down, but I’m only a quarter through, perhaps she pulls it all together in the end.

May 8, 2021

Out to Dural for a bread run and rang Martha to see if they were up for a visit on the way back but her phone didn’t connect so I sent a text. After we got home she replied, but didn’t know who I was as my number had come up as unknown, despite it not having been changed. By then we were involved in other things so we didn’t end up going. I had been given eight big quinces from someone’s tree and John obliged by peeling and slicing the hard buggers. I am experimenting with cooking them in the slow cooker as I can never justify the oven being on for eight hours or whatever, so they are simmering away in some honey and water. Next I made raspberry brown sugar muffins to take to Davina’s tomorrow, the recipe says it makes 12 but always makes 22 in my tins. British muffin tins must be like the huge ones you get in some cafes, which I avoid as I usually find them dry and tasteless. I had plans to cut back my Grevillea and make some vases of flowers for the house but before I got to that there was a knock on the door and Interflora delivered a vase from Carly of roses, chrysanthemums and another flower I can’t recall so I left the Grevilleas for another day. Spoke to Terry who is at home and has been advised not to have any visitors, including family. He starts radiotherapy Monday.

Still going on the Krasnostein book. The stories themselves, while worth reading, seem oddly chosen to fit the category of The Believer. I can’t see how the ‘death doula’ quite fits the mould and did we need two UFO stories? Though the young pilot who went missing in Bass Strait was interesting to me, especially the theory that he simply saw natural phenomena prominent at the time but because of his belief in UFOs he called in to the air traffic control that one was hovering over him. He was never seen again so the mystery remains. I’m sure she is linking together interesting people she has met or heard about, whether or not they really fit the title. There are quite a few fundamentalist Christians in there too, certainly they fill the bill, but America (and increasingly here) they are as common as fleas on a dog, so probably one or two examples would have sufficed.

May 9, 2021

Down to Dav’s for a brunch consisting of sausage rolls, mini quiches and vege patties with a spinach and artichoke sauce on the side, followed by my muffins. Sue made it down from Sunshine Beach in Queensland yesterday so Millie had both grandma and nanny. After that we all played games such as Memory and a jigsaw puzzle and John gave Millie the cow figurine and book he had bought her at the delightful toy shop in Moss Vale. Millie has now been enrolled in school for next year and Dav was surprised by the pages of questions on the forms including what problems existed at home. She is a sensitive little person and is dealing with a girl at pre-school who calls her names like ‘banana wee’! I can remember my mother just taking me to the principal’s office and I was in, I can’t remember any forms at all but perhaps the principal wrote on them. I do remember her asking where we lived and when my mother said Bright St she replied ‘ah you poor woman’ as it was mostly housing commission places though our half house was not. Times have changed.

John dropped me home and then went up to Castle Mall to buy one thing in a particular shop at 2.45, but was still not home at 4.45 so I was wondering how to proceed when he didn’t answer two phone calls. Then the car pulled in and it turned out he got caught up in Castle Towers looking for a shop that is in Castle Mall, then worked it out and went back to the Mall to find they didn’t have what he wanted so it was back to the Towers to buy it from Myer. All perfectly explainable but I was worried nonetheless.

I have three remote controls for my garage door: one in the house, one in the car and one in the garage. At any given time I am lucky to have a random two of them working, for reasons as yet unexplained. But in the last few days all three are non functional and I need to access the garage via the side door, manually unlocking the roller door and then doing it again in reverse afterwards, all of which is somewhat annoying. I once had all three inoperable for a couple of months so I called the man who installed it, he pressed the button once and it worked perfectly, so I am reluctant to call him again. Clearly it’s an intermittent signal fault but I am wondering if the recent rain has exacerbated it?

May 10, 2021

Went to St. Vincent’s today to see Alan the surgeon and will be going again in two months. He said he is ‘pretty confident’ of having removed all the cancer but can’t be 100% sure as the pathology says it was too close to the margin, but if he operated again he would be working blind as the remaining cancer would be microscopic. There are two options: either he and Richard monitor me closely for some time or else I have chemo and radiotherapy 5 days a week for 3 weeks as a precaution against any having been missed. I chose the first option and he said he totally agreed with the decision. So now it’s Alan every 2 months, Glenn Reeves every 4 months, and Richard every 6. I’m also having monthly blood tests for cancer markers, biopsies every 6 months with Richard and Alan said he may do another PET scan in 6-12 months as well. When he said mine was a most unusual case I said that I want a copy of any paper he writes about me, autographed. If any symptoms arise or cancer markers show up then we reassess. Makes for a somewhat uncertain future but he says that some of his cancer patients who have had radiotherapy in the same area have many side effects. The prospect of radiation damage that never heals, affecting quality of life permanently as he described, instils confidence that it’s the right decision for me. We were planning to visit Martha and Phil, taking some of the poached quince, but Phil isn’t having a good day so we’ve put it off.

I was surprised to learn from Thoreau that even back in his day people went in for ‘artificial exercise’. He rants: “I see dumb-bells in the minister’s study and some of their dumbness gets into his sermons. Some travellers carry them around the world in their carpetbags. Can he be said to travel who requires still this exercise? A party of school-children had a picnic the other day and they carried bags of beans from their gymnasium to exercise with there. I cannot be interested in these extremely artificial amusements”. Oh Henry you should try walking along Art Gallery Road or through the Domain and seeing the personal trainers putting some poor sods through their paces. I shall think of you each time I see them now, saving John from listening to my harping on ‘artificial exercise’.

May 11, 2021

Had a boring morning waiting for John’s cardiologist at RNS as I had forgotten to take my book and now no-one has magazines in their surgeries. We got there at 10 am and left at 12.15 as Gemma was running very late. Then in the afternoon we were waiting for his car to be ready from the mechanic’s but ultimately they rang to say that they needed it overnight, so it was a waiting day all round.

I finished Sarah Krasnostein’s book The Believer and found it ultimately disappointing. I found the individual stories in this book interesting but the book as a whole was not successful. It seemed as if the author, whom I loved after reading The Trauma Cleaner, chose some interesting personalities and then tried to link them all into the theme of being a Believer, whether they quite fitted or not. I found her scattered approach of splitting the stories up and treating them like a page-turning novel rather annoying. Her writing is very good, but the book needed a damned good edit, at the very least making the stories run from beginning to end without splitting them up. However, I still don’t quite understand what held these stories together, interesting as they may be individually. I thought the goal was to examine the whole idea of belief, but that certainly didn’t happen. People believing in UFOs, ghosts, some Mennonites, people building a life size model of Noah’s Ark using biblical measurements, someone who helps people who are dying and another who spent 34 years in gaol seemed like a grab bag of ideas to me: Hey, I met some cool and different people, how can I somehow link them into a book? There was no analysis of the individual beliefs nor anything about the whole concept of belief. Why exactly were the ‘death doula’ or the long term prisoner convicted of murder included? The book seems to be more of a collection of short stories of some folks with interesting lives rather than a serious attempt at explaining belief, something that would have interested me more.

May 12, 2021

We got John’s car back in time for him to get in to town for his 2 pm infusion appointment at St. Vincent’s, fitting in morning tea with Michelle in between. She brought me a couple of pressies from Melbourne and a book that she’d snaffled from a street library.

I have just finished Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor, a book from the 80s that I’ve been aware of but didn’t really know anything about. I had no idea if it were autobiographical, about a real place or simply fiction. It took me a while to catch on that he is having a piece of us, that the reader won’t really know if any of it is truth or fiction. He had me in for quite a while (even when he was carefully explaining the American Indian roots of the word Wobegon I still didn’t twig!). I have no idea if the historical statements are true or a complete burlesque, but the book as a whole is an absurd and comical parody.
But I have to say that despite its unusual format it holds some real zingers within its pages that made me laugh out loud. To explain the luck of being born American, Chinese, Russian or African: “In heaven are millions of souls lined up waiting to be born, and when it’s your turn, you go down the chute like a gumball to whoever put a penny in the slot.” Or to explain the result of a land survey that was miles off: “an error that lives on in the FAA Course Correction, a sudden lurch felt by airline passengers as they descend into Minnesota airspace on flights from New York and Boston”. An enjoyable farce.

May 13, 2021

Today was the rerun of the harbour cruise we were supposed to do last week but missed by 10 minutes. The lady on the desk had tried to convince me that it was my mistake that the cruise we thought was leaving at 2.30 actually ran at 2 pm. As we sat on the wharf waiting for the boat today I noticed a fancy illuminated sign reading ‘High Tea Cruises leave at 2.30 pm’. Methinks you fib my lady. Anyway it was a relaxing little adventure with a glass of bubbly and a selection of savoury and sweet goodies, some of which, like the sausage rolls and meat pastries, I packed up for John’s dinner, adding a scone and a fruit tart that we couldn’t manage to eat either. Got a close look at Packer’s Pecker from the water and although I wouldn’t have allowed it to be built there, I must admit its twisting form has some attraction architecturally. We get to do it all again in September (if I’m spared, as my grandmother used to say) as I won two separate cruises as my raffle prize. We won’t eat breakfast or lunch next time though.

John has written a document about his childhood and seems quite focussed on it lately, often saying that he feels his mother’s criticism in his head ‘John! don’t lick your fingers, don’t pick up that drumstick, don’t talk while you’re eating’. I told him that I had never had such instructions as a child because my parents didn’t know what was good manners and what wasn’t, which compared to his upbringing was a blessed relief. Last night I met with five friends and three of them had a close relative in dementia care, one a husband, the other two mothers. The prices they quoted for getting them in ranged from $450,000 to $700,000 to $1.1 million, so counting John’s problems that’s four out of six people affected, which I found extraordinary. Is it just because we are living longer? I’m not sure.

May 14, 2021

Drove out to Richmond to get my beautiful clock back from the clockmaker. He fixed it for me weeks ago but then it came to a stop and this time he can’t fix it. He offered me the money back but I declined, he’s spent ages on it. I’m not sure what to do next, a non-working clock is just a useless ornament, but I don’t have another clockmaker that I can trust with a rare clock. Pondering. The traffic going out there at 10.30 am was amazing, where are they all going? I used to take off at the lights at Kellyville and not stop till I reached Windsor, but not any more. Picked up a reserved book from the library and it happened that the librarian is reading The Believer, so we had a good chat about that. I vacuumed the house just now, a job I always hate, but realised that I most hate ‘thinking about vacuuming the house’ rather than actually doing it, whereas washing up, washing clothes, cooking etc I am quite cool with, both in anticipation and in actuality.

I had assumed that John would like a big party for his 80th, but he decided that it is too fraught what with his family circumstances, but expressed the wish to spend time with Stephen and Deborah. So I have booked us into Rydges Newcastle for three nights and planned a lunch with them on his birthday, they have come up with the idea of a bush barbecue the following day so that ticks all the boxes for him. Usually we stay at Noah’s right on the beach so I can whip over and swim as the mood takes me, but this time chose Rydges right on the harbour edge as it will be way too cold for swimming. Also we have a tiny lounge area separate from the bedroom which means we don’t have to sit on the bed to entertain visitors as we did at Noah’s. One complaint on Tripadvisor was about ships sounding their horns in the middle of the night but I kind of like the idea of being on the edge of a working harbour. The restaurant there has really bad reviews however, so we will give that a miss, there being plenty of places to eat in walking distance. I had suggested as one option that he have a friends only party, but now with Terry so sick that would be somewhat hollow, so I think we’ve come up with a perfect solution.

May 15, 2021

Every time I walked into the loungeroom I spied Christmas presents there for our Blackheath friends and made a mental note to do something about it. They have been in hard lockdown due to one being particularly susceptible to the virus so I haven’t wanted to deliver them in person. Finally today I settled on delivering them to his mother who will take them up for a Christmas in July celebration planned when they complete their vaccinations. Job done as of this morning. Then I headed over to Harris Farm at Pennant Hills and stocked up there before visiting Martha and Phil as planned. Phil was abed and so I had a cuppa with Martha until we heard a faint call from the bathroom, only to find that he had fallen into the bath on the way to the loo and split his head. We managed to get him out and Martha attended to his head wound which luckily didn’t need stitching, but he certainly got a shock and his cries for help were almost inaudible. I’m sure Martha will now be rethinking whether she can leave him alone as he never would have been able to haul himself out if we hadn’t been there. It reminded me of Barbara falling, very close to that same spot, but luckily John was able to catch her and she wasn’t injured.

I have been idly looking in op shops for a two tier cake stand as the one I use came from my shop and it hadn’t sold because it is pretty plain and boring, though a decent brand. Martha offered me a brand new one, still in its box, which is allover floral and just my taste. It had come from a mutual friend’s house when he was moving to a unit and came with a matching milk jug and sugar pot, just the ticket. It inspires me to have a morning tea soon. I took over to Martha’s the last of the muffins so I need to bake again soon, though I made up a tart recipe this afternoon to take to the planned picnic with Dav and Co tomorrow. It’s filled with a mixture of cream cheese, cheddar and leftover Brie beaten up with eggs and yogurt and topped with tomatoes, shallots etc. It looks good so hopefully tastes the same.

May 16, 2021

Off to Centennial Park this morning and we were astounded at the crowds there. We needed to park a long way from the agreed meet-up point but we eventually got there, however John suggested he go back to the car for five books he had brought for Millie. I should have gone with him in hindsight, but it was a straight road. However after half an hour Louis and Millie went to the car but didn’t see him so I rang but he didn’t know where he was. I enlisted help from a young man, describing his surroundings, and we worked out that he had overshot us and was about a kilometre away. Eventually with a few phone calls we met up and I’ve certainly had my walk for the day and then some. We had a lovely picnic, with Louis’s mum Sue with us, and then the kids hired a family bike and rode around the park twice, about 4 kilometres each circuit. On the way back to the car after a lovely afternoon I was idly looking at the cars, massive BMW and Mercedes 4WDs, Teslas, a 2 door Bentley! So then I decided for fun to look for a car as old as mine on the walk back, but no, mine won the prize by years. I am constantly amazed at the money floating around this town. You only have to look at the ads in the Good Weekend, water bottles for $300, handbags for $2000, shoes for a similar price. Some people seem to measure their worth by brands, not quality necessarily, but being seen with something expensive is what it’s all about. So buying a beautiful hand made leather handbag from a craftsman or woman has no cachet compared to one made in a sweat shop but with a sort-after label (on the outside of course). I am bewildered, baffled and bemused by it all.

May 17, 2021

Asked Martha last week if she’d like me to come over each week and she said she would. Luckily I chose today, even though I had just been there on Saturday. Martha looked very worried when I got there and Phil was again worse. He was supposed to have an appointment with the oncologist today but Martha had to ring and ask for a Telehealth appointment instead as he could hardly walk or talk. We debated whether to call an ambulance, but they would only take him to the San where for some weird reason they are unable to do his peritoneal dialysis and always have to transfer him to RNS, so much for a major private hospital. So she decided that we should just up and take him to hospital and we managed to get him into the car, she drove while I sat in the back with Phil. Luckily they weren’t too busy, up to no. 15 while he was no. 20, but a kindly staff person offered to get him bumped up the queue as he was so obviously unwell so we didn’t wait long at all. I left them to it at this point, after texting Lucien that he needed to come to the hospital if at all possible. After swearing off the hospital’s $9.90 milkshake last Monday I needed another today and sat outside considering my options: a train to Penno, a bus to Penno or a phone call to see where John was up to at the men’s shed. He answered saying that it was a good time to ring as he’d just glued something and so was planning to leave to let it set. So he picked me up and delivered me to Martha’s to get my car. I am still no wiser about the outcome as I don’t want to ring, but I’d be very surprised if they don’t keep him in.

Last night I watched Compass and was deeply moved by the story of a number of women and families who are in a quandary about whether or not to have children given the climate crisis. One family already had four, but the mother regretted this in the light of the worsening scenario. Others wanted children but were concerned about the ethics of bringing them into the situation which is unfolding. I would be in exactly the same boat if I were young and didn’t already have children, not wanting to plunge new lives into the world as it is. The family with four children, at the end of the program, was seen boarding flights for New Zealand, to which they were emigrating, keen to be in a country that takes climate change seriously. It reminded me of the first time I went to New Zealand in the 1970s, at the time working as a volunteer for Ecology Action, back in the days when we thought our biggest problem was the hole in the ozone layer, supersonic jets and coloured loo paper. I absolutely loved the place and felt much more at home than I did in Australia. I was sitting in the lounge at the Mount Cook Hotel crying at the thought of coming back to Australia, when the manager approached and asked me what was wrong. I explained that I didn’t want to go back to Australia and felt much more at home in NZ than I did in Sydney. To my great surprise he said: ‘Don’t go back, I will give you a job here and you’ll have room and board as well’. Oh how I wish I’d had had the courage to stay, but once again a feeling of responsibility to my parents kept me from starting a whole new life.

May 18, 2021

Boring household tasks today interspersed with attempts to get on to Ram in Kerala. Still unsuccessful, the phone just rings out, so I have emailed a businessman we met over there asking if he would try phoning from Bangalore to see if he can get through. It comes after repeated emails have failed to get an answer, but a lot of things could be happening over there that we know little about. Apparently 1600 Indian teachers have died of Covid after being called up for election duties by the government. Some pleaded not to have to go because of medical conditions but their entreaties were ignored. Modi, constantly in the public eye, has gone to ground, as well he might.

Martha texted that the docs seem to think Phil’s kidneys are a big problem and he has high calcium levels in his blood, so we shall see what they decide to do. I had left a note for Claude at Martha’s house when I got back to her place to pick up the car, assuming he would arrive home from school before she got back, but she rang from the hospital and arranged for a neighbour to pick him up and feed him. That was smart as it was 9.30 pm before she got back, after a long and stressful day. It is hard to adjust to the idea that Claude is only just 11, he could pass for 15 easily and it would be easy to assume a much greater level of knowledge and maturity. It reminds me of my daughters’ teenage friend Ryan, still a close member of our extended ‘family’ who was always both tall and mature. I once asked him to run my car up to the shops to pick up something I was missing while in the middle of cooking. There was a long silence before he said ‘But I’m not 16 yet so I don’t think I should drive’.

May 19, 2021

Last night we used the first of my $25 Dine and Discover vouchers towards dinner at Lillah in Lane Cove. We haven’t been there for 18 months, though last October John asked me what I would like to do to celebrate my birthday and said I would like the banquet from Lillah, which we ordered online. He picked it up and brought it to my house, feeding us well for a couple of days. However John was insistent that we had been there to dine in the last two weeks and it took me all my time to convince him that we hadn’t. In fact I couldn’t get him to even look at the menu as he kept saying ‘but I remember those rendered walls’, ‘we sat at this same table’ and ‘I think it was about 10 days ago’, so in the end I ordered the meal for us to share and he was very happy with that. Later as we were leaving he was very discombobulated and didn’t know where we were, asking if it were Lane Cove and where we had parked. I am not sure how much longer he will be able to find his way around when walking. On another related note, a friend said he tried to download the vouchers and failed the first time so he’s not going to bother, $200 worth for both him and his wife, people are funny.

Sewing group was today and somehow I am always turning up with something to sew, to my great surprise. Today it was John’s work jeans which are fashionably torn across the knees, but he complains about the draught. So I tore up an old denim shirt and am putting in patches to the reverse but leaving the ragged tears to the front. Michelle arrived saying she spoke to Phil in hospital so clearly he is vastly improved as there was no way he could hold a conversation last Saturday or Monday. He is having more tests but they seem to have narrowed it down to a parathyroid problem, unsurprising in the circumstances. It is incredible that organs the size of grains of rice can be so instrumental in a person’s wellbeing, the body and its workings never cease to amaze me. Colleen talked about the problems her boys had at school due to their race, including a teacher marking down her son’s exam result so that a white boy was seen to have come first, incredible to believe.

May 20, 2021

Still trying ways to contact Ram. Today I decided to put a message on his actual Facebook page and was very surprised to see that his main picture at the top of the page is actually a photo of me. It was disturbing, as though he were trying to get a message to me, yet I have no idea what that message could be. So I wrote a message asking him to contact me, but more than that, asking any of his Facebook friends to contact me if they know his whereabouts. So far no result but most would only speak Malayalam so I am just hoping for an English speaker to see it and answer.

Recently at a sewing group Fran tried to give away a copy of the book Shuggie Bain, the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize. As soon as she said it was bleak or dismal or whatever word she used, everyone said they had no interest in reading it, so I was the lone interested taker. I am finding it so rewarding, bleak is certainly a good word for it, unremittingly bleak so far, but such an eye-opener to life in Glasgow’s slums during Thatcherite Britain. I am pretty good about reading this sort of real life stuff, but I must admit I have winced quite a few times. Up with the best reading this year.

Had an appointment with Bob to discuss the surgeon’s offer of chemo plus radiation or nuffin but with increased oversight and testing. He agreed with my decision of nuffin, as I knew he would.  Next week I need to go back to him to get a couple of tests that Richard wants done. I am certainly well aboard  the medical train for the foreseeable future.

May 21, 2021

Decided to do some more cooking for Martha today but with my car in for service I don’t have wheels, so I made do with ingredients from the freezer and pantry. However Michelle rang about something else and she offered to drop the cooking off over there and to do a batch of pumpkin soup as well. I texted Martha for permission to enter her house, which she happily gave, so just now Michelle picked up the casserole which should do the two of them for many meals. Then I started a boiled fruit cake and got annoyed by the lack of glace cherries in the mix. I rang Sunbeam a few years ago and complained that the cherries had been reduced but the haughty woman on reception told me that the recipe had never changed. I’m calling bullshit on that one as I used 454 grams in this recipe and only sighted only one miserable cherry falling into the mix. Now I will have to buy some cherries before I bake it, so in future I think I will just make up my own mixed fruit from the separate ingredients. Instead of raising the price many companies take short cuts with the quality and this is a prime example. I’ve sent them an email to say I am jumping ship to other brands after many decades, not that I think they will care, but it gives me satisfaction.

May 22, 2021

Oh how much better the world looks after you’ve had a decent sleep! Thursday night I didn’t sleep till after 4.30 am and yesterday I was actually nodding off from time to time while actually doing things, lucky I didn’t have my car all day really. When I picked it up after 5, Alex was dragging on a ciggie as usual and looked as tired as I felt. He only has Sundays off to spend with his wife and three children and I guess he takes holidays sometimes, but I’ve never been to the workshop and found him not to be there. I will try to think of a way to help but apart from taking him food occasionally I am a bit stumped. After I got home and studied the invoice I discovered he hadn’t charged me for the rego check or for labour to put a new O ring in to fix an oil leak, so typical of him.

Went to Dural for bread and discovered two Aldi trolleys in the carpark. Nowhere else but Dural would people not bother to claim their $2 back, well perhaps Double Bay, but anyway it’s rare. So it was a positive start to my shopping trip and I even left the second one for someone else to cash in, not wanting to keep all the good luck to myself. The docket lying in the bottom was for $948 at Aldi! All ski stuff, parkas, gloves, socks etc which are on special there this week. Surely she is reselling, or else has a mountain of kids. My lucky find prompted me to go to Vinnies where I have had very good bargains at times. (Always donate at the poor suburbs and buy at the rich ones is my motto, the rich often abandoning clothes brand new or close to it). My luck did continue as I found a new Rodney Clark jacket, still with its original $125 price tag, for 20 bucks, plus a top for $8 and a Cotton On jumper for $18, all stripes as are so many of my clothes. Then to my amazement I found a pair of Diana Ferrari flat red winter shoes, the exact mates of which I had just thrown out after wearing them as gardening shoes for a couple of years following 15 years of constant use. They came from Vinnies in Fairfield for $15 all those years ago and this as new pair cost me $18, that’s inflation for you. She must have had them in the back of the wardrobe all this time as I’m sure that style is long gone. Unfortunately I also bought a $10 handbag (shame, shame) because it was too cute to pass up. Guilt made me decide to cull my handbags this afternoon ready to make a run to the Sallies, but as I got each one down it was either too worn for them to take or else had sentimental value (bought in Florence in 1973, bought in India 10 years ago, it was a gift etc etc). But I did discover that of the 29 handbags, 8 vintage or antique evening purses and 6 baskets those that were bought new were less than I could count on one hand and these were all overseas in places like India, Thailand or Vanuatu, so the total cost to me is quite negligible. So how many did I cull? Well perhaps we won’t go into that but let’s say that I don’t need to go to the Sallies any time soon.

May 23, 2021

Yesterday John wanted to go to see Phil in  hospital but I suggested he ring Martha first and it was lucky that he did, as she said he isn’t well enough to have visitors. Last night John and I planned a lovely day out for today. He was at his place so he suggested that he arrive here by 9 am, then we watch Insiders and leave at 10. So this morning I was up and ready to go, but no John. He had left his mobile here accidentally, but had the landline which he wasn’t answering. At 11 am I rang Ann but woke her up so I let that pass and spoke to Chris his next door neighbour instead and he spoke to John, assuring me he was ‘on his way’. He eventually turned up at 1 pm all smiles. ‘What’s happened?’ I asked. ‘Nothing, why?’ was the reply. He had NO recollection of our plans and didn’t know why he hadn’t answered the phone. I was incredulous as he had been the one to specify the times. Of course the day out was off, but a bigger worry was the fact that even when reminded of the discussion he couldn’t remember what we had planned to do or anything about arranging times. Last week we each received return thanks cards from Bishop Bede Heather’s funeral, a huge occasion with more nuns and priests than non pareils on a batch of birthday cupcakes. Oh dear, said John, Bede Heather has died and they’ve sent me a thankyou card but I didn’t go to his funeral. This thing is moving apace.

So I spent the afternoon sorting clothes, putting summer ones in a bag for next year, hanging all knits together, dresses together etc. I’m beginning to cull some old tops and things to go to the Sallies and I decided I will never again fit into my beautiful French layered skirt which is a very small size, but it is so sad to see it go. Tomorrow we are going to try to have a day out. Perhaps in future all excursions need to start when we are sleeping at the same house or they may never start at all.

May 24, 2021

Had a good conflab with Sue over last night’s episode of Compass featuring Albury Anglican priest Peter MacLeod-Miller, another Rod Bower in terms of his activism. I thought him incredibly handsome, but that’s another issue. She told me that her brother has met him a number of times in his work for the governor and wasn’t keen on him at all. I will pump him for details when I see him. However I would be happy to give a little  donation to his work in exchange for a few hours mooching around his fabulous house and antique collection. The program mentioned an identical twin brother but I haven’t been able to find anything on the net about him at all. She’s invited me to go to a book launch at the Sydney Jewish Museum in June. It is about the father of Robert’s friend Dr Kerry Goulson, Stan was also a doctor and the book is called Humanity in Medicine. Introduction is by Norman Swan so it’s a win-win.

We managed to get John’s birthday gift to Annabel posted at Dural, I love that little post office where you never have to wait, unlike Baulko with queues out the door. Then we went off to Fagan Park at Glenorie and had a good walk in the extensive gardens. Lunch at Wild Pear was too too tempting on the way home: zucchini and kale fritters with salad for me and cutlets with gnocchi and vegetables for John. It was packed as it seems to be every day, it has been well and truly discovered. Got some more potting mix and planted the garlic I’ve been encouraging to shoot in the kitchen, got 100% of the cloves sprouting so I filled two pots with them and am looking forward to a Christmas harvest. Apparently it loves potash so I need to get the ash from someone’s fire. My cyclamen continues to flower despite all the books saying it’s best to ditch them and buy another as they are too hard to keep over winter. Mine is almost 10 years old and makes me think of Terry each time I see it. John is suffering because Terry isn’t allowed any visitors and he often says ‘I just want to give him a hug’.

May 25, 2021

Brian turned 95 today so I visited his nursing home and it’s still like a fortress (not that I’m unhappy about that). The front door was locked and I communicated with someone by intercom ‘Just leave your gift on the seat outside and I will pick it up shortly’. Moving on I visited an old contact and picked up some bucks that he owed me, so I was smiling. Then out to Richmond to deliver a huge dictionary from the late 1800s, the first one published in the US, long before Webster’s.  It runs to 2200 pages and weighed a ton. I had been in an antique shop there some time back when the owner explained that she was saddened to lose her grandfather’s dictionary which had ended up with another family member after he died. That lady had sold it to me years ago and amazingly I had it on my bookshelf as it hadn’t sold in the shop. So I went back through the stock books and ascertained what I’d paid for it and now it is in the place where it rightfully belongs. Loved talking to her minion Scott about some of their stock and we bemoaned the fact that many people just can’t appreciate the wonder in holding an item a hundred, or a few hundred, years old. For a moment it crossed my mind to say ‘if you ever need any help….’ but stopped myself just in time. The owner smartly has Scott there every day and she comes in and out as needed, something I never seemed to make enough money to do, but which would have suited me perfectly.

I am getting peeved with the money being spent by the government on State Funerals. The funeral directors would be rubbing their hands when they get a call from a government department, adding in every optional extra possible, and running up the bill to stratospheric levels. Dress designers, football players, what next? Spend on the homeless, not the dead.

May 26, 2021

I was annoyed to find out that Brian wasn’t even at the nursing home when I went yesterday, he’d been taken to hospital that morning not long before I arrived. No-one told me, this privacy business goes too far at times. Today I am getting some tasks out of the way: finishing a book report for Friday, making some food for Martha and Claude and delivering that, working out what to cook for book group and buying the provisions and catching up on some owed phone calls. My friend Tim was one, he has been immersed in a long legal battle with his father who has now died this week, leaving him in legal limbo. But his siblings who have avoided any negotiation in the matter suddenly want a mediation hearing, now that a financial settlement to each of the children is in the offing. Another doctor’s appointment this arv, more tests to be done by Bob at the instigation of Richard, but with a few different boxes ticked by the end of the day I will feel as if getting up has been worthwhile.

John is making some friends at the Men’s Shed now that he’s been a few times. He had felt initially that they weren’t very friendly. Jack, one of the Link Housing employees, has made a short video of John’s place with a voiceover of John reading a poem about home which he liberally amended from an existing verse. The result is excellent in my view and I can’t wait till the titles go on it so I can share it around. It captures John so well and shows those parts of his home that are particularly important to him.

May 27, 2021

Poor Victoria. It seems that it should be someone else’s turn. The hotel quarantine system was a very good idea which in hindsight has caused more than enough problems. The best way to catch Covid recently is to go into a quarantine hotel, not what was intended. I am not sure if it was the health people who were too slow in picking up that the virus is aerosolised or the government being reluctant to change the system, but I suspect the latter. Davina is involved through her work as an HR person for the company that owns the shopping centre which was an early hotspot. Anyone who was in there during three hours last Thursday has to isolate and be tested, so that of course includes the centre management team for whose welfare she is partly responsible. They will bring in staff from other centres but it’s a juggling act I guess and worrying for them. I think the guy who bar-hopped for seven hours in inner city Melbourne maybe needs to spend his lockdown having a chat with AA. I couldn’t have done that even at 25.

My Facebook friend in Queensland is a freelance researcher working from home and a fun person at any time. Her post yesterday interested me: “I rarely leave the house these days. But, as I had a visitor this morning, I had to get out of my pyjamas and didn’t want to waste all that effort. So I took myself to lunch at the Palmwoods Tavern and enjoyed Oysters Kilpatrick and Sri Lankan Prawn Curry with a nice glass of rose. Added bonus – I won’t have to cook dinner tonight”. It was accompanied by photos of said courses and wine and it made me think about that attitude to life: I’m all dressed up so let’s find something fun to do. Too often we neglect fun as part of life, focussing always on the shoulds instead of the coulds.

I mentioned delivering the early US dictionary to a dealer in Richmond on Tuesday after discovering that it was her grandfather’s. In a rush of bonhomie I had promised to sell it to her for whatever I paid for it. To keep myself honest I made a point of not looking it up online before I delivered it, which was lucky for her as they are for sale from $750 US to $3000 US depending on condition and this one was very good. I am not losing sleep over it as it is important for things to go back to where they belong, but I was right not to let temptation come into the equation before the deal was done.

28th May, 2021

We have been waiting 60 days for surgery on the skin cancer on John’s leg, despite a promise that it would be done within 30 days. But in the meantime it has miraculously reverted and healed up almost completely, aided no doubt by his monthly immunoglobulin infusion. After discussion with Bob we decided that when they eventually rang John would thank them very much and say that surgery was no longer necessary. However they rang him this morning when I wasn’t around and told him that the surgery is next Thursday and he needed to come in for an anaesthetics appointment on Monday. “So what did you say?” I asked. “I told them that’s fine” he said proudly, totally forgetting everything we had talked about. So I rang the hospital back, apologised and explained. This arv a surgeon rang me and asked a few questions, but was perfectly happy to cancel the procedure and just check him out in July. It makes me sad that he would have fronted up for such surgery without complaint.

On Wednesday night, having finished my current read, I went over to the big pile of 30 or so books on a sofa and to my horror discovered that every one of them was non-fiction. I read about 1 non-fiction to every 20 fiction, which is why that pile goes down slowly. I could have read about Guantanamo Bay, Aboriginal cultural sites, many biographies, British colonialism in India, CRISPR technology or a couple of medical books, but I was hanging out for fiction. Aghast I went down to the garage late at night and scanned the titles waiting to go into the street library. I found Catcher in the Rye and as it was a classic that I’d missed I clutched it to my breast in relief. (Most of the novels donated are of the ‘turn them out like sausages’ variety, but I do get a few goodies). I found Catcher such an odd book, but I kept on reading because it reminded me of an oral history, the whole thing is just as a person would repeat a story, doubling up on saying the same thing, using colloquialisms, swearing, changing perspective. It is really like a mental breakdown from the inside and I admire the author’s ability to pull it off, never wavering from the voice of a seventeen year old. A quick look at Goodreads reviews tonight shows me that they are either 1 star (“worst book I ever read”Smilie: ;) or 5 stars (“a work of genius”Smilie: ;). The worst one star review said that they would have put the main character (and narrator) into the army, which made me cringe.

Book group was at lunchtime today and was a small group of seven, but the discussion was good and Ruth described the book, American Dirt, as ‘a triumph’. Rosanna brought a divine dessert of caramel, topped with apples and meringue and I am not embarrassed to say that I had two helpings. You’re a long time dead I decided.

29th May, 2021

The other day I was passing Sydney Car Wash in Castle Hill and they had a sign out ‘$10 wash special’ and seeing the car was going into service the next day I drove in on a whim and had it done. Only when I got home and it had dried did I realise that the bonnet and roof were filthy, so I took a photo and then proceeded to wash the car myself with a bucket of water, a Chux and some washing up detergent. Presto it was super clean, so the dirt wasn’t baked on by any means. Today I went up and showed the manager the photo of the dirty car after he’d washed it and his reply? You should have got the full price one, no guarantees on being clean on the $10 wash. Talk about customer service! Next time check it’s clean before you leave he advised. No next time pal.

Why is it that my pantry, fridge and store cabinet are always chockers yet every time I go to the supermarket it costs me $75 or more? Today I went to buy two punnets of raspberries and it still cost that, because bottled whole beetroots were half price so I got four, then I remembered I was out of chickpeas and blackbeans, both used frequently in this house, oh and milk and cream were a bit low, yep $75. Michelle rang and asked if we would like to come for lunch tomorrow, Kev is doing a barbecued trout, yes please. I had made a pot of seafood mornay for Martha, so I did two small ones for myself and ate them Wednesday and Thursday nights, tonight I am making baked barramundi with spinach and on Monday doing a side of salmon when friends come for lunch. You can bet there will be an article in the papers this weekend about the dangers of eating too much fish, but it’s something I never tire of.

30th May, 2021

Had a lovely lunch with Michelle and Kev and chewed the fat over a bottle of Robert Oatley wine which we picked up on the Mudgee trip. It has suddenly turned to winter here and we commented on the before and after temperatures when leaving Michelle’s after lunch, the change was remarkable. I usually turn the fire on after June 1 so it has come cold just about the right time. Michelle had lent me a book by Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son, a memoir set in Scotland, which I decided to knock over quickly so I could give it back to her today. It was a worthwhile read and explored his relationship with his angry, cruel father and his attempts as an adult to come to terms with the physical and mental abuse. It was so commonplace in the 40s and 50s to have a father who was alcoholic, cruel, overbearing, abusive…fill in the rest of the words…but back then it was just considered an okay way for a father to be. Certainly no-one would have thought of involving police or welfare workers, as long as the kids were being fed and maybe not even if they weren’t. Where I grew up absent or abusive fathers were the norm, not really anything to make a fuss about. Slowly that has changed, there are still isolated families that are ruled this way, but it is more hidden than it once was, as social mores have changed.

31st May, 2021

Lunch with Bronwyn and Michael. Did a large piece of salmon baked with orange juice and maple syrup, some asparagus and of course a chickpea salad which seems to feature in more meals than it probably should at the moment. Raspberry Eton Mess proved a popular dessert, Michael eats raspberries every day that they are in season. I get runs on cooking certain things, sicken myself of them and move on, but chickpeas are triumphant currently. The best news of the day though is that Ram in India is alive and well. He sent me a Facebook message just before the guests arrived, which brought me to tears. I rang him immediately and he picked up first ring. It is funny how, although I only knew him face to face for under three weeks, he still means so much over ten years later, and it appears he feels the same way. He is in Covid lockdown but no-one in his family has been affected. Since the call I’ve had three emails from him. Hallelujah!

In the Domain on Saturday the cover story and a double page spread inside featured the Sirius building, sold by the government after they chucked out all its Housing Commission tenants. I remember well visiting the last tenant there, black plastic covering the windows of the Phillip Room, the major common room, cyclone wire fences surrounding the building, numerous security guards vetting those who entered. This is the legacy these well-heeled buyers will inherit as they wander around their units, some priced in double digit millions, the knowledge that a vibrant community was broken up and the tenants dispersed to widespread suburbs. The advertising talks about the One Way! Jesus sign that stood for as long as I can remember in a window overlooking the Harbour Bridge, but no mention of its owner, removed against his will. The thought of the less well off having harbour views stuck in the craw of this government and the new incarnation of the building sticks in mine.

June 1, 2021

Oh my, great excitement on the blog front last night. I tried to upload yesterday’s post unsuccessfully and then received an email from Michelle saying that, looking at the blog for the first time in ages, she got the message ‘Bandwidth Limit Exceeded. The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.’ If I tried to reopen it I got the same message, so I contacted my pal who helped me to set it up in the first place and he was stumped. My bandwidth shouldn’t have been exceeded so he contacted the server and shortly after he got the reply that the blog was being hacked at that very moment. A hacker had a robot pointed at my website and it was trying every combination of letters and numbers and symbols over and over again to attempt to crack my password by ‘brute force attack’. This attack was using all the available bandwidth. They fixed it quick smart but said they may keep trying in which case this could be repeated, so we can only see what happens. Apparently mine was the only one this was happening to so I am not sure whether to be appalled or flattered, but I think I will go with appalled.

I am not one for ‘trading up’ in terms of appliances, cars or the like but I was sorely tempted to buy the four slice whizzbang de Longhi toaster on special at Aldi this week. Being able to do the toast as we like it, John’s more heavily toasted than mine and all at the same time, was too tempting. Luckily though I looked at appliance reviews online and Choice at the library and soon saw why they are dumping them at less than half price. Most of the online reviews talked about toast being black on one side and uncoloured on the other, about the settings being meaningless as the toaster seemed to decide its own doneness each time and many mentioned throwing it to landfill. Some returned them to the stores but got another one that was faulty also. Choice marked it down severely for exactly the same reason. So I will stick with my old Breville which is not perfect but is at least usable.

June 2, 2021

Decided to make a pot of Cream of Celery Soup with the whopping great bunch I bought for $2. Lovely to have soup in the freezer. Also did some Anzac Biscuits from the recipe I’ve been using since school days, from the same Commonsense Cookbook that we had as a textbook. But this time I did them with gluten-free flour, because of the needs of a visitor coming tomorrow, and they spread out to one giant thin biscuit per tray so I had to cut them into squares when they came out of the oven. Obviously that flour doesn’t have the density required to hold them together so that was disappointing, they looked identical to usual going into the oven.

Watching Love on the Spectrum has been a treat, though John can’t bear the program, describing it as ‘cringe-making’. It has made me do some more reading about autism and it’s very interesting stuff, particularly a paper by Bernard Crespi in Frontiers in Neuroscience in 2016, in which he discusses the paradox of autism as ‘a disorder of high intelligence’, despite the level of low IQ in people on the spectrum being around 40%. He believes autism commonly involves enhanced, but imbalanced, components of intelligence. His thesis is that there is evidence showing that autism and people with high IQs share a diverse set of correlates, including large brain size, fast brain growth in childhood, and many increased abilities which he outlines. He believes that autism and schizophrenia are actually opposites with autism ‘a disorder of high intelligence and low imagination and schizophrenia a disorder of high imagination and low intelligence’. Close relatives of autism sufferers have a statistically higher IQ than average and those of schizophrenia sufferers show more cognitive deficits. Autism rates are highest in high socio-economic areas and mental retardation and schizophrenia are highest in low socio-economic areas. It’s all fascinating stuff, but it will take me an age to read all the supporting papers he cites. I wish I had studied statistics, I feel the lack of that knowledge whenever I read scientific papers.

June 3, 2021

Watched Senate Estimates last night as Carly was there and felt a bit sorry for Jackie Lambie who means well and Veterans Affairs and Defence are her passion, but her disorganised questioning and presentation show her lack of education. However considering the nasties in the Senate whose lips curl at their opposite numbers I think that a well-meaning, forthright but somewhat disorganised person is infinitely preferable, despite my needing to shift in my chair during some of her questions.

I have been a social butterfly this week, breaking bread with friends more days than not. Today was no exception, with a welcome scrambled egg and smoked salmon brunch with friends, accompanied by croissants and jam and good conversation. I used to work at the university with a member of the Exclusive Brethren and in nearly 13 years he sat in his car winter and summer for every meal break including those which celebrated retirements and significant appointments. How sad it seemed even then, but it was typical that it was his son, working there as a casual in his holidays, who grabbed me sexually as soon as everyone’s backs were turned. I should have decked him, but in those days you didn’t, you just pushed them off. I added that to my mental file of ‘always watch the religious ones and the more religious they are the more you need to watch them’. Over my lifetime that’s been proven over and over again. Safer in a pub full of bikies than with a roomful of Brethren.

Rereading Atul Gawande’s great book Being Mortal and along with Melbourne oncologist Ranjana Srivastava I find him to be a wonderful source of wisdom about illness, end of life decision-making and much else. It always interests me that doctors are the people most open to discussions about euthanasia and ending treatments if you approach them the right way. They are the ones who see the worst outcomes and a carefully worded question about ‘what would you want if it were you we were talking about’ can work wonders.

June 4, 2021

Had fun yesterday at Manly, lunching at Garfish using one of our Dine and Discover vouchers (thankyou Gladys, I know I don’t thank you for much). This is about the fourth time we have eaten there over many years and the food is always top class, the wide-ranging fish menu changing daily according to what’s plentiful. They had a two course special on so we both had that, sharing an entree of Zucchini Flowers stuffed with salmon and prawn, then each had the Wood-fired Barramundi with mash and spinach, sharing the Sticky Date Pudding with orange segments, fig & brandy ice cream and butterscotch sauce for dessert. I can happily say that neither the meal nor the service could have been improved and it was worth every cent and more. I noticed though the number of people walking around Manly wearing white soled joggers, they must buy a new pair once a month as they were all pristine, unlike their compatriots in the burbs where they only seem to look clean in the shop windows.

Last night I got a surprise call from Alan the surgeon, asking how I am but really ringing because he had had a love letter from my immunologist Glenn querying my treatment and asking why Alan doesn’t operate a second time. He explained again in detail his reasoning: not being able to know where to start and stop because it is microscopic now and not wanting to risk damaging essential muscle by cutting any deeper, plus he can’t get rid of the virus because there is no cure, so it will keep on its carcinogenic way whatever he does. Apparently Richard has had a love letter too and they’ve compared notes, Richard will reply, but I can’t be worried about any bruised egos. I have to let that little squabble take place between them, way too far above my pay grade.

Trivia question: Considering that the fly of trousers is never an ideal visual centrepiece (or shouldn’t be) why does Graham Creed choose suits with jackets that cut away neatly to expose the fly? I wonder this every night.

June 5, 2021

I’ve decided to stop trying to coach John in using the Service NSW QR code app to log in to premises. He forgets how to do it each time and has trouble doing it even when I’m peering over his shoulder. He just needs to do what he can do and ditch the stuff he can’t. Most places have a manual option anyway. We went up to Service NSW to organise my being a proxy for John over the phone, but it doesn’t work with them. I have to be at the counter, though NRMA were happy to take his instructions to let me do his calls. We are working through all the companies he normally deals with, like phone, electricity, bank etc as he finds phone queries and transactions really taxing, though he often introduces himself and then asks if he can hand the phone over to me and it’s usually okay.

I did some sorting of stuff from the storeroom today and found a few small things to offer to particular old clients as gifts, plus I packed the boot with a load for Bargain Hunt Auctions, including my jewellery case display items and heaps of gift boxes for rings and earrings, plus my old wrapping paper dispenser from the counter (sniff). But as I was checking each empty box (knowing how hard pressed I was packing up the shop) I discovered one had a ring in it that appears to be diamond, and not too small either. However I will need to run a diamond tester over it somewhere to be sure. So the Universe may have sent me a bonus for putting in some time in the storeroom and if it has I will send that off to auction and it may grace someone’s hand as a moderately priced engagement ring.

June 6, 2021

Dav and Louis picked me up for a drive to Cumberland Forest where we did a couple of walks and I happily found a weeping Acacia Lime Magik to replace the one that the wind destroyed back in March. It was a weird injury, not snapping the top off as a wind had done the previous February, but splitting the stem low down into three parts so you could see right through it. I hoped it would somehow survive but no, it died very quickly. Since then I haven’t been able to get one, but struck lucky today. Millie loved the walks and was tickled that there was a Cheese Tree, she set off looking for a cracker tree to go with it. Her reading is amazing, she called all the tree signs as we went along, only missing the most difficult of words. Davina bought her a plant and pot for her bedroom after Millie announced from a sign ‘through here to indoor plants’. Had some falafel at the cafe and a good day was had by all.

I went to the MyGov site to alter my bank account balances and discovered that I hadn’t done that for a while. There isn’t anything there to allow you to calculate how much pension you are supposed to get so I used a site called Age Pension Solutions to work it out. According to them I should be getting almost a hundred dollars a fortnight more than I am getting, so I am puzzled as to why this is the case. I don’t really want to go to Centrelink to tell them they are wrong according to a private site, so I will see what adjustments they make, if any, with the new figures. Keeping my head below the parapet seems like a good idea with Centrelink, although there used to be a lovely old chap at Windsor office who was super easy to deal with. I remember him telling me that back when Whitlam got in the great man addressed all the employees and said ‘you don’t work for the government, you work for the people who come in through the door’ and he said it had framed the way he dealt with clients all through his career. He would have had that silly idea bashed out of him with this government, but he’d be retired by now I’m sure.

June 7, 2021

On Saturday I went to Bunnings to look for a Carbon Monoxide Meter but they only had alarms whereas I want one with something that tells me the parts per million of CO, not waiting till an alarm goes off when it’s critical. Note to self: Do not go to Bunnings on a Saturday to avoid the smell of disgusting cheap sausages filling the air, gross. The winter before last I went through almost all of it with no fire after getting a notice to say not to use the gas fire until it had been inspected for leakage of CO. Of course all gas appliances leak it, but the Victorian Government has regular inspections of fires and had found many were dangerous (trust them to be the ones….Gladys are you listening?). Then a few weeks ago I read that the Victorians are on the warpath again abut fires, so instead of getting the company out again, this time at my expense because it’s not a recall, I thought I would just buy a meter and do it myself. Looking online today I found one in Victoria with $12 postage, another in Pendle Hill with $10 post, then another in Villawood, the same brand but $10 cheaper and free postage. I ordered it and 10 minutes later got an email to say it had been posted. That’s service. It has a digital display with the ppm and runs 24/7 on batteries or you can just turn it on when the fire is going.

I’ve been hunting another Acacia Lime Magik for so long but as of this afternoon my new one is planted in the front garden and acting as a wind indicator, its graceful weeping arms sway with the least breeze. After the bad luck with the last one I only hope this one grows well, it has an over-qualified stake so it shouldn’t break off in the wind (she says optimistically).

Ann rang asking if I would go with her to KOI for a dessert and suggested a date but I am busy every day this week and three out of five weekdays next week so we settled on June 24. Somehow I must be making up for 2020 because I seem to be unusually busy. I can’t wait till I get the second vaccination next week and then I can go back to my usual programme of court visits, planning on taking in the Roberts-Smith defamation action for a few days, plus some ICAC, though it’s not the same since Geoffrey Watson ceased his tenure there. He was ace.

June 8, 2021

Drove in to the Maritime Museum with John and Carol and managed to get there in time for the 9.15 start. First it was tea and pastries with a chat to the staff of IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, who were hosting the event. Then to the theatre for a discussion with an expert in whale entanglement and damage from collisions with ships along the busy Canadian and North American coast. Our National Parks and Wildlife Service was ably represented by the woman in charge of NSW whale disentanglement teams, a topical subject after a whale was caught in ropes and buoys off Clovelly just yesterday and released by maritime police. (Irrelevantly, I love the US and Canadian pronunciation of buoy, boo-ey instead of boy, which is totally logical). Eventually we moved on to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition entries, always a highlight of the year. There were some amazing photos, too hard to pick a fave, but two of the fox photos and some of the underwater ones were pretty special. The animals in captivity for profit, such as bears, chimps, an orangutan, tigers, kept in appalling conditions, were memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Talking about unpleasantness reminds me of Scott Morrison and I’m hoping that the 4 Corners programme on his friendship and association with Tim Stewart and his wife will be aired soon. Stewart, who is a promoter of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory that contends a cabal of Satan-worshiping paedophiles rule the world, has made extensive claims online claims about his influence over the PM. QAnon also believes there was a secret “deep state” plot against Donald Trump and that there is a “cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles whose activities extend to trafficking children through a secret labyrinth of tunnels under Melbourne and Sydney”. (I’d be looking in the Tank Stream first up, but in Melbourne it might just be the sewers). Stewart’s wife was in the employ of Morrison from 2019 on, working at the PM’s Sydney residence Kirribilli House on the recommendation of Morrison’s office, but now seems to have been purged since questions were raised about her husband and son. According to journalist David Hardaker (ex 4 Corners, 7.30, Foreign Correspondent) in Crikey, Stewart’s wife is best friends with the prime minister’s wife, Jenny Morrison, a relationship which goes back to teenage years and the two women have been bridesmaids at each other’s weddings. I look forward to the programme with great interest.

June 9, 2021

Sewing group at Colleen’s saw me repairing a shirt of John’s, funny how there’s always mending appearing on the eve of the meetings, I suspect these damaged pieces went into work wear before. Then I started work on my 20 year old Jules of Morocco skirt, part of a suit, which was always a bit too long but has become way too long now that I’m not wearing heels. Colleen lent me her ‘ripper’ to unpick the waist band and I managed to impale my hand on it fairly quickly, the gadget went in far enough to be sticking out of my hand at right angles though little blood appeared, I suspect due to the super cold conditions out on the deck. Because I had a bag of gorgeously fresh green beans I did a Salade Nicoise to take for lunch and wonder why I don’t make it more often. Using canned tuna it is a quick and easy meal or a more luxurious one when using a slab of fresh tuna.

I fight back tears every week watching Love on the Spectrum but last night’s final episode had me sniffling most of the way through. The delightful Jayden with his linguistics fetish made me laugh, though how he even picked up such correct English usage at school these days is a wonder. I used to have a copy of Fowler’s English Usage when I was proof-reading but it’s long gone unfortunately. The wedding of Jimmy and Shanae finished me off, but I do miss having company watching it as John finds it much too awkward and embarrassing. We are so enculturated towards a particular set of behaviours that it can certainly throw us when we come across people who have never read the instruction book.

Sent a message to one of my old clients asking if she would like a particular Crown Devon bowl that I unearthed in the boxes. She was thrilled and asked to meet for a catch up, so that will be a pleasure when we can find a day. Another couple of friends want to meet up and I am looking as far out as July 4 now to do that, these last weeks have been full on. But I decided to cancel an event tonight, it is just too much what with commitments tomorrow and then going away and considering the cold this morning I’m glad I did.

June 10, 2021

They say things come in threes and yesterday they did. I found out that the husbands of two close friends have been diagnosed with serious medical conditions, then I got a call from Brian Curtin’s son Mark to say that he had died from pneumonia in Windsor Hospital. Ninety-five is a pretty good age for a man who was an alcoholic till his 40s and was told then that his next drink would be his last. In and out of hospitals and psychiatric centres, given LSD experimentally to try to cure his alcohol addiction, until one day with the aid of AA he finally got sober. We go back an awfully long way, over 40 years in fact, beginning when he came to inspect my small collection of handicrafts set up on a little table in the bedroom (the table in fact that my father had made for me as a child). Brian said ‘it’s all lovely, I’ll take the lot’ and placed a big order for more to sell in his well-known craft shop in Windsor, Jumbucks. He was my first big customer. He sold pottery, silver jewellery, hand-knits, dried flowers and the whole 1970s-80s rustic craftshop fare. Soon he had asked if I could run the shop on their rare weekends off and once while they went overseas for three weeks, much to the horror of my husband who didn’t approve of my working. He told me later that I got the job because he couldn’t trust his usual staff not to pinch anything while he was away. ‘What did you pinch when I was on that trip?’ he asked me years later. ‘Just a couple of dried flowers that I accidentally broke the heads off’ I said. He replied that he’d expected to lose some silver earrings at least, so he was pretty happy about that.

We went into a small business venture together, making pot pourri and bottling numerous fragrance oils in my garage, then hand writing the labels and delivering them around the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains. Come to think of it, I mixed the pot pourri, filled the bottles and wrote the labels, but Brian had a lot of the contacts and did the driving. Once in his brand spanking new Ford station wagon I vomited into the door pocket as we went around the bends coming down from Springwood, but he didn’t get the least annoyed. The car only lasted a couple of months as he left it outside his house in Windsor, just up from the shop, motor running and key in ignition, while he raced back inside for forgotten glasses. You can’t do that in Windsor, it was never recovered. Later, after he sold the shop (at a good profit as he was a natural businessman, unlike me) he was asked by a country friend if he would manage an antique shop in Windsor if she set it up with stock. He knew next to nothing about antiques but everything about selling so I was offered a job there one day a week, as I wasn’t much of a seller but knew more than he did about antiques. One of his favourites when seeing a woman walk in was ‘oh what a lovely brooch you are wearing, can you tell me anything about it?’. Twenty minutes later they were the best of friends and she had bought something for a couple of hundred dollars. But in his defence, he really was interested in people and their stories and would remember her name a year later when she came back in, slapping an arm around her and asking ‘Beryl why have you been away so long? Have you still got that lovely brooch your mother gave you?’. Still later I started my own shop and he came to work a day a week for me for many years, until he was over 80, and was by far my best seller. We did a few road trips together including down to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road and once drove around New Zealand together. On the Victorian trip we were in Port Fairy when Bush attacked Iraq and Brian was pretty pissed off when I went to a newsagent, made some signs and started a demonstration in the town, soon joined by a few dozen locals. ‘But we’re on holidays’ he said morosely. If ever I complained about anything his answer was ‘I’ll do a decade of the rosary for you’ so I told him to do that for himself, which didn’t improve his mood. So it’s all over now my dear friend, little did I know as I drove away on your 95th that we would never see each other again, but I kept the list of funeral music that you gave me in December 2015 and which we have discussed occasionally ever since, so I hope your family decides to use it. I told them it had to be the Gounod Ave Maria, just as you said.

June 11, 2021

Last night we attended the Link Wentworth Art Exhibition and the video made by Jack was played on a big screen. Unfortunately for Jack a speaker jumped on the podium and started talking before it had quite finished, so the credits were missed. Today we set off early and went to the Reptile Park soon after it opened. It has certainly gained some sophistication in the 35 or more years since I was last there. I distinctly remember the sight of dead mice being fed to the snakes in their cabinets but no sign of that on this visit. Loved the bats, not behind glass, the huge crocodile, the American alligators and particularly watching the lady whose job it is to milk the funnel web spiders of their venom to make anti-venin. Worst job on the planet, no contest. The lack of our Thermos was duly noted as we sat in the car eating some bits we’d brought with us.

Our hotel in Newcastle is lovely, right on the water with the occasional tug going past the window. It is sooo windy and cold that we didn’t venture too far, though John found a convenience store to stock up on Kombucha (ugh) and Yakult (ugh), but he bought me two Peppermint Crisps so I say nothing. The hotel gets good reviews and the restaurant very bad ones, but as we did a little tour of place the lady in the bar told us that tonight is the new chef’s first night and would we like to be the first to see the menu. Well of course we would, and it’s bitter outside so eating in suddenly became an option. She had to go and print it out as that hadn’t yet been done ‘First Copy!’ she proudly declared and (if she can cook) it looks as if a good feed is in the offing.

Postscript: She can’t cook. I would apologise for that meal if I cooked it on a Thursday night at home. Veges cold, but cooked okay. Sauce so bland I don’t even know what she was attempting. John had a chicken breast and veg, with a little jug of thin white milk-like sauce. ‘What is the sauce?’ I ask. He tastes, ‘I have no idea’ he replies, ‘sort of maybe milk with a hint of lemon?’. I am able to laugh as I had joined the Rydges Priority Guest club so we got free drinks and 20% off the food.

June 12, 2021

Went for a blustery walk along the harbour front first thing, it really is a wonderful spot here with tugs, yachts, barges and huge ships passing by the windows. Stephen and Deborah arrived with a birthday cake, balloons and a pile of presents. We went off to East End Hub, our favourite eating place in Newcastle, introduced to us years ago by S and D and visited each time we are up here. They had been there earlier and fixed a helium balloon with 80 on it to our seating. The food was divine, I had the Seven Spices Bass Strait Calamari with Asian cucumber salad, peanuts, nahm jim, lemon and aioli, the same dish I had last time and every bit as amazing. Our wonderful waiter Nitin kept us laughing, as did the lady who came over and congratulated Stephen on his 80th, commenting that he didn’t look 80 at all! I’m thinking to suggest to the new ‘chef’ here at the hotel that I would be happy to chip in for her to have cooking lessons there, but I think you either have a palate or you don’t. It’s a pity they can’t test for that somehow before people go into the food game. Imagine the advertising signs ‘Our chef scores 9.25 on palate gene test’. But I digress. We came back to the hotel after an amble along the amazing Newcastle Memorial Walk, overlooking the ocean, to open the mountain of presents accumulated on the coffee table. We now have a Thermos again!! Not only a Thermos for drinks, but also two for insulated food and a picnic basket to boot and that was only the start of the gifts. We had tea and birthday cake late in the day and chewed the fat in our room, oohing and aahing as each ship went by.

As we were booking in on Friday we were followed in four huge men with tattoos up to their chins and I wondered if they were part of the cast of a movie about bad guys, but I hesitated to ask, because as Falstaff advised us, in other words, the best part of courage is caution. Later, about 9.30 pm, I went downstairs to get a couple of plates for the room and the lift doors opened (2 only in the lift the sign says) and nine of these cloned men emerged from the small lift, all tattooed and of a similar ilk, heading out on the town. Not wanting to cover up their art, most had short sleeves in a bitter wind. This time I couldn’t resist it: ‘You are going the wrong way chaps, it’s nearly bedtime’. One replied, not exactly in words, but with the sort of gravelly noise, a guttural growl, that a bear might make. The valet parking man at his desk had his mouth gaping open at the sight of them and we discussed the fact the boys looked in for a big night. Hotel staff must see it all.

June 13, 2021

We had an early walk again but it was not quite as blustery as previously. Had a chia seed and berry bowl at The Hub, a cute little kiosk along the waterfront where lack of space doesn’t stop them from baking their own banana bread, muffins, cakes and much else besides. A huge coal ship arrived as we were eating just to provide entertainment. I can’t help wondering about conditions on board these ships as there seems so little space for people aboard them, just a massive hold and little else. I imagine the crew sleeping in cramped conditions with no privacy, no union to protect them, basic food and much loneliness. Perhaps it’s not like that at all, I’d love to know but doubt I will ever meet anyone who can enlighten me.

Today was another bumper day, Stephen and Deborah picking us up for the drive to Mt. Sugarloaf where we gathered wood for a fire and cooked the barbecued lamb and potatoes that she had brought preceded by cheese, crackers and olives. We spent the afternoon around the fire, toasting marshmallows and sharing stories. Stephen downloaded something onto John’s phone which means I can track his whereabouts, just in case that’s ever needed. Late in the afternoon the cold came down like a curtain so we packed up and headed home, finishing the evening with drinks in the hotel bar, a whiskey, passionfruit and honey cocktail pour moi and rollicking hot chocolates and chais for my non-drinking companions. Deborah and I were both pretty buggered by about 7 o’clock so we reluctantly said goodbye till next time. Between illness and Covid we’ve seen far too little of them this past year.

June 14, 2021

A lovely sunny walk along the Harbour this morning. It’s become a habit here to identify ships arriving and departing and use the net to discover their home ports, tonnage, current destination etc. I think I could live quite happily on that Harbour edge with a good set of binoculars set up on the deck. Newcastle seems to be divided into the delicious beach and harbour suburbs with their historic houses and great views and then some pretty awful suburbs on the flat with really terrible architecture, surrounded by light industry and ugliness in general. At its best it is a beautiful city. As we were checking out John left me in the foyer holding his bunch of birthday balloons while he went back upstairs briefly and I joked that ‘I bet someone will congratulate me on my 80th’ and actually three people did. I was pretty keen to get them into the car. Unlike Noah’s where we usually stay, the service at Rydges was excellent, with someone leaping to our assistance to load the car with all our luggage and wish us safe travel. At Noah’s we were always left to our own devices. We then did the walk along the breakwall, past Nobby’s Head and right to the end, watching a Navy ship leaving as we walked. It seems that in Newcastle, as in Sydney, every second person has a dog or three, some of which looked quite mean and scary while others were the size of large rats, but loved as much as the Great Danes. We ended up back at East End Hub for lunch, a very poor decision as it turned out, they were closed for the holiday despite my checking on Saturday that they would be open. So we wandered around till we found Scotties, a takeaway fish place with outdoor seating, where we had barra and chips for John and fried mussels for me. With a 15% surcharge for the holiday it cost as much as the restaurant, if not more, but we enjoyed it and were thankful of a seat after our long walks. Met up with John’s cousin Teresa and her husband Stephen in King Edward Park, a beautiful place to sit and have a cuppa from John’s new Thermos with some of his birthday cake. Left there about 4pm and joined the 52 kilometre traffic jam that was the M1. We’ve learned our lesson and won’t do that again, we had to resort to playing I Spy to keep ourselves awake during the three hour ordeal in bumper to bumper traffic. Next time we will spend on an extra night.

June 15, 2021

Catching up with the boring after-holiday tasks like garden watering and washing but had time to fuss over a special homecoming dinner. We had pan fried trout with a sauce I made up and which I will do again: mayonnaise with anchovies, garlic and walnuts, the trout served on spiced rice with brussel sprouts and pan fried carrots. Note to self: carrots taste so much better if you don’t let water near them. Had a phone call from Brian’s daughter in Melbourne to let me know that Brian had died a week ago. When I said I was informed last week and mentioned the message I had sent regarding his choice of funeral music, she had seen that, so I am a bit confused. She said they chose not to put a notice in the paper ‘because people don’t do that any more’ so I have tried to message as many people as I can and have put a notice on Facebook with the details. A number of friends had been ringing round trying to find out when the funeral was, so I was glad I did both. I had rung the local Windsor funeral director (but it was the wrong one as it turned out) and the church, but the church gave me the wrong time, half an hour later than it is actually booked for!

June 16, 2021

Michelle kindly picked me up to go to lunch at Boronia Kitchen at Gladesville for Colleen’s 70th birthday lunch. Ten of us gathered, unfortunately the eleventh, Martha, had to cancel at the last minute when her husband Phil, just out of hospital, developed severe pain in his shoulder and thought it could even be broken. Still waiting to hear the result of that, but it didn’t sound good. The food however was top class, I had Roast Schnapper with daikon, dashi and aged mirin which was beyond delicious, followed by the daily special of Charred Pavlova with Blackberries. Wow, will add this to the list of favourite places and perhaps finish using our remaining Dine Vouchers there. I intended to use them in Newcastle but Stephen sneakily paid our bill before I got the chance.

I realise that next week I have a meeting to go to which is being held at the Australian Museum. This will involve getting a bus, the first time since February 2020 that I will have been on public transport. Better check that I still have an Opal card in my wallet. By then I will have had the second vax, but it still seems very out there.

June 17, 2021

What can I say? The saddest day saying goodbye to Brian. Having the full catastrophe of a Catholic mass eased it in one sense, the service is so much about the religion and so little about the person and soooo loooong, that it deadens the sadness eventually and you just desperately want to get out of there. The fact that the priest had a heavy accent (don’t they all now?) plus the bad acoustics made his personal reminiscences of Brian unintelligible to me and I was too far back to lipread. There were at least 150 there, including the ex mayor and councillors who were both friends and neighbours, and I am not surprised. Brian made a friend of every person he met and many of his friends became friends of mine over the years. I guess that’s the end of my connection with his family too, another sadness. One pew was taken up by nurses from his care home where he was much loved. He usually ended our conversations with ‘See you in church’ and I always replied ‘Never!’ but I guess he’s had the last laugh.

Being in that church reminded me once again about a Philistine priest who was there years ago. He removed the original beautifully carved cedar stations of the cross and commissioned a parishioner to make new ones, in nasty store bought frames. Someone stored the old ones for years hoping the church would want them back but I don’t know if that’s still the case or if they have sold them. Then he gave the wonderful cedar vestment cabinets from the vestry to someone who used to bring him a baked dinner on Sundays. He gave the cedar pulpit to the Catholic school for the scripture room, the cedar chairs were left outside and stolen and he sold the marble font. That eventually ended up in my shop so I visited the priest and offered it to him for what I had paid. No, no, no he said, ‘the parish council were so upset that I sold it and I don’t want to reopen old wounds’. He had the hide to give me a booklet on the church, with the photos showing all the magnificent 1840s inclusions that he destroyed or gave away. I hate going to that church because it just dredges up the story and he’ll never get forgiveness from me, hard woman that I am.

Wow, I just read an article in the SMH entitled Siriusly Sydney? which makes exactly the same points, in much the same order, as a letter to the editor that I wrote about two weeks ago. It wasn’t published, but this is just like the letter in long form. I hope that’s coincidence. It occurred to me that the article mentioned just two of the former residents of Sirius (the same two I mentioned in the letter), the One Way Jesus sign in the window of one unit and Jack Mundey, all of which were referenced in the letter. John says I should be flattered.

June 18, 2021

Vaccination completed at 9 am this morning. Easy peasy and out by 9.15. This was despite getting an email last night from my relative warning me of the dangers, including the ‘fact’ that 236 people have had a heart attack since being vaccinated. A discussion about cause and effect is in order but I haven’t the energy.

So far the day’s been pretty dismal. Phil is still in the San and has been in intense pain, apparently from a pathological break in his shoulder. (The pathological break is an assumption on my part, because Martha said he didn’t have a fall or a bump, it just broke). They are doing scans to see if it’s possible to do a ‘spot weld’ on the break using radiation!! I’m assuming this is to avoid surgery but I’ve have never heard of it before and will look into it. He is on opioids and it seems less likely that Martha can manage him at home. I went there this morning to take some food over and noticed wheelchair ramps had been installed. Expecting the house to be empty I was greeted at the door by a tall, dark and extremely handsome stranger who turned out to be Ven, a friend of Lucien’s. That was convenient as the casserole was still hot and I didn’t want to put it in the fridge, but didn’t want Caesar eating it either, Ven to the rescue. We had considered going to the hospital, not to see Phil but to see Martha, though when we found out that Lucien was with her there we changed our minds.

Unfortunately on the way over there, in the two lanes turning left off Aiken Road onto Pennant Hills Road we had a minor collision on the driver’s side. A white van on our right came over the lane line and impacted us side to side. John was driving my car and he immediately hopped out to speak to the young driver who had pulled over. As I was getting out of the car I heard him saying ‘Don’t worry, there’s no damage, it’s all good’. I leapt out quickly to say that I’d heard crunching metal but of course by then the fellow had high-tailed it back into his van and driven off. I was flabbergasted as John told me not to worry, ‘I looked and there was no damage at all’ but by this time John had driven off too. When we got to Martha’s I jumped out to find a scratch along the driver’s door, lots of white paint and damage to the bumper and a broken headlight. Woe is me, the guy must have thought all his Christmases had come at once.

Next we went to Bargain Hunt to deliver a wagon load of stuff to the auctions. Two Victorian paintings, an antique cast iron money box, some antique lace-making equipment, a kitchen grinder, a quantity of jewellery display equipment and more. I was met by my old pal Charles who told me that sadly new rules apply there, a minimum estimate of $200 for each individual item, so they took nought. I noticed Charles was walking with one foot at a 45 degree angle so I asked how he’d been keeping. ‘I’m screwed’ he said and the story brought me to tears. He fell off a ladder at home onto concrete and his ankle turned 180 degrees so his foot was facing backwards. When they operated and cut his foot open bones were dropping onto the floor of the operating room. So they put it back together with plates and wires but there isn’t enough bone left to make the foot easily usable so they plan to amputate his foot soon. He suffered damage to his heart as well and has had heart surgery four times to correct the resulting arrythmia (unsuccessfully) and is expecting another heart operation soon. This is when I lost it and started crying, quite unexpectedly, and I couldn’t even give him a hug. That’s three shit happenings today so I guess we are done.

June 19, 2021

Well the first vaccination had zero effect on me, but this one did. I felt mildly woozy last night but then slept for 12 hours, waking at 10.30 am, to find that John had been repeatedly checking since 7 am to see if I were breathing or not. He was very pleased when I finally got up, totally shocked by the time, saying that he was worried about how he would manage if I had died and asking whether he should have rung an ambulance or Bob if I had. Glad to be alive after that conversation I did toast of Italian bread with cream cheese and chili jam for breakfast (he had waited for my ascension to have breakfast together).

Soon we got a message from Martha to say that Phil has been moved into palliative care at the San, so I am assuming efforts to ‘spot weld’ the break have been overtaken by his deterioration. What a bloody awful year this has been and looks like continuing to be. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so glad to see the back of 2020. This Delta variant is more than 50% more infectious than the original, the latest outbreak in the Eastern suburbs showing camera footage proving that just walking past an infected person in a department store or sitting at another table in a coffee shop is all that’s needed to be infected. Hotspots have been declared locally too, at the Northmead Club, walking distance away, Plants Plus where I bought a tree two weeks ago, Spotlight and the Hills Super Centre which we visited in Castle Hill last week. We were planning to go to the cinema at Castle Hill last Friday but cancelled in light of all of this. I am currently planning to go to a meeting in the city on public transport next Tuesday (first time on the bus since February 2020) but it’s just a case of wait and see how it all evolves.

Caught up on my book reviews, 3 needed doing, and left Tripadvisor reviews for Rydges Hotel Newcastle (a 5) and their restaurant (a 1). I always feel so virtuous when the book reviews are up to speed, but am trying not to think about my wagon full of good stuff that the auction house won’t take. Perhaps my mate David Barsby at Artarmon might help, he owes me a favour, but I am not at all confident.

June 20, 2021

Last night we went to Thai Skybar Restaurant at Roseville for Ann’s birthday, along with her parents and two of her friends. We had a private room so it made conversation easier. One very weird thing was that the toilets had not one, but two toilets, facing each other. We all thought it hilarious but John didn’t notice at all.

Today we were at St. Mary’s Cathedral just after 9 am for a ceremony giving Terry a Dempsey Medal, a high order for lay Catholics who have given outstanding service to their parish over many years. John asked me how to get there from his place where we stayed last night and I told him it was exactly on the way to St. Vincent’s Hospital, to which he goes unaided every month at least. That journey passes the Cathedral, yet he couldn’t work it out when the destination was different. He got there in the end without much help as I am trying to get him to think his way through gaps in his memory without relying on me automatically. We saw the last of the 9 am mass and at the end they played an extraordinary piece of music on the organ, a booming, almost atonal piece which sounded like something from the soundtrack of a horror movie, but it was mesmerising. I was dying to know what it was so I can listen to it again, but the fellow who promised to find out for me was never seen again. I intend to follow it up though, by phone or email. Terry’s high mass began at 10 am and went till 12 noon and the Cathedral was packed, so clearly there is no shortage of the faithful despite everything. I had said Brian’s mass was long, but it was nothing like this one! The organ and the singing were divine, no pun intended, but boy those Catholics can go on, it felt as if I had time-travelled to the 15th century, which I guess was interesting in itself. Archbishop Anthony Wetfisher gave the sermon and I must say his elocution is nigh on perfect, enunciating every word perfectly and slowly, so I had no trouble picking up every word. At one point John turned to me and asked ‘can you remember what Jesus was tried for? I know there was a trial but that’s all I can remember’, this after eight years of theology. Afterward we went to Terry’s but John’s Satnav was trying to take us onto the Cahill Expressway headed for the Bridge to get to Rockdale, so we turned that off and used an iPhone which wouldn’t talk so I had to follow it on the screen. However we got there eventually after much frustration and swearing on both our parts.

Many of Terry and Jude’s family turned up at the house to celebrate and his daughter Maureen went out for pizzas for twenty or so people. So much for Terry not having visitors due to his chemo. They are such a warm, welcoming mob, from the oldies to the kids. One little guy spontaneously donned gloves and washed up as if that were the most normal thing in the world to do unasked, he looked about seven. But my most interesting conversation, barring Terry, was someone I’d met a few times before who works for the Crime Commission. I commented that he was likely having a busy week and he explained a bit about how they work and the feud between the Hamzy and Alameddine crime families, which I of course found fascinating. He confirmed what I’d been told from another source entirely about the linkage with serious crime and the unchecked mass migration of Lebanese in the 1970s. The Fraser government’s decision to allow migration by people who were not refugees became known as the “Lebanon Concession”. All they had to do was to state that they were fleeing the civil war and that they had a relative in Australia. Many Lebanese from deprived rural areas learned of Australia’s Lebanon Concession and decided to seek a better life in Australia, few if any were refused. They comprised Sunni Muslims from northern Lebanon and Shias from southern Lebanon, long time foes, a high proportion of whom were illiterate. The balance between Muslim and Christian applicants rose quickly to 90 per cent Muslim as the Christian mostly preferred to stay in Lebanon. It is the children and grandchildren of these migrants, largely settled in the south-western suburbs, who are now the main targets of the Crime Commission. I hadn’t realised that the normal right to remain silent doesn’t apply to Crime Commission matters, if you are hauled in and asked a question but refuse to answer, or lie, you are immediately charged with perjury. However what you tell them can’t he used against you in court, which seems very different to usual procedure. He spoke of people casually mentioning that they had killed a person here or there. I could have talked to him for hours.

June 21, 2021

Went to see June Again at Castle Hill’s poxy cinema, the decor of which gets worse every time I go. Who wrote the rule book that cinemas have to be so appallingly tasteless? The film was a bit of a tear-jerker but with some good lines and had the bonus of being set in Sydney. I hope it gave John some heart as it was about a woman with dementia who has a reprieve from symptoms and reengages with her family. He had said he wanted to see it when we saw the shorts some time ago but had forgotten that.

While there I got a text that indicated that something was wrong and after checking my emails I found that Phil had died last evening. He had dictated a message to Martha to be sent out to certain friends after he died and we had both received that while in the cinema. I feel so sorry for Martha, but wouldn’t have wanted him to suffer any longer than he has. I got a call from Martha later and we discussed his wishes re a funeral (he didn’t want one) and his decision to offer his body to the hospital where he was primarily treated, for research and education on his rare cancer. He was told 10 days ago that he only had months to live, it’s always a hard call, but I think they usually err on the side of optimism. However unlike a body donation to a university, he will still be buried afterwards at the Sydney Natural Burial Park located at Kemps Creek. Martha plans to have a memorial at their house later.

Ann was coughing mightily at her birthday dinner on Saturday night and assured us all that it was ‘just bronchitis’ which she gets every year. Today she texted me that it is actually a ‘really bad cold’ which she caught from her daughter who had it the week before. I will go nuts if I get the bloody thing, on the cards as I was sitting right opposite her at the table.

June 22, 2021

My first trip on public transport for 15 months was almost aborted when Andrew Constance appeared on the early news talking about the particular Covid risks aboard buses and mentioning Baulkham Hills in particular as a hotspot. But seeing I had replied in the affirmative to a fairly important event being held in a private room at the Australian Museum (and having now been fully vaccinated) I felt obliged to go. On the walk to the museum I bought a Big Issue and discovered it was just a self-congratulatory blurb for their 25th anniversary. Happy to give the money, but it isn’t the edgy mag about issues that it used to be. Typically I was there way too early but visited the Unsettled Aboriginal exhibition until the appointed time. Ah, first there I thought as I entered the room, admiring the wonderful view, but a staff member assured me I was at the wrong museum so I double checked the email and no, I was at the right one. Further enquiries led to the discovery that the event was cancelled late yesterday! I checked my emails for one from the organisation but nothing appeared. When I rang them they assured me that everyone was notified, and they were, the email arrived just now, two hours after I got home from the city, presumably it went via Kazakhstan. So, disappointed but determined not to waste the trip, I shlepped down to the Law Courts to see the Roberts-Smith defamation trial. No go there either, the court being closed to the public today for security reasons. Drat, even when I smilingly told the official that I wouldn’t put anything I learned on Facebook he surprisingly still denied me entrance. Had a laugh with the cameramen patiently waiting outside and headed off towards the bus stop, feeling disgruntled.

Later I discovered that in a nearby court Charlie Teo’s daughter Nicola had all charges dropped by the DPP after crashing into Jock Ross while driving on the wrong side of the road and then driving home to the city, later refusing to give any interview to police. Police alleged that she was driving on the wrong side of the road for at least 100m before striking the motorcycle and there were questions about whether she was on her mobile phone. He was injured massively, almost fatally. Jock was once a bad boy and a Comanchero but in recent years was well known and loved as captain of the local bushfire brigade at Wiseman’s Ferry, something he’s had to give up due to his injuries. A friend of mine is a close friend of Jock’s and has often talked about the dire effects that the accident has had on his life. Apparently the facts of the case weren’t disputed but her lawyer was mounting a defence of ‘automatism’ and once again we see the benefits of very deep pockets over the pursuit of justice. It sticks in my craw and it’s probably lucky that I wasn’t there when the case was dismissed or I might very well be banned from going to court in future.

June 23, 2021

Washed my long black woollen coat which accidentally got a dunk in the toilet when I didn’t pull it up fast enough. Judging by the colour of the water the wash was somewhat overdue, which can be the way of things when they are black. I watched Gladys at 11 am and discovered that although we are not in lockdown (as yet) gatherings in private homes are limited to five visitors, so book group is out the window on Friday. It was just after I chose what to make and checked the pantry for the ingredients. It looks as if Carly’s flight will need to be cancelled as well and Dav may cancel their weekend away. She suffers at every lockdown, as if they are checking her holiday dates before they act.

Then Martha contacted me to ask if I could come over for lunch and stay for her appointment with the funeral director at 2 pm. Kathryn from Picaluna Funerals was delightful, natural, knowledgeable and not ‘directive’, constantly asking Martha what she wanted, rather than suggesting. Martha sorted out Phil’s warm burial clothes, a sheet and blanket to line the cardboard coffin and a beanie and scarf to keep the winter chills away. She has changed her mind from no funeral to inviting people to the burial but with no ceremony as such, very informal as he would have wanted. Kathryn shared pumpkin soup with us and I was very pleasantly surprised when she toted up the clearly specified costs, 5% of the profit going to a charity of Martha’s choice, Medicin Sans Frontieres. I thought it would be a grim job but she made it a very positive experience, unlike the woman when I was organising my mother’s funeral who commented ‘Oh she was born in England. I’ve been over there for a holiday but there were too many people with a dark tan for my liking’. I didn’t say anything but gave her my best death stare and she quickly moved on.

June 24, 2021

I’ve been thinking about the young tradie sitting near me on the bus back from town on Tuesday, sans mask after the rule came back in to wear one on public transport. The driver didn’t say anything to him and I decided to follow suit after seeing that he had a large hammer hanging on his belt and he looked a bit aggro. Just before he got off he dropped some coins onto the floor accidentally and when he walked towards the door I called out to him that he had dropped money. He positively glowered at me and I decided I had made the right decision about not mentioning the mask. When an old lady got on at the next stop I told her there was some money under her seat and she happily scrabbled it up.

We finally got John’s rego sorted, what a saga it has been. Not because there was a problem, just that John has been so mightily confused about the process, repeatedly asking what has to be done. Even after it was all completed he was asking Alex whether we needed to go to Service NSW and what else he had to do. Our beautiful mechanic Alex wouldn’t accept the $115 for the rego check and a small repair that was needed, it’s just impossible to press money onto him at times and it gets embarrassing, anything under about $150 or so he won’t accept. The staff tote it up, I go to pay and he gives them the nod so they won’t charge me. I’ve never come across it anywhere before and when I insisted on paying today he said ‘Shhh I’m talking to my boyfriend on the phone, don’t interrupt’, beaming across at his wife who also works there. He loves us and we can’t work out exactly why.

We went to RNSH for my monthly blood test, some 13 days late because I’ve just been too busy, and there was a long queue just to get into the place. Then we went to Barsby  Auctions nearby with the same goods that were rejected at Bargain Hunt a few days ago. To my great surprise they accepted almost all of it. What a turnup for the books, BH was always happy to take almost everything and BA was the upmarket firm, how times change. We did a Woolies shop on the way home in case we go into lockdown soon, but didn’t buy a single roll of toilet paper so we felt virtuous.

June 25, 2021

Made a Chestnut and Almond Cake to take up to Alex, our mechanic. During the making I was fielding a few texts from Dav about the lockdown, as I was supposed to be going in there tomorrow but she checked and the locked down suburbs can’t have visitors so that’s out. Millie was so looking forward to Carly and moi looking after her this weekend, but Carly can’t come due to the outbreak and now I can’t even go there for a day visit. At the same time I was fielding emails from Martha about catering arrangements for Phil’s ‘not a funeral’ on Monday. She has wisely decided not to explore the club option, considering that the suburb where the cemetery is located is the one where 17 out of 30 party-goers have so far come down with Covid. I suggested my doing sandwiches but she felt it was too big a job for one person, so then I countered with the idea of buying numerous long Subway rolls and just slicing them up. She liked that idea so I will change tack and do a cake instead. Which brings me back to Alex’s chestnut cake….when it was nearly cooked I found the chestnut puree measured out in a bowl, but it didn’t actually get into the cake, so now it is an almond cake, the other main ingredients being ground and chopped almonds. I will use the chestnut puree to do the same cake for Monday but hopefully with all the ingredients present. It just doesn’t work if I cook without focussing totally, all other things have to wait, including John asking ‘How long is it till lunch?’.

I haven’t had time to focus on the building collapse in Florida or read any articles as yet. But the first thing I thought of was the book The Water Will Come which so impressed me a few years back. It explained why the lower east of the United States will be more affected by rising water due to climate change, with the Gulf Stream having a big effect. It was complicated science but from memory had to do with a faster Gulf Stream pulling water away from the US east coast and as it slows down it wells up, raising sea levels there. Some US sea levels on that coast have risen 3 or 4 times the global average. But I distinctly remember the author saying that condominiums in Florida for example will find their subterranean carparks flooding and was amazed that such building were still allowed. Also the ground will become waterlogged, causing buildings to slowly sink….. Perhaps this may end up being faulty workmanship, though that’s hard to believe in a building that they said last night was built in 1981. But I hope they start to look seriously at the fact that all of that area is probably at risk now, because professionals who have highlighted the risks, according to the book, have been ignored by the Republican government who are climate change deniers.

June 26, 2021

I am currently reading Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna and I’m finding it harrowing. The descriptions of child sexual abuse and the interior dialogue of a person who is clearly mentally ill is just excruciating to read, but I highly recommend the book regardless. Decided to reread The Water Will Come when I can get it from the library as it is so topical now after this building collapse. I had not realised till I read it that developers are still building high-rise apartments on the water’s edge in Miami despite the now regular flooding with every king tide. The author discussed how reclaimed swamps now support skyscrapers, as in this case, and what that will mean in the future. But it is the scientific explanations that I find I can’t remember well enough. It appears that many of the missing fall into two large groups, central Americans from Cuba, Venezuela etc and Jewish people. One chilling story emerged of a man on a business trip to Washington whose wife rang him at 1.30 am to say that the building was shaking and it collapsed as they spoke. Just unbelievable, he’ll never get that call out of his head.

Well Gladys has done what we were all expecting and called a lockdown, but it is for two weeks, longer than I was expecting. It was obvious that they were all rattled at the 11 am presser so this was pretty clearly coming. Funerals are exempted so presumably Phil’s will go ahead on Monday. News that a miner in the Northern Territory is infected is a big worry, especially as it appears he caught it in quarantine. I guess now I have no excuse not to list some of my stuff on eBay, something I have put off doing because I don’t want to go back to work mode, but I have no excuse with a vacant diary for the next two weeks. So I started with just one thing this afternoon, a pair of Chinese marble BaoDing balls which are very decorative but which were used as some sort of meditation aids I think. I will begin with the rejects from Barsbys this week, the few items they wouldn’t take, then move on to some store room bits. I rang John whom I knew wouldn’t be watching our Glad and told him he needed to decide whether to be alone at home for two weeks or to put up with me for two weeks but he needed to decide before 6 pm. He’s decided to come here, after he only left today at lunchtime.

June 27, 2021

John has been waiting and hoping for some response from his daughter after he sent a parcel containing a gift-wrapped woollen poncho and a pair of insulated winter gloves for her birthday, but the day came and went with no response, though he knows it was delivered. His phone calls on the day went unanswered. His pain is a daily one unfortunately but his birthday and hers are especially difficult times.

I finished Infinite Splendours last night and it was literally heart-rending. I don’t think I can be with a mentally ill person again without those images coming back to me. But I would hesitate to recommend it to people who have had certain experiences described in the book, it acted as a trigger for me so I can’t imagine what it would do to them. We travelled with Lawrence through his life, in many ways though he was always the ten year old we met at the beginning.

Perhaps the book was the reason I couldn’t sleep last night but I’m more inclined to think that it was Phil’s funeral tomorrow, coming so closely on top of Brian’s and also thinking about Terry’s recent diagnosis. His family is an interesting mix, Terry eight years in the seminary, then a priest for some time and then six years in Geneva studying to be a Jungian psychoanalyst. He is urbane, gentle, philosophical, metaphysical and always up for a deep and meaningful on life in general. His brother and sister took different routes, his brother selling and servicing venetian blinds, his sister a homemaker, both valuable paths. But seeing them interacting the difference is stark, however the family is clearly close and loving. There are many paths to the top of the mountain and it is wonderful to see people who are comfortable with others’ choices.

June 28, 2021

Sue arrived from Killcare in time for us to set out for Phil’s funeral in plenty of time, according to Mr. Google at least. Traffic was heavier on the M7 than we expected, there are only 16 exemptions to the lockdown I was thinking, but that still leaves an awful lot of folks out and about. We came across a minor roadworks detour but arrived to some confusion about where we were to be going, partly caused by an inadequate map and partly due to a sign showing the way to the funeral of Philip Copper, not Cooper, but we eventually found the right place. All of that meant we were far from the first there, despite our good intentions with Martha handing out the brochures that I was supposed to be doing. The burial field was much smaller than it looked online, but the upside was that we didn’t have far to walk to the graveside. The cardboard casket was set up as planned with textas for guests to write their final messages to Phil and we did so immediately. John soon went over to the grave site and peering into the hole asked the diggers ‘Where is the body?’ to which they patiently replied ‘Over there in the box’. ‘Oh yes’ John exclaimed, ‘I just signed it’. I’m sure that story will do the rounds of the diggers, but in any event, it will certainly do the rounds amongst our friends as John can now see the funny side. The service went off well with Carol officiating, an extraordinary mix of informality, respect and reverence with loving friendship thrown in. I can’t praise the funeral director Kathryn highly enough, so much so that I’ve booked her for mine (on a date yet to be confirmed) and checked that she’ll travel as far as Gerringong. Tick.

Sue, John and I chewed the fat for the afternoon in front of the fire, the first time I’ve put it on this winter now that I have my carbon monoxide meter set up, telling Phil stories. We followed up with a simple dinner with a special wine with which we toasted Phil. Whenever I go to the bottle shop at Berry, and sometimes also at Leura, I ask the owner to choose half a dozen good bottles of red, after telling him my preferences as to grapes and areas. These are my special occasion wines and last night’s, the last from Berry, was a ripper. A John Duval Wines 2015 Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre which I will try to buy again when next we are there. Cellar 5-6 years, he told me and by chance more than plan that’s exactly what I did.

June 29, 2021

Sue told me she always gets up at 5, which I certainly wasn’t going to do but set the alarm to 6.45. She appeared in time for a hot breakfast about 8.30 and we stoked the coals of the funeral again before moving on to other topics including the many late texts last night from Ann asking (yet again) why she hadn’t been invited to our various birthday celebrations. I pointed out that apart from John’s 75th and his 80th both our birthdays are usually celebrated at a favourite restaurant, on our own. She still wasn’t happy so I quoted Oscar Wilde’s dictum: ‘If a friend of mine gave a feast, and did not invite me to it, I should not mind a bit. But if a friend of mine had a sorrow and refused to allow me to share it, I should feel it most bitterly.’ She neither agreed with the concept nor understood it, so I really had to give up explaining at that point.

A sleepless night after going over silly things that seemed perfectly sane at the time. Like why did we leave Phil behind? why didn’t someone stand vigil overnight? won’t he be cold? Of course by morning that all seemed pretty obvious, but it gives some idea of how a death throws us off kilter, two in two weeks seems too much, but I guess I had better get used to it, it’s the price of living past the three score and ten.

June 30, 2021

Oh my, I actually got a traffic fine in the mail. I thought it must be a mistake, but no I checked the date and I had taken John’s glasses up to Ralph to fix, went up the hill past St. Bernadette’s School and apparently I was a bit over the 40 kph limit at school exit time. As well as the $203 fine it puts up my third party insurance on the car for three years but as they say, you do the crime and you do the time.

I read in the news today that the nurse in Queensland who caught Covid at a hospital where she works caught it from a man who has made multiple trips out of, and back into, Australia during the pandemic, staying in hotel quarantine in Brisbane each time. In South Australia a family, all suffering from Covid, came in this week on a chartered jet and went straight to hospital. These exceptions were all approved by the federal government. This is what encourages people to flout the rules, as ever one rule for the rich and well connected and one for everyone else. We went up to get the food shopping at Baulko and although all the clothing shops were closed the el cheapo shop was open and I wondered why cards, decorations, plastic containers and flowers, plant pots and their motley assortment of goods qualified as essential items? Bigger brains than mine work these things out and I guess there can be loopholes. One job I really do fancy in all of this is contact tracing, I would enjoy that detective work a lot I think, but sadly at my age I am over the hill for just about everything.

July 1, 2021

Kenneth has been ringing me all het up about his daughter’s situation with their foster child reaching the age of 18 next month. She has had him for 11 years and the problem is that the allowance she gets for him is usually a major part of the family’s income and now her husband has lost his licence and therefore his job, the allowance is 100% of their income. I keep telling K. that it’s up to them to work it out but I now discover that he has been subsidising them financially for some time and once this payment ceases they will be down on their uppers, having spent all of their earnings. The British system seems incredibly generous now that I know how much they are receiving. Having looked up the NSW rates, I find that they get in pounds per week as much as people here get in dollars. But it’s sad to see K. so perturbed about it all.

In more bad news from the Odd Dart, my friend Anne recently broke her arm getting off a bus. When she said that she didn’t bump it or fall, I theorised to myself that the only two possibilities were cancer or osteoporosis. Now further investigations have diagnosed the latter, finding that the same thing is now threatening to occur in her leg. I don’t know how Anne would cope if she became disabled, she is an extremely private person, living alone with her books in a 17th century stone cottage in a village and happiest when she is not around people, or folk as she always calls them. She is hardly shy, but just finds many people so annoying or stupid and she is anything but that. I can only hope that treatment is possible and that it works fast, but I can’t say I’m too confident.

We watched the video of Phil’s not funeral and cried again. But were so impressed by the filming and particularly the editing. He was in the background barely noticed, but turned out such a wonderful result. I wondered if I could book him for mine but then decided it would be a bit pointless if I can’t watch it!

July 2, 2021

A bit of a fuss this morning when my internet, landline and mobile all went off together. I assumed it was an Optus problem and after some considerable time it rectified itself, apparently they had a massive outage. It meant that John couldn’t Zoom in to see the funeral of a friend in Canberra, yes another, which was unfortunate timing. But he has a two hour Zoom meeting with his seminary classmates this arv and hopefully it will stay afloat till then.

Dav has asked if I could mind Millie while they get their vaccinations tomorrow arv so I am making a curry for them to take home because she feels, rightly I think, that having dinner here afterwards breaks the spirit of the lockdown. They were going to take Millie with them to Olympic Park but an email today tells them not to bring children, so if needed the bobbies can be told that the visit here was necessary in order for them to get the vaccine. A segment on the teev last night explained that in New York, you can just ring the authorities and they send a vaccination team to your house, they even turn up at sports events and vaccinate all comers, while we give it out at some inconvenience to the recipients. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the video online of the owners of a Bowral organic food shop being trundled into a paddy wagon and fighting the police all the way, with much scuffling and swearing. They had installed a sign outside their shop  refusing entry to anyone wearing a mask or anyone who had been vaccinated. (It looked as if it were straight out of southern USA, but no, we have our home grown idiots thanks very much). The poor cops talked to them for an hour and a half inside the shop, trying to explain that their actions were illegal, but they refused to take the sign down or close the shop. A customer filmed their arrest and put it online and it made me glad that I didn’t go into the police force, though I briefly considered it. I made the assumption then that a regular anti-Vietnam protester wouldn’t get past first base and I still think that was the case as I was filmed often. When the government and the people are on different sides on an issue the police have to side with the government right or wrong and I don’t think I could stomach it, even though in this case they were unscientific fools. It raises so many questions around freedom of speech and freedom to be a numbskull. Just sometimes the dingbats are right.

 

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN: THIS POST IS TOO FULL, SO ONWARD AND UPWARD TO LIFE NOTES  8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life Notes 6

April 1, 2020

Not making any April Fools calls today, I think we are all the April Fools for trusting our governments to protect us from what was always just over the horizon. As I wrote here in January: ‘I continue to shake my head at the lacklustre Australian response to the corona virus outbreak. While the scientists are doing amazing work, as usual, the policy makers and their publicists stumble along. Potential pandemics, as this clearly is, need action that is both strong and meteorically fast’. Luckily for their residents Singapore understood this and acted accordingly, including having a fully stocked 300 bed pandemic hospital sitting empty, waiting for just this occurrence. Had we had a similar hospital set up (and we can afford it) we would now have it occupied by those initially infected, with no community transference occurring.  But experts like Prof Raina McIntyre, who workshopped this eventuality with international colleagues in a week long conference just last November, were ignored. As usual the government gets off scot free and the populace pays bigtime for their mistakes, pays in lives and pays in money, more money than ever we could have imagined. A stitch in time Scotty, didn’t your mother ever tell you that proverb?

One of John’s ex priest mates helpfully sent around to their group Pope Francis’s Urbi et Orbi Vatican speech, retelling the story of Jesus sleeping in the helm of a little boat when it hit rough weather. The disciples woke him in a panic and he replied famously ‘why are you afraid, oh ye of little faith’. Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm. Perhaps they won’t be expecting his reply: ‘I’m not going to read any nonsense about Jesus and corona virus. If Jesus is in charge, why did he let it happen in the first place? Stay safe boys. The only people who are going to save us from this plague are ourselves and our wonderfully skilled and dedicated health professionals.’ He has certainly left that culture waaay behind.

April 2, 2020

I was looking forward to gardening this morning but a neighbour across the road, who obviously doesn’t smoke inside and pads the pavement with her cancer sticks, was on the prowl. She came over straight away and gave me her news ‘Did you know that between 5 and 14% of people carry coronavirus naturally in their blood, so what we are seeing is all the false positives from those people and we are being kept inside as a result?’. It is so true what Elizabeth used to tell me in the shop, I thought: ‘You are a crazy magnet’. So I gently disagreed with her and her retort was: ‘Yes most women would agree with you but men see through what we are being told’. Ah, not only unscientific I am, but a woman to boot. Then she went on about vaccination not being the answer, so I suggested that we do nothing and let it rip, killing off the weak and susceptible. She was nodding in agreement when I remembered I had left something on the stove…..  Shit, I can’t even go into my front garden in peace now.

I was thinking about which things we are loath to give up in our current situation and how we are altering our lives in regards to consumables. I am certainly using up all the stuff that was too good or too new to be used, so the packets of bath salts and lip gloss and chutney in pretty packaging that I had been gifted over time are being ripped open and used. Treats like the more expensive Kumato brand of tomatoes, black skinned beauties, are now bought despite their higher price. (This is both a taste and an aesthetic choice, they look sooo beautiful that I smile as I put them on crackers for lunch). However there are some things I refuse to give up such as Epicure cheese, which Kevin managed to score for me at Coles North Rocks today, and which was home delivered by Michelle. (She asked me for self-raising flour that he couldn’t get, but sadly I was out as well). At this stage of the pandemic I simply decline to eat any other cheddar, though I realise that may have to change one day. Likewise Chux, I could have bought purple ones but am hanging out for blue or green to tone with all my crockery and kitchenware, but if I must buy purple in extremis they will need to be kept inside a cupboard, wet or not. Similarly bread, bought from a good bakery, will be among the last things I surrender, Tip Top will not be entering this humble abode until we are barred from leaving our homes and have the doors welded shut. Which is not out of the question I have to say.

April 3, 2020

John’s neighbour, who has now lost her job and in the past occasionally caused us to connect our heads to the wall forcefully, has come into her own in this crisis. First she insisted that she do all his shopping as well as things like going to the Post Office or to the chemist for scripts. She also has him on a short lead, ringing him if she hears his garage door going up to ask ‘why are you going out?’. Yesterday his excuse that he was off to get a flu vaccination apparently passed muster and he was allowed to proceed. Davina has decided that because of my immune system issues I am taking too many risks by going out shopping at all, even walking to the corner IGA for milk as I told her I was going to do this arv. So they will deliver for me tomorrow and after that I will use priority delivery from Woolies, current wait 2 weeks! The jaws of the coronavirus trap are closing slowly but surely.Going to Bob’s surgery was certainly different, with patients needing to line up outside for temperature checks and symptoms quizzes, only allowed in at the exact appointment time. Then Bob did our injections himself because ‘I don’t want you sitting in the waiting room with sick people until the nurse can see you’. We go back in 2 weeks to have the Pneumovax, of course not effective for coronavirus, but preventative for 23 types of bacteria that could cause bacterial pneumonia as a complicating factor.

It occurs to me that coronavirus could very well equal creeping socialism. Whereas weeks ago the government called the idea of subsidised pre-school education ‘communism’ they have now made it altogether free. Jobseekers were dole bludgers, now they are suffering Australians. The idea of evicting unemployed tenants is not on, hoarding is infra dig when once it would have been boosting the economy, private hospitals are being temporarily taken over by the government, discussions of nationalisations abound, soldiers are helping manufacture needed supplies. Well I never, so it’s true that every cloud has a silver lining.

April 4, 2020

We all need something to look forward to and my thing at the moment was Mondays when I ventured out, early and briefly, to buy those things that I can’t order in. But both my daughters are of the view that I am playing Russian Roulette. So today Davina, Louis and Millie turned up with a heap of groceries on the proviso that I don’t even walk down to the corner IGA in future. I know a number of others in the same situation, including John whose neighbour keeps him honest, watching out her window to ensure compliance. I think I probably need that policing as I am already thinking wistfully of Monday, oh the bakery…..and what about KOI where my weary carcass has not been sighted in all of two months? Not dead though, so there’s that.

One good thing about the current situation for me is that I am now using all the things that were ‘too good to use’ or had to be held back for some impending emergency… so this evening I used the Molton Brown bubble bath left over from our last visit to Treasury on Collins and stepped into my best fancy hotel pyjamas, now known as my everyday pyjamas. Pity you weren’t here to smell and to see but there you are.

April 5, 2020

Spoke to my bro last night and as usual he is the most un-medical person I’ve ever come across. Doesn’t have any interest whatsoever, even when it pertains to him and he doesn’t ask questions when he goes to the doc. Have you had a flu vax? ‘I don’t know.’ He’d told me his daughter brings groceries twice a week but I know a lot of it goes to feed squirrels and foxes…..and he has a cold. Okay, so you’ve not been going out? No I haven’t he says, apart from getting the bus into Halifax last week. Telling him that it might not be just a cold is a complete waste of time. He did mention though that the daughter who works in a Bupa nursing home has complained that they have no protective equipment. None at all? I asked. That’s what she said, he replied. This is the daughter coming twice a week with groceries, but I can do nothing from here I’ve decided, apart from gritting my teeth and ringing more often. The saddest thing I’ve heard in the last few days, and we are all hearing plenty, was the black American bus driver complaining in a Facebook post about the woman on the bus who had coughed all over him. I must admit I had been concerned about the fact that during the post he was constantly wiping sweat from his face and it’s not particularly hot anywhere in the US right now. I actually looked up temps in various places in the hope I would find a heat wave somewhere, but no. It was a giveaway that he wasn’t well, but I tried to imagine he’d just had the bus heater turned up, sadly no. Three days later he was dead. The story today of Ged Kearney’s father-in-law was sobering. He had panic bought and they had teased him for filling the cupboards for just him and his wife. But he had ventured out to the shops, just twice, and that was enough for infection and death. How unlucky can you be? It’s a tenacious little bastard this virus, you have to give it that.

April 6, 2020

It is a funny thing but the more I am restricted in what I can do, the more I think of to write about when I sit down at the computer. Anyway one funny thing is that I noticed that the latest script for hydroxychloroquine, Donald Trump’s purported cure for coronavirus, which I have been taking on and off for 8 years is marked ‘take in the morning with food’. I always take it at night so, being a curious person, I asked Dr Google why I should change and the answer came back that it can cause nightmares which is less likely if it’s taken in the morning. Ah, I have had a few nasty ones lately so I will be trying something that simple to avoid another.

I am having increasing doubts about NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. He was Mr Nice-and-Helpful early on but now he seems to be enjoying the spotlight a tad too much and I worry that he may be becoming Commissioner Full-of-Himself. His blustering about Carnival Cruises indicates that perhaps he’s already holding them responsible for the Ruby Princess disaster, even before the ‘criminal investigation’ into the matter has barely begun. Can anyone really believe that he will find his boss, the NSW Government, was responsible? Or the woman who appointed him, Gladys Berejiklian? The government clearly knows where the blame lies and if it wanted us to know it would have appointed someone outside of its sphere of influence. My money is on Carnival being called out as the culprit, regardless.

April 7, 2020

I was curious as to how I made the mistake of not reading the label on the drug I take which the script now says must be taken in the morning. But I found a repurposed bottle and it simply says to take one a day, so no-one had told me otherwise. It gives me the creeps that it is working on my brain and thinking as well as whatever else (perhaps I can use this as an excuse for something down the line) but I didn’t have a nightmare last night so that’s an improvement. I had put them down to a subconscious anxiety about coronavirus, which I think I am handling reasonably well at a conscious level. I teared up though when I heard that Boris Johnson had gone to intensive care. He is a goose, but to get to that position which he’s aimed for his whole life, and which his father also coveted, only to be struck down at the peak of his powers is mammoth. His statements about only having mild disease showed how totally out of his depth he was/is about the course of this virus, the progression of which basically seems to fall into three phases: Week 1, mild symptoms for almost everyone Week 2, either progression to serious disease or gradual improvement Week 3, either deterioration to ventilation and possible death or else recovery. Clearly he just didn’t understand the thing when he happily admitted to shaking hands with victims, but ignorance shouldn’t bring a death sentence. The chief health officer of Scotland has been sacked for twice retreating to her holiday cottage against their current laws and also the health minister of New Zealand has barely escaped sacking for going out bike riding on one occasion and for taking his family on a bushwalk, after a drive 20 km from home, on another. NZ’s PM has promised punishment and says he deserves to be sacked but she can’t put in a new health minister in the middle of a pandemic. These people were both responsible for giving out the segregation message publicly, as was Boris, but it just shows the delusion that the rules don’t apply above a certain rank. Which brings me in a natural segue to Pell. I grieve for his victims, including those who came forward last week in the last episode of Revelation. No-one could ever look at their faces and see a liar, just as the jury said about the victim at Pell’s trial. But he could afford the best of barristers, and as I have seen happen many times before, the best of barristers can get a defendant walking swiftly out the door scot free as John Marsden did a few times for Ivan Milat. The serial killer didn’t slow down afterwards, such was his compulsion to kill, but Marsden gave him the opportunity to go on to murder many more. John Marsden said he had always been plagued by his decision to represent Milat on rape charges in the 1970s, saying on his deathbed that the backpackers might be alive today if Milat had not been acquitted. Solicitors and barristers are between a rock and a hard place in representing people they know or suspect are guilty and Marsden took his own responsibility to his grave.

April 8, 2020

Some silliness in a sea of death and misery can only be a good thing, right? So I set my mind to finally deciding between my two toy boy candidates of the moment, Hamish Macdonald from the ABC (yes I know he’s gay, but I don’t choose to complicate matters) and Chris Moller of Grand Designs NZ. The problem is that on Monday nights Hamish is far away the winner, but then I watch an old episode with Chris and I’m back with him. What a lovely problem to be having.

I’m currently reading Thomas Keneally’s novel Three Cheers for the Paraclete from 1968, one of two he wrote based on his time at St Patrick’s Seminary in Manly. Of course this is where John studied and he tells me that Keneally’s novels were well reviewed at the time but considered exaggerated, one review in the Bulletin reading ‘this is a metaphysical novel about a place that couldn’t possibly exist’, despite the fact that the characters were based on real people whom the seminarians could identify by name and the setting describes the seminary in detail. I go from grinning to sadness as he explains the dark, confined, narrow and oppressive surroundings and the people, who can be portrayed by the same words. Very much enjoying the book and I think I appreciate it more now than I would have when it was written, due to John’s horrific tales of the place. On the subject of Catholicism, I’ve read a fair bit over time about Pope Francis and tried to understand his difficult struggles with the Curia, but his indecent haste in coming out with support for Pell means I’ve written him off now and won’t waste my time and sympathy on him in future. Francis did not mention Pell by name at mass, but compared the suffering of those inflicted with “unjust sentences” to the way Jewish community elders persecuted Jesus with “obstinacy and rage even though he was innocent”, adding “let us pray together today for all those persons who suffer due to an unjust sentence because someone had it in for them”, so it didn’t take a seer to read his meaning. Dead to me now Franky boy, you’ve shown your true colours.

April 9, 2020

I woke up this morning completely oblivious to the fact that it was Easter as of tomorrow. I had thought all the Easter holiday warnings were in advance of next weekend. So I was more than a little pissed off, no Simnel cake made, no seafood or treats of any sort procured. I phoned John who didn’t know either but couldn’t care less, then the other phone rang and it was Michelle who told me she was shortly going up to the seafood market at Castle Towers. So the hand of something, ‘god’ or fate or serendipity or Lady Luck will do as explanation in this instance, pushed Michelle into the breach and not long after I was the adoring owner of one whole trout, some giant green prawns and 4 pieces of excellent barramundi. That should see Easter out with the trout baked for Saturday lunch with all the trimmings. I have been eating from my liberal stock of veggies all week so some seafood will go down very nicely. I had even sorted an order from the bakery for next week, thinking that it would cover me for Easter weekend, but I’ll let that stand now.

April 10, 2020

I’ve been waiting for a rainy day, and a few showers was close enough, to replant the naturally occurring Hypoestes plants that have self seeded along my driveway. These are the pretty shade-loving guys that look as if someone has splashed pink housepaint on them accidentally. I had two plants appear a couple of years ago down my driveway near the garage apparently from seeds washed under the fence from next door, but they don’t like the full heat of summer so I transplanted them into the front garden where they are doing much better. But now I have about a dozen more of them coming up from where I removed the first two, so this morning I moved every second one to the front and I will give the others a chance to remain where they are with some help by watering them in hot times. Love these donations from the universe so I will try to help them survive. After that I went out for a walk, which is tres ennuyeux in this area, and living on a ridge means a climb back up from wherever you go, which I suppose is a good thing in one way. But it goes to show what I have always thought, that if you can afford it you should live in an area of natural beauty such as along the beach or harbour or in the mountains because you have your recreation right at hand. Next life I am definitely doing that.

Decided to do Jamie Oliver’s Baked Whole Trout served with a potato, pea and broad beans combo with mustard sauce. The recipe is supposed to have a whole bunch of mint but sadly every time mine gets healthy some mint-coloured grubs descend on it and the whole bush gets eaten to soil level overnight, so perhaps it will be a bit bland I’m thinking now. More research may be needed for a new accompaniment. Bloody virus puts paid to everything when you can’t go to the shops or even ask your neighbours. Bah humbug.

April 11, 2020

The universe provided again in the form of Heather who rang for no reason (love people who ring for no reason) so I was able to ask if she had mint and yes, she had a motza. I said I would drive over to get it but she offered a bicycle delivery courtesy of her husband David, so that happened this morning just as I started the food prep for lunch. We lit a candle, in the middle of the day no less, had a lace tablecloth and cloth serviettes and really enjoyed the trout with an unusual veggie combination of potato, broad beans, peas, lettuce and mint, all served with a yogurt based horseradish sauce followed by baked custard and hot stewed plums. John then went for a SCAN, a senior citizens afternoon nap. I think coronavirus is knocking him around more than it is me, not the isolation, which he quite likes, but the fear factor.

I had trouble sleeping last night due to a silly thing, but the sort of thing that always leaves me wakeful. Yesterday I had a call from John’s closest friend about identification of the timbers on the mantelpieces in his Federation house. He mentioned that John had sent him an extract from my blog a few days ago regarding George Pell. John doesn’t normally read the blog, but was interested in looking at anything I wrote about Pell so I sent him just that day. His friend then mentioned that he’d seen a good interview from Sky News with Father Frank Brennan, a longtime defender of Pell in this case. He asked if I would read it (I haven’t as yet) and I see it popped into my inbox immediately after. Part of the interview deals with Brennan’s assertion that the accuser was defending his dead mate who was actually abused by someone else, somewhere else, not in the cathedral at all. In other words he was trying to punish the church by punishing Pell. I don’t know the source of his evidence for this but will look at the interview in due course. My lack of sleep was engendered by the fact that John’s friend is a beautiful person, intelligent, a deep thinker, yet he is in my opinion grasping at straws to find Pell innocent and if he of all people is doing that, then so many others in John’s circle are likely doing it too. I mentioned all the other accusers but he let that go and seemed locked onto this interview as evidence of innocence. It just made me feel disturbed and unutterably sad.

April 12, 2020

Night time is thinking time and a thought suddenly came upon me at 2am: Don Harwin, who was until yesterday a NSW government minister, is now a backbencher after being found in breach of current regulations regarding staying at one’s primary residence. He was sequestered at his holiday home on the coast, apparently in the company of a man recently returned from the UK, another breach if true. But what came to me was his physical presence: he has fairly suddenly become fat, not fat all over though, but just fat around the middle, something like a child’s swim ring. It didn’t seem quite right when I replayed in my mind the pictures of him being interviewed yesterday. Fat doesn’t float around when you walk and his did. So I think it is not fat at all but ascites, that dreaded accumulation of fluid that comes with cirrhosis or abdominal cancer or end stage heart failure. The latter is ruled out by his walking ability, but I think he could be in real trouble medically. I hope for his sake though that I’m proved in time to be talking through my hat. That happened once before, I think in 1970?

April 13, 2020

I finally got to looking at Frank Brennan’s interview on Sky News and replying to the friend who recommended it. A brief excerpt is as follows:

“Firstly, neither you, nor I, nor Frank Brennan heard the evidence of the complainant in all of this. The only ones who did were the judge and 12 members of the jury. Pell chose not to defend himself, as is his right. The Appeal Court and the High Court were discussing matters of law, not only matters of guilt. Secondly, he says that the witnesses for Pell and his movements had ‘no skin in the game’ which to me is a nonsense. Monsignor Portelli, the main defence witness in regard to Pell’s movements in the cathedral was an old friend and colleague. For five years he spent time as Pell’s ‘driver, editor, ghost-writer, ceremony-preparer and proof-reader’ and he and Pell worked together from Thursday to Sunday for 50 weeks a year, with Portelli putting onto computer all of Pell’s handwritten speeches because Pell is a technophobe. Hardly someone with ‘no skin in the game’ as he has frequently described himself as a close friend. The Appeal Court judges found that ‘in our view the jury were entitled to have reservations about the reliability of Portelli’s answers under cross-examination.'”

Somehow just typing about this stuff makes me want to have a shower. Everyone will choose which court to trust, but he has had his day thrice and as the lyrics of the old song declares “Now don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad”. Here endeth the Pell discussion.

April 14, 2020

Just finished reading Me, Myself and Lord Byron (2011) by Julietta Jameson, a sometime travel writer and journalist. My neighbour across the road lent it to me, I took it reluctantly, but I’d mark it as a fail. Her writing skills are not in question, and she is particularly candid about her own shortcomings, but I was underwhelmed and wondered if Elizabeth Gilbert read this before writing her book Eat, Pray, Love (2016) which was similarly underwhelming. They both have something for everyone: failed love affair, travel, spirituality, new love affair….but pretty boring for all of that. The concept is suspiciously similar, a midlife crisis solved by a trip which shows the writers that they were pretty much alright before they set out. More interesting was Audience of One, written by chief NYT film and TV critic James Poniewozik, in which he examines the last 40 years of American media and relates it to the phenomenon known as Donald J. Trump, the ‘volcanic, camera-hogging antihero’. Some of the early references were lost on me, partly because I knew all the names of the shows but hadn’t taken enough notice of them to fully understand the characters mentioned, but later when the focus was closer to Trump’s campaign and election I was more attuned to it when he talked of Fox News etc. It appears little Trump watched endless TV in his mansion as a kid, often with his father, including hour after hour of Billy Graham Crusades which, having seen old Billy perform in person, would be enough to warp anyone for life. So the author postulates that Trump is lead character in his own imagined ‘raging, farcical reality show’, still wanting to yell ‘You’re fired!’ as he famously did in The Apprentice, something he does with monotonous regularity in the White House with each appointment worse than the last. I am predicting that even Fox News will peel away from him in coming months, not wanting to be seen as a laughing stock along with the 45th President. I must make a list of these predictions somewhere so I can gloat if they come about and confine them to junk if they don’t.

April 15, 2020

Each day I am trying to cook a mildly ambitious meal, something new from a recipe I hadn’t got around to trying for example, and also make a staple of some sort. Yesterday it was houmous, today it was rock cakes. One of my favourite small cakes, made from the same recipe for about 50 years, yet they turn out slightly differently very time, from dry and needing butter to moist and delicious as they were today. Oh and I also boiled and mashed and froze a lot of potatoes that I had here, because John got his first online grocery order yesterday and it included two huge bags of same, perhaps he ordered two potatoes I don’t know, but he is bringing up one of those huge bags to me tomorrow as a result. Potato curry, potato bread, potato whatever is on the menu from tomorrow on.

Spoke to my bro in England again last night, something we do frequently of late. His libertarian streak means that he’s ignoring the stay at home advice and doing his own shopping, both at the supermarket and at the corner shop, though he rails about having to wait outside till someone else comes out. Isolation suits him very well as a loner and a thinker and a reader, he is very happy with his own company, even complaining about the weekly visit by his daughter and her husband because they stayed for an hour and a half. I know he would have been itching for their departure but not showing a thing on the surface, I’ve seen it all before, ‘Bloody hell I thought they’d never go!’ I sometimes wonder how many people really know the man that I know, I suspect maybe one other, but certainly not his children. His final comment was that the shutdown was ridiculous and they should just let the virus rip to save the economy and let those who die die, ‘people die every day, so what’s the difference?’. I didn’t waste my breath, I have to be in the mood to argue which I often do, but not last night.

April 16, 2020

John rang at 8.30 am to say that he’d be here shortly as he only had to have a shower and then wash up. At 1 pm he rocked up, by then I was near starvation but I had cheese and salad sambos and rock cakes at the ready. Had a long discussion about the Pell matter and my ongoing correspondence with his best friend around it. He had commented little so far and admitted that he sees his lack of belief and his friend’s enduring belief as a ‘gulf between them’ which meant he didn’t want to enter into the debate with him, despite being CC’d into all our emails. Interesting, but typical, in that he doesn’t want to rock the boat with close friends and family and admit to views that they may find unpalatable, though he would argue those same views enthusiastically with anyone else. Later we toddled off to Bob’s to get our pneumovax injections, lately when we go I keep trying to stand up and go but Bob always has more stories to tell or jokes to share and is in no hurry to see the back of us. I suspect we are a welcome relief to the horde of worried well who came at the beginning of the pandemic wanting to be reassured that they won’t get coronavirus, plus of course the fact is there are very few patients game to enter a medical centre now. For us it was a huge social occasion, masked up and sanitised, his surgery is the only place we’ve gone together since March 12. We are very lucky that when we get there it appears that Bob feels the same way about the get-together.

April 17, 2020

Had a Facetime talk with Millie this morning but she was much more interested once I asked if she wanted to speak to John. Carly has adopted a desexed and immunised feral cat through an organisation that traps the kittens and rehomes them. Though she’s 11 months old, she has been absolutely traumatised by the move from her foster mother’s home and has been under furniture, neither eating nor drinking, since Wednesday afternoon, poor little mite.

I read a novel in one night this week and although it was short, only 186 pages, I couldn’t have stopped reading even if I’d wanted to. Cormac McCarthy is a favourite of mine, The Road and No Country for Old Men being just two of my favourites. All of his novels are bleak, but boy this one was the darkest, not of course in terms of numbers of people affected in the tale, The Road takes the prize for that, but certainly by the depths of human experience he trawls. Shocking doesn’t come anywhere near to explaining it, perhaps horrifying, disturbing, grisly, terrifying, overwhelming might come closer. Certainly not one for my book group, many of whom favour more uplifting or edifying fare, but as a chilling narrative of someone cut off from society and eventually from societal norms, it’s a ripper. Too believable in fact.

April 18, 2020

I’m ropable after reading about a guy with practices in Canberra and Bowral who is claiming cures for coronavirus. Bill Giles is the dude’s name and when I looked at his website last night I almost levitated. Firstly he explains that the coronavirus is just ‘one of your everyday cold viruses’ which can be treated with echinacea, vitamin C, olive leaf extract, colloidal silver, multivitamins etc etc, all of which he conveniently sells of course. But he goes on, ‘the single most important thing to do is to avoid all grains’, ‘plus drink warm water or tea’ with occasional ‘small nips of brandy’. On his website he throws in cancer and autoimmune diseases as his specialties and claims to be a ‘clinical immunologist’, but he has no, nada, zip, zero medical training at all. Why didn’t I hang out a shingle decades ago I ask myself? This guy’s been in business 30 years. How can these people get away with it? But they seem to until someone is killed by following their advice, then they get sent home with a slap on the wrist. Did I say that I’m angry? It’s taking me all my time not to ring him and if I do it won’t be pretty and I’ll bet I’d be the one charged, for harassment.

Back in the real world, in a Boston homeless shelter officials decided to do testing and the results caught them, and the CDC, off guard. Of the 397 people tested, 146 people were positive. Not a single one had any symptoms. This is a terrifying set of statistics as it means that the underground infection level in the US could be massive. Whether these folks are spreading the virus remains to be seen, but it is quite possible that they are. Meanwhile Trump tweets in support of those demonstrating against the lockdowns. Perhaps this is social Darwinism in action, survival of the fittest and the rest can go to hell.

April 19, 2020

I’ve been noticing a difference in my huge gum tree in the back yard lately. The leaves are a paler green than usual, there are masses of flower buds on every branch and whole dead branches have been dropping out of the tree for no apparent reason, each loaded with buds. The latter fact lulled me into a false sense of security as I thought it must be healthy if it’s producing flowers, right? Well wrong it seems. As I have a good relationship with the horticulturist at a nearby nursery I rang him and explained the problem. Ah, severe stress he said, you need to call in an arborist to cut it back by 10%. Okay, so Arvind has a very good arborist and I rang him yesterday afternoon, luckily for me he wasn’t far away and offered to come within the hour. Halfway down the drive he looked up and said ‘that tree’s in a mortality spiral’, a phrase I’d never heard before. Apparently when a tree thinks it’s going to die it produces heaps more seeds in the hope that it can at least reproduce its kind by seed, so my positive view of the flower buds was sadly awry. When mature trees are exposed to stress from environmental factors, wounding, pest infestations or other causes, growth rate slows and the declining tree has less growth, smaller and paler leaves, abnormally heavy crops of seed and branch dieback. Tick, tick, tick, tick. He believes the cause is twofold, the drought and particularly the building of units at the back of my property a few years back, effectively removing a third of the tree’s roots in the deep excavations. The knocking down of a house and subsequent grading below me two weeks ago would have killed off even more. Expecting a mammoth bill after treatment of the tree I was amazed to hear him say ‘I’m not willing to prune it and cause further stress, but I’d recommend putting the sprinkler on it and throwing handfuls of sugar all around it to try to give it a bit more energy’. I couldn’t force money on him, yet he asked me to keep reporting in to him about the tree’s progress. How do I find these simpatico souls?

On the other hand, I heard on the American news that it is a conspiracy theory website that organised and is promoting the US demonstrations, possibly independently or possibly at Trump’s behest, who knows? Seeing there are quite a few Australian followers of this site, including a few of my Facebook friends I suspect, I won’t be surprised if we see an outbreak of this stuff here. Would I be an evil person to think that a surge in coronavirus cases in that cohort might be a benefit to Americans as a whole?

April 20, 2020

I just started to do an order at Harris Farm but not sure if I will finish it, have the prices of fruit and vegetables really gone up 100% since I’ve been away from the shops? $4.50 for a small cos lettuce? (I interrupted typing to check a couple of prices at Woolies and I couldn’t order a cos there at all so it looks like I am snookered).

I received a Sydney University Public Health survey on COVID19 and boy they wanted to know the ins and outs of a duck’s bum in the questions. Apparently I will get them for the next 12 months, which I am happy to do, egocentric enough to think that my opinions matter. For example, some of the odder ones with a scale of responses: How confident are you at using fractions? Can you work out with mental arithmetic the price of a shirt if there is 20% off? (Is mathematical incompetence a first sign??) More to the point were things like: List 3 symptoms of COVID19, Do you think the restrictions are too harsh/don’t go far enough, How many times have you been out this week and where were you going? How are you feeling right at this minute? with a range from calm to extremely stressed. Ha, I was fine because I was concentrating on the flipping survey wasn’t I? I’ve forgotten most of the questions but it took me 42 minutes to answer all of them. John seems to get a heap of phone surveys and I never do, or else when they get to my age they say ‘we have enough people in that demographic’, so I feel my 42 minutes on the computer evens it all out. I remember when my kids were little and a man came to the door doing a survey on bananas. I welcomed him in, an actual adult to talk to, but he asked me eventually ‘are you sure you are not connected to the industry? you seem to know an awful lot about bananas’. I was racking my brain for banana opinions to keep talking to him for as long as possible.

April 21, 2020

We did a sneaky drive to the Cumberland State Forest and took a walk that claimed to be 1 km but must have been double that I think, as we were buggered by the end. I just got so sick of walking around the burbs that I suggested a forest walk would be just the ticket and luckily it’s a very short drive. Being in the forest really lifted our spirits so it was worth the risk. If a bobby had pulled us over I was planning to discuss the philosophy of whether we have an obligation to obey the law or the right, which may have got us in deeper but was worth a try. Did some gardening and then cooked a tagine of barramundi for dinner, the last of the fish Michelle brought me before Easter. All out of fish now but I’ve plenty of other options, so I will just wait till John does a Woolies order and break my long-standing rule never to buy seafood from a supermarket.

I am thinking that there is one way in which coronavirus has done me a huge favour. Previously I lived in fear of catching a cold and getting the dreaded cytokine storm that always comes with it. It is a constant fear in the back of my mind as I know how ill it will make me for a couple of weeks, followed by a recovery period of over a month or more. Now I am self-isolating I can’t get coronavirus, but I can’t get a cold either so I am free as a bird. No more ducking and weaving when I hear someone sneeze, bliss.

April 22, 2020

Woken up early this morning by a text from Harris Farm Markets to say that my order was being packed, then another later to say the truck was on its way. The technology is pretty good, with a tracking device that tells you exactly where the truck is, where you are in the queue and the minutes to arrival. The masked delivery guy brought splendid fresh vegetables so now I am not whingeing about the price and just being thankful that they are so reliable and efficient. I made soup for our lunch with some of the produce before John left for home.

I jagged an intriguing book on the last day that the library was open. I decided to grab a couple of wild cards amongst the 26 books I chose, this one an Australian novel with an appealing picture of a jellyfish on the cover and considering my longtime love of jellyfish of all kinds, that was enough. It is The Trespassers by Meg Mundell, published only last year, and would you believe it? it’s about a ship full of British folk coming to Australia during a plague. They have been quarantined and repeatedly tested before boarding the ship to come here as workers, a strange cross between refugees and ten pound Poms. I’m not far into it but so far I am enjoying not knowing where the story is headed as well as having some curiosity about how the plague is being dealt with. I don’t believe in karma, the good seem to die young and the bad seem to prosper, but the true story of a gentleman in Ohio has me wondering if I rejected the philosophy of karma too soon. He posted on Facebook dismissing the killer virus as a ‘political ploy’ that he said officials were using to exert control over the public and claimed that the state governor didn’t have the authority to close businesses. “Prove me wrong,” he wrote in a March 13 post, well I think it just did my man. He died of the virus in hospital in late March.

April 23, 2020

Listening to the earthmoving equipment down below my house as they dig up more roots of my eucalyptus tree but of course there isn’t a thing I can do about it when it isn’t on my land. I will be devastated if it dies but it is out of my control I’m afraid, as is so much else at the moment. Somehow I have become used to isolation though, I can’t actually remember everything I used to do, so that has to be a good thing I guess. My morning routine is usually to search through the SMH then one other overseas paper, then read one or two of the daily suggestions from Medium, which is delivered to my inbox every morning. It is a selection of newspaper and magazine articles from the US which may include longform features from the NYT, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and my favourite, The Atlantic, interspersed with pieces from lesser known journals. Then a walk (boring) followed by a bit of weeding and watering by which time I do some basic housework or washing, ring one person who doesn’t have much happening right now and then it’s lunchtime. I may sneak in the headlines of the US news on SBS at either 12.30 or 1 pm, then decide on dinner, looking through my recipes for something I haven’t tried which fits with my fridge and freezer contents. Do the dinner prep, then perhaps make a cake or cheese biscuits or a salad and then a late afternoon retreat to the sun of the back verandah to read before dinner. No wonder I get tired!

April 24, 2020

Now I’m convinced that Trump is actually barking mad as well as all the other things: narcissistic, egomaniacal, corrupt, malicious, contemptible etc etc.  He has brought up the possibility of the use of ultraviolet lights or injectable disinfectant as a cure: ‘I see that disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that? By injection inside?’ ‘Supposing we hit the body with tremendous ultraviolet or just very powerful light?’  How long before some idiot takes him up on it and dies trying? Rabid barking mad.

His encouragement of hydroxychloroquine has made for a worldwide shortage, the White House buying millions of doses and even Clive Palmer buying millions of dollars worth and donating it to our government. I left my name at a couple of pharmacies to get supplies but I’m not in great need, having about 90 tablets left. Yesterday a pharmacy rang to say she had had some of the generic form of the drug come in, which is interesting as I’ve never been offered a generic in the 8 years since I started taking it. So I photographed the script and emailed it to them and they will deliver free by courier this afternoon. Recent research in the US has indicated no positive effect from its use as in the study of 368 patients the 97 patients who took it had a 27.8% death rate, while the 158 patients who did not take the drug had an 11.4% death rate. This is not at all compelling evidence when you consider that it was data from after the event, not randomised, not double blind testing, so perhaps the doctors only gave it to the worst cases? Looking at the actual data, rather than the news reports, it is impossible to tease out that information, so for me the whole thing is still in the ‘don’t know’ department.

April 25, 2020

Today I decided that I should rearrange my day from the usual so I don’t risk becoming institutionalised, so I baked a cake first thing instead of doing my walk as the primary task. I did the old fave Blueberry Cake, but as I had none of that fruit I replaced them with frozen raspberries which worked a treat. The icing is just icing sugar and fruit whizzed together so it looks pretty violently pink, even though it’s all natural. The icing was a bit quantity poor though so I have added that staple to my next food order. (Such highlights of my day must surely be of interest, but to whom I can’t think). I hope there will be enough Domestos left by the time I put in my next shopping order as it will be like toilet paper all over again now that Trump’s let the injecting secret out of the bag. Then instead of phone calls I emailed my overseas contacts in NZ, England and Northern Ireland and I just hope all are doing okay. I downloaded a plant identification app on my phone after seeing Danish using one and it was a bit tricky, saying it was free and then after you downloaded it saying it was $29.99 after the 7 days free trial. I shall delete it by then but I had fun trying it out in the garden. It correctly identified the majority but was totally wrong on the weeping acacia, calling it a teatree. It does weeds, flowers, whatever and it is a nifty piece of kit, but I am not sure I would use it often enough to pay that.

April 26, 2020

I’ve been having fun trying a new recipe for dinner every night but last night’s was a disaster. It was a French prawn dish, Shrimp with Sour Cream Blesoise, which I thought was very different but it turned out to be different in a bad way. Fry onion, fennel seeds and parsley in butter, add raw prawns then when they are nearly cooked stir in some red wine vinegar and sour cream. So far so good, but the last step was to add fresh breadcrumbs which immediately turned the sauce into clag, killing the flavour of the prawns and all else. A big azalea (a failure) as the Windsor regulars used to say. I’ve never known a place where Pommy rhyming slang is more commonly used, outside of Pommy land of course. Always put it down to the fact that many of the area’s antecedents were convicts, and possibly East Londoners, with the same convict names cropping up repeatedly in the area.

One thing that I’ve found puzzling and disappointing recently is the small but consistent minority of my Facebook friends who instigate or disseminate unfounded rumours and fake news on their pages. In the last week I’ve had someone suggest that China propagated the coronavirus to overtake the US economically and another that the deaths in the US are being deliberately overstated by adding in mortality from all other causes (this one was originally posted by US Attorney-General Barr, presumably to get some heat off his pal Trump) and reposted by a relative of mine no less. A couple of weeks ago a rellie of John’s posted something from a friend saying that we should all let the virus rip to save the economy, but I let that one go through to the keeper for obvious reasons. I usually do take the time to refute this stuff online though, otherwise it just gets carried further without dispute, but it’s emotionally tiring dealing with it and I’ve got better things to do, like stuff up some really good prawns.

April 27, 2020

Today we broke the rules, went to the Cumberland Forest nearby and did a short bushwalk. Apparently in Queensland the rules from today allow picnics of household members only, so we are awaiting that change here and are planning a picnic at Bilpin or Mt. Wilson, both places where we can be completely away from other people. I can’t wait. It did us both good to get out into the bush, even if it is only a bit of bush in suburbia. It prompted me to do some gardening when I got home and tomorrow I plan to sow some seeds for lettuce, rocket and spinach for salads.

I was thinking this morning about how I misinterpreted my gum tree’s health based on the fact that it was producing copious quantities of flower buds. It shows how a little bit of knowledge can often lead us astray. It reminded me of when the Prof asked if I needed a new script for daily eye drops and I said proudly that ‘no thankyou, I don’t get dry eyes, in fact they are the opposite, with tears running down my face at times’. ‘Is that so?’ he replied ‘well then you really do need a script, because if your eyes get severely dry your brain reacts by producing a liquid to stop them seizing up, but it is devoid of the lubricants that should be there, so don’t neglect the drops in future’. Okay, understood.

April 28, 2020

Was pleased to sow my greens this morning and I look forward to eating them over time. Jane rang and said she was culling out some various creepers and she could drop off some cuttings, so shortly after she arrived with Boris and a box full of cuttings, which I can now use my plant identifier app to record, before I delete it that is. I threw caution to the winds and invited them onto the back verandah for tea and cake so we were able to have a good chat but unfortunately John had gone to RNSH for a blood test before a routine doc’s appointment tomorrow so he couldn’t be at the tea party. We all agreed that the risk was very small but it felt very daring nonetheless.

Last night talking to my bro in Halifax I posed the question of whether or not there was pushback or even demonstrations in the UK over the strict lockdowns there. Oh no he said, rather shocked, nothing like that! It goes to show the deep divisions between the societies of the US and UK. I’ve found it quite surprising and somewhat heartening when I’ve been visiting my brother that you are just as likely in the local pub to hear folks discussing Prime Minister’s Questions as football or the weather. There seems to be a much higher level of civic awareness there which would tend to make ‘fake news’ laughable rather than believed. Sadly we fall somewhere in between with a population more interested in real estate and sport than in how we are governed.

April 29, 2020

I used my free trial of the Picture This Plant identification app to identify all the cuttings that Jane brought over yesterday, which is very handy because it tells me heaps including their names, origins, as well as what position they like in the garden. I could get quite attached to it but I’ve deleted it for now. I am sometimes wondering if I am a bit peculiar, not for the first time I must say. Amongst my friends quite a few are feeling quite anxious and stressed about this whole coronavirus business, but after the first couple of weeks I sort of sank into it and now it feels like normal. Not to say that I am not horrified by the external things, the loss of life, the job losses and much more, it’s just that the effects on me personally seem to be much less than my friends in terms of worry and fear. Of course if I got the damned thing it would be a different story, but I think the chances are very very low while I am totally isolating, so I am just getting on with enjoying life under the new regime. Perhaps the fear will hit me all of a sudden, who knows. But once we start going out again, if we do in fact, I think that will be much more challenging as the bloody virus is hiding under every rock and living on every handrail, just waiting to welcome us. Now that’s what I call stressful, perhaps I’ll decide to just stay in.

April 30, 2020

I have been keen to see some discussion about the decision last Friday afternoon to include priests, nuns and pastors in the JobKeeper scheme. Did it slip past the attention of journalists, as it was meant to do by releasing it quietly late on a Friday? Does no one think it peculiar that people who don’t normally get paid can qualify for $750 a week of government funds? Or shouldn’t we ask the question because it is churches who are appear to be rorting the system?

While I am on my soapbox…… I am getting mighty sick of the China bashing happening every time I pick up a paper or turn on the news. No one turned a hair when SARS or MERS or swine flu or bird flu were ravaging Asia, no one except the epidemiologists called for investigations into its source, but now Australians are affected everyone is in the game. Yes we need to look into the source, as we needed to on all the other occasions, but it should be a medically led investigation, not a politically led one. Do they not see the effects on Chinese Australians on public transport, in the streets and even having their homes vandalised? The press picks up the raised temperature in Canberra so that when Twiggy Forrest donates millions of dollars worth of tests and invites a Chinese official to the publicity event the headline is ‘Chinese official gate-crashes Hunt’s press conference’, um he was invited. If you object, take it up with Forrest privately Greg Hunt. In any event Forrest is hardly ‘donating’ the millions of tests as the government intends to repay him in full. One radio person even accused Forrest of treason! It has gone beyond the bounds of reason and all the usual suspects jump on the bandwagon. There are very valid political and social issues to be taken up with China but this foghorn ‘diplomacy’ is not the way to reach the best outcome and I for one am in danger of throwing something at the television very soon if it continues. Postscript: Dr Stephen FitzGerald, Canberra’s first ambassador to Beijing, must read my blog. He just wrote an article for the SMH agreeing with all the above but putting it much more eloquently than I ever could.

May 1, 2020

What an odd and ultimately uplifting day. It started when I decided to have hot milk at breakfast and discovered that the microwave lit up, buzzed and went around but the milk didn’t heat so I tried it again but it had gone to its eternal reward. So I started hunting for a new one online and discovered that the vast majority won’t fit on the purpose built shelf that John designed in the kitchen. It took literally hours to go through all the options, reading the specifications of each until I finally made the decision. Rang Winning Appliances and Appliances Online, my favoured retailers for such things, both of whom offer free delivery. Nup, can’t supply till June and as I steam veggies in it almost every night I can’t wait that long. But they did tell me not to buy any other brands than Panasonic and Sharp for microwaves, saying that LG and Samsung were the ones they have trouble with. This fitted with what I was told by one of my friends who is a kerb crawler who has warned me never to buy LG as they were the electricals most left out for council cleanup.That led me eventually to the ghastly Harvey Norman (Gerry Harvey I hate giving you even $1) as the only place with that Panasonic model in stock, but they wanted $59 to deliver, so I baulked at that. The lovely salesman agreed to meet me in the carpark with the machine so I could pass the money through the window and not enter the store. He was a darling plump man with a decided limp and a big smile who made me feel as if this arrangement was the highlight of his day. He had paid for the microwave on his own credit card before I even arrived and I reimbursed him with cash! I was delighted to find his name was George Whippy so I have dealt with Mr Whippy for electricals instead of icecream. I was impressed enough to give him big praise on the HN Facebook page.

Then my bakery delivery arrived from Dural and after paying her at the door I went back inside only for her to return with the offer ‘If you ever need groceries when I am coming I am happy to pick them up for you on the way’. I seem to come across lovely people lately, perhaps I am starting to look very old and they’re all taking pity, I don’t know, but it warms my heart every time I meet another.

May 2, 2020

After yesterday’s lovely people, today I watched the American ABC News on SBS and was horrified by the people demonstrating against the lockdowns there. It is their right to protest, but the gun-toting, Nazi flag-waving, aggressive, disrespectful attitudes made me feel sick. One can’t help pondering a clear out of their ilk by the virus and frankly I won’t be losing sleep over some of them. Standing without a mask screaming into the faces of young police officers is way more than they should have to put up with. What other country on the planet has anti-lockdown protestors waving guns? Or a head of state who would support them?

Also on the bulletin was a story out of China about a small family who went from Wuhan to a restaurant in Guangzhou, not knowing they were infectious. Fifteen other people in the restaurant caught the virus from them, despite no physical contact and sitting up to 15 feet away, which is just more evidence that it is likely airborne as well as droplet transmitted. Also tests on infected airline passengers show a likelihood of 85% of catching it if you are sitting 2 rows ahead and behind or across the aisle, as happened to those passengers seated near Peter Dutton, but only 1% if you are sitting in the rest of the plane. I have had continuing online discussion with my second cousin (or first cousin once removed, I can never work it out, but anyway he calls me aunty) who is strongly anti-vax. I discovered that neither he nor his sister were ever vaccinated for anything due to his mother’s belief that it was detrimental and it’s true they are each as healthy as a horse, but I suspect genes and not lack of vaccination is at play here. But it is fun parlaying with him and his Byron Bay friends over the issue. They are convinced they will be lined up and forcibly vaccinated, one of them telling me I’d been ‘Sco mowed’ for downloading the app, which I had to laugh at.

May 3, 2020

We took  a drive to Parramatta Park to go for a walk, but so did half of western Sydney apparently. So we parked over near the gate into the mental hospital which has nice gardens and a walk ‘to the head of the river’. We promptly got lost and ended up on a long walk through the hospital grounds, happily free of knife-wielding psychopaths this morning, and ended up on a sort of history tour encompassing the delicious sandstone buildings including the infamous Parramatta Girls Home. Growing up it was common knowledge that being incarcerated there meant physical and sexual abuse, it was a given, but it was only a few weeks ago that its 82 year old ex-superintendent was gaoled for 20 years for rape, buggery and assault occasioning actual bodily harm for the beatings that the girls sustained in a locked cellar in the 60s and 70s. However it was much earlier than that when I was aware of it so it appears it was the culture of the place for decades. We came out near the stadium and then wended our weary way back to the car and home for a lunch of leftover Cheesy Spicy Black Bean Bake with rice, a recipe I saw in the NYT last week. After that walk I felt totally justified in spending a couple of hours reading Malcolm Turnbull’s new book A Bigger Picture, which I am enjoying more than I expected. He certainly has led a big life, with contacts in all sorts of fields and friendships with all sorts of people, many of whom are on the opposite side of politics.

May 4, 2020

Today John went home to be part of an ’email meeting’ of the Tenant Network. Pretty much as expected it was cancelled at the last minute, it seems such a disorganised mob which he threatens to abandon after every misspent gathering. I’m so glad that I steer clear of organisations which suck your time for very little result. They are more interested in navel gazing, rewriting the constitution or such things, with virtually no movement forward for the public housing tenants they seek to further. Luckily his involvement with the Link Housing tenant advisory group does produce results for his compatriots. I have no inclination to continue hucking out the storeroom as the charity shops are all closed and the auctions are all online only now so prices are very low. Luckily I did get in early and sell some stuff before the crash, but the remaining items went for next to nought once the onlines began eg today I got a cheque for $13.40 for the remainder of the lots. It comprised a mug, bowl and 3 plates of Royal Doulton Bunnykins ware as well as 2 pieces of Royal Worcester, a cigarette box and a cigarette container. Any one of those 5 pieces in the shop would have brought triple what I got for the lot at auction and most would have brought more. But it is Larrakia that misses out in all this and of course their needs are constant.  I achieved an acceptable apple and maple cake to use up a few apples in the fridge before I reorder from Harris Farm later in the week. Discovered my very recently planted rocket seeds (expiry date 2014) have come up so that’s a pretty exciting end to the day.

May 5, 2020

Michelle offered to coach me with Zoom so, after a few stumbles, that took up the middle of the morning and we got to talk in the end. Then on to the Harris Farm order which takes me longer than it usually does to go out and do the damned shopping, but there you are. They charged me for delivery after saying last time that it was free for the first 3 orders over $80. So I rang and got to speak to a lovely lad in lockdown at home in the Philippines who refunded the delivery, so that made the error into a positive. I have been thinking with all this talk of businesses and schools reopening, no-one is spelling out what happens to the over 70s and those with existing illnesses. I suspect we are down for the count until such time as a vaccine or treatment is discovered, unless of course we choose to play Russian roulette each time we go out. If that is the case I for one can deal with it, but I just wish someone would have the guts to say so. I also spent time today checking on annual death rates in the UK for the last few years because my cousin keeps putting up dodgy ‘statistics’ on Facebook, sent to him by people with an axe to grind over coronavirus. His numbers claim to show that the death toll in Britain this year is actually lower than in previous years. So I wasted my time getting averages for the last 3 years for the month of April and comparing it to this year. The figures were 57,254 for 2020, versus an average of 31,322 for the last 3 years, an excess of 25, 932 extra deaths just for April! So I’ve emailed him spouting a version of the saying that you can choose your own opinions but not your own facts. This whole thing has brought out people who are just a bloody menace and it is time-consuming to refute every claim. I guess eventually I will give up and leave them to just keep convincing people who don’t have the energy, time or smarts to refute their nonsense.

May 6, 2020

In the shop I always left the glass cleaning to the staff because I always made things look worse than before I started. No staff here, so today I decided to clean the four glass doors and panels to the deck. First I washed them with hot soapy water, a cloth and one of those wipery things that window cleaners use. Five minutes later I discovered that all the dirty spots are now smeared evenly over the glass so I did it all again with window cleaner and newspaper and while not perfect at least I can now see through them. Next job is my bedroom window but not today Josephine. However if I am housebound it may as well be in a clean house. I am so enjoying Malcolm Turnbull’s book and learning about the decision making behind the scenes on things like how to handle Trump (don’t give in to a bully pretty much sums it up), what needs to be taken into account when ordering a submarine and what world leaders are really like one on one. Merkel, Obama, Jokowi and Abe come off particularly well, though Obama’s comment to Turnbull at the White House “Don’t worry Malcolm. The American people will never elect a lunatic to sit in this office” proved somewhat innocent in hindsight. But when MT asked why the US insists on supporting the Saudis despite their many human rights and other abuses he was spot on: “One word Malcolm. Oil”.

May 7, 2020

Thinking more about the length of our lockdown so I sent a message today to someone in a similar situation as us, she with an autoimmune disease, he with other health problems. His reply was that they had decided to sit it out, having only contactless deliveries done, no visitors etc. They’ve decided that life together alone is better than life with the constant underlying fear of infection, which would likely prove fatal in both instances. Clearly people are coming to individual decisions and it seems from the very small straw polls I am taking that most are staying in lockdown, one said that they will review it if things are still the same after a year! A specialist doctor from Melbourne was on last night’s news saying that she left work at her hospital immediately due to having an autoimmune disease and won’t be going back. I’d seen a fuller interview with her elsewhere and she indicated that having an autoimmune disease means it would likely be a fatal outcome despite her young age. But it is remiss of the government not to address this situation publicly, by all means let folks come to a decision themselves, but some guidance should be given by the medical experts as has been done in the UK where they were flatly told to stay locked down for the foreseeable future. Plain speaking is so refreshing, more leaders of the likes of Daniel Andrews and Shane Fitzsimmons and less like slippery ScumMo please.

May 8, 2020

I’ve been struggling with a few low level lupus symptoms these past days but this morning woke up with my face swollen up, a rash and feeling pretty crook. Had a Facetime call with Millie who said ‘open your eyes grandma’ and found it hard to understand that I couldn’t, well not to her satisfaction anyway. By 12.30 I’d accepted that nothing was happening in this house today and lay down, waking in the late afternoon. Tonight was our book group Zoom meeting which I thought I’d have to bow out of but with a shower and a good slap of makeup I managed it okay. I was worried that Kenneth might ring in the middle, but luckily he rang at 6. I had sent him the Thea Astley book Drylands and last week I asked how he found it, Dry was his response. I was puzzled until I realised that as a man who’s always made all his own decisions and kowtowed to no-one, the idea of a woman not being able to do as she pleases is a mystery to him. But tonight he told me that Anne, who lived for decades with a dominant and violent husband, had borrowed the book and thought it wonderful, so I think my reading of why he didn’t like it is accurate. I got my Harris Farm order today and am luxuriating in a fridge full of beautiful produce, the fact that it comes straight from the markets shows in the freshness. This time I risked seafood as well, green prawns and fresh sardines, so I will cook the latter for dinner tomorrow night. Tonight all I could manage was a piece of peanut butter toast, but hopefully the flare will pass by tomorrow.

May 9, 2020

Still feeling off so had a quiet day. Made mushroom soup for our lunch and at night I did Sicilian Stuffed Sardines, oh my gosh, heaven on a plate. I am so pleased I can get fresh sardines from Harris Farm as they don’t appear in the fish shops around here very often. In the evening I finished Malcolm Turnbull’s book and despite what the critics say, and I doubt they’ve read it, only a small section is about the coup which overthrew him. He is a big thinker who delves deeply into many things that politicians would usually leave to the public service or advisers, from the new door required at the Lodge to the design of a hydro plant in the Snowy Mountains. I would have liked to see an Australia where he was able to run the show unencumbered by the right wing of his party, always dragging us backwards. In some ways he is a statesman, but we will never know how he’d have gone with no anchors trailing behind him. His behind the scenes cameos of various world leaders and their wives were worth the read on their own. Would I rather spend a long  evening over a bottle of wine with him, or with Bill Shorten? MT no question. While not agreeing with his politics, I commend his vision.

May 10, 2020

Hurrah! Mr Lupus has left the building and gone home to wherever he lives between flares, so I woke with plenty of energy for the day. Cooked black bean nachos and we had a garden party Mother’s Day in the front yard with a lovely bottle of Barossa GSM red that Dav brought. Then her carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and toffeed walnuts, plus I got a jar of the leftovers of toffeed nuts, mmm. Millie was happy to play in the garden while John and I sat on the verandah. Tonight John rustled up a fridge raid for dinner, he the leftover mushroom soup and me a couple of leftover sardines. Millie was asking today to see ‘the little blue man in the shiny bucket’ but we couldn’t work out what it was. Clearly she knew but didn’t have the words. She was recently talking about the ‘rainbow circles’ which turned out to be CDs, logical really, but the little blue man in the bucket? We will find out in due course.

May 11, 2020

I fear we are following the US down the path of craziness when the NSW Health Department has to do a press release to let the population know that COVID19 isn’t caused by wi-fi, in this case 5G. Perhaps 5G does have negative health effects, how can we know without evidence that can only be provided with research and time? But last time I read anything about pandemics it appeared that we didn’t have 5G in 1918-19, nor during the AIDS or ebola crises. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it can be, but not nearly as dangerous as no knowledge at all. One Republican senator who is a doctor claimed that the number of COVID19 victims is being wildly exaggerated, it gets picked up by Fox News and before you can say ‘reelection’ it is all over the world as a fact. The protesters in Sydney and Melbourne this weekend were the usual suspects: the libertarians, the extreme right-wingers, the anti-vaxxers, the QAnon maddies (more wicked than mad I suspect) and a scattering of the ‘I should be able to open my business no matter what’ folks. I think the days of patiently arguing with any of these folks is coming to an end in this house. It’s like a religion and we all know that you can’t sway anyone about religion with logical argument.

May 12, 2020

As John and I talked early this morning he noticed a policeman right outside his window. ‘Open it and ask him what the f**k he’s doing there’, I helpfully advised. No more jokes when not long after it all became plain, his neighbour Scott was led down the steps outside John’s flat in handcuffs. Of course John was curious but it became clear very soon after when channels 9 and 7 turned up to record the arrest of the accused murderer of Scott Johnson, US citizen, brilliant mathematician and PhD student who was apparently pushed or thrown off North Head in 1988 in an apparent gay hate crime. His deep-pocketed brother had recently added $1 million to the existing $1 million reward offered by NSW Police, who at the time had insisted it was a suicide. Three inquests later, despite police disagreeing with a murder scenario, the coroner found it was in fact a homicide. There are so many questions here: is he guilty? is the first and if he is, how do you live your whole life with that on your conscience? how can you live for 32 years waiting for that knock on the door? if the reward is a material part of the story, how do you go for 32 years knowing that a murder is unsolved, but fail to put your hand up till $2 million is in the offing? The crime was deplorable and the family deserves justice. If they hadn’t persisted against police intransigence the suicide assumption would never have been put aside. But I can’t help thinking of Scott too, sans his beloved little dog Jazz, who is spending possibly the first night of his life in gaol.

May 13, 2020

Feeling virtuous because I got my sweet pea seeds in, under a spiral frame to support the lush growth I am forecasting. One of my long-term acquaintances in the shop used to tell me every year that sweet peas had to go in on Anzac Day, it was one of his life’s rituals, but I’m sure with weather changes the mid May sowing will do the job. I have mixed lettuces, rocket and spinach coming up as well, have made Anzac biscuits this morning, as well as redoing the glass in the back doors with Windex (I don’t have good cleaning genes) and writing a couple of letter to pollies, so I think I’ve justified my existence temporarily.

I’m still thinking a lot about Scott’s arrest yesterday and the fact that someone is hoping to pocket a cool $2 million out of it, mulling what sort of person it would take to sit on that information. It occurred to me that a particularly nasty fellow who lives in John’s block had recently been having some contact with Scott and the fellow’s partner has confirmed in an interview that Scott had discussed a possible accusation of murder going back to the 80s. Though I could imagine this obnoxious fellow trying to profit from hearing a person’s secrets it’s likely just coincidence. Nearly midnight now and I’m still mulling over all my earlier thoughts, it is too easy to knit a possible scenario together, my mind wants to sort it out, get the facts, ask the questions, solve the puzzle. One day soon we may have a better idea of whether Scott is a murderer or just a gentle helpful neighbour, or both perhaps. As the wise Elbert Hubbard once said: ‘The criminal is not wholly a criminal, he is only a criminal at times. Under the same conditions, if I were of the same quality and temper, I would have done the same’. That quote always helped me decades ago when, under the auspices of Justice Support, I was writing to and sometimes visiting murderers and other serious offenders in prison, and it helps me tonight.

May 14, 2020

A funny day which started when I cooked pikelets in expectation of a garden visit by friends Greg and Luke. When whipping the cream I accidentally used the wrong container with the electric whisk and managed to spread cream around the room, walls, cupboard doors, shelves, self. What’s more it formed a 3 metre circle which sprayed the kitchen and dining room floors, with some intrusion into my bedroom through the open door. A massive cleanup followed, so glad that it wasn’t blood as it was a fine imitation of a chain saw massacre, an excellent spray pattern exercise for a forensic scientist. (Incidentally the forensic science course which I was so looking forward to doing this year at UWS has been converted to online, so nah. Luckily I hadn’t yet paid. I can study forensic science on my own online, I want to put the skills into some sort of practice.) Anyway John arrived at the end of the cleanup followed soon after by the boys, who were delivering John’s gorgeous wren painting, bought from Luke back in February. I apologised for the coronavirus precautions but Luke made the point that he wouldn’t be happy any other way. He is a clever boy, a wonderful artist but also a virologist whose work focussed on both AIDS and influenza, particularly the 1918-19 pandemic. He told us the story of that flu virus being found in the lungs of 10 Danish people dug from the permafrost for research purposes a few years ago. The expedition was designed specifically to isolate it for study at his London Hospital because no other examples existed. They fully expected the current pandemic, without knowing the exact form it would take. His summary: Don’t hold your breath for a vaccine, it’s a very hard one to develop and even if they do succeed, an RNA virus mutates so easily that it will get around the vaccine pretty smartly. We just need to learn to live with it until some anti-viral treatments are developed.

May 15, 2020

Thinking back to yesterday when John asked Luke ‘how long do you think before we get back to normal?’. ‘Never’ he said, ‘this is the new normal. We will get treatments but the virus will continue to be endemic across the world, with flareups happening from time to time until it mutates again and then……’. Viruses are ancient, starting as a fully functioning self-replicating cell that lived  billions of years ago, shortly after life first emerged on the planet. From this cell, bacteria have evolved in the direction of increasing complexity while viruses have gradually shed genes they found they didn’t need until they could no longer even reproduce on their own. Which got us onto the perennial question of whether viruses are ‘alive’ or not. Luke leaned somewhat to the no case, because they can’t survive independently, but we agreed that this is more a philosophical question than a biological one, they are on a continuum with prions on one end and us on the other. Which still begs the question of when is it safe to go out again, in some ways the answer seems as far away as ever, but in others I think it is right there on the wall. We can go out all we want, but will never be safe from infection. Had a visit from a friend this arv and we quaffed tea and the remaining pikelets from yesterday with jam and cream, just the thing for a cold afternoon. Good to have two visits in two days, perhaps there is some life to be had in due course, even within the limitations.

May 16, 2020

Writing this a day late after feeling pretty flat yesterday. I am quite content to be at home but find it increasingly problematic that no-one is able to say how long my particular lockdown is likely to last. In a straw poll of three others with lupus I discovered that all of them have been totally locked down on doctor’s orders since mid March, not expecting the current easing of restrictions to apply to them at all. Carly spent the afternoon with her friend from Health, a doctor who is heavily involved in the COVID19 planning. She asked him in conversation about my query ‘when is it safe for people with immune problems to begin coming out of their foxholes?’ His answer was far from promising: ‘It is one of the trickiest questions we are being asked’ (that’s why we hear no-one in government addressing the issue!), ‘we will need to keep researching which interventions have been most effective and why’, basically indicating that at this stage there is no answer available. Okay, I can deal with long term lockdown but it would be so helpful if someone qualified gave some guidance on the issue. Made a crumble with two persimmons given to me by my friendly baker when she delivered last time. I’d never eaten one in my life but it worked okay cooked with two apples, though my decision to use honey and cinnamon on the fruit was a dubious one. Long live nutmeg, that queen of spices.

May 17, 2020

Watched Insiders but was disappointed by the sabre-rattling about China. It is so easy to get people angry about a particular country and its people but very hard to stop the racist attacks that bubble up as a result. I have had a number of very aggressive Facebook posts about China sent to me by people who should know better. By all means let the scientists (including the three Americans working in the Wuhan lab) investigate the pandemics origins, but just keep it non-political, as it should be. No-one seems to be asking why governments took no notice of all the epidemiologists who’ve been telling us for decades that a pandemic was on its way, but everyone is pointing out where this originated, even though a pandemic could equally (and may still) come out of Africa as did Ebola and AIDS before it. Somehow I think that we would likely feel sorry for an African country, but it’s much more politically acceptable to kick China in the shins at the moment. In last year’s pandemic preparedness meetings the UK failed miserably and the US didn’t take part because Trump had fired the whole long-standing Pandemic Preparedness Team in 2018. I rests me case because I am sick of arguing it.

May 18, 2020

Went for a walk around the local burb with John and along the way I found a perfect spiral metal CD stand out on the footpath for council cleanup, just the ticket for supporting the sugar snap peas I intend to sow, once I get the seeds. Recently I also found a perfectly fine cane chair with a ‘free’ sign on it which now resides on the front verandah so the boring walks are proving profitable. I think the universe is trying to encourage me, particularly now that The Hills has today been declared a Red Zone for coronavirus. Jimmy from the bakery came with my order, just as I was in the garden cutting some camellia branches for his wife Natalie to put in the shop. They always include a treat, today it was two apples picked just yesterday. Baked a loaf of banana bread for afternoon tea and tonight I am cooking a recipe sent from London by my friend Mustapha, a cardiologist who has come out of early retirement to help treat people in the pandemic. I fear for him and was glad when I saw he is feeling positive enough to bother sending me a recipe.

May 19, 2020  (written 21/5)

John thought we were well overdue for a picnic so I suggested Mt Wilson, prompted by the beautiful pictures of Bebeah garden that Facebook sent as a memory from this same week last year. So a picnic I prepared, smoked salmon and lettuce sambos, banana bread, fruit and a thermos of tea. An uneventful but partly beautiful drive ensued but by the time we reached Kurrajong I was feeling very odd and by Mt Wilson turnoff I realised that the car had provoked an attack of the dreaded vestibular migraine. For the last 18 months or so I have never left the house without the two medications to help control it, but I not only forgot to pack them, but actually forgot that I have the condition! That’s what two months in iso does I guess, not leaving the house has its benefits and one is that I don’t get motion related illness. The day passed with difficulty but John enjoyed being away and particularly his solo picnic in the beautiful surrounds, however the thing didn’t abate and by late afternoon he told me I would just have to bite the bullet for the trip home. I’d have happily paid for a motel in order to forego the drive but of course there are none there to go to. So lying down on the reclined seat I travelled what seemed like the distance from Melbourne to Sydney with numerous sick stops whenever he turned the wheel. I will certainly never forget in future and I won’t leave the house without those drugs, in fact I am feeling at the moment that I never want to leave the house period, but I guess that will pass. Isolation is sweet I’ve decided and I will not be complaining in future.

May 20, 2020  (written 21/5)

After a 12 hour sleep I awoke to my resident nurse, the best one ever, with tea and toast. Apart from the usual odd symptom of finding it hard to recollect words, Sard soap became ‘gluestick’, the stepladder was a ‘climbing frame’, I enjoyed the peaceful second day calm. It is as if the mind is emptied of all worries and excitements, with just a clean slate of peace and tranquility where anger or worry is an impossibility, quite pleasurable in fact. The neuro’s explanation when I saw him last was ‘well, your brain’s just been zapped so it’s time to relax and get over it, but don’t make any important decisions in the two or three days afterwards’. As if I even cared enough about important decisions, I felt like saying.

John had noticed that my bulging pantry is so heavily stocked that I can never find the ground almonds or whatever, even though I know they are in there somewhere. I love to be able to do any recipe I fancy without pre-planning and that’s even more important when nicking to the shops isn’t an option. So he suggested repurposing my meat safe as storage for unopened goods, using my current pantry drawers for everything that’s on the go. Brilliant decision which just involved my sitting on the lounge while he brought me the endless folders of paperwork currently stored there, 95% of which ended up in the recycle bin. Currently I am inclined to toss out the maps and tourist guides to places I thought we’d definitely go again, but it’s pretty clear that’s off the agenda for a number of reasons. I turned up lots of long lost oddments in the process though and now I have a veritable Woolworths in the meatsafe and my kitchen pantry is a pleasure to use. My hero to the rescue in more ways than one.

May 21, 2020

My weather app told me there would be showers around 10/11 then fine till a later storm and more rain, so being a trusting soul I spread sugar around under my ailing tree as advised and hey presto! it rained on cue. I am lucky enough to have food cooked for the next few days, so I decided to attack a job emanating from the reorganisation of the meat safe. I had numerous newspaper and magazine cuttings of recipes in a big folder, but I now have numerous cuttings sorted into separate labelled folders according to desserts, seafood, etc. I managed to cull some recipes that I’ve done and some I will never do. The system is that once tried they go into the bin, unless they are extremely good in which case they are copied into my hand written recipe book. There are hundreds so I need to get speedy if I want to finish them in this lifetime.

I got an update from GIO regarding my claim for tile and water damage from the storm in early February. It said they are waiting for the assessor’s report, which was the exact same message I got a month ago. I am not trying to hurry them up as I don’t really want painters in here at the moment but I wouldn’t mind being repaid for the money I spent on roof repair and plumbing over three months ago. Whatever, life’s little issues are not feeling very pressing right at the moment, I am already saving money by being at home.

May 22, 2020

Still sorting stuff from the deconstructed contents of the meat safe. I found an Aboriginal themed book I had bought for Millie at some point so I added another from my gift box, a Ruth Park story, and packed them up, walking down to the corner shops to post them at the PO box there. Trying to send her a card or a parcel every week or two so she has something from grandma until things free up in the visiting department. I deliberately don’t take my purse with me so that I can’t be tempted to go into the corner shops and break quarantine, therefore abiding by my promise to Davina that I wouldn’t. Then I attacked the fern that constantly grows up in the herb garden, feeling pretty good about life by the time I’d finished that and restocking the street library. Apparently libraries open on June 1 so I’d better get weaving and finish the 26 books I borrowed as I want to take them all back as soon as they open and there are still half to go. I deliberately interspersed them with some of mine so I didn’t feel bereft of library books, but now I have a return date I shall attend to them with delight. Waiting impatiently for the sweet pea seeds to come up so I can see them start to climb their fancy frame, then I will plant some sugar snaps and the pink star flowers which I ordered. It’s funny that I pace the fun things so I have a couple each day rather than racing down and planting them all at once as I would have when time was short.

May 23, 2020

China has much to answer for: the treatment of its Uyghur people, the Hong Kong situation, capital punishment and more, but I can’t see the justice in blaming them for the pandemic as the US has tried to do. China has multiple centres constantly testing for novel viruses spread across the country, yes they missed this one initially and local authorities are guilty of covering it up and not referring it up the chain, but the aggressive tone of the foghorn diplomacy regarding an inquiry was unnecessary and counterproductive. One of the European countries, Belgium from memory, quietly asked them to agree to a scientifically led investigation and they immediately signed on, later voting as part of the unanimous decision for an inquiry. Mary-Louise McLaws, a professor of epidemiology at the University of New South Wales who also sits on the WHO’s health emergencies program experts advisory panel for Covid-19, was one of the few willing to call this out: “The only unprecedented issue  is the politicising of the source country,” she said. “We’ve had swine flu, we’ve had HIV, we’ve had Ebola, we’ve had mad cow disease, you name it, and we’ve never politicised the source before”. Hear hear to that.

I am still sorting my pantry situation and now I can see them properly I discovered that I have 10 cans of butter beans, one of 4 bean mix, 3 of lentils, 5 of chickpeas and 1 of black beans. I do love all beans and legumes, but that’s a little bit over the top. Planning to do Jamie Oliver’s butter bean mash with chili and garlic instead of potato or rice tonight, too easy. Since the pandemic started I’ve been getting the Herald delivered on both weekend days and The Saturday Paper as well. Somehow a story is always more meaningful on paper than online, in fact if I read a particularly interesting one online, I reread it on paper if I can and always enjoy it more the second time. Anyway I tried to duck out surreptitiously to get the papers today as I was still in my dressing gown at 9.30. Mission accomplished, but I had to smile when I saw my neighbour in the yard wearing hers at 11.06.

May 24, 2020

Decided to walk up to the bank this morning as I seemed to remember they had a chute to deposit when the bank is closed but no, apparently now there’s just an ATM so I will ask someone to drop it in for me next week. At least it gave my walk an excuse. Then I decided to type up a review of a book I finished just last night, for the book group virtual meeting next week. It wasn’t my favourite of recent times but by the time I’d finished writing I’d realised that some parts of it will stick in my memory for a long time and perhaps I will give it a second go at some point. Then Carly asked me to nominate a book and write a review of it for her Book Challenge on Facebook. I nominated A Manual for Cleaning Women and fell in love with it all over again as I wrote. Note to Self: Reread it soon. Oops, I just checked my diary and the book group is in a fortnight, not next Friday as I’d thought. There I go, reinforcing my reputation as not being quite with it, but unfortunately there isn’t a countermand button on Hotmail to suck back emails sent in error. Spoke to the bro at length last night, he seems well but I sense he really, really wants us to get together soon and I just can’t see it happening in the foreseeable future which saddens me beyond imagining. He always finishes the call with: ‘Well we’ll just keep loving each other till we get together won’t we?’ I miss him so much, I’ve missed him all my life in fact, before I even knew he existed.

May 25, 2020

For some reason I choose to have my Harris Farm order delivered in the early morning and the text to tell me they are leaving wakes me up. Somehow it is a nice start to the day, this time it came at 6.25. Then I have time for breakfast, sorting space in the freezer and washing out the fridge crispers while he’s on his way so when he arrives I am ready to go with loading the delivery into its appropriate places. Today unfortunately the fish was missing, although the prawns were there, so a call ensued and they were able to contact the driver to make sure it wasn’t left in the truck. No luck, but they are going to do a refund so I changed the menu for tonight from fish to parmigiana pasta, with an eggplant and tomato sauce. Doing Margaret Fulton’s bread and butter pudding which has sherry (or whisky) added to the milk, eggs and sugar. I soaked the sultanas in a bit of sherry too, so I am looking forward to that.

I have been trying to get my head around the mass social activities going on in the US this weekend, as shown in their ABC News which SBS broadcasts at 12.30 each day. I refuse to watch ads, but all I need to know is in the first 15 minutes before the first ad comes on, so I sometimes flick it on to see what bastardry Trump is up to today, I am rarely disappointed on that score. But today it was all about the packed long weekend beach, pool and park congregations, not to mention the churches. I wonder what it is that makes these people tick? Lack of science education? blind adherence to Trump? faith in their religions? the confidence of youth? the libertarian streak which is so prominent? I don’t know but I fear some will suffer for it, or perhaps not them but their parents and grandparents. Of all political philosophies, apart from fascism, I think libertarianism is the one I find most objectionable. I know I’m an old socialist but the idea that people could demonstrate against public health is anathema to me. Meanwhile a church congregation in Germany went back together for the first time after lockdown and infected 40 of the faithful in one service, what can you say?

May 26, 2020

Planted my sugar snap peas and lemongrass but the lettuce and spinach seed trays are looking very light on. I am afraid they are almost a fail, but I will give them a bit longer before writing them off and starting again. John was very taken by the bread and butter pudding, saying it was ‘as good as my mum’s’ which was pretty good considering the extra shine we always put on things from the past. There’s been some correspondence re having the next book group meeting in person, but I won’t be participating despite the general acceptance of the idea. I’ve learned (well more truthfully I am still learning) to trust my gut and it is telling me that it wouldn’t be a good idea and would defeat all the other things I am doing to stay out of the firing line for coronavirus. I remember an excellent article this month written by a Yale epidemiologist who said: “If your son visits his girlfriend and you later sneak over for coffee with a neighbour, your neighbour is now connected to the infected office worker that your son’s girlfriend’s mother shook hands with.” I don’t want to be a link in that chain, much less the end recipient, so no I won’t be participating.

May 27, 2020

We decided to go out again today despite the disaster of last week’s journey. This time we chose somewhere closer to home, the walks at Sydney Olympic Park. First stop was the Brickpit Walk which goes around the edge of the massive old brickpit, with a suspended walkway over the pit which is home to threatened species of frogs. That was a big failure as the walk was closed ‘for urgent maintenance’. So we tried another walk and unimpeded on this one we went around the edge of Homebush Bay, seeing the rusting hulks of many boats, then along to a tower on which someone had written at the top ‘nothing to see’ which was pretty accurate as the view was basically the same as on the ground. It smacked of a grant looking for a purpose or perhaps the need to use an amount of money before June 30. But a nearby bird hide was well worth its dollar value, with a man secreted there using a camera with a massive telephoto lens focussed on the shore birds in a sheltered backwater. Next time I will take binoculars as I love birdwatching. John is going to try to download a map of the area because directions to the start of walks weren’t signposted, you just stumbled on them and after that the instructions along the way were fine. We had our picnic on seats near the carpark as we had walked quite a way by then and were ready for a sit. I am looking forward to seeing more of the area and especially the frogs once the ‘urgent maintenance’ is complete. I’m hoping that isn’t code for ‘the suspended walkway is dangerous’ in which case it might be a while. There were signs warning against going on it if you have a fear of heights.

May 28, 2020

I have been tossing up whether I should write to John’s neighbour Scott in Silverwater Remand Prison but I’ve been told by another neighbour that he is illiterate, so that put me off the idea in case it caused embarrassment at his end. But as we passed right alongside the prison yesterday John told me he had booked a video call with Scott for today. He had contacted Corrective Services for Scott’s location at my suggestion and they had suggested it as a means of contact. John was nervous about the technology and also about what to say, so I reminded him that the call would be listened to and probably taped, so he shouldn’t mention anything about the crime at all. Poor John sat at his computer for over an hour waiting and eventually rang them only to be told that Scott had turned up late for the call so it was refused, he booked another for 9.30 am tomorrow. It is funny, and typical, that we were each contemplating separately what to do about Scott and I think John’s call will  turn out to be the best outcome. Baked an orange and almond cake using a foil butter wrapper to line the base of the tin as I often do, but when I tried to turn it out the butter wrapper had stuck unusually and I ended up with half the cake coming out and the other half was firmly stuck to the tin. It tastes fine but is a mess to cut and looks disastrous, so now I won’t enjoy eating it anyway Smilie: :( six eggs wasted too. John will end up with it I think.

May 29, 2020

Last evening I got both an email and a text from the company that GIO has deputised to fix my storm damage. For some reason it threw me into a funk, actually I know the reason, it was because in order for the job to be done I need to have two men in the house for a day or two. I know I can stay away from them, but it unnerved me nonetheless. So today I contacted the company with my concerns and was assured the men would wear masks and social distance at all times, so I am less bothered than I was. GIO still hasn’t paid me for my outgoings after the storm, but I am assuming they have accepted the claim or else the tradesmen wouldn’t be scheduled. I have something that I want to show the sewing group without actually attending it, so today I dressed up (well nice cardigan with my jeans, makeup and perfume) and rang Jane to say I would drop it in. She had just arrived in the mountains visiting friends so I was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Eventually I decided I should go while in the mood and did so, hanging the bag on her door, making for a lovely little outing, which is pathetic really. Sue rang me for an opinion on whether to read Lincoln in the Bardo which had been deposited in her street library, so I read her my Goodreads review seeing I was already seated at the computer. I had spoken to Robert for half an hour yesterday and he seemed not substantially different but Sue says he’s gone down this week.

May 30, 2020

Natalie delivered my bakery items and as usual undercharged me. She always rounds it down but today it was by $4.80 and she deliberately hides the docket in the the bottom of the box so I can’t see the bill till she’s gone. She and her husband are such lovely people and deserve to do well. Davina, Louis and Millie came for a garden afternoon tea, bringing beautiful citrus cupcakes which Millie had helped make this morning. Louis is going for a fourth interview for a job, how can it take four interviews I ask myself? Last week he had the third interview for another one but didn’t get it, so here’s hoping this one comes up trumps.

I don’t know what to say about the American demonstrations and riots except that I would be demonstrating too in their place. The only police murder that I can recall where the perpetrator went to gaol was a coloured man last year who had killed a white woman, so I don’t expect much from this trial. It doesn’t seem we have moved far from when as a child I was horrified by the Ku Klux Klan and their murders, now it’s murder in uniform instead of in robes, but the intent is the same. In my teens we sang: My brothers are all others forever hand in hand, Where chimes the bell of freedom there is my native land, My brother’s fears are my fears, yellow white or brown, My brother’s tears are my tears the whole wide world around. Now we only watch and wait for the next.

May 31, 2020

Had a friend over for morning tea and had both Millie’s cupcakes and my orange and almond cake to offer. We canvassed the US nightmare, the China/ Hong Kong nightmare, books, the government and more, so it was a pleasurable and interesting rendezvous. Martha messaged to ask the four of us who had qualms about going to the book group meeting (the recalcitrants in Keating’s terminology?) if we want to join in via Zoom. When the first proposal came in about meeting face to face after we had previously agreed to a Zoom meeting, I said to John that I hoped that the group wouldn’t potentially cleave into the happy goers and the hesitant non-goers. This puts us back on a more inclusive pathway which is all to the good. Who knows what future meetings will look like? Now that people are mixing more and going on public transport it is anyone’s guess where we end up. John has already lost a distant relative in a retirement village to the virus, but interestingly she was an isolated case and no other cases appeared there. Similarly the gentleman in Canberra who caught it while shopping for masks and hand sanitiser despite being in lockdown for everything else. The vector was never found and no-one else was affected. Just bloody bad luck in his case as he didn’t survive. They will be writing about this pandemic in 100 years and it pains me that I won’t get to read it all! But it is becoming clear that it is not just a respiratory virus, it has vascular and autoimmune involvement in a way that its predecessors SARS and MERS didn’t have. I hope I’m around long enough to read the science at least.

June 1, 2020

Nearly Christmas I’m thinking, aagh. Walked down to post a letter, I seem to have a letter to post each Monday for some reason. A recent card posted to Castle Hill took 3 weeks, which is a very very long time, I could have walked there and back at a pinch. Replanted my lettuce and spinach seeds alongside the pathetic showing from the last planting. Not sure what went wrong, but these seeds were fresh whereas the rocket seeds which came up beautifully were years out of date. Then decided to split my spices into Indian/Middle Eastern/North African and what do we call it? traditional European cooking. Found two lovely tins which took all of them and now theoretically it takes half the time to find what I want.

John, some years ago, did a design for a 5 bedroom house for his cousin, who didn’t pay him a cent for the plans despite being on a contract to do so and then eventually dropped dead (no, I don’t believe in karma but…..gosh). I pushed him to claim on the estate which he did but more than two years went by while the Public Trustee fiddle-arsed around, always promising to ‘ring back in 3 weeks’ but never once doing so. John let it ride as he tends to do with anything financial, while my ardent desire not to let weasels, knaves and miscreants go unpunished caused me to nag about it. Finally I said he needed to threaten them with the local Member of Parliament and goodness me it worked like a charm. The ‘really complex affairs’ of his cousin suddenly became simple and an email informed him that there was money in his dwindling bank account, with the mere mention of the Member’s name enough to sort the knotty problems out. I shall remember that in future but the best bit was when John said ‘thank you for nagging me’. Unfortunately I didn’t tape the moment.

June 2, 2020

Had a phone appointment with Service NSW today (I couldn’t forget because I had FOUR text reminders) to make sure I was claiming all possible pensioner discounts. The vast majority of things I already knew about, like discounts on licence, rego, electricity, gas, Opal card, country train travel etc, but they got me with a couple that I didn’t know. I can get a 40% discount at Good Guys if my fridge is over 10 years old and packs it in, plus a 50% discount on a new TV in similar circumstances. Free parking for 3 hours at the outrageously expensive public hospital carparks was another new one on me. I am constantly critical of this privatisation-mad premier, but the Service NSW idea is a beauty and I wish those who train its friendly, efficient staff could have a crack at Centrelink. The old RTA staff were surly and slow and the wait times were horrendous but the people at the one-stop-shop at Service NSW act as if you’ve made their day by just turning up. I didn’t ask for this appointment, I rang about something else altogether, but I was asked if I’d like to book a phone session just to ‘make sure you’re not missing out on anything’. That’s service. Thanks Julie.

June 3, 2020

An early call alerted me to the fact that the building company wants to come tomorrow to repair the storm damage from February, mainly painting two ceilings but also replacing broken pavers. I had insisted on masks etc and they weren’t fazed at all. We had planned a bushwalk so we continued with that idea, heading off to Bobbin Head to do the Mangrove Track. It begins at the river and winds all the way up to Wahroonga eventually but that was way too far for today. However I would like to do it in reverse, so it’s mainly downhill, at some time in the future. We came upon a large Aboriginal rock carving of a man as well as axe sharpening grooves in the rocks, which they used to sharpen their blades made from volcanic rock with a wooden handle attached. It was a good place to sit quietly and say sorry we stole your country, your way of life and, in many cases, life itself. A highlight was seeing a new bird I’d never recorded before, a Rock Warbler, which only lives on Hawkesbury sandstone and makes its nest in caves using rootlets stuck together with spider web, so that was quite a find for me. In the afternoon we moved all the smalls in the dining room, put the table and chairs out on the back verandah and took all the plates and pictures off the walls. Prepared.

The cafe at Bobbin Head seemed pretty full but I had packed a picnic. I am just not prepared to take the risk for something so fleeting. To go somewhere important (and it would need to be really important) is one thing, but to be sitting there wondering if you are picking up a potentially fatal illness just to eat out, nah. Our picnic of sambos, apples, cake and tea was guaranteed virus free and delicious.

June 4, 2020

The repair men arrived at 7.30 as planned and covered the ceiling water stains with some sort of sealer to stop them leaking through the paint. Then they repainted the ceilings and we finally moved everything back into the rooms later in the day. However it’s now some hours after and I can still clearly see through the paint to where the sealer was applied. I’m hoping that it takes some time to dry, but somehow I doubt it, I will be hopping mad if it all has to be done again. My feeling was that they weren’t painters by trade, unlike the last time I needed insurance repairs and the man mixed the colour perfectly by eye, saying he’d been painting for decades and didn’t need the name of the colour.

I’ve been reading some new research just out of Oxford, trying to quantify the risks of COVID in relation to age, sex, ethnicity, socio-economic status and with many individual pre-existing illnesses. The comparisons which they recounted are worth thinking about: a healthy man aged 80 has a 1200% higher chance of dying than a healthy woman of 50, with his chance of dying approximately 25% with no pre-existing illnesses, which is 100 times his chance of dying from the common flu. The highest risk of death, at any age, is for someone who has had an organ transplant or has had blood cancer within the last 5 years, the latter of course applies to John. The report comments: “At such a high level of risk, it would be prudent for this man and any of his close contacts to scrupulously exercise precautions avoiding exposure to SARS-CoV-2 until an effective treatment, proven vaccine, or natural herd immunity arrives”. As they stress, there is rarely a mild dose for someone over 70 or with one of these and other high-risk conditions.

June 5, 2020

Thinking about America (aren’t we all?) and it occurs to me that the similarities to Germany in the 1930s are worrying. Blacks and Latinos are seen by some as the equivalent of Jews at that time. It is easy enough to build a wall to keep out the Latinos but what to do about the blacks and browns who are there under sufferance to many people, who see them as folks who shouldn’t have escaped from slavery in the South in the first place? Perhaps keeping them poor or jailed and killing those that step out of line, and even a few who don’t? Because there was once a feeling that these people didn’t deserve health care or a good education or assistance in retirement, these things have over time been effectively denied to everyone giving Americans a much less secure life than someone in the European Union for example. And then along comes Trump, the man who in 1983 refused an engineer, who was part of a work team, permission to come aboard his yacht because he was black. The company leader Jesse Pariseau cancelled the contract of work and was sued for breach of that contract by Trump, who thankfully lost. But of all people he is one who could never have been expected to lift people up, the poor are to him commodities in the cogs of business, slaves even, needed to work for wages that no-one could comfortably survive on. When a society divides its citizens into Jews and non-Jews or white and black it is bound to be less inclined to provide for its citizens in general if the current legal framework doesn’t allow outright discrimination. Hence all of its citizens suffer ultimately. We are so shaped by our histories, the US as a conqueror of Native Americans and then a slave nation. We in Australia were first a conqueror and then a convict colony and these histories show every day in our respective political and social lives.

Participated in a Zoom meeting with my book group, though most were physically in attendance. Somehow or other we’ve gone from last Friday every month to first Friday and next month the second one for reasons I seem to have missed, but I guess it will all sort itself out in the end. It has been suggested that we meet at midday instead of in the evening in future, but I pointed out that one of our number is still working so I am not sure where that idea will go. There was an assumption that we will all be in face to face meetings by next month, but neither Rosanna nor I were prepared to commit to that at this stage. I have no idea how I will feel tomorrow, never mind in a month. But considering the limitations the meeting worked well I think.

June 6, 2020

I really missed being part of the Black Lives Matter demo today, but I just couldn’t justify joining a crowd of what turned out to be 10,000 people in Sydney. I’m afraid I am going to have to leave it to the young ones at the moment, however I’ve kept up the Facebook posts and letters. Proud of the turnout and the peaceful march in difficult circumstances, but I am hoping we don’t see a surge in COVID19 in a couple of weeks.

My bro is ringing more often of late and last night’s call was an example of where we differ, he is defying restrictions and doing his own shopping. K: They only let 11 people on the bus into town now, I can’t even go on the bus if I don’t wear a mask and I’m not going to wear one, blah. There will be plenty of people dead if they are confined any longer in tiny flats, blah blah (this referring to his sister-in-law who doesn’t leave her tiny flat at all, not even for a walk, because of the publicity about coronavirus). I think it’s all a big con and the suckers are falling for it, I refuse to take it seriously like you are, blah blah blah. After about 10 minutes of this I replied, very cool, not cross: I think you should go to town whenever you want and insist on getting on the bus without a mask. K, taken aback: Really? Me: Yes and you should lick all the handrails while you are in town as well and send me some pics of your valuables so I can choose a few things. That shut him up temporarily but of course he didn’t agree. But we still love each other don’t we? he said as we ended the conversation some time later. Yes I love you, I said, even when you are infuriating.

June 7, 2020

After some weeding in the sun I came in to order my (and John’s) fruit, veggies and seafood from Harris Farm. It works quite well as he is doing the same for Woolworths today and then we’ll swap goods. Trying to work out how to celebrate his birthday next Friday. No restaurants or cafes, no opportunity to go out to buy a gift. Perhaps a drive to the Southern Highlands or the mountains or the coast? Still thinking it through and waiting for a brainwave. Yesterday he rang in the afternoon and asked if I wanted to go with him to look at a house in St. Ives for which is is doing some architectural drawings. It may or may not turn into a DA, of course if it does it will be a much bigger job, but currently it’s just a concept. The people were away for the weekend but we had permission to go into the garden to look around at the rooflines etc. The job came about when previous happy clients for whom he’d done an extension mentioned his name to a builder who was looking for some architectural work on a job. He was recommended and hey presto a job out of the air. It is such a lovely area and a lovely big house as well, I was bedazzled by the size of the camellias growing all around, many of them 10 metres tall at least. It must be deep volcanic soil as no matter how old the house you would never see that around here. Afterwards we drove to the nearby Wildflower Garden, I had packed a thermos as is our habit these days, and we sat in the car watching wallabies feeding for an hour before they closed the gates at 5pm.

June 8, 2020

Well as expected the brownish patches on the ceilings that were painted last week have not dried out with time as I was told they would, but are clearly visible to me. John assures me that no-one looks up which is hardly the point. I contacted the ‘painter’ who has promised to come back and fix it by overpainting those areas without need for me to strip the rooms again, a fine solution, if it works.

As a result of the decision to change book group meetings from night time to noon, one of our number has pulled out and two are unhappy with the change. This was predictable, and in fact was predicted, but it goes to show how important it is that big changes are put to the group as a whole and not passed by a vote with only half of the membership present. We shall see what happens but at the moment it’s just a confusion for everyone and an upset for some. I took about 20 books back to the library yesterday to put into the outside return box, but the box was sealed and inside the whole place was empty apart from some painters’ ladders. Clearly they took advantage of the closure to have a redo and thank god I’m not one of the librarians who had to empty every book, desk, computer and shelving unit from the building. Books now happily sleeping in the sun in my car boot, no wonder they haven’t been on my back to return them. I am currently reading Andrew McGahan’s last novel The Rich Man’s House. It is so different, so unpredictable, that I am not at all sure what I will rate it in the end, but 5 Stars for ingenuity and imagination.

June 9, 2020

Oh my, the book group is imploding for reasons that aren’t clear to anyone and who knows what the final upshot will be? I am still riveted by The Rich Man’s House. It is so beautifully descriptive that I go to bed with clear images of the inside of the house and how the rooms relate to each other and on one night I dreamed that I was in it, scary though that was I found it intriguing. I wonder about a mind that can even begin to formulate that story, with its creeping dread that combines elements of science fiction, adventure, the supernatural (something I usually groan about) and rolls it all into a chilling and scary story that makes you glad to live in an unremarkable weatherboard house in an unremarkable suburb. I hope he managed to pull together an ending that fits the rest of the book, I should get there tonight.

I’m sending my bro the Australian Story episode on the 1918-19 pandemic in Australia. He seems to think that we are all over-reacting and that back in those days everyone was cool about it. Hardly, as that program shows. He is refusing to wear a mask, doing his own shopping, whingeing about the bus being restricted to 11 people, so I am sure he’ll enjoy? seeing how Australia coped last time. Every 3 weeks I fill in a COVID-19 survey sent from Sydney University. This last one asked whether the pandemic was caused by 5G, a Chinese lab, Bill Gates and a few other possibilities. If you answered to none of these, there was a box to fill in with your theory, I bet they got some doozies.

June 10, 2020

I bit the bullet and launched into people-land as I couldn’t see another way to get my pink slip for rego without taking the car to the mechanic’s. However they were fast and efficient, just a brake light needed, and I came back confident that I had taken no unnecessary risks. Got them to check the tyres which saved me another trip to a garage. A friend was planning to come over for afternoon tea but too much landscaping at the weekend left her in no fit state to go out. We have planned a morning tea for Monday instead. Tonight I have a Zoom meeting at 7 pm for which they have scheduled 3 sessions cumulatively, perhaps a little ambitious I suspect as being rooted to a chair is hardly the same as being able to move about in a room. Anyway we’ll see how it goes, one of our number now lives permanently in Europe so it will be different to have her join the group after a year or two’s absence. John’s drawings for the St Ives house weren’t quite what they were after so he’s redoing them today and will come up here tomorrow. He’s taken to feeding milk to a cat which often hangs about his door, it’s guaranteed that it will be permanently there from now on.

June 11, 2020

The Zoom meeting last night was technically fine, hosted from London by someone who lives now in the hills above Florence, but was caught in the lockdown there and is now stuck. With an expired visa, the only solution is to apply for residency, an expensive and time-consuming option which leaves her with no passport while it’s being considered. So many people affected in so many different ways. I decided that a couple of hours on the computer for Zoom isn’t something I will be doing again if I can avoid it, I prefer to replace it with one-on-one get-togethers with those who are available. Admittedly I wasn’t really feeling very social last night for other reasons, but I think it will be my attitude going forward. On other social media matters, what to do about an old client who asked to friend me on Facebook when I was closing the shop? Not a person I would socialise with at all given the option, I cringe when I see her posts. A fews days ago it was an exalting post about cops (they are neither all good nor all bad, but unfortunately the bad ones have great power over us) and today she put up Pauline Hanson’s miserable speech to the Senate on Black Lives Matter. I have resisted unfriending her, something I’ve never done to anyone, but I don’t need to be riled up every few days either and debating the issues is a complete waste of time. Ah, isolation has its merits, the oven and the book never rile me; well maybe a book sometimes does but I can even the score with a scorching review, but that’s more tricky with folk. A review site for people? Now that’s something worth a thought.

June 12, 2020

John’s 79th birthday! How did that come along so quickly, I can’t believe he’ll be 80 next year. I decided to do a special picnic and we went to the Australian Botanical Gardens at Mt. Annan. It was a new place for us and we loved it, especially the garden of ancient plants like the cycads and ferns and the Wollemi pines, plus the signage which gave a description of the evolutionary course of life on earth from floating elements in the soup of earliest time through to current species. Fascinating but humbling when you think 79 years is a big deal and it’s telling you that actually 500 million years is more like a big deal to the earth. Makes you realise how little we mean in the whole scheme of things yet we are conditioned to believe that we are important. If I burn a cake I think it’s a big deal but whether we burn a cake, a house, a cathedral or half the country it’s of little relevance in the bigger scheme of things. We really enjoyed our picnic (irrelevant after what I’ve just said) and learned yet again how great a whole trout is as a meal as the leftovers make great sambos the next day.

June 13, 2020

I’ve been thinking about the differences between people and the fact that they seem to be divided into investigators and sweeteners. Both John and I are investigators I think, well I know we are. But so many people we come across just want things to be lovely and run from any deeper discussion about an issue (the ‘never talk religion or politics’ crew are a subset here) preferring to paper over things as quickly as possible, make nice, but not acknowledge differences. I see it in the sweeteners’ eyes when they disagree with me but nothing comes out of the mouth, though I’m sure it does when they retell the conversation later. Geoffrey Ludowici, who like his brother died way too young, neither living to take over their father’s highly successful company, used to tell me that ‘you only need to discover if a person is basically honest or basically dishonest and everything else becomes simple’. But I think knowing if they are investigators or sweeteners is perhaps the next step, as investigators will expose their true feelings whereas sweeteners will always try to please. Big lies are not their thing, but big truths aren’t either. Pity I didn’t put this to Geoffrey all those years ago, he would have given me an honest opinion on whether I’m right or talking shite.

June 14, 2020

Well what makes your heart sink more quickly than the computer dying? It’s not the money as much as the fear that it’s unfixable or that the potential fixer will baffle you with terms you can’t understand and then charge a bomb. I got the blue screen of death but Louis suggested I take it down to him to have a look. He’s a software engineer not a hardware man but he said he’d have a go. So this morning I made a batch of chocolate brownies and then went to Erko. This was made possible because they all came down with colds earlier this week and had COVID19 tests which proved negative. Poor Louis was downloading something or other onto his computer to be uploaded onto mine, but when I left more than three hours later it was still downloading so he said he would bring the computer back to me on Tuesday, either fixed or still cactus. He has had the good fortune to get a new job after his recent retrenchment but explained to them that he has to mind Millie for two days a week until her day care can take her back to her pre-virus routine. The new boss accepted this arrangement, proving what a catch Louis is. Amazingly Millie let me shampoo her hair in the bath, usually hair washing is the source of much upset. An unusual day compared to the last few months.

June 15, 2020

A busy day compared to usual in that I first prepped a slow cooker meal so I can give it to Louis to take home tomorrow and it will also serve as my dinner tonight. Then Arvind came over in his morning tea break working from home and sat on the front verandah shooting the breeze for what was a very long morning tea. As usual he rejected the offer of either a drink or food and he doesn’t eat sweets at all so tea and cake isn’t an option anyway. We continued to chat on the front verandah after another friend arrived for a planned morning tea. She brought a photocopy of Carol’s article just published in the Australian Women’s Weekly which was thoughtful of her. That encounter then spread to a couple of hours and she showed me how to use voice recognition to send messages which I’ve just tried successfully on an email but haven’t yet mastered on a text message. I’m wondering how long it will be before the library gets on my back about all these books, but I’m lying low now until I finish a couple more. Currently reading the magnificent Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. Set in the same grand but tumbling down house in both 2016 and 1871, it has me in its thrall. It exposes the difficulty of middle class comparative poverty in a society where you are always just one illness away from bankruptcy. It ties in with the report of a man on the US who spent 72 days in hospital with covid19, only to be sent home with a $1.17 million bill itemised over 181 pages.

June 16, 2020

I am typing this on………….my computer! Louis brought it back today working perfectly and I am so happy that my daughter paired up with a genius. His genes are setting Millie on the path too, her comprehension of the digital world is just amazing. I was able to bring out the huge 2-storey Barbie House that John discovered recently on a walk nearby and snaffled for use as a grandma’s house treat. She loved it and we had a good game of girl and grandma, which included cooking in the well equipped kitchen and using each of the rooms for its purpose. She enjoyed her peanut butter sandwich lunch and then asked for crackers with peanut butter which were licked clean and then reloaded. Before their arrival, again at dead on 7.30, the painters came back to redo the ceilings that were subpar originally. With another coat they’ve turned out fine. It’s been my day.

Reading Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, which has to be a 4.5 in terms of reading enjoyment for me. Set both in the period leading up to the election of the current president, ‘The Bullhorn’ as she aptly names him, and also in the 1870s it thrilled me to the point that I was scribbling down quotes on scrap paper as I read. The title wisely gives us the feel of the fragility of living week to week, despite one reasonable salary, in a house where the rain comes in, plaster ceilings collapse and cracks in the walls are stuffed with socks. The parallel Victorian story, of a teacher trying to open children’s eyes to science in the face of dogmatic religious beliefs that deny it altogether, could well have been set in modern day USA rather than in 1871.

June 17, 2020

I decided it was unfair to keep getting the bakery to deliver if I could work out an alternative, so last night I placed an order and then drove today to Dural and they delivered it to me in the carpark, everyone happy. But I have to say those people wouldn’t have complained if I’d kept up delivery till 2030. On the way back I went to the nursery and bought some Charlie Carp fertiliser using the same technique. John seems more affected by the lockdown than I am, so he is quite disappointed if for example a Zoom meeting falls through, but we are all different in these times. I get a kick out of getting around the lockdown as I did this morning but it doesn’t bother me when I can’t, the BLM marches being a big exception. On that note, my bete noire on Facebook sank to new lows yesterday asking why ‘a thug and felon gets 7 funerals and a gold-plated casket’ but I’ve decided I need to keep her on for the same reason that I read Murdoch papers in a cafe (well I used to….). You always need to know what the enemy is up to.

Having a conversation with Woolworths after they substituted the barramundi with saddletail snapper in John’s and my shared online order. Normally I would never eat fish from a supermarket, having known someone who worked at Woolworths in the fish section, but it was on a half price special and I weakened. I was okay with trying a new fish, until I tasted it that is. Oh my god, I have no words for how disgusting it was and the texture meant it could easily be used to retread my car tyres. Mine went to the birds, but although John hated it too he ate a little. So I asked Mr Google where it is caught, thinking it must be in the Mekong, but no, it is a tropical reef fish from Nth Queensland and the Northern Territory. But more interestingly I turned up countless Facebook posts going back to 2013 of people warning others never to buy it. The keywords were ‘disgusting, rubbery, stinks’ which are all understatements, but it didn’t smell when it was raw so clearly it wasn’t off. Anyway I sent a nice friendly missive to Woolworths telling them that they’ve upset a usually happy customer but that I would be happy to return the unused portions, which I froze, to their Norwest headquarters. They could come out to the carpark to collect it, he he.

June 18, 2020

I decided that today was cooking day so it began with making a traditional egg custard using frozen egg yolks that were left over from pavlovas or whatever and it worked a treat. I put the end result through a fine sieve though just in case, but there were no problem bits in the bottom so that’s one more use for accumulated yolks. Then on to a 4 bean stew with tomato, chili, paprika etc which will come in handy as a topping on corn chips for an easy nachos meal, freezer for that one. Next to a cake, mmm would I do a fruitcake, an orange and almond? But seeing I am supposed to be working my way through my untried recipes I opted for a Stephanie Alexander orange cake with icing. The batter seemed awfully stiff as I mixed it during a phone call from John (hint, I can’t do two things at once) so I added a little more orange juice and then some water and popped it into the oven. As I began to do the mountain of washing up and cleaning of the bench I found to my horror the two eggs that were meant to go into the cake! Whipping the partially risen cake out of the oven I hastily threw the hot batter into the Kitchen Whiz with the eggs and returned it to the oven before you could say IDIOT. It is now beautifully risen and doesn’t seem to have suffered for the experience. Now for the icing, surely I can’t mess that up?

June 19, 2020

So I’ve been thinking about why race relations in America don’t seem to improve, in fact they seem to be worsening. Rather than improving because they had a black president, perhaps they’ve worsened for that very reason. Now if you’ve grown up in a racist community perhaps getting a black president was just the last straw and firmed your sense of an invasion of ‘the other’?  Also thinking about Trump’s cold inhuman attitude to the loss to COVID-19 of 116,702 lives as of today. One explanation is that the man is in fact a sociopathic malignant narcissist, but what if his mindset makes it impossible to feel any kind of empathy at all? I feel as if I’ve known Trump for decades, but in another body, as a friend’s father was long ago diagnosed as a malignant narcissist and despite being well treated and looked after into his dotage by his son he is bitter in the extreme and makes a life of misery for his son and his family. Just sitting at the dinner table with him is frightening, as he looks around the table for the weakest person to verbally attack tonight. I was lucky, being a guest, that it was never me but I had to stop going because it was too awful to watch and I suspect he liked the audience. If in fact Trump’s fear of being the loser in any encounter is so strong, then why feel pity for the ‘losers’ who succumb to this illness, largely people who are old or black or Latino? It is statistically a killer of minorities, just those people that largely vote Democrat in fact. This disease could be seen in that sort of mind as separating the weak from the strong, winnowing those frail and feeble and minorities. Just as Ronald Reagan refused to stump up money for AIDS research and was reported to see it as a gift towards ridding the US of homosexuals, perhaps Trump with his refusal to wear a mask and organising mass political gatherings is simply helping to sift the superhumans from the subhumans. We all know the end result of that thinking.

June 20, 2020

Martha gave me a couple of recipe books from 1980 and tonight I am doing dinner from one. It’s funny how you can date a recipe book almost exactly by just looking at the ingredient list and the pictures of a few dishes. I now need a bottle of Barossa Pearl or Sparkling Rhinegold or Porphyry Pearl to go with it. I noticed a press article about an upcoming inquest (that I can’t attend) into the death of my sometime upholsterer in the shop. He was a troubled young soul who attempted suicide at one point, almost succeeding, but damaged his oesophagus so badly that from then on he had to be fed through a tube into his stomach. The medicos told him that this would shorten his life considerably, of course human nature being what it is he then wanted very much to live. He descended into alcoholism and domestic violence until, during an attack on his wife, an intervention by her mother ended in his death. A sad waste of his young life and a tragedy for his wife, his 13 year old daughter who witnessed it all and of course his wife’s mother. With any such tragedy, including his suicide attempt, it is natural to ask yourself if you could have done anything that might have made a difference. But I know others who tried, including people who gave him work and the upholsterer who apprenticed him, and somehow it never seemed to make a difference. There was something deep in his psyche that just kept pulling him down.

June 21, 2020

Woolworths responded positively to my comments about the fish, not looking for a refund but a reason why they sell this stuff to unsuspecting customers. We had a to and fro about it, my last email complimenting them on their response to COVID-19 and saying that I enjoyed the weekly email from CEO Brad which was just the right combination of encouragement and information. I tried to give the remaining now frozen fish to Justin next door for his dog but as he took it he said ‘I might just throw it on the barbie and try it’…mmm I will see how that works out. I finally signed up to Medium, an American outfit printing the best of US journalism delivered to my phone each morning, via blogs plus The Atlantic, Business Insider, Huff Post, Vanity Fair, and all the newspapers of note. Lots of scientific links on COVID-19 which I can then follow up by reading the original research, plus heaps of political long-form articles and analysis. You can choose subjects you like, so I am sticking to science and politics for the moment but there are dozens to choose from. There are no ads and they don’t sell your details on to anyone, plus the author gets a small commission from every article you read. I am a bit addicted to Umair Haque’s blog, he seems to read my mind on political matters and then writes an article based on that in his unmatched style. I should get a comm for the seed ideas in his articles seeing he downloads some from my brain.

June 22, 2020

Our bushwalking day saw us drive to the National Park at West Head and the weather was perfect. We did the Red Hand Cave Walk and the Koolewong Track and the moss and lichens on the first walk were just spectacular. The bush was so silent. We had our picnic at the lookout and later were driving within the park when clouds of steam erupted from under the bonnet and the temperature gauge was seen to be at maximum. Rang the NRMA but had to guess our exact location, waiting time 60 minutes. An hour and a half later the patrol man told us that the radiator, which we had been warned not to check, was completely empty and he doesn’t carry enough water to fill it and therefore see where a possible leak is coming from, therefore the car must be towed. Problem: By now it was after 4 pm and the park gates close at 6 pm. How do we get out of here if the truck doesn’t make it I asked, ‘walk the 5 or 6 kilometres to the gate and ring a cab’ he replied, telling me that ‘maybe it’s not a good idea to bring your fella out into the bush if he can’t walk far’. Nothing to do but wait and cross my fingers, with John wanting to play I Spy or else perform The Man From Snowy River in its entirety, but I wasn’t in the mood for anything except making sure that the towie didn’t go right past us in the dark. He almost did, so my concentration and mad waving was the right decision. At a quarter to 6 I asked John what to do if he didn’t make it and he said we either ring the police or else sleep in the car (on a 2 degree night with no blankets). Amazingly the tow truck arrived at 10 to 6 and he had warned the gate that we were stranded so they left it open for us to get out. Patrick, born Pasquale, broke COVID-19 rules to take us with him rather than leaving us in the bush, even though we offered to get a cab from the gates, so then began 50 kilometres of conversation about all manner of subjects. He had done a real estate investment course with Donald Trump in Sydney in 2011, had bought a terrace near Hyde Park back when it was ‘full of junkies and pros’ and now it’s worth a packet. We talked concrete, real estate, caravans, odd accidents, the English language, Ralph Nader splitting the Left in a Presidential election, night shift and more until we arrived at my mechanic’s and then he brought us home about 8 pm. He lifted me bodily from the truck with ease (even though I could have climbed down backwards) further breaking his isolation and ours. What a wonderful interaction, which almost made up for the scary few hours watching night settle in the park.

June 23, 2020

Norma’s John died this morning at 4 am, within that renowned couple of hours in hospitals everywhere. I go back to the perennial questions: where is he now? how do the mind and the brain relate to one another? is it even remotely possible that the mind goes somewhere else? Poor Norma after all those years.

Thinking back over yesterday I remembered the klaxon-like horn at fire alarm pitch that went off in the tow truck every time we approached a speed camera, very discombobulating the first time. Today we went up to get some things out of the car and Alex tells me po-faced that it’s the radiator and hoses and is going to cost $5000. Knowing him as I do I replied asking if credit card is okay for that, then I get the big smile and ‘You know I will do it for you at the best possible price’. Yes I do, bless him and I will be happy with whatever he says. John had a doc’s appointment with Bob and I sat in the car reading for the hour and a half he was away, they chat a lot and it’s always an hour or more. It was very cold and not helped by the book which was set in France in winter and every page was ice and snow. We ended the day with a trip to the bakery for my order, now that I have worked out a system and they deliver to the car park I don’t need to feel bad about their petrol and time for which they wouldn’t charge me.

June 24, 2020

I’ve been sorting out some linen to give to Michelle W. who passes it on to the many mostly migrant women she works with, it’s become my fall-back since the charity shops closed. She says they positively leap on the boxes as she puts them down, this time some old towels, tablecloths, throws etc, but who cares where it goes as long as the recipient has a use for it and these women clearly do. My obsession with finding a use for things can be a millstone around my neck sometimes but in this case everyone’s happy. Of course I add to the problem by picking stuff up on the roadside and then I need to find those things a happy home, which used to often be the auctions but even that’s stymied at the moment. Had an interesting conversation in a call from John’s neighbour who sometimes shops for him for things like the pharmacy. She told me that she unpacked his pharmacy order (why?) and found dishwashing liquid which she told me would have been much cheaper at Woolworths (she had been there to check). I tried to explain that he always favours small shops over conglomerates and she couldn’t understand it at all. ‘I don’t care if all the small shops go broke’ she said ‘because then we would get everything cheaper from the big ones’. I tried to explain his attraction to service over price but the concept was lost on her. I am somewhere between, sticking to small shops as long as the price difference isn’t tooo great, whereas John just doesn’t look at the price at all. We are all so different in our responses to even simple things.

June 25, 2020

Decided to make the Parsnip, Apple and Lime Cake that I’ve been hankering for and it was an absolute bottler. I remember having a similar combination as a steamed pudding at Sean’s Panaroma last year and I wouldn’t mind betting that it’s the same recipe but steamed in moulds. I am going to try some of it as a dessert with custard and see how it goes. My car is finally home, fortuitously they rang this afternoon while Heather was here so she dropped me up there to pick it up, $629 but could have been worse. I forgot to take the chocolates I intended to give the boys there so I’ll drop them in another day. Feeling too clever I tried to do some work on the computer late in the day but it had gone kaput. Louis had fixed it two weeks ago but now it is out of action again so I suppose I will need to get ‘the man’, groan. While I’m bitching, the latest Coronavirus case is at a school just near John’s place. But looking on the bright side I have ocean trout for dinner, so things are not all bad in the world.

June 26, 2020

The best of people and the worst, let’s get the worst out of the way first. In the US there are actually rallies against wearing masks, in the middle of a bleeding pandemic. It does my head in. Then on the news in Melbourne there were people interviewed on the streets of the suburbs with renewed outbreaks who said they would refuse testing ‘because it’s a democracy and we don’t have to’. On that basis the ambos don’t have to pick you up you idiot and the medical staff don’t have to risk their lives to care for you if you get sick, it’s their democratic right to refuse isn’t it? But it won’t be that silly witch who gets a severe dose, it will be her neighbour who did everything the right way and caught it nonetheless from a Covidiot. Steam coming from ears.

Turning to lovely people, my friend’s brother has advanced Parkinson’s and suffers from hallucinations. He has been convinced for some time that they are caring for a refugee and expects his wife to provide meals for him. Currently in a short residential respite he has asked for mattresses to be put on the floor of his room so all the little people he looks after can sleep there comfortably. It’s a sad story but speaks so well of his intentions. They say dementia intensifies existing personality and if that’s true it speaks so well of this man. Steam out of ears receding somewhat.

June 27, 2020

Lovely day cooking for the Erskineville mob who came after lunch and stayed for dinner. Millie was still entranced by the Barbie house which occupied her afternoon. ‘Where do you think this doll ought to go grandma?’ ‘In the kitchen Millie.’ ‘No grandma she goes in the bathroom ‘. I was never right but I think that was the point of the game. Beth came over later and was entertained on the very cold back verandah but luckily she’d worn her mountaineering jacket. Her mum has MS so she’s fully across lockdown and happy to take precautions. The parsnip pudding went down really well with custard although John, who was aware of the main ingredient, wasn’t keen. Psychology of food is a real issue, as I’m only too aware when I think of eating anything that scrunches up its nose, like bunny rabbit or kangaroo. A butcher once gave me a taste of something and I stupidly took it, only later being told it was kangaroo and it nearly ended up on his floor. In France I almost ate horse, misunderstanding the menu. Also in Europe I ordered steak and thought to check what it was, ‘beel meat’ he said, only later finding out it was reindeer and my immediate thought was ‘oh god I’ve eaten Rudolph’. Knowing how silly that is doesn’t change the way you feel. As a Muslim friend told me in relation to pork, it’s as if you came to my house and I served you rat. Point taken.

June 28, 2020

So 30% of those in Covid19 quarantine apparently refuse to be tested…..what the ****? We suckers pay for them to watch Netflix for a fortnight while they whine about the food and the room and whatever else and it’s too much trouble for them to open their mouths for a test? Easy fixed, there’s a big hospital at Long Bay, stick them all in there till Christmas on prison rations. Sorted.

While I’m on my soapbox here’s another thing. Those on Newstart have struggled for years to survive on $40 a day and were considered bludgers to boot, but now that there are thousands more unemployed we just change the name of the benefit and this is considered a boon for real people who are suffering, the rate increasing massively. The poor can’t believe their luck, caught up with the middle class and now able to pay their bills. But don’t get used to three meals a day people, the bastards will put it back down by and by, as soon as their traditional voters are back in work and then the poor be damned.

June 29, 2020

A couple of weeks ago my computer died and Louis made a valiant effort to fix it, but sadly it has croaked again after working fine for a week or so. I contacted a technician, Omar, with trepidation as they have a habit I’ve found of either being a bit odd, talking over my head or expecting decisions faster than I can provide them. But I’ve had a long talk to Omar who was very helpful and not at all a pressure person. He’s saying that if it needs a new hard drive as he suspects he can do that but all the other parts are old so there would be no guarantee on them. On the other hand if I wanted a new computer he would check suppliers for the best deals/ specials on a touchscreen model, deliver it and transfer the data over. But the best part was that he told me not to rush into a decision and to ring him back when I’d thought about it, which was generous. So I’ve decided to take a gamble and get it fixed if he can, I am at heart a fixer rather than a replacer. I will be happy if I’ve found a computer tech that I can trust who is understanding of my preferences, that’s worth a lot on its own. The last time I called one he was very odd and just didn’t want to go home, sitting on the floor nursing my computer for hours, it got quite creepy in the end. Omar comes later this arv so we shall see.

It occurred to me that I haven’t eaten a meal cooked by someone else since the beginning of March, nor a drink either when I come to think about it. I’m happy with my own cooking but gee a treat from KOI or some sushi will go down a treat once it comes to pass. I’m thinking the citrus jar from KOI and some tempura veggies sounds like a meal, note dessert is mentioned first.

June 30, 2020

Omar was neither weird nor did he talk over my head. But my computer is sunk despite his best efforts. Now comes the tricky job of buying another one when I can’t go to the shops. I must pick things up, I read quality through my hands. Omar has recommended one that he can get for a reasonable price but alas it’s not a touchscreen, which I love. Louis has recommended one for twice the price that is a touchscreen. Although I don’t believe in astrology I know I’m a classic Libran, agonising over every decision to a ridiculous degree, in fact to the point that I can easily make myself sick over it. With people dying in droves all over the world the decision is very much a tiny First World one, but today it is like a lead yoke on my shoulders nonetheless.

July 1, 2020

We decided to take a drive to Wiseman’s Ferry today and I appreciated the opportunity to get into a computer-free zone and loved picnicking by the Hawkesbury River under the trees. Seeing I can’t do my online fruit and veg order easily I took the opportunity to pull over at a small roadside stall on the way to restock. The lady told me that they grow everything on the property but when I saw the bananas I had my doubts. But whatever of that I am now flush with good quality produce without needing to go to the shops. Tried out the new Thermos, bought after the old flask was accidentally knocked over and broken at Mt Annan. The tea was as hot or hotter than the freshly made one we had at breakfast and was still very hot when we had a second cup at 4pm so very pleased with the new purchase. I think Omar is fed up with my computer questions as he didn’t answer the one I sent last night. I know I’m a pain in the arse with details but in business you have to deal with all sorts. I guess it gives me more thinking time if he delays replying but I really do want it done and dusted.

July 2, 2020

Louis came out to show me Dav’s Microsoft computer which coincidentally is also the one that Carly bought. One of the features they like is that it is light and thin so they can use it easily on their laps, something I never do. So I’m still waiting for Omar’s reply and then I’ll go from there. Louis stayed for lunch and it was good to spend some time with him. The library has offered a delivery service so I am getting the book group choice delivered next Tuesday. I told them that I had 20 returns here and they said they could take a bag of 10, but 20 was too many?? Three months ago they would have fined me big time for having all these overdue books but now I’m having trouble returning them, funny times we are living in. I am constantly amazed by the lengths people will go to in order to avoid covid19 restrictions. People changing the suburb on their driver’s licence to avoid lockdown, trying to sneak around the restrictions by coming into NSW by overnight train, it never ends. I am generally supportive of people who ignore laws that are morally suspect, such as those forbidding outside surveillance of animal cruelty on farms for example, but those who break reasonable laws just for their own comfort and convenience need a legal kick to the seat of their pants in my view and I hope Daniel Andrews has the ticker to give it to them.

July 3, 2020

Speaking to the bro last night he was complaining that now he can’t get on the bus without a mask, but then he began complaining that they should have brought this in three months ago and they wouldn’t be in the tragic situation that they’re in. I’m detecting a distinct shift here from ‘it’s all an overreaction’ to ‘what were they thinking to let it get this bad’. Perhaps I can take a little credit for this change, but then again perhaps not. What to do with the 10,000 Victorians who have refused testing? No, throwing them in the Yarra is much too brutal, it’s winter after all. Publishing their names and addresses perhaps so people can avoid them? Withdrawing their AFL viewing rights? Creative thinkingmy son, you’ll come up with something.

My computer obsession is hopefully drawing to a close because this morning I decided to apply my restaurant rule. Have just a soup at a top restaurant rather than three courses at a mediocre one, so I bought Louis’s recommendation of a Microsoft Surface Laptop which was 20% off at JB Hi-Fi but still more than double the price of the one Omar could get for me. But I went with Louis’s suggestion 7 and a half years ago when I bought the Toshiba and it didn’t see a serviceman until it died, so hopefully I’ll still be using this one when I’m 80. Oh dear that’s a scary thought.

July 4, 2020

Election night for Eden-Monaro, we are eating early so as not to miss a single syllable of Antony Green’s analysis. Barramundi with warm potato salad and broccolini, but I’m afraid I didn’t plan ahead well enough to have a sweet ready. At 11pm it was obvious that no result would be known tonight but Labor was leading by a bilby’s whisker so I’d rather be on our team than theirs. The Nationals president hadn’t cared enough to learn how to pronounce the Liberal candidate’s name, calling her something like Korvoyages, so that was an indication of their level of interest. At 12.15 my possum family had a punchup on my bedroom roof. It was very noisy and I’m sure it was the male giving the female what for due to some perceived slight. I’ve renamed him Dyson, not after the vacuum.

July 5, 2020

It looks as if we’ve won Eden-Monaro. Woo-hoo, about time something good happened in 2020. Serves the Libs right for all sorts of reasons, the fact that they air-brushed the wrinkles out of their candidate’s photos not the least of them. We headed off to Pitt Town (Piddown in local tradie parlance) to deliver some more goods to Michelle for her work mates. I love relocating things to where they are most needed and this was a three way transaction which pleased the donor, me and no doubt the recipients, four way if you count Michelle. From there we went to Cattai National Park which meant our picnic was had overlooking the Hawkesbury again. Arndell’s house within the park was the home of the surgeon on the First Fleet, then it passed down through 7 generations of his family. It is a fine example of Georgian architecture but unfortunately is currently closed for restoration. John is finding these excursions illuminating as they are mostly to places he’s never been, I think he’s somewhat surprised to find anything worth looking at in western Sydney, Mosman boy that he is at heart. The new Thermos is proving a real boon.

July 6, 2020

I am getting just a teensy bit nervous because the Liberals haven’t yet conceded defeat in Eden-Monaro and there’s no news on Antony’s blog about the count. I thought they’d all  tempted fate a little by declaring it won so quickly but In Antony We Trust. Gladys is the Queen of Backflips it seems, first on the Powerhouse Museum (a backflip which I applaud, but that’s $40 million she’s wasted on the ill-fated project, yet if I pinch a biro from the government I could be charged…Smilie: ;) and now on border closures. They were the work of Satan a week ago, but when it is NSW that’s threatened by creeping COVID from the south it’s a whole different box of frogs. No doubt she will spin it her way but I am afraid she will never win me over, she has privatisation where her heart should live. And while I am on that, I am livid that she has sold the Sirius building for gazillions after turfing out all of the public housing tenants to the western suburbs. There is nothing that would get under their skins more than having the poor in a building with amazing harbour views. The rabble can’t be allowed to think they are the equal of Mr and Mrs Moneybags, the mere thought would give Glad the vapours and she’d need an extra G and T to settle down.

This morning Omar came first thing and did the ceremonial opening of the new computer, tearing the cello covering from its box. It works and I am fully back in the world so I did a couple of online book reviews just to get used to it. He charged me about half of his original quote so it was clearly easier than first predicted. It is a huge relief to me to have a close, trustworthy computer person who distils what I need to know into words I can understand and is available by email and phone as well as in person as necessary. So far so good on the new girl but he’s there if I run into problems.

July 7, 2020

Looking at those poor souls locked up in the Housing Commission buildings in Melbourne is heart-wrenching. I know it had to be done, and fast, but surely getting every community service worker masked up and door knocking was preferable to having them see it on the news or looking out to see the place crawling with police, my first thought as a resident would have been the Grenfell Towers fire in London. But full marks to the folk who raced there with car loads of food and other necessities for them, I’m hoping that outreach will continue once the virus is behind us. I continue to be fascinated with the science of this thing; the latest report on the cluster of six genes which raises people’s risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes is that it occurs in an online database of Neanderthal genomes. The researcher found that the gene version is the same as that found in Neanderthals who lived in Croatia 50,000 years ago. People who carry two copies of the variant are three times more likely to suffer from severe illness than people who do not. It’s possible that an immune response that worked against ancient viruses has ended up causing an overreaction against the new coronavirus. People who develop severe cases of Covid-19 typically do so not because of the virus per se, but because their immune systems launch uncontrolled attacks that end up scarring their lungs and causing inflammation all over the body. I want to read the ultimate textbook on this disease but, although a few people have rushed to print, it will be years before a definitive volume emerges.

My day began with an email to Omar describing a couple of problems I’ve had working out the new computer. He phoned back and sorted one out remotely and he will call in tomorrow to see if he can solve the other. Bless. Then I decided that there was a dearth of sweet stuff here so I did an orange and almond cake which has just come out of the oven and looks good enough to eat. Caught up on some overdue emails including to the bro who has had the trifecta of computer, hot water system and phone issues all at once. I would be spinning. Decided not to go to book group this month after John expressed the view that he would be anxious about my going, at least that settled the issue and made it one less thing for me to agonise over.

July 8, 2020

Talking today to John’s niece Teresa, one of the very few people I know who has gone into almost complete lockdown, and she confirmed that nothing’s changed in their household. Like us they go out occasionally to a bush idyll for a picnic but otherwise it is just staying home. She mentioned asking her GP this week if she should start coming in to the office but the reply was ‘no way with an autoimmune condition’. She also said that she was told, as I have been, that most deaths occur from immune cytokine storms, not pneumonia or the more predictable flu type complications. I have had a theory that the young people who die could be pre-symptomatic autoimmune patients, considering that apart from a few things like juvenile type 1 diabetes, most of these conditions don’t show up till the ages of 50 or over, but the genetic predisposition to them is there from birth. Just a theory, but a story in The Age this week about a young plumber who had his 23rd birthday while unconscious on a ventilator in Melbourne discussed the fact that while he was in ICU they discovered he had an autoimmune disease from which he’d had no previous symptoms. Time will tell. None of the groups of which she is a member are meeting face to face, all sticking to Zoom. So my decision not to go to book group this week was considered by her to be a no-brainer. We have been invited to a first wedding anniversary party in October and considering there seemed like hundreds at the (outdoor) wedding I am still reluctant to reply at this stage. Who knows what the situation will be by then.

Last night I watched the Foreign Correspondent programme on children stolen from Timor Leste by Indonesians during the invasion of that blighted country. I found myself sniffling and then sobbing as those poor souls went back to visit their families, now speaking a different language, worshipping a different religion, with many of their relatives having died. The reconciliations reminded me of meeting Kenneth in the arrivals lounge at Manchester Airport, just hanging on to each other for dear life, but with none of the language and cultural divides that these people face. At the end I contacted my adoptive Timorese cousin Cal to express my love and appreciation of what he and Domingos went through in that war, resulting in their evacuation to Australia during the initial bombing raids and subsequent adoption by my cousin Ruth and her husband Greco. They both converted to Islam so there remains that division between their familial religious and cultural background and their current beliefs, another similarity to the stories told in this moving doco.

July 9, 2020

Had a friend over for morning tea and the handle suddenly broke off my teapot as I was pouring it, spilling the lot onto the table and floor, but it pains me to think that I could have been pouring it over her lap when it happened. However the glass insert which didn’t break will make an unusual vase. It’s made me realise that I need to clean my silver tea service so I can bring it back into the fold. We went for a walk later and John suddenly told me how much he loves me so some combination of sun or exercise or morning tea was obviously good for him. I finished reading the book group choice but it feels strange not to be going to the meeting tomorrow, I think it’s the only meeting I’ve missed except when we were overseas a couple of times. Food delivery day today with Harris Farm in the morning and Woolies in the afternoon. Normally the Woolies order goes to John’s and then we swap but they had sent me an offer of $20 off and free delivery which was too good to refuse. I just couldn’t have let that money slide past for exactly the same amount of groceries. So now my fridge is groaning but much will go back to John’s house when he leaves on Sunday. A Dutch friend of mine was always bemused at my desire to land a special and used to ask ‘and on what are you going to spend the money you saved?’ but he missed the point. I think it’s a class thing and he was firmly into the middle class. We once went to a restaurant in Crows Nest and became chatty with the Bangladeshi waiter who invited us to stay back and have free drinks at the bar with him and the owner after closing. Things went well until JanBert asked the Bangla guy what he was doing in Australia. Studying fashion design he replied, after which my Dutch friend spurted the alcohol out of his mouth in a guffaw saying ‘Just what Bangladesh needs, a fashion designer!’ We left soon after, thank goodness. The Dutch are known for saying what they mean.

July 10, 2020

Decided to get our picnic day in before the rain starts, but first stop was an old shop contact in Windsor to pick up the last instalment of the bucks he borrowed over a year ago, he’s always as good as his word but it takes time. He had also managed to sell an old briefcase of mine in a garage sale for $25 so that was an unexpected bonus. He was a bit downhearted because a neighbour had reported to the council his habit of feeding birds every afternoon and he’d had a cease and desist letter from them as well as from the landlord. Buying stale bread from a bakery to feed them he was getting huge flocks of parrots and galahs and corellas coming every afternoon, they classified him as a ‘bird nuisance’ which is funny in itself. From there we set out to find the lovely rockery and garden we spied earlier when we were in Cattai, it was on the other side of the river and on the way we looked in at the old Ebenezer Church and wandered around its cemetery. Many of the pioneers, including First Fleeters,  are buried there and the first service was held under a tree there in about 1804. Lachlan Macquarie visited in the early days of the colony arriving by boat up the Hawkesbury. But still no rock garden. We tried various roads to the river finally ending up on private property and the owner came out to see us, explaining that the rock garden we’d seen is on another private property and unreachable. John commented that had we been in the US we might have been shot but he was a cheery fellow. A further drive took us to the old Tizzana Winery, the proprietors of which were longtime clients of the shop, but it was closed, not that we would have gone in anyhow. Driving through Sackville we came upon the car ferry and took it for a lark, coming home via Maroota and Dural, making it a round trip. Thinking of doing some transplanting tomorrow and putting in some seedlings I’ve grown before the days of rain arrive. My pink speckled Hypoestes were transplanted to the front garden last year but they are not happy so I want to move them back out of the sun. The Pink Star packet said 500 seeds but because I’d had bad luck with the spinach and germinated zero, I planted them all and it looks like 1000 came up, so I need to find quite a few homes.

July 11, 2020

Got my gardening done early and then after lunch Heather came over for a cuppa but she decided not to come in after John thought it was a bit too cool out on the verandah. She said she will come by another day, being uncomfortable with the risk (to us) of being inside in the current environment. She had brought a big coat to sit outside as we have been doing recently but we will catch up on a sunny day, hopefully this week. We find such a huge range of responses amongst our friends from the super cautious who allow no one inside and carefully disinfect everything that comes in via home delivery to the gung ho ‘it won’t happen to me’ folks. I think we fall into the pretty cautious camp but not at the extreme end, though I don’t criticise whatever responses people have, I think it’s largely a personality thing in combination with how much (or how little) they’ve been reading about the virus and how to avoid it. Apparently at the book group meeting on Friday a suggestion was made about having meetings outdoors somewhere but it was kiboshed by someone on the grounds that carrying picnic baskets from the car was a nuisance. A pity as that would have gone a long way to making me feel comfortable about going back to the meetings. The way things are going in Victoria though, we may well be in lockdown again by August so the venue could be a moot point. I’m happy to play it as it comes.

July 12, 2020

John surprised me by saying he would like to do another walk and picnic today and that was well-timed considering we had a baked trout for dinner last night with enough left over for sambos. We decided to dispel the West Head jinx and do a walk from the exact point where we spent many hours waiting for help when the car broke down last time. It was uphill to the highest point in the park and we had our picnic at the trig point on top, looking out at Lovett Bay in the distance. A whip bird decided to do his whip thing right next to us, the first time I’ve heard it so close by and boy it’s loud. Later we drove to Akuna Bay and Illawong Bay and decided to spend some time there in the future too, though there aren’t many walks on that side. Some very handy looking yachts were moored there, another thing alongside fancy cars that I have no desire to own, regardless of how much money I come into. But we’ve realised that going on a Sunday, indeed any time at the weekend, is not for us because we couldn’t get a park anywhere near the lookout and there are just too many people about. Luckily our particular walk didn’t attract them though. I accidentally put my fancypants water bottle down on a rock and left it there for a while and when I went back someone had pinched it, yuk I can’t imagine doing that at the moment, but I hope they enjoy my favourite bottle as much as I did.

July 13, 2020

Facebook popping up random memories is always interesting and sometimes a surprise. Today some pics from 3 years ago came up, John with walking stick in his recliner chair, and it was such a contrast to the man who walked up to the trig point yesterday. I don’t think either of us thought that we’d see him as he is today. Perhaps that’s why the thought of getting the virus knocks him about a bit, coming so far and then getting knocked down by a tiny guy he can’t see and feels somewhat powerless to fight off. A report in the Lancet today about a woman who gave the virus, via elevator buttons, to 71 people she had never met is probably a story that fuels paranoia in some and gets a mere shoulder shrug from others.

I suddenly remembered fruit mince the other day. It isn’t even Christmas but I recalled a lovely mince tart I once baked that had grapes in it and decided to replicate it decades later only this time I added cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to the pastry. Even turned up the original recipe in Cordon Bleu, that delicious series of 18 books that I ordered monthly from England in my early 20s and use still. It is just out of the oven so I can’t comment on its taste but it looks damned good. The fruit mince has been macerating in the fridge for 48 hours since I made it on Saturday, using a Bangor Primary School Centenary Port from 1994. Clearly port is not my tipple so it’s lasted well, since I bought it about 20 years ago in a deceased estate sale from someone who’d never opened it. At least that’s one thing less to feature in my deceased estate sale as there’s only another nip left in it. It is a very weird idea that we spend our lives collecting stuff that then goes to charity or the bin in many cases, losing its significance entirely. I can remember how I came into possession of almost everything I own and the story that goes with it, but those stories end with me of course. As I said when Alex Hendriksen, a very knowledgeable antique dealer, died years ago ‘it’s a pity we can’t download his knowledge onto a computer somehow, replete with stories’. Like when he bought an antique hearse and had great fun lying in the back in full view while being slowly driven through the streets of Windsor. People stopped on the footpaths as a mark of respect, well the first couple of times anyway. He had a penchant for alcohol and often walked home from the shop on a Friday night holding onto a Coles trolley because he couldn’t stand. He asked me to spread the rumour that he had Meniere’s Disease to explain his lack of balance but I could never do it, always feeling he should own his alcoholism, as he did his other peculiarities. We won’t see another character like Alex any time soon.

July 14, 2020

Julia Gillard appeared one-on-one last night on Q and A. I decided that my unbroken  sleep was more important than listening to her, despite my general support and interest in much she would have to say. I was, and still am, totally opposed to her overthrow of Kevin Rudd. Despite his faults and foibles he was elected and popular, his overthrow resulted in a broad and long term distrust of politics and politicians and we ended up with Tony Abbott, a fact that ultimately I sheet home to Gillard (and the gullibility of the populace to the lies of the Murdoch press). Rudd’s unpopularity with public servants was well known, due to his unreasonable requests and lack of planning resulting in some sleeping under their desks in order to produce work that was asked for at 5pm and expected first thing the next morning. He was a micro-manager, he had a temper, but are these sufficient to overthrow a sitting PM? I would answer strongly in the negative.

A communication from my virologist friend today about the fact that there are reports of people getting COVID19 a second time and also that the second infection proves worse than the first. This is common to dengue fever as well where reinfection leads to severe illness. “From what I know about all the other Coronaviruses, reinfection is quite common due to a couple of factors, the variety of its surface proteins (small variations in strain as it spreads) and how our immune system clears the infection, as a lasting immune response is not always triggered. Both are very bad news for hopes of a vaccine.” At best it would indicate that it would need to be an annual vaccination, allowing for the changes of the previous year, somewhat similar to the flu vax. I think we have all battened down for a long wait for a vaccine but few of us have considered the long-term changes in our lives that may be necessary if a vaccine proves impossible: no overseas travel, constant preventative measures, limited personal contact, getting used to the uncertainty of outbreaks occurring and so much more. I think it is probably better to adapt to these changes as if there won’t be a quick fix and then if there is a workable virus produced it will be a nice surprise.

July 15, 2020

I’ve read recently that Andrew Dolt keeps calling Dr Karl Kruszelnicki a ‘scientific fraud’. Here is the educational comparison: Dr Karl completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in Physics and Maths followed by a Masters of Science in Astrophysics, followed by a Masters in Biomedical Engineering. He then completed a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery and practised as a doctor until he saw a child die of whooping cough and decided to go into medical journalism as a pro vaccination campaigner. Andrew Dolt on the other hand began a BA but dropped out. Well that’s that sorted.

COVID19’s tentacles reach far from the Crossroads Hotel (previously famous as a bikie pub and the preferred watering hole of Ivan Milat). My neighbour came home from work yesterday because a colleague of his had a pizza there last week. Now he’s been told to work from home until told otherwise. Too close for comfort, should I disinfect the fence? It’s easy to be wise after the event but I have been screaming at our Glad to close the Victorian border for a while. If she’d done so we may not have had the Crossroads cluster at all. How hard is it to insist that truck drivers head straight to their destinations without stopping at any other businesses on the way? There are plenty of truck stops, and an Esky solves the food issue. Sometimes I think that Glad is so business oriented that she just can’t bear to do what she knows is the right thing, in just the same way as I can’t bear to throw things out. But I do know it’s irrational and sometimes the throw out has to be done. Glad needs a good behaviour therapist at her elbow reinforcing the idea of commitment to society and cheering her on ‘Good girl Gladys, you can do it, have a Mintie’.

July 16, 2020

A win to report today. Ever since I got the NBN my Caller ID and answering machine haven’t worked, so I finally got around to sorting that out. Optus is only taking ‘urgent requests’ by phone and an email query didn’t work, so I reverted to that old trick (which I should have done first) of putting the problem on their Facebook page. Voila! Within an hour Kartik had called and said he would refer it to the technicians and today Huy rang from Melbourne and with a bit of toing and froing he fixed both problems remotely. So I’ve just praised them both on the Facebook page for good measure. Now Kenneth will get off my back about having no answering machine for the rare times that I miss his calls. He seems very sentimental lately, often saying how much he misses me and reminiscing about our early separate lives and how much he wishes we had been together. He told me yesterday that he had just read through every email I had ever sent him and that must have taken hours. I can’t let myself spend too much time thinking about how different my life would have been with him in it, not to even mention our dad, who so valued education that he put Kenneth into a good school and fully supported his move to Cambridge. But there’s no good crying over spilt family, it gets you nowhere and doesn’t change a jot. However I am finding I am close to tears now every time the bro rings, he isn’t far behind.

John is having a Zoom meeting today with his seminary buddies, chaired by the indomitable Dally, which has a firm agenda. First each is to talk about what they have been up to for the last year (I guess for those few who’ve been out of their loop), then another round to talk about coronavirus and the impacts on each of them of the lockdown, then a third round which I’ve already forgotten. Only after all that do they get into general discussion. How good it would have been to have suitably chaired book group meetings, but it’s not to be unfortunately. It does strike me as odd that the men’s group allied to our book group is only meeting remotely, yet the women only want to meet in person. Another win today was that I phoned a restaurant at Church Point and explained that we would love to come for lunch one day but are not happy to dine in. They immediately had the solution: order and pay by phone from the car and they will pack our food into takeaway containers which they will bring to the door so we can eat them at the outdoor tables in the adjacent park. This was so quickly suggested that it led me to believe that we were far from the first to ask. Some people get it, some don’t.

July 17, 2020

John’s car needed a check-up so we dropped it in and then headed off to Curl Curl and Freshwater to watch the waves in this week of above average highs. Did the cliff-top walk from Curl Curl and at one stage I sat to watch for a while till a lady asked, pointing to the edge: ‘Is he yours?’ and I looked up to find John on the rocks calling ‘Take my photo’. I quickly did and he was soon back on the path, good that he still surprises me sometimes. Later he walked the full length of the beach while I sat in the glass bubble of the car with a point blank view over the ocean. Drove to Freshwater and ordered some lunch at our fave, Pilu Barretto on the beach, eating in the shelter shed with the trusty Thermos, watching the wild weather. First food I’ve eaten since March that I didn’t cook myself, first a delicious cannellini bean and potato soup with home made bread, followed by one of their famously amazing salted caramel tarts, so that was exciting. John’s car needs a new clutch and the lock for the rear door is buggered, both of which we knew, so those things will be done next week. John watched the football while I read at night, the usual procedure. I am engrossed in a book chosen for me by the librarian: Joyce Carol Oates epic ‘Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars’. She does an amazing job with family dynamics, I feel as if I’ve known these characters all their lives, but their issues are set against a background of racism, police brutality, corruption, business, wealth, complete with a detailed two and a half page description of a feral cat. I will be sorry when I leave them all.

July 18, 2020

Michael and Bronwyn are looking for a new table/desk so I cleaned up a cedar one that I have in the garage and John was going to take it to show them but once again he couldn’t get the rear door of the car open, thankfully Alex will see to that next week. Cedar really is the queen of woods, the grain is beyond beautiful. Then he glued on the head of one of my garden statues which fell over and decapitated itself somehow, looking more like a Roman original in the process. He loves all of those annoying little chores that I would never get around to, like working out why the hose fitting is leaking or correcting the way I’ve loaded the tape dispenser. However I sew on his buttons and get stains out of his jumpers so I suppose it all works out in the end. Not to mention dealing with anything financial, something that John finds incredibly taxing: negotiating with a company over a faulty purchase or service, getting some action out of a government department, complaining about almost anything. I write the email and he adds his name and sends it, but he is always cock-a-hoop when it results in the problem being fixed. Perhaps they did too good a job of pushing humility in the seminary as he has no sense of entitlement, of course this in part makes him the lovely amenable soul that he is. When I asked what he would like for lunch today he answered ‘Whatever you most want rid of’.

July 19, 2020

Doesn’t it really give you the shits when you see something that you should have written yourself? I love this post which was written by Peter Graham and sent to me via Facebook. It hits the nail on the head I think:

Before we get too hung up on blaming the state govt, or the federal govt, or China for our COVID situation let’s review some facts: 1. We had to bring in mandatory quarantine in hotels, because we couldn’t trust people to stay home after returning from overseas. 2. We then had to bring in security, because we couldn’t trust people to stay in those hotels. 3. We then had to bring in ADF, because we couldn’t trust the security guards not to have sex with those in quarantine in the hotels. 4. We had to get police to door knock and check up on people, because we couldn’t trust those who were meant to be self-isolating to actually stay at home. 5. We also have to have police and ADF reinforce the metropolitan Melbourne zone and state borders, because we can’t trust people to follow the restrictions. 6. We are now being asked to use masks, because we cannot trust people to social distance when they are in public. 7. Through it all, our supermarkets have had to introduce shopping restrictions because we couldn’t trust people to not to take more than what they needed. So we can get as mad as we want at politicians or health officials for imposing restrictions, or the country where the virus originated, but essentially it’s our own fault that we find ourselves here.

Overnight 60 people were fined for being at a wild party in Schofields and I ask myself (apart from why anyone would rent an airbandb in Schofields at all?) do these people not listen to the news? I was a news junkie even at the age of 20 so I find it hard to understand. But I guess it’s like me and sport, when it comes on the news it’s time to make a cuppa or go to the loo, anything but watching that tedious stuff, perhaps they are the same about things that bore them: like life, death and disease.

It seems the blog might come in handy for John as he is forgetting the dates and incidents in his long and complex medical history of the past 4 years or so. He keeps asking ‘did I get the septicaemia once or twice? before the knee replacement or after?’ so I have suggested going to the blog which documents chapter and verse of his travails. Getting him organised for appointments gets problematic so I ask him to record everything in his diary, however he forgets to look there and has been known to turn up a week early, or even a week late, for an appointment. Not sure what the answer is there.

July 20, 2020

So the day can only look up when first thing in the morning you grab your toothbrush to find a big cockroach on the handle, right? Dispensing him to his maker, I decided this bad omen was a oncer and was glad to get it done with early and to move on to a good day. Later I went to the storeroom to pack away some bits and bobs cluttering the house. There is only one key so it is longtime policy to leave it in the lock at all times when the room is open, except hours later the key is missing and I have a sinking feeling that it is inside. Paying a locksmith $200 to open the door isn’t an idea that I relish and it may be that the lock will need to be drilled out and another one put in, but realistically no one would want anything stored therein so perhaps I just drill it out and leave it. I am now waiting for the third disaster to befall me today, but looking on the bright side I did have a new toothbrush in the drawer and now have the two roach-loved ones in the ‘handy items I may need’ box. (Could I throw them out? No I could not).

Reading my current novel till late, I went to bed last night on a high point of the plot. The children of the main character are incensed, appalled, disgusted by their mother forming a relationship with a man soon after the death of their father. (At what point would they not have felt any of these things?) The eldest son is sent by the girls to ‘fix the situation’ and decides to offer the interloper money to withdraw. After a bidding war the amount is settled at $35,000, a cheque is written and the man in question simply folds it in two and announces that it will never be cashed, but if ever the children approach him again he will show it to his partner and explain to her what types of people her children really are. Now why should I have felt so good about this outcome I ask myself? I was never offered money to desist and if I had been I wouldn’t have had the acuity to react as he did, but it buoyed me no end to see this fictional character do it. Rather than being seen as a money-grabber it was the reverse, I was told directly that John only espoused me because I was rich and he wanted a comfortable retirement. Poor darling was duped about the ‘rich’ bit but he has stuck around all these years in any event.

July 21, 2020

I watched Dan the Man at his 11 am briefing, not something I usually do but I happened to look at the clock at 10.59, though I had to turn off soon after when his address was cut short because the PM was announcing further financial matters to do with coronavirus. How can I listen to a man who set Newstart at starvation level (because it was seen as a dole bludger’s benefit) but almost doubled it when the virus came along (because these were now struggling workers dispossessed by cruel circumstance)? No doubt it will head south again in due course. Folks I know are thrilled that they can now get a haircut when they need one or buy groceries without fearing having to return some at the checkout when the money runs out. But of course they are the scruffy poor not the upscale smartly dressed beneficiaries of recent times.

I sadly finished Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. last night and after 787 pages I feel as if I’ve been banished from that now well-known family. How will the children react after their mother and Hugo married while away on a holiday together? What does Virgil’s future look like? How will Sophia do at medical school? I intend to ring the librarian who chose this book for me ‘based on your previous reading’ and tell her she’s a genius. It did give me a sense of the difficulties of being in a large family though, people worrying when they see two of their siblings deep in conversation, even more terrifying if there are three. The competition was fierce in this family of five children and none of them came out of it well adjusted. Just like the combination of susceptible host and virulent pathogen in disease formation, it is likely that a susceptible child will succumb to a much less virulent home life where a stronger one would have thrived on the challenges. Considering myself and Kenneth, both effectively only children, but the results were very different: he super confident, happy in solitary pursuits, self-regulating, whereas I was totally lacking in confidence, lonely and unable to cope with any emotional situation. Certainly being together would have helped enormously but perhaps I was just a ‘susceptible host’ from the start?

July 22, 2020

John asked at breakfast today what I was most missing (probably expecting I would say going to Bennelong on my birthday as planned) but I said a haircut. So he suggested I ring Martin and Maria and see what we could do. Maria was extremely sympathetic and has arranged for me to go at 2 pm tomorrow, when I will be the only person in the salon with Martin, with everything disinfected just before arrival. Luckily I bought two boxes of German cherry liqueur chocolates the other day, one was for our mechanic when we pick up John’s car and now the other can go to them. I feel better already, but if lockdown is coming back in I might get my head shaved and be done with it.

Watching the teev last night I struck two excellent programmes, one on Falun Gong which was as expected, only worse, and the other a doco on Putin. The Putin one went a long way to explaining that stoic personality and cold demeanor with details of his early life. Brought up in a war-damaged shared flat with only 7 square metres of space to themselves, he and his mother lived a miserable existence with a leaking roof and water dripping down the walls when it rained. Add to this a shared kitchen and no bathing facilities at all, Leningrad in winter would have been hell. But the mental damage was done early and nothing will make a jot of difference now (my summing up, not the programme’s). Then we come to the show on Falun Gong which confirmed my gut feeling when seeing these people that it is a cult. Though they play nice and seem to be just a meditation organisation, the focussed attention they display is scary and their hatred of the Chinese government all-encompassing. Their anti-medicine stance is not unlike the Christian Scientists, in both cases keeping people within the cult being more important than their lives. From time to time I’ve seen ads for the Shun Yen dance group and have been tempted to get us tickets, however my feeling that it might be somehow linked to Falun Gong prevented me from picking up the phone for tickets. Occasionally I get in my letterbox a copy of the Epoch Times, John gets it too, but despite its rabid anti-Chinese rhetoric I had no idea it was Falun Gong too, though I’m not surprised now when I think about it. They are ploughing millions into getting Trump re-elected, just on the basis of his conservative thinking and current Sinophobia. Strange bedfellows indeed, but consistent with the concept that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

July 23, 2020

I am a new woman! Short hair means I can now abandon the plan B, to shave my head in order to get rid of the perpetual beanie that I’ve been wearing to avoid seeing the old lady in the mirrors as I pass. Let’s hope that my transgression of the rules won’t bring a retribution. We cracked the Thermos and had lunch in a shelter shed at Freshwater, watching the young on boards in the surf. Later we picked up John’s car and as usual Alex had worked his magic. After he quoted $190 for a new lock for his rear door, he told us that he ‘had sat and taken it apart, fiddled with it for some time and found it had a broken spring’ which he was able to source and then replace. ‘So there’s no charge for the lock’. We argue, but he says he can’t alter it because he’s typed up the invoice. You can’t win an argument with Alex when it comes to money. On the way to Manly we called in to see Michael and Bronwyn and were interested to discover that they haven’t seen their children and grandchildren since March, with the family deciding to stay away to protect them. They concurred with our view that the problems we are facing are largely because of people not wanting to comply with even the somewhat inadequate restrictions. Lack of trust in government seems to be a significant cause of that and with trust now at an all time low, this pandemic is ill-timed. Folks will comply by choice with adequate trust, such as in Taiwan and Singapore for example, or by force if the penalties are severe enough, such as in China for example. We sit between those bookends with a poor level of trust and inadequate penalties, so people just thumb their noses.

July 24, 2020

Rang the library to congratulate whoever chose my home-delivered books last month, the librarian I spoke to will check it out and pass on my thanks. I’ve also requested another by Joyce Carol Oates after reading Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. but they only had the one I wanted as an ebook, so I settled on ‘any others of hers that have real pages to turn’. Although I was vaguely aware of this author, I had thought her very prolific writing perhaps meant that she was one who turns out a predictable novel in time for Christmas each year. However now the kind librarian pointed me to this, her latest, I am keen to attack the back catalogue. In the novel Whitey McClaren is the linchpin of a privileged white family but he dies as a result of attempting to intervene when police are bashing a “dark-skinned young man”. That in itself makes the novel worth reading at this time. But there is so much else here to love, because once that linchpin is removed there is a necessary reconfiguration in this large family of wife and five adult children. It lurches from drama to something like a Moliere comedy at times, with an extraordinary two and a half page description of a feral cat being just one of the highlights. Perhaps the only character who seemed a bit over-drawn was Lorene, but I’ll forgive that as just a matter of opinion. Can’t wait to start another by this author, there are plenty to choose from, over 100 published pieces including 58 novels as well as a number of plays and novellas, many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction.

Perhaps John is coming under my influence because he picked up a near new bicycle off the street today and brought it home to give to his neighbour Ann to sell. She immediately put it on eBay and was contacted by a kindly man who said the wheels were back to front, offered to come around and fix them for her and promptly did so. Perhaps that’s the reason it was being thrown out? When John had the van I often suggested that he kerb crawl as a means of getting pocket money but he wasn’t keen, but when he can do it to benefit someone else he is happy so perhaps it was my suggestion that he make the money that was a mistake. As long as it saves good stuff from land fill who cares?

July 25, 2020

I see that a woman in her 40s with COVID19 attended 5 churches and funeral homes in the western suburbs over 5 days. Now she’s either extremely unlucky to have so many deaths around her or else she is like a person I met once who looked up local funeral services in the paper and went along for the free drinks and food. They commented that ‘it feels like you really know them sometimes’. I can sort of understand wanting to be part of a little community where everyone will be friendly and sympathetic. ‘Don’t you worry about being asked where you fit in?’ I queried, but was assured that it rarely happens and if it does a generic answer usually suffices. I always find out something new about the deceased when I go to a funeral, no matter how well I knew them so I guess it isn’t too much of a stretch to say ‘Gosh, I didn’t know Mary was an astro-physicist, I haven’t seen her since we were young’. One strange funeral John and I went to was for a woman friend who had been going to a Baptist church for many years. Unbeknown to us her husband apparently disapproved and arranged the funeral in a Catholic church (he was a Spaniard after all). Her Baptist minister and her Maori family objected verbally but they could hardly whip the coffin away from under the eagle eye of the priest. I will always remember the Minister in tears afterwards saying ‘but I baptised her….’. We gave the wake a miss.

It is 4.21 pm and I am wondering if in the middle of a pandemic it is acceptable to have a bath at such an hour. It sort of signifies that I don’t intend to do any work for the rest of the day and also means frying fish for dinner in my dressing gown, but it is getting chilly and will save my putting on the heater for another couple of hours so that’s an upside. God life is so hard for a Libran, endless options to be canvassed.

July 26, 2020

Well the pan-fried whole leatherjacket tasted wonderful despite being cooked wearing pyjamas, dressing gown and Ugg boots. I must get more of this neglected fish from Harris Farm on the next order. So sweet and white and delicate, not in the same universe as the dreaded saddletail snapper. Just made a broccoli and coconut milk soup for lunch, spiced up with a bit of garlic, chili, ginger, lemongrass and fish sauce. Mmm-mmm.

I am seeing already in my mind’s eye the government’s coming response to the pandemic’s fiscal problems, rubbing their hands together at the opportunities the virus has presented. Cuts to the ABC (It’s because of COVID19). Cuts to public schools (We had no choice). Cuts to universities (Sorry but we are broke). Cuts to the public service (You know we hate having to do this). Josh says he will emulate Thatcher and Reagan. In other words, screw the workers. Some of my British family members live in South Yorkshire mining towns (well, ex-mining towns) and they told me seriously when I mentioned Thatcher’s name that ‘we don’t use her name at the table’. She gutted the whole area by closing the mines and bought coal from Russia instead, the boarded up shops even now tell the story of livelihoods ruined. She tried to abolish the welfare state and replace it with an attitude of materialistic individualism. Ronald Reagan was president for nearly five years before he said the word AIDS in public and it was nearly seven years before he gave a speech on a health crisis that would go on to kill more than 650,000 Americans. Trump is following the Reagan mould. So these are your heroes Josh? May they both roast in hell.

July 27, 2020

Got my mojo back to do some put-off tasks so I started early with making a Rhubarb Jam Shortbread Slice which I did in a tart tin. It appears okay though I haven’t tried it yet. Then I took advantage of the rain to plant out some of my Pink Star Flower seedlings while the ground is friendly, plenty more to go in though. Later I got a call from the computer boffin replying to my email query about all the missing photos from my old computer which didn’t come across to the new one. I pressed this, that and the other under instruction and after more than half an hour of downloading the photos finally appeared, woo-hoo. Except now I can’t for the life of me find where they are, despite trying for nearly two hours. I am giving up and the computer boffin is on another job. I wish I were in some job of work in which you just dial a number if you run into problems and some dude (it’s always a dude) arrives to fix it. Bah humbug, enough computing grief for one day and I will focus on the more easily solved problems.

When I was a kid I thought that anyone living north of the Parramatta River was rich, not filthy rich, but rich. When our next door neighbour sold up and moved to Ermington, right on the north bank of the river, we were somewhat aghast. Where had they suddenly got all that money from? I asked my mother. She had no insight and it remained a mystery, though their large block was later subdivided into two, so clearly that was part of the answer. Now we have COVID19 cutting a swathe across the southern suburbs and as it inexorably inches its way north I find myself illogically thinking that we are fine here as long as it doesn’t cross the river. The Maronite cathedral cluster is awfully close to the river but I envisage a police line along the banks vigilantly beating it back. With tear gas, batons, water cannon? I am not sure, but it is a reassuring image in any event. Hold the line guys, (cops are tops, all that rubbish) but just don’t let it cross the Barry Wilde Bridge.

July 28, 2020

Took advantage of the light drizzling rain to do a bit of weeding and to plant the agapanthus seeds that I harvested from the front garden last summer. Also direct sowed some Californian Poppy seeds, but kept back over half the packet in case of a failure, if so I will plant the rest in  trays and put them out as seedlings. I am finding that I get two possible results with seeds, hundreds of germinations or nix, so we shall see. My father refused to grow poppies or have them as cut flowers in the house because they reminded him of the fields of France in WWII, but I love their happy faces and look forward to producing enough for some cut flowers.

Oh no, I thought, not The Apollo! It is one of my very favourite restaurants in Sydney and during the night I was thinking about what I’d love to order there, the Taramasalata, the Saganaki Prawns, the Chargrilled Octopus, bliss. So I formulated a mid-night plan: to drive over to Potts Point and dumpster dive for all the delicious things they’d had to throw out due to their coronavirus closure yesterday when a staff member tested positive. Not such a good idea when I reconsidered it in the morning light but boy it seemed like a plan at 2 am. It is a spot for the super cool, which we are certainly not. But both staff and guests alike seemed happy to share the joint with a funny old couple with the wrong haircuts and clothes. Last time we couldn’t get a table and sat at the bar to eat, but managed to have conversations with the barman and the odd customer. I hope to go there again……one day.

July 29, 2020

Well my shortbread slice was a dry as a pommy’s bathmat so I had to make a fruit cake yesterday in order to have something else to share when Bronwyn and Michael called in this morning. Bronwyn declared the slice lovely but I found it almost impossible to swallow, though perhaps it was that Sjogren’s makes it difficult to eat dry stuff and I usually end up with a coughing fit. I’d give the recipe 4/10 if that. John has gone home with some of each though.

I got a message from Ram in Kerala yesterday saying that they are not allowed out if over 60 due to COVID and that deaths are at 1000 per day. So I rang him today but the language barrier makes it difficult. The first minute of the call was taken up with a recorded message which he told me was Kerala Government advice about the virus which goes at the beginning of every phone call. I think he was saying that they get food from markets delivered to the post office, but I am not entirely sure. I had thought his English had improved a lot over the last couple of years in messages but he told me to write some of my questions so his friend can help him. I guess that’s what the apparent improvement was all about. My Malayalam doesn’t even stretch to one word. But when I asked if he was working the answer was clearly no, because of COVID. Now that I’ve (almost accidentally) sold a cedar desk I had in the garage, I will take it as an auspice and send some money off to him. I send cash in an envelope marked ‘card only’ and so far it has always got to him, touch wood, although if it is a larger amount I send it in two or three cards. I hate to think that we will never see each other again although I am sure it is the case.

July 30, 2020

Well any bright idea I had of sending a card to India came crashing down after deciding to check the postage cost online and coming up with the message that You Can’t Send a Letter Here. How lucky that my memory is so poor that I had to check the cost, otherwise goodness knows what they do with the letters. I’m assuming it’s either an infection control issue or due to the suspension of flights and rail freight, but it’s a huge decision. Now I wish I hadn’t told him to watch out for a delivery and will have to eat humble pie later today.

We were talking yesterday about our biggest fear, of being put into a nursing home for some reason. Both Michael and John have had a series of illnesses which could have ended up with that result. Bronwyn reminded us that most nursing homes have just one registered nurse on staff with the rest basically domestics. Apparently they visited a close relative where there was only one nurse and she had a sign around her neck that said ‘don’t ask me anything I am doing medications’ and no one else was allowed to answer questions. The whole concept of a nursing home as a profit making business is anathema to me. I’d be glad to see all private nursing homes and hospitals gone. Every baked bean they put on a resident’s plate is a cent less they earn so it doesn’t take Einstein to work out why the food allowances are around $6 a day. I can’t put many single meals on the table for $6, never mind an entire day. The proprietors are the equivalent of slum landlords and I am sure that in an enlightened future people will wonder how we could ever think that essential services could be profit making ventures. We went a while back to The Swifts in Sydney, a mansion once owned by the Catholic Church and now the home of the Moran family, owners of private hospitals and nursing homes. As I looked around at the luxury there, replete with a pipe organ in the main room, I couldn’t help wondering how many underfed patients it takes to accumulate that sort of wealth.

July 31, 2020

So, my optimism about the virus stopping at the river was misplaced. Now it’s travelled as far as my local shopping centre and though I haven’t been there since March it is still much too close for comfort. I am really not sure where it will all end, but certainly there are a lot more oldies in nursing homes who won’t see their next birthdays.

Heather came over for a cuppa this morning, always insisting that we sit outside. She spoilt me with a lovely bunch of Bromeliad, hellebore begonia, kale, little ruby and jade succulent flowers. Then I had a call from Omar who remotely found all the missing files on my computer and stuck them on the desktop so they won’t go missing again. I offered to pay him but he insisted that it was part of his initial setup of the new computer. I had to email Ram and tell him that I can’t post his money for the foreseeable future and his reply was typical of him: ‘Don’t worry, we can still contact. Your thoughts and mind is with me, so I am happy’. I am trying to take that as a pointer in my thinking. There could be so many complaints about people I can’t see, outings I can’t go on, meetings I can’t attend, celebrations that won’t now be taking place, travel that won’t occur, theatre I won’t see, but ‘Don’t worry, we can still contact. Your thoughts and mind is with me, so I am happy’.

August 1, 2020

I was once told that August 1 is the date to prune roses so I did my only one, which was a 70th birthday gift from Heather. There was a pair actually but I managed to kill the other. However I am watering my seeds every day in the hope that the garden will be full of flowers in spring. I have treated myself to a special gift, getting the windows professionally washed for the first time ever as my pathetic efforts have not improved them. Kenneth tells me that he has his done once a month for 6 pounds, an astonishingly low figure compared to what I am paying, but perhaps it’s extra when you only get it done once every 45 years. However I would snap up the 6 pounds a month if I could.

Well, well, well. Kenneth in our phone call last night had moved from a position of ‘how ridiculous, I can’t even get on the bus without a mask’ to ‘why didn’t Boris bring in masks in March and stop this thing in its tracks?’. He then commented that ‘I don’t think we understood how bad this thing would be’ but I didn’t let him get away with that one, replying that I had been trying to convince him of that for 6 months, a fact he reluctantly agreed with. The night before last, news had come through at 9 pm that masks were compulsory everywhere, no meetings of more than two people and no visits inside the home by anyone who doesn’t live there. This is only for Manchester and Calderdale areas where he lives and it applied immediately. He asked if I thought we would be alive in a year and my reply was ‘only if we avoid getting the bloody thing’, hopefully he will take more care than he has been doing, almost daring it sometimes. On my walk this morning I passed the local IGA and noticed that all of the staff are wearing masks now, this is new. Perhaps the reporting of a case in Miller’s Fashions in Baulkham Hills has put the wind up them. My longing for sushi from the shop nearby Miller’s has waned as a result I must say.

August 2, 2020

Harris Farm delivery day and I requested it between 10 and 2 so it didn’t interrupt Insiders, so of course he came at 9.30 but I threw it all in the fridge to sort out later because I need to divide things like the fish for example between the two households. Got Orange Roughy, a deep sea fish, for dinner tonight plus prawns, leatherjackets and sardines which I froze, so I am spoiled for choice. John came up and he gave moral support as I planted out more seedlings in the front garden, then Davina, Louis and Millie arrived for a short notice visit, bearing sweet treats which we ate in the garden. Millie is always taken with John and when she saw him called to her parents ‘look who I’ve found!’. I have now finished reading Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy, a book someone donated to the street library months ago. I thought by the name that it may be a historical novel, of which I am not a particular fan, but it turned out to be contemporary, set in Dublin and about two young people who are setting up a catering business, though it’s about so much more than that and I enjoyed it immensely. I have raved about it enough to have two takers for it now that I am finished. So the last two books I have read would be in the top few for this year so I am very lucky. When the librarian rang on Friday to ask what I want for the next delivery I requested the book group choice, plus anything by Maeve Binchy or Joyce Carol Oates (the authors of my last two novels) and The Plague by Albert Camus published in 1947, the year of my birth, which tells the story of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran. La Peste is the French title and they are not wrong there. I love his spare writing and am sure this one will be as good as The Outsider was. Unfortunately the most recent American translation has it named The Stranger which doesn’t capture the theme nearly as well and did make me wonder a little about the rest of the translation, which I am not in a position to judge of course.

August 3, 2020

John has gone home to put the finishing touches to his five street libraries, after which he had promised we would be going on a little holiday. But I am not sure it is the time, with the COVID outbreaks from Victoria meaning that staying home is being encouraged and could soon be mandated. I was interested to read about the Mosman doctor aged 50 who was a super fit cycling enthusiast, caught the virus and was bedridden for 29 days. Now he finds himself unable to cycle even a kilometre on flat ground and has been diagnosed with heart damage and later epilepsy, so now he can’t ride, drive or take any exercise and that may very well be permanent. It is so random in its effects this disease.

I love looking in my freezer and having lots of choices, so I am doing grilled spiced sardines with a Moroccan orange salad, something that suits my single status tonight as John isn’t a salad person and certainly not in winter. He queries if something is a salad if it doesn’t have lettuce in it. As a child ‘salad’ at my house was a fixed dish: lettuce, tomato, canned beetroot, Kraft cheese and onion pickled in malt vinegar, maybe a radish. Voila! Salad. It was a meal, not something on the side. So I think John has his territory shaken when I describe something as a ‘warm salad’ or when it doesn’t have any of the 1950s ingredients he was once used to. Even potato salad stretches the friendship. But Thai salads, German potato ones with anchovies and egg, poke bowls of all sorts are my go to dishes. John was mighty happy with last night’s effort though, Baked Orange Roughy with Garlic Butter and served with veg, right up his alley he declared.

August 4, 2020

I have been musing about how it is possible, and it often seems to happen to me in fact, that a person can connect with another in a fleeting moment or even from a photo. We are all familiar with the ABC’s We Are Australian videos. Whenever I see one I search for the young man in red, whose face I connected with on day one. Now after months of looking out for this fellow every time it is shown, and feeling warmed by seeing his face, I discovered today that he is an Aboriginal singer named Isaiah Firebrace. Nothing will ever come of that realisation but knowing he is in the world is somehow soothing and harmonious. I can’t explain everything, I can only record it. Similarly seeing the photograph of Steve Jobs on the cover of his biography made me want to encircle him somehow, I felt protective of him via the photo, which seems ridiculous. I am not a techy person as my son-in-law would attest, but I decided I needed to read this heavy tome, not to work out how to become a billionaire or to understand how Apple was formed, but to see what in this man’s face was the essence that I was picking up on. I didn’t get more than a few pages before I found similarities in both our lives (despite many differences). Learning to read before starting school led to both of us being bumped up the grades, initially dealing with boredom with the work but ending with social isolation from the more mature students, resulting in becoming an awkward loner who didn’t fit in with peers, the clever kid with no friends. He talks too about the moment he realised that he was smarter than either of his parents and the shame of that realisation. One thing I totally identified with was his youthful abandonment of religion, which almost exactly echoed mine. Life magazine published a shocking cover in 1968 of starving children in Biafra so he took it to Sunday school and asked the pastor ‘If I raise my finger will god know about it?’ The pastor answered ‘Yes, god knows everything.’ He then pulled out the magazine and asked ‘Does god know about this?’ When the pastor answered ‘Yes god knows about that’, Jobs announced that he didn’t want anything to do with worshipping such a god and never went back to a church. Some years earlier I had had a similar experience, giving away religion forever after realising that the appalling treatment of black Americans was justified by religions, I wanted no part of them. I later realised, more importantly, that they were simply attempting to sell the solution to a need that I didn’t have. It’s easy to walk past a brewery if you have no desire for beer. Can all of this be transmitted through a black and white photo of a very famous person? I don’t know. I can’t explain everything, I can only record it.

August 5, 2020

I’m still thinking about faces and what they tell us or in some cases don’t tell us. I am sure my facial recognition skills are well below par, I’d never make a politician, and that used to get me into a lot of trouble in the shop. Someone would come to the counter beaming ‘I’m here to pick up my lay-by’, but I had no recollection of seeing them before, ever. What to do? Was I looking for a pair of earrings or a sideboard? ‘Do you have your docket with you?’ ‘No, sorry I left it at home’. So I would search the lay-by book hoping for a bolt of recognition, but sadly that didn’t always help and I had to ask their name or what it was they had bought. Feelings were hurt: ‘You served me just the day before yesterday’ or worse ‘I’ve been buying here for years’, but try as I might those people were total strangers to me. Others though, despite years of absence, were recognised instantly and often greeted by name. The brain is a funny old machine. Another more recent case was when John was in ICU at Royal North Shore Hospital last year with no gilt-edged guarantee that he would survive, blood pressure down to unimaginably low figures in the 30s, heart almost stopped, and a priest entered the room. John had given strict instructions about end of life scenarios and a priest didn’t come into it at all. Assuming he was the hospital chaplain coming to give the last rites, I opened my mouth to tell him in no uncertain words to be gone when he uttered ‘Hello Maureen, how are you?’ and only then did I recognise John’s old friend whom I’d met before and entertained in my home. Close call, but I scraped through by a whisker.

My journey into the Steve Jobs biography has led me into his fanaticism and extremely difficult personality traits. I did get a laugh though about his agonising over the colour of beige for the Mackintosh plastic case. There were thousands of shades of beige in the Pantone collection, yet he couldn’t find the right one. It reminded me of John driving me all over Sydney looking at tiles for the kitchen (which could unfortunately be described by some as beige). I had the colour in my head, as Jobs did, but I could only describe it as the colour of buttermilk or clotted cream, not off-white, nor beige, nor cream. Finally in a tile warehouse in Blacktown the man pulled out a tile from a box and I shrieked, it was the one. I don’t think John has ever looked so relieved. I knew it existed but it was a question of whether we would ever find it. So Steve, I do understand and I’m so glad that you found your colour too. Parts of this book make me think that we are both mad but that he was much, much madder than I am, this being somewhat of a relief.

August 6, 2020

The window cleaners have just left and I can now relax. I was nervous about them coming inside but they were two lovely young people who were careful and took their time so it was worry for nothing. They had masks, gloves and overshoes and did a good job. It cost way more than by bro pays but that’s Pommyland and this is here, so there you go. I can see out.

I’ve been thinking about our premiers (who hasn’t?) and without a doubt Dan’s the standout. I want to hug him till his ribs bend, but that will have to be put off till it’s safe to go to Melbourne. I really miss our trips to Melbourne and have been looking back at photos from recent visits there. The last was an odd one in some respects but we still managed to have fun. We travelled from Melbourne by train to country rellies of John’s to attend the 90th birthday party of his cousin, a Marist brother of very gentle demeanour, who was clearly too nice to fill us in on the family dynamics. Despite many phone calls over days to the hostess about how to get to the property, we got no call back, even as we were on the train getting there from Melbs. Finally I suggested calling the birthday boy who had his friend and driver swing by the station to take us out to the property. We immediately felt somewhat less than welcome and it was very confusing until one of the younger generation sidled up and explained: he told the story of being admonished for mentioning John’s name in the house ‘Don’t ever say that name here again, he left the priesthood and he doesn’t exist for us’. Wowsers! Now it all made sense and at least we were in the know. With difficulty we managed to get a lift back to the station and are not expecting a reprise of the visit. But back to the premiers. I am getting seriously annoyed with Gladys’s inability to foresee her next moves. She is constantly ruling things out and then doing exactly that two days later. More importantly she refused Annastacia’s offer to temporarily move the border just a couple of kilometres to avoid dividing Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. The same could have been done between Albury and Wodonga, but our Glad is resistant even when it would have saved the wages of so many police on border control and eased passage for the beleaguered residents. Politician to her bootheels is our Glad, when what we need at the moment is so much more than that. But at least Dan is in the place where he’s most needed, more power to his arm.

Dan’s the Man!

and Mark’s a Bright Spark and Anna’s a Pal,

but with Glad we only know what she’ll do tomorrow by looking back to what she said she’d never do yesterday.

August 7, 2020

John sent an email to my bro and as an aside he mentioned that it seemed I had convinced Kenneth to take the pandemic more seriously, or words to that effect. Ooh dear I said, that was a bad move, he won’t like the imputation that I taught him something or made him change his behaviour. Sure enough, when he rang last night he happily told me the story of going to the corner shop and being advised that he should be wearing a mask to be admitted, as current rules apply in Calderdale. He ignored that, got his purchases and was served without an argument. Two fellows were outside queuing to come in and gave him the death stare for not wearing a mask. ‘Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?’ was Kenneth’s retort. John, do not bait the bear, I intend to tell him. I happen to have exactly 100 Facebook friends so these calculations are easy: I have 2 who are radical COVIDiots sending me the full panoply of conspiracy theory websites and 2 who post pretty silly stuff in the same vein. So that’s 4% of my friends, a frightening proportion in my view. I lost it with one this week and just replied CRAP to a video he sent, he can be offended or not as it pleases. Extrapolating that 4% to Melbourne’s population is 198,720. If they have that many who are working against the government’s efforts, then they have no chance of succeeding.

I am of the view that NSW is in deep do-do. We’ve had more than 150 cases in the last 2 weeks and, unlike they initially were in Victoria, these are not centred in certain buildings and postcodes but are scattered like hundreds and thousands on a badly iced cake from Wagga to Port Macquarie and all over the place inbetween. No ring-fencing as a possibility here. That’s 50% more cases than Victoria had on June 18. So don’t make any plans for a holiday or a party or a wedding (and certainly don’t die) because I see another lockdown peeking over the horizon.

August 8, 2020

I probably should wait for later in the day to write this as I am feeling disgruntled right now. Disgruntled that I didn’t retire earlier and get in the travel that we’d always planned, disgruntled that now I am free to do it (and John is well again, which stopped us for 3 plus years) the pandemic means we are confined to barracks. The last year or so when we were in a position to do some modest trips has been taken up with his street libraries projects and now he has just finished a big order for five, we can’t even go to the local shops. Occasionally I had come up with a suggestion about going away just for a day or two, but there is always a TAG meeting or a hospital appointment or a crucial juncture in the library project. He simply doesn’t get cabin fever, being perfectly happy either here or at his place, while I am sometimes ready to explode, like today.

I finished the Steve Jobs biography last night and I hate to admit it but I cried when he died at the end. I clearly knew what was going to happen, but it seemed such a rotten waste. He was an artist even more than a technology wizard and had the personality to match. My pen worked overtime marking great swathes of text, sometimes because I totally understood him and other times because he baffled me. But for all of that I can now understand the world-wide outpouring of grief at his death. When a particular speech or ad was mentioned I could look it up on YouTube as I went along, helping me to understand why he fought for just silhouettes in the animation of an ad or some other artistic decision. When I am feeling up to it I will watch the memorial service, hankies at the ready, but not today.

August 9, 2020

What a difference a day makes…. 24 little hours….I just made that line up. When John came yesterday I thought I was all smiles but he reads me like a book, so I had to fess up that I was disgruntled. We sat down and talked it out and he too is disgruntled in the knowledge that he won’t ever get to see his American rellies again, though he admitted that he doesn’t feel as sad as I do that we won’t ever see Vienna or Venice as we’d planned. (He reminded me that when I asked him what Indian city he would like to see if we returned there, his answer was Prague). He made the point that even if the pandemic ended tomorrow he doesn’t feel up to that amount of travel, just as Kenneth told me he can’t stomach another trip out here. So we both agreed that we made a big mistake in not doing our planned European and American trips earlier but also agreed that it’s now crying over spilled air tickets and we just have to learn to live happily, while also regretting past decisions. We decided because of the rain that we would stay in today and sit down to a main Sunday meal at lunchtime, a baked dinner with all the trimmings. We are now both gruntled, definition: pleased, satisfied, and contented. He is watching the football and I will soon be sitting in front of the fire reading. What’s to bitch about?

Yesterday I attacked the shop filing cabinet now ensconsed in the storeroom, tossing out 95% of its contents, only holding back a few letters written years ago by my prison penpals and a few important bits of antiques info like how to date Singer sewing machines by serial number. I also kept the prison manual we were given at training: What To Do If You Are Held Hostage, just in case the situation arises in the future. Probably foolishly, I always felt I could talk my way out of that one, with the proviso that the inmates weren’t on drugs which is certainly not a given inside prisons. I think being a prison visitor and penpal was probably the best work I ever did and I often wonder where they all are now, hopefully on the outside. I felt so freed of weight when I was able to toss that quantity of unwanted paperwork and I look forward to the day 5 years after the shop closed when I can toss everything to do with it which resides in a second cabinet: day sheets, group certificates, tax details. Whoosh, I shall have a bonfire and maybe toast marshmallows on top.

August 10, 2020

With my current commitment to simplification, I decided to attack my bureau, the drawers of which could barely be opened. I haven’t finished yet but I already have a huge pile of paper recycling, plus all of the stationery, wrapping paper, cards, endless lovely writing pads and notebooks are stored sensibly in the main three drawers. All the hand written letters are now in three folders, including a lovely one from author Elizabeth Harrower which I received in answer to one of mine a few years ago. I need to start seriously writing letters if ever I am to use up all the notepaper and envelopes therein, but my only regular letters are to Anne in the UK and I shan’t live long enough to use them all up on her. Perhaps it will encourage me to send messages to English rellies in between the usual Christmas cards and letters.

I made an exception to the rule of never watching commercial TV last night to see the 60 Minutes report on the deliberate separation of many sets of twins and a set of triplets, to be farmed out by a mad psychiatrist and a New York adoption agency. They planned to answer once and for all the question of nature versus nurture but no papers were ever published. The children were interviewed throughout their childhoods but neither the relinquishing mother nor the adoptive parents were in on the scam. Some found each other after incredible coincidences or cases of mistaken identity, but of course many were reunited because the doctor refused access to the records and has since died. The case of the triplets was particularly tragic with all three of them spending in time in psychiatric hospitals in their teens and one suiciding after they had been reunited. How the doctor wasn’t prosecuted I don’t know but I guess the crime is so rare that it’s probably not even on the statute books.

August 11, 2020

I’ve decided that coronavirus is Protestant. It seems that by far the most affected places are Catholic schools and churches and the most affected school in Victoria was an Islamic one. A shaky theory you may say, but I will stick to it until I see the Prodos even up the score a bit.

Our Woolies order went a little awry this week. John assures me that I asked him to order two of many things like leaf tea, teabags, cherry tomatoes, jars of peaches etc, but I am innocent on this occasion your honour. We also got about 1 and a half kilos of a fish that was supposed to be half a kilo, so this afternoon I’ve made fish curry and a fish pie, the latter for dinner tonight but it would serve 8. Sometimes life is easier if you just go to the shops. We had a lovely surprise when Sue rang to say she was visiting her mum and two brothers while her daughters looked after Robert. So she swung by afterwards and we had a good chinwag, a hoot as it always is with her. I do miss them so much but it is hard for him to communicate on the phone now so even that is no longer possible. So glad that she got some time to herself finally.

August 12, 2020

Had a lovely visit from Jack and Carol sitting on the back verandah. Huey didn’t oblige with sending sun as ordered, but he didn’t send rain or strong wind either so we were content. Naturally we discussed the pandemic and the fact that most people seem somehow ignorant of what a pandemic even means and it all appears to have come as a terrible shock to them, despite the effects of the 1918 one being so widespread and devastating. I think the widespread sense of entitlement is also a huge problem: what do you mean the border is closing? are you serious that I need to go into quarantine? a mask? you must be kidding. My friend’s 40 year old daughter refused to wear a mask just this week going to a specialist’s appointment because she didn’t ‘want people to think I’m sick’. She refused to believe that it is now normal practice. Tangara School apparently ignored government health guidelines and allowed students to go on a spiritual retreat and now those same students are the centre of the outbreak. I hope their prayers save them, or more particularly their older relatives. Classic example of religion versus science and I am afraid to say that science will always win.

It’s funny how my behaviour has changed in subtle ways. When cooking old recipes from my hand-written book I find myself writing in ‘cook 10 minutes less’ or ‘add 1 teaspoon baking powder.’ These are recipes I’ve done for years yet I am aware that if I get the virus someone else will likely be doing them and they need to know the little tweaks I have made. Likewise my spring cleaning (more spring tossing) which is to get rid of unnecessary paperwork to save someone else doing it. Probably a good thing anyway.

August 13, 2020

My Facebook page was apparently hacked, though what that actually looks like I have no idea. It was locked until I changed my password and then I was asked half an hour later to change it again. Now everything seems cool, but I wonder at the motivation of these people? Clearly it has benefit, so I changed my Hotmail password as well lest they change tack to that one. If you are reading this Mr Hacker, good morning to you. My paperwork war has continued this morning, when I sorted lots of hand written letters going back years, not throwing out but sorting into folders, most from my Lancashire penfriend Anne but others also from England, Vanuatu and India. Just a cursory glance reminds me of what a wonderful correspondent Anne is and although I sent a birthday card a week ago I realise it is a while since I sent a proper letter. Hers are always full of book recommendations, observations of those she meets or sees in the course of daily life, astute political opinions and historical bits of fascination. Her loungeroom is lined with bookcases floor to ceiling with an armchair and a side table. I think there may have been a second chair for a visitor as I don’t remember standing, but nought else. As we walked around in Yorkshire on our last visit she was giving John a running lecture on the fenestration tax,  a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. In England and Wales it was introduced in 1696 and enables historians to date buildings by the number of windows and bricked-up window spaces, left in the hope that the tax would ultimately be repealed and therefore the glazing could be completed. John said it was all news to him and he found it like a lecture from an architecture professor one-on-one. She lives in a 17th century stone cottage, the disadvantage of which is the fact that she can’t install heating and gets through winter with a small radiator. When it’s especially cold she lies in the pillow lined bath to read because the tiny room is the only one that heats up acceptably. Anne used to work at one of Halifax’s museums and would have been a wonderful knowledgeable guide. My offer of a holiday in Australia was turned down though, because she didn’t think she could survive the flight without smoking. I shall write a long letter in the next couple of days.

August 14, 2020

A few days ago I read that if we like 90% of a person we should just forget about the 10%. I think it’s good advice. We have all had days when our 10% came to the fore. We were tired or upset or sick or just plain feeling disagreeable. We certainly don’t want our friends to be saying ‘I really liked her, but last night she was so churlish/rude/mean-spirited or unkind that I think I will cut her loose’. So why should we think about doing the same thing to other people? Perhaps we should be celebrating having a 90% compatibility and just roll our eyes at the 10%.

Thinking again about Melbourne and missing it, but gosh it has to be said that those northern and western suburbs are pretty, well what can I say, …unlovely? Coming into Melbs by train from Sydney is enough to make you wonder if it’s really such a good idea. The real clincher for me has been seeing reporting of COVID down there with the camera scoping over dead flat, boring suburbs as far as the eye can see. Not only that, but nary a tree, just oversized McMansions, cheek by jowl, with nothing living to be seen. If you fart in the morning your neighbour two doors down hears it over his Weet-Bix. But go a bit further out and rolling hills abound, Mt Macedon, the Dandenongs frame the city’s outskirts, but gosh it’s a depressing trip to get there. I once went south and booked a motel from here, at Sunshine, (must be lovely, beautiful name?). Oh dear I had to stay the night but got out fast the next morning. Sure we have lots of depressing suburbs here too, Rooty Hill and Mount Druitt among them, but see the difference? A clue is Hill and Mount (a friend of mine has I Climbed Mount Druitt on a T shirt), they may be pathetic rises in elevation terms but at least they rise, whereas any marble rolled in the Melbourne basin would come to a stop very quickly. I guess it is just sad to me that some architects and planners couldn’t manage to adorn a very ordinary landscape by filling it with beautiful buildings, built around parklands with tall trees and curving, not straight, roads. Such a waste and we commit our young people to growing up in a world devoid of beauty.

August 15, 2020

Decided to bake another orange cake so I can give half to Heather who gifted me the bag of Valencia oranges I am using up at the moment. I’ve run out of ground almonds (remember when that happened and we used to just go up to the shops? ha ha how innocent and spontaneous that seems now) so I couldn’t do the old fave. Got a recipe for an orange upside downer from the internet and it was easy and successful, but as usual my heart overtook my head and I couldn’t leave it long enough to cool in the tin, so of course it split when turned out. Luckily one side was much worse than the other so I still had half an intact cake to give. Martha came over to return a book and have a chat so the broken half came in handy. I lent her the Steve Jobs biography and foolishly felt sad about it going out of the door even temporarily. John had said we could go away for a few days when he finished the Link street libraries but by then our Glad was saying that ‘it’s not the time to go on a beach holiday’, obviously she has my new computer if not my whole house bugged, as that was exactly what we had planned. It was a tossup between the flat we stayed in at Sawtell, the cabins at Kiama, Noah’s Hotel at Newcastle or else the luxury of an apartment at Bannisters at Mollymook. Well Bannisters is now a COVID hotspot as of today and they are calling for all clients at the hotel and restaurant to go and get tested (boy I would have been cross about that after paying Bannisters rates!). No doubt Kiama and Sawtell will be announced as hotspots in coming days, Newcastle having been already marked off the list as a flashpoint.  John asked me this morning what I was planning to do today and I said quite without thinking ‘either bake an orange cake or slit my wrists’. Luckily he didn’t take me seriously but I think we are all on that sort of spectrum sometimes.

August 16, 2020

John came last night and I cooked a dinner that I gave a 4/10 and he admitted to it being a 3 for him, but you can’t win them all, roll on the 9s and 10s though. This morning we intended to have the ritual watching of Insiders in our jamies, but he didn’t wake till it was half way through (is this signalling the approach of his 80th I ask myself?) so we saw it in the afternoon on iView instead. We made up for it by having a rare hot breakfast of Cheese and Shallot Omelette with the fresh eggs Carol had given me followed by toast and Heather’s orange marmalade and delicious it all was too. We used to have a cooked breaky once a week but somehow we’ve let that tradition go, I think it needs to be resurrected occasionally. I packed up a box full of linen and a few other bits for Michelle to take in to her workmates, they jump on these boxes fervently apparently. I always think of her work pals as being Filipinos, though she’s told me they are a league of nations, but as I was packing the linen I found myself sorting out bits that would suit the Filipino taste. Also packed a box full of antique and vintage lace with some delightful lace attachments to go onto clothes such as collars and epaulettes. There were some good lengths of fabric as well so all of this went to the sewing group. Amongst it I found a delightful Victorian cotton service apron, embroidered white on white on the bib front and going down to my ankles, of course I am keeping that and hopefully will wear it one day if entertaining ever becomes possible again. Once upon a time antique lace would have brought a very good price in the shop or at auction but it’s not that way now so I don’t want them to be slaughtered at auction to a stranger, better to give them away. We delivered the box over to Martha’s in the afternoon and sat outside with a cuppa chatting to them both. Spoke to Kenneth again regarding details for Carly’s epic security clearance which is currently being updated and this time they want the ins and outs of a duck’s bum. He is not immune from the questions despite being in Pommyland. Giving his details has made me realise that he’s turning 87 this year, no wonder he is getting a bit nostalgic and misty-eyed.

August 17, 2020

Oh boy! I need a sitdown. I’ve spent the morning filling an entire Sulo bin with records from the shop, day sheets, banking records, lists of every item sold, correspondence with police, Fair Trading, clients, auctioneers etc etc, keeping only things from the last 5 years as I am legally obliged to do, with those in a jumbled mess that I doubt I could sort out anyway. Also came across lots of other bit and bobs, like a letter from Elizabeth Harrower and one from Michael Kirby, those can go into the bin after my demise. I decided I had to stop because any more would mean I couldn’t wheel the bin out to the kerb, I’m sure I’ll get a ‘bin over weight’ notice anyway. At least they don’t slap one of those sticky signs onto me when they see me out in the garden, that would be a tad embarrassing. All the tossing out made me think of John’s friend Dally whose unit balcony overlooking Southlands in Melbourne is taken up with box after box after cabinet of records, covering every transaction he’s ever made or letter he’s ever written by the looks of it. It did make me wonder if his girls would be cursing him, carrying loads and loads down to the bins. I am trying to make sure that mine have no more stuff to get rid of than necessary, a pre-mortem disbursement so to speak.

The bloody Californian Poppy seeds haven’t come up in the garden so far. I only planted half the packet in case, but now I can’t find the remainder to sow in seed boxes. Somehow, although I have heaps of other seeds, this one pack is missing. Sow directly my arse, why do I believe the packet instructions? Grrr. Martha gave me some dahlia bulbs to plant but I need to be sure that the poppies have gone to god before I plant them as I would use the same spot.

August 18, 2020

I had a funny little exchange when I rang back a missed call on my mobile. It was a young sounding Irishman who assured me he hadn’t rung me, even accidentally. Mmm odd, so then I listened to the left message and it was someone speaking in Chinese language, sounded like the same person who regularly calls my land line and I just get a Chinese recorded voice who goes on and on. So I texted the fellow back to let him know that someone somewhere is hacking into his phone and he said a couple of mates had reported a similar thing happening. I assured him that I wasn’t intending to report him to ASIO as a potential spy, considering the political climate at the moment. We wished each other ‘keep safe’, something that would have sounded odd a few months ago and the mystery remains unsolved.

I ordered some clothes for Millie today from Rock Your Baby, a company owned by two daughters of my friend Sheila. A few things were out of stock in her size, my gosh she’s going into size 5, but I was still able to buy half a dozen nice bits. I wanted a dress with unicorns on it but unfortunately it stopped at a 4. When asked to make three wishes yesterday Millie replied ‘to ride on a unicorn, to walk on a rainbow and to fly on a cloud’.  Davina told me she just doesn’t like wearing dresses and even for a party turns them down for some leggings and a top, so perhaps it was just as well they were out of stock. I cheated though and got what they called a T shirt dress, which I can pass off to Millie as just being a long T shirt. I know there are heaps of places I could buy stuff online but I love their designs and it’s good to help the little guy. Following that mini shopping spree I made a Belgian Lemon Cake with some of Carol’s lemons, planted some Agapanthus seeds I’d harvested from my plants months ago and also some purple basil. Not falling for the ‘sow in place’ idea any more so I put them both into seed trays. Yesterday I offered John’s neighbour a crystal dressing table set I had unearthed and her reply was that she hated it but could sell it for me on eBay. Mmm it got me thinking this might be the answer to getting rid of stuff, I discussed it further with her and we settled on a 50/50 split, I supply and she sells. Might work or could be a disaster, time will tell. Anyway I have dug out 5 things as a trial, which John will take back to her on Thursday. Nothing to lose but my smoker’s cough, as the old ads for cough lollies used to say.

August 19, 2020

Went on our weekly outing, this time to Warragamba Dam, a place neither of us had been for decades. Since our last visit there has been a visitor’s centre built but sadly it was closed because of Covid. However we were able to walk across the dam and have a gander at the newish spillway built at the side to allow flood water to bypass the dam wall. It is a massive chute, approximately 200 metres wide, but the best part of the design for me was that it has a ‘flip’ at the end meaning that floodwater would be shot into the air so as not to damage the banks of the river as it would if it flowed unimpeded. I just love industrial design, massive stuff like this floats my boat, makes me feel so proud of the engineers both then and now. We got chatting to a worker there and he filled us in on some of the internal details such as the 3 lifts inside the wall and a small tunnel right at the base that he has to shimmy through every so often to check something or other. Claustrophobia on steroids I would imagine, being inside 3 million tons of concrete. A memorial names the 15 men who died working on its construction, from 1938 to 1958. We had our picnic at the excellent facility there before driving out to a nearby lookout to view the dam from the other side. On the way home I suggested that we go to Badgerys Creek and see how the new airport is coming along. It was an obvious site I think, bearing in mind that it is a flat area amid undulating country all around, rare in Sydney but everywhere in poor old Melbourne. I guess they chose it using a topographical survey as there wouldn’t have been too many areas of Sydney with that consistently flat ground. There were huge roadworks going on and then we came to the massive area of the runways, driving right around the perimeter and through the area set aside for the aerotropolis. So all in all a fascinating day as well as an enjoyable one. On the way home through Blacktown we stopped for petrol and I noticed a bedraggled middle-aged man standing there, but I was reluctant to speak to him in case he was just messy. But after paying and coming back to the car John told me he had been going through the bins, but by then he’d left and we lost him. I have felt bad ever since that I didn’t just overcome my reticence to offend him and asked if he were hungry, there was a food outlet right next door. I wish I could just learn to go with my instincts as they rarely lead me astray.

August 20, 2020

We were in PJs late today trying to establish a way to play CDs now that my player has gone to god. Worked out they will play through the TV so that’s a saviour. I could get most on YouTube but some, like my Dave Alexander compilation, were created by his friends in our folk club after his death so wouldn’t be otherwise available. Having achieved that I rescued the old shop CD player cum radio cum tape deck from the garage. The CD is RS but the tape works okay, now giving me the opportunity to play many compilation tapes that are unobtainable. Particularly I wanted this in order to play the tapes of my dad that Kenneth had copied for me. He is talking, not singing of course, but it’s the only chance I have ever had to hear him. So I am feeling quite clever, the only fail was trying to get the VCR to play, I am sure it is working, I just need a techie person to plug it in properly.

Arvind and Mala came in to get me to witness some legal documents and I washed my hands thoroughly afterwards as he had brought his own pen. Pathetic isn’t it? I am weary of all this precaution. Sent John home with a box of 6 things for Ann to try on eBay, please work as it will be the answer to my prayers. I have so much stuff because often people insisted that I take all of their goods, even if I only wanted two or three of them, so I ended up with boxes of stuff that is second hand and not really old enough to be any use to me. This is mostly what I am sorting. Also my spotters, often people who didn’t know shit from clay, used to travel to the shop with junky stuff and it was my policy to always send them home with something, even if it was $10 or $20, sort of petrol money (or sometimes train fare) so they felt as if the trip hadn’t been wasted. I miss those dear souls so much.

August 21, 2020

Up early for a change and took a drive to Erko to show Millie the new clothes I had bought for her which arrived a bit less than two days after I ordered them. She liked them all luckily and when she saw one piece with Bambi on the front she read the label and said ‘oh it’s Disney’, so she’s certainly reading well for age four. Sat in the garden and played hide and seek, blocks and listened to Dav making up stories for her. They are off this arv to Bundeena in the Royal National Park for the weekend and she chose the Bambi dress to wear going down in the car. On the way home I called in to John’s and he was waiting for Link Housing to pick up the five finished street libraries which almost fill his lounge room. Ann had been dying to give me the 10 pairs of earrings she had bought for me as a gift (for no particular reason) so I collected them from her while I was there. They are all big to huge, so she correctly homes in on my taste. I haven’t been wearing earrings for months now, but I will certainly get back to doing so as soon as going out is an option. I am jealous that the folks in the Blue Mountains look like getting snow tomorrow, I was hoping his nibs might feel like another drive but he hasn’t mentioned it, though I would go up for a few days given half a chance. PS: John is off the hook without even knowing about it because I just looked up various accommodation sites to tempt him with and there was nothing above youth hostel or really crummy hotel available for tomorrow night. All of Sydney must have had the same idea. Coincidentally I just got an email from a friend up there saying it is going to snow tomorrow and asking if we wanted to come up. I was inordinately excited until I read on and found that she’s been sick and her COVID test came back negative this morning….ah, no. Early testing is notoriously unreliable so even snow won’t get me to risk that one. Pity.

August 22, 2020

Trying (and failing) not to think about the fact that snow is thick on the ground in Katoomba and Blackheath. At 9.30 am John told me he’d seen it on the news and offered to take us for a drive up there today, but he was at home and by the time he got organised it would have meant leaving about noon, hardly the time to be tripping off to the mountains. Ridiculously I feel like crying.

Thinking about the 1976 vaccine debacle in the US and wondering why no-one has brought that up in the current discussions? In 1976, multiple recruits at Fort Dix army base in New Jersey were hospitalised with respiratory ailments arising from a swine flu virus and one died. Scientists predicted a possible pandemic and the US government made the decision to protect the public and quickly advanced the manufacture of a vaccine that, in hindsight, resulted in more injuries than it had been intended to prevent.  President Gerald Ford announced an initiative to vaccinate “every man, woman, and child in the United States,” but manufacturers were nervous about the haste so Congress passed emergency legislation giving pharmaceutical manufacturers immunity from legal liability. The potential for liability was significant given the many millions of people who would be immunised, the uncertainty of the risks in a large population and the pressure to produce a vaccine as quickly as possible. Clinical testing, which had involved only a limited number of volunteers, would not reveal rare adverse events that occur only when millions of people use a therapy. Shortly after the vaccine program began, three elderly people died after receiving the vaccine and more than 450 people who received it developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare and serious neurological disorder. The immunisation program was halted because, among other reasons, the swine flu pandemic never emerged. The immunisation program cost $100 million for manufacture but the US paid out more than $83 million to settle the claims for death and injury. A scary result which is never talked about these days but it surprises me greatly that it is been forgotten.

August 23, 2020

Oh my, yesterday was a shocker. First an email from the person who gifted me earrings the day before, asking if I could pay for them as she is a bit short. Since yesterday? Then later another communication: I had sent a box of 6 items home with John for her to sell online, as a money-making hobby for her and a lifeline for me to get rid of some of the goods I have in storage. But, as I should have anticipated, it proved more than a little problematic. I had provided detailed descriptions and prices in an email so they could be lifted straight into the ads. I can’t expect someone else to have the knowledge required to give ages and discuss brands. However I got a text to say that the first piece had sold, an item I’d listed for $50 which sold for $20. Thinking it was a mistake I replied that I had asked for more, but soon got the answer that she had altered the description, the age (1930s-40s) and the price, ‘because it looked modern to me’. Ah, problems coming I think. I decided to look up all the other items online but none fitting my descriptions showed up. However I did find my 4 pieces of Wade china by accident, looking under the word ‘Irish’. Why didn’t you include the word Wade I asked, ‘because it didn’t say that on the bottom’ she answered. No, it had their trademark instead. I can either demand the ads be cancelled and the goods returned or write off the $200 plus to experience, my current state of mind favours the latter. Why do I always think that people will do the reasonable thing? The noise you can hear is the connection between my head and the wall.

Today I am experiencing that empty feeling that comes with receiving emails about how much people enjoyed playing around in the snow yesterday and how it was so worth the drive up. My bucket list has a major item in bold: be in heavy falling snow for 24 hours. It followed: go to the midnight fireworks on NYE in Sydney, close enough to feel the bangs. That one was achieved a couple of years ago and so it can be happily put to bed. I enjoy seeing others having that experience now that I have had it, but the snow still evades me. Perhaps I’ve left my run too late I wonder.

August 24, 2020

Oh I am so glad to leave that problematic weekend behind me. A new week full of positivity and potential, woohoo! Thankfully I have had no more emails about earrings nor goods for sale and hopefully I get a rest from it after the constant barrage on Saturday and Sunday. Poor John had a bad weekend as well, with an out of the blue abusive text from the usual source. When are they going to put a sock in it and leave the man alone? What has it been going on, 12 years? More? Anyway he says he will take my advice and ignore it, though there’ll be another along soon I’m sure and every one cuts him as badly as the last. Positive news from the garden in that a few tiny spinach and lettuce are raising their heads above the soil, promise of a spring harvest, though still waiting on the basil.

I am currently reading The Plague by Albert Camus, published in 1947 about a plague in Algeria, and it raises just the same issues that are in play today: ‘We find it hard to believe in a pestilence when it descends upon us’, ‘Plagues and wars always find people unprepared’, ‘They continued with business, with making arrangements for travel and holding opinions’. COVID-19 is pretty nasty but I’d opt for it over the plague any day given the choice, with a death rate of 50-90% for the latter, up there with Ebola. Looking at it like that we are pretty lucky really, an opinion I may have had trouble with over the weekend, but it’s all about frame of mind. I’ve finished the book group novel, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was almost operatic in style, certainly with an opera’s tragic ending, but its main theme to me was not the power of music to uplift, but the power of proximity to others to allow people of totally different groupings to form bonds with each other. Whether the differences be rich/poor, educated/peasant, left/right politically, the forced closeness of living means that the people are seen in their essence, leading to some unexpected friendships and romantic pairings.

August 25, 2020

This morning at breakfast I noticed that the Japanned black legs of a Victorian occasional table seemed to be peppered with rust-coloured spots. To my horror I discovered that it was actually borers eating through the Japanning and showing the rusty coloured wood beneath. I immediately took the table outside and washed it with kerosene, the tried and true cure, but it is very difficult to get the kero into the tiny holes, a syringe being the best method. I dusted those legs only a few weeks ago and I know it was okay then, so where did the blighters come from and more importantly what else have they attacked that I don’t know about?  We got away late due to this distraction so opted for a close trip, just up to Bowen Mountain park and then Kurrajong village, having our picnic on the north banks of the Hawkesbury, where we were amazed at the height of the flood debris in the trees, at least 20 feet above ground. I went into the tiny chemist in Kurrajong to ask if he’d sell me a syringe with needle and he did so without asking to inspect my arms, so I must look kosher. When we got home John loved injecting kero into all the dozens of holes in the table which is currently quarantined in the garage. At least the top is safe as it is papier mache and I don’t think they’d like the taste of the glue involved in the making. I got lucky in my decision to let things ride in the contretemps over selling some of my things online. I got a text saying that there’d been no interest so far which let me reply to the effect that returning the goods to me seems the best thing to do. Better than a fight that’s for sure but I still need to decide the best move in the earrings department. At least I can smile about it now and realise that I was never going to come out of it well, so just learn the lesson.

August 26, 2020

A worrying couple of days in terms of John’s memory. He got lost on a walk from his home along the Lane Cove River on Monday and only realised it when he noticed that ‘the water was flowing the wrong way’ so he was on the opposite bank to where he should have been with no memory of how he got there. Then last night we were having dinner and he suddenly went very strange, saying ‘I just lost a chunk of my memory’. When I asked what he meant he explained that instantaneously the whole day had disappeared in his mind and he had no recollection of what we’d done (a picnic), even after I went through it in detail. I then mentioned in a conversation the town of Bowral and he asked where it was. Near Mittagong was my answer, but he’d never heard of that either. I explained it is in the Southern Highlands, to which he replied ‘Is that up north? how would we get there from here?’ Later in the evening the memory came back and he just snapped back to normal. I am reluctant to advise a raft of medical tests as I suspect that there won’t be a treatment anyway. I’ve advised that he take an old licence with him whenever he goes on a walk in future and I will have a quiet word to Bob, who has said previously that his memory issues are probably the result of a lot of anaesthetics and drugs, which of course is why he is still here at all. I’ll ask if he is still of that view considering recent events. This old age business is a shocker, until you consider the alternative.

This morning we did a good clean of the barbecue, with John scrubbing the plates in the laundry tubs while I washed and then oiled the metal inside and out. It’s now good enough to eat from. We decided to take it easy today in the light of last night’s episode, but he has just gone for his walk armed with his licence and phone in case of a repeat. I think an afternoon of reading for him would be a good idea as he is loving the book Scarlett Feather which I pressed on him, knowing he’d be tickled pink by it. I am still loving The Plague and the similarities to Victoria are endless. ‘The increases in deaths were convincing– but not enough for the townspeople to abandon entirely that it was merely an incident, annoying of course, but nonetheless temporary. So they went on walking around the streets and sitting on the cafe terraces’. Human nature changes not. I am a bad person in that the mention of the Melbourne millionaires who evaded the lockdown and fled to the Gold Coast being taken off their yacht to quarantine in Brisbane brought a smile to my face and put a spring in my step. Yes schadenfreude is sweet sometimes.

August 27, 2020

A funny appendix to the story about trying to sell some things in partnership with a third party. I arranged for her to give the things back but when asked I said that it was up to her whether she left them up for sale or not. She did so and got some interest in one item of Wade out of a collection of four pieces advertised together. Would I sell just one? Sure why not, so a price was reached and then the issue of postage came up after our previous decision not to bother with sales that couldn’t be picked up. The lady pleaded that she was an old Irish person in country NSW and she really wanted the Wade piece so we agreed to post it at cost. Now we are only talking about a $15 item so there is nothing in it financially, but I was so pleased to get the thrill that I used to have in the shop when a person found something that meant a lot to them. It amazes me that I have gone from the depths of frustration to an intense pleasure over one of these bits and bobs from the storeroom. It has filled me with enthusiasm for the idea that lots of other things have a home if only I can find it.

I had a good laugh about the high ranking government official in the Philippines who forgot to turn off the camera after a Zoom meeting, only to begin having sex with his secretary in front of his stunned (and I suspect amused) colleagues. Neither he nor his secretary have been back to work since and the government is seeking to replace them both. It made me think of all the myriad instructions provided for a Zoom meeting of our book group tomorrow and the one thing that was missed was ‘turn off the camera if you intend to do anything you don’t want broadcast’.

August 28, 2020

Made a Lemon Slice which actually didn’t have any lemon in it at all, but had lemon icing on top, so on that basis anything with lemon icing could be so named. Anyway this was a base crust with a walnut, coconut and brown sugar topping, probably too intensely sweet with icing over a brown sugar mix, but very nice nonetheless. Not one for diabetic friends. I always feel safe with a cake or slice sitting there, waiting for a visitor to knock at the door. My aunty married a second time (to the minister who did her husband’s funeral, no less) and he was sent to Bega. There she kept one of those old-fashioned three tier aluminium cake tins marked Cake, Scones and Biscuits and her role was to keep them full for drop ins who needed to talk to her husband. It occurs to me now that doing funerals, either as a minister or celebrant, is a good hunting ground for a partner as I know another person who married a woman after being the civil celebrant at her husband’s funeral. I often joke to John that if he spoke at my funeral he could cast an elevated eye over the congregation for just this purpose.

Our book group meeting was successful and it reminded me of early meetings where the proposer spoke followed by each member in turn, uninterrupted. The mute facility actually makes that easier to do, so people get to express their view of the book without distraction. I’ve finished The Plague and it was a worthwhile read. The priest thunders from the pulpit that the plague is the wrath of god coming down on sinfulness but the good doctor, a staunch humanist and atheist, just puts one foot in front of the other, the model of scientific but humane and supportive medicine. The last paragraph is worth thinking about: ‘And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperilled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city’. Then we lost Camus to a simple old car accident. Interestingly, Camus himself is reported to have said that the most absurd way to die would be in a car accident.

August 29, 2020

Got a bit of gardening done today on a beautiful morning, putting Charlie Carp onto my peas and sweet peas as well as on the lettuces and pot plants. Michelle had asked what date I planted the peas and I was able to answer after looking at the blog, so at least it comes in good for something. Then I was surprised by a call from Mary in New Zealand, what a great friend she is. Chatted with Martyn about Robert’s condition today, not good, but Sue is surrounded by her four daughters and has always risen enthusiastically to the sad task she has been given. Later I caught up with Carol so it was a pleasant morning in that respect. Now I have been trying to use the old tape deck from the shop in order to listen to ancient folk club and other tapes but it is touch and go, the volume is set at full but can either be quite loud or non existent at will, so there seems to be an electrical fault there somewhere.

I have been the recipient of many online survey requests lately for reasons I can’t explain, this morning a Voxpop from the ABC on coronavirus which went into lots of weird and wonderful conspiracy theories and whether or not I believed them. The usual suspects: 5G, the Chinese lab, Bill Gates wanting to microchip everyone etc. Plus lots of questions about moods such as anxiety, fear, stress etc (perhaps surprisingly I listed the answer to most questions positively at about an 8 out of a possible 10) and what my sources of information are, press, TV, internet etc. I get a regular one from Sydney University with similar questions, usually once every 3 weeks. I am not sure how I got on their lists but I don’t mind doing them, but not to be ‘in the draw for a $20 gift card’ which the Uni one amusingly offers. It acts as a counter to the conspiracy theory links I keep being sent by two of my cousins, I try to be reasonable in my responses but sometimes it’s trying…… Unfortunately there does seem to be a concerted effort to suppress information coming out of the CDC and the FDA, something I’ve never seen before. First, the FDA gave the green light to plasma therapy before it was proven effective for Covid-19. Then, the CDC changed its recommendations and said asymptomatic people with possible Covid-19 exposure do not need to get tested, presumably to keep the numbers down leading up to the US election. The advice goes against what science says about the spread, and already multiple states say they will not follow those recommendations. Please just get rid of this buffoon before he corrupts every organisation we could trust in the US.

August 30, 2020

John surprised me by saying he didn’t want to watch Insiders this morning (he refers to this ritual every Sunday as going to Mass) because he doesn’t want to hear anything about the pandemic or politics today and preferred to put some fallen tree branches into the bin, so we worked on that instead and I’ll watch it later. Unfortunately the gum is constantly dropping branches so there’s a never ending supply of wood, pity we don’t have a fire. Heather came over for morning tea and that lasted till lunchtime. Then I decided to take some photos of things I want rid of, some glass, crystal and a Pentax camera. Tried listing just one thing on Facebook Marketplace and it is sooo much quicker and easier to do than eBay that I can see why people have gone over to it. Of course you don’t get the advantage of auction running away with the price but that happens so rarely anyway that I don’t think I would bother with it unless it was something of high value where there could be really serious interest. So I put one thing on as a trial, a piece of Imperial Glass that happened to have the impressed trademark for 1920 so the age is indisputable. We shall see.

Carly had some luck yesterday. She got her cat Lola from the Canberra Street Cat Alliance, a bunch of people who trap wild cats, get them desexed and rehome them. She supports them financially and went into their big 50/50 raffle, the idea being that you get half of whatever the raffle brings in. It raised $1262, half was a tidy sum, but she decided to donate her winnings back to the organisation so I didn’t get chance to suggest any lovely treats she could indulge in with some of the money. That will pay quite a few vet bills so it puts them in a good position to continue the work and rehome lots more Lolas.

August 31, 2020

Well there are lots of firsts to report: yesterday was the first time since last autumn that I left the doors open all day, also the first day without any form of heating, the first blowfly of the season (a black monster) and today was the first day that I haven’t worn socks. So spring has officially sprung. Kirk came this morning and did the mowing and I’ve booked him to come back next Monday to help me with cutting up the bigger tree branches for the bin, thinning out and replanting some clivias and also to use his little auger tool to dig holes deep enough for the dahlia bulbs. After he went we drove to North Head to mooch around, luckily we went when we did because later it came up very cool and blowy and we needed to decamp to Curl Curl to shelter from the southerly. Last time we were at North Head John said it would be lovely to stay at Q Station for a couple of nights and he said exactly the same this time, so perhaps it may come to pass. John’s memory came to the fore again today when he rang Steve and sang two verses of Happy Birthday, except it is next Monday, which he had already double-checked in his diary last night. The same diary where he has two Nelune appointments for his infusion, this Wednesday and the following one, but he only goes once a month. I noticed a September echocardiogram appointment at the heart specialist which was a worry too as she’d told his to come back early in the new year. However a couple of phone calls sorted that out and cancelled the phantom appointments, but he does need a diary secretary badly. I guess that’s a job for moi.

September 1, 2020

Yesterday when we went to North Head we had no idea that the 1988 murder of Scott Johnson there would be the subject of last night’s Australian Story programme. We did discuss it as we looked down over the cliffs and I said that it would be an awful long way down, knowing that only pain and death awaited you at the bottom. There are a few connections between us and the case, the main one being that Scott White, John’s upstairs neighbour and erstwhile friend, was arrested for the murder recently. John watched his arrest from his bedroom window and later from his balcony, though he had no idea why he was being taken away. John’s bedroom window featured in the coverage aired last night as they bundled Scott down the stairs. My surprise connection, which I only discovered when viewing the show, was that ex Coroner Jacquie Milledge was helping the victim’s brother navigate the NSW legal system and in convincing the police that a crime had actually been committed at all, something they steadfastly refused to believe for over 30 years. Jacquie was, and perhaps still is, a serious antiques collector and although she was never a customer we both frequented John Williams Auctions over many years and often communicated there. I remember times while she was waiting for a particular lot to come up (I was watching every lot by contrast) she would immerse herself in autopsy reports and legal paperwork and I would remind her when her lot was approaching. We always sat near the front and John Williams, apart from some other positive personality traits, was a terrible snob and sycophant who loved having ‘famous’ people on show at his sales. He would mention Jacquie by name often just in case anyone missed the fact that she was there and was well known to him. I of course was fascinated by her autopsy reports and fantasised that one day she would say ‘I’m just going to the loo for an hour, could you please mind these reports for me’. Needless to say she guarded them closely. I found her to be smart, empathetic, tenacious and just the sort of person you would want in a coroner’s job. In an aside, the most memorable example of John Williams’ sycophantic behaviour came when a certain very elderly gentleman would arrive part way through the sale (parking his white Rolls-Royce illegally as often as not) at which point John would stop the bidding and declare loudly ‘Oh Sir Les, welcome! Please come down the front, we’ve saved a seat for you. Thankyou Sir Les, thankyou thankyou’. Of course the seat business was total BS as there were often single seats available at the front, just by chance. I often chatted to Sir Les as well and he struck me as a humble old chap who was probably mortified by the attention. He had an ill and house bound wife and took the opportunity to buy her antique treats from the sale. He once said that he had sealed off a large part of their harbourside house because there were just two of them and it saved on heating and cleaning! I could never do the networking thing, probably stupidly, so in the cases of people I met there I didn’t even give them a business card as it seemed like trying to steal business from JWA. I guess Sir Les has gone to his reward by now, as has John Williams, but the memories still exist thankfully. Last night my John asked me what his relationship with the murder accused should now be, but he is still only accused, and in any case the man of 50 isn’t the same person as the boy of 17, so I told him that and whatever he chooses to do is okay by me.

September 2, 2020

Spring must agree with me because by not long after 7 I had sent off a missive to that rotten Tony Rabbit, so angered was I at his latest opinions, to wit ‘letting the elderly die naturally’ during the pandemic. Nothing like some righteous anger to start the day off at a clip. I put the letter into the Guardian Facebook page comments as well and so far I’ve had over 20 responses including some lovely replies. Angered too by the failure of my basil seeds to germinate so I sowed the second half of the packet and if they fail I shall buy seedlings and be done with it, so there. Then on to a job that’s years and years overdue. I recently decided to bring up the old tape deck that I used in the shop so I could listen to tapes that can’t be accessed online, for example those made at folk club concerts or of people who never rose to fame. But I have oodles of old tapes and with gritted teeth I began hurling them into the bin. No one needs classical music on tape these days, nor Bob Dylan either (but I just couldn’t bring myself to toss his in case the internet crashes permanently). There were meditation tapes and the chants of Paramahansa Yogananda (didn’t we all go through the Eastern religion thing?). These ended up in the street library as they can do no harm. Next I found I had numerous unmarked tapes and lots of empty cases, none of which matched up, so they went to the bin too. Gosh it’s only a little after noon and I’ve done years worth of tossing already.

Thinking back to the days of John Williams Auctions after yesterday’s post and some of the crazy stuff that went on there over the years. I had often noticed that if I bid against a gay person or couple John could never seem to see my hand waving in the air while others could bid with a raised eyebrow. On one occasion I had called out loudly to register a bid he’d missed and later I heard him apologising to the couple that ‘I’m sorry, I had to give it to her, she was so persistent’. So I stored it away that for whatever reason he was especially keen to keep gay customers happy. He was married, as I found out when his wife rang me once to castigate me for my failure to pay the bill before taking the goods. I let her finish her rant and then calmly said ‘Perhaps you need to talk to your front of house manager as I paid him in cash last Sunday’. No apology, just a promise to look into it. But one day when I was dropping off things to sell, I couldn’t see anyone in the office so I wandered into the saleroom to see said office manager and John playing tip, chasing each other around the antique furniture and collapsing into hugs and giggles when one caught the other. I went back to the office and rang the bell. It was some years later that I read in the press that there had been a huge hoo-ha when John left his wife and harbourside apartment to live with ‘little John’ as he was known by one and all. That they were madly in love was something I had seen in that game of tip years before and managed to keep mum about. He was quite the rock star of auctioneers at this stage and often mentioned in the press. Once I was invited to John’s house, St. Kevin’s in Queen St. Woollahra, but I can’t now remember if he was personally buying something from me or I from him. It was a gorgeous place but much in need of renovation and decoration. I longed to have a go at it but was shy of suggesting it, particularly as he was married at that stage. He later sold St. Kevin’s to his friend, non other than Prime Minister Paul Keating. John had been Keating’s personal dealer for a long time, especially noted for searching for his precious clocks. I wonder if Paul used his great aesthetic prowess to decorate it?  I hope so.

September 3, 2020

My dear friend Robert died at 6.10 am this morning. Vale good man, your life was worthwhile and the long queue of people you helped, both in your career as a doctor and as a friend, goes way over the hill and out of sight.

First the librarian came with six new books, including two about Trump, they know my  tastes! Then a  friend visited and brought figs, blackberries and a dragon fruit. I’d only seen the ones that are white inside but this one is a deep majenta. Apparently they are a form of cactus without spikes and are so beautiful inside and out. Then Heather came to the door with goodies, having made the recipe for the slice that I served to her last week, but she’d altered the walnuts to pistachios and left out the coconut so I am keen to try her version. I was able to send her home with some mandarin cake. All in all I’ve had a profitable day for lovely food, I am very spoilt. In the afternoon I went to see Bob about John’s recent memory issues and he is of the opinion that considering lymphoma, chemotherapy, heart problems, heart surgery, many anaesthetics, knee surgery, infections, a mountain of drugs and his family issues it is hardly surprising. I just needed to make sure that there wasn’t any silver bullet that I had overlooked but everything he said was as predicted. He also thinks that the loss of memory for a few hours last week could be a vascular event which blocked blood flow to a small part of the brain temporarily. I wasn’t going to tell John why I was going to Bob today but he asked why I wasn’t just getting scripts over the phone, so I explained that I wanted to make sure we were doing everything possible for him and when I got home I told him fully what Bob had said. He was cool with it and glad that there wasn’t any suggestion of yet more drugs, tests or interventions.

September 4, 2020

There are two pharmacies in Baulkham Hills, one of which I don’t use any more after I discovered at the beginning of the pandemic that the ‘anti-viral hand sanitiser’ they were selling hand over fist contained very little alcohol with a main ingredient that seemed in my searches to be okay for bacteria but not for viruses. When I asked my friend the virologist he told me ‘you would need to bath in that for a week to kill a virus’. When I spoke to the pharmacist about it she said ‘but it says on the label it’s for viruses’ totally ignoring my point, so I decided she wasn’t up to the task and stopped going there. The other has been owned for decades by the son of a once prominent local politician who has all the facial expression and charm of Melania Trump so I don’t like shopping there either. However now that my chemist’s needs are home delivered it doesn’t really matter if he’s nice to deal with or not. This morning I rang to place an order and instead got a very cheery and chatty man whom I knew would never have been hired by that owner. In the course of identifying myself I gave my age and on the spur of the moment asked how old he was: ‘I can be however old you want me to be’ was the reply. Mmm this fellow is fun I decided, so I suggested 25 would be good and he announced that was fine with him. It was the next line that made me really laugh: ‘I’m not sure what sort of line you thought you were ringing but this is the pharmacy’. I later had to send off a photo of the scripts I wanted and received back a photo of him, beaming in the dispensary with the message: ‘I have taken over this pharmacy. You are safe with me and I will always be here to give you service with a smile’! Now some would find this an odd exchange in the circumstances but I think he is over the moon to have bought his own business and is probably operating on adrenaline. Anyway it gave me a much-needed smile this morning and I won’t hesitate to shop there in person now.

 

September 5, 2020
Yesterday was stressful in the extreme after we decided to book somewhere to stay on the Central Coast to be nearby for Robert’s funeral and also to have the first break away for a year. As we want to do all our own catering it was a unit or house that we needed so I went to Airbnb and found a lovely unit in The Entrance. What a kerfuffle it turned out to be with the request to the property owner being misconstrued so the dates were wrong in the confirmation. Then he had trouble with the system and it took some time as he had to cancel the first booking and then rebook the correct dates. The next hurdle was that they wanted a photo of my licence which was problematic, but finally we got the booking. In the middle of all of this I got a phone call from a woman who said that she had just had a call from someone pretending to be the Taxation Department and when she called the number back to see if it was genuine she got me!! So someone is using my phone number for scams. That was the last straw yesterday. I’ve got Optus working on that now but it is very disconcerting. However a sleep last night seemed to make these mountains into molehills. One of the books the library sent was a biography of Melania Trump, mmm, not quite my thing but I am ploughing through it quickly. According to the author, a journalist who has travelled widely with her, she always  knows exactly what she is in for and accepts it as the price of a life of luxury. The flowers for the wedding table decorations, each eight feet high, numbered 10,000 and were transported from New York to Florida in specially adapted refrigerated trucks. What more need I say? Except perhaps that both her sister and her parents live in Trump properties and spend a lot of time at Mar-a-Lago so it seems she’s bought a lifestyle for the whole family that would have been unimaginable in Communist Slovenia.

This post above somehow disappeared from the system and I could only recover it in this form, sigh, technology.

September 6, 2020

Interested to read Julia Baird’s piece about the lovely Jerry Falwell, erstwhile president of the Christian college Liberty University and now the recipient of US$10.5 million smackers courtesy of his severance pay due to numerous sexual and financial allegations. It is just more evidence towards my theory that the last place for women and children to be safe is with the ‘super religious’. I could give many personal examples, but I won’t, however I agree completely with Julia’s quoted assertion that ‘those who believe most strongly in taboos are likely to be most thrilled by breaking them’. Just think of Catholic priests for example! I wish I had put it in those words myself when I warned off people after they told me they had confidence in being safe with someone because they are a Christian/evangelical/youth leader or whatever. For me that is a red flag.

I am in the process of packing all the food necessary to go away tomorrow so we won’t need to shop up there, apart from any small thing I’ve forgotten. I’m packing everything from swimming togs to jumpers as the weather is forecast as changeable. The unit has no wifi though so I may not be able to blog, we shall see. I don’t think I will bother taking the computer at all.

September 7, 2020

The unit was everything we had hoped for, a lovely fresh beachy decor with views to die for. It has everything we need bar Wi-Fi for me but I’ve decided to just write some notes and put it in when I get home. We are right opposite the entrance to the lake so walking on the beach is just a matter of crossing a road. I can’t imagine a more peaceful setting in easy proximity to Sydney. I had to smile when we pulled in to The Entrance and John said “so this is where the working class have their holidays, it’s nice that they can go somewhere”. His view of the place changed once we turned off the main drag and came to the area where our unit is. When I looked around later I saw that the main street does look pretty sad with about 20% of the shops empty, but I suspect this downturn was pre-Covid. Tonight confirmed that view, I can remember when the street was really busy at night but even the ice cream parlour was shut. The two fish shops who used to do great dinner trade were both closing at 3:30 pm. It’s certainly down at heel in a commercial sense. Our first Indian meal since February was a bit of a disappointment, pretty bland with no complexity in the flavours so I will be doing all the cooking from here on in, no problems in such a well equipped kitchen.

September 8, 2020

Walked on the beach just after dawn and it truly is a delightful place to be. Took a short drive to Bateau Bay but it wasn’t pleasant walking on the beach due to the wind, so we headed home and into our books, looking out periodically at our superb view. John had just bought The Altar Boys and I browsed it but was soon committed to reading it. We had been introduced to, and had lunch with, Geoffrey and Audrey who feature prominently in the book. This was when we went to Newcastle for the Cunneen inquiry into abuse by priests and brothers in the Newcastle Maitland area, so seeing Geoffrey on the cover and reading his story right from page one made a big impression. I will say more when I’ve finished the book. No wonder the commercial part of The Entrance is so down at heel. We are in a block of six units and we are the only people here. The luxury block of three units next door is totally empty, though the spa bath on the balcony of one unit is bubbling away day and night, much to my annoyance at the waste of power. Their windows are dark tinted and I would hate that, seeing the world artificially coloured defeats the purpose surely. On the other side there appears to be one unit occupied in a block of eight. This is an area for retirees as well as holiday makers, I guess the retirees don’t have the money to spend and the holiday makers are not coming, or perhaps only at weekends. It’s lucky that we brought all our own food including baked goods because there isn’t a decent bakery here any more. They are full of iced donuts the size of teaplates and cakes with icing the colour of bile, ugh. However for our needs this place has been perfect with every piece of cooking equipment one could ask for, except that I hate the induction cooktop and even more so after trying to read the instruction book which might as well have been in Latin. Loving my own gas cooktop even more than usual.

September 9, 2020

We had a walk on the beach this morning and it started to rain just at the end of it, then we headed back for an early lunch and to tart ourselves up for Robert’s funeral. The place at Kincumber was absolutely spectacular, a deep wooded valley with a glass chapel overlooking it. It was certainly the best funeral venue I’ve seen and the man next to me was musing about how he could have his own funeral there. Sue’s brothers Steven and Martyn were in good form as ever, making their eulogies funny as well as heartfelt. We didn’t go to the wake for a few reasons, one being that there were plenty of other people whom Sue won’t get to see very often, if at all. We on the other hand will catch up with her easily. Another reason was that because of the rain it would have to be held indoors and there was obviously a lack of social distancing at the funeral and very few wore masks so we decided bearing all that in mind that we would come straight home, tonight I am feeling downhearted and not in the mood for social chitchat so I think that confirmed the decision was the right one.  Nothing worse than small talking when you are beyond sad. The thing that will always stick in my mind about Robert is the fact that he was unafraid. Whether it was climbing mountains, visiting remote places, striving for excellence in many ways, he was confident and wouldn’t let life give him no for an answer. As someone who is quite the opposite of that I found it inspiring. The other memory is that he didn’t hold back his opinion, I tire of knowing people disagree on something but watching them politely swallow their opinions for fear of offending. Robert was quite happy to make himself unpopular if he needed to, what is the point of having an opinion if you are too afraid to share it? Of course there is a time to hold one’s tongue for specific reasons, but generally I think we should have the courage of our convictions, as he had.

September 10, 2020

We did a drive over to North Entrance to show John where I spent each Christmas holiday in a tent when I was young. Then off to Toukley and Budgewoi where we found a lovely riverside park which had a bridge over to an island in the river, which we explored after a simple lunch of Jatz crackers, cheese and fruit. No sweet treats here either as looking through the bakery window brought no joy, just more psychedelic disasters a la the 1960s. Later we drove to Norah Head and wandered around the lighthouse, marvelling at the list of ships that had foundered nearby, including a couple of merchant ships sunk by the Japanese in WWII, something that was far from uncommon but suppressed during the war and then not well publicised after it. When were were at Mallacoota in Victoria a few years ago we were stunned in the little military museum to see how many ships the Japanese and even the Germans had sunk so far south. In the afternoon Stephen and Deborah came down from Newcastle and we shared food and stories into the evening. Deborah now has great trouble hearing after potent antibiotics destroyed the sensory cells, she is currently waiting for the NDIS to organise hearing aids. It was great to spend time with them, a pleasure denied recently due first to her illness and later by COVID. The barramundi I cooked on that stupid cooktop was more boiled than fried as the maximum heat is totally inadequate so if we go there again I will only use the oven. When we camped as a child everything was cooked in an electric frypan and it’s a shame they fell out of fashion as I found them a very useful appliance, making the best baked dinners ever and even cooking cakes in a separate cake tin inside.

September 11, 2020

What a load of stuff we took away, clothes for every season, funeral outfits, pillows, books, plenty of food, and it all needed loading back into the car this morning, less much of the food obviously, going down three flights of stairs each time. We arrived at Sue’s (until recently Robert and Sue’s, perhaps always Robert and Sue’s in the future?) by 10 am and stayed there chatting a while with her and Anna, the only daughter now left in residence. Sue is coming to Sydney next Thursday for an appointment and I have invited her to come and stay that night, or before and after, but I won’t mention it again and she can decide how she feels at the time. It might seem weird for her to be out in the world and have options after so long looking after Robert. On the way home John and I discussed strategies to deal with his memory loss, such as only going out for walks with his licence and phone, this was after he said that he didn’t think he should be driving anywhere unfamiliar in future unless I am with him. His driving and reflexes are good, probably better than mine, but who knows where he would end up alone as he has no idea which way to turn when we reach an intersection that we had used just the day before. His concepts of direction are failing badly, not really having a general sense that he needs to go south for example. I hope it slows down a bit because at this rate I can’t see him being able to drive too long at all. One day at a time though, perhaps it goes in fits and starts rather than a linear progression and he’s had a recent dip so it might plateau, hopefully.

September 12, 2020

We decided that because we’ve pretty much used up all our fruit and vegetables, we would drive out to a farm at Dural which we frequent, where we can replenish without going to the shops. Denise serves there on her own and always wears a mask so we feel it is a safe option. She doesn’t have every option but enough choices that we can restock our fridges more than adequately. After that I tied up my massively grown sugar snap peas which have sadly keeled over in my absence. This was done with the aid of a wooden venetian blind slat poked through the middle and then the plant was tied to it at numerous points with cord, what would I do without venetian blind cord? It solves so many problems at this house. Next I sat my dahlia bulbs on a bed of potting mix and watered them, covered with a sheet of glass, getting ready for planting next week. Passionfruit biscuits were the remaining task as I bought a big bag of those delicious fruit from Denise. Passionfruit icing must be close to heaven I think, so I will ice them tomorrow as well. Question: Who loses weight on holiday? Answer: A person who goes to a bakery desert. After all of this I sat on the back verandah and read the Herald, while taste testing the biscuits with a cup of tea.

September 13, 2020

I watched the recorded book launch of The Altar Boys at the recommendation of Stephen, who had been there in person supporting his friend. Geoffrey’s speech was deeply affecting, especially heartfelt when he angrily mentioned Andrew Murray (John’s nephew who is a priest) in a very negative light. Both the priest and Geoffrey’s deceased brother share the first name Andrew. The priest Andrew wasn’t accused of any child abuse related matters but he does stand accused by Geoffrey of recently contacting his elderly and still grieving mother twice with two different and unrealistic explanations for the child Andrew’s death in 1974. Geoffrey believes he is still trying to absolve the church of any responsibility for his brother’s suicide and asked publicly that Andrew ‘never mention my brother’s name again’. He also read a very long list of priests, brothers and lay teachers, including school principals, who have been convicted of child abuse in Newcastle, the number was almost unbelievable. Multiply that by the many victims of each and then extend that out to their families and friends, it must affect a huge number of Newcastle’s residents. Chilling.

September 14, 2020

John watched The Altar Boys book launch this morning and I could tell by his voice that he was as deeply affected by it as I was, probably more so given the unexpected mention of a family connection. He decided to spread the video widely amongst his ex-priest mates. I have been baking again, this time cheese and walnut biscuits, and gardening, potting up some flower cuttings that came into root while we were away. Some of my dahlia bulbs are shooting too which is a good sign for the rest. The front garden is looking fine, so many white flowers out including gerberas, may bush and of course the massive Rhaphiolepis which stretches right across the front yard. I would trade a white flowered plant for any number of red ones, somehow white flowers are so soothing. I sent a photo off to Ram in India so he gets an idea where I live and got a reply back straight away. I am hoping he may send a pic so I can visualise his place. I have good memories of the guest house in Kannur where he worked but his home was some hours south on the train in Kozhikode. When I rang a few weeks ago the call was prefaced by a COVID safety message in Malayalam which apparently begins every local and overseas call. I think some of the Asian countries are way ahead of us in ideas for day to day handling of this thing. On which subject, I think Scott Morrison’s repeated bullying of the Queensland premier will go down as on a par with Tony Abbott’s appalling behaviour towards Julia Gillard. I hope female voters there will remember it in the ballot box.

September 15, 2020

Last night was the perfect example of why Robert’s confidence in life was a good influence on me. I decided to try to sell a few bits and bobs that can be posted in a normal envelope without needing to go to the PO. So I listed on Facebook Marketplace four military medallions. I got plenty of response but sold them to a chap whom I later discovered was in Malaysia. After a gap of some time occurred following putting in my bank details I decided he wasn’t a buyer at all but a scammer and was toying with warning the bank. (This because after visiting Malaysia briefly the bank rang Davina and told her that scamming is so rife there that there were cancelling all of her cards and reissuing new ones, despite no problem occurring). Now someone like Robert (or Michelle) would have assumed the best while I assumed the worst and got myself into a right tizz late at night. However he eventually sent his address and paid for the goods. Phew. It turned out he is the defence attache at the Malaysian High Commission in Canberra so I am posting them to him there. I was so relieved that I cheekily asked if a tour of the embassy was part of the deal and he replied that it was. He must have looked up my profile because he referred to me as Madam rather than Miss, later saying ‘next time you come to Malaysia Madam I will show you around like a Queen’ and I’d take him up on it too if I thought I would ever go there again. The disappointed string of men who missed out on the medallions indicates that I probably underpriced them quite a lot but as that old crook Rene Rivkin used to say ‘always leave something in a deal for the next person’ and somehow that always stuck with me. Message to self: take a deep breath, everything is usually okay.

Kirk came this morning and used his battery operated augur to dig the holes for the dahlia bulbs, also replanting some Clivias from the back yard to the front, a job that’s beyond me now because it involved consistently bending low under the tree to plant them, something that always ends up with my feeling too dizzy to continue. He gave me a price less than what I was expecting and when I insisted on giving him a higher figure he seemed bemused, but as I told him it means I can ask him to do something extra another time without feeling bad about it, so it was really a selfish move. Had two different friends pop in today so that meant the passionfruit biscuits were a helpful addition to the comestibles.

September 16, 2020

Unfortunately it seems to be a fact of life that it is the authoritarians amongst us that sign up for the police force and the military. Although they often say it is to help the public, to be of service, etc it doesn’t take much for that disciplinarian streak to emerge, something that we rarely if ever see in firies or ambos who deal with many stressful situations without resorting to violence. The current situation in some ways is a policeman’s dream, not only catching bad guys but keeping the rest of the populace in trim. I am sure I would be tempted to give some of these ‘sovereign citizens’ a whack, but I am not in the police force where turning the other cheek to verbal abuse should be part and parcel of the training. Seeing a police car running into a mentally ill man who’d waited over 24 hours for help at a hospital emergency department, then seeing colleagues pile onto him while one stomps on his head, is just the latest manifestation. Another NSW policeman who chased a woman into her garage and pulled a gun to her chest, threatening to shoot her for a minor traffic offence later handcuffed and arrested her and pepper-sprayed her dog. She has just been awarded $115,000 plus legal costs but that doesn’t get the bloke out of the force, something governments are very reluctant to do after they have invested money in their training and are also under pressure from the powerful police union. I remember meeting the mother of my daughters’ school friend who told me she was just back from Goulburn to watch her other daughter graduate as a detective. ‘I pity anyone she arrests’ she told me ‘she’s been pushing her sister and us around her whole life, so she’s perfect for the job’. Ouch. I didn’t feel as much confidence as the mother did in her being right for the job, just that she was more of the same.

My career on Facebook Marketplace has ground to a halt after the three things I listed yesterday: a wartime Japanese document, 40 various coins and some wartime Japanese and Korean banknotes were all rejected as listing because they didn’t pass a review of ‘inappropriate listings’. I appealed but apparently it broke some rule, though I am unable to find the grounds for the rejection as a reading of the rules shows no reference at all to any of the items. Each had WWII in the title so I can only assume it is something to do with that. No discussion will be entered into. Sighs. However the medallions went into the post box this arv so at least I had a win there.

September 17, 2020

I hadn’t started the book group novel as yet but having read it years ago I thought I could cheat a bit, look up my review and then perhaps speed read it. But that came to nought when I discovered I’d read it before I started reviewing. However now I have started it I remember how funny and insightful it was so I’m not regretting having to read it carefully. I think that although it was pre-Trump it delves into the mindset of people who may well have become his supporters. Just finished reading Coetzee’s Summertime, courtesy of Sue, a strange mix of novel and fictionalised autobiography in which a narrator interviews people who were important in his life in South Africa. Supposedly written after Coetzee’s death it is a very odd concept, but somehow it works.

John’s neighbour Tammy who was carted off to hospital by ambulance a few months ago with chest pain thinking she might have COVID, has died of the widespread cancer that was discovered on her admission. The lease on her flat has been transferred to her eldest daughter who can’t be more than about 18, there is no husband or male partner on the scene. She will look after her high school aged sister and a small brother with autism? intellectual disability? What a life some people get. I can’t even imagine how I would have coped with that at 18, but not well is the broad answer. The report that ‘the kids didn’t seem that upset’ says a lot about their expectation of, and resignation to, what life will hand out, rather than their feelings for their mother I suspect. I hope that social services are provided in spades, but in these times of overworked child welfare staff it may be a vain hope.

September 18, 2020

Yet another funeral today, that of Patricia, wife of John’s friend Kevin. We are tuning in via Zoom, which was invented just in time for the pandemic, it’s a wonder no-one has found a conspiracy in that. We missed Tammy’s funeral when we were away though I doubt that would have been Zoomed.  Talking about conspiracy theories I think that the current push-back against the lockdown in Victoria is fuelled by a grab bag of ‘antis’, anti-vaxxers, libertarians (hiss), white supremacists, far Righters and the rest. While I have always maintained a right to breaking the law over a principle (and taking the consequences) I find it difficult to understand these protesters who seem to me to be fighting against the public good. Hasn’t anyone else noticed how quiet the far Right is at the moment? And the anti-Muslim crowd? I think they are working full time on the anti-Andrews campaign.

A nice relaxing day after all the busy-ness yesterday. Heather came over for morning tea but apart from that it was just a case of hanging about and pottering. Both the WWII banknotes and the Japanese document sold, each bring in the mid to high $20s. Now I am going to try my sets of WWI postcard sets. It was always my view when I was on ebay previously that it’s better to aim at men. If they want something they will just buy it, whereas the women are more tentative to spend. Often I was asked in the shop to write a receipt for much less than the amount paid, so I split the purchase over two receipts, one the woman threw away and one for much less money that she left lying around for the husband to see. The Trumpster seems to be worse than they are wanting to say: hospital, experimental treatments, remdesivir. From what I have previously read about that anti-viral drug in The Lancet, very early treatment substantially decreases viral titres compared with control, but this effect was completely lost when the drug was administered even 8 hours after infection. Clearly Trump was infected long before that, seeing he already has symptoms, but I guess they are throwing everything at him and seeing what sticks. My friend Tim’s GP has retired early because of having had lung cancer and feeling that he was ‘100% likely to die’ if he caught the virus from a patient, a sad end to a career of a man who

I think that we are in a dire state in the world at the moment. In my humble opinion it is partly due to the failed ideology of the supreme power of the rights of the individual over society. When Margaret Thatcher said there was no such thing as society we were all shocked and scoffed at her, but these days that idea has borne fruit. The rise of Trump, the crisis of climate change, the calamity of private aged care, the issue of refugees, even the scourge of clerical child abuse can be linked to the idea that ‘I have a right to…….’ (lie my way to power, pollute the planet, mine coal, buy a Lamborghini with the money given to house old people, lock people up indefinitely, use that kid…. you fill in the blanks). Religions haven’t helped us avoid these pitfalls and they are, like many other institutions, afraid to make themselves unpopular by calling out the failures of the prevailing norms. The worst case of Covid in Victorian nursing homes was in the St Basil’s Home for the Aged owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. They paid more than $14 million to the church in rent in the past 5 years (apparently a vastly inflated figure and a nice little earner for the church) yet the home was run on a shoestring budget. We have all become so used to capitalism that we don’t even recognise it any more, it’s become unremarkable to us. The classic divide between the churches and science is also a big part of our current problems. Trump’s evangelical followers are only too happy to believe that climate change is a myth and Covid is a Chinese plot because scientists have been mistrusted forever as anti-biblical. Just look at that evil Darwin! I am pessimistic about our future, but there is some hope in isolated pockets. However the job of getting us out of all this is monumental and climate change won’t sit back and wait till we get our act together. As I said to a cockroach walking across my front verandah yesterday: ‘I will let you keep going because your lot will be here long after we are, just keep out of the house in the meantime’.

September 19, 2020

John slept in till after 9 this morning and I had done some watering and read the Saturday Paper cover to cover before he woke, so we were still in our jimjams at 10 having eaten tea and toast in the sun on the front verandah on a day we were led to believe would be raining heavily. Browsing the Diggers Club catalogue over breakfast I discovered a tool that I could use, a gas powered weed wand, which zaps weeds with flame instead of bending too much or using some dreaded poison. I do hate gas cylinders though and wonder if I really want to be lugging one around? But I was heartened to see that they have the South African Cape Chestnut tree available, this after I spent two years trying to find one, ringing around all the nurseries and being told they were unavailable due to the difficulties of propagating them. So I put two blueberry ash in the possie I wanted for the chestnut, grrr. Now debating whether to find another spot or just write it off. It’s a slow grower, less than 30 cm a year, so perhaps I’ve missed the boat on that one, do I have 30 years to see it to maturity? Does that matter? Still thinking.We decided to go to Castle Hill because I wanted to see in person a huge McMansion I had happened on in an ad on the net. It appeared to be painted bright fluoro pink in a sea of beige houses but the agent has clearly hyped up the colour in the photos because it is in fact a strong deep berry pink and not the garish psychedelic shade he advertised, so I think he did the sellers a disservice. The inside is apparently full bottle Versace, but I guess if you love OTT decorating but don’t have self-confidence in your talents you might go that way, trusting Versace’s taste instead of your own. Full marks for being different, though I can’t even imagine what that decor cost. Then it was time to try the Salted Honey and Tahini Biscuit recipe from the colour supplement in last week’s papers. Different would be my single word description but not in a bad way, worth doing. Tonight I am doing dinner from the paper as well, as if I don’t have a zillion recipes in my own books to try.

September 20, 2020

Loving all the 20s in today’s date for some unknown reason. John asked what we would normally do on a wet day (hint hint) and I answered go to the movies, but as that isn’t an option we watched Rams on SBS On Demand, an Icelandic movie which is mistakenly listed as a comedy but is anything but. I really enjoyed it and it has prompted me to use this medium occasionally to feed John’s longing for the movies. In some ways it reminded me of people’s reactions to the pandemic, only in this case the disease was amongst sheep, but there’s the same range of those who follow the rules, those who are totally broken by it all and those who will go to ridiculous lengths to evade the laws, with devastating consequences in this case. I raked up under the camellia and filled the bin with dead branches, errant jasmine and more, but kept the rest, dead leaves and flowers, for mulch in the front garden but I will wait a week or two to make sure no live jasmine is cottered up in it all. So much for all the promised rain though, it barely left a puddle in the bucket I had outside. Pursuant to that, where is the ABC weather man Graham Creed these days? He’s a funny stick, always on about the weather ‘on the waters’, but still I would miss his oddness. Nothing was said about illness, holidays, death…..he just disappeared, I suspect part of the constant cost cutting measures though I may be wrong. If Graham had promised rain he would have delivered I tell myself. As long as they don’t get rid of Nate, the morning weather guy, who is like the Eveready bunny, always bursting with energy and smiles and just the ticket for that time of day. He has his quirks as well such as when any high ranking military person comes on the show and he almost faints with excitement, being ex-Navy himself. Ann has asked us to go to the Archibald Prize with her, no sorry. David asked if we wanted to go to the pub in Balmain where his crowd meets every Wednesday, no sorry. It gets so tiresome.

September 21, 2020

For some reason I was thinking about the years I spent attending The Philosophy School in Sydney, now known as The School of Practical Philosophy. Lessons began at Castle Hill and later as I moved up the ladder they were held at their headquarters, ‘Mahratta’ in Fox Valley Rd at Wahroonga. It was slanted almost exclusively to eastern philosophy but I still found it worthwhile, Plato, Shakespeare and Mozart and a few others got an honourable mention for reasons that escaped me. However as I went through the course for almost 3 years, I started to have my doubts. By then the class had shrunk to about half a dozen people and I would be interested to know if anyone lasted the whole 5 years. One incident sparked my skepticism at first, on the evening of a heatwave day when the wife of the deputy of the school was red-faced and stressed. She told me that Tuesdays were the days that she cleaned her mother-in-law’s house and she’d been scrubbing her floors on her hands and knees in the heat. But why not go another day I asked? Oh no she said, my husband would never allow that, it has to be Tuesday. My antennae went up then as I had noted that all of the lecturers were men and all of their wives were ‘servers’, doing the cup of tea afterwards and selling books etc. Near the end of my time with them I had a private evening lesson at the head tutor’s home and his 18 year old daughter, who was in her last week of high school, asked if she could please go out for a coffee with a couple of her school friends but it was refused point blank. Less than a year later I saw she was married to one of the tutors. I think I got out of there just in time, added to the incidences mentioned there was an unusually high linkage to the services, especially the army. Popular music was considered if not evil then strongly discouraged, there were so many clues when I look back that it was a cult of some sort and I am amazed that I stayed as long as I did. Late in the last year I was ‘received’ into the School by a visiting guru who came from India for that purpose, so I guess I am on a list somewhere as a convert to something or other. My natural inclination to not be a joiner let me down this time but I got out unscathed.

September 22, 2020

My attempt to sell some WWII coins, banknotes and a Japanese document of unknown purpose all failed due to some obscure rules forbidding them on Facebook Marketplace so today I did what I had said I wouldn’t do and listed them on eBay. Not that I have anything against them but I spent so much time on eBay when I was in the shop I decided I was past all that. My only intention in selling them is to get them out of my house and into a place where they will be appreciated, even if it’s into a child’s first collection, they aren’t worth much. So we shall see, I do like the fact that the auction format always gives you the chance of two or more competing buyers pushing the price up, but not on these particular items I’m sure, though my inability to read Japanese makes the document hard to value. Perhaps it’s the peace agreement in which case I am rich? Someone texted me yesterday pleased that she had sold ‘an old watch’ for $50 on Facebook and I queried whether she had researched it before listing, but no she hadn’t, replying that there are always old watches for sale in op shops for $5 so she’d done well. Yes there are, that’s why antique jewellery dealers trawl those shops, knowing that the people pricing them have no idea. Some shops appoint volunteer valuers, I did it for St. Vincent de Paul at Windsor for years, but I doubt any of them are in a position to pay a professional. She sent me pics of it belatedly and with a new band and a battery it was probably worth about $200, but that’s in a shop. However it isn’t a good idea to sell old things without doing your research as a rare one of that brand would have been worth about $4000. I once accepted an offer on eBay for a fairly ugly pottery ashtray with a crack in it and posted it the same day. I then got abusive emails from potential bidders who were watching it, one reading ‘you stupid woman, that was a rare Harvey School piece worth at least $500 damaged and you sold it for a song’. I pointed out to the buyer by email that I was now aware of what I had sold him for $25 (from memory) and he asked me to send him my ring size. In the mail I received a beautiful black diamond ring, which I still wear. It turned out he was a diamond dealer, with a guilty conscience.

September 23, 2020

After a minor fiddle fixing a burst hose, which reminded me of an aortic aneurysm but with less disastrous results, we headed off to the Kuringai Wildflower Garden for a planned picnic with Jane and Boris. Afterwards we went for a couple of walks there but the wildflowers were less than splendrous, in fact a couple us asked if we knew where the wildflowers were and I replied that you have to look pretty carefully to see them. Jane reported that she is getting a watering system put in which is connected to the internet and doesn’t turn on if rain is forecast. Sounds luxurious. I have been considering a flame weeder from The Diggers Club and was all set to buy it but then reminded myself that I am not that keen on gas bottles at the best of times, so lugging one around the garden may not be such a bright idea. Pity because it looked like fun. It looks as if I am the only taker for Zoom at the book group meeting later in the week so I think I will dip out, it’s hardly worth doing for one. I did casually mention to Bob that book group is now meeting in person and he immediately expressed a strong view that I shouldn’t participate, ‘not with your medical history’ he said definitively. So that’s that then.

September 24, 2020

Had a lovely visit from Bob and Judy from Millthorpe who have come to Sydney visiting family and called in for morning tea, my all those half cakes in the freezer come in handy. It turns out that a man a few doors up from John who has a street library is an old friend of Bob’s from school days. John had befriended him a few months back to discuss respective libraries and didn’t know the connection. That’s the third household in Mowbray Road who all have Bathurst connections as John often visits Bronwyn and Michael up the road as well, they were friends in Bathurst. B and J have a home in Melbourne as well so they packed up and bolted within hours when the lockdown happened, getting out just before the deadline. So many lives affected in so many different ways.

Well my foray into eBay has proved successful with the coins selling immediately for $20 to a coin dealer in South Australia and now I have bids from others on both the bank notes and the mysterious Japanese document. I have a motza of stuff I could sell but I am sticking to things that can be posted in an envelope at the local post box, but with 3 out of 3 lots selling I may need to rethink that. How lovely to think that you have contributed to someone’s collection, even bearing in mind that the coin dealer says he only deals in rare coins. I am tempted to email after he gets them to ask which one/s were rare, just out of curiosity. The other good thing is that there are three of us for book group Zoom tomorrow so I get to hear what others think about the book rather than just putting in my thoughts by email.

September 25, 2020

More problems today with John’s memory and consciousness. He is at Lane Cove and he rang me about 11.30 am, saying he couldn’t remember what day it was and what he had done and was supposed to do today. I explained that his Link street libraries were being picked up and then he was going to work on his current library project. He replied that the five libraries had gone from the flat ‘so the man must have been this morning’ though he couldn’t remember that happening. He was very discombobulated and not sure what was happening. I offered to go down and pick him up as I didn’t think he should drive but after about half an hour on the phone he decided it was best if he just continued to do his woodwork as he thought he would feel more grounded (my word) if he could get back to what he was supposed to be doing. It fits all of the criteria of transient global amnesia but I did worry the first time that he was having a TIA or mini-stroke, which would be more problematic. Bob thought that either was a possibility when we spoke about the similar experience he had a month ago but also that it could be due to all the chemo and anaesthetics he’s had. I think I need to go and speak with him again next week now that it’s happened again. Perhaps it’s an allergy to the number 25, the date of both episodes.

Book group went well with a discussion of Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver, a book I read when it came out, but enjoyed rereading. Her depiction of somehow being in a marriage that is all wrong resonated with me and its simple four page explainer on climate change is one of the best I’ve read for people who are not into science. Her recent book Unsheltered was similarly good, on the theme of the crumbling of American society. Friends who visited yesterday spoke of an American citizen friend who received his voting papers, along with an unexplained cheque from the US government. No, not a bribe from the Donald, surely….

September 26, 2020

News out today is disturbing, that The Donald is considering Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. She is a member of the conservative religious group People of Praise that inspired the book The Handmaid’s Tale. They are a small but extreme offshoot of the Catholic Church and believe that a wife must obey her husband in everything, even the way she votes. Both her husband’s parents and hers are members of the group and they couple met doing law at Notre Dame University. When she was questioned by the Justice Committee in 2017 about her associations, as all judicial appointments are in the US, she didn’t disclose her life long membership of the group, something that may cause her problems if she’s suggested, but the committee will need to frame their questions carefully in religious America, so as not to be seen as applying religious bias. Tough one.

I’ve spent the morning (after the usual water and weed) trying to organise my books, particularly the unread ones that sit there month after month waiting for their turn. Often these are non-fiction but not always. Giving preference to library books because they are time limited, or book group selections, or ‘books of the moment’ such as The Altar Boys, or something loaned by a friend, these poor old neglected books keep getting pushed out of contention. Often when I finally get to them I enjoy them and wonder what’s taken me so long. Our latest book group suggestion is The Offing by Benjamin Myers, one and the same author as the book The Gallows Pole sent to me by the bro. It shits me to tears that a good writer could have been born in 1976, but there you are. Policemen and doctors and politicians are getting younger all the time, I can’t work it out.

September 27, 2020

We decided to do the Platypus Walk in the nearby Bidjigal Reserve and so did quite a few others it turned out. It is a loop walk with lovely rock platforms and a creek, quite up and down and worth doing. There hasn’t been a platypus there since the 1970s but it was a good walk anyway with tall timbers and plenty of birds. I discovered when we got back that the wind had carried off two pots of cuttings and blown away both the pots and the potting mix leaving the plants bare-rooted on the ground. I’ve repotted them and hope they survive as I have been having good luck striking plants lately. John decided to order a meal for us at lunch next Friday when Carly will be here. After much discussion we decided to get a banquet from Lillah, a Middle Eastern favourite at Lane Cove, but we’ve discovered that since Covid they only open for lunch on weekends, mmm that plan is now out the window.

Well my comments yesterday about Amy Barrett are sadly relevant now. She is paradoxically pro-life regarding abortion but has participated in trials leading to the death sentence. Tony Abbott (spit) had similarly illogical views. In a dissenting opinion in 2019 Judge Barrett said she would have limited the sweep of a federal law forbidding people with felony convictions from owning guns, apparently supporting the rights of every citizen to own guns. “History does not support the proposition that felons lose their Second Amendment rights solely because of their status as felons”. Oh my, poor America.

September 28, 2020

Two different wins today! Firstly I had an email from Lillah yesterday saying they couldn’t do a feast on Friday because they were closed for lunch, however they suggested night time or Saturday lunch. I replied that I would think about it and shortly afterwards I got another email saying that they would in fact do the order because the chefs will be in from 11 am prepping for the evening and we could pick up from 12.30 onwards. Wahoo, that was exactly the time we had in mind as Carly is due to arrive from the train at about 1pm. So it’s all done and dusted, I can already taste the falafel and toum. This morning I was hunting in the storeroom for anything else I could list on eBay that is able to be posted in a local post box ie in an envelope. I discovered over 100 WWI era sets of postcards, mostly military, but some just greetings. They are in sets of 3 or 4, the military ones telling a story on each card, usually involving a girlfriend, a family, a doting mother or Jesus. Most are exceedingly maudlin by today’s standards but are highly collectable relics from that war, sent from Europe back to the families at home. I checked for other similar listing and there were dozens, but every one was in the UK so getting them here saves quite a bit of postage for the buyer. They have only been on a few minutes but have already got 7 interested lookers, perhaps it’s a good time for eBay with more men than average browsing the net. My Japanese document of unknown content has 64 lookers right now so we shall see.

It seems to me that the Federal Government is using Covid-19 as an excuse to do all the things it was hoping to do anyway prior to the pandemic. Tax cuts for the rich, new gas plants, loosening of banking and credit restrictions, allowing businesses to trade while insolvent, the list goes on. Covid-19 is the lipstick on this pig, but some of us can smell the pork crackling regardless.

September 29, 2020

This morning I had a good chat with a street library browser who took a book plus some plant cuttings while she was here. As she left a man pulled up outside and asked from his car ‘are you Maureen? I’ve come to look at the books’ so I assumed he got my name from the street library website, but then I looked it up in curiosity and my name doesn’t appear anywhere, so I wish I had asked him now. I love these little interactions that the library provides.

At risk of repetition, I need to once again complain that something is failing badly in the training and supervision of our police forces. After watching the video of police waking up the footballer Curtis Scott and order to handcuff, pepper spray and then taser him (for falling asleep in a park!!!) I think the arresting officers should be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. They claimed they did so to prevent the possibility of his waking up and walking onto the road, which is too ridiculous to even contemplate as an excuse. The magistrate made the point that it may have been less dangerous for him to have been hit by a car than what actually happened to him, all charges against him were dropped. Under police guidelines a taser should only be discharged ‘to protect human life, prevent actual bodily harm, or during a violent confrontation’, but officers frequently use them as a compliance tool. Police Commissioner Fullofhimself has said “I’m sympathetic to the police who had to do something with him”. Why? Since when has it been a serious offence to be fast asleep in a park, in fact why is it any offence at all? Then we come to the Victorian inquiry into the escape of COVID-19 from quarantine hotels. My suspicion a couple of weeks ago, conveyed to a friend in Melbourne who has good political contacts, was that the police were the ones who refused the job of hotel security, forcing the government to end up passing the job on to private security guards. I got a reply yesterday “I am hearing from several quarters that it is the police who refused to participate and Dan does not want to get offside with them. They can be powerful enemies and he needs them at the moment to enforce his program.” Which makes me wonder if Jenny Mikakos was thrown under the bus just because no-one wants to get into a fight with the powerful police union when so much of the response depends on them. I hope the inquiry gets to the truth but it seems everyone’s gone to ground.

September 30, 2020

Whenever I have prawns for dinner, which is not infrequently, I put out the heads and shells on the bird feeder and often they attract a raven. But immediately he is bombarded with native minors who don’t want the prawn heads but don’t want him to have them either. They divebomb and swoop until either he finishes or gives up, but he never retaliates. Clearly it isn’t in his nature to bite one of them, he just keeps ducking, interesting to compare the pesky minors and forbearing raven with their human counterparts.

Talked at length by phone last night to Anne, my penfriend in West Yorkshire who doesn’t have or want a computer. We compared COVID lockdowns, apparently Melbourne has been all over the news there. Wales, Lancashire and West Yorkshire are all under the tightest regime in the UK at the moment: no visits between households, masks compulsory, spacing on transport and in shops. She commented, as has my brother, that Britons ‘wouldn’t put up with police arresting people for violations of the rules’, and as far as she can see they are not policed at all. Which brought us to discussion of our police forces, hers akin to a friendly public service of Bobbies, no guns, no tasers, and ours in my opinion following the American model of being heavily armed and aggressive. I saw a clip yesterday of US police heavily tackling a man to the roadway and then screaming at him to get up, it seemed like sport as he was standing still and offering no resistance at all in the first place. British Police can apply for arms for something like a terrorist raid but they need to justify it with a proven expectation of violence. Thinking later about my bro’s attitude to it all and I suddenly understood. He is a natural risk-taker and a natural nonconformist. How else would he have signed up for being dropped into Russia in case of war or headed off to the African jungle for six years on government business? I realise now that my entreaties to be careful were always a waste of time, that would spoil all the fun. It lets me off the hook really as if he gets the virus and dies it will be something he chose and he wouldn’t be the least bit repentant about, seeing he is always right.

October 1, 2020

I don’t usually write this before dawn but there’s a first time for everything. John went to St. Vincent’s yesterday for his monthly IgG infusion and a routine visit with Nada, the haematologist. Well ‘routine’ he thought. Nada was very concerned about his recent memory blackouts and wants an MRI done as soon as practicable. Then depending on the result, it’s off to either a neurologist or else a neuropsychologist. So despite Bob’s initial ‘let’s not get back on the medical merry-go-round’ approach, we are on it anyway. But to be fair the second memory blackout last Friday raised my level of concern a lot and would raise Bob’s as well if he knew about it. I decided not to consult with him in case Nada had an opinion yesterday and she sure did. Trying not to jump ahead of what we know at this point (while quietly panicking).

But to more mundane matters, it’s a pity (but totally understandable) that Biden couldn’t find it in himself to be the adult in the room during the debate yesterday. It is impossibly difficult to deal sanely with someone like Trump. I would probably have socked him one so I can’t criticise. His invocation to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” was clearly a call to arms to the far right to be ready for action if he loses the election, but after an outcry he now says he’s never heard of them and doesn’t know who they are. How exactly can a person name a group that they’ve never heard of?? I’ve just finished a Kathy Reichs’ whodunnit, because I am interested in all things forensic science it’s a bit of light relief to read a murder mystery with some science thrown in. An interesting aside is that it focuses on a religion/cult that is ‘uber-Catholic…some sort of splinter faction that is charismatic or Pentacostal’. Sounded awfully like what I’ve been reading about the Supreme Court nominee’s mob.

October 2, 2020

A bit of a tumultuous day which panned out okay in the end. Carly texted from the train that she was the only person in the carriage without a mask, a four hour journey with no opening windows. She was glad to get off but then disaster struck, she left her luggage in the boot of a taxi. Immediately ringing every taxi company she could find turned up no knowledge of her suitcase and she paid cash, removing the ability to trace a card payment. She’s since tried two police stations and Central Railway Lost Property as well  but the missing suitcase is currently…..missing. Eventually she arrived at Baulko sans luggage but with her wallet and keys luckily stashed in her handbag. A hurried call to her doctor in Canberra was made to organise a prescription to be faxed to the chemist here so an irreplaceable drug could be sourced. John arrived at the same time bearing the lunch from Lillah, the most unusual dish being the Cauliflower Falafel, a whole slow-cooked and then fried baby cauliflower with a crispy falafel crust, served with hummus. It looked for all the world like a (round) piece of roast beef. Everything was delicious and a bottle of French bubbly helped it all slip down. There was enough left for our dinner and Carly and I will get another meal out of the remainder. I was spoilt with gifts, though the present and card from Danish went missing in the luggage. Seventy-three, three years past the biblical figure, who would have thought. Davina texted with the news that The Trumpster out-trumped himself and came down with Covid. I refrain from gloating or making comment, schadenfreude being such a negative emotion. 

October 3, 2020

Methinks that they are downplaying The Trumpster’s condition just a tad. Hospital (from an abundance of caution we’re told), then experimental treatments and remdesivir. In something I read a little while back in The Lancet, early remdesivir treatment substantially decreases viral titres compared with control. But the effect was completely lost when the drug was given more than 8 hours after infection so it was only considered useful as prophylaxis or for someone who has just been knowingly exposed. Clearly Trump has well passed this time as he is apparently symptomatic, but perhaps they are throwing everything at him in the hope that something will stick. I wouldn’t like to be the doctor in that situation, everyone will remember the name of the doctor who lost a president, just as anyone in the medical community can still quote the name of the thyroid surgeon who lost Neville Wran’s voice. Still eating Lillah leftovers tonight and it feels strange not to be cooking. The library delivered 8 books on Thursday and so tonight I am reading A Very Stable Genius in honour of the patient.

October 4, 2020

Carly and I took ourselves off to the nearby Bidjigal Reserve to do the Platypus Track that John and I did last week, but we did it in reverse to last time. Both times I found the rise up out of t.he valley taxing, but at least Carly didn’t ask if I thought I should go to a cardiologist as John had. He made it easily with help no doubt from his stents, but that’s a procedure I could do without, as I plan to do without any medical interventions if I possible can. The valley was full of bird calls and full of people too but interestingly all but us and one man were going in the direction of the arrow, while we went in the direction  less travelled. Which reminds me to read some Robert Frost, something I haven’t done for ages, I always get so much out of his poems. I kept feeling last night that I had read A Very Stable Genius before, but it is just that the authors recount the same and other very similar episodes in the White House to the other books I have read. A constant litany of sackings, new appointments, more sackings, rehirings, all with monotonous regularity. The White House doctor saying about Trump back in February that “if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old” and that he was “the healthiest President ever” made me consider the details that are being released now in an even more sceptical light. QAnon on the other hand is saying that he doesn’t have the virus at all, it is all part of his devilishly clever plan to expose Hillary Clinton’s paedophile cult, we shall see about that one. In any event, coronavirus could not have visited a more deserving host.

October 5, 2020

Davina, Louis and Millie arrived mid morning with a giant lime meringue tart from The Grounds, plus flowers, a cheese platter and some dried cornflower petals for baking. Cooking and food has featured high on the birthday present list with Carly giving me a huge box full of Spicy Sauce Co. spices and meal bases and some wonderful passionfruit fudge and Heather giving me a cake tin (for storage) and a unique slice-baking tin which expands according to the size needed. John broke the mould, giving me a big heavy box which contained an amplifier to enable me to listen to music and DVDs through my quality speakers. These had been out of use all year since my old CD player/amplifier died and went to electronic recycle heaven. Being totally inept about such things it needed to be explained to me before I mistakenly tried to push bread into it to make toast, but now it is up and happening and Leonard Cohen has never sounded so good. I am told that this is old technology, everyone gets their music through a computer these days, but the sound just doesn’t compete. Can’t wait to try some cello. For lunch I made Bobotie with rice and a salad using my own lettuces with edible flowers that Heather dropped over a few days ago, followed of course by the lime tart. The afternoon news that Trump had insisted on going out for a drive just confirms, if ever that were needed, that the man has no internal life at all, his view of himself is just a mirror reflected back by those who love him, and without that he is nothing in his own eyes. If it were not so serious it would be sad.

October 6, 2020

We sorted a few things like John’s car rego, getting the pink slip done okay but he couldn’t remember if he had paid the related insurance, nor whether he had received an account for it. Checking with the NRMA revealed it was unpaid and that was rectified. We are still waiting nearly a week on for an MRI appointment so he rang St. V’s and was told that the request from Nada was marked Urgent yet so far the doctors who triage and rank the appointments haven’t considered John’s. She was very surprised by this and promised to talk to them and ring back, however by the day’s end she hadn’t, so I tried and got a similar response from another lady who again promised to speak to the doctors and ring back, a call I am waiting on as I write. He is a bit confused by it all and keeps asking whether it has been sorted yet and if we have an appointment so I hope she rings soon. The place seems so quiet after having had Carly here since last Friday and everyone here yesterday. She didn’t get her suitcase back and considering physics tells us that matter can’t be destroyed I can’t help wondering where exactly it is. Is someone in the surf at Bondi in her swimsuit? Wearing her undies in the city? Using my birthday present from Danish, whatever that was?  Oh dear, just got a call from Myra at St. V’s to say that John has been deemed urgent for the MRI but she can’t tell us when he will ‘get to the top of the urgent pile’. Which is fair enough, as long as they keep us in the loop.

October 7, 2020

John got a call from St. Vs to say that his appointment is on October 26, hardly an urgent timeframe but of course we can’t judge without knowledge of the urgency of others in the queue. He has given the date to Nada’s nurse and if she isn’t happy with the date she will no doubt intervene, otherwise the 26th it is. Today has been a day of invitations. First Carol for a cuppa next week, then Arvind for dinner on Saturday night, then Stephen and Deborah for a picnic at Somersby on Saturday week. Keepem comin is all I can say. I’ve had to put off an answer to Arvind until we see when John’s meetup with his grandchildren is happening but hopefully that will be sorted by this afternoon. He has finished the latest street library project today and that clears the decks of his carpentry obligations. I have been busy letter writing today, one to the Diggers Club magazine about an interesting article last month, a few to various newspapers about the budget and the nonsensical (in my view) decision to focus on tax cuts for those with a job and more likely to save than spend their winnings, as against giving it to those on the lowest rung of the ladder who would no doubt spend every sou. I have a bad run of letter publications lately, the local newspapers were my best bet but they are all suspended. My morning reading today focussed on Trump (surprise, surprise, but why do I torture myself?) and the comment by a woman who reported being in the room when Trump asked the doctors whether COVID is really worse than the flu? YES !! they replied, much more contagious and much more deadly, so he then put out a message denying both of those facts.

October 8, 2020

As I have recorded previously for some reason I get a number of regular surveys about COVID to fill in. The one from Sydney University Health Sciences is about precautions, mood, activities, eating, drinking, exercise etc and another from the Sydney Morning Herald which landed yesterday questioned things to do with the recent government budget as well as changes in activities over the last month, such as whether you are dining in restaurants, going to supermarkets etc. Most of these are tick box answers but the last question was one to fill in. It was the general question ‘what are you feeling optimistic about?’ Um, I struggled to find something, mentally scrolling through things like the future for my children and granddaughter, seeing my brother, small personal hopes like having a holiday or being able to go to the theatre again or to dine out, getting back int0 my routine of life, government policies, seeing Trump defeated, climate change…..all of them are things I wish would turn out okay, but I realised that none of them am I ‘hopeful or optimistic’ about. After trying to come up with something positive I ended up with three words ‘Not a lot’.

We have sorted out our weekend plans, dinner with Arvind and Mala Saturday night, then Sunday to Cranebrook to meet up with John’s grandchildren at Dan’s mother’s place, ‘neutral ground’ as she describes it. I sent Arvind a text last night reminding him that Castle Towers is a hotspot again but this morning when I was working in the garden he popped over to tell me that he had dropped his phone last night and had been to Apple this morning to try to get it fixed. ‘Not at Castle Towers I hope’, said I. ‘Yes of course why not?’ said he. Of course, he didn’t get the text. ‘Oh so that’s why it was so deserted’ he commented. Now it is settled that John’s test is definitely not till the 26th, he is hankering to get the latest street library installed before then, so I will have a look see if there is somewhere we can rent down there for a couple of days. Sun and fun would go down nicely at the moment.

October 9, 2020

Spent yesterday afternoon with Sue who came down for a visit. She declined the offer to stay overnight but said she wants to do that soon. Today I managed to get three barrow loads of mulch spread on the front garden, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while and the end point of all the weeding. Then John decided that he really wanted to get the Bundeena street library installed asap, so he rang Bill and next week suited them. As we’d previously discussed, we will make it a little holiday so I got on to the computer and found a studio apartment under a private home that has a gate opening directly onto the beach. It is at the end of a dead end street meeting up with the National Park, exactly where the walks begin in that area, so it’s the best of both worlds, beach and bush and only 5 minutes walk from Fran and Bill’s. It will be good to be in such a natural location rather than near the town and ferry end of the place. It looks very small but location, location, location.

I was appalled, but not surprised, to read about the white supremacist plot to capture and kill the Michigan Governor. It takes a level of bravery for the FBI officer to get mixed up with men like that, all the while taping them, when one slipup could mean death. I don’t know how she will continue her career, forever looking over her shoulder for the next bunch of crazies that perhaps the FBI weren’t lucky enough to be made aware of. There seems to be no shortage of them and I can’t see that altering, no matter who wins the election.

October 10, 2020

Going to dinner tonight with Arvind and Mala next door and looking forward to genuine Indian home cooking. They eat no sugar, repeat NO sugar at all, and hate Bengali cooking because they apparently put sweet stuff in their curries. I have told them in the past that the one thing wrong with them as neighbours is that I can’t pass still warm biscuits over the fence. So what to take? Arvind already refused wine as he likes his merlot and I had offered from the cellar (okay the pull-out wine storage under the meatsafe) a choice of cab sav, shiraz, chardonnay or French Champagne, but no he wants to stick to his merlot. A fruit basket seemed the best as I am not sure if they like cheese, so I have just finished digging out a basket from the storeroom and filling it with a fruit selection. The storeroom always offers up such things as a basket, it has its uses. Tomorrow’s picnic meeting at Lyn’s to see John’s grandchildren is off, Lyn rang to tell John that the kids have friends visiting their area tomorrow and want to stay home for them instead. That actually gives me time tomorrow to bake something to take to Bundeena so it’s not all bad, but John is naturally disappointed. Covid cases are hovering around our beat, Castle Towers earlier in the week and now a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Three months ago when cases were popping up everywhere I instructed John not to take off his mask during the three or so hours it takes for his monthly infusion. A nurse told him ‘take that mask off, you’re in a hospital, you won’t get Covid here, we are all too careful’. I was cross that he obeyed her instruction and would be interested to now hear her view on the infected nurse situation. No-one is immune and a hospital seems to me to be logically one of the most dangerous situations of all. I am glad that it is two weeks before John needs to go back there and I shall superglue the mask to his face.

October 11, 2020

Wowsers, how it makes one feel human to put on a dress for the first time since March and wear fancy earrings and perfume, even if it is only to go next door. Mala cooked up a storm of butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, a vege dish, rice and salad. If that family had moved in 20 years ago my daughters would have been agog over the fence at their two tall, dark and handsome sons, one at university doing engineering/robotics and the other planning to do medicine next year. I refuse to contemplate his having to jump the fence to resuscitate the old lady next door….but perhaps it would have its positives. No one mentioned Trump last night, even though he is a common topic of our conversation over the fence, however Morrison got a couple of good serves from our hosts, interestingly they held the Hawke years in highest esteem as the period ‘when we were all most equal and it wasn’t all about money’.

Although John was disappointed at not seeing the grandchildren today he said just now that it is good that I am able to take some ready-cooked meals to Bundeena tomorrow and that I can have a relaxing day of preparations such as getting the watering done, as always he sees the silver lining. So we have spent the afternoon in the kitchen making a meat loaf and roast vege, a favourite of John’s, an orange and almond cake and an apple crumble. He was on peeling duty and I on measuring and mixing, so it was done in a trice. Next job is deciding which books to take, a lovely task. Currently almost finished Call Me By Your Name which is beautifully written but perhaps I am getting too old for a teenage falling-in-love story, although I can recognise the feelings well, it is a big ask to read an entire book of them. I intend to feel the sand under my feet for as many hours as is possible, day and night if possible so perhaps reading will be somewhat curtailed. Davina has just told me that there are fires in the Royal National Park (we have been out of touch with news since Friday I realise) and along with road closures there due to roadworks there are now closures due to bushfires, including the road to Bundeena, so a call to the RFS in the morning is on the cards. I may not blog while I am away, the website is always a bit touchy on my phone without wi-fi and even with it, so I may email the posts to myself daily and put them up when I get home.

I was somewhat horrified when I looked up the Covid diagnoses and deaths in my brother’s area of Calderdale, one of the most affected districts in the country. More worrying still was the public instruction by the NHS: test stocks are limited so do not come for a test unless you have lost your sense of smell and have a temperature and consistent cough. Also the fact that all statistics in the UK apply only to people in hospital, not in the community, so if you die at home or in a care home your death doesn’t get added to the stats at all, even if it is confirmed as definitely caused by Covid. How out of whack are their numbers then if you can’t even get a test? Scary.

October 12, 2020

Well an interesting start to our holiday when Davina let us know that there were fires in Royal National Park, so I rang the firies who said the road may be open to residents only and to check with the police, then I rang the police and they told me to check with the firies so we just headed off. Then just after we left at 9:30 am our host Jadranka rang to  say that it’s such a lovely day we should ignore the normal time to get into the unit and just come straight away. I told her we were on our way and would be there within two hours. She was waiting for us and couldn’t have been more obliging, leaving us a bowl of fruit, a loaf of bread, 2 litres of milk, a litre of orange juice, a dozen eggs, chocolate bars and more. The apartment is a studio, very tiny but with everything we need as I brought cooked food considering we don’t have an oven but the microwave and the barbecue will do everything we want. A manta ray was swimming up and down in front of our digs, apparently he’s a regular there. A walk on the beach set the day off, a kilometre each way to the end. Being on Port Hacking the water just laps the shore, perfect for swimming and not as cold as expected. Lunch on our deck, which opens right out onto the sand via a little gate, was smoked mackerel and salad, somehow a packet of smoked fish always seems to fill the bill for lunch and tosses in pasta or makes a sambo, a great standby. For some reason our walled deck makes me feel as if we are in the south of France or Italy, anyway somewhere on the Mediterranean. John made the point that by lunchtime we had had our money‘s worth already.

So what about Gladys? What a bombshell. I don’t have any hard feelings towards her for having chosen a bad man, but it was obvious that she wasn’t going to fess up until she got notice that she was going to be called to give evidence to ICAC. So really we would never have been any the wiser without phone taps and it puts her whole persona into doubt for me. She was self justifying in the evidence that I saw and referred to him as ‘that person’ rather than using his name, giving me the feeling that she was just trying to make it all go away, whether she made his situation worse or not. It didn’t say a lot about loyalty. Privacy is one thing but being sneaky is another. She will go, as she should.

October 13, 2020

Today is the big day for John to install Fran and Bill’s street library. We had a bit of a delay early on because we couldn’t find the car keys, but after an extended hunt around the unit and on the beach they turned up. John dropped me into town while he went to work with Bill installing the library. It took about 2 minutes to walk around the town, then I went down to the ferry wharf and the main beach which was surprisingly quiet. It really is such a lovely quiet spot here but I guess it is anything but on a weekend in summer. I walked back to our digs and went down to the beach for a walk and a swim. John was happy with the installation of the library and it does look really good on the black fence so I am hoping it will be painted black to match but I held my tongue on that one. In the evening we went to Fran and Bill’s house again and enjoyed looking out over Port Hacking over which they have a fantastic view, including of the ferry arriving from Cronulla on the hour, something one can set a watch on apparently. We were visited by a couple of young grey butcherbirds, both of whom apparently come there every day. We had an enjoyable evening and it was good to catch up.

October 14, 2020

We decided today to take a trip to Maianbar to see what it has to offer. There was one small shop cum cafe but it was shut so the locals have no access to even milk and bread on a daily basis. Davina had said there was a lovely beach we could walk to that was covered in shells but a local was no help knowing where that was so we continued along a track  down to Bonnie Vale, walking along through the mangroves. It was an interesting walk to Bonnie Vale beach, part of the Royal National Park. The beach was home to a number of fibro shacks that were built there during the Depression and used to be let out by national parks as holiday rentals in the past, but currently they not used because of the asbestos they contain. There is some talk of keeping them as a historical link to the past, apparently those who live in them cannot pass them down to another generation but can live in them for the remainder of their lives. We never did find the beach full of shells, not sure if we were in the wrong place or whether the shells had simply been swept away in a high tide since Davina was there. After a steep walk back up the hill to the car we headed home for lunch overlooking our beautiful beach. Later Fran and Bill came for afternoon tea after which we all took a walk right along Gibbons Beach and up onto the headland to look at some fairly difficult to see Aboriginal carvings. One of them was of a manta ray which are held in high regard by Aboriginal people there, so clearly the one we saw was part of a long line. Our landlady had to come down and assist us with starting the BBQ which was a bit embarrassing, but it’s always easy to do things when you know how. She is very obliging and will come at a moment’s notice if needed. Listened to the news about Darryl Maguire’s testimony at ICAC and it is perfectly clear that the man is basically dishonest, something that would be fairly hard not to see if you are spending any amount of time with him. As Geoffrey Ludowici told me 45 years ago ‘first find out if a person is basically honest or basically dishonest because really that’s all you need to know’.

October 15, 2020

The wind has changed from the south to the north so our beach is a bit choppy now. We decided to head south a little and went to Wattamolla. Took the top track to the headland and stayed there a while overlooking the rugged cliffs, ultimately joined by an Indian? family who turned out to be from Westmead. After chatting a while they offered to share their lunch with us, which was something I would have loved to do, but I felt bad about scabbing their food as they clearly would have catered for six, not eight. Also I thought John would have felt a little uncomfortable just lobbing up with total strangers. On the way back there was excitement in Bundeena with two fire engines attending a local cafe with the road blocked, necessitating a diversion to get home. John had a swim and then we walked the full length of the beach yet again, and I followed that with a glass of cab sav while watching a yacht race from the balcony, as you do. Living in a waterfront property is a different lifestyle altogether and one I shall make sure I get in the next life. What a pity that we have to leave tomorrow, a month here would be just about right.

October 16, 2020

Jadranka helped us carry our goods and chattels as she did when we arrived, she keeps an eagle eye out for when she may be needed. The drive home was interesting in that there was a big delay near Bankstown Airport, I suspect due to an accident as an ambulance later passed us at speed, but we had the GPS on so it took us on a diversion through the airport roads to get around it, while everyone else sat in literally kilometres of traffic, it surprised me that no-one else did the same. I said to John when we got home ‘I wonder if I could start watering a little bit early today as we’ve been away all week and it’s all so dry?’ He replied gravely that ‘what you’ve said is ICAC-able and I don’t want to know anything about it’. I wonder where he got that from? I have a bet on with him that Gladys will resign, my prize is a large bottle of Nudie Juice and his a large bottle of Kombucha. It is pretty clear that she ignored whatever she didn’t want to hear from him, never in a million years thinking that her private phone calls would one day be listened to by a room full of lawyers and staff. Cringe-making.

October 17, 2020

On the way home yesterday we detoured slightly to look at what remains of the house I grew up in. I thought by now (what is it? 4 years?) the fire-ravaged house would have been demolished and rebuilt. The fact that it hasn’t made me remember that when I visited the fire station to ask about when the fire had occurred they intimated that it might have been arson. If it was an insurance job that the company queried and wouldn’t pay out it would make sense that it’s in legal limbo and nothing has happened. Someone, the council I am assuming, has put up a substantial fence around it, another indication that it is going to be like that for a while. I will get onto the council and see what I can find out, if anything.

Today we met Deborah and Stephen at Somersby Falls near Gosford for a long-awaited picnic. Driving through a particularly awful industrial area I was a bit worried about the state of the picnic area, but once into the National Park it was pristine bush where we were visited by lots of brush turkeys, some water dragons and a big goanna. We feasted on a shared table of food and drink spent the day jawing about all sorts, from Gladys onwards. We were all of the view that she chose not to know about the corruption of her partner and that it pretty much seals her fate. It is great to spend time with people who are so close that you don’t need to be cautious of what you say, about any topic. After lunch Deborah and I went down to the falls, but the steepness and lack of handrails made it too difficult for John. We will reprise the day before Christmas but at another venue next time, although I am really glad that we discovered this place and I would be happy to go again in the future.

October 18, 2020

Martha and Phil visited this morning and came with hands full, bringing the next book group novel, a couple of Maeve Binchy novels, my scarf which Colleen had hemmed at the sewing group, plus a wire cupcake stand that will be just the ticket when I get to entertain again. Perhaps I will make some cupcakes deliberately, just to christen it. It was like my birthday had arrived again. We pulled down the sugar snap pea plants and harvested the last of them for dinner, then were sitting out on the deck when Michelle arrived with some books for the library so we’ve had a mega social week for a change. Good news today that Labor triumphed in both New Zealand and in the ACT election, so woohoo, something positive for a change. If they had voted against Jacinda I think what’s left of my faith in humanity would have been totally destroyed.

October 19, 2020

I am getting pretty p’d off at the gratuitous advice about our COVID-19 precautions. We do what we think is appropriate to our circumstances and we have friends and family who do much more or much less than we do, yet we don’t keep on at them to change their course of action. I have a friend who chooses not to enter my house, but happily sits outside, having brought her own mug for a cup of tea. Do I encourage her to come in? to drink out of my cups? to be less careful? No, I mind my own business and let her do what she’s thought through, decided on and feels comfortable with. I admit to speaking out of turn to my brother in England about taking more precautions (he is notoriously ignorant and slack about all things medical) but I am no longer harassing him, it’s his life after all and he is a born risk-taker, so I respect his decision and good luck with it. So please people, just do whatever you think fit and let us do the same.

Before we went away I noted an unusual plant coming up where I planted the dahlia bulbs, a purplish stem with green leaves. Not sure if it were a dahlia or a weed I let it be, but sadly by the time we got back it had disappeared, courtesy of the snails I assume. Now another has emerged, just the same and in a place I would expect a dahlia to arrive, so I assume that the first one was in fact the same. Now I am scouring the ground for new arrivals and sprinkling snail bait around so as not to lose another. If all come up I will have a lovely display this summer, but let’s not speak too soon.

October 20, 2020

Ooh all the 20s today. This morning I made an apricot and coconut slice as unusually there wasn’t a crumb of cake or biscuit left in the house. After doing the base with white sugar I discovered that I only had brown for the topping so I rang Mala next door looking to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar. When they told me that they don’t eat sugar they were being quite literal as she didn’t have any, but offered to go and get some for me. Of course I refused and managed perfectly well using brown. I arranged yesterday for a pharmacy delivery to come today and left my front door open all day to make sure I heard the person’s arrival, but still missed them. The goods were left on a chair outside, but I was supposed to give them the scripts, so I’ve had to call and ask them to come back. Luckily they are very obliging. While I was working this out I went outside only to find the librarian from Baulko on my grass verge (well I say grass, but weed and dirt verge is closer to the truth). I apologised that I didn’t know it was library delivery day and said that I hadn’t yet finished all the books, but he replied that it wasn’t pickup day. It was only then that I remembered asking him to come in for a cuppa next time he delivered and so I quickly put the invitation and he was delighted to come and chat on the back verandah for an hour. We covered books, Trump, cooking and more. As he left he said ‘is it alright if I bring my wife next time?’ so I think I have made a friend there. I love that he came on the offchance and I was lucky to go outside and see him at the right moment because he strikes me as shy and I doubt that he would have knocked at the door. I have been extraordinarily social this past week, seeing people every day, which has been great. I read the Domain every week looking at the decor and design of the mega expensive homes listed there. I play the game of ‘which one would I be happy to swap for where I am’ and although there are many properties in the multi-millions it always surprises me how few I would actually swap with. No south-western or far western suburbs, no inland places far from the ocean, no units unless in the city or around the harbour, no 2 storey, I am getting pickier as get older I think, which is good considering that I don’t really want to move and it’s unlikely that the owner of a mega expensive property would want to swap with me in any event, but it’s fun window shopping.

October 21, 2020

In my dreams I was fretting about what to serve friends who are coming for morning tea on Saturday. As if it matters, but in dreamland it mattered very much: should I serve all sweet? should I make cheese biscuits? will I add fruit to the platter? Honestly I waste so much good sleeping time agonising over trivia. I am reading a book at the moment where the main character discovers in her 40s when going on a trip to Brazil that the malaria preventative drug Lariam gives her debilitating and terrifying nightmares and, looking back on her youth, realises that whenever she went to see her father and his family in India she had the same problem. But as a child and young woman no-one ever explained that the nightmares were caused by a drug, she had thought it was something to do with India itself and hated going there. There have been many suicides associated with Lariam and it made me ponder how a drug, prescribed or not, can change our whole view of the world and how fragile our psyches really are.

To my great delight one of the three sets of WWI postcards that I put on eBay has sold, for $10 for the set of three cards. I have numerous sets so I am really pleased that there are collectors out there for them. I discovered some mint stamps in my storeroom today so I am trying to decide whether to try to sell them or to just use them on mail and only get their face value. I was never interested in stamps and didn’t sell them in the shop so apparently these have come in with other things and therefore I probably only paid face value for them. While selling some coins, banknotes and a Japanese document a few weeks ago I managed to make good contact with a coin dealer in South Australia and a Japanese WWII ephemera collector in Victoria, so now I have outs for two types of goods at least. The document I sold turned out to be a Japanese war bond. It was “the 50 yen Greater East Asia War Treasury Bond ‘ships and tanks’ type, issued 1941-43 and sold at post offices” according to my buyer who helpfully informed me when he received it. I love getting an education from buyers, I miss that.

October 22, 2020

In a phone call from Kenneth last night he bemoaned the Covid situation in Britain, using words like bedlam and chaos for the state of things over there. Rules and guidances change so fast that no-one knows exactly what they currently are and most take no notice anyway. He mentioned going to a restaurant in Halifax for lunch yesterday (for fish and chips, natch) so I asked if they recorded the patrons’ names and phone numbers. ‘They are supposed to I think, but no-one bothered’. Then he got onto Brexit. He takes a medication called Metformin which was always easily obtained with a script at the pharmacy but lately he has to go to the doctors’ office and fill in forms, then wait usually a couple of weeks for supply. ‘So what is Metformin for? ‘I can’t say I remember’. ‘Would you like me to look it up?’ It turns out it is for Type 2 Diabetes. ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had diabetes?’ ‘I don’t think I do have it, but I have taken the tablets since 2014. I rather think that everyone who sees a GP gets a similar diagnosis and as with most things these days it is better to take no notice and carry on regardless.’ His reaction to all things medical is denial. Woe is me, but at least I am not his doctor. Back to Covid and one interesting thing was that he hadn’t heard that New Zealand had eliminated the virus. ‘How on earth did they do that?’ he asked. An almost total lockdown of course, but he hadn’t considered the possibility that it could be so effective. Poor Britain, the government has stuffed it up right royally every way you look at it.

October 23, 2020

Had a funny (as usual) phone call with Sue about all manner of stuff. Hopefully she will come down for a couple of days soon. I am thinking that one of her brothers is somewhat like mine in that he swims against the tide, he seems to be against whatever opinion is currently mainstream. I fondly remember my bro arguing with Robert and Sue when he was over here and trying to convince them that smoking and lung cancer were in no way connected. We took off for Manly this morning and then went on to Balmoral for lunch, the weather was nigh on perfect, sunny and warm but with a cool breeze that put me off swimming. It appears that there is no longer any good time for driving in Sydney. Once you could get a good run if you let the morning peak go and then returned before the afternoon one, but no more. The traffic is either bad or horrendous, unless you plan your travel in the middle of the night. I can see why people give up and head for the country, though being more than an hour or two’s drive from the ocean would cut many places out of consideration for me.

October 24, 2020

Had Bronwyn and Michael over for morning tea today and Michelle dropped in by chance so she MT’d as well. Bronwyn has just completed her novel set in and around Mosman and Balmoral and I am so hoping it gets into print. Many of the characters are based on people she sees on her daily 7.30am swim at Balmoral, including ‘Hello Girls’ as they call the gentleman who stands on top of the pipe entering the ocean there and elaborately rubs his nether regions dry with his towel, it takes some time…. Love to see him buy the book. I have been waiting for a run of rainy days to plant out some seedling in the front garden, just Alysum which should naturalise there. Also moved the plant which apparently died a year ago because, according to the nursery, it doesn’t like full sun. Miraculously it reappeared recently so I decided it was giving me a second chance to plant it in the shade where it belongs. Done.

I’ve been thinking today about John’s neighbour Tammy who thought she had Covid about six months ago and called an ambulance when she had a coughing fit. Poor Tammy, only in her 40s I would guess, was quickly discovered to be riddled with cancer and is now long dead and buried. From her fear of Covid as a worst case scenario, she found something altogether more serious. I hope her primary school age youngest child remembers something at least of his mum as he grows up.

October 25, 2020

My list of jobs to do has been dented today, always a positive feeling. Planted the Alysum seedlings here and there in the front garden and planted the cornflower seeds into a large pot on the front verandah. Then did photographs and listed on eBay some more WWI postcards, seeing one set of three has sold for the princely sum of $10 less commissions. Also found some mint unfranked stamps from 1982 and 3 in the storeroom and put a few sets of them on as a trial. Because I know very little (nothing) about stamps I rarely sold them in the shop, but some must have gone as the folder has quite a few gaps of stock ranging from $5 to $75 so I clearly did some stamp business it seems. I think John’s memory issues are catching, must tell the doc.

Peter FitzSimons has never really been on my radar as I tend to turn off the news when sport comes on and I never read about it. But gosh he’s a pretty shrewd political commentator. His take on Gladys-gate in the paper today is spot-on. She can’t simultaneously not care about/want to marry/ be in love with/ have a relationship not worth mentioning with old Daryl. She needs to pick one, because clearly she is looking like a liar, and a bad one at that. She dumped him like a hot rock, not because he was a crook, but because she discovered they had been phone-tapped. In any event her claim to be hard-working pales in view of what she was actually working hard at: knocking down perfectly good stadiums, knocking down the historic Windsor Bridge, chucking social housing tenants out of their city homes in order to sell their properties for multi-millions of dollars, doling out grant money almost exclusively to Liberal electorates. Jeez Gladys the more time you sit on the lounge watching television, the better off some of us citizens would be.

October 26, 2020

Today is John’s MRI and not before time. He had been looking forward all week to watching the football grand final last night. But he rang me up in the afternoon wanting to know firstly if it was Sunday and then how come the football was on that day, what channel was it on and what time. All of these things he had told me himself the day before. He also couldn’t remember whether today was the day he was having the MRI, and more concerningly, wanted to know which hospital it was at. I decided it was best if I went with him but he was quite insistent that he can manage because he goes to that same hospital once a month for his infusion. So I’m just insisting that I go with him to get the results. I think the issue is that he’s seeing a possible curtailing of his independence and is resisting that till the last day possible, in the same way that he sees his driving days as possibly numbered and so he really likes to drive wherever we go. Later in the evening he was quite bemused that he had forgotten about the football details and which hospital he was going to and this morning was on top of it all. None too soon to be getting this jolly thing done I’m thinking.

October 27, 2020

I forgot to mention the weird coincidence of John’s three amnesia attacks, they occurred on the 25th of August, 25th September and 25th October. Ooh spooky, I’m sure the New Agers would have an explanation, possibly to do with past lives and almost certainly bunkum. Anyway we got good news today in that Nada’s fear that the lymphoma had spread to his brain has proved to be unfounded. But because of other, less catastrophic, changes in his brain she is sending him to a neurologist at St. Vincents soon for an opinion. Phew and double phew, the lymphoma threat has hung over our heads for a month now, but finally we can breathe again. To celebrate I made cauliflower, pea and spinach soup for lunch, which sounds grand but was actually a case of throwing some leftover cauliflower au gratin, some frozen peas and some spinach in a pot, adding milk and seasoning and grizzing it with the stick blender. If you have veges in the fridge or freezer you have soup, I love it.

I also got lucky today when Bob rang and answered my query about going back to book group. ‘How many are going? How big is the room? Is it a private residence? Will they be social distancing?’ I guessed at 8 people, 20 feet by 40 feet, yes and yes. The result was a qualified endorsement so it will be very weird, but exciting, to be back at book group this Friday.

October 28, 2020

I am currently reading American Dirt, a novel so far about a woman whose family were massacred by narcotraficantes in Acapulco and her desperate efforts to leave Mexico for the US, hindered by checkpoints and walls wherever she turns. It is a compelling introduction to the desperation of the people trying to get to safety and a huge contrast to the almost meditative mood of my last novel The Offing. That one was set in post-war Yorkshire with scenes set in places I am very familiar with like Whitby, Castle Howard and Harrogate. It even references the extraordinary winter of 1947, the year I was born, when snow came half way up the houses in Harrogate and Leeds. It is good to move through different worlds, but especially so when we can’t even think about exploring them ourselves.

John now has an appointment with a neurologist at St. Vincent’s late in November so as usual Nada clicked her fingers and it all fell into place. She never mucks around. He had his infusion today and was somewhat shocked when an ambulance arrived to take away the man on the next chair who looked perfectly fine, but by then he had a crew of doctors and nurses around him, one identifying himself as the anaesthetist, so it seems there was something serious going on. I on the other hand had a cruisy day with a bit of weeding and a bit of cooking and a bit of catching up with work on the computer, including sending a love letter to Dan Andrews with a request that he overthrow Gladys and become our premier but somehow I think that’s a longshot. I did get a text from Australia Post this afternoon though, telling me that my parcel is on its way. Perhaps Dan is sending a love letter back, because I am not expecting anything. Chocs, Champagne, who knows? I await its delivery with pleasure.

October 29, 2020

We decided to go to Service NSW to renew our drivers’ licences, thinking that we needed both eye tests and photos, but were surprised to find that they didn’t bother about photos at all. Mine will be 10 years old by the time this licence is due for renewal, ‘if I’m spared’, as my grandmother always used to say. Or ‘if I’m not called home’ was another one. It puzzles me why religious people aren’t stepping in front of buses all over the place to get ‘home’, which always sounds so much nicer than a lot of places down here. I guess that is why suicide is a no-no in most religions. The places are rationed and you need to buy your ticket and wait your turn, like at the cinema. Remember the cinema?

Asparagus is sooo thin and green and gorgeous at the moment, I think I will make an asparagus slice or tart or something for book group tomorrow. Maybe with cream cheese? Or parmesan? Or both? Thinking maybe both. I am on a bit of a cheese thing at the moment, I can’t get enough. I’ve planted a small Rose of Sharon and three purple leafed shrubs this morning, all grown from cuttings, so I feel very accomplished. I downloaded a plant identifier app onto my phone but it is pretty useless, not being able to identify the purple shrub at all (calling it Tradescantia or Wandering Jew when it was nothing like) and mis-identifying the Rose of Sharon 3 times out of 4 photos. The excellent identifier I trialled for a month came in too expensive when the trial ended so I didn’t join, but it certainly worked really well.

October 30, 2020

I had made the parmesan pastry last night and the mix of cream cheese and yogurt for the filling so it was just a matter of rolling out, pouring on the filling, adding a couple of bunches of chopped asparagus and baking, voila! Ready for book group. Sue came in the morning and said she would like to stay over, then we went in to North Sydney with Michelle. The meeting was pretty much unanimously favourable about the book but Alison thought the language of the young man was somewhat beyond the abilities you would expect from someone with his education. Sadly the Zoom link with Carol failed so I will need to discuss her opinions separately. Unfortunately I got more gratuitous advice about my decision to wear a mask at the meeting, but it was limited to one person, everyone else was very supportive. When gardening on Thursday a passing neighbour whom I haven’t seen in months told me that because she cares for her 80 odd year old mother she hasn’t been out AT ALL since March. All of her groceries are delivered from the local IGA down the street and the butcher next door. Did I give her a lecture about using Harris Farm? or the fact that she is overly careful? No I minded my own beeswax, enough said. Sue and I curled up on the lounge and sank a good 2014 bottle of red in the afternoon and over dinner. It was wonderful to have her here for a whole night.

Britain’s ridiculous Eat Out to Help Out scheme managed to spur on the coronavirus pandemic it seems. Up to 17 per cent of cases over the summer have been linked to the deal as diners crowded into restaurants for a 50 per cent discount on their bill in August. A study by Warwick University looked at footfall in the restaurants which took part in the scheme across more than 6,000 areas in England. It then analysed the number of clusters where three or more got infected. In areas where large numbers of meals were claimed through the deal, more people tested positive. The study, which suggests the scheme led to crowds of people being too close to each other, concluded that it accounted for an extra 8 to 17 per cent of infections during August and into early September. Cases apparently rose within a week of Eat Out to Help Out starting and began to decline a fortnight after it ended. It never fails to amaze me that governments are so blind to unintended consequences of their actions. This one was predictable a mile off.

October 31, 2020

Sue rose early as usual but I slept in till after 8 because I had a bad night, though she seemed happy reading a book from my shelf till I emerged. Then we had blinis with cream cheese and smoked salmon and a pot of tea for a late breakfast, discussing the book and book group as well as lots of other things. She is going to come down again on the night of the end of year meeting, which we are no longer to call the Christmas meeting. Perhaps book group will be the starting point of her coming down once a month, which would be terrific. John and I were to go to Erskineville this arv for Halloween celebrations for Millie, seeing she can’t go trick or treating this year but as I was heading to the car Dav rang to say that Millie had come down with diarrhoea so she thought a postponement was in order. This unexpected free time was filled by finishing American Dirt, a book which involved me virtually in the refugee experience in a very powerful way. I don’t think I have read a more forceful book or article about the Mexican and Central American situation than this one, which left me on the edge of my seat for days. Apparently the author has been criticised because she is not ‘brown’, but I doubt anyone else could have done a better job.

November 1, 2020

John has been super excited waiting for the Zoom meeting with his American relatives this morning. We met with Justine, Lisa and Mandy as well as other members of their families. John asked what they planned to do if Trump won and comments were made that Australia was an option. Apparently Covid isn’t too much of a problem where they are, which is good because both Lisa and her husband are emergency doctors. We talked for about 45 minutes and planned to do it again soon. After lunch we headed in to Erskineville and spent the afternoon, noting the intensity of the rain there, it was teeming. Compared to the soft and steady precipitation that we usually get out here it was good to see, I love a deluge. I was able to get my cornflower seeds planted during the week with rain on the horizon and I see more and more dahlias are poking their heads up in the garden. A couple of the Alysums have gone to snails but mostly my plantings are holding up. This changeable weather with spasmodic rain and sun is just perfect, from both a gardening and a preference point of view. The Agapanthus are all in bud so I looked out my tall vase in readiness. Spring has well and truly sprung.

November 2, 2020

The library did their monthly delivery today, and bless them they managed to find yet another Trump book, this time the one by Mary Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. It is brand new and I am its first reader so I’m pretty happy with that, all crisp and unadulterated by human hands. They rang back later to say they had found an Elena Ferrante that I haven’t read so that’s coming too, plus their other selections. John has been getting water into both pairs of shoes he has here, the soles have worn through on both, so we masked up and went to Baulko shops where he got a pair of black leather Hush Puppies and a pair of brown Colorado boots. We were lucky that they had a ‘second pair half price’ sale on so he saved a goodly amount. Later I made a Pineapple cake which had fresh pineapple and spiced brown sugar in the bottom of the tin. I thought it was a bit unusual because of the fennel seeds etc but John only gave it a seven, so I tossed the recipe which I’d cut out of the Good Weekend. I seem to do at least one recipe from the Herald each week, mostly well worth doing.

November 3, 2020

We made a decision to go out for lunch for the first time since February but the venue, Wild Pear, has a big outdoor deck where we sat and felt perfectly safe. The food as usual was fantastic, Lamb Cutlets with Roast Pumpkin, Roast Tomatoes and Gnocchi for sir and for me a delicious Fillet of Tasmanian Salmon with Orange, Beetroot, Watercress and a Beetroot Sauce. We followed with a decadent Pavlova with Turkish Delight, Strawberries, Watermelon, Pistachios, Persian Fairy Floss and Icecream. John scored both of his at ‘eleven out of ten’, I am not sure Masterchef would accept that as a score but I certainly did. We were so out of the loop that we didn’t know it was Melbourne Cup Day, the first time ever that’s happened, we wondered why the ladies who lunch were wearing hats! Afterwards we collected the six capsules of compounded Vitamin D that Glenn Reeves always prescribes and that I get made up at Dural. It doesn’t keep so I only get six capsules per visit and then they go into the fridge to be taken at one per month. John is now sleeping off the meal in his recliner chair while I am waiting for the washing machine to do a load. Lately he is spending much more time at my place and so things like washing and cooking are appreciably greater, but it suits me fine to have him here and I can see that increasing into the future.

November 4, 2020

Woe is me, woe is us and woe is the US of A. Whether or not Biden can win by a fingernail, the country is screwed. It needed a handsome majority for Biden to stamp his authority on the White House and clearly, as of 3.45 pm today anyway, that isn’t going to happen. It is the Civil War all over again, although I was horrified to see that it seems Michigan will go to Trump. Every country gets the government it deserves, but if you are black, poor, sick or unemployed, that’s not much consolation when you wake up to another four years of this bastard. If the popular vote persists as it is at the moment it goes to prove that, despite the old saying, you really can fool most of the people most of the time. Still trying to fool people are the scamsters who ring almost every day, the latest purporting to be from Telstra about my internet connection, except I am with Optus. Sigh.

Planted forget-me-nots and nasturtium seeds then washed up three boxes full of shop leftovers which I offered to friends, failing that they will go to the Sallies. Fran took a silverplate serviette ring for her granddaughter Frankie and Tania is taking the dressing table set for her daughter. That’s a small advance at least, but still so much to go that I get disheartened. My stamps didn’t sell on ebay so I might just use them for posting letters, even though they are for amounts like 27 cents and 34 cents they are still legal tender.

November 5, 2020

Another ‘sale’ of my bits and bobs, this time a jug and some mulga wood bookends to Jane. Every little helps. Today’s US election news is better, though still not good as far as a clearcut outcome is concerned. In a post on Medium a couple of weeks ago it was reported that Trump was telling his staff that 1. He was going to declare victory on the night of the election, regardless of the results at that time, and 2. That he would challenge every state count if the result was close. Voila!

John had a minor accident today while we we out. He was coming out of a parking spot and a taxi behind him pulled up to let him go but then decided to go around him. The result was a dent in the front door of the taxi and John’s headlight mechanism coming out in one piece, which did look pretty funny I must admit as he carried the whole headlight and blinker section and put it in the boot. We drove home with no headlight but when John rang NRMA to lodge a claim they said it is illegal to drive it even in the daytime so they are sending a tow truck to take the car to the repairer even though it is just in Castle Hill. Fun and games and $695 excess, ouch. Despite the fact that the taxi had stopped to let him out, the law says he had right of way so John is at fault. So be it, at least no one was hurt.

November 6, 2020

Bright and early a tow truck arrived to take John’s car, but before that I took some pics of the damage, clearly vastly more than the $100-200 he suggested to the insurance company. Headlight mechanism totally detached, dented mudguard, broken grille, mangled bumper and misaligned bonnet. Repairs may very well end up more than the car is insured for so we will have to see how it all pans out. I made some Italian almond biscuits, pasticcini di mandorle, before heading over to Carol’s for a cuppa and a chat about the book group, which she missed due to a Zoom problem. Cooked a whole sea mullet in the fish poaching pan for dinner, covering it with shallots, ginger and coriander after cooking, with just a splash of soy sauce. Sadly it was a bit underdone at the thickest part (luckily there weren’t any guests) but we had enough to feed us tonight and the other half will bake perfectly tomorrow night. Served it with rosti potatoes and asparagus.

Started Trent Dalton’s latest book All Our Shimmering Skies and although I loved Boy Swallows Universe this one is just too far into the magical end of magical realism for me. BSU was leaning into this genre by the end, but the rest of the book so delighted me that I could contain my strong preference for realism. He is a clever boy but this one must remain forever unread, I just hope it doesn’t come up as a book group choice because then I would have to finish it on principle.

November 7, 2020

The smash repairer in Castle Hill hadn’t contacted us about the car so we rang him, only to be told that the car has been written off and didn’t even make it off the tow truck. So where is it we asked? At Milperra at the premises of Pickles Auctions was the reply. I was pretty cheesed off as they hadn’t had the decency to inform us. So we drove up to our trusty mechanic Alex who immediately got on the phone to the proprietor of the smash repairer who told him we had a right to have it brought back for a second opinion. Unfortunately NRMA claims department isn’t available at the weekend (one of the reasons I am happy to be with GIO who are available 7 days) so we are stuck till Monday. What a pity because John got new shock absorbers a year ago, a new radiator a few months ago and a new clutch weeks ago and has been saying that the car is mechanically in top condition now.

I am seeing a lot of publicity for the new Australian movie Rams, but nowhere do they say that it is a takeoff of the wonderful Icelandic movie of the same name. It irks me that they wouldn’t just fess up and say it’s a remake. Similarly it irks to see Aldi copy the logos and design of many products which are popular in other supermarkets, instead of designing their own advertising material and packaging. It is the one thing that annoys me about the company, I think I shall write a letter. Copycats are dirty rats as we used to say at school.

November 8, 2020

When I got up this morning there was an email from Eileen in San Francisco saying: Joe won!!! So I turned on the teev and yes we had. The whole world won, by overturning Trump we can now breathe again, but the reality of the situation will soon sink in. A raging pandemic, race relations at a low ebb, widespread poverty, no health care, probably a hostile senate, but at least we know someone is trying, rather than golfing. We sat through an extended Insiders, then later watched the victory speeches live and I teared up at both. Good luck to them, they are going to need it.

I hucked out another box of oddments and photographed them, Heather claimed a couple of pieces from that lot, small gains but better than nothing. Made raspberry muffins for when my librarian friend comes on Tuesday but had a bit of a disaster when I decided to put the excess mixture into a small cake tin and bake it separately, it overflowed in the oven making a right royal mess and then wouldn’t come out of the tin leaving me with 1 fractured cake plus 12 muffins. However John opted for the messy cake for afternoon tea and pronounced it delicious. My Tuesday visitor is one of the local librarians who came in for a cuppa a couple of weeks ago and then left a note in my letter box last week asking if a return visit was on the cards to discuss the election result rather than books. Of course I said yes and I look forward to the drop in on Tuesday.

November 9, 2020

An early call to NRMA to find out why no-one has contacted us about the car being  written off. They promised someone would ring back soon and they did, to tell us that the cost of repairs is more than double the insured value due to damage to the chassis, it isn’t just a matter of panel beating and painting. Also availability of parts means it could be quite a long business. Sigh. Our second opinion confirmed that it isn’t a viable proposition BUT things improved when Alex told us of a car that he services which is for sale at about the price we will get from insurance. He sent us photos and we will inspect it tomorrow. It is a Toyota Corolla and seems like a good solution.

I drove John to RNSH this morning for his blood tests and then dropped him off at his place afterwards as he has a TAG meeting tomorrow which he can get to via a bus at his door. Home by lunchtime, but no lunch possible due to a sudden attack of parotid gland inflammation, an intermittent but pesky part of Sjogrens Syndrome which comes on suddenly and makes eating impossible due to intense pain and swelling if I try to put anything but water into my mouth. It begins in an instant and lasts somewhere between half an hour and many days, the record so far is 5 days. Needless to say hunger is visiting now in the late afternoon.

November 10, 2020

My face ache disappeared by 7.30 last night so I was pleased to have a very small evening meal about 8pm, the day without food aiding my bid to get back to normal after John was here for a week. Because he likes bigger meals and more between meal snacks than I usually allow myself I fall into the pattern of eating more than I need, so today the universe made a small correction. Perhaps it could make the correction pain free next time if at all possible.

Busy morning. Ann kindly offered to drive John to his TAG meeting and to pick him up afterwards so that worked out well. Alex rang to say that the car we are to view isn’t available until tomorrow but hopefully some action may have happened on the insurance claim by then. I reminded John at 9am that he had to ring NRMA, then again at 2pm and when he rang me at 4.30 I asked if he’d remembered to do it, but no. I photographed a decanter, stein, candlestick and statue to try to sell online and wrote descriptions for that. Ann has offered to put them online for me and despite our differences of opinion when we did this last time I think our roles are now better defined so I’m willing to give it another chance. The advantage for her is a commission and for me it is the fact that I can sell fragile things without the need to pack and post them as she negotiates only to have them picked up from her in person, something I am less inclined to do. Tony came for a cuppa in his lunch hour and seemed to like the raspberry muffins which I topped with icing and dried cornflower petals. He brought me as a gift 3 books by his favourite author, Dervla McTiernan, whom I haven’t read before and I gave him 6 books to return to the library, hardly a fair swap but he seemed happy. We talked books, Trump, racial discrimination, religion, cooking and more and I think we may be on the way to becoming pals. He said he wants to bring some of his fruit cake ‘next time’.

November 11, 2020

I picked up his nibs and we went up to inspect his new car, a Toyota Corolla which seems in excellent condition, you could eat dinner off the motor. We agreed to go ahead with the sale and Alex offered to do a complimentary grease and oil change so we will pick it up tomorrow. This morning I had done an online search of the car’s rego, followed by a search on the Personal Property Securities Register to make sure that it wasn’t stolen or had money owing on it. Phew. Then off we went off to Service NSW to cancel the rego on the poor old Suzuki, sort out the CTP Insurance and order a new toll dooverlackie as the old one went to the wreckers with the car. This afternoon there was much time spent getting insurance quotes, not helped by the fact that twice the phone cut out when I was talking to NRMA Insurance, leaving me to start all over again. I decided instead to send a message to them via Facebook saying that if they want to give us a quote my phone number is blah. I am past caring today, I’ve done nothing but talk cars the whole day, and nothing bores me like talking cars. In the wonderful words of Lawson: “For I have gone past carin’, Past worryin’ or carin’, Past feelin’ aught or carin’, But from my heart no tear nor sound, For I have gone past carin’.” Lawson always seems to have some lines for whatever you are feeling.

On another topic altogether, we have been debating whether it was safe to go to The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay where we have had a table booked for New Year’s Eve. We booked it last NYE as we were leaving the restaurant, one of our favourites. But that debate ceased when we saw that it has gone under, the victim of Covid and a rapacious landlord. Well now the landlord gets ‘sweet Fannie Adams’ and we get no oysters, fish pie or New Zealand wild trout, as we’ve had in the past. It looks like a quiet night at home for us, nothing at all for the restaurant and nix for the landlord as well. What a shame all round.

November 12, 2020

Last night I decided to tackle the car insurance issue again, this time online. I found the NRMA website very easy to navigate and got a very competitive quote of $624, a huge amount less than GIO. But every time I got to the Buy Now button and pressed it I was taken back to the Get a Quote page and had to fill it all in again. This happened three times over 55 minutes until I swore at it and gave up. First thing this morning I rang them, told a tale of woe of five attempts to buy the insurance and got a lady working from home in Cronulla who said that yesterday they ‘had issues’, ‘as did I’ was muttered under my breath. But after reapplying his No Claim Bonus (despite having a claim last week? how does that work?) she also gave us $100 off that again and charged $403 in total, just 40% of the cost of the exact same policy at GIO. Business is a weird thing, I must get a quote from NRMA next time mine comes up. The whole exercise got me thinking about a First Saturday meeting a few years ago when the very techie speaker was horrified to hear that I go to the Opera House in person to book seats rather than doing it online. Each time I have done so I first looked up my favoured seats online and then went to the box office and invariably some lovely person volunteered that they could find me better seats that weren’t on the online plan. It was always worth it. Doing it by phone today saved John $221 on what he would have paid if the transaction had gone through successfully last night, so I will stick to dealing with real people thanks very much Mr. Techie Guy. We picked up the car and gave Alex a good bottle of red, only to discover that he’s a teetotaller, but his wife drinks so I will take him a cake later.

John was walking out the door this afternoon to go to his infectious diseases specialist who monitors his lifelong antibiotic therapy after the knee infection when she phoned and said she and her family had just been put into 2 weeks quarantine after she had a possible Covid19 exposure. I’m guessing it must be for a hotel quarantine patient or one who is still in hospital from a while back as the officials are saying we have no new cases. I think her husband is a doctor too so that’s both a huge problem and a welcome rest I would think. So he had a phone consultation and was spared a trip to the hospital. Win/win.

November 13, 2020

Oh the joy of being able to eat your dinner at 4.38 pm, just because you only had two SAOs at 11.30 am. John would think I’d gone stark raving mad if I did that when he was here, so I observe regular mealtimes with him and go rogue when I am by myself. I have had a quiet day but a pleasant one, having morning tea (the said SAOs) in Heather’s  garden, then buying some fruit and veg on the way home. Stone fruits are just starting so I got some nectarines plus a punnet of raspberries of which I will partake for dessert tonight. The day began with an attempt to water the front garden but the hose had been disconnected from the tap and I couldn’t get it back on. A later inspection with glasses on showed that they had wrenched it off without pulling back the clasp, breaking it in the process, so I am back to bucket watering for now. No-one needs a mouthful of water in that much of a hurry so I am crooked on the perpetrator of this heinous crime. Not as bad as the day someone turned the meter off and I was ready to ring the supplier or a plumber or whoever, till I thought to check the main, only to find it turned off. Actually when I think about it this will cost me a little money and time whereas the main tap cost me nought. I was expecting a friend in the late afternoon but she is on sick report so I will catch up with her another time, by which time it was dinner, at 4.38.

My bro tells me that the lockdown in Calderdale is now extreme with a 10,000 pounds fine for breaking it, which in itself seems extreme. Apparently someone local who had friends over for a party was just hit with the maximum fine and I hope the party was an excellent one as it has cost more than a flash wedding. I read of a dentist in WA who left quarantine numerous times to see patients, 41 of them in fact, and was given two months in the slammer as a reward. I imagine that deregistration may be on the cards when she gets out. A goose having a party I can understand but a dentist??

November 14, 2020

I was just filing a document and came across a photo of my grandmother’s sister Ethel and her brother Albert standing outside the railway station in England, probably Harrogate Station. She is dressed in a white sheet by the looks of it and is holding a sign that says ‘self denial’ in support of Mahatma Ghandi. Judging by his clothes I would say it looks Edwardian but that would be very early for them to be supporting Ghandi, though I doubt it would be past 1920. I wish that sort of sentiment and bravery had seeped down to my parent’s generation, I certainly got a ton of derision for demonstrating against the Vietnam War. I remember my father telling me that after getting off the bus on his way home from work at Guildford a policeman in uniform, also getting off the bus, addressed him by name. My father asked ‘how do you know my name?’ and the policeman replied ‘we are watching your daughter Maureen’. My parents were furious that I had brought the family into disrepute. Arguing my case brought no respect for a principle, just a shower of rebukes, I never did win that argument. It saddens me sometimes to think that John was there in those marches and signings, I should have scooped him up then.

The Guardian reports that Fr Dave Smith, an Anglican priest in Dulwich Hill of 30 years standing, has been forced to resign from his church or face the sack because his wife left him. He is a two-time Australian of the Year nominee but that won’t prevent his sacking, loss of income and possible homelessness with his primary school aged child. ‘The conservative evangelical diocese’s controversial doctrine of “male headship” holds that men are the undisputed heads of their households, wives must “submit” to their husbands, and only men can lead in church’, says the article. I have seen this happen at close quarters when the father of a friend was sacked from his post in Castle Hill back in the 70s, causing grief for him and his children when they were unceremoniously tossed out of their home and his father was left without work. Gee Christians can be so un-Christian can’t they? It is always the ‘conservatives’ who fit this description, whether it be in churches, government or society in general. A pox on the lot of them, she says biblically.

November 15, 2020

We went to Erskineville to mind Millie so Davina and Louis could have a rare night out, the first this year in fact. They chose to go to a relatively new restaurant called Arthur in Surry Hills which has a degustation menu, with matched wines if desired. Millie was fine about them going out but at bedtime insisted that she sleeps under, not on, the bed. So I just passed her a pillow and let her do just that. Then she called to say ‘you’ve put me to bed with no socks on and I might get cold’ so socks were applied to two feet sticking out from under the bed. After washing up from dinner I sat down to read my book, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, when I noticed Millie lying quietly under the dining room table. How long she had been there I don’t know. Finally after a couple more tries to get her into the bed I said ‘I think I might lie in your bed for a while seeing you’re not using it and quick as a flash she was in it with me. I stayed there till the fam arrived home about 9.25 pm and considered the ploy as a total success. While we were there my neighbours next door rang. They were trying to deliver some Diwali treats but I wasn’t answering the door, though they could see the car was there. When we got home we found a wrapped plate of fritters with some sweet treats alongside. They would normally celebrate with fireworks, sparklers and lights but Hindu tradition forbids it this year because of the recent death of their aunty. We’ve agreed to celebrate with lots of food and sparklers next Diwali.

November 16, 2020

John is on the hunt for a frig and I can’t dissuade him from an immediate purchase. I jokingly blamed the ‘car high’ he is on. So we masked up and went to The Good Guys to look at the two models he was considering. One outshone the other so now he wants me to do a check in Choice tomorrow to make sure it’s not a lemon, then he will order it. The online reviews are uniformly good but they are from new purchasers, so they don’t tell us anything about how the item wears, or doesn’t. A walk to nearby Bunnings followed to buy a new hose fitting to replace the one broken by a passer-by, I bought two in case the rotter does it again. Lunch was Indian fritters gifted by the neighbours, with a salad. I am keen to get back into my book tonight, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, a gift from Tony and it’s really got me in, such a step up from the very ordinary Ruth Rendell that I just finished. It was her last book and it shows, one-dimensional characters and a silly plot. Makes me wonder if she really wrote it at all.

November 17, 2020

A trifecta of car, frig and now vacuum cleaner! John tried to vac the flat and a loud bang and a puff of blue smoke ended the reign of his current machine. Now can we have some peace on the motor front? Thankyou. He rang me with the idea of buying a Miele, but I convinced him that my old shop vac, admittedly a very basic one but currently ensconced in the garage, would do the trick for no bucks at all. I did the Choice check and it gave us a tick of approval on his preferred frig, so I expect he will order that pretty soon.

I see that our SAS and commandoes in Afghanistan had a ‘kill board’ on which they entered scores in some sort of grotesque competition for the most Afghans they murdered. I don’t understand why it has taken 4 years to complete a report on this or why we now have to have yet another body to investigate. Why can’t it be handed to the Federal Police in just the same way it would be if they were picking people off in Canberra? Morrison frowns and warns us of the shock when the details come out and military types and their journalistic friends are excusing the men already on the grounds that ‘they had too many rotations’. I think that’s for a jury to way up, but thanks anyway. I hope I am wrong but it seems like dragging it out as much as possible is the aim until one day someone says ‘But it was all such a long time ago…..and witnesses have died….and it’s too hard to get convictions now.’ It is much easier to teach people to kill than it is to teach them when to stop.

November 17, 2020

Today we had plans to go to a friend’s place for lunch but John rang to say that his new car door was locked and couldn’t be opened with either the clicker or the key. I headed off down the M2 to pick him up but he rang to say his neighbour Chris had managed to get the car open. So I turned around and started for home, only to get another call to say that now the car wouldn’t start. Turned back and got onto the M2 again, picked him up and amazingly we got to the friend’s place right on time. We had a lovely lunch and chat and later I drove John home. I assumed an electrical fault was responsible but the NRMA man (bless all NRMA men) said it was that he had left some internal lights on, lights he somehow wasn’t aware of. The door lock had a totally separate issue which was rectified on the spot. To all this was added the fact that John left his mobile on the floor of my car this morning so I could only get him on the landline. It seems a boring set of circumstances but somehow I am exhausted by it all.

Tony texted to say that the library has bought a DVD on the Trump family going back to the 1800s in Germany up to the present so he has put it aside for me, that’s six hours of my life accounted for. He also put a reserve on Fear by Bob Woodward, another Trump book and is asking the library’s buyer if he wants to get Plaintiff in Chief, a book about Trump’s 3400 litigations. It’s like having my own personal librarian. The crazy one last week considered launching a strike against Iran’s main nuclear facility Natanz before senior advisers talked him out of it, according to the New York Times. Talk about going out with a bang.

November 18, 2020

I have long been saying that it is a contest about who will survive longest, me or my beautiful 70 foot high and wide gum tree. Well it looks as if I might be in the lead, the back yard is ankle deep in gum leaves and short branches, plus there were two more large branches there today, probably each 10 feet long. The two of them cut up filled an empty Sulo bin. The horticulturist pronounced the tree to be in ‘terminal decline’ months ago and it is much worse now. I guess I am in terminal decline too, but it’s progressing at a slower rate. It will be a sad day when I go out and find no leaves left at all, the sound of a chainsaw will become its dirge.

John ordered the groceries this week and they were delivered here this morning, including 12 blocks of his favourite Pico chocolate, along with a note to say that the other flavours he ordered were out of stock. I don’t know how he can eat a BIG bowl of icecream every night, followed by half a block of chocolate on top of his dinner and not be fat. Good genes for weight control. I wish I had them, though I would choose different poisons.

We are supposed to take a piece to read at book group on the theme of Thanksgiving and I have been going through shelves of poetry books with no luck at all. It’s just not the sort of thing I would buy or read. Plenty on death or war or nature or injustice but thanksgiving, not so much. But I need to rustle something up that doesn’t sound too mawkish and maudlin. Christmas themes were so much easier I think, or we could do Hannukah maybe?

November 19, 2020

My search through the poetry shelves for something representing Thanksgiving in any form has led to my reading some Walt Whitman, my fave Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson (why did I buy this exactly?), Tennyson, Ai, Thoreau, Brooke, Auden, Betjeman and others. I even looked up a wonderful poem in an email from my friend, poet and percussionist Gabrielle Journey Jones, but decided that it was too ‘dark’ for the topic and for this group. But that rereading in itself made the whole search worthwhile. Apparently my tastes run into the ‘dark’ rather than the radiant and shining but I am what I am. Come to think of it all the poets I was searching through are on the dark side too, so I’m in good company.

If I want to research a medical question I usually start with the website of the Mayo Clinic so it was a shock to read today that there are over 900 staff there who currently have Covid19. If their capable and professional staff can’t avoid it I wonder what hope the rest of their community have. In my Medium feed today came a paper from a researcher who says that those with autoimmune conditions risk the vaccine triggering a ‘potent type I Interferon response’, in other words a cytokine storm, exactly the thing that the vaccination is seeking to avoid if you contract Covid. The CDC also has a webpage entitled Who Should Not Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines, which includes people with autoimmune diseases. Mmm, some serious reading to do before making a decision on that one.

The ADF report on the murder of civilians in Afghanistan by Australian forces is shocking but hardly a surprise. The racism in the army in particular is well known and added to the pressures of warfare it is a toxic mix. A friend whose son joined the army a few years back commented that within a very few months he had changed from being a reasonable young man to one transfused with racist and particularly anti-Islamic prejudice. A longtime acquaintance whom I talked with in my shop over many years had an important role in the RAAF. He resigned from a job he loved after seeing the appalling treatment of Afghan locals by army personnel while working there. He told of them wearing offensive T shirts with anti-Muslim messages and was critical of the lack of discipline there. This was probably 10 years ago so if a shopkeeper near the base knew things were going wrong back then, so did others who had the power to intervene. If it were not for whistleblowers and the ABC nothing would ever have been done for fear of damaging the ‘holy’ reputation of our military. It is a universal tactic in wartime to dehumanise the enemy in order to overturn soldiers’ basic reluctance to kill, this sort of behaviour is a natural result of that strategy. A more realistic view of the military may prove to be the only positive outcome of this tragedy.

November 20, 2020

A call last night from Kenneth brought to reality the fear of his daughter Tanya contracting Covid19 at the aged care home in which she works. So far she isn’t too bad, just suffering from a cough, but it’s early days. Of course she and her husband are in quarantine. Six patients and staff there are so far infected, but Kenneth has long told me of the inadequate protective equipment supplied, for many weeks at the beginning they didn’t even have masks so we are both surprised that it’s taken this long for the pandemic to hit there. More concerning though has been her habit of visiting him twice weekly over all these months, by chance it has been over a week since she was there, so it appears he has dodged a bullet. Even more concerning in some ways was his comment about medical care under the NHS. He has had some problems with his ears and hearing aids may be on the cards, but when I asked if he had been to the doctor he told me with a grim laugh that it is nigh on impossible to get an appointment due to all of their efforts being geared towards people with Covid. Even my doughty brother is starting to sound rattled.

Making a pav today for the book group ‘end of year’ celebration. I hope the fact that I’m using only red fruit doesn’t give it too much of a Christmas air. I could eat pav every night but I haven’t made one since the pandemic started, because I know I would eat whatever was left from the occasion and I’m trying to be good as often as possible. For some reason I find getting pomegranate arils out of the skin is a luscious job, almost meditative, separating every last bit of pith from them needs concentration and is beautiful at the same time. I seem to remember doing it as a kid, though I have no idea how they were served, just to eat as fruit perhaps.

November 21, 2020

Last night’s end of year book group meeting was the best of the year I think, with a depth of warmth and camaraderie that hasn’t always been present of late. I needn’t have worried about my lack of a suitable reading, my flippant one went over well and all of the others were appropriate and well worth hearing. Sue arrived in a hail storm in the afternoon and I was sitting on the front verandah while hailstones pinged off the roof and occasionally into my glass, a new experience. I wasn’t even aware that Sue was outside in her car waiting for the rain to end. After the meeting we chewed the fat with John and enjoyed a leaisurely breakfast together this morning. I suggested we ring our friend who missed last night’s meeting and invite her to morning tea, which she was happy to accept. Sue has suggested that we go to Killcare for a little holiday which was timely considering that I had tried to get us into one of the usual haunts from Jimmys Beach down to Kiama, but all of them are booked pretty solid till February, by the usual Gold Coast-ians and Bali-ans presumably.

Thinking about the SAS report and one of the issues is that in wars such as WWII and Vietnam the troops were from all walks of life, conscripts or enlisted, but from farms and cities, all levels of education, various ages, life experiences and mindsets. But in the SAS I suspect it would be almost all career soldiers from the get-go, with no broad experience of the culture of the civilian populace in the same way that priests are trained in a bubble apart from the wider culture. So training to be a commando, a professional killer in fact, could be happening in a closed society where moral judgments have not been formed by previous life experience. Only a theory but worth thinking more about.

November 22, 2020

We decided to visit Terry and Jude at Arncliffe, via La Perouse. Had a look through the Museum there and then did a tour of Bare Island Fort. Apparently dodgy builders were around way back then, because the guide explained that back in the 1800s when it was built it soon began to leak. Concrete was a new and expensive commodity but it was specified by the government for the walls and roof of the building. But after the leaks a Royal Commission was established which found that the scoundrel builder had formed the place out of sandstone rubble rendered over to look like concrete, which of course absorbed water easily. The effects were still causing problems into the 1980s when the fort cracked and some parts collapsed as a result of the Newcastle earthquake, resulting in the need to reinforce parts of the fort for safety reasons. I wonder if the dodgy builder went out of business or just went on to be a very rich man? Talking of rich men, I saw a man in his 30s next to a low and luxurious looking two-door sporty car. Never having seen the like of it I wandered over to read the label, it was a Bentley so I googled the price: from $400,900. Is it possible to get that sort of money legally? I guess it is, but I was curious to know how. On my own I might have asked him, I didn’t want to embarrass John, plus it is easier to get information from people when you are on your own. Jude and Terry were in good form, along with their family who come regularly to swim in the pool. Their grandson, who is all of 13, is concerned about the war in Azerbaijan and he seems to know a lot about it apparently, I say apparently as I wouldn’t have a clue. He is a history nut, 13 going on 50, I look forward to hearing of his future progress, but I am sure it will be rosy.

November 23, 2020

Out to Dural to the bakery for bread, I got to try John’s new jalopy which is extremely comfortable to drive. Then I stocked up the cake tins by baking rock cakes and cheese shortbreads, which I topped with either cayenne or fennel seeds. Now I am ready for drop-ins. Tomorrow is John’s neurology appointment so I have been thinking about that and wondering if Bob’s suggestion that we just accept his memory loss without investigation had a motive behind it. Anyway Nada wasn’t having a bar of that and insisted on the MRI and the neurologist. But I remember my friend from a few years back who said that he wished he’d never had his memory loss investigated. He was diagnosed with Alzheimers and was depressed from then on, I do think making it official speeded up his decline but John is such a positive person so he wouldn’t necessarily react the same way. He asked me today what we would do if she announced she was putting him straight into a home, a highly theoretical question, but I answered we would bolt for the exit and tear off down Victoria Avenue at great speed.

It was interesting in observation of Terry and Jude’s family yesterday that their grandchildren are strikingly mature for their ages. Two are the same ages as John’s grandchildren but their ease with adults and the topics they discuss are years ahead. The 7 year old boy mentioned that one of his friends at school had been wearing a dress for 2 years and identifies as a girl and the 12 year old girl commented on her friend’s father leaving the family because he discovered he was gay. Her mother asked if the friend was embarrassed by this but she replied: ‘why on earth would she be embarrassed?’ They were quite happy and comfortable to sit around joining into group discussion with an old couple whom they don’t know and their comments were always mature and relevant.

November 24, 2020

John’s neurologist appointment didn’t go quite the way I expected. Firstly his doctor was one of the best I have ever been involved with, we were in there for over an hour and all of our questions and more were answered in detail. Prior to that she had been ensconced with a medical student looking at the latest MRI. I had girded myself for a diagnosis of vascular dementia because of both his symptoms and the fact that his vascular system is damaged by repeated bouts of chemo. Her very first question was: ‘have you ever had any radiation to the brain?’ Then she surprised us by saying that she believes that the primary cause of his problems is the radiation to his face (and therefore to his brain) which he had for the first bout of lymphoma in his parotid gland back in the 1980s. The micro-haemorrhages on the MRI are typical of radiation damage and were also showing on the last MRI done in 2016, when he got the most recent and more serious B cell lymphoma. I was surprised to learn that radiation brain damage takes a long time to manifest itself in visible damage and symptoms, so that sort of delay is entirely typical. She explained that there is a continuum with this damage from MCI (mild cognitive impairment) to Alzheimer’s Disease and John is on that path and has been for many years but it has only now become obvious. Traumatic brain injury, such as he had in his bike accident in 1970, also raises the long-term risk of Alzheimer’s so he has had a double whammy. She did a cognition test which involved drawing a clock face with hands at a particular time, copying a drawing and other tasks like remembering a string of words, in the last task he did pretty poorly. Asking what word he first thought of beginning with the letter ‘f’ brought a typical male response but asking him to then quote as many words as possible beginning with that letter seemed pretty easy for him. So what to do? Basically nothing. She thinks that his three amnesia events are probably a rare manifestation of the same thing, likely akin to a seizure with a disruption of brainwaves, so she’s putting him on an epilepsy drug to avoid them happening again. But apart from that it is a wait and see situation. She doesn’t think driving is an issue at this stage because his implicit or unconscious memory is still intact, that type of memory is affected at a later stage in the disease. There are drugs to help if and when it gets more serious but she doesn’t recommend those now. She doesn’t need to see him again until ‘things have deteriorated’. Looking at me at the end of the appointment she said ‘you will know when he needs to come back’.

November 25, 2020

Tony called in for a cuppa on his way to work at the library today in what has become an occasional break from my customary routine. We originally started off only discussing books though that has widened as we get to know each other better, but today it was nice to talk to someone who doesn’t know anything about John’s medical issues so I could ignore it for a while. I am feeling quite hollow after the revelations yesterday, thinking about the future is so confusing and terrifying and open-ended that sometimes it’s better not done at all. It is ‘one day at a time’ territory. Sometimes I am feeling as if a 10 ton weight is on my shoulders but perhaps the best approach for now is to ignore it and think of jokes instead: ‘My doctor diagnosed me today with cancer and Alzheimer’s. It was a lot to process and the road ahead won’t be easy, but hey at least I don’t have cancer!’ Yeah funny, but when you are living it, not quite as funny as it would have been six months ago.

November 26, 2020

Clearing out my in-tray is a boring but necessary task. I found stuff that I thought was lost and was able to file some poems and book review notes so probably worth doing. Tried again to tie Kirk down to a day for mowing my lawn. I used to be able to get him at a day or two’s notice but he says he is as busy as he’s ever been so he is coming next Monday after a two week wait. The grass will be higher than the mower but that’s his problem. Luckily I don’t need help anymore with the front garden, I manage it perfectly well on my own, whereas initially I did need physical assistance with building the rockery, spreading the pebbles etc, now it’s basically just weeding. I am not looking forward to summer watering though, that’s a real trial. Gosh I am being boring, my head is too full of questions and concerns so I can’t really focus on much else.

So now it’s 9.21 pm and I am dabbling on the computer. Usual stuff, write a letter to the Herald, check the US papers, check ours, get depressed. How can Kathy Jackson get a suspended sentence for ripping off $103,000 from union funds? How can Amy Coney Barrett vote in the US Supreme Court in favour of churches in New York against the restrictions on numbers at religious venues during the Covid lockdown? How can the federal government be paying for Mathias Cormann to fly around Europe on a VIP jet with an entourage of 8 full-time staff? He is not a government employee. Enough to be depressed about in politics and health at the moment without even starting on things at home. Perhaps that’s a blessing.

November 27, 2020

Interesting to see a Brett Whitely painting go for $6.136 million. But even more interesting was the story that barrister Clive Evatt, the previous owner, had called on Whitely who was bemoaning the fact that a gallery wanted him to paint out evidence of drug use on the coffee table in the painting before they would pay for the piece. Evatt offered to buy the painting for himself, to which Whiteley agreed, but said ‘it will cost you a bootful of money’, after which Evatt took him to his car and literally paid him with cash from his boot. Um, do all barristers drive around with a ‘bootful of money’? And if so, why? Taxation officials please note.

I was watering out front and noticed some landscapers working across the road so I asked for a quote to re-turf my grass verge which is a bit of a barren eye-sore. They came up with $1895 which shocked me, but I will ask Kirk about doing it next year, I am sure for much less. Then off to Service NSW to renew my free pensioner’s National Parks Pass. I wanted to get one a few years back and John talked me out of it, but I went ahead eventually and we’ve used it a bit this year. Because they need to sight the pension card it makes it a bit difficult to do online, though a paid pass is easy to do that way. I am always pleasantly surprised at how helpful the staff are there. Services NSW is the only good thing I can think of that this lousy Liberal state government has ever done. They are also very Covid aware, with security guards allowing people to enter only as others come out, so I feel safe in going there.

November 28, 2020

Last evening and night were shockers, aloneness when you’ve had bad news is not a good idea. I slept only from 4 am till quarter to 6 and got up feeling scummy. Every possible bad thing that could happen following John’s diagnosis was contemplated in detail during the night, but no solutions were in the offing. I realised in the light of day that maybe the best thing is to simply ignore the issue altogether and worry about any problems as and when they crop up. Trying to muster enthusiasm for Christmas cards, or gifts, or Christmas anything come to that, but so far it’s not working. I guess this feeling of gloom will lift all of a sudden, when it wants to and not before.

John came up after lunch for a few days and is busy raising the railings on the pull-out corner shelves in the kitchen where I keep all my plastic boxes, this to stop them falling off the back and needing Houdini to recover them (or at least someone with arms much longer than mine). I am wasting time on the computer to avoid going out in 40 degree heat to hang out the washing, but soon it must be done. It wouldn’t occur to me to put off the job if it were cold out, my genes being Viking via Yorkshire. I’m thinking that John has answered my question about what we should do about his having the bone pointed, just go on doing what we normally do. It doesn’t occur to him to do anything else, perennial optimist that he is. I on the other hand was dealt the pessimist cards, but I can learn.

November 29, 2020

John finished the job of raising the kitchen’s pull-out shelves and I repacked the plastic containers, discovering a very large lid with no container, a smaller lid likewise and two storage containers with no lids. How can lids be lost inside a kitchen I ask myself? No answer has yet appeared. It is 41 degrees in the shade outside, 105.8 in real terms, which sounds so much hotter. I keep hearing sirens and considering the strong wind outside it could very likely be fires. This is February weather, but let’s build a few new coal and gas plants and see if we can rev it up a bit more shall we? Good work Scotty.

I have been ironing various pillowcases and cushion covers, which I washed yesterday, to give to the Sallies. I have given the workers at Pepe’s Ducks enough for a while I think. Also a lovely shirt of John’s which he won’t wear because it has no top pocket, mmm, I tried to tell him how nice it was but ‘no pocket, no keep’ I was told. Next I will attack my clothes and see if there are any that I will never wear again. Unfortunately there rarely are, because I have clothes for going out and clothes for around the house and although they get moved downward from out to house, the house ones stay until they self-destruct, after which there is a ragbag in the garage for dirty work. I ironed a house shirt today with two holes and one stain but decided it wasn’t bad enough to dispose of. I pity my executors.

November 30, 2020

John put up our Christmas tree and found we have enough decorations to cover 10 trees of the same size so I have packed up a boxfull for the Sallies, along with a Christmas design coffee pot and the base for holding a real tree, something I am unlikely to use again in this lifetime. Added to the linen I washed, plus about 10 pairs of vintage gloves (some unused with David Jones price tags still attached) and a bedspread I no longer use, it makes a trip to the Sallies worth the petrol. John’s car is with Alex to get the locks cleaned and lubricated, they will work with the clicker but not with keys for some reason so we will go to North Parramatta Sallies on the way to collect his car. I opt for Parra because with all of those units around there I am sure there are some needy people in the mix, whereas I am sure Castle Hill Vinnies caters mainly to bargain hunters. So many considerations to weigh up in being a Libran, it’s tiring.

This morning I discovered that my green bin lid was up and as I closed it I noticed a bag of dog poo on top of all my weeds and cut up branches. Just as I was thinking up choice words of abuse to use if I catch the sod doing it again I noticed that one of a group of three lovely plants that I had grown over months from cuttings and then replanted into the front garden has been dug up and removed. Presumably they will return for the other two, knowing how appealing my little triangle looked. So the question is: am I looking for a plant thief with a dog or two separate suburban miscreants? I shall keep my eyes peeled and will peel theirs to match if I catch them.

Time to start a new Life Notes, due to the size of LN6, number 7 is now up and running.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 5

July 30, 2019

I know I am supposed to eat small meals and not eat for many hours before bedtime, but I thought sharing one entree and one main with some rice and half a piece of roti at 6pm should be okay. But no, I guess because it was Indian food (and I did have one glass of red wine). I suffered last week after we went to Abhi’s, but I expected that. However I didn’t expect I would be sick for 24 hours after last night’s meal, although that’s exactly what’s happened. Can’t be food poisoning as John is fine so I might just have to do what I’m told for a bit. I’ve made pumpkin soup for dinner tonight and have eaten very little else today. As a result of all that I’ve been nowhere and done nuffin, apart from reading wrapped in a blanket. Luckily I decided to donate books for the charity dinner tonight and not actually go to it, good forward thinking two weeks out.

July 31, 2019

We decided to go on the new Metro today but went west instead of east to avoid a long period in the tunnel, as it goes above ground from Bella Vista onwards. The design of the stations is very attractive and the train has all the bells and whistles, but all the seats are along the sides so I needed to stand to avoid the motion causing problems. We enjoyed the run but I wouldn’t go all the way to Chatswood on it, a bit too claustro for me. Got back to Castle Hill just in time to see The White Crow, about Rudolph Nureyev. Ralph Fiennes directed it and also acts, he is such a master who looks and acts differently in every role, unlike some who carry themselves from movie to movie. I wish I had held on to all the Nureyev books I had as a teenager, I was besotted with him and Margot Fonteyn despite never doing ballet. Oleg Ivenko is just stunning as a dancer and pretty easy on the eye as well.

August 1, 2019

How the hell can it be August? Three years ago today I closed the shop and we were flat out packing everything to go to auction. Now that the local Sallies has closed down, I have finally decided that ebay may be the only way to get rid of some of the stuff in the storeroom, something Tim has been urging me to do for those 3 years. I tried giving a few bits from the first box to friends but got rid of exactly zero. I don’t really want to get into the bigtime ebay selling I have sometimes done, but I think I will just put a few things on each week and see how it goes. Since I had even forgotten my password, it took me a while to get it happening, but now I’ve downloaded the app onto my phone I should be able to list more easily, selling them of course is quite another matter. Pleased to see a big gap in the street library today, with a few including a large Jonathan Franzen gone (it was only in there because I have it on the shelf already). The latest donation of 7 or 8 bags of books seems to be very much in the populist line, large forgettable books churned out like sausages, but as long as people are reading, it doesn’t much bother me that the quality is somewhat questionable, I don’t want to be a book dictator.

August 2, 2019

Still August, so it wasn’t a mistake. Very excited about Greg and Luke’s wedding tomorrow, their joy is infectious. Their Facebook posts have included Greg’s suit, secretly hanging inside a dust cover, the horse paddock mown and ready for guests and yesterday even photos of them going through the checkout at Woolies buying food for the wedding. This morning I baked 3 kinds of biscuits to make up a platter for tomorrow. John has come here with his wedding clothes, but now he’s up getting a haircut and then going to see The Lion King. I declined as I was so amazed by the stage show that I don’t want the movie to take the gloss off the memory. No bites on my eBays but anything that doesn’t sell is headed to a charity shop. However I know how itchy St. Vinnies are to toss things so I will have to drive to a Sallie Anne’s to ensure that they don’t get junked. Waste makes me literally feel ill and I’ve always had a special dislike for people who casually ditch usable goods, a dislike I could never fully hide in the shop when people said ‘if you don’t buy this, I’ll throw it in the bin’. I always wanted to say ‘Vinnies are across the road you lazy cow’ but I had to be nice, though my views are always written on my face.

August 3, 2019

Had a good run of an hour and 3/4 to get to Hidden Valley for Greg and Luke’s wedding. Gorgeous warm day as ordered, though the sun goes over the cliffs at 3pm after which they lit the huge bonfire. The boys were wandering around in jeans and t-shirts for the first hour, in what was a very informal day, and then they raced in to tog up for the ceremony. Tents held all the savoury food at one location and sweets at another and it was remarkable how much trouble people had gone to, including topping cupcakes with photos of the boys. I was reminded that Luke comes from Halifax UK and he knows the actual street where my brother lives. He was a corporate type till he met Greg exactly 10 years ago, but he has adjusted to Greg’s rural lifestyle surprisingly well, earning his living now as a massage therapist and by selling his paintings of wildlife, particularly birds, which are seriously good. We left in time to get to First Saturday, which was given by Nirjala on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) which she will be joining soon. I am awed by her commitment and bravery, but I think it would be very difficult to see all of the things that are happening over there and still remain only an observer, which of course they are meant to do, reporting but not in any way becoming a player.

August 4, 2019

John stayed over so we watched Insiders together before he moved a painting that we both agreed needed to go a little higher and slightly left, we always seem to agree on this sort of stuff but without him I might just put up with small errors. He went home while I went to the nursery to buy a couple of gardening bits and bobs, including spray for black spot on my one lonely rose. I have never had luck with roses but I am persevering with this one because it was a gift, actually the gift was a pair, but one bit the dust very early on, I suspect they were both greenhouse bred and the shock of the open air nearly killed them. I wish now I had pinched some of the horse poo lying around at the farm yesterday, it would have been great for the garden but tricky to conjure away in one’s wedding clothes.

August 5, 2019

Mondays tend to be the days I ask myself who I need to visit this week and all were in Windsor or on the way there, so I went to see Brian and Fay, a customer and friend of at least 25 years who has now joined him in the same nursing home. Her husband died just after I closed the shop so I wasn’t up with her new circumstances. Caught up with Tim whose family problems have not eased. Last week he gave me a painting he had done, in fact he gave me a choice of four different ones, but his current issues have made it impossible for him even to countenance lifting a brush. Saw Bob as well and got scripts for drugs to take on the plane so it was a friend visiting day from go to whoa. Spring feels as if it’s well and truly sprung so I’m fertilising and watering a bit each day and crossing my fingers that Chris is still coming to help me with the heavy stuff on Saturday.

August 6, 2019

No word from Chris, so I’m still not sure about Saturday. John is off to Gerringong to discuss his concept for the extension to Peppercorn Cottage which the owners like in theory. It remains to be seen whether the heritage architect is happy, but that is further down the track. Called in to Heather’s briefly and was impressed by the care she gives her little dog, a whippet or small greyhound? It has severe arthritis and can only just walk, regularly falling over and unable to get back up. I was scared to walk too close in case that alone was enough to make it fall. Reminded me of the residents at the nursing home yesterday. Somehow our species, and dogs too, have a long old age, slowly sinking into decrepitude and occupying the resources of the middle aged to look after them whereas birds or fish just die when they lose the ability to fly or swim. Perhaps one day there will be so many on the planet that once you can’t cross the road on your own you’re out, but nah climate change will have defused the population bomb before then.

August 7, 2019

Oh Happy Day! Had a good mag to Deborah in the morning before going to Dural Library for a change, two books borrowed and three put on reserve, so a successful jaunt. I was in Dural to meet up with Heather as we had decided to go to The Wild Pear cafe for lunch, reminded of its existence when the very young daughter of the owner won Masterchef a week or two ago. We got a lovely verandah table and though the property is unprepossessing at first blush, it proved pleasant as the sun poured in with a slight breeze and we looked out over the nursery grounds. The meal was sensational, barramundi and prawns for me followed by Turkish Delight Pavlova, a traditional pav with strawberries but with rosewater, turkish delight pieces and a topping of rose Persian fairy floss, it is totally worth sacrificing a few weeks on the verandah of the nursing home for this dessert. Did I mention the glass of moscato? Something I don’t usually drink but it was so good that I intend to ring them to get the name, a perfect summery drop for this meal.

Then I went to the loo. Admittedly one doesn’t normally think of any sort of excitement happening in the loo. But as I was leaving, the other lady there asked if I were Maureen. Puzzled, because I couldn’t remember her face, I replied in the affirmative and to my great surprise she told me that she follows my blog. But I don’t have a photo on it I replied, but she had looked me up on Facebook, seen the somewhat dated photo there and still recognised me. Hugs ensued and since I got home I have received a friend request from Tania and discovered that we live less than 5 kilometres apart so I’m sure we will catch up again soon. As I said Oh Happy Day!

August 8, 2019

Idly musing, something I do a lot of, on what career I should have taken up, with the benefit of hindsight of course. Nursing and police work were of interest, though the latter pales when one thinks of the things government asks/allows police to do. I remember well my friend Colin going to the corrective services academy at Eastwood and graduating, keen to put his theory into action, only to last a week at Long Bay after being told on day one how to upturn the dinner tray of people in solitary confinement and then to give them a penalty for making a mess in their cells. He was of the view that most of the officers he came across there were on the wrong side of the bars so I can’t see myself fitting into that milieu. Law interests me, but only criminal law, and I don’t have the right temperament at all for the job.

Medicine has always been my major interest, though I did once apply to be an ambo, encouraged by a friend in the service. That was scuppered when they told me I had to do a defensive driving course, eek, I was a very nervous and defensive driver already so that gave me the collywobbles and I pulled out before they made a decision. Thinking back I don’t believe I had, or have, the physical capabilities to abseil down cliffs, crawl into narrow spaces and do much of the work that ambos are required to do so luckily the driving issue pushed me in the right direction. Although I was attracted to general medicine by the science along with the personal interaction, I also love pathology which formed a big part of the electives I chose in the Biological Sciences Diploma I studied while working for Sydney University. So pathology and particularly forensic science still dominate my retrospective wishlist. I studied with a woman who worked in forensic science at the morgue and coroner’s court and told her it was my dream job, so she suggested I apply and offered to put it a good word. Then I excitedly told my mother, who was horrified by the thought of my digging around in the bowels of dead folk and told me so in no uncertain words. I was, despite being in my mid twenties, still unaware that one’s parents can’t dictate every aspect of their child’s life, so I told my acquaintance that I would withdraw from the plan. The story of my life it seems. I well remember my friend Diana telling me in my 30s that she had never known anyone so polite and deferential to their parents and it was a shock: wasn’t that what was expected, presumed in fact? No, apparently not, but it came as a huge surprise to me and by it was too late, the pattern of submissiveness was too well ingrained by then. So back to the dream job, perhaps that congruence of medicine and detective work involved in forensic science is right up there. Next life, for sure.

August 9, 2019

Had Martha and Phil over for morning tea and a chat, she bearing some lobelia seedlings  for my garden and I was able to hand over a bag full of empty pots for her use. She suggested we both take her book out to Brian in a few weeks, though whether he will even remember doing the interview is another story. Had a long talk to my neighbour Arvind who is not only politically aware and interested, but exceedingly knowledgeable about any country you care to name, always a pleasure to talk to him. John came over in the afternoon and while he watched the football at night I finished The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundati Roy. It was a big, baggy novel where I sometimes lost the plot about the characters, but in all of that there was a wonderful sense of messy, contradictory, but always exciting India. Her focus on Kashmir went a (little) way to my understanding that sad and seemingly intractable conflict.

August 10, 2019

John was off early to Gerringong to see his new clients about their extension and renovation. Their son is the builder and John’s first choice of plan was least favoured by the son as not being the best value per square metre. John disagrees and will still draw up the three options in the hope they will come around. However he coped with the drive well and was back here at 5 pm ready for the fish chowder to be finished. It was a good choice for a meal that can happen at any time as you cook up the stock and spices with the coconut milk then add potato and corn and just drop in the fish pieces 3 minutes prior to sit down, yum it was too. I was musing about the fact that each winter when it snows in the Blue Mountains I get so excited and promise myself that next time it is forecast I will just go up and stay, hang the expense and hang whatever else I needed do. It was forecast (and came in spades) this weekend yet I stayed here and did what was planned. Sometimes I am just a dope.

August 11, 2019

Off to Erskineville to see Millie and co, meeting up with Louis after he ran in the City to Surf race. Millie refused to use toilet paper after a wee and when asked why said ‘I don’t like it’ but then when offered wetwipes she said again ‘I don’t like it’. Reasoning was a waste of time but you have to smile when she announces loudly: ‘I don’t like it EVERYTHING!’ Though what she doesn’t like varies constantly and can’t be assumed from day to day. Certainly not shy of opinion, I can’t imagine my disagreeing with anything as a child, although I was sneaky enough to secretly pour the dreaded whooping cough medicine into my mother’s 21st birthday wooden candlesticks every day and thereby ruin them. But opposing taking the medicine, or anything else, would never have occurred to me. My father used to sit at the table and read the Daily Mirror from cover to cover waiting for me to eat the small meal I was served yet I struggled a tiny spoonful at a time till it was gone. Davina and I struggled to remove a half dead bougainvillea from their little courtyard garden this afternoon and succeeded in getting it all out, feeling it quite an achievement.

August 12, 2019

Spent just half a day in court due to it being closed to hear argument for a name suppression order, then closed again to hear the media appeal for publication, so we spent more time out of court than in. One interested family group (not accused of anything, more sinned against than sinning one suspects) in their joggers and bad hair dye jobs were care-worn, wearing signs of entrenched disadvantage, western suburbs written all over them. In the long break I chatted to Peter, one of the solicitors representing a ‘person of interest’, and it occurred to me once again that both defending and sentencing people are the prerogative of the privileged. Most of the judges I see are fair to the nth degree but occasionally I cringe at one who is so out of touch with the real world that I fear for the accused if that judge (it’s usually a he) is making the decision without a jury. In this case though there is no such issue, she is one of the good ones. We need to remember Goethe’s words: There is no crime of which I do not deem myself capable, more colloquially put in the idea of walking a mile in another’s moccasins.

August 13, 2019

Spent another half day in court, this afternoon being given over to evidence from the man for whom the police successfully applied to have the court closed while he gives evidence. The Channel 9/SMH/Age lawyer continued to fight the order today but was overruled. During the breaks I attacked my current read A Spy Among Friends about Kim Philby. It focuses on how easy it was to get into the British spy service with virtually no checking, you just needed to be part of the upper classes, preferably with parents who were in the colonial service (especially in India), the military, one of the top universities or the church. Once you’d jumped that hurdle your past didn’t really interfere, Philby was a known communist supporter at Cambridge yet his pedigree was such that this was seen as a youthful indiscretion. He once said that the best asset for a spy was to be easily liked, but I imagine being able to compartmentalise one’s life would be right up there. It is not something I have ever been able to do yet my brother does it easily, slipping assuredly from one situation to another, never letting his real feelings or opinons be known. I still smile at his exchange of views with Sue, explaining to her patiently that smoking was actually beneficial to health.

August 14, 2019

John went to see his haematologist Nada at St Vincent’s today and she said he was in the best health that he’s been in the three years she’s been seeing him. ‘You were rubbish the first time I saw you’ she rightly but quaintly put it. She says he is ‘one of my success stories’. We then took in a movie at Roseville, Palm Beach, the story of a bunch of flawed middle aged characters having a reunion at the home of one well-heeled couple who live at the fabled beach. Speaking to a man on the way out I discovered that he hadn’t seen a movie in 10 years but came because he lives in Mona Vale and wanted to see it because it was filmed near(ish) to his home. I treated myself to some sushi on the way home for an easy dinner tonight.

August 15, 2019

Keen to go back to the court case I’ve been following but knowing that the court was having some closed sessions I rang first, only to be told to ‘ring back after 9am’, despite the fact that time was long past. So I drove over to find the dreaded ‘closed court’ sign up (is there anything more frustrating than that sign when you are mere feet away from getting in?). The office assured me the phone was working but then checked and apologised profusely as someone had forgotten to turn off the answering machine. So I went home and baked a Walnut and Marmalade Tart with some of the marmalade Heather had made and given me earlier in the week, inviting her over for first slice and sending some home for David. Almost finished the Philby book, amazed at how many household names were his colleagues in the spy service. Peter Ustinov’s father Klop, Ian Fleming of James Bond fame, Graham Greene, Peter Wright were all contemporaries of Philby’s. Spy books have always fascinated me, I guess because their skills are so far out of my toolbox that I have a somewhat grudging fascination with their abilities. And that was even before I actually met one in the flesh, he who was quite bemused by the spy section on my bookshelves.

August 16, 2019

Sad to see Virginia Trioli finish up on News Breakfast this morning after 11 years. She is such a decent person and can skewer the politicians better than almost anyone. I shed a tear. Sat up late last night finishing the Philby book and the last chapter, written by John le Carre, who of course was also a contemporary spy whom I’d left out of my list of yesterday, said it all. He had asked a senior MI6 officer why Philby wasn’t arrested and charged after confessing to spying. but allowed, even perhaps encouraged, to flee to the USSR. Others who had also confessed  were gaoled for long periods up to 42 years when their actions, unlike Philby’s, hadn’t caused mass deaths. He replied ‘yes, but they weren’t top league’. As ever, class won out for Philby. Began the novel The Mars Room, dealing with the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, the world of drugs, prostitution, crime and women’s gaol in San Francisco. No martinis and gallons of champagne in this one, just beer and cheap takeaways.

I had hoped to try out a new gardener tomorrow, a refugee friend of a friend who has gone into business, but he hasn’t answered the phone nor replied to my messages during the week, so once again it’s a letdown. I will get the right one eventually, always on the lookout for people who enjoy what they do as well as the money they earn from it, but it takes time to find them.

August 17, 2019

Jane came over in the morning with some Cordylines that her gardener had culled. I made some brown sugar meringues with a few walnuts and some cinnamon to liven them up and they were a success. Not a recipe, just an idea, which proved to be a keeper. We discussed amongst other things the need to make our funeral wishes known, bearing in mind the current illnesses being suffered by her sisters I guess. The discussion prompted me to email Carly with a brief rundown of my wishes: where my will is, burial in Gerringong Cemetery, get David Barsby in to auction all the antiques, give my Aunt Ada’s Salvation Army Commission to the Sallies Headquarters in Sydney, that sort of stuff. I once had a Salvationist officer here for some reason (my father’s funeral perhaps?) and he was astounded that I had hanging on the wall a Captain’s Commission from Mrs Booth in 1909 (despite the fact that she died in 1890, they were still using her name on the Commissions). He asked if I would bequeath it to the Sallies archives as he’d never seen one before. Aunt Ada, my adoptive grandmother’s sister, was a SA Captain in England and as a young woman was sent to Belfast at a time of strikes and rioting, when sectarian animosity was real and visible. She once told me that the police used to ask her to walk with them on patrols, especially at night, so they would not be shot. The Salvation Army was highly regarded by both sides and she did so happily. In 1914 she was summarily sent from there to Lithgow NSW, travelling all the way in a blacked out ship during the war. Getting into a cab at the docks in Sydney, she asked for an address in Lithgow and was told it was a long train journey, so she was taken to Central train station instead and went off alone into the unknown. Quite a woman, I can’t even put up with a narcissistic leader in order to do ‘good works’, I need some of her courage and endurance.

August 18, 2019

I dreamed last night that when I got up this morning a middle aged couple were working in my garden and said they had been there since 6.30 am and were nearly finished. It was 6.30 when I woke and I realised then that it had been a dream and no-one but me could plant the Cordylines and do the rest of the gardening, so I had better just get up and do it. I worked from then till Insiders came on at 9 (tea and toast as I watched) and at 10 I went back and did some more till noon. I feel somewhat virtuous and even though I had to give up on some of the digging which proved too difficult, I did achieve much. I finished the book The Mars Room last night and was so impressed with the author resisting the temptation to make the prisoners in the book into innocents wrongly incarcerated. She told their stories with empathy but with clear eyes. They were crooked cops, addicts, thieves, violent offenders and vicious murderers yet in the milieu from which they came their acts were just normal behaviour, fanned by intergenerational poverty and drug addiction. It could be a depressing book in some senses (not one I would ever recommend for my book group) but I enjoyed every word and admired the author for not making at least a couple of her characters into the cliched hungry thief who steals a loaf of bread to survive. We need more realistic, astute and savvy work like this to help in finding solutions for the entrenched problems of crime and new judicial approaches to appropriate penalty.

August 19, 2019

Did a Windsor run to visit Brian and now Fay at the nursing home. Brian was still abed at 1 pm when I left, depressed and not wanting to go on. Last week he was chirpy and it seems to go up and down like this, the issue being more about motivation than about health. Looking around the day room I understand totally, it is depressing there in the extreme, despite the fact that he is in a better than average facility. Fay on the other hand was really glad of the visit and confessed to an old anger directed towards me. She had come into the shop when I had gone away for Christmas (a rarity) bearing a gift for me, but I had already left. She saw that I had left gifts for the staff but nothing for her and felt rejected as we had exchanged gifts in the past. Sometimes such things can come between friends without anything being said so I was glad that after years she’d decided to mention it and we were able to laugh about it and put it to bed. The shop was a bit of a lifeline for her and it was common to see her many times every week over more than 20 years so she ended up a friend rather than a client. I also called in to see an old contact who periodically borrows some bucks when his car needs rego or a medical bill comes in. He always pays me back a bit at a time on pension day, promising to pay it as a lump sum if his Lotto gets up. Suggesting that he bank his weekly Lotto investment as rainy day money has never met with enthusiasm for some reason. Back to gardening this afternoon, trying to get things shipshape before Darwin, while simultaneously trying to ignore Darwin and the flight.

August 20, 2019

Did the Manly haircut run and discovered as I was leaving that I had misread the clock and it was an hour earlier than I thought, however I decided to go anyway and park by the beach to read for that hour. When we were in India our compatriot Rob was reproached by his partner for sitting reading at sites where there were historical things to see. His reply stuck with me: ‘one of my joys is reading in all sorts of different surroundings, so I will continue to do that’. Full stop. After Manly I headed as usual to Freshwater where I read for half an hour till the wind got to me and then had a magnificent lunch of Cured Salmon with Sweet Potato Fritter, Pickled Beetroot and Ricotta. Did I say magnificent? It is such a wonderful place with food of the same quality as its big brother Pilu next door, but at a much lower price. Made my routine work in the afternoon a pleasure just thinking about it.

August 21, 2019

So, I have drunk that piss weak light milk for years and now the Health Department says that newer research shows you are better off with full fat, thanks for nothing guys. At least I didn’t fall for the ‘margarine is better for you than butter’ trick, seeing through that one on the grounds that anything artificially coloured and flavoured can’t be as good for you. Not to mention the fact that the ophthalmologist told me that only butter and olive oil are safe for anyone with a family history of macular degeneration. He showed me slides of vegetable oil build up in the macula of sufferers, ugh, that was enough.

So Pell is guilty once again. Of course the Bolts and their ilk are crying foul, but my question would be ‘did you actually see the accuser give evidence?’. If not, then none of us are in a position to judge definitively except the jury and the appeal judges. That is why I like to see the evidence given in court in person, the short precis given by the press is often not in keeping with hearing the whole evidence as given, you need to look the witnesses and the accused in the eye. I am surprised he hasn’t come to grief in gaol and hope that situation continues, even protective custody isn’t very protective.

August 22, 2019

So now I have to face the fact that we are going away, clothes must be packed, tickets must be found, gardens must be watered, panic must be restrained. I wish to be there, I just don’t wish to fly there. I will not get sick this time, I tell myself repeatedly. John has heaps of conference stuff printed up to read and I just have two books, the book group selection and a Tim Winton, that should do me with all the other things available to eat up my time. Speaking of eating I’ve discovered that Darwin has lots of seafood restaurants, though one I saw listed prawns (imported), crab (imported), etc. Nah, I think I might pass on that place, they are sure to have the dreaded basa too, dredged from the bowels of the filthy Mekong, I’d rather eat a stranger’s sock. Tonight though we are having some lovely freshwater trout fillets, served up with a melange of odd veggie bits to clear out John’s fridge.

August 23, 2019

All went to plan with the pickup guy a few minutes early but we were waiting outside. A leisurely cuppa at the airport filling in time till departure half an hour late. Takeoff to the west meant the pilot didn’t have to do that awful banking which doesn’t agree with me. Later a delicious feta quiche with potato and beans was a great breakfast. The flight was calm and smooth, Australia as flat and red as always while I pondered what future trips I might take, considering the drugs were working a treat. Reading my book in the sky was quite fun I decided.

Coming into Darwin for what John says was a ‘perfectly normal landing’ I developed the dreaded photophobia followed quickly by vomiting and vertigo. As a result I had to be wheelchaired off the plane, parked in the terminal in full view of planeloads of passengers, constantly vomiting. Eventually John and a security person got me into a cab to our hotel, but of course no wheelchairs here, so staff held me up in the lift to our apartment with its glorious king size bed, on which I was promptly sick. Poor John’s first meal here was a $25 room service club sandwich because he was afraid to leave me alone. Back to the drawing board on the drug front and another plane trip home to look forward to, sigh. But loving our water view and seeing the bats swooping amongst the palm trees below our seventh floor room, this written the next morning obviously.

August 24, 2019

What a difference a day makes. Slept 12 hours and went at 6 am for a walk in the lush waterfront park across the road. Couldn’t convince John to come but I saw the sun rise and the birds waking up. A sign explained that due to the fact that we are so far north, the sun rises from that direction, which it did. I am still trying to get my head around that. Had a wonderful brunch after the walk, home made granola with pannacotta, apple, blueberries and strawberries at Ray’s bakery near the hotel. Now we have done some shopping we have breakfast makings in our apartment. Later we went to Crocosaurus to see, amongst so many others, the giant croc that appeared in the Crocodile Dundee film as well as 750 kg 5 metre long Leo who used to kill and eat cattle before he was captured. Lots more animals  including a reptile exhibition and some fish which spit at flying insects to catch them. As I peered over the tank one got me fair in the face, though luckily I had on my sunglasses. Got to hold a baby croc and learned a bit about the speed and power of these prehistoric looking creatures which can’t fail to fascinate. We are going to look into a day’s car hire to get a taste of the outback, with eyes peeled for crocs.

August 25, 2019

Observations: Darwin’s economy isn’t too flash, there are an awful lot of empty shops. Territorians are very noisy people, just walking past a pub or social venue is deafening, especially the men. Singing out to people in the street is at maximum decibels. Looking through a real estate magazine I discovered that although most homes don’t have insect screens (neither does our apartment and we haven’t seen flies or mozzies so far) they mostly have security grilles. Leaving a restaurant tonight the owner told us how to get home via the best lit streets, wishing us ‘stay safe’ as we left. All of this indicates quite a burglary problem to me. There are Aboriginal beggars everywhere. In Sydney when people ask me for change I often reply ‘no, but I will buy you something to eat if you are hungry’. Few take me up on it, but here the response is quite the opposite, we have had three people today want some groceries so we’ve been to Coles buying bread, milk, sugar, chicken, whatever was asked for but the requests were modest. There are so many on the streets here that there’s a limit to what you can do. It’s a tragedy. We spent the day at the Darwin Military Museum, taken by a WWII Studebaker truck as it’s out of town. John discovered a book there which mentions his father who was Commander of the Northern Territory Force from after the Japanese attack till 1946, of course he bought a copy.

August 26, 2019

It is late at night and I can’t begin to record all of the mega day we have had. But it included 1. Hiring a car and going bush 2. Seeing three large long black things in the clear shallows of a deserted beach we were walking on and bolting because the signs everywhere say the crocs will run up the beach to get you. 3. On another remote beach a couple of hundred kilometres from Darwin seeing a sign which mentioned Jack Murray, John’s father, heading the Black Watch Aboriginal regiment after the Japanese attack in WWII. So random that we came across that, I can’t believe it. 4. Coming upon a bushfire being attended by water bombers and eventually getting past it and pulling into a mango farm in the sticks for a mango smoothie, but soon the firies rang the farm to evacuate immediately as the fire had jumped. We and the owners took off in our separate cars but John clipped a log and scratched the bumper. 6. Now the car company says we voided our insurance by hitting a stationary object and have to pay for it. It was excitement overload all day. Phew.

August 27, 2019

Today was the first day of John’s conference so I’ve been doing a few things on my own. First job was to meet the manager of the car hire company at our hotel at 9 am to discuss the minor damage. He surprised me by saying that because I had rung him and reported the damage instead of sending the car back and hoping they didn’t notice, he would ‘look after’ us. I don’t know if that means charging us the $100 excess or wiping the slate altogether, but in either case we are happy compared to the original decision that we’d have to pay it all. Went to the police station and Aboriginal Justice office enquiring about shelter for the homeless and it seems the Sallies and an Aboriginal aid group have accommodation, whether it is adequate or the people just don’t want to use it remains to be seen, will try to have that conversation with some people tomorrow. John rang tonight to say he was going to the conference dinner so I walked into town and had a lovely meal including a watermelon feta almond and mint salad which was divine and I brought half home for tomorrow. Then had mango and ice cream at home using the mangoes we got at the farm yesterday. We haven’t seen the news since Thursday and it’s a relief not to know what garbage Trump is disgorging.

August 28, 2019

John enjoyed the first day of his conference, meeting pals as well as visitors from the UK and US. He said the food at the conference dinner was the usual crap lukewarm chicken, but sadly the dinner tonight at the famed Peewees Restaurant is booked out so he got a ticket to the wrong dinner it seems. I made a momentous decision this morning: I want to stay on and complete my list of must dos. John said I should definitely stay but he has an appointment in Gerringong on Sunday that can’t be put off as the clients are going away soon. So with a bit of juggling I was able to keep our seventh floor unit and change my flight till Tuesday. Yippee! Now I can do a full day in the museum instead of a few hours and also I want to go to the headquarters of Larrakia Nation to talk about possibly organising some bucks for their service. I was lucky enough to see their work with the homeless Aboriginal people around town and was very impressed by their low key approach. They have a van which picks people up off the streets and delivers them home, to a hostel or a dry out place if alcohol is an issue. Also they repatriate people to their home areas, even interstate, just the sort of outfit that’s needed.

I caught the bus to Cullen Bay (all seniors travel free) and arrived just in time for a cruise on the harbour so I quickly downed some tablets and jumped on, as always it’s a very different view of the place. Paspaley Pearls is a huge outfit here, 17 boats I think and we saw part of the fleet on the cruise. The weather has become more humid and summery than when we arrived and a local commented that ‘it’s turning’. Heaps of American servicemen on the streets today, perhaps newly arrived.

August 29, 2019

A huge day, I could write a small book on it. I got a bus out to the burbs and was on the doorstep of Larrakia Nation at 9 am and they turned out to be just the down to earth team of people I was hoping for. As well as the van picking up people from the streets seven days a week, ‘long grass people’ in their parlance, they provide tenancy services such as interest free loans for bonds, help with removals, sourcing furniture and white goods, even have a trailer to help folks clean up their properties and take junk to the tip. Add to this assistance with Centrelink, aged care and disability services and more. I left with the annual report and a pile of reading so hopefully I can turn this into money for them somehow but in the meantime I’ll do a monthly pittance.

From there I went to the Museum and Art Gallery, which is out of town on the edge of the harbour. I spent the rest of the day there, learning so much about the geology, wildlife and history of the Northern Territory. I was scribbling in my notebook all afternoon, so many amazing pieces of information. One which beat all others I think was the fact that the aboriginal people have named a remote spot ‘sun walk fire devil rock’ and scientists have discovered that it is the site of a meteorite collision and was obviously named after that event, which occurred 4700 years ago! This name has been handed down over all that time, a fact that blows me away. We went to Mindil Beach at night to watch the sunset and ate at the market stalls there, tempura veggies and crispy chilli anchovies for moi. I had to bring half the anchovies home, too hot to eat all at once. My night was then taken up trying to confirm John’s flight. I tried online and it wouldn’t work so I rang Qantas and the wait was announced as 2 and a half hours, but what choice did I have? At 11.30 they answered and it turned out that when they split me off the ticket they gave him a new number but thank goodness his flight was correct, phew.

August 30, 2019

Haven’t been watching the teev since we got here but happened to see the news on my phone that the Biloela Four were being deported from Melbourne to Sri Lanka overnight when a court order restrained Border Force from continuing and they landed in Darwin. The government is always trying to get people to live in the country right? So I decided a trip to the airport was in order to try to point that out. Trying to find where they were I went to the terminal and two airport hotels, asking two Federal Police on the way who had ‘never heard of them’, lying buggers. Anyway by this time a further order had stayed the deportation till next Wednesday and I discovered they had been moved. Later intelligence is that they are at Larrakeyah Naval Base, close by and in my line of view from the balcony. Tomorrow I am away all day but I may pay them a visit on Sunday. Got an airport bus back and bought a hat for tomorrow from the Red Cross, walking home via the foreshore beach in my hat and two very under the weather Aboriginal people said ‘are you 55 sister?’ and when I said almost 72 they said ‘oh nana sit down with us , you need to be sitting down’, so I did and they told me all about the worms that can get into your feet in wet season and ‘eat you up from the inside’. They warned me to always wear thongs in the wet season and not to sleep on the ground without a blanket. Kenneth told me a similar story about Africa when he was there, you couldn’t swim in the rivers because of the worms that entered through your feet.

August 31, 2019

I am too tired to type but don’t want to forget anything. Picked up at the hotel in a small bus and lucky enough to be the first so I got the best seat, next to the driver with a great view from the windscreen. Down the Stuart Highway then left onto the Arnhem Highway through tropical savannah forest with some kapok trees and Kakadu plum to Humpty Doo and eventually across the Adelaide River, stopping at Corroboree for a drink break. On to the Billabong near Mary River and part of it in the wet season. Here there are four ‘seasons’, wet over the summer, dry over the winter, breakout  during October when it is very hot and 100% humidity and runoff in April when the monsoon wet drains away. Apparently breakout is the worst with a rise in crime and suicides. There have been two letters in the NT News this week complaining about the COLD weather we are having here, dropping to 18 degrees some nights to the horror of the writers.

I was somewhat taken aback by the boat, a flat bottomed low job from which one could drag a hand on the water, but strongly advised not to. There were life jackets but our guide suggested it was madness to struggle to put a life jacket on in a croc infested waterway. Better to swim to shore, run away from the water and climb a tree he helpfully suggested. Yikes. Anyway before long I was so captivated by the wildlife that I ceased panicking. We saw wild buffalo, agile wallabies (too far north for kangaroos) before getting into the wetlands and once in the boat the bird life was stunning. It included jabirus, brolgas, brown and whistling kites, sea eagles, spoonbills, lapwings, egrets of three types, ibis, azure kingfishers, barn owls, a Nankeen night heron and one of my favourites, the comb crested japanas which have huge feet to walk on the lotus leaves. Lots more besides but I’ve forgotten the names.

Then there were the crocs, omg the crocs. I discovered that the advantage of our boat over the weekend cruiser looking jobbies was that we could sight an animal and immediately go right up to it so when we saw a bird, or a croc, our guide had us alongside in seconds. If I’d stretched my arm out further I could have patted one on the nose, but I’m kind of attached to my left hand so I desisted. We ate out packed lunch on board sitting right alongside a four metre one and I kept my eye on him just in case he leapt across to those having cut meat with their salad, though I think the eater would have been more of interest. Occasionally he looked over and that eye just freezes you. They are perfectly evolved, outliving the dinosaurs they so resemble. It was an amazing trip and the three hours of animal hunting on the billabong will remain in my memory.

September 1, 2019

Three years ago today we were packing up the shop with the auctioneer today. Started the day with a walk to the Waterfront complex where a P and O ship was sitting at anchor. Intended to go to the WWII Japanese attack exhibition there but discovered it was virtual reality, so I withdrew my $22 faster than the best thief, my head and virtual reality are certainly not friends. Then to what passes for a beach in Darwin, a pool at the waterfront with an artificial wave machine, which was great fun and a bargain at $5 including a life guard (who minded my gear), flotation rings and boards. Lunched right royally in the aircon at Snapper Rocks, right at the beach, reef fish croquettes with cole slaw and chili which was more than delicious and a bargain at $17 with the aircon and iced water thrown in. Spent the afternoon in the adjacent waterway, no waves, but plenty of sand, slippery dips and other fun stuff in the water and no chance of sharks, box jellyfish, or more importantly, crocs. However I discovered that the barrier is inadequate to keep out sea lice, which got me around both ankles. Walked home tired but happy, regretting I didn’t ask Mr Qantas to extend for a week instead of just four days. Darwin isn’t dessert paradise but has fabulous savoury food, so I’ve worked out a plan: go to Ray’s for a lemon meringue tart and a pot of tea in the morning and then eat savoury for the rest of the day. Yesterday after my restaurant lunch I just ate watermelon for dinner. Trying to stick to one meal a day supplemented by fruit, of which there is plenty. Had a call from one of the rangers at Larrakia Nation wondering if I were still in town and saying he might give me a ring to go for a coffee before I go. Big surprise in the evening when I got a Facebook friend request from Ram, the manager of the small guest house on the beach in Kerala where we spent a couple of week about 10 years ago. He had joined Facebook and found me accidentally, I am not sure who was more excited, but I’ve had quite a few messages overnight including a video call which I slept through at 2.38 this morning. We have corresponded by letter and talked on the phone a few times, language difficulties exist as he speaks mainly Malayalam, but the short messages of Facebook better suit our circumstances. He offered last night to try to teach me Malayalam but languages were never my forte, we will stick to basic English I think. Perhaps I will see him again after all, I badly need a brush up on his instructions on how to wrap my sari, unworn since he wound me into it 10 years ago.

September 3, 2019

Funny start to the day when I decided to get a massage, choosing one about 1 and a half kilometres away. When I had walked there in the heat I discovered it was a unit block not a shopfront. Mmm, a bit sus perhaps, so I rang them and they said they wouldn’t be ready for me for 15 minutes which gave me thinking time and I decided it was definitely iffy, no signage, no nothing. So I texted them saying I was expecting a street front business and was having second thoughts, no reply which pretty much confirmed my suspicions. The window cleaner who had overheard my first call commented ‘if it’s unit 609, lot of men go there’. Okay thank you my friend.

Spent the morning in the local court, witnessing justice NT style. The magistrate freed a man from gaol for stealing a banana from a small shop and abusing police when they were arresting him. A banana, value $1, but the point of the story is that it happened on May 24, over three months ago. A prize of one banana for anyone guessing his ethnicity…..

I have avoided knocking about the streets alone at night after dark but on the last night I threw caution to the winds and I’m so glad I did. Walked to the waterfront for dinner and on the way I noticed that a lady who had been doing a painting since late Sunday had nearly finished it. On my way home she said ‘it will be finished in half an hour grandma ‘ so I sat and watched. I bought the painting and carried it home by the corners of the dry section. Then she pulled out some old pillows and a blanket from behind a bush and bedded down. What a place of contrasts this is.

September 3, 2019

I arrived here with a suitcase and a cabin bag and John with a soft zippered carryall. For reasons best known to him (probably thinking I would find the luggage difficult to manoeuvre) he insisted that we swap luggage and that he take my paper souvenirs, 3 children’s books bought on our car trip and all the Larrakia Nation paperwork. All good except that he arrived in Sydney without the bag containing all this. I’ve rung the police, the cab company and soon will check with airport lost property but he has no idea where he left it. He only knows it wasn’t in the overhead locker when the plan arrived, no time to go out to the suburbs and get the Larrakia stuff, great start to that association.

Hurrah!!! The check-in didn’t know about the bag, neither did security but the airport admin office had it, but hadn’t contacted me despite my name and address being on paperwork inside. Anyway, it matters not, the bag she be safe. Had a good flight, doubled up on the meds, but it was smooth so perhaps I would have been okay anyway. John was up at the door when I came off the plane, expecting a wheelchair I guess. He asked if I were happy to be home and I had to be honest and say another week in Darwin would have been great but I was certainly glad to see him at the exit door.

September 4, 2019

John stayed over and then drove me to Artarmon to get the train in to the rally for the Biloela Four. The government is always ralphing on about getting people to live in remote and regional areas so here we are with a family who love it there and the community loves them, voila. Not to even mention the ghastly treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka. John wants to go to Melbourne for the 90th birthday of his cousin Kevin Murray so today while filling in time at Central I booked us on the train in late September and then into our old faithful Treasury on Collins. Toying with getting a one way car hire on the way back but trying to speak to someone at a car rental company for a quote is nigh on impossible, I left my number with two of them hours ago. The weekend after we come back it is Teresa and Stephen’s wedding in Newcastle so that’s another trip away already booked, I will have to stop bitching about never going anywhere.

September 5, 2019

Unpacked, washed, sorted. Had a win on the burglar alarm front. I rang to order the new one I was assured I required before I got the NBN but spoke to a different person this time and she offered me a deal. Sign up for monitoring for three years and they will pay for the conversion of the system, saving me $900. Yes please, where do I sign? So then I was able to get onto Optus and let them know that there is action on the connection front. That $900 bucks pays for my trip to Melbourne pretty much, although the car is still an unknown amount, as a one way hire adds a lot. Emailed Larrakia Nation with some questions arising from reading their annual report, as transparent as a muddy billabong I find financial reports. So a good lots of jobs done today despite fielding two calls and eight texts from a friend who is struggling at the moment. The calls I answered but the texts I let go, bad person that I am, but I needed a break.

September 6, 2019

Did my Annangrove/Windsor run, visiting Tim, then Brian and Fay. Tim believes he has acquired an original Grecian bronze and wanted my opinion, despite my repeated attempts to explain that authenticating such an item is an academic specialist’s job, not that of a humble suburban antique dealer. However I went to look at it yet again and it certainly has many design and structural attributes of great age, but original Grecian? I just don’t know, but he is looking at many, many millions if he is right (and he has done a heap of research). Since then I’ve had 10 texts with photos of features I may have missed but after the tenth I replied ‘you are obsessed, leave me alone’ which should work till the morning at least. Brian was still looking unwell but pleased with the visit and Fay was happy to see me, who wouldn’t be happy to see anyone in a nursing home, so I don’t take that too personally. I am cross that my physical weakness meant I may have ruined the cuttings I planted this morning. I have nursed them since spring and got a 5/5 strike rate, but when I tipped the large pots out to plant them they were too heavy for me and I ended up with a pile of soil and roots alongside a rootless cutting, just needed another pair of hands but sadly they weren’t available. Now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t wait for help.

September 7, 2019

Woo-hoo, it appears I’ve got myself a gardener! I was advised by a friend of a possible candidate and waited in for him to call today, to see what needed doing. So I bit the bullet and he’s coming Tuesday morning at 8 to make a start. Champagne is in order. (It does annoy me that one can’t just have a glass of champagne and the consumption of a whole bottle is way beyond me, even to celebrate a new gardener). Note to self: bake biscuits before Tuesday.

This travelling business does discombobulate me. I’ve been waking each night not knowing if I am in Darwin or here and going in the wrong direction to find the loo. Certainly felt a little sad when I realise that Darwin is past tense. However I was able to find a book on crocodiles in the library which focuses on their evolution, so that will help. Currently reading Dirt Music by Tim Winton which, although set just north of Perth, has a character who goes to the top end and lives off the land, or off the ocean more to the point. Just reading about the Pandanus trees, the birds and of course the crocs made me feel right at home. One thing that really disappoints me is finding the perfect organisation to volunteer with, full of people I relate to, and yet it is 4000 kilometres away. Wouldn’t that rot your socks.

September 8, 2019

Went to First Saturday last night and saw happy snaps, more truthfully happy video, of a trip by two members to northern Canada. There were polar bears aplenty and it was great to see them up close, but was I jealous of the trip? Not really, the sight of Inuit staff with guns ready to shoot the bears if they attacked would be enough to put me off enjoying the experience. Even if it never happens, it is the potentiality of one being killed just to enable a group of tourists to eyeball them that doesn’t go down well. Spent the day at Erko and we took Millie for a walk to the park, followed by lunch at Foodcraft, which is such a lovely little restaurant. Had pumpkin ravioli with goat cheese and it was delicious, though my difficulty swallowing dinner last night has persisted into today, the ravioli chosen as the easiest thing to slip down, but it proved an inspired choice. Millie got quite jealous when I helped a little boy at the park ‘that’s MY grandma’ she said indignantly and repeatedly.

September 9, 2019

Luckily my friendship with Tim is long lasting enough to take my frustrated text to him last week to give me a break from the constant texts, emails and photos in his attempts to convince me that he’s discovered an incredibly rare artwork. I had 24 hours without contact after that. It will make a good story if it turns out he is right, I’ll hit him for a large donation for Larrakia Nation. (Gosh, two texts while I’ve been typing this paragraph, aaagh). Getting ready for the new gardener tomorrow and I discover that my next door neighbour has borrowed and filled my green bin which the gardener will need tomorrow, it had to be this week he took it didn’t it. (Another photo just arrived). A rare trip to KMart this morning and I discovered that it is run now on a skeleton staff, self serving checkouts, no one to ask except security at the door, I’d rather pay more and deal with real people thank you. This is what happens when people are too lazy to join the union and fight for their jobs. (That’s it, I give up, another photo so I’m putting the phone under my pillow to give myself a rest).

September 10, 2019

So the gardener and I hit it off big time. He spent 2 and a half hours clearing privet and vines from the back corner and cutting dead fronds out of the palm with a natty little mini chainsaw on a long stick. I would love to get my hands on that little beast to take out some small dead branches in the gum tree, accessible from the deck. I shall keep that idea warm for the future. He only lives a few streets away and will come again next week to continue. Third time lucky I think.

It is bizarre the way I am dreaming of Darwin every single night, going over every aspect: the landscape, the people I met, the wildlife, not necessarily as it happened but always positively. Made biscuits for the gardener then later a batch of a dozen scones, though when I went to wash up I found the sugar still in the measuring cup. So I had one with goat cheese for lunch and one with strawberry jam later, nothing if not versatile the old scone, they were particularly good despite their lack of sugar.

September 11, 2019

Last night on 7.30 Report there was a fellow with the same lymphoma as John, Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, but he hadn’t responded to three different treatment cycles of chemo. It is in his bones, which break easily and he looked pretty done in. He was diagnosed just in April. So here’s the rub: he wants the government to pay for an experimental treatment which is his only chance, two treatments at $250,000 each, with no guarantees of success. What to do? Which will better value society: One human or a bridge in the country? a house for a family who lost theirs in a bush fire? or another cancer researcher’s wages? I don’t know and I’m glad that decision doesn’t fall to me. But it brought back memories of Nada telling John he had weeks to live without chemo, he was obviously one of the lucky ones. She refers to him as ‘one of my success stories’, indicating there are quite a few with that disease who don’t survive.

I was given a ticket for a musical show at Chatswood today and was amazed by the crowd contrast inside and outside the theatre. In the streets it was Hong Kong without the tear gas. Every restaurant and food bar is Asian as are 90% of the people, the streets actually smell like Asia with its spices overwhelming even the car exhausts. But in the theatre it was a different demographic altogether: virtually 100% elderly whities, (ahem, myself excluded from the elderly part) with only a few middle-aged, who were accompanying older folk. I wondered if they were bussed in from nursing homes, such was their advanced years. I guess I love diversity, so both situations are less than ideal.

September 12, 2019

The burglar alarm man came today and was both on time and efficient. I mentioned that I was unimpressed that the first person I spoke to said I had to pay for a whole new system yet the second said I could have it changed over free if I signed a three year contract. He made the point that the first person was probably younger and didn’t take into account the financial situation of a pensioner, interesting conclusion. Pretty disgusted by the political news today: Sidoti in Sydney accused of using his inside knowledge to buy up land near intended metro stations and Liu in Canberra looking suspiciously like an influence pedlar for the Chinese government. In both cases, if true, it is amazing that they thought they could get away with it. Life is so much easier if you play with a straight bat, but we humans can’t help complicating things once money or politics become part of the equation.

September 13, 2019

Back into the Music Festival Deaths Inquiry this week and have heard interesting medical testimony about the adequacy or otherwise of the care given in the medical tents. In 4 out of the 6 deaths it seems the care was as good as could be provided but in the case where two young people became ill at much the same time in Sydney the doctors on duty at the festival were inexperienced and unable to provide some treatments like intubation which could have saved lives. The professor gave evidence that the ambulance paramedics would have had better skills in that sort of emergency. I heard the testimony of each of the doctors some weeks back and felt particularly sorry for one of them who was a GP with no drug experience and clearly out of his depth. I read in a book on emergency medicine recently that a heart attack victim has a better chance of survival in an ambulance than in a hospital emergency department because they  are staffed by the most junior doctors, a rather sobering thought.

It is funny at this time of the year how people dress for the weather, not yet decided if it is winter or spring. There were all manner of outfits today from bare legs, short skirts and skimpy tops to velvet trousers and heavy jumpers (me). I guess in a few weeks we’ll all be complaining about heat and humidity, we’ll at least I will be.

September 14, 2019

Well I survived Black Friday and full moon both occurring last night. No lunatics raging up the quiet streets of Baulkham Hills. Still dreaming of Darwin every night though the images are becoming less real. Still haven’t had a reply from Larrakia which is bloody annoying; the people I met are sympathetic but the people I need to speak to haven’t met me and so I’m just a pesky person asking questions when they’ve got better things to do.

Spent most of the day at Carol’s working on Christmas cakes for the Wayside Chapel and Exodus. It was a lovely sunny but pleasantly moderate day to be doing it, enjoying the company of Carol, Heather who came along for the first time and two Finnish helpers. A lovely lunch on the deck, along with Jack, was a highlight. I went to the nursery on the way home planning to pick up some Pandanus for the back corner but Kelly talked me out of it because in Darwin they thrive with lots of summer rain which we don’t get. So no Darwin corner for moi, I guess it was a silly idea, but seemed a good one at the time.

September 15, 2019

It is so lovely to have a neighbour who just lobs at the door for a chat for no reason. This happened today so Arvind and I sat on the front verandah and in the conversation he mentioned his brother in Melbourne who went broke years ago in a service station and was forced to sell his house to pay his debts. The Sallies dropped off a couple of food parcels to them and he’s never forgotten, now in a successful business he donates $10,000 a year to them. He has investment properties and refuses to claim the negative gearing benefits because he doesn’t believe in them. (Here I’d take a different view, claim any legal money you can from the government and redirect it to where it should rightly be going, but that’s nit-picking). I like the man already and told Arvind ‘when your brother visits, send him in here for a cuppa, I think I like him even more than I like you’. He grinned and assured me he would.

Began reading Cardinal by Louise Milligan (an Irish Catholic) tonight and it makes for extremely depressing reading. Many events she describes have not been published before to my knowledge and the book is gripping. Even leaving clerical abuse out of the equation Pell is the type of person I want to positively run from. That arrogant overbearing authoritarian manner gives me the shudders. I’ve only come across a few peo