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…. 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.